Feast and Bust Ass; Then Famine

— I’m Blowing The Lid Off Fasting Myths

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You know I’m an iconoclast because I’ve told you.

Many times.

I’m an old hand at fasting, going back to 2007/8-ish. I was grounded and based back then.

It was…simple:

  1. Two HIT gym sessions of 30–40 minutes each week
  2. Two 30-hr, zero-calorie fasts each week (after lunch to dinner the next day)

Neither were easy, but there’s one thing this approach did in spades.

It made the pain very acute and episodic, not chronic.

Anyway, long story short, it worked well and it worked fast. Results are highly visible in two weeks. The total 20+ kilos I dropped happened over about a year or so. It could have been faster, but I drank too much too often, didn’t really always include those calories in a “fast,” and I wasn’t fully consistent.

But, I have managed to keep a good deal of it off most of the time.

… Another thing that killed progress, though?

Time Restricted Feeding bullshit. I write that a bit tongue-in-cheek because I do know it works if adhered to. And perhaps it’s just me, but I find it one fuck of a lot harder to adhere to consistently, and for long term, than Extended Fasting.

Time Restricted Feeding (TRF): you eat within a window of time every day, generally from 4 to 8 hours…so 16/8, 18/6, and 20/4 fasting/feeding. The most popular is 18/6, and it’s what I did as part of Martin Berkhan’s Leangains program, which I’ve written about extensively here.

Extended Fasting (fasting): zero caloric intake for 1 day or more. A “juice fast” is “drinking juice,” not “fasting.” Note that “extended” is a redundancy. It’s a purposeful one, a superfluous and meaningless distinction to make people think it’s WAY OUT THERE!!! and probably something to be afraid of for a number of [The ScienceTM ] reasons.

… Look, I know a lot of people are sincere, and TRF works for lots of people, and probably there are some who can adhere to a day-in-day-out (chronic) TRF regimen more consistently than they can a true intermittent fasting acute regimen.

Where I have my problem is the inherent and fundamental dishonesty in the advocacy.

They know that real fasting will be too tough for a lot of weak people whose courage, resolve, discipline, and pain tolerance can be measured on a gram scale…it’s probably why most are fat anyway. It’s a mental problem—and I don’t mean leptin, ghrelin, et al. hunger-signalling hormones.

I mean: fucking lazy ass.

Just say it, for shit’s sake. And, me too.

So because TRF is easier—or probably, easier to make it sound easier—a bunch of The Science gets “done” and better be careful: extended fasting? YOU’LL LOSE MUSCLE MASS!!!

Bullshit. You have to go quite a while with zero calories before lean mass loss becomes a factor at all and in fact, there are several mechanisms that intentionally guard against it.

  • Growth hormone and testosterone release, especially during sleep, and why you’ll often wake up pumped and with wood during a true fast
  • Ketones mitigate both inflammation and lean loss (they quell both)
  • Autophagy recycles lean mass so, an extended fast could actually make you a bit stronger coming out the other end with the same or microscopically less lean mass

… My renewed interest in fasting actually began in July 2020 when I snapped this photo:

Feasting

The event was the “house blessing” that’s traditional in Buddhist, or at least Thai-Buddhist culture, after you’ve purchased or built a house. In this case, that’s the “sitting room” of the house I built amongst the rice paddies of Sisaket province in the small village of Ban Laem Thong. The monks are from one of the temples within ear shot and I say ear because that’s where I got my habit of getting up at 04.00…listening to the monks perform their morning ritual chants in the dark stillness and off in the distance, over a coffee and a smoke.

To clue you in on my cluelessness at the time, I’d asked the girl what time the party starts the next day, she said they’ll start cooking at 3, and then I was awoken at 05.00 with “the party is starting,” perplexed, only then to find out that she meant 03.00, not 15.00.

Long story short, Thai monks eat twice a day. Early morning breakfast, and lunch at about noon. They essentially do an 18/6 TRF every day of their ministry. The food they eat is provided by common folk. The monks walk a route with a large covered bowl and shoulder strap, people put food inside…rice, vegetables, some animal protein, and eggs (Thais eat an enormous amount of eggs—and a cubed, chicken-liver pâté thing in their soups). The people are generally of modest means, so the food is real—at least out in rural areas, the heart and soul of the Thailand I love.

But the stories you’ll read, sponsored by the evilest-of-all pharmaceutical companies, about the rise in diabetes amongst monks, are always urban monks…where the people have greater means, are less cognizant of the heart-part of spiritual things in general, the monks have sweet tooth, and so lots of what goes in the bowl is 7-junk (7-Eleven). Plus, the urban monks are notorious cheaters on the diet and for many temples, it’s ok to drink sugar-water (Coke, et al.) during the “fast.”

I’ve never seen a fat or unhealthy-looking monk anywhere near our neck of the rural woods. Quite to the contrary, as evidenced by the photo, above.

The thing is, the fasting is part of their spirituality, where some daily denial of the desires of the flesh (food, sex, entertainment, air conditioning, shoes, alcohol, a soft bed) is what distinguishes them, sets them apart, and focuses their minds inward in contemplation and enlightenment.

It’s not about weight loss or health. That’s a fringe benefit.

… So all of that to get to this.

My experience…having resumed a fasting regimen in earnest. And not a pussy-ass one. As I write this on Sunday morning my time, my last calorie was dinner at 18.00, Thursday. I have 9 hours to go before the end of this 72-hour, 3-day fast when I meet my American expat buddies every Sunday evening 18.00, at Mike’s Mexican.

carnitas (pulled pork) mini-quesadilla and shredded-beef taco

The brief history is as follows.

  • Got serious on July 1 when I did a program called SHRED30; 30 consecutive hard-ass days in the gym, 4-5 exercises, medium to high volume…and scheduled in a way as to account for different muscle recovery time (since you’re hitting it daily).
  • The program calls for PSMF-eating during the month (hence, SHRED), but my interest was hypertrophy.
  • During the month, my shirts got substantially tighter in the shoulders and my pants, substantially looser at the waistline. I went from 88 to 89 kilos…which is about perfect, representing both fat loss and lean gain.
  • Took the first week of August off to eat, sleep, and recover.
  • Then I began a new program by the same guy called Longevity. I chose the 4-day per week. It’s 4–5 exercises, 4 sets each, 15–20 reps each set, except Romanian Deadlifts, which is 4×12, currently at 80 kilos (176 pounds), and I’m [just barely] licking that 48th [FUCKING] rep.
  • I do the 4 days consecutive, in succession, Monday through Thursday.
  • I eat big. About 2500 kcal, roughly 50/30/20 p/c/f…and I get 200+ grams of protein daily without fail, often 250 grams.
  • Then I famine. Nothing for 3 days.
  • Four days of eating whole food big and busting ass in the gym, then 3 days of zero eating, relaxation, sleep, and really focussed work.

Six hours later, I had my last bite for 3 days.

So, fuck that other marketing-hype-bullshit about the SMALL WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY!!! you have (to take all those fancy-label protein shakes and supplements and eat) so you don’t “lose or waste your gains…” I repeat: Bullshit.

How can I say that?

Easy. Having completed three full weeks on that program and now just hours away from completing the fasting portion of the third week…

THE SCALE READS 87 KILOS, AND THE GYM STATS AND MIRROR SHOW UNEQUIVOCAL MASS AND STRENGTH GAINS.

That’s 2 kilos down net in 3 weeks, with lean-mass gains, so more than 4.4 pounds of pure fat loss, since there are lean gains.

So, yes, you can gain mass and strength while losing fat, being in an energy deficit, BUT, by also being a gym-science-bro about it and not fucking around with meal-by-meal or even day-by-day.

Here’s the key: it’s all viewed, integrated, and assembled on a week-by-week basis.

So, for example, I’ll go to Makro (Thai Costco; no shit…except for the signage, you would not be able to tell the difference) in a few hours to do my shopping.

older, pre-regimen photo, now way more omnivorous, but you get the protein idea

Here’s what the plates look like if you missed it for previous posts.

I buy all my food for 4 days and I just eyeball it. I ran the numbers for the first week, and it came out at the macro-breakdown I wrote above. So no need for that anymore. It’s wired in.

The best thing? I don’t give a fuck what I eat or when I eat during those 4 days. It doesn’t fucking matter. If I want to eat 5 of my total of 12 oranges for the 4 days while watching Netflix, I do so. If I want to eat 2 of my 4 large potatoes in one day instead of 1/2 each of two meals, I do so.

I allow myself 1 cheat during the 4 days, sourced outside. Week number one I did not, weeks two and three I did. A pint of high-quality ice cream, consumed however I want. In one time, or a bit at a time.

I’m not going to blow smoke up your ass about the difficulty of a 3-day fast. But, it is very likely not as bad as you think. Day one is no big. Day three, you’re so high that you’re almost done, nothing can bring you down. It’s day number-fucking-two that sucks the most. That said, several things kill the “hunger.” Sleep; a walk; a swim; a sunbathing; getting your mind focussed on something challenging (like writing a blog post…I have not thought about food in the last 2 hours); sex.

I put the word hunger in quotes, above.

The real scientific fact is, we’re marvelously capable of going fairly significant periods with zero or almost no food. That’s because for many thousands of years, our ancestors had no choice in the matter, so it was a prime evolutionary directive that we turn those periods into enhanced abilities.

You see, ironically, this isn’t compromising yourself and your health whatsoever. It’s not doing nutritional-status damage as a tradeoff for a lean and attractive body and reduced clothing budget.

It’s actually making you more healthful, and doing this regularly ushers in the hallmark of true human healthful longevity.

That regular fasting is ancient wisdom in every known culture informs us that our ancestors knew something we’ve lost.

You want to know why I put “hunger” in quotes?

Because during a relatively short fast of a day or few, it’s not true hunger.

I call it “pussy-brain.”

UPDATE:


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10 Comments

  1. Nick Glatz on August 27, 2023 at 19:29

    As usual, great post! What’s for dinner at Mike”s? You’re there as I read this. I love the understanding about timed protein feeding – is it microscopically better to ingest pro after you lift…yes, is it the holy grail…no. I’ve started my own 24 hour fast on off days. For my Longevity (as previously commented” – I like the two total body sessions each week and a fast or two in between workouts.

    Looking back, I’m glad you didn’t get that construction gig……your content wouldn’t be the same and your AI skills probably wouldn’t have grown as quickly as they have. Cheers and quit the smokes so you can keep writing (fuck it, or don’t).

    • Richard Nikoley on August 28, 2023 at 00:54

      I was just considering adding smoking cessation to the mix today. And cut the fuck down on the coffee…

      • Nick Glatz on August 28, 2023 at 06:04

        1/2 Caf – it’s my go to. It works and fills the void. 3 cups dark roast in the morning before walk, then 1/2 caf the rest of the day.

        Need substitute for dips as I suffer from torn pec muscle and rotator cuff – can’t bench heavy either. Any ideas?



      • Richard Nikoley on August 28, 2023 at 06:29

        AJAC has a regular “ask me anything” on Twitter, so see if you can get in on one of those sessions and ask.

        I think probably the various styles of pushups would do it. You can do incline for easier, standard, and decline for hard. Then you can do variations by hand placement and I’m sure researching that, you’d find which hand placements work different areas of tris and shoulders differently.



  2. Gordon on August 28, 2023 at 07:57

    I learned about dry fasting from your account of the guy you met who was into it. Have you thought about trying that?

    I did at 40 hour dry fast a couple of weeks ago, first fast ever. It was not difficult. Wasn’t even very thirsty or hungry when I broke the fast. Didn’t sleep well the second night, maybe due to the stress hormone release. Was down 4 pounds at the end of it, after refeeding I gained about three pounds back.

    • Richard Nikoley on August 28, 2023 at 11:25

      I find I’m not really thirsty during my fasts. OTOH, I pound coffee the first few hours after waking, then nothing but swigs of water to wet the mouth. I don’t spit them out, but they’re minimal.

      I have thought about it.

      Well, there’s ALWAYS the next fast in my future. ;)

      • Gordon on August 31, 2023 at 08:29

        I just tried another one, 36 hours this time, felt a little rougher. I wonder if there’s an argument to be made for cycling water, analogous to carbs. Instead of sipping all day long, drink a whole lot once or twice a day. Or like you are doing, like an intermittent dry fast inside of a water fast.



      • Richard Nikoley on August 31, 2023 at 08:31

        Only one way to find out. ;)



  3. Peter Collins on October 3, 2023 at 04:31

    Hi Rich
    Fantastic post
    I was just email chatting with Drew, he did really well, I will let you chat directly with him about that.

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