I Tried Intermittent Fasting. Here's What It's Actually Like
I've been doing a lot of research on intermittent fasting and was excited to give it a try. Although the information was compelling, I wanted to see for myself if it really worked. The thing I quickly found out was that there is no one right way to do intermittent fasting. In fact, there are numerous techniques you can follow.
Some different fasting protocols include every-other-day fasting, two days of fasting followed by five days of regular eating, 16 hours of fasting followed by an eight-hour eating window, and on and on. There are even intermittent fasting protocols that do not focus on fasting at all but rather on extreme calorie restriction for a few days followed by normal calorie intake on nonfasting days.
I know from experience that fasting for an entire day does not work for me. In fact, I've never been able to complete an entire day without caving in and eating. Even if I can make it most of the day without eating, when dinnertime rolls around, I am so ravenous that I break the fast and gorge myself.
I decided to follow five rules during my 10-day intermittent fast:
- Fast for 15 hours
- Eat only during a nine-hour window
- Break the fast with a piece of fruit, smoothie, or green juice before starting my eating window
- If I work out for 60 minutes or more, I can break the fast 1 hour early
- Have fun!
Below is a personal day-by-day account of my intermittent fasting experience:
I did a spin class this morning, so my fasting window will be 14 rather than 15 hours. It is only 9:30 a.m., and I am already thinking this might be more difficult than I originally thought. I stopped eating a little later than usual (9:45 p.m.) last night, which I think may be why I'm having a little bit of difficulty this morning adhering to my 14-hour fast. If I follow the rules I set for myself, I should wait at least until 11:45 a.m. to break my fast. Instead of giving in, I made some black coffee and drank 16 ounces of water. This seemed to blunt my hunger. I am starting to wonder if intermittent fasting is right for me! But I know it's only Day 1 so time will tell…
I woke up this morning not feeling as hungry as I did yesterday, which I find strange since I stopped eating much earlier in the evening. My last food intake was at 8 p.m. If I adhere to a 15-hour fast, I can eat at 11 a.m. It's already after 9 a.m., and I'm not even that hungry. I didn't change my diet much yesterday, but I'm already thinking this could work well for me. I'll check in again later today...
I seem to be less tempted to eat late at night—which is usually my downfall. This has been a very positive change as nighttime has always been a difficult time for me to stay on my healthy eating plan. I eat healthy all day but then chocolate, ice cream, and cookies usually derail my healthy eating intentions. Knowing that I need to fast for 15 hours has helped me stop eating junk late at night.
I woke up this morning feeling like I had a really good night’s sleep, and I think that's because I'm not eating right before I go to bed. Going to bed after indulging in sweet treats can disturb one’s sleep. Since I’m now focused on stopping my eating around 8 or 9 p.m., I no longer eat junk food right before bed. I’ve also noticed that I'm dreaming more. I assume this means I’m getting a much better night’s sleep.
I went for a run with the group of girlfriends and it's now 7:45 a.m. I am going to try to continue to fast until 11 a.m. to make my 14-hour fasting window. I'm going to grab a black coffee right now and see how the rest of the morning goes.
Fast-forward just a couple of hours: I made it to the 14-hour mark but found the last hour to be a little difficult. I broke the fast with a banana—I don't think a banana has ever tasted so good—and then had a full meal about 30 minutes later.
I woke up feeling great. I really am sleeping so much better—not eating so late at night has been a game-changer. I stopped eating at 8 p.m. last night, so this morning I'll eat around 10 a.m. (I did an hour workout). In addition to cutting back on the late-night snacking, I've noticed that I'm more conscious of what I'm eating during the day. I'm still not sure if intermittent fasting is something I'll continue with after these 10 days, but so far I'm sold on the process.
Days 5, 6, and 7 went rather smoothly. I'm enjoying waking up and waiting a little while before I eat as there’s something about having an empty stomach for just a little while that makes me more conscious of what I'm eating during the day. I also think it has helped me enjoy my food more. I’ve noticed changes that I didn’t expect. For example, I’m sleeping more soundly, I wake up with more energy, I feel more in control of my eating, I am more conscious of what and when I eat, my stomach is flatter, and I’ve lost a few pounds.
This morning was the most difficult morning so far. My running buddy and I extended our morning run, and I really felt like I needed to eat when I returned home. Instead of eating, I had some coffee and some sparkling water, but it was extremely difficult to hold off for my 14 hours. I’m wondering if I need to change my "rules" to incorporate more intense exercise. I’m thinking a 13-hour fasting window may work better on my longer or more intense exercise days.
Today was my non-exercise day, and hitting my 15-hour window didn’t seem all that difficult. In fact, I felt as if I might have been able to go a little longer. I broke my fast with a green juice and then followed it with a meal about 30 minutes later.
Today is the last day of my 10-day experiment, and I’m really happy with the results. I’m not sure if intermittent fasting is something I will continue to do every day, as there are mornings (especially on the weekends) when I’d like to enjoy breakfast with my family. There are also times when my workout is longer and more intense than normal, and I’m not sure if such a long fast is benefiting me—I think a slightly shorter fasting window on these days would work best. All that being said, intermittent fasting worked for me. Although I may not stick to it 365 days a year, I think I’ll follow it more than not. If you’re interested in giving intermittent fasting a try, you can check out my beginner's guide to intermittent fasting and see how it feels for you!
Want to know more? Three of the country's best functional doctors discussed the benefits of intermittent fasting during a panel at this year's revitalize.