Will you lose muscle with fasting?

by Brad Pilon

“Losing Muscle”

and

“Hurting your metabolism”

These are the two biggest fears people have about fasting.

I think we’ve made a lot of solid progress debunking the metabolism-slow-down thing. Most nutritionists and weight loss experts are now shying away from making such an erroneous statement..however the muscle loss thing is still holding strong.

It doesn’t matter how much research you show people, it doesn’t matter how many examples and illustrations you give them, there will always be a small group of people (usually bodybuilders and fitness models) who are still petrified that they will lose muscle by fasting for 24 hours.

So…what’s it going to take?

I’ve thought about this for a long time and I realized that if research won’t do it and explanations won’t do it, then the only thing I left is real-life evidence like pictures.

The problem with pictures is that they are purely anecdotal: This means that it is not nearly as ‘concrete’ as sound scientific research…

Here’s a great example of anecdotal evidence from Wikipedia-

“Goat yogurt prolongs life: I heard that a man in a mountain village who ate only yogurt lived to 120.”

Obviously, there are a lot of issues here. No control, no scientific scrutiny, just a random story.

Despite these GIANT limitations, anecdotal reports are extremely powerful.

And since people typically use anecdotal evidence to support unscientific statements, I’m going to try using one to fight back.

So here it goes.

This is the absolute best example I can give you.

What you are going to see is two pictures of me.

The first was taken over 3 years ago (almost 4 actually), the day before my very first body building contest.

I’m proud of how lean I was able to get…(although I promised myself I would never show anyone these pictures…on well).

It took me a long time and a lot of hard work and old school traditional bodybuilding style dieting to get my bodyfat down to this level.

I recorded everything I ate, I had access to every supplement under the sun…and I was tanned, shaved and oiled up.

The second picture was taken on Friday (with an iphone)…after over two straight years of Eat Stop Eat. Yes I’m posing as best I can…however the point was to keep it as close as possible to the original picture from two years ago.

I’m not tanned (I’m actually kinda pasty), nor shaved nor oiled…and I think I look really, really sleep deprived.

Despite all of this, in my personal opinion – I haven’t lost any muscle.

I’m stronger in a lot of my lifts than I was four years ago, my weight isn’t to far off, and my measurements are almost the same or better.

It may be anecdotal, but outside of scientific facts, its the only other thing I can offer. I haven’t lost muscle and if anything I think I have gained some muscle after over two straight years of following Eat Stop Eat.

lose muscle with fasting 300x290 Will you lose muscle with fasting?

(Click the pics to make them bigger)

Bottom Line – The Eat Stop Eat style of fasting WILL NOT make you lose muscle as long as you are weight training or following some form of resistance training.

In fact most diets will not make you lose muscle as long as you are doing some form of weight training.

Body weight exercises, kettlebells, clubbells, giant rubber bands..you name it. As long as you are working hard, all of these tools can be used to keep you from losing muscle.

I think I’m starting to sound like a broken record  but the scientific facts haven’t changed. For the best results and the best use of your time, use weight training / resistance training to build and maintain your muscles, and use your diet/nutrition to reduce body fat.

BP

PS- Please forgive me for the speedo.

{ 47 comments }

Nia Shanks June 1, 2009 at 10:00 pm

Great post, Brad! I have been using Eat Stop Eat and have not lost any muscle or strength, either. In fact, my powerlifting numbers have gone up. People need to get over the fear of losing precious muscle if they go over 3.25 hours without food.

Jeremy June 1, 2009 at 10:09 pm

True proof what you are preaching works. I tried my first fast and felt great. Thanks for standing by and doing what you talk about.

kjtten June 1, 2009 at 10:23 pm

It looks to me like you have a few more pounds of muscle in the ‘after’ shot. Nice work!

Anna June 1, 2009 at 10:49 pm

Nice pics, Brad!

@Grok June 1, 2009 at 11:07 pm

Looking strong buddy.

AlekNovy June 1, 2009 at 11:17 pm

Yeah man, its pretty obvious you have a bit more muscle in the after photos. And i thought maybe its fat or something, but nope, its obvious you’re at about the same bodyfat too. So you actually have more muscle today.

nimrod69 June 1, 2009 at 11:21 pm

simply impressive 2009 photo! proves that you dun need 7meals/day to built/maintain muscles!

Lee B June 1, 2009 at 11:22 pm

Dude, you are a monster!!!!! Would you recommend using one of those X2 weighted vests with your resistance training? and also what effect would sitting in a Sauna have, and for how long should you do it?

Debra June 1, 2009 at 11:34 pm

I’m sold!!!

Jordan June 1, 2009 at 11:35 pm

Well done. That’s a very clear, concise way of making the point. And I like how you did the “Before and After” pics in a non-manipulative way. That’s so refreshing. Typically, people will do the lighting, oil, fake tan stuff in the After pic, but not the Before pic. You did it the other way around. Much, much better.

Lani Muelrath June 1, 2009 at 11:58 pm

Wow Brad, what a good idea to put your pics up.

And you look adorable in the Speedo, by the way!

As per the topic, I guess the only way it will really sink in is with repeated presentation. That’s how all the old myths got their momentum. It’s one reason I’m so glad to have your work and books as tools to point to – excellent points of reference.

Lani

Denise DeGrazia June 1, 2009 at 11:58 pm

Great post! The photos are great proof for those who just can’t wrap their brains around the fact that fasting for 24 hrs won’t result in muscle loss. Not doing any resistance training is what leads to muscle loss.
I’ve been using ESE for over a year and have not lost muscle or strength. I’m leaner and have more muscle mass than I did 27 years ago. I know this from comparing body comp tests I had done in 1982 and at the beginning of the year. My lifts have gone up and my waist is smaller. ESE works!

Eric Wong June 2, 2009 at 12:16 am

Hey Brad – looking good bud. But if I ever see you in person and you’re rockin’ that Speedo just act like you don’t know me, cool?

E

victoria arnstein June 2, 2009 at 12:16 am

hmmmm, good to know. I have just gotten back to this program after going astray for a few months. It was very effective when I was on it, but I did it too often – every other day, which made it lose its appeal…Now I think I will only fast 3 days out of the week instead of every other day, so I could stay on it long term. I do however want to try to eat better than I did the last time I did this. I was eatign really poorly when I did it last time,…and although I lost so much weight, I seriously did nto feel good about my lack of nutrition in the crap I ate on the fed days. But I do believe in fasting for prolonged periods and there is no better cleanse besides fruit fasts, but I thinkk I wil choose better fods like fruits and veggies on the fed days to really keep up an optimal healthy lifestyle.

Thanks for the pic…They say a lot. Also, thanks for the program…It makes so much sence! Bravo for being a pioneer in the bodybuilding world!

Michael June 2, 2009 at 12:55 am

I think people are MORE skeptical since this just seems too easy and the truth is – it IS! I am a newlywed and at the beginning of lent I came across your program and read your blogs and emails. I figured I would try it out one day a week just to get more work done.(which is a GREAT IDEA) I thought I would feel tired and be thinking about food all day. Instead although there is a bit of hunger in the mid morning for me; I will just have a glass of water or a cup of tea(hot) and I am fine. More interesting the two days following the 24 hour fast my energy is through the roof! My guess is my body has detoxed a bit so it is using the fuel more efficient. Any clinical or statistical proof?

JMS June 2, 2009 at 12:56 am

The peace of mind that ESE has given me is amazing. It’s really quite liberating to make plans and not worry about having my stupid tupperware container of food everywhere I go. Oh yeah – the other thing is that I realize how much my body is capable of…I know now that I have never been “hungry” in the sense of my body truly NEEDING food. EVER. This sense of power and freedom is so amazing. I’m no longer a prisoner of the “starvation mode” fear!!!

Michael June 2, 2009 at 12:58 am

I forgot the original point – duh. My bride is interested with the results and is now following along. We are doing resistance training 3x a week and she is fasting once a week as well. I will keep you informed with her results.

Dave June 2, 2009 at 2:03 am

You do look great in both pictures. (How tall are you?) You look pretty muscular for 181 pounds.

One question came to mind as I looked at your pictures and how similar you look before and after fasting. Why have you been fasting for 3 years? Is there a reason or a goal? Was it a struggle prior to the “before” picture to maintain your weight?

Wazzup June 2, 2009 at 2:15 am

Doing the same pose would have made a better comparison… also I noticed you’re not smiling anymore as you were “back in the days” …

Brad Pilon June 2, 2009 at 2:24 am

@Nia Shanks

Hi Nia,

That’s great to hear! My numbers have gone up on everything except bench, but that’s more to do with injuries that it is lack of strength!

Thanks for dropping by.

B

Brad Pilon June 2, 2009 at 2:25 am

@Jeremy
No problems, glad to hear your first fast went well.

B

Brad Pilon June 2, 2009 at 2:26 am

@kjtten

That’s what I’m hoping for. I wish I still had access to body composition testing equipment so I could be sure, but from the pics and measurements, I think I’m hitting my goal.

B

Brad Pilon June 2, 2009 at 2:31 am

@Lee B
Love the weighted vests. During the summer, most of my workouts are done with blast straps with a weighted vest.

A great way to switch up the routine.

B

Brad Pilon June 2, 2009 at 2:31 am

@Jordan

I’ve always gotta do stuff backwards! I didn’t even notice that until you pointed it out!

B

Deb June 2, 2009 at 2:37 am

I can totally understand why the muscle loss fear thing is such a tough nut to crack. I too am now a converted believer that it won’t happen, but look at what’s out there in the mainstream media and in most if not all of the muscle and fitness type rags. It’s exactly the opposite of the facts. And about the pics….great idea and for the record, I think you look healthier and more buff present day, sans the tan and without all that crazy contest dieting.

Brad Pilon June 2, 2009 at 2:44 am

@Lani Muelrath

Thanks Lani (adorable was the look I was going for) lOL

I think you are right, it’s all about proper repetitions and making sure the message doesn’t get lost/exaggerated along the way.

B

Jimbo June 2, 2009 at 3:45 am

Wow, never thought 176 could look so big. Nice work.

How tall are you?

Damon June 2, 2009 at 5:01 am

Nia Shanks, I was wondering if there were any power lifters using fasting of some kind. I watched the 2008 Olympiad online, mainly watching weightlifting: Some of the super heavyweights seemed to have more fat than muscle. I’ve never understood that.

Cathye June 2, 2009 at 8:12 am

All I can say is…..HUBBA x 2 !!!

Andrew Lowry June 2, 2009 at 11:15 am

Great post. It is interesting how modern clothes conceal how strong and cut a man can be. I met both Craig and you at the January seminar. In your street clothes it is not obvious how cut the two of you are. Looking at the picture of the three of us though it is plain how I have belly fat (fairly little) that looks huge compared to you two lean guys. Thanks for the continuing education.

Art June 2, 2009 at 4:13 pm

Great pics! One might also conclude that ESE causes much hair growth in the headular region. ;-)

Lani Muelrath June 2, 2009 at 9:47 pm

Brad, you mean “adorable” isn’t one of the most coveted prize categories in a beefy bodybuilding contest? ;-)

Lani

Brad Pilon June 2, 2009 at 11:09 pm

@Denise DeGrazia

Awesome work!

B

Brad Pilon June 2, 2009 at 11:10 pm

@Eric Wong

You kidding me? I think I’m going to make that baby my full time outfit! Maybe pull some sled or run some hills wearing it? (sure way to get arrested in Canada – workout outdoors in a speedo)

B

Brad Pilon June 2, 2009 at 11:11 pm

@victoria arnstein
Hi Victoria,

Thanks for the post! I would recommend even trying once or twice a week rather than three times per week..you’ll be amazed at how effective even once a week can be.

B

Brad Pilon June 2, 2009 at 11:12 pm

@Michael
Hi Michael,

Nothing I have come across, but lots of people report the energy levels being higher DURING their fasts.

B

Brad Pilon June 2, 2009 at 11:12 pm

@JMS
Hi JMS,

Great to hear.

B

Brad Pilon June 2, 2009 at 11:15 pm

@Michael
Awesome, keep me posted

B

Brad Pilon June 2, 2009 at 11:16 pm

@Jimbo

Thanks for the compliments, between 5’10 and 5’11 (Basically 5’10)

B

Brad Pilon June 2, 2009 at 11:25 pm

@Andrew Lowry

Hey, nice to hear from you. I think you make a great point, it really is hard to judge how muscular or fit people are while they are in their clothes..especially when I’m wearing my “Professor Pilon” get-up ;)

B

Ron June 4, 2009 at 3:30 am

…and I haven’t lost any weight or fat and still don’t look like you!

ann June 4, 2009 at 5:38 pm

Hi Brad,

You’re forgiven for the speedos.

de la soul June 5, 2009 at 3:17 pm

besides resistance/weights work surely adequate protein intake (whatever that is) is important to hold off muscle loss in a calorie deficit.

marcus June 14, 2009 at 4:27 am

hi Brad,
my wife bought your e-book, i read it and loved it!
i`m a 30 year old strength athlete, i`m considering giving your concept a try!
i am tired of this “eating 8 meals a day” dogma.
some questions: is intermittent fasting negative for a non drug free athlete?
do you split your exercises upper, lower body? or traditional bb split?

best regards

John June 19, 2009 at 1:46 pm

Okay, it might work for weight lifters but what about people who focus mainly on calisthenics? I follow the naked warrior workout from pavel and my diet is mainly one arm pushups, pullups and stuff like that, will I lose muscle?

ashvin June 25, 2009 at 8:30 pm

@nimrod69 that aint true…. to speed up your metabolism you need 7 meals a day also to gain muscle… see brad was MAINTAINING his muscle, but if he wanted to get bigger then hed have to eat 6-7 meals a day

Chris July 29, 2009 at 7:37 pm

I’m not a bodybuilder but just trying to gain some muscle. I want to fast for 24 hours for prayer purposes. I know God doesn’t listen more to prayer because of it, but it helps with focusing. I know I shouldn’t worry about loosing muscle but I was just curious on how it was going to effect my routine. Thanks

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