It was Saturday afternoon and we were going toe-to-toe on the soccer pitch with some kids from our afterschool program. At this point, we had been at it for a while and were behind on goals.
The fatigue started to hit.
But when I’m fatigued is when I come to life. It was time to turn up the heat.
But before we do that.. I gotta tell you something.
I’ve been working with this lovely foundation Casa Victoria here in Quito for the past 4 years and, no question, it has changed me for the better.
Being part of this community has gifted me some of the best memories of my life.
And I’ll be the first to admit, I used to think only losers do this kind of work. Only the guys who couldn’t make it in the ‘real world’ would waste their time working as volunteers.
Yeah.. I was a fool.
Today, I know this to be a great privilege. Serving others is a gift, a blessing, not a burden. And I count my blessings every day I open the gates for these children.
That’s what this time here has been for me – a blessing.
(Did I tell you I met my future wife here too? That’s a story for another day..)
During our opening hours in the afternoon, I am primarily involved with the kids’ sports and activity program.
We do some general strength and conditioning drills and then they get to play whichever game they fancy for the rest of their time with me.
That game always happens to be soccer. The kids here, bless their hearts, are literal addicts. Girls and boys alike. They would play till sundown every day if they could.
Apart from uniting kids from different age groups (and backgrounds), this is a tremendous workout for them.
And for me. I’m on the pitch with the little ones almost every day. And make no mistake.. these kids are walking dynamos. They go hard.
And when the neighbors show up to play it’s a party.
It’s always funny to me when we have visitors here thinking they’re gonna play a nice little game of soccer with the nice little kids of the foundation.. and then get kicked off the pitch so fast their heads are spinning.
Now, in 4 years of being here, I never let the kids beat me. I don’t hand out participation trophies. If they’re gonna win, they’re gonna work for it and they’re gonna earn it.
[But believe me, I’m getting my butt whooped plenty.]
What does this have to do with intermittent fasting and eating like a Roman emperor every night?
More than you think.
Soccer has become the ultimate barometer of my current health and performance capacity. Better than my daily workouts even.
It lets me know exactly if what I’m doing as part of my routine is working in my favor or not.
This game requires you to be at your best physically, but more so cognitively. I can gauge someone’s brain function (speed of processing and creativity) simply by watching them play.
If you’re slow upstairs you’ll get eaten alive in a game of soccer, regardless of your physical capabilities.
Obviously, this doesn’t hold true for someone who’s never played, but if you’re a regular, your on-pitch performance speaks volumes.
And over the years, I’ve gotten to test different nutrition strategies, training modalities and lifestyle interventions to see what works best.
What works best for my work performance, my training sessions, my energy levels, my sleep, and what yields the best results for the good ‘ol game of soccer.
And just a few days ago, I have crowned the winner.
The Hershel Walker Diet
But back to that game of soccer.
I wasn’t at my best that afternoon. Far from it. And in the end, it cost us the game.
But it wasn’t the bitter piece of humble pie that killed me. It was the fact that I knew I didn’t perform up to standard.
I hate to lose.
But I can take an L like a man when I know I did what I had to do. On the other hand, when I know that I could’ve done better, done more.. it kills me.
And that Saturday, I simply couldn’t muster up the same performance as usual. I was playing in low-power mode.
You see, I had a small lunch before the game. Not a big meal by any stretch, but still enough for me to feel the repercussions. It threw me off completely.
I am a machine on empty.
I never run out of gas and never feel the need to take a breather when I’m fasted. Going hard for 3-4 hours has become easy for me.
Truth be told, my performance capacity today is infinitely higher than it was in my teens and 20s. No comparison.
I speak so boldly because I have experienced the other end of the spectrum as well (and extensively so). I know exactly what it’s like to be weak, slow and easily fatigued. And let me tell you..
What changed between then and now?
Many things. Getting plenty of sunlight every day. High levels of physical activity coupled with low levels of existential stress.
But undoubtedly the biggest change is my diet. I no longer eat multiple meals a day.
In fact, I eat once a day, at night.
And this has revolutionized my ability to perform physically and mentally. It has revolutionized my fitness (check the before and after).
It has also given me a new appreciation for food, for socializing, for life.
Sure, I might occasionally have an apple during the day and I won’t decline an invitation to your birthday party just because I ‘need to fast till dinner’.
This is my diet, not my religion.
Occasionally, I will eat throughout the day for social reasons, etc. but believe me, if it were up to me, I’d never eat a meal during the day again.
It does nothing for me. Nothing other than slow me down and cripple my cognition.
And to the people thinking fasting all day will ‘crush your metabolism’, ‘kill your performance’ and maybe even your health..
You have no idea what you’re talking about. Get off the internet and step into the real world.
Try it for 6 months.
Try it while making sure to eat a ton of food late in the day/at night. This is key.
You have to compensate your body for the long hours of fasting or you will crash and burn.
My calorie intake is off the charts. And that is the only way I can sustain my daily output.
So no.. we’re not starving ourselves here.
An average-sized meal after 20+ hours of fasting will not get the job done. You will have to eat the equivalent of 2-4 meals within a couple of hours if you want a shot at gold.
Don’t hold back. Eat to complete satisfaction at your meal time. Eat the foods you crave in the amounts you want.
That is precisely what I have been doing for the last 2.5 years. By far, my most productive stint inside and outside the gym.
During this time, I’ve also had all kinds of baseless criticism thrown at me. Here’s my take:
If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.
This isn’t for everyone. And I never said it was. However, just because some can’t handle it, doesn’t mean others can’t either.
There’s levels to this.
You have to be willing to go through some deprivation and hardship to see what’s on the other side.
Without second-guessing your decisions at every turn. Without asking google for your next step. Without going “Am I doing this right?” every 15 minutes.
Man up. Find out for yourself – BY DOING – what works and what doesn’t. Don’t cave when others question your choices. Don’t rely on ‘experts’ to always do the thinking and exploring for you.
Go out and get your hands dirty. No need to bring your Tupperware meals.
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