Simplexity 3: Longevity vs Performance
In the first 2 installments of this “simplicity-complexity” series we have very creatively called “simplexity”, we analyzed some long-held beliefs in the world of health and wellness from our personally biased points of view. If you agree or not we are happy either way because the goal of this is to get people thinking about something as a philosophy or a construct, not to blindly follow our opinions. In the third installment we are going to shift gears a bit and go a little deeper into the science in examining what is becoming a bit of a debate in terms of approach in the industry. In the left corner we have team anti-aging and in the right we have team “gainz” or more accurately described as hypertrophy. They didn’t weigh in at the same weight so it’s not for a title……..round 1, fight. We must first set up the relevance for this article; our goal at ATP is to optimize whatever biochemical pathway in the body we can, and it’s for the reader to decide which path they want to walk, inherent benefits and risks included. A big part of our business is in the world of performance and if you break it down to the fundamentals, achieving maximal performance in the context of building muscle, getting lean, physical abilities is going against the grain of what nature likely intended because it pushes our physiology to the extreme. To do this we must stimulate specific pathways like mTOR, to force the balance between anabolic (build-up) and catabolic (breakdown) in favor of constantly building. On the other side of the argument there are those who advocate for the longest lived potential that humans can experience which goes against the grain of modern life in its own way as it shuns the collective behaviors of modern society and employs more unique behaviors like fasting, ketogenic diets, lifestyle and activity adjustments. This pathway will be represented by cAMP which is a catabolic-stimulated pathway promoted by the cell when these processes are encouraged. Is either one right or wrong? Unlikely, the question is all a matter of context. What we simply want to do is arm you with some introductory knowledge to allow yourself to make the best decision possible given your goals. Performance The performance side of the equation we have the hypertrophy focused end of the spectrum where the goal is constant growth of muscle mass. This is typically why those chasing performance love to “stimulate the mTOR pathway” which is typically thought to be done by crushing BCAA’s all day long in between meals and consuming a TON of protein. If you read the last installment you might remember that we said that consuming protein above 2g/kg likely won’t result in a greater increase in muscle mass assuming one is training naturally. We must also mention that while Leucine-rich BCAA’s do influence the mTOR pathway, but there are other factors involved. Having said that let us examine just what mTOR is and what implications it has on our physiology. mTOR or The mammalian target of rapamycin signaling pathway integrates both intracellular and extracellular signals and serves as a central regulator of cell metabolism, growth, proliferation and survival. In other words, it’s the master “on switch” of anabolic (growth) processes in the cell. This is why it seems to be the focus of many body builders/strength athletes in their quest for maximum anabolic response. mTOR is regulated by the following variables: growth factors, energy status, amino acids, and oxygen levels, so by knowing how to manipulate these factors, we can in turn influence the expression of mTOR. Longevity The longevity side of the equation is usually representative of activation of the cAMP pathway which is a cellular protein that responds to energy status sensitization being on the low side. When we restrict food intake, strictly fast, increase energy expenditure, or experience excessive metabolic stress (in a negative manner) this signal predominates. The reason promoting this pathway is becoming popular is because of the reported benefits of what this pathway provides. A reduction in inflammation and oxidative stress, improvement in metabolic flexibility, down-regulation of growth factors, and the potential for increased lifespan have all been linked to cAMP activation. While this sounds like the greater of the 2 paths to walk, and for some populations it likely is, there are some inherent downsides. We know this is a catabolic pathway, and as such it will experience a high level of breakdown of the body which we must examine. The potential loss of muscle mass and nutrient status from excessively using this pathway can be an issue for long term health and the quality of life as we age. For those who are in the world of performance and hypertrophy, this pathway may hold back ultimate progress when it comes to recovery and growth so it must be understood that while there are many benefits to this, you have to understand the limitations of either side when you have a specific goal in mind. We have examined the yin-yang relationship between the anabolic and catabolic processes and we now have context to what each one provides in a cost-benefit relationship. To determine where we should exist on the spectrum let’s look at what the variables that influence each can contribute to the bigger picture. Growth Factors Growth factors are biochemical stimuli that influence the expression of genetics to a point usually to facilitate anabolic responses. Growth factors can include hormones, and peptides like insulin, testosterone, growth hormone, IGF-1, cytokines and estrogen. These all signal the cell to positively influence growth via mTOR activation. Is it good or bad, it’s a matter of context really. What I mean by that is we must understand that humans must maintain the balance between anabolic and catabolic processes in the body in order to maintain long term health, function, and wellbeing. The key with growth factors is stimulating the responses when we want to support progress in physical health/ability with the required catabolic processes that help promote renewal and regeneration of tissues. Energy Status This is another double edged sword in the sense that the finer details of its manipulation can result in the promotion of either pathway in a very simple manner. Excessive energy intake will result in an anabolic response, calorie restriction or excessive energy expenditure (calorie burning) will result a catabolic response. The key factor in understanding growth is that anabolic responses can be both muscular or adipose tissue based, meaning that excessive calorie intake can promote both simultaneously; build muscle & put on fat. Understand that when planning your food choices to support growth! Low energy intake and high-exertion activity can promote excessive catabolic activity, and here the magic is how much, how long, and how often. What I mean by this is if you fast occasionally like twice a month, or train 3-4 times per week you are likely going to be able to maintain a good balance of health and progress. That being said if you chronically operate in a caloric deficient or don’t practice the lifestyle support to help the body recover, you will quickly start to waste away. Amino Acids If you remember the last article, you recall that there is an ideal spot where protein consumption supports muscle growth. Amino acids are one of the key promoters of intracellular growth factors, and the take away here is if you constantly consume them, you are going to drive growth factors excessively. However, they key point is that this doesn’t mean more muscle! There is always a limit as to how much mTOR can stimulate the speed and amount of protein synthesis. The other thing to note is that constantly stimulating mTOR shuts down this cellular process called autophagy which acts like a “cleaning crew” inside the cell breaking down and recycling all the old cellular material so it can be renewed and repurposed. This process is highly correlative with a reduction in degenerative disease. You want to find the balance between supporting muscle mass with protein intake and supporting autophagy with a small daily fast (typically 10-12 hours) after dinner and when sleeping. Oxygen Levels Although this last one may seem a bit redundant, it’s quite an important factor to note from a practicality perspective. High energy levels and high oxygen supply can be a recipe for excessive free radical stress. This is one reason why caloric and carb restriction can positively influence health from an inflammatory perspective. Secondly, intermittent hypoxic conditions (low oxygen) can be beneficial for the cell as this type of positive stress which is experienced usually through exercise can downregulate mTOR and activate cAMP. However chronic hypoxic conditions are great environments for promoting cancer. The take away here is short and intense exercise is a great way to balance the anabolic/catabolic response. The Simplexity Connection To Promote mTOR (growth) • Optimize protein intake • Maintain a slight caloric surplus & don’t cut carbs • Focus on exercise that promotes time-under-tension & mechanical damage • Prioritize sleep To Promote cAMP • Mild caloric restriction • Low carb higher fat diet structure with enough protein to sustain lean mass • Short duration, high intensity training • Wait 60min to consume post workout meal • Prioritize sleep In Closing This very brief and in many ways incomplete examination of performance vs longevity is meant to bring awareness to the fact that our body likes to maintain balance, and the factors that promote either side of the equation have their place based upon the goal of the individual. They also have their inherent benefit and risks. Understand where you want to be and knowing how to better manipulate the line between them may allow you to get the best of both worlds while still maintaining your ultimate goal. By: Roland Pankewich & Vincent Comtois

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