Fasting is an ancient human practice. Throughout history, humans have practiced the art of fasting for many different reasons, including health and religious. Recently, there has been a surge in the popularity of fasting for weight loss.
While there are many advocates for fasting being a healthy choice, there are as many people who believe it is an unhealthy decision. It is important to note that not everything you may hear about fasting and your health may be true.
Some myths ought to be taken with a grain of salt. The points here aim to provide some clarity on these.
Skipping breakfast is bad
You were probably raised to believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Many nutritionists further this by saying that skipping breakfast increases your likelihood of gaining weight.
It is widely believed that not eating breakfast will lead to cravings and excessive hunger, thus resulting in weight gain. However, a recent study showed that breakfast does not cause weight gain or weight loss. Rather, it is a personal preference. If you prefer to eat breakfast, then you should.
If you do not like eating breakfast, there is no evidence stating it is an absolute necessity. It is important for children and teenagers to eat breakfast, as it is linked to better performance in school.
Frequent meals speed up metabolic rate
In the 1950s, most people believed three meals a day was a sufficient amount of food to keep healthy. This was a widely held belief until modern dieticians made it the trend to eat five to six meals a day.
The belief behind this was that frequent eating made your metabolism faster. While your body does use up some calories to digest a meal, if there is not enough time between meals, your body has no time to burn the fat stores, therefore making no difference in your weight. It is also highly dependent on how much you eat.
Eating six meals of 500 calories each burns the same number of calories during digestion as eating three meals of 1000 calories each. Additionally, to lose weight, there needs to be a caloric deficit of about 500 calories per day. So, ensure your intake is lower than what you burn each day.
Fasting puts you in survivor mode
A common argument used against fasting as a healthy option is that it puts your body into starvation mode. What this argument claims is that starvation mode causes your metabolism to shut down, thus storing fat rather than burning it.
While your weight loss may slow down over time, this occurs no matter which weight loss program you subscribe to. There is evidence that intermittent fasting can boost your metabolism, as a result of the drastic increase of norepinephrine in your bloodstream.
This chemical instructs your cells to breakdown fat. Studies show that fasting for up to 48 hours can boost your metabolic rate by 3.6%-14%. However, longer periods of fasting may have the opposite effect.
Fasting makes you lose muscle
Many people believe that fasting makes your body burn muscle for fuel. Once you have no more, or very small fat stores, your body starts dipping into another protein source. While this does occur, it occurs with all types of weight loss programs, and there is no evidence that it happens more with intermittent fasting.
There are even studies that show intermittent fasting actually helps maintain muscle mass. Further studies show an increase in muscle mass for people who consume all their calories in one large evening meal.
It is also good to note that intermittent fasting is popular amongst bodybuilders, who find that it maintains high muscle mass and low body fat percentage.