Sunday, November 4, 2007

Fasting for Weight loss?

Ate enough food yesterday to make me feel sick. Yeesh, when am I going to stop myself? How about right now?

Brad Pilon (I’ve submitted articles of his before, because he tends to be quite controversial on the subject of nutrition), has a theory of fasting for weight loss. He believes that it’s beneficial to fast for 24 hours at least one day per week, up to 4 times per month, and has even written a book on the subject called Eat Stop Eat (which I haven’t read). According to the quick and dirty research I’ve done in peer-reviewed journals on the subject, apparently the body has a tendency to burn more lipids (fat) for energy when other nutrients aren’t being supplied. Makes sense, considering that’s what our fat stores are for. So why the controversy? Well, of course everyone knows that skipping meals and not eating slows the metabolism by causing an eventual loss of muscle tissue, as it is often easier for the body to access and quicker to break down than lipids. Is that really true? Yes, in one sense. In long-term/chronic near-starvation or malnutrition, the body does burn muscle tissue, since it is more metabolically active than fat tissue (10-15 calories in muscle to maintain, versus 4-5 calories to maintain fat cells). So the fact that metabolism slows during chronic low-calories is true, in one sense: IF you are not weight training. Other studies have found that people can maintain muscle mass even on 750 kcals per day if they are weight training. All right, so not weight training + malnutrition/below maintenance kcals= slower metabolism. I do believe that muscle tissue is lost if the malnutrition is chronic (say longer than 2 months), no matter how much weight training is done (partly because hunger causes weight training to be less effective, since there’s no energy to lift heavy).

Mostly what I’m doing with the above is trying to sort out my thoughts on the issue. Should one fast for weight loss, or is it an ineffective weight tool? In the larger scheme of things, if one is not eating for 24 hours, that’s approximately 1600-2200 calories not taken in over the course of a week, which could result in a larger weight loss. However, if one does not exert control over oneself when eating is resumed, all those calories may be easily made up within the next three days. Second issue is hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). I get it pretty easily, and so will anyone who is used to eating 5-6 meals per day, or anyone with diabetes. How should one fast when that issue is there? Next positive to fasting would be the “rest” that would be afforded to the intestine. Since processed foods can take up to 72 hours to fully be excreted and whole foods take up to 48 hours to be excreted, lessening the load on the intestine would certainly seem to be a positive thing.

So I write this because I ate too much food yesterday, and thought of giving my intestines a rest today. However, I am also four hours into it and am already feeling the effects of hypoglycemia. I also tried it on Tuesday, and had the same problem (to which I promptly ate a granola and nut bar). So, is this due to my body being used to being fed every 3 hours and it just needs time to “catch up,” or should I really eat something and not do the fast for 24 hours? Hmm, the ponderous questions.

1 comment:

Brad Pilon said...

Hi Carrie,

I hope all is well with you. Been following your blog. Great Stuff!

I'm not sure if you've had the chance to read Eat Stop Eat yet, if you haven't please make sure you send me and email..

Brad (at) eatstopeat (dot) com