Mitochondria Biogensis, Anti-glycolytic Training, and Vegetable Oils - Part 1: Fuel
Last week I watched a great lecture by the esteemed Dr. Michael Eades (former Boulder Resident, BTW). If you don't know him, he's a very long time low-carb diet and health doctor. He and his wife have been doing research and writing books about this for decades. He's not some internet marketer trying to make a name for himself, he's done the tinkering and knows what's going on. So when I see him I always pay attention and learn something new.
I've included the lecture here so you can go watch it for yourself - it's 45 minutes. But you may not enjoy it as much as I did. Amy said something like "Chemistry is sooooo boring" while watching it. So maybe you need to be a chem nerd like me (though it's not real chemistry, it's just biochemistry).
I'll try to summarize the cool part of the lecture here, but if you care about biochemistry, metabolism, and mitochondria, I suggest you watch it. The body is a very complex system that has evolved organically. We don't understand all of the mechanism. We probably think we do, and that's because of "the other butterfly effect." Complex systems aren't as fragile as we would like to believe, it's generally hard to push them far out of equilibrium because they have so many feedback mechanisms to bring everything back in line. However, sometimes we can get so far our of the "design parameters" that things go to hell.
I think the consumption of vegetable oils in the modern diet one of the parameters that we have exceeded. This has implications for not only health, but your fitness. It all comes together!
Why do I tell you to slow down and take longer rests? One of the reasons is that you need time to regenerate ATP after a heavy lift (or short intense alactic work). ATP is the unit of energy in your body. ATP is your battery, work depletes the battery, and you need to give it time to recharge. Where do we get the energy to recharge? We can't just plug ourselves into the wall like our phones.
Your mitochondria are responsible for making ATP. They can make it from glucose (sugar) or from fatty acids (fat). The new thing that I learned in this video was how the fuel we eat turns into ATP.
Let's pretend you were the engineer tasked with creating the charger for a cell phone. You wouldn't design that in a vacuum. You would be given some constraints and requirements: desired charging time, max charging rate the battery can handle, voltage of the battery, voltage of the power source, max current you can draw from the power source, etc. All of those would be factored into the design of the charger.
A similar thing happened as the mitochondrial biochemical processes evolved for creating ATP from sugar and fat. How fast do we need to create ATP, how much can we store on hand, what kind of fuel do we have available, how much fuel is on hand, etc.
What fuel sources were available? Mostly glucose and saturated fat. Maybe a little monounsaturated fat from plants. Hardly any polyunsaturated fat. No trans-fats.
The mitochondria need some feedback mechanism to limit the ATP creation rate - just like you don't want to charge your phone battery too fast, you don't want to overload an individual mitochondria with creating too much ATP at once. The electrical engineer does this by monitoring the current going into the battery and the temperature of the battery and probably a hundred other things. If that calculation is wrong - or something goes bad in the feedback mechanism - you have phones catching on fire.
The body monitors the feedback a little differently. Instead of looking at the state of the mitochondria, it looks at the byproducts produced during the ATP creation. For example, fat can't go directly into the mitochondria as fuel. It needs to be chewed apart into little 2-carbon chains. The act of chewing apart the fat releases some other chemicals. Once those chemicals floating around hit a certain concentration, a reverse reaction turns on to prevent "overcharging". Kind of cool, and pretty fool proof - as long as you eat the food that this process evolved under!
Glucose: creates no by products, this just goes into the mitochondria fast. That's good when glucose is in low supply or slowly titrated in over the course of a day - that is eating roots and tubers, not drinking soda or juice.
Saturated Fat: creates these by products in the correct ratios. That is, when you gorge on the woolly mammoth, you can eat as much as you want. Even in the presence of a ton of saturated fat, the ATP charging rate is limited by a back reaction.
Monounsaturated Fat: Since fat is chewed apart 2 carbons at a time, monounsaturated fat looks just like saturated fat except for one pair of carbons that is double bonded. The processing of the double bond changes the ratio of byproducts a little bit. So the back reaction which shuts down the overcharging is delayed a little bit. Normally, that's ok, there's not much monounsaturated fat in nature, and most of it is in the presence of saturated fat, so the back reaction will happen.
Polyunsaturated Fat: Now there are two or more pairs of carbons which need special processing. That much special processing is enough to completely shut off the back reaction. Consumption of polyunsaturated fats is unregulated by the biochemistry.
You can't blame the engineer if your phone catches on fire if you plug it into a 220V socket instead of a standard 110V. That's outside of the design parameters. You can't blame your mitochondria for not knowing what to do with polyunsaturated fats when they didn't exist (in large quantities) in the evolutionary milieu while these processes were being created.
Dr. Eades said that polyunsaturated fats act as a super-carb. Since fat has about 9 cals / gram, and carbs have about 4, you're actually getting twice the uncontrolled charging as you are with glucose.
What do you avoid? What are polyunsaturated fats? Precisely the "heart-healthy" stuff we've been advised to eat since the mid 70's (coincidentally when the health crisis really started)
Avoid at all costs:
Basically all vegetable oils!
The biggest source of these oils? Going out to eat at a restaurant. They're cheap and easy to use. If you eat out, you are eating a ton of these oils. Cook at home and use (real) butter - not margarine - bacon fat, beef tallow, olive oil (however, it's nearly impossible to find real olive oil - the stuff you're buying is usually fraudulently cut with vegetable oils), avocado oil. Basically do the opposite of what the government says.
Next time, I'll talk about why this matters in your training, not just for your health.