Successful people love to look for an edge: A new strategy, new tool, new initiative... they constantly seek better ways to serve their customers, help their employees grow and develop, and make decisions that will pay off for years to come.
Successful people also love to look for a personal edge, since health and fitness can clearly play a major role in professional success. Hence Silicon Valley trends like ice baths. Dopamine fasts. Even OMAD eating plans (one meal a day) favored by people like Twitter founder Jack Dorsey.
Science supports both eating approaches. In one study, participants who followed an intermittent fasting eating schedule for eight weeks lost 3.5 pounds of fat, while those who similarly exercised and took in the same total calories did not. In another study, participants reduced their waist circumference by 4 to 7 percent. Other studies have shown that fasting can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
And then there's anecdotal evidence: Plenty of people claim following a ketogenic diet improves their focus and mental acuity and increases their energy levels.
Now a new book, one that draws on 20 years of medical research and a review of over 18,000 different studies, wraps a bow on the premise.
James Clement, author of The Switch: Ignite Your Metabolism with Intermittent Fasting, Protein Cycling, and Keto, argues that our bodies function best when we allow them to toggle between an "on" and "off" state.
Which is exactly what keto diets, intermittent fasting, and protein cycling (rotating back and forth between periods of high and low protein intake) create.
Clement's approach is simple. Our body's cells function in two basic states: An anabolic growth phase and a catabolic "housecleaning" phase. In theory, the switch between them occurs regularly: Don't eat for a period of time and your cells shift into a catabolic state. Eat, and you switch back to anabolic.
Yet most people don't give their bodies a chance to shift into the catabolic state. And that's a huge problem.
Entering a catabolic state triggers a process called autophagy. That's when your body enters "cleanup" mode, eliminating defective cells and toxins and reducing inflammation. The more defective protein cells you have, the more your muscles weaken, your joints deteriorate... and your risk of disease, memory problems, and even cancer.
But it's impossible to regularly enter a catabolic state and trigger autophagy when you eat throughout the day, have a late night snack... and then wake up early and grab breakfast in order to fuel your day. It takes approximately 12 hours for your body to enter a fasted state; to do that, your last meal will need to be at 7 p.m. and your first meal after 7 a.m.
For most people, that just doesn't happen.
How to Flick Your Autophagy Switch
Fortunately, you don't have to go all-in on any eating plan in order to reap some of the benefits, even though that's basically what Clement recommends.
All-in is great if you can stick to all-in... but I'd rather get a 20 percent return on something than a zero percent return on everything.
Gains are gains, and something is always better than nothing.
Try intermittent fasting. While some people go all-in, there really is just one rule: Eat for 8 hours; don't eat for 16 hours. (Some people choose to fast for 18 hours; try it if you want, but, jeez, that's a long time to go without eating.)
When you decide to start eating is up to you. What you eat during that time frame is up to you. Just figure out what works best for your schedule and your lifestyle.
And then ease into it. Start out on a Tuesday/Friday plan, intermittently fasting on Tuesday and Friday and eating normally the other days. After a couple of weeks, you might decide to add in another intermittent fasting day. In the meantime, at two times a week your body will go into cell housecleaning mode.
Try a keto diet. A high fat, low-carb, moderate protein eating regimen forces your body to use fat instead of glycogen for fuel and places you in a catabolic state. (Just keep in mind it can take a few days for your body to shift into ketosis.)
Try protein cycling. If you normally eat high amounts of protein, try limiting your protein intake for two days of the week. Or for one week every month. Then go back to your normal levels of protein. (If you don't think you eat a lot of protein, still: try a day or two a week when you eat almost no protein.)
Do that, and your body will get the chance to clean up the "bad" cells.
Or just try this: Once every week or two, fast for 24 hours. (Here's what happened when I fasted for 48 hours.)
While it's not fun, you'll be proud of yourself when it's over, and you'll be reminded that you can do hard things.
And you'll have given your body the opportunity to clean itself up.