Experiments with Intermittent Fasting

I’m taking several pedagogy courses this semester, one of which is called Comprehensive Health Education for Secondary Educators.  It’s a rather cut and dry course name, isn’t it?  One of the first assignments for the class was a review of the Center for Disease Controls Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System.  It’s a biannual survey of adolescent health which provides data on risk behaviors such as smoking, drinking, drug use, diet, and physical activity.  Once analyzed, the data provides information that contribute to the nation, states, localities, and individual schools to better plan their curriculum.  Pretty cool, huh?

While I was completing my own survey, I ran across a question regarding diet:

69.) During the past 30 days, did you go without eating for 24 hours or more (also called fasting) to lose weight or to keep from gaining weight? A. Yes B. No

For the first time in my life, I actually had to think about it.  I’ve always been a food fanatic, and I’ve spent the past few years eating on a rather consistent basis.  We’ve all heard about eating every 3-4 hours, right?  Some people even say 2 hours, because any longer kills your metabolism.  I’m not that convinced, because I had to answer ‘Yes’.  For a month now, I’ve been experimenting with some intermittent fasting.

The definition of fasting is not eating, so intermittent fasting would be repeated periods of not eating.  Defining it isn’t exactly rocket science, is it?  What does become pretty scientific is the difference between simply not eating, and strategic not eating.  Huge difference there!  Before I began any of my own explanations, I’ll share some links with you that you should probably check out.  (I’d recommend Roman’s FitCast interview the most because he discusses a variety of protocols.)

Now that you’ve (hopefully) read up on some of the Intermittent Fasting protocols that are out there, you’re probably wondering what I’ve been experimenting with.  My personal guinea pig experience is closest to a delayed breakfast on non-training days.   I’m just simply waiting until later in the day to begin eating.  My schedule this semester feeds really well into this.  (Get it?!)  I’ve been completing two full-body workouts during the week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I’ve been observing in schools on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and I’ve been using the school day to detail my fasts.  I’ll simply delay eating my first meal, or breakfast, until the school day lets out.  The math on that ends up being a 16 hour fast window from going to bed until I eat for the first time, which is usually just before 3pm.  From there, I have 8 hours to eat the same quantity of food that I’d normally consume for the rest of the day.  I’ve also been trying to ‘wave’ my eating and training days, so that the overall quantity of food is based on the overall intensity of training.  On days that I’m going to use full body workouts (and lifting slightly lighter weights) I’ll typically eat less than on the days that I head into the gym looking to pull or push a max.  Make sense?  Perfect!

I’m not a fan of dieting, especially the way that most people do it.  Most of the time, it seems to me (as an outsider) that there’s a lot of complaining about what they can or can’t eat, which still amounts to poor nutrition habits.  No, Ms Calorie-Counter, your Skinny Girl margarita isn’t healthy.  Regardless of if you’re eating in a deficit, energy balance, or surplus:

My goals aren’t exactly to drop a ton of weight, because I don’t weight that much to begin with, but I would like to be slightly leaner.  This past month has worked rather well, but I can’t give you a true ‘weight loss’ number because, well, I hate scales.  The mirror is a much better indicator of progress, as is how your clothes feel on your body.  I’m going to need to punch another hole in my belts if I keep this up, but I’m not looking for a big weight loss as much as I’m looking for fat loss.  (For those of you who need a scale number, it’s been about 13lbs from 195-182ish.)  While I continue to figure out how intermittent fasting is affecting my body, I’m curious as to if any of you (Yes, you!) have had any experience with intermittent fasting or dieting in general, and how it’s affected you.  Although I’m not a huge proponent of caloric restriction, and would rather people start with cleaning up the quality of their food, and having solid workouts, I’m certainly excited to see how intermittent fasting is working.  In my next post, I’ll discuss some of the different tweaks I’ve added to my training recently as well.  Let me know your thoughts on the matter!

12 Replies to “Experiments with Intermittent Fasting”

  1. I’ve been intermittent fasting (Martin Berkhan’s method) for 3 or 4 months now and I love it. I don’t have to think about food until 12 or 1pm and as I have classes in the morning, this is a great thing. Intermittent fasting has also helped me get a little leaner.

    Not eating in the morning was hard to get used to at first but now I’m totally acclimated to it.

    1. Rebecca, are you using Berkhan’s method on a daily basis, on training days, or on a different schedule? After balancing out the psychological need and the physiological need for food in the first few days, it’s not that bad at all, and I’m finding myself leaner without losing any strength or performance.

      1. Hi Harold, sorry for the late reply! I must have missed the notification that you replied to my comment.

        I’m still intermittent fasting and I do it every day and have been doing it every day since I started. I try to eat more carbs on training days and less on rest days but I don’t pay too much attention to my macros right now.

      2. Thanks, Rebecca! That carb manipulation makes a lot of sense; I myself tend to use intermittent fasting to manipulate calories in general; I’ve yet to try it on a training day however. I agree that micromanaging the macros isn’t as important as the overall quantity and quality of the food we’re eating. Would you suggest training on an empty stomach, or do you usually break fast before you train?

      3. I have tried training while fasted and training after eating and I haven’t seen any real difference in energy levels or strength when weight training. I did try going for a run while fasted but I hit the wall very quickly and felt so extremely drained that I slowed to a walk (I don’t do that anymore haha). On the other hand, I have been able to do sprints just fine while fasted. I think the idea behind training fasted is to promote fat loss but I don’t know if that is actually proven. Now I workout when I can and don’t really care if I’m in a fasted state or not because either way works for me (except with running).

      4. Rebecca, that’s a great response, and confirms what I expected. I once tried to train after a fast day and a breakfast of scrambled eggs and almonds, and crashed insanely quickly; not very fun. Can I assume that those sprints were real sprints (on a field or hill) and not on a treadmill? I think that the treadmill sprints, or longer duration work sets, say 60-90 seconds, would burn you out pretty quickly, compared to the shorter duration, 10-15 second sprints.

        Fasted non-training seems to be great for fat loss, and the fasted training science is rather inconclusive. I think most people would prefer to train in a fed state and not worry about crashing!

      5. I use both treadmill sprints and hill sprints. Generally I try for 15, 20, or 30 second intervals. Longer work sets would be really tough in a fasted state. In the end I think people should just do what works best for them be it training fed or fasted.

    1. Pat, I’m the same way, I LOVE food. What I like about the fasting is that I can still eat large portions of food at certain meals or though the day on training days, and then I just dial the frequency and serving size back on non training days. It’s a nice mental boost to be setting PR’s while you’re leaning out!

  2. Hi Harold – great article. I love the ‘revised’ picture of the American daily plate… they ought to print that ought and hand it off to kids at school! It seems your variety of fasting is working well for you – keep it up.

    I thought you might like to know that your link to Brad Pilon’s site isn’t working – but if you wanted you could sign up as an affiliate on clickbank (I bought my book through there) and earn commissions if someone clicks through to buy his book via this site. Given you’re linking to him, you may as well make some money from it!

    One other site I’ve seen with good info on fasting is http://leanmassgains.com – some good articles on there on HIIT and bulking on this approach. Maybe you could add that to the list too.

    Cheers, and keep up the good work!

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