The #1 Benefit of Fasting that No One Fully Understands…
0:00 – Intro
0:56 – Use Code DELAUER15 for 15% off Bon Charge’s Sauna Blanket!
2:30 – Autophagy & Ghrelin
3:40 – Muscle Preservation
5:47 – Can You Increase Ghrelin More When Fasting?
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SUMMARY OF AUTHOR’S THOUGHTS
Fasting has many benefits, but one of the most important is the production of a hormone called ghrelin.
Ghrelin is often thought of as a negative hormone, as it can make you very hungry. However, when we fast, ghrelin helps our bodies adapt and get the benefits of fasting. One of the main benefits of fasting is a process called autophagy, which is the recycling of old cells. Autophagy breaks down proteins and other cell components into fuel that can be converted into glucose, which the body can use for energy. Studies have shown that mice that are unable to produce ghrelin die when they fast, because they are not able to go through the same autophagy process as mice that have ghrelin. This means that feeling a bit hungry when fasting is a good thing, as it means that ghrelin is elevating and triggering adaptation. One of the most important benefits of fasting is muscle preservation, which many people don’t realize.
IN THE AUTHOR’S OWN WORDS
The number one benefit of fasting is something very different from what most people might think.
The number one benefit of fasting happens to be a hormone that is produced. This hunger hormone is normally catching a bad rap. It’s called ghrelin. Now, ghrelin, just the name of it sounds scary and if ghrelin goes too far then sure it can make you ravenously hungry. You don’t want chronically high ghrelin levels but when we are fasting ghrelin is one of the reasons why we adapt and get benefits from fasting rather than just crash and ultimately die.
Now the first thing that I need to address is going to be one surrounding autophagy. This is very interesting because people think about autophagy with fasting and they think about the cellular recycling and that is all great. But there’s something very important that you need to know so we’re going to dive in.
The description of autophagy isn’t just there because it sounds cool and it does fun things. It has a purpose okay. Autophagy breaks down proteins and components of cells into fuel that gets converted into glucose. Okay, so it gets converted into sugar for our body to use. So, an old protein will break down and it will turn into a sugar the body can use. There’s some interesting evidence that mice that were unable to produce ghrelin, the hunger hormone, well when they ended up going into a fast they died because they were not able to go through the same autophagy that mice that had gorillin were able to.
So, what does this mean to you as someone that’s fasting? It means that that little bit of hunger that you feel when you’re fasting is actually a good thing. A lot of times we associate hunger as a negative thing but being a little bit hungry and being okay with that means that that ghrelin is elevating. Now ghrelin will elevate and it will send a signal to the hypo thalamus to certainly make you hungry. Okay, but another thing that it does in addition to that or a number of things that it does is it triggers adaptation. And probably the biggest benefit to fasting is the muscle preservation piece. People don’t realize that when you are fasting you preserve muscle okay because you produce more growth hormone.
Now, interestingly enough, the reason that people that talk about fasting get shot down so much on YouTube and the internet is because sometimes they take these benefits and they stretch them too far. Okay, so yes, when you are fasting, growth hormone elevates, but it doesn’t elevate to the point where you can build endless muscle. It’s not like that. It’s purely a survival system. Okay, so muscle is very metabolically important to the body and it doesn’t want to burn it unless it has to. So, while we’re fasting, our body does whatever it can to produce or protect, I should say more of our muscle. One of the ways that it does this is by increasing growth hormone levels.
Well, what we’ve seen in the research is that if ghrelin can not be produced, then growth hormone doesn’t increase with a fast. So being a little bit hungry is what is driving this growth hormone response in order to protect muscle. There was a study that was done on humans that looked at 65 different humans, okay, and they gave them a ghrelin hormone analog. So, basically a synthetic analog, a synthetic form of gorillin. Okay, they did this for two years compared to people that did not have the synthetic ghrelin. These people built more muscle, 1.1 kilograms more muscle at two years. They had higher circulating growth hormone and they didn’t gain any fat or any visceral fat. So, ghrelin is critical to growth hormone, which means that gorillin is critical to fasting because ghrelin is what’s going to protect your muscle while you’re fasting. But again, it also is what’s going to drive autophagy. It’s what’s going to drive a lot of these brain benefits.
So, we think it’s the simple act of not eating however it’s the simple act of not eating triggering this powerful hormone, this powerful ghrelin hormone that everyone likes to bag on. So, are there some ways that you can increase ghrelin even more when you’re fasting? Well, the simplest way is going to be to eat a small meal prior to going into your fast. It’s going to ensure that your ghrelin levels are a little bit higher. The other things that you want to do is you want to exercise a little bit during your fast. Okay, because exercise can increase ghrelin a little bit because it’s creating a demand. Okay, so if you exercise during your fast, especially when you’re a little bit hungry, it can actually make you not as hungry because it can kind of blunt the feelings, but it can also drive the benefits of this ghrelin a little bit more.
So when you look at the big picture of what ghrelin responds to, we notice that fat tends to attenuate the ghrelin response, protein tends to attenuate the ghrelin response. Which is great for satiety.
If you’re satiated all the time, you’re not burning as much fat. So, one of the things I want to warn you about is if you start getting to a point where you’re fasting a lot, and you’re no longer hungry when you fast, it sounds crazy but it might be time to take a day off. It might be time to take a few days off of fasting or even a couple of weeks so that when you do fast, you get more of a benefit from it. You see what I’m saying. You want to be a little bit hungry during your fast. That is the number one benefit of fasting, is being hungry and the benefits that come with being hungry. It’s an easier way to make yourself hungry than just going through caloric restriction all the time.
So, let yourself take a break from fasting so that when you go back to fasting, it can have the power that really makes it the best possible thing for you.
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SOME ADDITIONAL REFERENCES
But in the short-term (at least up to a week for most people), I believe you can maintain muscle mass while fasting, particularly if you’re resistance training.
In last week’s email, I discussed a study, “Effects of testosterone supplementation on body composition and lower-body muscle function during severe exercise- and diet-induced energy deficit: A proof-of-concept, single centre, randomised, double-blind, controlled trial,” in which a severe energy deficit resulted in losses of fat mass (FM) alongside gains & maintenance of lean body mass (LBM) in the testosterone and placebo groups, respectively.
If you recall from last week, these young men were prescribed daily exercise to the tune of > 1,500 kcal expended, and were instructed to slightly restrict the number of kcal/d compared to how much they were eating at a weight-stable baseline. On average, participants were facing an estimated daily energy deficit of over 2,000 kcal/d.
The more intermittent fasting grows in popularity, the more false information about it circulates the Internet. You’ve likely come across many factual benefits of time-restricted eating, such as improved blood pressure and reduced insulin resistance. But you’ve probably encountered quite a few myths, too.
Luckily, Simple is here to demystify some of the more wacky things you might have heard about intermittent fasting – like it burns your muscles instead of fat. Keep reading as we debunk one of the most common myths about time-restricted eating: how to lose fat and save muscle with intermittent fasting.
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