What I Am Up To Now, January 2020

This post and the entire series highlight what I am doing/using/thinking as of right now in the areas of fitness & technology. If you care to compare or read the other posts in this series, refer to the category What I’m Up To Now.

Nutrition

If you refer to last year’s update, you can see I had been following a 16:8 daily restricted eating window. That means a 16-hour period of no eating followed by an eight-hour eating period in which I would consume all my calories. I held this up for all of 2019 and then took it up a notch in November. For the past three months, I have been doing a 20:4 (20 hours fasting, 4 hour eating). I basically eliminated the lunch meal. On a daily basis that looks like one large dinner meal and then a small meal or grazing until the window ends. Most days this window is from 4 PM to 8 PM. We eat dinner early due to my kids’ extracurricular schedule.

To make this schedule a little bit more effective, I have been doing DRY fasting, which means no liquid intake during the fast either, other than a small cup of coffee or yerba mate first thing in the morning as they have significant health benefits and also increase fat burning. I had been doing the longer fasting window for a few weeks when I heard a podcast with Thomas DeLauer espousing the benefits of dry fasting. Thought I would give it a try to see how it worked out. The bottom line is periods without any intake of water (liquid) forces the body to look to stored fat for hydration, which unlocks deep fat cells that may not otherwise get utilized. It also increases the health benefits of fasting (autophagy being the main one). See this video and this article for more info on fasting/restricted eating in general and dry fasting in particular.

My results have been excellent. I got my body fat tested at a medical facility before I began the longer dry fasting protocol. I would estimate based on losing 5-7 pounds and my appearance that I dropped 2-4% body fat. It has been the most rapid reduction of fat and improvement in my appearance I have ever seen. Doing a daily time-restricted eating window had been the best and easiest fat loss I have experienced. Longer dry fasts was far better. Some of the weight loss is definitely water weight but less than you are thinking.

I initially was drinking a few glasses of water at night with dinner, but for the last 30 days I have rarely been drinking anything even during the eating window. I am still exercising five days per week. My energy is the same as it was when I was drinking more. I am peeing a healthy amount when I wake up, a few times during the day, and before bed despite not drinking anything directly except for the protein shake (8 oz. of milk). My urine is not dark brown like you are thinking. It looks unchanged honestly. I will caveat this with the fact that it has been fall/winter the whole time I have been doing it, so I would assume in the summer I’d have to consume more direct water to maintain a healthy level of hydration. I have been eating two or three pieces of fruit each night. I believe the water in that is aiding in my hydration in addition to the other food I eat. It does seem crazy, I get it. I am not walking around in a perpetually dehydrated state like a high school wrestler at a weigh-in. I am definitely not dry-mouthed. Not even barely thirsty at all. If I am, I drink a little at night.

Obviously use with caution. I am not a doctor and not giving you medical advice. While I believe a fasting protocol and dry fasting can help improve your health from my experience and research, some people may get adverse results if undertaken too quickly or at all.

Comments

  • I estimate I consume about 2500 calories per day. I do not count calories or macronutrients. Given I am eating effectively once per day this isn’t a concern, but previously when I was eating more meals, I would restrict carbohydrates until the evening. I still recommend this strategy. I definitely am not restricting carbs at all. In fact, I eat more carbs now than I did before for sure yet lost more weight and fat following the 20:4 dry fasting protocol.
  • A normal main meal would be what you’d expect – real food in reasonable amounts. Something like chicken/steak/pork, some vegetables, some starches (rice or potatoes), and fruit.
  • I have recently been eating popcorn and a protein shake for my second small meal. I got some high quality kernels and a reusable microwave popping device that has been glorious. The popcorn really feels like you are eating a lot while it has very little calories plus some fiber. I have been using Jocko MOLK as my protein mix of choice. One scoop plus milk for additional protein.
  • Drinking Ben Greenfield’s Kion Coffee for most of the year using the AeroPress or the Kalita Wave dripper. I recently added a heaping tablespoon of Yerba Mate as well for some extra power.
  • I used to do it every day, but now I only occasionally still drink some of Bragg’s apple cider vinegar mixed with lemon juice and some liquid stevia. Been drinking it regularly for a few years. Google “apple cider vinegar” and prepare to be amazed. I mainly do it to help with digestion and glucose control after a meal.
  • The 20:4 time restricted dry fast has made my life much easier. I do not plan for lunch any longer. I don’t have to think about it or spend money on it. I used to have a large Yeti tumbler with me all day to maintain what I thought was adequate hydration. I no longer do. I am happy with the simplicity, cost-savings, and resilience of a daily dry fast. I will keep it up until I don’t find it useful or want to experiment with different health/performance techniques.
  • As I have been fasting for many many years, I am not hungry at all during the day. Once you get used to not eating at “normal” American times, it isn’t a big deal not to eat for long periods. For me, I find it’s much easier not to eat than to eat small meals, which end up making me hungrier. For many people, this is the case.
  • I usually do one treat meal each week when my family and I go out for dinner and dessert. I don’t do the epic “cheat” meal and eat crazy things, but I don’t restrict myself at all to what I eat. This has been my SOP for many years also.
  • I follow the 20:4 more loosely on weekends but always do a 16:8 at a minimum. I never eat before 11 AM. I also do 36-48-hour fasts every few months for the health benefits. This is basically just skipping dinner one evening and then eating dinner the next.
  • I will write a post on a fasting/dry fasting implementation plan for anyone who wants to try it. Some quick advice is to start off with small adjustments and work your way up to more advance protocols after many months. For example, just eat from 8 AM to 8 PM for some time until this is easy. Then try 10 AM to 8 PM. Then noon to 8 PM. Maybe take the weekends off. Then try reducing water/coffee/tea intake during your fasting window. Keep adjusting until you are happy with the results and the protocol is one you can live with. A 16:8 with reduced liquid intake during the fast only on weekdays will make a big difference for most people!
  • Many of you are imagining being unhappy with not eating or not eating the unhealthy things you eat now that you enjoy so much. I often hear “I want to enjoy my life!” I would counter that I would rather enjoy the other 23 hours per day looking better, feeling better, and performing better. The minute you eat that donut, your enjoyment is done. Wearing pants with a waist smaller than you had in high school is much more enjoyable for many more hours each day. So is seeing your abs at 40+ years of age. Play the long game. Short-term gratification should be something you really enjoy when you do it and you should do it rarely.

Supplements

Pro Tip: I readily endorse three brands of supplements: Ben Greenfield’s Kion, Jocko Willink’s Origin Labs, and Joe DeFranco’s Nutritional Supplements. I trust these three gentlemen a great deal and am happy to support them, so start there if you are looking for something I didn’t list below.

Recently I decided to try some new supplements I hadn’t used regularly in the past. I am currently using the following:

  • Kion Flex and Jocko Joint Warfare. Been using one of these on and off for many months now. I would prefer Kion Flex if I had to pick one, but both are aimed at improving recovery. I could tell my recovery was better with them, so I will stick with it for now.
  • Thorne Creatine. 5g once per day with dinner. Normally for just performance improvements in short-term power/strength, the more research people do the more they find utility from creatine. I used it pretty much all of the 90s but haven’t been (for no good reason). It’s cheap and very effective. Noticed an improvement in performance within a few weeks. It’s a sustain.
  • Kion Aminos. 5g pre-workout for performance or mid-day when fasting to support maintaining/gaining muscle mass.
  • Kion Lean. Just started using this, so the jury’s out. Supposed to mitigate glucose response to food theoretically resulting in less fat storage after a meal.
  • L-Theanine. Wrote an article about this supplement already, so check it out if you are interested. It’s a nootropic, sleep aid, and a good partner to caffeine. 200mg in the morning and then 200mg before bed.
  • Jocko Molk. Talked about it above. Legit protein mix.
  • Now Supplements Super Enzymes. One pill before a meal to aid in digestion and nutrient absorption. Hard to tell if it works honestly, but I trust the science. Super cheap anyway, so not much downside.

Sleep

Regularly getting seven to eight hours per night in a cool dark room avoiding electronics before bed religiously. I protect my sleep as much as any other element of fitness. I wear blue light blocking glasses if I am watching TV or using a computer after 7 PM. I use a good sleep mask to assist with some residual room light. Well worth the money. There isn’t much more to say about sleep except I prioritize this highly. I have made this important for many years now and it has shown in my health, appearance, and performance.

Stress

I haven’t been doing anything actively to mitigate stress, i.e. meditation, for many years. My self-perceived stress levels were healthy, so after I fell out of the habit of doing it in the mornings when I changed jobs, I didn’t feel the urgency to resume it. I am a believer in its value for some people and would recommend anyone who can meditate does so. In early 2019, I started Sam Harris’ Waking Up meditation program to try to reintegrate this into my regimen though because I really didn’t have a good reason not to be meditating. Kept it up for more than a month every morning, then it just fell out of favor with me again. I just wasn’t getting anything valuable from it. Instead of persevere, I got out. So I am still not actively doing any meditation or stress management, which is working out fine right now.

Activity

I have been keeping up with around 10,000 steps per day on average (8k in winter, 12k in the summer probably). I get this done typically through one long daily walk in the mornings, long walk into and out of the office to my car, and then another short evening walk. I walk with a 35lb ruck on 2-3 times per week.

I have used a standing desk since 2014 both at home and at work. Sometimes I sit to read or type, but it’s not very often. Here is the one I use for work to put on top of my desk. It’s pretty good so far after two years of use for a small price compared to higher end models. I have the Topo mat with it as well. Highly recommended still after four years of use.

At home I have the FlexiSpot 48″ crank adjustable frame and I repurposed my old desk’s top to go on top of it. Now the entire platform is raised up and it’s much better than a desktop solution like I have for the office. I use a basic anti-fatigue mat to stand on as well. This is the preferred way to do the standing desk. It can be easily lowered if you want to sit, and it’s much easier to stand at a stable platform like this as well.

For exercise, I follow a simple framework in my garage gym:

Day A: Upper body strength, power, and hypertrophy
Day B: Lower body strength and power
Day C: Total body strength, power, and hypertrophy
Day D: Anaerobic and muscular endurance
Day E: Aerobic endurance

Now in a little more detail for those of you strength and conditioning nerds.

Day A: Upper body strength, power, and hypertrophy

1a. Horizontal Push
1b. Dynamic Push
2. Horizontal Pull
3a. Flyes
3b. Rear Flyes/Pull-aparts
4. Biceps
5. Triceps

Example:

1a. KB floor press 5 x 5 (5 sets of 5)
1b. Clapping push-ups 5 x 3 (5 sets of 3)
2. One arm KB row 5 x 5
3a. Band flyes 3 x 12
3b. Band pull-aparts 3 x 12
4. One arm band curls 3 x 12
5. One arm overhead band triceps extensions 3 x 12

Notes
– Bands = these.
– 1a and 1b are meant to be done right after one another. One set of 5 floor presses then immediately into 3 clapping push-ups. This is contrast training meant to generate power by stacking a slow strength move with a dynamic movement using the same muscles. 3a and 3b are meant to be done in a row, but it isn’t contrast training. It’s just to save time. I often combine movements like especially opposing one like biceps and triceps movements or pushing and pulling.
– Been wearing these blood flow restriction bands when I do arms hypertrophy training. Bottom line is this is a real technique to create a favorable environment for muscle growth. Could be used on other body parts, but I just use them for direct arm work. Recommend you check it out.

Day B: Lower body strength and power

1a. Hinge or Squat
1b. Jump
2a. Lunge
2b. Jump
3a. Core, Bottom Up
3b. Core, Static

Example:
1a. Trap bar deadlift 5 x 3
1b. 24″ box jump 5 x 3
2a. Rear lunge holding KBs 5 x 5
2b. 24″ box jump 5 x 3
3a. Toes to bar 3 x 10
3b. Plank 30-60 sec.

Day C: Total body strength and hypertrophy

1. KB Swings
2. Turkish get-ups
3a. Vertical Push
3b. Core Rotation
4a. Vertical Pull
4b. Core Top Down
5a. Biceps
5b. Triceps

Example:

1. KB Swing 5 x 10
2. KB Turkish get-up 5 x 2
3a. BB push press 3 x 3
3b. Banded rotations 3 x 12
4a. Weighted pull-ups 3 x 3
4b. Weighted sit-up 3 x 12
5a. DB hammer curl 3 x 12
5b. Band triceps extensions 3 x 12

Day D: Anaerobic endurance and muscular endurance

Sub-maximal total body circuit, 15-30 mins

Max reps for time of:
Pull
Squat or Lunge
Push

Example:

Complete as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes of:
5 x ball slams
5 x goblet squats
5 x push-ups

Max reps in 3 minutes each of:
TRX rows
Weighted box step-ups
Push-ups with feet elevated on box

Day E: Aerobic endurance

Intervals and/or steady state, 20-40 minutes

Example:
10 rounds of 1 minute of rowing and 1 minute of rest

150 KB swings (complete all in one long set without putting KB down)

Tech

Phone = Google Pixel 4. Very happy with the Pixel line. Upgraded this year from Pixel 2.

Computer = Microsoft Surface Book 2. Love it, highly recommended. Very powerful, great battery life, love the detachable monitor to use as a tablet.

Watch = Garmin Instinct. Had this for more than a year, and I am very pleased with it. See my detailed review if interested.

Ring? = Oura Ring. Just picked this up within the last 30 days, so I can’t recommend it yet. So far, so good. I am wearing it for the HRV, recovery, and sleep data.

Hope you got some insight into what I am doing that may be beneficial to you. Post thoughts/questions to the comments below.