Eating for only 2-hours a day for 5.5 weeks
As an evidence-based PT and transformation specialist, I won’t recommend anything to my clients that doesn’t have a firm rooting in scientific theory. More than that, if I haven’t lived through the process, then I won’t recommend it. This means that I am always reading new scientific literature and using my own body as a ‘guinea pig’ to test out the most up-to-date theories.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a technique I have spent a lot of time researching, trialing different variations on myself, and have seen amazing results with my clients (though I cannot stress how much there is a correct and an incorrect way to ‘do’ IF, and that this way varies enormously from person to person!).
IF has been an integral part of my life for many years now, but I have generally stuck to a 8:16 hour windows of eating:fasting. I recently read some interesting studies on the health and wellness benefits (detailing the fat loss and brain optimisation benefits) of longer fasting windows, and wanted to test these out on myself.
Specifically, I implemented a 2:22 eating:fasting ratio. i.e., I was eating all of my food in one 2-hour window each day. I was specifically interested in how this would affect my body fat percentage and my body weight training performance. I didn’t gear my approach to testing the brain optimisation claims.
Here are the simple guidelines I followed:
1. Only train fasted (towards the end of my fasting window). The theory being that I’m enhancing the fat loss benefits of my fast.
2. Only eat once I’ve trained. An implication of the above – i.e., a way to ensure I always trained fasted, but it also became an incentive for me and pushed me through my workouts.
3. Only use body weight training. Since I specifically wanted to improve my body weight movements, I decided to focus on that…similarly, if you want to be a better swimmer, then you have to get into the pool and actually swim!
4. Only eat for 2-hours a day. Altering the warrior diet (eating for a 4-hour period and fasting for 20-hours), which I’d done previously but decided to turn it up a notch to see what happens.
5. No counting macros or calories. My understanding and application of nutrition is generally on-point, so I didn’t need to add any more pressure here.
6. Optimise quality and quantity of protein intake. I didn’t count my protein intake, but I ensured high quality and a generous quantity of protein in my meals.
7. Eat consciously. Carbs and fats were both on the menu, but I ate until I was satisfied and not stuffed.
8. Only drink water and black/white (small amount of milk) coffee during my fasting window.
These simple guidelines allowed me the freedom to eat without restriction or too many requirements during my 2-hour window, and made the whole experience a lot easier. Having used IF for years, my mindset wasn’t set to eat everything and anything in sight when breaking the fast, which some people experience during the early days of fasting. I simply ate the food I enjoy until I was satisfied.
My performance dropped at the beginning of the programme as my body adapted to fasted training, however, I significantly improved my maximum chin-ups by a score of 8.
Once my energy and performance levels balanced out I did feel a great difference in my skill work. I saw a huge improvement in my handstands and handstands walks which I believe is the result of being both lighter and the consistent practice.
For this experiment, I only used normal bathroom scales and photos to track my progress. I lost 10lbs (4.54 kgs) in 5 1/2 weeks, but my body composition definitely improved.
Even though this programme was set-up to require minimal effort, challenges remained.
My main battles came later in the programme as the 4th week approached. I simply felt like I couldn’t eat enough during my feeding window which then starting to weigh on my mental game. I’ve always enjoyed being “big and strong” but I started to feel as though I was losing too much size and, as the great British summer and the associated social calendar ramped-up, I began to also resent the impact the short eating window had on my social calendar.
Water and iced coffees helped keep hunger at bay, but as it got hotter, my appetite reduced, which meant it was extremely tough to get enough calories post-workout. On other days, I had to fit in a workout a few hours before social commitments, which made it tough not to eat.
As with all programmes there are times where you simply unable to follow along. There were 4 events where I had to increase my eating as I had double booked myself with different social commitments where a few beers during my eating window turned into a few more once it had closed. However once these instances were over normal practice was resumed.
Fasting as a whole is amazing and the results speak for themselves but this length/type of fasting is definitely not for a beginner or someone who can just about cope with 12:12 or 14:10. Some days I found myself drinking more coffee than usual (its a great hunger suppressant) which I’m fortunate enough to be able to handle as caffeine doesn’t affect me like it does some. Would I recommend this to a client? Probably not as I feel like all this method did was decrease the weeks needed to see results which could set them up to fail very much like a crash diet does to those before their summer vacation. I would however like to draw attention to the overall results and I believe that fasting for less overall (daily or weekly) over a longer period of time could yield the same results (and not to mentioned better mental strength and understanding of themselves).
My next experiment
After a weekend off, I’ll begin to try and improve my size while maintaining my leanness and performance. To do this, I’ll increase my eating window to 4-hours daily and bring in some resistance work to compliment the body weight training.
Speak soon, JC.
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