The popular story of how low-carb diets work goes something like this: Reducing your carbohydrate...
Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...Tell Me More
Over the past couple weeks, I’ve identified two deficits in our modern lives – the lack of sprinting and the lack of walking – and proposed a series of corresponding challenges to address (and hopefully fill) those deficits. Judging from the responses, I think these articles were successful. Today, I’m trying my hand at highlighting another problem, this time one that has nothing to do with physical fitness. In fact, it deals with perhaps the most physically inactive activity you’ll ever do: staring at a smartphone as the world gets on around you. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-technology (duh), or even anti-smartphone (got one myself). I have the accumulated knowledge of the world in my pocket, and that’s pretty darn useful. I can find out where to get the best Greek food within five miles. I can bank, I can order flights to far off lands, I can check traffic, I can check shopping lists, read email, text, tweet, friend, defriend, like, oh, and make phone calls – all from the comfort of my 3.5 inch touch screen. That’s incredible. It also makes it really, really easy to get too comfortable and avoid actually experiencing the real, physical world.
If you ask most people, they’ll pretty much agree that optimism is better than pessimism. Oh, you might get one or two who laugh at the cockeyed optimists and their naivete about the world and its harsh, grim realities, but when you get down to it, optimists feel good about their lot in life, while pessimists feel bad about where they and the world are headed. Feeling good is a good, desirable state of being. Feeling bad about the future, well, just feels bad. Which would you rather experience?
By now, you should be caught up on all the benefits that fasting offers. By now, you’re likely either intrigued by the practice, strongly considering taking it up, or basking in the smug satisfaction that your longtime breakfast-skipping ways weren’t destroying your metabolism after all. But although I tried to cover just about everything I could in the last six posts of this fasting series (links at the bottom of this article), I apparently didn’t hit every angle, because I received a barrage of questions from readers via email and comments looking for clarifications, answers, and explanations. I can’t quite answer them all, but I did manage to put together a fairly representative selection of the most common and relevant ones, and today I’ll provide answers.
Assuming you’ve been keeping up with the series, you should be saying to yourself “Hey, maybe this fasting thing would be a cool thing to try out, and it might even make me healthier/live longer/lean out/lose weight/etc.,” which is a sufficiently extensive list of benefits, don’t you think? I could probably go on theorizing and speculating about all the reasons why you should consider intermittent fasting, but I’d rather move on to the implementation. Thinking about fasting, reading about fasting, and reciting the benefits of fasting are all pointless if you don’t know how to go about doing it.
First, let’s go over the different variations of fasting. I’ll give a quick rundown. Each involves not eating for a period of time, unsurprisingly.
A couple other rules that apply to all the given methods:
In previous installments, I’ve discussed the powerful effect of fasting on weight loss, particularly with respect to adipose tissue. I’ve explained how intermittent bouts of going without food have been shown to increase cancer survival and resistance and improve patient and tumor response to chemotherapy, and I went over the considerable evidence suggesting that fasting can provide the life extending benefits of caloric restriction without the pain of restricting your calories day in, day out. And last week, I highlighted how fasting may have protective and therapeutic benefits to the brain.
As such you might be thinking that I only recommend fasting to the sedentary, the aged, and the infirm. Surely I wouldn’t go so far as to recommend to the active, the athletic, and the jacked that they engage in vigorous physical activity without having eaten a solid square meal beforehand – right? I mean, no good can come of a fasted training session, as the gym bros with the sweet ‘ceps are so quick to intone.
By now, you’ve probably heard about the essay contest the NY Times is running. The prompt is “Tell us why it’s ethical to eat meat.” To decide the winner or winners, they’ve assembled a diverse mix of self-hating omnivores, self-hating sometimes-vegetarians, self-hating “flexible vegans,” and the guys with all those witty one-liners about food and grandmothers and “mostly plants” – Michael Pollan, Jonathan Safran Foer, Peter Singer, Mark Bittman, and Andrew Light. A number of readers have asked me to chime in on the subject and I agreed to it, albeit somewhat reluctantly. After all, why does the burden of proof rest on us, the physiologically omnivorous hominids who are simply eating the foods we’ve been eating for millions of years? But then I realized it might be a fun thing to write, to play around with and explore my own thoughts on the “ethics” of eating. And hey, maybe I’d have some sort of revelation, renounce my former ways, and come away a vegetarian! You never know.