I maintained fat and built muscle by fasting one day a week and lifting twice a week

I’ve been curious to find out how lazy I can be with diet and exercise and still stay in shape.

In October, I tried fasting for 24 hours twice a week and lifting twice a week. I lost a pound of fat and gained a pound of muscle.

In November, I decided to try being even lazier: I still lifted twice a week, but I only fasted one day a week instead of two.

The DEXA scan results are in: I didn’t gain any fat and I gained 0.8 pounds of muscle.

One nice thing about the DEXA scan is you can see where the fat is on your body. Interestingly, the fat moved around my body over the course of the month:

Fat moving around is something I expected given I was gaining fat during most of the week and then burning it on fast day. As the results show there’s no guarantee you’ll gain and burn from the same places.

I lost fat in my legs, arms and hips but gained it on my chest and abs. This was a little disappointing because chest and abs are the areas where fat is most visible (at least for me).

I’ll be curious to see how these results vary over time. (If anyone knows a phone number for the fat burn manager in my body, let them know I want to take from the gut next month, OK?)

Overall though I’m very pleased with the results. I think I’ve found my go-to fitness maintenance plan. It’s just so flexible and easy.

This was month in which things got really busy at work, I went out for drinks several times AND I had a Thanksgiving feast. This plain was so flexible that I still achieved 100% adherence.

If things got busy at work and I couldn’t get away to work out, I just did it the next day instead. If I had a lunch one day, I just fasted another day instead.

And on the other 6 days of the week, I just ate what I felt like eating, when I felt like eating it. I didn’t try to intentionally break the plan by eating junk food all the time, but I also didn’t deny myself if I really wanted something. I ate a few doughnuts this month. I ate fries. I ate bread. I had a few beers. I just didn’t think about what I was eating that much.

Fasting for one day a week is a lot easier than two. When I was fasting two days a week, I had to do a lot more planning — e.g. intentionally moving a lunch to another day or going to the lunch and not eating.

With one-day-a-week fasting, I usually happened to have one day a week with no pre-arranged eating events. I would just designate that day as a heads down day and crank through a bunch of stuff.

In fact, I actually started looking forward to the fast day because it felt like such a reset after a week of eating. It does wonders for “food guilt” to know you’ve got a reset coming up. And I still have yet to get sick (not even a cold) since I started fasting in August.

I now really feel like I have control over my body-fat level. If I want it to drop, I’ll fast two days a week or every third day. If I want it to stay the same, I’ll fast one day a week. And I’ll keep lifting to maintain the muscle mass. (I’m curious to try some lifting alternatives in future months — kettle bells, fitness classes, body weight workouts.)

In December though, I’m going to target a different problem. I’m feeling like I have a lot of extra jittery energy during the day. I’m wondering if doing more cardio will help with this. So I got a VO2 max test and I’m going to spend the next month trying to improve it with Tabata interval training. Stay tuned!

Disclosure: As part of this fitness experiment, Composition ID gave me the DEXA scan and VO2 max test for free. If you want to get your own scan, check them out!