Intermittent Fasting? Good or Bad?

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, and this post is not meant to be used for education purposes and substitute for professional care. This post is based upon personal experience only. Please do your own research and  or speak to a medical professional before making any major changes to your diet / lifestyle.

Why I wanted to try intermittent fasting

Since my lifestyle has had to make quite a shift in its ‘normality’ (since lock down in the UK) I found myself not being as hungry and needing to eat as much or as often,  I think this was mainly due to stress and anxiety. I am still doing my daily workouts which again vary on intensity – unfortunately not as heavy weights. Before experimenting with ‘IF’, I was eating and snacking all day and because of my work pattern changing all the time (being a personal trainer, plus having another part-time job) was never eating at the ‘right times’. I also noticed I would regularly struggle with gas and bloating. So when I looked more into intermittent fasting, I just wanted to try it for myself to see what it could do for me and my health.

After doing some research into it and having heard from people I work with say it’s beneficial I have been trialling with Intermittent fasting (IF) over the last couple of weeks to primarily focusing on my fitness / current lifestyle. So, I thought I would give you the low down on my own personal experience.

For those of you who are unsure what ‘IF’ is, it’s very much a popular way of eating which has become quite trendy within the health and fitness industry. People have been fasting for centuries for cultural, religious, and health reasons, it is not just the latest health or fitness trend.

Intermittent Fasting allows you a window of time to eat throughout a 24-hour period, while the rest of your day is spent fasting (not eating but still drinking). Obviously when I say drinking I don't mean having sugary drink or high calorie ones, if you can water is best or any way that will keep you hydrated. For example, a common rule is to spend 8 hours eating, and 16 hours fasting (the 8:16 rule is the one I’m trailing or there is 14:10 if you are very new to it). I am not being completely strict with these set times, if there is one day where I am really hungry in the morning or before my ‘certain time’ I am 100% going to listen to my body and have something too eat. Much of the time I will have my first meal or snack around 10/11am, along the side of keeping very hydrated.

While fasting, you are essentially giving your body a break from digesting food (one of the body’s most energy-draining jobs). Looking back from my previous gut problems and operations my bowel is super sensitive, which is why I thought I would trial out the fasting just to see if it will help with my digestion in any way. It was also easier for me than I thought because I do keep myself hydrated and didn’t really notice a big change, the first thing on my mind was would I be able to get as good workout from it? And to be honest it has been so far, so good and then after 30-45mins post workout I then found myself to be hungry.

Studies have shown that this may help promote cell regeneration, give you better digestion, regulated your energy levels, improve your skin and lower your glucose and insulin levels.

But I know what you may be thinking… are you just doing it for weight loss? (the answer is no, no I am not). You can however, find research out there that says you can lose weight from intermittent fasting (if that is your goal and you are wanting to improve in other areas with your mind and body), however for me it was the health aspects that attracted me to intermittent fasting (gut health).
As I mentioned at the beginning, I would highly recommend anyone who is looking to trial this to make sure they have a healthy lifestyle or consult with a professional (doctor or dietitian) and 100% sure know what they are doing and how to do so in a healthy way.

The benefits I noticed:

  1. My digestion is better. Before IF, I felt like my body was constantly trying to digest food (because it probably was) but while doing IF, I felt like my food would digest easily without any discomfort and I was giving my body the chance to digest each meal and snack before the next.
  2. I noticed I had more energy – whether that is from ‘IF’ or I was giving myself the time and rest that it needed. When we do return to normality, I will experiment with it again just to see what happens when my schedule is busier. I was feeling energized and happy throughout my whole day and didn't experience my usual afternoon energy dips.
  3. I would feel so clear in the morning before I ate (when i prefer to exercise), this would also help for my workout and obviously encourage kickstarting my digestion  I was that person who use to say “I cannot think I am so hungry” in the mornings, but I noticed it was the opposite. I was listening to my body when it did need fueling.
  4. I did notice I felt ‘leaner’ in the mornings, but this could have been because I was less bloated, and my food was digested better.
  5. Sleep Improvement. On a few days a week i sued to work later which was when i was hungry and would snack before i went to bed, which caused me to have more of a restless sleep., but since doing IF i have noticed i have been having more of a deep sleep than previously.

Cons I experienced
To be honest, I couldn’t find a lot of cons with IF except sometimes my body wouldn’t feel like fasting and I felt hungry. When I was first experimenting, I would eat (within my time frame) even though i didn't feel very hungry, but as i am not doing this to lose weight i would still make sure that i was eating enough calories, even if it meant having a bigger meal. If i did i was very conscious on chewing in order to help with the digestion process and stopping when i was getting full.

Who shouldn't try it? 
It is recommended pregnant women should not fast (for obvious reasons, you are growing another human which involves more of a higher calorie intake).

Intermittent Fasting is essentially a stress on the body. If you are not in a good place in your life, fasting may not be the best idea as it can increase your cortisol and add to the stress and pressure that you are already under. If you are in this position maybe just do a much less ‘aggressive’ time and build up to the 16 hours of fasting. Again, please consult with a professional before doing so.

People who may currently have or be recovering from an eating disorder shouldn’t try it. Personally, I have had unhealthy issues with food in the past. While I was trying IF I did have the thought that this habit could easily take me back to destructive habits, but from that I have obviously done my research and very much in a positive place with my body and how I fuel and take care of it. I suggest you be very honest with yourself before attempting and make sure you currently have a healthy relationship with yourself and food.

What do I do now?
Over the past couple of weeks, I have been trying to stick to it and may do another week, but I think from then I will just be doing it, consciously. I do it most days but then some days I just know my body wants food in the morning, and so I eat. I know that sounds too simple but that is how I like it. If you want to try IF, I suggest you test, adjust and repeat that process. Your body has all the answers you just need to listen to it.

Most of all, i would suggest that ladies who are interested in fasting to be cautious! Be self-aware and only do so if it come naturally. It shouldn't be a struggle. It should not stop your menstrual cycle or turn into making it hard for you to get pregnancy, It should be used s a tool to improve your life, not make it miserable. If you find that fasting has those negative effects, stop doing it. It should happen when hunger comes naturally.

It’s important to remember that it’s not for everyone and this is just based off my experience. If you do feel crappy and don’t know what to do or if it is meant to make you feel like that (the answer is no, it shouldn’t make you feel horrible) My response? If it is not something that fits your lifestyle and that you don’t feel good doing… don’t do it! Simple.

Take Home Message

Find acceptance within yourself before making any changes.
Do it for you. 

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