10 Weird Things That Happened When I Tried Intermittent Fasting (IF)

Intermittent fasting (a.k.a. skipping breakfast) is making rounds on the interwebz.

There are potential pitfalls (and surprising perks) you should know before embarking on your own intermittent fasting (IF) adventure.


Let this post serves as a cautionary tale (and a source of lolz).

1) Breakfast Will Be Ruined

love breakfast foods.
I hate eating in the morning.

Due to my love of omelettes, breakfast for dinner is a daily event.

That's totally fine.  I always hated cooking in the morning, so if I don't have to do that, awesome.  

But after months of skipping breakfast, one day I decided to eat in the morning "for fun."

Terrible Idea. 

As soon as I took a bite of those cheesy eggs, my energy crashed and I entered zombie mode.  

Then, a mere hour later, I was ravenously hungry again.  Not normal.

WTF! I don't know.  Martin Berkhan already theorized about why this could be over here, so check that out if your inquiring mind must know (open in new window, of course, since I'm not done with you yet).  

Since this day, I have not taken a bite of food before noon.  So if you have any emotional attachment to eating in the morning, IF at your own risk.

2) Productivity Super Powers

After you get through a few initial  mornings of bitching about being hungry all the time, you'll be struck with a sudden increase in mental capacity.

  • You'll have more hustle.
  • You'll get shit done.
  • Your creativity powers will erupt.

I realize this might sound crazy to those of you who haven't experienced fasting, and I wish I could describe it more precisely in a way that you could understand -- but I think you would have to experience it in order to truly understand it.

have to function at a high level mentally -- so this perk alone is worth the price of admission to me.

3) Fasted Training Rules

My Typical Day:

  • 7 a.m. -- Wake up
  • 7-9 -- Get hyped up on coffee, read articles and/or a book, take actionable notes
  • 9-10 -- Go on a walk/drive with my dog/some kind of leisure activity
  • 10-12 -- Write, e-mail, business stuff, take a few minutes to like cute dog pictures on Facebook
  • 12- 1 -- Training
  • 2 -- Lunch (FINALLY I ate)
  • 5 -- Dinner
  • 10 -- Zzzzzzzzzz (obviously I did lots of other stuff in between 2 and 10 but yay concision!)

Obviously, fasted training causes muscle catabolism.

The Point: I didn't eat for 8 hours after waking, and I slept 8 hours before that (total 16 hour fast)

More specifically, I worked out on an empty stomach (GASP).

WTF bru, what about pre-workout nutrition, etc.!  

If you're going to train fasted, you need to supplement with BCAA pre and post-workout at bare minimum.  I'd encourage you to toss in some creatine and beta-alanine, too.  Good for recovering faster and working harder.  Without BCAA, don't train fasted, or your body won't recover properly.

Workout nutrition is important, but you can just get around consuming any calories with BCAA.

I've never had more productive workouts.  My mental focus is stronger.  My energy is higher.  I can push it further.  It's increasing strength and muscle at a rate faster than anything I've ever seen.

Today, if I train with anything in my belly, I want to die before I'm done with the warm-up.  The difference is staggering.

4) Whoa, This Is Convenient

Various fasting plans call for precise "feeding" and "fasting" windows.  LeanGains, for example, instructs you to fast for 16 hours and feed for 8 hours.

This set-up is helpful for the IF beginner.  But once you get the hang of it, don't freak out about hitting a precise feed/fast window.

Some days I eat at noon.  Others, 1.  Others, 3.  Sometimes, if dinner is going to be an epic cheat, I'll fast until 6 for damage control purposes.

The point: don't cause unnecessary stress by over-analyzing this.  Don't make it more difficult than it needs to be.

Don't make your life fit your diet.  Make your diet fit your life.
^^^^^^^Tweet That Quote^^^^^^^

5) Big Meals Kick Butt

Please bear in mind I'm in a slow bulk mode (and also I'm a bigperson), so these meals would be inappropriate for some of you (especially the weight-loss crowd).

A Typical "Lunch" (eaten in between 12-2).

  • Whey + Skim Milk Shake
  • Cereal with chopped banana
  • Apple
  • Orange
  • Chicken
  • Yellow rice
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Corn
  • Bread of some kind
  • Strawberry shortcake (or some dessert) if I'm particularly ravenous.

A Typical "Dinner" (eaten in between 6-8).

  • 3-4 scrambled egg cooked in olive oil w/ mozzarella cheese, hot sauce, spinach, tomato
  • Pork chop or steak
  • 2 handfuls of nuts
  • 2 glasses whole milk
  • Hot tea

A Brief Explanation Of WTF I'm Doing: I'm eating the overwhelming bulk of my carbs in the hours immediately following my workout, when they will be used for muscle rebuilding and recovery (and thus not for fat storage) .  I then take a sharp turn towards high fat and low carbs in my evening meal.  This set-up creates a simultaneous bulk/cut effect (plus having both high carb and high fat meals every day rules).

This has helped me build muscle without unwanted fat storage.  

6) Be Careful at the Buffet

Most IFers eat 2 or 3 meals a day.  I tend to stick with 2.  Doesn't matter, do what you prefer.

A Cautionary Tale: Once upon a time, I decided to test my fasting limits.  I limited myself to one meal per day for a week.

Verdict?  Hated it.  

When you start fasting, it isn't going to be easy to eat everything in the eight hour feeding window.    Your body isn't used to it (but will adapt rather quickly).  

I theorized that I might likewise adapt to eating one meal in a day.

Wrong.  I just hated my life (and looked pregnant) for the two hours following a meal.

Here is a sample of a "one big meal" I had at a buffet once. I also had a massive salad after all of that. (terrible idea):

7) I Avoid Eating Out on Dates

As Anthony Mychal stated on his post about IF, your conception of a Big Meal Will Be Shattered.  

If you go from eating 6 times in a day to eating 2 times in a day, that means your meal size would theoretically be multiplied by three.  This is probably more food than you've ever eaten in one sitting (except holiday meal gluttony maybe).  

The phrase "Big Meal" will take an entirely new meaning.  

I now avoid eating out on dates, as my already-absurd appetite is magnified in ridiculousness due to my extremely low meal frequency.  I could literally eat a cow.  Also, part of me is afraid of a female asking me if I'm a part-time competitive eater.

Pro Tip: An epic big meal can give you a slightly preggerz look for 2-3 hours after meal completion, so don't get too carried away before a date.  Trust me.  

8) Your Digestive System Will Thank You

TMI Alert: After a couple months of regular fasting, I noticed the most curious thing.  I only poop once in a day -- at the same time, every day (seriously I wrote down the exact time for 5 days in a row and they were all within minutes of each other, eerie!).

The best part?  Throne time has never been so quick and easy.  Go in, do it, done, get on with my day.  My digestive system has never been happier.

9) You Might Prepare Some Bizarre Meals

A week or two ago, I went to fix lunch.  I was out of everything.   I had to leave for filming in an hour, so no time to go to the store.

Hungry and in a hurry, I put together this bizarre assortment, which was basically everything edible in my kitchen at the time:

  • 2 eggs
  • Cheese
  • Tomato
  • Cucumber
  • Peas
  • Corn
  • Carrots
  • Peanuts
  • Milk

Normal people would never combine such things.  If you IF and find yourself short on food and time, I bet you will, too.

10) Your Friends and Family Will Question Your Sanity

The second you say the word "fasting" to a friend or co-worker, expect an awkward stare.

If you let it slip to a family member that you IF, expect to hear concerns (they might politely ask if you intend to starve yourself or have an eating disorder).

While IF is popular with training/nutrition nerds like myself, it isn't common practice.

"Fasting for 16 hours a day" sounds like a Big Deal.  Really, it's not -- skip breakfast and eat a late lunch, voila, you did it -- your entire sleep cycle counts as fasted hoursawesome.  

If you choose to try out an IF lifestyle and people give you crap for it, don't sweat it.  Never care what anyone thinks about you (unless they think you're awesome, in which case, they're right).  

Talk to me

Have you tried intermittent fasting?  If so, how do you like it versus the traditional meal structure?  What fun things have you noticed about it?

Do you plan to try IF?  If so, what's holding you back?

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3 Responses to “10 Weird Things That Happened When I Tried Intermittent Fasting (IF)”

  1. Steve Says:

    Hahaha! Great write up! I’m on a similar schedule as you. I eat around 2pm, and then around 6pm. I think IF is great and the productivity in the morning makes me feel super human. The kind of super human where you can lift cars off people if you need to! Until I eat that is… because now after 6 weeks I’m getting into the 2PM eat-go-sleep phase. I try to fight it but I collapse around 4-5pm if I do. 8 hours of sleep per night isn’t enough. It seems I need about 10 now, and I’m on a cut. I wonder how long this will last, and I wonder what will happen to this coma state feeeling when my bodyfat is where I want it and I start to slow bulk.

    “You Might Prepare Some Bizarre Meals” – Yep I’ve been there many times. You start whacking all the food you can find in the house and end up with some strange ass buffet style course.

    And then there’s “Your Friends and Family Will Question Your Sanity” which is brought to my attention about once a week. I don’t talk about IF or preach, but people go “Daaaaaaaaaamn!” when I’m eating, or they are confused when I eat or when I don’t, or they get frustrated because I don’t want to go to McDonald’s at 11pm.

  2. Albert Says:

    I am an MBA student who needs to be able to think throughout the day even at the end of a night.
    I am setting up the 16 hour fast with my last meal at 2pm. I am having difficulties thinking at night. Will this just be for the first week, or will this continue…

  3. Daniel Says:

    Hey Albert, thanks for your comment! That feeling *should* go away — to be honest, I had a similar reaction when I first tried it — but everyone’s responses to fasting are very individual, so there’s no way I can predict the long-term reaction you’ll experience to it. I would give it at least a week to see if things improve; but if they don’t, it simply might not be for you, and I wouldn’t recommend putting yourself through that if you find yourself having a hard time thinking. Let me know if things improve for you, because I’m curious about how you do.

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