Yes it is. I stated in an earlier post that one of my objectives is to push the boundaries. I once fasted for six days, running 12 miles on the 6th morning, that’s pretty fringe right? Why did I do that? To prove to myself that I could, to show to others that you don’t have to eat every three hours of face death, to provide a counter-argument to the idea that you have to eat within xxxx hours of working out or face loss of muscle. I’ve been working out in a fasted state for over a year, I have kept my muscle tone, and even improved upon it during that time.
Next up, fast for 3 days, then run 32 miles. Crazy right? Why would anyone do that? To prove that it can be done, that you can run that distance on body fat alone (I’ve ran a 32 mile race before, after 14 hours of fasting and nothing but a few sips of water during it, I’ve also ran marathons after 24 hours of fasting, crazy right?). Someone needs to work to counter-act the message from supplement and food manufacturers, you DON’T need gatorade during a marathon, you DON’T have to carb up before a long run, you CAN do so much more than you think!
Science isn’t “known”, it’s not complete, you don’t “write the science in a book” close the book and file it away, it doesn’t work like that.
In addition, studies often focus on the median results, half will above, have will be below, which leaves a lot of room for outliers/those who don’t “fit” into the results. When adding that to the fact that we are (if not closely genetically related) biologically different (often in extreme) it leads me to believe that when I do an experiment (like fasting 15 days back in April and feeling great 80% of that time) and have good results (my spouse has used long fasts to drop weight, lower blood sugar response to eating, get off metformin) then THAT, the N=1 is more important to me than Phinney’s opinion (god bless him, love his stuff!) or the results of a study that may or may not represent me.
For example, Tim Noakes used to SWEAR by carb loading before a long run, now he’s all about the keto (he has a great book about how he’s changed his views over the years, good stuff) and he’s changed his mind about liquid consumption during long runs as well, really neat to see someone so willing to change their mind when the science didn’t support their POV.
I respect your opinion, I don’t deny that I might be wrong but, my personal experience is not invalidated by academics.
I don’t want to get into a flame war, but Phinney produces 5 studies that have not been contradicted in decades. Nobody’s doing research into fasting because we already know the results.
This is not my opinion, it’s scientific fact. It is known, like gravity and climate change. You may not like it, but it’s known.
Most of the stuff you’ve said above is not in contention. We’ve all worked out in a fasted state. That’s not particularly crazy, not for us keto freaks. What’s crazy is, imho, fasting for much longer than 48 hours and denying that the science exists. The science doesn’t say you’ll feel bad, or that you won’t be able to work out: it says you’ll lose LBM fairly rapidly and see a dropoff in your metabolic rate.
N=1 is, frankly, a silly concept, and completely meaningless unless you have a DEXA every day that you’re fasting beyond 48 hours. If you’d like to do that, please – it would be interesting to see a “N=1” showing no dropoff in LBM while fasting.
One query: you say you fasted for 15 days in April and felt great 80% of the time. Does that mean you felt the opposite of great 20% of the time?
Low energy last night, I drew an epsom salt bath for the spouse, she had a rough day at work. I am blessed in that I don’t have to “go to work” much during this time period, keeping stress levels down makes a big difference in my experiences. We both took mag before bed and slept deeply. Experience tells me that I’ll soon be waking up after 4-5 hours of sleep. Hunger = 2/10, made lunch for kid, didn’t require much willpower not to pop a slice of cucumber/turkey in the mouth, food is good but it’s not irresistible (it’s not uncomon for me to hit a point where I can look at recipes/videos for hours and not be bothered by hunger levels).
Today: Up normal time, little groggy at first due to mag last night (common reaction for me).
2 mile run, light set of weights (to keep muscle tone, reduce loss of lean/muscle tissue?)
3 cups black coffee
Mental clarity = 10/10
Energy = 8/10
Hunger = 2/10
All in all, a good start to the fast, the hunger has been dropping and the “I can’t do this, what was I thinking” was nowhere near as bad as previous fasts (maybe the pre-fasting regiment had too many carbs or too much alcohol?). We’ll see how long it takes before the “I can do this forever” mode kicks in.
Tips and tricks:
GET YOUR SODIUM!
Want something with flavor due to water/coffee getting “old” try some lemon juice in a lacruiox, it will break the monotony.
Get used to drinking black coffee (if you drink it at all) before the long fast, don’t cut too many things and expect it to be easy. For example, I find that long fasts reduce my desire for a monster (not that I drink many of them) or other fake sugar drinks I even lost all desire for sugarless gum after one five day fast. If you go cold turkey on too many variables, you crank up the difficulty level exponentially.
Have things to do/focus on that are not too physical but aren’t just sitting in front of the TV. Try to get lots of motion, we are staining the back deck later this week and then measuring/designing the kitchen upgrade, things of this nature keep your mind off food and keep the blood flowing.
Have a support system. I am blessed that the spouse is doing this as well (in fact, I’d say she’s overtaken me in this process, not that it’s a competition). If you don’t have to tell people at work/neighbors etc, don’t tell them, they will freak! Spouse is taking a lunch container to work each day so her co-workers (in a small office setting, they notice everything!) won’t give her too much grief.
Eat keto/LOTS of fat and little/to no alcohol in the days leading up to the fast. I had beer the day before beginning a five day fast, most miserable experience of my life, still went five days but the first 3 were brutal!
Won’t happen with me. We can have a good discussion without that (I know it’s rare).
You are correct in that the process you listed would be the “gold standard” and that, given enough time and resources, it would be very helpful to do that BUT, I would suggest that even if I did that, the results would only be applicable to ME (or the person doing the experiment). IMHO, this is where the N=1 is valuable, it tells ME what’s applicable to ME, no need to “control the variables due to XXX differences” no need to explain motivations behind the study (Sooooo much is wrong with soooo many studies, they are general guidelines to me, not doctrine/gospel). When I do an N=1 on me, it’s repeatable and valid data for me, I don’t suggest that it is information that anyone/everyone can/should apply.
I felt like death warmed over 10% of the time and “MEH” 10% of the time. That experience followed fairly “normal” trends for me. What I have found is that the body takes longer to produce energy from stored body fat. What I mean is this, when you eat, you may experience more energy within hours. When fasted, it’s common to feel rough/tired/low energy, to get up and start moving around and, almost if by magic, start feeling energetic/better than before. I would seem the body is keeping energy stores at a minimum until an energy demand is place on it.
I can’t prove this in any way but I also think that we generate energy more quickly from ingested food/calories, than we do from stored body fat, hence Phinney and Volecks suggestion to work out in a fasted state but to do a slow warm up of 30 minutes or so before getting down and dirty, possibly due to that slower “burn” when it comes to body fast stores?
I’ve had this discussion before and I’ll say it again, I don’t disagree that I might lose LBM while fasting, I’m ok with that. I’ll also lose body fat, improve insulin response, reduce the size of lipomas (one in my thigh started out the size of a golf ball, it seems to be 1/2 the size now), and, hopefully, reduce my chance of alzheimers (Father’s mother died from this) and Parkinsons (Mother’s mother died from this) via autophagy. Even if all else fails, knowing I could survive this long without daily food intake, it’s a hell of a mental boost, supporting my philosophical leanings and minimalist tendencies.
Lastly, this proves nothing but here’s a picture after 15 days of fasting. Seeing that I worked out that morning (crossfit routine with low weights) I think that I was successful in keeping most tone/LBM, workouts in the following weeks were not substantially impacted (I was able to keep working out at the same level). I know this is purely anecdotal and it isn’t a dexa scan or other test but hey, I’m freaking cheap!
Yeah well you have abs, so I shouldn’t be giving you health advice. Nevertheless, I’ll be sticking with Phinney’s advice and limiting any fasts to <48h. I suspect if we did a DEXA on you before and after a multi-day (if not multi-week) fast, we’d find a marked reduction in both BF and LBM. Who knows? Maybe that works for you and maybe you find it easy to maintain definition, so who really cares if you drop some muscle mass?
Meanwhile, I’d be interested in your input on my situation. I can’t seem to drop far below 80kg. I need to be below 74kg (74 is my happy weight, but I still have enough BF% at that weight to be able to drop substantially more fat and get defined.) I’m WELL away from talking about muscle definition: at this point, I need to get to the point where I don’t have a noticeable gut. Here’s the thread where I talk about this; your input would be welcome: The last 10 pounds
I hesitated to post that picture because I value my privacy and I don’t subscribe to the “that guy looks healthy, he MUST know what he’s doing” mentality (see a big dude in the gym and ask him “what’s your stack”…). I assure you I was not trying to “win” the conversation or put a stop to it, I value other points of view and realize that I could be wrong about just about anything we are discussing.
I see this as a process, not a singular event. If I lose some LBM/Muscle mass during this time, I’ll put it back on in the month or so afterwards, when I’ll be doing a more standard “bulk”.
Also, I run and do light weight full body sets during my fasts, I believe that minimizes loss of LBM and maximizes fat loss/autophagy via the bodies use of old cells/mitochondria/proteins.
I read through your thread and if you were a local client (I am an ACSM certified personal trainer who works one on one with folks in my area) here is what I would suggest:
Don’t stress about the plateau, take 7-10 days to eat full on keto and follow the “basics” (Eat less than 20g carbs, best if that’s total/the “correct” amount of protein for your weight/LBM, and fat to satiety). Stop eating at 80% full and, if you find you are still hungry 30 minutes later, eat a little more. DO not gorge yourself, break meals up into small proportions if you have to. Gorging may cause insulin spikes due to the stomach extension (this may be why lapband surgery reduces insulin?).
Consider doing a highly restrictive diet such as bacon/sausage/eggs/olive oil/butter/coconut oil only for 7-10 days, then slowly add in other foods to see what your triggers are (those things you can’t stop eating once you start, for me it’s peanut butter) and see if it’s a food item that is causing the stall.
Ensure you are consuming as little fake sugars as possible (ACE K may be the worst?) as they could be sabotaging you.
Make sure you are getting plenty of sleep!
Push your fasting windows as long as you can. This is 100% anecdotal BUT, I was training for marathons and eating carbs but as little sugar as possible and could not drop below 180. Once I stopped eating until 1600 each day, working out/running each morning at 0800, I dropped 20 pounds in 3 months. I was still eating carbs at this point. I still follow a similar protocol but I eat full keto these days for the mental impact and due to the fact that my A1C was in the pre-diabetic range.
Don’t fixate on weight on any specific day. It’s ok to weigh in daily and be mindful of your range but there are so many variables that impact that number, we shouldn’t get too focused on them, take it from someone whose weight went UP on day 5 of a 7 day fast, that’s when I realized that the scale number didn’t mean much in the short run. After being a fitness nerd for years, I’m finally at the point that others have talked about, I don’t weigh in but once every few months, I use non-scale indicators like the fit of my pants etc. to monitor where I’m at. If I’m bloated and feel like crud, time for a 3 day fast, if I’m lean and hungry, I eat amounts of food that make people around me nervous.
Mix in some long/slow walks with some HIIT. Not on the same day of course. A “true” HIIT workout will leave you gassed and the only thing you’ll want to do the next day is the long/slow stuff, that’s fine.
Start to watch your calories. In my opinion, it’s not CICO UNLESS you have conquered the insulin beast, after which time (insulin is under control and spikes are minimal due to lower carbs in the diet) we MAY have to drop calories (while keeping fat high) to reduce pounds, not sure on this, I think it’s highly individual.
Yep, I mean I still maintain that the science isn’t with you on this one… it’s going to be hard for you to prevent muscle loss when you’re not taking in any protein.
Thanks very much for all the suggestions. Peanut butter used to be my demon too! I’ve since cut it out, and nearly 3 weeks ago I cut out ALL sweeteners. I may have finally taught myself how to enjoy coffee without additional flavour!
I decided today to start tracking macros and calories using MFP. Just tracking could help. I may try zero carb for a week as you suggest, that could help too. Sleep is a challenge - I’m seeing docs about it, fairly low quality sleep. I usually fast till 1-3pm each day apart from black coffee. Sometimes later.
Will def try alternative HIIT with walks. May also try a 48 hour fast at some point.
I’m lucky in that I had no really bad biomarkers before (except on/off issues with fatty liver/liver biomarkers being slightly elevated due to weight). My sugars weren’t a problem, although I suspect if I’d done an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test I’d have failed it, like most people. My HbA1c is 4.8, fasting glucose in the 80s, although nobody’s ever thought to check my fasting insulin.
If you have any further thoughts, let me know. And I’ll let you know when I’ve started dropping fat again!
Gabe, have to laugh - I was going to say that a 48 hour fast would be a good compromise, since autophagy really gets going on the 2nd and 3rd day…
I have to disagree on autophagy - it definitely is a thing, Phinney or no. It’s a very important function for all living cells, a quality control mechanism for recycling damaged or defective proteins and cellular components. Christian de Duve, who coined the term “autophagy,” won a Nobel Prize in 1974 for discovering the lysosome, which is where the breaking down of the old stuff occurs.
Yoshinori Ohsumi won a Nobel Prize in 2016 for his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy.
I do think that some lean body mass will start going after 48 hours, even after 24 hours or so - that’s autophagy getting to work on stuff the body is better off without. For longer term fasting and weight loss, skin is a big factor. Think of concentration camp victims who lost huge amounts of weight - usually there was no excess skin hanging around. Our skin is roughly 1/6 of our body weight.
I’d add that skin is made up of protein, fats, and collagen, and the way I understand it, those are all things that the body will re-purpose (break down and use the constituent parts to make new cells) during an extended fast. Good point about concentration camp victims, it supports the idea.
I agree BUT, don’t get too fixated on them and don’t beat yourself up if over/under. Studies have shown that calorie amounts listed are often off by various degrees AND the BMR rates/rate at which our bodies burn calories is highly dependent on a tremendous number of variable like temperature/energy state/amount of various nutrients present in food and so on. Bottom line, it’s not an exact science, intake and calorie burn is more of a moving goalpost.
That sucks, I’m very sleep driven, a bad night of sleep and I’m “off” for 2-3 days. I ask this a lot, have you tried magnesium before bed? It often helps.
Studies indicate that fasting more than 24 hours raises andrenaline and HGH (which makes since, 20K years ago, if a caveman didn’t eat for three days the body compensated by increasing those so grog would have the energy to chase down dinner) which means that working out in a fasted state (say work out after 24 hours fasting and eat later that day or after 48 hours of fasting) should be an optimum work out condition.
Good numbers, I have to beg to get fasting insulin tests done, I appear to be healthy so what do I care what my A1C is or fasting insulin… medicine today… that’s a subject for another post.
I’ve got a little more free time today (and lots of mental clarity/energy due to fasting) so I’m doing a deep dive on the concept of LBM loss during a fast. I’m going to go back over some stuff and try to clearly state what is currently known/thought about the subject, I’ll try and post something of substance later today.
What really makes sense to me is that the more body fat we have, the less likely we are to burn good lean tissue. If one is down close to the normal lower limits on body fat, then if the body feels that “starvation” is the deal, and that it needs to burn lean tissue to keep the brain, heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, etc. going, then yes - it’s going to do it.
I picture it as an exponential deal where LBM loss is zero or close to it when very substantially overweight, negligible when moderately overweight, and then really ramping up as one approaches 4 to 10% body fat for men, and 10 to 20% for women. I’m picking the lower end of those ranges as where it’s “essential fat” that’s necessary for the proper physiological operation of our bodies.
I listened to Dr. Phinney’s presentation, and he says that after so many days (30?) the lean body mass loss declines to 1/3 lb. per day, whereas it starts out at 3/4 lb. per day on the 2nd or 3rd day of a fast.
There must be further moderation of this, or else it’s not entirely healthy muscle mass. Consider the guy who fasted for 382 days, going from 456 lbs. to 180 lbs. Never have seen anything to indicate he had lost valuable lean mass or was in any way “lacking in muscle” at 180 lbs.
@ron-coleman fasted for 46 days, and @JorgePasada went 60 days, and I didn’t see any concern or mention of LBM losses that were of any concern.
I’ve lost 50 lbs. with a lot of fasting, anywhere from 1 day to 5 days, over the past 5 months, and while I’ve never had any body scans, etc., for lean mass, my grip strength is exactly the same, as measured by the ‘Captains of Crush’ grippers that I’ve got. More subjectively, once in a while I lift heavy and awkward stuff in the course of my job, gas cylinders, our own equipment, etc., stuff in the 110-160 lb. range, and I feel the same as ever.
(I am a Dog (Dog's eat until they burst!))
@gabe, I see you would like some science to show that a person does not burn excessive muscle (protein) during an extended fast. Dr. Jason Fung has an entire Blog post entitled “Fasting and Muscle Mass” that you can check out with numerous studies referenced for you.
This graph shows the nutrients that are oxidized (burned) during a 30-day fast. It is easy to see that glucose oxidation goes way down as we would all expect and protein oxidation goes down significantly as well. In a fasted state our bodies burn mostly fat and ketones.
From “Comparative Physiology of Fasting, Starvation, and Food Limitation,” Dr. Kevin Hall, NIH
Another interesting chart is from Dr. George Cahill, the father of starvation (fasting) research in the 1960’s into early 2000’s:
This chart shows the amount of urea, the result of oxidizing protein, decreases very dramatically when in a fasted state.
I encourage you to read the blog and check out the other studies he uses to show that fasting does not result in major muscle loss. I will conclude with this quote from his post:
BlockquoteMuscle gain/ loss is mostly a function of EXERCISE. You can’t eat your way to more muscle. Supplement companies, of course, try to convince you otherwise. Eat creatine (or protein shakes, or eye of newt) and you will build muscle. That’s stupid. There’s one good way to build muscle – exercise. So if you are worried about muscle loss – exercise. It ain’t rocket science. Just don’t confuse the two issues of diet and exercise. Don’t worry about what your diet (or lack of diet – fasting) is doing to your muscle. Exercise builds muscle. OK? Clear?
Good stuff everyone, love the dialog and the open minded points of view.
My paver contractor showed up out of the blue today and I have been outside for most of the day. I’m getting a really good deal on replacing an older section but it involves me doing some of the work. Doing demo on a paver deck is not a lot of fun four days into a fast BUT, I think the moderate level of exercise will continue to ensure HGH/andrenlanie will stay eleveated, preventing LBM loss and keeping things rolling.
I’ll have to post another update and my analysis of the Phinney video later this weekend.