“Hey, man, good talking to you but I’m about to head into the gym,” I told one of my impossibly fit friends.
“Word?” he asked.
“Good, man. I’m glad you’re getting back in there.”
“…Yeah,” I said, too embarrassed to tell him that I’d been going to the gym every day for the past three years.
You know what sucks? The fact that I can work out every day and have it not make a damn difference.
It’s bullsh*t that I have to sweat and work my body to exhaustion and eat healthy if I want to see any real results. Being a stubborn type, I’ve been trying to buck this trend for years — playing basketball and lifting weights, then eating at buffets and gorging on cinnamon rolls — but I started off 2018 with the hopes of finally finding something that would help me trim down.
A month later, I’d cycled back to a diet of baked chicken, veggies, and water, surrounded by a bunch of small snacks all throughout the day. I’d tried the same one before, but it never stuck. Returning to it in February, I promised myself, “This time will be different.” Spoiler: It wasn’t. I was miserable eating the same food all the time and I’d kick myself every time I deviated from the diet (i.e. going out for a burger). Also, it was affecting my mood to be so restrictive in my eating. I was growing impatient in other aspects of my life and getting generally ornery.
Then I saw a few social media rumblings about something called intermittent fasting — short periods of non-eating that kickstart your body’s natural fat-burning functions. People were talking about how it could be a way to eat healthier while being a bit more flexible. I did some research and saw a possible solution to all the problems I was having with the regular diets I’d heard about.
Plus it opened the door to eating food I actually like. Like this:
The concept of intermittent fasting is simple and just like it sounds: you only eat within a specific time window and don’t eat at all outside of that window. There are scientific reasons it works, which I’ll get into in a bit, but let’s just stick with the practical info you care about first. Basically, intermittent fasting is an easy way to restrict your calories.
There are two popular ways to do this:
- The 5:2 Fast — For two days out of the week, you only eat roughly 500 calories — baked chicken, veggies and a snack, then the other five days you eat what you would regularly eat.
- The 16:8 fast – This is pretty simple. You eat within an eight-hour window and don’t eat again for 16 hours. This is the diet I use. I eat from 12pm to 8pm and then don’t eat again until noon the next day.
Like I said, the most simple benefit is you’re naturally restricting your calories. For instance, the standard diet for a man is 2,000 calories a day, which can be hard to reach in only eight hours. So by following the intermittent fast schedule, you’re going to most likely go into calorie deficiency without even trying.
Now onto the science of it. When you’re in your fasted state, after about the 12th hour or so, your insulin levels drop significantly, encouraging fat burning. Your HGH will also increase by as much as 500 percent in that time, too. As a result, your metabolism will actually speed up.
This isn’t some new fad or anything. Intermittent fasting has been around for ages, literally. Ancient Greek, Indian and Egyptian doctors used “fasting” as a preventative measure to fight diseases. Hippocrates once said, “to eat when you are sick, is to feed your illness.” Hunters and gatherers practiced intermittent fasting without even knowing it as they would often go hungry and not eat until they brought meat back home that night.
I figured that I couldn’t go wrong trying something humans have done for millions of years and decided to give it a try.
I think people hear the word “fasting” and think of some tortuous process. That wasn’t my experience. It only took about three days of not eating until noon for me to not feel like “I’m going to die.” Yes, you get crazy stomach pangs. Yes, you may feel like you’re going to pass out (you won’t). But once I started to get used to it, it wasn’t so bad. I was able to work myself into somewhat of a routine: baked chicken, sweet potato and veggies for lunch and, really, whatever I wanted to eat (within reason) for dinner.
Here’s the part you’ve been waiting for: I’ve lost 30 pounds since mid-February, going from 245 pounds to right around 210 or so (I’m 6’3 and a half). So why have I been able to stick to intermittent fasting better than the traditional diets? Intermittent fasting allows for more flexibility in what I eat. I don’t really worry about what I eat for dinner as long as I’m not pounding Big Macs and sundaes every night.
Get this: my birthday fell about three weeks into my fast. I ate a slice of cake every day for a week and still lost a few pounds.
Intermittent fasting isn’t really a diet as much as a lifestyle, and it’s a lifestyle that is perfect for the way millennials go about our daily lives. We are a culture of side hustles, late nights, and not enough sleep. So being able to meal prep, sit down in one place to eat all of those meals, and work in snacks throughout the day is virtually impossible. Plus, it’s hard enough to stop and make a healthy breakfast of egg whites or whatever to get the day started.
Intermittent fasting is malleable to your specific schedule, as you can pick the eight-hour windows in which you eat. Wake up super early? Then eat from 6am to 2pm. Stay up super late? Eat from 2pm to 10pm. And if you go to a party or have a late dinner, then you can just get back on track the next day without worrying much about how you fell off the wagon and ruined your diet. I’ve gone on vacations and eaten out, had 4th of July barbecue feasts, and haven’t really felt like I’ve sacrificed any culinary joy while shedding pounds.
I don’t feel light-headed or weak in the mornings either. In fact, I find myself really focused around 14 or 15 hours into the fast. As I get closer to eating, I knock out a ton of work. My workouts are pretty much the same, except I do my cardio days in the morning before eating, allowing my body to eat up stored fat in my fasted state. And I do my heavy lifting days in the afternoon after breaking my fast with a banana.
Going forward, I just want to lose about 10 or 15 more pounds and hang around the 200-pound range while increasing my stamina. Even if I don’t accomplish those goals, I’m still going to stick with my new routine. I feel healthier. It fits my life. I’m digesting food better and, though my weight loss has slowed down as my body has gotten used to things, my body composition is still changing for the better.
Best of all, I’m finally starting to look like a guy who hits the gym.
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30 pounds down. In middle and high school, I was big. Like 250+. Then I got really skinny later in high school and college. My smallest was 160. (I didnt do anything unhealthy or anything) The problem is I never really enjoyed how I looked at any point in that time or really in my life. I never really considered myself not fat despite the fact I'd gotten small as hell. By about last year I was at 240 or so (obviously taller than high school so it's not as bad but still big). Now I'm around 205 or so…want to drop about 10 more. Here's the point: I'm really going to try to enjoy it this time around and put away the XXL shirts and baggy clothes and try to feel good about the journey and the work I'm putting in and the results. That's the most important part of this. Gonna find away to like how I look and feel for the first time in my life. It's still a struggle but I'm working on it.