And just like that, 3 weeks of intermittent fasting is over. In the last week, I changed the structure of my intermittent fasting a little bit. I followed a pre-made intermittent fasting plan that had a 12 pm – 8 pm eating window and planned meals and workouts. The workouts were more targeted for fat loss and not for muscle building (which were my goals with my previous workouts). Changing the workouts allowed me to aim for slightly lower calorie goals since losing fat requires fewer calories than gaining muscle.

Let’s review the entire three weeks, shall we?

 

How it Went:

Unfortunately, I did not enjoy the experience of intermittent fasting. I’m a lifelong breakfast eater – can’t even remember ever skipping one – so not eating until 10 am or noon (depending on my window) was pretty miserable. I was super hungry, weak-feeling, and tired in the mornings, and I noticed that I was more tired as the three weeks went on. I’m not sure if this was related to the eating schedule itself or not, because I also realized that throughout the three weeks I ate fewer vegetables than normal. This was sort of an interesting “side effect” of the eating schedule. Because I was trying to fit all my macros in a small window (and was full throughout most of that window), I ate vegetables less often because I didn’t have space for them! For the most part, vegetables have very few macronutrients (carbs, protein, or fat) and a lot of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). I often recommend clients increase vegetable intake to help with fullness without adding a lot of calories or macronutrients – the opposite happened here! I was so full throughout the eating window that I strayed away from veggies and towards things that were going to help me meet my macro goals. As a result, my vitamin and mineral intake was much lower than normal, and could definitely have caused my tiredness.

One positive change I noticed is that I liked not eating later in the evening. There are reasons to avoid eating close to bedtime, and having a set time that my eating window “closed” prevented me from going to bed on a stomach full of energy I didn’t need, as well as habitual (not hunger-driven) nighttime snacking and desserts. I usually felt pretty good in the evenings.

As a side note, I love to cook and eat food in general, but I tended not to look forward as much to eating because I was either hungry and waiting to eat or full and had to eat anyway. Eating this way was much less enjoyable and satisfying for me than intuitive eating on a schedule that works well for my body.

 

What I Learned:

While reviewing the research on intermittent fasting this week, I discovered that researchers have almost exclusively studied alternate day or 5:2 fasting protocols rather than the 16:8 protocol that I followed. If you’re confused about what those protocols mean, check out this post. I wish I would have read through more research before I started, because I might have followed those protocols instead just to match the research.

From a dietitian’s perspective, I learned that there are certain people with certain goals who are good candidates for intermittent fasting and for whom it might work wonderfully. In fact, throughout my time on this diet I met several people (or found out about people I already knew) who use intermittent fasting to regulate their intakes and benefit their health. I plan to summarize characteristics of those folks in an upcoming post! The research is clear that intermittent fasting is one way to achieve quite a few health goals (though there are other ways!). In my practice, I will keep intermittent fasting as another option in my dietitian “tool belt” to help create plans that best match each client’s personality, lifestyle, and goals.

 

How I did and What Changed:

Overall in 3 weeks, I lost 3.6 lbs, 1.75″ from my waist, 1″ from my thighs and 1.6% body fat. Not too shabby!

 

  Goal Week #1 Week #2
# of days 16-hour fast was achieved 7 6 7
Average daily protein intake 90 grams 85.4 grams 82.2 grams
Average daily carb intake 225 grams 209 grams 205 grams
Average daily fat intake 60 grams 73.2 grams 64 grams
Weight change   0 lbs -1.2 lbs
Body fat % change   -.5% -.5%
Waist measurement change   -1″ +.75″
Hip measurement change   0” 0”
Thigh measurement change   -1″ +.5″

 

The third week is on its own because when I changed my workouts, my calorie and macro needs changed. The meal plan I used that week must have been built on different macro targets than I had set, because I ended up higher on fat and lower on carbs and protein in general. I did the best at hitting my macro goals in the second half of week two, when I broke my needs down into a schedule with macro goals at each meal. It’s important to note here, though, that in the research studies, they often did not track macros or make sure that subjects were meeting their calculated macro needs. In fact, in many of the human studies, the subjects often did not end up meeting their calculated calorie needs.

  Goal Week #3
# of days 16-hour fast was achieved 7 6
Average daily protein intake 80 grams 66 grams
Average daily carb intake 200 grams 159 grams
Average daily fat intake 53 grams 71 grams
Weight change   -2.4 lbs
Body fat % change   -.6%
Waist measurement change   -1.5″
Hip measurement change   0”
Thigh measurement change   -.5″

How it Went:

I’ve still been so hungry in the mornings waiting to break my fast. This leads to crabbyness (the severity of which depends on who you ask…). Then, once I’m able to eat, I feel like I’m constantly eating to hit my macro goals. Eating when I’m not hungry leads to crabbyness. These are unfortunate happenings. During this week I missed my macros for a couple days and one morning hit a blood sugar low during my workout that forced me to realize I need more structure to get my macros in throughout the day. You can read about that here. After I created a more specific eating schedule, I was able to get my macros in a little easier, but I still felt hungry in the mornings and very full during my eating window. I haven’t really felt great at all since I started intermittent fasting.

On the flip side, my pants are definitely fitting better and I can tell that I’ve lost a bit from my waist overall. The measurements don’t reflect it this week because, unfortunately, this is the nasty week of water retention (or as my husband and I refer to it, the “natural disaster”). I expect that next week’s numbers will go back down again.

What I learned:

My fitness goal right now is primarily to gain strength and muscle and maintain cardiovascular fitness and flexibility. I’ve been using a heavy weight lifting routine (along with some moderate cardio and yoga) to achieve that goal for several months now. Lifting heavy and gaining muscle requires an increase in calorie intake to sustain muscle building and recovery, but I’ve found that I really can’t comfortably meet that goal in an intermittent fasting window. When I was eating normally, I didn’t have any trouble meeting that goal because I had more time to digest food before eating again.

I lamented about my struggles to my intermittent fasting coach friend Emily Arger, who offered to let me try her 7-Day Whittle Your Waist plan. The workouts included in her plan are designed to pair better with intermittent fasting than my heavy lifting plan, since I won’t need as many calories/macros. The main goal of the plan (as you might gather from the name), is fat loss. This is a shift from what my actual personal goals are, but I learned that heavy lifting/muscle gain is a very tricky thing to accomplish while intermittent fasting, at least for me. I started her new workout plan today, which includes 25-30-minute Tabata-style high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts. My cat was impressed…and possibly confused.

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How I did and what changed:

  Goal Week #1 Week #2
# of days 16-hour fast was achieved 7 6 7
Average daily protein intake 90 grams 85.4 grams 82.2 grams
Average daily carb intake 225 grams 209 grams 205 grams
Average daily fat intake 60 grams 73.2 grams 64 grams
Weight change   0 lbs -1.2 lbs
Body fat % change   -.5% -.5%%
Waist measurement change   -1″ +.75″
Hip measurement change   0” 0”
Thigh measurement change   -1″ +.5″

This week I’ve been really struggling to get my macronutrients (aka carbs, protein, and fat) in during my

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8-hour eating window. I’ve just been too stuffed near the end of my window to get them in. For the past couple of days, I’ve been under my macro goals and I am really starting to feel it the next morning. Today, my workout was a struggle. I hit the worst blood sugar low I’ve had yet during my fast this morning, and it was rough.

I always like to make eating plans as flexible as I can while still hitting goals, but it’s pretty clear that trying to hit my macro goals while intermittent fasting isn’t going to happen without a bit more structure. I sat down, created an eating schedule by dividing my eating window up and scheduling meals and snacks, and dividing my macro goals amongst them. My first breakfast on this plan: egg and veggie scramble with low fat sausage and salsa, a slice of whole wheat toast, and a homemade muffin.

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My macro goals for this meal: 55 grams carbohydrate, 20 grams protein, and 15 grams fat.

Actual intake from this meal: 55 grams carbohydrate (on the nose!), 25 grams protein, and 25 grams fat (I gotta work on getting this down…).

I am STUFFED. I’m used to eating a little bit less than this and spreading it out more throughout the day. At least I got in all the macros I needed to with this meal (and a little bit more). We’ll see how the next few days go with hitting macro goals. I’m hoping it will help with my hunger and low blood sugar in the mornings.