Way back in 1995 Dr. Mauro DiPasquale published a blueprint for Professional Bodybuilders to get Big and Ripped (a term for shedding nearly all body-fat); he called it “The Anabolic Diet”. It was a bucket of strategies for switching the body from primarily burning carbohydrates for fuel to primarily burning fat for energy production. Body builders need massive amounts of food (fuel) to sustain massive muscle structure, but to win contests, they need to carry next to zero body fat. He had studied how muscle is built and how fat is lost, and discovered (more likely rediscovered) that to be very lean we had to consume adequate fat or our bodies would hang on to stored fat with all their might.
An integral part of this program was alternating days between high fat consumption (and very low carbohydrate intake) and then 1-2 carb loading days, followed by switching back to high fat intake. To get the body to start building the enzymes needed to mobilize fats for energy production, one had to starve from carbs for about 2 weeks so the body could switch to using ketones (from the breakdown of fats) as the primary food input to our mitochondria (the organelles in every cell that actually produce energy in the form of a power molecule called Adenosine TriPhosphate or ATP). After this switch-over had occurred we would eat higher levels of carbs on the weekend and pump up the glycogen content of the muscles we had grown to make them fuller and stronger.
Key to this strategy is that once having switched to burning fat for energy, it takes about 3 days of eating mostly carbs for the body to switch back, so limiting higher carb intake to 1-2 days every week keeps us primarily fat-burners. Some of the benefits to eating this way include an increase in anabolic hormone production (testosterone and DHEA), lower insulin and blood sugar levels, steady increase of muscle mass and strength with time, and greater sensitivity of insulin receptors throughout the body. This last factor has proven to be very important to the aging process; it prevents metabolic syndrome and subsequent manifestation of Type 2 Diabetes with aging.
He later published a version of this titled “The Metabolic Diet”, which I find many places on the internet, but am cautious about downloading for fear of getting infected – none of the sites look safe to me. But much of current dietary research is indicating that he was way ahead of his time in terms of how to eat for overall health, fitness and longevity.
Recently, an on-line seminar series – The Fat Summit – hosted by 9x NY Times bestselling author Dr. Mark Hyman – promoted the idea that we can greatly improve body composition – building more muscle and shedding mid-body and visceral fat by eating higher amounts of fat-containing foods, but lower levels of foods high in carbohydrate.
The diet emphasis was on natural (I call them “REAL”) foods: animals raised on their natural diet, without the use of antibiotics, hormones and growth stimulants, and their milk and milk-derived products like butter and fermented kefir and yogurt, wild-caught seafood, free range fowl and their eggs. These foods, as they come from nature have no ingredient list, and that is a key criteria for their selection; they are not manufactured from other stuff!
The second most emphasized part of diet from the seminar was foods from the produce isle of any grocery store; colorful fruits, berries, root and leaf vegetables; but better yet, eliminate residual pesticides by buying organic!
Dr. Hyman subsequently wrote “Eat Fat, Get Thin” which I recommend for anyone interested in optimal health. The crux of it is eating real food, upping our fat intake with real, natural fats but eliminating all refined vegetable oils, eliminate anything “made” with grains and sugar, getting dietary carbs from real produce.
Now Dr. Mercola has published a book and an on-line course titled “Fat For Fuel” which promotes ‘optimal eating’ featuring a cyclic pattern of eating that promises to build health and longevity, pretty much eliminating metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease and cancer risk. We have discovered in recent years that carbohydrates are not actually a “clean burning” fuel – that our mitochondria fare much better using fat to generate ATP, generating far fewer free radicals in the process, suffering much less damage with time; effectively slowing our aging process. Becoming a “fat-burner” is an antiaging strategy with longevity benefits.
“Fat for Fuel” incorporates the idea of alternate fasting and feeding to alternate between two states of anabolism (building new cell structures, bones and muscle) and autophagy (self-eating) wherein the body starts clearing out built up junk from within the cells and recycling old materials. We now know that most of the benefits of caloric restriction (longevity, long-term health and a high state of fitness) can be obtained from intermittent fasting.
A large part of the benefit of intermittent fasting can be obtained by simply not eating between dinner and breakfast – that’s about a 12-13 hour fast. Making every other breakfast a light meal with some berries, real, fermented full-fat yogurt with a little flax oil and some almonds and cocoa nibs, or just some coffee with frothed butter or MTC oil, in effect extends the fast until lunch, and obtains many of the benefits of long-term caloric restriction.
To tie this all together, I am convinced that we can cycle between the anabolic state, building a firm and lasting muscular system, and the autophagy state, thereby taking out the trash regularly, by adhering to a low carb, protein- and fiber-rich, plentiful fat diet during the week and living it up a little with some bread, a great baked potato and wine on the weekend, enjoying life to the full.
To your Greater Health and Fitness,
Your Senior Fitness Coach,