June 18, 2013

Nutritional Biochemistry

My Quantified Self, Part I

My 2013 presentation at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC): An Advantaged Metabolic State: Human Performance, Resilience & Health.

Read Time 2 minutes

In 2013 I gave a presentation at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) in Pensacola, Florida. Ken Ford, the CEO and Founder of IHMC, is a remarkable person and I could not wait to meet his team and see their research.  IHMC does cutting edge work, primarily for the Department of Defense (DoD). I had an exhilarating day which culminated with a presentation I gave to the team and also the public.

Want more content like this? Check out our interviews with Kristin Neff on the power of self-compassion and Esther Perel on the effects of trauma.

The talk I gave was a first timer.  (Usually the first two or three times I give a talk it’s not very good, as I need to work out some kinks.)  However, since the talk was recorded I’ll set my perfectionist tendencies aside and share it, below.   The talk is about an hour, and the Q&A session was also recorded.

A month or so before the talk, I asked Ken what he wanted me to talk about and he suggested I speak about human performance and resilience – both topics of importance for the DoD.  I don’t consider myself an expert in either of these topics, but I certainly appreciate the need to maximize, or least optimize, both.  Rather than give a highly technical talk, I chose to give a slightly technical talk that focused more on my own journey in this space and some of the experiments I’ve done on myself, specifically those around energy utilization.  This talk does not present all of the data on my self-experiments, of course, but hopefully it gives you a sense of what kind of data can be gathered for studying energy utilization.  In subsequent posts I’ll likely delve further into the data that support these findings and expand on a few of the tangents not fully explored here.  For “regular” readers of this blog, the first half of this presentation is pretty basic, but the second half should offer novel info.  For new readers, hopefully the entire talk will be informative.

For those reading via email, here is the presentation:


Photo by Siyan Ren on Unsplash

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  1. Hi Peter,
    I want to ask you when you did the experiments in metabolic chambers? I guess it was at the beginning of 2013. Am I right?


    P.S. I would like to read some series of articles about your experiences from that…

    • Thanks you, because now I am writing book in slovak language about ketogenic diet and connection between keto and exercise. Much stuff I have used from your experiments so I want the detailes 🙂 Also I have used some stuff from Ben Greenfield, Barry Murray – https://www.optimumnutrition4sport.com and from Dr. Phinney and Dr. Volek.

      Now I am in ketosis and testing some things at myself. Especially effect of ketosis on proffesional athlete because I am profi soccer goalkeeper.

      My friend, who cooperate with me on the book, practice long-term concept Warrior diet (1 big meal per day at evening) by Ori Hofmekler and he is freerunner and parkourist and train very anaerobicly. He is very strong- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1Zr1Wcz9Dw

      He was lately on spiroergometry after 15 hours fasting and his results was amazing. His ketones was 0,5 mmol/L which is his normal level of BOHB. His VO2 max is only 53.9 ml/kg/min but he reached it at RQ 0.95. He have reached anaerobic threshold at 88% VO2 max and RQ 0.67. He have burned 123 g of fat per hour. Aerobic base (RQ 0.85) reached at 49.8 VO2 (92,6% his VO2 max). It is crazy because he don´t eat ketogenic diet although he is close to it.

  2. Hi Dr. Attia, I would like to know which pace you held during your bike ride after 24 fasting and then 6 hours riding. In interview with Dr. Eenfeldt you said that it was your record but you didn´t say what the pace you held.

    I guess average 60% your VO2 max. Am I correct?

    Thanks for your time

    • I think average power was about 180 watts and normalized power was about 200-220 watts, so this was not a “brutal” ride, but it had some big efforts on climbs.

  3. Dr. Attia,

    I currently an practicing Functional Medicine with my wife in Colorado and have experience w/ endurance athletes.
    I have two questions:
    1) Did you look at cortisol levels pre and post switching to ketogenic diet ?
    2) Did you do complete cardiac, nutient, mineral, or biochemical profile testing pre and post ketogenic diet ( eg: Neutraval, Spectrocell, or Health Diagnostics ?)


    thanks Rick

  4. Hi Peter,

    I enjoy reading all of your blog posts (‘Fat Flux’ has to be one of the best expositions on weight gain/loss that I’ve ever read).

    I thought you may be interested in an example framework for analysing personal data that my brother and I have been working on, with an example. It’s also a good example of Feynman’s first principle – you must not fool yourself.


  5. Hi Peter! Thanks for the amazing blog and great talk. I’m an engineer, so I really like how you strive to get a “down to the metal” understanding of how your nutrition affects your body. It’s really helped me understand how ketosis works in my own body.

    I have a question about RQ: You mention that it can be used to figure out what substrate the body is using to produce energy, but I’m unclear why you can make that correlation. Is it simply that burning fat requires a lower ratio of Oxygen consumed to CO2 released?

    • Yes, it’s based on the study of indirect calorimetry. By knowing the amount of CO2 produced and O2 consumed you can determine the ratio of fat and CHO utilized.

  6. Wow! what a talk…what a beautiful thoughtful and though provoking presentation….all the numbers and facts were perfect for making the case….and you have very good presenatation skills as well, trying to keep it humble and in perspective without sounding dogmatic or prescriptive…

    I am in ketosis as well…my diet is
    fatty meat, eggs, ghee, coco oil
    little bit of very well cooked veggies (I dont do well with fiber due to gut damage from extensive fiber use in the past)
    supplements for calcium, magnesium, vit c, fish oil, vit d

    love the ketosis. my mind is sharp, calm. My gut feels calm. I can go for hours without feeling hungry and cranky.

    I include exercise on and off. Mostly biking and some strength trainining. I notice that when i strength train, i dont need to fuel myself with carbs before or during. when i lift weights, i feel so strong to lift them…no wobbly stuff…

    yet, a lot of improvement pending on the muscle gain area…will get there…

    thanks again and i love your blog and your scientific aptitude,


  7. Peter – love all the research you’ve put out on this! Two quick questions – i feel best at a ketone level between 2.5-4 but have seen few articles or posts of people at the level. I’m two weeks into ketosis and as i become more adapted my ketones continue to rise (almost daily). Obviously north of 8 is dangerous territory but is hovering around 4 or 5 abnormal?

    Additionally, is there a preferred method to coming out of ketosis while avoiding ‘keto flu-like’ symptoms?

    Thanks – Keep putting out great work!!

  8. Super non-linear path and not at all planned out. Was fully invested in pursuing PhD in aerospace engineering when change of heart set in and switched to medicine, which meant going back to do start from a post-bac.

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