“Eat big to lift big,” my weight trainer said to me in 2003. That year I radically changed my diet and went from eating a pasta and bread rich diet twice a day to eating a meat and nuts rich diet five to nine times a day.
I adjusted my diet and eating practices again in 2006. Under the tutelage of my wellness and fitness coach Yoda, I kept eating a ton of protein but added a green vegetables and some fruit to my diet. I had evolved beyond the “eat big” mentality for a few reasons, the two most important being my “good” cholesterol level was in the toilet and I had to admit to myself I’d never get to be disco-tits big. I’m a wiry dude, and my diet focused on maximizing how my body was built instead of how I wanted it to be. However, I was still eating from the time I got up until the time I went to sleep.
Men’s Health magazine ran an article about the 8-Hour Diet (you can read their FAQ here). It is based off of fasting, or more accurately intermittent fasting. There are other practitioners of intermittent fasting (most notably Martin Berkhan of LeanGains.com and Dr. Bert Herring with his Fast 5 diet).
What Is It?
I want you to do your own research, but here’s intermittent fasting in a nutshell:
- Follow a more natural, circadian rhythm way of eating. Most practitioners only eat during sunlight hours. In our case, we are only eating eight hours a day.
- You can start eating whenever you want. But once you do, you’re on the clock.
- Depending on how dialed in the rest of your diet is in, you don’t have to change the amount or content of what you’re eating. If you’re just starting your nutritional journey, you may need to adjust what you’re eating as well as when.
- Research suggests that your body more efficiently processes a bunch of calories in a shorter period (e.g., eight hours) than eating the same amount over a longer period. This runs 100% counter to how I’ve been taught to eat since 2003.
- Intermittent fasting has a built-in governor against splurging. On one hand, I am less likely to get hung up on how much I’m eating now, since I know I will be done by X o’clock. On the other, once the clock dings I stop eating, which cuts down on the last-minute desserts or snacks.
- There may be long-term health benefits for those with problems regulating their body sugar. My family has a history of adult onset diabetes, so this aspect was of particular interest to me. Again, this contradicts what I’ve learned about eating a pre-diabetic diet. We’ll see.
How It’s Been Going
I was concerned that I was going to starve myself, and possibly slide into some unhealthy eating habits. The important thing to remember here is that you may not be eating less on a daily basis, but compressing how much you eat into a shorter time frame. This made me more comfortable with fasting, and also helped me conquer my grumbling stomach during week one.
“Shut the fuck up, tummy, you’re going to eat again tomorrow at lunch.”
I knew that my body adapts based on how much food I give it, but starting that journey is always a bit scary. I’m afraid of being hungry, or being cranky (hangry). Week one was a little weird, but after that I’m very happy on this diet.
I like that I can start eating whenever I want. Sometimes I wake up and I’m hungry, so I eat breakfast. That means I stop eating by 4PM. Most days I skip breakfast, though, which means I can have something for dinner if I want. This is particularly important for when Sedagive?’s sons are here, so we can still do a family dinner.
Like most sustainable diets, results have been gradual. I do feel like my “test pants” are looser in the waist. I was concerned about any initial side effects of eating more in a shorter period of time, such as bloating, overeating / hiccups, being overly hungry during off periods, or light headed due to missing an eating event.
When I used to eat seven to nine times a day my body would really let me know if I missed an eating event. If I missed my 2PM almond snack I was a little light headed and grumpy until I would eat again at 4PM. I don’t feel like I’m a hostage to my eating routine.
Give intermittent fasting a try. I especially recommend this to people who are already working out and have a good idea on what diet works for them. Don’t think of the fasting as a true “diet” of what you eat — think of it as a schedule for when you eat. If you are still struggling with the what, you may not be ready to fast just yet.
I’ll report back in another few weeks to let you know how it’s going.