Saturday, 29 June 2019

Intermittent Fasting: My take on it after 3 months on IF

If you still aren't familiar with intermittent fasting (IF), you must have been living under a rock!

IF is simply a pattern of eating that cycles between periods of fasting and eating, hence the name intermittent fasting.
Although some overzealous IF-ers will strongly advise that you stay away from carbohydrates (keto-fasting) or at least, (greatly) limit the amount of carbohydrates that you eat per day, IF actually does not specify which food you should (and shouldn't) eat, but only WHEN you should eat them.
Hence, if you view it from that aspect, IF is not a diet, but more accurately described as a lifestyle, or just an eating habit.

There's quite a few methods of IF currently practiced by many, namely:

 - The 16:8 method: Also called the Leangains diet, you simply eat in an 8-hour feeding window and fast for 16 hours.

- The 20:4 method: Also called the Warrior diet, whereby you restrict your daily eating window to 4 hours and fast for the next 20 hours.

- The 23:1 method: Also called OMAD (One Meal A Day), whereby you literally just eat 1 meal everyday, typically over the course of 1 hour.

- The 5:2 Diet: It's a weekly based method, whereby you consume extremely low calories (500 - 600 calories) on two non-consecutive days of the week, but eat as you would usually for the other 5 days.

- Eat-Stop-Eat method: This involves a 24-hours fast, once or twice a week.

The main reason of practicing IF, is for health aspects such as autophagy (cellular repair) and improving insulin sensitivity. It also increases the levels of human growth hormone in our body, and brings about changes in the function of genes related to longevity and protection again diseases.

But all those health sciences aside, I'm just going to focus on one of the biggest (and most popular) "side-effect" of IF, and that is weight loss. With IF, you're forced to shorten the amount of eating time everyday and hence, most of us will unknowingly reduce our calorie intake, resulting in an overall weight loss. But of course, this only happens if you do not "compensate" by mindlessly overeating during your eating windows.

Since embarking on my IF journey, I've joined a few FB groups to learn more about this new eating lifestyle from others and I have to say that there's a group of Dr Fung's followers who seems to have a misunderstanding of his theories put across in his book titled: The Obesity Code and goes around giving misinformed advice to IF newbies, telling them calories do not matter, simply because Dr Fung has said that the traditional diet method of CI/CO (calories in - calories out) is a failure.

Well, I have to admit that I have not read the book, nor do I have any intention to, especially after seeing how those seemingly brainwashed readers behaving in a cultish, aggressive manner towards anybody who mention "counting calories" or "tracking what you eat".
I mean... I don't know, was it the book or was it food-deprivation (being hangry all the time) or what?

Anyway, I'm still going to say that CI/CO is a FACT. If you eat in a deficit, you lose. If you eat in a surplus, you gain. This CI/CO equation sets the basis for any form of diet plans you're seeing out there.
As to why the theory of how this CI/CO model is doomed to fail, it's simply because the conventional way of how this model is practiced is not sustainable. Dieters usually gets obsessed with simply counting calories, ignore the fact that a calorie is (in fact) NOT a calorie, and seems to think that our body works on a 24-hour clock and resets our calorie intake/expenditure every time the clock strikes 12 midnight. Following the CI/CO model, dieters also tend to put their bodies on a FIXED amount of caloric deficit every single day (eg. never exceeding 1200 calories a day), which leads to the onset of metabolic adaptation, whereby your body lowers its basic metabolic rate to fit the lower amount of calories you've been eating. As a result, to continue losing weight, you'll just need to further reduce your calorie intake, until you simply cannot keep up with the ridiculously low amount of calories and eventually falling off the wagon.

Now, while I'm still not all familiar with the science of IF (about the hormones and insulin sensitivity), I got myself started on IF simply because I believe that IF is the way to get around the issue of metabolic adaptation, as research studies has shown that dieters doing IF on a calorie restricted diet tends to lose more body fat than muscle mass as compared to those on just a calorie restricted diet. In other words, IF helps us to burn body fat while preserving our muscle mass.

And so, before I get into how I personally did the 3 months of IF, I would first like to share my results!

7 April 2019
Weight: 143 lbs
Fat %: 28.3 (yikes!)
Muscle %: 30.9

23 June 2019
Weight: 135.6 lbs
Fat %: 21.9
Muscle %: 34.2

And in spite of losing nearly 7 lbs, my estimated metabolism has only dropped 18 calories, which... really is negligible.

And so, how did I plan my IF schedule?

While 16:8 is the most common (and easily followed) method, I have to admit that an 8-hours eating window is still too short for me to fit both my work and gym schedule into it. Hence on weekdays, I'm actually doing 15:9, breaking fast during my lunch break at 130 pm and closing my eating window usually with my protein shake 1 hour after my dinner at 1030 pm.
On weekends, as I do not work (I do work half day on Saturday though) and do not go to the gym, I can easily stretch out my fasting hours to do up to 18:6 (not gungho enough to do 20:4).
And of course, I'm on an eat-clean diet for 6 days a week, and every Sunday is my cheatday!

And here's typically what I eat for my lunch on my eat-clean days.

My most commonly eaten carbs is red cargo/brown rice.

And sometimes I treat myself to some quinoa or multigrains (barley, millet, brown rice, and other wholegrains). 

My typical choices for dishes to go along with my self-packed complex carbs will be 1 vegetable, 1 animal protein, and 1 plant based protein from the economic mixed vegetable stall. On my more active days (when I go for two hours workout at the gym), I may throw in one more hard-boiled egg to my lunch for some extra protein. I'll also eat a pre-packed box of fruits (strawberries, blueberries, grapes) along with my lunch meal everyday. :) 

And on some rare occasion when I have dinner plans after work and can't pack lunch, I might even grab some McDonald's too. But it's only their grilled chicken salad with cup corn, guys. Nothing else. And if you've tried the salad, you should know that it's actually pretty tasty but it's such a miserable portion size, hence I prepared my own wholegrain toasts (that also happened to be gluten free but I usually do not avoid wheat) and fresh fruits. 

And while most people skip their breakfast altogether to shorten their eating window into 8 hours, I merely shifted my breakfast to mid-day (and gave up my mid-day protein bar). 
Most of the time, my "mid-day snack" will be a cup of sugarless coffee and two slices of wholemeal bread with 1/2 tbsp of low-fat powdered peanut butter (I'm using PB2) and 1/2 tbsp of sugar-free jam (I'm using Smuckers) or normal peanut butter/almond butter for more taste, as PB2 really lacks the peanut butter taste.

And of course, from time to time I get some "sinful" treats for my mid-day snack as well. This is my favourite "red bean pau", handmade by my lovely neighbour. She calls it Wo Wo Tou (the steamed bun is actually made with rice flour and corn meal instead of wheat flour) and the filling is just mashed up boiled red beans wrapped in a layer of pumpkin mochi. Sounds simple but it's sooooo good! 

And so after my gym sessions, I will get back home for dinner (and try to eat my meal within 1 hour after gym), which is very similar to what I have for lunch (but usually with fish as my animal protein), but all home-cooked (hence less oily, less saucy and less heavily seasoned) and without the starchy carbs. Instead I will have a bowl of soup (such as lotus root pork ribs, radish pork ribs, sweet corn potato pork ribs, korean spicy soft tofu soup etc) for added satiety factor. 

And of course, as I've mentioned earlier, I'll close my eating window with a protein shake at 1030 pm every night. Sometimes, I'll switch out the protein shake for some greek yogurt with frozen berries. On days when I realised that my caloric deficit is too high (I usually target 500 - 600 deficit), I'll give myself a treat of either a serving of Enlightened Ice Cream (low calories, less sugar, more protein), a serving of Khong Guan Marie Biscuits, or a serving of baked almond nuts. 

Predictable, boring diet plan? NO WAY!
Have you forgotten about my Sunday cheatday? Every Sunday, will be the day whereby I forget about the existence of myfitnesspal app on my phone, and eat literally whatever I fancy without caring about my macros or calories. 

The fact that I'm doing 18:6 method on my weekends helps a lot with preventing me from overeating during my cheatday as well. 
I mean, how much can you eat in just 6 hours, right? 

Till then,
Mia Foo


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