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If you think that fasting is synonymous with crash dieting and bulimia you could be right and it should not be attempted by people with eating or metabolic disorders such as diabetes, anorexia nervosa or bulimia.

However a new body of emerging evidence demonstrates that informed well managed intermittent fasting is in fact a health enhancing practice coherent with our ancestral genetic programming which supports fat burning and health. Genetically our primal ancestors had to hunt on empty stomachs and eat whenever they managed to get hold of food. Very few had regular and timely food supplies thus making the body adapt and thrive on intermittent fasting

newsletter-jluy-2012What makes fasting effective for weight loss

One of the mechanisms that makes fasting so effective for weight loss is the fact that it provokes the secretion of human growth hormone (HGH), which is a fat-burning hormone. It also plays an important role in muscle building. Fasting also increases catecholamines, which increases resting energy expenditure, while decreasing insulin levels. This allows stored fat to be burned for fuel. Together, these and other factors will support effective fat-burning.

Fasting and exercise the most effective combination

One 2008 study that evaluated the effect of fasting during the Muslim observance of Ramadan found it had a positive effect on body mass and other health markers in trained athletes

yoga-complete-programmePart of what makes working out in a fasted state so effective is that the body actually has a preservation mechanism that protects active muscles from wasting. If fuel needs to be mobilised and made available by breaking down tissues the active muscle will be preserved. However this really only works well once metabolism has become proficient at burning fat. If fasting (during exercise) makes you feel weak dizzy or headachy then this may need to be addressed first with diet and nutrition before using intermittent fasting.

While athletes are certainly concerned with shedding excess fat, another overriding concern is the optimization of muscle growth with sufficient protein.

As a general guideline, a high quality protein 30-60 minutes after finishing workout -- whey being one of the most ideal for this purpose – is the best strategy for lean muscle mass enhancement. Research has also shown that high quality protein from meat and whey has a positive effect on blood sugar while sparing muscles and losing fat.

How to use fasting for healthy weight management

Many find it works out well to break their fast after working out, which makes use of both benefits: working out in a fasted state, and protein-loading about half-an-hour to an hour afterward. Avoid grain carbs, however. Although popular with many, "carb loading" is a mistake, particularly for people engaged in intense strength training, as carb fuel burns very quickly and is then followed by "hitting the wall."

A simple intermittent fasting strategy which can be use once to 3 times a week could be:

  • workout around 9 AM
  • Delay (whey)protein breakfast until 11AM or 12 NOON
  • last meal around 7 PM the night before
  • Sleeping during most of this time makes it relatively painless and easy to do

The next newsletter will address the differences, proper method and advantages of longer fasting periods.

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