Intermittent fasting is about so much more than a weight loss plan, there are amazing side effects of intermittent fasting that I never thought possible!
It’s been about 2 years since I started intermittent fasting (IF) and I have to admit, IF still completely fascinates me. As someone who rode the calorie train for years, I’m in awe of just how easy it was for me to lose some weight, keep it off, and most importantly, just how great I feel!
I can’t say that I’ve been completely consistent with my daily fasts, but I decided a while ago that I can no longer go “hardcore” on anything that I do anymore. I’m 45, I have two kids (tween & teen) and work full time. I need something that is easy and effective, and intermittent fasting really fits that bill.
I’ve lost about 30 pounds so far, which is great, but it’s the other side effects of IF that keep me on the “IF easy train”.
1. Mental clarity
When I started IF it was for the sole benefit of weight loss. I had 50 pounds to lose and wanted nothing more than to lose weight. The only mental aspect that I focused on was feeling better about fitting into my clothes again.
So, sure, I did lose some weight to start, and was feeling pretty good about that, but then I noticed that I started to feel really on my game. I felt amazing, alert, and just with it.
It was, and still is, pretty incredible. My motivation to complete tasks, and complete them well, really took off.
Turns out, mental clarity is a known side benefit of fasting. I had no idea!
Perhaps there is a reason why most of the world’s major religions call for periodic fasting. Intermittent hunger clears the mind, awakens the senses, and improves brain functioning. Plus it lowers your blood sugar, reduces your insulin levels, and helps you lose weight by reducing total calories.Rahul Jandial, MD, PhD
2. Better workouts
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My biggest worry with IF was how I was going to exercise in a fasted state very early in the morning. My brain was trained to believe that the only way I could get a good workout was to fuel with “something’ prior to working out. Turns out, this is not always the case.
In the early stages of IF I did what is called a “dirty fast”. (Basically, I drank something that could, and probably did, kick me out of the fasted state.) While I still lost pounds consuming the preworkout I Eventually, I bit the bullet and phased out the preworkout in favor of a clean fast (as recommended in Delay, Don’t Deny). My preworkout is now black coffee.
So are my workouts better fasted? Yes.
Like my mental clarity, my workout game did get better. I have more focus during my workouts and am better able to kick my ass into high gear when the workout calls for it.
There was a bit of an adaptation period to get my body used to working out fasted, but that was no different than adapting to getting out of bed at 5:30am and for a 6:00am workout.
During the period where you are adjusting to this change, you will likely notice a decrease in performance. This lasts approximately 2 weeks. As you deplete the body of sugar, your muscles need time to adapt to using fat for energy. Your energy, your muscle strength and overall capacity will go down, but they will recover.By, Dr. Jason Fung
Most importantly, I listen to my body’s cues. If I feel I need to break my fast sooner than normal after a hard workout, then I do it. I really just roll with it.
3. Less bloating
Another unexpected side effect of intermittent fasting is what I NO longer experience. Since I eat OMAD (one meal a day) with some snacks (well, lots of snack) to open my eating window, I no longer experience the massive amount of bloat that I used to experience when I ate three “small/light” meals a day with snacks sprinkled in between.
I believe this is because, with fasting, I allow my body the time it needs to do the things that it needs to do. For example, I close my eating window at 7:00pm. This allows my body time to start digesting my dinner before I head off to bed.
Pre IF, I would eat a late night snack (ice cream, cereal w/milk, chips, etc) right before I went to bed. These little snacks would just sit in my stomach overnight and feel like a brick in my stomach come morning. I no longer experience this. My guess is that it’s not only due to the timing, but the fact that I’m no longer eating that additional snack before bed.
4. Better understanding of food intolerances
Since my eating window has decreased, and I no longer have time to put all the things into my body, I can better determine what my body does and does not like. I can finally tell what foods work for my body and what foods don’t.
For example, I wanted McDonalds french fries yesterday. I’m an IF’er so I can technically eat what I want as long as it’s during my eating window. As Gin puts it in her aptly titled book, Delay, Don’t Deny. So, yesterday, I decided not to deny and completely and fully enjoyed my very large McDonald french fries. They were delicious.
Sadly, my body did not fully and completely enjoy my McDonalds french fries as much as I did. Within the hour, I was bloated and insanely irritable. A feeling that lasted well into this morning.
Before IF, this was a pretty normal feeling for me (bloated, irritable, tired) and now that my body has been functioning pretty efficiently, it can tell me right away when something is amiss. Those fries were a-miss (ha,ha…get it…a-miss)
5. More money in the account
My IF schedule follows what’s called OMAD. So what does this mean? It means that I only eat one main meal a day. I don’t eat breakfast or lunch. I start with a small snack to open my eating window, followed by a few more snacks when I get home from work, followed by a very hearty dinner.
So what does THIS mean? It means that I no longer buy food (for myself) for breakfast or lunch. All of my food focus goes into making a really great and really easy dinner.
So what does this MEAN? It means that I save a considerable amount of money on the grocery bill. But not only groceries, I no longer stop at Panera for my coffee and b’fast sandwich in the morning before work and I no longer hit up fast food stops for lunch.
I was spending close to $150 – $250 a month on my breakfast and lunch purchases alone. Remove those expenses, and the grocery expense, and we’re looking at a really nice gain every month.
And isn’t that a lovely side effect of intermittent fasting?
6. Less illness
I know I’m going to jinx myself here, but here it goes.
I haven’t gotten sick in ages.
I know, I know. I just ruined everything for myself by just putting the words out there, but really. I honestly haven’t been sick in ages.
We’re currently in the middle of the Corona Virus pandemic, so that could change in a heartbeat, but what I’m saying is that I haven’t suffered an illness in over a year to the same extent that I’ve suffered it in the past.
Basically, my bi-annual sickness, sickness consisting of a massive head cold that morphs into a lung & sinus infection, has not happened in well over a year.
Sure, I have had moments when I was “tired and achy” but it’s never something a few nights of good sleep couldn’t handle. It’s never gone beyond the “I think I’m coming down with something” phase. I just haven’t come down with something in a really long time.
Intermittent fasting lowers white blood cell counts, which triggers stem-cell-based regeneration of new immune system cells, which not only boosts your immunity but also plays a role in longevity.Source
I can’t say that this is all due to IF, but if the shoe fits?
Most science out there on IF and immunity focuses on adults with chronic illness, but evidence suggests that IF can help increase immunity in healthy adults, too. It’s very possible that I’m benefiting from those immune-boosting effects.
As I previously said, I find all of this intermittent fasting stuff so fascinating. I have never felt this way and have I never really thought about the health and lifestyle benefits of “dieting” beyond losing weight.
Turns out, I didn’t need to diet at all to see incredible changes. I just had to delay when I opened my eating window. You can’t get any easier than that!
Do you IF? What are some unexpected side effects that you’ve experienced?
Interesting is starting IF? Read my 5 step quick start guide here.
Interested in how I lost 30 pounds with IF, you can read that here.
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