Hold onto your socks, because this one is a shocker: you can fast in more ways than simply not eating for days. I did not starve at any point in this experiment. As a matter of fact, if you are the kind of person who spends Saturday mornings in bed too long before having anything to eat, you are partly, passively engaging in Intermittent Fasting (IF).
Fasting has turned into a negatively charged word in the Western world, because it is associated with Ghandi starving himself thin. However, our prejudices are once again causing us harm, because fasting can be extremely good for our bodies if controlled. The newest and most popular health fad is Intermittent Fasting – so let me break it down.
For the most popular type of IF, named something as millennial as the “Leangains protocol”, you choose eight hours where you eat, and the other 16 hours of the day or night you don’t. You eat healthily or normally, and space out your meals as you get hungry within that window, being careful not to binge – and that’s all there is to it. The trend is inspired by studies on the health benefits of fasting, and modified by health researchers and dieticians. What it does for your body, is increase human growth hormone (HGH) levels up to five-fold, improve insulin sensitivity, immunity, improve cognitive and cardiovascular function, and possibly reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. Essentially, the body learns to run on an empty charge when it’s awake, distributing energy efficiently, and forcing your cells to regenerate.
Intermittent Fasting, you could say, flips conventional religious fasting times. It makes sure you fast for just long enough to get really hungry, and have energy when you need it, at least if you’re on the “Stirling schedule” – which is choosing seminars in the afternoon, only going to said seminars, and ditching the lectures so you can watch them on Listen Again whenever it suits you.
An important part of it, however, is that what you eat after fasting is healthy and nutrient-dense, because your body is prepared to ingest and absorb everything from the first thing you eat. I chose to fast from 8 p.m, to 11 a.m, but I refuse to refer to it as the Leangains Protocol. That means nine total hours of non-fasting, or eating. Initially, you should choose something you think will be manageable, then work your way down to around eight hours of eating if your body can manage. Test it out for a few days to check.
This time, I’ll only be giving you a taster of a few days, because my meals will be using similar ingredients every day. I will also not be doing more exercise than usual, which is about half an hour per day, so that I can control for the effects of fasting in particular for you all.
A disclaimer: I am not a qualified professional nor do I recommend drastic diet changes, but lifestyle changes are entirely up to the individual if done in a healthy and aware manner. This article is meant to illustrate one experience with Intermittent Fasting, and is not a guide to replicating it.
10 a.m: I woke up super hungry, and dehydrated as usual. The first thing I did was drink water – I had filled a bottle the night before so it was ready for the morning, and I chugged it along with my medications for the day. It has to be said, that I have to wait half an hour between taking my medication and eating anyway to ensure that my medications work, so the fast fits in perfectly with that.
11 a.m: Breakfast is two slices of rye bread with a half avocado each, and Himalayan sea salt, peppermint tea, and a slice of wheat toast with butter. Contrary to belief, I have read that butter is good in small amounts, especially if it is grass fed or separated, like Ghi. If you put this kind in your coffee, it may prolong the caffeine effects, and eliminate some of the crash. I do not have a great relationship with coffee, because my metabolism is rather screwed, and as we’ve seen previously, I do not do well with lactose, but I took a half cup of black coffee today.
1 p.m: The coffee did not hit as hard, probably because I did not use milk. I’m usually hungry between breakfast and lunch, but today my breakfast kept me satisfied for longer. I had an all-wheat and oat toast with pesto and salami.
3 p.m: I had a few Brazil nuts and dried mango as a snack.
5 p.m: Dinner is prawn and fish cakes with lemongrass and rice. You just process any kind of white fish with some prawns, add lemongrass, salt, quite a bit of pepper, and shape them and coat them. I’m not going to do a full recipe here, but you get the picture. Then I just cooked up some rice and used soy sauce and sriracha.
Bone Apple-teeth. Bone app the feet? Bong apple tea?
7:30 p.m: It is almost time to say bye to eating for the day, so I am squeezing in a wheat toast sandwich with tuna salad.
11 a.m: I woke up at 9, chugged some water, and worked on articles until 11 a.m. Breakfast was wheat toast with hummus, and avocado on rye, again. I’m switching it up, and living that good life! I didn’t even really feel my stomach rumble.
Note: I walked to the bus to get to university today, and it was frosty like the snowman, which means I’ll need to eat more today. When it’s cold, your body burns more calories and your metabolism speeds up. This nonsense of wearing a tee during winter is going to damage your body. Just saying, lads.
2 p.m: I ate again. I am feeling so emptied out and dehydrated, so I will try to eat twice before the night comes. I had some soup and chips and dip, so I am quite satisfied, but will still eat more frequently from now on. I also had a granola bar.
I know, what a 10,000 calorie cheat challenge, I almost needed to unbutton my pants. Actually, they are always unbuttoned underneath my sweaters, but don’t check next time you meet me.
6 p.m: Dinner was gnocchi with pesto, and pine kernels. Very exciting, but #MeatlessMonday
7:50 p.m: I just managed to eat something before 8 despite not being hungry. I feel pretty satisfied.
11:00 p.m: the challenge is when you cannot sleep and you need to fast. The thing is, I know I have eaten enough throughout the day, and that my body has just gotten used to the non-fasting period. Sorry bud, time to reset. The following photo literally represents 2/3 of my existence now, in contrast to my past articles where I am always holding food up aesthetically like this – an attempt to be original.
After a week like this, I no longer focus on when I should or shouldn’t eat. I just eat when I am hungry, and the timetable has just become natural. Sometimes I even fast for longer, but I am careful to limit it to max 16 hours of fasting – and it feels great to me. A few days ago, I did have McDonald’s, but it didn’t change much besides making me feel slightly lethargic.
On this final day, when I woke up, I did not feel hungry. Formerly, I would have suffered, not being able to even get out of bed without having eaten, which is ridiculous, because that means my body has no ability to conserve energy. Perhaps I’ve just learnt to manage my hunger well, and the psychological effect of my body and mind knowing when exactly I’ll be eating is helping. My body feels leaner, more rested, and my mind is less groggy, foggy, and tired.
Lo and behold, brethren – a positive outcome from one of my experiments. I hope that if you try this, you remember to be healthy about it, otherwise it will not work the same way it did for me this week.
It is important that you tailor any dietary programme to something that challenges you, but does not harm you. Start off with an hour of fasting from when you wake up, which I am sure some of us who do not like eating breakfast occasionally do anyway, and never do full days of fasting. Personally, I will continue, and hopefully, in addition to living a healthy lifestyle, my body will continue to function well into my 80’s. That would be the ultimate attest to the benefits of the “Leangains Protocol”.