From slow to intermittent fast(ing)

Over the last couple weeks I’ve experimented with my diet, with good results (despite unrelated digestive problems over last 24 hours, probably from a bug or something in particular I ate; a couple coworkers called off this week with similar issues so could be a bug). I actually feel somewhat better overall, with more energy. I even notice in the mirror I look a bit slimmer.

Basically, in the morning I walk to the store and get: 6-8 oz steak, a cucumber, maybe an avocado, and any necessities if needed. Each week I buy seven apples, egg whites, frozen chicken breasts, fortified orange juice and cheap chopped vegetables when applicable. This has worked out fairly well. I still eat out here and there, and did mix in a couple frozen pizzas during the week, but keeping the above items a steady part of my diet has had positive benefits.

Part of the goal is to get more out of eating less, and eating more simply + inexpensively. The improv lifestyle does compel one to eat out often, not to mention incidental drinks with friends. That’s not such a big deal if that’s the only time you’re eating out, but when you do it a bunch in general you’ve got to rein it in.

I’ve had a passing fascination with the idea of intermittent fasting, made most famous by Martin Berkhan’s Leangains philosophy. Intermittent fasting is an approach where you spend anywhere from most of the day to multiple days not eating at all, and then eating all of your meals within a short window.

Berkhan’s Leangains approach is the most accessible: Basically, you go 16 hours without eating, and you can put that 16 hour window wherever the hell you like. He mixes in BCAAs (amino acid supplements), but that’s largely because he weight trains to build muscle. You can safely do Leangains without those supplements (even if you weight train), and see results, i.e. a loss of extra body fat and improved physical health.

I avoided trying it because my body always freaked the fuck out if I went more than 3-4 hours without a substantial meal. But lately, I’ve noticed that not only does my current meal plan satisfy me, but I can go longer periods without wanting to eat.

Also, fears of muscle wasting from lack of meals are mostly unfounded provided you don’t go 72 hours without eating. Going even a day without food isn’t going to cause your body to eat its own muscle. In fact, your body will improve its ability to utilize your fat stores. So if you can go 1-3 days without a meal, what’s 16 hours?

Since mixing my meals into a busy schedule is such a pain in the ass for me, I find the idea of cramming them into a convenient 8 hour window appealing. If I could train my body into handling a busy evening and sleep on an empty stomach, I could eat before work, during the lunch break and at the end of work… and that’s it. Or, if an empty stomach won’t let me rest, I could wait until mid-afternoon to have my first meal (e.g a late lunch at work), eat again after work, and polish the last meal off a couple hours before bed. Or even have lunch at work be my first meal, eat again at the end of work, and then have my last meal around 8pm (if there’s no shows, classes or other commitments).

Basically, this plan could be as simple as skipping breakfast, or going without an evening dinner. You eat those calories earlier or later in the day. You’re not eating less. You just eat less often, during a smaller window of the day.

This is a trial effort. I make a concerted effort to listen to my body, so if it’s failing badly on day 1-2, I can always bail on it or scale it back to something more reasonable. But signs point to this being a productive project, that could become a total lifestyle change.

My previous efforts included a carefully drawn up plan that I’ve stuck to, where I made sure all the dietary macros added up and I was getting enough nutrition. Obviously, this effort comes with a corresponding plan that ensures I get 2000-2200 calories a day. Often diet plans don’t work out because, if you map out what those people eat and how much, they fall way short of their minimum nutritional needs. By making sure it all adds up on paper, that indicates the diet itself should be workable. I expect to have some pangs and cravings as my body adjusts in the short term, as I did before. But those go away within 72 hours, and are a sign that the changes are working positively, especially when they’re coupled with a renewed energy.

Let’s see how this goes!

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One thought on “From slow to intermittent fast(ing)

  1. […] buy as much food at the supermarket as possible – Cut my food spending by 25-50% – Do intermittent fasting full time (16 hours between meals, and eat all your day’s food within an 8 hour window) […]

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