Beetroot juice at Moinhos VelhosSince the 70’s, the most common dietary advice given is to limit your calorie intake for weight loss. The problem with this advice is that in will only work in the short term. When you reduce your daily caloric intake you will initially lose a few pounds, but your body will adapt over time to this reduced calorie intake by lowering your basal metabolic rate. This means quite simply that your body will burn less calories during the day, which often makes you feel cold, tired and hungry. This is often referred to as starvation mode and your metabolic rate can drop up to 40 percent. And when, after following a diet, you resume your old eating pattern it may take years for your basal metabolic rate to recover, which ensures that you will gain weight.

The problem with all these diets that are based on reducing calories is that they assume that energy is stored in the body in one way, which is not true. The liver, which is the main organ for carbohydrate and protein metabolism, stores energy (glucose) at first in the form of glycogen. These are long chains of glucose molecules which can be easily used again for delivering energy to the body.

The liver can only store a limited amount of energy in the form of glycogen. When the liver is full with glycogen it will convert the glucose molecules in triglycerides, or body fat. These fat molecules, which are made from glucose and not from dietary fats, are heavily saturated fats. These fats are released into the bloodstream so the liver doesn't get congested. These fats are in a large measure responsible for the triglyceride levels that are determined during a cholesterol test. When its necessary, these fats are broken down further in the bloodstream into fatty acids which can be used for energy. The residual product thereof is once again processed by the liver and than released in the bloodstream in the form of LDL cholesterol, the ‘bad’ cholesterol that is measured with a cholesterol test.

The body can indefinitely store energy in the form of body fat, which is not possible with glycogen. Because your body will always first use glycogen as an energy source and as following a calorie restricting diet makes your basal metabolic rate drop, you keep only using glycogen from the liver as an energy source and you won’t burn any body fat.

The process of storing and burning energy is mainly regulated by the hormone insulin. When you eat a meal with carbohydrates or to a lesser extent proteins, your insulin levels will rise. The liver gets the message to store energy, first in the from of glycogen and then as body fat. The key to successful weight loss is therefore not in restricting calories but in normalizing your hormone levels so that your basal metabolic rate does not drop.

Fasting is a good way to normalize your hormone levels and doesn’t cause your metabolic rate to drop. During fasting insulin levels drop significantly. Noradrenalin levels increase, which keeps your metabolic rate high. And there is an increase of growth hormones, which among others stimulate the production of new cells and is conducive to concentration and memory. A calorie restrictive diet does not affect your hormone levels in this way.

Fasting can be done in several different ways. You can do a complete fast for an an extended period of time, or you could consume a fixed number of calories a day by only drinking fresh juices for example. And another way of fasting is the so called intermittent fasting. You can do this by fasting every other day, fasting for 2 days a week, or restrict your daily meals to a time window of 5 hours a day. On average it takes about 24 hours till your glycogen stores are depleted and you will start burning fats.

Another important advantage of fasting in comparison to a calorie restricted diet is that during a fast the hormone ghrelin, which creates a feeling of hunger, doesn’t rise. With a calorie restricted diet the level of this hormone actually rises, making it more difficult to maintain the diet. A fast is thus much easier to follow because you do not have this increase in hunger while fasting.

So the choice is yours, follow the primarily given dietary advice by the medical community and the media since the 70’s, or choose for a fast, which is recommended for millennia by virtually all religions and people like Hippocrates, Aristotle, Plato and Socrates.

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