Getting Started With Intermittent Fasting

Today’s the day, my friends.

Today’s the day that I begin my 4 weeks of Intermittent Fasting. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can read this post from a couple weeks ago where I described the nutritional experiment that I’m beginning.

For the past 2 weeks I’ve been documenting my normal weight fluctuations as well as body composition. I’ve also been documenting how I’ve been feeling throughout the day, sleep patterns, etc. so that I know my base line before I start all this.  Granted, for a full week of that I was sick as a dog, but I don’t think that had much of an effect on my normal weight fluctuations and such. So now that I have some numbers documented to compare to, it’s time to get started with the fun! As I said in the original experiment post, I’ll be starting with Intermittent Fasting. I promised that I’d elaborate a little bit more on this when the time came, and that time is now.

What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)? 

IF is used to describe a style of eating in which you alternate prolonged periods of fasting with shorter periods of eating. In reality, we all utilize some form of IF, because technically we fast when we sleep at night. However, the research behind IF suggests that health benefits may be realized when the fasting period is prolonged, from anywhere from 16-24 hours. I am not going to get into all of the science behind it in this post, but there is research out there that suggests that IF may help to increase life expectancy, regulate blood glucose, regulate blood lipids, and help to maintain a desirable body weight/composition.  The research is limited, but I’m willing to work with it for now.

There are many different protocols for IF. There are those who follow extended fasts, going a full 24 hours 1 – 2 days per week, and those that alternate 36 hour fasts with 12 hours of “regular” eating (now that just sounds like pure torture). There are those who use a 20/4 ratio, fasting for 20 hours and eating all of their calories within a 4 hour window (also torture, no?). The protocol that I will be following is the Leangains style, which incorporates a 16 hour fasting window with an 8 hour feeding window (only very mild torture).

How Will I Do This?

I will most likely be fasting from 8 pm until noon on most days, but will have to give myself a little bit of wiggle room due to my ever-changing work schedule. The times may shift 1-2 hours either way (7pm – 11am, for instance), but I am really going to try my hardest to stick to the 16/8 schedule.

There are some rules here though. I can’t just go all CHEESEBURGER!!!!! for 8 hours (although I wish I could. Love me a burger.) Following a Leangains style of eating incorporates the following: carb cycling, eating mostly whole, minimally processed and unprocessed foods, and eating your largest meal directly after training. This could get tricky with my schedule.

*Important Note – I will still be getting all of my normal calories in each day, just in a shortened time frame. This is not a way to drastically cut calories from my diet. 

If you wanted to do this as well, you could choose to eat early in the morning, and have your fasting start late afternoon (essentially skipping dinner instead of breakfast) but I have a feeling that would not work out great for me personally.  Based on my work and training schedule, the night-into-morning fast seems to make the most sense for me. Who knows though, that could change!

Following this schedule will also help me to make the transition into Carb Back Loading more easily in a months time, but I’ll go into more detail on that later.

What Challenges am I going to face with IF?

This is most definitely going to be a very challenging thing for me at first, of that I’m sure. I’m a snacker; I hate feeling hungry, and tend to have a very bad reaction to it (shaky hands, nausea, inability to think straight, irritability, etc.), but part of me thinks that this is something that can be controlled.  I think that the first week or 2 will be extremely challenging, but hopefully after that my body will settle in.

I think my biggest challenge of all is going to be training fasted. I train almost exclusively in the mornings, and I’ve only done so without breakfast a couple of times in my life. It will be interesting to see how my body responds, and most likely I’ll be experimenting with some BCAAs (branched chain amino-acids) pre-workout, as I’ve read that these can help with energy when training in a fasted state.

The final challenge that I will probably encounter will be in my social life. I’m often out after 8 pm, and will find myself munching away on things, even when I’m not particularly hungry. I can attack this in 2 ways: I can either shift my fasting window on those days, or I can practice some self control and just keep my hands away from the snacks. We’ll see how this goes!

What am I looking forward to?

I would say the biggest thing that I’m looking forward to with IF is learning the difference between physical and psychological hunger. I’m interested in learning more about my own personal hunger cues, and how my body will respond to such a strict schedule.

If you are curious about IF, and would like to try it yourself or just learn more about it, I recommend that you start with this awesome (free) downloadable PDF from Dr. John Berardi, the mastermind behind Precision Nutrition.  There are tons of great resources out there, but this is an excellent overview!

And with that, here we go! I’ll keep you updated as the weeks go on, so you can either share in my misery or hear about what I’m loving about IF.  Hopefully it’s the latter.

Do you have any questions about IF? Have you ever tried this style of eating? Do you think you would be able to manage skipping breakfast? What do you think your biggest challenge would be with this program?

21 thoughts on “Getting Started With Intermittent Fasting

  1. I tried IF last summer, same protocol as you and I really enjoyed it. I also trained fasted in the morning (weights) with no problems.
    Have you read Nia Shanks website, she has a bit about it.
    Look forward to reading how you get on with it.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it! I’ve really liked it so far, and although I’m only a few days in, I feel like my body is responding well so far. I love Nia Shanks and read her often… her and Neghar Fonooni are two big reasons why I decided to try this!

      1. Came across this article in last couple of days, just incase it doesn’t work out for you

        Gotta Love Girls Gone Strong 🙂

  2. I am not sure how my body would handle IF. I have found that larger meals and less snacking helps with the low blood sugar shakiness and irritability though! It will be interesting to see what you experience with this!

    1. Honestly, I was not sure either. And granted, it’s only been about 5 days now, but I’m loving it so far. I’ve gotten the shakes a couple times, but overall my energy has been way better than expected, and I think my body is finally learning how to handle a little hunger 🙂

      1. That is fabulous! I definitely need to learn how to deal with hunger.

  3. I saw this idea a little while ago the “8 hour diet” I was like oh that doesn’t sound to bad and then I thought “okay I eat breakfast normally at 6:30, 6 + 8 = 14 = 2pm, F that” The whole shifting to 11am / 12pm for the first meal makes a little more sense. I like the idea of it and am looking forward to hearing how your body reacts!

    1. Yeah I think I would have a really hard time if I were to try to do this by fasting through dinner into the next morning. Being able to wake up in the morning, already the bulk of the way through your fast is a wonderful thing! I’m not sure that I’d be able to make it through the afternoon/evening without munching on something 🙂

  4. There is this new diet here in the UK called “the Fast Diet” and it is basically a butchered version of IF. Twice per week you fast and only have 500 calories a day. No shit you lose weight. But they are trying to claim the benefits of IF as to why it is a good idea to follow long term.

    I really wanted to try IF (it just seems so much easier in terms of meal prep and consumption etc) but I found out fasting is not recommended for women with PCOS due to our insulin resistance. Boo!

    1. Ugh I hate hearing about things like that!! That’s exactly what I DONT want people to think I’m doing. It’s a bummer you can’t try it out, but you certainly have to go with your health first!

  5. what brand of BCAA supplements do you use/have you used (if at all?) just wondering 🙂

    1. Hey! Honestly, I’ve never used them before. I just ordered Cellucor BCAAs in Tropical Punch flavor, because I kept reading how awful and bitter the unflavored ones are, and I wasn’t sure if I could choke those down. Verdict? They’re all awful. AWFUL. Worst tasting thing I’ve ever drank… not sure if I can drink that every time I lift 🙂 Do you take them? What brand and do they NOT taste like death?

      1. hahahhaa i’m glad i asked — i haven’t taken them either, but i was toying with the idea. maybe it will have to be post workout and hidden deep in a smoothie. i haven’t had a problem with fasted workouts, but i’m definitely always looking for ways to make recovery efficient. hmmm i will do more investigating to find a way to make these taste good…otherwise fooorrrrrget it i won’t compromise taste hahaha

  6. Hey, I have been a reader for a while but have not really commented before. I started IF almost two weeks ago. The first few days I just tried to see how late I could go without eating breakfast. I could make it to about 11am or 12pm but I could really feel the hunger coming on by then. What made me really get started was reading John Berardi’s ebook. It was a really great resource, and I have also been reading up on and trying to follow the Leangains method. Anyway, after a few days, the hunger in the morning really does go away! its crazy, I thought I could never survive without breakfast, but I really realized that some days I just eat it because I feel like I should, even if Im not super hungry. It is also so much easier now not having to plan little meals to carry around with me. Also, I feel like I could never really stick to the small meals, they just ended up being big meals because I really like to feel full and satisfied after meals. The first few days really made me start to differentiate between stomach hunger, and hunger in my mind or just craving some food. I try not to stress too much about staying in that set window, some days I go a bit longer than 16, some days 15, but overall I have found that I really do love this way of eating. I have started to notice some weightloss too which is great, because I have been wanting to lose weight for quite some time but couldnt (I am about 27% bf and want to get that down). I was also very surprised that I did not suffer so much from training fasted. The first time was not the best workout, but now I am not finding any decreases in strength. Overall, I think this is working as a way of eating for ME. its not the be all end all, its not suppose to be some magical diet, but if you can fit it in with your lifestyle and see good results then I say go for it. Good luck and cant wait to see your results. I have found that writing out how I am feeling each day and writing what I ate has helped a lot. Sorry for the novel! 🙂 lol

    1. Thanks so much for coming out to comment! I really appreciate hearing how others have felt while following IF. I actually have been really enjoying it for these past 5 days, and like you said, after the first couple days, it’s really not that hard to get to 11 or 12 without eating. I too am learning the difference between true hunger and “boredom hunger”, which I love. I like how you say that it’s not the end-all be-all, but it’s a great program if it fits within YOUR lifestyle. So true!

  7. I actually saw Dr. John Berardi do a talk at a symposium at my school last year – he was talking about his method for achieving weight loss in his clients, which involves setting one small goal at a time (ie. drinking 2 L water/day) and mastering that goal before moving onto the next. I really enjoyed it!

    As for IF, I think it sounds like torture to me! I’m interested to see how it works out for you though.

    1. I really like some of his material, I think he’s a source that can be highly trusted in a sea of celebrity quacks! I love that method of reaching goals — it just makes sense, you know? And I hear ya that IF sounds like torture, I thought the same thing. But I’m really enjoying it so far, and it’s not as hard as it sounds!

  8. I recently recorded and blogged the appearence with Dr Michael Mosley about the intermittent diet. There is a video and audio transcription on there. It is a great summary if you are doing the diet. Typically staying with 500 calories but yesterday I managed a whole day without eating anything. Best of luck to everybody on the diet plan!

    1. That is actually a dangerously low calorie consumption, so I’m not certain we are talking about the same thing here. I still consume my normal amount of calories (anywhere from 1800-2200 depending) during the day, I just do it in a shortened amount of time. Continuously only feeding yourself 500 cals per day is not a healthy alternative, in my professional opinion. Wishing you the best in your health and wellness!

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