In an effort to maintain my caloric deficit while still switching things up, I’m going to incorporate 3rd Day Fasting.
For the last two weeks, I’ve been at a 300 calorie deficit and I’m down a pound. That’s considered good results for someone who’s lean and trying to get leaner so I’m not complaining. I’m just at that place where I feel like things could stagnate so my intention is to keep things moving before that happens.
I’m not changing my calorie deficit but I’m changing my routine in an effort to boost my metabolism.
Does a Calorie Deficit Lower Metabolism?
Yes. The standard method of decreasing daily calories under maintenance is a proven way to lower metabolism. That’s bad. It’s the result of your body getting less energy than is required every day. When the metabolism lowers, it becomes harder to shed pounds.
It’s the classic “Catch 22”. You need a calorie deficit to lose weight but the calorie deficit slows the metabolism and causes weight loss to stall.
The answer? This is where it get argumentative and you can visit just about any health and nutrition forum and get opposing views on finding the solution.
Some people say to simply decrease calories further. Some say that a 300 calorie deficit is the “sweet spot” for burning fat and should be maintained, though it may take a little longer. Some offer up a re-feed day as the solution. Some swear by carb-cycling.
There are those that disagree with creating a calorie deficit to lose weight altogether, citing the issue of “starvation mode” taking over. Starvation mode is when the body allegedly stores fat as a result of not getting enough calories to operate. It’s supposed to be the body’s survival mechanism against not getting enough calories.
Nutrition expert, Lyle McDonald says the following of the issue..
Well there is no doubt that the body slows metabolic rate when you reduce calories or lose weight/fat. There are at least two mechanisms for this.
One is simply the loss in body mass. A smaller body burns fewer calories at rest and during activity. There’s not much you can do about that except maybe wear a weighted vest to offset the weight loss, this would help you burn more calories during activity.
However, there’s an additional effect sometimes referred to as the adaptive component of metabolic rate. Roughly, that means that your metabolic rate has dropped more than predicted by the change in weight.
So if the change in body mass predicts a drop in metabolic rate of 100 calories and the measured drop is 150 calories, the extra 50 is the adaptive component. The mechanisms behind the drop are complex involving changes in leptin, thyroid, insulin and nervous system output (this system is discussed to some degree in all of my books except my first one).
In general, it’s true that metabolic rate tends to drop more with more excessive caloric deficits (and this is true whether the effect is from eating less or exercising more); as well, people vary in how hard or fast their bodies shut down. Women’s bodies tend to shut down harder and faster.
But here’s the thing: in no study I’ve ever seen has the drop in metabolic rate been sufficient to completely offset the caloric deficit. That is, say that cutting your calories by 50% per day leads to a reduction in the metabolic rate of 10%. Starvation mode you say. Well, yes. But you still have a 40% daily deficit.
In short.. You can’t slow your metabolism down enough to inhibit fat loss. Sounds promising, right?
The problem is that you’ll find thousands of people, spread across thousands of forums, that swear their weight loss has halted and they are eating as few as 1000 calories a day.
It does seem strange that weight loss would stop when going this low if indeed, the metabolism wasn’t affected?
Is Intermittent Fasting the Solution?
Intermittent Fasting (IF) has become quite popular in the wake of studies that suggest skipping meals does not contribute to starvation mode. Followers of IF generally espouse starvation mode as a myth until the window of fasting becomes much longer.. often 72 hours or more.
I engaged in intermittent fasting using the Lean Gains protocol earlier this year for several months. It did help me to drop weight and it’s not a bad way to eat but my only complaint was that I felt a little flat on it and I didn’t see any substantial gains over a typical diet of reducing calories.
I may ultimately go back to this protocol and see if this helps me to get leaner but first, I must try something new…
Third Day Fasting
Feeling that my fat loss may be slowing down, I’ve been spending extra time on a couple fat loss forums and the arguments remain the same as I’ve heard the last few years. It’s the “Catch 22” as described above.
The latest discussion on starvation mode and using a calorie deficit to lose fat was as heated as any I’ve read in the last few years.
I started wondering if there wasn’t a method that would appease both sides. Is there a way to attain a daily caloric deficit and still keep the metabolism fired up?
IF comes the closest so I was considering going back to it for a while.
My hesitation was in maintaining the calorie deficit as I have been. I wanted to eat more calories and not because I’m hungry. I’ve been committed to eating at a deficit and the longer I’ve done it, the easier it’s become.
I kept thinking back to my mid-20s, when I was eating 8,000 – 9,000 calories every day and not gaining extra fat. I wasn’t the leanest guy around but wasn’t trying to be (was interested in power lifting).. and was probably never higher than 15% body fat, and I ate this way for years.
For well over a three year period, I consumed a gallon and a half of milk every day, along with 18 egg whites and then whatever else I could eat. My two workout partners and I would hit at least one buffet a day and challenge each other to who could eat the most.. and we paid little attention to what we ordered. It was all about taste. I remember ordering 7 meals at The Waffle House and being bested by one of my best friends, who ordered the eighth meal and nearly ate that whole burger. I still applaud him.
I know.. I was in my mid-twenties, right?
Maybe.. but I still feel there was more to it. Eating so many calories every day had my metabolism higher than it had ever been before, even in my teens. I felt like my core temperature was hot all the time and I could hardly sleep. I was always restless. I was strong as could be and there was no slowing me down.
It’s not just the amount of energy I had but the huge calorie surplus I continually put in my body.
This makes me believe that a huge daily calorie surplus can burn fat better than anything else.
IF doesn’t create a huge calorie surplus so how about fasting while using a very large calorie surplus? What if I don’t get quite so crazy as 8,000 calories a day (I’m not 25 anymore) but still went relatively high?
With Third Day Fasting, I’m going to experiment and skip a full day of eating every third day. The other two days, I’ll split my three day caloric load.
My maintenance continues to be right at 2,000 calories a day, so I’ll multiply 2,000 calories x 3 days for 6,000 total calories and then ingest all those calories in a two day period.
That’s’ 3,000 calories a day for two days and then a 24 hour fast. I’ll start eating those calories when I wake and I’m only going to lift on the two high-calorie days. Every third day will be a rest day.
My hope is to really stimulate fat loss. Every 10/15 days (or 20/30), I’ll be eating well over maintenance.. even more than a typical bulk. But.. at the end of every week, I have created a deficit.
I’ll do this for 30 days and since tomorrow is my leg day and I worked out today, I will have my first 3,000 calorie day tomorrow and have the first 24-hour fast Monday. This might be a better way to ease into it anyway, starting with only one high-calorie day.
Greater Benefits Yet?
So I dreamed this idea up last week and I’ve been tossing it around inside my head but even I wasn’t sold on moving forward with it. I kept thinking that I was surely missing something and ultimately, it was probably a bad idea. I suspected that in further researching it, I would likely come across some reason that would negate the wishful thinking.
But.. as I started researching the possible pitfalls, I found a very interesting study on fasting and metabolism. It’s years old but makes the thought of 3rd Day Fasting all the more appealing to me.
Take the time to read it because there’s a lot there but to summarize the research findings.. Your metabolic rate will actually increase for the first 36 hours of calorie depletion and only starts to decrease after about 48 hours of no food.
So I can create a very large calorie surplus every two days, get the benefits of intermittent fasting every third day and actually increase my metabolism while creating a calorie deficit every week/month? It sounds like the best of all worlds.
The challenge, of course, is having the willpower to stay the course every third day but I certainly have a much better handle on controlling my diet these days. Willpower was a big problem for me early on in the year but months and months of low calories have served me well.
In fact, with my current macronutrient ratios being close to Keto, this is probably the best time for me to try this.
Third Day Fasting Fears
If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is, right? I’ll admit that I keep going over this in my head and I wonder what I’m missing? The truth is that I may be missing a pretty big element and if you can think of something, do feel free to let me know.
But.. I am convinced that at the very least, this will break me from eating at a low daily deficit for a while and all signs point to a faster metabolism. If I gain some pounds back as a result, I will chalk it up as a fail and get back on track with the current calorie deficit and then maybe hit some traditional IF when January rolls around.
And what about cortisol? Cortisol is a hormone that is released in the presence of stress.
High levels of cortisol will encourage fat storage and many who oppose fasting claim that fasting will certainly create this high-stress environment. Then again, there’s also evidence that a high-fat diet offsets cortisol levels when fasting and I’ll be maintaining high-fat throughout the month (I’ll discuss my macros in a future post).
Proponents of IF are also quick to point out that the difference in cortisol levels are negligible and a good workout and plenty of sleep will completely take care of the deficiency. All things I’ll soon know for myself.
For now though.. I’m moving forward.
I’m certainly not trying to create the next big diet movement. I doubt I’m on to anything that big but I can’t help but wonder if this just might be enough to jump start my metabolism again and create a little more fat loss? That’s the goal here. Well… that and the continued use off my body in the name of science.
Stay tuned.. I’ll certainly let you know how it goes over the next few weeks..