5 Things I Learned From a Week of Intermittent Fasting (strict-less edition)

Hey y’all, this week we’re going to dive into the world of Intermittent Fasting. It’s a huge topic in today’s fitness world and there’s so many different concepts and ideas surrounding it and while it isn’t necessarily a new technique, there’s so much new research supporting its benefits as of the last couple years. So what is it? For a quick definition from Wikipedia, “Intermittent fasting is an umbrella term for various diets that cycle between a period of fasting and non-fasting during a defined period.” Yep, it’s that simple. Basically it’s the use of any diet or nutritional management though the boundaries of designated feeding and non feeding windows throughout the day. For example, my feeding window is between 10 am and 8 pm. From the hours of 8 pm to 10 am the next day there’s no eating.  Not so crazy right?  And you may already do something similar to this already.  The concept is pretty simple by design, but it takes a more cave-man approach with how our bodies digest and process food from an ancestral basis.  After eating, your body will enter the Fed State.  This is a point in which higher levels of the insulin hormone is produced and the body will now rely on the incoming source of food as its primary energy source, rather than using stored fats and glycogen as energy.  After you’re done eating for the day (typically when sleeping) the body will enter the Post-absorptive state and then later, the Fasted State. It takes about 8 to 12 hours after eating to reach the full potential of the Fasted State. At this point the body’s insulin levels will drop due to the lack of incoming food supply and thus will begin burning the stored fats and glycogen as energy.  This is the sweet spot in time and ultimate end goal for any intermittent fasting program and the reason it yields such incredible results with such little effort.  It’s important to note that entering the Fasted State isn’t limited to only sleeping times but more of a time frame of when food was last consumed.  Now, the time frame window example I used above is just a guideline and it doesn’t need to be the same, however the idea is to recognize the time spent in the Fed State and the Fasted State. Thus your feeding window could be 2 pm – 10 pm or even 4 pm – 12 am. The options are limitless! Now since this topic is very new and widely researched, everyone and their mother has opinions, thoughts, and theories of how to effectively implement the intermittent fast. For this reason I’m going to only share my thoughts and findings through my own trials and errors. It will be your job to apply my tips and adapt as you try this new life/diet hack for yourself.

Finding Your Feeding Window Will be Difficult at First

During the first few days, it will be difficult to find your feeding and fasting windows.  For me, it was easiest to pick a designated time like 10 am – 8 pm as stated before, but this was only due to my somewhat consistent work schedule right now.  When I’ve tried this approach in the past, I got so focused on the time frames that I would end up stressing myself more out and missing meals and feeling bad about it.  At this point I’ve learned that the best practice is to  worry less about the time frame and to focus only on the time spent in the Fed and Fasted states.  Here are three tips for maximizing your time frames effectively.

  1. Wait 3-5 hours after you wake before having your first meal.  When you first wake your body will be in the Fasted State, so to optimize your fat burning window, skip out on eating right away to keep your insulin levels low.  This will allow your body to continue to use stored fats as energy.
  2. A good rule of thumb is to have an 8-10 hour eating window and a 14-16 hour fasted window.  I recommend starting at a 10:14 ratio (10 hour feeding, 14 hour fasting) in the beginning as this will allow a smooth transition.  However, the 8:16 ratio (8 hour feeding, 16 hour fast) will yield incredible results in a short amount of time.
  3. Don’t get hung up on the schedule!  If you’re struggling to make your feeding window before sunset, then simplify things.  It’s about the time SPENT in the Fasted State, not WHEN you were in the Fasted State.  Your body doesn’t have a watch attached to it telling it when 8 pm has arrived.  But it CAN tell when 8 hours has gone by without any influx of food supply.  Long story short, focus on making sure you’re feeding during the 8-10 hour window, and not eating during you’re 14-16 hour window.  NO MATTER WHAT TIME OF DAY IT IS!

BCAAs and Other Foods/Drinks Can Break Your Fast

There’s only one big cardinal rule about fasting: NEVER BREAK YOUR FAST EARLY.  Breaking the fast means you’ve left the fat burning Fasted State, and are now entering the Fed State.  Insulin levels will rise and yes you guessed it, you will now be using incoming calories and food supply as energy and will no longer be burning fat.  This is okay, however we’re trying to time this at our own pace and we don’t want to break the fast too soon.  A general rule is that, anything you eat or consume that has calories will break the fast.  That being said there are some exceptions such as black coffee (NO ADDED SWEETENERS OR CREAMERS), water, and green tea.  Also, starting and ending your day with a shot of apple cider vinegar and water is a good way to cleanse and assist in the absorption of previously consumed minerals in to your body during your mineral deprived fasted state.  It’s good to know as well that not all calorie-free foods and liquids will keep you in a Fasted State.  This is because some liquids, though calorie free can still target insulin spikes within your body thus breaking your fast.  This is especially true and brought to light more recently about BCAAs or Branch Chained Amino Acids.  The best rule of thumb when deciding what liquids to consume during your fast is to stick to: Water, Black Coffee, Green Tea, and Apple Cider Vinegar.

After Day 3, The Mental Clarity Kicks In

One of the highlights of Intermittent Fasting is the promotion of mental focus and clarity while on a fasted diet.  This is also a gift from our ancient ancestors in the form of evolutionary adaptations.  In a nutshell, during the days of hunting and gathering, the prehistoric man would spend most of the day hunting and wouldn’t have our modern day luxuries of Snack Packs and protein bars to hold them over until they caught dinner.  The Fasted State can trigger the body to release catecholamines (essentially adrenaline) which helps the mind focus.  An adaptation much needed in the prehistoric days to help humans find their next meal.  This can take a few days to get to that level, but if you fight the temptations to break your fast, you’ll feel the mental clarity soon enough.

Plan Out Your Caloric Intake

It should go without saying that having a diet or some sort of nutrition plan will assist tremendously in your fasting journey.  However, because of it’s fat burning potential, Intermittent Fasting tends to be a bit more forgiving than most traditional diet plans.  For this first round of Intermittent Fasting for myself, I took the loose approach.  I didn’t follow my usual macro plan and I ate out A LOT.  I plan on spending the next week with a much more disciplined approach to see the difference in the results.  I was shocked however, at seeing what my body was able to do to keep me in the same lean state I entered in, and I wasn’t even counting my macros!  All that being said, some caution should be heeded.

  1. Try to eat non processed wholesome foods as much as possible.  This means relatively large portioned meals with adequate supply of protein, carbs, and fats and no processed drinks, bars, or pre-cooked microwaveable dishes.  Instead, meats, wild caught fish, eggs, nuts, high fat dairy (cheese, butter), and non starchy veggies are a good base for your meals.  I would err on the side of higher protein and fat, rather than high starchy carbs since the protein and fats will leave you feeling satiated longer.  Also, most sugar, grain, and starch based carbs will mess with your insulin and blood sugar levels, which leave your body to process more empty calories than necessary.
  2. Try to shoot for 3-4 meals for your feeding window.  If you plan on an 8 hour feeding window, shoot for 3 medium-large meals with the largest at the end of your feeding.  If you plan on a 10 hour feeding window, shoot for 4 medium-large meals with the largest at the end.

Stack Some Cardio in During Your Fast

I know everyone hates cardio, but if you’re looking to see fat melt off your body, you have to try adding some cardio.  Even with low intensity cardio, like stairs, exercise and movement whilst in the Fasted State can increase and trigger even more burning of fat and glycogen storage.  I sometimes lift and do cardio depending on my work schedule while in the Fasted State and I feel leaner and tighter.  Take it at your own pace and be sure to start slow and after you’ve had some time with your new Intermittent Fasting program before you introduce too much exercise and activity.

Sooooo….  As I mentioned before, this week was a trial for myself while paying minimal attention to my actual macro nutrients other than just trying to make sure i got enough protein, carbs and fats.  This upcoming week I plan on using the same Fasting program, but this time with a lot more focus on the nutritional content to record and compare the results.  I plan on consuming 3-4 meals during my feeding window and fast for 14-16 hours independent of the actual time of day.

I’ll be back in a week to share my findings. I’m not going to lie, going back to meal prep after a week of eating whatever I wanted is not looking fun. But I’m excited to see the changes. Hope you all enjoyed today’s post and wish me luck!

P.S. check out the 6 day progress photos below

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Linking up with: A Stroll Thru Life

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