Why I Gave Up Breakfast - My Experience with Intermittent Fasting
Yep - you read that right. I gave up breakfast. [Mom - if you're reading this I'm sorry I ever doubted you all those years you said you didn't need to eat breakfast]
But before you panic thinking I have given up on waffles, bacon egg and cheeses sandwiches, and avocado toast - think again. I didn't give up any actual foods or food groups for that matter. I have simply shifted the time in which I eat [and don't eat]. It's called intermittent fasting.
Inter-what? Maybe you have already heard this term buzzing around the internets - but if you haven't — the quickest explanation is that intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating. There are periods of fasting (not consuming calories) and periods of feasting (consuming calories).
It is not a diet. There is no list of foods that are "good" or "bad". There is no requirement to count macros, and there are many different ways to go about implementing this into your life.
What are some of the benefits? When your body is in a fastest state, meaning it doesn't have any food to digest, it is going burn stored fat for energy. While your body adapts to burning fat for fuel, it is also going to keep lean muscle in tact.
Burning fat while maintaining lean muscle mass is plus, but intermittent fasting has been said to increase alertness/focus, decrease appetite, stave off neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's, and insulin related diseases such as diabetes. There is also a lot of research that shows working out fasted forces our bodies to burn fat for energy instead of sugars.
How do you do it? There are a few different ways to implement an intermittent fasting lifestyle. One of the most popular is the 8/16 protocol which is a feasting [also known as your "feeding window"] for 8 hours and then fasting for 16. Another protocol is the 24 hour fast, which like the name suggests is fasting for 24 hours with days of regular eating in between. This one — seems to extreme for me personally so hard no on that one. The Warrior Diet is also another popular protocol requiring a 20 hour fast paired with a 4 hour feast / feeding window.
What can I eat/drink when fasting? This is where things get a little grey. During the fasting window you should not be eating anything. You can drink black coffee, tea, or water, as these beverages do not contain any [if very few] calories. However there is a range of information that says drinking BCAA's [branch chain amio acids] are ok, drinking bulletproof coffee is fine, and or you can have small snacks or even a protein shake during your fasting window. [I find that last part I find to be complete crap. If you are eating calories it is not a fast.]
Since the information out there is unclear, and I don't have any real desire to drink BCAA's or a protein shake in the morning I am usually fine with regular black coffee or water. I have recently been adding a collagen supplement to my diet [more on that in a future post!] but have read that this also breaks the fast. So instead of adding to my AM coffee I have been finding other ways to sneak it into my diet.
Isn't this going to "ruin" my metabolism? No. If you are not drastically restricting your daily caloric intake, you are actually going to improve it. There is actually no real proof that eating throughout the day "maintains" your metabolism. However there is a research that shows simply restricting total calories for weight lost DOES have a negative impact on metabolism. Yikes.
Why did I decide to do this? After many years and and around the fitness and wellness industry, I've adopted my fair share of healthy lifestyle changes. I love salads, veggies and a good sweat session. Yes It's true — I acutally LIKE being [and feeling] healthy.
However in a typical day I was eating a lot of food and never really felt satisfied enough. I was intrigued by the idea of eating all my calories in a shorter window of time thus allowing me to feel more satisfied. The idea being — as you adjust to the fasting period you aren't really hungry during that time.
So to me it was a could-I-do-this and how would I feel type of challenge.
How has it been so far? It's hard to pin point any one day as my "start date" for intermittent fasting — I have been in a transition for a long time. About a year ago I was typically not eating my first meal of the day until around 9am. So over time I slowly pushed it back later and later, extending my fasting window in the morning. For me personally it's easier to eat later in the day and then eat all afternoon / night. For other people I have heard it's much easier for them to stop eating at 5pm. To those people, please call me and tell me all your secrets.
The thing that was the hardest? Weaning myself onto black coffee. For YEARS I could not drink that magic morning elixer with out a sickening swirl of sugary, not-real-cream-y, goodness that is coffee creamer. Cutting out the cream and sugar was one of the last things I did, so there was probably a time when I was doing this intermittent fasting thing all wrong. Oh well. Can't be perfect all the time. Again, I made really small steps over a long period of time. Like switching to natural creamer made with real cream and less sugar. Then cut out the sugar and just used cream.
I have noticed that I feel more full / satisfied in the evenings after dinner when I would previously have been itching for a snack. I love that I don't have to "give up" any of my favorite "guilty pleasures" like wine, pizza, donuts or cheese. These things will always have a place in my heard and in my life. And no, I don't feel guilty when eating any of them. Within my feeding window I eat delicious food.
And while I did not start this journey with the goal of weight loss or "leaning out" I have noticed over time that I feel "leaner". Since I don't weight myself or check my body fat percentage on the regular I have no REAL proof but to be honest I feel good so that's what matters.
My tips/take aways for you:
- Meal prep or at least meal plan and at least know what meal you will have to break your fast. Short on time? Be sure to check out my top meal prep hacks.
- Make your first meal of the day something filling, flavorful and packed with real whole foods. Like this recipe for roasted rosemary veggies.
- Know that it's ok to feel hungry. Water or tea are great at helping you feel full at the end of a fasting window.
- It's not ok to feel stomach pains, dizzy, light headed or similar symptoms. As noted below - do your research and find what works for YOU.
- Take your time. This is not something you should rush into. It took me a long time to build up to the point where I am now. It took a lot of very small, albeit intentional steps, to get to ultimately get down to a clean 8/16 schedule.
So far I am really enjoying the intermittent fasting lifestyle. While the time in which I eat has changed, everything else has stayed relatively the same. My biggest challenge is the information and research in existence is vast and varying. There are many [disagreeing] opinions on what the "right" way to fast is. So if you are interested in trying this out — do you own research. There is no one-size-fit-all approach to this lifestyle and with any diet or fitness regimen it is important to do what works for YOU.
Have you tried intermittent fasting / do you currently implement this lifestyle? If it does work for you I'd love to hear your story. If it didn't work I'd also love to hear about it.