The Benefits of Fasting -- Are They Real?

Why This Trend May Be The Worst Thing You Can Do

Fasting is something that has gone in and out of popularity over the years. Well, itís back. In the past, itís been called everything from the greatest thing you can do to boost your health to nothing but quackery. Is it a miracle or a myth? A godsend or a gimmick? Thatís what weíll explore in this article.

Youíll read about a multitude of benefits, includingÖ

Increased energy.

Detoxing of the internal organs.

Weight loss. (Obviously).

Improved fat burning.

Prevention of Diabetes.

Improved cognitive ab[/LEFT]ility.

Sounds great, right? One problem. Itís not entirely true. This is yet another case of using tidbits of information to draw a conclusion. And very often the conclusion being drawn is one that the people conducting these studies want. Or in some cases theyíre simply drawing the wrong conclusions.

Science is always correct. But studies arenít always conducted correctly. Nor are they always interpreted correctly. The proof is that scientific evidence is discredited and debunked all the time. Years go by, new information comes along, and what was thought to be accurate is then dismissed. Scientists will also often look at the conclusion of the study and miss the real world applications. Itís the old joke -- ďthe surgery was a success, but the patient died.Ē What is genuinely valid and what is a good hypothesis is a source of constant controversy and that most certainly is the case here. Studies are one thing -- results are another.

Iíve never been into those message board wars of people cutting and pasting studies to try and prove their point. I sayÖ.make the point. Donít just say that so and so said so or somebody wrote a book or did a study and I should listen to what they have to say. Explain
your reasoning!

And thatís what I did here. So letís look at some of these supposed benefits of fasting and see how they hold up to logical examination.


Right here, there is some debate. How long is a fast? 24 hours? 48 hours. 15? The truth of the matter is the body is essentially in a fasted state every time youíre hungry. And you should get hungry several times a day. Unfortunately, too often the American way of eating is to eat until youíre full and then when you can eat again Ö.you eat again. That puts tremendous stress on the liver, kidneys and pancreas. So giving your body a break from food now and then is a good idea. The question is, how long is good and how long is too much? Some fasting advocates that the ďmagicĒ doesnít start until after 72 hours. Maybe so, but I can guarantee that whatever benefits come from that are far outnumbered by the deleterious effects.


The bottom line with weight/fat loss is that it can not happen unless you get hungry. Thatís when weight loss occurs. Embrace it! If you want to lean out you must be able to tolerate some hunger now and then. And thatís more a case of recognizing the fact that hunger isnít always a matter of needing food. Itís a matter of feeling ďcomfort.Ē We eat for pleasure as much, if not more, than we eat for sustenance. One method to avoid overeating is to simply get distracted. Stay busy! Itís amazing how when you focus on something, suddenly youíre no longer thinking about food. Another trick that works for me is to drink seltzer or club soda. Besides being a fluid, the carbonation provides a feeling of fullness without any calories. Always try to make it to the hour or half hour before grabbing that snack. More often than not youíll find you donít need it.

One old school tactic for getting lean is to simply skip breakfast. But wait a minute...isnít breakfast ďthe most important meal of the day?Ē Says who? Think about it, if you eat dinner at 7:00 and have a snack at 9:00 then in the morning, have a cup of coffee until lunch, well, thatís a 15 hour fast! And it isnít torture. Do that every other day and youíre sure to lean out --as long as you donít binge later in the day, which is quite possible when going too long being hungry. That too happens when people come off of a fast.


This next statement is the crux to the entire issue, attention.


Always remember... your body doesnít care what you want to look like. It only knows self preservation and will respond according to what it experiences. Once you go longer than 24 hours without food it detects a famine. And itíll do what it must to survive.

So keeping that in mind, letís look at some of the so called benefits that occur while in a fasted state. One thing people experience is that they are no longer hungry. Another is that they suddenly have a lot of energy. ďOh wow! That must mean all the toxins are leaving my body!Ē Nope. The reason you have no appetite and have energy is because your bloodstream is being flooded with adrenaline! And why? Because the body doesnít know that thereís food in the refrigerator or that thereís a Chick Fil-A down the block. As far as it knows you still live in a cave and if it needs food itís going to give you the energy to go get it. Go find something, kill it and eat it! Unfortunately, adrenaline is very catabolic. It absolutely destroys muscle. Itís a stress hormone that is released in a state of panic. And that is something that has its own studies to prove the point. Curiously, adrenaline secretion drops off after 72 hours of fasting. One may interpret that as a good thing. But keep in mind, the body will run out of its self preserving capabilities after a while. If there is no more adrenaline, itís a sign that the vital functions are beginning to fail. For that reason alone youíd want to avoid being in that state. But thereís more...


This is one that seems perplexing -- until you take a closer look. Every study that shows being in a fasted state improves brain function was done on animals. Now, how can they tell their cognitive ability has been heightened? Are they asking them trigonometry questions? The way they test the intelligence of a rat is to put it in a maze and see how long it takes to figure out where the food is. Well, is it any wonder that the fasted rat finds it more quickly than a well fed rat? Itís fucking starving!


If youíve ever experienced hypoglycemic symptoms you know it isnít pleasant. Dizziness, weakness, lethargy. That isnít because your muscles donít have enough sugar, itís because your brain doesnít. It MUST have glucose. Now people on carb restricted diets may claim they do alright without carbs, but in that case the body is running on ketones (not exactly healthy, but thatís a topic for another time), yet, the brain is still getting glucose and without carbs itís getting it from protein. Protein will convert to glucose just not nearly as well as carbs, but again, in a state of survival, the body will do what it has to do. Nevertheless, the body always prefers carbs for fuel. Incidentally, some people would never dare eat a cookie, but they eat rice, potatoes , oatmeal etc. Well, all that turns to glucose within the hour! It has other nutrients and fiber whereas plain sugar is nutritionally valueless, and sugar will spike insulin levels causing more fat storage, but as far as the body is concerned in regard to fuel, it isnít that much of a difference. People think fructose isnít as bad as cane sugar because it isnít quite as ďhigh glycemicĒ but itís worse in other ways. Fructose, and corn syrup will dramatically increase triglyceride levels leading to hardening of the arteries. Obviously sugar should be kept to a minimum. Nonetheless, thereís no secret formula or magical combination to weight loss, better health or more effective bodybuilding other than eating wholesome food, emphasizing protein and not over eating.


So weíve established that the first source of energy is carbohydrates because they are what are most easily converted to glucose. Carbs have 4 calories per gram. Itís important to keep that in mind. Iíll explain in a moment.

You may have heard theories about doing cardio on an empty stomach so that you no longer have carbs in the bloodstream. But it would take quite a while before absolutely no carbs are present. But in a fasted state, that could happen. And itíll take approximately 24 hours of zero food.

So assuming you use all the carbs in your system, the body still needs fuel. Therefore, what will it use for fuel at that point? Fat? WRONG!

Thatís a common belief -- or should I say, the hope and wish.

For one thing, if the body is attempting to protect itself, since weíve established that its main priority is survival, it will actually hoard fat since fat protects organs and is used for long duration activity. You burn more fat walking a mile than running a mile -- because it takes longer. And fat is 9 calories per gram, so in essence, it requires more effect to be put into use. Besides, thereís another 4 calorie per gram food source -- protein. And what on the body is protein? MUSCLE! As well as skin and cardiac tissue. (*It should be stated that people who are anorexic often die of heart failure before they die of malnutrition). And if youíre a bodybuilder youíve got plenty of muscle to spare. But is that what you want? To give up muscle?


You may have heard this term regarding fasting. Autophagy is the body's way of cleaning out damaged cells, in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells, at least according to nutritionist Priya Khorana. (By the way, a degree in nutrition requirement is just a regular 4 year B.S.). Anyway, ďAutoĒ means self and ďphagyĒ means eat. So the literal meaning of autophagy is ďself-eating.Ē In other words, itís catabolism. One of the claims is that old muscle cells die and new ones are made. Sure -- that happens all the time in daily life. Cells die, cells regenerate. The process slows as we age, yet continues until we stop living. But for bodybuilding performance purposes, we want the most re-generation we can get. In short, we want more cell growth than cell loss. Thatís the BUILD part in ďbodybuilding.Ē There does seem to be certain supposed health benefits associated with Autophagy such as a ďdetoxingĒ and the release of growth hormone. But itís very difficult, if not impossible, to measure accurately. Then again, lots of things release toxins, including sweating and defecating. And lots of things release GH, including squatting and taking a nap.


As one goes along studying and examining any topic, there comes a better understanding, and along with that is the tendency to think on a deeper level. But when extraordinary expertise is achieved where one comes full circle and things are once again simplified. You see through the extraneous factors and get down to the heart of the matter. So letís get back to basics and take a look at how muscle is really built and break it down in common sense terms. In this way, we can better analyze the results of fasting.


Muscle is made bigger and stronger through the process of nitrogen retention. Simply put, you absorb aminos and they repair muscle tissue. The more the muscle tissue has been broken down from exercise, the more the body will utilize protein to rebuild it. The more protein that is available, the more potential muscle growth. This is so simple that many people think they understand it when in fact, they have it all wrong.

It isnít so much the amount of protein that we ingest that is a factor. Itís the availability that counts. When food passes through the small intestines the vili grabs nutrients in a very ďcatch as catch canĒ manner. Most food leaves the body as waste. So even though you may have eaten a big steak, the time it takes to pass through the intestines might just be a couple of hours, whereas there are 24 hours of potential absorption of protein and hence, potential muscle growth. This is why the old time bodybuilders believed in eating small meals throughout the day, plus taking amino acid tablets in-between meals. It was also a practice to take them first thing in the morning and even if they woke up in the middle of the night. They didnít want to waste an opportunity to get protein to the muscles!

Incidentally, I developed a product called GEAR which had a unique form of instantly absorbable aminos. It was meant to be taken in-between meals and it worked great! Using it regularly resulted in a visible advantage. But it was simply too cost prohibitive so it was unfortunately discontinued. A shame.