Over the course of the past several months I’ve been getting more and more questions about fasting, I guess people think I know what I’m talking about lol. Honestly, the concept of fasting is very simple… shut your mouth people; just don’t eat. THERE YA GO!
As I see more and more the concept of a person not eating every three to four hours really freaks them out. They want and have an interest in losing weight but not eating at all seems counterproductive to everything they have heard over the years. I won’t go into that dogma of media and bro-science in this blog but the point I was leading towards is that we are under the impression that fat loss is hard. We are under this impression that you must be on a complicated diet of 6 meals a day so the concept of fasting must be difficult… (I’m thinking… dafuq)? Let me just say one more time… fasting is simple, just don’t eat.
Whenever I bring the concept of fasting up to any one, weight loss clients and even a few of my guys wanting to build muscle I always get questions. One of the biggest questions that come up is about fasting is blood sugar levels.
Fasting and Blood Sugar
“Travis I can’t skip a meal! If I go longer than four hours without eating I get the shakes, headaches and cranky. I think
I’m thinking “Damn, you’re so screwed in the zombie apocalypse” 😉
Jokes aside I guarantee that you or you know someone who thinks this way. So with all the questions that I have received I was out to show that a lot of what people were experiencing was not a massive crash in blood sugar levels but something else.
After research (muscle nerd time!) a few key pieces of info really stood out to me about blood glucose levels during short periods of fasting (I qualify a short period as anything under 24hrs).
First and foremost only 5-10% of the American population actually has a malfunction in their body’s to regulate their blood sugar levels. Read that again… only 5-10%! Be assured if you are one of those individuals you would have been diagnosed by a doctor LONG ago. To even be labeled as hypoglycemic variables such as age, weight, current state of health and medical conditions are all factored. So there is no set level of glucose that classifies anyone as hypoglycemic
Side note: I acknowledge blood sugar issues exist, my point today is unless you have underlying medical issues fasting will NOT cause any ill effects on glucose levels
I have done research and can honestly say that I haven’t found any documented cases that a short term fast will cause the body to drop into levels that would inhibit mental efficiency.
So then why the hell do these people experience hypoglycemic symptoms even if they are not in a low glycemic state?
Well a paper was done on this exact question! “Effect of fasting on young adults who have symptoms of hypoglycemia in the absence of frequent meals.” (1)
Don’t worry about reading this I’ll sum it up for you, it’s a twofold concept.
The first thing that is deduced is that the concept of NOT eating is stressful. So stressful that it causes hypoglycemic symptoms. You don’t believe me? How do you feel when you stress out? Headaches, shakes, moody, sensitive… I can keep going. When a routine breaks, and we are creatures of habit, we tend to almost freak out. Taking a person that has gotten themselves into an overweight state got that way from a constant routine habit of eating, all of a sudden when they don’t eat their usual times their routine is broken and this induces stress.
Heck I’ve seen people stress that they are going to fall into a hypoglycemic state if they don’t eat every three hours. LOL such and American problem to have.
The second is more of a continued hypothesis but I will go on record and personally say that it’s a these hypoglycemic symptoms are withdrawal symptoms, withdrawal from either the chemicals in food or just food itself.
Let’s think about this a bit more. When you have been accustomed to eating frequent meals for years your body has an expectation of getting its fix of either food or what I have seen more and more of the chemicals in food. When all of a sudden your body does not get its chemical fix you start withdrawal symptoms. It may not be to the extreme that you would think of an LSD abuser but if you dial the volume down quite a bit then you’re scratching the surface.
An easier example of a chemical withdrawal is caffeine. How many of you have stopped getting your caffeine fix to find that the next day you are getting headaches; that my friend is a chemical withdrawal. I admit I love my coffee!
Most people don’t realize how much of the food they consume is saturated with some chemical (artificial flavors, preservative to name a few) and if you are use to eating that food on a consistent basis then your body has become chemically dependent. Stop taking in that chemical and you start to get withdrawal symptoms that closely resemble hypoglycemic symptoms.
I don’t mean this to sound horrid but when you start your first fast and experience this or you go and extended period without eating you’re most likely stressing yourself out for whatever reason OR going the first stages of chemical withdrawal. You druggie 😉
Rest assured though, the more often you fast you’ll notice that those symptoms will lessen over time.
1. Alken J, et al. Effect of fasting on young adults who have symptoms of hypoglycemia in the absence of frequent meals. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2008; 62: 721–726
I’ll be posting a blog in the next few days on fasting and muscle… honestly I think you’ll be quite surprised at the results 🙂
In Health and Awesomeness,
Travis Merritt, BS, CPT, CES, RBT is the owner of Fitness Revolution in Rowlett, TX.
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