The first time I heard of intermittent fasting was late in 2012. A friend sent me a video for Herschel Walker, the former football player, and MMA fighter, saying he’s been eating only one meal a day for over twenty years. I was shocked, not because intermittent fasting was new to me, but because the man was a beast. A 225-pound lean machine on two feet. So, I began to dig deep into intermittent fasting and read/watch every study, book or video I can find about it, and I fell for it.
To be fair, I’ve never been a fan of the 5-meal regime that all personal trainers have been following back then, so it seems like I was meant to fast. However, as I began doing it — and saw many people fasting as well — I began to appreciate it for so many reasons far from the many health benefits it provides. I became a much better person both physically and mentally, and now I believe fasting is the healthiest choice I`ve made since I studied kinesiology.
So, I`ve been doing intermittent fasting for more than five years now — including one year of eating just one meal a day — and here are the top four benefits I gained:
Benefit #1: I became tougher ( way more than I ever expected)
I remember watching an interview with Roy Baumeister who wrote a bestseller on willpower and mental toughness. He mentioned a study in which participants who worked on their posture for a week noticed a spike in both their productivity and punctuality. Baumeister reasoned this to the fact that mental toughness has a rub-off effect. In other words, be disciplined in one area, and more will automatically come.
Fasting has done this to me. By refusing to eat outside my feeding window, I began to say no to temptations other than food. Things like waking up early, sticking to my schedule and becoming more committed to my financial goals became a lot easier, all because I taught my mind that waiting = rewards.
Benefit #2: My weight never spiked
The hardest thing about looking good isn’t to lose weight, but to keep off that weight you lost forever. Studies are supporting the claim that 80 percent, or more, of dieters, regain the weight in less than five years. Ryan Benson, for instance, who became America’s first Biggest Loser in 2005, regained 175 pounds after leaving the show, 25 pounds more than his starting weight.
Such setback happens when people start thinking “diet” instead of “lifestyle.” They have no post-weight-loss plan, so they get back to unhealthy eating after they drop the weight, and bam, they’re overweight again.
This. Doesn’t. Happen. With. Intermittent. Fasting.
Fasting, for me anyway, is the perfect lifestyle for weight loss and maintenance. The small eating window you set for yourself — be it eight or four hours a day — makes it hard to surpass your daily caloric needs.
Besides, fasting provides the best solution against insulin resistance. This is a serious health issue that faces almost one-third of adult Americans mostly because of eating frequently and eating lots of sugar. Your cells won’t respond appropriately to insulin causing the pancreas to secrete more insulin which leads eventually makes your blood sugar levels go up and metabolism to go down.
Fortunately, and because fasting makes you eat less frequently, you’ll be able to control blood insulin and makes it easy for your body to use fat as fuel for energy.
Benefit #3: I didn’t lose muscle despite traveling a lot
Eating less frequently often comes with muscle loss. Ask any bodybuilder or gym enthusiast, and they’ll tell you that losing their hard-earned muscle while shredding for competitions is among their biggest fears before stage day. Fortunately, they now have intermittent fasting.
I travel a lot, and because I’m always on the move, I don’t get enough time to eat five meals a day which suggests that I should be super skinny by now. But I’m not, and I still keep most of the muscle mass I gain in the gym, not because I have some unique genes but because fasting increases both Testosterone and Growth Hormone which helped me stay lean.
In one study, participants were asked to follow a 4-hour eating window while completing an 8-week weight training program. Their lean muscle mass was later measured, and though they didn’t gain as much as those who ate normally, this fasting group managed to maintain their lean body mass while boosting their physical strength at the same time.
Benefit #4: People think more of me
Ok. Time for some vanity.
I usually don’t go out telling people that I fast. But sometimes people ask when they notice you don’t eat everything they offer to you. So, I explain, and I often get that look of admiration on their face — especially new dates.
Don’t get me wrong. I do eat outdoors with friends. But once I finish my meal(s) for the day, I don’t eat a thing no matter how hard people often insist. They may not like it, but they admire that side of me.