Intermittent Fasting for better health
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day - It’s a saying that I’ve heard numerous times from friends and family after explaining why I won’t eat for half of the day.
Two months ago, I was introduced to Intermittent Fasting. The idea behind it is to skip breakfast and extend your overnight fast up to 6-8 hours after waking up. By doing this some pretty significant things happen. Growth hormone levels increase which help preserve muscle mass and shift fuel metabolism to burning fat. Norepinephrine increases which stimulate your metabolism and also boosts mental alertness. Furthermore, insulin sensitivity in the muscles increases, which allows for greater and leaner muscle gains. Improved insulin sensitivity, can better direct carbs into your muscle stores and away from fat storage.
This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard of this concept. Last summer, a friend of mine told me about how he practices intermittent fasting but I wasn’t so bought into the idea of starving myself.
As someone who’s consistently exercised for the last 5 years, I’ve tried most nutritional methods from counting calories to extreme bulking methods like GOMAD (Gallon Of Milk A Day) paired with BodyBuilding style training, to Crossfit in order to be in the best shape as possible. This concept of starving yourself completely went against my idea of building a lean and muscular physique. Prior to intermittent fasting, I would usually wake up and consume a protein heavy breakfast, eat six meals a day and strength train six days a week. A little skeptical, I decided to give this method a shot in order to find out for myself whether the health benefits outweigh the urge to eat first thing in the morning.
Two months later, I can say this is by far the best lifestyle change I’ve ever made. With every routine, the first few days are always the toughest. Since my body was used to consuming six meals a day, I felt drained at times and would catch myself checking to see if it was time to break my fast. However, after the first week, I noticed that I wasn’t hungry anymore after waking up. My body adapted to my new feeding window. I’ve also been able to maintain my weight while making tremendous strength gains and decreasing my body fat percentage.
My day starts by drinking a litre of water as soon as I wake up, followed by a cup of black coffee, a strong appetite suppressor. My fast ends depending on the time I woke up that morning. If I woke up at 7, I’d break my fast around 2pm. I’d have my first meal consisting of something small like a bagel or sandwich. This fills me up till the it’s time to train later in the evening. I switched up my training routine to training 3 times a week focusing on key movements like squats, deadlifts, and presses. On non-strength days, I do 45+ minutes of cardio consisting of running or rowing and or skipping. After training is when I would consume my huge meal, followed by another small meal before 11pm.
Everyone has their own different routine, but I found that this works the best for me.
Previously, I would consume small meals every 2-4 hours throughout the day which left me feeling sluggish at times. With intermittent fasting, I’ve never felt more alert and full of energy to complete day to day tasks. This was astonishing since it went against my previous ideology of consuming food in order to have energy throughout the day. Not only was I more alert and full of energy, I felt like I had more control of my cravings.
While still in school, I found it hard to eat between classes. Therefore, I would always pack a lunch in my bag. I would prep my meals in the beginning of the week and portion my meals out in Tupperware containers. This saved me a lot of time since I didn’t have to prepare my meals the night before, however, my lunches didn’t always taste the freshest. With intermittent fasting, I didn’t have to worry about lunch since I would only consume one huge meal a day with small meals before and after. By completely removing breakfast and lunch I saved a lot of money since my food cost per week dropped tremendously and I wouldn’t have to grocery shop as often.
Reducing my strength training days to 3 times a week also allowed my body more time to rest between training days. Paired with high-intensity cardio twice a week, I was feeling leaner and stronger.
All in all, intermittent fasting has been extremely beneficial to me. Not only do I feel healthier, focused, and energized, it has given more free time to focus on other things during the day.