Fast and Furious Weight Loss
Dieting is big business, and it seems like every six months there’s a new ‘wonder diet’ that promises to keep you lean and trim. Often they feature some new ‘superfood’, or a new way of managing your macro levels (fat, carbohydrates and protein) like the Atkins, Paleo, Volumetrics, Mediterranean and South Beach diets. The list of diets is longer than the list of foods you’re allowed to eat in some of them. While it’s true that certain foods are good for the brain, for example, or help to regulate blood sugar, none of these diets has succeeded in working well for everyone.
Intermittent fasting has quickly gathered adherents, primarily because it wasn’t a diet per se; it doesn’t restrict the types of food you can eat, rather it restricts the times that you can eat them, and it seemed to be backed by solid science. The periods of intermittent fasting mean that your blood glucose level go down, which in turn lowers the amount of insulin in your body, and so, in the absence of food, your emergency supplies of energy will be tapped and burned.
That emergency energy supply? That’s fat.
So far, so good, but there are two things to consider:
- How well does it mesh with your workout regimen?
- While intermittent fasting works well for some people, for others it can have some rather alarming side effects, and the difference between those two groups is as simple as their sex.
Intermittent Fasting and Working Out
In theory, intermittent fasting should combine with working out rather well. Normally, when exercising, your body uses glycogen, which is the carbs stored in your body, for energy. After fasting, glycogen levels will be much lower than normal, which means that your body needs to source new reserves of energy. Theoretically, this means fat, and hence your workout should burn fat more efficiently after a fast.
However, when your body needs energy, it’s an equal opportunities energy guzzler, and it’s not just fat that gets broken down for fuel, but protein too. This means that, while you may be burning fat, you’re probably also burning muscle. Furthermore, too much fasting can slow your resting metabolic rate, meaning that you can burn calories slower in general.
Adverse Reactions in Women
Now, it must be noted that not all women suffer adverse reactions to intermittent fasting, but a significant number do, and the effects can be deeply unpleasant, with women, even those in their 20s, reporting metabolic disruptions, missed periods, and even early onset menopause. It seems that the physiological systems that govern female metabolism are much more sensitive to energy levels than men’s, primarily due to the complex process of monthly ovulation. Because this system is enacted by a very precise and regular cycle of endocrine pulses from the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis, even a few days of fasting can affect the menstrual cycle.
Now, this is not to say that intermittent fasting will make you infertile, or push you through the menopause at 25, but rather that it is best to proceed with caution. If you notice a sudden irregularity in your periods, an excess of dry skin, insomnia, irritability or a drop in your libido, it may be time to try something different. It also doesn’t mean that it won’t work with your workout regimen, but likewise, it’s best to monitor your reactions – if you’re feeling weak when working out, then it may be time to take on some calories before your muscle goes the way of your fat.
Original article by feature writer Jane Sandwood
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