Thursday, December 1, 2011

Fasted Exertion

A Successful Hawaiian Hog Hunt

Ferdinand just reviewed Frost's book, Freedom Twenty-Five: The 21st Century Man’s Guide to Life over at In Mala Fide. I'll have my own review as soon as I get the time to sit down and read the whole thing and render my own assessment of Frost's work. That being said, I found a quote Ferdinand cited interesting, since it's something I've been experimenting with lately - intermittent fasting.

As Frost wrote:

I eat 1-2 meals per day, and I’m almost never hungry. The conventional wisdom states that you should eat five meals a day, which is true if you’re eating a typical American diet and need to constantly snack to maintain your blood sugar. On a high-fat Paleo diet, your body gets used to using dietary and stored fats as its primary energy source, meaning you can go long periods without feeling tired, “hangry” (hungry + angry) or like your stomach is eating itself.

I now frequently go 18 hours without a meal, and by the 17th hour, I feel a vague sense of “Oh yeah, food would be nice right now, wouldn’t it?” But I could just as easily work out, play a game of hockey, or take a nap.

I've been on both ends of this. When I was overweight and following the conventional wisdom that preached avoiding red meat, saturated fat and eating as vegetarian as possible, I was eating 5-6 times a day, and I had wildly fluctuating energy levels, a continually expanding waistline, and late afternoon energy crashes, and a feeling of being befuddled and groggy that required a 30 minute nap just to try and function normally.

Before the weight loss, it was the steady energy levels and no longer having to take a daily nap that was the first major change I noticed once I gave up the SAD and began eating primal. The weight loss took a few months to notice.

But for the first several years, I basically would call my diet "low carb" rather than paleo. I cut out all carbs except for cruciferous veggies. No potatoes. No rice. I still ate 3 meals a day. When I went hiking or hunting, I'd make sure to carry a bunch of snack food (paleo-type stuff, of course - jerky, nuts, cheese, meats etc.).

Upon encountering the practice of Intermittent Fasting in the paleosphere, I didn't really pay much attention to it at first. I basically skipped over any post I came across regarding the topic. After all, I had stabilized my energy levels, lost a bunch of weight and never felt better, why should I fast?

But the longer I stuck to eating primal, the less I felt like eating 3 square meals. Without consciously doing it at first, I began to skip my lunch and start only eating breakfast and dinner. Being a (former) cubicle jockey in business to business sales, I used to pack a daily lunch to eat at my desk.

After several days of not eating my lunches, I started paying attention to the intermittent fasting blogging from the various paleosphere luminaries like Mark Sisson, Richard Nikoley, et al.

But it was J. Stanton's seminal post, Eat Like A Predator, Not Like Prey that finally gave clarity to the theory behind IF for me.

Most importantly, now that you’re no longer eating huge plates of sugar (‘carbohydrates’) and greasy seed oils, you’ll find that big, hearty meals don’t make you fall asleep. You’ll also find that it’s much easier to go without food now that your body is re-accustomed to burning fat.

Aha! This must be why I no longer had an appetite for lunch, given my daily breakfast of bacon, eggs, sausage, mushrooms etc. (fried in butter of course). I had now primarily become reliant on burning fat instead of carbs for my energy, and no longer needed to eat 3 square meals to keep my energy levels steady.

So I settled into a 2 meals a day routine for the past year. Than around August, Stanton posted another piece in which he wrote about hiking Mt. Whitney in a single day completely fasted.

Prior to this post, I had the idea that fasting while working at a desk all day was one thing...but taking on a rigorous physical activity while fasting?

So I thought I'd give it a try.

The next time I went hunting, I didn't eat my normal breakfast, and I didn't pack food.

The hunt lasted for about 8 hours, we caught a pig, and I had to pack it out with my partner...for the most part, carrying it uphill on our backs. Very intense exertion...with the only food in my belly coming from dinner the night before. When I was done, I was hungry, but not to the point of that shaky, sick feeling one gets when you are on the blood sugar roller coaster of a high-carb, SAD.

My experiences jibed with what Stanton related. So I weighed in with my own anecdotal commentary at his site to let him know I appreciated how his insight helped me gain my own:

I laugh at my younger self…when my boar hunting was defined solely as nothing more than a recreational pursuit to engage in with my friends. I did not understand what I was really experiencing by participating in the most primal act of being alive. The experience of fulfilling the naturally ordained role of the human as an omnivorous predator.

I used to pack my bag full of chips, nuts, candy, crackers, granola, energy bars, and gatorade, and have to continually snack while hunting Hawaii’s mountainous rain forests to keep my energy levels up to deal with the rigors of hunting boar with a pack of dogs in rugged terrain.

Now I hunt with only water in my pack. Like other predator species, I hunt hungry. To think an idea so simple — that a primal diet is optimal to engage in the most primal of pursuits — eluded me all those years as a young hunter. My former ignorance speaks to the level of propaganda and misinformation in our culture and its influence regarding our self-awareness of being a predator species.

I was acting like a hunter, but still eating like prey.

We live in a world socially engineered to indoctrinate the masses to make them ignorant of our species’ ecological niche as an omnivorous predator in the cycle of life.

Instead, we are inculcated into a mindset of being cattle in the great domesticated herds of “civilization.”

While hunting taught me the skills and knowledge to kill, clean and butcher prey, I did not embrace the logical conclusion of the hunt. I was squeamish about eating game when I had been raised on a lifetime of factory-farmed, manufactured feed products. I would only cut the most desired cut of meat from the pigs we caught (the tenderloin) and feed the rest to the dogs (they still get there share as their reward for catching it…but I take way more portions for my own family’s use now), and throw the offal and bones away. I used to use heavily flavored and sweetened sauces to try and mask the game flavor of the meat.

I was a squeamish hunter that did not truly relish the fruits of labor from the hunt.

Now, I harvest the liver and heart. I boil the bones to make stock. My only seasoning on the cuts of meat I harvest, is salt and pepper.

I relish the life sustaining harvest of the land.

As an omnivorous species, we all have a choice to make: eat like a predator, or eat like prey.

Now I prefer to eat my 2 meals a day - breakfast and dinner, but the point is, I don't feel like I have to. I'll frequently do things like yard work or repair projects first thing in the morning, hours before eating the first meal of the day.

As Frost pointed out, going paleo actually freed him up from constantly thinking about, planning and preparing numerous meals.

Predator species hunt, kill and gorge. It may be many hours or even days before they have another successful kill. If they required food to fuel them up for every single instance of physical exertion, most predator species would die of starvation, as one failed hunt would quickly lead to the lack of energy to successfully try to hunt again later.

Is "paleo" a "fad diet" as many detractors continually say? Last I checked, a "fad" diet CAN'T be adhered to for 5 years and counting like I've experienced.

A fad diet is typically nothing more than changing the type of foods you graze on or how often you graze. You may temporarily lose weight, but as long as you do not eat in accordance with your physiological design, you will always experience health problems.

Similar to the cows put into feedlots that require massive doses of antibiotics so that they do not sicken and die while being fattened on feed they were not designed to eat...eating foods you were not evolved or designed to is a recipe for ill health, and premature death.

Eat like a predator and find out for yourself.

Happy hunting.


Joseph Buchignani said...

Great post, but one assumption is incorrect.

I get the same results on a high carb (white rice) diet.

Starchy carbs are paleo.

Keoni Galt said...

Ah, I neglected to mention that I have included white rice and potatoes back in my diet after reading a bit of Dr. Kurt Harris (as well as the very occasional sour dough rye bread sandwich). I noticed my sustained energy levels were a bit higher.

The important distinction here is that at any given meal, the white rice is approx. 15% - 20% of the portions on my plate.

Surely you don't suggest one could eat a huge bowl of white rice by itself as a breakfast, than proceed to fast for 12 hours while exerting yourself?

Might be an interesting experiment I may try in the future.

The other thing I forgot to mention while experimenting with fasting, was an occasion in which I fasted for 14 hours and engaged in some heavy exertion, than tested my blood glucose right before breaking the fast with dinner - a nice, stable 83. I felt like I could have skipped dinner and even felt the energy to still exert myself if I chose to.

anne said...

For years I've been reading about various paleo/specific carb/low-carb diets, and while they make sense intellectually, nothing has hit home so hard as this:

A fad diet is typically nothing more than changing the type of foods you graze on or how often you graze. You may temporarily lose weight, but as long as you do not eat in accordance with your physiological design, you will always experience health problems.

Similar to the cows put into feedlots that require massive doses of antibiotics so that they do not sicken and die while being fattened on feed they were not designed to eat...eating foods you were not evolved or designed to is a recipe for ill health, and premature death.


Getting started is the hardest part, right?

Keoni Galt said...

I think you have two things to overcome to get started: breaking your established patterns and avoiding the cravings from developed taste addictions.

This is especially hard when you have to replace those foods with foods you've been conditioned to believe are bad for you (red meat, saturated fat, butter, bacon, lard etc.) by the media, government and medical establishment.

But within a week or two, if you gut it out, you will most likely feel better than you've felt in a long time.


anne said...

It's the cravings I'm worried about. Over the past few months I've come to think about my own "crippling addiction to carbs/sugar," which is destroying my health (I have Crohn's disease). But every time I try to quit, I keep running back.

I know Michael Eades (and Mark Sisson, I think as well) suggest scaling up fat intake when one starts a low-carb diet, which is supposed to help mitigate cravings. Do you have any other suggestions to keep cravings at bay? I know the psychological part (carbs are my "comfort food") will be my downfall.

Keoni Galt said...

Here's my best suggestion:

Find a source for beef soup bones from grass fed beef.

I found a local butcher here that sells grass fed beef...they didn't have soup bones on display, but I asked if they had. Turns out they usually sell the soup bones to vietnamese Pho restaurants in China town. They were happy to sell me some.

Make a real beef soup stock, with natural sea salt, whatever else you like to add to make a soup that won't aggravate your stomach ailments. I usually make a "stew - soup" with chunks of beef, potatoes, onions, celery and tomato paste. The only reason it's not true stew is because I don't thicken the stock with flour.

Whenever you hit a craving, warm up this broth and drink it like a cup of joe.

The fat and salt should make you feel better.

If you try this, please come back here and let me know if it works or not.

Txomin said...

Same experience here. Near-vegan meant near-obesity. Paleo means I weigh less than 20 years ago while stronger.

Anonymous said...

with regards to getting started,when I started out I ate paleo mon-Fri and then relaxed a bit more with my diet at the weekends

Madbiker said...

Enna, also read Stephen Guyenet's post about what he calls the "simple food" diet. It's a diet that tries to reset our food-reward buttons by making food as plain and simple as possible. It's not for everyone, and something I think I would have to ease into, but more knowledge can never hurt.

I dove into paleo and made sure I had lots of avocados, coconut milk and oil, grassfed butter, and bone broths around. It can be done painlessly. Get a good cookbook too: Fragoso's book and the Food Lover's Make It Paleo are great starts (as are Sisson's two cookbooks).

Keoni: hunting wild pigs in Hawaii sounds like primal bliss. Your point about IF and hunting while fasted is, as usual, right on. Sharpening the edges of your thoughts, shearing away the tiny burrs of stray musings and becoming pure focus on a goal is critical.

My thoughts on primal living have been going beyond diet lately - it's done good things for my health and I continue to lose weight and get in better shape daily, but other life improvements seem to be happening without conscious direction. Periodically "fasting" from things other than food may also offer these mind-sharpening benefits; making us more perceptive and focused on attaining our goals in areas of friendship, work, or romance.

dienw said...

Question: Under what category would beans fall?

An Unmarried Man said...

When I began intermittent fasting 2 years ago, I avoided fasting on my weight days like the plague. Nothing seemed so blasphemous as weight training about 12 hours into a 24-hour fast. One day I decided to give it a shot, and lo and behold, was amazed to discover that my energy level was greatly improved without food in my stomach. Now I routinely fast on either one or two of my weight training days each week with no reduction in my muscle composition.

Carnivore said...

Good, recent source re: intermittent fasting, with emphasis on weight training:

Free e-book. Author has experimented with a few different fasting plans and records results. Very good:

Martin Berkhan is one of the better known proponents. His method is one that's documented in the e-book above.

Burnie said...

Excellent post, thanks!!!

The closing words WRT "fad diet" are excellent and I will remember them when arguing with friends about whether Paleo is a fad or not.

Keoni Galt said...

nj - Legumes.

If you eat beans, you should soak them overnight in water first, than dump the water and rinse them before cooking with them.

The soaking neutralizes much of the anti-nutrients in the beans.

dienw said...

Thanks Keoni.

How would this apply to canned beans? And is making humus a way of overcoming the dryness of beans (this has been in the back of my mind for a year)?

Mir said...

I want to come to Maui and make spam from the wild pig. Only for Kama'aina. :P Just need to find a hunter...

Anonymous said...

Well here we are HL. Five years on, still shouting into the abyss. And it has changed, if only a little.

A great Christmas and happy new year to you.

Rob Case

enna. said...

Keoni and Madbiker: thanks for the tips. I'll definitely check in.

Gotta go find a good butcher now!