About a year ago, I reported that I was experimenting with the Leangains 16 hour intermittent fasting method. I wasn’t strict with it. I did it about 3 days a week. From the post Intermittent Fasting – The 16/8 Update:
Personally I like this intermittent fasting method better. It just seems more natural. I’m also gaining even more discipline over hunger. Being able to decline poor food choices when hungry is now something I’m very comfortable doing. I wish I could say I notice the results better than the other method, but it is still too soon to tell.
As the days got longer and my activity increased, I backed off from the Intermittent Fasting. My intention was to return to this method and follow the protocol on a daily basis (as required) in the dead of winter. So unlike my initial review, this time I did daily 16 hour fasts and I supplemented with BCAAs prior per the Leangains guide.
Photo by Eva the Weaver
The First Week Can Be Tough
The hardest part of this diet is the first 7 days. It is in this period that you are retraining your hunger signal. Can you really retrain your hunger hormone? Yes. Leangains posted the article Ghrelin and Entrainment which explains how it happens. The take away lesson here is to expect to be hungry during that first week. The best way to deal with hunger is to be active. Move. Your brain thinks food is scarce and is warning you to get out of the cave or you’ll starve.
Month One Went Perfect
The first month was amazing. I got leaner. For the first time in my life, I saw the very faint beginnings of lower ab definition. After the initial week, it just seemed effortless. One of the problems I had with my initial introduction to fasted training was that I had lost strength and muscle. Not this time. Well, not in the first month.
Problems in Month Two
Progress slowed and eventually stopped and reversed in the 2nd month. I was strict with the diet, but I noticed some side effects.
- When I eventually did eat at 2 PM, I got majorly tired. This never happened to me in my prior IF experiences. I sort of solved this problem, by moving my last espresso to after the 2 PM meal and drinking tea in the afternoon.
- The second problem I experienced was I frequently felt cold, especially in my fingers. I have experience with cold weather exposure, so the fact my body wasn’t throwing off heat like before was concerning. This month was the first month in 3 years where the cold was bothering me.
- Muscle loss. The BCAA appeared to stop working. This one really bothers me.
- Lowered Immune System. Although I fought off a cold in late January, one nailed me in February. I’m very in tune with how my body responds to viral threats and during this month that response was sluggish.
When I do these N=1 experiments, I do my very best to isolate variables so I can learn what works for my body and what doesn’t. My diet, sleep and exercise did not change at all during this test.
Going Forward into Month Three
I went back and read the Guide again to see if I screwed up somewhere. I think I’ve been strict. My diet is clean. I’m sleeping 8 hours a night in a dark room. I don’t keep food journals, but I have posted the foods I eat. Instead of ending the Leangains program, I’m making a few changes.
- I lift weights once every 5 to 7 days in the morning. On this day, I will not do a 16 hour fast. I will start eating the moment I get home from the gym. I’ll still take BCAA before going to the gym.
- Since I just started 30 Days Without Sugar or Fruit, I need to up my carbs from glucose sources, such as sweet potatoes.
- More protein. I’m eating like caveman already, so I don’t know how much will help.
I was planning to end this experiment on March 22nd, but I’m probably going to continue through April. If I continue to lose muscle, I’ll end it. Hopefully, I can solve the Month Two problems. If you have any ideas, please add them in the comments.