Like Elon Musk, I tried intermittent fasting. My weight hasn’t altered significantly, but I was astonished by the other advantages.
I didn’t want to take a drug, but I decided to try intermittent fasting for a month to see if it helped me lose a few pounds too.
I talked to the fitness coach Farren Morgan, who explained that intermittent fasting focuses on when — not what — you eat. “By fasting for a certain number of hours as you carry out your training and daily routine, you ultimately burn more fat and prevent or reverse some diseases,” he said.
Morgan recommended starting with an “easy” plan, also known as the “16:8” pattern, where you only eat within an eight-hour window. “Most people find it easy to stick to this particular fasting plan because it’s achievable and sustainable long-term,” he said.
There’s also the “5:2” pattern, which involves eating normally five days a week but consuming as few as 500 calories on the other two days.
The most challenging plan, according to Morgan, is the “Eat Stop Eat” plan, or fasting for 24 hours once or twice a week. “Those that choose this challenging plan experience optimal regulation of their blood-sugar levels, improved cardiovascular health, reduced blood pressure and cholesterol, and changes to their metabolic functions to further weight loss,” Morgan said.
Fasting beyond 24 hours at a time, however, won’t help you reach your fitness goals sooner, Morgan said. “Instead, you could break down your muscle mass to store more fat in response to your starvation, which is why it is crucial to maintain a healthy and balanced diet during your eating periods.”
He advised anyone considering intermittent fasting to first consult their doctor, especially if they have a preexisting medical condition.
A first week of trials — and a few errors
For my first week, I decided to follow the “16:8” pattern. The first couple of days seemed to fly by, and I wasn’t feeling as hungry as I’d feared I would.
During the fasting window, you’re not allowed to consume any calories, which meant no sugary drinks or vanilla lattes. I drank black coffee instead, and gallons of water.
Going to the gym seemed easy. I didn’t feel weaker, so I carried on working out as normal. Musk said he lifted weights as well, so I decided to do the same.
On day three, I realized I didn’t feel as bloated as I usually did. Hunger was manageable.
But I took the first week as a “trial within the trial” to gauge how challenging intermittent fasting would be. It involved making a few mistakes, like jumping on food as soon as my eating window opened.
The following days felt longer.
All or nothing
The “Eat Stop Eat” pattern seemed like a good challenge after a first successful week.
I decided I would stop eating for two days during that second week, picking the two days I was in the office to minimize the temptation of raiding the kitchen cupboards.
Some days, I felt like I needed something other than water. While black coffee didn’t do much, it at least had some flavor.
Midway through the second week, I realized that something else had changed: I didn’t feel as tired. A study published in the National Library of Medicine actually found that, for some people, intermittent fasting reduced fatigue.
The hunger, however, really kicked in at about 5:30 p.m.
The biggest challenge
After another successful week, I started feeling confident about intermittent fasting — and the thought of doing so permanently crossed my mind.
I decided to mix the “16:8” pattern with “Eat Stop Eat” — but I wasn’t prepared for how the third week would challenge me.
Hunger was still manageable, apart from one day when every move felt like climbing Mount Everest. I still decided to go to the gym that day, which I quickly regretted.
I went home and broke my fast with three slices of toast; never had I savored bread and butter so much.
Thank you, E.
I ended up only losing about 4.5 pounds (2kg). My aim wasn’t only to lose weight, but to assess the other benefits too given that Musk claimed it helped him feel healthier as well as lose weight.
In 2019, Jack Dorsey, the former CEO of Twitter, said he, too, had experimented with intermittent fasting. He challenged himself with a three-day, water-only fast.
Dorsey said then that the days seemed to be longer, and I agree. You either skip breakfast, lunch, dinner — or sometimes all three, leaving big gaps in your day.
But my brain felt less foggy, and I could think more clearly. Not eating lunch, for example, gave me more energy, made me more productive, and lessened distractions. For those reasons, I think I will periodically embark on intermittent fasting.
I hate to say it, but thank you, Elon Musk.