Fasting for Men - The Secret Tool for Fat Loss and Superior Fitness
The thought of fasting in any way, shape or form can sound very intimidating. Especially if you have never once even dipped your toes into these waters. But, everyone from your friends at work to your significant other to your neighbor down the street have been doing some form of fasting and they swear by it. Now, you’ve finally built up the courage to give it a go yourself.
That’s great news because it comes with a whole slew of benefits that you cannot deny. And when it comes to men specifically, you won’t be sorry you got involved with this practice within a short amount of time.
Here is a deeper dive into the benefits, types, strategies and secrets associated with fasting for men.
Types of Fasts
Chances are, you are most familiar with intermittent fasting, also known as IF for short. By far this is the most popular strategy deployed by the general public when it comes to fasting. With IF, you simply alternate between periods of fasting and eating. A common form of IF is known as time-restricted eating (TRE), or time-restricted feeding (TRF).
In this case, a daily practice is followed where you eat in a shorter window than you fast. A very common time-frame here is the 16/8 protocol where you eat in an 8-hour window and fast for 16 hours.
There are some who fast only two or three days a week for 16 to 18 hours and that would be a more true definition of intermittent fasting. And there are all sorts of spinoffs of this like alternate day fasting (ADF), the 5:2 plan and one-meal-a day, which is known as OMAD.
The 5:2 plan is more like a restricted calorie fast (RCF). On two days a week, you eat a marginal amount of food totaling about 500 calories. These days are non-consecutive. People doing this plan follow more of a normal diet and schedule the rest of the days of the week.
Dry fasting is considered the hardest form and it should not be done too long or too often. As the name implies, it is the complete abstinence of all food and beverages. Although this can reap benefits the quickest, it is also the hardest to do and it can be dangerous if you carry it out for an extended period of time.
And speaking of extended, extended fasts last 2 to 3 days and prolonged fasts are generally over 3 days in length. In some cases, people choose not to do daily TRE, but they do longer fasts once a month. You might see this in religious circles. A strategy of this nature would be called periodic fasting.
Fasting mimicking is another protocol and this forms the basis of the ProLon 5-day plan. You eat a marginal amount of food on all five days and your body recognizes this as a fast because nutrient-sensing pathways do not get turned on.
The meals are plant based and you get all the benefits that come from plain water fasting. But, you get to eat the whole time, which makes this way easier if you have a hard time not eating at all.
Rules of Fasting
Regardless if you are water fasting or doing fasting mimicking, it is important to drink water throughout the day. Not only does this keep you hydrated, but it also helps aid the elimination of toxins.
There are some who also opt for tea, coffee, sparkling water and other non-calorie beverages while fasting. The key is, you want to avoid anything that will raise you blood sugar levels too high. That is what not turning on your nutrient-sensing pathways is all about.
The moment that happens, your fast is over and the benefits you were getting will stop. Ideally, water only with some sea salt will get you the best possible results. That’s how I like to role. Either you can add sea salt to your water or you can simply put it in your mouth, chew it up and drink water right afterward. More on sea salt later.
In the world of fitness, I don’t just hand someone a 24 kg kettlebell and tell them to do 10 snatches with each arm. There is a buildup process involved where they first need to learn the basics. Then we progress accordingly until they have the confidence and skill to perform the task at hand. Fasting is the same way.
Although most dudes might come off as macho and think they can do anything, I promise you, fasting is a whole different species. If you have never done any form of it before, you are fooling yourself if you think you can go even 16 hours with ease.
There is a good chance that you will get very hungry and then get nervous. This is a point you do not want to reach because then the stress-hormone cortisol gets spiked and you are at risk of overeating. Then your fast will surely be over!
A safer approach is to start with a mere 12 hours of fasting. That will get you on the playing field and already start giving you benefits. Aim for three meals a day with no snacks and slowly increase your fasting times every 2 weeks until you get to a point where you can easily fast for 16 to 18 hours a day or a few days per week.
Once you get to the 16 to 18 range, cut your meal frequency back to two per day with no snacks in between. Constantly eating, as in consuming six to eight meals a day, is one of the worst things you can do as a guy.
Sure it might keep your muscles supplied with nutrients, but it also causes your blood sugar and inulin levels to be elevated all day as well. Insulin is a fat-storage hormone, and if you truly want to rid yourself of the fat in your midsection, which is common among men, then you are going to want to avoid “grazing.”
This sounds paradoxical to what you’ve always heard, but it’s how the physiology of the body works. You want to become more efficient on getting by with less. And just for the record, once you are trucking along with a daily TRE protocol, then you can have some fun and start shooting for extended, periodic fasts once a month or every other month.
Exercise and Fasting
When it comes to being a man, looking good is just as high a priority as with women. Although some guys boast of having a “dad bod,” others dread it and will do anything in their power to get rid of it.
When you look good, you feel good and you are able to go through your days happier and with more confidence. And one of the best ways to make progress is by working out in a fasted state. After about 12 hours of fasting, your insulin levels are low and your human growth hormone (HGH) levels are starting to ramp up.
This translates to faster fat loss and a higher amount of lean muscle being built. Additionally, your body will become fat-adapted where you’re burning more fat for energy around the clock. The added muscle contributes an even more positive effect on your resting metabolic rate, so it’s a two-way street you’re going down.
Strength-based workouts also primarily burn the stored form of carbs known as glycogen. This is very fortuitous to keep your blood sugar levels in check and it can prevent insulin resistance.
Overall, you should strive to include a solid routine that contains a balance of strength training, cardio and fasting.
Specific Benefits of Fasting for Men
Let’s spend a little more time talking about the benefits of fasting particularly in men. You already learned that working out fasted can do worders for fat loss, but there is a specific reason why you want to melt belly fat away more than any other area.
First of all, this and the “love handles” are two areas where men tend to store fat the most. Known scientifically as visceral fat, belly fat causes complications that subcutaneous fat does not. Subcutaneous is benign fat that resides right under the skin in outlying areas of the body.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a high amount of stomach fat raises the risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, premature death from all causes and colorectal cancer.
Sobering news like this should be all the motivation you need to at least clean up your diet and start exercising. If you were to add fasting to the mix though, you can kick the process into high gear.
In addition to weight loss, fasting can give you a jolt of mental and physical energy. A lot of fear mongers want to believe that this is the adverse—no food equals no energy. But in reality, the longer you go, the more energy you will have and the more clear you’ll be able to think.
This is due to your hormones coming back into balance and the release of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). The deeper you go into a fast, the bigger the release of BDNF.
Overall, you will be able to lose weight, boost brain function, have more energy, be in a better mood, build and maintain lean muscle mass and prevent a whole host of debilitating diseases.
As a man, this gives you an amazing amount of power to get through all the things that you need to do like work long hours, provide for your family, maintain healthy relationships and have energy to play with your children and pets.
Fasting Tips and Tricks
There are some tricks of the trade involved with fasting that all you guys should know about. I’ve had plenty of male friends who fell off the wagon because they didn’t plan accordingly.
First of all, make mental preparations a day or two before you start any form of new fasting protocol.
Act like you are already fasting, put yourself in situations where you will be tempted with food by those around you, and if you can, start the process by holding off from eating for even 10 more minutes when you become hungry. This will make it so much easier when you start the actual fasting process.
When you ARE fasting, always have sea salt on hand. I said earlier that I would expand on this and here we go. Sea salt does two magical things when you fast. First of all, it instantly kills your appetite. If you feel a major spike at say, hour 14, and you’re going for 16, have some sea salt. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how easily and quickly it calms your hunger.
Secondly, when you fast for a long period of time, your electrolytes start to get depleted. By consuming sea salt, you will keep them balanced and have way less risk of feeling dizzy, lightheaded and weak.
Another trick of the trade is oil pulling. I like to do this every day on an empty stomach and it can serve a purpose similar to eating sea salt. You simply swish a tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth for 10 to 20 minutes and then spit it out.
It surprisingly takes away your hunger, and although it might not yet be scientifically proven, I firmly believe it makes your teeth whiter, your mouth cleaner and your gums healthier. The latter are all secondary benefits.
Lastly, you can go for a walk, serial watch a TV show that you like and do anything else that is productive and can be used as a distraction. Be aware though, that building up a tolerance with fasting is just like working out.
After several months of beefcake workouts, you have some impressive guns and abs to show off. Well, think of practicing abstinence of food and calories like flexing your fasting muscles.
OK gents, here are my parting words. Fasting is a great protocol to keep your weight down, boost your hormones, maintain muscle mass and age gracefully. You just learned a lot of options to choose from in this space.
Overall though, if you are reluctant to go long periods of time without eating, fasting mimicking is going to be your best bet. You still get to harness the benefits of fasting while eating, which is the best of both worlds. But by all means, do what works best for YOU and feel free to incorporate multiple approaches until you get into a groove.
About the Creator: A Life and Career Dedicated to Healthy Living
Kevin David Rail is a Fitness Nutrition Specialist who’s certified through ACSM, ACE, NASM and AFM. He has a BS in Sport Management/Fitness and Wellness and was featured in the documentary films Fasting and The Motivation Factor for his expertise as a health and fitness professional. Kevin has helped thousands of people change their lives, lose weight, transform their bodies and become more motivated to take action.
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