7 Ways to Improve Your Health through the PGC1 Pathway

Ya’ll have probably heard me talk about the benefits of ketosis before. You may have also heard me preach the benefits of fasting.

The truth is, both of those things are key in my ever-improving health, but there is no one or two things I do to make myself feel optimal… it’s several things. My top seven things I do to get and keep myself feeling great all work through the same pathway, the PGC1 alpha pathway. If you want to know more about what that is and how I biohack mine, read on!


What is the PGC1 Protein Pathway?


PGC1 (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1-alpha) is the protein that regulates the genes involved in energy metabolism. It leads into the Nrf1 and Nrf2 (nuclear respiratory factor 1 and 2) pathways. These two pathways control everything related to metabolism, overall health and the aging process1. This pathway primarily works through:

  • increasing the efficiency and number of your mitochondria
  • regulating/utilizing glucose
  • improving fatty acid oxidation (your ability to burn fat)
  • upregulating your detox/anti-oxidant capacity

If you’re thinking that this sounds like the master controller of youthful energy and beauty, you’re correct2.


What do I do to improve my PGC1 pathway?


There are seven easily influenced factors in regulating PGC1 and everything it subsequently controls. Each of these factors utilize varying mechanisms to influence PGC1, but they all work together, in their own cool interconnected way.

Ketosis: If you read my last post then you remember this dead horse that I’m continuing to beat. Ketosis, fatty acid oxidation/beta oxidation, is one of the best ways to upregulate PGC13. The only thing is that it’s not easy or fast to achieve dietary ketosis if you’re body isn’t used to it already.

Often, I will coach my clients on the use of exogenous ketones during the initial adaptation phase of the ketogenic diet to help them transition more easily. Most exogenous ketones are bound to a salt, though. That means if you’re using a traditional delivery system for beta-hydroxybutyrate (the popular exogenous ketone) you’re introducing an inordinate amount of one mineral into your system. Therefore, using ketone salts may lead to an imbalance of minerals, as well as a somewhat toxic byproduct accumulating in the blood.

There are better ways to get your exogenous ketones, though, and I’ll jump back to that point towards the end of this post… I promise not to leave you hanging.

I recommend a ketogenic diet to my clients only if they already have an interest in learning more about it. However, all of my clients practice a relatively-low-carb, high-healthy-fat diet consisting of whole foods, regardless. Everyone has their own individual needs, but this is a recipe for good health 9 out of 10 times.

I, myself, have been in ketosis on and off for about 4 years, now. I feel much more like myself when I’m practicing a ketogenic lifestyle.

Fasting: I’m fairly adamant in my advocacy for the research-backed benefits of fasting, just like with the ketogenic diet4,5. Like the ketogenic diet, fasting allows your body to utilize ketones as a premium energy source. Also like the ketogenic diet, fasting is not for the faint of heart. It’s a challenge, especially in the beginning. That did not detour me, though.

I think most people would benefit from experimenting with intermittent fasting (IF). You may not realize it, but if you sleep at night (which is hopefully all of us), you’re already practicing IF. The time during which you’re asleep is your fast. Regardless of what duration of time you’re playing around with IF, you’re basically spending the majority of the fast sleeping.

My favorite way to do it is have my last meal around 4:00 or 5:00pm, then refrain from eating again until the next day, close to that time. Even when you start small with a 12-hour fast, before you know it, you’ve worked yourself up to a 24-hour fasting cycle.

To keep my metabolism flexible, though, I switch up my fasting durations and pattern almost daily, leaving 1-2 days per week for ad libitum feeding (eating as often/much as I want).

Sunshine: This is something I’ve been trying to do more of, lately. All of your body’s pathways basically operate through transfer of electrons. I’ve spoken about bioenergetics before on my Instagram TV channel in my video about biohacking with bioenergetics, as well as in a few of my blog posts.

Bare skin sun exposure helps your body to be more negatively charged, as well as utilize electrons more efficiently through the mechanism of nitric oxide (NO) production6. Pretty cool, right? Not only does 20 minutes of sun exposure every day make your vitamin D into its active form, but it also helps your body to create more energy from within its cells7.

Temperature: Have you ever taken a cold shower? What about using an ice pack to baby an injury? Cold actually helps activate the PGC1 pathway through thermogenesis to heal your cells8,9.

The benefits of cold thermogenesis go way beyond its anti-inflammatory effect, though. Our bodies have brown adipose tissue (BAT) and white adipose tissue (WAT) or brown and white fat. When you get cold, your BAT initiates the shivers, which in turn burns energy. Burning energy keeps you warm10. WAT, however, is the kind of fat you want less of, like visceral fat11.

You want more BAT and less WAT. That’s the idea.

The more BAT you have, the better you are at burning energy and losing weight. Studies have shown that obese individuals have less BAT and more WAT. WAT, one of the main components of visceral fat, is linked to higher risk of metabolic syndrome and centralized obesity (muffin top/beer belly)9. Therefore, using cold to upregulate your PGC1 can have some life-changing benefits.

I try to do 15 seconds – 2 minutes of cold water at the end of my showers or directly after the sauna. Let’s be real, if you’re a lady and you shave your legs in the shower, this one is tricky. No one likes for their freshly shaved legs to meet ice-cold temperatures. You can also try cryotherapy where you stand inside a sub zero chamber like some kind of Batman villain.

Exercise: We all know that working out is good for you. If I listed all of the reasons why it would be its own entire post. You may find it eye-opening, though. Yes, working out burns calories, builds muscle, boosts your mood, blah blah blah.

It also can increase your cellular energy through mitochondrial effects of bioenergetics12,13. Part of the way in which exercise is so beneficial is its ability to influence PGC1. Depending on the type of exercise and the duration of it, you can actually get more from your workout than just the calories burned during the exercise, itself.

I love high intensity interval training (HIIT). When I was a barre instructor, I actually helped develop a tabata-inspired HIIT barre class. I have been doing HIIT for probably 5 or 6 years, now, and it’s a part of every single one of my workouts. It’s quick, fun, and it actually makes your body burn calories for up to 3 days after your workout14.

While we’re on the subject of barre, the isometric movements that are the hallmark of ballet and barre have also been shown to improve mitochondrial energy15. An isometric movement is a position you hold for an extended amount of time, like a plank. That’s right.. besides the benefit of long, lengthened muscles, you actually improve the way every cell in your body functions.

If you’re in the Tallahassee area and want to try out a HIIT or barre class, check out The Refinery’s schedule and grab a free class pass! You can also go their website www.therefineryfitness.com to learn more about barre!

Massage: Ok, so here’s something everyone wants an excuse to do. Massage actually has a bioenergetic effect, like the other biohacks mentioned in this article. Through activation of PGC1, massage can give you the same benefits as all of the above modalities16.

Therefore, massage is a biohack. Yea, I said it. Since I started having weekly deep tissue massages with my guy, Jasper, I have noticed a huge improvement in my health and even my mindset. He’s also a Reiki healer with 10 years of experience, as well as a craniosacral practitioner. Whatever my body needs, he knows. Also, whatever I’ve done to my body, he knows… which is eerily cool.

I recommend him, highly, if you’re in Florida. He comes to your home and works out of Tampa Bay, but goes out to Orlando, St. Pete, Clearwater, and even Miami. His website is www.MassageOverMatter.com and if you use the code: expbetty you get 20% of your first massage (that includes couples massages… which is a huge discount). TWENTY PERCENT!

If you don’t live in the area and want to have a massage therapist come to your home, you can use the Soothe app, which is how I found Jasper. You can use the code: HXPVP to get $20 off a massage through Soothe.

Key Nutrients: There are several nutrients that can activate the almighty PGC1 protein, as well. My favorites, which I take daily, include: forskolin, ECGC (found in green tea), l-carnitine, PQQ17, CoQ1018, l-arginine (creates NO like sun exposure)6, and quercetin19.

I love taking PQQ (pryrroloquinoline Quinone) and CoQ10 (ubiquinone) together in the Bulletproof supplement Unfair Advantage. I don’t get paid to say that, I just literally love that product. The only issue is that it’s pricey. When I take it, I take 4 a day and I go through a package in no time. Not only that, but I don’t feel as though I always absorb it well, because PQQ is kind of a tricky compound to absorb, orally.

Quercetin is a polyphenol (an anti-oxidant found in plants) that you get when you eat certain of fruits and vegetables, like kale. You can get quercetin from eating your veggies or you can ensure that you’re getting enough by taking it in supplement form like I do20. My favorite out of the many benefits of quercetin is that it helps prevent mast cell release of histamine and inflammatory cytokines21. I have high blood histamine and, as the queen of itching and rashes, anything that can help balance that a little is on my list of biohacks.

L-carnitine is something else that I take daily. It’s an amino acid that is key in fatty acid oxidation (burning fat instead of storing it)22. I have a genetic predisposition that makes it a little harder for my body to assimilate it23. Which brings me to my next point.

Forskolin, an extract from a species of mint plant, has actually been shown to improve l-carnitine utilization in individuals by working directly on carnitine processing genes, themselves24. Not only that, but forskolin has been shown to improve T3 and T4 levels (thyroid hormones), which also activates PGC125. If you have hypothyroidism, like me, Forskolin may help boost your thyroid hormone production, naturally; therefore, if you take thyroid hormone replacement, consult your physician before starting Forskolin (or any other recommendation in this post).

Forskolin activates the PGC1 pathway through numerous mechanisms of action, actually, including its ability to mimic the cellular effects of exercise, fasting, and ketosis26,27,28. There is a ton of research on forskolin in PubMed. I’m planning an entire separate post on it, just because I can’t possibly cover it all, here.

Last, but not least, ECGC, a component of green tea, has a robust body of evidence supporting its use to prevent and attenuate (stop and/or reverse) many health conditions. ECGC has also been shown to improve focus, energy, and performance29.


What are the direct, measurable benefits associated with activation of the PGC1 protein?


Some of the things you can expect to happen when your PGC1 protein is upregulated include:

  • weight-loss30
  • decreased inflammation31
  • improved sleep (regulates circadian rhythm)32
  • increased energy33
  • neurological protection34
  • less white fat (bad body fat)35
  • more brown fat (good body fat)36
  • possibly less addictive behavior (phone/social media, food, sex, drugs, gambling)37
  • prevent non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFL)38


Want to know the easiest short-cut for biohacking PGC1?


I just came across a near-effortless way to enhance all of the biohacking modalities I’m currently doing. It comes in patch form and uses transdermal technology to deliver some of the key nutrients above right into your bloodstream, bypassing first pass metabolism in the liver.

Not only that, but the company also makes an option that includes the exogenous ketone (beta-hydroxybutyrate; BHB) without the high amounts of salt (calcium, magnesium, or sodium) that other exogenous ketone supplements have! It literally puts BHB straight into your bloodstream via your skin, without any of possible negative effects of ketone salt powders and liquids that I warn my clients to avoid.

There’s even another version of it that contains mood-boosting amino acids including l-theanine and 5-HTP. L-theanine is the constituent of chocolate that makes you feel a sense of euphoria. 5-HTP is the precursor to serotonin. Needless to say, consult your physician, especially if you’re currently taking any psychotropic medications. I just ordered this one and can’t wait to try it out!

There are also two other steps to the system that provide all of the baseline nutrients you need, daily. I was able to cut-down my daily supplement routine from about 30 pills to 2 pills and one powder that provides about 100 calories (not that calories matter). You don’t even use the powder daily, though… it’s only every other day!

As a biohacker, I still supplement with all kinds of specifically targeted things, but I don’t have to put so much effort into my baseline supplementation anymore. Nor do I have to take each nutrient that helps with PGC1 separately, which is so time consuming and not at all cost effective. That, obviously, gives me more time and more financial resources to dedicate to other biohacking endeavors.

Full disclosure: because I believe in it, and use it every day, I decided to work with the company that makes this supplementation system. That means that in the future I will be getting it for free. Yep. I replaced at least 30 capsules (totally over $250), daily, with 2 capsules, a powder (that I don’t even need to take every day, and a patch FOR FREE. I am sharing that with you, because you can get it for free, too, if you try it and love it… which I know you will.

If you’re interested, click this link and create a free account. You don’t need to buy anything. Just have a look around and let me know what you think. If you have any questions at all, just reach out to me at ElizabethClarkHealthCoach@gmail.com and I’ll help you determine if this may be a good fit for you. I’ll walk you through everything and answer any question you can think of. If you do want to order the same PGC1 biohacking system that I’m using, I can give you a discount code for 10% off and free shipping!

I spent a lot of time researching this before deciding to try it. I actually used to take all of the active ingredients, separately, a few years ago and I felt the best I’ve ever felt. It was a lot to keep up with, though, so I stopped.

BUT… when one of my colleagues, registered dietitian Sara Grace Spann, told me about this new, easier, cutting-edge delivery system I was sooooo excited at the idea to feel like I used to. I gotta tell ya, I feel just as amazing now as I did back the first time I was taking these nutrients. It has been so incredible to wake-up with energy, happily accomplish the little things I usually procrastinate on, be motivated to workout, and BEST OF ALL be in a great mood for all of it.

Sara and I did our master’s degree and dietetic internship together at FSU, and she graduated about a year ago. She’s been using this new biohacking technology every day for the past year and is absolutely KILLING IT in life, love, and business. See for yourself, here, on her blog! She recommends it to every single one of her clients because she loves it that much, and they all absolutely love it, too.


For, personalized, one-on-one coaching


If you want to try out some of the biohacks above, but don’t know where to start, let me help you. I’ve been on this crazy health journey for so long that I’ve amassed a huge collection of biohacking tips, things I wish someone had told me, and other resources that I’m dying to share with anyone that wants to know.

I know what it’s like to live in a body that doesn’t feel like your own. If you feel like your physical or mental self is not aligned with where you want to be, I’m here as living proof to show you that there is a way to get there. I’ve helped myself and hundreds of others find their alignment and live their potential. It’s not a linear process, though. There will be ups and downs, so having the support of someone who lives it every day, first hand, can make all of the difference.

For my peeps who aren’t ready for that stage of change, yet, you can always follow my journey from a distance and check me out on Instagram @Experimental_Betty (https://www.instagram.com/experimental_betty/) or my Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/ElizabethClarkHealthCoach/ . If this was helpful, comment on or like my most recent post on social media to let me know we’re in this together!



  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22072942
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3843141/#R45 (Metabolic flexibility)
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17347648/ (beta oxidation/ketosis)
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11557972/ (fasting)
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20197054/ (fasting and exercise)
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16524713?dopt=Abstract (sunlight and l-arginine)
  7. https://physoc.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1113/jphysiol.2010.194035 (sunlight)
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9529258/ (cold)
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10412986/ (cold)
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27561621 (BAT)
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=white+adipose+tissue+PGC1 (WAT)
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19887595/ (exercise)
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17609368/ (exercise)
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29124325 (HIIT)
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29316654 (barre)
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Massage+therapy+attenuates+inflammatory+signaling+after+exercise-induced+muscle+damage (massage)
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29714638 (PQQ)
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=coq10+pgc1 (CoQ10)
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24586721 (quercetin and PGC1)
  20. http://www.quercetinscience.com/2010-nieman-quercetin-athleticsreview.pdf (quercetin)
  21. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27187333 (quercetin and antihistamine)
  22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21542052 (l-carnitine)
  23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20638986 (l-carnitine genes)
  24. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=CPT1A+forskolin (forskolin; l-carnitine genes)
  25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6327383 (forskolin; thyroid)
  26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21888529 (forskolin; exercise and fasting)
  27. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3331675/ (forskolin; ketosis)
  28. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211124714010523 (forskolin; inflammation)
  29. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4827637/ (ECGC)
  30. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/search/?term=nrf2%20diabetes (weight-loss)
  31. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16814729 (inflammation)
  32. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4220097/ (circadian rhythm)
  33. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4220097/ (sleep)
  34. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22589246 (neurodegenerative disease)
  35. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24411942 (WAT; decrease)
  36. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27386156 (BAT; increase)
  37. https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/175/1/11/132435 (addiction)
  38. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5563925/ (NAFL)




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