Living in the fast(ing) lane
Walk into CrossFit Instinct, and you will see people doing high-intensity workouts. However, CrossFit Instinct Coach Mike Suhadolnik is the first to say that losing weight and getting in shape involves 20 percent exercise and 80 percent what you eat and drink. People may spend an hour in the gym, but what they do the other 23 hours of the day has the biggest impact.
Suhadolnik promotes intense workouts, but also healthy lifestyles and eating nutritiously. Now, there is an additional focus on not just what you eat but when. Suhadolnik primarily works with people over the age of 50. Approximately 20 individuals agreed to participate in a 90-day program where they eat 2-3 nutritious meals, with no snacking, over an 8-hour period, stop eating at least two hours before bedtime and fast for 16 hours. They are measuring their results, including weight, body fat, visceral fat and muscle. After 30 days, they are already seeing results. Many have seen a significant decline in visceral fat, which is the fat around the organs, the most dangerous fat.
The concept of fasting for 16 hours is based on the premise that after 12 hours your body runs out of glycogen and starts burning fat. A powerful way to burn fat and lose weight is to eat the right combination of foods and extend the fast to 16 hours (see “All calories are not equal,” p.10).
The individuals who are fasting have diverse backgrounds and professions and include doctors, business professionals, retirees and a chef. They decided to try the fasting program for various reasons. Dr. Diane Hillard-Sembell, a sports medicine orthopedic surgeon, says, “You can’t outwork a bad diet.” She was motivated to participate due to a family history of heart disease. One person had already discovered that changing what he ate helped his diabetes and was willing to go the next step. Another says it is a way to “deal with your demons,” such as a couple glasses of wine accompanied by snacking. Others say it is helpful to have strict rules to follow. Yet another says he is doing it for his grandkids and the goal of being around to enjoy them. Most say they are doing it because Coach Mike Suhadolnik told them to, and they have already experienced positive results through Suhadolnik’s CrossFit Longevity class.
Denise Simon, who is 70, admits she was totally addicted to sugar before starting CrossFit just 2 ½ months ago. She says a benefit of fasting is that it gives her power over herself. Her visceral fat has dropped significantly. David Radwine, a chef, says, “Abs are not made in the gym, but in the kitchen. A benefit of fasting is that if you ‘go off the boat,’ you can fast.” He and several others in the program are the lightest they have been in decades.
Each of the participants adapts the 8/16 schedule to what works best for their own schedule and lifestyle. Some say it was challenging at first, but that they have more energy and feel better both physically and mentally. Most say that once you get used to it, it isn’t that difficult to go for 16 hours without eating. Dr. Craig Backs, a Springfield physician who specializes in heart attack and stroke prevention, says that being a little hungry feels a whole lot better than that bloated feeling after overeating.
Although this is a 90-day program, the expectation is a long-term behavioral change in eating habits. These include avoiding snacking, quitting eating after dinner, eating a couple of hours before bedtime and eating the next meal more than 12 hours later whenever possible.
Stay tuned for the results after the next 60 days.
Karen Ackerman Witter is retired from the state of Illinois. Through freelance writing and volunteering, her goal is to connect people, organizations and ideas to achieve greater results. She has been going to the CrossFit Instinct Longevity class for 1½ years.