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Hello and welcome to my website. I am a British-born, naturalized American, living in California. Based in Los Angeles, I work as a correspondent for BBC television, radio and digital outlets, covering everything from US politics and world affairs to technology, natural disasters and Hollywood. I also host the Live Long and Master Aging (LLAMA) podcast. My special interest is the science of human longevity - food, fasting, exercise and long-term health. All views expressed reflect my personal experiences. I advise anyone considering adopting a new diet or fitness regime to first consult with their doctor. Links on this site are to my personal portfolio of audio, video and text. Copyright of broadcast works remain with the BBC and LLAMA podcast content with Healthspan Media LLC. Thanks for the visit!

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Periodic fasting #4 (2014)

At the beginning of this year I decided to follow a periodic fasting regime and a mostly plant based diet for at least the next 12 months.  This is the background

Day 1: Sunday July 27, 2014
This is my 4th fast this year - each one, lasting 5-days, being roughly two months apart. Today was Day 1 and as they go, it was pretty easy. It is not a total fast, so getting by on approximately 1100 calories presents no huge hardship.  Things get a more interesting from tomorrow when I will eat no more than 600 cals per day.   I'll blog on how it goes over the week, but I expect it to be reasonably easy - some mental highs, some tired evenings and a few hunger pangs, but that's about all. I'll probably lose about 6-9lbs in weight.   I'll also share some fascinating data, generated through my blood-work, which suggests I am in far better shape now than six months ago.

Day 2: Monday July 28, 2014

After a reasonably good night's sleep, the morning started well with a familiar feeling of mental alertness - more than usual - brought on by the fast. Had productive few hours in the office, after an energy bar breakfast and black coffee.  Ideally I should be doing this without the coffee - to eliminate as many external factors as possible - but I'm not there yet.  It gives me the energy I'm deprived in food - albeit caffein and not sugar. Max two cups of caffeinated coffee per day, though, during the fast period.

Usual Monday gym session at noon.  Exercise is something else I should be reducing during this period.  I take extreme care and cut back on weights. That said, I felt pretty strong today. It's only 1.5 days on a reduced diet.  A trend I've noticed following previous fasts is that while I lose skeletal muscle mass during the fast, I gain it back plus an extra pound or so, very quickly. And feel stronger.   More research is needed to understand the mechanisms at work, but it may be linked to a 'rebooting' effect of the diet, whereby the body gets rid of old and damaged cells in preparation for new growth when a normal eating pattern is resumed.
In a separate clinical trial, a similar response has been observed in relation to the immune system, as reported here.

Feeling tired by dinner time and a moderate headache.  I thought I skipped the headache phase, but not so.  Its a sign I'm into ketosis and burning fat.  Resolved by heading to bed early

Fasting triggers stem cell regeneration of damaged, old immune system

Day 3: Tuesday July 29, 2014

Its fast hump day. Half way there and doing fine so far. A productive day in the office with a live one-hour radio show at 6PM. That's around the time my energy levels usually nosedive, so I had part of my evening meal - the soup - early, for en energy boost.  plus half a cup of black coffee. It seemed to work.  

Dr Valter Longo, the USC scientist behind this diet regime, joined me for an interview on BBC Radio 5 Live.  

I struggled to eat remainder of today's food allocation. The kale chips are less and less appealing and by this stage in the fast I really have little appetite anyway. Another early night.

Day 4: Wednesday July 30, 2014

Probably at my best this morning - despite what felt like a horrible night's sleep. Typically must have been sleeping more than I thought as I tossed and turned. Had been debating whether to go to the gym today but felt good and went for it.  Turned out to a great session with heavy weight and to my huge surprise personal best stats with chin ups - somehow found energy from nowhere.  Three sets - 16/13/11 reps which is more than I can usually manage.

Afternoon and evening brought sluggishness again and a mild headache. Again, couldn't eat all the prescribed food (despite it being minuscule in portions).  Gleaned a bit of energy from eating a third of a spare energy bar, which is allowed as part of the regime. Another early night.

Day 5: Thursday July 31, 2014

Despite this week being relatively easy going it is alway good to get to Day 5.  A busy work day ahead so plenty to distract me, which is always good when fasting.

Fasting is not fun, for the most part, but far better than many of the alternatives. If the health benefits pan out, I'd settle for periodic fasting anytime, rather than the misery of chronic disease. Today was busy and probably the best day of this 5-day period. In line with previous fast, I found that my aversion to the food increased with every day.  I didn't feel hungry or that desperate to eat anything. I skipped the kale chips in the evening and submitted with 2/3 of the energy bar.  Unusually I did not feel tired in the evening and kept working until 10PM. Could have gone on further but thought it was wise to go to bed. Could not sleep for ages though - my mind was too wired. I believe there's science to explain this and I'll come back to it.

Fast #4 this year done.

My weight dropped by almost 9 lbs. The really interesting stats will be over the next few days when I monitor my recovery - speed of muscle re-growth especially.

My goal over the next 55 days or so is to maintain weight under or about 170, which feel like optimum weight for me. This will be down through, hopefully, continued skeletal muscle mass growth and slowly declining body fat.  Both appear to promoted through the fast.

Always remember, this is not primarily about weight loss - it is about the beneficial longer term effects on my body.  But weight control is a positive by-product, and I'll take that.

Now, let's eat!

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

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