Nutrition 101 – Intermittent Fasting
By Luis Leonardo
*Disclaimer: Before considering or starting any new way of eating or ‘Diet’ consult with your local physician to see if it’s right for you. Not everything works for everyone! This is my own experience with intermittent fasting that I thought i would share with you.
Nature is fascinating to me. The more I look into it, the more I discover the power it has and how nature is constantly trying to give us an example of how simple this life is meant to be. One particular item that got my attention a few years back, was that when you see groups of animals in nature, they all tend to look very alike. They have similar body sizes/shapes and they often times all seem very healthy. They appear to be just living life full of energy, they live life in such a powerful way!
The thing that got most of my attention, when looking at the animals from that perspective, was that animals don’t have a guaranteed meal waiting for them every single day. They don’t have stores, they don’t have restaurants and often times, they have to wait and work hard to get to their food. That simple vision of the animals opened my eyes to fasting and intermittent fasting. In 2016, I decided to give intermittent fasting a try. I figured why not, it will save me some time and money to skip a meal or two a day. Also, at that given time of my life I was so tired of always trying to find the next diet to approach, the next supplement to buy, and I was ready for a drastic change that could simplify my life more.
How I started
My journey to intermittent fasting began with baby steps. The first step I took was to eliminate breakfast out of the picture. I am not going to sugar coat this, the first step was the hardest one. I come from the old school mindset that says breakfast is the most important meal of the day. From my endurance athlete background, I agreed that I always needed food to start the day. But a good exercise that helped me see things differently, was to simply rewind my life to the fact that I always have dinner at night. To me, this is filling up the tank of gas in my car, going back home, parking the car for the whole night, and when the morning rolls around, I get back on my car and the gas meter still reads full. The car has not been moved during the night so therefore I don’t need to go get gas again, right? I need to drive the car first in order to burn the gas in it before I go get gas for it again. This is the same way most of us live life, we are not realizing that it is actually very powerful to let the body use the energy it has from the food we ate previously. Our body needs to get to empty from food, in order to take on more food.
So back to getting rid of breakfast; this took me a solid 6-8 weeks of time to finally get over the hump. This was the hardest part of my journey into intermittent fasting but after doing it consistently for a few months, I started to see the light. All of a sudden, I noticed that my energy was higher and that I was OK not having food in me, first thing in the morning. The mental clarity, the savings on time/money, and the energy were all I needed at that point to continue exploring this concept further.
Fast forward 6 months after getting rid of my breakfast; I was able to eliminate my morning snack. Fast forward 6 more months and I was going all the way to having lunch as my first meal, usually around 2pm. I have fallen in love with intermittent fasting and all the positives that came from it! Something so simple, yet so powerful.
Last summer, June 2018, I had a few very busy weeks in a row where my schedule kept me so busy that I literally didn’t had the time to have my first meal at 2pm. I would get home around 6pm having not touched any food during the day. I couldn’t believe I could go that long. I could do workouts, coach clients, and not have any food during those busy hours and have so much energy. I also realized that there were a few days during that window of time, that I was not eating on my normal schedule. I would do a few workouts of 20-30 minutes each and never felt extra tired, light headed or grumpy; just the complete opposite, I had energy, clarity and I will get home feeling amazing.
What does it look like for me?
These days, on an average week, I do a whole 21 hour fast from food, 5 days each week, and probably closer to 16 hour fast 2 days a week. I always start my day with 20-30 oz of water in the morning, sometimes I put some apple cider vinegar in it. I move to having my coffee after I finish my water. Most days I do something called “Bullet Proof Coffee” (coffee with a spoon of coconut oil and a tad of grass fed butter blended). These are the only calories that my body typically sees during the whole day until I get to dinner time. I am very mindful of drinking water all the time, and never letting my body experience thirst.
Some people might say that I am not fully doing an intermittent fast, by allowing those fat based calories enter my body via my morning coffee, but this is what I found works for me. I am not looking at it as a daily chore/task to do. I have simply found and refined the way I see food, and this is the best approach I have ever discovered to eating. It is by far the most simple thing I have ever discovered after trying so many diets and approaches to food. Like the animals mentioned in the beginning, I feel I am letting my body do what is supposed to do by not exposing it to food all the time.
I love thinking of myself as the ultimate guinea pig for my clients. I love trying new things and discovering what is out there that works. Intermittent fasting has become, by far, the only nutrition thing I like to point out to people when they ask me what works for me and/or what I do for my nutrition. I am not a nutritionist, I am just a personal trainer living life out my comfort zone and intermittent fasting is one thing I plan to keep with me for the rest of my life.
I highly recommend intermittent fasting. If you are curious about it and want to give it a try, I recommend learning and researching as much as possible before you try it, to see if it’s right for you. There is plenty of great information out there today, that explains what intermittent fasting is all about and how you can get started with it. If you do decide to give it a try, be patient and consistent for at least 6-8 weeks to let your body adapt to the changes that will come from it. Lastly, if you see it is working for you, keep doing it as I have discovered that it only gets better with time. I feel 10 years younger and everyday, regardless if I am able to get a workout in or not, intermittent fasting has become my safety net that keeps my fitness in a very good place regardless of what life keeps throwing at me.