Before we jump in, I might as well make the point that this isn’t an attack on breakfast skipping. Intermittent fasting (IF) is a wonderful tool for enhancing energy, cognition, and streamlining the daily routine. IF also blends perfectly with a carnivore diet, since both tap into the same energy sources. Triglycerides, and the miracle molecule: ketones. Fasted and fed slip seamlessly into each other.
But this dream partnership bows to the law of diminishing returns. In other words, you can have too much of a good thing, and many carnivore initiates fall into the trap of wanting more and more.
Fasting itself comes with benefits of its own, that when added to the power of carnivore, can compound into an unstoppable wrecking ball of physical potential.
If 16-18 hour fasts come so easy, why not push it further?
There are three big reasons why I’d caution against regular fasts of 20+.
1. Fasting And Carnivore Both Increase Cortisol
Which isn’t inherently a bad thing. In fact, it’s dynamite for maximising just how high you jump out of bed in the morning. Cortisol is effectively the molecule of energy, and it’s designed to start the day with a huge pulse.
Carbs put a dent in that by reducing cortisol, hence why starting the day with a bowl of protein oats won’t be such a great idea. Meanwhile, fasting and carnivore are both inherently zero carb, providing the perfect setting to let the cortisol pump explode in all its glory.
Here’s the issue. Fasting and carnivore aren’t the only things that raise cortisol. Here are just a few others.
Spilling your morning coffee
Drinking your morning coffee
Remembering that you have a presentation in front of 50 colleagues at 10.
Realising that your neighbour has just seen you stand stark naked on your porch.
That’s only touching on a few minutes of primetime. The thing is, the cortisol pump gets violated and sodomised by the modern environment. So you do have to be constantly vigilant in order to make sure the stress doesn’t outrun your ability to cope.
In short, you don’t want acute spikes of cortisol to run rampant to the point they become chronically elevated.
Side effects of chronic cortisol
- Muscle atrophy
Ideally, you won’t want that smoke. And while I’m not going to reach and say that OMAD will lead to that, it could be a compounding factor in getting you there.
2. The Ridiculous Satiating Effect Of Carnivore
An all-meat diet is stacked to the brim with dense and diverse nutrients. And that’s fantastic. We’re not just concerned about scraping through to your protein count here. We want to provide the body with all the tools it needs to thrive. Alongside the lack of vegetables, that’s the biggest selling point of carnivore.
Unfortunately, this driving feature also makes it extremely easy for picky dieters to undereat upon introducing themselves to carnivore. Especially if the fast has been stretched to the point where there’s only space for one or two meals. That complicates matters, since it becomes challenging to pile the steaks high enough to provide an abundance of nutrition.
Most initiates arrive with various nutrient deficiencies. In order to repair those leaks, they’ll often need to go well over the RDAs. Doing that through OMAD? It’s going to be a struggle.
Then there’s the topic that’s been dragging back and forth through the mire for decades, and still has the legs for another round. That would be protein absorption, and people have a habit of sitting on the extremes.
On one side, you can only digest 30 grams of protein per meal. So you better be sensible and cut that extra chicken breast in half, because you’ll only sh** the rest out.
Then there’s the other take, where the body is perfectly capable of taking on over a 100 grams of protein in one sitting, with no detrimental effects. Making OMAD the ideal candidate for losing fat while maintaining and even building muscle mass.
In truth, the research suggests that while protein can be effectively absorbed at high doses, putting it all in one meal comes at the cost of less muscle protein synthesis (MPS), which is the catalyst for building muscle tissue.
To keep it simple, protein absorbed doesn’t translate directly to protein synthesis. And it’s the latter that we’re really trying to emphasise if we have aspirations of carving out an aesthetic physique.
For that reason, combined with the matter of improving overall nutrient intake, it makes sense to spread the diet across at least three meals, even four. There’s no reason you can’t do that while continuing to fast, but you’re going to need to perform miracles to squeeze that inside a 4 hour feeding window.
3. The Effects Of Fasting Have Been Overstated
It pains me to say this as someone who’s been practising fasting for the last four years. Fasting is a little overrated. It’s a great lifestyle tool, and it lends several metabolic benefits. Unfortunately, said benefits have been blown way out of proportion by various cookie-cutter influencers.
Take autophagy for example, that whisper of immortality that emboldens dieters to stretch their fasts over several days. Autophagy is effectively your body performing maintenance, which is great when you’re fighting off the advances of ageing.
The longer you fast, as it goes, the more autophagy you get. 16 hours are said to barely scratch that itch, 24 hours starts to tune it up, and once you get past 48 hours, you’re right in the sweet spot of regeneration.
Here’s the thing. Prolonged fasting isn’t the only thing that stimulates autophagy. Not even close. In fact, autophagy is incredibly easy to access. Exercise, ketosis, and calorie deficits all stimulate autophagy. Even the simple task of existing in your corporeal shell involves autophagy. It’s taking place across the day, overnight, and you don’t need to wither away for a week to reach it.
Extended fasting might have been shown in some cases to be muscle protective, but it’s only up to a point, and the best results have typically been with obese subjects, whose fat stores can dominate the energy supply. Leaner individuals, on the other hand, will experience muscle loss. The less body fat you carry, the more you stand to lose when pushing the fasting dial too far.
As for the effects on fat loss, there is certainly a case to be made for fasted training in its ability to target stubborn fat holdouts, due to their greater sensitivity to insulin. But there’s no reason you can’t squeeze a session into a smaller window.
Overall fat loss itself is still largely an issue of energy balance once metabolic health is assured. So when we’re looking at lean individuals, once again, there’s nothing special about fasting.
If this comes off as an attack on fasting, it is, and it isn’t. Fasting has many uses.
- Improving sleep quality by allowing digestion to wind down before bedtime.
- Increasing dietary adherence by removing the option to eat when your decision making skills are at their worst.
- Boosting energy in the morning due to the lack of digestive stress
- Lending a slight increase to stubborn fat loss
Fasting is primetime for being productive, because you’re jacked up on catecholamines and untroubled by a busy stomach. When you feel better fasted than fed, that’s a sign that your metabolism is in good nick.
But it’s just one tool in your belt for an apex lifestyle. It shouldn’t replace the quest for total nutrition, and it shouldn’t compromise your designs on building a muscular physique. In that spirit, fasting is best dosed moderately.
Besides, carnivore will already be ticking the same boxes. Let the diet do its job.