You’ve probably heard of intermittent fasting (generally referred to as IF) and decided to click on this blog. I don’t blame you. When in “hearing” of things regarding health it’s hard to determine what is legit versus what proves to be a diet fad with limited appeal.
IF is not a gimmick. There’s nothing to buy. There’s nothing to subscribe to. IF comes down to the time you give it.
IF means you practice a controlled cycle of eating and fasting. In this regard, IF is an actual diet (what, when, and how much one eats as a matter of habit) and not “diet” as in Weight Watchers, the Carnivore Diet, Keto Diet, etc. In other words, IF is a habitual diet method of eating and fasting. Nothing to buy, nothing to sign up to, no beliefs to adopt. IF works with the body’s natural process of cellular reduction and elimination, i.e. Autophagy (simple definition and extended definition). Human evolution gave us this lovely process of natural fat storage (for the lean times, when food is scarce) and elimination (when cells are damaged or fat needs to be burned for fuel) but our modern processed and glucose-enriched foods have all but drowned out or blocked the autophagy process. IF allows you to access the autophagic processes.
[Real Talk: Weight loss benefits aside, the biggest advantage to practicing IF is the AUTOPHAGY process. Autophagy is your body’s real “detox” process that cannot be manufactured and distributed in pill form. Autophagy cannot take place when glucose is present in the body. Autophagy cleans out fat-burdened cells, and more importantly, DAMAGED CELLS. The more damaged cells that are allowed to cluster and “hangout” in the body greatly increases the risk of disease. The top two diseases in the US are 1. Heart Disease and 2. Cancer.]
IF is typically managed in a 24-hour protocol. Some people extend beyond the 24-hour cycle and work within a 36 to 72-hour cycle, but it’s not common and definitely NOT for beginners. This blog will reference a 24-hour intermittent fasting protocol.
Also, this IF experience will be from the perspective of someone who is Hypothyroid (HT). The HT aspect in particular is driving this blog more than anything else as IF can quickly be looked into online. When I first started practicing IF, I got the basics easily enough but what I couldn’t find was IF effectiveness and persons with HT. I found some articles on IF and persons with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and successes were noted. PCOS reeks similar symptomatic havoc as HT (quick weight gain, slow weight loss, digestive issues, etc.) but nothing specific to IF effectiveness while being HT. This blog then, if anything, is an obligation for anyone with HT looking into IF for possible assistance.
BASIC INTERMITTENT FASTING STRUCTURE
16:8 (16 hrs fasting, 8 hr eating window)
17:7 (17 hrs fasting, 7 hr eating window)
18:6 (18 hrs fasting, 6 hr eating window)
19:5 (19 hrs fasting, 5 hr eating window)
20:4 (20 hrs fasting, 4 hr eating window)
OMAD “one meal a day” (within a 24-hour cycle)
- 16-hour fasts are considered the minimum. This is based on the fact that most bodies take 12-hours to complete the metabolic process from whenever it is you last ate. If the last thing you ate was a sandwich at 7pm, it is estimated the metabolic process for that sandwich won’t be complete until 7am the next day. In other words, glucose is still present in the bloodstream within 12 hours from your last meal, and fat burning won’t take place when glucose is still present. The additional 4-hours is considered the basic starter for triggering and benefitting from fasting. The longer, the better.
- The fasting hours must be CONSECUTIVE. There are people who think they are fasting so long as they complete 16, 18, 20 hours here and there, and that it doesn’t matter if the hours are back to back. That’s just regular eating, then. Reread point 1. Fat burning CANNOT take place if glucose is still present in the bloodstream. Again, it takes an average of 12 CONSECUTIVE hours to complete the metabolic process from the last meal and the additional 4 hours of real fasting is barely enough to reap benefits. That’s why the 16:8 protocol is considered the bare minimum.
IF is not permission to eat however much you want when you’re in the eating window. You still need to understand how many calories you can eat to lose weight, maintain or gain weight. You still need to understand how many calories your body burns daily (use a TDEE calculator) and then subtract 500 calories to lose weight or eat the same amount to maintain. The point is, you must consume the right amount of calories during your eating window.
Consumables (during the fast)
— Water will be your best friend. I average nearly 4 liters during my fasting window with at least 1 liter that has 1/8 of an tspn of Himalayan salt for my electrolytes.
— Black coffee (unsweetened). Although this is increasingly contested as the scientific community will point out that while plain, black coffee has no calories, it does contain caffeine and caffeine triggers the metabolic process…then again so does standing in the sun for 5 minutes. The conclusion: an average cup of black coffee should be fine, just don’t drink cup after cup of it throughout your fasting window. Personally, I have one cup of black coffee first thing in the morning before I switch to water and I still see results so I’m sure a cup is fine.
— Tea (unsweetened). Same info as coffee.
— Herbal tea (no artificial flavors or sweeteners).
— Raw Apple Cider Vinegar or ACV. I talk more about this later but ACV is an amazing digestive supplement that reduces inflammation and reduces water weight. I take 2 tablespoons in the morning during my fasting window, and 2 tablespoons with dinner. Many report taking ACV to help with unexpected appetite.
— Mineral water (no artificial sweeteners, no artificial flavors).
— When in doubt – look it up.
MY INTERMITTENT FASTING EXPERIENCE
Here’s my deal, I got stuck at the 190s on the scale since my last check-in, November 2018 (via my Facebook):
No matter how cleanly I ate, or how little, or how much I exercised, I was seemingly stuck in the 190s. I had plateaued. Come New Years 2019, nothing changed. I started researching this fresh hell and came across insulin resistance, non-diabetic type. Because of my HT, I have a slew of chronological blood work I can access at any time. Sure enough, my glucose levels were always in the “slightly elevated” category. I recall my doctor telling me that the more weight I lost, the more that number would come down. The things is, it hadn’t. I had gone from 280 lbs (again, the HT weight I was trying to recover from) to 190 and my glucose levels were still a little high, never alarmingly high – just a little bit.
In the past, I always felt the most comfortable and energetic in the 160s, in my mind I had 25 lbs more to go. Damn it.
I got further into my understanding of insulin resistance (non-diabetic type – I can’t stress that enough) and intermittent fasting cropped up like a rash. I tumbled down the IF rabbit hole…and I’m so glad I did.
IF broke the plateau. The weight loss started slow and the more I learned about autophagy and glucose and HT combined, the more I learned to tweak my IF protocol. I’m still dialing it in but after 4 months there’s no denying, I’m doing something right.
IF Started: 2/25/19, 16:8 Protocol
Weight – 193 lbs
Hips – 41
Small Waist – 35
Under Bust – 36
Average gym attendance – 4x weekly
Average calories daily – 1700
First Check-in: 4/20/19, 16:8 Protocol
Weight – 190.4 lbs
Hips – 40.5
Small Waist – 34
Under Bust – 35
Okay, I’m not blown away. Since I’m not a newb to weight loss, I know inches lost is the first sign of REAL weight loss and not just water loss, so inches lost is something. But from what I’ve read about IF, people are talking about weight loss in the pounds by the week. Two things, people with HT have notoriously slow digestive systems and the odds of my holding onto excess waste are high. Autophagy is all about sloughing off the excess (damaged cells and fat stores are excreted from the body). I looked into it and found simple methods I could incorporate to increase the digestive function (see below). Second, I reasoned my 16:8 protocol wasn’t enough, not for someone who is insulin resistant.
Adjustments: 4/21/19, 18:6 Protocol
Average gym attendance – 4x weekly
Average calories daily – 1600
Digestive supplements adopted: raw Apple Cider Vinegar or ACV (taken during fast or eating window, there are benefits to both) and a digestive enzyme supplement (taken with meal)
Second Check-in: 5/25/19, 18:6 Protocol
Weight – 183 lbs
Hips – 40
Small Waist – 33
Under Bust – 34.5
7 lbs down in a month, now we’re cookin’. The old shin splints are back though and bad too. I’ve always been susceptible to them but it’s more wide spread now. I looked into it, apparently all-over muscle pain is common in people who practice IF as regular, non-caloric tap water is consumed during the fasting period creating common electrolyte deficiencies. Most tap water is stripped of all impurities and purities (natural minerals) creating space for electrolyte imbalances in the absence of eating and drinking whatever you want, whenever you want. Good news, that’s easily fixed (see below). Also, I decided to tweak my protocol again because I found 18:6 to be easy.
Adjustments: 4/22/19, 19:5 Protocol
Average gym attendance – 4x weekly
Average calories daily – 1500
— continued: ACV / digestive enzyme
— added (fasting window): 1/8 tspn Pink Himalayan Salt to 40 oz water (daily) and powdered magnesium taken with water every other evening before bed.
— added (eating window): Vitamin A, B-complex, E, and C (juice form only)
Third Check-in: 6/29/19, 19:5 Protocol
Weight – 177 lbs
Hips – 39
Small Waist – 32
Under Bust – 33.75
The overall muscle discomfort stopped immediately since incorporating natural electrolyte sources. My physical and mental energy is through the roof. I have so much more day-to-day freedom as I don’t have to plan my day around meals. Since I consume my daily calories in a 5-hour window my activities are not planned or centered around food. My time is freed up. My mind is freed up. My hair and nails are growing faster than they ever have, although I’m guessing that’s down to the large increase of vitamins, however, there are far-reaching processes of IF and autophagy so I can’t say that doesn’t play a part either. When you’re HT, hair and nails grow slowly. My typical hair growth is less than an inch a year. Since my last hair cut in February of this year, I’ve already grown out two inches.
My appetite is way down. In comparison to a standard low-calorie diet, I always felt hungry at the end of the day. Practicing IF, I’m strangely never hungry. I’m fuller, faster and can go for longer periods without food. That’s the difference between your body burning glucose and your body burning your stored fat. Glucose is short-burning fuel. Fat is fuel that burns longer.
Additionally, I exercise in a fasted state. Some people cannot handle that and exercise within their eating window. It depends on the individual. I feel great exercising while fasting so I see no reason to do otherwise.
Adjustments: 6/30/19, 20:4 sometimes 21:3 Protocol
Average gym attendance – 3x weekly (I combined 2 days into 1)
Average calories – varies, but rarely exceeds 1,400. The smaller the window, the less you eat. I feel fuller, faster.
TTD: Weight loss = 16 lbs / Inches lost (avg) = 2.7
- The first two weeks were a bit of a drudge. The body has to (ironically) get used to its own natural process of burning fat instead of the readily available glucose it got used to. This switch is not an instant process. The body is designed to burn its own fat stores but not when it’s been conditioned to live on refined carbs, sugars, etc. There’s an adjustment period, but it is temporary. When your physical energy starts to pick up and you begin to get fuller faster, you will know the switch has begun.
- Social constraints. I don’t practice IF from Saturday 1pm until Sunday 7pm. That 30-hour window is mine to do with as I like. I go out to dinner, I have snacks, and I eat pancakes nearly every Sunday morning. This open window works for me as these times are when I’m most likely to have social occasions that involve food. You have to figure out what works best for you. For me, I practice IF nearly 6 days a week, others 4 days a weeks, some practice IF 3 weeks and break for 1 week. The combinations are endless so long as your fasting hours are consecutive and a minimum of 16 hours. Exceptions: people who are blessed with naturally high metabolisms and/or are conditioned athletes, or are professional runners. Their bodies are likely already familiar with burning fat over glucose and while these folks would benefit from IF, they would, in all likelihood, need to “practice” IF less.
- When I do break my fast, I feel groggy and sluggish immediately afterwards. My body went from burning its own fuel to being invaded by glucose. It’s a very abrupt feeling.
IF is a win and unlike most fad and low-calorie diets, intermittent fasting is sustainable. I’m now reaching a point where a 20-hour fast is downright easy. I hardly think about food. Gone are the days of having to carefully calculate calories per meal to last throughout the day, starving by the time I get to bed. Many days have gone where I couldn’t reach my minimum caloric goals, I get so full so fast.
As a HT, I can tell you it’s a slower process. There are weeks where no progress was made, and then the next week I’m 3 lbs down. *shrugs* But I do know IF is working and it’s easy. Given all the benefits, there’s no reason not to keep at it.
There’s so much more to IF than what I’ve listed here; largely reduced discripters to an in-depth process. Please feel free to share your knowledge, your success, your questions. We learn by sharing.
I will check-in again with a part II to this blog around the holidays, this year. I can’t wait to see what else will be achieved.