Can You Combine The Longevity Diet With Strength Training?
February 11th 2020
After reading an excerpt about the longevity diet, it got me thinking whether or not you could combine strength training with living longer?
When you’re beginning any weight loss or healthiness journey, the importance of the food you’re putting into your body can not be overstated.
However, the number of different diets and food choices out there, each touted and stated as the best to optimize your overall health, can be overwhelming.
One of these diets is the Longevity Diet, advertised as being able to help you extend your life simply through the addition of certain foods to your daily menu.
What is the Longevity Diet?
Does it really do what it says it does?
And will it help you reach your specific healthiness goals?
Let’s talk about that, as well as the best ways to maintain energy and happiness if you do decide to work with this diet.
What is the Longevity Diet?
Brainchild of Valter Longo, a biochemist at USC, the longevity diet is a diet that he has come up with to expressly help extend the human life and eradicate, treat, and reverse such chronic and often terminal illnesses such as cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, and cancer—as well as to stave off general signs of aging for as long as is possible.
Due partially to the success of this dieting craze, Longo has been able to open the Longevity Institute at USC to further develop the tenets and recommendations espoused by his work.
Combining many of the health benefits of cycling through fasting and the very popular Mediterranean diet, the Longevity Diet aims to “reveal the role that food can play in keeping us youthful.”
It does so by emphasizing foods that amp up cellular strength and regeneration and avoiding processed foods that support common terminal illnesses and hasten the signs of aging.
What can you eat on the Longevity Diet?
According to the Keck School of Medicine’s Longevity Institute website, the food groups focused upon in the Longevity Diet are simply “plant-based, low in protein and rich in unsaturated fats and complex carbohydrates.”
Longo says that we should emphasize quality and states over and over again the need for nuance.
Our culture demonizes carbs and gluts its health-food aisles with so-called ‘healthy fats’: but the truth is, as he says, that “fats are good and bad. Carbs are good and bad. Proteins are good and bad.”
By keeping our food simple, however, and by focusing on both quality and quantity as well as striving for balance, we can optimize our lifespans—again, both in quality and quantity.
Longo argues that people who eat according to the tenets of the Longevity Diet can both live longer and have healthier, happier lives while they do so.
How long do people live on the Longevity Diet?
As this is still a relatively new idea in the dietary world, consistent data on the lifespans of people constantly adhering to the tenets of the Longevity Diet is not yet widely available. However, based on clinical trials of people with similar diets, several conclusions can be drawn.
According to Tam Hunt at Leaf Science, modern hunter-gatherer tribes who live in seclusion from most of the developed world — and, therefore, eat a diet that is very different from those of us in modern metropolises with constant access to pizza and beer — have higher rates of living to and past 100 years of age than anywhere else in the world.
Other diets which have existed for longer than the Longevity diet but espouse similar plant-based, whole-foods recommendations also point to longer than normal lifespans—with both men and women living well into their nineties.
At the very least, the data does show that those who eat more ‘real food’, less processed food, and take care to keep their macros (protein, carbohydrates, and fats) in some modicum of traditional balance do live longer and suffer fewer chronic conditions than people who eat foods with ingredient lists that sound like science experiments.
What Can Beginner Strength Training Novices Learn from the Book The Longevity Diet?
Whether or not you choose to live according to the very specific and strict rules of The Longevity Diet, there are several takeaways that you as a beginner (or a lifter of any age!) can glean and benefit from.
- Special diets are overhyped. Other diet fads that come and go — Atkins, Weight Watchers, Keto, even calorie counting, just to name a few — are wildly praised by a few; but there exists a much simpler way to see the effects needed in a much shorter time. The Longevity Diet has the additional perk of being good for the planet as well!
- Excess protein may actually be a detriment. The bodybuilding community has long lauded protein as their supplement (and food concentration) of choice because it helps build muscle after a rigorous workout. However, more recent studies are showing that eating too much protein can be linked to adverse effects in your kidneys due to the way that the kidneys process the nitrogen found in the amino acids making up proteins.
A good overall lesson learned from Longo’s research might simply be to make sure that your macros are relatively balanced, and maybe to err more on the side of plant-based food instead of stacking your plate with protein.
What should you do if you experience energy loss with the longevity diet while strength training?
If you choose to go on the Longevity Diet, you will have to weigh your goals against the likely side effects often experienced while on the Longevity Diet.
Since your protein intake will probably be going down and your overall caloric intake will definitely take a hit, you might not have as much energy as you are used to having.
There’s a simple answer to this: You have to make a choice.
Think carefully about your priorities!
If you need to prioritize your strength training, then you may have to eat more than Longo specifically recommends.
If you’d rather stay completely true to the Longevity Diet, then you will have to come to terms with the fact that your strength training may have to go on pause.
What does a day of eating on the Longevity Diet look like?
Here are the basic practical rules for eating on the Longevity Diet, as described by Valter Longo himself:
- For the most part, you should eat vegan — that means, plant products. As opposed to the vegetarian diet, neither cheese nor eggs will be considered appropriate.
- Two to three times a week, add a seafood component. When you’re choosing fish, look for varieties which include a high omega-three, omega-six, vitamin B12 content (this would include shrimp, cod, and salmon, along with less popular dishes such as mollusks and sea bream).
- For adults under the age of 65, the daily protein intake should be kept to under 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. For adults 66 years of age and up, protein intake should be increased—but only slightly. In keeping with the first rule, the main sources of protein should be legumes, beans, and chickpeas.
- Taking a multivitamin is strongly encouraged; not because you won’t necessarily be eating a diet high in minerals if you adhere to the tenets of the Longevity Diet, but more because it’s a great insurance policy (so to say).
- Unless you’re trying to gain weight, consume only two meals per day: breakfast, and then either lunch or dinner. Keep snacking low-sugar and to a minimum.
- Eat all of the food you plan to consume in a day within twelve consecutive hours of your day.
As you can see, the Longevity Diet is quite strict—but, according to Longo, the benefits you will see far outweigh the inconveniences. Plus, after a while, as with any diet, the rules become much less hard to follow.
Wrapping It Up
Ultimately, the Longevity Diet represents another way for you to meet your health goals and maybe take care of the planet a little bit while you’re doing so.
However, you’ll have to figure out if it’s actually the right tool for you and your specific goals! Don’t hesitate to think outside the box, and always make sure that you’re carefully listening to your body so you can stay healthy and safe while trying to become a better version of yourself.
Special Message For Strength Athletes
The longevity diet may not be so great long term for any person looking to develop strength and power.
You will rely on much more on neurological strength which takes a while to develop.
And if you keep your protein content low, this will not align with your goals.
Nevertheless, this type of eating style is a good way to cleanse your body and give your stomach a break from having to breakdown food and absorb nutrients.
What do I mean?
Here are some questions that would interest you if you want to get stronger faster:
- Ever want to BETTER absorb nutrients from the same foods you are eating?
- Ever want to not eat so much and have your body do a full reset?
In most cultures, they fast for a short period of time, cleansing themselves of impurities while strengthening their mental strength.
I view the longevity diet as a less aggressive way to do a fast. This is especially great for athletes that are not quite willing to give up their quest for strength while still allowing their body to do a mini-reset.
You may want to try it out and a fasting period on a different occasion.
But for now, you can read more about the longevity diet here.
Of course, know both the pros and drawbacks of the longevity diet and allow that to further push you to newer heights in strength and knowledge.