“So everybody thinks that fasting slows down your body. It doesn’t. It activates the body. And that’s a natural mechanism that we’ve known about for years.”- Doctor Jason Fung
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Jason Fung (@drjasonfung) is a well-known expert on nutrition, and is also the author of several books, including the best sellers “The Obesity Code” and “The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day, and Extended Fasting.” He talks with the Commander today about our misguided understandings of nutrition and gives us insights into the importance of timing and fasting in general.
- There are eating “windows” where you should be eating, and times when you shouldn’t be.
- You can either be storing fat or burning it. Not both at the same time.
- Only the brain uses ketones—all the other muscles can use fat directly
Dr. Fung’s approach is actually very straight-forward… what to eat and when to eat.
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Hi. Welcome back. This is Mark Divine with the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Thanks for much for joining me today. As you know, I don’t take it for granted. Your time is busy, so we’ll get right into it.
I have a super cool guest today. Dr. Jason Fung. We’re gonna be talking about nutrition, and ketogenesis, and fasting and all sorts of cool things. Dr. Fung is an undisputed expert in this area. And I know it’s something you guys are gonna be really, really interested in.
Before I get started, let me remind you if you’re interested in the unbeatable mind summit and you’re on the fence, we do have some tickets left. It is December 2nd, the first week in December. Carlsbad, California.
It’s a killer experience. Three days of rich deep training immersion, traction, tribe, and transformation. And our intention is for you to come out of there with a five mountain training plan. As well as a lot of practices and insights and some accountability.
So that next year 2019 will be your best year ever. And if you’re interested you can find more information at summit.unbeatablemind.com.
And I’d love to offer you $300 off if you enter the code POD300.
All right hope to see you there.
So like I said, Dr. Fung is a medical director of, and co-founder of something called the Intensive Dietary Management and he’s the author of a few bestsellers. One’s called the “Obesity Code.” the other, “The Complete Guide to Fasting.” and then his newest one is called “The Diabetes Code.” So those titles give you an indication of his areas of interest and where he’s done some pioneering work.
So we’re gonna talk about therapeutic fasting, weight loss, reversing type 2 diabetes. Things that we’ve had some discussions before with some of our guests, but I think we’ll be able to go a lot deeper with that Jason.
So Jason, thanks so much for joining me today appreciate your time.
Dr. Jason Fung. Well thanks for having me. It’s great to be here.
Mark. Yeah, no doubt. Can you tell us a little bit about your background? And your early years? And what your kind of influences were? And how you got interested in this field?
Jason. Yeah, so I’m a kidney specialist by training. So that means I deal with a lot of type 2 diabetes, because that’s sort of the biggest cause of kidney disease.
And I didn’t really have much interest in nutrition for most of my medical training actually. Most doctors don’t get much training in terms of nutrition, or weight loss or anything like that. But what’s happened really in the last few years is that we’ve had this big obesity epidemic, which has led to this obesity type 2 diabetes epidemic.
And so it really infiltrates sort of all of what we do in terms of chronic disease. Metabolic disease, and that kind of thing. And that’s really where, I became very interested in how to lose weight. Because that’s ultimately how to get people better from their disease.
So if you have kidney disease, which is caused by type 2 diabetes, which is caused by obesity — then you need to reverse the obesity, because that’s the root cause of everything. Treating the kidney disease at the end simply isn’t gonna cut it.
So that’s where I became very interested. And because I didn’t know much about it I had to sort of start and just look at what causes obesity. And of course when you start to read it you realize that a lot of what people talk about is simply nonsense.
So this whole calories and calories out thing — it’s complete nonsense. The body has no calorie receptors. You know, what is important is sort of what causes you to eat more — which is calories in — or burn more which is calories out. And you know we eat more because we’re hungry, for example, and you can’t decide to be less hungry. You can’t decide for your body to burn more calories. So focusing in on the calories is very short-sighted, because it’s really just the mechanism, and not the cause of the obesity.
And you can think about in terms of money. So for example if you say poverty. What causes poverty? Well if you spend more money than you take in then you’re going to be poor. And it’s as if I was saying — that’s the solution to everything, people. Money in versus money out. And anybody who doesn’t believe me is a money denier.
It’s like well, that’s stupid right? That’s just the mechanism of how you get poverty. Similarly with calories that’s how you become overweight, is because too many calories are going out, but tells you nothing about why that is the case.
So, you know, then it comes back down to what is causing it and the body is really run by hormones. And the main hormone from a dietary standpoint is insulin. Insulin is a hormone that goes up when we eat and basically tells your body to store body fat. That’s its job so if you have too much insulin…
Mark. It goes up when you carbohydrates and things that convert to sugar.
Jason. Yeah, so carbohydrates, but also protein. So the only thing that doesn’t raise insulin is actually pure fat. So if you drink olive oil, for example. But if you eat something like an egg which has protein, then insulin will still go up. Your blood sugar will not go up, but your insulin will.
So insulin is essentially a nutrient sensor. Except for pure fat. But natural food is not… Like, nobody normally goes around eating a stick of butter sort of thing.
Mark. (laughing) well, there is a little movement to do that these days…
Jason. Yeah, there is a little bit of that now.
Mark. Yeah but you don’t typically carry a bottle of olive oil with you…
Jason. Just to chug it for dinner. So I’m like “oh I had a cup of olive oil for dinner.” so in any natural food…
Mark. So you’re always spiking insulin if you eat…
Jason. Essentially anything. So some are worse. I mean the implication definitely is that some foods are worse than others. That is some food spike insulin a lot more than others. So if you were to eat say steak versus say bread. The bread is gonna spike your insulin much higher than the steak. The steak will to some degree. And the implication is simply that some foods are more fattening than others. And it’s like, okay that’s not that revolutionary a statement.
Mark. Can I ask you, what does it mean when you say something has a low glycemic index? Does that mean…?
Jason. Glycemic index talks about blood glucose. So if you eat a food, then your blood glucose goes up, or it doesn’t. And it really only refers to carbohydrates, because blood glucose does not go up with protein or fats. So it really only applies to the carbohydrate portion of your meal.
Mark. So how is that related to insulin?
Jason. There’s a relationship between how high your glucose goes up, and how high your insulin goes up. But it doesn’t tell you anything about the sort of protein and fat. So two thirds of your macronutrients are not being accounted for by a glycemic index. It only accounts for the carbohydrate part of things.
And for the carbohydrate part of things it does reasonably but if you’re going to ignore sort of two thirds of the problem, it’s not a very comprehensive sort of dietary plan. And that’s where things get a little hairy. People focus on the blood glucose.
But it wasn’t the blood glucose. Your body responds to things like insulin — hormones like insulin. Now there are other hormones involved too. But from a diet standpoint it’s mostly insulin. So insulin is a nutrient sensor and it goes up when we eat and tell some party to store food energy. That’s what body fat is, it’s stored food energy.
So if you’re that your insulin levels fall, that’s a signal for your body to start burning the stored food energy, which is fat. That’s all it is.
So if you keep insulin high all the time, you’re basically telling your body to store fat all the time. And that’s all it is.
Mark. Besides the input of actually you know monitoring what you put into your gullet, is there any way to kind of detect insulin levels subjectively?
Jason. They fluctuate quite a bit. So measuring levels are not that useful. I mean, I’ve measured them, for different reasons. But they fluctuate quite a bit. So it’s not as useful as you might think it is.
It’s more useful as a sort of theoretical understanding of why something like fasting is useful. So fasting for example is a way to lower insulin levels. If you don’t eat, insulin falls which is what it’s supposed to do. But other hormones go up — and this is what everybody forgets about — so when you fast you actually activate certain other hormonal systems. So sympathetic nervous system, and noradrenaline and growth hormone. And cortisol — so cortisol does go up with fasting…
Mark. So why does that happen? In your opinion, I guess, or your studied opinion. Why does fasting kind of stimulate the sympathetic? Genetically you know you want food, you need food, and so there’s a little threat there right? Probably?
Jason. Yeah, so it’s basically… So the sympathetic nervous system is part of the fight-or-flight response. And it’s a general activation of the body, as is cortisol. And what the sympathetic nervous system and cortisol and other hormones like noradrenaline do is that they push glucose from stores into the blood. So they all raise blood glucose. And that’s the point, so if you’re not eating — so remember that when you don’t eat, insulin falls and these counter regulatory hormones — so the counter regulatory hormones are so named because they run counter of insulin. So insulin goes down, these ones go up.
And they all go up as a group so sympathetic nervous system, and essentially what it does is it activates your body so everybody thinks that fasting slows down your body. It doesn’t. It activates the body and that’s a natural mechanism that we’ve known about for years. Because you’re activating the sympathetic nervous system. You’re increasing noradrenaline and you’re increasing growth hormone.
Now growth hormone is very interesting, because it’s like “why would you want to grow if there’s no nutrients?” and the point is that when you start eating again, then growth hormone is there so that you can rebuild the proteins that you need for sort of optimum health. So even though people worry about “oh you’re gonna break down muscle” it’s like, no, but you’re gonna regrow that muscle or protein or whatever you need at that point that you can start eating again.
The Natural See-saw
So it’s a natural seesaw. So insulin goes up, these hormones go down. Insulin goes down these hormones go up. And it’s this changing what you’re doing with the fasting is changing the entire hormonal sort of environment of the body. It’s not about restricting calories — because restricting calories — you can restrict calories and keep your insulin very high, for example. If you take a lot of stevia or something like that. Or diet drinks. There’s no calories, but insulin still goes up with some of these artificial sweeteners. So if you drink sort of 20 diet cokes a day and you think “oh I’m doing so good” it’s like, you’re not. You’re insulin’s still going up which is telling your body to store fat.
And if you don’t eat — that is you’ve restricted your calories from say 2,000 calories to 1,000 calories for example but you’re drinking all diet cokes — your insulin is high. Your body gets the message that it needs to store fat. But you’re only getting a thousand calories so you can’t burn fat at the same time you’re storing fat. So this is part of the way the body works. It’s like the seesaw right? So one goes up, one goes down.
It’s the same thing. You can either store body fat, or you can burn body fat, but you can’t do both. If your insulin is high, you’re storing body fat. So you’re not burning it.
If your insulin is high because you’re eating all these sort of diet foods and all this stuff and you’re only taking a thousand calories, your body says “well I still need to store that body fat. Therefore what I need to do is shut down my metabolism.” and therefore that’s when you start to see the metabolic rate go down, people feel cold, people feel tired. And it’s because they never changed the hormonal balance in their body.
That’s the key to weight loss. It’s not calories. Calories is just like talking about money. It’s like “oh if you get sick with cancer and therefore you have a lot of medical bills you can go bankrupt right?” but, so that’s the cause of your disease. It’s not money and money out, right? Oh stop spending money.
It’s like… That’s useless advice just the same way that’s saying “oh it’s all about calories in.” it’s useless advice. You have to know how it is that the body changes the calories in and the calories out.
So for example, if you think about a big Coca-Cola big gulp you take a big gulp of Coca-Cola. Has a lot of calories. It has a lot of sugar.
And compare that to an equal calorie portion of a steak. Now you can say, “Okay, well it’s all about calories.” Well, if you drink that Coke, you’re not full. If you eat that steak, you are full. So what’s gonna happen? Well if you rigidly count all your calories all the time you might do okay. But you’re gonna be hungry day after day after day because you’re drinking coke instead of eating steak. That’s the same calories, but the difference is that you know your insulin’s spiking way up so you’re still hungry after that Coca-Cola. Whereas with the steak, you know, you’ve got all that protein and all that fat that’s making you full. So you’re not gonna be full. So it’s a lot easier to lose weight eating steak, or salad, or any other sort of real food compared to you know sugary beverages, for example.
But the calories are not the issue. The issue is that you’re gonna want to eat more if you’re just taking a bunch of coke. Because you’re gonna be you’re gonna be like “that’s not dinner. A big gulp is not dinner.
Mark. (laughing) It is for some people
Jason. It is for some people, but you won’t be feel full, Right? You’ll feel like you haven’t eaten dinner. But you’ve taken the same…
Mark. On this point, can we look at the standard American diet the SAD diet and kind of make this same comparison to say why is it the standard American diet causing people to get fat? And what would the opposite look like for you know for listeners saying you know what, I get this, but my patterns are to eat this type of food every day. What simple changes can we make to kind of flip the switch so to speak?
Jason. Yeah, so I think that the main problem like sort of — there’s a lot of issues, but the number one problem with weight gain is that people eat all the time. This is not because they thought it was a great idea. It’s because this is a sort of message that’s pushed on us by dieticians, by doctors, and unfortunately a lot of the industry, like food industry and drug industry, you know, pays a lot of these doctors and other health professionals.
And they tell them “oh yeah you should tell your patients to eat ten times a day.” it’s like who came up with that?
It’s stupid. Like, it sounds really stupid. Eat all the time to lose weight. It sounds really stupid, because it is really stupid. Like, there’s no getting around that.
And there’s no studies that said that eating 10 times a day is good for you. In fact, nobody in the history of humanity has ever done that, because it’s stupid.
So if you looked at the 19’70s for example, the difference between the 19’70s and the 2000s is that in the 19’70s the average person ate three times a day — breakfast lunch dinner. Ate at 7:00 in the morning, ate a dinner at 7:00 at night. It’s 12 hours of eating 12 hours of fasting. In other words — 12 hours that you’re storing fat, and 12 hours you’re burning fat. So they’re eating, remember — and I grew up in the ‘70s — they’re eating white bread. There’s no whole-wheat bread. I was a kid during the ‘70s. Never touched the boy the whole-wheat bread. Whole wheat pasta did not exist. White pasta all the time and I’m Chinese, so white rice all the time.
And in the ‘70s there’s virtually no obesity. It’s still white bread and jam, and it’s still ice cream. But the key is that they didn’t eat all the time.
Mark. We also didn’t need as much bar-coded junk, right? Like my mom had a garden and we had a neighbor’s cow that we ate.
Jason. No yeah and McDonald’s was a real treat…
Mark. Oh my God, it was a big deal to go to McDonald’s.
Jason. (laughing) I know. It was a big deal. Nothing made me more happy as a kid, right?
Mark: I remember when my dad allowed me to get my first Big Mac. I mean, it was like “Whoo-hoo!”
Jason. I know. And those birthday parties in the McDonald’s.
Mark. I know.
Jason. Kid’s Friday’s. Anyway it was a big deal… We ate at home mostly, right?
Mark. But also people are eating more at each meal, aren’t they nowadays?
Jason. They’re eating more at each meal, but again the question is why? Like, what is the difference?
And if you look at studies of eating patterns… So the most recent study looked at sort of the average time that people eat. And it was like 14 hours and 45 minutes per day. So if you ate breakfast at 8 a.m., you didn’t stop eating until 10:45 p.m. And the average number of times people ate was getting up towards 6, so we went from 3 to 6\. And you see this all the time people think it’s okay or even healthy to eat constantly.
So it’s like you eat breakfast and then you have a meeting at ten o’clock. Well somebody brings muffins. And then you have lunch and then you have an afternoon meeting somebody thinks you need to have cookies. And it’s like okay, but nobody ever needed that. And the point is that if you’re eating all the time you’re not allowing your body to sort of digest that food.
In fact, you’re not doing that, because you’re not eating you’re not stopping eating until 10:45 p.m. That means the only time you’re basically not eating is when you’re sleeping. And then you wonder “okay, well why are we all getting obese?” it’s because we’re telling our bodies to gain weight for that whole time. We’re not giving it the time it needs to digest that food. To burn off the food energy, that you’ve taken. And when you do that then the natural sort of satiety mechanism is going.
So, yeah I mean, if I had to choose one thing, I would say, making sure that every day you balanced sort of feeding and fasting. Now there are things of course, you should eat real foods. You should you know try and cook at home. You should avoid the ultra-processed foods, the barcoded foods… That’s all very important too.
What you eat versus When you eat
Mark. But if you ignored all that — you’re saying that if we just had a feeding window of let’s say between 7 & 7 and the rest of the time you didn’t touch anything. That would still have a pretty dramatic effect.
Jason. Yeah and remember that these are two entirely separate questions. So the question of what to eat, which is your diet and should you eat sort of Big Macs. Or should you know pasta, that kind of thing, those are good questions. But that’s the question that we sort of obsess about like everybody talks about “Oh should we eat whole grains wheat? Quinoa? It’s like, you know it’s not like in the ‘70s we were dying because we didn’t eat quinoa right? We were doing all right there’s no obesity there right? It’s not a quinoa deficiency disease.”
So yeah these — you know, I actually like quinoa — but the point is don’t go looking for these sort of foods that we never ate before as the solution to our problem. Look at what changed from the ‘70s to now. I mean they’re eating meat and potatoes in the ‘70s, so go back to that. But they’re also not eating all the time. And that’s the key. And even the English language itself tells us that there’s a breakfast — which is the meal that breaks your fast. So that tells you that fasting is a part of everyday life. There’s feeding and there’s fasting. And you break your fast.
Whereas now, we never fast because we’re eating until, like, 10:45 and then eating the minute we get up sort of thing. Somebody is gonna tell you “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” as soon as you wake up, before your feet even hit the floor, you should start stuffing muffins into your mouth. Because that’s healthy for you.
Like, that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. You need to break your fast, but you can break your fast at 12, you can break your fast at 2\. It doesn’t really matter. If you’re not hungry at breakfast, why are you shoving food in your mouth? That’s gonna make you lose weight?
On the other hand if you like to eat breakfast you like to eat eggs and sort of… Then go ahead. But keep in mind that don’t you can’t eat all the time. You have to take a break. You have to fast. That’s what breakfast — the very word itself tells you what you’re supposed to be doing. And if you do that sort of on a regular basis… Remember that people didn’t watch what they ate in the ‘70s really. Because there wasn’t that much obesity. It’s actually striking, if you ever look at like school photos from the ‘70s and stuff. You know that one guy who is overweight got made fun of mercilessly, because he is only one guy.
Now you take a look, and it’s like a third of the class looks like him, right? So who’s gonna make fun of him? Which is great. They’re not picking on him anymore.
But on the other hand, not so great because there’s a lot of childhood obesity that’s the same thing. People think we need to eat all the time.
So that’s where intermittent fasting comes in because if you want to lose weight then all you have to do is shift the balance the other way. And do more fasting than feeding. And then you’re gonna force your body to burn food energy.
Mark. Let me ask your question, if let’s say you just ate at 7:00 in the morning, and then didn’t touch anything again until dinner time, 7 p.m. Would you consider that to be like a 12 hour feeding window? Or is there enough time there… Like the breakfast effect wears off and the insulin effect wears off after four hours or something like that?
Jason. Yeah, about four hours.
Mark. So basically fasting for half a day midday?
Jason. You certainly could. So if you ate two meals a day, sort of breakfast and dinner, you ate at 7 a.m. By 11 a.m. Or so 12:00 noon, for example, your body is going to go into sort of fasting mode. Because it’s that energy has lasted you a few hours. Assuming you’re not going crazy on your breakfast, right? But that energy has started… You’ve burnt it off, insulin levels are gonna fall, then you’re gonna use it.
Now you skip lunch and you don’t eat until 7 so you’ve got 7 hours of fasting in the middle of the day there. And then you eat.
Mark. I love… Because that’s kind of what I do and I’ve had some people say “well you know you’re feeding window’s too long.” and everyone seems to be trying to cram all their food into like five hours, you know? Between 1:00 and 6:00 or between 12:00 and you know — maybe 6 hours — 12 and 6.
And that just doesn’t feel natural to me either, you know what I mean?
Jason. Yeah absolutely. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I think that there’s… Like as long as you understand what you’re doing, and you’re getting the results that you want then there’s nothing wrong. I tend to work with sort of the very severe end of the scale. So people who are sort of type 2 diabetes and massively overweight and so on that to the point that it’s a health issue. Therefore I wind up prescribing much longer fasting periods just because these people are at high risk of other problems. Like, you know, heart attacks and strokes and stuff.
Mark. Most of the people who listen to this are familiar with fasting — intermittent fasting — and keto. But probably don’t know some of the science behind it or also some of the like best practices.
So let’s talk about intermittent fasting. What does that mean? That’s basically what we’ve been talking about right? Where you have these windows of not eating versus eating right?
Jason. Yeah so there’s no strict definition of intermittent fasting so what happened in the ‘60s, the reason fasting sort of fell out of favor for from a medical standpoint, is that they used to do these crazy, crazy fasts where they’d take people who were not even overweight. And they’d fast them for like 60 days straight. Nothing to eat for 60 days. That’s pretty tough if you’re pretty thin already. So if you’re massively overweight, sure you could do it because you have the stores of fat to go 60 days without eating.
But they take a guy who is sort of like, you know, 5 foot 10 and 150 pounds and tell him to go 60 days without eating. Not a very good idea and people had problems.
Mark. Unless you’re on vision quest or a spiritual journey, right? That’s a whole different thing, right?
Jason. It’s a whole different… It’s all about context right?
So anyway, so they did this. And that’s what they called fasting back then. And then they’d test them and some people were not doing that well because they were actually becoming malnourished. And that’s the problem.
So this intermittent fasting is more you’re talking about doing fasting for short periods of time. So anywhere from sort of 12 to 24-36 hours. So it’s clearly not in the same league as the old studies from the ‘60s of 30-60 days we’re talking like 30 hours not 30 days. So it’s much shorter. But doing it on a more regular basis.
And remember studies from the ‘60s and stuff, they’re doing it for different reasons. At the time they’re talking about world hunger and starvation and you know Malthusian principles of world hunger. So they wanted to see what happened when people actually starve. Not fasting from a therapeutic standpoint. So it’s a totally different situation.
But what we’re talking about now is applying sort of short-term fasts… Sort of 16 hours, 24 hours on a regular basis three times a week you know six times a week that kind of thing in order to achieve a specific goal — which is reversal of type 2 diabetes or weight loss for example. Those are the biggest goals, but there are others. I mean, there are lots of health benefits
And what we’re finding now which is super, super interesting, is that there’s all kinds of benefits to fasting that people hadn’t realized before. So it’s just a very interesting field, that’s sort of changing all the time.
Mark. Right. So if you’re someone listening to this who’s generally fit, not overweight, likes to train three to five times a week — what would be the benefits for intermittent fasting?
Jason. Yeah, so there’s a few. In terms of training, so one of the big things in term of elite athletics these days is something called training in the fasted state. And it’s something that is… If you understand the physiology, you can see the reasoning so what people do is that they don’t eat for 24 hours. So they say for example they might eat breakfast and then not eat for 24 hours. Then they do their training. So they’ve already fasted for 24 hours, then they go on there workout, and then they eat.
So why would you do this? So if you think about what’s happening insulin is going down — so as you fast insulin goes down, but noradrenaline, sympathetic nervous system go up. Growth hormone goes up. So at that point you’re actually flooding your body with energy.
So you actually can work out harder, and a lot of people have noticed this. It’s a noticeable effect. People will do their fasting and then they exercise and then they get comments like “whoa I could go you know so, so much without even trying today.”
And then as soon as you start to eat, what happens is that growth hormone is very high so then you’re going to rebuild that muscle. Because remember when you’re building muscle you get these microscopic tears in your muscle, your body rebuilds it to be stronger. But if your growth hormone it goes up, then you’re going to be able to rebuild better. So, in fact, what’s happening is that you’re able to train harder and recover faster. So that’s a huge, huge advantage when you’re talking about you know elite athletics, because the difference between sort of being a Hall-of-Famer in baseball and the minor-league… Career minor leaguer… Is like inches. So that little bit of extra training, that little bit of extra can really make a huge difference.
And then the other thing and this is especially true for certain things… So we work with some elite athletes, like baseball players and mixed martial arts and stuff… Is that concentration goes up significantly when you’re fasting. So because of this general activation, people have noticed that their concentration is much better.
So again, if you’re able to focus, you’re able to zero in on the pitches and you’re noradrenaline is up, then you’re gonna have that little extra zip to put that ball where you want it.
Mark. So that focus is because of the up-leveling of those hormones like adrenaline…
Jason. Yeah. It’s those extra hormones. And again it’s just like if you think about it in the wild, you can either be you know eating six times a day and you’re that lion that just ate, or you could be the hungry wolf. Like which one do you want to be?
Well if you’re fighting, you want to be the hungry wolf. Because your body is actually flooding your system with energy.
Now with elite athletics there’s a lot of you know nuances because of course sometimes they’re trying to cram like massive amounts of calories in, because they’re working out all the time. So then you have to design a program that’s designed for people specifically. Like you’re trying to get like 10,000 calories into somebody’s body, it’s not always easy if you’re eating once a day kind of thing.
So there are a sort of nuances. But for the general person who’s not at that crazy sort of high athletics, this is a sort of simple hack to give people an edge in terms of their training, in terms of their recovery. So why not take it? Like, it’s free? It’s there for you to take. There’s nothing unnatural, it’s not steroids, it’s not like banned substances. It’s a natural way to hack your body to be better. And why not?
Mark. This kind of explains why like for me I’ve always gravitated toward working out on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. And I get better results. I feel better. I’m not hungry when I wake up so in and I had this urge to train you know I mean? It seems like that’s the natural way.
Jason. In fact that’s actually the most physiologic because if when you wake up… So in the… There’s actually something called the counter regulatory hormone surge that happens around 4:00 a.m. So your body actually knows it’s gonna be waking up in a few hours so it actually increases these hormones to push glucose out into your system. So it’s actually feeding the body, to get you ready for the day. So that’s why you’re you know all these levels are actually a little bit higher — it’s not a huge effect — but it is a little bit higher in the morning. Your blood glucose is a little.
That’s the reason that you’re not that hungry because when you’re activating… You know, if you think about the sympathetic nervous system the fight-or-flight, you know, if you’re if you’re looking at a lion, you’re not like “whoa I’m really hungry I haven’t eaten in a few hours” right? You’re like “oh my God,” but hunger is the last thing you think about. So because your body’s actually got a mild sort of fight-or-flight response you’re actually the least hungry at sort of 8 a.m. In the morning. Which is very interesting, because that’s also the time of day where for most people you’ve gone the longest without eating.
So that’s really interesting because you’ve gone sort of 12 hours, 14 hours without eating yet you have no hunger. And it’s because of the hormonal changes.
And that’s what I mean. It’s all about knowing what hormones are important and how to tweak those hormones. So it’s like “okay, if your body is pushing glucose out into the system. It’s burning body fat, pushing glucose out into the system. If I’m not hungry at 8 a.m., why am I shoving two muffins in my mouth? And how is that gonna help me?
And yet people say that. “Yeah, you have to you eat. You have to eat. Go have a bowl of Froot Loops.”
It’s like come on. That’s like the worst thing you could possibly do. Why don’t you…
Mark. It’s just that notion that we’re supposed to have a hearty breakfast is so ingrained in our culture.
Jason. And it’s okay if you want to. If you want to, it’s okay. But you don’t have to. That’s the point.
And the other point is that you have to avoid like the super processed stuff, right? That stuff is obviously bad for you, so eating Froot Loops, obviously bad for you.
Mark. Make an exception for Cap’n Crunch.
Jason. (laughing) Yeah, that’s right. I’ll make an exception for Cap’n Crunch… No. Those things are obviously bad for you and yet people will say “well it’s better to eat something than nothing.”
It’s like, no. It’s better to eat nothing then your body is going to burn the body fat which is what it was trying to do before you shoved that Cap’n Crunch in your mouth. And this is the whole problem, we have advice that’s completely nonsensical, like that. It’s like okay if you don’t eat what’s gonna happen? Well, I don’t eat breakfast most days. You pretty much get used to it and that’s it.
And then when it’s lunchtime you have a nice lunch. And the problem with breakfast is not so much that breakfast is bad… Like if you eat eggs and bacon and stuff that’s fine. But the problem is that most of us are in a hurry in the morning, so it tends to be highly processed carbohydrates. So Pop-Tarts and Cap’n Crunch, and, you know, stuff that doesn’t take a lot of time. Doesn’t make a lot of mess. Easy. You don’t necessarily have to even refrigerate it, so we’re talking about processed grains and sugar.
And that’s the worst stuff for you. Clearly. So if you’re gonna eat like vegetable omelet with feta cheese and stuff, yeah, that’s great. Who’s gonna make that every morning before they go to work? I mean not very many people and that’s why they don’t.
So it’s not intrinsically bad and if you’re not hungry why would you want to eat? Like your body’s already telling you “hey, you don’t need to eat. You’re doing fine.” and then we shove a couple doughnuts in our mouth thinking that’s… Because the other nutritionist says I have to eat breakfast.
Mark. Let’s get back to fasting so if I were to say, okay I’m done eating at 7:00 and then I don’t eat again until after my workout at maybe 9:00 or 10:00 in the morning. Is there also a benefit to saying you know okay then once a week I’m gonna go for 24 hours. Or once every 2 weeks, I’m going to go for 36 hours. I mean, what extra benefit does a longer fast give us?
Jason. Yeah, so the longer fast is very interesting. Because a lot of these benefits are not sort of weight-based benefits. So there’s obviously weight loss and reversal of Type 2 diabetes, that is if you don’t eat your blood sugar will come down. But there’s also something called autophagy, which is gaining a lot of interest. The 2016 Nobel Prize for medicine was given to one of the pioneers of its research. What autophagy is, is it’s a breakdown of proteins that’s the body does when you don’t eat. So it probably starts around 16 hours and 24, 32 hours is where it sort of maximizes.
And everybody thinks about breaking down protein, that’s really bad. But it’s not. Our body actually has too much protein if you’re overweight it’s estimated that you have anywhere between 20 to 50 percent more protein. And that’s not muscle. That’s like skin and connective tissue and you have diseases for example like Alzheimer where there’s all this excess protein that’s sort of gumming up your brain.
So what the body does is it targets the sort of most useless sort of protein and it breaks it down for energy. And then when the time comes to eat again because growth hormone is high, it will rebuild. But it’s not gonna rebuild protein that it doesn’t need. It’s going to rebuild protein that is necessary.
So what you’re doing is this sort of renewal cycle. You’re actually taking down old, junky protein that you don’t need. And then just rebuilding the necessary stuff. But it’s brand-new protein. So it’s actually a sort of, you know, anti-aging and health and wellness sort of thing to keep your body functioning normally.
It’s really just like changing your oil. Like, if you never change your oil, that is not a good thing. If you’re to say “wow you drained the oil out of your car? That’s terrible.” it’s like “yeah, but we put a new oil afterwards, right?”
And it’s way better than leaving the old stuff in, which is what happens if you don’t ever get into the state of autophagy and so on because what you’re doing is leaving all that old junky protein in there. Just like leaving the old oil. When you break down the protein and then rebuild, it’s like draining the oil out and then putting new oil in. And then you feel you know your body is better for it.
So there’s a whole lot of research into this sort of area. Talking about anti-aging and also prevention of Alzheimer’s because that’s all that gummed up protein, for example. Anti-cancer benefits because it’s if you’re breaking down proteins some of it may be these sort of precancerous cells. If you look at skin — so we’ve had patients lose over a hundred pounds — we haven’t sent anybody to get their skin removed because you know possibly the body has broken down that skin — those skin cells. Because that’s protein that needs to be broken down. The connective tissue all that sort of stuff.
So it’s interesting to me, because this is not something that I had to actually expected. But it’s like you know we have these people who lose a hundred pounds… Wrote about it on our IDM blog which is that idmprogram.com, this lady she writes in “you know I lost like a hundred and something pounds and the skin is all gone”
And people noticed this all time. Their skin tags go away, and all this sort of stuff. So what it’s showing is this very interesting sort of cellular renewal process that might be very important, not simply for weight, but also for general health. And then you go back and say well if you look at sort of ancient wellness practices, fasting is everywhere. To cleanse, it’s a detox, it’s… Yom Kippur you’re supposed to fast, and Ramadan you’re supposed to fast and in Buddhism you’re supposed to fast. And Mormonism, and Catholicism during Lent and all this sort of stuff.
You realize that people, like religions, when they talk to their parishioners they’re telling them too fast. Not because they want to kill them all off. It’s because they knew there was something sort of intrinsically healthy about occasionally not eating and letting your body clean itself out of all that junk. Which science is just sort of catching up and saying “yeah, you know, when you don’t eat your body cleans out all the junk.”
Mark. If you do a longer fast are we talking about zero food, zero anything or can you…
Jason. Classically it’s just water. So water fast. Certain religions dry fast…
Mark. So like fruit or vegetable juice for 36 hours doesn’t do it.
Jason. No. I mean there are certain ones like green juice for example which probably isn’t that bad. But as soon as you start getting a lot of the fruit juices — which have a lot of sugar — then it’s going to be kind of… Yeah, not so not so good. Because what you’re trying to do is actually get your body to burn off all that excess sugar, all that excess fat, and all that excess protein that you’ve sort of accumulated. It’s kind of like you know when you’re in a house and your basement eventually… That basement room that was a guest room eventually is just filled with junk right?
That’s what happens to all of us. The body… And it’s the same thing. You wanna every so often do this spring cleaning where you just throw out all the stuff before it can accumulate and cause problems. And that’s the same thing, and if you’re doing the fasting and you’re just drinking a lot of sugary water, that’s gonna work against you. So yeah, classically it’s a water only fast. But again it can you know the benefits may happen as soon as 16 hours, probably in that 24, 30 hours is where you get a lot of it.
Ketones and Ketosis
Mark. What about ketones? What’s the relationship between ketosis and fasting?
Jason. Well fasting puts you into ketosis. So ketosis is a state where the body is burning fat. So if you very, very low carbohydrates.
So your body runs on two systems — either sugar or fat. And whether the body burns dietary fat or body fat is actually exactly the same. So there’s no difference. So if you eat a very high fat meal which is very low carbohydrates, then there’s really very little sugar to burn. The body then takes the fat and then turns it into ketones, because the brain can’t use fat directly.
So most of your muscles — your heart, your liver, your kidneys — they’ll use fat directly. That fat can’t cross the blood-brain barrier, so therefore you have to either use glucose or you take the fat and turn it into something called ketones. And then your body can use it. So that can provide up to 75% of the energy that the brain requires.
And that’s why people who say “oh your brain needs 130 grams of carbohydrates a day” it’s like that’s pure garbage, because if you don’t eat for 24 hours, what happens? Like you’ve done it, I’m sure. I’ve done it lots of times. Do I get like seizures because I don’t have carbohydrates for my brain? No. Your body simply uses… It produces the sugar or produces the ketones.
So the ketones is a way for you to check that your body is sort of in this fat-burning mode. So remember body’s got to be either sugar or fat. It’s sort of like these hybrid cars right? They either run on electricity or gas. You don’t do both.
So if you’re in this sugar mode, then you have no ketones. If you’re in this fat-burning mode then you have ketones. So ketogenic diets are effective because you can measure these ketones and know that you’re in this sort of fat-burning zone. Doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll lose weight. If you eat like excessive fat then you’re not gonna necessarily lose weight, because you’re putting in a lot of fat and you’re burning a lot of fat, but you’re not losing weight because of that right?
So in the end it’s about the balance of that. So it’s a way to know that you’re in this sort of fat-burning zone. But where that fat comes from could be body fat, could be dietary fat. If you’re taking a lot of dietary fat, then you’re not gonna burn the body fat and you may not lose weight. Which is why people say you know sometimes talk about these fat bombs and it’s like it’s fine if you’re using those to replace… But if you’re adding it then it’s not gonna do you any good. That is if you say you have a steak, you know, certain portion of steak. Or you have a steak with a lot of butter which is gonna make you lose weight? Well adding butter doesn’t make you lose weight right? If you add butter, but take out something else it may. If you take out and you add butter and take out the bread. Sure. That’s probably gonna be good.
But, you know, steak versus steak plus a whole lot of butter — the steak is better because you’re not adding all that dietary fat. Which the body can burn just the same as it can body fat. But it won’t it won’t burn the body fat because you’re got all that dietary fat.
Mark. Interesting. I didn’t realize that your body didn’t use the ketones, but just your brain did. So your body’s burning the fat, but your brain is burning the ketones.
Jason. Yeah that’s pretty much it. So body fat is composed of triglycerides which is three fatty acids and a glycerol. So the fatty acids can be used directly by most things. And this is what causes the keto flu for example. So if you were to be an athletic person, like do a lot of workouts. And you went from sort of a normal 50% carbohydrate diet to a ketogenic diet with almost zero carbs, your performance would suffer for about two weeks. Because your body switches from using mostly sugar, to fat. And it doesn’t have the machinery to burn the body fat efficiently. So if you measure muscle — do muscle biopsies and so on — what you can do is you can find that the DNA and the proteins that are necessary for burning triglycerides increase as you get into this sort of ketogenic state. So they become more efficient that burning fat.
But it takes about two weeks. So you’ll notice a drop-off in your athletic performance for about two weeks, and people call it the keto flu. Some people feel tired and so on. And then after that, because now your muscles and everything are able to burn the fat, then it just functions pretty normally. But that’s what they call the keto flu. Can last for a couple of weeks.
But the ketones are not used by the muscles. By the liver, by the heart — everything in the body pretty much uses fat directly — except for about the brain
Mark. So what about… So I’ve always been skeptical of exogenous ketones and it seems to me that if you take an exogenous ketone it’ll have some benefit maybe for your… You know, the energy in your brain, or your maybe focus or concentration. But you’re not really giving your body any energy boost.
Jason. No. It’s your brain that that it would be for the ketones. Because the ketones are really used by the brain. There are specific circumstances where exogenous ketones might be helpful. In general and endogenous ketones is what we’re after. That is burn fat to get the ketones. That’s what’s gonna make you lose weight, because you’re burning the fat and getting the ketones. Not “oh hey here’s a whole lot of ketones, but I’m not burning fat to get the ketones.” I’m just getting ketones.
There are specific circumstances where it may be beneficial, so for example in type 2 diabetics… As the glucose goes down the ketones should go up, but that sometimes doesn’t happen in certain disease states like type 2 diabetes. Glucose goes down, ketones don’t go up and all of a sudden you have neither glucose nor ketones. And that’s like “oh, I feel like crap.”
So there are certain instances that it may be beneficial. But for most people, you really want to be getting endogenous ketones, not exogenous ketones because that’s where…
Mark. What about long endurance events, you know, like a like a triathlon, or like, we have a 50 hour non-stop training event. Would exogenous ketones be helpful in something like that?
Jason. Again, you shouldn’t be needing it. Because the ketones are only used by your brain. The muscles and stuff are not going to use it. So for the ultra-marathoners, I think a lot of them have gone to ketogenic diets truthfully, because, you know, you’re carrying so much more energy for the muscles in body fat compared to glucose and compared to sugar.
You want yourself using the fat-burning system, not the sugar burning system because you just have way more fat. And it’s a much more efficient storage form of food energy.
But the exogenous ketones might only be beneficial if your endogenous ketones don’t go up. So if you’re like some you know poorly controlled type-2 diabetic who’s doing an ultra-marathon, maybe there might be a reason to do that. But it’d be hard to see that kind of situation.
Mark. Yeah interesting. So generally, we want to eat more fat, we want to eat less often and we want to intermittently fast.
Jason. Yeah the fats are another thing. I mean, it’s not necessarily the fat, but it’s the processing that’s really, really dangerous. Because, you know, when people talk about ketogenic diets and low-carb, high fat or LCHF, they mostly talk about natural fats. So saturated fats are a lot of natural fats, but what isn’t so good is like the vegetable oils. Because they are highly processed and very high in omega sixes which are very inflammatory. And they’re not really natural products.
So I think one of the things that we’ve done really wrong is that we’ve told people to replace natural fats with artificial fats, like vegetable oil. So you gotta realize that corn is not oily. So you have to process literally tons of corn to get a bottle of corn oil. And that’s not a natural situation that your body has learned to deal with.
As opposed to eating butter, for example, which the human body has been eating for sort of millennia. The body knows how to handle butter. Knows how to handle cream, and knows how to handle olive oil. All of those sort of natural fats are fine, but the artificial fats… You have to avoid them. There’s just all kinds of health issues that come up with them. That people are starting to really recognize that “hey this was not a good idea.”
I’m always like, “so wait, you think that you know cutting out natural fats, and eating a whole lot of artificial fats is good for you?” it’s like “yeah. You put it that way maybe it’s not such a good idea.”
Mark. Mm-hmm. So what about — I mean we got to wrap up soon here — because we’ve been going on for a while. This is fascinating stuff. But some of the oils out there that people are saying are good for you — like, obviously olive oils a whole natural fat what about like coconut oil? Is that good for you? Because I’ve seen some more recent kind of information saying that it may not be as good as we think it is.
Jason. I think coconut oil is fine. I mean it’s, you know… There’s this you know person who came out and said “oh it’s poison.” it’s like that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Like you know that there are people on islands in the South Pacific that ate 70% coconut… Like their diet was 70% coconut, so they’re eating a lot of coconut oil. And they didn’t die. You’re calling coconut oil a poison and here they are eating it breakfast, lunch and dinner and they’re not dying. In fact they are super, super healthy and when they migrated those people to New Zealand and put them on a lot of bread and sugar and all that they all got fat and they got diabetic.
But in fact when they’re eating coconut and fish all day. They were super healthy and the other had infections and stuff, but they had no diabetes, they had an obesity, they had no cavities… All this sort of stuff. They’re just way healthier from a metabolic standpoint.
So it’s like okay well if somebody can eat the diet 70% coconut well having a little bit of coconut oil is obviously not gonna be that bad for you. So, you know, those sort of ideas again it’s a natural fat people have been eating coconut and coconut oil for millennia without problems. How is it now, that you figured out, in 2018, that “hey it was okay for the past 2018 years, but this year your body can’t handle coconuts.” it’s like okay that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.
Same thing with meat and butter. It’s like come on. So people have been eating meat and butter and eggs for… Sort of, okay, minimum 2,000 years, probably like 10,000 years without developing diabetes. But ho hey in the last three years we figured out that meat causes diabetes. Why didn’t Jesus Christ get it like 2,000 years ago? Why didn’t Aristotle get it in the ancient Greece? He was eating meat and stuff. It’s like, come on, these ideas are like ridiculous. Like they have no logic.
If you overeat meat could it happen? Sure possibly. But to say that meat is causing diabetes, or coconut oil is causing diabetes are gonna kill you or poison… Those sort of ideas are completely out to lunch. I mean they’ve got to be the dumbest things.
And the problem is that they come from sort of people like academics and so on and academics are the worst really. Because they don’t actually treat people. Like, they don’t actually see people who eat coconut oil, for example. So they say it’s bad for you but they never go out there and talk to people who are eating it all the time and doing great. So they think that… And they’re not interested in helping people. They’re interested in being right. Because that’s what they do. They’re researchers. So they want to be right. They don’t care if it doesn’t help a single person.
So, yeah, I think the coconut oil thing is… I think it’s perfectly fine. It’s a natural food. Everybody makes things so complicated. If it’s a natural food then it’s probably not that bad for you. That’s the bottle line.
Mark. So oil from coconuts to avocados, olives…
Jason. Yeah, these aren’t processed…
Mark. But like canola oil or corn oil or processed oil that’s…
Jason. Yeah. So remember that. Coconut oil — you take coconuts, you squish it and you get coconut oil. Same with olives — only extra virgin though — you take the olives, you grind it into a paste, you squish it, and you get oil.
If you look at what you do to get say canola oil or corn oil, it’s much different. What they do is that they take these canola seeds, they grind them into a paste they spray them with hexane — which is a petroleum-based solvent — which pulls out all the oil. Then they sort of you know, deodorize, bleach, purify. And then you get the oil. But it’s highly processed. I mean that’s not a natural thing. It’s not like people ever said “oh you know I read these ancient Roman texts about how they were eating canola.” it’s like that thing didn’t even exist right? So it’s like okay well if it’s a newfangled food, maybe it’s a problem. If it’s a food we’ve been eating for ten thousand years — so meat, butter, eggs, but also like vegetables. I’m not saying you have to be a carnivore. I’m not saying you have to be a vegetarian. I’m saying eat natural food right? So if you want to eat whale blubber like the Inuit and very little vegetables, go ahead. You’re still probably healthy.
If you want to eat almost no meat like most of the other traditional societies. Because meat is very expensive — then you can also be very healthy. It’s not necessarily an issue with that. It’s about the processing of the foods and so on which is the big issue right?
And this is the whole problem I have with a lot of these sort of movements like paleo. They start out great, and then they start like “oh this is the original human diet, the caveman diet. Eat whatever’s natural and caveman ate.”
That’s a great idea because now you’re eating natural foods. Then people come out with their paleo bars. Like, the caveman were not eating those bars. You’re kidding me right? Like how can you call yourself a paleo bar? The name itself contradicts you.
Mark. Right now everything is paleo friendly or keto friendly…
Jason. Yeah, it’s like the keto bars… You know, the keto movement was about real food as well. And now you have keto bars. That’s not real food. So this is what sort of kills movements. Is that you get these sort of people trying to figure out how they’re gonna make money on that and then all of a sudden you’ve got like this stuff that is not real food. And anytime you start processing the hell out of stuff, you could run into problems. I’m not saying you will, but sometimes I look at these bars and stuff, and they’re full of like, you know, agave nectar so I’m like that oh my God that’s pure fructose right? It’s like that’s terrible for you, but then they’re calling it a “caveman bar” or “caveman ball” or whatever they want to sell right?
And it’s like “oh my God. That’s not a good idea.” the paleo movement, which started with great intentions and very good ideas, wound up devolving into a huge thing of sort of bars and shakes. You know like the caveman we’re not using they’re not drinking their shakes in the morning okay? That’s not what they did.
Mark. Wow lots to think about. And I think that the core message is keep it simple Sally. Keep it simple. Eat real food, eat less often, intermittently fast, do what the Bible says…
Jason. Essentially it comes down to this. Exactly. When you’re eating eat well, eat natural foods. But when you not eating, don’t eat, right? Don’t say “okay, I’m gonna have a muffin and consider that okay. It’s not eating.
When you eat, eat when you don’t eat, don’t eat. That’s the point and you got to balance the eating and the fasting.
And that’s it. That those are not, like, radical ideas. They’re ideas that you could have found… You know, your grandmother could have told you that. It’s just sort of common sense, that people have always said that. And don’t go… Don’t be like “oh I don’t have time for breakfast, so I’m gonna buy myself a paleo bar full of processed” — I don’t know what’s in it right? But it’s all this processed chemical stuff. It’s like, okay that’s not good. You might as well not eat. That’s gonna be better for you in the long term.
Mark. Awesome. I love it. So your website again — you mentioned it earlier — why don’t we just bring that out again. Where people can learn more about this stuff and access your blog and all that.
Jason. Yeah so it’s idmprogram.com and it stands for intensive dietary management. So it’s… You can go to the blog, you can follow me on Twitter, or you can connect with us there.
Mark. Okay and then if the listener is generally healthy and wants to learn about fasting than your book: “the complete guide to fasting” would probably be a good place for them to look.
Jason. Yeah. It talks about schedules and so on. And the others are more specific towards the weight loss and type 2 diabetes, sort of ideas.
Mark. Awesome. Dr. Fung — Jason — thanks so much for your time. This has been fascinating. I really appreciate it and appreciate what you’re doing.
Jason. Okay, great. Thanks so much.
Mark. All right Jason. We’ll stay in touch and appreciate your time that was awesome. Jason. Okay, fantastic. Thanks so much.
Mark. You bet.
All right folks that was Dr. Fung on the Unbeatable Mind podcast. So interesting. I’ve got a few tweaks to my own program to work on and I’m gonna add a longer fast, maybe once every week and a half or two weeks. I’m gonna take a look at the timing for my breakfast, because I’ve been eating my Ample kind of during my workout. So I’m going to slide that back to after my workout. Like I used to do.
Yeah, eat less, eat more fat, eat less often, intermittently fast… Keep it simple. Piece of cake. I think our biggest challenge is ourselves. The patterns and the habits that we develop and fighting against society’s cultural norms which are all bullshit, it seems like. Especially around food.
At any rate — you heard it from Dr. Fung go check out his book and his website idmprogram.com.
Hooyah. All right folks, train hard, stay safe and eat well.
Until next time, Coach Divine out.