How to Avoid Losing Muscle Mass When Fasting for Weight Loss

How to Avoid Muscle Loss When Fasting for Weight Loss

In case you haven’t looked at a calendar lately, we’re almost halfway through December. And even if you swore you weren’t going to be seduced by sugar cookies and pumpkin spice lattes again this season, you may still have overdone it elsewhere in your diet. Fasting for weight loss is a quick and easy way to undo the holiday indulgence. But what about losing muscle mass? You don’t want a fast to undo all your hard work at the gym either.

So, how to have the best of both worlds?

Well, there’s some good news about fasting for weight loss. First—you should always consult with your primary care physician before undergoing any type of fast or detox. Once you’re given the go-ahead, you have to determine the best fast program for your needs.

If you’ve never fasted before, a water fast might be too intense. Even just juices and tea might be harsh for beginners. Some people have had benefits from eating a raw food diet for several days, or even switching to just a plant-based vegan diet for a short period of time to spur weight loss. 

Once you’ve decided which fast is right for you, several things will happen:

1. You’re going to feel kind of crappy—That’s the normal first stage of fasting for weight loss, along with incredible hunger. It’s a good idea not to be alone on Day 1 so that you have some moral support to keep you going.

But there’s good news! Once you get past the first day or two, you’ll most likely start to feel really amazing and energized.You’ll start to burn fat—The reason fasting is so effective at helping you lose weight is that it kicks your body into ketosis—the state where it begins to burn fat for energy. However, ketosis doesn’t usually start until 48 or 72 hours after you’ve begun fasting. And there may even be a little bit of muscle loss prior to that as the body tries to fuel itself by pulling glycogen stores from muscles. It quickly realizes there’s an easier source—your excess fat, and it will then start burning your fat (ketosis), which can typically keep it going for quite a while (and luckily, you probably have some fat reserves lingering around your midsection or thighs, right?).

2. You’ll start to burn fat—The reason fasting is so effective at helping you lose weight is that it kicks your body into ketosis—the state where it begins to burn fat for energy. However, ketosis doesn’t usually start until 48 or 72 hours after you’ve begun fasting. And there may even be a little bit of muscle loss prior to that as the body tries to fuel itself by pulling glycogen stores from muscles. It quickly realizes there’s an easier source—your excess fat, and it will then start burning your fat (ketosis), which can typically keep it going for quite a while (and luckily, you probably have some fat reserves lingering around your midsection or thighs, right?).

Once the body burns through your fat reserves, it will then start looking bak at your protein-rich muscles as another source of energy.

But the good news is that doesn’t typically happen in short 2 or 3 day fast—or even a 5 day fast, meaning you will most likely retain your muscle mass while you fast.

As to working out during a fasting period, there are mixed opinions on what’s best. On a water or liquid fast, you’ll likely be too exhausted to hit the gym for a lifting sesh, and even some cardio can be too intense. But it is important to keep the lymphatic fluids moving to flush out toxins (another important reason for fasting!). So brisk walking or hiking or even taking a swim might be your best bet for keeping your muscles active while fasting without overdoing it.

image: health cadanjig



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