Intermittent fasting is about so much more than a weight loss plan, below are 6 amazing side effects of intermittent fasting that I never thought possible!
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It’s been about 2 years since I started intermittent fasting (IF) and I am still learning so much about this amazing lifestyle. As someone who rode the calorie train for years, I’m in awe of just how easy it was for me to lose 30 pounds with intermittent fasting. As a 45-year-old mom, going through that “shift” in life, losing weight past 40 was next to impossible. I was fat, I was tired, I was bloated, I was miserable. These side effects really gave me a new lease on life! For a little while, I really thought that life post 40 really was DOWNHILL!
Now, for the most part, I’ve been completely consistent with my daily fasts. My current intermittent fasting schedule is an 18/6 schedule. This means that I fast (don’t eat or drink anything that will spike my insulin) for 18 hours, and the feast (eat) during a 6-hour window. I don’t eat for the entire 6 hours, but I keep my main meal and snacks within that timeframe. And, while there are certainly some funky side effects of intermittent fasting, there are just as many amazing side effects of intermittent fasting.
The 6 amazing side effects of intermittent fasting that I’m going to tell you about I have personally experienced. It’s what keeps me going with this amazing lifestyle.
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. But, soon after I started this lifestyle I started to notice that a fog was starting to lift. I was more “with it”.
During my pre-intermittent fasting days, when I would fill my belly from the moment I woke up (coffee with creamer) to right before I went to bed (late night snack), I lacked motivation. I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t want to finish projects at work, finish projects with the kids, or get anything done. I couldn’t remember words when I drafted emails, and I felt like I was constantly in a haze. But, it wasn’t until I started intermittent fasting that I realized that I was living in that haze.
Pre-IF, I thought being sluggish and unmotivated was just a part of my age, a part of being a mom and a part of just “whatever”. I thought is was normal. It wasn’t until I started intermittent fasting that I realized that what I was feeling wasn’t “normal”.
Soon after I started intermittent fasting, I started to feel really on my game. I felt amazing, alert, and just with it. I finished projects in the office and I finished projects at home. My motivation to complete tasks, and complete them well, really took off. This is a feeling that I never felt while counting calories or eating all day. What was this magic?
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
When I’m feeling sluggish and a little “out of it”, I take a look at my intermittent fasting schedule. Have I been slacking? Soon, it becomes pretty clear very quickly that I was probably a little “off track” with my schedule. As soon as I tighten my schedule and get back on track, I start feeling back on point pretty quickly!
2. Better workouts
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 pre-workout, I eventually bit the bullet and phased out the pre-workout in favor of a clean fast (as recommended in Delay, Don’t Deny). My pre-workout 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 for a 6:00am workout. It takes time, but once my body figured it out, it preferred to workout fasted.
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
I’ve been working out completely fasted for almost 2 years now and still enjoy working out in a fasted state. I drink my black coffee about 20 minutes before I workout and reamin in the fasted state until my scheduled feasting window.
3. Less bloating
Another unexpected side effect of intermittent fasting is what I NO longer experience. I’m no longer bloated as soon as I roll out of bed in the morning!
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 sit in my stomach overnight and feel like a brick in my stomach come morning. I no longer experience this.
I believe this is because, with fasting, I allow my body the time it needs to do the things that it needs to do with that food. For example, I close my eating window at about 7:00 pm and go to bed about 10:00 pm. This break allows my body time to start digesting my dinner before I head off to bed. It dilutes the “brick” that would otherwise take up residence in my gut come morning.
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 I 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 very efficiently, it can tell me right away when something is amiss. Those fries were a-miss (ha,ha…get it…a-miss).
Now, when I’m about to eat “the things” that cause “the problems” I have a decision to make. Because of IF, I now know what foods might cause me some issues, SO, do I want to indulge and face the consequences of eating that food, or pass on that food and let my body enjoy not feeling like crap.
Some times the choice is tough. If it’s a special occasion, I’ll probably indulge. If there’s no real reason to eat the food, I pass.
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 well over a year.
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.
In the past six months, there have been times when I felt “under the weather”, a feeling that would always result in my inevitable bi-annual cold, but lately, nothing.
To give some context, my bi-annual cold was always followed by some sort of infection (lung infection, sinus infection, etc), a trip to urgent care, and a prescription for an antibiotic. It was a no-fail cold. It happened twice a year. I mean, even my co-workers knew that I’d be out of work for about 3 days while I took time to recover from the infection. It was clockwork. I live in Maryland, but the Urgent Care in Liverpool, NY has me on file because I’m always there getting my antibiotic during my annual trip to visit family for Easter. That has not happened in over a year. Liverpool, NY Urgent Care is sad. How will they know it’s Easter without me there?
In the past year or so, when I was feeling “under the weather”, I took stock of my fast, tightened my schedule, what I ate, and my fluid consumption. Basically, I reeled it all in. I fasted super clean, I removed processed foods from my eating window, removed alcohol from my eating window, and closed my window by about 6:30 pm every night. And, in all cases, I felt better within 2-3 days. (Ugh, knocking on wood right now.) Is this all due to intermittent fasting?
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 mean, 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.
Where I am now.
As of writing this post, I’m still benefitting from these 6 amazing side effects of intermittent fasting. I’m still not bloated, I still have more money in my account, my workouts are still on point, I make better food choices, and (knock on wood), I still haven’t gotten sick. And, the CRAZIEST part about all of this is that all I had to do was postpone when I start eating during the day and stop eating when my eating window is scheduled to close.
If those are good enough reasons to at least consider intermittent fasting, then I’m not too sure what is.
- Have you stopped losing weight? Read my post about homeostasis and set-point weight and see why your body has made certain changes to halt weight loss.
- Wondering if it’s safe to workout while intermittent fasting? Get those answers in my Is working out while intermittent fasting safe? post.
- New to intermittent fasting and not sure how to start? Read my 5 Easy Steps to Start Intermittent Fasting post to help get you started.
The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the stuckassdown blog.