I am very excited to share my intermittent fasting experience with you! I decided to try intermittent fasting (IF) for a number of reasons. I started IF on May 14 and ended on June 1. The reason I stopped is because Ben and I had a dinner party at 10:30pm on June 2, and I wanted to be able to enjoy it. This week I'm traveling, but I'm planning to re-start IF again next Monday and keep it up for 4 weeks this time because I loved it and would like to make more gains with it.
There are several different ways to do IF (see the end of this post for more info) but I chose the 16:8 / "Leangains" method because it's used mainly to build muscle with minimal fat accumulation. In this method of IF, you fast for 16 hours and feed for 8. The windows of fast vs. feed can vary, but typically I organized my days as follows:
· Wake up, usually around 6. Drink tons of water. Have a coffee with a little milk, cream, or dairy-free creamer around 8 or 9.
· Take BCAA's around 11/11:30 and begin workout.
· Eat first (and largest) meal around 1pm. Tons of protein and carbs. Drink more water throughout the day.
· Eat a big snack around 4 or 5, schedule permitting.
· Eat dinner around 7 or 8, and stop eating by 9.
· Go to bed and repeat!
In case you didn't see my Instagram post, when I started IF I had 57.8 pounds of muscle and 28.4 pounds of fat. 16 days later, I had 58.9 pounds of muscle and 25.6 pounds of fat.
Below I'm going to share the pros and cons I experienced, and I've included links/resources for you as well!
It's effective. Period. This worked for me and I believe in it. A few things you should know about my initial 2+ weeks of IF:
· I did no cardio. Yep, none. This wasn't on purpose, just how it happened.
· I lifted weights almost everyday.
· I drank coffee with a little bit of milk, cream, or dairy-free creamer every morning. If you consume 50 calories or less, your body is technically still in a fasted state.
· My diet was not perfect. I ate mostly grain- and gluten-free, but not completely.
· There were days I kept a perfect 16:8 fast, days where it was more like 17:7 and days where it was more like 18:6. Life inevitably gets in the way and you have to figure out how to go with the flow. A good example of this is one day during my IF period I had a doctors appointment at 11am that I knew was going to last 90min. I worked out at 10am so I'd be able to eat right after the doctor. Not ideal (I'd prefer to eat immediately following my workout) but I made it work. Overall, I was pretty strict with myself but it wasn't the exact same 16 hours fasting and 8 hours feasting for all 2+ weeks.
All of this to say I really played with flexibility in my diet and lifestyle and STILL saw success!
It allowed me to read my hunger better. I'm a huge proponent of listening to your body (it's always talking) but this is sometimes easier said than done. When you're used to eating in a 12- or 14-hour window and have suddenly been reduced to 8, you're really forced to figure out to pack a day's worth of quality nutrients into that time. It makes you think twice about eating a crappy snack or empty calories. You start to almost exclusively crave foods that'll help you feel whole, satiated and energetic.
It helps curb cravings for excessive sugar, salt, etc. see above.
It forced me to drink lots of water. Always a plus!
It forced me to appreciate coffee for coffee. If you love your AM lattes (like I do) you'll be forced to give them up for awhile. This was a great thing for me as lattes are lovely but tend to pack in more calories than a regular ol' coffee with a little bit of milk or cream in it.
It spoke to my Type A-ness. I LOVED organizing my days by workouts and meals. The fact that everything food-wise happened in an 8-hour window made it easy to plan for and track. I didn't have to worry about midmorning snacks, etc.
It reinforced the value of BCAAs. BCAAs were never really part of my routine prior to my stint in IF, but now I really see the value and will continue to take them with each workout.
If you thrive on routine, this is for you. I'm a creature of habit and I loved having to work out and eating at pretty much the exact same time each day.
Hunger! This is the most obvious con. The mornings can be tough. I have to say the last few days were the worst, because my sinuses were acting up and I took Mucinex on an empty stomach. That was a bad move that I wouldn't repeat. Otherwise, yes, the hunger could suck at times - especially when I had busy mornings with clients and was running around town with no fuel other than water and caffeine - but you do adapt and just keep moving.
You're a slave to time. This is a big lifestyle change and you really have to commit to it. Like I mentioned above, neither my diet or my window timing was perfect, but I was definitely strict with myself. If I knew we were dining out that night and there was a chance dinner could go past 9, I'd wait until 1:30 to eat my first meal. For me, it was always easier to fast in the morning and rely on having a nice cushion in the evening, even if I didn't need to use the full 8-hour window.
Quite honestly those are the only two "bad" things I can say about IF. I am a huge fan and can't wait to do it again, for longer, and see where my results are next month!
Here's my body composition results/same photo I posted on Instagram. Top half of the photo is from 5/16; bottom half was taken 6/2. I'm 5'6" and have consistently weighed between 127 and 133 for the past 6ish years.
A few resources:
This Today Show segment from back in September is what initially sparked my interest in IF. Make sure you watch the first video. This explains several different ways to do IF.
Here's more info about the 16:8 protocol.
Even more info about Leangains.
If you have any specific questions, please don't hesitate to ask!