Surprising Effects of Fasting

This all blows my mind. And as a point of reference, Agnus Barbieri of Scotland fasted for 382 days through medically supervised fasting. He was going to try a few days and see what happens; that turned into a week; then a month; then 382 days. When he reached his goal weight of 180 pounds, he stopped. And unlike Biggest Loser contestants, he found a happy weight of 191 pounds and that’s where he stayed. So for all the bunnies out there who think you have to graze all day, you’re wrong. One or two meals a day is better for you than 6 meals a day. Here are some facts:

-Ghrelin is the hunger hormone. The feeling of hunger goes away with more time away.
-If you have a surplus of body fat, you will actually not become catabolic while fasting. In fact, the opposite. Human growth hormone actually increases during fasting.
-Insulin is the key to losing weight and overall health. Packaged oatmeal, bran muffins, and other carbohydrate sources are great foods to eat to NOT lose weight. They only trigger more insulin and sugar release into your bloodstream. Insulin encourages fat storage, not fat burning.
-Cortisol is 2nd important for dieting. A person could be on the same restricted calorie diet with the same activities, but not lose weight. Stress (relationships, work, environment), lack of sleep, and not obeying circadian daytime cycles (here that night owls?)—it is short-circuiting your weight loss goals. Sleep, get your face in the sun at sunrise and sunset, walk, meditate, do tai-chi and yoga.
-Go hard or go home (NOT!!!!!). When I do a long, difficult run that wipes me out for days, cortisol is raging in my body. This triggers intense hunger and I sleep poorly. Going hard is counter to weight loss goals. Always remember, you burn sugar first, then you burn fat. If you workout hard for 25 minutes, likely only 5 minutes of that time is in fat burning.
-Low intensity activities like walking, light jogging, tai-chi, yoga, and playing will cause more fat loss than intense workouts. Why? You stay in the fat-burning aerobic zone, not the intense anaerobic zone. It is measured at a maximum heart rate of 180 minus your age. But really, if you can talk or limit exercise to breathing out of your nose is key.
-Autophagy—so if you’re not eating, where do you get your essential nutrients? This is where autophagy comes into play. It is literally eating your own dead cells and recycling them for reuse. Essential amino acids and minerals are reused. This also has a role in autoimmune and cancer health since autophagy has longevity benefits in those diseases as well. You reach autophagy after about 15-18 hours of fasting. The more days you can fast, the more autophagy. It creates efficiency in your body.

If you believe in the idea of evolution, then science only tells us that fasting works. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be here today. Our earliest ancestors went long periods without eating. Then they would harvest an animal and eat heartily. Our body has a mechanism that enables us to function efficiently when fasting. We wouldn’t be here today if that wasn’t true. Instead, our brains focus better and bodies have plenty of energy without food in our bellies.

New Revelations About Fitness

—at least for me.

Main points:
1. Anaerobic fitness elicits a cortisol stress response.
2. Fat burning happens almost exclusively aerobically.

In the past, I’ve actually been disgusted by a "not-going-hard" approach to fitness. I see ladies walking down the street cheerfully gabbing at each other. I see people who look like they are fitness walking while talking on the phone. I would run past people on trails with an elite attitude like "I’m getting more done than you are". Sidenote: I hate an idea of toxic masculinity. I say let men be who we were designed to be. But having said that, I know plenty of women who are go-getters just as much as men. I know some who are more competitive than men. But there is clearly a machismo attitude toward exercise. It’s either Go Hard or Go Home!

I’ve read the Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson and am currently reading Primal Endurance. I’ve slowly come 180 degrees from where I was. Mark is an elite performer of triathlons and marathon events. Yet he found he could train smarter, which meant slower in an aerobic zone and for a shorter amount of time, and still keep up with elite performers. How is this possible?

When you train yourself to exercise aerobically, it means you are moving at a conversational pace. So those ladies walking down the street make sense to me now. The Maffetone formula for an aerobic maximum heart rate (MHR) is 180 minus your age. So if you are 30 years old, that’s 180 – 30 = 150. That is your maximum aerobic threshold for working out. For many, that will feel like a snail’s pace. But for others, that will feel perfect.

Mark calls an uneducated guess at our MHR the "Black Hole". You really need to use a heart rate monitor to keep your heart in check. Otherwise, you may feel comfortable just above that zone and fall into the black hole. When you get above MHR, you shift from burning fat to burning glucose. When you use up available glucose in your bloodstream, your liver releases glycogen to create more glucose. So what does this mean?

Ever hear of "skinny fat". I always wondered how it is possible to toe the line at many running races and see so many fat runners. I mean, yeah, maybe they had just started running. But there are many who I see at a lot of races who are clearly either fat or even skinny fat. The reason? Cortisol! Cortisol is a hormone that is released when you are under stress. Anaerobic activities are a form of stress. So if you are constantly redlining your heart when you run, like pushing it to where you almost have to stop, you are not aerobic, but anaerobic. And the cortisol elicits insulin to in turn shift to burning sugar. So you could end up working out every single day (Go Hard or Go Home) and burn sugar and not fat. You turn into an anti-fat-burning slob.

Yes, there are times to go hard. Short intense workouts elicit a specific response that is the subject of another blog. But Mark says to do that once every 7 to 10 days. Otherwise, spend more time in the aerobic <MHR zone. He also encourages "play". That means frisbee, biking around the block, doing some yard work, or dancing. Have fun with living an unstructured, playful life. Never be sedentary for more than 2-3 hours. Those are the keys.

Personal Revelation:
A couple weeks ago, I went on my longest run in years. It wasn’t super long compared to my days of ultramarathoning. But it felt long. I really pushed it and felt good after. I was a little sore for a few days. What amazed me was the "stressful" physiological response. Since I’ve been Intermittent Fasting (IF) and working out mostly aerobically (<MHR), I rarely feel hungry. But after this run, I was famished. I still stuck mostly to my IF, I was ravenous. The other thing? My heart was racing. Since I wear a Garmin Vivoactive 3, I can see my heart rate in real time. So for 3 days after my run, my heart rate was elevated. Yes, I was probably burning more calories. But it also meant that my body was fighting something. I wasn’t totally relaxed. I also slept very terribly for 2 nights. I monitor that too. I usually have about an 80% rating of quality sleep. I was about 35% for those two nights. Lack of sleep also ramps up cortisol. My watch also measures stress, which is related to heart rate variability (HRV). I usually am at 10-20 at rest. But I was resting at about 50 (or 50%), which means I was at moderate stress even when sitting still. So long story short, that one long run that was above my MHR upset my body for 3 days. It had a negative effect on my health and my weight loss. I was hungry, sore, and physiologically not well. I never noticed that about myself. But it made me embrace these ideas even more.

Assimilation Efficiency of Food

The anabolic effects of eating certain foods can be compared based on how well assimilated they are in your body. Some foods do not assimilate well, so you will need much more to get the same effect. Here’s a breakdown from Dr. Berg.

Eggs 48% efficiency (48% of what you eat is converted to body tissue)
Meat – Fish – Fowl 32%
Egg white 17%
Soy 17%
Diary-Whey 16%
Spirulina 6%

How I Am Taking Over My Health

Sorry it has been so long since I’ve written. I’ve gone through some amazing changes with my health plan. I’d have to admit, if it wasn’t for this pandemic, I don’t think I’d be where I am today. I feel for those who have lost jobs and suffered during this time; but I’ve met positivity in my own life. Maybe some of that will rub off and give you ideas for yourselves.

Huge Influences for me in 2020:
[Preface — I struggled, dabbled, gave much thought, dismissed them, but came back to these people over time and now totally embrace their ideas. Give them a chance. You've gotta break through the┬áthick ice to get to the good stuff]
David Goggins – I read "Can’t Hurt Me" and Jesse Itzler’s account of when Goggins lived with him and trained him. This is monumental!
Jocko Willink – he has a saner approach than David and great guidelines for life.
Dr. Eric Berg – he is my fasting and keto resource. His videos are super helpful.
Mark Sisson – of the Primal Blueprint. I read his book and sat it aside not really planning to follow what he said. But over time, it gnawed away at me. Now I’m a total follower. This is especially useful for longevity.

There are definitely more, but these are 4 who came to mind right away. Give all of them a chance. What they say makes a lot of sense.

I’ll spend some time explaining the why’s and what for’s over time. Please ask questions if you’d like and I’ll explain. Here is what my day looks like now:

Daily Routine:

Wake 0515-0545 – I use the Sleep app to wake up when I naturally begin to stir. This sets my hormones on the right course and you don’t feel groggy.

Coffee – I wake by playing with my dogs, drinking coffee, and watching the news.

I make a small carafe of coffee. Since coffee can stimulate some insulin, I have learned to back off a little on how much coffee I drink. So I drink about 3 cups.

I also do my first Language program of the day. I’m also FASTing, so I don’t eat anything.

Work at 0630 sharp – Its easy since I telework. This is my most focused time of the day. I can get a lot done in the first hour or two of work.

Mid-morning walk – I do this after finishing coffee. I watch an educational YouTube that relates to my work. So I’m still working. I stay at a conversational pace, that is 180 beats per minute minus my age for heart rate. This is HUGE for me and a big change. To burn fat while fasting, you need to stay in this Zone 1 and don’t push the intensity. For many of us, that’s hard to do. But its super important for many reasons.

Electrolyte – then I drink 16 oz of water with Dr. Berg’s electrolyte mix. This is important while fasting since just plain water or coffee doesn’t provide the chemical mix to make muscles and mind function at their best. I will explore other electrolytes later.

Break Fast – I may do another quick walk before breaking my fast to maximize fat burning. For an 18 hour fast, it usually ends up at 1130am, for 20 hours it’s 1330. Much depends on my late afternoon workout. I prefer to eat at 1130 so I digest and have energy for my workout. Regardless, making this a keto lunch is best. However, it’s often about 8 oz of coconut milk, carb free protein powder, and a cup of mixed frozen berries.

Work – I work in the afternoon without any snacking whatsoever (very important!!) I drink a cup of green tea that has numerous benefits for mind and body. It also keeps me from an afternoon circadian trough.

Workout – I have guidelines for my MetCon WOD (metabolic conditioning workout of the day) every day of the week except Thursday. I usually combine strength and skill work either within the WOD or before or after the workout.

Hygiene – 1645 promptly! I also learned that soaps and shampoos have harmful detergents for your skin. The only places on your body that stink are your armpits and private parts since those are the odor centers of the body. So I shower once every 2 or 3 days and do a bird bath of odor parts the other days. I am probably saving water (and the planet, hehe) by doing this as well.

Cook Dinner 1700 – mostly keto. Seafood once a week. I try to do an Instant Pot recipe once a week too. There is a whole plan to my meals. I try to shut off my eating by 1730 at the latest. Then I can start my fast. What I have to remember to do is if I want a little snack, like a piece of dark chocolate, some cashews, or BBQ pork rinds, then I make sure I have it with my meal. Then I won’t crave that after I start my fast. I use the Zero app and when I start the timer, it’s Over. No more eating for the night.

Evening – watch TV, maybe finish my walking steps for the day to meet my goal, maybe some Yoga either online or in front of the TV, lots of rolling and stretching regardless.

Bedtime – promptly at 2030 and it never wavers. Even when I travel to a different time zone, I try to keep the same schedule. I read either with a red light backlight on my phone or with a red light headlamp. This reduces the blue light exposure that is a sleep killer.

Wow, that got longer than I expected. I plan to go into more detail of the "why’s" of all of this. It is super important for me to stay on this schedule and it is made a lot easier because of the lockdown. There are no outside influences that can change my schedule. It is life changing how these improvements have improved my quality of life.