For the last 3 years I have been practicing intermittent water fast, which is basically similar to normal muslim fast. Fasting for 18 hours (include sleep) and dining once or twice, drinking water was allowed. 2 years ago I felt the normal fast was… Well… Normal… Not a challenge, the dehydration was a bit, but not so much. So I decided to take it to the next level. Extended Water fast. Which I would be breaking my fast with only water, and no food… For 7 days. I have read others have been able to do for 14 to 21 days, world record was a year, but with medical supervision and supplements.
1st one 2 years ago, I decided to do during fasting month, less temptation, but i failed in he first week as those temptations crept up during the break fast, but I managed to do it in the 2nd week. I was even maintaining my active lifestyle, a relax 1 hour cycling before the break. Did it in 7 days, feeling I could extend but didn’t.
2nd try was last year, i wasn’t cycling, but I was hiking, the first few days was awesome, knowing I could push my self. But on 5th day I started to feel weak, and on the 6th day I couldn’t push myself anymore, as my wife who usually trails behind, was way ahead, and I was the one who needed a break. (Knowing what I know now, I should have supplemented with salt during my break fast). So that time I only water fasted only 6 days straight.
This year I didn’t maintain my active lifestyle, and I failed to do it the first half of ramadhan. On almost the final week, visiting my father-in-law for a family iftar, I was inspired to do it again, as my brother-in-law law who previously had practiced 14 day fast, shared he also hadn’t done it this year, but he was gonna do the remainder of the fasting month. Not so long after that my wife shared she was interested to to try, so we did.
This year has been the most challenging I have ever done. either because we did at the late stages of the fasting month, or the last meal we had.
First 3 days was fine, but on the 4th day I experienced diarrhea, after the water break fast of more than 2 litres, I had to go to the toilet. So I tried to reduce my water intake to reduce the diarrhea, I ended up the 5th day extra weak, so without any research, decided to do what I usually do with any diarrhea, drink more water to flush it out, adding ginger powder and tea. It kinda worked, the diarrhea stopped, but the ginger left a burning sensation in my belly. 6th day I noticed my tongue was white in the morning, and slightly yellow brownish in the afternoon. It was only that night I researched and found information on my experience and some remedies. Basically I needed some salt and something called psyllium husk, I will share more in the next paragraph. On the 7th day, I felt a bit more energy after implementing the remedies, but i experienced a funny taste in my mouth some extra saliva seemed to seemed to be produce, which recognize preparation before puking ( I know because I used to suffer from sea/motion sickness), but I didnt puke. a bit of abdominal pains and maybe acid reflux, what I think most people I know call it gastric. I found that releasing air through belching and occasional flatulence relieved the symptoms temporarily. 2 hours before the break I had to sleep for an hour to catch my sleep and to get thru the pain. At my food break fast I had the psyllium husk in a cup of water and proceeded to eat normally. Thankfully the diarrhea didn’t pop up, but now I was bloated with too much food. 😅
I think the major reasons for my complications this time around was due to the food I ate, the timing of the fast (last instead 1st half), but most importantly the need to supplemnt to avoid the complications.
To conclude I will share the complications and its remedies and the source.
- bad breath, may be accompanied by white tongue (the bad breath may actually be acetone produced from fat burning), need more water. And brush teeth and scrub tongue more.
- constipation, (due to no food intake this to be expected, but to move last meal…) magnesium citrate, and exercise (this is where it differs from previous years) If its really bad, MCT (coconut) oil with tea.
- Diarrhea, may make lethargy worse (constipation and then diarrhea?! On a disgusting note, surprised to see how long stuff gets stuck inside the intestine, I noticed a few cucumber seeds in there 4 days after my last meal) a teaspoon of psyllium husk in a cup of water. Don’t take too much or else constipation. So find a balance.
- Lethargy or tiredness or weakness, (I usually feel this after day 4) need more salt, a pinch of salt as is, or with water, or in soup. (I personally take a tablespoon, note that I sweat a lot and like the taste of salt)
- acid reflux (first time I experience during extended fast, might have been the salt), a tablespoon of unfiltered apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice. Avoid cure for lethargy. (I may need to find balance between acid reflux and lethargy)
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.