Quantum Nutrition: A Short Introduction

In 2013, in my first semester of graduate school, I had an idea:

“What if we could trace the effects of a single nutrient from physics/chemistry/geology up through biology, past neuroscience and behavior, through all other areas of the university, from economics and art history to geopolitics and beyond?”

Not until 2017 did I realize this is what the true scientific study of “nutrition” attempts to do. It simply lacks an adequate theory to make testable predictions and unify other related scientific fields.


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Current Definition and Problems


Archaic definitions

Here are a few conventional definitions of the word “nutrition” from the web:


the act or process of nourishing or being nourished; specifically : the sum of the processes by which an animal or plant takes in and utilizes food substances. / foods that are necessary for human nutrition


the process by which the body takes in and uses food, esp. food that it needs to stay healthy, or the scientific study of this process


There are several major problems with these and other standard definitions of the word nutrition:

  • They use the word “food” or “nourish,” which itself, being from the Latin nutrire, centers around the idea of “food.” This may be useful for those with more philosophical conceptions of the word “food.” Unfortunately, in modern America and conventional “nutrition science,” the word food is usually conceptually disconnected from the concepts of air and water, even more necessary to nourish life. Modern “nutrition science” essentially ignores air, water, and their nourishment.
  • They often refer anthropomorphically to the human body, as opposed to the biological concept of the cell (or another accepted model) or the concept of any multicellular organism.
  • They fail to account for essential subatomic particles and processes.


From “Vitamins and Minerals” to “Minerals and Molecules”

Worse, the term “vitamin” has no good scientific definition, and the archaic “vitamin and mineral” model is outdated and nearly useless. Here are three reasons:

  1. “Vitamin D” (cholecalciferol) has been well known for decades, scientifically, to be a hormone. It is not an essential dietary nutrient; rather, it is an essential hormone synthesized by human skin when cellular processes use light to convert the molecule 7-Dehydrocholesterol to “previtamin D3” and later cholecalciferol itself. However, the subatomic particle known as a photon (at 290-315 nm) is a necessary nutrient, absorbed in humans by the skin and used as noted.
  2. Most “vitamins” are actually groups of molecules, such as the A group, the B group, the E group, and the K group. To my knowledge, only “vitamin C” refers a single individual molecule: ascorbic acid.
  3. With each passing year, it appears that there are other “essential molecules,” such as the so-called pseudovitamins and phytonutrients, potentially known molecules like caffeine, nicotine, or DMT, and many others. Given the complexity and ability of the various micro-biomes to evolve and synthesize molecules based on other nutritional inputs, some humans may have bacterial synthesis of essential dietary molecules whereas others do not, so the word “essential” is quite problematic. However, there are certainly undocumented essential molecules (just as there are undocumented essential elements).

We must therefore move towards a better categorization of nutrients.

While subatomic particles must be technically included (below), the phrases “atoms and molecules” or “elements and molecules” are scientifically accurate phrases to replace “vitamin and mineral.” However, I suggest the phrase “minerals and molecules” for the public, using the periodic table for the former, and reminding the public that a molecule is simple an individual arrangement of bonded atoms. The term “mineral” from “minerals and molecules” would be technically inaccurate, since elements on the periodic table like Carbon and Nitrogen are not minerals per se, but “minerals and molecules” serves as a better phrase for public adoption to promote education and awareness. (Unless the public forgets that for humans, the photon is also an essential subatomic nutrient.)

While these are good starting points to inform public opinion, we still need acceptable scientific definitions in order to make testable hypotheses, to carry nutrition into the modern century, and to prepare it for the next.

A New Theory


What is the definition of nutrition?

Nutrition is the study of nutrients and their effects.

What is the definition of a nutrient?

A nutrient is a particle without which an acid-based (amino acid, nucleic acid, etc.) function or reaction cannot occur. For the public: a nutrient is a particle (subatomic, atomic, or molecular) used in a biochemical reaction.


How can we categorize nutrients?

Nutrients should be categorized based on standard models from the physical sciences:

  • subatomic particles (photons, electrons, protons, etc.),
  • atoms (lithium, oxygen, sodium, sulfur, etc.),
  • molecules (ascorbic acid, α-Linolenic acid, etc.),
  • and even (optionally) whole cellular organelles and/or organisms.
    • Note: It does not seem likely that whole organelles or cells are used as “nutrients” without being broken down into component macro-molecules and smaller particles first. However, from another perspective, it not only seems likely, it seems a historical biological fact: the “first” mitochondrion was likely an independent cellular entity, consumed or assimilated, in a sense, as a mutually-beneficial symbiotic “nutrient.” Perspective indeed!


Naming a Theory

Quantum or quanta may have a few varying definitions in the physical sciences. While the word comes from the Latin quantus, meaning “how great,” in the early 1900s it came to signify the smallest measurable unit. This is especially true of the electromagnetic force, as quantum came to signify the smallest relevant particles: a single electron, a “fermion” with mass; or the photon, a type of “boson,” the massless force-carrier of the electromagnetic force. Quantum often now refers to both indivisible sub-atomic particles and the unpredictable nature of studying these particles.

Quantum is thus a perfect, relevant word for a unifying physical theory of nutrition, although it need not be used only to refer to the electron, photon, and other subatomic particles. Here, the word quantum can be used in a general sense: the smallest useful subatomic, atomic, or molecular unit of nutrition. This is critical, because these three divisions must form the foundation of the future study of nutrition; for example: an electron or photon, versus a single lithium or sodium ion, versus molecular oxygen or caffeine. While larger molecular elements — long chain fatty acids and peptides — are obviously nutrients, they work well under the third molecular division, studied individually or collectively.

As such, a unifying theory of nutrition should be called quantum nutrition or quantum nutrition theory.



This presents numerous questions (thousands, actually). For example:

  • How can we define and differentiate an “essential” or “beneficial” nutrient?
  • What is the difference between a nutrient and a drug?
  • How can we organize nutritional molecules into useful categories?
  • Might there be an organizational approach similar to the standard model or periodic table for these molecules?
  • How can we account for modern, unique, synthesized molecules, which often have negative effects on whole organisms?
  • How can we define “life” and account for entropic decay?
  • What individual diseases, cultural adaptations, and societal challenges are predicted?



The Future: Unifying the Scientific Disciplines

From physical vs. social sciences towards a unified concept of the sciences

Because nutrients influence all known biochemical processes, nutrition connects physics, chemistry, and other physical sciences to biology, psychology, and all associated scientific disciplines, such as economics, culture, religion, and philosophy. An effective model of nutrition bridges the “gap” between the so-called natural vs. social sciences, allowing, at long last, us to retire the concept of “social sciences.” At some point this century, an effective model of nutrition will allow us to make predictions based on the effects of nutritional photon intake on economic decision making in northern latitudes; or, if all else could be controlled for, nutrition could make predictions on how varying soil levels of magnesium in Northwest vs. Southeast African populations affects leadership styles of elected politicians. This may take decades, of course, but the basic ideas already exist.

We need only connect the dots.

Where to begin?


Question: do you think lithium specifically affects athletic performance?

A few months ago, a member of my gym asked, “You recommend lithium for everyone, but do you think lithium specifically affects athletic performance?

Yes, yes I do.

Like much about biology — and everything about lithium — we don’t understand the exact mechanisms very well. But here’s why lithium affects athletic performance.


Table of Contents





Question: do you think lithium specifically affects athletic performance?

The incorrect assumption in the question is that athletic performance — or more precisely, muscular activity — exists in isolation from the rest of the body.

That’s silly.

Disconnect those muscles from the blood that fuels them, the neurons that control them, the liver that provides their short-term glucose or micronutrients, the fat cells that provide their fat-soluble micronutrients (and fat!), the kidneys that filter the blood, the lungs that provide the most important energy source (oxygen), the heart that moves the blood, the skin that protects those muscles from the millions of types of external cells that would eat them alive if possible, and other organs…. and those muscles wouldn’t work at all.

Exercise: A Single Rep Without Air

Blow out all air in the lungs and hold your breath.

You’ll be able to do a few repetitions before you pass out or breathe, and more with training (Wim Hoff method, for example), but not much. Few can go over a minute, I’d doubt anyone in the world can do more than a few minutes of significant muscular work without oxygen. But let’s start there: you can do a minute of “athletic performance” without oxygen. So let’s only note the major organs involved: the muscles and the nervous system (brain and rest of CNS/PNS).

Since lithium is involved in neuronal development, it’s already highly important in physical activity. But let’s continue with this line of thinking.

Now let’s exercise for more than a superman-minute-breath-hold, and breathe during repetitions or during rests…

Exercise: Breathe!

Now we’ve involved more than just the stored glycogen in the muscles…we’ve involved new organs: the lungs, the heart, and the whole cardiovascular system, including the kidneys to clean the blood and the bladder to store the waste. Don’t forget testosterone, which means basically the whole reproductive system (of both sexes) is involved. So those are necessary for “athletic performance,” and by extension, every micronutrient (magnesium and zinc are each involved in hundreds of enzymatic reactions all over the damn body!) that has anything to do with any of those organs is going to be involved with athletic performance! 

So micronutrients are important for athletic performance!

But let’s go beyond just one simple breath and let’s do a longer workout that includes a few pauses/rests.

Exercise: An Entire Workout

These rests might be:

  1. long, comfortable rests between a power lifter’s squat sets,
  2. voluntary rests during a RFT/AMRAP/etc., or
  3. regular rests at intervals, like EMOM/Tabata or similar interval programming (most importantly, I’d argue, because these rests tap into the body’s rhythms).

Anyway, now our workout is over a minute or two and we’re breathing. What organs are involved now? Basically everything. Blood is flowing quickly, the body is heating up, and we’re sweating, so that’s the skin. All sorts of internal organs are changing (kidneys and reproductive system above), but now it’s even more complex. Digestion slows, so you could arguably include every cell in the whole body. Certain individual muscle cells might have “consumed” all or most of a certain micronutrient (B-12 or Li+, pick one at random, it doesn’t matter) for a certain reaction during the exercise, so those cells send a signal of some sort that they need more of that micronutrient: the liver is probably the recipient, which increases output of said stored nutrient.

That’s a bit inexact, because I’m not an exercise physiologist and it’s not worth the time to look for exact examples in metabolism, but the point is: if we’re breathing more than a few breaths, the liver is involved, and we can ignore individual micronutrients like lithium, because the entire body is involved. The liver needs to start breaking down glycogen and releasing more glucose into the bloodstream for those muscles to re-stock their own glycogen stores. This is what great burst/HIIT/etc. athletes get good at during regular rest intervals: often closing eyes and resting as completely as possible during breaks to prepare the muscles as much as possible before the next round. (Maybe it’s actually better to jump rope/walk to stimulate lymph flow: I have no idea.) But anyway, the liver is involved now, digestion is slowed, so all micronutrients that affect those organs are going to impact athletic performance.

And we didn’t even talk about the most abundant minerals stored in bone: calcium, magnesium, etc. For example, bone constantly sequesters/releases calcium as necessary to maintain the right level in the blood. Calcium? Nerve conduction. See http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v477/n7366/images/477546a-f1.2.jpg if you need a refresher.

But remember that pretty graphics of biological, cellular systems are a joke: biology is a warm, disgusting mess of atoms, molecules, enzymes and more bumping into each other… often at random! There are many sorts of ions (magnesium, lithium, sodium, etc.) flowing into and out of all sorts of cells all over the place. Biology is a mess.

Any workout (longer than the time it takes to pass out if you’re holding your breath) involves the whole body. Evolution produces pretty efficient systems, and we’re no exception: it’s all connected.

Life Without Skin

You could theoretically exercise without the skin, without dying, for a number of minutes… But the pain would stop you from actually moving, so it’s only theoretical. Well, I can’t speak for others; perhaps you could push through the pain and bend down and touch the barbell or reach up and touch the bar. But me? I would be on the ground screaming in agony… all while the viruses and cells from the floor and air entered my bloodstream and began to quickly overwhelm the lymphatic system, eating me alive.

Ah: life without skin. Fun thought.

Alright, so hopefully I’ve addressed that issue: micronutrients are important for athletic performance, because everything in the body is connected to everything else.

Conclusion: Back to Micronutrients, Including Lithium

Now: lithium is involved in neuronal development. Most of the research I’m seeing (consuming all the information I can is one of my most important goals for this year) is related to neurons. This is why lithium at extreme doses is such an effective drug: it’s a nutrient involved in neurons everywhere. We are basically walking bags of neurons (a brain) along with everything necessary to run them effectively.

Moreover, there’s a key aspect of fitness that many uneducated “athletes” don’t realize: athletic performance isn’t so much about having a ton of muscle tissue as it is, more importantly, about accessing as much muscle tissue as you can, on command.

The first is simply bludgeoning through the competition by having the most muscle tissue: want to win a squat competition? If your competitor has X amount of muscle tissue and can lift weight Y, you simply build up X+1 amount of muscle in order to lift Y+1. This also works very well for bodybuilding/photo competitions. The smaller the size of the population in the competition, the more this is likely to work. Spend more time training, lift heavier weights, eat more food, build more muscle, win! It’s simple, and at smaller scales like local competitions, it often works. Moreover, since most of us never care to become professional competition athletes, it’s all most of us think about.

The second is far more useful for large region or worldwide competitions — especially those in CrossFit. Accessing/controlling more muscle tissue is entirely neuronal, right? Sure: the brain sends a signal down a particular network of neurons, and those last few neurons “innervate” the muscle tissue at the neuromuscular junction. Anecdotally, we all “know” when we’re weaker or stronger in the gym from week to week, based on how well we can access the full power of our muscles. That’s simply “accessing,” if you will, a certain “percentage” of our power. This is where all the different aspects of true athletic performance come into play: low-repetition neurological training, sleep, diet, sex, social life, stress and calm, intellectual accomplishments, and more. This is where the whole body concept for athletes, including every single micronutrient in the body, comes into play. (I pity the athletes who think they can win with processed foods and enough supplements. Some win a few competitions, but most are simply sacrificing their long-term health and longevity for short-term physical performance. Sadly, even the “healthiest” of competitors these days will need to do this to some extent, which is one reason I’ve never been interested in being a professional athlete. My main opponent is myself, thank you.)

Anyway, since lithium isn’t yet a recognized nutrient by the FDA/WHO, it won’t even be adequately tracked in foods for many years. (I’ll add a food section to the /lithium page later this year, but still recommend supplementation.) Thus, the question is, are we getting enough lithium in our diets? Like magnesium (/pills), most of us probably aren’t.

Here’s to your health — and competitions!


Letter to Servicemembers, Active and Inactive [09042017]

Hi all,

I’ve been working on this site seriously for the past few months, and on most days, I am more patient than others. Today, I am impatient.

Veterans are committing suicide. The elderly, teenagers, and the depressed, too, are killing themselves. And there is a very simple, scientifically supported solution: correct a single micronutrient deficiency that leads, slowly, to anger, irritability, depression, rage, and suicide. Many of our leaders, too, are deficient, making rash decisions and shouting out in bursts of intolerance. You, the public, the medical community, and the scientific community are not more aware of that mineral simply because of prejudice. We hear the word “lit____,” and we pre-judge (literally) everything behind the word. But the science is there. Science, like government, works slowly and methodically, playing catch-up over the march of the decades. Doctors are decades behind, and public “knowledge” further still. I can wait no longer.

I work weekly — sometimes daily — on these pages, only to help the public get healthier. If I make money, great. If not, at least I’m improving my abilities to write, edit, code, and eventually, to program. Right now, awareness is far more important to me, as we waste time and other resources on worthless laws, ignoring the real issues of the nation. But this Sunday morning, I am impatient. No website is ever “finished;” mine will never be either. I must share this, and I must begin now.

Our brethren are dying. How long will you wait before sharing this information with your friends, other service members, family, and lawmakers?


The end result of a lithium deficiency is suicide. I will develop this hypothesis over time, through conversations with scientists, reading studies, developing the /suicide page and working in public and private, but for now, it is a just that: a hypothesis. But it is a strong hypothesis. I have ‘pondered’ the idea of suicide, from a biological perspective, since before joining the USAF. It has never made sense until this year, and now, suicide has never been more understandable to me. The mechanisms will take decades to elucidate, but the link is there, and that link is a strong one. The end result of a lithium deficiency is suicide. Medically: the specific deficiency syndrome of the mineral lithium is suicide.

That is a formal challenge to and hypothesis for the scientific community. Prove me wrong.

This message is also available at https://www.johnfial.com/blog/2017/04/veterans/

John Fial
9 April 2017