Can you lose weight with intermittent fasting? Okay, hold on a minute, this question is like asking me this: can you lose weight without eating. Do you agree both questions are similar?
Food is what provides you with your energy needs. Food is what keeps you alive and kicking. In the same vein, food is what makes you gain weight. Yes, there may be other factors involved in weight gain like being on certain medication, not being physically active etc, but at the very core of weight gain lies your food intake.
Your food intake is the equivalence of your energy intake. So, if you deprive yourself of that energy intake, something has got to give. What’s that? Well, simple, you will have to draw on your energy stores – your fat.
Fat in your body is your ‘Savings Bank Account’. What happens when you run out of money in your ‘Current Account or Checking Account’, you tap into your savings, right?
Same thing happens when you do intermittent fasting. Not eating when you are fasting means you are going run out of “money” soon in your current or checking account. Your ‘Current or Checking Account‘ is your Glycogen stores. Glycogen stores are your go-to everyday spend money.
When you exhaust your glycogen stores when you don’t eat, you will have to draw on the “money” in your savings pretty soon – the FAT bank.
Because even if you lie there and do nothing at all, your body still needs energy to perform basic functions like breathing, talking, texting, your heart beating, thinking, reading that book or watching that television. All of those activities that happen spontaneously to keep you alive require energy. In fact, your body needs energy to burn energy i.e the metabolic process needs energy to power on.
That energy need constitutes the basal metabolic rate which has to come from somewhere if you are not eating – Your fat stores.
Simple answer to the question of whether you can lose weight on intermittent fasting is; Yes, you can lose weight with intermittent fasting, emphatically.
I will go as far as saying, you can lose weight without dieting. Why do I say you can lose weight without dieting? Well, you can, using intermittent fasting.
Because strictly speaking, intermittent fasting is not a diet. Intermittent fasting is a weight loss tool NOT a diet. So, by doing fasting like the 16/8 intermittent fasting, you can lose weight without dieting. Can I repeat that. Intermittent fasting is NOT a diet.
If you think about it there is an element of calorie restriction with intermittent fasting and calorie restriction inevitably leads to weight loss, right?
If you are depriving yourself of calories for any extended periods, such that your body doesn’t over-commit, then it stands to reason that you should lose weight.
Can you lose weight with intermittent fasting – The Science
This review looked at a lot of studies and reached the conclusion that intermittent fasting or alternate day fasting is an option for achieving weight loss and weight maintenance.
This study looked at 240 participants who were on the Ramadan fast. They found significant reductions in both weight and BMI during the fasting period. For some reason the men in the study had more reductions than the women. Maybe the women needed longer time to match the weight reduction seen in the men.
Another study examined what kind of weight could be lost with alternate day fasting over a 12-week period. In it the average weight lost by the subjects in the study was 11 and a half lbs in addition to a fat mass reduction of 7 lbs. They concluded that alternate day fasting was an effective method for weight loss.
If you really want to explore the potential of weight loss, then you may want to know what effect intermittent fasting has on glucose metabolism. In all my research, one thing that was consistent with practically every study was that fasting had a consistent capability to reduce fasting blood glucose and fasting blood insulin levels.
What does this mean?
Put simply anything that helps your body deal with insulin load and makes your body cells more insulin sensitive is a joy to behold.
High blood insulin levels encourage weight gain through fat preservation. Lower blood glucose levels on the other hand prevents prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
This study of healthy Ramadan fasting Male volunteers recruited to see the effect of fasting on glucose, insulin resistance, adiponectin (a protein that’s involved in the development of insulin resistance) as well as insulin resistance. These parameters were measured just before the fast began and 4 weeks later into the fast. See arrows in diagram below.
Key to graph above A = Blood Glucose B = Fasting Plasma Insulin C = Insulin Sensitivity D = Insulin Resistance
In the one month of Ramadan Fasting, it wasn’t surprising that the participants in the study dropped their body weight. In response to their weight loss, their adiponectin levels dropped and there was a correlation with the amount of weight lost.
More importantly, there was a consistent increase in insulin sensitivity and a reduction in insulin resistance as plasma insulin and blood glucose levels were lowered on account of the fast. The conclusion from that study being that intermittent fasting has a positive impact on metabolism.
The video below explains more…
How much weight can you lose on intermittent fasting?
Naturally how much weight can be lost on intermittent fasting would vary from person to person as well as your personal discipline. The key here is to be careful with your meals in your feeding days. The last thing you want to do when you are doing intermittent fasting is to over-compensate or over-indulge in the days you are not fasting.
Just eat sensibly and avoid processed foods too, because foods that are overly processed will have refined sugars and trans-fat all of which are unhealthy.
More importantly, refined, heavily processed foods tend to spike insulin. Remember, one objective of intermittent fasting is that, you drive down insulin levels to draw on your fat stores.
As expected how much weight was lost on intermittent fasting also varied in the research studies. I have already mentioned this study earlier. In it the participants lost an average of 11 lbs and a half of weight over the 12-week period of the intermittent fasting.
This meta-analysis of different weight loss on intermittent fasting studies also revealed that participants can expect to lose 3 – 7% of body weight during fasts lasting between 3 – 12 weeks.
Those are figures extracted from research studies, but of course you could lose more or less weight compared to those individuals who have been studied. The other thing to realize is those studies only ran for a small duration and they do not include exercise or any workout whatsoever.
If you add a workout routine to your intermittent fasting, heaven knows how much weight you will shed. I expect the weight loss to be exponential.
How much fat does intermittent fasting burn?
Just like overall weight loss, the amount of fat loss on intermittent fasting will vary between individuals. Factors such as age and sex have been known to play some role in terms of how much fat one could lose when you undertake intermittent fasting.
A study on Ramadan fasting showed a fat loss of between 2.3% – 4.3% over 20 days of Ramadan fasting. In that study waist and hip circumferences fell in most subjects, except females aged 36-70 years. You could argue in that study the measurements were taken only after 20 days and more encouraging results would be had in the women if the study was more prolonged.
This study from the Human Nutrition Research Unit (HNRU) at the University of Illinois, Chicago looked at the effect of alternate day fasting on a variety of parameters one of which was how much fat can you lose on intermittent fasting.
They recruited subjects aged 35–65 years; BMI between 30 and 39.9 kg/m2; weight stable for 3 months prior to the beginning of the study. They found that alternate day fasting after a period of 8 weeks reduced fat by nearly 12 lbs in the participants.
Another study looked at the rate at which we burn fat on intermittent fasting. In this study the alternate day fasting model was also employed. What was found in the study was a swinging pattern in the way fat was burnt or oxidized. On the days the subjects in the study ate, fat oxidation slowed down and similarly on fasting days, fat burning accelerated. Overall fat oxidation was increased by an average of ≥15 g/day on fasting days.
This study gives a very good window to what is happening in our body. When you intermittently fast, you raid your fat stores because there’s no fresh supply of calories. Not only are you raiding your fat stores during intermittent fasting, your rate of fat burning actually goes up which translates to a more efficient way of fat loss.
It’s clear that if you don’t eat, you are giving your body a break. Not only that you are going to exhaust your glycogen stores very quickly. Do you know how long it takes for your body to use up its glycogen stores? 8 – 10 hours, that’s how long.
Yes, withing 10 hours, certainly by 12 hours, you would have exhausted your glycogen stores. What does your body do next? It turns to the fat stores because intermittent fasting drives down insulin levels.
And insulin is what holds the key to the fat stores. Once insulin levels have been driven low, your fat stores become accessible preserving your body’s resting metabolic rate.
That’s the beauty of intermittent fasting. The weight loss or should I say, fat loss associated with intermittent fasting is better than you will see with dieting or exercise.
So, if you are thinking of weight loss without dieting or weight loss without exercise, intermittent fasting is your best bet.
And you know what, intermittent fasting is free. You only need to learn to do it properly and you are on your way.
A friend asked me the other day; do you count count calories on intermittent fasting, hence this article. A lot of the intermittent fasting plans do not come with counting calories as part of the deal. That’s part of the attraction to intermittent fasting (IF) as a weight management tool.
Answer to the question: should I count calories when doing intermittent fasting? Answer: No, you don’t have to.
When you count calories, dieting just gets a little more tasking shall we say. As someone once told me, calorie counting makes you become crazy and obsessive. You agonize over every morsel of food that goes inside your mouth.
You want to know how much calories you have in that morsel of food. It doesn’t matter whether it is fat, carbs or protein. You become quite anal about calories within. Splitting hairs, if you like.
I’m not saying knowing calories during intermittent fasting is not important. But what you don’t want to do is obsess over it and make mountain out of a molehill every time you eat. Simple visual estimation is just as good as trying to be too precise.
Weight loss as an endeavour is tasking enough. Adding the mathematical element of counting calories during intermittent fasting just makes it even more tasking.
Some people think you have to count calories on your eating days or eating window. You don’t have to. You can if you want to. It won’t do you any harm to count calories if it gives you further reassurance and confidence.
But for most people doing intermittent fasting, they don’t bother to count calories when they have to eat. They just eat sensibly and avoid over-indulging. You really should not try to compensate for the days or hours you skipped meals.
You won’t be doing yourself any favours and in fact would be making nonsense of the idea in the first place. I’d like to think you are serious about weight loss and weight stability, so why ruin it?
If you are doing intermittent fasting and not losing weight, then there’s a good chance you are doing compensatory eating. Compensatory eating is one of the reasons intermittent fasting won’t work for you. Don’t do it and indeed it’s not necessary to do it at all.
By compensatory eating, I am referring to making up for “lost time” in terms of food quantity during your eating window or eating days. It’s pointless consuming 2300 calories in one meal, for instance, just because you skipped a meal or two.
You will be turning the tide against you if you do that. You are supposed to be saving on calories when you do intermittent fasting. Remember, intermittent fasting is a weight loss tool. Use it to your advantage NOT against you.
The only plan that may require you to watch calories is the 5:2 diet. The 5:2 diet or Fast Diet as it is called requires you to consume 20% of your daily calorie requirements for 2 days of the week. So, if your daily calorie requirement is 2500 Calories, you would have to consume 20% of 2500 on 2 days of the week i.e 500 Calories.
The remaining 5 days require you to eat normally and one expects you to employ common sense approach and not go overboard with your meals on your full eating days.
The other intermittent fasting IF plans don’t involve calorie counting. Just eat sensibly in your “eating days” or “eating window” and you will be fine. Let’s keep it simple, folks!
Do you get used to intermittent fasting?
I will admit that when you jump straight in to intermittent fasting, it can be a little tricky because it is a new venture that your body is not used to, so your body is likely to protest.
When you first start intermittent fasting, your fasting period can produce side effects like headache, poor concentration, dizziness and of course hunger and a ravenous appetite in anticipation of your eating time.
All of those symptoms are evolutionary. It’s your body revolting and asking for the calories you are denying it. Fear not, those undesirable side effects will go away sooner than you think, so long as you stick with it – the plan that is.
As I write this article, I am currently fasting. I am 16 hours into my fast and I am not feeling it. Because intermittent fasting is something I practise every now and again, my body has become used to it.
I am not losing concentration. If anything, I am quite focused. Hopefully, this is reflected in the quality of this article. So, if you pick up any errors right here, blame it on the fast, okay 🙂 🙂 😛 That’s one of the benefits once you get used to intermittent fasting.
In time your body will get used to the routine of intermittent fasting and you will be surprised at how quickly you’ll adapt. Just give it a week or two and your body will become used to intermittent fasting.
That is why it’s always a good idea to arm yourself with a resource that will guide you on how to get used to intermittent fasting as a way of life.
For instance, Brad Pilon, author and promoter of Eat Stop Eat eases you into intermittent fasting in a gentle way. Even though he professes 24-hour fasting model, he doesn’t expect you to jump in and not eat for 24 hours straightaway.
Brad expects you gently ease your way in by fasting for the number of hours you are comfortable with and you gradually increase the fasting window as you gain more experience.
That way your body will be adjusting itself and be more adaptive to the new eating schedule. That kind of flexibility helps and no calories to count, Yippee!
Why should you take bcaas? Nice question. If you are planning on using bcaas it will be nice to establish why you should be taking the bcaas in the first place.
The amino acids that make up the BCAA have been shown to be involved in the suppression of protein breakdown and more importantly in protein synthesis in muscle cells.
The 3 amino acids that you will find in bcaa are Valine, Leucine and Isoleucine. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins.
It is important to remember that the 3 amino acids in bcaa supplements are actually essential amino acids. Essential amino acids have to be supplied by you either through food or through supplementation like bcaa.
Your body is incapable of making essential amino acids for its needs, hence you have to provide these essential amino acids, otherwise you will become protein deficient.
Of the 3 amino acids, leucine is heavily involved in protein metabolism more than the other two – valine and isoleucine. Let’s talk more about why should you use bcaas in promoting your health.
So why should you take BCAA at all?
Using bccas is one way of enhancing and meeting up with your daily protein requirements. If you work out a lot especially if muscle gain is your objective, then you need to increase your daily protein intake. Using bcaa is one way of satisfying that increase in daily protein requirement.
Protein is required to build muscle. Most of what makes up muscle is protein. BCAAs are made up of some of the amino acids amongst others, that your body needs to synthesize the proteins needed for muscle building.
I would guess that weight loss enthusiasts want to reduce their body fat, right? Well, one nasty issue that occurs when you are trying to lose body fat through dieting is that 30% of the weight you lose is muscle mass. Not what you want.
Muscle loss comes with the territory of weight loss…unless you take proactive steps to stop that from happening.
One reason why BCAA is good for you is, bcaas can help you fight that age-long problem of loss of muscle mass when you are trying to lose weight. Why because the amino acids in bcaa (valine, leucine and isoleucine) have been shown to protect against muscle loss. BCAAs preserve muscle.
Do you have to use bcaas at all?
No, you don’t have to use bcaa supplements, if you don’t want to. You can get these 3 essential amino acids from your diet. A high protein diet is good enough to supply these 3 essential amino acids in bcaa. Meat, fish, nuts and eggs are good sources of the amino acids in bcaas.
So, you don’t necessarily have to use bcaa supplements to meet your daily protein needs. However, bcaas are there for you to use if you want to. You can use bcaas to supplement your dietary protein or use them to boost your protein intake. You may want to see my article on pros and cons of BCAAs.
I should emphasize the point that BCAAs are not a substitute for dietary protein intake. Use them for what they are – supplements. And familiarise yourself with the health risks of bcaas.
Why else is BCAA good for you?
Apart from the benefits of bcaas that I outlined earlier on, bcaas are good for you in more ways than one. Let’s talk about these benefits along with scientific proof where possible.
BCAAs reduce muscle soreness
To assess the effect of bcaas on muscle soreness following exercise, scientist performed a cross-over trial that involved 12 healthy, untrained unathletic female participants.
They were given either placebo or BCAA supplement prior to performing squat exercises. If you do any form of resistance training, you will be familiar with the concept of delayed-onset muscle soreness.
Both the placebo group and the bcaa supplementation group had muscle soreness on the 2nd and 3rd day following the squat exercises. The BCAA supplementation group however experienced a lower intensity of muscle soreness compared to the dummy pill group.
Another study here seems to also corroborate the theory of reduced muscle soreness by bcaa supplementation.
BCAAs make essential amino acids available
One reason why muscle wastage occurs is the direct result of muscle breakdown and the non-replenishment of the amino acids that are needed for new protein synthesis.
When blood level of branched chain amino acids was measured in the participants of that same study above, it showed higher levels in those participants who took bcaa supplements. In contrast, the amino acid (BCAA) level was low in the placebo group. The amino acid level was measured soon after the squat exercises.
That’s not surprising. You would expect the supplemented group to have higher level of bcaa circulating in their blood. In fact, what would be surprising is if the contrary was the situation.
What that study confirms at least on the face of it is, the use of bcaa supplement does boost the availability of these amino acids should your body need them for whatever purpose. You swallow the bcaa pill or powder, they get absorbed and the amino acids in the bcaa are readily available. Not a bad investment, is it?
Something to note too is that the amino acids from bcaa are absorbed directly into the blood stream and do not have to undergo the usual liver processing that absorbed foods normally have to. I’m talking about 1st-pass metabolism. In essence, bcaas by-pass liver metabolism, making them readily available at their required target destination.
BCAAs prevent muscle damage
This study looked at markers for muscle damage following exercise. The markers are creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase level in the blood following exercise.
Creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase are muscle enzymes. High levels are seen when there is muscle damage.
2 groups of participants who were made to cycle for 120 minutes on day 7 of the study. One group had 12 gm BCAA supplementation for 14 days in addition to their normal diet whilst the other group ate normally without supplementation.
Whereas both groups had similar creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase for the 7 days prior to the cycling exercise, what happened after the exercise was different in the two groups. There were significant differences between pre-workout and post-workout enzyme levels in the two groups.
The bcaa supplementation group had significantly lower tissue damage enzymes in circulation for up to 5 days following the exercise. In this original study I mentioned earlier, serum myoglobin, another indicator of muscle damage was higher in the non-supplemented group.
The findings from these studies suggest that bcaa supplementation prevents excessive muscle damage during workouts.
Complex mechanisms are involved in the synthesis of proteins, not least the mTOR pathway. The thinking is that the essential amino acids that make up bcaa are important ingredients in the making of new proteins in the body.
Where is this protein synthesis more important? The muscle cell is where. Active protein synthesis takes place in muscle cells as much of the muscle protein is being catabolised during working outs.
This experiment in rats seems to conclude that bcaa supplementation not only reduces exercise-induced muscle damage but actually promotes muscle protein synthesis.
They further concluded that bcaa supplementation is not a bad idea in sports and exercise in general.
BCAAs promote Muscle Growth and Exercise Endurance
Opinion is divided whether bcaas can help you build bigger muscle directly. This is inconclusive so far. But all is not lost.
When bcaas are catabolised (if you take your bcaas before workout), they provide you with energy during workouts. That energy is not wasted. The energy released from the breakdown of the bcaas is something you can harness.
You can draw on the released energy from the bcaa metabolism to enable you lift heavier weights and do more reps as well. The net effect is anything you do to promote volume and strength during exercise workouts will actually stimulate muscle growth.
The use of bcaas may be associated with delayed onset of exercise fatigue. This because bcaas compete with tryptophan for entry into the brain cells. Higher levels of the bcaas means less production of 5-hydroxytryptamine, a neurotransmitter that precipitates fatigue.
When you take bcaas, you make less 5-HT during the exercise routine. The net effect is your exercise endurance is improved by virtue of the high level of bcaa in your blood through supplementation.
There you are. It’s not a bad idea after all to use bcaa supplementation in your fat loss and muscle building journey, is it?
How much BCAAs should I take pre-workout is a valid question. BCAAs are becoming very popular amongst weight loss enthusiasts and in particular body builders. A lot of people now wish to integrate BCAAs into their workout routine.
And with the rise in popularity, questions like ‘how much of the bcaas should you take before workout’ arise often. I will give you the answer for both daily and pre-workout doses shortly. Keep reading. BCAA questions answered on this page include:
Generally speaking, if you want to use bcaas, it is recommended that you use between 5 – 20 gm of BCAAs per day.
It is also a good idea to split the bcaa dose up. I prefer to have the BCAAs around the workout period, because that’s when you really need it.
So, my preference is to use the BCAAs just before the workout and if I am in the mood after workout as well.
So how much bcaa should I take pre-workout?
Here is your answer to how much bcaa you need pre-workout. 10 gm of BCAA is ideal before workout. You may wish to take another 5 gm of BCAA after workout if you feel like it.
If you are incorporating intermittent fasting, here is a regime that I like. You break your fast with your bcaa supplement and that would be your pre-workout bcaa. You then do your workout, usually resistance training and follow your workout with your first meal of the day. Awesome!
Using that regime will enable you see fat loss results quicker whilst preserving your muscle mass at the same time.
See suggested schedule below: 10:45 AM -11 AM 15 minutes pre-workout. Take 10 gm BCAA supplement 11 AM – 12 Noon – Your Training hour 12 Noon – After-workout meal 3 PM – 2nd meal of the day 8 PM – Last meal of the day. Fasting begins hereon
As you can see from that schedule, you will have 3 meals in those 8 hours. If you want to have only 2 meals, that is also fine. What’s important is that you have a good 16 hours of food-free period in a 24-hour day. This allows your body to rest and reduces your circulating insulin levels. Low insulin levels promote fat loss.
When you then take your pre-workout bcaa, followed by your moderate intensity workout, you will be accelerating your fat loss but more importantly preserving your muscle mass.
How much BCAAs should you take a day?
Wondering how much bcaa can you take a day? Most people who use bcaas will require about 5 – 20 gm of bcaa a day.The dose of daily bcaa is highly dependent on the type of exercise routine you engage in.
Obviously the more intense your workout is, the higher the dose of bcaa you need per day.
If you doing workouts where you solicit sustained muscle contractions like push-ups, pull-ups, weight lifting especially heavier weights and other forms of resistance training, your daily bcaa requirement will be in the 20 gms a day range. The more intense the workout, the higher the dose of bcaa. See pros and cons of BCAAs.
If you are not working out intensely or your exercise regimen is mainly aerobics, then you won’t need more than 10 gm of bcaa a day.
How to dose bcaa can be an issue for some people but it needn’t be. It really doesn’t matter how often you take your bcaa. Your bcaa will still work regardless.
But generally speaking, I will advise you take your bcaa once or twice a day. You do not need to split up the dose any further than twice a day. Why would you?
It also makes sense that when you are trying to dose up your bcaa, you should be looking to have your bcaa around the time of your workout. I prefer a bcaa dosing around the workout period on a pre-workout and after-workout basis. Why is this? Because the workout event is when you really need those essential amino acids in your bcaa supplements to provide you with those muscle protection, muscle repairing and exercise endurance benefits.
Why is it essential to take BCAAs around workout?
BCAA (branched chain amino acids) are essential amino acids that must be provided by you because your body is incapable of making them.
You have to make them available to your body usually via nutrition, otherwise your body will be starved of those BCAAs.
I should add at this point that you don’t have to take BCAA supplements if you are getting adequate protein in your diet. A high protein diet will usually source those 3 amino acids that constitute BCAA i.e isoleucine, leucine and valine, for you.
However, if you choose to have more amino acids by using bcaa supplements, you will be doing your body a huge favour as the amino acids in bcaa supplements avoid the 1st-pass metabolism that takes place in the liver after absorption from the stomach.
The amino acids in the BCAA head straight for the target tissues where they are needed.
For someone who is looking to lose fat, one problem is that weight loss does result in muscle loss too. This is one downside of weight loss as muscle is one of the most metabolically active tissue in the body. You need muscle. Plenty of it!
You want to lose the fat but you also don’t want to lose the muscle you already have. BCAA supplement will help ensure this loss of muscle tissue does not happen.
The amino acids in BCAA supplements are essential to protein metabolism. I should repeat myself again, it is the 3 amino acids (valine, leucine and isoleucine) that are needed for the protein metabolism. It doesn’t matter how you source them – from food or from supplements. Just so long as you provide your body with these essential amino acids, they will do the job.
Taking bcaas does have some other benefits apart from protecting you from losing your muscle mass. I talk more about why you should use bcaas here.
Additional benefits of using bcaa supplements include:Reducing muscle soreness after exercise
Stops muscle damage
Promotes muscle repair
Promotes protein synthesis
Increases exercise endurance
Indirectly promotes muscle gain
When to take BCAAs?
If you are wondering when you should take BCAA powder or bcaa pill, this research does throw some light on when to use bcaa. Indeed, you can take your BCAA supplement any time you wish but as you can see from that research, if protein synthesis is something that you are after, then the best time to take your bcaa powder or bcaa pill is before your workout.
Net muscle protein synthesis is greater when bcaa pill or powder is taken before workout than after workout.
If you want to be clever, you can split the dose up. Take 10 gm of bcaa before workout and may be take another 5 gm after workout. That way you may just have replenished all of the bcaa you took before workout if all or most of the pre-workout BCAA got catabolised during moderate to intense workout sessions.
Who should take BCAAs?
I get asked often; who really should take bcaas? And my answer usually is; anyone can take bcaas, but I wouldn’t want to suggest bcaa supplements should be abused by all and sundry. Not at all.
There are people for whom taking bcaa supplements would be a good thing, given their peculiar circumstances and I have crystallized some of the categories of people needing bcaas as finely as possible below.
The people in the categories listed below may or can use bcaas:
Anyone who wants to shed fat
Anyone doing any form of calorie-restriction dieting
Anyone involved in resistance training
Anyone involved in weight training
Anyone who wants to preserve muscle
Anyone who wants to build muscle
Anyone whose diet is deficient in protein
Survivalists who embark on long sojourns into the wild
Anyone who wishes to augment their dietary protein intake
Anyone preparing for a bodybuilding contest
Anyone involved in serious sports and exercise routine both competitively and non-competitively
That list is not exhaustive. The only thing to bear in mind is bcaa supplements are amino acids in a pill format or amino acids in a powder form.
Taking them is one way of boosting your protein intake. It is not the only way. Protein supply through diet is always best, but it doesn’t hurt you to use them.
Carb and fats together in the same meal, bad idea? Will it harm my health or hinder my fat loss efforts, if I keep eating carbs and fats together in combination?
These are some of the questions I get asked and I thought I deal with them today. There’s something primal about eating carbs and fats in the same meal.
It’s a culinary arrangement that precedes our very existence. It’s ancestral. Carbs have always been around. Fats have always been around too. Our ancestors ate them. So, we are not doing anything new consuming carbs and fats in one sitting.
As I write this today, a very nice gentleman in the name of Sir Peter Hall departed this world of ours. He was a Maestro in British theatre. He set up the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Sir Peter Hall once said his idea of paradise is “rehearsing a play of Shakespeare and listening to Mozart”. Para-phrasing him a little bit there. But you get the gist. That may not be your idea of paradise. It isn’t mine either. But Peter loved that combo.
The 2017 winner of Wimbledon Tennis, Garbiñe Muguruza once said in an interview that if you add butter and sugar to any recipe or food, it will taste good. Didn’t know Tennis players knew chef’s secrets inside out.
Garbine couldn’t be more correct, if she tried.
The combination of butter and sugar is all you need to fall in love with any food. Sugar and fat will enhance any food to make it pleasing to the palate.
Now you are talking.
So unlike, Sir Peter Hall whose idea of paradise is very niche, Garbine’s recipe suggestion or should I say, tip, is most people’s cup of tea.
Why is that?
Our taste buds have been trained to like carbs and fat together. We probably weren’t designed like that.
Humans were designed to eat anything we could lay our hands on that didn’t kill us literally. Foods, we understood to be safe.
How did we know what foods were safe? Well, by an analogue process of elimination. If one of our ancestors ate this food and he kicked the bucket as a result, the community knew that’s one food to cross off the food safety list…and we avoided it like a plague.
There was no Health and Safety Executive looking over our ancestor’s shoulders. If there was, they didn’t notice.
An analogue list of safe foods that was unwritten “hung on the wall” of the community. The community had no idea what food was carb and which was fat. They simply ate. The only requirement was a particular food did not send them six feet under.
Safe? Good. Not safe? Avoid.
Rules were simple.
Carbs, fat…what’s that? You simply ate when you were hungry and when you could find the food. Lucky, you. Many times, you went without. Not by choice. But by availability or the lack of it.
Carbs and Fats Together: How times have changed.
Affluence means we now have food availability. The quality may be debatable but the choices are there all the same.
If you live in the kind of affluent society that we now find ourselves, you are spoilt for choice. The whole place is awash with foods. So much food our ancestors will look at us with envy.
Our ancestors may be jealous at the choices and easy accessibility (think takeaways). But I’m not so sure they will be jealous at how metabolically broken we have become with this abundance though.
Our ancestors weren’t asking the question of: would carbs and fat combination in the same meal break me further metabolically?
The reason: They ate whole foods, folks and you know something else? They actually expended energy to find the food.
> They probably grumbled at the time walking 10 miles a day to forage for the food. But little did they know that exercise was a big part of why they remained metabolically competent…despite unwittingly eating carbs and fat together more often than you’ve had hot dinner.
Which is what brings me nicely to why we are asking the question of fats and carbohydrates combination being a good idea or a bad idea.
Carbs and fats together dilemma
In absolute terms, there is nothing wrong with having carbs and fats together or in combination. After all, like I said before, a combination of fats and carbohydrates provide some of the best tasting meals on the planet.
Therein lies the problem.
Tasty foods mean you are very likely going to overeat. If you overeat on a consistent basis, then you will be courting obesity. A lot of carbohydrate foods and fatty foods in general do pack a punch when it comes to calories. Agree?
How often you should be combining your fats and carbs will therefore wholly depend on where you are in your health journey.
For a start, you need to be eating whole foods regardless of whether it is carbs or fats. Whole carbohydrate foods are actually good for promoting a healthy gut microbiome. These foods feed your gut’s ‘good bacteria’ as opposed to processed carbs that feed ‘pathogenic bacteria’ – the basis of some chronic diseases.
> My point being the first thing that needs to be addressed is food quality. If we concern ourselves obsessively with eating whole foods, then worrying about macronutrients i.e carbs and fats combination should become irrelevant, within reason.
Processed foods generally interfere with the neuro-regulation of appetite. This negates satiety. The end point being you are always hungry compounded by poor portion control.
There is dynamism as well in the way our bodies behave metabolically. A metabolically incompetent individual may have problems dealing with low fat high carb diet because of insulin resistance, right? Well, this same individual may later discover that low fat high carb is good for him/her once his/her insulin resistance has been fixed.
Insulin sensitivity does wonders for your body. Remember that and you will be a happy soul forever.
You may have started off with a high fat low carb to fix your insulin resistance along with your weight issues only to turn things around and carry on long term with a low fat high carb diet that diametrically opposes high fat low carb way of eating.
I make that point to stress the existence of that unique intra-individual metabolic dynamism that is not known to a lot of dieters and those of obsessed with healthy living.
You can’t be too dogmatic when it comes to nutrition, because there aren’t a lot of absolutes in it.
Here is the thing:
A good practice is to use what I call the see-saw principle depending where you are in health-seeking journey when it comes to fats and carbs combination.
What do I mean by that?
> You have to dial down carbs if you are dialling up fats. In the same vein, you dial down fats when you are dialling up carbs.
One of these food groups has to dominate whilst you cut down on the other macronutrient.
Wouldn’t it be crazy if we decided to continue along the same path if we want to fix our broken metabolic competence?
Don’t be fooled by gurus telling you that only carbs will make you store fat. That’s absolute hogwash. I can tell you that any food eaten in excess without due energy expenditure will result in fat storage.
This is regardless of whether it is carbs, fat or protein. If you don’t burn it, it will be diverted to fat stores for future use.
Oh, Yes. Fat can make you fat…just like carbs can make you fat. Now there’s a surprise given the current tune in the media online and offline.
> Let me repeat that. Fats can make you fat. Carbs can make you fat too.
As I write this piece, the weight loss benefits of the recent food craze called bulletproof coffee has been called into question. Obviously Dave Asprey who came up with the bulletproof coffee idea swears by it. Some celebrities appear to endorse it too. Dave Asprey has made millions of dollars selling the concept and the product. Nice!
But you have to be careful with your bulletproof coffee enthusiasm because it can derail your fat loss plan very easily. Especially if you don’t apply the carbs and fats principles that I am talking about here.
Nutritionist and Author, Zoe Harcombe made a commentary regarding bulletproof coffee to the Daily Mail. Zoe talked about the care you need to exercise when combining fats and carbs, if you want to avoid piling on the pounds. Hear Zoe:
“Based on scientific evidence, butter is not dangerous, but neither is it particularly nutritious. So Bulletproof coffee isn’t unsafe, but I’d still urge caution.
What people need to realise is that if you start adding extra fat to your diet, you had better make sure that everything else you consume is very, very low in carbohydrates.
If you think you can have a Bulletproof coffee and then devour a muffin without any consequences, forget it, you will start to gain weight. Basically, if you add butter and coconut oil to your coffee like this, you should also be eating low-carb foods equivalent to two cups crammed with green salad leaves or you’ll see an adverse impact on your waistline.
The bottom line is that although fat is satiating and thus people may feel fuller after drinking coffee spliced with butter and oil, if you want to lose weight, eating fewer carbohydrates, not more fat, is what makes the difference”
Couldn’t have put it better myself, Zoe, because that’s a real life example of how fats and carbs combo can be mis-applied when you follow the herd.
The main concern:
There has been a silent war (okay, not so silent if you are a healthy living fan) between two main groups of gurus and it’s a bitter war. Both camps being pretty self-righteous and considering opposing views as noises.
No one camp wants to listen to the other because each camp has entrenched views.
I am referring to the high fat low carb Vs low fat high carb nutritional camps.
The high fat low carb believers blame carbs for all our metabolic problems, so you get advised to either totally eliminate carbs altogether from your diet or reduce carbs to less than 20 gm per day. A tall order in my opinion!
The low fat high carb camp on the other hand blame fat for all of our metabolic issues and would advise you to cut down on fats.
Well, both camps are correct in their views and both dietary approaches work by the way. So, there is no need to fight this war of attrition.
I will say this here now. Not everyone is suited to both diets. And indeed, some diets are better suited to certain conditions at different times too. Remember the dynamism I mentioned earlier on.
The high fat low carb believers seem to lay the metabolic blame squarely on the feet of insulin.
Yes, the interplay of hormones does influence what you crave, how glutinous you get with food you eat and how the unused consumed calories get diverted to storage forms (body fat stores or glycogen)
And insulin plays a huge role in our relationship with food and food metabolism but it is wrong to blame insulin only for all of our problems, because other hormones get in the mix as well.
Not only that GIP does promote the action of lipoprotein lipase which if you remember is a fat storing enzyme. So, GIP is a lipogenic hormone, folks. Heard anyone talking about Glucose-dependent insulinotrophic peptide hormone? Me, neither.
> As it happens, Glucose-dependent insulinotrophic peptide (GIP) is stimulated by both carbs and fats.
Also, have you heard of this other hormone called Acylation stimulating protein (ASP)? Nope? Acylation stimulating protein (ASP) is a nasty hormone that stimulates insulin secretion and insulin in turn stimulates the release of more Acylation stimulating protein (ASP) – a vicious circle.
Acylation stimulating protein also inhibits the action of hormone sensitive lipase making it another silent fat promoting hormone.
> And guess what macronutrient actually causes the release of Acylation stimulating protein (ASP)? It’s fat, folks. Fats NOT carbs.
So, as you can tell, fats don’t come out of this ‘body fat storing’ business squeaky clean…at all. Fats can be just as guilty as carbs when it comes to influencers of fat burning and fat storage.
I won’t even mention the effects of other hormones like ghrelin, cortisol and estrogens. These ones cheer on like football fans in a 60,000-seater stadium as the metabolic damage is being wreaked on our bodies.
The point being, it is not enough to blame one macronutrient for all of our obesity problems. Doing so will be over-simplifying the issue.
Having both carbs and fats combined together will potentiate the ill-effects of the hormones we talked about. If we can avoid doing so, that would be the way forward, especially if we are trying to optimize our fat loss.
However, I do realise that avoiding a combination of fats and carbs may be a difficult thing to do in practice.
A few guidelines may help you along the way and here’s what I suggest.
If you are insulin resistant or prediabetic, it may help that you go with high fat low carb approach initially. The presence of fat does blunt the glycemic effect of carbs. Do that for a couple of months. If you are comfortable with that, you may continue with that in the medium to long term.
Or you may turn things around and go for the reverse, once your insulin resistance is fixed. Turn to high carb and low fat after a couple of months and see if this works for you. I do believe that plant-based approach is a better one in the long term. Whatever you do avoid processed carbs.
Something to remember though is; fat may flatten the glycemic index of carbs but your body still has to deal with the glycemic load. Which means fat gain will still be an issue if you have a calorie surplus.
> By the way, I am living proof of that. I started off with high fat low carb strategy. Got myself insulin sensitive and now I eat high carb low fat.
The same approach applies to an individual who is trying to lose weight. You can try the high carb low fat approach first and see if it is working for you. If it is not, then go the other way and do high fat low carb. I have never been convinced that a high fat low carb nutritional strategy is a long-term thing. This is my personal view. Some people will disagree and that’s fine.
We have agreed that a combination of high fat and high carbs is not a good idea if you are trying to lose weight or are insulin resistant or even frankly a type 2 diabetic.
So, do not eat for instance: Bulletproof coffee with the Bagel or cake. French fries with that full fat mayonaise. Whole milk with granola, museli, bran flakes. Full fat yogurt and your sweet fruits like apples, grapes, raisings, apricots, nectarines, pineapples, bananas. Avocados or guacamole and crisps (chips), doritos, pretzels Burgers Pizzas Doughnuts
Those are few examples of high fat high carb meals that will frustrate your fat loss efforts because of the way they manipulate your hormones.
Some people will find that strategic carb cycling is one way of dealing with stubborn fat loss or conquering the weight loss plateau problem. Shaun Hadsall is a proponent of strategic carb cycling. Don’t know what strategic carb cycling is? Shaun Hadsall explains it here.
Fibre has very little impact on those nasty hormones that wreak our metabolism, so you can’t go wrong with fibre, folks. You can’t. You can have protein too but beware animal protein can be very insulinogenic. So, I would rather plant proteins.
Here is a good rule of thumb: It may sound really nerdy but you can just use your visual power. You don’t have to be too precise.
If you are having hefty carbs in a meal, reduce your fat in that meal to less than 10 gms.
In the same vein, if you are having a fatty meal, reduce the carb in that meal to less than 10 gms.
Following this simple rule will create a well-optimised fat burning environment. This will make the job of fat loss an easier thing to accomplish than scratching your head wondering what the heck is going on when you aren’t getting the right results.
One last word: If you have met your weight loss goals and are maintaining your weight or lost the fat and trying to build muscle, none of these really matter. You can eat all the macronutrients you want, fats, carbs and proteins. Just so long as you are hitting your daily or weekly calorie expenditure goals.
In fact, there is an argument for some insulin spike if you are bodybuilding as insulin protects muscles from wastage and actually promotes muscle growth and development. Bodybuilders have to have a ‘bulking’ and ‘cutting’ phases with carbs and fats anyway which is a whole different topic altogether.
This issue of carbs and fats combination only matters if you are in calorie surplus. If your energy intake matches your energy expenditure, the macronutrient composition matters not.
Fat will not be stored without excess calorie intake. In the same vein, excess fats or excess carbs will be stored as fat independent of insulin levels…even zero insulin level.
At the end of the day, if what you are doing is working for you, stick to it, regardless of what your favourite guru may be shouting from the roof tops. The human body is a very complex entity, you will find.
Fortunately, blood sugar drops gradually unless when it is caused by overzealous self-management of diabetes in diabetics.
The adrenergic phase of low blood sugar should be seen as a warning phase. This requires action on your part to rescue the situation before it gets worse.
Low blood sugar symptoms of the adrenergic phase refer to feelings of dizziness, fast heartbeat, shaking of hands and feet, anxiety, blurred or double vision, hunger pangs, sweating. Some people will feel frightened or unnecessarily excitable.
These symptoms mentioned above represent the early phase of low blood sugar which can be remedied very quickly.
How do you treat low blood sugar?
Early intervention to get rid of the low blood sugar is essential with simple steps like:
**Drink a sugary juice straightaway. This is one occasion when you are allowed refined carbohydrates either in the form of a drink or solid sweetie.
So, juice like an orange juice or an apple juice are good to treat low blood sugar within minutes.
This NHS resource recommends a small glass of fruit juice, a handful of sweets and 4 – 5 dextrose tablets.
**It is important that you check your blood sugar 10 – 15 minutes later after the initial drink or sweets to see if your blood glucose has gone up.
**You will need to repeat the treatment again. Have another drink or another handful of sweets or candies, if your blood glucose is still below 4 mmol/l (72 mg/dl). Then repeat your blood glucose test again after another 15 minutes.
**After that initial step, it’s nice to have either a proper meal that provides a steady release of glucose (complex carb) along with protein and fats or at the very least have a sandwich or some buttered toast.
> It is thought that 15 gm of carbohydrate will raise your blood glucose by 3 mmol/l (54 mg/dl).
You can treat symptoms of low blood sugar by eating any of the following foods below. These will supply you with at least 15 grams of carbohydrate. 15 grams of carbohydrate is expected to correct your low blood sugar within minutes of consumption.
5 starbursts 13 skittles 1 tablespoon of sugar dissolved in water 7 jelly beans 1 tablespoon of pure honey 1 tablespoon of jam or even marmalade 13 gummy bears 4 or 5 dextrose tablets 1 tube of glucose gel
Half an apple 1 orange 1 small banana 2 circular slices of pineapple 16 grapes 2 tablespoons of raisins
A small glass of orange juice A small glass of apple juice A small glass of cranberry juice A small glass of non-diet fizzy drink – Coca cola, Pepsi, Sprite A small glass of prune juice A small glass of pineapple juice A glass of milk A small glass of pomegranate juice A small glass of prune juice A small glass of mango juice
In the absence of those food items listed above, you can use foods like chocolate, crackers, biscuits, cookies, whitebread and ice cream to treat low blood sugar. The only problem is that these foods are slow to act. They do correct low blood sugar but do not do so rapidly enough to be considered first choice.
How to treat low blood sugar when the person is unconscious or drowsy
Drowsiness and being unconscious are much more severe symptoms of low blood sugar. These require a deeper professional input but if you are alone with the individual, you need to do the following.
Placing the affected individual in recovery position is imperative. What’s important is not give the individual any of food items listed above until they have regained consciousness. If you do that, there is the risk of aspiration (choking) as their gagging reflex is impaired when unconscious.
What you must do though, is call the emergency services immediately (999 in the UK, 911 in the US). Professional help is needed at this point.
However, if the affected individual has glucagon injection on him/her, then administer the glucagon injection straightaway.
Usually most people will respond to glucagon injection within minutes.
There’s a good chance the emergency services would have arrived by now. But if they haven’t and the individual has woken up, give them any of the food items listed above like a small glass of orange juice, apple juice, dextrose tablets, or a tube of glucose gel.
A slow-release complex carbohydrate food is the next thing to feed the person with. This will give a sustained gradual release of glucose into the circulation and should prevent a relapse into hypoglycemia.
How do you treat an individual with low blood sugar who is having a seizure?
The treatment is just as you will in the case of someone who is unconscious from low blood sugar. Do exactly as I have described above but you will need to wait until the seizures have stopped before administering the glucagon.
Fits or seizures are usually self-limiting and would last only a couple of minutes. Something else you need to do is remove any potential objects that can cause physical harm from around the person when they are having a seizure.
How to prevent low blood sugar
You will find these low blood sugar prevention tips useful if you have had one or two episodes of hypoglycemia or if you are worried about low blood sugar attacks.
Preventing low blood sugar is quite easy. All it requires is a little planning ahead and forward thinking.
Most diabetics especially those on insulin will have one episode of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) once or twice in their diabetic life.
This is most likely to happen when you have just been recently diagnosed and you are coming to grips with learning diabetic self-management. As you become more proficient in your diabetic self-management, episodes of hypoglycemia should be fairly rare.
Where you start having frequent hypoglycemic episodes, then something is not right and you must discuss this issue with your medical team.
However, taking the steps below will prevent you from having frequent low blood sugar attacks.
It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your blood glucose levels quite often by checking it with your glucometer at home or office.
2. Understand the symptoms of low blood sugar. Know them inside out. This is important because you can take steps to prevent low sugar as soon as you think you are about to have one.
3. If you are on insulin or taking medications that promote the secretion of insulin from the pancreas, you should endeavour not to skip meals because your blood glucose will plummet if you do.
> You should be aware that insulin will do its job of clearing glucose from the blood whether you eat or not. So, no starvation periods allowed.
4. As a diabetic, a golden rule is to always have some food item that can quickly raise blood sugar with you all the time. See list above. A sweet drink, a beverage or a handful of sweets or candies are a nice fashion accessory to have on you. Maybe a handful of raisins could be a nice substitute to have if you looking to prevent low blood sugar.
5. Get a glucagon injection pack and take it with you wherever you go. It can be a life saver when you have a severe attack. People who suffer from hypoglycemic unawareness in particular will benefit from this step.
Administering glucagon is easy. Simply mix the powder with the solution in the syringe and give the shot into a muscle.
6. If you are going to do any vigorous exercise, you will need to do one of two things. Either reduce the dose of your regular insulin or have a pre-exercise snack before jumping on the treadmill, cross trainer, exercise bike or lifting those weights.
7. Avoid binge drinking on alcohol. It’s amazing what effect alcohol drunk very quickly can have on your blood sugar levels. You may want to drink slowly over a longer period.
8. You may also want to have a meal before you embark on your drinking escapade. Food will help slow the absorption of alcohol whilst preventing you from drinking lots as your stomach can only take so much.
9. For people who are prone to having hypoglycemic attacks when they fall asleep at night, a pre-bedtime snack like a toast with butter will keep your blood glucose at normal levels whilst asleep.
10. All diabetics taking must carry an ID badge that identifies them as a diabetic. This is useful and it informs people around you when they notice something is wrong. Not a bad idea to let your colleagues in your workplace know about your condition and give them instructions on what to do in case of an emergency.
How do you know your blood sugar is low?
The symptoms of hypoglycemia is how you know your blood sugar is low. Knowing the symptoms of low blood sugar and recognising them as soon as you suspect you are developing hypoglycemia is the best way to prevent low blood sugar.
This is because you will act to prevent a full-blown attack of hypoglycemia as soon as you know.
If you are unsure whether your blood sugar is low or not, a simple blood glucose test done on the spot will reveal where you stand. If you are diabetic you must have a glucometer at home.
Practically, every type 1 diabetic has a blood glucose monitoring device at home, I would like to think. I believe the same should apply to all type 2 diabetics as well.
For me one way of self-managing your type 2 diabetes and probably reversing it is to do what I preach about in eating to your meter. Probably one of the best things you can do for yourself if you want to reverse type 2 diabetes.
Hopefully you now know how to treat low blood sugar and get rid of low blood sugar without fuss. It’s simple strategies that go a long way in preventing an attack that potentially can cause a lot of harm.
How do you deal with low blood sugar
Here’s a summary of how to treat low blood sugar. You deal with the event by taking the following steps:
Prepare for possible low blood sugar event in advance.
Know what the early warning phase symptoms are.
Act early on the warning phase symptoms.
Drink a sugary drink, juice straightaway or eat a sweetie.
Consume 15 gm of simple carbohydrate or glucose.
Check blood sugar 15 minutes later.
Have another drink or sweets, if blood sugar still below 4 mmol/l (72 mg/dl).
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