Let’s take the debate around ‘calories in versus calories’ out and move it along to a more useful and functional space. This tired and old debate has some merit to it, but it fails to take into account that nutrition partitioning becomes a major factor if you are solely focused on the amount of calories you are consuming irrelevant of the source of the food. That is essentially the debate that this group hold.
The argument against this suggests that we aren’t taking in to account the metabolic type of the individual and the fact that based on our personal genetic predisposition, we all handle fats, carbs and proteins quite differently. For example; if you are Northern European you are going to do much better on a higher-fat, higher-protein and moderate-carb ratio than somebody from the African or Asian continent who would benefit from lower-fat, higher-carb and moderate-protein ratios. The basis and case for this type of profiling dates back many years and was triggered by Dr Price as far back as 90 years ago in his compelling book ‘Nutrition and physical degeneration’ which looked at different cultures across the planet and how eating toward and in line with their metabolic type favoured their health. This work was expounded by Bill Woolcott who went on to create the 3 pattern types within the metabolic typing assessment and is something we introduce in our members journey at GSquared Clubs.
However, in this important piece, I intend to circumnavigate around this argument and present to you a mediated and ‘both sides of the argument’ approach to what you can do. This is largely led by my frustration of opposing views of nutrition, exercise and health [but largely nutrition] being banded around and forced on to people.
Why Does This Happen?
In short, it’s because of 3 things; first, the advances in nutrition are still moving at a rapid rate. We have not even begun to scratch the surface when it comes to the depth’s of nutrition and the effects it can have on our body. The second reason is that we are now starting to challenge accepted norms that many generations have embraced due to the label of “government guidelines”, and the third reason is the band-wagon that many jump on to and enforce a specific belief. Consider the ‘Atkins diet’ that was introduced, then refuted, then embraced and then refuted again. Subsequent to this we had the introduction of the ‘Paleo diet’, which soon after its mainstream introduction was challenged, and now we stand at the debate of whether it’s all about the calories when it comes to weight loss or whether other mitigating factors have such an impact that just focusing on the calorie alone would be insufficient.
In my own experience and information gathering, the body nor the mind is as straight forward as that, and other factors such as the nutrition partitioning and the genetic expression have to be legislated for. Anyway, back to the balanced viewpoint on what you can do to mimic calorie reduction health benefits, and why. This is once again and to reiterate based on us respecting both sides of the argument, because of course we cannot refute the fact that the amount of calories we are consuming is a factor in weight gain, of course it is. It’s just “not the only thing” you have to consider.
Fact: Calorie restriction [when appropriate] can improve health and extend life.
In most cases the idea and more so the practice of calorie restriction is not an exciting or inspirational one, and even those who successfully manage it do sometimes revert back to previous habits. However with the continued advancement in the nutrition field, plant-derived compounds have now been discovered to activate similar health-promoting cellular responses as calorie restriction.
How Exactly Does Caloric Restriction Prolong Life?
As a definition, calorie restriction refers to dropping the number of calories consumed from food each day without going into malnutrition. Should a nutrition deficiency flag during a calorie restriction protocol, then we wouldn't consider this true calorie restriction. When caloric intake is low, during what’s know as ‘fasting state’, cells switch to protective mode. They activate processes that rejuvenate themselves and defend against potential threats and stressors, although paradoxically the process of fasting state will inevitably, and to a degree, stress the adrenals via the HPA (Hypothalamic-Pituitary Axis) which is why I am often reluctant to promote fasting to a stressed, business executive who seems hell-bent on any health and fitness hack, regardless of their current condition. In this case, let's assume a stress level inside the ‘adaptive’ phase, which means the body is coping well with the stress exposure and no imbalanced or reversed cortisol curves are present.
Surging rates of obesity, diabetes, cancer and neurodegenerative disorders are all linked to excessive calorie intake, so we are talking a much higher level of health and vitality than just focusing on calories for the aesthetic motivations.
What is Specifically Going On During Calorie Restriction?
Research has pointed to a number of complex processes taking place in the body during calorie restriction which include;
- Boosting function of Sirtuins, these are proteins that regular cellular health
- Increasing the activity of AMPK, an enzyme that regulates metabolism and has been proven repeatedly to target stomach fat (toxic fat) in particular
- Reducing the activity of mTOR, a protein linked to ageing and chronic disease and for some reason is high with bodybuilders
- The blocking of cellular senescence, this is when older cells become dysfunctional and give off a toxin within the body
- Encouraging a process called ‘autophagy’, which is essentially spring-cleaning of our cells and occurs during a full nights sleep.
These 5 actions protect against many forms of chronic disease and accelerated ageing, and this forms part of the higher-level anti-ageing protocols that I work with more mature clients who want to break the mold in terms of aesthetics, performance and health as they get older.
Back to Calorie Restriction
We know sticking to a restrictive diet is difficult, and if you are not within visiting distance to somewhere like the Remedy Kitchen then availability is also a factor, but the alternatives to dietary restriction are showing true promise.
The compounds discussed in this groundbreaking document mimic the same health benefits as calorie restriction and for somebody like me who enjoys their food and puts out a lot of energy within business, the research is proving fascinating. The compounds are known as calorie restriction mimetics. A mimetic is something that mimics the effect of something else.
First we have polyphenols. The polyphenol Resveratrol is one compound I have been using as far back as 2009 when it was first explained to me by the late [great] Charles Poliquin. Since then more and more research seems to be coming out about this powerful antioxidant. It’s found in minute quantities in red wine, grapes, berries and it activates SIRT1 - the sirtuin function that extends the lifespan of various organisms, it’s also a very helpful Testosterone booster in men an obese male boys who sadly will have a compromised endocrinology blue-print if they are overweight during their developmental phase. I personally attribute my daily energy and limited rate of ageing to my copious dosing of Resveratrol. It has been found to stabilise DNA and extend lifespan by an incredible 70%. Just imagine the impact this could have on cancer rates, given that the DNA is the core point in which the complications of apoptosis occur facilitating the cancerous cells.
While Resveratrol activates the Sirtuins, a cofactor called NAD+ (Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide) is required for Sirtuins to function correctly. As we get older NAD+ does start to drop and more supplement company are starting to promote this product within their repertoire.
Next up is an enzyme in our body known as AMPK. This enzyme has a critical effect on metabolism and is therefore heavily linked to improving weight-loss, managing blood-glucose levels and improving insulin sensitivity. What is fascinating is that the most popular medication for Diabetes is Metformin and Metformin works [in part] by activating the AMPK enzymes.
There are a number of plant-derived compounds that also activate the AMPK enzyme including Gynostemma Pentaphyllum, otherwise known as the ‘immortality herb’. I’ve long since argued I believe there to be a herb/spice or otherwise botanical on this planet that holds the key to any and every health condition or ailment we have - I may be wrong but the power of herbs just continues to surprise us. The key point here is that activating AMPK activity triggers a renewed and efficacious rate of weight loss and improved, normalised and balanced cholesterol levels. In addition, Hesperidin is a plant compound found commonly in citrus fruits that have also shown to activate AMPK. 500mg of Hesperidin per day in humans was shown to create improvements in better blood vessel reactivity and reduced body-wide composition.
When it comes to reducing the mTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin), curcumin, a compound found in the turmeric root have shown to have mTOR reducing benefits, so its definitely worth trying that turmeric latte if you've yet to venture outside of your standard latte with [cows milk]. To make a sharp point at this stage, when it comes to anti-ageing and protection of ones health, if you're still on cows milk you're not even at the races.
Preventing Cellular Senescence
As cells age, they lose their ability to grow or divide - this is what the word senescence refers to. As mentioned earlier, senescent cells secrete compounds that damage surrounding cells and promote chronic inflammation, and as you know may be aware conditions such as fibromyalgia and arthritis to name just two are implicated when high levels of inflammation is present within the body.
Such is the significance of this process, that it's considered to be one of the major drivers of ageing, so if you can get to grips with the protocols to mitigate or buffer the effects, then you take a major step in the right direction. Compounds known as senolytics can help to reduce the process and its impact, and one such plant pigment known as quercetin has been shown to assist greatly. In addition, the theaflavins from black tea also act in a similar cell signalling way as some of the leading medications deliver for such conditions.
Quercetin and theaflavins, in combination with another plant compound known as apigenin rescues harmful compounds that the senescent cells emit. Combining these 3 powerful plant-based compounds provide senolytic action without resorting to pharmaceutical drugs.
Caloric restriction is one of the most widely studied methods to prevent disease and extend lifespan, and for most of us with a demanding role at work, a busy home-life and the abysmal availability of high quality, healthy food outlets in the high street, combined with the proliferation of fast-food, processed food outlets it’s an almost impossibility. But by incorporating the plant-based compounds of Resveratrol, NAD+, Gynostemma pentaphyllum, in conjunction with quercetin, theaflavin and apigenin compounds there is still the possibility of a ranging efficacy of the health benefits. This is not to say that the diet can be disregarded, we know that we are what we eat, what we digest, what we assimilate and what we metabolise, but this additional incorporation of some or all of these compounds could just make the difference you are looking for. If you can ensure your diet is optimal along with a good level of activity with a focus on integrating these plant-based compounds you could be looking at serious levels of optimised health and function for many years to come.
About the Author
Andy McGlynn is the CEO for the GSquared Group currently overseeing the GSquared Health Clubs and GSquared Academy. As the lead publisher for ‘Think Tank’, Andy is currently heavily involved in the field of study surrounding holistic health and healing, naturopathic solutions and advancements in anti-ageing, physical and mental performance and advanced nutrition protocols. Deriving from his functional diagnostic nutrition studies and his current Masters in clinical nutritional, the information is being channelled directly to customers and other Personal Trainers alike to continue to raise the awareness of the depth and scope of adjusting dietary habits for longevity, optimal health and performance.
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