The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I.F. report from Canada

One of the guys on the Lifewriting discussion list, sent the following note about his experiment with Intermittent Fasting. Hope he doesn't mind if I share:
[lifewritingdiscussionlist] IF report from Canada

Hey gang,

Today is the end of week 3 of my IF experiment. I've lost ten pounds
total, without losing anything from my arms, which is one of my
benchmarks--so far, loss seems to be mostly from the waist. I switched
from a powerlifting regimen to a bodybuilding one when I started this,
as I wanted to keep my muscle--I actually gained weight the second
week; my arms exploded, while my waist shrank. Just now poked a new
hole in my belt, so I can cinch that bad boy up. So far, my main
problem with this is that it rings my too-good-to-be-true alarm like
crazy. It's just perfectly suited to my temperament and lifestyle. No
real feeling of deprivation, no real temptation to cheat, haven't even
come close. Significant gains in strength in every lift today in the
gym. No loss of energy or endurance. I haven't adjusted my workout
schedule to fit the diet at all--whatever day the workout falls on, is
what I go with. The workouts on the fast days are actually
better--more energetic, more alert. No dizziness, light-headedness,
etc. I often hit a mildly euphoric stage at about 11 am on the fast
day, which usually carries through to about 2 pm or so. I mean, I feel
GOOD. By 6 pm, I'm hungry, but not cranky or desperate. Not obsessing
about food. Alleged/hoped-for health benefits aside, I'm enjoying
being on this diet more than I was enjoying not being on any kind of
diet at all. Which is my ideal: the perfect exercise is what you'd do
if you didn't have to exercise; the perfect job is the one you'd do if
you didn't need the money; the perfect diet is the one you'd do if you
didn't need to diet.

Pluses so far:

Feel GOOD on fast days.
Food tastes GOOD on feast days.
Zero guilt during feast days.
My cravings almost instantly altered from junk/sweet/fast to stuff
like steak, salads, fruit. Which is good.
I am waking up earlier, and more refreshed.
Mentally sharper, more awake, more alert.
Cardio is slightly less unpleasant than usual.
My weight-training has been completely rejuvenated.
Less hassle: fewer dishes, less shopping, less cooking, etc; fast days
seem like free days--so much extra time and energy.
Less mental hassle: less time thinking/worrying/feeling guilty about
Spending less money. Eating out WAY less.

Minuses so far:

1) Waiting for other shoe to drop.
2) The suspicion that, if the other shoe doesn't drop, I will become
even more annoying than I already am, which is really saying something.

I had a full physical at the end of February; I'll get another one in
September. That will be the real test; how cholesterol, blood sugar,
etc, has been affected.

My personal approach has been:

1) 6pm to 6pm.
2) My feast day is a FEAST day. I eat a lot. Whenever, whatever. I was
going to try to eat healthy during feast days, but my cravings
changed, as I said, so I'm not trying to do it, I'm just doing it.
3) In addition to my usual supplements--fish oil, Greens +,
glucosamine, B12--I've started taking creatine, a protein shake, and a
multi-vitamin on my feast days. I only take supplements on feast days.
4) The only thing I ingest, besides water, on my fast days, is my
normal morning three cups of java. (Black, just plain coffee, no sugar
or milk or anything.) I consider even that to be cheating, but I
figure the positive metabolic effects of the coffee negate the
negative effects of the 15 or so calories of the coffee. But I may
decide to forgo that.
5) Hasn't come up yet, but if there are social events where I will
want to eat, I will just adjust my fast accordingly. So, if I know I'm
going to lunch with a friend at 2 pm on a fast day, I'll cut my feast
day off at noon instead of 6 pm on the previous day. That should work,
especially since I'm an asshole who hardly has any friends.
6) Don't keep much snack food/easy food around during fast days; why
tempt myself unnecessarily?
7) Lots and lots of water.

Thing I wonder about:

1) How much harder would this be if I were having to fix meals for
people during my fast days? Considerably, I'd guess.
2) How does human awareness affect the results? On my fast days, I
KNOW I'm going to get fed tomorrow, which is part of why this has been
easy for me; if I were a wee cowrin timrous beastie, fast days might
be a little scarier, which might intensify the whole process, thus
increasing the benefits.

Anyhoo, three weeks is obviously way too early to make any grand
pronouncements or trustworthy judgements, but screw that. I say:
wowsers. Wow. Fricking. Zers. I'm with Steve; this feels to me like a
HUGE breakthrough for human health and performance.

Take care,
My daughter is going to try it until Summer, just to see what effect it has. I did yoga today and felt STRONG. My kettlebell workout yesterday was strong as well, even when I compressed the rest periods to increase the amount of muscle synthesis. My calf muscle are popping out kinda weirdly, as well. Getting lots of work done, have more energy to play with Jason--he was riding his bike around our little community complex, while I jogged alongside. Felt like nothing.
I am speculating. If this program fools your body into thinking you are a hungry hunter-gatherer, what results would your body TRY to accomplish?
1) All hunter-gatherer skills or abilities increased. Endurance, speed, strength, agility, aggression, healing, immune functions, etc. How about sensory awareness? Sight, hearing, etc? Taste and smell certainly.
2) Would sex drive go up or down? Not sure. Mine seems to have gone up. Reasoning about it, I would kinda expect the body to reduce sex drive so as to reduce the number of children born in a time of drought or famine. Doesn't seem to be the case: must be another mechanism.
another thing. I came across an experiment where mice spinal cords were severed. Half were put on I.F. and that half started twitching their paws again. What? I thought damned near nothing re-grew nervous tissue! couple this with the resistance to Alzheimers, and the increase in alertness and focus, and one is tempted to suggest that it could increase functional intelligence, if not actual "g".

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