A little over four weeks ago the muslim world celebrated the end of the month of Ramadan with Eid ul Fitr. For those of you who were fasting in the UK, the fasting times were around 19hrs. That’s a long time to go without food or drink but congratulations to all who participated, it was hard, especially with it being in the summer and during the longest days of the year, but you did it.
In May I was finally settling into a routine and was able to manage my diet, I was just beginning to see results when the month of fasting quickly approached us, you know when it’s coming but still everytime it sneaks up on you quicker than you thought it would. Great, I said to myself, I’ve worked hard since last October maintaining a consistent routine of jogging 2-3 times per week and now I am going to have to stop running and stop ‘dieting’ and put everything on hold for a month, then start all over again once Ramadan had ended to build my cardio fitness back up.
I am guessing if you are reading this article, you likely weight train or Box, which means you had to scale back your training intensity in Ramadan or you took the month off and didn’t train at all. What happens after Ramadan though?
Not eating or drinking for 19hrs a day means you inevitably lost weight, more than likely your body composition changed for the worse too if you weren’t able to exercise. And then once you finished the month of fasting, you went back to eating normally and any weight you lost, quickly piled back on again, but not onto your back or shoulders, but straight to your waistline…
I started Ramadan weighing 13st 11lbs, by the time the month of fasting was over, my weight was down to 13st 2lbs. Within a week of going back to ‘normal’ eating, my weight had increased to 13st 6lbs, this was despite me returning to my running routine of 2 sessions per week, not to mention sparring twice per week so plenty of calories were being burned. This was not good, it takes time to settle back into a’diet’ after a month of fasting and if I wasn’t careful, I would soon be back to weighing 13st 11lbs except in this case my weight would be heading north and not south. Something had to be done.
I started controlling my diet and eating cleaner, but my sweet tooth was getting the better of me occasionally so the following week, despite mostly eating better, my weight was not budging. Then I had an idea, if I have only recently stopped fasting, why can’t I continue fasting to help regulate my weight? I was aware of a method of dieting named ‘Intermittent Fasting’ and some friends I know had successfully used this method to get into great shape in the past so I decided I would give it a try.
Fasting in some form or the other is nothing new, virtually every religion recommends fasting, but it has more benefits than those of the spiritual nature associated with the various religions who champion fasting as a form of worship and spiritual cleansing. It has been proved to provide a host of health benefits such as lowering blood pressure, reduced cholesterol and weight loss to name just three. And it is the last of these three I was most interested in, weight loss.
My goal with intermittent fasting was not to eat anything before 2pm. The common method for men is a 16hr fasting time, so you would be looking to have your last meal at 10pm. The hours can be changed to suit you, if you prefer 9pm to 1pm the next day that’s fine, as is 11pm to 3pm the next day, any combination works. For women the general advice is a 14hr fasting time.
Here though, I admit I wasn’t strict with the timings. It has been a little over two weeks since I have started intermittent fasting and in this period I have had my last meal at anything between 10pm and midnight. I have not however eaten once before 2pm, sometimes 3pm so in general my fasting times have ranged between 15 to 15 and a half hours, the odd one has been 16hrs+ or around 14 and a half hours.
What I have eaten? The staple of my diet has been chicken wraps, mackerel, eggs, fruit and nuts. Still in the habit of fasting I was eating plenty of dates too. Sounds boring doesn’t it? But I’ve recently discovered chocolate coconut macaroons so I’ve been having one or two of those on most days….oh yes and every couple of days I was having a curry. Even thrown in a few burger and chip nights over the course of the two weeks. Doesn’t sound very strict does it?
What about drinks? I pretty much avoided all fizzy drinks, in the month of fasting I was drinking water only, having only five hours to eat or drink I didn’t want to dehydrate myself further by having diet coke or even orange squash, it was only water. That habit carried over into intermittent fasting but a handful of times I have had squash or diet coke.
Was I having anything during the fasted hours? I was drinking plenty of water and I was having sugar free gum. Once I even treated myself to a can of sugar free boost, lucky me….
As for training, I have been going for two jogs during the week in the evening. These are steady state sessions lasting around 30mins. I also fit in one home workout which consists of a couple of hundred push ups with some light dumbbell work on shoulders and biceps, kettlebells are thrown in for some back work. Weekends is where it gets hard, two weight training sessions and at least two sparring sessions, sometimes three so there is a lot of calories being burned here which means I can be a little more relaxed with my diet. So that’s five days per week I am pretty active.
Now for the results. I weighed myself last night after 17 days of Intermittent Fasting and I was back down to 13st 2lbs. That’s a pleasing outcome considering you can see from above my dieting was pretty relaxed. I have no doubt had I been stricter with my food choices, I’d be at the very most 13st by now.
Now I am not saying you should follow my diet template, you will get better results by eating cleaner but it clearly shows in my experience, that you can afford to be flexible with your diet when fasting. It helps to show that you don’t have to beat yourself up if you suffer from a lapse of concentration or will power and eat something you shouldn’t. Also take into account I was active on at least five days every week. Two of those days I was really working out twice a day, weight training followed later by sparring, sometimes sparring two sessions a day. In a week I have having 7-8 work out sessions spread out over five days, this did afford me some leeway in what I could get away with eating.
Intermittent Fasting really is another great way to lose weight which provides many health benefits. It sounds harder than you think, but considering you are asleep for 6-8hrs of the fasted time, it’s not so trying when you also add in you can still drink water and have sugar free drinks/gum.
If you still unsure of intermittent fasting, just have a look at the many benefits it can provide to your health.
Improved Insulin Sensitivity (your body tolerates carbs better) decreasing your risk of type II diabetes
Improved immune system
Increased metabolic rate
Better brain function
Controlled eating patterns prevent binge eating (less time to eat means less calories)
Improved bowel function
Lower blood pressure
Slow the ageing process
Autophagy (fasting allows this to take place, this cannot happen if your body is having to break down the food you are eating. There are differing opinions when it starts, but commonly 12hrs after your last meal is quoted. Autophagy is a waste removal process by the body which provides protection against numerous diseases including cancer and Alzheimers. for more info on Autophagy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autophagy)
For those of who you weight train, fasting helps to increase the all important human growth hormone. This means more fat burning and more muscle gain for you!
I’m trying not to flood this article with too much science so if you want more information on the many health benefits of Intermittent Fasting, check out the links below.
So if you’ve just finished fasting last month and you want a seamless transition to get back into the swing of things, I would definitely recommend intermittent fasting for you. If you’ve never tried fasting before, then give it a go, you may be pleasantly surprised. There’s more than one way to do intermittent fasting, the link below provides just some of the forms you can try.
Ultimately there are many ways to skin a cat, the majority of ‘dieting’ methods do work if you only give it long enough to succeed. The trick however is not to view it as a quick fix but a lifestyle change. Find a form of dieting which suits your lifestyle and it will be much easier to stick to and in turn see the results you desire.