There are a ton of ‘diet plans’ out there, and most shoot for your attention by proclaiming themselves as the single greatest thing you could do. I personally have never been a fan of diets; there is no intimacy. What I mean is that you do it for 30 days and that’s it. Regardless of seeing great results or little-to-no results, it doesn’t become a lifestyle choice. I wanted something that I would be able to sustain.
I then found Intermittent Fasting. There has been much research on I.F. and all of its benefits. Instead of going into all of the studies, I’d rather talk about how you can get off to not only a good start, but sustain I.F. for long periods of time. These were things that I have researched and personally saw and did that helped or screwed me up, so hopefully you can learn from some of my mistakes!
1.) Don’t do I.F.
Lol. Sounds crazy, right?! I mean don’t do it without having had some sort of background in healthy eating. I.F. will shrink your caloric intake window (commonly referred to as eating period) but it won’t be helpful at all if you just chow down on pizza and drink beer because now your ready to eat. Unknowingly, I started this process years ago, by prescribing to the Paleo method of eating. At one (very short) point, I even did the Zone Block Method. I would highly recommend both of these practices 1st. Think of it like school: Paleo is Junior High, Zone is High School, and I.F. is College. Both these ideas help me establish healthy eating habits that I could easily carry into my everyday life.
2.Start the DAY BEFORE
One of the biggest/funniest mistakes I made during my journey was my very first day. Without any real prep the night before, I just said ‘I’m gonna start!’ This left me with my last meal for 16 hours to be a peanut butter sandwich on Ezekiel bread, a beer, a handful of popcorn, and pizza (Don’t worry-I don’t eat like that anymore! Not exactly the end of night meal that would/should be expected to take me to 2:00pm the next day. And don’t worry! No matter how much coffee you drink, it WILL NOT KEEP YOU AWAKE!!! You will drag all the way to the end of your window. I was feeling so bad, people were asking me if I was all right.
3.To amino or not to amino
Black coffee, unsweetened tea, and water were the consensus picks for acceptable things to consume during fasting. However, amino acids were another topic I found when researching. Are you technically breaking your fast if you consume amino acids? There is research to contradict both ideas, but you can elect to do either amino acids during your fasting window or not. Amino acids are the blocks that form protein. While they are helpful in aiding muscle recovery, they can also trigger an insulin response. As soon as insulin spikes, you are no longer in a fasted state. Other researchers will show that amino acids help keep you satiated/ have no caloric value and therefore wouldn’t trigger an insulin response. I’d rather err on the side of caution and just not do them at all during the fast. Which leads to the 4th idea…
4. Your window
16/8 is generally a good version of I.F. There are a few of them out there (warrior, 5/2, etc.) But it’s widely accepted that the 16 hour window is a great range for your body to achieve all the positive hormonal/physical effects. With that said, know your body. I did it where my feeding window was between 2pm and 10pm, and that was good because I am a night owl. However, I also wake up around 4am everyday, so the majority of my fasted state was with me being awake. I’ve now switched to my window being 11am-7am and that allows for more of a balance. In addition, I work out at different hours of the day, but mostly mornings. I just have to deal with fasted training (another blog altogether), but that doesn’t mean you have to. If you only work out once, then I might recommend making that the end of your fast/start of your feeding window. Every one is different, and I believe the overall goal of I.F. is to make the body more resilient.
6. Small Things make a big difference
I realize that many people might find it hard to do I. F. right off the bat. I don’t blame you at all. The reality is that on the surface this is very much a backwards approach to the last 100 years or so of our standard eating habits. If you are interested in getting started, there are two things that you can do to get it going. For me, I. F. is not necessarily what you eat but when you eat. So right off the bat adjust the frequency of your meals. Snacking becomes something that kind of goes out of the window. I. F. can be an awesome tool to discipline you into eating maybe just a few times throughout the day. The 2nd thing to try is either stop eating a little earlier at night or try eating a little later in the morning. I’ve found that to be a rather simple change to start with. This also helped me see that I was thirsty, but I instead ate thinking that I was hungry.
7. Have fun and try stuff!
The day shouldn’t be spent with you staring at the clock waiting for your feeding window (aka zombie face!) Have fun, go work, work out, read, and before you know it, your window will start. If you are like me, you’ll find yourself accidentally not eating right when your window starts because you were too busy with something else. I.F. helped me take all the emotion out of food, which has helped me from making those dumb decisions throughout the day (i.e. I’m hungry, so I’ll get those peach rings…maybe 2 bags!!!) The point is if you try this and make a mistake, it’s all good! Log the mistake and make a process to correct it. If you are with friends and you are around 20 mins before your eating window starts and they want to go get a burger, then go! Switch the part of the day you fast if it can help make the process easier. There are also multiple different fasting plans you could do, so if one doesn’t work for you experiment with others. Work to make the process fun and easy, and it could go from just a ‘diet’ to a lifestyle.
To end, there are tons of information and resources out there that show that intermittent fasting has been a successful approach for weight management and the building /maintenance of lean mass. This however, has been my personal journey with it. If you choose to do it, know that it can be difficult to change the entire way you previously ate. Using some of these steps will hopefully lead you to being successful in your own personal journey. Good luck!