Why I started Intermittent Fasting:

Posted: 1st February 2013 by thea9693 in Nutrition

Why I started Intermittent Fasting:

By sarasolomon

For years we have been told to eat 6 small meals a day every 2.5-3 hours if we want to keep our metabolisms revving and our bodies lean.  I, like everyone else, followed this protocol and even preached it to all my friends, family and fans.  Yes, it worked at first, but after following this protocol for a few months, I was no longer losing fat. So I was prescribed less calories and more exercise (in fact 3 hours of exercise a day), which is unfortunately the paradigm most trainers preach. It’s a pity because this approach will slow the metabolism over time, which explains why fat loss ceases and weight gain occurs despite restricted caloric intake and copious exercising.

Before embarking on fitness, I used to eat 3 solid meals a day with a small morning and afternoon snack. This is how I was raised. I never counted calories and never had issues with food obsession or hunger. I wasn’t “eating healthy” at that time because I was not educated about “clean eating” so my physique was not ideal, but my metabolism was healthy.  As soon as I commenced the “6 small meals-a day every 2-3 hours” paradigm, my relationship with food became obsessive and unhealthy.

  • I was counting every calorie.
  • I stopped losing weight so I was instructed to eliminate fruits, nuts and carbs from my diet.
  • I weighed myself everyday (which lead to perpetual frustration).
  • I was always hungry because the small meals never promoted satiety.
  • I was avoiding restaurants and carried a cooler with me everywhere. This devastated my social life.
  • I was constantly cooking to ensure I would be prepared with my 6 meals for the day. Then I would waste more time packing the food into baggies, tupperware & coolers.
  • I forgot what it was like to eat a freshly made meal. I was always eating food that I had pre-made and measured. There is nothing more revolting than eating 3-day old cold tilapia that has formed a “gel” layer.

Every single day I would catch myself agonizing over dietary indiscretions and I would even squeeze in an extra cardio session to compensate.  Maintaining a 6-meal-a-day/calorie-restricted diet 365 days a year created an all-consuming lifestyle for me that lead to self-loathing, frustration, irritability, hunger, and weight gain. I knew this “healthy” lifestyle was far from healthy for me, and I feared if I didn’t stop the insanity, I would either end up letting myself go (ie. I would finally stop trying to fight the fat-storing) or even worse, it would potentially lead to an eating disorder.  This is why I started researching intermittent fasting: I knew I was heading down a slippery slope and I wanted to take action.  I wanted to reestablish a healthy relationship with food, spend less time thinking about food, put an end to the time-sucking food preparations, stop carrying a cooler with me, stop avoiding restaurants, end the constant hunger and lose fat in the process.

intermitten fasting FAQsWhy I wasn’t losing weight eating 6 small meals a day:

I never lost fat because my body was never burning my stored fat for fuel.  Think about it: I never gave my body a chance to burn my stored fat for fuel because I was constantly stuffing my face from 6 am until midnight, which means I was only burning the food I was shoveling into my face! And because I was always hungry, I would snack in between meals, which chronically elevated my insulin levels, leading to more fat storing. No matter how hard I tried, I always gave into my hunger and either snacked or exceeded my portions, which caused me to regain all the weight I had lost (and more!).

Why Intermittent Fasting Works for me:

  • I walk around with an 8-pack 365 days a year.
  • I can eat in restaurants.
  • I can eat more calories.
  • My portions make me feel full. I like feeling full. Full = happy.
  • I can eat foods that were previously demonized on my former “6 meal a day” regime.
  • I can eat freshly made food.
  • I barely spend time in the kitchen cooking anymore.

With intermittent fasting, I know that I only feed during certain times, I know I will feel satiated every time I eat, so food no longer occupies my every waking thought.  It’s so exciting watching my body fat melt away without feeling starved!  For the first time in my life, I feel like I have control over food, rather than food having control over me.  This lifestyle is also much easier to incorporate into a hectic schedule.  I don’t have to cook and pack 6 meals in a cooler everywhere I go, and my grocery bills have also decreased.  My mood is also much better (something to which my parents can attest).  But most importantly, I have learned how to differentiate between thirst, psychological and physiological hunger.

I am losing fat consuming more calories than I did with my 6 meal a day program.  Oh, and did I mention I am only doing between 20 and 45 minutes of exercising a day?  That’s so much better than the 2 to 3 hours I used to do!  And to think I once thought I was confined to fat jail for life.

My current diet & training regime:

I commenced intermittent fasting August 17, 2012.  This was one week before the WBFF World Championships.  I was not losing weight despite 3 months of training 3 hours a day and eating in caloric deficit. After extensively researching intermittent fasting (see recommended reading below), I started my first fast.  Boy was I ever surprised when I successfully fasted for 20 hours and ate all my calories in a 4 hour window.  I thought I would be starved, and yet, I wasn’t even hungry!  The next day I had lost 2 pounds!  I hadn’t seen the scale drop in half a year!  I was hooked!  My only regret is that I didn’t start this sooner.

  • 20/4: I fast for 20 hours a day and consume all of my calories in a 4 hour window.  This is referred to as the warrior diet, and yields tremendous fat loss results.   For the first time in my life, I finally lost the stubborn fat off my hips and back (bra fat) – all thanks to the warrior diet.
    • I typically break my fast anywhere between 4 and 6pm.  Because I  used to be notorious for exceeding my allotted portions, I thought it would be wisest to keep my eating window small.  It’s impossible for me to over-consume when I only have 4 hours to eat all the calories I would have typically consumed throughout my 16 waking hours.  I am also programmed for night eating, which is why I break my fast in the evening. If you tend to binge eat at night, then read my post called, “I Know you Pig Out at Night“.
    • When I was eating 6 meals a day, I was convinced I was a limbic eater, meaning, once I would eat, I would actually become hungrier for more! For some people, higher limbic activation persists even after eating, contributing to overeating. It turns out the problem was not my limbic system. Rather, this was the problem: Dividing my daily caloric allotment amongst 6 meals over my 16-18 waking hours resulted in very tiny portions that NEVER PROMOTED SATIETY! In other words, I was never full (ie. always hungry!). Wouldn’t it make more sense to eat fewer (but larger) meals in a narrower eating window (eg. over 8 hours) so you won’t feel hungry during your waking hours?
    • On an interesting note, our Palaeolithic ancestors often survived on 1 meal a day, so from an evolutionary perspective, we are more adapted to intermittent fasting than grazing on multiple small meals.
  • 16/8: I recommend beginners start with a 16 hour fast and an 8 hour eating window.  This is referred to as lean gains.  This protocol is more conducive to building muscle, whereas the warrior diet is more ideal for cutting.
  • Every now and then I perform a 24 hour fast – just to change things up and keep my body guessing.
    • I also routinely change the duration of my eating window to prevent my body from adapting. I want my metabolism to be revving full speed ahead.
  • Keep track of the calories you have ingested using loseit.  Loseit also shows you your daily carb, sodium, protein, and fat intake. Sometimes it’s hard to remember what you have just eaten, which is why I find it helpful to use loseit.
  • I train fasted as soon as I wake up.  Let me repeat that.  I train fasted.  I take BCAA’s Gaspari’s AMINOLAST – Orange Mango Twist – Exclusive to bodybuilding.com prior to and during my workout.  Fasting has not compromised my ability to workout.  It’s quite remarkable how much more effective my workouts have become when my body is not preoccupied with digestion.

Intermittent fasting works for me, but it may not be the right choice for you.  At the end of the day, the dietary program to which you can successfully adhere (and get the results you desire) is the right choice for you.  Always consult with your physician before embarking on any fitness, nutrition or supplementation program! (ie.  this is not suitable for diabetics or pregnant women, so ask your doctor if intermittent fasting is right for you!).

For more information about Intermittent Fasting, please read my entire “Intermittent Fasting blog“. Read it before asking me questions.

What to consume during your fast:

  • Drink lots of water (3-4L a day)
  • Drink lots of matcha green tea & oolong tea to enhance fat oxidation
  • Drink Organic Roasted Dandelion Root Tea to facilitate digestion
  • Sugar-free gum and mints.  Example: Mints with Xylitol, Xyla Gum
  • Sugar-Free Flavour Drink crystals (less than 5 calories and sweetened with artificial sweeteners or stevia) are ok.  Examples: Crystal Light, Stevita.
  • Black coffee (no sugar)
  • BCAA’s (take these before, during & after  your workout).  Example: Gaspari Nutrition AMINOLAST
  • Preworkout is fine too. Example: Gaspari Nutrition SuperPump MAX

What to eat (and how much) when you break your fast:

  • Your biggest meal should be your post-workout meal. I recommend you wait 2 hours after training before breaking your fast to ensure you reap the benefits of exercise-induced growth hormone release (which is your body’s potent fat-burning hormone). Eating sugar after training will stop the benefits of exercise-induced growth hormone*. I sip on my sugar-free BCAA’s after my workout instead.
    • Click for more info about BCAA’s & fasting.
  • To get a rough idea of your daily calorie consumption (based on your goals: fat loss, maintenance, or lean gains), you can click on this IF calorie calculator. Remember, every one is different, and this is just a guide. You will have to experiment to establish what works for your body. Remember not to drop your calories below 1200 – as this is not conducive to health and it can cause your metabolism to slow down (which would stall fat loss and could even lead to weight gain!). You need a metabolism that is revving full speed ahead if you want to get and stay lean. In other words: severely restricting your calories is a BIG NO! You cannot defy homeostasis because homeostasis is a BITCH!  Rather, you need to make choices that boost your metabolism, such as high intensity training and adequate caloric consumption, and you must routinely change your training and dietary regime (ie. caloric intake, carb intake, food selection) to prevent your body from adapting. If you want a healthy metabolism, then keep your body guessing. If you are a creature of habit, you will stop getting results.
  • Quickie Insulin Tutorial:
    • Insulin = fat storage hormone
    • Carbohydrates are broken down into sugar in your body.  Sugar spikes your insulin.  The more sugary the carbohydrate is (eg. White bread, pastas, sugar, white potatoes, cookies, licorice), the more your body will produce insulin. This is bad because insulin stores fat and prevents fat from being broken down into useable energy for the body.  This is less than ideal when you are trying to lose weight!
  • If you want to lose fat, then…
    • Stay away from sugar!
    • Eat a lean protein at every meal: tilapia, chicken breast, salmon, turkey breast, egg whites, whey protein
    • Eat healthy fats: extra virgin olive oil, flax oil, almonds, walnuts, ground flax seed, avocado, all-natural peanut butter, almond butter, extra virgin coconut oil
    • Eat lots of vegetables: asparagus, broccoli, bok choy, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, celery, bell peppers, green beans, spinach, kale, tomatoes, mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini
    • Don’t avoid carbs, just reduce the intake of carbs.  You can have small portions of slow-digesting carbs in the first half of your day.  Examples include Ezekiel bread, GG Bran Scandinavian Crispbread, rolled oats, quinoa, brown rice, low glycemic index fruit (blueberries, apples, grapefruit), and sweet potatoes. Do not eat carbs 90 minutes before bed because it  will disrupt your growth hormone output that occurs during sleep (note: growth hormone is your star fat-burning hormone).

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