This post takes 10 minutes to read, and tells you how to, and why, you should try intermittent fasting. And beans + saunas (not simultaneously though, please).
Do you want to live forever?
What kind of question is that? Retarded.
However, most people actually answer that question with a ‘No’
Yes, that’s right. I truly want to live forever, explore other star systems and find other life forms (or double back after a million years, and meet people who stayed back or went in another direction).
When do you want to die then?
One way to think about it is imagining a day where you are perfectly healthy and can decide whether to die right away or live another day. My guess is you’ll find a reason to check out tomorrow too, just in case…
Most people instinctively associate ‘forever’ with being ill and frail, with no friends and nothing to do, perhaps lying in a bed in a nursing home day in and day out.
I, however, extrapolate from
- the steam engine
- punch cards
- and the iPhone
with a little help of
- quantum mechanics
- super conductivity
- gene therapy
- artificial biology
- longevity research
- carbon nanotubes
- nanotechnology etc.
to a quite different future of strong artificial general intelligence and nano medicine keeping our bodies young and cancer free at the cell or even molecular level.
That should be enough to make us live long enough, for whatever it will take in terms of technological progress to ensure indefinite lifespans.
The future is not the present
I mean, going to Mars is really just the first, very small, step on a marathon of marathons, when it comes to man’s exploration of technological possibilities and the universe.
Do you think the progress during the less than 150 years it took from the era of Carnegie, Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, Ford and Edison to the age of planetary exploration will just grind to a halt here and now?
Judging from the constantly accelerating technological advancements, I think the coming 150 years will show many orders of progress more than the last 150 years.
Peter Diamandis, Craig Venter, Elon Musk and Ray Kurzweil are but a few poster children of technological progress. In our connected, open source society, millions will interact and strengthen each other’s contributions to an ever quicker advancement of the necessary longevity components.
One snag: you have to live long enough first
You won’t live forever, if you don’t live long enough. And that, you’ll have to take care of yourself for the time being.
I know I can sound like Ray Kurzweil’s mouthpiece at times, but I’m not suggesting you chomp down hundreds of untested pills each day, or live on lettuce and apple peels. I’m only telling you to nudge your behavior ever so slightly, for maximum effect with minimum effort.
That’s how I always do it, in all areas of life; invest 1% to gain 50% of what’s available. Here are a selection my longevity tips as they stand right now:
Tips and tricks for improved health and longevity
Eat beans (Gastropod, Nature, TED, WebMD) more or less every day. Why not fried eggs and mixed beans for your first meal of the day (i.e., breakfast, unless you’re fasting during mornings like I do)?
Super humans will serve with spinach and kale, as well as season their food with turmeric (“gurkmeja” in Swedish) and chili. Full retards will have their coffee with some cinnamon, and finish off breakfast with a bowl of berries (blueberries and blackberries, e.g.)
Add a couple of teaspoons of natural fish oil to your food intake every day (I prefer it straight from the bottle), unless you have fatty fish like mackerel or salmon for lunch or dinner.
During the dark half of the year, you should consider taking a vitamin-D supplement as well, but otherwise that’s more or less it, in terms of nutritional magical tricks.
Sure, you should have a lot of cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts) and avoid industrially processed food (like juice) too, but let’s not get completely out of hand here.
Just beans, fatty fish (oil) and vitamin-D will get you far.
Take walks and avoid sitting.
Ideally, you should never remain seated for more than an hour at a stretch. I know! Crazy, right?
Sitting slowly kills (Death of a thousand butts), by destroying your mobility and balance (increasing the risk of injury and even less mobility with every step), by shutting down circulation, by dulling the brain. Sitting for hours every day cuts years and years off your life span.
Walking, in contrast, stimulates the brain (thinking, reasoning and planning evolved from processing moving objects including the body itself; originally moving was thinking: the brain science podcast). Walking increases BDNF, brain plasticity and prevents degenerative brain diseases (like Alzheimers) and dementia.
Walking 30 minutes a day, where you at least start panting a bit, makes a world of difference. But feel free to walk as much as you can. It’s even better with a friend (scientifically proven), barefoot, or listening to an educational podcast.
Hot saunas might not qualify as exercise, but they are highly beneficial for your health in several ways, including heart attack prevention, lowered oxidative stress, increased plasma volume and endurance and increased growth hormone. Frequent sauna baths really are the fountain of youth.
Do a few easy mobility exercises every week.
Aim for 7 minutes a week. Yes, that’s right; on average just one minute a day of more or less effortless movements is all it takes to stay physically young in your most important joints. Mobilize in the couch when watching the news.
Focus on the hips, shoulders and (upper) back. The rest is mostly show-off. I’ve written more extensively about mobility here, but these are the most important movements:
- Hips: squat and couch stretch
- Shoulders: forearms horizontally behind the lower back; expand chest with deep breaths, or lie down on your back with the arms still behind your back
- Upper back, thoracic spine: lie on a foam roller, or rolled up big towel or two, and arch your upper (thoracic) back over the roller, thus neutralizing your computer crouch
- Fancy moves include the pigeon stretch for your glutes, and various hamstring stretches, but they are nowhere near as important as the other three movements. Alrighty then, the quasi couch pigeon actually is mandatory every now and then.
Super pigeon: fancy move by me
FYI: I plan to write a comprehensive guide to useful and easy mobility exercises. In a while. Until then, you’ll have to make do with the Always Be Bruce Wayne one :)
Don’t be this guy stuck crouching over his computer for hours on end. Take at least a 5-minute walk outside every second hour.
Last but not least, nowhere near least, is the recently re-popularized intermittent fasting regime.:
There is too much to say about fasting for the scope of this blog in general, and this post in particular. There is, however, tons of research (check out this meta research if you want), and more or less all (if not all, period) of it points to strong short and long term health benefits from various fasting regimes*.
Intermittent fasting means regularly restricting one’s food intake for at least half a day (12 hours). Among the most popular schemes, you’ll find the following:
- 5:2 Eat very little during two days a week, and whatever you like during the other five
- 24h Every now and then (1-2 times a week) don’t eat any calories at all during 24 consecutive hours
- 48h Not quite twice as popular as 24h fasting. Actually not even half as popular. Come to think of it, not popular at all, I’d say. Don’t eat for 48h straight around every second week.
- 4d Eat extremely limited amounts during four days straight once a month. Probably the least popular diet there is (except for the live worms only diet)
- 16:8 This is the one I’ve followed for the last three years. It means eating what you need during an 8 hour feeding window, and then fasting for 16 hours, day in and day out. The regime can be tweaked between 12:12 and 20:4, e.g., depending on social situation, workouts, will power etc. In addition, since little is better than nothing, the 24-x:x method can be applied as many or few days a week as you like. Since fasting and partying is impossible, I aim for fasting 90-95% of the time, leaving a few days a month for indulging in food and drinks all day (and night) long.
* however, the AJCN had this to say in a recent meta survey: “Clinical research studies of fasting with robust designs and high levels of clinical evidence are sparse in the literature. Whereas the few randomized controlled trials and observational clinical outcomes studies support the existence of a health benefit from fasting, substantial further research in humans is needed before the use of fasting as a health intervention can be recommended.”
The benefits of fasting
The short version
All your cells will go into maintenance and cleaning mode during the fasts, with far-reaching effects not unlike those you get from daily intake of fish oil. Do both!
Fasting prevents and postpones the onset of cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, the common cold, aging in general and many other annoyances and diseases. You’ll look better, healthier and younger too.
In addition, intermittent fasting can be a comfortable method for losing fat while building muscle. I seem to be a natural faster and lost many pounds of fat just lying on my ass, while resting after knee surgery in 2013. Most of my muscle mass stayed on as well, but I’ll spare you from more semi-nude pictures of me.
As if that wasn’t enough, you’ll save time from not eating so often.
The Fountain Of Youth version
16:8-fasting is easy:
Eat during 8 hours, fast during 16 hours. I prefer eating between 1 p.m. and 9 p.m., or 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. I actually more or less just skip the common breakfast, and thus avoid the temptation to eat cereal, bread and other inflammatory products. The same goes regarding the now superfluous late evening meal.
During the first few weeks, the new habit of not eating may feel odd. You’ll probably feel hungry a lot as well. Don’t despair, your body will soon adjust and become much more efficient at burning fat for energy, and you’ll stop feeling hungry and restless.
The Holy Grail effect. You enter growth mode when feeding after your workouts, and then shredding mode some 8-12 hours into your fast.
The Fountain Of Youth effect. During fast, your cells change focus from growth to maintenance, repair and clean-up of damaged cells. The clean-up reduces the risk of cancerous mutations during DNA replication and protein synthesis. Consequently the risk of cancer, inflammation, stroke, diabetes, high cholesterol etc. is reduced.
Your blood sugar level becomes lower and less volatile, the brain activity increases (a hungry troglodyte had better get out hunting or thinking hard about how to find food), new brain cells form more easily (increased BDNF), the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson falls.
The production of HGH (human growth hormone – a.k.a. the fountain of youth) rises.
Fasting makes you younger and healthier and increases your longevity
Certain studies in rats (albeit speculative) indicate more than 20 years increased life span in humans.
You’ll save time and can sleep more – an activity in itself a sort of fountain of youth in several respects.
There’s no reason to fear burning muscle during fast. It takes at least 4 full days of total fasting for a healthy body to turn to its muscles as a source for energy.
Serially failed 2-week dieters starve themselves for two weeks, of which the second week can burn a lot of muscle. They then overeat, thus building fat on top of their recently weakened bodies. Intermittent fasters actually do quite the opposite. During the first day of fasting (every day with 16:8), the metabolism rises (burning fat, not muscle, since fasting is not starving unless you go on for 4+ days) together with increased brain activity and and brain cell formation. An evolutionary interpretation is that the underlying cause is the drive for a hungry cave dweller to get up and out and hunt down a woolly mammoth before it’s too late.
A final positive is that it’s nice to be able to relax, knowing that the fear mongering from supplement producers about the risk of being catabolic is just that; retarded scare tactics.
What about binge drinking and intermittent fasting?
If you insist on thinking about your diet while partying, Martin Berkhan is pleased to spill the following advice:
For this day, restrict your intake of dietary fat to 0.3 g/kg body weight (or as close to this figure as possible).
* Limit carbs to 1.5 g/kg body weight. Get all carbs from veggies and the tag-along carbs in some protein sources. You’ll also want to limit carbohydrate-rich alcohol sources such as drinks made with fruit juices and beer. A 33 cl/12 fl oz of beer contains about 12 g carbs, while a regular Cosmopolitan is about 13 g.
* Good choices of alcohol include dry wines which are very low carb, clocking in at about 0.5-1 g per glass (4 fl oz/115ml). Sweet wines are much higher at 4-6 g per glass. Cognac, gin, rum, scotch, tequila, vodka and whiskey are all basically zero carbs. Dry wines and spirits is what you should be drinking, ideally. Take them straight or mixed with diet soda. (No need to be super-neurotic about this stuff. Drinks should be enjoyed after all. Just be aware that there are better and worse choices out there).
* Eat as much protein as you want. Yes, that’s right. Ad libitum. Due to the limit on dietary fat, you need to get your protein from lean sources. Protein sources such as low fat cottage cheese, protein powder, chicken, turkey, tuna, pork and egg whites are good sources of protein this day.
* For effective fat loss, this should be limited to one evening per week. Apply the protocol and you will lose fat on a weekly basis as long as your diet is on point for the rest of the week.
Basically, the nutritional strategy I have outlined here is all about focusing on substrates that are least likely to cause net synthesis of fat during hypercaloric conditions. Alcohol and protein, your main macronutrients this day, are extremely poor precursors for de novo lipogenesis. Alcohol suppresses fat oxidation, but by depriving yourself of dietary fat during alcohol consumption, you won’t be storing anything. Nor will protein cause any measurable de novo lipogenesis. High protein intake will also compensate for the weak effect of alcohol on satiety and make you less likely to blow your diet when you’re drinking.
By the way, a nice bonus after a night of drinking is that it effectively rids you of water retention. You may experience the “whoosh”-effect, which I’ve talked about in my two-part series about water retention. That in itself can be motivating for folks who’ve been experiencing a plateau in their weight loss.
Apply this with good judgement and don’t go out and do something stupid now. Remember, this a short-term strategy for those that want to be able to drink freely* without significantly impacting fat loss progress or causing unwanted fat gain. It’s not something I encourage people to do on a daily basis, but it’s one of the strategies that I apply for maintaining low body fat for myself and my clients.
* Now of course…you can always drink in moderation and make sure to not go over your calorie budget for the day. But what fun is there in that? I’d rather cheat the system with the kind metabolic mischief I’ve laid out above.
Summary – how to get to 200 years
To live long enough to live forever, or at least live healthier and happier for longer with the least effort:
- Eat beans and fatty fish (or fish oil) every day (add certain leafy greens and spices for even better effect). Stock up with beans and frozen salmon or fish oil today, and replace your lunch/dinner potatoes, french fries or pasta with beans.
- Don’t sit; in particular not consecutive hours of sitting down
- Go for brisk walks
- Take saunas frequently. Take one today or tomorrow.
- Mobilize your hips, shoulders and upper back (thoracic spine). Get down in a squat now for two minutes.
- Fast! Don’t eat or drink anything with energy (calories) for 12-24 hours every now and then. I fast for 16 hours every day, year in, year out. Stop eating at 9 p.m. tomorrow and don’t have anything before lunch at 12 noon or 1 p.m.
Now, let’s see who gets to 200 years first…
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