My Summer of Biohacking

How Fasting, Time Restricted Eating, and Carnivore Helped me Lose 20 Pounds on Accident

Summer weight of 158 poundsFirst of all, did I miss any buzzwords?

I’m always testing my body. I use different workout methodologies about every 8 weeks. I add and remove things from my diet regularly to see how they affect how I feel, think, or look. This summer, however, I was on a bit of a quest to fix a problem. If you’ve read many posts here, you know that I’ve had some stomach issues for the past year. This may be TMI, but symptoms were bloating, incredible gas, irritable bowl, frequent – and often surprising – bowl movements, which then led to (again, TMI) some horrible hemorrhoids (just being honest, folks!).

In a last ditch effort to fix the problem before heading off to the doctor to get a ton of embarrassing and expensive tests performed, I started the summer culling items from my diet to see if there was one – or more – items that were causing the distress.

Fasting

The first phase of my new regiment was fasting. Not intermittent fasting, not time-restricted feeding, but fasting. I kicked off my summer attempting a 36 hour fast. I did more wrong than right in my first fasting experiment (you can read the details in this post), but I did notice a difference in how my body felt during the time I was fasting.  And of course it stands to reason that if you aren’t eating, you aren’t pooping, so for a couple of days my poor colon got some relief.

Time Restricted Eating

As I left my fast, I tried to ease back into eating my normal diet. For the first few days I concentrated on eating mostly meat, few grains, and I didn’t just pound the food from the time of waking up until the time I went to bed. I waited an hour or two before taking in food. Then, surprisingly,  I found it easier and easier to wait even longer until I made the conscious decision to block out a time of eating and fasting each day. No food after 8:30 pm. No food before 11:30. I wanted to try for a 14-16 hour fasting window each day. Adding a little more time each day to my fasting window made this doable until today I easily accommodate 9pm to 12pm. (9pm because I want one last shot of protein before settling in for bed.  The late protein shot is good for muscle protein synthesis, especially for us old guys).

Elimination

Through the summer I started eliminating the foods people commonly have issues with, or foods that I already knew didn’t work for me. For instance legumes (beans, lentils, peanuts, etc.)  simple do not work for me.  They blow me up and blow me out. As much as love my wife’s ham and lentil soup,  I just can’t eat it. Ditto chili with beans, black beans, refried beans, etc.

I decided grains had to go, which is terrible because I love chocolate croissants from the farmer’s market every Saturday morning. And summer is full of birthdays at our house, so no more birthday cake for Dave. And have I mentioned that my kids make home-made, from scratch, chocolate chip cookies at the drop of a hat? And beer! I’m a huge craft-beer fan, and  Memphis has some great local breweries. Fortunately, gluten-free wine is easy to come by, but no more jaunts to Casual Pint or Bosco’s brewery. Sad face.

Then there’s dairy; lots of people have trouble with dairy, so I decided that ought to go, too.

Leafy greens went out the window, too. I decided anything with even a modest amount of fiber had to go.  My bowels just couldn’t handle the trauma. I’m a huge salad fan, so – yet again – this was tough on my meal routine.

Carnivore

No grains, no greens, no beans, no dairy. What did that leave me but some starchy tubers, a little fruit, and…meat. I’m guarded with anything sugary, even naturally so because of my family’s history with diabetes, so my diet at the end of the summer became primarily a carnivore diet. I’ve become one of those “meal preppers”;  every Sunday I go to Costco and buy a big slab of cheap roast, sirloin, ribeye, flank, etc. and drop it in the Instant Pot overnight. Monday morning I have a week’s worth of lunches cooked up ready to go.

It would be more honest to call this “meat-based”, as opposed to true Carnivore or “plant based”. As I’ve fine-tuned my diet, a typical break-fast around 12 is something like this:

  • Several ounces of pre-cooked beef, with juice and fat included
  • A serving of some kind of aged cheese, like sharp cheddar or Parmesan
  • A boiled egg

My dairy exclusion has gone through a couple of iterations and has landed on aged or fermented dairy like hard cheeses or full-fat Greek yogurt, along with an occasional glass of goat’s milk, which I’m experimenting with, since it’s easier on most people’s digestion.

Dinner is usually the meat portion of whatever the family is eating (chicken, pork, beef, fish, etc.) supplemented, again, with perhaps some hard cheese, and maybe some big, fat, olives and/or avocados.  Both are great fat sources, and the olives help pack in some sodium as well.

What About  Exercise?

The one thing that did not change during the summer was my activity level. I kept the same workout routine throughout; Mon/Wed/Fri resistance training, Tuesday HIIT, Thursday aerobic. That means that my weight loss wasn’t tied to a change in activity level, but a change in caloric intake somewhere.

My Results?

Weight

I have no blood test numbers to give you; the only objective result I can report is that I dropped from 174 to 158 (now 154 on 9/11) pounds. Three comments:

  • I’m not a big guy at all. I never would have believed that I had 20 pounds to lose.
  • I wasn’t trying to lose weight.  It was purely accidental
  • My strength numbers are still good, and even though I’ve dropped a couple of waist sizes in my pants, my clothes still fit tightly around my thighs, shoulders and chest.  Without measuring beforehand, all I can report is that subjectively my lean muscle mass has stayed constant.

Digestion

  • No more bloat.  My stomach feels and looks flat.
  • No more gas. No joke: I hardly fart.
  • Decreased bowl movements.  Most people think that 1) You MUST have fiber in your diet or you’ll be hopelessly constipated. Nope. I’ve gone from 2-5 BM’s a day to one, most days, maybe one every other day.
  • Hemorrhoids are almost gone. For all practical purposes they are. I’ve gone from chronic hemorrhoids for the last 6-8 months to very small flareups every couple of weeks. That’s a huge relief!
  • I was diagnosed with a hiatel hernia twenty years ago. I always travel with a tums in my pocket. Not any more. Reflux free!

Other

A few more benefits:

  • My brain is clear.
  • My energy level is super high. In fact, I’ve gone from a heavy coffee drinker to drinking one cup a day.  That’s from habit and enjoyment, not necessity. If I have more than one, I’m jittery and over-caffeinated. This is one of the weirdest changes to me.

Conclusion

I’m trying to decide where to go from here. I didn’t take a very scientific approach and mixed too many variables to be able to point to just one thing and say “That’s the culprit!”. Is the improvement dairy? Grains? Legumes? Leafy vegetables?  Increased meat? And, frankly, I’m terrified to change anything! When you feel this good, you don’t want to go back to feeling bad. If I add grains back in, will I have to go back to square one and detox again? What if I close that fasting window and start eating breakfast at 7 am?  Maybe what’s helped is giving my digestion the long break every day instead of eating and snacking all the time. Who knows???

I’ll probably keep this up for another 30 days until I feel that I’m in a solid place of wellness and then add back some variables. Or…I may just stick with what works!

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