What does life look like with 630 days of one-meal-a-day?
Time flies when you’re having fun.
When I wrote to you about being an Ekahari and the Birth of the Brunchnner I had realized I had completed 500 days of that lifestyle. I mentioned that I would write soon again with a pictorial representation of my Ekahari journey. I have now completed 630 days of being an Ekahari – eating one meal a day, so I thought… Oops, busy is good, but better late than never! So here’s that quick overview.
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I shall first visually describe the processes of my Ekahari journey and then talk about the outcomes. Here’s a hyperlinked contents list to help you navigate through.
As I have said numerous times, it is important to progress steadily with small steps through any beneficial lifestyle changes so as to gain maximum benefit from hormetic stresses. Too high a stress and it will be traumatic for you, too easy and your mind and body will not benefit. When searching for the perfect dose it might be best to err on the side of ‘less is more’ so as to not be put off (psychologically) and thus miss out on the compounding benefits of sustainable long-term effort.
Let us handle, in turn, each of the trinity – food, rest and exercise.
I moved into the Ekahari state gradually. Here is a graphical representation of the eating window over time.
Equivalently, the fasting window looks like this.
Rest for the body and mind is easier to manage with just one meal a day. This is mostly because [a] there is more time to do anything else you enjoy when there is only one meal to eat and [b] the meal frequency is not an obstacle for most things. Remember, rest for your body is not just about your workout muscles, but for your digestive organs too.
Sleep, in particular, benefits from an Ekahari lifestyle as it is easier to have a long enough gap between finishing dinner and lying down. This is typically at least 6-hours for me. I recommend at least 2-hours for most people, 1-hour in extenuating circumstances, and if you are doing less than 1-hour on a regular basis – be ready for problems cropping up sooner or later in life.
Hopefully you are not in the camp that says “I have not eaten a meal since I woke up, how can I do any physical exercise?”. If you are, you will have to first rewind and address that – read this.
I mostly cycle just to commute, not for active exercise, as such. Instead I run, as little as possible, mostly in the afternoon, a few days a week. That is easy in London, but I do that even in crazy-streets and hot-weather cities like Mumbai.
If your ‘healthy lifestyle’ is to finish dinner by 9pm and wake up at 5am to run at 6am after a quick glucose spike (e.g. fruit, juice, energy drink/gel) to break your overnight fast then your workout is typically after an 8-hour fast – in the middle of a 0-hr fast! If, instead, you break your fast immediately after your run, you are likely to have run in a 10.5-hour fasting window. As you can see, my typical run is within (near the end of) a 21-hour fasting window. And I never vary it just because I am racing.
My strength training, usually in a gym, sometimes in a park, follows a similar pattern.
I listed the benefits of being an Ekahari here. Let us remind ourselves at the outset that when we see an outcome when focusing on any single process, the change is, in fact, always multifactorial when it comes to health and sickness. [read: Life can be Good with French Fries] It is important for you to bear this in mind when observing the outcomes that I describe below. Time Optimized Feeding is just one of many lifestyle protocols I follow for a long Healthspan. It helps to solve a lot of problems effectively but is not the only player.
Health Based Measures [top]
Body Composition, Flexibility, Cardiorespiratory Endurance, Muscular Endurance, Muscular Strength are health based measures of fitness. I am in maintenance mode for most times of the year and see no deterioration in any of these measures of fitness. When it is relevant, in the lead up to a competition, I may work harder on specific components e.g. muscular endurance.
Unlike for most other adults, my goal was not to lose fat through Time Optimized Feeding. So, maintenance mode was good enough for me. An improvement in the muscle-to-fat ratio was going to be easier with fat burning mode in existence for a longer period each day. Add to that the increased human growth hormone during fasting and couple that with regular strength work, the muscle mass increase per minute of exercise was going to be higher. Body fat which was in the single digit range has gone slightly lower. Overall, the Kg has stayed stable. There has been an increase in certain muscle group size, strength and/or endurance.
Most importantly, the time dedicated per day to physical exercise has been lower. That currency, time, is the one I value saving the most. Hence my focus on ROTI.
Skills Based Measures – B.S.C.R.A.P. [top]
I am in maintenance mode for most times of the year and see no deterioration in any of the skills based measures of fitness. Unplanned games of football or table-tennis, or dance parties at weddings or for birthdays are fun.
A Systems Perspective [top]
The main systems of the human body are listed here. I address only some of them now, from the perspective of relevance to better physical and mental performance as part of constructing a long Healthspan for myself.
[Tip: When thinking about what drives your body and its systems, it is useful to say to yourself things like “Energy, Communication and Defence systems” or “Infrastructure and Transport systems” and so on.]
I never suffer from GI tract issues. Although this may be partly genetic, I am convinced it is now mostly driven by my lifestyle. [I’ll spare you the details.]
I can assure you that an Ekahari routine of one meal a day, or even a reasonably strict Time Optimized Feeding lifestyle will not cause you chronic acidity problems. And, if what you eat is also right, you will have clockwork bowel movements at the other end. Remember, if your circadian rhythm is in a state of good flow your brain will automatically not make you want “to go” late at night but will be very happy to in the morning. Whether your single meal of the day is at 1pm or 8pm.
Immune System (and Inflammation)
Thanks to, what I picture to be, an extremely diverse microbiota in my gut, my immune system is very strong. I pretty much never fall sick for years on end. Time Optimized Feeding is one of the protocols that contributes to this diversity in gut microbiome and an increased resilience to pathogens.
Inflammation is a good thing when it appears at the right time (e.g. for a short while after you sustain an injury) and goes away at the right time. Chronic inflammation is not a good thing for a host of reasons. My measures of inflammation captured through blood samples (e.g. hsCRP, IL-6) are at super low levels – partly driven by Time Optimized Feeding. I am in mild ketosis for a good few hours every day. Besides being high octane fuel, one of the roles of ketone bodies (e.g. beta-hydroxybutyrate) is as a signalling molecule – for reducing oxidative stress and slowing aging.
I do not have access to internal physiological measures of improvement in neuroprotection or neurogeneration. [If you have access to a fMRI machine that I could use regularly, please write to me.] I have not been able to get an actual measure of the birth rate of new neurons in the hippocampus of my brain – I just believe in the published science – that it is happening at a faster rate than if I was eating like most other city dwellers do.
Even if I cannot look into my brain, I can observe actual mental activities. It is easy for me to see that I can work on complex tasks for endless hours – with greater clarity than when I was 18, higher accuracy than when I was training to be a Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries in my 20s, or even greater efficiency than when I was in my 30s and doing a PhD. Hopefully, those I mentor will agree that, no matter what time of day, I am able to dig deep into matters relevant to resolving their concerns or queries. Long term mental health is something that I have to take care of when I am 50 so that it is easier when I am 100.
My balance and coordination are also doing well, relative to my past self without any specific training. The normal activities of daily living [e.g. carrying a bicycle up/down a flight of stairs] are what keep this in maintenance mode. The end result is then observable every once in a while. For example, 10 years ago, in Hong Kong, I went bowling for the first time in my life. My team won the cash prize against 10 other teams thanks to my performance! Two weeks ago, I went bowling in London for the second time in my life with eight others and had the highest score again. I would like to conclude that there’s been no deterioration in my brain coordinating eyes, body movement and the resultant flight path of a ball! An Ekahari lifestyle has improved or at least maintained performance, or, at the very least, not created any problems!
Blood biomarker tests for some of the hormones produced by my endocrine system are all within range (e.g. thyroid function). In addition, for cases where being at one end of the range is better – that’s typically where I am. For example, total testosterone is sky high. It also explains zero hair loss at age 50. So, I am pretty sure that I will never need to consider dodgy testosterone treatment.
Other Blood Biomarkers
Blood tests show that kidney and liver health are both good. Blood tests for my (fat) lipid profile also show that triglycerides are super low, VLDL is super low, and HDL is super high (off the scale!). None of this surprises me.
THE PATH AHEAD – for me [top]
I was in good health before starting Time Optimized Feeding almost 3-years ago, and also when I transitioned to an Ekahari lifestyle almost 2-years ago. It is just one of many daily lifestyle protocols I follow through the year. Like most of the other protocols, it does not cost money and does not take up large amounts of time – in fact it saves time while buying me years. I also follow it in a flexible manner to be able to combine it with social commitments. So, for now, I see myself continuing with this, and like we all should, keep track of measures of health and fitness on a regular basis.
THE PATH AHEAD – for you [top]
If getting your food and drink to make you a super human version of yourself is something that excites you, and you would like customized guidance through the entire process, do get in touch by emailing me at PuruTheGuru.firstname.lastname@example.org
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Dr Purnendu Nath spends his waking hours focusing on helping individuals and organizations reach their goals, to make the world a better place. He speaks, writes and advises on topics such as finance, investment management, discipline, education, self-improvement, exercise, nutrition, health and fitness, leadership and parenting.