Today we’re continuing our series on fasting and fat loss. In Part 1 earlier last week we discussed the most common methods of fasting, and my experiences with each of them, if you missed Part 1 you can find it HERE.
In Part 2 today we’re covering:
Why you don’t need to fast to lose body fat
Who fasting may not be for
The common fasting mistakes I see people making when fasting for fat loss
Why You Don’t Have To Fast To Lose Body Fat
If your goal is to lose body fat don’t feel like you have to fast to accomplish this, there are tons of people who lose significant amounts of body fat and get very lean without ever fasting.
For some people fasting is an effective strategy that helps them control food intake, and works for their lifestyle.
Again fasting is not for everyone, and if you want experiment give it a shot, but don’t cling to it as the only way or magic bullet, because it isn’t. If it’s not for you no need to force it.
I want to mention this because many strategies like fasting become popular, and people feel like if they’re not doing it they’re missing out.
The leanest I’ve been in the past three years was when I was eating breakfast everyday, and keeping a watchful eye on my calorie and macronutrient goals.
Whether you decide to fast or not keep in mind the biggest rocks for your fat loss are always going to be eating the right amount for your goals, proper strength strength training and managing your stress/sleep.
We also need to consider that there are people who fasting will not work for and could actually do more harm than good.
Who Fasting Might Not Be For
If you have any adrenal dysfunction or exhaustion, fasting isn’t a good idea and could easily make those adrenal problems much worse.
Fasting would place a larger burden on the already worn out adrenal glands to produce more stress hormones for the purpose of mobilizing stored energy while food is not available.
If you adrenals are already dysfunctional, then fasting will only exacerbate the problem.
Sleep Deprived Individuals:
In a state of sleep deprivation the body will already have a difficult time regulating blood sugar levels leading to extreme food cravings and energy crashes.
There will be an overabundance of the stress hormone cortisol due to the blood sugar dips from lack of sleep.
Someone who is chronically sleep deprived is already in a state of chronic stress and fasting only adds to this burden.
People notice their appetite is dysregulated during periods of sleep deprivation, and they become more impulsive around food, which doesn’t go well with trying to fast.
With someone restricting food during a fasting period I could see it being much more difficult to not go overboard on food when they break the fast causing binge like behaviors.
Sleeping for 7-9 hours per night is a requirement in my book if you’re going to engage in any kind of extended fasting.
Over Exercisers/High Intensity Athletes:
If you’re trying to exercise for long periods of time or do high intensity exercise that relies heavily on glycogen for performance such as crossfit or mixed martial arts you can very easily tank your performance by fasting at the wrong times.
If you’re going to fast and engage in high intensity exercise I would do it a minimum of one day removed from high intensity work.
This means you’d have had a full day of eating after your last intense session to fuel recovery, and your fasting would be a full day away from your next session so you can adequately fuel your next session in the gym.
Those With Very Stressful Lifestyles:
If you’re already a high strung individual with a highly stressed lifestyle that involves not getting enough sleep or eating enough throughout the day, fasting is not a good idea.
By tossing fasting into the mix it will only increase the stress burden on your body without providing any additional resources to recover from the stressor.
In turn this will increase stress hormones to an excessive levels which will leave you feeling burned out, lethargic and disrupted sleep and libido.
I hope this goes without saying, but for my conscience and on the outside chance that anyone who is reading this is pregnant:
You should absolutely not even be thinking about intermittent fasting while pregnant, period.
You’re growing another person inside of your body, and that requires additional energy and calories from food.
You need to eat, not just for you but for the health of your child too, you’ll be providing that human all the resources necessary for them to grow into a happy healthy baby with your eating habits, restricting calories and fasting is not conducive to this at all.
Those With A Tendency To Binge:
When someone brings up fasting and not losing body fat, I always ask what it looks like when they break their fast and eat.
There is are two common themes in these scenarios:
1.) Not being able to control their appetite when they break the fast and eat.
2.) The first leads into this point which is far exceeding what they need to eat to lose body fat.
Many times people will fast the entire day and then eat one to two larger meals around dinner time.
Without a plan to follow these meals don’t have a structure to them, and people wind up eating everything in sight.
By fasting all day it can create a hunger bottleneck that bursts when you break the fast and causes uncontrolled eating.
I would have these same urges when I would fast and paired it with low carb and then tried to perform intensely in the gym. I now recognize how dumb this was and actually hurt my performance in the gym and body composition goals.
Live and learn folks, but try to learn from mistakes!
If you have a tendency to restrict and binge with food, then intermittent fasting could do more damage than good.
Fasting Fat Loss Mistakes:
Not Controlling For Calories
Fasting can be an effective way to control eating habits, and allow you to eat naturally in a manner that creates a calorie deficit for fat loss without overthinking it.
The fact remains though, to lose body fat you’ll need to be in a calorie deficit by eating less than you expend, or having a higher work output that allows you burn more than you’re consuming on a daily basis.
If you find yourself fasting and you’re not losing body fat you may need to track with a food journal or my fitness pal for a few days to see where you calorie intake is compared to what you’d need to lose body fat.
Not Eating Enough
This may seem like an odd point to have right after discussing that you may be overeating, but if you’re chronically under eating and fasting at the same time you’re more likely to cause adaptations that make you burn fewer calories throughout the day.
When someone is in an extreme calorie deficit for a long period of time, the body slowly down regulates different components of the metabolism to be more efficient and expend fewer calories at rest and while exercising.
Whether you realize it or not you’ll move less… and in turn expend fewer calories.
Your daily movement like walking, fidgeting or making food and washing the dishes will burn fewer calories through a reduction in what’s know as non exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT).
You may burn fewer calories when engaging in that non exercise movement as well. No your body doesn’t hate you it just adapts and that’s what’s helped us survive this long.
Along with the reduction in calorie expenditure through NEAT, your body will make you burn fewer calories during exercise which is the the thermic effect of exercise (TEE).
Your sessions in the gym or cardio sessions will feel tougher to get through, and your body will become more efficient by making you expend fewer calories during a times in the gym.
Not to mention the calories needed to digest and break down food called the thermic effect of food (TEF) will be lower because you’re eating less than you have before.
You’re Losing Fat, But Retaining Water
When someone has been in a calorie deficit for a long period of time without a break from dieting and adds in other stressors such as fasting or over exercising the body will up regulate stress hormones in an attempt to mobilize available energy in the body.
These stress hormones also cause you to retain a significant amount of water and can stall weight loss, but not fat loss.
The amount of water someone retains can offset any potential fat loss they would otherwise see when they step on a scale.
This is the reason why people have planned higher carb days. These higher carb days help to fuel recovery, keeps hormones healthy and blunts stress hormones and negative adaptations of aggressive dieting.
Many times people wake up the day after these high carb days a few pounds lighter and looking leaner in the mirror due to the water loss from blunting stress hormones with increased carbs.
Keep in mind though these higher carbs days are planned and there is structure to them much different from a cheat day.
Fasting Every Day
I think fasting can be a good practice however some people will not be able to handle the stress burden of fasting every single day.
Some folks can fast everyday and not be phased by it, however people like myself and others I’ve spoken to will see repercussions when fasting too frequently.
In my personal experience, when I fasted everyday and was low carb I felt great in the beginning, but that eventually wore off.
Eventually I started to feel worse and worse and would hit a brick wall during the day that required massive doses of caffeine to keep me upright, and in complete honesty I still drink a good amount of caffeine daily.
However in these days with low carb and fasting too frequently my energy, workouts, and sleep all went to shit quickly.
I stopped fasting everyday and started reintroducing more dense carbs daily and my energy, workouts and sleep all improved.
Now when I fast I do it once or twice a week if at all, and many times it’s by accident.
If you want to use fasting as a strategy to help you control your food intake for fat loss doing it everyday may not be the best strategy as it can come with some down sides.
As you can see these are some very common mistakes that people make when it comes to fasting and fat loss, but they are all very easy fixes you can change today if you’d like.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series where we’re discussing the solutions to the above fasting issues, and how to organize your own fasting protocol