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Paleo Challenge Day 23: Hungry Like The Wolf

Day 23 – Monday January 23

Yes, I did it. I went the entire day eating nothing solid, drinking nothing but coffee and green tea and water. I’ve done this before, but not for this long a period of time. Maybe 18 hours, maybe 20, but not 36. My inspiration for this experiment was reading Richard Nikoley’s new “Free The Animal” book, which (like I’ve said) is an absolute steal at $3.99 on your e-reader. The most jarring and interesting section for me was the one on intermittent fasting, which argues that in our ancestral days, we spent many 24-48 hour periods hunting and foraging and finding absolutely nothing to eat.

Same deal with animals, especially carnivores. They don’t hunt on a full stomach, and they don’t tend to snack. They get hungry, they exert a lot of energy to get food, and they stuff themselves; these eating habits don’t lead to any sort of obesity or metabolic disease in them, so why should it in us? In fact, the phenomenon of autophagy, in which cells destroy older worn-out proteins and other debris in order to recycle them anew, is stimulated by fasting. And autophagy, in turn, stimulates cell repair. The lack of autophagy seems to be linked to premature aging and cell death. From Wikipedia: “Autophagy helps cells survive stress,” said Junying Yuan, Harvard Medical School professor of cell biology and senior author on the paper. “It’s like a recycling process that degrades old proteins into amino acid energy sources enabling cells to survive in difficult circumstances. It’s a turnover mechanism.”

So why not go through a brief 24-36 hour fast every so often, or even a 16-hour one every night, since the benefits purportedly start at right around that window of time? Obviously, it’s hard. And you get hungry. And this ain’t no calorie restriction. You’re trying to stuff all your eating into an 8-hour window or less in a given day, and this could be as much as 3000 calories. I will say this, from experience. The first couple of times are really difficult. Your best bet is to fast when you have a lot of busy work and feel comfortable riding the wave on just coffee or tea. For example, my first dry runs with fasting were on overnight calls at the hospital, when I spent most of my night running from room to room in the ER and signing patient notes. The key is to distract yourself with something interesting. Walk. Watch a movie. Read. Sleep. Sleep some more.

Next time: a full praise-filled review of “Free The Animal”. And my fasted deadlift workout experiment, which led to an unexpected injury.

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