Intermittent Fasting for Calorie Restriction

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By Jim Porto

How to manage one’s intake and outflow of nutritional energy in an age of abundance is a vexing problem for much of the world. So much bad science has been conducted on this problem and so much bad advice has been given, that it is difficult to know what to believe. After experimenting and reading many articles and books on nutrition, here is what I have come to believe.

The body is an open energy system. What this means is that energy that comes in must equal energy going out. Excess energy is conserved and stored as fat. Any argument about eating as much as you want because the food ingested is “special” in some way is bogus.

Nutritionally, the body needs fats, carbohydrates and proteins to function. The best diet strategy is to avoid fad diets and to exercise portion control, which limits caloric intake. The only types of food to minimize in the diet are those that are highly processed and filled with preservatives. Highly processed foods are low in micro-nutrients and fiber which help fine tune the fitness system. They also have a higher probability of introducing contaminants, which could mutate genes in healthy cells into cancerous causing genes.

For men maintaining a waist size of 35 and under; and for females a waist size 29 and under are sensible targets for controlling obesity. A sound nutritional program and a rigorous and consistent fitness effort will achieve this objective.

A single method of controlling caloric intake will not work for everyone. My program started many years ago when I became a vegetarian. Even though I had an active workout schedule, I still had difficulty controlling 10-15 pounds of excess fat.

Over two years ago, I decided to fast one day a week. I initially told myself that this “experiment” had several purposes-it helped me balance my energy equation so that I did not put on excess fat; it was a reminder to me what it means to be hungry since many in the world, despite our abundance, still go hungry; and it was a good exercise in discipline. A year and a half ago, I started fasting twice a week. (From Sunday night to Tuesday morning and from Wednesday night to Friday morning.)

I have since found another reason for intermittent fasting. Life extension. Research in animals consistently shows that a calorie restricted (CR) diet of about 30% extends life expectancy by 40 %. What a bonus! So here are the numbers.

Given my level of physical activity, I need about 2500 calories a day to maintain my weight. If I follow a CR diet, I would consume only 1750 calories a day (.70 X 2500). Most folks who follow a CR diet, and there are many who do, look like it.

One of the articles I read took a closer look at the testing protocol used on the laboratory animals undergoing the CR diet. The author found that lab technicians fed the animals every other day and not daily with a reduced amount. The inference: intermittent fasting also works to extend life. Some evidence has since been developed to support this observation.

So I figure I need 17,500 calories a week (7 X 2500) but I take in roughly 12,500 calories (5 X 2500). Thus my weekly reduction in calories is 29% (5000/17,500). Pretty close to the 30%. There is little evidence to suggest at what age animals have to start a CR diet to extend life. Since I am starting so late, I figure the benefits are minor to me. But a 20 year old starting an intermittent fasting routine of two days a week could conceivably extend life to 118 years (84 X 1.40).

I have lost body fat and have a waist size of 34. But the mystery to me is that, even with this intermittent fasting routine of twice a week, my vegetarian lifestyle, lifting weights twice a week, running 3-6 miles 4 to 5 days week, I still am carrying a few extra pounds of fat. I look fit, but I do not look skinny. I take this as evidence that the body adapts by altering metabolism to accommodate my eating behavior.

Finally, building on this last observation, which may not stand up to scientific scrutiny, I believe that the life extending benefits of intermittent fasting for a CR diet may be caused by a reduction in base metabolism rates. One way of looking at this is that the wear and tear on our cellular furnaces is reduced and thus our cells can last longer. My goal then is to reduce metabolism and fat at the same time. Several popular diet books make a big deal about increasing metabolism to reduce weight. This appears backward to me.

Published in: on October 24, 2007 at 10:19 pm  Comments (1)  
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The Sin of War-Making

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By Jim Porto

The letter below is what I had in mind with this Card–I take no satisfaction in being justified in my belief. I still marvel at the tortuous logic being used to sustain our presence in Iraq. Failure to see consequences that are as plain as day is shear stupidity. It goes without saying that the Bush administration will certainly achieve the distinction of being the most incompetent administration since that of Warren G. Harding.

Written in outrage (March 2003)

I am a Viet Nam vet. I flew helicopters from Marble Mountain for the Marines. I got shot at more than once, flew in some tight spaces, had the living daylights scared out of me flying night medevac in the mountains south of Danang, and rode a CH-46 fully loaded with combat Marines into the side of a hill (we all survived). I am angry, and I apologize up front.

While I was volunteering for service in 1968 much to the chagrin of my family, our President, George W. Bush, was having strings pulled to jump ahead 150 other applicants in line to the Texas Air National Guard. His daddy, you see, was a big shot. If you remember, anyone who didn’t have the stomach for Viet Nam and was too chicken to be an outright protestor of the war wanted to go into the Guard. Our Prez is such a man.

This is not the worst part. Now he wants to send 200,000 good men and women to war on the flimsiest of excuses. Having avoided the test himself, he appears to have no qualms about ordering others into combat. The issue is not Saddam Hussein. The guy is the worst dictator since Hitler. But that’s not why our Prez says we need to fight him. He says that we are being threatened by this tin-pot dictator and have to take him out.

This obsession with Iraq appears to have several unseemly motivations: the Prez’s daddy, the same one who got him into the Texas Air National Guard, was humiliated by Saddam and now the son wants vengeance; half of Bush’s top appointees come from the oil industry and the rancid smell of oil is all over this policy; and GW’s personal angst over having avoided testing his manhood in battle is now to be vicariously lived through the lives of men and women who, as good soldiers and Marines, will do as they are ordered.

The only praise I can give the President is that he has taken up the sound liberal cause of ridding the world of dictators who most horrifically violate the human rights of their citizens. But this is not the reason he gives, nor is he consistent in applying his new found liberal ideology to other tin-pot dictators. Saddam can be, and is, contained. We need to solve the Israeli problem with a more balanced approach to the Palestinians, and then give Arab nations the responsibility of ridding the world of Saddam.

I urge all active and retired military personnel to rise up in protest against this pretender and to send email, snail mail, and phone messages to the white house to protest this travesty.

Published in: on October 13, 2007 at 12:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Leadership is Influence

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By Jim Porto

Literally thousands of books and articles have been written on the subject of leadership. Dozens of definitions have been offered and even more models have been proposed: multiple trait models, varying skill models, style models, situational models, contingency models, leader-member exchange models, transactional and transformational models. Yet, even though we do not know exactly what leadership is or how to define it, like Justice Stewart who defined pornography as “I know it when I see it,” most of us know leadership when we see it.

I believe that we are trying too hard to unravel the mystic of leadership. Leadership at its most basic is the ability to influence others. Individuals believe and act certain ways through a process of decision making (both conscious and sub-conscious). To change our ways we must (1) be convinced to do so and (2) translate that intellectual conviction into behavioral change. This two-step process is not always visible in routine decisions but becomes painfully obvious when we try to change bad habits. We can make the decision to change (for example quit smoking) but find it extremely hard to translate that intellectual decision to behavior.

Leadership is exercised when one person convinces another person of something or persuades another person to change behavior. The ability to influence others is cultivated in many ways: influence by example, by reasoning, by reputation, by expertise, and so on. Force can also be used to influence-force of will as well as physical force. Xenophon had to whip his troops to force them to continue marching to the Black Sea on the March of the 10 Thousand, which saved their lives.

When influence is used negatively, it is always for personal or political gain. When influence is used positively, it is always for a larger, public good and for the sustainability of the group. This leads to the notion of negative leadership (tyranny, cults) and positive leadership (self-determination, enlightenment).

This view of leadership means that we all exert leadership to the extent that we influence others. Our most visible leaders are the ones who most obviously influence others because they have more capabilities and resources at their disposal.

Published in: on October 4, 2007 at 11:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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