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Monday, January 26, 2009

Fasting: What I know, do’s and don’ts

I thought since I was on a fast I might as well write about it! I’ve always been a firm believer that when it comes to your health, do your research before you try anything. The same is even more true for something like fasting. I really want to share that info not only so that people can be safer, but also more effective fasters. Knowing the why and how is just as important as the what so I’m going to start off with the science behind fasting. It’s important to know how your body works to avoid doing serious damage so please, bear with me.

Most people have been mislead to believe that things like dieting and fasting can ruin your metabolism and that your body will start eating itself almost as soon as it realizes it’s hungry. WRONG! If that were true, we’d lose muscle all the time from silly things like forgetting breakfast. The body is not as fragile as we think and with a little knowledge, there is almost nothing it can’t handle within reason. The ideal length for fast is 1 – 3 days during which time you can expect to lose about 1lb per day, maybe more.

During the first 12 – 15 hours, your liver will supply glucose to the body through a process called glycogenolysis. Glucose is like a special little battery pack your body uses for an extra boost before it resorts to burning fat stores. After all the glucose is used up, your body uses a process called gluconeo-genesis to produce the energy needed. Gluconeo-genesis works by converting some of the amino acids in the body to energy, followed by an increase in nitrogen excretion in the urine. This is when lipolysis, or the breakdown of fat tissue, begins. As time goes on, your body will rely more on fat stores and less on amino acids. Light-headedness, dizziness, and slight fatigue may occur at this time.

Eventually your body starts running on a substance known as ketones, which are detectable in a urine exam. Glucose will be very limited. Muscle protein will also be catabolized, as your body has mostly been running on fat tissue for fuel. Should you continue your fast more than several days, you will see a drop in your metabolism of 10-20%, and weight loss will slow to about 3/4 of a pound. 20% of the weight lost will now be muscle. Losing muscle can lower your BMR, which is not conducive to weight loss. Plus, if you gain the weight back your body composition will be altered and you’ll look fatter than you did before! To explain, essentially you got rid of 10lbs of muscle and replaced it with 10lbs of fat. This is why I recommend only 1 –3 day fasts. You may find sometimes that the feelings of hunger disappear after 2-3 days. This does not mean you have somehow overcome the need for food and should fast forever! This is simply your body’s way of protecting you from insanity!

Zoe’s Fasting Tips

Avoid exercise! This may seem like a foolish recommendation but it’s not. During physical exertion your body will look for the best source of energy. If your body thinks it’s starving which do you think it will pick, fat or muscle? If you picked muscle, you’re right. Protein offers more energy than fat so if you’re going to fast, step off the treadmill for a bit.

Don’t eat a big meal the night before you fast. Your body will hold on to these calories longer. Also, you will not be having regular bowl movements so you do not want a lot of waste sitting in the colon. This can cause inflammation and bacterial infections.

Drink lots of water. Hydration will help detoxify your body while you fast and will also help prevent the breakdown of vital tissues.

Take antacids to neutralize stomach acids. Sometimes the body will respond to starvation by releasing stomach acids and you could get some serious heart burn or acid reflux. Tums or Rolaids are your friends, plus they have extra calcium!

That’s it! I hope this was helpful and informative. Good luck and happy fasting!

p.s. feel free to email me with questions.




  1. Perfect. Is weight lifting a bad idea too?

    Thanks :)

  2. i'm doing a low calorie diet like 200 calories a day for 3 months and my question is, my tongue taste nasty like it's either acid from my stomach or something..can you tell me why?

  3. I need to make sure my mom doesnt find out as i am 6st4lb i wanna b under 6. Any tips?