How to Activate Lasting Energy - Part 1

Written by Anil Bajnath, MD
Posted December 17, 2020

Dear Reader,

We’ve all learned of the importance of exercise to maintain a healthy body. Have you ever wondered why it’s so important, or considered what happens at the cellular level when you move your body? A very special enzyme with a four-letter acronym is behind it all!

First, a little background biology

Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) is the primary energy source of all living organisms. Energy is captured from the food you eat and is stored in the form of ATP. It is then broken down and the energy is released into the mitochondria, which are the powerhouses of the cell (remember high school biology class). The mitochondria then convert the energy into a form that cells can use. Simply put, the end product is called adenosine monophosphate (AMP).

Adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) – our above-referenced, four-letter acronym – is an enzyme that is biochemically activated in the presence of increasing levels of AMP (thus, the name) and decreasing levels of ATP. In my book, The Longevity Equation, I reveal, “If you want a bottomless supply of energy, activating AMPK is the #1 thing you need to do. AMPK is the body’s ultimate energy enzyme. This enzyme plays a huge role in the homeostatic control of energy balance. In other words, it helps regulate energy inflow [ATP] and energy outflow [AMP].” (p. 123)

What else does AMPK do in my body?

 Jeffrey Bland, PhD, calls AMPK the Chief Executive Housekeeper of the body:

When you cut calories or exercise, AMPK coordinates glucose and fat catabolism [breakdown] and anabolism [synthesis] to keep you going, and when you fast or lose weight, AMPK directs the sorting of cellular components for recycling or disposal in your metabolic waste bin. It oversees short-term energy usage as well as long-term energy regulation. In basic terms, cellular AMPK monitors levels of the energy molecules AMP and ATP . . . and communicates throughout the body to optimize their balance, exerting major influence over metabolic plasticity and cellular housekeeping functions.

I summarize in The Longevity Equation: “Along with controlling energy levels, AMPK also increases your metabolism, helps you melt away fat, cleans out old cells, acts as an antioxidant, and increases your overall blood flow. Most of all, it promotes longevity. In fact, research shows that AMPK activation can increase your lifespan by up to 15%! That could mean an extra 11.7 years.” (p. 123)

Activate AMPK with another four-letter acronym for exercise

Exercise builds muscle strength and flexibility, promotes cardiovascular health and encourages healthy lung capacity. But at the cellular level, exercise does so much more.

“If you have trouble finding energy during the day or you just can’t seem to get rid of that extra weight, chances are, you just haven’t figured out how to activate AMPK yet. But you’re in luck – activating [AMPK] is actually pretty simple. There’s one thing you can do today that will help “turn on” this enzyme almost instantly: exercise . . . This is because AMPK is stimulated by your muscle contractions. All forms of exercise will help activate this enzyme. However,  research shows that high-intensity workouts produce the most significant results . . . The best way to do this is with high-intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT uses short bursts of intense exercise, followed by a resting period . . . If you want more energy, you have to get your body moving and your muscles working.” (The Longevity Equation, p. 123-124)

“A lack of time might be the #1 reason why people don’t work out. But what if instead of spending 30, 60, 90, or 120 minutes working out each day, you could get amazing results in WAY less time? Well, [the training coach of a Japanese speed skating team], named Izumi Tabata, developed a 4-minute workout (after warmup) that completely shatters the idea that workouts have to be time-consuming to be effective. In fact, one study showed that this workout method is even more effective than cycling for a full hour. If you want to build muscle, burn fat, and increase your endurance quickly and without lifting a single weight, you can’t go wrong with this workout.” (The Longevity Equation, p. 135)

The Tabata Protocol:

Step 1: Warm up the body for 5-10 minutes.

Step 2: Complete 8 sets of the following:

  • 20 seconds of high-intensity action (sprinting, cycling, rowing, burpees, etc.)
  • 10 seconds of rest

Step 3: Cool down.

Expanding on cellular housekeeping

We recently talked about cellular senescence and autophagy [aw-tofuh-jee], your body’s built-in cellular recycling program. AMPK is involved in a selective form of autophagy called mitophagy. Dr. Jeffrey Bland continues to expand on this:

One of AMPK’s most important missions is responding to mitochondrial stress and injury caused by redox imbalance, oxygen tension, and mitochondrial toxins such as pesticides and microbicides. Upon these kinds of challenges, AMPK determines when to enact mitophagy to “part out” usable portions of damaged mitochondria and/or order production of new ones. This housekeeping role [is] a crucial aspect of healthy cell life cycles . . . Many of AMPK’s activities take place through an impressively broad communications network with many well-known signaling systems linked to biological aging . . . AMPK regulates glucose uptake, insulin sensitivity, fatty acid oxidation, protein and muscle synthesis, exercise capacity, and the inflammatory response.

In addition to exercise, evidence shows that caloric restriction/intermittent fasting increases lifespan and longevity by activating AMPK’s ability to initiate mitophagy. Research demonstrates that “among the effects of [caloric restriction/intermittent fasting], modulation of mitochondrial activity and a decrease in oxidative damage are two of the hallmarks.”

There's one more easy way to activate your AMPK...

And I'll tell you about it next week.

Meanwhile, here's something for you to read over the weekend.

To your longevity,

Anil Bajnath MD
CEO/Founder, Institute for Human Optimization
Chief Medical Advisor, Longevity Insider HQ

* Today's content was provided by the Institute for Human Optmization (