When it comes to anti aging, performance and longevity, two things come to mind; intermittent fasting (IF) and chlorophyll. I have been implementing these two strategies for the past 6 months to see what effects they have on my mind and body. In this article I will discuss what each, intermittent fasting and chlorophyll, is, how it can benefit the human body, my personal routine with the two and what effect I experienced during the past 6 months. The results may surprise you so keep reading on!
For starters, what is intermittent fasting? Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern in which you cycle between periods of feast and famine (fasting) for around 12 to 18 hours. What makes intermittent fasting so cool and versatile is that you can get all the classic benefits that come from the more traditional fast which typically lasts around 24 to 48 hours making it a nice little hack! Some of the known health benefits of intermittent fasting include improved blood plasma glucose and lower insulin levels, which lead to improved utilization and efficiency of fatty acids as fuel. Intermittent fasting boosts the human growth hormone, initiates cellular repair (autophagy), recycles antioxidants like Vitamin E and C, and creates a body that is more resilient to stress. (Helibronn LK etc al, 2005). Being resilient to stress means having strong cells, and there is a further step that one can take to aid in cellular repair and regeneration of cells. This extra step involves a green pigment well known in the health world; chlorophyll.
With all the popularity surrounding green smoothies, green juices and wheatgrass shots these days, what really makes these elixirs so invigorating and life promoting? I believe part of the reason can be centered on the green pigment known as Chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is what gives leafy greens and algae its brilliant green hue color. It also is what allows these plants to thrive and create energy through photosynthesis.
Here is where things get geeky and exciting. Recent research shed light on how humans can potentially create more ATP through the ingestion of chlorophyll rich foods like chlorella, spirulina, leafy greens and other blue green algae’s. Before I go further. I wanted to give you a breakdown of what ATP is. ATP stands for Adenosine Triphosphate and it’s essentially the bodies currency for using and storing. There are three ways the body uses ATP. They are known as the Phosphagen system, which is for the very intense, short burst activities lasting no more than 10 seconds like sprinting. The next energy system is called Glycolysis, which is used in situations like doing interval training on the bike or burst tempo runs where modulate the incline. These activities last anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes. The last energy system is called Oxidative Phosphorylation, which is your big endurance engine producing lots of ATP, but at a much slower rate compared to the more glycolytic systems (Phosphagen and Glycolysis) that pump out more ATP. Pretty sweet, huh!? (Xu C et al, 2014)
What makes chlorophyll so unique and interesting is that it closely resembles the structure of hemoglobin, which is found in the human blood and is responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to the various tissues and cells of the body. To take this a step further, there is a basic makeup needed for optimal blood, and I’m going beyond just vitamin C and iron here, which is something you commonly hear and read about. Healthy blood needs specific vitamins & minerals like vitamins B12, C, K1, A, folic acid, iron, copper and calcium. So now that you have a better understanding of the makeup of blood. Let’s dive into some fascinating research!
There is a great deal of anecdotal evidence showing the potential promise that chlorophyll can have on purifying and building one’s blood. In a classic study done in 1936, by Dr. Arthur Patek; he found that chlorophyll rich foods combined with iron resulted in the number of red blood cells and the level of hemoglobin increasing at a greater rate than just pure iron alone (Dr. Patek ,1936). Another interesting study examined runners blood oxygenation after a treadmill session for 20 minutes at 75-85% VO2 max. What the researchers found was that the group that ingested the 2 ounces of wheatgrass prior to the treadmill test displayed 0.31% higher blood oxygenation saturation compared to the control group (Handzel et al, 2008). This combined with other nutritional strategies could certainly give you the edge in competition or simply to beat your personal best. More research is needed on chlorophyll and its relation with hemoglobin, but the potential is certainly there.
By combining intermittent fasting, which taps into utilizing fatty acids as fuel, and produce less free radicals than glucose (Emily Deans, 2010), with consuming more chlorophyll rich foods, which enhance red blood function and capacity, one has the power and overall potential to become an ATP-producing powerhouse machine that is both adaptable at using all the energy systems in the body whether aerobically or anaerobically (Xu C & et al, 2014).
The anti-aging benefits one gets from fasting include boosting brain derived neurotropic factors (BDNF), maintaining better mental clarity, focus, boosting growth hormone levels, increasing neural plasticity and promoting neurogenesis (the growth of new neurons from neural stem cells). You can start to see how beneficial IF and chlorophyll rich foods can be once they are incorporated into your lifestyle. Below I break down how I do IF and add chlorophyll rich foods into my routine!
Here is a rundown of my day:
- I wake up at 7 AM and have a cup of yerba mate or bulletproof coffee
- Fast for most of the morning & workout at around 11:30 AM or noon
- My pre workout drink is either be the Vega Pre Workout energizer or the Natural Force Nutrition Raw Tea about 30 minutes before. For workouts exceeding 2 hours or more I will typically opt for the UCAN Super Starch, which would take me out of the fast.
- I normally hydrate with the Vega hydrator or the Natural Force Nutrition Iskiate Endurance.
- Post workout smoothie consists of either high quality Grass fed whey or plant based protein mixed with Creatine (5 g), L-Glutamine (4 to 5, 000 mg) and some adaptogenic herbs like Gelatinized Maca, Cordyceps and Astragalus(depends on what I have on hand). I tend to cycle my adaptogens depending on my stress levels, work, sleep and exercise intensity etc.
- My first meal is usually around 3:30 to 4 PM. Typically I go for a big salad loaded up with greens, berries, avocado, nuts and seeds, shredded carrots, goat cheese, and sunflower sprouts. Add in some soft-boiled eggs, garbanzo beans or sardines. Sometimes I will do chicken too or sautéed grass fed beef or bison. I call this garbage; essentially throwing what healthy foods I have on hand. The name isn’t the prettiest, but it comes together nicely!
- My dinner is usually around 7 to 7:30 PM and usually consist of a pretty substantial dinner emphasizing more carbs and protein to help with glycogen restoration, hormone support and aiding in quality sleep (melatonin and serotonin production)
To wrap things up, the effects I experienced from IF were better focus and clearer thinking when working on a task. The combination of using coffee, yerba mate or matcha green tea w/IF was perfect for me. My energy would surprisingly be spot on, especially when it came time to workout. Since blood isn’t being rushed to the stomach to digest my food, blood is where it’s needed most and that is in the working muscles delivering nutrients and oxygen throughout the body. I also noticed more definition in the chest and arms as well as formation of the abdominal region.
I hope this article sheds some new light on IF and chlorophyll for you. As with anything, be sure to ease into IF. It takes time for the body to become efficient at using fat as fuel. But once you do get there, it opens a new paradigm to the potential of what your mind and body can do.
Always remember that sometimes stress is a good thing for the body. Think of intermittent fasting as complimentary stress. It builds you into a more robust and stronger version of yourself.