You’ve probably heard of this crazy “diet” called intermittent fasting. When I first heard of it, a slew of questions began running through my brain. Some of which included: “Who in their right mind would ever think of NOT EATING?! Crazy people!” “Do these people go through their days feeling like they’re going to pass out?” “Did they lose all of their friends and family members due to extreme hanger?!” SO, my detective self did a little digging.
My first real knowledge of the nutrition aspects, benefits, and what intermittent fasting truly means came from Joe Rogan’s podcast where he interviews Dr. Rhonda Patrick who is a huge supporter of the concept of intermittent fasting. I learned in this quick little segment the basics of the fast. There are several different fasting methods, which include the 5:2 method, the eat, fast, eat method, and the 16:8 method.
The 5:2 method. This is where you eat how you normally would for 5 days of the week, and for the remaining 2 days you limit your caloric intake to around 500-600 calories that day. This method is popular because it allows you to choose which days are convenient for you to have a minimal amount of calories and allows you to eat normally for most days of the week.
The eat, fast, eat method is a little more intense if you ask me. It consists of one to three 24 hour fasts during your 7 day week. YIKES. For me personally, I would not do well fasting for a whole 24 hours. While I believe I could do it, it just doesn’t seem desirable in the long run. The longest fast I’ve done is about 18 hours and THAT was pushing it.
Finally, we have the 16:8 method. This is my personal method of choice which I’ve been doing for about 5 months now and LOVIN’ every minute of it, baby. What this method consists of is having a 16 hour fasting window and 8 hour eating window every day for 5 days a week. What this looks like for me is eating my breakfast (literally break-fast because you’re breaking your fast) at noon and my last meal is finished by 8 PM for Monday through Friday. This is the most doable for me in the long run because it leaves a fairly normal schedule, all you have to do is “skip breakfast” even though I still eat breakfast food every day at noon because brekky is da bombbbb.
But wait? Isn’t skipping breakfast like the worst thing ever? Wrong-O. And yes I was saying that in the Grinch voice so if you picked that up, I love you. There are many studies which show that people who often skip breakfast are more obese, however there is no real evidence that directly shows skipping breakfast itself is the actual causation of the obesity. Oftentimes it is said that the reason eating breakfast helps to lose weight is due to the fact that eating a higher calorie breakfast causes you to snack less throughout the day and eat less at your other meals. BUT. While this may be true, over 90% of Americans eat breakfast but still around 50% are overweight soooo there’s clearly something else at play here. Anyways, this made me even more intrigued to learn more about intermittent fasting because I was a HUGE breakfast person. I was immediately hungry as soon as I woke up and you would’ve had to have a death wish if you wanted to engage in a conversation with me before I’d shoved some sort of breakfast in my face.
So I did some more studying. Next I listened to Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s podcast about intermittent fasting (which I now subscribe to because I quite enjoy her witty biological takes on health) and the Model Health Show’s podcast about intermittent fasting. Each had their different take on things which helped me to gain an even clearer vision of this intermittent fasting thang. I also read an article written by Dr. Martin Berkhans who is one of the “founders” of intermittent fasting as well as the Onnit guide to intermittent fasting. If you’re really interested in intermittent fasting, I would highly recommend checking out all these great resources!
Holy now did I have a wealth of information about intermittent fasting. Okay so the key benefits that stuck out to me:
- After 12 hours of not eating, your body completes the “digestion” state and enters a “fasted” state. In this state, you achieve improved cognitive function, higher levels of natural secretion of HGH, decreased secretion of digestive enzymes, and your body burns fat for energy as opposed to burning the carbs in your stomach.
- Due to the higher levels of HGH and burning fat as opposed to carbs in your stomach, the fasted state actually helps burn fat and build more muscle! WOOHOO!
- While your body is in this fasted state, it also allows your gut to heal itself. This was the main reason that pushed me to try intermittent fasting because with all of my newly developed intolerances, I spent the majority of my time bloated and groggy. If there was a chance skipping breakfast could help decrease my irritable gut, I was gonna go for it.
- When your body isn’t focusing the majority of its energy on digesting, it can spend time repairing other parts of the body. This leads to healthier cells, slower tumor growth, positive changes in cholesterol, a healthier gut, improved brain health, and thus an increased lifespan.
- ALSO, it improves hunger control. This was another huge point for me because I suffered from severe episodes of hanger. If I was hungry, I had to eat. Like NOW. So this improved hunger control seemed like a great benefit to me specifically.
- There are many MANY other great benefits of intermittent fasting, I just can’t possibly list them all. Just know there’s more. Oh yeah.
Thus began my intermittent fasting journey. I chose to attempt the 16:8 method.
Day 1: HANGRY. I worked full time which meant waking up at 6:30 in order to be at work by 8. Usually I would wake up and go straight to a full breakfast. I knew going into this that I wouldn’t be able to make it all the way until noon right off the bat, so I decided to attempt to not eat until 10 AM. I had learned that while 16 hours fasting and 8 hours eating is the optimal time frame, anytime you can fast for at least 12 hours it’s good for your body. So my eating window for day 1 was going to be from 10 AM to 8 PM. I figured I’d start off with a 10 hour eating window and work my way to 8. 10 to 8 seemed reasonable, but boy was I a hungry mess when 10 o’clock rolled around. I engorged myself. I was a ravenous animal. Probably not the best start as I consumed so many calories in one meal I didn’t have many left to spend on the rest of the day. Woops. I ate a normal sized lunch around 1:30 and once again around 7:30. I’m a huge night snacker so when 9 PM rolled around, the night hunger began. So needless to say I was pretty cranky on day 1 and I probably owed a lot of people apologies. But I made it through and would do it again tomorrow.
Day 2: I shot for the same window for day 2: 10 AM to 8 PM to eat. I had to admit, it was definitely a little easier making it to 10. I still engorged myself which was a little worrisome, but I was still giving it a shot. I told myself it would just take some time for my body to adjust. I ate at the same times as day 1 and again went to sleep with a rumbling stomach.
Day 4: I adjusted my eating window to 10:30 AM to 7:30 PM. I cut out an hour. Maybe a little premature, but hey I was going on vacation the next week and I wanted to look good in my bikini. Again, I was cranky and ate too much but it was definitely getting easier.
Weekend 1: FINALLY. I made it through 1 week. Now I could eat normal. I found I was less hungry right when I woke up, so I ate a fairly small breakfast, a light snack, light lunch, and heavy dinner with no after-dinner snack on both of my normal days. Okay that’s a pretty good sign!
Week 2 of fasting: Things were getting easier, I was still doing 10:30 to 7:30 and my body was adjusting. The major change I noticed? NO MORE BLOATING! Hallelujah! My stomach was feeling impeccable, better than it had in over a year. I was on a regular poop schedule (which was the first time in forever), I wasn’t having bad gas, and bu-bye painful cramping. So basically I was invincible. This was something I could get used to. While it may not have been the most ideal lifestyle for me, I decided to stick it out for at least a bit longer just because I was feeling so great.
- Side note from week 2: I attempted my first fasted workout. DEATH TO ME. That was going to take some getting used to.
Week 3: I decided to fully commit to an eating window of 12 to 8. Things were still not easy, but I was definitely less hungry and was eating less once it was time to break my fast at noon. Things were looking up.
Week 4: I was rolling. I could easily wait until 12 to eat and no longer had night time cravings after 8. While it was difficult to watch other people eating when I couldn’t, I learned so much self control and hunger control that it started to not bother me anymore. I was also beginning to enjoy fasted workouts even more than workouts after I’d eaten! The mental clarity and energy I had before eating was an unparalleled feeling, I felt I could accomplish anything and my stamina was definitely improving.
Flash forward to me currently: I am still doing a 12 to 8 eating window Monday to Friday and eating normally on the weekends (so I’ve been doing intermittent fasting for about 5 months now). I can eat a lot of things that normally would have really upset my system prior to beginning intermittent fasting. I’ve also noticed that I’ve become more toned in areas that used to have a lot more accumulation of fat! Okay yeah I am definitely on board with that. Another HUGE thing I’ve noticed is my mood. I’m overall a happier person than I used to be. I learned recently at a gut health seminar that 90% of the body’s serotonin is produced in the digestive tract. So what does that mean? Happy gut = happy Bailey.
Another thing I like about intermittent fasting? It’s so versatile. Listen to your body. Do what works best FOR YOU. Say you feel your best with a 10 hour fasting window. Do that. Say you want your morning coffee. Drink it. Oh, that reminds me. There’s lots of conflicting literature on what you can and can’t have during your fasting period. Some say water only, some say non-caloric beverages, some say you can even have certain types of nuts. So what’s right? Whatever your body tells you is right. I generally stick to water only, but if I’m feeling tired in the morning I’ll have a coffee or a tea at night. I haven’t felt it make an impact on how I feel so I do it.
One last thing. Don’t make this a prison. You can eat at 11:59. That extra minute won’t kill you. You can go on that breakfast date with the cute guy from Chemistry before class on Tuesday morning. If you limit yourself so much that it’s making a negative impact on your life, you won’t be able to keep it up in the long run. Listen to your body and do what makes you feel best. That’s the advice I have for you. Say, for example, my Mom comes in town and wants to go grab dessert at 10 PM on a Wednesday. I’ll go. And oh, will I enjoy it. Sometimes I’ll then fast on Saturday instead of eating normal. Or I just won’t and I’ll have only 4 days where I fasted that week. That’s okay!
Well, I think that just about covers all the basics. So give her a try! You won’t be disappointed. And feel free to do some more research. There are soooo many helpful discussion boards, articles, and podcasts to expand your knowledge. And if you’re interested to hear more about my experience with intermittent fasting or have any questions for me, PLEASE contact me! I would love nothing more than to help you out on your journey and hear all about your successes!
If you’re interested in more of the science behind intermittent fasting, here is a great scholarly journal article to check out as well.
Good luck my beautiful bites by bai babes! YOU CAN DO THIS!