Several people have asked me roughly the same questions after noticing me in last week’s NYT article on calorie restriciton. I am not a physician, nutritionist, or even particularly knowledgeable amateur. In other words, I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. Common questions with my answers follow anyway.
I don’t think I can restrict calories, what can I do to stay healthy?
You can still try to optimize your nutrition (the ON in CRON). Eat more vegetables, fewer grains, and cut out sugar to the maximum extent possible. You’ll probably end up eating fewer calories unintentionally.
I am extremely active, e.g., I run marathons. How can I do CR?
You’ll probably have to cut back. You need to consume lots of calories to perform at the highest levels in many sports and to participate in endurance sports. Kenton Mullins is a well known example in the CR community. From a news story in 2004:
The 37-year-old former body builder went from 4000 to 2000 calories a day. And to conserve energy, he surfs four hours a week instead of his usual 20.
Note, he still surfs.
If you do run marathons or similar and you want to stay healthy you may want to reconsider irrespective of CR. Read Art de Vany’s endurance training: death, injury and risk archives. De Vany, who is also skeptical about CR, gave an interesting presentation at CR IV that I may eventually summarize.
I don’t think I can restrict calories, should I take resveratrol supplements?
I’d say “not yet.” Resveratol supplements are still expensive and of uncertain quality and effect. I agree with the view of Fight Aging:
The gold standard for science to back a form of metabolic manipulation is the research supporting the practice of calorie restriction. It is an open question to whether some shared mechanisms mean that calorie restriction mimetics like resveratrol can piggy-back on this wealth of data to a lower risk. But why take that risk? If you’re healthy and young, why risk the use of a compound with comparatively little data behind it versus a lifestyle practice with a great deal of data behind it? Equally, why dive in now versus waiting for more information?
The scientific world is littered with biochemicals that performed wonderfully in mice and then fell by the wayside in humans. The medical and supplement world is littered with poor or varied formulations of chemicals that have little to do with the forms used to obtain well-known laboratory results. There are many slips between the lab and your body; many are very hard or even impossible for folk like you or I to detect ourselves, but each passing year will reduce their number in any given case.
Pills (broadly speaking) are the future of life extension and health in general, but I don’t think their cost/benefit/risk calculus yet justifies using them as an important component of one’s health strategy.
I do take a daily multivitamin and calcium, but only to insure against missing some nutrients. I used to take lots of vitamins but decided it was a waste of time and money. I look forward to the day when effective interventions do exist.