For someone who for years has put a lot of effort in learning to take care of my health and doing consistent efforts to apply best practices the following list of symptoms that were getting progressively worse was quite a shock. I started being aware of these when around October 2016 I started having my left knee start hurting when I would walk or go up the stairs. A month later, the pain spread to my back and it was almost impossible to sit for prolonged periods of time, something which was never a problem for me before. Finally, another month passed and it progressed to the point that my right hand was now twitching and cracking when I would use it on my phone or computer mouse. At this point all my joints were constantly cracking every step I would take. I remember around the end of December 2016 at Christmas time I was laying in bed in pain and wondering if I would even be able to walk by the end of the next year.
Why I decided to go for a 3+ day fast.
I started doing intermittent fasting (about 16 hours a day) about 5 years ago when I heard about the bodies mechanism of autophagy (basically the recycling of weak/diseased cells into new, healthy ones). Knowing about autophagy gives proof that the body is not just “wasting away” when you fast but actually uses the time very efficiently to renew and rejuvenate your body. Also, over time I noticed I was very effective with my work during the fast, doing 6-8 hour sessions without needing any breaks and completely being in the zone as I wrote in a previous article about why I would do 16-24 hour fasts.
Over the last year though I have seen more and more evidence that extending the fast beyond 24 hours and doing at least 3 days might have benefits that cannot be matched by doing (for example) 3 sessions of 24 hour fasting days in a week. There seems to be some added renewal mechanisms in the body that switch on when you are at the day 3+ count.
To start off with, before mentioning what I like about a little daily sun exposure (Around a half hour at most with most of my skin expossed) I should mention that more than that should probably be avoided for most people depending on your goals. Especially if you are looking to look young since sun exposure is likely one of the biggest factor in making someone’s skin look older then it might/should be. And also simply due to reduced chances of skin cancer from over exposure to UVC rays (which sunscreen does not reduce).
Having said that, I do have a few reasons that make me think that small daily 10-30min sun session are at least worthwhile for myself to start my day and probably many others that want to get most of the potential benefits of sun exposure without the negatives that might come from being outside too much over a lifetime.
1) Getting natural Vitamin D from your bodies own production to reach normal Blood levels
When years ago I first heard of intermittent fasting (IF) , the act of voluntarily skipping meals and leave your stomach empty, at first I thought it was insanity! After all haven’t we all been told that we should count calories and never, EVER, skip a meal if we want to lose weight to not slow down our metabolism? It turns out that not only is this false (your metabolism needs many meals/days of insufficient food to slow down) but Intermittent fasting might have a lot of health benefits for you (explained later with links) and is definitely useful for me in terms of productivity and getting work done.
Nowadays I skip usually once or twice a week 1-2 meals and go on with my day as usual.
A simple way to see how IF helps with weight loss or maintenance is if you skip a meal your body simply goes into your fat reserves and burns calories there instead of panicking and shriveling up. Additionally, along the way the body does a lot of “rejuvenation work” with the resources not allocated to digesting food, as you will see later.
The “theory” that later came to explain the studied scientific behavior of our body while under IF is in our hunter gatherer times, we often had periods of famine, meals were not always guaranteed. Our body would not simply shrivel up and act sick because we skipped a meal, in fact most likely those who had a genetic advantage of being focused/healthy when low in food would have survived.
Personally, while I have used IF to effortlessly reduce my daily calorie intake once a week (and burn some body fat) I have been far more impressed with the potential health benefits and the additional productivity on days I do IF.
Some people call it an intermittent fasting diet, but it is not really a type of diet but rather a way to plan your meals (to mimic not having food all day). It doesn’t tell you the exact food you have to eat during the day but rather it is about eating at only a given period of time like only eating from 2pm to 10pm or 4pm to Midnight.
I will cover below 3 methods on how to do Intermittent fasting to lose weight, list some health benefits with sources and finally end with the unintended side effect of how IF helps me with productivity!
How to do Intermittent fasting for weight loss, 3 different methods to add this to your lifestyle
1) Martin Berkhan’s Lean gain guide (only eating 8 hours a day)
What is it? 8 hour feeding window, you usually skip your morning meal then end the fast with a workout and a big meal when you have around 8 hours left in your day. So 16 hours of fasting, 8 hours of eating.
I first heard about IF many years ago on Martin Berkhan’s blog in order to build muscle while reducing body fat, basically an intermittent fasting bodybuilding protocol. I used his method for many years which involves skipping one meal and basically limiting yourself to an 8 hour feeding window (16 hours, including sleep, under IF). He often cuts the fast with his workout and then goes eat a big meal. In his case, he does not necessarily lower calories, simply juggles them in the 8 hour feeding window with 16 hours of his body burning body fat.
Depending on your body type and goals, this could work for you (eating the same amount of calories but only during 8 hours) but for me it was not lowering my (already skinny but not enough to see abs) body fat unless I also restricted a bit my calories (eat less than a usual day.
2) Bulletproof intermittent fasting by Dave Asprey
What is it? 8 hour feeding window, but you are allowed some fats (butter/coconut oil/milk + maybe mct oil) with your morning coffee to curb the initial hunger period when you wake up. A little fat does not “stop” IF (unlike protein and carbs which do).
While skipping one meal was overall fine I enjoyed IF due to the health benefits I discovered, it was annoying in the morning to fight my hunger for a few hours before getting into the zone. I then discovered bulletproof intermittent fasting in this blog post and I highly recommend it If you find not eating anything too hard when you wake up. This type of IF is basically adding some butter (or some source of healthy fat like coconut milk or oil) to your morning coffee (or tea) alongside some MCT oil to have some initial calories from fat. Eating a bit of fat does not cut into the health benefits of IF, but if your goal is weight loss then you should not overdo the morning fats because for me it was leading me to not lose body fat (to go under 10%) because I was not in a deficit. You can find the recipe of the morning coffee here. The idea is that it will give you stable current of energy throughout the day, optimizes brain function and fat loss with caffeine, and boosts your metabolism up to 12%. The bulletproof fasting recommends the bulletproof diet. You can get a copy of bulletproof diet here which I personally use heavily for my meals.
3) 24 hour fasting (What I do now, because at this point I love the noticeable health benefits + productivity gains)
What is it? Instead of skipping 1 meal, skip 2. Basically 24 hours of no eating and you eat a small/normal meal a few hours before bed.
After doing IF for a while I noticed how much more productive I can be while not eating and I wanted to create a bigger calorie deficit in my IF days and it was simply easier for me to prolong the fast then to make sure I was eating 2/3 of my normal daily calories or less. So I simply start my day with coffee+ healthy fats from #2, and skip 2 meals and eat around 24 hours after last night’s meal. So if I ate my last meal at 8pm and went to bed at midnight, I fast the next day until around 8pm again. I personally love it this way but it is something you have to try for yourself!
On to the Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting!
Fasting has been a part of religious practice for a long time, such as the fasting being done by Christian during the lent season and by the Muslims during Ramadan season. Nevertheless, aside from the spiritual benefits you get, modern science has confirmed that fasting has a lot of health benefits. The following list of health benefits of intermittent fasting partly taken from Dr. Mercola:
- It normalizes the insulin and leptin sensitivity as well as boost mitochondrial energy efficiency. Intermittent fasting impacts insulin sensitivity which makes the body use fat as a primary source of energy instead of sugar. It also helps you gain more muscle weight when you do overeat after a big workout.
Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is not a supplement that is well known but it does have some very interesting properties and the risk of side effects (if you take reasonable doses) is very low. I learned about ALA from Tim Ferris while reading the four hour body and how he used it to help put more of the calories from the food he eats into muscles instead of fat cells. I personally have used it for that purpose but also to fight off alcohol hangovers or damage from other drugs such as MDMA according to this study. It is naturally found in foods such as vegetables but in very small quantities so if you really want to take advantage of it you need to supplement.
Beyond its more advanced usage for fat loss/muscle gains & lowering blood sugar, it is a potent antioxidant that can help fight off hangovers and a large variety of health problems.
ALA is an antioxidant which is a substance that supports protecting cells and your DNA from the damage done by free radicals due to oxidation reactions which is why we hear so often about antioxidants, a LOT of natural foods (especially vegetables and fruits) contain other forms of antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E which are well known (and relevant to this post, ALA has the ability to “renew and put back to work” vitamin C & E making them even more useful). This is most likely the reason ALA can be useful to fight off damage form alcohol or other drugs. When antioxidants are not available, free radicals cause oxidation and this reaction is one of the processes that cause a lot of problems in our body, including accelerating aging or making your skin look older.
Alpha Lipoic Acid Usage & Benefits
Alpha lipoic acid can be used to treat a variety of health related problems. It is used to prevent inflammation due to multiple sclerosis. There is a study that shows that alpha lipoic acid supplement helps patients with type 2 diabetes by enhancing the body’s ability to use its own insulin to lower the level of blood sugar. This is one of the key reasons that when it comes to putting on muscle weight and less fat while overeating I use it as part of my training regimen to get 25 pounds in 2 months.
It helps with nerve damage caused by cancer or diabetes treatment by reducing the nerve-related symptoms of diabetes like pain, burning, tingling, and prickling in the legs and arms.
Some people use an alpha lipoic acid supplement for chronic fatigue syndrome, memory loss, cancer, liver disease, lyme disease and diseases of the heart. It also is used to protect against eye related problem such as damage to cataracts, retina, glaucoma and Wilson’s disease, most likely due to how it helps renew vitamin C & E in the body.
A study was conducted to 33 women with an average age of 54 years old found that after 3 months of applying a cream containing 5% lipoic acid, their skin roughness was reduced and the appearance of photo-aging has decreased.
Quick list of Alpha lipoic acid benefits
According to Nutraceutical Update by Mark A. Mitchell, M.D. (which I took from this post), based on the studies and evidences gathered, lipoic acid offers the following health benefits:
- Helps prevents retinal cell death when combined with vitamin E in retinitis pigmentosa
This post will be about Vitamins & Minerals you are MOST LIKELY deficient in but with proper diet changes you can “easily” fix, though supplements can be convenient as an insurance or as tool to make sure while on the road/living in a new country you do not become deficient.
While some of these vitamins are easy to figure out if you are deficient in them from your food choices, such as not eating a lot of seafood or organ meats, if you are wondering what vitamins should i take daily it is still best to go to a website like cronometer.com and input broadly what you ate for a few days in a row and see if you notice any vitamins/minerals you might be missing a lot on. For example, when I first did this, it confirmed I was very low on Zinc on days I did not eat seafood. Don’t make the mistake of thinking a multivitamin containing everything is a risk free alternative to figuring out what you actually are deficient in!