Amazing Keto & Fasting Facts with Mark Sisson

Amazing Keto & Fasting Facts with Mark Sisson

July 25, 2019 52 By William Morgan


I’m Mark Sisson. I’m a former endurance
athlete, turned researcher in the health
and wellness field. I have a blog called,
Mark’s Daily Apple, where in I espouse a
lifestyle based on an evolutionary
principle. The basic goal of this blog
and all of the books that I’ve written,
are to improve metabolic flexibility and
that is really the essence of what I
teach people. It’s basically how to
become really good at burning fat and to
become less reliant on glucose.
So you started as an athlete. How old
were you when you began?
I was 12 when I began. I really- I started
at a very early age with an eye
toward- literally toward improving my health
and my longevity. If you can believe that.
At 12 years old?
At 12 years old I started thinking about
what it would take to live longer.
From those ages of 12, 13, 14, I read all
the books I could get my hands on that
had to do with health and longevity. I
started running because Ken Cooper had
written a book called, Aerobics, which
indicated that the more aerobic activity
you did, the better it was for your heart.
And the better your heart was, the longer
you’d live. So I went down this path of
pursuing longevity and performance, which
morphed into my becoming a top endurance
athlete through college. And then after
college, ultimately doing marathons and
triathlons. And ironically, through this
pursuit of performance and becoming a
faster runner, I realized I was
sacrificing the health and longevity
that I had originally sought.
– You were performing at this incredible rate, but
you weren’t- you were breaking down on
the inside. What were you noticing?
What was going on?
So in order to put in the inordinate number
of miles to become a top endurance
athlete, I had to find a way to fuel that
activity. And the conventional wisdom of
the day was to fill with lots of
carbohydrate. To take in lots of pasta
and cereal and bread and even some
sugary drinks. There are a lot of sports
drinks that were coming on the market
then, but the idea was that, that your
entire athletic performance was
hinged on the access to
carbohydrates. Whether it was glycogen
stored in the muscles or whether it was
your exhaustion as feeding of
carbohydrate.
During your training and your
activities or your
races. So through the years
of taking in vast quantities
of carbohydrate, I recognized that I was
putting in a lot of miles, but I was
starting to become inflamed throughout
my body. I started to have arthritis in
my feet, tendonitis in my hips, I had
irritable bowel syndrome that dictated
pretty much every move I made throughout
the day. I had upper respiratory tract
infections several times a year.
Lingering sinus infections. It was crazy
that I was trying to be this picture of
health and on the outside if you looked
at me and I was on the cover of runners
world magazine three times. And you know
I looked every bit the fit athlete. But
on the inside, I really was falling apart.
I really was destroying my health. I’d
read a lot about anti-nutrients and
grains and the gluten in particular and
phytates. And you know, made intellectual
sense to me as a scientist. But as a
person who was still trying to perform
on a national and sometimes a world
stage as an endurance athlete, I couldn’t.
I couldn’t just stop eating those foods.
So I was kind of caught up in this
cognitive dissonance, if you will, which
lasted a few years. And it really wasn’t
until, you know, I kind of reached the end
of my rope as an endurance athlete and
said, “I’m literally have- my arthritis is
so bad that I can’t continue to train at
the level that I need to. My gut is
falling apart from the IBS that I was
suffering from. Eventually I developed
arthritis in my in my hands and fingers.
Wow.
and I thought you know, this just isn’t
right. And I literally did a 30-day
elimination experiment where
I chose to not eat grains for 30 days.
And it was a huge epiphany for me. Within
30 days, you know, my IBS went away. My
arthritis of my fingertips went away,
eventually there are the osteoarthritis
in my feet went away. Some of the
lingering systemic inflammatory
signs that I had subsided. And I
thought, “Wow! This is just crazy. That, that
I have defended my right to eat this
particular type of food just because I
thought that was the way it was. That I
had to have large quantities of
carbohydrates in order to perform at my
peak. And that was really the sort of the
the moment at which I realized that that
carbs weren’t the beyond the end-all of
fueling for athletic performance and it
may be that carbs weren’t even that
necessary to thrive in a normal
lifestyle. So to understand the power of
the choices that we make when we eat
certain types of food. That’s really what
incentivized me to start my blog, Mark’s
Daily Apple, to start writing books about
this power that we have to flip on
certain genes that allow us to build
muscle or that allow us to burn fat, and
turn off those genes that cause us to, to
develop type 2 diabetes, or to store
excessive amounts of fat, or to suppress
the immune system. This incredible power
that we have to manifest ourselves to
rebuild, renew, regenerate, recreate
ourselves literally minute by minute, day
by day, simply based on the inputs that
we give our genes, which in turn are
based on the lifestyle choices that we
make. So we go back and we looked at the
question of well, wait a minute. A lot of,
a lot of the marketing around grains had
to do with an excellent source of fiber.
What if you take away the grains? Well it
turns out nothing bad happens as long as
you consume vegetables and maybe some
starchy, you know tubers once in a while,
and some fruit once in a while. And if
you do that in a way that mimics an
ancestral pattern, that is eat like a
caveman, you’re providing plenty of
substrate for those healthy gut bacteria.
My main sort of theme right now is
developing robust metabolic flexibility.
So I try to develop metabolic
flexibility and metabolic efficiency. The
flexibility means that you’re able to
extract energy from different substrates
within your body. You can extract energy
from fat if fat is present.
Whether that’s from food on your
plate or whether that’s
from fat stored, you know on your
belly, your butt, thighs,
whatever. It means that you can extract the
energy from the ketones that you make by
having become fat adapted and keto
adapted. So the liver makes ketones which
become a replacement for glucose.
Metabolic flexibility means that you
burn even carbohydrate glucose when it’s
available much more efficiently. So you
don’t throw off the reactive oxygen
species that you would if you were just
good at burning- burning sugars. So this
metabolic flexibility comes into play in
an ordinary person’s life because you
wind up going through the day burning
lots and lots of stored body fat. You can
go a long period of time without having
to eat or without being hungry. Most
people will find, particularly athletes,
will find that they can get 80% of the
benefits of being keto adapted within
three weeks.
Within three weeks.
Now it takes another three or four weeks to
become another 10% adapted. So now you
can get 90% of your sort of maximum
possible shift in energy over over six
to eight weeks.
The next 10% takes probably in some, in
some athletes as much as a year. That’s
the real kind of sticking point for a
lot of athletes who aren’t willing to
sacrifice an entire season of maybe not
performing quite as well as they did
when they were sugar burner, to get to
that point where they’re gonna be better
than they were. And so that’s a huge
sacrifice to add to require a lot of
athletes. When you become really good at
burning fat, it doesn’t mean that you
sacrifice your ability to burn glucose.
You still have this ability to burn
glucose, but now you have the capacity to
burn fat efficiently, and glucose, and
ketones. And almost most importantly, you
tend to now be disinclined to be burning
protein as a fuel source. And that’s one
of the major issues that a lot of
athletes have. When you’re a sugar burner,
when you are an athlete who’s been
carbohydrate dependent your entire life,
and you start to go to the “well.” You
start to dig deep, you start to go to
that point where you’re just about to
hit the wall. Some of the things that
happened within the body are the body’s
natural fight or flight syndrome kicking
in. This would be again, where you know
the brain is telling us to run, run fast.
– Right.
We don’t have much sugar left, so
we’re gonna have to enter this
gluconeogenesis phase where we
try to summon all of these
different resources to make more glucose.
And in the case of an athlete who’s
been so sugar dependent
that, that’s the
only source of fuel that they know.
Literally, the brain sends a signal to
the adrenal glands to create cortisol.
Cortisol is a stress hormone that then
literally looks for opportunities
throughout the body to tear down muscle
tissue, and send the amino acids that it
gets from tearing down the muscle tissue
to the liver, so that the liver can
convert it to glucose, so that the
glucose can be used to fuel the brain.
That’s not a good situation to begin and
yet, that’s ultimately what happens to a
lot of endurance athletes who go to the
“well” as we say. Who dig so deeply that
they’re forcing their body to tear down
this muscle protein. Now if you’re an
athlete, muscle is like- that’s the thing
that (- Absolutely!) you know then you’re
kind of counting on to retain and to
make you more powerful and, and more
efficient. So losing muscle through this
emergency gluconeogenesis process
is not a good thing.
It’s assumed by every endurance athlete
up to now, that it’s sort of a natural
state of being. It’s why most endurance
athletes have skinny arms and not a lot
of muscle mass on them, because they’re
sacrificing that muscle tissue all the
time in order to create this glucose to
feed the brain. Now if you shift over to
becoming fat adapted, and you become
really good at burning fat, you build a
metabolic machinery to burn fat. And you
build a metabolic machinery to make
ketones at a high rate and to burn those
ketones at a high rate. Several new kind
of concepts enter the picture. One of
which, is that when you are in ketosis or
when you’re creating ketones, ketones are
an epigenetic signaling device. They
actually cause the genes to turn on or
off. And so the presence of
beta-hydroxybutyrate will for instance,
cause this up regulation of genes that
spare protein. So normally when you would
have had taken in any amount of protein
in excess, the body will find a way to
either store it as muscle, to kind of
keep the amino acids within a certain-
what we call an amino acid
saying throughout the body or deaminate
them and you lose them in your urine
when you enter ketosis and you start
making these ketones
there’s a there’s a recognition by the
body that we have to be very
conservative about how we allocate these
amino acids so let’s not DM innate them
and pee them out right let’s not burn
them for fuel let’s just save them for
for the building of proteins and perhaps
the building of the repair certain
proteins certain cells shoring up the of
the immune system or things like that
it’s a very a new sort of concept that’s
just the end of this picture the idea
that by cutting carbs down so low that
you can create this epigenetic
signalling device that causes the body
to spare protein it’s almost
counterintuitive because you think if
you’re a bodybuilder can I build or
maintain muscle mass on a very low carb
diet on a keto diet right and the answer
is yes you can partly because of this
protein sparing effect we don’t really
need that much protein the fact that we
can take in excessive amounts of protein
has kind of been a you know a nice side
effect of a bodybuilders diet who wants
to consume you know they want to consume
three four or five thousand calories a
day and you sort of have to consume a
lot of protein to get that there’s also
that assumption that the more protein
that I consume the more muscle I can
build the reality is first of all that
you don’t need that much protein to
build muscle most of muscle building
occurs as a result of the work that you
do the challenge that you give your
muscles in the gym and then the amount
of rest that you give them and then
ultimately it’s how much testosterone
you produced as a result of that workout
growth hormone things like that in that
large complex equation the amount of
protein isn’t that significant where we
get into trouble and now is with a lot
of people saying well you know you got
to take one gram of protein for every
pound of bodyweight or whatever it turns
out the body can’t really process that
much protein it can’t use it much
protein it could process it but it can
it tries to find ways to get rid of it
you can lose it in the urine it can
build up to sometimes toxic levels
within the bloodstream so we don’t need
that much protein there are some
research now that suggests that 35 45
grams a day is sufficient for most
people who don’t train for men and women
for men and women Wow
I’m not suggesting that people go that
low but that’s sort of a subsistence
level mm-hmm side I don’t think that
there are many people who could process
efficiently and effectively more than
120 hundred 30 grams of protein in a day
excessive amounts of protein can be sent
to the liver again to become glucose so
excess protein can become sugar if
that’s what you want then go for it but
that’s not necessarily the best or most
appropriate use of protein in your diet
we’re designed to eat a lot of food our
brains are wired to eat a lot of food
now luckily for us when we eat a lot of
food we gain fat we gain we gain that we
store that excess energy as fat I say
luckily for us from an evolutionary
concept because today most people are
still really good at storing fat but if
you if you go back thousands of years
hundreds of thousands of years millions
of years food wasn’t available three
times a day food was available once in a
while sometimes once and then not for
two or three days so this wiring that we
have in our in our brains today that
wants us to overeat because there may
not be another meal for a while we still
have that wiring we’ve become so adept
at storing fat while our ancestors were
also adept at just taking that fat off
storage and using it for fuel the next
day and the next day until the next
source of food came along but the goal
really is metabolic flexibility the goal
is to be become really good at burning
fat and to become so efficient that you
don’t need to eat a lot of food so the
idea that our ancestors might have been
in ketosis is a little bit of a misnomer
they would have been making ketones but
they would have been so metabolically
flexible flexible that they would have
only been making enough ketones to
supply the brain with the fuel it needed
to stay cognitive and and aware and and
happy and upbeat and on focus for
finding the next amount of fuel a fat
adapted
Kito adapted individual today or a
million years ago is an individual who
whose muscles derived most of their
energy from that from fat mm-hmm who
don’t require a lot of glucose for those
muscles until the energy expenditure
requirements get way way up there like
90 95 97 percent of max capacity up
until that point most of the energy
comes from from stored fat now you know
we can always look back and and say well
if I’d known then what I know now
sure and in my case a lot of what I know
now because I learned it the hard way is
more valuable to right and to the rest
of us right like what you’ve been
through that experience as as an
endurance athlete all of those
experiences those nuances is what
enables us to learn okay it’s about the
metabolic flexibility yeah and like
going back to the to the caveman
question about how does that metabolic
flexibility manifest itself you know you
have a day where there’s food and you
tend to overeat and then you have a day
or two or three where you don’t eat but
then you come across say a supply of
berries or a supply of fruit now fruit
is probably one of the quickest ways to
not only restore glycogen in the body
but also the fructose which is the sugar
part of the fruit becomes triglycerides
which is stored as fat so fruit gets
stored as fat now from an evolutionary
context it’s like wow this is so cool
because I’m eating this sweet food my
brain is telling me to over eat it I
know that my body is storing the excess
calories as fat I know that I’ll be able
to use those excess calories I’m
basically carrying a fuel tank around
with me I’m and by the way I’m a million
years ago so I’m not thinking about the
cover of shape magazine or anything else
I’m just thinking about survival
so this metabolic flexibility says when
there’s food available I can extract
energy from the food I can I can store
some of the excess calories as food when
there’s food not available I can take
some of that stored energy that I put on
my body and in the form of body fat I
can use it as as energy as an energy
source and I can go about my life as if
nothing were bad or nothing were out of
whack it’s just part of a normal
lifestyle to not eat for long periods of
time but to have access to all this
energy that’s been stored in glycogen in
the muscles or in fat on my body and not
worry about losing muscle mass because
one of the effects of being this
metabolically flexible beast is that I’m
so good now at sparing protein I’m not
wasting protein so it doesn’t take that
much protein I can go long periods of
time without eating and not lose much if
anything in the way of muscle mass now
this translates to today when we talk
about long periods of fasting right you
know historically at least in the United
States fasting has kind of been looked
on as inadvisable for people because you
lose so much muscle mass when you don’t
eat for four days and it takes you a
long time to get that muscle back and
we’re also sort of faced with things
like the Biggest Loser where we see
people who who lose a hundred pounds you
know in some short period of time
largely because they’ve cut their
calories way way back and then they’ve
increased the amount of exercise that
they that they expend to try and burn
off more calories and yes they lose a
hundred pounds but then they gain it
back over time because they’ve they’ve
they’ve kind of sabotage the whole
process they’ve actually burned their
their muscle away so there’s this
assumption that if you fast for long
periods of time
you’ll lose muscle and that’s a bad
thing and it is a bad thing to lose
muscle but if you’re a sugar burner and
you fast that is what happens but if you
become fat and keto adapted again you
enter this new space of now when I
choose not to eat for three days four
days five days I have all the energy I
need because everybody’s got a certain
amount of stored energy on in the form
of body fat I don’t lose muscle mass
because I’ve got that epigenetic
signaling effect of the ketones that’s
going to spare the protein and not cut
into my protein stores probably one of
the greatest effects of this of this
longer term fast is a toff EG it’s the
body’s direction to now start to
fix damaged proteins to consume damaged
proteins and fats to actually start
consuming old senescent cells for energy
and get rid of those damaged cells that
would have been causing problems in the
long-term if they’d hung around too long
so fasting now becomes this this amazing
new anti aging experience available to
people who have become fat and keto
adapted not just once in a while but on
a semi-regular basis I’m at that point
of the ancestral being who’s like some
days I eat some days I don’t I don’t
care it doesn’t make a difference I
don’t as long as I don’t feel different
right and really this is about how you
feel right this isn’t about measuring
numbers on keto sticks or you know
glucose monitors or things like this is
really about how do you feel and if you
can get to that point of metabolic
flexibility where you feel great on any
given day despite the fact that you
might have a 50 or 60 gram swing either
way in terms of carb intake then who
cares right right so now what don’t I do
I don’t eat large hits of sugar so I
don’t eat a whole giant piece of you
know triple chocolate cake I don’t need
a whole bowl of ice cream I know those
things are gonna put me whether or not
they put me out of ketosis they’re gonna
make me feel crappy for what’s in them
you know they’re gonna make me feel
crappy because they’ve got sugar and
processed whatever in it so that’s a
thing that I just don’t ever do now I’ll
have three bites of that cake I’ll have
a piece of cheesecake you know I have a
taste of something here or there and
that’s that’s really again knowing where
the limitations are for me personally
other than that as long as I keep my
diet to fruits vegetables you know meat
fish fowl eggs nuts and seeds all the
things that I know my genetic recipe
calls for then I’m gonna be fine and it
really I don’t pay attention to caloric
intake on a daily basis I don’t count my
macros because I become so intuitively
tuned into these choices on a meal to
meal basis I just don’t have to think
about it anymore and that’s kind of what
I try to
to teach the people who read my books
and who who go to my website is like I
want you to live your life to experience
it from a from a point of view of
enjoying every possible moment enjoying
every possible bite and doing so without
any guilt or second thoughts or thinking
oh my goodness what would Mark have said
about this or what does the book say
about that so we take a 21-day stair
step approach to eliminating a lot of
the offending foods the sugars the pies
the cakes the candies the desserts the
pastas the breads the cereals and all
those things that convert to glucose we
get rid of those we eliminate the
industrial seed oils which can be highly
inflammatory in a lot of cases and in
its place we eat meat fish fowl eggs
nuts seeds vegetables a little bit of
fruit go figure
all these things that we should be
eating but you have to really work hard
to get more than 120 grams of carbs a
day if you eat that way so now you’ve
gone from four-minute grams of carbs a
day which was basically orange juice
waffles or pancakes
a mid morning bagel snack sandwich for
lunch and maybe some chips bowl of pasta
in the evening and a maybe a bowl of ice
cream and you’re easily at 400 grams of
carbs so you’ve gone from that paradigm
down to 120 grams where the body goes
you know this is a less than I’m used to
and I’m gonna have to start burning more
fat but I can I can deal with this and
it’s not gonna cause me it’s not going
to wreak havoc in my brain after you get
to that point of 110 120 grams of carbs
a day then it’s easy to find 50 or 60
grams of carbs that you’re not going to
eat later on when you go full keto but
you have to kind of earn the right so we
have a test in our book and in our
programs the test is you know how do you
feel after 21 days of eliminating all
these high sugar high carb foods and and
still never going hungry because that’s
really critical how do you feel when you
wake up in the morning can you go any
period of time without eating breakfast
if you can that’s an indication that
you’re getting good at burning fat can
you do a mid-morning workout and not
have a pre-workout meal or a
post-workout meal if you can then that’s
an indication that you’re burning fat
you know how do you how’s your sleep are
you sleeping well because if you’re not
sleeping well you’re producing cortisol
cortisol then sort of do
rales this whole fat-burning paradigm
because cortisol tends to want your body
to store fat and tear apart muscle
remember to make glucose so how are you
sleeping so we have a lot of these
different items that we have in this
midterm exam and if you get a 75 on the
midterm exam you earn the right to go
keto for six weeks mark thank you so
much for providing so many insights into
how we can become fat adapted and
metabolically flexible it’s just it’s a
complete and total honor thank you thank
you I appreciate that