Fasting Facts

posted Aug 25, 2014, 5:03 PM by Rebecca Smith

The other day a friend told me about some advice they were given by a health “professional” in regard to weight loss. He had put on a bit of weight while on holiday and wanted to lose it. This health and fitness “professional” told him that in order to lose the weight he should stop eating.

It’s safe to say that I was absolutely shocked by this. I couldn’t believe that someone in the industry of helping people would give this sort of destructive advice. What makes this even more destructive is that there are people out there who would use this advice to lose weight. Nine times out of ten that is because they don’t know any better and they trust their trainer, coach or other professional that is giving this advice. So let me educate you on what happens to your body when you have extended fasting periods.

We all know that we eat to provide energy for day to day activities and that from our foods we get all of the nutrients that we need to stay healthy. So, guess what happens when the food supply stops, or is not sufficient. We no longer have all of the energy needed for daily life, and we are no longer getting the nutrients we need to stay healthy.

However your weight will decrease.

This weight loss is caused by your body using whatever it can to provide energy. Believe it or not when your body is in this ‘starvation’ state, it is actually creating more and more stores of fat to be used when your body runs out of other fuels. Your body is a pretty clever mechanism, it recognises when there is no more fuel coming in, so it makes the most of what it has. Firstly it will slow down your metabolism in an effort to conserve energy. It will also utilise nutrients that are floating around to be used up as energy before fat cells. This also means that any muscles that you have been working on building, or toning, will degenerate, as they store energy that your body needs. All of these fuels are not as efficient as carbohydrates at producing energy; therefore you will start to feel very fatigued. Going through the motions of each day becomes very tiring and you can forget about being able to do any decent physical activity.

When you have reached your goal weight and decide it’s about time to start eating again your body is in serious need of replenishing its nutrient and carbohydrate stored. Because your body is still in ‘starvation’ mode so the food you eat will be stored as fat for when no more energy is coming in. However there will constantly be more food coming in to provide energy, so your fat stores keep increasing. This means that you now have more fat in your body then when you started and you have less muscle (which by the way is always metabolically active, meaning it is always burning energy, unlike fat which just sits there).

A study was done in America not too long ago to test three different weigh loss methods, with starvation being one of the methods tested, along with low carbohydrate diets and a mixed diet. The participants, obese males, were monitored on weight and energy levels pre-experiment, during the experiment and post-experiment. During the starvation experiment the participants underwent a ten day fast. This resulted in a rapid weight loss; however the energy levels of the participants also declined and they stopped participating in voluntary recreational activities. Following the ten day fasting period the participants went onto a 1200 calorie post-experiment diet where they regained most of the weight they had lost. This experiment found that a mixed diet was the most successful weight loss method, with the no weight gain in the post-experiment phase.

So, the moral of the story is that in order to lose weight fasting or having a diet too low in calories is not going to give you the best results. You end up with a greater fat mass than you started with and it is just an uncomfortable process to withstand. For successful weight loss the key is to eat enough to sustain your energy levels for daily activity and to be eating the right amounts of all types of foods.

To find out if you are eating the right amount of calories to sustain your energy levels while still promoting weight loss speak to your trainer and organise a nutrition session with them. They will take you through everything you need to know about portioning your meals and what to eat when to successfully reach your weight loss goals.


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