I am an athlete and have been one since I can remember. Before high school, I participated in karate, soccer, basketball, and baseball. When I entered high school, I began weightlifting, jogging, and cycling. In my 30s, I added swimming to the mix with the goal of participating in triathlons. I have since completed more 1/2 marathons (13.1 miles) that I can remember, ran a full marathon (26.2 miles), participated in three 1/2 Ironman’s (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride, and 13.1 mile run) and trained for a full Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2 mile run). At my peak training, I was working out 18 hours a week. Regardless of my passion for fitness, I have always struggled with my weight.
In 2010, I participated in my first triathlon (sprint distance) – I was hooked. I signed up for a 1/2 Ironman shortly afterward, hired a coach and continued to expand my knowledge of the nutritional needs of an athlete. As I applied what I learned, and my training increased, my weight started to go up. I was alarmed. I did what most determined people do and what my doctors told me to do – work out more and eat less. I was exercising up to 16 hours a week, but my weight continued to increase, I was getting slower and was struggling with injuries. I decided to seek help.
I found a doctor that focused on athletes with metabolic issues like what I was experiencing. She took the time to get to know me and didn’t tell me what I had heard so many times in the past – exercise more, eat less. She spent hours analyzing the results of my blood work, talked to other experts, worked with my coach, and sought answers. She was driven to find why I could not lose weight. Roughly a year after completing my first ½ Ironman, 2012, I had gained 15 pounds and was diagnosed with insulin resistance.
My doctor and I spent 7 years trying to understand why my body wouldn’t respond to the latest and greatest science and medications for insulin resistance. At one point, I was on five different medications including one that required shots before every meal. Nothing was helping, and things continued to get worse. It was not a pleasant point in my life, but I was convinced that my doctor would find the right solution – eventually.
My turning point came early in 2018. I was training hard for another 1/2 Ironman and following the well-publicized and scripted nutrition plan of heavy carbs, quality protein, and limited fats. I followed the nutritional guidelines of fuel before, during, and immediately afterward training. Based on my body weight and exercise volume, I was taking in 300-400 grams of carbs of day and still being told I was not eating enough all while my weight was continuing to climb.
Race day came, and I had trained hard, but I was at my heaviest since 2005 at 227lbs and at roughly 32% body fat. I did what the experts told me to do, and nothing was helping – it was only getting worse. It was demoralizing, and I didn’t know where to turn. I had spent over $20K on my doctor and medications (insurance covered nothing) and spent years injecting and taking various prescriptions that were going to “fix” my insulin resistance. To this day I wonder what long-term damage these medications may have done to my body.
My wife, a former triathlete and one hell of a swimmer, had found Dr. Fung’s blog. She encouraged me to read it. To say I was hesitant is an understatement. I had followed one doctor for many years, and I was very reluctant to follow another. She continued to encourage me and one day I started reading through his posts. I was intrigued. I bought one book and read it nearly in a single sitting. Bought another book, read it within a week. What Dr. Fung had to say made sense. I knew a lot about insulin resistance and how metabolism worked but was new to fasting. What I loved about Dr. Fung’s approach is that it is supported by science, has been around for centuries, practiced by cultures all over the world, and best of all, it was free. After spending thousands of dollars on doctor’s visits and prescriptions, this was really encouraging. I had to try fasting.
In April 2018, I tried my first fast – 16 hours. I did this daily for a week and found it to be much easier than expected. The following week I tried an 18-hour and 24-hour fast. It was challenging, but doable. After a couple of weeks of following an 18/6 fasting schedule, I completed a 5-day fast and the following week completed a 6-day fast. The results were immediate and shocking. Symptoms of low blood sugar disappeared, the fear of needing to have food nearby “just in case” was gone, the weight started to drop, and I could visually see my body changing. I signed up for TFM coaching sessions to help guide my fasting schedules. Within a month, I had dropped 10 pounds, incorporated fasting into my daily life and switched to a keto/paleo lifestyle.
Working with my TFM coach, Rachel Primo, we developed my fasting and weight goals. My fasting goal was simple – 72-hour fast each week followed by an 18/6 eating window until I hit my target weight and body composition. When I eat, don’t count calories, eat real foods, and use Keto as my nutritional guide. I set three weight goals: 195, 185 and, in my mind an impossible goal of 175. I had an additional goal of becoming a fat adapted athlete. Something I didn’t think it would work for me, but I wanted to strive for it. After years of the triathlon and running community “educating” me on the right way to eat (carb loading, fuel every 15 minutes, etc.) the idea of going for a 2+ hour workout and only needing electrolytes were unimaginable to me, but I knew what I had done before didn’t work.
With the guidance of my TFM coach, Rachel, I learned what an incredibly powerful tool fasting and real foods are. Within six months, I accomplished all my goals, including what I thought was impossible – weighing in at 175lbs and being a fat adapted athlete. I dropped 15% body fat with no muscle loss. All the weight loss was fat.
It is now seven months since my first fast and the discovery of TFM and Dr. Fung. I am the lightest and fittest I have ever been in my life. I haven’t had signs of low blood sugar since late April, I train about 10 hours a week and only use electrolytes and water. I fast daily (usually a 16/8 or 18/6), follow a keto & paleo lifestyle and continue to drop fat and gain muscle. I literally owe my life (and thousands of dollars) to Dr. Fung and the TFM program. I can now look to the future and focus on continuing to improve my health, becoming a better athlete, and having a healthy relationship with food.
To other athletes, I highly recommend following Mark Sisson, reading Primal Endurance and listening to the Primal Endurance podcasts. Mark is an accomplished athlete and has written several very good books. Mark also has published several very good cookbooks.
My tips & tricks – your mileage may vary
- Learn to love Apple Cider Vinegar! 1-2 tablespoons & water every morning
- Exercise always in a fasted state
- When you eat, enjoy it and eat real foods. Don’t count calories.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself and learn how to “cheat.”
- Fasting can be very hard, more mental than physical. Stay busy, drink ACV, and Pique Teas. As my coach says – you are stronger than you think you are. In my experience, I have learned this is true. When I thought I would have to stop my fast because of hunger or the desire to eat, I went for a walk, raked leaves, did something to take my mind off it and I learned I could push through. Note: Any time I didn’t feel well (usually because of lack of electrolytes) I broke my fast.
- There is not one right way to fast. Learn what works for you and your body.
- This is my lifestyle – not a fad.
By The Fasting Method
For many health reasons, losing weight is important. It can improve your blood sugars, blood pressure and metabolic health, lowering your risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer. But it’s not easy. That’s where we can help.
By Jason Fung, MD
Jason Fung, M.D., is a Toronto-based nephrologist (kidney specialist) and a world leading expert in intermittent fasting and low-carb diets.