Do you feel like you could benefit from losing a few extra pounds of body fat? Have you tried different diets only to see very little result? Chances are those diets were built around the concept of consistently working out while staying at a caloric deficient. If I told you weight loss can be achieved without extreme exercise and depriving your body of energy, would you be willing to listen? The science supporting fasting as a healthy practice to lose weight is clear and abundant, and the results prove this!
Before going into the topic of fasting, everyone should know that losing weight has been my primary goal since I first stepped foot inside a gym over seven years ago. My love for fitness grew tremendously and it wasn’t long before I began practicing different methods in attempt to lose weight; calorie restriction diets, counting macros, carb cycling, various split routines, adding supplementation, and so on. However, a trend in my weight loss was becoming clear. The different routines and programs left me with inconsistent outcomes. Any new diet or program would give me short term results, but after 5-10 months a dreaded plateau in progress was reached. The weight loss then became unsustainable and weight regain would always happen. Repeatedly, I became caught in an unhealthy and energy draining, down and up weight cycle. This would all change forever when I learned about Intermittent Fasting.
Simply put, fasting is the voluntary abstinence from food for either health, spiritual or other reasons. It can be done for any span of time from a few hours to days, even months. I fully committed myself to following a standard 16:8 fasting protocol in 2017. The goal was to only drink water, unsweetened tea and plain black coffee during the “fasting window”. During the 8 hour “eating window” I consumed 2 large healthy meals and maybe a snack; I was intaking a minimum of 2,000 calories. The results I achieved through intermittent fasting absolutely shocked me and I couldn’t believe what was happening before my very own eyes! My body had responded so well to fasting that I lost 25lbs, increased muscular definition, and boosted my overall mood and attitude. The best part is that I wasn’t fixated on the meticulous counting of calories and macros; only the timing of my meals. Since then, I have dedicated countless hours to researching and studying the benefits of this proven weight loss technique. For anyone wanting long-term weight loss results, you should really consider giving fasting a try.
The practice of fasting has been evidenced throughout history with many cultures and religions practicing it today. Unfortunately, time has also produced many myths about fasting such as, “it will make you lose muscle” or “fasting puts you into starvation mode” or “the brain needs glucose in order to function properly.” These statements about fasting are scientifically incorrect and if any of these statements were true the human species wouldn’t have made it this far along. The body does not burn muscle in the absence of food, unless we are already at extremely low levels of body fat (4-5% and below). Fat is a stored energy source and muscle is functional tissue. It’s inefficient and doesn’t make sense for the body to breakdown muscle before fat. The equivalent would be like keeping a bonfire burning using a bunch of books (functional muscle tissue) when you could be using bundles of firewood (stored fat). In one human study, individuals followed an alternate day fasting protocol over seventy days and they decreased their body weight by 6 percent, but fat mass decreased almost double by 11.4 percent! (Bhutani, 2010). Lean mass (including bone and muscle) were not changed at all over the 70 days. The human body naturally increases growth hormone while in a fasted state in order to preserve lean muscle mass (the opposite of breaking down proteins). LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels also saw major improvements in this study. Furthermore, when glucose levels are fully depleted the human brain can switch fuel sources from glucose to ketones by pulling energy from our stored fat: preventing the breakdown of muscle tissue while increasing the body’s usage of fat.
It might be hard to think of fasting as a method to lose weight because most would not consider it a normal thing to do here in America or Western culture. An early morning breakfast has now established itself as the most important meal of the day. Dietary recommendations suggest eating 3-5 small meals per day, 4-6 servings of grains, and that snacking is healthy. If one decides to follow a typical American diet, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when said person develops typical American weight issues and the chronic diseases that accompany it. The average American spends more than 50% of a 24-hour day in a “fed state” where insulin levels are spiked higher than when in a “fasted state”. There is an imbalance with the amount of time we spend eating, and the time we spend fasting. In order to achieve long-term weight loss, we need to do the thing that isn’t considered normal to us and fast more frequently or for longer periods of time. Most individuals always seem to demonstrate good focus on the fitness and food aspects of weight loss like: what workout programs to follow, exercises to perform, and the kinds of foods to eat. However, this only makes up half of the solution. By shifting the focus to include meal timing, weight loss becomes a heck of a lot easier. Through fasting we can control our insulin levels (a hormone in the body) and this is a critical part to the weight loss puzzle. Unfortunately, this concept is often overlooked. We can’t afford to ignore something that upholds such importance, and neither can the food industry.
I want you to think about the following. The more people that know about the benefits of fasting and commit to fasting, for any length of time, instantly results with the food industry making less money. Like all businesses, the agenda of the food industry is to generate more money and fasting (with all its health benefits) does not support this goal. They want us to believe the body needs to eat 3-5 meals a day, snack more frequently and eat every 3-4 hours. The problem is that our bodies become glucose dependent and causes a persistent imbalance of the insulin hormone. There are no animal species on the planet, including humans, that require the need to eat 3 times a day.
Fasting influences healthy weight loss and has been practiced for thousands of years to heal the body and spirit. When I followed my own fasting regimen, it allowed me to lose 25lbs and feel better than I have ever thought imaginable. The concept might not seem like a normal thing to do but how about trying something that’s different for once. Forget all the myths you’ve heard about and try to include more fasting into your life. Anyone seeking to lose weight with lasting results, should absolutely include fasting on your list of things to try.
“There can be no progress, no achievement, without sacrifice” – James Allen
Bhutani Surabhi. Improvements in coronary heart disease risk indicators by alternate day fasting involve adipose tissue modulations. Obesity. 2010 Nov; 18(11):2152-9