Eventually, I tried another experiment: intermittent fasting (IF) inspired by eat.stop.eat. I began to skip breakfast and only eat lunch and dinner. This made the calorie count easier to handle, but was difficult for the first two weeks, as I was hungry in the mornings and I was doing my workouts on an empty stomach. I think my body was struggling to adjust to the lower blood sugar. It took my body two weeks to react to the situation, but now I find it perfectly fine, and now if I do have breakfast I have to keep it quite light to not feel full. A typical breakfast for me now is half a grapefruit and a natural yoghurt.
For all those who are about to shout at me for missing breakfast: nullius in verba. This is the motto of the Royal Society, and translated means “Take nobody’s word for it” or “Question Everything.” The advice to eat a good breakfast comes especially from those who wish to make money from us eating breakfast, while actually providing what is a relatively poor source of nutrition. Breakfast cereals, on their own, are an awful source of macronutrients and vitamins, until they are added afterwards! And don’t get me started on the Nutella adverts, which promises a healthy balanced breakfast. The whole healthy breakfast maxim has been hijacked by companies trying to convince you that you need it, so you will buy their version of it.
The reasoning behind fasting is as follows. Our bodies likes to burn sugar, in the form of glucose. It’s the body’s primary source of energy. When you eat, your body can take the sugar in the food and burn it. Any excess sugar will be stored partially as glycogen, which is typically stored in the liver. This is the body’s short term reserve of glucose. The remainder can be converted into fat, which is stored in adipose tissue.
There is a limit to the amount of glycogen stored in your liver though, and while resting, it takes about 12 hours to burn the glycogen in your liver. If we continue fasting after all the glycogen has been depleted, the body will start to burn through its secondary store of energy: fat. The body doesn’t like burning fat, but it will do it to keep you alive. When we burn fat, your body releases hormones that make you feel hungry though, so that you take on some food and increase your sugar supply.
The longer you go without food at that stage, the longer you will burn fat.
One of the concerns with this is something called gluconeogenesis. Your body, rather than burn fat, is capable of burning protein to synthesise new molecules of sugar. If you don’t have protein in your diet, then your body can actually break down muscle to create protein.
So my reasoning was, if I want to burn fat, go longer without eating. In IF terms, it’s about an 18:6 intermittent fast: fast for 18 hours, eat for 6, from 1pm to 7pm.
The weight came down, and the fat came off. I could do muscle ups at the gym again. My calisthenics were great.
The great thing about this for me is it’s as if I’ve found the dials to my bodyweight. If I want to keep a steady weight, I can eat a light breakfast. If I want to lose weight, I can go back to IF for a couple of weeks.
My BMI is fine (22-23) and I’m really happy with my body and my bodyweight.