• Your life and health are your own responsibility.
• Your decisions to act (or not act) based on information or advice anyone provides you—including me—are your own responsibility.


Intermittent Fasting Matters (Sometimes): There Is No Such Thing As A “Calorie” To Your Body, Part VIII

Caution: contains SCIENCE!

In previous installments, we’ve proven the following:

  • A calorie is not a calorie when you eat it at a different time of day.
  • A calorie is not a calorie when you eat it in a differently processed form.
  • A calorie is not a calorie when you eat it as a wholly different food.
  • A calorie is not a calorie when you eat it as protein, instead of carbohydrate or fat.
  • A calorie is not a calorie when you change the type of fat, or when you substitute it for sugar.
  • A calorie is not a calorie at the low end of the carbohydrate curve (< 10%).
  • Controlled weight-loss studies do not produce results consistent with “calorie math”.
  • Even if all calories were equal (and we’ve proven they’re not), the errors in estimating our true “calorie” intake exceed the changes calculated by the 3500-calorie rule (“calorie math”) by approximately two orders of magnitude.

(This is a multi-part series. Return to Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, or Part VII.)

What’s More Important: Losing Weight, or Not Gaining It?

It’s instructive to keep in mind that these two questions are not the same—and as such, they may have different answers:

  • What diet will help me lose weight most easily and efficiently?
  • What diet will stop me from gaining weight most easily and efficiently?

As we saw in Part II, the entire obesity crisis in America resulted from the average American gaining roughly one pound per year. So instead of asking “How can we lose weight?” it’s perhaps more important to ask “How can we avoid gaining weight in the first place?”

The first question is answered by underfeeding studies: the second question is answered by overfeeding studies. I’ll return to this important distinction later in this series.

Intermittent Fasting, Time-Restricted Feeding, and “High-Fat Diets”

Cell Metab. 2012 Jun 6;15(6):848-60. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2012.04.019. Epub 2012 May 17.
Time-restricted feeding without reducing caloric intake prevents metabolic diseases in mice fed a high-fat diet.
Hatori M, Vollmers C, Zarrinpar A, DiTacchio L, Bushong EA, Gill S, Leblanc M, Chaix A, Joens M, Fitzpatrick JA, Ellisman MH, Panda S.
(Fulltext here)

Mice under tRF consume equivalent calories from HFD as those with ad lib access, yet are protected against obesity, hyperinsulinemia, hepatic steatosis, inflammation, and have improved motor coordination.”

Experimental setup: Half the mice were fed standard chow, half were fed the standard “high-fat diet”. Each half was subdivided into ad libitum-fed mice, who had 24/7 access to food, and time-restricted mice, who only had access to food for eight hours out of 24.

I use scare quotes around “high-fat diet” for several reasons, many alluded to in the previous installment.

First, the “high-fat diet” contains 20% purified sugars.

Second, unlike the standard chow diet, which contains actual food similar to the natural diet of seed-eating, primarily herbivorous mice (the primary ingredients are “ground corn, dehulled soybean meal, dried beet pulp, fish meal, ground oats”), the “high-fat diet” consists entirely of purified laboratory ingredients (the primary ingredients are “lard, casein, maltodextrin, sucrose, powdered cellulose, soybean oil”), none of which occur in or resemble the natural diet of mice. (PDF of ingredients for chow diet, high-fat diet.)

Result: instead of speaking of a “chow diet” and a “high-fat diet”, it’s more appropriate to speak of a species-appropriate diet, or “natural diet”, and a species-inappropriate diet, or “industrial diet”.

Returning to the study, we have four groups of mice: natural/ad-lib (“NA”), natural/time-restricted (“NT”), industrial/ad-lib (“FA”), industrial/time-restricted (“FT”).

First, we find that despite the radically different diets and restricted feeding windows, all four groups consumed almost exactly the same number of “calories”:

Calories consumed, by group

Interestingly, both time-restricted groups (NT and FT) were more active than the ad-lib groups (NA and FA):

Energy expenditure by group

However, only one of the groups got fat: the group which ate the industrial diet ad libitum.

Body weight, by group

The extra weight was almost entirely fat mass:

Body composition by group

Just to make the point clear, the researchers even included pictures of a representative FA and FT mouse:

FA = ad-lib industrial diet. FT = time-restricted industrial diet

Remember, both mice not only ate the same diet—they consumed the same number of “calories” each day.

How about that?

There is much more fascinating data in this paper: at the risk of overquoting, here are some passages of interest. (Emphasis mine.)

Mice fed normal chow or high fat diet under a tRF regimen (NT and FT) improved diurnal rhythms in their RER compared to their ad lib fed counterparts, with higher RER during feeding and reduced RER during fasting, indicative of increased glycolysis and fat oxidation respectively (Figure 1C).
Despite equivalent energy intake from the same nutrient source, FT mice were protected against excessive body weight gain that afflicted FA mice (Figures 1J, 1K and S1), suggesting that the temporal feeding pattern reprograms the molecular mechanisms of energy metabolism and body weight regulation.
mTOR induces the expression of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6pdx) (Duvel et al., 2010), whose protein product is the rate limiting enzyme of the PPC and is activated by accumulation of its substrate G6-P. In turn, the PPC is a major source of NADPH which reduces glutathione. In the livers of mice under tRF, induced expression of G6pdx along with elevated G6-Pled to increased activity of the PPC as measured by higher levels of PPC intermediates and of reduced glutathione (Figures 3D, 3E and S3).
FT mice were also protected from the hepatomegaly and elevated serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels that are associated with obesity-induced hepatic steatosis (Figures 4J and 4K). […] Livers from the FT mice did not have the profound increase in intracellular fat deposits, reduced mitochondrial density and reduced endoplasmic reticulum that were characteristic of the liver samples from the FA mice (Figures 5C, 5D and Table S2).
The tRF regimen temporally reprograms glucose metabolism away from gluconeogenesis towards glycolysis, reduced glutathione and anabolic pathways. Accordingly, FT mice did not display the hallmarks associated with glucose intolerance found in diet-induced obesity, instead showing glucose tolerance and insulin levels comparable to the control NA mice (Figures 3I and 3J). The overall improvement in metabolic state also paralleled improved motor coordination in the mice under tRF paradigms (Figure 3K).
Elevated β-oxidation and reduced fatty acid synthesis in the liver coupled with increased BAT energy expenditure observed in the FT mice prevented the adipocyte hypertrophy common to BAT and white adipose tissue (WAT) derived from the FA mice (Figures 6F and 6G). Furthermore, inflammation marked by extensive infiltration of macrophages and expression of proinflammatory genes, including TNFα, IL6 and CXCL2 that are generally found in the WAT of the FA mice, were attenuated in the FT mice (Figure 6H). Even in mice fed normal diet, tRF reduced the expression of inflammatory cytokines in the WAT. In summary, the tRF paradigm affected multiple tissues and improved whole body energy homeostasis, and reduced inflammation.

A Bonus Observation

Tucked into the corner of Figure 4, we see a curious graph: the FT mice (industrial “high-fat” diet, time-restricted) performed best of all the groups on the accelerating Rotarod test.


“What’s a Rotarod?” you ask.

(Perhaps the fact that ketones are the preferred fuel of the brain and heart isn’t just a biochemical curiosity.)

Takeaways: Intermittent Fasting

First, it’s clear that a calorie is not a calorie when you’re intermittent fasting.

However, the most interesting part, to me, is the difference between the natural and industrial diet groups. 16/8 intermittent fasting was only mildly beneficial to the mice eating a natural diet. However, the mice fed an industrial diet ad libitum (“FA”) were not only obese—they were in terrible metabolic shape, with fatty liver and impaired glucose metabolism. In contrast, the time-restricted industrial diet mice (“FT”) were, for the most part, just as healthy as the mice fed a natural diet.

Tentative takeaway: The less species-appropriate your diet is, the more difference intermittent fasting makes to your health and bodyweight.

This doesn’t mean you can eat all the junk food you want so long as you fast afterward! For instance, nothing about IF will stop gluten grains from causing intestinal permeability (see Fasano 2011). However, it seems that IF may be able to increase your tolerance for dietary patterns that would otherwise be unhealthy for you, cause weight gain, or both.

Also, I can’t resist the observation that most agrarian religions prescribe a significant amount of fasting. John Durant has speculated that this is a disease-fighting measure, but it may well be a general health measure that helps compensate for the inferior agrarian diet.

This series will continue! Meanwhile, you can go back to Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, or Part VII.)

Live in freedom, live in beauty.


Note that the retail price of The Gnoll Credo will be dramatically increasing soon, for reasons detailed here. Meanwhile, it continues to receive reviews like “A cry of joy and terrifying beauty, an extraordinary commentary on the human condition, something that can change the way you see the world and your place in it,” and my current favorite, “Thought provoking and it inspired me to buy a crossbow.” Beat the price hike by buying your copy today.


Permalink: Intermittent Fasting Matters (Sometimes): There Is No Such Thing As A “Calorie” To Your Body, Part VIII
  • pzo

    As always, fascinating.

    I’ve been slowly losing weight over the last year, then got stalled in the same 5 pound range for months. Now, I can’t tell you if the potato starch I’ve been taking for several months suddenly kicked in (well, the bacteria,) or my new regimen of not eating for 15-18 hours a day is responsible. Or, both. And, I always lose weight when I stick to low carb.

    I’ve lost five pounds in six days. Really. Yesterday I punched a new hole in my belt.

    Last week the Diane Rheem show had two men on it, they have written a book on IF. And Diane herself has been practicing it, losing 20 pounds. They do the more difficult one, not eating for a day twice a week.

    It would be interesting to know if that type of IF’ing is of more benefit than the 15-17 hour kind.

  • Brace

    At my skinniest and healthiest, I practiced this without realizing it. Going to start practicing it again.

  • Dave

    I started my HFLC journey two years ago. I don’t need to lose weight, but I’m still experimenting. For the past few months I’ve been eating just one big meal most days. Okay, I do drink a few cups of coffee with heavy cream during the day, but I don’t think this has much, if any, effect on insulin and blood sugar.

    Given that I’m practicing IF, I’ve felt freer to introduce more carbs back into my diet. However, the majority of my calories still come from fats. At this time I feel good about my health and have good energy throughout the day. I’ve absolutely no desire for breakfast, and the hunger pangs I used to feel around lunch have diminished. Many days when I get to dinner time, I’m still not particularly hungry.

    Your article pretty much confirms my own n=1.

  • Bill Lagakos

    Nice, J! I like your framing of the purified high fat diet as an “industrial diet.” Puts it into perspective nicely.

    Grain-based rodent chows are even healthier than purified low fat diets, which themselves do a number on the intestines.

  • Ash Simmonds

    Why hasn’t there been an interventional study on the colour of calories yet?

    I mean they say red meat is bad, and to get as many colourful veggies in your diet as possible – especially green ones.

    Is it maybe as simple as classifying calories like a traffic light system?

    Green calories: Go
    Red calories: Stahp

  • Ash Simmonds

    They all come out brown in the end, therefore brown calories are the most efficient as they don’t have to undergo the metabolically expensive pigmentation modifications.

    TL;DR – cover red meat (bad colour calories) in chocolate (good colour calories).

  • Ash Simmonds

    Or what happens when you mix red calories with green calories… BROWN CALORIES!

    Holy shit…

  • Johnnyv

    Leave your steak in the fridge for several days extra and it will become healthy green instead of red, problem solved Ash.

  • A remarkable study you quote there. It certainly goes some way to shine a light on the complex biology sitting between calories in and calories out!

    I’ve recently been drawing upon ideas on how grazing and inactivity seem to blur the signal to noise ratio required to inform our inner self, helping it to effectively manage energy stores and expenditure over the short, medium and long-term. Information needed by your body to control appetite, motivation & activity.

  • Johnnyv

    Here you go Asclepius
    Aerobic exercise reduces neuronal responses in food reward brain regions.
    Similar effects with overfeeding, high protein meals and exogenous leptin administration.

  • pzo

    Any informed thoughts on the below?

    My FBG was running in the high 110’s and low 120’s, spring and summer. I started on a potato starch supplement over two months ago, settling on 6 TBL’s a day. Very soon, my FBG measurements were in the 90’s, then 80’s, hovering in there with an occasion high in the70’s. My diet then was pretty close to PHD, my carbs were running high 90’s/day average. (I recored everything in http://www.dietorganizer.com .)

    I’d been very unofficially trying to not eat for 12-15 hours overnight for a long time. A week ago after hearing that Diane Rheem show, above, I decided to get to 17-18 hours fasting. Not easy, for sure. Breakfast at 10 or so, dinner at 4 or so. Then the long evening………..

    “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.” I have some very small nibbles, even non-paleo things my brother/roommate is fixing and I’m tempted. But last night’s secret sins amounted to only 7.1 grams of carbs, 42 for the entire day. (Losing weight.)

    Eleven-twelve hours later from last tiny morsel, my FBG’s are now running over 100, 110 the last two days. These increased levels started when I went from 12 hour “fasts” to 18 hour, and carbs cut in half.


  • Dave

    @ pzo,

    in my personal experience it is not necessary to practice any form of intentional caloric restriction when I eat only one meal per day (or two meals within a 4-6 hour period). I often eat to satisfaction, and then some. Of course, I do have some hunger pangs when it is close to feeding time, but it’s not a ravenous can’t-think-of-nothing-but-food kind of hunger.

    While I value using the results from my glucometer, I don’t obsess over getting ‘perfect’ results so long as mind and body seem to be functioning well. I used to experience reactive hypoglycemia. Those big swings in BG are not good for the mind.

  • pzo:

    I am aware of no data to support the concept that resistant starch makes you lose weight, and there is a great deal of data to the contrary: see this article.  So I suspect that your weight loss has much more to do with your new IF regimen!

    Furthermore, my experience suggests that the response to IF is highly individual.  Some people do well on the Warrior Diet (continual 20-hour fasts); some do best with the standard 16/8; some do well on the 5/2 plan; and some, particularly women of reproductive age, don't do well at any more than 14/10, or sometimes at all.  You'll have to experiment to find out what works best for you…

    …but when you find something that does work, don't be in a hurry to change it!  Ride the wave of success for as long as you can, because there are usually far more ways to screw up than there are to succeed.

    As for myself, I have no problems with hunger at 16/8– but unlike Martin Berkhan or the clients he posts pictures of, I am unable to gain muscle mass while on any sort of IF regimen.



    “Don't eat when you're not hungry” is a good guide to IF.  If you're not hungry when you get up, don't eat breakfast.  If you're not hungry for a meal, skip it…and don't feel like you have to do things the same way every day.  Sometimes I skip breakfast, sometimes I don't.



    Absolutely.  Fasting lets your body use up whatever it's digesting and go back to retrieving nutrients from storage.  I think of it as a sort of metabolic “reset”.  As such, your glucose tolerance is likely increased after a short fast, and you'll be better able to tolerate carbohydrate.



    Any time you see “control diet” and “high-fat diet”, substitute the terms “natural diet” and “industrial diet”.  (Assuming the “high-fat diet” is D12492/58Y1, or any similar combination of casein, purified sugars, industrial lard and/or seed oils, etc.)  It makes the results of the research much more clear.  

    Mice are natural seed-eaters, and are mostly herbivorous, so feeding them 60% lard is like feeding horses 60% lard.  Not to mention that D12492 is formulated specifically to make C57BL/6 (“black six”) mice obese as quickly as possible…

    …so when you see a headline about the deleterious effects of “high-fat diets”, the proper response is “DUHHHHHHHHHHHHHH”.  A more realistic headline is “Mice fed a diet specifically designed to make them fat and sick, become fat and sick.”  This is about 90% of modern “obesity research”, whose job is to turn this trivial result into something that gets NIH funding for further study.


    Ash, Johnnyv:

    I do not like green eggs and ham.



    Our bodies adapt to conditions.  If you never fast, the post-prandial state becomes your new metabolic and cognitive baseline.


    Absolutely.  The central point of my hunger research is that “reward” is not a property of food: it is a property we assign to food, based on our current nutritional and metabolic state.  

    Therefore, the term “food reward” is intrinsically misleading — because it implies that “reward” is a singular property of the food itself.  And it becomes impossible to explain results like those in your citation…or common-sense phenomena like “Why does food taste so much better when I'm hungry?”



    I see two possibilities here.

    1. Resistant starch isn't magic, and its FBG-lowering effects wear off over time as your body adapts to a new equilibrium state.

    2. Between fasting and carb restriction, your body is becoming insulin-resistant in order to adapt to the lack of carbohydrate (the state Petro calls “physiological insulin resistance”).  You might try going full keto most days and refeeding carbs once every 4-7 days (depending on activity level).

    In general, I agree with Dave: calorie restriction and IF are usually not good partners.

    You might also experiment with vinegar, which has been proven in controlled studies to improve blood glucose control.  (For some reason, this fact has been lost in all the anecdotal RS hype.)  



    In general, I agree: CR and IF don't go well together.


  • pzo

    Thank you, “J” and Dave. To clarify:

    After I posted, I sort of remembered reading about higher FBG levels on VLC somewhere else, would have been Mark’s forum or Freetheanimal. I’m neither alone in experiencing this, nor, really, fixating. 🙂 I think of my constant monitoring of BG, weight, and blood pressure as a way of figuring out what works and what doesn’t.

    J, I did read a lot of the tatertot cited articles, and yes, some things are contradictory. The theory of why RS might help both BG and weight loss is, for my lack of a better term, cellular tuning. More efficient. Post-PS for even a short time, my bicycling level goes up. And now, post-PS for several months, it stays up. I have my routes, and my GPS, and sometimes over the last few years, I’ve recorded times and average speeds. So here I am, two years older, and I’m doing better.

    The matter of being hungry doesn’t even arise. You are all correct. What I’m talking about in the long evening is what I call “eatertainment.” A flavor buzz. For almost fifty years of my life I had to keep eating to not lose weight, (ironic, eh?) it’s a hard habit to break! But I will…..

    “Calorie restriction” can be a broad definition. Yes, a 600 kcal/day diet for a large guy like me would signal the body to save energy and start shutting down “wasted” functions. My restriction is modest, I eat 1500-2100 kcals a day, my calculated BMR is around 2500. It works for me, all the energy I want.

    Eating only when hungry is certainly the ideal, and a hard change of habit from culturally assigned times to eat or “eatertainment.” I’m working towards that standard.

    Whatever I’m doing right, whatever I’m doing wrong, here’s the IF bottom line: I’ve lost four pounds in the last five days. Only rode the bike once, moderately.

  • pzo

    For all the CICO believers (not here, of course!) grapple with this:

    The last five days Paul averaged 1562kcals intake. Paul “spent”, approximately, 2662kcals a day. So, lessee, in CICO theory land, Paul lost 1.4 pounds, right?

    Oh, wait! He lost four pounds? Obviously he’s lying! Or, maybe he’s starving himself!

    Or, maybe this 18/6 thing (and PS?) is awesome. As my doctor and I nodded in agreement once, our bodies are very mysterious. Still.

  • Dave

    @ pzo,

    Looks like you’re on top of things! 🙂

    As far as “eatertainment” goes, that’s the reason I eat my one big meal between 5 and 7 pm. For example, yesterday I worked until 5, rode my bike home (not far really), got some cash and walked to the grocery store to buy food, an hour round trip. Got home, washed the dishes, cooked food, etc. All that time I was only mildly hungry and had plenty of energy. Finally, I ate. Dessert was some 88% cocoa chocolate I picked up at the store. And I only ate 3 squares. I enjoyed it, but as much as I love chocolate, I had no desire for more.

  • pzo

    @ Dave, compliment to me back at ya’.

    Not sure if I’ll ever go to the one meal per day, but I am, as of this AM, going to roll my mealtimes back what is normal in our culture, noon and 6 PM. The last few days have been 10 AM and 4 PM. Just sort of fell into that with my first 18 hour fast. Today and for a few days, I’ll do an hour later, and then do noon/six.

  • pzo

    Thanks, Dave. Aware of IF for four years, that show is what really convinced me to get serious about it.

  • pzo:

    I suspect higher FBG on VLC is an adaptation.  A “normal” carby diet will feature substantial periods during which BG is elevated (the post-prandial state).  But since BG never rises meaningfully on VLC, FBG will usually rise to compensate in order to keep the average BG reading close to where it would be on a carby diet.  (This probably has something to do with the fact that gluconeogenesis can't up- or downregulate very quickly.)  It's my current working hypothesis, anyway.

    Is this a problem, in the long term?  I don't know. 

    It would be interesting to compare A1C levels in the two situations.  But just like the mainstream confusing ketosis with ketoacidosis, I suspect there's a difference between a Type 2 diabetic whose FBG is 110 on a carb-heavy diet that also regularly spikes to 200+, and someone on long-term keto whose BG is always 110, fasting or no.  (See: the difference between “insulin resistance” and “physiological insulin resistance.”)

    Re: resistant starch, here's the thing about messing with gut flora via PS.  Everyone likes to quote the “more bacteria in your colon than cells in your body”, etc.  The corollary to that is that the possible diversity of gut flora is also monumental — which means that the response to additional resistant starch will be strongly individual. 

    For instance, I fart hugely at any more than 1 TBS — and, more importantly, I start becoming strongly demotivated after 3-4 days at any dosage.  It's not depression, but it's a total lack of motivation to actually do anything, along with a lack of sex drive.  My hypothesis is that the typical bacteria that feed on RS also produce serotonin (something like 2/3 of the serotonin in your body is produced by your gut bacteria).  The observations I've seen, including my own, are consistent with excess serotonin: serotonin is a precursor to melatonin, which would explain the improved sleep some people get, but excess serotonin also results in the same sort of mental and physical state produced by SSRIs: low motivation and zero sex drive.  (Interesting article.)

    The responses vary widely.  Some find the BG-lowering effects of RS persist for months, some find they disappear after a few days.  Others notice no effects at all from RS.  And so on.  My point is that RS is being sold as a panacea that everyone is deficient in — and when the American Gut Project baldly states outrageous bullshit like “6-month-old Hadza kids that are being weaned onto food are getting 100 to 200 grams of dietary fiber a day, every day” (an absurd claim that has gone unchallenged by anyone), I have trouble taking them seriously.

    Anyway, yes, IF does very well for some people.  I'm glad you're one of them!


  • La Frite

    I do one meal / day most days (usually work days). Black coffee and 1Tbsp of fermented cod-liver oil in the morning, and that’s it. I eat rather big when I come back from work but I don’t feel ravenous. Depends whether I work out. During week-ends, for social reasons, the timing is more loose, I can have breakfast, etc. Depends. Sometimes I skip foods for ~ 2 days, like once a month or every 6 weeks.

    J, about muscle mass gaining under IF, during last summer, I tried the barstarzz program to increase my number of pull-ups (I could barely do 3 in a row when I started). It not only worked (could do 15 after 6 weeks), but I gained some muscle mass. My wife was shocked! I was on the same eating pattern so I suppose I benefited from the growth hormone bursts happening while fasting (or so I read). Then, too enthused, I started to overdo it with pulls-ups and injured my right elbow. It’s been 4 months now that I stopped and I still feel a little pain (almost gone). But amazingly, the muscles stayed and my weight has not changed AT ALL! So thanks IF 🙂

  • js290


    Berkhan certainly isn’t going to post pictures of the poor responders. One’s ability to gain lean muscle mass definitely has more to do with genetics than eating strategy.

    High responders to resistance exercise training demonstrate differential regulation of skeletal muscle microRNA expression

  • js290:

    Yes.  Both the ability to gain mass via strength training, and gain endurance via endurance training, are strongly heritable. 

    This is amongst the reasons why one small ethnic group of ~5 million Africans (the Kalenjin) win 40% of Olympic and World Championship races at distances of 800 meters and above…and little else.  (Kenya has won 86 Olympic medals.  76 are from footraces of 800m or more, 3 are at 400m, and 7 are in boxing…and the Kalenjin make up only 12.5% of the Kenyan population.)


  • Janet

    Thanks JS. Another important piece of the argument against the gross inaccuracies of CICO. My body has proven to me that calorie counting is silly in the extreme. I lost 75 pounds eating MORE calories. The changes I made were simply upping my daily intake of protein and saturated fat while dumping sugar and grains. The further beauty of it was that I wasn’t hungry! I was always hungry on the low cal CW torturous plans…and with little results.

  • La Frite


    I was always hungry on the low cal CW torturous plans…and with little results.

    No wonder, it leads to low chronic starvation …

  • There is a strong element of survivorship bias with East African running (something we also see in Caribbean sprinting).  There is a strong cultural pride in running at specific distances, and they have a history of very hard work and ambition.  Those that survive it are close to fulfilling their genetic potential.


    With regard to ambition, dedication and potential, check out the progression of the 100m world record and birth order (in brackets) – from 'The Talent Code' by Daniel Coyle:

    1. Usain Bolt (second of three)
    2. Safa Powell (sixth of six)
    3. Justin Gatlin (fourth of four)
    4. Maurice Greene (fourth of four)
    5. Donovan Bailey (third of three)
    6. Leroy Burrell (fourth of five)
    7. Carl Lewis (third of four)
    8. Leroy Burrell (fourth of five)
    9. Carl Lewis (third of four)
    10. Calvin Smith (sixth of eight)

  • Janet:

    According to the zealots, you don’t exist!


    La Frite:

    As I’ve said many times (I even began my AHS 2012 presentation with it), people aren’t obese because they enjoy being obese — and diets don’t fail because people dislike being slim and healthy.  Diets fail because hunger overrides our other motivations.



    Yes, cultural bias is a factor.  For instance, I see no reason that black people should be indisposed to the athletic demands of playing hockey…I suspect it’s more likely that hockey is far more popular in regions with a low black population.

    However, in the case of running, it’s not like running (and athletics in general) isn’t popular in the USA.  Runners, and marathoners particularly, were American heroes in the 1970s, e.g. Frank Shorter (gold medalist in 1972), Steve Prefontaine, Bill Rodgers.  Then there’s Carl Lewis, FloJo…and recall that a Brit first broke the four-minute mile…

    …but once the Kalenjin began seriously contesting the long-distance disciplines in the late 1980s, they began dominating the rankings.  See: Olympic medalists in athletics (male, female)

    Re: birth order, that’s a very interesting chart!  It’s difficult to know how much of that is coincidence (small sample size), but there is evidence for birth order correlating to other things…and there is also the correlation between athletic prowess and season of birth.

    There’s a lot we don’t know!


  • La Frite

    J, wasn’t it was I was saying ? If you eat low cal and feel hungry all the time, isn’t it a low chronic form of starvation ? No wonder you regain all the lost weight and maybe more after such a diet! You cannot sustain a starved state indefinitely when food is so readily available around you. Something’s got to give and that’s your will to stay starved, hunger will destroy this will eventually.

  • sylvie

    Great post, but could you please elaborate on why IF isn’t such a great idea for reproductive-aged women (presumably regardless of whether they’re using hormonal contraceptives)? I came across a link suggesting that on the Paleo for Women site, but I’d really like to hear your rigorous take on it.
    Cheers, Sylvie.

  • La Frite:



    Note that I didn't say IF isn't a good idea for reproductive-aged women!  I said that I've observed that a substantial number of them don't seem to do well on the classic 16/8 regimen.  I don't know enough endocrinology to speculate as to why, but I offer the following observations:

    1. A good metric for whether IF is a good idea for you is whether you can do it without feeling like you're starving.

    2. You don't have to IF every day.

    3. Therefore, if you're really hungry for breakfast one day, eat it!

    4. Skipping breakfast isn't the only possible plan.  If scheduling permits, I know people who have success with a big, hearty late breakfast once they finally get hungry in the morning (~10 AM), skipping lunch, and then eating dinner normally.

    5. A spoonful of coconut oil can sometimes help get you through a rough spot (i.e. you fasted and maybe shouldn't have, but can't get to real food for another few hours).

    I think part of the problem might be that women are so used to restrictive diets that always feeling hungry is shrugged off as the price of not being fat.  It's easy to starve yourself into a low thyroid state with that mindset.


  • P. Winter

    Hello JS,

    An alternative theory is the ability to beat pain:- an initiation ceremony, a rite of passage that is all about enduring pain.


  • P. Winter:

    I'm not sure they're alternative theories: I suspect they all contribute. 

    The advantage of even a few ounces less weight on the feet is well-known: thus, racing flats.  So a genetic variation that results in a lighter foot and lower leg would be quite an advantage, especially as distances increase.  Such a build would not generate the most power over short distances, though, which is why we don't see any Kalenjin sprinters.

    The article is also correct that mental and physical toughness can create a margin of victory: at the highest levels of any sport, the margin between winning and losing is tiny differences.  Cue the great American distance runner Steve Prefontaine:

    “A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more.”

    “Somebody may beat me, but they are going to have to bleed to do it.”

    There's a lot of interesting discussion to be had about the survival value of initiation ceremonies, but it's well beyond the scope of a single comment!


  • Ana

    Hi J.,

    can you please share some thoughts on healing various health problems through raw food diet, detoxification and the consequent melting/reabsorbing of tumors and cancers? I’m not talking about a lifelong diet, but as a healing or preventive, periodic diet. Is it supported by science?

    Also, what about the process of autointoxication that may take place, if one doesn’t do the enemas everyone’s talking about?

    I know that this is a different field, but I believe many would really appreciate some thoughts, experiences or any info on this matter, since various diseases are an everyday topic nowadays.

    Thank you very much in advance

  • Ana:

    There is solid literature on fasting improving cancer outcomes.  (Important note: adequate protein intake is generally protective against getting cancer: it's only if you already have it that protein restriction and fasting are helpful.)  Fasting can also improve a host of infectious conditions, which is likely why our appetite usually decreases when we're sick.

    I see no evidence for there being any process of “detoxification” beyond the benefits of fasting.  The benefits of “cleanses” and other restrictive diets generally come from the degree to which they approximate fasting — and you'll receive more benefit from simply not eating than you will from any protocol involving juices, maple syrup, lemons, or any other magic plant extract.

    (Note that I don't oppose juicing, if that's how you like to consume vegetables…but there's no need to consume pathological amounts, and they're not a substitute for food.)

    Autointoxication, as far as I can determine, is complete quackery.  You can search for pictures of these hypothetical “diseased colons” full of “mucoid plaque” and however many pounds of old poop are supposed to be stuck in there, because colonoscopy is very common now and they ought to be easy to find.  

    You won't find them, because they do not exist.  

    Frankly, people worry too much about their poop.  If it's brownish, doesn't hurt as it comes out, and is mostly solid, you're probably fine.  The obsession with regular bowel movements has no scientific basis that I can find, and generally traces back to 19th century religious fundamentalism (more).

    Caveat: you can't out-cleanse or out-fast a bad diet.  It's much easier to not accumulate fat  and medical issues than it is to get rid of them!  That's why my approach to food is simple: when I'm eating, I eat like a predator.  Otherwise, I don't eat.  

    That being said, there are exceptions like candidiasis (for which carb restriction can be helpful), kidney stones (drink more water), gout (avoid fructose and alcohol), and GERD (stop eating grains and fermentable carbs, start drinking a bit of vinegar).  But those are each entire articles in themselves!


  • Ana

    Just because it is called Intermittent Fasting, it doesn’t mean that it is something new and never done before, and therefore its healthiness and safety questioned. Let’s just exemplify through some stages in history:
    1. The time needed for hunting your meal or finding it and then gathering it from the bushes and trees? Intermittent fasting.
    2. Eating and then working hard all day on the farm and then eating again? Intermittent fasting.
    3. Waiting for the man of the house to bring the bread and bacon (I don’t know the exact expression) after his job has been done for the day? Intermittent fasting.
    4. Or let’s go back just 3, 2, or even 1 decade ago, remember not having the option to eat whatever snack you want because your mother is preparing lunch and doesn’t let you? Or all-day gluttony being a thing we were ashamed of? Or, yes, just less then a decade ago, when eating a whole chocolate was something that we heard or saw rich kids do? Ok, this may not be related solely to IF, but multiply it in the course of a day, change the food item, and there it is. All-day snacking, i.e. FEASTING.
    Since when has hunger become a state to be avoided by all means and as quickly as possible? If we don’t feel extreme hunger, and feeling like we’re getting dizzy or something like that, we can finish that fasting period, and reap the benefits for our health and weight loss.

  • Ana

    I just saw your answer to my previous question, and I have already posted my new comment 🙂 So, the latter is not a reply to your answer.

    However, thank you very much for your answer, I will read it now 🙂

  • Ana:

    I substantially agree with you!  On that subject, you might also find my earlier articles on The Breakfast Myth (Part IPart II) of interest. 


  • Kiki

    Just found this blog and it’s great! On Intermittent Fasting: my grandfather was overweight his whole life. He had joint problems and heart problems, and tried many different ways to lose the weight. Finally, in the eighties, he picked up a book called “The Carbohydrate Addict’s Diet.” The idea in the book was to restrict all carbs to just one meal a day. The book advocated eating lots of other things all day: eggs, salad, etc., just not carbs. But my grandpa said when he ate anything – anything at all – it made him hungry. So he would fast all day and then eat dinner. He did that every other day (eating a normal American diet on alternate days) and he lost all his extra weight and kept it over for the next thirty years. I never put 2 and 2 together before: he had stumbled upon intermittent fasting!

    Regarding Ana’s comment just above, I have found that now that I only eat twice a day – a late lunch and a late dinner – I actually look forward to food the way I did when I was a kid. I wasn’t allowed to snack between meals. And I remember being REALLY hungry for dinner and the food always tasting so good after a day playing outside, regardless of what we were eating. It’s sort of fun to eat like a kid again and look forward to meals like that.

    As far as women of reproductive age, I’ll say my own experience is that 16/8 works great for me but days of total fasting do not work well for me and sometimes cause night sweats. Hormones. What can you do?

  • Kiki:

    Like your grandfather, I've also found that, for the most part, eating breakfast makes me hungrier than not eating breakfast.  I usually skip it unless I've worked out recently and am trying to gain muscle mass.

    It's also quite true that snacking used to be heavily discouraged.  “Don't eat now or you'll lose your appetite for dinner.”  Now it's considered child abuse to not provide your child a muffin or some sugary “fruit juice” every two hours.

    Thanks for sharing!


  • Doug

    Hi J.

    A new study about fasting has shown a reduction in IGF-1


    Two questions, first: I’d like to get your take on it, and second: do you think this might be a confounding variable for the 7th day Adventists (sp?) veg*ns who seem to buck the general veg*n trends? After all they would fast twice a year, advent and lent.

  • Doug

    That was strange, the rest of my message seemed to disappear.

    Here it is again without the link:

    Hi J.

    A new study about fasting has shown a reduction in IGF-1

    “Prolonged Fasting Reduces IGF-1/PKA to Promote Hematopoietic-Stem-Cell-Based Regeneration and Reverse Immunosuppression

    You can google it from “cell stem cell” at “cell dot com”

    Two questions, first: I’d like to get your take on it, and second: do you think this might be a confounding variable for the 7th day Adventists veg*ns who seem to buck the general veg*n trends? After all they would fast twice a year, advent and lent.

  • Doug:

    Fasting is good in many ways, but it won’t fix deficiency diseases.

    However, keep two things in mind. First, the Adventist church recommends vegetarianism, not veganism — a very important difference! It’s possible to eat a nutritionally complete vegetarian diet: it’s not possible to eat a nutritionally complete vegan diet. Second, only about 1/3 of them claim to be vegetarian (and nearly 2/3 of Americans who claim to be vegetarian admit to eating meat in the last two days). Third, there are many, many lifestyle differences between an Adventist, especially those living in Loma Linda (next to one of the premier medical facilities in the country), and the average American.

    However, it’s plausible that fasting improves an otherwise sub-optimal diet!


  • […] since reading Gnolls.org's "Calorie is not a calorie" article series ( part 8 Intermittent Fasting Matters (Sometimes): There Is No Such Thing As A ) I haven't even pretended to count them. Then again, with my tendency to eat things that don't […]

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