Intermittent Fasting and the Sport of CrossFit
In CrossFit, the most suggested way of eating is either “Paleo” or “Zone”. It is easy for people to account for what they eat (both quality in quantity) and very often it is the first time in their life they have done so. That’s why it works. At Okie CrossFit we call it the “Low Hanging Fruit”. Start counting your food and not eating like a jerk and you get results. 100% of the time. Coach Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, describes “World Class Fitness in 100 words: to eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruits, little starches and no sugars…” If you are sure to get that dialed in before looking into more advanced nutrition regimens, you’ll have huge success. Pass “Go” without collecting $200 (Monopoly Board Game is my childhood favorite) and don’t do the easy stuff (count food and make sure it is good quality) and you’ll put yourself on another “diet” that didn’t work….
But every once in awhile, another term gets mentioned. “Intermittent Fasting” also known as “IF”. Will it make you fast? What is a mittent? We’re here to clarify IF and explain any benefits and drawbacks?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a form of dietary restriction. Essentially you fast (don’t eat) for a pre-determined period of time. That period can be anywhere from twelve hours upwards to 24 hours. Essentially, we all fast in a form of fasting when we sleep. You’re not eating for 7-9 hours. Congrats to you on your self control. LOL. That time without food can be considered a time of intermittent fasting (IF), and when you begin to incorporate IF into yourr routine, this is probably the easiest way to accumulate a long period of fasting, such as the 12 hours into their current nutritional regimen.
Why would someone implement IF? Well, research has shown that when done correctly it might help regulate blood glucose, control blood lipids, reduce the risk of coronary disease, manage body weight, help us gain (or maintain) lean mass, reduce the risk of cancer, and more. Great stuff right? Yes, if you are overweight, pre-diabetic, high blood pressure, etc… IF could really help you (see first paragraph about having some self control and sticking to a plan).
A lot of the research on IF is still fairly new, which means there’s still not a lot of conclusive data. There is no one set way to do IF; the nice thing about it is that it can fit into your lifestyle depending on your schedule and when you want to implement it. It isn’t for everyone, but people who are dissatisfied with their current eating habits may be interested in the health benefits of eating less frequent meals and in a potential increase in your body’s ability to process the nutrients you consume. What does that mean? No single diet works for everyone. We are all food addicts of some form or fashion. Varying degrees if you will. You MUST find something that works for you.
With IF, you are training your body to have infrequent meals. With time, your body will adjust. If you are concerned about your calories or macronutrient intake, you can always write everything down in a food log in order to ensure you are still hitting your targets. Your meals will be much larger and you most likely will need to supplement Protein (in order to save your jaw from over usage due to chewing(.
How do you schedule your fasts? This will vary based on your own personal schedule. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach here, which makes it more reasonable and potentially feasible for anyone to do it. The time at which you train may impact your fasting. You can experiment with training during a fasted state and training during the window of time when you are able to consume food. The key here is going to be tracking your performance to see where you are noticing the most gains. Where did you feel stronger, faster and where were you able to perform at a higher level on a regular basis? Allow that to dictate if it serves you well to keep it in your regimen at the times you choose.
So, is IF fasting for you? Who knows! Try it and see if there are improvements in your body composition, performance and how you feel. Track everything so you have data guiding your decisions. Make things as simple as possible. I am a huge fan of routine, so I would suggest getting into one where you try getting all of your calories during a particular window of time. For example, this could be over the course of 8 hours (perhaps 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.) so you are on a set schedule, but if that doesn’t work with your lifestyle then figure out what would.
Intermittent fasting implies that our eating should be done intermittently. The goal is to regulate our hormones and help us hit the reset button. Try doing IF two to three times a week and see if you experience some of the benefits mentioned above – regulated blood glucose levels, manage your body weight, or help gain or maintain lean mass. If you’ve done IF before, we’d love to hear your experiences and successes.
IF is not for everyone. If you are under high stress or sleep deprived, please be very cautious about experimenting with IF. It is easier to get your stress and sleep organized than to change how you eat. The benefits of getting your stress and sleep worked out probably will burn more fat than a clean diet anyway (remember – Low Hanging Fruit) Work first on establishing a better sleep and stress management system before moving on to a more complex nutrition strategy.