Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Journey Begins (A Week Later)

I should probably start by mentioning that I am not a heavy person. Quite the contrary. I'm a 44 year old man who stands 6 ft 0 in and weighed 150 pounds when I began this little experiment (weight was first thing in the morning in my skivvies). So I'm hardly a candidate for a weight reducing diet.

So why am I starting this journey of alternate day fasting (ADF)? Primarily for good health, and secondarily for possible longevity.

I have rheumatoid arthritis, and one of the many reported benefits of ADF is a decrease in inflammation. Having been at this for one week already, I can report that the decrease in inflammation is real. More about that in a later post.

This is also supposed to make us live longer, much like calorie restriction (CR), or maybe because of calorie restriction. There is an ongoing debate about whether it's intermittent fasting (IF) per se or the concomittant calorie restriction that accounts for the animal studies showing increased lifespan in animals put on an every other day (EOD) eating schedule.

In case you're not aware, calorie restriction (eating every day, but restricting calories by 30% to 40%) is the only thing ever found that extends the life of every animal it's ever been tested on. And it's been tested on plenty of animals since the 1930s. Rhesus monkey trials are well under way, and even humans are being studied. No definitive results from those studies yet, but it looks good so far, based on lab tests and incidence of disease. Interestingly, no one knows for sure why CR extends life, though there is plenty of speculation and continuing research.

Some people tout ADF as a way to eat just as many calories as someone who eats a normal diet every day, while still getting the health benefits of CR. Presumably they would do this by eating twice as much on the days they eat, making up for the lack of calories while fasting. At the same time, fasting would activate whatever "survival gene" or mechanism there is that makes CR so effective. More on that later, too.

For now, I'll lay out what I'm doing and how I'm doing it: I have a 6:00PM cutoff time. That's when my 24 hour period begins and ends. So today is Wednesday. I was fasting until 6:00 tonight. Since 6:00, I've been able to eat as much as I want. That will continue until tomorrow (Thursday) night at 6:00. Then I will be on water only until 6:00 Friday evening.

Choosing 6:00PM makes this routine psychologically easy. Why? Because I get to eat as much as I want every calendar day. How so? Well, today, Wednesday, I get to eat as much as I want, as long as it's after 6:00PM. Tomorrow, Thursday, I get to eat as much as I want, as long as it's before 6:00PM. Friday, after 6:00. Saturday, before 6:00, and so on. So even if I'm hungry, I always know I will get to eat later today, and that I can eat as much as I want. Piece of cake (pun intended).

And, Yes, I only have water when I'm fasting (and medicine, which is minimal). I don't do coffee, diet soda, tea, sugar-free gum, etc. While those technically have no calories, I'm concerned that they may nevertheless trigger an insulin response, and insulin is one of the main things we're trying to minimize by fasting. Others believe it's only calories that count, so anything calorie-free is fair game for them. That's fine, but the mice in the studies weren't drinking Diet Coke, so I'm not going to either. To each his own.

I should give credit where credit is due, and mention that I got this idea from a blog post by Dr. Michael Eades, the low carb guru and bestselling author of Protein Power. Read it here http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/intermittent-fasting/fast-way-to-better-health/.

But before you get too excited, you should read his follow up post, where he backtracked http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2008/03/03/real-life-extension-caloric-restriction-or-intermittent-fasting-part-2/. He has since changed his mind somewhat again, and thinks there is some benefit to IF. I'll let you know when he writes more, as he certainly will, since this is by far the most popular post he has ever written, generating tons of comments and questions.

Stay tuned. I'll be sharing much more about my own experiences with ADF and other dietary experiments, as well as the latest research.

Bon repos,
Tom

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