Scientific Nutrition Update 51: Nutrient Partitioning Effect

Inspired by Dr. Lagakos and his book The poor, misunderstood calorie and it’s chapter on nutrient partitioning I decided to take a look at it.  This is a really interesting effect.

Script (remember I ad-lib):

For today’s episode I am going to talk about an important effect in nutrition called the nutrient partitioning effect.  Now the nutrient partitioning effect is basically a complicated way of saying the very obvious fact that our body processes different nutrients differently.

Now this seems at first blush to be an obvious statement, but it also in a sense runs afoul of the calories in calories out crowd.  Because their basic claim is that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie. The true story is a little bit more complicated than that and if you want to learn more about I highly recommend you read the book “The poor, misunderstood calorie” by Dr. Lagakos (though I think my advice on resveratrol in episode 39 is better than his).  However, even if for weight loss a calorie is a calorie is a calorie, there is still the matter of what weight are we losing. Are we losing muscle or fat? Obviously we want to maximize our fat loss and minimize our muscle loss. I think that should pretty clearly go without saying, but here I am saying it anyway.

Now I know what you guys are thinking is that this goes against my whole calorie restriction centered philosophy and you are both right and wrong.  Basically I think if it was possible to totally match calorie intake and burn then you would lose the same no matter what, but I also think we have some ability to optimize so that what we lose is more significantly fat.  So how do we do this? Well there are a few different methods.

First things first, cutting our carbohydrate consumption will probably help.  The lower our carbohydrate consumption is the less likely we are to have higher insulin levels which help promote fat storage.

Second thing, eat more protein.  For one thing protein is satiating, the other feature of protein is that it helps spare muscular loss in a calorie deficit.  

Changes in growth hormone levels can potentially help, but significantly changing your growth hormone levels is difficult.  The simplest advice I have for this is to lift heavy weights, which should help raise the levels, and to consider doing high intensity interval training which is sometimes suggested as likely benefitting growth hormone levels.  Though there is also a chance this type of exercise would preferentially oxidize glucose instead of fat and so might be a wash. (Episode 9 I discussed interval training). Regardless of the overall effect on growth hormone levels, exercise is always going to help spare your muscle in calorie deficit.

Sleep.  Getting good sleep is important because it helps raise growth hormone levels, plus when you are losing weight, you cannot eat when you are not awake.  For sleep I recommend using blue blockers like I discussed in episode 31. I have also had success with magnesium like I discussed in episode 45.

Finally the part I am most excited about, nutrient timing.  If you go back and listen to episode 47, you can see how excited I got about the potential for early time restricted feeding.  The way this works is basically by stopping eating by say 3-4 pm ish, you are eating more in tune with your circadian rhythm and because of that it becomes easier to sleep well, lowers insulin levels, increases insulin sensitivity, and probably helps sleep.  Now, I’m not going to say it is a cure-all but I will say it made me start rewriting a huge part of my book.

Finally there are other things you could potentially do, including dosing yourself with growth hormone or with ephedrine or with a whole bunch of other things, but I am not getting into those today, because they are potentially dangerous.  However, focusing on eating more protein, less carbs, exercising, and sleeping is a pretty safe set of changes. If you can also maybe try to stop eating a little bit earlier in the day. Thank you for tuning in and if you learned something then please share this episode with a friend.  

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