I’m a lean person now, but I haven’t always been. When I started this journey, my first body fat test showed I had a body fat mass percentage around 30%. Not a bad number at all, but more than I felt comfortable with. And at 145 pounds, I weighed more than I ever had in my adult life – including pregnancy (I’m 5’4”).
So I did what everyone does, I decided I wanted fat loss. A lot of what happened next is to the credit of Eat to Perform – I became a member and then a coach but more than that, I met a lot of people who are much smarter than me. And one of those people taught me how to use a longer fast as an option for promoting both weight loss and maintenance of that weight loss.
Intermittent fasting or Time-Restricted Feeding are buzz words right now in the world of health and fitness and you’ve probably heard tons of variations on the theme. What I’m taking about is a 20-24 hour fast ONE day a week – not eating in a 16/8 window daily or some sort of 7-day fast where you take in very few calories. Basically, you stop eating around dinner time one night and don’t eat again until dinner the next day. In this version, it’s zero calories, and one miserable day a week, I forego my beloved creamer and drink my coffee with one packet of Splenda. If I can do it, anyone can!
When I started, I didn’t fast forward to 24 hours like it was no big deal. I simply delayed my normal breakfast by 2 hours, so I didn’t eat until 10am. The next week it was noon. Then 2pm, then 4pm and finally 6pm. So taking 5-6 weeks to build up is perfectly acceptable.
I lost 20 pounds in 5 months and after a year, my body fat percentage dropped to 19%.
Fast forward 4 years, and I still fast once a week. With the exception of a few vacations, I never miss a week. I believe it continues to be a main factor in why I’ve kept the weight off.
Is this type of fast the one thing you’re missing? I don’t know to be honest. I’m hesitant to talk about it in a large setting because it’s best done with a coach who guides you (yes, I paid money to have a coach even when I didn’t need to because without skin in the game, it means literally nothing). And there will always be people who take it to an extreme. If once a week is great, they’ll push it to two and then three. The desire to make it hurt is real, and many people will go too far.
If you want to know why it can be helpful in your fat loss journey, here’s a quick summary: 1. During an extended fast, your insulin levels are kept low. When insulin is low, your body will burn more fat as fuel. Many people have a fat metabolism issue, meaning they burn carbs at rest and low intensity exercise when the body should burn fat. This makes it incredibly difficult to burn off stored body fat. This will help change that. 2. You push your weekly deficit higher – meaning you can eat slightly more calories during the week but still end up at a deficit. 3. The time frame is infrequent and short enough to keep your body from losing muscle.
I am forever grateful that I learned how to use this tool effectively, and I want to pass on the lessons I’ve learned:
Plan your first meal ahead of time. You will eat like a bottomless pit if you don’t. Pick a low day and a day where your workout is less intense; i.e. fasted CrossFit blows. This is a moderate cardio day for me.
Being hungry isn’t the end of the world. I promise. Learning to deal with hunger is the greatest gift in my opinion. If you’re somewhere and there’s no decent choice for food, you’ll learn you can wait until you find better options. I’m honestly never hangry because I know the feeling will pass.
You can do more than you think – including difficult aerobic workouts.
It’s easier in practice than it appears on paper. Your body gets used to it.
You won’t compromise your body’s ability to add muscle when you are in a performance phase. I’ve added plenty over the years. Now if you only eat a few hours each day (like within a window), you will limit the amount of times your body will build/repair muscle simply because you aren’t eating often enough. In that case, you are making it harder on yourself.
Will people think you’re crazy when you say you aren’t eating today? Yup. And that’s okay. #youdoyou