Is it even possible as a college student anyways?
Short answer: Yes!
Slightly-longer answer: Yes, but your social schedule may take some hits.
I first heard about intermittent fasting, or ‘IF’ as it’s often lovingly referred to by a bounty of health bloggers, through the same place I hear about most of my other future health endeavors: the internet. It seemed as though, out of nowhere, IF was mentioned by every single one of my favorite health youtubers and sites for its mind-body benefits. I’m not above ignoring my biases, so after Whitney Simmons, one of my all-time favorite fitness queens, hailed the benefits of a week of IF, I was sold.
With a lineup like lower inflammation, regulated hormones, weight loss, lowered insulin resistance, and improved cognition, I found myself skeptical and intrigued (there’s that ‘scientific mindset’ I was taught in the 4th grade at work). Sure, I could spend another few hours sucked into the black hole of Healthline articles and bodybuilding forums trying to sort through the testimonials of others, but I felt that a much more efficient use of my time would be to cut to the chase. There was only one way to truly see how my body would truly react: test it myself. I made a plan and set out for the week.
IF is certainly not for everyone, as a lot of the most difficult aspects of the diet (is it even fair to call it that? You technically don’t change what you eat, your calories, or your macros, only *when* you decide to eat it) come down to simply scheduling.
The most common form of IF follows a 16/8 plan: simply put, a 16-hour fasting period and an 8-hour eating window. Following 16/8, most individuals opt to skip breakfast and begin eating around noon or 1 PM. Other variations include a 15/9 plan, 14/10 plan, or opting to fast for two non-consecutive 24-hour periods during the week.
Seeing that there was no way I envisioned myself being able to fast for a complete 24-hours (my poor family, friends, and roommate would be subject snapping me out of extreme levels of hangriness), I decided to go for a week-long, daily fasting period of 16 hours. What ended up most conducive to my schedule (and the schedule of my campus dining halls) was establishing an eating window of 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM. I still ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but in a bit more of a condensed period.
Additionally, besides drinking water, I allowed myself my pre-workout electrolyte mix in the AM and my usual teaspoonful of ashwaganda before bed (pre-workout, BCAAs, and other supplements are often given the green-light in IF).
The best part? I got to sleep through the majority of my fast. This thing seemed like a piece of gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO cake.
The first three days of IF proceeded almost like any other day, the only caveat being that I had to begin turning down dinner invites that would draw out longer than 5:30. Lunch anyone?
From Monday to Wednesday, I couldn’t tell much of a difference in my body. Post-hump day, the first noticeable difference in my physique came from bloating, or, in better terms, lack thereof. I’ve always struggled with belly bloating from what feels like the moment I wake up to the moment I call it a night (I bet I’m even bloated in my dreams, honestly). By Wednesday, I noticed I was looking a bit more #snatched in my high-waisted leggings, which was a definite plus.
However, the some of the bloat would usually return (albeit much less noticeably) by midday. Oh, well. A girl can dream.
As for hunger pangs, I never really felt challenged. My IF eating habits weren’t too far off from what I’d normally do each day, as I would wrap up dinner around 7 PM. Coming off of a night-long fast, my mornings felt a bit peckish, but hitting the gym and hitting my pre-workout electrolytes helped me power through.
I felt like I reaped the appropriate rewards for my IF session: It didn’t feel like I put that much effort into it, and I didn’t feel a huge difference in my energy and physique. The pros? Reduction in bloating, stable energy levels (not necessarily increased or decreased, which is why I hesitate to attribute this *directly* to IF. It could have been a good week, for all I know), and no real issues with hunger. The cons? Not too much of a difference otherwise, and semi-awkward explanations to friends as to why I needed to grab dinner at 5 PM.
Would I do it again? On weeks where I start to feel especially bogged-down and bloated, definitely. I could envision turning IF into a once-monthly habit in my foreseeable future.
Regardless, thanks for indulging in my little science experiment. Is this enough quantitative data to determine the effectiveness of intermittent fasting? Of course not, but my personal experience with IF hopefully goes to show that it’s perfect for those looking to shape their health without any drastic change. There’s no talk of deficit, elimination dieting, or other restriction besides time, which is refreshing in a world so often fixated on counting calories. If you’ve got the time, give it a shot, but I see it as more of an accessory to a healthy lifestyle than a necessity.