Too often, those looking to lose weight justify lower calorie consumption in the form of portion control. Often this is done with no regard for the quality of those calories as if less is more. One place this tends to be particularly deleterious is when the individual seeking pounds and inches lost sabotages their efforts by eating quality foods, but not doing so on a healthy feeding schedule, fasting if you will and promoting loss of muscle glycogen. The question with fasting is, at what point will muscle loss happen? When should you be concerned that skipping meals will limit your fat burning potential? Here is the answer.
Effects of skipping meals on your fat burning vs. fat storage potential is based on factors like quality of fats and proteins in your diet, not just source or quality of carbohydrates like so many think. What about stress? Stress is one of the faster “burners” of energy and therefore muscle stores may be lost and fat preserved. HOW DO YOU KNOW? Are you a muscle burner? Or are you a fat burner? Are you a worrier? Or are you a warrior?
One way to tell is if you start feeling a bit anxious. I understand we are talking about stress, so you may be thinking, “of course I feel anxious”! Not necessarily true. Once you start feeling anxious, not just stressed, or fatigued; now you are potentially burning muscle, not fat. WHY? Prolonged stress requires sufficient stress hormone to react. This signals the body to burn muscle glycogen for fuel instead of fat because we can not make cortisol, a stress hormone successfully from fat’s backbone, but instead readily from protein i.e.: muscle? You’ll also notice other somewhat detrimental effects such as failure to stay asleep or waking up in the middle of the night – this is also due to higher cortisol, but this happens if you over do it.
There is not a question of the benefits of fasting; those benefits exist. It is a question of, are you fasting amongst a stressful environment. That stressful environment comes in three forms, your external environment, your internal environment, both of which depend on the quality of foods and absence of pollution to protect you. The third form of stress is the psychosocial form, which wastes our reserves faster than the other two.
There are things you can do to prevent wasting, which include a diet sufficient in color or regular use of a quality multivitamin to fill in gaps where diet may fall short. More importantly, a multivitamin and an antioxidant can be beneficial, even in the presence of sufficient phyto-nutrients from diet, but support systems that are under stress’ control of burden – a burden that has the potential to overwhelm our internal protection from a healthy metabolism. Using BCAAs and eating sufficient protein may be the best thing you can do in this situation. Whether you sleep poorly or crave sugar regular due to stress, healthy protein is the solution to make those sleep and stress hormones and support growth of muscle, not wasting of muscle.
Remember, nothing in nature acts in exclusion! A diet balance in healthy carbohydrates in the form or veggies, fat in its natural state and sufficient protein are essential to life and quality of years.