I reckon my first responsibility with venturing into writing articles about health, vitality, fitness and wellness is to first divulge that I am not a doctor, nutritionist nor personal trainer. What I share with you in this and subsequent articles is what I, through experimentation, have found works best for me. And I share it because these discoveries made about my own health and fitness could prove of value to you, knowing that everyone is an individual and my recommendations may, if adopted, be modified to suit one's personal needs and goals. We are all so individual. A willingness to experiment is critical.
While at forty-seven years of age I am in the best physical shape and health of my life, it is important that I dispel one myth before proceeding. It is often assumed by others that I go to the gym every day, spending countless hours working out and exercising to stay fit.
Quite the contrary. I enjoy the gym, but not so much that I am there every day. For starters, I simply haven't the time. I hit the gym two, sometimes three days per week, and go for three-mile runs two or three days in between. I wish to create time to get back into kickboxing and yoga, perhaps hitting the neighborhood rock gym, thereby working out more frequently and with greater variety, but until I can get my work schedule down to seven days per week, that might be tough. ; )
There are three main factors that have proven successful for me with regards to my level of fitness:
- When I Eat
- What I Eat
- How I Workout
Let's drop what you are eating for now. Never mind workouts, for now. We will take up those subjects in a week or two. "When I eat," is the topic of this article and, due to the need for a preface, likely longer than the articles that will follow. So let's tuck in:
When I Eat
I eat only between the hours of noon and 8 p.m. These hours work best for me as I'm generally in bed by 10 p.m. This schedule ensures that I have stopped eating a good two hours before bed, and sixteen hours before my next meal.
We refer to this as, "intermittent fasting," and, by now, you've likely heard of it. It is all over social media. But this is not a fad diet. With fad diets come 200-page national best-selling instruction manuals. They are complicated and difficult to follow, especially for the long term. And many of them are downright unhealthy.
While volumes can be written about the benefits of intermittent fasting (please see linked video and article below for the skinny), learning how to follow such a diet doesn't require enrollment in a class on nutrition at your local community college adult education program.
What it comes down to is that we don't need to eat as much or as often as we think we do. Survival instinct insists otherwise, but it's okay to be hungry and not eat every now and then. Daily, for that matter. I mean, do you have sex every damn time you feel horny? It's totally natural to get hungry, to feel randy, and I am not recommending that such human experiences be suppressed. However, a little balance, moderation and self-discipline go a long way. Without these, we can ruin anything. Suddenly the thing we enjoyed turns on us and we stop liking ourselves for it—and that's a trap all its own. Eating is an enjoyable experience. We can ruin it by insisting that we partake in the pleasure of eating excessively.
The main benefits I have reaped from this eating schedule are, better sleep, more consistent energy throughout the day, much leaner muscle mass (the six pack returned in six weeks and the lower back fat that prompted the change made a fast exit).
Operating under the assumption that you have no underlying health conditions that would go against such recommendation (diabetes, hypoglycemia, etc.), I suggest that you try eating only between the hours of noon and 8 p.m. (or adjust according to your sleep schedule) for the next few weeks and see what happens. It can be a little difficult at first. You may get "hangry", and you're going to have to challenge that old "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" adage. But this meal schedule can help tremendously with trimming down and having more consistent energy levels throughout the day. And studies suggest it may lead to a longer and healthier life.
- Read The Benefits of Fasting by Katie Holmes, lead editor at OutwitTrade.
- Watch this video from Tech Insider which summarizes intermittent fasting and its benefits really well. I had intended to publish a video of my own, but they pretty much nailed it.
- Read Intermittent Fasting: Surprising Update, by Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Harvard Medical School. It will provide greater details the studies behind intermittent fasting and its short and long-term benefits.