Total Athlete Coaching

Younger Everyday Using Caloric Restriction


How does caloric restriction help us live longer and more healthfully?

It has long been known, advocated, and researched that reducing the amount of food you eat can be a powerful anti-aging strategy. But what makes it so powerful?

Knowing the actual mechanisms gives science the opportunity to come up with various ways to create very targeted therapies that benefit us all.

Generally speaking, caloric restriction is a reduction of your calories by anywhere from 15-30% per day. It is hypothesized that the greater the restriction (but NOT starvation...That's a very different physiological state), the greater benefit to longevity.

These are some of the most popular thoughts on the "why" caloric restriction works ...

  1. Hormonal Shifts - Caloric restriction down regulates the hormones responsible for signalling growth (Growth Hormone, Insulin, Insulin like growth factor). Although these signals are important and necessary at times, it's the seemingly never ending exposure to these hormones that may be making us less healthy and shorter lived. 
  2.  Autophagy - This literally means "self-eating". Thought of from a cellular standpoint, autophagy is a process where a cell literally "eats" the weak parts within itself. As cells age, Parts of your cells go bad and autophagy gives the cells a chance to clean house. They eat up the old, defective stuff and prepare for creating new. 
  3. Hormesis - Basically, this is positive adaptation to stress. For example ...If we exercise, it's a stress on the body, and because of that stress, we get better AND more tolerant to the stress that is exercise. In the case of caloric restriction, it can be viewed by the body as a stress, and because of this stress, our body becomes adapted to and more efficient at the beneficial outcomes of being in a state of nutrient deprivation.
  4. Mitochondrial Function - The powerhouses of our cells, the mitochondria are what creates the energy needed for our cells and our bodies to survive. Caloric restriction has been shown to create a more robust mitochondria, especially in the area of resistance to Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS). There is strong speculation that the buildup of ROS in our cells negatively effect mitochondria and speeds up aging within our cells. A mitochondria that is adapted and tolerant to the inevitable ROS, helps the cell live longer and more healthfully.
  5. Reduction of Senescent Cells - Senescent cells in your body are what's been called "zombie" cells. Basically, they are cells that are alive, but "shut off". The problem is, they accumulate over time and science speculates they may have something to do with accelerated aging. Caloric restriction helps the body remove these senescent cells. By reducing their numbers (we all have them), it may help us stay young longer.

So there you have it!

A VERY BRIEF overview of "why" caloric restriction may work to give you a longer more healthful life ...

But ...(there's always a but) ...

Caloric restriction has some negative side effects (which I am not going to go through here). The good news is that scientists acknowledge these side effects and have been looking at specific strategies for you to get the benefits of caloric restriction as well as avoid the potential pitfalls.

The most well known, researched, and practiced strategy is ...Intermittent Fasting

Going from calorie restriction and then back to "normal" allows your body to get benefit from the physiology created from the restriction but also swings the pendulum back to a physiology that corresponds to having an abundance of nutrients.

It is thought that this form of feeding is quite natural for mammals. From an evolutionary point of view, we cycled between times of famine (hunting for food) and feast (securing food). This is how we likely survived and thrived in the distant past and many of these mechanisms are still built in.