Debbie Potts Coaching

What is MUSCLE metabolism and how do we improve it?

Muscle metabolism refers to the biochemical processes that occur within muscle cells to generate energy, maintain cellular functions, and regulate various physiological activities.

These processes are crucial for muscle contraction, growth, and overall function.

There are two main types of muscle metabolism: aerobic metabolism and anaerobic metabolism.

  1. Aerobic Metabolism:
    • This type of metabolism occurs in the presence of oxygen.
    • The primary pathway involved is oxidative phosphorylation, which takes place in the mitochondria of muscle cells.
    • During aerobic metabolism, glucose and fatty acids are broken down through a series of chemical reactions to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy currency of cells.
    • This process is more efficient in terms of ATP production and is the predominant method for providing energy during sustained, low-to-moderate intensity activities, such as endurance exercises.
  2. Anaerobic Metabolism:
    • This type of metabolism occurs in the absence of oxygen or when oxygen supply is insufficient to meet the energy demands of the muscle.
    • The primary pathways involved are glycolysis and lactic acid fermentation.
    • During anaerobic metabolism, glucose is partially broken down to produce ATP quickly. However, this process is less efficient than aerobic metabolism.
    • Anaerobic metabolism is utilized during short bursts of high-intensity activities, such as weightlifting or sprinting.

The balance between aerobic and anaerobic metabolism depends on the type, intensity, and duration of physical activity. Muscles rely on a combination of these metabolic pathways to meet the dynamic energy demands associated with various activities. Additionally, factors such as nutrition, training status, and overall health can influence muscle metabolism.

How is muscle metabolism related to cell health?

Muscle metabolism is closely tied to cell health, as the biochemical processes that occur within muscle cells are essential for maintaining cellular function, integrity, and overall well-being.

Several factors highlight the connection between muscle metabolism and cell health:

  1. Energy Production:
    • Muscle cells require a constant supply of energy to perform various functions, including contraction, maintenance of cellular structures, and the synthesis of essential molecules.
    • Efficient muscle metabolism ensures an adequate production of ATP, the energy currency of cells, which is crucial for sustaining cellular activities and maintaining cell health.
  2. Nutrient Utilization:
    • Muscle metabolism involves the breakdown of nutrients such as glucose and fatty acids to generate energy through processes like glycolysis and oxidative phosphorylation.
    • Proper nutrient utilization supports the synthesis of biomolecules, including proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids, which are essential for cell structure, repair, and function.
  3. Oxygen Supply:
    • Aerobic metabolism, which occurs in the presence of oxygen, is vital for efficient energy production and overall cell health.
    • Adequate oxygen supply supports mitochondrial function and prevents the accumulation of harmful byproducts that can negatively impact cellular health.
  4. Waste Removal:
    • Metabolic processes generate waste products, and effective muscle metabolism contributes to the removal of these byproducts.
    • Proper waste removal is essential for preventing cellular damage and maintaining a healthy cellular environment.
  5. Cellular Signaling:
    • Muscle cells play a role in overall metabolic regulation, responding to signals related to energy status, nutrient availability, and hormonal cues.
    • Cellular signaling pathways involved in metabolism can influence cell health by regulating processes such as cell growth, repair, and survival.
  6. Adaptation and Resilience:
    • Regular physical activity and exercise stimulate adaptive responses in muscle cells, enhancing metabolic efficiency and overall cellular resilience.
    • Exercise-induced adaptations can include improved mitochondrial function, increased antioxidant defenses, and enhanced cellular repair mechanisms, contributing to long-term cell health.

In summary, muscle metabolism is integral to cell health because it provides the necessary energy, nutrients, and signaling cues for cells to function optimally. A well-balanced and efficient muscle metabolism supports cellular processes, helps maintain cellular integrity, and contributes to the overall health and resilience of the body’s tissues.

What is oxidative phosphorylation, which takes place in the mitochondria of muscle cells?

Oxidative phosphorylation is a crucial process that occurs in the mitochondria of cells, including muscle cells.

Let’s break down the key components of oxidative phosphorylation:

  1. Mitochondria:
    • Mitochondria are membrane-bound organelles found in the cytoplasm of eukaryotic cells, including muscle cells.
    • Often referred to as the “powerhouses of the cell,” mitochondria are responsible for generating most of the cell’s supply of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is used as a source of chemical energy.
  2. Oxidative Phosphorylation:
    • Oxidative phosphorylation is the final stage of cellular respiration, a process that extracts energy from nutrients.
    • This process takes place in the inner mitochondrial membrane and involves a series of protein complexes, including Complex I, Complex II, Complex III, and Complex IV.
  3. Electron Transport Chain (ETC):
    • The protein complexes in the inner mitochondrial membrane form the electron transport chain.
    • During oxidative phosphorylation, electrons are transferred through the electron transport chain, and this movement of electrons is coupled with the pumping of protons (hydrogen ions) across the inner mitochondrial membrane.
  4. Proton Gradient:
    • The pumping of protons establishes a proton gradient, with a higher concentration of protons in the intermembrane space compared to the mitochondrial matrix.
    • This proton gradient creates a potential energy difference, known as the proton motive force.
  5. ATP Synthase:
    • ATP synthase is a complex enzyme embedded in the inner mitochondrial membrane. It acts as a molecular machine that utilizes the proton motive force to synthesize ATP.
    • As protons flow back into the mitochondrial matrix through ATP synthase, the energy released is used to convert adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and inorganic phosphate (Pi) into ATP.
  6. ATP Production:
    • The final product of oxidative phosphorylation is ATP, the primary energy currency of the cell.
    • For every molecule of glucose that enters cellular respiration, oxidative phosphorylation has the potential to produce a large number of ATP molecules.

In muscle cells, oxidative phosphorylation plays a critical role in meeting the energy demands, especially during activities that require sustained effort, such as endurance exercises. The efficiency of oxidative phosphorylation contributes to the endurance and fatigue resistance of muscles. Additionally, adaptations in the mitochondria of muscle cells can occur in response to regular aerobic exercise, enhancing oxidative phosphorylation and improving overall energy production.

What is autophagy?

  • Autophagy may engulf non-specific cell components, or selectively remove damaged components or invasive bacteria and other pathogens.
  • Autophagy is a natural cellular mechanism by which the cells in our body degrade unnecessary or damaged components within the cell.
  • The process of autophagy helps maintain normal functioning (homeostasis) in the cell. The term “autophagy” literally means “self-eating.”
  • Though autophagy sounds like self-destruction, the process actually helps clean up harmful material inside the cells and rejuvenates them.
  • Autophagy may completely destroy damaged molecules, or recycle them into new components which can be used for cellular repair.
  • In times of stress, when cells are deprived of nutrients or oxygen, autophagy can provide an alternate source of energy from the recycled cellular material to help them survive. Autophagy can help the immune system by cleaning up toxins and infectious agents.
  • Under certain conditions, autophagy can also induce programmed cell death (apoptosis). In short, autophagy is a part of a cellular process that maintains cell homeostasis by finding a balance between making and breaking cellular components.

What is the process of autophagy?

  • Autophagy forms a part of the metabolic process which helps cells convert food into a form of energy that cells can use to grow and divide.
  • Metabolism balances between two opposing activities, anabolism, and catabolism.
  • Anabolism is a process that synthesizes molecules and builds cellular structures, while catabolism breaks them down.
  • Autophagy is a catabolic process.
  • A human cell is composed of a nucleus, surrounded by a semifluid substance known as cytoplasm, enclosed within a cellular membrane.
  • The cytoplasm is made up of a solution known as cytosol, protein molecules, and structures known as organelles, which are essential for the survival and functioning of the cell.
  • During autophagy, a semicircular membrane known as phagophore forms and closes around some of the molecules and organelles in the cytoplasm and becomes what is known as an autophagosome.
  • The autophagosome fuses with an organelle known as the lysosome.
  • The lysosome contains digestive enzymes that break down the contents of the autophagosome. The resulting molecules are released back into the cytosol to be recycled and used in the metabolic process.
  • Autophagy is a natural process that occurs all the time in the cell, less when well-fed, and more when under stress.
  • Autophagy may engulf non-specific cell components, or selectively remove damaged components or invasive bacteria and other pathogens.

How do you increase autophagy?

Research suggests that autophagy may increase from activities that cause stress to the cells, such as:

  • Lack of nutrients due to prolonged fasting for two to three days
  • Physical exercise, which can cause damage to the cells, triggering autophagy
  • Certain diets like the ketogenic diet deprive the body of carbohydrates

Some foods believed to trigger autophagy include the following:

What is cell autophagy? what is mitophagy? how to improve it?

Cell Autophagy: Cell autophagy is a cellular process that involves the degradation and recycling of cellular components, including damaged organelles and proteins. This self-eating mechanism helps maintain cellular homeostasis, eliminate dysfunctional structures, and provide the cell with the necessary building blocks for new components. Autophagy plays a crucial role in cellular health, longevity, and the body’s ability to adapt to stress.


  • Mitophagy is a specific form of autophagy that targets and removes damaged or dysfunctional mitochondria.
  • Mitochondria are the energy-producing organelles in cells, and maintaining a healthy mitochondrial population is essential for proper cellular function.
  • Mitophagy helps ensure the quality control of mitochondria by selectively removing those that are damaged, preventing the accumulation of dysfunctional organelles that could contribute to cellular stress and disease.

Ways to Improve Autophagy and Mitophagy:

  1. Caloric Restriction and Intermittent Fasting:
    • Caloric restriction and intermittent fasting have been linked to increased autophagy.
    • When the body is in a fasting state, cellular stress responses, including autophagy, are activated to provide energy and remove damaged components.
  2. Exercise:
    • Regular physical activity has been associated with increased autophagy.
    • Both aerobic exercise and resistance training can stimulate autophagic processes.
    • Exercise-induced stress prompts the cells to undergo adaptive responses, including the removal of damaged cellular components.
  3. Nutrient Sensing Pathways:
    • Certain nutrient-sensing pathways, such as the mTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin) pathway, play a role in regulating autophagy.
    • Inhibition of mTOR, which can occur during fasting or in response to certain compounds, can stimulate autophagy.
  4. Natural Compounds:
    • Some natural compounds, such as resveratrol (found in red grapes and wine) and curcumin (found in turmeric), have been studied for their potential to induce autophagy.
  5. Adequate Sleep:
    • Quality sleep is essential for overall cellular health, and disruptions in sleep patterns have been linked to impaired autophagy.
    • Maintaining a regular sleep schedule and ensuring adequate sleep may support autophagic processes.
  6. Cold Exposure:
    • Cold exposure or cold stress has been shown to induce autophagy.
    • This can be achieved through activities like cold showers, ice baths, or exposure to cold environments.
  7. Hydration:
    • Staying hydrated is important for cellular function, and adequate water intake may support autophagic processes.
  8. Avoiding Excessive Stress:
    • Chronic stress can negatively impact cellular health and may interfere with autophagy.
    • Managing stress through practices such as meditation, mindfulness, and relaxation techniques can be beneficial.

It’s important to note that while these strategies may promote autophagy, the specific effects can vary among individuals, and more research is needed to fully understand the complexities of these processes.

Additionally, it’s always advisable to consult with healthcare professionals before making significant changes to lifestyle or diet, especially for individuals with underlying health conditions.

What is more effective for cell autophagy and mitophagy…compare exercise versus fasting

Exercise and fasting are both known to stimulate autophagy and mitophagy, but they do so through different mechanisms. Comparing the two is complex, as they have distinct effects on the body, and their effectiveness may depend on various factors, including the type and intensity of exercise, the duration of fasting, and individual differences.


  • Benefits: Regular exercise, both aerobic (e.g., running, cycling) and resistance training (e.g., weightlifting), has been associated with increased autophagy. Exercise induces stress on cells, prompting them to undergo adaptive responses, including the removal of damaged components through autophagy.
  • Mechanisms: Exercise can activate AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and sirtuin proteins, which are involved in cellular energy regulation and stress response. These pathways can stimulate autophagy.
  • Considerations: The effectiveness of exercise for autophagy may depend on factors such as exercise intensity, duration, and frequency. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) and endurance exercise have both been shown to impact autophagy.


  • Benefits: Fasting, particularly intermittent fasting or more extended periods of caloric restriction, is a well-known inducer of autophagy. When the body is in a fasting state, cellular energy levels decrease, activating AMPK and other pathways that promote autophagy.
  • Mechanisms: During fasting, the body shifts from a fed state to a fasted state, leading to a decrease in insulin levels and an increase in glucagon. This hormonal shift triggers cellular responses that include the activation of autophagy to provide energy and remove damaged components.
  • Considerations: The effectiveness of fasting for autophagy may vary based on the fasting duration and pattern. Short-term intermittent fasting and longer fasting periods have both been studied.


  • Synergistic Effects: Some studies suggest that combining exercise and fasting may have synergistic effects on autophagy, as they can activate different pathways and create a more robust cellular response.
  • Individual Variation: The effectiveness of exercise and fasting for autophagy can vary among individuals. Factors such as age, fitness level, and overall health may influence the response.
  • Balanced Approach: It’s essential to note that a balanced approach incorporating both regular exercise and healthy eating habits, including occasional periods of fasting, may be beneficial for overall health, cellular function, and longevity.

In summary, both exercise and fasting can stimulate autophagy, and the effectiveness of each may depend on various factors. Incorporating both into a balanced and healthy lifestyle may provide comprehensive benefits for cellular health and overall well-being. As always, individuals should consider their unique circumstances and consult with healthcare professionals before making significant changes to their exercise or dietary routines.

How do we improve muscle health and muscle metabolism as we age?

Maintaining muscle health and metabolism becomes increasingly important as individuals age, as aging is associated with changes such as muscle loss (sarcopenia) and alterations in metabolism.

The strategies to improve muscle health and metabolism can be similar for both males and females, but there may be some considerations specific to each gender.

Here are some general guidelines:

1. Resistance Training:

  • Both Genders: Engage in regular resistance training or strength training exercises. This helps maintain muscle mass, strength, and function. Include a variety of exercises that target different muscle groups.

2. Adequate Protein Intake:

  • Both Genders: Consume an adequate amount of protein in your diet. Protein is essential for muscle maintenance and repair. Spread protein intake evenly throughout the day.

3. Balanced Nutrition:

  • Both Genders: Maintain a balanced diet with a focus on nutrient-dense foods. Include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats to support overall health and metabolism.

4. Stay Hydrated:

  • Both Genders: Ensure proper hydration. Water is essential for various physiological processes, including those related to muscle health and metabolism.

5. Hormonal Changes:

  • Females: Hormonal changes during menopause can affect muscle mass and metabolism. Engaging in strength training, along with hormonal management if necessary, can be beneficial.

6. Vitamin D and Calcium:

  • Both Genders: Adequate vitamin D and calcium intake is important for bone health, which indirectly supports muscle health. Vitamin D also plays a role in muscle function.

7. Cardiovascular Exercise:

  • Both Genders: Include regular aerobic exercise, such as walking, cycling, or swimming, for cardiovascular health. It can also contribute to overall metabolic health.

8. Avoid Prolonged Sedentary Behavior:

  • Both Genders: Minimize sedentary behavior. Prolonged sitting has been associated with negative effects on metabolism and overall health.

9. Quality Sleep:

  • Both Genders: Prioritize good sleep hygiene. Quality sleep is crucial for recovery, and lack of sleep can negatively impact metabolism and muscle health.

10. Manage Stress:

  • Both Genders: Chronic stress can affect metabolism and overall health. Incorporate stress-reducing activities such as meditation, yoga, or hobbies.

11. Regular Health Check-ups:

  • Both Genders: Regular health check-ups can help identify and address any underlying health issues that may impact muscle health or metabolism.

It’s important to note that while many strategies are applicable to both genders, individual variations exist. Factors such as genetics, hormonal profiles, and overall health status can influence the effectiveness of these strategies. Consulting with healthcare professionals or fitness experts can help tailor recommendations to individual needs.

Additionally, females may face unique considerations related to hormonal changes, particularly during menopause. Hormone replacement therapy and lifestyle modifications can be discussed with healthcare providers to address specific concerns related to muscle health and metabolism during this stage of life.

Are you fasting and exercising too often?

If somebody is really focusing on body composition, at a minimum, if they’re really aggressive about this, I would use something like a protein sparing modified fast where they’re eating a lot of protein on a consistent basis, lifting weights, a full body, global exercise routine every single day. It’s going to suck. It’s going to be absolutely miserable, but it will affect some amazing body composition change. And it’s driving towards that goal. And you can also do a whole variety of other things that are less gnarly of an intervention, you have an adequate protein, probably about a gram of protein per pound of lean body mass per day, you know, basic dietary intervention which could be paleo or keto or however you want to do it. But make sure you get that protein, then introduce some al caloric deficit, and then lift weights multiple times a week.

Like if body composition is really the goal, folks are so wrapped around the axle of like, fasting and they have this sense that it’s a health benefit, and there probably is a health benefit, and if somebody is metabolically broken and they’ve historically been overweight. Probably an argument for doing some amount of fasting. But then at the end of the day, you need to learn how to make real meals and eat real food. This is one of my issues with fasting, is that it doesn’t actually teach people good eating habits. And also, there’s another cross section of people that are training very hard, they’re doing cross fit multiple times a week or something like that. And then they want to throw fasting on top of that, as some sort of a health benefit.

If you’re doing five or six days of week of pretty significant physical activity, you’re already exercising above what is normal for our species. Like this whole hunter/gatherer ancestral health model. Our ancestors were active, but they were not fucking CrossFit games competitors. And once you have that, you are … and I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing, but you’ve already kind of pushed the adaptation window of your body into a very, a tough state. Throwing fasting on top of that with some thought that that’s going to improve something is a mistake. This is losing some context there.

Just the act of exercise enhances autophagy, it mainly happens in the muscles, but it stimulates autophagy globally. In the background, I have a pot of coffee brewing.

  • Coffee stimulates autophagy globally, throughout the whole body.
  • And decaf works better, and as I’ve already needled the hipsters, dark roast works better than like medium roast.
  • So anyway, I know that that was kind of a rambling grab bag of stuff, but I would really encourage people, particularly coaches that are working with people, ask people what their damn goals are.
  • And really hold their feet to the fire to be clear about what the goals are.
  • If you are confused, sit down and write down three or four, you know, perceived goals and then prioritize one of those. And then it really clears up a lot of the confusion. It cuts through a lot of the bullshit that people get hamstrung on when they’re trying to figure out, should I do this versus that.

One final thought, if you’re just going into this with the idea, “I want to see what ketosis is like, I’ve never done it before.” Great, that is a goal in and of itself. Experience is a goal in and of itself. But for the most part, what I’m finding is people are just flailing around and they really don’t have an expectation about what they’re doing, so there’s no way to assess if what they’re doing is actually providing benefit.

Autophagy is a cellular process that involves the removal and recycling of damaged or dysfunctional cellular components. While the relationship between specific foods and autophagy is an active area of research, it’s important to note that much of the evidence comes from preclinical studies, and more research is needed to fully understand how dietary factors influence autophagy in humans.

That said, some dietary strategies have been proposed to support autophagy:

  1. Caloric Restriction: One of the most well-established methods to induce autophagy is caloric restriction. Reduced calorie intake, intermittent fasting, or periodic fasting may promote autophagy by putting cells under mild stress.
  2. Low Carbohydrate and Ketogenic Diet: Some studies suggest that low carbohydrate and ketogenic diets may stimulate autophagy. These diets are characterized by low levels of insulin, and insulin has been implicated in the regulation of autophagy.
  3. Polyphenol-Rich Foods: Certain plant compounds, such as polyphenols found in fruits, vegetables, and tea, have been studied for their potential to induce autophagy. Examples include resveratrol (found in red grapes and red wine) and quercetin (found in apples, onions, and berries).
  4. Fasting Mimicking Diet: A fasting mimicking diet involves cycles of low-calorie intake, which may mimic the effects of fasting and stimulate autophagy. This diet typically includes plant-based foods, healthy fats, and limited protein.
  5. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish (such as salmon and mackerel), flaxseeds, and walnuts, may have a positive impact on autophagy.
  6. Green Tea: Some studies suggest that the polyphenols in green tea, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), may enhance autophagy.

It’s important to approach any dietary changes or interventions with caution, especially if you have underlying health conditions. Before making significant changes to your diet, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian. Additionally, individual responses to dietary interventions may vary, and more research is needed to establish clear guidelines for promoting autophagy through diet in humans.

The protein-sparing modified fast (PSMF) is a type of very-low-calorie diet that prioritizes the consumption of high-quality protein while severely restricting the intake of carbohydrates and fats. The goal of a protein-sparing fast is to provide the body with the essential amino acids necessary for maintaining muscle mass while still creating a caloric deficit to promote weight loss.

Here are some key features of a protein-sparing fast:

  1. High-Protein Intake: The primary focus of a PSMF is on consuming lean protein sources, such as chicken, turkey, fish, lean beef, eggs, and low-fat dairy. Protein is essential for preserving muscle mass, even when the body is in a state of caloric deficit.
  2. Low Carbohydrate and Fat Intake: Carbohydrates and fats are severely restricted during a protein-sparing fast. This restriction is designed to force the body to use stored fat for energy, contributing to weight loss.
  3. Caloric Restriction: The total daily caloric intake during a protein-sparing fast is significantly reduced, often providing a very low number of calories. This is typically achieved by consuming a high proportion of calories from protein while keeping carbohydrate and fat intake minimal.
  4. Supervised Approach: Due to the extreme nature of this diet, it is recommended that a protein-sparing fast be conducted under the supervision of a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian. Regular monitoring of health parameters, including nutritional status and metabolic markers, is important to ensure safety.

The protein-sparing modified fast has been used as a short-term intervention for rapid weight loss in certain clinical settings, such as in the management of obesity or before surgery. However, it’s crucial to note that such extreme dietary measures should only be undertaken with careful consideration and professional guidance. Long-term adherence to very-low-calorie diets can have potential risks and may not provide all the essential nutrients needed for overall health.

Before embarking on any significant dietary changes, especially those involving drastic caloric restrictions, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian to ensure that the chosen approach is safe and appropriate for individual health goals and conditions.

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