Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
15 Mar

Why Fast? Part One – Weight Loss

plate“When a person has nothing to eat, fasting is the smartest thing he could do.” – Herman Hesse, Siddhartha.

I like that quote. It’s making (non-caloric) lemonade out of lemons, and for all the transcendental insights contained in Hesse’s book, this line strikes me as a really cool, no-nonsense way to make the best out of a bad situation. No doubt about that. But how useful is it, really, to today’s readers? Very few of us ever have “nothing to eat.” On the contrary, food is ever at our beck and call, with very little effort required to obtain it. Actually, that’s not completely true. Processed junk and fast food is readily available, while the good stuff – fresh meat and veggies, actual, you know, food - requires prep work, cooking, time, and the doing of dishes. But the main point stands: we rarely go without.

That doesn’t mean the quote is useless. In fact, with a few slight modifications, it becomes extremely effective weight loss advice. Check out my version:

“When a person has had too much to eat, fasting is the smartest thing he could do.” – Mark Sisson, Mark’s Daily Apple.

If that sounds harsh or even unrealistic, consider the story of the Scotsman. Back in 1965, an obese Scotsman of 27 years and 456 pounds came to the Department of Medicine in Dundee, Scotland, with a problem. He needed to lose weight. A (1/8 of a) ton of it. The doctors suggested maybe not eating for a few days could help. It was just an offhand recommendation, but our Scotsman (known only as “AB”) really took to it. He stayed at the hospital for several days, taking only water and vitamin pills while undergoing observation to ensure nothing went wrong. When his time was up, he continued the fast back at home, returning to the hospital only for regular monitoring. After a week, he was down five pounds and feeling good. His vitals checked out, blood pressure was normal, and though he had lower blood sugar than most men, he didn’t seem particularly impaired by it. The experiment continued… for 382 days.

Yes, AB fasted for 382 days, drinking only water and taking vitamin, potassium, and sodium supplements. All told, he lost 276 pounds, reaching his target weight of 180 pounds and maintaining the bulk of his weight loss. Over the five following years of observation, AB regained just sixteen pounds, putting him in excellent, but underpopulated territory (at least 80% of dieters eventually regain all the lost weight). Other doctors paid attention. Maybe it was the fact that it was the 60s, and all sorts of crazy stuff was going on – rebellion in the air, good music being made, a war in Vietnam, Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters blazing across the U.S. in a beat-up school bus, spreading the good weird word, Kevin Arnold and a young Marilyn Manson coming of age in Anytown, USA – but for whatever reason, placing obese patients on extended and short-term fasts became relatively common practice.

But could this work for the average person looking to lose weight without submitting to constant medical observation?

Absolutely. Study after study shows that whatever you want to call the protocol – intermittent fasting, fasting, alternate day fasting, or alternate day caloric restriction – it works very well for weight loss. A few recent ones:

So, yes: it works. But does fasting work solely through caloric restriction, or is it doing something special?

That’s the real question. There’s no question that fasting causes weight loss through caloric restriction. Obviously, when you don’t eat anything, your body turns to its own stored energy reserves, reserves that take up physical space and have mass. Depletion of those energy stores reduces mass and thus weight. Total and absolute caloric restriction. That’s elementary stuff and the studies from the 1960s show that.

To dig a bit deeper, let’s look at how weight loss occurs during a fast. I’ll stick to research involving humans only (sorry, rodent personal trainers).

Secretion of growth hormone, one of the premier fat burning hormones, increases during a fast. In a five-day fasting protocol, men experienced increased GH secretion on day one and day five (the only two days where GH was measured). A later study showed that during two-day fasting sessions, growth hormone secretions increased in both frequency and intensity in men. They experienced more frequent GH bursts and each burst secreted a higher mass of GH. A more recent study found that 24-hour fasts increased GH by 1300% in women and almost 2000% in men.

Fasting decreases fasting insulin levels. The presence of insulin inhibits lipolysis, the release of stored triglycerides (body fat). Without lipolysis actually releasing stored body fat, it’s rather difficult to, well, burn that body fat for energy. During a fast, fasting insulin decreases and lipolysis increases. This insulin-blunting aspect of fasting quite literally allows the fast to be successful, because without the ability to access stored body fat for energy, making it through a period of zero caloric intake will be nigh impossible.

Fasting improves insulin sensitivity. 20-hour fasts were enough to improve insulin sensitivity in men.

Fasting increases the catecholamines, both adrenaline (epinephrine) and noradrenaline (norepinephrine). Both catecholamines increase resting energy expenditure during a fast, and guess where your fasting body finds the energy to expend? From body fat. Catecholamines activate hormone sensitive lipase present in adipose tissue, spurring the release of said fat. This makes intuitive sense, doesn’t it? If you’re hungry in the wild, you need to hunt (or gather, or fish, or somehow procure food) and you need energy to do it. The catecholamines help provide some of that energy while burning fat in the process.

Hmm, notice anything? All those mechanisms dealt with fat burning specifically. While there may be some weirdo out there who’s interested in reducing bone mineral density and muscle mass while maintaining fat tissue, I would wager that what most people mean by “weight loss” is “fat mass loss.” From the stuff I just linked, it looks like fasting burns fat, rather than just weight. But what about Conventional Wisdom which claims that fasting increases muscle wasting – maybe because your body will totally recognize the lethal nature of all that arterycloggingsaturated animal fat and choose to break down muscle instead? Is it true?

Let’s go to the research:

In one study, normal weight subjects ate just once a day without reducing overall caloric intake. Weight didn’t change, which isn’t really surprising, but body composition did change – and for the better. Body fat decreased and lean weight increased (in addition to a bunch of other beneficial changes) without an overall reduction in calories.

recent review of the relevant literature found that while fasting and caloric restriction are “equally as effective in decreasing body weight and fat mass,” fasting is “more effective for the retention of lean mass.”

Conventional Wisdom strikes out again.

In closing…

It appears that fasting “works” in several different ways:

1. It decreases caloric intake. In order to lose weight, you need a caloric deficit. That really isn’t in contention here, folks.

2. It increases fat oxidation while sparing lean mass. Since what we’re trying to do is lose fat (rather than just “weight”), the fact that fasting increases hormones that preferentially burn fat and decreases hormones that inhibit fat burning is extremely desirable.

3. It improves adherence. In most of the studies surveyed, participants found fasting to be an extremely tolerable way to diet, especially when compared to outright caloric restriction. Even AB, the fasting Scotsman, reported very little difficulty throughout his 382 day fast. If fasting is easier for you than trying to laboriously count calories, fasting is going to be the more effective weight – er, fat – loss method.

All in all, fasting is an effective way to lose body fat. It’s not the only way, and it isn’t “required” for Primal weight loss, but many in the community have found it to be very helpful and the literature backs them up. If you’re looking to jumpstart your fat loss, fasting may be just the ticket. To get some ideas, be sure to check out my post on various fasting methods.

In subsequent installments, I’ll highlight some of the other benefits of fasting. There are a ton, and new research is being released all the time, so I expect I’ll have a lot to discuss. Until then, I’d like to hear about your experiences with fasting for fat loss. Has it worked? Has it failed you? Let us know in the comment section!

Thanks for reading, everyone!

Here’s the entire series for easy reference:

Why Fast? Part One – Weight Loss

Why Fast? Part Two – Cancer

Why Fast? Part Three – Longevity

Why Fast? Part Four – Brain Health

Why Fast? Part Five – Exercise

Why Fast? Part Six – Choosing a Method

Why Fast? Part Seven – Q&A

Dear Mark: Women and Intermittent Fasting

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Is anyone able to reassure me that I won’t kill my thyroid by doing this? When I had an eating disorder as a teen (yes, I know, not the same as just fasting…), I managed to induce hypothyroidism among other things. I’d like to know what the difference between the two situations would be in terms of hurting my poor thyroid…

    Audrey H wrote on March 16th, 2012
    • May be you can help me on my question below?

      Robert wrote on March 16th, 2012
    • @
      Audrey

      Healthy frequent short-term fasting includes & requires getting all your nutritional needs met when you do eat – macro- & micro-nutrients; it takes some knowledge and some planning to do it right. Once you know how to get your needs met when you do eat, it becomes much more flexible, if desired.

      Jeffrey of Troy wrote on March 16th, 2012
  2. IFing will rip you up like Rambo…or Martin Berkhan.

    Mark wrote on March 16th, 2012
  3. I love intermittent fasting. However this is a very sensitive issue for people with (former) eating disorders.

    I have a friend that used to be bulimic-anorectic. Now that she is overweight it is the general idea among friends, family and physicians just to let her eat anything and as much as she wants. This is way better than from the time when she was slowly dying because of not eating.

    Is there anyone here with an idea on how I could take to her about healthier food and IF as ways of staying healthy without causing a psychic breakdown.

    Balance is so hard for some people.

    Robert wrote on March 16th, 2012
    • It’s really difficult because people have different levels of what will trigger them. I wouldn’t approach the subject of IF straight away, but start with healthy foods… and not for the purpose of losing weight, but for general health…
      Everyone is different though, and had their own issues that lead to the eating disorder so it’s a tricky one.

      Audrey H wrote on March 16th, 2012
  4. Terriffic post. I think even informed Paleo people get confused sometimes about this issue. Firstly, there is so much paranoia and fear that dropping calories will reduce muscle – clearly that isn’t too much of a problem at all. Secondly, I think a common misunderstanding ermeges in low carb cricles re calories vs carbs, and there is sometimes an idea you can eat as much as you want if you lay off the carbs and still lose fat – not true. Gary Taubes gets misquoted on this level, and a UK writer Barry Groves to an extent also. To lose weight you will, as Mark points out, need a calorie deficit – but Mark does a brilliant job here of pulling it all together with supporting references and hormonal explanations that account for enhanced mental well-being and muscle sparing under conditions of calorie deficit. As always, much appreciated, thank you Mark.

    rg wrote on March 16th, 2012
  5. I am a first year medical student and we just finished going over endocrine and gastrointestinal physiology, and for the most part, I have no argument with this article. It’s funny though, we learn all these mechanisms for dealing with different caloric sources and how the body reacts to fasting, and I feel like the students dont hear it. I have many vegetarian classmates, which is not a great lifestyle in America as it compromises mostly starches and carbs. There is an inherent disdain for fat, and even though it’s irrational and not founded in science, we don’t learn how to teach proper eating habits to patients. Fasting is a regular part of my diet, along with very low carbs and high fat intake from many sources, and I plan to teach it as an option for my patients. The body is not built to handle high carb loads. It is however built to intermittently fast. Primal eating habits have a home in modern medicine.

    Mark wrote on March 16th, 2012
  6. I’ve started eating Paleo this January, and now I’m at a point where I can fast ~16+ hours before I eat my next meal. Which means I eat dinner around 5PM and eat my next meal lunch next day.
    I do however have to take medication in the morning, with Vitamin D3 and Cod Liver Oil. Does this influence the fasting negatively?
    Oh, and coffee supports fasting, which I don’t drink, what about Green Tea, and Oolong tea, which I do drinnk ?

    Monika wrote on March 16th, 2012
  7. the comment that brain actually prefers to feed on macronutrients which are different than glucose and that glucose just stops that mechanism is really weird. is there scientific evidence related to this?i always had the conception that glucose was neccesary for our brain health :/ .though i do know that brain is constructed mainly by fatty acids like dha so it is kinda confusing.. anyone can help in this pls? this proves the stupidity of those that are empoyed in the research and development section..the more natural the better.it seems that our body is smarter than us ^^ we just get in its way.pissing it off :P

    george wrote on March 16th, 2012
    • When you fast or eating only fats and protein your brain mostly use ketones as an energy source,(http://evolutionarypsychiatry.blogspot.com/2010/08/your-brain-on-ketones.html) but very little amount of sells in your body need glucase probably in the amount of 15 grams a day which body makes from proteins.

      Galina L. wrote on March 16th, 2012
    • Glucose is necessary for brain and nervous system health. However, the liver is capable of synthesizing glucose from protein via gluconeogenesis. This makes up for any deficiencies the ketones may not be able to fulfill.

      Melinda G wrote on April 26th, 2012
  8. I honestly think that exercise is 1000 times better than fasting. So instead of preaching starvation lets preach exercise and good food.

    mark wrote on March 16th, 2012
    • You cannot starve by not eating for an extended period of time. Your body is not going to wait until there is absolutely nothing to eat to protect your muscles and cells. Ketosis happens long before the body is out of food so starvation is a little overstated and overused when it comes to fasting. The purpose of ketosis is to help you to survive to your next meal. Exercise,like fasting and the ketogenic diet, will induce ketosis.

      Mary Titus wrote on March 16th, 2012
    • Using exercise to loose fat is not working. I was 245lbs when I hired a personal trainer for a year, 3 times a week, plus I went 2 time just for cardio. I did everything they told me to, and I lost 5 lbs!!! during that time. I might have gained muscle, but at that point I wanted to loose the fat.
      I’ve never been able to loose weight on any diet, but this time around with Paleo diet I’ve lost 21 lbs in two month, and I’ve never felt better. I don’t exercise yet, but I’m going to start doing some soon. Just a little bit though.

      Monika wrote on March 16th, 2012
  9. Mary,

    Any link to holding off food until an hour post-workout? I’ve seen that mentioned other places, and wouldn’t mind reading about it further.

    Thanks

    Jim B wrote on March 16th, 2012
  10. I am questioning the following from the “A controlled trial of reduced meal frequency without caloric restriction in healthy, normal-weight, middle-aged adults” article:

    “However, when consuming 1 meal/d, subjects had … significant increases in blood pressure and in total, LDL-, and HDL-cholesterol concentrations….”

    Is blood pressure increase and a drop in good cholesterol reason for concern?

    Nicole wrote on March 16th, 2012
  11. I don’t need to lose weight (120lb featherweight since high school), but fasting and ketogenic diets are much easier than I ever thought. Since going on less than 30g carb in a day I have to remind myself to eat sometimes, and I occasionally just eat nothing for a while. When I do have concentrated carbs it is hard to stop, though.

    I haven’t lost a pound, but I have gained muscle, so I guess I’m burning what little fat I have. I’m also seeing strength gains far more than I did on a SAD diet and expensive mass-gain protein powders.

    tom wrote on March 16th, 2012
  12. I’m a HUGE supporter of fasting. In honour of “spring cleaning,” I’m currently undergoing a 4-week water fast. I’m making it both a physical and spiritual transformation, called my “Body, Mind, and Soul” challenge. :)

    Venne wrote on March 16th, 2012
  13. IF is one of the last things I haven’t embraced since I became Primal in October, but this article inspired me. Since I cannot convince my husband (who would really reap the benefits in SO many ways) to even try Primal living, I thought fasting would simply be too hard while cooking for him and our mega-calorie-burning 17 y.o. son. I have also had bad issues with fasting in the past, and did’t want to try it at work. Well–today I did. I simply decided to skip breakfast, and I normally eat a big meal in the morning. It was amazing. I got hungry, I got over it. No dizziness, no lightheadness, no gnawing at my arm–no problems. By lunch I was ready to eat, but not like a deprived maniac. I’m going to try this a few times a week, and work up to a 20-24 hour fast. I strongly suggest skipping random meals as a start to anyone who has doubts about IF. Thanks Mark–again!!!

    Trish wrote on March 16th, 2012
  14. Intermittent Fasting and cutting out grains has me down 23.4lbs today. It’s so much easier to maintain than counting every single calorie of all my 6 small meals a day used to be. For those worried that this will cause disordered eating, I used to be bulimic, and conventional dieting really feeds into the obsessive and anxious nature of eating disorders. Counting calories and food timing can be real triggers for those who are prone to ritual eating behaviors. Intermittent fasting allows one to stop worrying and obsessing about food. It allows freedom on non-fasting days to eat when you’re hungry until you’re not anymore without counting calories. For me, it has absolutely busted the dieting/disordered eating cycle.

    Jennifer wrote on March 16th, 2012
  15. I am a big fan of intermittent fasting and really learning to deal with hunger. Just because you feel hungry does not mean you have to eat. From a fat loss stand point the biggest thing is it helps restrict your calories by condesing the window of time you are consuming calories.

    Gary Deagle wrote on March 16th, 2012
  16. This from the early Christian manual called the Didache:

    And let not your fastings be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second and the fifth day of the week; Keep your fast on the fourth and the sixth day.

    Apparently the regularly fasted two days a week.

    Craig wrote on March 16th, 2012
  17. From an on-line journal I set up.

    My Journey into intermittent fasting…

    One month of intermittent fasting in the books and I am down to 180lbs from 187lbs. No detectable muscle loss (arm, chest, neck and thigh are still the same measurements) and no detectable loss in strength. I am guessing my body fat is 8-9%… down from 10-11% but again that is a guess.

    My last meal is generally between 8-9pm and my first meal is between 2-3pm. I workout fasted and use my first meal as a post workout meal.

    First two weeks were tough… I got tired and hungry. Although I think it was easier for me then most because I was paleo/primal first and because of that I really don’t get any sugar cravings to begin with.

    Had an IF breakthrough on week 3. The stress of being “hungry” had gone and I had begun to notice how short of a duration the sensation really was. I broke the fast generally at 2pm (sometimes 3pm) but felt like I could have fasted all day. I ate by choice not by habit.

    Now in week 4 and there is virtually no hunger sensation. If and or when there is, it passes too quickly to notice. I actually am beginning to like the “empty” feeling I get when fasting. This has honestly been the easiest style of eating I have ever tried.

    So I have gone on and on about the fasting… let me speak a little about the feeding. My feeding window is generally 2-3pm to 8-9pm (sometimes 10pm if my wife and I get a late start cooking. Before fasting I would eat between 2000 and 2500 calories a day. With fasting the range is from 1500 and 2000 (most of the time… once in a while I get as low as 1400 and as high as 2200). I probably average 1800 calories a day and my maintenance I figure to be at around 2000 calories a day. So I am getting a nice little 200 calorie deficit average over time and the fat has been slowly and consistently coming off. Still paleo/primal monday through friday… weekends I eat whatever I want while still fasting most of the time.

    Anyhow… long winded post I know… just wanted to share.

    Here is the website that got me interested with IF…

    http://theleansaloon.com/

    IF update…

    It has been about 7 months since I have been IF’ing. Weight has settled in at 177lbs. Body fat if I had to guess is about 8%, with no muscle or strength loss to speak of. Will do a skinfold with some calipers to get a working number. All in all it has been really easy and enjoyable for me…

    Joe wrote on March 16th, 2012
  18. Ok, so Mark’s “10 Sure ways to sabotage weightloss” lists #5 as Skip Breakfast, and #3 as eat once a day. Isn’t skipping breakfast or eating once a day a way of fasting? Does Mark now retract those 2 items from his list or are there conditions attached? Any thoughts?

    Jorge wrote on March 16th, 2012
  19. Techically it is impossible to skip breakfast. Break is the meal that you eat to BREAK a FAST. That fast can be broken any time of day. On top of that, if you prefer to break your fast in the morning, go ahead and do it. Just begin your fasting window earlier. I am not an athlete but I have an extended fast everyday and do not have my first meal until after 3:00…it is becoming more regular for me to even wait until 6:00 at night. My glucose remains stable throughout the day which is impressive considering I am pre-diabetic.

    Mary Titus wrote on March 16th, 2012
  20. I’ve started eating one meal a day for the last month. I like it because for breakfast I have a black coffee. During the day if I get hungry I have a hot cup of tea. My wife cooks dinner every day. It’s not primal but it has meats, veg, and usually rice. She is a great cook and likes to see me eat. So this way I can look forward to one big meal each day. This is much easier than eating three tiny meals for me. In the first month I’ve gone from 215 and 38 inch waist to 195 and a 35 inch waist. I’ve noticed my stomach getting smaller and I get full faster.

    Bob wrote on March 16th, 2012
  21. What are your thoughts on fasting while recovering from an injury? I am under the impression that your body needs nutrients going in inorder to heal/fix itself. Should someone fast while recovering?

    Thanks

    Casey wrote on March 16th, 2012
  22. I just don’t get this. What about all the backlash against low-calorie dieting, the idea that your metabolism slows down when your body thinks you’re starving (and that’s what fasting sounds like to me), what about all the people that supposedly ruin their metabolism by fasting or cutting calories too drastically. I have read this for years, and my personal experience bears this out as well. I went on a couple of 3 1/2-day fasts a few years ago and the results were very short-lived.

    Mark, can you explain to me how and why this research is any different?

    Jeanmarie wrote on March 16th, 2012
    • From my understanding of the article and follow up comments (if you haven’t read through the comments, I suggest that you do; there’s a lot of good info there as well), the body begins to enter the state of breaking down protein for energy once it gets near the 20 hour mark of a fast. Before that, particularly between the 12th and 18 th hours, the body is using stored fat for fuel. Ideally then, a fast would be around 18 hours at the longest. This is not the type of fasting that will harm your metabolism. Following this type of fast, if you stop eating by 7 pm, you break your fast by Around 1 pm the following day, which leaves you with plenty of time to eat several meals if you wish. Others may mention doing longer fasts, but based on the data it may not be ideal. They are just sharing what they do, not necessarily a recommendation for what others should do.

      I agree with you though in terms of fasting possibly becoming detrimental if taken beyond its peak benefit.

      Emma wrote on March 17th, 2012
      • What do you use for fuel before 12 hrs? Carbs?

        William wrote on March 17th, 2012
        • No, I make sure that my fasting meal ( last meal of the day ) is rich in protein and fats. I do throw in some veggies but the carb count in them are so low, I don’t even count them.

          Mary Titus wrote on March 17th, 2012
      • The benfits that basically come from fasting is ketosis. To keep my keto-levels up I increase my fat consumption. The best fat consumption for ketosis is is MCT oil and coconut oil. I add MCT oil or coconut oil to my morning coffee.

        Mary Titus wrote on March 17th, 2012
      • An excellent book for exploring the biochemical effects of fasting is _Protein Power_. The first chapter illustrates the similarities between the body’s biochemical reaction to carb-restriction and IF. The fat-burning benefits of IF come into play when the body is low on carbohydrates as fuel. The liver converts fat stores to ketones in an effort to make up the difference between what the body wants and what the system has. For systems of the body specifically requiring a certain amount of glucose to function efficiently (e.g. the brain, the nervous system), the liver can synthesize glucose via gluconeogenesis using protein within the body.

        This is one reason why it is so important to eat an adequate amount of protein(0.7-1.0 g/pound lean body mass) when on a carb-restricted diet. Part of that protein will go towards maintaining and building muscle mass, the rest will become glucose to fuel your pickier systems.

        Melinda G wrote on April 26th, 2012
    • I have been doing IF for 5 years straight. I now, eat 1 meal a day and I have not noticed any unusual metabolic results from it. I did not throw myself into IF like many do. I took my time and allowed my body time to make adjustments. I also consume coconut oil and MCT oil that also helps ideally with metabolism. I keep my vitamin D levels within an optimum range and I include magnesium, zinc,K1 and K2. I try to consume a lot of calories. I wouldn’t be surprised if I get in 2,000 calories a day.

      Mary Titus wrote on March 17th, 2012
    • Here is a very intresting blog post by Dr. Eades regarding fasting and ketosis and their importance to metabolism.

      http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/ketones-and-ketosis/metabolism-and-ketosis/

      Mary Titus wrote on March 17th, 2012
  23. Silly question alert but should I be taking my vitamins when fasting even though the directions suggests supplements be taken with a meal? Such as fish oil, vitamin D, general vitamin supplement.

    Raclbaby2000 wrote on March 16th, 2012
    • The reason many vitamins should be taken with a meal is because of the fat content that is in a meal. If you take fish oils, mct oil or coconut oil, you can inlude other supplemental nutrients at this time. This is what I do.

      Mary Titus wrote on March 17th, 2012
  24. fasting or skipping meals are not advisable, the more that you don’t eat the more that you’re craving for it. Thus it will lead to complications rather than losing weight. Have a balance diet, exercise, and self disciplined will help you achieve your goals.

    Cathy wrote on March 17th, 2012
    • Sorry but that is not an absolute for all. Maybe you are just not cut out for IF.

      Joe wrote on March 17th, 2012
  25. I don’t skip meals nor fasting, I eat in time and have a balanced diet keep me fit and healthy.

    Lily wrote on March 17th, 2012
    • Different strokes for different folks =)

      Melinda G wrote on April 26th, 2012
  26. I’ve never tried this but am plateauing in my weight loss efforts and think I’ll give it a go. I’m nervous however, as I hate the feeling of being hungry, and I still experience hunger even on paleo. Is it something you just have to get used to? Any tricks people use to make the hunger pangs go away? I don’t have the huge mood swings and faint feeling I used to when eating a CW diet but I hate that growly, empty, lightheaded feeling.

    Jenny T wrote on March 17th, 2012
    • When I get hungry before it is time to eat I just brew another cup of tea. Green or oolong, no sugar or milk.

      Monika wrote on March 17th, 2012
  27. I need some advice on the IF protocol. I train in the morning. I did lean gains for 2 months. 1st month went fantastic. 2nd month I started to get very lethargic and depressed. I had no energy and was cold all the time. I do BCAA’s every 2 hours after working out but they have artificial sweeteners. I found my recovery lacked and my hypoglycemia kicked in full force. Any advice on what I could alter? Training in the afternoon is not possible Monday – Friday. Thanks!

    Diana wrote on March 17th, 2012
    • make sure that you are not magnesium deficient. As a matter of fact that is my first suspect. Also make sure that you are getting enough zinc and potassium. MCT oil is an excellent source of ketogenic energy. Work up to 2 or 3 tablespoons a day.Also make sure that you are eating plenty protein and fats the night before. I don’t eat to end a fast…I eat to begin a fast.

      Mary Titus wrote on March 17th, 2012
    • I checked the forums – I’ve been cold a lot too. I found this thread: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/forum/thread50260.html

      Maybe Mark could have a daily article about this soon

      Jeff wrote on March 17th, 2012
  28. I believe in the powers of fasting it is an ancient practice that has been used on this planet in all continents, cultures and even religions. AND….

    what concerns me about this article is that it only focuses on using the fast for weight loss.

    Fasting is an amazing way to detox and cleanse our bodies and allow the digestive system which is always working a break.

    It also provides time for an emotional/mental cleansing. Allowing us to reflect on our lives and the way we use our time, energy and choices.

    Fasting is MUCH MORE THAN A WEIGHT LOSS technique.

    check out what Dr. Bragg (the apple cider vinegar guy) has to say about fasting, or Survival in the 21st century,

    anna wrote on March 17th, 2012
  29. A key point people need to remember about fasting is that you need to have body fat to do it. Even an anorexic is more mentally damaged than physically damaged until their body fat drops below a certain level, then they become as physically damaged as they are mentally. I hope that didn’t sound too rude.

    Starvation, as a medical term, is more a function of the amount of body fat in your system. Putting the health benefits aside, if your body doesn’t have enough stored energy to burn, the benefits become moot. So if you’re already below 10% BF or whatever is an extremely low percent for you, I absolutely do not recommend fasting under any circumstances.

    Fasting for fat burning only makes sense if you have fat to burn… (I know, no duh)

    Blahbarian wrote on March 18th, 2012
    • That is incorrect.

      Many people who are below 10% BF (I’m 6% by the way)fast just fine.

      I fast 16/8 everyday and eat 60% fat, 30% protein, 10% carbs. Calories is approx 3000 a day.

      The secret is to eat plenty of high quality fat and protein.

      Karl Roberts wrote on March 18th, 2012
  30. I have been fasting 24 to 36 (day and night) for over a year now, always the same day every week. I recently done a 60 or so hours. It gets easier past the first day. I found it best to drink water with a few granules of salt (Hymalain). Otherwise I think its great and I want to do longer ones then that.

    Michal wrote on March 18th, 2012
  31. Wow – this article has given a great coverage of fasting and its benefits for us – thanks! Looking forward to Part II.

    I used to fast at least once a month and am going to go back to this healthy way of living. I found it easiest to complete an 18 hour fast by starting at 7pm at night, getting an earlier bed and then it is really just a case of passing on breakfast and having a later lunch.

    Once the fast is complete there is a potential pitfall – I used to be tempted to overeat for the first post-fasting meal (because understandably it is great to eat after 18 hours of fasting!) The best thing to do is have a large healthy salad and force yourself to wait 20 minutes to start feeling full instead of eating lots and eating fast!

    I was inspired to write an article on how fasting can really work effectively with Cardio exercise for fat loss – http://www.lmdfitness.com/training/cardio-fasting-fat-loss/

    Happy Fasting!

    Luke M-Davies wrote on March 18th, 2012
  32. For those who have doubts about IF, just remember this facts…

    It takes more than 72 hours (3 days) of straight fasting on water before your muscles start to break down hence the name ‘Intermittent fasting’ meaning you break the fast long before 72 hours mark.

    Many use IF for 16 hours, 24 hours etc, but it is well before the 72 hours mark.

    I have been fasting 16/8 everyday and weight-train in the morning with BCAA.

    I’ve lost fat and gain muscles so IF DOES work. :-)

    Karl Roberts wrote on March 18th, 2012
  33. IF works great for me and I don’t feel weary or worn down. What I do figure out (usually too late) is that I didn’t drink enough water and so I feel especially thirsty if I’ve gone an extended time without eating. I have a few days per week where I have a ridiculously long commute and am mostly sedentary (in meetings all day at the office) so IF is great on those days when I know my calorie burn is minimal.

    Brenda wrote on March 18th, 2012
  34. Has anyone experimented with 36 hour fasts? I’ve done 3 and found I have no problem with energy levels. But getting to sleep after 24 hours of fasting as proven to be difficult (for me at least).

    On benefit is that 24 fasts become the ‘easy’ option.

    Jack wrote on March 19th, 2012
    • My understanding from everything I’ve read is that a 16-18 hr. fast is optimal. The closer your body gets to 20 hrs. it switches from using stored body fat for fuel to breaking down protein for fuel, which is not ideal.

      Emma wrote on March 20th, 2012
      • I do know people who have gone several days without solid food. I also know that it takes somewhere around 3 days to digest a 6 oz piece of steak. That being the case, the body cannot begin to consume itself until dietary protein is digested and absorbed. I also know that the body needs just enough glucose that is equivalent to a teaspoon of sugar a day in order to survive. So the thought of your body consuming so much protein that you loose muscle mass is not anything to really worry about because you won’t go that long without food. But this should exemplify the importance and need for protein in the diet especially if one uses fasting as part of their diet.

        Mary Titus wrote on March 20th, 2012
        • Muscle loss issue aside, for the body to burn primarily stored body fat, the optimal time frame for that is the 16-18 hour fast, correct? I’m looking specifically at stored body fat loss.

          Emma wrote on March 22nd, 2012
  35. Wonderful and informative article! How long does an IF have to be for it to count as one? (is 20 hours the minimum, etc)

    Soji wrote on March 19th, 2012
    • Try 16 hours…

      Have your last meal in the evening by 7 or 8pm and eat your first meal the next day at noon.

      While you fast throughout the morning till noon drink water, herb tea etc.

      Karl Roberts wrote on March 19th, 2012
  36. I took a day trip twice for work to Indiana and New Jersey (flew to both states on different days though). Got up reeeeaaaalllll early and got home reeeaaaalllll late (around midnight). I didn’t eat all day (except when I got home – I ate ribs and eggs, ha!). I did not crash, still had energy, no dizziness, or anything really – not even heartburn! I had only been on PB for THREE DAYS! I didn’t realize how well fasting could help me until I woke the next day FULL of energy and excitement. It forced my body to burn. When we go camping this year I’m going to try it again – I think it will be epic if I do! Great post Mark!

    Judolizard wrote on March 19th, 2012
  37. This is so crazy about the year-long fast. It’s hard to wrap my brain around it.

    I used to IF regularly once a week, then I switched to The Warrior Diet eating absolutely nothing during the day and only allowing myself a 2-hr eating window at night.
    Nothing ever worked for me as far as weight-loss, and low and behold, the Warrior Diet didn’t do anything either.

    I still think IF is very beneficial outside of weight-loss and so I’m still practicing it once a week or so, but unfortunately, no one bill fits all.

    chocolatechip69 wrote on March 19th, 2012
  38. I’m experimenting a lot with IF. I’ve done cleanses and diets before but all have been shortlived and have not given me any long term positives, or not that I’ve picked up on.

    However. I’ve been experimenting with IF and have found it really helps. In general I like having breakfast and dinner. I don’t tend to have lunch or snack (unless it’s a high activity day). That means I get a “mini fast” between breakfast and dinner and then have a good period of time about 15 hours (I eat a very early dinner).

    I wrote a post about my experimenting with fasting on my blog earlier today. Have linked back to your,”The Myriad Benefits of Intermittent Fasting,” hope this is ok?

    Emily Jane wrote on March 19th, 2012
  39. Great to see more articles about fasting. I have been trying every different fasting protocol the past few months experimenting. I used LG Fasting to get from 30% bodyfat down to single digits in a few months. I love to be able to eat massive post workout meals of 1,500 calories. I was never a big breakfast eater and now all my friends want me to write them fasting protocols for the week after seeing the food I eat!! Amazing stuff!!

    Frank Sabia wrote on March 19th, 2012
  40. yayy. mark has quoted from my favourite book – siddhartha..
    awesome post!

    Aloka wrote on March 21st, 2012

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