Saturday, April 18, 2020

Retrospective #427: The “Fasting Biohack” that is trending in Silicon Valley

A TV story I saw a while back described the “latest trend” in Silicon Valley as a “fasting biohack.” It sounded interesting, so I did a Google search. The first hit I got was from an old Time magazine story about fasting and longevity; however, the story I was looking for in this piece from the September 2017 Guardian newspaper.
The Guardian piece starts off telling about a Silicon Valley CEO who has just eaten a small dinner and will next eat four days later at a fancy sushi restaurant. “In the intervening days it’s just water, coffee and black tea,” the CEO relates. Over the last eight months this CEO has shunned food for periods of from two to eight days and lost almost 90lbs. He told the Guardian, “getting into fasting is transformative.”
How is it “transformative”? The Guardian story quotes the CEO as saying, “There’s a mild euphoria. I’m in a much better mood, my focus is better, and there’s a constant supply of energy. I just feel a lot better.” “Getting into fasting is definitely one of the top two or three most important things I’ve done in my life.” WOW!!!
The Guardian piece added, as filler for context, that “Intermittent Fasting first gained popularity in recent times with the 5:2 diet, where people eat normally for five days a week and then eat a dramatically reduced number of calories (to around 500) on the remaining two days.” However, they say, this CEO and others like him “are pushing that idea further and with a focus on performance over weight loss.” It was incisive that the Guardian picked up on that.
The Guardian made another prescient observation: “Proponents combine fasting with obsessive tracking of vitals including body composition, blood glucose and ketones – compounds produced when the body raids its own fat stores, rather than relying on ingested carbohydrates for energy. This, is not dieting, they say. It’s biohacking.”
Ketones are a super-fuel for the brain,” said another Silicon Valley CEO, “so a lot of the subjective benefits to fasting, including mental clarity, are from…the ketones in the system. I’m focused on longevity and cognitive performance,” he says. This CEO doesn’t need to lose weight, so he does a weekly 36-hour fast and a quarterly three-day fast.
Another exec says, “The first day I felt so hungry I was going to die. The second day I was starving. But I woke up on the third day feeling better than I had in 20 years.” This is not unexpected if you go into this as a “sugar-burner,” being dependent on carbs for energy. If, however, you are already eating Very Low Carb, as this blogger has been for years, you’re already a “fat-burner,” and you will transition from “fed” to “fasting” easily and without hunger.
The Guardian says, “There is a mounting body of scientific research exploring the effects of fasting. Each year dozens of papers are published showing how fasting can help boost the immune system, fight pre-diabetes, and even, at least in mice, slow aging.” Dominic D'Agostino describes other benefits of fasting here (Retrospective #421).
The Guardian, though, ends on a cynical note. One of the Silicon Valley execs says, “He doesn’t think it will ever be mainstream.” “It seems too extreme. Everyone grew up hearing fasting was dangerous and super-difficult.” “Furthermore, no one makes money when people don’t eat. In this society, usually things that work against every entrenched economic interest are hard to take off,” he said. Alas, how true! And how sad, really.
This CEO concluded, “It sound(s) crazy.” “You need to be a weirdo like me to get into this.” I know what he means. My readership has fallen off since I adopted Ketogenic 2 and 3-day Fasts into my weekly routine. I guess I’ll just have to be content with the 75 pounds I lost with my 300kcal/day fasts and my “transformative state” of “mild euphoria.”
My fasting method is not the namby-pamby 16:8 method that some people practice. Neither is it the One-Meal-a-Day (OMAD) fasting that I previously did for a year. My modified 300kcal/day regimen incorporates a glass of wine, even on fasting days. I now use OMAD for MAINTENANCE, with two glasses of wine, ON NON-FASTING days, and my 2 or 3 full-day 300kcal “modified” fasts, to drop a few pounds each week. If you’re a bibulous imbiber like me, you might want to try it.

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