|From Misc 2008|
I gave a talk on Intermittent Fasting at Personalized Life Extension 2010. Here are some ways to view it. The "notes" are basically the full text of the talk:
I have more info on fasting here
This combination kicks ass, and will get you lean, muscled, and healthy:
In the space of one year during 2004-2005, I got a job at Google, got married, and became a parent. This led to my gaining 25 lbs, from 117 to 142, which meant that none of my pants fit. Not wanting to give up and get new clothes, I got a dozen cotton pajamas from Target and wore them everyday - a feat chronicled by the Russian edition of fashion magazine Marie Claire.
Eventually, it was time to get thin and fit again. Being a non-traditional sort of person, I looked to non-traditional methods. The first one which worked was Seth Roberts' Shangri-La Diet, on which I lost 15 lbs in less than 2 months. (Here's a good introduction). It isn't actually a diet, but rather a strange method of decreasing your body's set point and appetite. Besides the fact that it just plain works, and takes the pain out of dieting, I like the fact that it is a theory and not just a method. In fact, people have come up with a number of methods, such as noseclipping and crazy spicing, that use the original theory in ways completely different from Seth's original method.
After a few months of SLD, I plateaued - the effect decreased, and I started finding the oil nauseating. So I decided to add in exercise, and started doing CrossFit 1-2x a week. I put on lots of muscle, and in combination with various forms of intermittent fasting, lost the last 10 pounds. I still had some "stubborn fat" around my midsection, but intermittent fasting got rid of it.
Over the next few years (2009-2011 or so), I steadily increased my degree of Paleo compliance, as well as modifying it a bit towards "Paleo 2.0". I only had time to work out 1-2x a week, but I actually lost more weight, and from 9/2010 through 7/2011 (current) I have maintained my 18.5 year old weight (ie halfway through my freshman year in college - never reached before). I am 34.
There is a lot of bad advice out there based on poor dietary and fitness science, so if you are interested in improving your health, I urge you to check out the methods and resources below.
Note: In 2011, I discovered that I am one of ~2% of the population with two copies of ApoE4, which puts me at very high genetic risk for late-onset Alzheimer's (20x most people's risk). Fortunately, it turns out that my diet should be strongly preventative (making me even more of a paleo bigot than I was before!). I blog about this gene at Primal ApoE4, and also on my personal blog.
My diet blog posts
While many diets can work, I believe that the ideal diet, in terms of ease of sticking to it and long-term health, is one close to what our pre-agriculture ancestors ate, AKA paleo. This diet is high in fruits & vegetables, moderate in meats and fats, and low in refined carbohydrates. The South Beach Diet is the closest mainstream diet I've found.
NorCal Nutrition: Are We Crazy? is a good intro to the science of paleo for athletes. As is Robb Wolf's FAQ, although it also covers the Zone diet which I am less fond of.
To read a scathing condemnation of modern mainstream nutrition, and a detailed investigation of the scientific process failures which led to the bogus low-fat / pro-carb orthodoxy, check out Gary Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories.
I believe that Intermittent Fasting, which is the practice of going 16-36 hours with reduced or zero calories, has substantial health benefits. It activates the SIRT genes, which improve health and extend lifespan, to get the benefits of calorie restriction without requiring actual long-term calorie restriction. I review the benefits and human studies in my 2010 IF talk.
For example, consider this study (PDF):
Oxidative stress (damage) is the ongoing damage to our proteins, lipids and DNA due to free radicals which are generated under normal conditions. Oxidative stress is the basic source of aging and diseases associated with aging. We found striking reduction in measures of oxidative stress in an eight week study (see article) of subjects following our diet. The chart below shows a 90% decline in nitrotyrosine levels over an eight week period. Nitrotyrosine is a commonly used indicator of oxidative stress. It is elevated in people with heart disease and has been shown to be 100 times more sensitive an indicator of impending heart attack than the standard Framingham risk factors - cholesterol, blood pressure, etc
No other dietary intervention or drug has been shown to produce this degree of reduction in oxidative stress. This suggests that following this pattern of eating will have more profound effect on health than the specific composition of the diet.
In addition to the health benefits, intermittent fasting lets you worry less about what you eat. While "IFOC" (Intermittent Fasting On Crap) is not recommended as being optimal, fasting is a powerful enough technique that you can eat poorly and still see health benefits. In addition to the physical benefits of fasting, this decreased stress about what to eat when you aren't fasting is, for me and many other IFers, a substantial benefit. (Brad Pilon writes a lot about this idea in his blog).
Here are the methods I've tried, with comments:
My fasting posts
Note that drugs to activate SIRT are in testing, so within a decade we should be able to get many of the benefits of fasting without fasting. There is a nutritional supplement, resveratrol, which actives SIRT1, so human studies on it are relevant to ADCR.
The IF Life is a good website for intermittent fasting. Also, this series of 6 posts on What happens to your body when you fast? is excellent.
To read a skeptical but moderately objective viewpoint on IF, see An Objective Look at Intermittent Fasting. However, when I reviewed the evidence, I found that this article had neglected many of the positive human studies.
The single most efficient form of exercise is heavy back squats. 15 minutes a week of heavy back squats will strengthen the largest muscles in your body by a significant amount over time, positively impacting your health with a ridiculously low time commitment. To be more balanced, add deadlifts, then presses. The downside to these lifts is that they require some training to do safely and well with an olympic bar (you may be able to get many of the benefits with a weight machine, but it will utilize fewer muscles). But now that CrossFit is popular, there are many places where you can learn to lift, and they are amazingly efficient at building muscle, which helps you increase insulin sensitivity and lose fat. Bodyweight exercises and interval training are both good too, but they are less time-efficient.
Art De Vany's Evolutionary Fitness website covers evolutionary diet and fitness.