Last month I didn’t eat for three days. I did this to demonstrate how badass we humans really are. I wasn’t bent over in debilitating hunger or in hyper-sleep with Lieutenant Ellen Ripley (corny movie reference). I was winning at life and felt pretty darn good. I cared for my newborn, went to work, studied and continued my strength training program per usual…all my normal activities. My girlfriend said “You seem like you’ve been in a really good mood.” I asked her opinion of me specifically for this article.
I’m not unique in my ability to fast, nor do I possess excessive will power. What I do have is an understanding of the human metabolism. It’s actually very simple. I’ll share the main tricks with you here.
Humans are the most hard core species this planet has ever known. Paleolithic man survived cataclysmic extinctions and murdered Wholly Mammoths. We are the Shiznit! You wouldn’t guess that by looking at your average American. Most of us are pretty out of shape, unmotivated, farty…basically weak bitches.
Compare the next 5 guys you see to a Viking…Yeah, same exact species. What the fuck happened there?
It’s not modern man’s fault. It’s not a lack of motivation or will power. The answer isn’t 6 meals a day or some complicated workout plan. You don’t need any pills, potions or powders. You think hunter gather tribes used pre-workout? You think Spartans drank post battle protein shakes? Fuck no! You already have everything you need inside your DNA…with a little help from the food Mother Earth provides. Think about it…it worked that way for 100,000 years.
The problem? Your fuel source has been completely hijacked by the American Food Industry. Would you put regular unleaded in a Ferrari? It might actually drive but it sure as hell wouldn’t do what it was designed for. Eventually it would break down. Well, why the hell are you putting anything less than premium into your fuel tank? Probably because it’s on every corner, in every grocery store and you didn’t know better…until now.
I’m going to teach you to unlock your Viking badass-ness. This is not a motivational piece. This is an informative article on the fundamentals of what fuels you. As I said above its actually very simple. There are only two options.
Today is my 31st birthday. I’m stronger, faster and leaner than I’ve ever been. I know because I track this stuff like a nerd. I’d outperform my 21 year old self in every way. I only exercise 3 times a week and don’t have a complicated meal plan to manage. I eat basically what I want, as much as I want, when I want. I have a shit ton of energy every day, the libido of a jack rabbit and enough focus to write articles like this for you lovely people. My biology is almost effortlessly on point and I can feel it in my competitive drive and when I hold my baby. As far as I can tell, this is the way the Human animal was designed to operate. If you want the perks, I want to help, so let’s get into it.
You are a Hybrid
A Toyota Prius can use gasoline or electricity and you can use sugar or fat. When driving a Prius, gasoline is great for accelerating up a steep road and electricity is best for basically everything else. It’s quieter, more efficient, inexpensive and clean. Same goes for us. Sugar is excellent for sprinting up a mountain and fat is best for everything else. The problem is, we are not taking advantage of our hybrid metabolism. Would you purchase a Prius and only use the gasoline engine?
The Human Energy Crisis
If you’re like 99% of Americans you fuel your daily activities with mostlyglucose. In the interest of brevity, I’ll use the term “glucose” when referring to any sugar, carbohydrate, glycogen and protein; simply because they’re all converted to glucose within the body. Glucose is excellent for instant energy. Powerlifting, sprinting and fighting of a pack of wolves are the types of activities that require glucose. We only really need it for all-out effort, but we use it for everything we do. There are huge disadvantages in this and I’ll explain why…
The average human can only store about 1,500 calories of glucose in the body. This will last a few hours. Once those calories are depleted the individual must restore them by eating more glucose. The more active the individual, the faster these calories are depleted.
The Glucose Rollercoaster – anti-flow state
Eating glucose raises our blood sugar and we feel energized…“Yeah let’s do this, I love my job!” Elevated blood sugar triggers the release of insulin into our blood which reduces our blood sugar and causes fatigue…“My job sucks and so do you, I’m starving!” To regain energy we eat additional glucose…“Fuck-Ya!” which releases insulin, reduces blood sugar and causes low energy and hunger…“Fuck this!”…
This cycle repeats throughout the day until we go to sleep. This is what I call the glucose roller coaster. Severe ups and downs in energy levels block our daily creativity and productivity. It’s like driving a big rig with a go-cart fuel tank. As soon as you get on the highway, get up to speed and start making good time you have to exit and refuel.
This sucks for entering your mental flow state, aka “The Zone”. This is where musicians compose, where engineers design, where the sales team closes deals and where Bo Jackson scores. It requires mental energy and clarity to enter flow state and when your ass gets there you want to stay there. It takes me a good hour before I can even begin to write anything worth reading and I’ll be damned if I let low energy and hunger interrupt that.
As mentioned above, elevated blood glucose stimulates insulin secretion. Insulin turns food into fat and stores it in your tissues. We can see this first hand in Americas obesity epidemic. If you’re riding the glucose rollercoaster daily, chances are you have high blood glucose and high levels of insulin.
Elevated blood glucose causes inflammation. Inflammation is linked to pretty much every shitty disease known to man. It gives me headaches, brain fog, joint pain and swollen feet. I lost a half a shoe size after clearing my inflammation. Just give “inflammation” a google, I dare you. Chances are, you are inflamed right now.
Exercising on Glucose
Joe Blow wants big muscles and a six pack. Joe must eat a bunch of glucose and take a pre-workout for energy, before going to the gym. Joe’s workouts quickly deplete his glucose stores and cause him to be seriously hungry, so he eats a lot of food and takes a post workout protein shake. Eating a lot of food isn’t working for Joes six pack. Joe decides to work out more, which increases Joes hunger…which murders his sick pack…and so on. The end result? Joe must work out twice a day and eat 6 meals to manage his fitness goals…Joes life now largely revolves around eating and working out.
I understand there are some Joe Blows out there that enjoy working out constantly and eating all day long. What if suddenly, Joe no longer had an intense appetite? Would he really love eating all day long or would it seem like a waste of time and money? What if one day Joe realized he could maintain his sexy arms and six pack with 2 workouts a week rather than two workouts a day? Would Joe find a more rewarding way to spend his newly liberated free time, say, with family, learning something new or building a business?
Running on Premium – Ketones
Here’s where things get interesting. Here’s the alternative to the Glucose Roller coaster. If you’re like me, my baby, or the early humans who murdered wholly mammoths, your primary fuel source is fat. Ketones to be exact. A ketone is a molecule our body makes from fat we eat, or stored fat in our body. These molecules are essentially the foundation of “Fat Burning Mode”, aka Ketosis. It’s a metabolic state.
Yes, my baby is in ketosis. All breastfed babies are, and they grow and learn faster than anything on the planet. This fact alone was enough to catch my attention. Babies are humanities most precious commodity, the future of mankind, and nature thought they should be in ketosis.
Everyone produces at least a small amount of ketones, but Fat Burners produce a lot! There are varying degrees of ketosis which include; Nutritional Ketosis, Optimal Ketosis and Therapeutic Ketosis. I spend the majority of my time in nutritional and optimal ketosis. You can measure your ketones in your blood and breath.
Measuring blood ketones – using Precision Ultra glucometer
Blood ketones are measured in millimolars per liter of blood (mmol/L)
· Below 0.5 mmol/L is not considered ketosis, however, this is likely where fasted morning cardio may place you.
· Between 0.5 – 1.5 mmol/L is nutritional ketosis. Improved cognition and weight loss, decreased hunger, reversing diabetes.
· 1.5 – 3.0 mmol/L is optimal ketosis. Rapid weight loss, high levels of cognition, excellent for aerobic fitness, long periods of no hunger, cellular repair, boosted cellular respiration.
· > 3.0 mmol/L is therapeutic ketosis. Used to treat cancer, epilepsy, MS, diabetes, and many other degenerative diseases (check out this video)
Measuring breath ketones - using Ketonix breath analyzer. Similar to an alcohol breathalyzer.
· Blue: none-minimal
· Green: low amounts of ketones
· Orange: Moderate ketones
· Red: high levels of ketones
Below are measurements I took at the beginning and end of my three day fast. As my blood glucose drops my blood ketones rise. This is my body switching into fat burning mode.
Where humans are terrible at storing glucose, were superstars at storing fat. The average human can store around 100,000 calories of usable energy in fat cells. I haven’t done the math but I’m assuming that’s a month or so of energy. This is how I can go days without eating. The tragedy is that most of you don’t know how to actually convert that stored fat into energy. We literally carry our meals on our bodies. Talk about meal prep. Humans evolved this awesome ability to survive famine. During hearty summer months our ancestors could pack on fat to be used during harsh winter months, similar to how a bear hibernates. For ancient man this was key to survival. For modern man, winter never comes. There is no famine, there is no struggle. We’re in a perpetual fat storage state. "I am jacks fatty liver"
Fat adaptation is the ability to burn fat for your submaximal energy needsand spare stored glucose. Submaximal is basically anything less than full physical exertion. In order to become fat adapted we must restrict glucose. By restricting glucose our bodies have no choice but to use fat for fuel. Unfortunately, our bodies are quite stubborn in response to our first attempt at becoming fat adapted. This is the trickiest piece of becoming a metabolic powerhouse. If you’re use to burning glucose, any significant glucose restriction will trigger a hypoglycemic (low blood glucose) response. You will be hungry, you will be cranky and you will be fatigued. It’s kind of like jumping in a cold pool, it sucks at first, but is amazing afterward. It will take a few weeks before you start to feel super-human.
You wouldn’t put your tiny spare tire on every time you drove your vehicle right? Not when you have 4 brand new Goodyears ready to go. The spare sucks for every day driving, but it’s absolutely crucial for emergencies.
Glucose sparing is very similar to our spare tire idea. When we become efficient at burning fat for fuel, our bodies store glucose for when we need it most. In ancient history, glucose was a precious molecule used for maximal effort, like running from a jaguar. Ancient man was designed in a glucose poor environment. He would have only consumed it through in-season fruits, nuts or vegetables. Keep in mind, these were whole food, complex and fibrous sources of glucose. Presently, we eat processed glucose all damn day, in such forms as bread, pasta, candy, soda, juice, syrup, beer, chips, (stop me when you’re hungry) rice, tortillas, granola, wheat, cereal etc. Glucose is also added to just about every packaged food you can buy. Our bodies have forgotten how to spare glucose simply because there’s no need to. We eat glucose, we burn glucose and we store fat. Fat adaptation retrains the body to spare glucose for only maximal efforts and burn fat.
Ketones improve cellular respiration (the process in which mitochondria produce ATP/energy) in the brain. You know that feeling you get after your first cup of coffee? Where you want to text all your friends telling them to have a good day? That’s the feeling of ketosis on the brain, only it lasts all day long. This is one phenomenon that you just have to experience yourself. Heres Dr. Peter Attia explaining this feeling (video)
Exercising on Ketones – an unfair advantage
I ran a half marathon on an empty stomach…well, it wasn’t entirely empty, I had coffee and butter before the race. My time was somewhere around 1 hour 40 minutes which averages to about 7.5 minute miles for 13 miles. I’m not a runner, I’m built like a Troll. It was the third running event I’d ever done and I did not train for it. When I say I did not train for it, I mean I didn’t run a single mile months prior to the race.
Other runners ate big breakfasts, gulped down energy drinks and squeezed sugary gels into their faces throughout the race, I just drank salty water. Endurance athletes who burn glucose are constantly fighting to replenish a fast depleting fuel reserve. Fat adapted athletes avoid the fueling problem altogether. Again, we carry our meals on our body.
The heart actually prefers ketones for energy. Myocardial cells (heart cells) are designed to use fat. This is a HUGE endurance advantage over your sugar burning competition. Another hint from nature if you ask me.
Because a low carb diet is anti-inflammatory by nature, muscle and joint soreness wasnt a problem.
68 hours into my 72 hour fast I laced up my jumpers and headed to the weight room. When all was said and done I’d deadlifted 200% my body weight 15 times. Still feeling good, I grabbed some dumbbells and bench pressed my 1 rep max (240 pounds) 5 times for a new personal record. I finished off the session with 5 sets of jumping squats. In one training session I had disproven the popular belief that humans need anything to eat prior to exercise. This was glucose sparing at its best.
Studies show that when we exercise in a fasted state, our anabolic (muscle building) response is almost doubled. All my strength training is now done in a fasted state, why not if I get twice the growth?
I’m just an average guy. I have a new baby, a demanding job, school and lots of hobbies. I don’t want to dedicate more than a few hours a week to weightlifting, cardio or meal prep. But I do want to run like an Ethiopian and have chimpanzee strength, is that too much to ask? When we burn fat for fuel we unlock unlimited energy and loads of free time. Maintaining a sexy and healthy physique isn’t a full time job, it’s just a side effect of optimal metabolism. This way of living just clicked for me. I’m not saying it’s the end all health routine, but if you’re not 100% satisfied with your body and mind its worth a try.
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Thanks for reading,