If you’re a reader of health and fitness trends it’s likely you’ve come across the term intermittent fasting (IF). I distinctly remember being told as a kid “if you skip meals, your body goes into ‘starvation mode’ and it’s actually harder for you to lose weight.” I believe an actual doctor told me that. Like with most of the diet and nutrition advice given out in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s, most of it has proven to be false.
As of writing this post, I am in the middle of a 24 hour fast. I’ve thought about it for awhile but was a bit intimidated when I’d hear a horror story of it going terribly wrong. So I did some digging. A lot of digging, actually. What I found is that the people who had terrible experiences, were probably, in most cases, doing it wrong.
Cons of Intermittent Fasting Through The Evolutionary Lens
People are quick to share stories of low-energy, fatigue, dizziness after a foray into intermittent fasting. However, think about early humans who had to hunt and gather for food, versus drive to a store or restaurant. They were certainly not consuming three meals a day. And if all those were indeed side-effects of intermittent fasting, you wouldn’t be alive to read this because the human race would be long gone.
My Experience With Intermittent Fasting
A friend turned me onto Dr. Jason Fung. He is to intermittent fasting what Andy Fish is to your golf game. I read both The Obesity Code and The Complete Guide to Fasting and they were both transformational.
I typically fast two to three times per week. Generally, it’s a 24 hour fast (from dinner to dinner) and occasionally slip in a 36 hour fast. I haven’t experienced any of the negative side-effects you tend to read about, but that was because I had already experienced many of them from poorly implementing a ketogenic diet (more to come next week).
To see how far I could push it, I have fasted for 36 hours on a day where I do three jiu-jitsu classes and play basketball for two hours and I did not notice any negative side effects.
3 Things To Do Before You Try Intermittent Fasting
I’ve talked to a few people about intermittent fasting, and here’s what I would recommend to have a good, safe and enjoyable experience:
- Do Your Research – This is supremely important, especially if you are diabetic (Having diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t intermittent fast, quite the opposite, the Intensive Dietary Management program has great success helping diabetics intermittent fast). I highly recommend checking out Dr. Fung’s work. If you’re not a book person, he also has a fair amount on YouTube.
- Have time in ketosis – A high fat, moderate protein, and low carb will make intermittent fasting very easy as you will no longer be subject to hunger spikes. When I say time, I don’t mean a few days. The “keto flu” should be a few weeks behind you.
- Stock up – Make sure you have green tea and coffee as they help suppress appetite. I’d also recommend a cup of bone broth with a fair amount of salt in it. When you’re on a ketogenic diet or intermittent fasting, salt is crucial to stave off fatigue.