Last week I caught up with nutritionist Dr Joanna McMillan, host of the recent Catalyst show The Truth about Fasting to ask her what she thinks about fasting and discuss some of the participants’ results. Of particular interest to me, were Kevin’s results: Kevin, on the 5:2 diet, the fasting method I use in the Lighten Up Program, lost the most weight. In 6 weeks, he dropped 8.5 kg however the results of a DEXA body composition scan showed that over 60% of the weight came from lean body mass, most of which was muscle. One thing you must do to prevent lean muscle loss while fasting is exercise. If you don’t you will lose lean muscle, which you don’t want to happen.
Hang onto your muscles
Muscles keep us upright, able to walk, balance, and breathe. They protect our backs and prevent us from falling. Strong muscles maintain strong bones, boost our energy, and encourage optimal calorie burning. Unlike fat, which lies around the body doing nothing, lean muscle is metabolically active tissue and uses energy from calories/kilojoules to work, repair, and refuel itself. Body fat doesn’t carry its weight. Muscle does.
If we lose lean muscle, our bodies need less energy from food, and unless we continue to reduce our energy intake, it’s easy to gain the weight we lose plus more.
How to prevent lean muscle mass loss on the 5:2 fasting diet
In the Catalyst show, participants were placed on either the calorie-restricted 5:2 diet or the time-restricted 16:8 fasting diet. As Joanna says, there is no magic bullet with one diet for all, however, I think, for those who are able to restrict their calorie intake, the beauty of the 5:2 fasting method, is that on the 5 non-fasting days you have the energy to exercise.
The general guidelines are to complete a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate activity a week and include 2 to 3 sessions of resistance training to build muscle. Exercises that use your own bodyweight are a good option and can include push-ups, squats, planks, hip lifts, and dips. Yoga can also build muscle using bodyweight while improving flexibility and reducing stress.
If we dedicate a minimum of 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week to exercise, and include 2 – 3 weight-bearing exercises sessions it’s possible to decrease the loss of lean muscle tissue and even replace some muscle mass lost through the natural aging process.
On the Lighten Up program you are given podcasts to listen to while out walking, links to some fitness classes, and Ted Talks which explain in more detail while we must exercise, particularly now we’re older.
Fortunately, today there are countless classes you can do online, some using weights, others with resistance bands or your own body weight.
I like Xtend Barre @home live classes Each class is different and even though you’re at home, other people are doing it with you and the instructors give you encouragement.
I also have a free app called FitOn which offers an unlimited number of free workouts.
And when we are not locked down from Covid, nothing beats the camaraderie of doing a regular local class with a group of like-minded people in your community.
Like diets, not every form of exercise will work for you, and there will be times when you don’t feel like doing it, BUT, if you want to lose weight and keep that weight off, the one thing you MUST do while fasting is exercise. You’ll feel better when you do.
If you have any medical issues such as high blood glucose, blood pressure, or eating disorders consult a doctor or dietitian before joining the program