Huberman Lab - How to Lose Fat with Science-Based Tools

Welcome to the Huberman Lab Podcast,

where we discuss science

and science-based tools for everyday life.

I’m Andrew Huberman,

and I’m a professor of neurobiology and ophthalmology

at Stanford School of Medicine.

This podcast is separate from my teaching

and research roles at Stanford.

It is, however, part of my desire and effort

to bring zero cost to consumer information

about science and science-related tools

to the general public.

In keeping with that theme,

I’d like to thank the sponsors of today’s podcast.

Our first sponsor is Athletic Greens.

Athletic Greens is an all-in-one

vitamin mineral probiotic drink.

I’ve been taking Athletic Greens since 2012,

so I’m delighted that they’re sponsoring the podcast.

The reason I started taking Athletic Greens

and the reason I still take Athletic Greens

once or twice a day

is that it helps me cover

all of my basic nutritional needs.

It makes up for any deficiencies that I might have.

In addition, it has probiotics,

which are vital for microbiome health.

I’ve done a couple of episodes now

on the so-called gut microbiome

and the ways in which the microbiome interacts

with your immune system, with your brain to regulate mood,

and essentially with every biological system

relevant to health throughout your brain and body.

With Athletic Greens, I get the vitamins I need,

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There are a ton of data now

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Even if we’re getting a lot of sunshine,

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And K2 is also important

because it regulates things like cardiovascular function,

calcium in the body, and so on.

Again, go to slash Huberman

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Today’s episode is also brought to us by Element.

Element is an electrolyte drink

that has everything you need and nothing you don’t.

That means the exact ratios of electrolytes are an element,

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I’ve talked many times before on this podcast

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for nerve cell function, neuron function,

as well as the function of all the cells

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If we have sodium, magnesium, and potassium

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If the electrolytes are not present and if hydration is low,

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They’re all delicious.

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Today’s episode is also brought to us by Thesis.

Thesis makes what are called nootropics,

which means smart drugs.

Now, to be honest, I am not a fan of the term nootropics.

I don’t believe in smart drugs in the sense that

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I’m pleased to announce that the Huberman Lab Podcast

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We partnered with Momentus for several important reasons.

First of all, they ship internationally

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Today is the third episode in our series of episodes

about physical and athletic skill performance

and skill learning in general.

And today we’re going to talk about the science

of tools for fat loss.

And fat loss is something

that interests a large number of people.

Many people want to lose fat.

Many people are athletes who need to lose fat.

And in general, we know that having body fat percentages

that are too high is unhealthy for us.

And most people struggle to lose fat.

Most people struggle to lose weight generally,

but most people especially struggle to lose body fat

or what we call adipose tissue.

Now, this is a huge topic on the internet.

There’s a lot of controversy.

Today, we’re going to talk about some things

related to fat loss and that are powerful for fat loss

that I’m guessing most of you have never heard about before.

You may have heard about a few of them,

but I’m guessing you haven’t heard about all of them.

This episode is going to be rich with science-based tools

that are gleaned from a variety of aspects

of the literature, including the use of cold,

including brown fat, including something called beige fat.

We’re going to talk about something called NEAT.

We’re going to talk about all sorts of aspects of fat loss

that are governed by your nervous system.

And this is, I think, an important gap

that’s missing in the discussion about fat loss.

You can hear a lot of information out there

about the role of things like insulin

and various diets like ketogenic diets

or vegan diets or Mediterranean diets.

And there’s some great stuff out there

and there’s some really terrible information out there

and there’s a lot of controversy.

We did a number of episodes talking about

the role of hormones on metabolism

and the role of food on mood and wellbeing.

So if you’re interested in those topics,

please check them out.

I will touch a little bit on hormones today,

things like insulin and leptin, just a little bit,

but today’s episode is mainly going to be focused

on how the nervous system, neurons,

and some of the cells they collaborate with,

like glia and macrophages,

how those encourage or can encourage accelerated fat loss

because it turns out they can.

Remember, your nervous system,

which includes your brain and your spinal cord

and all the connections that they make

with the organs of the body, governs everything.

It’s the on switch and the off switch for your immune system.

It’s the on switch and the off switch,

it turns out, also for fat burning.

And so the nervous system and the role of the brain

and other neurons has been vastly overlooked

in the discussion about losing fat.

Now, I would be remiss,

and I’d probably come under a pretty considerable attack

if I didn’t just acknowledge upfront a core truth

of metabolic science and also of neuroscience, frankly,

which is that calories in versus calories out,

meaning how many calories you ingest

versus how many calories you burn,

is the fundamental and most important formula

in this business of fat loss

and weight management in general.

There’s simply no way around the fact

that if you ingest far more calories than you burn,

you’re likely to gain weight.

And a good portion of that weight

is likely to be adipose tissue, fat.

It’s also true that if you ingest fewer calories

than you burn, that you will lose weight

and that a significant portion of that

will come from body fat.

What portion depends on a number of factors,

but that simple formula is important.

On a previous episode, I mentioned the complications

with the statement of a calorie is a calorie.

And indeed, there is evidence from, for instance,

Robert Lustig, who’s a pediatric endocrinologist

at UC San Francisco,

has talked about how highly processed foods

change the way that we utilize food

and can lead to higher incidences of obesity

and other metabolic syndromes

that go against the idea that a calorie is a calorie

and that’s it.

So a calorie is a calorie as a unit of energy,

and we need to accept and acknowledge this calories in,

meaning calories ingested versus calories burned formula,

but the calories burned portion is strongly influenced

by a number of things that you can control

that can greatly accelerate

or increase the amount of adipose tissue

or the proportion of adipose tissue

that you burn in response to exercise and food.

So your hormones are important.

Your thermogenic milieu,

meaning how warm or how cold your body is,

how cold you make it, how warm you make it,

but also your level of metabolism,

your levels of thyroid hormone,

and something that’s hardly ever discussed,

but is well-supported by the scientific literature,

how much innervation,

meaning how much connectivity there is

between your nervous system and fat.

Today, we’re going to talk about the fact

that your body fat of various kinds,

and there are several kinds of body fat,

are actually innervated by neurons.

Neurons connect to your body fat

and can change the probability

that that body fat will be burned or not.

So your nervous system is the master controller

of this process,

and it plays a strong role in the calories out,

the calories burned component.

So as usual, we’re going to discuss a little bit of science.

I promise I won’t go too deep into lipolysis

and all sorts of things related to fat oxidation.

We’re going to break down that process

into two important steps.

And if you can understand those two important steps,

then the rest of the tools

will be very straightforward to understand and manage.

And I do believe that today you will walk away

with many new tools that you could incorporate

into any kind of fat loss regimen

that will greatly accelerate that process

because it’s grounded in quality peer-reviewed science.

Throughout the episode,

I’m going to talk about some behavioral tools.

In fact, I’ll mostly talk about behavioral tools.

I will also talk about compounds, supplements.

Many of you are into supplements.

Some of you aren’t, and that’s fine.

For those of you that are into supplements,

an important issue in a discussion about supplements

for fat loss or otherwise

is going to be the quality of those supplements

and the accuracy about what’s in those supplement bottles

and tablets, et cetera.

I usually mention this at the end of the podcast,

but this podcast, we’ve partnered with Thorne, T-H-O-R-N-E,

because Thorne, we believe,

has the highest levels of stringency

in terms of the quality of the compounds

in their supplements and the amounts of those compounds.

If you want to see the supplements I take,

you can go to slash the letter U slash Huberman.

You can see the supplements that I take.

That will also allow you to get 20% off

any of those supplements

or 20% off any of the other supplements that Thorne makes.

Thorne has partnered with the Mayo Clinic

and all the major sports teams,

so there’s a very strong basis for their stringency.

Again, you don’t need to use supplements.

I’m certainly not encouraging anyone to use supplements

if that’s not your thing,

but if you’re going to use supplements,

make sure that your supplement source

is one of very high quality.

With that said, I want to get started

and talk about the various tools for fat loss

and how neuroscience, neurons, control fat loss.

Before I do that, I want to set the context correctly

and extract some of the key takeaways

from previous episodes,

because if your foundation of health

and your foundation of hormones

and your foundation of metabolism isn’t right,

it’s going to be very hard to get the most

out of any kind of exercise or fat loss protocol.

In previous episodes, I talked all about the science

and the details going into particular protocols.

We don’t have time to do that now,

and I want to get to the new material.

However, there are a couple bins,

a couple items that you should make sure

you’re getting correctly,

and if you’re not perfect about these,

don’t worry about it.

Most people are not perfect about them.

I’m certainly not perfect about them,

but we should all be striving to get quality

and sufficient sleep.

I did four full episodes on sleep

and how to get better at sleeping

through things like light exposure, temperature,

timing your sleep correctly for your so-called chronotype,

if you’re a night owl or a morning person.

That’s the first four or I think five episodes

of the Huberman Lab podcast.

Get your sleep right.

Get your light exposure right.

Avoid bright light in your eyes

at times you want to be asleep,

and get bright light in your eyes

at times you want to be awake.

So get your sleep right.

The other thing is essential fatty acids.

I talked about this in the food and mood episode,

but I also talked about it during the hormones episodes.

We need fatty acids.

They are vital to so many aspects of our health.

You don’t have to get them from supplements.

You can if you want to,

but you need to get them from your food.

They are essential.

There’s a reason there’s an E, the essential part there.

Of the fatty acids, there are multiple kinds,

but for the antidepressant effects

or the levels of fatty acids that will promote good mood

and also healthy metabolism,

and will start to shift the needle in the right direction

on bloodborne cardiovascular factors,

the key thing is to get the levels of EPA that you ingest

above 1,000 milligrams per day.

So that doesn’t mean just taking 1,000 milligrams

or more of say fish oil or krill oil

or whatever your preferred source is.

It means getting above 1,000 milligrams of EPA,

which may require that you ingest more essential fatty

acids than just 1,000 milligrams per day.

That of course can be done through food sources,

things like fatty fish,

or if you’re not into eating fish,

you have quality meats that are grass-raised can do that.

There are other sources of essential fatty acids,

of course, also from plant sources.

So look those up online.

It’s really easy to find,

but the research and the literature shows

that you want to get above 1,000 milligrams of EPA per day,

because that’s when you can best support your metabolism

and position yourself for good fat loss.

As well for people who have cravings issues,

they crave sweets all the time.

I talked about this in the gut brain episode

and hormones and food that you have neurons in your gut

that are craving, they’re seeking essential fatty acids

and they’re craving and seeking amino acids from your food.

Now, these are not supplements that they crave per se,

they’re craving those things because that’s what your body

needs and your brain needs.

But those same neurons will respond to sugars.

And so many people who are craving sugar

can satisfy that sugar craving by giving the neurons,

so to speak, what they actually want,

which are amino acids and essential fatty acids.

That includes EPA, but also things like glutamine

and amino acid that can really reduce sugar cravings

if you take a teaspoon of that

or even a tablespoon of that a few times a day.

You have to ease into that a little bit

because some people can get a little bit of GI distress

from too much glutamine,

but glutamine has also been shown

to improve symptoms of leaky gut.

It’s a powerful amino acid.

And yes, you can also get it from food.

Things like cottage cheese are high in glutamine, et cetera.

And then finally, you can’t really position yourself

to have a strong metabolism

if your iodine levels aren’t correct

and your thyroid levels aren’t correct.

You can overdo iodine, so you don’t want to do that.

A lot of table salt has iodine added to it,

but some people need to add iodine

by ingesting things like kelp, et cetera.

But one of the best ways to support the thyroid system

and metabolism in general

is to make sure you’re getting enough selenium,

sometimes called selenium.

Each day, simple way to do that

is to ingest the highest concentration of selenium food

that I’m aware of, which is Brazil nuts.

One or two or three of those per day,

you’ll have more than enough selenium

to meet the thyroid needs.

You don’t want your selenium to be too high.

You don’t want a diet too high in anything.

So again, sleep, sufficient EPAs, glutamine,

if you have issues with leaky gut

or sugar cravings can really help.

Get your gut microbiome right.

I may have missed saying that,

but get your gut microbiome right.

That does not necessarily mean you need to ingest probiotics.

You can if you want to,

but you can also just simply ingest a serving or two

of fermented foods per day.

That can greatly assist.

So things like sauerkraut, kimchi,

every culture has a different source

or sources of fermented foods.

Those can really help the gut microbiome.

And then make sure that your thyroid hormone is supported

through the ingestion of sufficient iodine, not too much,

and sufficient selenium, not too much.

Okay, sleep, EPA, glutamine, fermented foods,

iodine, selenium, that sets the basis

for how things like exercise, cold,

and some of the compounds and other things

that we’re going to talk about today that are,

I’m guessing, going to be truly new to many of you

that can really increase the burn factor

in the equation of calories in versus calories burned, okay?

So on the one hand, we have this reality

of calories in versus calories burned.

However, I would also be remiss

if I didn’t mention an incredible study

that was done by my colleague, Aaliyah Crum at Stanford.

She’s a faculty member,

a professor in the psychology department,

looking at how belief effects, just thinking,

can impact the effects of things

like exercise on weight loss.

These are just incredible results.

What they did was they took subjects

who were hotel service people that would clean the hotels

and come in and change the linens and so forth,

divide them into two groups.

One group, they were told moving around

and doing your duties for your job,

meet the standards for US guidelines

for activity and movement, et cetera,

and a basic lecture about how movement

is good for you, et cetera,

but mostly just that their daily activities

met the standards for the US.

The other group, however, was given a bunch of information

about how movement and their daily routine

was very good for cardiovascular health.

It could be good for weight loss, et cetera.

And then they tracked these subjects

over a period of many weeks.

The take-home message from this study

was that simply being told that movement is good for you,

can lead to weight loss, et cetera,

led to significantly more body fat loss,

waist to hip ratio changes in the direction

that most people would want,

essentially a slimming down, if you will,

and all sorts of other positive effects

on things like cardiovascular health,

simply by the knowledge that movement and exercise

can help various health markers.

So this is remarkable and it speaks to the power

of the nervous system and the power of belief

in governing aspects of our body and our physiology

that one would otherwise think

were outside our conscious control.

Now, of course, any of you that think scientifically,

which I imagine if you watch this podcast

or listen to this podcast is all of you by now,

probably thinking, well, maybe they just moved around more

or maybe they stood up and sat down more.

Maybe they did something else that was different.

And indeed there’s a strong possibility

that they did things differently than the other group.

But the mere knowledge that exercise is good for you,

that movement is good for you,

shifted their behavior and their physiology

in the direction of enhanced weight loss,

fat loss, et cetera.

So how we think about a given set of activities

affects how we perform those activities

and how we think about and perform those activities

has a real effect on our physiology.

So somewhere between the hard and fast rule

that governs fat loss and weight loss,

which is if you ingest more calories than you burn,

you’ll either maintain or gain weight.

Typically you’ll gain weight, although not always.

If you ingest about as many calories as you burn,

you maintain weight typically.

And if you ingest fewer calories than you burn,

typically you’ll lose weight.

That’s the kind of rule of fat loss.

And yet we also have these belief effects which show,

and this has been replicated again and again,

that how we think about a process,

whether or not we think it’s beneficial

can change our physiology

in ways that can be beneficial to us.

Somewhere in between those two extremes

of hardcore metabolic science and belief effects

lie a bunch of protocols

that are grounded in quality peer-reviewed science

and in physiology that you can leverage

to increase the rates of fat loss.

And so that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

I love this topic.

And it’s not that I’m so obsessed with fat loss,

but rather the first project I ever worked on in science

was thermogenesis and fat loss.

I joined a laboratory as an undergraduate

and the guy I worked for loved to explore new compounds

and how they impacted thermogenesis.

And so we looked at how things like MDMA, ecstasy,

how antipsychotics, antidepressants,

various weight loss drugs that were on the market,

how those impacted body temperature

and fat loss and metabolism.

And we just had so much fun doing it.

So if you detect a smile on my face,

that’s what that’s about.

And I also learned a lot.

And I also came to really appreciate

that this tissue of our bodies, adipose tissue and fat,

we think of as just this unfortunate thing,

this like we’re told it’s a core energy source

if we ever entered a famine and that’s all true, et cetera.

We come to realize that these cells in our body,

they are there as fuel for the furnace of our body,

which is our metabolism.

And there’s a third player.

And that’s where it really gets interesting

that the nervous system, neurons,

has the opportunity to turn up the intensity

of that furnace.

It has the opportunity to increase the amount of heat

that we produce and therefore the amount of energy

that we burn.

And I was also really intrigued by something,

which is that growing up, I think we all know people

who can eat a ton and never seem to gain any body fat

or people who seem to eat very little

and seem to gain body fat very easily.

And I was always intrigued by that.

And it turns out there are a number of different factors

that relate to that, but the nervous system

is the one that we can really control,

both through behaviors and what we eat,

but also in terms of this thing that we call thermogenesis.

There was one particular story I want to relate to you

that does not suggest any protocol.

In fact, I’m going to discourage you

from following this protocol.

Please do not try the compound that I’m about to describe.

One of the favorite things that we like to do in that lab

was to find rare compounds and test them.

And at the time I was reading about thermogenesis

and I learned about a compound that was actually discovered

in the armory factories of World War II.

And it was discovered because women in particular

who were working in these factories would take a brush

and dip it in a compound or a paint rather,

and they would then paint the numbers with a stencil

onto things like bombs and ammunition of various kinds.

And they were losing weight like crazy.

It turns out that occasionally they’d lick the brush

and then they would go back

just to get a sharper point on the brush.

And then they would paint onto these various bullets

and missiles and so forth, bombs and so forth.

And they started shedding all their body fat.

And many of them lost a lot of weight,

a significant portion of their weight

without changing anything else that they were doing,

what they were eating, et cetera.

Turned out that that compound

is something called dinitrophenol, DNP.

And over the years, dinitrophenol, DNP,

has gained popularity in some niche cultures,

mainly bodybuilders, athletes,

even in the kind of modeling industry.

It is a absolutely terrible compound for anyone to use

because it’s highly fatal

if your body temperature goes too high.

Hyperthermia will kill you.

And indeed, many people have died

using dinitrophenol as a weight loss drug

or attempting to use it as a weight loss drug.

But dinitrophenol really illustrates a principle,

which is that your metabolism

includes things like thyroid hormone

and growth hormone, et cetera.

But your body temperature and the way you utilize energy

is controlled by your nervous system.

And the way dinitrophenol works is by changing the neurons

and the way that the neurons that connect to fat

change the way fat burns up.

So we are not going to suggest,

I am not suggesting that you use dinitrophenol.

However, there are other things that you can do

that can change the relationship between these neurons

and the fat of your body

in ways that can powerfully accelerate fat loss.

And I don’t know why we don’t hear about these things more,

but probably because most of what you see out there

on the internet focuses more on what you could eat

and should eat or shouldn’t eat.

It concentrates on exercise regimens,

which we will also talk about.

But the burn factor, your thermogenic environment

is one of the, if not the most important factors

in this business of fat loss.

And since I’m a neuroscientist,

that’s what we’re going to talk about.

So let’s talk about fat utilization.

Let’s talk about how fat is converted into energy,

which is sometimes also called fat burning.

What I’d like you to know

is that this is a two-part process, okay?

In reality, there are many biochemical steps.

And if you log onto the internet or you open up a textbook

and you want to learn about fat utilization,

you’re going to see a lot of chemistry.

And I’m happy to go deep into that chemistry if you like,

but I think most of you are probably interested

in what are the leverage points?

Where can you exert control over this process

in ways that benefit you?

So I’m going to focus mainly on those, okay?

This is not to upset the aficionados,

and I will put in some nomenclature, but here we go.

There’s two parts to this process.

One is fat mobilization.

And the second is fat oxidation or utilization, okay?

So the first thing that has to happen

for body fat to get burned up or used and reduced

is that it has to get mobilized.

And that’s a process called lipolysis.

But I actually don’t care if you know the name lipolysis,

you just have to move that fat

out of the position that it’s in.

You have to get it out of the fat cells, all right?

Fat cells can be visceral around our viscera, our organs,

or they can be subcutaneous under our skin.

Most people are thinking about subcutaneous fat

when they think about fat.

So here’s the deal.

And if you want more detail, great.

I’ll touch on that in a bit.

But basically stored fat

has two parts that are relevant here.

It’s got the fatty acid part,

and that’s the part that your body can use.

And that’s attached to something called glycerol,

and they’re linked by a backbone.

So already probably too much chemistry for both of you,

but what you want is you want to break the backbone.

So if you just can remember to mobilize fat,

you got to break the backbone

between glycerol and these fatty acids, okay?

That’s accomplished by an enzyme called lipase,

but you can forget all that if you want.

Remember, we’re just trying to mobilize fat.

So the first step is to get those fatty acids

moving around in the bloodstream,

to get them out of those fat cells.

And then they can travel and be used for energy.

And that second part,

remember, first part is mobilization.

The second part is oxidation,

is then those fatty acids, those are potential fuel.

They’re just potential fuel,

but you haven’t burned the fat yet.

You’ve just moved it out of your fat cells.

They’re going to go into cells

that can use them for energy.

And once they are inside those cells,

they’re still not burned up.

You need to oxidize them.

Think oxidation is the burn up part.

They need to be moved into the mitochondria,

and then they can be converted into ATP, into energy.

So just to really zoom out again

to make sure I don’t lose anybody,

you got to mobilize the fat,

then you have to oxidize the fat.

You have to, in other words, you have to mobilize it,

then you actually have to convert it into energy.

If you just mobilize it

and you don’t convert it into energy,

you don’t oxidize it,

it can be returned to body fat.

And many of the things that the nervous system can do

is to increase the mobilization of fat,

but also the oxidation of fat, okay?

So you have two opportunities to burn more fat.

And both of those opportunities

are governed by your nervous system,

by neurons that literally send little wires

that we call axons into fat

and release chemicals that provide a stimulus

for more of that fat to be mobilized,

and then later for more of that fat to be burned up, okay?

So we could go really deep on this,

but I’m not going to go much deeper than that

because this isn’t a biochemistry

of fatty acid metabolism lecture.

This is about how to burn fat using your nervous system.

But remember, there’s a mobilization step,

and then there’s an oxidation step.

I think any one of you,

all of you should be able to internalize that.

Mobilize, then oxidize, okay?

Mobilize, then oxidize.

So what are these neurons that connect to fat doing?

What are they releasing exactly?

How do they actually increase fat mobilization

and how do they increase fat oxidation, burning of fat?

Well, there are a couple of things that they release

that encourage that process.

And the main one that you need to know about

is epinephrine or adrenaline.

The conversion of these fatty acids into ATP

in the mitochondria of cells

is favored by adrenaline, okay?

And adrenaline is released from two sources.

Adrenaline is released from the adrenal glands,

which sit atop our kidneys and our lower back.

And it’s also released

from the so-called sympathetic nervous system,

although that name is a bit of a misnomer

because it has nothing to do with sympathy,

has to do with stimulating alertness

and promoting action of the body.

There’s a big mistake in the literature

that is finally being corrected among those who know.

The mistake in the literature is that the adrenal glands

and the release of adrenaline

is what stimulates fat loss and fat oxidation.

In fact, it was thought for a long time

that adrenaline swimming around in your body

of when you’re fasted,

because fasting can increase adrenaline,

or when you’re engaging in intense exercise

or when you’re stressed is going to promote fat oxidation.

That’s actually not the case.

The adrenaline that stimulates fat oxidation,

the burning of fat,

is coming from neurons that actually connect to the fat,

not hormones like adrenaline

that are swimming around in your system.

It’s a local process.

And this is very important

because it means that what you do,

the specific patterns of movements

and the specific environment you create

that can stimulate these particular neurons

to activate fat,

meaning to release fat, to mobilize it,

and then to burn it is going to be a powerful lever

that you can use in order to increase fat loss.

So what have we said so far?

We’ve said that you got to mobilize,

you got to burn fat,

and that your nervous system is in control of that process.

It’s not just about calorie deficit.

Okay, so let’s talk about

how to activate the nervous system

in ways that it promotes more liberation,

movement, mobilization of fat,

and more oxidation of fat.

So one of the most powerful ways to stimulate epinephrine,

which is also called adrenaline,

from these neurons that connect to fat

and to thereby stimulate more fat mobilization

and oxidation is through movement.

But I’m not talking about exercise.

The type of movement that I’m referring to

is extremely subtle.

And some of you may be familiar with this type of movement,

but I’m guessing you’re probably not familiar

with what I’m about to tell you,

which is that shiver or shivering

is a strong stimulus for the release of adrenaline,

epinephrine into fat,

and the increase in fat oxidation and mobilization.

But shiver is not just induced by cold,

and there are other subtle forms of movement

that can greatly increase fat metabolism and fat loss.

There was a group in England during the 1960s and 70s

that discovered a pathway

by which subtle forms of movement

can greatly increase fat loss.

This is the work of Rothwell and Stock.

It’s very famous in the thermogenesis literature.

And I learned about this early on

when I was an undergraduate.

And I asked, how did they come across this?

And here’s how the story goes.

They were aware that some people overeat

and yet don’t put on weight.

Other people overeat even just a little bit,

and they seem to accumulate extra adipose tissue.

Now, this is long before all the discussions

about microbiome and hormone factors,

and it was long before many of the hormone factors

besides insulin had even been discovered.

What they did was they examined people who overate

and did not gain weight.

And what they observed was that those people

engaged in lots of subtle movement throughout the day.

In other words, they were fidgeters.

And that’s what they called them.

I’m not going to do the British accent version of fidgeters.

But Rothwell and Stock were British.

What they found were people that overeat

but don’t gain weight as a consequence.

And in fact, many people who had low levels of body fat

had a lot of resting tremor, not of the Parkinsonian type,

but they would bounce their knee while they were sitting.

When they would talk,

they would engage in very angular movements.

They were sort of electric.

In fact, now in science, I was chuckling about this

as I was diving back into this literature

because the other day I heard a wonderful lecture

on a totally different topic from a colleague of mine,

and we all adore him.

He’s over in Europe

and he’s this tremendously successful scientist,

so we like to poke fun at him.

And every one of his movements

is incredibly electric and staccato.

And he’s rail thin and he eats like a horse.

And so it fits very well into the discovery

of Rothwell and Stock who discovered that fidgeters,

people that bounce their knee,

people that have a head bob while they’re listening,

people that nod a lot,

people that stand up and sit down a lot throughout the day,

and people that pace,

burn anywhere from 800 to 2,500 calories more

than the control group in the experiments

that they looked at.

And indeed, there’s been a modern look into all this,

and these numbers check out,

that simply moving around a lot,

even if those are subtle movements,

greatly increases the amount of energy that you burn.

And people who overeat,

the people who can have the second or the third donut

or donuts at all,

and don’t seem to put on weight to the same degree,

they are people that move around a lot, even when seated.

There are people that will often move their limbs

very quickly as well.

There even have been studies that have explored

other things that correlate with fidgeters.

Fidgeters stand up very quickly at the end of a lecture,

or they start to gather their things very quickly,

whereas non-fidgeters don’t.

So dogs like my bulldog Costello, definitely not a fidgeter.

Every movement is incredibly slow and deliberate.

Sitting down is a process.

If you ask him to sit down, it’s sort of a slow motion.

You ask him to get up,

and he kind of looks at you, sighs, and then stands up.

The fidgeters are the opposite of that, right?

You say, how are you doing?

They go, great.

So even sometimes their speech will be accelerated,

although not always,

but staccato movements, fidgeting, et cetera.

And in 2015, and again, in 2017,

there’ve been studies that have explored this

using some modern metabolic tracking,

and indeed, simply moving a lot,

being a fidgeter, bouncing your knee,

standing up and pacing several times

or many times throughout the day

led to considerable amounts of fat loss and weight loss

when people were ingesting the same amount of food.

If they overate, they were able to compensate

and burn off that food.

And if they were trying to lose weight,

and they incorporated this fidgeting protocol

of deliberately trying to fidget more

and move around during the day,

pace, stand up more quickly, sit down more often,

sit down and stand up more often, rather,

they found that they greatly increased their weight loss

anywhere from 20 to 30% increases.

And in some cases,

there are always those few people who burned a lot more.

It seems to work best in people

who are already slightly overweight.

So for people that are overweight,

who are kind of averse to exercise,

fidgeting might actually be a good entry point.

And 800 to 2,500 calories is a considerable amount

of calories when you really think about it.

Now, why am I telling you this?

Well, there’s clearly a tool to export from this,

which is that you can increase the amount of calories burned

without having to go on additional long runs.

I do hope that people are exercising regularly

because it’s so important for other aspects

of brain and body health,

but nonetheless, we are all time limited

and we are not all so ready to embrace exercise.

I have a family member

who has been slowly coaxed into exercise,

but if I were to tell her, for instance,

you need to fidget more, she’d probably go for it.

So this is a powerful way to increase

the calories that are burned.

Now, that’s great, and you can think about the protocols,

but I want to nest that protocol in what I said before,

which is that fat is controlled by these neurons

and the epinephrine they release.

You might say, well, how could these little micro movements

lead to so much caloric burn?

And that’s where it really gets interesting.

Rothwell and Stock and others that they worked with

subsequently found that these little fidgety movements,

the engagement of certain aspects of our musculature

that are nothing like exercise.

It’s not these large coordinated or rhythmic body movements,

but rather subtle little bits of fidgety movement.

And here I am doing a lot of fidgety movement.

As an example, tapping the pen, this kind of thing.

I was probably that kid in class most of the time.

And I was like, I try not to do it to irritate people,

but I was definitely a knee bouncer.

I’m not particularly lean or not,

but I was definitely, this is a common activity for me.

People that do that sort of thing,

it turns out that it’s not the kind of caloric burn

that we normally think of, of like, oh, you’re running,

lifting weights, swimming, yoga, et cetera.

Those subtle movements of our core musculature,

not just the core, but all our limbs and our musculature,

those low level movements,

they trigger epinephrine release from these neurons

and they stimulate the mobilization of fat.

And then that fat is oxidized at higher rates.

And I find this fascinating.

I wish more people knew about it,

which is why I’m telling you about it today.

This has nothing to do with exercise

in the traditional form.

And yet 800 to 2,500 calories per day,

that’s a considerable amount of fat oxidized.

If you are in a calorie maintenance mode

or if you’re sub caloric,

that’s going to add to still additional fat loss.

The data on this are tremendous.

I’ll link to a few studies.

If you’re really interested in learning

about what’s called NEAT, N-E-A-T,

which is non-exercise activity thermogenesis, NEAT.

So what’s the protocol?


If you’re really interested in burning calories

and you already exercise, you want to burn more,

or you don’t have the opportunity to exercise

or you’re averse to exercise for whatever reason,

fidgeting movements, staccato movements,

standing up, walking around, pacing,

all the sort of nervous activities

that we’re so critical of in other people

and sometimes in ourselves are actually mobilizing

and oxidizing a lot of fat and a lot of energy.

And while this probably won’t compensate

for chronic overeating,

the caloric burn from this is considerable

and very likely can offset a meal

that had excessive calories

or a kind of steady state of eating too much.

And it also starts to open up

all sorts of thoughts and discussion about,

you know, when you travel,

you tend to eat foods that are kind of

outside your normal ones.

We tend to eat foods that aren’t so great for us.

We also tend to be a little bit more sedentary

when we travel, we’re on the plane, et cetera.

But all of that aside,

just the use of something like low-level movement,

and it’s almost like a tremor,

but also these like short, small, fidgety movements.

I’m intentionally doing a lot of these today.

So you have examples that you can use

that to select from if you like.

These can have a major effect on fat loss.

And it raises a second tool.

If these low, meaning these small movements

that we engage in trigger epinephrine,

adrenaline release from these neurons

of the sympathetic nervous system that innervate fat

and increase fat mobilization and oxidation.

Now it should make sense why shivering

is one of the strongest stimuli

that one can incorporate to stimulate fat loss.

Now, shivering is almost always associated with cold.

We think shivering, we think cold,

because when we get cold, we shiver.

And there are two ways that shivering can increase fat loss.

And there are several ways that you can use shivering,

you can leverage shivering,

and you can leverage cold to accelerate fat loss,

but you have to do it correctly.

And most of the people that are using cold

and frankly suggesting cold

as a means to increase metabolism fat loss

are suggesting the exact wrong protocol.

In fact, the one I’m going to recommend

is 180 degrees in the opposite direction

to the typical protocol that you’d hear about.

So let’s talk about how to use cold

and how to leverage shiver

as a particularly strong stimulus to increase fat loss

through mobilization and oxidation of these fatty acids.

So in recent years, there’s been a growing interest

in the use of cold for various things

like improving stress tolerance, improving metabolism,

recovery from exercise.

I’ve talked about a number of those things

and the uses of cold on this podcast.

In fact, did an episode on how to supercharge performance

through Palmer cooling, cooling the palms in specific ways

or the bottoms of the feet.

And if you’re interested in that

and how to improve performance in endurance and strength,

you can check out that episode.

But most people out there are using cold exposure

typically by taking cold showers

or by getting into cold water of some other kind,

a lake or a river or a cold bath or an ice bath.

And they are doing that probably with mixed goals,

meaning they both would like to increase their metabolism

and burn fat as well as improve mental resilience.

Since today we’re talking about accelerating fat loss

through the use of science-based tools,

I want to emphasize a study that was published in Nature

just a couple of years ago,

showing exactly how cold increases metabolism and fat loss.

Okay, so we have several kinds of fat, three kinds in fact.

We have white fat, white adipose tissue,

and we have brown fat or brown adipose tissue.

And there’s a third kind, which is beige adipose tissue.

White fat is the type that we traditionally think of

as fat, subcutaneous fat.

And it is not particularly rich in mitochondria.

It is there as an energy storage site.

And we have to mobilize the fat out

as we talked about before and burn it up elsewhere.

Brown fat largely exists between our shoulder blades

and on the back of our neck, between the scapulae.

And it’s rich with mitochondria,

which is why it’s called brown fat.

And brown fat has a particular biochemical cascade

whereby it can take food energy

and it can take food basically,

break it down and convert it into energy within those cells.

And there’s some additional steps involved,

but unlike fatty acids from white fat,

which have to travel elsewhere,

get broken down in mitochondria

and convert into ATP, et cetera,

used by the mitochondria rather,

brown fat is thermogenic.

It can actually use energy directly.

It skips a step.

And I don’t want to get diverted

by going into all the biochemistry of it.

Beige fat is sort of in between.

It’s white fat that could be brown fat

because it has some mitochondria in it,

but not as many as brown fat.

Now, cold exposure does several things.

Making ourselves cold can allow us

to build up mental resilience

because getting into cold of any kind,

doesn’t matter if it’s a cryo chamber,

doesn’t matter if it’s a cold day

and you forgot your sweater or your parka,

it doesn’t matter if it’s an ice bath

or you’re lying down in the snow.

Cold causes the release of adrenaline from your adrenals.

And it causes the release of epinephrine

from these neurons that connect to fat.

Now, the big effects of cold

on metabolism and fat burning

are going to be through two routes.

One is that if you expose yourself to cold,

you have the opportunity to trigger activation

of brown fat as well as to convert more beige fat

into true brown fat.

So you essentially create a stronger or a hotter furnace.

That’s the way to think about brown fat.

It’s like a furnace.

And so with this principle that we started with

of calories in versus calories burned,

what you’re doing is you’re increasing

the amount of burning.

You’re increasing the burn of energy

by increasing the intensity of the heat inside you,

so to speak, okay?

I’m talking here as kind of metaphorically.

Now, how can you do that?

Well, if you get into cold water or an ice bath

or a cold day and you try and remain calm

and resist shivering, you actually short circuit

this mechanism for increasing brown fat thermogenesis.

The paper published in Nature shows

that it is shivering itself

that causes the brown fat to increase your burning,

your burn rate and your metabolism.

And it works like this.

When you get into cold and you shiver,

the shivering, that low level movement of the muscle,

those small movements,

triggers the release of a molecule called succinate,

S-U-C-C-I-N-A-T-E, succinate.

And succinate acts on the brown fat

to increase brown fat thermogenesis and fat burning overall.

It actually increases body heat

through this brown fat thermogenesis pathway.

And it also over time can increase the amount of brown fat

by converting beige fat into true brown fat.

Now, how much cold exposure and how often, that’s the key.

But before I give that detail or set of details,

remember, if you resist the shiver,

you are not going to get the increased metabolic effect

because you are not going to get the succinate release.

So if you want to get your body heat,

your thermogenic level to go up, you need to shiver.

So now we have the NEAT,

the non-exercise activity thermogenesis.

So low levels of activity, as I described before,

which are done away from cold,

maybe do them in cold as well,

as well as shiver in response to cold.

And so the shiver itself is valuable

for triggering the release of succinate.

In fact, succinate is being evolved now

by various drug manufacturers

as a potential treatment for obesity,

although it hasn’t really hit the market

in its final form yet.

Succinate is powerful for its effects on brown fat.

So how many times a week do you need

to expose yourself to cold

will depend on how much fat you’re trying to lose

and how much you’re trying to increase your metabolism.

There are studies that describe positive effects

on fat loss of exposing yourself to cold,

either through cold shower or through ice bath

or other cold water,

it doesn’t have to actually have ice in it

provided it’s cold enough,

for anytime, anywhere, excuse me,

between one and five times per week.

But it turns out that just one exposure per week

can be valuable.

The question then is how long

to get into that cold environment

and how cold should that environment be?

So first let’s talk about

how long to get into that cold environment.

The answer here might be a little bit different

than you might imagine.

Most of you might think,

oh, well, if one minute is good, three minutes is better.

And if three minutes is better than 10 minutes is best.

But remember the goal

is to get the shiver induced release of succinate

so that succinate can trigger the brown fat.

It turns out that if you want to trigger the shiver,

what you want to do is to get into the cold

and then get out of the cold

and typically not dry off

and then get back into the cold and out of the cold.

That will definitely stimulate more shivering

than just getting into the cold itself.

So what I’m not referring to

is getting into the cold environment like an ice bath

and waiting until you shiver

and staying there shivering, okay?

You also don’t want to get hypothermic.

And I want to be clear,

you want to get approval from your doctor

before you do any of this.

When you get into cold water,

there are two factors that will dictate

whether or not you shiver.

Probably three, but let’s just talk about the main two.

One is how cold it is.

So how cold should it be?

And look, if you get into water that’s very, very cold,

it can actually shock your heart.

It can actually give you a heart attack

if it’s truly, truly ice cold

and you’re not adapted to that.

So proceed with caution, please.

I’m not a physician and I don’t want to see anyone get hurt.

Just cold enough to be uncomfortable

is a good place to start.

So for some of you, that’s going to be 60 degrees.

For some of you, that’s going to be 55 degrees.

For some of you, it’s going to be high 30s, right?

Depends on how cold adapted you are

and people vary in terms of how well they tolerate the cold.

So what you need to do is find a temperature

that you can get into one to five,

probably one to three times a week,

if you really want this to accelerate fat loss.

And you want to get in until you just start to shiver.

And then you want to get out and not dry off.

Wait anywhere from one to three minutes

and then get back into the cold.

Now you’ll notice when you get back into the cold,

it’ll almost seem soothing.

It might actually not induce shiver.

It might take away the shiver that you had.

So here’s a potential kind of sets reps protocol

that you can play with.

Find a temperature that induces shiver for you.

That’s going to vary depending on your cold tolerance

and how cold adapted you are.

One to three, maybe five times a week,

get in until you, or get under the shower

or whatever it is until you start to shiver,

genuinely shiver.

Then after about a minute or so, get out,

spend one to three minutes out, but don’t dry off.

Get back in for anywhere from one to three minutes,

but try and access the shiver point again.

And you might do three repetitions of that.

So it’s three times in and three times out total, okay?

That’s a great starting place.

And what you don’t want to do

is build up your tolerance to cold so fast

that pretty soon you’re able to resist the shiver

because remember the shiver is the source

of the succinate release

that will trigger brown fat thermogenesis.

So if you’d like to see this protocol spelled out,

you can access it zero cost at a website,

which is

The Cold Plunge is a company, they make cold plunges,

and they were kind enough to gift one

to the Huberman Lab podcast.

But I want to emphasize that these protocols

are free of cost.

The folks at The Cold Plunge are not just interested

in marketing their product,

but one of their main interests is encouraging people

to engage in cold exposure

for particular end points and goals,

like fat loss, resilience, et cetera,

resisting inflammation.

But their main focus is providing people protocols

and encouraging people to use cold exposure of various kinds,

not just through their products, but through cold rivers

and jumps in the ocean and things that cold showers,

whatever is most convenient

and accessible for various people.

And so we needed a place

where we could house these protocols in a permanent way,

and not just for this episode.

So what they’ve agreed to do is to post the protocols there.

They should be very easy to find on their website.

This particular protocol we’re referring to

as the Fat Loss Optimization Protocol,

for lack of a better name.

And it’s really grounded in how cold can be used

to induce shiver.

And again, it doesn’t really matter

how you’re accessing that cold,

provided you access the shiver,

and you’re moving from the cold environment

to a slightly warmer environment.

So getting out of the cold shower,

or getting out of the ice bath, et cetera,

or out of the cold plunge, and then back in.

Because it turns out that the cooling

and rewarming process of the body is where shiver kicks in.

And so that’s distinctly different

than just trying to get into the cold

and stay in the cold for as long as possible.

And if you zoom out a little bit

and think about some examples in life,

you’ll understand why that must be the case.

For instance, people who do a lot of cold water swims,

you have these polar bear clubs,

I think they call themselves,

do these cold water swims.

I would sometimes see these people swimming back and forth

to Alcatraz and stuff like that, which just seems risky.

And they tell me it’s very stimulating

for the mind and body, great.

Sometimes those people are very lean.

Oftentimes they’re not.

And they’re getting a lot of cold exposure.

And one of the things that happens

is if you expose yourself to cold over and over,

you adapt, you become cold adapted.

And when you do that, you no longer get the epinephrine,

the adrenaline release from the cold.

And therefore you don’t get the succinate release

and the shivering and the brown fat thermogenic effect

quite as intensely.

So if you want to use cold for other reasons,

certainly cold water swims can be fun.

And as long as you can do them safely, they’re great.

I’ve gotten into cold water swimming

for some period of time.

You can use cold for resilience, et cetera.

But if you want to use cold to increase fat loss,

then getting this shiver process going,

the cooling and rewarming, which accelerates the amount

or increases the amount of shiver,

that’s going to be the way to go.

One note about cold and some of the factors

that it releases.

A few years back, there was a lot of excitement

about this hormone called irisin, I-R-I-S-I-N,

which was associated with cold.

And there was a lot of excitement

about its potential role in increasing metabolism,

so much so that people were starting to explore this

as a potential fat loss drug.

To my knowledge, that went nowhere.

The science eventually shifted over to succinate

as the main factor in cold-induced thermogenesis

through this brown fat pathway.

But if anyone out there is aware of any positive effects

of irisin or of any science of irisin

that I’m overlooking here

or that I’m speaking about incorrectly,

please let me know.

I’d be very curious to learn.

Now, I want to just talk about brown fat a little bit more

and talk about a period in your life

in which you were rich with brown fat.

You had a ton of brown fat,

and that’s when you were a baby.

Babies can’t shiver.

These neurons that release epinephrine into fat

are not wired up and really aren’t present

at sufficient levels or in sufficient numbers

when you are a baby.

And therefore, you can’t shiver as a baby,

and you can’t warm yourself up

in cold environments very well.

To compensate for that,

Mother Nature installed in all of us

an excess of brown fat early in life

that exists, again, in the upper back,

in the middle of the back, and the back of the neck.

Over time, if we don’t expose ourselves

to cold environments or do other things

that make us shiver, we lose a lot of that brown fat.

But what’s interesting about brown fat

is that there’s some evidence that brown fat,

just like white fat, can both increase in size,

but that you can also add new cells.

Now, this is a little bit controversial.

People always say,

you can’t change the number of fat cells.

You can just shrink them or increase their size.

Well, it turns out that epinephrine released

from these little nerve endings in brown fat

and suconate circulating in the body may,

and I want to underscore may,

have the effect of increasing the amount of brown fat cells

probably by converting these beige fat cells

into brown fat.

So that allows us to become much as we were early in life

where we metabolized like crazy,

and we’d heat ourselves up without shivering.

Some people have taken the cold thing to the extreme,

putting ice packs on the back of their neck

throughout the day,

did a episode all about testosterone and estrogen,

and there’s this, let’s just call it a very niche,

I have to imagine very, very niche culture

of people who are wearing, literally, I’m not joking,

they are these cool pack, ice pack underpants.

They go by a name that I’m not going to repeat on here,

but you can find them on Amazon.

Those are people that are using cold packs on the body

and on the groin to try and increase things like testosterone

but as well to try and increase thermogenesis

and trying to increase their metabolism.

Just remember, if you become cold adapted,

you’re not going to get the fat burning effects

to the same degree.

So cold is a powerful tool for fat loss,

but you don’t want to adapt.

This is reminiscent of a rule that you hear about

in endurance exercise and in strength exercise as well,

which is that you want to use the minimal effective stimulus

to promote growth or progress,

so growth of the muscle or improvements in endurance.

If you go 10% further on a run or 10% faster,

you will likely see an improvement in performance

provided you recovery the next time you come back

and do that same round of exercise.

You’ll be able to do more work

or complete the work more easily, et cetera, you’ve adapted.

If you do 20% more distance or 20% more weight,

you won’t necessarily see the same commiserate level

of gain or improvement.

And so likewise with cold,

if you’re quickly moving from 30 seconds of exposure

to 10 minutes of exposure,

you’re overlooking the opportunity

to get the most fat loss and increase in metabolism

by stepping it up in smaller increments, okay?

And this also speaks to the rationale

for using cold exposure to accelerate fat loss

for certain periods, but then maybe not doing it year round

if fat loss is your goal.

Maybe use it for two, three months at a time

and then stop for two, three months at a time

because it is such a potent stimulus

provided you engage in the shiver.

Next, I’d like to move to exercise

and how particular timing and types of exercise

can vastly improve fat loss.

Before I do that, I just want to mention

a really important reference for those of you

that are interested in learning more

about how neurons connect to fat.

This is certainly a paper that you’d want to look at

if you’re interested in diving deep into the literature

and reading all the various studies.

It’s a review, and the title of the review

is Neural Innervation of White Adipose Tissue

and the Control of Lipolysis.

That’s Neural Innervation of White Adipose Tissue

and the Control of Lipolysis.

It was published in Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology.

You can find that free online.

They have the full text available.

The first author is Bartnes, B-A-R-T-N-E-S-S.

It’s a great review, and I’ve talked about

a number of things that are mentioned in the review.

Follow the references in that review

and the reference trail, as we say,

if you’re interested in learning more about

also how neurons control brown fat.

And before I move to exercise,

I also just want to highlight something

that comes up every few years

and has largely been considered myth now,

but that is actually more interesting

than most people might think,

which is this issue of spot reduction.

You know, in the 80s and 90s,

there were a lot of commercials, late night infomercials,

where they would talk about spot reduction.

You know, if you do sit-ups, will you lose abdominal fat?

If you do hip raises or glute raises,

will you lose glute and hip fat?

And I think everybody now believes that

and understands that fat metabolism

is something that happens systemically throughout the body,

that some body fat is, quote-unquote,

more stubborn than others.

Everyone varies in where they tend to store fat

or lose fat last,

number of factors that influence that,

in particular, hormone receptors.

But now, at least in the scientific literature,

spot reduction and the possibility

of real, true spot reduction,

reductions in fat in a targeted way,

a body part or body area targeted way,

is becoming more of a reality and may be a reality soon

because exercise that triggers the activation

of these nerve fibers, these neurons that innervate fat,

in theory, if you can increase the amount of epinephrine

released at those particular fat pads, as they’re called,

they’re actually called fat pads

in the scientific literature,

in theory, you could increase mobilization

from those particular body fat sites, okay?

So because the new view, the modern understanding,

is that it’s not adrenaline released systemically,

kind of bathing all your fat tissue,

but rather it’s neurons releasing adrenaline,

epinephrine, locally, that in theory,

exercise that stimulates the release of epinephrine

or exercise coupled with things like shiver

or low-grade shaking movement or the NEAT,

the non-exercise activity, thermogenesis,

could, in theory, lead to local enhancement

of mobilization of fat tissue.

So I think that spot reduction

actually will soon be something that’s possible

using the appropriate technology.

What does this mean for you now?

What could you possibly do with this information now?

Well, I think it speaks to the fact

that if one is going to engage in exercise,

that doing exercise that involve

lots of different body parts and movements

is likely to encourage the maintenance

and or growth of these neurons

that innervate fat throughout the body.

What this means is changing up the pattern of exercise,

engaging in novel types of movements

may actually be one way that one can access

these so-called stubborn body fat pads.

Now, there’s a little bit of speculation

in the statement that I’m making,

but if you think about it, it makes sense.

If you become very adapted

to a particular pattern of exercise,

whether or not you’re subcaloric or not,

you’re on maintenance calories or not,

you are oxidizing some fat always,

and you’re utilizing the neurons that innervate fat

in a regular way, and pretty soon,

this innervation is going to shut off

because there’s no reason why this neural innervation of fat

should continue to release epinephrine

unless you give it a strong stimulus like cold

or the fidgeting, or in this case,

to do novel forms of exercise.

And there’s some anecdotal evidence,

and there, I don’t even want to call it data,

but anecdotal evidence that people

who have quote-unquote stubborn body fat,

if they start to adopt new patterns of exercise,

they can start to access those stubborn fat pads.

And again, fat pads is the correct way to refer to these

in the scientific literature.

So what we’re focusing on today is the fact that fat

indeed will be mobilized and oxidized

in response to a deficit in calories,

but that the way that neurons control those fat pads

and those body fat stores affords you a lot more control

than perhaps you ever previously thought.

So let’s talk about movement

and the more traditional kinds of movement,

aka exercise, that has been shown to lead

to increases in metabolism and fat loss to greater degrees,

depending on whether or not, for instance,

you’re fasted when you do it or not,

whether or not you do your cardio first

or your resistance training first.

And this is, again, in a literature

for which there’s a lot of controversy,

but in digging through all the studies on this,

we’re finally starting to arrive at a consensus

of when is best to do exercise

and what types of exercise to do if your goal is fat loss.

The topic of exercise is a kind of controversial one,

not as controversial as nutrition and diet,

which we will talk about in a few minutes,

but it’s a particularly interesting one

because different types of exercise

engage the musculature of the body

and the heart and the lungs in different ways

and can have vastly different effects

on things like hormones and metabolism,

depending on whether or not it’s of high intensity,

moderate intensity, or low intensity.

So rather than think about weight training

versus cardiovascular exercise,

I think the most simple way,

the most fluid way to have this conversation

about exercise and fat loss

is in terms of three general types of training,

whether or not it’s done with weights or body weight,

doesn’t really matter.

And those are high intensity interval training,

something that seems to have gained a lot of popularity

in recent years, so-called HIIT, H-I-I-T,

so high intensity interval training,

sprint interval training,

so that’s going to be very high intensity or S-I-T,

or moderate intensity continuous training, M-I-C-T.

So we’ve got HIIT, SIT, and MICT, M-I-C-T.

And we can get a little bit more precise if you’d like.

I’m not somebody who measures my VO2 max or anything

while I exercise.

I generally know whether or not I’m doing something

I could continue for a very long time

or whether or not I’m doing something

that I realize is going to be

of short duration, high intensity.

But if you’d like to map this to VO2 max,

S-I-T, this sprint interval training,

was defined as all out greater than 100% of VO2 max

bursts of activity that last eight to 30 seconds

interspersed with less intense recovery period.

So this would be sprinting down field for eight to 30 seconds

then maybe walking back for about a minute or two

and then sprinting again and then continuing.

So that would be S-I-T.

HIIT, H-I-I-T, is defined as submaximal,

so 80 to 100% of VO2 max bursts of activity

that last 60 to 240 seconds

interspersed with less intense recovery periods.

So on a standard 400 meter track,

just to give us a little bit of a visual,

a four minute mile would be fantastic for most people,

although people run faster than that, of course.

So that’s four 60 second laps,

but that’s back to back to back.

I think in my best shape or maybe it was in my dreams,

I don’t recall which,

I was able to do 60 seconds around the track,

but of course I couldn’t get that

on the second or third or fourth.

If I did, that was certainly in fantasy land and not reality

but 60 seconds would be about one revolution

around the track, maybe 90 seconds,

depending on how fast one is running.

So 60 to 240 seconds.

M-I-C-T, okay?

This moderate intensity continuous training

is steady state cardio,

sometimes called zone two cardio these days

on the internet,

which is performed continuously for 20 to 60 minutes

at moderate intensity of 40 to 60% of VO2 max.

Or if you prefer heart rate 55 to 70% of max heart rate.


So we can think about high, medium

and low intensity exercise.

Although low intensity usually means

that you could carry on a conversation

or maybe you’d have to gasp every few steps or so

while trying to talk and run.

That’s I think going to be the most useful way

to have this conversation that we’re having now

because there’s so many different forms of exercise

that people do and intensity is important.

Let’s ask the question that I think many of people

are wondering about, which is, is it better,

meaning do you burn more fat if you do your exercise fasted?

And fasted in this respect could be

that you wake up in the morning,

you’ve been fasting all night,

you just hydrate and you exercise.

Or sometimes people will ingest caffeine,

there’s controversy as to whether or not

that quote unquote breaks the fast,

has to do with whether or not your caffeine adapted

something for another episode.

In any case, that would be fasted.

So probably not having eaten anything

for anywhere from three to 24 hours or maybe even more.

As you could also be fasted in the afternoon

if you had lunch at noon and it’s four or five or 6 p.m.

Is it, will you burn more fat if you exercise

without eating anything first,

without ingesting any calories first?

And people have tried to really split hairs

on this every which way.

People say, well, you can fat fast

because fat and protein doesn’t lead

to as great increases in insulin as other things.

Maybe you can have a few almonds and then still train.

And indeed, insulin will prevent fat oxidation.

I want to be really clear.

The burning part of fat in the cell,

the movement of the fatty acid to mitochondria

and the conversion to ATP, insulin inhibits that process.

However, it’s been shown that at least

for short periods of training,

it doesn’t really seem to matter

whether or not you eat before training or you don’t

if your goal is fat oxidation.

Now, I want to put an asterisk near that

because there are some exceptions,

but there were several studies done

and kind of the classic ones of these,

I’ll read out to you.

What they basically did is they gave people glucose,

sugar, to increase their blood sugar before training or not.

And the kind of classic study of this is Alborg et al.

So 1976, so it goes way back,

which is that glucose reduces fat burning in exercise.

And then some other studies, if you want to look these up,

they’re very easy to find on PubMed.

You put in Horowitz, 1999.

Lee et al is another one where they have people drink milk

with glucose in it.

So sweet, sugary milk before exercise, et cetera.

And you can find a number of examples

where eating before exercise reduces the amount of fat

that’s oxidized during the exercise.

And you can also find a lot of studies showing

that eating during exercise or prior to exercise

will not reduce the amount of fat that’s oxidized.

However, the types of exercise,

whether that was medium intensity or high intensity

or low intensity is all over the map for these studies.

So it’s very hard to target an ideal protocol.

And then if you look really deep in the literature,

you start to find meta-analyses

where people have actually aggregated all the findings

and some modern studies where it points

to some very specific and useful protocols.

And so here’s the rule or the protocol

that I extracted from that literature.

At a period of about 90 minutes

of moderate intensity exercise, I want to be clear,

after at about or after 90 minutes

of moderate intensity exercise,

there’s a switch over point

whereby if you ate before the exercise,

you will reduce, excuse me,

you will burn far less fat

from the 90 minute point onward

than you would if you had gone into the training fasted.

So let me repeat that.

If it’s moderate intensity,

so-called zone two cardio type exercise,

at the 90 minute point,

if you happen to have eaten before the exercise

within one to three hours prior to the exercise,

then you reduce the amount of fat

that you will burn from 90 minutes onward.

Whereas if you had fasted prior to the exercise,

you hadn’t eaten anything for three hours

or more prior to the exercise,

at the 90 minute point,

you will, 90 minutes of exercise,

you will start to burn more fat

than you would had you eaten.

Now, 90 minutes of moderate intensity exercise is a lot.

So that’s a pretty long run.

Even if you’re running at a pretty slow pace,

like a 10 or 12 minute mile,

that’s a lot of running.

That’s a lot of swimming.

So that’s a lot of walking.

That’s a lot of hiking.

However, there are people who are going out hiking all day

or running all day or walking all day.

And if you want to burn more fat per unit time,

you want to oxidize more fat,

then you would do that fasted.

Now, there are also studies

that point to the fact

that you don’t have to wait to 90 minutes

in order to get this enhanced fat burning effect.

The studies I was able to find

and that looked to me like quality peer-reviewed studies

with no company bias or no product bias of any kind.

These are studies that were largely funded

by the federal government in the university context,

pointed to the fact that if one does high intensity training

or even the very high intensity forms of training

like sprints or squats or deadlifts

or any kind of activity that can’t be maintained

for more than these, you know,

eight or I would say up to 60 seconds.

So a set of lifting weights, repeated, repeated.

If that’s done for anywhere from 20 minutes,

so weight training or power lifting

or these kinds of things or kettlebell swings

or up to 60 minutes,

well then the switch over point

in which you can burn more fat

if you go into that fasted comes earlier.

And this makes sense because there’s nothing wholly

about the 90 minute point

for medium intensity zone two cardio.

That 90 minute point is the point

in which the body shifts over from mainly burning glycogen,

basically sugar that comes from muscles or the liver

and realizes this is going on for a while.

I’m going to shift over to a storage site fuel

that is in reserve like body fat.

This is going to happen for a while.

So I’m going to start tapping into body fat stores.

Now, fat doesn’t have a little brain there.

It is innervated by neurons, but it doesn’t have thoughts.

And you don’t actually control this switch with your mind.

This is something that has to do

with the milieu of various hormones.

What has to happen is insulin has to go down far enough.

So if you ate before the exercise,

you’d have an increase in insulin.

If you ate carbohydrates,

you’d have a bigger increase in insulin,

fat and proteins indeed will have lower amounts of insulin

and fasting will give you the lowest amount of insulin.

Well, then that switch over point

is going to come earlier in the exercise.

And if you think about it,

if you were to do something high intensity

for 20, 30, 40 minutes,

so maybe lift weights and then get into zone two cardio,

if you were fasted,

the literature says that you’re going to burn more body fat

per unit time than if you had eaten before

or during the exercise.

So what does this mean?

This means if you want to burn more body fat,

if it’s in your protocols

and you have been approved to do this safely,

exercise intensely for 20 to 60 minutes,

the higher the intensity,

obviously the shorter that bout is going to be

and then move over into zone two cardio.

And if you do that fasted

or the medium intensity cardio, I should say,

and if you do that fasted,

then indeed you will burn a higher percentage of body fat.

If you need to eat or you like to eat before you train,

that also can work.

And if you train very intensely,

you’re likely to shift over to the fat burning pattern

more quickly as well.

So again, this isn’t really an issue

of how long you exercise,

it’s an issue of how intensely you exercise

and therefore what fuel source you’re drawing from.

So hopefully I’ve made that clear,

but basically you need to deplete glycogen

or through high intensity exercise

and then move to a steady state exercise

that will allow you to burn more fat,

or you need to perform a medium intensity

or low intensity type exercise for a long period of time

before you shift over to burning fat.

And indeed, it seems that going into all that fasted

will facilitate the burning of more fat overall.

But if you can’t even get to the exercise,

if you’re somebody who just can’t do the training at all,

you’re unwilling to or you’re incapable of training

unless you eat something,

then obviously eating something makes the most sense.

And what you eat prior to exercise,

that’s a whole other biz that people argue about

and fight about whether or not you should go into it

with low carbohydrates or high carbohydrates, all of that.

But in general, the theme there is very simple,

which is that you want insulin levels to be pretty low

if your goal is body fat reduction,

if you want to oxidize body fat.

So fasting in some cases, fat fasting in other cases

where you’re just ingesting fats,

fat and protein in some cases,

or for some people that will be eating carbohydrates.

I’m not here to dictate a particular nutrition regimen,

that’s just how the hormone balance of these things

and fat oxidation works.

Now, one thing that’s very interesting

and cannot be overlooked is this issue

of how much energy you burn during and after the activity.

And some of you probably already know about this,

but the whole business of calories in versus calories out

and people counting the number of calories they burn

during their aerobic session

or during their whatever session

is only one half of the equation.

And it really eclipses the more important issue,

which is how much of an increase in metabolism

does a given exercise create after the exercise?

And we could talk for hours about this,

but the simple way to view this

is that high intensity training, anaerobic training

of weight training, sprints, burpees, any kind of thing.

I don’t know, these days I hear

that you’re not supposed to do burpees,

that people think burpees are dangerous.

So I’m not suggesting any particular movements here,

you have to decide what’s right for you.

I do burpees, I don’t seem to be injured from them,

but I hear that they’re terrible for some people.

So anyway, pushups, sit-ups, whatever it happens to be,

that anaerobic exercise that’s of higher intensity

or sprints taps into glycogen stores during the movement

and will burn more energy per unit time

than moderate intensity.

High intensity burns more than moderate intensity,

that’s straightforward.

What’s interesting is that all the studies

that I was able to find on what happens

after that type of exercise showed that the percentage

of fat that you burn after high intensity exercise

is actually greater.

In other words, you burn a lot of glycogen

during the high intensity exercise,

and then after the exercise,

the post-exercise oxygen consumption,

as it’s sometimes called, goes up.

We know this after you train intensely,

that post-exercise oxygen consumption goes up,

sometimes for up to 24 hours.

And it is during that period of time

that you oxidize more fat, not glycogen.

Now, what’s interesting is that the reverse is also true.

For people that do long bouts

of low or moderate intensity exercise,

so typically this would be things like running,

swimming, biking, et cetera.

So 60, 90 minutes, two hours,

maybe even people that are training for marathons

or half marathons, when they stop training,

they burn more glycogen, more carbohydrate,

even though they were burning more body fat per unit time

during the low intensity exercise.

So there’s this kind of inversion.

High intensity burns more glycogen during the activity,

more body fat afterwards.

Moderate to low intensity burns more percentage-wise,

more body fat is oxidized than glycogen

during the actual exercise.

Afterward, it’s more glycogen.

So I don’t want this to get too complicated.

The point is you should pick exercise that you like,

that you’re going to do regularly,

but it does seem that the high intensity exercise

followed by moderate intensity exercise

is going to be optimal for fat burning overall,

because when you look at the percentage of body fat burned

and you look at the overall increase

in basal metabolic rate,

moderate and high intensity training

followed by low intensity training,

or even just followed by going back into life

is going to be the best way to continue to burn body fat

because of the ways that it increases basal metabolic rate.

Now, this could be distilled into a simple protocol

whereby three or four times a week,

you do high intensity training followed by either nothing

or followed by low intensity training,

especially if you’re able to do that fasted.

And I should just mention that none of this stuff

about fasted is about performance.

If you want to perform really well,

you want to, this is for reasons of performance

and you want to, you know, it’s for a sport or a competition,

it’s not for body fat purposes.

Well, then all of this kind of falls away

and is modified by what’s ideal to eat for performance.

But what we’re talking about today

is how to optimize body fat, body fat loss.

So train moderately to intensely, to very high intensity

and then moderate to low intensity

or train moderate to high intensity and then go about life.

And in fact, I have a friend who uses this strategy.

He likes to train intensely and not that often protocol

because he’s a very busy person.

So he’ll train for 20 or 30 minutes intensely with weights

or just body weight movement, doing a lot.

He does burpees and pushups and sit ups and pull ups

and just kind of moving and kind of circuit type training.

But where he’s breathing really hard,

the goal he always says is I want to breathe hard

for 30 minutes every day.

And then afterwards he hydrates and drinks coffee

and moves into his day and he’s walking around

and taking calls and carrying around his children

and doing all these kinds of things

that keep him really busy

and it’s kind of like low intensity work.

So I think you get the principle now,

but you should all be asking yourselves

as scientists of yourselves,

why would it be that certain patterns of exercise

would lead to more or less fat loss?

I mean, it can’t just be about the energy burned.

We already established that.

And again, it has to do with the neurons.

It has to do with how we engage the nervous system.

So while non-exercise activity induced thermogenesis,

NEAT, the fidgeting and cold can induce thermogenesis

by engaging shiver type movement or low level movements.

Big movements that are of very high intensity,

meaning they require a lot of effort,

deploy a lot of adrenaline, epinephrine from our neurons

and signal particular types and amounts

of fat thermogenesis, fat oxidation.

Whereas low level intensity exercise,

low or moderate intensity exercise,

you know, walking, running, biking,

where you can do that easily,

there’s not very much adrenaline release.

So adrenaline and aka epinephrine

is really the final common path

by which movement of any kind,

whether or not it’s low level shiver,

or whether or not it’s lifting a barbell,

sprinting up a hill or doing a long bike ride.

Adrenaline is the effector of fat loss.

It’s the trigger and it’s the effector.

So now I want to turn our attention to compounds

that increase epinephrine and adrenaline,

as well as compounds that work outside

the adrenaline epinephrine pathway

to increase the rates of fat loss.

I almost always save compounds and supplements

and things of that sort to the end,

because I do believe that people should look first

toward behavioral tools and an understanding of the science

before they look toward a supplement

or a particular thing that they can extract from diet.

This is mainly to try and shift people away

from the kind of magic pill phenomenon

or the idea that there is a magic pill

because there really isn’t,

and frankly, there never will be.

But there are some compounds that can greatly increase

fat oxidation and mobilization.

And understanding which compounds

increase oxidation or mobilization

can be very useful if your goal is to accelerate fat loss.

There are things that people can ingest

that will allow them to oxidize more fat.

And that occurs mainly by increasing the amount

of epinephrine that is released from neurons

that innervate fat tissue.

One of the more common ones is one

that you may already be using, which is caffeine.

It’s well-established that caffeine can enhance performance

if you’re caffeine adapted.

I talked about this in an earlier episode,

so I want to make sure I’m very clear about this.

If you are not used to drinking caffeine

and you suddenly decide I’m going to drink

a big cup of coffee before training,

you will vasoconstrict and you will limit performance.

So that’s performance.

If you’re caffeine adapted, however,

there’s this kind of interesting phenomenon

where ingestion of caffeine serves more

as a performance enhancer, both by increasing alertness,

but also by way of dilating vasculature,

of allowing more blood flow.

Now, caffeine for burning more fat,

for oxidizing and mobilizing more fat is an interesting one.

It can be effective at dosages up to 400 milligrams.

You have to be careful if you’re caffeine sensitive.

Some people have just the littlest bit of caffeine

and their mind goes crazy and they’re very uncomfortable.

It can have cardiovascular effects

for some people with hypertension, et cetera.

So please check with your doctor.

But 400 milligrams is roughly a cup and a half of coffee

or two cups of coffee.

Nowadays, there’s a lot more caffeine in coffee.

So if you go to a typical cafe

and you were to get their medium size,

that would have close to a gram of caffeine,

which is why if you’re a regular caffeine consumer

and you don’t get that gram of caffeine

in your coffee each day, you will get a headache.

It can cause constriction and dilation of blood vessels

in ways that’s complicated, but you’ll get a headache.

Some people like the way they feel,

drinking 100 to 200, 300,

maybe even 400 milligrams of caffeine before training.

And indeed that will lead to increased fat oxidation.

It will do that because you will release

more epinephrine and adrenaline.

So let’s just place this in the context

of what we said previously.

Let’s say you normally do zone two cardio.

So you’re going out for a moderately intense run

for 30 to 60 minutes or so.

I think the current recommendation guidelines in the States

are that people engage in 30 minutes

of moderate intensity exercise five days a week

so that’s 150 minutes,

if their goal is to improve or maintain health

of the cardiovascular system.

80% of people in the United States fail to do that

or anything close to it.

We are way below threshold

for what the government has recommended.

In this case, the government recommendations

I think are pretty good.

One could always do better, of course,

but 80% of people aren’t even doing that.

However, just using the logic and the understanding

of how epinephrine, adrenaline

is affecting this fat oxidation process.

If you were to go out for 15 minutes

and you drank caffeine before you went,

yes, you will probably oxidize more fat per unit time.

Can you compensate for the exercise you’re not doing

just by drinking caffeine?

Well, probably if you were just talking about fat loss,

if that caffeine makes you fidget a lot, right?

The amount of calories that you burn in a 30 minute run,

unless the run is very intense

and you’re wearing a weight vest and it’s up a hill,

it’s not that great, right?

But you probably get somewhere

into the 400, 500 calories burned area.

But I said earlier, and there are a lot of data now

to support that fidgeting for a day

can burn anywhere from 800 to 2,500 calories a day.

So you might say, well, fidgeting is better than running.

Ah, but it doesn’t trigger the activation

and the positive health effects

of the cardiovascular system.

So fidgeting alone can be great,

but you need exercise for other reasons.

Caffeine can enhance the amount of fat that you burn

in any duration of exercise,

and it can shift the percentage of fat that you oxidize

compared to glycogen.

Unless you take that caffeine and it ramps you up so much

that you’re training really, really intensely.

The bottom line is, if you like caffeine

and you can use it safely,

ingesting somewhere between 100 and 400 milligrams

of caffeine prior to exercise,

somewhere between 30 to 40 minutes before exercise

can be beneficial if we’re talking about fat oxidation,

burning more body fat.

So that’s caffeine.

There are a number of other things

that have existed over the years that are in this pathway.

Things like ephedrine, which is now illegal in most states.

I think maybe in all states

because people were dropping dead from taking ephedrine

because they were heating up too much.

It’s interesting.

It wasn’t direct effects on the heart causing heart attack.

It could trigger by way of adrenergic receptors,

if you’d like to know,

increases in body temperature and heat.

Now, those drugs turned out to be dangerous

because people were overheating and dying.

There was also the big fen-phen craze.

There was a drug that was released, fenfluramine,

which actually was quite effective as an anti-obesity drug,

a treatment for obesity.

That had to be outlawed as well.

FDA approval was removed because again,

people were dying because of cardiovascular effects.

I don’t know if people were overheating on it as well.

So what is the solution?

If caffeine is the kind of the entry point for most people

of using compounds to increase the rate

or percentage of fat loss in exercise and even at rest,

what are some of the other things

that are useful and interesting?

Well, in terms of tools that are actionable

and have reasonable safety margins,

I’ve talked before about something called GLP-1.

This is something that can be triggered

by the ingestion of yerba mate, which is a tea.

I guess because I’m half Argentine,

they grew up drinking mate.

I think I was drinking mate

from the time I was about three or four years old.

I don’t suggest that for kids.

I don’t think kids should be ingesting caffeine,

but anyway, I did it and I still ingest mate.

Mate increases GLP-1.

GLP-1 is in the glucagon pathway.

So let’s just quickly return to our biochemistry.

As you recall, fat is mobilized from body fat stores

and then it’s burned up, it’s oxidized in cells.

It actually needs to be converted into ATP.

And those fatty acids are essentially converted into ATP

in the mitochondria of the cell.

High insulin prevents that from happening.

And glucagon facilitates that process.

Glucagon facilitates that process through increases in GLP-1.

The short takeaway is mate increases GLP-1

and yes, increases the percentage of fat that you’ll burn.

It increases fat burning.

And that is especially true,

it turns out from the scientific literature,

if you ingest mate prior to exercise of any kind.

So if you want to burn more fat,

drinking mate before exercise is good.

Drinking it at rest when you’re not exercising

will also help shift your metabolism

toward enhanced burning of fat by increasing fat oxidation.

Now there’s a whole category of pharmaceuticals

that’s being developed right now

that are in late stage trials

or are in use for the treatment of diabetes,

which capitalize on this GLP-1 pathway.

They go by various names

and there are people on the internet

who are selling these things.

They are prescription drugs.

And I want to emphasize that they are prescription drugs

and you obviously wouldn’t want to use any of these

without a prescription and a requirement.

It does seem that they are effective

for the treatment of certain kinds of diabetes

and lead to fairly significant weight loss

and reduction in appetite.

So this is kind of the modern version of GLP-1

is pharmaceuticals of GLP-1 metabolism

are drugs such as semaglutide.

I can never pronounce this.

I can’t seem to pronounce many things it seems.

Semaglutide is the way I would pronounce it.


Semaglutide, but that’s not the way you pronounce it,

but semaglutide is the way

that it’s been described on the internet.

In any case, this compound increases GLP-1.

It’s actually a GLP-1 analog in some cases,

and they go by various types of trade names.

So the GLP-1 pathway is interesting.

Most people, including myself,

are not interested in taking a prescription drug

to increase GLP-1.

I do it through the ingestion of mate.

I just get the mate leaves, pour water over it and drink it.

What’s kind of interesting that’s not often discussed

is that you can increase the amount of GLP-1

by, you can essentially reuse the tea.

The first time you drink it, it’s going to be very,

very intense, and in fact, some people find

that mate, it almost tastes like burnt leaves.

It’s too intense.

You don’t want the water to be too hot,

but I learned this trick from a friend.

You can reuse the leaves over and over again,

probably for about a day before they go bad,

and in doing that, you start to extract more and more

of the compounds from the mate leaf

that increased GLP-1.

So it’s kind of cool.

You can kind of get an increased effect.

So what I’ll typically do is make about 16 to 30 ounces

of it and just sip it throughout the day,

and I do like it before I train.

Some people who don’t like mate might prefer

something like guayusa, which is spelled G-U-A-Y-U-S-A.

G-U-A-Y-U-S-A, guayusa, which is from Ecuador,

despite the USA ending to it.

It’s from Ecuador, and it’s a sweeter tasting tea.

It doesn’t have any sweetener in it,

but the leaf of the guayusa plant

is sweeter than the mate plant.

I sometimes will mix the two and then make the tea with that.

There’s no mate or guayusa sponsor of the podcast.

These are just tools to increase GLP-1 and fat oxidation.

And again, the semaglutide is the prescription version

that’s kind of the heavy artillery GLP-1 stimulant.

And again, should be only explored with a prescription.

So those are the compounds

that really increase fat oxidation directly.

There are going to be a number of things

that impact insulin and glucagon

that are going to shift the body toward more fat burning.

We talked about a lot of these

during the episode on hormones.

We talked about it,

we did a whole episode on hormones and metabolism.

And so for instance, berberine, which comes from a plant,

or metformin are compounds that are now

in kind of growing use for reducing blood glucose.

They are very potent at reducing blood glucose,

which will reduce insulin

because the job of the hormone insulin

is to essentially manage glucose in the bloodstream.

So there are a huge gallery of compounds

that will reduce insulin

and thereby can increase fat oxidation.

And that’s because, as I mentioned before,

fat oxidation, this conversion of fatty acids

into ATP and the mitochondria is inhibited by insulin.

So if you keep insulin low,

you’re going to increase that process.

Which brings us full circle

back to the issue of diet and nutrition.

There is really solid evidence

from the Gardner Lab at Stanford and from other labs

showing that when you look at different diets,

you look at low-fat diets, high-fat diets,

keto diets, intermittent fasting,

provided people stick to their particular diet,

it doesn’t really matter which diet you follow.

You can still get a caloric deficit and you get weight loss.

Adherence, however, is always an issue.

And so what I always say is

that you want to use the eating plan

that is obviously beneficial to your health,

but the one that allows you to adhere to whatever it is

that the particular nutrition protocol is, right?

If you can’t stick with something,

then it’s not very worthwhile.

But from the purely scientific standpoint,

there’s also an advantage to keeping insulin low.

Now that doesn’t necessarily mean

you go to zero carbohydrate.

I’ve talked before about my preferred way of eating

is to go low or no carbohydrate

throughout the day for alertness,

to get that adrenaline release

and the focus that goes with it, et cetera,

and the ability to think and move

and do all the things I need to do during the day.

And then I eat carbohydrates at night

because it facilitates the transition to sleep.

That’s what works for me.

But when insulin is low,

you do place your system in a position to oxidize more fat.

And so that’s why I think a lot of people

do see benefit from lower carbohydrate

or moderate carbohydrate diets,

because when insulin is low,

you are in a position to oxidize more fat,

both from exercise and at rest.

And I should mention, because I often mention,

and it’s appropriate to mention,

that if you’re interested in looking at the effects

of caffeine, of mate, guayusa, things of that sort,

GLP-1, you want to learn more about those,

you can go to this wonderful website,

which is free,

You can put in yerba mate.

It will describe the three studies

that show increased fat oxidation,

both during exercise and at rest,

as a consequence, not surprisingly,

an increase in metabolic rate.

One thing that’s interesting about mate

is it causes a slight decrease in heart rate

for reasons that still escape me.

There’s a single study showing

that heart rate is slightly reduced,

which is kind of nice,

because when I drink too much caffeine,

my heart rate goes up.

Maybe that would increase my fidgeting and my fat burning,

but I don’t like the feeling

of having my basal heart rate being up too high.

I like my heart rate elevated during exercise,

but not when I’m just kind of resting or working

and throughout the day.

And for some reason that I don’t understand,

there’s an effect of mate of increasing fat oxidation,

but reducing heart rate just slightly.

So that’s interesting,

and it probably lends itself to my,

explains the subjective experience that I’ve had

of that mate is kind of a nice, even, mellow stimulant.

It’s not this, you know,

really supercharged stimulant like caffeine

from coffee or other sources.

Although if you drink too much mate,

it will also make you jittery.

And there’s one more compound

that I think we should discuss

in terms of increasing fat loss,

and that’s carnitine or acetyl L-carnitine.

They lie in the same pathway.

We can return to our basic knowledge now

of fat mobilization and oxidation.

After fat is mobilized and makes it into cells

and needs to be oxidized,

so literally the burning of fat

and conversion of it into energy,

that is accomplished and is facilitated

by the presence of glucagon being elevated,

GLP increases that process,

and insulin being low.

And we talked about some ways to manage insulin

both in this episode and in a previous episode.

L-carnitine and acetyl L-carnitine in particular

facilitates fat oxidation.

Helps convert fatty acids into ATP.

And indeed supplementing L-carnitine

can increase fat loss, that’s been shown.

At what dosages?

Well, people ingest anywhere from 500 milligrams

to two grams per day in divided doses typically.

Some people who are really extreme

are taking injectable L-carnitine.

I’ve certainly not tried that.

I confess I have used it in pill form from time to time,

but in part because of the fat oxidation effects,

but also because of the other effects

that it tends to have.

So in exploring the effects that L-carnitine has,

it has a huge variety of effects on cellular metabolism.

It can reduce ammonia in the blood.

That is actually a quite strong effect.

It can reduce things like C-reactive protein,

which is you want C-reactive protein levels to be managed.

You do not want them too high.

Can slightly reduce blood glucose.

It can slightly increase HDLC,

the good form of the blood lipid,

and slightly reduce overall cholesterol.

And as I mentioned,

it can slightly modify the pathway involving glucagon

such that you get a considerable effect,

not a huge effect on fat oxidation.

So it can improve fat oxidation rates.

It has a number of other effects,

some of which I talked about during the month on hormones

and that sort of thing.

It has strong effects on rates of pregnancy

and sperm quality.

So clearly carnitine is doing lots of different things

in lots of different cells.

It’s impacting sperm motility.

There are a large number of studies supporting that.

Slight reductions in blood pressure

and has these interesting effects

on reducing fatigue during exercise,

reducing inflammatory markers like interleukin-6.

So it has a number of effects that on the whole

are quote-unquote positive,

or at least in the direction of things

that you may want.

And I should emphasize may.

You certainly don’t need acetyl L-carnitine

in order to lose fat.

But now that you understand the cellular process

by which fat is mobilized and oxidized,

it should make sense that if L-carnitine is important

for converting fatty acids into energy,

then supplementing L-carnitine makes sense.

Acetyl L-carnitine is the type of L-carnitine

or the form of L-carnitine I should say

that is transported and utilized most easily by the body.

And so that’s why sometimes we distinguish

between L-carnitine and acetyl L-carnitine.

So once again, we’ve covered an enormous amount of material.

We’ve talked about the science of fat loss.

And in particular, we’ve explored this topic

from the perspective of the nervous system,

how neurons and in particular the release

of things like adrenaline, epinephrine,

can facilitate fat mobilization and oxidation.

We talked about NEAT, fidgeting,

this non-exercise type movement

that can greatly increase caloric burn and why that is.

We talked about shiver, another form of non-exercise movement

that can really increase both caloric expenditure

due to the shiver, due to the movement,

as well as increase thermogenesis,

the heating up of the body through things like brown fat,

and even the conversion of white fat to brown fat,

which is a good thing if you want to oxidize fat.

We talked about cold as a particular stimulus

to induce shiver and how to use getting into

and out of cold as a way to stimulate shiver

and avoid cold adaptation so that you continue

to oxidize and burn fat, if that’s your goal.

If you want to check out the protocols for that,

they’re at

And in weeks to come, we’re going to be adding

more protocols to that website, not just for fat loss,

but for things like resilience,

reducing inflammation, et cetera.

So be sure to check those out.

Again, those are totally cost-free.

Talked about exercise, how rather than thinking

about cardiovascular or weight training exercise,

that we should perhaps look through the lens

of this adrenaline system and how it interacts

with fat stores and think about low, medium,

or high-intensity exercise,

whether or not we show up to that fasted or not.

Turns out showing up to that fasted can be useful

if you start with high-intensity movements

and then move into lower-intensity type exercise.

If you’re going to go long duration,

it probably doesn’t matter unless you’re exercising longer

than 90 minutes, whether or not you eat or not.

We talked about caffeine as a stimulant

and a stimulus for epinephrine and adrenaline release.

As a way to access more fat metabolism.

And we talked about compounds that come from things

like yerba mate and guayusa tea, this GLP-1 pathway

that can trigger increased fat oxidation.

So much so that the pharmaceutical companies

are now developing compounds specifically

to increase GLP-1 for treatment of diabetes and obesity.

But you can leverage the GLP-1 pathway

through the ingestion of things like mate or guayusa

if that’s of interest to you.

And then we talked about L-carnitine

and how L-carnitine itself is critical

for the fat oxidation within individual cells.

The conversion of fatty acids to energy

and why having your insulin low

and things like L-carnitine and glucagon levels

high or sufficient at least

to can facilitate the burning of fat, fat oxidation.

So we covered a lot of material.

That’s a lot of protocols I realize.

The little list I just gave right there

didn’t even begin to get into all the details

and corners that we discussed.

I hope you found this conversation interesting

both for sake of understanding fat loss

and how to lose fat more quickly and to lose more of it

if that’s your goal, as well as simply to understand

the biology of fat metabolism from a different perspective,

from the perspective of the nervous system.

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