I have been an avid weight lifter for many years; and I have followed the diet protocol that has been advocated for years. This consisted of many small meals eaten at 3 hour intervals throughout the day. The result was plenty of calories consumed but not becoming overly fat as the load is being balance.
You may be aware of the research that has linked restricted calories with longevity (one study here). This study shows results with test animals, there is also tremendous anecdotal evidence from lifestyle descriptions of people in the plus ninety years age range.
This was a quandary as I enjoyed the benefits of weight lifting but didn’t now how to reconcile the restricted calories with the metabolic demands of a very robust training regimen.
Many of you that know me personally are aware of my level of fitness. I have lifted weights and agility trained for many years and have accomplished much in terms of strength and esthetic appeal. At 6 ft I weighed in at a fairly lean 230 lbs. People would comment on my physique and asked me what I did. I thought that I had peaked and was fairly happy with what I had attained.
However, I was introduced through a convoluted twitter chain to the concept of intermittent fasting. My initial interest was to find a way to reduce calories and still bring in the necessary nutrition to support my regimen. I was looking to enjoy the benefits of my training and deliver on the longevity payoff of reduced calorie intake.
As researchers have looked to mechanisms that were in play with caloric restriction and longevity, they identified a process called autophagy
Autophagy (or autophagocytosis) (from the Greek auto-, “self” and phagein, “to eat”), is the natural, destructive mechanism that disassembles, through a regulated process, unnecessary or dysfunctional cellular components.
Of particular note is autophagy’s consumption of damaged mitochondria in our cells that lead to host of age related degeneration.
Autophagy is triggered during periods of calorie restriction when the body needs to start cannibalizing itself to maintain metabolic function.
Here is where intermittent fasting comes in. Intermittent fasting triggers autophagy in measured doses. Intermittent fasting, as its name implies, is a cycle of short term fasts mixed with regular feasting.
There are two common protocols, I followed the one that is most popular with athletes, which is 16 hours of fasting with all calories consumed in the remaining 8 hours of each day. So from around noon till 8pm I bring in all my calories, while between those times I ingest only non calorie drinks and maybe a little bit of calories if it is below 50 calories. This method gives you a four to six hour period everyday where autophagy is kicking in.
One of the surprises of this protocol was how lean I grew without much loss of muscle mass. I benchmark muscle mass by keeping regular tabs on my strength levels with basic exercises like squats and bench press.
Within 6 weeks I went from 230 lbs to an astoundingly lean 210 lbs. I am sitting at around 6% body fat. Yet my strength drop was around only 5% after the initial drop. I have since gained that back 9 months later while remaining lean. I didn’t know that I could be this lean!
On this protocol I never felt like I was heavily dieting as I consumed the same calories in much larger meals at lunch and dinner. No more counting calories at every meal; I just made sure that my food choices were not high in sugar and refined carbs.
As far as the promised longevity, only time well give me that answer. However, I have experienced much less gastric distress that has plagued me over the years. Also, it is fun to be able to eat bigger satisfying meals when I do eat.
To learn more here is my favorite link: