Is fasting for you? Or anyone, for that matter? Some important pointers before you go on your fasting tour!
Fasting – Fad Or Not?
The fasting fad seems to still hold ground throughout the fitness community, so I figured I’d cover a few objections I have with it as a strategy.
I’ll start with social pressures, move onto the misinformation, and lastly cover the mental health issues it can cause or be a symptom of.
The first problem with fasting has little to do with how you and your brain cope with it. Much rather, it’s that you are embarking on a journey most people will frown upon. Even actively sabotage it.
Because most of them don’t subscribe to a diet with gigantic breaks between each meal, or even entire days without food. In society as a whole, most people eat more than once per day.
You get a never-ending supply of people, time constraints (restaurants open when “regular” people eat), and events that’ll try to push you off track.
Fasting, like all fitness fads, comes with its own catalogue of myths. Some are the garden variety, like “losing fat and gaining muscle more easily/at the same time.” Some are more in the way of “Ancient Caucasian Secrets” causing “chemically enhanced levels of hormones to flood your body.”
But what can hormones really do for you?
Yes, maybe fasting influences your hormones and it’ll improve your mood and give your more drive to work out. But for body recomposition (less fat, more muscle) the most important factor is how you “hit your numbers,” diet-wise and in the efficiency of your training.
If you aren’t eating below your kcal numbers, you won’t lose weight. Two days of fasting get you into calorie deficit land, but what if you make more than up for it during the other five? And if you don’t do workouts tailored to your needs, a lot of good the improved drive will do you. You’ll just do the wrong stuff with more enthusiasm.
Fasting Can Be A Destructive Behavior
I mentioned mental illness. Yes, fasting is a possible sign that someone is suffering from an eating disorder. Because sometimes it’s a deviant behavior that’s picked up when someone wants to take excessive control over their body or their life.
People who excessively fast fall under the category of “pathogenic weight control behaviors” and that’s as bad as it sounds. How many athletes excessively measure their food, have a body fat caliper at hand at all times or see fat where there is no fat? Sometimes these are the first signs of an eating disorder and fasting is closely associated with them. For professionals in the field I recommend this book.
That’s not to say that you get a guarantee for an eating disorder when you go fasting. A healthy measure of control for optimum performance isn’t wrong. But you should critically check if you are taking it too far before picking up an unnecessary risk.
Check Your Reasons, Then Fast (Or Not)
Yes, I’m very critical of fasting. Unless your religion necessitates it, I wouldn’t recommend it. Even then, be aware of the possible risks.
Fasting is not the end all to your health and weight problems. When you contemplate fasting, check your reasons and make sure you are doing it for the right reasons and it’ll actually help you.
If your diet is inconsistent / lacking, critically looking at your methods and looking for outside resources might be the way to go about things. If it’s training, don’t be afraid to ask for help, either. If you’re not making the progress you feel you could be, there’s probably something you’re missing that someone else might be aware of.
Leave Your Questions!
Hopefully this was of some use and raised awareness as to how damaging and unnecessary fasting can be as a strategy. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them down below. If you find what I write to be valuable, please consider donating a Twitter retweet to spread my work around. Thanks!
Picture courtesy of Paul Rysz.