INTERMITTENT FASTING: My experience (Part 2)
It’s been just over 4 weeks since I started to play around with a number of different Intermittent Fasting protocols in order to better understand why this has become so popular over the last 5 years and to see whether it is something that could fit into my busy lifestyle.
Firstly I think it is important for me to share how much I love my breakfast! I have been an advocate of breakfast being the most important meal of the day for years, ever since I was a young athlete who needed those essential calories from my morning Oats to fuel the miles I would swim before school every day.
Over the years I have continued to favor my morning work outs. I generally start my day at 5am with breakfast, head to the studio and work with a couple of clients and then I normally have a pre-work out snack. So as you can imagine a nutrition plan that involves skipping breakfast isn’t an ideal situation for me, but I’m always up a challenge and enjoy taking myself out of my comfort zone in the name of personal growth and of course to be your human Ginny pig.
Week 1: What am I getting myself into?
Looking at my schedule and taking into consideration my current work load I decided that I would try my first 16 hour intermittent fast starting on a Saturday evening after a lovely treat meal with my wife (Jana) at one of our favorite restaurants. I had my last bite and sip of wine at 7 pm which meant that I would now fast until Sunday at 11am, conveniently forgetting that I had promised Jana that we would go for our 2nd run of the year that morning. Let’s be honest this wasn’t one of my brightest idea’s! There’s nothing like throwing yourself into a new challenge face first..
The Sunday before had been my first run for almost 8 months and it was agony all the way, so I wasn’t looking forward to running fasted. I have to be honest I woke up that morning 7am absolutely starving, my stomach was rumbling as I sat at my pc going over my client’s food journals. It was going to be hard enough to make it to 11am without eating, yet alone dragging this 210lb body around the local trials on an empty stomach. I decided that I would have to have a small by mighty coffee before heading out and boy did this work. By 8.30 am we were half way through our run and I felt great. The sun was out, all my hunger pains had passed and I felt strong. I think I clocked 7km at a pretty decent pace which I was pleasantly surprised with.
It wasn’t that hard to make it to 10.30am sipping on a liter of hot lemon water, which I have been drinking every morning for months now as it makes me feel great. What is interesting is how the last 30 minutes of my fasting window seemed so unbearable. I felt a little dizzy and so hungry. Every minute felt like an eternity which wasn’t helped by the sound of Jana sat next to me tucking into her Sunday snack. At 11am I skipped my oats and my mid-morning snack and got straight into my lunch. Was it me or did this Mexican chicken quinoa taste so much better than normal. I ate my normal portion size and focused on eating slowly and only eating until I was satiated. I expected to be hungrier, but I was full from eating my normal portion which I found surprising. For the rest of the day I ate what I would typically eat for a mid-afternoon snack and dinner making sure to consume at least 2 more liters of water. I Felt great all day! My energy levels were high and I wasn’t craving anything naughty but my legs felt a little wobbly from pushing my run.
Based on how my first fast phase went I decided to fast again from Sunday evening at 6pm until Monday morning at 11am. I was up at the usual time of 5am and I immediately made myself a strong coffee which I sweetened with Stevia. I also added a tiny amount of cream to give it a more luxurious taste while I watched Jana chowing down on her breakfast oats. This seemed a little torturous as I sat at the dinner table listening to her chewing! Note to self, Avoid the breakfast table on fasting days. I packed my lemon water, chicken quinoa salad and a protein shake to eat at 11am and drink during my mid- morning clients.
I had planned to test my fasted state out on an upper body strength workout later that morning. Normally I would hit my legs and core on a Monday but I wanted to ease myself in and see if I could tap into those elevated GH levels and utilize some of that fat for energy as my glycogen stores would theoretically have been nicely depleted by 9am. Let just say my first strength work out was tough, more mentally than physically I think although I did feel a little light headed between sets. I was surprised that my strength hadn’t seemed to be effected though as I was able to hit or improve on the weights from the same work out the week before. I also felt like I was more pumped than usual which may have just been psychological, but definitely something to keep an eye on.
The last 30 minutes before my feeding window was really tough again, which I found really strange. It’s almost like when you’re desperate for the bathroom but you know you are nowhere near a toilet, so you’re able to hold it for what seems like forever, but as soon as you know that you’re close the feeling of desperation is almost too much to bare. This tells me that hunger is mental and that we are able to control it through training our minds. Our bodies just aren’t used to going without so the brain will dictate when it feels you should feel hungry, almost like it’s preparing the body to eat.
For the rest of the week I fasted on alternating days using the same method. I chose to eat as usual on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s in order to help with my endurance work outs and because they are my busiest work days. I also decided to fast for 16 hours on Saturday and Sunday as I found the week ends pretty easy. My fasted runs on a Sunday seemed to keep improving. Maybe I could try one off my full body kettlebell work outs fasted at some point in the future without falling over? Things seemed to be going well, my energy levels were higher than usual. I even noticed that I was more focused and concise when talking in business meetings even in a fasted state, which was something I was originally worried about due to a mindlessness that usually comes with depleted states. However I was a little concerned about my morning coffee addiction. The only other time I consumed coffee this consistently was when I was preparing for a fitness show and we were filming Peak Physique.
Weeks 2-3: Starting to get into a Rhythm
During this period I was fasting 5 out 7 days a week taking a day in between as a mini re-feed, but I knew this wasn’t the exact protocol for the method I was using. In order to really test this method and give you all accurate feedback I had to take it up a notch and use the 16/8 method every day for a longer period of time. After only 3 weeks I was feeling more focused, stronger, had dropped 8 lbs of fat while retaining muscle and I wasn’t even fasting every day. I was also sleeping like a baby and not waking up starving anymore.
One Monday morning I woke up feeling so good that I decided to challenge myself to fast until 6pm that evening. This would be my first 24 hour intermittent fasting period. I didn’t have to be in super early that morning due to a couple of cancelations, so I walked into work, grabbed a strong coffee and hit a great leg work out before training 3 clients back to back. I actually felt great! The 16 hours fasting had really prepared me mentally for this mammoth task. I expected to get home after my session and crash. That afternoon I had planned on writing the first part of this blog and doing a bunch of other paper work and based on previous experiences with depleting the body I was expecting to be mindless and exhausted. I was amazed to find that I was more focused and efficient that normal. I wrote the blog, did the paper work I had planned and even had the energy to do a live FB video talking about my 24 hour fast. To be honest it was the two days following the 24 hour fast and heavy leg day that were tough. My legs took over 3 days to recover from the work out. I felt like I hadn’t trained my legs for months but in reality it had only been a week. In the future I would have to seriously think twice about the timing of a 24 hour fast and plan accordingly as the aftermath wasn’t pretty. I would definitely do a number of things differently, all of which I will outline in part 3 of this blog series.
Week 4: Could I use IF indefinitely
Here we are at week 4. This is the week that I have decided to fast for 16 hours every day. As I write this it’s Thursday and I have been fasting since last Friday. I’m still feeling awesome, generally waking up with total control over my hunger and more awake than usual. Yes it’s true that I’m relying heavily on a coffee every morning to help kick start my morning but I have generally had great energy for my clients and my own work outs. I’m sleeping better than ever and have tapped into a new level of mental strength and focus. When I look in the mirror I can see my body becoming leaner and more muscular. I have however been struggling a little with recovery especially after my heavier strength days. Over the last few weeks I been doing a lot of reading around Intermittent fasting and it appears that a few studies have suggested you can supplement some BCAA’s during and post work out which should help with this. I will let you know what I choose and why in part 3 of this blog series.
Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to try my second 24 hour fast along with the 5:2 Intermittent fasting protocol. I will continue with the video blogs so please feel free to check them out on Facebook. In part 3 of the series I will attempt to give you all a detailed summary of my experiences, along with some more science on IF and try to give you all the information you need to understand whether IF is something you could try to fit into your lifestyle.
I have been overwhelmed with the response to both my video and written blogs and would love for more of you to get involved in this discussion. For those of you who have sent me private messages, thank you and I’m doing my best to get back to all of you individually. Feel free to follow us at www.facebook.com/JMPersonalTrainerGuelph