I’ve just finished reading “Eat Stop Eat” (Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss) by Brad Pilon and have found some facts that I was surprised to see. I figured I should share the knowledge so you and your weight loss journey can benefit as well.
- When you fast, your metabolism slows down.
- When you fast, your body eats your muscles.
- When you’re not eating constantly (5-6 small meals day), you go into starvation mode and your body holds onto all the fat it can.
- The part of your metabolism that is “slowing down” is called the thermic effect of food. When you eat, your body has to use calories to digest food. (Very few at that) So in studies where people fasted, their metabolism was a VERY tiny percentage lower because they weren’t digesting food. If you’re not eating food, you won’t need to burn the calories to digest it. And then later burn the calories of the food itself. So if you’re just sitting on a couch all day, your body will still burn the same amount- food or not.
- Your body doesn’t eat your muscle. When at rest, the human body uses FAT to stay energized. During high heart rate movements, your body will use the sugar (glycogen) stored in your liver. And your muscles will use the glycogen stored in them to move. Note: Which ever muscle has glycogen (energy/sugar/glucose) stored in it, has to use it. It can not break it down and send it to your brain or other muscles.
When people think of this myth, they think of anorexic people and their low muscle mass. That is because they have NO fat or glycogen left in their muscles or body, and they have been fasting for weeks and months without exercising their muscles to build them. So if you do some weight training or body-weight training, you can go more than a few+ hours without eating and have no issues. Technically, you can go 72+ hours without food and still not have your body eat your muscles. Of course you would never want to go this long!
- As seen above, starvation mode isn’t after a few hours of not eating. It isn’t even after a few days of not eating. It happens after you’ve used ALL your fat and stored glycogen (sugar), and have been in bed rest or absolute no movement or doing anything that requires strength. Then your body finally realizes it is stressed out and needs energy from somewhere to survive. Only truly ill and anorexic people go through this. If you are too busy to eat all day, don’t worry. Your body is fine. Just get a meal when you can, and make sure it is healthy!
Some other facts about fasting:
- It’s been going on since the dawn of history and religion. Many religions even fast once per week or month for a holiday or sabbath. Have you ever fasted for your religion, beliefs, or protest?
- When your body is not digesting food, it can focus on healing, rebuilding, and restoring the broken cells and muscles. It can focus on your immune system to make you feel better and be better when you’re sick. (Ever wonder why you have no appetite when you have a flu? Your body is telling you to give it a rest from digestion so it can heal you faster! Ever heard the saying, “Starve a fever”?)
- Fasting for 18-24 hours shows a 50%+ increase in growth hormone & fat burning. Growth hormone stimulates growth, cell reproductions, and regeneration in humans. That means if you worked out recently (the day/hours before) your body will focus on repairing and reBUILDing muscles. Score!
Overall, if you take in less calories – no matter if it’s spaced out through out the day, or if you fast 1-3 times per week for 18-24 hours, you are taking in less calories. Therefore burning more fat and losing weight. That’s what we all want, right?
Unnecessary Personal Tidbit: Most of the time I eat strictly and cleanly, but sometimes I get a sweet tooth or want to bake some yummy stuff – so I indulge. Then I’ll feel guilty (which isn’t necessary) and want to just not eat to make up for it. Some people may see this as unhealthy, but in a scientific weight loss perspective it makes sense. If you have a huge feast, you’re not going to want to eat for a while. Maybe even a day. Your body will have the energy stored and you can use it up while you live. When I found this site a while back I thought it was crazy. Then I realized I already do that pretty often in my life! If I have a long work shift, I won’t eat till around 9-11pm anyway, and that’s usually after a workout! Of course this is NOT suitable for all people, but if you can handle it, and don’t want to worry so much about that baked whoopie pie (me) then fasting after feasting is not a bad idea. As long as you don’t get all obsessive (which is what I always do) then you’ll be fine. Fast.Feast.Fast. Or eat healthy every day. Or do both. (Me) Have a Thanksgiving feast. Don’t eat again till the same time the next day. And then enjoy a faux-turkey, cranberry, and mashed potato sandwich. Yum! It’s all about balance. Do it your way.