what i’ve learned from intermittent fasting

The Concrete Runner - Intermittent FastingI’ve been doing carb cycling + intermittent fasting for 3 months now and quite honestly, I don’t think I will ever go back to my old way of eating.  I mean, I didn’t really follow any particular “diet” before – I’m a vegetarian and would pretty much eat whatever I want.  I’m a BIG believer of intuitive eating after struggling for years with obsessive calorie counting and beating myself up over my weight and what I was eating.  Now, I pretty much know exactly how much my body needs without having to count calories.  Does that mean I never overeat?  Absolutely not.  But, I know that I can get back on track the next day.

Anyway… I’ve been following a 5-day carb cycling/intermittent fasting plan.  I have regular calorie days, low calorie days, feast/high calorie days, low carb days, and finally, a fast day.  While the book (The All Day Fat Burning Diet by Yuri Elkaim) calls for a 3-week cycle (at least to start with), I’ve used the past 3 months to really figure out what works best with MY personal training (with the help of Coach Jasmin’s carb cycling for runners program).  Sundays are typically my fasting day, which means I go 16-24 hours with only water + coffee.  Let’s just say, I stay VERY hydrated on these days.

Do I always make it that long?  Ha!  No.  In fact, the past few weeks, I have only gone about 16 hours, but you know what, that’s OK.  There are times where I have gone a full 24 hours and haven’t even realized it.  It usually depends on how busy I am that day, or whether or not we have something going on with family or friends during the day.  Sometimes those fasting days are easy, while others I feel like I won’t make it another minute without getting food into my body.  Take yesterday, for example.  I had 2 cups of coffee in the morning before church, a giant bottle of water with Nuun All Day, and by 3PM, I didn’t feel like I could make it another couple of hours without eating something.  So I did.  I had something small to eat (some pretzels and string cheese – and maybe a handful of chocolate covered raisins) and then didn’t eat again until dinner time.

And that’s the thing.  Fasting has COMPLETELY changed my mindset about food.  I used to think about food CONSTANTLY, as I’m sure every runner (or not runner) can relate.  After finishing a meal, I would be thinking about my next meal and how long it was until I was able to eat again.  Fasting has helped me get beyond that mindset.  I’m no longer thinking about food constantly and I can eat something small and not continue to feel famished.  Had I missed a meal or even a snack prior to starting this way of eating, I would’ve gorged myself and then wallowed in my misery.

I have also noticed a HUGE difference in my hypoglycemic reaction – otherwise known as my “hAnger”.  I won’t say that the hangry-ness has gone away completely, but I don’t feel that way nearly as often as I used to.  It used to be every 3 hours if I didn’t eat something, I was going to pass out and I was just NOT a pleasant person to be around.  Now, I frequently go more than 3 hours between meals, sometimes even totally forgetting to eat my afternoon snack.

Do I do a day of complete fasting every week?  No.  There are just some weeks where it’s harder to do than others because of what our schedule looks like (or depending on where my long run falls).  But, I pretty much always have at least 2 days where I go longer before my first meal of the day.  These days ALWAYS fall on a rest or recovery day since fueling my runs is ALWAYS my priority.

I’ve now started teaching this way of eating to the runners I am coaching.  We are still VERY early on in the process, but I am interested to see how they feel after beginning to eat this way on a consistent and regular basis.  If this sounds like something you are interested in learning and incorporating into your training plan, I’d LOVE to work with you to help you fuel your runs properly and help you reach your training + racing goals!  Schedule a 15-minute, no-strings attached consult to discuss your personal goals and get you to where you WANT to be!

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And if you haven’t already, be sure to sign up for my FREE 5-day HIIT for Runners Program starting Monday!  Let’s get you to having your best fall racing season yet!

  • Taryn

    So interesting you are doing this! I just started this 2 1/2 months ago (the intermittent fasting, not the carb cycling) and I agree that I LOVE this way of eating! I go 14 hours between dinner and “breakfast” the next day everyday (my first meal is usually at 10am). I am currently training for a half marathon next month so the mornings I run are definitely harder. But I always drink some BCAA’s during and after my run which helps with recovery but also to keep me full. Once I get that first meal in me I am rarely hungry the rest of the day. My lunch is HUGE and my dinner is as well, so generally eating 3x/day works great. If I’ve had a hard workout I will eat another protein shake after dinner. Saturday nights are “cheat night” where I refuel with a large dinner and dessert. Works great and I have seen great changes in my body.

    • I LOVE it! On my low calorie days, I do a 16 hour fast (8:30PM to 11:30 AM). I do really love the way that I feel. I try to schedule the days I don’t eat breakfast on easy run days or rest day!

  • I practice 14:10 intermittent fasting to help me stay within my calorie targets. I find I have less cravings in the morning and am able to meet my targets more easily because my feeding window is reduced.

    • Do you also run/exercise in the morning? That’s the thing I struggle with the most. I LOVE my daily shake in the morning too, but I’ve learned I can make it in the morning and drink it later in the day!

      • I wish I could exercise in the morning, but I already get up so early and feel pooped. Maybe one day I will try, somehow.