How fasting can help you lose weight and might even supercharge the process

Go back just a decade and the thoughts of going for extended time without eating for the purpose of improving bodyrecomposition was deemed idiotic. Gymgoers would tell you that your body would “eat up all your muscle”, and that skipping meals (even if just breakfast) would mess up your metabolism. Oh and something about the body only being able to utilize 30 grams of protein pr. meal, and so on and so on.

During the late 2000’s and early 2010’s these notions seemed to change a bit. Martin Berkhan and Brad Pilon were some of the first “fasting-preachers” in the field of fitness and health to gain a growing following, and today most people with just a bit of time invested in reading about diets and training will have an idea about what intermittent fasting and alternate day fasting is. And today, we have many more fasting protocols.

There’s nothing magical about fasting – right?

While there are studies indicating many health benefits from fasting – most of them are done on rodents – as well as there are studies indicating superior insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance from fasting – but most are indecisive and/or quite poorly done. 

However, a recent study does show some very promising results at least for the ADF version (alternate day fasting; basically eat one day, eat nothing the next, and so forth).

In this study, the obese participants who followed an ADF setup lost more fat and retained more muscle than their likewise obese counterparts following a typical diet (daily caloric deficit of 400 calories).

Now, important to mention; the two groups’ caloric deficit was not matched. So that the every-other-day fasting group lost more fat than the 400-cal daily deficit group did doesn’t specifically tell us anything about fasting. It just tells us that the fasting group had an overall larger deficit.

Not that that is bad in any way, as that might indicate that deficits are more tolerable if meal frequency is manipulated/fasting is implemented.

This fits perfectly with earlier research showing that even when giving ad libitum eating instructions (so basically no instructions), people will not compensate enough on the eating days to offset the weight loss during fasting days.

But what about muscle loss?

Back to the study; the muscle retention is one of the interesting aspects to us. Retaining muscle should be of utmost importance when losing weight no matter whether you’re obese and untrained or a bodybuilder getting show-ready. 

Coaches instructing obese folks to just go nuts on the cardio-train instead of combining it with a weight lifting routine are crazy.

Everybody should lift weights.

Having a lot of muscle (within natural ranges) is overall very good as far as health is concerned, and if you are a foodie/excessive eater (which you most likely are if your overweight) it’s worth mentioning that muscle is metabolically active tissue, meaning it demands more energy for the body to maintain, which equals a higher TDEE = you get to eat slightly more food before gaining weight.

So getting jacked can be a hedonistic, narcissistic endeavor in more than one aspect 😉

Better muscle retention, but “supercharged” fat loss?

Firstly, as already mentioned above, and as experienced by thousands of people utilizing scheduled fasting in one way or another, most people will be able to create a larger caloric deficit as opposed to regular dieting. This seems to hold more true for ADF type fasting as opposed to intermittent fasting.

But besides that, one more very important aspect of the study is the difference in the two groups when the researchers looked at the negative adaptations to caloric deficits. What i’m referring to is thesurvival mechanismsby which the body regulates certain things in an attempt to slow down your weight loss plans.

There has previously been indications and theories suggesting that fasting in one way or another might help counter some of these effects, which Martin Berkhan wrote some interesting stuff about years back.

Well, for our study, the researchers found that the ADF group was virtually spared from diet-induced down regulation of their metabolism, while the typical-diet group unsurprisingly was not.

This indicates that fasting can produce a more steady weight loss experience without much metabolic slowdown, even though the overall weekly caloric deficit is higher than in the regular dieting schedule.

Personal experience with fasting

Back when i was in the later stages of my 7-8 month diet i experimented with 36-44 hour fasts. Basically ADF fit into an IF schedule. Shown below;

  • Day 1; Wake up, fast until 3 PM where i would have an omelet, then train shortly after at around 4 PM, and eat until 11 PM.
  • Day 2; Wake up, fast until bed.
  • Rinse repeat.

I received a bunch of questions about the rationale behind this approach and it’s impact on my strength in the gym and lean body mass. Now, as for mass, i didn’t have the tools to accurately measure it, but as far as strength, i experienced no negative consequences what so ever.

In fact, i had some of the best workouts of my diet with just the omelet in my system after a 40+ hour fast. One thing to mention is that i consumed 4-6 grams of HMB during the fast for it’s anti-catabolic, muscle sparring features.

I usually recommend BulkSupplements’ Pure HMB in the powdered form (as it’s cheap!) – or the tablet/pill form Maximum Strength HMB by NatureBell. But just to warn you; HMB tastes horrible in the powdered form, so make sure you can mix it with something else than just plain water! (Or just go with the tablets!)

Takeaway on fasting for weight loss

The practical takeaway for you as a reader is that there are many tools to utilize when trying to lose fat. Research continuously show us that many of the old dogmas of health and fitness are either flat out wrong or grossly exaggerated.

There should be no reason for you to think that fasting every-other-day will in any way be detrimental to your health, or that it will cause your hard earned muscle to disintegrate into the void of lost gains. Of course, as for any dieting plan, intense resistance training is key for optimal muscle retention. 

If you wish to diet with ADF, do your training on your eating day, and optimally as early as possible. If you only have the option to work out in the late afternoon or perhaps even in the evening, my recommendation is to place your largest meal (and ideally majority of calories) post-workout. Happy experimentation!

Note; for the purpose of bulking (actual bulking, not recomping) i do not recommend fasting for half the day before consuming nutrients, if the goal is to properly maximize mass gains. I’ll conjure a blog post some time explaining why.

Hope this helps someone out there 🙂

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