Five months ago, I wrote an article about trying Intermittent Fasting.
At that point, I weighed 76.8kg, had 19.5% body fat, and was in a regular gym schedule.
Last week, I weighed 70.9kg, had 15.2% body fat, and was still doing my regular gym schedule.
This is the story of how I lost 6 kg in 5 months.
To add context to my story, first here’s a little background info about me.
I’m not a professional dietician, personal trainer, or fitness expert. I’ve been a skinny guy all my life, who plays sports once a week.
But in December 2013, I decided to do something about it. I started eating a lot more and I started weight training. From exercising once a week, I consistently went up to three. Usually it was one session of high-intensity sports, and two sessions of weight training.
The results were good. By the end of September 2014, I had gained 9kgs, weighing in at 78 kg. I actually had to buy a set of new clothes, because I had outgrown my old ones.
(If you’re in the small percentage of the population who has trouble gaining weight, and want to know how I did it, check out the article here)
The only problem was — for the first time in my life, I realized I was actually kinda plump. I had a tummy. And my feet hurt when I ran.
Having so recently achieved something I’d struggled with all my life, I now had to turn my back on it all and start losing weight.
But I didn’t want to lose all the muscle I had gained along the way. I just wanted to lose the fat.
Was this even possible?
Intermittent Fasting — Easy and Fun
I started intermittent fasting in November 2014. There are a few popular fasting plans, but I chose the one that seemed simplest for me: every Sunday, I would not eat anything until dinner time. The last meal I would eat was dinner/supper on Saturday evening. Then I would fast for 24 hours until Sunday night.
During my fast, I only drank water.
It was surprisingly easy. Apart from occasional hunger pangs and growls from the stomach, I didn’t have any trouble at all adopting it. It was also great material to brag to my friends about: “Hey, look at me — I’m the weirdo who actually tells his stomach what to do, not the other way round.”
There was also a hidden benefit from intermittent fasting: No matter what I ate on Sunday night, it tasted like heaven. And I always felt so grateful and happy.
But was restricting my food for 24 hours every week going to be enough for me to achieve my goals?
Carbohydrate Cycling — The Challenge
Apart from intermittent fasting, I had been reading about another diet modification plan: Carbohydrate Cycling.
Which basically means consciously choosing when to eat carbohydrates:
- On exercise days, you get to eat starchy carbohydrates
- On rest days, you don’t eat starchy carbohydrates
Fruits and vegetables are the exception. You can eat as much fruits and vegetables as you like anytime.
The plan made sense to me. On days when I was lifting weights, I would need the extra carbohydrates for energy and building muscle. On days when I was resting, my body would burn fat since it didn’t have access to carbohydrates.
So I decided to give it a try. Just like intermittent fasting, I started carb cycling in November 2014.
I only ate carbohydrate-rich foods like rice, pasta and bread on exercise days.
On resting days, to make up for the lack of carbohydrates, I tried to eat more healthy fats. Things like peanut butter, olive oil, and butter.
But it wasn’t easy. This was so much harder for me than intermittent fasting. I’m a huge fan of carbohydrates. They’re my favorite food group. But not only did I have to hold back my lust for carbs, I also initially felt dizzy, sleepy and weak. In my second week of carb cycling, I had the Low-Carb Flu. Which is what happens to a lot of people when they give up carbs for the first time.
Thankfully, I recovered in a few days from the flu. As for the dizziness and lethargy, my body eventually got used to not having carbs. It took a couple of weeks though.
In Sickness and in Health
Things were going well in November. My body fat percentage was dropping while I could still lift the same amount of weights. This meant that I was losing fat, while maintaining muscle.
But disaster struck in December. I became very ill with dengue.
I was stuck at home for a few weeks, horribly lethargic, and unable to work out. By the time I got back into the gym after Christmas, I had lost more weight. But I was much weaker too — meaning I had lost muscle. Not what I wanted.
Despite the setback, it had been a great 2014. I started 2015 with resolve to continue my combination of intermittent fasting, carb cycling and regular exercise.
I started gaining back my strength in the gym. My weight continued to drop (but not drastically like when I had dengue) as well as my body fat. Carb cycling and intermittent fasting became second nature to me. I even managed to sneak in a few birthday cake slices.
I’m a bit of a nerd, so I tracked my progress using the body fat machine at the gym. Here are my results over the past few months:
Oct 14 — Weight: 76.8 kg, Fat Percentage: 19.5%
Nov 14 — Weight: 76.0 kg, Fat Percentage: 18.4%
Dec 14 — Weight: 73.3 kg, Fat Percentage: 19.3%
(Lost a lot of weight due to dengue, but my fat percentage went up. Not good)
Jan 14 — Weight: 73.3 kg, Fat Percentage: 17.4%
Feb 14 — Weight: 72.2 kg, Fat Percentage: 16.8%
Mar 14 — Weight: 70.9 kg, Fat Percentage: 15.2%
Today, I’m proud to say, I’m lifting similar (and in some instances, heavier) weights than I was when I was at my all-time heaviest weight. Not only have I lost fat, I’ve kept the muscle.
You might be asking, what’s with the continuous mention of muscles? This is a women-centric website, where 90% of the readers probably don’t care about muscle.
But what I’ve learned is, if you want to lose weight (and don’t most women?), that’s fine. But it needs to be done in a healthy manner. There’s no point if you lose weight, but you’re losing the good stuff (i.e. the muscles) and keeping the excess fat. I lost close to 3kgs, when I fought dengue, but it wasn’t good weight-loss — because I was getting weaker.
I’ve also learned that the biggest aspect of losing weight is controlling your diet. Exercise isn’t the biggest factor. What you eat is.
As to whether intermittent fasting and carb cycling can help you lose weight, I can’t say for sure. But hopefully my experience helps you make an informed decision. If all this seems a bit extreme for you — maybe you can start by cutting out rice from one meal a day, replace it with vegetables, and see if that helps?
Above all, the biggest thing I’ve learned is there is no one-size-fits-all plan for everyone. People pushing products will tell you that you only need one magical exercise, machine, or diet to look like a model.
But the truth is, everyone is different. Some people can eat a lot, before they put on even a bit of weight. Me? I’ve been serious about weights for more than a year now, but my arms are still smaller than most non-exercisers I know. Even if something works for a year, your body adapts, and you might need to do something different next. What everyone really needs is to experiment and see what works for them.
Sometimes it feels like I’ve come a long way, but beneath all the theories, numbers, and constant glances in the mirror — there’s only one real difference between who I was in December 2013, and who I am today. The one thing that I’m really happy about. And whether you’re looking to lose fat, gain muscle, look better, or a combination of all three, it’s that same thing that your body needs too:
Follow me at mr-stingy.com for more ideas.
Pic at Pexels