“Fasting and natural diet should be the first treatment when someone discovers that she or he has a medical problem (Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D.).”
Thus begins Episode 8 of the recent iThrive series, Rising from the Depths of Diabetes and Obesity, “From fasting to re-connection. Essential tools for an iThrive lifestyle,” shown Nov. 21, 2017 (available in the DropBox, at http://www.realfood4healthandweightloss.com/real-food-blog/).
One of the experts interviewed in that episode was Dr. Jason Fung, of Intensive Dietary Management (https://idmprogram.com). He has helped thousands of people to reverse diabetes and overcome obesity through intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting is, of course, the keystone of The 4 Week Diet - http://www.realfood4healthandweightloss.com/go/4weekdiet (see pdf in the DropBox).
One minor difference between the two approaches: Brian Flatt, author of The 4 Week Diet, warns that “when the body goes several hours without protein (amino acids needed to sustain life), it begins to attack its own protein stores,” so The 4 Week Diet involves “sneaking” adequate amounts of protein to the body every few hours, during a fast.
In contrast, Dr. Fung shows that the body actually replenishes protein during the fast (see his paper on Fasting and Muscle Mass, also in the DropBox). He concludes that we needn’t worry about “burning muscle” to get our energy during fasting.
So who is right?
Researcher K. A. Varady (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21410865) reports that <Dietary restriction is an effective strategy for weight loss in obese individuals. The most common form of dietary restriction implemented is daily calorie restriction (CR), which involves reducing energy by 15-60% of usual caloric intake every day. Another form of dietary restriction employed is intermittent CR [“intermittent fasting”], which involves 24 h of ad libitum food consumption alternated with 24 h of complete or partial food restriction. Although both diets are effective for weight loss, it remains unknown whether one of these interventions produces superior changes in body weight and body composition when compared to the other. Accordingly, this review examines the effects of daily CR versus intermittent CR on weight loss, fat mass loss and lean mass retention in overweight and obese adults. Results reveal similar weight loss and fat mass loss with 3 to 12 weeks' intermittent CR (4-8%, 11-16%, respectively) and daily CR (5-8%, 10-20%, respectively). In contrast, less fat free mass was lost in response to intermittent CR versus daily CR. These findings suggest that these diets are equally as effective in decreasing body weight and fat mass, although intermittent CR may be more effective for the retention of lean mass.>
So we actually lose less muscle in intermittent fasting than by just “going on a diet!”
In this regard, Authority Nutrition (https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/intermittent-fasting-guide#section3) points out that <the main reason this works, is that it helps you eat fewer calories overall. If you binge and eat massive amounts during the eating periods, then you may not lose any weight at all.>
At iDM, Dr. Fung and his staff continually monitor the fasting patients, and he points out that your own doctor can do the same, wherever you live.
If you want to try intermittent fasting without supervision, go right ahead: it’s free, and people have been doing it for millennia. It’s like taking out the garbage.
Still, it might be well for you to monitor yourself carefully. Brian Flatt says that “If you have any of the following symptoms, chances are you are not getting enough protein in your diet:
• thin, brittle hair.
• hair loss.
• reduced pigmentation in the hair.
• ridges in fingernails and toenails.
• skin rashes, flaky skin, dry skin.
• weakness and cramps in your muscles.
• difficulty sleeping.
• slow healing in wounds, cuts, scrapes.”
So my suggestion would be to adopt The 4 Week Diet or another intermittent fasting approach to stay healthy, and to lose weight if you need to. If you see any of these symptoms, or if you just want to be sure you’re not losing muscle, by all means sneak yourself some protein during your water fast.
It surely won’t hurt, or keep you from losing weight and healing yourself. After all, it’s eating too many refined carbohydrates and too much sugar, not too much protein, that got us into trouble in the first place!
As the Intermittent Fasting Guide points our, however, intermittent fasting < is just one of many lifestyle strategies that can improve your health. Eating real food, exercising and taking care of your sleep are still the most important factors to focus on.>
As for what protein helps most in avoiding muscle loss (which plagues older people, whether or not they fast or diet), the best source of dietary protein, with the highest AAU, is breast milk, with an AAU of 49%. Assuming that option is not available (or is unacceptable to you for some reason!), the next best source of protein is whole eggs, followed by meat, poultry and fish.
Source of this last part: https://www.advancedbionutritionals.com/Amino-Acid-Supplements/Perfect-Amino-Tablets/The-Real-Reason-Youre-Losing-Muscle-Mass-as-you-Age.htm?svp_code=ABFSJVABCM17&utm_source=JV&utm_medium=PRIMARY&utm_campaign=ABFSJVABCM17&jv=1&&utm_content=link#link.