The world of health and fitness is very divisive.
I see this a lot – social media, reddit, online articles…people get HEATED when you speak out against what has worked for them, especially when it comes to weight loss.
Have you ever seen someone mention the importance of carbs on a ketogenic diet thread? Let’s just say the number of calm and measured responses are few and far between.
But I get it.
People are passionate about their diet because it’s changed their life for the better. No one wants to hear that the one thing that’s defined their health for years is just “another fad” or “bullshit” from the mouth of some random dude on Instagram.
I’m sure I’ve been guilty of the same behavior when it comes to intermittent fasting.
It’s changed my life, and in my opinion, the research on its benefits is well-founded and been proven over multiple studies. I’m in fasting’s corner – probably for life at this point
But because it goes against the grain of what has always been done in the past, there are times where I find myself defending my lifestyle to others who don’t believe in its merits as a solution for weight loss and better health.
Like I said, very divisive.
What you need to learn is, people disagreeing with you on the subject of weight loss (fasting included), it is out of your control. The best thing you can do for all parties when pushing something as a viable solution to weight loss, is making sure you understand it from all angles and perspectives. Not only that, but you have to confirm there is real, scientific research that actually backs up what you’re saying.
Not everyone is as committed to that last part, but I digress.
The reason I bring this up is due to a recent study that came out comparing intermittent fasting vs calorie restriction. Conducted over almost one full year, the goal of this study was to determine if intermittently fasting twice a week had an advantage for weight loss when compared to your standard caloric deficit on a daily basis.
Same amount of calories each week with similar macronutrient breakdowns, just divided differently on a day-to-day basis.
The results? Fasting was superior for total weight loss! BOOM. Case closed.
Well, as it turns out, the fasting group did lose more weight – but by a whopping 0.3%. I’m no scientist, but I wouldn’t classify that as a significant difference.
This isn’t the only study that’s come to a similar conclusion. While I think more research needs to be done using different fasting methods, the consensus is that fasting does not provide additional weight loss when compared to standard caloric restriction.
So what does this mean? Is fasting all for nothing? Are all those “experts” out there saying calories are the only thing that matter are correct?
This is my internal struggle.
The Answer is Yes and No
Here’s the deal: Calories matter – A LOT.
At its simplest and most basal level, weight loss comes down to energy balance. In order to lose weight, you need to consume less calories than you do burn. Even if you’re entire diet was McDonald’s, but you consistently ate in a caloric deficit, you would still lose weight.
But if I’m being honest with myself, explanations like that tend to annoy me.
Sure, you’d lose weight. However, you’d also be starving most of the time, cold & irritable, and your hormones would be all over the place.
But hey – at least you’d be skinny.
You need to remember, just because someone looks good in a bathing suit, it doesn’t necessarily mean their methods were sustainable or that they’re a pristine example of a healthy person. If fact, a lot of the time, the methods they used to obtain and maintain their weight is incredibly unhealthy.
Calories are what matter most for weight loss, but acting as if they’re the only thing that matters is deceiving and misguided. Other factors in play have a huge effect on not only losing the weight, but also keeping it off for the long term.
Because at the end of the day, if you can’t keep the weight off in a sustainable way – then what’s the point?
Here’s where thinking that calories are the end-all-be-all can lead people astray.
If Affects Your Metabolism
You ever see someone go on extreme diet and exercise regimen, lose a ton of weight, but gain it all back (and then some) a few weeks later? Just look at 95% of the former contestants on the once popular show – The Biggest Loser.
Lots of activity and a very steep caloric deficit was the recipe for the weight loss they wanted. But check on the contestants after filming? All of the weight had been gained back, just as quickly as they had lost it.
This is why – whether you’re fasting, keto, vegan, or the average guy or gal – having an extreme caloric deficit (over 20% of required calories) for an extended time is a very bad approach to weight loss. While it may work in the short-term, it also causes your metabolic rate to slow down as well.
Therefore, when you do finally hit your goal weight, your metabolism has slowed to a point where even eating a regular amount of food will cause you to put back on all that weight you had worked so hard to lose.
We all want to lose weight fast, but that’s rarely (if ever) the best approach for the long-term.
Not All Calories are Created Equal
If you’re the average, healthy-ish person who eats a well-balanced diet, but is trying to lose a few pounds – then yes, simply tracking your calories is probably a good place to start to see where you may be overeating.
However, for most of us, that isn’t really getting to the root of the issue.
The fact of the matter is, NOT ALL CALORIES ARE EQUAL. That’s a fact, despite what you may have heard. One hundred calories of spinach vs one hundred calories of candy may take the same amount of energy to burn off, but have a vastly different effect on your body’s nutrient storage, energy levels, and hormones.
While weight gain and obesity have a lot to do with energy balance, these overlooked factors are the real causes as to why so people can’t seem to lose weight on a consistent basis when adopting a standard, caloric restriction diet.
Think about it like this…
Telling an overweight person who has insulin resistance, high ghrelin, low leptin, and a roller coaster of energy levels that all they need to do is eat less is essentially like telling a heroin addict to, “Just stop doing heroin.”
They may know that’s the solution, but if every internal process within their body and brain is screaming at them to do the opposite, is that advice actually helping them?
So What Am I Getting At?
Calories are important, but they aren’t always where your sole focus should go.
Fasting, unlike the eat less, move more approach, gets to the core of weight gain issues by helping positively regulate your hormones, while at the same time, not adversely affecting your metabolic rate.
Yes, you still need to be eating enough calories to support a healthy level of weight loss, but by fasting (in combination with good nutrition), you’re decreasing your body’s ability to store fat and crave the foods that end up doing more damage than good.
It’s about finding the balance where you can focus on all aspects of health. This the main difference between short-term weight loss that may or may not last, versus maintaining a healthy body and lifestyle over the rest of your life.
The Pyramid of Weight Loss
A former coach of mine showed me an image like the one posted below. He called it the Pyramid of Weight Loss. While I can quibble about micronutrients being just as important as macros, for the most part, it’s a solid breakdown how on how to create sustainability with your weight loss goals.
It makes sense right?
The results how you look are mostly determined by your calorie intake, training intensity, and your macronutrient breakdown. This will determine whether you lose fat, gain muscle, or maintain.
But remember what I said about looking good in a bathing suit, but still being unhealthy?
That’s where micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants…etc) and meal timing (fasting) come into the equation. By focusing on these aspects, you’re insuring energy levels, hormones, and your body’s internal processes all continue to function at a healthy level.
This creates adherence. Adherence creates sustainability. Sustainability creates a lifestyle.
So in the end, does fasting have the edge over regular calorie restriction when it comes to weight loss?
No, it doesn’t.
But given the flexibility fasting provides, the ability to easily create a caloric deficit while eating larger meals, and the HOST of additional benefits that extend beyond weight loss, it is my belief that some type of fasting (along with other healthy habits) should be part of everyone’s lifestyle.
What are your thoughts on the subject? Let me know in the comments below.
If you want to learn more about intermittent fasting – make sure you download my free guide.
Until next time,
Fast. Eat. Repeat.