Intermittent Fasting: An Origin Story

Intermittent fasting is taking the world by storm. As more research is done and as people become more willing to try unconventional methods of staying healthy, IF has gained quite the following. In the following post, I detail how I was introduced to intermittent fasting and how I began my IF journey.

Allow me to set the scene.


WHO: It all started with my brother, Chris Martin. No, he is not the lead singer of Coldplay but he is a rock star of health and fitness.

WHEN: During the final days of April 2016, as I prepared for finals week and graduation from the greatest university ever

WHERE: Lake Keowee in Seneca, South Carolina, as I prepared to scuba dive with my friend and former college roomie Julie

WHAT: A BRIEF PHONE CALL WITH CHRIS, ABOUT A RECENT SHIFT IN HIS DIET AND EXERCISE REGIME AND THE WILD SUCCESS HE HAD EXPERIENCED AS A RESULT


His overhaul began with a simple calculation of "maintenance calories", which he defined as a range of calories to consume based on his height, weight, age, and activity level. Each day he would plan out what he would eat to meet this amount, focusing first on achieving his protein and fiber needs. For the rest of the calories, he ate whatever he wanted. Seriously. Fries, bacon, dark chocolate, peanut butter, Ramen. You name it, he ate it. 

The results? He had lost 15 pounds of fat in 45 days. I was shocked. This is a quick amount of time to lose significant weight, and my brother was already super lean. He had also achieved personal bests in all his body-building exercises while going to the gym less. On top of it all, he said it was the easiest thing he'd ever done. "I've never felt so happy, fulfilled and in-tune with my body."

"How did you do it?", I asked incredulously. The last time I had talked to my brother, he was eating an immaculately boring diet of meat and veggies and going to the gym six days a week. "Eating clean" had provided minimal variety and relentless workouts had stagnated his muscle growth. So how had he been able to achieve his desired physique while eating "whatever he wanted" and cutting his weekly gym visits in half?

HIS ANSWER: INTERMITTENT FASTING

"What is that?" He launched into an explanation about a flexible dieting strategy that he had been researching and practicing for the past month and a half. He explained intermittent fasting to me in a way that I still find valuable to this day, especially for IF newcomers. 

"Think of it as a version of the way hunter-gatherers lived millions of years ago. They had to go days without food. If they were lucky, they found enough food to feed their community for a day or two, and then they were back on the hunt. The rest of their time was spent developing their culture, interacting with one another, and relocating their nomadic tribe. And during all of that, they were fasting. Intermittent Fasting is a method for mimicking this lifestyle in the modern world."


THE SCIENCE: 

Intermittent fasting is based on the fact that your body can be in one of two states: fasted or fed. The "fed" state refers to the state your body is in when you have recently had a meal. In the fed state, you have given your body food, which it converts to glucose (energy) to carry out tasks within the body. Any leftover glucose gets stored as glycogen in the liver. In a few hours, your body may need to tap into that glycogen source, converting it back to glucose, if it has more work to do and if you haven't eaten any food - meaning there is no glucose immediately available. Your body reaches a "fasted" state once these glycogen stores have been depleted, typically about 10-12 hours after you last had food. Once you have reached this point, the real fun begins.

THE HEALTH BENEFITS: 

  • Increased fat burn
  • Raised production of ketones
  • Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity
  • Decreased body fat and waist size, maintained muscle mass
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease

Learn more about the benefits that convinced me to give IF a try here

THE PRACTICE:

"Many people practice intermittent fasting without even knowing it. Someone who eats from 7am to 7pm is practicing IF because they have a 'fasting window' of 12 hours." There are many ways to practice IF, which is one of the great things about it - it is incredibly flexible and customizable. The most common practices involve a 'feeding window' of about 4-8 hours, scheduled towards the middle/end of the day. Below are additional ways to practice IF:

  • Fast-5. "Eat within 5 consecutive hours"
  • Lean Gains: A 16 hour fasting, 8 hour feeding method, popularized by Martin Berkhan and followed by many people (kara corey and many others)
  • Warrior Diet. One large meal a day, typically consumed in the afternoon/evening
  • 5:2 Diet. Five days of normal eating, 2 days of 500-600 calorie consumption
  • Master Cleanse. Anywhere from 2-30 consecutive days, only consuming a "cleansing solution" of lemon, syrup, and cayenne

GETTING STARTED: 

All it took was that phone conversation for me to be willing to try intermittent fasting. My brother shared the knowledge he had gained from experimenting on himself, addressed many of my questions, and shared some resources for me to learn more. He knew what he was doing and had the results to show for it. I tried it the very next day. 

1. Get advice from someone who has tried it. There are a handful of people on the Internet that accredit their success to IF. Connect with them on Instagram, Facebook, or YouTube for helpful tips.

2. Do your research. There are a ton of articles, interviews, and talks about the benefits of fasting intermittently; you just have to find them. 

3. Conduct a "study of one". Calculate your maintenance calories, try a few different fasting methods, and analyze how your body feels. 

February 1st, 2017 marks the 8-month anniversary of my IF journey, and I've loved every step of the way. Intermittent Fasting has enriched my life with positivity, flexibility, and vitality. With my IF blog posts, my goal is to enable others to achieve the same in their lives. Follow my journey and start your own today!