Welcome to part 2 of this four-part presentation reflecting on the foundational assumptions of energy balance and stress optimization.
These shows are inspired by the great work of Jay Feldman and Mike Fave on the Energy Balance Podcast so please listen to part 1, to my interview with Jay Feldman, and to the Energy Balance Podcast. In this show, we put to bed once and for all our widespread misunderstanding of calories in-calories out in favor of the three-part truth of: caloric consumption, calories burned for energy, and calories stored.
I’ll cover a variety of interesting topics like the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, the great points and some of the flaws of Blue Zones research, a lifestyle-related longevity secret of the Okinawans called ikigai (a strong sense of life purpose) and moai (a strong small group of lifelong friends), how I aspire to race the 100 meters at age 100, and a possible fresh new perspective on how to eat for longevity.
Here is a compelling quote from Jay Feldman’s blog: “Considering that adaptations to stress and damage don’t improve our health, stress, and damage are cumulative and that the benefits of environmental stimuli are due to their specific effects rather than the stress they cause, hormesis would be best characterized as an extreme misrepresentation of the interaction between the organism and its environment.”
Fasting carb restriction, calorie restriction, and ketogenic eating all starve the cells of energy as does intense exercise. [01:08]
If you burn more calories during devoted exercise, your body is going to make an assortment of compensations to conserve energy. [05:06]
Eating less and exercising more is ineffective. Certain foods are very inappropriate for energy utilization. [09:45]
Industrial seed oils are pervasive in our kitchens, restaurants, and markets. [13:11]
Dr. Lustig contends that if you ditch processed foods and emphasize wholesome, nutritious foods, it is virtually impossible to get fat! [15:23]
You’re going to be prompted to overeat if you are not getting your protein needs met by nutrient-dense high protein foods. [20:21]
Calories do different things when they are consumed, but they aren’t necessarily burned. [21:22]
If you’re bad at burning energy, that’s when you start to get into the realm of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s dementia-related conditions, especially in the brain. [26:46]
Move more, get good sleep, and learn to manage stress appropriately. [30:32]
When you are over-exercising, you are probably achieving a temporary unsustainable stress hormone spike to release stored energy and perform, until you get too tired to do so. You can’t aspire to anything related to diet transformation or body transformation until you are truly healthy. [33:51]
Could this mean that a faster metabolism promotes longevity rather than what we’ve heard with the ancestral health and the progressive health movement that a slower metabolism, calorie restriction, and metabolic efficiency are the key promoters of longevity? [37:54]
In the Minnesota Starvation Study from the 1940s, calorie deprivation showed significant decreases in strength, stamina, body temperature, heart rate, and sex drive in the subjects. [42:54]
There is no justification for ever eating junk food, even if you are a high-calorie-burning athlete. [48:07]
Brad talks about the longevity studies from the Blue Zones around the world. He describes many of the Japanese lifestyle goals that are attributed to a long healthy life. [50:57]
In closing, Brad outlines the points he has been making about reducing the stress in your life, exercising appropriately, and avoiding unhealthy foods. [56:34]
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- Minnesota Starvation Experiment
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- “Gluttony and sloth are not the causes of obesity, they are the symptoms of obesity.” (Taubes)
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Welcome to part two of this multipart series energy balance reflections. Could more carbs, less hormesis, and a faster metabolism promote longevity and other important questions? In part one, I talked about the topic of hormesis, which is the idea that a brief appropriate stressor will deliver a net positive adaptive benefit, but pose the important question that it’s possible to overdo it on this health objective. Bringing up the example of how fasting carb restriction, calorie restriction, ketogenic eating starves the cells of energy as does intense exercise. And if you stack you start stacking these things like fasted workouts or low carb athletics, you can add on being in the higher age groups and you’re throwing in other lauded, hormetic stressors, like cold and hot therapy. Uh, it’s possible that we can overdo it on the stress side of the equations. And in fact, might wanna reconsider the definition of hormesis or the assumption that it’s healthy and the great quote from Jay Feldman Energy Balance podcast, adaptations to stress and damage a cause by things that are hormetic like a sprint workout or lifting weights and damaging muscle fibers in the process.
Don’t improve our health stress and damage are cumulative as well. In other words, um, maybe you overdid it a little bit, uh, on a certain workout, and then you times that by 27 and you’re in a worse shape rather than overdoing it once in a while and allowing the body to repair and recover. And that reminds me of the widespread problem that we’re seeing in long term, highly motivated, extreme endurance athletes, where they’re developing heart troubles at a significant rate. And that’s through the repeated inflammation and scarring of the delicate left ventricle of the heart causing atrial fibrillation. So if you go out there and elevate your heart rate into training zone and ride miles and miles on the bike, or run miles and miles on the trail for years and for decades pretty soon the heart, just like any other muscle it’s possible to overdo it and inflict serious damage on the electrical circuitry of the heart due to repeated inflammation and scarring of the heart, rather than letting the heart rest in between bouts of extreme exercise, which might, if done properly, contribute to building a stronger heart and actually help your health and longevity.
So it’s all a matter of balance and it’s possible that we’re overdoing it, especially in the, uh, progressive health space. The biohacker devoted athlete, devoted, uh, ancestral enthusiast, uh, to finish the quote adaptations to stress and damage don’t improve our health stress and damage are cumulative. And this is important. The benefits of environmental stimuli are due to their specific effects rather than the stress they cause. If we can assume those, then that means hormesis would best be characterized as an extreme misrepresentation of the interaction between the organism and the environment. And so I left off, just before jumping into the concept of diet and striving to reduce excess body fat through dietary intervention and lifestyle intervention. What we typically do here, the way that we pursue this goal typically is eat less and exercise more. And now that has been widely proven and widely acknowledged to be an absolutely disastrous approach doomed to failure.
And you can reference my shows with Dr. Herman Pontzer, author of the book Burn, evolutionary anthropologist expert on human caloric expenditure and his life’s work validating this idea that our daily calorie burning is largely constrained. It’s called the constrained model of energy expenditure, which suggests, to shortcut, if you didn’t listen to the show, suggests that if you burn more calories during devoted exercise, your body is going to make an assortment of compensations to conserve energy. And in the worst case, that means turning down critical hormonal metabolic functions. If you are over exercising, um, the quote from Pontzar and widely promoted by Chris Kelly, another podcast guest, with Nourish Balance Thrive. It goes quote, reproduction, repair growth, and locomotion are a zero sum game. So if you borrow extensively from one locomotion, meaning exercise, right, burning energy, doing activity. So if you are heavily locomotive in life, putting in a bunch of miles training for the upcoming marathon or triathlon or CrossFit program or whatever you’re doing, you are going to tone down those important factors of reproduction, repair, and growth, right?
Building muscles, lean muscle mass, and, and growing even the demands of exercise, compromising cognitive development, there’s research to show that boy, this can be a really serious deal if you over exert yourself. Um, so when you’re talking about losing excess body fat going out there and getting to the gym more frequently or whatever, the, however, the goal is conceived, um, is largely going to be, uh, missing the point. And then, uh, the other important element here is that eating less calories is also going to be ineffective in the long term. So let me clarify that anything you do in the short term as an intervention from your regular ho hum lifestyle patterns of being insufficiently active and consuming an excess of processed foods that are nutrient deficient, resulting in you carrying excess body fat, anything you do to alter that, uh, pattern is going to be immediately effective.
And so people will jump into the regimen, whatever it is, if it’s on the exercise side and or the diet side and drop weight quickly, typically gonna be a compilation of excess body fat, as well as lean muscle mass, as well as a reduction in water retention and inflammation from cleaning up their act in any way. So if you all of a sudden go vegan and you feel great, and you’re being congratulated because you look better and your pants fit better, that is that immediate response to an improvement from your baseline adverse lifestyle practices. And then if we look long term, that’s when we’re gonna see all these compensations come into place where things of that nature re reducing your, uh, daily caloric intake your body’s going to just really gracefully to a lower level of caloric intake by way of being less active and burning less fuel, such that if you ever bounce back into something that maybe is more sustainable than a strict diet or an extreme exercise program, it’s going to be impossible to sustain.
And this is what we see the most prominent example would be the participants in the biggest loser television show, where they lose massive amounts of weight in a very short time through starvation and extreme exercise. They get their check, they win their prize. And then the research on the long term consequences of being a participant on the biggest loser, it’s overwhelmingly seen that they gain back, uh, all of the weight and then some, and that the effects of that grueling short term binge of, of torture essentially on both ends on the exercise end and on the starvation end the effects are seen years and years later. So their metabolism is still screwed up years later as the body continues to, I guess, heal and bounce back, uh, and try to survive by, um, triggering appetite for excess caloric intake and also toning down the desire to live in active lifestyle.
So a brutal consequences for those people going for the limelight over the short term. So, understanding that now, hopefully as a regular listener, you’re gonna acknowledge that eating less and exercise more is ineffective on both ends. And so now we’re gonna kind of change the story and take a different perspective. Step back from the flawed calories in calories out model. Instead, we’re gonna have a third element to the, the process here of energy balance, energy utilization. And so we have calories consumed. We have calories that are burned for energy, and then we have calories that are stored. So instead of calories and calories out, I’d like you could like you to correct everyone from here on, in for the rest of your life. It’s actually calories consumed, calories burned and calories stored. And that middle piece, the calories burned for energy is where we get really tripped up.
And now the emerging research on leaky gut syndrome, chronic inflammation gut dysfunction of all kinds is revealing that many of us, especially those who are metabolically damaged, obese, tired, unhealthy, complaining of chronic intestinal problems have difficulty burning calories for energy, not only stored calories, but ingested calories, and it starts with the food choices. And so certain foods are very inappropriate for energy utilization tops on the list would be the refined industrial seed oils, which might seem like a niche category. But research cited by Dr. Cate Shannahan suggests that 40% of all calories from restaurant meals come from these refined oils because they are so calorie dense and all the meals are cooked in them, even at the finest restaurants. And I promise you, I know that from inside information. Dr. Andrew Wile another prominent health figure, sites research that 20% of all calories consumed in the, and the standard American diet come from soybean oil alone, just one of the numerous prominent industrial seed oils that are found in all manner of package process, frozen foods, as well as in the restaurant meals, of course, in the fast food.
And also, to the misinformed public, we are using these in the home tragically still for cooking, instead of choosing the more temperature, stable, saturated fats. And so that great switch that humanity made from butter and lard and the natural saturated animal fats over to the polyunsaturated manufactured margarines, and the like. Vegetable oils back in the sixties and seventies, has resulted in widespread death disease and dysfunction to this day. And we’re still trying to unwind it. It’s kind of tragic that is still hanging around with the overwhelming evidence that these refined industrial seed oils are toxic at the cellular level, extremely toxic to the body. Dr. Cate Shannahan, one of the world’s leading proponents or anti oil crusaders, and there’s some good content on our past shows on this very topic. But nevertheless, you can stroll into Whole Foods market, uh, purported to be the, the, the pillar of, of food quality and integrity and sustainability.
And they have vegetable oils, pervading the store, not just on the shelf, in a bottle straight up, but everything in their many things in their hot bar. And it’s just absolutely shocking. So, uh, the consumer is responsible to educate themselves and realize that that would be the number one thing to try to figure out or optimize this energy equation is to get rid of foods that have a lot of calories, but are not easily burned for energy. Cuz what happens when you eat calories that can’t be burned for energy that’s right. They get stored. And then they are difficult to release from storage and to be burned off, even if you go into the, uh, aggressive interventions like calorie restriction and extra exercise and, and so forth. So when we have someone who is extremely metabolically damaged, obese, carrying an extensive amount of excess body fat, especially visceral fat, the fat that collects in the midsection around the organs, which is particularly destructive to human health and hormone optimization.
What we’re looking at is by and large, a problem with burning energy, as opposed to, for example, consuming too many calories. So the great work of Gary Taubes explained this really well and his re his memorable quote, where he says gluttony and sloth are not the causes of obesity. They are the symptoms of obesity. So if you have this metabolic damage, and for example, from years and decades of consuming, refined industrial seed oils and being ineffective at burning stored body fat. What’s gonna happen is you’re gonna be really tired and you’re going to be ravenous for energy from likely, quick energy sources, like simple carbohydrates, because that’s the only way for your body to get up off the couch, literally. Glutton in sloth being the symptoms of obesity. So the problem can be zeroed in on, in that middle part, rather than obsessing with calorie burning or the amount of calories consumed.
And this goes to my recent podcast with Dr. Robert Lustig where he said that the whole issue here, forget about the nuances and all these extreme dietary patterns that have come to popularity and been debated aggressively by the different sides. He says, if you ditch processed foods and emphasize wholesome, nutritious foods, he contends that it’s virtually impossible to get fat. Now that’s a pretty major assertion, right? That you can go and have free license to consume all the natural nutritious foods that you want. You don’t have to engage in any of this nonsense of meal timing and portion control and, uh, calorie burning, checking the amounts on your smart watch. So you can make sure you burn more than you eat. But if you think about it and what natural nutritious wholesome foods do to your satiety hormones and your metabolic function, your ability to burn energy that you consume, because it came in the form of good nutrition.
You are going to be prompted to be increasingly active, burn, a sufficient number of calories, build and maintain lean muscle mass, which of course increases your daily caloric intake. So this huge assertion I’d like you to, uh, believe that it’s true. <laugh> For a moment coming from the impeccable resource of Dr. Robert Lustig you can’t get any better than that. And if he says so, with a lot of research behind it, boy, that’s a pretty powerful concept to think that’s as simple as getting out of your own way and ditching all manner of nutrient deficient processed foods. And that is your path to, uh, a lifelong weight control energy vitality. And think about it in practical terms for a moment. Like if you pull up my carnivore scores, food rankings chart that you can download for free at bradkearns.com, and looking at the food ranking.
So on the top, you have liver and oysters and salmon eggs, and then you have grass fed steak and you have pastured eggs. You have oily cold water fish, all the true nutrient superstars of planet earth. It’s pretty difficult to overeat to the extent of getting fat on liver, oysters, salmon eggs, grassfed steak, pasture, raised eggs, even fruit and the, the superstars in the plant category. Boy, compare that to the tendency to overdo it on Ben and Jerry’s or a second slice of cheesecake or a bag of potato chips and all those things. The Oreo cookies that come out, uh, during Halloween time, whatever it is. Boy, those turn on the dopamine pathways in the brain as Dr. Lessick detailed more in his show and many other experts, of course, and they, uh, promote, uh, increased consumption because not only do they taste good on the immediate level on the taste buds, that’s not the hugest deal, but they also, uh, trick your brain and the important hormonal processes involved in energy utilization.
They trick you to consume more because they are nutrient deficient. And this is a great insight covered really nicely in Dr. Ted Naiman and William Shewfelt’s book, the PE Ratio Diet, where Naiman contends with excellent research behind him. He’s a family physician in the Pacific Northwest. And he talks about how our deepest human biological drive is to consume sufficient protein to survive. If you have a low fat diet, guess what you’re gonna survive. If you have a low carbo, a no carb diet, you can survive. You’re not gonna thrive, right? But if you don’t get enough protein, very soon, you will be in deep. So you’ll feel weak, exhausted, emaciated. What’s gonna happen? Your gums are gonna recede. Your hair’s gonna fall out. You’re gonna have intense cravings for high protein foods, all these ways that we calibrate to at least that baseline survival level of protein intake.
And so we are gonna be highly wired to consume enough protein day in and day out. And we can average our protein intake by the way. So if we’re getting enough protein over a week’s time, we’re gonna be just fine. So if you fast every Sunday for religious or health reasons, that’s fine. As long as you hit those numbers and the numbers are bouncing around all over, but it’s coming close to a gram per pound of lean body. Mass is one that’s widely, touted. And that’s a little higher than we’ve, advocated for years and decades prior. So, uh, getting enough protein is so important that your brain will prompt you to continue to consume whatever calories are in front of you until your protein needs get met. What does that mean? If you are pounding some Ben and Jerry’s or a bag of potato chips, which come in at whatever 5% of the calories come from protein.
And so you’re going to be prompted to overeat if you are not getting your protein needs met by nutrient dense high protein foods. That is another reason why a diet high in protein is really effective for fat reduction, because you will have that high satiety factor that protein provides, you will get your daily survival needs met. And over the short term, you can engage in a focused strategy to drop excess bounty fat by cutting back on the fat and the carbs either. Or of course, which what the strategies are promoting when you’re going, let’s say on a vegan plant base where the fat intake is really low and same with you’re going keto or low carb or another strategy where the carbon intake is really low. But you’re getting your protein needs met. Okay. So that was kind of a, a jump forward, but I wanna go back a little bit to the important energy balance story of calories consumed calories, burn for energy, and then calories stored.
Okay. So the other problem comes with, the first problem is forgetting the, uh, the intermediate step there is that, um, the calories you eat are they being burned for energy efficiently, or not. And then you go to, are you storing calories or, or not? Okay. So we got that one handled realizing that we need to choose foods that are easily burned for energy. But that first one calories consumed is also highly problematic because calories do different things when they’re consumed, they’re not necessarily burned, and it’s very difficult to measure this. So we have applied this arbitrary scientific calculation to define a calorie. Do you know what a calorie is defined as it’s how much energy is required to heat water, one degree Celsius. Trip out on that? What does that have to do with my, my six pack <laugh>, but that is in fact, what a calorie, a calorie is actually a kilo calorie.
And so calorie is a nickname for what’s truly in, in scientific realm, termed a kilo calorie. And a kilo calorie is a unit of energy that achieves, uh, heating water, one degree Celsius. So for humans, um, all of a sudden we’re turning around and saying, uh, this is how many calories you need every day. This is your basal metabolic rate. And we did the best we could. And we’ve advanced centuries, decades and centuries in science to the point today where it’s like, you know what, it’s probably not that relevant. I’ve heard some research that the actual calories written on the food product could be inaccurate. Secondly, when we assume that calorie is gonna be burned for energy, we might be wrong about that, because assorted things might happen to that, uh, that, that calorie, when it’s ingested and not necessarily burned.
Here’s another great example to illuminate this. If, if I’m losing you a little bit, what about alcohol? Alcohol has a caloric value. It actually is seven calories per gram. It’s, more than protein and carbs and a little bit less than fat, but alcohol, as we know is a poison. And so you are burning the alcohol, you consume immediately, right? To get that poison out of your bloodstream. That’s why you get a little buzz is because you’re getting poisoned immediately and you are obligated to burn that alcohol immediately, as a preference to all other forms of caloric energy. So, when you’re talking about a hundred calorie shot of tequila or whatever, gosh, I’m sorry. I don’t know. my alcohol calories. What do you look on the back of the beer bottle? It’s 120 calories or something. Right? Okay. So, uh, that’s not really what we had in mind when we’re using this term calorie to convey how much energy we’re burning every day through our three mile walk and our workout at the gym that lasted 45 minutes.
And what have you. So alcohol is a source of caloric energy, uh, but it’s just the energy is burning out, uh, toxins outta the bloodstream. Um, same with refined high polyunsaturated industrial seed oils. They have a caloric value, but if they’re not getting burned, it’s difficult to put that into the equation. Same with protein. We know that ingested protein is not burned very well, except for in extreme starvation cases. Ingested protein is not burned for energy to power you through your spinning workout at the gym. So it comes with a value of four calories per gram, but that protein is allocated for basic metabolic hormonal and life survival functions. The building blocks for, uh, cellular material in the body. So many people are arguing that protein shouldn’t even be counted. If we’re talking about a calorie calculation, and so I’m going through this because I want us to just transcend once and for all this notion of calories and calories out. Other interesting attribute about protein is it has a really high thermic effect.
That means that calories are required in order to process the protein. And the thermic effect of protein is around 25%. So if you can imagine eating four eggs, the caloric energy in one of those eggs, the protein energy there’s, uh, of course, fat in the yolk as well. But the protein energy in four eggs, one of those eggs, the protein is going toward digesting the other three eggs, protein content. So that’s the thermic effect of food. So, if you eat more protein, you’re talking about spending more energy digesting it and carbs in fat. Also have the thermic effect much lower around 5%, just for your reference. So summarizing this thread attempting to, we have to embrace the idea that the actual problem, when we’re looking at the over fat tired, sick, accelerated aging, inflamed oxidized, modern human is first poor choices for energy intake, the seed oils, the alcohol, of course, if that’s contributing to your daily caloric intake, which in many cases, it’s giving a nice, uh, chunk there just in alcohol calories, which are useless, right?
So we have poor choices. Then we have poor energy burning happening. A lot of people convey this as mitochondrial health or mitochondrial dysfunction. If we’re bad at burning energy in the cell, the mitochondria are the energy producing powerhouses located inside of most cells in the body. So they’re responsible for processing the caloric energy that comes their way and turning it into energy for the cell in the form of ATP. It’s so important this concept of how well your mitochondria function and how many that you have. It’s so important that many experts are now contending that mitochondrial health represents the root cause of all disease, mitochondrial dysfunction. So if you’re bad at burning energy, that’s when you start to get into the realm of cancer, heart disease, uh, diabetes, Alzheimer’s dementia related conditions, especially in the brain. The brain neurons are so sensitive to being efficient at burning energy, so much so that Alzheimer’s dementia conditions are now being nicknamed type three diabetes.
And this is a literally accurate nickname because the cognitive decline conditions are characterized are marked by dysfunctional glucose metabolism in the brain. So we have poor food choices. We have difficulty burning energy with mitochondrial dysfunction. And then of course, we have the problem of excess energy storage. And unfortunately we are fixated on that, on the spare tire rather than looking at those intermediate steps and understanding the whole picture. So again, gluttony and sloth are not causes of obesity. They’re symptoms. So here is the life-changing directive. If you’re interested in reducing excess body fat, avoiding disease, living along healthy, happy life. And that is to first get healthy before you even talk about dropping excess body fat or peak performance goals or pursuing longevity. And probably the most important way to get healthy or the most immediate and effective intervention would be to ditch the nutrient deficient processed foods.
We talk about these in the books a lot as the big three, and that is the refined industrial seed oils and refined grains and sugars that provide caloric energy, no doubt, but have that nutrient deficiency that can contribute to gut dysfunction, which I mentioned earlier is the starting point for developing or experiencing difficulty, converting food into energy, right? So we need to have that gut function, optimal by eliminating these processed foods. Uh, Dr. Lustig talked about this in his show where he says every food you eat has to either feed the gut and, or protect the liver. And you can get much more, in depth about that with the discussion I had with him. But we’re talking about feed the gut. We’re getting that beneficial bacteria to flourish and predominate over the so-called bad bacteria, the pathogens, the microbes that cause things like of course, acute illness, but also the chronic inflammatory and autoimmune conditions, which are a sure sign of dysfunctional metabolism, leaky gut and difficulty processing energy.
The most prominent sign is the inflammation in the midsection, the visceral fat accumulation. Okay. So we clean up the diet and of course in tandem also have to address the other areas of modern life that we need to make corrective action on. Moving more, would be high up on that list, because stillness is causing all kinds of dysfunction, including chronic inflammation. We wanna optimize our sleep, balance that stress and rest, implement effective tools to manage stress appropriately and especially paying attention to, the part, one of this presentation where the most health enthused among us could be overdoing it on those so-called beneficial hormetic stressors to the extent that they become counterproductive, especially when they’re layered on top of a stressful day at work. Right? So imagine like, uh, having it out with the coworkers, having a rough day, uh, having to navigate traffic jam on the way home, and then you’re gonna go jump into the cold tub to stimulate a fight or flight response with the idea that it’s beneficial.
But in fact, it’s counting along with all the other fight or flight happenings that you did, before the cold tub. Okay. So if you have, uh, too much overall stress, chronically elevated cortisol levels, that is the prominent fight or flight hormone. What you’re gonna do is you’re gonna compromise digestive function, immune function, sex hormone status, and you’re gonna mess with your appetite hormones, prompting you to overeat on quick energy fuel. Um, this is the campfire analogy that I like to make, where if you’re running on fumes all day in your hectic high stress, high energy life, whether you love it or not, even if you love, you know, going on the excitement of your journey with your mobile device and driving around town and making calls and making deals and kicking butt, it’s still a chronic overproduction of the prominent stress hormone cortisol.
That’s gonna mess with all manner of, uh, healthy human function, especially metabolic function. So, also in this category where you can mess up is to be too sedentary and inflamed due to not moving and consuming a bunch of junk food. So the junk food freaks better listen up, but we also have some other freaks to talk to. And that would be the CrossFit freaks, the triathlon ultra endurance crowd freaks and stress heads of all kinds. And so we put all those into the same category, oh, also leaky gut sufferers. So people who are really doing their best to, meditate in the morning before they head off to yoga class, then they have their, uh, green smoothie and get home and write in their gratitude journal and have this blissful, apparently low stress life. But if you’ve been pounding all that raw produce and consuming a massive amount of plant toxins in a concentrated manner as with your green smoothie and developing leaky gut, you are also going to prompt chronic inflammation, chronic overproduction of stress hormones.
You’re gonna be in the same elevator ride as the CrossFit freak and the endurance freaks and everybody else. Okay. So, um, that is all to say that you can’t do anything. You can’t aspire to anything related to diet transformation or body transformation until you are truly healthy. As I mentioned before, with the biggest loser example. Yes, indeed, you can get short term success from any sort of high stress diet or lifestyle intervention. So go exercise your butt off for six weeks with your personal trainer, starve yourself, go into whatever realm you want. You’re gonna go keto, and you’re going to, uh, double up on your gym membership and it’s going to work for a while through the wonderful and powerful mechanisms of the stress hormones releasing stored energy and burning it for fuel. But don’t forget about the compensatory mechanisms I talked about with Dr.
Pontzer’s work and all the proven results from biggest loser and the rebound effect of extreme health practices. And these people will all be getting on the same elevator labeled burnout and riding down to the bottom floor and into the basement. So keep that in mind. This was the awakening that I had from the very beginning that prompted this multipart presentation is that stress hormones drive fat reduction, fasting triggers stress hormones, extreme exercise triggers stress hormones, not only fat reduction, but also a loss of lean muscle mass. And dare I say, this is what’s happening with most, if not all prominent diets and most, if not all, extreme exercise programs. So what we’re doing here is achieving a temporary unsustainable stress hormone spike to release stored energy and perform, magnificent feats until we get too tired to do so.
And I can reference my triathlon career where I experience these highs and lows profoundly, where I would go for, I can remember on numerous occasions going for six weeks straight with the most unbelievably impressive, uh, training regimen where I was never tired. I was never sore. I woke up every day. I felt stronger and stronger and stronger, riding my bike further and further into bigger and bigger mountains and, uh, doing incredible running workouts on the track and faster and faster times and getting faster in the pool, going to a race, having a great performance, picking up the wind, going home, getting right back into training. And this was all performed on a stress hormone high because I was prompting additional stress, hormone production, additional fight, or flight mechanisms, each passing day, as I push myself harder and harder without building in obligatory time for rest and recuperation, even though I was feeling great throughout.
But guess what happens at around the six week mark is, might as well have ridden my bicycle off the edge of a cliff into the ocean because I just crashed and burned with incredible suddenness to where one day I’m floating over high mountain passes without even thinking about it. And then the next day it’s a real chore to get up by 10:30 AM and walk a block to go get the newspaper and plop down on the couch for a recovery period that lasted for in many cases, weeks on end, um, especially at the end of the season. And you can probably all reference those times when you jet off to vacation laying on the beach and you’re exhausted for the first four days or the entire vacation, because all that excitement and all that stimulus that is prompted that chronic overproduction of stress hormones is finally subsided and you’re allowed to bottom out.
So that is painting a picture of the extreme examples of overly stressful lifestyle patterns, overly stressful diets. But this is where it starts to get interesting, and we can all pay attention as we plug along probably somewhere in middle ground there. And so we’re trying to figure out how to optimize diet and work out patterns. We don’t have major complaints. We’re not hospitalized with extreme adrenal fatigue or one of the biggest loser contestants, getting interviewed six years later and reporting how they’ve gained all their weight back. So, uh, if we’re trying to engage in a bit of strategic fasting, carb restriction, any manner of dietary restriction, and training optimization where we’re escalating the degree of difficulty of our workouts, or, uh, jumping into a new training program in the interest of, uh, getting fitter and perhaps improving our physique.
It begs the question, whether any of these stress hormone producing techniques are doing us any favor, are they effective long term? And as I talked about a lot in the first show, this one is really hitting home to me because I’ve been in aggressive pursuit of peak performance, dietary optimization, aging gracefully, and perhaps at times, not perhaps, for sure at times have piled on too many hormetic stressors. So when Jay Feldman uttered that throwaway quip fasting turns on stress hormones, I’ve been thinking about it nonstop since I heard it over a month ago, and it possibly applies not only to the fittest among us. So there’s the six pack crowd that are entirely focused on peak performance recovery. Anti-aging strategies, not worried about reducing excess body fat, but then the other camp of people who are carrying around excess weight and thinking, okay, I just need to eat less and exercise more.
This, this I, this idea of managing stress appropriately and staying away from the hormetic strategies that have been touted is so effective, like low carb, keto, intermittent, fasting time, restricted feeding, bumping up the exercise, all that stuff. It’s probably relevant to everyone. So if you’re a super duper athlete looking to optimize, or you’ve been struggling with excess body fat, I think we all need to listen up and ask ourselves these important questions. This is also supported by Dr. Tommy Woods’s great shows and his counsel that he gives to his active clients to eat as much nutritious food as you can, until you gain a pound of body fat. And then you can dial it back knowing that you are well fueled. So if we are able to proceed on a path toward health and peak performance, energy optimization by cleaning up our act, doing the aforementioned, cleaning up our diet, then we can propose that the more active and energetic and productive we are, and the happiness that we generate from being more active and energetic and productive, it would follow that we can build and maintain more lean muscle mass and therefore assimilate more nutritious food and therefore live a longer and healthier life than in comparison to beating ourselves up with some accumulation of inappropriate hormetic stressors.
Could this mean that a faster metabolism promotes longevity rather than what we’ve heard with the ancestral health and the progressive health movement that a slower metabolism, calorie restriction, metabolic efficiency are the key promoters of longevity. So there’s a little bit of a reflection necessary here. The energy balance guys, uh, cite some flaws in the studies that we’ve often leaned on to contend that caloric restriction is the number one promoter of longevity in laboratory animals. Um, unfortunately in a lot of the research, the rats are eating a terrible laboratory diet of basically junk food. And so when you have a control group of rats allowed to eat as much as they want, and then you have the calorie restriction group and the calorie restriction group lives a lot longer than the rats that are eating ad libitum. That means as much as they want.
We have basically a flawed study and on some of the Energy Balance shows, they bring up other examples of flawed science being applied to the human, to say the fewer calories that eat that you eat, uh, the more efficient you get with your caloric intake, the longer you’re gonna live, we do have on the human side, uh, obviously you can’t study humans very well with caloric restriction because it’s, you know, starvation is not something that a lot of people are willing to participate in it’s against the rules, right? But we do have the Minnesota starvation experiment. You can, Google that and read all about it. It happened, uh, during the war times from 1944, 1945 timeframe, and what it was was conscientious objectors wanting to do their duty perform their service and do something meaningful.
But they were not going to war. They refused. So what they did was they, uh, signed up for this incredible experiment where they were gonna go into a year long captivity. They were gonna be confined in the, uh, in the dormitories at the University of Minnesota and undergo an extremely regimented and restricted diet in phases. The first phase was they could eat normally, and then they went into a deep they called it the semi starvation phase where their caloric expenditure was slashed. And then they had, kind of spun out of that at the end with, being allowed, even to overeat as the researchers were tracking everything. And here’s a quote, and this is coming from an article on Jay Feldman website. So, this is about the Minnesota Starvation Experiment back in the forties, during the semi starvation phase, the changes were dramatic beyond the gaunt appearance of the men.
There were significant decreases in their strength and stamina, body temperature, heart rate, and sex drive. The psychological effects were significant as well. Hunger made the men obsessed with food. They would dream and fantasize about food, read and talk about food and savor the two meals a day that they were given. They reported fatigue, irritability, depression, and apathy. So, if you’re thinking about a long term calorie restriction to get the body that you dream of realize that you’re going to turn down a bunch of those dials, as previously mentioned, reproduction repair growth and locomotion are a zero sum game. The most dramatic example, this are female endurance athletes, the super lean, you could say CrossFit, endurance athletes, a lot of females lose their menstruation, amenorrhea, it’s called. When they get super lean and are training really hard, hard enough to get that lean.
They just essentially turn off their reproductive fitness because their devotion to exercise is so extreme. So the body’s trying to make adjustments. And in the case of the starving, Minnesota conscientious objectors, the dials that were turning down affected their personality, their mere essence as humans was all toned down because they weren’t getting enough food. So I think that pretty much slams a door on this ideal that we are gonna climb out of this hole that we’re in. If we’re carrying excess body fat, frustrated about our appearance physical condition, it’s not gonna happen by willpower and denying yourself food, especially when you are overriding hunger signals, which are so reliable to check in on. So I, I think, by now everyone’s nodding their head, of course, Brad, of course, of course, but look how pervasive this still is an in everyday life and the cultural messaging and the advertising that we’re subjected to make us feel like we’re, uh, inferior and undisciplined until we can buck up and sign up for the extreme exercise program or order up the prepared meals and the regimented diets that are gonna keep our calories down in the name of weight loss.
So anytime you think of that, or that idea comes into your head, realize that these practices are going to ramp up stress hormones. And if continued for too long, you’re gonna join the <laugh>, the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, complaints, fatigue, irritability, depression, apathy, low strength in stamina, low body temperature, low heart rate, low sex drive. Ah, it seems obvious to say, screw all this ridiculousness, but again, this stuff is still prominent front and center in the diet health and fitness industries. Think about Michael Paul, the mega bestselling author, uh, who is now into psychedelics and, and, and research in that area. But he started out, uh, promoting real food and his epic quote that has been repeated and memorialized where he said the, the secret to, healthy eating is so simple. He said, quote, eat food, mostly plants, not too much could the entire thing be second guessed, I guess so.
At this point, mostly plants, especially, go listen to my three shows with Dr. Paul Saladino on my summary show, if you want to engage at that level. And then the last part, not too much, boy. What if we even second guess that and went instead with Dr. Tommy Wood’s recommendation to eat as much nutritious food makes that distinction, please would I have no free path to eat junk food ever? Just certainly there’s no justification for it ever, even if you’re a high calorie burning athlete, but to eat as much nutritious food is possible. Wow. What a concept now, just for a caveat, if we’re talking to a, the population of obese inactive folks with a lot of blood disease, risk factors, eating less food in general is going to be a win out of the gate.
And perhaps they need some additional stress hormone production because they’re not really stressing their body in any measurable way. And so the stress hormones that are prompted through fasting, calorie restriction, going keto, whatever program they’re doing, as opposed to just the baseline that’s unhealthy, could be a win, but then we wanna refine to something that’s, more sophisticated with more long term success predicted. And so for those of us who have a baseline level of health, and we’re trying to, <laugh>, we’re trying to go all Michael Pollen plant based, uh, woke as being good to the planet. And I’m sorry, I’m getting a few digs in now because, um, the, the somehow appropriation of plant-based eating with a more, uh, evolved and conscientious human, uh, really bugs me because it’s just been, uh, manufactured out of beautiful, marketing, and manipulation of, uh, a science and, uh, making these, uh, a flawed logic and flawed, critical thinking assumptions.
And so that’s a whole nother aside. Um, it’s important to punch back at times when we have books that reach number one on the best seller list, like the China Study, which was an exercise in flawed logic and out of context, insights, same with the blue zones, which I have so many fond feelings for and, uh, and praise. And, uh, I, I attribute it frequently but they have taken some insights outta context and ran with them. And other people have ran with them, not just the author, Dan Beutner, but it’s been a little bit, uh, destructive and disturbing to see, uh, one of ’em is that, um, the Blue Zones, the folks who live in these, is it seven zones across the planet where they’ve identified pockets of longevity and, and health, they eat largely plant based, comes the report back.
And I say to that, so what, because they do so many other things well that maybe they’re thriving, despite whatever, level of a plant intake that they have, and in every case, I believe, or almost every case, uh, they also eat a lot of good, sustainably raised animal foods. And so, uh, we’re, we’re, we’re taking things and running with it without looking deeper. Another, interesting criticism that’s come up recently with the whole blue zones movement is that these, uh, lauded folks across the globe, uh, this would be Okinawa, Costa Rica, Sardnia, Loma Linda, California, where the Seventh Day Adventist aggregate and, um, maybe one or two others. Um, they also happen to have high rates of pension and birth certificate fraud in some of these pockets of longevity, such that the 107 year old, who the researchers are fawning over might not be 107, right.
Just a little aside there, not to take anything away from the good, the good insights that we can take away, especially how, uh, these wonderful lifestyles that they have and how, um, this contributes to longevity, uh, over and above their dietary choices. They have that psychological pleasure of eating and celebrating meals, um, in Okinawa, which is probably the number one longevity pocket that’s been, uh, validated and widely researched. And that’s an island chain in Southern Japan. Um, the main island is OK, Okinawa, but Okinawa area is also including a bunch of little islands. And they tout these attributes, cultural attributes in addition to some excellent foods in the diet. The cultural attributes are among them. Ikigai, Moe, and Hara hachi bun me. And I attribute these a lot in the books because they are so important to consider along with <laugh>.
what’s in your shopping basket. Ikigai is the, they define it as your life purpose, and it’s the attempt to pursue your passions in life and, and take great meaning in your existence and the work that you do. And it’s identified as a profound driver of longevity, in fact, Deepak Chopra in his great book, Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, sites research from centenarians in different areas across the globe. And one really common attribute that they had was a youthful spirit. And that youthful spirit is cultivated by still feeling like you make a difference. You have a purpose, and you’re not just sitting on a rocking chair, watching the world go by having used up your useful life, after you retired from the workplace or whatever. And those flawed notions that we often harbor in Western society. So the second one that was Ikigai, a life purpose. The next one is Moe.
And this refers to a group of lifelong friends, that bond when they are very young and they connect and they stay connected for the rest of their life, and they mutually support each other in so many ways. These Moe in, in Okinawa, especially where it’s very strong, they meet up regularly, sometimes daily, sometimes a couple days a week. And here’s the quote from the study. They like to gossip experience life, share advice, sometimes share financial assistance. And these groups are the Moe that started when they were little kids paired together and some MOIs have lasted for over 90 years. Um, so we have Ikigai, we have Moe, and then the concept of Hara hachi bun me is this dietary philosophy that you should finish eating when you are 80% full, rather than a hundred percent full. And so this helps to deepen the appreciation for meals and to not overeat.
And it also recognizes that those satiety signals take approximately 10 to 20 minutes for the stomach. And those satiety hormones like CCK and ghrelin to subside. It takes about 20 minutes to get that message to your brain. And so the Japanese have this high awareness of sitting down and consuming meals to the extent that they’re 80% full knowing they’ll get more food later and not needing to stuff their face. Okay. the activity is profound in that society. It’s not crazy extreme exercise, but quote from the study, almost all Okinawans are active walkers and gardeners. Gardening is a daily physical activity that encourages a wide range of mobility. Okinawans are also more apt to walk, ride their bikes and participate in martial arts, of course, than the control groups in, uh, populations elsewhere. Their homes, interestingly have very limited furniture. They eat their meals sitting on mats on the floor.
So getting up and down from the ground is a great way to increase flexibility and strength. They also get a lot of sun because it’s a tropical area. And so they have good vitamin D levels. And there you go. So just to wrap up this show and kind of compare and contrast these ideals of caloric minimization, caloric restriction in the name of longevity or obtaining an impressive physique, can be tossed out the window once. And for all same with the ideal of eating a peasant diet because some peasants across the globe happen to live to a hundred, a lot.
I’m gonna put in a vote here for peak performance, energy vitality, pursuing peak performance with passion throughout life. As my tagline says on my website, if someone guaranteed that I would live to 120, hunched over shuffling through my garden, because I only eat a, a small portion of a rice and a little fish every day, um, or I could trade that for, um, trying to challenge Lester Wright’s record that he set recently in the a hundred meters on his, a hundred year birthday.
The next day, he ran in the pen relays in front of 38,000 people and ran 26 seconds for a hundred meters. So this guy was participating in a track meet when he was 100 years old and still running down the track at a respectable pace. So I’d prefer to get the most out of my body and be healthy and vital and energetic and strong. And the apparently optimal path to that is to minimize these stress factors that include fasting, carb restriction, calorie restriction, overdoing it with temperature therapy, and overdoing it with exercise. So as we get to the forthcoming third part of this multi-part presentation, we are gonna learn how to optimize health through maximizing the nutrient density of your diet. And that might even mean, um, changing some of these parameters that we’ve locked into place as centerpiece as beacons of the ancestral and the progressive health movement, like time restricted, feeding, calorie restriction, keto, low carb, and so forth.
Whew, I know it’s pretty heavy. I’m trying to maintain an open mind and, you know, find the common ground from, especially the things that I’ve recommended, writing in books and doing podcasts for many years here. But I think we’re gonna figure this all out and I appreciate you going on the journey with me and certainly appreciate your feedback to email@example.com as we work our way through this multipart series. Thanks for listening. And please share, share, share, you know, you can just push one button and send a text message to a friend and say, what do you think of this wacky guy? Can you believe what he’s saying now? I do that all the time with my group of devoted health enthusiasts, and I love processing the feedback and getting the dialogue going, uh, amongst numerous people. It also helps me tremendously to process my own thoughts, vet the information carefully, keep and balance, keep things in perspective, listening to counter arguments, whether I agree or not, it helps refine your own position and helps you, to stay in the, critical thinking, um, open-minded, uh, position rather than getting into those fixed and rigid beliefs, which are so, easily so easily to succumb to that, especially in the area of health, fitness and, uh, lifestyle optimization these days.
All right, thanks a lot. And push the button, share with someone else. I welcome them to the crowd.
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