• Burn

  • New Research Blows the Lid Off How We Really Burn Calories, Lose Weight, and Stay Healthy
  • By: Herman Pontzer
  • Narrated by: P.J. Ochlan
  • Length: 11 hrs and 24 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (400 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

One of the foremost researchers in human metabolism reveals surprising new science behind food and exercise.

We burn 2,000 calories a day. And if we exercise and cut carbs, we'll lose more weight. Right? Wrong. In this paradigm-shifting book, Herman Pontzer reveals for the first time how human metabolism really works so that we can finally manage our weight and improve our health.

Pontzer's groundbreaking studies with hunter-gatherer tribes show how exercise doesn't increase our metabolism. Instead, we burn calories within a very narrow range: nearly 3,000 calories per day, no matter our activity level. This was a brilliant evolutionary strategy to survive in times of famine. Now it seems to doom us to obesity. The good news is we can lose weight, but we need to cut calories. Refuting such weight-loss hype as paleo, keto, anti-gluten, anti-grain, and even vegan, Pontzer discusses how all diets succeed or fail: For shedding pounds, a calorie is a calorie.

At the same time, we must exercise to keep our body systems and signals functioning optimally, even if it won't make us thinner. Hunter-gatherers like the Hadza move about five hours a day and remain remarkably healthy into old age. But elite athletes can push the body too far, burning calories faster than their bodies can take them in. It may be that the most spectacular athletic feats are the result not just of great training, but of an astonishingly efficient digestive system.

Revealing, irreverent, and always entertaining, Pontzer has written a book that will change how you eat, move, and live.

This audiobook edition contains a downloadable PDF of charts included in the print edition. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2021 Herman Pontzer (P)2021 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"A wide-ranging romp through evolutionary biology, physiology, and anthropology, Burn will make you question what you think you know about metabolism and your waistline." (Stephan Guyenet, PhD,  author of The Hungry Brain)

"Burn is science writing at its best: big ideas, wild and often hilarious stories from the field, and deft explanations. The result will reshape what you thought you knew about how our metabolisms work." (Alex Hutchinson, New York Times best-selling author of Endure)

"An absorbing, instructive lesson for anyone concerned about their health." (Kirkus starred review)

What listeners say about Burn

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great book dispelling weight myths

I've always struggled with my weight, but during my 8-year drug addiction, I put on over 200 lbs. I've been sober for 8.5 years, and I've been struggling to take the weight off. Something that drives me nuts is all of the non-scientific contradictory information about diet and exercise out there, so I decided to check out this book from Herman Pontzer. I must say that Pontzer did an incredible job with this book, and I think it's perfect for a wide range of readers. 

I'm more of a psychology guy than a biology guy, but Pontzer was able to break down how the body functions in a simple way. There are still a few concepts I may need to go back and revisit, but his overall thesis was easy to grasp. What I really enjoyed about this book was how the author dispelled a lot of myths about diets, exercise, metabolism, and more. My only critique is at the end of this book, I personally didn't leave with many solutions, but that's not what this book was about. Fortunately, Herman replied to me on Twitter and recommended some other great books that I can check out.

9 people found this helpful

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Went from Science to Psuedo Science

This one started out with great tidbits - Gyms don't make you skinny (yep), don't overeat (thanks), live like an African tribe (no thanks). However, as quick as I can make a glazed doughnut disappear the finger-wagging global warming/climate change/America bad lecture came out of left field in the last 15-20 minutes of the book. Yawn. Bye.

6 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars

I don't recommend

where do I even start? this book is full of scientific studies and facts and statistics. I found it to be very difficult to listen to chapter after chapter of these facts and details without having actionable information. in the end, he finally gets to the gist of it all which is basically you must eat fewer calories than you burn

5 people found this helpful

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Very interesting and informative, little guidance

Found this book well written and interesting overall. There is a lot of echoing of information I learned in The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung, which is a little funny given their deviated opinions on certain foods and fasting, but perhaps they have looked at the same studies and arrived at different opinions. Both are valuable. Either way don't get this book thinking it will give you all the answers to your overweight problem but do expect to learn a lot about human physiology and anthropology especially if this is a new realm for you. In a sense it just teaches what many others do, that you have to find a sustainable way of eating and moving to be successful in the long-term...generally without eating processed food but without omitting whole food groups or macronutrients.

3 people found this helpful

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Excellent!

This book was incredibly informative. I went into it with a bit of dread that it would be a bit too "scientific" for me to understand. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I plan on buying it for wife to read. The book was well written and easy to follow. The author had some witty yet nerdy humor scattered throughout(my personal style of humor as well!).
It was truly eye opening and I learned much and I recommend it for anyone who is curious about how our body handles food, excercise, stress, and challenges. The book was recommended to me, I am not an individual seeking to lose weight.

The narrator also did a great job. I especially enjoyed the part when discussing the results of a study showing that people who are generally less informed or ignorant on a subject are the ones who have the most confidence in being correct. The American people are aware of this and would never elect a Politician to high office who, while very confident, is totally unqualified. That had me chuckling! The irony!

2 people found this helpful

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Expected something different and more

Based on the title, I expected a different book. Dr Pontzer is an evolutionary anthropologist with an interest in metabolism. He has a lot of research on metabolism and how it compares across cultures and personal situations. I appreciated that he worked to dispel myths about certain foods being "good" or being "bad" and critiqued fad diets with legit research. But he only skims over the evidence refuting diets like vegan, carnivore or keto/lowcarb.
However, I was disappointed that this didn't translate into any practical tips for the reader. If your body adapts to decreasing calories and can stay there, what should we do about it? How do we fix the participants in the Biggest Loser studies he mentions? How does the reader create realistic weight loss, how much calorie restriction is enough and how much is took much and will alter the BMR? The whole book feels like a long explanation of "A calorie is a calorie" so eat less than you burn without giving any advice on adequately tracking either.

2 people found this helpful

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Disappointing

Part memoir, part research, part yawn. As an MD who regularly reads all things metabolism , I was sorely disappointed in the practicality of all the research presented in this long winded book. Seriously could have been summed up in “ eat fewer processed foods and move more, not necessarily for weight loss, but for overall good health, immune function, and longer life. I don’t really care about our ape ancestors’ metabolisms but I can see where someone deep into a life of research and paper writing could be- I guess . I much preferred his mentor’s book, Exercised, by Daniel Lieberman

2 people found this helpful

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Lots of details, little help in losing weight.

I kept listening hoping he'd give some insight into how to lose weight ... in the end I walked away discouraged that he thinks it's impossible.

I do not recommend this book.

2 people found this helpful

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More of a non-fiction about Hunter gatherers

Great facts about hunter gatherers. Not really what I was expecting though. Basically, only 1 chapter on how Western civilization can apply the knowledge. Seriously, save your money. Just eat less, move more, & stop eating processed packaged foods. You cannot out-train/move bad nutrition. End of story. There’s nothing new about that. Also, the narrator sounded like an infomercial. I could have gotten over that if the book was better.

1 person found this helpful

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Probably the best book I’ve listened to

After having accepted the initial, a bit nagging voice, I looked forward to the commute and this book every time.

Really interesting topic, a lot of facts and the authors own histories about research among million year old skeletons and top athletics. The very top modern science from last year along with good historical explanation on why we have been so wrong before. It’s also filled with some dark sarcastic humor that makes it outstanding in that even though some chapters not directly covering the exact topic I’m interested in, ( energy consumption of travel by air) , it was not a dull moment to listen to.

I found myself rewinding 30 seconds many times to just get the facts right. Was it 32 million US citizens who did not have access to good food stores in food deserts? And how was that linked to obesity? As an example from the last and somewhat off topic chapter.

My wife got fed up with me, talking about the different topics the book covered, but it was so interesting! -do you know monkeys do not get fat as we do? That they hardly move during a day? And that they do not help feed each other?

1 person found this helpful