Maybe you’ve heard or read something about intermittent fasting (I.F.) but figured eh, that’s for religious people and stuff. Isn’t it? This is my journey with I.F. why I started it, what the benefits are, how it affected me, the ups, the downs and how sustainable it is and what it is really useful for.
Ever been in a hurry to get somewhere like work and not have time to eat? This happens to me a lot actually. Well back in the day if I didn’t eat before work, I would very quickly get this feeling of absolute bodily distress. First the energy dip, then the slight nausea sets in, after that the shakes and feeling of weakness. Finally, you feel like you want to just take a nap, but with an extreme case of brain fog. This was my blood sugar bottoming out and my body not knowing what to do because it didn’t have the glycogen to run it. I would remedy it by eating a bagel or donut and about 15 minutes I would be back to life. At least until it started all over again.
I talked to others who pretty much did the same thing as me (not eating) and they didn’t have the same experience. So…what was my malfunction? I did some research, and by research I mean I spent weeks looking into every possible reason. Hormones, diseases, allergies. The problem with the internet is that every symptom lines up with every ailment. Got a cough? It could be allergies…or tuberculosis. Slight rash? Could be a reaction to a new detergent…or the onset of leprosy. It’s too broad and honestly, you can find anything to support what you think it is as opposed to what it actually is. Fortunately for me, I didn’t just get my info based on that one scenario. Here was how I got my definitive answer.
Years ago when I was hip-deep into my running I noticed that I was bonking out even on short runs.
I wasn’t quite sure why. I would literally run out of energy and afterward would have to stuff my face to feel normal. Everything I read was to “eat before you workout. Carb up before your run.” Problem is, I’m an early riser. Because of…life, I do all my workouts and just about any other activities almost directly after waking up, so I don’t have time to eat before a workout and wait two hours. I do all workouts, running or weight training fasted.
What made it worse was that even after I ate what I thought was healthy foods for breakfast, an hour later I would start breaking down. So initially I looked into specific foods when I came across a message board that had a question just like mine. It had one response. Insulin resistance. After hours of reading, I felt I had an answer. So I started playing around. I did all the things to spark it and it worked. So, what fixed it then?
Most articles tell you nothing. It doesn’t have a cure but interestingly says it could last months or years. So it just goes away? No, it does not. The one thing I read was that you wanted to get away from carbs and be more fat adapted. Thus my fling with Keto would begin, but this isn’t about that. To get my body fat-adapted, I looked into the ancient practice of fasting.
This is where it began. Looking into how we lived in the past, how we went from season to season. It was common knowledge but seemed so revolutionary. So I was going to do it. A 24 hour fast. Except I didn’t because, as I would describe at the time, I almost died. Or so it felt. Turns out, it’s not something you just jump right into. Discouraged but not defeated I came across Intermittent Fasting. Typically 16 to 18 hours. How you do it is, right when you stop eating the previous day the clock starts. You do 12 hours from that time then you want to push 5 to 6 hours after that to reap the benefits. Truth is, your only going to get s good 4 hours of legitimate fasting time. This will take you from say 7 pm until 12 pm the next day. While 4 hours doesn’t sound all that impressive, the effects it has on you is absolutely amazing.
Primary benefits of Intermittent Fasting:
• Boosts energy.
• Weight loss
• Increases energy.
• Promotes cellular repair and autophagy (when your body consumes defective tissue in order to produce new parts)
• Reduces insulin resistance and protects against type 2 diabetes. BINGO!
• Lowers bad cholesterol.
• Promotes longevity.
I definitely centered around insulin resistance and autophagy.
There are tons of reasons to fast. It increases longevity, fights diseases. It also increases one’s grit. If you can tolerate going days without eating, mentally you become more disciplined. It was very tough when I started so I did some research and found something to help get me going. A little known supplement called Konjac Glucomannan.
Glucomannan works in the stomach and intestines by absorbing water to form a bulky fiber that treats constipation. It may also slow the absorption of sugar and cholesterol from the gut, helping to control sugar levels in diabetes, and reducing cholesterol levels. –WebMd
What does this mean for you if you are doing intermittent fasting? For staters, it helps control hunger by absorbing massive amounts of fluids and giving you s full feeling without actually eating. Secondly, it helps control blood sugar. Now technically speaking your not fasting while taking this, but if you have insulin resistance this is a huge help to get there. Remember, if you have any sort of insulin issues and you dive headfirst into a fast, it could be disastrous.
After a few months of using this, my ability to sustain without eating was getting better. I decided it was time. I did my first 16 hour fast. It was rough. I had zero energy, but I didn’t feel like I was crashing and that got me pumped. I would us I.F. along with Keto for quite some time. Made my running much easier.
Since then, I stopped keto, but I would continue to I.F. for almost a year. It would always help when I would get sick or if my diet was slipping or if I just need a reset to help get me back on track. As a result of fasting periodically for years, I can now eat a regular healthy diet and not experience blood sugar issues. Since I used nothing else aside from I.F. to combat these issues, I largely contribute my success to it
Intermittent fasting is a tool. It’s not meant to be the only way to live. There are people who fast constantly. Your body likes things in cycles. Feast and famine as it were. This helps keeps your body sensitive to carbs, proteins, and sugars. I find that endurance athletes benefit the most from this, in combination with a low carb diet, help create a fat adaptation that uses fat as fuel long, steady energy as opposed to quick burning, high yield glycogen.
To this day I still practice intermittent fasting. I primarily use it as a reboot tool now. When I’m changing eating habits, either seasonally or just willfully, I’ll usually use I.F. to help clean the slate. Typically it’s recommended that you do it minimum for times a year, so about every three months. It can last on the low end one week (16 to 18-hour fasts) up to 4 weeks. After this time you will want to transition back for a period. But why, if I.F. is so beneficial?
The short is, your body is an adaptation machine. If you do I.F. often, it’ll put you in a caloric deficit, over time (not as long as you would think) it will slow your metabolism down, making your body a fat-storing, muscle wasting beast. After all, fat price is cheap and muscle cost is steep. Ever heard of skinny fat? The benefit of having a higher percentage of muscle to fat ratio is a whole different article. Suffice to say, however, that a slower metabolism makes it harder to burn fat should you gain any weight or if you haven’t lost as much as you wanted and you plateau. This is why we were designed to cycle, otherwise, we break the machine. You can do it. It gets easier and it will make you healthier, happier and stronger. Even for weight training, fasting does NOT burn muscle first. Studies will show that you can use I.F. while doing resistance training.
I hope this has helped shed some light on the matter. This was my personal experience over 2 years’ time. If you would like to share yours or if you have any questions, please feel free to comment and I will answer.