I do all kinds of wacky things and only one of them is CrossFit. I also do intermittent fasting. For a long time I was an alternate day intermittent faster, meaning every other day I would fast 20 hours from around 10:00PM to 6:00PM the following day. This schedule was okay except that if I worked out on a fast day I might have to do “Murph” in a fasted state, which is not ideal, and then I wouldn’t have a recovery meal which is insane. Even though my workouts didn’t suffer, I got too lean on this fast schedule and I convinced myself that I was losing muscle, so I stopped doing it.
Lately I’ve been trying an 18 hour fast every day. My feeding window is from 2:00PM to 8:00PM. This schedule is much better for me because I can eat before working out in the afternoon, and then I can eat a recovery meal. Usually I eat another couple of meals when I get home.
If you’re a rat, intermittent fasting has well documented health benefits. But what about us humans? In a world of caloric abundance why would any normal person voluntarily turn his or her back on food? For a long time I couldn’t answer this question. I started doing it out of curiosity and much to my surprise found that fasting “works” for me without being able to articulate why.
But I think I get it now. When I’m fasting my life doesn’t revolve around food, and I love it. This is wholly unique in modern American experience. Think about it: if you’re like most people, your daily existence is punctuated by multiple emotional confrontations with food.
Isn’t it time to eat? What should I eat? How about a donut? No, that’s not paleo. Maybe just this once. Why did I do that? I’ll eat salad for lunch to make up for it.
And so on.
When I’m fasting food is not a part of my life; I don’ t have to make any emotionally draining choices, which means I have room in my life for other things. I can focus for longer periods. I have fewer distractions. I notice more. I’m more productive and creative. I’m not as crabby or impatient. My signal-to-noise ratio goes through the roof.
That all sounds pretty good, and you might be wondering if intermittent fasting is right for you. I used to think I had all the answers but lately I’ve backed off my former position about IF. Maybe you’re in a deadly embrace with food; if intermittent fasting can free you, who am I to get in the way?
But for people considering intermittent fasting, I maintain that while being lean is a valid goal, you can get lean any variety of ways and intermittent fasting is an extreme measure.