We’ve been talking fitness and food a lot more around here lately, and I love the conversations we have about this important topic. The older I get, health and wellness have become increasingly important, and feeling strong and confident trumps looking ‘skinny’ any day!
I shared the Five Elements of My Fitness Routine last month, with Intermittent Fasting being a key component to my weight-management success. The response was incredible, and most of you either raved about your own experience with IF, or had a slew of questions about implementing it yourself.
Clearly this was a topic y’all wanted to expand, so I asked on Instagram and Facebook, and the questions came pouring in!! I condensed them to the most popular, and am doing my best to answer them today.
But let me preface by saying I’m not a doctor, nutritionist, fitness trainer, or any sort of expert in any health-related field. But I do know my own (over 40!) body, and this is what works for me right now. I encourage you to do your own research, and talk to your doctor before deciding if intermittent fasting is for you!
What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?
Intermittent Fasting is the practice of consuming all your daily calories in an 8-hour window, and fasting for the other 16 hours. The fasting period allows your body to go into full digestive rest, which helps with weight loss, reduced inflammation, improved digestion, reduced bloating, better sleep, and fewer sugar cravings.
Insulin levels are low when fasting, which causes our bodies to tap into fat stores for energy. This fuels fat loss, specifically in the abdomen and around major organs. Low insulin levels also improve mental clarity!
And finally, fasting promotes autophagy, the cellular self-cleaning process, which leads to increased longevity (slows aging), and prevention or delay of neurodegenerative diseases. After losing my dad to cancer and my grandmother to Alzheimers, can you see why I’m a fan of something that could possibly alter my genetic course?!
Did you work up to a 16/8 window, or go right at it?
I was all-in and started with a 16-hour fasting period, but did struggle a bit. I was hungry, sometimes light-headed, and even had some stomach discomfort for the first several days. (I’m sure my body had years of bad eating habits to work through!) I think I could have avoided that by starting with a smaller fasting window, like 10-12 hours, and working my way up.
Do you have to do the same 16/8 hour window every day?
No, that’s one of the things I like most about IF…it’s so flexible! My eating window is typically between noon-8pm, but fluctuates every day depending on what we’re doing. If we’re out late with friends, then my fasting window starts later (sometimes 10pm!). Or if we eat early, I’ll start my fasting window earlier (which means I get to eat earlier the next day!). What matters most is the window of time you’re fasting, now when it occurs.
Do you workout while fasting?
Yes! It’s actually best to workout during the fasting window because it forces your body to access fat stores for the energy. I never ate before working out, so this wasn’t a huge deal for me, but have learned it’s better for me to work out earlier in the morning. If I work out too close to the end of my fast, I have a hard time giving it my best effort.
Of course you can work out during your eating window, too, but science says it’s more effective in the fasted state. And while I see results from just IF, combining it with being active and working out has made me feel better and stronger than I did 20 years ago!
Fit Tip: Cute workout clothes are always a motivator, too! I love the soft fabrics and sporty styles from adidas, and their prices are always on point! These shorts are so lightweight, but still offer great built-in support, and this sleeveless hoodie is darling to throw on after a workout!
The adidas Ultraboost 19 are the comfiest athletic shoes I’ve tried in a long time. They have torsion spring, optimized boost, and primeknit 360 material (that hug your feet like a second skin). They have a sturdy structure that holds your foot firmly in place, perfect for sports that require a lot of jumping, and side-to side movements.
They’re also lightweight for running, and comfy for easy walks or just errands around town. They come in a slew of colors, but of course I had to have the new pink hue!
Fit Tip: They’re true to size, but if you’re in-between, I’d go down half.
What about coffee?!
Regardless of how good I feel practicing IF, I don’t think I could do anything that required giving up my morning coffee! Anything over 50 calories breaks the fast and kick-starts your digestion, so water, tea, and coffee are fine. It’s recommended to drink your coffee black, but that’s a no-go for me, so I add unsweetened almond milk and Stevia to mine.
Funny enough, I didn’t learn of this 50-calorie rule until earlier this year, so in the first 6-months of practicing IF, I continued to drink my morning coffee with a mountain of half-and-half and a heaping scoop of collagen (probably a 150-calorie coffee)! In my mind, I wasn’t eating, so I was still fasting! But I still saw positive changes and results, so that shows how impactful it is to eliminate after-dinner food.
At this point though, I’m most interested in the long-term effects of lowered insulin levels and cell rejuvenation, so I’m more motivated than ever to tap into the ‘unseen’ benefits of true fasting.
Is it something you do everyday? What about traveling and vacation?
I practice IF almost every day when we’re home, but the times are always fluctuating. That said, I don’t let it dictate my life. If my daughter makes me breakfast in bed, I’m not going to skip it because ‘mommy’s fasting.’ Same goes for travel…food is part of the experience for me, so IF becomes secondary. I consider this a lifestyle change, and some days I do better than others.
Did you lose weight?
I rarely step on a scale, so I’m not sure if the number changed, but I know my clothes fit better! And when paired with staying active, I have an overall feeling of wellness.
How do you get back on track if you have a late night out or ‘cheat’ the window?
My attitude about IF is the same as with food…there are no good and bad choices, only better and best. So while 16 hours of fasting is best for me, sometimes I can only manage 10 or 12. And that’s okay! This isn’t all or nothing, every good choice is a victory!
So to answer your question, I don’t consider anything a ‘cheat’, but rather I choose to eat at a certain time, or a certain food, and I enjoy the heck out of it! Then start again with my fasting window that night.
How do you wake up, work out, and go to work without eating a thing until noon?
When I stopped snacking completely after dinner, I realized I wasn’t near as hungry when I woke up! You know how you’re always starving after a big or late-night dinner? That goes away! I also have a cup of coffee with almond milk and a little collagen powder (more about that here) in the morning (under 50-calories!), so that usually sustains me.
If waiting until noon doesn’t jive with your schedule or work day, simply back it up a few hours by starting your fast earlier the night before. I also have gotten better at listening to my body, and if I’m feeling shaky or weak, then I eat! Again, the windows are a guideline for what’s ‘best,’ but that doesn’t mean you aren’t receiving benefits from a smaller window.
Do you stay within a calorie budget/count calories in your eating time frame?
Restriction diets paralyze me with what I ‘can and cant’ eat, and calorie-counting makes me obsess about food…neither of which is a healthy place for me. Limiting the hours I eat, rather than what I eat, has been liberating. And while I indulge in my share of tacos and chocolate, I find I make healthier food choices more often now, simply because I feel better!
I’m also better at listening to my body, and some days that means I’m eating almost non-stop during the 8 hours, and other days I only eat one or two meals.
How long did you IF before feeling/seeing a difference?
Once I got over the initial discomfort, I started seeing a difference in my stomach bloat, regularity, and better sleep within a couple of weeks. I’d advise giving it at least 30 days before deciding if it’s right for you. (And of course check with your doctor first! It’s not recommended for children, pregnant women, and people with certain health issues.)
What about it has been the biggest impact for you?
Besides feeling good overall, my stomach is much less bloated, I no longer get a mid-afternoon slump, and I sleep like a log! But also, IF has given me a better sense of freedom and healthier thoughts when it comes to food. It matters more when you eat than what you eat, so I worry less about what I ‘should’ and ‘shouldnt’ eat, and focus on what I enjoy and what makes me feel good.
How do I start?
Just start! Pick a time tonight after dinner, and stop eating (water, tea, and coffee are okay). I didn’t realize how much after-dinner snacking I did until starting IF. But even healthy snacks keep your digestion burning, so simply eliminating that made a huge difference for me! Try 8 or 10 hours tonight, then work your way up. Take a day off if you need it. Again, find the way that’s right for you, and know that every step is a victory!
After almost a year of practicing IF fairly consistently, it’s made the single biggest impact I’ve seen in controlling my weight, especially around my mid-section. Even more than calorie restriction or working out. My fitness and wellness is always a work in progress, but I feel strong and confident in my body, and that’s as much to do with maturity as it is knowing I’m taking care of myself.
Heather on Facebook expressed it so well, “I’ve been following the 16/8 rule since your first post. I feel 1000x better! I’m someone that has had stomach problems all of my life and this has helped me immensely! No more stomach pain, bloating, etc. The first 2 weeks were hard but after that, my body got used to it.”
I still have so much to learn, and am motivated to dig a little deeper in to this new-to-me concept. Have you tried Intermittent Fasting? Did I answer all your questions, or are you still wondering?
Shop my activewear looks below, and find more sporty styles and a huge range of sizes at adidas.
[My Cute & Sporty Workout Wear]
*Photos by the darling and talented Audrie Dollins. This post is created in collaboration with adidas and ShopStyle, but all product selections, styles and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting Hi Sugarplum sponsors!*