Hopefully, as you read this, you are recovering from a decent exercise session. Or, at least, you have done some exercise today before you spent excessive amounts of time reading articles on the internet. Reading articles about exercise is much like watching ‘how to’ videos on YouTube. All very well, but not a lot of good unless you actually do it!
Here at ketopenisoner, we have developed an exercise system aimed specifically at longevity. It is a combination of various factors such as the type of exercise, when to exercise, appropriate nutrition and how to combine exercise with autophagy.
People ask why should they exercise? Can’t I just eat a healthy diet and, if anything goes wrong, I will just see my doctor and let him/her solve the problem. This probably applies to a frighteningly large percentage of the population. Exercise, I am sorry to say, is yet another of those use it or lose it situations. The more inactive you are, the harder it is to be active when you need to be.
To be fair, modern life is set up in such a way as to emphasise comfort and the avoidance of effort. Our food systems are almost tailor-made to encourage the excessive consumption of the sort of mass-produced foods that lead to obesity and ill-health. Once on that slippery slope of take-aways, processed gunk, excessive sugar and food soaked in vegetable oils, it is easier and easier just to let exercise slide. As if to further the tendency towards the sedentary, we have endless TV channels, game consoles, mobile phones and the internet. All guaranteed to submerge the individual into an increasingly inactive, and an increasingly deadly, lifestyle.
Beyond all this, we tend to live in very comfortable conditions. Far more comfortable than our predecessors could ever have imagined. Lords and Ladies, even Kings and Queens, of the past never experienced the degree of comfort that we take for granted in this day and age. In the winter, our houses are centrally heated, often with additional fires to boot. In the summer, we have air conditioning. When we travel, we utilise climate-controlled modes of transport, sitting back in the lap of luxury. Paradoxically, all this convenience and comfort can do us more harm than good.
Hormesis (see blog) is a concept we all need to understand if we are to live a long and healthy life. It simply means that we need to be challenged to become stronger. When we exercise, we become more capable of dealing with the physical challenges of life. When we experience cold, our bodies become better able to deal with the cold. When we fast, our bodies adapt healthily at an intracellular level as the process of autophagy recycles detrimental debris in our cells. We need to suffer a little in order to grow.
The method that we are going to suggest includes elements of hormesis, autophagy, and the stimulation of mTOR (a specific pathway that helps us grow muscle). It seeks to take advantage of the body’s natural way of responding to various challenges. By compensating for the demands placed upon it, the body becomes more able to deal with the ups and downs of life. Oddly, by embracing a little discomfort, we experience more comfort as our comfort zone increases.
This method will include ways of enhancing muscle mass, improving heart and lung efficiency, and burning fat. It will also combine these exercise forms with advice on the timing of exercise and dietary information so that we can not only enhance the effects of autophagy when required but also switch to mTOR when the body needs to after a demanding bout of resistance training. For more advice on these two processes, ketopensioner would highly recommend James Clement’s book, ‘The Switch’.
Enough of the theory for now. Let’s address the practicalities of the ketopensioner method. The first question to address is what kind of exercise should we engage in?
The approach we recommend has three pongs. The first is resistance training. The second is HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training). The third involves relaxed walking. You may have noticed that we do not recommend jogging or LSD (Long Slow Distance). This is quite deliberate. It seems quite clear from the data that marathon or even, god forbid, ultramarathon, training is not a good way to go if your goal is healthy longevity. Besides, many of the health benefits sought can be far more efficiently achieved by other means.
As an aside, this reminds me of the story of Jim Fixx, a running advocate during the jogging craze of the 1980s. As a keen runner myself at the time, I had just finished Mr Fixx’s book and was feeling full of enthusiasm when I read in The Times that the author had dropped dead whilst out on a run. Apparently, he had ignored chest pains prior to his death of a heart attack, in line with his psychological approach to exercise. This was somewhat discouraging …
This is the first part of the ketopensioner system. One of the biggest threats that we all face as we grow older is sarcopenia (muscle wastage). It is believed that, in general, most of us lose in the region of 1% of our muscle mass every year from the age of 30. Or, at least, that is the case if we do not address the problem. Fortunately, there is a very simple solution to this problem. It comes in the form of resistance training.
Resistance training involves pulling or pushing against an external resistance in order to increase our muscular strength or endurance. The most common form of such exercise is weight training. In my experience though, using weights tends to be expensive and can even be a little dangerous. This is the case whether you use a gym or buy your own weights. Far better, in this day and age, is the use of resistance bands. These are cheap, convenient, and can be used virtually anywhere. This is the particular brand we use, but there are many good alternatives.
A session of resistance training using bands will usually take from 45 minutes to around an hour. My own sessions consist of 8 exercises that I repeat 3 times, leaving adequate gaps between exercises for recovery. Speaking of recovery, more is not necessarily better with resistance training. Your muscles become stronger if allowed to recover between whole sessions. Because of this, I will normally only schedule three of these tougher sessions a week.
There are many excellent videos on YouTube demonstrating routines. My personal favourites are those by the excellent James Grage.
HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)
This form of exercise is both very effective and time-efficient. In fact, it takes so little time that you almost feel that you’re cheating. Sessions can take less than 15 minutes and only need to be done a couple of times a week. The benefits achieved are at least equal too, and maybe better than, much longer sessions of running or jogging.
Essentially, HIIT involves warming up for a couple of minutes, and then exercising at high intensity for 30 seconds to a minute, taking it gently for 90 seconds to a minute, and then repeating. This cycle is repeated three or four times, and your done. The whole session can be completed in well under fifteen minutes. What’s more, it only needs to be done a couple of times a week.
The form in which you do these high-intensity bouts is up to you. Personally, I like to take my bike onto hills and try to climb them as fast as possible. 45 seconds of this is enough to raise my heart rate considerably and have me sucking in great draughts of air. I then coast for a couple of minutes before repeating.
I have also used the pool, which works just as well. I will swim a length of high-intensity freestyle, followed by three lengths of gentle breaststroke. There are numerous forms that HIIT can take, whatever suits you is most appropriate, as long as you can achieve the level of intensity required. Personally, I have avoided running as I find it leads to too many injuries, and hence it can often be counter-productive, for me at least.
The third prong of our approach may barely feel like exercise at all. We advocate slow, steady walking to be included as part of your normal day-to-day activities. The benefits of taking regular, gentle walks are too numerous to mention, but they range from fat-burning to better sleep, from lifting-mood to enhancing creativity. It is easy to include in your lifestyle and costs absolutely nothing.
Interestingly, slow and gentle exercise can be more effective for weight loss than more intense sessions. Bodies tend to go over to burning glycogen at a certain level of exercise intensity. Keeping below that level will mean that you are slowly burning fat instead. Of course, if you are on a ketogenic diet, as we recommend, then you would be burning ketones (effectively fat) in any case, but even if you are not, gentle walks are a good way to reduce the waistline.
Beyond the benefits of gentle walking, there is an attitude to be adopted here. An active life is a healthy life. Too often, in our modern and convenient world, we are constantly subject to the temptation to adopt a passive and sedentary lifestyle. Our lives can easily be dominated by our phones, computers, TVs and PlayStations. Many of us work at desks sitting in front of computers. When we travel, we do so sitting in cars, on planes, on trains or buses. Our homes are full of labour-saving devices. This inactive, sedentary and passive lifestyle is immensely harmful to our health, both physical and mental.
When should we exercise?
Ideally, in the ketopensioner system, the most strenuous exercise should be taken towards the end of a fasting period. Obviously, not everyone is committed to intermittent fasting, although we would highly recommend including this in your lifestyle. Even if we do not fast, we can still utilise the period immediately following our longest time without food. For the vast majority of people, this equates to the morning before we break our overnight fast (hence ‘breakfast’).
The reason for adopting this particular timing is that exercise further promotes autophagy, the intracellular recycling process we spoke of earlier. The deeper into the fasting period, the more effective the exercise will be for stimulating autophagy. As an extra bio-hack here, we would recommend having a black coffee immediately before you start a resistance training session. This helps to encourage the autophagy process still further. The reason we recommend black coffee in this situation is that milk contains both leucine and lactose, either of which will tend to take you out of both autophagy and ketosis.
Of course, these recommendations are the ideal. Many of us have commitments of various sorts that may not allow us the flexibility to be able to exercise exactly when we wish to do so. In such cases, exercise when convenient. If possible though, try to take advantage when you can, weekends and holidays for example. The timing recommended is the ideal, but we will still gain many of the benefits of exercise, even when the timing is not perfect.
Dietary recommendations around exercise
These recommendations apply mainly to the three main resistance training sessions each week. The principal goal of these suggestions is the utilisation of the mTOR (mechanistic Target Of Rapamycin) switch. This enables the body to quickly recover from exercise and make the best use of the catabolic state that the exercise has induced. Resistance exercise in itself is catabolic. i.e., it breaks down tissue. We actually get stronger via the recovery during the anabolic phase following the exercise. This occurs as the body makes the necessary adaptations to the increased demands that have been made on it. A meal rich in protein is required to take maximal advantage of this opportunity.
Our bodies need protein to build muscle. They particularly need it immediately following an intense resistance training session. The actual timing of the protein intake is the subject of some debate, but within an hour would be a good ballpark figure. This study gives a good overview of the subject.
The protein required can be taken in many forms. It largely depends on your choice of diet. Eggs, meat, fish, legumes, even protein shakes if you are short of time, will all do the job required. Whatever suits your personal lifestyle, and dietary preferences will be fine, as long as it is high in bio-available proteins.
Exercise is the subject of much debate. The type, intensity and duration all depend on the particular goals you have in mind. The recommendations we make here are particularly suitable for our more mature clients, but they would also work very well for much younger readers too. The importance of maintaining muscle mass grows as we age, hence the stress in this system on resistance training. We also wish to avoid injuries, as these become progressively more difficult to get over as we age. This is another reason for recommending both HIIT and walking over jogging or running. Both of the latter tend to put excessive strain on the metabolism and can lead to long term injury. As ever, if in any doubt, consult a doctor before taking up any of these recommendations.