Posted on December 16 2019
Ok so have been hearing intermediate fasting and SO much about it, I had to give it a try. Firstly, intermittent fasting (IF) is a very popular “diet/ lifestyle” concept now, where you spend periods of time lasting from 14-20 hours not eating. Now this may sound very restrictive, but actually it really is not. My problem was really not the fasting part. I did the 16/8 hour fasting/ eating window for my trial. I was fasting from 6pm to 10am (sleeping most of it really).
The science behind this is simple. During your eating time period, glucose is absorbed and used as a source of energy. I am still working out two times (morning cardio and afternoon weight training), ergo using the glucose for the energy I require for pumping iron. During your fasting period, the blood glucose level in the body decreases and fatty acids are oxidized as a source of energy. I have been reading a lot of studies and also coming across a lot of people talking about the benefits of reducing calories and the positive effects it has on the body (apart from just fat loss). Reduced calorie diets have shown to increase life span in lab animals and also delay onset of predisposed age related genetic diseases. Now when I say “reduced calories”, I by no means am talking about a very restricted 1200 calories kind of diet. I am just talking about a 200-500 caloric deficit per day based on my activity level and BMR combined. As per my activity level and BMR, I should be consuming 2100 calories per day to maintain a caloric surplus. Since I am on a fat loss program, I aim to consume anywhere between 1550-1650 per day (trust me on a whole food plant based diet, that’s a lot of food!).
My expectations when I started IF were simple, to lose fat (not muscle mass), not crave in to eating late night snacks, improve overall digestive health and help clear up my skin and stomach. I would also not recommend anyone try IF for long periods of time as this may effect your overall metabolic rate. I know people who do this as a lifestyle and it works great for them, however personally I do not think I would try it. I anyways fast 11-12 hours IF or not (dinner by 7pm and no food till after morning cardio around 7am) but I think 16 hour window is a tad bit long.
So this was exactly how my day looked like:
Wake- up: As close to 10 am as possible so I did not have to think about food ;). Not really, this week incidentally turned out to be a slow week since my morning 6am personal training client was traveling and I did not have much work except answer mails/ blog in the morning. So wake up time was around 7- 8 am immediately followed by empty stomach morning cardio anywhere between 20-50 minutes.
IF still means you can eat anything below 50 calories but I did not eat anything post cardio. I generally spend about 20 minutes every morning with MyFitnessPal planning my macros and food for the day. Right after cardio I would do this and get things ready for the next workout and start preparing my snacks for the day.
I did however consume LOTS of water and liquids before 10 am. Mostly hot water with cloves (to kill bad gut worms/ bacteria) and matcha tea powder and water. Also sometimes soaked redmond clay (again for gut health). Did add in BCAAs to my morning cardio water once or twice.
First meal (10am)– Breakfast bowl with either oats/ quinoa/ madhira/ ragi and a fruit like apple/ banana/ sugar apple/ papaya whatever. Topped with Goji berries, cacao nibs or chia seeds and half scoop vegan protein powder. I sometimes also add in maca/ acai/ matcha/ cacao powder.
Meal 2 (11am): Beetroot and spinach smoothie OR sprouted mung beans with nooch OR sweet potato, whatever fit my macros that day.
Strength Training: 12pm to 2pm.
Meal 3 (2pm): Brown rice (always) with any legumes/pulses and fibrous veggies. Tofu sometimes.
Meal 4 (4pm): Protein shake with dates or soy milk/ chia seeds and a fruit. Boiled kidney beans or nuts sometimes. Really depends on macros that day.
Meal 5 (5pm): Bowl of veggies (fiber part of dinner)
Meal 6 (6pm- last meal! finally): Buckwheat OR quinoa OR amaranth with adzuki/ kidney beans or chickpeas. If I was low on proteins I would add tofu/ nooch/ or a protein shake.
(Please do not use the above as your diet chart, your body works differently from mine and has different requirements. I also measure each and everything and know exactly what nutrients and vitamins are going in to my body, you will not be able to replicate the same. Visit roshnisanghvi.com for a custom made diet chart for your body type.)
Now notice my problem here? I had to eat literally every hour to just maintain my macros and 1550- 1650 calories. Even then, on most days I was under- under eating (1400 calories one day) because I just could not eat so much food! I am very OCD about getting my macros on dot and without IF this was easy to maintain. But with IF I generally would skip a meal or so because I was exhausted of eating, had to eat a heavy dinner to just get my calories in. I did not want to lose muscle mass (which I do very quickly) so did not want to under eat a lot. So basically I spend all my time either cooking, or eating or thinking about food. Was I starving for food 6pm- 10am? Absolutely not. In fact I was very glad I did not have to eat then.
But wait, do not discard the idea of IF just yet. Almost every day of my IF week was a family movie night. Meaning, late night nachos- guac and popcorns (pizza sometimes too). Since I was committed to IF, I did not taste even a bite of any of this (ok vegan cookies one night :(). But mostly it stopped me from junk late-night- mindless- empty- calorie eating. Also, inspite of my water intake being very high, I woke up every morning to a flat belly (pic on my IG too). Not much change in my digestion or skin, but just a few weeks in a very short time to say anything. I also lost belly fat and about 1.2 kg weight in a week (assuming half of it from belly). Plus my digestive system was literally constantly working during the 8 hour period so I guess that burns calories?
My recovery was marginally better since when I went to bed empty stomach and my digestive system was resting and my body could better focus on recovering muscle fibers. I did not see any much difference in my strength gains (lifting almost similar weights). But cardio endurance got a little better. Could sustain longer without feeling fatigue. This could be just my mind playing games or some fancy science that I fail to understand yet.
So in conclusion,
I would say I could do better with a little better planning, I just woke up one morning and dove into it. If I can make my main meals calorically more dense, I would probably not have to snack so much in between. However, I practically CANNOT eat more than 400 calories in one setting! Especially if I still need it to be low- fat and high carb food. Sure you can eat potato chips or desserts worth 1000 calories also in one go, but try eating a salad worth so much :(.
Also great to try if you are trying to lose weight and are on a caloric deficit or restraining calories. Since eating window is so small, you will still feel like you are eating so much but are actually not.
Will I gain weight once I reduce my IF time? I don’t think so but will update in my future posts.
Should you do it,
If you are glucose sensitive- NO! If you know exactly what to eat and calculate macros-maybe. I guess its a good thing to try if you want to get of a plateau. Plus if you have a habit of mindless eating. I will probably slowly reduce my IF time instead of going back to 11 hours directly. Maybe try and find a middle sweet spot that works for me best. I would suggest trying it for two weeks atleast and then listening to your body signals. Also, if you weight train early morning, there is really no rule that says 6pm- 10am, choose a time that suits you. But ALWAYS eat around your main workout!