I started doing intermittent fasting in June 2016 and it has been quite a journey. 8 months later I’m down 8 kilo (17 pounds for you yankees) but it hasn’t been a straight line and in the mean time I’ve noticed a number of other benefits that have little to do with weight loss.
In this post, I share my personal experience. None of this should be taken as advice. Find out what works for you and consult your doctor if needed before doing anything drastic.
Follow me on my journey towards a better life.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is fasting for a limited period of time. You can choose how long and how often you fast. It is not a fixed regime, there are a lot of different ways to do intermittent fasting. I will go into some of these in this post.
The best source I found about (intermittent) fasting is a book called The Complete Guide To Fasting by Dr. Jason Fung.
It’s a great book that I can recommend to everyone who wants to learn more about fasting before trying it.
Every start is difficult
I started in June 2016 with a modest approach. I would skip breakfast, eat lunch and have my dinner early to have only a 4-6 hour eating window.
This fits my work rhythm as I typically get up at 5:15 AM, start working at 6:30 AM and am often home around 3:30 PM. So an early dinner was just easy to fit into my daily schedule.
The first days are very hard. Especially if you are used to eating a lot of sugar and other carbs.
Like any change, your body needs to get used to it. This resulted in some major headaches for me as my body was detoxing from the sugar.
But the headaches typically last only a few days at the most. This is normal when getting started.
Next part is the hunger waves. At first, you get very hungry. The mistake most people make is that they assume the hunger feeling will only get worse over time and they give up fasting too early.
But if you try to focus your thoughts to something other that food, you will notice that the hunger feeling will fade away for a while before coming back later.
After a few days, you will notice that the hunger waves will come later and that the first waves are less strong.
Some tricks to help you
There are some tricks to suppress the hunger feelings.
The first thing you need to know is that while fasting, you should drink more water than otherwise. But drinking water will also help suppressing the hunger, so it can serve both purposes.
Bulletproof coffee is actually coffee with added fats. Coffee and certain fats will help you speed up your fat burning process. You will understand this better when you read the book about fasting.
Short story: the main goal of fasting is to train your body to use body fat as energy source instead of sugar/carbs/glucose.
So how can you make your own bulletproof coffee? Add some coconut oil and/or organic butter (or ghee) to your coffee.
As I don’t like the taste of butter, I use mainly coconut oil. This is not the same as coconut milk!
Be careful when you start using coconut oil! Start with a very small portion and slowly build up. If you add too much in the beginning, you will run to the toilet! I don’t want to go into details but you need to train your body to digest coconut oil. Today I add about 1 tablespoon in my lungo espresso but I started with much less.
For the best flavor, use a blender or mixer. I use a Kenwood hand blender simply because I had one already but you can use any brand or type.
I’m thinking of getting a portable drink mixer to use at work because I’ve been using a spoon at work and that doesn’t work very well.
As I said, I started in June but around October I hit a plateau in my weight loss. Whatever I tried, I couldn’t get back to the weight loss I was experiencing in the first 4 months. Maybe I was just cheating too much on this way of eating, but I was clear that I needed to change something if I wanted to lose more weight.
In December, I actually read the book that I am now recommending to everyone and decided to experiment with longer fasting windows. I did some 24 hour fasts and noticed that it wasn’t that much more difficult than the 18 hour fasts I was doing before. I also tried a few longer fast, my record so far is 42 hours.
Longer fasts are something you must train your body for. I stopped after 42 hours although I knew that the first days are the hardest. But at that time I was starting to feel a bit dizzy so I decided to eat. But the result of these experiments were that I lost all the extra weight I gained back in December in no time and that after doing a 42 hour fast, doing regular 24 hour fasts becomes very easy because your body gets more used to it.
So now I try to do 3 24 hour fasts a week and I still skip breakfast on the other days. And I am back at losing 1 kilogram of weight per month on average.
Since I’ve been doing 24 hour fasts, I’ve noticed some other benefits.
I feel much more energetic and I feel that my brain has much more energy. My brain fog that I sometimes had, clears up and I can do more focused work, especially on my longer fasting days. Typically after my first meal, my energy goes away and I start to feel more tired and less able to focus.
Does this actually help? I don’t know. I started using it around the same time I was doing longer fasts, I feel better now than ever but I don’t know if the MCT oil has anything to do with it. Other people swear by Brain Octane so I’m willing to give it a try.
Fasting and Sports
What about combining sports and fasting?
When I started in June I did feel less energy when running and I wasn’t able to do long runs because I ran out of energy too soon. Also, doing some interval sports like mountain biking was harder than before.
But now I am back at running for an hour without feeling any effect of the fasting. I think my body needed time to convert to using fat as an energy source and I only got efficient in it after doing some longer fasts. I haven’t tried interval sports yet but I will do soon.
For me, switching to Intermittent Fasting is one of the best decisions I made. I feel so much better and have more energy. And I am losing my excess weight and look better and younger than before. So I would recommend it to anyone who has some excess body fat. If you are very skinny and have a low body fat percentage, doing longer fasts is probably not for you.
But as with everything, you need to give it time, take a step by step approach and allow your body to adjust. Don’t go all in and give up with the first sign of discomfort.
One extra benefit is that you spend less money on food 🙂
It also changes your perspective on eating. You can basically eat whatever you want during your meals and go on a binge if you want to, because it is difficult to gain weight when you only eat one meal in a day. But it also decreases your dependency on food. I used to get very grumpy (hangry) when I was hungry. Now I can go without food for more than a day. This helps when you are stuck in long meetings or traffic or when you are traveling.
The notion that you don’t actually need to eat as much as you were made to believe when growing up also makes you think about other things in life that you may not need as much as you think. When you eat less, every meal is a bigger feast and you enjoy and appreciate it more. The same goes for other things in life. You don’t need everything in high quantities and frequency, you will actually enjoy it more when you do it less. This goes for drinking alcohol, partying, watching tv and so many more things in life!