Does eating for performance negatively impact on health and longevity?
People who look to get the most out of their body on the field or in the gym eat differently to those who aim to live a long life.
A performance-based diet requires a high-calorie intake to:
- Build or maintain muscle, which is metabolically demanding
- Replenish glycogen stores, particularly for athletes involved in aerobic sports
- Provide the athlete with adequate energy levels
On average, eating for performance demands:
- High calories
- A macronutrient ratio skewed toward higher carb and protein intake for energy and muscle-building purposes
- A greater percentage of calories coming from animal-based products in order to get enough protein
Nutrition for longevity
A low-calorie diet is often associated with eating for health and longevity. This is because:
- The cells of the body have to do less work. Imagine two cars: one that is driven cross-country a lot, the other, to the shops twice a week. The first car will succumb to wear and tear. The second won’t
- The body becomes more efficient at processing calories reducing the workload for the body
A typical longevity-based diet requires:
- Low calories
- A macronutrient ratio higher in fats due to lower carbohydrate and protein intake
- More vegetables due to their health properties
Real world examples
The athletic population is a good example of a group eating for performance. The research for life expectancy among athletes is mixed. Some studies suggest a longer life expectancy, compared to average, while others propose the opposite.
Monks are a good example of people who eat for longevity. Many monks fast and they live longer than most.
So, there is a reason to believe that an athletic diet is not the most effective way to live the longest possible life. But, statistically, its difficult to prove because:
- The athletic population is diverse. Statistics show different life expectancies for different sports with NFL players being notoriously low. Also, there is too much individual variation. Lumping athletes into categories fails to consider that each person eats and lives differently. The best performing athletes could eat a diet that also promotes longevity. But this wouldn’t show up in the stats.
- There are too many variables to consider. Nutrition is only one piece of the performance puzzle and a long life. Other factors like sleep and stress levels also have a bearing.
Do you think eating for performance shortens a person’s life? Leave your thoughts below.