Fasting can help you lose fat and gain muscle. But we won’t mislead you — losing fat and gaining muscle are two diametrically opposed goals. One requires a caloric surplus, the other a deficit. Any hype about doing both at the same time is plainly hype. After all, the law of thermodynamics states that all matter and energy is constant, which tells you that it’s simply impossible to gain weight unless you take in an over consumption of calories. It’s non-negotiable. It’s the law of thermodynamics. Not an idea. Not a theory. The law, sure as gravity.
What you can do, however, is lose fat while still preserving lean muscle mass. Or, on the opposite end, you can add muscle mass while maintaining your relative body fat percentage — that is, adding lean muscle mass. Fasting assists with both.
These sections look more closely at how exactly fasting helps you to build muscle more efficiently and lose fat more effortlessly.
Don’t try to do everything at once. Of course you may want to build muscle and lose fat at the same time. Who wouldn’t? But things don’t necessarily work that way. Focus on one thing first. That is, your first goal should be to have just one goal.
Burning more fat
When you take a break from eating, your body burns more fat. So yes, not eating — perhaps the most classically employed method of weight loss — in almost all cases, is still the safest and soundest option for weight loss.In order to understand how fasting assists in the process of burning fat, we need to first explain how fat burning works. To burn body fat, you must get fatty acids out from hiding (out from stored body fat, that is) and into the bloodstream (a process known as lipolysis). You can initiate lipolysis in a couple ways:
But you’re not done yet. The fatty acids must then be burnt off (a process known as oxidation) in the mitochondria of your muscle cells. After the fatty acids are burnt off, they’re dead. Gone for good. Sayonara.
Fasting increases lipolysis through a sort of default. That is, as soon as your body is done digesting its last meal, it then begins lipolysis for sustained energy, releasing fatty acids into the bloodstream. This process may start to happen as early as two hours into a fast. The longer you fast, the more fatty acids are released into your bloodstream — up to a point, of course.
But again, releasing fat into the bloodstream isn’t enough. Eating too soon may actually drive those fatty acids back into storage in a process known as re-esterification. To ensure that the fatty acids are burned up, you must
stretch your fasting periods to various lengths, to allow the oxidation process to take place. If you really want to kill fat dead, then you ought to add exercise into the fasted state. (Refer to the “Amplifying the effects of exercise” section later in this chapter for more information.)
In 2005, the American Society for Clinical Nutrition featured a study on alternateday fasting — which is a full fast every other day — on no nobesesubjects. After 22 days, the subjects lost, on average, 2.5 percent of their body mass. What’s more interesting is that they lost, on average, 4 percent of their initial fat mass.
Making muscle gain easer
Fasting along with exercise during your fasting state can also help your body put on muscle. The human body has a special protein called mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR for short). Many experts now refer to it as the muscle-building gene, because recent research shows that it regulates the construction and rejuvenation of muscle tissue.
When mTOR is activated, it triggers muscle hypertrophy (an increase in muscle size) through an increase in protein synthesis (how your body turns protein into muscle tissue). Basically when mTOR is on, it helps you build muscle. But you can go overboard. If mTOR is on too much, it loses its potency, can become hyperactive, and bad things can start to happen (over- active mTOR activity has been linked to irregular cell growth and various forms of cancer).
Two things can activate mTOR:
The hormone insulin: The pancreas secretes Because insulin is a blood sugar regulator, it’s released whenever you eat and serves to shuttle nutrients into cells.
Too much insulin (chronically elevated levels of insulin) is a dele- terious dilemma and may lead to a host of malaises, not limited to, but including
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Heart disease
- Insulin resistance
- Various forms of cancer
Intense exercise: Intense exercise actually activates mTOR by first sup- pressing When you begin to exercise, mTOR is inhibited, suppressed like a spring. After you finish exercising, mTOR is super-sensitive, hold- ing massive muscle-building potential. It’s ready to be released as soon as you consume food.
In order to increase mTOR’s muscle-making potential, you must first suppress it. And you suppress it by not eating. That way, when you do unleash it — either through eating, exercise, or a combination of the two — the effects are amplified.
If insulin is chronically elevated, you can grow quite insensitive to its effects — even to the point of developing diabetes. And because insulin activates mTOR, you can also lose your ability to gain muscle efficiently through chronically elevated levels of insulin.
You can call this the perpetual cycle of doom: The more you eat, the more insulin you produce and the less sensitive you become to it. The less sensi- tive you become to insulin, the more you need to get the same job done and the more insulin you produce. And the more insulin you produce . . . you get the point. So you can then deduce that if your aim is to build muscle, then eating more isn’t the best long-term solution.
You can never turn off insulin, but you can turn it down. Fasting is one of the best ways, if not the best way, to balance your insulin levels. If you control your insulin levels and bring them down to a more balanced level, you can become more sensitive to its effects. That is, you’ll need less insulin to get the job done, which can help you build muscle more efficiently.