Training Your Fuel System with Dr. Justin Mager

credit: Instagram @carolinefelbig

Morning workouts. Sets and reps. Mile markers. Best times. Pushing yourself to the limit. Pushing your limit.

All connotations with the word ‘training.’ Finding out how far the body can go and then taking it there and further again . . . and again . . . and again.

But that’s only half of it. Athleticism isn’t just muscles flexing and extending, coordination of movements, and pushing for more speed. On a cellular level, the body is also converting fuel into energy to support these processes. So shouldn’t we train that system, too?

In the second part of Dr. Justin Mager’s talk at Krav Maga Worldwide Training Center: West LA, he discusses the body’s fuel system, why it’s so critical to athletic performance, and how to utilize it to our advantage.


A big part of this fuel system is the Master Regulatory Gene, scientifically known as PGC-1α. It is responsible for regulating the production of mitochondria, the powerhouse of nearly every cell in the body. When it’s activated, more mitochondria are produced, making for a more efficient fuel system. Turn it off, and mitochondria production stops. Here’s a fun fact: One of the major differences between humans and chimpanzees is the upgrades in PGC-1α that allow for increased energy production.

Controlling Your Own Master Regulatory Gene

  • Caloric Restriction – Tax the body (ask it to do a lot of work with little resource) and on flips the PGC-1α gene, making for a more efficient fuel system.
  • Low-Carb Diet – Training the body to use fats and proteins as its main fuel sources is a great way to stimulate mitochondria production.
  • Insulin Regulation – Carb-loading before exercise can hinder insulin responses during post-workout meals, thus hindering PGC-1α performance.
  • Get Tested – the hemoglobin A1-C (HbA1C) marker can determine the average blood sugar saturation levels of the last three months (the life span of red blood cells). With proper consultation, this information can further inform the glucose levels optimal for individual fuel system efficiency.

The next time you wake up in the morning with the desire to train, remind yourself it won’t just be at the gym.

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.