Some Thoughts On Calorie Restriction (CR)
Calorie Restriction (CR) is getting a great deal of media attention due to studies that find animals raised on restricted calories live longer and suffer from fewer diseases. That advice may seem counter to the “bodybuilding/fitness lifestyle” we all follow.
Sure, we all know excess calories—minus any exercise to counter those additional calories—represent a negative for general health and longevity, but should people be severely limiting their calories?
As many of you know, studies have suggested that lower calorie intake translates into longer life spans in animals and—perhaps—people. However, this conclusion is controversial and far from conclusive in my view. For example, a recent study suggests that fat mass, not calorie intake, is what is responsible for longer life spans, at least in mice. (1)
And what does the bodybuilding lifestyle strive for? More muscle and less body fat! Remember, as one would expect, caloric intake and low body fat (leanness) are directly interrelated, which makes it difficult to determine the relative importance of each (CR vs. bodyfat levels) and their contributions to longevity. Thus, researchers are now trying to separate the two issues.
Recently, a Dr. Kahn and colleagues from Harvard Medical School created a strain of mice that lack insulin receptors in their fat cells. As insulin is a primary hormonal mediator of body fat levels in response to caloric intakes, this lack of insulin receptors in the animals’ fat cells caused the mice to have reduced fat mass (less body fat)—and also protected them from age-related problems, such as obesity. However, their calorie intake remained normal and no restriction was required to get the effect that would normally be seen with CR!
The researchers found that the experimental mice lacking insulin receptors in their fat cells had an approximately 18% increase in mean lifespan over their non-modified red eyed squeaky counterparts.
Studies like this one are helping to sort out the effects of leanness (body fat levels) and CR, and their respective effects on longevity and—perhaps—disease prevention. As we can’t all have our insulin receptors removed from our fat cells, researchers are looking to develop drugs to reduce—or block—insulin action in fat cells in humans.
Although such drugs could potentially have side effects, they may also be able to prevent obesity, type 2 diabetes and metabolic diseases related to body fat and excess calories, without having to use strict CR. Hey, we might even live longer!
Bottom line here is, I would not leap onto the CR bandwagon just yet, but would attempt to keep my body fat level low and under control via good nutrition and the bodybuilding lifestyle.
People who allow themselves to get fat (“Dude, I am off season!”) may not be optimizing their longevity, but heck, the guy who actually invented the theory of CR and longevity—Dr. Roy Walford—who practiced CR, died at the very average age of 79, so take that for what it’s worth…
(1) J. Science 2003;299:572-574.
Will Brink is the owner of the Brinkzone Blog. Will has over 30 years experience as a respected author, columnist and consultant, to the supplement, fitness, bodybuilding, and weight loss industry and has been extensively published. Will graduated from Harvard University with a concentration in the natural sciences, and is a consultant to major supplement, dairy, and pharmaceutical companies.
His often ground breaking articles can be found in publications such as Lets Live, Muscle Media 2000, MuscleMag International, The Life Extension Magazine, Muscle n Fitness, Inside Karate, Exercise For Men Only, Body International, Power, Oxygen, Penthouse, Women’s World and The Townsend Letter For Doctors.
He’s also been published in peer reviewed journals.
Will is the author of the popular e-books, both accompanied by private members forum access , Bodybuilding Revealed & Fat Loss Revealed.
You can also buy Will’s other books on Amazon, Apple iBook, and Barnes and Noble.
Do make note that Dr. Walford died of ALS, or “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” it is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that destroys nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
So if you ask what that is worth… I think a lot.
I, like you, do think that there is more to understand about CR diets.
I would like to know the possible benefits of putting your body into the so called “starvation mode”. The super efficient metabolic state brought on as the body adjusts into a survival state during lean times (caloricly speaking). This is the state that should be avoided when dieting, as it is responsible for the Yo-Yo effect, your body becomes too efficient to eat a greater amount of calories without gains in fat storage.
But what happens if you never go back?
Your body will stay in this permanently “efficient” state.
Think about that…
I have been doing a little reasearch on fasting. 24hr. for starters Any comments?
I need some help here. Some health books I have been reading plus what “Doctors” are tellling me for good health do not eat 3 hrs before bed. And 3 meals a day is plenty. Stating that adding more meals are TOO hard on our systems. I can remember an articl in Muscle Magazine called “Midnight Mass” that suggested to wake up at 12am. and down a protein shake. Boy am I confussed.
Marty, you can find many good articles on my site on nutrition, so start there. I’m not a big fan of fasting in general and I believe the supposed health benefits are far overblown compared to simply getting your nutrition plan straight.
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Holly, what on earth are you talking about and how does it relate to this blog post?
What can one tell me about Leptin?
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I would much rather concentrate on the QUALITY of life, not quantity.. We all know that excessive amount of exercise is not very healthy (ultra marathon runners, etc.) and that moderate amount of mostly high intensity exercise (with plenty of rest) is good. I would remind people of the old saying that a boat is safe in the harbor but it was not designed to stay there..
Extreme caloric restriction isn’t the only form of CR. Your article implies, to me at least, that it’s a zero or one proposition. There may be a degree of CR which does provide the benefits but not the problems that those practicing extreme CR experience.
Significantly slowing down the ageing process itself, in my opinion, will probably be accomplished through a multi-faceted approach and not just a pill or just eating less or only certain foods.
I’m surprised that you didn’t ask anyone who is practicing CR how they are doing. Since the 80’s or 90’s there has been a group of people practicing some form of CR and documenting their experiences. I’ll have to look them up and let you know if anything of interest is happening.
It’s a joy to read your work, something I’ve been doing it seems, since before the web.