How to Live Longer, Healthy: People that live long, healthy lives all have something in common—and it’s not how much they exercise, their environment, or even what they eat. The secret is how often they eat.
Emma Morano died at her home in Verbania, Italy, on 15 April 2017 at the verified age of 117.
As she neared her death, there were many reports and interviews; as humans, we’re always trying to figure out what the key to a long, healthy life is? For Emma, she chalked it up to her diet. In the latter years of her life, she ate only two eggs and some cookies- per day! “I don’t eat much because really, I don’t care to,” she said in an interview. And then there’s Jeanne Calmet, the French woman who died at the verified age of 122. Despite her relatively poor diet, Jeanne never ate breakfast—supposedly the most important meal of the day.
When we look at living longer while healthy, we now know eating less is key. But simply restricting calories is not the answer. Restricting calories slows the metabolism down by putting the body into starvation mode. When it fears that there’s not enough food coming, the body clings to its fat stores as a way of staying alive. Not only do we gain weight, but incessant eating sends the body on a roller coaster of insulin all day long, which causes inflammation, oxidative stress, and premature aging. Eating less and eating all day is actually the most destructive thing you can do.
The secret here is a phrase you’ve undoubtedly heard me say by now: don’t eat less, eat less often.
People are always looking for the magic pill, the new antioxidant, the miracle diet. Yes, some of these things help—but the truth lies not in consumerism, but the total opposite.
How to Live Longer: 180- Solution: Intermittent Fasting
We have heard it all before, the importance of eating 5-6 small meals a day. We’ve been fed similar lies, like how fat makes you fat, and how whole grains are good for the body. Science is finally catching up to the truth: our bodies are not designed to be eating around the clock as we do in the modern-day, particularly given the type of processed diets we’re consuming. These centenarians have known it for a long time, as have the ancestral communities still living in tune with nature, and now it’s time for health hunters to take back our vitality too.
The key concept here is called intermittent fasting, and all this is emulating what ancient cultures did naturally: eat in a restricted time window. On a trip to Africa, I witnessed this first hand, how the tribe would generally eat only one large meal a day (lasting 2-3 hours, of feasting). They never restricted calories; they ate less often.
By eating less often, we end up eating less naturally, but without triggering starvation mode in the body.
The human body is incredibly adapted to going long periods without any food, but when it does eat, it needs to eat in abundance. This mechanism of feasting, once or twice a day, reminds the body that there is ample food and that there is no need to slow down its metabolism to preserve energy (i.e., fat). Despite losing weight at first, a low-calorie diet sustained over a long period will do nothing but damage the hormonal system as well as the metabolism.
Cells can use two things for energy, fat or sugar.
Most Americans are stuck as sugar burners with the cellular inability to burn their body fat. That’s a cellular problem, which leaves the body with two choices: either it fed sugar (you eat) or it will eat its own muscle. If the body is hungry and isn’t in fat-burning mode, it will convert tissue to glucose (sugar) using a process called gluconeogenesis. So if your hormones are out of whack or malfunctioning (like due to caloric restriction), your body may break down muscle. This is the mechanism by which calorie restriction gives off a “skinny fat” look: the body simply cannot burn its own fat, even in the absence of food.
The daily fasting period can be 13 hours, 15 hours, 20 hours, or even a full 24 hours without food. The amount of time you go without eating will depend on how fat adapted you are (how well your body is at using fat for fuel), which can take some time depending on how sick you are or how dependent on sugar you are (these two things often go hand in hand).
When you do eat that meal, you want to eat a big enough meal to where your body knows it’s not starving.
You want to eat a meal until full.
That’s the key.
You eat until full, but you do that less often, whether it’s one or two meals a day.
It’s worth noting that how much food that is will depend on the individual. A more significant person will require more food. Emma, the 117-year-old Italian woman, was eating only a few eggs and cookies by the end of her life, but her metabolism was naturally firing at a much lower rate. That does happen with age. Be mindful of your individual bodily needs, and eat accordingly.
How to Live Longer: IF and Building Muscle
One concern people have when they learn about intermittent fasting is that they will lose muscle. We’ve been brainwashed by the bodybuilding teachings that still linger from the ’70s, that taught us to eat eat eat to build and maintain muscle mass. As I’ve already touched on: the body thrives in fat-burning mode when it runs on the energy of fat instead of sugar. This mode is the key to maintaining muscle and still burn body fat, and it’s only attainable when hormones are healthy, and the body is fed the proper types of food.
Fat adaptation generally takes a few weeks in the average healthy person but can take months in someone dealing with hormonal issues.
It took my wife Merily over three months to start seeing ketones (the measure of a fat-adapted body). Once you start tapping into this fat-adapted state, you begin to create metabolic flexibility. This means that you can start going in and out of this fat-adapted state, and the body’s hormones will remain responsive and healthy.
The Hodge twins are one of the best examples when it comes to natural bodybuilding and the power of intermittent fasting. Since they began fasting 18 to 19 hours a day, the twins are leaner (without losing muscle mass) than they have ever been. You can look them up; they are advocates of the lifestyle and an excellent example for anyone who is seeking this physique and thinks it’s impossible to achieve with a restricted eating window.
My son had a similar experience but was coming from a non-bodybuilding background.
He was small and wanted to put on weight. You might think it only worked for the twins because they were already very muscular, but no, it worked for my son too. My son started eating within a 6 hour daily feeding window, and his efforts in the gym skyrocketed.
The mechanism behind it all is something called autophagy, a process by which the body gets rid of the harmful proteins, the bad DNA, and the bad cells first. Autophagy comes from the Greek term “self-eating,” and this process was discovered in 2016 by Yoshinori Ohsumi, a Japanese cell biologist. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of how cells recycle their content. The body is incredibly smart; it literally eats all the damaged cells as a means to stay alive. Instead of eating away at the muscle, a healthy body will just analyte the bad cells and burn body fat; and it can do so because it knows that there is always ample food coming.
These autophagy benefits kick in after 12 hours of daily fasting,
but really amp up around 15 hours +
This autophagy period generates an approximately 1300% increase in human growth hormone in women and a 2000% rise in growth hormone for men. This spike in growth hormone helps us build muscle, heals the brain, heals our cells, heals injury, reduces inflammation, and perhaps most important of all: increases hormone sensitivity.
Hormone sensitivity is how well and clearly the hormones can communicate with one another, the body, and mostly how well they can carry out their duties. People with type II diabetes produce plenty of insulin, but their cells cannot register it. We need our cells to hear our hormones, that’s called hormone sensitivity.
How to Live Longer: Where to Start? Go Easy
As I’ve briefly touched on, the ease in which you become fat-adapted will depend to a degree on your state of health going into it.
- Start slow, even by merely eating breakfast a little later, and eating dinner a little earlier.
- Continue eating three meals a day, but cut out the snacks completely.
- Try exercising on an empty stomach first thing in the morning; this ramps up your human growth hormone boosts testosterone and increases hormone sensitivity.
- As the body becomes more efficient at burning fat, widen the fasting window
Avoiding a late dinner has multiple other benefits, like supporting a deep sleep.
A study of circadian health and insulin demonstrated that the largest spike in insulin happened when people eat after 7:50 PM. A working metabolism and an insulin spike just prior to bed will prevent you from getting that deep restorative sleep. You’ll wake up tired, reaching for the coffee and sugar, and end up perpetuating a cycle of hormone damage and metabolic harm.
The best time to have your more substantial meal(s) is between 12:00 and 4:00 PM. When we look at these circadian rhythms, we see it naturally in Mediterranean diets; it’s between 12 and 4 that truly is the peak time the body responds to food. But at the end of the day, you have to find a window that works for you and your lifestyle. If eating dinner with your family at 6:00 PM is essential to your happiness and maintaining a happy family dynamic, try skipping breakfast instead.
Accelerate the Benefits: Block Water Fast
A great way to break the habits of your old lifestyle and simply fast track your fat-adapted state is a block fast. A block fast simply means you take a block of days, and fast on only water.
The mechanisms here are the same as intermittent fasting but amplified. The body goes into a deep ketogenic state, and you experience much more autophagy. A process that might take a month for the average person will start to happen in 3-4 days.
I’m incredibly passionate about the incredible healing benefits of water-only fasting, as it has completely revolutionized my health and the health of my family. I teach doctors how to guide their patients through these fasts, and I run multiple fasts online, too through Facebook. You can learn more as well by checking out Cellular Healing TV. or watch this episode of health hunters radio here: