[The Fast Life] Introduction

I am not going to eat for 7 days.

But won’t you die?

Let’s say you are stranded in the desert for a week with no food or water. How long would you last? Google says it’s just over a week but that’s mostly due to dehydration. If you were near a water source you’d fare much better. In fact a one Mahatma Gandhi famously starved himself for 21 days on three separate occasions as a form of protest. David Blaine more than doubled that when he spent 44 days in a glass box in 2003. Though impressive, these feats are completely dwarfed by a man simply referred to as Patient A.B.. Patient A.B. stopped eating on June 13th 1965. He ate his next meal June 30th 1966. No, that was not a typo, this man literally didn’t eat for 382 days! Medically supervised and only provided with water, nutritional yeast, multivitamins, potassium and sodium, Patient A. B. lost a total of 276lb during the fast, going from 456lb to 180lb and perhaps more astonishingly only put back 16 of those pounds in the next five years. How did he do it? Well for starters his initial weight definitely played a big factor.

We take food for granted now, but believe it or not there was no Uber Eats for protohominids. If you couldn’t find food, you died. If you happened to develop a random genetic mutation that helped you survive a famine, then you passed it on to the next generation of famine survivors. Fast forward to today, your body still holds much of the evolutionary baggage of our ancestors. Our body has built-in mechanisms to help you survive a famine. You may not like them, but your love handles are one of them. Ketones are another one, but I’ll get to that later. Fat literally gets stored for this purpose alone, so why not take advantage of it? I’m not trying to kick the British out, I’m not trying to kick the bucket. I’m just doing it for, you know, kicks.

But isn’t it going to suck?

No. Well, it shouldn’t in theory. The reason why skipping a meal feels terrible is because there is not enough glucose getting to your brain. This is why you can find yourself on occasion desperately fiending for that next carb fix. But I won’t have this problem. I have already been doing intermittent fasting (only two meals a day) for probably the last four or five years and full day fasts on occasion. My body is already quite adapted to going long periods of time without carbs so I shouldn’t get the regular headaches, light-headedness and “hanger” pangs of a typical 3-mealer. Or at least, it should be minimized in intensity and duration. Also, I’m not just doing any regular old “water-fast” to “detoxify” my body. Not that there isn’t any psychological benefits to accomplishing seemingly impossible tasks using only your will power, but that whole process just sounds unnecessarily painful. Instead, I’ll be using hacks to get through the week with the aide of the combined knowledge of expert ketosis researcher Dom D’agostino and expert experimenter Tim Ferriss.

A quote from Tim Ferriss’ book on how he once did a medically supervised seven day fast the wrong way:

“…my lower back pain was so extreme that I remained on my bed in the fetal position…My kidneys were getting hammered by sky-high uric acid levels. My body was breaking down muscle tissue so the liver could convert it into glucose, and uric acid was a by-product of this. On top of this, since patients were limited to distilled water, nearly all the fasters (about 40 in total) couldn’t sleep due to electrolyte depletion and subsequent cholinergic responses (e.g., rapid heart rate when trying to sleep)”

Yeah… this is NOT what I want to happen. I don’t want to be in pain. I don’t want to be hungry. I don’t want muscle loss. I don’t want to deplete my will power reserves by thwarting the gaze of a jelly donut. There is a RIGHT way to do a week-long fast that will render it misery free.

Keys to Success

Be in Ketosis BEFORE the fast

If you need a refresher course on ketosis you can check out my blog post on the vast array of benefits or if you’re not into reading a wall of text whilst reading a wall of text here’s an ELI5: Your brain needs glucose (carbs) to run. If there is no glucose around, it can run on a glucose substitute called a ketone. If your brain is running on a sufficient amount of ketones then you are in what is known as a state of Ketosis. Being in ketosis has a host of benefits that can help me during my fast such as preventing muscle loss, cravings and hunger as well as keeping my brain sharp throughout. To get into ketosis you need to drain your body of it’s carb stores which is why this whole week I have avoided carbs and exercised throughout.

Reduce the adaption period

Unfortunately I will still probably have to face an adaption period while my body switches over to it’s new fuel source. In every anecdotal account I’ve read on the internet of people fasting, both experts and amateurs alike have said the same thing; the first 2-3 days are brutal. To quicken this process, Dom D’agistino recommends taking exogenous ketones during the first few days. Exergenerwhatt? Exogenous ketones are ketones that are made outside the body, specifically in a lab somewhere, and apparently offer the same benefits as the ketones made inside your body. The thing is, if your blood sugar is low then your ketones should be elevated to make up for it. However early on in the fast, your body is desperate for glucose so it may try to break your muscles down to convert them to glucose instead of manufacturing ketones. Though it did cost me a pretty penny, the KetoCaNa I bought should help get my body used to ketones and get me through this period.

Clear the schedule for the first few days

Just to be safe I made sure I don’t have anything important to do over the next couple days. This is why I lined this fast to start on relatively unimportant weekend. I can’t imagine going to work during the adaption period. I only hope I’ll get through it before Monday.

Stay active, but not too active

Tim recommends walking for 3-4 hours to elevate ketones and reduce the adaption period. He cites glycogen depletion for why this works better than high intensity exercise  but I have my doubts. Surely glycogen depletion is way faster in high intensity weight training than casual walking. I suspect walking brings out more ketones because low level activity burns fat rather than carbs and the lineup for free fatty acids going into the kreb cycle gets so long that some get re-routed for ketone production. Or at least that how I understood this Khan Academy video I watched once. I’m no biochemist so don’t quote me on that. Either way, it seems like it will be helpful so I’ll probably do a 3 hour walk the first couple days while listening to a podcast or audio book. During the week I’ll do 1hr walks and at the end of the week I’ll try to do a high intensity work out just to see what happens.

Keep vitamins and minerals in check

A common rookie mistake people who are on low cal, low carb, intermittent fasting and long term fasting diets make is that they don’t watch out for nutrient deficiencies. Specifically, when cutting carbs, a lot of people experience sodium, potassium and magnesium deficiencies. This results in the infamous “keto-flu”, which, from the accounts I’ve read online, seems like an absolute horrible way to spend the week. To avoid this I’m supplementing these 3 every day. Potassium in supplement form is heavily controlled and very hard to find. You need 2 boxes of spinach, 10 bananas or 45 multivitamins just to get your recommended daily intake of 3.5g. Instead I’ll be taking about a teaspoon of potassium chloride, which is usually used as a salt substitute. It tastes like drowning in sea water but it’s 100x better than not taking it so I guess I’ll just have to bite the bullet.

Rules

Fast Begins:

After my last meal, Friday 22nd

Fast Ends:

Anytime Saturday 30th

Allowed:

  • Water
  • Black Coffee with Stevia
  • Tea
  • MCT Oil
  • BCAA’s (max 4g/day)
  • Exogenous Ketones
  • Salt
  • Lemons
  •  Supplements
    • Fish Oil
    • Magnesium
    • Potassium
    • Multivitamin

Not Allowed:

  • Food
  • Drinks with calories

Metrics

Before and After

Apart from the classic infomercial-style photoshoots I’m also going to be doing a DEXA scan at the start and end of my fast. The scan will give me an accurate reading of not only my body fat percentage but also my muscle tissue percentage. I haven’t read about anyone doing this for a full week fast so I’m really excited for the result. Specifically, I want to test if Dom and Tim’s claim that fasting the right way will result in zero muscle loss holds any water.

Daily Quantitative Measurements:

  • 6am
    • Weight
    • Waist Circumference
    • Blood Glucose Reading
  • 6pm
    • Weight
    • Blood Glucose Reading
    • Blood Ketone Reading

Daily Qualitative Measurements: (rated out of 5):

  • When:
    • Upon Waking
    • 10am
    • 2pm
    • 6pm
    • Before Sleeping
  • What
    • Focus: How easy would it be to write or read something for an hour right now
    • Restlessness: How antsy do I feel right now?
    • Eyelid Heaviness: How badly do I want to sleep right now?
    • Head Heaviness: How cloudy and heavy does my head feel?
    • Cravings: How bad do I have the munchies?

 

That’s all well and good but aren’t you worried about all the muscle loss?

While it’s true that a brain starved of glucose will look at all possible alternative sources, and that muscles are easily converted into glucose, it is unlikely for my brain to use my muscles as brain food for several reasons. Firstly, as briefly mentioned above, Ketones are naturally muscle sparing but I’m confident I won’t turn into a stick-man for another reason. If you don’t eat carbs then you can make your own substitutes out of ketones. If you don’t eat fat it’s okay because you have plenty to spare. But what about protein? You actually need protein to survive. Certain amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) are “essential” meaning that your body can’t make them. You absolutely need these for maintaining your organs and process throughout the body. Luckily, your body being the resilient entity that it is has come up with yet another famine fighting tactic known as autophagy. You thought humans came up with recycling? Think again. During autophagy your body cleans up damaged organelles and proteins and even dead bacteria and viruses that are laying around and basically recycles them for spare parts. According to autophagy expert Guido Kroemer, this process usually occurs 4 days into a fast and comes with various other benefits such as anti-aging and muscle building properties. This, coupled with purported claim that your mental clarity gets a significant boost by the 5th day makes me pretty excited for the end of the week, and I didn’t even talk about the weight loss. But first things first, I have to get through this weekend which I can only assume will be a hellish nightmare.

Wish me luck.

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[Mensis Mirabilis] – Week 2 Update

It’s Week 2 and I’m knee deep in Ketones

Physical Difference

Week 2 Weight And Circ

As you can see by looking at my average weight (dark blue), my weight is dropping steadily by about 2.5lbs per week. On Thursday I played an hour of basketball and as expected, the next morning I reached my lowest weight yet, 168.5 lb. Like my previous workout, much of the weight loss had to be water because it was gained back within the next couple days. In fact, just by looking at the graph, I’m actually not even convinced that playing ball did anything. It seems like the actual fat lost during exercise is minuscule compared to the steady 2.5lb I lose per week. The hour of basketball was interesting on its own. For the first few minutes it felt like my lungs were on fire. I was quickly out of breath, lethargic and just felt terrible in general. I even felt nauseous and had stomach pains. After about half an hour however the negative symptoms subsided and were replaced with pure unadulterated energy. In fact, the only reason I stopped playing after an hour was because everyone at the gym left. I’m going to play again this week and instead of going home when everyone leaves I’ll run on the treadmill or something to see how far I can  go before getting tired. Theoretically, someone on keto should be able to out-endure someone on a regular carb diet because that person is powering their workout with a near infinite fuel source by comparison. Though I don’t think I have been on keto long enough to experience this full adaption, it should be a good litmus test to measure my progress so far.

 

Blood Measurements

Week 2 BS and Ketones

Yup, I am definitely, officially in ketosis. Though they do swing wildly between morning and night, my blood ketone measurements (blue), for the most part, are all above the technical minimum to be considered in ketosis: 0.5 mmol/l. You can see also my blood sugar (red) was pretty much consistently below 5 mmol/l the whole week meaning my body is using protein to deliver my minimum glucose requirements. I’d like you to take a minute to appreciate how beautiful this is. This right here is how the body is supposed to work. Your brain needs a certain amount of glucose every hour. In my body right now, protein is being converted to glucose in precise exact amounts, then mixed in with ketones and delivered to my brain like an efficient assembly line Henry Ford would be proud to call his own. By contrast, carb adapted people AKA normal people try to control this process themselves, but often overshoot the glucose requirement, putting a strain on their insulin receptors, increasing the likelihood of getting diabetes. To continue with the analogy, this is like carpet bombing the factory with Model-T parts and having the low-wage staff work long hours to cleanup the mess. Eventually workers will protest and stop cleaning and now you have insulin resistance.

In other news, I won’t be testing my ketones anymore because 1) I ran out and they’re very expensive and 2) my ketone levels seem to be stabilizing. From now on I’ll just assume any blood measurement below 5 mmol/l corresponds to a blood ketone level between 0.5 and 2 mmol/l.

 

Macro Breakdown

Week 2 Macros

I tried to make a concerted effort to only eat when I was hungry this week and I think it made a huge difference. My overall calorie intake this week is much lower than last weeks and the same goes for my fat, carb and protein intake. I dropped my average calorie intake to around 1200 cal and I want to be very clear, I DID NOT use any will power for this. I didn’t even use any hunger suppression techniques like drinking lots of water or eating a ton of vegetables or other low calorie foods. No, this is merely a natural byproduct of a low carb diet. You don’t get hungry. You just don’t. I now associate hunger with carb eating people in the same way I associate Ed Hardy shirts with douche-bags. The one thing I did force myself to eat was my salmon in the morning, which I’m now second guessing. If I truly believed that “Body Knows Best” then I should realize that breakfast is an arbitrary concept. Lets see if my overall calorie intakes goes even lower if hold off on my morning salmon till I actually get hungry.

The other thing I set out to do this week was to find a low protein, high fat snack. I contemplated a few solutions but soon realized nothing was easier, cheaper and more convenient than just dipping celery sticks into some ceaser dressing and Siracha. It’s crunchy, tasty and easy to make. What more could you ask for in a snack?

 

Money Spent

Week 2 Cost

Total money spent on groceries this week: $36.98

It shouldn’t be surprising that I spent less money this week because I ate much less, as mentioned in the previous section. Apart from my salmon, I thought the I thought the second most expensive item this week would be the almond flour in my Fathead Pizza, but it was actually the cheese from the insanely expensive grocery store I live beside. I really think I could bring my overall cost down quite a bit if I just shopped at a regular grocery store.

 

Goals for Week 3

Not only do I want to hold off eating until later in the day, as I mentioned earlier, I want to try increasing my fasted window to 18 hours. This means I can only eat during a 6 hour period. Right now I feel like I can pull it off but maybe I’ll implode by the end of the week. Who knows, let’s find out together.

On Thursday I’ll try to test the limits of my endurance. I’ll do this by playing basketball for several hours and then running on the treadmill till I die/feel tired.

 

That’s basically all I have to say. This week was much better than the last. It will be interesting to see if my results continue accelerating or if the 2.5lb decline will maintain for the remaining weeks.

 

 

[Keto in the Kitchen] – Fathead Pizza

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After my previous pizza attempts I’ve tried to up my game by trying to make the famous Fathead Pizza, a favorite recipe amongst ketoers. If you haven’t seen it, Fathead is a fantastic documentary where a guy eat McDonalds for a month and actually looses weight simply by not eating carbs. The filmmaker also runs a blog that features keto friendly recipes, most famously an almond flour based pizza known to many as the Holy Grail pizza or simply the Fathead Pizza. To make this pizza I combined the recipes and techniques from these sources:

 

 

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups of shredded mozzarella (freshly grated) (168g)
  • 3/4 cups almond flour (84g)
  • 2 tsbp cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • Garlic salt (optional)
  • Pizza sauce (just enough to cover it)
    • Tomato sauce
    • Salt
    • Pepper
    • Garlic
    • Cashmir pepper

 

Recipe

  • Preheat oven to 425
  • Grate mozzarella
  • Put mozzarella and cream cheese in bowl
  • Put Italian seasoning in too (optional)
  • Microwave for 1 min
  • Stir
  • Microwave for 30 sec
    • Apparently it also comes out perfect at 30% power at 2 min for 1200 watt microwave
  • Consistency should make it drop in 5 seconds if all of it lifted about a foot with a fork
  • Stir in egg and almond flour
    • Add extra almond flour to make it less sticky on hands
  • Spray oil two sheets of parchment paper
  • Put on first parchment paper and put second one on top and squish till flat
    • If dough is stringy then put back in microwave for 20s
    • Crust should be 1/8″ thick
  • Poke holes in top
  • Sprinkle with garlic salt (optional)
  • Put in oven for 425 deg for 8-15min until brown
  • Take it out, poke hole where bubble are (not outside ring)
  • Flip it over using other baking sheet and put back in
  • Take out after 12-14 min or slightly brown
  • Put in freezer for 10 min
  • Put sauce
  • Put layer of cheese down
  • Put topping
  • Cover with light layer of cheese
  • Put a dollop of cream cheese on top before baking (optional)
  • Bake again at 425 for 5 min

 

Cost and Macro Breakdown For Whole Pizza:

  • Fat: 207.41g (1867.23 cal)
  • Carbs: 7g (28 cal)
  • Protein: 174.14g (696.56 cal)
  • Total Calories: 2595.79 cal
  • Fat/Protein Ratio (g): 1.19
  • Cost: $12.15

Cost and Macro Breakdown For 1/12th Slice:

  • Fat: 17.28g (155.60 cal)
  • Carbs: 0.58g (2.33 cal)
  • Protein: 14.51g (58.05 cal)
  • Total Calories: 215.98 cal
  • Fat/Protein Ratio (g): 1.19
  • Cost: $1.01

Verdict:
Much, much better than than the cheese crust pizza. Though not the same texture as an actually pizza, the dough was quite solid and held the weight of the toppings quite well with out folding. The crust wasn’t as crispy as I had hoped and was probably more of a quiche type texture, but still overall fairly good. I’ll give the texture a 8/10 and the flavor a 9/10 so an overall of about 8.5.

Next Time:
From reading some comments online I think I should be able to get a crispier crust by making the crust thinner, something I set out to do initially  but gave up on because my baking tray was too small for the amount of dough I had. Next week I think I’ll leave my pizza pursuits behind for now and venture into other (previously) guilty pleasures and try to make carb-free fried chicken. Impossible? Lets find out.