We eat every single day, and it’s pretty damn enjoyable. But fasting seems sort of cool – you use your willpower to get through a day or however long without what you’re used to. It also just seems like it’d be good for losing weight.
When you fast, your glycogen stores (where you get your energy from) are depleted within one day. That’s when your body starts stealing energy from your fat stores and muscle tissues. After about two or three days of fasting, your body starts specifically targeting fat stores, sparing your muscles through a process called “protein sparing.” In other words, it takes about two to three days of fasting to actually burn a legitimate amount of fat.
If you’re not willing to fast that long (“Oh, hell no” was my response) a much more accessible way of sort of fasting is decreasing your calorie consumption by 30 to 40 percent. A ton of research has shown that this way of mini-fasting can increase your lifespan and even reduce the risk of many diseases. Eventually, eating less also could increase your responsiveness to insulin, which means you’re going to feel less hungry anyway. In other words, eating less eventually makes you hungry less. And it’s straight-up good for you.
These mini-fasts are called intermittent fasting. Our favorite type of intermittent fasting is called Leangains. Leangains works for gym rats who want to lose fat and gain muscle (as in, everyone?). Basically, you fast for about 15 hours then eat for 10 hours. Obviously, it’s easier to fast from night to morning, not eating until about 6 hours into being awake. This is a high-protein diet, as protein helps muscle growth and fat burn.
Leangains recommends that you use your fasting time to be productive and work. This way, you’re not thinking about food, and you’re getting your work done early in the day. It’s a win-win situation. They recommend three meals during your “feeding time,” with most of your calorie intake post-workout. There are also recommended supplements, including a multivitamin to fill in any deficiencies you may have, fish oil (great for bone and muscle growth and development as well as a sunny mood), vitamin D (a ton of people are deficient), and calcium (unless you’re a big dairy buff).
In general, research shows that some level of fasting can be good for you, but there’s not necessarily a magical diet out there yet. Cutting down calories in general, though, is going to be good for you (unless you’re really looking to buff up). Leangains is a pretty good option in that it’s designed for workout junkies, and it’s not as difficult to follow as more in-depth fasts and diets. It has its rules that you can look into, but overall, it’s pretty darn accessible.
Fasting’s like anything else. You’ve got to try it out to see if it works for you. Until then, try to eat a little less. Cut down on processed foods. Up your protein post-workout. That’s enough for most people.