Intermittent Fasting

In this week’s weigh-in video (members, see the Team ECo Facebook page), I mentioned a  strategy I employed last week: intermittent fasting (IF).  I’ve been practicing some form of this (unintentionally) over the past 15 years. If you have been paying attention to diet/health media recently, IF has become very trendy.

NOTE: Keep in mind that everything I share about my training, lifestyle, health… is simply a snapshot into what I’M trying; it is NOT recommendations as to what YOU should do.  My goal is that my experiments can help you try/not try different things on your path to enhanced health and performance.

You need to understand that I’m in this 100% for health. Not religion. Not performance-enhancing. Not body image. Not ego.  However, I acknowledge that the healthier I am, the better I can perform. But this is all about increasing my long-term odds of being healthy and disease-free. And this is a HUGE factor in my decisions.

My litmus test for things I have recently tried and will try in 2018 relies on two objectives:

  1. DEFENSE: delay death as long as possible by delaying the onset of chronic disease
  2. OFFENSIVE: enhance life

I spent 20 years of my life abusing my body for the sake of elite athletic glory. I know what extreme training feel like and I’m not willing to do that again.  But… I believe I can perform close to these levels AND maintain health. So, I look for any and all strategies that can enhance health.

So, with that, the IF experiment fits nicely into my two objectives and my overall philosophy on how I want to care for my body and health.

Here’s a little info on IF:

In general, there are two types of IF:

  • Whole-day fasting involves regular one-day fasts. The strictest form would be Alternate day fasting (ADF). This involves a 24-hour fast followed by a 24-hour non-fasting period
  • Time-restricted feeding (TRF) involves eating only during a certain number of hours each day. A common form of TRF involves fasting for 16 hours each day and only eating during the remaining 8 hours, typically on the same schedule each day.

I settled on the TRF 16/8 protocol for a few reasons.  1) I have ‘accidentally’ done this in the past with success and 2) people I respect settled on this method.

How It Works: Fast for 14 (women) to 16 (men) hours each day, and then “feed” for the remaining eight to 10 hours. During the fasting period, you consume no calories. However, I drink black coffee and chew sugar-free gum are permitted. It is also OK to consume some MCT oil or coconut milk, but I haven’t done too much of that yet.   I find it easiest to fast through the night then eat my first meal about six hours after waking up. It is important to be consistent with this timing though due to body rhythms and habits.

Training challenges the IF protocol. Eating a good post-workout meal is important to recovery, adaptation, and improvement, so nutrient timing and IF planning is can be tricky.

On days I exercise, carbs are more important than fat. On rest days, fat intake is higher. I ingest between 20-30g of protein 3-4 times a day to maintain muscle protein synthesis.  I try to stick with whole, unprocessed, but I supplement with protein shake or meal replacement bar if I need quick food and don’t have time to prepare a meal.

Like I mentioned above, my objective is to decrease the odds of lifestyle disease and enhancing health. IF research supports this:

  • Human data has shown lower concentrations of triglycerides, glucose, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and increased concentrations of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
  • Several lines of evidence also support the hypothesis that eating patterns that reduce or eliminate nighttime eating and prolong nightly fasting intervals may result in sustained improvements in human health.
    • Nighttime eating has never been a problem with me. There have only been a couple of times in my life that I have woken up and been SO HUNGRY that I need to eat.
  • Intermittent fasting regimens are hypothesized to influence metabolic regulation via effects on (a) circadian biology, (b) the gut microbiome, and (c) modifiable lifestyle behaviors, such as sleep.
  • The cellular and molecular mechanisms by which IF improves health and counteracts disease processes involve activation of adaptive cellular stress response signaling pathways that enhance mitochondrial health, DNA repair and autophagy.

I’m a science guy, this stuff excites me!

If you think about our evolution, it makes sense that we are alive today because our ancestors were able to fast for extended periods of time. If they couldn’t survive a famine (bad crop harvest, long time between the kill of prey, etc.) they wouldn’t have been able to have kids. It takes more than a few generations to remove those characteristics from our genepool.

So, I’m going to continue to learn, explore, and use myself as my n=1experiment. My goal is for you can gain some insight from my experience.  I’ll collect quantitative and qualitative data to track changes and monitor my health status. I’ll discuss how I modify the IF strategy when I train early in the morning. I’ll discuss how I use nutrient timing to maximize fasting/glycogen loaded conditions to stay healthy and maximize training.

All of my experiences will be published on the member-only section. I’ll keep you posted!