“Angelo, look at you, you have become so lean. Congrats but you must have been spending all your time focusing on your body, don’t you have any other priorities, you are a grown man! What are you doing in London, you are all the time in the gym or did you use any effective drugs?” These were more or less the reactions from my friends and family. I had visited my homecountry, Greece for holidays for a short time. Noone could call me fat in the last 14 years but none of my friends and family had ever seen me so lean and so muscular at the same time, either. I have to tell you that I have ran 4 marathons and there were periods that I was running 140km per week. Back at that time I was blindly following what others were saying…
“I have to let you down because actually, my body is the least of my priorities at the moment. The last few months I have mostly been focused on the improvement of my inner self and secondly on my business. I cook once per day and I spend 30 minutes per week in the gym. Due to the fact that I love running I also run 10km per week as a hobby but I don’t consider it essential. Doing less than this would be called pure magic and I am definitely not a magician, I just follow the natural laws that science has taught us”, was my reply.
Most of the times the conversation was over after my reply. But there were just a few who expressed their concerns about my health. Their fears evoked to me once again some thoughts about psychology; that our primate brain is so vastly commited to common beliefs and personal inefficiencies that it can’t even trust its own vision. Else it makes no sense to be afraid about the health condition of a body that looks like the pictures unless they had any proofs of use of chemical substances harmful to it.
But how did this happen? Did I take dope? Did I talk to god? Do I have a witch on a broom as a friend?
This post will give you all the explanations. Let’s talk about the mindset first.
Dialectics and conflict: I think that most people were certain that I pressurized so much myself because deep inside we take for granted that results are a pure outcome of extra effort. Which means that the more you try the more you achieve. In my point of view modern societies have been highly influenced by the philosophy of dialectics. Perhaps the spread of communism the last century with theories coming from Marx and Engels that adapted the dialectics and talked about the struggles and conflicts that are needed in order to achieve the desired outcome. While they used the dialectics to describe the way for a change in the political situation and in the social environment, in a deeper level, it seems to me, that our whole mindset has been influenced even when talking about our personal transformation. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t talk politics here as the dialectical method has its roots in Ancient Greek διαλεκτική.
Pareto’s Law of 80-20: But a neotenous approach on change could be something much more efficient. What if we could eliminate the energy costs of the struggle and just find the most effective components and only focus on them? If you have been reading this blog maybe you have seen me many times talking about the Pareto Efficiency. To describe it quickly Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist, civil engineer and sociologist who had noticed that in many instances the 20% of the components of a system was providing with the 80% of the outcome. For example, the 20% of the products of a business are offering it the 80% of its turnover. In later years many scientists found that actually the law of 20-80 was found everywhere in nature! You could be able to participate in the 80% of the conversations by learning the appropriate 20% of the vocabulary of a language. You are using the 20% of your wardrobe to dress for the 80% of the occasions that you go out. Most students want to just pass their exams and they don’t want to take the excellent grade. What if they knew that by learning the 20% of the course materials they could get an 80% or more? They just needed to know which is this 20% that most of the times can be found by looking at past exams 😉
I am not a gym trainer neither a body builder. And as far as I am concerned, the body of the latter isn’t even attractive. In fact girls mostly seem to make fun than to admire them. So, as I mentioned in the beginning, spending a lot of time on my body wouldn’t be effective for the things I want to achieve in my life. I just needed to pick this 20% of the existing components in literature that would give me a very good outcome.
Emergence: At the same time you all know that when we take some elements and put them together in an appropriate way so that they can work efficiently, the outcome is much better than the sum of the parts themselves. In systems theory this is called emergence. Look at a great football team. Maybe it consists of very good players, or sometimes most of them aren’t stars at all. But they interact so perfectly with each other that the emergent of all of them is something much higher. So by picking the correct components, putting them in the right environment and using efficient interactions between them we can achieve an amazing emergence.
These were the basic rules of why I didn’t need to try. Actually I had to eliminate my tendency to try. And now I will show you the just few components that interacted efficiently and created the emergence that you saw in the above picture.
1st Component, a mixture of Paleo and Ketogenic Diet:
Here is not the place to thoroughly describe these two diets as many and more expertised ones have done it already. However, if you see the pictures of these two diets and know some basic nutrition you will recognize that I took out of my diet the majority of the foods that contain carbohydrates, especially the processed ones.
Pasta, any kind of wheat and grains, barley, starch, sugar, rice, cereals, oat, potatoes, bread, noodles had no place in my plates. The previous mentioned elements are easily in the 80% of the foods that you can find in any grocery store and maybe in more than 90% of the foods that you can find in any other shop when you walk or are in a shopping centre. We are clearly talking about a carb-dominated society.
I can easily call myself an anti-carb guy and when I decide to take any carbohydrates because I have trained I prefer to consume legumes, honey, sweet potatoes and fruits. I will also not talk thoroughly (there exist hundreds of books) about why I believe that carbs should be consumed in moderation and I will only mention three arguments:
- First of all your whole body can store up to 350gr of carbohydrates and you all know that excess of this number leads them to be stored as fat. Think that a serving of 200gr of pasta will offer you approximately 120gr of carbohydrates. Imagine how many you will have consumed by the end of the day if you follow a “balanced” diet.
- Secondly, all the foods that I just wrote that contain carbs weren’t in fact existing in our evolutionary past. Many friends ask me that we don’t live in the jungle any more and now the human body is different. However, by only learning the basics of biology you will find out that while the Homo sapiens has been existing for approximately the last 200.000 years, we have only been consuming the products of agriculture for less than 10.000 years, a period significantly low for an important change in our metabolism to occur. Imagine that processed carbs have been consumed for even less time than this. You can put down the numbers, it’s pure statistics and this is how evolution works. It’s like believing that the whole character and body of a person that has lived up to 75 years to have been shaped in the last 4 years of it….
- Thirdly, I want you to think of sth else. The energy for the body to operate is measured in calories. The calories come from 3 elements. Fats, proteins and carbohydrates. As we said, the body can store only up to 350gr of carbohydrates while the proteins, except for emergency reasons, are used for building the muscles of the body. So what is left? The fats. The fats seem to definitely be the most natural way for our bodies to operate and you shouldn’t be afraid of them. Also, that’s why the excess carbohydrates are becoming fats. But if you, like most people, have a body that consumes too many carbs by definition the first place that it looks for energy are the carbs and only after they are over “decides” to burn fat for its needs. However, the modern “balanced” diet will never leave you out of carbs and as a result, even when you think you are on one of the existing diets, you will wonder why you aren’t losing fat. So by cutting down on carbs you are teaching your body to search for fat in order to operate.
So the foods that I picked were more or less the following:
Nuts, Red Meat, Fish, White Meat, Sheep’s Yoghurt, Feta Cheese, Vegetables, Eggs + a few fruits, sweet potatoes, legumes and honey. The vast majority of my nutrition consists of vegetables and then meat and fish while the others are used as extras when I don’t feel full enough (I will describe in a while more specifically).
And before you start asking how is the brain going to work if you aren’t consuming many carbohydrates, just to let you know that when the body notices that there isn’t enough carbohydrate intake it starts producing these elements called ketone bodies which have beneficial effects in making neurons more resistant to injury and disease as well provide more clarity in thinking. In my point of view the carbohydrate intake should only be reconsidered by the high intensity athletes while the average person will have no problem at all.
2nd component: Intermittent fasting
The first thing that comes to the mind of the average person when they hear the word fasting is that you stay away from food for several days and generally you don’t eat much. However, here we are talking about something very very different. While there are several ways to fast in a controlled environment, the specific method that I used is called Intermittent Fasting.
In Intermittent Fasting you just eat normally but only in a specific 8hour window during the day and you don’t intake more than 50 calories for the rest 16hours. Of course tea and coffee with no sugar is ok. The times that you pick depend on what suits better on your schedule. During these hours doesn’t matter how many meals you have and the total calories you consume just need to be less than what you burn during the day as your caloric balance still needs to be negative as in any diet that aims to decrease your body fat. While the latter isn’t always essential.
I picked the window of 7pm-3am however sometimes I fast for even more hours so I am eating between something like 8pm and 2am. I will describe later more specifically how I am eating during that time. I don’t have a day job so I figured that these hours are more suitable for me. But most people who follow IF pick the window of 1pm to 9pm. Many of us prefer to avoid breakfast anyway so you can easily understand that if you just wait till 1pm, even if your last meal was at 10pm the previous day, you will have already managed to fast for 15 hours! It doesn’t look so hard as it may sounded, right? Also, if you decide to try intermittent fasting like most things it’s a matter of adaptability. So after a few days you will be used to it and I am sure you will find it even easier.
At the same time if you also eliminate the carbohydrates you will notice that you will have almost no cravings at all during the day. This happens mostly because your insulin levels in your blood will have been stabilised. I many times challenge people to stop carbohydrates for just 3 days and I am always sure that they will notice the difference in their stomachs and moods.
There is already plenty of research about the effects of intermittent fasting such as this one here from NCBI.
One 2013 review found a broad range of therapeutic potential of intermittent fasting, even when total calorie intake per day did not change, or was only slightly reduced. Studies included in the review produced evidence that intermittent fasting may:
If you are a reader of lifestylescience.eu you will also have noticed that I trust very much the jungle. I feel the confidence that if we copy the way our ancestors managed to survive we can feel safe. I explained just a few paragraphs before that our bodies haven’t actually changed since the times that we were living in the African Savvana. So here we are talking about strategies that have been effectively adapted for hundreds of thousands of years.
From the above you can understand that the myth of the many meals per day can easily be debunked. Not only because it is commonly known that in the jungle our ancestors weren’t able to eat all the time but also because of another reason. It is said that by eating many times per day you can boost your metabolism. This claim comes from the fact that digestion burns calories:
First of all the calories that you burn during digestion depend on the calories you consume and doesn’t matter if they are digested the whole day or in an 8hour window, it’s the same thing. Secondly, the digestion of carbs is much quicker and less caloric consuming than the digestion of proteins and fats. Lastly, if your body is the whole day in a state of digestion you can’t be expecting to burn fats at the same time. When you are in a digestive mode the body isn’t able to so efficiently metabolize the fats compared to when you have an empty stomach. Also, the less glucose you have in your body the more fat you will burn has found John Rowley, Wellness Director for the International Sports Science Association (ISSA)
So after this is there something wrong about everyone telling us that we should be eating every 2-3 hours? Haven’t you noticed that there exist companies that make millions of dollars every day by selling snacks, pretzels, sandwiches, juices and all this carb-foods when you want to be fed during the day and you are outside home? Thus if you are interested in trying IF you’d better close your ears when you hear friends that spike their blood insulin levels with bread and chocolate spread or milk and cereals or the so called natural juices full of sugar from early in the morning and then eat again and again similar foods being concerned about your health. So just please follow what you consider correct.
Intermittent fasting suits me so much because I don’t need to be moderate in my eating. I just avoid eating for some hours and that’s it. Most of the times we try to don’t eat much but in the process in between we lose it. At the same time due to the fact that fasting is emptying your carbohydrate storages you can feel safe even if you eat something “wrong” during the feeding period. As well, it has been found that you may lose weight even if you don’t consume fewer calories than what you take during the day.
3rd and last component: High Intensity Training
This is a program that only takes 20-30 minutes per week where you are doing just 5 basic gym exercises(remember Pareto 80-20?). It is fully scientifically based and I have described it more than 2 years ago. You can read my article here Science based 20 minute per week high intensity slow speed workout. If you want to get into further details pick the book Body by Science by Doug McGuff MD and John Little, this is where the previous article was mostly influenced from.
From my experience, most people are in the same condition that I used to be. They are just training according to the way someone else has told them without actually explaining why they are doing this. If you read Body by Science you will understand why there is no need to train for a longer period of time as long as you follow the rules in order to break down your muscles appropriately and later give them enough time to build up. This training method takes about this time because it should be so intense that you must not be able to have the power to train for a longer period than this. In fact if you train more you are in danger of being injured. Also, as McGuff mentions, by doing this kind of exercise you automatically achieve the most appropriate body according to your genotype. So you just follow it and leave the process do its job by itself in the healthiest way.
Also, you can learn how great a misunderstanding is that there is a difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercise. By learning from science the laws that govern the human body you will find out that they are directly connected and you actually increase your aerobic metabolism only by boosting the anaerobic, you can’t diversify them as it is commonly believed. If you go jogging or walking, for example, you help none of the two as you are not boosting the anaerobic metabolism because you aren’t being pressurized. So you aren’t in fact training but just moving, a purely inefficient method, of course better than sitting on a chair, though. Or if you only do what is commonly but mistakenly called aerobic exercise like bike or running even if you are being pressurized together with fat burning you also burn muscle tissue.
But running is a personal hobby and I love it, it puts me into flow even though it is extremely dangerous for the back and the knees especially. I have run 4 marathons. Thus I couldn’t leave it out of the equation even though, as I explained I don’t consider it essential. So once or twice a week I run for 10km. Running in London is a wonderful experience with so many parks and a lot of people running in the streets.
How I eat in a typical day:
So as I mentioned I start cooking at about 7pm. My dinner consists mostly of vegetables and secondly of meat or fish with many times an extra of feta cheese which consists of half sheep’s and half goat’s milk. As for oils I cook only with extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and macadamia oil. You can see two example of meals here but don’t worry, I am preparing a book which will describe how you can easily make several foods the same way using very basic elements but with the chance to play all along and create several gourmets following easy rules. Normally the quantity is something like two meals with plenty of vegetables.
Sometimes during the meal or other times later I make a huge green smoothie. I have experimented a lot into those because most of them consist of superfoods (foods with high nutritional density) that are approximately caloric free. You can find a lot of information around but the vast majority of the smoothies will be consisting of fruits, too, which I have tried to avoid. I told you, I try to be moderate in sugars and fructose (aka. carbohydrates). I am preparing another post that will be dedicated in the experimentation on them and I am going to give you specific instructions but for now have a look at the following example. You may think that it will have very “green” taste but it is much tastier than what you may think. Especially with the use of carrots and berries.
2-3 hours after the meal in case I am still hungry I eat either the leftovers from the previous big meal or I make something simple, like eggs, bacon and very few times legumes (you guessed well, like an appropriate english breakfast)
Lastly I close the feeding time at approximately 2am with a yoghurt that contains foods like dried nuts, cocoa powder, tahin, honey, protein powder and other superfoods in it. Have a look:
I hope the above information was thorough enough in order to understand both the foundations of my thinking and the application of them in real life. Just to make clear that I am not a doctor neither a dietitian. I am only describing how I see things and what I did to reach this condition. This worked for me, I hope I evoked some thoughts and I am not preaching to you to follow anything from what I have done. Judging by the fact that you are reading this blog means that you are a rational human being with a good level of critical thinking so you can make the choices that are best for yourself.
Feel free to drop me any questions that you may have, I will be happy to answer even more thoroughly 🙂
Lastly, I hope the picture together with the explanations will serve as a motivation of what you can achieve and how easily it can happen if you close your ears to your fearful environment and trust the knowledge that comes from science and your personal experimentation.
I will close with the words of uncle Mark which are always lighting my path. Because we aren’t only talking about nutrition here but about a lifestyle based on the scientific method in all aspects which is uncluttered from the common societal beliefs:
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