Which Diet is the Absolute Best?
According to Dr. Peter Attia, the standard American diet is basically a killing machine. It’s not so much that it was designed maliciously, but food designed to be cheap, good-tasting, mass-produced, and portable has negative effects on our health and our happiness.
The “Standard American Diet” is commonly referred to as SAD.
So how do we get out of the SAD? Well, another diet of course. Dr. Attia organizes all the different ways in which we “diet” into five basic principles:
- Time Restricted Feeding (different than intermittent fasting) 16:8, 18:6 etc
- Dietary Restriction
- Caloric Restriction (60-70% of required calories)
- Intermittent Fasting (Water Only and Hypo-caloric)
Most popular diets live within the Dietary Restriction category. Low-carb, keto, low-fat, high-protein, no-cheese, all cheese; all are modes of blocking some part of the food pyramid from entering our bodies. Dr. Attia makes the case that while most people put their eggs in this basket, it is only one angle to optimum nutrition.
Time Restricted eating, on the other hand, doesn’t restrict what you eat – only when you eat. This is what most of us would call Intermittent Fasting although it is differentiated here. Sixteen hours of fasting with an eight-hour eating window, or 16:8, and 18:6 and 22:2 are all forms of Time Restricted eating.
Time Restricted Eating doesn’t limit what you eat – It limits when you eat…
Dr. Attia’s view of Intermittent Fasting is broken down into three categories: Caloric Restriction, Water Only, and Hypo-Caloric. Caloric Restriction is simply the constant limiting of calories to 60 – 70% of what is required – everyday. So if your maintenance calories are 2000 a day, you’re going to eat 1600 – 1800 instead. Hypo-Caloric Intermittent Fasting is consuming only 25 – 30% of your daily calories for a period of time.
Water Only of course is limiting 100% of your caloric intake for a period of time. If you’re really up for a challenge, Attia performs a seven-day water-only fast every ninety days. Having just failed a 24 hour fast myself (somewhere around hour 14), I can tell you that’s not for the faint of heart. (Fasting aside, proper water consumption is crucial to overall health and wellness. Find out all about it here!)
There are many reasons why we would put ourselves themselves through such…torture. According to Healthline, fasting reduces insulin levels in the blood, reduces inflammation, burns fat, promotes the release of human growth hormone, and activates the repair of cells among other benefits.
Hour 16 – Where the Magic Begins!
In fact, an article written by Naturopathic Physician Alexis Shields and reviewed by Bindiya Gandhi M.D, tracks the benefits of fasting hour by hour. The timespan of 4 to 16 hours after your last meal depend heavily on what that last meal was, but insulin levels in your blood will continue to drop as you digest.
The magic really begins at hour 16. Glucose and glycogen levels fall fast, and that means your body needs to burn stored fat for energy. At hour 18, it is believed that human growth hormone (HGH) levels increase dramatically. Autophagy begins at hour 24 and the body goes deeply into ketosis. Autophagy is like a deep cleaning of our cells, where the body clears out and replaces damaged cells with new ones.
Dr. Attia thinks the combination of time restricted eating, intermittent fasting, and dietary restriction are all valuable ways to counter the negative effects of the standard American diet (SAD). But it seems that fasting, in one form or another, is a wonderful way to let our body do what it wants to do – heal itself.
If you’re ready to try fasting, this writer strongly recommends that you sleep through most of it. Enjoy your last meal at 7:30 PM and don’t have anything else before bed. When you wake up you’re already twelve hours in! Now all you got to do is consume water and watch the clock run out and the benefits aggregate. At 11:30 AM, you’ve reached 16 hours of fasting and entered “fat burn mode”. Hold out as long as you can before lunch, and observe the benefits of fasting for yourself!
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