Why I Love Intermittent Fasting

April 27, 2012

Health

Those who know me know that I am constantly experimenting with various facets of my life and seeking ways to improve it. Health-wise, I look for ways to increase performance, energy, and overall well-being. For about a year and a half now, I’ve been reading about and practicing Intermittent Fasting (IF). For those who are unaware of what it is, IF is simply going for a period of time without food and condensing your eating window into a smaller space. Mark’s Daily Apple recently published a pretty comprehensive post of the benefits of fasting here. There are multiple ways to do it; however, I like Lean Gains’ method the best. Lean Gains’ protocol in a nutshell:

16 hour fast (e.g. 8 PM to 12 PM)
8 hour eating window (e.g. 12 PM to 8 PM)

For most people, this means that you stop eating after dinner and you don’t eat again until lunch. During the eating window, I don’t snack, although you are allowed to. So ultimately, I only eat two meals per day. Although Lean Gains doesn’t preach a strict Paleo Diet, I still keep my meals in adherence to it (no grains, just meat, fruits, and veggies). Just because you practice IF doesn’t mean that you’re suddenly allowed to eat crap.

Another aspect that I require if I am to incorporate a new behavior into my daily routine is the ability to consistently apply it over a lifetime. If you can’t keep it up, why do it at all? After having done IF consistently for over a year now, I can attest to its sustainability and can adequately comment on the benefits I have received from it.

A long time ago, I used to subscribe to the “eat six times a day so that your body doesn’t go into starvation mode” belief. After reading about the benefits of fasting a little more, I came to the logical conclusion that something as resilient as your body can probably withstand a missed meal. Plus, let’s be honest, have you seen anyone who got fat because of not eating?

Well, onto my findings…

Less Hungry

Counter intuitively, eating less makes you less hungry. When I was eating six meals per day, I would be starving by 10 AM and could barely wait until it was time to eat my mid-morning snack. Do I get hungry when skipping breakfast? Sure, but the hunger is a lot more mild than when I had conditioned my body to eat so often. Plus, a realization that the hunger is more mental that anything allows me to ignore it. If you keep busy and don’t think about it, the hunger will subside. Some people claim that they couldn’t possibly go without food until lunchtime. Keep in mind that Gandhi was known to fast for weeks at a time. I think you can reasonably miss one meal and not die.

More Alert

Even when I ate a breakfast that was Paleo in nature, I would find that I got tired in the morning. Not having any food in my body keeps me alert throughout the morning. If you want, drink a cup of black coffee. That alone on an empty stomach is enough to keep you fully alert well into lunch.

Easy to Maintain Weight

When you eat multiple times during the day, it is harder to keep your caloric intake in check. It is more likely that you will just continue to eat uncontrollably throughout the day with the belief that you’re keeping that metabolism going full throttle. Sorry, but you’re just getting fat. I don’t snack and only eat two meals per day: lunch and dinner. Eating the same thing every day (a la Tim Ferriss) keeps me aware of what I’m putting in my body.

All in all, I’ve been able to stay lean effortlessly, have not noticed any decrease in performance, and am able to remain alert all morning. Give it a try for a month and see how you feel.

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