Peter Attia's nutritional framework can be used by anyone looking to lose weight, improve their health, and potentially improve longevity. Keep reading to learn about the principles that underpin Dr. Attia's approach to eating.
Who is Peter Attia?
Dr. Peter Attia received his M.D. from Stanford University School of Medicine and did his surgical residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. He spent two years as a surgical oncology fellow at the National Institutes of Health's National Cancer Institute before joining the consulting firm McKinsey & Company Corporate Risk Practice and Healthcare Practice team.
Dr. Attia is now a speaker, author, and thought leader on behavioral interventions, dietary techniques, and supplements and pharmaceuticals to extend healthspan (quality of life) and lifespan and boost metabolism.
Attia is the co-founder and Chief Medical Officer of Biograph, a longevity platform and clinic, and the fasting app Zero. He is also the author of Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity. He is also known for his podcast, The Drive, which focuses on the science of longevity.
Peter Attia's approach to longevity
Dr. Peter Attia advocates five specific tools for longevity:
- Nutritional biochemistry. This is everything you're eating in terms of the molecules you're consuming and when you're consuming them.
- Exercise physiology. This is divided into four categories: stability, strength, aerobic efficiency, and anaerobic performance.
- Sleep physiology. Attia thinks of this in terms of the duration, depth, continuity, and regularity of sleep.
- Distress tolerance. This is a question of how we manage stress and deal with hypercortisolemia or excess of cortisol, which is the hormone that plays the most destructive role when it comes to our stress responses. Meditation is one popular technique.
- Exogenous molecules. This includes any molecule you put into your body, including drugs, supplements, and hormones.
All five of these things impact longevity and can be controlled to improve a personal lifespan and health span (their quality of life).
What is the Peter Attia diet?
There is no single set of guidelines for a “Peter Attia
diet.” His primary focus is on incorporating the newest research in healthspan and longevity. In addition, Attia advocates using nutrition to support metabolic
health and finding the best plan that reduces the possibility of chronic
disease that a person can consistently abide by. This information is typically only available to his
podcast subscribers or on a semi-subscription basis
through his website.
The Peter Attia “diet” is best understood in the context of his “nutritional framework.” Attia argues all diets are comprised of one or more of these restrictions:
- Dietary restriction (DR) — what you eat
- Caloric restriction (CR) — how much you eat
- Time restriction (TR) — when you eat
Attia describes these three types of restrictions as parameters to abide by or “levers” to be pulled. Losing weight requires pulling one or more of these levers in various combinations. Patients who are not pulling any of the three levers (that is, not engaging in DR, CR, or TR) are considered to be on the standard American diet (SAD), which leads to weight gain and chronic disease. Ideally, patients will pull two levers at a time.
Dietary restriction involves removing certain foods from your diet and may include:
- Ketogenic diets
- Vegan diets
- Low-carb diets
- Low-fat diets
- Paleo diet
P. Attia pinpoints cutting out sugar, high fructose corn syrup and junk foods (pastries, cookies, potato chips). However, he does not restrict healthy starches and vegetables.
Instead of caloric restriction, Attia recommends fasting, though he does not like the term “intermittent fasting” per se. He typically recommends custom fasting, which benefits an individual by meeting their needs as they relate to regulating blood sugar and fueling activity.
Time-restricted eating/feeding (TRF/TRE) involves increasing the window from overnight to a longer period (such as a 12/12; 14/10; or 16/8 fasting period, in which the first number is the time you spend not eating). Eating a single meal daily is also a way of engaging in TRE.
What does Dr. Peter Attia eat
Peter Attia described his personal diet in a 2011 blog post, with the caveat that his diet is constantly evolving. At the time, Attia said he was in nutritional ketosis, and his diet is presented in the table below.
|1 gal (3.79 l)/day
An overview of Petter Attia meals
Dr. Peter Attia shares the best scientific information available and occasionally shares his own health regimen. However, he mentioned that he is hesitant to do so because they are tailored toward his needs and are not right for everyone. In 2014, he went as far as to say, “I can’t believe I’m about to do this… I just have this horrible feeling someone is going to attempt to replicate this, bite-for-bite, for no good reason. Please refrain. Remember, this is what I eat because of how my body works.”
For the specific way his body works, Attia shared ("because I know someone will ask") that he eats about 3,500 kcal per day. However, when traveling, he may eat as little as 2,000 kcal by eating dinner only, and some days he can consume as many as 5,000 kcal.
Nevertheless, he provided his most recent personalized menu:
For lunch, Attia typically eats a “huge salad” (in a bowl “larger than my head”) consisting of:
- Romaine lettuce
- Chicken breast or tuna
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp white vinegar
- 1 cup of almond slivers
He also mentioned eating seven hard-boiled eggs, an avocado, 2 oz (ca. 76 g) of cheese or two liters of the “Peter Kaufman” super starch shake with heavy cream, zero-sugar almond milk, a package of chocolate super starch, 2 tbsp of almond butter, an extra 20 g of Biosteel whey protein, and frozen strawberries.
On the occasion he has a snack, it is typically a cup of nuts (such as macadamia nuts) or an apple covered in nut butter.
For dinner, he shared several meals:
- A huge salad, substituting one pound of salmon for the meat and nuts, with a bowl of berries for dessert.
- An omelet made from six eggs, shredded cheddar, “other veggies,” a side of steamed broccoli in butter, and two spoons of almond butter for dessert.
- Two “heaping” plates of curry stir-fry with tofu, carrots, broccoli, bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, and squash, with a sauce made from curry paste and Greek yogurt.
- 8 oz (ca. 302 g) of steak or salmon with a large salad (without the meat or nuts).
- One or two seaweed salads, a “huge platter” of sashimi, a California roll, and another specialty roll.
What supplements does Dr. Peter Attia take for health?
Dr. Attia's supplement protocol changes frequently. However, he often mentions taking the following, which can depend on whether he's fasting at the time:
- Magnesium (400 mg per day) in the form of magnesium sulfate and magnesium oxide to preserve potassium, which aids in cellular function. In 2018, Attia added a low-release supplement called Slow-Mag in the morning.
- L-threonate, to help transport magnesium to the brain.
- Methylated B vitamin complex, which he takes to make up for a genetic mutation that interferes with his ability to process folic acid.
- Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil (30 ml each morning) to aid in the production of ketone bodies, a source of energy in times of fasting.
- Omega-3 fish oil (10 mL with dinner daily) to reduce inflammation and improve heart health.
- The amino acid glutamine and BCAA to build and preserve muscle.
- Vitamin D3 to help build muscle and improve bone density.
For sleep, Attia reports having used:
Magnesium L-threonate (2 capsules of Magtain), to promote drowsiness.
- Glycine (2 grams), to calm the central nervous system.
- Ashwagandha (600 mg), to reduce cortisol and improve sleep onset latency
- Phosphatidylserine (only for jet lag, and in the form Jarrow Formulas PS-100), an amino acid that may suppress cortisol.
Does Peter Attia recommend intermittent fasting?
Dr. Attia has stated that he engages in intermittent fasting and that it is preferable to caloric restriction in getting people away from the SAD diet.
In a 2020 podcast, Attia noted that the goal of fasting is to encourage the body to enter a process called autophagy, in which the body breaks down and eliminates dysfunctional cells. While we can't test for this state, we do know that autophagy is related to the number of ketones in the body.
The goal of keto diets and fasting is to induce autophagy for cellular repair. Researchers hypothesize that getting rid of cellular debris and the build-up of mutated cells can not only improve health but extend lifespan, since longevity is closely associated with the accumulation of damaged cells. However, the body needs about 16 hours of fasting before it can hit this point, making the 16/8 fast among the most popular for longevity proponent.
While Dr. Attia does engage in fasting, he has also spoken about are fast-mimicking diets, which include:
- Alternate day fasting, in which a person does something other than partake in regular eating every other day. A strict way of doing this would be to consume nothing every other day. However, more commonly, people do a hypocaloric day in which they eat a limited number of calories.
- 3-day fasts and 7-day fasts, in which a person limits themselves to reduced calories for a designated fasting period and consumes up to 700 calories on “fasting” days.
- Water fasting, which involves drinking only water or tea (and consuming minerals) but no calories for three to seven days.
It's important to note that Dr. Peter Attia's approach to health and longevity has changed frequently over the last decade with the appearance of new scientific evidence.
What foods does Peter Attia avoid?
Attia once mentioned that he was not eating: sugar, processed foods, or starch. He also stated that he only eats small amounts of fruit in the form of berries because they contain the least amount of fructose. However, a few years later, he did incorporate some starches, such as the occasional potato, into his diet.
What are Peter Attia's "four horsemen" of chronic disease?
Attia calls atherosclerotic diseases (such as cardiovascular disease and cerebrovascular disease), cancer, neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer's), and "foundational diseases" (such as fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes) the four horsemen of chronic disease.
What longevity supplements does Dr. Peter Attia take?
Dr. Attia believes more research is needed to explain how supplements that may aid in longevity actually work. The main molecules he speaks about include: NAD (and a precursor called NMN), Metformin and Rapamycin. Attia has also mentioned the potential for chemotherapeutic agents Dasatinib and Quercetin (in very low monthly doses) to eliminate senescent cells.
Peter Attia is a medical doctor who explains the research behind increasing lifespan and improving healthspan (or quality of life).
Dr. Attia shares his own regimen (which changes with new evidence) but typically does not make recommendations for people who are not his patients.
Attia believes in a multi-pronged approach to a longer, healthier life that includes principles of nutritional biochemistry, exercise physiology, sleep physiology, and distress tolerance.
Dr. Attia does not advocate a specific diet but rather a nutritional framework with three levers (dietary restriction, caloric restriction, and time restriction) in which at least one or two levers are pulled for optimal health.
- Pacific Standard. What makes you so smart, Peter Attia?
- Peter Attia, MD. Insulin Resistance.
- Peter Attia, MD. What I actually eat (circa Q4 2011).
- Peter Attia, MD. Lessons from centenarians: why prevention of chronic disease is critical.
- Peter Attia, MD. The 5 Tactics in the Longevity Toolkit.
- The Tim Ferriss Show. Dr. Peter Attia on Longevity Drugs, Alzheimer’s Disease, and the 3 Most Important Levers to Pull (#517).