Fat and fast to optimise your body for the wars to come

Jimmy Zhong
8 min readDec 2, 2017

Before I write anything remotely related to my chosen topic, I just had to use a Game of Thrones reference in my title just because, well, it was on my mind (which happens fairly often).

Maybe this article could get some GoT SEO goodness?

Time flies when you’re having fun ay? Or so the saying goes. Continuing on from my article all the way back in August, I never ended up jinxing myself (though this feels a little like a jinx), and I’ve been illness free for almost the entire year now.

For those close to me, you will know that I have been working on my health for a while now, and I feel very happy with the results so far. Considering the wild ups and downs I’ve experienced with Akagu, Ethi, and now Syncio, I’m even prouder of how my body and mind have held up — though I’ve had a couple of close shaves!

Essentially, my mentality is really about the longer-term, the bigger picture, though to be honest, this isn’t quite clear yet (fuzzy at best). This sometimes feels like a huge gamble and is quite scary, because you don’t have quick validation for your actions, and this can lead to a lot of self-doubt.

Despite this, I really subscribe to Bill Gate’s advice on spending 10 hours a week on “Compound time”. Basically, he finds time to invest in activities that may not have immediate results, but have a longer-term payoff in terms of knowledge, creativity, and energy. Like compound interest, a small investment now can yield large returns in the future.

I feel that health is fundamental to enabling everything that you do, so I thought what better aspect of your life to compound than your health? The more you know and practice, the more you can add and build upon, so long as you continue to have a growth mindset.

Compound time naturally aligns with the mentality that startups or even life itself should be treated like a marathon rather than a sprint. This is how I see it, and I feel that I need to prepare myself to keep getting up from the numerous falls I’ve had and are still to come. As Marlon Brando says, “Every time you get knocked down, you get up stronger”.

Marlon getting stronger

So, without further ado, here’s where I was in terms of nutrition and health in August:

  • Increased training load to 6 days/week (45–60 minutes a session)
  • Began to get into calisthenics
  • Ate a ketogenic diet
  • Began intermittent fasting

Since then, I’ve kept all of these aspects as it has really fundamentally changed how I feel (for the better) and opened my eyes up to a different perspective on the world. Though you’ll see later I’ve tweaked some of it.

I initially wanted to cover all the above points in this article but realised it was getting crazy long so I’ll only touch on the nutrition aspect in this article. I’ll also apologise in advance for keeping this very high-level as I didn’t want to spend a lot of time making this article into a research paper, but I’ve tried to provide some quick and fast resources for you to dive into if interested.

What pointed me in this direction were through a combination of references from Tim Ferriss and first hand experience from seeing Steve Glaveski use MCT oil at Collective Campus on a daily basis! When he wasn’t around, I would sneak a peak at his bottle and read the label (Steve, I promise I never drank any haha).

I was intrigued by how MCT oil is used by our bodies to produce ketones, a supposedly better source of fuel for the brain. For those that know me, you’ll know that I need all the brain power I could get! I began to take it without really even knowing what a ketogenic diet was, just mixing it with my coffee or protein shake.

To be absolutely honest, I don’t think I felt any differently, though perhaps I enjoyed an initial placebo effect. However, I started to look into it a bit more since it was fairly pricey and that’s where I started to learn about the ketogenic diet.

I’d say I had a casual interest in nutrition before but my interest was now rapidly growing. First learning that there was a second source of energy other than glucose in ketones, and then learning that the human body could operate on fat rather than carbohydrates! Learning that you could lose fat by eating fat! This was a crazy new world…

Mind blown

Whilst it was interesting to learn about this alternative way to fuel the body, if it wasn’t totally relevant to improving my productivity then there was very little value for me. What was really attractive to me about the ketogenic diet WAS the productivity gains — the mental clarity, focus, and the ability to escape the sugar highs and crashes that came pretty much daily.

Another big worry was how it would affect my exercise? It was so ingrained into me that energy came from carbohydrates that I simply had no idea what to expect when your body was depleted of it whilst doing high-intensity training.

One thing in my favour was that I usually trained in a fasted state (totally unintentional) due to the inconvenience of eating breakfast before my workouts, so I was used to it. What I didn’t know was the longer term effects, and to my surprise, my training not only did not get affected, it actually improved!

Also, bonus benefit: No longer worrying about eating fat again (not all fat is equal though…)! I absolutely demolished a lamb spit at a family gathering whilst everyone was watching their weight…

There’s quite a lot to write about my experience with keto, including the advantages and disadvantages but I’ll leave it for another article. I just wanted to link a useful and quick introduction to what it is. Please do your own research as everyone is different.

Your body is actually in ketosis when you are fasting so eating a high fat-low carb diet is supposed to mimic the benefits of fasting. So what are the benefits of fasting you may ask?

I’ve found that the biggest benefit of intermittent fasting compared to a ketogenic diet was/is mental. The confidence and ability to go without food for 16–24 hours a day is pretty empowering. It also threw a spanner in the works of all conventional knowledge of nutrition I had.

I usually do a 20 hour fast each day, it’s allowed me to worry about one less thing and just power through most of my day. My fasting still allows you to drink black coffee or tea. And more accurately speaking, especially lately, it’s more of a fat fast that I’m on as I still take MCT with my coffee while fasting.

How does that work? When your body is not digesting, it’s in a fasted state. Black coffee, tea, they all have insignificant amounts of calories for your body to change state. Neither the MCT oil, as fat does not cause your insulin to spike which would trigger a digestive response.

The fasting has made me feel so good that I’ve since attempted a 48 hour fast which by the end of it, felt that I could have gone through to a third day. I also did this 48 hour fast without MCT oil, just black coffee and water.

I’ve also found fasting to be extremely convenient for a busy work day — have you ever been in a long meeting that stretched past lunch? Felt so hungry during that meeting that it felt like your stomach was eating you from the inside? Also, when I was at the MIT alumni bootcamp, hunger was never a distraction despite really irregular meals due to the busy schedule.

Again, I will probably write an article dedicated to fasting in the future, and go through specifically what I do but I’ll address one last thing, which is a really common question I get asked — how are you not just rags and bones now?

Going back to ketosis, our bodies have a steady and consistent supply of fat to burn for energy so as not to resort to muscle wasting. With Australia having the highest rate of obesity, it’s probably safe to assume that you have a little bit of fat storage there to use! Ketosis stabilises your blood-sugar levels which helps you avoid food cravings.

The other thing to point out is that despite going without food for 16 — 20 hours, I still get in two meals a day and eat about 3000 calories with those meals — this is more than above my 2000 calories a day to function normally. As a result, I am able to maintain my weight whilst reducing my body fat percentage at the same time!

Whilst I’m loving the results, I’m always looking for new and potentially better ways to fuel the body. Sometimes it comes from unexpected sources. For example, due to my lifestyle choices these days, I now eat pretty much a 95% plant-based diet. And yes, whilst still intermittently fasting and eating a ketogenic diet.

Please let me know if you want me to write in more detail about ketosis, fasting, plant-based diets or how I combine them all! Next up, I’ll go through my experiences with calisthenics :)

I also just want to note that, in my experience, nutrition is a very touchy subject. By me going on a ketogenic diet, fasting, or eating a plant-based diet, doesn’t mean that I believe this is the best diet or lifestyle for everyone, I have just found that it works for me. As with everything, DYOR and make your own decisions.

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