Friday, January 24, 2014

Day after the fast

Back to normal today.  Easing in back to normal (my normal) food with a kale, spinach and fruit smoothie with some rice protein for breakfast.   

Weight 171.6
Weight loss over 5 days - 7.4lbs.

This was the easiest of the four 5-day fasts I have completed.  The most significant benefit was my increased mental alertness and productivity. I felt some physical fatigue but managed to keep up with my daily hikes and a resistance training session - on day 4.  The food becomes monotonous but it is no great hardship and eminently doable over a limited period of time. Individual tastes vary and I do not enjoy salty foods at the best of time, so I'd say my least favorite item on the fasting menu was the kale chips. 

Unlike during the clinical trial, when we were encouraged to return to my normal weight (or the weight at the start of the trial), it is my intention to maintain the weight loss achieve during the past 5 days.  I will adopt a more vegan-like diet - no dairy or meat.  I will continue to eat fish, for the time being, along with a plant protein based diet - nuts, legumes, fruits, vegetables etc.  The goal is to plateau at about 168lbs - which actually means losing a few more pounds. 

I will fast again mid-March. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

2014 Periodic fast #1 Day Five

Woke up refreshed at 0500.  Noticeably more energetic today. A solid, though not particularly long night's sleep helped - about 6.5 hours. I'm not sure what, but something has clearly kicked in today - the final day of fasting.  Perhaps it is simply the knowledge that tomorrow I can eat normally again, but I doubt it. What ever the cause I feel cleansed, if that's the right expression - or rebooted. Hoping to use this fasting euphoria to have a productive day and clear my desk! 

Coffee + 2 x water + 32 fl oz energy drink (purified water and glycerin - 20 cals, 5g carb) during the day.

Feeling more energized today, the morning hike was easier.

1400 Lunch: Vegetable soup
Supplements: NR-1  -ingredients include a large range of vitamins and minerals.

Dinner: Pumpkin soup + kale chips
Supplement: DHA Omega-3 (from algal oil) 200mg
Note, there's an interesting new study published today which suggests DHA (one type of omega 3 fatty acid) has much broader benefits than perviously thought.

And that's it. 5-day fast done. Today I felt particularly good - had a very productive day, with still no sign of headaches - quite the contrary, I was buzzing mentally.  During the fasting period this is the most positive side-effect - that contrary to most peoples' expectations, it is quite easy to perform almost all daily tasks. My level of concentration is better.

Background notes:
Only food provided by University of Southern California scientists, via L-Nutra, a spin off company from USC, were consumed during the past 5-days. They are not, currently, available for sale.
Earlier BBC stories: 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

2014 Periodic fast #1 Day Four

Slept reasonably well until about 7AM.  Feeling physically more tired today - morning hike was tougher but still doable. Actually felt more invigorated afterwards.
Same routine as usual.  Coffee, 2 x water, exercise. Sipping energy drink through the day.
1000 Coffee (#2) plus energy bar.  Provides a big boost - physically and mentally.

Two interesting studies caught my today: 

Exercising more, sitting less reduces heart failure risk in menThis is a familiar theme but this is a study which backs up the long held belief that exercise and heart health go together - and specifically the effect of a sedentary lifestyle. 

And this is fascinating BBC story - The Minnesota starvation experiment - about a 6-month starvation study involving conscientious objectors during WWII.  Note, this is looking at starvation as opposed to clinically monitored fasting, but interesting all the same.

1300:  Resistance training at gym.  Took it slightly easier than usual but performed better than expected.  Felt better as session progressed.  Quite a challenge though, as my usual routine involves a hearty breakfast, followed by gym a few hours later with a 400 cal (recently switched to vegan) protein shake during the workout. Amazing what the body is capable of if challenged. 

1430 Lunch: Mushroom soup - 100 cals.

Productive afternoon in office. Including about an hour spent working at treadmill desk (1mph)

1900 Dinner: Vegetable soup + kale chips.

Today got better as it went on. Started tired but, despite limited food intake, I seemed to gain strength and energy.

Bed by 1015.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Weight graph 2013/14

This is an interesting graph - it represents my weight measurements for the past 12 months and clearly shows the three dips (May-July) coinciding with the three 5-day diet cycles.  Each time I put the weight back on, but not quite back to the pre-trial starting point. The USC scientists said they wanted to see a return to normal weight between cycles, so I made no special efforts to keep the weight off. After the third cycle, during the control period, my weight slowly increases. This continues after the trial and throughout the holiday season. Very typical - little bumps over Thanksgiving and Christmas.  During this time I was not focussing on weight control - in fact I was training for a half marathon which I completed in November.  I think, psychologically, I tuned out from weight loss issues after being ultra conscientious during the trial. 

My diet remained extremely sensible during this time, with no binge eating or sloppy habits such as junk food.  That said, I ended the year 2.5lbs heavier.  Again, this is quite typical and illustrates how easy it is to pile on the pounds as the years and decades pass by.

My hope from the current regime - periodic fasting every couple of months - is that it will act as a regular jolt or reboot to my body. It will help me shed any excess pounds and refocus my brain on healthy choices.   This is aside from the possible long term benefit of fasting, related to the diseases of old age. 

2014 Periodic Fast #1 - Day Three

Wanted to sleep longer but got up at 0600, as usual.   Coffee + 2x water and feeling good. Alert, if a little tired. At this stage in the fast I am feeling better than I remember from the previous three cycles. Still no sign of headaches and my energy level is high.  My morning hike, however, was noticeably tougher, but I did it all the same. Just feeling a little weaker than usual on the steep climbs.  Nothing exceptional.

1000 Mid-morning energy bar snack and black coffee.

1400 Pumpkin soup (my favorite) and, because I'm significantly more tired today, another coffee.  Note, there is no choice of flavors - I just eat what is provided in the Day 3 box. I'm serving the soup in a small bowl and using a teaspoon to eat it.  It may be a psychological trick that is not needed, but I'm trying to put more effort into savoring the small portions of food. About 100 calories here.   I'm entirely satisfied afterwards.

1915 Mushroom soup + kale chips.
Finding the kale chips increasingly unsavory mainly because of the salty/garlic after taste. I eat them nonetheless.

Today has been a productive day - managed to get a lot done in the office, but I was very tired after 7PM.  But on a scale of hardship - where 10 is impossible - we're still looking at about a 4.  Onwards and upwards, two days to go.

Monday, January 20, 2014

2014 Periodic Fast #1 Day Two

Up at 0600 after good night sleep. Got about 7hrs 15. Good sleep is crucially important during this 5-day period (as it is anytime) - to keep me going during the long waking hours without food.

Today I'm feeling clear headed and no hungrier than usual for first thing in the morning.

Usual routine - black coffee + 1.5 mile walk/hike. Plenty of energy.
2 x water

Another black coffee (I needed a boost - it's about now that I usually have breakfast) + few sips of 20oz low calorie energy drink (to be consumed throughout the day).

Energy bar -  
2 x water

Satisfied. I am beginning to move into a familiar feeling of heightened mental alertness. I remember this from the trial and it is the emotion that best describes my sense of wellbeing during this fast period.
No sign of the headache which developed on Day 2, the first time I did this.  Continued good hydration is crucial.

Vegetable soup, NR1 supplements and chamomile tea.  
-- provided a boost boost for the afternoon.

Mushroom soup, kale chips and chamomile tea.
-- not my favorite flavored soup, but ok. 

Today has been one of my best fasting days so far.  To my surprise, on day 2, my energy levels remained high, my mind was alert and I did not feel hungry.   I took the 11 flights of stairs at the office, as usual, with no problem. After about 500 calories I've finished eating for the day, but have a couple of hours of work still to do, including 30 mins of live broadcasting.  I am beginning to feel tired, but nothing extreme.  My hunch is that my body is adapting more quickly to the fast than previous times - or perhaps I am just dealing with it more efficiently.  It has been an office-based day, so not much exercise apart from my early morning hike.  I hope to get at least one weight-lifting workout in before then of the 5-days. 

Home and bed by 2230.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

2014 Periodic Fast #1: Day One

Today is day 1 of my first 5-day periodic fast of 2014. The next 5-day period will be mid-March.  The rest of the time I eat normally - but sensibly.The regime is the same as I experienced last year during the USC trial.  5 days eating only laboratory-designed foods made to deliver low calorie but high nutritional content.  I am starting on a Sunday because I know it will be an easy day at home and the finish day will be Thursday. Back to normal Friday and, while it will involve easing back into regular food,  I will be able to resume a social life and dine out in the evening.  A treat.Starting weight 179.0 lbs (17.8% Body Fat) BMI 25.1 as measured on a Withings scale.  

My stats can be followed in detail here via Fitbit.

0700 -- The days started with a black coffee (the only external food/drink allowed) and 2 x 8oz glasses of water.I am going to try to stick to my usual morning routine which includes an approximately 1.5-2.0 miles dog walk/hike/run. About 0.5 mile of this is a steep climb through a canyon trail - my daily dose of intense aerobic activity.Water #3 - 8oz

1000 --Meal #1Energy bar: Ingredients: Almond Meal, Macadamia Nut Butter, Honey, Pecan, Coconut, Flaxseed Meal, Coconut Oil, Vanilla Extract, Sea SaltSupplement: DHA Omega-3 (from algal oil) 200mg

1200 Black coffee + water #4

1430 -- Meal #2Vegetable soup:  Ingredients include, rice flower, dried onion, inulin (chicory fiber), dried tomato, dried carrot, salt, dreid red pepper, dried leak, potato starch, olive oil, basil, spinach powder, parsley.Supplements: NR-1  -ingredients include a large range of vitamins and minerals.

Water #5+6

The soup comes as a powder which is mixed with a cup of water and slowly heated. I prefer this (for convenience) to those I used during the clinical trial, which were frozen.The meal easily satisfied me.  So far today I do not feel like I am fasting - in fact it feels like there is quite a lot of food to get through.  My usual non-fasting regime involves two substantial meals a day and a tiny lunch - so today feels like I'm actually snacking away, more frequently than I need to. But I am making such to eat all the food because I know the portions are small and I need the nutritional content.  There next four days may not be so easy.1700 

Meal #3 - afternoon snack. Energy bar + chamomile flower tea.


Meal #4 - dinner.

Water #7+8I was not particularly hungry but had the final meal anyway.  I left a few kale chips.  The pumpkin soup is good, tastier than the vegetable at lunch. I left me feeling satisfied although the salty aftertaste is not great.

So, day #1 was easy. I was tired for much of the day, which was spent at home, although a long work day and a late night yesterday are probably to blame for that.  Interestingly, when I am tired I usually turn to food, even though I don't need it. Today I did not feel the need to do that, although I was focussed on the special meals and mentally prepared not to eat much.

No headaches today which I remember suffering the first time I did this regime.  Plenty of water helps. I suspect tomorrow will be a little harder. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Why I plan to fast periodically during 2014

Intermittent fasting: The good things it did to my body generated a huge response when it was published on the BBC News website. It was the conclusion to a 3-part series looking at my experience as a volunteer in a clinical trial at the University of Southern California. 

I want to thank everyone who responded with comments, questions and stories of their own experiences following similar regimes. I plan to continue down the path of self experimentation (always heeding the advice of medical professionals), by adopting a fasting lifestyle and modifying my diet.  The science continues to evolve - and there is much that is not fully understood - but I am personally persuaded that there is strong evidence that a periodic fasting regime coupled with sensible food options during non-fasting periods, could have a significant impact on my long-term health and longevity. 

In the coming months I will blog about my experiences and I will try to answer some of the questions raised by my original BBC articles (see earlier posts). I will tell the stories of other people who took part in the USC trial and follow the study through to its conclusion.  I will continue to interview the scientists and reflect their views - as well as the opinions of others.

It is my intention to continue this year with a 5-day fast (as outlined here) - repeated every two months. So that's 5 days out of 60 when my calorie consumption will drop to about a quarter of my usual intake. I will write in more detail about the experience as it unfolds.  The first 5-day fast will start on Sunday (Jan 19).  The goal is to experience, over a longer period of time, the effects of period fasting and to evaluate its feasibility as a lifestyle. I will blog about how it makes me feel and what it does to my general state of health.

In the coming weeks I will write about issues such as weight loss and gain while following this diet. During the trial I regained weight after the fasting period, but this does not mean that the regime failed. Volunteers were encouraged to return to a 'normal' diet and their original weight. My goal, over a longer period, is the see whether sustained weight management is possible. 

I will also look at the issue of exercise while fasting.  This was one of the most common questions.

Intermittent Fasting vs Periodic Fasting

Taking the lead from Dr Valter Longo, Director of the USC Longevity Institute, I plan to refer to this as a periodic fast, rather than an intermittent fast. The latter term has become synonymous with the current spate of fasting regimes and is often used as an umbrella expression for a range of diets which involve breaks in food intake - such as the 5:2 diet and alternate day fasting.

Periodic Fasting occurs over a longer period (several days) but less frequently (once a month or every few months).  Hopefully this will help distinguish what I am doing from the intermittent fasts which have become popular. I will return to this topic, to expand on the science, and to explore how periodic and intermittent fasts differ. 

The following Tweet from the BBC News Magazine prompted many varied reactions. 

Would you eat this five days a month if you thought you'd live longer?

My simple answer is;  yes, I would. This is spinach soup (other ingredients include mushroom, celery, olive oil, kale, nettle, nutmeg and cumin). It was tasty and not that dissimilar to the soups your grandma may have made. When was the last time you prepared fresh soup at home?  It was just one element of a range of soups and other foods designed to offer limited calories but high quality nutrition. Note, this food is currently experimental and not yet available commercially. 

"Live longer?" - perhaps it should have read, "...stay healthy longer?"   The goal is to live better, for longer, rather than spend my final years fighting the typical diseases of old age. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Reasons to be "excited" about intermittent fasting

Hunger pangs and mental alertness during fasting

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Intermittent fasting: My role in a clinical trial