I was quite surprised when Intermittent fasting became a mainstream health trend. Up until this point it was widely "known" that starving yourself was the least healthy way to lose weight. That fact still remains true, however two things can be true simultaneously. After doing research and setting out a specific plan I gave intermittent fasting a try just to see what kind of results I might experience. What I found led me down a path of thought that I found rather unexpected, but fascinating as well.
First allow me to explain a little bit about what intermittent fasting is for the uninitiated. It is a dietary protocol dictating that you eat only during a specific window of time during the day. the most common being a 16 hour fast and an 8 hour feeding window. This means most simply that after say 8 pm you are done eating for the day, and won't eat again until noon the next day. You still can (and should) drink water during the fast, along with zero calorie beverages such as tea or black coffee. An important factor in this protocol is that you still eat an ample amount of calories during your feeding window, the key being that you aren't starving yourself, you are simply restricting the amount of time during the day that you ingest these calories.
At first glance this protocol may seem pretty intense and maybe even a bit masochistic, however Intermittent fasting is an integral part of many religions and I argue that it has been a part of human culture since our hunter-gatherer days, and even modern society has a small little niche in which it lives. First many christian religions have long used fasting as a tool for repentance, Buddhist and Hindu religions utilize fasting to aid in meditation, Islam has an entire month long yearly ritual where intermittent fasting is the cornerstone. I'm not an expert on religions and these examples may not be an accurate representation of these religion's customs, that was not my intent in using them as examples, rather I brought them up to help support my earlier statement that fasting is a part of many different major religions.
During the time that our ancestors were nomadic hunters living in tribes and relying on yearly migratory patterns of different ungulate populations intermittent fasting was a common, widespread, and unintentional part of life. There were periods of feast and famine, sometimes the tribe was successfully trailing the herd and the hunters were able to provide the tribe with a steady and regular supply of animal protein and organ nutrients from daily kills. Often they would camp near a water supply such as a river or lake that could also provide fish for protein. They could then supplement their diets with the various seeds, nuts, berries, wild growing fruit, roots and tubers that were in the immediate area surrounding the camp. Contrary to popular belief just because refrigeration wasn't am available technology at the time did not mean that they didn't preserve any food. There are ancient methods for smoke, salt, and dry curing food so that it could be eaten much later that they used regularly. And please keep in mind that such foods as nuts and seeds have a long shelf life. However, especially during the colder seasons food simply became more scarce. The meat would simply run out, and keeping an entire tribe full and satisfied with nuts and berries is a tall order. Surviving the winter meant being able to store fat on your body from the good times to get through the lean.
Even during the good times three meals plus snacks was simply unheard of. usually there was a certain point in the day where the whole tribe would gather around and feed together, the rest of the day would be spent going about daily tasks. intermittent fasting was just how they lived. It wasn't until modernity and the advent of agriculture that allowed us to more efficiently store large surplus of food which in turn made it possible to eat several times a day. keep that trend going for a few thousand years and you arrive at what we have now. 3 meals a day plus snacks throughout that often calorically rival the main meals.
Speaking of modern times we even see fasting as a part of modern medicine. If you go to get your blood drawn they will often require you to fast. Fasting is a must for surgery, and many medications require an empty stomach. So there is an obvious utility in this practice that we can see happening often at hospitals and doctors offices.
At this point I find it necessary to point out again that daily intermittent fasting is not meant to be confused with voluntary starvation, and for people with eating disorders this protocol can obviously be pretty problematic. If you plan on trying a protocol like this one it is imperative that you consult your doctor or a medical professional.
All that being said, now for my experience with intermittent fasting: I love it. It seems strange to say about not eating for long periods of the day but I really do. My strategy is I don't eat until noon after my workout, and I stop eating at 8 pm. It's very simple, and actually makes my day a little easier. I don't have to worry about breakfast at all, I still get to drink coffee in the morning, let it be known that I drank plain black coffee before this so it wasn't as difficult a transition for me as it might be for others. I still eat regular, large, and healthy meals during the day. I did incorporate a "Snack meal" to help keep my calories up since I did away with breakfast. At the end of the day, after dinner I simply don't eat anymore. Once 8 pm hits I will have tea and that's it. Overall I still get the same calories and same nutrition as before, the only difference is packing into that 8 hour window.
The Benefits I feel from it have been substantial. I was concerned about feeling hungry, groggy, or tired in the mornings however i noticed the opposite. The coffee kept my appetite satiated, and I noticed a hightened state of alertness and awareness in the mornings. It was surprising to say the least, but once I ate a breakfast meal again is when I actually felt more tired and like I could crawl back into bed in the morning. Fasted mornings felt far more productive for me and I have since incorperated them into my daily routine and have come to rely on my fasted state for staying sharp in the mornings. On the opposite end bedtime was altered for me as well. I felt a little more in sync with my circadian rythym. I used to be a total night owl since I always had difficulty falling asleep. With a fasting protocol in place I found myself sticking to a 10:30 bedtime no problem. In bed by 10:15, lights out at 10:30, dead asleep minutes after. Total madness if you know anything about me. However I'm a huge fan, I find myself getting deep, restful sleep and waking up without any grogginess or issues right at 6:30 ready to attack the day.
I've also found that it has helped my workouts significantly. It just happened timing wise that my normal workout schedule during the week is right before lunchtime, and first thing in the morning on weekends. That heightened state of awareness I mentioned earlier certainly applies here. I noticed that I have better focus, more intensity, a larger gas tank, and even better form when I exercise in a fasted state. Afterwards my recover time is significantly reduced as well.
This all led me to beleive that Intermittent fasting is capable of returning us to our true primal state. It's quite simply the way our bodies adapted to survive over the thounsands of years hunting and gathering. Being in a fasted state helps us to perform at our best when our stomachs are empty and we need to be sharp so we can succesfully track our prey to give us the best chance of success. It helps us get to sleep with the rythym of the sun and moon so that we can rest and recover deeply during the night so that we can take full advantage of ever minute of daylight fresh and ready as soon as the sun rises. Fianlly intermittent fasting allows us to perform at our best on an empty stomach so that we can have a successful hunt and feed the tribe at the time when we need that food the most, when we are hungry. I argue that we are adapted to live this way, to survive this way, and to trhive this way. All you have to do to get in touch with this primal way of life is so simple, skip breakfast, stop eating late, hydrate.