Updated: Mar 16, 2019
Well, unfortunately, the answer is yes. Let me explain. Our bodies are built to either grow and build muscle mass on demand or, to last a long time, but to do both at the same time is not currently possible. It all has to do with a nutritional sensor called MTOR and a hormone called Insulin. Both of these down-regulate our cleansing and healing pathways, a process called Autophagy, or self cleaning.
MTOR is stimulated by amino acids in Protein. Insulin is generated by the pancreas in response to sugar and either one will kick you out of self cleaning. So, if you are trying to build muscle mass, you would certainly want to increase your protein content and your calories. And even if you are not hitting the gym to increase muscle mass, and are just basically going to work and coming home, most likely if you are like most Americans, you are eating way too much protein and sugar on a normal basis, the two very things which cut off Autophagy. So how do you build muscle mass and strength and also allow for self cleaning? Enter cyclic fasting. If you do not give yourself metabolic/nutritional rest, you will never get into serious self-cleaning. Then, dead cells and cellular waste builds up in your system and begins degrading overall health, accelerating aging.
It's as if we were built for periods of feast and famine, where the famine periods keep our bodies running at optimum performance, giving our organs a resting period to relax and heal and our cells a time for genetic repair and house cleaning. Also these famine periods kick us into fat burning, instead of always burning sugar for fuel. In previous blogs, I have described the dangers of not only sugar spikes but insulin spikes as well. Both are very destructive in multiple ways. Now I am adding to the ways by saying that it appears we work best when there are periods of rest and house cleaning.
Now I am not saying we should not exercise and build strength. In fact, there are multiple studies that say strength is a leading indicator of health as we move into our senior years. In terms of Autophagy, in fact, it turns out that exercise and strength building are dramatic enhancers of moving into Autophagy quickly. How can this be, given that exercise stimulates MTOR? Well, because we have stored sugar in our bodies in the form of glycogen. So, if we exercise while in a fast, we burn up all the stored sugar much quicker, forcing our cells to move into burning fat quicker and also enter a state of Autophagy.
Now burning fat has its own advantages. Although some cells, like our blood cells, must have sugar to survive, most our cells are perfectly fine burning fat, but must be "trained" to be efficient fat burners. Fatty acids are broken into Ketone bodies (short chain fatty acids), and therefore penetrate into our cells easily. And Ketones have tons of benefits in their own right to our system, sending messages to your DNA to heal and repair genetic damage.
Here is another advantage of fat burning, and it has to do with your Immune System (Yes, your Metabolic System (energy producing) and your Immune System are intricately linked). You see, your immune system has warriors that go after your infections and stimulate inflammation; and it has peacekeepers that calm everything down after the infection/injury is under control. As it turns out, your warriors need energy in the form of glucose to ramp up an attack and launch their war against infection and injury. Their consumption of glucose vastly increases during these fighting periods. On the other hand , your peacekeepers work better on fat and ketones. So if you are staying in sugar burning mode all the time, you are feeding your warriors, contributing to chronic inflammation, allergies, over reactivity and autoimmune disease and not switching over to your peacekeepers enough to calm everything down and move back into balance.
So you are getting a double bump to your health, no, make it a quarduple bump, no make that a quintuple (is that a word?) bump. One; moving into autophagy for clearing out junk proteins, two: getting ketones in your system for DNA repair, three: decreasing the damaging effects of sugar and insulin, four: weight loss through fat burning and five: calming and bringing into balance the immune system to lower inflammation and related diseases. Wow!! And it did not cost you a dime! Now that is good medicine..
There are some things that can enhance moving you into Autophagy while in a fasted state. You don't need them, but if you are really trying to get the best bang for the buck, these compounds help control sugar and move you into Autophagy/Ketosis quicker and better:
Rosemary, Tyme, Tumeric, Cinnamon, Garlic, Ginger, Berberine, fish oil, and EGCG, and as mentioned earlier, Exercise. So I always try to get a workout in during a fasting period. Lately, also I take one Berberine Pill at the beginning of my 24 hour water only fast and just go on faith and science that it is doing all sorts of good stuff for me like controlling my blood sugar levels and killing harmful bacteria in my intestinal tract, two things Berberine is known for. I use the formula from Myoxience.
There are many ways to do fasting without hurting your thyroid. If you do too much calorie restriction, your thyroid thinks you are in a starvation period and slows down your metabolism so you can survive. This is not good. Then, once you resume eating normally , it will make you gain weight quickly and you will gain back every pound you lost and then some. Don't fall into this trap! Do your research on something called Intermittent Fasting and make sure to keep getting all the nutrition your body needs during your feeding periods, including vitamins, minerals, greens, fermented foods, other veggies and loads of fiber. If you are trying to lose weight, do so in a measured slow pace in something you can sustain. Some people have seen better weight loss results cycling their fasting periods instead of doing one every day (like an 18 hour fast with a 6 hour eating window) every other day.
After doing the every other day thing for several months, I am now trying one 24 hour water fast once a week and then one additional 18/6 fast a few days later. Seems to be working fine. I am not trying to lose weight or muscle mass. In fact, I am trying to build muscle mass and muscle weight, so I have increased my proteins and calories during my non fasting periods. So far so good. And, I do not get hungry during my fasting periods so I guess I am fairly well fat adapted. But I do drink a lot of pure water, both to flush toxins out of my system and to keep me from having an empty stomach during fasts.
If you are just starting out on this adventure, you may want to add some coconut oil or MCT oil to your morning hot drink on the day of your fast to tide you over to your afternoon meal which also adds ketones to your blood quickly.
I for one am opting for strength and longevity, not body building, but trying to find the right balance so that I have plenty of strength moving into my senior years.
Let me know what you try and how it goes..
Yours in health...