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#219740 - 03/18/11 09:18 PM Preparing for no food - get lean or bulk up?
ZenEngineer Offline

Registered: 09/15/06
Posts: 86
Loc: Northern California
Watching the show Out of the Wild - Venezuela, I've noticed that some of the 'adventurers' appear to be losing more weight than the others due to malnutrition. That got me thinking about preparing for such a situation, so I have this question:
If you knew a month ahead of time that you would be in a situation with little to no food for 3-4 weeks, should you prepare your body by changing your caloric intake?
I can see the advantage of starting out 10-20 pounds heavier than usual, thus having more energy stores to live on. But I am wondering if having your metabolism used to a lower caloric intake (~1500 calories, compared to the usual 2500-3000 a day usual for Americans) might be better? What approach would be best for the short term (during the event) and which would have fewer long term health effects?

#219742 - 03/18/11 09:42 PM Re: Preparing for no food - get lean or bulk up? [Re: ZenEngineer]
chaosmagnet Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/03/09
Posts: 3262
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: ZenEngineer
If you knew a month ahead of time that you would be in a situation with little to no food for 3-4 weeks, should you prepare your body by changing your caloric intake?

I would prepare my body by leaving and going to where the food is!

Okay, now that I have that out of my system, I'd say that you're better off dieting beforehand so that your body and mind are more used to working with less calories. I'd also say that you should consult a doctor before doing any such thing.

#219745 - 03/18/11 10:40 PM Re: Preparing for no food - get lean or bulk up? [Re: ZenEngineer]
comms Offline

Registered: 07/23/08
Posts: 1502
Loc: Mesa, AZ
Getting ready for some military schools, it was inside baseball to put on few pounds knowing that it would come off during the school b/c of unbalance of food v exertion.

However, thats not to say if you're currently overweight, its a reason to eat more. Being in really good shape, 'fighting weight' is better than being 20lbs overweight.
Don't just survive. Thrive.

#219750 - 03/18/11 11:28 PM Re: Preparing for no food - get lean or bulk up? [Re: ZenEngineer]
Art_in_FL Offline

Registered: 09/01/07
Posts: 2432
Fat carried on the body is the most weight and bulk efficient way of carrying calories for later use. It has been suggested, fairly seriously, that astronauts being twenty pounds over normal weight would save many pounds in food. Considering that even boosting a single pound into low-earth-orbit might cost ten thousand dollars because every pound lofted requires fuel, which also requires lifting. On longer trips saving a pound is a high priority.

Fat astronauts make a lot of sense.

Body fat represents a valuable store of calories and insulation. That said it is also weight that slows you down and wears on joints. Unlike astronauts in zero-gravity where weight is largely meaningless, and wear on joints less an issue, earthbound humans may find themselves hard against cargo limits and a disaster is a hell of a time to blow out a knee. Put in terms of recent events; you have ten minutes warning of an tsunami, you have two miles to safety. Would you, or would you rather not, be twenty pounds over your ideal weight and be running on bad knees and wobbly ankles?

There is also the matter of fitness. It has been learned in the last decades that weight can be, but is often not, unrelated to overall health and fitness. While there are indeed some people who are overweight but strong and healthy the majority of overweight people have other issues. Strength, endurance, heart health and joint issues are all common for people who are overweight.

#219762 - 03/19/11 03:41 AM Re: Preparing for no food - get lean or bulk up? [Re: ZenEngineer]
dougwalkabout Offline
Crazy Canuck
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/03/07
Posts: 2792
Loc: Alberta, Canada
It's a question worthy of discussion.

I like to think that my extended bachelorhood was the best training for this: famine and low quality food plus extensive physical exercise for days; counterbalanced by a bacchanal, a mass of steaks or pork chops on the barby, washed down with quantities of beer, fresh whole-grain bread, and uncooked veggies. This is the purest hunter-gatherer diet IMO.

If I tried that now, it would probably kill me. Eventually.

But to respond to the OP: I think I would try to put on the 10+ pounds, but without radically sacrificing cardio fitness and core strength. For me, that takes some work: the only way I can add a lot of weight is through cheap, lazy calories (specifically, sweet and complex dark ales). Broadly speaking, though: regardless of the situation, nobody can steal those calories from you; that's why we have the capability.

A (mostly) healthy body will respond and adjust to conditions. I had a practical test of this last year -- 60 hours with nothing but clear fluids in preparation for a medical test. I thought it would be a lot harder than it was. Did I miss food? Yeah, but I wasn't starving by any stretch. Mostly I was grossed out by the limited diet, but I needed the fluids and salts. But I was able to keep working (with the exception of highly creative problem solving), I was able to drive, etc. etc. And after 48 hours the food craving kind of stopped; it was there, but in the background, and I could ignore it. After the tests, I walked around a bit and realized I could have kept functioning quite a while longer. Nice to know.

Long-winded answer. Sorry.

#219765 - 03/19/11 07:52 AM Re: Preparing for no food - get lean or bulk up? [Re: ZenEngineer]
ireckon Offline

Registered: 04/01/10
Posts: 1629
Loc: Northern California
I would prepare for the adventure by getting in the best shape I could (cardio and strength), eating well and getting plenty of sleep.

When I'm physically fit, I hardly ever get sick. In the unlikely event I do get sick, I can recover quickly. Even if my body is used to a high calorie intake, my body could adjust to a sudden loss of food if need be. In contrast, when I'm fat or out of shape, I get sick quickly, can't hike far, can't deal with stress easily, am more irritable, can't think as well, etc.

I think about my brother-in-law who is a 40-year-old, round, tub of lard. He's completely non-functional if he doesn't get his daily dose of multiple servings of sugary drinks and desserts. He turns into a big baby if each meal doesn't have something that's highly fatty and sugary. He's totally out of shape, and has no plans or motivation to get in shape at all. I have no doubt that he would not be able to last more than 6 hours in the adventure mentioned in the original post.
If you're reading this, it's too late.

#219788 - 03/19/11 04:22 PM Re: Preparing for no food - get lean or bulk up? [Re: ZenEngineer]
Pete Offline

Registered: 02/20/09
Posts: 1372
Art said ..."Fat astronauts make a lot of sense. "

HA! HA! HA! HA HA!!!
Do you mind if I mail that suggestion in to NASA? Maybe I'll get some sort of cost-saving bonus, since they won't have to give those guys so much freeze-dried food.

Slightly more seriously, my main takeaway from this thread right now is to remember to put some multi-vitamins into my survival kit. You can last a long time on a restricted diet, if you've got a reasonable supply of vitamins.

And by the way - back to the original idea of this thread. When I go overseas and do volunteer work in remote villages, I often meet people who have restricted diets. For example, the Maasai people in Africa will typically eat just 2 meals a day, and have a cup of sweet tea for lunch. They also walk miles and miles every day. And it turns out that their health is excellent from doing this. We tend to be over-fed in America. We don't need a lot of the calories that we eat. Too much junk food.

Pete #2

Edited by Pete (03/19/11 04:40 PM)

#219795 - 03/19/11 05:44 PM Re: Preparing for no food - get lean or bulk up? [Re: ZenEngineer]
Arney Offline

Registered: 09/15/05
Posts: 2485
Loc: California
Zen, I wrote a long post in a sub-topic called Food and the Alaskan Experiment that you may find informative. We were discussing that short-lived reality TV show, which I thought was surprisingly interesting, for a short while, at least. (Gosh, was that discussion two years ago already???)

A quick recap: based on observing how poorly a lot of people felt on that TV show, and why that was, I postulated that going on some sort of ketogenic diet (e.g. Atkins) in the weeks before such an experience, if you knew it was coming, would probably give you a big edge once you were suddenly faced with a starvation diet.

Once you're into the starvation event, getting some protein on a consistent basis will let you function and efficiently draw on your fat stores (we carry many thousands and thousands of calories in our fat) for a long time and hopefully spare some lean tissue. Otherwise, if your diet is protein poor, your body is going to have to cannibalize even more of your lean tissue, and eventually, even organs, to access protein.

Anyway, just one theory of mine. Practicing fasting (whether for health or spiritual reasons) would probably be another way to condition your metabolism.

#219798 - 03/19/11 06:20 PM Re: Preparing for no food - get lean or bulk up? [Re: Arney]
gonewiththewind Offline

Registered: 10/14/08
Posts: 1517
Lean muscle mass burns more calories, that is why trainers try to build up their customers who are trying to lose weight and stay in shape. If you look at endurance athletes, and other people who participate in endurance activities, they are lean and not overly muscular. Fitness will aid tremendously in a survival situation, and putting on a few extra pounds prior to an anticipated drop in caloric intake is not a bad idea, if you are physically fit already. Fitness is good, but body builders will not last long without food.

#219804 - 03/19/11 07:28 PM Re: Preparing for no food - get lean or bulk up? [Re: ZenEngineer]
ponder Offline

Registered: 12/18/06
Posts: 367
Loc: American Redoubt
"If you knew a month ahead of time that you would be in a situation with little to no food for 3-4 weeks, should you prepare your body by changing your caloric intake?"

Leaving out any other considerations, WHAT WOULD A BEAR DO?
Cliff Harrison
Horseshoe Bend, ID
American Redoubt
N43.9668 W116.1888

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