To Fast or not to Fast...

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Primary Blog/To Fast or not to Fast...

While the intermittent fasting trend has faded over the last few years, fasting for health and weight loss benefits is still widely used.

As with everything, there are arguments for both the benefits and the disadvantages of fasting. It can get a bit confusing, so I am here to clarify some common misconceptions around the topic and help you decide if it's best for you to fast or not.

There are several protocols for fasting to choose from;

5:2- This protocol involves eating a normal amount of food five days a week and two days of calorie restriction, less than 500-600 calories. You can choose any day to be your eating or "fasting" day. Mixing it up can help with compliance, as you know you only need to make it through a day of calorie restriction before getting back to eating normally.

Time-Restricted -This type of fasting gives you windows to eat and fast, such as 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of feeding. There is some flexibility in this as you can choose when your fasting hours will be and when your eating windows will be.

Overnight - This is just as it sounds: you would stop eating anywhere from 6-8 pm and not eat again for 12 hours, or around 6-8 am the following day. This is the easiest for fasting newbies and those curious about trying it out.

Eat, stop, eat -This is when you go for 24 hours or more without food before returning to eating. It is the most challenging type of fasting, but for some, it can be the most beneficial.

For a while, it seemed that every celebrity, health expert, and Joe Schmo was practicing intermittent fasting and singing its praises for its efficacy for weight loss and weight maintenance. Yes, intermittent fasting has some compelling arguments for its benefits, but that doesn't mean everyone can or should be doing it.

Let's talk about benefits.

Fasting is an effective way to cut calories and, in most cases, induce weight loss. It also has several other health benefits, including better mental focus, improved digestion, increased insulin resistance, reduced inflammation, increased human growth hormone (HGH), and slowed aging.

There is no doubt that for some, intermittent fasting can have positive health benefits.

However, with the benefits, there are also some drawbacks to consider.

Possible drawbacks. 

First is the issue of muscle loss. When weight loss occurs, the first thing to go is muscle. This is a problem for multiple reasons. Lower muscle mass means a lower metabolic rate, which results in less fat burn. The decrease of muscle mass during weight loss directly affects your metabolism and can cause you to hold onto and gain more fat than in the first place. This happens with yo-yo dieting; someone loses weight and then gains even more weight back.

Another issue with muscle loss is that as we age muscle strength is one of the key indicators for longevity, and after the age of 30 we lose 3-8% of our muscle mass every decade. Couple that with dieting muscle loss and you could be in trouble.

Maintaining muscle mass isn't easy, but it is simple. First, you want to ensure that you consume adequate amounts of protein, about 1 ounce of lean protein for every pound of body weight. Second, resistance training, but that's another topic for another day. For the sake of the topic of fasting, ensuring you are getting your protein in is critical to your success in fasting, weight loss, and muscle maintenance.

The second drawback to fasting is what happens to us subconsciously when we fast. For many, fasting results in a false sense of "I can eat whatever I want." This kind of thinking is dangerous and can lead to poorer health than in the first place if you choose to fuel with unhealthy, processed foods. The mindset of "I fasted, so I earned x,y,z" is a slippery slope and one to be mindful of if you choose any of the fasting protocols.

Last but not least, fasting, like anything, can become too much of a good thing and stop working. Fasting should only be used as a tool, ideally for health benefits other than weight loss, and only for short periods of time. You see it a lot with people who have for years routinely not eaten breakfast and they are overweight. This happens because the body goes into starvation mode, holding onto everything you give it because it knows it needs to conserve its energy.

With any of the above protocols, make sure to listen to your body, refuel with organic, whole foods that are minimally processed, and mix it up frequently.

In health,
​Jaime

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Hi, I Am Jaime Duggan

CEO Of Empowered Health

Your dedicated healthy lifestyle coach and certified personal trainer. I'm here to guide you through a transformative journey of wellness, offering personalized strategies for proper nourishment, effective exercise, and quality rest. Beyond the scale, we'll focus on holistic well-being, emphasizing sustainable, empowering habits for a happier life. I cherish family time, wholesome cooking, joyful physical activities, and reading, which fuel my own health journey. Ready to become your best self? Let's embrace this wellness journey together!

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