Intermittent fasting – is it just another one of those trend diets or does it actually work?
Intermittent fasting is a type of eating – diet – where you fast between 12- 20 hours each day, or you could do a 5:2 variation where you fast (or eat very little) 2 days a week and eat like normal the other days.
I have tried intermittent fasting before in the past, mostly to try it and see how it worked for me and to have experience with that form of eating, and i have my thoughts about it – both positive and negative. We have also talked about this form of dieting in my university course, so i have learnt about it and the pros and cons.
First off, what is it and why would you do it?
If you google intermittent fasting you will find lots of different reviews and forms of fasting, but the most typical is the leangains method i.e fast 16 hours and then have an 8 hour eating window. But some people even fast 20 hours and eat all their calories within a 4 hour period, typically only 1-2 big meals, and some fast 2 days a week where women can only eat 500kcal a day during the fasted days and men can only eat 600kcal the fasted days. But then they return to their typical diets the other 5 days a week.
The positives of fasting is that it can give your digestive system and body a rest from having to break down food all the time. It can lower blood triglycerides and cholesterol, which can often be raised 12-18 hours after a high fat meal. This in turn can help improve heart health if a person has high LDL-cholesterol and blood triglycerides. (source) (This is NOTHING to worry about if you have normal blood fats and are a healthy person. When i first heard this information it shocked me considering i eat fats with all my meals, but the blood fats aren’t too high or anything to worry about. But for someone who has hyperlipedemia and eats alot of oil, butter, cream with almost every meal, then it can cause problems in the long term.) Also there won’t be as many spikes and dips in blood sugar – but once again, only a problem if you have high blood sugar or eat alot of sugary food throughout the day. Also it can help lower insulin resistance which can be positive if you have diabetes type 2. (source)
Fasting is even said to lower and/or minimize cravings, bloating and inflammation in the body. But also it is said to help with fatloss because when you fast and the glucose and glycogen storage you have is depleted then the body will turn to your fat storage for energy.
Some who fast say they feel more energetic and less tired or sluggish, more “clean”, don’t have to constantly eat or think about eating.
What are the negatives of fasting?
Dizziness, fatigue, tiredness, low blood sugar and even fainting can happen to some who are more sensitive to low blood sugar or fasting. Can even lead to obsession with food and food controlling, bingeing, fear of food and restrictive eating, changes in mood.
Fasting is not recommended to people with diabetes type 1, people with eating disorders, elderly or children, people with illnesses and need the right energy, people with very high energy requirements, pregnant women, people recovering from surgery or people who take certain medications which require a regular eating schedule.
This type of eating can be recommended for people who are overweight and who can in a healthy way deal with fasting i.e their body won’t go into shock or they won’t faint from not eating. Also people with diabetes type 2, or healthy adults who have very inactive lifestyles. It can also be a good way to eat for people who love to eat huge meals or people who eat “just because they have to” and instead of having 6 regular meals they can just fit in 1-3 big meals…. however those type of people naturally have a sort of “fasting period” as they aren’t hungry or don’t like eating and do it just because they have to.
There are also alot of fitness people who do intermittent fasting in hopes of losing fat, or just as a way to control their food and hunger.
What are my thoughts and experiences with intermittent fasting?
Back in 2013/2014, i can’t quite remember which year it was, i tried intermittent fasting. (Now when i think about it, i can’t even remember how long i was doing IF… i remmeber i was doing it while in school but also during summer holidays, so i think it must have been 4-6 weeks anyway).
Alot of people were doing it and it was very trendy so i decided to try it as well, but also because i was bloating alot and didn’t have any structure with my eating. I was doing alot of small eating throughout the day. My parents were away and my family just ate at different times so we never really ate our meals together so i had begun to just snack instead of have regular meals.
So i decided to try 16:8 fasting, i.e for 16 hours i fasted and then in an 8 hour period i tried to eat all of my calories. So either between 12-20 or 13-21 i would try to eat the 2500-3500kcal i needed.
At first i had to get used to not eating breakfast and fasting up until 12 or 13. It wasn’t so difficult for me but somedays i felt extra hungry and then it was harder. However i did drink black coffee and BCAA’s. And then when it was 12 or 13 i would have my first meal.
What did i think of intermittent fasting?
I didn’t find it so difficult, i guess because of my past i didn’t struggle with the whole fasting and not eating bit. From what i remember i didn’t get negatively triggered by fasting, however by the end i did notice there was alot more focus and control on eating which was one of the reasons i stopped because i realized it was just another way of controlling food and even if i didn’t feel negatively impacted i didn’t want to have a strict structure to the way i eat… and instead if i was hungry, eat breakfast and not just sit drinking black coffee and wait until 12 because of some silly diet/way of eating.
IF (intermittent fasting) did however help me with the constant snacking i did throughout the day. That was because 1) i limited the amount of hours i could eat and 2) when i did eat i ate large meals which meant i was less likely to snack.
What about bloating? The hours i fasted i wasn’t bloated, but then as soon as i ate i would get very bloated because it was very large meals i ate. However my body did adapt and i felt my stomach wasn’t as bloated throughout the day after a few weeks of IF.
I didn’t weigh myself but i think i did lose weight which also added to being less bloated.
This however brings me to the cons of intermittent fasting – for me anyway. 1) I am very active, 2) i need alot of calories, so limiting the amount of hours i can eat isn’t the best alternative for me.
When i did IF i would go for a walk or run in the morning with only black coffee and bcaas in my stomach and then have to wait until 12 or 13 to actually eat. Or the mornings i went to the gym and would strength train and just have to wait until i could eat. It wasn’t optimal for building strength and having energy to workout. And within the 8 hours of eating i wasn’t able to eat enough calories.
The “problem” for me is that i can easily turn off or not listen to my hunger signals… so somedays i would be really hungry by 10 or 11 but not eat and then by 12 or 13 the hunger would have gone away and then i wouldn’t eat and just wait and sometimes i didn’t eat my first meal until 14 or 15. Which is VERY problematic if you are active and need alot of calories, not to mention when you have a history of an eating disorder. For me it wasn’t hard to deal with the fasting and feeling hungry, the problem instead was that i was beginning to not listen to my hunger and fullness feelings … i didn’t eat when i was hungry and when i did eat, at times i pushed past my fullness feelings because i knew i would lose weight – which wasn’t my goal.
So eventually i had to just sit down and ask myself… why was i doing IF and how was it benefitting me? I had tried it, i had gotten my experiences and thoughts and had gotten some pros and cons, but realised it wasn’t the best way of eating for me. If i continued it could have led to problematic and obsessive and controlling ways around food again and i didn’t want that. Not to mention that listening to your body is key and i wasn’t doing that when i was following IF.
Listening to my body and eating regular meals and when i am hungry is what works best for me. You could say that somedays i do follow IF – not consciously or by choice, but because i amn’t hungry in the morning. Then i might eat my first meal by 11 or 12 or i’ll go to the gym and workout fasted and then eat after that. For me it is not about fasting though, it is just that i am not hungry and i don’t see the point in making myself eat if i am not hungry as i know that i will eat enough later. Of course, if i get into a period where i am very stressed or anxious and lose my appetite, then i have to force myself to eat even if i am not hungry, but on a daily basis i just eat if i am hungry and don’t eat if i amn’t hungry. I.e somedays i eat my last meal at 7pm and other days at 11pm. Somedays i eat my first meal at 6am and other days at 11am. So i don’t have so much structure to when i eat, and that works for me.
I hope this post has been helpful to those of you wondering. I shared my experience as well as the facts, and some links below to articles about intermittent fasting 🙂
I personally wouldn’t recommend this type of eating to the majority of people as fasting can be negative for some. However it can have it’s positives and be beneficial for some people, so it is not all negative!