Building metabolic efficiency and the application of intermittent fasting for military personnel.
I recently worked with a Gentleman who was serving in the Special Forces on the benefits of intermittent fasting and how it would be useful in a military role.
Throughout my work, I have spoken and written much about the benefits of intermittent fasting as a general health practice. Before we get into the details and benefits we first need to have an understanding of our human physiology and its capabilities.
For perhaps 95% of our time on earth, humans have had a limited ability to source food and calories. Throughout most of our evolution, our options were wild plants, fruits and hunting animals as a tribe. The food was available but the option to feast was not as much of a regular occurrence as it is now in our modern society. The highs and lows between feasting and fasting left the human body with an innate, very clever physiological design of being able to use body fat stores as a fuel source when low on glycogen stored in the muscles and liver.
Over the years there have been countless amounts of research showcasing the benefits of the correct use of intermittent fasting. The activation of AMPK ( adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase ) has proven its role in life extension and its reduction is degenerative diseases like diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and neuro degenerative disorders. When this gene is activated, so is the process of autophagy. Think of it as our body’s innate waste disposal system. This involves the cells breaking down and metabolising broken and dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells over time. Other benefits have proven to be improved insulin sensitivity, human growth hormone and testosterone increase, gene repair and regulation, reducing oxidative stress and inflammation on the body, gut repair, mitochondrial health.
As mentioned earlier, our ancestors called intermittent fasting a way of life, they feasted when they had the means to and they survived the fast in between by their ability to burn fat as a fuel source. Fast forward to now and we have the option to eat all day, every day which means we need to call intermittent fasting a health strategy.
Metabolic efficiency is a term used to measure how well one's body uses fat as an energy source, just as we would understand if we were to run a marathon we would get the best result if we trained appropriately for it, to become efficient at fat burning we must also train our body to do so and incorporate it in our everyday groundwork. If we had one job which was to keep the fire burning well over night we would know that throwing small kindling (fast releasing carbohydrates) on the fire would not last, we would understand that building the fire up to have large hot coals which is the analogy I am using for building metabolic efficiency and then using a large slow burning log would be our best chance for sustained fire. The same example applies to us and the way we burn fuel. Through science and experimentation, intermittent fasting and a carbohydrate appropriate diet is a powerful way to build metabolic efficiency.
The scenario: Trapped behind enemy lines and food rations have run out.
For military on patrol or on missions, specific gear is essential. That gear also comes with a great weight, the more food or calories that is carried means less room for ammo or other vital equipment. For a unit which has run out of food rations and may be trapped behind enemy lines, is under physical duress or has a long distance to cover on foot, a lack or calories pose a real danger and will make the above tasks much harder.
When one is well adapted to burning fat, a lack of outside calories is more than manageable. There may be a dull hunger and a want to eat but due to the ketone bodies that are being produced, they will have sustained physical energy and be able to keep mental focus and clarity for lengthy periods of time. For anyone who is not well adapted to burning fat and goes under caloric restriction, they will know that the above benefits are basically the opposite. A lack of physical energy and foggy mental judgment in this situation could have deadly results. As Doc Emerson would say "you can't take a 1960's mustang which hasn't been started in years out of the garage and expect her to run well.
Life presents itself with challenges where food may not be an option. I want to have the ability to thrive in those situations and have the added health benefits which is why the correct use of intermittent fasting and appropriate nutrition are a key fundamental in my daily routine.
“When the battle drum beats, it is too late to sharpen your sword.”