Disclaimer: Intermittent fasting is considered a controversial topic by some AND depending on your health may not be a good idea- so you are responsible for checking with your doctor or medical professional before doing this. I am not a medical professional and the following are just my opinions based on my own experience and the research that I've done. There are quite a few books that expound on both the history and proof of the efficacy of fasting and I firmly believe in it's use, when done the right way, myself.
There's basically 2 main ways to make corrections in Phase 3:
- Eating super "clean" for a few days here and there.
- Doing periodic fast days - ie steak days.
In this lesson we're going to cover fasting and steak days.
Really the only difference between a regular intermittent fasting day and an HCG protocol steak day in phase 3 is that on the steak day you have a set dinner of steak and apple/tomato and a regular intermittent fasting day you can break by having any meal you want really.
Weight Corrections in Phase 3 and 4
Intermittent Fasting is a really effective way of making weight corrections for 2 main reasons:
- It creates a very drastic calorie reduction all at once in 1 day (vs over a period of several days) and
- fasting creates a lot of hormone changes that don't occur with just eating a little less - it reduces insulin levels and raises human growth hormone levels, and this can really allow for effective actual FAT loss during that fasting period.
- I'd argue a 3rd point that I personally feel that doing a "diet" for just 1 day here and there like on a fast day is much easier than being on a diet for weeks, making it to me a more doable and realistic way of making corrections simply because you'll stick to it- since it's only 1 day, not 4 weeks.
Main pointers to keep in mind when fasting/doing steak days:
- Drink water (I'm totally guilty of it only not eating but not drinking water- this is an important part of your body breaking down and flushing out the fatty acids - I can't be sure of this but I get the feeling that I don't experience as good of results/fat burning when I don't drink enough liquids on a fast day- I could be wrong, but it's what I feel like I notice after observing my body over the past few years and it's definitely not going to hurt you to drink enough liquids. The point is you want to experience the best benefits for your fast day possible
- Your morning caffeine is okay as long as your cups don't add up to more than 50-75 or so (and no sugar obviously).
- Do not fast back to back. Separate fast days at least 3 days apart as a woman. this is just my personal advice, not based on any scientific fact, just what I've noticed about my body *details on why I feel this way below.
- Your fast will last typically between 18-24hrs. Examples: 9pm-dinner/snack done-following day
In Phase 3: Dr. Simeon's laid out what we all refer to as the "steak" day - where you fast all day and have a steak with Apple or tomato for dinner. So this is essentially an intermittent fast with a specific dinner you eat- steak and tomato or Apple.
Does it matter what type of steak or what size?
Again this is just me talking not scientific fact, but it seems to me that it's better in general to close a fast with a hearty meal - to me I feel like it's sending that signal to your body not to worry, you didn't eat for awhile, but now you are giving it just what it needs.
But at the same token, you wouldn't want to be eating so much that you eat all the calories you would have normally eaten that day- say 1500 calories or something, in one meal. Because then obviously there's no negative calorie balance for the day after all.
So there's a balance there. I wouldn't eat just like 100 grams of London broil on a steak day- I'd eat me some rib eye or something, but I wouldn't eat like 2 huge rib eyes either.
My feeling is that if you fast all day, and then have SUCH a meager dinner with very little food, it just seems like a potential warning signal for your body- you want to have it to go back and forth between eating nothing and having a sizable enough meal that your body feels like it's getting enough.
Finishing An Intermittent Fast Day In Phase 4
In Phase 4: An intermittent fast day is just fasting all day and then eating whatever you want for dinner (within reason of course - not talking half a box of donuts here) but to give you some examples of how I conclude my fasts:
If I'm feeling super will-powery that day (not usual): At home: Cook up some lean London broil and a Phase 3 smoothie, maybe a couple toasted corn tortilla's with butter (remember this is phase 4) or chicken breast at home, with some feta cheese crumbles and a whole container of chopped up strawberries with stevia sprinkled on it, followed by a phase 3 chocolate dessert smoothie. My husband sometimes makes Mexican street tacos, and in phase 4 I'm eating the tortillas.
When I'm feeling just normal and just want to keep things in check (usually): Go to crossfit at 5:30pm, do my workout, head to my local grill at 6:45, and by 7 I'm eating a bunless 1/2 lb burger patty, side salad with mustard vinaigrette and French fries. I might also come home and have a phase 3 chocolate dessert smoothie before bed. Now keep in mind, the level I have worked my metabolism up to through crossfit and weight lifting is about 2,000 calories a day for maintenance, so just how much food you eat for dinner while still producing a little fat loss for your fast day will vary- basically you should feel free to have a pleasurable meal that's satisfying an filling, but if you eat SO much that you feel totally stuffed, then you may not end up having any results from a fast day.
Fast Days and the Scale - did you really just permanently lose 2 lbs?
- It's common to lose 1-3 lbs overnight from a fast day. What I want to make sure you understand here though is that MOST of this is NOT fat. Most of this is water weight and then a small portion of it, maybe 1/4-1/2 lb of it is fat. Which leads to my next very important point to be aware of and to know is expected and normal:
- The weight you see on the scale the morning after an intermittent fast will not stay that low. Almost without question. You will go back up to some degree the following day and if not then, 2 days following the fast- this is not something to be discouraged over, this is simply some of that water coming back from eating more normally that following day.
- The other positive thing this helps us realize though is that when you GAIN say 1-2 lbs overnight while trying to stabilize and find yourself facing a steak day, know that this also isn't ALL fat gain.
- So you will usually notice the scale fluctuate a bit after a fast day over the next couple days and this is nothing to be worried out. Think long term here. So then, if need be, 3 days later, you do another fast day, or perhaps a week later, depending on where you're trying to be on the scale, and once again, you may have a bigger drop but then gain a good portion of that back in the next 2 days. What you will notice is that you are see-sawing down overall- the trend will be down, so that you can lose 2 or 3 lbs over the course of say a month, where you eating a normal amount of calories everyday but those 2-4 fast days you did. Pretty cool if you ask me. I love not being on a "diet" the majority of my time.
What happens when you don't lose anything after a fast day? Or worse, GAIN??
I am not going to claim I know the exact reasons this can happen- but here are a few possibilities to help you tweak and navigate.
- First of all, our female hormones fluctuate throughout the month quite a bit right? This effects how much water our body holds on to. It's very possible to experience fat loss from a fast day but have the scale not move or even go up if you are retaining water.
- Again, if you didn't drink anything all day on a fast day, it's totally possible for your body to hold on to water and cause the seeming "no loss" on the scale- but do keep in mind your body still likely did burn fat - what this means is that in future days, as your hormones adjust or you get enough liquids back in your system
- You worked out that day or that night - this happens to me all the time- when I go to crossfit at 5:30pm after a fast day (or even a non fast day) the scale OFTEN is like at least a 1-2 lbs higher. Obviously this isn't because I gained weight, but when you are unfamiliar to this process it can seem like that! But this also doesn't mean you should avoid working out just to see the scale go down. One thing I've learned through this whole process is that you have to learn to only use the scale as a tool but to see beyond it and make decisions based on seeing beyond that. Because for me, doing a fast day, then my workout, than a nice re-feed meal with some simple carb like French fries - the PERFECT time to have carbs like that because the body has likely used some glycogen stores - the sugar water that's stored in your muscles- and your body will ALWAYS first refill those glycogen stores, so that's directly where those fries go - then go to bed - this is a super effective day at transforming and improving my body over simply not eating.
- Not enough sleep after your fast day. Sleep is a very important part of your body's processing of fat - one small pilot study showed a much greater amount of muscle loss in a sleep deprived group than a group that slept 8 hours a night, both groups being on the same diet aimed at weight loss. This is just totally not a good thing whatsoever. So you need to think about sleeping and getting to bed at a reasonable hour where your body will actually do a lot of the WORK from your fast day for you to get those results. Otherwise it could actually be damaging. And I hate that this is true, because I tend to stay up late sometimes, but there ya go.
- At the more complicated level, not experiencing any benefits from a fast day can indicate a hormone imbalance to the point where you body just isn't able to respond to these measures and instead views it as like an attack and just holds on more fiercely. By and large, as long as you are eating enough the other days of the week and aren't fasting too frequently, this doesn't seem to be as much of a problem. My BEST resource I always send everyone to do further research in on this is stopthethyroidmadness.com - I'm not an expert on these issues but I do know they make a world of difference when addressed. For example me, I take both thyroid hormone and a physiological dose of cortisol and it has made a difference in my metabolism, how much I can eat without gaining weight, how my body responds to fasting, and obviously, my energy!
The reason you WANT to do your own research vs. only visiting a doctor without research in your back pocket is because really the latest information doesn't seem to be in the hands of some MD's. Testing is often interpreted in a non-useful way or on old standards -
Length of Your Fast
I used to follow Brad Pilon's method for fasting in Eat Stop Eat, which is to fast 18-24 hours, twice a week. These days I only fast here and there when needed, sometime once a month, sometimes only once every few months, and if things get out of a hand a bit, I might go back to once a week for a month.
I have personally found that 18-20 hours fast for a woman seems to be the limit.
While he does his for a full 24 hours typically and lots of men do this just fine, I find that doing a full 24 hour fast as a woman, at least a leaner woman, is a bit too difficult. Mine end up being more like 18-20 hours. Beyond the 20 hour point I start to feel pretty hungry and distracted and it's just that level where I feel like probably it's now a strain on my body vs. a help, if that makes sense.
So all my fasts are usually between 18-20 hours. And remember, don't panic about these or freak out if you are feeling hungry at 5 and you wanted to fast till 6 and your fast ends up being 17 hours - don't feel like Awww man now I totally didn't achieve anything. No way Jose. You fasted 17 hours and there is still great benefits in that. 1 hour hasn't changed that. That said, I find it's actually pretty easy to "distract" myself for an extra hour at a time when I'm tempted to break my fast early- it could be as simple as saying, hey I'm going to do the dishes first, read to my son for 20 minutes, and check my email, then I'll eat. Before you know it, a whole hour has gone by. So that's my little strategy there for extending things a bit sometimes.
Remember the whole point is to help your body respond and there's a balance between pushing it a LITTLE to get some results vs. pushing it so hard that it rebels for it's own self preservation.
How You Treat Yourself On A Fast
I know we are all different in how we respond psychologically to things, so this may be something wouldn't be effective for you, but if you're like me, it will be important key to fasting successfully.
I always tell myself I HAVE A CHOICE. I CAN totally break my fast and eat if I want to. Any minute of the day, I am perfectly free to do this and there are always other days. When I feel like it's a rule or that I don't have a choice, I find myself feeling trapped which brings out the panic/need-to-escape feeling in me. Which then makes sticking to the fast mentally very difficult.
By reminding myself that this is my choice and that I'm CHOOSING to do this today to benefit my body and that I can abort it anytime I want, it makes me feel empowered like I'm really the one in charge here - and since I'm in charge, I feel more relaxed now, so, I think yes, I'm going to finish out my fast today.
You want your relationship with fasting to be a positive one. Not something where you feel trapped and stuck.
For me the connection I have with fasting is like, "Man, this is my easy way out to being able to eat a little more of what I want at other times and also a doable way for me to make weight corrections when needed, without having to be on a diet for weeks on end."
It's kind of about deciding what you as a person find more doable. Do you find 1 more extreme day here and there of cutting back and then eating at a maintenance level (where you won't have any hunger any of the other days) more appealing, or do you feel like you'd rather eat a few hundred calories less per day every day for a few weeks to avoid the 1 more extreme not eating day?
Neither way is the right choice, they are just different.
The one different thing is that there are some major hormonal things that happen when you fast that don't occur when you just cut back on eating a little bit daily.
Fasting causes a drop in insulin - which a lot of us could use -
causes a sharp rise in Human Growth Hormone (HGH, not hCG- I know, easy to confuse the two)
Like I said, for some of you this line of thought process may not work and maybe it will get you to quit too easily- perhaps for you need to make that commitment in some way - you'll have to figure that out for yourself.
How You Will Feel On A Fast Day
Now I'm coming from the perspective of a person who already never eats breakfast- I've eaten breakfast about 2 times in the past 5 years (and both times I got major indigestion because my body isn't used to have it's gastric juices for digestion ready that early anymore). So while I have my 2 cups of morning black tea with half and half and stevia, I don't actually eat any food until between 11-1pm. Now, I get up at like 8/9, so if you're thinking, hey I want to try that, but you get up at 6 or 7a.m., you have to factor that in, that you're up like 2-3 hours earlier than me- so for you, you might need to start eating at like 9 or 10, ho knows.
So keep this in mind that I'm not hungry ever in the mornings because my body is adjusted to not eating breakfast.
That said, on a fast day, I will experience SOME hunger for a short period of time at my usual lunch time. The cool thing about this is that feeling of hunger actually totally goes away after about 20 minutes if you just keep doing stuff, maybe drink a glass of water. Then you can go on about your merry afternoon doing what you do, until your typical dinner time hits- at which point you'll start feeling hungry again- at this point you can decide if you want finish your fast at your typical dinner time or try to push it off by staying busy another hour or two.
Now, if you're doing a fast day because you had 2 plates of pasta the night before, it's likely that the morning might be a bit rough on you- the hormones that all those carbs signal are going to cause a lot of hunger pangs initially, even though your body doesn't really NEED food.
If you've been eating more regularly, but perhaps just overall too many calories on a consistent basis but not like an all out splurge in one meal the night before, the fast day usually feels more doable.
Regardless, in general, any intense feelings usually pass.
Your Body Adapts
I have found that fasting gets easier as your body becomes accustomed to what you're doing.
One thing I have discovered about fasting is that our bodies are SO smart. Sometimes we think our bodies get used to only what we do daily, but through this process I really believe that our bodies are smart enough to recognize as "familiar" something we do less frequently.
What I'm saying is I feel like even though I may only fast once a week, or twice a month or what not, I feel like after a short time my body RECOGNIZED my fast days in the sense that I wouldn't really feel hungry- it was like it cooperated with me.
So at first, when you're a total newbie to fasting, you might have a bit of a harder time- experience hunger for a longer period for it goes away etc. but as you do it more consistently- even though it's only say once a week, I found anyway, that my body was like, OH! You're doing that fast thing again today, and I remember that you always feed me dinner and eat plenty of food the next day, so I'm cool with this.
When Your Body Just Ain't Having It
You may notice times when you mentally decided to fast but it's feeling like MUCH more of a struggle that day - ie distracted and weak from hunger.
This could be because your period is coming, or your body is really tired from something stressful- there could be any number of reasons honestly- but you'll know it when it's happening.
I have this happen from time to time and in these cases I feel it's wise to listen to your body in this regard and break your fast early.
Now this is DIFFERENT from a few intense huger pangs that pass - it's very typically to get hunger pangs when you normally eat- so say lunch time- the hormone called Ghrelin is what causes those actual physical tummy rumblings- but usually, you will notice that if you wait it out just like 20 minutes- seriously- the feeling completely passes and you go back to not being hungry (stomach still empty- but not feeling like man I'm hungry grrr).
So when its' a day where I truly can't seem to handle it in a positive way, I will get hungry around noon and then by 1 it's like I'm feeling more and more out of it/distracted and can't focus - that's when I know this isn't a good day to do this.
I will break the fast, eat lunch, and then fast another day- possibly even the following day or day after depending on how I'm feeling and my schedule that week.
When You Have A Choice- Picking Your Fast Day
When you're in phase 3, ideally you want to catch major gains as quickly as you can and fast immediately. It just seems to work better this way. Once you let weight "lie around" on ya for a bit, it seems like it wants to stick to ya more. ;0
That said, once you are in Phase 4, you want to balance seeing the need to fast with what your week's schedule looks like. Some days are just going to be mentally/emotionally inordinately hard to fast, and in these cases, it seems like the strain and the potential of not being able to carry it out isn't worth choosing to do a fast on a difficult day.
So if you have a luncheon planned with your in-laws on a Wednesday, and you have a full day of work on Thursday- me personally, I would choose Thursday to fast because not eating at the luncheon will be super hard, and when I am working, the day FLIES by and the fast day happens almost without thought. So even if I notice on Tuesday that my weight is higher than normal, while I might try to eat a little cleaner on Wednesday- say after the luncheon eat lean chicken breast and a phase 3 smoothie for dinner or something, but I will PLAN to do a fast day on Thursday when it's going to go fast and feel much easier.
Stabilizing within 2 lbs with the use of steak days/fasting days
I have some articles on my blog - at hcgchica.com - that are free that describe that there may be scenarios when it isn't logical to stabilize in the 2 lbs window or may be impossible for various factors- so for now, you can check that out.
But in a nutshell, it seems wise to utilize steak days 1 day at time, but again, I wouldn't use the back to back EVEN IF I'm still over the 2 lb window. Becoming stable is really the main goal- whether it's a couple lbs higher to me isn't the point.
What You Eat at the End of a Fast
I have heard some people say that fasting is not good for them because they find themselves scarfing down a bunch of junk food like there's no tomorrow at the end of it. And that is definitely not the point- if you find yourself feeling this way psychologically then this may not be a good approach for you right now.
Myself, what I find myself craving by the end of a fasting period is a REAL meal- like steak and broccoli and - if in phase 4- a potato. I'm not craving cake and candy. So for me, fasting is a good way to reset myself if I've started to experience cravings for sweeter foods again for whatever reason- it seems to kind of wipe the slate clean.
I'm not sure if how you feel at the end of a fast has to do with how intentionally you fasted.
For instance, we have all accidentally fasted because we were just SO rushed that day and the timing worked out so that we rushed from work just in time to grab our kid from school to take him to his soccer practice, and then while they were practicing you were going to get a snack but you forgot to bring it and you can't go buy one because you have a business call to make or other small children to care for, etc and before you know it you haven't eaten since breakfast and it's 7pm. Sometimes in those cases, I wonder to myself if because it wasn't intentional- there is the subconscious signal that you didn't get to eat and you meant to and so it's a position of being LACKING what you were expecting for yourself - and perhaps this could cause these stuffing-face moments.
Common Questions for Fasting Days:
What if I don't get back within the 2 lb window after doing 1 steak day. Should I do another one the next day?
I personally feel it is unwise to do this. Women's metabolism's especially seem to be very sensitive and without the HCG hormone in our system's now, we are going to be more susceptible to adaptive metabolism. What I mean is, from what I can tell, I feel like my body down regulates my metabolism a bit when I eat too little too close together. So like I will notice I'll gain weight more easily when eating the same amount of food that previously would have been for sure a maintenance level that I wouldn't gain at. For that reason, steak days, intermittent fast days, to me are best done thrown in with at least 3 days in between your next one.
Can I still have my morning coffee with cream etc.?
I do! I can't live without my 2 morning ginormous mugs of black tea with a splash of half and half and stevia. It seems to be that if the calorie amount is about 50 calories or less, your body will stay in that fasted state and you don't need to worry about it. Example, 2 tbs. of half and half has 40 calories, so I can easily have 1 tbs in each of 2 ginormous mugs and OK. But if you're asking if you can have a Starbucks frappe for breakfast and still call it a fast, bummer to tell you, but that will likely not have the same effect at all.
You can post pictures in your comments below! Please feel free to share your P3 living stuff you're doing to help other P3toLifers visualize and get ideas for how to do this!
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