Yep, that’s right I’m fasting, but not in the way that you’re probably thinking.
As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago here on the site I recently came across Experiments In Intermittent Fasting, a free E-Book that chronicles Dr. John Berardi’s 6 month long experience with various fasting plans. For those of you that don’t recognize his name, Dr. Berardi is a well-known and respected nutrition and exercise expert that heads up the team at Precision Nutrition.
For me this is yet another example of how I’m continually evolving in my quest for fitness and health knowledge. If you had brought this type of plan to me in the past, I would have dismissed it and said you’re nuts. Over the years, we’ve all been bombarded with so many eating ‘rules’ – including the idea of eating small meals every 3 hours to speed your metabolism and to prevent muscle loss. With that in mind the idea of an intermittent fasting plan literally flies in the face of everything you’ve heard. So let me explain.
Everyone fasts to some degree. You sleep every night right? Well that’s a fast – hence the name breakfast – break the fast. Intermittent plans simply extend the amount of time that you go between meals. There are many schools of thought for what hours work best, some say a 12 hours of eating / 12 hours fasting plan is best, others opt for a 10 / 14 approach, and some say a once weekly 24 hour fast is the best way to go. I’ve opted for the 16 / 8 approach, meaning I fast for 16 hours, and “feed” for 8. This works best for me because it fits into my day nicely and is extremely manageable. A point I do need to make clear is that this type of plan is not a calorie restrictive or a starvation plan. You simply eat the same food and calorie amounts as you would normally, just in a different window of time.
Truth be told, I started my regime with a 24-hour fast, because I had never done it and wanted to see if I could. That was 9 days ago and I have to tell you it was super easy! I was as shocked as you, trust me. In fact in the 23rd hour I went to the gym and trained chest and arms and hit the revolving stairs and had a phenomenal workout! My energy was great, I actually got a pump in my muscles, my endurance was fantastic, and overall I can honestly say it was one of my best workouts I’ve had in a long time. During each day I’m alert, focused, and have had no issues with lethargy or feeling light headed.
After that first day, I switched to the 16 / 8 plan and again, I workout in the last hour of the fast and then drink a 600 calorie protein drink, with a 60 / 40 mix of sugars and protein. Many of you have asked me if I’m hungry, and the answer is no, not at all. In fact this is one of the easiest plans I’ve ever tried. As for eating, I’m eating the same food I always do – lean meats, complex carbs and fibrous vegetables, fruits and healthy fats, and even the occasional treat. And this past Sunday I splurged a bit and increased my calories by about 25%. But since I have just an 8-hour window to eat within, I only get 4 meals, and sometimes just 3. As I said my workouts have been great, so amazing in fact that I’ve had to set a time limit or I’ll just keep going! So I hit the gym for an hour of weights, plyo’s, calisthenics etc. and when an hour is up, I’m done.
Interestingly this way of eating is very easy to manage. I’m not anxious over finding a healthy meal if I’m out, or worrying if I’m not getting meals every 3 hours. Morning time is easy as I can focus on my day and not about preparing food or eating breakfast. The only supplement I’ve been using is a serving of BSN Amino X BCAA’s (no, I don’t work for them) twice per day, once in the morning, and again 30 minutes before my workout.
So why am I fasting? Well for one, it interested me. After all, Dr. Berardi is no slouch and even though he was in great shape to begin with, he ended up at 4% bodyfat at the end of his experiment and had vastly improved his blood profiles. Secondly, many of you have asked me some specific questions on the merits of these plans. So truthfully to give you the best answers possible, I felt I had to try it myself. Remember, I’m a fitness guinea pig!
The results are quite remarkable so far – in the first 7 days I’m down 5 pounds and visibly leaner. In all my years of training I’ve never seen such a change in my body in just one week. Here’s the thing, as I said this is not a calorie restrictive plan, but due to the shorter eating window, it’s really hard to overeat. I mean on some days I’ve struggled to hit 2,500 calories! Plus it eliminates snacking at night, and grabbing treats here and there. Of course I’m sure some of it is water weight, but I know I haven’t lost an ounce of muscle. I’ve been very regimented – when the clock says 8pm, I’m done with food till noon the next day.
Now who knows how I’ll feel down the line. In coming weeks my the plan may stop working for me. But I suspect there are some hormonal changes taking place and that I’m burning a lot of fat during my workouts. My plan is to keep at it right up to my birthday on December 19th, and then assess how I look and feel then.
If you’re interested in reading more on Intermittent Fasting plans, check out Dr. Berardi’s E- book , and Martin Berkhan’s Lean Gains website . Martin is absolutely ripped and has some really interesting thoughts of his own.
Let me know what you think and if you’re interested in trying Intermittent Fasting in your own life…