Osayi Osunde, 33, is a fitness trainer, NFL alum, and owner of Philadelphia’s Fit Academy. He has followed an intermittent fasting lifestyle for three years.
As a fitness trainer and former professional football player, staying healthy and trying to reach my body goals has long been a way of life for me. But once I hit 30, I noticed in terms of weight management, it wasn’t as simple as it used to be. While I was still working out five or so days a week and eating pretty healthy, I suddenly couldn’t maintain the weight that I used to be able to with the same exercise and nutrition plan. Eating five or six times a day was never an issue before, and now it was.
I knew I needed to change my approach, but I didn’t necessarily want to spend even more time than I already was at the gym. So, I decided to work a little smarter, not harder.
Starting Intermittent FastingI decided to do a little research on nutrition for weight management and came across intermittent fasting (IF). The way it works: fast for 16 hours, and eat for eight, also referred to as 16:8. Because the timing fit with my lifestyle and schedule already, I decided to give it a go. (There are other methods to do IF with different timing patterns, but this was the one that appealed most to me.) With this structure, my first meal is usually between noon and 1pm, and I finish eating by 8pm. As a result, I’m able to essentially minimize how much I’m consuming total over the course of the day because of the fasting window.
“I’m able to maintain the physique that I want, both through diet and performance.”
Fast forward three years and, thanks to intermittent fasting, I’ve been able to keep my body fat between 13 percent and 16 percent, which is where I feel my best.
Seeing the Perks of Intermittent FastingI’m surprised by how much I’ve gotten out of fasting. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I have, but I discovered that it fit into my lifestyle fairly seamlessly. I also don’t feel like I’m depriving myself when I’m fasting—it’s just a part of my life now. And I’ve experienced some serious benefits from it.
The Physical Benefits
Osunde, 32, outside the Waterworks Art Museum in Philadelphia, PA, that he frequents often as it’s not more than a mile away from his gym.Theresa Regan
First, there are the physical perks. I’m able to maintain the physique I want, both through diet and performance. I mostly fuel for sustenance and energy, and I eat things like chicken, rice, and as many vegetables as I can. It’s not exciting, but it’s a typical athlete diet. Restricting when I take in my calories during the day helps me be consistent with maintaining my ideal weight, without having to do an excessive amount of exercise. And if I ever decide I want to lose more body fat, I can still stick to my usual high-protein, low-carb diet and eat four or five times during my eating window and achieve that—even now at 33! I have a personal goal to have a six-pack until I’m at least 40, and I’ve been able to do that so far.
When the weather gets warmer, I also like to lose some of the bulk from the winter and focus more on cardio exercises. I’m once again able to change my body with the help of IF without having to up my exercise hours. Instead, I’ll do three to four cardio workouts a week for anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour—that’s it. Physically, I’m putting out less effort to reach my goals, and that just makes my life easier.
The Mental BenefitsThe positive results of intermittent fasting don’t just stop at the physical—they’re mental too. I find I’m better able to focus, especially in the early hours of the day, when I usually have the most work to do and meetings to sit through. My ability to concentrate better has served me well.
“The energy boost allows me to focus on other important things to me, like growing my business.”
I usually do my workouts during my fasted state as well. While I’ll [often] just stick to water and coffee, I recently discovered Fast Bars, which are energy bars designed to not break your fast. They are definitely good for people just starting out, who might be struggling with a full 16:8 or longer fast. I sometimes find myself hungry around 11am, when I’m typically in meetings, and if I need a boost, I’ll reach for a Fast Bar.
My personal favorites are the nuts and dark cocoa, and blueberry açai varieties. They are definitely flavorful and have a nice crunch to them, which is super satisfying. They’re gluten-free and made with a lot of natural ingredients, like almonds and flaxseed.
The Sustained Energy Benefits
Osunde, 33 and his four-year-old dog Nova, on a mid-day walk in Philadelphia, PA.Photo Courtesy of Osayi Osunde
My energy levels have also improved with IF too. I no longer have a 3pm slump that I used to go through daily. Instead, I have my first meal around noon or 1pm, which leaves me feeling full and powered up all the way through the afternoon. The energy boost allows me to focus on other important things, like meeting new clients and growing my business.
Learning Intermittent Fasting Is Doable—But Takes Some WorkI encourage people who are interested in intermittent fasting to start slow. Maybe push back your usual breakfast time so you’re fasting for 13 hours, with an eating window of 10 hours at first. Your body won’t be used to such a long period of not eating, so it’s a good idea to ease into it. If that feels OK, gradually push back your first meal of the day by a half-hour at a time, until you reach the 16:8 timing.
It’s also important to know you don’t need to be perfect or even fast all the time. Intermittent fasting is somewhat flexible, and you can do what you need to do to make it work for you and your lifestyle. Whatever you choose, just don’t give up—and hopefully like me, you’ll reap the benefits.
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