Intermittent Fasting Continued

If you jump back to yesterdays post , you will read about John Berardi experiment with intermittent fasting.

Today, we will hear what comes after intermittent fasting.

John Berardi: My ideas might have changed since the experiments, really what happened was after the intermittent fasting experiments ended, I kind of started playing around with just some different iterations.

And I even went for a little phase without doing any intermittent fasting, except for my overnight sleep.  So I just kind of got up in the morning, had a little breakfast, whatever.

But I found that I really, really liked for productivity the mornings without having to eat.  I just found I really like waking up, making a green tea, getting on my work station and letting her rip.  And then having a natural break in my day around noon where I just stopped, went and trained and then ate my first meal.

For those reasons I decided, “Hey, I’m just going to keep doing this.”  And I was pretty cautious, because with the high intensity of the training that I’m doing right now I wasn’t sure if it would work, if it would support my training.  And it’s been fine.

With that said, I’m still cautious because I’m working with a track coach now, and our workout volumes and our intensities are going up, and I want to make sure that I’m well enough fueled for these for recovery.  If I start to notice things breaking down or simply I’m in a negative energy balance due to the fasting – you don’t have to be.  You can eat humungous meals after your fast is broken.  But that’s not great for digestion and a host of other things.  But yeah, I’m just kind of keeping an eye on it.  I’ve fallen into this pattern where it’s just train around noon, eat your first meal, eat two more meals before bed and then do the same thing all over again.

To be honest, I think I’d probably physiologically prefer to be eating breakfast.  I think probably physiologically my preferred fasting routine would be basically fast one day a week or one day every other week, on Sundays or something.

Then just eat sort of breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack or something like that in there somewhere along the way. But for productivity and just kind of lifestyle stuff, I kind of like the routine of not having to prepare breakfast in the morning and being able to get right to work.  That’s just kind of where I’ve landed.

Craig Ballantyne: I know a lot of guys that have landed there, too.  I think John Romaniello’s landed there.  I’m pretty close to there.  I don’t go until noon.  But when you get up and you sit down and you work, you just get so much done.  That one is very, very common.  And the weird thing is we find a lot of people who are very busy have gravitated to this.

And the first time that Brad Pilon told me about this whole idea it was 2007 or something.  I thought I’d never be able to talk to the guy again after he told me.  But the truth, the weirdest thing was, is so many people in the Turbulence Training transformation contests started using this thing and liking it.  And generally it was a specific type of person who had a specific lifestyle that was not conducive to six meals per day.  And those were the people that did really well with it.

We thank you very much for your information on that, and that’s very cool.  I guess you would say that that’s kind of the one that you found to be most convenient was the way that you have things structured now, I guess.

John Berardi: Yeah.  Generally that’s exactly how I feel.  But again, this isn’t just a blanket recommendation for everyone.  We’ve experimented with a lot of clients doing this.  Again, we have a client pool that’s larger than anyone’s in the world right now and we test out these ideas.

For example, we’ve been using intermittent fasting, different iterations of it, with subgroups in our coaching programs all in an attempt to always just be getting better.  What are the best strategies for the different outcomes? 

And when I say best I don’t just mean the before and after pictures.  That’s where people get all wrapped up in the internet.  “Oh, look at those before and after pictures.”  But it’s like these are human beings in those pictures, with lives and families and people in their lives they love and they’re accountable to.  So what is the confluence of best physical transformation or best physical results plus best lifestyle results plus best workout comes.  All these types of things.

The fasting thing simply is not for a lot of people.  For some people it seems to really help them control their appetite better.  For other people it makes a raging appetite that they can’t control.  For some it takes their thoughts off of food.  For some people eating more frequently makes them think about food all day, and then it becomes a strange weird obsession.  For other people by doing fasting it becomes that same obsession in the other direction.  They’re just thinking about what they’re going to eat next all day.

So, we don’t really know why that is, different personalities and different physiological make ups, different responses.  It could just be the energy balance situation.  We don’t really know.  But it’s just something to be conscious about.

This is one of the main lessons that we teach in our coaching program, basically self-awareness. I call it paying attention to your life.  You try things.  We’re all doing mini experiments on our lives all the time, experiments on our relationships, experiments in our work, experiments in our food, in our exercise.  So, you’ve just got to pay better attention.  Keep a little journal.  Keep some notes.  Think about, “What am I feeling and experiencing right now?”  Don’t let some expert tell you what to do all the time, and just follow it blindly.  You’ve just got to pay attention.

So, that’s my cautionary tale.  I can’t say it strongly enough, because as IF gets popular we’re going to see a lot of wrecked people.  You’re going to see just as many wrecked people as you see people who benefit from it.  And all the people who benefit from it are going to say I’m crazy right now.  “No, no, no, that’s total bullshit, JB.  You’re just being too conservative about this.”

But it’s simply not true.  This is what happens in our field.  Someone gets results with a low carb diet, and then they think low carb is for everyone and they become the low carb zealots.  Right?  But then you have other people who got phenomenal results on, let’s say, a high carb diet.  And then they go and they beat the high carb drum.  Then the two people look at each other across the table and think the other one is completely wrong and absurd.  Meanwhile they’re not even looking at the evidence, where both of them are actually lean.

So it’s just one of these things.  Be careful, be careful, be careful with this type of stuff. And don’t get so locked into giving everyone the same advice that worked for you, because it simply doesn’t work that way.  I have enough experience now and I’ve worked with enough clients to know that when you do that, when you say, “Oh, well this worked for me.  It should work for everyone,” you’re not a professional anymore.  You’re just a hobbyist who’s giving advice.  And your advice should be ignored.  So anyway, I’ll get off the soapbox now.

Craig Ballantyne: One thing you mentioned there that I’d really like to get people to understand is to pay attention to things, and to treat themselves as an experiment.  But most people don’t ever even think that way.  So, what’s the natural progression that you get people to think that way when they get into Precision Nutrition?

John Berardi: Self-experimentation is becoming pretty popular on the Web right now.  There are groups devoted to this.  Tim Ferriss is someone that I know well, and I know you know Tim as well.  We’ve done some projects together.  He talks a lot about self-experimentation.  There’s a group called Quantified Self, where these guys are like data nerds, just measuring everything about themselves.  And if you like that it’s a great community.

I guess my only problem with this movement is that for people who don’t go through a progression – like you talk about, how do you get people to start thinking about self-experimentation – well, the way to do it is not self-experimentation.  It’s guided experimentation.

So that’s really step one.  It’s like “Okay, I’m sitting in a place where I don’t listen to my body very well.  I haven’t for years.”  I spend my life in what we call the “shoulds”  “Oh, I should be doing this.  I should be doing that.  I should be doing this.”  In our relationships, in our food, everything, we’re walking around with all this guilt because we think we should be doing certain things but we’re not actually asking our body what it wants.

So the next step out of that is guided experimentation, where you find someone who knows what the hell they’re doing, and they go through some experimentation with you.  You work on ideas on what to try together.  It’s not someone who just tells you what to do, because that doesn’t have a long term value.

People who just tell you what to do, you may follow that or you might like that or think you like that in the beginning.  But unless you’re actually engaged in the “what to do” process, like helping figure it out together as a team, it just doesn’t work that well in the long run. 

So you get this little bit of guidance from someone who knows what’s up, who knows a little bit about physiology; or if it’s with respect to your career, who knows about your career and how it works.  Then after that once you have a bit of guided experimentation and someone to prevent you from making a grievous mistake from the beginning, then you can go on the path of self-experimentation.

And for us, one of the first steps – we’re talking about things that are active, like doing experiments is an activity, right – but one of the first steps is actually something different.  It’s actually what we call noticing and naming.  The idea behind it is we often feel things.  We feel a response to something.  And instead of noticing and naming what we’re feeling we just respond to that feeling.

So, I’ll give you an example from my personal life.  There are certain things with my wife and I that are triggers.  Like if I say something or she says something, and it makes the other person feel a certain way, there’s a trigger.  And the trigger is, “I feel something and I’m going to respond to it.”

And we see this with clients all the time as well.  Let’s say you tell a client that they’re doing something wrong with their nutrition or exercise.  The first thing they do is they get defensive.  But that’s not the first thing they feel.  The defensiveness is an action, not a feeling.  So what we try and do is we try and train them to notice and name what they’re feeling before they respond.

So for example, let’s say you make the critique of a client’s program.  They’re going to feel something at first before they respond to that.  It may be a tightness in their stomach.  It may be like a shallowness in their breath.  It might be something in their shoulders.

So we train people before they respond to just think about where they’re feeling what they’re feeling, and then notice and name that.  Say, “Ah, you know what?”  They don’t have to say it out loud.  It might sound a little weird.  But you say it in your own brain.  “Okay, when they just told me that thing, I got really tight in my stomach.  Huh, that’s kind of interesting.  What could have caused that?”

And then you go down that path.  You say, “Ah, you know what?  I’m probably feeling threatened or judged,” or whatever the feeling might be.  And when you notice and name you start to notice patterns in yourself.  You start to notice, “Oh, when I get tightness in my stomach that usually means I’m feeling judged.  When I get tightness in my shoulders, that usually means I’m feeling threatened.”  Whatever the case may be.

And you’ll see these patterns in your life, and it’s fascinating to be able to take control.  To stop at the feeling level and say, “All right, I’m feeling threatened right now.”  And that gives you just a few critical seconds to respond in an appropriate way, because normally if you’re feeling threatened and you don’t notice a name, the next thing is an outburst.  It’s either to get away from the threat or to confront it.  So it’s either fight or flight. 

So, what we’re talking about doing is giving you a few key seconds to decide whether you need to fight or flight, or whether those are not appropriate responses at all.  Maybe you just need to take a deep breath.

And so everything begins in our coaching, and I really think in experimentation.  From noticing and naming, from taking that time to figure out what’s going on inside and why it’s happening.  When you start doing that – it’s like “The Matrix”, it’s like when Neo can slow down the bullets, you know what I mean? – That’s exactly what it’s like with your emotional life and your relationships and your orientation to exercise or your work.

You can slow down these things and you can prevent yourself from acting inappropriately, doing stupid things, whatever the case might be.  It’s a really critical first step in the progression, like we talked about earlier, of self-awareness, of paying attention, and then, of going to higher order things like self-experimentation.

So it may not make a lot of sense at first that that’s actually even part of this pathway.  But it’s the most critical part.  It’s the foundational stuff, and it’s stuff that no one ever teaches you.

So, we spend a lot of time on that in our coaching programs for sure because it’s so valuable.

Tomorrow we’ll begin to see how the Precision Nutrition coaching program helps make the process of eating healthy simple.

Craig Ballantyne, CTT
Certified Turbulence Trainer