I’m always on the look-out for new ways to make myself feel/be healthier, whether it’s through the food I eat, or something else entirely. I have been hearing so much stuff lately about intermittent fasting and all of the many health benefits it can offer, so I decided to look into it a bit more, to see what I would want to gain from trying something like this.
The first thing I learned from my research, is that intermittent fasting isn’t actually classified as a ‘diet’, but rather a pattern of eating. So, basically, you choose a window of time that you will eat your food, as well as a window of time that you will fast.
People do intermittent fasting (IF) for a number of reasons (there has been tons of research done on this topic), one major one is weight loss. Other benefits can include your body developing a better response glucose, which improves insulin sensitivity. It can improve your metabolism, unlike long term restriction of calories/kilojoules, the short spurts of fasting actually helps your metabolism run smoothly, which can also stop you from losing muscle when you are losing weight. IF can help you live longer, this is done by putting mild stress on your body while it is in a fasted state, causing the body’s cellular defenses to start protecting your body against the threat of molecular damage. This type of repair can stimulate the repair of tissues and organs, helping everything run efficiently. You can develop a better understanding of your body’s hunger signals by doing IF, as well as improving brain health. It can give your immune system a boost by allowing your body to get rid of the old or damaged cells in the immune system and replace them with new immune cells. Improved hair, nails and skin is another reported benefit of IF.
Those are just some of the benefits that I stumbled across in my reading into intermittent fasting. I was surprised to find that there has been a lot of evidence based papers and research done on intermittent fasting and its benefits, which only makes it so much more appealing to me. The fact that it has proven benefits (proven by science) makes me have much more confidence in the whole process.
My personal goals are not to lose weight, but to gain some muscle, which will hopefully lead to some fat loss. I also like the sound of having nicer skin and a healthy immune system. It makes sense that your body would be able to spend time on other things when it isn’t concentrating on digesting food all the time.
There are many variations of time that people chose to do their fasting in. You can pretty much choose whatever time frames suit your lifestyle. It’s not meant to be inconvenient or hard, quite the opposite actually. The most common times that I could find are;
- 16:8 (fasting for 16 hours and eating for 8 hours)
- 20:4 (fasting for 20 hours and eating for 4 hours)
- 5:2 (eating a normal diet for 5 days of the week and choosing 2 days to fast)
- OMAD (eat one meal per day)
I’m sure you are all thinking what I was thinking while reading about these eating/fasting windows: ‘are you kidding me? One meal a day?’
I agree, that one is not for me. I have tried the 5:2 method before also, and that one was not for me either. So, I decided to give the 16:8 a try. I mean, the benefits of this way of structuring meals definitely out weight the slight bit of hunger I will feel while fasting… I think anyway. I decided to follow the standard time of fasting from 8pm -12pm the next day, then my eating window will be from 12pm – 8pm. Totally doable, I’ll be asleep for heaps of my fast, easy peasy.
Also, I should not that it is ok to have water, sparkling water, black coffee and black tea during the fasting time.
My first week
So, I started my first fast on a Sunday night, stopped eating by 8pm, it was take away pizza (not going to lie), I was a bit worried about starving to death the next morning. I wasn’t hungry before bed, obviously, that was because I stuffed my face before 8pm.
The following morning I was starving. I’m sure it’s just because I knew I wasn’t going to eat until 12. Anyway, I decided to keep myself busy, which helped a lot. It shouldn’t have been super hard though, I usually eat something small before the gym, but then I don’t usually get around to eating any real food until 11 or 12 anyway. Turns out it was a tad harder than I thought.
Once I reached 12pm, I was ready for food. Now, I really love breakfast, so I decided that instead of missing out on my favorite meal of the day, I would just have breakfast at 12 instead of lunch. This was an awesome plan.
I found that throughout my 8-hour eating window I was able to eat as I normally would, stuck to my planned food for most of the day (I plan a weekly meal plan every week so I can track what I eat), until it got closer to 8pm. Then I got a bit worried again and veered off track a bit, but, I did stop at 8pm, so that was the main thing. I think a period of adjustment is to be expected, I decided to try and rectify this problem over the next few days.
The next couple of days went pretty much the same, but the morning part was easier than the first day. I felt like my body was adapting well.
By the end of the week I had discovered that it really mattered what type of food you ate while in your feeding window. The healthier I ate, the less hungry I was in the morning, and the less nutrient dense food I ate, the hungrier I was the next day. Makes sense.
Anyway, I was starting to notice a difference in my skin, it was feeling good and getting clearer. I also found that I had good energy levels, even in my morning workouts. I was worried that my workouts wouldn’t be as good, but, surprisingly they weren’t any different. I actually felt better than I usually do after a workout. Heaps of energy, and it reduced the hunger for a while.
This week I’ve felt like I have gotten into the swing of intermittent fasting. I am feeling used to my mornings without food. In fact, they are less rushed, because I don’t need to mess around with making breakfast. And as long as I eat ‘proper’ food the day before, the hunger is not that bad. I think my body is getting used to it.
At the start of the week I was a bit tired and slow, but now it is at the end of the week I am feeling really good again. My skin is still looking good and I definitely feel less bloated and puffy around my mid-section. While it is not my goal to lose weight, I did weigh myself at intervals over the past fortnight to see what would happen. But, nothing has changes. I feel less puffy, but no weight has been lost.
I am really happy with the way I am feeling after doing 2 weeks of intermittent fasting, so I think I’ll continue with it. I’m looking forward to seeing what benefits I can gain from it after a month, or 6 months. It’s really easy to stick to these hours of eating/fasting, so I don’t think I’ll try the other fasting windows, 16 hours is probably the most I want to do. But everyone is different and has different lifestyles, so what works for me might not work for someone else. The best thing to do is give it a try and see what works for you.