Is There a Dark Side to Intermittent Fasting?

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Disclaimer – I know some people are getting on their huffy bikes ready to defend intermittent fasting (or IF as it’s also known) to the death, so please keep this statement in mind. This article reveals my personal experience with daily intermittent fasting. I’m not going to quote or claim any science or research or anything like that. This article is written entirely from a personal experience stand point and should be taken as such.

Let’s kick this off with why I tried IF in the first place and what I initially enjoyed about it.

Daily IF – The Good

I’ve discussed my personal experience with three different methods of intermittent fasting before so I’ll keep this brief.

First, I must differentiate between two main methods of intermittent fasting. There’s a method that calls for daily practice such as following a 16 hour fasting window and an 8 hour feeding window and a method that calls for once to twice weekly fasting for approximately 24 hours. (Both methods — Leangains and Eat Stop Eat, respectively — are discussed in the article above).

In this article I’ll be referring exclusively to my experience with daily intermittent fasting that varied between a 16-18 hour fasting window and 8-6 hour feeding window. We’ll begin with what I really like about IF.

After spending years doing the whole “5-6 small meals per day and eating every 2.5 to 3 hours” thing, intermittent fasting was a welcome change. Practicing IF provided the opportunity to eat fewer and larger meals during the feeding window; I usually ate 2-3 times per day. Initially I absolutely loved this because I was able to eat large, filling meals. There was less food to prep and clean up after, I didn’t have to watch the clock out of fear of missing my next scheduled meal, and it was nice to finally feel full after eating a meal.

Winning!

Recapping the positives:

  • Larger more satisfying meals
  • Fewer meals to prep and clean up after
  • Didn’t have to worry about eating smaller meals on time as compared to when I ate 5-6 small meals

That’s the gist of my positive experience with IF. However, as I discovered a few months ago, daily IF has some cons to it as well. At least, it does for me.

The Dark Side of Daily IF

Admittedly, many of the problems I began to experience with IF weren’t because of the method itself, but more to do with me and my personality.

I’ve shared my previous battle with disordered eating habits and what I did to break free from them, and for a period of time IF was part of the solution.

But just like the other “nutrition rules” and diets I followed in the past, I soon became obsessed with following the IF protocol precisely. I was very adamant about following the fasting/feeding window to the minute. I wouldn’t eat a minute before I was “allowed to” and I certainly wouldn’t eat a thing when the fasting period began. Even if I was “allowed” to eat my first meal of the day around 1pm and I was starving at 12:45, I’d wait the 15 minutes because I was determined to stick to the protocol, no matter what.

Furthermore, sometimes my spouse would have to work late and I’d eat my dinner solo instead of waiting to share our meal together because I wanted to stay within the feeding window.

Once again, I was developing OCD eating habits, and I didn’t like it.

Beyond the OCD habits that were creeping up, there were a couple other issues that slowly developed. In the evenings I was insatiable and felt like I couldn’t get full, even if I ate a ton. My stomach would feel physically full, but my mind kept telling me to eat. As a result, I’d eat a lot of food and become overly full and uncomfortable even until hours after I ate the meal. Part of the problem came from me rationalizing that it was okay to eat that much food at once because “I didn’t eat much during the day” and “I won’t get to eat again for another 16-18 hours after this meal”. I felt the need to cram in as much food as possible in a short period of time to make the feeding window cut off.

And I noticed the most recent “dark side” to daily IF a few months ago when I became aware that my energy levels, especially during the first part of the day, were steadily decreasing. I felt mildly lethargic and concentrating on my work was becoming a struggle.

As time went on, I became increasingly hungry in the morning time but wouldn’t eat because it wasn’t the “feeding” time despite hunger and fatigue.

I was forcing myself to follow an IF protocol even though it wasn’t ideal for me at the time. I’ve discussed this — forcing myself to follow nutrition strategies even if they weren’t suited to my lifestyle and preferences — in My Biggest Nutrition Mistake.

It was these main issues combined — becoming obsessive-compulsive about following the fasting/feeding window, feeling like I had to eat gigantic meals and becoming overly full, and declining energy levels — that caused me to reevaluate the whole daily IF thing.

Recapping the Negatives:

  • Became obsessive, down to the minute, with the fasting/feeding window
  • Would “rationalize” that it was okay to eat such large quantities because I’d be “fasting” for 16-18 hours
  • Felt overly full from the large meals
  • Energy levels, especially in the morning, started to decrease

So, for me personally, there is a “dark side” to daily intermittent fasting. Again, this is based completely off my personal experienceBut practicing daily IF for years revealed to me it’s not some holy grail approach like some people make it out to be, and like I, admittedly, once thought it was. It’s not a miraculous end-all-be-all for everyone.

Recently my good friend, Jen Keck, wrote an articles series about her thyroid, adrenal, and hormone issues and what she did to correct them. One thing she did was avoid intermittent fasting and that appeared to have produced positive results. I asked Jen to share a bit more about her personal experience with intermittent fasting to get a better health and hormonal perspective on the effects of IF and women:

Any food prepper can tell you that it is a giant pain in the butt. Setting aside an hour or two every couple of days to prepare plenty of food is a hassle, and that’s not even mentioning the headache of finding matching tupperware to shove it all in.

When Intermittent Fasting starting gaining ground about two years ago, a lot of people were asking my opinion on it. I pride myself on being able to speak from experience on things rather than take an unfounded stance, so I embarked on IF.

For 3 weeks I stuck to a standard 16 hour fast and 8 hour feeding window every day. Of course it was a rough start, but like anything else, my body quickly adapted.

The problem was that I was consuming a ton of coffee in order to kill my appetite and keep my mind off of food. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that lots of coffee on an empty stomach with a tough training schedule and a super busy lifestyle is murder on the adrenals. In the end I decided I didn’t care for IF and nixed the structured fasting, but found I enjoyed waiting to eat my first meal around 11am or noon, and continued to do that.

A little over a year ago I was diagnosed was thyroid problems and hormonal ugliness, most of which was (go figure) an unhealthy cortisol rhythm. I sought out the advice of three different Naturopathic doctors in order to get things under control and every single one of them told me to stop fasting for the sake of my adrenals and thyroid. Fasting increases cortisol levels which, in turn, increases blood sugar levels. Breakfast is now imperative for me (along with substantially increasing my carbohydrate, but that is another story.) and my hormones and thyroid have been creeping in the right direction.

My personal opinion is that Intermittent Fasting is fine for some, however men tend to handle it better than women from a hormonal standpoint. I’ll keep prepping my food, buying new tupperware and eating four meals per day. ;)

Now you know my personal experience with IF as well as Jen’s.

Here’s a discussion about intermittent fasting with my good friend, Marianne Kane. We share our own experiences with IF — why we tried it, what we liked, and what we do now.

Bottom line here: I no longer follow a specific IF protocol or any rigid nutrition guidelines. Here’s what I do now . . .

What I Do Now and Why

Any nutrition regimen, in my opinion, should make your life easier and less stressful while allowing you to reach your physique and performance goals. If it’s not, then something needs to change. That’s why I stopped daily intermittent fasting.

What I currently do is incredibly simple. I listen to my body, eat when I’m hungry, stop when satisfied and not stuffed, eat a variety of foods that I enjoy, and follow some common sense nutrition guidelines (like eating primarily real, whole foods). That’s it.

I explain those guidelines and more in detail in Sane and Simple Nutrition, but it really is that simple. And it’s supposed to be.

No longer do I care about hitting a specific feeding and fasting window. If I’m hungry, I eat. Personally, this change alone — eating when I’m physically hungry — has made a huge difference with my mindset when it comes to food.

Now that I allow myself to eat whenever I’m hungry, I don’t feel the need to eat beyond satisfaction because I know I can eat whenever I become hungry again. Contrast this when I was doing IF and I’d think, “I better eat a lot because I’ve got to fast for 16 hours after this.” No longer do I eat so much that I’m uncomfortably full either, because I don’t feel the need to.

What About Daily IF and You?

Am I suggesting you abandon or completely avoid daily intermittent fasting?

Nope.

If you’re currently following (or considering following) a method of IF that you enjoy, fits into your lifestyle and schedule, and allows you to achieve your health, fitness, and physique goals, then by all means keep doing it. You should always do what works best for you. Period.

Many individuals prefer and can achieve better results with a more structured nutrition plan, and for many of those people a daily IF method is a great fit for them because it keeps them on track. If you think IF could work for you, or you currently practice it, then be sure to read this article by Brad Pilon – Fasting – You’re Doing It Wrong – for some terrific insight on the most common mistakes people make with IF.

However, to some people, intermittent fasting is another fad “Get-Skinny” diet they heard about that’s promised to solve all of their problems, allow them to lose fat with ease, and build a super sexy slim and trim body with minimal effort, so they force themselves to give a shot even if they don’t enjoy it.

But know this — neither intermittent fasting nor any other diet or nutrition regimen, not even my Sane and Simple Nutrition Guidelines, will work for everyone. Individuality, lifestyle, and preferences must be taken into account when it comes to eating patterns.

Here’s a terrific quote from Alan Aragon in an interview that pertained to intermittent fasting that sums things up well: “On a final note, I’ve seen the greatest client success come from letting individual preference dictate meal frequency. Some people do great on small frequent meals, others do great on the opposite (and all points in between). The theoretical advantages of any given dietary approach go straight out the window if it’s at odds with someone’s personal preference & adherence capability.”

Bottom line — do what you enjoy and whatever best fits your lifestyle and preferences.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and simplify if your current nutrition regimen is causing too much stress or isn’t producing the desired results.

And if you want to ditch diets and break free from OCD eating habits, you may want to check out Sane and Simple Nutrition. Click here for more information.

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  • “I freaking LOVE this info! I'm determined to be a Beautiful Badass!” -Tina V
  • mugu.gaipan

    unnecessarily sensationalized header. Like saying “The dark side to 5 training days a week” This seems to be more about your food phobias than about the inherent dangers of IF.

    • Nia Shanks

      Precisely why I stated multiple times that this was about my own personal experience and “Admittedly, many of the problems I began to experience with IF weren’t because of the method itself, but more to do with me and my personality.”

      • mugu.gaipan

        here’s what I was insinuating. Except from your article including a sub header”

        The Dark Side Of Daily IF

        Admittedly, many of the problems I began to experience with IF weren’t because of the method itself, but more to do with me and my personality.

        So admittedly, it isn’t “The Dark Side Of Daily IF” but just the dark side of restrictive eating. Admittedly, the article is very balanced and goes into detail that the issues were more personality based but I like many others I suppose, was expecting a bashing of the diet plan because of the headers/title and it turns out it just wasn’t for you in the long run as opposed to having an inherent issues with it.

        • Jen Keck

          I believe that you forgot to note that there is a question mark. Nia posed it as a question, not a statement, which means it doesn’t sensationalize anything.
          “Is There a Dark Side to Intermittent Fasting?” <— question mark.

          • mugu.gaipan

            Th fact that the header begins with “is” presupposes that. The simple answer to that would be “no”. Is there a dark side to neurotic eating pattern when you have neurotic tendencies? yes. Nothing she states even goes to any length to attribute her experience to the diet, so why even place it in the header except to draw controversy?. So again I state, sensationalized header using the diet fad of the moment. From what she writes, any regimented diet plan would have failed her.

          • Deb Oswald

            Personally I think it was a writer’s technique for using the headline to entice the reader! I think that she used that particular method appropriately, since it did get the attention of many people! If you read Nia’s blog and articles, you will notice similar titles, used to gain your attention and you get the idea that she uses humor and a sort of pseudo-advertising mechanism to mimic the “claims” of different diets and exercise programs. I know what I am in for when I read Nia’s titles, by her consistent use of a style. I think more of the same is to be expected and i really enjoy her writing and philosophy!

            Thanks Nia!

          • Nia Shanks

            Precisely. I choose to use attention grabbing titles to get people to read the articles. If I had a more boring, vague title like “my experience with IF”, it most likely wouldn’t get read. Yes, I use attention grabbing headlines. But I also do my very best to present helpful information in the article.

          • Deb Oswald

            I loved the article, and i am going to begin to use the information in a conscious way. Today I was definitely recognizing the eating patterns that I have, the cycle of guilt and am going to begin training for a goal! A 170 bench press. (I am at 150) I won’t let the 7 pounds I have gained all in my stomach make me sad any more. I will be the most beautiful badass that I can be. Whether that 7 pounds is still there or not. Thank you so much!

          • Alice

            And then you read it, find out its misleading and wasn’t very interesting at all reading about someone who already suffered from an eating disorder talking shit!!

          • moo.goo.gai.pan

            Mugu the header is to make people like me, to see other side effect of the diet, and it is Nia’s blog she can write everything she wants, and she wrote that she didnt advice anyone to leave the diet.. btw, if you feel like the diet is good for you, you can start by showing your face like she did, your ripped body and how you did it.

    • JuiCy

      hey mugu, why don’t you go write the article?

      • mugu.gaipan

        I don’t believe I was talking to you but thanks for the suggestion.

  • soniasimone

    Thanks for the update on this! I know you’re not alone in IF not working for you long term. Appreciate your letting us peek in on your process.

    • Nia Shanks

      Thanks, Sonia!

  • BigPappa

    Did you ever allow yourself cheat or reefed days?

    • BigPappa

      * refeed

      • Nia Shanks

        I’m not a fan of “cheat days”. I ate plenty of food each day so I didn’t have a need for a set “refeed”.

  • Brad Pilon

    Well written Nia!

  • Lauren

    Twice a week 24hr fasts? I first tried IF after reading John Berardi’s experience (http://www.precisionnutrition.com/intermittent-fasting) with different IF protocols and he recommended once a week but not twice, and I had pretty good success with it. Leangains didn’t work for me because I can’t work out in the middle of the day and I didn’t want to do my fast in the evenings and not be able to eat dinner with my roommates. I stopped mostly because I wanted to switch to maintenance but I was also having hormone issues (Those started before the fasting so I don’t know how much they had to do with each other.) and I gained back all the weight I had lost and more before my hormones seemed to get back to normal.

  • Anon

    It winds me up a little when people who don’t have OCD use it in a sentence. It’s a really serious condition. No you don’t have OCD you are just fastidious.

    • Abigail Page

      It’s common vernacular… and unless you’re a doctor that has knowledge necessary to diagnose OCD and you’ve met with Nia to assess her psychological health, I don’t think you can say whether she has OCD or not.

    • IAMTHELEAKER

      Oops, I guess I can’t say I am going crazy or that I am neurotic. Don’t want to offend whiners.

  • OhYeahBaby

    Bingo: What I currently do is incredibly simple. I listen to my body, eat when I’m hungry, stop when satisfied and not stuffed, eat a variety of foods that I enjoy, and follow some common sense nutrition guidelines (like eating primarily real, whole foods). That’s it.

    IF is a concept I will never understand. It’s temporary starvation and it’s ridiculous. Eat Food, Move Around, you’ll be fine. Why we try to make food intake complicated is beyond me. Don’t we have better, more important things to occupy our time???

    • Nia Shanks

      Agreed. That’s why I constantly try to make this entire process — especially nutrition — easier and more simple.

    • dancemegan

      That sounds like a great concept. But in reality its easier said than done for most people.

      If most people could just eat enough and move around, we would all be thin. But most people have eating disorders than are even aware of it, especially overweight people. A lot of people do move around but in comparison to what they’re eating, it’s not enough. I suffered from Binge Eating for most of my life and didn’t even know it. I was taught to clear my plate and it just stuck and made that ugly pattern of ignoring my body and not knowing when to stop. Also as a kid, hearing others say “Oh boy that was good, Im STUFFED”, kind of sets the tone that you’re done when you’re stuffed.

      I think that overeating is the biggest issue of weight gain (too many calories in, not enough out). If it was that easy to stop when you’re full (or to get over the ‘clean your plate’ concept) people just wouldn’t be fat, regardless of genetics. There’s a reason behind overeating, a reason that you know you are full but you keep eating anyway. There’s a reason that you cannot resist something that smells delicious when you aren’t hungry. These are real issues that won’t go away without therapy or some sort of extreme extra effort (which might lead to another eating disorder). And what about people with insatiable appetites that don’t feel satisfied until they’ve consumed well over their daily caloric needs?

      I used to envy people who could stop and leave leftovers. I just HAD to finish everything and if not I had to save them for the next day. Not everybody can do what you say is so simple.

      Also I read somewhere that temporary starvation isn’t as bad as people make it out to be. They supported their reasoning with that, in biblical times, people used to fast once a week for religious renewal. Many cultures do this today and it’s not harmful to them. Not sure if you’re American or not but our culture promotes that temporary starvation is bad for the body (we’ll go into starvation mode!) but others understand that it can have a positive effect on your body when not done excessively; not just to lose weight but to reset your metabolism, rest your digestive systems, and eliminate toxins.

      But I agree its silly to complicate our food intake. However, we all want to look presentable and it’s a big deal when you’re struggling with your weight. Unfortunately, it does become an all-consuming thing.
      Sorry so long.

  • Mary C

    I didn’t try IF because of broadly the same issues and I train at 4am 4 days a week so I found it hard to fit it around my life. I’m a single, working mum and if it requires time and energy I can devote to my child I won’t do it. I find that an IIFYM ( If It fits Your Macros ) or flexible approach works best for me. I can eat whatever I want in the evening, so my daughter doesn’t see me ‘dieting’, we can eat her favourite foods even when im leaning out for competition and I can fit my other 2 meals around that to suit. Also, I’m a BIG foodie and it gives me great flexibility.

    • Nia Shanks

      Thanks for sharing! I love hearing when other’s discover what works best for them. Good luck with your competition!

  • Abba

    You are so awesome, Nia! I learn so much from you and your thoughtful commentary on these issues. Thank you.

    • Nia Shanks

      Thank you. I’ve actually had this conversation with a few people recently, and that’s why I wrote the article.

  • LeeAnn

    I’ll be honest, I tried Intermittent fasting (briefly) hoping it would help me lean out and lose the weight that I somehow gained my last few months of eating Paleo. Not only did I not lose weight, I think I actually gained. I was stressed, hungry, grumpy, my period vanished for months and I could not stay asleep at night. I think my fasting trial lasted 40 ish days, but it took a pretty hefty toll on me. I read two awesome articles shortly after I “failed” at IF that helped me realize it was okay that it didn’t work for me. (Feel free to delete these if you like, or my whole comment, I don’t know the rules about linking to other blogs), but these really helped me when I was struggling: http://breakingmuscle.com/nutrition/train-man-eat-woman and http://www.paleoforwomen.com/shattering-the-myth-of-fasting-for-women-a-review-of-female-specific-responses-to-fasting-in-the-literature/

    • Nia Shanks

      I’m glad you found what works for you! That’s one of the reasons I wrote this article. IF is incredibly popular right now and so many people feel obligated to give it a shot, even if they don’t enjoy it. Many force themselves to stick with it because they were told it was the “answer” to fat loss, building muscle, or whatever. And then if they don’t get positive results, they think they failed when oftentimes that’s not the case. It’s never a good idea to force yourself to follow a plan that doesn’t fit your lifestyle and preferences.

      All that to say, “Thank you for sharing your experience”. :)

      • Christi

        I too went through the whole hardcore forcing myself to suffer through it and then binge at night, I also did the low carb paleo thing and was never ever satisfied, towards the end I began having periods every two weeks along with a bunch of weight gain that would not come off no matter what. Once I stopped and began eating when I felt hungry I am leaning out and have regained a normal menstrual cycle. I would never recommend IF to anyone after what I went through.

  • Sarah

    I found IF to be this way for me as-well. Especially feeling overly full after eating! I have type 1 diabetes so I thought it would be a good idea to eat 2 meals a day instead of 3-4. As it turns out, eating 2 huge meals raised my blood sugars so much that they were impossible to control for about 3 hours after eating! I go much better eating 3 normal sized meals a day and snacking if I get hungry.

    • Nia Shanks

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Sarah.

  • http://www.sistasofstrength.com/ Amanda @ Sistas of Strength

    I love how you knew everyone was going to get all up in arms about this topic before you even posted it. ;-)

    Love your insights and I have to say the hormonal side of IF has scared me quite a bit. I used to think IF was so weird and silly (especially for women after reading the hormonal research, etc.) and then I found myself kind of doing it naturally because of my schedule with work/training and a toddler. I enjoy it, but I don’t stick to it like crazy and I’m actually trying to extend the “feeding window” due to some of the things you mentioned and because I don’t want to screw with body. :)

    I train in the morning and/or have meetings/things to do in the morning so we tend to eat breakfast a little late or I feed my son and eat when everything else is done. We eat dinner together at 530ish so the time between breakfast and dinner for me is naturally short. I’m working at figuring out a happy medium that works best for me, my body and my lifestyle.

    • Nia Shanks

      Ha! Yeah, anytime you say something the least bit negative about a nutrition method, you’re bound to get some heat.

      Originally I included in the article (but removed it because it was getting too long) that I naturally “fast” for approximately 14 hours now. Everyone naturally fasts to some extent since we don’t eat non-stop.

      But the point there is that I don’t track it intentionally nor do I make it a point to eat every 14 hours or force myself to wait that long if I’m hungry before. I just prefer to eat when I’m hungry, so now I “fast” about 14 hours and eat 3 meals per day with maybe a small snack if necessary.

      Thanks for sharing!

  • Richard Manchur

    Great write-up Nia, I love your philosphy of sticking to the study of n=1. If it works for you than run with otherwise find an approach to eating that fits your needs.

  • Emil

    Excellent post with the expected comments. I’ve personally done IF more or less constantly for a year-and-a-half and it has been the easiest way to stay lean I’ve ever come across. But, there are a few downsides and it certainly isn’t for everyone.

    Much like Jen I’ve found myself consuming a lot more coffee and although I haven’t experienced any ill effects of that it’s a practice I’m not too keen on doing long-term. I’ve based my version on Martin Berkhan’s thoughts and that’s left me with some massive post-workout meals that have more or less forced me to just sit on the couch because of discomfort.

    I’ve seen some writers recommend longer feeding windows for women (can’t remember the reasoning behind it though) and for those struggling with IF that might be worth trying. Bottom line is always the same though: total calories rule. I’ve recently started using a model of three hierarchical ‘T’s to explain this to people:

    1) Total
    2) Type
    3) Timing

    When to eat (or not) really is the last variable you need to address, unless you’re roughly keeping track of total calories then the rest is moot.

  • franny

    Thank you so much for sharing your IF experience! It was eerily similar to my own: a honeymoon period of “Whoa! This is great–I don’t have to stress about eating breakfast before work and I get to eat huge meals AND I’m effortlessly leaning out.” But I also ignored severe hunger pangs to stay in my feeding window, as well as warning signs that IFing was maybe not the best for me: like the fact that my sleep became very erratic and poor, or that I was feeling enervated and light headed all morning until I broke my fast, or that I was battling some abnormally difficult bouts of depression–when I’m normally a joyful, bouncy person!

    I am only now starting to allow myself to eat when I’m hungry and recovering from the mental/emotional side effects, and hoping that my hormones rebound as well. Reading your article makes me feel so much better and reassures me that I *will* come back to a saner relationship with food. Thanks!

    • Gia

      Hi Nia! Just curious, what was your calorie count (if you did count) during IF and what is now that you aren’t doing IF. I know you’re not an avid calorie counter, but a rough estimate. Perhaps there was a larger difference in daily intake? Just curious :) great article as always!

      • Nia Shanks

        I honestly don’t have a clue. I haven’t tracked calories in many, many years. Visually, however, the quantity of food per day is very similar. Just spread out more.

    • Nia Shanks

      Thank you for sharing! I’ve heard similar stories to yours, and that’s one of the reasons I wrote this article.

  • http://www.melanietesta.com Melly Testa

    Nia, thank you for putting your thoughts out there and providing a balance in perspective. I just started lifting weight this year. I have not had any eating disorders and I eat well and appropriately for my body, I do not weigh too much or too little, my shape is quite nice. I have not tried to ‘lean out’ my diet, although I think it might be interesting to do so at some point. For now, I am just working out with consistency and seeing the results in my body. Sometimes I wonder why we don’t just eat simply, well, not too much, not too little and workout, because it feels good. All this striving and paying into ideas related to physique are tiring. :)

  • Lauren

    I completely agree! I ruined my metabolism and now deal with thyroid and adrenal issues. I now refuse to follow Mark’s Daily Apple and I have also stopped eating Paleo. Not eating carbs has been a culprit to my thyroid problems and has left me unsatisfied and consistently tired and fatigued. Not only that, but I soon developed a gluten intolerance when I came back to grains. This may or may not be the cause of my new gluten intolerance, but I suspect it does have a part.

  • Sara Ann Mason

    Really enjoyed reading this, Nia. My history with disordered eating is one of the reasons I have been hesitant to try IF (the other being that I like eating and want to be able to do it several times a day :-) ).

    Also, there’s a lot of “sensationalist” fitness writers out there. You’re not one of them.

    • Nia Shanks

      Thank you for the kind words. If you don’t think IF would simplify your nutrition approach, or even worse, cause some negative things to happen, then don’t do it. It’s definitely not a “holy grail” approach.

  • http://gigieatscelebrities.com/ GiGi Eats Celebrities

    I do IF all the time, without even knowing it. I typically will eat dinner around 630pm and then not eat again until 1130am – 130pm the following day. Works just fine for me!

    • Nia Shanks

      Yes, everyone does, technically, do some form of intermittent fasting. For example, nowadays I typically fast anywhere between 13-15 hours on average. However, I don’t intentionally strive to fast for a set period of time. I simply eat when I’m hungry. Thanks for mentioning this!

      • LC

        Hi Nia, great article. I used to fast 16-18hrs but after 1 yr noticed it was really forced most days. Also got sick of food babies LOL! Now I eat when hungry might be after 12 hr 14hrs or 10hrs and 3 even meals. Curious Nia, do you cycle your carbs/cals at all around workouts though?

  • tsquared

    Thanks for your post Nia. I am a sales rep and in my car a good portion of the day. Intermittent fasting worked great for my schedule. Several months into it however my energy levels started declining as well as my mood and unusual hair loss so I am getting my thyroid checked. I train early in the am fasted so I have started post workout nutrition and am going to check out your sane and simple. Thanks again for bringing this up.

  • sarahkayhoffman

    A huge fan of this post, Nia! Anyone offended by it is simply offended because it works for THEM. The real reason I applaud you for this is because many want to try it, but haven’t yet. They think that it, too, could be the holy grail that perhaps gets them to an inappropriate “lean,” when the reality is that this, like every other method is just that….a method. And with so many of these methods come the creation of rules, restrictions and obsession….and unfortunately, women have taught themselves now that “lean and strong” is the only way to be and thus (like Jen wrote about) wreaking havoc on hormones, etc. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I’m PAYING for that. Thanks for a great post on the POSITIVES and the NEGATIVES!

  • http://bodyenta.com/ elise a. miller

    I gotta get this off my chest first: Mugugaipan needs to eat something. It’s RIDICULOUS to spend all that time criticizing the title of your post because for one thing, it totally works! It lets the reader know in an intriguing way what the post is going to be about. This is the blogisphere! Nobody stays on a page for two seconds if something doesn’t titillate. We live in an ADD culture. Get real. For another, it’s a blog title. Get some perspective. Of course I guess I could do the same. I just get so aggravated with people. Grrr.

    ANYWAY!

    I IFed when I ate a Primal diet and I believe that the ONLY way it can be done without wanting to eat the plaster off the walls is to be in a ketogenic state. Which is a whole other ball of eating disordered craziness. I couldn’t imaging going all day without eating now that I’m on carbs again. No way Jose.

    What I love about your blog is that you live through it, get to the other side and share the results. The simpler, the more sustainable. I am so with you. Rigid perameters are a recipe for failure and resentment but they also lay the path for us to figure out what really works.

    Here’s to you, nutritional trailblazer.

    Oh and PS, I am working your bodyweight program—modified to fit my preferences and personality and LOVE it. I’m almost able to do a full handstand pushup and have finally nailed the unassisted pistol squat, thanks to your detailed progressive instruction.

    Thank you and all the best!

  • LC

    Hi Nia, great article. I used to fast 16-18hrs but after 1 yr noticed it was really forced most days. Also got sick of food babies LOL! Now I eat when hungry might be after 12 hr 14hrs or 10hrs and 3 even meals. Curious Nia, do you cycle your carbs/cals at all around workouts though?

  • BethM

    My experience with daily IF mimics yours almost exactly! At first I loved the freedom of not having to worry about food until 1 or 2 in the afternoon. And I did find some increased focus during the fasting window. But I also have a disordered eating background, and I found myself eating way more at night than I needed to because I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat for another 16 hours. Adding to the stress was my thought process of, “If I can’t eat until 10pm, then that means I will have to fast until 2pm tomorrow!”. Having those kinds of limitations on me totally brought out my food OCD. I would also try and push myself to lengthen my fasting window, even if I was really hungry. As though I was in some kind of IF competition.
    And what I do now is the same as you, also – I eat when I’m hungry, and stop when I’m full (unless I’ve had a drink or 3, and then I sometimes end up in binge territory). Sometimes I don’t eat until 12:30 or 1, but that’s rare. I just listen to my hunger. If I’m hungry when I wake up, then I eat. It’s knowing that I can eat whenever I’m hungry that keeps me from stressing out and feeling deprived.

    I’ve heard it said from more than 1 paleo guru that if you are under any kind of stress – not sleeping enough, really heavy training, crazy days at work, emotional/mental stress, etc. – then you should not be IFing, because it IS a stressor on the body. And if you’re already under stress, you don’t need to add more. Definitely not good for the adrenals!

    Great article, Nia. Thanks so much for sharing your experience with IF.

  • davidf

    dumb. u contradict urself and sell shit the contradicts what u choose.

  • cameo

    Great post and interview! I have been trying the IF on and off (I am an intermittent intermittent faster). I did it last summer and again am doing (was doing) it this summer. I couldn’t do it in the cold months. I need hot oatmeal in the morning. I have observed positive and negative results. Positive in that I can now go without food for more than 3 hours without turning into a major bizznatch. Also like that I learned to work out fasted as I actually move better with no food in my system. But the negative is that I have developed raging (*raging*) PMS since doing IF.

    After reading Jen’s tidbit about hormones and adrenals I wonder if I am not in the same boat.

    I really liked the structure of IF though, so am reticent to give it up completely. Do you think just a 12-14 hour nightly fast is OK for people with hormone sensitivity? Anyone?

  • Anna

    I like this! Like you, I have tried eating 6 meals a day, and IF, thinking one or the other is “right” or “the answer”. Whatever I follow, I always come back to the same thing – eat when you’re hungry, don’t eat when you’re not. Simple :)

  • Brandon S.

    Nia this was a great read! I was curious as to if you’ve tried CBL? If so, what were your thoughts? I’ve been doing CBL for over a year and love it (for many of the reasons you’ve mentioned…it fits my lifestyle, goals, easy, etc.). I do implement a “mini” fast with it. For example, if my last meal at night was say 9.30pm, I will only have my coffee and coconut oil in the AM, and won’t have a solid meal until around 9.30am. Some say it’s not a true fast since I have fat in my coffee, but I’ve found it’s a nice blend between the two and holds over really well, not to mention all the great benefits of coconut! Just curious on your thoughts, and again, great post!

  • KVad

    Do you think all your experience with IF has made your transition to eating only when you’re hungry easier? Most people “think” they’re hungry all the time which leads to eating but your experience with fasting has taught you more about when you are actually hungry. Does that make sense?

  • billw

    I have been doing IF for a few months now, a combo of Leangains and ESE approaches. Overall I am doing well but am finding fasted workouts a bit challenging as I tend to get light headed. Otherwise I do not take an anal approach to the timing which I agree could be more stressful.
    One question is about a statement on cortisol release when fasting. What is the basis for that claim? Brad Pilon’s research (Eat Stop Eat) refutes this claim. I am not being dogmatic about his claim but just seeking the truth. Thanks!

    • lca in az

      I think excersizing on an empty stomach is comparable to trying to drive a distance on an empty tank

  • Deanna

    I came to this article because started with IF and love it. Because it is so easy for me and I am never, ever hungry, I thought there must be a down side to it. First of all, I understand that it is more effective if you fast during the evening. It is tough, but I stop eating at 3pm and then start about 7am. I am not exact in my time because I understand that the window is 14-18 hours of fasting. Also, if I want to enjoy a meal out or a glass of wine, I don’t fast that day. I do began eating at 7am the next day to reset the cycle. I have been doing it only for a few weeks and actually have more energy and sleep better, but let’s see how I feel down the road though. FYI, I liked the writing style of the author.

  • FrankDaTank

    If you eat a low carb diet like Paleo… intermittent fasting is so easy, and really has benefits. When you are rocking a high carb diet and trying to IF you are more likely to be ravenous at the end of your IF cycle. Also, your headline was stupid. That may work on FOX news, but those people think McDonalds is a food group.

  • IAMTHELEAKER

    “listen to your body” and “common sense” ….oh brother. Easy way to lose any credibility.

    Yes, the body that craves sugar and high calories constantly, which was cultivated through early hominid conditions, and their predecessors, should dictate how we eat when food is made available with little energy exertion.. The body lobbies for terrible processed food, hunger sensors are not reliable or soundly intuitive in their operations, and “suggestions” they make for us.

    Also, you haven’t even mentioned exercise/training. This is not really a high intensity cardio diet. The fact you haven’t even mentioned anything training related makes this review pointless.

  • Steve

    Personally, IF has left me with an eating disorder after using it during a cut. running the protocol caused family problems (16/8) as I do the cooking and my spouse kept complaining about eating at 8pm, shifting that would have meant not training fasted and/or going even longer in the fasted state and then not being able to eat enough in the eating window. The cut itself was very succesful, no complaints!. However I decided to come off IF and start eating ‘normally’. Now what do I find? A very REAL problem with binge eating disorder and I mean BINGE. I can slowly see my physique turning to jelly before my eyes. I’ve asked myself time and again why I keep doing this and can’t find the answer…I’ve had sufficient calories throughout the day already but I keep finding myself at 8pm and later stacking up the calories, raiding the fridge etc. Even after a big meal I’m not satisfied, give in 30 minutes to an hour and I’m binging. This is not good! I’ve seen articles saying IF helps stop this kind of behaviour but when the mindset is that after hunger, comes the FEAST, I’m not so sure.