My Review of Intermittent Fasting

Now a few people reading this will be surprised to hear me blog about Intermittent Fasting (IF) as many a time I have ripped it to shreds in PT debates. But for the last week I have been IF’ing, so here we go.

I often do fasting with clients that are competing, and when resetting hormones with clients I guide them through a PM fast. But I am not a fan of my inexperienced or unhealthy clients doing it, which I still stand by. I decided to try it myself, and then if I still think it is unnecessary I can confidently say “I’ve tried it, and it is rubbish!” Never say never I suppose. I swallowed my pride and thought that if I am going to knock something then I better try and experience it for myself before I judge. I had steered clear of IF purely because I had heard a renowned strength coach say it was the worst thing to do, and me being an avid follower of this said coach I bagged it until the cows came home. So firstly, apologies for being so narrow minded. Secondly, I’ve learnt not to be such an ignorant follower, but instead to be a curious leader.

popular-intermittent-fasting-books

What is IF?

Intermittent fasting is making a conscious decision to skip certain meals. By planned fasting and then feasting, intermittent fasting means eating your calories during a specific window of the day, and choosing not to eat food during the rest.

How to do it

There are many ways to try IF but none are the best or worst. It really comes down to what suits you and your needs mentally and physically. These are the most common, but not limited to:

  • 16hr fast every day. This is the method I used and found it to suit me, my training and work schedule. Picking a block of feeding time, for example 8hrs(12noon-8pm) or 4hrs(9am-12noon)
  • Skip 1-2meals. This is a good way to test IM without feeling too overwhelmed with a long fast. If you are currently eating 6 meals a day, try eating meals 1&2 together then missing 3 and 4 and eating 5 and then 6 or 5&6 together. Or eating 1 to 4 and then skipping 5&6. This method can be manipulated anyway you like.
  • 24hr fast once a week. I chose not to use this one, as 24hrs without food even just once a week seemed too long for me. But I often use this with clients as it suits their lifestyles; a Sunday movie day at home on the couch suits a once a week fast.
  • Early and Late. This means consuming your first meal at the start of your day, then one last meal at early evening.
  • 1 week fast. This is a more intense way to fast but done less frequently, say once or twice a year as part of a cleanse or detox. The fast includes alternating between complete fast days and days of normal food intake or reduced intake for a week. I have done this in the past, its not for the fainted hearted.

For all options you are suggested to eat your entire days calories in the meals you choose (your feeding period) You still need to try and hit your macros, but don’t get me wrong, this is not a all you can eat binge, or a IIFYM diet, argh don’t even get me started on that!

Why I tried IF

I am an avid follower of “grazing” and for many years it was my understanding that eating several small meals a day – grazing to maintain even blood sugar and to avoid having your body go into starvation mode seemed logical to me. Didn’t it? I suppose for a lot of people it does. But if you’ve been grazing like me, for what seems like forever isn’t your body pretty stable? It may need a little kick up the behind to mix things up. I think that’s why IF receives such bad press sometimes because its going against what we have been told for so long, just like fats are bad, no wait are they good? Hang on, aren’t carbs better? See what I mean, what we didn’t think was the way is the way nowadays. So be open-minded people.

My first encounter with IF was by accident. I was on holiday in Cambodia and Vietnam at the start of the year, and by chance forgot to eat! We were travelling a lot; crossing borders by bus, island hoping on ferries, and numerous early morning flights. When in Asia I would rather not eat than eat chocolate bars or unquestionable exotic dishes from a roadside vendor, yuk. So for periods of 8, 16, or even 24hrs I fasted, not consciously but I simply had no other choice but bottled water, and maybe an odd handful of nuts to keep me going until the next hotel stay over, where I did indeed feast, the Asians sure know how to do a buffet spread well.

I know you just fell off your chair reading that, yes I have a HUGE appetite and I am born grazer, but that’s precisely why I was intrigued to try it, I was sick of eating! I have been eating the bodybuilding religion of 6-7meals a day for about 6-7yrs now, I was fed up of food prep, fed up of constantly feeling full. 

I also had to make peace with the mental struggle of going against everything I have believed for so long, not that this is wrong. If you want to eat 6 to 8 meals a day, so what, do whatever you feel happy doing. There is no right or wrong way to do anything. There is simply the best way for YOU.

Paleo & Primal Eating

Now you know I am a cavegirl through and through, yes ok if cavegirls ate paleo pancakes and wore nike frees. So lets adapt the caveman living to the modern era. I eat Paleo and I support this theory, but did a cavegirl hunt and kill an animal 6 times a day? No. Did she pop the remains of a road kill into equal portions and store in Tupperware until her next afternoon tea break? No. I had a revelation. IF seemed to fit my picture of early indigenous warriors roaming the plains of Australia gathering tubers, veggies, nuts, and berries and the occasional kangaroo leftover from a dingo feast, yes but not all day long, they I assume would hunt, kill, forage, gather, feast and then not eat until the next hunt and gather which could be many hours or even days away. True?

How I did it

Intermittent-Fasting

I don’t count. Anything. Ever. Macros? Calories? One, I don’t have the time or patience. Two, I have being doing this long enough now to know how much is enough. Three, I think measuring your food pedantically is a sure fire way to develop eating disorders. You can read more of this approach in my Diet Freedom article I wrote for Oxygen Magazine here http://www.oxygenmag.com.au/Community/CovergirlSecrets/PennyLomas/tabid/4122/entryid/1077/Diet-Freedom.aspx

I eat what I know I need, give or take a slip of the hand when free pouring my favourite foods. The body really is a clever machine, it will tell you what it wants. What I did love about trying IF was that I tuned into “mindful eating” even more so than usually. Even though I had a set plan but sometimes I wasn’t hungry and had just 2 meals a day, other times I was super hungry and would have 3 huge ones.

I chose the 16/8hr fast/fed. My first meal was post workout at 1pm, so yes god forbid I trained in a fasted state! You have heard about doing cardio on an empty stomach first thing in the day for fat loss goals, well it’s the same principle. My first meal kicked off an 8hr feed window. And my last meal was before bed. 2 to 3meals in total. I will be honest, I love food, I am an utter clean foodie, but it was surprising how I didn’t even notice I hadn’t eaten. But after a few days I was just plain bored, I like having breakfast, it’s my favourite meal of the day.

http://pennylomas.com.au/breakfast-of-champions/

Feedback

I officially do not like IF. There I said it! Now I am glad I did it, as now I can have an educated and experienced opinion on it. Why don’t I like it? I got fat! I have never seen anything like it, within 6days I had a pot belly. I am clearly one of those people on Mark Sissons list of people that should never do IF. My cortisol is clearly a weakness and IF is the worst thing I can do for an already stressed body. So at 6:30am today whilst I hit post on this blog entry I merrily broke my experiment with IF, broke the fast and chowed down on a great big dirty steak lathered in organic butter for breakfast, yes breakfast, like normal people.

I wish I had taken some decent before and after photos to show you the results, but lets just say I was NOT impressed with the results. Quite disheartened in fact, I know it shouldn’t be superficial but hey it is! No girl wants to WATCH her self gain body fat around her midsection EVERYDAY whilst eating clean.

In my personal opinion I think IF is great for a lot of people, and also very bad for many (incl me) but like any diet the results vary from person to person and are an entirely personal choice. There any many benefits from eating 6 meals a day and many benefits from eating 1-3. I am sure males(see links below) respond differently to IF and that I and many people can incorporate some kind of short term and sporadic IF into their lifestyle with good results, but i have learnt(which i already knew!) that most females don’t handle long periods without food. But at least I have been your guineapig and reported back to you my version. I now know that I am a hardcore grazer, and proud.

intermittent-fasting-vs-intermittent-feeding

What I have gained from trying IF

  • Letting go of a regimented structure around my eating and knowing that its ok to miss a meal here and there;
  • A pot belly;
  • Elevated cortisol; and
  • It gave me something to blog about.

That’s about it.

If you would like to research more on IF to suss out whether it is for you here are some fantastic article’s that address pros and cons:

The Poliquin Group

http://www.poliquingroup.com/ArticlesMultimedia/Articles/Article/971/The_Pros_and_Cons_of_Intermittent_Fasting_.aspx

Mark Sisson

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/how-to-intermittent-fasting/

Nerd Fitness

http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2013/08/06/a-beginners-guide-to-intermittent-fasting/

Leangains

http://www.leangains.com/2010/04/leangains-guide.html

Women do not respond as well to IF as men, and should take caution before you try it, here is why:

http://www.bulletproofexec.com/a-bad-combination-for-women-intermittent-fasting-and-paleo/

http://www.lifestylebypoliquin.com/Lifestyle/LifestylebyPoliquin/TabId/203/PostId/98/intermittent-fasting-myth-or-reality-for-women.aspx

 

Yours in Health, Hormones and Pot Bellied not so Happiness,
Pen

xxx