I started outlining and writing a piece about the biochemistry behind it, but (1) it took me down a way deep rabbit hole, and (2) I'm not very clear that I don't understand the topic well enough to write about it.
That said, when doing a basic intermittent fasting protocol a la Leangains.com, it's been relatively easy to consistently march down towards lower bodyfat and greater health and wellness.
I ran a caloric deficit of between 500 and 1000 calories each day, eat all those calories spaced into a 4-6 hour window.
That was pretty good, and remains pretty good.
I've recently (six weeks ago) started experimenting with fasting 24+ hours, sometimes to the 60 to 70 hour range once a week.
The benefits are absolutely tremendous in terms of mental clarity. From my research (note: please do your own research, carefully, and don't trust people on the internet with your health -- it's precious) -- from my research, it seems like under 70 hours of fasting combined with good hydration and generally eating a healthy mix of food when eating is fine. As far as I can tell, the "starvation mode" thing about the metabolism is largely a myth, so long as you're not running too deep of a deficit at a single time.
I was going to try to analyze what's going on chemically, with noradrenaline and dopamine and what not, but it's way over my head. But suffice to say, I'm a huge fan of fasting. The easiest way to start would be doing intermittent fasting where you still eat a normal day's worth of calories for yourself, but in a condensed window. After you're comfortable with that, you can stretch the fasting window out longer.
Leangains has some good guidelines and science to start learning. I'm a fan.
I came across Mr Berkhan a couple of years ago and have been doing fasting of some sort ever since. I read Brad Pilons "Eat Stop Eat" earlier this year and it was really good, I highly recommend it if you want to learn more about the science behind intermittent fasting. I think IF works so well because it makes your diet into a problem with binary outcomes (like the no-carb diets) but still enables you to keep most foods in your diet (which should be very beneficial for adherence).
I have been fasting one day a week for the past two years. I have lots of energy on my fast days and get more done. I drink ginger tea if I need help. I do drink lots of water too. After doing a few times I no longer got hungry. It helped me notice when I was using food to feel better and deal with my emotions in a better way than grabbing for comfort food. Sometimes my body detoxes when I fast and some pretty yucky stuff comes out - I figure better to give my body a chance to rest and repair regularly which it can not fully do when digesting food every 4-8 hours.
I have heard of people's old injuries or sicknesses coming up for a day when starting fasting then getting better - it is like the body had repaired 90% before but not it has spare energy to get to 100%.
I fast from dinner Saturday until breakfast Monday which is typically 36 - 40 hours. Anything over 8 hours has a positive effect.
High quality coffee (single origin, wet processed - sometimes combined with a little coconut oil) is also extremely beneficial when combined with a fasting protocol.
Most first-time fasters find it difficult to work through hunger pangs that accompany the initial fasting stage.
For this reason, high quality coffee is a great "supplement" to include since caffeine is a natural appetite suppressant.
When ever you start measuring something, you need to weigh the cost of measurement against the gains gotten from it.
Thus, it doesn't always make sense to track a metric. It can make a lot of sense to do it for a short time, understand how you're operating, make improvements, and then drop the tracking.
That's how it goes for me with filling out a time tracking sheet. I'll do it for a while to establish routines and make improvements, and then go off the process at other times during busy periods, or if I'm not getting much gain from it.
Here's my newest time tracking sheet. I fill this out daily, starting from the morning, and ending when I mark down the last notes at night. Explanation follows below --
I'm turning 40 this December, and that's caused me to deeply re-evaluate my health. In high school I had wrestled at the 152 lb weight level and was a gymnast. In my 20s, I ran two 50 mile ultra-marathons and a half dozen marathons. I had a 33 inch waist and weighed 185 lbs. I could eat whatever I wanted and stay in good shape. But after a decade of doing startups, I found myself in my late 30s in much worse shape. My metabolism hit a wall when I turned 30, and although I didn't eat terribly, I also found it hard to figure out exactly how to get back to where I was in my 20s. My waist was 38 inches and I weighed 245 lbs; 93 lbs over my wrestling weight. My triglycerides were 33% above where they should've been. I'd imagine this happens to many of us as we get older, and I felt helpless as I watched all of this unfold, almost like it was happening according to some script that I wasn't in control of. Most of all, I was really disappointed in myself for not staying on top of my health, but I couldn't find the right balance of eating and exercising to change the path I was on. It felt like I was on a slow motion slippery slope as I got older and more out of shape.
When my daughter was born in 2013, I made myself a promise: I would be in as good of shape when I turned 40 as I was when I turned 30. I didn't want to have a hard time keeping up with her as she grew up. I started doing CrossFit twice a week that year. I signed up and completed a few triathlons. But my weight still wouldn't budge from 245 lbs, and my triglycerides, although lower, were still 15% above the max recommended range. CrossFit was making me much stronger, but that was only part of the puzzle. I had to figure out the rest, and I hadn't quite cracked it.
In December of last year, I realized I was running short on time: I'd really have to hump it to get back in shape within the next year, before my 40th birthday in December 2015. By this time I had upped my CrossFit schedule to 3x per week and I started rowing for 15 minutes before CrossFit started in the mornings. But that still wasn't enough: By April I knew I was going to have to take some much more drastic measures to reach my goal.
This blog is a story of those drastic measures, and how they're going. It's a deep-dive into the rabbit hole that we call 'health' as I see it. It's a journey that I invite you to take with me as we all get older, together. I am only starting to unlock some of the things that affect my body and I would love your thoughts and opinions as well in the comments below.
Let me also caveat this entire blog by saying that some of what I write about below is contrary to the things we've been told to believe, and I fully recognize that. I'm not a medical expert and I'm not telling you to throw away what you believe to be true. But just walk into all of this with an open mind, as I'm trying to do, and more importantly, be willing to try some of these things yourself if you also want to experiment a bit to try to find a better path than you've found so far.