Watch the full interview below or listen to the full episode on your iPhone HERE.
Stu: This week, I’m excited to welcome Brian Keane to the podcast. Brian is an entrepreneur, personal trainer, nutritionist, bestselling author, and host of the Brian Keane podcast. He’s currently one of Ireland’s most influential thought leaders on all things health, fitness, and nutrition. In this episode, we discussed the key areas to address when wanting to transform your body and mindset for the long-term, including nutrition, movement, sleep, and so much more. Over to Brian.
Some questions asked during this episode:
What does healthy living look like to you?
What are your thoughts on weights vs cardio for both males & females?
Do you recommend any specific type of diet for long-lasting health?
Get more of Brian Keane:
If you enjoyed this, then we think you’ll enjoy this interview:
- Brian Mackenzie: Pushing All Boundaries Of Health & Wellness
- Matt Chaplin – Optimising Human Performance For Longevity
- Hunter McIntyre – Inside the Mind of an Elite Athlete
The views expressed on this podcast are the personal views of the host and guest speakers and not the views of Bega Cheese Limited or 180 Nutrition Pty Ltd. In addition, the views expressed should not be taken or relied upon as medical advice. Listeners should speak to their doctor to obtain medical advice.
Disclaimer: The transcript below has not been proofread and some words may be mis-transcribed.
Hey. This is Stu from 180 Nutrition, and welcome to another episode of The Health Sessions. It’s here that we connect with the world’s best experts in health, wellness, and human performance in an attempt to cut through the confusion around what it actually takes to achieve long-lasting health. Now I’m sure that’s something that we all strive to have. I certainly do.
Before we get into the show today, you might not know that we make products too. That’s right. We’re into whole food nutrition, and have a range of superfoods and natural supplements to help support your day. If you are curious, want to find out more, just jump over to our website. That is, 180Nutrition.com.au, and take a look. Okay, back to the show.
This week, I’m excited to welcome Brian to the podcast. Brian is an entrepreneur, personal trainer, nutritionist, bestselling author, and host of the Brian Keane podcast. He’s currently one of Ireland’s most influential thought leaders on all things health, fitness, and nutrition. In this episode, we discussed the key areas to address when wanting to transform your body and mindset for the long-term, including nutrition, movement, sleep, and so much more. Over to Brian.
Hey, guys. This is Stu from 180 Nutrition, and I am delighted to welcome Brian to the podcast. Brian, how are you, mate?
I am fantastic, Stu. Really looking forward to chatting.
Yeah. No, look, this is awesome. So I’m in Australia, you’re in Ireland. Morning for you, evening for me, but we’re both super pumped. But first up, so for all of our listeners there that may not be familiar with you or your work … and I’ve had a look online, and you’re doing some big stuff and reaching a lot of people. So for all of those guys that may not be familiar, I’d love it if you could just tell us a little bit about yourself, please.
Yeah, so kind of elevator pitch. I’m an online fitness coach nutritionist that helps people online in terms of, normally, body composition or sports performance are kind of my two areas of focus. But I’m a former elementary school, primary school teacher. That’s what I did 10 years ago. And for two of those years, I basically worked as a teacher during the day, personal trainer in the gym at nighttime. And over the space of the last nine to 10 years, I made the transition out to full-time one-on-one personal trainer, and then into the online space in 2016. And I’ve been doing that ever since. And since then, I’ve had a podcast, which has done very well in terms of the amount of downloads. Very similar to you, Stu, and trying to serve people. We’re very similar. We have a lot of overlap with guests.
A lot of similar content when it comes to philosophy. So the Brian podcast, and I’ve been lucky with the last three books that I’ve released, they’ve all been bestsellers. So The Fitness Mindset, Rewire Your Mindset, and my most recent one, The Keane Edge: Mastering The Mindset For Real, Lasting Fat Loss, all hit the bestseller list and did really well and have impacted people in a very positive way. So I’ve been very fortunate over the last few years, and that’s just kind of a short synopsis, without going into my fitness background from sports to bodybuilder to endurance athlete to all of those other things. That’s basically what I’m doing now from day to day.
Busy man. Busy, busy, man. So I won’t ask you now, but I will ask you a little bit later, because you are so insanely busy that I’m pretty sure you probably have quite a structured sleep routine to switch off your thinking mind and make sure that you get some good sleep. But I’m not going to ask you that right now. But first up, I want to ask you, what does healthy living look like to you? Because I know that you’re in a space that can be very visual and aesthetic, which is great. And oftentimes, can be great for short-term goal, like competition, or whatever that may be. But for a long-term goal as well, just thinking along the lines of some of the guests that you’ve had on your podcast that show that there’s definitely a much deeper level to your talents and skill set. So tell me what healthy living looks like.
It’s a great question, Stu, and one that’s changed over the years. Because you could ask 100 different people the same question and get a hundred different answers when it comes to what healthy living looks like.
And I take a very holistic approach. I tend to not get those short-term clients, “I want to lose 100 pounds in two weeks.” I don’t get those people into my ecosystem. It’s not my message. It’s not my philosophy. But when it comes to how I approach my overall health fitness personally, and with clients, I look at it from that holistic standpoint. You mentioned sleep there, but I would have nutrition and sleep as kind of those two foundation pillars when it comes to healthy living. I think it’s very difficult to have one right without the other.
And I was a personal trainer, back when I qualified first over 10 years ago. Now that was nutrition first, training second, sleep all the way down. And I’ve done a complete 180, pardon the pun, when it comes to the podcast. Complete 180 on that, where I now have sleep right up there now with nutrition. So when it comes to healthy living, I think having day to day energy, I think that’s key. Because if you want to work out, I have some of my clients who follow five, six day a week gym routines. And I have other clients who just get a step count every day, and they never step foot into a gym, and they don’t do any other sort of body weight workout at home. It’s just step count based, and then everything in between.
And I think it doesn’t matter what that goal is, whether it’s to look amazing, and go on holiday, and have your six pack abs, if you’re a guy, or be totally toned and lean, if you’re female. Or if you just want to have that energy throughout the day, so you feel a bit more confident when you walk into a room. If you want, then can fuel that with good food that will keep that energy high, mixed with high quality sleep … Sleep quality versus quantity is something I speak a lot about. That’s going to the underlying platform or underlying foundation on which your energy levels are built. And then you just decide what you want to do. Do you want to focus that energy with playing with your kids? Do you want to focus that energy on looking better for a holiday? Do you want to focus that energy into your business and your performance and other areas you life that are of a higher priority?
So I think healthy living for me is being energized throughout the day. And that will fluctuate daily, but it shouldn’t be a massive peak and valley, where people will get these energy surges because of stimulants or caffeine or just running on adrenaline, and then crashes. And with this, it’s a steady thing, and then you can determine what area of your life you want to put that energy into. But I think the foundation of that is going to be your nutrition and your sleep, and then everything else is built upon it.
Yeah, 100%. And I think there are so many energy vampires out there as well in the guise of smartphones, Franken-foods, environmental toxins, all of the above, that can just derail all of that. And do you find that, is it harder working with people online, outside of the face-to-face and the guidance that you could provide when you’re actually with them in the room?
No, I don’t find it more difficult. Now, just to caveat, I’ve been online since 2016, so I’m a long time, and I’ve worked out a lot of the kinks that potentially could affect new people and new personal trainers and new nutritionists to move online. So I’ve worked out a lot of those kinks and I know what works for people now. But no, I don’t find the online space … And again, I don’t want to bring this into kind of a business conversation, but I tend to bring the right people into my ecosystem for the most part.
There’s nobody coming into my program who’s like, “Brian’s going to put me on a weight loss program that’s going to lose 10 pounds in 10 days.” It’s not going to happen. They know that we’re going to set up things on the front end with a nutritional plan that will work for them, with a training program that fits into their lifestyle, with a focus on recovery and focus on sleep, and a focus on sustainability. And making sure that what they’re able to do will work for them over a six week period that will potentially transition into a six month period based on what they want do. I don’t work with people for that duration of time, but I set them up for six weeks, potentially see 12 weeks with a second phase of a program. And then it’s largely, “Here you go. You have everything you need now. You’re good to go.”
It’s teaching someone to fish, versus giving them the fish. And that’s my approach as a coach, as a trainer. And people that will gravitate towards me will know that coming in for the most part. And if they don’t have that mindset, I tell them not to. I’m a big believer that I’m a terrible fit for some people, but I’m a brilliant fit for other. It’s square pegs into square holes. If you’re a square peg, my program and working with me could be amazing for you. But if you’re not, then there’s going to be other people out there, Stu, yourself, other people that you’ve had on the podcast, other people that you know, and follow online that could potentially be a better fit.
And at the end of the day, it’s not about working with me or working with any specific person. It’s about finding who’s going to be the best fit for you and then working with them. So in my case, working online doesn’t tend to be an issue at all. If anything, it’s a benefit, because you’re not limited by geography, who you work with. And I’ve found it a positive thing over the last, what would be nearly six years now, seven years since I’ve been online.
Got it, got it. And in terms of quick wins, and I’m not looking for you to give away all of your secrets in one hit, but where would the quick wins lie, and the things, the levers that you could pull, the information that you could give to your clients that you generally know are going to track them in the right direction? Just to give you an example, we always talk about whole foods. It’s a no brainer. If you try and follow the whole food train, you’re generally going to be avoiding the three tenets that are ultra processed foods, refined carbohydrates, industrial seed oils. You avoid those things, you’re going to be going in the right direction.
But clearly, you’ve got a dam site more experience than I have in this field. So I’d love to hear where those quick wins are, what people might actually think right now and think, “Oh, I do that. I should probably address that.” Just to guide them into the right place.
That’s phenomenal advice, because I think there’s genius in simplicity. And what you just said there, Stu, that if you can build a nutritional strategy with mostly whole foods, instantly, you’re going to feel better. You’ll have, generally, most of the vitamins and minerals you need, phytonutrients you need, all of those things will come. Especially if you’re eating a lot of plants, for the most part. I know you’ve had Paul Saladino, people who are carnivore based. But if you’re talking overall, majority of people, without any specific individual context, increasing your plants for the most part will help most people, because of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, et cetera.
So I think that, as you said, is a low hanging fruit that people can sometimes struggle to implement, but yields a massive benefit. What I do to get people quick wins, and this is something I do in my program, so I’m going to caveat this with, I don’t necessarily recommend this unless you have a good background in nutrition. But I will generally start off a lot of my people in my program with a higher protein intake. Now with protein intake, it can split people. People that are longevity experts, aging experts are like, “Reduce your protein.” But I’m talking body composition, so weight loss, lean muscle tissue. And they’re your goals, fat loss, fat reduction.
Increasing protein on the front end can give people quite quick wins, because what happens there is, straight away, if they were under eating protein, you brought it up to probably a little bit higher than you generally would have on a long-term sustainable program, but it keeps them satiated between meals, for the most part. So they end up not snacking as much, and they end up feeling fuller for longer. It also can reduce the daily struggle, or the delayed onset muscle soreness that comes from a new training program.
So what happens with people when they come into a new plan is you’re doing new movement patterns for your body, or increasing and putting your muscles under new load. And what can happen from that is soreness, it’s DOMS, delayed onset muscle soreness. And if you increase the protein intake around that time, you can potentially speed up the recovery with those people, so that they’re not feeling as sore between those sessions. And what those two things do combined, that satiation between meals mixed with reduce soreness, mixed with potentially reducing other macronutrients … and again, I’m not saying remove carbs, anything like that. I’ve a very balanced approach when it comes to nutrition. But if you’re comparing like for like, you’re getting four kilocalorie per gram of carbohydrates, four kilocalorie per gram of protein’s the same.
So you can balance out a caloric intake over the space of a week by just upping protein and pulling back the carbs slightly for that first two weeks. And doing that gets a nearly immediate response, meaning that people’s body fat will reduce, or their weight will reduce. Now again, not confusing those two things, two very different things. Weight loss is lowering numbers on a scale, fat loss is a reduction in amount of fat in your body. They’re two completely different things, but sometimes people get them mixed up.
So doing that gives people this kind of two week window. Because what I’ve found, and I’ve been working with people for a long time now, that if you lose them in the first two weeks, meaning they bought into you as a trainer and as a coach at the beginning, and so they’re excited to work with you and follow your philosophy. But if they’re not seeing some physical progress after two weeks, you can lose them. And what was happening in my early days as an online coach was, I was taking this long-term sustainable approach, but I wasn’t giving them these mini wins on the front end. So I was potentially losing people two, three weeks in because they’re like, “Look, I’m not responding.” And I’m like, “Give it time.”
And that worked great for some who have that natural patient mindset … or I probably won’t say natural. I’m sure it was acquired and built over time. But for a lot of people, I was losing them. And I was thinking on my philosophy as a coach, thinking, “Ah,” I was like, “I can help these people, but I can’t get them to be patient from the front end, so I need to change my approach as a coach.” So what I started to do was focusing on those mini wins. And what happens then is I get my clients to take their photos every week. Very simple thing, but a lot of people don’t do it. They’ll check the weighing scale, or they’ll do other metrics of tracking.
And I’ll say, “Take your photos, same conditions.” So under the same lighting, at the same time of day. So Friday morning before you eat or drink anything, same positions, ideally similar clothes where you can see your physique. And you’re doing that every week, and becomes part of your routine. And what happens then after two, three weeks is people can compare that week one photo with that week three photo and go, “Oh, actually, I’m getting leaner,” or, “My body fat’s reducing.” Because people don’t see day to day progress.
It’s like your hair growing. You don’t see your hair growing day to day. But if you look at a photo four weeks from now and a photo four weeks ago, you’re like, “Oh, geez. My hair got quite long there.” And that’s effectively how it works. So those two things combined tend to pull people back on track, because a lot of clients … No, I won’t say a lot. Let me rephrase. A portion of clients that I work with don’t always see their physical progress because they’re looking at it day to day. So once you’ve covered it from the nutrition standpoint, you know that if you get somebody into an overall [inaudible 00:14:14] objective, in the case of, say, a fat loss goal, and you’ve increased their protein, they’re probably going to feel satiated between meals, they won’t be as sore between workouts, and they’re going to have this fat reduction.
If they come to you after three weeks and go “Look, I’m not sure if I’m responding,” you can put their week one photo besides their week three photo, and you know, categorically, unless there’s an underlying issue that a caloric deficit plan, particularly with whole foods and a decent macro nutrient split is going to yield high energy levels, it’s going to yield good progress in people. And then you can show it to them, and then it’s easier to keep them motivated from that point onwards.
Yes. No, that does make sense. And what about your clients, perhaps, that you’re working with from a nutritional standpoint and also a strength, or movement, or exercise program as well, that may be losing body fat, but building muscle? So the scales perhaps are not moving, but their clothes are fitting.
Education. It’s just a great question again, Stu. Because I had a girl on one of my programs … it was actually early last summer. Now, we’re in May now recording this, and it was around this time last year, May, June. I had one of my girls, who … So I work with people in small group training, that’s how my program works. And it’s optional whether you want to send me your progress every week. Now you have to track it, because it’s part of getting the second phase of the program. So you have to track the progress, but you don’t have to send it to me. Some people prefer to just do it themselves in silence, so they don’t have to send it to me.
But I had one of my girls message me, and after six weeks in, it was five and a half weeks in, nearly at the end of the six weeks. And she was like, “Look, Brian, I’ve been doing everything you’ve said with the nutrition, with the training, and my weight hasn’t moved a pound. It’s exactly the same.” I said, “Okay, send me on your photos. So she sent me her week one photo, she sent me her week five photo, wasn’t even a week six photo. And I put them side by side, and she went, “Whoa.” And I said, “Yeah.” I was like, “That’s the difference between fat reduction and weight loss. We’re not focusing on weight loss. You didn’t actually have that much weight to lose. But you have fat on your body that you could remove.” And what the confusion is and the education, as you mentioned there, Stu, is when you’re on a weight loss program, your goal is to reduce weight.
Now I’m not anti-weight loss. I think people who are overweight and obese, the scale is a good determiner. People don’t want to be tracking with calipers, especially if you’re a massive amount of body fat to lose. So I do think the scale has merit for certain populations, also for competitive athletes, boxers, fighters, body builders, who have to make a weight class. Yeah, you should 100% track the numbers on the scale. When it comes to fat reduction for the general population, I liken it to using the number on your bank account to track how good you are in bed. I’m like, “Those numbers don’t really correlate. They’re two separate things. When you’re trying to reduce the amount of fat in your body, you should be focusing on fat reduction.
And if your goal is to reduce body fat, you’re probably going to have a resistance program in there, or a strength program in there. And what strength training does, and what resistance training does, based on the program you’re following, is it builds new muscle tissue. So as lean muscle tissue goes up, body fat can potentially go down, but that weight is balancing out. But when you’re taking a long-term perspective with body compositional change, it helps to understand that weight training works to burn more calories while you rest. It basically boosts your metabolism. I hate that word, but it boosts your metabolism. That’s what effectively happens, you get an increase in metabolic rates. And what that does, it allows you to burn more calories while you’re resting. Now, people confuse it with things like cardiovascular activities, so running, swimming, cycling. Those things tend to burn more calories during the actual session. So if you’re doing an hour of running, you tend to burn more calories than an hour of, say, resistance or strength training.
But what happens with resistance, with strength training, is you end up increasing your metabolic rate, so you burn more calories while you’re resting. So when you combine those two things, they’re a one-two punch for body competition change. And when you look at your metabolism like that, it’s the equivalent of making money while you sleep. Resistance training and strength training is burning calorie while you rest. And it’s important on a body compositional plan to realize that weight loss doesn’t necessarily equal fat reduction, because you can keep the weight exact same. And in an ideal scenario, you don’t want to lose too much weight. You want to be able to keep your food higher, you want to be able to build your lean muscle tissue, and you want to have that body competition change.
Of course, I’m speaking purely body composition here. I know there’s other goals that people have. But just from a area where I specialize in, you want to look at it holistically, because people will ask the question. I’m sure you get this all the time as well, Stu, is, “Should I do more cardio for fat loss, or should I do weight training for fat loss?” I’m like, “The answer is, you should probably consider both.” Nutrition is the bedrock. It doesn’t matter what you do with your training, if your nutrition’s crap and you’re eating McDonald’s five times a day-
… and you’re in a 2,000 calorie surplus, I’m like, “It doesn’t matter what you do.” But if you’re talking ideal scenario, resistance training and a strength program to help increase your metabolic rates and you burn more calories at rest, some form of cardiovascular training, so you’re burning more calories throughout the day, or a step count. I’m a big fan as well, standing desk. I’m standing here as we’re recording this podcast.
All of those things add up. And then look at your nutrition, look at your sleep, look at your mindset, your mental health, your stress levels, your stress management, your cortisol. All of these things contribute to body compositional change, and just overall energy levels and happiness. So you’re looking at it from a holistic standpoint, but when somebody comes and says, “You know what? I’m doing strength training, my weight’s not going down,” that’s the reason why.
Yeah. No, I love it. I love it. And we always use the phrase that muscle is the organ of longevity as well. And it’s kind of one of those things that we don’t want to give up, that we really want to hold onto. And hopefully, we’ll build because it makes us strong, robust, resilient as we age. But I have a question on calories as well. And it’s the million dollar question, because clearly, weight loss, body transformation is all centered around the law of thermodynamics. So you’re in calorie deficit, you’re in calorie surplus. But how simple is it really, if we’re counting calories?
And let’s just say my BMR is 2,500 calories a day. And I know that, “You know what? I want to lose a bit of weight.” So I’ll eat 2,000 calories a day. But I could get my 2,000 calories a day from whole foods, like healthy health foods, or I could get my 2,000 calories a day from fast food. And clearly, 500 calories of, let’s say, broccoli, presumably, will do different things than 500 calories of chocolate bars. So where do you sit on that? Is a calorie a calorie? Or do different foods do different things? And should we be thinking a little differently if we have this calorie goal that we’re aiming for every day in the foods that we choose to eat?
Oh, where do I start with that question?
I got him. Bingo.
You got it. It’s a brilliant one still. And in the most recent book, it’s a full section in there, because the answer is both.
A calorie is a calorie, technically, is true.
But to say that all calories impact the body in the same way isn’t true. So if you’re getting 5,000 calories from broccoli, and 5,000 calories from Big Macs, they’re going to have completely different impacts on your body. So what I would get people to consider and how to look at it is I tell them … and I use an example in the book, that assuming … No, your starting point matters, where you’re coming from. So if you go from someone who’s eating a 3,000 calorie plan, chicken and broccoli, and then you go to 2,000 calorie plan with McDonald’s or Burger King or fast food, that’s not a direct comparison. Because the person who has that surplus is probably going to look better and might have some negative impacts when they switch to a more processed food diet.
But for the majority of people, I’m not talking bodybuilders with a goal of, “What happens if I switch to Big Mac and go into a deficit?” For the majority of people, calories are important. So they’re the foundation pillar. I have in the book, the most recent one, pyramid of prioritization for fat loss, which means that calories are at the bottom of that pyramid. It is very important that you’re in a deficit, meaning that you are consuming less calories than your body needs, so you can tap into stored fat for fuel. It’s the bottom of the pyramid.
But that’s not to negate all the other things. And I wouldn’t say I have an issue when people go, “Well, it’s all about calories,” because they are important, that they’re a big, big part of it. But to jump with your question and what you’ve said, for somebody to go into a deficit with highly processed foods, a portion of people are going to reduce body fat with that. They just are, depending on where they came from.
And I’ve had people who I’ve worked with who have been clinically obese, who we put into a deficit with the foods they’ve been eating. So they’ve gone from drinking 10 pints of Guinness every second night to drinking nine pints, drinking eight pints. So they’re still consuming all the foods they’re eating, and they’re people who have behavioral issues around food, so I’m not going to go in and say, “All right, cool. We’re going with porridge for breakfast, and we’re going with chicken Caesar salad for lunch,” for someone who’s never eaten that way in their entire life. It’s a terrible strategy. It’s setting them up for failure on the front end. But you can pull back their calories slightly by just reducing the amount of caloric intake that they’re eating each day. So in the case of the guy that was drinking Guinness, I just pulled it back gradually.
And what I’d say here is you have to think about the knock on and secondary effects of the way that you eat. And with the caloric deficit plan where you’re just in a calorie deficit, as you mentioned, your BMO, or I tend to talk TDEE, so total daily energy expenditure target. It’s not just your basal metabolic rate. Your basal metabolic rate, the amount of calories you need just for your body to survive [inaudible 00:24:22], et cetera, mixed in and adding in your daily exercise requirements or daily exercise output, which that’s your total daily energy expenditure.
So if that is 2,500, and you’re eating 2,000 calories, and you’re getting them 100% from really processed food, and pancakes, and Pop-Tarts and McDonald’s, and all these foods, yes, you could potentially lose body fat. But you’re going to have this whole host of other knock on effects that won’t support you. Low energy, and what low energy will equal, because low nutrients, means you’ll move less, which means your NEAT activity, your non-exercise activity thermogenesis will go down. The amount of [inaudible 00:25:00] and walking and moving goes down, so you tend to burn less calories throughout the day.
Also, your output if you’re training and following a strength program will go down, because you don’t have the energy to fuel those workouts. And when you strength train, as we’ve already talked about, you increase your metabolic rate, which helps you burn more calories while you rest. And the intensity of your workouts can determine that. You’re just basically tearing down muscle fibers, and as they repair, your metabolic rate goes up, as the foods you consume and the nutrients you consume go towards that repair. And that goes down if you’re not training intensely because you’re not feeling good.
Also, if you have poor nutrient intake, you might find your sleep is poor. And anyone that’s had a poor night’s sleep knows how difficult it is to adhere to a nutritional plan the next day. You get down regulations in hormones like ghrelin and leptin, your hunger hormones, your satiation hormones. These things become down regulated, meaning that they don’t work as well. So you’ve now decided, potentially in this hypothetical world, that, not you, but you, plural, people have decided, “I’m going to get into this deficit with these types of foods.” And they don’t consider all these other hosts of negative benefits that will compound over time.
Flip that then with somebody who’s potentially in a 3,000 calorie plan, which is technically a surplus. Technically a surplus, by all intents and purposes. But you’re using nutrient dense foods, complex carbs, healthy fats, complete protein sources, plenty of plants. In that scenario, you’re going to have someone who has probably more activity burn throughout the day, because their NEAT activity, their non-exercise activity thermogenesis goes up, because they feel really good, they feel really energized.
Their workout intensity goes up, which means that they could potentially be building more lean muscle tissue. And as we already know, if you build more lean muscle tissue, your metabolic rate will go up, so you’ll burn more calories while you rest. You’ll probably also have an enhancement in your sleep quality, because you’d be feeling fueled and you’ll be getting everything your body needs, meaning you have that stabilization of hormones. So if you put somebody into a DEXA scanner, you might find that, yes, body fat could actually reduce, even in that surplus plan when all those factors are considered. So it’s not a straightforward and simple answer. The answer is yes and no, and it depends, and the context matters.
What I would get people to think about is, what is your goal over here? What are you looking to achieve? Is it building lean muscle tissue? Is it reducing body fat? Is it feeling better? If that’s the case, look at your nutrition as a whole. And I’m not a eat clean all the time. I think people should have their favorite foods in their plan. I think the best nutritional plan includes foods that you enjoy, fits into your lifestyle and schedule, and is in alignment with your goals. If you can tick off those three boxes, whether that’s a vegan plan, a flexible dieting plan, a keto plan, a carnivore plan … I have my own opinions on all of those diets, but at the end of the day, if it works for you, then you should do it and you should double down it. You should keep doing it.
Some people love keto, some people hate it. Some people love carb-based nutrition, other people, they’re a fan of meat-based nutrition. Now, again, as nutritionists and as coaches, we have our opinions, as I said. But at the end of the day, it’s about finding what works best for you. And when it comes to that surplus with clean foods versus deficit with poorer quality foods, I would always lean towards the surplus with clean foods, if it was me. But I just wanted to kind of give the synopsis of why both potentially work, or why neither potentially work based on the context.
No, that’s perfect. And I think it just makes sense as well. I mean, if we’re keeping it reasonably simple, the foods that we’re consuming, as nature intended, that are prepackaged … Well, that arrive on our plate with an abundance of vitamins and minerals and healthy fats and amino acids, all of that stuff, they haven’t been adulterated, we can see the ingredients, i.e. there’s probably no ingredients, there’s just one. A piece of salmon is a piece of salmon. It always tends to be the direction I think that we favor. And I think once you get on that train as well, other things start to align.
And you mentioned satiety hormones, like ghrelin and et cetera, over time, they do start to align. I think when you pull out the processed foods that are hijacking these signals and have been scientifically enhanced to send the pleasure signals and keep you popping, whatever it is that you’re shoving in your mouth at any one time. Now, I love that. I love that angle, whole food first, or at least from my perspective. But I get what you’re saying, don’t make it so crazy, so strict, so draconian that you fall off the wagon, because it’s got to work for you.
So in that, you did touch on sleep. So I think it’s a good point now then just to dive in a little bit into sleep. Because as we know, if we’ve ever had a bad night’s sleep, the brain doesn’t work as well, we’re hungrier throughout the day, we make poor food choices, because we’re really hunting out the glucose and the carb-heavy snacks. And we probably don’t feel like exercising, because we’re just lethargic. I’m very strict on my sleep routine, and we won’t get into that, because people don’t want to listen to me. They want to listen to you. So I’m really keen to hear about what you do, and what you tell your clients to do to get a better night’s sleep.
There’s a slight variation based on what I recommend, based on what I do.
Now, I’m super militant with my sleep, probably to the point of excessiveness, because I’m naturally a very poor sleeper. And it’s similar … and the example I use here, and I don’t want to sound like a twat when I say it is, I spend very little time building muscle, because I build muscle very easily. I’m short and stocky, I grew up on a farm. I’m 5’8, I’m built like a Hobbit, but I can build muscle quite easily.
Sleep is something that I really struggle with, so I have to excessively look into different strategies that will work for me, versus something like weight training. I can pick up a weight and my body just goes, boom, it just gets big. And some people, depending on where they fall on a sleep spectrum on the scale, will find what I do very beneficial, versus someone who’s like, “Do you know what? I can put my head down, and I just fall asleep.” My partner is the opposite. She literally is like head on the pillow, bang, out. Where I need to have a routine, I need to block out blue light, I need to have blinds and no daylight coming in. I need to take supplements, I need to do everything to enhance a good night’s sleep.
So based on where you fall on the spectrum, the advice … and I’ll talk about what I do specifically, and then it’s a case of nearly tapering it back. For me, I look at things like routine. So I try and go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every day, which sounds very simple and a low hanging fruit, but is actually quite difficult to do, from my experience. So I tend to go to bed quite early. So either 9:00 PM or 10:00 PM in the summer, and I get up at 5:00 AM or 6:00 AM. Again, depending on the summer or the winter. Because it’s to my schedule, I like to get up in the morning, I like to work out and train fast. Then I have everything done and my creative work done before anybody else is off. My partner, or my daughter, before anybody else is awake. If I’m meeting my mum for coffee or my sister, I’ve got a lot of my tasks done before 9:00 AM when most people are just starting their day.
So it works for my schedule. Is it the best thing biologically based on sleep history and evolutionary biology? No, probably not. I would be much better off to go with circadian rhythm and go to bed at half ten, or whenever the daylight, the sun goes down, and wake up when my body naturally feels like it, because cortisol raises in the morning. But I don’t do that. So just, big caveat, I know what I should probably do, and I might down the line, but I don’t currently. But my priorities in life, although sleep is important, there’s other things that are more important to me.
So I had that routine of going to bed at the same time every night, getting up at the same time every morning. And I also focused heavily on sleep quality versus sleep quantity. And there was a book I read … and I had Nick Littlehales on my podcast, who was Cristiano Ronaldo’s sleep coach. And he talks about quality sleep versus quantity of sleep. And it’s a very simple process of making sure you’re getting good, deep REM, rapid eye movement sleep, non- rapid eye movement sleep, as opposed to broken sleep where you’re getting up to go to the toilet and waking up several times in the middle of the night. So I try and focus on deep, restorative sleep as much as possible.
Now I get a minimum of eight hours every night, minimum. And sometimes, my sleep requirement goes up. And generally, when people see what I’m doing or my schedule and book writing and podcasts and appearances and all these, they’re like, “Do you sleep?” I’m like, “I don’t negotiate on sleep.”
It’s 100% non-negotiable. I get eight hours every night. And if my training routine goes up for an endurance race where I could potentially be running 50 miles a week, 100 miles a week on top of my training, I might need nine or 10 hours, just to feel that I can train and recover. And not everyone can do that, they’ve got other priorities in life. But I try and factor my schedule around when I can sleep more, and I can do these races and things that I’ve set for myself, physical challenges. But I’ll have that routine. I tend to block out blue light before bed, so an hour or two before bed, I wear blue light blocking glasses. I look like Bono, got the orange-tinted glasses.
Yeah, I wear them too.
Yeah, I love them. I think they’re so good, because I do look at my screen. And you know, and you talked to this in the podcast already, you’re going to block that melatonin production if you don’t have that blue light, because that blue light, it’s going to block it, and you’re not going to be able to fall asleep as well or fall into a deeper sleep. I also take supplements, which a couple have been a complete game changer for me. Magnesium is something I’ve been using for years. I take zinc through the day to make sure that … People will take ZMA, it’s a big bodybuilding supplement, magnesium, vitamin B6, [inaudible 00:34:55].
Sorry, just to interject. What type of magnesium?
I’m currently taking … Oh, I’ve recently changed it. Oh, I’ve forgotten the name. It’s …
Because I know that it can be-
I need to do a … What were you saying?
I was just going to say, it can be so confusing, because glycine, there are a billion and one different alternatives out there. And I know that some of them do different things.
Yeah. I’ve recently switched to … Oh, I’ve forgotten the name. But now, it was off the back of listening to Andrew Huberman. And he had a different recommendation in terms of the magnesium. So I’ve recently switched, but I’ve actually forgotten the name of the one I’m using. I could link it up and let you know after.
Yeah, let’s do that.
Yeah, it’s really good. Again, something I’ve been using for years, just basic magnesium was the one that I’ve used for a long time. And I recently switched into using CBD oil. And I’m so hesitant to mention CBD oil, because it splits people when I bring it up. But for me, it was such a life-changing supplement, bar nothing else, nothing even comes close to it when it comes to my enhanced sleep quality, that I do talk about it when I go on podcasts or I talk about it with my audience. And I’ve been using that since 2018, and what that’s done for me is it’s helped me fall asleep, and it helps me stay in a deeper sleep.
Now, if I miss time, then I wake up like a zombie, so I normally have to give myself a window of time. But I take that religiously during heavy training cycles, and then I come off it and cycle off it when I don’t have a higher priority, just so that I can use it as I need it. And that tends to be the things that I use more than anything else. So as I said, that routine of going to bed at the same time, getting up at the same time, Ben Greenfield was on my podcast and made a very good point, that your sleep routine starts when you wake up in the morning, so I try and get out into the daylight-
Yes, that’s right.
… as soon as possible, when I get up. That helps. And then I have my blue light blockers that I put on a couple of hours before bed, and I have my sleep supplementation, and that tends to work quite well. I also do all the other obvious things. I don’t have caffeine or stimulants late in the day. Once you understand caffeine half-life, that five and a half hour half-life for the majority of people … I know there’s some genetic variabilities that determine the speed of that. But for most people, you have a cup of coffee at 12 o’clock, 200 mg of that, there’s going to be 100 mg in your system, that’s half by that evening. So you want to kind taper back your caffeine and your stimulants accordingly.
But outside of all the obvious stuff and not having too much sugar and all of that in my diet, specifically before bed stuff, stuff that, again, might be obvious to me, maybe not be as obvious to other people. I do all of that, and I combine that consistently. But I have that routine that’s religious, because sleep is a non-negotiable for me.
No, absolutely. It is the most important pillar, I think, of all. And just a couple more questions, just on that topic. Evening meal, timing for that, do you have it earlier or-
I tend to not … Now, this is one that what I do versus what I recommend is different as well.
I tend to try not to have any food in my system at least four hours before I go to bed, because that’s what works for me. There are people … and when I used to do competitive bodybuilding … so I’ve had a very unique kind of transition from sports to bodybuilding to endurance, basically done a lot of different areas. But when I used to body build, I would always [inaudible 00:38:13] eat before bed. And that was fine at the time. But more recently, in the last few years, eating before bed, even a two hour before bed can negatively affect my sleep, regardless of what the meal is. Whether that’s a complex carb and a protein, whether that’s a pure complex carb, whether that’s a fat. I did make the mistake in the past of eating way too much protein before bed. Bodybuilder problems, and then you’ve orexin, the hormone that’s very alert, and then you’re staring at the ceiling at nighttime.
So I tend to stop all my meals around 6:00 PM or 7:00 PM, at the very latest. I try and compress everything into a 10 hour eating window. So I tend to not eat before 8:00 AM and I tend to eat all the way up until 6:00 PM, and then that’s it, and then I cut it off. That’s something I’ve been doing for the last four years, since 2018. It works quite well. But this is goal-specific to the person. This is what I do, not necessarily what I recommend.
Because general rule of thumb when I work for clients, when they ask about sleep and meals, I’ll ask, “Well, test this.” And if eating before bed helps you have a great night’s sleep and enhances your sleep quality, then you should probably eat before bed. If eating two hours before bed so you’re not hungry, helps you have a good quality, enhances your sleep quality, then you should do that. And if you need to go longer with your window to enhance your sleep quality, then you do that. It’s not a one-size-fits-all, like most things when it comes to nutrition. It’s a case of testing it and then doubling down on what works best for you.
No, that’s excellent. And just last question on sleep. What do you use to track your sleep quality in terms of wearables, et cetera?
I don’t use any.
Funnily enough, every time I bring it up. And again, I know the Oura ring particularly now is the one that’s kind of jumping to me because a lot of people who I respect … You’ve got on one. [inaudible 00:39:52].
Yeah, I’ve got one on.
… that are big fans of this. And it’s only for me down to I hate wearing jewelry, so that’s literally it. And I use how I feel as a metric and-
This is not a recommendation, definitely not. I think if you’re someone who wants to get a grasp and isn’t as probably intuitively tuned into their body, then a wearable is brilliant, because it’ll give you the feedback. The same way as I don’t ever track calories. But I recommend all my clients who have no idea of food and nutrition with a weight loss goal, track it for at least a week or two, to get an idea on what their caloric intake is.
And I think sleep quality is the same. I can wake up in the morning and go, “Actually, I don’t feel too good today, so I’ll back off on my training.” Not everybody can do that and have that intuitive feeling. I’m 22 years working out and training, so I’ve a long runway of time, and I can tune in with my body, and I’ve been doing it long before those wearables were available. So I don’t personally use any, but that’s not to say that I don’t recommend them.
Yeah. No, that’s great. I am aware of time, so I’m going to just touch into mindset, because I know that you’re a wealth of knowledge in this area, and you’ve interviewed some stellar guests, and you’ve written a whole heap about mindset as well. And I guess probably just a quick conversation about some low hanging fruit from the mindset side of things, because I know it’s very easy to be derailed.
We got social media or internet telling us what we should be doing and what we should look like. A lot of that stuff obviously will be driven by ulterior motives, profit, et cetera. Your thoughts on quick wins from a mindset perspective. If we’re not the type of person that jumps out of bed in the morning that goes, “Right, I’m going to crush my day today. I’m going to get this done.” We roll out of bed and think, “Oh, it’s Tuesday. What’s going to happen today?” What would you suggest?
A theme that I have through all three of my books, as someone who’s felt on both sides of that, where I’ve rolled out of bed every morning and thought, “Oh my God, another day,” mixed with jumping out of bed and being like, “Oh my God, another day.” And I’ve been on both sides, and the analogy I use in the book is asking the question, is your ladder up against the right wall?
And just to take it away from fitness a little bit. When I worked as a primary school teacher, I spent four years in undergraduate getting a degree, got my first teaching job in a school in London in a year three classroom in West London, and was about 30 minutes into my first ever day of teaching, and went, “This isn’t what I want to do.” I was like, “I don’t want to be a teacher. What have I spent the last four years doing?”
And the analogy, and how it felt to me, was I had spent years climbing the ladder, and then got to the top and realized it was up against the wrong wall. And that one reframe has worked in so many other areas of my life, from fitness, to my relationships, to everything that’s important to me, asking the question is my ladder up against the right wall. And not everybody can quit their job like I did. I’d stayed out for another four years, but I worked my side hustle along the side, so that I could get my fitness business off the ground, and then make the jump full time in 2014.
And that, straightaway, is an important question to ask, because I’ve been a long time subscriber that you’re better to be at the bottom of the ladder against the right wall, than halfway up the ladder against the wrong wall. And I think that can apply to your nutrition, your training, your relationships, your job. It crosses across lots of different boundaries or areas that are important to people. And feedback on that is if you’re waking up every day with that, “Oh, I have to do this today,” whatever that is, your diet, your training program, your job, your relationship, whatever it is, that’s feedback, if that’s happening more often than not.
Now, we all have days when you don’t want to work out and you have to do it anyway. One of my mentors used to always tell me that successful people do what they have to do regardless of how they feel, and I’ve spent the last 10 years trying to cultivate that philosophy. And there’ll be days when you don’t want to work out, there’ll be days when you don’t want to eat your meal plan, there’ll be days when you don’t want to have a difficult conversation with a partner or a loved one. There’ll be days when you don’t want to do a work task.
But if that’s adding up all the time and every day, it’s probably feedback that something needs to change. And I think without going to macro with it, using that failure as feedback, failure’s not a bad thing, failure is just feedback on what didn’t work and what isn’t working currently. And when you flip your mindset with that and ask, “Is my ladder up against the right wall?” That can give you a lot of clarity based on what decisions you’re making right now, and if you need to potentially move your ladder somewhere else.
I like it. I like that analogy. I haven’t heard it before, and I like it. It makes perfect sense. Couple of questions before we wrap up, because no doubt, you’ve rolled out of bed and you’re eager to get on with your day. Just about you, so daily, non-negotiables, the things that you have to do. It’s do this or the day just will not work for you. The practices you follow in order to win the day. Now, it could be meditation, it could be journaling, it could be smoking a cigar on your balcony. I don’t know. What are the things that you have to do each and every day?
My non-negotiables have changed. And I’ve actually, as somebody with a very type A addictive personality that has served me a lot in my 20s, but less so in my 30s, I’ve shifted a little bit with my non-negotiables. Now, something that I do that’s probably more automatic, and this is a non-negotiable, but I do it, is my food very rarely changes. Now, if I’m experimenting with a new strategy, Pathways, keto, just to experiment, it can change. But for the most part, my food is 80% whole foods, and then 20% foods I enjoy. I’m a big chocolate lover. I tell people, I don’t have a sweet tooth, I have sweet teeth. So I always factor that into my plan every day, which sounds like the worst non-negotiable for a fitness person, but I need to have that chocolate bar every day, or I don’t feel like life’s worth living.
But I have tools more so than non-negotiables. So I do all the things you’ve mentioned. I will meditate occasionally, I will journal occasionally, I will work out at extreme intensity for a challenge occasionally, and then I’ll take a break back. I will focus on heavy periods of productivity with work when it comes to writing and podcasts. So for example, today, I’ve got four podcasts.
I’m just going bang, bang, bang, bang, bang with four podcasts. And I’ll have days like that. But then equally, I’ll have days that are recovery where I do nothing. I’ll just get up and I’ll go for a walk with the dog, I’ll chill with my partner, I’ll go to the playground with my daughter. I’ll do something that’s just family time, that’s a complete disconnection from Brian’s fitness, or anything that I’m doing work-wise or online. And I use these things as more tools versus non-negotiables.
So if you’d asked me this question five years ago, I’d have given you a list. I’d be like, “I get up early every morning. I work out every morning. I eat this way. I sleep this way. I do this.” Whereas I’ve been more lenient with it in the last few years, as I’ve found more of that balance, as someone who struggled with it, that type A, that tiger of ambition that can bite your face off if you don’t stop to reflect the things that are important to you that are outside of your working commitments.
I tend to battle against that, because I don’t struggle with that side. I don’t struggle with the ambition. I don’t struggle with the get up and go. My side is the other catch-22 of that. I struggle with anxiety, and I struggle with constantly thinking about the next thing, and never being satisfied with getting the goal. I’m always on the next thing. So they’re the areas I struggle with, so they’re the things that I try and nurture and focus on to have that little bit more of a more peaceful mind, a more calm mind, because that’s not what comes naturally to me.
Excellent. Excellent. So what’s next? What’s next for Brian?
The boring answer is to consistently do what I’m doing. As long as I can wake up every day, and everybody that’s around me, my mom, my partner, my daughter, my sister, my dad, my best friends are all healthy and well, I’ll take it as a win, automatically. The day’s instantly into winning territory. But I also use that feedback that I talked about earlier. I’ve felt the Friday elation of having a weekend coming up because I didn’t like my job, and I’ve felt the Sunday blues of, “Oh, I’m back to work tomorrow.” And I’ve been in states where I’ve made bad decisions environmentally with the people I’ve been around, and the decisions I was making that led to self-imposed depression from making stupid decisions. And as long as I’m waking up every day not feeling that, and feeling really good, I’m happy to continually do what I’m doing. So that’s the boring answer.
The better answer is, the next physical fitness challenge I have is I’m doing the Spartan 24-hour Ultra Challenge in September in Lake Tahoe, in California. So I’m training for that at the minute, so I’m quite excited about that. And I’m working on the new book, which will be out for the next year. So I’ve already written my first three, The Fitness Mindset, Rewire Your Mindset, The Keane Edge. And I’m working on the next one, which is more self-discipline, resilience, mental toughness, but from an angle that I haven’t felt that it’s been covered. So learning to let go, be more self-compassionate with yourself, the things I’ve struggled with. So I’m excited about that. So they’re kind of the two things that I’m working towards at the minute.
Excellent. So for everybody that’s listened to this and thought, “You know what? I really like the sound of Brian. I want to find out more, I want to listen to the podcast. I want to read his books and I want to dive into the content as well.” Where can we send them, best place?
Thanks so much, Stu, I really appreciate that. And thanks so much for the awesome conversation. Where they can find out about me, The Brian podcast, for those who listen to podcasts. Very similar, we have a lot of overlap with guests and the philosophy. So hopefully those that are subscribed here might head over there and check out a couple of episodes. And the books then are everywhere online that you can find them. They’re on Amazon, Book Depository, et cetera. For those in Australia, those in America, those in Ireland, the UK. And The Keane Edge is obviously available in all bookstores as well. I’m not sure how it works in Australia, but you can get them anywhere online, for sure.
Fantastic. Mate, I have thoroughly enjoyed this conversation. Much, much appreciated. And we will hope to catch up at some stage in the future.
100%. Thanks so much again.
Thank you, mate. Bye-bye.