I got a fast in today. It seemed to make sense. For some reason, I didn’t feel like eating when the time came for me to have my meals. I skipped Meal 1. Then I skipped my snack as well and it occurred to me, if I just skip Meal 2 on top of this, that’s a fast right there.
A refresher on fasting
By definition, fasting is the act of voluntarily not eating food for varying lengths of time. The keyword here is “voluntarily” as it underlines the difference between fasting and starvation. See a lot of people confuse fasting with ‘starvation’. Not the same thing!
The big picture…
Key to understanding the concept of fasting is an understanding of the term BMR. BMR stands for Basal Metabolic Rate. The Oxford Dictionary defines BMR as: The rate at which the body uses energy while at rest to maintain vital functions such as breathing and keeping warm.
Translation: You use energy no matter what you’re doing and this includes sleeping. BMR is the number of calories you’d burn if you stayed in bed all day. It’s the energy your body needs to keep you alive.
For us girls/women, this number is around 1,500 calories a day.
The problem with losing weight/staying lean, as you can guess already is that in a typical day, we tend to eat more than that. And that obviously leads to weight gain.
So… Weight loss occurs when you create a calorie deficit and weight gain happens when you take in a surplus or excess of calories. And we all know that to create a calorie deficit, you need to A) Exercise (higher expenditure) and B) diet (fewer calories in).
Now let’s talk numbers. If you spend 30 minutes on the treadmill doing a combination of steady rate cardio and HIIT, you will most probably burn around 250 – 300 calories (at least that’s the number I see with my cardio time and intensity and I run! I don’t walk). What this tells you is, if you’re eating 2,500 calories a day, it does not matter that you religiously do your 30 minutes of intense cardio at the gym everyday, you’ll still gain weight. You’ll lose weight only if you are eating 1,500 calories or less. That’s when doing cardio becomes meaningful.
Coming to how fasting works
We are talking about a 24-hour fast. And we are again going to talk numbers so hang on 😛 😛
If your daily calorie intake is 2000 calories or best-case scenario, you’re breaking even with your BMR (so 1,500 calories), a 24-hour fast creates a 1,500 – 2,000 calorie deficit! That’s the equivalent of 5 30-minute cardio sessions!
Even if you eat normally on the non-fasting days (so home food and maybe even fast food a couple of times!), you will lose weight provided that once you do a fast, you don’t make up for the calorie deficit you created with a single meal of your body weight in chocolate.
To get a fast in, it’s a two-step process.
1. Pick a time to have your last meal of the day
2. Eat again at the same time the next day
Right there, that’s a 24-hour fast. So, taking an example, if you had your last meal today at 7 p.m., to get a fast in, just don’t have anything to eat/drink with calories in it until 7 p.m. tomorrow. Sugar free gum is okay. You can drink water, green tea, coffee, diet coke and anything that’s ZERO calorie. There is no such thing as zero calorie food by the way, so no eating at all!
Drinking diet coke is not really healthy but for this purpose (weight loss and fasting), it works fine.
About your fears now!
So people tend to think fasting leads to things like headache, dizziness, weakness etc. In a normal healthy person, these things only happen when there is a drop in blood glucose below the normal range. The healthy human body is freakishly good at regulating blood glucose levels. More than we give it credit for.
The following is a study of the effect of fasting on young adults who have symptoms of hypoglycaemia the absence of frequent meals. Blood composition after 24 hours was normal. The participants were only affected psychologically.
As for the health benefits of fasting other than effective weight loss, I covered this in a previous post so I’m just linking to it.
Fasting is a weight loss technique I borrowed from the book Eat Stop Eat (by Brad Pilon). I say “borrow” because this is not exactly what Brad Pilon advocates (Eat Stop Eat is about fasting 1 or 2 times a week for 24 hours, in combination with weight training at least 3 times a week).
Meals of the day
Obviously, no meals 😛 😛 I just had water and coffee (twice).
30 minutes steady rate cardio at speed 8.7