How Many Calories While Fasting

Nutritionist Brad Pilon gave a few suggestions on how to get around the negative connotation associated with the term “fasting” in last day’s post.

As get more into this series, we begin to comprehend the benefits of intermittent fasting. Let’s see what the Eat Stop Eat author has to say about the habit forming method to fasting.


Craig: Another question comes in from Phrong Wood, and there’s a couple of questions about how many calories can you take in during a fast and you kind of covered this. They were asking how much cream can you put in a coffee on a fasting day before you’ve had too many calories. We’ve covered this before, but maybe just share your thoughts on that again.

Brad: It’s a tricky number. With fasting you’re trying to keep your own metabolic profile in the fasting state, which of course is basically giving you a useless answer. The problem is that each person’s calorie range to stay in that state is different.

Is a piece of gum going to throw you out of fasting? No. Is a bit of cream in your coffee? No. However, what’s a little? This is where it gets kind of tricky. The point of the fast is learning to use your mind like an on/off switch. Instead of dialing down the amount of calories you’re eating or dialing up or worrying about what type of meat you’re eating, it is a lean cut, etcetera; the point of fasting is to learn that you can go without food.

You go, “I’m not eating. I’m just not breaking that rule. I’m not eating and I’m going to do this.” The problem with a little bit of cream is then a little ONE MORE cream. One piece of gum becomes one pack of gum. A little bit of cream becomes cream with just a little bit of sugar. All of sudden you’re doing these modified fasts where YOU’RE NOT REALLY FASTING.

You’re still getting benefits from eating less. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that it’s either you’re fasting or nothing at all. The problem is you’re not learning as much from the experience. You’re still sort of a slave to calories. You’re pulling the, “I can’t drink my coffee black, so I’m going to have a little of cream,” rather than thinking, “Why is it that I’m craving this drink that I can’t even stand black, but I need to add some cream in it, so I can drink it.”

Is something weird? “I can drink this drink in another eight hours when I’m done with my fast, but right now I’m starting to make excuses, so I can add some cream into and drink it, so I can at least make it palatable.” That’s the kind of thing you’re supposed to be learning from your fast.

Why am I craving this coffee right now at 3:00 PM? Is it that my workday is just boring right now? Is it out of habit? I have a coffee every day at 3:00. If I just got up from my desk right now and went for a walk would I be fine? Or am I actually thirsty? If I just went to the cooler and got a big glass of water would this whole coffee thing be a nonissue?

I’m talking to you from experience, because I have a coffee problem myself. I’m telling you that when you’re fasting, and it’s very easy – I’ve done the same thing thinking, “I’m just going to get one cream in my coffee,” because I really don’t like black coffee, especially being Canadian occasionally I get a very bad cup of black coffee, and it’s horrible.

Then you have to realize the whole point, the whole benefit of fasting outside of the whole metabolism thing, outside of the whole weight loss thing is actually BEING MINDFUL AND AWARE of why you’re eating. I’m going right back to that sort of your intention and your actions. You’re not supposed to be eating so now you want to eat. When you want to have a bit of something in your mouth it’s time to pay attention to why and then address it rather than sort of making this compromise.

Try to see why is that happening and what can you do instead. If you do that your ability to control how much you eat on the days you’re not fasting is greatly improved, because you’ve learned from your fasting days. Again, 3:00 PM, I’m not fasting, now is when I normally go get a coffee and donut, but I know now I’m not even hungry because this happens to me when I’m fasting, it happens to me all the time. This is just a learned habit, and I’m going to break this. Every time at 3:00 PM I’m going to get a glass of water, or I’m going to go for a walk or do something different.

So, I don’t know what the exact calorie for everybody is, but I want you to whenever you’re fasting to fight the urge to sneak in some extra small calories at any time. Instead of thinking of sneaky compromises you can do really stop and think about why you’re trying to make this compromise in the first place and how can you use this information to improve how you eat on the days you’re not fasting, which is a really long way of saying I really don’t know the exact number of calories it takes to bust you in and out of the fasting state.

Craig: It would have to be over 100 or something you’d think.

Brad: Yes. The actual amount of insulin it takes to sort of move you from that fasted state out of it is actually pretty low, so it depends on the person. Guys like Mike T. Nelson would call it your metabolic flexibility; I just call it how well you handles stuff. But, for each person it’s so different.

Since there isn’t an answer we look at the other benefits or the other ways of approaching it, which is why are you making this compromise. If you’re going into a meeting and you’re like, “I need a stick of gum here.” Have the stick of gum. If you’re just jonsing for a coffee, you’re going to fall asleep at your desk, and your boss is walking by your office every two minutes, put some cream in your coffee.

It’s logical life decisions that I don’t want you to sort of mess up your life because you’re trying to keep your calories at exactly zero. But, if you’re just putting cream in your coffee because you feel like having some cream, that’s something that you should learn from and then use on the days you’re not fasting to improve how you eat.

That’s all for today. Join us tomorrow as Brad Pilon shares with us his view point about dairy and fat loss. Click here for part 6.