18 Mar My Intermittent Fasting Experiment, Part 1: The Why, How & What
I’m a firm believer that everyone has their ‘magic time’ in the day where they can get their most productive and creative work done. I’ve learnt over the years that mine is in the morning, specifically between 6am and 10am.
Since setting up RNT in May 2017, I’ve been in complete control of the way I run my day, which has allowed me to protect this time and keep it sacred. In these four hours, I write new content and work on the most important projects we have going on. There’s no emails, texts or mindless surfing. I know that if I can get into a flow of focused, deep work for this period, the rest of the day is easy.
However, as my workload and responsibilities have increased, I’ve been finding myself more and more stretched with time to write and be creative.
Here’s how my mornings have typically gone:
5.30am – Wake Up
6am – 7am – Write
7am – 8am – Breakfast & Cooking For Day
8am – 10am – Write
While this has worked great, I’ve been finding that the first hour just isn’t enough to gather any real momentum. I’d interrupt myself to cook, eat breakfast, prep meals for the day, wash up after etc., and so when I resumed at 8am, it was never quite the same.
Enter: Intermittent Fasting (IF)
I hate to put labels on diets. I firmly believe that the best diet is the one that works for your lifestyle, your needs and your goals. It should be easy to stick to while also being enjoyable.
With a few extensive projects on the horizon, one of which requires me to drop about 10lbs or so, I thought now would be a good time to try something new.
My initial plan for this ‘mini diet’ was to follow my usual meal schedule. But after asking a friend of mine if he thought there was a better idea, he suggested I try IF for one reason: ‘you’ll love how much work you get done’.
In the past, my meals would be laid out as follows:
7.30am – Eggs, Smoked Salmon, Sourdough
10.30am – Chicken, Rice, Veggies
2pm – Chicken, Rice, Veggies
4.30pm – Whey, Oats, Peanut Butter, Dark Chocolate
7pm – Chicken or Lamb, Rice, Veggies
I’ve followed this meal schedule for years. It’s been on autopilot for as long as I can remember. I’ve built all my muscle on it, and I’ve got shredded to the bone on it. It works.
While my bodybuilding goals will always be a top four priority, right now I’d say it’s sitting at 3 or 4 in the list. I’m in the midst of an extended ‘off season’, so placing it near the top of my list makes no sense for longevity.
I’ve spoken before about being able to only truly ‘blast’ one thing in your life at any one time. And I can tell you from experience that ‘blasting’ bodybuilding year round will lead to burnout, a boring social life and losing the love for the process.
For this experiment, my goal is to drop about 10lbs, so trying something like IF is perfect. If your goal is maximum muscle building, I think extended fasting periods are a bad idea, simply because it becomes difficult to consume all the calories necessary. But if you’re in a fat loss phase, it can provide two key benefits for some people:
1) Allows you to eat bigger meals
2) Shortens the eating window during your day
There’s nothing magical about IF. Just because you fast for 16 to 18 hours a day, doesn’t mean the calories you do eat in that period of time don’t count. Calories still count! You still need a calorie deficit over the course of the 24 hours.
My reasoning for trying this is purely for productivity purposes. I want to see what I can get done when I have four straight hours of uninterrupted ‘magic time’.
Here’s how I’ll be setting it out:
11.30am – Eggs, Smoked Salmon, Sourdough
1pm – 15g EAAs intra-workout
3pm – Whey, Oats, Peanut Butter, Dark Chocolate
7pm – Chicken or Lamb, Rice, Veggies
Fast – 7.30pm – 11.30am
Everyone is already doing some form of ‘fasting’ in their days. In the past I’d always done about 12 hours between dinner and breakfast, so extending it another four hours shouldn’t be too difficult.
During this fasting period, I’ll only be consuming water, tea and/or coffee, nothing else. I’m not a big tea or coffee drinker, but I do know that they squash my appetite completely, so I may introduce them if needs be.
For this particular dieting phase, I’ve set my macros up as the following:
Protein – 160-180g
Fats – 65-75g
Carbs – 240-260g
While I’ll be eating almost the same thing everyday, having a range just allows me some flexibility so I don’t need to worry too much when eating meals out or at social events.
What you’ll notice here is my protein and meat intake is a lot lower than normal. I usually like to keep it around the 220-250g mark, which works out to be 1.1-1.25g/lb. For this phase, I’ll be lowering it to the 0.8-0.9g/lb mark. I’ve never really gone that low for extended periods of time, so it’ll be interesting to see how my performance, muscle retention, energy and digestion all respond.
If anything, it’ll certainly be easier on the wallet! Especially as now I’ll only be eating meat once a day, instead of the usual three times.
When To Train?
A common question I get asked by those who follow IF protocols is about training times.
I’m in a lucky position where I can train whenever I like. I’ve typically found that my best performance is around 12-2pm, and after one or two meals.
This works out well for this experiment, and means I can train an hour or two after breakfast. I know some proponents of IF recommend training fasted with amino acids, so I may try this once I’ve ‘transitioned’ and report back on my findings.
The topic of training times is an interesting one. For those where it’s a case of before or after work, you haven’t got much choice.
But I’ve always found it interesting speaking to people with flexible schedules and asking when they like to train. Many of them love training first thing.
In theory, it sounds great. You wake up, train and you’re set to tackle the day. Whenever I’ve tried this though, I can’t focus. I’m unable to make use of my ‘magic time’, and my mind is more focused on the avalanche of emails entering my inbox!
Instead, I like to have spent a few hours writing, clear all my emails and then train with a clear mind and an ability to truly switch off for an hour.
Key Goals Of The Intermittent Fasting Experiment
Intermittent fasting has been around for centuries. The fast isn’t what will make you drop body fat. Instead, it’s being able to maintain a calorie deficit that will.
To summarise, my aims with this experiment are the following:
1) See if I can improve my productivity and work output – if I don’t go ‘hangry’ in the mornings and end up clock watching till breakfast, this could be a real ‘game changer’.
2) Try a new style of dieting – after years of following the same 5 meals a day plan, sometimes it’s nice to achieve the same outcome with a different path.
Stay tuned for part 2, where I’ll discuss my experiences on what I learnt, how I felt, and what I can apply going forwards.