Fasting for Fat Loss?

It’s been fifteen hours since my last meal of ‘zoodles’ (spiraled zucchini) with chicken sausage, bell peppers and marinara.  I am sitting in the waiting room of my hospital’s lab in hopes my number is called soon.  It’s time for my annual blood draw for my physical exam.  As my stomach grumbled, I can’t help but conjure up images of freshly baked sourdough bread after recently watching Michael Pollan’s documentary titled ‘Air’ based on his book Cooked (another series of books on my to-read list and topic of discussion for future posts.)

I was thankful the wait was only ten minutes.  The receptionist asked how I was doing and without hesitation I let him know I was hungry.  Several tubes later, I can eat! I grabbed the cashews I packed for a snack to tie me over before lunch while I made my way to the ground floor of the hospital where they had the walk-in flu shots.  While I’m here I might as well have my medical needs taken care of.

Since sourdough bread was on my mind, I checked out a nearby cafe, Bread and Cie that specializes in freshly baked bread.  The roast beef called out to me.  Unfortunately it sounded better than it tasted.  I should have opted for avocado on toast and a salad!

Roast Beef & Horseradish Cream With watercress and orange marinated red cabbage served on Sourdough White Bread.

As I sat down for lunch to satiate my appetite, I couldn’t help but think about the idea of fasting.  Particularly intermittent fasting or in short IF.  This notion has gained popularity as more people in the fitness realm are interested in its resulting health benefits ranging from fat loss to longevity.

What is intermittent fasting and is this something I should try? 

As I understand it, intermittent fasting is a set window of time scheduled for eating.  If I were to try it, I would follow a schedule of 16hrs fast and 8hrs eat.  So I would schedule my meals between 11-7pm daily, basically skipping breakfast.  This is just one option out of a variety of fasting options that can be done.  The fasting period can last up to 24hours and can be done daily, weekly, monthly or whatever combination of days work for you.

Many questions arise from this topic as the research is scant and still in the early stages. One comprehensive, unbiased study was done by Dr. John Berardi of Precision Nutrition where he went through six months of self-experimentation with different modes of intermittent fasting.  He recorded his experience and results that culminated in an e-book that’s been downloaded by thousands of people.  It’s an interesting read if you want to learn more about IF.  His experience yielded impressive positive results losing around 20lbs and 6% body fat while still maintaining his muscle mass.

Back to the question, is this a strategy I should try to achieve further fat loss?

According to Dr. Berardi, if you fit into any of these categories, it’s not a good idea as it will prove to be a challenge and as I see it can cause more harm than good:

– new to diet and exercise

– married and have kids

– performance oriented job

– compete in sports/athletics

I fit into two of these categories and after fasting for 15 hours for my blood draw, I’m not convinced it’s right for me.  Dr. Berardi  made an important point that a strict form of fasting can wreak havoc in the balance of women’s hormones, recommending to try a relaxed version or avoid it completely.  For a more detailed explanation of how female hormones are affected, check out this article from Precision Nutrition.

For now, I will stick with my current strategy for fat loss.  A slow process of making small changes to create healthy habits that I’ve been doing for a year and still in progress.  Maybe several years from now when the research is more solid, I can revisit this strategy to take advantage of its health benefits.

Have you tried intermittent fasting?  I’m interested in hearing your experience with it.

I am linking with Ilkasblog and Marathons and Motivation for their Sunday Food and Fitness.