Eat Stop Eat


Eat Stop Eat 1
Copyright © 2007 and Beyond by Strength Works, Inc.
All rights Reserved
No portion of this book may be used, reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by
any means, electronic or mechanical, including fax, photocopy, recording, or any
information storage and retrieval system by anyone but the purchaser for their own
personal use. This manual may not be reproduced in any form without the express
written permission of Brad Pilon, except in the case of a reviewer who wishes to quote
brief passages for the sake of a review written for inclusion in a magazine, newspaper,
or journal, and all of these situations require the written approval of Brad Pilon prior
to publication.
The information in this book is for educational purposes only. The information in
this book is based on my own personal experiences and my own interpretation of
available research. It is not medical advice and I am not a medical doctor.
The information within this book is meant for healthy adult individuals. You
should consult with your physician to make sure it is appropriate for your individual
circumstances. Keep in mind that nutritional needs vary from person to person,
depending on age, sex, health status and total diet.
If you have any health issues or concerns please consult with your physician.
Always consult your physician before beginning or making any changes in your diet or
exercise program, for diagnosis and treatment of illness and injuries, and for advice
regarding medications.
Eat Stop Eat 2

For Reference:
Pilon, Brad. Eat Stop Eat, 5th Ed. Ontario, Canada: Strength Works, 2012. E-book.
Eat Stop Eat 3

Contents
A Special Note 5
Preface 9
How it All Started 12
Introduction 15
The Fasted State 21
The Disappearance of the Fasted State 24
Forget Everything You Have Ever Read About Fasting 28
Fasting and Your Metabolism 32
Fasting and Exercise 38
Fasting and your Brain 44
Fasting and Your Muscle Mass 46
Fasting and Hunger 53
Fasting and Blood Sugar Levels 59
Other Misconceptions of Fasting 63
The Health Benefits of Fasting 74
Decreased Insulin Levels & Increased Insulin Sensitivity 79
Decreased Blood Glucose Levels 82
Increased Lipolysis and Fat Burning 83
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Increased Glucagon Levels 87
Increased Epinephrine and Norepinephrine levels 89
Increased Growth Hormone Levels 90
Increased Weight Loss and Increased Fat Loss 96
Decreased Chronic Inflammation 98
Increased Cellular Cleaning 102
Health Benefits – The Conclusion 106
The Eat Stop Eat Way of Life 108
How to fast Eat Stop Eat style 111
How to Eat Eat Stop Eat style 115
What to do While Fasting 125
How to work out with Eat Stop Eat 128
Designing your own workout program 134
Sticking with it 135
A note on cardio for weight loss 136
Other Health Benefits of Exercise 141
How to keep it off 142
Eat Stop Eat Conclusions 145
Eat Stop Eat Frequently Asked Questions 149
References 162
Eat Stop Eat 5

A Special Note on This Edition
First of all, let me be clear that I was well aware of the immense gap between
peoples’ attitude toward health and fitness and the theories found within this book
back when it when was first published in 2007.
I knew that people had generally accepted that strict dietary restraint and an almost
relentless workout program were essential for weight loss. Not only this, but it was
believed that a serious lifestyle modification had to occur that made you almost
obsessed with health and nutrition.
I was all too aware that for some curious reason we had accepted the idea that losing
weight had to be extremely difficult and the concept that long-term weight loss
success meant a life of dedication and extreme discipline.
Back in 2007, even the slightest suggestion that we could actually cause a genuine
reduction of body fat WITHOUT extremely regimented and inflexible dietary
restrictions was often met not only with disbelief, but also hostility. Few were
prepared to hear or accept a simpler solution.
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The diet industry is huge, and worth billions of dollars in annual profits. This not only
includes the obvious examples of over the counter diet pills, but also weight loss
centers, weight loss coaches, weight loss books, and even on-line weight loss societies.
Combine this with the shocking boom of twenty-something year old Internet
marketers making millions selling ‘diet advice’ on-line and it becomes obvious that the
weight loss industry was ripe for a big, strong dose of common-sense thinking.
I knew that Eat Stop Eat was going to cause a shockwave in the diet industry, and that
I was going to have to spend a great deal of my time defending the concepts within it.
But like I said, this was almost a given. It is the NORM for radical new concepts that
receive a lot of attention to arouse a sharp division of opinion among expert
‘commentators’.
Yet the fight for Eat Stop Eat’s acceptance was not nearly as uphill as I had imagined.
Sure, it had its detractors and nay-sayers, but for the most part even the harshest
scientific critic quickly came to realize the simplicity and effectiveness of Eat Stop Eat
and appreciated that it was supported by very sound and logical scientific evidence.
It seems that in a matter of just 3 short years, Eat Stop Eat has gone from being a
controversial ‘fringe’ dietary ‘fad’ to becoming an accepted dietary approach to losing
weight that is being supported by doctors, dietitians, and other mainstream health
experts.
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Biologist J.B.S. Haldane said it best when he pointed out that there are four stages of
scientific acceptance:
1) This is worthless nonsense
2) This is an interesting but perverse point of view
3) This is true but quite unimportant
4) I always said so
Eat Stop Eat has hit the “I always said so” phase of acceptance. This is very exciting to
me, and many others involved in the diet and weight loss industry.
People have begun to accept that losing weight can be accomplished using a multitude
of different diets, as long as the diet created some sort of decrease in caloric intake.
Not only this, but the concept that the best diet is the one you enjoy and can stay on
the longest, has really caught on.
Despite these facts, there is still a growing amount of nutrition misinformation that is
available in the mainstream weight loss industry. And, quite ironically, obesity rates
are still increasing. In fact, the average percent body fat in North America has become
startlingly high.
(The average body fat for men is 25% and for women is closer to 40%)
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Common sense and sensibility merges with the weight loss industry.
The simple truth is that research illustrates an increased supply of food is more than
sufficient to explain this obesity epidemic.1 I am almost positive that no one is happy
with the North American average of 25% and 40% body fat for men and women,
respectively.2 As such, there is still a need to expand on the successful theories of Eat
Stop Eat to help as many people as possible realize that weight loss does not have to
be complicated.
Let’s start with what we already know about weight loss:
• Carrying extra body fat is really bad for us, both physically and emotionally.
• Weight loss is not a mystery and the fundamental principles have never
changed. It’s our ability to apply these principles that dictates how successful
we are at losing weight.
• Since you are reading this book, you have a personal interest in weight loss.
A Caveat: Prevention is better than a cure.
While the principles of Eat Stop Eat are often only thought of as a way to lose weight, it
is important to remember that Eat Stop Eat is also an effective way to maintain weight
loss, AND to prevent weight gain from happening in the first place.
Simply put, when adapted to fit your own personal lifestyle, the principles of Eat Stop
Eat can apply to everyone.
Eat Stop Eat 9

Preface
Take a second before reading this book and think about all the diets you have
heard about and read about in recent years. Each diet had its own little hook that
made it stand out, and each diet had thousands of loyal followers that swore that
their diet was the only one that worked.
Now consider the real-world evidence that is right before your eyes. Every day you see
hundreds of people, all with different body shapes and all following different diets.
I will use professional bodybuilding as an example. Imagine two groups of
bodybuilders ready to step on stage at the highest level of competition; their veins
popping out everywhere, with tanned, oiled skin, and almost nonexistent body fat.
The first group consists of bodybuilders from the 1950’s and 1960’s. These
bodybuilders were able to get into phenomenal shape using diets that were low in fat,
high in carbohydrates with moderate amounts of protein. The second group consists
of bodybuilders from the 1990’s and beyond. They got into phenomenal shape using
very different diets that consist of moderate amounts of fat, low carbohydrates, and
very high amounts of protein.
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Both groups of bodybuilders were unbelievably lean. Both groups used various
supplements and drugs. However, both groups followed very different nutrition plans.
Yet, somehow they all managed to get their body fat down to unbelievably low levels.
Throughout the last five decades, the diets of bodybuilders have changed
dramatically. Depending on the bodybuilder and the era, they may have eaten six
meals a day, or they may have eaten more than a dozen. Some bodybuilders ate red
meat while others did not. Some did hours of cardio, some did no cardio at all, yet
they were all able to lose fat and get into ‘contest shape’.
The reason all these bodybuilders could get in shape on so many different styles of
diets is simple: for short periods of time, every diet will work if it recommends some
form of caloric restriction. And if you follow a calorie-restricted diet you will lose
weight, guaranteed.
The problem is, you simply cannot follow a super-restrictive diet for a long period of
time. Sure, a truly dedicated individual may be able to follow a very restrictive diet for
12 weeks and get into phenomenal shape. With the right amount of dedication, a
person can even look like they just stepped off the cover of a fitness magazine. And a
very small and unique group can do this for years on end.
For the rest of us, this way of eating is too restrictive, too intrusive on our lives, and
far too limiting to be done effectively for any real length of time.
Now, what if I told you that these types of long restrictive diets are simply not
necessary for weight loss? What if I told you that there is a way to eat and a way to
live that can give you amazing health benefits, help you lose weight, and does not
involve any prolonged periods of food restrictions, eating schedules, supplements, or
meal plans?
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In the following pages I am going to share with you a discovery that I made as a result
of years of research and schooling, a career in the sports supplement industry, and an
obsession with nutrition.
I am going to present you with the reasons why I think most diet plans are
unnecessary, too restrictive, and ultimately too complicated to work long term. And
most importantly, I am going to describe what I believe to be the single best way to eat
and live that will help you lose weight and keep it off, without any of the complex
plans, rules, and equations that is typical of most diets.
After all, I don’t consider this method of eating a diet. It’s a way of eating that restricts
calories, but that can also ultimately grow into a way of life.
I must warn you in advance, many of these ideas are ‘different’ in that they do not
agree with the current nutrition trends. I promised myself when starting this project
that I would not merely accept the current rules of nutrition just because they
happened to be the rules that are currently en vogue.
As the bodybuilders in the example prove, many different styles of nutrition can result
in the development of astonishing physiques. There probably is no “right” way to eat.
The best we can hope for is finding the way that works the best for you.
Nutrition, just like all science and medicine, is always evolving and changing. So even
though the ideas in this book may be radical now, I believe that someday they just
might be the new rules of nutrition!
I am positive that if you read this book with an open mind, you will find that
everything I have written makes sense. It may be different than what everyone else is
telling you, but it is proven and backed up by a large quantity of scientific research,
and it can change your life.
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How it All Started
I walked away from my career in the sports supplement industry in May of
2006. It wasn’t a bad split, and I did not want to give up on the industry altogether, I
just wanted to start fresh.
To fully explain this decision, I have to take you back about twenty years.
I have always been obsessed with exercise, health, and nutrition. At 10 years old, I
could already boast a very impressive collection of Muscle & Fitness Magazine, and a
couple of years later I was also collecting issues of Men’s Health. I can remember
reading about bodybuilders like Lee Haney, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno
and all of the articles concerning their diet and exercise programs. It was these
articles that piqued my interest in the science behind fat loss.
At 16 years old, I had a subscription to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. I
would read any research paper that involved nutrition and fat loss. It would take me
about a day to read each article because I had to stop and check almost every word in
a medical dictionary.
At 17 years of age, I started working at a local supplement store. This was my first
official step into the health and nutrition industry and I have never looked back.
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When I started studying nutrition at university, I had only two goals – to learn
everything I possibly could about nutrition and metabolism, and to graduate with
honors. In the spring of 2000, I accomplished both of them. Almost immediately after
graduating from university, I was fortunate enough to be hired as a research analyst
at one of the world’s leading supplement companies.
Fast-forward to June of 2006. I had just spent the last six years of my life working in
one of the most secretive industries in the world. During this time, I had been
entrusted with protecting some of the most confidential information in the entire
industry. I was the person responsible for the inner dealings of our Research &
Development Department. Unfortunately, this was part of the problem.
Part of my job was to review bodybuilding and fitness magazines. Every month I would
have to read through the top ten magazines on the market. I was constantly reading
about the ‘latest and greatest’ diet methods. After years of reading magazine after
magazine, I didn’t know what to believe anymore. Each month, it seemed like the
newest diet methods contradicted the diet methods that were in last month’s
magazines. I started to think that the weight loss industry was full of nothing but
confusing and constantly recycled misinformation.
When it came to the science of losing weight, every so-called ‘nutrition guru’ and
weight-loss personality had his or her own theories on what did and didn’t work. After
years of reading and evaluating all of these nutrition and diet programs, I was actually
starting to ignore my previous doubts and get consumed by the hype!
Despite all of my formal education in the nutrition field, even the most absurd diet
theories eventually started to sound logical to me, even though I had never come
across any research that could convince me that these theories were supported by
strong scientific evidence.
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In reality, the vast majority of what I had read in these magazines was just theories
and speculation. Some of them were based on science while others were complete
gibberish. Many were contradictory to one another, and others even defied the
fundamental laws of thermodynamics and science.
Month after month, dozens of magazines would appear on my desk, and month after
month, I would see new and old diet ideas being trumpeted as the newest, most
effective way to ‘blowtorch through stubborn body fat’.
At this point, I noticed a funny thing about the industry - if an idea is published
enough times, and if enough people accept it, it becomes true, no matter how
inaccurate it really was.
Whoever said, “you can say the same lie a thousand times but it doesn’t get any more
true,” has obviously never been involved in the nutrition industry!
The bottom line is that I got into the sports supplement industry for the same reason I
eventually left. I wanted to understand the true rules of weight loss, and I wanted to
figure out how we should really eat for health, energy, peak performance, and for
weight loss.
I ended up leaving my career in the industry so that I could write this book.
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Introduction
As part of the background research for this book, I made it my goal to uncover
the true scientific facts behind weight loss and nutrition.
I’m not talking about the scientific ‘facts’ that are thrown around every day by food
companies and marketing gurus. You know, the ‘eat this, not that’ facts or the ‘recent
research has shown’ ‘facts’. I wanted to find the cold, hard truths. I was looking for the
nutritional equivalent of death and taxes.
My first step in this quest was to read every nutrition and diet book I could get my
hands on. I read and re-read the following books:
The Atkins revolution, Protein power, Body for Life, The Zone, The South Beach
Diet, French Women Don’t Get Fat, The Warrior Diet, The Metabolic Diet,
Volumetrics, The Obesity Myth, Health Food Junkies, An Apple a Day, What to
Eat, the Omnivore’s Dilemma, Real Foods, The End of Overeating, Eat Right 4
Your Type, Good Calories Bad Calories, Food Politics, as well as various
‘underground’ books on diet and nutrition like Dan Duchaine’s Body Opus.
I didn’t just read these books. I analyzed them. I compared marketing tactics, writing
styles, and persuasion techniques. If the book quoted scientific references, I sought
Eat Stop Eat 16

out the reference and reviewed it in its entirety. My goal was to dissect our current
nutrition beliefs and to find track their evolutions and origins.
On top of this, I also read and critically analyzed hundreds (not an exaggeration) of
research papers, and re-read several of my nutrition textbooks.
I even went so far as to enroll in graduate school to study Human Biology and
Nutritional Sciences, and let me tell you, it took an almost unhealthy desire to
uncover the truth to drive me to re-enroll in school after a seven-year hiatus, with a
pregnant wife and a busy consulting job! It was a long commute back and forth from
school every day, but having the opportunity to study nutrition at the graduate level
was worth the sacrifice.
So what did all of my research uncover? Firstly, I can say that most (but not all)
people who talk about scientific research on-line or in magazines are not credible
sources of scientific information, nor can they properly analyze the meaning of any
scientific research.
What they do is called “data mining”, where they scan research papers looking for
interesting sound bites or quotes. Basically, they try to summarize 2 to 3 years worth
of scientific investigation in one short and snappy quote. It’s great reading, but it
rarely gets to the truth of the topic. This is not meant as a self-serving ego-boosting
statement, but rather as a testament to the importance of obtaining a proper
education.
I also realized that even having an advanced education in one specific topic does not
make you an expert in all things health related. Having a PhD in muscle physiology
does not make you an expert in fat loss, and vice versa. Nor does being a Medical
Doctor necessarily give you the scientific background you need in order to truly
understand the complexities of nutrition, and more importantly to be able to see
Eat Stop Eat 17

through the deceptiveness of nutrition marketing (many U.S. medical schools fail to
meet the minimum 25 required hours of nutrition education set by the National
Academy of Sciences).3
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Finally, I can tell you that based on my research studying nutrition, fasting, and
weight loss in graduate school, I have realized that there are only two absolute truths
when it comes to nutrition and weight loss.
1) Prolonged
caloric restriction is the only proven nutritional method of weight loss and
2) Human beings can only be in one of the following states: Fed or fasted.
That’s it. In my opinion, these are the only two facts that are undeniable. Everything
else is open for debate, which is the problem with nutrition today – it is made out to
be so complicated and confusing that nobody knows what to believe.
Most scientific research findings seem to do nothing more than add to the already
confused and muddled nutritional theories and diet recommendations that exist, and
the cause is clear as day – research on nutrition and food is no longer conducted to
improve our health and well being. It is conducted for marketing purposes and as a
method to get us to buy one product over another, and it is all based on us being
constant consumers.
In fact, it was in an amazing article in Scientific American magazine written by
renowned food expert Dr. Marion Nestle where I became aware that it was in the early
1980’s food companies had no choice but to attempt to change the way we eat. Faced
Eat Stop Eat 19

by stockholder demands for higher short-term returns on investments, food
companies were forced to expand sales in a marketplace that already contained an
excessive amount of calories.
Their only option was to seek new sales and marketing opportunities by encouraging
formerly shunned eating practices such as frequent between-meal snacking, eating in
bookstores, and promoting the money-saving value of larger serving sizes.4
To be clear, our entire style of eating in North America has been molded to support
the interests of major food companies.
You may be wondering ‘How can a select few people change the way entire countries
decide to eat?’ Well, in order to promote this new style of eating, enormous amounts of
money had to be spent on research supporting the health benefits of this style of
eating.
As far as I can tell, most research being conducted on food and nutrition these days is
done simply for the purpose of food marketing. This is because the money that funds
nutrition research is typically donated by a food company or supplement company.
This so-called ‘donation’ or grant comes with the hope and expectation that the
research will produce a health claim or other marketing claim that the company can
then advertise as a selling feature for their product. As it turns out, health claims on
foods and supplements can be incredibly lucrative, and the politics behind nutrition
are undeniable.
It was in a book titled “What to Eat” by author and researcher Marion Nestle (the same
author who wrote the article in Scientific American), where I read the following quote –
“The real reason for health claims is well established: health claims sell food products.”5
I couldn’t agree more.
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The bottom line is that research creates health claims, and health claims sell
products. Whether the product is some new ‘functional’ food or the latest diet
program, if research says it works, it will sell more, guaranteed.
Very soon into my readings I began to realize that the research on weight loss had
become so skewed with politics that it has turned into the world’s most ironic
oxymoron. After all, the research was trying to uncover the completely backwards
idea; ‘what should we eat to lose weight?!’
When I realized that almost all nutrition research was working under this completely
backwards paradigm, I understood that I had only one choice. If I was to avoid all of
the bias and vested influence in today’s nutrition research then I had to go back to the
absolute beginning. I had to conduct a thorough review of exactly what happens to
human beings in the complete absence of food.
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The Fasted State
The definition of fasting is quite simple. I’ve read through countless dictionary
entries and website descriptions of fasting, and have decided that the best definition
of fasting is the following: “The act of willingly abstaining from some or all food,
and in some cases drink, for a pre-determined period of time.” The key word in
this definition is “willingly” as it is the difference between fasting and starving. Other
than this one small difference, the net result is the same – the purposeful abstinence
from caloric intake over a given period of time.
Now, a lot of people confuse 'starvation' with wasting - wasting is the end result of
prolonged caloric restriction - where your fat reserves are almost completely used up
and can no longer supply your body with enough energy to meet its needs. This is
when you see abnormal physiology such as muscle wasting (loss) and a slowed
metabolism. So 'wasting' is the end result of prolonged extreme calorie restriction –
occurring after months or even years of a chronically low intake and possible nutrient
deficiencies, but not something that happens in a 72-hour period without food.
So you are either fed or fasted, however ‘fasted’ can mean 12 hours or 12 weeks, so for
the purpose of my research I decided to focus on short-term fasting, studying the
metabolic effects of fasting between 12 and 72 hours. While researching, I observed
some benefits to studying short-term fasting as a way to find the truth behind
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nutrition and fat loss. The most important is that people with vested interests in
selling consumable products have no interest in studying fasting.
Fasting automatically rules out the use of any sort of food, health supplement, or
newly touted “functional foods”. Much to the dismay of food companies, you can’t put
fasting into a pill and sell it, and as we have already discussed, the purpose of most
nutrition research these days is the development of new products.
By default, because you do not consume anything while you are fasting, research on
fasting contains very little bias from large food company funding. After all, why would
a food company spend money proving there is a benefit to eating less of their
products?
Another benefit of studying fasting is that there is an extremely large volume of
research that has been conducted on fasting, and more research comes out almost
every day.
Throughout history, various cultures have used fasting in many different types of
rituals and celebrations, and still use fasting within those traditions to this day.
Almost all major religions have a degree of fasting built into them. From political
protests to healing rituals, and even for good-old weight loss, there are many
historical accounts of various people fasting for different reasons. With the exception
of fasting for religious purposes, the practice of fasting has all but disappeared in
North America.
Our ancestors also fasted simply due to the poor availability of food. While modernday
humans in many developed countries are used to being able to eat a solid three
meals per day, animals in the wild eat only when food is available, and most likely this
is also how our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate.
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And let’s not forget that the majority of the world’s population still lives without
adequate food supply. The fact that we’re faced with a problem of too much food
makes us the lucky ones. Of course, this creates an odd sort of irony in the fact that
you are now reading a book about how to deal with the consequences of the extra
food.
Eat Stop Eat 24

The Disappearance of the Fasted State
As I stated in the beginning of this book, from a nutritional point of view, a
human being can only be fed or fasted. By saying this, I mean that we are either in
the process of eating and storing the calories that come from our food, or burning
these same calories as we burn stored energy. This energy is stored in the form of fat
and glycogen (the storage form of sugars and carbohydrates in our bodies).
Our bodies are designed to eat food when food is available and use the calories we
have stored as fat when food is scarce. These are our only two options. Consider them
the Yin and Yang of nutrition and health.
FED - Eating and storing Calories
FASTED - Not eating and burning Calories.
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Fasting is the simplest method our body has for maintaining its caloric balance. Store
a little when we eat, burn a little when we don’t eat. Recent research suggests the
problem is that we spend as much as 20 hours a day in the fed state.6 We are
constantly eating and storing food and we never really give ourselves a chance to burn
it off.
So the yin and yang of fed and fasted has been replaced by a constant fed state, where
we helplessly try to figure out how to continue eating and somehow lose weight at the
same time. This is a very scary scenario when you consider the fact that our bodies
are designed to store fat whenever it is provided with an amount of calories beyond its
needs. In order to restore the balance of fed and fasted states, we have no choice but
to go through periods of under-eating to match our large periods of over-eating.
As a very crude example, imagine a hunter who has caught and eaten an animal, and
foraged around and found some berries. Once the meat is gone and the berries have
all been picked, the hunter has no choice but to move on in search of more food.
Based on this ancestry, it seems logical to say that this is precisely how our bodies
were designed to function.
So if our bodies were designed to feed and then fast, why doesn’t anyone fast
anymore?
Most likely it is because the concept of fasting for weight loss and health has been
villainized in western society as it goes directly against one of the most basic
principles of business – supply and demand. To the food industry and various
government agencies, the idea of people eating less is bad for business.
Eat Stop Eat 26

Consider that each day in the United States, the food industry produces enough food
to supply every single person with almost 4000 calories.7 On top of that, 10 billion
U.S. dollars per year goes into the advertising and promotion of this food.8 It would be
a huge financial disaster for many food companies if all at once everyone in the United
States decided not to eat for one day out of the week.
This is why the food and nutrition industry is willing to suggest many different
theories on how to lose weight, as long as it means we continue buying and
consuming foods. And not only that, they’re trying to sell the idea of buying MORE
foods and consuming it MORE often.
Think of all the diet suggestions you know. They all rely on the continued intake of
food. Eat six small meals a day. Eat high protein. Eat breakfast (the TV commercials say
it’s the most important meal of the day). Eat cereal. Overeat, cycle your carbohydrates,
cycle your proteins, Eat lots of high calcium foods. Eat whole wheat. Take diet pills.
Whatever the recommendation, it always revolves around making sure that the
population is continuously consuming food and food supplements.
After all, this is how companies refer to us - we are consumers (not people). And if you
look up the word ‘consumer’ in the thesaurus you will find that its synonym is
‘customer’. How many times have you heard a company representative say things like,
“We value our customer”? Well, of course they do! We buy (and consume) their
products! Without us, there would be no profits and no company.
In a day and age where so many people are trying-and failing- to lose weight, it seems
improbable that the answer is simply dieting. In fact, in his very controversial book
“The Obesity Myth,” author Paul Campos states he does not believe that dieting is an
effective method of weight loss. Indeed, Mr. Campos goes so far as to say the idea that
“People could lose weight if they really wanted to” is, in fact, a lie.9
Eat Stop Eat 27

Although I’m not willing to go quite as far as Mr. Campos, I am willing to say that
every single one of today’s popular diets is doomed to fail in the long term. In my
opinion, no matter how strong your willpower, it will eventually be overridden by the
power of marketing, advertising and the lure of great tasting food. After all, no one
really wants to diet, we just want to look better with less fat on our bodies (Dieting
just happens to be a rather uncomfortable means to this end).
All of this raises the question – ‘have we been led to overlook the simplest form of
reducing calories and losing weight - short periods of fasting - in an effort to keep us
consuming?’ The answer seems to be a resounding ‘Yes!’
Eat Stop Eat 28

Forget Everything You Have Ever Read About Fasting
The amount of anti-fasting misinformation that can be found on the Internet is
astounding. This is despite the fact that our bodies were designed to fast, and that
almost every major religion and culture has some sort of fasting built into its rituals to
this day, and that most scientific studies that require blood collection also require
their subjects to be fasted.
Information on fasting and dieting is prevalent in cyberspace and in popular diet
books. However, this information should be read with extreme caution. Ridiculous
statements such as “Fasting will KILL your metabolism,” “fasting deprives your body of
nutrients and does nothing to help you modify your dietary habits,” “The weight loss
from fasting comes entirely from muscle,” or “The weight loss from fasting comes entirely
from water” and finally “If you do not eat every 5 hours your liver releases sugar, which
causes an insulin surge making you gain fat even without food” are typical of the fasting
misinformation that is available.
This is an example of ‘authoritative parroting’ where people simply repeat what they
have had heard from authorities on the topic, without actually stopping to check and
see if what they have heard is correct. So the same misinformation is passed on,
regurgitated, repeated, and made true; solely on the basis of the source, rather than
whether or not it is actually correct.
Eat Stop Eat 29

Other incorrect but often repeated statements include the notion that you will become
hypoglycemic (have low blood sugar) if you do not eat every two to three hours and
that fasting will prevent your muscles from growing. Typically, these statements are
followed by more of the same old nutrition mantra “eat multiple small meals a day,” eat
“high protein foods every two to three hours,” “avoid milk and dairy products,” and all
the other popular ideas about dieting.
The amazing thing is almost all of the scientific research I reviewed provided evidence
in direct opposition to the misinformation found in diet books and on the Internet. I
found very convincing evidence that supports the use of short term (as brief as 24
hours) fasting as an effective weight loss tool.
This included research on the effect that fasting has on your memory and cognitive
abilities, your metabolism and muscle, the effect that fasting has on exercise and
exercise performance, and research that very conclusively exposes the myth of
hypoglycemia while fasting.
What made this even more interesting is that this type of fasting not only helps you
lose weight, but also vastly improves many markers of health and comes with a very
impressive track record. After all, outside (and inside) of North America, millions of
people have been using intermittent fasting for centuries.
As cutting edge as it may seem, taking brief breaks from eating is hardly anything
new. It’s just something that a lot of people have been trying very hard to keep you
from realizing!
In fact, many people stumble onto fasting when they very first attempt to lose weight,
and they usually see some success. They only give up on fasting after being convinced
that it is bad and wrong by anti-fasting propaganda.
Eat Stop Eat 30

From a marketing stand point fasting is boring. It does not have a sexy marketing
angle and it certainly does not do anything to improve the bottom-lines of food
companies. In this day and age, a diet has to have a hook or a catch. It needs
something to make it different and special, and this typically involves some special
way of eating, but never a special way of NOT eating.
Here is the common sense reason why fasting may work better for you than any other
diet you have ever tried:
Think of all the diet rules you have seen lately. It might be something that says you
need to eat your carbs separately from your fats, or that you need to eat zero
carbohydrates all together. Maybe it’s that you need to eat all fat or that you need to
cycle your carbohydrates or your protein. Perhaps it’s the idea that you must only eat
raw foods or organic foods, or it’s a diet planned around a hormone like ghrelin,
adiponectin, leptin, estrogen or testosterone...etc and etc and etc.
Now consider this:
If these rules were ACTUALLY true, then Lap Band surgery would not work.
But it does, and it works very well.10,11
During lap band surgery, a small silicon band is placed around the top portion of a
person’s stomach, effectively making your stomach ‘smaller’. It’s a very drastic step
that involves a surgical operation, but nonetheless it is extremely effective at helping
people lose weight simply because it makes people eat less. Not just less carbs, or less
fat, but less everything. No periodic refeeds. No cycling. No crazy food combining. They
simply eat less.
Eat Stop Eat 31

The bottom line is that a diet really does NOT need a catch to be effective. In fact, I
would argue that the less complicated a diet is, the better its chances of helping you
obtain long lasting weight loss.
The specific type of fasting I am about to describe is not just a tool for weight loss, but
rather could be considered a fairly simple (yet effective) lifestyle adjustment that can
help you lose weight and improve your health WITHOUT having to resort to special
‘rules of eating’, taking pills or powders or electing for invasive surgery.
Eat Stop Eat 32

Fasting and your Metabolism
In my review of fasting, I found some very interesting information, most of
which contradicts much of today’s accepted ‘rules of nutrition’. Most startling is the
fact that being in a fasted state for short periods of time will not decrease your
metabolism.
If you have followed any of today’s popular diets, you may know that they are all
based on this idea. The story they are telling goes like this: If you lower your calories
too much, even for a short period of time, then you will stop losing fat because your body
has entered ‘starvation mode’ and your metabolic rate will slow to a standstill. In fact,
this statement could very well be the basis for today’s weight loss industry. However,
it turns out that it is factually incorrect.
Our metabolism, or more correctly our metabolic rate, is based on the energetic costs
of keeping the cells in our bodies alive. For example, let’s say we put you in a fancy
lab and measured the amount of calories you burned in one day sitting on a couch
doing nothing. Let’s assume that number was 2,000 calories. This would be called
your basal metabolic rate; 2,000 calories would be the amount of calories you need to
eat to match the amount you burn simply being you.
Now, let’s say you moved around that day, perhaps 30 minutes of walking. You might
burn an extra 100 calories bringing your daily total number of calories burned up to
Eat Stop Eat 33

2,100. Your basal metabolic rate is always 2,000, and then any extra energy you
expend moving your body (such as when we exercise) is added to that number.
So in this example, you are going to burn 2,000 calories per day no matter what you
do. So why are we being told that our metabolism will slow down if we do not eat for
an extended period of time?
The answer lies with an interesting metabolic process of eating called “The thermic
effect of food”, and some clever interpretation of this rather simple process.
The act of eating can increase your metabolic rate by a very small amount, and this is
what is referred to as ‘the thermic effect of food’. This increase in metabolic rate is a
result of the extra energy your body uses to digest and process the food.
It takes energy to break down, digest, absorb and store the food once you eat it. This
‘energy cost’ has been measured in laboratory settings and is part of the basis for
popular diets that promote the metabolic cost of one nutrient over another.
For example, it takes more calories to digest protein than to digest carbohydrates or
fats, so some diets recommend substituting some protein for carbohydrates and fat
assuming this will burn more calories. Although this is scientifically true, the amount
of extra calories this dietary change will cause you to burn is very small and will
hardly make a difference to your overall calories burned in any given day.
As an example, the idea of eating an extra 25 grams of protein so you can burn more
calories can appear somewhat ridiculous. If you eat an additional 25 grams of protein,
you would be adding 100 calories to your diet just so you can burn 10 more calories!
The more logical approach would be to just not eat those 100 calories.
Eat Stop Eat 34

Almost all of the calories you burn in a day result from your basal or resting metabolic
rate (the calories it takes just to be alive). Beyond that the only significant way to
increase the amount of calories you burn in a day is to exercise and move around.
The research on metabolic rate and calorie intake is remarkably conclusive. I was
easily able to find the following research studies that measured metabolic rate in
people that were either fasting, or on very low calorie diets:
In a study conducted at the University of Nottingham (Nottingham, England),
researchers found that when they made 29 men and women fast for 3 days, their
metabolic rate did not change.12 This is 72 hours without food. So much for needing
to eat every three hours!
In another study performed at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, men and
women who fasted every other day for a period of 22 days experienced no decrease in
their resting metabolic rate.13
In addition, a study published in 1999 found that people who were on very low calorie
diets and on a resistance exercise program (i.e. lifting weights) did not see a decrease
in resting metabolic rate, and these people were only eating 800 Calories a day for 12
weeks!35

In another interesting study published in the aptly-named journal ‘Obesity Research’,
women who ate half the amount of food that they normally eat for three days saw no
change in their metabolism, either.14
In still more studies, performed on men and women between the ages of 25 and 65,
there was no change in the metabolic rate of people who skipped breakfast, or people
who ate two meals a day compared to seven meals per day.15,16
Eat Stop Eat 35
In a study published in 2007, ten lean men fasted for 72 hours straight. At the end of
their fast their energy expenditure was measured and found to be unchanged from the
measurements that were taken at the beginning of the study17 - Yet another example
showing that fasting does not decrease or slow one’s metabolism.
The bottom line is that food has very little to do with your metabolism. In fact, your
metabolism is much more closely tied to your bodyweight than anything else. And,
specifically of your body weight, your metabolism is almost exclusively tied to your
Lean Body Mass. This means all the parts of your body that are not body fat.
The more lean mass you have, the higher your metabolism, and vice versa. It doesn’t
matter if you are dieting, dieting and exercising or even following a VERY low calorie
diet. As the graph below illustrates, it is your lean body mass that determines your
metabolism.
Eat Stop Eat 36

The only other thing that can affect your metabolism (in both the short term and
longer term) is exercise and movement. Even in the complete absence of food for three
days, your metabolism remains unchanged.
I find it troubling that every physiologist, medical doctor, and PhD that I have talked
to seems to understand this, but many of the personal trainers, nutrition personalities
and supplement sales people are completely unaware of this scientific fact.
This is truly a testament to the amazing power and persuasive nature of the
marketing that can be found on the Internet and in fitness and nutrition magazines. It
is also an illustration of the scientific illiteracy of many of the fitness personalities and
marketers you may deal with in your life.
This got me thinking that, if short-term changes in food intake has no effect on
metabolic rate, what other myths have I been led to believe as scientific facts?
I took it upon myself to examine the science behind many of today’s popular diets. I
found no difference between any of them in their effectiveness over the long term.
People choosing higher protein, lower carbohydrate diets (similar to Atkins or The
Zone) tended to see slightly better weight loss, at least in the short term. However,
when these studies extended to more than six months and up to a year, the
differences tended to even out.18
I found only one thing to be consistent with all of these diets. This common finding is
the success of any diet can be measured by how closely people can follow the rules of
the diet and how long they can maintain caloric restriction.
Eat Stop Eat 37

In other words, a diet’s success can be measured by how well they can enforce my
first nutrition ‘truth’ – ‘prolonged caloric restriction is the only proven nutritional
method of weight loss’.
If the diet plan allows you to stay on the diet for a long period of time, then you have a
very good chance of achieving sustained weight loss success.
From what we have seen, there is a large amount of science that supports the use of
short term fasting as an excellent way to create a dietary restriction, and it seems to
be an effective and simple way to lose body fat (which is ideally the goal of ANY weight
loss program). On top of that we have also determined that short term fasting does not
have a negative effect on your metabolism.
So far, so good. Fasting does not cause any negative or damaging effects on our
metabolisms, but that still leaves us with another big unanswered question: What
type of effect does short periods of fasting have on our muscles?
Eat Stop Eat 38

Fasting and Exercise
Your muscle cells have the ability to store sugar in a modified form called
glycogen. The interesting thing about this process is that your muscles lack the ability
to pass this stored sugar back into the blood stream. In other words, once a muscle
has stored up some glycogen, it can only be burned by that muscle and cannot be
sent off for use by other parts of your body.
For example you’re the glycogen stored in your right leg muscles can only be used by
your right leg muscles. It cannot be donated to your liver, brain or any other part of
your body. This basic rule goes for all of your muscles. This is in contrast to how your
liver works. Your liver stores glycogen specifically for the purpose of feeding your
organs, brain, and other muscles as needed.
During a period of fasting, the systems of your body are relying on fat and the sugar
that is stored in your liver for energy. Your muscles still have their own sugar that
they need for exercising. The sugar in your muscles is used up quickly during high
intensity exercises like weight training and sprinting, but even a few consecutive days
of fasting in the absence of exercise has little effect on muscle glycogen content.19 By
doing so, your muscle glycogen is truly reserved for the energy needs of exercise.
Generally, research has found that any effect that brief periods of fasting has on
exercise performance is small. Research completed in 1987 found that a three and aEat
Stop Eat 39

half day fast caused minimal impairments in physical performance measures such as
isometric strength, anaerobic capacity or aerobic endurance.20
In plain English, they found that a three-day fast had no negative effects on how
strongly your muscles can contract, your ability to do short-term high intensity
exercises, or your ability to exercise at moderate intensity for a long duration.
More research published in 2007 found that performing 90 minutes of aerobic activity
after an 18-hour fast was not associated with any decrease in performance or
metabolic activity.21 What makes this study even more interesting is not only was
fasting being compared to the performance of people who had recently eaten, but it
was also being compared against the performance of people who were supplementing
with carbohydrates during their workouts!
This means fasting does not negatively affect anaerobic short-burst exercise such as
lifting weights, nor does it have a negative effect on typical ‘cardio’ training.
Another study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 1988 found no change
in measures of physical performance when soldiers were exercised until exhaustion
either right after a meal or after fasting for three and a-half days.22
From this research we can see that you should be able to work out while fasted and
not see any change in your performance.
The only situation where I think there may be a negative effect from fasting is during
prolonged endurance sports, like marathons or Ironman-style triathlons, where you
are exercising continuously for several hours at a time.23,24 These types of ultra-long
competitions typically require the athletes to eat during the actual event in order to
maintain performance over such prolonged time periods.
Eat Stop Eat 40

In most research trials examining the effects of fasting on prolonged endurance
activities it was found that fasting negatively affected both overall endurance and
perceived exertion.25 Keep in mind, however, that many of these studies were
performed at the END of a 24-hour fast.26 So it is not advisable to partake in a 3.5
hour bike right at the end of a 24-hour fast, but I’m hoping you already knew that.
It should be noted that the “negative effect” that occurs from fasting before a long
endurance activity only affects an athlete’s time until exhaustion (performance
duration). So the amount of time an athlete can exercise while fasted before becoming
exhausted is less than the amount of time it takes for a fed athlete to become
exhausted.
Even though fasting may decrease the amount of time it takes for an athlete to
become exhausted, fasting actually has other positive effects, one of them being fat
burning.
Athletes performing long endurance activities while fasted actually burn more body fat
than athletes who are fed (because the fed athletes are burning through food energy
before they get to the stored energy in their body fat). So depending on your goals,
fasting before endurance exercise may actually be beneficial (so much for the idea that
you absolutely need to eat a small meal before working out – this completely depends
on your exercise goals).
Outside of these performance-based issues, I see no reason why you cannot exercise
while you are fasting. The obvious ‘anecdotal’ issue would be concerns about exercise
during fasting being able to cause low blood sugar levels. However this has been
addressed in research conducted on experienced long distance runners.
In a study published in 1986, nine men who were experienced long distance runners
were asked to run at 70-75% of their V02 Max for 90 minutes (this is a pace and
Eat Stop Eat 41

distance that most recreational, gym-going people could never achieve). They
completed this run twice. Once while in the fed state, and a second time a couple of
weeks later when they were at the end of a 23-hour fast.
Surprisingly, when the blood glucose levels of the runner’s first run and second run
were compared, they found no difference between blood glucose levels during the two
90-minute runs. Not only this, but the fasting run also resulted in higher rates of fat
burning.
It also took almost 30 minutes of exercise in the fed-state before the runner’s insulin
levels finally fell to the same levels that they had BEFORE they even started their run
when they were in the fasted-state.27 In other words, after 23 hours of fasting, the
runners insulin levels had dropped down to the same levels you would have after 30
minutes of intense running. From a health point of view, that’s a pretty amazing head
start!
Eat Stop Eat 42

Here is another interesting benefit of exercise while fasting. There are metabolic
pathways that actually help maintain your blood glucose and glycogen levels while
you are fasting, and exercise has a positive effect on these pathways.
During high-intensity exercise your muscles produce a bi-product called ‘lactate’
(sometimes referred to as lactic acid). Lactate has been wrongfully accused of causing
the pain in your muscles when you workout, and something called Delayed Onset
Muscle Soreness - the pain you feel days after your workout. While lactate doesn’t
cause pain, it does help maintain your blood glucose and glycogen levels while you
fast.
When lactate levels build up in your muscles as the result of exercise it can leave the
muscle and travel to the liver where through a process called gluconeogenesis (making
new glucose) it is associated with recovery of glycogen stores. So exercise can help
maintain blood glucose levels and glycogen stores while a person is fasting.28
In fact, it’s not only lactate that helps to maintain your blood glucose and glycogen
levels while you fast. The very act of burning fat also releases something called
‘glycerol’ from your body fat stores. The free fatty acids in your fat stores are ‘attached’
to something called glycerol while it is stored in your body fat. When the fatty acids
are released, so is the glycerol.
(Three fatty acids attached to a glycerol ‘back bone’)
Eat Stop Eat 43

Glycerol is a valuable precursor for gluconeogenesis in the liver. So the very act of
burning fat can also help maintain blood glucose and liver glycogen stores. And, since
low intensity exercise tends to increase the rate of fat release and the amount of fat
being burned as a fuel, you could say that both high-intensity and low-intensity
exercise actually help to make you fasts ‘easier’ by helping to regulate your blood
sugar levels, and supply building blocks to help maintain your glycogen levels.
I believe the perceived need to eat before a workout or a strenuous activity is more of a
psychological need than it is a physical need. Fasting has little to no effect on most
forms of exercise, and exercising while fasting may actually make your fast feel easier
by helping to maintain blood glucose levels and glycogen stores.
Fasting is not advised preceding long-length endurance events, or during the training
of elite athletes if the training involves multiple workouts each day, and where
performance is the number one priority over body composition. But for everyone else
the combination of fasting and exercise may be a potent way to lose body fat and
maintain muscle mass.
Eat Stop Eat 44

Fasting and your Brain
I think this myth may not be the fault of the nutrition industry as much as it
is a carryover from our childhood. The idea that we must eat to fuel our brains may in
fact be true for children, as research seems to suggest that children do better in basic
school tests after they have had breakfast as opposed to when they skip breakfast.29
This makes sense, as children are still growing and developing, but is it true for adults
too?
As it turns out, the research doesn’t really support the idea that you get ‘dumb’ or
‘slow’ when you haven’t eaten for a couple of hours.
In a test where twenty-one university aged people were asked to perform a series of
intellectual tests after having either a normal meal, skipping one meal, skipping two
meals or going 24 hours without food, researchers found no difference in performance
on measures of reaction time, recall, or focused attention time.30 This led the authors
of the study to conclude that short-term food deprivation did not significantly impair
cognitive function.
These results have been confirmed in additional studies where healthy young adults
ate as little as 300 calories over a two day period and experienced no decrease in tests
of cognitive performance (including vigilance, reaction time, learning, memory, and
reasoning), activity, sleep, and mood.31
Eat Stop Eat 45

The interesting part was that in earlier research the exact same group of scientists
found that when people were dieting for prolonged periods of time, they found the
exact opposite results. They discovered that prolonged dieting did cause a slight
decrease in cognitive function.32
So while long-term self-deprivation may result in a lower ability to concentrate, it
seems that short-term fasting doesn’t have this effect. This leads researchers to
suggest that the effect of long-term dieting on cognition may be more psychological
than it is physiological.
Basically, when you are dieting for a prolonged period of time you perform worse
because you tend to be grumpy and miserable or because you are unsatisfied with
your body.33 Whatever the reason, the research illustrates that short-term fasting,
especially the method described in this book, doesn’t produce this effect.
Not only has research shown that short-term fasting doesn’t impair cognitive function,
but it also suggests that long-term calorie restriction may improve memory in older
populations.
When researchers put a group of 50 women with an average age 60.5 on a calorie
reduced diet for three months they found that the women had significantly improved
scores on verbal memory tests.34 So not only does fasting not impair your memory
function, it may even improve your memory in the long run. And, as we discuss in
later chapters, new research on fasting is currently uncovering a brain-protecting
mechanism that is turned on by fasting (see the chapter on Cellular Cleansing).
Yet another myth about fasting has proven false.
Eat Stop Eat 46

Fasting and your Muscle Mass
The other great myth about dieting and fasting is that you will lose your
muscle mass while you diet. Based on the available research, this is completely false.
Preserving muscle mass seems to be a very important thing in the diet industry right
now and for good reason. Muscle makes up a large proportion of your lean body
weight, and for this reason muscle is a large contributor to the amount of calories you
burn in a day.
While the idea that muscle burns massive amount of calories is a bit of stretch (every
pound of muscle on your body only burns about 5 calories per day, not 50 like
commonly stated), the fact that you can build or lose muscle makes the metabolic
contribution of muscle very important. Not only that, you cannot deny the effect that
muscle has on your body image. Being lean AND having muscle definition typically
makes people feel good about themselves.
Luckily, not only does reducing your caloric intake not cause your metabolism to slow
down, it also does not result in a loss of your hard-earned muscle.
There is one imperative rule that goes along with this statement: You have to be
involved in some sort of resistance exercise, such as lifting weights. Now, to be
clear, you do not have to weight training at the exact same time you are fasting, but
Eat Stop Eat 47

both resistance training must be occurring at some point for your muscle mass to be
preserved in the face of a caloric deficit.
While long term caloric restriction on its own can cause you to lose muscle mass
(such is the case with hospital patients who are on a low-calorie diet and confined to
bed rest), the combination of caloric restriction with resistance exercises has been
proven to be very effective at preserving your muscle mass.
Research published in 1999 found that when men and women followed a 12 week diet
consisting of only 800 calories and around 80 grams of protein per day, they were able
to maintain their muscle mass as long as they were exercising with weights three
times per week.35

In another study published in 1999, obese men restricted their caloric intake by
eating 1,000 calories less per day than they normally ate for 16 weeks. They took part
in a weight-training program three days a week and were able to maintain all of their
muscle mass while losing over 20 pounds of body fat!36
In yet another study, 38 obese women undertaking a reduced-calorie diet for 16 weeks
were also able to maintain their muscle mass by training with weights three times per
week.37
As long as you are using your muscles, they will not waste away during short periods
of dieting. From my experience in the sports supplement industry, I can tell you that
drug-free bodybuilders and fitness athletes constantly undergo 16- to 20-week periods
of very-low-calorie diets while maintaining all of their muscle mass as they prepare for
bodybuilding contests.
The muscle preserving effects of exercise are even evident in older populations. When
29 men and women between the ages of 60 and 75 dieted for 4 months, the group that
Eat Stop Eat 48

was exercising experienced no significant decrease in lean mass, while the group that
was not exercising had more than a 4% decrease in lean body mass.38
Even more good news comes from the fact that your weight workouts don’t have to be
painfully long to be effective. When forty-four overweight women performed a 30-
minute weight training workout three days per week for twenty weeks while following
a low-calorie diet, they were able to lose almost 5% body fat while maintaining all of
their lean body mass.39
Finally, research has clearly shown that fasting for as long as 72 hours (regardless of
whether or not you are exercising) does not cause an increased breakdown in your
muscle, nor does it slow down muscle protein synthesis.40,116
Another diet myth busted!
Fasting and low calorie diets DO NOT cause you to lose muscle mass if you are
resistance training. In fact, as we will discuss in the Fasting and Inflammation
chapter, fasting may actually decrease some metabolic factors that are actually
preventing you from building muscle. And, as we will discuss the Cellular Cleansing
chapter, fasting may perform critical maintenance and ‘clean up’ work in your muscle
that properly prepares it for extra growth. So in the long-term, fasting and weight loss
may actually improve your ability to build muscle mass!
So much for the so-called starvation mode or needing to eat protein every couple of
hours - the key to maintaining your muscle mass long-term is resistance exercise;
your diet has almost nothing to do with it!
And since your diet has very little to do with your muscle mass, short periods of
fasting definitely will not cause your muscles any harm (especially if you continue to
work out regularly) and may even help you build muscle in the long term.
Eat Stop Eat 49

A note on Fasting and Increasing Muscle Size
While the research is very clear that fasting for 24 hours will not cause you to lose
muscle, it does not address the issue of whether or not fasting can impede muscle
growth.
The process of muscle growth is still a vague collection of physiological phenomena
that is not completely understood. What we do know is that muscles respond to
certain types of mechanical stress by being damaged, repairing themselves and, under
the right circumstances, increasing in size and capacity to generate force.41
There seem to be two basic nutritional requirements to ensure muscle growth occurs:
1) Caloric
Adequacy
2) Protein
Adequacy
You’ll notice that the first point is caloric adequacy and not caloric surplus. While the
common belief that you need to ‘eat big to get big’, recent research has shown that
any extra calories above your estimated daily needs does not contribute to muscle
gain. In fact, almost every single extra calorie can be accounted for in fat mass
gains42. So while there is an obvious caloric need for muscle building it does not seem
to be any higher than your daily calorie needs (building muscle does take energy, but
it also happens very slowly).
This is where Eat Stop Eat may actually be BETTER than traditional dieting for muscle
gains. With Eat Stop Eat you are only in a calorie deficit for one or two 24-hour periods
per week. The rest of the time you can eat to maintenance if you choose to. This is in
Eat Stop Eat 50

direct contrast to traditional dieting where you may spend months in a constant
calorie deficit.
While the speed of muscle growth is very slow, the unique ability to have periods of
calorie restriction and calorie adequacy do supply a sound theory as to why
intermittent fasting may be a superior choice for people looking to build muscle while
losing body fat. Especially since there is a small but interesting amount of evidence to
suggest that fasting can actually prime the metabolic machinery to be more sensitive
to the anabolic effects that protein intake43,44 and exercise45 have on muscle growth.
While protein intake is also a hotly debated topic, I have found through my review of
the existing research that intakes above the current recommended daily intakes does
seem to aid in muscle growth and that any protein containing meals consumed within
24–48 hours following a resistance exercise session will contribute to muscle growth.46
Also, new research suggests that skeletal muscle protein synthesis responds better to
intermittent pulses of protein rather than a continuous supply44. It is speculative, but
intriguing, to suggest that a 24-hour break once in a while may even be able to aid in
the muscle building process.
To summarize, periods of caloric adequacy, combined with an adequate protein intake
and the proper stimulus, seem to be enough to allow for muscle growth. And
intermittent fasting may actually allow for better muscle growth than long-term
continuous caloric restriction.
Eat Stop Eat 51

A Final Thought on Fasting and Muscle Mass
While long term caloric restriction on its own can cause you to lose muscle mass, the
combination of caloric restriction with resistance exercises has been proven to be very
effective at preserving your muscle mass.
As long as you are consistently using your muscles in a progressive and challenging
manner, they will not waste away during short periods of dieting. Further, muscle
mass can be preserved during longer periods of calorie restriction, so long as
resistance training is part of the overall weight loss approach. Finally, intermittent
fasting may provide a novel and unique method of increasing muscle size while at the
same time reducing body fat.
The above pictures are of me in 2006 while working in the supplement industry, (29
years old, 170 pounds); in 2009 after 3 years of following Eat Stop Eat (32 years old,
176 pounds); and lastly in 2012 after 6 years of following Eat Stop Eat (35 years old,
173 pounds). Hopefully you’ll agree that I have not suffered massive muscle loss and
may have even built some more muscle after 6 years of following Eat Stop Eat.
Eat Stop Eat 52

Fasting and Hunger
The true feeling of real hunger is difficult to explain and I’m not sure many of
us have ever really experienced it. We have felt the withdrawal of not being able to eat
when we wanted to, and the disappointment of not being able to eat what we wanted
to, but true hunger is reserved for those who have gone weeks without eating and are
not sure when or where their next meal will come from.
Consider that most people get noticeably hungry or irritated if they have gone more
than two to three hours without eating. But during this time, metabolically speaking,
they are still in the fed state. This means their bodies are still processing the food they
ate at their last meal. There is still unused energy from their last meal in their system,
yet they are already feeling hungry enough to eat again. How can this be?
Most likely, what we call hunger is really a learned reaction to a combination of
metabolic, social and environmental cues to eat. Remember how I mentioned that the
food industry spends 10 billion U.S. dollars per year advertising food? Well, it turns
out that this advertising is very effective.
According to Brian Wansink, author of “Mindless Eating” and dozens of scientific
publications on ‘why people eat’, we make as many as 200 food related decisions every
day and are subjected to countless food advertisements.47 In my opinion, this is why
almost all diets fail. It is virtually impossible for us to always be consciously in
Eat Stop Eat 53

control of what we eat and how much we eat. There are just too many environmental
factors (like advertising and fast food availability) that are working against us!
The role of taste and smell in motivating a person to eat (and in the foods they select
to eat) is fairly obvious. Perhaps less obvious is the role of habit, social influence and
cephalic reflexes.
For the most part, I believe that hunger as you and I understand it is a conditioned
response created through the mix of tastes, smells, habits, and social influence. In
other words our desire to eat is determined by a combination of our body’s response to
the amount of food we have eaten, and our mind’s response to all of the
environmental factors around us (such as TV commercials and snack food packaging
colors, fonts and graphics.)
While it is easy to suggest that ‘hunger’ and ‘cravings’ are purely learned phenomena,
developed from infancy until we are adults, others argue that hunger is actually more
of a biochemical phenomenon.
It has been argued that our constant desire to eat may even be related to a form of
addiction. In the best selling diet book, “The South Beach Diet”, author Dr. Arthur
Agatston refers to our love of sugar as our ‘Sugar Addiction’.48 He may have been on to
something with that statement.
According to a recent article in Scientific American Mind, by psychiatrist Oliver Grimm,
recent research suggests that drug addiction and binge eating are very similar in
‘neurobiological terms’.49 Put more simply, the brain reacts to food (not just sugar)
the same way it would react to a hardcore narcotic like cocaine.
In another article from Scientific American, Nora D. Volkow, Director of the National
Institute of Drug Abuse stated that food and illicit drugs both excite areas of the brain
Eat Stop Eat 54

that are involved with reward and pleasure. Therefore, food can create a conditioned
response that is evoked by the mere sight of food, or even by being in an environment
in which these foods are consumed.50
While explaining food cravings and hunger in this purely biologically manner is
intriguing – especially the connection between the psychoactive compounds in food
and hunger, these concepts seem to be based more on speculation that substantial
research findings.51
In reality, the total body of research seems to suggest that there are both biological
and learned influences on appetite, and that these two influences are highly
intertwined and probably cannot be separated.
Evidence from a wide variety of sources supports the idea that eating motivation is not
regulated according to a simple cycle of ‘depletion and repletion’, but rather a series of
motivational effects of the presence of food, its taste, smell, palatability, and a whole
host of other external cues.
Within the last decade, it has been recognized that an increasing proportion of human
food consumption is driven by pleasure, known as ‘hedonic hunger’.52 And this
hedonic hunger creates many of our learned eating habits.
In other words, it is the way that we eat each day that ‘teaches’ our body when to
expect food, and even what kinds of foods to expect.
The exact term for this phenomenon is ‘food entrainment’. In animal studies we refer
to the reaction to food expectation as ‘food anticipatory activity’. And this isn’t just a
‘psychological’ thing (it’s not just ‘all in your head’).
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Food anticipatory activity includes increased locomotor activity, body temperature,
corticosterone secretions, gastrointestinal motility, insulin secretion, and activity of
digestive enzymes.53,54,55,56 So we truly can ‘teach’ our bodies when and where to be
hungry.
And, because much of hunger is a learned phenomena developed from infancy to
adulthood, the desire to eat specific foods in particular contexts (celebration) or in
relation to particular feelings (stress foods) or situations (beer while watching football)
can be regarded as a feature of normal appetite, rather than being an indication of
some sort of eating pathology like an addiction or dependence. It is simply ‘how we
learned to eat’.
In fact, it is mostly social factors that teach us which of these learned ‘hungers’ is
right or wrong.
The desire to eat eggs at breakfast time and the desire to eat chocolate when relaxing
and watching television in the evening may both be examples of specific learned
appetites. However, only one of these learned appetites would be viewed as an
addiction or craving.
In this sense, eating things you don’t want to eat, or that don’t move you towards your
goal is nothing more than bad habit that has been learned and ingrained through
years and years of practice.
From my own personal experience with fasting, I can tell you that you do get used to
the feeling of not eating, and not worrying when you will be eating your next meal. It
becomes easier to manage as your body gets used to the feeling of having a truly
empty stomach.
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I am not certain if this is because you switch from fed to fasted at a quicker rate, or if
it is just getting used to having an empty stomach, or if you are ‘unlearning’ your
typical eating habits.
Another possibility is that by learning the truth about fasting you get rid of the guilt
you used to get when you thought you were doing something unhealthy by not eating
every couple of hours. Whatever the case may be it does get easier. Even when you do
feel hungry while fasting, the hunger sensations usually don’t last more than a few
minutes.
Friends of mine who have adopted periods of fasting into their lives have reported a
sense of freedom during the day, mostly because they do not have to spend time
worrying about what and when to eat or the emotional stress of choosing appropriate
foods. There is a definite feeling of being ‘free’ from many of our previously held
‘hunger cues’, and this allows us to develop a much clearer understanding of what it
takes to identify and control the reasons why we eat.
Often times, periods of fasting have been associated with being more alert, ambitious,
competitive, and creative. Not only that, but you are no longer having to continuously
plan your day around the timing of your next meal, and you may be ‘resetting’ your
body’s expectation of when and how much you are going to eat.
Essentially, taking short breaks from eating allows you the opportunity to retrain your
food anticipatory activity to allow you to eat less even on the days when you are not
fasting.
Lastly, people are also often concerned that fasting will ‘make them hungry’. Luckily,
this concern can be addressed by research that studied the calorie intake of people
after a 36-hour fast.
Eat Stop Eat 57

This research found that a 36-hour fast does not cause you to rebound and eat
significantly more calories once the fast has been broken. Fasting for 36 hours tends
to lead to a slightly larger breakfast the next day, possibly causing a 400 calorie
increase for the day.57
This may sound extreme, but keep in mind the 36-hour fast caused an average of
2800 calories worth of deficit, so even with 400 extra calories at breakfast the next
day, there was still a total deficit of 2400 calories. If you like the ‘glass half full
perspective – a 36-hour fast created a 2,400 calorie deficit AND allowed for an extra
big breakfast the next day!
The bottom line is that fasting allows people to unlearn some eating habits, or at the
very least become aware of some of the key cues that cause them to overeat, and
short-periods of fasting do not induce a powerful or uncontrolled need to compensate
on the subsequent day by vastly overeating.
Eat Stop Eat 58

Fasting and Blood Sugar Levels
I’m guessing that at some point in your life you have heard someone say they
are ‘hypoglycemic’ or that they have ‘low blood sugar’. Typically, this is used as part of
the reason why this person needs to eat every couple hours to keep their ‘blood sugar
stable’.
The basic story is that if they don’t eat every three or four hours then they become
hypoglycemic and become irritable, moody, light-headed and shaky.
I find this an interesting phenomenon considering as little as 5-10% of the population
actually have a malfunction in their ability to regulate their blood sugar levels. Also,
there is no actual clinical consensus regarding the cut-off values for blood glucose
levels that truly define hypoglycemia for all people and purposes.
It’s important to note that I am not suggesting that hypoglycemia does not exist. I am
merely suggesting that the average person without an underlying medical condition
does not have to worry about getting ‘low blood sugar’ while they are fasting.
From reviewing the research it is evident that unless you have drug-treated diabetes,
hypoglycemia just isn’t that prevalent in healthy people. This is because your body is
amazingly effective at regulating the amount of sugar that is flowing around in your
blood.58
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Throughout the typical 24-hour cycles of eating, digestion, and fasting, the amount of
glucose in your blood is generally maintained within a range of 70-140 mg/dL (3.9-7.8
mmol/L) as long as you are healthy.
To give you an idea of how truly remarkable this feat is, consider the following: the
average human being has about 5 liters of blood. Looking at the numbers above and
doing some quick conversions we realize that during any given day, the amount of
sugar in your blood ranges from between 5 grams and 7 grams. This is roughly the
amount of sugar in one to one-and-a-half teaspoons!
Research conducted upon healthy adults shows that mental efficiency declines
slightly (but measurably) as blood glucose falls below about 65 mg/dL (3.6 mmol/L),
or into the range of about one-half of a teaspoon.
It is important to note that the precise level of glucose considered low enough to be
defined as hypoglycemia is dependent on the age of the person, the health of the
person, the measurement method, and the presence or absence of negative symptoms.
According to the research I reviewed on the effects of short-term fasting on blood
sugar, a 24-hour fast should not place you into a hypoglycemic state,59 and I have not
seen any research that has shown a subject going below 3.6 mmol/L blood sugar
during a short-term fast.
So if there isn’t any clinical evidence of short-term fasting causing hypoglycemia,
what’s with all these people who say they get moody and light headed if they don’t eat
every three hours?
In a paper titled “Effect of fasting on young adults who have symptoms of hypoglycemia
in the absence of frequent meals” researchers aimed to answer this exact question.
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Specifically, the researchers were interested in the glucose metabolism of subjects
who had a history of what they considered to be hypoglycemic episodes (becoming
irritable or feeling ‘shaky’ in the absence of food).
Eight people who reported a history of hypoglycemic episodes were compared to eight
people who have never experienced any form of hypoglycemia. Both groups completed
a 24-hour fast while their blood sugar levels were monitored.60
During the study none of the subjects in either group had any periods of documented
hypoglycemia. In fact, after closer investigation it was apparent that when the group
that had a history of ‘hypoglycemia’ reported periods of ‘feeling hypoglycemic’ their
blood sugar levels were at normal levels.
Both groups had a decrease in insulin and an increase in body fat being used as a
fuel during the 24-hour fast.
The researchers concluded that there is no doubt that some people may find eating
less to be more stressful than others, but as long as no other metabolic disease is
present, the ability to maintain blood glucose in the normal range does not seem to be
affected during a 24-hour fast.
They then speculated that the symptoms of hypoglycemia could in fact be related to
anxiety and stress over not eating, as opposed to being caused by low blood sugar.
This anxiety could be over fear of becoming hypoglycemic, fear that they are doing
something unhealthy by not eating, or even a drug-like withdrawal response to not
being able to eat when they wanted to.
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For whatever reason these feelings occur, the research seems very clear that while
some people find eating less a little more stressful than others, short-term fasting will
not cause you to become hypoglycemic*.
* Keep in mind that Eat Stop Eat is written for people without any underlying medical
conditions. If you have diabetes or any other condition, please consult with your
doctor.
Eat Stop Eat 62

Other Misconceptions of Fasting
There were many other misconceptions about fasting that I found while
reviewing books, magazines, and websites. Of course, I also found through studying
the metabolic effects of fasting that without a single exception every one of these
turned out to be misunderstood research, incorrect information, or just poor
journalism.
A great example of some of these misconceptions would be the effect that short
periods of fasting has on the hormones leptin, testosterone, and cortisol, as well as
the concern over missing breakfast.
Leptin is a very interesting hormone. It gets lots of buzz in the weight loss industry,
mostly because of its effects in animal research. In 1994, researchers discovered that
a certain strain of genetically mutated obese mice had a deficiency of a certain
protein-hormone called leptin, which is released from fat cells and is monitored by the
brain.
Whereas normal mice had a gene that causes fat cells to secrete leptin, these mutated
obese mice lacked this gene. When these obese and leptin-deficient mice were injected
with leptin, their weight slowly returned to non-obese levels.61 Shortly after this
discovery it was found that leptin could even increase metabolic rate (energy
expenditure) in mice.
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The weight loss industry quickly jumped on this story, and leptin was hailed as the
cure for obesity. When I began my research I found the belief that ‘changing levels of
leptin were of vital importance to a person’s fat loss efforts’ to be a troubling one.
Mainly because even short-term fasting is known to dramatically reduce leptin levels.
As it turns out, what works in mice, doesn’t always work in humans. It has since been
found that when leptin levels are reduced by as much as 80% in humans there is no
change in resting metabolic rate.62
Changes in leptin levels do not seem to have any influence on, nor are they influenced
by, changes in resting metabolic rate in humans. In other words, when it comes to
humans, leptin just doesn’t seem to have any effect on your metabolic rate.63,64
In humans, leptin does seem to be correlated to the amount of food we eat. The more
food we eat, the more leptin in our blood stream. Overeating for several days can
increase leptin levels; however, these levels return to normal within hours after the
overeating is stopped.65
Leptin also seems to be correlated to the amount of body fat we have. The more fat we
have stored, the more leptin tends to be circulating in our blood stream.66 However,
research has shown consistently that there are substantial differences in the
physiological actions of leptin between rodents and humans and this may explain why
there is so much leptin-confusion in the diet industry.68
In humans, leptin rises and falls acutely in different situations, and these situations
are often counter-intuitive to the idea that leptin is intimately tied to the amount of
body fat you have or how much food you have been eating.
Eat Stop Eat 64

As an example, both long-term endurance exercise and resistance exercise can cause
reductions in leptin levels, as can fasting,62 increased testosterone levels,67 and
increased catecholamine levels. Even injected anabolic steroids can decrease leptin
levels.69
In all of these situations leptin levels drop very quickly, obviously too quickly to be a
marker of the amount of body fat you have. In fact, in all of these examples there is an
increase in fat burning, despite massive drops in leptin levels.
Obviously there is more to the leptin story then we know to date. In fact, leptin is
currently being studied for its role in regulating reproduction, maturation, and even
its role in inflammation – specifically its pro-inflammatory role in chronic systemic
inflammation.70
The bottom line is that leptin is an extremely important hormone that is intricately
connected to the amount of fat you have on your body. It is tied to appetite regulation
and may even be involved in the fat burning process, but it is not the ‘master
regulator’ of fat burning that it has been made out to be by the fitness and
supplement industries.
And, while short term fasting typically involves an acute decrease in leptin levels, the
consistent increase in growth hormone (GH) ensures that fat loss remains elevated
during periods of fasting (more on this in the next chapter).
So even with the ever-increasing scientific knowledge we are gaining about the
importance of leptin, using short-term flexible intermittent fasting combined with
resistance training remains one of the most effective and simple ways to lose weight
and reduce your body fat. In fact, even when leptin is injected into fasting individuals
it doesn’t improve fat burning or affect GH levels.71
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Another myth about fasting is that it prevents muscle growth by decreasing
testosterone levels.
In both men and women, testosterone plays a key role in health and well-being as well
as in the prevention of osteoporosis. It is largely responsible for determining how
much muscle mass a man (and to a lesser extent a woman) possesses and also has
positive effects on a person’s libido.
Athletes often use testosterone in the form of anabolic steroids as a way to improve
performance, build muscle and decrease body fat. It is considered to be a form of
cheating in most sports. (The International Olympic Committee has banned
testosterone doping).
A common belief in some athletic circles is that short periods of fasting can cause
your testosterone levels to plummet to almost non-existent levels.
There are a number of reasons why I was skeptical when I first heard this claim, but
the most obvious to me was that I had done extensive research on testosterone for a
patent I was working on back when I was employed in the supplement industry.
Consequently I knew that testosterone levels are actually highest during the morning
after an overnight fast.72 These levels will be 20-30% higher than testosterone levels
found during the evening.
The relationship between testosterone levels and dieting has been explored in
research. There is consistent evidence that mild caloric restriction (about a 15%
calorie restriction) does not lead to reductions in testosterone or free testosterone in
otherwise healthy males.73 Maybe more importantly, we do know from examining large
scale (over 1,000 subjects) longitudinal studies (following people for around 8 years)
that gaining body fat is correlated with lower testosterone levels, and having high body
fat is also correlated with having low testosterone levels.74,75 Luckily, the very act of
Eat Stop Eat 66

losing body fat is able to restore testosterone levels back to normal levels.76,77
Based on this research we know that being overweight, and even the act of gaining
weight, is associated with lowered testosterone levels. Mild calorie restriction is not
associated with any decrease in testosterone, and losing weight can return
testosterone levels back to level that would be consider normal. However, the evidence
behind severe calorie restriction suggests that long-term very-low-calorie diets may
negatively affect testosterone.
Research has shown that a group of men undertaking large-scale caloric restriction
for extended period of time (~7 years) with no weight training do have lower
testosterone levels then non-obese men who eat the normal American diet.78 There are
a couple of points that need to be addressed with these findings. Firstly, the men
following the prolonged calorie restriction diet had startlingly low levels of both fat
mass and lean body mass. So it is unclear whether the drop in testosterone was a
direct result of their diet, or the combination of their diet, lack of resistance training,
and body composition. Secondly, their testosterone levels, while still lower than the
typical men, were still within normal levels for their age.
Interestingly, we can find some very convincing answers in military research. After
eight weeks of extreme multi-stressor environments (very-low-calorie diet, super high
energy expenditure, high temperatures and extreme lack of sleep – military training)
testosterone levels can drop to almost castration levels. However, a slight refeed can
rapidly restore testosterone levels, and testosterone levels end up higher five weeks
after the eight week long stressful protocol.79 So extreme conditions including calorie
deprivation can lead to reductions in testosterone, but what about fasting?
After thoroughly reviewing the available research, I found that short-term fasting does
not negatively affect testosterone levels. However, more prolonged fasts seem to be
associated with slight decreases in testosterone levels. A 58-hour fast has been noted
Eat Stop Eat 67

to cause reduced morning serum testosterone measurements by the third straight
morning of fasting;80 as can fasting for 84 hours.81 These measurements, however,
were still well within the normal range for healthy adults.82 In fact, other studies have
found that it takes about nine straight days of fasting before a significant decrease in
testosterone levels is observed.83
Research examining the effects of brief fasting (14-18 hours) over 21 days found that
testosterone levels were not affected by almost a month of short-term fasting.84
These findings all point to the fact that short-term fasting does not have any negative
effects on testosterone levels, and certainly would not cause serum testosterone levels
to ever drop below normal. In fact, based on this evidence this may be one area where
brief periods of fasting is actually better than prolonged dieting – since the short
periods of fasting do little to disrupt testosterone levels.
However, it should be noted that in the research where long-term fasting or diets with
a high level of calorie restriction did cause a reduction in testosterone, it was found
that when the fasting or dieting was ceased, testosterone sensitivity was increased,
and higher ‘rebound’ levels of testosterone were observed.80,85,86
So far, so good. If we want to use short term fasting to lose weight we know we don’t
have to worry about leptin or testosterone levels. And even if we decide to use longer
term fasting (longer than 24 hours) we know that both leptin and testosterone levels
will return to normal once the fast is completed.
Finally, we have the myth of cortisol. Cortisol is a corticosteroid hormone, or
glucocorticoid, produced by the adrenal cortex, which is part of the adrenal gland. It
is usually referred to as the "stress hormone" as it’s involved in the response to stress
and anxiety. It has many different actions in the body, but most people know of
Eat Stop Eat 68

cortisol for its role in increasing blood pressure and blood sugar, and helping the body
cope with stress illness and injury.
Over the last couple years cortisol has been fingered as a culprit in causing obesity,
specifically through a speculative link to belly fat. And, just like anything else that has
been labeled 'bad' it has been rumored that if you don't eat every couple hours you
would cause your cortisol levels to jump. This ‘jump’ has been associated with a whole
host of problems other than increasing body fat, including the rumor that, “If you
don’t eat every couple hours your cortisol will get very high and it will ‘destroy’ your
muscle mass”.
In direct opposition to the cortisol scaremongering we find in the media, the
consistent finding in the research on fasting is that there is very little or no change in
cortisol levels. This is especially true in a short 24- hour fast104 as well as after 72
hours of fasting.40 It has also been found that even two weeks of fasting every other
day did not negatively affect cortisol levels.87
The funny thing is, we have known for more than four decades that increased cortisol
is a phenomenon that is regularly found in obesity.88. And, we have also known that
treating obesity with very low calorie diets causes a decrease in serum cortisol.
So, being overweight increases cortisol, the actual act of fasting doesn't make it go up
(at least when fasting for less than 72 hours), and losing weight will make it go down?
Sounds like even more reason to fast for weight loss.
The truly amazing thing is that while delving into these common nutritional myths I
began to find more and more health benefits that are associated with taking brief
breaks from eating. It seems that fasting can have many positive health effects beyond
simply helping you lose weight and burn body fat.
Eat Stop Eat 69

But what about Breakfast?
Probably one of the biggest concerns people have when it comes to fasting (after
worrying about their metabolism ‘crashing’) has to be the idea of missing a breakfast,
and I can see why. For close to three decades now, nutritionists and nutritional texts
have been recommending breakfast as an important part of healthy eating habits,
often quoting the ‘most important meal of the day’ marketing mantra.89
There is one major problem with the idea of missing breakfast – it’s not actually
possible. The reality is breakfast is the first meal of the day no matter when you eat it.
After all, breakfast is a two part word “break” – “fast”. The meaning is literally
‘breaking a fast’. So by the purest definition of the word, your first meal after waking
up, no matter how many hours after you wake up, counts as breakfast because this is
the meal that “breaks the fast”.
It is only for research and marketing purposes that breakfast is labeled as a meal that
is eaten in the morning right after you’ve rolled out of bed.
Of course, this still leaves us with questions such as ‘how long after waking up is my
first meal still considered breakfast? Is it 30 minutes after waking up? One hour? Two
hours? What if I’m a shift working and I start my day at 10pm? Does my first meal at
11pm count as breakfast? Of course none of these questions are answered in the
scientific literature as the answers will not fit into the neat and tidy marketing story of
what breakfast is supposed to be.
Based on long term research it is true that people who regularly ate breakfast had a
‘better BMI’ and weighed less, and had less health risks, than those who regularly
skipped breakfast.90. The problem is, however, the association of breakfast eating and
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weight is complicated by MAJOR lifestyle confounders. For instance, breakfast
consumers were more likely than breakfast non-consumers to be older, female, white,
nonsmokers, regular exercisers, and trying to control their weight.
So people who are active and ‘health conscious’ tend to be the ones who eat breakfast.
Which begs the question; – is this because eating breakfast is in fact healthy and
promotes a healthy lifestyle, or is it because breakfast is currently being marketed as
healthy and therefore those seeking to be healthier start eating breakfast? It is also
likely that people with high BMI’s favor skipping breakfast in an attempt to lose
weight.91
Despite the correlations between weight and eating trends and all the semantic
arguments about what is and isn’t breakfast, we must look to research to find provide
us with some evidence to help us rate the importance of ‘breakfast’, and to find
possible mechanism that would account for breakfasts overall effect on health and
weight.
After reviewing the total body of research on breakfast, one thing becomes startlingly
clear - the amount of food you eat at ‘breakfast’ is strongly correlated to your overall
daily intake. Or put more simply - as calories consumed at breakfast go up, so does
overall calorie intake for the day.92,93,94,95
The second thing that also reoccurs across multiple research studies is that the
people who skip (delay) breakfast select more calorically dense foods later in the day
than do those who regularly eat breakfast. The argument ‘skipping breakfast leads to
eating more during the day’ is technically backed by research.96 At first glance this
could seem as a major negative of delaying your first meal, however, the critical piece
of information that usually fails to get reported is this same research shows the
amount of 'extra' calories breakfast skippers eat at lunch and dinner is not enough to
make up for the calories lost by skipping breakfast.
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In other words, even though breakfast skippers eat slightly more calories at dinner
and lunch, they still on average eat less total calories over the entire day.
So while skipping eating in the traditional ‘breakfast’ period may lead to eating more
calories at other meals, the result is still typically a reduction in overall calorie intake.
Thus we can conclude that skipping breakfast does not lead to eating more total
calories.97
The other prevailing argument for the importance of breakfast is that skipping
breakfast leads to increased snacking throughout the rest of the day.
The typical warning against skipping breakfast is something like this:
“The last thing anyone should do is skip breakfast. Otherwise, you'll be eating something
even worse later on - candy bars and potato chips -- because you're starving."
This is the ‘common thinking’ when it comes to breakfast. Skipping breakfast means
eating ‘crap’ later in the day. So the question becomes, ‘is this true, and does it
matter?’
When it comes to the benefits of breakfast and weight loss we can turn to the research
utilizing calorie restricted diets that either did, or did not, skip breakfast. In this
research both diets caused equal weight loss. In other words, research shows that
skipping breakfast has no effect on weight loss results when the diets have equal
amounts of calorie restriction.92
The reason this particular study is of interest is because the researchers of this study
did note that snacking was increased in the non-breakfast eaters.
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The authors wrote that, “The other major advantage of eating breakfast was a greater
reduction in unplanned, impulsive snacks”.
I would argue that since total weight loss was the same, and that skipping breakfast
was even associated with better totally body fat loss, this statement could be rewritten
to say:
“The major advantage of skipping breakfast was a greater ability to partake in
unplanned impulsive snacks and still lose significant amounts of weight and body fat.”
So the importance of ‘breakfast’ for weight loss seems to be minimal at best, but that
doesn’t mean we should all write off breakfast. Just because breakfast isn’t the ‘most
important meal of the day’, doesn’t mean it can’t the your ‘most enjoyable meal of the
day’.
Short-term fasting doesn’t have to mean you ever miss breakfast if you choose to you
can arrange your fasts so that you never miss a breakfast. It’s completely up to you.
Eat Stop Eat 73

The Health Benefits of Fasting
After reviewing all the research I could find on fasting, I was astonished at all
the health benefits that short-term fasting can offer. Do you remember in the late
1990’s when the Mediterranean diet became all the rage? The idea behind the diet
was based on research conducted in the Greek Island of Crete. The research
suggested that the diet of the Mediterranean region was superior to the North
American diet.
On average, the population of Crete was healthier than North Americans, with less
incidence of cardiovascular or heart disease. Researchers attributed this improved
level of health to a high daily intake of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and olive oil.
This theory made good sense, as these are all accepted ‘healthy’ foods. However,
recent reviews by a group of researchers at the University of Crete, School of Medicine
suggest that one very important factor was left out of this research. In the Greek
Orthodox Christian Church there are some very lengthy fasting traditions.98
The Orthodox Church specifies a combination of dietary restrictions and fasting for a
total of between 180 and 200 days out of every year. While this is by no means
conclusive evidence, it did suggest that a very healthy group of people were not only
consuming plentiful amounts of healthy foods, but also took part in routine periods of
fasting.99
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By the time I had finished my research, I had come to the conclusion that short term
(one to three days) intermittent (never in a row) fasting, was not only an effective and
easy way to cut calories and thus lose unwanted body fat, but it was also associated
with many amazing health benefits.
The science of nutrition is an ever-evolving entity. Every month, hundreds of scientific
publications are added to the constantly growing body of literature. This being said, it
is a scientific mistake to simply ‘cherry pick’ the latest research. You must have a
solid understanding of the entire history of the science before you can accurately
analyze it.
In fact, the very principles of Eat Stop Eat emerged from three of perhaps the most
renowned scientific hypothesis in all of nutrition:
1) The “thrifty genotype” hypothesis of J.V. Neel.100 While the interpretation of this
research has changed over the years, and is often misunderstood (at the early
stages this theory was even used to support the dreaded “starvation mode”);
the theory has now developed into the simple idea that evolution has favored
the survival of individuals genetically equipped with a good appetite and the
ability to store surplus Calories as fat. The importance of this hypothesis is
that it answered the question “Why do we get fat in the first place?” The
answer being, “To increase survival by making sure we are able to store energy
in the form of fat”.
2) The “glucose fatty acid cycle” by P.J. Randle, et al.101 This hypothesis led to the
discovery that free fatty acids from our fat stores and the glucose in our blood
literally compete as a fuel source in our bodies, and that our body fat will
always win this competition. While this is a very scientifically complex
hypothesis, its importance cannot be ignored since it led to the discovery that
Eat Stop Eat 75

by burning fat as a fuel (like when you are fasting) you are able to decrease the
need for protein breakdown (you won’t burn muscle as a fuel). In other words,
the very act of burning body fat preserves muscle mass.
3) The “feast and famine cycle” by Rabinowitz and Zierler.125 This was the first
scientific theory that clearly outlined the relationship between insulin and
growth hormone, and is the reason why Growth Hormone gets a ‘starring’ role
in the explanation of how Eat Stop Eat causes you to lose body fat without
losing muscle. The “Feast and Famine cycle” also helps to explain why we burn
body fat while we are fasting, and burn Calories from our food when we are
eating.
These three seemingly unrelated theories were all developed in the mid-nineteen
sixties, and all three were considered very controversial at the time. What I found
most interesting about these theories was since most people studying nutrition did so
under the assumption that we needed to be constantly eating, nobody had really
thought to look at these three theories as a whole.
In fact, it wasn’t until I looked at these three theories with the idea of fasting that I
was able to put them together into one unifying theory that helps explain many of the
discoveries currently being made in today’s nutritional sciences. It was these three
scientific principles that led to the realization that it made perfect sense that we store
energy as body fat. It also led me to realize that it was entirely possible to get rid of
this body fat while not losing our muscle mass, and finally, that the special
relationship between growth hormone and insulin played an intricate role in this
process.
It was this revelation that led me to review all the research I could find on the
metabolic effects of short-term fasting. By the time I was finished, I had found that in
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a very impressive volume of published peer reviewed scientific studies, short-term
intermittent fasting has been shown to have the following health benefits:
• Decreased body fat & body weight
• Maintenance of skeletal muscle mass
• Decreased blood glucose levels
• Decreased insulin levels & increased insulin sensitivity
• Increased lipolysis & fat oxidation
• Increased Uncoupling Protein 3 mRNA
• Increased norepinephrine & epinephrine levels
• Increased glucagon levels
• Increased growth hormone levels
• Decreased food related stress
• Decreased chronic systemic Inflammation
• Increased cellular cleansing
Quite a list, I’m sure you will agree. What is even more amazing is that many of the
benefits were found after as little as 24 hours of fasting!
From experience in the supplement industry, I can tell you that if you could make a
pill with all these claims, you would easily have a 100 million dollar a year product.
You’d probably also win a Nobel Prize. These claims are that impressive!
Now that we have debunked many of the negative stories about fasting, and have
discovered that fasting can have all of these aforementioned beneficial effects, it raises
the question – should we all be fasting?
In order to find the answer, let’s take a take a closer look at some of these health
benefits.
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Decreased Insulin Levels & Increased Insulin Sensitivity
Insulin is one of the most important hormones in your body. Every nutrition, medicine
and physiology textbook has at least one chapter devoted entirely to the effects that
insulin has on your physiology.
Whenever you eat any type of food your blood insulin levels increase. While certain
macronutrients raise insulin more than others (protein and carbohydrates having a
much larger effect than fat), almost all of the food we eat contains at least two of the
macronutrients; thus, it is fairly safe to say that ANYTHING you eat that contains
Calories will raise your insulin levels to some degree.
This increased amount of circulating insulin drives the storage of nutrients within
your body. In other words, insulin is the primary signal that tells your body to store
the energy from your food as body fat and glycogen. Insulin is the key that drives
glucose (sugar) out of your blood and into your fat and muscle cells.
When insulin levels are high, you are in storage mode, plain and simple. What’s more,
when insulin is elevated, you are unable to release fat from your fat stores – The key
thing to remember is when your insulin is high, your body fat isn’t going anywhere.
The problem with insulin lies in the fact that most of us are eating too much too often.
As a result we have chronically elevated insulin levels. Chronically elevated insulin
levels are associated with the development of insulin resistance, diabetes,
inflammation, cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer.
Many popular diets, such as The Zone and The South Beach Diet, are based around
the idea of controlling your insulin levels. These diets attempt to help you accomplish
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this by instructing you to eat small frequent meals that have a lesser effect on your
blood sugar levels.
While eating frequent small meals, or meals with a low ‘glycemic index’ (a measure of
the meal’s effect on blood sugar) may help you ‘control’ or ‘even out’ your insulin
levels, this is not always the case. In fact, having very high levels of insulin can
actually make something appear to have a low ‘glycemic index’, making someone think
their insulin levels are low when in fact they are actually quite high.
In fact, it is perfectly possible to overeat and increase your weight and body fat while
keeping your insulin levels ‘stable’.
This is where fasting is different. Fasting for as little as 24 hours has been shown to
drastically reduce your insulin levels.102 This is especially important because in order
to burn body fat, insulin levels must be very low. Simply ‘evening them out’ may not
be enough, especially if this ‘evening out’ of your blood sugar levels is due to
chronically high insulin levels.
In research conducted on people who fasted for 72 hours, plasma insulin levels
dropped dramatically, reaching a level that was less than half of its initial levels. What
is even more impressive is that 70% of this reduction happened during the first 24
hours of fasting.103,104
In other words, a 24-hour fast has a more dramatic effect on reducing insulin than all
of the insulin based diets, like low-carb or frequent meal timing, could ever hope to
have. If you actually want to bring your insulin levels down, the best tool you have is
short term fasting.
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(As little as 24 hours of fasting can cause a marked decrease in circulating insulin
levels.)
By fasting once or twice a week you create periods where insulin levels are very low.
Combine this with the periods where you are eating and insulin levels are elevated
and you recreate the balance of low and high insulin that is needed for the
maintenance of good health and a desirable body weight.
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Decreased Blood Glucose Levels
Blood sugar concentration or (blood glucose) is the amount of glucose (sugar) present
in your blood at any given moment. Our bodies are remarkable effective at
maintaining our blood sugar within a very tight range. Throughout the typical 24-hour
cycles of eating, digestion, and fasting, the amount of glucose in your blood is
generally maintained within a range of 70-140 mg/dL (3.9-7.8 mmol/L) as long as you
are healthy.
The problem occurs when we are constantly eating, or even worse, constantly
overeating. When we are constantly eating our bodies struggle to keep up with the
continuous supply of glucose and we run the risk of chronically elevated blood glucose
levels and the long-term health consequences that are associated with this state. This
problem becomes even worse in situations of obesity and inflammation.
Prolonged excess blood glucose is a key factor that is pro-aging through both direct
and indirect effects.105 In clinical research we have seen that giving animals really
high blood glucose levels via infusion, (a scientific way of recreating an episode of
overfeeding) led to a decrease in antioxidants, increased liver oxidative stress and
systemic inflammatory response.106
Luckily, even an extremely short period of fasting (12-18 hours) is enough to allow our
body to regulate our blood glucose and return them to their normal fasting level.103
So simply by taking a brief break from eating we are able to give our metabolisms
enough time to slowly correct our blood glucose levels and by reducing our body fat,
and the amount of food we eat, we create an environment where our bodies can once
again easily regulate our blood glucose levels.
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Increased Lipolysis and Fat Burning
There are a few very important steps in the process of burning fat. First, your fat has
to be ‘released’ from your adipose tissue (fancy name for body fat). Scientists call this
lipolysis, and it involves the process of releasing the fatty acids that make up your fat,
and moving these fatty acids into your blood stream so they can eventually be burned
as a fuel by your muscles and internal organs.
After a series of steps that allow these fatty acids to get to the mitochondria in your
muscles (the metabolic ‘engine’ of every cell in your body) these fatty acids go through
a process called beta oxidation. This is the final step of fat burning – once this has
happened your body fat has now been used for energy. It is gone and it cannot come
back.
Let’s review that quickly; fat must be released from its storage spot (our body fat),
transported through your system, and get to a cellular engine where it will be burned
(typically in your muscles or organs).
While we are resting, our muscles are a major contributor to our metabolic rate (along
with our organs). During a fasted state, our muscles begin to switch over and start
oxidizing fatty acids from our body fat as a fuel. In other words, when we fast, our
muscles turn into fat burning machines. Despite the common assumption, our bodies
DO NOT attack our muscles and use them for fuel when we are fasting. In fact quite
the opposite happens – our muscles turn into the machine that actively burns our
body fat.
A 24-hour period of fasting shifts your body from the fed state to the fasted state,
which causes large increases in both lipolysis (fat release) and fat oxidation (fat
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burning). Simply put, fasting allows your body to take a break from storing fat, and
start burning it (which of course, is the EXACT reason we store body fat in the first
place!)
During short-term fasting free fatty acids start to be released from your body fat as
soon as you are done burning the calories that you consumed during your last meal.
Depending on the size of the meal, this can happen anywhere from 2-6 hours into a
fast. After this point, the amount of free fatty acids entering your blood continue to
increase as does the amount of body fat being oxidized for energy. By about the 12-14
hour mark you begin to burn predominantly body fat as your main fuel source.
Probably the most revealing information in the research I have read was found in
studies published by a group of scientists from the University of Texas, Medical
Branch at Galveston. It examined how short-term fasting affects fat and sugar
metabolism in our bodies.
After only 24 hours of fasting, the amount of fat being released from people’s fat stores
(lipolysis) and the amount being burned for fuel (oxidation) had been significantly
increased by over 50%. This is a very significant increase in fat burning in a relatively
short period of time.
This also helps illustrate how even short periods of fasting (approximately 24 hours),
can have profound effects on our body’s ability to burn body fat. In fact, recent
research has illustrated that fasting actually does a better job than exercising when it
comes to turning on some key fat burning hormones.
The recently discovered hormone Adipose Triglyceride Lipase (ATGL) is responsible for
the very first step of released fat from your fat stores.107 It is ATGL in combination
with another enzyme called Hormone Sensitive Lipase that governs the ability of
adipose tissue to mobilize fat stores to be used as a fuel. And, it just so happens that
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short-periods of fasting have an incredibly potent affect on ATGL, even more so than
the effects of exercise.108 Short periods of fasting are able to cause a rapid release of
FFAs from your fat stores.
(Even with short periods of fasting, there is an increased
availability of body fat to be burned as fuel)
More evidence of the fat burning effects of fasting come from something called
Uncoupling Protein-3.
Uncoupling Protein-3 is a very important protein found in our muscles that is
associated with fat burning. When fat burning increases so does the amount of
Uncoupling Protein-3 in our muscles.
Amazing research has shown that as little as 15 hours into a fast, the gene expression
(amount of protein being built) for Uncoupling Protein-3 increases fivefold!109
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This same research also illustrates that the gene expression for Uncoupling Protein-3
continues to increase even up to the 40 hour mark of a fast.
(As fat burning increases, so do levels of UCP3)
This is very important research because fat burning should be the goal of every diet.
You should never lose weight without losing fat. We should forget the idea of ‘losing
weight’ and focus on ‘losing body fat’.
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Increased Glucagon Levels
If we consider fed and fasted to be the yin and yang of metabolism, then the hormonal
equivalent to fed and fasted could be thought of as the opposing effects of the
hormones insulin and glucagon.
Insulin is the dominant hormone in the fed state, which causes you to store food
Calories in the form of fat and glycogen. Glucagon is one of the dominant hormones in
the fasted state that causes fat burning.
Quick review:
Insulin = Fat storage
Glucagon = Fat burning
Both hormones are secreted from your pancreas, and while the primary role of insulin
is to maintain your blood sugar levels while you are in the fed state, the primary role
of glucagon is to maintain your blood sugar levels while you are in the fasted.
Insulin maintains your blood sugar levels by telling your body to store extra sugar
when your blood sugar levels run the risk of getting too high, while glucagon tells your
body to release extra sugar from its stores when your blood sugar runs the risk of
getting too low.
Glucagon has some amazing effects on the human body beyond maintaining our blood
sugar levels, increasing fat burning, decreasing the production of cholesterol, and
increasing the release of extra fluids from the body.
Because of the typical way we eat, we spend almost all of our time in an ‘insulin
dominant’ metabolism (remember insulin = fat storage). By adding fasting into your
lifestyle, you allow your body to revert back to a natural balance between an ‘insulin
dominant’ metabolism and a ‘glucagon dominant’ metabolism.
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Increased Epinephrine and Norepinephrine levels
Epinephrine and Norepinephrine are fight-or-flight hormones, often called adrenalin
and noradrenalin, or collectively, ‘catecholamines’. They are released from the adrenal
glands during periods of stress; including times when food is absent (such as fasting)
and during intense exercise.
When they are released into the blood stream, the catecholamines trigger the release
of glucose from energy stores, and increase fat burning. They also make you feel
awake and alert.
Fasting increases the amounts of both of these hormones in your blood. This is your
body’s way of maintaining your blood sugar levels and increasing your fuel supply by
helping to release fatty acids from your fat stores.
Now, you wouldn’t want your catecholamine levels increased all the time. Like all
hormones there is a ‘healthy’ range for your catecholamines and having them
extremely low or extremely high for long periods of time is associated with negative
aspects of health.
However the occasional increases in catecholamine levels you get through both
exercise and fasting will help you with your fat loss efforts, and may be partly
responsible for the increased levels of concentration and alertness that some people
report during both fasting and exercise.
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Increased Growth Hormone Levels
Growth hormone is an extremely important hormone which throughout evolution has
had the responsibility of maintaining growth and lean body mass during the times
when food is sparse. You’ve probably heard of growth hormone (or GH) since it is
getting a lot of press these days. Rumor mills are buzzing that many top-level
Hollywood celebrities are taking growth hormone because it helps burn fat, build
muscle, and supposedly has ‘anti-aging’ effects.
Many supplement companies are scrambling around trying to find anything that will
allow them to say their products can increase growth hormone.
The ironic thing I learned from all this research is that if you want large increases in
the amount of growth hormone released in your body, all you have to do is fast.
Research has shown that short-term fasting can result in a sixfold increase in growth
hormone levels.25, 110, 111
In fact, fasting can cause very large increases in the amount of circulating growth
hormone. The same growth hormone that celebrities, bodybuilders and fitness models
pay thousands of dollars for on the black market can be easily had for free, just by
fasting!
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(Fasting increases Growth Hormone)
The rumor that taking growth hormone helps in the process of burning fat, building
muscle and increasing metabolism is actually supported by research.112,113,114
However, the amazing connection between growth hormone and fasting has nothing to
do with injecting growth hormone.
It was more than a half-century ago that we first uncovered the powerful role that
growth hormone has on fasting metabolism.115 Fasting triggers the “growth hormone
response” and this response is what prevents you from losing muscle while you
fast.116,117 In fact, research has shown that when people fast and do not have any
growth hormone (its release was ‘blocked’ in the study) there is an increase in protein
loss by about 50%!118 Yet further evidence that Growth hormone is an incredibly
important part of the fasting process.
Another point to consider is that growth hormone is the only anabolic hormone that is
actually increased by fasting. And, since your muscle is largely responsible for your
metabolism, growth hormone also plays a large part in keeping your metabolism
elevated while you are fasting.119
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Growth hormone also plays an important role in maintaining healthy blood glucose
levels while you are fasting. By increasing the amount of fat you’re burning as a fuel,
it reduces the need to use glucose as a fuel source. This is important for two reasons:
It keeps your blood glucose levels stable, and it is also part of the reason why you do
not lose muscle mass while you fast (remember the ‘feast famine cycle’ we talked
about earlier). By lowering the amount of glucose that is needed by your body, it
prevents your body from breaking down your skeletal muscles in order to make new
glucose.120
Not only does growth hormone prevent you from losing muscle while you fast, it is
also vitally important in the process of releasing your stored fat so it can be burned for
energy, and it upregulates key enzymes that allow for the fat that was released from
your fat stores to be brought into your muscle to be burned as a fuel.121,122
It is easy to think of this as a sort of cyclical relationship: Eating prevents the release
of growth hormone, while fasting promotes the release of growth hormone. Eating
prevents the release and use of body fat as a fuel, while fasting promotes the release
and use of body fat as a fuel.
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Here’s another interesting point about growth hormone: People who are obese have
lower levels of growth hormone. This is especially people with a high amount of
abdominal fat.123 Not only does being obese tend to lower growth hormone levels, the
very act of overeating can cause a rapid suppression of growth hormone. In a study
published in 2011 it was found that as little as 3 days of overeating (the people in the
study ate about 4,000 Calories per day) was able to suppress growth hormone levels
by as much as 80%.124 So being overweight and the very act of overeating (even for a
couple days) is able to suppress growth hormone release. Luckily weight loss and the
act of fasting is able to improve the release of growth hormone in obese people.131
This growth hormone response to fasting is so important that some researchers have
actually argued that in the yin and yang of fed and fasted, it is actually growth
hormone and not glucagon that is the dominant hormone in the fasted state because
it causes fat burning and preserves your muscle mass.125
FED – Insulin Dominant Metabolism
FASTED – Growth Hormone Dominant Metabolism.
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Growth hormone is also tied to the aging process. Beginning in early adulthood, GH
declines at a slow steady rate leading to GH deficiency in some older
populations.126,127 These declining levels of GH have been correlated with the weight
you gain in older age, as well as reduced insulin sensitivity and even muscle loss.128
So with all these amazing benefits of growth hormone, you may be wondering why
everyone just doesn’t inject themselves with GH? As it turns out, research has shown
that fasting actually ‘sensitizes’ your body to the fat burning effects of growth
hormone. In other words, growth hormone causes more fat loss in the fasted state
than if you injected it when you weren’t fasting.114
Another interesting fact about GH is that you need to be fasting, not just dieting, to
get its full effect. A 5-day fast (much longer than I would ever recommend)
significantly increases spontaneous 24-hour GH secretion, whereas 4 days following a
very-low calorie diet does not have the same effect.129 Even more interesting is that
adding exercise into your weight loss program seems to increase GH levels more than
just a diet alone.130
So the three best ways to get natural increases in Growth Hormone are fasting,
exercise and deep sleep – three things that we can all agree are generally associated
with good health, lower body fat, and possible even an extended life-span.
The key to growth hormone isn’t to have as much as possible, since too much or too
little of any hormone in your body can have negative effects. Instead, by fasting you
can ‘reset’ the balance between insulin and growth hormone. What’s even better is
that as you lose weight, your body becomes better at releasing GH when you are
fasting and when you are exercising (talk about win-win situation!).131
It is important to note that while growth hormone does have pronounced fat burning
effects in the body, it is by no means a ‘cure all’ or ‘miracle hormone’. It is just one of
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the many benefits of fasting that all work in connection with each other to help you
lose weight.
When it comes to building muscle, some people have speculated that the increases in
growth hormone caused by fasting can actually help you increase your lean muscle
mass. Unfortunately this is typical fitness world conjecture that is not fully supported
by research. While this is a very interesting theory and GH has been shown to
stimulate protein synthesis and repress protein breakdown, to date there is little
evidence to suggest this leads to long term muscle gain.132 In fact, in a recent
publication by renowned researcher Michael Rennie it was stated that:
“So far, no robust credible study has been able to show clear effects of either
medium to long term GH administration, alone or in combination with a variety of
training protocols or anabolic steroids, on muscle protein synthesis, mass, or
strength.133”
The bottom line is most of us spend way too much time in an insulin dominant
metabolism, and would benefit from a fast or two a week to help balance our insulin
dominant metabolism with our growth hormone dominant metabolism. That being
said, as with all hormones, balance is the key. We are not chasing prolonged elevated
levels of growth hormone, nor should we have unrealistic expectations of what we can
achieve with our fasting.
Fasting will help us lose body fat, and growth hormone plays a major role in this
process (you really can’t burn body fat without GH), but we cannot expect fasting to
have ‘steroid-like’ effects or be some miracle hormone that will cause us to lose fat
AND build massive muscles.
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Increased Weight Loss and Increased Fat Loss
As you can see, fasting sets you up perfectly for fat loss and weight loss. Metabolically
it prepares your body by increasing all of the hormones necessary to increase fat
burning. Added to that, it creates a large energy deficit, so your body has virtually no
choice but to start burning body fat for energy.
Research shows that you will lose between one and a-half to three pounds every time
you fast.8,134 THIS IS NOT ALL FAT. Much of this is extra body water being lost
(insulin causes you to store extra water, so when insulin is low, you tend to lose
water) and a reduction in the mass of digesting food that is usually in your stomach
and intestines. You are also losing fat, but this is a slow and steady process.
Depending on your size (taller, bigger people lose more) Most diets see a loss of one to
two pounds of fat per week – at best. Adding short term fasting into your lifestyle will
have the same effect (just without the daily dieting).
(Occasional periods of fasting result in weight loss)
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People in studies who have used short-term fasting as a weight loss method managed
to lose more weight in a 10-week period than people on a very low calorie diet.
Even more impressive is that the people who used fasting as a method of weight
control maintained most of their weight loss over the course of an entire year. This is
very different from the people who were on more traditional low calorie and very low
calorie diets, who tended to regain all of the weight one year after their initial diet.135
Another major benefit of fasting is that it can be used to maintain a new lower weight.
If fasting twice a week helped you reduce your weight, then fasting once a week may
be able to help you maintain that new weight for years on end (as long as you don’t
raise your calorie intake or decrease your activity level).
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Decreased Inflammation
If you were to read through the top ten medical journals right now, I would be
willing to bet that almost all of them would have at least one article on something
called ‘chronic systemic inflammation’. As our understanding of this metabolic
process increases we are beginning to realize just how detrimental chronic
inflammation can be to our health and well-being.
Inflammation is a complicated part of our physiology. Our bodies unleash something
called an ‘acute inflammation response’ as a result of injury. With the acute
inflammation response the body reacts to a harmful stimulus like a bee sting by
inflaming or swelling the area around the harmed tissue in an attempt to remove
whatever is harming it (in the case the bee’s stinger). Once this is achieved and the
harmful agent is eliminated the inflammation is reduced and the process of tissue
repair begins.
This response is a protective attempt to remove the painful stimulus and to initiate
the healing process. Without inflammation, wounds and infections would never heal.
So in this sense it could be said that ‘acute inflammation’ is a good thing that is
essential to the proper maintenance of the human body. In fact, this type of
inflammation is even involved in the recovery process from exercise. However, chronic
systemic inflammation can be damaging to the human body.
If acute inflammation is the body’s physiological response to harmful stimuli, then
chronic inflammation is the body’s response to the chronic harmful stimuli of overnutrition
and excess body fat. In essence, the extra fat and the enlarged hypertrophied
fat cells that accompany it are the ‘harmful stimuli’ that is causing the inflammation;
only our bodies cannot get rid of the fat with the inflammation response and thus will
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stay inflamed as long as the extra fat is still present. Now, when it comes to enlarged
fat cells causing inflammation, some people seem to be more susceptible than
others,136 but the end result is almost always the same – High levels of body fat
eventually become associated with chronic low grade inflammation.
This type of prolonged whole body (systemic) inflammation is associated with many
disease states including: rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, atherosclerosis, fatty
liver, and asthma as well as insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and
even the aging process itself.137,138 For this reason, chronic inflammation is believed
to be the link between obesity and many of the life threatening diseases that are
associated being overweight.
Chronic inflammation has even been linked to many of the causes and risks for the
development of cancer.139 Surprisingly, this inflammation-cancer link was suggested
as far back as the late 1800’s when German Pathologist Rudolf Virchow stated:
“Chronic irritation which is manifested by a chronic inflammation is a key
promoter of cancer.”
Chronic inflammation is widely observed in obesity and overeating. In fact, excess
body fat is the major source of chronic inflammation in the obese (as opposed to some
of the other lifestyle factors of obesity).140 Combine this with the fact that both insulin
and blood glucose can increase inflammation in a dose-response manner (the higher
the chronic levels of insulin, the higher the inflammation) and we can see why obesity
or even just periods of overeating can lead to so many life-threatening diseases.
In people who are obese we commonly see many elevated markers of inflammation
including: interleukin-6, tumor necrosis factor alpha, C-reactive protein, insulin,
blood glucose, leptin and interleukin-18.141,142 Luckily, short-term fasting, and more
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specifically calorie restriction and weight loss, reduces many of these markers of
chronic inflammation.143,144,145
Short-term fasting, and the calorie restriction it causes, is able to greatly reduce
markers of chronic inflammation through many of the benefits we have already talked
about (including the reduction of insulin levels) as well as some we have not (including
the manipulation of hormones like adopenectin, ghrelin and leptin).
Not only this, but by following Eat Stop Eat lifestyle of flexible intermittent fasting and
resistance training (which can also reduce many markers of inflammation146) you get
rid of two main causes of inflammation – excess body fat and overeating. And keep in
mind, it’s not just the loss of body fat that is having an effect, eating less and
exercising also have direct effects on reducing inflammation147, so by doing all three
you create a synergistic ‘attack’ on inflammation.
Keeping inflammation under control is important for a number of reasons, including
overall health, and your ability to build muscle. Even a small increase in chronic
inflammation can increase the risk of muscle strength loss and cause a decrease in
your ability to build muscle.148 In fact, chronic inflammation has been implicated as
part of the cause of the muscle loss that occurs with aging (known as sarcopenia).
149,150
When you consider the fact that chronic inflammation has been suggested to be a
major cause of the aging process (this has been called ‘the Molecular Inflammatory
theory of aging”) this could make fasting not only your best weapon for weight loss,
but also your easiest weapon for combating chronic inflammation and possibly
increasing your lifespan.
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(The anti-inflammatory effects of caloric restriction and weight loss)
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Increased Cellular ‘Cleansing’
To truly understand the long-term health benefits of fasting, we need to look into a
unique process within the human body called ‘autophagy’.
Autophagy is a process within your body that is responsible for degrading damaged
and defective organelles, cell membranes and proteins. Basically it’s your body’s
internal ‘maintenance system’ where it identifies and discards damaged or
malfunctioning parts of a cell.
The term autophagy was first coined by Christian de Duve over 40 years ago, and is
derived from Greek, and means ‘eating of self’.151
In the simplest of terms autophagy is a form of cellular maintenance or cleansing, and
it is an extremely important first step in the process of replacing damaged components
with newly built components within your. Simply put, it is the clean up that needs to
happen before growth and repair can occur.
During any given day of our lives there are millions of cellular reactions that occur in
our bodies, and overtime, some of these reactions can lead to damage – just like
adding miles to a car eventually leads to wear and tear. Only unlike a car, our bodies
have their own built in mechanics that can identify and repair this wear and tear,
when given the opportunity to do so.
Interestingly, the lack of properly functioning autophagy is thought to be one of the
main reasons for the accumulation of cellular damage within our bodies and thus
accelerated aging within the human body. In other words, the process of autophagy
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may be an essential part of the anti-aging mechanism, and one of the major health
benefits, of fasting.
The problem with autophagy is that the act of eating tends to get in its way. It seems
that lab animals and human beings left to eat as they please do too little autophagic
recycling. The resulting accumulation of damaged cellular machinery can cause a
wide range of unhealthy effects, including the accumulation of damaged mitochondria,
which increases the production of reactive oxygen species, accelerating further
damage and possibly even the aging process by limiting the deposition of aggregateprone
proteins and the formation of damaging reactive oxygen species by
mitochondria.152 So the more time spend in the fed state, the less time you have to
really ramp up the autophagic process within your body.
The strong connection between autophagy and fasting is due to the fact that the
principle signal to turn up the autophagy dial is the act of entering the fasted state.
And if fasting is the signal to turn on autophagy, then eating is the signal to turn it
off. Even small amounts of glucose or amino acids are able to inhibit autophagy, as
amino acids together with the hormone insulin are its principle negative regulators.153
And it doesn’t take a feast to negatively affect autophagy. Recent research that was
published in 2010 found a 3 gram dose of the branched chain amino acid Leucine
combined with 7 grams of EAA (10 grams of total amino acids) was enough to
decrease autophagy markers in otherwise fasting humans154. So even a small meal in
the middle of a fast may be enough to blunt the increased autophagic processes
associated with fasting.
The upregulation of autophagy seems to be unique to the fasting state, as well as
possibly the exercised state, and it can easily be undone by even a small ingestion of
food, specifically protein / amino acids.
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So how important is autophagy to your overall health?
Autophagy is of increasing interest as a target for cancer therapy,155 treatment of
alcoholic liver disease,156 and as a crucial defense mechanism against malignancy,
infection and neurodegenerative disease.157,158,159,160,161
The research on fasting and neuronal diseases such as Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s
is also beginning to look very promising as fasting has been found to cause a rapid
and profound upregulation of autophagy in the brain,162,163,164 which has the potential
to remove toxic molecules and damaged mitochondria from neurons.165, 166,167,168
Research has even found a that autophagy can help the body defend against both
bacteria and viruses.169,170,171,172
So the process of autophagy and its importance in cellular maintenance or cleansing
is the main reason why some researchers are speculating that intermittent fasting can
improve neuronal function and overall health in a way that is unique from any other
style of dieting or calorie restriction.173,174
It is also the reason why some people think that intermittent fasting can help regulate
the aging process. Since ‘aging’ refers to the biological changes that occur during a
lifetime that result in reduced resistance to stress, increased vulnerability to disease,
and an increased probability of death, and autophagy can improve many of these
areas.175
Finally, it’s not just your health that benefits from autophagy promoted by fasting -
optimal autophagic flux is required for the maintenance of the integrity of skeletal
fibers, which are the basic contractile units of skeletal muscles.176
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Both excess and reduced levels of autophagy are detrimental for muscle health; the
former results in the loss of muscle mass, whereas the latter causes skeletal fiber
degeneration and weakness.177 So you wouldn’t want autophagy on all the time, but
you do need a healthy balance of autophagy and growth for the optimal functioning of
the human body.
In fact, autophagy is actually necessary to maintain muscle mass, and
inhibition/alteration of autophagy can contribute to myofibril degeneration
(degeneration of individual muscle fiber) and weakness in muscle disorders
characterized by accumulation of abnormal mitochondria and inclusions.178
Since autophagy helps cells break down defective components such as misshapen
proteins and dysfunctional mitochondria, it is what ensures that your muscles are full
of fully functional proteins, and not simply a conglomeration of damaged or
malfunctioning proteins.
By allowing for growth when we eat, and the autophagic process of repair
maintenance and cleansing when we are fasting, we help restore a balance in the body
that may be a missing link in the prevention of many of today’s deadly and debilitating
diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease, liver disease, and
even loss of muscle size and function.
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Health Benefits – The Conclusion
As you can see, fasting has been an often overlooked answer to the health and
weight management needs of many people. For the vast majority of us, the answer to
the question, “Should we be fasting?” is a resounding YES!
For healthy people wanting a simple and effective way to lose weight, the combination
of short-term fasting and exercise is an easy way to create a caloric deficit and has no
negative impact on our metabolism or our muscle.
Not only is fasting an effective way to reduce our calorie intake, it also helps to restore
a normal balance between fed and fasted metabolism, as far too many of us are
spending every waking moment of our lives in the fed metabolism, under the misled
‘guidance’ of today’s health and nutrition recommendations.
This new balance helps reduce our body fat levels, as well as many markers of
inflammation and disease risk, and can even upregulate the process of autophagy,
potentially protecting from a whole host of diseases later in life, and allowing the body
to perform needed maintenance and cleansing at the cellular level. Now, when it
comes to many of the other astounding benefits that fasting is reported to have, the
evidence is not as concrete, but it is still very promising.
Fasting, and even the act of simply eating less has been found to have positive effects
on lifespan, disease and aging in research using animals (mostly mice).179 However,
recent research conducted by the National Institute on Aging has started to uncover
Eat Stop Eat 104

that some of these health and longevity benefits occur in primates like monkeys,
leading to speculation that fasting may have some similar benefits in humans.180
What is even more remarkable is that fasting has been shown to decrease many
markers of risk of coronary artery disease, leading researchers to speculate that a
lifestyle that includes short periods of fasting may decrease the risk of heart
disease.181
When you consider all of these benefits including the possible benefits that fasting can
have on inflammation, autophagy and the possible risk of Cancer, Diabetes and
Cardiovascular disease, it becomes clear that fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a
week, may be the easiest way to decrease your calorie intake by 10% to 20%, without
having to sacrifice and restrict what you eat during the times when you are not
fasting. It’s like getting the benefits of an entire week of strict dieting, while only
sacrificing for one or two days.
So with fasting we can create prolonged dietary restriction (the only proven nutritional
method of weight loss) while only sacrificing one or two 24-hour periods in a week,
allowing us to reset the balance between fed and fasted. Using this method allows us
to eat less, and reap the health benefits of fasting while still enjoying the foods we eat,
since it does not limit the types of foods we eat, or the styles in which we eat them
when we are not fasting.
The best part of these findings is that since many of the health benefits from fasting
occur in the first 24 hours; we can use the Eat Stop Eat style of flexible intermittent
fasting and NEVER GO A DAY WITHOUT EATING!
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The Eat Stop Eat Way of Life
It is important to note right away that I do not consider this a diet program.
There are no phases, no point systems, no weighing foods, and most importantly no
foods that are ever off-limits.
I am not going to tell you that sugar is the cause of our obesity problem, because it’s
not. Neither is fat. Part of the cause of our obesity problem is that we are failing to
realize that we’re looking for the answer in the wrong places.
Obesity is not created by one specific macronutrient in our diet. In fact, it’s not the
diet at all. In my opinion, the number one cause of our obesity epidemic is
abundance. There simply is too much food available for us to consume. As I said
earlier, each day in the United States, the food industry produces enough food to
supply every single person with almost 4000 Calories (almost double what we typically
need in a day).7
Combine this with a highly effective and relentless food marketing industry and a
misled and backwards health and nutrition industry and the problem becomes clear:
Not only do most of us eat too much, but most of us have no idea why.
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This is why Eat Stop Eat is not a diet; it is a lifestyle based on the nutritional custom
of including the combination of short-term flexible intermittent fasting and resistance
training into your life.
It’s a way of life where you accept the idea of taking small 24-hour breaks from eating,
and taking part in resistance exercises (working out with weights) at least two to three
times a week. That’s it. A 24-hour ‘break from eating’ once or twice a week, and a
commitment to a workout routine.
All my research has led me to the conclusion that this is the single best and most
uncomplicated way to lose weight, to maintain muscle, and to reap all the amazing
health benefits associated with fasting. Keep in mind, brief breaks from eating are
nothing new – almost all of us fast for 8 to 10 hours almost every night, so I’m simply
asking you to expand this fast. It is also the easiest way to rid yourself of obsessivecompulsive
eating and the need to constantly scour magazines and the Internet for
the latest and greatest diet strategy.
With Eat Stop Eat, you get rid of the compulsion and guilt that drives so many of
today’s eating habits, as we get rid of the idea that you need to be constantly eating,
or that there is even one true ‘perfect’ way to eat. The reason I don’t consider this
style of eating to be a diet is because unlike almost all popular diets, the Eat Stop Eat
lifestyle is a sustainable addition to the way we eat for the rest of our lives.
It is the easiest way to lose fat, feel fit, and maintain a lean body, as it does not
require any difficult nutritional planning. It does not require special shopping trips,
exotic foods or expensive supplements. It simply asks you to refrain from eating for
one or two 24-hour periods every week.
It is the highly adaptable aspects of Eat Stop Eat that allow people to use follow it
successfully to lose weight, and it’s what allows them to keep the weight off for years
Eat Stop Eat 107

afterwards. And don’t worry if you can’t fast for 24 hours every time. Twenty-four
hours was chosen through my research simply because it was any easy time-frame to
remember, allowed people to eat every day, and was suitable for all different levels of
body fat and weight loss needs. That being said, there is still a benefit to fasting for 16
hours, just as there is no real harm in fasting for 30 hours. The point is, as long as
you are fasting intermittently and resistance training while keeping your lifestyle
flexible, you’re doing Eat Stop Eat.
In fact, with Eat Stop Eat you are losing fat by doing nothing: not cooking, not eating,
and not worrying about what you will eat when you’re eating. In exchange, you spend
a little time lifting weights (which you should be doing anyway for the health benefits
of exercise itself) and trying to be somewhat responsible on the days that you are
eating.
Best of all, with Eat Stop Eat style fasting, you never go a day without eating!
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How to Fast “Eat Stop Eat” Style
In order to fast for 24 hours, you can simply eat as you normally would until
6:00 pm on day one, and then fast until 6:00 pm the following day. As an example,
you could start your fast on Monday at 6:00 pm and finish your fast on Tuesday at
6:00 pm. People who follow Eat Stop Eat call this a dinner-to-dinner fast.
By fasting in this manner you manage to eat every day, however you also manage to
take a 24-hour break from eating. More importantly, you break the horrible habit of
constantly being in the fed state, thereby resetting your metabolic balance between fed
and fasted.
You can also adjust this to fit your own personal lifestyle. This is how you can make
Eat Stop Eat work for you. If a dinner-to-dinner fast does not work for you, try my
personal favorite time frame and go 2:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. instead (aptly called the
lunch-to-lunch fast). Remember, the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle is designed to be very
flexible. The key is to make sure you are asleep during the parts of the fast that you
find toughest. As an example, if you find the beginning of a fast harder than the end
then you may want to try fasting 8 p.m. to 8 p.m.
It is this flexibility that makes Eat Stop Eat so easy. If you were planning on starting
your fast on Tuesday, but something came up and you had to go to dinner with
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friends on Tuesday night, there is no need to worry because you can simply start the
fast the next day.
Also, keep in mind that as your life changes, so should your fasts. A dinner-to-dinner
fast may have be perfect for you when you first start fasting, but after a couple
months you may find yourself having a hard time finishing your fasts, or feeling a
strong urge to overeat after you fast. The quickest and easiest solution is to try a
different fast time. This slight change can have dramatic results on keeping your fasts
both easy and effective. Always test new fast times before trying longer fasts.
Remember, keeping it flexible is the key to long-term sustained weight loss.
Another important aspect of Eat Stop Eat style fasts is that you do drink during your
fasts. During your fasts you may drink any calorie-free beverages you like.
As an example these are all drinks that would be permissible during your fast:
• Black Coffee
• Black tea
• Green tea
• Herbal tea
• Water
• Sparkling water
• Even 
diet soda pop (if you are the type of person who drinks diet soda)
Try your best to keep your calories as close to zero as possible. Once you start adding
a ‘little bit’ of cream and sugar to your coffee, or a ‘little sip’ here or there you may find
that your calorie intake slowly starts to creep up during your fast. Do your best to try
and have a ‘zero tolerance approach’ during your fast.
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When it comes to what else you can ‘eat’ during your fasts, follow this guideline – the
true benefit is learning to take breaks from eating, not to figure out how to ‘game the
system’.
I often get questions about consuming a ‘little bit’ of beef broth, or coconut water, or
xylitol or other ‘almost’ calorie free foods during a fast. There is not enough research
for me to answer questions on the metabolic effect of a small amount of calories from
all the different food and ingredient sources. So remember that calorie-free beverages
are OK during your fasts, and calorie-free gum is all right in moderation, but try to
avoid any other ‘almost’ calorie free foods. The key is to learn to take a break from
eating, not to continue to reinforce the pattern of always eating and always being fed.
So when it comes to what you can and cannot eat while fasting, follow this simple
guideline: If you can go without then go without, but if you really can’t go without
then don’t.
If you are sick, or aren’t feeling well, then you do not have to fast. Eat Stop Eat is a
flexible long-term solution. On some weeks you may fast once, others twice. It’s all up
to you and your personal preferences. Just do what works for you!
To start, try one fast per week. Experiment with what times work best for you. Once
you have the hang of fasting then you can increase the amount of times per week that
you fast.
Avoid the mistakes of trying to fit as many fasts into a week as possible, or trying to
extend your fasts far beyond 24 hours. As I mentioned earlier I have found that 24
hours once or twice a week is the most flexible and convenient way to fast.
Extending beyond this greatly reduces the flexibility of Eat Stop Eat and may lead to a
sort of ‘fasting burnout’. Forcing yourself to fast too often or for too long to the point
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where you are dreading your next fast completely defeats the purpose of the Eat Stop
Eat lifestyle.
After talking with literally hundreds of people who have been following Eat Stop Eat, I
have noticed that the people who stay flexible and relaxed see the best weight loss
results and are able to keep the weight off. On the other hand, the people who try to
speed up the process by fasting multiple times per week or extending their fasts to 48
or even 72 hours do see quick results, but also ‘burn out’ very quickly.
This is in agreement with the large volume of research on restrained eating, which
eloquently shows that the more restrained a person is with their eating, meaning the
more rules they try and follow (good food/bad food lists, food combining, etc) the more
likely they will see quick weight loss, but also the more likely they will experience
extreme weight rebounds after they have ‘broken’ some of their rules and
restraints.182,183
Under similar conditions, the more restrained you are with your fasts, the more likely
you will feel guilty if you break your rules and end up overeating.
The bottom line is that the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle should free you from obsessive
compulsive eating, but this should not be at the expense of simply learning to obsess
about your fasting.
Consider fasting the easiest way possible to get results. Essentially you are getting
results from doing nothing, so you do not need to make it any more complicated than
an occasional break from eating, but you should go out of your way to view every
single complete fast as a ‘mini-victory’ – positive reinforcement at its finest.
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How to Eat “Eat Stop Eat” Style
The point of Eat Stop Eat isn't to force you to not eat; it's actually to give you freedom
to eat. That's how balance works.
During the times when you are eating, simply maintain the caloric intake that you
normally eat while maintaining your bodyweight, while trying to obey what I like to
call the “golden guideline of eating”:
Eat less, while enjoying the foods you eat. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and lots of
herbs and spices. And maybe most importantly, spend less time stressing over the types
of food you are eating.
Pay special attention to that last sentence. All of the posturing and positioning by
nutrition experts, and all of the scientists touting their research studies and their socalled
conclusions are all based on the assumption that we need to be eating
continuously every day.
If you start living the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle, all of this becomes a moot point. You can
reap the benefits of a low calorie diet, and the benefits of short term fasting, while
eating in a way that is sustainable and enjoyable, just by adding in one or two 24-
hour fasts into our week.
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With as little as two fasting periods added into your week, you can create the
equivalent of a 20% reduction in Calories. For a person eating 2,500 Calories per day,
that’s the equivalent of reducing your calorie intake to 2,000 every day of the week!
That’s a 500 Calorie drop, every day. A drop that is the equivalent of removing an
entire cheeseburger with a side order of fries from your diet EVERY DAY!
The key to making Eat Stop Eat work for you is self-control. This is NOT a ‘fast once
or twice a week and eat anything and everything you want every other day’ type of
lifestyle. Fasting may have a myriad of health benefits, but it is NOT magic.
I think this is a fair trade. While most diet programs ask you to give up certain foods,
all I am asking of you is to keep eating the way you normally eat – however, please try
to eat sensibly and responsibly.
After you have completed your fast, it is important that you go back to eating as you
normally would. Pretend that the fast never happened. Remind yourself that you do
not need to reward yourself with extra-large helpings or extra desserts. You do not
need any special post-fast rituals or supplements. Just resume eating as you would
have on any other normal day. The purpose of the fast is to add breaks to your normal
eating routine.
As soon as you start coming up with special ways to eat and things to do at the end of
your fast you’re complicating things and missing the point of the simplicity of Eat Stop
Eat.
If you want to improve your nutrition while living the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle, go ahead.
Nothing but good things will happen if you incorporate a little more fruits and
vegetables into your diet and cut back on the sugar, but do whatever is within your
own personal comfort zone. I believe the biggest health benefits will come from the
fast, but all positive changes will help.
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If you are following my one simple guideline (from the previous page) you will find that
you are already making strides to eating a better diet.
I could spend pages telling you about the importance of eating real food over food-likesubstances,
but if you are eating lots of fruits and vegetables then you are probably
already doing this.
I could also tell you about the benefits of avoiding over-flavoring your food with salt
and sugar, but if you are eating lots of herbs and spices you are already doing this,
too.
Finally, I could tell you about avoiding overly processed foods but if you are both
eating less and eating more fruits and vegetables, then you are already accomplishing
this.
While you may find this guideline overly simplistic at first, the truth is there is NO
‘normal’ or ‘perfect’ way to eat for weight loss. This is the great fallacy behind most
diet books. The fact is, and always will be, it is calorie restriction that causes weight
loss.
Any diet book or diet style that claims they have the secret answer or that their way is
the ‘only way that works’ is INSTANTLY proven wrong by the millions of people who
have successfully lost weight by using alternative methods.
For instance, if I were to say that the Eat Stop Eat style of fasting is the ONLY way to
lose weight I would INSTANTLY lose all credibility since it is entirely possible to lose
weight without following the Eat Stop Eat style of fasting (it just wouldn’t be as easy).
Eat Stop Eat 115

The point I am trying to make is that there is NO such thing as an all-encompassing
way to define eating ‘normal’. Humans can adapt to a wide variety of feeding regimens
depending on the habitual meal pattern, so ‘normal’ is simply what you are used to
doing.
This is why I don’t ever attempt to define what is ‘normal eating’ or what a ‘normal
diet’ is. What is a normal diet to someone who lives in Cairo, Egypt would be very ‘not
normal’ to someone who lives in Pittsburgh, USA and the diet of someone who lives in
Pittsburgh, USA would not seem normal to someone who lives in Bridgetown,
Barbados.
Your ancestry, your geography, how you were raised, your personal preferences, as
well as your personal goals, define what ‘normal’ is to you. You simply cannot define it
in one way for everyone in the world.
People eat different types of food in different countries around the world. The way or
style in which they eat is also different. Some countries have their meals at very
specific times, whereas in other countries people eat at anytime.
In Nepal, a typical family does not have breakfast. They have tea around six or seven
in the morning, and then they have their lunch from nine to ten in the morning.
Supper would be around eight or nine in the evening.
In Spain, eating hours are also very different. In Madrid you can eat at any time,
though lunch is typically at two in the afternoon and dinner is at nine or ten pm. In
Portugal lunch, is typically at around one in the afternoon and dinner is typically at
eight in the evening or later.
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In North America we eat whenever possible. We eat standing up, walking to an
appointment, in a meeting, in a hallway, on the subway, in the car, even while lying in
bed. We eat wherever it's convenient and even wherever it is not convenient.
Even the ‘traditional’ breakfast, lunch, and dinner are only a recent phenomenon that
may mean different things to different cultures.
Judging from early cookbooks and historical dietary literature breakfast was very rare,
and was only recommended for children, invalids and the elderly who have weak
digestive systems.
The word “Dinner” actually comes from the Latin disjejunare, meaning "to un-fast” or
break the fast of the evening. Remarkably, the word was contracted in the Romance
languages to ‘disnare’ or ‘disner’ in Old French, or dinner in English. Thus the word
dinner actually means ‘breakfast’.
Finally, lunch as a meal is a relatively new phenomenon.
Dr. Johnson's Dictionary (1755) said Lunch or Luncheon was “As much food as one's
hand can hold”.184 By the early nineteenth century, lunch had become a sit-down
meal at the dining table in the middle of the day. By the late nineteenth century,
luncheon had become a social occasion mainly for elite women.185
Nowadays, lunch has turned into a mid-day feast that can consist of a foot-long
sandwich stacked with extra meat and cheese (served in a combo with a large soda
and a bag of chips)!
Depending on where you live and your family customs, your eating habits could be
very different from your neighbors or from what is being recommended in today’s
Eat Stop Eat 117

health and fitness magazines. This doesn’t make them wrong, it just makes them
different.
As you can see there is no such thing as eating normally which makes it impossible to
define it. And, pushing yourself to eat in predetermined way with high amount of
restrains and forbidden foods can actually worsen your chances of losing weight. This
is why I suggest ‘eating responsibly’ over ‘dieting’. Eating responsibly is much easier
to define. Simply put, eating responsibly is eating the AMOUNT of food necessary to
reach your bodyweight goal, while doing your best to make smart food choices that
include a lot of variety.
Eating responsibly is also a mindset. It is realizing that on many occasions you are
going to want to eat more food than you need to. If your goal is to lose weight, then
eating responsibly means recognizing when you are eating too much and either, A)
making the decision to stop eating, or B) accepting the fact that at that time you are
going to eat more and you will deal with the results later.
There is no free pass to weight loss. Or, as science fiction writer Robert Heinlein would
say, - there ain't no such thing as a free lunch.
And, despite what some people say, you simply cannot eat as much as you want and
still lose weight as long as you take supplement X or follow diet Y or exercise routine
Z.
Even getting the fat cut right off your body in a surgical procedure still does not
constitute permanent weight loss. (Yes, you can eat enough food to put that weight
right back on! The remaining fat cells can still expand and fill up with fat if you
continue to wolf back massive amounts of Calories after the surgery)
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The bottom line is that it is the last part of my guideline that could very well be the
most important part:
Eat less, while enjoying the foods you eat. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and
lots of herbs and spices. And maybe most importantly, spend less time
stressing over the types of food you are eating.
This is the very important (and VERY underrated) goal of having a good healthy
relationship with the foods you eat. I know this sounds very 'new age' but I assure you
that a lot of today's overeating and obsessive compulsive eating habits come from
unhealthy relationships with food, where people feel stressed and guilty every single
time they eat. If you are enjoying the foods you eat, and not stressing about your food
choices, then you are doing an amazing job avoiding this problem.
So with the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle, (where rational simplicity is always the goal), this
one simple guideline is all you need to guide your eating habits. However, if you would
like to try and improve how you eat for the purpose of overall health, there are steps
you can take.
When it comes to health, I simply do not agree with the common suggestion that the
secret to eating for health is avoidance, yet this is where 99.99% of all of our nutrition
recommendations come from.
For example, you may have read some or all of the following items to avoid:
“At all costs, avoid caffeine, sugar, white potatoes, saturated fat, trans fats, artificial
sweeteners, artificial colors, artificial flavors, bread, gluten, legumes, dairy, anything
cooked and non-organic foods.”
Eat Stop Eat 119

I’m sure you’ve read this type of nutrition advice before. In my opinion, this is a form
of scaremongering. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it is dietary extremism masquerading
as healthy eating, and it can actually damage your chances of losing weight.
Attempting to adhere to a very strict diets with large lists of foods you are not allowed
to eat typically ends up in failure, due to something called the ‘disinhibition effect’ – a
paradox where merely labeling certain types of food as ‘off limits’ or ‘forbidden’ creates
a disinhibition; where eating the foods you consider forbidden leads to increased
eating afterwards.186
This disinhibition is not a result of the specific type of food, or its calorie content187 or
even its macronutrient profile.188 Rather, it comes from the self-created belief that
certain foods are forbidden, and the feeling of failure you get after eating them.
Indeed, the very act of eating even a small amount of a ‘forbidden’ food can cause a
person enough stress and anxiety that they actually overeat even more afterwards.
This is the opposite of what happens to a flexible dieter, who while still reducing
overall calories does not follow an all-or-none approach to restraining the types of
foods they can eat. Flexible dieters do not suffer from disinhibition effect, and if they
eat a small amount of dessert they do not feel the need to overindulge afterwards,
probably because they do not feel like they ‘blew it’.189
So following these ‘good food, bad food’ type of diets can actually worsen your chances
of maintaining long-term weight loss.
If I had to pick one word to describe healthy eating it would be ‘Variety’. As much
variety as you can fit into your life. There are hundreds, if not thousands of
undiscovered chemicals in the foods we eat. From strawberries to steak, we have only
a small understanding of the complexities of our foods. Many of these chemicals are
Eat Stop Eat 120

inert (meaning neither good nor bad for us), however some will be good, and some may
be bad. The way to balance all of this is with variety, by picking as many foods as
possible. By striving to eat with variety we avoid over-eating or under-eating any one
nutrient, discovered or yet to be discovered.
As an example, you do not need to avoid simple sugars in your diet. If you increase
the variety of foods you eat, it becomes very difficult to over-eat any one type of food –
Whether it be sugar, fat, protein, salt, or anything else you’d care to name.
Even foods we have been led to believe are extremely healthy fail in comparison to
variety.
A breakfast of raw cashews, organic yogurt, and coconut flakes followed by a cup of
matcha green tea may sound extremely healthy, but without variety it becomes
extremely limited. In fact, a person who eats this type of breakfast every day for
months on end would probably benefit greatly from the occasional breakfast of eggs
and bacon, or oatmeal and blueberries...just something DIFFERENT.
There is one problem with the concept of ‘variety’ and that is that research has shown
us that eating for variety tends to lead us to eating more.47
Eat Stop Eat 121

This is where self-control comes in. Just like the balance between fed/fasted and
insulin/growth hormone, you also need to find a balance between eating for variety
while still eating less so that you can lose weight.
This is another benefit of Eat Stop Eat. It allows you to eat less, without imposing any
rules or restrictions that may limit your ability to eat for variety.
Living the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle is the simplest way to improve your health, without
massively restricting the foods you are allowed to eat. This gives you your best chance
to eat a wide variety of foods while still eating less, thus ensuring what I would
consider to be an optimal approach to health and weight loss.
Here’s another amazing benefit of the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle; research has shown that
even if you were to gorge yourself on your eating days (which I do not recommend) to
the point where you don’t lose any weight at all, you will still see some of the health
benefits associated with fasting, such as improved insulin sensitivity and decreased
oxidant stress.190
Eating with variety, and eating less without practicing restrained eating is a large part
of the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle. Combined with the small ‘wins’ you get every time you
complete a 24 hour fast and you create a flexible and positive approach to eating and
weight loss.
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What to do while Fasting
Since I do not consider the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle to be a diet, it would be a
waste for me to fill two hundred pages of this book with recipes, food combining
instructions or calorie and protein charts (go browse through any other diet book and
you’ll quickly discover that most of the pages are just that).
Doing so would not help you in any extra capacity. In fact, it would do quite the
opposite. It would clutter your mind with needless rules to obsess and stress over,
and possibly setting you up for disinhibition effect while not moving you any closer to
your weight loss goals. Instead, the best thing I can do is provide you some tips to
help make your fasts a little easier.
The first and most important thing you need to remember is to drink a lot of calorie
free fluids; this will help you avoid getting thirsty, which is often mistaken as hunger.
In the morning start your day with a large glass of water. Black coffee and tea are also
allowed during a fast. You may also find diet colas useful, and don’t worry about
having a small amount of artificial sweeteners during your fast, in my opinion the
health benefits of fasting far outweigh any worry about the small and infrequent
intake of artificial sweeteners.
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Also, the current buzz about aspartame causing giant insulin spikes is not founded in
science. There have been multiple studies on aspartame and its effect on insulin and
growth hormone and they have all found no negative effects on either hormone.191,192
My personal opinion is that you’re not missing out on anything by avoiding
aspartame, so when possible and within reason, make non-artificially-sweetened
choices (especially when you are not fasting); however, I do not see them as being
detrimental to your fasting.
The other common misconception about coffee, teas and colas is that caffeine causes
giant increases in insulin. While it is true that caffeine can cause an increased insulin
response to large doses of carbohydrates (caffeine + carbs = more insulin release than
carbs alone).193,194 I have never seen any research suggesting that caffeine alone,
without any carbs, causes insulin release.
From a metabolic point of view, these drinks should not interfere with your fasts.
You may also find it helpful to stay busy while fasting. Recently I had someone tell me
that, “fasting is easiest when I’m busy. I think if people’s lives were a little more
exciting they wouldn’t need to eat so much to get some joy out of their day.” This
statement is very true.
Food is a form of ‘bio-feedback’. It is a form of stimulus in our everyday lives. So when
parts of our days are lacking excitement or stimulation (like when we are sitting in a
car stuck in rush hour traffic), we seek stimulation in the form of foods and snacks.
Have you ever had a really boring day at work? Did you ever notice how often you
snacked, or made coffee? This is because you are replacing mental stimulation with
food stimulation.
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A little complex, but it is the short answer to why we should stay busy while fasting.
Other than staying busy, you can go about your day as if it were any other day. You
can go to work, go shopping, go work out. Whatever it is you normally do during your
day.
This is the beauty of the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle. It is the simplest way to lose fat and
improve your health and well-being, without drastically changing the way you live.
In fact, you will probably find that you have a lot of spare time on your fasting day.
Almost everyone who lives the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle experiences this new freedom and
extra time. At this moment you will also realize how much of your daily routine is
spent planning, preparing, going out for, and eating food.
Taking a break from eating might just be the only way to actually free up useful time
in your week.
Lastly, view every single fast you complete as a small ‘win’ towards your weight loss
goals. This is a unique feature that sets fasting apart from traditional dieting. By
viewing each fast as a small win, you create a positive reinforcement as you move
towards your weight loss goals. By ‘conquering’ a fast you teach yourself that weight
loss is possible, and that YOU are in control.
The main problem with traditional diets is that they seem like a long slow march
towards an inevitable failure. Going weeks and weeks without messing up or ‘cheating’
only to hit that one day where you ‘break’ and eat a donut only teaches you that you
will inevitably fail at dieting. This is negative reinforcement and it can destroy your
future weight loss goals.
Stay positive and flexible with fasting. Every single 24-hour fast you complete is small
win towards hitting your weight loss goals.
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How to work out with Eat Stop Eat
Resistance training is an essential part of the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle. The
combination of fasting and responsible eating will allow you to lose body fat quickly
and easily, but it is your resistance-training workouts that will ensure you maintain
(or even increase) the size of your muscles while you are losing body fat.
I think just about everyone will agree that working out with weights (or any other form
of resistance) will result in increased muscle mass, given that the weight used is high
enough and rest and recovery periods are adequate.
It was more than 30 years ago that a group of scientists proved that the amount you
use your muscles is the main factor in influencing how big they are (other than
genetics and height). In other words, how much and how often you stress your
muscles dictates how big your muscles will become.195
Weight training while following the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle will work your muscles in a
way that promotes growth and preserves muscle mass while you are losing body fat.
There are many other reasons that people follow resistance training programs, such
as to improve their skills at a sport (sport-specific training), to increase their strength
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(power lifting or Olympic lifting), the prevention of osteoporosis (loss of bone mass) or
even as a form of rehabilitation from an injury.
All of these purposes represent effective uses of weight training, but for the purpose of
Eat Stop Eat, we will concentrate on the use of weight training for the purpose of
preserving muscle mass (and metabolic rate) while following a reduced calorie diet. Of
course, in doing so we reap all the other health benefits of resistance training,
including improved cholesterol levels, improved blood sugar control, increased bone
density and the often underappreciated value of exercises ability to elevate mood, and
improve body image (an invaluable part of any weight loss program)196,197.
There are many different types of resistance training workouts that complement the
Eat Stop Eat lifestyle, and it is important to note that I am not an exercise physiologist.
Even though I have spent over seven years working in the bodybuilding industry, and
have obtained certification as a strength and conditioning specialist from the National
Strength and Conditioning Association, I do not consider myself an expert in this field.
So while I am not an expert in workout design, I can share with you the principles of
resistance training that have been tested in scientific studies. If you are looking for a
specific workout plan or blueprint, I highly recommend you seek the advice of an
exercise physiologist (with at least a graduate level education) for a detailed and
progressive workout program that fits your own personal goals and needs.
I often like to think of the legend of Milo of Croton when determining what will – and
what will not – work as an effective workout program. Milo (sometimes referred to as
Milos) was a six-time Olympic champion wrestler in the sixth century BC who used a
rather unique training style to build his physique. Legend has it that Milo would lift a
baby cow over his head every day until it became a full-grown cow. And, while this
legend changes from Milo simply lifting the cow to Milo doing laps around the
Pantheon while carrying the cow, the simple point is that this must have been an
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impressive feat of strength considering a full-grown cow can weigh as much as 1,000
pounds!
We can learn two important lessons from the legend of Milo. First, your workouts need
to be progressive if you want to gain or even keep your muscle mass. In other words,
as you grow stronger you must continue to increase the amount of work you do with
your muscles.
In Milo’s case, this was conveniently taken care of for him as the baby calf he began
lifting slowly grew in size and weight with each passing day. The load that he lifted
increased every single day – this is a perfect example of progressive overload.
You probably won’t be lifting a baby cow as part of your workout routine, so in a more
practical example you have three realistic ways that you can increase the amount of
work your muscles do in a workout:
• Use more weight for a given exercise (intensity or stress)
• Lift the same weight more times (volume)
• Lift the same amount of weight more often throughout the week/month
(frequency)
Typically, most weight training workouts that have been used in scientific studies use
a combination of these three principles to ensure the workouts are progressive in
nature.
Here is a simple example using the bicep curl exercise. Our baseline workout for bicep
curls will be 1 set x 20 pounds x 10 repetitions once per week. In this example the
total work for this exercise is 1 set of exercises using 20 pounds x 10 reps = 200
pounds of total work per week.
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Let’s look at three examples of how to change this total work, using intensity, volume,
and frequency over the course of one week.
Intensity (or stress)
You can increase the total work number from our example above by simply adding 5
pounds per repetition. The new equation would be 25 pounds x 10 reps done once
per week = 250 pounds of total work per week.
Volume
You can also increase the total work number by adding more reps per set. If we add 5
repetitions per set the new equation would be 20 pounds x 15 reps done once per
week = 300 pounds total work per week. Similarly you can keep the reps the same but
add an extra set. The equation would now be 20 pounds x 10 reps x 2 sets = 400
pounds total work per week.
Frequency
Finally you can increase the total work by adding more workouts per week. If you
simply did our example workout twice in the same week the new total work equation
would look like this: 20 pounds x 10 reps x 2 workouts = 400 pounds total work per
week
By using any combination of increasing intensity, volume or frequency you can ensure
that your workouts remain progressive.
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The second (and probably most important) lesson to be learned from Milo of Croton is
that the exact details of what equipment and program you use and how you use them
probably does not matter too much as long as you are sufficiently stressing your
muscles. The ‘resistance’ can come from your body weight, free weights such as
dumbbells, elasticized bands, machines, or even lengths of chain!
If there is any secret to weight training it is simply that consistency and effort are
what will get you the best results, and while there are many different ways you can
perform a weight training workout, science has not yet identified the ‘best’ way to
work out and probably never will. However, scientific research can provide us with a
rough but effective outline that we can use to determine the effectiveness of a workout
program.
According to the scientific review entitled “The Influence of Frequency, Intensity,
Volume and Mode of Strength Training on Whole Muscle Cross-Sectional Area in
Humans” muscles will increase in size when they are exercised within a range of two
to four times per week, allowing enough time between workouts for proper recovery.198
The amount of recovery time needed depends on your current training status and the
stress of your previous workout. In other words, how accustomed you are to the
workout and level of difficulty of the workout.
An optimal workout schedule should allow each major muscle group to be exercised
roughly twice per week, which scientific research suggests is a sufficient amount for
causing muscle growth and the preservation of muscle while you are dieting.
Exercise sessions should consist of between three and eight sets per muscle group
(depending on the size of the muscle), with optimal results occurring when each major
muscle group goes through 40-60 repetitions per workout. Examples of this style of
workout would include any combination of sets and repetitions that allow a muscle to
fatigue at between the 6th and 15th repetition.
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There are many different ways a workout can be designed to meet these
recommendations. Examples include three sets of 15 reps, four sets of 10 reps, eight
sets of eight reps or even 10 sets of six reps.
Hopefully, you can see that outside of these basic recommendations there are many
different ways you can design a workout to meet your requirements, and I encourage
you to try many different styles.
Truthfully, the general beliefs in this area are as muddled and confusing as they are
in the field of nutrition. As an example, research has suggested that using a light
weight for a high amount of reps (between 20-25) may be as efficient at building
muscle as using heavy weights for low reps (between 1-5) as long as the total amount
of work complete is equal.199
While obviously we still have a lot to learn when it comes to all of the mechanisms
behind muscle growth, these guidelines are a good representation of what has been
found to be effective in well-controlled clinical research.
The important thing to remember is that exercise serves a number of benefits. Besides
simply building muscle, the effect of exercise on mood, self-esteem, and body image
cannot be stressed enough. After all, what good is losing weight if you still don’t feel
good about yourself?
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Designing your own workout program
In most research trials where people on a low calorie diet preserved lean mass by
using resistance training, their workouts fit into the following parameters: They
typically worked out three to four times per week with each workout session lasting
about 45 minutes. On average, two to three muscle groups would be exercised per
workout session. Each workout consisted of between six to 10 exercises with each
exercise being completed for two to four sets of eight to 12 reps. Rest periods would
consist of up to two minutes rest between each set of an exercise.
As I mentioned earlier, it is important to choose the workout style that fits your own
individual goals and needs. This is the main reason why I cannot ‘prescribe’ a workout
for everyone who follows the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle.
As an example, it takes a high amount of weight, volume, and stress for a 250-pound
bodybuilder to maintain a high level of muscle mass. If a 250-pound bodybuilder
were to follow Eat Stop Eat, the amount and type of exercise that he would need to do
to maintain his muscle mass would be much greater than what a 145-pound woman
who hasn’t previously exercised would need to do. Further, a 145-pound woman who
hasn’t previously exercised in this manner would see very little benefit from
immediately following the bodybuilder’s workout routine.
Selecting the appropriate exercise program depends on the following factors:
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• Your current training status (how much you currently work out)
• Your goals (maintain or gain muscle)
• The amount of muscle mass you are currently carrying
An easy rule of thumb would be to look at the amount of exercise you were doing
before you started following Eat Stop Eat, and make sure to slowly progress from
there. Just like your nutrition program, your workout routine should revolve around
the simplest and easiest methods that get you the results you want.
The importance of sticking with it
If you are fairly inactive, then starting a workout program may actually be very
difficult. Research has suggested that as many as 50% of people who start a new
exercise program will drop out within six months.200 Most of the time people say the
reason that they stop exercising is that they are tired or because of lack of time. It is
very important that you stick with your program, short of becoming obsessive about
exercise.
Not only will sticking to your workout program help you preserve muscle mass while
you are losing body fat, but it will also keep your mood elevated. In some very
interesting research published in 2008, it was found that when a group of women who
exercised regularly were forced to stop exercising for 72 hours, there was a noticeable
decrease in their body satisfaction and mood. The results of this study also showed
that after 72 hours of non-exercise, feelings of tension, anxiety and sluggishness were
increased.201 Of course, this is ironic considering that these are the exact reasons why
most people stop working out in the first place.
This leads to the idea of a downward spiral when you quit an exercise routine. You
quit because you are tired or stressed, only to become even more tired and even more
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stressed, and then the spiral picks up momentum, and you end up glued to your
couch unable to even think about the stress of re-starting another exercise program.
When it comes to exercise, balance seems to be the key. Too much exercise and you
increase the risk of overuse injuries and you could become obsessive, defining
yourself as a person by your exercise program. Too little exercise and you lose the
muscle maintaining and myriad of health benefits. Not only this, but you also run the
risk of becoming dissatisfied with your body, as well as experience a decreased mood.
For Eat Stop Eat the goal is to use exercise as a tool: Doing the amount needed to
preserve or build some muscle, but not becoming obsessive to the point where
exercise interferes with your life. You should look forward to your next workout
session, not dread it. And never let it define who you are as a person.
For this reason I recommend keeping your exercise plans as uncomplicated as
possible, following the suggestion in the above paragraphs.
A note on “Cardio” training for weight loss
The goal of the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle is to let your diet lead to a decrease in body fat,
while using resistance training to maintain or increase the size of your lean body
mass. While traditional cardio training will not ‘sabotage’ your fat loss results from
following Eat Stop Eat, you may be surprised to see that it doesn’t typically produce as
large of a fat burning benefit as you might have been led to believe. This doesn’t mean
that cardio is bad for you or a waste of time. Cardio training may indeed benefit your
overall health, it just might not pack as much of a fat burning punch as some people
wish it would.
Currently the recommendation for adults is to engage in at least 150 minutes of
moderate-intensity physical activity per week.202 This seems like a reasonable
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suggestion. However, I have found from both personal experience and from reviewing
clinical research that the work-to-reward benefit of cardio for the purpose of burning
more fat is relatively low. THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT CARDIO DOESN’T ‘WORK’.
Rather, it means you have to do a disproportionately large amount of work in the gym
to receive noticeable fat-burning results. In other words, it may help with fat burning,
but you better be prepared to spend a large amount time to get this benefit.
Believe it or not, most research trials examining the weight loss caused by very-lowcalorie
diets found that adding exercise did little to increase weight loss beyond what
the diet alone could achieve. The diets seemed to do all the work.
Take, for instance, the research conducted by Donnelly et al. that was published in
1991. Sixty-nine obese women were put on an extreme 520-calorie per day diet (this is
much lower than I would EVER recommend). The women were then divided into 4
groups:
Group 1 did not exercise.
Group 2 did endurance exercise for 60 minutes four days per week.
Group 3 did strength training four days per week.
Group 4 did strength training AND endurance exercises four days per week.
At the end of the 90 days research trial all four groups lost a large amount of
bodyweight, averaging over 40 pounds of weight loss! The interesting finding was that
there were no differences between the four groups in terms of the amount of weight or
body fat that was lost. This is despite the massive amounts of exercising that the
women in Group 4 were doing compared to Group 1!
This conclusion has been found over and over again in published research. Donnelly
and co-workers did a second trial that was published in 1993 demonstrating that
weight training could increase muscle size while women followed an 800-calorie per
day diet, but it could not improve weight loss or fat loss. Similar results have been
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found by research conducted by Kraemer in 1997, Bryner in 1999, Janssen in 2002,
and Wang in 2008, just to name a few examples. As you can see, exercising for weight
loss has been studied quite extensively and repeatedly proven to be less effective than
we have been led to believe.
Uncovering the reason why exercising for weight loss performs so poorly in clinical
trials has proven to be very difficult. We know that extra exercise does create a larger
calorie deficit (since exercise burns calories) However, this extra deficit does not seem
to show up on the weight loss side of the ledger, therefore either the deficit isn’t as
large as we thought, or there is compensation occurring somewhere else in our lives.
The most obvious answer is that exercise simply causes people to eat more later in the
day. The saying “work up a good appetite” seems to support this idea. However,
clinical research suggests that this is not the case.
A review published in 2003 suggests that men and women can tolerate exerciseinduced
acute energy deficits and do not compensate by eating more later in the
day.203 Other studies have found that this holds true for both lean204 and obese205
people.
In fact, another line of research even suggests that exercise may even help control
urges to binge and eat in response to negative emotions206, and overall seem to have a
better control of their appetite.207
So while it may be true for some people, research suggests that for many people,
exercise does not ‘cause’ you to eat more calories.
The other suggestion is that exercise can create a decreased amount of movement in
the period after the exercise. In research we call this ‘spontaneous physical activity’.
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To give you a very crude idea of the theory it would look something like this: On the
days that you exercised you also spent slightly more time sitting on the couch, maybe
climbed the stairs of your house a couple times less, and then took fewer overall
steps. These little decreases in spontaneous physical activity may diminish some of
the benefit of the exercise. This has also proven to be very difficult to measure in a
research setting.
The true answer is probably a combination of all of these theories: The calorie burn
from exercise is simply less than we expect (or want to believe) and small changes in
both post-exercise spontaneous physical activity and even smaller increases in calorie
intake all come into play in making exercise less effective than we would like.
Regardless of the illusive cause, the fact remains that exercise seems to be less
effective than we would like to think. However, as I stated before, this doesn’t mean
exercise is useless for weight loss.
A single bout of exercise stimulates adipose tissue blood flow and fat mobilization,
resulting in delivery of fatty acids to skeletal muscles at a rate well-matched to
metabolic requirements. With chronic exercise (training), there are changes in adipose
tissue physiology, particularly an enhanced fat mobilization during acute exercise.
Epidemiological observations support the idea that physically active people have
relatively low fat mass.208
Exercise also seems to be able to cause preferential weight loss in the visceral fat
deposits, more so than either resistance exercise or simply calorie restriction.209,210 So
for people who store a large amount of fat viscerally, exercise may be a valuable
addition to their weight loss program. Perhaps exercise is not causing MORE fat loss,
but rather a slightly more desirable distribution of fat loss.
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The truth is that if you get your diet in order and are following a nutrition program
that allows you to decrease your caloric intake, it will cause you to lose weight.
Adding 'calorie burning exercises' does not seem to increase this weight loss to as
large a degree as we would like, but may create small improvements in both weight
loss and health. Adding strength training is still the number one priority for anyone
attempting to lose body fat since it can preserve or even help increase the size of your
muscles while you are dieting, and prevent undesirable changes in your metabolism.
However, for those people who have the time or specific need, adding extra cardio can
still be an added fat loss benefit…if you have the time.
The bottom line when it comes to Eat Stop Eat and the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle is the
following:
The simple approach is the one that works best, and this approach involves eating for
fat loss and working out to preserve (or even increase) the size of your muscles. Add
cardio only if needed, only if you find it enjoyable, and have the available time.
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The Health Benefits of Exercise
It should be obvious that maintenance of lean body mass isn’t the only benefit of
following a well-planned exercise program. In fact, I would argue that there are other
benefits that are much more important to our overall health.
Similar to fasting and simply eating less, following a resistance training program can
decrease many markers of chronic inflammation, such as IL-6, resistin and leptin.211
Since chronic inflammation is a risk factor in many diseases, it’s no wonder why
regular exercise is recommended as an anti-inflammatory therapy.212
The effect that exercise has on inflammatory markers does seem dependent on the
intensity of exercise, training status, age, and severity of existing health conditions,
but for the most part almost any form of exercise will have some form of benefit.213
When you combine the anti-inflammatory effects of exercise with the already
mentioned benefits of improved cholesterol levels, improved blood sugar control,
increased bone density, and the ability of exercise to elevate mood and self-esteem, it
becomes clear that there is more to exercise then simply building muscle.214,215
However, the fact that proper functioning muscle may play a role in all of these factors
of health cannot be denied.
Just remember exercise is a tool: Do the amount needed to preserve or build some
muscle, but try your best to avoid becoming obsessive to the point where an addiction
to exercise interferes with your life.
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How to “Keep it Off” with Eat Stop Eat
Obviously the goal of any weight loss program should not be quick short-lived
weight loss. To truly reap the benefits of any weight loss program the results need to
be long lasting. Let’s face it; nobody wants to put the effort into losing weight just so
they can gain it back. Typically, maximal weight loss occurs during the first 6 months
of a diet, after which, weight regain slowly begins to set in.216
Luckily this could be one of the greatest strengths of Eat Stop Eat. Let me explain:
Most research looking at long term weight loss follow a protocol like this: Get a bunch
of people and make them lose weight very quickly using a very-low-calorie diet with
lots of clinical supervision, rules, support groups, follow up meetings, guidelines and
checklists.
Typically, once the subjects have lost roughly 10% to 15% of their original bodyweight
they go on to the weight maintenance period of the study where researchers test
different ways of eating to see if some are better than others at helping people
maintain or even improve upon their weight loss.
The studies have been remarkably conclusive in that the specific macronutrient profile
of the diet did not matter. In other words, the amount of protein, carbohydrates and
fats in the diet does not affect how well the diet is able help you keep the weight off.
Although some randomized trials have indicated that carbohydrate-restricted diets are
advantageous compared with higher-carbohydrate diets in achieving weight loss over
6 months, longer trials have shown that the advantage is not sustained beyond this
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time frame. Which is another way of saying that after one year, there is no significant
difference in how much weight these people kept off, regardless of how high or low
their carb or protein intake was.217,218,219,220
There may be some benefit to eating slightly more protein and slightly fewer carbs in
some people, but clearly it takes more than simple changes in the macronutrient
composition to maintain weight loss, and a change in lifestyle must occur at the same
time as a strong commitment to eating less.
In fact, research has found two things:
1. Your ability to keep the weight off is directly related to your ability to maintain
a flexible amount of dietary restraint.221
2. Your ability to keep the weight off is directly related to how well you
maintained your lean body mass while you were losing weight.221
Now, after reading point two you may immediately be thinking of some scientific
explanation that includes the ‘metabolism’ boosting effect of lean mass. There is
another just as plausible explanation to why preserving your lean body mass helps
people lose weight: People will be rewarded psychologically and socially from the
changes they’ve made in their body and be more willing to maintain dietary restraint
in order keep this new body shape! In other words, having less fat and a defined lean
body makes you look good, and it only takes a few compliments on your new lean
toned body to keep you highly motivated to keep it up.
Regardless of why maintaining your lean body mass improves your ability to keep the
weight off, the point remains: If you can follow a method of eating that allows you to
eat less for long periods of time while still eating the foods you enjoy, and if you can
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preserve your lean body mass while you lose body fat, you greatly increase your
chances of keeping the weight off!
This is the major benefit of Eat Stop Eat. You still eat the foods you like without
restricting yourself to lists of good foods and avoiding everything on a list of bad foods.
You still have to eat less, but you are in charge of the foods you choose to eat.
By being flexible and not restrictive it allows you to enact a great deal of dietary
restraint without feeling deprived or bored of your food choices. And a very large body
of research suggests that this flexibility is a key to long-term weight loss success.
There are a large amount of epidemiological222,223,224,225 and intervention studies226,227
that clearly point to the relative advantage of flexible restraint of calorie intake over
rigid control for long term weight loss success. Combine this with the research
showing that people who used fasting as a method of weight control maintained most
of their weight loss over the course of an entire year,228 and you can see why the Eat
Stop Eat lifestyle can be incredibly effective at not only helping you remove the excess
weight, but keeping it off for good.
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Eat Stop Eat Conclusions
By now I hope it is apparent to you that short periods of intermittent fasting
combined with a regular resistance-training program is an easy, uncomplicated, and
highly effective way to lose weight. It can also help correct some of the negative
metabolic effects that come from spending so much time in the fed state, and can
improve many markers of long-term health.
While many diets tout day-by-day diet plans, cookbooks and charts of acceptable and
unacceptable foods, none of this is needed when you adopt the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle.
Eat Stop Eat will hopefully free you from the nutrition info-clutter that surrounds us
every day in the media.
My opinion is that there is ZERO relationship between how many fitness marketing
emails we receive each day, how many fitness books we read, how many health
forums we visit, and how much weight we lose or how healthy we feel.
Stressing over what we eat, how we workout, what to do to lose weight and all the
confusion and frustration that goes along with these things no longer needs to be a
part of your life. You do not need any of them to lose weight. Any message that is full
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of nutrition and fitness rhetoric and ‘eat this, not that’ lists and rules that ‘you
absolutely need to follow’, is nothing more than nutritional mind-clutter.
More importantly, getting rid of this stress can actually improve your weight loss and
overall health. A surprising as it sounds, ‘stressing’ over your diet can actually make
losing weight more difficult. It has been suggested that excessive psychological stress
combined with overeating can actually have synergistic effects that are damaging to
both your weight loss goals and long-term health.229
What is interesting is that the stress of excessive dietary restraint, especially when not
accompanied by the act of actually eating less can increase markers of stress response
within the body.230 So when I say that ‘stressing’ about eating healthy isn’t good for
you, I mean it in the most literal sense!
Now there is still a benefit to healthy eating. I still recommend eating a variety of
fruits and vegetables combined with some sources of protein, but I emphasize that in
the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle, you do not have to stress over what you choose to eat.
In fact, the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle can be best described by slightly altering a famous
Zen quote:
“Before you study Zen, mountains are mountains and rivers are rivers;
while you are studying Zen, mountains are no longer mountains and
rivers are no longer rivers; but once you have had enlightenment,
mountains are once again mountains and rivers again rivers.”
With a couple of small changes, we can sum up the Eat Stop Eat view of food and
nutrition with one (rather long) sentence.
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“Before you study Nutrition, food is food and drink is drink; while you
are studying Nutrition, food is no longer food and drink is no longer
drink; but once you have had enlightenment, food is once again food
and drink is again drink.”
My goal is that by the end of this book, food has once again become food and drink
has once again become drink for you. Hopefully you have realized that research has
shown us conclusively that food does not have magical ‘weight loss’ properties and
that any food can be part of a balanced weight loss plan.
By following the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle you are able to lose weight by using an
uncomplicated and stress free style of eating that balances your fed and fasted
metabolism. This allows you to reap the health and metabolic benefits of short periods
of fasting, including weight loss, decreased inflammation and improved metabolic
profile, all while reducing the amount of time you stress about what you are eating.
The bottom line is that with Eat Stop Eat, we can lose weight while creating a healthier
relationship with food and accepting that food is:
A) A fuel for your body when you need it
And…
B) To be enjoyed
From this point forward, you can enjoy the foods you eat, and enjoy knowing that with
the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle you can lose fat, build muscle, eat every day and not have to
follow some crazy fad diet ever again, and be 100% positive that not only is taking the
occasional break from eating not bad for you, but that it actually has tremendous
health benefits.
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Eat less, stress less; move more, lift more and get a good night’s sleep. For
physical health, that’s pretty much as good as it gets.
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Eat Stop Eat FAQs
Q: I want to lose fat and gain some muscle. I’ve been told that I need to eat
large amounts of protein every day to put on muscle mass. Won’t fasting cause
me to lose muscle?
No, as long as you are working out with strength training exercises you will not lose
muscle. In fact, it is possible to gain muscle during Eat Stop Eat.
Q: I’ve been trying the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle for several weeks now, but
occasionally I get headaches when I’m fasting, what gives?
There has been a lot of research on Ramadan fasting and headaches. It seems that
women are particularly susceptible to headaches while fasting. This is not due to
dehydration,231,232 and may actually be similar to withdrawal symptoms, similar to the
headaches you experience when you quit drinking coffee cold-turkey. From my
experience, if you experience headaches they do tend to go away after your first couple
of fasts. If needed, you can treat your headache as you normally would when not
fasting.
Q: I’m really enjoying adding fasting into my eating plan, but I’d still like to
clean up the way I eat when I’m not fasting, any tips?
You can incorporate any diet style you like while you are following Eat Stop Eat. My
personal opinion is that the general guideline of eating ‘lean and green’ with lots of
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fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices is an ideal complement to the Eat Stop Eat
lifestyle, but you can incorporate any diet style you wish.
Q: What are things I can do other than fasting to help me lose fat?
My recommendation would be to look for small changes you can make in the way you
eat when you are not fasting. Once you have gone without food for 24 hours a couple
of times, you really start to get a feel for the real reasons behind why you eat, what
you eat and when you eat.
Often times, hunger isn’t one of these reasons. Habit and emotional connection are
usually the culprits. If you take this new found wisdom, you can create a big
difference in the way you eat by making SMALL, almost unnoticeable changes in your
eating habits.
Q: If I start the Eat Stop Eat Lifestyle, how quickly will I lose weight?
It is a dietary truism that you can’t take off in a day what you put on over years. With
the Eat stop Eat lifestyle, you should be able to lose weight at a rate of 1-2 pounds per
week. However, for people who are exceptionally lean (Under 9% for men and under
19% for women) weight loss tends to be slower, generally between 0.5 and 1 pound
per week.
Q: Do I need to take a multi-vitamin on the days that I am fasting?
No, a multi-vitamin is generally not necessary if you are eating a balanced diet.
However, if you like taking multi-vitamins then by all means, continue to do so; they
will not negatively affect the health benefits of fasting.
Q: Will fasting affect my menstrual cycle?
Generally the answer is no, even longer fasts have been shown to have little impact on
the menstrual cycle of normal weight women.233,234 There is research, however, to
suggest that longer fasts (72 hours) can affect the menstrual cycle of exceptionally
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lean women (body fat levels well below 20%).235 For this reason I do not recommend
fasting for longer than 24 hours, and as always, if you do discover menstrual
irregularities while losing weight please see your medical doctor or health care
practioner.
Q: I read that any weight loss from fasting is only water and muscle, not fat,
and you regain the weight when you start eating again. Is this true?
This is not true. During the actual period of time when you are fasting your weight will
be lower than normal. This is due to the fact that you have no food in your system,
and your body has shed some excess water. However, with several periods of fasting,
the weight loss you see is very real and it is indeed fat loss.
Q: I’ve heard that under-eating will slow my metabolism down and put me in
“starvation mode” which will cause me to store more fat. Will this happen with
the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle?
No. On the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle you never go a day without food, and you spend most
of your days eating your regular diet without changing anything. Your daily calories
will only be lower on the days you start and finish your fast. The overall effect should
come out to about a 15-25% calorie reduction over the entire week with no negative
effects on your metabolism.
Q: Are there any specific supplements I should take while I am fasting?
If you have been asked by a qualified health care professional to take a certain
supplement, then continue to do so. However, I do not believe there is any need for
extra or special supplements during your fast
Q: I’ve heard that short periods of fasting similar to the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle
are being studied in animals. I’ve read it can increase their life expectancy. Is
this true?
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Yes. As a matter of fact, this research is being done by Dr. Mark Mattson at the
National Institute on Aging. Research suggests that animal’s age slower and live
longer when they consume fewer calories. The research is showing that this effect can
be achieved by eating less each day, or by fasting on intermittent days.236
Q: Why do I have to fast for 24 hours? Couldn’t I just do 18 hours, or 36 if I
wanted more results?
The answer is twofold. First: According to the research, the 24-hour point is right in
the middle of the maximum adaptation for fat burning. Second: Through trial and
error, many of my initial test subjects (including me) following an Eat Stop Eat lifestyle
found that 24 hours was the least intrusive to their daily lifestyle. A 24-hour period
made the most sense from a practical and scientific stand point.
In actuality your body begins to burn significantly more fat four to eight hours after
your last meal (depending on the size of your last meal). This effect begins to level off
after 30 hours. If you don’t quite make it to the 24-hour point some days, don’t sweat
it. You’re still getting a benefit.
I do not recommend extended fasts by a considerable amount past the 24-hour mark
because I believe they become too intrusive on a person’s lifestyle. There is nothing
wrong with cutting a fast short at 22 hours, or extending a fast to 27 or 28 hours if it
fits into your schedule. However, if you end up fasting for 40, 50 or even 70 hours I
simply do not see how this CANNOT become intrusive on your life. By extending your
fasts into the range of 2-3 days, you lose the flexibility that makes Eat Stop Eat so
effective as a long-term weight loss solution.
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Q: I heard breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Will it affect me if I
miss breakfast on a fast day?
There is no scientific evidence to prove that breakfast is any more important than
lunch or dinner for adults. As a matter of fact, there is no scientific evidence proving
three meals per day are any better than one.
Q: Can I follow the Eat Stop Eat Lifestyle if I am pregnant?
No. Eat Stop Eat should not be used by anyone who is pregnant or trying to get
pregnant. After your pregnancy, consult your physician to see if Eat Stop Eat is
suitable for you and your individual circumstances
Q: I know that black coffee, diet pop, and water are fine during my fasting
periods, but what about sugar-free gum?
I have used sugar-free gum during my fasts. Most of these gums contain 2-3 calories
per piece, so I consider a couple of pieces of gum to be acceptable during a fast.
Q: I’m a bodybuilder and I’m interested in trying fasting. Can I still take any of
my supplements on the fasting day (I’m trying to gain muscle)?
Lucky for you, the one supplement that is proven to increase strength and muscle
mass in the long term is creatine monohydrate. And, since creatine is not metabolized
for energy and does not raise insulin levels, taking creatine on your fasting days is
perfectly acceptable (but I would still recommend taking your creatine at the times
when you are eating).
Q: I know you suggest weight training while following the Eat Stop Eat
lifestyle, but what about other types of exercise like yoga or mountain biking?
I absolutely encourage you to practice as many different types of exercise as possible.
Just like nutrition, I think variety is the key to exercise and both yoga and mountain
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biking are excellent examples of exercises that compliment the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle.
As long as you are doing some form of resistance training at least two or three times a
week, you can add any additional exercises you wish.
Q: My daughter is 14 and overweight, can she try the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle?
Unfortunately, no, she cannot. All of the research conducted on fasting is done on
adults; there is no way for me to know its effects on children. I only recommend Eat
Stop Eat for healthy adults.
Q: Do you think the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle would be beneficial to someone who
is simply trying to maintain his or her current weight?
Yes. Eat Stop Eat provides a simple way to maintain your weight. Instead of fasting
once every 3-5 days, a person wishing to maintain their bodyweight could fast once
every 6-8 days.
Q: I’ve read that you need to eat every two to three hours in order to prevent
your blood sugar from crashing, how does Eat Stop Eat affect my blood sugar?
The truth about having low blood sugar is that it is not nearly as common as we are
often led to believe. People who suffer from true hypoglycemia typically have a
“hypoglycemia disorder”. This disorder is usually diagnosed by a medical test. What’s
more, true hypoglycemia isn’t just ‘feeling tired’ but includes confusion, difficulty
speaking, and even seizure and convulsions.237 For the vast majority of the healthy
population, we are easily able to maintain healthy blood sugars that are neither toohigh
nor too-low in a whole range of different situations, including fasting and intense
exercise.
In research examining the effects of a 24 hour fast, it was found that fasting did not
cause blood sugar levels to dip below 3.5 mmol/Liter, meaning that during the entire
24 fast, blood sugar slowly lowered itself, but remained at normal non-hypoglycemic
levels.238
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Q: My Dad is really interested in Eat Stop Eat, but he is diabetic. Can he still
try the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle?
Eat Stop Eat was designed for healthy people trying to lose weight. If your father
wants to try Eat Stop Eat, he should only do so under the direct supervision of a
doctor or healthcare practitioner.
Q: In the beginning of Eat Stop Eat you say that it can improve your health and
“might just save your life”, these are some pretty bold statements. What gives?
Right now there is ongoing research on short-term fasting and its ability to improve
certain markers of health. While it would be premature of me to say that fasting can
help with a medical condition, I can say that it has been used with success in clinical
research on people who suffer from asthma,239 lowers inflammation,240 and is being
studied for its potential to improve brain health.241
Q: What about post-workout nutrition? Don’t I need to eat immediately after
my workouts?
According to Dr. Michael Rennie of the University of Nottingham, the idea that there is
golden period of getting amino acids into your muscles is speculative at best. What’s
more, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that athletes who take a
day or two to rest between vigorous workout sessions do not need to worry about the
timing of carbohydrate intake. The bottom line is that most of today’s post-workout
nutrition advice serves three purposes – to possibly (please note the vagueness of that
term) support the muscle building process in young (university aged) men and women
who are just starting a workout program; to fuel the metabolic needs of ELITE
athletes; and to help sell sports supplements. You can work out on your fasting days
without having to worry about your post-workout nutrition.
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Q: With all the news about sugar being bad for you, shouldn’t I be cutting down
on the amount of sugar I eat if I want to lose weight?
You should, and you are. Think of it this way, If you are very diligent and watch the
foods you eat day in and day out, skip desserts, and avoid many of the high sugar
foods you normally eat, you might be able to reduce your sugar intake by 30%.
Alternatively, you could keep eating the way you normally eat, and fast for two 24-
hour periods over the course of a week, and still reduce your sugar intake by 30%. By
fasting for two days out of 7, you automatically reduce your sugar intake by about
30%, just by missing two 24-hour periods of eating. The Eat Stop Eat lifestyle is a
great way to get the exact same result as a restrictive diet WITHOUT spending day
after day monitoring every piece of food you put into your mouth.
Q: I’ve read that high protein diets can help with weight loss. Can I eat highprotein
while doing Eat Stop Eat?
Yes. There are several published research studies suggesting that a higher amount of
dietary protein might be associated with an increased rate of weight loss (As long as
the diet is calorie reduced). Most of the research I’ve reviewed have had people eat
between 70 and 150 grams of protein per day (not the crazy 250 grams of protein per
day suggestions that you find in fitness magazines). If you like, you can definitely try
eating a higher protein diet while using Eat Stop Eat.
Q: What is the best thing for me to eat after I am finished fasting?
When you finish your fast you need to pretend that your fast NEVER HAPPENED. No
compensation, no reward, no special way of eating, no special shakes, drinks or pills.
The minute you decide to stop fasting, you need to wipe the fast from your memory,
and eat the exact way you would normally eat at that specific time of the day (while
eating responsibly of course). If you end your fast at dinnertime, have dinner. If you
end your fast at 4:00 PM and you don’t typically have dinner until 6:00 or 7:00 PM,
Eat Stop Eat 154

then have a light snack…but nothing larger than you would normally have at that
time.
There is no magic way to end your fast. The absolute best thing you can do is simply
pretend your fast never happened and begin eating in the exact way you would
normally eat at that specific time of day.
Q: Can I have a little bit of non-fat milk in my coffee while I am fasting?
Unfortunately my answer is no. I would recommend you try to fast without making
little concessions in your diet. While I do admit that small amounts of calories
probably will not interrupt the fasting state metabolism, I am still concerned that fat
free (non-fat) milk still has too many calories for when you are fasting. Stick with
calorie-free beverages as much as possible while you fast. My answer would be the
same for a small amount of cream or sugar.
Q: Can I drink juice while I am fasting?
I do not recommend drinking any juice while you are fasting. From my experience,
using a juice fast for weight loss can be disastrous. Remember, the key to Eat Stop Eat
is to try and consume NO calories for 24 hours.
Juice is high in calories, so it is like drinking liquid food, and much less filling...if you
think about it, this is actually depressing - you get the calories without the pleasure.
In my opinion this defeats the whole purpose.
Q: I want to fast every day except weekends, does it make a difference if my
fast lasts for 23 hours instead of 24 hours?
I don’t think there is a large difference between 23 and 24 hours. That being said, I
must say that I do not endorse the practice of fasting for such a large length every
single day. The point of Eat Stop Eat is to add flexibility to your diet plan, not remove
flexibility, which is essentially what spending 23 hours of fasting every day would do.
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I urge you to try fasting once or twice a week first, I’m sure you will be surprised by
the effectiveness of this simple approach.
Q: I was wondering if there was any research on the effects of fasting on a
women’s menstrual cycle?
There is some research that looked at the effect of short-term fasting on the menstrual
cycle of women. These research studies found that despite the metabolic changes that
occur during fasting, even fasts as long as 72 hours do not seem to have an effect on
the menstrual cycle of normal cycling women.104 However, if you have any questions or
concerns about your menstrual cycle you should discuss them with your doctor or
health care practitioner.
Q: So are you saying that (insert newest style of eating here) is wrong?
No, not at all. There is no wrong way to eat. The only thing that can be wrong, or
scientifically incorrect, is the explanation of the benefits of a particular way of eating,
or the reasons why one type of eating is ‘better’ than another type of eating.
Q: What about post-workout nutrition - Do you think it is necessary to have
high glycemic carbohydrates after training?
I really don't see any need for high-glycemic carbs after training unless you are an
endurance athlete and need to replenish glycogen stores. Even then, it would only be
if you have to compete again in very short period of time (24-48 hours). For general
muscle growth and well being, I think carbs are one of the most overrated post
workout foods. With typical eating, your glycogen stores will be replenished to their
maximum within 48 hours after your workout.
Unless you are doing multiple endurance style events in the same day, I see emphasis
on high carbohydrate intake as just another obsessive-compulsive eating habit that
can wind up causing us to gain weight.
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Q: I really enjoy the idea of a cheat day while I’m dieting. Can I do a cheat day
with Eat Stop Eat?
I really don't see any reason why you can’t. If you want to have a big day of eating
every once in a while, and if this makes you happy, then I am all for it with three
reservations:
1) As long as your overall calorie intake averaged over the week remains low.
2) The cheat day doesn’t make you feel guilty or depressed the next day.
3) You aren’t force-feeding yourself to the point of feeling sick in the hopes of
having some beneficial health or fat-loss effect.
Q: Sometimes when I fast my finger tips get cold, why is that?
Fasting increases the blood flow to your body fat (the process is called adipose tissue
blood flow).242 So when you are fasting more blood is travelling to your body fat,
presumably to help move it to your muscles where it can be burned as a fuel. Due to
this increased travel to your body fat, vasoconstricton occurs in your fingertips and
sometimes toes to compensate. So in some cases it’s a ‘necessary evil’ in the fat loss
process.
Q: I noticed you said the chronic inflammation can negatively affect muscle
building, but I heard that taking high doses of anti-inflammatory after your
workout can also negatively affect muscle building…I’m confused.
While CHRONIC inflammation can negatively affect the muscle building process,
ACUTE inflammation seems to be involved in the muscle building process in a positive
way. So the difference lies in chronic being bad, while the proper type of acute
inflammation may indeed be beneficial. (Also keep in mind that those studies on antiinflammatory
drugs having a negative effect on muscle building were using very high
doses243, studies on lower doses did not show this same affect.244)
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Q: What is your opinion on taking Branched Chain Amino Acids during a fast?
The branched chain amino acids leucine, Isoleucine, and valine are a family of
essential amino acids that are extremely important to muscle physiology – including
growth and repair. The BCAAs (specifically leucine) act through a protein-signaling
pathway regulated by something called mTor to initiate the process of protein
synthesis, which at time can initiate the process of muscle growth. While some people
recommend BCAAs during a fast to prevent muscle growth, I see some issues with
this suggestion.
To start, there is little evidence to suggest muscle loss should be a concern during
short term fasting. Secondly, mTOR is not exclusive to muscle, it is found in almost
every cell in the body, and plays an important role in dozens of processes within the
human body. The main reason I do not recommend BCAA intake during a fast is that
mTOR is a strong negative regulator of autophagy245 (see the chapter on ‘cellular
cleansing), and even small doses of BCAA can increase insulin (another negative
regulator of autophagy) and initiate mTOR driven decreases in autophagy.154 So there
seems to be very little benefit to BCAA supplementation during a fast, considering that
you may be eliminating the health benefits of the fast. Better to keep your BCAAs to
the end of your fast and during the times you are eating.
Q: Sometimes when I fast my stomach ‘growls’ any tips to avoid this?
Yes, for some reason I find sparkling water (Pelligrino, Perrier) tends to help. I’m not
sure why, but it tends to calm a growly stomach.
Q: You never actually say how I should eat on days I’m not fasting? Should I
still eat 6 times per day?
You should eat in the way that fits your lifestyle best, while allowing you to keep
calories under control and still be able to eat the foods you enjoy. If you review the
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body of scientific literature on eating frequency (how many times you eat in a day) you
find very unremarkable results in either direction.
Forcing people to eat more often can be disastrous as some researchers have
speculated that our growing obesity crisis can be blamed on eating more often as
much as it can on increased portions sizes.246 However, forcing someone to eat less
frequently may end in increased portion sizes. Based on this I cannot offer a ‘perfect’
way to eat because it simply does not exist. You have to find what works for you right
now, and be willing to change the way you eat as your life changes.
Q: I’ve heard that people are using fasting with chemotherapy treatments, why
is this?
Fasting is being studied as an addition to chemotherapy as very preliminary studies
have found that fasting seems to reduce the side-effects typically associated with
chemotherapy, including fatigue, weakness and gastrointestinal side effects.247
However, much further research is needed before short-term fasting becomes a
recommendation for patients undergoing chemo.
Q: I’d like to fast twice a week, but I’m worried about missing my post workout
meal, can you help me?
Without going into the science for and against the idea of post workout meals, I will
say that if you are fasting twice per week, and training less than 5 times per week,
you should be able to always find a way to time your fasts and workouts so you can
always have a post workout meal. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if you are
finding it difficult to fit your post-workout nutrition around you fasts you are probably
being either too inflexible with your fasting routine or too inflexible with your workout
routine.
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Nolan Foss,
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