It’s been a long road since spending my mornings scraping clumped oats out of a mixing bowl. After two years of shuffling the diet around, I’m sitting at the opposite end of the spectrum, and my physique is better for it. But more importantly, it’s been an immense mental upgrade.
I’ll staunchly stick by the idea that everyone has to try it for themselves, at least once, even if it doesn’t end up leading anywhere. It’s not the perfect diet, there isn’t any such thing. There’s no formulated diet that can fit all comers. It’s the potential of keto fasting that makes it worth the shot.
The Days of High Carbs And Breakfasts
I used to hate having to go through the fat loss phase. It’s stressful, irritable, and it felt like I was practically sedating myself. So I’d spend most of my time on the bulking road instead, and I went all in.
I’ve got what you could call an adaptive metabolism. The scale starts dipping down, the metabolic rate drops with it. While gaining weight, it skyrockets. This is hard to define scientifically, but roll with it.
Naturally this adaptive metabolism hypothesis put me in a situation where I was eating 6000 calories a day in order to stay ahead of the curve, and a big chunk of that was carbs. The healthy versions, but that didn’t matter.
While a kit-kat bar and a bowl of wholegrain rice might sit on different ends of the nutritional spectrum, they ultimately get put through the same process. Any carb breaks down into the one main substrate: sugar, and I was overloading the system with it.
The continuous bombardment of sugar bombs was fueling a state of chronic inflammation, bloating, anxiety and brain fog. And my brain just accepted this as the normal state of affairs. This is the unfortunate truth for many chronic issues. You don’t notice it, because whatever the suppression is, it becomes the status quo.
So it didn’t matter whether I was gaining or dropping weight, either way I was walking around at half capacity. I can’t emphasise how hard it stunted my capacity to think and function. I was healthy, but in the manner that anyone in the gym appears healthy when compared to the general population. You’ve made a significant step for the better, but if you leave it at that, then it becomes wasted potential.
The First Upgrade: Intermittent Fasting
There wasn’t anything in particular that drove me to test out fasting in the first place. It was getting awfully close to summer, and this just struck me as a way to speed the process a little. I did the research, and all I found were upsides. Sure, you’d probably have to give up on breakfast entirely, but I wasn’t exactly having fun there to begin with. Breakfast just meant I had to wake up earlier and bustle around, rather than have a relaxed start to the morning.
When I tried out my initial version of the fasting diet, there was nothing low carb about it. The calories naturally took a hit, but the macro ratios were still similar. High carb, low fat, high protein. It worked great initially, and on the first summer’s attempt, I looked the best I ever had.
Then for some reason I ended up dieting four months longer than I needed to. The fat loss sputtered to a stop and I just couldn’t get over the finish line and really get the abs to show. I settled for the four pack and got out.
The Problem With The Trendy Intermittent Fasting Diets
The issue here was likely down to the fact that the carbs kept me in a sugar-adapted metabolism, which clashed with the fasting window. The spikes of blood sugar from having a big bowl of rice at the end of the fast just kicked the cravings back into gear, and then I had to start all over again.
The major perk of fasting, which I didn’t get at the time, is to reduce the body’s reliance on sugar and quick energy. By going straight back to carbs, I was just undoing the work I’d put in. In this fashion, fasting gets the same outcome as a normal diet, but with an extra dose of suffering to get there.
Keeping the fats low made the process of weight loss that much harder. It’s a challenge for the body to become fat fueled when it’s not widely available. You could point at fat stores, but they aren’t that easy to just pick up and use. It still needs the complete absence of insulin in order to happen, and that flat line was getting messed up daily.
This is the issue with the intermittent fasting programmes that get trumpeted out by fitness influencers. They often dress it up as a way to have your cake, and eat it. You’re craving snickers? You get snickers. You fast for 16 hours, then break it with a bar of chocolate. And that’s just the opener.
It completely defeats the point of fasting. You might become a little more insulin sensitive, you might lose weight, but there’s nothing there that won’t be happening anyway in a caloric deficit that includes breakfast.
Fasting should help you conquer your emotional attachment to food. If you’re going to eat a bar of snickers for your first bite of the day, you’re going to be psyching yourself up for that treat. That’s an emotional state of mind that only feeds into the whole complex of binge and overeating.
That wasn’t quite my style of dieting, but as I’ve said before, carbs all break down into the same ingredient. Rice, bread, table sugar, the body’s going to have to deal with the resulting spike in blood sugar. So while I definitely felt better thanks to fasting, I still turned into a wreck towards the last few months. The fog came back, the immune system tanked, and I just couldn’t budge the scale down any further. All while I was so close to the physique I was chasing.
But that first summer of fasting helped me realise the impact sugar was having on my system. I’d mentally clear up during the fast, then notice the slump that followed the first meal. I finally had moments of clean energy, even if things went back down the drain afterwards. I’d get ridiculously hungry towards the end of the fasts, but only in spells of 15-30 minutes. This was a huge improvement on previous years of scraping the barrel.
Lower Carbs With Fasting
The fat loss season was over, but I decided I’d start the next diet early. It was time to start laying down the groundwork for a low carb fasting diet. Instead of just piling the calories back on like in my carb heyday, I brought them just above maintenance level and kept carbs relatively low. Then bit by bit, I reduced them even further.
Keeping just enough to fuel training, and nothing more. I gradually switched to low calorie, higher fiber carb sources. Rice to wholemeal wraps, then demoting further down to chickpeas. Which I can highly recommend to people looking for a stop-off point that’s somewhere between being carb crazy and a keto fanatic. Chickpeas are stacked with fiber, ridiculously low in protein, and can be easily molded into tasty sauces.
As of a couple of months ago, I’m over chickpeas. I wouldn’t phrase it as giving up, because it’s not something I’ve noticed. One morning I woke up and decided I didn’t need even chickpeas. That’s the day I can pinpoint as the final stage of becoming fat adapted.
The fasts are much easier compared to how they felt a year back during the last diet. Hunger is practically non existent, and I’m hitting 20-22 hour fasts without discomfort. I’m at my lowest body weight since the summer I actually started lifting.
The diet is a well-oiled machine at this point, and the key reason for that is the way the fasting window and low carb meals play off against each other. One lowers insulin, the other does the same. Fasting enables an easy calorie deficit by reducing eating opportunity, low carbs accomplishes that by taking out several foods and a major source of addictive eating.
Fasting improves energy by allowing the body to switch from digestion and over to recovery. Keto takes out at least one inflammatory substance, guess which, and as such the digestive system sends less agitating signals over to the brain.
The final part is what sells this diet to me, because the stuff you’re eating should amount to much more than decide how good you look. Fat loss is great, it’s nice to carry some extra muscle, but for me, mental health was always the biggest goal in fitness.
There’s not much point in looking athletic, if I didn’t feel the part. And the same goes for the vast majority of people, because the biggest reason for doing anything, is to feel different. The diet is the lifestyle, not a means to an end.
And the funny thing is, the less obsessed I got with my goals, the easier it became to reach them. I’m now seven weeks into the diet, at my leanest, and I’ll be able to comfortably push on from here and get the best out of my genetics.
I’m not implying in any way that low carb fasting works for everyone. There are many roads to Rome, and the calorie deficit is still the big defining factor, even if it can get more complex than that. The best diet is going to be the one that fits you like a glove, and actually energies you to the point losing weight becomes a cakewalk. And because of the huge variety of factors at play, the only way you’ll know is by getting into different diets and finding out for yourself.
If I were to give you a takeaway from this article, it would be this. One big mechanism of progress is by disturbing the body’s homeostasis, and moving the comfort levels out a little further. That’s the whole idea of adaptation.
For me, the reduced sugar signaled to my body and brain that it was time to adapt. You could use the same principle for a whole bunch of things besides what’s going on your dinner plate. What’s important is you find ways of putting yourself in a spot of discomfort and wade through the waters until it starts to feel normal. And at this point, you’ve become stronger.
Hey, I’m Sama, a natural bodybuilding enthusiast who’s seeking to hack his brain and body to find that spot of peak shape and performance. Subscribe to my newsletter to get the latest insights and tips for training, nutrition and lifestyle upgrades. Thanks for reading.
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