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From Dan's Desk: Is Intermittent fasting worth trying?

Updated: Sep 1, 2023

If you know me, you know that I'm usually one to experiment with ideas (training, nutrition, or otherwise) on myself as a guinea pig, or I've investigated it thoroughly before recommending it to someone.

In 2018 I decided to give intermittent fasting (IF) a try and see what all the rage was about. I started in February and continued through until the end of August. In that time, I lost 24 pounds, going from 220 to 196 pounds. There are several ways you'll see it recommended as far as timeframes go. Eating in an 8-hour window and fasting the other 16 hours, 12 and 12, one day, etc. Given our schedules as coaches, it's hard to eat at the same time every day so I opted for one 24-hour fast per week. What I really liked about it was that it really taught me how long I could go without eating (I tried a 3 day fast once, but that's a story for another day).

We've heard the term "hangry" before. I was never much the "hangry" type but doing the 24-hour fast once per week showed me that I don't need to panic at the first feelings of hunger.

Fast forward several years, and much more investigating into IF, I've concluded that there's nothing magical or special about it. It's just a way for you to eat less each day, therefore eating less each week, therefore consuming fewer calories over a given time, i.e., a caloric deficit. I think it's a good idea on paper, but in practicality, I see two big issues with it:

Don't let the clock dictate when you should eat.

1) It's my opinion that we get enough fasting while we sleep. Have you ever woken up in the morning with your stomach growling and feeling starved? That's because you're fasted.

2) Unless you have the world's most consistent schedule, it's nearly impossible to eat in the same structured window of time each day. Work, family, travel, and other life events happen all the time. How can you get all your daily calories and macros in such a small window? This can also lead to potential overeating.

A third issue I might add would be that if you are a highly active person, running on low amounts of fuel isn’t going to end well over the long haul. Anyone I’ve ever worked with who is highly active while doing IF all gets results in the short term but can’t sustain it over the long term.

I want to underline this: I don't think fasting is inherently bad. It’s what worked for me in a moment of time. There is some interesting research being done regarding fasting and longevity as well as some looking at its ineffectiveness in women and combating hormone levels. I think it’s good to go without food for a short window of time occasionally. However, when we are in a caloric deficit for too long, or too intensely, our inflammation and cortisol levels spike, which leads to poor sleep, lower energy levels, and irritability- all of which can promote weight gain. In my experience, most of us would be better suited to nourishing our bodies with the right number of calories and nutrients, getting more activity each day, and managing our stress levels.

If you are considering trying intermittent fasting, consult with your doctor or dietician first and find a way that's right for you.

One More Thing

It's not just about knowing what to eat, but more about when and how things fit into your weekly schedule that garners the best results. We offer Nutrition Optimization sessions where we make nutritional recommendations based on your exact needs, goals, and preferences. We take a full in-depth look into your trends and tendencies as well as provide education on the "why" components to it all! Each session lasts 60-90 minutes and can be done in person or virtually.

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