Chasing the wind…

Some days, when I wake up, I feel like I’m chasing the wind.  As a person that rides a bicycle, we’ve been taught that head winds are bad and tail winds are great.  However where I hail from, we don’t have hills to ride, so headwinds have to substitute for our hills.  So, I have a tendency to chase the winds.

But, to some degree, I’ve spent part of my day chasing the wind.

My day started simple enough, when I noticed a new blog post by one of my favorite authors, Dr. Jason Fung:  how-much-protein-is-excessive   This blog post peaked my interest for a number of reasons.  I’ve always felt that the standard recommended daily allowances for protein are excessive for most people, me included.  I also enjoy experimenting with fasting, and Dr. Fung has much expertise in this area, so I eagerly read his article.  If you haven’t had the time to read it yourself, then you really should to get a handle on it.

Jason Fung

In all fairness, my problem with protein requirements, as recommended by a government agency of any kind, have nothing to do with the specific agency or the specific requirement, in this case protein.  In my case, I don’t like “one size fits all” requirements, as they take away the individuality component of the equation.  But, I pressed on in my reading, because I felt like Dr. Fung had a good handle on the requirements for protein while fasting, as he is a practicing physician with years of experience observing fasting patients, and observing their fasts.

In his article, he does a fantastic job of simplifying his position (one of his skills as an author), while adding a good dose of humor (another one of his skills).   He points out that the primary requirement of protein, during a fast, is to provide the 9 essential amino acids which are the nine amino acids the body can’t produce on it’s own.  So, I did more research and tried to find a supplement that would provide all nine essential amino acids that I can take while fasting.  I’d like to supplement these amino acids, to avoid any potential lack of protein (amino acids) while fasting and exercising on my bicycle.

I located one made by KAL, at our local store, that provides all of the essential amino acids, and then some.  The product that I found is called Amino Acid Complex 1000, and contains 1 gram of Protein, and all the essential amino acids and then some.  I read the label, and other than the % daily allowances, it thought it looked good so I purchased a bottle.  You can read more about the supplement at this link:

And, I continued to chase the wind.

I wanted to learn more about the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA), and how they were established, and what they were…I read through several government studies, and through many blog entries by various articles, and continued to chase the wind.  Several government articles stated that the RDA was calculated as a MAXIMUM amount that needed to be taken.  Other articles argued that the RDA was a calculated MINIMUM amount needed to be taken on a daily amounts.

To add to the confusion, there is much discussion in the Ketogenic Dieting community about protein requirements.  Some say you need to eat a lot of protein; other’s argue that you don’t need much.  So, chasing the wind can be difficult.

The values located at the Wikipedia article located at seemed to be just as good as any of the other numbers that I found.  So, I created my own little spreadsheet based on the requirements for each of the amino acids as outlined in the article:

Amino Acid mg per kg mg per day for me mg per tab Servings Required
Histidine 10 1250 30 41.7
Isoleucine 20 2500 60 41.7
Leucine 39 4875 110 44.3
Lysine 30 3750 75 50.0
Methionine plus cystine 15 1875 25 75.0
Phenylalanine plus tyrosine 25 3125 65 48.1
Threonine 15 1875 55 34.1
Tryptophan 4 500 10 50.0
Valine 26 3250 75 43.3
My Weight in Kilograms 125 75.0


Based on my current weight in Kilograms (125), and based on the mg per kg requirements from the article, and the mg requirement for me based on the daily requirement, I could then take the mg provided per serving provided by the supplement I found, and the calculate the number of servings required for this supplement per day.  They call the supplement 1 Daily, as you are only supposed to have to take one per day.  But, based on my calculations, I would have to take 75 servings or pills per day, to meet the requirements for the 9 essential amino acids that I would need.  This would equate to 75 grams of protein, which would pretty much negate my fast.

But, I continued to chase the wind.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy math.  I also enjoy science.  I’m not perfect at either.  But, I pressed on.

The Wikipedia article even indicated how the Recommended Daily Allowances for the 9 essential amino acids were established:

“The amino acids that are essential in the human diet were established in a series of experiments led by William Cumming Rose. The experiments involved elemental diets to healthy male graduate students. These diets consisted of cornstarch, sucrose, butterfat without protein, corn oil, inorganic salts, the known vitamins, a large brown “candy” made of liver extract flavored with peppermint oil (to supply any unknown vitamins), and mixtures of highly purified individual amino acids. The main outcome measure was nitrogen balance. Rose noted that the symptoms of nervousness, exhaustion, and dizziness were encountered to a greater or lesser extent whenever human subjects were deprived of an essential amino acid.[16]”  

While I can’t personally guarantee that this was indeed how the Recommended Daily Allowances were established, it did make me more curious, so I proceeded to drill down on the provided links.    It would seem that Dr. Rose was a storied scientist, with a long history of awards for his work, and performed the majority of his work in my home state of Illinois:

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m always suspicious  of settled science or one size fits all science, especially when some governmental agency is making the recommendation.  Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I know they are all out to get me.  I will say that I’m not surprised that someone that performed the majority of their work in Illinois, where I live, would make recommendations for high levels of protein.  If you haven’t visited the areas of Illinois that aren’t Chicago, it’s nothing but farms.  We have corn, bean, cows, chickens and pigs, and we aren’t shy about it.  I personally can’t question Dr. Rose’s motives, as he passed on after living a fruitful, and productive life.   And, I won’t speculate to his motives either.  I’m sure generations will build on, and provide benefit from his research.  But, I still question the numbers.

During my recent 21 day, non water fast, I took a daily dose of supplements.  I also rode 232 miles during the 21 day period (only 232 miles due to soreness in my knee from before the fast), while consuming an average of 450 calories per day of Kimchi, Kraut, my supplements, and shrimp (based on some of the reading of Dr. Fung’s) work.  To simplify my journey, I would supplement shrimp on days when I did my rides, which were the greater part of my exercise during my 21 day fast, which wasn’t a water fast.  If you want to read more daily summaries of my fast, which wasn’t a water fast (for the fasting police), you can read my spreadsheet.  In summary, I averaged 450 calories per day of intake, and I averaged 950 calories per day (out) of exercise of some form.  I also did not take into account my Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) calculation for my weight, or adjusting my calories out per day.   Either way, I didn’t exhibit any detrimental effects that I would attribute to a lack of protein, based on symptoms that I read on line.  Now, Dr. Fung has maintained all along that fasting is muscle sparing, and my own results would seem to indicate that.  Now, I didn’t have any fat percent scans done, or any lean body mass calculations done, before or after, but I didn’t feel like I lost any muscle as a result of my non-fast fast.

All this to say, I felt like I spent a good part of the day chasing the wind.

My bottom line conclusion, is that I still don’t trust the one size fits all standards set by the government agencies.  I don’t understand how they were developed nor do I care.  I have a plan for my next fast, as I have a supplement that I can use if I feel poorly in anyway.  I don’t plan on consuming 75 tablets per day.   At the end of this breezy day, I still like reading Dr. Fung’s work.  I think he is funny, has a good method of communication and simplifying a message, and a history with the subject.  And, in the end, I’ll trust my body, and make adjustments based on how I feel.

2 Responses to “Chasing the wind…

  • Hi there,

    If I understand correctly, you ate north of 60 grams, maybe even 100 grams, of protein per day during your quasi fast.

    That’s well above the RDA, isn’t it?

    So how does that lead you to believe that the RDA is inadequate?

  • Very good question Valerie.

    My problem with the RDA has nothing to do with the amount of protein recommended per day. My problem is with the nature of the number itself. The RDA is established as a “one size fits all” type of solution, which has nothing to do with my protein requirements in general.

    As an example. The protein requirements for an athlete that is ripped are much higher than the requirements for someone like me that is still well overweight and participates in extended cardio exercise.

    I simply find one size fits all numbers to be inadequate.

    I hope this clarifies this for you.

    Best wishes to you in your journey to better health and to better understanding.

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