In my past weight loss adventures, I’ve tried fasting to no avail. Besides being hungry all day and night I ended up gaining the weight right back over the next few days. What was the point of that?
Turns out it wasn’t the fast that was the problem. It was me. There are really two ways to head into a fast – healthy or going full-throttle jackass. Guess which way I went?
Lately I’ve stumbled upon a few articles on the health benefits of fasting. It seems like a lot of research is going on testing their effectiveness. Initial data indicates that periodic fasting improves things like blood pressure and insulin sensitivity as well as lowers body fat.
So for Lent, I’m giving fasting one more try. But this time I want to do it right.
Keys To Healthy Fasting
My attempts at fasting always ended the same way – I lost weight then gained it back after a few days. But I didn’t do any preparation and I was already on a calorie restrictive diets when I did the fast. Bad move on my part.
To give the fast a far shake, I turned to a few key low carb/paleo diet blogs I trust to learn more. A big help was a new podcast I’ve discovered – Cut The Fat Podcast (I’ll have a review up on this shortly). I listened to a few episodes over the weekend including the fasting episode.
According to the podcast’s hosts, you need to consider these things before starting a fast:
- Have a Consistent Diet – Your body must be well fed before and after a fast so you don’t trigger the starvation mode. Basically you don’t want your body to think no more food is coming. So if you’re already seriously cutting your calories, fasting isn’t for you.
- Proper Nutrition – You still need to eat right before and after a fast. Stay away from fasts that claim you can eat whatever you want afterwards. What’s the point of doing a fast if you are just going to reach for a box of Twinkies after?
- Your Body Is Smarter Than You – If your body perceives that it is at risk to go into starvation mode, it will take action to keep body fat. Again, consistent good nutrition is key before you start a fast.
- Keep Your Body In An Anabolic State – You can end up losing more muscle than fat with a fast, which is why resistance training is important. If done right, you can actually build muscle while fasting.
Changing My Eating Schedule
All of us do fast once within a 24 hour period – when we sleep. For many of us, that’s about 8 hours without eating. That’s why we call first meal of the day “breakfast” – it’s when you “break” the “fast.”
Getting 8 hours of sleep is necessary for our appetite hormones to reset. But what if you extend that fast a few more hours? This is the idea behind the intermittent fast – abstain from eating 10-16 hours in a 24-hour period. The beauty is you can pick the hours to make it work for you.
That may seem extreme, but when you factor getting 8 hours of sleep each night, extending your fast doesn’t seem that difficult. All you’re doing is changing your schedule and eating 1-2 times a day (with a snack) rather than 3 meals or all day grazing.
Dot’s Fasting Schedule
Midnight – 6:00 a.m. – Sleeping (& Fasting)
6:00 a.m. – Noon – Fasting (+45-90 minutes of exercise)
Noon – 10:00 p.m. – Eating (2 meals, 1 – 2 snacks)
11:00 p.m. – Midnight – Sleeping (& Fasting)
I started my fast yesterday (Ash Wednesday). And so far, so good. I worried about working out with my trainer and doing cardio on an empty stomach. But I remedied that easily enough with coffee or black tea in the mornings. You see caffeine suppresses appetite, and sure enough my morning coffee took the edge off before the workout. Also, I didn’t exercise like a maniac. I want some intensity, but I don’t want to burn myself out either.
I think today will be more of a challenge. I don’t workout until my noon spin class. So I plan to bring with me a low carb protein shake to drink during class. Depending how things go today, I may change to my normal eating routine for Tuesdays and Thursdays to accommodate my noon cycling classes.
Day 1: Feeling Hungry & Tracking Calories
The biggest difference I felt was being hungry when it was time to eat. Typically when I eat, I don’t feel hungry. After nearly 3 years of eating at my designated times, maybe my body got too comfortable. Perhaps this fast will really shake my system up (hopefully for the better).
While normally I don’t look at my daily total caloric intake, for the purposes of this experiment, I plan to keep an eye more closely on how much I’m eating.
By eliminating breakfast, I did eat less than I normally do in a day – by about 400 calories. I also had less than 15g of net carbs. That might shoot me into ketosis.
During the fast, I’ll eat a larger than usual lunch, but dinner and my snacks should otherwise be the same. I’m usually between 1550 and 1800 calories a day. I don’t want to dip below 1200 calories during the fast. But I don’t want to eat the same amount of food during the fast either.
The key is by the time my eating phase is over I can’t be hungry, otherwise fasting just isn’t for me.
- New Study: A Low-Carb Diet And Intermittent Fasting Beneficial For Diabetics! (Diet Doctor)
- Fasting For Weight Loss. Using Fasting As A Tactic To Lose Fat (Cut The Fat Podcast)
- What I Actually Eat, Part 2 (The Eating Academy)
- Is Intermittent Fasting Healthy? (Mark’s Daily Apple)
- A Beginners Guide To Intermittent Fasting (Nerd Fitness)
- 3 Common Fasting Myths Debunked (For Dummies)