Friday, February 25, 2011

Intermittent Fasting 101

Many people have heard of caloric restriction, and it's implications on human health and longevity.  Time and time again, lab-testing of CR has been shown to produce a whole range of physiologic benefits, as well as extend lifespan in all animals- be it silkworms or apes.  There is however, a more practical way to reap these benefits, via intermittent fasting.

Intermittent fasting (IF) has been a very useful tool for me in my health and fitness journey. It is beneficial both to the body and the mind, in so many ways.

This was the first article I ever read about IF, from Dr. Michael Eades, author of Protein Power (an awesome book I recommend everyone reads).

"Like caloric restriction, intermittent fasting reduces oxidative stress, makes the animals more resistant to acute stress in general, reduces blood pressure, reduces blood sugar, improves insulin sensitivity, reduces the incidence of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, and improves cognitive ability."

An interesting thing he mentions is that while both caloric restriction (CR) and IF provide numerous health benefits and potentially increase lifespan, CR animals in lab settings exhibit depression and irritability, even hostility and violence. IFing shows no such behavior.

Another excellent article from Mark's Daily Apple: The Myriad Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Beyond the tangible physiologic benefits of IF, there is the idea that IF sort of re-primes your innate hunger mechanisms, can resensitize appetite hormones such as leptin and ghrelin, and just generally change/improve/reset your relationship to food. Which is obviously important in this culture of binge eating, food cravings and the like.

A Friday Perspective

Many people are broken. They have faulty glucose metabolism, a sluggish liver and pancreas, irritated bowels, bacterial overgrowth- any number of acquired conditions which mostly stem from poor diet and lifestyle. This puts the body in such a state where it cannot properly assimilate the things it needs from good, healthy foods, or it may even be rejecting things that would otherwise be very good for your constitution.

The answer is not to start downing supplements. A health-building diet and lifestyle is both about adding things that are beneficial/health-restoring (exercise, proper food, sun & vit D, adequate rest, perhaps some targeted supplementation) as well as removing barriers to optimal health- whatever is standing in the way of your body healing and optimizing its own function.   This could be your binge drinking several nights a week.  Or your inability to say "no" to the franken-fried chips and french fries in front of you. Even eating certain "healthy" foods place large burdens on your system.  Maybe you never get up off your butt and move your body, or don't sleep enough, or you sleep too much.

I often see references to obscure tribes or groups around the world that eat extreme diets, such as the Inuit or various Pacific Islanders. Some eat 70% starchy carbs from sweet potatoes, others eat nothing but meat, milk and fat. One group gets 50% of calories as saturated fat from coconut.  These people thrive and flourish on their whole-food diets regardless of macronutrient ratios, and are virtually free of disease.  Take these people out of their environment, and place them in a Western diet/lifestyle- BAM they get diabetes, heart disease, cancers.

Bottom line- breaking your body with processed, refined carbs and sugars, industrially manufactured vegetable oils, drugs, booze, sitting on your ass all day in front of a TV etc absolutely will cause disease. This is exactly why you need a multi-faceted and holistic approach when looking to build health and create life-long habits that will contribute to your wellbeing.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Perfect Day of Eating - Part 1

Well I definitely fell off the blogging bandwagon for a while there.  Right around the time I started Investigative Health, I began a new job at Vitamin Cottage Natural Grocers in Centennial, CO, and I've been super busy.  To those unfamiliar with VCNG, we are a family-owned, rapidly-growing company, with a supreme set of core values related to food integrity and healthy living. We have an incredible array of grocery and supplement products, a 100% organic produce department, and some awesome meat and dairy selections- grass-fed beef, elk, ostrich, free range chicken, eggs, and organic milk and cream.

Despite my lack of blogging, my passion and interest in all things health and nutrition has not waned in the least. In fact, working in such an environment has only intensified my passion and expanded my knowledge base.  Every day I converse with people on a whole range of topics related to food, nutrition, health etc- some who are already as passionate as me, but plenty of others just beginning to learn how to better their health and wellbeing through dietary choices and lifestyle habits. Needless to say, I really love my job.

Every day, people ask me what I eat.  I have spent the last 2+ years meticulously tinkering with my diet, learning all sorts of important information about food and nutrition along the way.  What initially sparked this "quest" was a series of concerning health dilemmas I faced in late 2007.  Between two courses of the hardcore antibiotic Ciprofloxacin within just months of each other, and some very poor dietary and lifestyle choices, my health hit an all time low.  I developed bad cystic-type acne on my back/chest/face, I was pretty depressed and I just looked and felt like general crap.  Thus began my crusade for ultimate health and wellbeing.  I'd like to provide a more detailed description of said journey; what worked, what didn't etc in a later post.

Anyways, here I am now, having attained a level of health I never thought imaginable, looking and feeling amazing and moreso every day.  It must show, because people tell me I look radiantly healthy, and therefore the constant questions about what I eat, how I exercise etc.  So, as a first in a series dedicated to my dietary approach, here is a typified layout of a basic day of eating.

You should know :
1) I don't buy into the Ancel Keys lipid hypothesis or any "fat and cholesterol are bad" variant in any way.  It is completely bogus, seeing as how as a country we have generally complied with mainstream recommendations yet we are fatter and sicker than ever.
2) I don't do wheat or any grains really for that matter.  No bread, pasta, crackers, etc.  Nor do I do legumes, as they cause issues for me.  And my dairy intake is kept to butter, heavy and sour cream.  I eat generally low-carb.  Try to get fat eating fat and protein, I dare you.
3) I love cooking.  I have no problem taking 30 min- a hour several times a day to prepare a delicious & nutritious meal (yes, you DO have time). I suggest you adapt the same mentality.  Bottom line, less than 100 years ago, you really had no choice but to prepare meals at home from scratch.
4) I work a pretty intense job, on my feet 8 hours/day, 40+ hours per week, plus I do strength training ~2 times/week.  My calorie needs are quite possible way different than yours.  The overall nutritional strategy and macronutrient ratios are likely not different than yours. Adjust accordingly/proportionately.
5) I am absolutely unyielding in my refusal to eat any and all processed/packaged/refined crap food.  100% whole, nutrient-dense foods and nothing but.  Period.

Breakfast generally looks like this.  If it's a workout day, I'll generally skip breakfast (but more on that later).

For lunch, I generally like a big salad with some good proteins.  I make all my own dressings, and I have some awesome recipes for some delicious and healthy ones that I can post later.

If I feel like having a snack:

And I like a pretty big dinner:

Some days I take a little cod liver oil, for the Omega-3s, plus some natural vitamins D & A.  Also, I might have a couple spoonfuls of coconut oil, if I am needing the calories.

So you can see, I eat a super nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory, blood sugar & insulin-optimizing diet that emphasizes plenty of healthy fats and protein. I get about 40-50 g of fiber without any grains, and more fruits and vegetables than your average vegetarian.

Let me re-iterate, this is a very generalized example of what I might eat in a given day.  This post also opens up several other areas of discussion, such as optimal pre- and post-workout nutrition, as well as more specific examples of some of my meals.  Take some time to let this soak in, contemplate any potential implications in your own dietary approach, and stay tuned as I will be back to continue the saga.

To your health, Daniel.