Little did I know that when I wrote my blog about the virtues of “catabolic” and “anabolic” states in September 2015 first experienced in the French Alps a few years earlier that I was really speaking about a current dietary fad called “fasting diets”.
There has apparently been quite a bit of research on the matter with the more popular program “5:2” diet. In a nutshell, for five days you eat as you wish and for two days you eat 500 calories max which is equivalent to a small breakfast; Jimmy Kimmel is a big fan and credits it for his weight loss.
But let’s be clear. I don’t think any “programs” work in the long run. One should use these programs or diets as pieces of information to get to know oneself better. I explain.
For most people, the customary pattern of eating goes unchallenged. Three square meals a day is simply an unquestioned habit let alone a decent amount of snacks and sodas on top of that. None of this has anything to do with hunger, health, mindfulness or even taste.
I am really happy to hear that this boundary is being challenged in books with far more logical arguments than ANY other diet out there:
1: For millions of years humans have had the sporadic food supply and not only survived, thrived and evolved despite shortages. In fact, the shortage was more the norm.
2: Animal do extremely well with the limited or irregular amount of food.
3: Our bodies are actually designed to function on irregular food supply. Glycogen is one form of energy quickly available as I discussed in my base training – part one – blog (BTW: Part II is coming soon and the info is very exciting) fat storage is another form of energy storage, nowadays that function is being used simply as weight gain.
The research done with fasting diets shows that two to five days of fasting each month lower insulin-like growth factor IGF-1 which seems to be linked to cancer and diabetes. The other benefit is that lowering insulin and IGF-1 slows the aging process.
Quite honestly we can make data show just about anything. So what to keep or throw away is the question.
Anahad O’Connor article “Fasting Diets Are Gaining Acceptance” in the NYT writes
“When you have low insulin and low IGF-1, the body goes into a state of maintenance, a state of standby,” Dr. Longo said. “There is not a lot of push for cells to grow, and in general the cells enter a protected mode.”
This is exactly what I explained in my blog in 2015. When you go “catabolic” as I call it, energy needs to be produced within the body. Considering the complexity of the energy producing cycle it is by nature a nibble process. I also think that letting the catabolic process happen mindfully it is a body-mind process. When we apply ourselves to the catabolic process we also come to feel ourselves more, we become observant of our body and when eating becomes more mindful and when it is done in awareness it is far more useful.
Awareness brings knowledge. For example, my body definitely likes to have food at 10 AM. It is clockwork. I can eat or chose to bypass it. Since I am training and wanting to increase my performance I eat a fair amount at this moment. I have basically three options.
1: I can choose to stay “catabolic” and lose some of the extra fat I have to build muscle tissue, endurance etc. to help my performance. Though I could get to my peak, it would take longer that way. At the risk of repeating myself, the internal process is slow but effective.
2: I can eat the three square meals a day or more as most people do and rely on that caloric intake for my body to produce the muscle tissues and energy I need. This is a very anabolic process but not the wisest.
3: I actually chose to eat when my body actually needs it. At this moment it has adapted to the physical demand I have put on it for performance. Spring is coming, my first race is in two weeks and I have expectations. So I eat when my body really needs it. Usually, that means no breakfast except for tea. Like clockwork, my body wants food at 10 AM so I willingly eat at that time. I chose to give my body food otherwise I go catabolic which is not the point at this moment. Then I eat a small meal later in the day around 4 PM and then another meal around 8 PM.
At this moment, option 3 is ideal. In the summer, it will be different. I will cycle a lot with the purpose of trimming fat but build endurance so I will let my body go catabolic and be more nibble with energy production. For me, cycling offers the best option for easy catabolic because it is much easier on the body than running which I feel really breaks tissue down more rapidly.
If I were not training and didn’t have any concern about performance choosing when to eat with awareness would be my option, not follow a program.
Treat programs as binders of information and then tailor it to what you need and find YOUR way to YOUR optimal health.
See you around.