The Genius Life with Max Lugavere – Jason Fung, MD on How to Fast for a Faster Metabolism

Check out The Genius Life Episode Page

Key Takeaways

  • It’s more about what you eat, as opposed to how much you eat
  • Losing weight is NOT about will power – it’s much more complicated, and more so related to hormones
  • All calories are not equal – they have different hormonal effects on our body
  • Many people think exercise plays the biggest role in the number of calories you burn, but…”Exercise is almost an irrelevant part of the number of calories you expend every day”
    • The most important factor – basal metabolic rate (BMR – aka how many calories your liver uses, your brain uses, and how much body heat you generate)

Intro

Setting the Stage

  • The main cause of kidney disease is really type 2 diabetes
    • Going further – obesity leads to type 2 diabetes
    • So why are we treating kidney disease with things like dialysis and drugs etc.?? 
      • “It’s just like if you have a car and you ever change the oil, and all of a sudden it breaks down.” – You would treat the root cause by changing the oil
  • Similarly – metabolic syndrome  (this is the term for a cluster of risk factors including abdominal obesity, high cholesterol + blood pressure, type 2 diabetes) is a huge contributor/associated with cancer, heart disease, stroke, nerve damage etc.

What really causes obesity?

  • According to Jason, obesity is more of a hormonal problem, than one governed by calories in/calories out
    • We need to know why are ‘calories in’ going up, and why are ‘calories out’ going down? – That’s the real problem, not just the fact that they’re going up or they’re going down. That’s irrelevant”
    • “The hormonal theory of obesity takes into account the whole calories problem, but it goes much further and expands it, so you can understand what the actual cause of the problem is, vs. just saying, ‘It’s all about calories in, calories out'”
  • For calories in:
    • It comes down to what makes you hungry
    • Hunger is mainly regulated by a hormone called ghrelin
  • For the calories out:
    • Many people think exercise plays the biggest role in the number of calories you burn, but…”Exercise is almost an irrelevant part of the number of calories you expend every day”
    • The most important factor – basal metabolic rate (BMR – aka how many calories your liver uses, your brain uses, and how much body heat you generate)
      • It’s important to note that BMR is not under your conscious control
  • “You may think it’s entirely somebody’s conscious decision whether they want to lose weight or not – it’s not. You can’t decide to be more hungry. You can’t decide to be less hungry. You can’t decide to burn more calories. It’s ALL under hormonal control.”
    • What really makes us hungry?
      • Hunger follows a circadian rhythm
      • 8am is the time of the day when people on average, are the least hungry
        • Note that at 8am, people have usually been fasting all night – This proves that hunger isn’t really all that related to how long it’s been since the last time you ate
      • ~7-8pm is the time when people are often the hungriest
      • “Hunger is a hormonal issue, and BMR is all governed by hormones”
  • “The hormonal theory of obesity, doesn’t contradict the calories in/calories out model. It takes it further.”

Some Interesting Facts

  • Studies show that when you lose weight, your BMR actually drops
    • Ghrelin (the hormone that makes you hungry) is also much higher than it previously was at the higher weight
    • So people are hungrier than they were before, and they are burning less calories – this is a recipe for regaining weight
  • When you calorie restrict, your BMR tends to drop equivalently 

The Problem with Fat Shaming

  • “The essential problem is hormonal. What you eat during the day depends entirely on whether you feel hungry, or you don’t feel hungry.”
    • And it’s REALLY hard to not eat when you feel hungry
  • “Making the assumption that calories in and calories out is all about will power…you can’t will yourself to be less hungry, it’s impossible! You can’t will yourself for your liver to burn less calories.”

Not All Calories Are the Same

  • All calories, have different hormonal effects – a calorie is not a calorie
    • NOT all calories are equally fattening
  • Completely different things will happen hormonally if you drink a glass of Coca-Cola, vs. eating an equivalent amount of calories worth of chicken salad

A Changing BMR

  • Your BMR is not stable – it changes based on the amount of calories you consume (as mentioned above)
    • BMR tends to increase, when you consume more calories, and vice versa – “If calories in goes up, calories out goes up. As calories in goes down, calories out goes down.” 
    • “The amount of calories you expend, day in and day out, changes. It can go up, and it can go down.”
  • In short – People assume that they can control calories in/calories out – but they don’t have as much control as the think

Let’s Sum Up So Far

  • It’s more about what you eat, as opposed to how much you eat
  • Losing weight is NOT about will power – it’s much more complicated, and more so related to hormones
  • All calories are not equal – they have different hormonal effects on our body

Foods and Hormones

  • Something like a donut will drive up your insulin levels way more than eating an apple
    • This is why insulin resistance is the main driver behind obesity (as insulin levels are always high, our bodies become intolerant to it, in a sense)
  • Something like an egg, will have no where near the effect on your insulin/glucose levels, compared to something sugary
  • No one ever got fat eating too much kale or broccoli

Intermittent Fasting

  • “It’s not just about the foods you’re eating, it’s about how often you eat”
    • If you’re eating 6x a day, your insulin levels are constantly rising, which in a sense, is telling your body to store that food energy 
      • “If you’re eating 6 times a day, you’re telling your body 6 times a day to store fat”
    • When you’re not eating, your body is using the stored food energy for fuel
  • So…
    • Every time you eat, insulin rises, and this tells your body to store the food as fat
      • Doing this 6x a day is worse than telling your body to do this 1x a day
    • “The whole point of intermittent fasting is to reduce the number of times we’re stimulating the hormonal pathways for fat gain. Fat is not good or bad. Fat is just a store of food energy. When you get too much of it, it’s bad”

What about fruits?

  • Fruits contain fructose (a form of sugar) so they can be fattening
  • There’s been a change in the fruits that people eat – they’ve become much sweeter
    • Most fruits used to be much tangier/sour/not as sweet (in the 1970s or so)
    • Note from Podcast Notes – They don’t really go into why
    • And sweeter = more sugar – “It’s natural sugar yes, but it’s still sugar”
  • But on the other hand – fruits contain fiber 
  • “They’re [fruits] not great, but they’re not that bad either”
    • ‘”They don’t call it nature’s candy for nothing”
    • “I’d be a little careful if you’re trying to lose weight with fruits”
    • “If you’re not trying to lose weight, then I don’t see anything wrong particularly with eating fruits, but if you’re trying to lose weight, I’d cut it back”

Fasting, Intermittent Fasting, and Hunger

  • Fasting has been shown to have huge benefits
    • It’s interesting – during a short fast (2-3 days) your hunger actually drops (after the initial feelings of hunger pass, of course), and your BMR rises
    • So it makes sense that fasting would help with weight loss (the two biggest problems people face when trying to lose weight are hunger and a low BMR)
  • Jason has published studies showing that people who had type 2 diabetes for 25+ years, were totally reversed (so they no longer had type 2 diabetes) following a fasting protocol
    • Note from Podcast Notes – they don’t get into specifics here
  • At first it’s a little challenging (you have to get over the initial feelings of hunger), but once you’re past that, the hunger starts to diminish
    • It’s all about ghrelin levels, the hunger hormone – it rises originally, but then falls to baseline
      • Try skipping breakfast and lunch if you normally don’t – you’ll be very hungry come 1pm, but by 5pm, it will have tapered off

Intermittent Fasting vs. Calorie Restriction

  • When you fast, after 4 days of not eating, your BMR increases by about 10% compared to day 0
  • While fasting, insulin falls, but other hormone levels rise 
    • Particularly the “counter regulatory hormones” – noradrenaline, sympathetic nerve activation, and growth hormone
      • These hormones take stored food (glycogen and fat) and turn it into glucose, which the body can use for fuel
      • When these rise, BMR is maintained
      • When growth hormone rises, lean mass is maintained (so you’re not losing muscle)
    • (Also remember that ghrelin – the hunger hormone – drops over time during a fast)
  • When you calorie restrict:
    • Hunger increases, and BMR drops

Fasting Protocols

  • 12 hours each day is a good place to start – Aim to restrict your eating window from 7am-7pm
    • Most people today have an eating window of ~15 hours (so they really just eat constantly throughout the day)
    • If you’re trying to lose weight, shorten the eating window even more (16 hours fasting, 8 hours eating)
  • Autophagy
    • What is it? – A cellular recycling process
      • When you’re dietary protein intake goes down, mTOR levels drop, which triggers autophagy
        • Check out these Podcast Notes for more on mTOR
        • mTOR seems to be the main regulator of autophagy
        • Note – Animal protein tends to raise mTOR levels more so than vegetable based protein (it’s more bioavailable)
      • With this, your body starts to break down damaged components of cells (which are essentially just protein), to use for fuel
      • New cellular components will be formed when you start eating again

Can you consume black coffee while fasting?

  • If you’re fasting to lose weight – sure, it won’t make a difference
  • If you’re really trying to take advantage of autophagy – probably best to avoid it (just to be on the safe side – we don’t really know how coffee impacts autophagy)

Are there any negative side effects of high protein diets?

  • The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of protein is 0.8 g per kg of body weight – Jason suggests most people stick to this
    • Most Americans consume about 1.0-1.5 g per kg of body weight 
  • BUT – Jason says there isn’t really any evidence that higher protein diets damage the kidneys
    • “There’s no evidence that, for someone who is otherwise healthy, eating a lot of protein will damage the kidneys”

What does it mean to Jason, to live like a genius?

  • “It’s about helping people. That’s where true wealth is.”
  • “Being able to do something, that will help a lot of people, all over the world”

These notes were edited by RoRoPa Editing Services

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