How We Really Burn Calories, Lose Weight, and Stay Healthy

March 5, 2021

Herman Pontzer, PhD is an author and Associate Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at Duke University. Through lab and field research, he investigates the physiology of humans and apes to understand how ecology, lifestyle, diet, and evolutionary history affect metabolism and health. In his new book, Burn, he reveals how human metabolism really works, based on his studies of energy expenditure in modern-day hunter-gatherers.

On this podcast, Herman and I discuss his groundbreaking research showing the effects of exercise on human metabolism, and their implications for obesity and disease prevention. He describes the astonishing results that emerged when directly measuring the metabolism of Tanzania’s highly active and healthy Hadza people while engaged in their daily activities. The conclusions he draws shed light on what people really need to do to lose weight and keep it off (and it’s not low-carb).

Here’s the outline of this interview with Herman Pontzer:

[00:00:35] Herman's background and interest in evolutionary anthropology.

[00:02:38] Dan Lieberman.

[00:03:09] Energy expenditure.

[00:03:58] Working with the Hadza people of Tanzania.

[00:06:24] Hadza researchers: Brian Wood, Frank Marlowe, and David Raichlen. Podcast with David Raichlen: Wired to Run: Why Your Brain Needs Exercise.

[00:07:07] Paper: Pontzer, H., B. M. Wood, and David A. Raichlen. "Hunter‐gatherers as models in public health." Obesity Reviews 19 (2018): 24-35.

[00:08:15] Paper: Eaton, S. Boyd, Melvin Konner, and Marjorie Shostak. "Stone agers in the fast lane: chronic degenerative diseases in evolutionary perspective." The American journal of medicine 84.4 (1988): 739-749.

[00:08:47] What changed in modern culture.

[00:09:52] Wearable GPS devices on Hadza men and women.

[00:12:23] Video: The Intense 8 Hour Hunt, from David Attenborough’s Life of Mammals.

[00:16:32] How the Hadza think and feel.

[00:21:16] Book: Burn: New Research Blows the Lid Off How We Really Burn Calories, Lose Weight, and Stay Healthy, by Herman Pontzer, PhD.

[00:24:35] The body adapts to the lifestyle.

[00:25:03] Constrained energy expenditure model.

[00:26:18] A fixed energy budget.

[00:29:08] Overtraining syndrome; Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (REDS) and why eating more isn't the answer.

[00:31:23] Race Across the USA study: Thurber, Caitlin, et al. "Extreme events reveal an alimentary limit on sustained maximal human energy expenditure." Science advances 5.6 (2019): eaaw0341.

[00:37:00] Implications for obesity.

[00:37:59] Researcher Kevin D. Hall, PhD.

[00:41:25] Richard D. Feinman, PhD; Podcast: A Guide to Flawed Studies with Richard Feinman.

[00:43:48] How to lose weight: cut calories without being miserable.

[00:44:33] Why gastric bypass surgery works.

[00:45:42] Podcast: The Hungry Brain with Stephan Guyenet, PhD.

[00:47:50] Robb Wolf book: Wired to Eat: Turn Off Cravings, Rewire Your Appetite for Weight Loss, and Determine the Foods That Work for You; Podcast: Wired to Eat with Robb Wolf.

[00:48:07] Book: The Hungry Brain: Outsmarting the Instincts That Make Us Overeat, by Stephan Guyenet, PhD.

[00:50:31] Bodybuilding; Podcast: The Nutrition and Science of Natural Bodybuilding, with Eric Helms.

[00:54:40] Exercise to keep weight off.

[01:01:25] Where to find Herman: Pontzer Lab at Duke; Twitter.


[01:02:23] Curiositystream documentary on the Hadza: Growing Up Hadza.

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