Thursday, January 28, 2010

Intermittent Fasting Trials

Last year at this time, I tried doing the "Warrior Diet" for awhile. The biggest shock was that I could "hold off" on eating a breakfast and not eat anything until the afternoon. I love to eat, especially breakfasts! In the summer, I transitioned to the Paleo Diet and ate "lightly" in the morning and afternoon. Once I got into the swing of things during both diets, I felt better and realized it wasn't hard to constantly eat all the time when you eat healthy.

I have found that it is not as easy to eat Paleo style in the winter when fresh fruit is not as easy to find. With limited running in the past couple of months and holiday cooking all around, I haven't been able to maintain the eating levels and weight that I would like to be at. In the back of my head, I have been planning to start something called "intermittent fasting". This means you do not eat anything for 18-27 hours or so. I was just too chicken to try going without food for so long. I could go without eating until about 1:00 p.m. and feel great, but could I go without eating anything until dinnertime? I have been doing the no breakfast thing 3-4 days a week for a couple of weeks, but Sunday I tried going until dinnertime with a longer fast. It was much easier than I thought it would be. I finally had my first bite of something (and I only drank water) at 6:30 p.m. Today I skipped breakfast, then even though I had a lunch, I skipped that too. I did not eat until supper. This is what I have learned from these two trials. I am no hungrier at 5:30 p.m. then I would be a 10:30 a.m. The hunger does not get any worse throughout the day. In fact, you feel quite comfortable and energetic and don't even feel hungry unless you think about it. Appetite is different then hunger. Fasting for the first time is like running your first marathon: you are frightened that you can't do it and think that it is impossible to accomplish. After you have run a bunch of marathons 26 miles is a piece of cake! In other words it is not as hard as it sounds. Once you do it once, it is easier the second time.

I have read a few websites and blogs on intermittent fasting. I am trying it to lose some weight (less calories going in), to get off the bad foods I have been eating, and because supposedly the fat burning works better when you aren't constantly eating. I have not read this e-book, but this site (Eat Stop Eat) tells you a bit more about intermittent fasting. What is there to know? You just don't eat all three meals seven days a week. Take one or two days and don't eat (from supper to supper). I had no loss of energy and will keep trying this to see what or if there are any results.

Plus as a time when I cannot be competitive, I was just competitive with myself and accomplished something I never thought I could do (or at least willingly do). It was interesting to note that denying yourself food for a few extra hours was not that hard to do and in fact felt much more more healthy than grabbing snacks of various types throughout the day.

Here are a couple of sources of information on intermittent fasting:

Running on empty: the pros and cons of fasting Shari Roan "Los Angelos Times"

Called intermittent fasting, this rather stark approach to weight control appears to be supported by science, not to mention various religious and cultural practices around the globe. The practice is a way to become more circumspect about food, its adherents say. But it also seems to yield the benefits of calorie restriction, which may ultimately reduce the risk of some diseases and even extend life.

Fast way to better health by Michael Eades

Is Intermittent Fasting Healthy? by Mark Sisson

Numerous animal and human studies done over the past 15 years suggest that periodic fasting can have dramatic results not only in areas of weight (fat) loss, but in overall health and longevity as well. A recent article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition gives a great overview of these benefits which include decreases in blood pressure, reduction in oxidative damage to lipids, protein and DNA, improvement in insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake, as well as decreases in fat mass.

Scott’s Intermittent Fasting Success Story Scott Kustes

The Benefits I’ve Seen
* Improved mental clarity during the fast
* Improved workout performance during the fast
* Lower body fat percentage at the same bodyweight (i.e., more muscle mass)
* No worry about food during the day ‘ I can get up, run out the door to work, work all day, then go home to eat. I don’t have to be concerned with fitting in lunch and food is no longer the focal point of my day; living is.
* No food-induced crashes during the day – I’m on top of my game all day. Even eating low-carb Paleo on a normal eating schedule left me more lethargic than this
* Better in-tune with my body – you learn to distinguish psychological hunger (i.e., it’s noon and I should eat) from real hunger. When I get truly hungry, I break the fast and eat, even if it’s outside my “window”
* More energy – You’d think I’d experience fatigue with no food intake, but I can’t quit moving and having an urge to go run around the block during a fast
* Food tastes better – it’s amazing how much better a well-cooked meal tastes when you haven’t eaten all day


Jedi Dadi said...

Fasting as a training aid just doesn't make any sense to me. Heck, fasting for weight loss doesn't make any sense either. Getting the flu will probably result in weight loss but I wouldn't suggest that either. Although at a high level weight loss is a function of calories in vs calories out, the type of calories is probably more important. "Dieting" should to be about what types of foods to eat rather than how much. You don't need a diet, you need to get healthy enough to enjoy running again. You'll get there Jim, patience.

Jim Hansen said...

Hi Steve,
I am being patient and can't wait to run healthier than I have in years. I know the diet thing can seem pathetic and senseless, but if I want to be the best I can be (which isn't that good at this moment) I have to be willing to do the things that seem out of the ordinary. I am the poster child of a junk-food eater. I wonder how much better I would have been in college if I didn't live so much on cookies and ice cream. I wonder how much better I would have done when I did triathlons if I didn't rely on fast foods and TV dinners for nourishment. It has taken me this late in life to figure out what healthy eating even is, and that is only because I can't burn off what I eat anymore.

I can't cook or put meals together and don't like the idea of "dieting". The past year I have learned that dieting isn't just eating less, but eating healthy. I am learning to like fruits and veggies and "good" foods. I also like the feeling I get when eating well, (like I did when I was eating Paleo).

I also realize that being able to run lots of miles and marathons may not really be a sign of being "healthy". There are things that endurance sports do to harm our bodies, and not just mechanical injuires, but long term health stuff and I have been running and racing for a very long time! I guess it is time to think about health beyond running and think of the body as a whole and what is good for it. Some suggest distance running is not good at all, but I can't live that way though (even though if I reflect on myself it hasn't always been healthy for me).

I guess with the Paleo and now my trials with Intermittant Fasting, I am thinking about what goes into my body as opposed to just "calories" or eating less. Once I start eating cookies and ice cream, or bread and pasta, or chocolate or anything else that is good (but bad) I don't stop. When I was doing Paleo, I basically got rid of my cravings for those things and I ate extremely healthy (and enjoyed it) and felt great!

The intermitant fasting sounds way out there, but I am experimenting with it to see how it goes and the science behind it makes a lot of sense. To modern Americans it sounds sort of strange, but cultures and religions have been doing fasting for years. I don't think too many people in long ago times sat down to 3 solid meals a day, plus snacking when they were just trying to find food to eat. So I am playing around with it and seeing what effect it has on my body. When you think about it, what diet plan would really advocate eating "nothing" because after all there is nothing to sell! When I did the two trials there was a lot of food (some good, much bad) that I didn't eat at all. I suffered no loss of energy (I actually felt better -even when I "jogged" 5 miles) and the next day I felt great too. There are a lot of benefits to fasting if you read about it.

It wasn't hard and if it keeps me eating healthier and away from unhealthy eating I am not putting 'damaging" food in my body. If it turns into a shortcut to get some extra pounds off before Boston then that will be great, particularly when I can't put many miles in at this point.

I still am intigued with the concept and have to read more, but I like to go by how things "feel" and this feels easy and healthy at this point.

I think I will research Nolan Shaheed a bit to see what he does. He is the guy who just became the first 60 year old to ever break 5 minutes indoors in a mile (just last week) which also breaks the outdoor record. I think I read something last year on him (he is a famous musician too). I think I recall he only eats one meal a day. If that is true, for whatever his reasons, it seems to work for him.

This guy:

And just wait, Steve, each year it gets harder and harder to maintain weight. You'll be where I am soon.

Jedi Dadi said...

Jim, if nothing else you're entertaining :-)
We're not that different. I swear I gain 5lbs every day I DON'T run. I like to live on the edge. I love to run, but I also love to eat the foods that I WANT to eat. I don't think there's a magic formula out there...just another way for someone to make a living (and money), the American Dream. For every example of some exceptional athlete who eats foods that are 'good' for you, I can name another who eats like crap and does just as well. I wonder if I ate a little better if it would make a difference in performance but in the wins. I'm not looking to set any records or be famous.
There's enough common sense things you can do without having to experiment with some new wizbang diet.
But, in the end you need to do what makes YOU happy. I'm not here to try to change your mind, just offer my opinion, which I am told isn't always correct (can you believe that??).
Hope I see you out there soon!

Jim Hansen said...

I made a new post on Nolan Shaheed. I hope that I entertain you some more with this one! Can't you tell I am getting antsy to train. I am getting back to being injury free soon and then training away. My goal is to run outdoors on my achilles this weekend and hopefully try a little bit of speedwork on the track Tuesday with a slower group. Of course, all without hurting the achilles.

Jim Hansen said...

...and I think I've found the secret to beating you that so many guys are looking for. We just have to take you out to eat a lot and fatten you up!

Tina Davidson said...

Hi everyone

I recently read a book on the topic called The Handbook of Intermittent Fasting by a martial artist in England called Idai Makaya.

This book is quite brief but it covers all the methods of intermittent fasting quite well and explains how you can design a programme to suit your routines. There was also a section on fasting and exercising which I found interesting.

The Warrior Diet you mention is actually also a form of intermittent fasting and this was confirmed in the book I read.

People think fasting is unhealthy but it is actually the way human bodies are designed to work best. There are even studies which explain why moving away from a diet of intermittent fasting has led to the increase in diabetes from 3% of societies where food is eaten irregularly to 33 percent where people drip feed themselves all the time.

Fasting has been working well for me the last 3 months, it's well worth a try.

Jim Hansen said...

Thanks Tina,
I'll have to look into that book. I haven't really read a whole lot about IF, so it would be interesting to get more facts and ideas surrounding what seems like a sensible way of eating.

Jedi Dadi said...

I have an idea - how about I just eat all the meals you don't want?
Please don't eat breakfast...that's my favorite :-)

Jim Hansen said...

I was sorely tempted to eat a bowl of Alpha-Bits this morning as one of my kids left a box out and just the sniff made me hungry. Of course that would have led to three bowls of eating. I decided not to eat anything at all, so I can send you some Alpha-Bits. Do you like this cereal, too? You can spell things with the letters. It can be fun food in the morning!