A bit more than a month back, I made a blog post called “Longevity & Why I Eat Once a Day” and posted a video version of that post on Youtube, which unexpectedly took off. It was awesome to see that so many people found the video interesting, and I had a lot of fun reading the questions and comments. I tried to answer what I could but obviously I can’t write a response for all 1700 comments. Since several questions were asked multiple times, I thought I’d take a minute to give some simple answers to some of those questions. I will be expanding this as more comments come in, or correcting some information if necessary.
Do you still do this?
Yes, but I’ve been playing around with it lately. I’ve been experimenting with eating once every other day not specifically to lose weight, but just to see if it’s do able. Also trying eating 2 days then not eating 2 days. It’s surprisingly not that big of a difference in terms of effort, and more surprisingly: hunger bothers me less and less than I would think.
How can you stand to be hungry all day? I don’t even want to live longer if I have to force myself to suffer all the time.
This is a very reasonable concern and it’s sort of hard to get the point across unless you’ve experienced it for yourself. The point being: It’s really not that bad. Sure, the first week I felt a bit hungrier than I would have liked and I even would go on reddit to gawk at the /r/food pictures when I wasn’t eating. But after the second week it didn’t bother me too much. By the third week hunger rarely crossed my mind and I would even go an hour or two past my usual eating time without noticing.
I think we have the ability to addict to nearly anything, so it’s very understanding that the idea of “giving up” food sounds so terrible. Some people even mentioned “How can hunger be good for us if it feels so bad, and eating feels so good?” Not to be extreme, but then shouldn’t heroine or cocaine be incredibly good for us? Trust me, you adapt to the hunger much faster than you’d expect. (Assuming you’re not eating a bunch of low fibre high carb junk)
Have you noticed any changes? In mood / energy / sleeping?
Energy levels are much higher and much more stable. Since I feel better, I’m generally in a more positive mood throughout the day. A big thing I noticed was needing less sleep. I used to have to sleep at the very least 8 hours to not feel like a fat labrador retriever in the morning, but now 6-7 hours tops is enough for me and I don’t need an alarm clock.
Weight Loss? Do you workout? Can you maintain muscle mass on this?
Weight loss isn’t a goal for me but I’ve lost maybe 4 kilos of total weight since I’ve started this. After getting more serious about my workout (while continuing the one meal a day), my muscles have gotten bigger, more defined and I feel stronger.
I mainly do calisthenics-y exercises: pullups, handstands, L-sits, kettle bell swings, pushups, squats. Try to make sure to get a full body workout every other day and on the other day, I regularly do pushups and squats throughout the day to keep me focused after working at the computer so long. Sorry I don’t have any specific body fat stats or squat / bench stats, but I can do more pullups/pushups & longer L-sits et cetera if that tells you anything. I’m not worried about losing muscle mass. Could I build muscle faster on more calories and more meals a day? Sure, probably.
A lot of people were pointing to the Nun Amen Ra video (eats once a day, bodybuilder) and he’s pretty jacked.
What do you eat? How many calories do you eat? What’s the macronutrient ratio?
I’m not much of a gif maker, but I gave making one a shot to show what I eat. It’s usually a variation of that- some berries, fruit and vegetables blended up + eggs, avocado and some meat or fish or maybe both. The total in that gif is probably around 1500 calories tops and lately I eat probably around 1200 calories. While I don’t know the specific ratio, you can kind of guess that it will be Fat > Protein > Carbohydrates. Fat, Fiber and Vitamins & Minerals are top priority for me. Protein comes second in priority, and poor carbohydrates get somewhat shunned.
(In the gif, it’s kind of confusing and I think I made it look like I ate a plate of veggies, a smoothie, a plate of eggs and meat and a second plate of eggs and meat. The plate of veggies is just what’s in the smoothie and the first plate is the same as the second plate, just unprepared.)
Low carb high fat? Enjoy your heart disease. (I have a video addressing this:)
What time do you eat? What’s your window for eating?
I used to eat right before bed because the food would get me real sleepy. I heard your digestive system works best around noon somewhere so I gave that a shot. Felt a lot more light in the morning when I ate at noon compared to eating at night so I stuck with it. I try to keep my window down to 1 hour. If you need a longer window than that to get down all the food you planned to eat, you’re probably eating too much (unless you have some athletic goals).
Do you drink anything during the fast?
Sure – I have plenty of water, maybe 2-3 cups of coffee a day and some ごぼう茶 (Gobou Tea) if I have any. The tea was recommended by Yoshinori Nagumo, the author of that book 空腹は人を健康にする (Hunger makes you healthy). I try not to go over 3 cups of coffee because I get sorta jittery. Coffee is an excellent hunger suppressor too. Go ahead and drink whatever teas you have, I’m sure they’re fine or maybe even better than the coffee. Too much caffeine may make you feel pretty crappy though.
How can you say carbs aren’t necessary?
Because… they’re not necessary for survival. I wouldn’t recommend a zero carbohydrate diet or try to argue that it’s particularly healthy but… you’re not going to die and might not even have any particularly bad ailments if you don’t eat them (assuming you’re getting all your vitamins and minerals etc.)
Someone brought up fibre and it made me realize I should have at least made a sidenote about it. My explanation regarding how carbohydrates and glucose can really screw up your metabolic engine failed to mention fibre. Fibre is wonderful in mitigating that spike in blood sugar that results from high glycemic load foods like candy, bread, low fat snack bars etc.
So no, I am not suggesting carbohydrates from veggies and fruits will make you fat or that they are bad at all.
What do you think about a vegan diet?
If you’re doing it for moral or environmental reasons, that’s great – no debate there. Is it healthy? Sure (assuming you’re not eating junk and are supplementing properly). Is it the healthiest? I’m not convinced that it is. Sure, veganism can keep you very healthy and I’m not surprised that a lot of vegan people look great. But you’re gonna have a tough time arguing why it is the best diet. I won’t get into it too much here, but it’s too restrictive: you’re cutting off access to some wonderfully nutrient dense foods. You also need to be careful with supplementation to make sure you’re getting everything the body needs to run really well. Among other points, one really big thing for me is getting enough DHA (fatty acid found in fish).
DHA is pretty huge for us, it’s widely understood as the key nutrient to our evolution as a species. It’s very important for the brain and it’s even more important for in utero babies. When pregnant mothers aren’t getting enough DHA, their babies are shown to have less cognitive ability and visual acuity compared to babies whose mothers that were getting enough. If you’re vegan make sure you’re supplementing with it (there are vegan grade supplements out there). If your vegan sister/wife/cousin/coworker is pregnant, please encourage them to supplement DHA as well.
“The X people of Y location eat like Z and frequently live to be 100! Athletes eat 6 times a day and are super ripped and look great! This has to be wrong.“
This line of thinking sort of misses the point I was trying to communicate in the video. Think about it like this: There’s a beautiful woman on a remote island and suddenly a foreign looking man comes out of the forest and says “Hello there young lady! Surely you would like to spend the night with a master navigator like myself! I came here on a Kayak, the best method of travel. Obviously this method is best because as you can see, I am now here on the island.” then another man comes out of the forest and says “Wait just a moment, sir! She should spend her time with me, for it is I who is clearly the master navigator and used the best method- canoeing to get here! Obviously this is best because as you can see, I am here” Then a third guy busts in trying to sell her on how sailing is the best and the woman decides to leave.
The point is, there are many ways to be healthy. This is one of them. You can be very healthy on one diet while someone else is very healthy on another diet. If you have different goals or ideas of what is “healthy”, then it makes sense that you might want to lend yourself to a specific diet. Maybe you want to get jacked, or be a power lifter or a sprinter, then sure, you’ll want to have a different diet.
The point is – Methods for being healthy don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Sure the Okinawans ate a high carbohydrate low fat diet and lived to 100 – which isn’t the same as what I’m advocating in the video, but that doesn’t nullify the idea that this way of eating can be healthy or other ways of eating for that matter.
By the way, forget about the high carbohydrate intake: What about the Okinawan’s fibre intake? Or the fact that they’re eating so many awesome fermented foods that promote GI microbiome health? They’re also practicing calorie restriction: they have a phrase 腹八分 harahachibu, meaning “8/10th stomach” or “eat until you’re 80% full“. There’s so much more to health than just macronutrients.
What about gastrointestinal distress? Wouldn’t the stomach get too acidic?
If the question was whether the stomach would start to eat at itself without food to apply the stomach acid to, then I would say that’s not quite how the stomach works. The epithelial cells in your stomach will still secrete mucus and bicarbonate to protect itself from the acid even if there’s no food. Actually your stomach will probably get less acidic because there’s no food coming in, the stomach isn’t prompted to secret any extra acid to digest it.
Shouldn’t you snack or eat multiple meals per day to keep your metabolism up?
I saw this a couple times in the comments and wasn’t quite sure what part of metabolism people were referring to, whether it be anabolism or catabolism.
The idea of eating more meals per day doesn’t make much sense unless your aim is to eat a lot of food. If you’re a body builder and you want to get in as much food as possible, you’re going to have to eat multiple meals a day because you simply can’t fit all the food an athlete like that needs in your stomach at one time. In this case, I guess you really are “upping your metabolism” because your body is in more of an anabolic state.
If you’re referring to needing to keep your blood sugar up, I explained why this is unnecessary at 6:05 in the video.
If your goal is to lose weight (upping catabolism), then this makes even less sense, because your body starts to burn your body fat after you deplete your glucose stores. So unless your snacks are pure fat, then you’re having your body re-starting and re-stopping protein and glucose metabolism and it doesn’t get around to breaking down the fat in your body.
Unless you’re taking a dump every interval between snacks, your body is probably still processing the nutrients you took in since the last time you ate. So your body might not even be able to tell the difference between 3 meals a day or 6 meals a day.
Alcohol? No Thanks!
I was kind of confused when I saw a couple comments about alcohol. I don’t recommend alcohol consumption at all, when I mentioned it I was just trying to make an analogy. At most, I’ll have some beers maybe twice a month.
What about the cons of this way of eating?
It does take a while to get used to the hunger. For a while it was sort of a big deal for me, but that goes away if you’re patient enough. (It’s 8PM now and I haven’t eaten since yesterday, but just thought of my hunger as I am writing about it now)
No health complications that I’ve noticed, I haven’t passed out on the train or anything like that. I was doing a 4 day fast recently, and on the 3rd day I felt lightheaded after standing up when I had been sitting down for a long time. This passed in about 40 seconds and didn’t come up again. (I can see how that would worry someone though)
Social Life – At first I thought weakened social life was going to be a big thing that would deter me from doing this.
However, it’s not like I eat breakfast lunch and dinner with someone every day. If I have plans with a friend, I’ll just make the meal that I get with them my main meal. If I have to stretch my eating window out a little bit to make sure I get enough nutritious food it’s not that big of a deal. Even when I was a recruitment consultant trying intermittent fasting and doing multiple meetings a day, I’d just get a coffee and politely say I already had something to eat. As long as you’re not staring at the person while they eat it’s not a big deal.
I can definitely see how this would still be a hamper on some people’s social life, but there’s nothing wrong with switching it up here and there. Sometimes I’ll eat 2 or 3 meals a day on the weekend with friends, no big deal – I just go back to one meal a day the next day.
How do you recommend I start?
You might want to try just reducing your eating window. If you usually eat breakfast at 9am and then dinner at 8pm, try to have your dinner at 5pm. Then try skipping breakfast or having dinner even earlier. Baby steps are best, you’ll ease into the feeling of hunger. If you are able to, sure you can just straightaway cut down to one meal a day, but chances are this will make you way more hungry than you’re used to and you’ll be turned off to the idea.
“Oh yea this is why starving kids in Africa live so long. This is such bullshit“
Har har. Obviously I’m not saying less food = more health ad infinitum. You want to get enough food and enough nutrients of course, though what you really need might be a lot less than what you think you need.
■Hope this clears some things up! I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I’ll share what I’ve learned as best I can. Thanks for reading. Will expand this as I can when more good questions come up