Look good, stay lean and live longer!

For years, AST has advocated that smart bodybuilders should follow a high protein diet along with moderate calorie restriction. Moderately restricting calories year round not only helps a bodybuilder stay lean, it ensures that contest-preparation runs smoothly and quality improvements are achieved at every competitive event.

However, an increasing amount of scientific research suggests that moderate calorie-restriction will also ensure a person lives a longer, healthier life. In essence, simply following the typical “smart bodybuilder’s diet” actually adds years to your life and quality years at that!

In fact, according to one study completed by researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, people who moderately restrict their caloric intake show a drastic reduction in their risk of developing diabetes and clogged arteries. Additional risk factors were so low, they were comparable to those of people decades younger!

The study, led by Dr Holloszy, Professor of Medicine, was published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and it’s very clear from these findings that calorie restriction has a powerful, protective effect against diseases associated with aging. While the scientists don’t know how long each person will end up living, the fact is, they will certainly have a much longer life expectancy than average because they’re most likely not going to die from the diseases that kill most people.

Before this rather compelling information was confirmed in humans, research on mice and rats showed that calorie restriction increased the animals’ maximum lifespan by about 30% and protected them against various forms of cancer. However, the research by the Washington University scientists is very exciting as this study is the first to demonstrate these benefits are possible in people!

If calorie restriction is good for you, then by how much?

In this study, the researchers recruited participants through a national organization called the Caloric Restriction Optimal Nutrition Society. The participants basically ate small meals using nutrient-dense foods. In terms of calorie restriction they didn’t go overboard, they consumed around 10% fewer calories than the average person (for their age, weight, height etc). The participants in this study had voluntarily been following this low-calorie/nutrient-dense approach to eating for 3 to 15 years. The calorie restriction group was compared with an age and gender matched group who ate a typical Western diet.

When the diet analyses were completed, Holloszy’s team discovered that the two groups not only differed in the number of calories consumed, but also in the composition of their diets. Individuals in the calorie-restricted group ate between 1,100 and 1,950 calories per day depending on height, weight and gender, and these calories consisted of about 26% protein, 28% fat and 46% complex carbohydrates. In contrast, the comparison group consumed less protein, more fats and more processed carbohydrates that were refined and processed.

The incredible health benefits of moderate calorie restriction?

Atherosclerosis (clogged arteries) is the precursor of heart disease which is the number one killer of people in the U.S. and the problem is growing daily. So Holloszy’s team specifically focused on the risk factors for this condition. They measured multiple indications of early or impending heart disease including a number of biological markers in the blood, including cholesterol and triglycerides. They also measured the levels of glucose and insulin in the blood to gauge diabetes risk, (another major health concern in the American population).

The calorie-restricted group showed a clean bill of health in every parameter assessed such as lower total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol levels and higher HDL or “good” cholesterol levels as well as much lower triglycerides levels. In fact this group showed lower levels than 95% of Americans in their twenties, despite the fact that the study participants’ ages ranged from 35 to 82!

Fasting glucose and insulin levels which are both indicators of insulin metabolism; a key aspect of bodybuilding revealed significantly lower levels in the calorie-restriction group; insulin responses to meals were as much as 65% lower. Therefore, moderate calorie restriction also appears to promote better carbohydrate/ insulin metabolism: a key aspect of building a lean, mean physique.

All other risk factors measured also were significantly better in the calorie-restriction group such as C-reactive protein and the thickness of the carotid artery which is the main blood vessel that runs from the heart to the brain. Both are big determinants of heart disease and stroke. All in all, the researchers concluded that the effects of moderate calorie restriction were pretty darn dramatic. Moderate calorie restriction appears to have a tremendous affect on the parameters that govern life span and health.

Applying the science

So there you have it. Simply by monitoring your food intake and restricting your calorie intake by 10-15% appears to provide a stack of health benefits aside from helping you to stay lean. However, the key to healthy calorie restriction is to not just cut calories but increase the nutritional quality of the calories you consume within your calorie-restricted diet. The following are some pointers on how to do this.

First, obtain your required calorie and macro-nutrient intake by using our free-access Nutritional Calculator.

Second deduct 10% from this to give you your moderately-restricted calorie intake. However, remember that if you are exercising a lot every week then the prescribed amount by the calculator may already be perfect for your calorie-restricted intake, particulary if you perform multiple workouts each day.

Third, make sure your calorie-restricted diet is nutrient-dense. Make the calories you consume as nutritous as possible. The carbohydrates you choose should be unprocessed and unrefined. That means fruits and particulary vegetables become a big portion of every meal.

In a calorie-restricted diet, the protein within the diet must be first rate, the finest nutritional quality. That’s why supplementation with high-nutrition proteins are mandatory. Proteins such as Ny-Tro PRO-40,VP2 Whey Isolate and GL3 L-Glutamine not only boost the nutritional quality of your diet while provding minimal calories, they promote a strong immune system, enhance fat loss and the muscle building effects of weight training.

Remember also that even though you may decide to follow a calorie restricted diet, some fat is essential. In fact, the right choices can enhance your fat loss/ muscle building efforts. High quality choices of essentail fats include include linseeds, olive oil and walnuts. One essential fat supplement, CLA 1000 is shown in research to speed fat loss, particulalry while following a calorie-restricted diet.

So there you have it, smart bodybuilders should always follow a high protein diet along with moderate calorie restriction. The latest science now tells us that moderate calorie restriction year round not only helps you stay lean, it will also ensure a longer, healthier life.

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