Intermittent fasting has become one of the most popular health trends over the past few years. Both scientific research and anecdotal evidence suggests that fasting has major benefits for the body and mind.
I’ve been curious about intermittent fasting for a while, and after reading several articles and watching a plethora of videos about its benefits, I wanted to put it to the test to see if it could work for me.
Before my experiment, I decided to interview a medical doctor and fasting expert named Dr. Jason Fung, to learn more about the science and research on intermittent fasting.
Dr. Fung is the medical director of The Fasting Method, and uses fasting and intermittent fasting protocols to help his patients reverse Type 2 Diabetes, lose weight, and overcome other health issues.
First, Dr. Fung cleared up some of the misconceptions about fasting.
“When you’re fasting, you are not actually shutting down your body,” he clarified. “Your body is actually pumping you full of energy.”
Dr. Fung explained that intermittent fasting is not a diet, it’s a pattern of eating. Intermittent fasting does not restrict the types of foods you can eat or the amount of calories you can consume, it simply restricts the times of day that you eat.
Generally, an intermittent fasting period is anywhere from 12-16 hours, but can also be practiced for longer periods of time. Fasts that are 24 hours or more have also been shown to have massive benefits, because of a process called autophagy, where old damaged cells die and new, healthier cells reform.
Dr. Fung explained that when we fast, our insulin levels decrease and we get a surge of counter-regulatory hormones including growth hormone.
“Everyone thinks that if you fast you are going to lose muscle,” he said. “That’s actually not true because growth hormone increases during fasting. When you start to eat again, your body will start to build proteins at a higher and more efficient rate.”
My 30-day experiment
I had already tried intermittent fasting for one week previously with my friend Eduardo for another video, so this time I wanted to try intermittent fasting for a longer period of time to really measure how it would affect my mind and my body.
I want to make it clear that intermittent fasting is not about starving yourself. It’s a scientifically proven method that has helped many people with various health issues. Although intermittent fasting can definitely help with weight loss, it has also been shown to have several other benefits, including more cognitive clarity and focus. For me, I wasn’t necessarily looking to lose weight, but I was curious to see if intermittent fasting could help me increase productivity and overall energy.
Going into this experiment, I was definitely a little nervous about how my body would react. I tend to get really hungry, especially on days when I workout, so I had to gear myself up mentally to take on this challenge.
I decided to stick to a 14-hour fasting period, which means I would have a 10-hour window where I could eat during the day. It’s very common for people to skip breakfast when they intermittent fast, but that doesn’t always work for me. Sometimes, I don’t feel hungry for breakfast, but since I like to workout in the morning, I needed to make sure I was eating afterwards to replenish and refuel.
I decided the best strategy for me would be to stop eating earlier in the evening around 5 or 6 pm, so I could hit an early workout and then eat breakfast afterwards around 8 am. Although it was a little tough not eating at night, I felt like this really improved my sleep and I woke up feeling way more refreshed and energized.
One challenge with intermittent fasting is the additional time and effort it takes to schedule meals around the fasting period. My day-to-day schedule is never the same, so I had to be extra deliberate about when I was eating and what kind of food I was consuming to make sure I was satiated enough.
Although I was starting to get used to my new eating schedule after the first two weeks, the thought of keeping it up for another two weeks was a bit daunting.
During this week I definitely ran into some challenges. One day I went to hot yoga in the morning but had to wait another two hours afterwards to eat and found myself feeling really hungry and depleted.
Socially, I also found this challenge a bit difficult, because if I wanted to go out to eat with friends in the evening, I would have to wait even longer to eat the next day.
By the end of this challenge, I was definitely getting the hang of this. Once I had my schedule down, intermittent fasting became way easier.
What was the most surprising to me is how much this challenge actually helped me find more freedom with food. I found that I had increased energy and mental capacity because my body and mind were not as focused on eating and digesting food.
This challenge also made me super grateful to have access to good quality food! I am very lucky and realize that a large percentage of the population has to be concerned about where their next meal is coming from. This experience definitely made me think more about the magnitude of what others might go through in regards to food scarcity. It felt a bit silly for me to complain about my hunger, when so many people around the world are dealing with actual hunger every single day.
My results after 30 days
At the end of my 30 day experiment, I did notice a change in my body. I felt great, and also saw physical changes as well from my before and after pictures.
Intermittent fasting pleasantly surprised me. It allowed me to appreciate food even more than I already did, and develop a healthier relationship with food. This is definitely something that I plan to continue and implement in my life regularly.
All of our bodies are completely different, and are going to react differently to different things. If you want to try intermittent fasting, I encourage you to do so, but make sure you go into it with clear intentions, and be open-minded to what you might learn through the process!