Eating Once a Day: Questions

A bit more than a month back, I made a blog post called “Longevity & Why I Eat Once a Day” and posted a video version of that post on Youtube, which unexpectedly took off. It was awesome to see that so many people found the video interesting, and I had a lot of fun reading the questions and comments. I tried to answer what I could but obviously I can’t write a response for all 1700 comments. Since several questions were asked multiple times, I thought I’d take a minute to give some simple answers to some of those questions. I will be expanding this as more comments come in, or correcting some information if necessary.

Do you still do this?
Yes, but I’ve been playing around with it lately. I’ve been experimenting with eating once every other day not specifically to lose weight, but just to see if it’s do able. Also trying eating 2 days then not eating 2 days. It’s surprisingly not that big of a difference in terms of effort, and more surprisingly: hunger bothers me less and less than I would think.

How can you stand to be hungry all day? I don’t even want to live longer if I have to force myself to suffer all the time.
This is a very reasonable concern and it’s sort of hard to get the point across unless you’ve experienced it for yourself. The point being: It’s really not that bad. Sure, the first week I felt a bit hungrier than I would have liked and I even would go on reddit to gawk at the /r/food pictures when I wasn’t eating. But after the second week it didn’t bother me too much. By the third week hunger rarely crossed my mind and I would even go an hour or two past my usual eating time without noticing.
I think we have the ability to addict to nearly anything, so it’s very understanding that the idea of “giving up” food sounds so terrible. Some people even mentioned “How can hunger be good for us if it feels so bad, and eating feels so good?” Not to be extreme, but then shouldn’t heroine or cocaine be incredibly good for us? Trust me, you adapt to the hunger much faster than you’d expect. (Assuming you’re not eating a bunch of low fibre high carb junk)

Have you noticed any changes? In mood / energy / sleeping?
Energy levels are much higher and much more stable. Since I feel better, I’m generally in a more positive mood throughout the day. A big thing I noticed was needing less sleep. I used to have to sleep at the very least 8 hours to not feel like a fat labrador retriever in the morning, but now 6-7 hours tops is enough for me and I don’t need an alarm clock. 

Weight Loss? Do you workout? Can you maintain muscle mass on this?
Weight loss isn’t a goal for me but I’ve lost maybe 4 kilos of total weight since I’ve started this. After getting more serious about my workout (while continuing the one meal a day), my muscles have gotten bigger, more defined and I feel stronger.
I mainly do calisthenics-y exercises: pullups, handstands, L-sits, kettle bell swings, pushups, squats. Try to make sure to get a full body workout every other day and on the other day, I regularly do pushups and squats throughout the day to keep me focused after working at the computer so long. Sorry I don’t have any specific body fat stats or  squat / bench stats, but I can do more pullups/pushups & longer L-sits et cetera if that tells you anything. I’m not worried about losing muscle mass. Could I build muscle faster on more calories and more meals a day? Sure, probably.
A lot of people were pointing to the Nun Amen Ra video (eats once a day, bodybuilder) and he’s pretty jacked.

What do you eat? How many calories do you eat? What’s the macronutrient ratio?
I’m not much of a gif maker, but I gave making one a shot to show what I eat. It’s usually a variation of that- some berries, fruit and vegetables blended up + eggs, avocado and some meat or fish or maybe both. The total in that gif is probably around 1500 calories tops and lately I eat probably around 1200 calories. While I don’t know the specific ratio, you can kind of guess that it will be Fat > Protein > Carbohydrates. Fat, Fiber and Vitamins & Minerals are top priority for me. Protein comes second in priority, and poor carbohydrates get somewhat shunned.
(In the gif, it’s kind of confusing and I think I made it look like I ate a plate of veggies, a smoothie, a plate of eggs and meat and a second plate of eggs and meat. The plate of veggies is just what’s in the smoothie and the first plate is the same as the second plate, just unprepared.)

Low carb high fat? Enjoy your heart disease. (I have a video addressing this:)

What time do you eat? What’s your window for eating?
I used to eat right before bed because the food would get me real sleepy. I heard your digestive system works best around noon somewhere so I gave that a shot. Felt a lot more light in the morning when I ate at noon compared to eating at night so I stuck with it. I try to keep my window down to 1 hour. If you need a longer window than that to get down all the food you planned to eat, you’re probably eating too much (unless you have some athletic goals).

Do you drink anything during the fast?
Sure – I have plenty of water, maybe 2-3 cups of coffee a day and some ごぼう茶 (Gobou Tea) if I have any. The tea was recommended by Yoshinori Nagumo, the author of that book 空腹は人を健康にする (Hunger makes you healthy). I try not to go over 3 cups of coffee because I get sorta jittery. Coffee is an excellent hunger suppressor too. Go ahead and drink whatever teas you have, I’m sure they’re fine or maybe even better than the coffee. Too much caffeine may make you feel pretty crappy though.

Is the Japanese book you mentioned available in English?
Not yet, sorry. Available in Japanese and German only it seems

How can you say carbs aren’t necessary?
Because… they’re not necessary for survival. I wouldn’t recommend a zero carbohydrate diet or try to argue that it’s particularly healthy but… you’re not going to die and might not even have any particularly bad ailments if you don’t eat them (assuming you’re getting all your vitamins and minerals etc.)
Someone brought up fibre and it made me realize I should have at least made a sidenote about it. My explanation regarding how carbohydrates and glucose can really screw up your metabolic engine failed to mention fibre. Fibre is wonderful in mitigating that spike in blood sugar that results from high glycemic load foods like candy, bread, low fat snack bars etc.
So no, I am not suggesting carbohydrates from veggies and fruits will make you fat or that they are bad at all.

What do you think about a vegan diet?
If you’re doing it for moral or environmental reasons, that’s great – no debate there. Is it healthy? Sure (assuming you’re not eating junk and are supplementing properly). Is it the healthiest I’m not convinced that it is. Sure, veganism can keep you very healthy and I’m not surprised that a lot of vegan people look great. But you’re gonna have a tough time arguing why it is the best diet. I won’t get into it too much here, but it’s too restrictive: you’re cutting off access to some wonderfully nutrient dense foods. You also need to be careful with supplementation to make sure you’re getting everything the body needs to run really well. Among other points, one really big thing for me is getting enough DHA (fatty acid found in fish).
DHA is pretty huge for us, it’s widely understood as the key nutrient to our evolution as a species. It’s very important for the brain and it’s even more important for in utero babies. When pregnant mothers aren’t getting enough DHA, their babies are shown to have less cognitive ability and visual acuity compared to babies whose mothers that were getting enough. If you’re vegan make sure you’re supplementing with it (there are vegan grade supplements out there). If  your vegan sister/wife/cousin/coworker is pregnant, please encourage them to supplement DHA as well.

The X people of Y location eat like Z and frequently live to be 100! Athletes eat 6 times a day and are super ripped and look great! This has to be wrong.
This line of thinking sort of misses the point I was trying to communicate in the video. Think about it like this: There’s a beautiful woman on a remote island and suddenly a foreign looking man comes out of the forest and says “Hello there young lady! Surely you would like to spend the night with a master navigator like myself! I came here on a Kayak, the best method of travel. Obviously this method is best because as you can see, I am now here on the island.” then another man comes out of the forest and says “Wait just a moment, sir! She should spend her time with me, for it is I who is clearly the master navigator and used the best method- canoeing to get here! Obviously this is best because as you can see, I am here” Then a third guy busts in trying to sell her on how sailing is the best and the woman decides to leave.
The point is, there are many ways to be healthy. This is one of them. You can be very healthy on one diet while someone else is very healthy on another diet. If you have different goals or ideas of what is “healthy”, then it makes sense that you might want to lend yourself to a specific diet. Maybe you want to get jacked, or be a power lifter or a sprinter, then sure, you’ll want to have a different diet.
The point is – Methods for being healthy don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Sure the Okinawans ate a high carbohydrate low fat diet and lived to 100 – which isn’t the same as what I’m advocating in the video, but that doesn’t nullify the idea that this way of eating can be healthy or other ways of eating for that matter.
By the way, forget about the high carbohydrate intake: What about the Okinawan’s fibre intake? Or the fact that they’re eating so many awesome fermented foods that promote GI microbiome health? They’re also practicing calorie restriction: they have a phrase 腹八分 harahachibu, meaning “8/10th stomach” or “eat until you’re 80% full“. There’s so much more to health than just macronutrients.

What about gastrointestinal distress? Wouldn’t the stomach get too acidic?
If the question was whether the stomach would start to eat at itself without food to apply the stomach acid to, then I would say that’s not quite how the stomach works. The epithelial cells in your stomach will still secrete mucus and bicarbonate to protect itself from the acid even if there’s no food. Actually your stomach will probably get less acidic because there’s no food coming in, the stomach isn’t prompted to secret any extra acid to digest it.

Shouldn’t you snack or eat multiple meals per day to keep your metabolism up?
I saw this a couple times in the comments and wasn’t quite sure what part of metabolism people were referring to, whether it be anabolism or catabolism.
The idea of eating more meals per day doesn’t make much sense unless your aim is to eat a lot of food. If you’re a body builder and you want to get in as much food as possible, you’re going to have to eat multiple meals a day because you simply can’t fit all the food an athlete like that needs in your stomach at one time. In this case, I guess you really are “upping your metabolism” because your body is in more of an anabolic state.
If you’re referring to needing to keep your blood sugar up, I explained why this is unnecessary at 6:05 in the video.
If your goal is to lose weight (upping catabolism), then this makes even less sense, because your body starts to burn your body fat after you deplete your glucose stores. So unless your snacks are pure fat, then you’re having your body re-starting and re-stopping protein and glucose metabolism and it doesn’t get around to breaking down the fat in your body.
Unless you’re taking a dump every interval between snacks, your body is probably still processing the nutrients you took in since the last time you ate. So your body might not even be able to tell the difference between 3 meals a day or 6 meals a day.

Alcohol? No Thanks!
I was kind of confused when I saw a couple comments about alcohol. I don’t recommend alcohol consumption at all, when I mentioned it I was just trying to make an analogy. At most, I’ll have some beers maybe twice a month.

What about the cons of this way of eating?
It does take a while to get used to the hunger. For a while it was sort of a big deal for me, but that goes away if you’re patient enough. (It’s 8PM now and I haven’t eaten since yesterday, but just thought of my hunger as I am writing about it now)
No health complications that I’ve noticed, I haven’t passed out on the train or anything like that. I was doing a 4 day fast recently, and on the 3rd day I felt lightheaded after standing up when I had been sitting down for a long time. This passed in about 40 seconds and didn’t come up again. (I can see how that would worry someone though)
Social Life – At first I thought weakened social life was going to be a big thing that would deter me from doing this.
However, it’s not like I eat breakfast lunch and dinner with someone every day. If I have plans with a friend, I’ll just make the meal that I get with them my main meal. If I have to stretch my eating window out a little bit to make sure I get enough nutritious food it’s not that big of a deal. Even when I was a recruitment consultant trying intermittent fasting and doing multiple meetings a day, I’d just get a coffee and politely say I already had something to eat. As long as you’re not staring at the person while they eat it’s not a big deal.
I can definitely see how this would still be a hamper on some people’s social life, but there’s nothing wrong with switching it up here and there. Sometimes I’ll eat 2 or 3 meals a day on the weekend with friends, no big deal – I just go back to one meal a day the next day.

How do you recommend I start?
You might want to try just reducing your eating window. If you usually eat breakfast at 9am and then dinner at 8pm, try to have your dinner at 5pm. Then try skipping breakfast or having dinner even earlier. Baby steps are best, you’ll ease into the feeling of hunger. If you are able to, sure you can just straightaway cut down to one meal a day, but chances are this will make you way more hungry than you’re used to and you’ll be turned off to the idea.

Oh yea this is why starving kids in Africa live so long. This is such bullshit
Har har. Obviously I’m not saying less food = more health ad infinitum. You want to get enough food and enough nutrients of course, though what you really need might be a lot less than what you think you need.

■Hope this clears some things up! I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I’ll share what I’ve learned as best I can. Thanks for reading. Will expand this as I can when more good questions come up

17 thoughts on “Eating Once a Day: Questions

  1. thank you so much for this article and the video! i do intermittent fasting, and agree about feeling so much better. people around me think that i am weird, and that i must be suffering so much, because i restrict myself. little do the know…

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  2. Thank you so much for this information. I have suspected for a while that how often you eat is as important as what you eat.

    So I have several questions.
    1. You say you eat once a day or maybe every other day. You also say you drink several coffees a day. I watched the video you posted on how you make your coffee using at least a couple tablespoons of coconut oil. I also watched your video on why calorie counting is unnecessary. Do you count drinking your coffee as part of your daily intake of food/fat?

    2. I read that cancer cells thrive on not only sugar but also protein. Is there evidence that this diet disproves that information?

    3. These days it isn’t easy to find wholesome meats or fresh produce or it is too expensive to purchase. Does this diet work even if all that is available is less than optimal meats and produce?

    4. Is there any evidence available to suggest that this way of eating could possibly help rebuild joint tissue?

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    1. Hey Zeppity,
      Thanks for the comment.

      1) Good question – that fatty coffee is something I’ll rarely drink, usually only when I’m pinched for time or really trying to focus on something. (I notice I get a kick in brain power from it – could be placebo but it keeps me going on little sleep so it works for me) If I do drink it I’ll make sure it’s 16 hours after having eaten carbohydrates, and I do include the fatty coffee when measuring food intake. What I usually drink is just black coffee

      2) Hmm I’m not too familiar with this. Is it all protein or BCAA’S? I can see the connection considering excess protein gets converted to glucose via gluconeogenesis. I wouldn’t advocate high protein consumption though (unless you are working out enough to match it). If I had to sum up what I advocate so far it would be: high fat, high fiber, medium protein, low carbohydrate, very low fructose.

      3) Sure, I think so. In fact this could potentially be even more preferable if you’re in a position where you can’t get quality food. The key point with the one meal a day thing is that you’re giving your liver more time to process any potentially harmful substances. Since you can’t help your liver out with good food, you can help it out by giving it more time to do its job 🙂

      4) Honestly I don’t know much about that /-= (Do you have joint issues?)

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      1. I’m enjoying your videos and blog – thank you! I remember cooking a large meal for a crowd of homeless men in a winter meal/shelter program my church was helping with, and one of the men approached me and said that he wasn’t sure what to do with so much food. Apparently he had been raised by his mother to eat only one square meal every other day, and while he was trying to be gracious and thankful and all that, he just wasn’t sure he could eat all we were offering! Your posts have been the first I have seen of the every-other-day idea since then. Keep it coming!

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    2. Re: 3.:
      I think what Zeppity was referring to the fact that not only insulin spikes IGF-1 levels, protein has also been shown to have this ability, which is why high protein consumption helps with muscle growth. However, IGF-1, being an anabolic factor, helps “growth” via mTOR pathway also in processes which we would rather hinder, tumor growth included.
      Easy to find loads of studies on this issue, although it is still very unclear what can be an indivudual’s risk threshold when it comes to amout of protein or carbs/fats/protein ratio. There have also been studies looking for a particular amino acid which might contribute to this effect particularly and there were some clues anout it being methionine (those were studies on Drosophilas, though, if my memory serves).

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  3. Okay, well, I feel hungry if I only just eat one meal a day. How do I address this issue? And just for reference, I’m male and extremely skinny at 128 pounds. I eat when I’m hungry, but then that occurs at least twice a day. Thanks.

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  4. Its funny, I naturally started this as a starving student, 15 years later I still do it. Everyone thinks Im weird, but sometimes I forget to eat for like 2 days and then I get super hungry. Lol

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  5. I had a quick question in regards to how “healthy” it is. I watched the video and agreed with a lot of the points. However, what are your recommendations for people who have low blood sugar (not due to diabetic medication or any other kinds of medication). I have noticed that if I don’t eat enough, I would feel very faint and dizzy, and have often fainted. Doctors have told me that I just needed to eat more, but that would contradict this one meal idea. I think perhaps some people’s bodies do not store glucose as well as others, but I’m not sure. What are your thoughts?

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  6. I love this! I came across your vid and this page last week and instantly started with no research, not like me at all but your account gave me the confidence to try it. Plus the hubby/chef is gone so that is helpful. I gave myself a couple of weeks to transition into it but to be honest it only took two days. I’m not a coffee drinker so that could be why one cup at around 1pm offset my hunger for another few hours. I’m on day 5! It’s awesome not having to eat all the time!

    I’m disabled with a connective tissue disorder – EDS3 and it causes myofasial, musculoskeletal and joint pain etc., it’s so annoying and hard every day. Sitting up to eat a meal causes real pain and I just don’t have time for that. I’d rather use my up-time in a better way!

    Now I’m starting to eat at about 4pm and stopping at 7ish. I extended the window to get everything down because I still want to eat my fruit.veg.hummus.peanutbuter.nuts combo (which I can eat reclined in my bed) but I’ve halved the amount because at around 6pm I’ll want to have something more substantial. I guess I’m one of those rare vegans who can’ts stuff 2-3 pounds of food in one sitting! So do eat your one meal to the point when you’re full or up to the amount of calories/nutrients you need?

    I also feel I need the time to get more calories. A couple of those days were 1200cals and the next day I would not be hungry but just really sleepy all day, even with the coffee. Do you get this fatigue if you don’t eat enough calories the previous day?

    I have checked which nutrients I might be missing yet, so that’s next.

    Thanks for the information, would love to hear updates and any tips you come across. I feel like you and I have the same mentality when it comes to commiting to a goal. When I set my mind to something I find it pretty easy however there are many like my husband who have attachments/dependencies to their routines/habits. That’s why when he said he wanted to go vegan I told him to do it over about 5-10 years and so far it’s worked. I think he would find it really hard. Or maybe he could transition to one meal a day over a span of 1 year? Did I just answer my own question??

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  7. So you have a link (to a gif) on imgur of what looks like 3 meals… is that supposed to be your 1 meal a day? and have you experienced weight loss?

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    1. “(In the gif, it’s kind of confusing and I think I made it look like I ate a plate of veggies, a smoothie, a plate of eggs and meat and a second plate of eggs and meat. The plate of veggies is just what’s in the smoothie and the first plate is the same as the second plate, just unprepared.)”

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