Combining intermittent fasting with exercise and cold showers

I have so far experimented with two ways to increase the positive effects of fasting. While intermittent fasting can be a great tool to increase autophagy it can also be difficult to eat all the daily nutrition in a very short eating window.

A beautiful place to get your cold-exposure?
So I asked myself the question: How can I have a larger eating window while still getting the benefits of prolonged intermittent fasting (20-23hours a day)? I feel that protocols that implement shorter duration of intermittent fasting (16-18h) do not evoke the same metabolic responses as those longer protocols. But with short eating-windows it can be difficult to digest and absorb all the food, especially if vegetables make up a big portion of ones daily food.

Therefore having an eating window of around 6-8 hours with two large meals (high volume due to large amount of vegetables) at the beginning and the end was my goal. Without compromising the benefits of the fasting period. I found two ways in which this might be possible: exercising and cold showers during the fasting period. So far this might not be a new idea for you. But I believe the trick is to fast for several hours afterwards.

So a typical day might look like this:
·         6:30am wake up and 30 min of bodyweight workout. Alternating muscle groups daily with three different training days.
·         7:00am cold shower: 1min warm/ 3min cold/ 1min warm/ 1min cold
·         Continue fasting until 12:00am – lunch: high vegetable; high in fat, medium in carbohydrate and protein
·         6:00pm-7:00pm – Dinner: high vegetable; high in fat, low in carbohydrate and medium in protein

This gives me around 5 hours after my sport and cold showers in the fasted state. If you try this out you will recognize how much different this approach feels from normal intermittent fasting of same duration.

Exercise is known to increase autophagy and by combining this with fasting you will increase this effect even further. The body is basically pushed ahead into higher autophagy similar to several hours of fasting. You are basically jumping from the 10h to the 16h mark. (Just an idea, I have not measured it :D)

In this way you have already increased the efficacy of the fast. The continued fast after exercise forces your body to recycle everything possible in order to provide for the muscular regeneration. Stress hormones are released that not only wake you up but also increase fat burning.

If you now combine this with cold showers it will enhance fat-burning, ketone-production, GABA- and BDNF-release even further.

The cold shower should in theory have following effects:
·         Activation of heat generation in brown adipose tissue
o   This will pick-up glucose and fatty acids from the blood stream, lowering the blood-glucose spike from the exercise
·         Increase wakefulness through the release of adrenaline and cortisol
·         Lower body temperature à more calories burned in the following hours (coming from fat) as you continue your fast
·         Increase circulation (in combination with the shift to warm water) of blood and lymphatic fluids
·         Enhance recovery from the workout
·         Make you clean and leave you feeling refreshed

After following this protocol for two weeks, I found out that I can combine the benefits of high vegetable consumption and eating twice daily (an enjoyable, large meal, high in vegetables) with the benefits of a longer daily fast.

I might even go so far to say that this approach is superior to the longer daily fasts. The reason is that the huge meal (as in the one meal a day protocol) takes considerably longer to digest. That basically shortens the real time spend fasting anyways. Two smaller meals, containing basically half of the calories digest much better than the giant one meal.

The greatest advantage of this approach for myself so far is that it takes almost no will-power. Eating within a 6 hour window, it is absolutely possible for me not to get hungry.