“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.