Diets, Death and Taxes

Some things seem to be eternal. The never-ending quest for the perfect diet appears to be one of those things.

The latest fashion – I confess this fad has more merit than most in the past – is one form or another of intermittent fasting (IF). The most common form is 16/8; eat within an 8 hour window and fast the other 16 of any 24 hour cycle. Some versions of this entail the 16/8 pattern on weekdays only with a more normal eating pattern on weekends.

Some advocated fasting patterns entail a weekly 36 hour fast; often from Friday am breakfast until Saturday pm dinner.

It takes little imagination to come up with other permutations and combinations; imagination is all that is needed as there is minimal solid data behind any one pattern. Pick one. And ‘pick one’ is worth doing as the underlying thought – it is a stretch to call it science – is that such behavior sensitizes – improves diet dependent metabolic pathways – several important energy management systems including insulin sensitivity. The one time claim is true. The longer term claims are far too variable for reliable prediction in an individual case.

Specific claims are made that the 16/8 cannot, never does, entail muscle loss but only fat weight loss. This is simply not true; it can be true but the claim is not universalizable. How do I know? Well…because I measure these things. And that is the key point.

I’ve had patients successfully utilize the weekly 36 hour fasting cycle and maintain muscle associated with fat weight loss only to be anywhere from 6 to 12 months out before they just ‘go off the rails’ and begin compensatory eating behavior; even with strong willpower and the best of intentions. The proverbial ‘net/net’ at 12 months is that they are worse off than when they started.

Some of my patients do well on the 16/8 and lose mostly fat weight and maintain muscle mass. Others lose more muscle than fat weight. Both sets, said they felt well to even better, that their pants fit better but the health effect of the one is great and the other is tragic.

The scales can’t adjudicate your case. You must measure fat weight, water weight, muscle weight and phase angle to know if you are on the right track for you…for you. Not for everyone on YouTube, but for you.

Our genetics, our epigenetics, our environment, our biome, our – pretty much everything – is unique.

I, personally, have been experimenting with various forms of fasting for over 40 years. I’ve done this, on occasion, to change my mental state, to change my physique, to alter my perception of the transcendent; heck, I’ve done it for no other reason than being a student of modest means. I’ve learned a lot but mostly I’ve learned that there are no simple fixes to – fill in the blank – live to 120, cure diabetes, look good in a Speedo – God forbid – or anything else.

On the crest of the New Year, I encourage you to recommit to being a healthier you, to exploring whether one of the fasting routines is right for you, but I even more vociferously encourage you to first and foremost ‘measure it!’ Ready for a new diet? Stop by and get a clean SECA body composition baseline and then, don’t follow your nose or your scale, but do follow your training strength and your body composition.

Happy, Very Happy, Happy New Year.

Smile, Have Fun, God Speed,



Dr. Mike and Phil

PS As for death and taxes, your guess is as good as mine.

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