Thursday, January 28, 2010

A New Academic Year, A New Academic Experiment

Today marked my return to the educational institution I call my second home. My holidays are officially over, and once again I'm faced with the reality of what most people consider 'normal eating habits'. Case in point - morning tea & lunch were provided to the staff today. I didn't even bother going to the social staffroom to see what 'food' was served for morning tea, but I did cross the hall at lunchtime with an ultimately misplaced glimmer of hope. I was greeted with platters of party pies and sausage rolls, deep-fried spring rolls, tiny club sandwiches with minimal filling, and nori (sushi) rolls with sugary mayo coating the fillings.

I am seriously considering making a formal request for the food provided at such events to be whole, nourishing, and at least avoiding the most common allergens in at least ONE food option!

This experience further consolidated my idea regarding a new way of eating I wanted to try. I love sticking to a carnivorous diet - I feel energetic and lithe - but I am repeatedly reminded that for many people merely adhering to a low-carb plan is difficult enough, let alone a 'hardcore' regime such as Zero Carb. One of my passions is education, and whilst I know that self-experimentation can only ever be an n=1 study and that my results only prove what may work for me, not what definitely works for the general populace, one of the primary motivations for maintaining this blog is to use myself as a demonstration of feasibility. Since ZC seems out of reach of most people, who may do just as well on a more varied diet anyway, I have decided to option my options back up to include all Primal fare, whilst experimenting with a way of eating that has been making waves through recent scientific reports, and has a rich history of anecdotal success across a longer period of history. It has links to evolutionary eating patterns, breaks away from the socially conditioned patterns of eating, and helps to maintain a caloric deficit without hunger and without long-term harm of metabolic capacity.

I speak, of course, of Alternate-Day Fasting.

The general premise comes in many guises - Up Day Down Day Diet, Feast or Famine Diet, etc. A popular term for a more flexible approach is the Eat Stop Eat protocol, although this is not intermittent calorie restriction if the post-fast meal makes up for the calories missed by the fast. Long-time readers of this blog and other blogs in the primal community will be no stranger to the concepts of intermittent fasting, which I practice sporadically, particularly during the working week where finding time for a primal lunch is a pain in the loincloth.

However, this experiment is going to take a stricter approach than my usual 'meh, I'm going to fast until dinner today' spontaneity. This is in order to hopefully create stronger causal links between my programme and my results, and also to make my trial easier to replicate, should readers wish to do so. The goal here is not just intermittent fasting, but intermittent caloric restriction.

The basics:

On my 'normal' day, I will eat my usual primal diet, with a focus on meat & eggs, eating fat to satiety, and including a range of vegetables. On occasion, I will also include fruit & nuts. My usual carb range, even when eating what feels like a lot of vegetation, is 20g per day or less, but I will not worry if this number increases on normal days, so long as I stick to low glycaemic load foods. Given my history, when eating to satiety I tend to consume around 1800-2200kcal per day. I will not be watching this figure too closely for the first weeks.

On my 'alternate' day, i.e. every second day, I will consuming around one quarter of the amount of calories consumed the previous day. This may be achieved through only consuming one meal per day, eating a number of small meals, or perhaps a complete fasting excepting a few doses of coconut oil. I am very comfortable fasting until dinner time, so I suspect this will be my preferred method.

Numerous studies and anecdotes have demonstrated the relative ease with which individuals can adhere to this way of eating, even when the food consumed is not low-carb. For those people, the opportunity to induce lipolysis by having low insulin levels during fasting periods is a novel way to lose weight. For us, the benefit of fasting is more closely tied to the idea of triggering the release of 'survival' hormones through fasting and caloric restriction, enhancing our fat-burning that way, whilst keeping our metabolism intact. Fasting in general is also an accessible way to achieve caloric restriction without having to always count calories. So no matter where you sit on the 'relevance of calorie counting' discussion, alternate day fasting (ADF) has visible potential.

Many, many people have discussed regimes similar to ADF, and for those of you who want hard data and expert opinion, here are just some of the people on my blogroll and their articles exploring the concept:

Mark Sisson - Feast or Famine Diet

Matt Metzgar - The Alternate Day Diet & Intermittent Calorie Restriction.

Chris @ Conditioning Research - Intermittent Fasting: more research

JP @ Healthy Fellow - Alternate Day Fasting


Richard Nikoley - Alternate Day Fasting, Weight Loss & Food

Unlike ZC/carnivorism, where my goal is as much about maintaining a positive sense of well-being as it is a potential fat-loss method, ADF has the singular aim of fat loss. I don't expect to feel better or more energetic on this plan than I do whilst on normal primal eating patterns, and certainly not better than when eating only animal products since I have repeatedly demonstrated to myself that there's just no substitute if I want to feel great AND have a smooth belly AND have an excellent sense of balance in all my physiological systems. ADF is all about the bottom line. And my hope is that I'll end up with results that inspire others to give it a shot and lend weight (no pun intended) to ADF as a potential fat-buster for those who lack the will-power to give up unhealthy food choices, or cannot break psychological ties to food, whether they are truly emotion-based or due to insulin imbalances. If we can get obesity under control, that's a step in the right direction.

It begins:

As a control measure, I took a few days to reintroduce fibre into my system, eating to satiety and then some in order to boost my metabolic rate. I was picking up on some flu symptoms, possibly caused by excessive air-conditioning whilst up north, so I wanted to re-feed my body to give it a good chance of fighting off whatever was ailing me.


After a much-needed sleep-in, I served up a large, fresh salad with an array of seafood topping options: salmon sashimi, grilled salmon, and fried seafood marinara.

For dinner, I whipped up my favourite, Caveman Chicken, served with aspects of Veggie Cornucopia, plus wilted beet leaves.


Started the day with The Usual - ham & cheddar omelette.

We were off to the Australian Open, so I packed up some leftover Caveman Chicken & veggies for a decadent lunch whilst watching Davydenko slowly pulverise Verdasco. My meal was more interesting than the match - thankfully, the rest of the day was riveting watching, even though it was not a good day for the last two remaining Aussie challengers.

I had assumed that there would be nothing but rubbish served at the Open and that I would be sure to miss out on dinner. Imagine my surprise when I discovered a 'sizzling salads' stand, serving nothing but fresh salads (Greek, Mediterranean, or Green) topped with grilled meat (beef or chicken, or crumbed calamari). Delight and rapture! And a bonus - we were late getting dinner, and the stall was packing up for the day, so they stuffed my bowl as full of meat & veg as it could contain!

Tuesday - The First 'Normal' Day

The debut of the suddenly-infamous Coconut Pancakes... Sooo gooooood....

Inspired by the Mediterranean salad on offer at the tennis, I roasted up some pumpkin, capsicum, zucchini and carrot, and served it with another range of seafood options - smoked salmon, fried calamari and baby octopi!

After two big meals, we were happy with leftover salad and some barbecued lamb chops and snags for dinner. I went for some chipollatas from Jonathan's.

Wednesday - The First 'Alternate' Day

I effortlessly fasted through breakfast and lunch, distracted by the business of getting ready for the return of the students on Monday. Of course, fasting is pretty much a breeze when you know you're going out for dinner at Rockpool Bar & Grill! My usual order is the $50 Cape Grim Dry Aged 36 month old Grass Fed Fillet (250g), but tonight I felt like something a bit more special. So I upped the ante and went for the David Blackmore Mishima Grass Fed (From A Marble Score 9+ Animal) Rump (240g). Wow! The exquisiteness of this amazing beef was solidified when I was offered a piece of my usual order, as purchased by the beau's Mom... The comparison between that 'really good' steak and the utter amazingness of the tender, buttery-textured Mishima is indescribable. Go get it! We accompanied our hunks of gorgeous animal with sautéed zucchini and wilted greens (broccolini, leek, and cabbage). Culinary perfection.

My first round of ADF is in the bag! I barely consumed 600kcal today, yet five hours after dinner I'm still feeling fine. Bring on Round #2...


Anonymous said...

Fascinating! Looking forward to hearing your results. I used to IF once a week or so when I was doing low-carb lacto-paleo, but ZC has made it so easy for me to eat once a day, lately the only times I've fasted have been after visiting the dentist.

Ever since going ZC, I've been pretty sure that if I ever "strayed from the path", it would look a lot like what you describe (grains? never again!) I recently posted my thoughts on climbing the carb ladder, and would love to hear your take on which plants are least problematic in terms of fiber, fructose and other rotten poisonous stuff :) Also which ones might be best to try first, to ease back into things rather than shocking the system!

Jezwyn said...

Great post! I totally agree with everything you note - I'm adding veggies and nuts back into the mix for the pure reason that other people have a hard time cutting them out without feeling deprived, not for any 'nutritive necessity' misunderstanding.

I thought about picking and choosing carbs to do an ease-in approach, but ultimately my logic reasoned that doing so would just prolong the adaptation phase, and who was to say that it would be more uncomfortable to get any possible reaction over in one hit rather than risk the same level of discomfort for days and day? The system was going to suffer a shock anyway... I looked at overall fibre intake rather than type of carb, and it seems to have worked fairly well, though my gut bacteria is still working on getting back into balance, though my intestinal activity seems to be back in order.

My choices are based on availability, working for typical variety, again to best match with what the average weight-loss seeker might be able to access (in terms of range rather than specifics, given global diversity). Since this is a short-term trial, I'm not panicking too much about what I eat raw/cook, just amounts of fibre and overall GL. Berries are my only form of fruit, and will be rare. I'll still be treating veggies in general as vehicles for fats, so sauteed cabbage is back on regular rotation, for instance.

I think that the key is the inclusion of probiotics to help the gut bacteria balance recover, as there's a major change that occurs when we go ZC for a decent period of time. I already take a supplement (although I ran out a week ago, bad timing!) but I'll be looking into probiotic foods that I can access (sadly, I have huge issues with mould growing in my kitchen, so I won't be making anything myself any time soon!)

Lupe said...

You take such lovely photographs, thanks for sharing them with your audience.

IF scares me. I have been battling an obsession with food and am worried that leaving that window open will create some problems. But I might be wrong. I am reading everyone's experiences with it, and look forward to finding out how it works for you.


Anonymous said...

Ive long thought about doing IF myself. I have had some lazy attempts but I think a more committed approach like you are doing is what is needed. I will watch carefully as you progress. Good luck!!

Jezwyn said...

Thanks Lupe! The tough part of IF is not over-compensating with more food after the fast ends. If you're someone who tends to feel deprived whenever you refuse yourself food, then there'd be a big hurdle to clear before IF started feeling comfortable. Possibly worth the struggle though...

Thanks for the comment, darwinstable (Dr. Dan?) I like planning fasts ahead of time, since now that I'm back from holidays I need to be sure that my energy levels will get me through my day. I've realised that I may need to massage my ADF plan a little since Tuesday & Thursday are uber-long teaching & rehearsal days, so if they were to be fasting days every second week, that could risk unpleasantness if I'm running really low on fuel... So I might have to finagle the role of the weekend somewhat... :)

Dr.A said...

I thought about it too.. will be interested to see how you get on!

Judith said...

I've just come to the end of a frustrating 2 week experiment with ADF - frustrating because I ended up heavier than I started. I'll be interested to see how you get on. Keep us posted!

Ray said...

After reading some medical studies**, I began to fast three days a week about a year ago. Six months in, I dropped so much weight I scaled back to fasting two days a week. I've found this to be a good maintenance level for me.

I fast on the days I'm busiest, which helps mitigate hunger. I love the post kill feast & nap too much to live on CR. =D

** this one specifically: