Calorie Restriction For Longevity

Wow! In part 4 of my interview with Eat Stop Eat author, Brad Pilon, he and I cleared up a number of myths about your metabolism.  I think it’s safe to say a few heads were turned after reading that portion of the interview series – A must read for anyone who thought missing a meal or skipping breakfast would send your fat loss results into a downward spiral.

Today, Brad introduces us to a trend taking off over in the UK – calorie restriction for longevity – except, there’s one thing these individuals seem to be MISSING for the longevity part to take effect.

Read on to find out what Brad has to say…


Craig Ballantyne:    Now, you went to a weird research conference in the UK.  It was on calorie restriction or it was on longevity, but there was a lot of calorie restriction people there, right?

Brad Pilon: Yes.  Anything that wasn’t talking directly about drugs was talking about calorie restriction.

Craig Ballantyne:    Okay.  Now, have you ever met one of these people who practices that calorie restriction and is overweight?

Brad Pilon: It’s funny you mention that because my colleague, John Barber, came with me to that conference, so actually I was just talking to him about it recently.  I’m like, “You know, no one at that conference was overweight,” like, not one person.

Probably the heaviest people there were, like, the journalists covering it perhaps, but other than that, everybody else there was actually in, what we would consider in North America, to be in excellent shape.  I mean, they were all fairly lean for their profession, not to be stereotyping of academics, but actually fairly well muscled as well.

Craig Ballantyne:    Okay.  And now the calorie restriction people, how extreme do they go in the calorie restriction?

Brad Pilon: It depends on how extreme they’ve become in their personalities.  So, with calorie restriction, you have the calorie restriction that makes sense, which is –

Craig Ballantyne:    Actually, you know what?  We should talk about what we mean by calorie restriction.

Brad Pilon: Oh, calorie restriction, okay, yeah.

Craig Ballantyne:    These people are doing it for longevity.  And just maybe mention how few calories they eat, and this is every day for years.

Brad Pilon: Yeah.  So, there is really cool animal research, it’s actually fairly old, that showed that animals that ate less than they wanted to tended to live longer.  So, you take the amount that they just eat if you just threw food into their bowl, and they ate whatever they wanted.  And then you cut back from that, these animals live longer.

And this was first done in mice but then all of a sudden we show that the same thing worked with hamsters and guinea pigs.  And all of a sudden, we started getting research from apes and monkeys, which are pretty close to us, so people jump on the bandwagon really quickly.

People who understand the science were eating just a slight shift.  So, this is what they wanted to eat, you know, a daily intake of 2,500 calories, these people cut down to like 18, so 1,800 calories.  And it’s a bit of a learning experience to get down to that level, but once you get there, you can be comfortable at that level.  There’s another –

Craig Ballantyne:    At what level?

Brad Pilon: About 1,800 from people.  These are also very active people.

But, see, other people took it more extreme, and these people sort of built a belief system around caloric restriction, and it almost turned into a competition of how little can you eat.  These people were getting down to levels that, in some cases, were almost below 1,000 calories a day for long periods of time.

And I think they got fairly obsessive-compulsive about it because then obviously if you’re eating that little amount of calories, you have to ensure the calories you’re taking in are from sources that provide a nice amount of micronutrients and vitamins and minerals.

So, just all of a sudden they did the exact opposite of just not caring at all about what you’re eating to obsessing about it to the point where it’s no longer healthy either, in my opinion.

So, I saw at this conference all ranges.  I saw from people who just cut back their calories a little bit, people who did fasting, like myself, all the way down to people where you just sit there goin’ like, “That’s not worth it.”  You know, you’ve gone to a direction, I believe, is no longer healthy because you’re obsessing about your food so much.

You’re basically a very skinny version of a body builder in terms of how OBSESSIVE they were about the way and style which they ate.

Craig Ballantyne:    Okay, so, now those people that have been doing, you know, even if they’re just doing 1,800 or 15 – well, 1,800 is still a lot of calories for –

Brad Pilon: Yeah.  These would be people who do that and then also take very vigorous exercise maybe.

Craig Ballantyne:    Okay, so they’re combining vigorous, vigorous, vigorous exercise with calorie restriction because –

Brad Pilon: They would be your typical sort of marathon runner-type personality, yeah.

Craig Ballantyne:    Okay.  But there’s no concern for these people at 1,800 or 1,500 or even 1,200 calories per day – are they worried about their metabolism, do you think?  Has anyone ever studied their metabolism to see if it’s gone down?

Brad Pilon:
Yeah, yeah.  Their metabolism would be absolutely where we would think it would be given the amount of lean body mass they have.  Because they’re slight people now, they don’t have a lot of body fat on them, they’re all very lean in that regard, their total energy intake across the day because they’re moving around less mass, so their total calorie intake would probably be less than an obese person.

REMEMBER, it’s not losing weight that makes your metabolism slow, it’s actually the opposite, is that becoming obese artificially makes your metabolism faster.  I mean, the easiest, simplest way to boost your metabolism is to put on 40 pounds of fat ‘cause you gotta carry around that weight all day.  But just in terms of their resting metabolic rate just based on if you measure the amount of lean mass they have, they’re exactly where you want ‘em to be.

Craig Ballantyne:    Okay, so it’s not the number of calories that they’re eating directly that causes their metabolism to be lower, it’s the fact that they have less body mass because they’re eating fewer calories that causes their metabolism to be lower.

Brad Pilon: It is that.  And just because, for some weird reason, this group of researchers, predominantly European, haven’t caught onto the second part of what I believe is sort of what you NEED FOR LONGEVITY, which would be weight training.

So, you have a lot of people who are eating very little, either not exercising at all or performing long, long endurance exercise, and virtually none of them – I mean, I’m not an overly large guy at 5’10” and 175, John Barber with me at 6’, 185, and we were by far the largest individuals in terms of muscle mass at this conference.

So, it’s just something that hasn’t caught on there.  So, I think once they figure it out, they would’ve preserved a lot of lean muscle mass while eating less and then they probably have just exactly – exactly where you expect them to be.

Craig Ballantyne:    Okay, cool.

Let’s move on to part 6 and discuss an area that seems to cause a lot of confusion for people – grains and fat loss.