I do remember quite well reading my first article about the intermittent fasting concept a long time ago. Back then (about 2011), I was in my 2nd year of the IT studies and honestly, packing 3-5 meals to my bag in order to stick to the one the most popular broscience fads (eat 6 small meals per day to boost your metabolism and make your muscles grow, as it’s really the one and only proper way) began to feel a little bit uncomfortable.
And I’m not even talking about preparing these meals, rather the fact that I’d have to find an appropriate time slot to consume such a meal (e.g. 5-10 min. break between the lectures) and very often I wasn’t even hungry. Not to mention the fact, that during the heavy winter while not being able to heaten up a meal it wouldn’t taste too good (just to say it in a polite way). That didn’t feel right – this and the fact that I’ve always liked to test the new ideas made me look for some other approach that would suit my needs. And that’s how my story with the intermittent fasting has begun.
I don’t really remember anymore when and where I’ve heard for the first time about the concept related to the fasting, probably read about it on some forums. What I do remember, though, is that at first I was introduced to the Leangains protocol. And what’s that about? Quite straightforward, for 16 hours a day you’re not eating anything (fasting) and for the remaining 8 hours (e.g. 12-20 hours) you’d consume all of your calories . There were 2 things being a real shocker to me – how am I not going to lose my muscles if I don’t eat anything for the 2/3 of the day? And what happens to my metabolism, wouldn’t it slow down, cause in the end the frequency of the meals is what matters, right?
Before I’ve started my journey with the intermittent fasting, I’ve thoroughly studied the Leangain’s site created by Martin Berkhan. Reading articles, scientific research and watching some documentary movies like Eat, Fast and live longer by BBC made me realize that there truly might be another and totally different way related to the dieting approach.
Honestly, I think it was also a time at which I’ve started to care more about what the science has to say, more than some online coaches and so called experts, that would spread their broscience bullshit without any scientific background. So, I’ve decided to give it a try – it took me about 3 weeks to get fully accustomed to such approach. Probably for the first time in my life, I’ve started skipping my breakfasts and having the first meal somewhere about the noon. How did that feel? Well, certainly I was feeling hungry in the morning but after a few weeks that feeling faded away. By the way, I was probably one of the first guys here in Poland that have started incorporating a fasting protocol while doing a strength training – at least I couldn’t find anyone else at online forums doing so, therefore I’ve started tracking my own results and sharing them with the others.
I guess that I was still a little bit susceptible for some magic back then, as I’ve read some opinions that because of fasting I’d be able to consume more calories, so I’d easily pack over 4000 kcal during this 8 hours eating window. I think that thermodynamics laws would disagree with me, but well, we learn from our own mistakes, don’t we? Anyway, the outcome was that I’ve gained quite a few kilograms (like 10) but couldn’t really eat more (and I was eating quite a lot) so I was stuck at about 89 kg. Eventually, not only did I not lose any muscle, but actually have built some and became stronger. So hold on, for a second, you don’t really have to eat 6 meals every 2-3 hours? What a shocker, isn’t it?
Ok, so I’ve gained some muscle mass which was great, yet the summer was about to begin and I couldn’t see my six pack. It was the high time to lower my body fat level. So what did I do? Sure, I’ve lowered my total amount of calories and later on added more training sessions (in the end it was some crazy volume like 5-6 gym sessions in the morning and 5-6 running sessions for 10 km but I really liked to run back then so it wasn’t really that exhausting).
I’ve also extended my fasting period, so it would last between 18-22 hours depending on the day. And what is the most important thing here? It does not fucking matter whether you fast for 16, 20 or 24 hours or don’t fast at all. Neither it matters if you eat 1, 3 or 6 meals. And yes, I was eating fruits, ice creams and other “bad foods” almost every day because I’ve really enjoyed it. And guess what, I would still lose weight because in the end what matters is the total number of calories. So yeah, I’ve been fasting and additionally following the IIFYM approach although I had no idea that you could come up with such a fancy name for something that was quite natural to me – just count your damn calories, make sure you have enough amount of protein (at least 1g per 1kg of muscle mass), fiber (20-40g per day) and some healthy fats (no less than 30-50g) to keep your hormones in a good shape.
Few years have passed, I was gaining and losing weight, doing a mix of bodybuilding, powerlifting and weighlifting trainings as well as some endurance stuff like HIIT or sprints and the martial arts on top of that. I’ve tried high carb, low carb, carb back loading and some other things. Currently, I’m doing a ketogenic diet (but that’s a story for another article), fasting for over 22 hours per day and eating within 1-2 hour timespan.
And well, I’m having like 8-10 training sessions per week (4x weight training at gym, 3x martial arts, 2x HIIT/Sprints and sometimes one more session) while eating roughly 2000-2300 kcal. I’ve just lost over 18 kgs within last 4 months (weighted over 96 kg back in February due to some thyroid issues), sleep for 4-5 hours (have no idea where did that come from lol) and feel just great (I do my blood tests regularly so you can trust me with this matter). To be honest, the adrenaline levels are crazy once you hit the gym after fasting for like 20 hours or even more. Oh, did I also mention that I don’t really do anything related to the sports at my work (actually I’m a software engineer and have my own blog), so that’s just the part of my life that I really enjoy, but don’t find it to be any type of sacrifice or some other bullshit that many of these online coaches would post on their fanpages so you’d think they’re superhuman and want you to feel pity for them (yeah, going to the gym, eating a few times per day while making a living of it must be such a sacrifice).
Finally, let me make a quick, generic summary of what has been said:
- Fasting is ok but is not a silver bullet (there are no silver bullets), as you still have to count your calories. However, there are scientific researches that might suggest it provides some health benefits (improved blood glucose levels, insulin sensitivity or increased GH levels during fasting).
- There is no single dieting approach that is the best – you have to try it out on yourself. You can start doing fasting or don’t do it at all. You can have your breakfast or not. You can eat ice creams or believe that there are superfoods that will make you a superman. Just do whatever suits your needs and stick to it if it works and you feel good with it.
- Do not believe everything you read or hear. Filter the crap that can be found in the social media. Make friends e.g. with pubmed, beware though, that cherry-picking scientific research is not a good strategy (in short – read more than just abstract of the research or its conclusions).