Thanks to Richard Nikoley of Free the Animal for this Guest Post! Here is more anecdotal proof that a high fat diet coupled with intermittent fasting can improve body composition. If you’re interested to know more about Richard’s transformation visit his site, or simply ask him a question in the comment board where he’ll be fielding inquiries. Thanks, Richard!
I’m a blogger with over two thousand posts under his belt going back five years this month, to November of 2003. And, until May of 2007, about 18 months ago, I was a big fatblogger — one usually filled with rage over politics and all sorts of other societal elements far removed from my direct control. The blog was supposed to be an outlet; but instead, I was a basket case of stress, with blood pressure consistently measuring 145-160 / 95-105, probably well on my way to some cardiac event or stroke within a decade. To make matters worse, I took prescription medication daily, both for gastric reflux (pretty predictable) and for sinus allergies I’d suffered from since my teen years.
I was 46 years of age when I got fed up with it all. By this time, I had racked up over 5,000 miles walking the first hour of every weekday morning over a period of five years. Walking, by itself, doesn’t work — at least not for me.
Tipping the scale at 230 (5’10), 30%+ body fat, I decided to really and finally do something definitive about it. And I blogged about it extensively — mixed in with all of the ineffective, stress-inducing political toxins. But having now racked up nearly 60 pounds of fat loss and almost 20 pounds of lean muscle gain — now at 190 and closing in on 10% BF — I finally decided to blog about health and fitness exclusively last September. I’ll not be looking back. I’m enthusiastic about helping others achieve real results.
The mainstream advice is mostly wrong. One need only take a look around.
So it was easy, right? It’s all math: calories in equals calories out. Boost the metabolism, cut back a little — maybe even on refined carbs, add some lean mass, tip the “energy balance,” and watch the fat melt away. …Well, not exactly. Though, I was lucky enough to stumble upon a trainer who, not only stressed weight training over cardio, but actually steered me toward 30-minute sessions vs. an hour like almost all trainers and gyms try to do. I got set up to go twice per week. That’s an hour per week of ripping intensity and I’ve never worked out for a second longer. I do still walk my 3.5 miles every morning.
And so it began, I trained hard, made real strength gains quickly, initially gained some weight (lean mass) as expected, and then waited for the fat to magically vanish. But It didn’t work out that way. You see, I thought that as I built lean mass, I’d boost baseline metabolism, and my body would just naturally burn the fat over time. Well, maybe a little, but after six months I had dropped about 6 pounds net. At that rate, it would take more than five years. Still, I knew I was onto something, because almost immediately upon beginning the weight training, my blood pressure started coming down, and pretty rapidly too. Within only a couple of weeks I was down to 130-140 / 85-95 most of the time.
So this is when I began to really take others out here in the blogosphere seriously. Guys like Mark Sisson and his Daily Apple. It has been invaluable, and once I learned that diet is 80%, things began falling into place. It was a bit more than a year ago when I really began replacing carbohydrate with fat (mostly from animal sources). My pace of weight loss doubled immediately, to about a pound every two weeks — even though I was still doing too much cheating with burgers, fries, and pizzas too frequently.
But it was working.
Then one day last December I read about “Intermittent Fasting,” and suddenly, the whole foundation of evolution through natural selection, leading to Mark’s Primal Blueprint began falling into place. Think of it this way: everything begins with hunger. An animal — any animal, including the human kind — can only exist in two states with respect to food: fed or fasted. From the point we’re hungry to the point when we eat, we’re in a fasted state. From the point we eat until we’re hungry again, we’re in a fed state.
So, when we think of diet being 80% of the equation, how come so many focus on how to feed and never on how to fast? Could it be that it’s more like 50-60% diet (what we eat), 20-30% fasting (when we eat), and the rest is additional gene expression factors through various forms of brief, intense, stressful-functional activity?
So I decided to give it a go. By this time I’d been working out for over six months, and so had a pretty good idea of the demands. I decided that my first fast would be 30 hours in duration, and, I would do an intense workout near the end at about 26 hours in. It was a profoundly enlightening experience, one that once and for all convinced me that virtually everything you see, read, and hear from the mainstream “authorities” is completely and woefully wrong. I have named this phenomenon modern ignorance.
Far from “losing lean mass,” I and my trainer (to his utter astonishment) found that I gained it even more rapidly. Of the 100-300% strength gains I’ve accomplished over the last 18 months, perhaps 75% have come from the point that I began doing all my workouts moderately to extremely fast. I always ensure that I’ve not eaten for at least 12 hours, but from time to time, I’ll hit the gym not having eaten in 36 hours. Now, of course, I’m not aiming to get “body-builder” big, either; just strong, lean, ripped.
So then I rush to get that post-exercise protein, right? Nope; not even close. It’s never sooner than two hours, and from time to time as much as six hours. But this was an evolution too. Admittedly, at first, I “prepared” for my fasts with a big meal. Then, when I would finally eat, it would typically be the hugest ribeye steak you’ve ever seen, garnished with plenty of butter. What I found is that no matter how long I had fasted prior to the workout, hunger would usually go away 5-10 minutes in. Eventually, I learned to stay right on the edge of it. I could make it come and go at will, just by getting more intense, faster; then backing off.
Fat is king.
In retrospect, I doubt this would have been remotely possible without the essential pleasure and satisfaction I derived in the early stages from really pouring on the fat and pigging out before and after the fasts. I ate lots of fat (animal, olive and coconut oil) with everything, all the time. And then a strange thing happened, spontaneously. Subtly, without even really noticing it, I began eating less, less fat when I did eat, more variety including fruits, and my pre and post-fast meals took on the form of the normal. Now, increasingly, fasts are taken up spur of the moment, as in: “I’m busy; guess I’m fasting.”
I’ve found that fasting gives me high resolution into my own hunger and focuses me intensely on my own place here on this planet with respect to food. Perhaps that sounds a bit too “cosmic,” but I don’t know how else to express it. Consider how much emphasis is given on what to eat, and yet, everything begins with hunger. Could we go a step further? Without hunger, does anything really matter? Well, I can tell you first hand that fasting is your portal to hunger. Sounds obvious, but given the foregoing stated importance of it, how come people fear it so?
So there you have it; my story. It would not have happened without courageous and conscientious people out there like Mark Sisson and the cutting-edge work they do. I can only dream about helping half the people he’s helped; and yet, I’ve already helped plenty — many of them loved family and friends. I really appreciate Mark granting me this wonderful opportunity to put a guest post up on MDA.