Earlier this week I outlined my need to fast on two fronts. In summary, I feel that my evenings are the weak link in the chain of my life that bad habits tend to creep in on; it’s when whatever plans I had in the morning become derailed in lieu of consuming poor nutrition and over-stimulating media, resulting in poor sleep. All of this has a knock-on effect all about my life, but it’s mainly felt when I train. This post is about the first front of these fasts; the dietary one, in order to get a good handle on my nutrition.
I’m actually pretty accustomed to fasting these days. I started in 2014/15 during my MRes year engaging in two 24-h fasts on Wednesdays and Sundays to deal with the poor eating habits I’d developed during the Autumn and Winter months. This worked nicely, but the habit was fairly fragile and I couldn’t maintain it after some disruption occurred. When I later adapted my training routine into a circuit, I was left with some free mornings and basically started using them to skip breakfast and enter an intermittent fasting routine on those days. Even now when I need to occasionally skip a meal unexpectedly, I can actually do so in relative comfort.
So my dietary fasting will be an intermittent one; since that’s what I’m most accustomed to. However, there need to be a few changes to ensure that I adapt and eliminate the risky evenings.
Intermittent Fasting (IF) is generally achieved by deliberately skipping a meal, or consuming your day’s calories only within a given window of time. Where I’ve read about it (mostly Nerd Fitness), people seem to generally skip breakfast, magically have a daily routine which includes the ability to train around late morning, and then break their fast. They’ll then eat their last meal of the day around 1900ish.
The general wisdom seems to be that you train in a fasted state, and then your calorie window begins. People are usually fasted for around 18 hours, including the 8 hours sleep they get and the time in the morning. Since I train in the morning, this will need to change. I’m unable to schedule training for mid-to-late morning, and unwilling to move it into the risky zone of my evening – that’s the point! So I’m adjusting the fasting practice to suit me.
If I train from 0500 – 0600(ish) and begin to consume my daily calories immediately after that, I will need to skip my evening meal in order to achieve the ‘window’ effect of eating and achieve a fasted state. Now, since I train before breakfast anyway I’m always mildly fasted but this will be a step up from that. I’m a little bit anxious, but I think since I’ve spent several years training before consuming any nutrition then this will just be the next level, and I’ll adapt. If we put 8 hours on the clock from 0600 then my window ends at around 1400, and I need to space my meals around that. It’s going to be a tad socially awkward, as I generally like to socialise with others over the midday meal. I’ll also fill up very quickly and possibly struggle to eat my ‘dinner’ ahead of the window. But I’ll experiment to see what works.
On the night before training, I’ll therefore be fasting from 1400 to 0600, which is a fast of… 16 hours! Mission achieved, theoretically. From the nutritional angle, I’ll be using this opportunity to jumpstart a practice I’ve wanted to start for a while: meal prepping, and eating more simple foods. I’ve always got a tonne of mixed views around Paleo and Keto (although of the two Paleo always appeals more than Keto) but I’d like to at least reduce my reliance on grains for my main meals.
Currently my two consistent meals are breakfast and lunch. Post training breakfast (which is the only time I HAVE breakfast) generally consists of between three and four fried eggs. Lunch, on the other hand, consists largely of a four-bean chilli that I’ve batch cooked in a slow cooker. Of these two, my lunch isn’t generally that ‘Paleo Friendly’ but it’s important to note that I’ve experimented with different forms of carbohydrates, and my body really only reacts negatively when there’s large quantities of grains such as bread and pasta. I react slightly better to rice, but I get very bloated around my gut and start storing surplus body fat a bit more. This generally doesn’t happen with beans for some reason, and I’m thankful for that.
The ‘extra’ meals I’ll be prepping will largely consist of things I’ve wanted to add back into my diet for a long time: organ meat and veggies. I’ll be producing some really simple dishes of fried vegetables and organ meats with a variety of spices in order to achieve this, and I’m really looking forward to it. I’m sure that, if nothing else, my body will really appreciate the extra green matter. I’ll be throwing in some sweet potatoes here and there but largely, it’s going to consist of veggies and some liver.
I’ll be taking a few exceptions to the days, generally where I intersect with rituals and companionship. Health isn’t just nutritional and training. Friday nights are ‘Curry Night’ with my partner, which contain rice and some sugars in the sauces, as well as naan breads. And Saturdays I tend to make sushi or an East Asian-inspired dish; again including plenty sugars and grains. I’m not going to force myself to deal with these until they actually present a problem, if they ever do. The point of this exercise is to eliminate unhealthy practices that I’m not happy with.
Anyway, I’ll write about how it goes later. I might actually take some quantified measurements!