Advanced Strategies: Intermittent Fasting
The past few blog posts here have been geared toward very practical nutrition that just about everyone can benefit from. They could be applied to anyone, regardless of how advanced their nutritional knowledge is. This post, however is for people who classify themselves as intermediate to advanced with nutritional knowledge.
If you rate yourself on a 1-10 scale (1 = eats candy for breakfast, 10 = grow your own kale and raise grass-fed cattle to slaughter and eat in your backyard) as a 7 or higher, this post is for you.
This post is going to breakdown one particular method of intermittent fasting (IMF). This form of caloric restriction has become very popular recently, and is something we are all fans of here at Compete. As a practice, IMF exists in many shapes and sizes. I have found a method that works for me, and that is the one I will outline in this post. Just know, it is not the only nutritional fasting protocol that exists.
First and foremost, I want to briefly discuss the proposed benefits of IMF.
Without getting too into the weeds with science, there are three main benefits of fasting that I particularly care about:
- Reduce risk of heart disease
- Considering heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, I am all for avoiding that.
- Reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease
- 6th leading cause of death in the United States, I also have a family history of it, and it seems like a particularly debilitating disease, so I am definitely all for avoiding that.
- Increase production of testosterone and HGH
- Because, obviously.
Even if fasting weekly only moves the needle a little bit in any of these categories, it is worth it. Because beyond the physical benefit, there are also amazing mental benefits, which I outline in this post.
These effects are not 100% scientifically proven, since nearly all research has been done in animal studies, and humans do not always follow the same patterns as monkeys or rats. However, it is safe to assume that at least some of these benefits translate to humans. And even if they don’t, it’s a gamble I am absolutely willing to take.
So here is the breakdown of what my fasting protocol looks like
Saturday Night (7:00PM) – This is my largest meal of the week. It is important to get some high quality fats in this meal (butter, avocado/guacamole, animal fats, etc) as this will help fuel the initial bout of your fast. Additionally, despite being a proponent of carb cycling on non-workout days, I like to use this as an exception and eat a type 2 carb during this meal. Sweet potato, quinoa, or beans are the carbs of choice.
As soon as this meal is finished, the fast is underway. Nothing besides water should be consumed for the remainder of the night.
Sunday Morning (7:00AM) – Thanks to a nice 8 hour sleep, I’m 12 hours deep in a fast by this point, and feel perfectly fine. I then make one of the following concoctions:
- 2 cups of coffee with 1 tbsp of coconut oil or grass-fed butter blended in
- 1-3 cups of black and/or green tea with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in each cup
The combination of healthy fats and caffeine will light your brain up like a Christmas tree. As you start moving into the latter parts of the fast, you will occasionally notice a slight mental fog. Of course, not wanting to sacrifice optimal performance, you need to find a way to feed your brain while keeping caloric intake super low. The medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) and omega-3 fatty acids in grass fed butter and coconut oil are devoured by your brain like a steak thrown to a pack of wolves.
Sunday Evening (3:00-7:00PM) – Depending on the day, my fast lasts from 20-24 hours. Some days I feel great and make it to 24 easily. Other days my performance is being hindered and I cut the fast down to 20 hours. At this point, I need to pay attention to what my body is telling me. Whenever I decide to end the fast, I make a meal that somewhat resembles this:
- 3-5 oz of lean meat or fish
- 1 cup of vegetables
It’s tempting to eat a huge meal here due to excessive hunger. Through trial and error I have found that eating a large meal post-fast will result in an assured stomach ache. It works best for me to eat a small meal and let my digestive system ease its way back into the process of breaking down food, instead of throwing massive quantities of food at it while it’s coming off a rest. Then 2-3 hours later I eat a full meal that looks like this:
- 6-8 oz of lean meat
- 1.5 cups of vegetables
- ½-1 cup of type 2 carbs (almost always a sweet potato)
And that’s it. It’s a fairly simple process. Once a week I don’t eat food. As opposed to other intermittent fasting methods where intake is restricted 2+ times per week, this method front-loads the process to one singular weekly fast.
Perhaps counterintuitively, I find my Sundays to be incredibly productive while I’m in a fasting state. I know mentally that if I sit on the couch and watch football I’m going to feel hungry, so I get myself up and accomplish tasks to get my mind off of food. Before I know it, 7:00 rolls around and I’ve put together a very productive day.