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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.

7 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars

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.

5 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

3 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

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.

2 people found this helpful

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Captivating story beautifully told

What do we have to learn about ourselves from studying hunter-gatherers in the East African bush? Lots. The author combines his research with the Tanzanian Hadza tribe with solid laboratory work and his studies of our fellow primates around the world to create a fascinating picture of what makes us run. Or...walk, which is just as good. One of the surprising revelations for me (as I age) was that I get as much benefit from walking a mile as I do from running a mile -- which I do much less often these days. And another is that the food I eat is not just part of a weight-loss effort, it's pretty much the whole game! You don't lose weight from exercise. What?! But Herman Pontzer's solid science makes that case convincingly, while at the same time reminding us about the other great benefits we get from exercise. it's all presented in an very readable (OK, I had to really concentrate for a couple of chapters because he delivers the science without flinching) story that teaches us humans how we're like other primates and what sets us apart. I loved the factual de-bunking of what so many of us think about food, fad diets, and our weight. And I love the continual references to hunter-gatherers who have contributed their time to this researched and helped us understand ourselves so much better.

1 person found this helpful

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Everyone needs this book.

One of the most educational and well written books I’ve ever read.
Everyone will benefit from this book.

1 person found this helpful

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The anecdotes are worth the price of entry...

A good review of the current science on metabolism. In the course of the book the author addresses a lot of the current critics and fads which is quite relevant to most non-scientists interested in this area. It is also, at times, quite amusing and the anecdotes are probably, on their own, worth the price of entry.

The reader is perfectly competent.

1 person found this helpful

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Great perspective on how we need to live a healthy lifestyle

The last hour of the book was an eye opener. I really enjoyed this book!

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A fantastic book!

Just stick with it through the chemistry dissertation. Chapters 6, 7 and 9 are amazing!

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    4 out of 5 stars

Not bad, but takes 3 or 4 chapters to get going.

Initially very thin soup. Completely familiar to anyone who has read even a little in this subject area. Finally gets interesting about Chapter 4 with a pretty complete discussion of the calories in/calories out wars, and brings new evidence (new to me, anyway) to the table. This part was very interesting.

Good evolutionary angle on why humans are the way we are. and how we differ from our cousins the apes, or other mammals.

Narrator OK... sort of relentlessly upbeat, and a bit monotonic in his pacing ... not slow, but unvarying. I would have preferred another narrator.