Intermittent fasting is quickly gaining in popularity. Many stars including Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce, and Hugh Jackman swear by intermittent fasting. With so much fame behind this fad there may be something to it right?
So what is it? There are many methods some of which are described below, but in a nutshell, it is scheduling periods of eating normally and then periods of not eating at all. The spans of eating normally are what make this so attractive to so many, but don’t let the “no counting calories; no cutting carbs; no macros” tag-lines associated with it trick you into thinking it’s easy. In fact, this may be more difficult than anything else you have tried in the past. Intermittent fasting requires: purpose, planning, and discipline. Compared to other lifestyle changes this one is rated difficult. Hey, but you’re a marathon runner. Difficult is your middle name.
Methods of Intermittent Fasting
16:8 Method; Eat for 8 hours fast for 16
With this method you choose an 8 hour window for eating your meals each day. One example is eat from
breakfast to mid-day; 7 am – 3 pm. Or, if you usually skip breakfast anyway, you may choose your meal hours from 1 pm – 9 pm.
If choosing this method when training for a marathon you will want to plan your meals with your training schedule. If you are a morning runner, then you will want to fuel up for your runs and plan your 8 hours of eating at a time that helps your running performance.
Personally, I having been trying this method for about 2 months. I started with an eating schedule of 1-9 and found that since I run in the morning, this did not work at all. Crash, boom, bang! I could hardly muster the energy to get around the block let alone get my long runs in. Switching to a 7:00-3:00 schedule I have found is better for my training schedule, but horrible for a social life. Meeting up for drinks after work, date night, and even enjoying popcorn with a late night movie are all out on this schedule. What I have found to be pros of this method are: evening snacking is eliminated and better discipline to food choices since I am putting more effort into the planning.
5:2 Method; Eat for 5 days and fast for 2
This method may be preferable for runners because chances are your running schedule is already 5 days on 2 non-consecutive days off. Your rest days would then also be your fasting days. Somewhat more extreme than the 16:8 Method because you have 2 complete days of fasting, but it does allow for less social life restrictions. Many plans do allow for some calorie intake on the fasting days. Typically around 500 calories which are divided into two small snacks of 250 calories each throughout the day.
I have tried this method in the past and have found it to be extremely difficult. You will be hungry. There will be temptation, but once again, it does allow you to maintain better balance with life and lifestyle. On your 5 eat days you can still enjoy date night and meeting up with friends after work.
Eat Stop Eat Method
The Eat Stop Eat Method involves eating a meal then not eating again until that same meal time the next day. An example would be eat a normal dinner Monday evening and then don’t eat again until dinner time Tuesday evening. If you are training in the morning, then you may prefer eat breakfast Monday morning and then don’t eat again until breakfast Tuesday morning.
I don’t have personal experience with this method, but based on the number of hours you are active with no meals, this may be quite difficult.
Benefits of intermittent fasting while marathon training
- You cannot improve in one area of your life without improvements trickling into other areas of your life. By planning your meal periods, I have found that you plan the quality of the meals as well.
- Weight loss can occur.
- For runners, this is important, there can be a reduction in inflammation.
Have you tried this while training for an event?
How’d it go?