In a previous article I’ve written, I talked about intermittent fasting and how it’s not the magical weight loss solution that many tout it to be. While this may be the case, I didn’t eliminate its usefulness entirely.
A Quick Refresher
First, let’s recap what exactly intermittent fasting is…
Although there are several variations of the diet that exist, the most popular and one that we’ll focus on here is called the 16/8 fasting protocol. It’s pretty self-explanatory, where you fast for 16 hours during the day and you have an 8-hour “feeding window” where you fit all of your regularly scheduled meals.
It’s become quite popular due to its touted health benefits, such as improvements in cholesterol and fasting blood glucose. However, there’s still a lot of research that has to be conducted in this realm, as many of the results come from animal models, and we are now just starting to see similar results replicated in humans. So for now, we can take the results with a grain of salt.
And it’s become increasingly popular in the fitness industry because of its claims to help you burn more fat faster than a traditional diet. This is where the problem lies.
This simply isn’t true, as stated by notable exercise scientist Brad Schoenfeld and colleagues, viewing the concept of fat-burning over a span of only 24 hours is extremely shortsighted. If one is burning more fat during one period, the body will compensate by burning more carbs during the other, and vice versa. See where I’m getting at here?
My Own Experience
I’ve actually been experimenting with it myself during my contest prep, and let me tell you, it’s helped a lot.
And let me reiterate this one more time for you guys, it is not because it is a magical diet that will “annihilate fat” or some other nonsense like that. Instead, let me explain to you how it’s helped me in a more practical sense.
It Fits My Lifestyle
As proven by science, the key factor to success in any diet is adherence. This is what makes or breaks a person’s success to achieving their fat-loss goals.
And intermittent fasting just happened to be the strategy for me that helped me to adhere to a calorie-restricted diet better than any other. Personally, I like to eat bigger meals. Especially when the calories begin to drop, I’m not really an avid fan of eating rabbit-sized meals every 2-3 hours (plus, the concept of meal frequency “speeding up your metabolism” has been debunked for quite a while now).
It Helps Me Keep My Relationship with Food Intact
We all love food, don’t we? Especially for those of us who are into competing and are experienced with very-restrictive dieting, it can really damage the once healthy relationship that we had with food.
For me, fasting helped me keep my mind off of food. Instead of constantly thinking about eating all day, as I’m used to eating more frequently throughout the day, it helped me to apply my thoughts towards other priorities that I had.
I would often hold off eating until around 2 p.m or so, sometimes even later. Because of this, I was able to concentrate on my morning tasks, such as doing cardio, running errands, and working on my online business. It helped me to be more efficient, as I wasn’t stuck on the thought of eating or even prepping food for that morning or early afternoon.
It Lets Me Eat Bigger Meals
Again, it lets me eat much larger meals during times of restrictive dieting. To many, this can feel a lot more satisfying afterwards compared to the empty feeling one may have after eating such a small portion of food.
The Problem(s) with Intermittent Fasting
While I may be making this sound like rainbows and unicorns right now, the fact of the matter is intermittent fasting can be tough at times, especially at the beginning.
Often, people can’t get used to the feeling of hunger in the mornings, especially if there avid fans of a bigger breakfast. Many people can get past this feeling after getting accustomed to the diet, but for some, they just can’t stick to it. That’s completely fine, that just means this specific diet is not for them.
Luckily for me, I’ve never really been a fan of eating breakfast, so this works perfectly for me.
Sometimes this style of eating can cause complications with one’s schedule, particularly around social events.
For example, it may be viewed as impolite when you go out to lunch with your boss and you just order a water or black coffee. This may make you feel awkward or uncomfortable.
The same goes for breakfast. Maybe on Sundays you and your friends all like to go out to brunch (I don’t judge). This usually doesn’t fit within most people’s fasting windows, but it can if you coordinate it correctly.
And that brings me to this point…
You Don’t Have to Follow it to the Tee
People get really stressed out when they can’t follow this diet exactly as they planned it. Maybe they started eating with 30 minutes left in the fast. Maybe they put a little milk in their coffee in the morning by mistake. But trust me, IT’S OKAY!
Those who are only concerned with the metabolic benefits shown in the scientific studies should be the ones focusing more precisely on the nooks and crannies of the diet, as opposed to those who are simply trying to lose fat.
I technically “break my fast” all the time during my fasting windows. I also break my fast at different times during the day, depending on what my schedule looks like.
I tell you this because I want you to understand that as long as you’re following the general fundamentals of the diet, you’ll still receive its benefits.
4 Hacks to Help You Implement This Diet
If after all I’ve explained thus far and you’re still not interested, I understand. You can stop reading this now.
But for those who are willing to try this out for themselves and see if it’s right for them, then read on! As I tell you 5 of the “tricks” that I use to make adhering to this diet a bit easier.
1. Diet Soda
This works for any other carbonated beverage as well, as long as it’s zero calories. And no, artificial sweeteners don’t raise insulin levels, like you may have been lead to believe.
I find that drinking these throughout the day, particularly during my fasts, gives my body the feeling of fullness for a little while. Usually, I do this when it’s close for my fasting window to end, around lunchtime.
Just always make sure to look at the nutrition label before choosing your beverage. Some drinks, such as Diet Mountain Dew, contain a bit more calories than most, about 10 calories per 20 oz. While this may seem negligible, this can add up if you’re guzzling the stuff and not keeping track of it.
Yep, you heard me right. Pickles…
But Zach, don’t these technically have calories. Why yes, fellow reader, they do. But think about this for a second. It’s a cucumber, which is a green vegetable. Green vegetables are naturally low in calories, so it’s very difficult to overeat on them.
Can you see a common theme here with these tips? It’s that a high amount of food volume is what is going to affect your feeling of fullness, or satiety, not the number of calories in the food. That’s what your stomach is, a volume counter, not a calorie counter.
But Zach, isn’t all that sodium found in pickles bad for you brahh? Not in the way that you may think…
It’s really only bad if you are what they call in the scientific literature “salt-sensitive”. These are people who are especially sensitive to the effects of sodium on their blood pressure, often people who are hypertensive already. Those who are salt-sensitive are estimated to account for about 25% of the population.
If you’re not one of those people, then you don’t have anything to worry about. And plus, as with many things in life, use moderation. Anything in excess usually isn’t good for you, including water.
3. Walden Farms
I am freakin’ in love with this stuff. If you haven’t heard of them, go give them a try. Basically, they make various salad dressings, condiments, syrups, and other goodies, all with ZERO CALORIES! I’ve been putting the Italian dressing on my chicken and vegetables and it’s been absolutely killing my cravings.
Now, I’m gonna be real with you here. It’s not exactly zero calories, as FDA labeling guidelines allow for anything less than 5 calories per serving to be labeled as zero. However, these calories are quite insignificant, given how great they actually taste. These certainly make dieting a hell of a lot easier.
But How Would I Use This During My Fast?
Some of their products, like the chocolate dip and cinnamon raisin peanut butter, allow you to eat it straight from the jar! Often times, it’s the taste of the product that will allow you to kill the craving you have during that moment, which you may have mistaken for hunger.
Ahh yes, that good ole’ cup o’ Joe.
A lot of people use it as their morning staple, but did you know it can actually help you out in your fat-loss goals as well?
Much of it has to do with caffeine and its effects on appetite suppression, but researchers are now beginning to discover how another non-caffeine ingredient in coffee blunts hunger levels as well. This means that even decaf coffee can have similar effects compared to regular caffeinated coffee in terms of regulating your hunger. More research needs to be conducted for sure, as they’re still trying to figure out what that ingredient is exactly, but it looks quite promising.
So give it a shot and see if this diet is right for you. If it’s not, no big deal. But you won’t know for sure until you try.
Let me know how it works out for you in the comments section below!