My Experience With Intermittent Fasting: How Time-Restricted Eating Changed My Life
I was intrigued by intermittent fasting years ago when I heard about Hugh Jackman’s eating regimen for The Wolverine.
At the time, intermittent fasting wasn’t very popular. I tried it for a few days but got cold feet after a friend scrutinized me for skipping breakfast.
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!” he said. And, “You should be eating every 2–3 hours so you increase your metabolism”.
I conceded and quit fasting.
Fast forward to today. Intermittent fasting is one of the trendiest topics in health. And skipping breakfast is no longer taboo.
After doing a lot of research, I decided to give intermittent fasting another shot.
Because there are number of potential health benefits. Here’s a list of the top benefits associated with fasting:
- Fasting can promote longevity and reduce aging. Most of the research I’ve seen attributes this to reduced calorie intake.
- Fasting can increase autophaghy. Autophagy is the process that your body uses to recycle cells. It’s linked to many health benefits including reduced risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
- Fasting can increase human growth hormone. Human growth hormone helps increase energy, increase bone density, and increase/retain muscle.
- Fasting can help you get into a state of ketosis, where you’re running on fat instead of glucose.
- Fasting can reduce inflammation and improve gut health.
- Fasting can improve cognitive function.
- Some people have better skin when fasting (maybe due to autophagy).
- Fasting can help with weight loss.
Before I go on, you may be asking, what is intermittent fasting?
In short, intermittent fasting is as it sounds: abstaining from calories for a period of time.
There are a lot of intermittent fasting variations, but the principle is always the same: you only eat during a specific window of time.
Benefits I’ve Experienced
After trying intermittent fasting for a few weeks I started experiencing the following benefits:
Simpler, More Productive Days
The best working hours of my day are between 9 am and 2 pm.
When I don’t fast, I lose at least one of these hours to lunch. I love lunch, but I often feel sluggish after eating and find it difficult getting back into work.
Increased Natural Energy
I used to drink 2–3 cups of coffee every day. The first cup helped get me going, and the cups that followed compensated for the heavy feeling after lunch.
It took a while to adjust, but now I have more energy throughout the day with less coffee. If I do have a coffee, I’ll sip on an Americano to increase focus and reduce hunger. But I don’t need to rely on coffee for energy anymore.
Better Diet Decisions
I make better diet decisions because I only need to get it right once or twice per day. I’ve been cooking more because I really look forward to a hearty and healthy dinner.
The downside to this is that if I have a crappy meal, I have to wait 20 hours to make it up.
I can focus for longer stretches of time during fasting. I used to feel distracted, fatigued and “hangry” around lunch time, but now I feel focused throughout the day.
I used to crave sweets. But, after two weeks of intermittent fasting, my cravings for sweets went away.
I still love a donut or some candy every now and then, but I don’t crave sugar like I used to.
Fewer Late Night Snacks and Drinks
I stopped snacking at night because I wanted to extend the length of my fasts. This decreased the number of unhealthy things I would eat/drink late at night.
Yes, I’ll still have the occasional nightcap or bowl of cereal, but it’s not a habit anymore.
Workouts, especially aerobic exercise, are easier. I’m not as tired as I used to be while playing basketball or running.
I’ve also been able to increase strength while losing fat. I’ve lost 5 pounds since I started fasting a few months ago.
My entire digestion system feels better. I’m less bloated and feel more satisfied after my meals.
Increased Water Consumption
I fill up a lot more with water since I don’t eat in the mornings. This helps me stay hydrated and feeling good.
I drink a lot of LaCroix to spice things up. Yes, I know, I’m a wild one.
Drawbacks I’ve Experienced
I’ve also experienced some negative side effects from intermittent fasting. Here are the drawbacks that bum me out the most:
I’ll get a stomachache if I eat the wrong food after a long fast. One day I felt like I was going to keel over after eating a plate of nachos. There are only a few foods that won’t bother my stomach when breaking a fast.
I feel pressure to make the most of my eating window. This can cause me to graze for the entire eating window, which is not healthy.
Inconvenient Meal Times
It’s hard to make breakfast or lunch plans when you’re waiting to eat until 2 pm. But I let the fast slide for get-togethers. For me, having a social life is more important than fasting. That said, I don’t go out to eat much anymore, which is a good thing.
Lower Caffeine Tolerance
I can’t have a lot of coffee because I’ll get the jitters. The smallest amount of caffeine can increase anxiety and tweak me out.
As with any health fad, this one could be totally wrong and gone in a few years. I have no idea if I will ever see the long-term benefits. Sometimes when I’m feeling hungry I wonder if it’s worth it.
The Best Regimen For Me
As I mentioned, there are a lot of ways to do intermittent fasting.
The best one for you depends on your goals, and what works best with your schedule.
I’m fasting for the health benefits and for the lifestyle simplicity. I’m not trying to lose weight.
I tried the 16:8 (lean gains) protocol, where you fast for 16 hours and eat within a 8-hour window. This is the protocol Hugh Jackman used.
I also tried 14:10 protocol, where you fast for 14 hours and eat within a 10-hour window. This helped me ease into intermittent fasting.
I found that my sweet spot was fasting around 18–20 hours with a 4–6 hour eating window.
My favorite way to do this is to eat 1 to 2 meals per day. I eat when I am hungry, usually around 2:00 pm, and then eat again around 5:30 pm if I am deficient in calories.
My goal for weekdays is to stay at a 20–30% calorie deficit. On the weekends, I extend my eating window and eat without a deficit. I do this to give my body a chance to refuel.
I stole this approach from Stan Bicknell.
Questions People Have Asked
What do you eat after fasting?
I usually drink a protein shake to break the fast. Shortly after the shake, I’ll have some cottage cheese with almonds and an apple with peanut butter. Occasionally, I’ll have an avocado or fry a few eggs. I try to eat something light to get me to dinner without upsetting my stomach.
I consume most of my calories at dinner. Our family eats a protein and produce meal. Something like steak with broccoli or chicken with cauliflower rice and some extra sides to cover our nutritional bases.
We’re usually done eating before 7 pm.
Don’t you get hungry?
Sometimes I get hungry in the mornings, but the hunger passes quickly if I focus on work. I usually get another wave of hunger around 2–3 pm and then take a break for lunch.
How has this affected your workouts?
When I first started intermittent fasting I worked out in the morning. Sometimes I would feel fatigued. I realized this was due to not eating enough during the window.
Now I try to workout around 1–2 pm and break the fast shortly after. I feel stronger in the afternoon and it’s a great way to boost energy for the rest of the day.
How do you make sure you are getting all your nutrients?
I tracked everything I ate with the My Fitness Pal app for the first couple of weeks to make sure I was getting the right amount of calories and nutrients. Once I had a good idea of my intake, I stopped tracking because I eat the same meals most of the time.
The Best Resources I’ve Found
I’ve had a lot of conversations with people about fasting lately. I always say I’ll send some resources I’ve found useful, but I usually forget.
So, here’s a list of resources that were most helpful for me.
This video was what peaked my interest in fasting again. It shows how restricting calories promotes longevity and improves health.
Interesting TED Talk About How Fasting Affects Your Brain
This video discusses how fasting could reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Joe Rogan and Dr. Rhonda Patrick
This video shows how time-restricted eating, especially following your circadian rhythm, has profound benefits.
James Clear’s Beginners Guide To Intermittent Fasting
This awesome guide discusses intermittent fasting in detail and outlines a lot of the benefits I have experienced.
The Beginner's Guide to Intermittent Fasting
I have been intermittent fasting for over one year. I skip breakfast each day and eat two meals, the first around 1pm…
Eating One Meal A Day
This video convinced me to try eating one meal a day.
Jason Fung on Fasting and Weight Loss
This video has a lot of information about how fasting can lead to weight loss and improves insulin sensitivity.
Jason Fung on Fasting
Fasting and Autophagy
(Note — If you are a regular reader, you’ll know that I like to label my blogs according to topics — eg. there are…
Sweet Spot for Intermittent Fasting by P.D. Mangdan
This article discusses how longer fasts are where it’s at.
Blake Horton for food inspiration.
He eats one epic meal a day. The stuff he comes up with is just ridiculous.
Blake Horton (@blake_201) * Instagram photos and videos
352.3k Followers, 379 Following, 3,637 Posts - See Instagram photos and videos from Blake Horton (@blake_201)
Conclusion and Tips
Is intermittent fasting right for you? I have no idea. The only way to know is to experiment with it and see how you feel.
But if you do want to try it, here’s what I recommend based on my experience.
- Talk with your doctor first. I talked with my doctor. Turns out he’s been doing intermittent fasting for years!
- Ease into it. Don’t just go cold turkey. You will not appreciate the hunger pangs! Start with skipping breakfast and using the 14:10 protocol.
- Use the Zero app by Kevin Rose to keep yourself motivated and track your fasts.
- If you want to increase your fasting length, start working towards a low carb diet while keeping a good fiber intake. Adhering to a low carb diet will help you ween off sugar as an energy source and work towards fat.
- Green smoothies (kale, spinach, strawberries, peaches, blueberries, and pomegranate) are a great primer for a big meal. They also help keep you regular.
- Drinking a protein shake to break the fast helps me ease into eating without giving me a stomachache. Thom Delauer recommends breaking a fast with bone broth or MCT oil, but I haven’t tried it.
- Make your meals awesome — protein and produce can be delicious (my favorite is a bowl of grass-fed beef with broccoli rice and sriracha).
Hope you find this useful. If you have any questions about my experience, just let me know!
And, if you’ve been experimenting with intermittent fasting, I’d love to hear about your experience!