I wrote recently on my wish to reduce, what I feel, are excessive amounts of measuring and testing in my quest to stop aging and become Uncle Drew. Last time we spoke of feeding windows and measuring tapes as a simplification for things like counting calories and weighing yourself. Today I’d like to speak about the dreaded macronutrient and how you can keep track in a simple way without the smart phone food calculators and the digital scale.
In Pt. 1 I spoke of the possibility of eating absolutely ad libtum (anything and whenever you want) by just reducing the feeding window until you get the weight control benefits you require. Some people can do it this way but there are plenty of Franken-foods out there that if you indulged in them on a regular basis your eating window would have to be relatively small and you would require very strict fasting outside of that window. One of the ways to regulate this is to care (just a little bit) about whether your chosen morsel is 1) mostly fat, 2) mostly protein, 3) mostly carbohydrate (sugar simple or complex), or 4) natural or industrial.
There is a boat-load of information about this, I’ve provided many links on this discussion on my Facebook Page but boiled down to its essence it goes something like this: Fat causes the least insulin response, protein the next highest and carbohydrates the most. Insulin is a hormone that functions like a key to let energy into the cell and to store fat when energy is abundant. When you are fasting your insulin is low and if you’ve fasted long enough (i.e. the body has used all its carbohydrate stores) you body will start to get energy from its reserves of fat. This process can be bumpy if you’re not accustomed to it, but, if you’re committed, take time to listen to your body and learn a few tricks most healthy people can get past it.
For me, this fasted or ketogenic state is the basic state. In the womb we ate a refined nectar-like kind of food based on our mother’s diet and as breastfed children we ate a high fat ketogenic diet. If you are fasting or trying to make it until your window opens and clear, calorie free liquids aren’t cutting it anymore try a fatty drink like Bullet Proof coffee (or cacao or tee). Insulin will be released but not enough to send you over the edge to begin a meal. A handful of nuts is a possibility but I find this much more dangerous (you can never eat just one). I tend to save nuts for the beginning of the feeding window when I don’t want to sit down to eat but I’m happy to have something.
I like to save protein and carbohydrates for proper meals and if I can, I save carbs for as late in the day as possible. Protein helps to satisfy hunger and can be broken down to sugars for energy and carbohydrates can help you to sleep, especially if your fasting is very strict so if I’m not having a big meal I’ll add protein sources to the fat I’m eating and only eat carbs later. If you are trying to stop aging via a paleo approach then your carbs are limited to non-starchy vegetables, green or otherwise (honey though is a natural concentrated carb you can use before bed as sleep aid). If you are trying to maintain athletic performance you will have to play around with things like sweet potatoes, rice and resistant starches. Consensus is that more carbs are needed for speed athletes. Pure endurance athletes can probably get away with a more ketogenic diet especially if they have the luxury of time and can use the Maffetone Method to train their fat metabolism.
Carnivore, vegan, lacto-ovo vegetarian; the choice is yours and it might be useful to choose different paths depending on your stage of life and fitness goals. Even industrial foods are not an across the board evil (read the label though, some things ingredients though legal cannot be really seen as food) unless you really are intending to stop aging. If you are seeking to simulate a truly ancestral diet to stop aging you have to try to have not only a pre-industrial diet but a pre-agricultural one as well. This is insanely strict and I’m not sure it’s really possible to eat what we ate before the introduction of grain and dairy but because more and more people are interested in grass-fed meats and organic/wild vegetables I think if you’re committed enough you can come close.
To close I think it is probably most important from a conceptual point of view to see the fasted state as the natural state. Turn the light back on yourself. Cultivate your own resources. Rather than following a food culture that has you eating 8 or 9 times a day let your body tell you when it’s time to eat (at the beginning you’ll need to give it guidance). Food is not entertainment in its essence even though Madison Avenue has made it that. Slow down, breath deep, keep fasted as long as you can, dance, sing and have as massage every once in a while.