PITTSBURGH (FFD) - I have enjoyed two really healthy days and looking forward to making Tuesday the same. Healthy eating, no alcohol, and two trips to the gym. The stomach is feeling good (tip: heed the romaine lettuce warning—its real). I am proponent of intermittent fasting and in this post I discuss how I am weirdly incorporating IF into my weight loss journey.
How’s this for ambiguity? I am “sort of doing” intermittent fasting “to a degree”, but my overall goal is to limit net calories (calories consumed minus calories burned exercising). Nonetheless, Intermittent Fasting seems to be working to help keep my calories down and is therefore a critical part of enabling me to meet my calorie objectives.
My low calorie, high calorie, Intermittent Fasting playbook
My health plan for the week includes having two pairs of low net calorie days followed by a third day of maintenance calories (the amount of calories currently needed to maintain my weight). Here is what this looks like on a weekly basis:
Sunday / Monday - No more than 600 net calories
TUESDAY - MAINTENANCE DAY. EAT CALORIES TO MAINTAIN WEIGHT.
Wed. / Thursday - No more than 600 net calories
FRIDAY / SATURDAY - MAINTENANCE DAY. EAT CALORIES TO MAINTAIN WEIGHT.
At the end of the week, I am looking at my average daily net calories. I don’t care how I get there—Intermittent Fasting or not. If my average net is under 1,800 calories, then I should be on course to lose a healthy 2 pounds a week.
Are those 600 net calorie days fasting days or not?
I am not entirely sure that what I am doing is fasting at all, versus eating low calorie for two days followed by a maintenance day of higher calories.
Is that really fasting?
You will read that on most Alternate Day Fasting diets and blogs that many IF pundits proscribe eating 25% percent of your calories on fasting days. I am doing that on those low calorie days, anyway. However, I am actually consuming closer to like 1,400 or 1,500 calories on those days.
I am subtracting the calories from Iphone steps and what I burn at the gym. Therefore, my goal on these so-called “fast, low cal days” is to get my net calorie level under 600. Therefore, what I do could hardly be considered true fasting. Hell, sometimes I eat 1,500 calories and only count a net calorie level of 300.
Maybe I am overthinking it, because I have heard others say even eating anything on a fasting day is really not fasting at all. I get it. So in a sense, we are all simply going low calorie and inducing a fast-like affect on these days.
Why I count net calories and not consumed calories
I have completed a few fasting days where no matter what exercise or rigorous back-breaking labor I added, such as landscaping in the yard all day when it is 90-degrees, I consumed no more than 600 calories.
It certainly is an amazing feeling when your body kicks into that high energy state, which I think you can only get from giving food a break, but I couldn’t sustain this low amount of calories without over compensating the next day. That was the big problem for me.
For example, on days where I juice all day and burn a 1,000 calories doing extra physical labor, the next day then turns into a ravenous, all-you-can eat, 24-hour buffet, which in the end, balances out those low calorie levels from the day before. What is the point of fasting on one day if your body compels you to eat 5,000 calories the next?
To Fast or Not To Fast?
I subtract calories burned from my daily total. Therefore, on a so-called fast day, if I burn 800 calories on the gym elliptical and then 300 more calories by walking a good bit the rest of the day, then, I can eat those calories back and stay under the 600 net calories for the day.
I could in theory then consume up to 1,700 calories (i.e., and minus the 1100 for exercise) call it a net 600 calorie day.
So my net calorie method might not really constitute alternate day fasting at all, but rather going two days low calorie and one high, then repeating.
In fact, what I am simply doing is a low, low, high calorie kind of diet. On those low days, surprisingly, I have discovered that the fasting plan I am actually doing is the 16:8 or 20:4 method. This is I fast for 16 hours and eat my calories—be it whatever, 600 or 2700—with an 8 hour window. On the 20:4, the window to eat those calories is simply reduced.
Therefore, my diet plan is looking more like a traditional 20:4 fasting plan with a low, low, high approach to net calories throughout the week. So while I am not really doing alternate day fasting, I am supporting my low, low, high calorie approach with intermittent fasting.
Did I over complicate the whole damn thing? Maybe, but for two days, this system is working for me.
So what is the big deal about intermittent fasting - why not just count calories?
Intermittent Fasting is a tremendously effective means to an end—health, weight loss and increasing your mental clarity and energy. I find intermittent fasting extremely effective in regulating and managing all those energy calories—no matter how many I consume—that are coming into my body—its got the whole blood sugar thing working in the right way too!
For example, I wake up in the morning and have a green juice now (my wife who is naturally healthy, is super big into juicing). Because I know I only have a certain amount of calories to consume on a low calorie day, that is pretty much it for me until after I exercise in the evening.
Therefore, I naturally adhere to a fasting cycle that is more akin to a 16:8, 20:4, or perhaps more specifically, The Warrior’s Diet, which is a 20:4 fasting approach where you an have raw fruits and vegetables during the day.
No matter what you call it, my energy levels are through the roof all day. If I eat a high carb or meat laden breakfast, that mental clarity goes by the wayside. So again, the intermittent fasting, seems to steer one toward more naturally nutritious food options—Keto, whole foods, organic, plant-based or otherwise.
If you have never tried Intermittent Fasting, I would suggest trying it just to see how you feel mentally more alert when you reduce the amount of meals you consume. I still like my damn calorie counter though—so don’t delete the app just yet.
Calories help me keep my non-fasting in check
I still like the idea of counting calories because I am paying attention to what I eat. When I count calories, I almost always choose healthier options to get as much bang for the caloric buck as possible. I also notice that subtracting calories burned at the gym is highly rewarding and motivating to get me moving and to the gym to begin with.
When I think back to 2009, a time when I simply counted calories to stay under 1800 per day and lost over 80 lbs, I was in reality doing the 20:4 and didn’t even realize it. I would have a small protein shake in the morning and a dinner. That was it. This is kind a like, sort of doing, an intermittent fast, while watching calories.
Can I possibly equivocate any more?
In the end, low, low, high, 20:4, 16:8, alternate day fasting, whatever you want to call it, a calorie by any other name is still a measurement of freaking heat.
Intermittent Fasting, if you have not tried it, will help you get the most for those little measurements of heat—whether you are consuming a lot of them or a few of them.