Here my first experience with the LeanGains style intermittent fasting (“IF”) protocol that I have been following since Monday.
Now if you are interested in weight-loss – I don’t know. I would be too early to tell in any case, as the amount fat lost in the first few days of a new diet is generally obscured by other, less permanent changes such as loss of water, and loss of glycogen stores, and I am targeting a cool 1kg/week. I any case, I yet have to buy new batteries for my scales – I have one of those fancy Tanita thingies you see above that allow to measure body fat as well, except that without batteries they dont measure anything of course.
So what I want to discuss here is more how the diet feels – especially when compared to first a normal calorie restricted, and then a Zone calorie restricted diet which where the one’s that I initially did. Of course that is a pure n=1 description, but I suppose at least some people can relate to it.
I used to be one of the “lucky” fatties I suppose in the sense that it seems that me being overweight was not caused by some fundamental organic disfunction, but rather by a slightly unhealthy relationship to food. What I mean is that (a) I like the hedonistic aspects of it, and there is really not much I don’t like – just some things more and some things less. And in the “more” category are those things like cheese… I am also a stress-eater and a break-eater – so when I am working a lot, I tend to eat when I have a break (at one point I worked in an office with an embedded Starbucks franchise literally 1min away from my desk – one muffin a day minimum, go figure) or when I get home and I haven’t eaten all day then I might start healthy with a soup, but of course this is not enough so I’d add some […fill in here…] and I would eat too much. Trying to control it is difficult, especially as I have the mindset that “just a bit more” can’t be so bad – but as my maths prof at university said so well, a lot of epsilon’s (ie very small numbers) added together become a big number as well. Or “Kleinvieh macht auch Mist” as they say in Germany.
Apologies for the long introduction, but it is actually relevant. The thing is – in order to not overeat I need a somewhat rigid system. When I was losing the majority of my weight I was essentially food-logging: I used the MyNetDiary app on the iPad / iPhone / computer, and logged every piece I had eaten, and made sure that (a) calories and (b) macronutrient ratios where within the set bounds. I did this pre- and post discovery of the Zone in fact, except that the ratios changed, albeit by not too much. This system is rigid: I use up my budget, I stop. So no nibbling with yet another piece of cheese and stuff. The issue is: it is somewhat painful. Yes, you get a feel for portion sizes and I was generally not weighing stuff (I did weigh initially until I got a feel for it) but still.
Now I am finally getting to the point: IF’ing LeanGains style is easy: From 2000 to 1200 you do not eat. That’s it. No weighing, no uncertainty, nothing. From 1200 to 2000 you do eat of course, and if you are targeting calories and ratios can still is the same amount of work. Except it isnt: the meals are bigger – you’ll have two, maximum three, so both meal design and meal logging has just become much easier than having to plan 5 small meals per day. In fact – I am not currently logging at all. From my feeling at least I am eating little enough (…the scales will tell…) and between 1200-2000 I am full and eating more would be an effort, but more on this in the next section.
Satiety and Hedonistic Aspects
Am I hungry on this diet? Yes. Does it matter? No. Funny thing is – I actually quite enjoy being hungry from time to time, this is feeling good and natural. It does make sense: in a world without fridges and food cupboards being hungry is a completely normal state: it is my body telling me that now might be a good time to go and hunt some food or pick some berries. It is not a signal saying that “if I dont get a Snickers in the next five minutes I’ll be dead”. I think it is also quite telling that many religions – including Christianity and Islam – incorporate a fasting requirement. Now they claim it is spiritual, but maybe it is also just a good idea in a agricultural society where access to food is a bit more ad libitum than prior to that.
So yes, I am hungry, but not overwhelmingly so. And given that I know that there will be food not too far in the future this is absolutely alright. The funny thing is: I am probably the most hungry (in a more psychological than physical sense) just before I do to sleep, maybe call it 2200. This in my view can be safely ignored – just the body (or the mind?) whinging that there was so much nice food from 1200-2000, so how come there isnt any now? Yesterday was particularly bad in fact, and this might have had some grounding in reality though. I believe I did not eat enough before the 2000 cut-off as I did not have the time.
This leads me to the other big topic: satiety and eating enough (or too much). The beauty of the 8-hour eating window is that it is short, but not too short. If you are halfway reasonable – and dont stuff your face from 1200-1215 with all you can find – than you will feel full very quickly, and in fact eating all that you should eat is almost a challenge. This is why I haven’t been measuring: I am under the impression – rightly or wrongly – that IF with Martin’s well-chosen feeding window regulates the food intake very well. To be seen.
To conclude here: the feeding period feels good as well. I can eat nice stuff, and I can eat as much of it as I want (provided I dont want too much of course – but as I had pointed out, I am feeling rather stuffed, and I dont think I go over 2000 cals a day)
This is where it gets a bit murky. I certainly felt that in my recent workouts I did not do as well as I should have done, and this could be because I did them in (at the end of) the fasting period. Now my recent work-outs have been a bit one-sided – loads of kettlebell stuff with back, posterior chain and shoulder involvement – so maybe it was just lack of recovery, who knows. So this is something to be monitored.
So far so good. I am actually quite pleased, but of course 4 days is not that much….