On Alternative Theories of Performance Enhancement through Diet
Dr. Nun Amen-Ra is an interesting case any way you slice it. He's done the YouTube rounds over the past several years with some controversy over his questionable claims, not the least of which was fueling himself daily on a single vegan meal of only 1200 calories on the way to a 672 pound dead-lift at a weight of 176.6 pounds. Many people didn't buy it (he’s a beast), but I was curious so I wrote him and his wife for some more information, along with a modest payment, ahead of the publication of his forthcoming book for any secrets he might be willing to divulge. It was sparse (as was the payment) but later on I'll post a shake recipe I extrapolated from his veganic recipe -- not his original (the Amen Amino Aliksir) out of deference to his publication efforts.
Even if his claims are true, Ra didn’t convince me to go vegan as he strictly does; however, he did convince me to adopt intermittent fasting, a practice I have used with relative success. The fasting experiment has convinced me that the nutritional "science" that says I should be eating 2000-2100 daily calories to maintain my weight is probably a means of maintaining national food consumption to someone else's benefit rather than my own. Ra's take on the subject is interesting. He explains the cyclic fasting-related promotion of growth hormone and testosterone production given evening resistance training.
"Limited muscle catabolism is a good thing... The vast majority of the solid component of your body consists of proteins. Each of those proteins that constitutes our ‘proteome,’ so to speak, has a definite lifespan, and the integrity and health of your body is largely dictated by the integrity of your individual proteins. So, if you are able to prevent damage to the corpus of proteins that constitute your body, or increase the rapidity with which you renew and recycle proteins, you are functionally, physiologically younger."
All of this leads to a later discussion of how the regular reduction of blood-sugar leads to the body using body fat (adipose tissue) as an energy source, and eventually once adipose is largely depleted, the body's recycling of stored protein as an energy source (autophagy). This process is that which, according to Dr. Ra, leads to "lifespan prolongation by renewing proteins more rapidly." This is a borderline revelation if you consider how little you have heard elsewhere to indicate that you might want to force your body to eat its own skeletal muscle tissue in order to promote new protein synthesis.
Though the discussion begins to stray a bit into the weeds, it's important to realize that the whole, counter-food-cultural, counter-intuitive system is based significantly upon veganism, with a not-so-enthusiastic concession for dairy-augmented vegetarianism. And the promise to possibly dead-lift more than triple your body weight -- but only you can assess the veracity of his program for yourself. To get back on track, the good doctor’s ultimate goal is neither increased testosterone production nor pure power, but longevity. Of course, since Dr. Ra experiments with a test-bed of one, it remains to be seen if his theories pan out in the long run.
Finally, we'll take a quick look at another doctor who really puts his own body and biochemistry through the ringer in the name of both performance and longevity studies, but I'll continue with that in the final part of the set because, frankly, it's a wordy mess.
If you've read through and have had success or failure stories about fasting or plant-based eating while resistance training, let me hear from you. I'd like to start collecting perspectives and stories.