If you’re looking for diet ideas you may have done some research and heard of the term Intermittent Fasting, but never known exactly what it is. If you’ve ever thought “Fasting?… Isn’t that starving yourself? Intermittent… that’s a big word, I better not try this” then you’re not alone. It sounds a lot more daunting than a no carb, raw food or meat free diet which describe themselves in the name. So if you’ve heard of Intermittent Fasting and want a PTs review on it, then read ahead.
What is Intermittent Fasting. Intermittent Fasting is selecting an 8 hour window to allow yourself to eat, and only allowing yourself water or black coffee the rest of the day. Now this sounds dramatic at first, but it’s not as crazy as it seems. If you sleep for 8 hours a day, there’s 16 hours left when you’re awake. You select an 8 hour time frame while you’re awake to get in all your nutrition for the day. Effectively you don’t change much about what you are eating, you would just skip either breakfast or dinner, add a healthy snack in and that’s pretty much it.
The theory behind Intermittent Fasting. The energy balance equation reads: calories in – calories out = energy change, now this is a basic rule, but it works for this diet. Let’s say an average adult male consumes 2500 calories and burns 2500 calories in his day to day life, his weight will stay the same. If however he cuts out breakfast and consumes 1900 calories, but still burns 2500 calories, he will be in an energy deficit of -600 calories and should lose weight (if followed for at least a few weeks). This is the basic theory behind Intermittent Fasting. Its HARDER to eat more than you burn when only eating within an 8 hour window, now it’s still possible, but a lot harder.
That is the basic weight loss theory for Intermittent Fasting. There’s a whole load of other benefits to your health about only eating in an 8 hour window and they’re mainly about letting your body fully reset. If you’re constantly eating your digestive system never gets a chance to rest. By fasting for most of the day your body doesn’t have to concentrate all it’s energy on digesting food and can focus on other functions. We don’t NEED to eat three times a day (or more for a meathead). Hunter gatherer colonies would only eat when they made a kill and would often have no food for days. This is still how native tribes live today, and they all seem fairly healthy, how many overweight indigenous people do you see?…
Why did I try it? I’ve always heard of intermittent fasting during my time being a meathead but never had a go myself. Vivi, my other half and other contributor to this website, is a firm advocate of Intermittent Fasting, she’ll actually be more help if you’re looking for more of the sciencey benefits of fasting. At the time of Ramadan I was speaking to clients and gym members who were talking to me about their journey with fasting so I thought I would feel their pain and give it a go. I think in any profession you need to be able to walk the walk and it’s my job to trial exercises, workouts and diets on myself in order to be able to advise clients best.
Here’s a few negatives and why Intermittent fasting didn’t work for me. Firstly, my routine is always different. As a self-employed Personal Trainer my daily schedule is always changing. One morning I could have clients from 6am-11am, or I could have a 7am then a gap till 12, and the same goes for evenings, I could start at 4pm and work till 9pm or I could have gaps in-between. The days are always different and therefore it’s hard to plan my meals and stick to an 8 hour window. I used a midday to 8pm window during my time as an Intermittent Faster as that USUALLY worked but on some days it was a nightmare.
Most days I finish my morning clients and train myself before midday, but occasionally, sticking to this 12-8pm window was a disaster. For example one morning I would only have one client at 7am, finish my training by 9am and I would have to wait three hours after training until my eating window opened at Midday. Now I’m not an advocate of eating within your “Anabolic Window” but leaving a three hour gap after training definitely isn’t advised, and also isn’t pleasant.
The same problems would arise in the evening when sticking to a 12-8pm eating window. Say I would start work at 5pm and have no break until 9pm, I couldn’t eat when I got home because I was out of my window. So on that specific day my 8 hour window was reduced to a 5 hour window. And worse again when I woke up starving having not eaten since 5pm the day before, I knew I couldn’t eat until midday again the next day when my window opened again, shocker. It may be every meatheads paranoia but I even feel I may have lost muscle mass whilst following Intermittent Fasting as I was over-fasting and under eating due to my irregular work hours.
Another problem I encountered with Intermittent Fasting was energy during my workouts. Usually it’s a blessing that I can train in the daytime when my body is most awake. However as my training time was right at the end of my 16 hour I felt drained and lethargic. I like having some natural sugars before a workout like a piece of fruit and to even starve myself of that had a big effect, there’s only so much coffee can help. Whereas I feel with fixed work hours (9-5) you would be able to workout during your eating window so this shouldn’t affect you.
I also found myself snacking more than often. As the hunger would build up so much if I even walked past something remotely tasty (snack section in a petrol station or some not so healthy flapjacks at the gym), if it was at the start of my window, I would cave. I rarely snack mid-week and to eat crap in the week was new for me.
Now I’ve mentioned the negatives I can talk about the positives. You’re allowed BIG MEALS during your eating hours. I had some gigantic meals whenever I broke my fast which was a plus. You also don’t have to waste time choosing or prepping the meal you will skip. I always say there’s no excuse for an unhealthy breakfast, but when you don’t have one, you can’t go wrong! If you’ve ever prepped overnight oats and forgotten it in the morning, that’s the hungriest you’ll ever be. Whereas if you know you’re not eating breakfast, you kind of get over it, and don’t really miss it.
When you eat healthy all week and are looking forward to that beer and burger at the weekend it tastes oh so good. And when you’re fasting all day and finally get to tuck into that big meal, you get that feeling every day. Every meal I had when I entered my eating window tasted AMAZING even if it was boring old chicken, rice and veg. There’s nothing that makes you enjoy food like starving yourself (don’t quote me on that).
If you’re a grazer and like to snack continuously throughout the day, Intermittent Fasting is a great way to combat that. It’s hard, especially in an office environment, to keep healthy when there’s biccys and chocolate flying all over the place. When you know that you can ONLY eat in your window you’ll find yourself saying no to these nibbles, for part of the day at least.
Another thing it taught me to deal with was getting Hangry (Anger caused by Hunger). Anyone that knows me knows I’m a miserable bastard when I’m hungry. If I was just half an hour late for getting my next meal in I turned into a real asshole (sorry Viv and Mum). With Intermittent Fasting I found that I just blanked out whatever hungry feeling I had, or as best I could, as I knew that next meal wasn’t coming for around 16 hours. And even though Intermittent Fasting as a whole didn’t work for me, I can take this away and implement it when necessary.
For someone looking to drop a little weight, I would say give Intermittent Fasting a go. It’s quick and easy to implement, and it works. All you need to do is prepare to skip breakfast or dinner, feel a little hungrier at those times, and carry on your life as it was. Obviously, I would advise doing further research after reading this but give it a go and let me know. And if any of you intermittent fasters want to contribute, let us know what you think in the comments.