Last week, I detailed my intermittent fasting plan, the reasons why I was doing IF, and the science behind the plan. For those that didn’t read that piece (shame, shame), here’s a quick recap of my particular plan to tackle an intermittent fast:
- Starting last Sunday night (January 14th), I planned to fast for at least 16 hours every day for one full week.
- During my fasting hours, I would be permitted water, coffee, or tea. Basically, a non-caloric beverage. But no food whatsoever.
- During the 8 hour “feasting” period, I could eat normally, with no real extra attention paid to calories or food choice.
That was the plan. So, how did it go?
Let me start by saying that I completed the plan as I laid it out in my previous article. I did not cheat. I did not break my fast during the appropriated hours one single time over the course of the week. For that, I was proud of myself. Here’s the moneymaker, though: It really wasn’t that hard.
For the first two days, I’d say, I was on what I would call the “high” of trying something new. Anyone who’s started a new endeavor with a head full of hope and gusto can relate to this, I’d expect. I was excited to be doing this. I also felt like I had a sort of built-in accountability, seeing as how I publicly committed to the plan on this website.
For those reasons, Day 1 and Day 2 of the intermittent fast were pretty easy. As I said last week, I wanted to go from 6 p.m. to 10 a.m. without food. The problem that I foresaw before starting was not going to be going without food so much as going without my nightly beer. I’d be lying if I said that that wasn’t an issue early on. Monday night was no biggie. Like I said, I was riding the high of the new experience, determined not to break. There was no chance of that one night in.
Tuesday, however, was a bit of a different story, largely due to circumstances that I couldn’t have predicted. On Tuesday, during my youngest daughter’s nap, I heard a horrid coughing sound over the baby monitor. As I looked on the video monitor to check on the situation, I proceeded to see my daughter vomiting all over her bed. Awesome, right? This was in the middle of her nap. I got her out of her bed and to the bathroom where she continued to throw up. This scared my son, who was napping in the adjacent room, so then he starts screaming his head off. All the while, my daughter’s bed is full of puke.
I get my son calmed down, my daughter cleaned up, and her bed stripped and cleaned up the best I can AND DADDY IS READY FOR A BIG DAMN DRINK by the end of the day. While not typically a proponent of drinking while upset (rarely solves the problem IMO), I allowed myself a glass of wine with dinner, still within my window of feasting. Still feeling good about my plan.
Then, that same night, my oldest daughter throws up at 10 p.m. Luckily, we suspected this was coming so she was sleeping with a trusty puke bucket. No clean up necessary. What did happen, though, was that I didn’t sleep worth a shit that night for fear of being woken up by someone somewhere in the house throwing up. This, coupled with the natural high of the experiment probably wearing off, made the next day, Day 3, the toughest day of the fast.
I was cranky from not sleeping well and my body was looking for external energy sources. I had also worked out that morning at 6 a.m., and I would have given anything to just freaking crush some food afterwards. All of this resulted in me being a woefully impatient parent and overall grump that day. Still, I didn’t break, although that day was without a doubt my toughest challenge.
Then, after going to bed early and getting a good night’s sleep, I felt like the next couple of days breezed by. At this point, some things started to become readily apparent:
- I was losing weight. By Day 4, I’d lost three pounds (from 188.8 to 185.8).
- I felt leaner than I had in quite some time. At the risk of sounding vain, I felt like I had some serious abs going on. I felt like a layer of unnecessary fat had just been stripped off of me.
- I was cold as shit. It reminded me of when I used to cut weight for wrestling, and I’d be constantly shivering from being skinny. I usually run hot, and I wore a sweatshirt for like three days straight.
Also of note, after about the third day, my fasting periods started to get longer and longer. By Days 5 and 6, I was doing more of an 18 hour fast with a 6 hour feasting period. I just simply wasn’t as hungry. Then, when I would eat, I’d get very full very fast. The overall lack of hunger was a fascinating thing to experience.
My longest fasting period came on the last day of my weeklong fast, as I went 20 hours between meals. I’d like to say that this was part of some plan that I had, but that’s not true. Basically, I got busy and just didn’t eat. I went to my grandma’s house to help her install a new closet, ran into some issues, worked like crazy to get it done, and then looked up to see that it was 2 p.m. and I hadn’t eaten a thing all day long. This was probably not the smartest thing, but, in a weird twist, it came in handy later on that night.
That night, my son’s preschool was throwing a fundraiser. The fundraiser didn’t start until 7 p.m., which normally would have been outside my feasting window. However, because I didn’t eat until 2 p.m., I was able to enjoy the event and the food and drinks that came with it without feeling guilty or breaking my fast. In the end, it worked out fine.
All told, when I got on the scale the morning after the last day of my fast, I had lost an even 4 pounds. I was down to 184.8 and felt really good. My body looked lean, and I was energized. I had been sleeping well and had very little brain fog throughout the week of fasting.
After following my plan for a full week, I can definitely see why intermittent fasting has become so popular. Basically, it works really well. In my case, even as someone that tries to stay fit, I could see a difference in my body within two days. My wife even commented on this as early as Tuesday morning. There’s also the sense of satisfaction that comes from being disciplined in something and following a plan. This, I would argue, provides a nice psychological boost. Instead of feeling a brief blip of satisfaction from feeding our constant desire for stimulation, intermittent fasting provides satisfaction from deprivation and what results from that deprivation.
Not eating was the easy part of this experiment for me. It’s not hard to miss a meal if you can talk yourself into it. For me, it was the abstaining from accidental eating that was tricky. Accidentally licking a spoon from the food you’re making or, without thinking about it, eating the scraps left on your child’s plate. That was the hard part during the fasting periods.
The “no beer” thing wasn’t as tricky as I thought it might be, but I ended up substituting beverages in the evening, I guess as sort of a placeholder for my beer habit. A couple of nights, I sipped on hot tea while watching TV. One night, I had an apple cider vinegar drink. If anything, rather than being troublesome, not having beer at night kind of reminded me that I probably didn’t need to be drinking a beer or two every night in the first place.
By far, the hardest part of this experience was not being able to eat after working out. If you’re doing high intensity strength and conditioning training, you really need to eat afterwards. Preferably something high in protein. Because I was working out at 6 a.m. and then going until at least 10 a.m. without food, I probably wasn’t giving my body what it needed those mornings. If I had to change anything about this process, it would be better aligning my feasting periods with my workout schedule.
I should note, however, that some people, when doing IF, allow themselves a Branch Chain Amino Acid drink during their workout to cancel out what’s being lost during that workout. I had read about this before hand, but I wanted to be as strict as possible during this process. In hindsight, I can see why BCAAs are a thing that people utilize during fasting.
In the end, for as well as things went, I was also ready to be done with intermittent fasting at the end of the week. I have no doubts that I could have gone longer, and I will probably end up doing this again at some point. However, I was also ready to have breakfast with my wife and three kids again instead of doing busy work around the kitchen so that my kids wouldn’t notice I wasn’t eating with them.
I’m not really a believer in a “one-size-fits-all” nutrition or exercise plan, but, after doing intermittent fasting for a week, I certainly think that there is something to this trend. Even feeling pretty good about my body and current fitness level, I was able to shed four pounds without changing any of the food I eat, only my eating patterns. If that sounds that’s manageable to you (and Spoiler Alert: It is), then give intermittent fasting a try. I think you might be surprised at the results.
If you have questions about intermittent fasting or my individual experience, feel free to leave those questions in the comments to this article. You can also reach out on Twitter @JMitchellTGS.