Intermittent Fasting – The good, the bad and the ugly!
- January 31, 2019
- Caroline Pearce
Intermittent Fasting – The good, the bad and the ugly!
Now first off I want to be clear that all of the below comments are based on my recent 2 week road test of Intermittent Fasting combined with a little research and advice from expert minds in this field! It’s not to be taken as complete fact but more a shared experience. Briefly:
Did I enjoy it? No
Did I feel better? No just ‘hungry’!
Did I look better? Only in the last hour of the fast where my body was sucked in and in need of food!
Will I do it again? Maybe! I’ll tell you more below…
I embarked on a 2 week trial of intermittent fasting whereby I fasted for 16 hours and had a feeding period of 8 hours. Typically I stopped eating at 8pm in the evening and had my first meal at 12pm the next day to break my fast. This ’16-8′ window has been touted as one that will result in positive changes associated with concentration, weight and fat loss, digestive track recovery and overall good health. I typically workout mid morning and so I was exercising towards the end of my fast and then making sure my first meal was one of fats and proteins and NOT carbohydrates due to research showing that the carbs open up the cells and store the fat (obviously this is a very brief explanation of that science). Even though my own physiological learning and understanding is that combining carbs and fats helps to slow the insulin response and avoid a spike and then an energy crash! Anyway I followed protocol here and then had my breakfast protein smoothie with simple and complex carbs a couple hours later! The rest of the day involved snacks such as nuts, fruits and the occasional protein or energy bar. I’d eat a dinner of fish or meat with mixed veg and pesto or tomato based sauce as usual. If before 8pm I’d squeeze in 2 squares of dark chocolate and a spoonful of peanut butter. I must point out that I’m a girl that goes to bed excited for my breakfast, wakes up with ridiculous hunger pangs and also likes a late night snack! Add to that the fact I workout very hard and do so in the mornings meant that I was always exercising fasted. So this was always going to be a challenge for me!
- I realised I can complete some training sessions in a fasted state without feeling low in energy. These included cardio sessions and light circuit training provided it wasn’t in the last hour of my fast. I didn’t like it but I felt ok doing it.
- I got more work done first thing in the morning as I removed my usual smoothie making process, eating and clean up!
- My overall daily calories were down by around 200-400 calories simply due to the smaller eating window to what I’m used to which is a positive is weight loss is the goal.
- This way of eating does install discipline. It was good for me not to mindlessly pick at food late at night as I would sometimes do. A cut off point of eating in the evening is not a bad thing for me.
- I looked super lean in the gym in the mornings! Just as I do when we first wake up but rather than fill my tummy with food I was still sucked in with tight abs until noon!
- My fasted workouts that involved heavy lifting or intense HIIT sessions were a struggle. I definitely felt less energy and found myself wanting to cut corners and get home sooner so I could get ready to eat! Not good!
- My daily routine of work can change each week with travel and time zone changes. This made it even harder to stick to the fasting period as I found myself faced with a high pressure live television show to do at the exact time I needed my first meal. Furthermore when traveling I don’t have access to the same foods I’d usually choose to cook and eat. So I had to cut that fast short in order to perform as I was being trusted and paid to do on the shoot and not come across crazy! Then I was delayed 5 hours at the airport coming home, missing a proper dinner aside from snacks, and so wanting proper food at 2am when I landed!
- For the first few days of this trial I would find myself feeling quite sick with my first meal of the day at 12pm. But then I’d be super hungry again an hour later.
- I was ‘Hangry’. This if you’ve not heard of this term then it can be described as a state of anger caused by hunger and makes any person feeling it not particularly nice to be around!! Sorry Jason and Jen in particular!!
- I was fixated on food. Now if you’ve ever had or have an emotional relationship with food then this protocol will possibly have you back in this state. I’ve had many years in my 20’s measuring, calorie counting and obsessing over food but I found my rhythm, my way of eating (little and often and when I want) and my happy place with food in my 30’s. But being restricted to a certain time period of eating here had me fixating on food again and worrying over whether I was eating too much or not enough when I was eating. A big no-no from me!
- Women produce more of the hunger hormone ghrelin making periods of fasting more difficult for them. And for reproductive reasons (what we as women are built to do) it has been advised that a women’s fasting period should be a little shorter than 16 hours anyway.
This is not for me and I personally don’t believe the best option for people who workout intensely and are already eating a balanced and clean diet. It may also not be quite as suitable for women. However, for those who want to kickstart a big change in their body and who haven’t yet found what works for them then by all means give it a go. I’d say allow some flexibility and don’t intermittent fast every day of the week (5 days only perhaps) as your body can become desensitized to it much like we can become desensitized to caffeine if we drink too much coffee. What’s more your body’s metabolism can start to slow down if this results in consistently lower calories. Be sure to hydrate well during your fasted hours and don’t use your eating window as an excuse to eat recklessly.
For me – I may continue to do the odd fasted workout but I will eat immediately afterwards. I’ll also stop myself eating too late at night. Otherwise – this girl is not giving up her breakfast any more!!
Let me know your thoughts, questions and experience with intermittent fasting…