Last year I spent a few months intermittent fasting. I lost more that 20 lbs and felt great, but I was really hungry for a lot of those months. Hard work.
I then ate, what I remember as being around four big sandwiches, and had a few beers, and my weight jumped right back to what it was before. It is as if my body jumped at the first opportunity to restock it’s fat cells to get back to normal.
If I do this again, how long should I expect to have to suffer in sandwichless purgatory before I “reset” my bodyweight?
You should not do this again, it’s the wrong approach.
You’re not supposed to be very hungry up to the point that as soon as you’re done you start binging on everything in sight. If IF made you feel good, reconsider your caloric intake during the feeding window. You should not be very hungry for months on end. That definitely means you dropped calories too low too quickly.
The single most important thing about dieting is to find a diet approach that fits into your lifestyle and allows you to be consistent without starving yourself. That, alongside being in a REASONABLE caloric deficit and training hard but smart is the key to fatloss and keeping the fat off afterwards.
When you succesfully dieted down to your desired bodyweight/bodyfat percentage, you should eat at maintenance for a couple of weeks to slowly reintroduce more calories again. An initial spike in weight gain (anything from 1 to a couple of pounds) is fairly normal due to increased glycogen uptake and water retention. But not 20 pounds, that could only mean you went extremely far beyond your maintenance calories.
Does this mean you can never enjoy sandwiches or beers again? Off course not, as long as they fit your goals and you compensate for them by adjusting your daily caloric intake. For example if your maintance calories are 3000 and you eat a big sandwich of 900 calories and drink a beer of 250 calories, that means you have 1850 calories left for that day. Or you can just add the sandwich and beer to your normal dietary intake of that day and subtract the added calories from other days in the week. The approach you take should always be based on your goals and how consistent you can be with it.
I understand what you are saying and agree. However I did not feel I was losing weight excessively quickly, and my weight bounced right back up, as if reverting to a mean, without much eating (I understand how subjective that sounds). I have read before somewhere that fat cells take a while to, I don’t know the term, wither and die, in effect.
Well, if you were not losing weight excessively quickly, you’d still have gotten metabolic adaptations from being in a deficit for a couple of months. By this I mean your total energy expenditure dropped down.
Whilst IF is excellent for health benefits, it can cause bigger surges in cortisol and adrenaline production due to the long fasting periods of no eating. Cortisol and adrenaline are energy mobilizing hormones. Chronic elevations affect Thyroid output (you get less T4 to T3 conversion) which, overtime, causes metabolic adaptations and, by consequence, a lower energy expenditure.
Sandwiches have a lot of glucose and salts, beer also contains sugars and alcohol (which has 7 calories per gram). The increased glucose and salt intake may have caused your body to hold a lot of water and off course you’d accumulate some fat as well. But you do not gain 20 pounds overnight, unless you ate an exceptional excess amount of calories. Physiologically speaking there’s just no other explanation.
By the way, after a couple months of dieting your perception of how much you’re eating is very subjective since your hunger hormones are negatively conditioned (high ghrelin = hunger hormone/ low leptin = satiety hormone).
OK, I’m with you so far, and thanks for the food for thought.
I spent a few months without breakfast, and a very light lunch, simply because it fit my lifestyle at the time. I had a very low stress job, with a lot of automony, and so I could spend the morning and early daytime hungry without impacting on my job or personal interactions. When I get home, and have to deal with the kids and, well, real life, I need some food in me, and so I would have a good healthy meal. I then eat while I lift late in the evening (yeah, I know, but it works for me; I’m a night owl).
I thought I was then returning to a maintenance diet, but obviously, as you say, I didn’t just put back on 10kg by magic. Now, at around 97Kg, I can eat pretty much comfortably as I like, plenty meats, vegetables, nuts, fruit, dairy, a beer or two, and I never get any bigger around the waist. I appear to be in a stable state, at this weight, while being at 87kg or so appears to have been a very unstable state for me. It took time and real effort to get there, and very little time or (at least to me) apparent over eating to gain it back. But at the same time, I know 85 - 87 kg is a better weight for me, as I have a bit of muscle on me, but not near enough to need to be 97 kg.
How long did it take you to go back from 87 up to 97kg?
Yes, initially you get the water retention that causes a bigger weight gain. After that, it is mostly fat gain. Sorry to disappoint you, you can’t build all solid muscle at that rate. But you know this already.
So what went wrong? You thought you were eating at maintenance but you ate in a caloric surplus, i’m guessing for at least a couple of weeks. Metabolic adaptations work both ways so as you continue to eat in a caloric surplus, your T4 to T3 conversion increases. Hence after you reach a certain weight treshold, your weight gain stalls. For you this treshold might very well be 97 kg.
If you’re not satisfied with your current weight, start a new fatloss cycle but be smart about it:
know your maintenance calories
aim for 0.5%-1% of bodyweight loss per week
if progress stalls, subtract calories by 150-250, add NEAT/cardio or do a combo of both (my personal favorite, I like to eat as much as possible because it keeps my cognitive and physical state more stable and dieting feels less hard for me this way)
Measure you progress by writing down your daily weight (always under the same conditions) and comparing the weekly averages to each other. This way you can accurately measure if you fall into to 0.5%-1% category. If not, make the appropriate adjustments as referred to in step 3.
Most importantly, know yourself. If you’re a hungry person, choose mostly low calorie dense foods to be able to eat a lot of food. If you’re less hungry, eat less calories.
At least 80% of what you’re eating during the day should be things you enjoy eating on a regular basis. This is the “fit into your lifestyle” factor I was talking about. It’s much easier to track progress if you regularly eat a lot of the same things and toss in some new variants every once in a while to add variation. Most people have somewhere around 20-30 food products that they eat on a daily basis. If you wish to rotate new foods into your basic regimen, make the right adjustments so they have the same caloric content.
Honestly, I don’t have much to add. All the answers have been spot on.
Just some points I want to mention again (they have been mentioned above, but I feel like they are the most important).
Intermittent fasting weight shift can often lead one to believe that he is losing more fat than he really is. The lack of food for most of the day leads to a lower body weight due to lowered stomach/colon content, less water retention and can lead to lower glycogen storage. This can easily give you a scale weight that is 3-4kg/7-10lbs lower than it normally would be, giving the illusion of a greater fat loss than in reality.
By the same token, you can’t regain 10kg/20lbs of fat in a few days of eating normally. As it was mentioned, the sheer amount of calories you’d need to eat to gain that much fat makes it a physiological impossibility. Mind you, I once gained 13kg/27lbs in 6 hours from a binge when I was severely flat and dehydrated. But it was mostly all the fluid retention, glycogen storage and stomach content. NOW, if you overestimated the amount of fat you lost by 3-5kg because intermittent fasting gave you an artificially low measurement, when you get back to normal eating you will regain those 3-5kg but that doesn’t mean that you gained 3-5kg of fat. Just that your stomach content, water retention and glycogen levels are back to normal.
Fat loss achieved through strict and significant caloric restriction (which seems to be the case with you since you were constantly hungry) is NEVER sustainable, regardless of how well you plan your “after” period. That’s because deprivation (and feeling deprived) leads to physiological adaptations which both make you crave food more and lowers your metabolic rate. Heck, I consider myself somewhat of a body composition expert. But every single time I have to get lean fairly quickly (for a photoshoot for example) and have to rely on large caloric restriction I always regain the weight lost within a few weeks even if every time I tell myself that I wouldn’t. Ironically the way I’m training right now led me to a body composition close to what I reach for my photoshoots without a large caloric restriction (still in a deficit mind you, but with like 300g of carbs instead of 50 or so). The greater the caloric deficit is established through an increase in physical activity instead of food restriction, the more sustainable the fat loss is.
From experience, intermittent fasting is not a good way of eating for people who get hungry easily. I personally do well on it because of my own physiology/neurology: I can easily go for long periods of time without food. In fact, sometimes eating is more a burden than a pleasure. Don’t get me wrong, when you are in a caloric deficit it’s normal to be hungry once in a while. But if that is your “normal state”, there is a problem with the ways you are doing things.
Well, when I read Christians emphasized line above about physical activity, I thought of Dan John’s kettlebell challenge. I need something I can do whenever the mood and opportunity suits. The kids and dog will just have to stay out of swing range.
Sorry to revive an old thread but I came across this statement and would be curious to know what that physiology is that makes someone better suited toward IF over others. I have found over the years that I eat mostly out of a burden to do so…mostly programmed myself to eat 3-4 meals a day like everyone else. If I were to only eat when I am hungry this may be only once a day…later in the afternoon. It is very easy for me to go without food; perhaps even for an entire day without any real trouble. Where as I notice with family members they can barely make it to 10am if they skip breakfast…what is that?
I always assumed this was not a good thing for me.