The science of exercise, mitochondrial health and longevity | Biochemist Kieron Rooney

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In Episode #222, I’m joined by Drew Harrisberg and Kieron Rooney, PhD to discuss how the biochemistry of exercise can impact your health.

“Without a doubt, the number one stimulus for increasing mitochondrial content is movement and physical activity.”

Evidence continuously shows us that the multitude of factors contributing to health and longevity are incredibly complex. Today, Kieran Rooney, PhD sits down with Drew Harrisberg and me to break down the biochemistry behind exercise, exploring both the theory and practical applications of improving your fitness.

If you’ve been listening to The Proof for a while now, you will be very familiar with Drew Harrisberg. Drew is an exercise physiologist, sports scientist, diabetes educator, and my good friend. He always opens up meaningful conversations on the show, bringing both curiosity and educated insight. Associate Professor Kieran Rooney is a biochemist and lecturer with decades of multi-disciplinary research behind him. As a researcher in metabolic biochemistry, he brings fascinating knowledge to the table for this conversation.

“It’s not so much finding one unified diet for everyone to subscribe to, but it’s the one that is going to remove you mostly away from this dependency on discretionary foods and ultra-processed foods.”

We cover a wide range of topics in this episode. In the first half, Kieron Rooney introduces a more technical, theory-based background that informs the technical applications in the second half. We discuss mitochondria efficiency, metabolic flexibility, and fat adaptation. Dr Rooney also offers training advice, and his thoughts on a ketogenic diet.

Specifically, we cover:

  • Intro [0:00]
  • Rodent Studies on Sucrose [5:40]
  • Biochemistry of Exercise [22:28]
  • Creatine Supplementation for Athletes [37:19]
  • Do you need meat for creatine? [42:40]
  • How Our Bodies Produce ATP [44:41]
  • Defining Mitochondria [58:43]
  • Increasing Efficiency [1:03:56]
  • Omega 6s: Essential or Problematic? [1:06:00]
  • Metabolic Flexibility [1:15:20]
  • Make more Mitochondria [1:18:08]
  • Mitochondria & Longevity [1:29:00]
  • Lactate Levels [1:35:14]
  • Best Training Advice [1:50:16]
  • HIIT vs Endurance [2:01:10]
  • Can Keto Work Long-Term? [2:12:42]
  • Outro [2:45:15]

This conversation is absolutely worth the listen. You’ll gain both practical and theoretical knowledge, with a more comprehensive understanding of the biochemistry of exercise. It was great to have Drew and Kieron on the show for this discussion.

To connect with Drew Harrisberg, you can find him on Instagram and visit his website, Drew’s Daily Dose. Kieron Rooney, PhD is active on Twitter, and you can learn more about him and his work here.

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Enjoy, friends.


More about Kieron Rooney, PhD

Kieron joined the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Sydney in 2003 as a lecturer of the Biochemistry of Exercise and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2012 and then Associate Professor in 2019.

During this time Kieron has been responsible for the design and implementation of curriculum in units of study focussed on metabolic biochemistry and exercise physiology to both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. Kieron’s research portfolio has included both human and small animal studies investigating the role of diet and physical activity on parameters of fuel storage and utilisation as they pertain to dysregulated metabolic states.

Kieron is currently the Head of the Discipline of Exercise and Sport Science (2020 – present); Co-Lead for the Charles Perkins centre Bias in Research node (2020 – present); and Co-Lead of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sport and Physical Activity Research and TeAching Network (SPARTAN; 2021 – present).

More about Drew Harrisberg

Drew Harrisberg is an exercise physiologist, sports scientist, has a graduate certificate in diabetes education and management, and most importantly — is a happy and healthy guy thriving with type 1 diabetes. After being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 22, Drew made it his mission to regain control of his health by making positive changes to the way that he lives, eats, moves, and the mindset in which he approaches life. Drew has not only accepted living with diabetes but has also learned to manage it so that it doesn’t manage him.

Drew’s background as a qualified health professional and his personal experience living with type 1 diabetes for over 10 years is what fuels his passion to share everything he learns along the way, which is why he created Drew’s Daily Dose – a home that inspires, empowers, and enables people to thrive rather than simply survive.

Drew is a voice for the diabetes community and is an ambassador for Diabetes NSW. He has also presented a motivational TEDx talk.

Additional resources:

  • Metabolic characteristics of keto-adapted ultra-endurance runners PMID: 26892521

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