Intermittent Fasting

I’m normally loathe to talk about dieting because I figure no one’s particularly interested. But I’m going to make an exception today because I’m feeling pretty good about what’s going on and I hope writing about it will keep that moving forward.

I’ve put on ten pounds since my parents’ automobile accident. It’s the classic combination of making less-than-ideal fueling choices and insufficient exercising. Last year, I had success with switching the bulk of my calories to breakfast & lunch. Stress & pity eating unwound that, and I found myself eating a lot more at night. I wasn’t able to stick to a 300-calorie dinner.

My fondness for breakfast made me question whether I’d be successful with intermittent fasting. Having given up eggs has changed breakfast for me, though, and I decided to give it a try – with some caveats I’ll discuss below.

I first started considering intermittent fasting a year or so ago. I attended a presentation on the health benefits of intermittent fasting given by a physician. The local mosque hosted it, and I believe the majority of the people attending were Muslim. I asked about intermittent fasting in endurance athletes. I explained that I am not Muslim, and I know endurance athletes who are Muslims who observe the Ramadan fast, so it clearly must be ‘do-able,’ but I was curious how to make it work. Sadly, the answer was I’d probably be better off trying a keto diet – and this came from a doctor who admitted to not being a fan of keto diets unless they’re medically necessary. Not happening, doc.

A while back, I heard a news story about Ramadan fasting by endurance athletes. Based upon that information, I decided to try it. (Essentially, there’s no long-term harm to performance, but it can feel really miserable.) Because I’m doing this for a health benefit rather than as a spiritual exercise, I figure I lack the discipline a fasting Muslim endurance athlete would have. That led me to decide I’d fast on rest days & easy workout days and eat normally on days with hard workouts.

I’ve fasted a handful of times, and thus far I feel it’s been successful. Clearly, the weight is not dropping off of me because 1) I just started, and 2) I’m not doing this everyday. I find I’m most hungry at around hours 13-14. My belly is grumbly & acts like it’s been grievously betrayed. I’m usually delaying my first meal to 11:00 a.m. – noon. One would think that would make mornings especially difficult but the converse is true: I find it much easier to avoid temptation when I tell myself I’m fasting. Because I’m not making breakfast in the mornings I have more time, and that’s an unexpected bonus.

I’m drinking coffee in the morning, and I’m generally adding a tablespoon of plain, unsweetened cocoa to my coffee. That’s about 10-15 additional calories. I haven’t found any direct support for doing this, but I’m hopeful that’s not so many calories that I lose the benefit of fasting. (I’ve read that bullion is okay, and bullion has about the same number of calories.) I’ve also permitted myself a Nuun tablet in my water (8-10 kCal) and miso (about 20 kCal). I figure if I spread these out throughout the morning it’s essentially a wash.

I have had a few nights when I ate too much after fasting the night & morning before, but they generally haven’t been so outrageous that I felt like things have completely derailed. And yesterday I ate more chocolate truffles than a reasonable person would have. (They were pretty amazing tho …)

I went for a run yesterday while fasting. It wasn’t much of a run – a 1-mile walk to the dirt path, a 1.1 mile run along the path at my 15:00/mile pace, and then an 1-mile walk home – but it felt great to be out & running. (It’d been more than a week since I’d run.) I start training for Millersylvania 50K early next month, so those morning workouts may be more intense. That’s why I figure I’ll only fast on easy days or rest days. I’m hopeful it’ll still make a difference.

Overall, my early results have been good. I’m staying within reasonable amount of calories most days. I’m struggling to get a decent Diet Quality Score, but it’s a work in progress. I figure as I learn, I’ll do better. And I’m hopeful this helps me lose a few pounds & get my blood sugar back in line. I really want to complete Millersylvania 50K, and anything I can do to keep my body healthy while I’m training for it is worth it!

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