A few weeks ago, someone challenged me to a 48 hour fast through the contact form. I’m not going to name names, so we'll just call him Scooby Doo. You’ll see why.
What happens if you don’t eat fo a really long time? … Like do you lose muscle? I hea a lot of people talking about that.
Yeah, Scooby, I wonder about that too. Also how you mixed up all those R’s. But you asked a very insightful question, and It’s really only because I chopped it up that it sounds so bizarre. Thanks, and keep using your head.
To answer your question, yeah. You’d lose weight. You’d be consuming fewer calories for a long period of time, so your body would burn fat, and sometimes muscle. But what if you fasted in moderation? Would it be fat and muscle, or just fat? That’s the interesting question.
After looking into this, I discovered a big subculture based around intermittent fasting for creatives, bodybuilders, and health gurus. The idea is that in a natural state, humans would go long period of time without eating, making fasting healthy and safe. Supposedly, it decreases insulin levels while promoting HGH (Human Growth Hormone), making it easier to put on muscle and harder to put on fat. Personally, I just assumed the high from fasting was cheaper than mushrooms.
I was wrong.
I started with a documented 48 hour fast, then enjoyed it so much I hopped on the intermittent fasting bandwagon. For those of you who haven’t heard about ‘IF’, let me save you the hours of combing through bro-science, and just summarize now:
First off, Intermittent fasting doesn’t leave you eating less food. If you’re doing it right, you eat the same or close to the same as you would on any day, you just do so in a small time frame. Think a massive feast for an hour vs three reasonable sized meals. A good example is ‘Leangains’, where you fast for 16 hours of the day, and then eat for the last 8. So you’d eat stop eating at 10PM, then start eating again at 2PM the next day. That way, you don’t end up looking like matchstick man.
I tried it, survived, and will probably keep doing it. Here’s my experience.
1) Fasting provided clarity
Without food in my stomach, I felt sharper, and more eager to get stuff done. While I didn’t have as much endurance as usual, I had more vitality. It sounds wishy-washy, I know, but not having any food in my belly allowed me to focus on writing, planning, working, and just having a really good time.
I never had to stop to think about the next meal, or worry about finding food. I knew exactly when the next meal was coming, and focused on other things. That’s powerful.
2) Fasting made me stronger… kind of.
Running on an empty stomach is a very interesting experience. On day 1, I couldn’t really detect any change, but by day two, it was a whole different ball game.
My sprint times we’re all down few seconds, and although I felt more tired towards the end of my sessions, my long distance times we’re faster too. I felt lighter, quicker, and more agile throughout the fast.
In the gym, it was a different story. While I did manage to increase my lifts by about 2.5 pounds, I could do less repetitions. My muscular endurance fell, and I didn’t manage to last longer than 35 minutes on the second day of the fast. I doubt this would be a problem on an ‘Intermittent fasting’ schedule, but on a two day fast, endurance was fell. Looking back on it, I think that being hungry kept me more motivated, which accounted for any increase in strength. AKA it didn’t really make me stronger.
You know how you just want to lie down and take a nap after a big meal? This was the opposite.
3) Intermittent fasting is just plain fun.
I like to eat. I don’t do fad diets, religiously eat salads, or pack a lunch sack full of tupperware that look an accessory to a Barbie and Ken’s playhouse. I just eat.
Intermittent fasting allowed me to enjoy bigger meals when it was convenient for me. I wasn’t stuffing cereal in my face at 5am, or racing around my kitchen to get a meal ready for work.
I ate big late in the day, when big meals are usually served with friends and family, and I enjoyed it. While I think it’s good to understand why intermittent fasting might be beneficial for hormones or fat loss, I think the primary reason people use it is because you end up eating more good stuff, and less gummy bears and frosted flakes. Fasting doesn’t really allow for a lot of snacking.
You’re meals are planned out, and they’re damn good. That’s reason enough to try it right there.
Everyone's different. What works for me might turn you into a
gargoyle. Only one way to find out, right?
Find a simple intermittent fasting plan, and if you see results, stick with it. If not, do something else. I'd recommend fasting for the mental benefits alone. Just make sure you don’t bite anyone’s head off. Oh, and pack Snickers.