My Experience with Intermittent Fasting

In October of 2013, I was starting to backslide.

Thirteen months earlier, I had thrown myself headlong into a life-transforming whirlwind of fat loss. Despite not really knowing what I was doing, I worked my ass off, day after day. It started in the gym, with marathon sessions that hit muscle groups that I hadn’t even known existed. My nutrition was next on the agenda, and for months, I ate nothing but chicken breasts, eggs, cottage cheese and protein powder in such small quantities that I can scarcely believe that I retained any muscle at all. When all was said and done, I dropped 50 pounds in three months, from 240 down to 190. Utterly exhausted, I decided I was going to take it easier on myself for a little while.

By the time October of 2013 had rolled around though, my body fat percentage was creeping back up. I had gotten far stronger since the first of the year, mostly a result of lax dietary standards, more sporadic visits to the gym (allowing for better recovery), and lower-intensity sessions. When I headed in, my workouts certainly weren’t the three-hour sufferfests from 2012. I’d eat a burger here and there, as nothing was really being regulated or monitored. The size medium shirts (after ten solid years of being an XL) I had bought in January and February were starting to seem a bit small around my mid-section.

Prior to this, I had taken the bulk of my fitness advice from my friend Dave. A former Marine officer, I had known Dave for going on twenty years at this point. He has a great understanding of the mechanics, the nutrition, the supplementation, and the methods with which to put it all together. With some guidance from him, I certainly got stronger and more rounded, learning to both squat and deadlift with proper form. Where I hesitated in applying his advice, unfortunately, was in taking a highly regulated approach towards my nutrition.

For those who have known me for a long time, it goes without saying that I’m noticeably more bull-headed than the average person, although this has (with some work) softened with the passing of time. If I believe I have something figured out, I tend to stick with it, not necessarily dismissing the advice of others, but rather preferring to test my own theories first. In this case, I wisely chose to take one look at my slowly expanding waistline before deciding that I should probably hear him out.

Intermittent Fasting Explained

  • Pick a 4-8 hour window each day where you will eat. The most common window is something like 12-8 PM.
  • Eat or drink no calories outside of that window.

That’s it.

You can have black coffee, unsweetened tea, water, BCAA mix, or any other calorie-free beverage outside of the window, but no food, period.

Design, Implementation, and Results

The whole concept of Intermittent Fasting was completely foreign to me. When I had dropped 50 pounds a year or so earlier, I was eating different foods than I was used to, in smaller quantities, but my attitude towards eating was still the same: If I’m hungry, I’m going to put food in my mouth. Of course, the food choices were better, and the portions were small. A hard boiled egg, a chicken breast, a bowl of cottage cheese. The idea of determining when and how to eat these foods was simply the next step.

I sat down and designed my weekdays, which were remarkably simple, and operated (in terms of macro breakdown) along the lines of a fairly normal high protein, moderately high fat, low carb diet:

  • 7:30 AM Wake up, coffee
  • 9:00 AM Arrive at work, coffee, tea, and water
  • 2:00 PM Weight training on my hour-long lunch break (we had a small gym in the building)
  • 3:00 PM Drink whey protein and eat 4 oz. of chicken breast
  • 6:00 PM Arrive at home, eat dinner (usually a large steak/egg/spinach salad served in a pie plate, followed by some cottage cheese with cinnamon and a splash of honey).
  • 7:00 PM No more food, eating window closed.
  • 11:00 PM Bedtime
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Some of my evening meals from this time period

The morning of my first day came. I was initially nervous about going to work on an empty stomach, but within a few hours and several cups of coffee, the nervousness had passed. It wasn’t anywhere near as hard as I expected it would be. Sure, I was thinking about the fact that I hadn’t eaten, but for the most part I was sitting around waiting for my hunger to descend into a sort of hellish misery, which never actually happened. Training on an empty stomach actually seemed to allow for a higher intensity session (At that point, I had no idea WHY this happened, just that it did). After the first week, I was shocked at how effortless IF really was.

A few weeks into IF, I started noticing that my clothes were fitting differently. My gut was shrinking, and my shoulders were beginning to get more defined. I didn’t have a scale at the time, but it became apparent that I was losing fat.

I am impatient by nature, and I wanted to see results even faster. I stopped bringing chicken to work with me, and only drank a protein shake after my short training sessions. When I got home, my evening meal was proportionally larger. Many of these meals would see me eat until I was completely full. But by limiting the time frame in which I was eating, I ensured that when all was said and done, I was operating at a caloric deficit each day, even if I absolutely stuffed myself. Add in the fact that I was waking up, walking around the office and visiting the gym on an empty stomach (meaning my body HAD to run on stored body fat) you can see how Intermittent Fasting gives you a significant advantage in the war on body fat.

I wasn’t lifting significantly heavier weight in the gym (and wasn’t building muscle, because I was at a caloric deficit, something I keep mentioning that we’ll get to in a moment) but within several months, I was far leaner, dropping quite a bit of body fat while still maintaining my strength. My energy level throughout the work day was always significantly higher than that of my sluggish co-workers, despite my having not eaten since 7:00 PM on the previous day.

My weekends, though filled with cheeseburgers, burritos, and pizza, still adhered to the eating window I had laid out so many months before. I remember vividly one Saturday morning, biding my time and watching the clock until 2:00, when I would allow myself to visit a local Sheetz, and eat myself sick. Cheat days allowed my body to refuel itself on carbohydrates, but also helped me maintain my sanity. I would have seen greater results without them, but may have ended up institutionalized, negating anything positive about the experience.

By the time I took a break from IF in June of 2014, I was as lean as I had ever been in my adult life, dropping almost 10% of my body fat in eight months. I hadn’t made any strength gains, but then again, that wasn’t my goal. I wasn’t any weaker or smaller than I was when I started. I was far leaner, though.

 

Caloric Deficits and Surplus (in simple terms)

Everybody is different. Some of us are tall, some of us are short, some of us build muscle easily, and others pack on fat like a grizzly preparing for hibernation. It’s one of the most crucial reasons why having a training program custom built for you is so vital to your success or failure. Thankfully, there are tools to help all of us make sense of where we are at, and give us starting points for where we need to go.

We’ll start by using this tool, a basal metabolic rate calculator. Your basal metabolic rate is the amount of calories you need every day to maintain your current weight. (Enter your measurements, and click on the link labeled “Harris Benedict Equation” below this to determine your requirements based on your daily activity level)

Got your number? Great.

Consuming anything higher than this number is considered a Caloric Surplus and with a few exceptions (which we won’t get into in THIS article), the excess will be stored as body fat. There are 3500 calories in a pound, so if you eat a surplus of 500 calories (that is to say; 500 calories ABOVE the number you got from the Harris Benedict Equation) per day, in seven days, you will have put on one pound of fat. That’s four pounds per month, 36 pounds per year. Most people don’t eat this consistently, but it’s easy to see HOW one can pack on the pounds with a fairly modest daily surplus.

Consuming anything lower than this number is considered a Caloric Deficit. The same math applies, just in the opposite direction. Lower your intake by 500 calories per day, and in a month, you can easily lose four pounds. Thirty-six pounds in a year? If you have that much to lose, simple math shows how it can be done.

Keep in mind, though, as your weight goes down, your BMR is going to change. If you’re losing a pound every week at 1700 calories, eventually your deficit is going to “catch up” to your BMR, and caloric intake will need to be lowered again. I know it’s not fair, but neither is life. Get used to it.

The definitions of surplus and deficit are universal, but come into play significantly when it comes to IF. The simple mechanics of eating once, maybe twice a day, no matter how hungry you are, it’s far more difficult to enter a surplus. Glutton for punishment that I am, I’ve tested this theory, eating steaks larger than my head. Even though I’m quite hungry when I eat only once a day, I find it nearly impossible to cross the BMR threshold when I’m eating the right kinds of foods.

A Short Note on Macronutrients

Notice in the last sentence of that last paragraph where I mentioned “when I’m eating the right foods?” Yes, calories in versus calories out is the most important metric, but neglecting  which macronutrients you’re pulling those calories from can come with consequences. I talked about it earlier, but I recommend a high protein, moderate to high fat, low carbohydrate breakdown on IF. You’ll retain muscle, feel fuller on less calories, and decrease insulin sensitivity (which determines how excess calories are stored).

Unfortunately for most of us who have acquired a taste for it, aside from the odd cheat day, this means saying goodbye to the crack cocaine of the food world, sugar. Sugar is purposely re-branded as “agave nectar” “corn syrup solids” and “golden syrup” but whatever food manufacturers want to disguise it as, the nutrition label does not lie. The best way to stay away from it is to simply avoid pre-packaged foods altogether. Bars, cereals, and frozen meals with “healthy” packaging are anything but. Stick to fresh meat, eggs, fish, poultry, green vegetables, and all will be well.

These sugars and high-GI carbs play quite a few nasty tricks on our body, one of which is making us think we aren’t full, causing us to slide right past our BMR and into the surplus range for the day. Hypothetically speaking (I really don’t suggest you do the latter of these two), if you were to put 1000 calories worth of steak and eggs into your stomach one day, then 1000 calories worth of pizza and ice cream into your stomach the next day. Determine how hungry you were an hour later and chances are on steak day, you’d likely still be satiated, whereas on garbage (pizza and ice cream) day, you’d be ready for more. Quality most certainly IS as important as quantity, but I’ll go much further in depth in a future article.

In conclusion

Intermittent fasting is, by and large, fairly simple. It’s like anything else in terms of fitness, though. On the surface, it certainly works, but it’s a seriously powerful tool if you understand it, design it to fit your life, and occasionally rework it the program so it can serve you best.

 

Thanks for reading

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Shattered – By Timo Fischer

I’ve known Timo for about six months, and I wasn’t at all surprised when he told me back in January that he was planning on releasing a book. He’s a hard worker, always charging full-steam towards his objectives, and his idea for a book sounded solid. Earlier this month, as we were preparing for our podcast session, he asked me if I’d like to take a look at a pre-release.

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To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect, other than the subject matter, which dealt with the illusions and lies that shape modern life. I was certainly not expecting a sub-par product, but I was prepared to let Timo know my unbiased thoughts on his work. After all, there’s no point in offering a critique if you’re going to lie to make the author feel good about himself. So, in the midst of our Skype call, I paged through it, and told Timo I would let him know what I really thought about the book as soon as I had the time to actually read it.

Shattered on Amazon

Later that night, I took the time to sit down and open Shattered with no distractions. Within the first five minutes I told myself “I’ve underestimated him. There’s no need to think about how I’m going to phrase criticisms, as this is an excellent piece of work”. I was incredibly impressed with what I was reading.

Shattered is not a narrative, a how-to book, or a self-help book. Rather, it is a collection of hard-hitting Maxims and short statements that apply universally. It reads a bit like “The Art of War” but “The Cliffs Notes of Wisdom” is how I would describe it.

This book is designed to be read differently, but it’s an intuitive process. You simply can’t help but stop and think about how each individual Principle or Maxim applies to your life. I find myself going back to it, time and time again, pausing and reflecting, pausing and reflecting. As I said, it’s not a self-help book in and of itself. That being said, if you’re really absorbing the words, they will motivate you to ask yourself some difficult questions, and at times take an unblinking look at yourself.

I’m really impressed with Timo’s book, and consider it quite a valuable piece of writing. Take into consideration that this is his FIRST book and it becomes all the more impressive. Shattered has made an impression. It gets an enthusiastic thumbs up from me, and will remain in my library for a very, very long time.

Check out Timo’s work here.

 

 

My Difficult Relationship With Sleep

I’ve always had a hard time with sleep. In high school, the simple act of dragging myself out of bed at 6:00 in the morning for class was far more difficult than any of the hellish cross-country practices I had to endure in the afternoons. Fights would brew between my parents and myself every morning. By the time I finally got out of the house, I had to sprint through the dark, cold Pennsylvania morning on my old Diamondback to barely make it to the bus stop in time, sometimes rounding the corner to see the yellow beast pulling away from the intersection. I would often be left behind to climb back up the hill and beg for a ride to school from my parents.

As a teenager, I was too young and naive to see my bad mornings as a potential problematic issue in the future. It didn’t really effect anything, and I always ended up at school more or less on time. In my mind, getting up early just “sucked” and was something I wouldn’t have to do after high school, anyway.

In college and my early twenties, it only got worse. Night after night, I was staying up until at least 4:00 in the morning, if not later. If I wasn’t out, I was on my computer, drinking Mountain Dew, talking to friends on AIM, posting on Mazda message boards and downloading music. Morning classes were never attended, and when I had somewhere to be before noon, the act of waking up after only three hours of sleep was an absolutely excruciating proposition. If left to my own devices, the sky was the limit. I’d be up until 7 or 8 in the morning, dicking around on the internet, then sleeping until 3 or 4 in the afternoon. I had nothing else going on, so who cares, right?

This continued for years. I gave myself excuses instead of looking at the underlying problem (a behavior that was prevalent in all avenues of my life).

  • “I’m just not a morning person”
  • “I must have a sleep disorder”
  • “People aren’t meant to wake up that early, they’re stupid for doing it”
  • “Fuck it, I like sleeping in”

As college faded into adult life, and having to actually hold down a job, I faced a choice: wake up on time or you don’t get paid. So I turned to my new friend, alcohol. I would drink enough to pass out at least a few times per week. The alcohol definitely made it easier to fall asleep initially, but the quality of it was abysmal. I would toss and turn, ending up completely awake and sober after only a few fitful hours, feeling even more exhausted than when I went to bed.

From 2009-2012, the problem got worse. I was sometimes working 24 straight hours, from 3 PM until 3 PM the next day. This wrought absolute havoc on whatever sort of sleep schedule I had poorly attempted to establish. Unfortunately, these overnight shifts came with the territory, and there was no opting out. For months on end, my circadian rhythm was a complete mess. I would take naps any time I could, drinking until dawn sometimes, other nights sleeping from 6PM until noon the next day. There was no normalcy whatsoever. I was a mess.


When I left that job, got into the gym, and (most recently) stopped drinking, things started to normalize a bit, but I was still predisposed towards staying up late and sleeping through my mornings. Something had to change, but I took a dangerous approach with some unpleasant results.

walsom

When I first experimented with an OTC sleep aid (pictured above), I was convinced I had found the solution to my problems. It was like shooting myself with a tranquilizer dart. I was down for the count immediately. If I took them too early in the evening, I would stumble around the house running into furniture, trying to find a place to collapse and pass out.

The tranquilizer dart analogy works quite well, as I felt my body was “fighting” the medication. Even though I wanted to be knocked out, my body didn’t. I would unconsciously struggle to keep my eyes open, to snap out of it. When I did fall asleep, it wasn’t natural. I was being dragged kicking and screaming into a state of sleep.

Mornings became far worse than they had ever been. I would wake up but my brain was not functioning. I would often leave my house without my keys, my wallet, or my phone. I would forget to turn off the bathroom sink, leave the front door unlocked, and try to drive my car with my parking brake still engaged. I had the cognitive function of a brick until several hours later, when the fog would finally start to lift. If I didn’t have five or six alarms set, I would easily stay in bed for 10+ hours on the stuff.

In time, I developed a tolerance. It became evident that one softgel wasn’t having the effects that it once did. Over the next few weeks, I upped my dosage to two, then three, then four. Then the first sleepless night happened.

I couldn’t lay still. My legs were constantly in a state of restlessness, I couldn’t get comfortable, and it only got worse as I thought about the minutes and hours slipping away, still awake and alert. It was though the medication had turned on me, and was doing the exact opposite of what was intended. The next day I was useless, mumbling and walking around like a zombie. The experiment had failed. So finally, after this miserable night, only a few months into taking “knockout pills” on a nightly basis, I quit cold turkey.


Sleep is much like nutrition: you reap the benefits of having good habits, which need to be properly developed and have attention paid to them. In the weeks following my decision to stop using the knockouts, I realized that I needed to put forth some effort towards correcting my sleep habits. I consciously started to develop behaviors and, through trial and error, employed some natural aides to help regulate my sleep.

  • Have a set bedtime every night, and stick to it. Mine is midnight. When it’s bedtime, I am in bed, with all electronic distractions having been set aside. No twitter, no texts, no conversing or interacting whatsoever. Even if I don’t fall asleep until 1:30, I’m still in bed and ready for sleep at midnight. Instead of saying “I am waking up at 7:30 AM tomorrow” and setting an alarm, I wake up the next morning instinctively, after 6-7 hours of sleep.
  • Melatonin before bed. I found a low dose of this does little for me, but a slightly higher dose tends to work well, making me tired, telling my body AND brain “it’s time to go to sleep”. I fall and stay asleep naturally, with no restless tossing and turning, unlike with alcohol or OTC pills.
  • Visiting the gym and staying active. I fall asleep far more easily on work days than I do on rest days.
  • No caffeine after 4:00 PM. As immune to caffeine as I feel, I do notice the effects of it if I’ve taken it in the evening. At bedtime, my mind will be racing and my body will  be restless.
  • Vitamin D when I wake up. Either via a Vitamin D3 supplement, getting some sunshine or (in the case of winter) visiting the tanning bed for a few minutes, I want to make sure I’m receiving enough Vitamin D. On days when I’ve been out in the sun all day, I fall asleep effortlessly. Not the case at all if I’ve been sitting inside staring at a screen.
  • Staying hydrated throughout the day and tapering down in the evening. I read something interesting a few months ago, written by Mike Cernovich. The methodology is that by drinking a large amount of water just before bed, you will wake up naturally at the end of your sleep cycle, needing to visit the bathroom. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work for me. I try to stay well hydrated at all times. If I drin end up needing to take a half-dozen trips to the bathroom as I’m in the process of falling asleep, which proves to be a major interruption. For myself, I’ve found I need to slowly taper down my water and BCAA intake at around 10:00 PM.
  • No sugars anywhere close to bedtime. Even on cheat days, when my sugar and carb intake is relatively high, I tend to avoid them before bed. The rush and crash cycle makes it very difficult to fall asleep.
  • No alcohol. Ever.

One of the most common bits of information I hear when it comes to people with difficulty falling asleep is to never keep a TV in your bedroom, and ensure that the room is completely dark. I do not do well in this setting. My internal dialogue is simply too strong. I prefer to have an external source droning on and on about a subject at very low volume. It is something to focus on, as opposed to my own racing thoughts. Right now, Netflix’s “Secrets of Great British Castles” is working wonders. Hearing someone drone on and on and on about the hidden tunnels beneath Dover Castle could put down an army of Mexican wrestlers hopped up on Red Bull.


I can’t say I’ve cracked the code to a perfect, healthy sleep pattern, but I’ve made huge improvements to it, which can be felt all across the board. Last night and today serves as a great example. I was in bed at midnight, I fell asleep at 1:00, and I was awake today at 6:45. I drove my girlfriend to work, drank some coffee, worked on this article and published another. I did some work on my website. I bought a pair of shoes. I went for a bike ride and threw a load of laundry in. It’s 11:20 AM now, and I still have time to go to the gym, hop in the tanning bed for five minutes, drive home, prepare food, and get even more work done on my site before I have anything else to do. I’m going to go to sleep tonight tired and ready to begin the cycle all over again.

None of this is particularly earth-shattering, but even a year ago, a day like today would have been completely unfathomable.

 

 

Lessons From Curt Schilling’s Firing

Yesterday, Curt Schilling was fired from his position on ESPN as a baseball analyst. I haven’t followed baseball since elementary school, and honestly had no idea that the former pitcher even worked for the network, as I don’t watch cable TV.

His firing proves an important point, though.

He was fired for a tweet which was critical of transgenders using whatever restroom they “identify” as.

This is not an unpopular or extreme opinion, and it mirrors my own. I don’t give a fuck what you identify as. If you have a cock and balls, you’re not going into a restroom with my mother, my sister, or my girlfriend. I don’t have any children yet, but these people would not be even remotely welcome to share a restroom with a daughter of mine.

The statement I just posted is my opinion, and (although completely rational and understandable) certainly isn’t politically correct. Neither was the meme Curt posted.

ESPN, instead of saying “We disagree with Curt, but he is welcome to his opinion on this sensitive matter” they cowardly chose to bend to the SJW narrative and fire him over it. 


With the prevalence of social media in today’s society, this sort of thing doesn’t surprise me at all. It serves as a sobering reminder:

There is no dividing line anymore. If you work for someone else, they own your sorry ass. You are not welcome to your opinion if it’s not politically correct or in line with the leftists’ narrative.


I recently put in my two weeks’ notice at my part-time gig. It’s the final nail in the coffin of my days spent working for someone else.

I waved goodbye to a promising career several months ago for many reasons.

  • I need to be location-independent
  • I need my vision of my business to be completely untainted by others
  • I need my income to reflect the effort I’m putting in, and not be an arbitrary number determined to be “fair” by an accounting department
  • I need to make money for myself, not just take a tiny percentage after all my superiors have taken their cut

Curt’s situation with ESPN drives home another point:

  • I need to produce income without having to constantly look over my shoulder and worry that the wrong person is going to notice a tweet or a post.

I can only imagine what would happen if I was still in the corporate world and my blog or my Twitter was discovered by someone in HR.

I would be called down to the office, asked to explain my bigoted, offensive viewpoints, and beg for forgiveness. I would offer to immediately suspend my accounts, and promise to be a good little boy from now on.

And after the groveling and begging was done, I’d still end up packing up my desk and walking out of the office hanging my head in shame.


Now, what if a client doesn’t want to work with me? What a shame. Bye.

If someone decides they don’t like my tweets or my blog? What a shame. Bye.

Curt Schilling was playing with fire. He knew what he was doing, and he did it anyway. It wasn’t a calculated risk, but a game of chicken with a tractor trailer, which he obviously lost. Things didn’t play out well for him, but he has no one to blame but himself. Fuck with fire and you’re going to get burned.

I’ve made my final decision. I have no boss, no master, no supervisor. I don’t report to anyone or depend on anyone. I say whatever the fuck I want. I’ve hoisted the black flag, and I’m not planning on lowering it. For better or for worse, I’m on my own, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.