Recently, someone on the interwebz told me they’d started fasting…and had gotten low thyroid/adrenal fatigue…so what should they do??
This video is my response to that… and all the other new health trends:
If you start doing the “new thing to do” but I ask “Why are you doing X?” and you say “I don’t know”… you need to take a step back and look at your GOALS.
Robb: So Nicki’s going to be really happy that I’m going on a trip here soon. So we were just chatting and Nicki’s like, “We should record this.” Great responses, getting a lot of comments on the stuff that we’ve done, but I’m noticing this threat where people are super confused and you know, should I do fasting? Should I do this, should I do keto? Should I do paleo? And almost uniformly, I ask these folks, “What’s your goal? What are you trying to do?” And they just kind of you know, metaphorically, or actually throw up their hands. They’re like, “I don’t actually know.” Like rarely is it a direct answer of, “I want to lose weight, or I want to do this, or I want to do that.” Often times, people are just flailing the fuck around and have no idea what they’re doing.
And I’m not criticizing them, I get it. Like, there’s a lot of information, there’s a lot of confusion. But if people just spend a little bit of time sitting down and delineated what do I want to do? I want to have great body composition. Okay, great. So does fasting 32 hours straight lead to great body composition? Generally, no. You’re going to lose a bunch of muscle mass in that period of time, comparatively. Now, you could lift weights during that time. There are some mitigating strategies, I know that there are some pretty popular people on the scene that insist that fasting is an anabolic state. It’s kind of bullshit. I’ll just put it out there.
Like, they’ve got their opinion, and I’ve got my opinion. If somebody is really focusing on body composition, at a minimum, if they’re really aggressive about this, I would use something like a protein sparing modified fast where they’re eating a lot of protein on a consistent basis, lifting weights, a full body, global exercise routine every single day. It’s going to suck. It’s going to be absolutely miserable, but it will affect some amazing body composition change. And it’s driving towards that goal. And you can also do a whole variety of other things that are less gnarly of an intervention, you have an adequate protein, probably about a gram of protein per pound of lean body mass per day, you know, basic dietary intervention which could be paleo or keto or however you want to do it. But make sure you get that protein, then introduce some al caloric deficit, and then lift weights multiple times a week.
Like if body composition is really the goal, folks are so wrapped around the axle of like, fasting and they have this sense that it’s a health benefit, and there probably is a health benefit, and if somebody is metabolically broken and they’ve historically been overweight. Probably an argument for doing some amount of fasting. But then at the end of the day, you need to learn how to make real meals and eat real food. This is one of my issues with fasting, is that it doesn’t actually teach people good eating habits. And also, there’s another cross section of people that are training very hard, they’re doing cross fit multiple times a week or something like that. And then they want to throw fasting on top of that, as some sort of a health benefit.
If you’re doing five or six days of week of pretty significant physical activity, you’re already exercising above what is normal for our species. Like this whole hunter/gatherer ancestral health model. Our ancestors were active, but they were not fucking CrossFit games competitors. And once you have that, you are … and I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing, but you’ve already kind of pushed the adaptation window of your body into a very, a tough state. Throwing fasting on top of that with some thought that that’s going to improve something is a mistake. This is losing some context there.
Just the act of exercise enhances autophagy, it mainly happens in the muscles, but it stimulates autophagy globally. In the background, I have a pot of coffee brewing. Coffee stimulates autophagy globally, throughout the whole body. And decaf works better, and as I’ve already needled the hipsters, dark roast works better than like medium roast. So anyway, I know that that was kind of a rambling grab bag of stuff, but I would really encourage people, particularly coaches that are working with people, ask people what their damn goals are. And really hold their feet to the fire to be clear about what the goals are. If you are confused, sit down and write down three or four, you know, perceived goals and then prioritize one of those. And then it really clears up a lot of the confusion. It cuts through a lot of the bullshit that people get hamstrung on when they’re trying to figure out, should I do this versus that.
One final thought, if you’re just going into this with the idea, “I want to see what ketosis is like, I’ve never done it before.” Great, that is a goal in and of itself. Experience is a goal in and of itself. But for the most part, what I’m finding is people are just flailing around and they really don’t have an expectation about what they’re doing, so there’s no way to assess if what they’re doing is actually providing benefit.
Hey, can I suggest that you read “The Complete Guide to Fasting,” by Dr. Jason Fung? He presents some pretty clear science that you do NOT get the muscle wasting during fasting that you get from calorie restriction. HGH goes up, metabolism increases, and muscle is spared.
Johnny Gotm says
Fung and the rest of the “anabolic fasting” entusiasts have blown the whole hgh thing way out of proportion.
In no way does “not eating” build muscle.
To build you need to
1) workout, ideally progressively with weights
2) eat food, ideally protein-rich meals
HGH doesn’t build muscle without a stimulus of adaptation (lifting weights). HGH CAN maintain muscle during a short fast. That’s the whole point. You aren’t building muscle but as a species, when there wasn’t the food availability that we have today, it would be bad if you go a couple days forging and hunting for food and losing significant amounts of muscle. That doesn’t happen. And the literature supports that. The problem that Robb Wolf has is not differentiating between “starving” and “fasting”.
STARVING is when you’re consuming calories to the point when your body is in a fed state but there aren’t enough calories to maintain muscle mass. FASTING is when you are in a fasted state. Biologically, these are completely different states with completely different biological reactions.
You don’t want to be in a fed state eating a miserable amount of calories. Muscle falls off of you. This doesn’t happen in nature because if you have access to food, you eat it. Humans have too much access to food so a lot of us are eating it and getting fat.
I disagree with Robb Wolf on this one. Fasting is generally good for most people. Taking a break from eating when most of the shit on grocery store shelves are processed bullshit is something most people need to do.
Nowhere does Fung say that fasting builds muscle, only that it’s preserved. I mean, think about it, from an evolutionary standpoint, it makes zero sense that if man/an animal starts to waste muscle mass when food is temporarily unavailable. If a human misses on the hunt that day & doesn’t eat, he doesn’t get weaker immediately -the body shores up it’s processes & actually bolsters HGH & immune production temporarily to help him survive. Dr Fungus findings make complete sense from an evolutionary standpoint. You may want to revisit his work, it’s very helpful in debunking modern myths that often inhibit our optimal functioning.
I think Fung is correct, Melissa. I have been doing multi-day fasts for the immune system health benefits, but also do lifting and am concerned with maintaining muscle. My last fast was four days, only consuming water and electrolytes. I tested body composition before and after and found that I actually GAINED .5% muscle, while losing fat. I did do a few light CrossFit workouts during the fast. There is no wasting away.
Respect to your process, but a .5% variation from four days of anything falls well within whatever margin of error is attached to your measuring device/method. Assuming you didn’t do Dexa Scans or water tank to measure body comp on either end of a four day fast, there is no way you A> actually gained any muscle mass of significance, or B> allowed for enough repetition to generate useful statistics to support anyone’s claim. That said, good on you for experimenting and feeling good about the results. Just be real about how truly anecdotal it is.
Another great article! Keep up the good work!
Francesca @francescaverri.com says
I agree! Another great, honest, to-the-point article. Thank you Robb! francesca
I’m looking for some professional advice on specific weight loss programs. I’ve been trying to lose weight but having an issue with my hunger cravings. I came across a product that says it can help with appetite suppression and I want to see if anyone else has heard about it https://dynamiclifeco.com/red-tea-detox
Yeah I would pass on that.
Great talk!! @tim red “detox” tea is Rooibos tea growing here in South Africa. Now I don’t know what’s added in these stupid weight-loss products, but you can search Rooibos and it will give you all the health benefits. As a weight loss product? Definitely not. You should eat real food.
Thank you for this. All the information is maddening. Carb/no carb, fast/not if you’re a woman, wait it’s ok if you’re a woman. Keto/wait Keto is bad. Fruit is great for you/no the sugar will kill you after wrecking your brain. And on and on. After flailing I have decided n=1 is best for me.
Chris MacSweyn says
Preach! Goals <3
Amanda Pritchard says
Hi Robb, I JUST began my intermittent fast TODAY and your email popped up in my inbox. I’m subscribed to your emails but it felt a little bit like I’m being followed… cause, well.. we all are. ANYWAY…
I do crossfit 5-6 times a week and I’ll be honest, my diet has sucked over the last 8 months. A year ago, I did Renaissance Periodization and I had great success with it. I lost 30 lbs. Sadly, because I just fell HARD off the wagon and didn’t really do the correct version of maintenance mode, I gained it all back. (I have issues) ANYWAY, Usually, I do well with starting something I haven’t before. I really loved RP but I’ve tried to restart again and again and I just have not had the success I did previously. I’ve also done Whole30 and have eaten APAP in the last couple of years. I’ve made progress but I go a few steps forward and a few steps back. It seems to be part of the journey I am on. I am kind of excited about trying fasting because I like the idea of not having to worry about cooking a third meal. Especially coming from an RP background where all you do is cook (or so it seems) So I guess I’m saying all of that to say that I’m a 35 woman who does Crossfit and needs to lose about 40 lbs. Do you think I’ll be ok? I’ve been thinking of eating breakfast and lunch and skipping dinner and fasting for 16 hours.. making sure I have a meal before working out to fuel my workouts (Fasted workouts seems crazy to me!) Many people i respect in my realm of fitness swear by doing this so I just really wanna give it a try!
Andrea Winchester says
Seems to me that “building muscle” and muscle wasting (or break-down) are two opposite processes. Enough fasting will reveal existing muscle, but like Robb says it won’t necessarily build muscle in an otherwise sedentary person. Building muscle requires work and fuel and rest. Muscle break-down will occur however if someone eats enough calories to stimulate insulin but not enough to preserve muscle mass, which can happen with styles of fasting that include small “meals” throughout the “fasting” time period. It is better to either fast completely or not at all if the plan is to build muscle, because the body will burn muscle to provide the calories needed to do work.
Not everyone fasts for body composition. In my case a doctor recommended it, along with keto, for improved cognitive function. It works in that respect but there is a severe shortage of good advice on trying to apply these approaches if you already have decent insulin function and body fat level.
Yes Carol, like you my Dr recommended IMF daily for mental focuse, and ketobiotic diet.
Rob, reach out to the alezhaimer preventive clinic at Mount Saint hospital in NYC. You have always been a very well informed person.
I do Crossfit 5-6 times a week and I be honest, my diet has sucked over the last 8 months. A year ago, I did Renaissance Periodization and I had great success with it. I lost 30 lbs. Sadly, because I just fell HARD off the wagon and didn’t really do the correct version of maintenance mode, I gained it all back. (I have issues) ANYWAY, Usually, I do well with starting something I haven’t before. I really loved RP but I’ve tried to restart again and again and I just have not had the success I did previously. I’ve also done Whole30 and have eaten APAP in the last couple of years
So… my goals in 2019 are increasing mobility (balance and flexibility), Paleo/Primal Keto zone eating and outward mindset. Side effect I’m looking forward to is progress on the weight loss journey and continued health improvement.
I fast daily I guess… as in I break my fast at 1:00 ish daily and dinner is around 7:00-8:00. Why do I do that… if I eat early in the day, I’m “hungry” all blasted day long. If I wait till early afternoon to have the first bit of food or coffee with cream, I feel satisfied and no snack monster is chasing me.
Is this really fasting or just condensed eating window?
Funny… we attend Weight Watchers for the accountability and support. I mentioned that I am having really good success with my condensed eating window and not having any hunger. The gasping and panic was fantastic. That can’t be healthy… I could never go that long with out food.
So I guess I should say an additional goal is to offer alternatives to my sugar burning WW buddies by example.
Yeah that would be considered intermittent fasting.
Nonie De Long says
I find fasting very important clinically, not for body mass as much as for getting insulin (and related unhealthy mood/ thought/ appetite patterns) under control in clients with psychosis or mood issues. I think it’s effective because a) it stops the insulin monster and b) it lessens the burden on the liver, which is essential to get someone on track when there is a fatty liver or a liver that is congested with meds or otherwise overwhelmed, as in psychosis or addictions or any extreme inflammatory state. It can be uncomfortable at first, but I use coconut based foods to assist the body into ketosis and then it’s fine – again with very little burden on the liver. I do it as someone above suggested, by shortening the eating window, ensuring quality food is prepared for that. It’s also really great to identify extreme food intolerances because the client will often clear up during fasting, making it easier to identify. Losing excess body fat is just an added perk. However, I think using it without guidance as a way to ‘skip meals’ and then think you can eat whatever you want for dinner meal (see it a lot actually) is detrimental. It does’t teach clients about healthy food and it sets them up for serious cravings and being hangry jerks to their family when they get home at night, which never makes the diet last long. So for weight loss / body mass issues I think it’s an advanced option to be undertaken with professional support. (On a personal note, I have not lost muscle mass when using IF, but quite the opposite. But I’m loading up on amazing protein when I do eat and I’m not doing much cardio unless I walk into a spider web.) For mental health/ healing I think it’s a really important tool if used right.
Old Bull Lee says
There’s a passage in Wired to Eat about ketosis/fasting leading to high LDL-P levels in lean people, even when their other numbers are good. I would love to see a podcast topic or article with more detail about this. I’m one of them, and I’m currently eating more carbs but have not done another round of bloodwork yet.
Feel free to submit one https://robbwolf.com/contact/submit-a-question-for-the-podcast/
That might be a good podcast question.
Super late comment I know. I am not a doctor and by no means an expert in any of these fields but I’m wondering if maybe the increased LDL is because of the increaseD fat intake? Also did they differentiate between the two different types of LDL in your blood tests? LDL is what transports fat through the body and to the brain right? So would it follow that a diet in increased fat would also raise LDL particles? Just a thought! Now I must find someone to have this conversation with in real time!
Great informative article sir.
Really fasting is very important for our health , and I think it’s effective for weight loos
Mandy Garcia says
Don’t waste your time on exercising to lose weight. It just makes you more hungrier. Just cut your calories and eat REAL food…not processed. And most of all stop eating sugar.