WATCH the full interview below or LISTEN to the full episode on your iPhone HERE.
Guy: Whether you are an elite athlete, weekend warrior or even a coach potato, there’s much wisdom to be had here when it comes to fuelling your body daily for optimum performance. With so much conflicting advice out there when it comes to nutrition, who better person to ask than someone who walks their talk. Elite CrossFit athlete, Ruth Anderson Horrell shares her insights around nutrition daily and also during competition time. No matter what your goals are, it’s certainly worth a few minutes of your time… Enjoy.
“Never say, ‘can’t’… The word just makes me cringe and it is such a negative thought to ever think that you can’t do something. You may not be able to yet, or whatever it is, but if you decide you can’t, it’s like you’re already there.”― Ruth Anderson Horrell, Elite Crossfit Athlete
Ruth Anderson Horrell is a New Zealand representative CrossFit Athlete. She has represented the Australasia region at the World Reebok CrossFit Games in 2011, 2012 and 2013! Ruth competes for NZ as an Olympic Weightlifter. In 2012 she competed at the Oceania and Trans Tasman Champs. Ruth is a successful co-owner and coach at CrossFit Wild South and works as a Locum small animal veterinarian when she has time :)Currently she is training towards being Australia’s best female CrossFit athlete. She trains in Los Angeles under the instruction of Dusty Hyland for parts of the year.
Ruth Anderson Horrell Full Interview:
In This Episode:
How she walks the fine-line between optimum training and overtraining
Her recovery strategies
Her own exercise routines
What CrossFit Regional Games looked like 8 years ago!
The advice she would give her 20 year old self when starting CrossFit
Guy:Hey this Guy Lawrence from 180 Nutrition, and welcome to today’s health session. You’ll have to forgive me, it’s nearly 40 degrees Celsius in this room; it is hot. That’s okay, lets push on with the intro. Today’s guest is Ruth Anderson Horrel. She is an incredible athlete, as far as I’m concerned. She’s a Crossfit athlete, if you’re not familiar with her, and she’s been to the Crossfit world games three times. I can assure you now, that is a hell of an achievement. She has a wealth of experience when it comes to exercise, nutrition, and recovery, and I think the one intention was today, whether you’re into Crossfit or not, we really wanted to tap into Ruth’s experience, and wisdom, and hopefully get a few gems across to pick up for everyone, ’cause I think there’s certainly a theme that’s coming across in the podcast, and the way people approach their diet, whether they’re at the elite end of athleticism, or not.
Whether you just move daily and just trying to drop a bit of weight, there’s always some fantastic lessons to be learned from some of the best people that we can get hold of, that’s for sure. The other thing I’d encourage to do as well, is actually follow Ruth on Instagram, and then you’ll start to see what I mean by what her athletic abilities are, and what she is capable of.
Now, I haven’t asked for a review for a while, but I will. We had a fantastic review on iTunes come in the other day. I always ask for them because they obviously help with the rankings, but other people read them as well, and it’ll encourage them to listen to the podcast, so if you’re getting great befits from listening to my podcast every week when we push them out, then it takes two minutes if you could leave a review. The one we had just the other day says, “my favorite podcast by far,” with 5 stars, that was very generous, by [chinlo 00:01:47]. “Thank you, Guy and Stu for hours of learning. My favorite thing to do is listen to your podcast while going for a nice, long walk. I’ve listened to most of them twice or more. I never tire of your fantastic hosting, A-grade guests, [00:02:00] and the wonderful insights your podcasts bring.” I thought that was absolutely wonderful, so thank you for that, and hence why I gave you a shout out.
We read them all. Tell us how you listen to our podcast. I’d be fascinated to hear because we’re in, I think over 50 countries now, getting downloaded anyway, which is really cool. All right. I’m going to stop blabbering. Let’s go over to Ruth Anderson Horrel. Enjoy.
Hi, this is Guy Lawrence. I’m joined with Stuart [Cooke 00:02:27]. Hi, Stu.
Guy:Good to see you. You’re looking well, mate.
Guy:Our lovely guest today is Ruth Anderson Horrel. Welcome, Ruth.
Guy:I just realized, did I pronounce your last name correct?
Ruth:Yeah, that’s good. Yeah.
Guy:Okay. I always get confused slightly on that. You’re not the first guest, either. I have no doubt they’ll be two parties listening in on this podcast today. That’s going to be one that’s going to know [inaudible 00:02:55] is, and who you are and Crossfit fanatics, and then I think a big portion of our listeners, as well. They will have heard of Crossfit, but are not going to have any idea. I think hopefully we can, between us all, please both parties today. That’s our intention, anyway, and tap into some of your experience over the years, which we’re excited about.
Just to start and get the ball rolling, as always on our podcasts, can you just mind sharing a little bit about what you do, including Crossfit and outside of Crossfit as well? I know there’s a lot more to you than just going to Crossfit every day and training your heart out, really, isn’t it?
Ruth:Yeah, yeah. Well, that’s a big part of it. It’s a pretty big goal for the last few years has been competing at the Crossfit games and doing well there. In the meantime, on the Crossfit journey, I ended up opening a Crossfit gym about 5 years ago also. That’s been steadily growing and keeping us busy. That’s been a whole new experience for me, just learning how to run [00:04:00] that business. I also run a website, ruthless.co.nz, where we sell Crossfit equipment and accessories and things. That’s normally a few hours of my day, as well. Then I’m a small animal veterinarian and I’ve been doing that for 2 days a week for the last … I’ve been fairly part time, actually with it, probably for the last 3-4 years, so that I can focus on my training. Yeah.
Guy:Many balls in the air.
Guy:Can you share with the listeners where you are, as well? It’s a part of the world that I really want to go to.
Ruth:Yeah, yeah. It would be a bit of a temperature drop for you guys. I’m in Invercargill, which is right on the south coast of the South Island in New Zealand. We were the southern-most affiliate. I haven’t actually done a check lately, but we’re pretty south as far as Crossfit gyms and population, generally, I guess.
Guy:Yeah, yeah, yeah. What’s the weather like there now. Is it all right? Not too cold?
Ruth:Well yeah, it’s our summer, but we’re sitting early 20s today. At most over the summer, we’ll hit 30 degrees probably only a few times. It’s not a huge variation.
Stu:Comfortable. That’s what I like, cool and comfortable, doesn’t keep you awake at nights like last night.
Ruth:No, definitely not. No, no. No trouble sleeping. The room’s always fairly cool.
Stu:Good. Good on you. For our audience that are not Crossfit savvy, and for anybody else who really doesn’t entirely understand what Crossfit is, I wondered if you could just explain? Give us your elevator pitch. What is Crossfit?
Ruth:As Greg Glassman always says, [00:06:00] “I’ll show you. Come and have a go.”
Guy:I’ve never been there, but you’ve explained it.
Ruth:It is a really tough question. It’s actually funny. We were sitting around at the Queenstown Crossfit Tour and there was a bunch of all these elite athletes at a table. The waiter came around and said, “So what is Crossfit?” Everyone looked at each other. It was like, “Who’s going to answer it?” You’ve got people that have literally based their life around it and still have trouble explaining well how it works.
It’s a strengthening conditioning program. It’s constantly varied, so people that train Crossfit style, every day they go into the gym, they’ll be able to try new things that there will be either a variation of movement, variation of weights, variation of complexity, and a variation of time that they’re going to work out. A huge range of energy systems get used because it scopes literally from workouts that can take seconds to workouts that can take probably around an hour or so. There’s a few that go a bit longer.
For me, it’s a sport. For most people, it’s a way of just maintaining health and fitness. For me, it’s become a sport and it creates a slightly different level, I guess, a different level of complexity in terms of movements and weights and everything else.
Ruth:It’s different. The movements are very much preparing people for everyday life. That’s probably the thing I love most about it. I’m training an older lady at the moment who’s preparing to walk one of the big, there’s [00:08:00] lots of beautiful walks in New Zealand, and she’s 65 and she’s preparing to walk a trek that’s about 60 kilometers with a pick. We know that we can get her ready for that.
Guy:What is the diversity of people that you train, then? I think with Crossfit, if you’re on the outside looking in, it’s very easy to say, “Oh, that’s an elitist thing,” because the guys are generally pro videos, the guys that are really good at it. You don’t see the other side of it.
Ruth:Yeah, for sure. In our gym, the oldest person is actually my dad and he’s about to turn 70, but there would be no reason we couldn’t have older people. That’s just as old as we currently go. In terms of the youngest, well, we’ve got Crossfit kids and teens at our gym, so those kids are learning body weight movements and things from age 6. There’s a pretty huge range there, and then of course you get that huge range in how much sport people have previously done and also just what they do in their everyday life. We have people that have relatively sedentary jobs and in our box we also have a lot of people that are laborers or mechanics, builders, gardeners, that do a lot of physical work. It’s important for them to either reverse some of those effects of some of the quite repetitive movements that they’re doing and address some of the mobility problems and things that may come from that, and also just so they can be stronger and reduce the chance of getting injured while they’re lifting heavy objects and things they do at work.
Guy:Yeah. I’d imagine you’ve seen quite a few transformations all the time, as well, with people coming in [00:10:00] and following the protocol all the way through and seeing how that impacts their lives.
Ruth:Yeah. It’s really cool when people that they haven’t done a lot of exercise before, they’re the most scared. They’re the most apprehensive at walking in the door, but in many ways, they’re the most exciting people to train because you’ve got a little bit of a blank canvas and you know you can really make a difference by coaching these people in movement and having a better way of life.
Guy:I’d just say anyone listening to this who hasn’t tried Crossfit, they should put it on their bucket list and at least walk into a box and try it once and see what all the fuss is about. I recommend you.
Ruth:Yeah, absolutely. I think …
Stu:I’m thinking about just common issues, Ruth, as well. If I’m new to Crossfit, I’m going in, what do you typically see from people that walk into your box, because we’ve experienced it ourselves, Guy and myself, and we were voracious when we started. We probably hit it a little bit too hard, personally. What are commonalities that you see with the newbies?
Ruth:Yeah, I guess that wanting to have the more advanced movements before having the basic elements.
Ruth:That’s cool. You’ve got to have a goal and a dream. I know when I first discovered Crossfit, there was much less on the internet about it than there is now, but I remember seeing videos of people doing … Girls were the biggest thing, not guys, of seeing women do things like muscle ups and lift weights over their heads and things like that. That was what inspired me to get started with it. I didn’t have a box to walk in the door of, but [00:12:00] that’s what inspired me to get started. You know that people need to have those dreams, but just not paying attention to the basic movements first before, “But can I get up and just hit it a go? I just want to jump in those rings and I just want to do this and that and swing around.” They’re just not quite grasping some of the complexity and the amount of elements that needs to be tied in.
That’s just the learning process. A lot of that is our job as coaches, to help people see, “Well, okay. Well, there’s some deficiencies here and here, and if we work on those parts, then we’re going to get this mastered.” Then I guess just not paying any attention to their own recovery or mobility. I’d probably put those 2 together. Just trying to get in the gym right when class starts and get straight into the workout and just not paying any attention to some of the things that they need to do to get their body well-prepped. We coach people into generally trying to come 15-20 minutes before class. We still run a warm-up, but we want people to work on their own specific things that they need to address.
I know for myself, I took way too long to start addressing my problems with my thoracic mobility, and basically because I just didn’t know any better and I didn’t have anyone to tell me any more than that. It ended up that I ended up having an injury when I was competing. I had slipped a disc at T-5, which is quite an unusual injury. That forced me to address it, but that’s neither something that you would want to happen to an athlete that’s coming into, for a strengthening conditioning program. They need to be aware of where those deficiencies are [00:14:00] and what they need to do to resolve them.
Stu:Great. One of the take homes for me, from being a Crossfitter for a couple of years, was just the importance of my mobility and flexibility. That’s something that I do every day as well now. Just the realization that we really do need to get moving and stretch these muscles and open up the joints … Every day from sitting at a desk, I go over and I’ll go into a squat and just sit there for 5 minutes, roll my shoulders and just get, open myself up and just try and get in a few positions that ordinarily, most people would just never even conceive of wanting to try. It makes me feel so much more alive and open. Great lessons in there.
Ruth:I think range of motion has a huge impact just on our quality of life and when you see older people that just haven’t been able to maintain activity, just how quickly range of motion gets lost, and then strength goes with it. Yeah, that’s definitely … I’m still learning about range of motion and how things can be improved, really.
Guy:How long have you been involved in Crossfit, just out of curiosity, Ruth?
Ruth:I think about 8-1/2 years.
Guy:Right, and you’ve been in Invercargill that whole time? What made me think, is because you opened a box there 5 years ago. What were you doing before the box came?
Ruth:Yeah, we just started out. My brother-in-law was living down here at the time and he had been living in Melbourne. Someone had just showed it to him. I’m not even sure if he’d done a workout with these people. Some people just showed him the Crossfit.com website and he came back. He was taking me through some personal training. We were just doing some strengthening so I could [00:16:00] compete at a triathlon that I wanted to do. Yeah, we just decided to start following some workouts on Crossfit.com and things got wild pretty quickly. Within 4 months, I went out to the first-ever regionals, which was in …
Ruth:Yeah. Yeah. Is that eight years?
Guy:It’d be a while back, because I had a friend that competed in it.
Guy:Long time ago.
Ruth:Yeah, I went out to CFX there and that was just when you could roll up to regionals.
Ruth:[crosstalk 00:16:57] since you had no idea what. We didn’t even really know what all the movements of Crossfit were at that stage. I was like, “Oh, okay. Clean and jerk. All right.” The judge is out back with each person, showing them all the movements that they’re going to need to do, a bit like a level 1.
Stu:That’s a radical change from any training that you would have been doing at the time, as a triathlete, as well, to then suddenly go into these wild and wacky Olympic lifts and technical movements. Wow. How did that work out?
Ruth:I did miss one of the workouts at the competition because I couldn’t do a ring dip, but I think I had captain pull ups by then, had no idea what a butterfly pull up was at that stage. We actually had a sand dune run, so I did really well on that and I think there was another workout I did quite well in. It was okay, but I know I did miss on 1 of the workouts, not being able to do a ring dip. I just couldn’t believe that there were girls there that could do ring dips. I was like, “Oh, my goodness.” The rings was totally, was not even something that I had, wasn’t a piece of equipment that we even had. We were playing. We didn’t even have a kettlebell, actually. We were swinging a dumbbell.
Ruth:We did okay, probably as you would expect, but it really was an inspiring moment for me to realize the level that some of the athletes were at and that in some ways, I could see that I could be there.
Guy:That’s amazing, because Crossfit’s come such a long way. Like, when you look at the caliber of athlete today that you compete against, if anyone seemed again to walk into a regional games, it’s well and gone in Australia. Go and check it out for an hour. It’s phenomenal, the standard of athlete today. How many were competing at the time back then? Was it …
Ruth:I’m going to say there might have been about 30-40 women, and probably the same for the men.
Ruth:Yeah, so I imagine it was just advertised on the Crossfit.com website. Just clicked the link and registered, and all the sudden, I flew to Sydney and had a go.
Ruth:I’ve been really fortunate, to be able to grow with the sport, I guess.
Guy:You have, yeah, fully. Absolutely. Move on to the next question, when you’ve talked, because we’re still on the topic of training, how do you, I’m always curious to ask athletes this, walk the fine line between optimum training and over-training?
Ruth:Yeah. I’ve definitely crossed the line before, so I know what that feels like. I’ve had to be aware of how to modify. I had quite a big hand surgery this time last year and I have had a few injuries along the way, so I’ve had to be aware of how to be patient with those and modify things as needed. I know my body. Generally, if I’m over-doing [00:20:00] it, I generally wake up very early in the morning. I never have too much trouble getting to sleep, but I have a little bit of trouble staying asleep. That’s normally the warning sign for me, if I’m not able to maintain my regular sleep pattern. There’s normally something amiss, because generally that won’t happen. As soon as something like that, if I become aware of that, then I’ll normally start throwing in some more rest days, beyond what my regular rest days are.
Ruth:I guess it’s a difficult thing. I feel like you probably need to cross the line to know exactly where it is, in some ways. You probably need to make a couple of errors to work it out.
Guy:Along the way, you learn from it. Yeah. You intuitively get in-tuned in. Maybe you should explain to everyone listening to this, as well, what a typical day of training might look like for you. We know coming into the season of Crossfit … You’ll be competing for the regionals, Auckland regionals this year, Ruth?
Guy:Yeah. Some of the listeners might not know, you picked up an injury last year leading into the, was it the open or the regionals itself?
Ruth:Yeah, yeah, we were about 3 weeks out from the start of the open and my tendon on my thumb snapped. It was a little bit of, “Maybe I just don’t have the surgery and have a floppy thumb,” and then I decided I needed to get it done. That was a tricky decision because I’d obviously worked my butt off to come back and give it to Carson and go back to the Crossfit games and have a good shot. I felt like everything was falling well into place, so it was one of those stumbling blocks.
Guy:[00:22:00] Yeah, but a year comes around quickly. Here it is again, right?
Ruth:Yeah, yeah. Sorry, what was your question again?
Guy:We were talking about the fine line of over-training and recovery.
Guy:Now we get into the season, just to give listeners an idea, what would your typical training day or week look like?
Ruth:At the moment, I’m generally doing 3 days on, 1 off. That varies a little bit throughout the year, but that’s currently what I’m sticking with. Today, for example, I’ve been in the gym and I’ve done a couple of hours of gymnastics training, working position, a very small amount of what I would consider conditioning, but for the most part, just working position and some of the movements that I find more challenging. I quite like to start my day with more technical elements like that, but I have a little bit of variation. Sometimes I will lift in the morning. Generally, I’ll try and get in at least an hour. It will depend on my coaching schedule, but at least an hour, possibly 2 before lunch and then in the afternoon, I will generally start an afternoon session with a good 90 minutes or so of lifting and then I’ll have a little break and then I’ll start having my conditioning.
[inaudible 00:23:25], so what people would commonly get if they go in for a class, and then I often end a session with some interval-style training. Yeah, that’s about it. It’s a bit broken up into little blocks, 60-90 minutes at a time, and give myself a bit of a break. The break might include getting in a personal training session with someone or getting some of my other business work done and then coming back to [00:24:00] training. I find it pretty hard to just hit a 3-hour block or something, of training. There has been times I’ve had to do it because of my schedule.
Guy:It’s a huge commitment, isn’t it?
Stu:3 days on, 1 day off, so that 1 day that is going to be really, really important for you to rest and recover. I’m interested in the strategies. Are there any? What does a Crossfit champ do on the recovery day to absolutely maximize that day for everything?
Ruth:I need to do a lot of mobility work, so I try and get in, it will be an hour, and I try and do more if I can. Some of that, for me, it needs to include a bit of activation-type work as well, just to get my shoulders moving as best as they can and glute activation and making sure my hips are as mobile as possible. For me, that’s been important. Number 1, I’ll be 32 this year. I guess in the life of Crossfit athletes, it’s creeping up there at the end of staying at world-level competition. It’s just something I just have to make sure I’m really on top of the mobility side.
I used to do a bit more of things like having a jog, like doing a long run in the bush and things like that. I don’t do that every … I consider that more of a workout now. I try and have my rest days as being a bit more rest days. It will depend on my state of mind, I guess, as to whether I want to throw in some skill work at the same time, as well. If there’s something that is just technically challenging and not going to be over-fatiguing, [00:26:00] I might do that, as well. If I just feel like I’ve been at the gym so much over those last few days and would prefer to have a break, then I won’t.
Guy:How many hours sleep do you get a night, Ruth, normally?
Ruth:My target’s 9.
Guy:There you are. Okay. Yeah. A good night’s sleep, right? I like it.
Ruth:Yeah, yeah. I probably hit 8 most of the time and try to get another 30 minutes in the afternoon. I love getting an afternoon nap. It just makes training in the afternoon go better and just feel so good. That’s my favorite thing, but just, life doesn’t always allow it.
Stu:That recovery day is wildly different to anything that I thought you were going to say. I imagined that you were going to say, “I’m going to sleep in, have a coffee, go down to the local video store, get my favorite movie, sit back on the lounge with my dog, and just veg out.” I didn’t expect to hear that …
Ruth:I wish. I wish, but no, I’ve got to run the businesses and do all those other things, so I probably have a bit more catch-up and try to get on top of the world as much as I can, emails and all that kind of stuff, have a real tidy-up so that it allows me more time on the training days.
Ruth:Yeah, yeah. I don’t … I’m not big on lying around too much. I like to get out of the house, mow my lawns, and I like to keep moving. Yeah. As you see, get in squat position and stuff while I’m weeding my garden.
Stu:I’ll write you a recovery program, Ruth, and see how that goes down for you: lots of movies and stuff like that. Guy touched on sleep there, as well, which obviously is critical for everybody, even more critical when you’re an elite athlete. Have you got any tips or tricks that have worked for you? Do you do anything in particular to get that solid sleep working for you?
Ruth:[00:28:00] Yeah. I don’t like bright light. I know I’ve stayed at some other people’s homes and I’ve found if their living rooms and things are really lit up, I find that quite buzzy. I just think they interfere.
Ruth:I try not to spend too much time watching TV or anything late at night. My room is really dark. I live right at the end of the street and there’s no street lights that affect my room. I’ve got proper blackout curtains and things. I typically don’t have any trouble. It’s cool, I should mention, but that’s just, that’s without air conditioning. It’s just the temperature is cool.
Stu:I could have done with that last night.
Ruth:It’s pretty good. I always take magnesium in the night time, and the amount will depend on if I’ve had a massive training day or have some with my dinner and some again just before I go to bed.
Stu:Any particular type of magnesium that works for you?
Ruth:I think it’s called diglycinate?
Ruth:Yeah. Is that right? It’s a powder drink that I make up. I find that fantastic.
Stu:Right. Got it.
Ruth:I just notice it, if I’ve missed it for a few days. I just feel like I’m missing it. It’s been a supplement I’ve taken for a long time.
Guy:I’m interested, as well. You’re going to be pretty switched on with the nutrition. I know we’re going to get into that topic a bit later, but in terms of recovery, have you ever deviated from the way you eat, and how did that go on and affected your recovery? Have there been any kind of correlations that you’ve seen at that end?
Ruth:Yeah. I’ve had things like I’ve trained, a workout’s taken way longer than I expected. [00:30:00] I’ve literally got 10 minutes and I need to run a class, so I’m having a shower and then starting class. I totally skip having any post-workout nutrition. I’ve generally been more sore for that the next day.
Ruth:I know that I need to get some carbohydrate and protein in after I train, and it does seem to be quite a difference if I haven’t got it in within 30 minutes of training. The next day’s always going to be tougher. Definitely just, life’s got in the way and I haven’t done things as I would have liked. I’ve known the difference for that.
Guy:Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, fantastic. Excellent. Now, do you have … I’m assuming you have coaches, as well, guiding you to the games. I’ve also noticed that you’ve gone to America for the last few times that you’ve competed prior to the games, as well.
Guy:Why do you go to America, first of all? Yeah, beforehand.
Ruth:In our town, there wasn’t Crossfit. My first introduction to some high-class, quality coaches was when I met Dusty Holland at the gymnastics [cert 00:31:19] at the [Schwartz 00:31:23] Gym in Melbourne, about 4 years ago, I think. Met him and we became really good friends and I traveled out to him. I think I’ve had 6 trips out now to the states to spend good blocks of time with him. They also gave me an opportunity to train with some amazing athletes like [Sam Bricks 00:31:48] and Lindsay [Vellanzuella 00:31:51], [Tina Lee Brixton 00:31:52], some really, really amazing athletes out there. Initially, my gymnastics was my largest weakness [00:32:00] in my range of movements, so it seems like the perfect match. Dusty’s continued to program for me for a number of years now. We don’t chat as much as we would like to at the moment because we’re both really busy people, but he definitely helps guide me to making sure I’m working on some of the new movements that are coming into the sport and just continuing to develop my virtuosity in the more basic elements, as well.
I’ve also had a weightlifting coach here in Invercargill for a number of years, which has been fantastic, Joe [Stinsy 00:32:43]. He’s actually one of the New Zealand coaches now, as well. We traveled to Papua New Guinea and competed at the Oceaneas last year, did there as well.
Guy:Yeah, because I was going to ask, it requires so much discipline, what you’re doing leading up into the open and competing, so do you have a coach at every training session with you, or is a lot of it self disciplined, that you’re just literally just turning up and training, because it’s hard to ask. Some people, it’s hard to do a bit of exercising in a day, just to motivate themselves, let alone at that end.
Ruth:Yeah, yeah. I have some days where it is totally no one else at the gym, so they’re probably the more challenging days. I find even just having someone else there, whoever it might be, is just useful. In recent months, I’ve actually been grabbing some of the guys and saying, “Hey, I’ve got to do these 6Ks or row sprints. Do you want to join me on it,” things like that and just fun.
Guy:Do you get any takers?
Ruth:Yeah, I do. Yeah. I choose things that I like, totally, and they will help. They’re like, “Yeah, yeah. Okay. Take you on at that.” I’ve also had a bit of [00:34:00] the athletes partnering up and taking me on at a workout. They’re doing it as a partner would, thing like that. We try and find ways, but for the most part, no, I don’t have a coach hanging with me in the gym each day. That definitely has its down sides, but some part of me likes being at the bottom of the earth and away from too much hype. Probably one of the harder things of training at Dog Town with Dusty was, cameras would be showing up every second day and different people wanting to take videos and pictures and just a lot more people, just a lot more going on.
In some ways, it gives me a little bit more focus. I do a lot of, what’s the word, visualizing, so even in my sessions this morning, which probably weren’t the type of things you would expect to see at a competition that were quite skill-based things, before the clock starts, I still am imagining I’m either on the games floor or I’m standing up there at regionals. I try and put myself in that mental space.
Stu:Do you use your visualization for stuff outside of Crossfit, as well, everyday life? I know that I always visualize the rock star car parking space when I’m out and about and I need to pull in somewhere, and 9 out of 10 times, I get it. It’s true.
Ruth:I have to think about that. I don’t know if I do as much.
Guy:You should try it. Stu recommends it. I do well at it because I’ve got a motorbike.
Ruth:I’m really good at parking anyway. No, I don’t know. I’ll have to think about that. I might subconsciously do it.
Stu:I reckon [00:36:00] that there’s merit in that stuff. I do, just all of that stuff. I’m just really into, “I’m thinking it, I’m seeing it, and I’m going to make it happen.
Guy:Yeah. It’s interesting what you said, Ruth. It made me think of a podcast I listen to with [Dorian Yates 00:36:18]. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Dorian Yates, but he was the bodybuilding world champion in the 90s. I think he won 7 titles and incredible. They used to call him The Shadow because he always used to stay out of the glitz and glamour of LA and the limelight. He had a little gym in Birmingham and nobody knew what he was up to. He said he used to use it to his advantage, so he would train, he would visualize going to all these great competitions where everyone else was seeing actually what they were doing and competing and judging themselves. He just stayed away from the whole thing and then would turn up when it was time for Mr. Universe and just blow them out of the water, you know?
Ruth:Sometimes, if you’re competing against another athlete and you’re actually, if you’re beating them by a lot, or say if you’re training with them and you’re beating them by a lot, you can think that you’re doing quite well and back off. Whereas if you’re visualizing someone that’s better than you or just beating you, then that’s, I see that as an advantage. I’m not going to lie. There’s definitely days when you’re all alone in the gym and you just think, “Gosh, this is a tough ask.”
Stu:It is tricky. I know that training on your own versus training with a crowd versus training with a crowd of elites, there is that impetus to absolutely excel and put on your best show. There are days when I go down and lift a few weights in the gym and I think, “Well, I’ve had enough. Nobody’s around. Nobody knows.”
Ruth:[00:38:00] I have probably ruined myself a little bit, training against some other athletes. I had a bit of a shoulder niggle, but I was still trying to do the workouts, because the other athletes were doing those, and they weren’t things I should have been doing, if I was just sticking to what was going to be good for me. I probably wouldn’t have done them. That’s probably one of the disadvantages, that you get a little bit hyped up in the moment and you want to do exactly what everyone else is doing, and that’s not always the right thing to do.
Stu:Yeah. Completely. Next time you’re in Sydney, you come train with me and I guarantee that won’t happen.
Ruth:I’d like to see that.
Stu:You’re wandering down the street in Invercargill and you bump into a 20-year-old version of yourself. Obviously, you’ve got 10 years of experience, all this wonderful knowledge that you’ve gleaned from everything that you’ve done. What advice would you give the 20-year-old version of yourself, if that person had just started Crossfit and wanted to be the best?
Ruth:This might just be the 20-year-old version of me, and not every other 20-year-old, but for me it would be spending more time mastering body weight movements with a fantastic coach that knows exactly how to do it, having a coach that was really well-versed in gymnastic movements. I think in gymnastics, there’s much more understanding, or in gymnastics coaching, there’s so much more understanding of the importance of getting correct range of motion. In my first year of Crossfit, I went down to the … We have a great gymnastics gym in this little [00:40:00] town. I went down there and this guy was … I wanted to do muscle ups and he was showing me how to walk across the parallel bars. I was just like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I can do that.” I would quickly do it to be like, “Yeah, I can do that. I want to do this,” and just not understanding just exactly the movements that my body needed to be doing to do those elements well and the importance of them.
Because I didn’t have those correct, one of the regionals I went to, it was 2010, I came back with a bad sprain in my shoulder, which was probably from doing muscle ups, which was probably from not moving correctly. For me, in the sport, it would definitely be mastering some of those elements and also playing. Do other sport, as well. I probably stopped doing other team sports and things by the time I was 20, I think, and I think playing some other sports is really good for you.
Stu:It’s solid advice, and it works for you, as well, Guy. I know that Guy has really embraced Zumba, and that’s 1 of those things. He’s quit good at table tennis, too.
Guy:Yeah, I mastered it. Mastered it.
Stu:Follow the advice, Guy. Follow the advice. We’re not getting any younger.
Guy:I actually had a profound question and then you’ve just taken this right out of my head.
Stu:My mum told me once that, if you forget it, it’s either it’s a lie, or it’s not worth asking.
Guy:It’s not worth it, yeah. Is Crossfit season on for you now, Ruth?
Ruth:Like, do I have an off-season?
Ruth:[00:42:00] I guess my off-season this year was 3 months in a cast, so yes. No, I do a little bit. My program’s a little bit period-ized, I guess. The conditioning goes right down. I do more strength-based and technical-based movement and then I bring it back up. That works quite well because it’s not nice to get out and run in the middle of winter here. It probably just gives me a little bit of a mental break from doing lots of high-intensity stuff. I have that little bit. I think probably after the Crossfit games this year, I would probably look to take 1-2 months off, but yeah. This last year was a bit of a … It was a little bit different.
Stu:All over the place.
Guy:Just out of curiosity, how long is it until the open starts? Is that far away?
Ruth:It starts February 28.
Guy:Okay. 4-5 weeks?
Stu:yeah, about 5 weeks away.
Stu:I’d really like to delve in a little bit now, Ruth, just on nutrition.
Stu:Again, a big part of who you are. Without it, I don’t think you’d be able to do half of what you do, if you’re not eating the right way. What right now does your typical daily diet look like?
Ruth:I describe my diet as paleo. I guess the things that would be different from what people would consider paleo is that I’m okay with a bit of rice and I use a bit of Greek yogurt or kefir. For the most part, there’s a lot of vegetables and a good amount [00:44:00] of, I’m a big fan of lamb. We have awesome lamb in this country and seafoods, so plenty of that. I also am pretty in charge of my macro nutrients. I actually had a really great mentor, Brad Stark, who’s at Stark Training, which is out in Orange County. I’ve been working with him for a couple of years and he has just made the world of difference to the way that my body performs. He’s helped me work out, just in brief, is that I prefer to have quite a lot of fats with some proteins for the first part of the day and then we really delve into more carbohydrates with the protein towards the end of the day. It’s a little bit more calculated than that, but that’s probably for the most part, how it works.
If I have too much carbohydrate in the morning, I tend to crash out. I don’t do very well with fruit at all, so I don’t tend to eat it. I have a little bit of berries in smoothies and that’s as far as my fruit intake goes. I’m just not a real big fruit eater. It just doesn’t do well for me. I would literally, if I hit some fruit and then an hour later did a workout, I would be, my head would be spinning and I would just have this real crashing thing going on. Yeah, we played around a bit with that.
Guy:Can I add to that?
Ruth:I love fresh vegetables.
Guy:Yeah. Just for our listeners, what carbs would you generally eat, and what carbs would you generally avoid?
Ruth:Yeah. My carbohydrate is mostly [00:46:00] rice or sweet potato.
Ruth:I have a little bit of white [inaudible 00:46:04] every now and then. I’m not too worried about that. I have worked out that gluten is horrible for me. I’ll occasionally have some gluten-free wraps and some other grain-based products that aren’t full of gluten. I’m okay with those, but I actually still, I never feel like it would get the same good muscle recovery that I get from having sweet potato post-workout. I’m okay with them for a treat, but I don’t treat them as great post-workout carb.
Guy:Yeah. Have you ever counted the amount of grams of carbohydrate you eat in a day, just out of curiosity, or not?
Ruth:It’s only about 180.
Guy:That’s a good number.
Stu:Yeah, that is a good number.
Guy:Yeah, no. I only ask because obviously, your workload is massive, right?
Guy:A lot of people would be eating twice that amount of carbohydrates with 1/10 the amount of work you’re doing on a manageable, on a daily basis.
Ruth:Yeah. I know I’ve had some different nutritionists and things have a look at what I’m eating, and say, “No, that’s wrong. You need more carbohydrate.” I’ve just been there. We’ve tried it. It just doesn’t work.
Stu:That’s right. You’re your best judge, I think, of that just by how you feel and perform, based upon your feeling.
Guy:I remember when we, we actually showed you, a post of yours, Ruth. I don’t know if you remember a couple of years back, a dietitian came in there and just said, “You shouldn’t be pushing this content out to people because it’s just so wrong.”
Guy:There’s a great thread of conversation going on there and [00:48:00] it’s like, the proof’s in the pudding. You walk and you talk.
Ruth:That’s interesting. Things that people say, or that, “you’re not getting enough fiber.” I’m eating 7 cups of vegetables a day. I’ve never had a problem and felt like I needed more fiber. Just unusual things that you just realize, it’s almost textbook stuff, and it’s like, what’s the point in having this textbook knowledge? You’ve got to actually have a go at … You eat the paleo diet and see if you don’t have enough fiber, because I just, I’ve never had anyone that I’ve coached in my gym get on the paleo diet and come back and say, “Man, no. My body just hated me because it was not enough fiber in my diet.”
Ruth:Just not something that happens.
Guy:Another question, because we did a talk the other week, a workshop in Wollongong, and the biggest hurdle we felt from talking to them is preparation. People love the idea of changing their diet, becoming more tuned-in, and being able to do it, but the reality is, more from what we see, is that people don’t prepare. Then they get caught up and they get all sorted and they don’t change their eating habits. Any tips? How do you do it?
Ruth:I’m a little bit of a, when I cook meat, I generally get the crockpot out. If I know I’m going to be home late, I’ll often have something already cooked in terms of the meat department, or I’ll cook a lot of bigger cuts of meat like roasts and things like that. There’s always some form of protein ready to go in the fridge.
Ruth:Then, I eat quite a lot of [00:50:00] salads like cabbage and kale and vegetables that don’t take very much to prepare. If I know I’m going to be, if I’m just crazy busy or grabbing something on the run, I’ll even buy just the pre-cut vegetables, the stuff that’s already sliced up and put in bags. I try not to do that. I try and just avoid plastic generally, but I think you’re better to do that than skipping the veggies all together. What else do I do?
Probably lunch is the time or mid-afternoon, where people fall down because they haven’t been prepared with lunch. I’m pretty fortunate because most of the time, I live a few blocks from the gym, so most of the days I come home and quickly prepare something. When I haven’t been enjoying that, I’ll either when I cook dinner, I will put enough aside for heat up leftovers the next day, or I will, as I’m preparing my breakfast, I will quickly prepare some lunch at the same time. I feel like, if you’ve got some kind of protein that works for you, whether it’s boiled eggs or whatever it might be, if it’s ready to go and you’ve always got a steady supply of just something ready in the fridge, then I think it just takes away your temptation. I don’t really get those temptations, but I’m just thinking about the athletes that I coach.
Stu:Yeah, it’s just easier, isn’t it?
Ruth:The temptation of … Yeah, it’s got to be easy. What you’re trying to do, you need to make it easier than going through the McDonald’s drive-through or whatever is your temptation.
Stu:Yes. Definitely. Does your nutrition change at all during competition, or is you just ramp it up even a bit more? Do you do anything any differently?
Ruth:[00:52:00] I do probably a bit more shakes then. If there’s a lot of workouts throughout the day, it’s hard for me to have as much vegetables as I would like, because I just can’t digest that quickly. I’ll just do more shakes.
Ruth:Yeah, that’s generally the main difference. Probably it works out, a bit more calories because there’s a few more post-workout meals.
Guy:We might be biased, but we love encouraging the shakes and things.
Guy:It’s true, though. It’s true.
Stu:From a supplemental perspective, then, what supplements do you use? What and why? Obviously, you’re putting your body through heavy load, day after day after day. What are your favorites?
Ruth:Fish oil’s been here for a long time. I always take some of that. The turmeric capsules, I’ve been on. I’ve been on for a shorter while, been on those, just to help with my healing of my wrist surgery. I have a few amino acids that I take, and that’s based on the supplement protocol that Stark Training has guided me …
Guy:That’s individualize for you?
Ruth:Yeah. yeah, so it’s things like glycine and tuarine, things that are quite good to calm me down after I’ve trained and try and bring everything back to normal as quickly as possible.
Guy:Interesting, yeah. Magnesium as well, you were saying earlier.
Ruth:Magnesium, yeah. That’s about it. I haven’t got a cabinet full of supplements. I’m pretty big on vegetables as the answer.
Stu:That’s [00:54:00] right. Real food. Yeah.
Ruth:[crosstalk 00:54:07] The vegan protein, at the moment.
Guy:Okay, yeah. It’s interesting. We have conversations with people and they may never have heard of 180 before, and they’re like, “Oh, I’m sorry. I don’t take supplements.” I’m like, “Well, you’re our perfect customer, then.”
Guy:We don’t look at it as a supplement at all.
Ruth:Yeah, it’s totally how I feel. I just consider it another form of real food.
Guy:Yeah, fantastic. That’s great advice. What foods do you go out of your way to avoid?
Ruth:Anything with gluten. Cheese is bad; it just work well with me at all. Generally, a little bit of dairy, I seem to cope with, but I definitely wouldn’t go and buy a milkshake or have a large amount. As I said, yogurt seems to be okay. When I’m getting a bit more savvy with things like … I used to be like, If I order the chicken salad, for example, you think you’re going to get chicken and salad, but then you get this big sticky, weird oily sauce that they put on it and it’s really sweet or whatever. I’m getting a bit more savvy with just asking whether there’s a dressing and if there is, either having it left to the side so I can decide whether it’s safe enough to eat. If it’s going to be an olive oil dressing, that’s probably okay with me. Probably the biggest thing is keeping it gluten free because I had some pretty wild reactions to … I went to a wedding and had a cake a few months back and just had a terrible reaction to that. Just becoming a [00:56:00] bit more aware of …
Stu:That’s it. That’s really the main thing, as well, just being aware of that kind of stuff just switches on a light bulb when you are out and about, like you said. If you’re going to order a salad, I would guess there’s going to be a dressing there. Who knows what’s in that dressing. It may suit some people. It may not, but just be aware of it. We chatted, too, with [Chad McKay 00:56:28] a while back and talking to him about nutrition and stuff like that. He told us that after the regionals were over and he’d done the best that he could do, he has this cheat meal. I think it was a whole pizza and a whole tub of ice cream, something like that. That’s just my off switch. I’m done, I’m dusted, smash this meal down and get on. Do you have anything like that? Do you go nuts to zone out of everything with a cheat meal, or are you just clean all year round?
Ruth:I get this question a lot, and I always feel like I’m a little bit boring. I’m not really big on big desserts and things. I know after the Crossfit games, I’ve done some big donuts and things. I probably did it more for the novelty of it than the pure enjoyment. It literally felt like I was just eating solid sugar. I just found it a bit too much. Do you know cassava crisps?
Ruth:yeah, I put those in my mouth and it’s like they dissolve on my tongue and then I have to have another one. They’re probably something that … If someone had some of those, I’m like, “Oh, no, don’t bring those near me,” because it’s literally like I have one and then just [00:58:00] immediately want to have another one. That’s probably the one food I can think of that I know is not good for me, but my body still wants to eat it.
Stu:It’s funny. It’s hardwired somewhere in there, isn’t it. I don’t get to New Zealand very often, but I used to live there. We lived there for 5 years and I stumbled upon … This was pre-my healthy days and pre-180, and stuff like that. I stumbled upon this chocolate chip cookie by a brand called Cookie Time, and they were huge. They’re huge. Every now and again, when I do end up in the country, I’ll head over to a New World and I just head for the Cookie Time aisle. [crosstalk 00:58:52] these things, and it’s like something is programming. Something is guiding me around. I’m on automatic pilot and I get this Cookie Time thing. I only need the one.
Guy:I need to get that shot in Instagram for everyone.
Stu:Cookie Time, it’s like the biggest chocolate chip cookie you could ever have.
Ruth:Yeah, they’re like this big.
Stu:Oh, they’re huge.
Ruth:At least. People are like, you buy them. You can get them heated and stuff, as well, so all the chocolate’s all gooey and things, as well.
Stu:Yeah, I had a friend who used to put them in the microwave for 10 seconds.
Ruth:Yeah, yeah. Now, to me, probably I know that having the gluten and the sugar and stuff, that within a very short time, I’m going to feel very unwell from having it, so I just don’t have the same urge for it. If you showed up to my gym and you had some gluten free, very similar paleo-style cookies, I’d probably be pretty tempted because I know that I wasn’t going to be …
Stu:Got it. We’ll work on something for our recipe section on [01:00:00] the website. I reckon we’ve got a good base there already. We’ll see what we can do for you.
Ruth:Okay, sounds good.
Guy:That’s going to be awesome. Now, Ruth, I see the time’s getting on. We have a couple of wrap-up questions. We’ve actually asked one, which is “What did you eat?” Yeah, we’ve asked that.
Guy:What’s the single best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Ruth:My dad always says to me, “Never say, ‘can’t.’” Whenever I have someone in my gym now that tells me that they can’t, it makes me cringe. The word just makes me cringe and it is such a negative thought to ever think that you can’t do something. You may not be able to yet, or whatever it is, but if you decide you can’t, it’s like …
Guy:You’re already there.
Ruth:You’re already there.
Stu:That’s right. You’ve already switched off. No, that’s good advice. Wise words.
Stu:That’s what we could say.
Guy:For anyone listening to this, if they want to get a bit more of Ruth Anderson Horrell, where is the best place to go?
Ruth:I’m pretty consistent on Instagram, ruthlessnz, and I have a Facebook page, Ruth Anderson Horrell. That’s pretty much it.
Guy:You’ve got a website, too?
Ruth:Yeah, they can pop onto the website, ruthless.co.nz.
Guy:Awesome. We’ll link to the show notes, anyway, when this goes out and that was awesome. I have no doubt everyone listening to this today, Ruth, thoroughly enjoyed that. Ruth, thanks for coming on and thanks for your time. I really appreciate it.
Watch the full interview below or listen to the full episode on youriPhone HERE.
This week we have the fantastic paleo and primal expert Mark Sisson. He is a best selling author and runs the hugely successful blog ‘Mark’s Daily Apple’.
His experience and knowledge is exceptional, as he shares with us (in the above short video) how he defines what it takes to live a happy, healthy and active life whilst getting the most out of each day.
In the full interview below we dig deep into the world of Mark Sisson; from endurance athlete to the primal lifestyle, his exercise routines, his simple philosophies he applies to make the most out of each day and much more. And most of all how you can apply them into your life.
If you are loving the podcast’s or/& they are inspiring your health journey, we’d love to hear from you! Simply drop us an email or leave a review on our iTunes :)
Full Interview with paleo expert Mark Sisson
In this episode we talk about:
Mark’s journey from an elite carb-loading athlete to living the paleo way
What exactly the primal blueprint is
How to define what it takes to achieve amazing health
Why exercise for weight loss is not a great weight loss strategy
What a typical week of exercise looks like for Mark Sisson
Guy Lawrence: Hey, this is Guy Lawrence from 180 Nutrition, and welcome to another episode of the Health Sessions. Our fantastic guest today is paleo and primal legend Mark Sisson, a former marathon runner and triathlete in his early days, came on to make his mission to empower 10 million people in the primal lifestyle, pretty much worldwide.
He started his blog in 2006 and he’s now going on, I think, reaching over 150,000 people come to his website a day. Yes.
And he’s also the author of a very best-selling book, The Primal Blueprint.
Now, I’ve been following Mark for awhile, many years, including on my own health journey, and it was fantastic get him on the podcast today. He’s an all-around top guy, very humble, very down-to-earth, and a lot of fun, too. And it was just great to be able to pick his brain on so much. For, you know, I think 45 minutes for the show.
It’s all well and good to have knowledge, but, you know, experience is priceless, I think, and Mark’s certainly got a lot of that. You know, as he said on the show, he’s 61 years old, you know, he looks half his age, he’ll put most people half his age to shame, you know. Just in fantastic condition and a fantastic representative of what good healthy living is. But also not taking it all too seriously, to a degree, and having fun along the way.
Anyway, this was a stellar podcast and I have no doubt you will get a lot out of it today. As always, you know, if you’re enjoying our shows on iTunes, please leave us a review. Hit the five stars. Subscribe. They all add up and they all make a difference in helping us get the word out there with these podcasts that we do, because we know we’re reaching a lot of your guys now.
Also, we are on social media: Facebook, Instagram. Get involved. It’s all under 180Nutrition. And, of course, come back to our website. If you’ve got no idea where to start, these podcasts are a great place, but also we’ve got a free ebook we give away and that’s a great place to start, too. And that’s on 180Nutrition.com.au.
And, yeah, enjoy the show. If you’re enjoying it, also drop us an email. It’s great to hear from you. And we get a lot of emails coming in every week now, and keep them coming because we love to hear from you.
Anyway, enough of me rambling. Let’s get on to the show and over to Mark Sisson. Enjoy.
OK, hi, I’m Guy Lawrence. I’m joined with Stuart Cooke, as always. Hey, Stu.
Stuart Cooke: Hello, mate.
Guy Lawrence: And our fantastic guest today is Mark Sisson. Mark, welcome to the show. Thanks for coming on.
Mark Sisson: Thanks for having me! It’s great to be here.
Guy Lawrence: It’s great. Over here in Australia at the moment there’s a bit of a buzz going on because you’re coming over next month. Is this the first time you’ve been to Australia, or have you been here before?
Mark Sisson: No, I’ve been there. I’ve been to Sydney a couple of times. I’ve been to Perth twice. So, I feel like I’ve been on both ends of the continent. Now I need to do something in the center at some point.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, it’s excellent. And Manly, it’s a beautiful place, and I’m sure we will talk a bit more about that through the show as well. But where I was interested to kick off, Mark, is that you’ve affected so many people’s lives through their own health journey over the years, including mine as well, and myself and Stu were chatting and we are intrigued to hear a little bit more about your journey. You know, from back to your endurance athlete days to the transition to primal and everything. How did it all sort of happen and come about?
Mark Sisson: Well, it was a long process. And it was an evolution, for sure. I started out as an endurance athlete and was a fairly decent marathon runner in the ’70s and then became a triathlete in the early part of the ’80s, doing Ironman events and such.
And I wanted to do all the right things. I researched heavily into what it would take to be as fast as I could get, and to be as healthy as I could stay, and how best to fuel my body, and, you know, the conventional wisdom of the day was: train hard and long and eat lots of carbohydrates. Cross your fingers and hope that you get faster and win some races.
And I did get faster and I did win some races, but my health suffered tremendously, and over the years; I had to retire quite early from competition because of injuries because of inflammation and –itises and some other; some lingering sinus infections and a whole host of maladies. And I thought, “This isn’t right. I’m trying to be healthy and I’m trying to do the right things. I work hard. I’m following all the best advice. Why am I not healthy?”
And I just sort of dedicated the rest of my life to looking at ways that I could be as strong, fit, lean, happy, healthy as possible with the least amount of pain, suffering, sacrifice, discipline, calorie counting, and portion control.
And that really led me to discovering that fats were not the enemy. I increased the amount of fat in my diet. I discovered that I could get fit on much less training if I just trained smarter and not harder. I discovered eventually that if I gave up grains, my inflammation went away. And so the osteoarthritis that had pretty much taken me out of the elite marathon division; that went away.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome, I had in my gut that had really run my life for almost forty years, that went away. And it was really quite a revelation that, wow, by just changing a few things in the diet and by altering how much exercise I did and maybe getting a little bit more sun exposure to make some more vitamin D, I didn’t get sick as often, and all these things started to come into place, and it really created the template for what I now call the Primal Blueprint, which is my strategy for living an awesome life.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Fantastic. Stu?
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, before we get into the Primal Blueprint, I’m interesting in asking how does Mark Sisson define good health? Because I think we’re all in different stages on our health journey. And some people have just succumbed to the idea, “Well, I’m getting older, I’m not gonna be as fit and as strong, I’m gonna get more sick.” What’s good health mean to you?
Mark Sisson: Well, I think out of the blocks, the most important part of life is to be content, to be fulfilled, to be happy, to wake up every morning with a sense of purpose and excitement for what the day’s going to bring.
And in order to get to that point, I think you have to be in a position where you’re not in chronic pain, where you have enough energy that gets you through the day while you’re not moody or depressed. So all of the sort of things that comprise what I would call health in general go far beyond not being sick. They actually would comprise, again, like: How do I live an awesome life? How can I take what I have, whether it’s given to me by my familial genes or whether I’ve brought it on myself through inappropriate lifestyle choices over the past few decades, how can I today extract the most possible out of my life that gives me peace and contentment and enjoyment and fulfillment.
And, you know, it always comes back to: It starts with taking care of what you eat. How you eat is sort of how it manifests in your body composition. So, if you’re overweight you’re not gonna enjoy life as much as if you’ve arrived in an ideal body composition. If you’re in pain from inflammation and you can correct that through how you eat, then you won’t spend much of your waking day, you know, lost in that tunnel vision that has you focused on the pain and not all the wonderful things in life that are happening around you. Does that make sense?
Stuart Cooke: That makes perfect sense. Absolutely. I think that everybody is entitled to experience good health, and we’ve got so many mixed messages at the moment and we’re confused about so many areas, whether it be food or lifestyle choices, that I think we just…
Mark Sisson: Yeah. People want to do the right thing. They’re just confused and frustrated because over the years what they’ve been told was the right thing, in many cases by their governmental agencies or by their physicians’ boards or whatever, you know, haven’t necessarily reflected the truth.
And I’ve sort of made it my mission to identify some of these choices that people can make that are more likely to create a positive outcome if they engage in these activities. So, it may be something as simple as: “Well, I was told my whole life to avoid fat and to base my diet on complex carbohydrates.” Well, if that’s working for you, there’s a good reason, because now there’s a lot of research that suggests fat is not the enemy, that healthy fats are actually beneficial and good, and that you might be better-served by cutting out some of the sources or carbohydrate in your diet, because maybe that’s what’s causing you to gain weight or to become inflammation or to have; or to become inflamed, or to have pain throughout your body or skin issues or whatever.
And as we know, there’s; I sort of represent, I guess, the epitome of a healthy 61-year-old guy. You know, I’ve got my little issues that I’m always trying to deal with. Everybody’s issue is like really important to them, right?
Stuart Cooke: Exactly right.
Mark Sisson: So, yeah. So, we’ve all got our little Achilles issues, you know.
Stuart Cooke: I love that. And I’m always of the opinion that if you want something to change then, you have to change something. Otherwise, you’re probably going to experience the same result moving forward.
Mark Sisson: And that’s the beauty of what we do in the paleo and primal movement is we overlay a template which suggests that there are some obvious changes that you can make to your lifestyle and to your diet. But at some point, it’s incumbent upon you to learn enough about your own particular set of circumstances that you can start to experiment with, and we call it “tinkering at the margin.”
Am I somebody who can handle maybe a little bit more carbohydrate than the other person? Am I somebody who can’t exercise too much or I’ll tear up my muscle tissue? I am somebody who needs nine hours of sleep instead of seven and a half. And the are all sort of the; these are the fine-tuning points that I think are really critical for people to, when you’re being mindful about your life and mindful about your health, then they start to pay attention: “What happens if I stay up too late and don’t get enough sleep?” “What happens if I overeat?” “What happens if I exercise too hard or I’m training for a marathon and I overdid it?”
And just being aware is like key point number one. And then, like you see, then, from there, you can make the changes in order to derive the change that you’re thinking.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, absolutely. And we call that, or we refer to that as the “sweet spot.” Everybody’s got to find their sweet spot; find out what works for them. And, yeah, and turn the dial. If it doesn’t quite work, then experiment with the N equals 1, see what works for you, keep going, keep going. And when you find your sweet spot, then you’ve kind of got a blueprint for the rest of your life. Or at least for then.
Mark Sisson: And that’s another part of this that I think is really so awesome is that so many people who encounter a paleo friend who’s had some results or somebody who’s gone primal and has lost weight or gotten off the meds and they start to see what is possible, they quickly realize that this is a sustainable lifestyle. That this isn’t just something you do for 30 days because you have to grind it out and you have to sacrifice and struggle to get it done. This is so easy when you incorporate some of these simple changes in your life. You get pretty quickly: Wow! I can do this for the rest of my life.
And that’s so freeing and so empowering to have that sense.
Stuart Cooke: That’s right. Absolutely. Working towards long-lasting health as opposed to a 30-day quick fix diet which is, again, gonna yo-yo you up and down on your health and weight.
Guy Lawrence: And like you said, as well, I think it all comes back down to initial awareness, because so many people are unconsciously doing the wrong things and they’re not even aware that it’s affecting them so greatly.
And just even being able to put that on their map. You know, we spoke to a couple of friends yesterday, Mark, and said you were coming on the show today and they were trying to understand, I guess, if you were to do an elevator pitch to what the primal philosophies were, because they said, “Well, what does it mean to be primal?”
How would you sum that up to anyone listening to this?
Mark Sisson: You know, I sum it up differently every time, because it always, depending on the context, what I do with the Primal Blueprint is I allow people to affect their own health by decisions they make in their lives.
And by that I mean, at a deeper level, we each have this genetic recipe within us; this DNA recipe that wants us to be strong and lean and fit and happy and healthy. We were born with this recipe that builds that type of a body.
But a recipe, these genes, depend on inputs, from food, from exercise, from sleep, from all these things that turn the genes on or off. You want to turn on the genes that build muscle or do you want to turn on the genes that store fat? It’s all within your power. You can choose the inputs that flip those switches.
So, the Primal Blueprint is really about uncovering these hidden genetic switches that we all have in a way that manifests the body and the feeling and the presence that we all want to have in life; that we all sort of not just dreamed of but sort of subconsciously know is our birthright. And so the Primal Blueprint really is about it’s an empowering lifestyle that allows you to access the best possible health with the least amount of sacrifice and discipline.
Guy Lawrence: That’s a good point as well. The least amount of sacrifice.
Stuart Cooke: Who would not want that? Absolutely.
Mark Sisson: That must have been a long elevator ride, right? That was probably 40 floors.
Stuart Cooke: You’re on the top floor right now.
So, we’re very excited, then, that you’re bringing those philosophies and we’ve got a heap of other speakers as well coming over to the Primal Symposium very shortly in Manly. For everyone out there that isn’t too sure about what this is all about, what can we expect over the course of the weekend?
Mark Sisson: Yeah, so, the Thr1ve.me event is, it’s about three days of fun, and three days of getting back to understanding what enjoying life is really about, from all aspects. So, we are gonna talk about how to dial in the diet. And everyone who shows up, I suspect will have some experience, or not, with paleo eating or with the Primal Blueprint or that way, or low-carb.
We’re gonna tweak it. We’re gonna help you dial it in. We’re gonna talk about some of the strategies that you can use in your own experiment. We’re going to have some of the best speakers in the world, and presenters, with regard to body movement. So, we’ve got people who are gonna show you how to do Olympic lifts, if that’s something you want to do, in soft of a CrossFit genre.
On the other hand, we have people who are experts in body weight exercises. So, if all you ever want to do is go out in your back yard and do squats and lunges and dips and do it in a way that’s going to generate 80 percent of all that’s possible for you physically, we’ll have people there doing that.
We have the world’s preeminent expert on play, Darryl Edwards. Darryl’s been at eight of my events.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, we know Darryl.
Mark Sisson: Yeah. And Darryl is; he’s crazy in the funnest way possible. He basically embodies what it means to go through life with a sense of play in everything you do. And it doesn’t just mean, you know, dancing around and jumping around and acting crazy or playing games. It’s how to get that playful mindset in your work experience. Or, you know, family setting, where maybe there’s a little bit more play that would be required. Or, not required but be very helpful in bringing everybody together.
We have cooking demonstrations. So, people who are really interested in how to prepare the best possible paleo or primal meals will learn how to cook. It’s really all aspects of a primal lifestyle that we’re going to cover so that when you leave, at the end of the weekend, you’ll go: “Wow. No I really; I’m excited about what I can do with my own life to get to the next level.” Whatever that is. You may be just starting. You could get to the next level. You may already be well advanced in your paleo and primal living. But there’s always the next rung. There’s always something that’s the next level of excitement and anticipation, and that’s really what I want for everybody who attends.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, Absolutely. It’s going to be fantastic. I mean, we will be there; we’re looking forward to it.
Stuart Cooke: Oh, I can’t wait to get there after that description. I’m going now. Fantastic.
Guy Lawrence: So, like, with Josh from Thr1ve, he’s doing awesome things over there, especially creating awareness as well through his cafeterias and the food and everything he presents. And how did you guys connect… This is a two-fold question: How did you guys connect, and, secondly, are you seeing the same things in America with that change as well?
Mark Sisson: Well, how we connected was, he came to one of my events. So, I had an event in Tulum, Mexico a year and half ago, and it was very much like the Thr1ve event will be in Manly. He brought some of his company’s employees; it was to not just understand a little bit more about this primal lifestyle but it was probably a team-building exercise as well.
They had the best time. They had such a good time he came to me and said: How can I; I want to do something like this in Manly.” So, he had such a good time at our event he said I want to do this in Australia.
So, that’s how we met.
Now, when you ask, is there something like this in the U.S., what do you mean?
Guy Lawrence: In terms of awareness and accessibility to foods with the cafes and the change coming.
Mark Sisson: Yeah, so, I’m finding that Australia is ahead of the curve on a per capita basis, by far, than the U.S. I mean, I would say that Australia on a per capita basis probably has more awareness of the paleo ancestral lifestyle than any other country that I’ve encountered.
That’s very excited. So, you have a number of restaurants that are opening that are offering up this type of fare that isn’t just food that fits the primal or paleo parameters, but it tastes great, so anybody can eat there. You know? That’s the irony here is that you walk into these restaurants and go… I don’t want to walk into a restaurant just because it’s a health food place, you know. I want good food. I mean, I make a point of saying every bite of food I put in my mouth, I want to enjoy.
So, if you tell me it’s healthy but it doesn’t taste very good, I don’t want it. I’ve got no reason to eat it. This is about extracting all of the joy out of life that you can, and part of that for me means I want to enjoy every bite of food that I eat. And when I’ve had enough, I want to be willing to push it away and say, “You know what? That was awesome. I don’t need another bite. I don’t need to fill myself up. There will be more food around the corner.”
That’s sort of what some of your restaurants in Australia are starting to do. We’re starting to do it in the U.S. as well. And I’m actually launching a restaurant franchise concept in about six months in the U.S. as well.
Guy Lawrence: Fantastic.
Mark Sisson: Yeah. Having said that, you know, we’re looking to expand the paleo world in the U.S. and it’s; we’re doing a good job but I do think we need to do a better job. I think, you know, we’ve got such great science behind what we’re doing. And the people who are in are all in.
So, we’ve got a culture thing where, you know, giving up the cinnamon buns and giving up the pizza, all that stuff, is kind of a tough ask for a lot of people.
Guy Lawrence: That’s fantastic. We are blessed here, especially in Sydney, you know. I can think of a couple of handfuls of places constantly where I can go and eat paleo very accessible.
Stuart Cooke: Just thinking out loud as well, you mentioned that your restaurant chain, I was thinking for your logo it could be a great big curvature kind of M, you know, golden kind of shape. I could work.
Guy Lawrence: For “Mark,” yeah.
Stuart Cooke: Change the color.
Mark Sisson: It could work.
I don’t have the legal budget to do that.
Stuart Cooke: OK. Just a thought.
I’d love to just get a little bit more specific now around health. I’ve got a few questions that I know everybody would be keen to hear your answer from.
If I wanted to make some simple changes right now, like today, that could have dramatic effect on my health, coming from, let’s say I’m following a standard Australian or American diet, what do you think I could do right now?
Mark Sisson: Well, the first thing you can do, and I think everybody knows this intuitively, is get rid of the sugar in your diet. So, that means getting rid of all of the sugary drinks. You know: the sodas, the soft drinks, the sweetened teas, even the juices, because a lot of those contain a tremendous amount of sugar. Certainly the desserts: the pies, the cakes, the cookies, biscuits, all of the really; it’s really obvious stuff to a lot of people. They know what to omit.
So, that’s the first thing. And a lot can be accomplished with that. I mean, you can really be well on your way to whatever weight loss program that you’re embarking on, regardless of whether it’s paleo or primal or vegetarian or vegan. If you got rid of the sugary stuff, you’d be way ahead of the game.
The next thing would be to get rid of the industrial seed oils. So, you get rid of processed foods that contain soybean oil, corn oil, canola. You know, things like that that are very; they are very highly inflammatory so a lot of people are probably carrying around a lot of extra weight in the form of water that they’ve retained because their entire body is inflamed as a result of their diet.
That’s point number two. And then following that I’d get rid of the processed carbohydrates. So, a lot of the grain-based flours, particularly gluten. I mean, I just think; I’m of the opinion that gluten benefits no one. There are some people who can maybe get away with a little wheat once in awhile. But it doesn’t mean it’s good for them. It just means it’s not killing them immediately.
And then there are a lot of people on the spectrum who are egregiously harmed by wheat and by other forms of grain. And I was one.
And you mentioned earlier, people are sometimes insensitive to what it is that’s causing problems with them, and they don’t get that the sodas that they’re drinking are causing inflammation, or actually helping to lead them into a Type 2 diabetic situation.
I was of the opinion for the longest time that whole grains were healthy, and I, even as I got into my research, started evolving my own diet, I kept grains in for a long time. I was doing research on how phytate bind with minerals and prevent the intake of minerals and how lectins have problems with the lining of the gut and how gluten was bad for people with celiac.
But, you know, I did all this research and yet I was continuing to eat grains in my diet. And my wife one day said, why don’t you just do a 30-day experiment and give up the grains? And that’s what changed my life. That’s really; that’s when the arthritis went away, that’s when the irritable bowel syndrome disappeared, that’s when the upper respiratory tract infections went away. That’s when so many of these minor issues that I thought; and, Stuart, you mentioned earlier that, you know, well, we assume that because we’re getting older, these must be normal and natural. Well, I assumed that, you know, I was already in my mid- to late-40s. I said, “Well, that’s probably a normal part of getting old.” And I assume that I was going to have to live with that. And all that stuff kind of disappeared when I gave up the grains. And I thought, wow, if I’m defending my right to eat grains so aggressively, in the face of what I know, imagine how many people out there are assuming that grains are benign and harmless and aren’t affecting them who might be tremendously benefitted by giving up grains.
So, sort of, what I say to everybody is, look, if that’s still a part of your diet and you still have some issues, why would you not want to do a 30-day experiment? Just cut out the grains for 30 days, there’s plenty of other foods you can eat. I mean, I don’t lack for choices on my list of foods to eat. But cut out the grains and notice what happens. Notice if your arthritis clears up or your pains go away or you lose some weight more effortlessly. Or your skin clears up.
There are a lot of things that are potentially being affected by this high-grain diet that so many people have.
Stuart Cooke: Absolutely. Sugar. Processed vegetable oils. And, again, those processed carbohydrates as well.
Like you said, try it. See how you feel after 30 days. Do a self-experiment.
Mark Sisson: Yeah. People say, “Well, what can I eat?” And I go, well, you can eat beef, pork, lamb, chicken. You know: duck, goose, turkey. You can eat ostrich. You can eat croc. You can eat… And then you can eat all the vegetables, all the fruit, nuts, lots of healthy fats, butter. You know: bacon. It’s a pretty inviting way to eat food.
Stuart Cooke: You could always try and eat real food.
The thing I like about that is that when you do start to eliminate a lot of the processed foods, you almost reconnect yourself to the kitchen and to the ritual of cooking, and I think that is something that we are slowly losing through generations as we are kind of subject to so many of these convenience foods.
Mark Sisson: Yeah. I mean, it’s; we have a section on my website, on Mark’s Daily Apple, on every Saturday is a recipe. I have published three of my own cookbooks and three other cookbooks by other authors because these are so; these cookbooks are so popular. And figuring out how we can find ways to prepare real food in ways that are tasty and exciting, you know, it’s fun. I mean, it really is. It actually reconnects people with the kitchen.
Guy Lawrence: You know, you hear more and more of these stories as well, because you triggered them up when you were still training and reluctant to get off the grains. We had Sami Inkinen, the triathlete who rowed from San Fran to Hawaii, on our podcast last week.
Mark Sisson: Yeah, rowed meaning r-o-w-e-d. Not r-o-d-e, but yeah.
Guy: Yeah, that’s right. Sorry, it’s my Welsh accent, eh?
But, you know, he was saying he was close to becoming a Type 2 diabetic and he thought he was in the prime of his life. And the moment he cut out the grains and the sugars and increased his fats and trained his body that way, amazing.
Mark Sisson: Oh, and Sami’s; he’s just an incredible all-around guy. I’ve known him for a bunch of years. We’ve become good friends. And I watched him train for this event that he did with his wife, rowing from San Francisco to Hawaii.
But in the process he thought, oh, I haven’t done a triathlon for awhile, I’ll jump in the Wildflower Triathlon, which is a half Ironman distance, just as part of my training. And he won it outright. And he won it on a low-carb, high-fat, almost ketogenic training strategy.
And he’s a great example of somebody who’s taken the information, because he comes from a sort of a techie background as well, he’s very into the details and very into the minutia. And so he’s embraced this way of living and now, not just for himself and his wife, but for other people. He’s got basically a foundation that’s trying to help fight Type 2 diabetes.
And we’re all trying to kind of just allow the rest of the world to see what; how easy this is and let them in on our secret. Because it really is. It feels sometimes like it is a secret, like: “How come you guys don’t know this? We’re having so much fun here! We’re enjoying life so much doing this, and all you miserable guys out there just slogging along.” And I feel bad. I’m very empathetic. But that’s kind of how I feel sometimes. Like, we have this great secret. How come more people aren’t receptive?
Guy Lawrence: That’s so true. Yeah. Because when we question ourselves, “Are we in this bubble? Do not people…”
Stuart Cooke: We liken it; we’ve raised this before, but we liken it to the film The Matrix where Neo takes this pill and all of a sudden he’s in this completely different world and he realizes that everybody else are cooped up in this little bubble, and that’s not the real world at all. It’s insane.
But, yeah, spreading the word, it’s so important. And especially loving what Sami had done from his podcast and the amount of fat that he was consuming and being so amazingly healthy and coming out of that row with such a low level of inflammation as well, it really does kind of give an upper cut to this low-fat dogma that we’ve been plagued with for so many years.
Guy Lawrence: Well, while we’re on that kind of topic, then, which kind of leads into the next question, Stu, I’m gonna pinch it. But regarding exercise for weight loss. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that, Mark, from your point of view. Because obviously it’s one…
Mark Sisson: Sure. So, the major sort of overriding principle, if there is one, of the Primal Blueprint, is that humans are born to be really good at burning fat. We evolved in two and half million years of human evolution to be able to go long periods of time without eating, because that was just sort of what the environment offered up to us was sometimes nothing. So, this ability to store fat effectively, and then to be able to access and burn it as fuel effective, when there was no other food around.
This is a skill that we all have in our DNA. It’s hard-wired in our DNA. We are born with this ability to be good at burning fat. But very quickly in our lives, we sort of override that with access to cheap carbohydrates at every single meal. So, the body goes, “Well, I don’t need to store fat or I don’t need to burn fat if I’ve got this carbohydrate; this ongoing carbohydrate blood sugar drip coming in from every couple of hours all day long from food.”
So, the body starts to take the excess calories, store those as fat, finds out that it never really has to burn the fat because there’s always gonna be new sources of carbohydrate coming in. Glucose is toxic in large quantities, so the body is trying to get rid of the glucose by burning it. And if it can’t burn it, then it will store it as fat. Fat is a site where a lot of glucose winds up in a lot of people.
So, where was I going with that? What was the question again?
Guy Lawrence: Weight loss and exercise.
Stuart Cooke: Exercise purely for weight loss.
Mark Sisson: Yeah. So, the basic principle then, to be able to burn stored body fat, leads to the first paradigm, which is that you don’t even need to exercise to burn off your stored body fat. Because if you are able to be good at accessing this stored body fat, then your body’s gonna take whatever calories it needs to get from 9 o’clock in the morning until 1 o’clock in the afternoon, it’ll take it from your belly or your thighs or your hips. And it doesn’t require that it come from a plate of food.
And that’s a beautiful skill to develop: this ability to be able to burn off stored body fat 24 hours a day.
Now, if you get into that space and then you’ll trend toward your ideal body composition. You’ll always trend toward burning off the extra unused, unwanted body fat and coming down to that body that you need.
So, that, almost in and of itself, obviates the need to have to go out and burn 800 calories on the treadmill every single day. And what it means is that exercise is actually not a very good way to lose weight. It’s actually a terrible way to lose weight, when you think about it, because a lot of times when people are doing a lot of work on the treadmill and they’re burning; or, on the road, or riding a bike, or on the elliptical, or whatever it is they’re doing, and they’re counting calories, if they haven’t become good at burning fat yet, all they’re doing is burning sugar. They’re burning stored glycogen in their muscles.
Now, what happens as a result of that is they get home from the workout and the brain goes, “Wait. We just ran out of glycogen. The first thing we have to do is refill all of glycogen storage. Especially if this fool’s gonna try it again tomorrow.”
So, the body gets into this terrible spiral where you work hard, you sweat a lot, you burn a lot of calories, but your appetite goes up because you haven’t become good at burning fat. And so you overeat. You tend to slightly overcompensate and for a lot of people that means that, you know, you’re four or five years into an exercise program and you still have the same 25 pounds to lose.
It’s very depressing to watch people, and it’s very common, very depressing, to watch people at the gym every day. And you know they’re working hard and they’re trying to do the work. But they haven’t got; they haven’t handled the first order of business, which is to convert your fuel partitioning away from being sugar-dependent into becoming what we call a “fat-burning beast.” Become good at burning fat, 24 hours a day.
So, you’re burning fat. So, if you skip a meal, no problem, nothing happens to your blood sugar, your energy levels stay even, your body just derives that energy from the fat stored in your body. And it doesn’t mean you get hungry. All these wonderful things start to happen as you become good at burning fat. You become less dependent on blood sugar to run the brain. Because when you become fat-adapted, you become keto-adapted, and the brain runs really well on ketones. And ketones are a natural byproduct of burning fat.
So, all of these wonderful things happen: the appetite self-regulates. Now you don’t get ravenous and overeat at a meal because you were so hungry you didn’t know when to stop. Now your appetite says, “You know what? This is great. This is just enough food. I’ll push the plate away. I’m done. I’ll save it for later.”
And that’s; so, it all come back to this sort of primary skill in the Primal Blueprint which is being good at burning fat.
Guy Lawrence: Do you know what? I adopted that way of life, Mark, about nine years ago and prior to that I wasn’t even aware of how much the food was affecting my mood, my day, the way, when I exercised, my recovery. Everything. And it transformed my life. And people really need to get that, you know. It’s huge.
And we raise the question as well, not to deter anyone from exercise, because I exercise every day; I love it. But it makes me feel great and I do it for many other reasons. But weight loss is not; doesn’t enter my brain at all.
Mark Sisson: Yeah, so, good point. So, you know, I have an exercise plan, and I say you should find ways to move around a lot at a low level of activity. But the movement is more for your muscles, your pliability of the muscles, for your insulin sensitivity, which is coming as a result of moving the muscles. And you don’t need to count calories. Because, again, we’re not looking at exercise as a means of sweating off fat or burning away fat. We’re looking at exercise as a way of maintaining strength and flexibility and conditioning and so if you could find ways to move around, walking becomes one of the best exercises you can do. If you can get to the gym twice a week and do a high-intensity, full-body routine where you are working your arms and upper back and core and your legs. Twice a week is all you need, because once you’ve become good at accessing stored body fat and you realize you don’t need to burn off calories, then you realize also that you don’t need to do that much work to stay strong and flexible and well-balanced and all of the things that we’re looking for.
So, I’m a big fan of exercise and I do love to exercise, still, but I also try to find ways to play. So, for me, like, my biggest exercise day is Sundays when I play Ultimate Frisbee with my buddies; my mates down the road. We; there’s two hours of sprinting. And it’s the hardest workout I do all week. But at no point during the game do I look at my watch and go, “Oh, my God, when’s it gonna be over?” If I ever look at my watch it’s like, “Oh, crap, we only have 20 minutes left.” You know? It’s so much fun.
That’s how I see exercise and play coming together in a way that, yeah.
Guy Lawrence: What would your weekly exercise routine look like on a typical week if you’re at home?
Mark Sisson: So, Sundays, two hours of Ultimate. Mondays I might do an easy stationary bike ride, just mostly because the sprinting on the Ultimate is tough on my 61-year-old joints. So I’ll do maybe an easy bike ride then.
Tuesdays I might do a full-body routine. So, it’s gonna be pushups, pull-ups, dips, squats, lunges, things like that. So, I might do that Tuesday and Friday or Tuesday and Saturday.
Wednesday I might go for a paddle. I do a stand-up paddle for an hour and a half. And that’s a nice, fun aerobic activity that builds tremendous core and, same thing, the whole time I’m doing it, I’m usually with a friend or two, and we’re chatting away and we’re aiming for a point three or four miles out, but we’re still having fun and chasing dolphins and doing all this stuff and never thinking, “When’s it gonna be over?” You just think, “Wow! This is so cool. We’re out in the ocean, it’s the middle of the day, we’re getting vitamin D, we’re hanging out with the dolphins or the whales, it’s spectacular. And it’s, oh, by the way, it’s a killer workout.
It just leaves; I’ve got abs at my age that I wished I’d had when I was in my teens, because the paddling is such a good core exercise.
Guy Lawrence: I love being in the ocean as well. We live by the ocean ourselves here in Sydney and it’s just magical.
Mark Sisson: Yeah. Yeah.
And then I might do a hike one day. I might get on the bike and do intervals. Or, I have… Do you know what a VersaClimber is?
Stuart Cooke: No.
Mark Sisson: A VersaClimber is a rail with handles; it’s got handles, you know, feet and arm holds you can climb. So I might do an intense interval workout on that. I’ve got one in my garage. And I can be on that thing warmed up, do an amazing interval workout to where I am, as you would say, truly knackered, and then cool down and be off in 22 minutes, because it’s just so effective a piece of equipment.
So, you know, I don’t… The old days of going out for a five-hour bike ride and all that stuff and just struggling, those don’t appeal to me anymore. So, the most I’ll do is maybe an hour and a half paddle, or something like that, or an hour and a half hike. Otherwise, it’s short, it’s sweet, and sometimes intense.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Fantastic. Awesome.
Stuart Cooke: Well, you’ve just made me feel very lazy. I’m going to have to do something.
So what about vices? Do you have any vices? You know, that you’ll sneak a piece of pie here and there?
Mark Sisson: Well, you know, I don’t completely shun desserts. My thing on desserts is: All I need is a bite or two to get a sense of what it is. So, the idea of having giant piece of cheesecake or, we were at a, my daughter had a birthday the other night, we were in a restaurant, and they brought out some baklava. And I had to have a bite of that, even though it contained sugar and a little bit of wheat. But, you know, one bite was all I needed and it was like, OK, this is spectacular. But the alternative to that would have been to spend just three more minutes devouring the entire thing and then being left with and achy gut, a racing heart, sweating, and I probably wouldn’t be able to sleep.
And so it’s really knowing what you can get away with. I mean, that’s sort of the; I hate to put it in those terms but some people can get away with a lot. There are some people who are allergic to peanuts, can’t get away with one tiny piece of peanut. So, you know, there’s… And with regard to the desserts, I just; I don’t like feeling of excess sugar in my system. I clean myself out so much that it just doesn’t feel good. And it’s certainly not worth the three minutes of gustatory pleasure sorting it out over the next five hours.
You know, I used to drink two glasses of wine a night for a long time. And I’m on record with the primal movement as saying, “You know, wine’s not bad.” Of the alcoholic choices, wine is probably the least offensive.
But recently I sort of gave up drinking two glasses of wine a night. I might have one glass a week now. Because I think it serves me well. I probably sleep better as a result of not doing that. So, I’ve given that up.
You know, otherwise, you know, no real “vices.” I mean, not to speak of.
Stuart Cooke: That’s great. And like you said, even with the wine, it’s pulling back to your sweet spot and turning the dial and just finding out what works for you.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, absolutely.
Stuart Cooke: Because we’re all so radically different.
Guy Lawrence: Do you find; how do you keep things primal when you’re traveling, Mark? Like, do you find that easy? Difficult?
Mark Sisson: Yeah, I do. I do find it easy. I think you do the best you can, for one. That’s all you can do. But my life doesn’t revolve around grass-fed beef and wild line-caught salmon. I’ll eat a nice steak in a restaurant if it’s been grain-fed. It is what it is. You know, I’m not; it still, in my world, better than a bowl of spaghetti with some kind of sugary; or a sauce made with canola oil or something like that.
So, it’s just a matter of degree. And it’s a matter of the context in which you find yourself.
So, there’s not a restaurant in the world that I can’t go into and find something delicious to eat, even if I have to ask the waiter to go back and have a few words with the chef.
But, you know, that’s… and when I travel, I don’t exercise that much if I can’t get near a gym, or if I don’t have a chance to exercise. Because I know, I have trust, that my body is not going to fall apart because I missed a workout. And the older I’ve gotten, the more I realize that, wow, I probably worked out way too much, even as recently as five years ago. And sometimes I go into the gym now and I might do 50 pushups, 10 pull-ups, 40 pushups, 10 pull-ups, 30 pushups, eight pull-ups, and go, “I’m done.” I don’t need to; I’m as pumped as I’m gonna get and anything more than this is just gonna be killing time and talking to other people in the gym.
The reality is it doesn’t take that much work, once you’ve achieved a level of fitness, it doesn’t take that much work to maintain it. And that’s really part of the beauty of the human body. The body doesn’t want to make that many changes.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, maintenance, isn’t it? I think, like, in terms of traveling, it’s just making the most of what you’ve got with the environment where you are and once you’re tuned into it, like you said, it becomes straight-forward.
Stuart Cooke: Absolutely. And especially where food is concerned, because we do live in this world now where we’ve got so many convenient choices when on the road, and I think just a little bit of understanding about the foods that serve us and the foods that don’t. But like you said, you can eat anywhere, and you generally get a good-quality protein and some veggies in most places.
Mark Sisson: You’re good to go! That’s all you need. Yeah.
Stuart Cooke: That’s it.
Mark Sisson: You know, what I find about traveling, probably the one thing that concerns me the most when I travel is sleep. And that’s, you know, so when I come to Oz I’m gonna be, you know, very diligent about how I orchestrate my sleep cycles during the transition, starting with leaving the LAX airport at 10:30 at night, how I spend the next 16 hours.
But also when I get to the hotel. I’ll look at the quality of the curtains and how much I can black them out at night, or how much light comes in from behind the curtains. I’ll look at the noise outside the window and whether or not there are going to be garbage trucks at 4 a.m. underneath my window.
I will literally look at the air-conditioning system, not for how cold it makes a room, but the kind of noise that it makes as a gray noise. And if it’s; I’ve been known to do this. If it’s too much, I’ll put a towel over the vent and I’ll put shoes on it and I’ll temper the whole thing because I want to orchestrate my sleep to approximate, as much as I can, what I’m used to at home.
And so sometimes for me that becomes; the biggest challenge is to sleep.
Stuart Cooke: Well, that’s it. If sleep falls down then everything falls down. Any particular supplements that you would take with you to help sleep at all?
Mark Sisson: You know, I do take melatonin. I take melatonin to adjust to wherever I’m going to be. So, whenever I travel, whenever I arrive at a new country, particularly. In the U.S., three time zones is nothing. I adapt to that immediately. But, you know, six or eight or nine time zones, a lot of times what I’ll do is I will arrive, I’ll maybe go for a long walk or do some kind of a bike ride or some workout, just to get my blood pumping and to get adapted to the air or whatever. I’ll do whatever it takes to stay up until it’s bedtime in the new time zone. So, I won’t take a nap. The worst thing you can do when you travel across time zones is take a nap. Because the body thinks, “Oh, this must be nighttime.”
But as it’s time to, if I’ve stayed up; and it could be 8:30 or a quarter to 9. You know, just enough time to be able to start to adapt immediately to the new time zone, I’ll pop a melatonin. Probably 6 milligrams of melatonin the first night. And I’ll do that maybe an hour before the time I plan on hitting the pillow. And so the melatonin helps to reset the internal clock.
Again, having black-out curtains and having the room be the right configuration to be able to sleep helps.
And I find that sometimes by the next day, I’m adapted, adjusted to the new time zone.
Stuart Cooke: And with everything that you’ve got going on as well, I mean, surely you’d have a busy mind. You’ve got so much on your plate. How do you switch that off at nighttime?
Mark Sisson: When you find out, Stuart, you let me know. Find a good way to do that.
Stuart Cooke: I’ve asked everybody.
Mark Sisson: That’s another tough one. That’s a really rough one, because I do have a difficult time.
Now, most recently, for the last month and a half, I’m fortunate enough to have a pool and a Jacuzzi outside my living room. And a fire pit. So, my wife and I, we stop watching TV around 9:30, a quarter to 10, I keep my pool around 52 degrees; it’s very cold in Fahrenheit, and so I’ll go dip in the pool, spend as much time as I can in that cold, cold, cold water, and then get in the Jacuzzi and hang out for 15 minutes while the fire pit is casting a yellow-orange glow. And then we go right to bed.
And that’s been almost like a drug for me. It’s crazy how effective that is in turning off the noise, the monkey chatter, and being tired, but in a good way. Not beat-up tired but just feeling like when you hit the pillow: “Wow. That hormetic shock of the cold, cold, cold, being in there for a long time, and then bringing the body temperature up with the Jacuzzi.
And, you know, people say, well, I can’t afford that. Well, you can afford a cold shower. And there’s some ways you can play around with that if you want to do that. You can change the light bulbs in your reading lamps to get a yellow light.
But I found the combination of the cold therapy and the yellow light coming from a fire, from a fireplace, has such a calming effect on me that the monkey noise, the monkey chatter, has diminished substantially and I go to sleep just like that.
Stuart Cooke: Perfect. Yeah. I actually find the orange glasses as well that block out the blue like from any devices that we may have work in an unusually calming way as well, which is, again, just another tactic that works for me and you’ve just got to find that sweet spot. But sleep, absolutely. I love talking about sleep. I really do.
Mark Sisson: It’s like this thing that no one dares to talk about if they’re anyway involved in production, productivity, and athletics or whatever. It’s “Oh, I get by on four hours or four and a half or five hours.” Oh, man. I was like, I rejoice in the amount of sleep I get and I’m proud of it.
Stuart Cooke: Absolutely. I’m working on getting more every day. That’s for sure.
So, we’ve just got one question we always ask our guests and I’m sure you’ve been asked this a million times.
Guy Lawrence: Two questions.
Stuart Cooke: What have you eaten today?
Mark Sisson: So, today… I usually don’t eat until about 1 o’clock in the afternoon. So, I get up, I have a cup of coffee when I get up, so I have a big cup of rich dark coffee with a little dollop of heavy cream in it. And don’t tell anybody, but a teaspoon of sugar. Actual sugar.
Guy Lawrence: All right.
Mark Sisson: We won’t tell anybody. No, but, I mean, it’s really about the dose. It’s the only sugar I have all day and that’s when it is and it makes the coffee a very pleasant, pleasurable experience.
Today, for lunch, I had a giant salad. We call it a “big-ass salad” here in the U.S. That’s my term. So that was 10 or 15 different types of vegetables with a dressing based in olive oil, but also avocado, a whole avocado in the salad. And then tuna was my protein of choice.
I did have two bites of something before that. I had a; I’m involved in a bar manufacturing startup company called Exo. They’re making bars out of cricket protein powder. Have you heard of it?
Stuart Cooke: I have, yeah.
Mark Sisson: So, I’m on their board and I’m an investor in the company and they sent me their new flavor, which is I said they needed to be higher protein and higher fat. It is off-the-charts good. I can’t wait for this to be on the market. It’s a great tasting bar and it’s really exciting.
Stuart Cooke: Is it crunchy?
Mark Sisson: So, the thing about cricket protein powder is it’s been so ground up, finely ground up, you could not tell the difference between a jar of cricket protein powder and a jar of whey protein isolate. You can’t visually tell. The mouth feels no different. So, the only crunch in there are the nuts. So, it’s fantastic.
So, anyway, I had the salad. I’m meeting some friends in town tonight at a new franchise restaurant in town. I guarantee you I’ll have a steak and some grilled vegetables on the side. And that will be it. I might have a handful of berries this afternoon as a snack. And that’s pretty much an average day for me.
Guy Lawrence: Fantastic. And, mate, the last question we always ask everyone, and this could be non-nutritional related, anything. It’s: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Mark Sisson: Well, the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is to invest in yourself. And for a lot of people, that means education, it means, in my case, where I’m going with this is: Your job is to take care of your health. That’s your number one job. Where you go to work for eight hours a day is a secondary job. That’s almost a part-time job. Your full-time job is taking care of your health. And the more you can learn, the more you can invest today, in yourself, whether it’s education; it could be investing in a business that you’re building, because that’s what I did. I invested back in my own business to grow the brand of primal.
And, for a lot of people, it can be simply investing in your health. Like, the more money I spend on good food to feed my body and nourish my body, the less chance there is that when I’m in my 60s or 70s or 80s I’ll be sick and then having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless hours of agony combatting something that I could have easily not gotten because I paid attention and I invested in myself at an early age.
Stuart Cooke: That’s good advice. Absolutely. Get stuck in. No one should be more invested than you, I think. Not your health care providers…
Guy Lawrence: Absolutely.
Mark Sisson: Yeah. Yeah.
Stuart Cooke: We need to know what works for us.
Guy Lawrence: Fantastic, mate. You know, for anyone who hasn’t heard of you, Mark, which I struggle to find, but if that’s the case where can they get more of Mark Sisson? Mark’s Daily Apple is the best place to?
Mark Sisson: Yeah, MarksDailyApple.com is the blog. And everything I’ve ever said I’ve said there. I’ll say it in different ways and different venues, but it’s really the place to start.
PrimalBlueprint.com is my commerce site where you can buy my books. You can also buy them on Amazon, of course. But my books and some of the supplements that we make that are very tuned into the primal lifestyle.
And, yeah, those two sites, Mark’s Daily Apple and Primal Blueprint, are the main go-tos.
Guy Lawrence: Fantastic. We’ll link to them under the show notes and everything. And, Mark, thanks for coming on the show. That was awesome. We really appreciate it.
Mark Sisson: It’s my pleasure. Great hanging out with you guys.
Stuart Cooke: Brilliant. Brilliant. And cannot wait to see you in a couple of weeks when you’re over here.
Mark Sisson: Yeah, likewise. That’ll be fun. It’s coming up very soon, too.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, it is.
Guy Lawrence: Very soon. Three weeks. It’ll be awesome.
Good on you, Mark. Thank you very much.
We welcome back Donal O’Neill to the show, the creator of the Cereal Killers Movie with the fantastic message; Don’t Fear Fat.
This time Donal is here to chat about his new movie and sequel to the original; Cereal Killers Two – Run On Fat. We dive into the world of elite athleticism and performance where world class triathlete Sami Inkinen and Dr Steve Phinney challenge the efficacy and safety of “carb loading” for sports performance.
If you like the idea of eating whole foods instead of sugar gels and processed carbs as your main source of fuel, then this episode is for you!
Full Interview: Cereal Killers 2 Movie – Run On Fat with Donal O’Neill
In this episode we talk about:-
How two people rowed 45 days straight on a high fat diet
How to become a ‘healthier’ athlete on top of performance
The best sporting disciplines that are more suited to a low carb diet
The steps an athlete should take if wanting to adopt this style of eating
Guy Lawrence: Hey, this is Guy Lawrence of 180 Nutrition and welcome to another episode of the Health Sessions. We welcome back today, Donal O’Neill. Now you might remember we had Donal on our podcast roughly about a year ago discussing his movie Cereal Killers. Now, Cereal Killers actually went on to be viewed several hundred thousand times, which is pretty remarkable considering that it was Donal’s first movie.
It was featured on the world’s largest health website. It’s also been on the BBC, national newspapers and it was deemed one of the top 10 independent movies of 2013, which is awesome. So, if you haven’t seen that and you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can check out our podcast and just type “Cereal Killers” into Google, because it’s a fantastic documentary on fat adaptation. (Let me get my words right.)
So, he’s now back with his brand-new movie, which is Cereal Killers 2, called Run on Fat, and I must admit I was very excited when I saw this because I think it’s a movie that just needed to be made and at least put that into the mix out there.
And it’s exactly that. It’s about fat adaption and sports performance and elite athleticism and it actually follows the progress of Sami Inkinen who is a World Ironman champion and his wife Meredith and they both decide to row from San Francisco to Hawaii nonstop. I think it took them 45 days, of course, using fat as the primary source of fuel, and they were also monitored and given guidance by Dr. Stephen Phinney, of course, who is a low-carb legend himself, so make sure the movie, check it out. It’s a must, and you’re going to thoroughly enjoy the podcast today, because we get to chat on and on about, yeah, everything that’s within Cereal Killers 2, so I have no doubt you’re going to enjoy it.
If you are listening to this though iTunes, just a simple subscribe to our podcast and also a review would be fantastic. Just helps us get found easier on iTunes and spread the word out there, and, of course, if you are listening to the and you want to come over and see our pretty faces on video or watch these in video, come to 180nutrition.com.au, and we’ve got a heap of resources there to include our free e-book, which I’m very proud of which I wrote. Yeah, it’s a great place to start if you find all of this information a little bit overwhelming.
Anyway, I’m going to stop talking and let’s get into the podcast with Donal. Enjoy.
Guy Lawrence: Hi, this is Guy Lawrence. I’m joined today with Stuart Cooke. Hello, Stewie, as always.
Stuart Cooke: Hello.
Guy Lawrence: And our awesome guest today is Donal O’Neill. Donal, welcome back to the podcast, mate.
Donal O’Neill: Morning, guys.
Guy Lawrence: So, mate, it’s good to have you back on the show and obviously talk about the new movie, Cereal Killers 2, but I thought just before we start getting into that, can you just bring yourself up to speed for anyone that might not have heard of you or the first movie, Cereal Killers?
Donal O’Neill: You mean there are people down there who haven’t heard about us?
Stuart Cooke: I think there were two. There were two that I found, last week.
Donal O’Neill: I thought our last podcast had addressed all of that, well for those that haven’t come across us yet, I’m the producer of Cereal Killers, which was a movie I made with a bit of a personal quest into the whole area of health and wellness and particularly metabolic disorders after my dad who was a, sort of, seemingly fit, healthy sports man took a heart attack.
So I got busy researching why that happened and I was stupid enough to think I could make a feature-length documentary about what I found out and that went kind of okay, so…
Guy Lawrence: You did a fantastic job.
Donal O’Neill: We lost the plot… We’ve done it again, so, here we are.
Guy Lawrence: I remember we were talking to you on the podcast last time and you said this thing just grew and grew and grew, and you ended up getting Dr. Peter Brukner and the Aussie cricket team at the end of the movie and everything, you know, it certainly wasn’t a two-week project by any means by the looks of it. What inspired you to do a second one with Cereal Killers 2 – Run on Fat?
Donal O’Neill: Well, a really interesting thing happened when we ran the Kickstarter account in for Cereal Killers 1. Sami Inkinen contacted me after that campaign and, I’m a big believer in the power of the internet, obviously, you guys would be, too, and Sami just contacted me out of the blue from California. I did not know who he was. He said he wanted to help pump the movie in North America, and Sami is also a tech entrepreneur, so he’s very familiar and capable in this biz, but a long story short, Sami sponsored a screening tour of North America for Cereal Killers 1.
The movie was already made, at that point, and I met him really this time last year for the first time, and we hit it off, got along very well. He’s a World Ironman age group champion, phenomenal athlete, so the bulk of our discussion was around sport and performance and whatnot, and then when we hooked up in San Francisco, we talked some more, and I got to understand really what he himself had done, and I realized that he probably has more data than anybody else on the planet in terms of his journey to fat adaptation in an elite performance model, so I was absolutely fascinated by that.
And he engaged Steve Phinney who came to the premiere in San Francisco last year. It kind of rolled from there. I went and spent some time with Steve Phinney who’s a remarkable man, and the idea for Cereal Killers 2 was born because Sami and his wife Meredith had decided they were going to row across the Pacific. It kind of struck me as a nice story arc with a fantastic scientist center stage, because Steve was advising Sami on his dietary aspects. Yeah, it all just knitted together. It struck me, “This is a strong story,” and the guys agreed to participate and, you know, Steve Phinney in particular had never done anything like this and I just think he’s a man whose time has come and Sami was a wonderful manifestation of his principles, so I just thought the story was strong and the people were interested and willing and finally we got it done.
Guy Lawrence: Great job. Yeah.
Stuart Cooke: Are you expecting any grief from the sports or science fraternity at all?
Donal O’Neill: Well, I absolutely hope so. Yeah, the debate has already started, Stu. Some of them have got a little bit animated, shall we say, about what we’re talking about, and, of course, people look at the title of cereal Killers 2 – Run on Fat and they take that very literally and whatnot, but, listen, what’s going to happen, I have no doubt that Steve Phinney is going to be vindicated and everything he’s been saying for 30-plus years XXaudio glitchXX [0:07:47]
I’ve seen Sami firsthand. I’ve watched this guy train. I’ve watched him go through the motions and this is very, very real, and Tim Noakes makes one comment during the movie which I think it’ll pass a lot of people by but he’s really summed up where sports science could and should be going and it’s certainly where he’s taking it and that’s, the sports scientists in particular, they look at performance from a very acute perspective and that’s if you’re doing a four- or five-minute row or whatever then they’ll assess that particular window which clearly is a very, very short period of time, but note they’re saying that they need to start looking at the performance model much more holistically.
You take an athlete like Sir Steve Redgrave who’s type 2 diabetic, you know, practically while he’s standing on the Olympic podium and it doesn’t make sense and Noakes is saying, “You know, we can do things and we can use the principles of fat adaptation to make athletes healthier.”
And you don’t get the career switch…has a huge monetary impact for many athletes and Phinney touches on that because he knows that a lot of athletes are doing this, particularly older athletes, and they’re using the, you know, the lowered inflammation that they’re seeing in their bodies for quicker recovery and they’re adding one to three years to careers that would otherwise come to an end.
So there’s a lot in this and, obviously, a couple of the Aussie XXrowing? Drill?XX [0:09:21] teams have come out publically that they’re doing it, and one would not really anticipate that, but we can see the switch coming and it’s real and, you know, the argument will be, “Well, you know, fat isn’t an efficient fuel, you know, 70 percent VO2 max performance level.”
But what it’s doing up to that point seems to be creating some pretty dramatic XXaudio cuts outXX [0:09:49] for athletes around the world.
Stuart Cooke: It’s interesting, as well, because where athletes are concerned, you know, power and performance and endurance are buzzwords, but you mentioned healthier, and that just resonated to me for athletes to become better and healthier, as well, because as you said, like, Steve Redgrave being type 2 diabetes is crazy and just hadn’t heard that term before which it just makes you think deeper, I think, into a little bit about what the film is actually about.
Donal O’Neill: Yeah, I mean, I myself, I had a brief and very average international athletics career, but I broke down. I was overtrained and I got very, very seriously injured and, you know, sport at the elite level is, you know, “there’s nothing healthy about race days” is what they say and it’s true, but there’s really not a whole lot healthy about professional sport per se, because, you know, athletes, they get damaged all the time and, you know, we understand that and we’re quite happy to go through that, and if you ask any athletes, “Would you place much emphasis on your longer-term health, or would you rather go to the games?” You know, seven, eight out of 10 are going to say, “I want to go to the games.”
But, you know, that’s the athletes’ temperament, but surely there’s a duty of care there somewhere as well for these sports scientists and nutritionists who are advising them to at least open their eyes to this growing phenomenon because, you know, Sami was contacted by one of the British Olympic rowing team, and one of their mentors, I can tell you, was very vocally against what we’re doing here, but yet there’s somebody on that squad contacting Sami directly saying, “I want to take sugar out of my diet entirely. I can see the benefits of this, etc., etc.” so it’s happening and it will be led by the athletes because there’s XXno defined sightXX [0:11:45]
A vast majority of research comes from carbohydrate interests and, sure the research isn’t there to support this, and that’s what the scientists say, but it’s coming, and it’s coming through some very interesting channels. They’re not traditional channels. The U.S. military are going to be involved in that, and it’ll probably be three, four years down the line because that’s how long these things take before some real heavyweight research hits, but it’s starting to creep out already, and Tim Noakes is on it. He’s, I think, just got some funding for a major study XXhere in ?XX [0:12:21]
It’s coming, but the athletes are getting the benefits and they are not hanging around.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, I mean, people are certainly going to have to take notice of what Sami and his wife have just achieved, you know. Had that row been attempted before?
Donal O’Neill: It’s been done, but obviously they broke the world record. The remarkable thing is that it’s not only what they achieved but what happened to their bodies, because we didn’t have time to go into it, but what other ocean rowers have experienced is that they get off a boat and they’re like ravenous animals, I mean, they’re literally just, they’ll eat anything. And in some respects, Meredith’s performance is even more remarkable than Sami’s because we know that he was an Ironman and all of that, but she got on that boat and got off of it at exactly the same weight. She showed no XX?XX [0:13:17] of any sort.
I mean, I saw a picture of the guys at a concert the day after they got off the boat and you’ve got, like, thousands of people in the shot and you’ve got these two, like, health beacons, and it’s just remarkable. That shot, for me, said more than a lot else. It’s not in the movie, but…
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, I think we should explain for listeners, as well, that it was 44 days straight rowing from San Francisco to Hawaii. Is that correct?
Donal O’Neill: Yeah, 45 days, and they pushed out from Monterey, Guy, and they averaged probably 12 to 14 hours a day, but for the last week, they put in about 20-plus. They weren’t even getting any sleep, but they actually covered…Their best day, in their day they covered more than any other boat in the race, including the four-man crews, and that was in the last week, so it was just astonishing, and, you know, but the test at the end of it, I mean, you’d sworn they come business class to Hawaii. There was no break out on the body. All the enzymes that we see that signal inflammation and breakdown, they just weren’t there, I mean, it was just the protective aspect of the diet was remarkable.
Guy Lawrence: That’s incredible, isn’t it, when you think about that?
Stuart Cooke: We did wonder why you XXaudio cut outXX [0:14:45] as well, Donal.
Donal O’Neill: Yeah, I mean, I was XX?XX [0:14:50]
Stuart Cooke: Maybe CK3.
Donal O’Neill: No, I was behind the camera all the time. I just, I couldn’t come out from behind it, you know, I was, I was, I was with them in spirit. But actually the guy you see in the movie…Sami was due to do it with a buddy of his Patrick Sweeney who was, he rowed in the ’96 Atlanta Olympics. You’ll see him in the movie briefly, and he kind of decided, well, or perhaps Meredith decided, “Listen, I think I should maybe do this with you,” so Patrick he got dumped out of the boat in favor of Meredith for marital reasons, and I’ve met Patrick. He’s about 6-foot-4 or 5 and built like your typical rower, so, probably less interesting, to be quite honest with you, because Patrick wasn’t doing the diet.
Stuart Cooke: I’m just surprised that they managed to stay in that little capsule for that long and go through that amount of exercise and pain and they’re still together. I mean, that’s a triumph in itself. That’s amazing. Crikey!
Donal O’Neill: Well, they’re still together and they’re expecting their first child, so, it’s all going along swimmingly.
Stuart Cooke: So think about sporting industry, I mean, what will they learn from Sami and Meredith’s triumph? I mean, is there, you know, how far reached does this journey touch everybody in their industry? I mean, is it a talking point? Will things change?
Donal O’Neill: They will change through customer demand. You know, we did a lot of research into the energy drinks market and the supplements, these Gu-type supplements, and it’s just a massive industry. They’re not going to go anywhere any time soon, and when you strip all that away, the layers to which they’re involved in sport is quite staggering, because events are sponsored by them and, you know, they’re marketed to just about anyone in the States by Time magazine, as marketed to kids, you know, so they’re very, very aggressive, they’re very, very good at what they do, and if you’re somebody who’s sugar-fueled, you need them.
So you’ve got that magic mix in there, so, it’s something that will take education and it will take time, but you don’t remember that the sports drinks, they’re probably consumed by, 99.9 percent of the people consuming them have nothing to do with sports, they’re probably just a teenager or somebody with a hangover, so, it’s a tough one, and there’s a lot of money, you know…
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. I was going to mention talking as well with Dr. Stephen Phinney, cause, you know, he’s been doing this kind of work for 30 years and is mentioned in the movie as well and you could say he’s only now starting to get recognition for all the work he deserves. I mean, what do you think? Do you think that will happen for Dr. Stephen Phinney? Is he getting the recognition he deserves?
Donal O’Neill: Well, I think you just need to look at the tour he’s just done of Australia, Guy. I think it’s starting to happen, and I thought it was very poignant when he made one of his addresses in Australia, he said it was the biggest crowd he had ever addressed. I think there were over 600 people there, but to me it’s shocking that he has encountered what he’s encountered, but it’s remarkable that he stuck with it.
I asked him about his fellow researchers on his very first paper and what happened to them, where they went, and they’ve all gone on to have stellar careers in places like Harvard, because they decided a few years into this journey that they weren’t going to get funding and they realized they were coming up against brick walls, and Steve Phinney decided he was going to follow the data and, you know, do what he believed in.
So, he’s a remarkable, remarkable person for that. I think that his time is absolutely upon us.
Guy Lawrence: Yes. Fantastic, and it’s fantastic to see him in the movie. I mean, we met him when he came to Sydney and we had dinner with him on the Friday night before the talk, and one of the first things he showed us was Sami’s achievements. He was so proud and so happy to be a part of it.
And he’s such a nice guy, too. He’s so humble and down-to-earth and…
Donal O’Neill: You just know there’s an astonishing intellect. He’s got…and he reminds me of the first time I met I met Tim Noakes, I mean, they’ve got this child-like fascination, and they’ve got this absolutely cutting edge scientific brain and, you know, Steve, he just…A lot of people have fed off his work and have used it for their own, for their own benefit, but, I mean, he’s the guy. It all starts with him, and, you know, I think Jeff Volek is really going to carry through with the faster study, which is over very soon.
We got a glimpse of that. We could only show so much of that in the movie, but it’s, I believe, it’s been published sometime around now, and that’s the first big study that’s going to really rattle the cages. Keep it going.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, any other sporting disciplines you think that are adopting this way of eating, from what you’ve seen? Have you planted any seeds elsewhere?
Donal O’Neill: Well, the XX?XX [0:20:53] sports were very interesting because they’re, you know, the scientists always refer to cycling trials or runners or whatever the steady-state, endurance-type events, and Tim Noakes says that they’re looking at these parameters in performance in a very acute fashion, because, you know, what about things like concentration? What about the mistake at the end of the game?
I know from playing Gaelic football, you know, after 55, 60 minutes of that, you’re taking hits. You’re knackered. You make a split decision and it goes the wrong way. You could lose the game. Same goes for soccer, Aussie rules, so the athletes in the field sports who are adopting it are, and they’re kind of cycling carbs a little bit, what they appear to be benefitting from as well as physically is an increase in mental performance because their ability to make a split-second decision is enhanced.
Sports like golf, tennis, I mean, Mardy Fish was a great example of this. He used it to lose a considerable amount of weight and extend his professional tennis career at the very top level, so that’s the part that people are missing. I think golfers would benefit enormously from it. Again, one slip up and your round’s gone in that sport, so, I think it’s going to keep up. There are a lot of athletes using it we don’t know about, and I think it’s going up.
Guy Lawrence: It’s mainly just endurance sports, though, isn’t it? Anything that’s long duration. Do you know of any doing high-intensity shorter stuff for this kind of…?
Donal O’Neill: One of the things that the sports scientists have been unable to answer me on is a sport which involves weight categorization or weight-dependence. I mean, I myself was a high-jumper, and if I could’ve dropped even half a kilo or a kilo and maintained physical power, my strength-to-weight ratio would’ve improved, I would’ve been a better specimen for high-jumping, so I XX?XX [0:23:17]
They’ve done this study, one of the studies has shown with a lead gymnast is that over a one-month adaptation period, and this is the problem, you know, scientists point to these trials and say, “Oh, it doesn’t work,” but they don’t fat-adapt the athlete long enough, and that’s a huge, huge issue in this, so with a lead gymnast, they discovered that after one month there was no loss of power, everything was pretty much the same, but their weight had dropped slightly by half of a kilo.
And I know if you do that with a long-jumper or a triple-jumper, you know, pole vaulter, you’re going to have a very significant benefit because those are events where one centimeter is the difference between winning and losing or a world record or not, so there’s something in this for some niche little areas. I know some MMA fighters who are using it, and they’re doing it because when they go to cut they will drop ten kilos plus in some cases to get to their fighting weight, but they can walk around comfortably even one to two kilos less then it means the cut they’re down to losing eight kilos.
Because for them it’s about getting into the ring as powerful as possible after that weigh-in, so it’s a pretty dramatic impact on the body and if they can take the edge off that in the end it’s, you’re talking small margins but that’s what professional sport is, it’s about these really small margins.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Yeah. I think a very foreign concept to think in, to increase your fat to drop your body weight, when you go and, like, it’s a far cry from counting calories. Or do you think an elite, like an MMA fighter or an elite athlete would still count the calorie of the fat that they’re eating, or do you think they’ll just play it by ear a bit?
Donal O’Neill: I think, you know, athletes are so tuned in to their bodies, I think they’ll find their way if they dedicate themselves to it, but there’s also this idea it’s not going to work for absolutely everyone. I mean none of these things are one-size-fits-all, but it’s a tool, but I think the athletes are in a position to listen and understand pretty quickly what’s happening in their bodies, so I think they’ll find their own way.
I don’t know that there’s a computation or a, you know, equation that you can use and just throw it out there. I think they need to listen to what’s happening.
Guy Lawrence: …find their way a bit.
Donal O’Neill: The one guy to watch in this space who I think is going to become one of the biggest names out there is Dominic D’Agostino at the, let’s see, he’s in Pensacola, Florida, and he’s been financed by the U.S. military for over the last nine years researching the whole area of ketones and performance and, you know, the military have gone on a bit of a solo run on this. They’re trying to create the perfect war fighter, and they’re not interested in, you know, double blind trials.
They’ve been using ketones to, Dominic’s been researching, you don’t need to use exogenous ketones to combat some of the interruptions they’re getting during deep diving training maneuvers, so the Navy SEALs, they tend to get epileptic fit-type scenarios, and they’re just worried that there’s something in exogenous ketones that proffer a protective a protective element on the soldiers.
So they’re doing some astonishing research and Dominic himself is a part of it. He’s a huge, powerful man, but he’s looking at ketones in performance as well, so powerlifting is an interesting one because Jeff Volek was a competitive powerlifter who used a ketogenic diet to maintain body weight and, obviously, that strength to weight ratio we’re talking about again, so he was able to compete at a lower body weight without any loss of power.
So in a sport like that there’s a huge explosive element and it seems to me that the explosive part required not such that it depletes the glycogen stored entirely, so they’re somewhere between. I asked Phinney what the, you know, where is the magic number and they don’t really know. They know that it’s not a suitable approach for a 100-meter sprinter, but it works well for your gymnast or your powerlifter and, you know, they don’t know where that ends, but it strikes me that, in its purest form, the very explosive literally split-second events where there’s weight dependency, they can really, really benefit from this type of approach.
Guy Lawrence: There you go. There you go. With the military, will that, will they be releasing any sort of studies on that in the near future or is that something that’s going to be ongoing or…?
Donal O’Neill: Well, Dominc’s doing some research that I know will become publically available in due course, but clearly with the military they’re not going to be putting out posters any time with results, but I spoke to him recently for the first time and he’s a remarkable guy. I think you should try and get him on the podcast, actually, because he’s…
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, sounds awesome, yeah.
Donal O’Neill: Yeah, if you want to get to the center of the ketone universe, he’s the guy in the loop.
Guy Lawrence: Another question while we’re on all of this. If an athlete, like a higher-end athlete, who carb-loads stopped you on the street tomorrow and wanted to improve their diet and performance and asked you questions, what would your advice be to him in a nutshell?
Donal O’Neill: Well, that actually happened quite recently with one of the MMA fighters here, so my first advice was, and again, I got back to something that Noakes said. He believes no athlete requires more than 200 grams of carbs a day, respective of what you’re doing, and I think if you can dial back on the carbs that there certainly seems to be longer-term benefits to be accrued from doing so, but if you can take away the fast, cheap fuel in favor of real food and a higher quality fat content, there are benefits in that.
And I think it’s paramount that athletes start to look at the longevity of their careers or rather their coaches do, because it’s very difficult to ask a 22-year-old kid to think about putting another year or two on the back of their career. They’re not interested. They just want to win now. So that’s why I think the whole circle of influence becomes important, but any athlete who pulls out the fast, cheap fuels, I think is going to see, they’re going to see a benefit when they look back on their career.
If that’s going to be, you know, immediate, I don’t know, but for some it is. For others it won’t be, but I know long term there will certainly be benefits to be had from forgetting the conventional carb-filled approach.
Guy Lawrence: I often wonder about, you know, athletes that are prone to a lot of injuries, as well, and how much their diet would be affecting that outcome, as well, you know? And adopting a higher fat diet for endurance is like a preventative measure for injury, as well, you know?
Donal O’Neill: I mean Peter Brukner has spoken about the benefits to some of the Aussie cricketers and he’s told me privately he’s seen things that have just astonished him as a doctor and he’s embarrassed almost that it’s taken him this long to arrive to this conclusion, and again the scientists will say, “That’s anecdotal.”
Well, you know, the L.A. Lakers are one of the highest profile franchises in world sport. And they don’t do things with anecdotal returns. They do things because of return to the scoreboard and the XXbank balls? 0:31:55.000XX. So, equally, the pro Aussie XX?XX [0:32:00] teams that are doing this, they’re doing this because it works. That’s just how it is and that’s how it’s going to roll.
And I think athletes are kind of like, if a member of the general public gets sick all of a sudden they tend to start looking at their diet and get very concerned about it, athletes don’t really give a shit if they’re winning and they’re healthy. They’re not going to change anything, but you get an athlete that is starting to maybe feel the pinch or picking up a few injuries, they will, and that’s why I think the older athletes have adapted and adopted this much faster and I think that’s going to be the way in and it’ll trickle down slowly.
But it’s there, and I think the big term you’ll hear, because the scientists won’t want to stop talking about fat adaptation, you’ll hear terms in metabolic flexibility and this type of thing and the interesting thing for me is that sports science has never defined what a low-carbohydrate diet is, so they’ve done studies where somebody’s on a 150 grams a day and they perceived that to be low-carbohydrate. Now that may be low-carbohydrate against five, six hundred that some athletes are taking at the moment, but I know some of the field sport athletes in particular, they’re doing maybe 50, certainly less than a hundred grams a day and they might go up to 150 on match day. So over a week, you know, they’re taking maybe 20 percent of the carbs they once were or less, and yet sports science says, “That’s not low-carb,” because they’ve gone to 150 or 200 on match day.
And I tell them, “Well, why don’t you XXlay down your markXX [0:33:43] you’ve yet to actually define what a low-carbohydrate diet is, so your research really ain’t worth shit to me.” And that’s how I get, but Gatorade ain’t going to sponsor that research anytime soon, are they?
Guy Lawrence: No, you’re exactly right, you know, but it is great, mate, and I was so excited to see this movie being made and come out, because it’s a topic that nobody seems to delve into. It’s very hard to find and almost considered taboo, but it’s totally not, you know? To me, it makes a lot of common sense, you know? Just to touch on the topic, I remember, you know, working as a fitness trainer at the university in Sydney for a long time, and I got exposed to, like I mentioned before, charity with cancer patients and they were all about using a ketone diet, increasing their fats, and it was the first time I heard about that and it was about eight years ago and I was like, “What is going on?”
And then actually coming back into the sporting facilities and trying to find more information, because I was then lost, I’m like, “Well, how do I apply this?” Because everyone’s all about carb-loading, preparing for these games and sports day and eating X amount of carbohydrates in the week, and it was just like this torture for a while because I was clueless what to do. And then I was slowly chipping away and investigating, so, yeah, I think it’s, I just think it’s excellent, and every bloody athlete should at least watch it and be an open mind, you know?
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, it’s certainly opened my mind, that’s for sure.
Donal O’Neill: That’s all you can hope for, people to take a look and make their own conclusion, you know? Try it, but…something for everyone. I think it’s a different movie than Cereal Killers. It’s obviously totally focused on performance, but, you know, athletes will drive this. A big-name athlete who’s endorsing real food is an incredibly powerful statement, and too many of them are endorsing Gatorade and Powerade, you know, using whatnot.
It’ll be a big statement when they start to emerge and I think if your cricketers win the World Cup down there, then that would be a great starting point.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Stuart Cooke: Time will tell. How are you eating now, Donal? because on Cereal Killers 1, like, you were, really pushed the high-fat to an extreme where you were into ketosis and saw the benefits from that. Are you still doing that? Or have you dialed it back a little? What are you doing now?
Donal O’Neill: I do cycle in some carbohydrate. I’m probably two kilos heavier than I was at the conclusion of Cereal Killers, which for me is a difference between looking kind of ill. I’m keeping my wife happy, so I’m not somebody who strives to be in ketosis all the time, by any stretch. I cycle in some carbohydrates when I’m training and on the weekends, but it’s still, I still eat a very low-carbohydrate diet with an emphasis on fats. I’ve introduced some MCT oil and stuff like that.
I researched ketogenic diets that bit further on the cancer angle is astonishing for me and that’s something I researching at the moment. When you go all the way back to, I think, 1934 when Otto Warburg won the Nobel Prize. It’s strange to me that so many things went wrong around the middle of the last century. We’ve got a duty to open the book on them and, perhaps, revisit them, but I mean, my health since I started eating this way, I haven’t been sick for a day. It’s been remarkable.
Guy Lawrence: That’s fantastic. How long have you been eating this way, Donal?
Donal O’Neill: It’s probably been a good four or five years now.
Stuart Cooke: Okay, and just for our listeners out there, and we might even have asked you this before, but just could you outline what you ate yesterday? Just very briefly so we can get a handle on what high-fat really means to us all.
Donal O’Neill: Yesterday wouldn’t be a typical day because, as you guys now, one of the things about eating this way is that you wake up some days and you’re; you’re just not hungry. Yesterday was one of those days. It was an unexpected fast. I didn’t eat very much at all, but a typical day, so this morning I just had, you know, my coffee with some MCT oil, some coconut oil and heavy cream, so that’ll be my kickoff to the day. We find the good thing about being in Capetown, I mean, it’s like, surely, you’ve got some amazing food resources here which are by international standards are very cheap, so we get some fantastic pastured hen eggs here, and pasture-raised bacon and grass-fed beef and ostrich and all types of stuff, so I’ll have a couple of eggs with avocado.
One of my favorite breakfasts is a little coffee shop across the road. They do an avo breakfast which is going to become world-famous I think, man. They take half an avo, they stuff it with cream cheese and a bit pesto and then throw bacon on top, and it’s magnificent.
Guy Lawrence: Wow!
Donal O’Neill: So, that’s one of my favorite breakfasts, and at lunch time I make quite a few smoothies, but I throw in, I’m just about to throw out a blog on my smoothie of the day, but again I have half of avo in there, an egg, if I’m feeling heavy I’ll throw in a banana, berries, MCT oil, coconut oil, macadamia nut butter, and stuff, a bunch of stuff like that, so that’ll get me through the afternoon, if I’m hungry, and then typically I train late afternoon and then dinner is just, yeah, it’s a high-quality protein source and then lots of veg cooked in coconut oil or butter. Dark chocolate off the back of that, glass of red wine and you’re done.
Stuart Cooke: Perfect, perfect.
Guy Lawrence: Smoothies are a Godsend, right?
Stuart Cooke: They are, yeah.
Donal O’Neill: I got one of those little NutriBullet devices there for Christmas, so I threw in the nuts and everything right into the smoothie and they’re great, but…Great device, but I have to say you should read their dietary recommendations. I think they’re pumping veganism now. You’re only allowed four eggs XXaudio cuts outXX [0:40:25] nutritional advice, but…
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, we had a question about eggs, didn’t we, Guy, on Instagram the other day. Do you remember?
Guy Lawrence: “How many eggs can you eat a day?” That’s right, and Shane, who I actually, who I know chipped in, and he said he for six weeks had 180 eggs a week and had his bloods done before and after, and he said they were exactly the same.
Stuart Cooke: That’s right. I certainly didn’t expect that answer.
Guy Lawrence: I know. It was great!
Donal O’Neill: I think the self-experimentation has gone the way of the ultra-runner. It’s no good to run a mile, I think, anymore you’ve got to run 100 miles without stopping, I think…
Guy Lawrence: Exactly, yeah, yeah, yeah. So what’ve you got planned for the future? Anything exciting coming up in the pipeline?
Donal O’Neill: Yeah, well, we’ve actually been approached about a third movie. Obviously, every time you do this, you kind of take a six-figure risk, and I’m taking the risk, so you just need one bad day at the office and it’s XXaudio cuts outXX [0:41:33] So we’ve been approached about a very exciting concept for the third movie which is actually cancer-related. So I’m researching that at the moment, and I think it would be…I just lost my godfather to cancer very recently and if there’s something we could do in that space and do it well, I would love to give it a shot It would be a remarkable project, but it’s early days, but that’s something that I’m just getting into researching quite heavily at the moment.
Beyond that, I think it’s just going to be the case of getting Run on Fat out there. We’re going to do the worldwide premiere on February 2nd in San Francisco. So we have Sami and Meredith, and Steve Phinney, and some of the other folks in the movie coming along to that. So that’ll be a little bit of fun, and we’ll drive it out from there. Then we release online. It’ll go through the same channels as before.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Stuart Cooke: Is Sami rowing back from Hawaii to see you in San Francisco? Is that what he’s doing?
Donal O’Neill: No, I’m rowing over. I’m actually in tomorrow, so I’m rowing over to see him, you know…
Guy Lawrence: From Capetown, yeah.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, we’ll Skype you. That’s awesome.
Guy Lawrence: So what’s the best…For anyone who wants to check out the movie, what’s the best URL to go to, Donal?
Donal O’Neill: They can go to RunOnFatMovie.com.
Guy Lawrence: Excellent, and we’ll share all the appropriate links and send this out anyway, and, yeah, help get the word out there. You’ve done a fantastic job again, mate, and…
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, brilliant.
Guy Lawrence: Brilliant, and really appreciate you coming on the show.
Donal O’Neill: Well, thanks for having me. We’re looking forward to growing the audience Down Under. We’ve had an incredible reception in Australia thanks to you guys, and Rob Taylor, and Peter Brukner, and everybody down there. So, it’s just been amazing, and I think there’s a lot of good stuff happening in Australia, and I think you need to export some of that message to Ireland in a hurry, boys, because the country of my birth is in trouble and nobody’s listening, but I really think there’s something happening Down Under.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah. We should do just that.
Guy Lawrence: Awesome.
Donal O’Neill: Excellent.
Stuart Cooke: All right, okay, well, we will talk to you soon, hopefully.
Guy Lawrence: Very soon.
Donal O’Neill: Thank you, guys.
Guy Lawrence: Thanks, Donal. Cheers, mate.
Stuart Cooke: Thank you, buddy.
Guy Lawrence: Bye.
Donal O’Neill: Have a good one.
Guy:Working in the fitness industry for almost 10 years, I would get exposed to hundreds of people each week. It was during this time that I got to understand the public perception of the exercise and fitness world.
Being in the firing line every day I got to cut through the noise, confusion and misconceptions of it all and felt inspired to write this post. So if you find yourself practicing any of the below, maybe it’s time to rethink your strategy.
1. Sit-ups Burn Belly Fat
I can’t tell you how many people would be doing sit-ups, medball twists and crunches because they wanted their stomach and obliques (side ab’s) flat and toned. I know many athletes and weightlifters that have abs popping without doing a single sit-up. Why is this you may ask? Drum roll please… It’s because they understand nutrition, reduce inflammation and work with fundamental exercises that activate the core. Crunches give you strong abdominals, the fat that sits on top of that is a whole different story. If this sounds a little foreign to you and you want to learn more, download our free eBook here.
2. Running for Weight Loss
It’s a common sight, people pounding the streets or spending hours on the treadmill with weight loss as their goal. At first glance this seems like the right thing to do, but the simple answer is this – if you are running for weight loss, your diet is wrong.
This is the greatest fear with women but I would see it with men occasionally too who don’t want bulky thighs and giant biceps! If only it was that easy. Lifting weights is one of the best strategies for increasing metabolism, toning the body, steadying blood sugars and burning body fat. Did you know fat occupies 4 to 5 times more space than muscle? If you exchanged 5kg of body fat for 5kg of muscle you would reduce your body size and have a more toned definition. This is why weighing scales should only be used to weigh your suitcase when you are going on holidays. Learn more reasons why weights are awesome here.
4. You Need to Carb Load
This is the strategy we are taught as fitness trainers and is even more applicable to endurance athletes. Ramp up those carb’s to get you through your workout. The short answer to this is that there are many studies showing that fat adapted athletes respond better than carb loaders. Carb’s are reduced and natural fats are increased with some of the benefits of delivering quicker recovery times, reduced inflammation, less injuries, steady long lasting energy and reduced excess body fat. If you want the more scientific answer, listen to our full interview with running legend Professor Tim Noakes here.
5. Spend Hours in the Gym to Get Fit & Buff
There’s a big perception that more exercise means more results, whether it be muscle building or weight loss. That is so simplistic it’s not funny as there are so many variables at play. There really is a minimum effective dose when it comes to results, and with the multitude of factors in place like nutrition (yes that means eating real foods and avoiding marketing fads), intensity, variation, recovery periods, sleep, type of exercise etc, you must have a clear understanding of all of these to realise your own true potential. They say a six pack is made in the kitchen, and I tend to agree with this. If you understand and implement all the other factors you’ll be the envy of all your friends in half the time :)
6. The Single Best Exercise for Weight Loss
This kind of marketing drives me nuts. I’m all for educating people and simplifying things so it’s digestible and easier to understand, but TV and dodgy advertising tends to skew the message. I would get constantly asked what the best exercise for weight loss was, and my answer would always be the same… ‘do you want the fluffy chocolate covered strawberry answer, or do you want the facts? Sorry to tell you that there is no single best exercise for weight loss… But if you want just the straight facts then watch this short video (2 ½ mins) with us and Australian Institute of Kettlebells founder Dan Henderson.
7. Yoga is for Women, Vegan’s & Tree Huggers
Being a male yoga fan, I had to include this one as I swear some of my mates think that I’m the only guy (pun intended) in the class breathing through one nostril and visualising flowers. To all the guys out there who are reading this, get in there as you are missing out! Especially if you’re an athlete or take your sport seriously, as I’ve seen many of them greatly improve their flexibility and mobility. Personally I practice two to three times a week and mine has gone through the roof. Physically and mentally I’ve found this the perfect counter-balance to the intensive training I do and it compliments it perfectly. There is also magic to be found in a Yin style class (i’m addicted), and I would urge anyone with high workout routines to check them out too. Yoga’s popularity over the years has grown massively for a reason, so don’t let the ego get in the way ;) Watch this 2 min clip with ex army officer Duncan Peak why athletes benefit from yoga.
The video above is 02:19 long. Use your time wisely ;)
Duncan Peak is founder of Power Living Australia Yoga (P.L.A.Y). He’s also a very cool guy & we chat to him about his life as a former army officer, nearly dying, and becoming one of Australia’s most authoritative figures in yoga.
Full Interview with Duncan Peak: Power Living to the Modern Yoga
In this episode we talk about:-
A individuals journey that takes an unexpected twist that we all benefit from
A dramatic change in life path that’s lead to building a legacy (his franchise) that we all benefit from as a result
There are a lot of assumptions about yoga. Is yoga what you think it is?
Why yoga & Crossfit are a great fit & strong men struggle with downward dog
Why yoga suits the modern man/women & the unsuspecting masculine guy
Yoga…much more than a physical journey and a place to find women in figure hugging attire
Guy Lawrence: Hi, this is Guy Lawrence of 180 Nutrition, and welcome to podcast episode number 21. Today our special guest is Mr. Duncan Peak. Now, if you’ve never heard of him, he’s the founder of the amazingly successful Power Living Australia Yoga, also known as PLAY, and he touches the lives of over 6,000 people each week. He’s one of the most well-respected yoga teachers here in Australia and teaches workshops, teacher-trainings, retreats, pretty much all over the world and so it’s a privilege to have him here today.
So, today, he’s actually sharing with us a story of how an army officer, which is what he was, he also had a near-death experience, ends up doing yoga and becomes very authoritative in it, as well. So, we’re very excited to have him on.
If you are listening to this on iTunes, really appreciate the review. The reviews help us get our rankings up, which then, in turn, help us get this message out there to other people, and then go on and, obviously, inspire other people, and then, yeah, so, if you just sit back and enjoy the show, and let’s go over to Duncan.
Awesome. All right. Let’s get into it. Hi, I’m Guy Lawrence. I’m joined with Mr. Stuart Cook, as always, and our very special guest today, Mr. Duncan Peak. Duncan, thanks for joining us, mate. Really appreciate it.
Duncan Peak: Thanks for having me.
Guy Lawrence: Look, it’s awesome, mate. There’s a couple of reasons that, A, was really excited to get your story out to the show, to the show, to our listeners, and B, hopefully, that story will convince theory in doing a bit more yoga, as well, a little while. But, I’m sure you get asked this question a lot, mate, but, you know, an army officer, a first-grade Rugby Union player, to now, you know, becoming a very authoritative figure in the yoga world. How the hell did that happen?
Duncan Peak: Yeah, I suppose it seems really contradictory to why, but I think the same discipline really drives the practice. I think; yoga has an aspect to it we call Tapas that’s a fierce sort of flame and drive within you. It’s a yearning towards to an enlightened state or to have a practice that’s going to achieve, you know, that development of your character. I think, just, the army was a life situation where I chose to go there when I was a young kid and sorted my life out and gave me the direction, and it was a lot of fun, to be honest, and then, yeah, just events happened that moved me into the yoga world.
I’ve been doing yoga most of my life or meditation, most of my life, and so I, yeah, I just sort of fell into the yoga world, and it was more a XXaudio glitchXX 0:02:45 than a quest to become an authority in the yoga world.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. It’s just sort of just like we spoke just before the recording, just sort of following your passion, and it’s evolved into that. When you say you started yoga at a young age, what age would that have been at?
Duncan Peak: Well, I did my first, sort of, meditation slash yoga class when I was about 15. I was with the family I was living with who were just taking care of me and their father had lived in India for about 11 years, and he just taught us what’s called raja yoga.
It’s a very traditional style of yoga. It’s mainly focusing on your mind and trying to meditate or concentrate your mind, and so that’s when I first started, and then I just used meditation to deal with all the stress and some grief that I was going through at a young age. I’d lost some people really close to me and, yeah, just kept doing it throughout my life, and when I was about 25 I eventually got into the physical style of yogaÉmaybe a little bit younger than that, and started to do what you see now, today’s style of living.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Wow. Yeah, you know, because when I watched you speak XXthrough Eloise the other weekXX 0:03:46 you mentioned, as well, an incident in the jungle. It really touched me, as well, I thought that was incredible, and would you mind sharing that bit of a story with us, as well?
Duncan Peak: Yeah. For sure. So, I went to the military. I was an officer in the Royal Military College, Duntroon, and then I became a paratrooper for three years and then worked at the Special Forces training center for three years as a captain. And during that time I did lots of exercises and in one of the exercises I was asked to, well, it’s part of training and selection for things to do seven days without food and walk about, I don’t know, 250 kilometers in that week and get about two hours’ sleep a night, if that, and you get a tiny bit of food, but it’s like a mouthful of food on the third day, and, yeah, they challenge you with a lot of raw, sort of, disgusting foods, to see if you’ll eat it.
But it’s to test your levels of leadership and high-levels of stress. And, anyway, I did the course, and I finished the course, and, on the last day, I handed him my radio and all my flares and things like that, because you’re alone a lot of the time on the course, and then they said, “You know, beeline that way to the clearing, and that’s where you’ll get picked up,” and so I did, and I took my bearing and went there, and on the way walking there after I finished the course I felt this pain in my stomach, and, of course, I’d had pains in my stomach all week, and every time I’d spoken to anyone about it, they’d say, “Well, of course, you have pains in your stomach. You haven’t eaten for seven days.”
So I just, sort of, pushed myself, you know, beyond my limits and went, “Suck it up, you know. Stop being a girl,” and pushed myself. Anyway, I was walking and there was, like, real pain in my stomach, and I got down on one knee and just pulled my water bottle out and was there drinking my water bottle and, as I did, it felt like boiling water was just rushing my stomach. Something felt like it tore in there, and I was completely incapacitated.
I couldn’t move, and I hit the ground, and I was, sort of, in the middle of the jungle, nowhere, and very rare that somebody was going to find me, and I was there for about three hours, I think it was, beforeÉwhich was a whole process I went through of dealing with the pain, because it was excruciating. It was the most amount of pain I’d ever felt, and then I’m dealing with the fact that no matter how tough or physical or, you know, focused I was, it wasn’t going to help me. I couldn’t move and getting at peace with that and, you know, things like accepting my father and accepting the way I was and my mother and just the whole upbringing and losing, really, people close to me very young in my life, all that, sort of, came up, and it was a wonderful spiritual experience in the end. And then, towards the end of that three hours, just luckily, another guy was walking a very similar path that I was and found me, and he carried me to a road and eventually got me help. I was pretty much unconscious by this time and just completely out of it from the pain.
And it took about eight hours before they got me to an operating table, and they diagnosed me with a ruptured appendix and then cut me open and went in to have a look at my appendix and realized it wasn’t my appendix. My appendix was fine, but they took that out anyways.
Stuart Cooke: Oh!
Guy Lawrence: How do you do?
Duncan Peak: Just to get that scar there and, you know, it never happened that you had a ruptured appendix. People wouldn’t diagnose you, so they’d harvest your organ.
Guy Lawrence: Oh, wow!
Duncan Peak: And then, anyway, they cut me from basically top of my chest down to my belly button and just searched around until they found I had a ruptured duodenal ulcer. So my duodenum, the second part of your, the part after your stomach, and it had perforated and was leaking out and, you know, an injury like that, it could kill you in a matter of hours, and, you know, I was lucky enough to survive for however long it was, eight hours, before they got to me.
And then I woke up the next day and, yeah, my beautiful mother was there holding my hand when I woke up, and I had tubes coming out of me, and I had, you know, five-inch incisions down here and another six- or seven-inch incision up here, and I’d gone from being like a super soldier, you know, I was fit and healthy and as strong as you can be to pretty ripped apart, and I sort of knew then that would lead to my discharge from the army and, eventually, problems that happened from that, rebuilding my core and things like that, and another injury I had through football, they discharged me from the army, and that’s when I left at about 25 years of age.
Through the process of rebuilding my core was how I got into the physical style of yoga, and that was sort of like a blessing in disguise, you know? It was what started Power Living in one way, but it ended a career that I was really enjoying in another way.
Guy Lawrence: Wow, I mean, if that had not happened, do you think your life would look very different today?
Duncan Peak: You know I often wonder about that. One of my best friends is the commanding officer of the SAS at the moment, and he was, you know, right alongside us doing all the stuff we were doing, and, you know, I wonder if I would have followed that path. I’m not sure. I don’t know if my heart and my moralistic fiber was in doing that completely. I think it was more of a life decision that changed me to do that.
So, I’m not sure whether I would’ve on my own natural causes got out. I think I would’ve stayed in the army a little bit longer and done a few more things and achieved things in there that I wanted to do, but I think eventually I would’ve got out, but I’m not sure if yoga would’ve ever evolved the way it did. It was never a vision for me to be a yoga teacher or to create the business that we’ve got.
Guy Lawrence: That’s insane, because they often say, you know, adversity is almost like the universe giving you a little nudge into your path that you should be doing, you know?
Stuart Cooke: That’s pretty deep, Guy. Just saying.
Guy Lawrence: I believe it.
Stuart Cooke: So, Duncan, if, for all of our listeners out there that aren’t or haven’t fully connected with yoga, could you explain the benefits? Because, you know, Guy’s certainly a big advocate for yoga. I’m just kind of exploring it. So, from an outsider’s perspective, you know, is it a little bit more than dudes in tight fishing pants performing a few strange poses?
Duncan Peak: It’s mostly girls, not so much dudes. They’re getting a lot more into it now, but look at yoga, if we think of the word yoga, that’s as broad a term as fitness, and I think that’s what a lot of people misunderstand straight away is that within yoga there are so many ways we can practice it, have beliefs around it, so that’s one big thing to consider is that in the style that we’ve done, it’s called hatha vinyasa yoga, it’s the main style. We call it Power Yoga. It’s just a marketing name, basically, even though it is a very powerful style of yoga. They’re not really traditional style of names that have come from ages.
Most of the yoga that we practice these days is only about a hundred years old, but the philosophy that goes with it dates back, you know, eons. So, there’s really a few aspects of it. There’s your physical flexibility and agility and range of motion that is very popular. Stretching. Vinyasa practice. Out of that, the yogis believe we unlock energetic pathways, very similar to Chinese medicine philosophy of meridian channels. We call them Nadi channels. So, we unlock energy movement and flow within the body.
And then there’s the third aspect to it, which is training your mind, and this is the aspect where I’m so passionate about is understanding deep belief systems that you have, that you’re unconscious of, but they control your behavioral patterns, and the yogis call these vasanas, and it’s what makes up a character.
If you can consider, character’s very hard to change. Like, you can go and put on a new pair of tights or wear different clothes or listen to additional music or drive a new car, move to a new town, take up new sports, and you’ve got a different personality, but you put that same person under stress and they’re going to react in the same way, because their character is still the same.
And, so, yoga doesn’t look to change your personality. There’s no ideal spiritual personality. People get lost in trying to change their personalities, but it’s nothing to do with your personality. You actually want to transcend the personality, and we’re trying to change our character, and we’re trying to change our character into being, embodying the virtues of, like, compassion, you know, kindness, love, courage, all those sorts of, you know, things we talk about that have high moralistic fiber.
And so through the practice of yoga, whether it’s a physical practice and being mindful about the reactions you have, or whether it’s sitting in meditation and observing what the patterns of your mind are and how hard it is to really focus your mind, we’re trying to change the same thing in that we’re trying to evolve our character to be less reactive, what we call equanimous, so that we have a more peaceful life, and then, if we can do that, so they say, and I don’t know this from experience, but we can have an enlightened mind, which is a mind that is always like that, and that’s what yoga aims to do in all of its facets. And then anything within that that you’re doing toward that stilling your mind could be considered a practice of yoga.
Stuart Cooke: I’m sold! I’m just going to sign up for a course now. Where did it originate from? Where’s it come from?
Duncan Peak: It’s from India originally in the oldest books of time, called the vedas, and originally it was really only passed down. They believe it came, and, again, this is a bigger concept and they believe it came from the Rishis which passed it, which it means “great seers” which interpreted it from their experiences in meditation from a more of a collective consciousness, and, again, that’s up to everybody to decide whether they believe that sort of stuff, but they believe it came from that level of higher knowledge and then disseminated through great teachers and then slowly through, it was then transcribed into books in the really early, you know, 400 B.C., things like that, and then eventually, you know, you see it evolve into the modern yoga, sort of, evolution that we have happening today.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, right, because yoga’s definitely growing in popularity. There’s no doubt about that. It’s unbelievable. Like, I remember growing up in Wales. It was all rugby, union, and beer, basically, and how much you could bench press. I don’t think even yoga was on my radar when I was in my teens and early 20s and, but even I went back to Wales recently and saw that, you know, yoga’s popping up everywhere there, and it was changing there, too.
So, why do you think it’s growing? Do you think there’s a need for it, you know, because people are so stressed out?
Duncan Peak: You know, people believe people go to yoga to stretch. That’s sort of a common belief out there. They might turn up for those reasons, but they stay because of the mental health benefits. It’s that there’s something that occurs for them in the asana practice or whatever style of yoga that they’re doing that they don’t get out of normal exercise or other activities, and it’s just a clarity of your mind. It’s self-awareness. You’re getting to know yourself better.
I just think with the mounting stress that we have and the generation of, “Just suck it up and deal with it,” is sort of slowly passing, and our generation who are having children are a bit more open to spiritual ways and alternative ways of thinking. I think that’s just, sort of, you know, started to create a newer generation who’ve grown up with yoga being accepted. The middle generation, like us, who are like, “Okay, well, it is acceptable,” rather than not off the radar, and then our parents who, you know, not so many of them even had opportunities to understand what it’s all about. So, I think it’s just the education within the world, and then the quality of what it is compared to anything else out there. It’s just, it’s common sense, so people they need to do it if they want to be happy and peaceful in this world.
Guy Lawrence: I have to say, as well, like, I, my girlfriend drug me on a yoga retreat in Thailand not too long ago, and, you know, it was the first time I ever did yoga six days straight, and it was two-and-a-half hours in the morning, I think. It was a half-hour meditation and then a two-hour practice, and I felt something shift by the end of the six days, and it was hard to explain. I was trying to explain it to Stewie, and, yeah, it was amazing. Unless you actually put yourself through that experience, it’s hard to actually get that across, as well. You know?
Duncan Peak: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I say that about yoga experiences is that words will never do it justice, you know. Words always imply a limited perspective on the experiences that you can have, and that’s really what yoga, you know, it’s hard to describe yoga, the experience of yoga, but once you experience it, it’s just obvious. It’s like, “Wow, that’s a state that we should be in at times.” A state of consciousness that we should experience.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, definitely. Yeah. Hey, I’m just checking. Stewie, you there? Hang on.
Duncan Peak: We lost him?
Guy Lawrence: We lost him. I’ll bring him backÉbecause I went toÉHe’s back.
Stuart Cooke: I’m back, mate. I’ve signed up. I’m good to go.
Duncan Peak: Yeah, I thought you’d rushed down to the studio then. Or freaked you out. One of the two.
Stuart Cooke: I was interested, thinking about the things that you’d said, where would somebody like me start? With, obviously, the different types of yoga that you’ve got, with meditation, and all the movements, where would I start?
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, good question.
Duncan Peak: It’s hard to answer that question. It depends on you as a person. To really know that, yeah, I’d have to know you really well, but I think for, just generally, people should just rock down to their local yoga studios, maybe try three or four out, and if they feel, when they walk in the doors of a yoga studio, that they feel like they belong there, that it’s a place where they’re comfortable, and they enjoy the teachings that are there and the process that they go through, then just stick with that one and start to learn from them and, you know, over time, you’ll meet the people that are meant to teach you, soÉ
There’s that way. There’s a lot of online yoga, where you can watch it, but I think, for me, and our business, especially Power Living, it’s the community aspect of the experience is so important, and to have, you know, likeminded people and that positive energyÉWe always call our studios the House of Positivity, you know? Because you walk in there, and it is, it’s just constant positive energy, and you go there, and that’s just good to have that top you up every day.
So, I just think people should try and find places like that, and they exist. Yeah. And then just wherever they’re comfortable. It’s not that important what style you’re doing, in the initial stages. You can refine that, once you start to understand yoga a little more, and what you think benefits you. That was what the original process of a guru was, was to tell you what style of yoga would best suit you to deal with the character that you have. These days it’s not so much like that, but you can have people help you out with what you should be doing.
Stuart Cooke: Okay.
Guy Lawrence: Do you think yoga is for everyone, Duncan?
Duncan Peak: I think there’s a style of yoga for everybody, but I don’t think that there’s one style that fits everyone. I think everyone is going to benefit from being mindful, you know? Anyone whoÉour human condition is self-reflective consciousness, and there’s issues that come with being able to think about what you’re thinking about.
You know, if you think about, we ‘ve constantly got a conversation going on in our head, and there’s no one there, so it’s sort of insane, you know? And we’ve got to learn to understand that and quiet that and be able to just experience the world without having to interpret it and always have a conversation about it. So I think anyone who does that is going to build more self-awareness and that’s going to be beneficial. So, yeah, I think it is for everybody. But I’m not a preacher that says, “You have to do this. You have to do that.” It’s up to them on their own what they do.
Guy Lawrence: Everyone has to discover it for themselves, right?
Duncan Peak: Yeah, I really believe in that, yeah.
Guy Lawrence: It’s funny that you mention that, because that was going to be my next question, was because the health and fitness industry focus a lot on nutrition. They focus on, you know, physical appearance and the physical strength of it, right? For which, and sometimes, it seems to be all physical aspect, but how much do you think mindset and, you know, our daily thoughts actually affect our health?
Duncan Peak: Well, I think it is your health. I mean, I go and do demonstrations at health and fitness expos and things like that, and get up there in my tights and tie myself into a pretzel and do all fancy handstands and, you know, all the bodybuilders walk past and are like, “Wow! Look at that! He’s flexible and he’s strong.” And it’s a nice way to be able to connect with those guys.
But I see I lot of that world, the fitness industry, and they look amazing, but they’re not healthy. They have so much attachment to their body and their ego, and that’s how they judge their sense of self-worth. There’s people who aren’t like that. Who are very balanced, and they’re awesome, and they’re in that world, and they’re great examples, but the industry as a whole is so much about what people think about you, and that’s something we need to get away from, is what people think about us and develop what we believe about ourselves and develop that self-love. So I think that mindset is, that’s how I would judge well-being.
And then with the nutrition you put into your body, it’s obviously going to have a huge impact on what your thoughts are and what your character is, so, yeah, for me it is how I judge well-being as opposed to how much do I think it has an impact on well-being, I think it is what well-being is, is the way you think, or the way you’re attached to your thoughts.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Absolutely. And then you can see why yoga is actually then helping so many people, you know, that do it.
Duncan Peak: Yeah. Having said that with yoga, to be really raw and honest, I used to have a saying when I started the business, was “Market to the ego, and teach to the heart.” You know, there was a reason why we’re successful, it’s because we recognize that people do want to lose weight. They want to look good. They want to be flexible. They want to do the fancy poses.
And for some people, that’s what they want, and so we’re like, “Okay. Let’s tell them that’s going to happen. Let’s bring them into the classes and while they’re in there, we’ll just mention a few of these philosophical points.”
Stuart Cooke: Yeah. Just whispering, right?
Duncan Peak: Yeah, exactly. You know, rather than preaching it, because it turns people off. And so, let’s do what the world needs, or not needs but people really want, this desire, and then let’s teach them about what desire really is and the suffering that can come from, you know, so desirous. We have this other saying, “A constant search for pleasure is the root cause of your suffering.” That’s like one-on-one yoga. The constant search for pleasure is the root cause of our suffering.
And, so, yeah, we probably get them in through pleasure, but then we teach them about what that doesÉ
Stuart Cooke: What it really means.
Duncan Peak: Yeah.
Guy Lawrence: Absolutely.
Stuart Cooke: I’ve noticed that you’ve released a new book, as well, Duncan. Would that be a great place for someone like me to start? Or is it a little bit more advanced?
Duncan Peak: No, I mean it’s written for a first-timer who’ll pick up the book, and it’s got a little bit of my story in there, and it has just so much about the mental side of it and understanding the character and that aspect. Everything that we’ve just discussed, and then it goes right into the physical practice, and how to align your body and how to keep it very safe, and it gives two different styles, a dynamic style of yoga and then more the yin, sort of, gentler, not gentler, but just slower, holding poses for long periods and working on different connective tissue within the body. Working on fascia as supposed to muscle and tendon. So it goes into a lot of that, but it’s not too technical that it’ll turn people off. We made it so it’s a coffee table book, as well, so it’s nice to be able to look at and just visually be able to learn from it, as well as get in there and study, if you’d like to. So, it’s called Modern Yoga. It’s available on my website. You know, it’s something that’s taken me three or four years to write. That really is what Power Living is. You know, we use it for our teacher trainings as our manual because it’s really what we’re trying to get out there.
Guy Lawrence: I was going to say, you must be a busy boy.
Duncan Peak: Well, it’s started to slow up for now, since that’s been done, and it has been ten years this year. Yeah, I’ve given everything I’ve got for ten years.
Guy Lawrence: You hold retreats, as well, right? Are they retreats just for yoga teacher training, or are they for peopleÉ
Duncan Peak: No, anyone.
Guy Lawrence: They can just come on and do it?
Duncan Peak: We have, a lot of our retreats we have are teacher training and the retreat running at the same time. We just separate groups and do things together. Because there’s so much community focus that it doesn’t matter who you are, teachers training or just a student, we can join and do a lot of the community activities together, and then we can do more technical stuff for the teacher trainers.
We have, I don’t know, we’re up to about six or seven retreats a year, and we do about eight or nine 200-hour teacher trainings around Australia and New Zealand. It’s pretty busy, but it’s not just me anymore. There’s, I don’t know, maybe 80 people employed in the company. We’re nearly up to our eighth studio now.
It’s kind of crazy. One of the things about our business is that there are six owners in the business. Not just myself. That’s been one of our successes is using our senior people that come up through the business and then allowing them to open a studio with us, and they love it, and they’re there, and yes.
So, we do retreats for everybody and teacher trainings, as well. I think within the industry, we’re known a lot for our education, so our teacher trainings are very popular, because we’re probably one of the first to do contemporary styles of yoga. We certainly do the retreats. I like them the most. They’re the fun ones.
Guy Lawrence: That could be a good place to start for someone, as well then, if they wannaÉ
Duncan Peak: Yeah. For sure.
Stuart Cooke: You’re thinking me, Guy, aren’t you?
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Duncan Peak: XXWe want to run one in Bali for an excuse. It’s a good place to come hang out.XX [0:26:07]
Guy Lawrence: We’ve got the foam boards, as well, Stewie, you know.
Stuart Cooke: I’m good for boarding.XX [0:26:10] Absolutely. I’ll book the tickets, Guy. I’m just thinking, Duncan, with all that you’ve got going on, surely you’d then be using your yoga and meditation to quiet your mind in order to actually get some sleep, right? Cause you’re a busy boy.
Duncan Peak: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I’ve got a very agitated mind, you know, I think one of the reasons I’m so into yoga and meditation is because I’ve needed it, you know, since I’ve been a young boy. I don’t ever profess to be this really calm and peaceful person. I’m not like that. I’m a pretty big personality and I need to center myself or I sort of lose myself, you know?
So, yeah, it’s a daily practice, you know? Like this morning, I woke up. The first thing I do is an hour of yin practice up here in my lounge room. Sit for 20 minutes or a half an hour and meditate and then go and have a surf. That’s pretty much how every day starts for me, you know? I’m pretty lucky in that way. Yeah, I sort of need it, you know? I need it. Especially beingÉone of the hardest things is being a CEO, you know, and having so many people work for you and doing all that side of it, and then you’re in a meeting that’s like intense and there’s millions of dollars being discussed and then you have to leave that meeting and then walk into the yoga room and start to teach people, you know?
Stuart Cooke: That’s right, yeah. There’s that switch.
Duncan Peak. It’s a funny skill, you know? Not everyone that works for us has that skill. They belong on the facilitations side or the business side. That’s probably one of my biggest challenges and meditation is the only way that I’ve been able to achieve, be able to do that.
Stuart Cooke: I think I would benefit from that. Just thinking about all the things we have going on in our business, as well, and a busy family, busy business. Definitely, you’ll be doing a bit moreÉ
Guy Lawrence: Definitely. We’re fortunate to do what we do. We have, you know, we get to do some cool stuff and we did some DNA testing, and what gene was it? You had a COMT gene, was it?
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, I had a COMT gene and just some, which affected my cortisol levels. So, you know, I’m very busy, and I’ve got lots going on, but my cortisol levels don’t clear. So, like clearance pathways were blocked with this particular gene, so just about ways to lower cortisol and, of course, thinking about meditation and considering yoga, as well, as a told for that.
Duncan Peak: Cortisol is one of the biggest neurochemicals of the moment that’s causing us to not be in health because at night time the body’s got to clear that, rather than focus on rejuvenating the tissue.
You know, one thing you bring up, Stu, is meditation is sometimes is very hard for people just to sit and go, “All right. I’m going to mediate.” People aren’t ready for it, and so getting into just mindful movement, whether it’s yoga, tai chi, chi gong, it can engage people so that they’re able to at least do something and enjoy that before they’re actually, “Well, okay, now I’ll start meditating.”
I do encourage a lot of beginners to get into the asana practice, you know, however they want to do it, dynamic or gentle, or a tai chi, or a chi gong, and then allow that to bring you into a more still mind. Sitting becomes just a natural evolution.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, right, that makes a lot of sense, because from a, you know, meditation perspective, it almost seems impossible to sit there and just zone out when you’ve got this chatter, constant chatter, left and right. It’s definitely a skill, or it’s a muscle, I guess, that needs to be built.
Duncan Peak: Yeah. Definitely.
Guy Lawrence: I find that while we’re in the surfs, though, as well, that helps keep in the moment, you know? I’m constantly just there, and you know, that’s my excuse. I’m going out to be present.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, right. So just think a little bit about exercise and nutrition as well now. Do you do anything else outside of yoga, exercise-wise?
Duncan Peak: I surf every day. Sometimes two or three times a day, and so that’s pretty physical in itself. I probably go to the gym once a week, I suppose, but when I train there, I train very much, not so much CrossFit, but more in that world where it’s power-to-weight ratio, body work, lot of Swiss ball work, and a lot of core stability work with cables, rather than lifting heavy weights. I really don’t do that anymore. I did years ago and my rugby-like days, but I don’t really do that sort of stuff. Yeah, it’s just because I enjoy it. I would, yeah, I think it’s, yeah, I’m just a man who enjoys that stuff.
Stuart Cooke: Exactly. You mentioned CrossFit, and we got quite heavily into CrossFit last season, last year, and found that a lot of the CrossFit athletes and participants were really connected to yoga for flexibility and mobility. Do you get a lot of CrossFitters coming your way?
Duncan Peak: Yeah. We’ve got a really good relationship with their communities, and a lot of our teachers teach at the local CrossFit gyms, just to make it easier for them, because, you know, people only got a small amount of time a day to exercise. Yeah, CrossFit, I think, is an amazing evolution. I think it’s a very sensible way to train the body, but there’s also, there’s risk involved in training the way they do. It’s pretty heavy and it’s hard on your joints, and if you’re not somebody who’s grown up athletically, it can be a little bit dangerous.
I think yoga will just help bring people into a postural development that’s going to allow them to get better alignment in their lifting capacities within CrossFit, and also allow them to have recovery a lot quicker, so they’re not turning up to do their next session so sore with fascial adhesions and knotted up muscles. There’s more of that fluidity in the body. So yeah, I think they’re great, you know, great complement to each other and, yeah, it’s cool to see it allÉ
Guy Lawrence: I guess any sport, really, wouldn’t it? Yoga complements, I imagine.
Duncan Peak: We trained the Waratahs and the Sea Eagles for many years, you know, big rugby teams over here. The guys, as much as they hate it, because they’re doing something they’re working against so much muscular resistance. They, every single one of them, yeah, are an advocate for it and straight after the game, like Monday morning, or a yoga session on Tuesday, it restores them to be able to go out there and train as hard as they would, like as if they were to start a new season, so the rejuvenating aspects of doing it are phenomenal.
Guy Lawrence: I go a question that just popped in, as well. When I go to a yoga class, it’s normally just me and a couple of other guys and just full of females. And after doingÉ
Stuart Cooke: Poor you, Guy.
Guy Lawrence: Yes, it’s pretty tough for me, and after doing CrossFit, throwing weights around, you know, thrust those shoulder presses, God knows what, like I get into a downward dog, and I’m the first one to drop to the floor. You know? And normally the other guys, as well. Why is that?
Duncan Peak: Well, you’re working against muscular resistance, so you’ve got a range, you know, if you go to here and depending on how tight, you know, a lot of the muscles under here, your subscaps and your lats and things like that, is, like, people who’ve got range or who don’t have the muscle bulk, who just naturally have that range can just do these really easilyÉ
For people who are tight, through a pec or minor lats, etc., to go from here they’ve got to engage a lot of their muscles on the back of their shoulders that help extend the shoulder joint, or flex the shoulder joint to be able to work. So, they’re working muscular very hard just to hold their arm at that place, because of the tightness that’s being built in the tension in the muscles to get the power that you’re looking for.
Your biggest strength becomes your biggest weakness. You’re working against your own muscle tightness, and not everyone has that muscle tightness. It’s like me. I’m pretty flexible. I can hold downward dog forever, but I’ve got the muscle bulk but there would have been a time where I, where it was very difficult to hold downward dog, because of the tightness. Yes. It’s interesting like that sometimes. You’re biggest strength is your biggest weakness.
Guy Lawrence: I’m really glad to hear that, because I’ve now got an excuse, because my tightness is terrible.
Duncan Peak: And, also, you’ve got, it’s a stability way that the muscle is working as opposed to a contraction, an eccentric, concentric movement, you’re moving more of that isometric hold, and CrossFit is more movement rather than hold, and that’s one of the things that makes the yoga asana practice, again, very well-rounded is because you’re doing contractions and, the eccentric and concentric contractions. You’re moving muscles under load both ways, but then you’re holding, and you’re stabilizing through joints and things like that, and there’s not so much of that in a lot of other, you know, gym and CrossFit and physical work, and so that’s another thing is you’re just building up the endurance to be able to hold, as opposed movement fit.
Guy Lawrence: Fantastic.
Stuart Cooke: Keep at it, Guy. It’s a work in progress. I was wondering, Duncan, what your typical daily diet looks like. How do you, you know, healthy body, healthy mind kind of thing. What do you eat?
Duncan Peak: First thing is a green smoothie in the morning. I make a green smoothie, you know, with your coconut waters and your greens and get that into me pretty early in the morning. That usually lasts me up until mid-morning, and I might have some fruit and some nuts and a little bit of a snack, and then lunch, it just depends where I am and what’s going on.
I try and get a salad wherever I am, and then night time, it’s usually, you know, fish and a salad or something like that, or I have meat occasionally, as well, and have a salad with that. Try and stay away from lots of breads and a lot of those, sort of, complex carbs, but I must admit I do love them. I was a baker when I was a young kid. I love my bread, but you know, I’ve found that for my body type it’s not the exact thing I should be eating, soÉ
I must admit, I would love to be perfect in my diet, but when you’re working so much, it’s one of the first things that you let slip, so I make sure that I do my green smoothie every morning and get all my nutrients that I need for that day and then I really just focus on trying to be as healthy as I can throughout the rest of the day with what I eat.
Stuart Cooke: Perfect.
Guy Lawrence: Fantastic.
Stuart Cooke: That sounds good. It is tricky, especially when you’re on the road. Very hard to try and keep on top of your diet.
Guy Lawrence: Big time. Big time. Mate, we always finish with a wrap-up question, and it can be non-nutrition, anything really, but what’s the single best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Duncan Peak: That’s funny. I’ve written that before. It’s pretty simple. My mom always used to say to me, I’d tell her everything that I was doing, and I was a ratbag as a kid, and the cause of so much heartache, even though we’re best friends now, you know, and always have been, but she used to say, “Duncan, I don’t care what you do, as long as you’re happy.” And she’s always been like that. Whatever I’ve chosen to do, whether it was military, whether it was yoga, whether it’s everything else that I decide to do, she’s like, “It’s up to you what you do, just as long as you’re happy and follow your heart in that way.” And I believe that’s the best bit of advice I’ve ever been given. I’ll always go back to it.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah. That makes perfect sense to me.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, definitely, and how can we get more of Duncan Peak? So, if anyone listens to thisÉYou’ve obviously, we know you’ve got a bookÉ
Duncan Peak: Yeah, It’s called Modern Yoga which is available on the website www.powerliving.com.au. We’ve got studios in Neutral Bay, Manly, Bondi Beach, South Melbourne, Fitzroy. We’ve got two opening up in Perth, and we’ve got another one at Bondi Beach. So getting to any of them, and then there’s over 1000 teachers in Australia that I’ve trained that are out there teaching for other studios and their own sort of stuff, so, yeah, you can get along to any of them and you’re going to get a little bit of what we’re doing. I teach mostly Manly and Neutral Bay and Bondi Junction. So you just check out our schedules, or come along to the retreats. You know, I run all the retreats and all the teacher trainings, so, yeah, but everyone in our business is so well-trained, just get along to a Power Living school andÉ
Guy Lawrence: I noticed, as well, only just yesterday you had an online program, as well. Is that right?
Duncan Peak: Yeah. We have some online course, some online yoga, which is where you can just sign up and get on video, basically, our classes. People in remote areas, you can do that. We also have some stuff on TV. XX?XX [0:38:59] Yeah, there’s a lot going on in that world, so, yeah, lots of opportunities. We have the DVDs you can purchase as well, and audio CDs for meditation, all available on the website, yeah, there’s lots of aids out there to help people get involved and get into it.
Guy Lawrence: No excuses. That’s awesome, right?
Stuart Cooke: You’re pointing your finger at me, Guy, when you say that.
Guy Lawrence: You know, mate.
Stuart Cooke: Thank you very much. That is awesome. Thank you so much, Duncan.
Duncan Peak: Thanks, Stuart. Thanks, Guy. It’s been great.
Stuart Cooke: You’ll be seeing me sooner than you think.
Duncan Peak: All right, mate, well if you’re going to come along, let me know. We’ll set you up with a VIP pass and take care of you guys.
Stuart Cooke: All right, thank you, mate. That’s fantastic.
The video above is 03:07 long. Use your time wisely ;)
Unless you’ve had your head under a rock recently, you probably know that Saturated Fat has been getting a lot of good press.
If you want to learn why eating saturated fat is good for you, the best foods for exercise and why The Heart Foundation is not the way forward, then this episode is for you.
Full Interview: Fat, Calories, Exercise & The Heart Foundation
This is the full interview with Professor Grant Schofield. Professor of Public Health (Auckland University of Technology) and director of the university’s Human Potential Centre (HPC) located at the Millennium Campus in Auckland, New Zealand.
In this episode we talk about:-
Clearing up the confusion regarding saturated fat [003:05]
The South Pacific Islands study. Why one got sick & one remained healthy[006:25]
Why the Australian Heart Foundation have got it wrong [010:30]
What fats should we be really eat [016:17]
What we should really be eating for sport & exercise [023:10]
Did you enjoy the interview with Professor Grant Schofield? Do you eat saturated fat? Do you exercise with a fat adapted diet? Would love to hear your thoughts in the Facebook comments section below… Guy
Grant Schofield Transcripit
Welcome to the 180 Nutrition Health Sessions podcast. In each episode, we cut to the chase as we hang out with real people with real results.
Stuart Cooke: You’re not missing much, mate.
Grant Schofield: It’s kind of like a football with a bum underneath.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah. That describes my face quite well. OK.
Guy Lawrence: All right. Let’s start. I’m Guy Lawrence. I’m with Stuart Cooke, of course. And out special guest today is no other than Grant Schofield. Grant thanks for joining us, mate. We really appreciate it.
Grant Schofield: Likewise.
Guy Lawrence: I don’t know if you knew, but you’re actually our first New Zealander to come on the podcast show as well.
Grant Schofield: I’m honored.
Guy Lawrence: It’s a good thing. It’s a good thing.
Grant Schofield: You should be saying “kia ora,” Guy. Kia ora.
Guy Lawrence: I was looking at your blog just now, Grant, and on the About You section as well, and I figured there was a lot for me to remember there, so I thought the best person to explain a little bit about yourself would be you. If you could just tell the audience a little bit about yourself and why we’re excited to have you on the show.
Grant Schofield: Well, I find myself, now, talking about nutrition, but I never had any intention of getting into the field of nutrition, or, as a matter of fact, to keep your eye on what foods. But I originally trained, actually, as a psychologist. I’m pretty much XXleaguedXX well with psychologists, and that’s sort of a compilation of marginal intelligence and XXunknownXX that will generate XXunknownXX I read two-thirds of the XXunknownXX combination.
But I ended up in public health in the end, around obesity and especially exercise, and a lot of my recent work I’ve based it around; I’ve really spent my whole career around the conventional wisdom of it’s energy-in, energy-out. And if I can just get these moving more, it would be great.
Now, exercise and moving is good for people. But, as a solution to weight, it fundamentally misunderstands the metabolics of it all. And so, more recently, I think I’ve made some mistakes. I’m quoting Albert Einstein, if I understand this early Albert Einstein quote, which was: “Make things as simple as possible, but no simpler.” And I think in obesity, research and chronic disease research especially, the nutrition side, we are kind of simplified to the point of doing half. And we need to rethink that.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Fair enough. And it’s amazing, because, like, especially with saturated fat is now the hot topic in the news at the moment. The ABC Catalyst have just screened two shows about it, along with statin as well, and obviously there’s a lot of people out there that are a bit confused, a bit miffed, as well, with the whole message and what to do.
I mean, is that something you’ve always believed, like saturated fat isn’t healthful, or is that something you’ve been led…
Grant Schofield: Well, no, I looked at it in my early days as a professional triathlete, I would say I wasn’t an especially good professional triathlete. I went into being a professor and ended up better.
But part of what, for me, made me as fast as I could was I could never understand why I was; I was about 87 kilos, which for the professional athlete is hopeless. And I was training up to 30 hours a week and I just couldn’t keep my weight down. I was eating exactly; I had a dietician, I was eating exactly what I was told to, a sort of high-carbohydrate, mainly heart-healthy diet. Keep away from the fat, especially the saturated fat. I was telling people that myself.
And, I’d start to go, and I think most people in the nutrition that exists outside of the ivory towers now understands that it’s true, and there seems to be a parallel universe going on in nutrition where the public and most of the people in practice have figured it out, and the powers that be are in some sort of denial about what’s going on. So, saturated fat, I think, completely vilified.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, fair enough. Because the one thing I want to especially raise as well, because, you know, with yourself being a professor and your background of knowledge as well, it must be hard for even just the average person to think any differently, because that’s what we’ve been taught our whole lives, you know.
And the message out there is so confusing at the moment. And, you know, it’s the same for myself. Until I lived and breathed it and actually started investigating deeper and deeper, then you don’t; you know, what would be your message to someone that is sitting on the fence about this.
Grant Schofield: That you just, I think if you’re sitting on the fence and you’re trying to decide about this same thing, there’s plenty of resources out there and this “n equals 1.” We hear a lot about this n equals 1. It’s self-experimentation. But that’s exactly how I got into this. That’s how I’ve managed to coax everyone I know into this way of doing things is just try it for a few weeks and see what happens. And if it doesn’t turn out, well, that’s short-term. You’re not gonna keel over. You can re-evaluate after that and when people do that, of course they see that the science was wrong. It had to be. Because you do the opposite of what everyone recommends and the exact opposite of what they said happens happens, so it’s sort of “Opposite Day,” really.
Guy Lawrence: It’s still; it’s incredible that it’s come to this. Like, it blows me away.
Stuart Cooke: It is crazy. I had also read a little bit about a study in the South Pacific as well. I was reading about that. I wondered if you could elaborate on that for us?
Grant Schofield: That’s just, we’d been doing this diabetes prevention work in the South Pacific islands and, you know, there’s a lot of South Pacific island countries, and there’s quite a lot of them. And if you wanted to; the Pacific, the South Pacific islands have probably suffered some of the worst obesity and chronic disease of anywhere around the world, but it’s not uniform across those islands. And I think it’s interesting.
You go to the best of them, which would be something like Southern Vanuatu, and these are islands; I mean, what actually happened in the end is an air force pilot called John Frum from the States turned up in World War II and started one of these cargo cults around the islands, sort of the beginning of a religion, and it’s interesting. They noticed that he did no actual work or anything that was XXunknownXX. He marched around and raised American flags and eventually got upon a funny box and stuff arrived and, “Hey, that sounds good.”
But he had one religious message which I think actually pans out to be a good one, which was something like: “Look, white guys are gonna turn up here. Don’t trust them.” And so what you’ve seen in these islands is really XXall-outXX development. So, there’s still a traditional subsistence living, and, really, a complete absence of chronic disease. So, there’s big, strong, healthy men and women and vibrant kids.
And the thing is, you look at the food supply and, you know, it’s eating whole plants and animals, but it’s very high in saturated fat from the coconut products. So, it’s probably about 60 percent of calories by saturated fat, with no chronic disease.
If you go to the other end, the worst of the Pacific are these countries like XXKiribatiXX and Tuvalu, which are all quite small coral atolls that; XXKiribatiXX, the main island is Tarawa, it’s only a metre by sea level, except for the large piles of rubbish which sort of go beyond that. And irregardless of this, the kids are all malnourished. And so, on a calories-in, calories-out, we think Mum and Dad must be eating all the food. Which isn’t the case. The kids aren’t getting the fat and protein. They’re malnourished. The adults are metabolically disregulated and diabetic.
We tested the; I was just showing the diabetes team how to test for fasting blood glucose, and 10 out of 10 had a fasting blood glucose above 10 millimoles, which is; five is acceptable. That’s the prevention team is completely uncontrolled diabetes, and it’s running about 70 percent in the population.
And you try and, you walk around there with your XXmanual guideXX, “Look, if you could just move a bit more,” that’s not relevant. “And just eat a bit less and cut down your saturated fat,” you know. It’s so ridiculous that you wouldn’t even; it would come out of your mouth when you see the food supply, which is instant noodles, rice, sugar, and flour.
So, it becomes very obvious that there’s a metabolic problem with these simple carbohydrates. We’ve done XXit with thisXX, so.
Guy Lawrence: That’s amazing. And that’s what the Heart Foundation, they’ve got the tick of approval on half the products that you just mentioned.
Grant Schofield: That’s right. It really becomes obvious at that point that, at least in that situation, that’s not the problem. Fat’s not the problem, at least.
Stuart Cooke: It’s interesting. I’m just going to mix a few of these questions around a little bit, Guy.
Guy Lawrence: Knock yourself out, man.
Stuart Cooke: So, over here, you know, obviously, the Australian Heart Foundation recommends a low fat, high-carb diet. And how similar is it over in NZed?
Grant Schofield: Yeah, well, I just think it’s; what actually happened this week was sort of a perfect storm, really, of the British Medical Journal paper on saturated fat, the ABC shoes in Australia attracting a lot of attention in New Zealand, and we had a two-page feature article on low-carb, high-fat in the national newspaper, all within two days of each other. So it was a perfect storm as far as I was concerned.
It did a few things. First of all, it attracted a media release from some of the big, old professors of nutrition here undersigned by the head of virtually every health agency in the country about the dangers that this posed, and, sort of, meant to calm the masses.
It was all sort of ridiculous. But also, the Heart Foundation was about to release its new food XXpictures that weekXX, so they’ve put a hold on that until the masses control themselves.
But I think I have moved to more of a Mediterranean-style diet. I started to move away from the whole grains. And I think sometimes the reasons you go to the heart foundations and diabetes and feel like you’re not moving, there’s a lot of forces there that push them around. There’s food and food companies. There’s government. There’s scientists from all walks.
They are moving. They haven’t got to the saturated fat thing. So, you know, I think rather than turning into a fight, you know, when you become enemies it’s hard to have a productive and fruitful conversation.
So, we’re trying. … So, I’m happy now. Just keep moving.
Guy Lawrence: Hey, I hear the Swedish government recently turned their laws around with saturated fat. Have you heard anything about that?
Grant Schofield: Yeah, well, that’s; they did quite a big review because there’s; Sweden is relatively progressive. They’ve also had a longer history of that complaint around the delivery of low-carb, high-fat medicine, which was upheld, thankfully. So, I think they have probably moved ahead.
Look, I think the evidence says that eating a diet that’s low of dietary carbohydrates and higher in fat, as long it’s not all processed food, it’s likely to be highly healthy. XXThere’s random controls. It’s fine on all of them; carrying the metabolic ??? went wellXX.
People then seemed to object to the idea that there’s not long-term health data when we’ve had people on these diets for 50 years. It’s true we haven’t done those studies, but, equally, there’s; we are talking about the sort of foods that humans have eaten for 99 percent of the time they’ve been on the planet.
And, you know, humans, contrary to popular belief, didn’t die at age 30. The XXnormal age of death was probably somewhere near the 70sXX. So, on the basis of pure scientific common sense, I’ve begun with this approach to start with.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, you only have to look at the overweight statistics, you know, here in Australia, and the same with chronic disease as well. It’s not getting better.
Stuart Cooke: Something’s going wrong.
Grant Schofield: I guess the other approach, way of approaching it, is to go, well, in public health we talk about these health inequalities, that different things affect people differentially, and we get really concerned about that. But we don’t make the healthy get healthier and the sick get sicker. And why take on that as well, you know, a high-carbohydrate, low-fat, whole-food diet can work for some people. There’s evidence of that. But I think it works for the most insulin-sensitive of us, the people least prone to chronic disease.
And, for the people who are least insulin-sensitive, most easily metabolically disregulated. And they tend to also be our poorest in this country XX??? PacificXX people. It may do harm. And that’s another thing to consider.
Guy Lawrence: Absolutely. Do you think the Heart Foundation will ever change their minds about this? You know, will they accept it or…
Grant Schofield: You know, and I think people come in and say, “Hey, you were right. Let’s change their minds.” I think they move more slowly than that. I think; people can ask me about government guidelines and Heart Foundation guidelines. Look, if this changed overnight, would it change the world? I don’t think it would. I think what will change the world is the fact that the world has changed electronically, that things like this, these podcast and the intelligent blogger and the open access of science, I think that the people will change this through pure experimentation and common sense.
I already see that the movement for low-carbohydrate and healthy, whole-food eating will come from the people, not from the government or the Heart Foundation. So, that will take time as well. But the world’s different.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Yeah. That’s a good point. I’d like to clear up a bit of confusion as well around the topic of fats, because with this message getting out there, I know some people who think they’ll be able to look at potato chips and go, “Oh, there’s fat content in it; it’s quite high,” then it’s gonna be OK to eat that? You know?
And I see this, you know, and I’m, like, “Jesus.”
Grant Schofield: It has consequences.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Yeah. So, I’d love if you could just sort of, you know, what fats should people be eating, what fats should people be avoiding, how can they simplify it?
Grant Schofield: Well, I think there’s two levels of that. The first is that you’ve made a good point: that you eat a diet low in fat, or high in fat and low in dietary carbohydrates, that’s fine, and I think as long as the fats are fats that have come from foods that have existed naturally on the planet: animal saturated fats, those in plants, avocados, nuts, seeds, those sorts of things.
As soon as you start to muck with them and turn them into these industry seed-type oils, these Omega-6 and transfats, then I’d just be avoiding those altogether. In our house, we have butter, we have coconut oil, and we have olive oil. That’s what we have as added fats. And then it’s the XXcuringXX of some sort of plant or animal. That’s what I’d go with.
I guess the second point that you’ve made, which is probably more important, is if you combine fat with processed carbohydrates, then you’re on the standard industrial food diet and, as we, know, that’s got a really nasty ending.
And so they have been including high-protein, high this, high that, but I really think you can classify diets into three categories in terms of macronutrients. A low-fat diet, which, by definition will be high-carbohydrate, even if you over-consume protein, that will be turned into glucose anyway through the liver. At the other end, you’ve got a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet. And in the middle you’ve got the standard industrial diet, which is high in both. So, that’s the choice. So, I think we should be going for the one lowest in carbohydrates.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah. It’s interesting. I guess I hope that when people realize that they need to make the shift to a diet higher in fats, then they don’t presume that all of the bottles of sunflower oils on the shelves with the Healthy Heart Foundation tick is the go-to fat. Because they’ve got beautiful pictures of, you know, smiling people and healthy hearts on there.
Grant Schofield: Yeah, I mean, it’s sort of; forget the glycemic index, the GI factor, and go for the HI, the Human Interference factor. If you can tell it was alive very recently, eat it.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, no, it’s a good point. Do you think this dietary approach is recommended for everybody, or perhaps more specific to those seeking weight loss?
Grant Schofield: Ah, well, I mean, it can be effective for weight loss, but I think, you know, weight loss is usually a symptom of metabolic dysfunction. If you’re insulin-resistant, if you’re lethargic, if you’re low on energy, getting afternoon crashes, I think this is a fantastic way to go.
I mean, frankly, I don’t have a weight problem but one of the main reasons I keep on a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet is the cumulative and energy benefits, and I think anyone who does this sort of thing will attest to that. You’re not falling off a glucose cliff every three hours, so you’ve just got this constant energy, you can miss meals, you can have a flexibility in choosing your eating, and all of sudden you can deal with this much better.
XXI hear all that stuff about ????; it’s just not ???XX Metabolics drive behind it.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, it’s huge. Because once you’re metabolically changing, you’re fat-adapted. Because I eat a high-fat diet. If I eat carbs, it knocks me out. It’s as simple as that. I don’t feel great. I mean, I have some, but I’ve very conscious of what ones I eat, but my appetite is; my energy, mood, appetite is just fantastic.
And the other thing that I notice as well is that I don’t crave the other foods, the sweet stuff and everything else, you know, Once I adapted to this way of eating, I kind of look through them foods, you know? And it’s almost like I want people to just eat like this for a couple of weeks just to understand that feeling, you know? Because some people, if they’ve been on sugar all their lives, they’re not even gonna know what it feels like.
Grant Schofield: Well, I’d like to get the academics who criticize us or the practitioners who criticize us, just to try this as an approach. For goodness sake, just try things and example the physiology on yourself. Like, it’s not; it’s like being in the personal training business and telling people how to do pushups. Or, say, “Go do pushups,” and you’ve never done one. I mean, it would be laughable. You’d be laughed at XXat the gym? Like a chump?XX
Stuart Cooke: Guy mentioned fat-adapted. How far do we need to go to actually reap the benefits of a high-fat diet? Do we need to go as far as ketosis?
Grant Schofield: You know, that’s something I think we still need to do more research on. I don’t know the answer to that. I’ve experimented with myself and others that are getting into their fat-adapted state by doing it on a gradual basis and just gradually reducing their carbohydrates. The trouble with that method is, you can end up in a bit of a gray zone of actually not fully adapting. And your brain’s still dependent mostly on glucose, but you haven’t got it quite good enough, and it can be a nasty little state to be in. But I, my personal opinion, there’s not much science on this, is that if you’re going to get fat-adapted, get very strict and drop your carbohydrates right down to the ketosis, 50 grams a day, top level, for a few weeks, get fully fat-adapted, and just see how you feel while introducing carbs again after that.
My view is that you really need to force that real XXfrustation?XX of substrate, especially ketones and b-hydroxybutyrate, to run the brain and other organs, modern humans don’t do that. So that can be difficult. But that’s my view. I don’t know what you guys’ view on it is.
Stuart Cooke: Well, I guess it’s a tricky one. And everybody, you know, we’re all built in a very different way, you know, metabolically as well. Some people are more attuned to just straight into ketosis, whereas others, you know, can take much longer.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Like, I’m 25 kilos heavier than Stu, right? And he eats twice as much food as me, easily. And, you know, his metabolism doesn’t turn off at all, ever. It’s incredible.
Stuart Cooke: Actually, I’ve got to eat now, Guy.
Yeah, no, it’s good.
I just thought we’d move into exercise now. And I know Guy’s got a question for you about…
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, I’m keen on this because, again, with exercise, you know, I think a lot of people can get confused with what they should be eating, especially around intensive exercise and endurance exercise. And I know you yourself have worked with a triathlete and an Iron Man. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the science, a little bit, behind all that.
Grant Schofield: Yeah, I think it’s very interesting. I mean, I’ve of course spent an entire career telling my people to supplement with carbohydrates and use those as they exercise all the time. We’ve done some work on a group of triathletes, mainly, actually.
I’ll just give you a case study as a nice example of the one elite Iron Man competitor that we’ve worked with. So, he was, first of all, he was 85 or so kilos. He was a bit shorter than me. And that was a limiting factor in his Iron Man performance. So, we put him on a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet for 12 weeks leading into Iron Man New Zealand last year.
First of all, he ripped down to 78 with no problems, 78 kilos, and was in the best shape of his life. But I think much more interestingly was how his fuel utilization changed across some different power outputs.
So, we were, probably, the easiest way to describe the way we measured his performance using breath-by-breath gas analysis, is we were calling this the metabolic efficiency point. What power could you produce when you were using 50 per cent of your fuel as carbs and 50 per cent of the fuel as fat, you know, just from your body. And we think that mix is about what you need to complete an Iron Man triathlon at the best possible speed. And you can go slower for an Iron Man and use more fat, or you can go faster but you won’t get there because you haven’t got enough carbohydrate on board or you XXunknownXX. So, about 50’s probably about right.
So, when we brought him into the 12-week phase, he was already pretty fit and he was a high-ish carbohydrate diet. He was at 50 per cent fat, 50 per cent carbohydrate utilization. He could push 130 watts, which will get you on the Iron Man very, very slowly. And, after 12 weeks, he switched that metabolic efficiency point to 330 watts, which will get you around, in this case, first place in the age group race that he was in.
Guy Lawrence: That’s over double.
Grant Schofield: What’s that?
Guy Lawrence: That’s over double.
Grant Schofield: More than double. Triple.
Guy Lawrence: Almost triple, yeah.
Grant Schofield: So, his maximal output hasn’t changed, but the point where he could, which he could sustain for a long time, using a lot of fat, had massively increased. So, that sort of change in fuel utilization is massive.
Now, unfortunately, what happened in that race, because everybody goes, “How did he do in the end?” well, he was first off the bike. He didn’t actually complete the race, not because he ran out of fuel, but he hit a XXnoise interferenceXX I’d been telling him XXnoise interferenceXX phase. I’m telling him, look, as you’re ditching the carbs, you must et more salt, especially if you’re feeling lightheaded, your kidney will be XXdealing sodium or potassiumXX. And what he needed was a couple of teaspoons a day.
And I hadn’t realized this, but in the month leading up to the race, I mean, he’s getting cramps every time he didn’t a flip-turn on the XXpoleXX. So, he really had a sodium problem that we never got on top of. He subsequently got on top of it and is doing very well.
But, you know, that’s just, I think, a good example. He got his weight down. Didn’t restrict his food intake. Trained and felt good. Felt he recovered better in the sense that he’s producing much less glycolysis, XXto offset the burdenXX carbs does to your body. And was a happy camper, really.
Stuart Cooke: What would he be eating during the event?
Grant Schofield: Well, that’s XXanother thingXX. We don’t give him “no carbs” during the event. These XXcreteXX cycle that burns carbohydrates reasonably fast, so we probably have the amount of carbohydrate. He had a gel an hour. He probably was doing two or three when he was carb-dependent, which acted XXas a kickstop, quite a lot of salty cashewsXX. And, yeah, that was better. So, you know…
And, you know, bacon and eggs for breakfast. Didn’t do anything else.
Guy Lawrence: And he wouldn’t have been carb-loading before the race.
Grant Schofield: No, no, no.
Guy Lawrence: Absolutely.
Stuart Cooke: So, what about the weekend warriors out there?
Grant Schofield: XXIt’s man-hours as well andXX I think a lot about that and do quite a lot of reading and thinking and research in that area. And I really think that you need to consider the difference between high performance and the health costs of that, and why you’re doing the event. So, my view is if you stop to think about easy movement and training that was mostly fueled by fat-burning, and then a middle zone that’s mostly fueled by; that’s hard-ish training that’s mostly fueled by carbohydrate, and then a very, very hard zone, which you could maintain sort of a XXminuteXX of, then I’ve really spend most of my time in that middle cardio zone. And I really agree with the Mark Sisson approach, which is it’s a chronic cardio type thing.
But the science is really, like, you’ve been in glycogen. You’re glycating tissues and creating glycating end products, you’re creating oxygen stress, XXunknownXX oxygen spaces. That has an immune cost and an inflammatory cost and an XXunknown systemsXX cost. And I don’t think that’s worth it. I don’t think you need to do that. The trouble with XXexcluding all that stuff inXX training, it’s actually quite good for your overall speed. So, you don’t get those threshold-type workouts. So, I would spend most of my time in an easier training zone burning fat. You get 99 per cent of the aerobic benefits, and the final 1 per cent you need to be really fast without any of the oxygen stress. And then I’ve spent a little bit of time with this very hard, sort of, sprinting. And, for me, I might do, say, 10 times one minute on the track running, one-minute rest. The rest of it 20-minute workouts.
Guy Lawrence: So, if you were a test subject who was not influenced by any beliefs or anything, and he said he wanted the ultimate optimum health exercise program. So, you know, I’m assuming most people exercise to feel good in their health, right? And then you’ve got the high-end athletes, of course, that are wanting achievement. What would the typical week look like? What would you include?
Grant Schofield: Well, I think it should be a mix of easy and hard exercise, but I also think that the demands of that exercise should change quite a lot. And that sort of falls under the theory of hormesis, which means that we should suffer stress and then that the stress should be mild enough that we can adapt to it, but not too mild. And I think when you start to just do something like one sport, like running and swimming or cycling or, you know, you don’t; then you get into a stage where you’re not providing stress to a whole lot of the body but providing too much stress to another part. So, you know, that’s the opposite; that promotes fragility and not resilience.
So, you know, my week now is I’ll start, return from work, I would; I’d walk the dog, I might run the dog, I might sprint the dog. He always beats me but it’s always fun.
Stuart Cooke: Just change your food. Change his food. It will be fine.
Grant Schofield: Yeah, exactly. I might run up some steps. I might go to the gym. You know? I’ll never be there more than 20 minutes and then my whole body sort of exercises. I might do that on a tree down at the beach. Whatever. XXI’m a terrible thinkerXX. But I’ll even, I’ve sort of copied one of those Australian guys. I’ve been watching this sort of XXzooXX stuff where, you know, it’s a very short exercise. Are you familiar with that?
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, good natural movement; that kind of stuff.
Grant Schofield: Yeah. I mean, we’ll be on the XX??XX, transition into a sprinting back-and-forth and people are sort of looking at you like you’re crazy, but who cares?
Stuart Cooke: Now, that’s right. What are your thoughts on CrossFit? How does that fall into the lifestyle?
Grant Schofield: I’ve done CrossFit. I quite like it. I don’t think it’s particularly safe, at least the ones I’ve been to. I mean, you tend to go so hard that it’s very hard to keep a form that isn’t gonna do some damage. Or at least that’s what I’ve found, because I’m like, “I’m gonna beat that guy.” And if you’re a little less competitive maybe. It doesn’t really work for me, at least.
Stuart Cooke: Absolutely. I think it all comes down to the trainers in the actual gym themselves, if they’re onto it, it’s a pretty safe place to be. But if they’re not, then, yeah, absolutely.
Grant Schofield: XXI’ve only been to one spot.XX
Guy Lawrence: OK. I’d love to touch on as well, calorie counting. Because you mentioned it earlier. Especially with exercise as well, and weight loss. Everyone seems obsessed with counting calories. What are your thoughts on that? I’d love to hear a professor’s thoughts on counting calories.
Grant Schofield: Well, I mean, at one level, you can’t defeat the law of thermodynamics, that if more energy goes in than out, or vice-versa, then something will happen to that system.
But the behavioural aspects of that are hormonally regulated, and the partitioning of those calories are hormonally regulated. So, really, it becomes stupid to be thinking about the calories.
My view is sort of three-fold. One is that under metabolically well-regulated conditions, humans will self-regulate both energy in and energy out. When they become metabolically disregulated, through any of the mechanisms that make you insulin-resistant, be it high sugar, high trans Omega-6 fats, a lack of sleep, too much stress, too much exercise, too little of exercise, smoking, XXpollution?XX, whatever it is, then all bets are off. You won’t behaviourally control your nutritional calories.
Stuart Cooke: I heard a great analogy of the kitchen sink, when the, you know, the tubes and the pipes are clean, you can fill up; you just keep the tap running and it will just flow. But the moment the pipes become blocked, that’s when you start to get issues.
Grant Schofield: Yeah, that’s what Jonathan Baylor and those guys are saying, XXeating stuff differentlyXX, and I really like that. I think it’s dead right.
And the compelling thing is also this study last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Ebbeling and Ludwig and Co. And it’s just massively convincing. When they get a whole bunch of people to lose weight using the same strategy, once they’ve lost, basically, between 10 and 15 percent of their body weight, they randomize them to different types of isocaloric diets.
And this was a hugely expensive, massive study. It’s a metabolic XXwork?XX study. People come and stay there. They get measured very carefully in terms of their energy expenditure and they eat exactly what they’re supposed to and you just notice that on different diets, even with the same amount of calories, energy in and energy out aren’t the same. So, when you feed people a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet, they down-regulate their energy out. When you feed them a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet, then they up-regulate their energy up. So, the difference is really 300 calories, which is XX????XX
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, it’s interesting, because last year I did a little self-experiment when we were with family at holiday, and I ate around 6,000 calories at day for two weeks. Yeah. It was a real affair of it. I struggled to move for about an hour after each meal. And, just to see what would happen. And at the end of the holiday, I’d lost a kilo and a half.
Grant Schofield: So, you were eating a high-fat, carbohydrate-restricted diet?
Stuart Cooke: I was eating pretty clean. Lots and lots of meat and veggies. You know, carbs were few and far between. But, boy, I was piling it in. And it just didn’t work for me. I thought I’d beat the system, but it beat me.
Probably, people go online and Google Sam Feltham, the UK, he says 5,000 calories high-fat and 5,000 calories high-carb.
Grant Schofield: I can imagine the outcome.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, it’s not pleasant on the high-carb.
Grant Schofield: No, absolutely not. But it’s good to do these things. I would imagine, because we’re talking about the fact that everyone’s different, and, you know, we metabolise things in a different way, I wonder what would happen if you did that, Guy, and put yourself on a…
Stuart Cooke: Absolutely.
Guy Lawrence: I’ve done a high-fat, high-calorie diet. And I continue to; my weight remained stable the whole time. I did it for four weeks. Going back a couple of years ago now, but I was drinking gallons of coconut cream, coconut fats, eggs, and absolutely cranking it up. But the one thing I did was keep my carb intake under a hundred grams a day. And I was cycling probably 20Ks a day at the time and lifting weights, because I was working as a personal trainer in the city. And my strength continued to increase and my body fat remained stable.
Grant Schofield: It really refutes the whole notion, doesn’t it, of calories-in, calories-out.
Guy Lawrence: Absolutely. I, personally, I think if somebody wants to count something, count the carbs, not the calories. And actually make the food count that goes in your mouth. You know, eat nutrient-dense food, not deprive yourself of it.
Grant Schofield: In a lot of criticisms, people say to me, “You’re talking about a diet, asking people to stick to it.” It’s not very hard. I mean, you can eat as much as you want. The food’s really yummy. And I’m not seeing the downside to this.
Stuart Cooke: No. That’s right. There is no downside.
Guy Lawrence: If we decided to undertake this change tomorrow, for our own health, and, I guess, general awareness, what kind of testing would you recommend that we underwent, thinking along the lines of things like glucose and cholesterol, et cetera?
Grant Schofield: Yeah, I mean, the things you can get from your local doctor, your lipid profile and HbA1c for glucose are all interesting. I mean, the problem is, of course, the typical general practitioner looks at him and goes, “Oh, no, your total cholesterol has gone up,” which it probably will. And so people need to go over the research about that, and I think, you know, as long as the HDL and triglyceride XXratio??XX holds up, triglycerides will probably go down. And the HbA1c, which is this long-term measure of your control of glucose in the blood will almost certainly go down.
I think those are good indicators. Blood XXglucose?XX as well is, of course, interesting. I would much rather do more complex tests, and I think the two that are most interesting to people that we haven’t got sorted yet, but I’d love to see more widely available, is there’s a way of; I mean, you can measure blood glucose through a finger prick. I’d love to be able to measure serum insulin using the same technique. Because I think it’s a really dynamic insulin response that matters. And it’s fabulous to track that.
And the second thing which we have available, and it just costs a lot of money, but I can’t see why someone can’t invent a portable unit that can plug into your iPhone or something is this breath-by-breath gas analysis. Because it really XXproxies?XX; insulin controls your ability to burn fat or carbohydrate as a fuel. When insulin’s raised, you won’t burn fat. You’ll only store it. When insulin is reduced, you’ll burn fat as your primary food source.
And it’s very easy to measure that through the expired contents of your breath. It would be fabulous if it was available. And that’s what we’re trying to do more with.
Stuart Cooke: That’s interesting. Yeah. I would certainly welcome that. It sounds like something for the future, for sure.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, it’s hard for people to get their mindset anywhere else, especially when, if they go to doctors and they get the conventional wisdom, like the whole system sort of funnels you in a certain direction and it’s very hard to step outside of that.
Grant Schofield: I look at my mother’s totals, she’s on a low-carb, high-fat diet, of course, at age 70, and her total cholesterol is too high and doctors told her to do the following: “Look, eat more whole grains for the next month, and if that doesn’t improve, we’ll put you on a lipid-lowering medication.”
Stuart Cooke: Oh, crikey.
Grant Schofield: We moved her in the end. It’s ridiculous.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, well, that’s right. I wonder if he asked her how she felt. “How do you feel?” “Well, I feel great!” Wonderful.
Grant Schofield: It was beyond… But, you know, the other thing sort of in that same thing as the Heart Foundation thing, I think it’s especially so in the U.S., but it certainly applies in Australia and New Zealand as well, is these guidelines that these guys are put under. “This is what you do for this.” You know, it’s literally malpractice not to prescribe a statin medication for high cholesterol. So, you do feel for these guys.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, no, absolutely. They’re just following the circuit, I think.
Guy Lawrence: I’m just going to ask what you eat every day. What is your typical daily diet?
Grant Schofield: So, what I had this morning, I just whipped up a sort of four-egg omelet fried in coconut oil made with whipping cream and I had some cheese on top. I would have actually preferred to put some more vegetables in there, but there weren’t any around this morning.
Last night for dinner we had pork ribs with a bit of a salad with XXoil in itXX. I was sort of picking through all the bones from the kids and stuff, because they only eat all the meat off the ribs so I sort of go through all the leftovers.
I was actually still a little bit hungry, so I ended up with some berries. Berries are pretty nutrient-dense, with some whipped cream and a bit of some almonds.
Guy Lawrence: Very nice.
Grant Schofield: And lunch I had sort of one of those high-fat salads, you know, put as many bits of vegetables as I could find lying around and then just added some cheese and nuts and meat.
Guy Lawrence: Fantastic.
Grant Schofield: It’s nice. I’m not hungry. I feel full of energy and I’m at a stable weight.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah. Lots of nutrients.
Guy Lawrence: Real food.
Grant Schofield: I just want to say, you can ask anyone who actually finds this controversial who’s watching it, especially in the science community, just kind of try this. See how you feel and make your own mind up. Don’t criticize people and go, “Well, I’m not sure about the long-term randomized control trials.” I mean, the basic physiology supports this way of eating and people feel great and operate well. So, you know, their well-being is better.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Fortunately for us, because we do what we do, we get to speak to many people like yourself, Grant, and, you know, there are so many great people out there speaking and living and breathing and doing this, you know. And it’s, like you say, just try it for a little period of time and see how you feel.
Grant Schofield: And if they feel like rubbish, they can document that and if they want, they can go back and everyone’s happy.
Guy Lawrence: Absolutely. You mentioned berries. What would; I love asking this question: What are your thoughts on fruit?
Grant Schofield: I mean, I’ll eat fruit in smallish quantities. If you try and do a low-ish, a fairly low carbohydrate diet, it’s hard to have that much fruit and not take your carbs that high. But if you want to have grapes, go for it, I mean. I think it’s probably a good way to supplement, especially in some more intense exercise before or after that session.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, that’s when I generally do it. After training. Yeah, David Gillespie, we had him on the show a few weeks back, and he said treat it as nature’s dessert. And I thought that was…
Grant Schofield: Yeah, that’s probably it. He’s got a good point there. It’s fine. The other thing about fruit, of course, I mean, you know, just think about the history of humans. There have been fruit lying around to gather. It’s not essential for human survival, but it’s nice and it’s there and it’s; go for it.
Guy Lawrence: And I guess prior, you know, it was always seasonal, so you’d get what the season provided, but now, of course, we’ve got every season under the sun on offer.
Grant Schofield: Yeah. Well, I think that’s a very good point is probably one that I’ve been thinking more and more about scientifically and experimenting with is, and people do this sort of a week where they might have a pattern that actually changes quite a bit, so there will be generally quite low-carbohydrate and might have some periods of fasting. You know, go through some periods of actually eating a meal or two quite high in carbohydrate.
And I think there might be some merit in that in the sense that there’s two conditions there, which I think are both essential to human health. One’s the anabolic, which is rebuilding and growing cells. You know, that’s an inflammatory state and temporarily, that’s good. So, you do need that anabolic state, and I think insulin through dietary carbohydrates can provide that.
Equally, you also want that catabolic state where there isn’t any food, and the human cells don’t divide and they start to scavenge and repair and we get this production of the XXtrehalose???XX and these sorts of enzymes that start to clean up XXthe DNA endsXX and that sort of thing. So, I’ve been thinking a lot about, not so much a low-carb, high-fat way of eating the whole time, but perhaps cycling more in and out of what is more of a human condition. And, I mean, you don’t have to go by week or anything, but I think there might be some merit in that.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah. No, that’s right. Almost like a periodic system reboot.
Grant Schofield: Yeah. And I think the dangers, if you’re going low-carb all the time, that you start to down, I think there’s some evidence that you start to down-regulate some things, especially lectin, and it’s probably worth a bit of a reboot.
Guy Lawrence: That’s interesting. I’ve never thought about that.
Grant Schofield: XXThere’s not been a lot of science on thatXX, by the way. And probably won’t be for a long time because no one wants to fund this sort of stuff, but that’s another story.
Stuart Cooke: Of course.
Guy Lawrence: Any special requirements for children? I mean, many people think, “Well, children need their carbs because they’re so active.”
Grant Schofield: Right. I mean, my kids are, I’ve got three boys, they’re on a low-carb, high-fat diet, but they don’t know they are. They grew up with that and seem to be functioning all right. But the thing is, they’re not metabolically disregulated. They are fine. They eat carbs and they get dealt with. They come and go. And that’s fine. Then they have the occasional junk food party or something and I’m comfortable with that.
What I’m not comfortable with is, I saw a boy yesterday in a practice-type situation, and he’s 11, obese, and he is metabolically disregulated. He’s highly insulin-resistant. And he’s saying to me, “Well, I eat the same amount as my mates. I do the same XXliving regime?XX, and they’re skinny and I’m not.” And so he can’t deal with the dietary carbs in the same way and we have to rethink that.
And that’s an interesting thing. He’s been to a bunch of specialists who have sent him away, told him to eat less and move more. When nothing’s happened, they’ve told him that he must be stealing food and he must be too lazy. And he can’t help but get to tears. It’s disgusting.
And, to put that in context, these kids get bullied. I asked this young man, I said, “Look. Do you think about your weight?” And he’s, like, “Oh, I do.” “Much?” “Yeah, quite a bit. About 99.9 percent of the time.” And, you know, a tear comes to you. This 11-year-old boy. So, some kids will need to do something about their carbs. But the metabolically healthy ones, there’s more flexibility.
Stuart Cooke: That’s right. Yeah. Just get away with it, I guess.
Guy Lawrence: Very good. All right. I was just looking at the time. We’ve got a wrap-up question, Grant, that we ask everyone every time we’re on the air and it doesn’t have to be nutrition-related at all. But what’s the best single piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Grant Schofield: Well, it’s no so much advice as an insight. Look, I just clearly remember a day in my life where something clicked for me and I don’t know if people have had the same experience when they’re students at school, but I remember the teacher going, “Ah, yes, he’s very bright” (not referring to me, of course) “but he just doesn’t try.” And I remember that point going, that fundamentally misses the point, because achieving in life is nothing to do with being bright or smart. It’s to do with knowing how to try. And the myth that you don’t know how to try means that you’re stupid by definition.
So, I just remember the teacher saying that and me thinking, “That just doesn’t make any sense.” So, you know, my advice to, I had to speak to a high school XXclass?XX the other day, and what I’d like to see in my kids, it may not turn out this way, is that; I don’t know what the world’s gonna look like, I don’t know what job you’re gonna do, but whatever you do, you’d better be good at it. The only way to be good at it is to follow what you’re passionate about, work to your strengths, and know how to try.
If you don’t know how to try, good luck. It’s not gonna turn out well. But if you can, it will all work out.
Stuart Cooke: Just try. Yeah.
Guy Lawrence: Give it a go. Absolutely.
And us Aussies, if we want to know anymore about you, where’s the best place to go, Grant?
Grant Schofield: OK, so, my best place is my blog, which is ProfGrant.com.
Guy Lawrence: I’ll share that link anyway. I’ll get it out on the blog as well. And, yeah, I was checking it out today. There’s some cool stuff. How long have you been blogging for?
Grant Schofield: I’ve only been blogging for about six months. I just sort of thought I should; I was talking a lot and not putting it anywhere. I found it a thoroughly fulfilling experience, the interaction with people and the ability to actually get your thoughts down coherently. It’s a great deal of fun.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Stuart Cooke: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Grant Schofield: And of course it gets hundreds of thousands of hits, which also surprises me.
Stuart Cooke: You’ll have to sell a range of t-shirts.
Grant Schofield: “All you’ve got to do is try.”
Guy Lawrence: Awesome, Grant. Well, look, we really appreciate your time today, and I’m sure a lot of people will get a lot out of this. That was fantastic.
Stuart Cooke: Absolutely.
Guy Lawrence: That was really cool.
Grant Schofield: Thanks, guys. I appreciate it. I love talking about it.
Guy Lawrence: No worries. You’re welcome, mate. Thank you.
Welcome to The Health Sessions podcast. Each episode we cut to the chase as we hang out with real people with real results.
Stuart Cooke: I hope Guy hasn’t been boring you, Chad.
Chad Mackay: No. No. No, buddy. He just told me that you must have been perming your hair or something like that.
Stuart Cooke: Mate, you know what I’ve been doing? I’ve been working out on a trigger-point grid.
Chad Mackay: All right!
Stuart Cooke: Are you proud of me? I’m rolling out. That’s what I’m doing. I’m getting back to 100 percent.
Guy Lawrence: He’s getting there. I’m still in shock that he’s got a blue t-shirt on like last time. We interviewed Christine the other week and we ended up; but I got in theme today, see? I’ve got my CrossFit t-shirt on.
Stuart Cooke: All right. OK. That’s really good.
Guy Lawrence: Fair enough. All right, so, we might as well start. Anyone listening to this, I’m Guy Lawrence. We’ve got Stuart Cooke and a very special guest, Mr. Chad Mckay.
Chad, welcome. Thanks for dropping in and joining us, mate.
Chad Mackay: Cheers, guys. Very excited.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, so, what we thought we’d do was, obviously, you don’t need any introduction within CrossFit, you know, but we have a lot of listeners as well; a lot of non-CrossFitters as well. And we were kind of just chatting yesterday about how we can, because, as far as I’m concerned, you’re one of the best athletes in the country.
You know, you’re a coach as well and there’s so much more to get from you than just CrossFit. So, we thought we’d divide it up into two parts. So, we’ll chat a bit more broader first and then we’ll delve into WODs and Fran times and all that kind of stuff afterwards, because people are wondering what the hell we’re on about.
Chad Mackay: Sure. Sounds good.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, fair enough. So, mate, just to start, then, can you just tell us a little bit about yourself for the people that have no idea what CrossFit is or what you do?
Chad Mackay: Yeah, sure, sure. So, CrossFit’s basically a combination of kind of gymnastics movements, Olympic weightlifting, and strength and conditioning and also kind of hybrid movements using different kind of apparatus: kettle bells; stuff like that. And we put them in workouts and we try and use those different elements to try and pretty much become competent across a whole broad range of exercises and movements.
And yet, it first started off over in the States back in 1996 and it was basically started by a guy called Greg Glassman, and he was a gymnast and then he got a couple of serious injuries and he wanted to start his own kind of athletic performance gym and that’s how, kind of, CrossFit came about. He started training clients and athletes in his own garage back in LA and it’s kind of grown from there.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, right. I didn’t realize it went that far back: ’96.
Chad Mackay: It’s been around for a few years, and it’s slowly evolved over time and, obviously, sponsors and the like have been involved over the last couple of years and the sport’s just taken off.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, OK. Because, like, we’ve been involved probably, I think Homebush was probably our first real experience of it, which was, I think, three regionals ago.
And we’ve seen that growth unbelievable, you know, just within that time. It’s quite a; it’s a unique thing because when we turned up, like, I knew CrossFitters before that but I’d never been to a regional competition, and it’s really hard to describe for your first experience if you ever see it, you know. We kind of talked about it like being WODstock.
Chad Mackay: Yes!
Guy Lawrence: Or Woodstock, but now it’s WODstock. So, we had all these sort of interesting characters looking around that are absolute fine specimens eating whole chickens and the only thing that was missing was the music festival at the same time, you know?
Chad Mackay: Yeah, absolutely.
Guy Lawrence: So, you coach as well, don’t you, outside?
Chad Mackay: I’ve got a couple of gyms over on north shore of Sydney. One’s in Waverton and the other is in Artarmon. And there’s myself and a couple of other business partners.
And we take care of most of the coaching classes there, so, you know, the class is broken up pretty much into, like a general warm-up for the class and every round there will be either one or two coaches on in the class and we’ll have somewhere between five and 15 to 20 people. We’ll get through the general warm-up, some mobility, normally some kind of skill, and then we’ll do a strength component and then a conditioning piece as well. So, that’s what a lot of people mainly know CrossFit and kind of the generalization is we only really do a hard workout and it’s like a circuit-style training, but there’s a lot more involved than just the WOD, so to speak, or the Workout Of the Day.
So, the athletes get a little bit more exposure to a whole bunch of different movements rather than just a conditioning piece in the workout.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, fair enough. I mean, the one thing I just want to say as well is that, because you’re a competitive athlete, you know. You go into the World Games. That achievement in itself is gynormous. And so, what I’m interested in is, what does your typical day look like, because, A, you’re a professional athlete, even though it’s probably not recognized as a professional sport. You know, you’re doing all this coaching, it’s a full-time gig, like, what’s a typical day for you?
Chad Mackay: A typical day would be, let’s take yesterday, for example. I started work at 6 a.m., so the alarm was set for 18 minutes past 5. And then I’ve got 12 minutes to quickly have a shake, get out the door, get dressed, get to work by 5:45, coach two classes in the morning, and then I’ve got admin work to do until about 11 o’clock.
And then I train from 11 until about 1 o’clock, so a two-hour session. And that session goes pretty much back-to-back, going through a similar structure to our classes, kind of like general warm-ups and skill, some Olympic lifting, and some strength.
And then I had clients from 1:30 until 4:30. And then I coached three classes and then I had another client at 7:30 and then home by about 9 o’clock.
Guy Lawrence: Wow. I’m tired listening to you.
Stuart Cooke: Straight to bed.
I’m interested about your clients, Chad. Tell about their diversity, because I have seen, just within a CrossFit-type gym, youngsters to the elderly as well, which wouldn’t be your typical, kind of, gym junkie.
Chad Mackay: Absolutely. My clients that I train one-on-one range from, I’ve got a Paralympic swimmer that I train; his name’s Matt Levy. So, I train him a couple of times a week. I train Lynne Knapman. She is a master’s competitor who has competed in the last three CrossFit Games in the category of 50 to 55. So, she’s doing really well. And then I’ve got just some athletes that just want to try and improve their general strength; they may be fairly new to CrossFit.
So, there’s just a broad spectrum of, kind of, ages and abilities there. But regardless of who I’m training, everyone just really has the same kind of consensus of: Let’s try and improve and see what our body is capable of doing and you see those small little improvements and I think that’s why people kind of really find that CrossFit and the kind of strength and conditioning that we do at the gym is really beneficial to people’s bodies.
So, it’s not only the people who are training, whether it’s an elite athlete going to the Olympics or the CrossFit Games, but we have the normal Joe Blow off the street who just wants to improve their flexibility, so to speak. They might sit at a desk for eight hours a day and they’ve got really tight upper body; thoracic. So, yeah, just some general, super-general flexibility issues that we can kind of address during classes or whether they come to see one of the coaches for a one-on-one session.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, fair enough. What are the most common issues you’d see with clients when they first start training? Do they come there for, like, weight loss or muscle gain and then they’re opened up to CrossFit and their mindset will completely change around it, or. . .
Chad Mackay: Oh, there’s a whole; it’s probably more along the lines of: People hear about CrossFit and it’s normally from a friend or they’ve heard about the community and what’s involved in the community at the gym. So, it’s a lot of word-of-mouth. But the general issues that we have coming to the gym is people sit down at a desk all day and they’re in a flexed position where the hip’s closed off, the shoulders are closed off, and they’ve got a really forward head tilt. So, they’re the main issues.
So, we may get a fairly strong person that comes in that can’t overhead squat a broomstick just because their body is holding them back from being able to hold a bar overhead and do a simple movement like an overhead squat.
Guy Lawrence: We got a question here about mobility, so we’ll touch on that first while we are on it.
Chad MacKay: Sure.
Guy Lawrence: The first time I ever, because remember I mentioned I used to work with Lynne, who you know as well, and she was fabulous CrossFitter. And I’ll never forget the day about, it must have been about four years ago where she was overhead squatting in the gym I was working at. And I went down, I started chatting, and it was 60 kilos, I think.
And it was the first time I was exposed to an overhead squat and she’s like, “Yeah, go on. Let’s see you do it.” And I’m there, you know, all ego, throw the bar above my head, and I move about two inches and I couldn’t do it. And that was my first exposure to mobility, and probably CrossFit as well.
And I think mobility is something that’s overlooked by everyone, and only CrossFit seems to embrace it. Like, I remember working in a gym. You know, you traditionally warm up, you might do a bit of a stretch, and then you get into your exercise. But you walk into a CrossFit gym, you’ve got people who almost look like they’re grinding the floor because they’re rolling out in something.
Stuart Cooke: It is a bizarre sight; I’ll give you that.
Guy Lawrence: It’s amazing. And so, could you just tell us a little bit more about, I guess, mobility, the importance of it, and why so many people suffer from it? You know, I think it’s so untouched outside the. . .
Chad Mckay: Absolutely. The main issue is when people sit down, it obviously closes off the front of the hip and over time you will find yourself sitting at a computer, and, like I said before, that forward head-tilt, that decrease in kind of range of movement at the shoulder joint, everything’s pretty much facing forward and there is no real posterior chain, so. . .
Posterior chain is everything pretty much at the back of your body, so glutes, hamstrings, and kind of the rectus. And when you’re setting down on a chair, it just promotes you to sit forward and use everything in the frontal plane and, over time, eight hours sitting in that position, and then people normally go to the gym and they’ll normally train what’s at the front, so: chest, biceps.
So, how CrossFit differs from that, it pretty much tries to tell you to pretty much work everything in that posterior chain. Dead lifting, squatting, and doing things like pull-ups and overhead squats is going to develop that posterior chain, and over time, hopefully, get people into a more of an extended position; a more upright body posture and shape.
Stuart Cooke: Do you think there would be anything that we could do at home, outside of a gym environment, that would just help loosen us up? You know: stand up straight, shoulders back, anything along those kind of lines?
Chad Mackay: Well, there’s some simple things where you can lay flat on the floor and there’s just a basic movement called a glute bridge where it opens the hip up and it gets the butt and the hamstrings nice and strong. And that’s just a simple hip raise up off the floor.
Also, another very simple exercise is just stretching out in front of the sides of the neck and also possibly laying on the floor again and just pulling the chin down to the floor to kind of lengthen out the back of the neck. Just some really simple things to kind of loosen up and not let the body get in this position. So, yeah. The glute bridge, the side of the neck stretch, and then the kind of back-of-the-neck stretch on the floor.
Guy Lawrence: Do you mobilize every day, Chad?
Chad Mackay: Pretty much every day.
Stuart Cooke: Every minute, I think, Guy. Not every day.
Guy Lawrence: I still keep coming back to the fact that you can snatch 130 kilos. Mobility must have, you know, played a big part in being able to do that.
Chad Mackay: Man, absolutely. If I go to the movies with my girlfriend, I’ll take a small little golf ball and put that golf ball on the ground and I’ll just get some release on the bottom of my feet. So, I’ll spend 45 minutes on each foot and it does make a big difference. It’s like going for a massage. I had a massage this morning and my body feels like it’s already improved a little bit and I can feel the difference already. So, if I can get 45 minutes on each foot while I’m going to the movies, buddy, that’s perfect.
Stuart Cooke: That’s a top tip.
I’ve got a question about your diet. You know, you do a huge amount throughout your day. What does your typical daily look like? What are you eating and how much do you eat?
Chad Mackay: Well, in the off season I’ll tend to eat a little bit more. During the season, I try and weigh and measure most of my meals. Otherwise, I just feel like I can overeat quite easily. So, I just need to be quite strict on what I do eat and at what times.
A general day would be five meals, and those meals would be spaced about four hours apart. Breakfast will be about a quarter past 5 in the morning where I’ll have a shake, a banana, and a handful of nuts. About an hour before training in the morning I’ll have just a really small snack, kind of pre-workout, and then post-workout I’ll try and have a full meal, whether that will be chicken or lamb. So, some type of flesh. And then a big salad, sweet potato, and that will be kind of drenched in olive oil and avocado. And I’ll have a piece of fruit after I work out.
My meals are basically the same for the rest of the day, so brekkie and post-workout meal and then that post-workout meal is the same for the next three meals throughout the day.
Guy Lawrence: Where do you get your carbs from? So, mainly sweet potato and fruit and veggies?
Chad Mackay: Sweet potato and fruit and veggies.
Guy Lawrence: Do you eat any grains?
Chad Mackay: No grains at all.
Guy Lawrence: Good man.
Chad Mackay: No grains at all.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, because I only raise it as well because there’s a common myth that you need, traditionally, if you’re a high-end athlete that grains are one of the main sources of energy.
Stuart Cooke: Hmm. When did you eliminate your grains, Chad? And, I guess, why?
Chad Mackay: I personally eliminated grains, it would have been around about five years ago. I looked into, when I first started CrossFit, I looked into a diet called the Zone Diet and that’s basically portion control and how much protein, carbohydrate, and fat we should have at every meal. But with the Zone Diet, that’s structured a little bit differently where, if you want to have a Big Mac for a meal, you just need to take the top of the bun off and eat kind of the bottom layer of the bun and the ingredients through the middle and that will keep your blood sugars at a certain level so you don’t have a spike in insulin.
And that didn’t really sit well with me, so I decided to stick with the kind of favorable carbohydrates and the kind of clean meats and veggies. So I stuck to that, pretty much religiously, for about three months, and I went from being 116 kilos and I dropped down to about 105 kilos in three months.
Stuart Cooke: Wow.
Chad Mackay: The initial two weeks I lost probably three or four kilos in that initial two weeks and then I slowly tapered off after that. And then I kind of got introduced to the Paleo Diet, which is basically anything that had a face, you can eat, and anything that falls off a tree or grew in the ground you can have; it’s also known as the caveman diet. So, the last couple of years I’ve been doing that.
Guy Lawrence: When you first made your adjustments and, you know, you dropped down 10 kilos, did you performance and strength remain the same?
Chad Mackay: Well, as I transitioned between kind of bodybuilding style and kind of CrossFit movements, so I couldn’t really gauge the feeling of performance or strength. I think my strength actually dropped back a little bit initially, just because I was having that transition to a new sport.
But definitely energy levels and also a feeling of kind of being sustained throughout the day. I used to have quite large meals, so “quite large meals” would be four or five sandwiches for lunch, a liter of milk. Also, bread, rice, and pasta at pretty much every meal. And unless I felt like I was full I didn’t really feel sustained or didn’t feel like I had much energy.
So, my stomach definitely isn’t as bloated anymore and that’s probably one of the biggest things that I found is that I didn’t have that bloated feeling.
Guy Lawrence: Do you have dairy in your diet, or much, or little, or?
Chad Mackay: A little bit of dairy; not too much. Like, at the moment, I’ve cut most of the dairy out. I might have a little bit of milk in a coffee in the mornings. But when I’m trying to drop back in weight for the season, I’ll try and cut out milk. But in the off season I will add a little bit of milk occasionally.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, fair enough. Fair enough.
And; go ahead, Stewie.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah. So, just getting back to your season and your training, how do you turn into the fine line between optimum training and overtraining?
Chad Mackay: For me? Hard question for me. Because I’ve been doing it for a few years now, I just need to listen to my body. There’s a couple of young guys that train at the gym and are kind of coming through the sport in their early 20s and. . .
Stuart Cooke: Gung-ho.
Chad Mackay: Yeah, absolutely. I think if I was in my early 20s I would probably just be going 100 percent and just going flat-out every session, trying to have the thinking that, you know, more is more. For me, at the moment, I need to listen to my body. I’m a little bit older than most of the guys. If I’m feeling tired and a little bit lethargic, I’ll make sure my nutrition and sleep is spot-on. And if I’m feeling good one day, I might train for a couple of hours and do kind of two or three conditioning pieces in a day.
But at the moment I just need to listen to the little needles and just take it nice and easy when I need to. So, overtraining for me doesn’t really come into play. I’m pretty smart when it comes to that type of thing.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, fair enough.
Guy Lawrence: Talking about your training, I saw that little Facebook post the other day and I just glanced at it and there was something about you walking around like a Michelin Man. What was that about?
Chad Mackay: I’ve heard whispers that at the CrossFit Games there’s going to be a weighted vest run, and it could be a longer-style run. We got some new, weighted vests. They weigh 20 pounds each. So, I put all three vests on. I did a 400-meter sprint, came back into the gym, took one vest off, did another 400 sprint, took the other vest off, so I was left with a 20-pound vest on, ran 400. And I went through that three times. So then I would come back in, load the three weights back on, and then away I would go. So, by the end I was more like a power walker; a little shuffle. So. . .
Guy Lawrence: Carrying 60 pounds on you! Fair enough. Good one.
What I thought we’d do as well, because obviously we put out the Facebook questions as well, and your response was enormous, by the way. I don’t know if you’ve checked them all out. And there’s some funny ones in there, too. So, we thought we’d go through some anyway.
So, we got a question from Paul Hilton. “If you hadn’t found CrossFit, what do you think you would be doing now?”
Chad Mackay: I still think I would be training in a gym, doing some kind of strength and conditioning in the gym. Be surfing a little bit more. I grew up, kind of, surfing, and whatever sport that I did play or that I was involved in I’d pretty much engross myself in that sport and try and get as good as I can. So, whether it be training in the gym, trying to push myself in the weights room, or whether I was down at the beach surfing or running the soft sand down at Bondi, I’d kind of always be looking at the clock or. . .
Guy Lawrence: That competitive nature.
Chad Mackay: It’s always been there. I think it’s one of those things that’s in the blood and evolves over time. So, whatever it would be, I would just be trying to do it the best that I can.
Stuart Cooke: Fantastic. Harrison Matra wants to know what you think of the CrossFit drug-testing model. Should it be more frequently tested in local comps to hopefully find athletes who are cycling throughout the year?
Guy Lawrence: That’s assuming if they are, I guess.
Stuart Cooke: If they are, of course.
Chad Mackay: Yeah, sure, sure. Look, I think that, regarding the local comps, those local comps are more about people wanting to have fun and get involved in the community. Those local comps are my favorite days, just to go there and see the people that have been doing CrossFit for six months and they go to a local comp.
I remember my first local comp, and it was just the most fun I’ve ever had. Driving home, the buzz that I had, you guys have experienced the same thing, you know. And if we start to get too serious about things and drug-testing people to go in those local comps, I think that’s a little bit over the top. But when it comes to the open regionals and the CrossFit games, I think if you’re going to go into the open, you should be held responsible for, obviously, if you’ve taken any performance-enhancing drugs, because it is a worldwide contest, I think that things need to be looked at a little bit more seriously there. But regarding those local comps, just get out there and have a bit of fun.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, fair enough, mate. Yeah, we remember our first local comp very well, up in Hornsby. And it was almost like, it was bizarre, because it was almost like when we first arrived it was like a scene from Fight Club or something, because we were in this underground car park and there was no one above and as soon as you go down it was just hundreds of people screaming, you know.
Yeah, the camaraderie and the buzz from it is amazing. Like, it was a lot of fun.
Chad Mackay: I had the hill sprint; I had the hill sprint in that comp.
Stuart Cooke: Yes. I remember I did.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, it was a 600-meter run up the hill and back and there was a 10-minute time clock and whatever time you had left was burpees. I remember just thinking, “You’re kidding me.”
Chad Mackay: How many burpees did you get out?
Guy Lawrence: I got out 98, I think.
Stuart Cooke: I got 115 and that was my first exposure to burpees.
Guy Lawrence: I’m ashamed.
Stuart Cooke: Thanks for taking me back there, Guy.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, no worries, man. No worries.
All right. Next question. Katrina Stewart says, “I loved watching you come out of the water last year. Do you train in the water much at all? If so, how often does your program look like?”
So, I’m assuming she’s talking about the Pendalay, is it?
Chad Mackay: The Pendleton, yeah.
Guy Lawrence: Pendleton, sorry, yeah.
Chad Mackay: Yeah, I’ve been in and out of the water since I was 5 or 6 years old, whether it be surfing down the beach with my dad and then I had a couple of buddies that were competitive swimmers, so I would jump in on the occasional swim session with those guys and get a little bit more advice on, kind of, technical help and stuff like that.
Buy, yeah, growing up in the surf really helped with that and just being confident in the water. And kind of always competing in school events. You know, I always had a bit of help and technique advice from their coaches.
And then I worked in a leisure center up on the Central Coast as a pool lifeguard, so I’ve always kind of been around the water. And regarding how much I do it in training, because I know I can swim quite well, I kind of focus my energy on other things; more weak areas. So, I might jump in the water once a fortnight, just to do a few laps and I’ll normally go down to Bronte and swim in the ocean bars down there.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, it’s beautiful down there, isn’t it?
Just for those that are listening, can you explain what the Pendleton was? Because you crushed it like the swim. You were out and gone.
Chad Mackay: Yeah, it was; we had to firstly start off with a 700-meter soft sand run and then there was an 800-meter ocean swim. And the transition onto a bike and there was an 8-kilometer trail bike ride and then an 11-kilometer trail run. So, the trail run, for me it was more like a power walk up the hills and then sprint down the hills. And it was a two-hour event.
Stuart Cooke: I think that shook a few people up, didn’t it, as a first event? Because historically I think, you know, everyone’s thinking of heavy lifts and gym movements. But to throw in something completely out of the ordinary, almost triathlon-style, really shook the boat a little bit.
Chad Mackay: Yeah, absolutely. The event after the triathlon was an obstacle course; an army-style obstacle course. There were guys that were kind of left on the balance beams or any kind of apparatus that were cramping up, just because they either hadn’t eaten food or didn’t supplement properly throughout the event. And they were suffering pretty bad from cramps, so, yeah, it absolutely shook a lot of the athletes up. And the soreness that was going to develop from that two-hour event was felt for the rest of the Games for the next three days. So, it was good one to kick us up.
Stuart Cooke: Absolutely. You never know. Shake it up, I guess, is the way to go. It’s the true test.
Thinking about those, the very nature of training in the games, I’ve got a question from Matt Gray, who asks that, “When you’re exhausted, where does your mind go when you need to dig real deep to find that extra strength and keep pushing through the pain?”
Chad Mackay: There’s a few different things that I think about. I’ve normally got a game plan to a workout and I’ll try to stick to that game plan. And then if things start to really hurt, I’ll just take my mind back to other times that I’ve hurt much worse. There was a time in the Games in 2010 where there was a rope climb at the end and I was struggling pretty bad. It was the last event. We have probably three or four minutes to climb a rope and then move back across and jump over a wall. And it was just kind of as many rounds as you could do that in the last piece. And I climbed the rope once, came down, got back down about halfway, and my grip just went and I slid pretty much from the top of the rope to the bottom and tore every single finger pad on my hand off on both hands.
Every time I start to hurt, I take myself back to there. It was 45 degrees and I had no skin left on the pads of my fingers. I always think back to that and just tell myself nothing can kind of compare to that.
And the other thing I think about a lot is I think about my family when it starts to hurt, and rather than kind of doing it for myself and trying to block out the pain, I think about them and that’s a big motivator for me as well. Just to think about family and how much support they give me and I wouldn’t be able to do it without them. So, my mind wanders to my family when I start to hurt as well.
Guy Lawrence: That’s awesome, man. A question that just occurred: When you’re out there, do you think it’s the mindset things that differentiate a lot of the outcome? Because, like, when we looked at the open, just for the regionals, and even the regionals it was so tightly contested, it’s incredible, you know? And do you think that’s a factor about that point; being able to overcome that?
Chad Mackay: Yeah, absolutely. Like, there’s the 10 domains of fitness in CrossFit, so you need to be competent across all those 10 domains. But I think there’s definitely an element where the mental aspect of the sport is where it’s really at as well, and if you see an athlete lose it out on the floor, and they kind of lose that focus, it’s pretty hard for them to get that back. So, definitely that mental component is what kind of develops over time as well.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, fair enough. Fair enough. Wow. All right.
Well, next question. We’ve got Doug Evans. We touched on it a little bit earlier, I think: pre-workout and post-workout meals. What do they consist of? Would they be crucial meals?
So I guess; do you just generally eat the same or do you eat something specific before and after?
Chad Mackay: Normally something specific before, pre-workout will be normally banana. And I’ll probably have about a third of a banana before; exactly an hour beforehand. And then I’ll have about probably 40 grams of weighed protein, so that’ll be chicken or lamb or beef.
And then, post-workout will be a shake, a 180 shake, and then a piece of fruit as well and a whole meal. So, that’ll be straightaway. I’ll normally still be breathing pretty heavy to get that meal in.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, right, OK. Fair enough. That’s a good point, actually.
Stuart Cooke: So, another question from Lach Mac, again, on food: “When the mood hits you, what, if anything, is your go-to cheat meal?”
Chad Mackay: I think the last time I would have had a cheat meal would have been after the Games last year. And I’ll normally go for pizza or ice cream for me. Normally, when I’m at home I’m quite good. I won’t have a cheat meal every week or every month. It’ll be pretty much after the CrossFit Games I’ll go out and let my hair down.
Last year, we finished off in Vegas and they’ve got these incredible buffets in Vegas and, yeah, I went to town.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, I think they’d be in trouble if you went to town on a buffet. It’s like I’ve seen on The Simpsons.
Chad Mackay: Yeah, they didn’t make any money off me, that’s for sure.
Stuart Cooke: Fantastic.
Guy Lawrence: How did you feel? Like, we eat pretty clean. If I eat something that’s cheap meal it knocks me for six. I mean, it’s not the easier thing, even though it sounds great, you know?
Chad Mackay: I get a; after the Games, we have a fair bit of time to relax, so I had friends send over some ice cream and the ice cream was just waiting for us in the room when we got there. And so we polished off maybe a tub of ice cream that night, or that evening. And then the next morning up I woke up and it’s like you’ve got a sugar hangover, and, you know, you’re a little bit cloudy in the morning and it takes a bit of time to get going. But, yeah. . .
It’s not something I look forward to anymore, definitely. I much more look forward to, like, it sounds quite boring, but like a chicken salad. A chicken salad for dinner every night is perfect rather than a big bowl of ice cream.
Guy Lawrence: That’s fair enough. I mean, they say 70 to 80 percent of performance is nutrition, and if you want to perform at the top, you’ve got to fuel yourself the right way. Otherwise, forget about it.
Stuart Cooke: Unless, of course, you’re in an ice cream eating competition. That would be a little different.
Chad Mackay: You’d do that, Stewie, right?
Stuart Cooke: I’d give it a go. I’d give it my best shot.
Guy Lawrence: All right. We’ve got Dean Glendall-Jones. “What is your favorite thing to do on a rest day?”
Chad Mackay: A rest day; I kind of don’t really take rest days. If I’m on a rest day, I like to go to yoga, go surfing, spend time with friends and family. Do some mobility roll-out. Still trying to improve on a rest day. Even if it’s something light, I know there will be some kind of improvement there. So, on a rest day, it’s mainly spent by still doing active. . .
Guy Lawrence: An active rest day.
Chad Mackay: Absolutely. Yeah. An active rest day, for sure.
Guy Lawrence: Does that go right through the whole year, pretty much, or would you, after the games you stop for a month or do you just keep chipping away or?
Chad Mackay: I think I took about a week off after the Games last year, and that was just total rest. And I’ll probably do that again.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, right, right. Amazing.
Stuart Cooke: So, we’ve got a couple of short questions left. This one has been getting quite a lot of press: Jared Smith is very interest in how big your calves are in centimetres.
Chad Mackay: So, Jared’s a good buddy of mine, so he calls me “Calves,” actually, so he’ll send me a text or an email and it will be, “Hey, Calves, how are you doing?” So, he’s a character. He’s a really good athlete as well. Jared, I’m not too sure how big my calves are. They’re definitely bigger than your biceps, buddy.
Guy Lawrence: And do you know who Gary Cousins is?
Chad Mackay: I know Gary Cousins.
Guy Lawrence: He said: Do you have a man-crush on him?
Chad Mackay: He’s a serial pest, Gary Cousins. He’s a lovely bloke. His son trains at our gym, and he’s actually in the team that’s gonna go over and represent Active at the games this year. So, Dean’s a really good athlete and he’s keeping goals in training at the moment. But Gary’s a really good guy.
Guy Lawrence: Fantastic. The Active support at the regionals was hilarious. Like, it was awesome to see everyone in orange jumpsuits, pretty much.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, that’s right. The orange men in the crowd.
Chad Mackay: Yeah, that was great to see. And I think the CrossFit headquarters was calling us the “Orange Army,” which was pretty cool.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I just remember walking in one day and they have the rowing competition that was going on outside for the fastest 500 meters and all I saw was this guy completely head-to-toe in orange. Even his face was covered, and he was just going for it.
Chad Mackay: Yeah, it’s great to have the support, you know? For all the gyms, even CrossFit Bay. They were getting behind; all the Active guys were out on the floor as well, which was fantastic.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, awesome. Awesome.
Well, that’s pretty much all the questions we sort of wanted to cover, you know. Just to wrap it up, I know you’re a busy guy. You run a couple of CrossFit gyms on the North Shore of Sydney, so if people are interested in coming to check out your CrossFit gym and what you guys are about, where’s the best place to go?
Chad Mackay: Just jump onto the website and you can; just jump onto firstname.lastname@example.org. And get in touch with Patty and see how you can get started at the gym. We’ve also got a free trial class on every Saturday at our Waverton location. So, jump online, check that out, and we’ll hopefully see you around down there shortly.
Guy Lawrence: We can put the appropriate links up, anyway, on the blog.
Awesome. Chad, thank you for your time.
Stuart Cooke: Thank you, Chad. As always, fantastic, again. And for anybody out there that’s at the cinema, keep an eye on the guy wearing the Whites vest rolling a couple of golf balls. And say hi.
Chad Mackay: Awesome to see you. Thanks, guys. See you,
This is just one of the questions we ask leading naturopath and nutritionist Tania Flack as we go over our results from our DNA test.
If you have no idea what the DNA testing is, listen to this podcast first: The ultimate blueprint for better health. I’ve time coded the bullet points so can you jump straight to the bits that interest you most in the video if you’re short on time.
For more information on getting the DNA test. Click here.
“The human foot is a work of art and a masterpiece of engineering.”
—Leonardo Da Vinci
Guy:These are just one of the questions we ask sports scientist, barefoot specialist and running coachDavid Chamberlain.
I must admit, myself and running are not the most compatible companions. If Forest Gump were a gazelle, I’d be a silverback gorilla! In saying that, running has always been in there or there abouts with my training.
A few years ago after a spell of chronic back pain, one of the things I looked at were the shoes I was wearing, which sparked an introduction with the barefoot minimalist shoe ‘The Vibram Five Fingers’ which you can read my review here. I’ve worn minimalist shoes ever since. More
You get to meet a lot of people when working in a gym environment. Your die-hards for instance who train to excess, rain, hail or shine trying to figure out different ways they can isolate their biceps to get the perfect guns (flexed arms). But most people I find here at the Uni (where I work) are there to shake off those stubborn pounds of extra body fat! They do mention their health sometimes, but it’s a distant 2nd compared to shape and size.
I have noticed over the years that the majority of people don’t physically change regardless of how hard they are working! I always here moans and groans that ‘I’m buggered if can lose weight’, and ‘This exercise malarky is a load of b@$%^*&^s’!
But here’s the secret, they are missing the two magic ingredients to shred fat fast:
Magic Ingredient No. 1: Progressive Exercise Training
I always hear ‘But I never have enough time…’ and when they finally get their butt to the gym they spend hours making up for lost time. This is uneffective and definitely not progressive. One of the most time effective styles of training I’ve seen is with the use of a kettlebell and once you have the fundamental kettlebell exercise honed ‘the kettlebell swing’, you will see results in no time!
A variation & a change up to traditional ways of training
Cuts out boredom
Develops core strength
Creates total body symmetry
Don’t get carried away with this, just keep it simple. With every training session ask yourself if you can do a little bit more than the last session, this makes it progressive. What’s really cool with this is that when you are fully swinging you will be able to knock out a session in under 15 minutes!
KettleBell Swing Prescription
Ideally keep your kettlebell session to every 3rd day, i.e. Monday, Thursday, Sunday, Wednesday etc.
The first thing you do is warm up a little, skip for 5 minutes (or whatever will make you sweat).
If you have never swung a kettlebell before, start off with the appropriate weight:
Male: 12kg KettleBell
Female: 8kg KettleBell
REMEMBER: Technique first! Get this right before raising the intensity.
Once you have your technique correct, your goal is 100 consecutive kettlebell swings. In the beginning you’ll find this difficult if not impossible. Let’s say you run out of puff after 25 swings, take a 1 minute rest and start swinging again. This time you only complete 17 full kettlebell swings, take 1 minute rest. Now you are buggered and can only do 10 kettlebell swings. You have done 3 sets at a total of 52 kettlebell swings.
End your session here and only do 3 sets, this will ensure you don’t overdo it in your early kettlebell experience. When the next session comes around go for it again. Even if you only do one more total swing than the last session, it is now a progressive exercise which is all that matters. You will soon be able to complete the 100 kettlebell swings in two sets, and eventually one set!
Once you have achieved this, go up a weight. If you were swinging an 8kg kettlebell, move to 12kg. If you were swinging a 12kg kettlebell, move to 16kg, and so on, and so on…
Make no mistake though, once you have the technique down, you will be making it progressive by making the session more intense, not longer. This is no picnic! Are you ready for the challenge?
Magic Ingredient No. 2: An unprocessed diet
I’m going to keep this one short as we will be blogging a lot more about this in the future. But I believe that up to 80% of your body composition comes from the food we eat. Just think about that for a moment… 80%….’cause that’s actually good news for you! Why? Believe it or not, no matter how hectic our life is, with a little organisation you can control what you put in your mouth. If you don’t apply this I guarantee you will be on struggle street.
Along with the kettlebell swings, be disciplined with the food you put in your mouth 24 hrs a day and that excess body fat will fall off.
So what do I eat?
Apply the KISS principle. You have to ‘keep it simple’. The first thing you do is keep it as NATURAL as possible. I can’t stress this enough!
I follow a natural high fat, moderate protein & low carb regime. I eat mainly from the list below. Since I’ve been doing this I can now see my abs.
Unprocessed meats, avoid corn fed and eat grass fed
Ocean fish. (I’m eating lots of flathead cooked in coconut oil & butter)
Non caged eggs and some dairy. (Definitely not flavoured!)
No grains or bread & as little starch & gluten as possible!! (This a must)
The only fruit i’m eating are berries and strawberries.
And NO SUGAR!
If you can be as creative as possible with the above, along with the kettlebell swings, your excess body fat will fall off. I dare you to try it for 1 month & see what happens. But if you do, you must be 100% committed. Have the mindset of an athlete training for the Olympics and you have 1 month to go. So no half measures!
Nutrition is a monster topic and I’ve kept this section simplistic I know. In saying that, with the amount of books out there on the topic, I can I highly recommend one which I have reviewed here.
With the right mindset and applied knowledge, you will be amazed at what you can achieve in no time at all!
If you want to improve your kettlebell skills, I can highly recommend the boys over at Australian Institute of KettleBells. They run national courses across the country. I’ve done one and they are fantastic!