Uncover the Causes of Low Energy

Energy can feel harder and harder to come by as we age. But what is the underlying cause of low energy? For a long time, this topic has been poorly understood, but my guest on this episode has devoted the past decade to finding the answers and is sharing them with us today.

Ari Whitten is an energy and longevity coach, host of the Energy Blueprints Podcasts, and bestselling author of The Ultimate Guide to Red Light Therapy and Eat for Energy. He’s also a natural health expert with a Master of Science degree in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine.

In the episode, Ari talks about the various mechanisms that act on our energy and the important role our mitochondria play as cell defenders within our bodies. He discusses the benefits of circadian-rhythm optimization, as well as the importance of light exposure, the best foods for energy, and physical activity in order to get the most out of your day. You’ll learn how to reduce stress levels, optimize your sleep cycle, and increase mental clarity.

Plus, listen for actionable tips on how to optimize your energy levels and boost your productivity, including strategies to balance hormones and keep your energy levels up throughout the day.

Ready to feel energized? Tune in now!

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Click Here To Read Transcript

ATHE_Transcript_Ep 535_Ari Whitten
JJ Virgin: [00:00:00] Hey, this is JJ Virgin. Welcome and thanks so much for joining me. This is Ask the Health Expert here. I put the Power of Health in your hands and give you access to the top people in health and wellness. In each episode, I share safe ways to get healthy, lose weight, heal your gut detox and lots more. So if you wanna get healthy and get off the dieting for life merry-go-round, I'll give you strategies that will help you look and feel better fast.
Okay, this possibly. Is one of my favorite all time podcasts. The, so I have back Ari Whitten. I'm gonna tell you a little bit about him if you've never heard of him. And we'll also link in the show notes to the other podcast I've done with him cuz we refer back to those. And you'll be able to get that and a really cool webinar that [00:01:00] he is doing and a guide on supplements for energy all at jjvirgin.com/arienergy.
All right, so we are gonna be talking about a bunch of stuff. I've known Ari now for 10 plus years because he is a, we have a mutual friend, John Asraf and he was John Asraf's personal trainer. And John pinged me and was like, jj, you've gotta meet Ari. So that's how I've known Ari for ages and ages.
I'm sure you've probably heard of John Asraf too. He does some super cool stuff in the brain world. He's got Neurogym let me tell you a little bit about Ari. So what's been interesting is I met Ari, he was a personal trainer, and he. So deep into the rabbit hole of energy. He's gonna explain why he created the Energy Blueprint System, which now he's helped over 2 million people with.
He's the best selling author of The Ultimate Guide to Red Light Therapy. He has the Energy Blueprint Podcasts. [00:02:00] He was, by the way, at mind Share my Mindshare collaborative company where we have all the coolest health experts, health practitioners come each year. He got voted the number one health influencer of the year and has a MS in Human Nutrition and functional Medicine, a BS in Kanis.
He is certified as a corrective exercise specialist and performance enhancement specialist from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. And he's completed all of his coursework for a clinical psychology PhD. He has done just some awesome stuff and he also has the Eat for Energy book that was published with hayhouse.
So lots of cool stuff, but we. Holy smokes. If you've ever wondered like, what is the story with caffeine? He did the best explanation of what caffeine does to you. And, you know, can you drink it? Can you not drink it? I'm not telling you. You're gonna have to listen to the podcast. We talk about when to eat and why that matters.
You know, what the real source of fatigue is and what you need to do to [00:03:00] improve it. Like such cool stuff in this interview. So it is, we we might have gone a little long and it's worth every minute. So I will be right back with Ari. Stay with me.
Ari Whitten, welcome back to the show. I'm so excited to be digging into energy more with
Ari Whitten: you. It's always a pleasure to chat with you, jj. Thank you so much for having me. When were you here?
JJ Virgin: Like have you only been on once? Which would be a travesty.
Ari Whitten: I think I've been on twice and then I've been on at maybe one of your summits as well.
I know we've done, and then I've had you on my podcast at least twice. So we've had a lot of conversations. It's hard to keep track of it. Yes, we
JJ Virgin: have. We've known each other. What now? Like 10 years I think.
Ari Whitten: Yes,
JJ Virgin: indeed. You've really, really gotten deep into the energy world. And what's cool about this, and when I say energy, cuz [00:04:00] now you know, energy can be so many different things out there.
It could be, you know, energy medicine, but you're really talking. , how does your body create energy? How do you have more energy throughout the day? And doing it at a very deep level, not the superficial, get more sleep. Right. . Mm-hmm. . Which is important too. Like if you're not sleeping well, like start there, but Totally.
You know, we are gonna go deep into energy and you have a new book out, which is exciting. Eat for Energy. Mm-hmm. , why don't we start there and then we'll just meander around. Let's start with Eat for Energy and, and kind of talk about the top principles in that book.
Ari Whitten: Sure. So, You know, I think, I think just as general context, maybe I'll tell a brief version of my story and then kind of what led me down this path.
So I think like you J J, my original interest in all of this was more in the body composition, the fat loss, the muscle gain, fitness, athletic performance side of things. And I really was passionate about that since the time I was 12 years old. And that was whole [00:05:00] my world. 12 was when
JJ Virgin: I got into it too.
Cool. Seriously? Yeah, that is, I think it's maybe that's like that puberty thing where we freak out. I don't know. , .
Ari Whitten: Well, you know, I think for, for me it was typical teenage boy stuff. I mean, I was an athlete, I was a soccer player, I was a martial artist and I was a, an aspiring bodybuilder. My older brother was a bodybuilder and a personal trainer, and he was being mentored by a professional bodybuilder.
So I was kind of growing up in that world of fitness and body building. And and then I went on to do a degree in kinesiology. And, and anyway, that was my world for many, many years. I got sick in my mid twenties with Epstein Bar virus. I got very ill with mononucleosis. And, and then I was severely fatigued for about a year after it.
And I went on this search basically for answers within the energy space. And I sought that a lot of conventional doctors. I sought out a lot of alternative natural health and functional medicine doctors. And at the end of all of that, I'm telling you a year's long story in a few sentences here, but, and, and
JJ Virgin: in a lot of money
Ari Whitten: later, [00:06:00] probably, yeah.
Well, I was poor at that time. I didn't have much money to spend. But you know, I certainly, some few thousands of dollars maybe. I really realized that nobody in either the conventional or alternative communities really understood energy. What, what's really controlling human energy levels. Conventional medical doctors really don't have anything to offer people with chronic fatigue.
And we can talk specifics around the research around that, if you'd like. And, and then within the natural health space and, and functional medicine space, the conversation really revolved around adrenal fatigue. And we've had, we've done a podcast on that. Yeah. And basically the, the research doesn't support the, even the existence of a condition called adrenal fatigue, let alone that adrenal dysfunction is the driving major factor in underlying chronic fatigue.
It actually isn't even present in the vast majority of people with chronic fatigue and stress related exhaustion. And there's lots and lots of research on that. 25 plus years of research on that. We, we know [00:07:00] that definitively So at the end of all of that, I was kind of like left with, well, what the heck is regulating energy?
And I spent, you know, I kind of started this whole process, this, this, this was really the catalyst for me to shift my focus from athletic performance and body composition and, and fitness, muscle gain, fat loss, all that stuff to energy. I became obsessed with energy. Nobody seems to understand it.
Maybe I can start figuring some stuff out. And, you know, I, I didn't really, I didn't have everything figured out 10 years ago. It was, it was like, well, you know, I know that sleep and circadian rhythm are tied into this energy story. Certainly when we don't sleep well, we feel fatigued. So what are the physiological mechanisms underlying that?
And I would spend months digging into the literature to sort of build out an understanding of what's actually controlling. This link between sleep and and energy levels. And then I would go, well, nutrition certainly is related to this, but what are the mechanisms underlying how nutrition actually impacts our energy [00:08:00] levels?
You know, I wanna,
JJ Virgin: I want to, I just interrupt on one thing, cause I love that you're saying this cuz I've been deep in the science working on my next book. And so I'm listening to all of these podcasts, going through studies and they're like, well, the study didn't show. And I'm like, yeah, but what about the mechanism
You know, you know, I mean, it's like, I always think go, go to the physiology first. Go to the mechanisms for the answers first, because the study might be designed wrong. . So it's very frustrating. So I love, I mean, you want both, but I love the fact that you keep talking about the, the mechanisms of it, because that's really where we need to start in mind,
Ari Whitten: for sure.
Yeah. And, and I, I wanted to, and sometimes the mechanisms are wrong, right? Sometimes certain people posit, you know, they theorize, hypothesized certain mechanisms are controlling, let's say the gain of body fat or what controls muscle gain. And then we actually do the research and we discover, oh, actually, even though that hypothesized mechanism sort of made sense when we looked at it from that, [00:09:00] You know, mechanistic, biochemical perspective.
When we actually did the study, it didn't actually pan out. And the, and the, the theory was disproven. So we, we have to sort of, as you said, we have to confirm on both, both ends of this. Mechanisms are important to understand, but they also actually need to translate into real world effects. So anyway, I went down all these rabbit holes, you know, what about environmental toxic toxicants?
What, how does that tie into this energy story? What about light exposure, sunlight, and what about circadian rhythm? And what about gut health and, you know, exercise? How, how do these things actually relate to our energy levels physiologically, biochemically. And I ended up after several years of this with like this 150 mechanism, long list of all these different pathways.
But it, it really wasn't until the work of Dr. Robert Navio, who, who runs a lab for mitochondrial medicine at the University of California, San Diego who published a paper called The Cell Danger Response. And [00:10:00] this really kind of revolutionized. Really the, the whole, I think the whole world's understanding of mitochondria and what they're doing in our body, because we had always been taught in, you know, high school and college and graduate school, medical school biology courses and physiology courses that mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell.
That's what everybody's so funny,
JJ Virgin: Ari, like, I think if we had, you know, if we were playing, you know, are you smarter than a fifth grader? Whatever the thing is, I think that's the only thing that everyone would get. Right. . It's like that's the one thing they remember . Right? Right. They don't know what it means.
Yeah, exactly. .
Ari Whitten: Exactly. But they remember, that's exactly right. So yeah, they're kind of taught about us, sort of these mindless energy generators. They just take in carbs and fats, they pump out energy. But it turns out, and, and thanks again to the work of Dr. Robert Navio for kind of synthesizing all this emerging research for over the last couple decades from all, all around the world, that, that mitochondria are vastly [00:11:00] more important than anyone ever realized.
And they are, in his words, the central hub of the wheel of metabolism and metabolism being the entirety of all the biochemical interactions that happen in our body. So mitochondria are at the core of that. They're, they're impacting, influencing, regulating almost everything in our. And to the extent we now know from a huge body of literature that's emerged over the last decade or two, to the extent that our mitochondria are unhealthy, we are massively increased in our risk of dozens of diseases.
We have lower energy levels, certainly as we might expect from poor health of our energy generators at the cellular level. And we literally age faster. It, this, the health of our mitochondria impact the rate of cellular aging itself. So anyway, mitochondria are really important and this, his work allowed me to synthesize all of this 150 mechanism, long list of all this stuff that I'd been digging into for years into some kind of [00:12:00] coherent framework,
JJ Virgin: which was like all roads led to mitochondria.
Exactly. And so two questions. Since you were in San Diego, did
Ari Whitten: you get to. I did actually through a mutual friend of ours Dr. Maya Shetreat, ah, she is personally friends with him. And just as luck would have it, I met Maya at at Consumer Health Summit in Arizona, which you were also at. And we, she and I kind of hit it off and then we, we formed a friendship afterwards.
And and then she's like, I, I started talking about Dr. Robert Navo in conversation. She's like, oh, Bob , I know Bob, you know, yeah, I'd like
JJ Virgin: to know Bob .
Ari Whitten: She's like, I'll, I'll text him right now and introduce you, you know, and and so she did, and I ended up spending a day with him at his lab and he did like kind of a personal like tutoring session with me, almost taking me through all this really cool stuff.
Isn't it cool
JJ Virgin: when you get. Hang as a peer with your heroes. Totally. Like it's just wild. Yeah. And so, and one other thing in here. So [00:13:00] in talking about the health of mitochondria, how would one know if they have healthy mitochondria or not?
Ari Whitten: Ooh, that's a big question. Let, can we loop back to that?
We'll loop
JJ Virgin: back. I just gotta throw that out there. Cause I mean, you said that, I thought to myself, now wouldn't it be cool if there was a way that you could see, like, you could test the level, like how healthy they are. Like, okay, are they doing mytophagy. Are they like, what's going on? Okay. Totally. So
Ari Whitten: there's a lot of layers to that answer.
Let, let me introduce this layer first. Okay. So the, the major, I'm gonna oversimplify Dr. Navio's work here for a second, but for the sake of simplicity, basically the, the core of what he. Found is that mitochondria are not just these mindless energy generators that just take in carbs and fats and pump out energy.
I mean, wouldn't it be great if solving the chronic fatigue epidemic was as simple as just eat more carbs and fats and your cells will pump out more energy? Clearly that doesn't work because if that works, definitely does not work . So, and it similarly [00:14:00] doesn't work that stimulants are an answer to the chronic fatigue epidemic, and that's something we could talk about as well.
Why they don't. But what mitochondria do, besides being energy generators, is they actually have this second role that's just as important as energy generation. And that is, they are cell defenders. They are, they are actually like the canaries and the coal mine of our body. They're these exquisitely sensitive environmental sensors and they're constantly taking samples of the environment, what's going on in your body and asking the question, is it safe for us to produce energy?
and to the extent that they are picking up on danger signals or threat signals or stress signals, and they can pick up on every type of danger signal you can imagine, from poor nutrition to lack of sleep, to psychological stress, to environmental toxicants, to poor gut health, to you name it, to chronic respir, to not chronic, but respiratory infections to physical injury, to physical over [00:15:00] training from too much exercise they, they can pick on on any sort of danger signal or stress signal you can imagine.
And to the extent they're picking those signals up, when those, those stress signals exceed the capacity of mitochondria to handle that stress load, they go into cell defense mode or the cell danger response as Dr. Navio calls it. And when that happens, they turn down the dial on energy production and shift resources towards cellular defense.
So our physical energy levels and is
JJ Virgin: that to protect them from being damaged? ,
Ari Whitten: it's to protect the body from being damaged. So and to shift resources where they're needed. So this, this gets into a, a bit of a longer answer, but just as an analogy. Imagine that you're in a war zone right now. Let's say you're in the Ukraine and you're in your home and the opposing army.
drops poison gas in the street outside your home. [00:16:00] It would be a, a terrible mistake to go about your business as usual and say, let's open the windows and let the fresh air in. Let's go for a walk outside and take our kids to the park and just play. You know, you, you don't wanna do that. Similarly, like, here's another way of thinking about it without beating this to death.
If you're in the kitchen preparing a meal and a burglar walks in and points a gun at you and says, Hey, gimme your money, and, you know, gimme your wallet, whatever, and and, and then you just continue carrying on, you know, like making your meal as if nothing's happening, that's a bad mistake, right?
You, you need to, to handle the threat that's present. You need to stop what you're doing and handle the threat that's present in, in order to deal with that situation. And that's what goes on at the cellular level. The default mode if we're in a safe environment is to produce abundant energy. If we're not, then the engines turn off similarly to like, let's say a bear in going through a harsh environment during the winter.
They turn down the, the engines to [00:17:00] conserve energy during the harsh environment. And this is seen pretty much universally across animal species, even microscopic organisms, when they're subjective to extreme environmental conditions, they go in into a state of dormancy to protect themselves so they don't die during, let's say food shortage or extreme climate conditions.
And then when the, their signals are that the environment is safe again, they turn the engines back on. Right? So this is, this is kind of how our system is designed adaptively and intelligently. If you are sick with a respiratory infection, your body is designed to coordinate. Mechanisms that make you feel fatigued.
Okay? That's why the last time you got a cold or a flu or covid, you felt fatigued. That's why you feel the symptom of fatigue. So and that's an intelligent adaptive response to conserve energy and devote resources towards fighting off the threat, in this case, a respiratory infection. So this is how our bodies are [00:18:00] designed to respond to threats in this way.
So basically our energy levels are a reflection of the degree to which our mitochondria are sensing the environment is safe when they're, and, and they're producing abundant energy, or if they're capacity to deal with threats is being exceeded, they're turning down the dial on energy production. You feel the symptom of fatigue.
So anyway, all of this. Big picture context for the rest of this discussion so we can talk about how specific factors like nutrition or other factors tie into this story of how our mitochondria are regulating energy production at the cellular level. And
JJ Virgin: then would it be that if you were exposed to like, some incredible trauma or some big toxins, like you'd be dialed down and you would have like, I mean, I'm thinking of the people like the, the kids over the last couple years and just some of the, the emotional [00:19:00] trauma and then some of the, you know, toxicity.
Like it's gonna be a super challenge to ever get out of that. And I wonder if there are just people now who don't even know what it feels like to have that great energy.
Ari Whitten: Right. I I, I have no doubt that there are many people in that situation.
JJ Virgin: Okay, so let's go to the , because you can look at it when you just said that and you went all right. You know, emotional trauma is obviously a huge one. Mm-hmm. , and then just all the outgassing and toxins and the, you know, crappy nutrition or just nutrition overload, you know, too much healthy foods, unhealthy too.
Mm-hmm. and you know, and then the over, I mean, there's just, it goes on and on and on. So, and then you have people that are gonna fix that by, you know, stimulants. Right. And yeah. And I know there's now an overabundance of, of things that people are using beyond coffee and a d d drugs and everything else.
Ari Whitten: We, we can talk about that aspect of things if, if you'd [00:20:00] like, or we can go, I think the
JJ Virgin: important thing is that's, that is the big bandaid, right? So, right. And if anything that's exacerbating the
Ari Whitten: problem. Yes. So what's interesting is most people actually have no idea. and the, the mechanisms underlying this are really interesting and they're kind of insidious too.
And this is an important layer of the story because of course, when people feel fatigued, they, their go-to is stimulants and especially caffeine. And a lot of people have built this into their daily routine such and sugar, caffeine, right? Yeah. Or yeah, a combination of Exactly. Yeah. And then double whammy.
Yeah. And then you add a bunch of fat in there and now you've got a calorie bomb on top of the stimulant bomb. Yeah, it's a lot. But the, the stimulant story and the caffeine story is really interesting. So How does caffeine work? Well, the, we, we have a balance of neurotransmitters in our brain. We've got neurotransmitters that are stimulatory and inhibitory stimulating and more relaxing.
And our brain is constantly trying to maintain a certain balance, the [00:21:00] appropriate balance. And that differs depending on the time of the day when we're asleep at night. The, the balance of those stimulatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters is very different than it is now as we're talking. And I, if I was in that state of you know, where I had much more of these inhibitory neurotransmitters and much less of the stimulatory neurotransmitters, I would be processing very slowly.
I would be talking very slowly. I would be like, well, jj, you see, you know, you know, like that sort of thing. Okay. So So we have this appropriate balance. Now, one of these inhibitory neurotransmitters is called adenosine, and adenosine is a neurotransmitter floats around the brain, and then it hits these neuro trans, these adenosine receptors.
And when it interacts with those adenosine receptors, it triggers a cascade that ultimately makes you more tired, sleepy, fatigued lowers your energy levels. The way that caffeine works [00:22:00] is by interacting with those adenosine receptors so it hits those adenosine receptors. The only difference is, instead of triggering the cascade that lowers your energy levels, that adenosine does, all it does is plug up the receptor.
So it blocks adenosine from getting into the adenosine receptor. And by blocking an inhibitory neurotransmitter, it creates a stimulating, energizing effect. And what's the half-life of that? , it depends on the individual. So this
JJ Virgin: is where someone's a caffeine, a slower, a fast caffeine metabolizer.
Exactly. This is someone who is a slow metabolizer, might have coffee at lunch, and they just are wide awake at night. And that's the reason why.
Ari Whitten: Exactly. Got it. Yeah. So that effect, that's stimulating, energizing effect is wonderful. And we know from a large body of literature, if you give people caffeine and you, you can see in the next few hours all kinds of improvements in things, improvements in energy levels, [00:23:00] improvements in reaction time, improvements in physical performance, improvements in mental performance, on and on and on.
All these amazing benefits. But the kicker is that on those benefits only occur in what are called caffeine naive people, which means people who don't normally consume caffeine.
JJ Virgin: are there people like that out there?
Ari Whitten: So, so if you take a person who is, hasn't consumed caffeine for a few weeks, you give them caffeine, you will see a genuine boost above baseline levels of performance in all of those ways I just described. Here's the problem. As soon as you start consuming this on a regular basis, the brain responds to it and it adapts to this situation to counterbalance what's going on.
Because as I said, the brain likes to maintain a certain balance of stimulation to inhibition, and when you take caffeine, you disrupt that balance. [00:24:00] You block the inhibitory neurotransmitter to create a stimulant effect. When you do that on a daily basis, the brain goes, we're being overstimulated. Let's bring it back into balance.
And the way that it does that is by making adaptations to increase the amount of adenosine in the brain and to increase the amount of adenosine receptors in the brain so that when that caffeine is not in your system, you have increased adenosine signaling, meaning more adenosine molecules, hitting more adenosine receptors all the time in your baseline state, which that's not good.
Lowers your baseline levels of energy, mood, cognitive performance. Okay? And so this is the insidious part of caffeine use on a daily basis because people subjectively don't feel that happening. They don't, because it happens over weeks, they don't notice it. All they notice is the short term effects of when I take caffeine, I feel subjectively a boost in my energy levels.
I go from feeling groggy [00:25:00] to feeling energized. So caffeine gives me energy. And so that this is the story also of how people end up consuming. They go from one cup of coffee to two to three, to in some cases, six per day. Well, so is this
JJ Virgin: where this is where I guess caffeine withdrawal would be why people get headaches and feel crappy?
How quickly does your body shift
Ari Whitten: back that? That is a brilliant question. So the answer. To what I just said. How do we reconcile this fact that I'm saying caffeine actually doesn't give you a boost when you use it chronically, but subjectively, people feel it's giving me a boost. Okay? The answer is something called withdrawal reversal in the scientific literature.
This is, this is how the scientists have reconciled this sort of conundrum. And basically what this means is that we literally go into caffeine withdrawal within 24 hours of [00:26:00] consumption of caffeine, okay? When you use it chronically, as soon as that you, you asked about the half-life earlier. As soon as it disappears from your system, which happens overnight, and by the time you wake up the next morning, you actually chronic caffeine.
Consumers are experiencing withdrawal symptoms and the symptoms that they are experiencing of. Foggy headedness, low energy levels, sometimes headaches. But they wake up. If you've ever seen somebody who consumes five or six or eight cups of coffee a day, they wake up like zombies. You know, they, they, they're like, their brains are only half on and they have to have a cup of coffee before they can actually function because their brain is literally not active.
And the reason why is there so much adenosine signaling happening there, they have to start putting in the caffeine just to function. So the way we can reconcile this is literally what is happening is that your baseline level of function of energy and mood and cognitive function was here over time [00:27:00] with chronic daily caffeine use.
It creeps down and down and down. And now you are getting, when you use the caffeine, you get a boost. What you subjectively feel like, oh, cuz caffeine is energizing me, it turns my brain on, gives me lots of energy, puts me in a better mood, makes me function more clear. Headedly like all of that boost is actually just a boost to what used to be your level of normal function and your normal levels of energy.
And it is not a true boost. So I assume, I
JJ Virgin: would assume the way you. Shift this, and I'm thinking back when I did Dave's 40 years of Zen and I find out a couple weeks before, and here's, here's the, the situation when I did, when Grant was my son, grant was in the hospital, the thing I told myself was I made sure I was eating perfectly, exercising, sleeping.
Cause I was like, you know, taking all my stress supplements cuz here it is, like I had no idea how many months I was gonna be in the hospital with him and I couldn't get sick. But I gave myself a total hall pass for coffee [00:28:00] and there was a Starbucks across the street from the hospital. I'm like, I can tap as much as I want.
And . And so I like, you know, you get yourself to a certain point and you know, sometimes I was there till three in the morning. I mean, it just was hell. And then I went, when we moved to Children's Hospital, they had three Starbucks outlets in the hospital. I was like, this is the greatest place on earth.
Like . What a great, like . I mean, that just shows where, where you get to. But then I came out of that and I was gonna go do 40 years of Zen with Dave. And what Dave didn't tell me till a month before was that you couldn't have coffee. And I'm like, holy smokes. I mean, it ended up being fantastic cause I had to get myself off of it, but I gave myself four weeks to do it.
Like, I just, I'm sure that was hell coming from tapered, tapered, tapered, tapered down, you know. So, I mean, is that what you see with people if they need to do this? Because I like a little coffee when I'm going to the gym so I can kick
Ari Whitten: it. Yes. So those, those withdrawals symptoms start very fast, literally [00:29:00] within a day, as I said.
As soon as the caffeine leaves your system overnight, the next morning you're already in withdrawal symptoms. If you're kicking the habit of, let's say you've been consuming for months or years, multiple cups of coffee a day, or using caffeine pills, I sometimes see people caffeine pills. That's crazy.
Yeah. Or, or energy drinks and red bulls and other energy drinks, monster energy, all these things. Sometimes some of these things have massive amounts of caffeine. I've seen people who consume a thousand, 1200, 1500 milligrams of caffeine a day. And for
JJ Virgin: context, a cup of coffee has how much?
Ari Whitten: Depending on the cup, it could be like 80 to 200.
JJ Virgin: Okay. So let's say a hundred. So, yeah. Oh my gosh. Like that is crazy.
Ari Whitten: Right? And, and so you can see, based on how I describe this mechanism, how that happens because people learn caffeine gives me a boost. So when I feel tired, I reach for more caffeine. Yeah. I feel the boost, but they don't realize that they're actually long in the longer term, creating more and more of these.
[00:30:00] Counterproductive adaptations at the neurotransmitter level that are lowering their baseline levels of energy that are making them dependent on multiple cups of coffee and energy drinks, just to function at what used to be, what should be their normal level of function. So
JJ Virgin: now knowing that, can you have a cup of two or two a day and be cool?
or is there no amount? That's good. I'm gonna cry. I'm about to like .
Ari Whitten: So yeah, I'm sitting down everybody's mind. So all the people who hate my guts right now I'm not saying you can never have coffee again, I'm saying use it intelligently. So think one cup of coffee, cup, cup of coffee a day, and ideally use it in a way where you actually need a boost.
So keep the sensitivity of your brain high enough so that you are functioning as those caffeine naive people. You don't have all these negative neurotransmitter adaptations lowering your baseline levels of energy. And if you have solid energy levels as your baseline, now you can get a genuine boost by using stimulants.
[00:31:00] Occasionally when you need it, like before a workout, for example.
JJ Virgin: Got it. Okay. So that was down a, a bunny hole of of caffeine. I think we were walking into food and we did a little like, yeah. Sorry, side track over into coffee. No, that was fantastic. I've never heard it explained that way. I just, one thing, you know, it would seem like if you had more adenosine receptors, like how does that relate to sleep?
Ari Whitten: When the caffeine leaves your system, it's possible that that could translate into like sort of it hitting you harder and that you could maybe sleep deeper. But all of that's dependent on the caffeine leaving your system. And so what you also see in the people who have those adaptations is they're consuming lots of caffeine, the half-life of, and you know, oftentimes late into the afternoon sometimes.
I've seen people consume espressos after dinner and stuff like that. Oh, I
JJ Virgin: was like, I had someone telling me that I'm a fast caffeine metabolizer, but I was like, I was out to dinner with people doing that and I'm [00:32:00] like, you're not that fast.
Ari Whitten: Sorry. It's not that fast. And not because they're metabolizing it that fast, it's because they've built so much of these negative neurotransmitter adaptations that they can consume a bunch of caffeine and still have adenosine overriding that cuz they've got so much adenosine floating around there, Yikes.
So anyway. Yeah. All right.
JJ Virgin: Let's go to food. Let's do it. Give us some good news. . So now you've been a total buzzkill over there.
Ari Whitten: Literally . So the, the adenosine story is sort of unique to caffeine, but to looping things back into the mitochondria, we can look at how nutritional factors tie into this mitochondrial energy production story.
And one layer of the story is circadian rhythm. We have circadian rhythm. We've got a central clock in the brain. We've got peripheral clocks throughout the tissues of our body, our muscles, our bones, our heart, our liver, our intestines our hormone producing glands. They all have these peripheral circadian clocks.
And the central clock in the brain is primarily [00:33:00] responsive to light. But the peripheral clocks are primarily responsive to food inputs. And so if we want to optimize mitochondrial function and energy production throughout all of these peripheral clocks and all these tissues of our body, one of the important variables is giving the optimal food inputs to help optimize our circadian rhythm.
Well, and I think at the
JJ Virgin: optimal times,
Ari Whitten: yes. So there's a few layers to the story. One is, Like with light inputs, we need to have light inputs into the central clock at a certain time of day, and we need to have darkness inputs. And in order for that 24 hour biological clock in the brain to work, it needs the correct light inputs and dark inputs at the right times of day for the right durations.
The same is true of food inputs. We want them, we want food to also be linked up to the daytime signal. So when we get light into our eyes, it feeds back into the central clock in the brain, and [00:34:00] that's the signal for our central biological clock, circadian clock to go. It's daytime, the time to be awake, alert, active, and energetic.
Right. We want our food signals to be linking up as much as possible with those daylight signals. And, and there's a couple ways that most people are getting this wrong. Number one, less than, well, I'll put it this way. Over 85% of the population in the US is consuming their food in over a 14 hour window per.
So their eating window, the time from their first bite of calories to their last bite, first bite of food to their last bite or drinkable calories as well, is over 14 hours. Less than 10% of people have it for less than 12 hours a day. Yeah.
JJ Virgin: This is wild. That means like you start eating at seven and you ate till nine o'clock at night.
Ari Whitten: Exactly. And it means that most people are consuming food almost from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to bed. And this includes things like what we're just talking about, like consuming a [00:35:00] cup of coffee right after you wake up putting some sugar and some milk or cream in it, and you know that those are calories, you know?
So that's And the worst
JJ Virgin: kind when you're drinking that sugar.
Ari Whitten: Totally. Yep. So, That in itself is a problem just as we have a problem. When we have too long of a light window each day, it disturbs the biological function of the central clock, which in turn impacts on many different neurotransmitters, many different hormones like thyroid hormone, testosterone, cortisol, melatonin, growth hormone, all these things that impact virtually every system of our body and certainly our, our mood, our energy, our motivation, our brain function our fertility, right, our, our drive, our libido.
All these things are heavily impacted. Thyroid hormone impacts, certainly all the, the functions of every cell in your body. So that circadian. Rhythm is critically important for everything. It's also important for other reasons. [00:36:00] Melatonin, which most people think is just a sleep hormone turns out, is the most potent mitochondrial protective antioxidant in existence.
It's vital for protecting your mitochondria from damage, and it interacts with the mitochondria's internal antioxidant defense system where it basically recharges levels of glutathione and catalyze and superoxide dismutase. So it recharges like the antioxidant defense system of mitochondria to allow them to protect themselves from all the stressors of the next day.
So our cells are mitochondria are designed to be getting bathed in this every night, yet artificial light at night from our homes, just being in standard indoor home lighting suppresses melatonin levels by 50 to 70%. This is not a small thing. I'm not saying five to 10%. I'm, I'm saying 50 to 70%. So we're massively suppressing this critically important mitochondrial protective hormone, neuroprotective hormone cancer protective hormone melatonin [00:37:00] is vital for the, for prevention of cancer as well.
We also know that this nightly window, and especially having an adequate fasting window, is vital for autophagy and mitophagy. So for our cells to clean out the gunk, the damaged cell parts, and to clean up the damaged and dysfunctional mitochondria also. So we need these rhythms to be honored both in the light way and in the nutrient way.
So what I've
JJ Virgin: been looking at all over though, and I can't seem to, I cannot find a clear answer on this as usual, like most of stuff you're like, there's never a clear answer, but. Length of time that you need to be fasted to really be able to trigger autophagy, Mitophagy, like, you know, you see people say, oh, it's, it's the, when you, when you eat during an eight hour window, that's you will do it.
Then you see other people go, no, you have to be fasted for three days. Do have you, what have you seen in the research?
Ari Whitten: So I would say both of the people you just described are wrong. [00:38:00] The, the reality is that autophagy is not actually an on off switch in the way that you kind of just alluded to the, from those, the frames of those people presenting those kinds of claims.
It makes
JJ Virgin: much more sense that way. Kinda like the fuel system of the body. And people think, oh, I'm in fat burning. I'm like, yeah, okay, I'm doing Exactly.
Ari Whitten: You knows, like exactly. So like, yeah, it's similar to that, right? Like, are you a car burner? Are you fat burner? Your cells are, are burning carbs and fats all the time.
And you, you can, you can influence the proportions, but they're still gonna be burning. Even if you eat zero carbs, you're still gonna be burning carbs. So anyway, the, the same is true here. We are always going into some degree of autophagy and some degree of mitophagy. And it, it's always present. Let's say if the capacity is a hundred percent, like fully switched on maximal autophagy mode Let's say most people might be dipping into 20, 30, [00:39:00] 40% of that on a daily basis where you want to be dipping into more like 80, 90, 100 percent on a daily basis.
I'm just making up numbers here, but just to illustrate the point that this is a matter of, of degrees, not an on off switch. So for example, exercise stimulates autophagy. What doesn't
JJ Virgin: exercise do when you really look at like, you know, it's, it's just so, it's amazing, isn't it? Like the single biggest thing that makes the biggest difference in every area of your health that people don't do.
Ari Whitten: So, so but where we max it out, where we really get deep into it is when we have a prolonged fasting window and we're sleeping.
JJ Virgin: That's, and the prolonged and fasting window is, is how prolonged.
Ari Whitten: Again, so it's a matter of degrees, right? So if we, if we fast for just 12 hours overnight, or let's say 14 or 16 hours, cuz I recommend a six to 10 hour feeding window.
And that's kind [00:40:00] of the, the, the first key strategy that I recommend to optimize the peripheral clocks in mitochondrial function in all these tissues via nutritional inputs, six to 10 hour eating window. That equates to 18 to 14 hour fasting window. And, and
JJ Virgin: the deal with that is anyone can do a 10 hour eating window.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. This is not extreme. This is so simple. A lot of people interpret this as extreme. This is, this is like, you're, you're eating from 8:00 AM to 6:00 AM or you're eating, it's 10, 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM Like, this is not extreme. It's,
JJ Virgin: it's actually what we used to do. Like exactly when I was growing up, that's what you did.
You know, you had breakfast and then you came home and you had dinner and you stopped eating.
Ari Whitten: Exactly. This is not extreme. Now, you didn't, you could argue a six, a six hour is like tough for a lot of people to confine all they're eating to six hours, but 10 hours is not, and it's also the case that six isn't necessarily better than 10.
It depends on the individual. So somebody who is more overweight and sedentary, I might suggest moving in [00:41:00] the direction of more like six. Somebody who's lean and very physically active needs more energy to fuel all the physical activity and to recover from it. And maybe more like 10 hours is actually better for them, I would argue.
So anyway, the, so if you've got, let's say a 14, 16 hour fasting window and you're sinking it up to the hours of darkness, well. And you, you know, like, well, I'll just leave it at that for now without introducing other variables. But just, just that alone is certainly enough to get you deep into autophagy every night.
Now, the, there, there is a question and there's, the research is, I would say still incomplete on this question, but there is a question of is there any real additional benefit of doing three day or five day full fast versus doing let's say 16 hour nightly fasting windows every night. And the research that we have thus far is not.
Conclusive, but we are getting, [00:42:00] we're stimulating plenty of autophagy and mitophagy. In both ways. It's probably the case that there's some kind of additional benefits, mobilization of stem cells, who knows what, what it is with the prolonged fasting. But as of now, we don't have good answers to that question.
But to, to answer your question, we certainly stimulate autophagy to a very high degree when we are doing a 14 or 16 hour fasting window. Particularly if we're also people who exercise and we're adding that into the mix.
JJ Virgin: That's exciting. Cuz I can't do even a one meal a day . Yeah. I can't pull up, but, you know, I'm 14% body fat and I've got, like, I just went and did my DEXA and my, like, did a a, a metabolism test and all that and I'm like, I just super fast metabolism.
I've got a lot of, of muscle mass and I have to eat at least twice a day. Yeah,
Ari Whitten: that's it. 100%. Yeah. [00:43:00] I eat in, in like about a nine or 10. Feeding
JJ Virgin: That's, that is my favorite thing to do. Sometimes on the weekend we'll do eight. Mm-hmm. , but 10 is like super duper easy, you know? Yeah. It's just, and it gets you, it is such a clear winner to not eat, you know, to, to eat an early dinner and to shut it down.
That like, is so obvious and sleep and everything else. Totally. But I found when I was delaying breakfast and pushing it later that I was, my workouts were sacrificing
Ari Whitten: mm-hmm. , so, you know. So let me, let me quickly give an overview of some of these other nutritional factors and then I wanna loop into the question I didn't answer at the beginning.
JJ Virgin: How do we test to see if our mitochondria are healthy, cuz I have it written down here, starred and asterisk so you're not getting off without that.
Ari Whitten: Okay, cool. So, okay, so some of the other nutritional layers to this number one body composition, which you were just speaking to. And this, this is also tying directly into this mitochondrial energy production story.
When we are over fat, we produce, I won't get into the, all the physiology for the sake [00:44:00] of brevity here cuz I know we gotta wrap up soon. We produce chronic low-grade inflammation. The inflammatory signals themselves are interpreted by mitochondria as a danger signal, so just having excess body. Is actually a signal to your mitochondria to, to decrease energy
JJ Virgin: production.
Well, here's what I'd love to hear from you. Cause I'm, this is my next book I'm working on is all around this and it's interesting, the body composition norms that I learned when I was in grad school 35 years ago are totally different than the ones now. And I'm like, wait a minute, we got fatter. And you know, it's like all of a sudden higher body fat is considered healthy now where it wasn't before.
Right. So what do you look at as norms for men and women for healthy body fat ranges?
Ari Whitten: That's a good question. You know, honestly, I haven't spent much time looking at that literature and, and many years since I was more like, and it's,
JJ Virgin: it's pretty crazy. Yeah. I think it also needs to be based on not percentages as much as it needs to be based on absolute pounds relative [00:45:00] to frame size.
So I, you know, I'm, I'm, I'm now deep in that rabbit hole
Ari Whitten: of craziness. Yeah. Well, and, and as you know, like as somebody yourself who is muscular and very lean, that. You know, sometimes the, when you do BMI measurements, it, it does, it's not a good reflection. Like I, I think I'm overweight by that classification.
But anyway, the, the percentages for men I think are, I, I, I would be just going off memory here that I haven't looked at this stuff in years, but I think it's under 18% or something is, is healthy.
JJ Virgin: Yeah. So, so you're doing it based back when you were in kinesiology. Okay. . And you would be horrified now to see what they've shifted.
Cuz I think we're doing really people a disservice because excess body fat, like you just described, I mean, it's like, you know, is, is equals inflammation. Yeah. And you know, it's, it's crazy to be able to say, Hey, you know, a man 20 percent's totally fine. Which is where it's at right now. 25% for women, 20% for men.
And I'm like, Yeah, . Yeah. So [00:46:00] it's just not, it's not fair to give misinformation out to the public because, you know, you can't, I, I, what I'm really looking at is in order to, to be, to most people come to me, of course, you know, for weight loss, but you lose weight to get healthy. You don't, or, or you, or I'm sorry.
You get healthy to lose weight. You don't lose weight to get healthy. You have to have a healthy body. A healthy body will burn off, stored fat and reduce inflammation. You focus on the things you needed to get healthy and your body will respond by, you know, improving body composition. So it's one of my frustrating things when we have information that's making these things.
Okay. And, and I'm not saying to, to shame people. I'm saying this to get us to really be able to look at markers so we can be our healthiest, you know?
Ari Whitten: Right. Because that's, and there's, there's a whole and there's a whole movement there, there's a movement within. Some researcher, actual researchers, obesity researchers who have made these arguments to to state that being overweight is, is compatible with [00:47:00] metabolic health, is not necessarily unhealthy.
And, and they're certainly a, a huge culture now emerging that is trying to normalize obesity as being perfectly healthy or being beautiful and, and these kinds of things. And it's, I don't, I don't, I think ,
JJ Virgin: it's not vanity. It's like, it's let's talk health. I mean, if you, it's, this is not about whether you feel good, you know, feeling good about yourself or whatever.
I'm just purely talking what's healthiest for you and for
Ari Whitten: your body. Right. And and I agree, I don't care to comment on the cultural aesthetic aspects. Whatever somebody finds beautiful subjectively, whatever, it's up to them. But purely from a physiology perspective, what we know is that being overweight is, Unhealthy period.
Having excess body fat is unhealthy. The nuance here is that every individual has what's called a personal fat threshold, which is their particular level of capacity. Of for excess body fat. At [00:48:00] which point when they exceed that capacity, they start to experience the negative metabolic health effects of having excess body fat.
Mainly insulin resistance and all of the harms that come from that. And there are many which we could talk about. And they tie into the, the energy story of how mitochondria produce energy blood sugar dysregulation, hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia. These, these are major drivers of mitochondrial dysfunction and mitochondrial shutdown and poor energy levels.
And they relate directly to the major cause of that, of insulin resistance. Isn't consumption of carbs, it is actually the accumulation of excess body fat. And when the, those, those, those fat cells balloon up like a balloon, they can only expand so much before they become leaky and dysfunctional. And. You can't grow that many more fat cells.
At a certain point, they all start to dysfunction. They can't take up the excess energy as well. That's floating around in your, in your body. And, and [00:49:00] because the excess energy itself that's in your bloodstream is cytotoxic and myotoxic, meaning if that, especially blood sugar was allowed to get in the cell in an uncontrolled way, it would damage the cell parts, it would damage the mitochondria.
So as a protective mechanism, as an intelligent mechanism to this chronic energy excess in the bloodstream, the cell protects itself by becoming insulin resistant to shield itself from the damage. So this is, and that's the state when fat cells, when the personal fat threshold has been exceeded and fat cells can't do their job of soaking up that energy excess, excessive they can't do it well enough.
So, When that's happening, when you exceed that personal fat threshold, that's when all the harms start to occur. Now the the nuance here is it's possible to find individuals who have a high personal fat threshold, who have. [00:50:00] From the, from the outside, lots of fat on their body. But when you measure their blood sugar levels and their insulin resistance and their blood pressure and their, you know, triglycerides and their cholesterol and all these, these markers, you don't see the negative health effects that we associate with overweight and obesity.
And it's you so you can find exceptions to this rule. Yeah,
JJ Virgin: I'm saying, and those are the George
Ari Whitten: Burns Exactly. Similarly, you can find people who have a very low personal fat threshold and who on the surface appear just like, okay, maybe they have a little bit of fat on their belly or whatever, but they're, you definitely wouldn't call them fat, but they're already starting to experience insulin resistance.
And I wonder if that
JJ Virgin: we looked at their body fat, we'd find those people have more visceral adipose tissue that the fat they do have is just more around their organs and the other people have more fat that's subcutaneous. So it's not as damaging
Ari Whitten: that that's a part of it. And it's also just individual [00:51:00] variability, individual differences in their personal fat threshold.
Some people have a very low, ones more fat
JJ Virgin: and they can
Ari Whitten: handle more and yeah, you know, just like there, there are genetic differences in like the skin's tolerance to how much sun you can get from, some people can tolerate hours a day, some people can't tolerate three minutes, right? Same is true with how much fat.
A person's body can tolerate having, while still maintaining health and there are big differences there as well.
JJ Virgin: So then would the way to really look at mitochondrial health be to extrapolate it from looking at insulin resistance? Like how are we looking at, looping back to that, how do we know if you're mitochondrial are healthy?
How do we know if you're triggering that mitophagy and getting rid of the old cells? How do we know if you've got renewed refreshed mitochondria?
Ari Whitten: Okay, so you, the presence of insulin resistance is, is basically a guarantee that mitochondrial damage is occurring. And how would
JJ Virgin: you define insulin resistance?
How would someone know if they
Ari Whitten: have it? You would know if you have insulin resistance by measuring [00:52:00] fasting blood sugar levels and hemoglobin a1c. Okay. And so these are standard blood test measurements that you go get when you get a go to a doctor
JJ Virgin: And I would look at insulin itself as well cuz quite often Yeah those look okay when your insulin's sliding up.
Yes. You know, and it's keeping, those ones still looking okay as insulin goes up first.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. So I was like to look at all three. Yeah. And, and as you're saying, and there's even other tests that one can get to look at this in a more in-depth way, but honestly, fasting blood sugar and hemoglobin a1c will, will tell you like the majority of the story, even those basic standard blood tests tell you a lot about your state of insulin resistance.
So that's, so you, you can extrapolate in that direction saying if you've got insulin resistance, you know that you've got some accumulation of mitochondrial damage. But that's not a sort of direct bidirectional way where you could say the health of your mitochondria is purely a function of your insulin resistance status doesn't work like that.
So, testing of mitochondria multiple layers here, there are many [00:53:00] different types of tests. There's an a t p profile test that's been developed by some researchers. There's a mito swab test. There's organic acids testing from urine that gives you some indication of nutrient deficiencies and carnitine deficiency and things like that.
So there, there's a number of tests that give you sort of a picture of some, to some degree of what's going on at the mitochondria. But I would argue that this is very complete incomplete. Here's why. There's another layer to this story that's really important. We, many studies have shown now that we lose about 10% of our mitochondrial capacity with each decade of life.
That maybe doesn't sound like that much, but here's what it amounts to. The average 70 year old person has lost 75% of their mitochondrial capacity, and the actual, now they're
JJ Virgin: exercising, could they make that way less or is that just gonna happen?
Ari Whitten: You're too smart for your own good, jj. So I'll get, I'll answer [00:54:00] that in a second.
So, the, the, the the way that this actually breaks down is people lose 50% of their mitochondria, like of the actual number of mitochondria. And, and each mitochondria becomes 50% less capable of producing energy. So this is basic, 75% is not a small number of folks. This is like, this is a huge deal. So this is like going from a Ferrari engine in your cells when you're young to a moped engine, when you're, when you're 70.
Like this is a big, big deal. And you're not going to be energetic when you're 70 if you've got a moped engine in your cells. And this is why chronic fatigue is such an epidemic, especially among older people. It's one in three adults over the age of 60 suffers from severe debilitating chronic fatigue.
And, and it's normalized. It's normalized. It's totally normalized. So here's the thing to answer your question. . The good news is this is not actually a normal natural byproduct of the aging process that is supposed to occur. We know this Western world creation. [00:55:00] Yeah, we know this because when we look at 70 year olds who are lifelong exercisers, they have the same mitochondrial capacity as young adults.
They do not lose 75% of their mitochondrial capacity
JJ Virgin: now. And does it have to be aerobic exercise? I mean, you know, everything's got an aerobic component, but does it, is, is it specific to a certain type of exercise or does it all work?
Ari Whitten: You have so many good questions. We're gonna
JJ Virgin: be here all day, like you're not , so we'll definitely do a part two.
Let, let me
Ari Whitten: let, let me tell you how they test this. . They take a big hollow needle and they jab it into your thigh and they Oh no. Make a chunk of tissue out who
JJ Virgin: volunteers for those cell muscle cell biopsies. Who
Ari Whitten: does that? Yeah. And, and they literally put the chunk of tissue under a microscope and they count the number of mitochondria and they do test to assess the energy production capacity.
Wow. So all those other tests I mentioned before, the organic acid test that tell you if you're deficient in acetylcarnitine or B vitamins or you know, the mito swab test, [00:56:00] the, ATB profile test. None of those tests actually tell you whether you've got a Ferrari engine in your cells or a moped engine in your cells.
And it's only via a biopsy that we can assess that. And most people don't want a biopsy. Yeah. That's
JJ Virgin: that doesn't sound pleasant. I just wonder, could a VO2 max give you any indicator?
Ari Whitten: That's another good question. Dr. Frank Shallenberger is doing some, he's developed a test, I forget what he calls it.
But he's developed a number of labs across the country that do a test that relates to VO2 max and relates to respiratory quotient, the proportion of carbs and fats that are being utilized by the mitochondria to produce energy. I think they put you on a treadmill test. They measure a few things and they, they sort of, he extrapolates mitochondrial health based on that.
It's, so all of these things
JJ Virgin: went all the way through grad school, avoiding, like we had to do with the Wingate tests and we do all that stuff on each other. And I always avoided being the one doing the VO2 max. I'm like, oh, hell no. I don't
Ari Whitten: wanna do that. Yeah. Or the lactate threshold where they have to prick your [00:57:00] finger as you approach your,
JJ Virgin: your no, no, no, no.
I don't wanna do that. I wish I had though. I'm kind of upset with myself, but I totally still don't wanna do
Ari Whitten: it. So, so the what was the other thing you just asked me? You asked me another good question. Oh, the type of exercise. Hormetic stress in general. Define that. I'm going, I'm gonna, I'm gonna be here all day if I go there.
Define that.
JJ Virgin: Well, just very clearly. And then we'll make we'll, we'll, we'll, we'll leave everyone with a cliff hanger and you'll come
Ari Whitten: back. . I'll, I'll an very briefly, instead of going into a whole thing I was listening to a podcast with a exercise physiologist named Inigo son Milan recently, and he said something interesting that actually affected me very strongly.
He said that he, so this is, he tests in his lab what he frames as two ends of the metabolic spectrum. Obese diabetics on one end representing poor metabolic health, and on the other end, endurance athletes and who he frames as, as sort of being the picture of perfect metabolic health. How, how a metabolism should function and how mitochondria should function.
One [00:58:00] of the things that he said that affected me very strongly is he said that when he tests athletes that who are pure weightlifters and power and speed athletes, they only do weightlifting and they only do high intensity interval training that they often don't have nearly as good of metabolic health as the endurance athletes do.
And but
JJ Virgin: those endurance athletes would've more oxidative stress
Ari Whitten: depending on how they do the, the, the endurance potentially. Okay. So
JJ Virgin: and they'd have less muscle mass, right? It seems like you just would wanna do
Ari Whitten: all of it. Okay. So where you're coming from now is where I've come from for 20, 20, 20 years because the whole culture in, in the fitness industry has been cardio's a, a big bunch, a waste of time, and it doesn't do anything for fat loss.
And you can get much better results by just doing weight training and high intensity interval training. Now here's the,
JJ Virgin: here's what's interesting about that. 40 years ago, it was entirely different. When I first got in the field, everything was about long, slow distance, [00:59:00] lots of cardio, never lift a weight until you've lost the weight.
All of that. I started looking at everything going, this doesn't make sense. Right? And you know, what I've come to is you gotta do the resistance training, you need to do some hit training, you need to do some just aerobic training, and you need to do some kind of mindful moving, stability, flexibility training.
Like yeah. Those are the four that you need to do.
Ari Whitten: I, I agree. I agree with that framework. And to be even more specific what Iñigo San Millán, this exercise physiologist has found, is that the most important place to spend your time as far as exercise for metabolic health, and this is different from fat loss, right?
Like if you are talking to an obese person or an overweight person, Hey, I've, I wanna lose 20 pounds, I wanna lose 50 pounds. We say, what do we say? Like you and me would say focus on nutrition. Number one, focus on weight training to build and preserve muscle mass, and then add in some high intensity interval training, we would say.
And, and kind of the [01:00:00] culture again has been the shift in the last 20 years, as you just said. You know, sort of grounding it in this rhetorical context is the, the culture has been, oh, cardio's a waste of time. It doesn't really help so much with fat loss, nutrition, weight training, high intensity interval training is where it's at.
But for metabolic health, for longevity, for mitochondrial function, it is looking more and more like endurance activity and particularly zone two cardio, which is, which correlates with the heart rate zone, the, the intensity level. That is our, what's called our fat max, our maximum intensity, where we're still burning predominantly fat before the energy system switched to glycolytic energy systems before we start burning mostly carbs.
So zone two cardio, it's like 60 to 70% of your maximum heart rate, and that zone is where you get maximum [01:01:00] stimulation, maximum adaptation of the mitochondria. And to ground this in some specific facts that kind of relate to the, the, some of the stats that I just mentioned about the average 70 year old lacking 75% of their mitochondrial capacity from when they were young.
The endurance athletes compared to the obese diabetics have three to 400% more mitochondria in each cell of their holy muscles.
JJ Virgin: Holy smokes. And the zone two cardio training. What's the prescription? If that was, you know, if you're doing the other stuff too, what would it be like three times a week? Do we have a bell shaped curve of like, what's the sweet.
Ari Whitten: you asked such good questions. So I'm
JJ Virgin: working on a book that I've been like, this is the stuff I've been digging into so much. So
Ari Whitten: yeah, it's, so it depends, like on the individual, if they're totally unfit for that type of activity Right. Got so much easier. Right. Everything works. Yeah, exactly. So we, we would prescribe like, hey, you know, get started with a few minutes every other [01:02:00] day sort of thing, like five to 10 minutes of this type of activity.
But the, the ideal where we're shooting to get to is three to five days a week that we do somewhere at least about a half an hour each session, if not more, like an hour per day. So three to five days a week.
JJ Virgin: And, you know, it used to be, and I'm gonna let you go up to this, and we're so scheduling more time, but it used to be that I was like, all right, you know, 15 minutes a day you can do it.
And, and I look at this now and I go, you have to make the time for this. You ca this, these are not like, Don't hack the fundamentals. The fundamentals of eating correctly, getting the, getting your sleep dialed and exercising and doing something for stress. Some meditation, some like tomorrow I do my yoga and sound bowls.
Like this is huge transformation for me. Like you can't hack that. Do not hack that. You have to do that. You know, it's like this whole, I don't have time. Yes, you do. Get off social. Put that down, put Netflix down, [01:03:00] you know, and go do that stuff. You have to do this. This is what you have to do to have an amazing, healthy, fabulous life.
So, totally, and I
Ari Whitten: will, I will also say you don't even have to, for the zone two cardio, like this is something that you could hop on a stationary bike and still watch Netflix. Literally, you can enjoy yourself without putting down the Netflix or without, you know, like you can put on a podcast, you can read a book, what, whatever you just, you're hop on a bike or whatever, and you're, or you're go for a jog and you're, you're listening to a podcast or something like that.
It can be combined with other, can be learning. With learning. That's when I
JJ Virgin: can only read my, I have like, I have a StairMaster and a Peloton, and for the StairMaster, that's when I get to read dumb novels. Mm-hmm. , that's it on the StairMaster. Yeah. So I make myself, that's how I make myself do it. Cause I really love those stupid novels, but I would never do it anywhere else.
It's like, you know, . Anyway. Oh my gosh, this has been so good. I'm so glad you have some, some [01:04:00] stuff to give away and you are gonna be giving away. What's the, what is the webinar
Ari Whitten: on breathing for Energy? So this is, in my opinion, the, the single fastest way that I've found in like 27 years now of studying health science, the single fastest way I've found to increase energy levels in people who are struggling with fatigue.
JJ Virgin: it makes such a diff My son Grant does, this is like a Wim Hoff insane now. Mm-hmm. You know, we just got out of another, our fifth Dr. Joe Dispenza retreat and it's like, he's just like, do the breath, you know, , there's no way getting around it. It does totally make such a difference. Awesome. That's fantastic.
I know you're also gonna give a guide on supplements for energy, so I'm gonna put those at jjjvirgin.com/arienergy cuz you can all remember that one. Right. jjvirgin.com/arienergy. I got through like, I don't know, three of the questions I was gonna ask you, , and then, but we've really got into some stuff that we've never talked about before.
[01:05:00] That's been so great. So thank you. I
Ari Whitten: loved, I loved where you took the conversation. Well, you come back, please. Of course. Please. I'm always happy to, to have conversations with you, my friend. Awesome. Thank
JJ Virgin: you. Thank you. I super appreciate it.
For more info on this and other health topics I cover or to rate and review, find me on Instagram, Facebook, and my website jjvirgin.com. And don't forget to subscribe to my show so you won't miss a single episode. Go to subscribetojj.com. Thanks again for being with me this week.


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