New Year, New You and all that… there’s been a bit of a buzz around Fasting since August 2012 (when the Horizon programme: Eat, Fast and Live Longer was on) and the start of the year, in the media, and people trying it out for the first time.
So I thought I’d get together a list of what it does for me, and how I’m able to exercise and fast at the same time as fasting. 😀
There are a whole host of benefits said to come from intermittent fasting, longevity, increased growth hormone and weight loss to name a few, but I’ve noticed some other things which make it for me and a great way to live my life.
I fast twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays: 18-24 hours for each fast. I fast overnight, usually after my evening meal the night before.
Here are some of the benefits I’ve noticed:
1. Food Appreciation
I appreciate my food a lot more now. After a fast, I consider what I put in my mouth more. I’m doing less unconscious / habitual eating, and I’m eating more healthily. I’m able to leave food on my plate more readily if I’m stuffed, and I don’t feel the need to eat that extra pudding or smack sized mars bar (or two!) 😉
2. Less hunger
Although I do go through periods of being hungry when I fast, one of the best things I’ve found is that hunger doesn’t bother me like it used to. If I hadn’t eaten for 3-4 hours I’d need to eat something, and god forbid if the hunger pangs came, I’d be grumpy and annoyed and in need of my next fix (sugar or other).
Now I simply last until I get fed. I get hungry maybe 3-4 times over a fast, but the hunger soon subsides. If you drink plenty of water and try to keep your mind off eating, it’s fine. Use water / green tea to curb your appetite, fill you up and keep you hydrated. You could live for ages without food, but you need water to survive.
There is a level of control needed to do a fast. I can relate it to keeping your pace or heart rate steady when you run, or simply saying no when you’re offered that unhealthy food that you know you shouldn’t be eating. I can count numerous times at work (and at home) when I’ve been offered a sweet or food whilst I’m on a fast, and I have a reason to say no.
Friends and colleagues might know I’m on a fast but they still offer, which is fine. It just tests me to have that level of control and will power to say no. (Although sometimes I forget I’m on a fast and have eaten the odd quality street or handful of smarties – shows I’m probably human eh?)
4. A feeling of being the odd one out
This is a bit if a strange one, but I like it. I’m not doing IF to shock or to be judged by anyone. I’m doing it because I like it and believe in the benefits it can give me. I’ve had all sorts of funny looks when I say I’m fasting… To some people it’s odd:
‘You need food, you shouldn’t starve yourself’, ‘You can’t get benefits from not eating’
are just some of the comments I’ve had.
I guess it is odd. Why in these days of having almost every type of food available, would someone like me (who exercises so much, and has no weight to lose), starve themselves twice a week for 18-24 hours?
If you need reasons, look at the list above or the benefits here.
I think it’s good to be different (I think I’ve always been different and I don’t really care what others think, unless they’re close to me and are worried about me).
This is a lifestyle which works for me, and whilst others might be struggling with their weight, or their health, I’m glad to say I’m not (touch wood!):
‘At first they might ask you why the hell are you doing it, then they’ll ask you how you did it.’ 🙂
As long as I remain healthy (healthy body, weight, blood pressure and mind) I’ll continue to do intermittent fasting.
If I’m the one being the odd one out, the one at my ideal weight, healthy, fit and happy, then why not?
5. Saving on food bills
If you don’t eat 2 out of 7 days, pretty obviously you buy less food and spend less £££. I can’t put a (£) number on it, but I know I’m buying less food and the foods I do eat are simpler (more natural / less processed).
I’m appreciating smaller portions and not gorging on food. I know when I’m full, and I know when I’m hungry (and that being hungry won’t kill me!) I’ve learned to suppress my appetite and make better food choices.
6. Being able to workout whilst fasted
This was a bit of a stumbling block for me at the start. I think we have it ingrained in us that if we want to exercise we should be fuelled up on lucozade, or energy gels, or that we need energy in us to perform. Runnersworld is full of it: ‘carb load’, ‘healthy bagel snacks’.
But the truth is, you don’t need to be fuelled up to exercise. You need to be fully hydrated, but your body has plenty of fuel available to use if you need it.
(From Slow Burn by Stu Littleman, page 110).
Research has shown that low intensity cardio and / or weight training at the end if a fast can be beneficial. And you can do it. I’ve tried, it works. You just need to get your mind from thinking, ‘I need food to perform’, to ‘I can perform, and if I struggle I’ll take it easy’, and you’re fine.
7. Lower resting heart rate / lower blood pressure
What makes your heart rate go higher? Activity and where your body is working (metabolism: processing foods).
If your body has no foods to process, it won’t be working a hard and as a result your heart rate should reduce. My resting heart rate used to be around 50, but during fasts, it reduces to around 45. Now of that isn’t evidence of my body having a rest each time I fast, I don’t know what is.
I’ve also been tracking my blood pressure and it reduced to be quite low when I started, but now, as my body has got used to IF, it’s leveled off again. If my blood pressure (or weight) did get any lower though, I might consider reducing my daring days down to one a week or reducing the time I fasted to 14-18 hours I think.
8. Weight loss and improved nutrition
I’ve heard of plenty of people losing a shed load of weight with IF. You are reducing the overall calories you consume, so if you have weight to lose, you should lose it. But try not to eat crap on the days you do eat. My philosophy for eating is to try and eat more food that is nutritious and less crappy manufactured processed food.
I hate the word diet. Diets don’t work. I like to think of eating more in terms of nutrition. You choose to eat what you eat, so just think about what us more nutritious, a breakfast of 3 sliced of white toast, or a 3 egg omelette with to tomatoes, peppers and onions. If in doubt go for natural foods with plenty of colour, or lean meat and fish. Go for what’s nutritious, not for what you want or what’s easiest.
I don’t and haven’t had weight to lose and my weight was pretty steady before I started IF… I guess this is just the weight I’m meant to be and perhaps IF is helping me maintain it. (I didn’t really put on any weight over Christmas or on holiday when I was fasting (and eating a lot of ice cream!)).
For info for my holiday – I fasted on the day traveling out (no ££s on airport food or crappy in flight food), then ate normally when I was there and 10 days later on the way back I fasted too. The thing I really like about fasting is that you can be flexible with it and fit 1 or 2 days in a week whatever you’re up to.
I’ve been doing IF since August 2012. It works for me, and for many others, but it may not work for you.
I think it’s important to try not to see it as a diet or fad, but try to see it as something you can fit into your lifestyle. If you like the benefits and some of the feelings and outcomes you get, you might continue to do it. Otherwise, it might not be for you an that’s fine.
How to get started and more information
Or perhaps you’ve made IF part of your lifestyle and like it? How’s it going for you and do you have any hints or tips? 🙂