Published and interviewed by Mariah Wilson
Interviewed June 20th, 2022
Featuring Anna Brzostowska
Ann is a translator based in Warsaw, Poland, who is passionate about longevity and extending healthspan. Her main goal is to outlive her grandpa who lived to 103. On her Instagram account, she posts about extending healthspan through simple steps like regulating circadian rhythm, optimizing diet & gut health, and other tips! She has worn a continuous glucose monitor for several months, which provided her with unique insight into her glucose metabolism and she has acted accordingly in terms of optimizing her diet. She has posted graphs of her blood glucose curves on her Instagram account, accompanied with tips on how to avoid frequent glucose spikes.
Jump into this health journey:
- What got you passionate about studying and promoting longevity?
- What lifestyle changes did you make to improve your health?
- Why did you go vegan and how did it negatively impact your health?
- What “mistakes” did you make while being vegan?
- Why wasn’t the vegan diet good for your blood sugar levels?
- Why did you switch to a low carb diet?
- Why did you start using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM)?
- What did you learn while using the CGM tracking device?
- What resources/tools did you use to navigate the ketogenic diet?
- Did you find it difficult to stick to the keto diet?
- How did you start your keto meal plan?
- Do you have any tips for making the transition to keto easier?
- What would you do if you had cravings for sweets?
- Did exercise lower your blood sugar?
- How do you track your progress in terms of longevity?
- How often do you strength train in a week?
- What key people have influenced your health journey?
- What’s one of the main Glucose Goddess hacks that you implemented?
- What about Rhonda Patrick? What was something you learned from her?
- How did Matthew Walker change your view on sleep?
- How did you change your sleep habits?
- How much protein do you eat per day?
- What does a day of eating look like for you?
- What is the relationship between sunlight and health?
- How does the sun impact blood sugar levels?
- Longevity Cheat Sheet
Mariah: Today we have Ann joining us all the way from Poland! I’m going to have her give us a little introduction of herself.
Ann: So my name is Anna Brzostowska. I live in Warsaw (Poland). I’m 37 years old – almost, and I’m very passionate about longevity.
Mariah: Awesome, thanks Ann. To give our audience a little more of an overview, Ann is a freelance translator and as she said, she’s very passionate about anti-aging and improving longevity. She often explores these topics on her social media pages and if you want to find her on Instagram her handle is @long.live.Ann. Ann likes to discuss ways to improve longevity through sleep, diet, gut health, blood glucose monitors, and other ways that we’re going to explore in today’s discussion. Interestingly, her grandpa actually lived to 103 years old and Ann’s end goal is to do just that: outlive 103 by improving her lifestyle and through fighting aging. So, Ann, I’m wondering if you could discuss a little bit about:
Ann: It started when I was about 23 years old and my Grandma Sophie, whom I love dearly, broke her femur as she was suffering from osteoporosis and she was also very frail. This got me thinking that maybe I didn’t want to share her faith and her suffering. My mother also has osteoporosis. So that really got me thinking that I should do something about it. I started running a bit and I started paying a little bit more attention to what I ate, but I still wasn’t eating very healthy. Then somebody introduced me to podcasts and told me to listen to Rhonda Patrick and David Sinclair. It really opened my eyes.
Mariah: Awesome! And we’re going to explore who was really pivotal in your health and wellness journey a little later in our discussion. Did you have any health issues that were going on, that you feel comfortable discussing, or was it mostly that you wanted to prevent diseases like osteoporosis?
Ann: I didn’t have any chronic diseases. I simply wanted to fight aging and not end up like my grandma (with osteoporosis). That was my biggest call. Then I realized that I had some blood sugar level dysregulation, that I wasn’t aware.
Ann: I took up running, and I think I did it in a very good way…somebody recommended to me a very simple program called Couch to Five K, and I really was a “couch potato” – I mean it! Then, in the course of six weeks, I was able to run 43 minutes nonstop, which I think is quite nice for a “couch potato”. So I really recommend this program. I think it’s the best program that you can use and you make progress very gradually and it would also prevent any injuries.
Mariah: Are you still currently using the program to improve your running or have you changed gears in terms of exercise?
Ann: No, I run 5 km, and sometimes I do interval running or even longer distances. So I don’t need this program anymore. But there is also another program called Five K to Ten K.
Mariah: Awesome. So that’s what you’ve been doing in terms of exercise and physical activity. I know in our previous talk that we had, you had gone vegan for a little bit and you had made a comment on how that was a mistake for you personally. The vegan diet is popular, but it can also be controversial in the nutritional space.
Ann: So I chose to go vegan for animals because I thought that by being vegan I wasn’t hurting any animals. When I started listening to the other side, it occurred to me that I was wrong, and I admit it. I think that we just have to accept the fact that we cannot live not hurting other beings, but we should make sure that we hurt them as little as possible! So I do pay a lot of attention to buying grass fed beef, organic dairy and stuff like that.
Ann: I think it was a mistake because I certainly wasn’t getting enough protein. I was also eating highly processed meat substitutes, like many of my vegan friends do, and I know what it looks like in practice for many people. I’m not saying that all vegans don’t have an optimal diet – Maybe some do. But in practice, it often doesn’t look very good. So not getting enough protein, meat substitutes and also it wasn’t optimal for my blood sugar levels – that’s for sure!
Ann: Because it’s usually high carb, so it’s not good for me personally. I mean, some people can definitely eat much more carbs than I can, but it wasn’t good for me….I was experiencing glucose fluctuations during the day…so I felt sleepy after meals, and then I was also very hungry. Like, 2 hours after eating something, I was hungry again. So I ate maybe six times a day? Which is insane for me now! I was basically always hungry and I lacked energy, experienced brain fog, and I was feeling sleepy after meals.
Ann: So after I started listening to podcasts, instagram recommended Glucose Goddesses account to me, and then I started analyzing her graphs, and I thought to myself, “okay, I know that blood sugar levels should be pretty stable, so maybe I could implement her hacks to see whether they can improve anything in my life”. So I did, and I wasn’t as sleepy after eating, and my energy levels were more stable, and I also felt much better mentally (calmer)… and I experienced fewer mood swings, stuff like that! So it was all for the good.
Ann: (Jessie Inchauspé ~ Glucose Goddess) asked people in general, through her (instagram) account, to fill in a questionnaire, and then she wanted to follow up on it on WhatsApp. During our conversation, she convinced me to get a CGM.
Ann: After I put it on, I saw all the glucose spikes after carb heavy meals…and that is really not optimal. After I implemented her hacks, my blood sugar levels were much steadier and also lower, but still, I wasn’t seeing the optimal (blood sugar) levels that I wanted to see. And I thought to myself, okay, then if low carb isn’t doing this for me, then maybe let’s go keto – and that’s what I did.
Mariah: It sounds like you mostly went keto to help balance your blood sugar levels,
Ann: I simply used the cronometer and put in everything that I ate there to see whether I was meeting the percentage requirements. It was eye opening because I learned how much I ate. It also tracked calories, protein, and whether I was getting enough vitamins and minerals… and stuff like that. It was really a good experience to actually put everything in. I also used a glucose meter and ketone meter to see whether I was in ketosis or not, and my blood sugar levels were perfect.
Ann: Well, maybe if you go out with friends or you want to eat ice cream or something like that, then occasionally yes. But I think it’s a very simple diet.
Ann: You just need a source of protein, lots of olive oil and vegetables and that’s basically it. Or maybe some nuts and maybe some berries. It’s very simple to prepare a healthy plate of food…I don’t find it difficult to stick to it. Although for this summer, I’m stepping out of ketosis and I’m doing low carb to enjoy more fruits because it’s the season for fruits. Then I’m going back into ketosis in the fall and for the winter months.
Mariah: I have a couple more questions because some people, they really struggle sticking to the diet.
Ann: Yes, I would say having eggs, sardines, or mackerel in your fridge at all times and then you just add some vegetables and olive oil and you’re covered! If you don’t have time to cook anything, you just put it on your plate and it’s ready in 10 minutes. So it’s really no biggie.
Mariah: So meal prepping a little bit, maybe having hard boiled eggs and things that are easier to access would be a helpful start for people!
Ann: Well, sometimes I really want to eat chocolate and I like milk chocolate, not dark chocolate. So a good hack would be to eat that before a workout because then your muscles will “suck up the sugar” and you will be back in ketosis much sooner than, let’s say, if you ate that milk chocolate while sitting on a couch watching Netflix.
Mariah: Did you monitor any of that with your continuous glucose monitor?
Ann: Yes, I saw what sweets did to my blood sugar levels.
Ann: In regards to exercising, that helped to balance it out. One time I ate some chocolate, and then I biked on my stationary bike while watching Sex and the City, and I was just biking, it wasn’t anything extreme like interval biking or anything like that. I was biking for 45 minutes, and there was almost no spike (in blood sugar levels) at all. So exercise really does help. And even going for a walk (or doing anything physical) can help.
Ann: Actually, yesterday I checked my muscle mass… and years ago I was told that I didn’t have much muscle mass, but now I was told that I have more muscle than an average woman of my age! I was really happy. Also, my bone density got better, which is really great for me because I’ve been devoting a lot of attention to building muscle mass (and bone mass). And it was nothing extreme, I was just exercising at home, and recently I joined the gym!
Mariah: That’s amazing! Especially the bone density, because you have a family history of osteoporosis. When we were speaking earlier, it sounded like you were doing a lot of cardio, but have you then incorporated more strength training?
Ann: Definitely, yes. So after listening to Peter Attia’s podcast, I really started doing strength training. And also two years ago, when they told me that I didn’t have much muscle mass, I thought to myself, okay, maybe running isn’t enough. Maybe I should do something more. And then I bought some heavier weights. Still nothing extreme – it was five kilograms. But still, it allowed me to build some muscle mass.
Mariah: That’s amazing.
Ann: I aim for three times a week, and I just want to stress it: It’s nothing extreme. It’s just spending from 30 to 40 minutes doing some weight lifting…usually 10 or 8 pound weights, something like that, depending on the exercise.
Mariah: That’s great – because I think some people get really intimidated when they hear “strength training”. They think they have to lift really heavy weights to see improvements in their bone density and muscle mass. But like you just said, you don’t need to be lifting heavy weights to see those improvements.
Ann: I would start with Glucose Goddess (Jessie Inchauspé), because I implement her hacks on a daily basis and I think that they are really clever and they allow you to feel better almost instantly: reduce brain fog and mood swings, and (reduce) sleepiness after meals. So I think that in a society where most people have dysregulated glucose metabolism, I think that it’s paramount that they implement her hacks. She also convinced me to get a CGM, so then I saw (first hand) what carbohydrates were doing to my body specifically, because everybody is different, some people can eat much more carbs than I can. So that was really an eye opening experience, I would say.
Ann: Eating carbs after workouts! Then I can eat like a slice of bread and I know that nothing will happen. Also the order of eating: start with vegetables, then protein, fat and then carbs. Walking after meals is also another hack that is very easy to implement. Also, when you want to eat sweets, I actually have a little bit of fiber or protein or fat with the high carbohydrates, so it doesn’t give you those glucose spikes.
Ann: Rhonda Patrick had a series of appearances on the Joe Rogan podcast and she talked about: meat, the gut, vitamin D and many different things. She also discussed fasting and how intermittent fasting can help improve your health. That really got me thinking and I started paying attention to having a twelve hour break between dinner and breakfast. So she also taught me a lot about the benefits of the sauna – and I’m now a big fan.
Mariah: So it sounds like a lot of your education is based on your own health and wellness journey and has come from these key influencers in the health and wellness space. Previous to you going through their podcasts and reading their books, did you study any of this in school or is it more of a passion project?
Ann: It’s a passion project. School didn’t teach me anything about that. And it’s really a pity that they don’t tell you any of this in school.
Mariah: I know there are a couple of other people, from the last time we spoke, that also influenced your journey. One of them was Matthew Walker.
Ann: I think that sleep is underappreciated and it can have an impact on virtually every single aspect of your life, even glucose metabolism, because when you are sleep deprived, your insulin sensitivity goes down. And people who suffer from type two diabetes, they should actually take care of their sleep a lot. I got interested in sleep partly because of his book, and I actually managed to stop being a night owl and now I’m an early bird!
Ann: The most important thing was getting sunlight exposure in the morning. According to experts, this is the paramount thing that you can do to regulate your circadian rhythm and to start getting sleepy. Also avoiding blue lights in the evening and dimming the lights even at home. Daytime should be a time of light and night should be the time of darkness. Using your phone and exposing yourself to blue light is far from optimal and it’s really unnatural.
Mariah: Very interesting. I definitely am someone who needs to turn my phone off a lot earlier. And then I know another person (who influenced your health journey) was Valter Longo and the Longevity Diet book.
Ann: I found it really interesting! And I respect his research, but I think that he actually is wrong about one thing – and this is actually where I agree with what Peter Atia says. I think that Longo’s recommendation for protein intake is much too low. When you don’t have enough protein, you cannot build muscle and then you get frail in old age. And this is what killed my grandmother. Peter Attia is focusing on muscle mass and its importance for longevity and he often says that muscle mass is the best predictor for longevity. Building muscle mass is something that I’m really focused on.
Ann: Because of what Peter Attia says, I started eating much more protein than I used to: between 1.5 grams to 2 grams per 1 kilogram of body mass instead of, let’s say, 0.8 grams. So it’s really a big difference, I would say.
Mariah: That is a big difference. And even with what we learned in school, 0.8 grams is the minimum requirement that you need. But we don’t want the minimum – we want optimal!
Ann: Exactly. I couldn’t have put it better.
Ann: In the morning, I eat my keto oats. So I do have some protein from nuts, then I add some whey protein. And if I don’t do that, then I eat some eggs. For lunch, it is normally eggs, fish or meat. Simply animal protein mostly, but also some plant protein. I don’t have tunnel vision in that I think only animal protein is good for us. I do eat some plant protein as well in the form of hummus or black bean burgers.
Mariah: It sounds like, and correct me if I’m wrong, you are aiming to get protein with every single meal?
Ann: Definitely. Yes.
Mariah: And then what about your snacks? Do you have protein snacks throughout the day or is it mostly just breakfast, lunch and dinner?
Ann: I try not to snack at all. I try to stick to three meals a day.
Mariah: Great. I think most people don’t get protein with every single meal, and I think that’s something that everyone can do and it’s easy to do. They just need to know good protein sources.
Ann: I think that using an app like “cronometer” is a very good idea because you just weigh things and you can analyze every single ingredient of every single piece of food that you eat.
Mariah: Yes, as long as it doesn’t cause too much stress for people and they like seeing those stats. It would definitely be a good idea to have some sort of tracker to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients. And then I know there were a couple of books that you wanted to speak about. One of them was by Linda Greddes and it’s called Chasing the Sun.
Ann: (The book written by Linda Greddes: Chasing the Sun) really opened my eyes to how important sunlight is in our lives and also how important it is to regulate your circadian rhythm. She also describes the effect of light on different systems in our bodies, like how sunlight exposure can boost our insulin sensitivity, how it impacts our guts… So go outside, enjoy the sun responsively, and when it’s night, don’t expose yourself to too much light, especially blue light.
Mariah: I’m glad that you said responsibly, because some people might think it’s good to go out in the sun all hours of the day and then they get really sunburned.
Ann: Avoid sunburn at all costs. This is not good.
Mariah: Exactly. And then I don’t know if this was based on her book or just on your own experience, but
Ann: Many specialists say that we are more insulin sensitive during summer because of sunlight. One keto dietician from Poland actually did an experiment – I haven’t replicated it, but I intend to once I put a new CGM on. He said that he ate a more carb heavy meal in the sun and then he ate the same thing again the next day, but indoors. He looked at his blood sugar levels and they were completely different. His glucose response was much better when he enjoyed his meal outside. Since it’s summer in Warsaw, I try to eat all my meals outside. It’s also much more pleasurable.
Mariah: Wow, that is interesting. I have not come across that research before. So if you do end up getting a CGM and tracking that, I would definitely love to see a post about it on your social media page, because that’s very interesting!
Ann: If I do an experiment like that, I will definitely share the results.
Mariah: Awesome! Before we wrap up, was there anything else that you wanted to talk about or anything that I missed?
Ann: I would like to direct the viewer’s attention to my longevity cheat sheet. It’s a list of things that you can do for your longevity and to extend your lifespan. There are many different aspects, like regulating your circadian rhythm, sleep, contacts with other people, socializing, protecting your DNA… and stuff like that. So there are ten different areas, and the idea is that you can stick it on your fridge as a daily reminder that your health is basically in your hands.
Mariah: Awesome. I love the thought of that. Could you read out one of the tips so people can put it into action today?
Ann: Hmm… maybe: “find your purpose”. It’s important to have a reason to wake up in the morning. And I’m really not joking, many experts say that having a purpose really extends your life, and so maybe find your Ikigai if you can. I would say that my Instagram account is my Ikigai because I get so many positive comments from people who implemented some of the hacks that I write about, and it’s really rewarding.