Why fasting is right for me...
It didn’t take me long in to my fitness journey to realize that nutrition was going to play a huge part in this process. And I’m not talking aesthetic reasons, I’m talking performance. It started out with me realizing the importance of properly fueling my body after a workout, which quickly became my number one priority. For those of you that don’t know, when you exert strength through your muscles you are depleting the glycogen in those muscles, that means you are using up the stored carbohydrates in your body, or emptying your gas tank if you will. If you were driving your car and ended up with an empty tank what would you do, fill it up right? So why not treat your muscle the same way. Just like diets, there are so many post workout powders and drinks out there your head will spin trying to find out what’s right for you. At the time I was fortunate enough to be training at a gym that was also hard at work to create a brand of supplements that would fuel your body better than anything else on the market. That was at least 5 years ago and still to this day I use the Freeman Formula G.E.A.R. product to fuel my post workout recovery. I plan to do another blog on the importance of fueling your body post workout and what supplements are best to do that but in the meantime feel free to check out Freeman Formula for some top notch supplements.
Fast forward a little bit and my goals started getting a little deeper than just wanting to be fit. I auditioned for American Ninja Warrior, I did a couple of bodybuilding shows, and I started competing in freestyle calisthenics via the World Calisthenics Battle of the Bars platform. My training started to intensify and my body was demanding more of me. What I did inside the gym was easy; the hard part was what to do outside of the gym. From there I took it upon myself to be my own experiment and figure out what worked best for me. Key take away in that sentence, what worked best for ME. There are countless articles out there on why every diet is the next best thing but it’s up to you to find out if it works for you. My intention for this blog post is to provide you with a few benefits that I reap from fasting to see if it’s something that might work for you.
Before I get in to the benefits of fasting I want to touch on part of the process I went through before I found that fasting was the best option for me. Initially my ‘diet’ plan was to eat as much as I could since I was so active and burning a lot of energy. Food is calories and calories are energy, seemed simple enough. I quickly realized that even though fat is a source of energy, eating two and a half tablespoons of peanut butter before a work out was going to hinder my performance rather than help it. I also learned that crushing a huge carb shake before my workout was going to do the same thing, leave me feeling heavy, bloated, and without energy. Here I am trying to do handstand pushups while my body is trying to digest a chunk of peanut butter I just tossed down my throat. So I switched from eating three huge meals a day to eating 4 or 5 somewhat smaller meals, but still pretty big. After all, I was still stuck in the mentality of eating as much as I could since I was burning so much energy. So what was the tipping point? Energy, or a lack of it. I’m not even talking just lacking energy for a workout, I’m saying I lacked energy to even function. I remember I’d eat a big meal on my lunch break because I’d have a workout later and then I would be damn near falling asleep while driving to my next client. I was so tired it made no sense. It wasn’t until I took a step back and looked at the bigger picture that it made all of the sense in the world. I’m eating this big meal that my body is trying to digest and in order to do that it requires quite a bit of blood flow, not leaving much for other functions of my body. I was always tired and this seemed to have a lot to do with it. Naturally I’m a high energy person, I usually can’t even sleep when I’m lying in bed, but here I am fighting to stay awake as a drive. I also felt super weak during my workouts, almost like I was back to the days of eating peanut butter before a session. Needless to say, I had to figure something out.
I was in Springfield Missouri a couple of years ago teaching a World Calisthenics workshop at a Ninja Warrior facility called Warrior Sports. This is where my friend Abel Gonzalez put me on to a diet called The Warrior Diet. Abel is just as active as I am, he’s super strong and had tons of energy. We talked a little bit about the warrior diet as it was his preferred way of eating and was working out great for him. I was intrigued and anxious to find what worked for me so I got home and immediately purchased the book, The Warrior Diet. It didn’t take me long to feel like the book was written for me, it was touching on everything that I needed answers on. A lot of fasting diets you run in to will have you on a total water fast throughout the day, but the warrior diet was a controlled fast. This sat well with me since I love food and the thought of just drinking water all day sounded awful. The warrior diet was broken down in to two phases, the undereating phase, and the overeating phase. It was a beautiful thing, three months in to the diet and I was feeling stronger and more energetic than ever. Then my schedule got more hectic and I was active for at least 10 hours a day while fasting and it just wasn’t working out. Fortunately for me, there are many different forms of fasting out there. After all, each of us fast every day whether we know it or not. For the most part when we are sleeping is the longest we go without food, and it’s usually for a few hours or more. Our first meal of the day will break that fast which is where breakfast comes from. The warrior diet wasn’t working out for me but I did get a taste of the benefits of fasting so I wanted to find a way I could continue fasting while having an abundance of energy and strength, both throughout my day and during my workouts.
Some of the benefits that come with fasting are a result of having more blood circulation for other tasks in the body. Since my body isn’t digesting food all day, I have more energy. Since my body isn’t digesting food all day, my mind is clearer. Since my body isn’t digesting food all day, it can focus on healing and detoxification. Another benefit that you can take advantage of is breaking your fast with a greens supplement or powder. We all know the importance of vegetables but when they are in powder form with a liquid they will go straight to your small intestine and on an empty stomach that process will go even quicker allowing the nutrients to reach your bloodstream for more immediate use.
Some people relate fasting to starving yourself and that’s not the case at all. Each and every one of us has a base metabolic rate, that’s your metabolism. My base metabolic rate is about 1,900, which means if I lay in bed all day long and did absolutely nothing my body would burn 1,900 calories a day. Given how active I am on a daily basis I eat anywhere from 2,500-3,500 calories a day. I say that to say that it doesn’t matter when in the day you consume calories as much as consuming enough calories to maintain your goal. I’m not saying to eat 1,200 calories and then go to sleep, but it is ok to eat at night. Right now I am somewhere around a 12/12 schedule, in a perfect world I fast for 12 hours and then spread out my three or four meals in the next 12 hours. I have had to play around with the numbers quite a bit but I try to fast from 12:00 midnight to 12:00 noon. I have found that training in the morning during my fast gives my body my strength and endurance because it is completely free of any other tasks like digesting food. At first it was an adjustment no doubt, but when my body started to get used to training this way is when I truly started to experience my body as a machine.
A major thing I hope to accomplish with this blog is to share the details of my journey for you to understand how much we have in common. I want you to know that even though at the current moment my eating regiment is working out great for me, it hasn’t always been the case. I struggled, I felt heavy, weak, uncomfortable, and even sick. This is a process, but it’s your process. Educate yourself, listen to your body, and do what works for you. My process is always evolving and never ending, I am confident that with knowledge, discipline, and self-awareness you too can create the healthy lifestyle you desire. If this blog intrigued you enough to look in to fasting benefits and diets more, I encourage you to read The Warrior Diet, by Ori Hofmekler. And as always, feel free to reach out if there’s anything I can help you with.