Episode 178: Metabolic Flexibility, Muscle and Liver Glycogen, How Age Affects The Metabolic Switch, Fat Adaptation Vs. Ketosis And More!

Intermittent Fasting


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Sep 13

Welcome to Episode 178 of The Intermittent Fasting Podcast, hosted by Melanie Avalon, author of What When Wine Diet: Lose Weight And Feel Great With Paleo-Style Meals, Intermittent Fasting, And Wine and Gin Stephens, author of Delay, Don't Deny: Living An Intermittent Fasting Lifestyle

Today's episode of The Intermittent Fasting Podcast is brought to you by:

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Listener Q&A: Maria - Intentionally fasting without weightloss

Listener Q&A: Adam - When the liver runs out of glycogen...

Listener Q&A: Beth - Glycogen

Metabolic switching is impaired by aging and facilitated by ketosis independent of glycogen

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Dr. Kirk Parsley: Sleep Hygiene, How To Fall Asleep, Melatonin, Insomnia, Optimal Sleep Time, Morning Vs. Night People, Light And Sleep, Caffeine And Alcohol, Sleep Drugs, CBD, And More!

Tara Youngblood: Body Temperature For Sleep, Morning Vs. Night People, The Dark Side Of Sleep Tracking, Circadian Rhythms, The Chilipad, And More!

Listener Q&A: Jessica - Daylight Savings Time Changes

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Lumen Lovers: Biohack Your Carb And Fat Burning (With Melanie Avalon)

IF Biohackers: Intermittent Fasting + Real Foods + Life


Melanie Avalon: Welcome to Episode 178 of The Intermittent Fasting Podcast. If you want to burn fat, gain energy, and enhance your health by changing when you eat, not what you eat with no calorie counting, then this show is for you.

I'm Melanie Avalon, author of What When Wine: Lose Weight and Feel Great with Paleo-Style Meals, Intermittent Fasting, and Wine. And I'm here with my cohost, Gin Stephens, author of Delay, Don't Deny: Living an Intermittent Fasting Lifestyle. For more on us, check out ifpodcast.com, melanieavalon.com, and ginstephens.com. Please remember, the thoughts and opinions on this podcast do not constitute medical advice or treatment. So, pour yourself a cup of black coffee, a mug of tea, or even a glass of wine, if it's that time, and get ready for The Intermittent Fasting Podcast.

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All right. Now enjoy the show.

Hi everybody and welcome. This is episode number 178 of The Intermittent Fasting Podcast. I'm Melanie Avalon, and I'm here with Gin Stephens.

Gin Stephens: Hi everybody.

Melanie Avalon: How are you today, Gin?

Gin Stephens: I am doing great. I got some really good news this week. You already know it, that Fast. Feast. Repeat., is coming to Targets in America, the Target stores, in November.

Melanie Avalon: That's so exciting.

Gin Stephens: It is so exciting. They're having like a specialized wellness push because I guess for the holidays. Anyway, it's really hard to get into Target, so I'm very, very excited to be able to walk into Target and see Fast. Feast. Repeat. right there. Also, yesterday, I don't know if you saw this, I posted it on Facebook and on Instagram, but I was at the mall. I was looking for some shoes. By the way, I don't understand styles. I'm 51, I just want some dark brown leather flip-flops. I had some that were great, and a dog chewed them up at my friend's house. And so, I've been trying to find another pair. Apparently, the shade of dark brown that I'm looking for is not in style. Everything is like light brown and nude and cork. I don't know. Anyway, side note. While I was at the mall, I went to the Barnes & Noble and signed all of the copies of Fast. Feast. Repeat., that they had.

Melanie Avalon: Did you do it secretly?

Gin Stephens: No, I didn't do it secretly because--

Melanie Avalon: Did you ask them if you could sign?

Gin Stephens: I did.

Melanie Avalon: Oh, you did. What'd they say?

Gin Stephens: They had five on the shelf and I went and-- this girl who worked there and I'm like, “Hey, I'm the author. Can I sign these books?” She's like, “I'm not sure. Let me check.” I'm like, “Okay. Go check.” [laughs] I thought they might say no at first. I was like, “All right.”

Melanie Avalon: And what they say?

Gin Stephens: Well, the manager came over. And he was like, “Of course, and we'll put these stickers on them that say signed copy.”

Melanie Avalon: Oh.

Gin Stephens: Which, of course, is what I wanted them to do because then people can tell it's a signed copy. But what was fun is he told me they've had to reorder several times and that it was selling really well.

Melanie Avalon: That's really exciting.

Gin Stephens: That people were coming in and asking for it, so yeah, that made me so happy. Fast. Feast. Repeat., check your Barnes & Noble, and then in November, check your Targets.

Melanie Avalon: Now, I feel like-- because when they release mine in Barnes & Noble at the beginning, they had it featured like on the centerpieces where they feature the books, they had a featured, I should have done that. I should have asked if I could sign. I just went in secretly and bought it and didn't tell anybody. And then, since then, I just walk in secretly and sign it and runaway, like I've done something wrong.

Gin Stephens: But I just felt like it would be fun and so I did it, and it was fun, and also weird. It felt weird.

Melanie Avalon: Yeah, it's exciting.

Gin Stephens: It was. That was a lot of fun. So, what's up with you? Anything new?

Melanie Avalon: Well, you know this, but I interviewed Wim Hof.

Gin Stephens: Very cool.

Melanie Avalon: Oh my goodness. Listeners, you guys know I talk about my obsession with cold exposure. We're going to get Gin on board someday.

Gin Stephens: We're not. We're not going to get to Gin onboard.

Melanie Avalon: Wim Hof is known as The Iceman and he climbed Mount Everest in shorts. He holds 26 world records. He's insane. There's actually an episode on Netflix right now on Gwyneth Paltrow’s shows. I think it's called like Goop Lab series.

Gin Stephens: Something like that. Yeah.

Melanie Avalon: Did you watch the fasting mimicking diet episode she did?

Gin Stephens: I did not.

Melanie Avalon: Yeah, she had Valter Longo on for one of the episodes. She had an episode with Wim, and he has the cold exposure, breathwork techniques, which I've also started doing. Oh my goodness, Gin, how long can you hold your breath?

Gin Stephens: Probably not long enough.

Melanie Avalon: If you do Wim Hof technique breathing, you magically can hold your breath eons, and it's not even a big deal. I held it two and a half minutes, like it wasn't even a big deal.

Gin Stephens: Yeah, I can't do that.

Melanie Avalon: Oh, you can. If you do the breathwork. You think you can't, but you can. And then, it's funny because you're totally fine and then also you'll feel like you're dying. And that's when you take your breath in. For listeners, it's pretty much the most motivational conversation I think I've probably ever had, because he just wants to change the world. And he's so passionate, and he's doing all the research. That's what's really unique is, they're doing clinical studies on all of his methods and they're finding incredible things. The first time they've shown in scientific studies that you can modulate or control your autonomic response to things, like your immune system that they thought couldn't be controlled by the mind. They found that with his method, the participants can.

Gin Stephens: Wow. So, does he have like one book that you recommend?

Melanie Avalon: He doesn't have any books yet.

Gin Stephens: Oh, he has one that's in the works, doesn't he?

Melanie Avalon: Yeah. That's what I brought him on for.

Gin Stephens: Okay, he's got the same literary agent that you and I do.

Melanie Avalon: I forgot about that. Yeah, he does.

Gin Stephens: He's represented by the same agency. Love it.

Melanie Avalon: Yeah, I remember I tried to get connected to him through them and they were like he's really busy traveling. So then, I got connected in another way. His book, which is coming out, it's called The Wim Hof Method: Activate Your Full Human Potential. Guys, get this book.

Gin Stephens: Oh, I'm going to. That sounds like one I would love.

Melanie Avalon: It's amazing. It's short. It's great, because it's a great blend of he tells his own story, and it's like personal but then he goes all through the science of the method. There's some people that you feel who truly change the world and I feel he's doing that.

Gin Stephens: As long as I don't have to do cold exposure.

Melanie Avalon: You don't have to, but you might get convinced reading his thing. You might.

Gin Stephens: Yeah, we’ll see.

Melanie Avalon: Oh, and he told me how I can get a chest freezer and do ice baths in my apartment.

Gin Stephens: Oh my God, Melanie.

Melanie Avalon: I was like, “I want to move to Alaska.” And he's from the Netherlands, he has an accent. He's like, “You can bring Alaska to your home.” And he told me how.

Gin Stephens: Okay, that sounds dangerous. You're like trapped in an ice-cold chest freezer.

Melanie Avalon: I am so excited. [laughs]

Gin Stephens: I might be thumbs down on that one. I don't know about that.

Melanie Avalon: No, you unplug it. He told me how to do it. You plug it in, you get silicone, you do something with a silicone. You put the water in, you run it for 24 hours to get it cold. And then when you want to use it, you unplug it and then you sit in it. And it's like sitting in Alaska. I am so pumped.

Gin Stephens: I don't even want the cold water that comes out of the faucet, that's too cold.

Melanie Avalon: Oh, gosh. Baby steps. Okay.

Gin Stephens: On that note, let's go to our first question.

Melanie Avalon: All right, so our first question comes from Maria. And she says-- printed it out today. “Hi, Gin and Melanie. First of all, I love listening to your podcasts during my morning walks. I've been picking random ones, but I've probably listened to about 30 in the past few months. During this quarantine time, I have been making some lifestyle changes. And after listening to many podcasts about intermittent fasting, I'm very interested in the benefits of it. I'm not looking to lose weight as I am 5’3" and 122 pounds and this is a healthy weight for me. When I listen to the podcast, I hear that most people have very short eating windows, such as 18:6 or 24. I've tried doing longer fasts but even 16 hours is sometimes hard for me. I've been fasting between 14 and 17 hours depending on how I feel each day.

I wanted to know if a fasting window of 14 to 15 hours is too short to see benefits from fasting. I'm a breakfast eater, so not eating till noon or 1:00 PM has not been working well for me and I usually get hungry around 10:00.”

All right. Thoughts, Gin?

Gin Stephens: That's a great question, Maria. And yes, you can absolutely have benefits from a fast of 14 to 15 hours. I've seen Valter Longo who came up with the fasting mimicking diet. He promotes doing just a 12-hour fast regularly for health benefits. So, 14 to 15 hours, yes, you're not going to get into deep fat-burning state, but you're not trying to. My husband does a loose 16:8-ish. But often, he'll open his window even earlier if he just feels like he needs to eat earlier that day, maybe on the weekend. So, yeah, go with how you feel. I would not hesitate to do a 14- to 15-hour fast if it feels right to you.

Melanie Avalon: Yep. 100% I'm on the same page. And I find it a little bit ironic because, and Gin mentioned this, but some big fasting proponents actually advocate, especially for women doing more consistently a shorter fast, be it 12 to 16 hours or so. My only question is, Gin, what do you think are the implications that she does find it harder? Do you think that indicates that she's not adapting to fasting? Or do you think it just means that maybe a longer fasting window isn't appropriate for her?

Gin Stephens: Yes, that went through my head. I don't think she has to force it, though. So, I didn't know that that really mattered to her. But she gets hungry around 10:00 because that's when she's used to eating and she's not getting into that deep fat-burning state. But since her goal is really just to maintain, she could push through and get there, but to what end?

Melanie Avalon: Yeah, my only question is, is there not some adaptation that has happened?

Gin Stephens: Yeah, if she wanted to lose weight, then I would tell her to push through that. She's probably getting hungry right at that moment where her body would be making the transition into fat burning and so she would need to push through so that that would happen, but she's not trying to do that.

Melanie Avalon: Perfect. We don't often get questions where people do want to maintain-- they're not looking to lose weight, but they're also sort of wanting to fast longer.

Gin Stephens: Yeah, but she doesn't want to fast longer. If you are enjoying it, you feel good doing that, do it.

Melanie Avalon: Yep, I agree.

Gin Stephens: All right, we have a question from Adam. And the subject is, When the Liver Runs Out of Glycogen. Adam says, “I've heard different things from different sources on what happens when your liver runs out of glycogen. They are, one, if you are not fat adapted, then your metabolism slows down instead of your body accessing its fat stores. Two, if your liver runs out when you're exercising and you're not fat adapted, your body will use protein and amino acids to provide energy instead of fat stores. Three, running out of glucose in the liver when you're not exercising will not access amino acids and your body will use fat stores. Four, exercise at the end of a fast empties your liver and actually trains your body to be fat adapted. I guess my main concern is the point about your metabolism slowing down if you are not fat adapted. That source said you needed to do a low-carb diet to get fat adapted first.

Then, my secondary concern is your body using amino acids and possibly breaking down muscle during a workout, if not fat adapted. Do you guys have any insight on this? Thank you.”

Melanie Avalon: All right. This is great-- I like the different questions from Adam. We actually have a question from Beth as well, which also talks about glycogen. So, I might go ahead and read that and then maybe we can just do a breakdown of all of this, especially because I've been studying this a lot recently. So, I'm going to go and read Beth's question. Her subject is Glycogen, and she said, “Hi, Gin and Melanie. Love your podcast. I look forward to it every week. The dogs get a little longer walk when a new one loads. I've been doing IF for a little over a year. Love it, will not go back.

I do have one question. I'm also a runner and a biker. When I first started IF, my workouts struggled a bit, I'm not sure what happened, but I finally got over it. Honestly, when I started IF, I was probably lower carbs and eating cleaner. Then, I started to eat less clean in my window and had more endurance, but my weight loss stalled. I feel better when I eat cleaner which results in fewer carbs, but my running suffers. I wonder if it has something to do with my glycogen stores. I was listening to one of my favorite nutritionists, and she promotes clean eating and also likes IF but doesn't solely promote it.

Anyway, she was talking about glycogen stores and once your body uses those up, it will start to burn fat. She mentioned especially if you exercise, you may need a few more carbs for glycogen stores. I wanted your thoughts on this, any advice? I don't know if there's any way to know how many carbs to have enough glycogen to not struggle running, is this even how it works? I won't stop IF and I won't stop running. But I would like to do both, but still lose even more pounds with better eating. Thanks in advance. I'm so thankful to my friend who introduced me to this lifestyle. Beth.”

I don't know why I'm so obsessed with glycogen but I am. I literally, for fun, just read about glycogen stores and what's going on there. And I think one of the things I'm so fascinated about is there's this prevailing idea that the way things work is you deplete glycogen and then you enter ketosis. I don't know, that's the way it works. I think that goes back to a study from like 1980 was where that was first posited and that's what's mostly referenced. There's not a lot of literature looking a little bit deeper at that. And I recently found a study that literally made my life, granted it was in rodents, but I think it's still pretty fascinating, and maybe we can learn some things from it, and it might question our ideas about what might be going on with glycogen and fat burning and ketosis and all that stuff.

Because basically, in the study, they had four groups of rats. They had aged rats and young rats. Then, they had a group of aged rats on a standard diet, but doing time-restricted eating, so doing intermittent fasting. They had rats on a ketogenic diet doing intermittent fasting. And then, they also had a control group as well, which I think was just eating a normal diet throughout the day. And then, they had young rats, same thing. So, young rats doing a standard diet with carbs and intermittent fasting. Young rats following a ketogenic diet with intermittent fasting and then like control rats. They did a set of different studies, comparing all of these.

But what was fascinating was, they basically used the glucose ketone index, that's the GKI, as a marker for really entering a ketogenic state and so that's just looking at blood sugar levels compared to ketone levels. They found a lot of really fascinating things. They found that on ketogenic diets, it reduced overall glycogen storage capacity. So, the rats on ketogenic diets doing intermittent fasting, they could hold total less glycogen total.

Gin Stephens: Is that saying they didn't refill it as much?

Melanie Avalon: Yes, but the actual-- if their liver could hold X amount of glycogen, it was less than the amount of glycogen that the rats that were not doing ketogenic diets could hold. And then, what was interesting though, was it wasn't affected by fasting or not fasting. So, when they were fed and when they were fasting, they had lower total glycogen levels compared to the group that was eating the carb-inclusive diet with fasting. So, it was lower levels at the moment compared to the other group, but the capacity of the glycogen was less. Basically, they weren't holding as much glycogen-- Actually, yes, what you kind of just said, they weren't necessarily refilling it, but it was staying steady and it wasn't getting affected by going in and out of fasting. Now, I feel like I'm going all over the place, but it does speak to some of the questions we just had about-- because I read before that when people are keto adapted, they don't necessarily need glycogen as much for fueling exercise and stuff like that. The muscles become fat adapted, but then also their glycogen levels aren't really involved in their energy and output and things like that.

One of their quotes was they found that ketosis prevents fasting-induced liver glycogen depletion. So, in other words, when these rats were following ketogenic diets and doing fasting, when they went into fasting, it wasn't necessarily depleting that glycogen, they were maintaining it, which throws a paradigm shift there about how to think about things. For muscle glycogen, there was absolutely no difference between any of the groups, which was really interesting.

So, they found that the glycogen stores only hindered entering ketosis, so only made it harder to enter ketosis for the aged rats following a standard diet with intermittent fasting. The idea there might be that age rats aren't as metabolically flexible and aren't as good about switching in and out of ketosis. So, the age rats on ketogenic diets, the young rats on ketogenic diets, and the young rats on standard diets, all of them doing fasting, their glycogen stores did not really affect how soon and to what extent they entered ketosis. So, I don't know if it's that the fasting was basically making it easy for them to enter ketosis and glycogen wasn't even playing a role as long as they're metabolically flexible, which would be the young rats and then the old rats on ketogenic diets. It really speaks a lot though to metabolic flexibility and this idea that it seems people depending on you, depending on your metabolic flexibility, people can often switch in and out of ketosis, and glycogen might not be playing as big of a role as we think it might be playing. But when there is metabolic dysfunction, which would be indicated with the aged rats on standard diets, even though they were doing interment fasting, then glycogen played a whole lot bigger role.

That said, I think humans, especially when we're not humans in controlled experiments, I think the majority of us are metabolically broken. So, I feel if anything, we're probably more likely going to mirror those aged rats, we might be more dependent on glycogen, being a lever and going in and out of ketosis.

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All right, now back to the show.

Gin Stephens: Have you read Flipping the Metabolic Switch recently?

Melanie Avalon: Not recently.

Gin Stephens: I've got it right here in front of me. And this is Mark Mattson and others. Mark Mattson is the one who did the New England Journal of Medicine article that came out December of 2019 that everyone was talking about. This is a paper that was from October of 2017. This article really is what taught me about glycogen and what happens but if anybody hasn't read it, I would read it. Flipping the Metabolic Switch: Understanding and Applying the Health Benefits of Fasting. It's available for free online if you search for it. And I actually have it linked in the back of Fast. Feast. Repeat. But this guy's 100% against the-- some of the things you were just theorizing, Melanie, and it says, the metabolic switch-- This is their definition of the metabolic switch. I'm going to read verbatim.

“The point of negative energy balance at which liver glycogen stores are depleted and fatty acids are mobilized, typically beyond 12 hours after cessation of food intake.” And then, another section under the “Results and Conclusions,” it says, “Emerging findings suggest that the metabolic switch from glucose to fatty acid-derived ketones represents an evolutionarily conserved trigger point that shifts metabolism from lipid/cholesterol synthesis and fat storage to mobilization of fat through fatty acid oxidation and fatty acid-derived ketones, which serve to preserve muscle mass and function.”

Going to Adam’s point. Adam is correct that before your fat adapted, you might have that issue. But once you're able to tap in and you're able to produce those fatty acid-derived ketones, that's when you preserve your muscle mass and function. So, then it goes on to say, I'm going to quote again, “Thus, IF regimens that induce the metabolic switch have the potential to improve body composition in overweight individuals.” They specifically say that we've got that metabolic switch from glucose to ketones, and they talk about that point being at which the liver glycogen stores are depleted.

I feel like one thing that we sometimes get confused on is whether they have to be depleted to zero. I think that's a point of misunderstanding. There's a point when the liver glycogen is low enough that we start to make the transition. And perhaps we can use the rat study. Tell me if this makes any sense, Melanie, that maybe as you become more metabolically flexible, maybe your body doesn't stash as much away as glycogen anymore in your liver. Your body's better at saying, “No, I'm not going to stash this away in my liver.” I don't know, that's just a theory based on what you said about the rats.

Melanie Avalon: Yeah. A lot of things there that you just said-- I'm in agreement with all of that. I'm curious what they're quoting for getting that information about the glycogen specifically. I need to go read what study they're talking about from that. I'm wondering if everybody's referencing the same original source material for that.

Gin Stephens: That's what everyone's understanding is coming from the same because everybody's saying it this way, including Mark Mattson. Here's a big-time-- yeah.

Melanie Avalon: Everything that you just said is actually in agreement with everything that I was just pointing out that when we're fat adapted, we're switching into burning fats because-- the sentence you read about emerging research, it wasn't talking about glucose, it was talking about switching to fat burning.

Gin Stephens: The whole point of this journal article is the metabolic switch is that point where your liver glycogen is depleted enough for you to switch over. That's what they're calling the metabolic switch, flipping the metabolic switch. The metabolic switch is defined by them as the point of negative energy balance at which liver glycogen stores are depleted, and fatty acids are mobilized. So, it's the point.

Melanie Avalon: Oh, and then typically beyond 12 hours after cessation of food intake.

Gin Stephens: It sounded like the rat study was saying, “Hey, liver glycogen has nothing to do with it.” And I don't want people to think that's true.

Melanie Avalon: So, the consistency with the study wasn't glycogen stores, it was really the time? So, the fasting time? What Mattson says, and this is what I'm wondering because he says, “The point of negative energy balance at which liver glycogen stores are depleted and fatty acids are mobilized typically beyond 12 hours after cessation of food intake.” What I'm wondering is, is it citing literature talking about liver glycogen stores being the key, also, it's overlapping with 12 hours being when that happens, when I'm just wondering if maybe it's the time, it's the 12 hours and maybe liver glycogen stores aren't necessarily completely depleted at 12 hours. We often say don't focus on ketones, don't stress about measuring ketones. I think it's the same thing with liver glycogen.

Gin Stephens: Well, oh, yeah. I mean, I wouldn't stress about it at all.

Melanie Avalon: It just seems like the more and more I read and think about this, that the prevailing idea is often that we deplete liver glycogen and then we start burning fat. And those are often lumped together with fasting because fasting is often the method of depleting liver glycogen. What I'm wondering is, maybe we think it's the liver glycogen depletion when it's partially that, but maybe also, or instead actually the fasting time. Because even what Mark Mattson said and I keep reading this, but he says, “The point of negative energy balance at which liver glycogen stores are depleted and fatty acids are mobilized, typically beyond 12 hours after cessation of food intake.” It's a tiny nuance, but I'm wondering if we're focusing on this prevailing theory of liver glycogen depleting when really maybe that metabolic switch is the 12 hours. Maybe that's the metabolic switch. Maybe the metabolic switch isn't the glycogen.

Gin Stephens: I don't think so. I don't think it's time, and that's just because based on my experience and the experiments of so many other people, I actually can tell you when I've had vacations and I can tell I've refilled glycogen to the point that it takes me longer. I can tell some days that switch gets flipped sooner and a lot of it depends on what I ate the day before. So, no, I don't think 12 is the magic number. I think that is an average perhaps for someone who is metabolically flexible. Perhaps, if you're metabolically flexible around hour 12 is probably an average, that would be my hunch. But, no, I don't think it's time dependent. I do think it's energy balance dependent.

Melanie Avalon: My hunch is it might be more time dependent.

Gin Stephens: The reason that I don't think that that's true is just the way I feel differently on different days and I can pinpoint it, based on what I've been doing and how I've been eating.

Melanie Avalon: The other thing is liver glycogen caps at not that much. Usually, estimate is 100 grams, which is 400 calories. Even if you were to go on a crazy vacation, eat 5,000 carbs, it's actually not going to add any more extra liver glycogen. It'll fill muscles if they're not filled. So, there is more glycogen stores in the muscles, but that is reserved for the muscles. That's not going to affect probably your entrance into ketosis. So, you can't eat really more than what your liver glycogen stores allow, even if you go on a crazy, crazy, crazy carb binge. When you run out of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles, the carbs will either be burned off as energy or 2% to 3% up to potentially 10%, but it's probably more like 2% or 3%, will get turned into fat in the liver.

Gin Stephens: Can I interrupt real quick? I think it's a more gradual process than you're implying there because it's not like I go eat week on vacation. And then after day one of eating more, my glycogen is filled. I think just as we deplete it gradually overtime to get to the point where we're getting into ketosis every day, I don't think that you just eat one meal and then, bam, all that goes into glycogen storage. That's the thing. I know that the liver can only hold a certain amount, but I don't think that it refills it all up just from a meal. I've just noticed when I've had a day where I ate more, I'm fine. But it's when I've had several days-- It's like a gradual thing. Just like we have a gradual depletion, we have a gradual refilling.

Melanie Avalon: That's another thing is your liver glycogen stores. The more carbs you eat and long you eat, you can raise that potential to store more. I'm just confused, how does that affect when you would start generating ketones again?

Gin Stephens: Well, the last time I went on a cruise, I could tell it was a few days after being home before I started getting into ketosis during my fast. It took me a few days of being back on my normal fasting schedule. How do I know? Well, because I would need to take naps. I know my body well enough to know. Now, we have this ketone analyzer that you talk to them on your other podcast, and it's been really interesting that I can say, “Ooh, I feel like I'm in ketosis.” And then, I can blow and I'm getting numbers. Whereas I'm like, “Yeah, I can tell I'm not,” like first thing in the morning. But it's not always at the same time. It doesn't always correlate to, “Well, now I'm at 12 hours, I'm going to get a number.” Sometimes, it's earlier than 12 hours, depending on what I ate the day before or how much I ate if I had a short window. Sometimes, it's at 16 hours.

What's fascinating is, I've been doing this so long, I can feel when that metabolic switch is flipped, I feel it. And so, the breath ketone monitor has been great at confirming, like, “Ooh, I feel like the switch is flipped,” and then I'll use it and I'm like, “Yep, there it is.”

Melanie Avalon: So, if you eat a really big carb vacation meal, you think you don't get into ketosis at all the next day?

Gin Stephens: Oh, no, not if I just eat one big carb vacation meal. It takes a few days. Even if I just go away for a weekend and have two days with longer windows or something, it takes me more than just two days before my glycogen is filled up. If I go on cruise for five days, I'm going to come home and I'm going to have to re-deplete glycogen, I can feel it.

Melanie Avalon: So, when you have a big meal of carbs--?

Gin Stephens: I mean I have big, big carb meals every single day.

Melanie Avalon: You don't think it fills up your glycogen?

Gin Stephens: No. I don't think my body just shoves all those carbs into my liver. I think it uses a lot of them for energy because you're eating, your body’s using those carbs for energy. I think my body uses those carbs for energy that I've just eaten. And then, there may be a little bit to go into my glycogen stores, but not all of it.

Melanie Avalon: Because I'm not trying to argue or anything, just the thoughts that I'm having is that, it seems like people have glycogen stores filled or not filled, regardless if they fast like 16 hours, they're probably going to enter ketosis and it's not going to necessarily matter if the night before was keto, or was carbs if they're metabolic flexible. That's what I'm saying.

Gin Stephens: It really just all depends on what your body does with what you eat. And there's so many things your body could do with it depending on exercise and what you're doing.

Melanie Avalon: In these rats, the only group that did have to deplete glycogen completely to enter ketosis was aged rats on high-carb diets. So, presumably metabolically inflexible rats.

Gin Stephens: And again, depleting glycogen completely, I think is the thing that-- Mark Mattson didn't say you have to deplete it completely. You just have to get to the point. And maybe your liver is holding a reserve. It just depends that everybody has a different point. And it depends on how you've built up your fat-burning enzymes. I think there's a lot of factors here.

Melanie Avalon: Me too. What I'm saying is I think it's way more nuanced than the way it's posited because I think the way it's posited is everybody holds X amount of liver glycogen. You deplete liver glycogen, you enter ketosis. When it seems like it's more it depends on metabolic flexibility, depends on how easily your body can switch-- wants to switch to burning ketones, wants to make that switch. And if you are metabolically flexible, if you're doing a ketogenic diet that seems to make it. It seems like you're doing a ketogenic diet, so you're always keto all the time. Your body's not really going by glycogen at all for when it's generating certain amounts of ketones. But when you are eating carbs, if you're metabolically flexible, glycogen might not be playing as much as quite a big of a role in having to hit a certain depletion number before you switch over. But if you're metabolically inflexible, yeah, you've got to go through that, you've got to deplete.

Gin Stephens: I would just really encourage everybody to find that Mark Mattson’s article and read it, Flipping the Metabolic Switch, and dig into that. Dig into their references, go through that, and see what you can come up with yourself. But I do think Adam is correct that if you're not fat adapted, then you could have some issues, but that's the whole point of knowing that you're going to get to the other side of the fad adaption period. That's the whole point of the 28-day FAST Start in Fast. Feast. Repeat., is that your body is learning how to become fat adapted. And that's the part that takes time, and it can take more than 28 days if you're somebody who's very metabolically inflexible. That's just like a ballpark that you should give yourself at least that amount of time for it to happen. But once that switch is flipped, using the wording of Mark Mattson in his paper, that's when you become fat adapted.

The whole point is don't worry so much about what is your level of glycogen, where is it stored. Instead, you want to flip that metabolic switch so that your body can shift fuel sources as needed. And I think that's the only takeaway we really need to worry about. Fast sufficiently so that your body becomes fat adapted and you're able to switch fuel sources as needed to fuel your workout, to fuel your day, tap into your fat stores. I think that's all that matters.

Melanie Avalon: Oh, yeah, because I mean that's basically what I was saying is that it's more about the metabolic flexibility. The title of the study that I am referencing is called Metabolic Switching is impaired by aging and facilitated by ketosis independent of glycogen. To that point, what the study actually says, or what they say in their discussion is they say the prevailing theory regarding the initiation of ketogenesis is that ketone body production is triggered once the body depletes its glycogen stores. This glycogen depletion hypothesis likely stems from the body's natural metabolic response to vigorous exercise or longer fasts. It acknowledges that that is the prevailing theory. But then, it's talking about how there seemed to be a lot more-- a few more nuances and factors involved. But for listeners, yeah, we'll put links to all of this in the show notes so you can dive in deep. Like I said, this is just sort of my obsession just because I just feel like it's way more complicated.

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Melanie Avalon: To address Adam’s questions, he says he's heard that when your liver runs out of glycogen, if you're not fat adapted, then your metabolism slows down instead of your body accessing its fat stores. We pretty consistently see that when you run out of glycogen is when that metabolic switch will start to happen. I do think there's an adaptation period where the body is resistant to making that switch in the beginning and it's going to want to make you hungry, make you want to not make that switch. But I wouldn't be worried about your metabolism slowing down per se, especially since a lot of the studies show that the more you do fasting, the metabolism can actually rise. Do you have thoughts about that specific one?

Gin Stephens: Well, I don't think we have any specific study exactly, like following someone through the liver glycogen depletion process and measuring their metabolism. But this is all theoretic, anyway.

Melanie Avalon: If there is, it will be like Christmas. I want to read it, please send it to me.

Gin Stephens: That'd be cool. I'd like to read it too. But theoretically, if your liver ran out of glycogen, and you had no more fuel, and your body is not well fueled, that's when your metabolism would start slowing down. But your body is going to find that fat and get adapted pretty darn quick. That's the point of it.

Melanie Avalon: You know what's actually really interesting? I'm reading Cate Shanahan’s Fatburn Fix right now, and I'm getting deeper into it. It's kind of how you have your FAST start and then the purpose of that is to make people metabolically flexible and adapted, you're not focusing on weight loss, it's to make these changes. So, her approach is actually very similar, but a little bit different. So, she has phase one. And the goal of phase one is to reduce these hypoglycemia symptoms because she talks about how-- actually, like Adam’s first point, people who aren't fat-adapted yet, when they do but have liver glycogen, the body just freaks out, it doesn't know what to do and you get hypoglycemia. So, her approach, which also is similar to, Gin, how you have, how to ease in with a ketogenic diet if people want. Don't you do like a ketogenic?

Gin Stephens: Yeah, they can use the low carb, yep, ease-in meals, we call them.

Melanie Avalon: She actually recommends everybody for the phase one. It is so interesting. Unless you don't struggle with hypoglycemia symptoms. So, it's basically the people who do have this metabolic inflexibility, they start with a phase one, which is actually a ketogenic diet rather than fasting. And then, when you don't have hypoglycemia symptoms, you go to phase two, which actually integrates intermittent fasting. This is so interesting. So, it's a different approach than yours, but it's similar and it's speaks to this whole concept of--

Gin Stephens: Of getting adapted. Yeah.

Melanie Avalon: Yeah. When you're metabolically flexible, which is supported, like I said, by that rat study. When you're metabolically flexible and the body is able to switch fuel sources, then it just happens. And glycogen, we might not even necessarily know what's happening specifically there and things might be changing with that. I do want to talk about the second question, which was if your liver runs out when you're exercising and you're not fat adapted, your body will use protein and amino acids to provide energy instead of fat stores. The body breaks down protein for two different reasons from your muscle. One would be for amino acids during catabolic activity. So, if you're breaking down muscle, you're breaking down muscle, like doing resistance training and things like that. Yes, that will break down muscle for amino acids. However, we talked about this actually I think last episode maybe. When you eat, again, you feed, in your feeding in your eating window, that's restored. So, that's not a problem.

I think he's probably more thinking about he says to provide energy. So, yes, the body can turn to protein to create glucose if it's not metabolically flexible, everything I just said, because it has the option. So, if it's not metabolically flexible, you run out of liver glycogen, it can start burning fats, it can start doing ketones, but it also has the option of actually still trying to go the sugar route. And to do that, it will break down muscle into amino acids to create blood sugar, which is not something we want. But that is why I think a lot of people get stuck in that phase. Like I just said with Cate Shanahan’s, talking about people having hypoglycemia problems. The solution to that is becoming fat adapted, and then it shouldn't as much be a problem because your body will be switching to fats rather than trying to make carbs from amino acids.

Gin Stephens: Also, one other thing I thought you were going to say and you didn't. When you're exercising, you can get glycogen stored from your muscle as well. There's glycogen stored there that can fuel your muscles.

Melanie Avalon: Yeah, that's actually the primary fuel for them.

Gin Stephens: Right. Running out of glucose in the liver, he mentions, but you've got some glycogen in your muscles already too.

Melanie Avalon: So, locally, the glycogen in your muscles will be feeding those muscles. The hypoglycemia symptoms will probably come in from the liver, that would be the thing that's doing that. So, that process of like, “Oh, let's break down muscle to create blood sugar,” that would probably be liver dependent, I'm guessing.

And then, his thing about exercise at the end of a fast empties your liver and actually trains your body to be fat adapted. I do think we see pretty well a lot of people when they do exercise at the end of a fast, I think a lot of people do find benefit from it, especially if they're struggling to get fat adapted because-- I don’t know. I'm not talking chronic cardio high-intensity endurance for a long time. But slow-moving exercise at the end of a fast, I think, would be a great way because if it's slow moving, it's telling your body, “Hey, we need long-term fuel here.” So, it's not going to be stimulating, like asking for quick blood sugar. I think slower movement, exercise type at the end of a fast like walking, yoga, things like that might be more supportive of making that switch.

Actually, to that point, one other thing I forgot to mention from that rat study was they actually found--and this is something that users of the Lumen device that I've talked about before, which is like a breath carb analyzer, have been finding. They often are finding that exercise during the fast or if they're doing a ketogenic diet, seems to switch them over to carb burning. And this study with the rats, they found that the ketogenic fasting rats when they injected them with epinephrine-- so, basically a stress response, to mimic exercise, the ketogenic rats actually released more blood sugar in response. They had a higher blood glucose response from exercise, which was really, really fascinating. They argue that that show that the rats were more metabolically flexible because they could generate more glucose on-demand from adrenaline aka stress or exercise. I don't know how I feel about that conclusion. It was really, really fascinating regardless.

Lastly, we didn't answer yet, Beth’s question about, “Do you need more carbs to fuel your exercise for glycogen stores?” So, there have been a lot of studies on people on-- more on, I've seen studies on ketogenic diets and athletes tend to adapt eventually to the ketogenic diet, and then they're not dependent on glycogen during exercise. Their glycogen stores typically don't really change that much during exercise because they're fat adapted. If you're not fat-adapted, you likely might need more carbs. And then a lot of high performing athletes just find that honestly, especially if it's like high intensity that they just need more carbs. And I think a lot of people, especially they've been doing ketogenic diets for a long time with fasting, maybe their energy's not quite there, they often find that adding in more carbs to their eating window really does help their performance.

Beth was talking about how she feels like she can't have the best of both worlds. Like if she brings in carbs, her endurance increases, but she doesn't lose the weight. I would suggest, Beth, if you haven't, trying a low-fat, high-carb diet, you might find that with intermittent fasting, I think that might give you the best of both worlds where you're going to be able to fuel that exercise with enough glycogen and then not having the fat with it, you might find that you lose weight.

Gin Stephens: I also wanted to point out that, Beth said her weight loss stalled. She said she was lower carb and then started to eat, what she said was “less clean,” and she had more endurance. Basically, she was lower carb, added some more carbs in, had more endurance. And then, she says my weight loss stalled. I think that she might possibly have had some confusion there with her weight because if you reintroduce carbs, your body can retain excess water with the extra carbs. As you have more glycogen, your body holds water with the glycogen. And also, when you're having more endurance, maybe she's building muscle, but I think you can't just strictly go by what the scale is saying.

Melanie Avalon: Yeah. Actually, I'm so glad you brought that up. I missed that. Also, she's correlating that she eats higher carbs which are less clean, and her weight loss stalls. It might not be the carbs making your weight loss stall, it might be the less clean aspect of it.

Gin Stephens: It's hard to know what she means by that and how much of a different change there was. But just we know that reintroducing carbs, whether they're “clean” or not, can lead to water retention, and it's not a bad thing and it's not fat gain, and it can make the scale go up. So, you can be like, “Oh my gosh, I'm gaining weight.” When really, you're not gaining fat. And it feels like your weight loss is stalling but really, it's just you have a different water balance than you had before.

Melanie Avalon: It could be that when she was eating clean, she wasn't having inflammation from the foods. And if she’s starting to eat these “less clean foods,” we don't know what they are, but inflammation can play a massive role. So, if you're taking in inflammatory foods, I would hardcore encourage you, Beth-- You said that when you eat cleaner that naturally makes you eat less carbs. You can eat high carb "clean,” not hard. Fruits are high in carbs, sweet potatoes, starches, rice. I would at 100% like dying to know. I'd love for you to try a “clean” especially since that seems to work for you a “clean,” whole foods, high-carb approach. See what happens. And if that doesn't work for low-fat version of that. So, things to experience.

I think a lot of people adapt to exercise with low carb diets, but some just never do. And they find that when they bring in the carbs, they're able to. And then, if you want to lose weight, looking at those types of carbs and what you're eating, and whether or not you're eating fat can play a huge, huge role.

Gin Stephens: Yeah. And as you're switching carbs in and out, I would really use progress photos to see-- Somebody today in one of the Facebook groups posted a photo. And she's like, “I've only lost one pound and I'm so discouraged.” And she posted side-by-side photos, and it was like incredible the difference between the two. So, the scale doesn't tell the true story. If you thought you'd only lost one pound, that would be really discouraging. But you looked at her photos and you're like, “Man, look at how--” it was the same shirt she had in the other photo, and it was like loose as opposed to being skin tight. It was incredible the difference between the two photos. She's like, "What am I doing wrong?” What you're doing wrong is letting the scale be the Debbie Downer here. Sorry if your name is Debbie. I don't know. I feel bad for everybody named Debbie because when I say Debbie Downer-- [laughs] Don't let your scale be your downer when you're seeing results somewhere else.

Melanie Avalon: That's such a great point. All right. So, a lot there.

Gin Stephens: This is from Jessica. And her subject is Daylight Savings Time Changes. I would like to actually just propose let's just quit doing that. Let's just leave the time where it is. I don't like the switching. The switching drives me crazy. All right.

She says, “Hello, Gin and Melanie. I'm a huge fan of all your podcasts and listen to you weekly. I started IF in January of this year, and then found Delay, Don't Deny in March. Since then, I've joined all the Facebook groups, read all your books, and truly immersed myself in learning as much as I can about the benefits of fasting daily. Since January, I've lost 30 pounds and dropped from a size 14 pushing to a 16 to a size 10. I've also seen a dramatic decrease in inflammation and IBS symptoms.

My husband has also joined me on this journey, dropping from a size 40 waist to a 36. And together, we have adopted a 24, one-meal-a-day pattern and love it. This is truly the lifestyle we want to live long term.

As I stated before, I started my IVF journey in the winter. So, my question may seem a bit silly, but I'm wondering if you have any advice for successfully transitioning through the time change to the fall, winter seasons. I'm particularly worried about having less outdoor time and less sunlight hours, as these have been my go-to escapes while fasting.

I'm having a hard time envisioning what one meal a day will look like in the colder months. Right now, I love taking my Topo Chico outside and sipping on it throughout my lunch break, but that won't be as appealing when it's a rainy Oregon day outside. I always get a bit sad when it's dark in the morning and dark again by 6:00 PM. In the past, that sadness has been buffered by hearty foods and delicious beverages, and I'm nervous about falling into old habits. Thank you for taking the time to ease the mind of a worrier and obsessive planner. Jessica.”

Melanie Avalon: All right, Jessica. So, this is a great question. And two big things we can tackle, the practical approaches to working with the time change and stuff like that, and then the mental aspect of everything she talks about. Okay, just from a light perspective, Jessica, get a Joovv if you don't have a Joovv. Because regulating your circadian rhythm I think is so important and one of the nice things about it is I consciously regulate my circadian rhythm every single day regardless of the time change or how light works in the world. I always am hacking it at home myself. So, in the morning, bright light exposure, I have a Daylight, like high-lux device that outputs really bright light. Those are often used to treat things like seasonal affective disorder. I'll put a link in the show notes to the one that I have. It's called Daylight.

And then, I run my Joovv devices for ambient lighting in the morning and evening, so that's red and near-infrared light. So, red is the type of light naturally found in the rising and setting sun. So, when you have it in the morning and in the evening, you're mimicking that rising and setting feeling regardless of what it actually is outside. I know most people who turn to Joovv for like skin health or muscle recovery or the metabolic benefits, honestly for the mood, it's my thing. I can't even express my gratitude I have for it.

And then, on top of that, I know this is controversial, but I would actually really, really suggest in the darker months getting a membership at a tanning bed. You want to get the UVB beds. So, those actually typically tend to be the cheaper beds because that's the wavelength that does make people burn. But it's the wavelength that is going to stimulate vitamin D production in your skin. And I'm talking about going for a minute. I'm not talking like-- you're not going in there to get tanned. You're just going in there to get some natural vitamin D exposure. You can weigh the cost benefits. I know skin cancer is a real thing, I don't take it lightly. But I think for a lot of people, especially if you're struggling with vitamin D levels, especially if you're struggling with mood, having exposure to UV light to generate vitamin D in your skin, especially in darker months, can be huge. So, I get a package in the winter. Proceed with caution. I'm not doctor, but I do really, really suggest that. I have some other things, but Gin, did you want to say some things?

Gin Stephens: Well, I was just going to say to Jessica or anybody else who is in a similar situation, a lot of people started fasting in January, especially after intermittent fasting was everywhere in December after Mark Mattson’s article came out in New England Journal of Medicine and then everyone was talking about intermittent fasting everywhere. So, I'm sure there's a lot of people who started right at the same time. I want you to just stop worrying right now, everybody who started at the same time. You will just gradually find that you start to crave different things, you will find that you start to just-- it'll happen. It happens gradually, just as the seasons change gradually.

For example, one day I'm drinking my San Pellegrino, and then the next day I'm like, “Ooh, I think I would like a hot mug of water,” a mug of hot water. We call it [unintelligible [00:59:31]. Have I told you that, Melanie, have you heard me call it that? Somebody in the group made that up. I can't remember who. I put it in Fast. Feast. Repeat., because I love it so much. So, you'll have a new routine, Jessica, instead of having Topo Chico outside, you'll have a mug of hot water and you'll be somewhere cozy. And it'll feel great because Christmas Carols will be on or something. You'll just have something to look forward to it.

Yeah, you probably will have more hearty foods, but I find my body craves those. I have a shift in what I want. When we stop the podcast for today, I'm going to go and break my fast, and I'm going to have-- I have some broccoli, and I have some hummus. I'm going to have that. It's going to be delicious. But if it were December, I would probably not be craving cold broccoli and hummus. I would want something maybe cozier, like you said, maybe a mug of soup or something like that. So, you'll make the shift. It'll happen gradually as the weather changes. I promise you, you can do it.

Melanie Avalon: You could also get super-duper excited about winter like I am. No, guys, it's funny, I have the opposite response. I'm like winter is the time to get in shape, get that cold therapy, get those longevity genes going, make your body stronger. Honestly, we could have a complete reframe here.

Gin Stephens: I'm just so sad when I have to put on pants, shoes.

Melanie Avalon: I'm so excited. It's so funny how we're all so different. I literally dread the coming of summer and love the coming of winter. And then, people have the complete opposite response.

Gin Stephens: It's true.

Melanie Avalon: All right. Well, this has been absolutely wonderful. If you'd like to submit your own questions for the podcast, you can directly email questions at ifpodcast.com. Or you can go to ifpodcast.com and you can submit questions there. You can get all of the stuff that we like, that's at ifpodcast.com/stuffwelike. You can follow us on Instagram, we're @ifpodcast. I'm at @melanieavalon. Gin is at @ginstephens. Oh, and I forgot to mention. The Lumen thing I mentioned, I started a group for people who have that device or who have a Biosense Ketone Analyzer and that is called Lumen Lovers and Biosense Biohackers. You can also join my Facebook group, IF Biohackers. Anything else, Gin, you'd like to put out there? Get Fast. Feast. Repeat. at Target?

Gin Stephens: Yeah, well, in November, don't go out and get it yet because it's not there, although you can order it online from Target. They have it online, but anywhere that sells books I think you can get it in their online, but in the actual store, you can wait till November. I'm so excited.

Melanie Avalon: Perfect. All right. Well, this has been absolutely wonderful, and I will talk to you next week.

Gin Stephens: All right, talk to you then. Bye.

Melanie Avalon: Thank you so much for listening to The Intermittent Fasting Podcast. Please remember that everything discussed on the show is not medical advice. We're not doctors. You can also check out our other podcasts, Intermittent Fasting Stories and the Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast. Theme music was composed by Leland Cox. See you next week.


Check out the Stuff We Like page for links to any of the books/supplements/products etc. mentioned on the podcast that we like!

More on Gin: GinStephens.com

Theme Music Composed By Leland Cox: LelandCox.com

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