Most often associate having a good physique with plenty of muscle and low body fat with health and being healthy.
Many of these ideas we have are very true more muscle indicates stronger bones via resistance training and overall strength has shown a link to mortality rates, basically the stronger you are the longer you live on average.
However as you may know the manner in which we go about creating this healthy body is in itself not always healthy.
We know the obvious ones of steroids, too much supplements, bad relationships with food, orthorexia and a general obsessions with working out.
As with all things in life we need to find a healthy balance.
Now lets get into the meat of this post
In the bid to become bigger, leaner and stronger we very rarely go without! I’m talking about food here, even when we are dieting we’re trying to hit out protein goals and eating regularly and this never really gives the body a rest.
Back when we were hunter gatherers we may have gone for days without food, now in everyday life we never really exercise this period of not eating, known as fasting. Back then we actively wanted to avoid this period of no food consumption as it meant staying alive, where as now the opposite applies. Food is readily available and most of us are not at risk of starvation but rarely do we stop eating or drinking.
Let’s not forget that most of the biggest killers in the western world are due to or have a link to overeating, heart attacks, diabetes the list goes on.
The problem arrives here in several scenarios that I see and for me they have a personal element, i’ve lost or know of too many people that have died from or are living with cancer. I’m trying my best to be impartial here, to just give you my thoughts and not to advocate a diet protocol or way of living out of fear. However the evidence that i’ve read, listened to and been told does support some sort of food restriction being a positive to overall health and life longevity. I think as always the magic is in how we apply these principals to our lives.
Anyway back to the problem with always eating from a healthy and fitness perspective.
The first is anabolism
When we are constantly eating & we’re normally trying to stimulate muscle protein synthesis to build muscle. This is anabolism or being in a anabolic state which means to create new cells and tissues of the body with catabolism or being in a catabolic state the opposite. In this state we use what our body already has to create fuel and this is obviously not beneficial if maximum muscle gain is your goal as muscle can be broken down into fuel via a process called gluconeogenesis.
See when our body is allowed to go without food, remember we’re in no danger of starving here. After around 16 hours something really cool happens, cue autophagy this is a process where your body instead of concentrating on building actually does some cleaning and breaking down.
This is great because all the faulty cells or DNA of your body that may have been created for a multitude of reasons from bad diet to toxins can be broken down and recycled, and it’s these damaged or faulty constituents that manifest into bigger issues such as cancer. Autophagy is basically stopping or going towards stopping these cells growing faulty by recycling them.
So by having a period without food consumption we allow the body to take a break from creating new and let it instead repair.
AGAIN THIS IS ALL ABOUT BALANCE, myself i’m toying with the idea of using intermittent fasting 2 days a week like I used to under advice from a practitioner for the above reasons.
I will use a 16-8 window so 16 hours without food and then consume my daily calories in those 8 hours remaining.
It would look like this.
Stop eating at 8pm, start again at 12 noon
If you then take into account the positive effects on gut repair and potential positive effects on hormones and their receptors such as an increase in insulin sensitivity and ghrelin & leptin levels (your hunger and satiety hormones) fasting starts to have some real healthy benefits.
To maximise muscle on those days of fasting I would either not train or simply put my training in the middle of my 8 hour eating window, this will give me fuel for performance and fuel for recovery.
In the morning while fasted cardio could also be a good option to really dig into fat stores as that’s what you’ll be using, REMEMBER total calories intake will control fat loss or gain though.
I hope this blog gives you a few ideas and helps you in a positive manner.