Saturday, July 25, 2009

Intermittent .....Fasting!

I admit it..... I just said the F word. Fasting.

I came across an interesting sounding article online and I ended up purchasing it. It's called Eat Stop Eat by Brad Pilon. There is a pretty good review of it here - in fact, if you read that, you likely don't need to purchase the ebook - unless you want all the details of the studies and the benefits of fasting.

The basic premise is that in order to lose weight you have to have a calorie deficit. And often that's really hard to do with all the fad diets. Really low carb, for example, is for me at least, a really tough diet to follow for any length of time. I love me my bread! Then some diets are so complicated and difficult to follow.

There is one way that's fairly simple though - intermittent fasting.

The idea is to fast for a 24 hour period either 1 or 2 times per week. Now that sounds a lot worse than it actually is. You never actually go a day without eating.

For example - you could eat supper and then fast 24 hrs which means you could eat again at suppertime. So really you're only skipping breakfast and lunch (ok, and nightsnack).

Now, this guy studied nutrition at the graduate level, so he does know what he's talking about.

And another thing to keep in mind is that most studies on nutrition are funded by food or supplement companies who certainly are not going to benefit from studies that recommend not buying their products (food). It would be a pretty huge financial disaster for them if everybody in America would decide to not eat for one day a week.

Consider the following quote....
Throughout the last 5 decades, the diets of bodybuilders have changed dramatically. Depending on the bodybuilder and the era, they may have ate six meals a day, or they may have ate more than a dozen. Some bodybuilders ate red meat while others did not. Some did hours of cardio, some did not do any at all. Yet, they all were able to lose fat and get into ‘contest shape’.

The reason these bodybuilders could all get lean on so many different styles of diets is because for short periods of time, every diet will work if it recommends some form of caloric restriction. And if you follow a calorie-restricted diet you will lose weight, guaranteed.
Very true right?

He also addresses a few myths about fasting....

Fasting (for 24 hrs) does not decrease your metabolism.

Unless you are running marathons and triatholons - fasting does not negatively affect exercise.

Fasting does not result in loss of muscle mass, as long as you continue to workout (strength train) regularly (2 or 3 times a week).

Fasting gets easier as your body gets used to it.

Here's another quote...
On average, the population of Crete were healthier than North Americans, with less incidence of cardiovascular or heart disease. Researchers attributed this improved health to a high daily intake of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and olive oil.

This theory made good sense, as these are all accepted ‘healthy’ foods. However, recent reviews by a group of researchers at the University of Crete, School of Medicine suggest that one very important factor was left out of this research. In the Greek Orthodox Christian Church there are some very lengthy fasting recommendations.
Some of the health benefits of fasting (as little as 24 hrs) are decreased body fat & body weight, decreased blood glucose levels, dereased insulin levels & increased insulin sensitivity, increased lipolysis & fat oxidation, increased growth hormone levels, decreased food related stress and more!
Fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week may be the easiest way to decrease your calorie intake by 10% to 20%, without having to sacrifice and restrict what you eat. It’s like getting the benefits of an entire week of strict dieting, while only sacrificing for one or two days.
Keep in mind, that at the end of fasting you need to continue to eat as you normally would - with no food rewards.

Water, diet cola, black coffee and tea are all allowed during fasting.

Staying busy makes it easier. (Ever notice how often we eat when we're bored?)

Though he strongly encourages strength training, he's not too keen on cardio for weight loss (obviously it's still great for cardiovascular health!)....
To be blunt, I have found from both personal experience and from reviewing clinical research that the work to reward benefit of cardio is very poor – meaning you have to do a disproportionately large amount of work in the gym to receive little in the way of results.
Check out this study....
Take for instance the research conducted by Donnelly et al. that was published in 1991. Sixtynine obese women were put on an extreme 520 Calorie per day diet (this is much lower than I would EVER recommend). The women were then divided into 4 groups:
Group 1 did not exercise
Group 2 did endurance exercise for 60 minutes four days per week.
Group 3 did strength training four days per week
Group 4 did strength training AND endurance exercises four days per week

At the end of the 90 days research trial all four groups lost a very large amount of bodyweight, averaging over 40 pounds of weight loss! The interesting finding was that there were no differences between the four groups in terms of the amount of weight or body fat that was lost. This is despite the massive amounts of exercising that the women in Group 4 were doing every single week!

This conclusion has been found over and over again in published research. Donnelly et al. did a second trial that was published in 1993 showing that weight training could increase muscle size while women followed an 800-calorie per day diet, but it could not increase weight or fat loss. Similar results have been found by research conducted by Kraemer in 1997, Bryner in 1999, Janssen in 2002 and Wang in 2008 just to name few examples.
Why 24 hours?
First: According to the research, the 24-hour point is right in the middle
of the maximum adaptation for fat burning. Second: Through trial and error, I as well as many of the initial test subjects on the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle, found that 24 hours was the least intrusive to their daily lifestyle. A 24 hour period made the most sense from a practical and scientific stand point.
Note: fasting is only recommended for healthy adults, and women that are not pregnant or trying to become pregnant.

Other programs, such as The Lord's Table, also recommend fasting.

So - I decided to try it. In fact, I already did it.... today! And it was actually way easier than I expected it to be. And it's supposed to get easier after you've done it a couple of times. I found it WAY easier to fast 24 hrs than to do 3 days of Phase 1 of the South Beach diet.

We'll see if this can help get rid of those last stubborn pounds - I'll keep you posted!


  1. It gets easier every time. I now do twice a week, no problem. Good luck.

  2. As you know, I've become a proponent of this method of weight loss (and spiritual discipline) in recent months. I've always maintained that exercise had way less to do with weight loss success than changing my eating habits ~ it's nice to finally see that backed up in an official study!!

    I too have found fasting is not only much easier than it initially seems, but really doesn't affect my strength or energy levels. (although from experience, I wouldn't recommend mowing the lawn on a 30-degree day if you haven't had breakfast or lunch!!)

  3. I could NOT fast for 24 hours, I border on low blood sugar as it is, but if it works for you and gets you closer to God too then awesome :)