Bioenergetics I - Introduction
Life, Energy & PUFAs
Warning: The opinions expressed on this website are strictly my own. They are intended for educational/informational purposes only, and never as a substitute for a doctor’s medical care/advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Life: a disease?
Here’s a thought experiment:
A doctor gives you the option to either increase or decrease how many calories your body burns every day.
Increase them, and your body will require more energy to maintain itself;
Decrease them, and your body will (obviously) require less.
Out of these two options, which one do you think would make you live longer?
From my experience, most people answer that lower energy requirements are better for lifespan. After all, if we think of ourselves as instruments—say, not unlike computers, dishwashers or candles—it is clear that lower runtime should equate to longer lifetime. The car with the least miles on the dashboard usually sells best… right?
This was, for a long time, the mainstream view in biology. In the early 1900’s, Max Rubner (German physiologist) and Raymond Pearl (American biologist), came up with the Rate-of-living Theory, which claimed that higher metabolic rates (meaning, higher energy requirements) resulted in shorter lifespans.
The Rate-of-living Theory came to life when Raymond Pearl realized that fruit flies (of all animals) lived longer when their body temperatures were lower; that is, when they had slower, more sluggish metabolisms.
Him and others went on to theorize that organisms age as they “accumulate life”, so to speak; that our bodies store up harmful substances over time as they produce more energy, and that the more energy they produce, the more they deteriorate. They thought that people had a genetically-determined number of heartbeats to “use up”.1 They believed that life weighs on life, and that the best way to live longer was to live less.
Such was the “wisdom” of their fruit flies.
In the early 2000’s, new experiments proposed a completely opposite theory, known as the Uncoupling-to-Survive Hypothesis (great idea, horrible name).
In them, scientists found that mice which had 17% higher oxygen consumption (i.e., living more intensely, with faster metabolisms) lived 36% longer than those with lower oxygen consumption. As the paper noted: “this is equivalent to an age difference in humans from 75 to 102 years.”2
This was groundbreaking. For once, a theory was proposed that did not see living organisms as mere instruments that get “used up” the more they exist.
Rather than claiming energy expenditure wears down structural integrity, this theory defends that energy and structure are interdependent and reinforce each other. Higher energy thus results in a sturdier structure—because part of that energy is spent precisely on maintaining said structure. In the words of Nobel laureate Albert Szent-Györgyi:
“A living cell requires energy not only for all of its functions, but also for maintenance of its structure. […] Life supports life, function builds structure, and structure produces function. Once the function ceases, the structure collapses: it maintains itself by working.”
What seems like an unintuitive concept becomes very clear once you consider that computers, washing machines and candles can hold their structural integrity for a long time when they are turned off, but that living organisms disintegrate rapidly once they die.
We would be mistaken to think of ourselves as mere instruments. We don’t just exist—we are alive. Life is our fundamental, inescapable property, and as such we should be valued based not on what we think of it, but on how well we do it justice. That some people consider life a sort of sickness speaks only of themselves. I reckon the greatest sin of modern Man is that he is not alive enough.
"After all, judgments and valuations of life, whether for or against, cannot be true: their only value lies in the fact that they are symptoms; they can be considered only as symptoms—per se such judgments are nonsense." - Friedrich Nietzsche
It is precisely the differentiating factor between life and death—that is, biological energy—that I want to discuss with you today. I will defend that life brings life, and will make a case for increasing energy and vitality through (sustainable) practices.
This field of study has been the lifework of some of the most brilliant scientific minds of the past century. Among them, the work of Dr. Raymond Peat in particular (PhD in biology; also known as “Ray Peat”) stands as king. Ray Peat has devoted himself to understanding life through the study of energy and its interaction with the world. More specifically, he has always been interested in one type of interaction:
"For Pavlov, the study of psychology or physiology without consciousness was simply crazy. Pavlov said that he studied nutrition to understand consciousness and the nervous system, because eating is our closest interaction with the world. Our brain is part of our digestive system. But eating has become highly institutionalized and influenced by our cultural beliefs. If people begin to think about the meanings of eating, they are beginning a process of cultural and philosophical criticism." - Raymond Peat, PhD
What follows is my humble attempt at trying to explain some of Ray Peat’s (et al.) main nutritional insights, often categorized under the umbrella of pro-metabolic or bioenergetic nutrition. Many others have already attempted this before, and many among them have done a much better job than I ever could. This summary would not have been possible without their contributions, which I will list in the Bioenergetic Hub on the Impero Wiki.
In the meantime, whether you stumbled upon this article looking for a (somewhat) coherent introduction to Ray Peat, or whether this is the very first time you’ve come across his name, I hope the following summary will do your time justice.
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Your metabolism is the sum of all processes going on inside your body.
When your metabolism is working properly, you feel warm and alive, your energy levels are high, you enjoy deep quality sleep, you can keep a positive outlook on things, your hair and skin glow with vitality, you have great libido, you go regularly to the bathroom, you have more muscle mass, more focus and more patience. When your metabolism is working properly, you feel hungrier: for food, for sun, for action—for life.
Here’s a quick rundown of 12 signs of high metabolism by Kate Deering’s fantastic book “How to Heal Your Metabolism”:
36.6º to 37º C underarm temperature
75 to 90 bpm pulse rate
Warm feet, hands and nose
1-3 bowel movements a day
4-5 urinations a day
Healthy sex drive
In women, low to no PMS
Shiny hair, smooth skin, strong nails
7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep
Feeling happy and content
Having good energy all day
Maintaining body weight with ease
Essentially, having a high-functioning metabolism means facing life with the relaxed readiness and radiance of a child:
“A high level of metabolic intensity is characteristic of both young plants and young animals under conditions that are ideal for their life, meeting their energy and substance needs abundantly.” - Raymond Peat, PhD
On the other hand, people with a sickly metabolism often feel cold—especially in their hands, feet and nose—and drained of energy; they have poor digestion, poor sleep, poor libido, poor concentration, and generally a poor attitude. They do not feel hungry for life, they would much rather just get by.
In the 1950’s, studies by Dr. Broda O. Barnes (MD, PhD), reported that around 40% of Americans suffered from low metabolism. For reasons we will discuss shortly, I can only imagine that this number has gone up since. We are living in a hypometabolic epidemic, and as a result more people than ever suffer from cancer, heart disease, stroke, depression, Alzheimer’s—you name it.
Diseases that were once the exception have now become the norm, and anyone who dares question this development is told that “it’s all genetic”, in a false and pathetic attempt to prevent them from overcoming their victim status.
Thankfully, the work of professionals like Dr. Broda O. Barnes, Dr. Albert Szent-Györgyi, Dr. Raymond Peat, Dr. Gilbert Ling, Dr. Constance Martin, Dr. Hans Selye and many others are slowly waking people up to the fact that the body must also be studied in terms of energy; and that many of its dysfunctions occur insofar as it fails to produce it. After all, "treating humans without concept of energy”, said Dr. Szent-Györgyi, “is treating dead matter.”
“More life and more energy can solve many of the basic problems of life.” - Raymond Peat, PhD
The word “energy” is thrown around left and right in daily life—as we just did. Some days we wake up more energetic, others more lethargic. Some of our friends are “high-energy”, others rather dull. We even go as far as to say that some people “radiate good energy”, or that we don’t want to bring a certain person’s energy into our life.
But what actually is energy? and what does it do?
The answer to the first question is… nobody really knows. Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynmann famously said that “it’s important to realize that in physics today we have no knowledge of what energy is.” Energy is, as far as we know, “stored potential for change”3—like that inside a compressed spring about to bounce off—and it can “only” really do two things: either move stuff about or heat stuff up. That’s it.
In biology, when we speak of “creating” energy we are really talking about promoting cellular respiration, also known as increasing the metabolic rate. Just as we breathe by taking in oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide, cells too undergo a breathing process; but rather than just using oxygen, they also take in glucose (simple sugar) and release carbon dioxide, water and adenosine triphosphate, also known as ATP.
ATP is commonly referred to as the “energy currency” of all living organisms. In a nutshell, it is the molecule that captures and releases energy to power all of life on Earth. All things that involve energy—that is, all things that require either movement or heat—use ATP to get it. ATP powers all of your vital functions, your muscles, your thoughts, your creativity, your love life, your intellect, the splitting of your 100 trillion cells, the constant replication of your DNA—everything.4
This quasi-magical molecule is made (mostly) inside minuscule “ATP factories” inside your cells called mitochondria (or mitochondrion, in singular). Mitochondria, as the famous sentence goes, are the “powerhouses of the cell”, the engines located inside all the bits that make up who you are. The job of each mitochondrion is to make ATP using sugars through the process of cellular respiration.
Jump over this section if you don’t want to learn how ATP is produced.
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To simplify things rather crudely, we will say that cellular respiration occurs in four stages, though in reality, some of these happen simultaneously, as molecules jump in and out of stages.
Glycolysis (from the Greek glycos, meaning “sugar”; and lysis, meaning “to break”) is how cellular respiration begins. As the name implies, it involves the chemical breakdown of glucose into other molecules. It is therefore a catabolic reaction—one that breaks things down.
Glycolysis happens outside the mitochondria, in an area called the cytosol, and involves breaking down glucose and (optional5) oxygen into a bunch of different components. In the end, we are left with 2 pyruvate (a more usable form of glucose), 2 ATP (energy) and 2 NADH (a coenzyme that transports electrons and will be crucial for step 4).
Note that glycolysis itself needs ATP to happen, so in reality it involves 4 ATP, only 2 of them are used up in the process.
2. Pyruvate oxidation
Those 2 pyruvate we just made are then transported inside the mitochondrial matrix, the deepest part of the mitochondria, where they get oxidized (CO2 is created and released) and each become Acetyl-CoA, a molecule whose main function is to perform step 3.
Also, in this process, 2 additional NADH are created.
3. The Krebs Cycle
In this step, those 2 Acetyl-CoA stick together to another molecule called oxaloacetic acid and each become citric acid. Those 2 new citric acid molecules then go through a lot of transformations and end up being catabolized to oxaloacetic acid again. The whole process then begins anew with the next set of Acetyl-CoA, hence the “cycle” in the name.
During this process, CO2 is also released, water is made, and we end up making 2 ATP, 6 NADH and 2 FADH (another coenzyme, similar to NADH).
4. Oxidative Phosphorylation
This step is complicated, so please bear with me.
Remember all that NADH we’ve been storing up? Now is its time to shine.
This step takes place on both sides of the inner mitochondrial membrane, the membrane that separates the mitochondrial matrix on one side, and the intermembrane space on the other.
The inner mitochondrial membrane is mostly made up of a phospholipid bilayer6 (a bunch of tadpole-looking structures called cardiolipins), but also includes some other things like protein channels that allow for things to flow from one side to another.
Essentially, what happens in this stage is that all the NADH/FADH previously produced travel close to the membrane from inside the matrix and give it all the electrons they were carrying.
These electrons then start traveling all along the membrane and “activating” the protein channels that run through it.
Once activated, these protein channels start actively pumping hydrogen protons from the matrix-side to the intermembrane-side and, soon enough, the intermembrane-side becomes full of them—which, if you remember from high school chemistry, makes things quite unstable.
All those protons get so unstable, in fact, that they crave to come back to the matrix side of the mitochondrion and do so through a special enzyme, an organic “machine” called ATP synthase.7
ATP synthase has a constant influx of ADP,8 a less powerful version of ATP; and as the protons shoot through it, they (literally) make it turn, like an engine, and help transform ADP into ATP by slamming an additional phosphate molecule (Pi) onto it.
Finally, once the ATP is made, it detaches from inside the ATP synthase and goes off to power all of life.
During this last step, roughly 26 to 34 net ATP molecules are produced.
Voilà, that is a general overview of how ATP is made.
During the whole cellular respiration cycle, each molecule of glucose can yield anything from around 30 to 40 net molecules of ATP, depending on how efficient your body is at making it.
The high-level view of this chemical transformation is written as follows:
C6H12O6 + 6O2 → 6CO2 + 6H2O + ATP
C6H12O6 is glucose
6O2 is oxygen
6CO2 is carbon dioxide
6H2O is water
ATP is energy
And so, as we mentioned way back up, full cellular respiration ultimately takes in a molecule of glucose and some oxygen to make CO2, water and energy.
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So, given that cellular respiration (i.e., metabolism) is responsible for ATP, and that ATP is responsible for powering all of your actions and the structural integrity of your cells, it would make sense to try to optimize this whole process so your cells can produce as much ATP as sustainably and efficiently as possible, right?
Well, one of the best ways to do that is by eliminating one of the most ubiquitous and anti-metabolic substances out there; meet…
II. Polyunsaturated Fats
Seeding Seed Oils
In the early 19th century, the cotton industry realized that they could process part of the leftover waste that occurred during cotton production (cottonseeds) to make an oil out of it. Thus, cottonseed oil was born.
Initially, cottonseed oil was sold and used as machine lubricant. The same process was then applied to corn waste (yielding corn oil), and soy waste (yielding soybean oil), only this time salesmen came up with a far more profitable and scalable use case for them—cooking. Essentially, Procter & Gamble repackaged machine lubricant as cooking oil and started a massive (and successful) marketing campaign to spread its use across the country.
According to Dr. Chris Knobbe (Professor Emeritus of the University of Texas), the invention of those oils—what we now call vegetable or seed oils—has resulted in “the single biggest change to nutrition in all of human history.” Humans have gone from consuming 0g of vegetable oils in the 1900’s, to over 80g a day in modern times. In other words: roughly 1/3rd of calories people consume in the U.S. nowadays comes from a food that did not exist 200 years ago.9
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Everything you eat is made up of carbohydrates, protein and/or fats; these are known as macronutrients. You also eat a lot of other smaller things, like minerals and vitamins; those are known as micronutrients. Bananas, for example, are mostly made of fructose (a carbohydrate) but also include other things like potassium (a mineral). Therefore, bananas have both macro and micronutrients.
Despite being three main things, macronutrients come in different forms, and what form you consume is just as important as the macronutrient itself. For instance:
Sucrose (sugar) and fructose (fruit sugar) are both carbohydrates, but they are digested in different ways. Fructose is metabolized in the liver and doesn’t raise your blood sugar level much. Sucrose is partly metabolized in the liver too, but also goes to your bloodstream in the form of glucose, which raises your blood sugar. So, even though eating both sugar and fruit means ingesting carbohydrates, the type of carbohydrate you consume makes a big difference.
Protein from animals and protein from plants are not the same. This is because protein is made out of different combinations of mini-proteins, called amino acids, and their presence varies widely depending on the source. Leucine is one of the most important amino acids, and is very helpful for building muscle. As Joseph Everett explains in his video Protein is not protein, to get the same amount of leucine and essential amino acids as in 25g of whey protein, you need to eat 40g of soy protein, or 38g of pea protein. So, even though eating both animals and plants means ingesting protein, the type of protein you consume makes a big difference.
Now that we’ve gotten carbs and protein out of the way, we are ready to understand how those same differences apply to the last macronutrient: fats.
There are essentially two types of fats: saturated and unsaturated, but the latter is an umbrella term for two sub-types, called monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Like it is the case for carbohydrates and protein, the type of fat you consume makes a big difference.
Saturated Fatty Acids (SFAs) are omnipresent in traditional cuisine, and found in things like butter, beef tallow, lard, ghee, and coconut oil. As I will argue—and contrary to the “mainstream narrative”—these are the single best fats you can consume.
Unsaturated Fatty Acids (UFAs) are composed of:
Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFAs), found in things like olive oil, avocado and chocolate. These are overall safe to consume—especially if you know what you’re doing.
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs), found in the so-called vegetable/seed oils we discussed earlier: cottonseed oil, canola oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, grape seed oil, etc. You’ve probably heard of them before under the name of “omega-6 or omega-3 fatty acids.” They are highly anti-metabolic and represent a threat to your health.10
The reason PUFAs are so toxic is that they are molecularly fragile and oxidize very easily. As soon as they are exposed to light, oxygen and (especially) heat, they “go bad” and begin breaking down into toxic chemicals. All things oxidize, to some degree; PUFAs oxidize a lot.
Simply drinking raw seed oils causes their PUFAs to oxidize heavily, because the human body is warmer than their breakdown point. In fact, most room temperatures are warmer than their breakdown point… which is particularly worrying when you consider seed oils are made by heating waste products up to 260º C (500º F) in industrial factories.
That’s right: the PUFAs in seed oils are already heavily oxidized before they even get to the store… where they oxidize even more as they wait on a shelf before they get to your house… where they oxidize even more when you heat them up on your pan to fry some rice. You are consuming oxidation upon oxidation—and causing even more oxidation simply by digesting it.11
Jump over this section if you don’t want to learn why PUFAs oxidize.
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Pictured above are the molecular structures of the three types of fats. As you can see, they are all made up of different combinations of carbon (C), oxygen (O) and hydrogen (H). That said, there are two notable differences between them.
First, the difference between the saturated and unsaturated fats is that the former are, well, completely saturated with hydrogen molecules—hence the name. The unsaturated fats, in contrast, have some carbon molecules that are not bonding to hydrogen.
Most importantly though, only in unsaturated fats do we find the second difference: double bonds in the backbone. Monounsaturated fats have one double bond, and polyunsaturated fats have more than one (pointed in grey; I drew two, but there can be more). Saturated fats, on the other hand, have no double bonds in the backbone.
Although they “sound” stronger, double bonds are actually very fragile in the presence of light, heat or oxygen, and can easily break apart.
When their double bonds break, the now-free and unstable molecules (called “free radicals”) freak out and try to either steal or give away an electron from any molecules around it to reach a stable state again. In the process, they wreak havoc to all their neighbors, and in their brief (but intense) lifetime can cause mutations to your DNA, resulting in things like heart disease or cancer.
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Okay, so now we know that the type of fat we consume matters, and that polyunsaturated fats, omnipresent in the modern diet, oxidize rapidly and can be harmful to our bodies. But how, exactly? What does all this oxidation result in?
“Smiling, laughing, and other normal physiological activities tell us that a baby is well. This is just a short way of saying that the trillions of cells making up the baby are well. Similarly, when the baby is sick, it is a short way of saying that some or all of the baby’s cells are sick.” - Gilbert Ling
The reason PUFA oxidation is a big deal is because your body is ultimately made up of the things you consume. Whenever you eat PUFAs, they slowly accumulate in your body, and it can take years of cutting them out to replace them.12 Seed oils have not only displaced saturated fats out of your diet; by doing so, they have started to displace them out of your body, too.
Once your body metabolizes enough PUFAs, a chain reaction can take place, known as a lipid peroxidation cascade;13 once a molecule of PUFA oxidizes, it can make other molecules nearby oxidize as well—again, and again, and again. Think of it as an “oxidation pandemic” inside your fatty tissues. This chain reaction can make your mitochondria crumble by damaging their cardiolipin, the fatty regions responsible for oxidative phosphorylation, and suppressing your respiratory enzymes, which prevents you from making ATP. It will also “steal” antioxidants that could have been used for other things.
Remember: mitochondria are responsible for powering all processes, all movement, all life inside your body. They are found everywhere. This is not a matter of a damaged organ, but of an organelle that lives inside all organs—a meta-organ, so to speak. Suppressing your body’s ability to make ATP shuts down your metabolism, making you (quite literally) less alive, and preventing your cells from maintaining their structure. The now-unsaturated cells become more fluid, less sturdy, and have even been shown to collapse entirely.
Remember how in the beginning we defended the Uncoupling-to-Survive Hypothesis, which claims that mammals with a fast metabolism—much to the chagrin of fruit flies—live longer and more fulfilling lives? That is what is at stake here.
It is now known that mammals with mitochondrial dysfunctions (i.e., impaired metabolisms) are subject to a long list of diseases, because their cells lack the ability to produce energy, and thus maintain their function and structure. Mitochondrial disfunctions are known to cause…
The list goes on… mitochondria are everywhere, after all.
In a 2006 study from the University of British Columbia, they found that, compared to those eating low PUFA diets, rats eating lots of PUFAs had twice the levels of fat oxidation and five times less cardiolipin in the heart (preventing ATP production). These rats suffered heart failure in just four weeks.14
Impaired cellular respiration will also make you age faster, which will result in slower cognitive abilities and cosmetic issues like hair loss and cellulite. As the old adage goes: you are what you eat; eat things that oxidize quickly, and your body will soon follow course.
“General aging, and especially aging of the brain, is increasingly seen as being closely associated with lipid peroxidation.” - Raymond Peat, PhD
III. What now?
There is still much to cover in the realm of bioenergetics, but I reckon it’s time for a break… and some hope. In future articles—if you friends show interest—we will dig deeper into the endocrine system, hormone optimization, stress mechanisms, additional practical matters, etc.
In the meantime, I reckon you must have about a hundred questions, and are probably looking for ways to protect your body against the life-sucking leeches of modernity. Let’s get right into them.
First, some preventive medicine: stop eating high-PUFA foods. The path towards high metabolism is much easier without their bristly broken bonds weighing down on your energy production. This is easier said than done, because PUFAs are practically everywhere nowadays. Main sources include:
Sunflower oil, Canola oil, Almond oil, Grape seed oil, Corn oil, Margarine, Peanut oil, Safflower oil, Vegetable oil, Fish oil, Walnut oil, Cottonseed oil, Soybean oil, Sesame oil, Flaxseed oil…
The big problem here is not only that they are in most packaged goods, but that they are used to cook in practically all restaurants around the world, because they are cheap and don’t leave any particular taste in the dish (as opposed to, say, olive oil).15 Pro-metabolism and eating out are difficult things to balance; but on the flipside, “disrespecting seed oils” will push you into cooking your own meals and taking nutrition into your own hands.
“As little as one or two teaspoonfuls of coconut oil per day appears to have a strong protective effect against obesity and cancer.” - Raymond Peat, PhD
In the 1940’s, farmers in the US tries to use coconut oil to fatten their animals; but much to their surprise, the more coconut oil they fed their stock, the leaner, more active and hungrier they got.16 The reason why is simple: coconut oil has some of the highest content of saturated fatty acids, which kicked the animals’ metabolism into gear.
Coconut oil is so saturated, in fact, that it is very difficult for it to spoil. Even though it has a tiny bit of PUFAs in it, lipid peroxidation rarely takes place, because the PUFA molecules are essentially surrounded in saturated fats and cannot start a chain reaction. To emulate this within your own fatty tissues, the time has come for you to… become coconut oil—sort of.
If there is just one thing you take from this besides avoiding high-PUFA foods, let it be having some coconut oil every day. Daily coconut oil will replace the PUFA in your body with pro-metabolic saturated fats. Plus, it has a high content of MCT fats (medium-chain triglycerides), a special type of fuel that is converted to energy extremely quickly, even more than glucose.
As per Kate Deering’s recommendations, start with 1 teaspoon per day, with an additional teaspoon every week until you get to 1 or 2 daily tablespoons. If you have to run to the bathroom, chances are you took too much coconut oil at once—cut back and try again. Also, note that some people do not digest virgin coconut oil well, and for that reason it’s often recommended to take the refined version, which has less allergens.
When buying butter, buy butter.
Real butter has one ingredient: cream (and, optional: salt). Grass-fed butter is expensive, but worth it. Like it is with you, the fats cows produce depends largely on the food they eat. Grass-fed cows have been raised outside, up-cycled fresh grass and (hopefully) gotten plenty of sun, which makes their butter rich in vitamins A, E, D and K2.
Also, cows are incredible animals that provide you with some of the most nutritious food you can get: stop promoting businesses that treat them like shit by buying their products.
When I discovered ghee a couple of years ago, I couldn’t believe nobody had told me about it before. Ghee is butter on steroids: you cannot burn it nor need to keep it in the fridge. It’s technically “clarified” butter, which means it has had the milk separated out of it. It is perfect to cook with, and is what I have been using personally (along with the next ingredient) ever since I came across it.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Don’t let the saturated gatekeepers tell you EVOO is bad for you, simply because it contains mostly monounsaturated fatty acids. EVOO is the Mediterranean ingredient par excellence—and for us southern Europeans, almost a religion. That said, for those in different regions, good EVOO can be hard to spot. Here are the classifying criteria you should look out for:
Make sure it’s extra virgin. Plenty of cheap olive oils are mixed with other ingredients, like linoleic acid (high in PUFA).
Make sure it comes in a dark bottle. Remember that monounsaturated fats still have one double bond, so they can oxidize more easily. Dark, thick glass bottles protect the EVOO from light to avoid premature oxidation.
Make sure the bottle says it’s “cold pressed” and “using only mechanical processes”, for the same reason as above.
And for the same reasons again, make sure you store it in a cool, dry, somewhat dark place.
Pro-tip: you will know the olive oil is good if you take it as a shot and feel a tickling sensation on your throat. This is because great EVOO has oleocanthal, an anti-inflammatory compound that triggers TRPA1 receptors in our cells (just like ibuprofen), making them sting a bit.
“Many of the events involved in inflammation are increased by estrogen, and decreased by vitamin E.” - Raymond Peat, PhD
The only supplement I will recommend here is vitamin E. Vitamin E has a similar function to coconut oil in protecting you for oxidizing PUFAs. If you did everything above perfectly (avoid high-PUFA foods, take coconut oil, cook in saturated fats) you wouldn’t need to supplement it for this reason. However, because things will never be perfect, it can act as a great protective measure.
As such, Ray Peat recommends taking 400 IU of vitamin E (D-Alpha Tocopherol) once a week, or roughly 50 IU a day. It is a fat soluble vitamin, so make sure to take it with a meal, or suspended in capsules with EVOO to maximize bioavailability.
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“Keeping the metabolic rate up is the main thing, and there are lots of ways to do it.” - Raymond Peat, PhD
In a nutshell, here are the 4 basic actions you can take away from all of this.
Avoid high-PUFA ingredients to the best of your ability—especially deep-fried food.
Ease your way into taking up to 1 or 2 tablespoons of coconut oil per day.
Start cooking exclusively with coconut oil, butter, ghee, and extra virgin olive oil.
Supplement with 400 IU of vitamin E per week.
IV. Up next
This may seem like a lot, but we’ve only just begun.
In the next article, I will dive deep into the endocrine system to discuss what makes you and I different from other forms of life: a working thyroid.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask them on the Impero Club.
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This theory goes hand in hand with the “telomere theory of aging”, which claims you have certain number of cell divisions “available” before you die.
Technically, chemical energy is stored inside molecular bonds, and is released when bonds are broken or created.
Even making ATP needs ATP. Your body uses so much so that it recycles its own bodyweight in ATP every single day.
This is the only stage that can take place without oxygen. Without it, a completely different process occurs called fermentation. In yeast, for example, anaerobic (meaning, without oxygen) glycolysis creates ethanol. In mammals, it creates lactic acid (the thing that makes muscles “burn” when you train).
“Phospho” here refers to the phosphate head, and “lipid” simply means fat (like in “liposuction”). It’s basically two layers of fatty acids with a head made of phosphate, looking away from each other.
I don’t use the word machine lightly. Check it out in action here, and consider that this is happening billions of times across your entire body right now. It’s incredible.
Whereas ATP is Adenosine Triphosphate (3 phosphates), ADP is Adenosine Diphosphate (2 phosphates). It has one less phosphate molecule, and therefore less energy to store between phosphate bonds.
To put how much seed oil the modern diet intakes into perspective, consider that a study found people in remote locations (i.e., without access to a modern diet) have a concentration of 3.8% of seed oil fats in their bodies; whereas the “modern individual” has between 20-25%—more than 5 times the pre-industrial amount.
Yes, the famously healthy omega-3’s fall into this category. That said, these are tipically consumed as part of something else (e.g., fish) as opposed to just by themselves, which lowers their risk (many fish have vitamin E). For that same reason, I do not recommend taking fish oils in the long term.
Deep frying in seed oils—the standard practice in all kinds of restaurants—really takes the cake here. The same oil is used for days, reheating it every time to temperatures well above breakdown point. Food deep-fried in PUFAs is as toxic as it gets.
I have heard that it takes roughly 4 years to detoxify yourself from PUFAs, but I need to double-check the number. In any case, as we will see, there are ways to accelerate that clean-up process.
Lipid simply means fat. Peroxidation means oxidizing to the highest degree.
A simple heuristic: if something is cooked in good olive oil, coconut oil, etc. it will generally say so on the menu. Otherwise, it’s a seed oil feast.
And guess what? Ever since, they feed them a diet of corn and soy oils, because it achieves the exact opposite effect.