Watch the full interview below or listen to the full episode on youriPhone HERE.
We chat to Sami Inkinen, a world class triathlete and tech entrepreneur. Whilst we don’t encourage anyone to eat 5000 calories of saturated fat a day, we feel it’s a very important message that Sami shares with us.
Sami and his wife Meredith recently did a phenomenal achievement, where they physically rowed from California to Hawaii. It took them 45 days straight rowing, up to 18 hours a day, and some days they didn’t even get any sleep.
Awesome achievement, but more importantly was the message behind it, as they did it without the use of any sugar and sports gels, pushing the message that you don’t need sugar to power the body daily, not even as a world-class athlete.
So they did it running on, yes, about 70 to 75 percent fat on each meal, and we were very keen to get him on the show and pick his brains about this, because there are so many things we can learn from it.
Full Interview with Sami Inkinen, World Class Ironman
In this episode we talk about:
How he ended up being involved in the documentary Cereal Killers Two – Run on Fat
Why he decided to embark on his toughest challenge yet, rowing to Hawaii from San Francisco
How they prepared for their meals. Sami was eating a whopping 8,000 calories a day!
The effects of eating 5000 calories of saturated fat a day whilst rowing
Guy Lawrence: Hey, this is Guy Lawrence with 180 Nutrition and welcome to another episode of the Health Sessions. Our special guest today is Sami Inkinen. Now, Sami has achieved some remarkable things in life, including he’s a world-class triathlete, he’s a tech entrepreneur, and him and his wife did a phenomenal achievement recently which is they basically physically rowed from California to Hawaii. Took them 45 days rowing up to 18 hours a day straight, and some days they didn’t even get any sleep.
Awesome achievement, but more importantly was the message behind it, because they did it without the use of sugar and gels and basically pushing the message that you don’t need sugar to power the body daily, not even as a world-class athlete like that.
So they did it running on, yes, about 70 to 75 percent fat on each meal, and we were very keen, obviously, to get him on the show and pick his brains about this, because there are so many things we can learn from it. He also shares many other things as well, which is fantastic, and it was an awesome podcast. I have no doubt you’ll get lots out of this today whether you’re an athlete or not. It was just brilliant.
Of course, if you are listening to this through iTunes, hit the subscribe button, leave a review, all very appreciated. A, it’s nice to know that you’re enjoying our podcasts, but B, it helps spread the word by simply subscribing or leaving a review more people can find us and more people can listen and more people can benefit from the message that we are putting out there to the world which we feel is very necessary.
And, of course, come back to our website, 180nutrition.com.au, where we’ve got a heap of resources including a free ebook which is a great place to start if you find all this information a little bit overwhelming. Anyway, enjoy the show. This one’s awesome. Cheers.
Guy Lawrence: Okay, hey, this is Guy Lawrence. I’m joined with Stuart Cooke, as always. Hi, Stu.
Stuart Cooke: Hello.
Guy Lawrence: And our awesome guest today is Sami Inkinen. Sami, welcome to the show.
Sami Inkinen: Thanks very much. Excited to be a part of your show.
Guy Lawrence: Oh, mate, that’s awesome. Me and Stu have been very excited today, because it’s certainly a topic I think we thrive on, especially when it comes to sports as well, and it’s clear that you’re a guy that doesn’t do things by half-measures, you know, and just to, I guess, for the people who are listening to sum it up in a short way, you’re a world-class athlete, you’re a tech entrepreneur, and you’ve just gone and done something with your wife recently which is a phenomenal achievement and which I’m looking forward to getting sucked in with everyone.
But just to kick start the conversation, mate, would you mind just sharing a little bit about your background? And even, you know, how you ended up in San Francisco in the first place, because you’re from Finland.
Sami Inkinen: Yeah, so I was born and raised and brainwashed in Finland. Grew up about 200 miles, so 300 kilometers, from Helsinki on a farm, a chicken farm, but I wasn’t really a farm boy, I was more into computers, so as soon as I got out of the farm, I studied physics at a university in Finland and got into software and computers early in my life. Started on company in Europe and then in 2003, which seems like a long time ago now, about 12 years ago, I came here to San Francisco Bay Area in the U.S. to attend Stanford Business School and, you know, I’ve been here ever since.
Guy Lawrence: Are you missing the cold weather? I’m assuming it can get quite cold in Finland as well, right?
Sami Inkinen: You know, there’s a reason why I stayed here.
Guy Lawrence: Go on, Stu. You look like you’re going to say something.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, so we’ve been following a little bit of your background, Sami, as well, and realized that you did extremely well in the triathlete Ironman scene as well, but then made it to the big screen. I was just wondering how that happened? What happened there?
Sami Inkinen: Big screen as in…
Guy Lawrence: Cereal Killers 2.
Stuart Cooke: The movies.
Sami Inkinen: Well, first of all, I have, quite honestly, zero interest in promoting myself for the sake of promoting myself. However, given that I thought that I was kind of a poster boy for healthy living because of my crazy amount of endurance training and, what I thought, healthy living, regardless of that kind of lifestyle, I found out that I was pre-diabetic a couple of years ago, and I got ridiculously frustrated that, “How is this possible that it happens to me? And if it happens to me with that kind of lifestyle and a focus on exercise and, what I thought, healthy eating, what are the chances that an average person can avoid that sort of health issue?”
And the answer is, “Fat chance.” There’s no chance, so I wanted to do anything and everything I can to promote the message around healthy diet and healthy nutrition and, therefore, I was more than happy to lend my own crazy adventures and experiences for the benefit of others.
And I think that was the reason why I ended up teaming up or helping Donal O’Neill who has produced these two movies, Cereal Killers and Cereal Killers 2, so that was the background story. So I thought whatever I do and what I did with my wife, if it can help other people to avoid what was happening to me health wise, it would be worth the embarrassing exposure on the screen.
Guy Lawrence: Did it take you awhile? Was that the wakeup moment? Because I know you mentioned, like you said, you were going to be prediabetic and did you instantly look into increasing fats? Like, how did that message sink in to you, because there are so many people resistant to that message to this day and don’t even, won’t even consider it, you know? How did it work for you? Who did you discover to make you think differently about that?
Sami Inkinen: Well, first of all, I, obviously, it was almost like driving a car to a rock wall 100 kilometers an hour when I really thought it’s impossible that I would get sick or, more importantly, it would be impossible that someone like me would become diabetic or prediabetic with the kind of lifestyle that I was living, so it was really kind of a stopping moment for me.
And, of course, as a computer scientist, the first place that I went was online, so I started reading a lot and, unfortunately, spending time on, kind of, research databases like PubMed isn’t a very effective way of educating yourself because there’s so much science as well as bad science that you could spend the rest of your life reading research reports and still just be confused.
So I think the best sources for me were books and, you know, there’s a number of books, but I think one of the better overviews was the book written by Gary Taubes called Good Calories, Bad Calories.
Stuart Cooke: Yes.
Sami Inkinen: You know, it was just one of the information sources that I relied on and we talked with a number of physicians and scientists directly, but that was definitely one of the more transformational books for me.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, it’s a very in-depth book, too, and certainly recommended to everyone, yeah. So, let’s, talking about the challenge, can you explain a little bit about the synopsis and what you and Meredith achieved? What you did?
Sami Inkinen: Yes.
Guy Lawrence: And, as well, who came up with it? You know? Why that challenge?
Sami Inkinen: Well, yeah, first of all, Meredith, my wife and I, we decided to row completely unsupported with no past rowing experience in a, kind of, special adult rowing boat from California to Hawaii across the Pacific Ocean about 2400, 2500 miles. Well we ended up rowing 2,750 completely unsupported this past summer, so we just finished a few months ago.
I’d love to blame my wife for the crazy idea, but I think I was the person who initially got inspired and got this idea and the initial inspiration came from the book called Unbroken, which actually it was just turned into a movie about six months ago, but in this book a second World War Air Force pilot was shot down above the Pacific Ocean and he floated across the Pacific Ocean in a life raft, and I just thought that experience was so amazing and I didn’t want to be in a life raft, but just to experience the wilderness of the Pacific Ocean, so that was kind of a seed in my mind, and I thought, “For once in my lifetime, I want to experience the craziness of the Pacific Ocean.”
So that was the initial inspiration, but then we wanted to turn this crazy expedition into something that would benefit others as well, so we wanted to combine it with this message of, “Sugar is dangerous and more likely than not the processed carbohydrates are dangerous to you as well,” and so we wanted to do this adventure, an expedition, with absolutely no sugar and practically no carbohydrate as well, and that’s what we did.
Guy Lawrence: It was amazing. Was it harder than you thought? Or was it what you expected, you know, or, like, especially if you’ve never done something like that before. I can’t…I struggle to envision being on a boat for 45 days like that.
Sami Inkinen: Yeah. So I grew up in Finland not far from lakes and we had a small summer cottage by a lake, but I have to say I know why oceans are called oceans and not lakes. It’s a completely different environment, and, as you mentioned, neither Meredith nor myself had any experience with oceans. We aren’t sailors. We’ve done nothing related to oceans and we weren’t rowers, either, so to answer your question, we really didn’t have any expectations, because we had never experienced this environment before and we went from zero to sixty miles an hour in many ways in six months.
So six months before the launch, we started to train rowing. We started to train about survival in ocean environments, so we did massive amounts of survival training, navigation training, seamanship, and all these things that you really don’t worry about when you don’t know about sailing boats or anything, getting radio, you know, license and certificates, and understand how you use radios and all these things, so it all happened in six months.
Quite frankly we, I think we had, we didn’t really expect much because we had no idea what this is going to be like, and this may sound really crazy, but we didn’t even spend a single night in our boat until the first night. We slept in the boat, but we kind of slept in a very, sort of, calm condition, so for better or worse, we had a lot of first time experiences once we got out there, which may not sound like the perfect way of preparing for something like this.
Stuart Cooke: Tell us about motivation. With all that prep work that you did for the other elements of the boat, I mean, what, direct, physically stay motivated for that length of time, how is this possible?
Sami Inkinen: Well, first of all, the motivation for this draw was really twofold. One was, we both think that pushing your physical and mental limits is just kind of a full human experience, so we like pushing ourselves beyond what you would expect to be normal, and we find that it’s a very rewarding way of living your life, and you learn all kinds of interesting things about yourself and human life.
And then the second thing is really this motivation to bring awareness, build awareness, around the danger of sugar and processed carbohydrates. Those were kind of driving forces for us. But once you’re out there, the good news is, there’s no turning back, so the only way to get out is to freaking keep rowing.
And we kept rowing up to 18 hours a day, so you can’t really turn back. You really simply can’t, because of the winds and everything, so the only way to get out of the boat is to row to Hawaii, which we thought might take two months.
But then on a more practical level, you really have to focus on the process at the very moment, and you know, this applies to other things is life, but you can’t let your mind get into, kind of, “What is it going to be when we finish? Or what is it going to be…?”
You may be able to think that when you go for a sixty-minute run or a three-hour bike ride, but when you’re there for two months rowing eighteen hours a day, you have to focus on the moment, otherwise, you’ll mentally fall apart and you’re on the ground in pieces, so you focus on the moment and then, you know, like eating an elephant. How do you eat an elephant? You eat it one bite at a time.
Guy Lawrence (simultaneously): One bite at a time.
Sami Inkinen: Yes, you really focus on these micro small milestones, whether that’s your two-hour shift, and you take a five-minute break, maybe it’s a little drinking or maybe it’s your lunch break or something like that, so those two things, like, focus on the moment and then, you know, you have this, sort of small bit-sized chunks that you focus on as opposed to, “Oh, in a month’s time we might finish.”
Stuart Cooke: That’s right.
Guy Lawrence: Well, that’s just getting done, isn’t it? Do you meditate outside or, as in outside the rowing, do you do meditation…?
Sami Inkinen: Yeah, I actually…yeah, I started mindfulness meditation practice about two years ago and so did my wife, so I do a couple of minutes every morning the moment I wake up, and frankly we had plenty of time to practice activity-based meditation on the boat. It was actually interesting and powerful to try that during the row, which really helps you to focus on the moment and the sensation and this kind of related to how can you stay focused? It’s obviously uncomfortable for the most part, you know?
Your ass is hurting, your hands are hurting, you’re tired, but there’s nothing more powerful than embracing that pain and discomfort, because once you, sort of, give in and embrace and recognize that feeling, nothing can break you, but as long as you keep, sort of, fighting and bitching to yourself, like, “Oh, my god, my ass is hurting. Oh, my god, I’m tired,” the feeling just sort of escalates in your brain, but the moment you’re like, “I’m hurting. I’m feeling it. It’s uncomfortable, but I’m in it and I’m embracing it,” it’s like, “All right, so what’s worse? It can’t get any worse. You’re in it.”
So, there are a lot of mental lessons that I think are applicable to…
Guy Lawrence: Day-to-day life. Yeah.
Sami Inkinen: Yeah. Day-to-day life at your office or your exercise, so, you know, relationship with people and all other things.
Guy Lawrence: Amazing. Yeah. Something else occurred to me as well, because they say traveling with your partner is the best way to test the relationship, you know, and being in a rowing boat would certainly test that, you know, for me, but obviously it went good, you know? It’s incredible. Yeah.
Sami Inkinen: Yeah, we’re still married, so… You can see I still have the ring, so all went well, but, no, absolutely, it’s a… Not only was it an amazing test, but also an amazing experience that we’ll share for the rest of our lives, and fortunately it turned out positively from a relationship perspective.
Guy Lawrence: Go on, Stu. Go on.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, I was just wondering how you felt when you got off the boat, I mean, what were your feelings and how did you feel?
Sami Inkinen: Well, emotionally, I, and I think my wife as well, we cried a lot immediately after, so it was just, kind of, a big emotional moment to come out. Physically, so we had a doctor who did a quick checkup right after who actually has worked with a number of ocean rowers and her immediate comment was, “I can’t believe how healthy you guys look.” Like, nothing crazy, no crazy inflammation going on.
I had blood work done just a couple of days after the row and, like, we were incredibly healthy from the perspective of inflammation, hormonal markers, and other things, so other than, especially with myself losing a lot of, or having a lot of muscle atrophy in the muscles we didn’t use, which is completely natural, nothing to do with your diet, it’s just if you don’t use those muscles…Other than that, I was feeling incredibly well and within just a couple of days I felt like I was completely back, too.
It took several weeks to build the muscle mass back to some of the muscles that were really… because I didn’t really even stand, I didn’t do anything weight-bearing for two months, so other than that…
Guy Lawrence: So, just upper body, yeah…
Sami Inkinen: Yeah and, you know, rowing is, you do use your legs and low body, kind of like a squat movement, still, you don’t even stand or carry your body weight. There’s a lot of muscle and soft tissue that’s completely unused, and I lost a lot of that, so, like, walking was difficult coming off the boat.
Guy Lawrence: Just to touch back on the diet, because, you know, obviously you’ve changed your diet dramatically. Could you explain what your diet used to look like as a triathlete and what it looks like now, especially preparing and on the boat? The differences you made?
Sami Inkinen: Yeah. So, first of all, I did start changing my diet quite significantly before the row and I’ve raced as a triathlete following graphically similar diet I followed on the boat, but for almost twenty years I followed what I thought was a perfectly healthy diet and the diet that’s promoted by, you know, most governments, including the United States, including Finland, which, to me, was anything that was low-fat or no fat was healthy and, you know, I tried to eat fresh foods, but I ate a lot of packaged foods as well.
So my diet was extremely low fat. I tried to eat whole grains, obviously, not crap, and just a very low-fat diet. Low-fat, I thought it was good, and if it said no fat, it was great, so whether it was bread or skim milk or low-fat cheese or low-fat mayo, you name it, that’s what I was eating. And then, you know, the more I read about sports performance books, it was always, like, “Oh, you have to carb-load and that’s high-octane fuel,” you know, to put it simply, I was on an extremely high-carbohydrate diet, mostly whole grains, grains, vegetables, and all the meat that I was eating, it was super low-fat, so chicken, turkey, no skin, low-fat beef, that was my diet, and I followed that about twenty years.
I kept myself reasonably lean and my race weight low, but it required a ridiculous amount of willpower. We’ve seen what a lot of athletes are capable of doing, but 99 percent of the population just can’t do that and it’s not fun to apply 95 percent of your willpower 300 days a year to just always eat less than you would like to eat.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Yeah, and then moving to the boat, because we watched the documentary a few days ago and what was clear is you were meticulous about, you know, the amount of calories and the amount of fat you ate and the way you set your meals up. Would you mind explaining a little bit about that for us as well, because that was fascinating I thought.
Sami Inkinen: On the boat?
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, for the boat, yeah.
Sami Inkinen: Yeah. Well, first of all, obviously, when you’re in the middle of the Pacific Ocean there’s no eat stations like in a triathlon race, so there’s no convenience stores or grocery stores that you can stop by when you get hungry or realize that, holy crap, you don’t have enough protein or this or that, so we had to be careful, and even our diet, at least by traditional standards, was very extreme, we want it to also be very scientific about preparing, because we knew that if something goes wrong, whether it’s food-related or something else, we just can’t; there’s no way, no helicopter is going to drop us extra food or extra sodium or extra this or that, so that was one of the reasons we were very, like, everything was calculated, measured, weighed, and we knew then what we have on the boat is sufficient.
But what we ate at the high level, we only tried to pack and eat real whole foods, so in as natural form as possible. That was one. Two, it was extremely low-carbohydrate diet from a macronutrient perspective, so caloric-wise my carbohydrate calories were somewhere between five and ten, around maybe nine percent of calories was carbohydrates. Protein, I think, was about fifteen percent, up to fifteen percent, so it leaves 75 percent to 80 percent of calories from fat, so, you know, I ate probably 5000 calories of fat every day, of which most was saturated fat, so if you want to shock a cardiologist, that’s a pretty good line, “Yeah, I ate 5000 calories of saturated fat for two months, almost two months.”
Stuart Cooke: So, a typical meal for you on the boat would’ve been what?
Sami Inkinen: Yeah, so, and we packed pretty simple, not too much variety, so consequently I was practically eating the same stuff every day. So my breakfast was often salmon or tuna with craploads of olive oil and maybe some macadamia nuts.
My lunch was typically freeze-dried beef that was maybe like 70 percent fat calorically and 30 percent protein mixed with a little bit of freeze-dried vegetables and then I just mixed with water and it became like, you know, like a fresh food, and then I threw in, again, crazy amounts of olive oil into it and salt that had extra potassium and then some seasoning, maybe some olives, so it was kind of a… wasn’t very appetizing-looking necessarily, but I loved it, so that was the reason why I keep so much…
Guy Lawrence: And it was practical.
Sami Inkinen: Yeah, very practical, and we didn’t have to cook anything. We didn’t have to boil water. I didn’t boil water. I boiled water a single time just as an experiment in the first few days, but that was all. So that was kind of my lunch most days.
And then I wasn’t, because we ate very high fat, we were very fat-adapted, so we didn’t have to be eating every 45 minutes, every hour, so sometimes I’d have five, six, seven, hours between meals, but nuts were my favorite snacks. Nuts, coconut butter, and then different nut butters, so macadamia… I had plenty of macadamia nuts, almonds… so that was kind of a typical meal kind of setup.
Guy Lawrence: Were you, do you know if you were in ketosis the whole time or coming in and out? Did you have a doctor on that at all or…?
Sami Inkinen: Yeah. I did measure my ketones along the way. With hindsight, I overate a little bit protein to be in optimal ketosis, so that’s my understanding, that I ate a little bit too much protein, which flipped me out of a perfect zone, but I was definitely on ketosis. I don’t know deep I was, because I didn’t measure that frequently and my personal experience is that if you measure your ketones right after workout, I notice that my ketones actually go down right after the workout, so you give it a couple of hours after that and then they kind of come to the equilibrium of whatever they are and, you know, I was, usually when I measured it was right after my rowing, so…
Guy Lawrence: Do you still eat this way, in terms of the proportions, fat and carbs, or do you…?
Sami Inkinen: Yes.
Guy Lawrence: Every day, training or not?
Sami Inkinen: Yes.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, okay.
Sami Inkinen: The only difference is I have way more fresh food, so, and the fresh food is mainly green leafy vegetables, which weren’t available and I really missed those, so I eat a lot of those, but in terms of the macronutrient composition, I’m, let’s see, yeah, probably five percent carbohydrates, maybe ten, fifteen percent protein, and the rest is fat.
Guy Lawrence: There you go.
Stuart Cooke: Wow. And do you think that this way of eating is beneficial for everyone?
Sami Inkinen: Well, first of all, people look for shortcuts and for simple sound bites like…
Stuart Cooke: Yeah.
Sami Inkinen: One size does not fit all, so my recommendation when people come to me is, unless I have time to spend, like, two, three hours with someone to talk about XXtheir ???XX [0:26:21] is buy real, whole foods and cook at home. You’re probably better off not buying grains and, yeah, lots of carbohydrates, so that’s my advice to everyone, and if you buy real, whole foods and cook at home, you can’t go wrong, and if you limit carbohydrates, you’re probably better off. Beyond that, it’s kind of an individual situation and it depends on what your health standard is. If you are completely healthy now, you exercise a lot, you’re very carbohydrate-tolerant, insulin sensitive, you may be able to lead a happily healthy life with reasonable amount of stuff that might kill someone else.
So, I don’t, like, one size fits all in this kind of a one sound bite, it just, that’s for people looking for shortcuts and simple answers. There’s no simple answers other than eat real whole foods and cook at home and everything else after that you have to be quite nuanced…
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. A lot of self-experimentation.
Stuart Cooke: I’m guessing then if you retired from sports tomorrow, you would continue to eat this way.
Sami Inkinen: Oh, absolutely, yeah. The way I eat, well, first of all, I think a healthy foundation in your body is an absolutely foundation for sports performance. So, you can’t start from the performance angle first and say, “Hey, why don’t I eat something that makes me somehow, like, really good at sports.” Well, that’s somehow that makes you really good at sports is something that optimizes your general health, because then you recover best, you can train hardest, so I don’t really see those as mutually exclusive, sports performance and health.
Then race time eating or race time nutrition might be different, because you may not be able to, you know, take a plate and take a frying pan and start preparing meals if you’re in the middle of a race, so a race is a different situation but in terms of health and sports performance, it’s tough for me to make the case that they would be mutually exclusive so the answer is, “Yes.”
I want to be as healthy as possible, because that makes me the best possible athlete as well.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, because that’s a focus you don’t see a lot, but athletes do, like, you know, the health sort of becomes a far distant second and that’s all about how can I perform better and achieve more and consequently health would suffer. Like, even with yourself, the change the diet now, have you noticed differences with injuries and things and just with the body itself? Can you put more demands on it the way you’re doing it?
Sami Inkinen: Yeah. Well, this is kind of an n equals one experiment so this is just a personal. It’s anecdotal and those who want to rip apart everyone’s opinions and comments will certainly rip apart my comment, but the thing that I don’t have, which is a good thing, one is, I have much less, knock on wood, but I feel like I don’t get sick at all now. So I used to have my sore throat and sinus and this and that all the time. That’s one.
Two, I don’t have, like, sort of inflammation nagging injuries. I used to have Achilles and shoulder and this and that, lower back and this and that, all the time. I don’t have those at all.
And then anecdotally, I feel that I recover much better, so those are the things that…It appears to me that have significantly improved when I got off the super high-carbohydrate, low fat diet, and then just overall feeling is like, you know, I’m not thinking about really food much at all. I’m not obsessed about always trying to eat ten percent less than I wanted, so I can focus on life rather than, “Oh, I need to be on this athlete diet which sucks all the time.”
Guy Lawrence: I know, we now a few, I mean, you know, a good endurance athlete as well, and they get ravenous, like, you know, they’d eat a loaf of banana bread in seconds, you know, and then they come out and it’s like, “Wow. That can’t be helpful.”
Stuart Cooke: So, we’ve touched a little bit on food, I’m interested to know your thoughts on sports drinks.
Sami Inkinen: Sports drinks?
Stuart Cooke: Sports drinks, yeah. So I guess, what did you drink while you were on the row and perhaps, historically, what did you used to drink when you were training as to what you might drink now?
Sami Inkinen: Yeah. So our sports drink of choice on the boat was water which was made out of ocean water with our desalinator, so we, you know, carrying the amount of water that you need for two months when you are sweating, rowing eighteen hours a day, obviously, which people used to do, the few crazy individuals who did this before, solar panels and desalinators, the rowing boats were gigantic because they had to carry all their water through the whole thing.
Guy Lawrence: All their water. Yeah.
Sami Inkinen: So, we were drinking ocean water, which was desalinated, no sodium, and we had zero electrolyte solutions whatsoever on the boat which probably could be surprising to people. So our sports electrolyte solution of choice was table salt.
Guy Lawrence: Plain old table salt.
Sami Inkinen: Yeah. We had table salt that had, you know, added potassium, but you know, it’s a grocery store product that you buy. That was the only thing that we had. We also had a magnesium tablets, but the only reason we had that was because all the beef that, and the meat, that we ate was dehydrated and it was treated in a way that it had lower amounts of magnesium that you would otherwise find, so we had that just in case that we wouldn’t have muscle cramps, but that’s all.
And, like I said, we had no aid station, we had no sports stores, so we were absolutely confident that the real whole foods based diet, regardless of our eighteen hours of exercise a day, is completely efficient, so I guess long story short to answer your question, we were able to exercise eighteen hours a day with zero sports drinks and eighteen hours a day, I burn about the same amount of calories as running two marathons each day for 45 days non-stop.
Guy Lawrence: That’s amazing, man.
Sami Inkinen: That doesn’t make it science, but it’s not a very good headline for a sports drink marketer.
Guy Lawrence: Do you ever get people just going, “Oh, that’s rubbish, “or disbelief or…what’s the reaction being… for you achieving this in the sports fraternity especially, you know? Like, because it’s so against everything we’ve told.
Sami Inkinen: I don’t know. I don’t really care. I mean, I let others judge and form their opinions and, if somebody doesn’t believe in what we did or that might be the right way to eat or drink or hydrate yourself then that’s their choice. Yeah, but your question of what do I have now, so if I go to a four or five-hour bike ride, I just have water in my bottle, but I usually try to make sure that I have, like, lots of salt before. I might throw in some table salt into my water bottles in my bike, and then, once I finish, I have extra salt to swallow.
So you certainly need the sodium, but I’m just conscious of that if I do something that is more than two hours and it’s hot and I know that I’m going to be sweating, yeah, I kind of buffer a little bit, but I don’t run out of sodium.
Guy Lawrence: Amazing. And just one question that I really wanted to touch on while we’ve got you on the show, Sami, is just for the listeners out there regarding your training, could you share with us now even when you’re leading up to an event or something what a typical training day and a typical training week would look like? The amount of volume you would do in that?
Sami Inkinen: Yeah. Well, it obviously depends on what I’m preparing for, but looking at the last five, even ten years of my training log, it’s… overall volume is the same, the content just changes, but weekdays, I usually work out between 50 and 90 minutes per day. You know, maybe an average of an hour a day, and then the weekend, either for training or social reasons, I do a longer, usually it’s a bike ride that’s anywhere between three and five hours, more often three to four hours, so if you do the math, I mean the second day might be another one or two-hour bike ride or run or something, but you know I end up training about ten hours a week, week in, week out, and you know, I love exercising so that’s one of the reasons.
It’s my way of, like, clearing my mind, and if I’m training for an event it’s much more focused, so there’s more high-intensity and that’s sort of thing, but the hours I’d say… eight to eleven hours a week. It’s difficult to find a week that’s out of those parameters for less than eleven hours, and then you know, I might sometimes more strength-training, sometimes less, but that’s kind of the setup.
So when I say one-hour day, so it could be a recovery workout where I go and ride about a bike for 50 minutes. Super easy, so that’s almost like doing nothing for me, but it counts as a one-hour workout, so another one-hour workout might be ten times one-minute all out, warm out, cool down, so once again it’s one hour, so it’s again, it’s an hour, but you know, it really depends on what I do there, but I’m so used to exercise that I kind of end up spending the one hour every morning just to get out there and do something and, yeah, but what you do within an hour makes a huge difference.
Guy Lawrence: Oh, yeah.
Stuart Cooke: It does, it does. One question as well, Sami, that we ask everybody, and I know we’ve got thousands of people that would love to know, a typical daily diet for you. What have you eaten today?
Sami Inkinen: What have I had today? Probably the most dangerous, no question about, answer, because everyone always asks, “So what do you eat exactly?” I always try to avoid going into details, because then people either want to copy, they’ll want to rip it apart, so I’ve always tried to avoid, like, posting somewhere, like, “Here’s exactly what I eat.” Not because there’s anything scandalous or anything, but, again, people are looking for this, like…
Guy Lawrence: Magic fix?
Sami Inkinen: …sound bite, like one size fits all, but typically I eat, before workout, I probably have, like four or five hundred calories of fat and, practically speaking, that’s usually coconut butter or coconut oil in a tea or coffee or butter so that was the case this morning as well, so, I mean, I don’t count the calories, but just to give you a sense of, like…
Guy Lawrence: Guestimate, yeah.
Sami Inkinen: You know, a crapload of fat with a drink, and you know it’s pretty fast to digest and it doesn’t feel like it’s in your stomach if you go and work out, so that’s… Then right after workout, I usually have a little bit of a protein, so this could be three to five eggs, fried with top fat again, butter usually, in a pan, depending how busy I am. My lunch is usually a salad, so it looks like it’s lots of salad, but it’s lots of greens and then with a little bit of protein, so that could be a salmon or ground beef and then a lot of olive oil or butter or some sort of mayo.
Snacks oftentimes it’s some sort of meat or sausage or almonds or macadamia nuts and then dinner is even a, you know, a bowl that you would usually feed a horse from. That kind of size full of greens that I may sauté in a pan with a bunch of butter or just like put in, like, it’s gigantic and then again with some kind of protein. It could be shrimps or fish or grass with beef or more butter. I usually drink water, but I might have almond milk, just for the heck of it, maybe some frozen berries after that, like blueberries or something like that. Nothing too scientific.
Stuart Cooke: Sounds delicious.
Guy Lawrence: That’s awesome. Mate, we’ve got one more question that we always ask everyone on the podcast as well and it can be related to anything, but what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Sami Inkinen: That someone has given to me?
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Sami Inkinen: Oh… happy wife, happy life. It sounds like a cliché, but once you’ve been married for a few years you realize that it’s so true.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah.
Guy Lawrence: That’s a great answer.
Stuart Cooke: I hear where you’re coming from, Sami, with that one.
Guy Lawrence: Just to wrap it up, what does the future hold for Sami Inkinen? Any more challenges ahead or anything in the pipeline?
Sami Inkinen: Well I’m working very hard on my MacBook Air, just kind of on the technology side of things, but athletically I’m doing the eight-day mountain biking stage race in South Africa in March called Cape Epic, so it’s, you know, five to seven hours on the bike each day for eight days. So that’s coming up in less than two months, so two months’ time. Excited about that, so that’s my athletic in the horizon, so I’d better get myself on the bike.
Stuart Cooke: My word, I’ve been a mountain biker all my life, I would shudder at the thought of undertaking something like that, so I would… We’ll keep an eye on that one, for sure.
Guy Lawrence: Definitely! And for them listening to this, Sami, if they want to, you know, track your progress or follow you, do you have a website or a blog they can check out at all or a URL?
Sami Inkinen: Yeah, well maybe a couple of things, the row, if you’re interested in learning more about the row, we have a website called Fat Chance Row, fatchancerow.org, so you can go there and read a little bit about the background and we raised money for a non-profit and we are still doing that, so if you want to support, none of the money comes to us, it goes directly to the non-profit. So that’s one, and then, if you want to follow me on Twitter, one way to follow what I might be up to, is just my first name, last name on Twitter, so S, A, M, I, I,N, K, I, N, E, N, Sami Inkinen on Twitter, and you know I sometimes blog on my website, but it’s not too frequent so…
Guy Lawrence: No worries. We’ll put the appropriate links to that on the show anyway and help spread the word. Thanks, Sami, thanks so much for coming on the show. That was awesome and I have no doubt everyone is going to get a lot out of that today.
Stuart Cooke: I think so, very, very inspiring. Really appreciate the time, Sami.
Sami Inkinen: Yeah. My pleasure, so thanks so much, guys.
Anyone who knows me, knows I enjoy eating well. I get extreme pleasure from preparing and eating good food for others and myself, especially when I know it will nourish, make us feel good and provide the energy needed to make the most of this fabulous life.
Even though I was exposed to a wide variety of foods growing up in a very European household, there are simply some foods I would not touch with a barge pole. I have selected five to discuss, leaving out some others you may already know about such as vegetable oils, margarine and commercially prepared salad dressings.
1. Skim/Low Fat Milk
Quite frankly I do not see the point of skim milk. The name suits this liquid perfectly. Skim is to remove, be superficial, skirt over. Enough said really. Skim milk is a food lacking many nutrients. Many people believe that by removing the fat we have a healthier substance which provides the same flavour. Sadly aside from the tasteless aspect and uninviting texture of skim milk, skim milk can actually contribute to weight gain and has minimal health benefits other than a false sense of belief that you are making a better choice for your health goals.
To start with, many skim milks are sweetened to help with palatability. Would you believe that low fat milk can have as much as 13g of sugar per cup?
Furthermore many essential vitamins found in whole milk such as Vitamin D, E and A are fat soluble and need fat to be transported and distributed throughout the body. Low fat milks therefore lack the vehicle our bodies and minds need to absorb and make use of these nutrients.
The healthy “good” fats such as those found in whole milk, are essential for the production of a hormone called Cholecystokinin (CCK). CCK is the fella responsible for the feeling of fullness. It makes sense then that low fat or skim milk can often leave you feeling unsatisfied, and inclined to reach for more food shortly after eating to fill the void. Good fats also slow the release of sugar into your bloodstream, reducing the amount that can be stored as fat.
Tip #1 If you drink milk, have unhomogenised full fat milk instead of skimmed.
2. Muesli Bars & Commercially Prepared Muesli
Muesli is often touted as an amazingly healthy and convenient meal and is marketed to the health conscious crowd. It is no surprise that people choose muesli and muesli bars for breakfast in preference to packaged cereals high in sugar or savoury meals such as egg and bacon.
It may shock you to know that most muesli bars and muesli’s readily available in supermarkets and health-food stores contain an alarmingly high amount of sugar, processed carbohydrates and often harmful vegetable oils! These can have detrimental affects on your overall health and weight loss goals.
If the idea of giving up on muesli is far too much to bear, consider making your own simple, yet delicious, sugar and grain free muesli that will not cause a huge blood sugar spike.
An example could be combining seeds (sunflower, pepitas, chia, sesame) with roughly chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, macadamias, , hazelnuts, almonds) and shredded unsweetened coconut. You could mix these with coconut oil, cinnamon powder and vanilla and bake in the oven until lightly toasted. Serve it up with coconut milk, full cream cow or goat milk or homemade almond milk.
Also the 180 protein bars are a great natural alternative to your muesli bars if you are looking for a convenient snack.
Tip #2 If you are going to eat muesli, make your own.
3. Sports Drinks
Commercially prepared sports drinks otherwise known as “energy drinks” are often consumed by people who want to obtain an energy lift, improve their sports performance or those who believe that this is a better alternative to soft drinks.
Unfortunately most sports drinks are far from healthy, in fact most have no real health benefit at all and can negatively effect your health. They are high in sugar and contain many chemicals such as preservatives, dyes and a well known brand contains brominated vegetable oil, a flavour and colour enhancer. Vegetable Oils….need I say more?
If its vitamins, minerals and energy that you are after you are better off consuming real, whole foods, beverages and supplements such as healthy fats, quality, clean protein, antioxidant rich fruit (berries), fibrous vegetables, nuts, seeds, water, herbal teas and yes even a cup of good quality coffee without the sugar and skim milk thanks.
Tip #3 Try making your own sports drink for recovery; a pinch of himalayan rock salt & a squeezed lemon with water.
4. Fruit Juices
Because its fruit it’s a healthy beverage right? This is a BIG misconception. If you thought that fruit juice was a healthy alternative to sugar sweetened drinks, you would be wrong. Fruit juice actually contains a similar amount of sugar as a sugar-sweetened beverage. Not to mention a heavy “cocktail” of fruit flavoured chemicals.
To put it in perspective, fruit juice can contain more sugar than a can of coca cola. Up to 12 tsp per glass. Its an ugly thought isn’t it and not a habit we want to get into if optimal health and weight control is your goal.
I would even err on the side of caution with those beverages labelled 100% fruit juice. Whilst they may contain “only” fruit they are without the fibre found when we eat the real thing. In essence you are getting a big dose of fruit sugar (fructose), which messes with your blood sugar levels and leaves you feeling ungrounded, hungry and anxious. Not to mention fruit juice does nothing for your waist line because as we know excessive sugar is converted into fat, compounded also by the fact that fruit juice will leave you feeling hungry and thus more inclined to unnecessarily reach for more food.
Sadly most manufacturers add additional sugar to these already naturally sweet beverages. The danger here aside from the blood sugar spike is that we develop a taste for sweet foods and our cravings and consumption grows. At the end of the day when all we want for ourselves is great health and happiness we need to be aware of the excessive often “hidden” sugars found in our food and beverages.
You are better off eating a piece of fresh fruit as one glass of fruit juice contains much more sugar than the whole fruit and you are loosing much of the fibre which helps to keep the digestive and elimination systems working well. The fibre found in a piece of fruit such as an apple slows down the absorption and protects us from the effects of fruit sugar. Strip away the fibre and cram multiple fruits into a bottle and what you get is a sugary drink which absorbs quickly and leaves you feeling hungry. Do you really need more convincing?
Tip #4 Eat a piece of fruit instead, or make your own 80% veggie juice with 20% fruit.
5. Weight Loss Shakes & Poor Quality Protein Powders
Whilst my first preference would be to eat real, whole food, I do believe that there are many instances that warrant supplementation with a protein based powder. Such as athletic performance, illness, convalescence (recovery from ill health) and dietary deficiencies where consumption of whole food is affected.
There are many commercial protein powders and weight loss shakes on the market containing concerning amounts of heavy metal toxins such as cadmium, lead, mercury and arsenic. In addition to this most are artificially sweetened and treated with heat and acid which again affects the quality and renders them useless to your health.
Needless to say that I avoid most commercially prepared powders like the plague. For myself and for patients. Having said that good quality, highly nutritious protein based powders exist you just need to do some simple research (I recommend 180 Natural Protein to my clients).
I would start with establishing where the source of whey is from and how it’s processed.You might also want to consider how many ingredients it contains. Do you recognise any of these? Is it artificially sweetened? Does it contain fibre? An important question if you are using it to replace a meal. We want to make sure the bowels are happy and kept regular.
In a nutshell, I lean toward protein based powders that contain grass fed whey, that is low allergy (e.g without gluten) and one that has had minimal processing. Of course there are many who can not tolerate dairy at all. In this instance I would use non whey based protein powders such as pea protein, using the same questions above for your detective work.
In essence, protein powders can be worthy of shelf space in your cupboards provided you choose good quality, minimally processed varieties like 180nutrition protein powder. Simply avoid the commercially prepared varieties that will do nothing to positively impact your health.
Tip #5 Choose high quality protein powders with ingredients you recognise with minimal processing.
As you can see all of my top five fall into the processed, distant relative to whole food category. Put simply, if you suspect a “health-food” might not be that healthy, keep it simple and opt for food close to its natural form and a minimal ingredient list with items you recognise.
Thats what the body thrives on and deserves so please don’t throw complex stuff into it that it may not know what to do with.
What would your top 5 be? Do you agree? Love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Lynda is a fully qualified Naturopath and Nutritionist with over 13 years of experience in the health industry.
Lynda specialises in detoxification and weight loss. She has extensive experience in running healthy, effective and sustainable weight loss programs and has expertise in investigating and treating the underlying causes of weight gain and metabolic problems.
If you would like to book a consultation with Lynda, CLICK HERE
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.
Angela: Most of us lead very busy lives juggling family life, work, fitting in exercise, making time to cook awesome health food etc, and the reality is that it can sometimes get on top of us (sound familiar?). But all this can be resolved in just 5-10 minutes a day.
So this week we have a very interesting & extremely helpful post by Rachel Vickery. She is a physiotherapist, crossfit athlete and also does a awesome handstand!
Guess what, it all comes down to the breath. Breathing is something that we don’t give much thought to and its something we do constantly (between 12-20 x a minute). So the secret is, if you feel stressed daily, limited in your exercise, suffer from asthma, have neck, back, shoulder pain that doesn’t respond to stretching, then listen up as this is a must read, because, sometimes you just need to sit and breathe (correctly). Over to Rachel…
Rachel: Do this quick test: without changing how you naturally breathe sit with one hand on your upper chest, and the other hand on your upper abdomen, just below where your ribcage meets in the middle. Close your eyes and feel your breathing. What moves under your hands? How fast are you breathing? What is the rhythm like? Do you prefer to breathe with your mouth open or via your nose? Is your breathing noisy? Does your upper chest move? Then go and watch yourself in the mirror – what you see is often different from what you feel. If your shoulders rise and fall with each breath, you breathe through your mouth more comfortably than your nose, or your breathing feels jerky, shallow, fast or irregular then you would benefit from learning to breathe better!!!
What is Breathing Correction?
For many people breathing is just something that they do, with little thought as to “how” they do it. Some people think about breathing when they learn breathing techniques for yoga, singing, sport or for health reasons, but they don’t usually apply those techniques to their subconscious 24/7 breathing pattern. Injury, illness, stress, sport and / or busy lifestyles cause many people to breathe shallow, fast, sometimes through their mouth, but generally in a way that is less than optimal – often leading to pain, injury, breathing issues and poor sport performance. Breathing correction retrains a person’s subconscious or automatic breathing pattern to be slow, smooth and calm, using the diaphragm so that it is optimal for them, without them even thinking about it.
What type of improvement have you seen in your clients?
I have seen athletes about to walk away from their sport (including professional playing contracts) because of years of unexplained breathing problems return to completely symptom-free sport. I have had people in speaking professions, who have been close to finding a new career because of voice and breathing problems, completely turn things around. I have had people plagued with stress and anxiety to the point that it is destroying their life find a sense of control and health that they thought was beyond them. The most common things athletes notice is they no longer have difficulty breathing when they do sport (apart from the normal breathlessness!), they recover faster, stay more relaxed and calm during competition and intense training, can maintain more intense exercise for longer periods of time and don’t have as many shoulder injuries. Away from exercise people notice they no longer have breathing problems, they are less “reactive” to the things around them and instead feel calmer and more focused, get rid of coughs they’ve had for years, and no longer spend a fortune with the massage therapist for neck and shoulder tightness!
When everything seems too much, what simple exercise could I do?
Stop. Drop. Flop. This exercise will calm, focus and relax you… and with practice you can learn to do it in just a few breaths.
STOP whatever you are thinking about and become aware of your surroundings and your body. DROP your shoulders, which will probably be hunched up to your ears, as you breathe out gently through your mouth through slightly pursed lips. Feel the air release from your upper chest and your lungs deflate. You can keep your hands on the steering wheel, or computer or whatever it is that they were doing but think of the distance from your ears to your shoulders increasing. FLOP – take three breaths in and out of your NOSE feeling your upper belly move out as you breathe in, and feel it move in as you breathe out. You don’t have to breathe in or out for a set count, but just make sure your breath out is longer than your breath in (reverse of what most people do!) and then take a gentle pause after you breathe out, before you breathe in again. Your shoulders and upper chest need to stay really still. And then continue on with what you were doing.
When you first start it’s hard to feel like your belly is moving without your upper chest, but you’ll get better with practice. If it makes you feel dizzy or like you aren’t getting enough air it’s a good indicator you’re your normal breathing is really shallow! Ideally you’ll then use this same technique if you find yourself in a heated conversation, stuck in traffic when you are running late for something, before a competition, when your day just feels a little too overwhelming or any other time that you want a micro pause of calm during your day!
What to look for if you have poor breathing…
Most people don’t realize they aren’t breathing properly and it is possible for your breathing to be negatively affecting your health without having “breathing symptoms”. What usually happens is that someone experiences a period of high stress or anxiety, or has an injury or illness that makes them breathe shallow, fast and sometimes through their mouth and initially their body compensates for it. If they continue to breathe this way for a period of time, their body and brain comes to accept this incorrect way of breathing as “normal”. Over time this poor breathing pattern starts to create problems. Even though the “event” that caused their breathing to go haywire in the first instance might be a long time ago, it can cause all sorts of symptoms for years into the future. The most common things people experience are:
Unusual shortness of breath (assuming no other heart or lung problems)
Feelings of breathlessness
Difficulty getting enough air IN to the chest during exercise
Chest tightness / soreness
Constant neck and shoulder tightness or pain
Headaches and jaw problems
Frequent yawning / sighing
Poor concentration / foggy head feeling
Unexplained drop in sports performance or unable to find the “top 5%” of exertion
Repeated shoulder injuries and decreased arm strength during sports like swimming, kayaking, crossfit etc
Vocal Cord Dysfunction which is commonly misdiagnosed as Exercise Induced Asthma and often exists with poor breathing, causes: Wheeze or “stridor” whilst exercising, especially when breathing in.“Barking” cough that feels like it’s in the throat not the chest. Sore throat after exercise. An irritable “tickle” in the throat. A husky / croaky voice that is intermittent
Angela: I often remove myself from a situation and use breathing techniques to calm me down. It really works wonders. I don’t think I could get through some tough workouts without using my breath to get me through it. What’s your breathing like, do you think it’s optimal?
About Rachel Vickery: Rachel has been a practicing Physiotherapist for 15 years. She works with patients ranging from normal everyday people to Olympic and World Class Athletes.
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.