"Eat Stop Eat" - A Book Review
Posted February 23, 2023 by Matthew Romans
Author Brad Pilon holds a graduate degree in Human Biology and Nutritional Sciences, and he performed research at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. Prior to writing the book "Eat Stop Eat", Pilon worked for six years in the supplement industry before leaving due to disillusionment with the field. The author's feelings about so-called weight loss products and the mindset involved with selling them can be summed up as follows: "I started to think that the weight loss industry was full of nothing but confusing and constantly recycled misinformation." Pilon started writing "Eat Stop Eat" upon his departure from the supplement industry. The first edition was printed in 2007, and the expanded edition was released in 2017.
"Eat Stop Eat" focuses on the concept of intermittent fasting, which is where one typically condenses their feeding window (the time between their first and last meals of the day) to anywhere from 4-10 hours per day, in order to allow the body to get into a fasted state. Among other health benefits that will be covered shortly, intermittent fasting allows the body to more effectively use fat as a fuel source. Many of the principles discussed in "Eat Stop Eat" are similar to the information given in "The Complete Guide to Fasting" by Dr. Jason Fung, a book I reviewed a few months ago. One difference between the two books is that Pilon makes it quite clear that he is not a doctor, and as such, he is adamant that these principles be followed only by healthy adults. He also recommends fasting for no longer than 24 hours at a time, one or two times per week, as he believes that fasting more frequently or for longer periods of time yields diminishing returns and complicates one's lifestyle. Dr. Fung, on the other hand, does advocate longer fasting periods and regularly supervises patients dealing with chronic disease. Regardless of whatever small differences of opinion the two authors may have, I believe both books can be a valuable part of your professional or personal library.
Intermittent fasting has numerous health benefits, some of which were covered in my previous book review. I'll mention just a few others here. One benefit that I was unaware of is increased uncoupling protein-3 mRNA. According to the author, "Uncoupling protein-3 mRNA is a very important protein found in our muscles that is associated with fat burning. When fat burning increases, so does the amount of uncoupling protein-3 mRNA in our muscles." This can increase fivefold as little as 15 hours into a fast. Another positive benefit to be derived from fasting is an increase in Epinephrine and Norepinephrine levels. These are the fight-or-flight hormones that are released in times of stress, particularly during exercise or when food is scarce. As Pilon notes, "Fasting increases the amounts of both of these hormones in your blood. This is your body's way of maintaining your blood sugar levels and increasing your fuel supply by helping to release fatty acids from your fat stores." Finally, regular fasting helps to decrease inflammation. Chronic systemic inflammation has been linked to heart disease, autoimmune disorders, and certain types of cancer. Two main causes of inflammation are excess body fat and overeating; adopting the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle helps to reduce both.
Fasting works very well with exercise, particularly intense exercise like Total Results weight training. One of the common misconceptions that has been perpetuated over the years is that fasting can cause one to lose muscle. Nothing could be further from the truth. Building muscle requires significant effort and resources from the body, and it will not just jettison muscle for no good reason. Pilon cites an English study from 1987 that examined the impact of fasting on exercise performance. As the author says, "In plain English, they found that a 3 day fast had no negative effects on how strongly your muscles can contract, your ability to do short-term high intensity exercises, or your ability to exercise at moderate intensity for a long duration." I have personally found a greater metabolic effect when performing my workouts in a fasted state as compared to a normal fed state. I especially like Pilon's emphasis on the importance of consistent weight training. He says, "You have to be involved in some sort of resistance exercise, such as lifting weights (his emphasis). Now, to be clear, you do not have to weight train at the exact same time you are fasting, but resistance training must be occurring at some point for your muscle mass to be preserved in the face of a caloric deficit." There is a chapter in the book titled "Designing Your Own Workout Program"; if you are a regular Total Results client you already have that covered and can skim over it, but I do respect his acknowledgement of the need to weight train in order to maintain body shape.
Women have much to gain from incorporating fasting into their lifestyle; in some cases they can benefit even more than men. Pilon mentions the differences between women and men in terms of muscle mass, but also from a metabolic and physiological standpoint. During prolonged periods of low-calorie intake, men can see a significant decrease in testosterone production. On the other hand, women have lower levels of testosterone than men in any case, but these levels remain largely unchanged during these same prolonged periods. The good news for women, as the author points out, is that, "Women release more of their body fat into their blood than men do during fasting", and he goes on to say that, "Women also have more fat-burning enzymes than men, and thus an increased capacity to burn their body fat as a fuel." This is significant, because although women necessarily carry a higher percentage of body fat than men, they also do have some physiological advantages over men and can use them to great effect by fasting regularly.
As you can probably guess, I am a big fan of this book. This is written for the layperson, not the professional, so the concepts are simple to understand without being dumbed down or insulting to the reader. It is researched well, which is no surprise considering the author's research background, and you can look up the references and verify them for yourself. There are only a few typos, which is better than other self-published books that I have read. The Frequently Asked Questions section in the expanded edition is extremely helpful, as it reinforces some concepts discussed in the original text and answers some questions that aid in providing further clarification. Finally, I really enjoy Pilon's writing style. A little humor helps to liven up some topics that may not thrill the average reader. As someone who grew up reading muscle magazines and is obsessed with weight training and physical conditioning, I found the author's point of view very relatable.
There is one thing to consider about eating, fasting, and how our minds have become conditioned to think about food. The author notes, "Most likely, what we call hunger is really a learned reaction to a combination of metabolic, social, and environmental cues to eat. Remember how I mentioned that the food industry spends 10 billion U.S. dollars per year advertising food? Well, it turns out this advertising is very effective." The Eat Stop Eat philosophy in particular, and intermittent fasting in general, is easy to incorporate into your lifestyle and can be adjusted as needed to ensure short-term and long-term success. Stop stressing about food! I encourage you to pick up a copy of this book and adopt these principles as soon as possible.