Friday, March 23, 2012

Experiments In Eating

I have to admit, if something new pops up in the fitness and nutrition world, and it makes sense - there's a good chance I'm going to do some personal experimentation.  After reading several articles on the benefits of Intermittent Fasting  (IF) and starting the day by "NOT" eating breakfast, I decided to give it a shot.  I actually attempted this strategy last year, but it was a half ass effort, so I really didn't think to much of it.......

After a great Florida winter of eating way too much and consuming some high calorie adult beverages I decided to hop aboard the leanness train again and get ready for spring.   I thought about what worked for me in the past and basically ignored it and decided to play around with the new and exciting way of eating....  On to round 2 of the skipping breakfast / intermittent fasting experiment.
Pretty much sums up how I felt after winter break.... 
I started my day with some greens plus and some coffee (not mixed together!).  Mind you, I wake up at 3:45am to take the dog for a walk and get ready for work, my first client is at 5am.  At first, I thought that this would be great, I have more time in the morning to putz around the house and get on the interwebz  while enjoying  my morning caffeine fix.

I planned on eating my first meal around 11am and my last meal around 7pm, basically the 16 hour fast/8 hour eating strategy. 

The first couple days were not too bad, I was energetic and my training was pretty intense and I liked the idea of eating 2-3 bigger meals instead of 5-6 smaller meals and shakes.  By about Day 4 I was a little more "moody" in the morning, which is definitely not a good thing with my profession.

(I personal train from 5am-7:30am, teach 6th grade PE from 8am to 330pm, then go back to the gym in the afternoon to train some more- eventually I get some lifting/sprinting time for myself).  

When I was at the gym training clients I was okay mood wise and I was still amped up off the caffeine.  But when I was at school I had a short fuse during my morning classes, and when you deal with middle school kids that's a extremely bad trait.  Patience is a virtue when dealing with 40-60 kids a class, especially with that age group.

Instead of letting my body and mind adjust to my new way of eating, I realized I needed to be more enthusiastic and in a better mood to do my job the way I like.  So my experiment with the true "Intermittent Fasting" approach lasted only a week.

I needed to make a change based on mood, not on hunger so I decided to eat around 8am, before my first class off the day.  I usually ate steak, broccoli, and a serving of almonds or scrambled eggs with a ton of veggies mixed in.  Technically, I guess you could call that breakfast.  I felt better, my mood improved and my energy levels were clearly better.

At this point I wasn't really following any sort of IF protocol,  I was just eating 4 hours after awakening. I was also eating only 3-4 times a day. I was following a low carb approach during the beginning of the day and eating some carbs at night (post training).  My weight was pretty steady for a couple weeks, but I was actually aiming for a little body fat reduction because spring and summer are approaching and its always beach season in Fort Lauderdale.

About 8 weeks into this style of eating, I was pretty much ready to go back to what worked for me in the past and what got me in the best shape of my life.  I used  the 5-6 meals approach, with a couple shakes a day.  My meals consisted of protein, veggies, and some fruit hear and there (more fruit on lifting days).  

I started making my awesome eggs breakfast again, courtesy of Dr. Jonny Bowden (eggs, spinach, and a chopped up apple cooked in coconut oil).  It's a freakin' great meal at 4:15am!

My next meal is usually ground grass fed beef or ground turkey with some veggies mixed in and a serving of nuts, it's usually around 8am.

I eat lunch around 11am which consists of steak or chicken, some veggies, a fruit and some more nuts.

I'll have a protein shake a little later and I'll have another shake post- training on my lifting days.

For dinner usually some type of grilled dead animal and a big salad with a crap load of veggies and maybe some more nuts or fruit if I'm hungry.

Weekends are a little different.  Nothing is really structured and I might go 4-6 hours without eating.  My main goal is to consume lots of protein, a good amount of vegetables, healthy fats and some fruit. My wife and I typically do a nice dinner on Friday or Saturday and I'll eat whatever I'm in the mood for and have a little red wine, but only for the antioxidants and resveratrol ;-)

It's only been a short period of time but this style of eating is actually very convenient for me.  I have sustained energy throughout the day and I look forward to every meal.  I feel great and when I used this approach in the past I got really lean while improving my numbers in the gym.

Eating plans and protocols very for each individual.  What works for me might not work for you and vice versa.  What people need to realize it that they need to find a way to eat healthier food and follow a eating strategy that works well for their lifestyle and profession.  I'm sure there are plenty of people that are getting great results from skipping breakfast and doing IF, but it just wasn't for me at least at this point in time.

Over the next couple weeks my training is going to remain the same, I took some recent pics and I'm going to do a caliper measurement over the weekend.  I'm curious to see if I'll see any physique changes and notice any improvements in strength.

I believe in reading research and I respect the nutrition coaches who have success getting people very lean with various eating strategies.  I also think that "self experimentation" has a lot of external variables which doesn't necessarily produce a very accurate theory or conclusion.  It's important to understand new information regarding health and nutrition comes out on a daily basis, sometimes what's new isn't always better, and there is no "one size fits all" eating protocol.

Most people try some sort of "new and exciting" way of eating or dieting and give up after a couple days and resort back to stuffing their faces with a bunch of garbage and within weeks they try another "diet" because it's better then the ones they've tried before.  It's about being consistent and making better choices, whether your eating 2, 4, or 6 meals a day.   Commit to whatever nutrition strategy you want, but don't let eating drive you insane, worsen your mood, or reduce your energy.

Food should improve the quality of your life, not make it worse- but by the look of the line of cars at the Micky D's drive-thru this morning, a lot of people are choosing to do the latter....

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