In today’s edition of Dear Mark  I field two Mark’s Daily Apple reader questions. First up, I tackle a query from a reader who’s had to make a small but significant shift to his lifestyle due to changing circumstances. What happens when what’s worked for months and years stops working? When your daily habits, your go-to regimen, or your the behaviors you’ve settled in to no longer produce the exact same results you are used to? What do you do? Then, I discuss the magic of vegetable broth, plus how that magic can be enhanced with the addition of a bone  or three.
I’ve been doing IF for about 15 months and had great success until recently I experienced a decrease in my quality of sleep, probably due to a extra stress with a bit of overtraining.
I decided to return back to eating 3-4 times a day, cut some stress, and cut back on the heavy weight sessions. Anything else you’d recommend?
Without knowing more details it’s difficult to make any specific recommendations for your particular situation. But I will say that your strategy seems sound. That is, you’ve got your bases covered, and now it’s time to make a few adjustments and see where it leads .
I would say the same to anyone in a similar situation: don’t get too attached to a path if it’s leading you astray.
Carl did IF  for over a year to “great success.” I don’t know exactly what success meant for him, but it probably consisted of the usual benefits people see with fasting  – fat loss , energy gain, freedom from gnawing hunger, mental well-being, better blood lipids . Whatever it was, it was positive. Until it wasn’t, that is. He was humming along, everything was just working, and then things took a downturn. Because he was on top of it, he was able to figure out that a contextual change in his life – more stress and more training – had altered his response to fasting . He assessed the situation, weighed the variables, and reevaluated and reoriented his current trajectory.
This doesn’t always happen so smoothly. Too often, we get caught up maintaining a formerly successful, even life altering, trajectory once it stops working for us. Not because of blind loyalty or dogmatism, but because it’s hard to grasp that something that worked so well for so long could just stop. I mean, we intellectually know that such a thing can occur. We know that changing circumstances change how we respond to dietary, training , and other lifestyle inputs. But actually reevaluating the thing that got you where you are? That’s hard. After all, it works, right? How could fasting go from helping you drop all that fat and regain all that midmorning energy to making you regain belly fat and require IV coffee just to function? But when the context changes, our response to our lifestyle changes, too, and this necessitates a shift in strategy.
The details of that shift are dependent on your individual situation , of course, so there are no specifics to hand out. There are a few solid general “rules,” though, to aid you in your shift:
Your diet, your exercise, your lifestyle are all supposed to serve you and your goals. Examine everything, especially the stuff you’re really passionate about. When your health is suffering, there are no sacred cows.
More is not always better and results often follow a U-shaped curve. The better our results are, the more we want to push it with the assumption that more is better. No training is bad, some training is good, too much training is bad .
A course altered or temporarily abandoned can always be resumed when the context permits. IF doesn’t work so well with too many additional stressors , but once you remove some of those stressors you should be able to reintegrate IF successfully.
Take a deload week regularly, a planned period of reduced activity where you take it easy, rest, and recuperate from your training. And not just from exercising. Take a deload week  from fasting, or calorie restriction, or eating chicken, or anything that you’re doing regularly, just to see how it affects you. Plus, when you get back into the gym, you’ll likely be stronger than before and stronger than you would have been had you never taken the time off. We could all use deload weeks where we pull back, take stock of our situation, and honestly assess whether or not our choices are working for us.
I came across a website, with a recipe for “Magic Mineral Broth .” It’s essentially a vegetable derived mineral broth that claims to be high in magnesium, potassium, and sodium. I’ve read your praises of bone broths and this recipe seems promising, though for different reasons. The recipe calls for the boiling of unpeeled vegetables, including red potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams. I’ve read your posts about the potential negative effects of glycoalkaloids in potatoes (concentrated in the skins). What are your thoughts on this recipe and do you have any advice to fully primalize a vegetable mineral broth? I’m inclined to throw in a bone or two . . . or three.
A vegetable broth isn’t a bad idea, to be honest, and that particular recipe for “Magic Mineral Broth” looks good. For those who didn’t click over to the link, it contains carrots, onions, leek, celery, red potatoes, sweet potatoes , garlic, parsley, kelp, peppercorns, allspice, bay leaves, and sea salt . Many traditional cuisines emphasize the usefulness of vegetable water, whether through actual vegetable broth or by simply reusing the water left over from cooking vegetables (also known as “pot liquor “). Some accounts put the mineral losses from normal boiling – which we’ll see as “gains,” since they’re being lost to the broth – at 60-70% . I’d imagine it gets far higher with more extensive boiling.
It’s good, but I think it can definitely be improved. Throw in the bones, Joe, preferably meaty, connective tissue -rich bones like feet or necks (any animal). A vegetable broth? Okay, sure, I’ll drink that. A vegetable broth that gels so hard you can eat it with a fork at room temperature? That’s real magic.
It’s not like bones cancel out or somehow devalue the plant vitamins and minerals. Contrary to what vegans and carnivores  might tell you, plants and animals are completely complementary. They work better together, and we need both to function at an optimal level, whether we’re trying to run a farm , fill a dinner plate, or yes, make broth .
As for the glycoalkaloids, I think you’re safe. The gut-irritating potato compounds are notoriously stable. Even after extensive cooking, potato glycoalkaloid levels remain relatively stable , which means the cooking water will contain little to none. Besides, four red potatoes – what the recipe calls for – don’t represent a large enough dose of glycoalkaloids to fret over, especially in a broth that you’ll be using for days or weeks.
All in all, go for the magic broth but make it even more magical by adding some bones, tendon, and sinew (if you can find it).
That’s it for today, folks. Thanks for reading and keep sending in those burning questions!