“You can fire up your metabolism with Intermittent Fasting”
I saw this from a fitness expert I follow…
He’s a fitness trainer. Athletic type. Until I saw him say it, I didn’t know that intermittent fasting could affect metabolism.
He wrote about his workout routines on his blog. And he wasn’t spending hours at the gym. But he was intermittent fasting a few times a week. And getting RESULTS.
Wow, I thought.
Fitness types usually recommend calorie restriction. But he was getting even better results specifically with intermittent fasting. That’s when I realized: Maybe I’d approached my fitness goals backwards?
I knew about being mindful of the types of foods I ate. And I did that (despite my sweet tooth). One thing I hadn’t thought of: Limiting WHEN I ate. So I decided to give it a shot.
I’ve lost 12 lbs in under five months by taking up intermittent fasting.
Yes, I’ve still been exercising and eating healthy. Intermittent fasting isn’t a magic pill.
It hasn’t been easy. I’ve experienced everything you might expect feeling when going several hours a day without food.
But there’s a few things I’ve learned along the way to manage these challenges. In fact, I wish I’d know them before I started. Some you may find more helpful than others. Or none at all.
But they’ve helped me, so I wanted to share with you:
Hunger Is Your Friend
Going hungry stinks. That’s why I didn’t want to try intermittent fasting at first. When I’m hungry, I get grumpy. I get hangry.
I’m not a fun person to be around when that happens. That’s why mindset is important: I realized my typical reaction to hunger just needed a mental reframe.
Yes, hunger is a real. Your body needs food. Your gut sends signals to your brain. Your brain starts agitating you to act and get food. But once I realized I could choose to intercept this, I only needed to do a couple of things differently.
I could choose to:
- Take action to curb appetite.
- Rewire my mindset.
More below on the first, so I’ll talk about rewiring mindset next.
Usually, my typical mental reaction to being hungry would go like this: Blood sugar crash. Mood slumps. Me: “Oh my gosh! I need to get a snack!.”
I would dash straight to the kitchen and get a quick bite (usually something unhealthy). But when I took up intermittent fasting, I’d have to change my mental response to the hunger and stop doing this.
Rather than taking a reactive approach, I realized I’d have to take a new method.
- Recognizing when I’m hungry
- Observing the feeling
- Letting the hunger feeling pass
- Staying in the present moment
Once I made these changes I saw things differently. Suddenly my empty stomach had a purpose. It wasn’t just unnecessary self-inflicted suffering.
The mindset shift was key. It enabled me to reframe negativity, observe the hunger, and complete the fast.
To curb the hunger pains even more, I also adopted an unusual strategy…
Pickles: My Secret “Weapon”
A friend suggested this to me. Naturally, I was suspicious. But then I read an interview with Jimmy Kimmel where he talked about eating pickles while fasting…
So I tried it out. Turns out it really helped!
It really takes the edge off. Especially on the final stretch of a fast. When the going gets tough, and I feel more tempted to have a snack. That’s the perfect time to pop a pickle.
Now, I don’t eat any pickles. I make my pickle choices carefully. Because there’s some out there that are loaded with sugar. That’s not going to be helpful.
If you are taking up intermittent fasting in order to lose weight or get in shape, the last thing you want to be doing is eating something with a bunch of sugar. Don’t do that. Do this instead:
Read those labels when picking out your favorite pickles to snack on. At first their sweet deliciousness will taste odd on an empty stomach. That’s why I eat two or three at a time: that’s usually enough to zero out the hunger pains.
And remember this: the goal of intermittent fasting is to help you achieve your health goals. The goal is NOT to make life miserable.
And that takes me to my next topic (and why if you fast to your breaking point you’ll fail):
Starvation Is NOT The Goal
Yes you will go hungry with intermittent fasting. You will have period of not eating like you are used to. But the GOAL is NOT that you will starve.
Because you still need to make sure you’re getting the right amount and right type of calories for your health goals. For example:
If your goal is to lose weight, you might be limiting calories.
If you’re on keto, you’re going to be eating certain types of food and avoiding others.
Or, if you’re trying to bulk up, you might be fasting for a period and then eating a bunch of steak when you can eat so you can bulk up.
No matter what your strategy is, the goal is not that you are starving yourself.
In fact, intermittent fasting is the opposite of starvation. Because you are still going to eat. Only, you’re going to eat your calories in a more condensed period of time. But the times while you are waiting to get to your eating hours is going to be tough.
That’s why I use a couple more couple more methods for managing my hunger when my willpower wanes.
And that’s what I talk about next.
Intermittent Fasting Plus Deep Breathing Equals ZEN
I had a weird experience when I first tried intermittent fasting. After my blood sugar would crash, I’d start to feel more nervous than usual.
I’d get jittery and felt nervous. And then I remembered a trick from Yoga.
It’s called Ujjayi breathing. In my experience it works really well. Essentially you take in really deep breaths through your nose and exhale using your throat (while making a noise with your vocal chords). It’s especially great if you have some privacy. Because if you do it correctly you’ll make a lot of noise.
If you don’t have privacy, I have a slight modification to it that I find helpful. It goes like this:
Don’t worry about the tightening the vocal cords that is recommended with Ujjayi breathing. Rather than that, always take the deepest breath in through the nose, and then exhale through the mouth.
And when you exhale, make sure your exhale breath is bigger and lasts longer than your inhale breath. After five or six rounds of deep breaths where my out breath exceeds my in breath in volume, I start to feel a sense of calm and presence that I don’t find anywhere else.
Plus I’ve found that doing this while fasting really increases the Zen feeling.
I’m not sure. But it works for me. Maybe for you too? Especially if you’re not a coffee drinker.
If you are a coffee drinker, then I’ve got good news for you. Keep reading.
It’ll Still Ok To Drink Coffee
This was a big one for me. I’m a coffee addict. I usually have three or four cups in the morning. Plus one more in the afternoon.
I know that’s a lot. Critics might think it’s unhealthy. But that’s a topic for another day. For intermittent fasting though, being able to drink coffee’s a critical part of my success.
At first I didn’t know if drinking coffee would be ok.
But it is for several reasons (which you must stick to): It can be low calorie (skip the sugar and added junk), it doesn’t have anything that would adversely affect the goal of intermittent fasting (i.e. limiting caloric intake)
This is the key part. You can’t get your favorite sugar laden giant frozen coffee drink (basically a milkshake) from your favorite coffee shop. If you do buy your coffee, best to stick with black coffee, iced coffee, espresso hot or on ice, with no sugar added.
Because like pickles, coffee curbs both appetite and hunger cravings. When I’d crash and start to feel sleeping is when I’d want to give in to the hunger, and break the fast.
If you do consume a lot of coffee like I do, stay hydrated. Nothing is going to zap your energy more than being dehydrated.
Since coffee is a diuretic, if you’re fasting AND not consuming water, there’s a good chance you’re going to feel terrible pretty quickly.
So drink lots of water to stay hydrated and drink lots of coffee to keep your brain awake.
…so there you have it. 5 Things to Know BEFORE Trying Intermittent Fasting.
- Hunger is Your Friend
- Pickles Are a Secret Weapon
- Starvation is Not The Goal
- Intermittent Fasting Plus Deep Breathing Equals Zen
- It’s Ok Still to Drink Coffee and Water
Stick to these tips when starting intermittent fasting for the first time, and you’ll set yourself up to succeed.
You’re not going to reach your weight goals instantly, but with these ideas, it’ll be a smoother experience.
If you want to go even more intense, see my Dry Fasting Tips