Fasting is all the buzz lately, especially in relation to weight loss. Intermittent fasting including TMAD, OMAD, alternate day fasting, extended fasting. Do you need to fast? Which is the best type of fasting for you and your goals?
Whether you want to hear it or not, IT DEPENDS ON THE INDIVIDUAL. There are most definitely pros and cons to fasting. Autophagy and potential weight loss are notably the most talked about pros of fasting. However, fasting does not equate to weight loss automatically. Weight loss is achieved due to the overall caloric deficit that comes with intermittent fasting. The cons of fasting, however, can definitely inhibit weight loss and may even lead to weight gain – this is the part that is NOT discussed. So, let’s chat.
Makes it easier to achieve a caloric deficit
Improved insulin resistance
Heightened dopamine response to food
Potential to increase disordered eating behaviors
Loss of lean muscle mass
o Increased cortisol – excess belly fat
o Loss of/irregular period – estrogen dominance, excess belly fat
o Hypothyroidism – hair loss, weight gain, feeling cold, dry skin
While fasting, glycogen stores are being depleted and ketone levels rise. The degree will depend on the length of the fast and what you are fueling your body with during the fed state. Fasting helps to reduce overall inflammation and improve insulin resistance. Due to the restricted window of feeding, many people end up eating less and therefore, a caloric deficit can be easier to achieve.
There are some very important things to consider, however, when it comes to fasting. Our body is extremely smart in protecting itself to increased levels of stress. Fasting is a stressful state, both mentally and physically. It can negatively impact hormones including cortisol, sex hormones, as well as the thyroid.
The symptoms of hormone imbalance can be vague but they most definitely should not be ignored. These include (but are not limited to):
Irregular/loss of periods
Trouble regulating body temperature
Ever notice how the food you break your fast with seems to be the best meal you’ve ever had? This is due to a heightened dopamine response. Dopamine is the “pleasure chemical” that is associated with addiction. It is part of the brain’s reward system. This feel-good response can lead to disordered eating patterns such as binging after a fast, or ‘feasting.’ Whether you restrict the following day due to decreased hunger levels or due to guilt or shame for having eaten more the day before, this cycle can lead to neurotransmitter dysregulation and disordered eating habits.
Fasting can also lead to loss of lean muscle mass depending on the length of the fast. For those looking to build muscle, regular fasting is not the best option. If you are practicing intermittent fasting with the intention to build muscle, attention to detail including caloric intake and sufficient protein is necessary.
Whether or not you should fast for your health goals is a loaded question. There are lots of questions to address when I recommend fasting in clients. If you are unsure of how often, how long, or even IF you should be fasting to achieve your health goals, book an appointment today!