Intermittent fasting (IF) became a major part of our diets, and day-to-day lives, around 6 months ago.
One of us, for instance, suffered a major injury this fall that prevented him from exercising. Fasting was his way of staying *relatively* lean.
Our fasts are water and tea-only fasts. For anyone still confused, this means we drink as much water/tea as desired with no other food/beverage intake during the fast. Different variations of IF exist, with water-only fasts, dry fasts (no water), Dr. Fung’s fast (sub 500 calorie intake/day), and others.
Status of Intermittent Fasting (IF):
Our best summary of IF’s status is this: While research is relatively conclusive in IF’s benefits, it’s not clear what the optimal fast is (for how long, eating/drink what).
With that out of the way let’s get into our experiences with IF.
Importantly, we are not obsessive about fasting. We generally try not to eat before noon after eating the night before (loosely following the 16 hr fast/8 hr eating daily schedule). And then we’ll throw in a 24 hr fast 1-2/week. Again, non-obsessive.
7 Things Learned from Fasting:
- Getting over the “initial hunger hump” is most important.
- You will feel most hungry between 0-3 hours of IF. Once you’ve passed the 3 hour mark, things are more smooth-sailing. Not forever of course. For us, hunger relapses around 24-27 hours after. We haven’t completed 27+ hr fasts, and we don’t recommend trying it unless you’ve successfully completed shorter fasts and have consulted with your doctor.
- Fasting shows how much of your eating is boredom eating.
- Yup. Eating simply because I am bored and want to fill my time. Often, my stomach is full but my mind is bored and seeking some sort of stimulus. For me, this has traditionally been solved through eating. Now, whenever I’m fasting and suddenly feel the urge to eat, I do something minor but productive. This may be pull-ups, pushups, a vocabulary refresher, what have you. Anything productive and healthy to get your mind off eating.
- You can survive much longer than previously thought without food.
- Remember when the starved period between breakfast and lunch at school was stressful? No longer. Once you start fasting you realize if things came to, you could last days (weeks?) without food, and you’d feel pretty damn good doing it.
- If you’ve been on a high-carb diet, IF will be difficult at first.
- Heard of the keto fog? Headaches/hazy feelings will be normal at first as your brain switches from primarily metabolizing glucose to ketones (fatty acids). From personal experience, getting over the headaches/fogginess takes roughly 2-3 weeks. If symptoms remain after a few weeks, we’d recommend pausing the fasting and seeing a doctor + getting bloodwork done.
- Fasting doesn’t have to derail your dining experience.
- Just because you’re fasting doesn’t mean you shouldn’t sit down with your family at the dinner table or go out with your friends. Sure, maybe you get the offhand comment from a friend or insult from your younger brother but you’re dedicated to a higher priority. Fasting also forces the face-to-face interaction over meals that society is getting farther and farther away from (primarily helped by smartphones, especially). If friends complain about your fasting (assuming it isn’t every time you seen them), they’re not your real friends.
- Our most productive hours are between 18-24 hours after starting the fast.
- We suspect this is because 16 hrs marks the beginning of ketosis, as various research suggests that at minimum you need 16hrs of fasting to get into mild ketosis. Post 24 hours of fasting= shakes and headaches become more frequent. Certain people would recommend supplementing with salt or electrolytes at this point, but we break the fast.
- IF builds, and requires, discipline.
- Once you start fasting (and not breaking the rules!) the discipline and direction you get from these successes are translated elsewhere in your life. Suddenly its easier to keep your phone out of sight while working, and easier to remain focused on one work task at a time. Bad habits are easily erased, and good habits are reinforced.
- Since there is no optimal fast (at the moment), try out different options for yourself.
- Because of this uncertainty, we recommend trying out what works best for you. Many have to accommodate fasting within their work schedule, which is why the 16/8 schedule is so popular. We recommend starting out slow, with 12-16 hr fasts, gauging your body’s response, and then moving on to longer fasts (18-24 hours).
If you have type 1 diabetes, you should not follow the above information on optimal fasting – it can be risky. If you have ketones in your blood, you must be sure your blood sugar levels are normal. As always, consult a medical professional with any questions before considering different health practices.
Image reference: //www.alexfergus.com/blog/my-experiences-with-extended-fasting