Losts of style and methods has been recommended for weight loss but one which remains effective and sure is weight loss with fasting also known as fat fasting.
Your body is designed to smoothly transition between two different and opposing states: ‘Fed’, and ‘Fasted’.
In the fed state, insulin is elevated, and this signals your body to store excess calories in your fat cells. In the presence of insulin, the burning of fat is halted, while the body burns glucose (from your last meal) instead.
In the fasted state, insulin is low (while glucagon and growth hormone, opposing hormones to insulin, are elevated). The body starts mobilizing stored body fat from your fat cells and burning this fat for energy (instead of glucose). The practical importance of all this? You can only burn stored body fat while in the fasted state, and you can only store more body fat while in the fed state.
Unfortunately, over time we seem to be spending less and less of our time in the fasted state and more and more time in the fed state. As a result, our bodies and our cells spend less and less time mobilizing and burning stored body fat for energy, and the glucose-burning pathways are overused.
Eventually, insulin is high all the time and the body avoids burning stored body fat, relying mostly on glucose. Over time, this chronic exposure to so much insulin also leads to ‘insulin resistance’ where the body secretes even more insulin in response to the fed state.
Let’s put it this way. Why would a highly obese person ever be hungry? They have enough fat stores to last a very long time. The world record for fasting went to a 456 pound man who fasted for 382 days, consuming only water and vitamins and losing 276 pounds with no ill effects. But the average overweight person is used to being in the fed state, has very little practice in the fasted state, and is continually burning glucose rather than fat at the cellular level.
There are several ways to improve ‘fat adaptation’ or the ability to successfully burn stored body fat for energy, and these include the following:
• Low carbohydrate diets. Eating a LCHF (Low Carb High Fat) diet improves the body’s ability to utilize fat for energy rather than glucose, as there is more fat and less glucose available at all times, even in the fed state.
• Exercise. High-intensity exercise depletes glucose and glycogen rapidly, forcing the body to switch over and utilize more fat for fuel. Exercise also improves insulin sensitivity.
• Caloric restriction. Eating fewer calories also equals less glucose available for fuel, so the body is more frequently forced to rely on stored body fat for fuel. You will always naturally eat the lowest calories when you are maximizing nutrient density by eating whole, natural, unprocessed, real foods found in nature (avoid processed foods completely).
• Intermittent fasting, and spending more time in the fasted state, which gives the body more ‘practice’ at burning fat.
The purpose of this is to highlight intermittent fasting as a strategy for exercising and strengthening the body’s ability to exist in the fasted state, burning fat instead of continually burning sugar (glucose) from the fed state.
Just like anything else, this ability can be strengthened over time with practice. But this ability also atrophies or shrinks over time with lack of use, just like your muscles atrophy when you break your arm and have to wear a cast for weeks. Spending time in the fasted state is actually a form of exercise—a metabolic workout.
In fact, there are a lot of parallels between exercise and fasting. Exercise does all of the following great things:
• Decreases blood glucose.
• Decreases insulin level.
• Increases insulin sensitivity.
• Increases lipolysis and free fatty acid mobilization.
• Increases cellular fat oxidation.
• Increases glucagon (the opposite of insulin).
• Increases growth hormone (the opposite of insulin).
But did you know you can also accomplish all of the above by doing absolutely nothing. The secret is “FASTING”. Extending the amount of time that you spend during your day in the fasted state (as opposed to the fed state) accomplishes all of these, very similar to exercise. Extending your time in the fasted state is actually a form of metabolic ‘exercise’, in which you train your body to rapidly and efﬁciently mobilize free fatty acids from your adipose stores (fat tissue), something you absolutely can get better and better at with the metabolic ‘practice’ of fasting. Just as overweight and out of shape people struggle to jog or lift weights or participate in other forms of physical exercise, they are also generally out of practice when it comes to rapidly and efﬁciently mobilizing and burning stored free fatty acids for fuel. Intermittent fasting and spending more of your day in the ‘fasted’ state (and less time in the ‘fed’ state) is a great form of metabolic ‘exercise’ which has many health beneﬁts, including fat loss!
Less Feeding, More Fasting
One of the best ways to achieve effortless and long-lasting fat loss? Train yourself to eat two meals a day (and eliminate snacking). The easiest and best way to accomplish this? Leverage your natural overnight fast by skipping breakfast (drinking coffee makes this easier and more enjoyable, plus coffee has numerous health beneﬁts). No breakfast, lighter lunch, and larger dinner also maximizes the body’s natural shifts between sympathetic (“ﬁght or ﬂight”) and parasympathetic (“rest and digest”) nervous system tone, with higher alertness and activation from sympathetic tone during the day while under-eating, and higher parasympathetic resting tone in the evening during the fed state.
Typically, the fed state starts when you begin eating and for the next three to ﬁve hours your body digests and absorbs the food you just ate. After the ﬁrst few hours mentioned above, your body goes into what is known as the post–absorptive state, during which the components of the last meal are still in the circulation. The post–absorptive state lasts until 8 to 12 hours after your last meal, which is when you enter the fasted state. It typically takes 12 hours after your last meal to fully enter the fasted state.
When you’re in the fasted state your body can burn fat that has been inaccessible during the fed state. Because we don’t enter the fasted state until 12 hours after our last meal, it’s rare that our bodies are in this fat burning state. This is one of the reasons why many people who start intermittent fasting will lose fat without changing what they eat, how much they eat, or how often they exercise. Fasting puts your body in a fat burning state that you rarely get to enter during a normal eating schedule.
Some Common Lies that may affect fasting
Eating carbohydrates, especially reﬁned carbohydrates with no ﬁber, overdrives the ‘fed’ state, as carbohydrates raise both glucose and insulin higher than other macronutrients (fat, on the other hand, raises glucose and insulin the very least). In general, when you eat a meal, your body spends a few hours processing that food and burning what it can from what you just consumed. Because it has all of this readily available, easy to burn energy in its blood stream (thanks to the food you ate), your body will choose to use that as energy rather than the fat you have stored. This is especially true if you just consumed carbohydrates, because these are rapidly converted to glucose and your body prefers to burn sugar as energy before any other source.
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”
We have all been told to eat breakfast. Unfortunately this is terrible advice. When you ﬁrst wake up in the morning, your insulin level is quite low and most people are just starting to enter the fasted state, 12 hours after eating the last meal of the previous day. The worst thing you could do is to eat food, spiking insulin and glucose and immediately shutting off fat-burning. A much better choice would be to push the ﬁrst meal of your day out at least a few hours, during which you can fully enter the fasted state and burn stored body fat. The very worst would be to eat a high carbohydrate breakfast, spiking insulin and glucose as high as possible; in addition to shutting off fat-burning for likely 12 hours, this will drive as many calories as possible into fat stores as well as providing further reinforcement of the burning of glucose rather than fat. Also, high spikes of insulin and glucose always lead to large drops in glucose a few hours later, which triggers hunger (if you want to have hypoglycemia or low blood sugar and ravenous hunger, just eat a breakfast of pure carbohydrates and then wait 2-3 hours to see how you feel). Interestingly, many properly fat-adapted people aren’t very hungry in the morning and have no problem skipping breakfast. This is appropriate, as throughout our evolution humans have always been hunter-gatherers and rather than eating a large breakfast ﬁrst thing in the morning we would hunt and gather throughout the day, having a larger meal later in the day. I highly recommend mimicking this pattern by skipping breakfast and eating most of your calories later in the day.
“Eat small frequent meals”
There has been plenty of worthless advice here. We have been told to eat frequently to “keep your metabolism going” and “don’t let your body enter starvation mode”. This is all the exact opposite of the truth: in order to burn fat, you want to spend as much time in the fasted state as possible and get very very efﬁcient at living on stored body fat rather than caloric intake from constantly eating. Similarly we have been told to eat protein frequently throughout the day in order to build muscle, and this is also not evidence- based. Yes you do want to eat an adequate amount of protein to build muscle, but eating it once a day is plenty. Many people are concerned that if they start fasting they will either stop making muscle or maybe even burn muscle. This is not true. If this were true, humans would not be here today. In fact, growth hormone is increased during fasted states (both during sleep and after a period of fasting). Growth hormone might as well be called “fasting hormone”, as it rises by as much as 2,000% after 24 hours of fasting. Growth hormone is highly anabolic (builds muscle), and is used in combination with testosterone by bodybuilders who want to simultaneously build as much muscle and burn as much fat as possible. Growth hormone elevates in fasting to help preserve muscle in times of fasting, and this makes sense. In our hunter-gatherer ancestors, if fasting and going without food made you weaker and slower you would never catch or ﬁnd any food and you would die and humans would become extinct. In fact the opposite is true; while fasting, muscle is preserved or can even grow if you are doing resistance training
“Your metabolism slows down when you are fasting.”
This is completely false. A number of studies have proven that in fasting up to 72 hours, metabolism does not slow down at all and in fact might speed up slightly thanks to the release of catecholamines (epinephrine or adrenaline, norepinephrine, and dopamine) and activation of the sympathetic nervous system (sympathetic nervous system is often considered the “ﬁght or ﬂight” system, while the opposite is the parasympathetic nervous system or the “rest and digest” system). It makes sense that this ﬁght or ﬂight sympathetic nervous system would be activated during the daytime, when hunter-gatherer humans are most active and in the fasted state (looking for food), followed by parasympathetic “rest and digest” mode in the evening after eating a large meal.
“If I don’t eat I will get low blood sugar [hypoglycemia].”
Studies have shown that healthy persons who have no underlying medical conditions, who are not taking any diabetes medications, can fast for extremely long periods of time without suffering from any hypoglycemia. In fact, almost all sensations of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar (in non-diabetics) results from eating a very high glycemic index carbohydrate food a few hours prior (blood sugar spikes, then insulin spikes, then blood sugar drops rapidly). However if you are a diabetic, especially if you are on any diabetes medications, you deﬁnitely need to check with your doctor before starting a fasting protocol. Some diabetes medications can lead to severe hypoglycemia when fasting (mostly insulin and sulfonylurea drugs like glipizide, glimepiride, and glyburide). [Be sure to check with your doctor prior to starting a fasting protocol if you have any medical problems, diabetes or otherwise.]
There are a number of ways to actually perform intermittent fasting, but the easiest and most popular varieties involve taking advantage of your natural overnight fast by skipping breakfast and pushing the ﬁrst meal of the day forward a number of hours. Once you have passed the 12 hour mark from dinner the night before, you are truly in a fasted state and you begin to rely on stored body fat for fuel. The longer you stay in the fasted state, the more metabolic practice you will get at burning stored body fat and the deeper your fat adaptation will get. In fact, if you can maintain this intermittent fast for 20 to 24 hours you will achieve a very high rate of lipolysis (breakdown of stored body fat into free fatty acids, available for burning in the cells) and fat oxidation (burning of fat in the mitochondria).
When you ﬁrst start out with intermittent fasting, you can have quite a bit of hunger and low energy and other symptoms. In this case I recommend starting out with “baby steps”, by just pushing breakfast out an hour or two at ﬁrst, then slowly increasing the fasting interval. As time goes by and you become more “fat adapted”, it is easier and easier to fast. This is identical to exercise in those who are sedentary: it is painful and extremely difﬁcult at ﬁrst, and then once you are adapted it gets easy and even enjoyable.
• Check with your doctor before initiating intermittent fasting, especially if you are diabetic and on diabetes medications!
• You can generally take any vitamins or supplements you want while fasting as long as they don’t have calories, but you don’t need any supplements as you will be eating plenty of nutrient-dense foods every day.
• You don’t have to worry about losing muscle from lack of protein during your fast, as long as you eat adequate protein at the meals before and after fasting.
• You will not lose muscle while fasting as long as you are exercising regularly, and I speciﬁcally recommend resistance training such as lifting weights.
• Following a LCHF (low carb high fat) diet pairs nicely with intermittent fasting, as both improve fat adaptation a great deal.
• It is perfectly ﬁne to exercise while fasting, either cardio or lifting weights (lifting weights is better for body composition and I highly recommend it for everyone, as this will further your goals considerably).
• Drink plenty of water and non-caloric beverages while fasting; coffee and tea in the morning make fasting considerably more enjoyable in addition to health and fat-burning beneﬁts and are therefore highly recommended.
• Don’t use intermittent fasting as an excuse to eat tons of junk food when you are eating—continue to eat responsibly, sticking with whole natural foods with high nutrient density and avoiding processed foods!