Intermittent Fasting: An Open Experiment

I can credit the Zite app for planting the seed of interest for me about Intermittent Fasting (IF). After reading a compelling article on the topic and a google search or two later I quickly knew I was going to have to give IF a try.

Why? For a multitude of reasons, but primarily to find another tool (method, strategy or etc…) for the arsenal that allows me to accomplish my personal fitness and health goals.

I am on year 10!

For the record I know that any type of discipline (dare I say diet) as it concerns food can illicit so many varied emotions and reactions that the thought of introducing the concept of fasting has me thinking that most people will officially question my sanity. The fact that I don’t partake in refined sugar and pass on cookies, doughnuts and brownies at the office already has people suspicious!

The intent of this post is to share what I experienced with my IF experiment.

As far as the science behind IF goes I can add nothing to this topic that is not covered by the articles on Marks Daily Apple. This site does a great job of answering frequently asked questions and providing in great detail information concerning IF. Additionally, because I know I have a lot of friends who are really into bodybuilding I would also offer up the Lean Gains website for information concerning IF and building lean mass. I must also reference James Clear’s website as it was also helpful in introducing the concept of IF in very simple language.

Between the three sites I referenced above I had enough information to give IF a shot. When I started the IF experiment I committed to a daily fast for 4 weeks. The fasting scheme I choose was in alignment with James Clear and the Lean Gains website with a daily 16 hour fast. I chose to stop eating nightly at 8pm and didn’t eat again till noon the next day. This is for the most part the pattern I followed for 4 weeks. The slight variations I introduced was to shift the timeline by an hour to accommodate late nights at work or etc… Additionally, I may have cut the fast short by 30 mins if my work schedule had me in a meeting at 1pm.

Week 1

Week one was the hardest as it introduced a new routine that I had to mentally and physically get accustomed to since skipping breakfast is something that I have not done in more than 3 years! Additionally, I workout at 530AM which means that my workouts are in the middle of the fasting period and had me concerned about my energy level. Skipping breakfast resulted in me being almost ravenous by 10AM and almost not hungry by noon; which created a little concern about that I may not get enough calories in the the 8 hour window. As far as my workouts went I started supplementing with BCAAs (0 Cal and 0 Carbs) pre and post work in lieu of my normal protein shake and/or pre-workout snack. I noticed no notable difference in my energy levels between the two approaches.

Weeks 2 and 3 

Weeks two and three introduced some very notable changes in appetite and my workouts. I can not pin down when specific things happened exactly, but sometime between weeks two and three my appetite became absolutely veracious during my 8 hour window for eating. I found myself eating promptly on the start of the 8 hour window and almost hourly with the addition of snacks. I did not feel any reason to limit my intake as I eat “clean” or better stated food cooked at home, avoid refined sugar and eat almost no processed food apart from protein bars and cheese (leave me alone about the cheese!). So I chose to just eat as much as I could in that window with no caloric or macronutrient requirements.  I also noticed that my WOD times appeared to be getting better. Their are so many variables that can contribute to the better workouts that I can not draw a direct one to one relation with IF and my WOD times, but the research seems to indicate that IF could be a contributor to the improved workouts.

On the issue of strength due to some pain in my elbow and a strained hip flexor benchmark lifts like benchpress, back squat and deadlift (and various others) where not attempted for any type of personal record (PR) or documented for this experiment. My general observation is that my strength has not been hindered at all and my metabolic performance appears to be getting better.

Week 4 and 5 

During week 4 I hit a stride with the routine and conversely a plateau with my weight, BF% and workouts. In week 4 my appetite felt as if it normalized a bit and established a new pattern between workout days vs. non workout days. Workout days as one would expect drove me to being hungrier with non workout days very surprisingly finding me not eating directly at the start of the 8 hour window simply due to not being hungry (this has happened even more so in week 5). I have found myself forcing myself to eat and or just waiting till my appetite arrives as I am not sure just yet what the best approach will be for me and my goals.  In week 4 and 5 I have set a new expectation for myself and my energy level for my workouts. The start of week 5 saw something from me that is absolutely unprecedented in my (i think 3 years plus) 3 years of doing Crossfit; I did 2 WODs back to back! Please understand I have no motivations for Crossfit other than trying to keep my waistline in check and to maintain stay healthy. I have zero desire to compete at Crossfit. I have zero desire to pursue any of the Crossfit off shoots (yes i know they came first) powerlifting or olympic lifting and I am definitely not trying to build an amazing physique suited for a bikini briefs and a stage. My sole motivation for doing two workouts (WODs) back to back was that I had energy to burn and the metabolic capacity to do so!

My weight and BF% had dropped week over week and seemingly plateaued a bit between weeks 3 and 4 which i will discuss later in the post.

The Numbers

In 5 weeks with no changes to my diet other than maybe eating more calories than normal and implementing an IF strategy i have lost just under 7 pounds and seen by body fat percentage drop by 3 percent. I used my Fitbit Aria scale to track my BF% and weight. I also ensured I weighed myself at approximately the same time of day on the days that I weighed.

I am not a big guy; muscularly or fat. To follow up this experiment I went had a 3 point caliper reading to use as a frame of reference, for myself and anyone interested in the results, that indicated a 188 pounds at 11% body fat. I don’t trust my Aria scales body fat reading, but as a consistent automated measure it is great!

If i could easily publish the graphs on my Fitbit dashboard I would, but I can not figure out how to embed those into this post. I may update this post with some graphs once I find a good tool that works with WordPress.

The Conclusion

I will continue with my experiment as the IF pattern that I have chosen is very easy to accomplish and is helping me get back to my target body fat percentage. More importantly I feel great! My workouts are better and my energy though out the day is much better! I am also very curious to see if i notice any of the other perceived benefits of fasting as outlined in the numerous articles about IF.

One more thing…

I have also made several minor observations during this time frame that may also warrant an additional post or an update to this one. The one I want to share now is that this pattern of IF where I basically skip breakfast and eat lunch and dinner is very socially easy to pull off. With all of the things I have tried over the years this one is absolutely the least intrusive on social interactions. Monday thru Friday most people are not expecting to eat breakfast with me; my family included due to our schedules. I am able to eat lunch with my colleagues and dinner with my family. The only people who know (or knew) about this experiment are those that I shared with along the way….IF is much, much easier than people questioning my judgement and rationale for passing on sweets for the various occasions at the office that warrant cookies and such.

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