Beat Fatigue, Supercharge Mitochondria, and Unlock All-Day Energy

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Katie: Hello and welcome to ďThe Wellness Mama Podcast.Ē Iím Katie from wellnessmama.com and wellnesse.com. Thatís wellnesse with an E on the end. And I am back today with one of my favorite people to talk to, Ari Whitten. And today weíre talking about how to eat for energy, beat fatigue, supercharge your mitochondria, and unlock all-day energy. And as always with Ari, this is a very, very informative, fact-packed episode. Heís so well-researched and so well-spoken. Heís the founder of The Energy Blueprint, which is a comprehensive lifestyle and supplement program that has helped more than two million people and counting experience better health, better performance, and more energy. Heís also the best-selling author of ďThe Ultimate Guide To Red Light Therapy,Ē and the host of his own popular ďThe Energy Blueprint Podcast,Ē which I have been on and enjoyed as well.

And in this episode, we go deep on things like real root causes of fatigue and what to understand if you ever feel fatigued. Why the real causes of fatigue are often overlooked. The research that led him to know more about this than essentially anyone else on the planet. Why the idea of adrenal fatigue fall short, and what to understand instead. How nutrition and circadian function are interlinked and how to optimize them. The way body composition relates to energy. The real reason excess body fat causes problems by creating a pro-inflammatory response. Foods that are directly pro-inflammatory and better alternatives.

The real reasons weíre seeing a rise in obesity and how we can reverse it. Some practical shifts that make a big difference in your body composition, we go deep on this one. Why it isnít about carbs and fat, and an important thing to understand instead. The importance of protein, understanding something called flux, and how this relates to fat loss. How to sync your central clock and the brain, and your peripheral clocks in your body for optimal energy, and so much more. As always, I learn so much from Ari, so much great information in this episode. I know that you will enjoy it as much as I enjoyed recording it. So letís join Ari. Ari, welcome back. You are a much-requested repeat guest. Thanks for being here.

Ari: Thanks so much for having me, my friend. Always a pleasure.

Katie: I love our conversations. And weíre gonna get into the weeds with some really fun stuff today. But before we do, I have a note in my show notes that youíre secretly into some woo stuff that you donít talk about as publicly online, so I hope itís okay to call you out a little bit, just because Iíve been on kind of my own journey with that the last couple years, and Iím so curious.

Ari: Yes, yeah. Absolutely. Well, I, you know, I have been for 20 years. Itís just, itís something that is kind of, I separate it from the work that I do. For better and for worse. You know, thereís an obvious positive side, and an obvious negative side to that. The positive side is that I have created a brand that is, you know, and me personally, Iím known, Iíve kind of established a reputation for being very science-based, being able to talk about, you know, a lot of research, and synthesize the research in novel ways, which is all beautiful, and itís helped me get the message out.

On the other hand, you know, thereís elements that I am into and passionate about on a personal level, and things that have benefited me, that I donít talk about publicly, because theyíre a little bit woo-woo. Theyíre a little bit esoteric, and theyíre a little bit out there. Now, I guess, to be, if I can just talk specifically, I would say that in my younger years, when I was in my early 20s and stuff, when I started exploring a lot of Eastern, spiritual kind of esoteric, meditative, yogic type traditions, I think, like a typical immature kid, I was very interested in, you know, sort of supernatural powers, and psychic abilities, and, you know, how I could use these kinds of things to further my egoic aims in life.

And, you know, now, things have really shifted for me. Iím still into a lot of that kind of esoteric stuff, but itís more aboutÖitís not about supernatural powers, and, you know, all, like, kind of egoic-based desires. Itís more about, you know, how can I use these tools to become a better father, and a better partner, and have more equanimity in my life, and more joy, and more presence. And, you know, those are kind of the goals now, but Iíll mentionÖI donít wanna stay on this topic forever. Iím sure we could talk for a full hour just on this. But, you know, some of my favorite authorsÖor Iíll mention one guy, in particular, whoís not well-known, but is really excellent. His name is Reginald Ray. And heís a scholar on Tibetan Buddhism. Heís a professor at Naropa University in Colorado.

And heís written some really profound works, taking a lot of the Tibetan tantric Buddhism, and kind of stripping it of a lot of the cultural elements that are sort of meant for people of Tibetan culture, and making things accessible for a western audience, and kind of getting to the principles of what these practices are actually trying to achieve, and then translating them, you know, creating his own sort of guided meditations. And heís written a lot on somatic meditation, on embodied meditative practices, on opening the heart, and things of that nature. And I would highly recommend his work to anybody listening.

Katie: Thatís awesome. I agree with you. We could spend a whole hour just on that, and Iíve learned the last few years just how important that emotional-spiritual side can be. Like you, I love the scientific research and the data, and Iím learning thereís very much, itís not an either-or. Itís a both-and. Iíll put links to that in the show notes. And I would guess most of our listeners are familiar with you because youíve been on here several times now. But you are definitely the energy guy, and Iíve learned so much from you about this topic. And you have a new book out, called ďEat for Energy.Ē

So, weíre gonna go somewhat specific into some of these topics today that I think are really applicable to everybody listening. But to start really broad, I feel like, especially after the last couple of years, fatigue is a big topic, and many people are feeling fatigued and overwhelmed. And thereís just, of course, been a lot going on. But letís start broad with what are some of the most common causes of fatigue?

Ari: Yeah. Well, if you look from a conventional medical perspective, generally, they talk about chronic fatigue as though itís this black box that we sort of know nothing about. And we donít really know what causes people to be chronically fatigued, and, you know, basically, their attitude is kind of, well, run blood tests, and, you know, maybe youíll come up with, you know, that person has anemia, or that person has diabetes, or they have hypothyroidism, or something diagnosable. And then you can treat that thing that you can diagnose as a disease. And if you donít test and discover something like that, then you donít really know what the hellís going on in that person.

And this is important because thereís actual research talking aboutÖspecifically, thereís a paper thatís a compilation of research meant for conventional doctors for their treatment of people with chronic fatigue. So, itís a set of basically evidence-based guidelines. Itís a synthesis of sort of everything they believe they know about the causes of fatigue and how to treat it. And basically, they have four recommendations for what to do if youíre treating somebody with chronic fatigue. One is antidepressants. One is a recommendation to walk for half an hour a day. One is cognitive behavioral therapy, and one is, use stimulants as needed.

Now, youíll notice a few things. They donít even mention nutrition. They donít even mention sleep, or circadian rhythm, or gut health, or body composition, or so many other things that we could talk about, that thereís vast amounts of research, linking with chronic fatigue. But they also talk about testing. And they say that, you know, unless thereís some compelling reason to do any sort of specialized tests, like you suspect the person might have tuberculosis or something like that, then you run a standard blood panel for patients with chronic fatigue.

And they say, literally, in the paper, 95% of the time, there is nothing that comes back on those blood tests that is an explanatory factor in why that person has fatigue. Meaning, 5 out of 100 cases, they will identify something like I mentioned before. Maybe itís hypothyroidism or anemia or diabetes, or some diagnosable disease. But 95 out of 100 people with chronic fatigue, these people who are going to their doctor thinking, ďThis doctor knows everything about treating chronic fatigue, and theyíre gonna figure out my issues. And theyíre gonna use all this fancy technology and modern science and modern testing, and theyíre gonna identify whatís going on in my unique biochemistry thatís causing my fatigue.Ē Well, 95 out of 100 people walk out of that office without any information about what is causing their fatigue.

So, thatís conventional medicine. In alternative medicine, and functional medicine, and the natural health community, they were obsessed for a long time with the adrenal fatigue hypothesis, which, I think weíve talked about in a previous episode, Iíve spent a lot of time debunking that. The short version of it is Iíve spent about a year of my life digging into the research on that. I donít mean to brag, but I probably know that research better than, I would imagine, everybody on the planet. Maybe thereís one or two people out there somewhere that know more than I do.

But basically, the majority of that research essentially takes people with various kinds of chronic fatigue, stress-related exhaustion, chronic fatigue syndrome, burnout syndrome, clinical burnout, these kinds of disorders, and they compare them to normal, healthy people, of similar age and demographic, information, and lifestyle factors, smoking, exercise, things like that. And they look at their cortisol levels, and HPA axis function, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function. They see if thereís any difference. And the vast majority of those studies find no significant differences between people with those various fatigue syndromes and normal, healthy people.

So, that research, and forgive me, for anybody whoís an advocate of adrenal fatigue for treating this very quickly, but I have several hours of lecture online for free, that if anybody wants to go into that subject in depth. But, the bottom line with that is, adrenal fatigue is not a compelling scientific explanation for why people are fatigued either. This notion that chronic stress wears out our adrenals, and then, you know, our HPA axis or our adrenals and our cortisol levels canít function properly, thus we end up with chronic fatigue. Itís not compelling from a scientific perspective, and the evidence doesnít support it as a major cause of fatigue in those with fatigue.

So, what is? Well, the main things that are, you know, linked very strongly with chronic fatigue are things like circadian rhythm disruption, things like poor nutrition, things like chronic inflammation, things like poor gut health, being sedentary, lack of hormetic stress in your life. Poor brain health, blood sugar dysregulation, body composition issues, light deficiencies and toxicities, environmental toxicants. These are the main contributors and causes of chronic fatigue issues. And they cause this fatigue through a variety of different mechanisms that we can talk about.

But sort of on the big picture level, there is, just as there is a rise in obesity and diabetes in the last 50, 60 years, where these conditions are skyrocketing, heart disease, cancer, neurological diseases, fatigue is very much also an epidemic that has come into prominence during that same span of time, for all of the same reasons that we have epidemics of cancer and neurological disease and heart disease and obesity. So, itís really all of those same causes at the environmental and lifestyle level that are contributing to all of those conditions, including chronic fatigue.

Katie: Yeah, I think thatís an important point, is that all of those things are actually symptomatic of what is actually going on. Theyíre not the actual problem. But weíre spending so much research, time, and energy focused on all of the different things that are still symptoms of whatís actually going on. And, like you, I had an experience for a long time of learning to become my own primary health care provider, in a way, when I wasnít getting answers from conventional medicine, that I think that lesson was really important, that at the end of the day, we are each our own primary health care provider, because weíre the ones choosing the inputs that go into our body on a daily basis, and I know you have a personal story of overcoming a lot of these things as well.

But the good news in that is that we do have control over the inputs going into our body every single day. And you mentioned some really important ones that I wanna go deeper on, meaning, like, food inputs, environmental inputs, light, and circadian rhythm. And we have past podcasts on some of these, so Iíll make sure those are linked in the show notes. But letís just kind of go through each of those in order, and talk about nutrition first. What do we need to know about nutrition? Because I know thereís a lot of misinformation going on on this topic in society, and I think some easy changes that people can make thatíll make a big difference.

Ari: Yeah, absolutely. So, Iíll give kind of a very brief, superficial overview, and then Iíll let you decide which topic you wanna dig in. So, nutrition affects our energy levels in many, many different ways, through many different physiological mechanisms. One is circadian rhythm. So, obviously, circadian rhythm is very light-dependent. But thereís also, itís basically, we have a central clock in the brain, and we have peripheral clocks throughout the body.

The central clock in the brain is primarily responsive to light inputs. The peripheral clocks throughout our body are primarily responsive to nutritional inputs. And whatís important about this is, for optimal circadian rhythm function, and all of the different factors that it affects, which is basically everything, we want to synchronize our central clock and peripheral clocks. So, Iíll leave that one aside. We can talk more about that.

Body composition. So, chronic nutrient excess, chronic energy excess, will lead to the accumulation of excess body fat. And it can also, through poor nutrition, as well as lifestyle habits, you can get sarcopenia, loss of muscle mass. These are the two aspects of poor body composition. Too much fat, too little muscle. Both of those have profound effects on our energy levels, and these problems are widespread. Somewhere over 80% of people, of adults in the U.S., are dealing with either one or both of those things. And a huge percentage of them are whatís called over-fat meaning carrying excess body fat.

Somewhat related to that is blood sugar levels. And we know that blood sugar levels, if you have insulin resistance, if you have hyperglycemia, or if you have hypoglycemia, if youíre swinging between the two, and you have lots of big spikes, and then youíre coming down, all of those things have profound direct and indirect relationships with your energy levels. They can affect your energy, affect your cravings, affect your hunger and food consumption, hormonal levels, affect your sleep quality. So, blood sugar dysregulation is a huge factor.

Nutrition obviously impacts our gut health, in a massive way. So, itís influencing literally the integrity of our gut, whether our gut is permeable, or healthy and intact. Itís influencing the nature of that microbiome, whether we have dysbiosis or we have very high levels of beneficial bacteria, that are literally providing different energy substrates, short-chain fatty acids, as well as different vitamins and minerals to our cells and to our mitochondria, to produce energy.

So, gut health is obviously a huge factor. We know that gut healthÖ Thereís a gut-brain axis, thereís a gut-skin axis, a gut-lung axis. The gut is connected to everything. There is, of course, a gut-mitochondria axis. So, what goes on in the health of our gut directly influences the mitochondria, the cellular energy generators, throughout our whole body. And we also know, of course, that brain health is a factor as well. And there are various mechanisms in the brain that can contribute to fatigue as well. For example, something called sickness behavior. Sickness behavior isÖitís an actual phrase thatís used quite a bit in the literature to describe certain behaviors that occur when someone is sick, like they have a pathogen. But it also occurs in many other contexts, like if youíve got a physical injury.

And basically, whatís going on is that the brain is designed to respond in a way to high levels of inflammatory cytokines by creating fatigue, by suppressing energy levels, and altering neurotransmitters and hormones in a way thatÖand mitochondrial function and brain function, in a way that makes you kind of depressed, apathetic, low-energy. It makes you just kind of wanna lay there, so you donít have a lot of motivation to do anything. And this is actually an adaptive mechanism. Itís not a mistake that we are built with this. Millions of years of evolution have wired this into us, because when you are sick with a pathogen, when you are injured physicallyÖletís say youíve damaged your leg. It is more adaptive, and youíre more likely to recover your health if, during that phase of acute illness, or some kind of problem, youíre resting, and youíre conserving energy and resources to allow those things to go to repairing the tissues, or fending off the pathogen, or whatever it is.

The problem is in the modern world, we have many different sources of chronic inflammation that are activating this mechanism in a maladaptive way. So, one is excess body fat, for example. Excess body fat itself is pro-inflammatory. Itís creating chronic low-grade inflammation, which the brain is then sensing, and then responding to with some degree of sickness behavior. Except there is no pathogen to fight off, there is no injury to repair. Itís actually just that youíre carrying too much excess body fat, and that itself is creating low-grade inflammation chronically in the body.

Another example of this is poor nutrition, which also can directly lead to, there are certain foods that are directly pro-inflammatory, that can increase levels of inflammatory cytokines. They can also indirectly affect it via gut health. If you have a poor diet, and you start to get gut permeability and dysbiosis, well, now youíve got undigested food particles leaking directly into the bloodstream, youíve got bacteria, and something called LPS, lipopolysaccharide, or endotoxin, leaking into the bloodstream, and that is creating a highly inflammatory environment. And itís now sending your brain into this kind of sickness behavior, chronically. So, anyway, thatís an overview of many of the sort of key factors that are, as far as how nutrition interplays with our physiology in a way that either contributes to high energy levels or fatigue.

Katie: That makes sense. And itís definitely, of course, well-talked-about, the, kind of, rise in obesity in the U.S. and the rise of all these inflammatory conditions. And I would say probably most people donít want to carry excess body fat. Most people would want to have good muscle tone. What are some of the key levers that people can use to start optimizing here? Because I think it can feel overwhelming, and often, people donít know where to start.

Ari: Yeah. Great question. So, well, you know, I alwaysÖIím a root cause guy. So, itís one thing to say, ďOh, well, hereís a hack, and hereís a hack, and you can do this and you can do that.Ē But we need to first understand why. Why, in the last 50, 60 years, has there been an obesity epidemic, where the rates of overweight and obesity have gone from, you know, less than 10% of the population to now 80% of the population, in the United States, and most of the Western world is not far behind. And there are several key reasons. The number one reason is the adoption of a modern Western diet. A highly processed food diet, that is rich in refined sugars, refined starches, and processed oils, fats. And especially the combination of those things, in the context of processed or ultra-processed foods.

This relates to something called the food reward hypothesis of obesity. And basically, what is going on here is our brainsÖ Itís important to understand that evolution has wired us, like basically all other animal species, with a system that is designed to regulate our body fatness, appropriately, okay. So that the amount of energy we crave to eat is roughly equal to the amount that weíre expending each day. And by doing that, we keep a steady body weight. We donít get too fat, we donít get too thin.

Now, the problem is, for most of evolution, we never had processed foods, and we never had sedentary lifestyles. And we never had so many of the other factors in the modern world that are contributing to fat gain. And so, that system was primarily designed to defend against famine and food shortage, not excessive food abundance. Okay, so thereís a weak point in that system. And the modern lifestyle happens to be right in this weak point of the system.

Okay, so the food reward hypothesis of obesity, which is, you know, people might scoff at this word ďhypothesis,Ē and think, ďOh, it sounds like itís not proven.Ē There are thousands of studies now proving this hypothesis, and itís not really debatable anymore. But basically, the way that it works is this system that we have that regulates body fatness is designed to work in the context of specific kinds of foods being eaten.

The problem is modern processed foods create a supernatural reward stimulus in the brain, okay, beyond what evolution designed us for. Meaning, it creates an unnaturally intense pleasure, in the pleasure center of the brain, that starts to do something quite profound. It changes our physiology from a state where itís operating in whatís called homeostatic eating, where weíre consuming an amount of food thatís proportionate, roughly equal to the amount weíre expending. And instead of homeostatic eating, it shifts us towards hedonic eating. And that means primarily eating for pleasure.

And when that happens, we become disconnected from all of these regulatory cues of these hormones that regulate our hunger and our metabolism and so on, and we start to change our relationship with food to one of pleasure and entertainment, instead of one that is designed to fuel our body and replenish the energy that weíve burned off. So, the modern diet and lifestyle basically shifts us out of homeostatic eating towards hedonic eating. And it fundamentally does not work with this regulatory system that we have for maintaining our body fat.

What happens is, basically, to summarize all of this very simply, if you were to eat 500 calories of chicken breast and brown rice and broccoli, and something of, and some spinach, or if you were to eat 500 calories worth of donuts and cookies and pizza, you would have completely different hormonal responses and satiety responses to those different meals, even though they contain equal amounts of calories. So, the 500 calorie meal with the chicken and the broccoli, youíre gonna feel, most people would feel, very full after that, and content to stop eating. Whereas the people in the processed food group are going to carry on eating, potentially hundreds of calories more per day.

And there are literally studies where theyíve tested this, where theyíve put people on equal calorie diets. Or they were intended to be equal calorie diets, and theyíre either eating whole foods or processed foods. And they show that when theyíre on whole foods diet, they naturally suppress their own eating, and ended up losing body fat, within a few weeks. When theyíre on the processed food diet, even though itís intended to be the exact same amount of calories, and the same macronutrient ratio, the same proportions of protein, fat, carbs, people end up overeating. People end up consuming hundreds, 500 calories more per day, and they end up gaining weight.

So, even if you are intending to control it, you know, in a tightly-controlled experiment, people still end up consuming way more food in that context, and gaining weight. This is the fundamental driver of the obesity epidemic. Itís the modern processed food diet, and how it basically overrides our body fat set point system thatís designed to regulate our body fat, causing us to shift from homeostatic eating into hedonic eating, and for all those different mechanisms that regulate our satiety and hunger to not work properly, such that we end up overeating food, and putting on excess body fat. So thatís fundamentally whatís driving this.

There are other contributors, exposure to environmental toxicants, stress, circadian rhythm disruption, and sleep deprivation, how nutrition interacts with gut health. These are all other contributors to the obesity epidemic as well. But the main driver, by far, is this issue with the modern processed food diet creating too much reward in the brain, leading to chronic overconsumption of energy.

Katie: Yeah, I think thatís a really important thing to unpack, because a lot of that got confused with the calories in, calories out, low-fat craze that happened over a series of decades. And Iím very much in alignment with you of just removing things like those processed seed and vegetable oils, and refined and processed sugars and carbs, makes a huge difference in how your body responds. And Iíve learned over the years, you know, our bodyís not a bank account. Itís not as simple as just calories in, calories out. Itís a chemistry lab, and weíre sending hormonal signals with everything we eat.

And to echo what you said, I would challenge anyone to actually overeat on things like chicken breast and broccoli, or even, for me, like, ground beef and rice, it is very hard to overeat those things. And, in fact, now that Iím more conscious of maintaining enough nutrient density, and maintaining enough food, now that Iím working out so much, itís actually difficult to eat the amount of calories and protein I need in a given day, and I have to be very conscious about that. And itís so fascinating to see Iím eating now much more actual food than I used to eat, but the nutrient density is so drastically different, that Iím getting leaner while eating more, which seems like itís a crazy thing to grasp, but itís really fun to see firsthand.

And I know weíve done podcasts in the past about light. I would encourage you guys, if you havenít listened to that one, go listen, because itís absolutely fascinating. But thereís also an interplay happening here, you mentioned, with the circadian side, and with light and sleep, and howÖbecause food is also an input in the circadian system, like you mentioned. And so, these things all have to work together. And unfortunately, sleep is another fall-down point for a lot of people in the Western world. So, what do we need to know about that side?

Ari: Yeah. Well, I feel like I didnít give many practical tools. I know you just alluded to a few. But do you wanna jump into a few practical tools on body composition before we go to circadian rhythm?

Katie: Absolutely. Letís do it.

Ari: Okay. So, number one, obviously, as an extension of everything I just explained, is eat whole food. Get rid of processed food. Thatís the number one most important thing that you can do to optimize your body composition, to lose fat, and also for health. Thatís the most important strategy for long-term health and disease avoidance. There isnít research showing that one particular macronutrient breakdown of the diet is superior to the rest. There are extremelyÖthereís a ton of low-carb versus low-fat studies, and many of them are extremely well-done.

Thereís one study where they even did a 12-month study, with, like, 600 participants. And it was a randomizedÖit was an absolutely tightly, tightly controlled study, done over a very long period of time, low-carb versus low-fat, and is one of the few, if not the only study that also used whole foods, that emphasized getting rid of processed foods. So you had a low-fat versus low-carb diet, with equal amounts of protein, and thatís emphasizing the exclusion of processed foods.

And after 12 months, there was no significant differences between the outcomes in the two groups. So, despite, you know, decades worth of attention being paid to carbs and fats as these sort of, like, ďthese are the things that are gonna determine your body fatness,Ē the research just doesnít support it. Whole foods versus processed foods, thereís a huge difference. Low-carb versus low-fat, there is not a huge difference in terms of outcomes.

Now, what macronutrient is linked with fat loss is protein. And there are many, many studies showing that between 0.8 to 1 gram per pound per day, per pound of body weight, per day, is strongly linked with long-term fat loss, with greater adherence to the weight loss diet, with increased resting metabolic rate, with increased satiety and decreased hunger, with increased energy levels. And all of those things I just mentioned are incredibly important, because it is the decline in metabolic rate, along with chronic hunger and low energy levels, that is the main driver of why people stop adhering to their weight loss diet and revert back to their old diet.

So, itís critically important when youíre engaging in weight loss to do everything possible to maintain your metabolic rate, high, hang on to lean body mass, and thatís what a higher protein intake does, and to increase satiety. Thatís also what protein does. And to help keep energy levels high. So, if you do those things, those are the keys to long-term success. Those are some of the biggest keys that differentiate, you know, the small minority of people who achieve long-term success versus the majority of people who revert back to old habits.

So, itís also important to understand most people are eating nowhere near this amount of protein. And when they actually start eating that amount of protein, they say exactly what you said a few minutes ago, where they go, ďItís actually hard for me to eat this much food. Not only am I not starving, and, you know, feeling like Iím chronically depriving myself, but Iím actually feeling full, such that I donít even wanna finish whatís on my plate, and Iím losing weight at the same time.Ē Protein is the big key to that.

Thereís one other big key to that, which is, this is talked about in the volumetrics approach to eating, where they talk about sort of filling up at the beginning of your meal with lots and lots of vegetables, okay. And ideally, non-starchy vegetables, and water-rich fruits. And if you do that, you end up consuming far fewer calories in your meal than if you didnít do that. So this is another way to work with our biology instead of against it. Instead of just saying, you know, ďIím gonna starve myself and force myself to eat this few calories per day,Ē which will work temporarily, but youíre in a chronic, constant fight with your own biology, and eventually, your biologyís gonna win, unless youíre just one of the one in one million freaks with unbelievable willpower to override your physiology for months and months and months on end. But itís much better, itís much smarter, and youíre likely to be much more successful, if you actually work with your biology, by using some of these methodologies, by using whole foods, by using high protein intake, by using the volumetrics approach, and consuming these plant foods at the beginning of the meal.

The last thing Iíll mention here is flux. And flux is a concept that is really important, and the research shows is very powerful in helping people achieve fat loss, and yet, almost nobody talks about it, and nobodyís heard of it. If you wanna understand flux, think ofÖjust picture this. Picture a garden hose, with a trickle of water flowing into it and a trickle of water flowing out of it. And now, picture a fire hose, like on a fire truck. Thatís a big, thick hose, with tons of, you know, super high-force, pressurized water flowing into it and flowing out of it. Okay, both are hoses with water flowing in and out, but one has way more water flowing in and flowing out.

And this is what flux is. Flux is basically describing how much energy is flowing in and out of the system. So, on paper, if I say to you, you know, Scenario A is weíve got a sedentary desk job worker, who normally burns 1,500 calories a day, and now sheís gonna go on a diet, and sheís gonna start eating 1,000 calories a day. Okay, so now sheís got a deficit of 500 calories a day. Now, on the other hand, we can take some athlete, somebody whoís extremely physically active, maybe they love running trails in the mountains or something like that. And they are burning 3,500 calories a day. And she wants to lose weight, and so she goes on a diet thatís 3,000 calories a day, so sheís got the same 500 calorie a day deficit.

Now, based on paper, based on that math, you would expect both of those people to lose body fat at the same exact rate. But thatís not actually what happens. The person who has the higher flux state, even though they have the same caloric deficit, they maintain their resting metabolic rate higher during the fat loss, they hang on to lean body mass, they decrease satiety level, or, they increase satiety levels and decrease hunger levels. They have higher energy levels, they have more food flowing into the system, to allow for nutrient sufficiency. So they have all of this mix of factors that actually allows them to lose more fat, and to maintain lean body mass and resting metabolic rate, and avoid the dip, and fatigue, and the increase in hunger that causes people to revert back to their old habit, and ultimately to achieve much greater long-term fat loss success.

So, high flux is a major key to that. And the way you do that is by starting with what I just described, starting by increasing your protein intake, and start by increasing your non-starchy vegetable intake at the beginning of meals. So, protein, non-starchy veggies, amp those up big time. And in accordance with that, then try to work on gentle movement, incorporating more gentle movement throughout the day, more walking, more moving of your body. Not high-intensity exercise necessarily, but more gentle movement throughout the day, and thatís how you raise your flux, which is one of the big keys to long-term fat loss success.

Katie: And Iíll say, from the personal experience side of this, when you actually start hitting those protein targets, your energy goes up so drastically that working out gets much easier because you actually want to, and itís much harder to willpower yourself into movement when youíre in that fatigue state, whereas now, Iím excited to go work out, because I have so much energy. And I realized when I started tracking, even thinking I was being very health-conscious, I was drastically undereating protein, and getting to that target range of, for me, 130 to 150 grams protein per day, it takes, actually, effort.

And I will say, as a practical side, one thing I found that helps me a lot, if anybodyís new to this, is I wake up when the sun comes up, and then I donít eat for about the first hour. I hydrate. I drink a lot of water that first hour, and get some time outside in the sun, which weíll probably touch on a little bit. But then, I try to make sure I get protein at breakfast, protein at lunch, and I try to stop eating by the time the sun goes down, or even by about 5 p.m., to give myself a lot of rest time before sleeping, so that my body can digest all of that protein before Iím sleeping. And when I adhere to that, my energyís incredible, my sleep is really good, and Iím building muscle faster than Iíve ever built it before. I just, for context, last week, split squat 345, which is well over 2X body weight for me. So, it definitely works, for any of you questioning. I know the science is there, but from firsthand experience, itís really drastic, and incredible to watch.

Ari: You did a split squat with 345 pounds?

Katie: Mm-hmm.

Ari: Jeez, youíre an animal, Katie.

Katie: I had this story my whole life of not being an athlete, and I had a podcast guest say, ďNo, lower body, women are just as strong pound for pound as men.Ē And so, it was like a switch flipped, and I was like, ďOh. Okay, well, then Iíll just lift like the guys.Ē And turns out it works.

Ari: Awesome.

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So, and I know, like, I touched on the morning sunlight thing, which is a thing I originally learned from you, and now I am very, very consistent with, because I notice the difference so much. But light and sleep obviously are huge levers in this equation as well, and I feel like underused ones, certainly. Like, nobody is questioning that we need to get good sleep, however, many of us are just not actually getting enough, or enough quality sleep, and, I would argue, not getting enough, or enough quality light as well.

Ari: Yes. Yeah. One hundred percent. So, we have basically this circadian rhythm. Itís basically a 24-hour biological clock built into our brains, and where we have this central clock, okay. And the central clock regulates and impacts many, many different neurotransmitters and hormones that affect our sleep-wake cycles. So, just consider the fact that every night, through no volition of your own, you enter an entirely different state of consciousness for eight hours. This is all being controlled by this biological clock in your brain. And, again, the next morning, you wake up, again, through no volition of your own, and you enter into a new awake state of consciousness.

Okay, all of thatís controlled by this circadian clock, and itís affecting many different neurotransmitters and hormones. There are hormones, many important hormones, that are tied directly into the circadian clock. Things like thyroid hormone, testosterone, melatonin, cortisol, growth hormone, these are all intimately linked with the circadian rhythm. And if your circadian rhythm is non-optimal, which most peopleís is, living in the modern world, then all of those hormones, and many other neurotransmitters that are affecting energy and mood and sleep, are also not optimal.

So, thatís the central clock. We also have these peripheral clocks throughout all the tissues of our body. And a lot of this is really new discovery. You know, itís really in the last 10, 20 years that scientists have discovered, ďOh, my, gosh. We have these clocks and clock genes that are in our skin, and in our eyes, and in our liver, and in our intestines, in our stomach, and in our muscles,Ē and every conceivable tissue of our body and organ and gland of our body has these peripheral clocks.

Now, the goal of what we wanna do to optimize circadian rhythm is to synchronize the two, to synchronize the central clock in the brain with all the peripheral clocks in the tissues. The central clock in the brain, as both of us mentioned earlier, is linked primarily to light. Also, other factors affect it. Nutrition affects it, to some degree. And some other factors like movement, as well as temperature, actually, affects that central clock in the brain.

And then, the peripheral clocks throughout the bodyÖ So, actually, let me just talk briefly on the central clock. So, to optimize that central clock, one of the biggest factors that we need to do is get ample light exposure during the day, ideally, outdoor sunlight. We need to get it, ideally, within the first half an hour of waking up. Getting that light signal strongly in the eyes, very, very important. Those light photons enter the eyes, feed back through nerves directly into that circadian clock, and basically communicate, ďItís daytime, the time to be awake, alert, active, and energetic.Ē

But if you wake up and youíre in a dark indoor space, under house lighting, looking at cell phones, and then, at nighttime, youíre also doing that same thing, youíre in an indoor environment, in house lighting, looking at computer screens and cell phones and TVs, you donít have a big differential between the light that youíre getting during the daytime and the light that youíre getting at nighttime. And that results in basically that central clock in the brain not getting the proper signals that it needs to know the difference between daytime and nighttime.

So, what we want is lots and lots of bright light during the day, ideally outdoor light, which is 100 to 1,000-fold greater intensity than indoor light, and we want it within the first half an hour of the day. And, after the sun goes down, we want to minimize any blue light. Thatís the primary color of light photons that affects that circadian clock. We wanna minimize the amount of blue light entering our eyes. So, we do that by optimizing the lighting in our homes, ideally shifting more to incandescents and halogens, as opposed to LEDs and fluorescents, and minimizing blue light exposure from screens. So, computers and cell phones and things like that. There are various apps you can download, can get blue-blocking glasses, and so on.

So, thatís a very brief version of how to optimize the central clock. The peripheral clocks are primarily responsive to food. And we wanna synchronize the two. So, weíre optimizing our central clock with light, weíre optimizing our peripheral clocks with food. The way we do that is four key strategies. One is time-restricted eating. And it turns out, research has found that about 85% of Americans consumeÖtheir feeding window, or eating window, is between 13 to 16 hours long, okay. Whatís optimal is 6 to 10 hours. So, most people, almost 9 out of 10, are eating hours longer, from their first bite of food to their last bite of food, theyíre eating hours longer during the day than they should be. This is the nutritional equivalent to getting lots and lots of artificial light in your eyes after the sun goes down. In that way, your central clock is basically getting these daytime signals way into the night, after you shouldnít be getting that blue light anymore.

The same is true with food. Once the sun goes down, you shouldnít be having lots of food be poured into your system. And so, that feeding window, or eating window, should be confined to a narrower time during the day. And that one thing, by itself, can make a massive difference. We have research showing that when people engage this strategy of time-restricted eating, even if they donít do any changes to what theyíre eating or how much theyíre eating, they just change when theyíre eating, which time period during the day, we see decreased oxidative stress, decreased inflammatory biomarkers, improved sleep quality, increased energy levels, and across the board improved metabolic health. Improved insulin sensitivity, for example. So, everything improves just through that one strategy.

The one caveat that I wanna mention here is donít go too fast. Donít think, you know, if youíre at a 16-hour window now, donít think, ďWell, Iím just gonna cut it to six hours.Ē Because the problem is, if youíve been in a long feeding window, your body doesnít have the metabolic flexibility yet to do that, to go for long periods without food, so you need to ease into it much more slowly. You know, go to a 13-hour window for a week or two, then a 12-hour for a week or two, then a 10-hour for a week or two, and so on.

And, also, the one other nuance here is shorter is not always better. So, I actually personally eat closer to a 10-hour time-restricted eating window, because Iím someone whoís, Iím already lean. Iím extremely physically active. I do hours of exercise every day, between surfing and weight training, and martial arts and things like that, and hiking with my dogs. So, for me, to get the nutrients I need, itís more optimal for me to be closer to 10 hours. If somebody is overweight and not very physically active, itís gonna be more optimal for them to move towards the six-hour end of the window.

Another aspect, which you alluded to, Katie, that youíve been doing, is syncing that feeding window with the hours of daylight as much as possible. Meaning, not consuming lots of food after the sun goes down. We know that in animal experiments, when they take animals and they give them food during the time periodÖif they only allow them food during the time period that theyíre supposed to be inactive and resting and asleep, they will generate all kinds of metabolic dysfunction. Theyíll become obese and insulin resistant, and have high inflammatory biomarkers, and high oxidative stress, and theyíll suffer widespread negative metabolic effects. And thatís compared to eating the exact same amount of calories, of the exact same type of food, just when theyíre supposed to eat, during the time period of the day that theyíre supposed to be active, instead of the time period that theyíre supposed to be asleep.

So, thatís one other aspect of it. We know also that if you give someone the same meal, the same exact meal, at 8 a.m. versus 8 p.m., the meal that you have at 8 p.m. will cause a 29% increase in peak glucose, an 86% increase in total glucose response, and a 66% more time spent in hyperglycemia, than eating the exact same meal at 8 a.m. So, there are fundamentally different hormonal responses and metabolic responses in terms of our ability to process these nutrients when we consume food at the biologically appropriate times of day.

Now, we also know that there are studies that compare whatís called early time-restricted eating to late time-restricted eating, where you consume the majority ofÖyou shift your eating window towards the morning hours. So, letís say 7 a.m. Letís say youíve got an eight-hour feeding window, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., just as an example. Versus the same eight-hour feeding window, but from noon to 8 p.m., or 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. We see consistently that the people who do early time-restricted eating lose more body fat, have more energy, have better sleep, have better metabolic parameters across the board, lower oxidative stress, better insulin sensitivity, and so on.

We also know, related to something called calorie stacking, even within this window of time, where you put the bulk of your calories that youíre consuming during the day also matters. So, if you compare two groups of people, one is consuming most of their calories with breakfast and lunch, and a small dinner, and the other group is consuming a small breakfast and lunch and a big dinner, the group that ate most of their calories during the first part of the day, during the early part of the day, ends up losing more weight, even at the same amount of calories being consumed.

So, these are different ways. Basically whatís going on is these are strategies that we can use to optimize our peripheral clocks, and sync our peripheral clocks to our central clock. And when we do that, we get rewarded with all kinds of benefits and boons, as far as metabolic health and energy levels and sleep quality, and so much more.

Katie: Yeah, that hormonal signaling is such an important piece. I recently got to talk to Dr. Satchin Panda as well, and he echoed exactly what you said. Heís probably the foremost expert on this in the country, with the circadian side and time-restricted feeding. And he said the same thing. Eat in that restricted window, thatís more focused on early in the day, and that by doing that, like you said, we can actually eat plenty of food, not feel hungry, not feel deprived, and have better sleep and better energy during the day.

And as always, with you, time goes by so quickly, but I wanna make sure we also get to touch on if there are any particularly supportive foods or supplements that can help, especially if someone is overcoming some of these issues, and they are in this state of fatigue, or they are making these big shifts into eating in a more restricted window, getting more sunlight, getting more movement, anything that can help along that path?

Ari: Yeah, Iíll mention a few things. So, first of all, a multivitamin and multimineral supplement, high-quality one, with, you know, methylated forms of B vitamins, good, quality stuff, not just a junky multivitamin like you find anywhere, has been shown in studies with people with chronic fatigue syndrome, in the span of just two months, to improve sleep quality by 39%, and improve energy levels by 32%, just by being sufficient in various vitamins and minerals. And this is critically important, and itís often overlooked, becauseÖ Itís so important, because most dietsÖmost people are deficient in at least one, if not more like four, five, six or more, of the essential vitamins and minerals that our body needs to function.

And, I mean, itís just extraordinarily common. Almost nobody is sufficient in all of these things. So, itís such an easy thing to add, especially if youíre suffering from chronic fatigue. Get yourself a premium, multivitamin, multi-mineral formula. I make one. I consider the best on the market, but thereís several other good ones on the market as well. And that can make a huge difference for people with chronic fatigue.

Another great compound is called NT Factor. Itís a phospholipid formula, extracted from phospholipids from soy, but it doesnít have any soy compounds. Itís takingÖif anybodyís worried about soy. Itís taking just the phospholipids out of this, from soy lecithin, and extracting them, and they add lots of other things to it that help it avoid being broken down in digestive processes. But these phospholipids actually end up traveling through our blood, into our cells, into our mitochondria, where they help repair damaged membrane phospholipids of our mitochondria.

Thereís a wonderful paper about this, from a researcher named Garth Nicolson. Itís called ďLipid Replacement Therapy.Ē And theyíve done experiments withÖtheyíve done studies with NT factors in many different studies, with many different kinds of chronic fatigue, from aging-associated chronic fatigue to obesity-caused fatigue, to Gulf War illness, to chronic fatigue syndrome, and many other types. And theyíve shown consistently 30%, 40%, 50% increases in energy levels in just four to 12 weeks of using just this one supplement that helps repair mitochondrial membranes.

Another one that Iíll mention is rhodiola rosea. And theyíve done experiments with this adaptogenic herb in the context of people with burnout syndrome, clinical burnout, various kinds of stress-related chronic fatigue, showing literally, within four to eight weeks, you can cut a personís fatigue in half, just from that one compound. Another way of saying that is you double their energy levels, just through that one compound.

One other one Iíll mention here is acetyl-L-carnitine. And actually, maybe Iíll mention a couple more. Acetyl-L-carnitine has been shown, in older adults with chronic fatigue, toÖactually, this is a compound that helps the mitochondria bring in fatty acids to burn for energy. So, thatís kind of the mechanism of how it works. Also works in a few other different ways to improve metabolic health. But in studies in older adults with chronic fatigue, theyíve shown 50% to 60% increases in both mental fatigue and physical fatigue, in the span of three months.

So, letís see. If anybodyís struggling with mood issues, depression, thereís a wonderful thing thatís very seldom talked about, but is very powerful, and thatís saffron. Thereís research on saffron, on the herb saffron. Itís actually theÖI forget the proper word. Pistil or stamen or something like that, from a particular type of flower, often grows in the Middle East. And itís been a prized herb or spice for centuries, for millennia. And thereís research showing that it works as an SSRI in the brain, and that it has efficacy on par with antidepressant drugs, but without the side effects. Just taking saffron can be a powerful thing for people struggling with depression, and thatís a very common thing among those with chronic fatigue.

Katie: I love it. I took lots of notes. Those will all be in the show notes at wellnessmama.fm, for anybody listening on the go. And I know thereís, as always, so much more we can cover that we canít fit into a one-hour episode, but you have a book that goes into detail on all of these different topics, and gives a lot more, even more detailed recommendations. So I highly encourage you guys to check that out, along with our past podcast episodes. And, as always, I say this with you. I hope we will do another round sometime soon, because thereís so much more to talk about. But, lastly, for today, if there is a book or number of books that have profoundly impacted your life, Iíd love to know what they are and why.

Ari: So many. Well, since this is Wellness Mama, Iíll mention one of the most recent ones that hugely impacted my life. Itís a book by Gabor Matť and a neuroscientist or a psychologist. I think his name is Barry Neufeld or something like that. And itís called ďHold On to Your Kids.Ē And Iíll tell you, I donít think Iíve ever read a book in my life where almost every page that I flipped, I went, ďoh, my god. I cannot believe how wrong I was in all of my assumptions about this.Ē

You know, and itís related to raising kids, and itís related to education, and itís related to the parental bond with kids, and the peer bonds that they form, and the dynamic between the two, this sort of, to some extent, the battle, in some cases, between the two, between the parental bond with the kid and the peer bonds with the kids.

And it really just completely rocked my world, as far as all of these assumptions that I had made about child-rearing and whatís best for children and what kids need, you know. And it made me realize the importance of my connection with my kids, and that the most important thing for them to grow up healthy and happy is actually their time with me and their mom, and us cultivating that bond every day. And thatís number one. You know, I used to think, well, you know, ďI need to put my kids in school. They need to learn independence from me. And they need to, you know, be around other kids all day, because they need to be socialized.Ē

And, you know, and I had all these kinds of assumptions, that are widespread in our culture. These are normal assumptions, especially in the modern U.S. And it just dismantled sort of everything that I thought I knew. Again, Iíve never read a book that made me go, ďWow, I cannot believe how wrong I was.Ē And just, every two pages, I was saying that to myself. So, if somebody has children, and they have not read that book, I would highly recommend it.

Katie: I love it. Thatís a new recommendation. And I just ordered it as well, and excited to hear it. And thank you as always, Ari, for your time. Youíre such a wealth of knowledge. I really value your research, and Iím so grateful youíre here today.

Ari: Thank you so much, my friend. Itís always a pleasure connecting with you. One last thing I wanna mention, for anybody who goes and buys the book, you can buy it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or whatever, weíre giving away two free courses, normally $200 courses. Weíre gonna give those away to you as a thank-you for buying the book. So, you can just email us the receipt @ari, A-R-I, at theenergyblueprint.com. And then weíll gift you those nice free gifts as a thank-you for buying the book.

Katie: Thatís awesome. Thank you for doing that, and thank you again for your time. And as always, thanks to all of you for listening and sharing your most valuable resources, your time, your energy, and your attention with us today. Weíre both so grateful that you did, and I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of ďThe Wellness Mama Podcast.Ē

If youíre enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.

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