Intermittent fasting is one of the most popular modern-day health and fitness trends. The most common method is the 16/8 Method, which involves an 8-hour eating window and 16 hour fasting period.
I've tried intermittent fasting on two occasions now, and I want to discuss my experience. Fortunately, I'm quite a data-driven person, so I've got some stats to back up my progress and the extent of my success.
The first foray into fasting
In early 2019, I was working full time at King & Wood Mallesons in Sydney, living with my Aunt in Rozelle.
My life was strictly regimented, working five days a week and making full use of the complimentary gym membership at the Platinum Fitness First on George Street every night after work.
In the mornings, I'd take to the streets for a long run. My fitness was at an all time high, and I felt like I could run for miles on end. The weekends were no different, and I ran my first ever half marathon.
This was something I enforced by myself, and was intrinsically motivated. I've always liked structure in my life and my predictable daily schedule was a great routine. It saved mental space for more important things.
I also ran my first ever 5km race at a local Parkrun.
In order to improve my running and lose a bit of weight, I decided that I would try intermittent fasting, eating only from 12pm to 8pm each day.
At first it was quite challenging. Sitting at my desk, as an intern, with a rumbling stomach from 10am-12pm was definitely an awkward experience.
I found myself adjusting my seating position, chugging tea, black coffee, and water on a regular basis to convince my stomach that I wasn't hungry.
Despite the challenge, my intermittent fasting lasted around two months, and I was the leanest I've ever been.
Not the most amazing transformation you've ever seen (and I'm not trying to claim that it is), but it was some personal validation that fasting works.
Or was it?
I think this initial experience has taught me that weight loss and 'getting into shape' is a product of several factors: diet, exercise, genetics, just to name a few.
With all the running and gymming I was doing, there is no doubt that I was burning a considerable number of calories each and every day.
I was exercising twice a day, every day, and only eating two substantial meals, with dinners cooked at home every evening (= super clean and healthy meals, usually chicken and veg with limited carbs).
Intermittent fasting accelerated the weight loss process slightly, but I'll be the first to admit that it was probably not the dominant component of my success.
It's currently September 2021. I'm now about a month into my second attempt at intermittent fasting with the 16/8 method.
This attempt marks another challenge that I've set myself. For the last year and a half, I've been taking my weightlifting much more seriously (will discuss in another post) and made significant process.
I now want to see how lean I can get. Given my brief experience with intermittent fasting in 2019, it seemed like a natural choice.
This time, it makes even more sense. It's difficult to eat perfectly clean food at college, where I'm now living for my fourth year of university.
Rather than attempt to eat super clean, I can constrain my eating to the eight hour window, eating only lunch and dinner.
Naturally, I'm aware that my progress would be faster if I cut out dinner, but I don't think I'm quite ready for that challenge. The process is just as important as the destination, and I'd prefer that to last three months with the current program.
As I learnt from my first fasting experience, weight loss requires an increase in exercise, so I've upped my cardio and introduced more distance running into my training schedule.
It's going well so far. In just a few weeks, I'm already seeing some results. A few months ago, I bought a fancy weighing scale, so I've been able to track changes in my weight over the last three weeks. I've lost just over a kilogram. Here's a look at the data.
Here's photographic evidence of the change in physique (the lighting makes things look better, but you get the gist).
Your diet supplements an increase in exercise volume.
Achieving a lean physique requires more cardio rather than significantly less food intake (especially if you want to retain muscle mass)
Weight loss is a product of caloric deficit - consuming less calories than you expend. Exercise helps us to expend calories, and dieting/fasting methods help to reduce overall caloric intake.
While I won't say that fasting was the secret to my success, here's why I enjoy intermittent fasting:
- You don't have to restrict your food intake. Theoretically, within the eight hour period, you can eat anything you like. This is great for anyone who isn't able to source high quality foods on a regular basis
- Building upon the first point, it makes dieting easier. After a week or two of fasting, your stomach 'shrinks' and you can't stuff yourself with as much food.
- If you don't have control over what you are eating, e.g. you're fortunate enough to have meals prepared for you by someone else, you can still lose weight.
- If you're cooking for yourself, you save time. When I was living by myself, I was shocked at how much time I spent cooking and cleaning up after each meal. By eliminating a meal, this time can be spent on more productive tasks
- It builds a bit of mental fortitude. Being hungry isn't fun. That's not exactly rocket science, but the very exercise of feeling hungry is a mental challenge, and successfully making it to 12pm for your first meal is a small win. Can't get enough of those.
I'm planning to continue intermittent fasting for another two months, for a three month total period. Let's see how successful it is!
I hope you've enjoyed this overview of my experience with intermittent fasting and some of the lessons I've learned. Thanks for reading!