Gluten Free Fitness

Health

Intermittent Fasting: Not Nearly as Scary as it Sounds

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It’s OK.  Don’t click away yet.  There’s nothing to be afraid of, I promise.

Fasting.

Didja jump out of your chair a little bit? That just doesn’t sounds good, does it?

Here’s the facts

Fasting by definition: to abstain from food, to eat sparingly or abstain from some food.

I think we’ve all done some form or fashion of fasting at some point in out lives.

Sleep much?  Yup, that’s a fast.  Ever have to have surgery?  You had to fast prior to the surgery.

Spend the day really busy running around, working on the house, or outdoors?  Fast.

Now, these are unintentional for the most part, but they are in fact, fasts.  You’ve already done them!  Less scary already, right?

So why do I care about fasting at all?

As many of you know, I am a fitness enthusiast and have competed in figure shows in the past.  It’s been fun, for the most part.  The commonly accepted eating pattern in this type of fitness circles is that eating small meals every few hours is the best way to maintain a healthy metabolism and lose weight if needed.

For years, I followed that idea, eating 5 or 6 times a day, feeling certain that my tiny little muscles would fall off if I didn’t eat exactly every 3.2 hours, or that my blood sugar would plummet and I’d fall into a brain fog, or that (oh noes!) my body would go into the dreaded starvation mode.

Horrors, all.  So I was a good girl and packed my meals ahead of time, toted a cooler, and revolved my life around my meals.  To others, it looked as if I was very dedicated, but more than a little weird, and maybe even a bit fanatical.

Over the past 2-3 years or so, research began coming to light that there really is no advantage to eating so frequently at all.

But I was so accustomed to eating this way, I thought it was the only way.  The truth is, I was too scared (read:wimp) to try anything different to see.  Plus, I was working in an office where I was stuck at a computer all day, sitting, and used the meals as an excuse to get up.  I also knew that boredom would be an issue, and at least with having meals so often it kept me from mindless snacking.

Intermittent fasting

I had been reading more information about intermittent fasting.  There was a very smart dude, Martin Berkhan, who was posting really intelligent content as well as awesome success stories.  My friend JC has used Martin’s intermittent fasting protocol (aka Leangains) and had great success with it.

Then, the heavens opened up, and angels sang.

OK, not quite.

But, I did change jobs, and I now work from home in a more mentally stimulating and rewarding position.  This allows me to have more flexibility in my meal times, and also I have set up a treadmill desk, so I am walking slowly instead of sitting on my butt all day.

(Side note-there are many different types of intermittent fasting out there, because intermittent fasting is just alternating periods of eating with periods of not eating.  JC covers them, so I am not going to here, and for my purposes we will be discussing Leangains specifically.  Also, there are many different viewpoints on WHY intermittent fasting could be positive, varying from ancestral eating patterns, to mental acuity, to life extension.  I will be focusing on the mental and body composition aspects only.  For now, at least.)

Mental relationship with food

I had noticed that my mental relationship with food wasn’t the best.  Because of the spacing of my meals, I was always thinking about when my next meal was, what I would be eating, where I would be, if I had to pack food, etc. and so on.  To be fair, I still believe in keeping a healthy snack with you if needed, and packing/making your own food whenever needed, but that is because you have control over the quality and composition of your food that way, not because I feel like I have to eat or something very bad will happen.

When I changed jobs, I decided there was no time like the present to try a new meal pattern as well.

So I read Martin’s entire blog (not even kidding) and set up a meal plan for myself based on his Leangains guide.

I also utilize the fasted training protocol since I exercise in the morning.

My personal feeding window is 10AM to 8PM.

Fasting results

Here’s a quick and dirty summary of what I noticed in myself since I started eating this way:

  • I used to think I HAD to eat breakfast very soon upon waking, because I woke up hungry.  I’ve learned that is really not the case, that we adapt to whatever patterns we use.  If I feel hungry now early in the morning, it goes away quickly.
  • I was always hungry before.  Even though (or because) I ate often, I never felt full and always had a low level of hunger, even when eating at a maintenance calorie level.  Now, instead of eating 6 small meals a day, I eat 4 larger meals, and have a much greater sense of satiety (fullness.)
  • I was obsessed with food.  Now, I realize that there will be no negative implications if I go a bit longer without eating, and my life does not revolve around my meals.  If we want to go out, or do something, we go, and I don’t panic if I don’t have a meal packed.
  • I can get away with eating a little more without a negative consequence on body composition.  Now, I also started my desk-walking, so can’t really differentiate what is making the difference here.  Obviously the walking is burning some extra calories.  There is some yet to be fleshed out indications that intermittent fasting can have positive effects on body composition, all other factors being equal though.
  • I can maintain a body composition and weight that I am very happy with quite easily, without obsessing.

I just recently consulted with Martin to try a recomposition/fat loss phase-that is, fat loss with muscle gain (hopefully.)  This is notoriously difficult to achieve, and being female, muscle building is tough enough.   I’m giving it a good go though, so we’ll see what happens.

Bottom line on intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting can be a very easy, non stressful method of maintaining or improving your weight, body composition, or mental relationship with food.  It is not for everyone, just as nothing works for everybody.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!  Remember, intermittent fasting is simply meal pattern timing, and you can put any type of eating in there.

Have you tried intermittent fasting?

Weight Management and Celiac Disease: Wrapping it Up, Gluten Free Style

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There’s been a lot of ground covered over the past couple of weeks regarding managing your weight on a gluten free diet, and how celiac disease can affect weight control.

In Part 1 of this series, I revealed how I was a cheater at the gluten free diet. In Part 2, we covered some physical and psychological reasons why you may experience weight loss or gain with celiac disease/gluten intolerance. In Part 3, we reviewed some action you can take to lose weight/fat if you choose, on a gluten free diet. In Part 4, we covered strategies for gaining weight in a controlled and healthy manner if gaining is your goal.

The upshot of all this is that whatever you goal is as far as weight and/or body composition, you can achieve it.

And really, achieving those goals in within reach for all of us.

You choose a goal, make a plan to get there, and execute.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

In reality, it may not be quite that easy.

But it doesn’t have to be terribly hard. You can achieve what you set your mind to. You choose a goal-whether it’s to reach the top of those stairs, lose 20 pounds, fit into a smaller pant size, do 10 push ups, squat a bunch of weight, or run a marathon. The only thing stopping you-is you.

We need to get out of our own way. To set aside the preconceptions of our abilities. To shatter the expectations that others may have of us.

For today-choose one thing. Make that one thing your goal for this week. I was talking to a client yesterday, and her goal this week is to bump up her water intake to 3-4 liters a day. That’s a great goal-measurable, achievable and realistic. When that one thing becomes habit and no longer takes work, then you set a new goal. With time, all of these things add up, and you’ve changed your lifestyle in a maintainable way.

In my post on the gluten free diet as a lifestyle, I talked about the definition of “diet” and how it may be more beneficial to wrap our heads around the word/concept in a different way. This is your life. Live in it now, not with “if only” and “should have”.

What’s your goal for this week? Don’t be shy-post it below! When you put it in black and white, it becomes real. Go get ’em!

Weighty Matters: How to Gain Weight on a Gluten Free Diet

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Whew! Part 4 is here.

As a quick recap-In Part 1 of this series, I revealed how I was a cheater at the gluten free diet. In Part 2, we covered some physical and psychological reasons why you may experience weight loss or gain with celiac disease/gluten intolerance. In Part 3, we reviewed some action you can take to lose weight/fat if you choose, on a gluten free diet. Finally now in Part 4, we’ll tackle the issue of gaining weight.

For many, celiac disease or gluten intolerance can cause an unplanned and unwelcome loss of weight. The difficulties in absorbing nutrients from the small intestine can lead to malnutrition, even with the best of diets. After a gluten free diet has been initiated, the healing process can begin. However, this may take some time, and will be dependent on many factors, including the severity of the intestinal damage.

Eliminating gluten, and being very careful and aware of cross contact and hidden gluten is the first step. If gluten is not eliminated the damage will continue and no healing, and therefore absorption, can occur.

Keep in mind that other food intolerances may be found in conjunction with celiac disease. Lactose intolerance is very common. Personally I am intolerant to soy. Shelly Stuart mentioned her corn intolerance in Part 3 of our podcast series. (She also touched on other issues that may cause continued intestinal distress after eliminating gluten such as parasites-obviously we recommend you follow up with your doctor for a comprehensive review of what may be causing continued symptoms.) Definitely check in with your doctor to make sure there are no other problems that may be causing you to have continued impaired absorption.

You can also ask your doctor about supplements that may speed along the healing process. L-glutamine and probiotics are worth looking into. I think a good gluten free multivitamin is never a bad idea, and talk to your doctor about fish oil. Of course-the most important thing is making sure you are getting optimal nutrition from your food.

In gaining weight, we are looking to add calories that will give great nutritional value as well. After all, you wouldn’t run a high-end Ferrari with low test gas, would you? So don’t expect your body to be able to give you healing oomph! and performance on crappy food. We’re talking about lots of good food.

Here’s 5 steps to help bring your weight back up where you want it:

1) Start your day with a good breakfast.

No, I’m not your mother, but I sound like it don’t I? Seriously though, breakfast is the most abused meal. People forget about it all the time, or have a coffee and call it good. That won’t work. Prepare ideas ahead of time so you can get going with minimal time and effort. Here’s my egg bake that I cook up on Sunday and have for the week. And here’s a portable “pancake”. Heck, some chicken if that’s how you roll. Greek yogurt, string cheese, fruit, smoothies (Amy at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free has an awesome Green Smoothie recipe-I’d add some protein like hard boiled eggs, yogurt, cottage cheese or protein powder and you’re good.) Shelly Case just wrote an article on breakfast foods on the Be Free For Me blog. My recommendation is that you try to have a decent protein, carbohydrate and fat source in the meal, which brings me to….

2) Have a decent protein, carbohydrate and fat source in each meal.

Now don’t throw up your hands, I saw that!
This is not rocket surgery.
Once you get the hang of it, it’s very easy to do, and doesn’t take extra time at all. Here’s an example:

For breakfast, I have some of my egg bake casserole (protein from egg whites, veggies from spinach and tomato), some gluten free oatmeal (carbohydrate) with berries (fruit carbohydrate) and slivered almonds or flaxseed (healthy fat.) If you’d like listings of more ideas in each of those categories, here’s a list of my top 10 gluten free carbohydrate sources.

3) Eat every few hours.

There’s no magic to this, but if you are trying to get in extra calories it’s often easier to split them up over the day, rather than stuffing yourself like Thanksgiving turkey. And instead of stuffing yourself you can…

4) Sneak in extra calories.

Eat calorically dense food that doesn’t make you full. Examples of this would be olive/coconut/your favorite oil, nut butters, and nuts or seeds. Basically healthy fats-they pack more calories per gram than your carbs and protein. If you can’t do nuts, check into sunflower or pumpkin seeds. I haven’t tried it yet, but Shirley over at Gluten Free Easily has used Sunbutter in some of her recipes. It’s a sunflower seed butter.

Along with that, drink some calories. The exact OPPOSITE of what I wrote in the article about losing weight. Protein shakes with some added fats (chocolate protein and peanut/almond butter shake, anyone?), milk, almond milk, hemp milk, etc and so on. If you need to, a couple shakes or smoothies a day would be a fine way to get in extra nutrition. In no way did I look at all of these to see if they were gluten free, but Smoothierecipes.net has an extensive database of drinkable calories.

5) Like a good Scout, always be prepared.

Never let yourself get hungry. Never let yourself be without something gluten free and good to eat. Here’s my top 10 portable snack foods. Also consider premade or homemade protein bars/brownies. Larabars are low on protein, but tasty as heck. Zing Bars are a staple in my house for traveling.

Regardless though, my go-to-fail-safe-can-even-take-it-on-a-plane-without-getting-patted-down is a empty shaker bottle with a scoop or two of protein powder, and a bag of nuts. My friend Kim also just reviewed some gluten free jerky I’m going to have to try, although it’s more stinky than protein powder and nuts.

Keep something with you-in your car, your purse, your pocket. (Hey-is that a Zing bar in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?)

So there are some ideas to get you started! Keep in mind-as your gut heals, you will begin absorbing more nutrients. When you heal, you may find yourself gaining weight much faster than you intended, so keep reassessing where you are and where you want to be.

What are your thoughts? What have you done to put weight back on? What challenges have you faced? Share them below and let’s help each other out!