[0:00:32] Podcast Sponsors
[0:04:40] Guest Introduction and His New Book
[0:08:25] The Fascinating History of Fasting Among Different Religions and Cultures
[0:16:47] Autophagy as “Free Stem Cell Transplant”
[0:24:19] How Fasting Affects Intestinal Stem Cell Function
[0:26:22] AMP-k and mTOR
[0:34:07] What nutrients you need to optimize autophagy?
[0:38:32] Autophagy Tea Ingredients
[0:43:22] Podcast Sponsor
[0:45:47] How Ketones Protect the Brain from Excess Hydrogen Peroxide
[0:50:55] Efficacy of Water Fasting as A Metabolic Intervention
[0:54:56] “Dark Side of Fasting”
[0:57:47] Drawbacks of Long-Term Ketosis
[1:00:13] What Is “Keto Fasting,” and How Cyclical Ketosis Addresses the Above Issues
[1:07:46] Sauna Use Supports A Fasting Protocol
[1:13:23] Closing the Podcast
[1:15:09] End of Podcast
Joseph: Your hunger or cravings are basically non-existent, and because normally, you’re only eating twice a day anyway, maybe some snacks in between if you’re only eating for six hours. It’s like you’re only skipping one meal. It’s just about the easiest sliding off a log. It’s just crazy simple. The solution for that is to eat some carbohydrates like a fruit or something. You would think your blood sugar would rise but it actually goes down because you raise your insulin levels.
Ben: I have a master’s degree in physiology, biomechanics, and human nutrition. I’ve spent the past two decades competing in some of the most masochistic events on the planet from SEALFit Kokoro, Spartan Agoge, and the world’s toughest mudder, the 13 Ironman triathlons, brutal bow hunts, adventure races, spearfishing, plant foraging, free diving, bodybuilding and beyond. I combine this intense time in the trenches with a blend of ancestral wisdom and modern science, search the globe for the world’s top experts in performance, fat loss, recovery, hormones, brain, beauty, and brawn to deliver you this podcast. Everything you need to know to live an adventurous, joyful, and fulfilling life. My name is Ben Greenfield. Enjoy the ride.
Hey, if I sound like I’m talking funny, it’s because I’m getting my teeth done. I got these porcelain veneers on my teeth right now and I feel like I’m talking like an overbite. I’m getting used to my new teeth but sometimes I sound like I’m talking like this. I’m not a Washington redneck. Well, I am a Washington redneck; I’m just a bonafide Washington redneck with amazing teeth and an overbite now. Anyways, I’m working on that.
This podcast today with my friend, Dr. Joseph Mercola, is brought to you by Kion, my company where I hunt down the most amazing formulations, design these efficacious shotgun formulas of supplements, functional foods, we got bars, we got coffee, we have a wonderful fish oil. I popped 10 capsules of this fish oil every single morning except those nights when I plan on eating a nice big wild caught cut of salmon. But I use this stuff called SuperEssentials. We have it at Kion. It is certified for sport, meaning, it’s independently tested and determined to be free of all athletic banned substances, meaning, you can take it if you’re a professional athlete. But it contains significantly more DHA. It’s a one-to-one EPA to DHA ratio.
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Hey, folks. As promised, he’s back, my friend, multiple-time podcast guest, the guy who thinks way outside the box, who is constantly sending me these things that I never would have discovered on my own, probably one of the guys who reads more research studies than anyone I know and always seems to be discovering some new cutting-edge way to enhance human health and longevity. I like that he also kind of mixes, as I like to do a lot of newfangled technology in biohacks with a lot of ancestral wisdom and many of these principles that go far back in time, including what we’re going to explore today, which is the principle of ketogenic eating, meal planning, timing meals for everything from managing chronic disease to promoting weight loss to optimizing health.
His new book, “KetoFast,” as usually happens when I get a book on the ketogenic diet, I expected to possibly be just yet another book on how to put butter in your coffee. But this one was really good. It’s not even that long of a book. It’s only about 150 pages long. But man, I think I have over 30 pages. I tend to fold over pages and highlight and the book looks like it’s been to hell and back because I think 30 pages are folded over.
So, my guest today is Dr. Joseph Mercola. He’s been on the show before talking about all sorts of different topics, but today, we’re going to take a deep dive into fasting, the dark side of fasting, ketosis, the dark side of ketosis, cyclical ketosis, and a whole lot more that I discovered within the pages of his brand-new book, “KetoFast: A Step-By-Step Guide to Timing Your Ketogenic Meals.” Joe, welcome back to the show, man.
Joseph: Well, thanks for having me, Ben. And before we begin, I want to personally thank you for inspiring me, what, four or five years ago when you first interviewed me and I had no idea who you were but I said, “Boy, you really knew some information. You’re a real catalyst to help up my own game and you’re reading 300 books a year. I couldn’t come close to it. I cannot compete with that level of book reading that you do.” So, what I can compete though is the studies and I’ve got a super RSS feed now that I’m able to read about 2,000 studies a year, not just the abstracts but the full study. And I like that better than books, actually, because it helps me up my game and really get down into the science.
Ben: Yeah. You don’t want to share that super-secret tactic with anyone, do you, your special website for research studies?
Joseph: Well, you could use—it’s basically an RSS feed. Google Reader used to be—you’d probably do it with that, but now that’s out of existence. Feedly has taken over. So, you can just search your term. I have a different one that’s in beta right now so people can’t get access to it. I’ve searched probably between 70 and 80 terms every day. Seamlessly, it just comes into this app and I get 10 to 15 studies a day, so it’s really great.
Ben: What’s the one that’s in beta? Are you allowed to share?
Joseph: It’s called Meta.org.
Ben: Meta.org. That’s the one that you said to me that you have to actually apply to be able to get access to.
Joseph: Yeah, you have to apply to get—yeah.
Joseph: I’ve had it for like the last three or four months and it was the best Christmas present I ever got. It’s absolutely amazing. It’s changed my life.
Ben: Yeah. I’ll put a link to that in the shownotes. By the way, everything that I talk about, including a link to Joe’s new book, you can get over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/ketofast. KetoFast is where the shownotes are at.
You begin early in the book, and I don’t want to spend too much time on this, but I think it is important for people to understand how important fasting is from a therapeutic standpoint and from a traditional and a historical standpoint. I mean, just about every religion on the face of the planet, and many cultures have this history of fasting. And you have some very interesting explanations in the book of everything from Judaism to Christianity to Islam. What were some of the biggest takeaways for you in terms of researching this book and the elements of fasting in traditional cultures?
Joseph: Well, it was interesting because I initially started our plan on writing this book as a way to optimize multiple day or five-day water fasting. And I certainly don’t have the clinical experience in that so I reached out to the clinician in the North America that had the most which is Alan Goldhamer, who’s the medical director of the TrueNorth clinic. They water fasted over 16,000 patients from anywhere to 5 to 40 days. That’s really his passion and I was going to co-write the book with him and he was gracious enough to compile that history. I didn’t really go into the details on that as much, but it is pretty brilliantly displayed and it’s of interest that historically, most religions integrated as part of their regular practices. I think that speaks to the value and the wisdom of that. How could a practice perpetuate if all these ancient religious cultures historically and today didn’t find value in it? It would have died a long time ago.
Ben: Yeah. And there’s a lot of ritualistic fasting, a lot of cleansing, and a lot of use—well, there’s this term therapeutic fasting. It comes up over and over again. And I was curious if you could define that. There’s that quote from Benjamin Franklin that you have in the book about how fasting is the greatest remedy, the physician within. I believe that was either Paracelsus or—actually, Benjamin Franklin was the best of all medicines is resting and fasting. And it kind of gets to this therapeutic fasting, but can you get into this idea of therapeutic fasting and what exactly it is?
Joseph: Well, it’s using dietary or calorie restriction, dietary intervention to activate very powerful metabolic processes to catalyze the healing process. Most of these processes in the molecular biology weren’t known of course when it was first started and many of them just have been covered just in the last decade or so and really supports scientifically the value of this intervention. So, it’s really a powerful strategy. Before I wrote the book, I was so inspired. In over 30 years of clinical practice, I had never seen a more powerful intervention than multiple day water fasting. But then I began to realize that there are some practical complications of it because we live in the 21st century, and we’ll get into that a bit, but I was really surprised because I think we need to modify that. But getting back to some of those quotes, I mean I know you’re going to the Paracelsus clinic in a few months actually in Switzerland.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. We’ve got two weeks there.
Joseph: Yeah. He’s a 15th-century physician and his quote was fasting is the greatest remedy, the physician within. So, that’s a really powerful endorsement. And in the United States, it actually didn’t become popular until like the 1800s with the Natural Hygiene Movement, but then it became even more popular when Herbert Shelton popularized it about 1911. There are many clinicians who use it, not large numbers but Jason Fung would be the greatest example. I’ve got a quote from him in the book, which is really intriguing, which is he describes fasting as the oldest dietary intervention in the world. It’s not just the latest and greatest but the tried and true. What I add to that is it’s cheaper than free. You save money when you do this and you also improve the quality of your life and you radically decrease your risk of chronic degenerative disease.
Ben: Yeah. In the book, you talk about this guy you mentioned earlier, Alan Goldhamer, and how you learned a lot about the history of fasting from him. And he has this clinic in Northern California. Is he still practicing at that clinic?
Joseph: Oh yeah, absolutely. Yeah.
Ben: Okay. So, that’s called the TrueNorth Health Center, right?
Joseph: TrueNorth clinic. They have the largest experience of multi-day water fasting of any clinic.
Ben: What kind of stuff do they do there other than water fasting?
Joseph: That’s it.
Ben: Oh, really?
Joseph: Yeah. That’s all they do.
Ben: That seems like something you could do on your own.
Joseph: Well, they typically treat very sick individuals. So, as a result, it has to be pretty carefully monitored to make sure that they don’t have any complications. Interestingly, when you are doing this type of water fast, it’s wise not to exert yourself too much. People like you and me would kind of endure yet, go on our daily business and think that’s a wise strategy. But you’re redirecting energy in your body away from detoxification systems and that can be problematic.
Ben: Okay. Got it. So, at that clinic, and I’ll put a link to that clinic, TrueNorth Health Center, in the shownotes, they’re not doing like enemas or exercise or any other treatments; you’re just showing up and getting an overseen water fasting protocol?
Joseph: Yes. Yeah. And they feed you of course. Well, they feed you when you come off of it, the refeed. Obviously, they’re giving you water and monitoring your progress and treating any symptoms that you may develop. But interestingly, one of the downsides that the water fasting is that you do have these symptoms. I think most of these symptoms are related to the fact of your inability to optimally detoxify and it’s largely a result of our exposure to toxins.
Ben: Yeah. We’re going to get into the kind of the dark side of water fasting later, but I think it’s a very inspiring part of the book for those of you who read it as you go through all these different religions and the deep history of fasting. I’ve talked about on the podcast before how my dad will show up for our family Thanksgiving meal, and then essentially, he’s doing his Orthodox religion, Eastern Orthodox, and he’s doing pretty much no meat, no dairy. I think he might have a limited amount of fish, very little protein, kind of an intense fasting protocol all the way up until Christmas, and it’s almost like this seasonal detox. But I think it’s also one of those things where when it’s tied to religion and it’s very almost liturgical, it becomes something completely different than say like—kind of like the fitness movement these days and the health and longevity movement. It’s built around protocols like intermittent fasting or weekly 24-hour fast or an alternate day fast or something like that. But none of it or very little of it is tied to religion, and I think that’s where it becomes very powerful.
I have all these books that I’m going through right now on the spiritual disciplines; silence and solitude and meditation, prayer, worship, and a big part of every single book is fasting. I mean, so many people do the nootropics and the neurofeedback for their brain and hoist the kettlebells and the hex bar for their body, but their spirit is kind of shriveled up inside them and it sounds strange to tie food to the soul but it’s one of the ways to actually care for your spirit, this idea of fasting. I mean, especially if you’re combining it with things like meditation or solitude or like deep amounts of time spent studying, which you have time to do because you’re not preparing meals. I mean, it’s a very, very powerful remedy.
Joseph: Yeah. It’s something that I strongly believe everyone would benefit from integrating to their lifestyle in a monitored way—not monitored but in a metered way so it’s done carefully and you don’t have any side effects.
Ben: Yeah. Alright, let’s delve into the science. I’ve talked about autophagy on the show before. I think people are familiar with the idea of clearing out dysfunctional or diseased cell components as being kind of like what autophagy is. But you go a step further and you actually define fasting as a free stem cell transplant. Stem cells are a big topic in the industry these days. So, can you go into the science of stem cell regeneration and fasting and how those are tied?
Joseph: Oh, absolutely. But before I do that, because I want to go in a little bit about autophagy because I’ve studied it, because the extension of my reading these studies is not just writing this book, I’m writing the next one on EMF, but really, again you were an inspiration for this, is to write my book on longevity, and it’s probably going to be three or four books because it’s hundreds of pages now with thousands of references. As a result of that, autophagy is a big part of it. Both of our passions are to live as long and healthy as we can. That’s why I wrote the book Fat for Fuel and then this book, which I think are foundational basics. You’ve got to get these, activate these systems correctly if you have any hope of living well beyond 120 because you’ve got to get the basics right. And the next basic is going to be on EMF but that’s not for this discussion.
But before we discuss autophagy, let’s review what fasting is because there were different varieties. Intermittent fasting is sort of the foundational basic of what you do, at least in my view as fasting because that will get your metabolic flexibility turned on and your ability to burn fat as a primary fuel. And typically, it’s a minimum of 12 hours. We’re probably closer to 14. If you’re not eating less, if you’re not restricting it to at least 14 hours, it’s probably not going to get you some of the benefits.
Ben: I think that depends. Not to derail you too much, but I think it depends on physical activity as well because if you’re–
Joseph: Yeah, yeah. That would be another issue, too.
Ben: Yeah. If you’re up-regulating AMPK pathways, and especially if you’re an athlete or an exercise enthusiast, I’ve found that a lot of folks will do pretty well on a 12-hour fast, especially a very active person. And if they’re exercising during that 12-hour intermittent fast, I think—and I haven’t seen a lot of data on this, but you up-regulate those AMPK pathways, which I’d love for you to define if you could.
Joseph: Oh, I definitely [00:19:09] ______ with that one.
Ben: Yeah. If you combine exercise with a shorter intermittent fast like a 12-hour, I don’t think you need to go on a guilt trip if you’re like an exercise enthusiast just doing a 12-hour fast.
Joseph: No. Well, you were in an unusual category and you’re a competitive athlete still. So, that’s a whole different ballgame. You’re right. There isn’t a lot of research on that. Most of the research, of course, is done in animals and they don’t exercise in the same way, and the ones that done in humans, there are really very few researchers who are examining competitive athletes. So, there’s not a lot of literature on that.
But to finish the analogy, Satchin Panda, who you know of, and I think you’ve interviewed him before, just a magnificent researcher out of the Salk Institute. He did some surveys and found that less than 10% of the people restrict their food to less than 12 hours a day. So, 90% are not doing it, 90% are not even doing 12. And I think for a non-competitive athlete, 14 to 16 hours is a sweet spot. So, unless you’re exercising like Ben, like you, Ben, my recommendation is to strive for a 14 to 16-hour or even 16 to 18-hour, 14 is the minimum might be for a non-competitive athlete, but 16 to 18 might be the sweet spot. And Jason Fung agrees with me at the window.
Ben: From my understanding, that’s not just a theory, that’s not just what you think but they’ve actually done research on autophagy mechanisms actually being activated far more significantly once you pass about the 16-hour mark.
Joseph: Yes, but I still want to finish this now because—so that they get that 14 to 16 hours or 16 to 18 hours, but you’re still not going to get maximal activation of autophagy. At least in my experience, I think you need to go more, and that’s I think where you get the benefits of the multi-day water fasting or the fasting mimicking diet which was developed by Valter Longo. And probably, he’s one of the most prolific researchers in this area. But I don’t think you have to go that extensively. I think you can do a hybrid of the two models and actually get most of the benefits, not have any—virtually, none of the side effects and really maximize all these powerful metabolic processes.
Ben: Okay. So, why do you call it a free stem cell transplant and how does this tie into AMPK pathways?
Joseph: Okay. We’ll get to the AMPK, but what is autophagy? Let’s do a simple review. So, autophagy, there are three types. There’s microautophagy, macroautophagy, and chaperone-mediated autophagy. And essentially, it targets damaged and defective cellular parts, not whole cells, whole cells would be apoptosis. But these defective cellular parts are targeted in some way. They’re marked. And then they’re shuttled to lysosomes where the lysosomes have these digestive enzymes in there and they’re able to, and actually, had NADPH oxidase which then creates superoxide. Superoxide combines the nitric oxide and paroxetine nitride and just destroys these cellular parts. And it breaks them down to their constituent elements, which are then recycled for the repair and regeneration.
That’s autophagy, and that’s what you activate when you do, I think this more extended fast, what I call the keto fast. But there are other ways to do that with Longo’s fasting mimicking diet, of course the extended multiple day water fasting, which I don’t recommend. So, the free stem cell transplant is really sort of an artifact of what happens when you do these activities. And it doesn’t occur during the autophagy phase, it occurs in the regeneration phase. This is probably the best strategy to rebuild your health because you need to remove the damaged and defective materials in your bodies, the proteins and the enzymes that just aren’t—or mitochondria, they aren’t even working anymore and just clogging at the systems, and in many cases, creating inflammatory cytokines that disrupt your physiology.
So, getting rid of them is one, but then the next step is that magical part is in the refeed when you activate these stem cells, and especially if you’re combining it with a really good aggressive strength training program because one of the benefits, additional benefits that occurs during the fasting phase is that your growth hormone increases like 300% and you’re going to say, “Whoa, that doesn’t make sense because if growth hormone is up then IGF is up and that would actually inhibit autophagy.” But what happens is the growth hormone receptors in your liver become relatively insensitive, so actually the IGF-1 levels drop and you’re able to get those benefits.
It’s just like you’ve taken a growth hormone injection though. You get the benefit especially combining it right after. You’ll see them when I discuss it further. I recommend doing this twice a week. So, you can get these awesome benefits twice a week and–
Ben: So, you’re saying how long twice a week?
Joseph: Well, we’ll go into the details later but basically, a 42-hour fast on anywhere from 3 to 500 calories based on your lean body mass.
Ben: Okay. So, that would be almost like an alternate. Well, it’s technically your keto fast protocol. Yeah, we’ll get into that. Now, intestinal stem cell function, because I know a lot of people will fast to be able to heal the gut, you have some very interesting rodent studies you talked about in the book. Can you get into what happens especially to like intestinal stem cell function?
Joseph: Yeah. It improves that too to no surprise because you had this thing called the leaky gut, which is a real symptom. In fact, when you do this type of fasting, I think it’s the extended fasting, not just the intermittent fasting. It helps reduce the gut permeability by stimulating these brain-gut pathways and enhancing the integrity of your gut lining, which is of course really important for improving your overall health.
Ben: Yeah. I think one of the major takeaways I have underlined in the book is that one single fast, improved intestinal stem cell function in mice who actually switch the stem cells in their gut, switch from utilizing carbs to utilizing fat, and they actually saw this complete regeneration of the gut just from a fasting protocol. It’s kind of funny because so many people will do like, whatever, glutamine, bone broth, colostrum, an autoimmune diet and 18 different supplements to heal their gut yet just not try, say, not eating food as you’ve just alluded to several times per week.
Joseph: Yeah. Yeah. And it’s interesting—I’ll get into some of the supplements but there are certain supplements that—and I didn’t really highlight this in the book that much but there are supplements—and I learned this from Bob Miller who is at our mastermind event in Park City last year. He helped me understand that there are certain supplements that will actually inhibit autophagy. So, these are some things you do not want to take when you’re doing some type of fasting protocol. Colostrum is one of them, as is methylfolate, as is B12. These will actually slow down autophagy. It’s understanding when to cycle in and out of these, not only the foods but the nutrients and the supplements that you might be using.
Ben: Yeah. And by the way, I don’t think we yet defined AMPK, the adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase. But define AMPK because it plays a pretty integral role when it comes to maintaining healthy autophagy, and I know that there are certain supplements you use to up-regulate AMPK and autophagy. So, first, define AMPK and then get into the things that you did discover in writing this book that enhance the fasting process because fasting increases AMPK but you can put other things in your body at the same time to upgrade the fast.
Joseph: Yeah. It increases AMPK and fasting also increases NAD plus by about 30%, which is another good benefit. But AMPK is your friend. The higher the better but just like when you—there’s like inhibiting mTOR is your friend also, but you don’t want to do it all the time. You do not want elevated AMPK. That means you’d be in starvation mode. But it’s a nutrient sensor and the AMP sounds pretty similar to ATP. So, that’s adenosine monophosphate is just the core of it. And the K means it’s a kinase. It’s actually an enzyme that attaches a phosphate to the AMP to convert it to ATP, and it is low when ATP is low. That’s why it’s a nutrient sensor and it goes up, and it’s a very good thing when it goes up because that means it’s going to activate autophagy.
So, things that inhibit or lower AMPK will inhibit autophagy because that’s one of the primary signals. It puts your body into a repair mode. And the primary issue is that it catalyzes the inhibition of mTOR, the mechanistic target of rapamycin which is a powerful signaling pathway that is really used for anabolism or building your body. I mean, you need mTOR but if it’s activated all the time, you’re going to have major problems. So, it’s the cycling in and out of AMPK and mTOR. There’s somewhat like a seesaw. So, when the AMPK is high, mTOR is low; when mTOR is high, AMPK is low. You want to cycle that seesaw in and out regularly throughout the week, at least that’s my view of obtaining some of the highest benefits from this process.
Ben: Right. And when it comes to AMPK, kind of the beautiful scenario here for mitochondrial biogenesis, I think especially a lot of people listening and they’re trying to find that sweet spot for exercise and for fitness, but if you combine fasting with the other thing that can up-regulate AMPK which is brief spurts of high-intensity interval training, you can mimic, especially if you’re an aerobic athlete because this is something I used to talk about a lot when I was doing triathlon and doing kind of like this minimalist Ironman Triathlon protocol is I found that that very short high-intensity interval training sessions especially in a slightly calorie-depleted state could give me the same aerobic benefits as the longer, like 90-minute Sufferfest pound the pavement run sessions or the very long bike rides.
And I’m not saying you don’t need to put in the hard work, like I don’t want to be one of those biohackers that stands on a vibration platform for five minutes to get a six pack abs. But what I am saying is that you can use fasting and high-intensity interval training, and as you’ve alluded to, especially after your feed like a brief spurt of resistance training to get the growth hormone release and the AMPK and the mitochondrial biogenesis. So, when you start to weave all of this stuff together, it creates a really beautiful scenario for fitness as well.
Joseph: Yeah. Fitness and optimal health, I really think it’s a recipe for massively and radically accelerating your ability to achieve optimal health.
Ben: Now, what are the different nutrients and supplements? Because I mean, you even sent me, and I know this is part of your next book so I don’t necessarily want to force you to reveal all the secrets in your next book on longevity, but you said to me–
Joseph: No. I can [00:30:23] _______.
Ben: Yeah. You sent me like the recipe for an autophagy tea that you were drinking that I’ve even mentioned on other shows, and I think that’s a perfect example of how your–
Joseph: Have you tried it yet?
Ben: Yes. I bought all the ingredients. It’s in a glass mason jar up in my pantry and I’ve been using it every day. I actually quit using nicotinamide riboside, which I was taking as a supplement and began to use that tea instead because it has a lot of these NAD precursors in it that you talked about. But can you get into that as kind of an example of the different things you’ve found to up-regulate AMPK?
Joseph: Sure. Before we do that, let me mention one of the things that decreases AMPK, and that is present in 80% of the population. What do you think that is? Eighty percent of the people–
Ben: Well, I would say excess calories but that seems too obvious.
Joseph: Insulin resistance. Normally, it’s a natural medicine to acknowledge is that 30% of the population has diabetes, which of course is maximal insulin resistance, but type-2 diabetes. But if you do a more sensitive test that was described by Joseph Kraft, and he wrote a book about this where you do oral glucose tolerance test and you sequentially measure your glucose and insulin levels after the glucose challenge, and then you graph that and you look at the graphs, the tables in his book, you can figure it out. But if you do that more sensitive test, 80% of the population is insulin resistance. And when you’re insulin resistant, your AMPK is inhibited. It goes down. So, you’ve got to do the basics first. You’ve got to get rid of insulin resistance. No magic autophagy tea or supplement is going to counteract that. It’s the fundamental foundational basics that you need.
Ben: Okay. Got it.
Ben: And by the way–
Joseph: And most of your listeners are doing that already, but I just want to reinforce the obvious.
Ben: Yeah. And just a quick rabbit hole, I think a lot of people—because there’s a lot of talk going on out there before we return to these nutrients for autophagy and your tea. There’s a lot of talk going on out there about insulin resistance induced by ketogenesis due to the fact that on an oral glucose tolerance test, after one has limited carbohydrates, they appear to have insulin insensitivity in response to a bolus of glucose. It’s my understanding that that’s related to ketosis or fasting causing a down-regulation of GLUT4 and GLUT5 transporters so that it appears that because your GLUT4 and GLUT5 are down-regulated, glucose isn’t getting into muscles or liver quite as well, but what you would see after a few days of say carbohydrate refeeding would be an amplification of those receptors. So, it’s not true insulin insensitivity that’s occurring as a result of fasting or ketosis even though it might appear so if you’re just doing a glucose tolerance test.
Joseph: Yeah, and glucagon is a hormone that also interacts with that, as does the insulin resistance again, or actually, a maximum insulin sensitivity because when you restrict your carbohydrates especially in a fasting mode, your insulin levels can get so low that your glycogen levels that actually it’s too low to stimulate the liver to make glucose. It doesn’t inhibit it, or it doesn’t stimulate it, so your glucose levels start to rise. You get gluconeogenesis just because your insulin levels are so down low and interestingly, the solution for that is to eat some carbohydrates like a fruit or something and it will be [00:34:01] _______ pure healthy carbs, and you would think your blood sugar would rise but it actually goes down because you raise your insulin levels.
Ben: Mm-hmm. Yeah, yeah. Okay. So, nutrients for autophagy, what kind of things have you discovered work?
Joseph: There are a lot of them. Most of them are [00:34:17] ______.
Ben: That’s okay. We got time.
Joseph: Yeah. Like berberine. Berberine is a good one. You don’t want to take berberine every day but berberine is good. ECGC from green tea is another good one. But what I think is even better, I found these apples from Europe, wildcrafted apples with [00:34:35] ______ that are organic and they’re picked green. These ancient apples, they’re full of these ECGC compounds and they probably have higher concentrate—they do have higher concentrations in green tea. It’s the whole apple and these wild apples. Anyway, that’s another one.
Ben: Wait, do you just—because I know you have a little bit of a fruit orchard. Are you growing these or are you purchasing them?
Joseph: No, no. I import them from Europe. It’s not available commercially. Most of the polyphenols are really bitter. Berberine would be a classic example. I would challenge—and virtually, I want to have a teaspoon of berberine and not just—maybe not but a quart, 16th of a teaspoon. It’s so darn bitter. Equally bitter is pomegranate peel, not pomegranate but pomegranate peel polyphenols, sometimes referring to literature as PPE, pomegranate peel extracts. But you can get the pomegranate peel powder.
There are no capsules like that but they do sell the powder and you can put them in capsules yourself. And that is loaded with ellagic acid and these ellagitannins, which most likely are even more powerful. The active form of that is actually created when you swallow them and they’re metabolized in your gut to these other chemical compounds called urolithins.
Ben: Yeah. Urolithin A, that’s actually an anti-aging compound. I don’t know if I’ve ever told you this but the probiotic that I use, the probiotic made by Seed, that’s a few different probiotic strains mixed with pomegranate extract so that you get that urolithin A release upon consumption of the pomegranate extract. So, I take it as part of my probiotic.
Joseph: Yeah, yeah. It’s a magnificent thing and I want to thank you, too. I was excited when I first found out about this and then you referred me to a podcast of these guys from New Zealand, I believe. They’re naturopaths and they really [00:36:32] ______ now or–
Ben: Yeah. Those are the guys from ATP Science. They did a great podcast specifically on pomegranates and all of the cool elements of the entire pomegranate fruit eaten whole, meaning, literally like peeling it, dehydrating the peel and powdering that, eating the seeds, eating the juice like not just buying the pomegranate juice from the store but the magic of eating the whole pomegranate. I’ll hunt down that podcast.
Joseph: Yeah. It was a good one. I listen to those guys regularly now. They’re pretty good.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. So, this tea that you make, fill me in on the ingredients of that.
Joseph: Well, one of the ways that you activate autophagy is you make sure that you don’t have a lot of acetyl coenzyme A because when you increase acetyl coenzyme A, you inhibit autophagy. That’s just fact. And interestingly, counterintuitively, when you’re fasting and you want to activate autophagy, even though your body makes ketones, this is not a time where you want to take external ketones, exogenous ketones. Not a good idea because it breaks down to butyrate and butyrate actually increases coenzyme A, which will inhibit autophagy. So, there’s a time and a place for everything, but taking ketone esters or salts is not a good idea when you’re fasting.
Ben: Really? Because a lot of people will use exogenous ketones as a way to stave off appetite cravings while they’re in a fasted state, but you’re saying even though that might save off appetite cravings, it reduces autophagy?
Joseph: What would you rather do? And the appetite cravings, we’ll talk about that in a bit but they typically disappear, on almost everyone, if you’re doing this thing right. But why would you want to inhibit autophagy? To me, one of the primary benefits of doing this fast is activating autophagy because virtually, hardly anyone’s doing. Ninety percent of the people are eating more than 12 hours a day. That’s 90%. It’s just a small fraction of people who understand this and are applying it.
Ben: Got it. Okay. So, the autophagy tea.
Joseph: Autophagy tea, another one I use is chamomile tea organic. Why? Because it’s really high in apigenin which is a flavone, and that will inhibit—it inhibits—what was the pathway on that one? I think it’s NAD—no, it’s NQO. No, Pau D’arco is NQO1. I’ve actually forgotten what inhibits it. No, inhibits CD38, which is an ectoenzyme that consumes NAD.
Ben: Okay. It’s consuming NAD+. So, would that be a way to actually increase NADH but a conception of chamomile powder?
Joseph: Not NADH, NAD+. It would increase—yeah, apigenin or–
Ben: Oh yeah, because it inhibits the ectoenzymes, the CD38 ectoenzymes that would inhibit NAD?
Joseph: Not inhibit, use.
Ben: Or use them. Yeah, yeah.
Joseph: Yes. It’s probably the second largest consumer of NAD in your body. Hopefully, it’s the first because the largest consumer in most people is PARP, poly-ADP ribose polymerase, because it’s a DNA repair matrix enzyme that’s essential to repair DNA breaks, and it’s activating. We’re exposed to even a frequency. If you’ve got that under control, then you’re not activating PARP too much and then probably CD38 becomes more of an issue.
Ben: Yeah. And you also told me you put this hydroxycitrate and Garcinia compound in there like a combo powder.
Joseph: Yes. Garcinia lowers coenzyme A. Actually, it’s the HCA, the hydroxycitric acid that lowers the coenzyme A.
Ben: Both of which would up-regulate autophagy?
Joseph: Yes. Yeah. It’s just like it’s a hidden pearl that virtually no one knows. I discovered it in reading one of these journals. Yeah, this is what it does. I mean, it’s been commercially used extensively for weight loss but to me, it’s an autophagy activator, a pretty profoundly effective one if you’re doing it the right way. Now, it doesn’t work if you just swallow some and you’re eating a regular meal. You’ve got to integrate it into the proper fasting protocol.
Ben: Sorry, quercetin. I get slapped on the wrist for my pronunciation of that a lot. So, all of these are up-regulating autophagy or increasing NAD or both, but then you’re also sweetening it. You turned me on to this fabulous sweetener that you use.
Joseph: Did you like it? Did you like it?
Ben: Yeah. Tell the listeners about it.
Joseph: Oh, this is the best sweetener I’ve ever encountered. It blows everything out of the water. It’s made by Lakanto, I believe, L-A-K-A-N-T-O, and it’s called Monkfruit sweetener or Lo Han. The unfortunate problem is really hard to find because it’s on this obscure website called Amazon. But you got to be careful because they go out of stock a lot. So, I usually had two or three bottles all the time in case they go out of stock. But the flavor, it just is a magnificent flavor and [00:41:40] ______ makes anything taste good.
But that’s the tea. In addition to the tea, I use a tea to swallow all these other supplements like the berberine, curcumin, the pomegranate peel, polyphenols, the apple peel polyphenols or the whole wild apple polyphenols of resveratrol, CoQ10. Interesting tocotrienols are another one that do it. So, I take those at night rather than in the morning.
Ben: Do you drink this tea hot?
Joseph: Oh no, no, no. I drink it cold, actually, because I live in Florida.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. But most of this stuff dissolves pretty well or do you put it into the smoothie or into the blender?
Joseph: I put it in the blender. Yeah, I put it in the blender because some today—I just had some this morning and I didn’t put it in a blender because I was in a rush. If you don’t dissolve the powder, you can kind of choke on it.
Joseph: So, you blend all this really well.
Ben: Yeah. I mixed it all in a mason glass jar. And actually, what I did a few days ago is I made ice cream out of it. I just took all the powder–
Ben: Yeah. I put it in with cacao and six egg yolks, a can of coconut milk, a little bit of collagen for the joints, add a little extra sweetener in that. And then let me think of what else I had in there. Those were the biggies. And then I blended that and then put it in the freezer in a stainless steel bowl, so I’ve got it as almost like this ketogenic ice cream I can have after dinner at night but it’s got all the powders in it. So, I’ve turned your tea in the ice cream but it tastes pretty good.
Joseph: Leave it to Ben to improve it. So, you are really healthy and I don’t think you have many symptoms of any disease, but have you noticed any difference from doing this recently?
Ben: No, but I haven’t gone in for any labs recently either and I haven’t retested my telomere so I can’t say. I haven’t quantified lately. I’ve been too busy.
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Before we get into some of the dark side of fasting, you talk about the dark side of water fasting and the dark side of fasting in general in the book, one other thing that I wanted to comment on that I thought was interesting and that I know you know a little bit about is this idea of hydrogen peroxide in the body, why that should be something we should care about, and how ketones could potentially protect the brain from excess peroxides produced by hydrogen peroxide.
Joseph: Alright. Well, not everyone listening has had the opportunity to attend some biochemistry courses. So, let me condense a biochemistry into a few paragraphs for you. Ultimately, the food you eat, especially the fats and the carbs are used as fuel sources. And the protein maybe you can use to fuel, but typically, it’s broken down to its constituent amino acids so you can remake that into proteins and enzymes that your body needs. But after you eat fats and carbs, which are the primary fuels, they’re broken down by enzymes in your stomach to their basic parts, which is pyruvate for carbs and pre-fatty acids for fats. And these parts are then shuttled to your cells and then your mitochondria use them for energy with oxygen. It burns them. And ultimately, these fats and carbs are converted to electrons. That’s what the whole electron transport chain does in the mitochondria. And these electrons are passed through molecules called cytochromes and they result ultimately in generation of ATP.
Now, what’s not obvious that these electrons broken down from the food require a final resting place or acceptor, and that is the role that oxygen serves. So, ultimately, it receives these electrons from the food that you’re digesting in the form of hydrogen, which is ideally converted to water. Now, the carbon in the foods you have consumed is converted into carbon dioxide, which is the waste that you breathe—what they breathe out, obviously. Now, the key point here is that the conversion of the food you eat that your body uses to make ATP is not 100% efficient.
If you’re metabolically healthy like most of the people listening to this and you certainly are, it’s probably somewhere between 95% to 97%. But if you’re metabolically inflexible like over 85% of the people in the country are, then you cannot burn much fat for fuel. When you do that, you’re going to generate 30% to 40% more reactive oxygen species of which hydrogen peroxide and superoxide are the two primary ones inside the mitochondria. So, they leak out [00:48:15] _______ and that’s the pollution that you get from these electrons leaking out and not converting into the ultimate beneficial one which is water.
Now, when you’re healthy, the superoxide and peroxide are not necessarily bad. Yes, they’re free radicals but they’re biologically important free radicals that actually regulate your biology. As long as they’re in the right concentration, you’re golden. It’s only when they become high that they can become problematic, and the answer certainly is not to take antioxidants to lower these; the answer is to address the fundamental problems that are causing the aberration in the levels.
Ben: Interesting. Okay. So, ketones are going to protect your brain cells that are exposed to these oxidative stressors like hydrogen peroxide, which are going to find quite common in the brains of people with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, for example.
Ben: Okay. Got it.
Joseph: And they do it because they’re HDAC inhibitors. That’s one. So, they radically lower inflammation and they also increase a molecule that you’re well-familiar with but many people are not. It’s called NADPH. It’s the coenzyme, cousin of NAD+, and probably just every bit is important. And if you increase your NAD+ levels, you’ll get this because there’s another kinase enzyme, NADK, which adds a phosphate to NAD, to turn to NADP, and then you reduce it to NADPH. But why is it so important? You need it for just about everything in your body, man. But primarily, not only to make your cholesterol, your fatty acids, and your steroids, I mean it’s the rate-limiting factor for fatty acid synthesis but also, it is this reservoir of electrons. It’s what your body uses to recharge your antioxidants, the ultimate internal antioxidant. So, ketones increase NADPH.
Ben: So, this would be something that folks could use as a strategy in addition to doing something like consuming this autophagy tea or an alternative to doing something like NAD injections, for example?
Joseph: Well, I wouldn’t combine it with fasting. It has its purpose in place and it’s one that you and I could use and many listeners can use all the time. That’s when you’re flying. That’s when you’re going to benefit from these things as the ketones. That’s when I would use exogenous ketones big time.
Ben: That’s right. I remember you gave me this tip and I started to travel with a little shot glass of it of the—it was the HVMN ketones was the ones that I was using because they travel pretty well and you can carry them on.
Joseph: Yeah. I use KetoneAids but they’re the same.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. Okay. So, water fasting. I want to start there because you mentioned in the book, and this kind of intrigued me that before writing the book, you thought water fasting was the most powerful metabolic intervention you’d ever encountered in four decades of clinical practice then you changed your mind. Why?
Joseph: That’s a great question. Because it was initially advised by Valter Longo and Bryan Walsh that probably wasn’t the best idea for two different reasons; Longo primarily for compliance, but I think that might be related to his very thick Italian accent and his inability to communicate effectively with his patients. But Bryan Walsh for another reason, not only compliance, but also it metabolically is not optimal, and largely, as a result of the fact that we live in the 21st century and we have the massively increased exposure to the people who were fasting for thousands of years that they didn’t have. And that is to these toxins that are produced chemically and industrially.
And most all of these toxins, certainly not all of them but the vast majority of them are fat soluble, and because of that, they’re stored in your fat. And when you are water fasting for a long time, you will release and liberate these toxins, and most people have impaired detox systems. And as a result of that, they’re going to cause the side effects and the symptoms that most people have when they do extended multiple day water fast.
Ben: Okay. Got it.
Joseph: It only breaks it down a little bit. Now, there are three phases. Phase 1 is when you convert—your body converts that fat soluble to water. That’s not a problem. You don’t need to improve that because your body does it automatically. What most people have a problem with is Phase 2, and that’s where you attach these molecules to the toxin, like a methyl group, sulfur, acetyl group, amino acid, glycine or glutathione. And that allows you to—that makes them much less reactive and easier to excrete so that you can eliminate them effectively from your body. But you also need some food, specifically amino acids and proteins, to fuel this process. And if you don’t have any, you’re going to have side effects, which is what the primary—so there are two primary reasons I don’t recommend it. One is because of the compliance, which I think is a real issue for most people. The vast majority of people will not do it. But then secondarily, I think it’s going to hurt you potentially more than help you.
Ben: Okay. Essentially, even in as little as five days, you can overwhelm your detoxification pathways because we’re living in this post-industrial era where we kind of have this unnatural environment. We’re exposed to a lot of toxins. You could perhaps theoretically argue that if you live on a pristine Himalayan mountain top and never travel, you could probably get away with water fast and not have to worry about some of the detoxification reactions.
Joseph: I’m sure there are people in the world who don’t have heavy burdens of that and it wouldn’t be an issue.
Ben: But otherwise, you need frequent refeeds to make sure that you have what you need to enhance these detox pathways.
Joseph: Yes. And here’s the other massive thing, too. If you’re going to do a multi-day water fast, or even a fasting mimicking diet according to Longo’s instructions—which is pretty expensive, it’s $300 for five days. So, you’re going to probably—even he for sick people doesn’t recommend more than once a month, but probably, once a quarter for most people. So, you’re only going to be getting the benefits of this activity for 20/30 times a year, whereas if you do the keto fasting like I described and we’ll discuss in more detail in a moment, you can get it more than 100 times a year. So, collectively, you’re going to get far more benefit by doing it more frequently. So, you may not get as much detoxification, autophagy benefits, but because you’re doing it more frequently collectively, it will be more effective.
Ben: Okay. Now, you also talked about the dark side of fasting in general. As a matter of fact, you have an entire chapter devoted to the dark side of fasting. Why did you devote an entire chapter to the dark side of fasting even beyond just water fasting?
Joseph: Well, for the reasons I just mentioned. Primarily because of the detoxification impairment, because your body needs some fuel, primarily protein. I’ve noticed personally that I’ve been able to increase my lean muscle mass by having protein during the partial fasting days. And we’ll discuss what that means in a bit. But the other primary one is compliance. People just won’t do it. I mean, they’ve got to be on their death but even then they still won’t consider.
Ben: Yeah. I mean, on a lot of my fasting days, and I get lots of questions about this, I use amino acids. Even though those are—they’re mildly anabolic. That’s what I use as my protein source if I’m doing an extended fast. Go ahead.
Joseph: Well, let me discuss that here because I think that’s a great strategy but I think you could even improve it further because the last thing you want to do when you’re seeking to activate autophagy is to give yourself branched-chain amino acids, which will stimulate mTOR.
Ben: Well, yeah. That’s because the BCAAs have leucine in them, but if you balance that out with the other amino acid—that’s why I use essential aminos, not branched-chains.
Joseph: Yeah, but there’s still some. You have to look at the total. So, I think that’s great. What does that mean? That means you could eat vegetarian protein whose have very low branched-chains, but you wouldn’t eat meat. Clearly, you don’t want to eat meat protein when you’re in a partial fast because you’re going to activate autophagy. I mean, I’ve got your protein powder. I haven’t looked at the concentration of the branched-chains in there, but you want to make sure they’re low is the key.
Ben: Yeah. It’s low in branched-chains and then it’s all vegan-based.
Joseph: And then you’re fine.
Joseph: And the other one you can use is bone broth or collagen protein, which has virtually no branched-chain amino acids. And even though you might have 20/30 grams of it, you are not going to activate mTOR at all.
Ben: Yeah. So, you could essentially do a fast, let’s say like an extended fast for multiple days or 40 plus hours or something like that and not have to risk a lot of these detoxification side effects by using something like bone broth, vegan-based proteins or aminos.
Joseph: Very truly not.
Ben: Interesting. Okay.
Joseph: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And then your hunger or cravings are basically non-existent, and because normally, you’re only eating twice a day anyway, maybe some snacks in between if you’re only eating for six hours. It’s like you’re only skipping one meal. It’s about the easiest sliding off a log. It’s just crazy simple. And there’s like no hardship, mental hardship.
Ben: One other kind of I guess dark side you talk about is just ketosis in general or the drawbacks of long-term ketosis. What are the drawbacks to long-term ketosis?
Joseph: Well, it’s like anything in life. If you overdo it, you’re going to have a problem. So, a long-term ketosis means that you’re really doing very significant calorie restriction to get there. The problems with that, especially if you’re a woman is that you can impair or develop some resistance to your thyroid hormones or receptor—thyroid impairment, which is probably one of the biggest ones, but it just stops working as well. You weren’t designed to do that. I mean, you could basically go into—switch from fasting to starvation mode, which I mean typically, at least classically is defined as something longer than a few weeks. But I think you’re still going to really not optimize your rejuvenation strategies with that method.
Ben: Yeah. A lot of people will, folks like the KetoGains website are of course making popular the notion that a ketogenic diet could support muscle growth or muscle gains in the presence of heavy lifting. But that’s still not long-term ketosis. And from what I understand, long-term ketosis is actually associated with excess catabolism if there are no refeeds present in addition to the thyroid issues that you mentioned and what I personally experience because I combined 12 months of strict ketosis because I did Jeff Volek’s study at UConn and had to follow 80% to 90% fat-based diet going into that.
I experienced some pretty severe endocrine disruption as well. I got nearly hypogonadal combining long-term ketosis with no cyclic refeeds with high amounts of physical activity.
Joseph: Yeah. That’s because fasting primes your body for improvement, and it does this by removing the damaged parts through autophagy but, and you just mentioned, it’s the refeeds that are the—it’s really the magic of fasting is the refeed. It’s really the opportunity to rebuild your cells and tissues. It’s largely as a result of the stem cell activation but giving yourself the nutrients and the metabolic activation through like strength training exercises to cause that repair and regeneration, and basically, anabolic growth.
Ben: So, define for me keto fasting and how this concept of cyclical ketosis works and addresses the issues we just talked about.
Joseph: Okay. The first, as I mentioned earlier, is that you want to be metabolically flexible. You cannot do keto fasting or partial fasting at least in my belief unless you’re metabolically flexible. If you do four weeks of eating between only six and eight hours a day, I personally do six hours all the time. I mean, it’s very rare I ever violate that window. Six hours. And if you do it for four weeks, you will—invariably. I mean, there are probably some people who won’t be, but probably not anyone listening to your podcast. But if you do that for four weeks, you will be metabolically flexible. And then you can start up keto fast.
You’re only going to have one—so basically, you would not eat for 18 hours. Say that window is from 9:00 to 3:00. You haven’t eaten for 18 hours at three o’clock in the afternoon, and then it’s nine o’clock the next morning, what are you going to do that day? You’re going to have one meal. That one meal is somewhere between 3 and 500 calories, and the way you figure out the number of calories is based on your lean body mass, and you multiply that by 3.5. So, it’s not a rigid science. You just want to have enough calories. So, what are those calories?
I learned this by trial and error. Most of the calories is our protein. You want to definitely restrict your carbohydrates to under 10 grams ideally, certainly under 20, but if you can get under 10 and the fat under 10 or 20 grams, and the rest of it are these proteins that—the sources we just mentioned earlier. You don’t want to have any branched-chains or at least minimal branched-chains. I mean, if you have a few grams, it’s not going to be a big deal, but you really want to keep them minimized and you can have things like bone broth, collagen, vegan proteins, and also your essential aminos if they’re low in branched-chains.
Ben: And for people who are looking at labels of supplements and things like that, the branched-chains would be leucine. That’s the particular villain in very high amounts.
Joseph: Right. That’s the main one.
Ben: Yeah. And then isoleucine and valine are the other two.
Joseph: Or valine is something biochemistry people would say.
Joseph: So, yeah, those three are the branched-chains. They are beneficial. So, when do you have those? You have on the refeed the next day. That’s when you go wild with the branched-chains. It’s not that branched-chains are evil. There’s a time and place for all of them, and they certainly shouldn’t be taken when you’re in keto fast. And that’s the key. So, then you also want to be careful that you’re not taking some of the supplements mentioned earlier like your colostrum, ketone supplements, B12 or methylfolate because that’s going to activate mTOR, and that’s the last thing you want to do. Well, activate mTOR when you’re trying to activate autophagy because remember, there’s a balance because you’re going to increase—you’re going to decrease AMPK which will activate mTOR.
Ben: Okay. Got it. So, essentially, the steps here would be incorporate time-restricted feeding in your book. And I know we mentioned, if you’re exercising, this may decrease a little bit but it’s about 16 to 18 hours per day and then you recommend to stop eating three hours prior to bedtime.
Joseph: At least. Yeah.
Ben: Your kind of enhancing autophagy.
Joseph: I personally do mine but six hours before. I’m not married and I have no social life so it’s hard for me to do that.
Ben: Yeah. I was going to say we usually have our family dinner like at 8:30 p.m. So, that’s tough. But then you also have the—in addition to the intermittent fasting, not eating for three hours before bedtime, you simply incorporate the cyclic approach where you’re going ketogenic for how many days in a row before you do a refeed?
Joseph: The restricted six to eight-hour eating window is it depends. So, twice a week, I’ll do the partial fast or the keto fast. I’ll do a keto fast and I’ll eat for two days, and then I’ll do another keto fast and then I’ll eat for three days, I’ll keep it two in a week.
Ben: And the keto fast days you’re defining as a 16-hour, 18-hour fast days?
Joseph: No, no. A keto fast day is when you only have the 3 to 500 calorie meal, one meal, that’s it.
Ben: Okay, okay. Got it. So, every single day, you’re doing the intermittent fast, and then on a couple days of the week, you’re doing the 300 to 500 calories where you’re limiting the amount of animal proteins, colostrum, et cetera.
Joseph: Now, this is different than the fasting mimicking diet, which doesn’t consecutively—and I think there’s benefit to break it up and then—so you’re fasting. And actually, in Longo’s approach, he gives you 1,000 calories on day one and then 750 calories on day two, three and four and five. So, I’m saying go lower after an 18-hour fast. Every time I do this, I will not lose any weight when I’m doing a 16 to 18-hour intermittent fast. Just don’t lose weight. It’s assuming I’m eating my regular calories.
Joseph: But the moment I go do the keto fast, I’ll lose four or five pounds. I’m actually losing less now that I’ve integrated the protein, increased the protein back up to make that the primary constituent of the calories.
Ben: Okay. So, if you’re getting hungry during this, do you have specific strategies that you use or supplements that you use to manage any type of hunger or appetite cravings?
Joseph: That’s a great question. Most people who are metabolically flexible, if they’re engaging into this strategy, will not be hungry. I would say the vast, vast majority, probably 90/95%. If you’re not metabolically flexible and you’re making the transition, then it’s going to be a problem for sure. No question about it. But so traditionally, in that window where you’re trying to become metabolically flexible, you can use things like coconut oil or MCT oil or even better caprylic acid C8 or even ketone supplements because they will convert to energy real quickly and give you energy. But I don’t recommend that during this time, largely because you’re not going to be hungry. But if you want something in your mouth, what I do, I have over 1,000—maybe 2,000 aloe plants and it’s one of the plant foods I like to eat. I usually go through about two or three leaves a day and I’ll just suck out some aloe gel and that’s more than not to satisfy any mouth cravings revealed.
Ben: Really? You use aloe gel?
Joseph: Well, but fresh from the plants like raw.
Ben: Yeah. But you can buy aloe gel as well like on Amazon. Is that anything comparable?
Joseph: Well, you have to be careful because there are a lot of ingredients to preservatives and the way they’re raised, just really careful. I mean, you almost have to live in a subtropical place to grow aloe outside, like I do but ideally, it’s best fresh.
Ben: What about any of these resistant starches, acacia fiber or psyllium husk, anything like that?
Joseph: You could do them. You have to be careful because there are so many people have SIBO or small intestinal bowel overgrowth, and those will actually feed that. If you’re confident you don’t have that even been tested for it or especially if you looked at it metabolically with the urine organic acid test, I think you’re probably fine. But I wouldn’t use them liberally for everyone because there are so many people who have SIBO and don’t know it.
Ben: Yeah. My old standby is I just chomp on a piece of nicotine gum and have some sparkling water. That just does it for me.
Joseph: Yeah, that will work. Yeah. You can drink as much water as you want. Sparkling water is great.
Ben: Yeah. You can’t choose much nicotine gum as you want. That stuff can be highly addictive, but man, if you’re craving a meal, you pop a piece of that. I’ve got this Lucy stuff. It’s pretty low in artificial compounds. It works like gangbusters for that.
Ben: So, you are also a fan of sauna and supporting the fasting protocol with sauna. I love to hear you geek out on your sauna setup. So, can you inform me what your sauna setup looks like and also some of your dos and don’ts of using the sauna? Because you have a whole section of the book devoted to this as well.
Joseph: I think it’s really important, and I think one of the experts in this, and I first met him at the last bulletproof event in 2017 I believe, Brian Richards, who has the SaunaSpace company. He’s the founder of that. And I fully believe that the near-infrared sauna that he was promoting was not that good and I was going to respectfully dialogue with him at that event. And he wound up changing my mind because he’s really knowledgeable. In fact, I did an interview with him on my site. It’s really the best concise pieces of information about the whole topic because it does get deep into the science.
But essentially, I believe near-infrared is the best like Brian’s promoting. And you can make them inexpensively yourself. The one he sells, at least the one that’s EMF free is like $8,000 or so, and you don’t have to go to that level, and it’s certainly inconvenient. It’s like a small tent. It’s not like the sauna you have. But the beautiful thing about it, there’s no EMF, and it is truly indeed full spectrum. Now, there are some far-infrared saunas that claim to have full spectrum saunas but they don’t. You just cannot do it with a ceramic panel. It’s not possible.
You need like a bulb, a light bulb, these incandescent light bulbs. There are heat lamps, essentially, that produce the full spectrum of infrared. A lot of people don’t realize that 40% of the energy that comes from the sun is infrared, 40%. It’s probably a good likelihood that there’s some benefit to regular infrared exposure. And the other beautiful thing about near-infrared on like far is that it heats you up pretty instantly. So, when I had a far-infrared sauna I was using, you’d have to preheat the sauna for like 30 minutes before you get in, otherwise, you’re just going to sit there and be cold.
But near-infrared, you turn the thing on and you’re like warm within a minute and you’re sweating like within five. It’s pretty crazy because a lot of the far-infrared saunas claim that the rays penetrate your body deeply but they don’t. Far-infrareds only penetrate a few millimeters. The near-infrared does go into like five/six centimeters or even more.
Ben: Yeah. Also, the near-infrared is a unique wavelength and that stimulates the mitochondria to release nitric oxide. So, you’re getting stimulation of ATP production.
Joseph: Yeah, 660 is one that does it and then the other one is around 850. I mean, there are probably 10 to 30 on each side of that that does it, but that’s the normal range that’s quoted.
Ben: But you could also—I think as you talked about in the book, you could just use like a Teflon- free heat lamp to kind of build your own near-IR sauna.
Joseph: Yeah. And there’s Lawrence Wilson who wrote the book, some—I forget the specific name, but sauna, but [01:10:34] _______.
Ben: “Sauna Therapy for Detoxification and Healing” is what he wrote.
Joseph: Yeah. So, he goes through instructions of how to make your own. Now, it’s not going to be ideal but you can definitely do it for a few hundred bucks because you got to be careful of materials because when you’re heating them up, if they’re going to outcast some toxic chemicals or plasticizers, it’s not a good idea. If you’re diligent though, you can—wise and do your research, you can probably construct something that’s a little better and still safe to use. But that’s something I do every day personally that I’m home.
Ben: Yeah. Do you use any type of compounds prior to a sauna? I know one popular one. I think Lawrence Wilson made this one popular is niacin, for example, to increase blood flow and sweat?
Joseph: Yeah. There are a low number of protocols that use this. The primary one that stimulated it I think was Wilson. I think he copied that from Hubbard. Is he scientologist? I think he is.
Joseph: So, Hubbard promoted large doses up to five grams, and I think that’s—I did that for a while when I didn’t understand things. I hooked up with Bob Miller and he helped me understand that myosin has some downsides too, high doses particularly, and that it’s a methyl consumer. So, it’ll suck up your methyl groups, which is one of the reasons why you get to flush because it’s a histamine release.
Ben: Okay. Interesting. Especially if you are poor methylate or you have methylation issues from a genetic standpoint, you’d actually want to be very careful with niacin.
Joseph: Yeah. In fact, the people who flush like 50 milligrams of niacin are probably the ones who have MTHFR defects.
Ben: So, the biggest takeaway here if you’re going to do some type of keto fasting protocol and want to enhance the detoxification process and you want to get the most bang for the buck out of a sauna protocol, you should ideally choose low EMF and as much near-infrared as you can get?
Joseph: Yeah. That’s the key. I do about 30 minutes. And then you want to combine a little cold thermogenesis. I’m not as brave as you are and have a 30 degree or 35-degree isotope out in my backyard, but I’ve got a pool that typically at least in the winter is down somewhere between the high 50s to the 60s, which I find comfortable.
Ben: Sounds balmy.
Joseph: Yeah. Below 50 is not just—I’m not going to do it. Life is too short. And I think you get the benefits. Ray Cronise has done a lot of research on cold thermogenesis and he told me personally that 67 was probably sweet spot if you do it like for 15 or 20 minutes.
Ben: Really? He told me 55. That bastard. I’ve been going all these years.
Joseph: He did.
Joseph: I think he told me that he didn’t like you. This is what he said [01:13:19] ______.
Ben: He was punking me. Interesting. Okay. So, the book is called “KetoFast.” I think about the time that this podcast goes live, you should be able to grab this off Amazon and–
Joseph: And certainly, preorder it if it’s not live.
Ben: Yeah. And I’m going to put a link to everything we talked about too, even the ingredients to Joe’s autophagy tea. I’ll put a link also to—even like the clinics we talked about like Paracelsus or the TrueNorth Health Center, his little trick website for research studies. I took a lot of notes. So, I’ll link to all of this in the shownotes for you. There’s no reason not to get this book. It’s short but chockfull of—I mean there’s stuff we didn’t even get to, and I think folks are really going to get a lot out of this one. And I’m actually looking forward to your book on longevity too, Joe. So, I may have to have you again.
Joseph: Well, that’s not going to come out for a few years but–
Ben: Yeah. Okay. Sounds like a piece of deep work. But anyways, I’ll–
Joseph: Well, your book will be mine on that one for sure.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. Well, my book isn’t just on longevity but there are several pretty hefty chapters on it in that book. I think that comes out in January. If you subscribe to my newsletter, you’ll find out when that one comes out. The shownotes for this episode you just heard are going to be at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/ketofast. That’s BenGreenfieldFitness.com/ketofast. And grab the book, too. Give it a read. As usual, Joe, you’re chockfull of information and I appreciate you coming on the show today and sharing all this with us.
Joseph: Yeah, likewise. Thanks for the opportunity to share this and I hope it really provides magnificent benefits, such as simple strategy. Really, you don’t have to spend virtually anything for you. You’re actually saving money because you’re eating less food.
Ben: Yeah. Alright, cool. Alright, folks. So, I’m Ben Greenfield along with Dr. Joseph Mercola signing out from BenGreenfieldFitness.com. Have an amazing week.
Well, thanks for listening to today’s show. You can grab all the shownotes, the resources, pretty much everything that I mentioned over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com, along with plenty of other goodies from me, including the highly helpful “Ben Recommends” page, which is a list of pretty much everything that I’ve ever recommended for hormone, sleep, digestion, fat loss, performance, and plenty more. Please, also, know that all the links, all the promo codes, that I mentioned during this and every episode, helped to make this podcast happen and to generate income that enables me to keep bringing you this content every single week. When you listen in, be sure to use the links in the shownotes, use the promo codes that I generate, because that helps to float this thing and keep it coming to you each and every week.
Dr. Joseph Mercola, my friend, multiple-time podcast guest, guy who thinks way outside-the-box and seems to always be discovering some new cutting-edge way to enhance human health and longevity, and one of the world’s foremost authorities on alternative health, has just written a guide to using the principles of ketogenic eating, meal planning, and timing to treat disease, promote weight loss, and optimize health.
The new book is called “KetoFast: Rejuvenate Your Health with a Step-by-Step Guide to Timing Your Ketogenic Meals.“
In the new book, he explores the profound health benefits that result when ketogenic living and well-planned fasting are combined. Topics include:
- How our food is making us sick and what we can do about it…
- The physiology and mechanisms of fasting, including stem cell activation…
- How the cyclical ketogenic diet–with fasting included–differs from the conventional keto diet…
- How fasting works and how safe it is for you…
- How regular one-day fasts support fat burning and detoxification while minimizing hunger and side effects…
- How to monitor your progress with lab tests…
- And much more…
During our discussion, you’ll discover:
-The fascinating history of fasting among different religions and cultures…8:25
- Mercola’s bookwas originally written to learn to optimize multiple day water fasting
- Most religions integrate fasting into their practice (speaks to its efficacy throughout history)
- It’s one of the best ways to express care for your spirit, especially when combined with meditation, gratitude, solitude, etc.
- Therapeutic fasting:
- Calorie restriction to activate metabolic processes to catalyze the healing process
- Fasting didn’t become popular in the U.S. until the 1800s with the natural hygiene movement
- Became more popular when Herbert Sheltonpopularized it in 1911
- TrueNorth Health Center
-Autophagy, and why Dr. Mercola thinks of a fast as a “free stem cell transplant”…16:45
- Different varieties of fasting:
- Intermittent (the foundation)
- Satchin Panda found that 90% of people don’t do this (listen to my podcast with Dr. Panda)
- You need more than intermittent to get the max effect of autophagy
- Fasting mimicking diet, water diet
- Hybrid of the two, minimize the harmful effects
- Intermittent (the foundation)
- 3 types
- You activate autophagy with the keto fast
- Mercola does not recommend a long-term water fast
- Free stem cell transplant is what happens during the regeneration phase, afterthe autophagy phase
- The magic happens during the refeed and strength rebuilding; similar to a growth hormone injection
- Do a 42 hour fast, in which you eat 300-500 calories 2x per week
- 3 types
-How fasting affects intestinal stem cell function…24:20
- Extended fasting helps reduce gut permeability by stimulating brain/gut pathways
- Consider fasting before other treatments or supplements for repairing the gut
- Certain supplements will inhibit autophagy: colostrum, B12
- AMP-k and mTOR
- It’s your friend; The higher the better
- A nutrient sensor
- Puts your body in “repair mode”
- See Saw: AMP-k up, mTOR down, vice versa
-What nutrients you need to optimize autophagy…34:08
- ECGC from green teaand European wild apples
- Pomegranate peel powder
- Urolithin A
- Pomegranate Pulled Apart podcast from ATP Science
- Mercola’s “autophagy tea” before my nightly fast to also limit mTor activation and increase autophagy:
- You don’t want to take exogenous ketones when you want to activate autophagy while fasting
-How ketones protect the brain from excess hydrogen peroxide…46:00
- Fats and carbs are fuel sources; broken down by enzymes
- Oxygen receives electrons from the food you’re digesting in the form of hydrogen (which is converted to water)
- Most people are metabolically inflexible; can’t burn much fat for fuel
- Ketones increase Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH)
-Why Dr. Mercola changed his mind about the efficacy of water fasting as a metabolic intervention…50:55
- We in the 21st century are exposed to chemical and industrial toxins not historically known to humans
- Toxins are stored in our fat
- When you fast, you release these toxins
- Cause unpleasant side effects and symptoms
- 2 phases:
- Convert fat soluble to water soluble (not a problem)
- Attach molecules to the toxin
- You need frequent refeeds to fuel the process of eliminating the toxins and enhancing detox pathways
- A keto fast (42 hours, 300-500 calories) 2x/week is far more powerful than an occasional multi-day water fast or even fast mimicking diet
-What Dr. Mercola views as the “dark side of fasting”…55:00
- Detoxification impairment
- Compliance: people just won’t do it
- How Dr. Mercola recommends Ben improve his own fasting strategy:
- Ben takes essential amino acidsfor protein during extended fasts
- Don’t eat meat protein (branch chain amino acids)
- Take collagen protein
- Drawbacks to long-term ketosis
- Requires significant calorie restriction
- Women can develop thyroid impairment
- You simply weren’t designed to do it
- Fasting primes your body for improvement; the real magic happens in the refeeds
-What is “keto fasting,” and how cyclical ketosis addresses the above issues…1:00:13
- You must be metabolically flexible
- Eat in a 4-6 hour window per day for 4 weeks
- Branch chain aminos: leucine, isoleucine, valine
- Eat these on the refeed, not during the keto fast
- Don’t activate mTor along with autophagy
- Cyclical approach:
- Keto fast 2x/week
- Every day intermittent fast
- Strategies to deal with hunger or appetite cravings:
-How sauna use supports a fasting protocol, an ideal sauna setup, and sauna dos and don’ts…1:07:45
- Brian Richards’ Sauna Space
- Near-infraredis the best
- 40% of energy from the sun is infrared
- Near-infrared heats you up very quickly
- Penetrates much more of the body than far infrared
- Book: Sauna Therapy for Detoxification and Healing
- Compounds prior to sauna use:
- Niacin(small doses)
- Use low EMF
-And much more!
Resources from this episode:
-My previous episodes with Dr. Mercola:
- Killing Fat Cells, Fixing Mitochondria, Growing Superfoods & More: The Official, Much-Anticipated, Mind-Blowing, Geeked-Out Podcast With Dr. Mercola
- High-Fat Fudge Balls, The Best Fruits For Blood Sugar, Egg Allergies & More With “Fat For Fuel”
- How To Reverse The Damage From Cell Phone Radiation, Hidden Sources Of EMF, The Best Way To Measure Your EMF Exposure & Much More
–Meta.org for research studies
–The Complete Guide To Fasting by Jason Fung
-Dr. Mercola’s “autophagy tea” before my nightly fast to also limit mTor activation and increase autophagy:
–Kion: My personal playground for new supplement formulations. Ben Greenfield Fitness listeners receive a 10% discount off your entire order when you use discount: BGF10.
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–Clearlight Saunas: You can be sure that I researched all the saunas before I bought mine and Clearlight was the one that stood out from all the rest because of their EMF and ELF Shielding and their Lifetime Warranty. Use discount code: BENGREENFIELD to get $500 off your sauna and a free bonus gift!
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