Let's face it, there are a lot of myths and even more questions surrounding intermittent fasting. Before deciding to experiment with intermittent fasting (and ultimately falling in love with it) I did a lot of research regarding what those myths are. I took it upon myself to answer my own questions and figure out what other people were asking. Take advantage of my research below and feel free to do your own research as well!
Busting Common Myths
Fasting is NOT starvation!
It is common for people to believe that if you refrain from eating for an extended period of time, your body will hold onto body fat instead of using it for energy. Shifting away from thinking about calories and leaning into more whole foods and relying on healthy fats like avocado, coconut oil, and olive oil can promote fullness and improve the benefits of fasting.
“Starvation mode actually is guaranteed if you just try and cut your calories. But what's interesting is that fasting doesn't do that. What happens during fasting is that … after four days of fasting, the basal metabolic rate is actually 10 percent higher than when you started. The body has not shut down at all. In fact, what it's done is it switched fuel sources. It switched from burning food to burning [body] fat. Once it's burning [body] fat, it's like, 'Hey, there's plenty of this stuff. Let's burn our 2,000 calories'…"
Fasting will NOT lead to a decrease in muscle mass.
Contrary to popular belief, the human body responds to fasting by downregulating protein catabolism and upregulating growth hormones.
“If you follow the biochemistry, your body stores energy as glycogen in the liver, which is links or chains of sugar, and then it stores [it as] body fat. During fasting, you start by burning off all the glycogen in the liver, which is all the sugar. There's a point there where some of the excess amino acids in your body need to get burnt as well. That's where people say, 'That's where you're burning muscle.' That's not actually what happens. The body never upregulates its protein catabolism. Never is it burning muscle; there's a normal turnover that goes on. There is a certain amount of protein that you need for a regular turnover. When you start fasting, that starts to go down and then fat oxidation goes way up. In essence, what you've done is you switched over from burning sugar to burning fat. Once you start burning fat, there's almost an unlimited amount of calories there. You could go for days and days.”
Some research shows that intermittent fasting alone may not decrease your body fat percentage, but when the fasting is paired with resistance training, lean mass can be retained and/or enhanced.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Is there anyone that shouldn’t intermittent fast?
A. Some women have experienced hormonal changes that lead to amenorrhea. Amenorrhea is the loss of a woman’s menstrual cycle for 3 consecutive cycles. Women can intermittent fast but should be on the lookout for abnormalities with their menstrual cycle. Start small and listen to your body. If it doesn’t feel right, assess your IF strategies and adjust accordingly. If it does feel right, continue with a watchful eye! Individuals with a history of eating disorders or disordered eating should probably steer clear from intermittent fasting as well. Women trying to conceive may not benefit from intermittent fasting and should discuss this with their provider.
Q. What can I drink during my fasting period?
A. Non-caloric beverages like water, coffee, and tea are fine during the fasting period. If you can’t go without adding a small amount of cream to your coffee, that is fine, but be sure to not add any sugar to your coffee unless you want to spike your insulin and negate the positive effects of lower blood glucose.
Q. Can I take supplements during the fasting period?
A. Yes, non-caloric supplements are fine during the fasting period. It is important to note that fat soluble vitamins are better absorbed when consumed with fat. If you are taking a fat soluble vitamin supplement, you might want to consider taking it with fat-containing foods.
Q. Is exercise okay?
A. YES, absolutely! Exercising in a fasted state might even encourage your body to burn fat for fuel. That being said, listen to your body. If exercising during a fast doesn’t feel right, don’t do it!
This article does not take the place of tailored advice from your healthcare professional. See the disclaimer in the footer below for more information.
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Christa Biegler, RD, integrative nutritionist specializes in reversing symptoms of eczema, IBS, Crohn's, Colitis, digestive issues, bloating, abdominal pain, fatigue and autoimmune symptoms, especially Hashimotos.
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