“It takes human discipline to fast every day. But it takes superhuman discipline to fast and maintain a clean diet every day."
Truth be told! It’s a scientific fact that you need to eat breakfast every morning to lose weight.”
“You shouldn’t skip meals, it’s not healthy. You have to eat six small meals every day.”
While looking for a way to get my right diet for weight loss, a nutritionist, prescribed a three-month intermittent fasting protocol, during a consultation over four years ago.
The nutritionist was adamant that intermittent fasting would solve the main problems I battled with at the time—weight gain, constant tiredness to name a few.
I was skeptical, but after thirty minutes of listening and deliberating with the nutritionist preach about the benefits of intermittent fasting, I decided to self-experiment and give it a go.
The next day I skipped breakfast, broke my fast at 12 p.m and ate my last meal at 7 p.m. For the next three months, I would adhere to this protocol like a trooper, I mean like following the protocol to the letter.
On the final day of the prescribed three month period, I walked into a local gym, took off my shoes and placed my two feet on a white weight scale. And boom, you cannot believe this, I just lost 22 pounds (10 kg) of weight. That is a lot of weight off my body considering that I was not fasting like Jesus in the desert.
Below are both good and bad lessons I’ve learned from intermittent fasting, with some insights that may be useful for you.
1. Intermittent fasting isn’t a ‘starvation’ diet, it’s a healthy lifestyle.
Most people I’ve shared the philosophy of intermittent fasting with, usually comment by saying, “oh yeah, I’ve done that before, you mean like starving yourself to lose weight right?!”
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Intermittent fasting isn’t a diet. It’s a pattern of eating. Or to be more specific, it’s a lifestyle that can be sustained for a lifetime.
And as a lifestyle, it’s very important to track and measure your progress.
Here’s a quick overview of the measurements and tools I’ve successfully used:
One of the most common inquiries about intermittent fasting revolves around what to eat during the protocol.
From my experience, any balanced healthy meal will suffice. However, a diet similar to the ‘blue zones’ diet could help to sustain weight loss, improve mental performance and health.
The most important lesson I’ve learned about what to eat, is to listen to your body and eat according to its needs.
For example, if you feel tired and drained after eating rice or grains, you could try eating more vegetables instead. If you feel more energized after doing this, that’s your body’s way of telling you to stick to vegetables and avoid consuming high carbohydrate foods.
This is why I’m a strong advocate against a ‘fixed’ diet.
Our bodies are constantly changing as we get older, plus, eating the same meals every day increases the odds of developing food intolerance and diseases.
Thankfully, I came across this idea of ‘eating by listening to your body’ whilst reading the work of internationally renowned holistic health expert, Paul Chek—specifically, in his book How to Eat Move and Be Healthy.
The key lesson here is to consistently listen to your body and experiment with different foods for optimal health.
Before practicing intermittent fasting, I’d spend hours thinking about what food to buy, when to cook and prep six meals a day. This tedious routine caused inconsistency with my weight training routine and my results suffered for it.
Nowadays, my life is a lot more simple.
I eat one or two major meals a day—without obsessing over what to eat—and still make consistent progress towards achieving my health goals.
The Intermittent fasting protocol simplifies life by reducing the number of decisions you’d have to make.
During my first year of intermittent fasting, I lost a lot of weight, shed a good chunk of fat and leaned into the best shape of my life. But after my first year, my weight and fat loss reduced significantly, and the results slowed down over the years.
This makes sense since your body can only lose so much fat until it’s detrimental to your health.
If you want to lose fat as quickly as possible, I’d recommend you introduce any form of training with high intensity.
For example, when I got started with intermittent fasting, I introduced 10 minutes of sprinting 3 times per week, plus weekly football matches.
You can choose any form of exercise i.e. swimming, skipping, jogging, and then raise the intensity till you’re gassed out after every workout.
In addition, high-intensity interval training on an empty stomach further accelerates fat loss (in my experience). I’m not exactly sure about the science behind why training on a fasted state could aid fat loss, so I’d recommend you experiment with this as well.
Intuitively, it makes sense why this could work as intermittent fasting helps to restrict calorie intake, whilst the high-intensity interval training burns calories. Over time, your total daily calorie intake drops significantly and more fat is shed off your body.
During my fasting window, up till 1 pm on most days, I get a lot more work done than if I had breakfast when I woke up.
Once I break my fast with the first meal, my energy levels tend to drop, and then I lose focus and feel lethargic.
For this reason, I’ve scheduled my most important tasks before I break my fast. This allows me to match my peak energy levels with my top priorities, resulting in higher levels of productivity.
This may appear to contradict the previous point, but if you think about it, hunger can cause irritability. In other words, when fasting it’s easy to lose focus and get agitated due to a grumbling stomach.
This is why it’s so important to listen to your body, instead of sticking to a fixed regimen.
I’ve noticed that there’s a sweet spot every day—a time period to stop your fasting window. If you break you're fast too early, you’ll miss out on the energy that could’ve been used to get more work done. If you break your fast too late, you’ll start to get agitated and lose focus during the day.
Following on from my previous point, when you’re extremely hungry and break your fast, it’s easy to overeat unhealthy or nutrient empty foods.
This has been one of my biggest challenges with intermittent fasting. It takes human discipline to fast every day. But it takes superhuman discipline to fast and maintain a clean diet every day.
The reason is that when you’re fasting, your body is low on sugar and energy. It craves high carbohydrate foods with sugar as well.
During my second year of intermittent fasting, I injured my lower back doing back squats and had to stay away from weights indefinitely.
So, I replaced my weight training with Pilates and stretching exercises. In addition, I started a body detox program, which involved removing high-carboydrate foods from my diet for a couple of months.
Within a couple of weeks, my muscle mass significantly reduced to the point that my clothes didn’t fit as well anymore. The detox program and intermittent fasting protocol drastically reduced my daily calorie intake, contributing to muscle loss.
Once I recovered from the injury and restarted the weight training program—whilst increasing my carbohydrate intake—within a few months, I regained my physique and regained the muscle mass.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned during my 4 year journey of intermittent fasting, is to stop worrying about being perfect and enjoy life, regardless of progress towards my weight and fitness goals.
During the first year of intermittent fasting, I refused to break my fast outside of my eating window.
I would travel on holidays to new places, missing the experiences of eating new food from different cultures because I was “intermittent fasting.”
I often looked down on people who didn’t live as healthy a lifestyle as I did, and held fast to a rigid intermittent fasting protocol.
But over time, I’ve learned that there’s more to life than losing weight, gaining muscle and getting in shape. Sure, I still work towards achieving my health goals each day, but I don’t beat myself up if I mess up.
Intermittent fasting may or may not work for you. It’s a lifestyle change that I strongly recommend because of the many benefits it has provided to me—physically, emotionally and mentally.
Keep experimenting to find what works for you, but always remember to enjoy the journey.