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The Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast Episode #215 - Vanessa Spina

Vanessa Spina is a Sport Nutrition Specialist (SNS), a student of Biomedical Science (U of T) and the Best Selling author of Keto Essentials (2017, Victory Belt). She is an international speaker and host of the popular Optimal Protein Podcast. Vanessa founded Ketogenic Girl in 2015 and has grown online community of over half a million social media followers.m and podcast listeners. Vanessa created an innovative wellness products, the Tone device, a breath ketone analyzer which measures acetone, the ketone detected on the breath. She is about to release the high my anticipated second generation of the Tone! She also recently designed a new red light therapy line called the Tone LUX.



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Optimal Protein Podcast (Fast Keto) with Vanessa Spina

Keto Essentials: 150 Ketogenic Recipes to Revitalize, Heal, and Shed Weight

the evolution of the podcast

vanessa's childhood

getting into keto

vanessa's diet history

changing your body composition without exercise

measuring ketone types

ketone ratios

breath acetone

Bio-individuality in baseline readings

calibrating the tone device

best practices for the tone device

the sensitivity in testing blood ketones

can protein be converted to fat via Gluconeogenesis

protein turnover

increasing protein intake to improve muscle mass

is extra protein bad for the liver or kidneys?

tone protein - Whey Protein Isolate

Go To toneprotein.com and/or tonedevice.com To Get The All The News About Vanessa's New products With An Exclusive Pre-Launch Discount!


Melanie Avalon: Hi, friends. Welcome back to the show. I am so incredibly excited and happy about the conversation that I am about to have. It is with somebody that you guys are probably very familiar with hopefully. If you listen to my other show, The Intermittent Fasting Podcast, you know my fabulous host on that show, cohost Vanessa Spina, the backstory on today's conversation. So, the work of Vanessa goes way beyond Intermittent Fasting Podcast. She and I were already friends before that and I was already a follower of her work, which is epic and awesome, and all the things. She has her own other incredible, amazing podcast which I highly recommend. It's called the Optimal Protein Podcast. And her handle is known as @ketogenicgirl. So, she's on Instagram as that and all the things. And she has a beautiful book called Keto Essentials your complete guide to the ketogenic diet. 

And she is also the creator, entrepreneur of the various Tone devices including a breath analyzer for ketones, which I'm sure we will get all into in today's episode, as well as a red light therapy line, which I know you guys love as I love as well. And she has a protein powder coming out, which I'm sure we will talk about that as well. She is an inspiration. She just so happens to be, and this is not an exaggeration, one of my favorite people on the planet and I have been looking forward to this conversation, having her on this show for so, so long. So, I'm just so excited. Vanessa, thank you for being here.

Vanessa Spina: Oh, my goodness, thank you for making me feel so welcome. [laughs] I feel like I'm going to tear up. Listening to your intro, it was just so beautiful and I just feel so special and honored to get to be here on your incredible podcast. I'm such a big fan of all the work that you do and it's so much fun just to get to be here with you today. So, thank you so much for having me. 

Melanie Avalon: No, I'm so excited. And something about you and when we're talking and all the things, so for listeners who are not familiar about our relationship, Vanessa and I, we're on the same wavelength, the same vibe, and I was thinking about it. You're one of those people that when I'm with you and talking with you, I feel most like myself. I feel like you bring out who I truly am and it's just because I feel so comfortable and I just loved exploring and talking about the world with you because I feel like we view it very similarly. It's my thoughts. 

Vanessa Spina: I feel like I'm going to cry. [laughs] I feel the exact same way about you. I was thinking about that today, and I'm like something about when Melanie and I are together, I just feel so completely seen and understood and I feel like when I talk, you really are a deep listener. And that's also a rare quality in people, which it's just so nice, especially when we're podcasting, to know that the other person is really listening deeply. And I think that's just such a marker of a really great podcast host is you have to be really good at listening [laughs] and not just like formulating your next thought or your next reply. 

Melanie Avalon: I think about that all the time, especially when I'm listening to podcasters. I'm like noticing if they interrupt, how they're listening. And I've noticed, like, you just said, that it carries over into real life. It's like a skill, you get used to not interrupting because you can. I mean, you can, but you don't as much when podcasting. That's so funny. Which, speaking of this is a question I've been wanting to ask you and we can go into your backstory and stuff. You mentioned at one point we're talking about podcasts and we mentioned how we named our podcast and you're like, "Oh, that's a story." Maybe we can talk about it on this podcast. I am dying to know because Optimal Protein podcast, what was it originally called? It was Keto--

Vanessa Spina: It was Fast Keto and yeah, when I first started, it was Fast Keto and to me that was everything. I love naming things. I think names are obviously so important. But the first thing that really drew me in about keto was the fact that it was a fasting mimicking diet where you're able to really sort of switch on a lot of similar pathways to when you're actually doing full fasting and absence of food. And I just found that so fascinating and the fact that fasting and keto go so well together and also wanting to impart to people how they can get into ketosis fast. So, there was just so much about it like fasting and keto. And the same goes for Tone and everything. All of my different products revolve around the word Tone, which to me has so much meaning because it's like ketones and getting toned. And I really love naming. It's also difficult to do. 

And so, when I decided to change the name to Optimal Protein, I felt like it was time for the podcast to evolve because I had evolved my approach and I feel so passionately about the importance of an optimal protein intake that I knew I had to change the name. And when I changed the name of the podcast, it was really well received with listeners. But I also changed my Instagram name to @optimalproteingirl because I wanted to maintain some kind of consistency. And I got so much feedback from my followers, especially people who have been following my work for years, and they were like, "No, you have to keep @ketogenicgirl." And I was just flooded with messages from really, really sweet and thoughtful messages from people who followed the work. And they're like, "No matter what with the podcast, you have to keep @ketogenicgirl." 

So, within 24 hours I had gone to @optimalproteingirl and then back to @ketogenicgirl. And I'm sure some people were confused, but I had to listen. And it's true, I was feeling a little bit sad when I changed it and I'm so glad that I went back. And to some people maybe that might seem frivolous, like it's just an Instagram handle or name, but it's your brand, it's what you represent. And I'm so glad that I kept it because even though I am really passionate about the concept of an optimal protein intake, I'm also very passionate about the power of ketones and especially their effect on our physiology, on our mitochondria. So, I'm really glad that I kept it. But is that kind of what you were wondering about? 

Melanie Avalon: I mean, the name thing is huge. I was actually doing an email introduction yesterday with somebody who has a very famous last name and they changed theirs on Instagram because they got married. And I spent like 15 minutes sitting there writing the email, being like, "What name do I put?" It's a big deal. That's so interesting that people with the name versus the podcast, have you found with the protein focus-- Because it sounds like the podcast was already evolving. Did you find that it siloed you at all with the content now? Do you feel like that you want to do episodes that might not be about protein necessarily or has that not been an issue?

Vanessa Spina: It's usually easy to tie it in, but I am always thinking about the name and I always inevitably come to the conclusion that what I am talking about is biohacking. [laughs] I don't know, I feel like a lot of people already have biohacking concepts and then I'm like to change a name again might be a lot, but I do think that I've definitely contemplated changing it to something that is a little bit broader. And it seems that I've gone from very, very niche to broader and broader. I ultimately just want the message to not be exclusive and for everyone to feel included, whether they do keto or not, whether they do paleo or not. The important thing is we prioritize protein or the important thing is we're focusing on biohacking, or metabolic health or whatever it is. And so, I think I'll probably always [laughs] think about names. You know the great thing is nothing is set in stone. Like you can change things. The bottom line is that people know, like, to follow your work. They'll continue to follow it regardless of the name change. But it is a really good point and it's something that I probably spend a little bit too much time thinking about.

Melanie Avalon: The last interview I did, her name was Jennifer Guttman. She wrote a book called Beyond Happiness. It's about like six life satisfaction techniques. She's a psychologist. One of the things she talks about and I don't know why I never really thought about this, but after reading it, I was like, "Oh, that's so true." She talks about how we put all of this effort and anxiety and thought and time into decisions, when really most decisions are not final. They're actually just guesses, the majority of decisions that you make. There are more decisions that are neither right nor wrong than right or wrong. 

Vanessa Spina: That's liberating.

Melanie Avalon: She has so many fun facts. [laughs] She says there's always an exit. Regardless of whatever decision you make, there's only a few decisions that are immutable, honestly. And so, basically, it's like, stop stressing about the decisions. And reading that, I was like, "I'm going to integrate that into my life." So, you can change the name. Oh, that's a perfect example. Like with Instagram, you made two really big changes. You changed your Instagram and you changed the podcast. The podcast landed well, the Instagram, not so much. So, it's fine. You switched back. I love that. What about the Ketogenic Girl Podcast? Since people love your name so much, but then you're going back to keto stuff 

Vanessa Spina: That's actually not a bad idea. I've thought about sort of hacking keto or something like that. It's a fun process, so it's fun to contemplate. And the only thing with keeping the word keto is that, again, I don't want it to feel ever exclusive to people. And I know at the same time that if your content is good and consistent, people will share it. And it doesn't really matter what the name is or what the image is on it or anything like that. It's like a really good restaurant. Even if it's in the middle of nowhere, if it's amazing, people will talk about it, and they will come. At the end of the day, it's really about what you deliver. But the naming process is definitely fun to think about. 

Melanie Avalon: That is so true. Well, do you know why your parents named you Vanessa? 

Vanessa Spina: They named me after one of their favorite actresses at the time, which was Vanessa Redgrave. 

Melanie Avalon: Oh, I think we talked about that because I was named after an actress too or a movie character. I was named after Melanie from Gone with the Wind.

Vanessa Spina: I think, yeah, we may have talked about it before. That's really funny. 

Melanie Avalon: So, speaking of your parents, can you tell listeners a little bit about your story growing up and your diet history? And I have some questions about your diet history, but what was it like growing up with diplomat parents? 

Vanessa Spina: It was really amazing. You know I think my parents were so adventurous, and we benefited so much from that quality in them in. I guess, when I was born, my parents were living in Cameroon in Africa, which I don't recall much of, but it definitely impacts your subconscious and everything regardless of whether or not you remember it. But one of my first memories was being on an airplane when I was four years old because we're flying to China and I was scared of what life was going to look like. I was also really excited. And they say when you have really strong emotions, that kind of is what compounds or it creates memories. And I was afraid of what people would be like and what they would look like. And it was just such an incredible time to live in China. It's one of the most beautiful places in the world. 

And at the time when I was four years old, it just wasn't-- it was still in a time capsule. So, it was really amazing to live there. And on the weekends, we would go traveling all over China. We would get on the trains and go to different provinces and visit different cities. And it was very much untouched and unchanged for centuries. It was still very much the way that it had been for a really long time. And they've modernized at an incredibly fast rate in the last 20, 30 years. But then we came back to Canada, and then when I was in grade nine, went back to China. And I had also been in the French system at a French school up until grade nine and so I only learned everything in French. And then I decided to switch to the international school in Beijing. And again, I had the most incredible, magical time. 

It was just such a beautiful place, such an amazing place to experience. And I just think that travel is such a gift. You learn so much from it, especially you learn that everywhere you go in the world, everyone is the same. We all just want to be loved and love our families and have fulfilling lives. Despite what sometimes we see in movies or media, we're not all that different. So, I think travel is incredibly important and your mind is so stimulated from traveling all around the world. So, we moved actually when I was 17, at the end of 11th grade, we moved to the Philippines, to Manila, which was also another exquisite beautiful country. My parents were posted there. And then I decided once I finished high school, to move to Canada and go to university in Vancouver in British Columbia. So, I really got exposed to so many cultures and to [chuckles] so much diversity and beautiful aspects of the world.

And I'm so thankful for that upbringing. It's always made me feel like an international person, citizen of the world, and I think I just learned so much from those experiences. So, I'm really, really thankful. And it just really enriched my soul to go to all those amazing places and get to travel so much around Southeast Asia as well and just see the world. And I kind of got addicted to it because my husband and I decided to move to Prague when were-- it was right before were engaged actually. We wanted to continue, both of us, to experience time capsules, which Prague is a little bit of and different cultures. And yeah, it's really stayed in me. [laughs] So, it's a part of who I am now.

Melanie Avalon: That's so incredible. Like, where do you feel like you're from? 

Vanessa Spina: Canada, for sure. But I also feel like part not Chinese, but I feel like the Chinese culture will always be in my heart and a part of me because of how much I love it. And I got to learn to speak Mandarin to an extent when I was there. And I love reading and writing Mandarin and I love languages. So, it's definitely a big part of me and I miss it all the time. I wish it was closer, [laughs] I could go there more often. I wish the political situation was different as well because it would be nice to be able to bring my family there and hopefully, I will be able to do that at some point. But it was great to just experience so many different cultures. And at the end of the day, I don't know if we can fully say we're just like one nationality, like, we're a mixture of all the people we interact with and all the experiences we have with people and travel and all that. But yeah, it's a really interesting question. 

Melanie Avalon: You speak Mandarin now? 

Vanessa Spina: It's a little rusty, but I try to keep up a little bit on Duolingo, and I try to practice when I can. But I'm sure if I was back there for a month, it would all come back. But yeah, it's definitely one of my favorite languages. And yeah, it's a beautiful language. 

Melanie Avalon: That's so cool. Wow. I'm realizing how much I do not know about this topic. And are there multiple languages in China? 

Vanessa Spina: So, the main one is Mandarin and there's Cantonese, but that's spoken more in Taiwan. So, like the Mainland China, most people speak Mandarin and there's not really any dialects so much, everyone pretty much speaks one concerted language of Mandarin. 

Melanie Avalon: So, like, when you're watching Mulan, can you read the--

Vanessa Spina: Yeah. [laughs] I can read a fair bit of it, yeah. 

Melanie Avalon: That's so cool. Okay, so well, first of all, friends, I highly, highly recommend if you are at all even remotely interested in the keto diet or just healthy recipes in general, or taking charge of your health, getting Keto Essentials, which is a beautiful book, and Vanessa talks about her story, and it has the science of keto. And I know Vanessa, I might ask you some questions about this. I know you wrote it a while ago. It came out in 2017-18.

Vanessa Spina: Yes, and I feel like I'm really overdue for writing a revised version that is more sort of around optimal protein, everything that I've learned, because I wrote that book before I went back to school to study biomedical science. So, the next book that I write will be an evolved approach, I think. But I do think that Keto Essentials is really great if you are someone who has been sort of in a high-carb paradigm for a long time, and you're interested in building some metabolic flexibility and trying out burning more so fat for fuel or maybe even getting into intermittent fasting or fasting. Sometimes fasting can lead the way into keto and sometimes keto can lead the way into intermittent fasting and fasting because you're basically just being primarily fueled from fat and training your body to be more fueled from fat. So, I think it has value in that sense. And I like to recommend to people that they get into ketosis or do keto for a while if they're interested in this kind of fat fueled lifestyle, because, yeah, it can definitely help you fast for longer, practice intermittent fasting longer if you first have spent time cutting down on carbohydrate. And what's fascinating to me is a lot of the research on-- well, there's especially one study in particular that talks about how a lot of the benefits that come from fasting, it is really the carbohydrate restriction. And that is one of the reasons that there is this overlap between keto and fasting. So, I do think it's a great resource for that. 

Melanie Avalon: There are so many beautiful, incredible recipes in this book as well, with gorgeous photos, which Vanessa took the majority of them, correct? or all of them. 

Vanessa Spina: Some of them. 

Melanie Avalon: Some of them. Oh, some of them, okay. Some of them. [laughs] Well, regardless, they're beautiful, and they're really incredible recipes. But you developed all of them. 

Vanessa Spina: Yes, they're all written by me. Yes. 

Melanie Avalon: So, I highly, highly recommend the book. So, your diet history, though, can you tell listeners a little bit about the different diets that you flirted with and your health issues and what led you to trying keto?

Vanessa Spina: Yeah. I would love to. So tried, you know, very unsuccessfully to lose weight over the years because I never felt fit in my body despite doing everything that I read about in Cosmo. I mean, [laughs] I thought that if I did all the diets in Cosmo and followed all of the advice in teen magazines and those kinds of things, that I would successfully lose weight. So, I did get some success temporarily, but it would never last. And I was always miserable the entire time. And I felt like this typical, the classic meme of someone, like, crossing off days on the calendar. I was like, "One more day of this until I can go back to what I was doing before." And it just never worked. It was never sustainable. And what I've learned so much since then about all the mistakes that I was making at the time, for most of my life, I was vegetarian by choice, and part of that was being motivated because I really really loved animals. And part of it was because I thought it was a great way to potentially lose weight and to also not have to deal with eating a certain way or foregoing certain things when I was invited to social events, which were a big part of my life at the time. It's like, "Well, you're vegetarian." You're kind of, like, opted out of whatever, and there's always an excuse. But it also brought me a lot of stress. 

I remember always feeling stressed about going to social events or going to restaurants, and it was so different at the time than it is now. Every restaurant has vegan options, vegetarian options. It wasn't like that before. So, I just tried unsuccessfully for so long. Now I can see everything that I was doing wrong. The first thing, [chuckles] I was doing wrong was not changing my macros. And so, I was doing the classic low-calorie, high-carb approach without prioritizing protein. And so, I ended up, over time, of successively doing diet after diet with a lot of cardio exercise, worsening my body composition. Because what I've now learned, what happens in that situation, is they've shown that you can lose upwards of 40% of lean body mass when you do that kind of diet, like the caloric restriction high-carb approach with lots of cardio. And so, when you lose weight, you're losing a combination of fat and lean mass, but then when you go back on your former diet, you gain back just fat. So, if you do it enough times, you're just losing muscle, gaining fat. 

And eventually, I went to have my body composition assessed with a DEXA body scan. And the scan tech was like, "There's no way this is right. There must be something wrong." And he said, "You're 38% body fat." And I was like, "Oh, no, that's exactly what I am." I knew right away because I had always felt that I wasn't fit in my body. I always felt tired, low energy, like I couldn't keep up with everyone else. Like I'd get winded after walking up the stairs. But I carried my weight well because I'm tall. And so, when I would go see doctors, they would be like, "Well, your BMI is fine. You're fine. Don't worry about this." But I knew that something was off. So, once I figured out sort of my body composition, I started trying some new approaches. And I came across an article on the 5:2 diet, which was really interesting. And I thought, "Well, this is amazing." People are doing this thing called alternate day fasting, and they're getting the same results as from doing dieting, but they don't have to diet. 

So, I really wanted to start looking into it more. And then I found Ori Hofmekler, which you and I have talked about, and the one-meal-a-day approach. And so, I started that and I got some results. And at the same time, I was dealing with some really intense pain, abdominal pain, digestive pain, and it was really scaring me because I would get this really intense pain that would have me doubled over. And at the time, my husband's cousin, she had been looking into this gluten stuff because she was doing something called paleo. And so, my husband's like, "Why don't you do the gluten test?" So, I did the assessment and then I found out that I was gluten intolerant. So that's when I started looking into gluten-free things and keto came up. So, I was like, "Well, the intermittent fasting thing is going well, what if I combine that and it turns out they go really well together?" So, I fell in love with keto and I think with intermittent fasting too. 

And the biggest reason behind why it appealed to me and it became something that I could sustain was the data. Like, the feedback, I got a glucometer, best, like, $17 I ever spent was on a glucometer. And I learned to test my blood glucose and I also learned to test my ketones. And I was just amazed that I could see what was happening inside of my body, and I could see how I was reacting to different inputs, different foods, different exercises, different fasting windows. I could see my blood sugar go down from fasting. I could see my ketones go up. I felt like someone had turned the lights on, like in a dark room. And I was no longer just, like, stumbling around and trying to figure out where I was going. So, the data was really amazing for me and that just kind of really propelled me more so into keto and I found it to be successful. 

After four years, I had another body composition assessment done, and I had lost weight. I had lost about 40 pounds, but my body composition, my body fat had gone down, but not as much as I wanted it to. So, it was still, like, in the lower 30s. So, I decided to try this high protein experiment after four years of doing keto. And at the time, everyone was like, "No, don't do it. Protein is so bad for you." [laughs] It's going to make you really acidic and your kidneys are going to explode or whatever people believed about protein, and especially gluconeogenesis and insulin and everything. So, I was scared to do it, but I decided to try it. And it was the first time in my life that I felt completely satiated from a meal. And it was mostly protein. And so, I was eating during this high protein experiment. It was very much like a carnivore diet. I was eating about 160 up to 200 g of protein a day. It was a lot, but I think because I had been vegetarian for so long and not eating enough protein, it was like my body was finally getting all the amino acids that it needed, all the nitrogen it needed, all the protein it needed. And so, I was able to eat a meal and put my fork down and be like, "I'm done. I'm good." There's, like, food left on my plate. It just blew my mind because I had been so obsessed with food for so long. I had been so consumed with food. I was always thinking about food, I was always hungry, I always felt stuffed, but I never felt full. Like, I never felt full in a deep way. I always just felt that stomach stretch of fullness.

So, I started, like, there's really something to this protein thing and at the same time I had been going back to school to study biochemistry and I started understanding how to read research papers and studies and I'm like, "Oh my goodness." The amount of research on protein, high protein diets and body recomposition. So, recomposing your body towards having lower body fat, lower body fat percentage and fat mass, and maintaining or growing your lean mass, there's a huge association here. So, it really propelled me. And then after two years of doing this high protein diet, I had another body composition scan done and with not a lot of exercise at all during this time, because I was mostly studying, learning biochemistry and doing exams, my body fat was down to 21%. And I'm like, "Okay, so now I'm in the athletic category and I'm not even working out." [laughs] 

And I talked to so many protein scientists who are completely unsurprised by those results and the fact that I wasn't even really moving much, I was just like sitting a lot at my desk and poring over textbooks. And it really is amazing that just changing the macros made such a big impact on my physiology. And I really equate metabolic health with body composition. So, to see these kinds of changes, I knew that my messaging also had to change towards what I was putting out. So, I was just sharing everything about this experience on my podcast. And that's part of going back to the beginning, why it evolved to become the Optimum Protein podcast, because I still really believe in the power of ketosis. But what I learned is that you can do a modified ketogenic diet which has different macros, which we can talk about in detail if you want to. But those different macros, there's been a lot of research done on them, specifically by Dr. Eric Kossoff, who found that this modified keto diet is a lot more sustainable, a lot more approachable and a lot easier for people than just eating lots and lots of fat all the time, which never really appealed to me. 

So, you can get ketones and adding this sort of optimal protein approach with intermittent fasting and time-restricted eating, I'm able to get into ketosis every single day despite going out of it later in the day from high protein meals. So, I sort of found this really good balance between the two. I find it endlessly fascinating. So that's sort of been my trajectory or my journey to where I've been now. But I have to tell you that not just my body composition changed completely. My mind has changed completely, my mindset. I have so much energy freed up to focus on things I want to do. I feel like now I eat to live and before I was living to eat. I still enjoy food tremendously, but I don't ever think about it outside of meal times. And I just feel so satisfied, and I feel effortlessly lean. My cardiometabolic markers, my blood work all reflects that. And I feel great. I feel energized all the time. My mood has improved. There's just so much amelioration in every facet of my life that I can't help but feel really passionate about sharing this message and not just sharing it, but also sharing the science behind it, because it's definitely there. [chuckles] And I think people need to know this information, especially with the rates of obesity and sarcopenic obesity that we're dealing with in the world right now. 

Melanie Avalon: We had so many similar epiphany moments, it's crazy. It's almost eerie, literally, when you were saying the thing about how you felt like you had a flashlight finally, with the data and the science, that was exactly how I felt, because I discovered the-- when I realized with keto that you could measure your urinary ketones, I was like, "Oh, I can scientifically measure my fat burning." Which I was like-- "I mean, this is huge." I was like, "Why is nobody talking about this?" Although, interestingly, I was actually writing for an interview yesterday about this, and I wrote that down about feeling like I could scientifically measure fat burning with urinary ketones. But then I put a caveat and I said, "Although my thoughts actually have evolved a little bit even on that front." Which leads me to a question about the different type of ketones, because you said you were measuring in the beginning the blood glucose and were you doing urinary ketones in the beginning or breath? 

Vanessa Spina: So, I did the urinary a little bit. I saw the strips turn purple and everything, but I just found that it just wasn't the most practical thing to do on a regular basis. And the accuracy, like the millimolar per liter results of the blood was much more interesting to me. And the way that the blood glucose and the ketones would be inversely correlated was also fascinating, because then you get to a point where if you see mid 60s in your blood glucose in milligrams per deciliter, you know you're in ketosis. You know that your ketones are very likely at like 0.5 millimolar and above. So that inverse relationship was really fascinating to me. So, I mostly stuck to doing the blood. But the more that I learned about blood ketones, I learned that acetoacetate, which is the main ketone that is excreted in the urine, it does level off after a while because your body stops excreting it. So, it'll work in the first few weeks or even couple of months, but after a while, it becomes less accurate, whereas the blood is relatively stable. But I always felt that there was something missing with the blood, because you're getting a snapshot when you test of how many ketones your body has produced in the liver from your fat. And also, what's left over.

The ketone that you're measuring in the blood is a beta hydroxybutyrate form. And that interconverts between the ketone that you find in the urine, which is acetoacetate, but it's also circulating in your blood, and it interconverts back and forth between those two forms. And [chuckles] I just found that, "Okay, I'm getting a picture of what's left over, but what did I use? How much did I produce?" [laughs] This question bothered me so much. I was like, "But I don't know how much I made and I don't know how much I use." So, I always wanted this other metric and I started looking into the breath testing more and more. And what fascinated me about the breath testing is that-- so the beta hydroxybutyrate and the acetoacetate forms of ketones are fuels that your body will use. But the acetone is not a fuel. It's a byproduct of the production and usage of the fuel. So, when the liver takes your fat and turns it into ketones and glycerol in the liver, and then the ketones go out from the liver into circulation, it's interconverting between beta-hydroxybutyrate and acetoacetate, and 15% to 20% of that spontaneously decarboxylates or degrades into acetone. And this particle is so small that it can diffuse out through the airways, out through the lungs, and you can breathe it out, and you're actually breathing out the carbons from your fat. So, you've got these two fuel molecules and then you've got this byproduct of the fuel production and utilization. 

And what's fascinating as well is that with the blood, you're also limited in terms of how many times you can test, because it's always been cost prohibitive. For me it became my business eventually, so I was able to access more test strips, more abilities to test. And so, when I was creating the Tone device, because I wanted to scientifically measure my fat burning, [laughs] I started doing a lot of testing. And what I routinely saw is that if my blood ketone level was at a certain level, if it was elevated, and then I did a workout, and then I tested my blood ketones again, they would drop to like 0.2 or 0.1. And this is something that people like Luis Villasenor talk about all the time from Ketogains with his slogan, "Don't chase ketones." Is because if you're an athlete and you're working out a lot, you're probably going to see low blood ketones, because athletes adapt and have a really high tissue uptake of those ketones. But the breath doesn't change because it's still a percentage of what's been produced and utilized. And so, like, I would do a workout, you sometimes see a temporary little dip in the breath, but then it goes up a lot higher afterwards. And the same happens for blood. But who out there is other than me? [laughs] And maybe Dr. Dom D'Agostino, is like testing their blood ketones like 10 times a day. It's painful, it's expensive, the test strips are wasteful. But with the breath, you can test an unlimited amount of time, so you can really get into experimentation. 

And what's also interesting is that the ketones have different ratios between them. So, some people can have a ratio of 1:1 of beta-hydroxybutyrate to acetoacetate. Some people can have it as high as 6:1. And so certain states will also cause those ratios to shift. And it has to do with the redox potential of your mitochondria, the reduction oxidation potential of your mitochondria. So those ratios can be different from person to person. And then when you do a prolonged fast, you often see the blood and breath ketones completely uncouple, and the breath will go through the roof if you do like a 36 to 72-hour fast. And it'll also stay elevated for two to three days after your fast. There's just so much interesting data. If you do a eucaloric diet, if you're eating at maintenance or surplus, then you will also have more coupling of the blood and the breath ketones. But if you are doing a caloric deficit, then you really are using a lot of the blood ketones and so you don't have as many circulating and so they uncouple again. So, there're these really interesting dynamics between them which I find endlessly fascinating. And the breath acetone is just a huge untapped area of research. There has been some research done on it so far, but we don't have anywhere near the amount of research on breath acetone that we have for blood or for the beta-hydroxybutyrate or the acetoacetate.

Melanie Avalon: I get really haunted by not certainty, even though I know there's not certainty really in, really anything that 15 to 20 number. Is that an average where everything has the potential to do that and it just happens to typically be 15% to 20%? Or is there like a limit on 15% to 20%? Why is it 15% to 20%? 

Vanessa Spina: I don't actually know if there's a limit. I think that it's just the rate at which it degrades, because when it's in the beta-hydroxybutyrate form, it doesn't decarboxylate spontaneously, it doesn't degrade. But when it goes from beta-hydroxybutyrate into acetoacetate, then in the form of acetoacetate, that form will spontaneously decarboxylate. And that just seems to be the rate at which it has been found to decarboxylate in the research that's been done. So, I'm sure you could find someone out there who maybe has a 5% or a 30%, but that seems to be the rate that they find consistently in the research. But again, it's an underserved area of research. So, I'm so excited for what's going to come out in the coming years about breath acetone, which it's referred to. 

And also, there's a really high correlation with seizure control and reduction of seizure with breath acetone, which is really interesting. And so, there's definitely a lot of research going into that. And I think, for example, with the blood and with urine, we know that, okay, 0.5 millimolar is sort of that entry point of when you're considered to be in ketogenesis. With acetoacetate, I think it's 15 mg/L. But with breath acetone, we don't have that established because there just hasn't been enough research done on it yet. So, I think there's just so much more that we're going to continue to learn about it and it just has so much potential in terms of the benefits that we could get from that kind of research.

Melanie Avalon: Okay, the ratio that people-- where it might be different was that the acetoacetate to beta-hydroxybutyrate ratio that varies. 

Vanessa Spina: Yes. So, depending on a person's redox potential or reduction potential of their mitochondria, basically, in other words, I guess you could kind of say, like how healthy or how efficient the mitochondria are, the ratio will differ from person to person. And that's something that I know that Dr. Dom D'Agostino has been doing research on, and they're trying to understand the ratios more, but it seems to be related mostly to the redox potential and NADH levels. So, [chuckles] it's a whole rabbit hole, I've spent many hours looking into and understanding. But if you do a lot of practices, a lot of the biohacking practices or protocols that we tend to both geek out about, you'll tend to have better redox potential. If you're doing things with your circadian rhythm alignment and you're moving well and you're not eating all the processed food and the sugar and your mitochondria is doing well, you'll tend to have a higher redox potential. And so that will affect the ratios between beta-hydroxybutyrate and acetoacetate. But that's as much as I know on the ratios because they're still trying to establish why those ratios even happen. 

Melanie Avalon: Beneficially favoring which side, like, which side would you want more of? 

Vanessa Spina: I don't think it really matters. It's just that when you're in the beta-hydroxybutyrate form, it's more like a storage form of the ketones, because it's kind of like ketones plus an extra electron, I think. So, it's kind of the storage form of ketones, and then when you are ready to use them, that's when it goes into the acetoacetate form. So, there's probably a lot of different variables that affect the usage and what is making you have a higher demand and usage for them versus what is making you just produce a lot for storage. And that probably also comes with keto adaptation and doing keto for a longer period of time, you'll be more adapted, maybe you'll be more readily converting it into acetoacetate, [chuckles] than someone who is just doing keto for the first time or a one off kind of thing. 

Melanie Avalon: Because what I was wondering and thinking about was-- it sounds like-- do you find that people will have, because of all these factors. So, their ratio of BHB to acetoacetate and their redox potential and then their level of spontaneous decarb-- what is it decarb--

Vanessa Spina: Decarboxylation. 

Melanie Avalon: Decarboxylation. Would people have individual baselines for their breath ketones? Like, would they need to compare themselves to themselves? 

Vanessa Spina: Yes. Oh, my gosh, I'm so glad you asked this. I talk about it all the time endlessly with the Tone, because what I found is that people do have different baselines of breath acetone and people have a lot of bio-individuality. I had talked on so many episodes about this, especially when the Tone first came out, because there's a lot of education, obviously, with a new device, a new tool. And what I found to be really helpful is there're either two things that I recommend. I'm just finishing writing the manuals on the new Tone devices right now. So, this is something I've been just writing for the past couple of days and rewriting this section in particular is something that I decided to include in the actual manual this time before, I just had on the FAQ page and I would talk about it on the podcast or in different groups. 

So, I recommend that people either do a 24-hour fast when they first get the Tone or they're ready to use it, or they do an MCT challenge. And either of those is going to induce metabolic switching, whereby your body starts predominantly burning fat for fuel and producing ketones. And if you're someone who likes to fast and a 24-hour fast is easy for you to do, you can then do that 24-hour fast. Once the 24-hour fast is completed, you can test your blood ketones and your breath acetone and you'll get an idea of what your individual ratio is. So, then you can continue to test because you'll typically see the breath acetone stays elevated for a little bit longer when you're fasting, especially 24 hours, 36 hours, 72 hours, you're just straight burning fat. Like, there's no glycogen left, your insulin is super suppressed, and fat oxidation is fully ramped up. So, in that state, you're producing a lot of ketones. 

And that's the best way that I found to figure out that ratio or that baseline for yourself. So, you're like, "Okay, this is my baseline and then this is what my breath acetone looks like when I'm in a deep state of ketosis." And so, you'll see probably after 24 hours fast, some people will be at like 1.0 millimolar ketones, blood ketones, some people will be at 2 or higher. And your breath acetone, whatever the number is, will also be a ratio of that if that makes sense. The MCT challenge is something that I recommend for people who are not wanting to do a 24-hour fast. So, you take a couple of tablespoons of MCT oil powder or MCT oil, like in a coffee, and then you test, usually for the next hour or two. And after a couple of hours, you'll hit the peak blood concentrations of ketones, because your body metabolizes the MCTs right into ketones. And you'll also see that ratio on the breath and what that is for you. So, then you know, this is what my breath acetone is at baseline, and this is what it is when I'm in deep ketosis or at 0.5 millimolar or 1.0 millimolar.

Usually after a couple of tablespoons of MCT, most people will reach at least 1.0 millimolar. So, you'll get to see what that looks like on the Tone. And for you, it might be exactly like one to one. It might be 1.0 millimolar blood ketones. And you'll see 10 ketone units on the Tone device or whichever breath acetone device you're using in parts per million. Or it may be a ratio of like 6:1, where you'll see like 60 on the Tone device and 1.0 millimolar, if that makes sense. 

Melanie Avalon: It's interesting though too. I actually haven't tested my ketones in any form in probably a few years, and when I would, I was primarily testing blood, occasionally breath, urinary was like way back in the day. I would really never register ketones even after 24 hours of fasting. The only time I would would be if I had MCTs and then it would shoot through the roof. 

Vanessa Spina: That's so interesting. I wonder why even after 24 hours you wouldn't see any elevation. 

Melanie Avalon: Not usually. My going theory was I was just really, like, fueling up a day's worth of liver glycogen every night and then maybe using that and burning fat, but maybe not actually switching into ketosis. It would be interesting to do it again, but I would have low blood sugar and everything. But with your device, are you creating a calibration period with, like, an algorithm to help people with this?

Vanessa Spina: I actually just created this new page in the manual, which is the calibration page last night, because again, I had it on the FAQ page and I would send it to people. It was a little bit too buried in the manual and I've realized a lot of people don't have the time to read the manuals or they just want, like, a quick start guide. So, I'm like, this is the calibration. But typically, when you get the Tone device, which is the breath ketone analyzer. that I created, you have to turn it on and let it count down to zero. So, it warms up in about 20 seconds. You let it count down to zero and then turn itself off three times in a row and that will calibrate it. And if you've ever gone a while without using it, if you were away even for a few weeks, it's a good idea to do it again. And sometimes even if you just see numbers that don't seem right to you, you can do a calibration and it could just be that it needed a little bit of reset. So, you can do the calibration anytime but I definitely recommend it when people first get the Tone and take it out of the box. And sometimes it can take a few days to warm up because it's been like sitting in its little box in a cold warehouse unused. And it's just something really interesting about it because it's technology, so you just expect to turn it on and have it work properly. I had one friend, Kelly Hogan. She's a very big personality in the--

Melanie Avalon: She's carnivore right? 

Vanessa Spina: --carnivore space, yeah. She's really amazing. We've met up in person a couple of times. She's just like the most down to earth, amazing person. Anyways, I sent her a Tone. I told her it can take a few days sometimes to warm up. The most I've seen is like, a week. It took her four [chuckles] weeks for some reason. It's the only time it's ever happened. But of course, it happened with her device and it took four weeks of her using it, and it suddenly woke up after four weeks. And for the first four weeks, it was always showing her between 0 and 4, where we both knew that she definitely probably had higher ketones than that. And then it just suddenly woke up. The numbers that she was getting were super accurate. It's the only time that's ever happened and I have no idea why. But, yeah, there's just something about that. But, yeah, the calibration, it's a great point and it really helps when you first get it. It can also be done at any time. 

And with the Tone device, we did something a little bit extreme, which was having only a 20-second warmup and that's also when the device is calibrating and warming up, whereas a lot of devices are much longer than that. I really wanted it to be something that you could just turn on and get a result relatively quick instead of waiting and waiting and waiting for it to warm up each time. I'm really glad that it worked out. [laughs] 

Melanie Avalon: Was that the new version that she had that did that or the--

Vanessa Spina: That was the first generation, so hopefully that won't happen [laughs] again.

Melanie Avalon: When people get the device what are the chances that it will take a few weeks to start working? And how will they know? 

Vanessa Spina: I don't think that'll happen at this point. So, I've been creating this second generation of the Tone device for the past year and a half and all of the devices that I've tested, all of the new versions I've tested over the past year and a half, especially in the last, I would say eight to 10 months, none of them have ever had that issue. They just work right from the beginning when I take them out. So, with every first version of a product, there's going to be issues that come up. One of the main issues that we had with the first one is that a lot of people, I think, are testing it throughout the day when they're on a high-carb diet or if they're having a high-carb day. And what I've tried to make explicitly clear in the manual this time is, it really is intended for people who are either doing intermittent fasting, prolonged fasting, doing strict keto macros, or doing some kind of MCT challenge or something like that. 

So, if you're fasting, you can wake up in the morning, you test before you brush your teeth or use mouthwash because that can affect the sensor. It's very delicate. So, mouthwash, people will test after that and you'll see like a 99 reading on it, it makes it go through the roof. So, mouthwash, because it has alcohol in it and ethanol, is confused by the sensor as a false positive. So, before you brush your teeth, mouthwash, eat or drink anything in a fasted state, you test. If you are doing time restricted eating or intermittent fasting and you're having your first meal, like at lunch or dinner, and you've only had beverages like water, coffee, or tea, you can continue testing up until you open your eating window. So, I usually test in the morning and then I test right before I'm about to have my first meal. And you can also test before and after exercise during that time, as long as you haven't consumed any food. 

So, once you consume food, if it's not strict keto, then I don't recommend using it because what I've learned from doing this is that our microbiota, they ferment the carbohydrates that we eat and also our mitochondria produce CO2 from the conversion of carbs into glucose and then pyruvate in the Krebs cycle. And so, the CO2 levels, if they're really high, they can also produce false positives on the Tone, but they can also mess with the sensor. So, it's really not advised to test after eating carbohydrate or eating in a way that's not low carb or keto, and that can really ensure the highest accuracy. So, one of the things that was happening with the first generation is people were testing after accidentally, like having a glass of wine or having some alcohol and then seeing the meter go crazy. And I think that eventually the CO2 levels and the alcohol started to affect the sensor. So, you would start to see like a drift sometimes with the ketones, like they could go higher, higher and get stuck on a number. So that was one of the things.

So, I have a few people that happened with the first generation and I'm sending them all replacements with this brand-new second generation. But I hope that I can better also at educating people and sharing the sensitivity of the sensor and how it really should only be used in the fasted state. However long you're fasted, you can continue to test as long as it's not right after brushing your teeth or using mouthwash. And as soon as you eat, especially if you're eating carbs, then just wait until the next morning to test again in a fasted state. So, it's something that I have to communicate and it's something because, again, it's a new technology that I have to try to help people understand because it's not something that they're used to. And so that's just part of my role, is also helping people to understand how to get the best accuracy and the best performance from the device. 

But the thing I'm really, really excited about with this second generation is that I noticed that most of my customers or users of the Tone device were not going for the super deep ketosis, because it's a wellness device, it's not a medical device, it's not approved for medical use or anything like that. It's purely to get feedback on your rate of fat burning, because your body is at its highest rate of fat burning when you're in ketosis. And it's really just for feedback information. So, I noticed that many of us are just doing time restricted eating. Some of us are doing keto or low carb and many of us are maybe doing occasional fasts, like a 24-hour fast once a week, that kind of thing. And we don't usually get like, super deeply into ketosis. We don't get crazy high ketone numbers. So, the new second generation is exquisitely sensitive to those smaller ketones. And the thing with breath acetone is it's such a tiny, tiny particle. You're measuring parts per million. It gives you an idea of how tiny that is whereas when you're measuring with the blood, you are measuring millimoles per liter, it's much larger amounts. So, it's very easy to quantify the numbers when you have a lot of breath acetone.

It's much hard to do when you have less. So, when you have large ketones, the accuracy of the device would go up and then when you only were in light ketosis, sometimes it wouldn't be as accurate. So, with this new second generation, we worked really, really hard, worked with this institute that studies acetone, we redid the airway mold inside and the program. And so, it is extremely sensitive. I've been using it now. I'm not going that deep into ketosis myself on a day-to-day basis. Like, I usually go-- start off the day like 0.2 millimolar. So, on the Tone device, that reads as like a 2 or 3 or 1 and then I'll go up to maybe like 0.6, 0.8. If I do some fasted exercise, it'll go higher than that. But I'm generally around like 1.0 millimolar and below. And every single time I test, I'm getting like a 1:1 ratio. That happens to be my ratio, but I'm getting extremely high accuracy on that.

So that's the thing that I'm the most excited about with this new generation, it also has a new look, which is one of the things I love doing, is creating products that people love but creating products that are designed for women in the biohacking space. Because most of the biohacking products are very masculine looking. They're not always designed by men, but in general, they have more appeal, I think, more masculine features and looks like big clunky rings. And the Tone is very feminine. I wanted to recreate the look and feel of, like, a lipstick case. And so that's what I took some of my inspiration from when I first created it. And the new second generation has the signature Tone print on it and I just think it's so beautiful. [laughs] So I'm really really excited about that because it's fun to use, but it's also nice to have something beautiful that is just, like, cute and portable and feminine and reflects that feminine quality that [laughs] I like to express. 

Melanie Avalon: I want to try it so bad now.

Vanessa Spina: I can't wait to send it to you. I can't wait.

Melanie Avalon: I'm so excited. With blood testing, is the sensitivity also lower when you're lower ketone levels? Or since it's like, a bigger it's per liter rather than per millions, is it not as much of an issue? Do you know? 

Vanessa Spina: I don't think it's as much of an issue. But if you are someone who is not necessarily always eating the caloric surplus or if you are someone who's more lean and fit like you are, and I know you're not doing tons and tons of gym workouts, but you do EMS, you do biohacking, you do all these different things. You do cold exposure. Cold exposure boosts ketones as well, which were able to see with the Tone device that ice baths will really boost ketone numbers, the breath ketones, especially, the next day. So, I think you could still have some fun with it. I think you could still probably test in the morning with the Tone. You could test before and after doing some cold exposure. You could test right before you open your eating window for the day, and you'll probably see the numbers increasing and that you're getting into. 

I would imagine you get into ketosis at some point in the day because you do usually OMAD. And so, you're fasted most of the day, and you're not just, like, sitting on the couch. [laughs] I know you're a super active person. You're using your brain pretty intensely all the time for your work, which is, like, metabolizing a lot of glucose as well. So, it'll be interesting to see because, like I said, I know you practice cold exposure and stuff, so there're definitely things that you can kind of play around with and test. But you could also, I'm sure, well, you don't really need to do the MCT oil challenge because you already know that your ketones go through the roof. But if at any point, you did do like a longer fast too. You could also experiment with that. So, I'm sure you'll be able to see some results from it and yeah, I can't wait to send you one. 

Melanie Avalon: I am so excited. I'm really excited. 

Vanessa Spina: Thanks for being so supportive. 

Melanie Avalon: No, I mean, this is so cool. I think something people don't really think about as much and I probably didn't think about until launching a supplement line, which is it's not just creating the product. Like you said, there's so much education that's required. The question is like, I have all this information I need in the user's head. How do I get it into your head? Because you can't make them read the manual. You can't make them listen to the educational information. A lot of people just want to take the supplement or pop out the device and use it and it's like, "How do I get people to listen?" [chuckles] So, yeah. I applaud you. Question about something else that would affect your blood sugar levels and/or ketones. So going back to what you were saying earlier about how you had this epiphany moment about eating more protein, I as well had that. I think we probably have talked about this. 

My epiphany moment was I looked at the four macronutrients, like protein, fat, carbs, and alcohol. I was like which ones are least likely to get stored as fat? And I was like, that's alcohol and protein. I was like, "So, I'm just going to eat protein and drink wine." I don't recommend that. It worked really well. [laughs] Point being, this is going to relate to something. The rabbit hole I would go down ever was, is protein to glucose conversion. So, gluconeogenesis, is that demand driven or is it substrate driven? So, like, if you have extra protein, will you turn it into glucose or is it only if your body needs it? And the debates in the forums of the internet are really intense. And I would always be like, "Why?" I'd be like, "Why don't we just-- we should just know the answer to this, I feel." So, my question is protein. If you have higher protein in general, but let's do it in the context of a ketogenic diet or a low-carb diet, how might that affect your blood sugar levels and/or your ketone levels? 

Vanessa Spina: So, yes, this is a question, and I always say it was one of my motivators for going back to school to study biochemistry because I would go crazy reading the endless debates online about whether gluconeogenesis was supply driven or demand driven. I had a bias where I wanted to believe it was demand driven. And I interviewed so many scientists who confirmed my bias, and they tended to be in the keto low-carb space then. It took me a while to accept this. However, I was in denial at first but Dr. Don Layman is my favorite protein scientist and I think he's absolutely incredible. I mean, he studied protein, amino acids his entire career. He discovered the leucine threshold. He discovered the fact that leucine initiates muscle protein synthesis. He's just such a phenomenal scientist and he's very matter of fact about things. And I've interviewed him several times. The first time he answered the question, I was still in denial about it, but I finally came around and accepted it. So, the way that he explains it is that for every 100 g of protein that you consume, about 60 g of that becomes glucose. I was really in denial about it. 

Melanie Avalon: Okay, wait, I don't want to interrupt, but I'm interrupting. 60 g of protein becomes how many grams of glucose? Does it convert one to one.? 

Vanessa Spina: Now, I'm worried that I'm getting it wrong, but, yeah, he said about, like, it becomes 60 grams of glucose, and it's basically metabolized. Like amino acids are metabolized and oxidized for fuel. And the way that he explained it is that when we are in a growth phase, protein is always a building block. But when we're in a growth phase, if you're young and you're growing, if you are just growing muscle, like you're an athlete and you're doing regular resistance training, you're growing. If you're pregnant, you're growing. And there're these different stages of life where we're growing. But he explained it that if you're in that stage, a lot of that protein is actually going to build muscle. But if you are not growing, then it is becoming glucose. Because he said that a lot of us, for a large proportion of our lives, we're not growing. We are like steady state, kind of like we're maintaining. And so, a huge part of the protein that we consume is actually just oxidized from the thermic effect of food. But he has said on multiple interviews that I've done with him that you get about 60 g of glucose. I think Dr. Gabrielle Lyon, also talks about it because she learned it from him. Maybe it's in her book. 

Melanie Avalon: I think she does mention it. That's so interesting. I'm wondering I saw one study once, I have to refind it, where people-- where they added-- all they did was add protein to people's diets and they didn't exercise or anything, and the people actually did gain muscle mass. That presumably is extra protein becoming not glucose.

Vanessa Spina: Right, but so you actually-- because we have protein turnover, like, our protein turnover rates are pretty high. We actually just need-- the way he explains it is it's like a brick wall. Imagine a brick wall and that's like your body protein, and every day some of the bricks are falling out. So, the protein that you eat is providing some of the bricks that go back into the wall, but you don't need all of them all the time because you have protein turnover. So, you also have, like there're different numbers, the numbers that I usually go with are the ones by Yoshinori Ohsumi, who won the Nobel Prize for discovering autophagy and different applications of autophagy. But he says that we have anywhere from 2 to 300 g of protein is turned over on a daily basis. So, some of the protein we're breaking down and recycling, and that's like the low-level autophagy and then some of the amino acids that we eat go to putting bricks into that wall and a lot of it is oxidized. But the beauty of protein is that it is broken down over anywhere from like 5 to 7 hours. 

So, it's like, for me, doing, for example, on carnivore, I think I told you before, the first time I wore a CGM, I was doing carnivore and my blood glucose was like 85 for 24 hours. It never moved. It was just a flat line and it's because most of what I was eating was protein and it was just being metabolized so slowly. So even if it is turning into glucose, it's okay because you're using it, you're part of it as energy, you're also using part of it as building blocks. And a lot of it is also being burned off due to the thermic effect of food, which fascinatingly Dr. Don Layman attributes to the initiation of muscle protein synthesis. And what's fascinating about that to me is that if you are getting 30 g of protein at a meal of high-quality protein and you're getting 2.5 to 3 g of leucine at that meal, you will initiate muscle protein synthesis, because the level of leucine in your blood will increase by 2 to 3 g-- 2.5 to 3 g, which maxes out muscle protein synthesis. But what if every time you eat, you're eating 20 g of protein, so you're never triggering muscle protein synthesis? Shouldn't that affect the thermic effect of protein because you're not really building muscle with it? So, then it's just like all being turned into glucose. 

So, it's really important to make sure every time you eat a protein meal that you at least hit that threshold, whether it's with actual protein supplementation or supplementation of BCAAs including leucine. So that also is fascinating, but to me-- so as a protein scientist that's what he believes. I believe that's also what Dr. Gabrielle Lyon believes from their work and research in the lab. But I have to say, I've talked to a lot of scientists on the podcast who say that it is demand driven, some of them being protein scientists as well. So not everyone always agrees with each other on these things as you were saying, there's a lot of hot controversial debate about this topic and it's because we don't fully know. So, you kind of have to-- I'm okay [chuckles] with a little bit of uncertainty because that's what I found through science.

The thing that blew my mind when I really started studying biochem was like and physiology was like, "Oh my gosh, there's so much we don't know." [laughs] It's terrifying. There'll be whole sections in textbooks where they're like, "We have no idea what this thing does yet." And I'm like, "Wait, no, I thought you guys had it all figured out. What are you talking about?" They have no idea. There're huge gaps in knowledge and our scientific knowledge is as vast as it is. And I think this is one of those areas where you kind of have to live a little bit in the gray. Like, "Okay, maybe that's what's happening." Maybe it's supply driven, maybe it's a combination we don't fully know yet, but there's different-- everyone's best guess is what's going on. Like I said, I feel like I've reluctantly acknowledged I think Dr. Don Layman is probably right about it, [chuckles] but the take home is you want to be in a growth phase like, you want to be building muscle. And I agree with you. I just did a podcast episode about this study that was done in women where all they did was add 16 g of protein per day during a caloric deficit of 450 calories. And those women, even though they were eating more calories than the other group, they burned more fat and gained muscle. I gained muscle just from eating protein. I gained 8 pounds of lean mass when my body went down to 21% body fat. I wasn't working out. So, there's definitely some things that we still don't fully know and understand. And so, I'm okay being a little bit in the gray with it.

Melanie Avalon: They sound like the similar things, the certainty versus the randomness. So not having certainty about not knowing the answer. So, like, in the textbook or it's like, "We don't know why this happens." That actually doesn't-- I mean, I want to know, but it doesn't distress me. What distresses me is randomness, is certainty about randomness. So, if it's, like, with that percent where it's, like 15% to 20% spontaneous, because then I'm like, "There's no way of knowing what it will be like if we just know that it is random." One of the things that stressed me out so bad was when I learned about the immune system and that it's really just randomness as far as and this is like saying it super casually, but basically the immune system has all of these different patterns that may or may not fit viruses. And if it just randomly fits it, then the immune system identifies like, "Oh, this is a bad thing," and it's completely random. But there're so many immune cells that the chances are that it'll just bump each other and connect is good. 

That's why we find the viruses and the flus. And I'm saying that so casually. That bothered me so bad. I'm like, "It's all random." [laughs] I can't handle it. I found the quote, though, in Gabrielle's book. She said, "Some amino acids from protein are converted to glucose in the liver through a process called gluconeogenesis. For every 100-protein g consumed, roughly 60 g of glucose are produced in the body." Do you have thoughts on the other intense debates people would have about this, which was, is it stressful in a negative way for the liver to engage in gluconeogenesis? That was the other thing I'd be like, in the rabbit hole about. 

Vanessa Spina: Just my personal opinion, I think that we often attribute this word of stressful to it's an emotional word, and we attribute it to physiological processes. I often just spend time thinking about this when I'm out walking or just in contemplation where I'm like, "We really shouldn't be using emotional words when it comes to the physiology because I don't think that-- it's used very casually." Like, people will say, "Intermittent fasting is stressful, dieting is stressful for the body, gluconeogenesis is stressful for the body." I don't really think it is. Like, our body is set up to do certain things and you just don't want to overdo certain processes. Like, I would say certain things like over activating insulin. Obviously, that leads to insulin resistance. There are situations where you can cause quite a lot of blood vessel damage from having chronically high blood glucose all the time. But would I say that's stressful? I don't know if it's-- and it's nothing about your question, because talking about in general, like, how people attribute this. 

And I had this really fascinating conversation with Ari Whitten, the author of a couple of books, including book on red light therapy and he's currently writing a new book about hormesis. And he says, "That we have a problem with our relationship to stress, where we often consider hormesis, which is a hormetic stress to be a good thing." Like, we stress our muscles and therefore they grow stronger. So, in that context, stress is great. [laughs] You want to have big muscles. You want to have as much muscle as possible because your muscle keeps you strong. It has more mitochondrial density in it for so many reasons. So why do we sometimes have this very negative view of stress or negative relationship with stress when it often brings out the best in us?

It challenges us. It causes us to rise to challenges. But when you're talking about physiological processes, I think in general, they're pretty benign. I don't think that really using gluconeogenesis. And I've talked to a lot of protein scientists about this. Dr. Don Layman, who I'm bringing up again because I'm just such an admirer of his work. He says, "Basically you will always benefit when it comes to your blood glucose and your insulin whenever you replace carbs with protein." And I like to make my own glucose through my liver making gluconeogenesis. And in the process, 30% of the calories consumed from the protein are being burned off, they're being oxidized. And that protein whether it's being converted to glucose or not, is being released in such a way that it is extremely gradual. So, I think that relying on gluconeogenesis, I don't think it's stressful, personally. I think it's just a physiological process. And we haven't seen any negative outcomes from that in research. 

A lot of people believed that consuming high protein was bad for the kidneys, that it could negatively affect the glomerular filtration rate. Turns out it actually is good for the glomerular filtration rate. It's good for the kidneys. There're certain situations where people who have impaired kidney function, they probably would not do well with high protein, but that's typically the only scenario where there's a compromised kidney or liver function. But if you have a fully functioning healthy physiology and your liver and kidneys are functioning just fine, I don't think that it causes any stress. But it's a personal opinion. It's based on research I've done and interviews that I've done with people that I've pointedly asked this question to, and my health has only improved since relying on gluconeogenesis more and more. So as an N of 1, I think it's probably done the opposite for me, especially because protein displaces fuels like carbohydrates, especially processed carbohydrates or other carbs that would have a more negative effect potentially on my blood glucose and insulin. So, yeah. It's a difficult question [laughs] to answer, but that's my personal opinion on it.

Melanie Avalon: I love that so much. That is such a beautiful mindset about how we ascribe emotions to these physiological processes. Yeah, because for me, I feel like I found gluconeogenesis and I was like, "Oh, this is great. I can make my own glucose. I don't have to rely on carbs. I love protein." And then it was like the debates in the Reddit forums. [laughs] I was like, "Aww." 

Vanessa Spina: Same thoughts. 

Melanie Avalon: Okay. Well, one other thing to touch on because you keep mentioning or we're talking about the protein threshold and leucine and all of that stuff. So, when it does come to getting more protein in our diet, I know a lot of people are often looking for ways to do that. I don't personally struggle with that that much because I eat so much protein. But I know you are specifically formulating your upcoming protein powder to address all of this. Would you like to talk a little bit about that? 

Vanessa Spina: Yes, I would love to and thank you for asking me about it. [laughs] I think what's really interesting is that there's a certain negative perception out there about whey protein supplementation, that it is something that's highly processed, it's really bad for your blood sugar, for your insulin when it's actually one of the best foods out there or supplements for body recomposition and for fat loss. I've seen endless amounts of studies done on, especially using whey protein shakes, whey protein isolate, and whey protein hydrolysate and the amazing effects it has on body composition. And by that, I mean boosting fat loss and also protecting muscle mass and lean mass and even in some cases boosting muscle and lean mass. And it really is so consistent in the weight loss research. And one of the things that is critically important when anyone is doing any kind of weight loss or fat loss and doing caloric restriction, as I mentioned at the very beginning of this episode, traditional or standard approaches to dieting with high carb low calories can have upwards of 40% of lean body mass loss. And so, when you are dieting or your body is stressed [chuckles] in any situation, you have to do things to protect that lean mass. 

And high protein macronutrient distributions during weight loss and fat loss are exceptional for protecting lean body mass and therefore protecting your metabolically active tissue, which keeps your metabolic rate higher and inducing the loss of fat. So, what's really amazing, there was one study done where they compared the metabolic activity and the calorie burn from eating a high protein meal that was served to these mice. And it was a rodent study. So, they were feeding them a high protein meal and the calorie burn was equivalent to going for an hour run. So, [chuckles] every time I'm eating a high protein meal, I'm like, "It's like I just ran an hour outside." And it truly, this is like real science done by some of the scientists I admire the most. So, it is your best friend when it comes to body recomposition if you're wanting to lose some body fat and gain some lean mass or protect your lean mass. And so, I've found, just like you, Melanie, that a lot of supplements out there are problematic. I've been searching for it feels like years and years for a super high quality whey protein isolate. 

Unfortunately, a lot of the brands out there, when you actually look at the ingredients, it'll say whey protein isolate on the front. But when you turn it around, it's actually ingredients are listed in the order of their content. So, you'll actually see that first ingredient is whey protein concentrate, which is a cheap version of whey protein. And the problem with that is that whey protein isolate is the purest, highest quality protein. It has all the lactose, all the casein and all the fat removed, but whey protein concentrate does not. So, a lot of people have had negative experiences taking whey protein that was actually concentrate and they experienced either some kind of inflammatory reaction, digestive issues, bloating, discomfort because of the casein, lactose, and fat. But when you have whey protein isolate, it is completely pure. And so, I wanted to create something that was 100% whey protein isolate, didn't have unhealthy toxins, fillers, chemicals and didn't contain sugar or artificial sweeteners and was extremely delicious [laughs] and tasty. So, I wanted to create something that I would personally use every day. And in order to do that, I had to special order, custom order from food manufacturers like just whey protein isolate. I couldn't find a supplement on the market that would do what I wanted. So, I basically created my own from ordering from different suppliers and then combining the ingredients myself. So, I wanted to create something like this that could come prepackaged for myself and for anyone else who is interested in it and I just think it's such an amazing tool. 

The other thing that I did with it is scientifically optimized the formula to help you initiate muscle protein synthesis. And so, with a smaller volume of the protein you can make sure that you're going to trigger muscle protein synthesis because we've added leucine to it. And that's another problem that a lot of people had with digestive issues is that sometimes you have to take these massive scoops of the protein powder in order to get enough leucine because it wasn't high quality. So, with a pure whey protein isolate that is optimized and formulated scientifically to help you initiate muscle protein synthesis, you're going to be doing it in the most efficient way and I use it every single day. I just have a small scoop and I'm able to even have it after a full meal and not feel bloated and uncomfortable afterwards because it's so high quality and it is optimized and efficient to help you build that lean mass. So, I'm really excited about it. 

I partnered with your partner Scott at MD Logic. We're creating Tone Protein powered by MD Logic and it is launching in the next couple of months here. So, I'm super excited about it and it's something that I think just really lines up well with all the research and the information education that I put out and I just found that this was such an invaluable tool for people when they're wanting to hit that protein target. I generally recommend that people shoot for around 1.6 g of protein per kg per day, which is equivalent to about 0.7 to 0.8 g of protein per pound of body weight if they're sort of average sedentary person, up to 2.2 g/kg which is equivalent to 1 g of protein per pound of optimal body weight or current body weight if you are doing resistance training and you're active. So, in order to meet that protein target, having a protein supplement that is scientifically optimized to help you build muscle is going to make it much easier to get that protein in and to make sure that you hit your protein target. Because as were talking about earlier as well, if you don't hit that protein amount to trigger muscle protein synthesis, then you are more likely that protein will be mostly converted to glucose. And that's definitely not what we want. We want to trigger muscle protein synthesis and help us to balance out that muscle protein breakdown that's occurring every day and put all those bricks back in that brick wall. 

Melanie Avalon: That is so incredible. I'm so excited for listeners to get this. Is it going to be unflavored. 

Vanessa Spina: So, I'm definitely going to come out with an unflavored version. But the first one is vanilla and I'm dying to make cookies and cream. That's something that is in the works because it's my favorite flavor for whey protein. But with the vanilla, I find like, it's relatively equivalent to unflavored, in that you can blend it in anything. So, I make a daily shake with frozen berries, ice, unsweetened almond milk and the protein and it tastes absolutely delicious. It's like this huge frosted smoothie and it's the vanilla flavor just sort of complements the berries. But you could have it on its own without berries in it and it'll taste a little bit. It's got a hint of vanilla to it. So definitely working on an unflavored version as well because I have had requests for that too and there're so many flavors that [laughs] I want to make and that I'm excited about. 

Melanie Avalon: It's so exciting. And that reminds me, we didn't even get to go into it as much, but I wanted to talk to you more about your entrepreneurial journey and creating all of these things. Okay, so for listeners, how can they get-- depending on when they listen, the protein powder, the Tone device, how can they get all the things? 

Vanessa Spina: Well, thank you for asking. So, for the new second generation Tone device, we're going to be offering a big launch discount on it. So, if you want to receive that discount, you can go tonedevice.com and sign up with your name and email and you'll be the first to know when it is available to order. And you will also get the exclusive launch discount. I've never offered a discount on the Tone device before, but I'm so excited about this new second generation that I really want to offer listeners an exclusive discount. And the same goes for Tone Protein as a launch incentive because I want everyone to get to just try it out and see how you like it. We're going to be offering the biggest discount ever with the launch, and you can sign up to receive that discount by going toneprotein.com. And again, sign up with your name and email and you'll find out as soon as it is available to order. And you'll also get that exclusive launch discount. 

And I'm just so excited for everyone to try it and let me know how they like it. But I'm pretty sure that you're going to love [laughs] it as much as I do. And the same goes for the Tone device. I just had to hand the Tone devices, I have two of them right now, over to my photographer for a couple of weeks, and every day I was like, "I can't wait to have them back because they're such an integral part of my day." You have your certain biohacking things that you do every day. And I was so relieved, like, when they brought them back over a couple of days ago, and it feels right [laughs] to have them back by my side. And I can't tell you how many messages I get like that from users of the Tone who just say they love it so much and they use it every day, and when anything goes wrong, like if they lose their charging cable or they leave it somewhere, they're contacting me and they're like, "I need the Tone device. I need to get a new one or I need a charging cable or something." You get really attached to using it every day and the valuable feedback that it provides so I can speak to it because I feel the same way about it. And, yeah, thank you so much for asking me about it and just being so supportive about all these things. You're such a wonderful supporter of your friends and your friends' endeavors, and I just appreciate it all so much. [laughs]  

Melanie Avalon: No, of course. I'm just so excited for you, and I love-- so for listeners, if you enjoyed this show and you don't listen to The Intermittent Fasting Podcast, or even if you do, check out that other show because Vanessa and I cohost that together, and we just have the most fun time ever. It's really getting to know you more and more has been one of the most beautiful treasures of my life. Like, anytime I ever talk [chuckles] about you, I'm just like, "She's the most fabulous, beautiful, magical person." So, I am just so forever, ever grateful, sending you all the emojis. Oh, which, speaking of the last question I ask every single guest on this show, because I just realize more and more each day how important mindset is. So, what is something that you're grateful for? 

Vanessa Spina: Oh, my gosh, just one thing. [laughs] I could do another hour. 

Melanie Avalon: I know. We could have, like, the grateful episode. 

Vanessa Spina: I'm really, really thankful for my family, for having wonderful family, relatives, everything, and especially for our son Luca and our second baby that's coming in a few months. I just feel so, so thankful and blessed that I am pregnant again. And we're just so excited to have another baby and to keep growing our family. And there's just nothing like being together as a family, going on adventures together, and just seeing Luca grow every day, and he's just such an amazing little human, and I never thought that I would end up necessarily becoming a mom, and now it's my favorite thing in the whole world. So, I'm just really, really thankful that we've been blessed with Luca and that we have another little baby [laughs] coming soon, and it's just such a blessing. I'm so, so thankful for it. But I could go on for, like, an hour about all the things I'm thankful for, including your friendship and our connection and our high vibes. I'm just so thankful for all of it. 

Melanie Avalon: It's so incredible. That was a whole another topic I wanted to talk to you about was mom life and family life, and doing that with keto and fasting, because I know you have potentially controversial ideas, but we'll just have to put that as a teaser, maybe have you back on in the future and also talk to you tomorrow when we record Intermittent Fasting Podcast. I'm so excited. 

Vanessa Spina: I can't wait. I seriously can't wait. 

Melanie Avalon: But thank you so much for coming on. I cannot wait for listeners to try all of your stuff. It's going to be epic. So, friends, we'll put links to everything in the show notes. Yeah, have a magical evening in Prague. 

Vanessa Spina: Thank you so much. I hope you have an amazing sparkly day. And thank you so much for having me. I'm so honored to be on your incredible podcast. 

Melanie Avalon: I'm so honored to have you. Thank you. [laughs] I'll talk to you later. 

Vanessa Spina: Okay, talk to you soon. 

Melanie Avalon: Bye.

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