Why on Earth Am I Fasting?

It is Day 5 of my alternate day fasting (ADF) diet today, my third "fast day" and also the day I realized, I might want to blog about this experiment.

"Why the hell are you fasting?!?" you ask. Let me explain before you decide I have totally lost my mind.

I first learned about ADF from watching Dr. Michael Mosley's show called "Eat, Fast, and Live Longer" when it aired on PBS last week. It is a fascinating show that starts with a 101 year-old badass running a marathon in London. That man is by all rights impressive for both living to age 101 and running a freaking marathon. This guy restricts his calories all the time and doesn't practice ADF, but it certainly caught my attention. The show explores calorie restriction and different methods of calorie restriction as a key component in reducing one's risk of all kinds of diseases related to aging, including: heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease. Dr. Mosley explores and tries out overall calorie restriction, three-night four-day fasting (every few months), and ADF.

ADF is exactly what it sounds like: you fast every other day. It isn't a hardcore no calorie at all fast, but instead a 75-80% reduction of your daily recommended value calorie intake (a "fast day") followed by a day where you eat whatever you want (a "feast day"). The researcher in Mosley's program notes that even on feast days, people in the study only averaged about 125% of their DRV of calories on feast days, so you are still eating less calories than two days of eating 100% of your DRV or more. For my purposes I am allowing 400-500 calories on my fast days and Zach is doing 500-600 calories.

Now, I am not stupid. I figure most of the benefits from fasting would be due to losing weight. Weight loss in general isn't exactly hard math either. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. If you do this long enough, you become overweight and put yourself at a higher risk for diseases related to being overweight. My progression up the pant sizes over the years and beers tells me this is truth.

So why fast and not just cut calories everyday like a normal person with weight loss goals? Well, Dr. Mosley highlights the work of scientists studying ADF and this pattern of eating has been shown to do more than just help test subjects lose weight through the usual everyday calorie restriction. ADF triggers burning of fat and decreases the amount of IGF-1 (Insulin-like growth factor 1) in your body. Lowering IGF is showing promise as a mechanism to slow down age-related disease, Alzheimer's, and cancer. Zach and I read some of the published research, like this paper, which does a good job of summing up what is going on in terms of the ADF research world.

The Zach and Lauren family histories include pretty much every age-related disease out there. Zach in particular is worried about Alzheimer's disease because he saw multiple grandparents lose their marbles over time and experienced how hard that is for a family. So it was really Zach, not me, that was fired up to try alternate day fasting ourselves. Me, on the other hand, I really like to eat and was more hesitant. However, if ADF does work, extra years down the road with a cognitively functioning Zach sounds great. Even if it doesn't stop me from developing high cholesterol, I could stand to lose some weight in the short-term. So, that is why I am hungry right now and had my one 400 calorie meal for lunch today.


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