As I've recently moved to the Arab state of Qatar during the Muslim month of Ramadan. I thought it a good idea to draw discussion on the fasting debate with regards to fat loss. Through discussion I know some would deem fasting as extreme and the notion that Intermittent Fasting (IF) could actually aid your fat loss efforts may seem to fly in the face of what you may have already learnt. Nonetheless, the abundace of research supporting IF for fat loss really can't be ignored.
Over here it's forbidden for people to eat or drink in public during this month, therefore I decided it best I follow the traditions of the Qatari people and try my hand at fasting. I must say, I've found fasting in these hot conditions very challenging indeed as the scotching heat often reaches 100F and beyond, so I must admit that I didn't follow the Qatari tradition 100% as I indulged in the sneaky bottle of water, excluding the days where I chose not to fast at all (hush...don't tell anybody).
If we look back at our hunter-gatherer ancestors, they would sometimes struggle for adequate food sources, they couldn’t just walk in to the local supermarket. Therefore, fasting was a regular way of life. Our bodies have learnt to deal with these fasting states by developing specific pathways to improve the efficiency of our energy production.
Fast-forward to the modern day, these pathways can now benefit your fat loss results and preserve your hard earned lean muscle.
Hormonal Responses To IF That Benefit Fat Loss
1) Reduction of Insulin
When we eat, glucose (sugar) is released into our bloodstream especially when we consume simple carbohydrates. This increase in blood sugar triggers the secretion of insulin from our pancreas, its role is then to remove this sugar from to blood and store it within the liver, muscles and fatty tissues as potential energy.
When Insulin levels are elevated it stops the metabolism of fat by inhibiting the powerful hormone glucagon (eating a health balanced diet also helps you to balance blood glucose, insulin and glucagon). Therefore, when we fast insulin levels drop and we release glucagon allowing our bodies to metabolise fat.
In simple terms, when insulin levels our high we can only store fat we cannot burn fat.
2) Increased Fatty Acid Oxidisation
Strategic fasting and high intensity resistance training causes blood glucose to lower. Adrenaline and Noradrenaline are then released as a response to this and these powerful fight or flight hormones call on a vital player known as Hormone Sensitive Lipase (HSL).
HSL is then responsible for converting fats from our fat cells to free fatty acids, which are then transported to our muscles and liver by carnitine, ready to be burned as energy.
Basically, as we lower our blood glucose we increase our carnitine levels, meaning we are burning fat as our primary energy source. Lovely…
3) Lean Mass Maintenance and Development
It’s a common misconception that fasting causes muscle atrophy (muscle wastage) and this is true to an extent. But, IF for periods of 12 hours have shown to boost Human Growth Hormone (HgH), this hormone is important as it prevents us from losing muscle during our short fasting state.
Remember, our muscle is like the heartbeat to our metabolism, helping us to burn fat more efficiently. HgH also aids the release of stored fat for energy production, whilst enhancing cellular repair allowing us to look younger.
The Bottom Line: If your serious about losing stubborn body fat you should consider trying Intermittent fasting along with a well balanced diet and high intensity resistance training. This strategy may not be for everybody, but it is supported by sound scientific research and may just give your metabolism the kick-start that it needs. Be sure to monitor your results to see if it works for you.
To your continued success...
Committed to your Health and Wellness,
Nathan Carr BSc CPT