What’s been happening?
A few of my friends have been commenting on how I look thinner. I have been trying something “new”. And now I would like to share it.
Previous years, I have been losing weight during fasting month, and I gain it all back after 1 or 2 weeks of Aidilfitri, last year I actually bounced by 7kg, I lost 7kg from 1 month of ramadhan fasting, but then I gained it all back in 2 weeks of aidilfitri.
This time around, I was inspired to maintain my weight loss during the festivities, and somehow I stumbled upon intermittent fasting, and planned to try it out. As I type this blog on 15 August 2016, I have been practicing Intermittent fasting for more than one month now since 7th July. I was 94 kg the start of the ramadhan fast, and I was 92kg at the beginning of Aidilfitri, and Now I am at 90kg. (I would like to say 89kg, but that might have been dehydration after a long cycle). I know weight fluctuates, but I am recording the average for the day – the mid point of the minimum and maximum weight of the day.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Now to be clear, Ramadhan fasting is generally fasting from day break (the beginning of twilight in the morning) until sunset. Depends on the country, the duration can differ. The fast is a full fast, not being allowed to eat nor drink nor even have sex. Intermittent fasting on the other hand is usually a water fast, a fast that allows you to drink zero or minimal calorie drinks, but no food for extended periods of time. Depending on who you follow, the times may differ. I have been practicing Ramadhan Fasting since I hit puberty.
There are other people who have been promoting the intermittent fasting practice, but they call it their own names, with their own rules, but they are generally similar. Among them are:
- the fast diet or the 5:2 diet, where people fast or restrict their calories for 2 non-consecutive days of the week for 24 hours.
- The warrior diet, fast during the day, eat a huge healthy usually paleo type meal at night.
- 16/8 method: fasting for 16 hours, then cram all 3 meals in a single period.
- Eat-stop-eat, a 24 hour fast once or twice a week. Generally from dinner to next dinner.
- Alternate-day fasting, fasting on every other day.
- Meal skipping, skipping breakfast and/or lunch
You may do your own research regarding these different types of fast. finding out all these type of intermittent fast was overwhelming, especially I wasn’t sure, which one would work. I was glad that I found Dr Jason Fung’s video on intermittent fasting, in it he outlines the simplicity of the fast and how similar most of the intermittent fasting are, and how it generally works on the biological and hormonal level. He also highlights that breakfast, was originally break fast that was done later in the day, not straight after waking up.
How or Why Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
Previously I typed about the true cause of obesity and how to deal with it. where you can read more on the true cause and how it relates to intermittent fasting.
If you have seen the video by Jason fung, you will understand that several factors affect fat gain and fat loss.
- As we eat refined carbs, our insulin goes up
- once our insulin goes up, the body tries to store it as glycogen and then eventually fat
- as long as the insulin level is up, the body cannot use the fat effectively
- Patients of Diabetes type 1, actually cannot produce insulin and because of that their body uses the stored fat, and they become skinny unless they dose on insulin.
- therefore, Insulin has a direct effect on the storage and (hindered) usage of fat.
The Intermittent fasting basically works by:
- keeping the insulin level low by not introducing any carbs or insulemic (food including protein that may raise insulin levels) food continuously into the system.
- As the insulin level is low, the body is then able to use up the stored fat. (Apparently, some studies show that we actually burn more fat during sleep, this might be the effect of the low insulin levels during sleep)
- keeping the insulin load at a minimum, instead of eating 3-5 times a day and raising the insulin throughout the whole day, we just eat 2-3 meals within a short amount of time.
What I did
Simplifying what I understood from all the sources, this is what I tried.
- Initially, just tried a 12-16 hour fast. for example, we ate at Dinner 9pm or 1opm, and broke fast 9am or 1pm. the first week was challenging, as we began to feel the cravings and the headaches. Most was easily quenched by drinking water.
- As we continued, and the aidilfitri festivities ended, we were able to delay our break fast to 4pm to 6pm, essentially an 18-22 hour fast.
- A few times, we actually went for a 24 hour fast, where we had dinner at 9pm, and only had our meal on 9pm the next day.
- In some cases, I admit after the 24 hour fast, I felt I could push it further… but I didn’t.
Keeping in mind that I ensure that I eat to satiation during the meals. I find that if I still feel hungry after a meal before I continue with the fast, then I would not feel comfortable fasting.
After practicing the intermittent fasting, I have experienced a few pros and cons.
- Save money, I spend less on food as I only eat 1-2 meals a day, often skipping breakfast and lunch.
- I have more time, now I can spend the time I use to spend on eating on other things, either doing work, playing games, or extending my power naps during lunches.
- Less hassle, I don’t have to worry much about where to eat.
- I don’t have to worry too much on they types of food I eat. Previously I practiced a low carb diet, which according to some, may be incorporated into the intermittent fasting for better results. But I was amazed at how flexible I can be with my food and still lose weight.
- I don’t feel famishly hungry anymore, I feel confident that if i was hungry, that I could last the whole day anyway.
- I don’t feel hot often or sweat as much anymore.
- I don’t have early morning meals with friends and family anymore, I could still join, But I would be the single person at the table who wasn’t eating.
- I am no longer eligible for breakfast meals. I could probably by take away and warm it later, but that doesn’t seem practical nor tasty. I like it fresh, at least freshly cooked.
- I can’t enjoy the free food offered to me during the early mornings… again see previous point. But then again, I may be able to pack it up and eat later.
- I have to explain to friends why I am not joining them eating, OR I have to explain to them why I am not eating. (To be honest, I kinda enjoy explaining about intermittent fasting and the results I am getting).
- I feel cold sometimes, I used to be able to with stand the cold, but now it is quite challenging. I understand that this might be either low metabolism OR I don’t have enough stored energy to produce more heat.
- My bowel movements are random and infrequent. I used to be able to schedule my bowel movement to just in the mornings by drinking 1 litre before sleep, and another 1 litre of water after I wake up. Note that this happens during ramadhan fasting as well, I thought it was the dehydration during the fast, but with the intermittent fasting/water fasting it seems to be the infrequent food I eat.
Uncertainties and Scares (Regarding Sports)
Considering I just started, I am still unsure of how this affects my sports activities. especially my ironman training. Swimming I just realized I have done quite well without eating or drinking for 2 hours straight even before Intermittent Fasting. But I am amazed at how long or far I can run and ride with only water and no food. Usually at the end of long or hard workout I would be in a hurry to eat so I can quickly recover. But I find that I do not necessary have to do so. But I guess only time will tell.
at some point I actually had low motivation and low libido (don’t ask details), but after a while it came back, my guess after a few research, it was after a really long ride (100km cycle) and somehow my testosterone level was low. This has happened before pre intermittent fasting.
I did a 42km run post intermittent fasting, and I hit a limit at 30km. Not an aerobic limit, more of a muscle fatigue limit . It felt like my first 42km early this year, where I know I didn’t have enough training. It might be because I didn’t have training, or I went to fast, or I was on intermittent fasting. But at least I could last that long. I will still continue training while intermittent fasting to test the results on myself.
My sleeping habits have changed. This may have been the result of ramadhan fasting period where sleep habits changed as well. Previously I could consistently go for 5-6 hours sleep, but have to do a 20min power nap during lunch time.
but now it feels random, sometimes I can only comfortably go 6-7 hours sleep, my powernap needs are inconsistent. sometimes I needed them, sometimes I don’t, sometimes its short, but sometimes its long. Generally by sleep cycle is out of wack. Recently I have even stayed up past midnight.
I was concerned that by fasting I would go into starvation mode. i.e. my protein will be used up, and I would lose muscle mass, and then I would bounce at some point. Dr Jason Fung shared, it is usually the Calorie restriction with continuous eating that caused the muscle loss as the body tries to compensate for less energy. In addition, the starvation mode is a misconception based on a study on calorie restriction without intermittent fasting. And the use of protein as an energy source may only happen after 5 continuous days of fasting. Furthermore, as long as calories is sufficient, maintaining or growing muscle mass is mostly a function of exercise, not a function of diet.
I found that any concerns I have, I can either google it, or just search through Dr Jason Fung’s Articles on https://intensivedietarymanagement.com/.
For now, I am still practicing intermittent fasting. I am curious how low in my weight I can go. I have gone from 110kg to 95kg in 2012, in just 6 months of the slow/low carb diet. But due to several reasons I went off it and maintained my weight while training for triathlons. I was able to hit 90kg in 2014 when I did my first half ironman triathlon. But eversince I dialled down I got back to 97kg in 2015, and early this year I was able to go down to 94kg. It was all very tiring though, controlling the type of food I eat, the amount I ate, working out more. But with the intermittent fasting, I lost weight easily. I don’t need to increase exercise, I mostly just decide how long I want to fast for the day. The method seems to be… Effortless. Spend less money, gain more time, lose weight. I would recommend everyone to try intermittent fasting out. at the least the 12 hour intermittent fasting where you just skip breakfast. Try it for at least a month, and tell me how far it gets you.
I haven’t been concerned about my weight since i was able to reduce from 110kg to a stable/plateau of 93kg that I am now. But now in my training, I seem to have reached a plateau as well on my speed in cycling and running. A few people have recommended reducing my weight while maintaining my muscle would increase my speed, as I would then be able to push harder and faster and may even be longer. I recently completed an official 42km at the Borneo International Marathon. The pain I experienced in my legs reminded me about the pain I felt running a 10km when I was 110kg. So now I am stongly considering of reducing down to my supposedly Ideal BMI weight of 79kg. (I don’t actually trust the BMI or body mass index, I will share why eventually)
So now for the first time ever. I will be having a category on my posts on Diet and Nutrition, in addition to the sports categories. Previously I was successful in my reducing my weight by using a Slow Carbohydrate Diet that was shared by Timothy Ferriss in the book 4hour body. But now I am looking into High Fat Diets recommended by Tim Noakes, and Fasting recommended by Dr. Jason Fung. The last 2 authors/experts have similar research and opinions/philosophies/science on diet and obesity.
For this post I will be mostly referring to Dr Jason Fung’s Videos. It is a series of 6 video, each more than 1 hour long, in which he entitled the aetiology of Obesity. When I first watched the video I was thinking Tim Noakes would have loved this guy, but then I found out that Jason Fung published a book entitled the Obesity Code, which had a foreword from Tim Noakes!
Through out all the video he extensively cites the research that supports his points.
he covers mostly on the most common misconceptions and what is the truth on the causes of obesity. Here is my summary of the 6 videos, but please check out the videos for more details on the research that was cited. its a 6 part series. A kidney specialist’s research on cause of obesity.
What doesn’t work:
- dieting or calorie restriction or calorie counting doesn’t really work. When body is given less calories, the body will adjust by lowering down the metabolism, often resulting in loss of body warmth. what is worst is as the metabolism is lower, the moment more calories come in, the body starts to store again.
- increased exercise doesn’t work. one research was based on a 1 hour perday every week for a year study, I guess it is without controlling food portions. as the test subject may eat more to compensate for loss in energy. I guess more than 1 hour exercise may work, cause it works for me in my cycling, running, hiking and triathlon training.
The real cause of obesity:
- food type – refined carbs without fibre E.g. Glucose and fructose) that raises blood sugar and activates insulin, E.g food high in glycemic and insulemic index.
- eating time (having snacks, having breakfast in morning, have late dinner at night before sleep) keeps insulin up,
- hormones (high insulin stores sugar as glycogen and fat, high stress/cortisol produces sugar that activates insulin.
So his cure for obesity and diabetes is
- low carb, high fat, high protein.
- intermittent fast (generally no breakfast and have late lunch), or water fasting (dont eat just drink, some religions practice for a few days to a month), there are several versions of this which I will share in future posts.
Viewing his presentation gave me a huge insight on the true cause of obesity, and what’s interesting is the knowledge isn’t really something new, it is more like it has been forgotten, covered up by the food industry marketing, faulty research and its interpretations, but mostly the food culture that we have been brought into. I invite you to watch and learn his youtube series on the truth on obesity, he shows facts, and some even common biology knowledge, knowledge I remember learning in A’level Biology on hormones, knowledge put together to find the truth. I invite you to suspend your current knowledge on obesity, listen to what Dr Jason Fung has to say, and then make up your own mind.
What interests me is the idea that if he does his job right in terms of promoting the truth on obesity, he may put himself out of a job as a specialist doctor.
You can just search Dr Jason Fung on youtube, or you can go to his website at https://intensivedietarymanagement.com/ where he may have other articles that you may have concerns with.
30 April 2016, Arrived KK from labuan after 4pm, had about an hour sleep in the ferry. Arriving at the port, greeted by my wife at jesselton, we walked together to Suria Sabah to pick up my race pack.
Met a few Bruneians at Suria Sabah, had dinner, bought snacks and my isotonic drink for the marathon the next day. Drove back to the hotel by 7pm. Prepped a bit for the run. Had my KFC takeaway, took a bath and tried to go to sleep. I think I slept after 8pm but woke up before 12am. Prepared myself, drank my 1L water, ate my small breakfast. And spent some time in the toilet. 😜
Drove from hotel after 1 am, Arrived at Likas stadium before 2am, looked for the toilet first. Then met a few runners from Brunei. I even asked some of them their expected pace, I targeted to pace a few who those targeting 5 or 6 hours.
I was surprised to meet an old acquaintance from KL who picked up running a few years ago. Thanks for the banana. 🍌
And it was cool to see other personalities in the run.
3am almost came, I felt like going to the toilet again, but cancelled when I saw the line.
Originally planning to start together with a few Bruneians, but lost them in the crowd. 3 am came and we started off.
Stumbled upon Mike who was plannimg to go a 7min/km pace. I tagged a long, along with Shahrun. We ran together for the first 15km, we wemt through a few small hills, but at one water station, Mike needed to get some muscle spray, so I took the chance to drop by the portable potty. Previously I noticed a few runners dropped to the side to their business. Finishing my business I decided that I would like to go on my own pace. So I broke off.
I started to overtake a few people. The day stayed to show. The sun started to rise. As I was going through University Malaysia Sabah’s hilly terrain, I passed the half way point, I was able to see the runners I passed. As well a Mike and Shahrun . Exiting the area, the fast 21km runners were overtaking me, and started to see the rest of the 21km runners. At one point saw and greeted another barefoot runner on the other side among them.
Seeing 1borneo I was hopeful that the end was near. It turned out the u-turn was still far off. My water reserves was low, and I stopped by the waterpoint to reload my bag with isotonic and some ice. On the way met another barefoot runner. He was already limping, my guess he either pushed too fast too hard too soon, or he never trained this distance barefoot, or simply got seriously injured along the way. Reaching the u-turn, I saw that it was 12km left at that point. I was elated to realize that it was only 1/4 left. Hopeful that I could finish the rest of the run under 2 hours. Met the other barefooted runner again and gave him a bit of encouragement. On the way back saw other people started to take off their shoes to continue, my guess the shoes started to hurt. Gave them a few tips to last the distance. E.g. Running on the white line. Even motivated a 21km runner to run with her shoes in hand, we ran together for a kilometer or so, till I left her behind.
I was glad to go through checkpoints that had the firebrigade bathing us in cool water. I took a few significant seconds to wet and cool myself. I actually felt refreshed enough to run fast for a few kilometers. There was apparently a spongebath but they were out of water, I took some sponges any way and was able to wet it during those watersprays and kept those sponges on my shoulder to keep cool. Those last few kilometres left, I was slightly demotivated as I saw 21km runners walking, tempted to join the walk, I pushed along, reminding myself I have been doing a relaxed run, following the feel, and I havent pushed myself much. But my hamstrings started to cramp, and my reserves was out. But as soon as we entered the stadium, and I felt the soft running track under my feet, I actually felt like running faster, and I did, for those last few metres. 😝
I stopped my GPS to find my finishing time to be 5:39, (later I found official time was 5:37). I was astonished my self. Here I was expecting more than 6 hours, but I did it under that time. Some of my friends was amazed as well, not just because I did a sub 6 hour marathon, nor was it barefoot, but I did it after finishing a 5km openwater swim the day before. I was amazed myself, and I was proud. 😃
Next up? Another faster marathon? Or more cycling to be able to do an ironman. I think a faster marathon is sooner, the next ironman I am targeting is the Langkawi ironman in November. But my challenge is not just the physical training, but also the financial challenges. Let’s see what I can do till then.
First off, originally I didn’t think I could make it. As I was also participating the borneo International marathon on 1St may 2016. And the swim was on 30th April 2016. Oh I also already booked a hotel in KK on 29th April. Suffice to say, I had a strong urge to do both, and I found a way to do both.
So what happened in general was the following.
28th April after 5pm left work to go home, and at 6pm left home to go KK, I drove until sindumin as I began to feel symptoms of motion sickness. My wife drove the rest of the way to our hotel, arriving after 11pm. Ate dinner that my wife cooked up earlier and then slept.
29th April, woke up at 6am to go off to jesselton to go by ferry at 8am by myself to Labuan, while my wife stayed in KK. I arrived at labuan after 11am. Had an early lunch at KFC, found a place called Mint Hotel that surprisingly had vacancies. Afternoon left for the labuan sea sport complex for the briefing for the open water swim. It was a simple and almost unorganized briefing. Then left to go for dinner. Which I found (and subsequently returned ) a lost wallet, met an iron lady – wendy, had dinner together, shopped for snacks and breakfast, and went to sleep. Just a note my dinner was at SCR where I consumed a significant amount of ginger that they served as condiments, which I had to ask for another set. 😝
30th April, woke up at 5am, got ready, left at 6am to meet wendy to walk together to the event. On location checked in. Waited for event to start. Met Brunei’s ultra ironman ahmad fathi, retrying his 2009 DNF. The swim was suppose to start 7am, but we started around 7:45am waiting for the guest of honour.
As the swim started I stayed to the left, trying to avoid the crowd. But as I tried my best to head for pulau papan, a few people crossed my path, and I had to slow down so I can swim on their right and swim in the my path. The water was magically clear, clearest than I have ever experienced in the past 5 years. I could see the bottom for the next few 100 meters. At some point, I felt a few stings behind my neck and shoulders, thought it was chafing, but as soon as I looked in the water, I realized it was jellyfish stings. I saw several small jellyfishes, their sizes only about 5cms or 2-3 inches in diameter. Small but painful. I slightly panicked and increased my speed and pulled my hands closer to my body to avoid touching them. After a while there was a school of fish, which I easily lost myself looking at them. As I reached pulau papan I was pleasantly surprised to realize I had no signs of sea sickness.
At pulau papan, the volunteers /marshals handed out the checkpoint items and provided drinks. As soon as I arrived I saw wendy the veteran iron lady arriving. I was proud to have been faster than she was. But she went back into the water first, I tried to follow behind her but I couldn’t catchup.
On the way back I ran into several other swimmers finishing their first half. Again I was proud as I used to be this batch, but this year I seem to be faster. I was awestruck again to see the school of fishes, but panicked again when I saw a few jelly fish. I almost caught up with a guy in front of me, I guess he paused due to the jelly fish, but then he started again and he was faster as I saw he got further the longer we swam. I finished the swim at a personal best of 2:22. We were required to check back in, to record that we were out of the water safely. I was given a towel as a finisher souvenir. Disappointed a bit that there was no finisher t-shirt. Spent the time later talking to A few swimmers, especially the veterans that were faster than me.
A few of learnings from experience, and other swimmers.
- My sighting strategy varied from 4 strokes to 10 strokes. It was a balance of sighting and swimming technique. If easier to sight, focus more on the swim. Get lost more often, sight more.
- My arms started to feel tired in the first half as I think pushed a bit hard earlier, and the top of my feet/ankle hurt the last quarter. My guess was lack of training, but I was advised to do more strength training /conditioning.
- No signs of sea sickness. Overloaded on ginger pills, 2 per 2 hours on the drive to kk. 2 before sleep, 2 on waking, 2 before, during and after ferry. Actual ginger during dinner, 2 before sleep, 2 on waking, and 2 before swim.
The closing ceremony was supposed to be at 11am, but we were informed it was going to be 11:30am, I was worried about checking out of my hotel at 12pm, and getting a ticket for the ferry back to KK by 1pm. So I left without attending the closing ceremony.
Arrived hotel, took a bath, checked out, bought ferry ticket, had lunch at KFC again. And went off to KK. Off to my first Borneo International Marathon.
To be continued to part 2.