[Transcript] – How Much Exercise Is Too Much, Why Calorie Restriction May Be A Bad Thing, The Downsides of Hormesis & Other Shocking Health Myths Debunked With Jay Feldman and Mike Fave.

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From podcast:https://bengreenfieldlife.com/podcast/jay-feldman-podcast/

[00:00:00] Introduction

[00:00:57] Podcast Sponsors

[00:04:17] Guests Introduction

[00:06:38] The History of The Bioenergetic Model of Health

[00:23:40] How Jay and Mike reconcile the dichotomy between their view and the traditional view of a hormetic approach to health

[00:26:13] Why the traditional hormetic model is incorrect

[00:29:37] What causes energy access that leads to chronic disease?

[00:31:40] Podcast Sponsors 

[00:34:42] What Jay and Mike's model looks like in the real world

[00:39:06] Clarity on what Jay and Mike's model does NOT mean

[00:59:40] Better ways to get the benefits of hormesis without the stress of hormesis.

[01:17:04] End of Podcast

Ben:  My name is Ben Greenfield. And, on this episode of the Ben Greenfield Life Podcast.

Mike:  We're not here to argue that keto diet is terrible. We're saying that the beneficial effects that we may see in some of these states may be from a specific effect and is not actually from the stress effect.

Jay:  And so, when you have obesity or diabetes or degenerative states, you actually don't see elevated levels of ATP, you see the direction of excess substrate, as Mike was saying, towards fat storage, for example.

Ben:  That's a dogma of exercise, is that you stress the body and it responds by becoming stronger. Are you saying that that's not true?

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Well, folks, if you're worried about whether or not you might be exercising too much or how much exercise is too much, or whether or all these fads, like carb restriction and saunas and cold and calorie restriction, are actually necessary for lifespan or maybe you waste your time, whether this whole hormesis thing is blown out of proportion, well, you stumbled across the right episode for you. My guests on today's show actually have this entire, what they call, a bioenergetics model of energy. And, they actually have some pretty strong feelings about problems with hormesis and calorie restriction, fasting, ketogenic diets, and cold thermogenesis, and a lot of popular supplements, and Wim Hof breathwork, and all these things. So, I figured I would have them on the show to chat about all this. And, my first guest on today's show is Jay Feldman. Jay, say hello.

Jay:  Hey, everybody. Thanks for having me, Ben.

Ben:  Yeah, for sure. So, Jay is a health coach. He's an independent health researcher. He hosts a podcast called The Energy Balance Podcast. And, he studied Neuroscience and Exercise Physiology at University of Miami. He was going to go to medical school. He said not to. And, now, he just studies this stuff and produces content around it and developed what I mentioned is this bioenergetic approach to maximizing cellular energy. And, his other sidekick, or his sidekick, on today's show is Mike. Mike, do you pronounce your last name Fave?

Mike:  Fave.

Ben:  Fave, I was close. Mine was fancier. Mike Fave is an independent researcher. He's a registered nurse, RN. So, he's traditionally educated in Western medicine. But, he does a lot of independent research, spends a lot of time in PubMed and physiology textbooks, and went the Western medical route, initially, to take care of his own diet nutrition issues and wound up going into completely different direction, partnered up with Jay. And, together, these guys, they address a lot of stuff that's somewhat against the status quo in fitness and health and in nutrition.

So, guys, I'm pretty excited to get you on. And, I know that, probably, the two of you have both experimented quite a bit with different diets and different exercise protocols before you stumbled across what you do now.

So, can you fill me on the whole back history here of how this bioenergetic model came to be?

Jay:  You definitely nailed it. Both of us being very interested in health from a young age, especially in the alternative health realm. I think a lot of people get led there after finding a lot of things that don't work in the mainstream. So, I know, for me, I was very much into fitness and nutrition from a young age. And, as I learned more and more, I fell into the low carb sphere, the Paleo sphere, the biohacking sphere. And, this was right around the time that I actually met Mike, and we doubled down on all of that. And, we're fans of your podcast, Ben.

Ben:  Gee, thanks.

Jay:  And, implementing a lot of these things that now we are not the biggest fans of, or don't think are necessarily ideal.

And, as we further–or, at least, for me–as I went further down that path, I was starting to have more and more health symptoms, promises that I felt were made and that I was expecting from making a lot of these changes and doing cyclical ketogenic diets and intermittent fasting and working out hard very, very regimented with the diets. And, we were not feeling great to show for it. And so, that led to us continuing to research. And, we came across this bioenergetic model of health from the work of Dr. Ray Peat. And, things set off from there.

Ben:  From the work of Dr. Ray Peat. Who is Ray Peat? Because I've heard his name thrown around a little bit. And, I think I've read some of the stuff that he's written, but I don't fully understand who this cat is.

Mike:  He is a Ph.D. researcher. I think his Ph.D. is in biology. And, essentially, he's this more obscure, I guess, author who's wrote quite a few books and texts online. And, he discusses this large overarching point of view of energy and health and how they interrelate. And, he brings in multiple different factors in biology and physiology, and then also, economics and politics. And, he has this very large view of things. And, it's quite interesting. And, also, a lot of it seems to align with our experiences and the different things that we tested out. But, I would really recommend checking out some of his work. It is quite in-depth and ties together a huge range of different physiologic concepts.

Ben:  So, by the way, this Ray Peat, does he have a newsletter or magazine or a website or something like that, a compact disk or a DVD that you can order in the mail?

Mike:  No compact disk, but he does have a website. I think it's RayPeat.com where there's a bunch of articles. And then, he also does have a newsletter. I'm not exactly sure what the process is to go off the top of my head to get to it, but he does have a newsletter and he does do podcasts. I think he does one with Danny Roddy. And then he also does podcast with One Radio Network, which is Patrick Timpone. Those are the two main places. And then, he does random ones with different people, depending on if they ask him to come on or not.

Ben:  Got it. And so, this bioenergetic model of health, this was developed then, from what I understand the way you guys have explained, by Ray Peat. You guys stumbled across this. And, up until that point, it sounds like you were doing the usual intermittent fasting, Paleo-ish type of diet, cold, sauna, weight training, carb restriction, this type of thing?

Jay:  Yeah, we're both doing it together in college.

Ben:  So, maybe, a loaded question here, because there's a lot of variables that we're juggling when we talk about sauna and calorie restriction and cold and all that jazz. And, I don't know if you want to tackle them one by one or lump them all to the same hormetic category. But, what exactly is it about this bioenergetic model that shifted your view in terms of how you're utilizing these things? And, what do you do with that information?

Jay:  There are a couple of things about it that, I think, were particularly noteworthy. But, as Mike mentioned quite a bit, it is really in-depth in physiology and, of course, other views as well. But, I think it's a very cohesive big-picture view that also is represented on the very minute picture as well, which I'm sure we'll be digging into as far as what's actually going on in ourselves and in our mitochondria, and on from there. But, the larger view here is basically this idea. The bioenergetic model of health is basically this idea that the flow of energy or the availability of energy is what drives biological function. And then, if there's a reduction in that energy availability, that drives disease and aging. And so, when we're talking about this energy, again, this is not some sort of spiritual type energy. This is, again, based in physiological energy production through the mitochondria. We're producing ATP. The carbon dioxide also plays a role there as well. And, looking at that as the driver of health and something that basically shows itself in all diseases and degeneration, and then also, on the opposite side, as far as driving health and function. And so, on its basis–We'll get into, I guess, the hormesis side, but on its basis directly opposes the hormetic view, which almost takes an opposite approach of this idea that we want to deplete energy and create stress to support our health.

Ben:  So, what you're saying is, we don't want to deplete energy and create stress in order to support to our health, if you were to talk about the negative aspects of the bioenergetic model.

Mike:  When you boil it down, Ray Peat's hypothesis for this, which is energy and structure are interdependent at every level sets the tone for the bioenergetic view, where there's this idea that, when you're streaming energy through a system, you can allow for increased complexity of that system. And then, with increased complexity, you can produce more energy. So, when you're moving into states where you're starting to deplete the energy and whatnot, then you have to rely on these, I guess, stress systems that can start to degrade structure, to some extent.

So, the other important thing about this view overall, it places energy as that forefront linchpin to look at for the multitude of health issues and moves it away from more obscure things, specifically, like genetics, which was a heavy dog. And, that's something that Peat talks a lot about in his work as well. So, this idea that maintaining adequate energy flow through the mitochondria allows for continued maintenance and production of structure and any aberration of that can actually lead to a degradation of structures through these adaptive pathways.

Ben:  So, what you're saying is maintaining proper energy flow through the mitochondria is able to maintain health. Whereas, if we restrict energy flow through things like carbohydrate restriction, calorie restriction, excessive fasting, excessive stress via, say, energy depletion from exercising in a low-calorie or carbohydrate-deprived state, would therefore reduce the energy flow through the mitochondria, and that would deleteriously impact health?

Jay:  And, that requires a long-term view as well. I'm sure we'll dig into it, but sometimes, in the short term, when you create stress–not sometimes, almost always–when you create stress in the short term, you have a short-term burst of energy production and expenditure to deal with that stress. But, we'll discuss how, in the long term, that comes at a cost to this flow of energy.

Ben:  I definitely want to talk about that because that's the idea behind hormesis, is you induce short-term stress to induce long-term resilience. But, the disconnect for me, so far, is when you say that you can increase energy flow through the mitochondria with, say, not exercising excessively, not engaging in excess heat and cold and fasting and beating the body up too much, that you would see an increase in health when, in fact, the way I've always thought about things, guys, has been excesses of energy results to a host of chronic diseases, like obesity, diabetes, too much ATP, too much free radical generation from too much energy production by the mitochondria, and therefore, by having periods of time where you're limiting energy flow, you would therefore increase mitochondrial biogenesis, you would decrease stress on the heart and other cells, you would decrease the workload by the gut. And, ultimately, it's like this stoic mentality of longevity, leading even to the joke–I've been guilty of saying this sometimes, that I don't want to live till I'm 160 if I'm going to be cold and hungry and libido less. And, I totally get that. But, it sounds to me like you guys are almost proposing the complete opposite and, in near Epicurean approach, eat as much as you want, don't exercise type of thing.

Mike:  It's not necessarily that, but I want to touch on something directly that you initially said, that you were talking about too much energy leading to obesity, diabetes, etc., or too much ATP. Jay and I talked about this quite a bit in the podcast, but there's a difference between substrate and then, also, energy production. So, what we're saying here, to a large extent, is not necessarily that we want always an excess of substrate–substrate being fatty acids, glucose, those being the main substrate. We want to make sure that the fatty acids and glucose are effectively oxidized through the mitochondria to produce ATP. Whereas, in states of obesity and diabetes and chronic diseases, what you see is an actual breakdown in that process.

So, they link them to an excess of energy, per se. But, I think the terminology is a little bit difficult when you start conflating energy and substrate because you have a substrate, you have something that's being put into a system, which will oxidize that substrate. And then, you have an output of ATP. What we want to do is we want to make sure the substrate is flowing into ATP. We're not just saying just having this overall excess of substrate all the time.

The other thing I want to touch on is that, you talked about ROS. And, I guess we'll dig into this in a little bit, but in these states where you're driving mitochondrial biogenesis and all these adaptive pathways, it's happening through ROS. So, you're inducing higher amounts of ROS in the fasting, the cold thermogenesis, caloric restriction, to some extent, the plant compounds, etc. You're inducing an ROS response, and that ROS response is triggering these other pathways that are then inducing an antioxidant response. So, you have to first induce more ROS. And, there are certain studies looking at higher metabolic rates showing less ROS. And, we can get into the flip side of this, where, when you're producing large amounts of ATP, you can have an ROS signaling that can also have an effect. So, what this is going to come down to is a contextual conversation about what's happening in these different circumstances.

Jay:  I think, on the conceptual level, Ben, that's what you were discussing, is this doesn't jive with how we view organisms and health and aging. And so, what Mike had mentioned, as far as energy and, basically, calories being two different things. And so, when you have obesity or diabetes or degenerative states, you actually don't see elevated levels of ATP. You see the direction of excess substrate, as Mike was saying, toward fat stores, for example. But, that's not because you had too much energy. It's actually because there's blocks, various things that will block that conversion from the calories, the food we take in, into energy. And, we'll be talking about some of those today as well.

But, the other piece that you brought up, which is a great point, Ben, is, basically, this idea, which is the rate of living theory, which is that, the more energy we expend, the faster we age. And, that's an idea that's really born out of a very mechanical view of the human body, where we only have a certain number of heartbeats or a certain amount of usage of our parts until they deteriorate, and then we age and degenerate. And, that theory, largely, there's quite a bit of evidence against it, I would say.

Ben:  Well, if I could jump in real quick, I don't know if the theory is that whole your heart has a certain number of beats and you don't want to use them up too much. I guess, what I'm going off of is just this idea that, when you look at a lot of the inhibition of mitochondrial respiration, in which a lot of these anti-aging studies everybody's talking about are done on, essentially, what you're doing is you are inhibiting the activity in the mitochondria, specifically cytochrome c oxidase. So, reducing ATP synthesis. When you reduce ATP synthesis, you're promoting mitochondrial biogenesis and mitophagy or cellular cleanup, which subsequently decreases the reactive oxygen species and the mitochondrial decay. And then, the theory, or really–and it actually have shown this, and you guys know this–yeast and fruit flies and rodent models, that, that then reduces energy or establishes energy homeostasis and curbs things like the glucose irregularities and the onset of fat cell accumulation, etc., that can occur with age.

And so, that's what I'm trying to wrap my head around, is it sounds to me like you're saying, well, no, push as many energy substrates as you want through the mitochondria, increase ATP synthesis. But, everything that I've seen seems to suggest that that would promote mitochondrial decay and excess reactive oxygen species production. Does that make sense?

Jay:  Yeah, it totally makes sense. And, I think, at this point, we'll probably have to dig into all that research that you're referring to because there's a huge vast library of research that this idea of hormesis is built upon. But, I think the foundations of that research are really not there. I think that there are some huge mistakes that have been made, as far as extrapolating that research to actually mean that stress and reducing energy availability leads to the longevity that we might see from calorie restriction, for example. I think there are a lot of other factors that explain it that actually, not only do they suggest that it's not the stress and the reduction in ATP that leads to longevity, but actually even the opposite. But, it's, maybe, something to start to get into now.

Ben:  Well, let's make sure, too, we're talking on the same terms. Because, when you guys are talking about how this hormesis can cause the type of stress that might decrease lifespan rather than the type of stress that might increase mitochondrial proliferation or biogenesis or mitophagy or cellular autophagy or reduction in [00:21:12] _____ or excess glucose spikes, all the things that we think right now, or at least if you listen to the average health and fitness or nutrition podcast or read the next greatest longevity book, that's what they're all saying. But, I think we should probably establish our terms. So, when you guys say excess hormesis, what's the avatar that you're talking about? What's the typical person doing that you think is a mistake? And, I say that because I got up this morning, I hadn't eaten in 12 hours, I did a sauna session, I jumped in the cold pool, I did some breathwork, I had a smoothie but it didn't have any carbohydrates in it. Are we talking about guys like me or are we talking about the Ironman triathlete who's ketogenic?

Jay:  Yeah, in some ways, both. It's all contextual. And, I think there's obviously a difference between those two scenarios. And, I don't view that everything you're doing, Ben, is necessarily negative. I just think that, when it comes to a lot of these interventions, like calorie restriction or ketogenic diets or cold thermogenesis, they have some short-term benefits and, I would say, a long-term cost, and that has to do with the way that they are creating their effects. And, I think that there are better ways to create those effects without the stress. And so, when it comes to something like a ketogenic diet, I think there can be a ton of benefits.

And, that's unquestionable, right? A lot of people experience benefits. But, I think that there are things that can explain those benefits that are not stress. And, what that means is, if we identify those factors, and to oversimplify, let's say for a ketogenic diet, it's a reduction in LPS, which is lipopolysaccharide, or endotoxin production. Then, we can create that same outcome by reducing LPS through other means that don't require the stress of a ketogenic diet. So, it's not necessarily that the effects of these are all inherently negative. But, they all cause stress. And, I don't think that stress is beneficial. And so, we can create the outcomes without driving that stress, if we're considering that possibility.

Ben:  Got you. And, I actually do want to get into that, the better ways to get those benefits without the stress. You just used lipopolysaccharides as an example. I think that'd be fantastic to get into. And, before we do, though, help me understand. Continue to convince me why this model is incorrect because I still don't have my head wrapped around it. But, I'm listening. So, keep going on that before we get into what the alternatives would be if we weren't going to do calorie restriction and fasting and ketogenic diets and cold and things like that.

Mike:  One thing I want to touch upon here that I think Jay was just getting at is that, the lens of hormesis tends to look at things through you need to induce the stress to get all of these beneficial effects. And, the beneficial effects are mediated through the stress. And, part of the conceptual shift that we're trying to make, that we're making a case for, is it's not necessarily that the beneficial effects are coming through the stress. There may be specific effects. And, the specific effects is something coined by Hans Selye, where there's a specific effect of some type of intervention that doesn't necessarily work through the stress, but it does have a benefit.

And so, we're not getting to a place–I don't think the argument here is that we're trying to eliminate all stress or anything like that because it's obviously not possible. But, the idea is to focus on a specific effects of an outcome, and then look at that in the context of what is the organism's context? What is the state of that individual? And, what is the beneficial specific effect? And then, what is the stress response that's produced in order to obtain this specific effect? And then, make a cost-benefit ratio to that situation and make a determination of, is the stress worth the specific effect in this organism's context? So, I guess a good example, just to take it out of abstract terms, is, if you have an individual who hasn't slept very well and who hasn't had any carbohydrates wakes up the next morning and then does exercise and is fasting and then does cold thermogenesis, now you're having multiple additive stressful effects on the organism that may actually not be a good thing, or I would argue, is not a good thing overall.

So, that's why when you say something we're not here to argue that keto diet is terrible. Whereas, saying that the beneficial effects that we may see in some of these states, like a ketogenic diet, like caloric restriction, or like some of these plant compounds, maybe from a specific effect and is not actually from the stress effect.

A piece that needs to be clarified here is like a definition of hormesis. What is hormesis? That has been changed. That definition has been adjusted over time. So, it started with we had the idea that there's a small amount of a harmful substance can produce some type of beneficial effect.

Ben:  What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, the whole theoretical phenomenon of the dose response effect.

Mike:  That was something that, if I remember correctly, and this is something that actually Jay showed me, was through chemical research, looking at pollutants and the chemical companies looking at pollutants and creating arguments around small doses of mercury and other polluting compounds have a beneficial effect because they induce antioxidant enzymes inside the body, like the glutathione peroxidase, etc.

So, that was initial. And then, it adjusted into this. I think it's the biphasic and triphasic dose response curves. Whereas, low dosages, there was a beneficial effect. And then, at high dosages, negative. Or, there was the triphasic discussion, which was low doses was positive, moderate doses equivocal, and then high doses had a negative effect. And, it just put things into this context of, if you have a low dose of some type of poison or stressor, it was beneficial, and just look at it through that. And then, I don't know, Jay, if you want to interject here because you had a little more experience with going through these different definitions.

Jay:  I think, in some way, you did it well. It started out looking at very toxic compounds, ionizing radiation, mercury, things like that. Seeing that those actually had a lot of the same effects with what's considered to be hormetic now, where they inhibit certain — 

Ben:  Right, the idea like the rodents around Chernobyl live longer, that type of thing.

Jay:  And then, that's since been extended to things that are not necessarily directly toxic, but rather anything that causes that sort of stress. And, it's been further muddy from there, but as far as your question, Ben, as far as a way to conceptualize this, and a way to conceptualize this idea that we want to be increasing energy as opposed to depleting it. Part of it comes from seeing this in all disease processes. So, you had cited or mentioned degenerative states. We were talking, let's say, diabetes. And, that's certainly not a state where you see excess ATP levels. You tend to see actually excess reactive oxygen species levels and a poor response to that. You don't see a proper adaptive response. And, a lot of that tends to come because there is a direct inhibition of glucose metabolism, which is what causes the high blood sugar and insulin resistance that's seen in diabetes. So, that process is not driven by excess energy. It's instead driven by a block between the production of energy from glucose to ATP. That is what we would say and what we argue throughout various disease processes, whether it's neurodegenerative conditions or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease or autoimmune issues, we argued that that's actually what drives these processes. It is an inhibition of energy production, excess levels of stress hormones, poor adaptive responses, and degeneration that comes with it, because we don't have the energy available to maintain a well-functioning system.

Ben:  So, does that mean that you were saying that when we do engage in energy intake that is not involving this type of hormetic stress and might involve higher carbohydrate intake or higher calorie intake, that the issue when we see chronic diseases arise in that type of scenario is improper utilization of that increase in energy that results in cellular damage? Whereas, in an ideal scenario, in a healthy person, you would see a really clean production of ATP in that scenario?

Jay:  Exactly. Yes, exactly.

Ben:  So, what would cause energy excess that we see leading to chronic disease that you guys say, in an ideal scenario, would not lead to chronic disease? What would cause that energy excess that we would get through, maybe, not exercising as much, not fasting as much, eating more carbs, less ketogenic diet, etc., etc.? What would cause that energy excess to actually be harmful? Is it just the type of foods we would be eating or something like that?

Jay:  And, just for the clarification of the nomenclature, I'll be referring to energy as the end product as opposed to the food we take in because there's that whole conversion process. You know that a lot of the foods we're taking in in our modern world, these are starting to become acknowledged more and more, such as the excessive polyunsaturated fat intake through seed oils, those actually have some direct effects, reducing the efficiency of energy production or blocking our ability to produce energy, at different points of the electron transport chain or of the Krebs cycle. You see the same thing with the effects of gut irritation, for example. So, leaky gut has been something that's been discussed for a long time. And, part of the reason why that's so harmful is because there are various bacterial toxins that are supposed to be excreted or, at least, stay in our intestines and not make it into our bloodstream. One of the biggest ones is LPS or endotoxin that I mentioned earlier. And, it's really, really effective at blocking energy production at the electron transport chain. And so, that's where you end up with these excess calories or excess substrate that's not being converted to energy. It's being stored as body fat. And, you're left with less energy, so you're not actually able to function as well. ATP is what allows our neurons to fire. It allows our muscles to contract, and on from there, our livers to detoxify various toxic agents.

Mike:  So, essentially, a shunting effect is what you see going on in these situations, where you have substrate not being converted to energy. Instead, it's being converted to body fat. At the same time, that block from the conversion, you have the substrate converted to energy. There's a block at that place. And, it could be caused by polyunsaturated fats. It could be caused by endotoxin, excessive elevation of stress hormones, etc.

Ben:  It's no secret I'm a big fan of wine, not the kind of wine that gives you headaches and that's full of the 76 different additives that are actually legally shockingly approved for use in wine-making these days–dyes and thickeners and GMO yeast and that fancy French wine that you've paid for. So, the top 21 sold in the U.S. contain higher levels of sugar and alcohol. And, it's crazy. It's like drinking a soda. And, if you care about what you put into your body and don't want all this stuff, then you've got to go for an alcohol that's organically and biodynamically grown, preferably lower in sugars, lower in alcohol, lab-tested for purity, and even created on a smaller family farm for better quality control. Do you know three giant wine companies sell over 50% of U.S. wine? It's crazy.

So, wine is a pretty bastardized industry. But, there's this one company. They're called Dry Farm Wines. It's dry because they don't irrigate their crops heavily so you get a grape that's more concentrated in antioxidants and lower in sugar. They have access to 55,000 acres of organic vineyards. Their growers farm roughly 7% of all the organic farms in Europe. So, these small family vineyards preserve healthy soil and dynamic biodiversity. You get the wine. It's old-world biodynamic wine, the way wine was meant to be. My wife gets headaches when we go out to a restaurant and order wine. And, when we drink Dry Farm at home, she's just fine. And, they even have 100% happiness promise. Any bottle you don't love, they'll replace or refund at Dry Farm.

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Ben:  Then, what would be an example in which someone–you guys could use your own diet as an example here, or perhaps, the way that you're living as an example, of someone who would be in a state of energy excess or someone who's not engaged in as much hormesis, but who is producing healthy levels of ATP. What's this look like when it fleshes out, as far as examples?

Jay:  So, we both eat whole food diets that are still based on getting really great quality food, grass-fed meat, eating organ meats, very nutrient-dense. We don't issue all of those features of what's considered to be healthy now. But, what it does include, I guess, in contrast, is having carbohydrates relatively consistently throughout the day with, maybe, let's say every four to five hours or so, three to five hours, depending on our needs, whether it's a meal or a snack. And, that carbohydrate intake is not coming from grains or, I don't know, candy or something. But, rather, generally, we focus on whole foods, cooked roots, and tubers, like sweet potatoes or parsnips or something like that.

And then, I guess, as far as exercise goes, and we'll talk about this, maybe, in more detail, we focus on exercise that doesn't drive excessive amounts of stress, but does still have other benefits.

Ben:  Keep giving examples, including the exercise, because I've heard, for example–And, this would be Pavel Tsatsouline's theory in his book, “The Quick and the Dead.” Literally, in “The Quick and the Dead,” he's referring to very short non-lactic acid-producing exercise sessions like short 10-second bouts of kettlebell swings being far superior and advantageous for long-term health compared to what he terms the dead, not the quick, which would be high amounts of lactic acid production. You see other models like HIRT taking precedence over HIIT, as something that's more sustainable for life, that results in less acidosis, less metabolic acidosis and lactic acid buildup. That would be high-intensity repeat training, going for a walk and every four minutes or so just doing an all-out 10-second sprint, versus, say, doing two minutes on, one minute off on a bicycle for 20 minutes, or something like that.

And so, I think I might get at what you guys are getting at here, or understand what you guys are getting at here. Reduce stress on the body, yet still a certain amount of movement, with a particular focus on reduced amount of lactic acidosis or reduced muscle damage. But, I would love to hear you flesh it out a little bit more.

Mike:  As far as my personal exercise regimen, it involves a lot of bodybuilding type exercises, a general bodybuilding routine. But, there's a focus on recovery and a focus on minimizing a stress response, for example, increasing the time between sets, etc., and then managing volume appropriately, and then also developing muscle tension. And, one of the things to discuss is the idea that there's been an idea around muscle building, in particular, with exercise, where you needed this muscular damage to develop the muscles overall. And, what we're seeing in this is a newer paper, I think, by Brad Schoenfeld, discussing muscular tension probably being the primary candidate for muscle development, etc. So, with the exercise, I don't think an acute lactic acid generation during exercise is necessarily terrible, but the focus around exercise within the model, at least, from my perspective, is around creating that specific effect, that anabolic stimulus on the muscle and trying to minimize the stress effect of the exercise so that you can optimize and, depending on your goal, for my outcome is for hypertrophy, for building muscle tissue, for building lean mass.

So, it comes down to that view of the model. Whereas, an alternative model, I guess, could be something along the lines of I'm going to go in the gym and I'm going to induce as much muscular damage as possible, so I can have this anabolic effect somehow from that, and try to recover from it after. The switch when you change your lens from this kind of hormetic approach is, “I want to have a specific effect of a stimulus on the muscle through muscular tension with adequate amounts of volume while minimizing a muscular damage and an excessive stress response indicated by cortisol, catecholamines, etc., so that I can recover effectively and then do it again on a more regular basis.” So, if the lens shift changes, how you go about it?

Ben:  So, what would that look like? And, I think, probably, just so that people can better up their hands, at least, for me, personally, selfishly enough. This is how I understand things. Can you guys continue, but with as much detail as possible, to walk me through the ideal day of someone using a really good bioenergetic model? Super nitty-gritty specific with me, I want to hear about, when you guys wake up, what you do, what you have for breakfast, when you have breakfast, how you exercise. And, maybe, I'll ask some questions along the way about why you're doing what. Does that make sense? Can you guys start to flesh it out, in terms of boots on the streets, what you're doing?

Jay:  After sleeping, let's say, eight to nine hours, normally–I aim for nine. And, I'd prefer an earlier sleep schedule. That, to me, is something that I view as essentially my fast. And so, normally, when I wake up, one of the first things I want to do is break that fast. And, I'm saying this a little tug in cheek, but there is actually something to that where the natural rhythm of our stress hormones, they tend to peak right in the morning when we're supposed to wake up. And, that's supposed to wake us up. And, then, ideally, this should be pretty low throughout the rest of the day. And so, I'll make sure to start off when I wake up with a very easily digesting carbohydrate source to immediately dampen or decrease the catecholamine response or glucocorticoid response.

Ben:  So, you mean the morning cortisol response, you're trying to dampen that with carbohydrate intake, but you're not concerned about the idea that the cortisol is supposed to wake you up and jumpstart your circadian rhythm? Meaning, specifically, what would you say to a guy like Satchin Panda, who's going to be like, you're eating at a time when you've already got this natural cortisol response. You'll suppress that. You're going to delay your circadian rhythm. What are your thoughts about that?

Jay:  So, I guess I viewed the natural response to be a peak. And then, it's supposed to basically go down as soon as we have food available, which I think–And, again, this comes back to this conceptual view, but if you were to continue without any food available and let that cortisol stay high ongoing and continue a long-term fast, I think that's a really good way to depress our metabolism by reducing energy availability, you increase stress hormone production, you reduce the level of the thyroid activity, the thyroid hormones, you reduce the anabolic hormones. I think that that is a recipe toward long-term stress and decreased function.

Ben:  And, there are some people that'll argue with you and say, “Well, by decreasing thyroid hormone and metabolism and lowering the anabolic response, that you would actually induce enhance longevity.” You've probably heard that before, right?

Jay:  Yeah. And, that's where that rate of living theory comes in. And, it's another one calorie restriction, where we're attributing the benefit to the wrong thing. And so, one of the places that came from is they looked at a wide variety of species of animals that, let's say, elephants versus mice. They found that the mice had a very high metabolic rate, relative to their size. Whereas, elephants were very small. Low metabolic rate relative to their size. And, of course, elephants live a lot longer. So, it must be better. But, there are a bunch of confounding variables here. And so, what they actually found is that, when you look within the species, so look within the elephants or just looking at different mice, the ones who have the higher metabolic rates actually live longer.

There's a couple of mediating factors here. And, one of the main ones, coming back to the polyunsaturated fats, is the amount of unsaturated fats that are in the membranes of our tissues, especially in the mitochondria. And, the more polyunsaturated fats are in there, the less efficient our metabolism. And so, when you're looking between species, it tends to be standard. Let's say all mice tend to have about the same level of unsaturated fats in their membranes compared to all elephants. And so, that's where you get that difference. The mice are very inefficient with their ability to produce energy. They actually produce a lot of reactive oxygen species and much lower amounts of ATP. But, when you look within the species that may have a standard amount of unsaturated fat, the increased metabolic rate actually wins out and increases longevity.

Ben:  And, again, you said the one with the greater reactive oxygen species wins out?

Jay:  No, the one with the greater metabolism, the higher energy expenditure within a species, which actually does, as Mike said, tend to result in lower reactive oxygen species.

Ben:  And, how does it that a higher metabolism result in reduced reactive oxygen species? Because, most people would say, well, by increasing throughput, you're going to increase reactive oxygen species, just because, a lot of times, the ROSs will serve as even just a signaling molecule, as a paracrine signaling molecule for certain functions.

Mike:  In different states, you'll have different amounts of reactive oxygen species. When you have a higher throughput through the mitochondria, you can produce more reactive oxygen species. But, in that circumstance, you also have, if it's moving through effectively and producing ATP, you'll have more ATP. Whereas, in other situations with a lowered metabolism, you can have less throughput. Or, if you're changing from a carbohydrate oxidation to a fat oxidation, you can actually cause an issue and ratios between NAD and NADH. That can create issues at complex I and it's related to FAD and FADH2, as well. But, you create issues at complex I. And then, you generate the reactive oxygen species through that complex one. And then, you can trigger an adaptive response that can upregulate uncoupling.

So, there's two scenarios. If you have a situation where you're oxidizing glucose, your oxidizing substrate, you're producing that large amount of ATP, then, when you start to have a buildup of ATP, then you can adjust that proton motive force at ATPase, which is the enzyme that basically takes the protons from the inner compartment of the mitochondria and moves them through to generate ATP. You'll build up more automotive force, the protons get backed up inside the mitochondria, and then you generate more ROS. This is a very different state than if you were to have a situation where, say, you're oxidizing larger amounts of fats, and the larger amounts of fats create more FADH. And then, that FADH basically creates an issue with the ubiquinone inside the mitochondria that jams up complex I. Now, you have a lot more ROS coming out of complex I, and then you're triggering a response where you have less ATP production and you still have ROS. And, in both situations, you can get uncoupling, which is essentially where you're diverting the protons out through the uncoupling proteins, and then you're not generating ATP, you're generating heat.

So, the characteristic difference that we're describing here in these situations is related to whether you have larger amounts of ATP or not, and in the presence of larger amounts of ATP, the ROS signaling may not necessarily be a bad thing. It can actually be a good thing. And then, you also can see that uncoupling effect.

Ben:  And, what you're saying is that carbohydrate restriction and excesses of fat will result in the ATP, along with the electron transport chain being generated in such a manner that you see a downregulation of ATPase, almost like a gumming up of metabolic machinery in a different terms of the high ATP, high reactive oxygen species, favorable scenario versus the low ATP, high reactive oxygen species, unfavorable scenario.

Jay:  And, that's not particularly controversial, either. I know it sounds like we're saying something here that many people would disagree on, but this is the exact purpose, arguably, of fat oxidation, where when we're in a starvation state, it's meant to create a lot of reactive oxygen species that are meant to signal the slowing of respiration in order to allow us to survive for a longer period of time. And so, when we're in a state like that, the reactive oxygen species are the bottleneck that stop respiration from functioning properly. Whereas, in the other state, where we're producing a lot of ATP, the ATP is the bottleneck. As you said, Ben, that leads to an increased reactive oxygen species for, after you have the elevated ATP levels, so much that it slows things down. And then, you can create the uncoupling.

So, what Mike was saying, you can have uncoupling in both states driven by reactive oxygen species. One you have high ATP, and the other one you have low ATP. And, one is driven by stress, and one is not. And, that's really that difference that we're seeing.

Ben:  We got to the point where you're giving yourself a nice long luxurious sleep period, you're viewing that as your fast, which sounds like it's about maybe anywhere from 8 to 12 hours in length, depending in when you finish dinner because you said you're sleeping eight to nine hours in that range. And then, you actually do have carbohydrates when you first get up. And then, what happens? And, I don't mind if you guys bounce back and forth because it sounds like you're doing something similar.

Mike:  For me, I generally leave a time between meals, because I had digestive issues from surgeries and stuff in the past. So, there's the migrating motor complex. I'll leave about three hours to optimize that for myself. And then, I'll eat basically every three hours. And, the meals that I'll have will contain a decent amount of carbohydrate, a decent amount of protein, and a decent amount of fat. So, as a very specific example, a meal, so say for breakfast this morning, I had, maybe, a couple ounces of dried goji berries or other dried fruit, like dried pineapple. And then, I had some juice. Maybe, 12 to 16 ounces of juice. And then, I had a nice piece of red meat. And, I had a side of cooked vegetables with butter. So, that would be a general meal for me.

And, part of the ideology around that meal, there's a couple of pieces there that are more specific. For example, the combining of plants with meat to adjust the effects on the microbiome, because the adjustments in the microbiome is a huge piece of the bioenergetic point of view to lower endotoxemia. I know there's going to probably be a question coming in about saturated fats and endotoxin. And, we can talk about that. And then, also, I want to make sure that I'm maintaining my blood sugar between meals. So, I'm having adequate amounts of carbohydrate with adequate amounts of fiber, adequate amounts of protein, and adequate amounts of fat, so I can maintain my blood sugar and prevent blood sugar dips. And then, I'm eating in a frequent enough manner, so that I'm also maintaining my blood sugar adequately. At least, for me, that's the rhythm I go about things. And, I'd let you speak to yourself, Jay. But, I think we're similar.

Ben:  So, it sounds like–just real quick before Jay jumps in and add any of his little things that he does, it sounds like it's almost like a grain or, at least, low grain, maybe even close to a grain-free, like higher carb nuts, seeds, berries, meat, juice type of Paleo-ish approach. But, the difference being that, unlike a typical CrossFitter fasting hormesis, extremely low carb Paleo approach, that involves a lot of lactic acid coming up the eyeballs during the workouts, and again you guys correct me if I'm misinterpreting anything here, it's instead, basically, again, not vilifying carbohydrates, including your fruit juices, having meals that are spread throughout the day to where you're never really getting that hypoglycemic, going in and exercising, but not choosing the type of workouts that produce a lot of burn, a lot of lactic acid, a lot of lung-sucking type of stuff that performance enthusiasts might engage in, a luxurious amount of sleep.

And then, I guess, one thing I might be missing out on here–And, first of all, let me know if I'm on the right track as far as interpreting what you're doing. Second of all, what about the things like the heat and cold and the sunlight and grounding and earthing, some of these things like the biohackers/Paleo folks might be doing?

Mike:  My personal paradigm is essentially Paleo. I don't do well with dairy. I know that's big in some of the bioenergetic point of view. I'm allergic to it. But, it is optimizing those things.

The diet is focused around getting enough nutrients to optimize function. So, I want enough carbohydrate so I can keep my stress hormones low, like the catecholamines, etc., and to allow for optimal brain function. Then, I also want to have enough fat, so I can produce enough steroid hormones, like testosterone. And, I also want to have enough protein, so that I can adequately stimulate protein synthesis in my body. It's about hitting thresholds. And then, it's also about nutrient density. I want to have enough nutrients, so I'm hitting particular thresholds. And then, it's also about some of the beneficial effects in the microbiome. So, there's optimizations of all of these things and seeing all of these things as necessary and beneficial and required for certain levels of function.

And then, as far as sunlight, huge fans of sunlight, huge fans of grounding, as you discussed. Those are all part of the entire picture, a lot of the pictures around minimizing some of the unnecessary stresses and optimizing a hormonal profile as well. So, keeping your catecholamines, keeping your glucocorticoids low, and optimizing androgens, optimizing thyroid, optimizing dopamine, etc., all of those types of things. So, shifting into this more anabolic, pro-metabolic perspective, and less on the stress hormones, relying on these stress hormones for these different pathways. 

I guess a large and important view in this situation, and I guess the heuristic–the way I view is, each one of the stress hormones, like your glucocorticoids or your catecholamines or aldosterone, they all release some type of component that your body needs to function. So, for example, cortisol will increase sugar. Adrenaline will liberate fats and sugars as well from glycogen. Your aldosterone will liberate or help to retain different minerals. So, when you have adequate amounts of these different things, you don't need to rely on these hormones.

And so, you see this in research as well. If you have somebody who's training, you give them adequate carbohydrates, you can get a lower cortisol response and you can optimize the testosterone and cortisol ratio. And, that's where the energy and structure piece comes in as well. Because, when you use these adaptive hormones and you're liberating, for example, say, you need to do gluconeogenesis, you need cortisol for gluconeogenesis, then what do you have to break down for that? That's amino acids. So, you're having to break down stores of your tissues to provide the energy, or the substrate to produce energy, instead of taking them exogenously. So, that's, I guess, a heuristic around the view, to some extent.

Ben:  Got it. And, would you say a professional athlete, an Olympian, maybe, an Ironman triathlete, CrossFit competitor, etc., they probably aren't going to listen to some of your advice? Because, I assume that you acknowledge the trade-off between the longevity afforded by your approach versus the necessity for metabolic acidosis and, perhaps, the type of hormetic stress, especially the hormetic stress induced by exercise that some of these folks might be putting their bodies through.

Jay:  Not necessarily. I actually think that it's even more important. If we're going to be doing something, if we're going to make a sacrifice for athletics or fitness or sport, it's even more important to make sure that we are calculated, I guess, or paying attention to how we are reducing stress as much as possible. So, again, our issue with the hormesis, what we're skirting around, is that the stress is not beneficial, even for athletic performance. And, again, I guess, there are some nuances here. But, let's take somebody who's a powerlifter. The benefits that they tend to derive come from, as Mike was saying, the mechanical tension put on the muscles by the resistance training that they're doing that signals for muscle growth, improvements, and strength, the neurological connections. And, I would argue that that happens despite the stress, not because of it. And so, for someone in that situation, if they are favoring excess or high amounts of activity, I would say it's even more important to make sure that you're supplying adequate fuel, including carbohydrates.

Ben:  Oh, I totally agree with that. Gosh, you probably realize this, Jay. You might have induced a collective sigh, moan, head slap amongst any of the strength conditioning coaches listening in when you said that the response to exercise from–we're talking about mitochondrial muscle gain, whatever, occurs despite the stress, not because of it. Because that's a dogma of exercise, is that you stress the body and it responds by becoming stronger. Are you saying that that's not true?

Jay:  So, we have to define stress there. So, stress, I would say, is not just stimulating the body, but it's creating a stress response. It's depleting energy and increasing stress hormones, creating metabolic downregulation.

Ben:  That's a subtle nuance. You're not saying the stress induced by, say, pushing your body from 135-pound overhead push press or clean and jerk to 155-pound. You're saying the stress involved by finishing a workout like that and then going out and not eating anything for two hours and shorting yourself on sleep so you can get up in time to do your sauna and your cold plunge and restricting carbohydrates just so you don't get fat, that type of thing.

Jay:  It does flip a lot of the general perspective on its head, that we need to be fighting against our bodies, we need to be putting ourselves into these really–I would regard them as harmful, at least, difficult, stressful situations, in order to grow, as opposed to that growth being a product of a really enriching environment that supports our energetic capacity and allows for us to still move forward, but in a different way.

And so, you mentioned high-level endurance athletes. And, I think, without a doubt, that is the situation where you are going to be sacrificing some modicum of health for that sort of performance. But, I would still say, the more that we can oppose the stress-induced part of it, the better.

Ben:  But, what you're not saying, just to clarify, is that athletes shouldn't go out and do hard workouts.

Jay:  Yeah, not for that goal. If their goal is to improve their performance, then yeah, hard workouts can be part of that.

Mike:  What we're saying is that we should optimize the athlete so that the athlete can get the most out of the specific effects of their training and minimize the stressful effects on the system because I guess we haven't really discussed it yet, but the stress is cumulative. So, there are stress overall as a cumulative effect on the system. And, something discussed in general adaptation syndrome, which is Hans Selye‘s model, is that you can have all these different types of stressors and they still move through the same pathways. So, the idea here is not, don't work out, or if you're focusing on performance, don't do hard workouts. It's optimize it for your performance. So, do your workouts that are necessary to achieve your goal. And, there may be some sacrifices involved there, but then on the back end, optimize recovery as much as possible so that you're able to actually effectively handle the stress.

And, another part of the argument is that, it may not be, depending on the situation, but in a lot of situations, it may not necessarily be the stress itself that is driving the beneficial response. It is the specific effect. So, for example, with the overhead press, the tension on the muscle in the overhead press may actually be the beneficial stimulus that's stretching the co-stimulus, which are just the different components that connect the muscle fibers. It's causing a response there that's signaling the muscle fibers, “Hey, it's time to grow,” versus we need to rip the muscle up and damage the muscle so that it then repairs and then it grows. So, it's a questioning of that nuance there, where it's like, maybe, we don't need to actually induce this stress and damage to get the beneficial effect, or that's not the primary focus for the beneficial effect. It's just an unavoidable aspect that's there.

Ben:  So, it sounds like when Selye defined general adaptation syndrome, which defines how an organism reacts to stress and defined those three stages, the initial shock, the resistance, and then if the stress persists, the exhaustion. What you're saying is, initial shock, fine. Resistance, fine. Persistent stress that leads to exhaustion, to be avoided, yet something that a lot of modern-day health enthusiasts, especially those pursuing either the pointy edges of longevity or performance are actually still doing.

Jay:  I would also say that even if you can create an environment that allows for the same goals that you're trying to achieve, without even creating the initial parts of that stress response, that would be even better. So, coming back to, let's say, a keto diet, I think it would be much better to get the benefits that people are having there without the stress that's caused, without having to go anywhere on that general adaptation syndrome.

Ben:  I'm glad you brought it back to that because that was an outstanding question I wanted to ask. Earlier on, you said, “There are better way to get the benefits without the stress.”

So, we've established that some of the stress is beneficial. Yet, excesses of stress are probably being overdone and are not beneficial. So, what are some of the ways that we could get the benefits, and you could use the example of the ketogenic diet that you're just starting or other examples, if you would like to, getting the benefits without the stress, how do we do it? What's the magic?

Jay:  We can start with keto. Another easy one is, maybe, caloric restriction. There's a handful of variables that they have attributed caloric restriction to that are not stress. And, I think that's really key. So, just a really easy example. We know that a lot of the caloric restriction studies in rodents, part of their benefit, actually, has to do with the restriction of particular amino acids. And, they find that they don't need to calorie-restrict if they just restrict methionine levels. And, it causes the same lifespan extension. And, even more than that, they found that you don't need to restrict methionine levels if you supplement with glycine.

So, here is a very practical takeaway here, which is that, A, the calorie restriction was not beneficial because of stress, but rather some confounding variable–in this case, the restriction of a certain amino acid called methionine, which can be harmful in excessive amounts. And then, B, if we just restrict the methionine or just add in some extra glycine, which we can do very easily by eating foods that are gelatinous, that have collagen in them, or just adding a collagen supplement, we could potentially get that same benefit without needing any of the stress.

Ben:  That makes sense. So, that would be excess–Well, it seems like it's more like the protein restriction. Instead, what you're looking at is a little bit of methionine restriction, or even just not even focusing on methionine restriction, getting glycine and collagen, gelatin, and things like that, instead. Were there done any studies on that, comparing methionine restriction and longevity with methionine adequacy and longevity with the methionine adequacy actually adding in things like glycine or collagen or gelatin or things of that nature?

Mike:  I think there's a rat study where they used glycine. And, they found that–I don't think it was the entirely the same benefit, but they got a large benefit from just having adequate glycine or whatever their adequate determined levels in the study, compared to methionine. The other thing I want to point out here, just with methionine restriction or even some of the caloric restrictions. And, some of these studies, they may not directly also be applicable to humans because they have to start these restrictions in rats at a younger age. And then, it leads to loss in body size and muscle mass, etc. For example, there's some contradictory evidence where they say higher protein in older adults is actually better, as far as decreasing mortality related to lean mass, sarcopenia, etc. And, I guess this also goes with talking about the C. elegans caloric restriction studies, some of the effects there.

But, some of these effects that we also notice inside the lab may not be beneficial. For example, if you take elderly people, you decrease body size and they have sarcopenia, you're decreasing muscle protein synthesis through this caloric restriction or these restricted methionine diets, you can wind up increasing frailty, which predisposes towards mortality in that older age. You may not realize those benefits of the intervention. So, I think that's important to put in the context of what you actually have going on in real life. But, there is a benefit with glycine, in addition to diet in certain excess over methionine.

Ben:  And then, what about–we haven't talked too much about this–but, heat stress and cold stress? What do you guys think about it? And, if you're down on it, are there also ways that we could get the benefits of those without actually stressing ourselves out with things like sauna and cold tubs?

Jay:  Part of it comes back to, what are we actually looking at as potential benefits there? Normally, what I'm seeing with something like called thermogenesis is an immediate increase in energy expenditure, the increased activity of the brown adipose tissue. I don't know if there's anything else you would add in there, Ben.

Ben:  Increase in cold shock protein, probably, the blood glucose disposal effects. It is the one of the best non-supplement or herb-based glucose disposal agent type of practices that you could do. Increase in vagal nerve tone. Increase in, and this is a little bit more anecdotal, I suppose, that whole idea of doing something hard makes everything else feel easier, but better stress resilience the rest of the day, emotionally and mentally. So, those would be, for you, the biggies.

Jay:  And, I do want to add a large caveat here, or a caveat, which is that, a lot of things that are hormetic or stressful do have that “mental benefit,” you could say, where you're more resilient to stress. Whether or not that's a good thing, I think, maybe we'll discuss. But, when it comes to cold thermogenesis, I see it as a rather generic stressor that, as you said, Ben, leads to those sorts of activities.

I think this is one of the situations where the benefits that we're looking at here aren't necessarily really benefits. We're more characterizing the endpoint as something that's beneficial but with some underlying assumptions. There's a lot of ways that we can drive stress to increase short-term energy expenditure and might not activate the cold shock proteins. But, just as another example, we could drink a lot of plain water without any electrolytes in it, and a lot of people will say that drinking water increases your metabolism. And, it does, so to speak. The way that it does it is by activating the sympathetic nervous system, activating the catecholamine response, and activating the ROS system, as well, to maintain electrolyte balance. And so, these are aspects of stress that, when we consider the endpoint of just increased energy expenditure is beneficial, we would consider the intervention to be beneficial. But, I think the question mark here is whether just wasteful energy expenditure is actually beneficial.

And so, there's a model put forth. I don't remember what the–He recent wrote a book, I think, called “Burn.” But, he talked about this constrained model of energy expenditure. And, he was looking at people who are undergoing high levels of exercise. And, instead of what's considered the additive model, where you just assume that the more and more energy you expend, it just adds and adds up. So, if you do another 1,000 calories of exercise, now you went from burning 3,000 calories a day to 4,000. But, what we actually found is that that's not the case and that this energy expenditure is constrained, and there's limits there. And so, you burn that extra 1,000 calories from exercise or cold exposure. And, you don't actually burn 4,000 in total. You might only burn 3,500. And, that other 500 is coming from energy that would be used to support the health of the organism, to support the structure. And, they found that, in animal models that they do this, it suppresses reproductive activity. It reduces the body's capacity to repair. It lowers lactation in nursing females.

Ben:  So, what you're saying is, basically, the body engages in these robust conservation mechanisms in response to, either, excess energy restriction or energy burning?

Jay:  Exactly. And so, I think there's a lot of really great ways to increase glucose usage and to use energy that aren't, I guess, I would say, wasteful in a way that this is, where it's coming at the cost of other areas of our health.

Mike:  I think it's important to keep in mind that the body does have a degree of finite ability to produce energy. There's only so much food that you can absorb in a day. There's only so much output of energy that you can put through the mitochondria unit of time. So, when you have a situation where–I think, another piece I'd add on to that is context. If you have somebody who's overweight and if you view overweight as an issue where you're not oxidizing or producing energy appropriately, and now you're just taking your substrate and the person is initially putting into fat storage, but now you're just burning it through cold thermogenesis, we still haven't fixed the problem. So, you have the situation where the body can only produce so much energy at a given time. And, it's what can that energy go towards? You have brain function. You have replenishment of different components inside the muscle, like glycogen. You have tissue repair. You have the general functions of all your organs, overall. So, it's like, where are we allocating this energy? What's the underlying problem that's leading to a misallocation of energy among people with metabolic syndrome? And, if the problem is that they're not producing enough energy, do we just want to dispose the substrate that's coming in through uncoupling, which is essentially moving it through heat? Or, do we want to fix what's going on at the mitochondria and have them adequately produce energy at their cells overall, and then when they have enough energy on board, they have that adequate amount of ATP, then they uncouple?

Ben:  I think I'm beginning to wrap my head around your guys' model. Because if I were to ask you about, let's say, intermittent fasting, which I have a hunch that you'd be down on the traditional 12 to 18-hour fast with a 48-hour compressed feeding window. Am I correct?

Mike:  We've done it. We've done it, too. We were doing it together.

Ben:  Then, you would say that, rather than giving your gut a break by choosing an activity that could produce excess stress, from an energy restriction standpoint, or even just a long-term hypoglycemic standpoint, you could instead eat a diet that's got a really high amount of digestibility and a lot of good nutrient density, without a lot of things like toxins or the type of saturated fats that might lead to lipopolysaccharide formation, and therefore, you would get a lot of the benefits that people are looking for in terms of gut-healing from intermittent fasting, from a different approach altogether. Or, for example, I suppose you could also say, with something like heat stress, maybe a different take on your model would be that, if you're looking for the benefits of something like increased heat shock proteins or insulin sensitivity and blood sugar management or, perhaps, some of the circadian rhythmicity benefits or things like that, that might come from heat stress, then you must bear in mind that stress is stress is stress, and that, if you are going to engage in a practice like that, you shouldn't pair it with things like water restriction, electrolyte restriction, mineral depletion, excess time spent in the sauna, and may want to consider that, on the day that you do the sauna, that's actually a day on which you add that to your total stress score for the day, if you want to actually engage in something like that.

So, it sounds to me like it's just a matter of paying attention to the nature of the stress that you're putting on your body, mitigating excess stress as much as possible, and then really putting the body in a state where it can restore and recover as much as possible in those situations, in which you do engage in something that we might traditionally consider a hormetic stressor, even though, based on your model, it's probably not hormesis in the traditional sense of the word that we're experiencing, but other benefits from that activity that aren't necessarily the traditional Han Selye stress model related.

Mike:  To a large extent, yeah.

Ben:  I feel like I'm understanding, guys. I feel I'm wrapping my head around it after an hour of talking.

Mike:  I just want to say that, in some of the models, though, I think some things that are producing–I wouldn't go out of my way to certain situations. For example, with a heat exposure, when you're inducing heat shock proteins, the question for me is, why, when you put yourself under heat, are you inducing heat shock protein? Why do you need to have these heat shock proteins come over, create the proteasomes, and then fix those proteins? Because you're inducing damage to those proteins. Now, could there be off-target effects where, while you upregulate that process, you're also upregulating, perhaps, other damaged proteins? Perhaps, sure. But, the question is, why are you elevating it, in the first place? And, if it's by doing that damage, then I question, for example, is that damage good in the long run? Is that necessary in the long run, even though you're getting this beneficial effect through this adaptive process with those proteins?

Ben:  I hear you. And, my response to that would be that the stress is a trade-off, the nature of the damage done is a trade-off for how good you feel and the improvement in insulin sensitivity and the better sleep, and some of the things that stress does for you. And so, I think, probably, it comes down to almost the vernacular, the semantics behind it. Rather than saying sauna is good for you, you could say, based on your guys' model, sauna is bad for you. The things that it's helping you out with are pretty decent. So, just make sure that, as much as possible, you not overdo the thing that's bad for you, and you try and fix as many of the issues that might be causing through mineral replenishment and water intake and proper hydration and everything else. But, basically, a lot of these things that we are telling ourselves are good for us are, in fact, not that great for us, and we need to bear that in mind.

Jay:  Yeah. I would say, also, if we can get those same benefits to our feelings of wellbeing or our insulin sensitivity without the stress, that would be great, too. And, I'm not necessarily anti-sauna. But, if we were to take some of the other examples that, I think, are more clear, let's say, I don't know, if we were to say Wim Hof breathing, where we are driving very clearly a short-term stress response by blowing off our CO2, which creates respiratory alkalosis, which creates hypoxia at the cells, so they can't produce energy because they can't absorb oxygen due to the burrow effect, people might feel really good after that and say that, maybe, if they had a cup of coffee when they were fasting or they did a fasted workout, but there are costs to those things. And, when we orient our bodies toward something that has a stress cost, I think it comes at the cost of our potential complexity, our potential function, that comes along with longevity, as well. And so, I'd much prefer, through this view, considering that the stress isn't beneficial, we can orient ourselves toward different ways of improving insulin sensitivity, let's say, that aren't stressful and still make you–should make you feel good.

Ben:  That makes sense. Have you guys ever written down much of this stuff? Do you have a book or anything about it?

Jay:  I've got a couple of articles, that could be a book, on hormesis. There's a part one and part two. They're pretty long.

Ben:  Cool. I'll find them, and I'll link to them in the shownotes, which I'll put at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/EnergyBalance. That last thing that you said, Jay, reminded me of something that I read in a book by Derek Sivers, called “How to Live.” It's basically this idea that most actions that we take are in pursuit of emotions. So, you think you want take action or own a thing, but what you really want is the emotion that you think it'll bring. And so, what Derek says in his book is skip the actions, go straight for the emotion. Practice feeling the emotions intentionally, instead of using actions to create them, if that makes sense. So, if you're, whatever, doing a sauna to feel happy, why don't you just tell yourself, “Be happy,” and then smile and induce happiness? It's an interesting thought experiment. But, when you were saying that last statement, it just got reminded me of that line from Derek Sivers' book, “How to Live.” It's an interesting book. I don't agree with everything in it, but it's a good read, I think, for a little proverbs like that.

Well, you guys, this is so interesting. It just gets the wheels turning. And, I know whenever I do a podcast like this, it's like an ongoing discussion where people jump in and they'll leave more comments and questions, probably, for you guys, too, in the shownotes at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/EnergyBalance.

My intention, and I hope I've achieved this, for getting you guys on was to just throw a warning signal out there for people who really are overdoing it, because I see it a lot, and help people better understand what's going on with hormesis and the idea that it's not like you should live your life by the mantra, “What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.” Because what doesn't kill you can also kill you.

Mike:  Just slowly.

Ben:  As paradoxical as that might sound. And, if you're talking to a guy–You, guys, know this. I'm known as the masochist Ironman, beat up my body. I don't necessarily have that target of living to 160 or anything, because I've acknowledged that a lot of the stuff that I do to feel good, like sauna and ice bath and stuff, maybe, it does have a little bit of a detrimental effect. And, I'm always learning, I'm always studying. And, maybe, I'm getting old, but I'm also always trying to find ways to live life and get the benefits of health without necessarily beating up the body too much or creating excess stress or time spent, just caring for oneself and, as we talked about earlier, lying hungry and cold and libido less inside a hyperbaric chamber or something like that.

So, anyways, I appreciate you guys coming on and sharing all this with us. And, I'll link to all your stuff in the shownotes at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/EnergyBalance.

Mike:  Yeah, and we appreciate you having us on, having an open mind, and giving us the floor to be able to talk about these things. It's really awesome.

Jay:  Absolutely.

Ben:  [01:16:35] _____ guys. And, keep up the great work. Keep doing what you're doing. Keep pioneering cool new thinking patterns that help people out. And, for everybody listening in, until next time. I'm Ben Greenfield, along with Mike Fave and Jay Feldman, signing out from Ben Greenfield.–I keep saying Fitness.com, but we just rebranded to BenGreenfieldLife.com. My apologies to everybody listening. Don't worry, there's a permanent redirect, so, when I mess up–So, we'll probably will do for the next year or so. It's BenGreenfieldLife.com. Thanks, everybody, for listening in. And, I'll talk to you later.

More than ever these days, people like you and me need a fresh, entertaining, well-informed, and often, outside-the-box approach to discovering health and happiness and hope that we all crave. So, I hope I've been able to do that for you on this episode today. And, if you liked it, or if you love what I'm up to, then, please leave me a review on your preferred podcast listening channel, wherever that might be. Just find the Ben Greenfield Life episode. Say something nice. Thanks so much. It means a lot.



9 April 2022

Today on the podcast I'm joined by two guests, Jay Feldman and Mike Fave, to discuss and debunk many juicy “myths” circulating out in the health and fitness worlds today.

Jay Feldman is a health coach, independent health researcher, and the host of The Energy Balance Podcast. He has degrees in neuroscience and exercise physiology from the University of Miami and decided to forgo medical school after realizing that the conventional medical approach was not the solution to the health problems that so many of us face. After working through various conventional and alternative health paradigms and trialing countless diets (including everything from vegetarian to keto), Jay came across the idea that cellular energy is the foundation of our health. He now uses a bioenergetic approach to help men and women around the world maximize their cellular energy and achieve freedom from low-energy symptoms like chronic hunger & cravings, fatigue, brain fog, poor sleep, gut issues, and weight gain.

Jay is also joined by Mike Fave, an independent researcher and a Registered Nurse. While educated in conventional medicine as an RN, Mike spent close to a decade with his head inside a Pubmed article or a physiology textbook, and his heart in some type of nutrition or supplement experiment. At the beginning of his journey, Mike damaged his health by getting caught up in dietary dogma and nutrition ideology. He went the western medical route to try to fix the damage and wound up getting talked into a surgery he didn’t need. It’s taken him years to recover, but he doesn't regret it because he learned significantly from his mistakes. He saw all sides of the spectrum from being a patient to being a practitioner to being a part of the alternative health scene. He takes his lessons, experiences, and knowledge to help others not only avoid the mistakes he made, but help them rebuild their health without dogma, ideology, or authoritarianism.

During our discussion, you'll discover:

-The history of the bioenergetic model of health…06:38

  • Dr. Ray Peat
  • Generative Energy Podcast with Danny Roddy
  • Dr. Ray Peat on One Radio Network
  • The conventional medicine route wasn't working for them
  • In-depth in physiology, cells, mitochondria
  • Flow of energy drives biological function
  • Opposes the “hormetic view” of health
  • Energy is at the forefront
  • Restricting energy flow has a deleterious effect on our health
  • When you create stress in the short term, you get a short term burst of energy production and expenditure to deal with that stress; in the long term that comes at a cost to the flow of energy
  • Hans Selye

-How Jay and Mike reconcile the dichotomy between their view and the traditional view of a hormetic approach to health…23:40

  • There's a difference between substrate and energy production
  • Ensure substrate is being converted into ATP
  • Rate of living theory: the more energy we expend, the faster we age (scarcity mindset)
  • There are better ways to create the positive effects of hormesis without the stress-induced on the body

-Why the traditional hormetic model is incorrect…26:08

  • A conceptual shift in how the benefits of hormesis are perceived
  • Understand the correct definition of hormesis
  • “What doesn't kill you…can eventually kill you.”

-What causes energy access that leads to chronic disease…29:40


  • Certain foods inhibit energy production in the body
  • Excess substrate is not being converted into energy; instead is being converted into body fat

-What Jay and Mike's model looks like in the real world…34:42

-Clarity on what Jay and Mike's model does NOT mean…39:07

-Better ways to get the benefits of hormesis without the stress of hormesis…59:40

-And much more…

Upcoming Events:

Resources from this episode:

Jay Feldman:

Mike Fave

– Podcasts And Articles:

– Books:

– Other Resources:

Episode sponsors:

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Ask Ben a Podcast Question

One thought on “[Transcript] – How Much Exercise Is Too Much, Why Calorie Restriction May Be A Bad Thing, The Downsides of Hormesis & Other Shocking Health Myths Debunked With Jay Feldman and Mike Fave.

  1. John says:

    Your episode with Jay and Mike was rather disconcerting. I’m 69 years old, intermittent fast 18 hours daily, plunge in ice bath most days of the week, use an ozone sauna, healthy primal/ paleo diet( high fat, moderate protein, low carb), walk a lot and do a lot of yoga, and I feel great ( thanks to all your your prior podcasts leading me to this routine).
    What should someone as myself do with this new information and what should I change?

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