In my previous post, I covered the recent push for more protein and less fasting. The biggest proponent is Peter Attia, although there are others.
I posted some concerns I had about Attia’s high protein claims in the previous post. Yet, I’m not ready to discount that his case for higher protein might be correct – in some cases. The reason is that he has a practice with patients. Those patients get a DEXA scan annually. He is seeing firsthand these scores and (I’m assuming) they are showing him that a higher protein diet results in improved lean mass and bone density.
To my knowledge, we don’t have a DEXA-like equivalent for longevity. If we do, it certainly isn’t something accessible to the average person for under $100. Attia is likely correct that muscle is a great proxy for longevity – even if it is just health span and not lifespan directly.
Sidenote: I’ve done two blood marker tests to determine my biological age. One had me 5 years older than my age and the other 17 years younger. 🤪
What to do?
Each of us individually will need to decide the best approach for ourselves. If I were morbidly obese, I would discount Attia and use fasting and a low-protein approach. See the post More Thoughts on High Volume or High Protein For Fat Loss for an explanation.
And then as one gets leaner, I would increase protein. Lyle McDonald explains the P-Ratio extremely well here: SNR #193: Lyle McDonald – Nutrient Partitioning & Fuel Utilization. The short version is when we lose weight, the body will shed both fat and muscle. The fatter you are, the higher percentage of loss will come from fat. As you get leaner, the percentage of muscle loss will increase. Therefore, protein needs will need to be increased to mount a defense as one approaches their optimal weight.
Once you’ve hit an ideal weight, do you need to gain or regain lost muscle? If so, higher protein might be a great tool. This is probably more true as we age. If you just need to defend muscle, I suspect protein needs will be determined by activity level. Guys like Attia and Mark Si$$on that exercise a lot and have low body fat levels likely need higher protein. And those that exercise less, probably need less protein. I’m guessing it is a spectrum.
Exercise itself provides autophagy benefits. So the more you exercise, the less of a need there is for fasting for autophagy. The Energy Blueprint podcast episode with Cynthia Thurlow had a good discussion on this point.
Attia’s story did make me reconsider my 2020 DEXA score. It was higher than I predicted based on numerous body fat tests over the years. I was leaner than ever before, but my body fat percentage was not at its lowest. At the time, I just chalked it up to DEXA being stricter, but now I’m wondering if the very low potato diet which I had used aggressively to drop 35 pounds had resulted in muscle loss. I did shift the diet to Potatoes & Protein, but maybe I didn’t shift quickly enough. It was also possible that I was still too low in protein, given I was only eating 2 meals a day. 🤷🏻♂️
Another theme I’ve discussed numerous times on this blog is how poor my recovery has been, both from exercise and injuries. Everything takes longer than it should. Poor recovery results in reduced exercise intensity and volume. Have I been too low on protein for my needs?
Time for a test.
Back in the Paleo days, I made high-protein meatloaf as a staple.
This year I started increasing my protein levels and I started eating breakfast 3-4 times a week. The result so far has been I’ve gained 6 pounds, most of which I would say has been fat, not muscle. Oops. 😮
I’m 186 now instead of 180. Considering I was 222 at my peak, I’m not concerned. I just need to get better at high-protein meal prep. It is a skill and I will figure it out.
I have noticed some slight improvements in my recovery times. 😀
As for fasting, the growing consensus is that the benefits of 16-hour fasting are lower than originally thought, whereas 3-day fasts are better for targeting deeper levels of autophagy.
I’ll focus on getting in a few 3-day fasts a year. Last year, I did two.
By the end of fall, I should have a good idea if the higher protein strategy is working for me. I’ll get another DEXA then.
Apr 28, 2023 — 2:36 pm
All makes intuitive sense MAS. Obese, eat less, and less frequently, and fewer “building blocks” foods. And when leaner, eat more, more frequently, with a focus on building blocks foods; plus it’s much easier and more fun to be active when leaner, when increased protein is going to complement the chosen activity. On the fasting, Berkhan called out his own 16:8 advice in his book, use it as a tool and realise it’s not magic. I personally don’t worry too much about longevity side of things, it falls in a space of future anxiety for me, I just worry about today! Great piece as always man
Apr 28, 2023 — 2:46 pm
@Andy – Well said.
Whenever I hear health influencers with different opinions making their cases, I always try and imagine who is their audience.
Attia likely has an audience that is more receptive to exercise than David Sinclair’s audience. Sinclair can probably benefit his audience more with fasting and protein restriction knowledge and Attia more with lifting. They each have a different view, but can both still be correct.
Glenn Lawrence Whitney
May 1, 2023 — 10:12 am
It’s only one small part of the protein picture, but I’m finding eating at least one hard boiled egg every day is helpful. I usually make six at a time.
May 29, 2023 — 7:59 am
What lean protein sources are you adding in on top of the potatoes?
I have transitioned from low carb Mediterranean-paleo to a wfpb vegan diet for three months now to see how it affects blood markers (haven’t tested yet) and with protein powder/tofu/seitan it is relatively easy to hit my 1.6g/kg protein targets daily without going over calories.
May 29, 2023 — 8:03 am
@Ant – A few of the ones I use include sardines, cottage cheese, beans, or extra-lean ground beef.