What problem am I trying to solve?
After reading up about the mental/weight benefits of intermittent fasting from the Nootrobox website, I decided to give it a whirl. I started with the leangains diet (8 hour eating window) and after less than a week I switched to the Warrior Diet (4 hour eating window) because leangains was much too easy and almost no different than a standard eating day for me.
One of the reasons leangains was too easy is because I normally skip breakfast and have a large cup of coffee instead. That typically suppresses my hunger until around 11-ish, then I eat lunch and dinner and I'm usually good for the night. In order to fit that eating schedule into the new 4 hour eating window, I adjusted my lunch to start at 12 noon and I squeezed in a small dinner just before 4pm, when my window closes. The rest of the day I have diet soda, coffee, or water.
I'll talk a bit about the benefits in the summary below but let's get back to the problem I encountered.
For starters, there are around 4-5 pretty decent intermittent fasting apps on the app store but the problems I found were this:
All of the apps seem to assume that you will fast every single day. I read online that it's not uncommon, at least for newer fasters, to give themselves a few days off here and there.
A lot of the apps require you to go into the app and start/stop your fasting timer manually. I thought this was cumbersome, especially when one of the goals is to build a steady routine by fasting on the same schedule each day, not just fasting whenever you felt like it.
Every app also has some sort of way to look at your fasting history to show you how remarkable you have been fasting over the past weeks or months, which I thought was completely useless. I honestly don't care if I fastest successfully on last Tuesday or if I'm hitting some sort of streak. I really only care about my eating schedule today and how I look/weigh/feel right now.
If something suddenly came up (a birthday party, dinner with friends, etc) and I wanted to skip or adjust my fasting just for today, I couldn't easily do that without changing my entire fasting schedule.
While the other apps are great at alerting you when your fasting starts and ends, I wouldn't mind an extra alert, like, 30 minutes or an hour before my window closes to ensure I grab a few more bites. I actually ate once at the beginning of my 4 hour window and then lost track of the time and forgot to eat before it closed. Needless to say, that's one of the few days that I was so hungry that I broke my fast later. If I had an alert, I would have made myself a small sandwich or something to ensure I can fast for 20 hours comfortably and successfully.
It's only been a few weeks and I'm not a hardcore fasting professional but I felt that I could use an app that helps me fast by solving the above issues.
How does my app solve this problem?
The first thing I set out to do is allow for scheduled days off in the fasting app. That can be handled by simply setting up a weekly fasting plan in advance. As soon as you launch the app, you're put into setup mode and you have to go through 3 really quick views on putting your schedule together. My goal was to get you up and running in less than a minute and I think I achieved that.
Select your fasting days
Select or create a fasting method
Set your window start/end date
As you can see above, the app allows for you to schedule some weekly days off and even lets you set an alert to notify you when your eating window is about to close, so you can squeeze in a couple of extra bites.
Depending on which fasting method you choose, the app will make recommendations on what time you should start it. Tapping on the question mark in the bottom left will give you some tips and insight into fasting, which could be helpful for newer dieters.
Orange bar will fill the screen and slowly drain as your eating window closes. This bar is gray while you are fasting.
The home page of the app is a full screen progress bar that slowly empties as your timer expires. This progress bar turns also gray and empties again while your fasting period counts down.
Finally, the last issue I needed to resolve is those instances where something unexpected comes up, like a team lunch at work or a birthday dinner. This is a situation where you need to move your eating window up an hour or extend it by 30 minutes, or worst case scenario, skip it altogether. The little stopwatch button at the bottom of the home page let's you make adjustments to today's fast.
If something comes up and you want to shift your fast, do it here
Also, let's say it's your day off and you are feeling pretty good and want to apply your usual fasting schedule to today, you can do that with that stopwatch button as well.
This app is incredibly simple and only took me a week to complete (not bragging, just trying to get across how featureless it is).
So how has my fasting been going? The app helps a lot, especially when I have my Apple Watch on. Getting notifications when I can start eating and that alert 30 minutes before my window closes keeps me on track.
There wasn't really much of an adjustment period for me to get onto the 4 hour eating window, although I have only been doing it for a week and a half. I don't feel hungry during my fasting but I do drink one or two sizable cups of coffee in the morning (splash of milk + splenda) and I carry a bottle of water with me everywhere I go. I even bumped this week up to have no days off at all, so I'm hoping for better results.
I can't really speak to the mental clarity that comes with fasting, I feel about the same, but it seems like I was doing a mild version of fasting even before I started down this path so maybe that has something to do with it. Furthermore, the original warrior diet specifies setting up your 4 hour eating window just before bed. While this sounds completely counter to everything we've learned (i.e. eat just before sleeping and you aren't active enough to "burn" your food, hence, it gets converted to fat by morning) I think this may have some validity. By being active for almost your entire waking day and not eating any food, you are basically burning fuels while your blood sugar levels are completely spent, theoretically resulting in fat burn. Either way, I am not following the recommended time plan on my particular fasting diet since my eating window starts at noon.
I hear that the biggest mental benefits might come from doing the 6:1 or 5:2 fasting methods where you don't eat for 36+ hours straight. However, those a bit too hardcore for me and my app can't even support those diet types.
As for my health/weight, I think I've lost around 5 lbs (started at 204 lbs, currently at 199) but that fluctuates quite a bit, I'm guessing because of all the water I'm drinking. I notice the largest drop the morning following a fasting day that includes a workout. It seems like if I were to simply fast and do nothing else, I would just maintain my body weight but adding a workout kicks it into high gear.
During my eating window, I typically eat a pretty huge meal up front (for example, Panda Express 3 item combo), then I snack on anything I like for the next few hours (usually chocolate, chips, or ice cream) and by the time my closing alert sounds, I'm not really in the mood to eat again but I make myself something small like a bowl of cereal or ramen. As you can see, I wasn't trying to eat light and healthy during my eating window. In fact, I was trying to do the opposite, eat unhealthy foods like a slob. The reason is because I want to gauge if a fasting schedule alone can affect my health regardless of what I eat.
As for upcoming improvements to the app, I'd like some sort of historical progress overview in there. It might give you a reason to open the app other than changing alerts. Currently the app is very "set it and forget it" and I like that about it but if there was some way I could track and let you know that you lost more weight on week 2, for example, compared to the other weeks, it was because you did this and that, I find that useful. We'll see.