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What I (re)learned from an 8-mile bike ride with my husband and daughter yesterday

And how it relates to what I’ve learned about intermittent fasting

 

It was a busy Saturday morning. I taught a live fitness class on Zoom, and then 15 minutes later, we got in the car to drive to a lovely greenway for a bike ride. 

 

We weren’t a mile into the ride before I realized I was struggling to keep up and feeling low energy. 

 

Then it dawned on me! In my haste, I had planned poorly, and the only calories I'd consumed that morning came from a 4 oz protein drink (in my coffee) and a protein bar (in the car). My body did not have enough calories and carbs to provide adequate energy for this ride.

 

That 40-minute ride felt much longer than it should have. I didn't enjoy it as much as I could have, and the health benefits I got from it were diminished. Even though I ate after the bike ride, I sensed having lower energy for most of the day.

 

As a nutrition coach, my clients often ask me what I’ve learned about intermittent fasting (IF). IF can mean more than one thing, but the most popular version involves consuming all calories in an 8-hour window and no calories in a 16-hour window.

 

Let me start by reminding you that we all fast daily while sleeping. Some good research suggests that "fasting" for 12 hours and not eating for 3 hours before bed can have positive health benefits. 

 

However, many benefits put forth about limiting our eating window to 8 hours cannot be scientifically separated from the benefits of consuming fewer calories. In other words, there are benefits to not overeating. And since IF can lead to eating less, we don’t know if any of those benefits can be attributed to the limited eating window.  Check out my trusted source, Dr. Chavez, for more on this. https://www.dradrianchavez.com/blog/fasting

 

And there are some downsides to limiting your eating window to 8 hours:

 

  1. If you don’t spread your energy intake sufficiently throughout the day (ideally 10-12 hours), you may unintentionally move less overall because your body is built to conserve energy.  This leads to burning fewer calories overall throughout the day. If you are trying to lose weight, you would then need to lower your daily calories to be in a calorie deficit.

  2. If you don't consume calories and especially carbohydrates before you exercise, your effort into that exercise will likely be diminished, making that effort less impactful and less of a calorie-burning event.

  3. If you find yourself on a bike ride in a beautiful place with the people you love the most, you may not enjoy it as much as you should.

 

Does this mean no one should narrow their eating window to less than 10 hours? No. If you fall into any of these, they you may be an exception:

 

  1. If you don't limit your eating window, you tend to eat when you are not hungry. Saying yourself, "The kitchen is closed," is an excellent strategy to prevent this.

  2. You work out early in the morning, and eating too close before the workout will cause stomach discomfort.

  3. You are just not hungry.

 

If you do not fall under one of the three exceptions above and you are using IF as a tool, I encourage you to experiment with broadening your eating window to at least 10 hours. Notice your energy levels and whether it changes your overall food intake. Then, do what you feel is best for you.

 

If you are trying to lose weight on your own, be sure to avoid imposing any unnecessary rules that may work against you.

 

Thank you for reading,

Julie

 

P.S. It's a cornerstone of my nutrition coaching program to figure out how to help my clients lose weight with as few rules as possible and still be successful, to understand that it usually isn’t necessary to follow rigid plans put forth by others, and to experiment to find the right combination of strategies.


If you’d like to learn more about my private coaching program, you can visit this page: https://www.zoyoga.com/wellness-programs




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