Things I’ve Learned About Intermittent Fasting

In my venture into taking better care of my health, I’ve finally decided on trying intermittent fasting for myself. 

I’ve thought about trying it for a long time but I was skeptical since I wasn’t that familiar about the specifics of the practice, and I was brought up in a culture of belief that it was rather necessary, nay common, for us to eat at least 3 meals a day with snacks in between to call it a balanced meal. To practice intermittent fasting seems too restrictive for someone who’s used to the freedom of eating whatever and whenever they want.

Conceptually, that specific eating habit may not be as heavy as I am imagining it to be especially if I had taken a labor-intensive job which wherein the energy I’m taking in is also equally spent out. But for someone who works in the office and have a sedentary lifestyle for majority of the time, it wouldn’t be practical to be having more intake than I am burning. It creates what is known as a caloric surplus which then leads to weight gain. 

If you guys need some inspiration, I’d recommend you to check Dr. Eric Berg’s channel on Youtube, where he offers bite-sized, easy-to-digest content about anything health but mostly about how to do intermittent fasting the right way, and even as well as doing it together with Ketogenic diet. 

I haven’t made much dent on the Ketogenic diet yet, mostly because I don’t have an access to a full kitchen where I can prepare my own food and the places I get my food from don’t specifically cater to this diet, or any diet at all. Regardless, when you watch his informative videos, you would understand how and why both practices work well together.

I have had an experience with Intermittent Fasting some time last year for a short period of two weeks, and I have started out with a Circadian rhythm which is typically a duration of 13 hours starting from sunset to sunrise, just to allow my body to adjust to limited feeding time. Gradually, I have upgraded my cycles to 16:8 then 18:6 cycles when my body got used to staying without food longer. Should you be confused, the first number represents the fasting time while the second number is the feeding time.

Zero App

I have used the Zero app to help track my intermittent fasting cycles, which is quite a handy tool to have on your phone because it already has the templates for different types of fasting cycles, provides reminders as well as generate history and data readily available at your fingertips. The app also offers a premium service on an additional charge but if you ask me, the free version also offers a lot of services as it is.

I would say that again, for someone like me who doesn’t have a labor-intensive job, the practice was surprisingly and relatively effortless. My personal hiccup or challenge was only that I have a shifting work schedule that changes every week so I had to continuously adjust my fasting time. The most important first lesson anyone should know about this, is that our bodies are creatures of habit but it shouldn’t get in the way of trying to train your body to behave differently. 

In case you are wondering, Dr. Berg recommends to only consume water, tea and plain black coffee to be taken during your fasting hour. No cream or sugar should be used in your hot beverages and you are not to eat anything else because it will spike the insulin which defeats the whole purpose of fasting. I’d recommend you to watch this concise but informative clip on how insulin affects our body, to get more idea about it. 

Allow me to list down for you some of the observations I’ve had doing this exercise.

First thing I noticed when I switched to intermittent fasting is that I had a massive headache, especially when I switched to a longer fasting period. It is most likely my body’s impulse reaction to limiting my intake and going for long without solid food. Our bodies are creatures of habit like I said, and it expects to be fed on-the-clock that’s why when the body doesn’t have its usual helping, it will react as if there’s something wrong — mostly in the form of headache or stomach gurgling. It is nothing to be too worried about though because it will go away after the first few days and you will surprisingly find clarity once you get over this initial bump.

In times like this, you would find that you reach for more water when you feel “hungry” or when a craving is about to come on. In my short period of fasting from last year, this is actually the time that I have been more diligent in consuming water until the time I’m able or allowed to eat. You will also notice that about half of the time, our cravings are just a sign of dehydration and it quickly goes away once you’re able to drink water.

I remember craving a lot for breakfast food on my first few days doing intermittent fasting because I have trained my body to eat on the first hour of waking up so I have energy for work. It didn’t help that my craving for a 3-in-1 coffee was so strong and it’s always the first thing I wanted to drink even before water, when I went back to fasting. 

I have chosen to schedule my gorging period at least an hour or two before my actual meal break at work so I have time to break the fast with a cup of coffee and maybe some nuts and fruits since I do not want to shock my stomach by ravaging through an entire meal right when I’m done with my fasting period. 

I know a lot of people try to debunk that your sleeping hours can’t be counted as fasting hours but the body also breaks down the food we eat during the entire day even in our sleep although significantly slower, so it still counts regardless. What I suggest you to do as an addition to that is to start your fasting period at least 2 to 3 hours before you sleep to give your body a head start in dissolving the food before it slows down.

There are a lot of variations around how people prefer to do their fasting but the most common one you can find is OMAD, or One Meal A Day. For clarifications, it doesn’t strictly mean that you’re just going to eat exactly one plate of meal; it just means that instead of gorging on food for the entire feeding period, you’re essentially only eating 1 meal which can be composed of a vegetables, protein source, low amount of carbs as well as fruits. A lot may consider this as the most restrictive out of the spectrum of intermittent fasting types known and typically practiced in a 23:1 cycle. Personally, it’s not something that I can recommend for beginners and prolong practice may deal with corresponding consequences in some way or another such as insufficient nutrient intake and excessive carbohydrate to compensate with trying to feel full for lesser meal.

It is still recommended to have a variety of food to have rather than doing a carbohydrate-loaded meal or a meat feast. As intense as it may sound, if you actually eat the right kind and amount of food during your feeding period, it wouldn’t feel as restrictive or bad as the thought of only one meal a day sounds. Of course, you’re not obliged to comply and it doesn’t mean that you’re doing intermittent fasting incorrectly if you don’t do it together with OMAD; it’s only to be taken as a suggestion.

It is important to keep in mind that intermittent fasting is key in curbing appetite because in the age today, we are a lot more abundant in food supply than our ancestors back in the day but it shouldn’t necessarily mean that we should be consuming more or excessively. With that, our feeding period should also not be taken as if we should eat as much as we can in a limited time period because it also defeats the very purpose of intermittent fasting, or at least achieving a caloric deficit. 

FBB Blog Graphic

I have actually inspiration from one of the things Dr. Berg’s videos wherein he likened  intermittent fasting as an opportunity for our bodies to use the stored energy we have consumed days, weeks and even years ago. Our body has plenty of it, and now is the time that we’re able to utilize it. When I’ve heard about this, it actually felt liberating.

In my experience, intermittent fasting can actually be exciting in a sense of seeing how far you can go without eating can be addictive but please adjust to the different cycles in a realistic phase. Do not shock your body by going from a 16:8 cycle to 20:4 the next day. Everything is done gradually to avoid any mishaps to happen.

Lastly, if asked what are the positive results that I’ve enjoyed from doing intermittent fasting, it’s that I was able to control my hunger pangs, recognize the difference between my actual hunger and just craving, become more mindful about what I consume so I am organically full, consume more water and ability to focus more.

If you have tried intermittent fasting before, how was your experience? Is it something you would recommend to others too?