Lent for Christians begins on Ash Wednesday. Certain foods are avoided for 40 days. If you don’t want to lose your muscle mass, you should consider a few factors. This article is aimed at everyone who wants to fast (regardless of religion and motivation) and needs a few tips on how to approach this without great muscle loss.
First of all: Who Having to do without solid food entirely will have a hard time. Due to the large calorie deficit, the body has no choice but to access its reserves. Most people might think now: “That’s exactly what I want!” However, more will melt than just the fat deposits.
What is fasting?
Fasting is the voluntary renunciation certain foods over a set period of time. Depending on the method, solid food is completely or only partially avoided. The reasons for this are different. In addition to therapeutic fasting, there are also religious practices: Christian Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and lasts for 40 days – until Easter. Islamic Ramadan is in early summer and lasts 29 to 30 days. It should be noted that fasting is not a diet.
Muscle maintenance despite fasting
To maintain the thousands of metabolic processes, the body needs energy on the one hand, and building material on the other. The carbohydrates in the glycogen stores of the muscles and the liver serve as the first point of contact. However, these are usually already exhausted after the first day of fasting. Because muscles are made of protein, they are also a source of energy. The protein is used to generate energy – if too little is generally eaten.
For this reason, a calorie deficit threatens muscle mass loss. The fat reserves are another available source of energy. Depending on your body constitution, you should therefore be very careful with fasting : Very slim people could get problems because they do not have any noteworthy fat reserves. Such a plan should therefore be clarified with the doctor in any case. Furthermore, you should make sure to eat enough fat despite the fast.
Now that the energy supply has been roughly discussed, we now come to the core idea of this blog article: Muscle maintenance despite fasting. Apart from essential minerals and vitamins, which you should continue to consume during Lent, it is also very important to consume enough protein – because, as mentioned before, the body needs energy as well as building materials. If this requirement is not met, the organism has no choice but to break down the protein from the muscles in order to be able to maintain other, more important processes.
The absolute minimum protein is around 40 g per day. This corresponds to the amount of amino acids that the body loses every day while fasting. You should by no means go below it, as protein is indispensable for many processes in the organism.
Here is a list of various good protein sources:
Depending on the type of fasting, you can check here which food is suitable for you. Since most types of fasting should avoid meat of any kind, I will give you a few other good sources of protein. ( The gram data refer to the amount of protein contained per 100 g .)
Should you – for religious reasons, for example – have to do without solid food completely, you can only use protein powder or Amino acids (BCAA / EAA powder) can provide a little relief. If this is not tolerated, there is no way to supply your body with protein and you will burn muscle mass for better or worse.
Sport in Lent
Great exercise is during Lent (if this lasts several weeks) not to be advised, especially if you largely forego food.
You lack the energy to perform well, and much more has d a body does not have the building materials to be able to regenerate everything quickly and easily afterwards. So don’t overdo it! Professional athletes are allowed to interrupt or completely stop fasting, as it is not compatible with intense physical exertion.
For example, the professional soccer player Mesut Özil said about Ramadan: ” The weather is too warm in summer, so it is impossible for me to fast. ”  If only you, however renounce sweets and alcohol – get on the iron! 😉
The good news: muscle memory effect
The salvation for those who have to forego solid food for religious reasons is the muscle memory Effect. After a few weeks of normal eating and exercise, the body is able to restore its old state very quickly. You can easily regain the muscle mass that you already had, for example, after a period of injury. The bigger challenge is still building muscle mass, because this process takes a lot more time and effort.
If you do not stop all your food intake during fasting and only eat liquid, you can survive this period without major losses – provided you adhere to two rules of thumb: Watch your protein consumption and replace foods that you are not allowed to eat with protein-rich alternatives. And don’t forget to eat enough fat.
With this I wish everyone who fasts a good time and I hope I could shed some light on the darkness. 😊