How Intermittent Fasting Unlocked Profound Mental Clarity, Emotional Discipline and Unbelievable Energy Levels
What is Intermittent Fasting?
It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle; A habit.
Intermittent fasting, also known as intermittent energy restriction, is an umbrella term for various meal timing schedules that cycle between voluntary fasting (or reduced calories intake) and non-fasting over a given period.
Let’s break it down.
We All Have a Kryptonite
Every single one of us has a kryptonite of some sort. For some, it’s sugar. For others, it’s binge watching movies. Never the less, the kryptonite in our life is usually not the greatest for us.
Depending on the importance of sugar or binge watching movies in your life, I can make a fair assumption that for the vast majority of us, consuming large amounts of sugar and large amounts of video content is not the best for us mentally, physically or emotionally.
For me, food has always been an escape route from reality.
I have spent years really configuring habits that I want to embody to carry me into a more prosperous and successful future and initially intermittent fasting was a test, with no expected outcome. However, it soon became a lifestyle and breakthrough.
For the last couple of years, I have spent at least 95% of those days intermittent fasting. On average, 16 hours is my usually fasting period. However, it can vary between 14–22 hours depending on how I am feeling, energy levels and how much work I need to get through.
Initially for weight control, I wanted to see how intermittent fasting may affect my body, but it has since become something more than just a test or method for weight control.
The daily consumption of food in my life has tormented me my entire life. Since I could remember, food was my escape. I used to eat to get through the hard days and soon enough food became a very close friend of mine.
Being part of a large family, I always knew the power of food and how it can out shape any sportsman or soldier. In my latter years, after trying many diets and attempts to control the consumption, I eventually found something that required little to no effort and has completely changed my life.
Each day, I strive to intermittent fast to some degree. Why?
Well, for me, intermittent fasting has done so much for me in terms of mental psyche, physical wellbeing, emotional wellbeing and increased energy levels. I find that the days where I fast in excess of 16 hours, I can operate on levels beyond my comprehension.
How you might ask?
For me, consumption is the key word.
I have realised that over-consumption of food can lead to bloating, stomach cramps and inability to function completely. I also found that when consuming more, I required more rest and found my productivity levels would decrease into non-existence.
I also found that my thinking ability was clouded. I was unable to make quick, decisive decisions because I was processing so much all at one time. With so much happening in my body, I struggled to focus, add value and optimise my work ethic. This affected me in sport, the classroom and in the business world. Food became a switch which I was unable to control and I just assumed I was incapable, lazy and not determined.
While learning about intermittent fasting, I soon understood how my body functioned before and after consuming foods, and how I was able to optimise myself to work at levels above and beyond my own understanding.
I Started Small
Back in my university days, my day was structured as follows:
With a high pressured daily structure, I seemed to always find myself going through periods of no eating. That, with the added financial pressures of a student, I would find myself choosing to rather save my money. Obviously I packed food from home from time to time, but for the most part I would spend a good portion of my day subconsciously fasting.
When I did come across the term, I started small.
4 hour windows to 8 hour windows were typical for me.
I would consume breakfast, spend the day focusing on tasks and eat when I got home. This became standard for me, until the days where eating breakfast wasn’t an option due to time. I also began to notice that while resting my body for the 8 years during the day, I reduced the need I once had to consume as much food. I was indirectly creating an ecosystem where I could thrive without mass consumption of foods.
Let’s Break it Down Further
The real selling point for me into intermittent fasting was this:
In a natural wake-to-sleep cycle in a 24 hour period, we usually consume dinner between 6pm-8pm. Now, for others this may vary, but I found myself eating dinner around 7pm. When we eat dinner, we provide our bodies the energy to complete an activity to at least burn off what we have consumed. The likelihood of doing this after a long day is minimal.
I learnt that while we sleep, the food processes and turns into forms of energy for us to use when we wake up. Now, here is the problem. When we eat breakfast, we tend to overload our bodies with the food we previously ate the night before. With over-consumption, we tend to have more than we can handle.
Furthermore, when we do not over-consume, our body only has one source of food; stored body fat. So while I was fasting, my body was still eating and I was shedding excess body fat. This gave me the tools I needed to control my body with little to no input and rather than eating only one type of food, I was able to eat anything I wanted but only during an eating window period.
What I did was to completely remove breakfast to see how my energy levels would be affected. I substituted black coffee, which is a natural diuretic of which also speeds up our metabolism. Coffee acted as a safeguard when I got hungry and would ward off consuming food before the designated hour.
At first, it was impossible. I caved at every corner. But I was persistent.
I wanted to really see if this worked and how it could eventually form a habit of some kind. 12:00pm was always the cut off period for me and it was always the daily aim. After days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, I began to restructure the fasting window to optimise my day and my body.
Typically, and for a long period of time, I would allow myself to eat anything I wanted from 12:00pm to 12:00am. This gave me so much satisfaction as I was able to reward myself for a period of food abstinence. Initially, I would consume large meals varying from meat, vegetables to desserts and chocolates. It worked wonders. This mixed with exercise helped me shed the weight completely.
However, I soon realised that this was unproductive as it was counterproductive. Lately, I maintain a slow and progressive eating cycle within the 6–8 hour eating window. Again, this is my approach and it may not work for anyone else. Would I force you to try it, no I wouldn’t. But it has changed my life.
Fast forward to 2020 and a couple of years later and it has become a subconscious daily ritual. The eating window period now ranges between 4–8 hours a day and the fasting period varies between 16–20 hours.
Usually, your body relies on the intake of carbohydrates as its primary source of energy. These are broken down into glucose and get released into the bloodstream. As a response to the blood sugar in the veins, the body increases insulin — the fat synthesising and storage promoting hormone.
Longer periods of not eating means you are depriving your body of a substantial part of its glucose intake, which previously served as an energy source. Glucose levels drop — insulin drops. This means your body looks for another source of energy and turns to burning fat for fuel. So, if you can control insulin levels through a decrease in carbs, you can actually control and actively stimulate fat burn.
With less consumption, I found myself being able to focus more, understand more and process information with precision. I soon became obsessed that fasting was not only making me look good, but feel good too. You would assume that not eating would result in headaches and confusion, but it seems to do the opposite for me. That being said, you need to be very particular about how you cycle your fasting days.
Have a look at a typical beginners cycle:
As you can see I start Monday off with an average 16 hours, something I am used to. I then progress to 18 hours on Tuesday, really pushing the boundaries of consumption. By Wednesday, I reduce the hours back to 16, giving my body time to rest. As we progress into Thursday I reduce it again to 14 hours, preparing me for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
On Friday, I give my body a rest. Only fasting for 8 hours. This also means that I will more than likely consume more calories. As intermittent fasting works to push the body into a calorie deficit, I use Friday and the Weekend to put calories back in. One thing I learnt is that with a continuous, hard cycle of fasting, the body will soon become depleted. This is when you need to allow for a day or two to consume normally, replenishing your body naturally.
On Saturday, I would usually look at completely relaxing and taking the day off. This day would typically include eating a cheat meal of some kind which would aim to increase the calories considerably. By Sunday, I begin the next cycle for the week ahead, starting with a small 8 hour fasting window.
Remember, these hours are completely subjective and some may find different hours and windows to work for them.
Since fasting, I have found that my energy levels have increased considerably. I have also learnt that food is not a substitute for energy and I am not required to consume food in order to increase energy levels.
How does it work?
Apart from weight loss, the less-known benefit of intermittent fasting is said to be an increase in energy. Eating several times throughout the day means our metabolism goes through cycles of breaking down carbohydrates and turning them into blood sugar.
Eventually it is used for energy or stored in cells for later. After blood sugar is consumed or stored by the body, it drops, taking your energy and mental performance down with it. This triggers a “hunger signal”, likely to make us eat and the whole process starts all over again.
The constant up and down cycle of blood sugar throughout the day stresses our metabolism and results in overall lower energy levels and mental performance.
What’s the difference with intermittent fasting?
When using fat for energy, fat is digested slowly and must be sent to the liver for processing (to ketones) before it can be used for energy. This process happens steadily and consistently with no up and downs, meaning we have more energy, feel better and our concentration levels and cognitive function is also higher.
Without a shadow of a doubt, intermittent fasting has helped develop a level of discipline in my life which never existed. I am able to control temptations, destroy bad habits and be in complete control. Not only this, but the discipline is reflected in all spheres of my life.
I have found that my levels of discipline have never been more focused and precise. I am able to replicate the discipline in fasting into other spheres such as business and sport.
With this, I have found myself having more emotional stability in my life, not reacting to comments or temptations as I previously would. This has further given me a level of respect for myself and the ability to find calmness in most situations.
There are so many profound benefits that I have experienced, including:
- Improved Health
- Improved Mental Clarity
- The Ability to Overcome Weakness
- A Deep Respect for Myself and Body
- Emotional Discipline
- Increased Energy Levels
- Improved Mental Ability
- Enhanced Physical Ability
- Developed Self-Control
- Compounded Habits
Intermittent fasting is not for everyone and it might not be for you. As long as you are open and patient, you may experience the benefits it offers.