Recently, we interviewed some of the Yogaline team about intermittent fasting, its benefits and how it’s affected their yoga practice.
Here’s what they had to say.
1. What initially drew you to intermittent fasting?
I’ve tried different diets in the past and had a lot of success with things like Keto and classic calorie-counting, however with all of these diets you need to spend a lot of time working on the details. When I read about intermittent fasting, I was drawn in by the potential for a diet that matched convenience with effectiveness.
I opted for the classic 16/8 (16 hours of fasting and eight hours of eating per day). I wanted to go for convenience, and this method is super easy because I can skip breakfast, have my first meal at lunch time and then stop eating after dinner at around 8pm.
I was sceptical at first because ‘starvation’ diets tend to produce short-term results and ‘low-quality’ weight loss (e.g. shedding lots of water and muscle mass rather than body fat). However, friends of mine who had also been doing this diet spoke a lot about how much they enjoyed it and how effective it was for them. I had also read about the other benefits of fasting, such as reduced inflammation and improved digestion.
I saw this great program on the BBC with Dr. Michael Moseley. He spoke about the benefits of fasting for your brain and longevity. I think at that time (which was about five years ago), I wanted to get fitter – I was 15 kgs heavier and bordering on being classified overweight.
I gave the 5:2 diet a try - which is eating only 600 calories twice a day - but later switched to a time restricted eating window instead. I give myself a four- to six-hour eating window, and I do so four or five times a week.
2. Did you notice any short-term improvements from intermittent fasting?
The first three days I just felt hungry. I noticed my waist getting a little smaller, probably because it wasn’t so full of food! By the end of the first week I began to notice the positive benefits that my friends had told me about. I felt awake and alert all morning, despite having no breakfast. My digestion felt easier and lighter throughout the day. The hunger pangs were getting less and less, and I felt a satisfaction of ending and beginning my fasts each day.
Absolutely. I immediately felt that I was able to focus a lot better when I fasted. Often, I'd get into a zone and before I know it, it's past lunch time. I also find I don't get that post lunchtime dip late in the afternoon and energy levels are fairly stable throughout the day.
3. How about any longer-lasting benefits?
I’ve heard people describe intermittent fasting as more of a lifestyle than a diet. I’m still early in the experience, however I do feel like I could continue eating this way permanently, which is certainly not true of diets like Keto.
After three weeks of fasting, I am starting to see my abs re-emerge from their two-year hibernation. I’m usually physically active and I think this is an important part of any diet so that you don’t waste away.
I've been able to maintain my weight and actually only started putting weight on when I stopped fasting for about seven months. It really is a lifestyle choice and you should look at it this way rather than thinking of it as a fad diet.
4. How would someone safely go about first trying intermittent fasting?
I’ve read about people who fast for 18, 20 and even 24 hours on a regular basis (I have friends who do this, too). As with all things, if you’re new to something, start slow and work your way up. Allow your body the time to acclimatise.
Start small and work your way up. Try 12 hours first, and then maybe 13 hours next and keep upping it every few days.
Also, water is your friend when fasting. I will often drink anywhere between 500ml to 1 litre maximum per hour. A ninja tip will be to include sparkling water in that mix. The change in texture is… refreshing (excuse the pun).
It’s also important to be aware of what you consider to be ‘breaking a fast’. You’ll find many people telling you a black coffee isn't breaking a fast but there's just not enough research or data to show otherwise, so exercise caution. I will normally allow a minimum of 16 hours before I have a black coffee. Then I'll eat maybe 2-4 hours later.
Oh, and please don't believe everything you read on the internet and make sure you follow advice that is backed by an experienced medical professional. There are some great resources from Dr. Rhonda Patrick and Dr. Sachin Panda.
5. How did intermittent fasting affect your yoga practice?
Initially, I was concerned about doing yoga whilst fasting. I’ve always had a voracious appetite and I’ve never been one to do any activity on an empty stomach.
After three weeks, though, I can say that I’ve become very comfortable. Practicing in the morning feels light and easy, and I don’t find myself feeling ravenously hungry afterwards anymore.
I personally find it easier getting in the flow and find focus on an empty stomach. You feel lighter, too.
6. Could you explain a little about fasting on senses (ie fasting on sound, on sight, on smell etc)
I’ve only tried this once before – it was a week-long silent retreat on a small island in Indonesia. The rules were very strict: no phones, computers, books or music. No talking with anyone or writing. If you passed another person then there was to be no eye-contact. They even removed the mirrors from the rooms so that we couldn’t see ourselves! I guess we were fasting on communication outside of ourselves.
I remember feeling apprehensive on this journey – I’d never gone for a week without talking to anybody, has anyone? However, by the end of the first afternoon my nervousness had evaporated and the whole experience was serene and enjoyable. I could have continued for another week.
I don’t know the science behind the process, but I found that this process brought lasting benefits. The environment around me became more vivid and interesting, and simple activities felt more engaging. It was like hitting the reset button and going back to basics.
7. Can you provide an example of what a fasting day might look like, and what a non-fasting day might look like?
On a fasting day I will skip breakfast and just drink a coffee. I will have my first meal somewhere between noon and 1pm and eat normally when I feel hungry. I will finish eating by around 8pm, which allows me to go out and have dinner with friends and a glass of wine when I feel like it.
Since I started, I have not had any non-fasting days. It doesn’t feel like a chore at all, I’m very happy keeping this routine.
I'll wake up in the morning (anywhere between 5-6am and the first thing I do is grab 500ml of water to drink. If I can remember I'll twist a bit of Himalayan sea salt into that, too.
Next, I’ll do some kind of exercise or yoga practice and get ready for the day. At around 10am, I have my first black coffee.
I'll then look to break my fast anywhere between 12pm and 2pm depending on how busy I am. I'll have my main meal and dinner at about 4.30-5pm. Even though these are small feeding windows I make sure I really eat well. I'll then do some exercise in the evening (about 7.30pm) and get myself to bed by 10.30pm at the latest.
On non-fasting days, I'll eat around 8am but will usually try to finish eating about 6pm. I'll do this at least once a week to eat with my kids for breakfast but I really do prefer to skip breakfast as I definitely don't feel as sharp.
Thanks to David and Hai for making the time to interview for this article. To find out more about intermittent fasting, here are a few reliable resources to explore:
- Intermittent Fasting 101 — The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide
- Intermittent fasting: Surprising update
- 6 Popular Ways to Do Intermittent Fasting
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