Low-Calorie Diet Q+A

Q.: While on this diet, did you experience any light-headiness or dizziness? Did you feel more tired than usual? How long were you on this diet and did you lose weight?

— Isabel Columbus

A: We have been living this healthful lifestyle for about 10 years. We have not experienced any light-headedness or dizziness. Rather than feeling more tired, we have more energy.

Yes, weight loss is virtually universally experienced when fewer calories are consumed than the body would normally use. And we're talking about a 25 percent - 30 percent reduction in intake. If you are interested in more detail, the Calorie Restriction Society is an organization of people, most of whom are CR practitioners, who exchange information about the process and how it works. (http://calorierestriction.org/)

Q.: Did you lose any muscle mass?

— Steve

A.: No, I have gained muscle mass because I exercise with that in mind: maximum strength training per muscle group only once per week and careful choice of optimal amino acid sources like whey protein. True, I might have gained more muscle if I were not on CR, but my fitness goal is optimal function not muscle size.

Q.: What are the effects of this diet upon a person's mental abilities? Does a slower metabolism correlate to a lesser mental ability, or lesser problem solving skills?

— Geoff Haisty Raleigh, NC

A.: As we told the interviewer, there is no "this diet," rather there are many different ways to approach CR. My experience has been improvement in mental capabilities.

Some of the most dramatic improvement came when I integrated limited daily fasting into my CR regimen, meaning that in addition to limiting calories, I also spend a significant time away from food-finishing a very small, easily assimilated dinner at say 5 PM and not eating again until 6 or 7 in the morning. On weekends I stretch the fasting period even longer to maybe 8-10 a.m.. Exciting research by Mark Mattson at NIA labs has shown that such fasting provokes secretion of neuroprotective chemicals involved in protecting and regenerating brain cells. (Search on Mattson M in www.Pubmed.gov to review his work.

Q.: What's the difference between this "diet" and semi-starvation?

— Amy O'Donnell Marque TX

A.: Semi-starvation is depriving your body of what it needs. We are giving our bodies what they need to function optimally. Our interest is to nourish ourselves as close to optimally as we can using foods with a high deliciosity index. We measure food, track the components and experiment with spicing. We eat proteins and fats relatively sparingly, and it does take a lot of nutrient-dense vegetables and fruit to add up to enough calories even for us. We should rush to assure you that this attention to detail is not necessary to gain real benefits from CR. Optimal health-and-nutrition is our hobby, and you will find almost as many versions of CR practice as practitioners. A good place to learn more is http://calorierestriction.org/.

Q.: Would you recommend teenagers to maintain a low-calorie diet? If so what would be best the best way for one to go about this?

— Jessica Newport

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