As recent Research has pointed out , present men’s testosterone levels have dropped significantly, up to 1 percent a year, when compared to men of the same age in past decades. That means a 30 year old man in 1990 could expect to have up to a 22% higher level of testosterone than a 30 year old man in 2012.
Testosterone is responsible for more than just men and muscle, as is perpetuated constantly by the media, specifically important processes related to energy levels, focus and motivation, disease processes and health, muscle function and muscle mass, bone mass, and libido. And not just in men, testosterone plays a role and contributes to these key processes in women.
Fitness and Health experts Brad Pilon of Eat Stop Eat and Rusty Moore of Visual Impact created a great piece on the relationship between fasting, dieting, and testosterone, and they raised a very important question (s) which this post is based on:
Does fasting and dieting dictate a choice between fat loss and muscle? Or is fasting without losing muscle a possible pathway?
Long term calorie deficits and higher levels of body fat both contribute to lower testosterone levels, among other negative health effects. This is one reason intermittent fasting, alternating periods of calorie consumption and no calorie consumption, can get a bad rap. It’s also why fasting without muscle loss is a sought out goal.
But, as Brad Pilon points out, decreased calorie levels can have its benefits when related to hormone sensitivity, a major problem and issue when discussing fat loss and muscle. Decreasing calorie levels can result in increased insulin sensitivity AND increased testosterone sensitivity, while over-feeding constantly can cause what is known as insulin resistance.
Consuming loads of sugar and calories can often overload insulin receptors with the insulin hormone in an attempt to deliver the energy to areas of the body where it is needed. But when the system is flooded with insulin, over and over again, the body’s receptors can become resistant, especially in muscle and the liver, and cause all those calories to be diverted into fat stores.
As you can imagine, this can lead to an increase in body fat, a decrease in muscle mass, and as pointed out above, these two factors can lead to less testosterone and the entire cycle which seems to self-deteriorate
So how does one solve the problems with fasting and dieting, fasting and muscle loss, and the goal of fasting without muscle loss?
Short term fasting or intermittent fasting could be the answer. By rotating periods of eating and extended (but not over-extended) not eating, or fasting, it may be possible to achieve benefits such as insulin sensitivity and testosterone sensitivity, while also accelerating fat loss promoting hormones such as epinephrine and norepinephrine.
Additionally, by working in re-feed periods, popular within intermittent fasting programs, where certain periods of eating allot for eating more food than normal, similar to a cheat day, the hormone Leptin can be kept at consistent levels that help to promote specific hormone pathways catalyzing protein synthesis and fat oxidation.
Short term fasting research opposes long term in that the massive decreases in testosterone and downfalls of a low calorie diet aren’t seen within such a short period, until extended beyond 24-36 hours, depending on the variety of research.
Moving past the hormonal discussion (as limited as it was), I think it’s important to point out the goal, As I’ve read Brad Pilon say himself,
“the goal isn’t 0% bodyfat, the goal is to like the way you look. I don’t see a reason to obsess over arbitrary numbers”
By combining the large amount of research on influential and important fat loss/muscle gaining/health promoting hormones such as testosterone, insulin, and leptin, with the emerging methods of intermittent fasting, a realistic eating pattern or diet is created that allows for desired results, while also impeding cravings, psychological downfalls, and boredom that often occurs with diets, which 90%+ of the population fail with.
To me, intermittent fasting offers an energetic fasting period that delivers a unique and comfortable sense of focus and drive, while also shutting down cravings and psychological difficulties with diets or healthy eating by allowing for a relaxed and flexible approach to eating. I don’t nor have I seen negatives within this lifestyle, and while it requires will power, as does anything worthwhile, it’s beneficial, and isn’t like the vast array of popular diets that might offer success at the expense of pain and negative side effects affecting other areas of life, like work and play.
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