Eating Once a Day: Questions

There were several questions about the “One Meal a Day” post, so I thought I’d answer a few

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

Why anti-Fat is completely misguided (and the mess it put us in)

The whole concept of anti-fat anti-cholesterol has no science to back it up

You can also check out the video version of this post!

Ancel Keys’ hard work to make us healthy
Let me tell you the story of how one man accidentally gave us the obesity epidemic, soaring rates of cardiovascular disease, made billions for the pharmaceutical industry and programmed us to be afraid of fat and cholesterol.
 All the benefits from Skim milk, low fat Snackwells, and cholesterol lowering Cheerios that were sold to you are based on  hypotheses made by a man named Ancel Keys.

The idea that we should avoid fat and cholesterol at all costs comes from Keys’ “Diet-Heart Hypothesis” and “Lipid Hypothesis”. These ideas come from him analyzing the data from 7 countries which showed that when you plotted incidence of heart attacks against fat consumption you see that the countries that ate more fat had more heart attacks. It was simple, you could draw a  straight line through the data points which showed more fat equaled more heart attacks. Pretty straight forward, you eat more fat, you get fat, your cholesterol rises, arteries get clogged, and you have a heart attack. Ancel Keys got this accepted by the USDA, the American Medical Association, the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association and off went the anti-fat anti-cholesterol movement.

Keys Cholesterol

A serious lack of evidence
The only catch here is that there weren’t only 7 countries for which data was available, there were 22 countries. When you factor in the remaining countries there is no straight line to be drawn. You could select 7 different countries and make the claim that more fat meant less heart disease. Maybe Keys had access to the remaining data, maybe he didn’t, but he sure worked fast to have his recommendations put in place. The lack of good evidence didn’t go unnoticed: Dr. George Mann, one of the researchers on the Framingham study which was actually supposed to bolster this cholesterol theory, said, “Dietary fat is not the determinant of either high cholesterol or coronary heart disease” and ‘”the diet heart hypothesis is the greatest scam ever perpetrated on the American public.“  By the way, it’s still called “hypothesis” because it’s never been proven.

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You might be up to date with recent health information and even on board with a low carb diet, but chances are you’re still a little cautious of fat. After all, we’ve been programmed to associate saturated fats with “Artery Clogging” and we’ve seen the commercials where they do something like clog a drain with bacon fat. Also Butter, Lard and Coconut Oil solidify at room temperature so it’s pretty easy logic that those solid fats clog your arteries; which makes vegetable oil the better choice because it stays liquid.

The only problem with that is those saturated fats will melt easily in your hand, not to mention inside your body; and the thing that clogs your arteries resulting in a heart attack is not an accumulation of fat. Fat doesn’t even stay intact in the body- it is broken up into small droplets by the bile in your stomach and then wrapped inside carrier molecules called lipoproteins. Fat is never technically even in the bloodstream, it’s always transported inside a lipoprotein shell.

Why fat is important to us
I mentioned before how if humans needed to be so selective with their diet, we would not have gotten this far. Our choices were to eat whatever was in the environment that had calories or be dead. When you look at health from an evolutionary standpoint, the concept of engineering fat out of our foods for our health is completely ludicrous. Our brains, which is what got us so far, are the most metabolically expensive organs we have: consuming 25% of the adult and 75% of the infant metabolic budget. To adjust for the high metabolic cost of a large brain “…shrinkage in gut size (another metabolically energy expensive organ) was a necessary accompaniment. … A shorter human gut, had evolved to be more dependent on nutrient and energy-dense foods than other primates. [A smaller gut] is less efficient at extracting sufficient energy and nutrition from fibrous foods and considerably more dependent on higher-density, higher bio-available foods that require less energy for their digestion per unit of energy/nutrition released.” (from “Man the Fat Hunter” – Public Library of Science)

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This receives some coverage in CARTA’s video “The Evolution of Human Nutrition

And which macronutrient is the most calorie dense? Fat comes in at first place at 9 calories per gram. For around 190,000 years of our existence we did not have agriculture and thus we couldn’t expect to eat every day. So fat would be a very valuable macronutrient that we would get as much of as our environment allowed. There is even evidence that suggests homo sapiens would eat all the fat on an animal before eating any of the meat- most of the time leaving a good portion of the meat behind if they already had their fill. Protein, while important, only provides 4 calories per gram and requires a lot of energy to digest making it a less efficient macronutrient.

Sure we have plenty of fruits and vegetables that have been cultivated to be more nutrient and calorie dense and we spend much less time moving around, so ravenously eating fat is hardly necessary. However it’s not very plausible that a macronutrient that used to be so important to us is now killing us in hordes.

Timothy Olsen showcases the efficiency of fat in spectacular fashion. He holds the record for the Western 100 Endurance run, a 100 mile ultra distance race in California that includes an 18,000 feet climb and 23,000 feet descent. He said he used to consume dozens of sports gels throughout his races to keep him going, but switched to a low carb high fat diet for more stable energy; he preferred not having to empty his stomach out in the woods multiple times during the race.

You might have stopped and thought “How can fat not be the problem? I ate a plant based diet and reversed my atherosclerosis!” I live in Japan and am well aware of how healthy a high carbohydrate diet can be, especially a primarily plant based one like the Okinawan people’s who frequently live to be 100 while less than 8% of their calories come from fat. Don’t worry, we’ll get to this.

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Okinawa is well known for being a longevity “Blue Zone”


Despite our bodies preferring the energy dense fat, this idea that saturated fat and cholesterol needs to be reduced at all costs became medical dogma. However, not only does our body
want fat, it doesn’t want to reduce cholesterol. Cholesterol is incredibly important: we need it for the membranes of our cells, we need it to make brain cells, we need it to make several important hormones like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. 

Enter inflammation
Cholesterol is actually the thing that comes in and
helps with arterial damage. The process leading up to a heart attack starts with an inflamed, damaged arterial wall. The body sends cholesterol to mend that damage, as well as other substances like calcium, and a substance similar to collagen called fibrin. Blaming cholesterol instead of the inflammation is like blaming the fireman instead of the fire.

Back to the Okinawan people: they have such a low incidence of heart disease because they’re not eating foods that cause inflammation so atherosclerosis never develops. Of course they live long: they eat locally grown, organic, fiber rich vegetables designed to nourish them, not optimized for profit and laden with pesticides. Keep in mind that the saturated fat our homo sapien ancestors were getting was from wild (cage free,organic) animals, not from highly processed ham slices in Kraft Food’s “Lunchables” , and certainly not from the butter of cows pumped with hormones while living in cow jail and eating processed corn scrap. Also they were getting their unsaturated fat in the form of omega-3’s from fish and omega-6’s from nuts, not mostly from Canola seeds that had to be washed in hexane solvent & sodium hydroxide, bleached and then steam injected.


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In the book “The Great Cholesterol Myth”, Dr. Stephen Sinatra and Dr. Johnny Bowden cover this topic very extensively. Here’s an excerpt regarding the effects of a lack of cholesterol:

“The emphasis on lowering cholesterol as much as possible is not only misguided, but also dangerous. Studies show that those at the lowest end of the cholesterol spectrum have a significantly increased risk of death from myriad conditions and situations unrelated to heart disease. Including but not limited to cancer, suicide and accidents. … You need cholesterol to make brain cells. A cholesterol level too low around 160mg/dl has in fact been linked to depression, aggression and cerebral haemorrhages.”


 

Total cholesterol’s irrelevance and the real “bad cholesterol
But what happens if you consume too much cholesterol?
Nothing. “The Framingham Heart study found that there was virtually no difference in the amount of cholesterol consumed on a daily basis by those who went on to develop cardiovascular disease and those who did not.”

What if you have too much cholesterol? It doesn’t matter. Dr. Johnny Bowden explained in this video that in the Lyon Diet Heart Study they had a group of 605 people with high cholesterol and a very high risk of heart disease. In one group they put them on the Mediterranean diet and in another they recommended they cut saturated fat, reduce cholesterol intake to 300mg per day and follow the “healthy” western diet. The results? Cardiac death and all cause mortality on the Mediterranean diet was significantly lower than on the low saturated fat diet. After explaining this, Dr. Bowden says “So here’s the question, what do you think happened to the cholesterol of the people on the Mediterranean diet? Their cholesterol didn’t budge. They just stopped dying. Cholesterol had nothing to do with it. Whatever their cholesterol was at the beginning, it was pretty much the same at the end.”

OK so knowing total cholesterol is not helpful. What about the HDL “good” cholesterol and the LDL “bad” cholesterol? This concept is also outdated. You can have bad “good” cholesterol and you can have good “bad” cholesterol. What you would want to know is particle size. You don’t want to have a high concentration of the small LDL particles. One of the key things that increases these smaller particles is refined carbohydrates and sugar. The science around cholesterol is much too complicated to explain here, but the point is that the standard metrics for understanding your heart disease risk and judging whether something is healthy or not are seriously outdated and have surprisingly little to do with fat consumption. You can learn more on Dr. Peter Attia’s blog.

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When I got to this point in my research I was dumbfounded and outraged. Cardiovascular disease kills 610,000 people in America every year, yet the guidelines we have to avoid it are utterly worthless? I immediately threw away my 1992 collector’s edition Snackwell cookies.

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I trusted you, Snackwell’s.

 

The mess confirmation bias put us in
Possibly the worst part is that it wasn’t like nobody knew that low fat diets had virtually zero science to back them up. British physiologist John Yudkin wrote a book in 1972 “Pure, White and Deadly: The Problem of Sugar” which correctly warned that the consumption of sugar is dangerous to health, an argument he had made since at least 1957. The final chapter of the book lists several examples of attempts to interfere with the funding of his research and to prevent its publication. It also refers to the personal smears that Ancel Keys employed to dismiss the evidence that sugar was the true culprit of heart disease. 

This excerpt of ABC TV Australia’s broadcast “Heart of the matter” explains: “In 1977, the U.S. Government stepped in. Senator George McGovern, an advocate of Ancel Key’s theory headed a committee hearing to end the debate … Eminent scientists at the time disagreed with the [Keys] report.” In the clip, you can hear Dr. Robert Olsen saying: “That’s why I have pleaded in my report and will plead again orally here for more research on the problem before we make announcements to the American public.” George McGovern’s rebuttal was simply: “Well I would only argue that senators don’t have that luxury that a research scientist does of waiting until every last shred of evidence is in.” It didn’t matter how illogical or misguided McGovern’s response was, he came out on top.

What’s happened since then? Hospitalizations for Heart Failure went straight up and heart disease is still the leading cause of death in the world.

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In fact, when it comes to weight gain, the data suggests people started gaining weight immediately after the guidelines came out.

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Image Credit: gnolls.org

 

 

We now understand that:

1) Knowing total cholesterol is irrelevant to your health
2) Knowing your so called “good” and “bad” cholesterol is irrelevant because you can have bad HDL particles and good LDL particles; and the bad version of these particles are caused by more complex issues than just fat.
3) Heart disease is primarily due to damage to the arterial wall caused by inflammation, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and insulin levels and stress.
4) The more key things to limit to avoid heart disease are sugar and processed carbohydrates.

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Despite all this, the “Heart Healthy” guidelines encourage over-consumption of inflammation promoting vegetable oils and processed carbs that keep our blood sugar high.  Maybe even worse than that is we’re still being prescribed Statin drugs, whose harmful effects are a constant testament to how important cholesterol is for the body.

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The billion dollar toxin
You might be thinking “Hey but my doctor said I should be on a statin…” if so, go ahead and ask your doctor what the number needed to treat for statin drugs is. In this video, Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin explains that the NNT is the number of people that have to take the drug before one person benefits from the drug. He says: “… you’re thinking, what kind of crazy statistic is that? The number should be one. My doctor wouldn’t prescribe something to me if it’s not going to help. The number needed to treat for the most widely prescribed statin, what do you suppose it is? How many people have to take it before one person is helped? Three hundred.  300 people have to take the drug for a year before one heart attack, stroke or other adverse event is prevented.  So for this particular drug, the side effects occur in 5 percent of the patients and they include terrible things – debilitating muscle and joint pain, gastrointestinal distress. 300 people take the drug, right? One person’s helped, five percent of those 300 have side effects, that’s 15 people. You are 15 times more likely to be harmed by the drug than helped.

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Duane Graveline MD wrote a book called “Lipitor, thief of memory” after experiencing “Transient Global Amnesia”- a type of memory loss where your wife is in the same room as you and you don’t know who she is. By the way, remember how I said cholesterol is important for producing sex hormones like testosterone and estrogen? What do you think the second highest revenue prescription drug is for Pfizer after Lipitor, which is the #1 prescribed statin? Viagra comes in right after Lipitor. Also, it’s not like Viagra just happens to be the next biggest revenue stream there’s only an 8% difference between the two. 

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Surely you’re thinking “this is a terrible situation, how come the diet guidelines haven’t been changed?” Well it’s almost as unlikely for the medical industry to come out and say “Looks like we were wrong. Sorry.” as it is for a pastor to say “Hey, y’know this religion we’ve been following all our lives? I think it might be the wrong one, sorry about that.” Australia’s leading lipid expert David Sullivan demonstrated (maybe on accident) pretty well that admitting the recommendations are useless might put some people out of a job. When asked whether they should be giving people dietary advice when they don’t have enough evidence to back up their advice he saidWe are particularly keen to give some dietary advice because otherwise what do we offer people?

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Time admitted they were wrong, why can’t the medical establishments?

What we should really  be paying attention to
I would like to lay out the complete details of how to really avoid heart disease, but I recommend you start by reading “The Great Cholesterol Myth” or at least Dr. Bowden’s article on “The Four Horsemen of Aging“. For now, let me leave you with one rule of thumb you can use to pick out your food:

Just think about how much something has been screwed with before you make the decision to eat that.

For example: coca Leaves in their natural state are quite harmless, the farmers in the Andes have chewed on them for hundreds of years for a small boost in energy. However, when you process the hell out of them, you get cocaine. Eating a lot of sugar beets probably isn’t so bad for you, but if you boil them in water to make a crude syrup, then wash that solution with calcium hydroxide and proceed to refine it with 6 different boilers… maybe the resulting white powder isn’t the best thing for you. You can apply this idea to anything from processed cheese and meats to packages of “whole wheat bread”.

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Good ol’ Stearoyl-2-Lactylate

This goes for fats too. If Jack the cow just had to walk around and eat grass, his butter is going to be better than Byron the cow’s butter if Byron had to be given growth hormone and a specifically designed rapid growth promoting feed. Canola oil requires a lengthy industrial process to wrench the oil out of the canola seed, but you can get a decent amount of fat from nuts just eating them as they are.

I’m not here to sell you any one diet or macronutrient ratio for now. However, I can tell you for certain that this granulated sugar and processed crap that’s been marketed to us in place of what we had been eating for centuries is not what we should be eating. Sometimes we have to dig way past spiffy marketing, guidelines from big establishments, and our own doctor’s advice before choosing what to eat.

 

Longevity & Why I eat once a day

You don’t need to eat three meals a day, and when you do, you’re missing out on a whole host of health benefits.

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Just use your body like it’s designed and you won’t need to fix it all the time.
You can also check out the video version of this post!

Nutrition & Our Hybrid Body
In the 1950’s, my friend Bill was a very gifted Engineer who made an extraordinary car. It looked very similar to a Chevrolet Corvette, but the insides of the car is what made it so unique. It wasn’t the first Hybrid car, but it was much more practical and appealing than its predecessors. There was one snag: it never took off because he couldn’t get people to use it properly. The car’s main fuel source was electricity, and gasoline was to be put in whenever available. It was fine for the car to use gasoline every other day or so, but the problem was that people ran it on gasoline nearly 90% of the time. This resulted in the car breaking down frequently, to the surprise of the owners. Everyone was giving each other advice on how to run the car smoothly, all the while Bill was trying to tell people “Just use it the way it was designed!” Despite his advice, people continued to theorize about how to properly use the car. Bill went bankrupt and left the Automotive industry soon after.

This situation my poor imaginary friend Bill found himself in is quite like our modern Health Environment.  How did eating get so complicated? Most of us just want to feel good, look good and live a long life. You would think by now there would be a straightforward consensus on what our eating habits should look like, but we’re faced with countless trains of thought on the topic. Maybe we’re supposed to be doing the ABC diet or XYZ diet or something in between? One of the first “diets” was proposed by a man named George Cheyne in 1724. Now, on Amazon you can find over 50,000 different books on the topic.

Like Bill’s car, surely there is a simple way we should be fueling our bodies that is most suitable for its design. Obviously we’re not engineered, but we Homo Sapiens emerged around 200,000 years ago and the majority of that time, the food environment could not have been anything like today’s food environment. Agriculture didn’t even exist for a good 190,000 years of that time. Not even the fruits and vegetables we have today would have been similar as we hadn’t cultivated them to our liking.

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Just 700 years ago here’s what a banana would have looked like.
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This is a painting of a watermelon from 1672
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Or maybe you’d like a 10th century carrot.

So what way of eating did we adapt to? The environment would have chosen our diet rather than us. Your choices would have been to eat what was available or be dead. The idea that our body must have adapted to a certain ratio of macronutrients available in the environment is not novel; and recently has become quite well known due to the “Paleo Diet”. However, what I’m getting at is our body would have also had to have adapted to how often the food was available – there should be a natural frequency of eating that promotes health and longevity.

Where to start?
The logic would be that more nourishment, more food would make you healthier and live longer. But let’s take a look at this from the First Principles method as described by Elon Musk: “It’s kind of mentally easier to reason by analogy rather than first principles. First Principles is a Physics way of looking at the world. And what that really means is you boil things down to the most fundamental truths and say ‘OK what are we sure is true?’ and then reason up from there. That takes a lot more mental energy.”

So what do we know about longevity? Other than exercise, the word “superfood” might come to mind. Maybe more Omega-3’s or some Red Wine or making sure to take supplements and drink less alcohol. There are a lot of things that contribute to longevity, but there is one method accepted by science that you can use to consistently increase longevity. Whether a yeast cell, a mouse or a rhesus monkey, research shows that calorie reduction will almost always increase longevity in animals. We had been seeing results like this since the early 1900’s. Depending on the animal, a 30% reduction in overall caloric intake can result in a 30% increased life span. Let’s reason up from here.

For some time, the conventional wisdom has been that you need to get 3 balanced meals a day to stay healthy. Ever since I was a kid, “Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner” seemed as natural as sleeping or going to the bathroom. Breakfast was the most important meal of the day, I needed a healthy lunch to focus the rest of the school day and being sent to bed without Dinner was child abuse. The situation is basically the same in Japan where I now live, as with the rest of the world. If we want to reduce caloric intake to increase lifespan, the only choice then is to eat less at each meal, because we need 3 meals, right?

But where did this 3 meals a day idea come from? As Abigail Carroll suggests in her book “Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal”: Eating three meals a day was basically invented due to culture, not out of biological necessity. It goes back to Middle Age Europe when they would eat a light meal before going out to work, then a heavy meal in the middle of the day, then another light meal at night. When European settlers got to America, they found Native Americans were basically just eating whenever they felt the urge to, rather than at specified times. The Europeans took their lack of defined eating times as evidence that they were uncivilized and had them change. In short: The 3 meals a day paradigm is not based off of our biological needs.

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Daniel Everett swimming next to a Piraha

How our environment designed us
In a Hunter Gatherer culture it wasn’t surprising at all to feast on a big catch, then survive on very little or no food for an extended period of time until they were in need of another big source of fat and protein. In fact, the environment up until now would suggest that if we could not do that, we probably wouldn’t be alive to be reading about dieting. The Pirahã people, an indigenous hunter-gatherer group of the Amazon Rainforest was extensively studied by an anthropological linguist named Daniel Everett. He found they  do not eat every day or even attempt to do so. They were even aware of food storage techniques yet never used them except to barter with Brazilian traders. When questioned about why they do not store food for themselves they explained  “I store meat in the belly of my brother”.

Until the advent of Agriculture, eating 3 meals a day and in some cases even eating every day was a near impossibility. Some of you may be pointing to the fact that the life expectancy in the Paleolithic era was much lower than now at around 33 years, as a sign that our modern eating habits are healthier. However, infant mortality rate was a big factor in bringing that number down. You have to understand that one of the effects of modern civilization and technology is that you can be unresourceful or made up of weak genetic material and not die. As Doug McGuff explains: “[Life expectancy] didn’t really have anything to do with anabolic catabolic balance or long term health benefits because there were older survivors and the fossil evidence of those older survivors based on ligamentous attachments and bony assessment and bone mineral density was: they were extraordinarily robust.” 

Glucose Metabolism & How “conventional wisdom” screwed us
The common misconception is that a stable blood glucose is necessary for survival, which would biologically justify 3 meals a day. Bear with me through a bit of Biochemistry to understand why constantly consuming Carbohydrates to maintain blood glucose is not only unnecessary but can be a detrimental and vicious cycle.

This is the CliffNotes of Doug McGuff’s presentation, make sure to check out the video of him explaining it in depth

After you eat some carbohydrates- Bread, Pasta, Potatoes, Candy et cetera, Glucose enters the bloodstream and insulin is secreted to distribute the glucose properly. Via an insulin receptor, glucose enters the cells and a chain of enzymes act on it to produce energy in the form of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). This process produces a waste product called Pyruvate which is shuttled through the Mitochondria, “the powerhouse of the cell”. Mitochondria processes the Pyruvate through the Kreb Cycle which produces much more ATP.  A waste product called Citrate is produced in the Mitochondria and when enough stacks up it blocks an enzyme called PhosphoFructoKinase in the enzyme chain creating a roadblock so excess glucose doesn’t harm the cell. When the process can’t continue downward, 70 grams is stored in the Liver, and in the Muscle 200 grams. So you have your morning bagel and  some Frappacappa thing and you’ve stored all the glucose you can store. After that, glucose can’t be converted to ATP in the cell, stored in the Liver or in the Muscle.

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Your body really doesn’t want glucose overloading cells or stacking up in the bloodstream because like pouring pancake syrup on a car engine, it can muck up the machinery in there. This is a harmful inflammatory situation called Glycation where glucose binds to proteins and inhibits their functions. So your body continues to secrete insulin to deal with the glucose. The insulin receptors on your cells become resistant to insulin everywhere, except on your body fat. Your fat cells do not have as complex machinery as other cells, so this probably the safest place to store it. As well as an energy storage depot, your body fat is protecting you from that Glycation damage.

The problem here is that if your energy levels start to wane, you can’t tap the energy out of your stored body fat because the Hormone that does that – Hormone Sensitive Lipase is sensitive to insulin. Insulin will not allow you to tap body fat for energy. If you have an elevated serum insulin and you need energy, you’re going to get ravenously hungry and will need to jack your blood sugar up short term with a snack to raise energy levels.

This is why if you’re following the recommended American diet, you’re usually going to be stuck in this loop of wanting to eat every time your blood glucose drops and 3 meals a day will feel very necessary. Even Medical Doctor Peter Attia fell victim to this: “Despite exercising 3 or 4 hours every single day and following the food pyramid to the letter, I gained a lot of weight and developed something called ‘Metabolic Syndrome’ “

Ketosis to the rescue
There’s another source of energy in your body that is a lot more efficient and stable than glucose. Ketone bodies are produced by the liver from fatty acids to produce energy, when you have depleted your Glycogen stores (which takes 10 to 12 hours depending on your activity level and body composition) ★Glycogen is the stored form of glucose. Ketone bodies can enter the aforementioned Kreb Cycle like Glucose to produce energy in the form of ATP.

You may have heard of this Ketosis state referred to as “Starvation Mode” in school, but this by no means suggests you are about to starve. I particularly dislike this term because it suggests that glucose/carbohydrates is our body’s primary fuel source, when in fact it is possible to live entirely without carbohydrates. Case in point: A 456 pound 27 year old man in Scotland fasted an incredible 382 days consuming only water and vitamin supplements. He lost 276 pounds and completed the fast with no ill effects. He was technically in “Starvation mode” this entire time and his body was using his stored body fat for energy.

Quick note: Ketosis and Diabetic KetoAcidosis are NOT the same.

Several years back, when I first heard about low carb diets, I was skeptical and frankly when I heard my close friend’s mother was trying the Atkins diet, I was worried for her. However, after doing a lot of research and finally properly understanding glucose metabolism, I started doing the ‘Paleo diet’. I felt great in general, had a better physique with less effort and much more stable energy levels. The downside was it got kind of annoying to have to plan my meals, so I would cheat a lot here and there.

The Benefits of Fasting
Even after people were in environments where they could eat much more frequently, the concept of fasting for health benefits has been around for some time. An Egyptian Pyramid Inscription from around 3800 B.C. reads “Humans live on one-quarter of what they eat; on the other three-quarters lives their doctor.” Plato apparently fasted for greater mental efficiency, the “Luther of Medicine” Philippus Paracelsus called fasting “the greatest remedy” and Mark Twain suggested fasting to be more effective than any medicine. The Romans even found that they cure people who were possessed with demons (actually poor misunderstood Epileptics) by shutting them in a room without food.

To simplify an incredibly complex process, aging in essence is the result of cumulative damage to your DNA. Professor of Genetics, David Sinclair and his team found that not eating stimulates the Sirtuin proteins which are directly responsible for DNA repair.  Mark Mattson, a professor of Neuroscience at John Hopkins University, gave a speech at TEDxJohnHopkinsUniversity talking about the extensive benefits of fasting for your brain and body. In particular fasting stimulates the production of Neurotrophic Growth Factors, BDNF and FGF which promote the growth of new neurons in the brain. This explains why fasting has been linked to the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

This information got me excited about Intermittent fasting. With intermittent fasting you’re not eating for 16 hours of the day which gives your body time to deplete the glycogen stores and start burning fat as well as reap the benefits discussed above. So many sources are pointing to the key being that whether you are doing extended fasting, intermittent fasting or simply eating less, you are giving your body a chance to deplete its Glycogen stores and dip into ketosis, leading to many health benefits. Check out these two studies: “Ketones Keep Neurons Alive” and “The neuroprotective properties of calorie restriction, the ketogenic diet and ketone bodies” I was keen on the fact that I could get similar effects to Paleo with more leeway in my diet. The problem with Intermittent Fasting was I found with myself craving food outside of the 8 hour eating period, and I still had to be somewhat strict with what I ate (although not as strict as my 3 meals a day regimine)

Fasting cure book

Upton Sinclair who was born in the the late 1800’s and lived to the swell age of 90, published a book in 1911 called “The Fasting Cure”(click here for full text). The book was inspired by the personal accounts of 250 people who cured some ailment with extended fasting. The ailments ranged from colds, headaches and constipation to arthritis, valvular heart disease and cancer. Dr. Alan Goldhamer spoke about how in 2012, a 42 year old patient cured her cancer (stage 3 follicular lymphoma) with a 21 day fast. Nowadays you can find personal accounts of people on Youtube who have cured some ailment of theirs with an extended water fast (consuming nothing but water).

My journey to one meal a day
“The Fasting cure” was one of the first materials that opened me up to the health benefits of more prolonged fasts. I had a lot of inhibitions despite all the incredible personal accounts in there, but once I learned about the Scottish man (mentioned above) who fasted for 382 days, I figured surely a week couldn’t be that big of a deal. I tried a week long fast and gave up around the 4th day even though I didn’t feel particularly bad. While I missed my goal and I didn’t really feel all that different afterward, over the following days I started to notice I didn’t have as much interest in junk food. I used to enjoy eating some delicious refined sugar crap while doing intermittent fasting since it was within my 8 hour eating period, but that fast had reset my eating preferences.

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Dr. Nagumo in his later 50’s

Around this time I came across a book called 「空腹が人を健康にする」”Hunger makes people healthy” by Dr. Yoshinori Nagumo which provides an incredibly compelling argument for limiting yourself to one meal per day. It touched upon many of the things I’ve talked about, some things I didn’t and it dispelled some worries I had like malnutrition and whatnot. (Also, It was easy to trust him since he’s 30 years older than me and looks younger than I do.) I decided to try eating once per day for 2 weeks.

For 3 weeks prior, I had been showing my little sister around Tokyo while eating basically anything and everything that looked good. I started the Nagumo plan the day after she left and the first three days were definitely the hardest. When the clock hit around 11AM, I realized I wasn’t getting the joy from eating that I was used to around this time of day and started really wanting to eat. My stomach didn’t particularly hurt, it was the equivalent of not being able to play video games when getting home from Middle School. Around 4PM is when I was convinced that I really was hungry and needed to eat. Waiting another 30 minutes until 4.30PM to eat was like pushing through a last set of squats. The next two days were slightly easier, and come the 4th day I realized I wasn’t looking at the clock thinking “Only X more hours to go!”.

I decided to test the diet a week later and do a 50 kilometer bike ride to Atsugi from Tokyo. I hadn’t been working out all that much and a usual bike ride for me was about 3 kilometers. It was unsurprisingly difficult, but I never felt physically weak. I had hunger pangs earlier than normal, but I didn’t feel like I had less strength from lack of food. This made me decide to stick with eating once per day. It’s been a month since I started and I feel great in general, my energy levels are very stable, tolerate less sleep better, I feel more focused and surprisingly I have less problems with hunger compared to Intermittent Fasting. It’s not until an hour or 2 before my usual eating time that I start thinking about food and if I’m focused on something I might even eat an hour later than normal. 

Even if I don’t eat the healthiest meal I can now feel confident that my body will have more than enough time to empty out whatever excess glycogen or toxins I ingested. (The only time I do crave unhealthy food is when I’ve had some alcohol.) Looking back, it’s hard to imagine having to pile so much food into my stomach throughout the day. 

Other than the health benefits, one other reason I do this is the same reason Steve Jobs wore basically the same thing everyday: It makes choosing easier and frees my brain up to focus on other things. (See “Decision Fatigue”) 

steve-turtleneck

For myself, the amount of new information I get only changes my behavior by a small factor. For example if I increase my knowledge about the detriments of alcohol by 60% maybe I’ll cut my intake by 30%. With this article alone I’m not expecting you to suddenly start eating once per day, but hopefully you can start giving your body a break and eat when you need to, not when the clock says you should.