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Dr Dan Plews – Maximising Athletic Performance

Content by: Dr Dan Plews

Watch the full interview below or listen to the full episode on your iPhone HERE.

Stu: This week, I’m excited to welcome to the podcast Dr Dan Plews from Endure IQ. Dr Plews is a sport scientist, researcher, coach, world champion Ironman and founder of endureIQ. He combines his experience with cutting-edge science to help you land in the sweet spot of performance, health, and enjoyment.

Audio Version

Some questions asked during this episode:

  • What are the most common mistakes people make when training for an endurance event? (05:34)
  • How have endurance training strategies changed over the last decade? (08:50)
  • What does the latest science recommend for endurance nutrition? (20:19)

Get more of Dr. Dan Plews

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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.

Full Transcript

Stu

(00:03)
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 a long lasting health. Now I’m sure that’s something that we all strive to have. I certainly do.

(00:23)
Before we get into the show today, you might not know that we make products too, that’s right. We are into whole food nutrition and have a range of super foods 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.

(00:41)
Okay, back to the show. This week, I’m excited to welcome Dr. Dan Plews to the podcast. Dr. Plews is a sport scientist, researcher, coach, world champion Ironman and founder of Endure IQ. He combines his experience with cutting edge science to help you land in the sweet spot of performance, health and enjoyment.

(01:03)
In this episode, we discuss the most common mistakes people make when training for an endurance event. We dig deep into the latest science in this area and talk about the best practices for recovery. Over to Dr. Plews. Hi guys, this is Stu from 180 Nutrition, and I am delighted to welcome Dr. Dan Plews to the podcast. Dr. Plews, how are you?

Dr. Plews

(01:27)
Yeah, I’m good. Thanks for having me, Stuart.

Stu

(01:29)
Well, I really appreciate your time. I know you must be a busy man. But first up, for all of our listeners out there that may not be familiar with you or your work. I’d love it if you could just tell us a little bit about your background please?

Dr. Plews

(01:41)
Yes. So where to begin with that? So I’m a lifelong endurance athlete, I guess. I’ve been doing triathlon since I was nine years old. Was quite competitive in the UK, was national champion. But I got into coaching more recently, I guess, more into the sports science and the science side of things. So I’m now an academic but I’m applied academic in sports science, and specifically in substrate use, metabolic usage, diets. Have more than 50 publications in the area of sport science from higher variability, ketogenic diets to heat adaptation.

(02:22)
And I’ve been in involved in a number of Olympic sports as well. Been involved with more than 30 Olympic in world champions. Champions from kayak, to rowing, to sailing. I was head of physical performance for Emirate team, New Zealand, which I’m the captain. So, I got a large portfolio, I guess, and what’s going on. Well, I also do a lot of Ironman triathlon myself. So I compete in that high level. Hold the age group course record for Ironman Kona, the world championships [inaudible 00:02:58]. So, that’s a little bit about me in a nutshell, I guess.

Stu

(03:06)
Well, I am excited for this conversation because I have so many questions to try and cram into this podcast and I don’t know where to start. But I think I’ll pull a quote that I found on your website that said that you help people find the sweet spots of enjoyment, health and performance. And I know that there are so many different variables in all of those three areas as well. So how do you do it? What tools and techniques do you use?

Dr. Plews

(03:34)
Well, to start off with where does that come from in terms of my experience? I grew up at Loughborough University, which is the best sports science university in England [inaudible 00:03:48]. Well it’s quite a prestigious sports science university where I was there as a junior competitive triathlete. I always struggled to make way, I was always tired, always lethargic. But I had a diet that was just so wrong for me and we were told that carbohydrate is the king. I would have a probably a 90% carbohydrate diet, which would include a lot of refined sugars, white breads, marmalade, jams. I came from a youth and a junior and I was quite successful. I never really made that transition. And I think it’s just because I wasn’t, even though I was very fit, and I wasn’t actually that healthier, I think that we get this, there’s a bit of a confusion between those two terms often.

(04:44)
And that we call an athlete fit, but just because you’re fit doesn’t necessarily mean you’re healthy. And often to what I’ve seen now with a lot of the work that I do with a lot of athletes they can present that they’re very fit individuals but they’ve got very high levels of blood glucose consistently. They’ve got low levels of HRV. Their blood work necessarily isn’t that good, they’re always tired, fatigued, have a lot of muscle soreness, they sleep poorly. And I think that once you get the right balance of training, the right nutrition for you and you’re monitoring things and start training things to suit yourself, I think that’s where you can really meet those three points. And of course, if you get performance and health, the enjoyment is just the side plate of that as well, because you’re generally a happier individual because everything’s going in the right direction.

Stu

(05:34)
Yeah. That makes perfect sense. So I’m thinking along the lines of people like myself who have access to a lot of information and knowledge on the internet and might perhaps want to go out there and try an endurance event, maybe a small triathlon, something along those lines. Now, typically you’d think, I’m going to carb-load, I’m just going to run and that’s my training. I’m just going to run and run and run. Maybe I’ll get a schedule from the internet and I’m going to eat lots carbohydrates to fuel myself. I know that there are so many different other perspective and views that might put those to shame. So my question is what are the most common mistakes that people make when training for an endurance event?

Dr. Plews

(06:19)
Look on the internet is a-

Stu

(06:21)
Yeah, I know, Dr. Google.

Dr. Plews

(06:24)
I mean, it is so true because as you say, you go and look on the internet and often the information has just one lens and that one lens is performance, performance, performance. And of course the research is clear that some carbohydrate loading and carbohydrate is important for high intensity exercise and prolonged endurance but it is just one lens. And you can’t think of an athlete in that way. You can’t think of your performance in that way, where you’ve got to really think about attainable and sustainable training. So you’ve got to have attainable goals with sustainable training. And I think that’s really, really important thing to consider. But the main mistake that most people make is that they go down this carbohydrate loading pathway to think that carbohydrates are absolutely key, without really thinking about energy substrates and different intensities and fueling for the work required.

(07:19)
And also most of the time, most people train too hard and the right balance of easy and hard training is really, really important. Specifically low intensity training, where the low intensity training you want that to make most of your training, 80% or more because it is rebuilding, it’s not as sympathetically driven. So you’re not driving down you’re parasympathetic activity and increasing your sympathetic activity and sympathetic being your flight or flight stress response. And it can just cascade into non-functional overreaching or unwanted fatigue and all these things that are associated with negative health outcomes.

Stu

(08:03)
So, low intensity training, would jogging fit into that?

Dr. Plews

(08:08)
Well, it depends on how easy it is. But jogging would but many people still would jog too hard. So low intensity is typically, it’s below the first aerobic threshold. So you can go in, you can measure that in a lab. But a really crude way to look at where your aerobic threshold is, would be 180 minus your age. That’s where the intensity [inaudible 00:08:33]. That’s what they call the maximum aerobic fitness area. So that, the math testing or the math zone, that’s a very easy way to get an idea of where your aerobic threshold is. So you’d want to be exercising a heart rate below that most of the time.

Stu

(08:50)
Got it. Okay. And endurance training strategies. Where are we now in terms of everything that we know, let’s say over the last decade? Have the strategies changed today versus 10 years ago, or we still just performing the similar strategies to get the best results?

Dr. Plews

(09:13)
No, I think one of the main things that’s happened in terms of my strategies now, compared to where we used to be. I think we are more… What’s the word I’m looking for? We’re more dynamic in the way we do things. And I think a lot of that is because of the wearable data and the technology that we get from athletes. So, whereas in the past we build a plan, you stick with the plan and you wouldn’t really change that plan because you didn’t have any good feedback from the athlete in terms of what’s going on from a physiological perspective. Now with a lot of wearable data.

(09:44)
We got HRV, you can look at all the data in terms of the speeds, the heart rates during the sessions, the powers on the bike. So much data that you can actually titrate and change training a lot more on the fly and on the go. And I think that’s one of the main differences that we see now in training is that the sports science and the application means that we can individualize a lot more and change training as we progress through a training season.

Stu

(10:13)
Okay. Now you mentioned HRV and I track… I wear Oura ring and I’ve been wearing it for many, many years. And HRV is probably the one area that I would like to increase more but don’t understand as best I could or as much as I would like around the HRV. So my question is what do you do with the HRV data that you have with your athletes and how do you push it higher? How do you tweak that to get better performance?

Dr. Plews

(10:48)
Yeah. I mean, I did my PhD in HRV, so I know how to-

Stu

(10:51)
Wow, perfect person.

Dr. Plews

(10:54)
Yeah. You’re asking the right person. It’s the area that I’ve done a lot of work in. But what I did most in my PhD was specifically looking at training adaptation. So using it to track adaptation to trainee. But I think over time with the Oura ring and I’m wearing Oura ring too, it’s also become a really important thing for overall health. And if you look at health outcomes and you look at healthy individuals, the two things that you probably really want to have is a high HRV. So higher HRV means you’ve got more parasympathetic activity, very, very much related to longer life and longevity but also low and stable blood glucose. Want to say low, not super low but within the range of between four and five and not too variable during the day. I mean, those two things have been shown in literature to be associated with better overall global health.

(11:51)
So, I think HRV is a great marker and a great measure that everyone can take now. When I first started doing my PhD, it was actually very, very difficult to do. You do five minutes tests. You had to wear a high rate monitor, but now we’re in the position where the cost is almost nothing and the benefits very high. You can take it on just from a camera phone very accurately with apps like HRV for training. So, you can’t speak highly of it enough really. But when it comes to HRV, it is very much dependent on the type of training that you’re doing. So we talk about it from a training perspective first and then we talk about from a health perspective. When you’re doing low intensity training, you expect to see HRV increase or might be maintaining, gradually go up.

(12:38)
And the reason being is because there’s actually very little sympathetic stress if the intensity of training is low enough. So the way it works is that when heart rate increases to a point it’s basically to the first aerobic threshold, heart rate will increase by parasympathetic withdrawal. So the parasympathetic side of the autonomic nervous system is what’s slowing down heart rate. So you have a withdrawal of that, which subsequently increases your heart rate. And then after a point, which is around the aerobic threshold, you get increases in the sympathetic activity, which is when you activate catecholamines and adrenaline, which is then in the system. And that’s where you have the sympathetic activity which takes longer to recover from. And if you do this time and time again, and you’re continuously simulating the sympathetic system, you’ll have continuously lower HRV. So if you’re doing a lot of high intensity training day to day, back to back, you will expect to see your HRV cut down over time which is fine but you can’t do this for very prolonged periods of time. And if you’re doing this in combination with poor sleep, work stress, bad diet, all these things that’s when you’ll see very suppressed and poor HRV. So it’s about getting that balance right. That’s why you want to have mostly low intensity training,

(14:00)
A little bit of high intensity training, strength training, but then all the other things in the holistic athlete with your sleep, your nutrition, and general work stress and life stresses is really, really important.

Stu

(14:12)
Okay. And in terms of numbers, people that are tracking maybe with the Oura or the WHOOP or whatever wearable it may be, what numbers, where should we be sitting in terms of numbers? I mean, it’s easier to say, well, our resting heart rate is say 50. That’s pretty good. But if we have an average HRV of say 60, is that good? Bad?

Dr. Plews

(14:36)
Yeah. I mean, higher is generally better, but with HRV, we always look at it from an individual level. It’s not as simple as, there are normative values, of course. And what we measure with HRV is something called RMSSD, which is the root mean squared of all the standard deviations of the R to R intervals. That’s why we call it RMSSD, obviously. So it’s basically, it’s looking at the gap between each heartbeat and then looking at how much that’s varying. An RMSSD is what’s called a time domain, it’s from the time domain indices of HRV. And it’s very popular because it’s very easily used and accurate in normal conditions and you don’t have to control your breathing as much for it. Whereas there’s other ways of measuring HRV that you have to really control the breathing, which is why it’s such a popular…

(15:31)
So Oura ring uses that. Whoop use it, HRV4Training uses it. But generally, anything, it depends on age. So if you’re a bit younger, HRV is generally a little bit higher and as you get older, it generally goes a little bit lower. But I think the normative values are anywhere above 100 is very good. But again, it’s very individual. So you really want to just get your own, know what your normal baseline is, and then have a look at interventions where you can increase it over time. And typically, we look at rolling averages over a seven day window, rather than just HRV in an isolated day. You want to look at trends over time, because there is a lot of variation, which is one of the benefits of HRV is that you do get change with interventions, whereas resting heart rate’s harder to shift.

(16:24)
It doesn’t really change so much. But if you do see a changing resting heart rate, something’s up. So if you see a big change in your resting heart rate, you’re probably going to be getting sick or you’ve got something more severe that’s going on. You’ve probably had a bender the night before or something like that. So yeah, we actually just wrote a paper in the Journal of Sensors with 9 million data points in what people’s HRV. And that’s one of the things we showed was that HRV’s a bit more sensitive, but if you’re seeing changes in your resting heart rate, then yeah, you should do something quite immediately about it.

Stu

(16:56)
Excellent. And you mentioned interventions. What’s the low hanging fruit for trying to just shift that HRV in the right direction? If you’re pretty happy with your sleep, your exercise is down pat, and you’re eating well, would it be breath work, meditation, things like that?

Dr. Plews

(17:22)
Yeah. Well, I mean the three things you mentioned there are the things that you’ve got to focus on. Exercise is the most potent stimulant for, especially about particularly low intensity endurance-based exercise is the most potent stimulant for increasing your HRV. So they’re the main things you want to focus on. But there’s so many other things that you can do in terms of meditation and breath work is really, really key. And that’s because, especially with the breath work you’re, when you exhale, you induce more parasympathetic activity. When you inhale, you use more sympathetic. So if you’re doing these nine out four in kind of things, when the longer exhales will naturally increase your parasympathetic activity, which many people will, they’ll see their resting heart rate drop when you do that. So breath work, mindfulness, even sauna and cold water immersion can help. Cold water immersion specifically after exercise has been shown to elevate, increase parasympathetic activity more quickly. So all those things are important, but they’re the sprinkles on top of the icing [crosstalk 00:18:31] things.

Stu

(18:33)
Got it. And a thought just popped into my head. I have a friend who is very much into all of this and owns a training studio as well. And he talks a lot about nose to nose breathing when exercising, is that something that you would recommend in terms of trying to optimize your breathing? With HRV in mind, for instance, when you’re doing low-intensity exercise, you breathe more through your nose.

Dr. Plews

(19:03)
Yeah. I don’t know whether that nose breathing has been shown to activate parasympathetic activity generally, but it makes sense that it would, because it generally makes you do deeper breaths. I mean, I read the book Breath by James Nestor. And so, I’m fully familiar with that school of thought and the benefits of nose breathing. And I’ve worked with a lot of athletes who have really taken nose breathing to a very high level, like doing [inaudible 00:19:29] intervals, still breathing through the nose. You can really train it very well. But I think, yeah, whether it’s going to increase your parasympathetic activity long term, just when you’re exercising, I’m not sure. But I do think that being more mindful of nose breathing generally will definitely help. But I think the exercise is probably just not doing it quite long enough. I think it’s good to think about it. But just generally living that way.

(19:59)
I know I’ve heard very good results of people taping their mouth shut when they sleep, particularly. Then you’re getting long periods, I think you need a big exposure just like you would if you go to altitude. You want an altitude dose, you’ve got to get to 13 hours of altitude. So I just think doing it just when you exercising probably isn’t enough to get the correct dose.

Stu

(20:19)
Yeah, that makes sense. Okay. So I’m keen to talk a little bit about nutrition, specifically, endurance nutrition. And as you mentioned before, old school thinking was more along the lines of carbohydrate and carbohydrate loading. Nowadays, we’re seeing more fat adaptation being brought into the mix and people perhaps favoring fat over [inaudible 00:20:46] and things like that for maybe even pre, post, during, in race nutrition. What does the latest science recommend? And what are your thoughts on endurance nutrition, gold standard stuff?

Dr. Plews

(21:01)
Yeah. Well, I guess it’s all about the context as well. It depends on what sport you’re training for. So if we just go straight to the science of it, it’s quite hard to find a scientific study that shows that becoming keto-adapted or a fat-burning athlete improves your performance. We’re yet to see a study where it’s actually a key determinant of performance. So 10 kilometer race walking, four kilometer pursuit, [inaudible 00:21:30] sedation has no implications on the overall outcome of that event. So it’s a bit like me going to a marathon runner, improving the bench press and saying, “Hey, bench press doesn’t improve your marathon performance.” It’s like, “Yeah, no shit.”

(21:44)
Of course, it doesn’t. So I think we haven’t really had the research to really understand where its applications are. I mean, my background and what I work with a lot of world champions and pros and age groupers who compete in Ironman triathlon. And of course, Ironman triathlon, fat metabolism is of critical importance because the preservation of endogenous internal carbohydrate stores is absolutely critical to getting through the event. So if say you are pedaling at 260 watts, if 80% of your energy can be coming from fat, you don’t need to be a genius to know that that is a benefit compared to 80% of your energy coming from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates is a limited store. Fat is basically unlimited. There’s about 40,000 calories of fat on even a very, very lean individual.

(22:38)
So of course this is where it’s really beneficial. And I think if you think about again from the health side, too much refined carbohydrate isn’t great from a health perspective anyway. But then if you think from the performance standpoint, it’s very much in the context of the event, which is why you can see people, athletes who do well in these shorter duration events. And when I say shortage duration, basically anything under four hours, really. You can still get away with having quite a high carbohydrate diet because it’s not, because fat station isn’t really that important. I think you have to think about it through that lens really.

Stu

(23:14)
That’s interesting. So if you’d created a nutritional plan for me and I’m a weekend warrior say, and I’m doing the occasional triathlon, but certainly not winning, certainly not striving to do an Ironman or anything like that. But I was following your nutritional plan to the T. Would you still require supplementation outside of the foods that you’re telling me to eat?

Dr. Plews

(23:46)
Yeah. I mean, this is funny because I was talking to my friend about this the other day. If you, maybe seven years ago, I took no supplements and I was adamant that you don’t need any supplementation if you’re following the correct diet. But I think now I’ve definitely may have turned the corner and I’m not that way at all anymore, because I think it’s almost impossible to follow the correct diet all the time. It’s good to have your bases covered. I think yes, supplementation is generally good just to cover your bases. I mean, I supplement, particularly with things that are quite important, like magnesium glycinate for sleeping and things like this. And I mean, I supplement with bone liver, bone marrow and liver, and I take those in capsule form. So, and vitamin C and vitamin D just to make sure the real core ones I think are quite important to just cover your bases really. Because I think it’s so hard to get it completely down pat, unless you’re really, really being very specific. And I just don’t think it has any longevity. It’s not really applicable to real life.

Stu

(25:01)
No. Well, that, no, you make a valid point. And how about hydration? Because we were speaking about, off air, we were speaking about Dr. Tim Noakes. And I know that he had a, he’s got very differing views on the state of hydration from what we were told and to what we do now. Are you still a sports and electrolyte drink fan or have you moved away from that?

Dr. Plews

(25:28)
No. It’s funny. I have a course. I mean, I’ve got courses on all this kind of thing. I’ve got courses on the nutritional plan. I’ve got courses on HRV. I’ve got courses on heat adaptation. And one of those modules, I had to split it into two because the hydration and electrolyte module was so big. It was massive. It was a course on its own. Because it’s such a massive area to cover. I mean, first, let me talk about from my, as an athlete myself, all right, I often get asked, when I won [inaudible 00:26:02] in 2018 is how much did I drink? How much sodium did I take? I have absolutely zero clue because I paid no attention to it. I drank as much as, I drank when I was thirsty on the bike, probably drank a little bit more, but I paid no attention to my sodium.

Dr. Plews

(26:20)
I’m definitely in the school of thought that, the research is clear that there is very limited evidence that suggests that sodium helps with cramping and it helps with fatigue. There’s just not the data to support it. But that’s not to say I’m a complete against sodium, but I don’t think the sweat patches and sodium in accordance to how much salt is in your sweat, I don’t really believe in that. You generally find that the more salt in people’s sweat is in accordance to how much salt they have in their diet. Internal salt stores can generally take care of that. The research points very clearly that [inaudible 00:27:02] when measured at the end of long distance races is the same for everyone. And that’s regardless of how much sodium you’ve taken in and how much salt is in your sweat.

(27:12)
So it’s quite hard to convince me at least that it’s an important thing. But I think it’s, I do think it has its place in not avoiding it, I think is good. Adding salt to your foods, having it in your sports drinks, because if anything, it increases the palatability. It increases your, it helps with your thirst response, which is important. Can make you just keep on top of your hydration. So yeah, that’s where, I mean, my feeling is that drink to thirst unless it’s really, really hot. And then you are limited by your gastric emptying. And most individuals can only drink about 1.3 liters per hour. So you’re not going to exceed that anyway. So you probably want to make sure that you’re just getting close to between one and 1.3 liters

(28:00)
… in really, really hot conditions. If you’re a hot, heavy sweater. But the idea that you take your body weight and you drink to body weight, you’re just going to end up with being bloated. Because if you’re a heavy sweater, you’re going to be sweating two liters an hour, trying to drink two liters an hour, you are just going to get bloated because you can’t.

Stu

(28:18)
Totally. It’d be uncomfortable. So you are in Auckland at the moment. It’s the height of summer. What do you drink? What do you take with you, if you do take anything with you, when you go out for a run?

Dr. Plews

(28:34)
I don’t take anything with me when I go out for a run.

Stu

(28:35)
Okay.

Dr. Plews

(28:36)
We’re quite fortunate though that I live along a coastline, and along the coastline there’s little water stops all the way [crosstalk 00:28:43] so I just grab water when I can. But I’ve never really been a big drinker. And there’s some good research and there’s a research, I can’t remember the author, but it looks at 5k runners, showed that if you do just dehydrate yourself just a little bit, you get better coping with dehydration, and that’s been shown.

(29:06)
So it’s not always a bad thing to give yourself a little bit of dehydration. I know that [inaudible 00:29:11] you can’t possibly do that, you’ll die. And there is some research, I’ll try and shift it out for you and I can send you it after this.

Stu

(29:20)
Please do.

Dr. Plews

(29:23)
I don’t really take anything. When I’m cycling I’ll either take… I’m part of a company called SFuels. So we specialize in low carbohydrate nutrition, but we have carbohydrate for racing. So we have a race plus, but when I’ll typically have that in a bottle, which it’s basically it’ll be MCT, glutamine and collagen.

Stu

(29:46)
Excellent. I’ve had a look and the products look very intelligently specked and I can see that we’ve got a whole plethora of options now that are quite different to the things that were perhaps on offer 10 years ago.

Dr. Plews

(30:01)
Well, the whole idea but behind SFuels is fuel for the work required. Going out on a low intensity fat-burning ride that you don’t really need to be giving yourself a load of carbohydrates, particularly if it’s an hour and a half or two hours. You actually will blunt your fat metabolism a little bit from doing that. So after two hours, it probably doesn’t matter what you’re taking, it’ll just churn it straight up.

Dr. Plews

(30:25)
But in that first initial hour, an hour and a half, you’ll shut down your fat metabolism if you take on carbohydrate. We’re just actually publishing a paper, a meta analysis that looked to all the things in general sports’ mag that show what affects fat metabolism. And one of the things is that carbohydrate in the early stages of exercise will affect your fat metabolism.

(30:46)
So our mantra at SFuels is if you’re doing high intensity exercise, and it’s long, and it’s quite carbohydrate depleting, then sure, we have the products that will support that. But if you’re not, we’ve got the products that will support someone who just wants to have calories. Because that’s really, really important, calories without carbohydrates.

(31:04)
Because you still want calories. Because as an athlete, if you’re doing just not eating for three, four hours, you’re going to end up with reds, negative energy balance, and that’s even more of a problem. So that’s our mantra, is fueling for the work required, the options for fellow adapted athletes to not have to chow down the carbohydrates when they’re out there training.

Stu

(31:25)
I like it. It does make perfect sense. And I’m keen to talk a little bit about recovery, because that’s an area where it can be so wide ranging with so many different tools at our disposal. And especially nowadays we have tools like sauna, ice baths, red light therapy, grounding techniques that can be seen as quite fringe, but I’m seeing them used quite a lot with more high end athletes and influencers, especially online in social media.

Stu

(32:01)
So gold standard for you in terms of recovery techniques, if I am training for, let’s just say stock standard triathlon. So I’m not doing [inaudible 00:32:13] no Ironman stuff going on there. I’m a bit of a weekend warrior, but I do have these tools at my disposal if you think that they’re valuable and worthwhile.

Stu

(00:03)
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 a long lasting health. Now I’m sure that’s something that we all strive to have. I certainly do.

Stu

(00:23)
Before we get into the show today, you might not know that we make products too, that’s right. We are into whole food nutrition and have a range of super foods 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.

Stu

(00:41)
Okay, back to the show. This week, I’m excited to welcome Dr. Dan Plews to the podcast. Dr. Plews is a sport scientist, researcher, coach, world champion Ironman and founder of Endure IQ. He combines his experience with cutting edge science to help you land in the sweet spot of performance, health and enjoyment.

Stu

(01:03)
In this episode, we discuss the most common mistakes people make when training for an endurance event. We dig deep into the latest science in this area and talk about the best practices for recovery. Over to Dr. Plews. Hi guys, this is Stu from 180 Nutrition, and I am delighted to welcome Dr. Dan Plews to the podcast. Dr. Plews, how are you?

Dr. Plews

(01:27)
Yeah, I’m good. Thanks for having me, Stuart.

Stu

(01:29)
Well, I really appreciate your time. I know you must be a busy man. But first up, for all of our listeners out there that may not be familiar with you or your work. I’d love it if you could just tell us a little bit about your background please?

Dr. Plews

(01:41)
Yes. So where to begin with that? So I’m a lifelong endurance athlete, I guess. I’ve been doing triathlon since I was nine years old. Was quite competitive in the UK, was national champion. But I got into coaching more recently, I guess, more into the sports science and the science side of things. So I’m now an academic but I’m applied academic in sports science, and specifically in substrate use, metabolic usage, diets. Have more than 50 publications in the area of sport science from higher variability, ketogenic diets to heat adaptation.

(02:22)
And I’ve been in involved in a number of Olympic sports as well. Been involved with more than 30 Olympic in world champions. Champions from kayak, to rowing, to sailing. I was head of physical performance for Emirate team, New Zealand, which I’m the captain. So, I got a large portfolio, I guess, and what’s going on. Well, I also do a lot of Ironman triathlon myself. So I compete in that high level. Hold the age group course record for Ironman Kona, the world championships [inaudible 00:02:58]. So, that’s a little bit about me in a nutshell, I guess.

Stu

(03:06)
Well, I am excited for this conversation because I have so many questions to try and cram into this podcast and I don’t know where to start. But I think I’ll pull a quote that I found on your website that said that you help people find the sweet spots of enjoyment, health and performance. And I know that there are so many different variables in all of those three areas as well. So how do you do it? What tools and techniques do you use?

Dr. Plews

(03:34)
Well, to start off with where does that come from in terms of my experience? I grew up at Loughborough University, which is the best sports science university in England [inaudible 00:03:48]. Well it’s quite a prestigious sports science university where I was there as a junior competitive triathlete. I always struggled to make way, I was always tired, always lethargic. But I had a diet that was just so wrong for me and we were told that carbohydrate is the king. I would have a probably a 90% carbohydrate diet, which would include a lot of refined sugars, white breads, marmalade, jams. I came from a youth and a junior and I was quite successful. I never really made that transition. And I think it’s just because I wasn’t, even though I was very fit, and I wasn’t actually that healthier, I think that we get this, there’s a bit of a confusion between those two terms often.

Dr. Plews

(04:44):
And that we call an athlete fit, but just because you’re fit doesn’t necessarily mean you’re healthy. And often to what I’ve seen now with a lot of the work that I do with a lot of athletes they can present that they’re very fit individuals but they’ve got very high levels of blood glucose consistently. They’ve got low levels of HRV. Their blood work necessarily isn’t that good, they’re always tired, fatigued, have a lot of muscle soreness, they sleep poorly. And I think that once you get the right balance of training, the right nutrition for you and you’re monitoring things and start training things to suit yourself, I think that’s where you can really meet those three points. And of course, if you get performance and health, the enjoyment is just the side plate of that as well, because you’re generally a happier individual because everything’s going in the right direction.

Stu

(05:34)
Yeah. That makes perfect sense. So I’m thinking along the lines of people like myself who have access to a lot of information and knowledge on the internet and might perhaps want to go out there and try an endurance event, maybe a small triathlon, something along those lines. Now, typically you’d think, I’m going to carb-load, I’m just going to run and that’s my training. I’m just going to run and run and run. Maybe I’ll get a schedule from the internet and I’m going to eat lots carbohydrates to fuel myself. I know that there are so many different other perspective and views that might put those to shame. So my question is what are the most common mistakes that people make when training for an endurance event?

Dr. Plews

(06:19)
Look on the internet is a-

Stu

(06:21)
Yeah, I know, Dr. Google.

Dr. Plews

(06:24)
I mean, it is so true because as you say, you go and look on the internet and often the information has just one lens and that one lens is performance, performance, performance. And of course the research is clear that some carbohydrate loading and carbohydrate is important for high intensity exercise and prolonged endurance but it is just one lens. And you can’t think of an athlete in that way. You can’t think of your performance in that way, where you’ve got to really think about attainable and sustainable training. So you’ve got to have attainable goals with sustainable training. And I think that’s really, really important thing to consider. But the main mistake that most people make is that they go down this carbohydrate loading pathway to think that carbohydrates are absolutely key, without really thinking about energy substrates and different intensities and fueling for the work required.

Dr. Plews

(07:19)
And also most of the time, most people train too hard and the right balance of easy and hard training is really, really important. Specifically low intensity training, where the low intensity training you want that to make most of your training, 80% or more because it is rebuilding, it’s not as sympathetically driven. So you’re not driving down you’re parasympathetic activity and increasing your sympathetic activity and sympathetic being your flight or flight stress response. And it can just cascade into non-functional overreaching or unwanted fatigue and all these things that are associated with negative health outcomes.

Stu

(08:03)
So, low intensity training, would jogging fit into that?

Dr. Plews

(08:08)
Well, it depends on how easy it is. But jogging would but many people still would jog too hard. So low intensity is typically, it’s below the first aerobic threshold. So you can go in, you can measure that in a lab. But a really crude way to look at where your aerobic threshold is, would be 180 minus your age. That’s where the intensity [inaudible 00:08:33]. That’s what they call the maximum aerobic fitness area. So that, the math testing or the math zone, that’s a very easy way to get an idea of where your aerobic threshold is. So you’d want to be exercising a heart rate below that most of the time.

Stu

(08:50)
Got it. Okay. And endurance training strategies. Where are we now in terms of everything that we know, let’s say over the last decade? Have the strategies changed today versus 10 years ago, or we still just performing the similar strategies to get the best results?

Dr. Plews

(09:13)
No, I think one of the main things that’s happened in terms of my strategies now, compared to where we used to be. I think we are more… What’s the word I’m looking for? We’re more dynamic in the way we do things. And I think a lot of that is because of the wearable data and the technology that we get from athletes. So, whereas in the past we build a plan, you stick with the plan and you wouldn’t really change that plan because you didn’t have any good feedback from the athlete in terms of what’s going on from a physiological perspective. Now with a lot of wearable data.

Dr. Plews

(09:44)
We got HRV, you can look at all the data in terms of the speeds, the heart rates during the sessions, the powers on the bike. So much data that you can actually titrate and change training a lot more on the fly and on the go. And I think that’s one of the main differences that we see now in training is that the sports science and the application means that we can individualize a lot more and change training as we progress through a training season.

Stu

(10:13)
Okay. Now you mentioned HRV and I track… I wear Oura ring and I’ve been wearing it for many, many years. And HRV is probably the one area that I would like to increase more but don’t understand as best I could or as much as I would like around the HRV. So my question is what do you do with the HRV data that you have with your athletes and how do you push it higher? How do you tweak that to get better performance?

Dr. Plews

(10:48)
Yeah. I mean, I did my PhD in HRV, so I know how to-

Stu

(10:51)
Wow, perfect person.

Dr. Plews

(10:54)
Yeah. You’re asking the right person. It’s the area that I’ve done a lot of work in. But what I did most in my PhD was specifically looking at training adaptation. So using it to track adaptation to trainee. But I think over time with the Oura ring and I’m wearing Oura ring too, it’s also become a really important thing for overall health. And if you look at health outcomes and you look at healthy individuals, the two things that you probably really want to have is a high HRV. So higher HRV means you’ve got more parasympathetic activity, very, very much related to longer life and longevity but also low and stable blood glucose. Want to say low, not super low but within the range of between four and five and not too variable during the day. I mean, those two things have been shown in literature to be associated with better overall global health.

(11:51)
So, I think HRV is a great marker and a great measure that everyone can take now. When I first started doing my PhD, it was actually very, very difficult to do. You do five minutes tests. You had to wear a high rate monitor, but now we’re in the position where the cost is almost nothing and the benefits very high. You can take it on just from a camera phone very accurately with apps like HRV for training. So, you can’t speak highly of it enough really. But when it comes to HRV, it is very much dependent on the type of training that you’re doing. So we talk about it from a training perspective first and then we talk about from a health perspective. When you’re doing low intensity training, you expect to see HRV increase or might be maintaining, gradually go up.

(12:38)
And the reason being is because there’s actually very little sympathetic stress if the intensity of training is low enough. So the way it works is that when heart rate increases to a point it’s basically to the first aerobic threshold, heart rate will increase by parasympathetic withdrawal. So the parasympathetic side of the autonomic nervous system is what’s slowing down heart rate. So you have a withdrawal of that, which subsequently increases your heart rate. And then after a point, which is around the aerobic threshold, you get increases in the sympathetic activity, which is when you activate catecholamines and adrenaline, which is then in the system. And that’s where you have the sympathetic activity which takes longer to recover from. And if you do this time and time again, and you’re continuously simulating the sympathetic system, you’ll have continuously lower HRV. So if you’re doing a lot of high intensity training day to day, back to back, you will expect to see your HRV cut down over time which is fine but you can’t do this for very prolonged periods of time. And if you’re doing this in combination with poor sleep, work stress, bad diet, all these things that’s when you’ll see very suppressed and poor HRV. So it’s about getting that balance right. That’s why you want to have mostly low intensity training,

(14:00)
A little bit of high intensity training, strength training, but then all the other things in the holistic athlete with your sleep, your nutrition, and general work stress and life stresses is really, really important.

Stu

(14:12)
Okay. And in terms of numbers, people that are tracking maybe with the Oura or the WHOOP or whatever wearable it may be, what numbers, where should we be sitting in terms of numbers? I mean, it’s easier to say, well, our resting heart rate is say 50. That’s pretty good. But if we have an average HRV of say 60, is that good? Bad?

Dr. Plews

(14:36)
Yeah. I mean, higher is generally better, but with HRV, we always look at it from an individual level. It’s not as simple as, there are normative values, of course. And what we measure with HRV is something called RMSSD, which is the root mean squared of all the standard deviations of the R to R intervals. That’s why we call it RMSSD, obviously. So it’s basically, it’s looking at the gap between each heartbeat and then looking at how much that’s varying. An RMSSD is what’s called a time domain, it’s from the time domain indices of HRV. And it’s very popular because it’s very easily used and accurate in normal conditions and you don’t have to control your breathing as much for it. Whereas there’s other ways of measuring HRV that you have to really control the breathing, which is why it’s such a popular…

Dr. Plews

(15:31)
So Oura ring uses that. Whoop use it, HRV4Training uses it. But generally, anything, it depends on age. So if you’re a bit younger, HRV is generally a little bit higher and as you get older, it generally goes a little bit lower. But I think the normative values are anywhere above 100 is very good. But again, it’s very individual. So you really want to just get your own, know what your normal baseline is, and then have a look at interventions where you can increase it over time. And typically, we look at rolling averages over a seven day window, rather than just HRV in an isolated day. You want to look at trends over time, because there is a lot of variation, which is one of the benefits of HRV is that you do get change with interventions, whereas resting heart rate’s harder to shift.

Dr. Plews

(16:24)
It doesn’t really change so much. But if you do see a changing resting heart rate, something’s up. So if you see a big change in your resting heart rate, you’re probably going to be getting sick or you’ve got something more severe that’s going on. You’ve probably had a bender the night before or something like that. So yeah, we actually just wrote a paper in the Journal of Sensors with 9 million data points in what people’s HRV. And that’s one of the things we showed was that HRV’s a bit more sensitive, but if you’re seeing changes in your resting heart rate, then yeah, you should do something quite immediately about it.

Stu

(16:56)
Excellent. And you mentioned interventions. What’s the low hanging fruit for trying to just shift that HRV in the right direction? If you’re pretty happy with your sleep, your exercise is down pat, and you’re eating well, would it be breath work, meditation, things like that?

Dr. Plews

(17:22)
Yeah. Well, I mean the three things you mentioned there are the things that you’ve got to focus on. Exercise is the most potent stimulant for, especially about particularly low intensity endurance-based exercise is the most potent stimulant for increasing your HRV. So they’re the main things you want to focus on. But there’s so many other things that you can do in terms of meditation and breath work is really, really key. And that’s because, especially with the breath work you’re, when you exhale, you induce more parasympathetic activity. When you inhale, you use more sympathetic. So if you’re doing these nine out four in kind of things, when the longer exhales will naturally increase your parasympathetic activity, which many people will, they’ll see their resting heart rate drop when you do that. So breath work, mindfulness, even sauna and cold water immersion can help. Cold water immersion specifically after exercise has been shown to elevate, increase parasympathetic activity more quickly. So all those things are important, but they’re the sprinkles on top of the icing [crosstalk 00:18:31] things.

Stu

(18:33)
Got it. And a thought just popped into my head. I have a friend who is very much into all of this and owns a training studio as well. And he talks a lot about nose to nose breathing when exercising, is that something that you would recommend in terms of trying to optimize your breathing? With HRV in mind, for instance, when you’re doing low-intensity exercise, you breathe more through your nose.

Dr. Plews

(19:03)
Yeah. I don’t know whether that nose breathing has been shown to activate parasympathetic activity generally, but it makes sense that it would, because it generally makes you do deeper breaths. I mean, I read the book Breath by James Nestor. And so, I’m fully familiar with that school of thought and the benefits of nose breathing. And I’ve worked with a lot of athletes who have really taken nose breathing to a very high level, like doing [inaudible 00:19:29] intervals, still breathing through the nose. You can really train it very well. But I think, yeah, whether it’s going to increase your parasympathetic activity long term, just when you’re exercising, I’m not sure. But I do think that being more mindful of nose breathing generally will definitely help. But I think the exercise is probably just not doing it quite long enough. I think it’s good to think about it. But just generally living that way.

(19:59)
I know I’ve heard very good results of people taping their mouth shut when they sleep, particularly. Then you’re getting long periods, I think you need a big exposure just like you would if you go to altitude. You want an altitude dose, you’ve got to get to 13 hours of altitude. So I just think doing it just when you exercising probably isn’t enough to get the correct dose.

Stu

(20:19)
Yeah, that makes sense. Okay. So I’m keen to talk a little bit about nutrition, specifically, endurance nutrition. And as you mentioned before, old school thinking was more along the lines of carbohydrate and carbohydrate loading. Nowadays, we’re seeing more fat adaptation being brought into the mix and people perhaps favoring fat over [inaudible 00:20:46] and things like that for maybe even pre, post, during, in race nutrition. What does the latest science recommend? And what are your thoughts on endurance nutrition, gold standard stuff?

Dr. Plews

(21:01)
Yeah. Well, I guess it’s all about the context as well. It depends on what sport you’re training for. So if we just go straight to the science of it, it’s quite hard to find a scientific study that shows that becoming keto-adapted or a fat-burning athlete improves your performance. We’re yet to see a study where it’s actually a key determinant of performance. So 10 kilometer race walking, four kilometer pursuit, [inaudible 00:21:30] sedation has no implications on the overall outcome of that event. So it’s a bit like me going to a marathon runner, improving the bench press and saying, “Hey, bench press doesn’t improve your marathon performance.” It’s like, “Yeah, no shit.”

(21:44)
Of course, it doesn’t. So I think we haven’t really had the research to really understand where its applications are. I mean, my background and what I work with a lot of world champions and pros and age groupers who compete in Ironman triathlon. And of course, Ironman triathlon, fat metabolism is of critical importance because the preservation of endogenous internal carbohydrate stores is absolutely critical to getting through the event. So if say you are pedaling at 260 watts, if 80% of your energy can be coming from fat, you don’t need to be a genius to know that that is a benefit compared to 80% of your energy coming from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates is a limited store. Fat is basically unlimited. There’s about 40,000 calories of fat on even a very, very lean individual.

(22:38)
So of course this is where it’s really beneficial. And I think if you think about again from the health side, too much refined carbohydrate isn’t great from a health perspective anyway. But then if you think from the performance standpoint, it’s very much in the context of the event, which is why you can see people, athletes who do well in these shorter duration events. And when I say shortage duration, basically anything under four hours, really. You can still get away with having quite a high carbohydrate diet because it’s not, because fat station isn’t really that important. I think you have to think about it through that lens really.

Stu

(23:14)
That’s interesting. So if you’d created a nutritional plan for me and I’m a weekend warrior say, and I’m doing the occasional triathlon, but certainly not winning, certainly not striving to do an Ironman or anything like that. But I was following your nutritional plan to the T. Would you still require supplementation outside of the foods that you’re telling me to eat?

Dr. Plews

(23:46)
Yeah. I mean, this is funny because I was talking to my friend about this the other day. If you, maybe seven years ago, I took no supplements and I was adamant that you don’t need any supplementation if you’re following the correct diet. But I think now I’ve definitely may have turned the corner and I’m not that way at all anymore, because I think it’s almost impossible to follow the correct diet all the time. It’s good to have your bases covered. I think yes, supplementation is generally good just to cover your bases. I mean, I supplement, particularly with things that are quite important, like magnesium glycinate for sleeping and things like this. And I mean, I supplement with bone liver, bone marrow and liver, and I take those in capsule form. So, and vitamin C and vitamin D just to make sure the real core ones I think are quite important to just cover your bases really. Because I think it’s so hard to get it completely down pat, unless you’re really, really being very specific. And I just don’t think it has any longevity. It’s not really applicable to real life.

Stu

(25:01)
No. Well, that, no, you make a valid point. And how about hydration? Because we were speaking about, off air, we were speaking about Dr. Tim Noakes. And I know that he had a, he’s got very differing views on the state of hydration from what we were told and to what we do now. Are you still a sports and electrolyte drink fan or have you moved away from that?

Dr. Plews

(25:28)
No. It’s funny. I have a course. I mean, I’ve got courses on all this kind of thing. I’ve got courses on the nutritional plan. I’ve got courses on HRV. I’ve got courses on heat adaptation. And one of those modules, I had to split it into two because the hydration and electrolyte module was so big. It was massive. It was a course on its own. Because it’s such a massive area to cover. I mean, first, let me talk about from my, as an athlete myself, all right, I often get asked, when I won [inaudible 00:26:02] in 2018 is how much did I drink? How much sodium did I take? I have absolutely zero clue because I paid no attention to it. I drank as much as, I drank when I was thirsty on the bike, probably drank a little bit more, but I paid no attention to my sodium.

Dr. Plews

(26:20)
I’m definitely in the school of thought that, the research is clear that there is very limited evidence that suggests that sodium helps with cramping and it helps with fatigue. There’s just not the data to support it. But that’s not to say I’m a complete against sodium, but I don’t think the sweat patches and sodium in accordance to how much salt is in your sweat, I don’t really believe in that. You generally find that the more salt in people’s sweat is in accordance to how much salt they have in their diet. Internal salt stores can generally take care of that. The research points very clearly that [inaudible 00:27:02] when measured at the end of long distance races is the same for everyone. And that’s regardless of how much sodium you’ve taken in and how much salt is in your sweat.

(27:12)
So it’s quite hard to convince me at least that it’s an important thing. But I think it’s, I do think it has its place in not avoiding it, I think is good. Adding salt to your foods, having it in your sports drinks, because if anything, it increases the palatability. It increases your, it helps with your thirst response, which is important. Can make you just keep on top of your hydration. So yeah, that’s where, I mean, my feeling is that drink to thirst unless it’s really, really hot. And then you are limited by your gastric emptying. And most individuals can only drink about 1.3 liters per hour. So you’re not going to exceed that anyway. So you probably want to make sure that you’re just getting close to between one and 1.3 liters

(28:00)
… in really, really hot conditions. If you’re a hot, heavy sweater. But the idea that you take your body weight and you drink to body weight, you’re just going to end up with being bloated. Because if you’re a heavy sweater, you’re going to be sweating two liters an hour, trying to drink two liters an hour, you are just going to get bloated because you can’t.

Stu

(28:18)
Totally. It’d be uncomfortable. So you are in Auckland at the moment. It’s the height of summer. What do you drink? What do you take with you, if you do take anything with you, when you go out for a run?

Dr. Plews

(28:34)
I don’t take anything with me when I go out for a run.

Stu

(28:35)
Okay.

Dr. Plews

(28:36)
We’re quite fortunate though that I live along a coastline, and along the coastline there’s little water stops all the way [crosstalk 00:28:43] so I just grab water when I can. But I’ve never really been a big drinker. And there’s some good research and there’s a research, I can’t remember the author, but it looks at 5k runners, showed that if you do just dehydrate yourself just a little bit, you get better coping with dehydration, and that’s been shown.

(29:06)
So it’s not always a bad thing to give yourself a little bit of dehydration. I know that [inaudible 00:29:11] you can’t possibly do that, you’ll die. And there is some research, I’ll try and shift it out for you and I can send you it after this.

Stu

(29:20)
Please do.

Dr. Plews

(29:23)
I don’t really take anything. When I’m cycling I’ll either take… I’m part of a company called SFuels. So we specialize in low carbohydrate nutrition, but we have carbohydrate for racing. So we have a race plus, but when I’ll typically have that in a bottle, which it’s basically it’ll be MCT, glutamine and collagen.

Stu

(29:46)
Excellent. I’ve had a look and the products look very intelligently specked and I can see that we’ve got a whole plethora of options now that are quite different to the things that were perhaps on offer 10 years ago.

Dr. Plews

(30:01)
Well, the whole idea but behind SFuels is fuel for the work required. Going out on a low intensity fat-burning ride that you don’t really need to be giving yourself a load of carbohydrates, particularly if it’s an hour and a half or two hours. You actually will blunt your fat metabolism a little bit from doing that. So after two hours, it probably doesn’t matter what you’re taking, it’ll just churn it straight up.

(30:25)
But in that first initial hour, an hour and a half, you’ll shut down your fat metabolism if you take on carbohydrate. We’re just actually publishing a paper, a meta analysis that looked to all the things in general sports’ mag that show what affects fat metabolism. And one of the things is that carbohydrate in the early stages of exercise will affect your fat metabolism.

(30:46)
So our mantra at SFuels is if you’re doing high intensity exercise, and it’s long, and it’s quite carbohydrate depleting, then sure, we have the products that will support that. But if you’re not, we’ve got the products that will support someone who just wants to have calories. Because that’s really, really important, calories without carbohydrates.

(31:04)
Because you still want calories. Because as an athlete, if you’re doing just not eating for three, four hours, you’re going to end up with reds, negative energy balance, and that’s even more of a problem. So that’s our mantra, is fueling for the work required, the options for fellow adapted athletes to not have to chow down the carbohydrates when they’re out there training.

Stu

(31:25)
I like it. It does make perfect sense. And I’m keen to talk a little bit about recovery, because that’s an area where it can be so wide ranging with so many different tools at our disposal. And especially nowadays we have tools like sauna, ice baths, red light therapy, grounding techniques that can be seen as quite fringe, but I’m seeing them used quite a lot with more high end athletes and influencers, especially online in social media.

(32:01):
So gold standard for you in terms of recovery techniques, if I am training for, let’s just say stock standard triathlon. So I’m not doing [inaudible 00:32:13] no Ironman stuff going on there. I’m a bit of a weekend warrior, but I do have these tools at my disposal if you think that they’re valuable and worthwhile.

Dr. Plews

(32:25)
Well, when it comes to recovery, I always think of the three pillars of recovery. And just like we talked about with the HRV, the main things you have to get right first is the three is your sleep, training periodization. So you’re having easy days between your hard days, or lower intensity training between your higher intensity training days that’s really, really important. And then obviously your nutrition, the types of food you’re eating when you’re eating them, the macronutrient content.

(32:56)
So those three things, the first that you need to get right before you go looking at the other things that you’ve described, whether it’s sauna, ice bath or whatever it might be. So I think just to be clear on that, get those ones right, particularly the training periodization.

(33:12)
If you have a good coach, and I find this a lot with my athletes, I don’t have to often intervene with the wearable data. Because if I can get the training right beforehand, I know that the training’s properly distributed to make sure that they’re not going to be getting in a hole, so I don’t have to intervene. So you only intervene when they don’t get a good night sleep or they’ve got a baby crying or there’s some other life stress. So I think that’s really important.

(33:38)
But with those other things, I mean, if I go to sauna, I have a sauna and ice bath at my house every single day. But do I do that from a recovery perspective? Probably not. I don’t think sauna has being shown to have any benefits from terms of actual exercise recovery, not to say it doesn’t have benefits. It has massive benefits from just cardio, respiratory fitness and longevity and general health and wellness.

(34:05)
So I think there is a bit of that. And then the ice bath again, I don’t always use it from a recovery perspective. I think there is some evidence to suggest that it can benefit from recovery perspective. Most of the research with ice bath is it always looks at inflammation. So protein kinase like the dehydrogenase, it looks at all these muscle damaged markers and C-reactive proteins and things that are generally at the muscular level. And it always shows that it comes up with nothing. But one thing that it does show is that it definitely does show that it increases your personal learning activity. So it does help with your HRV.

(34:43)
So if you are doing really, really high intensity exercises where you are activating the sympathetic system, doing cold water immersion, after that may help you reactivate your parasympathetic activity. I mean, there’s also a bit of a school of thought with the cold water immersion that you can blend some of the adaptations. But I think I’m not convinced.

(35:06)
There was a good systematic review that was just brought out that cold water immersion, if you are a gym person and you’re looking to get muscular hypertrophy, then yes, getting and doing cold water immersion after doing a big gym workout probably isn’t that great. [crosstalk 00:35:23] athlete, it might actually benefit you. You may actually purposely go and do a cold water immersion, because it is thought to blunt the [inaudible 00:35:30] is one of the main things that is associated with muscular hypertrophy.

(35:37)
So it stops basically getting bigger, but you might be a benefit from an endurance athlete because you actually don’t want to be big. But then at the same time, it has been shown to elevate PGC-1alpha, which is like it’s a enzyme associated with mitochondrial biogenesis, which is something that’s really great for endurance athletes.

(35:58)
So again, it’s in the context of what you’re trying to achieve. So if you’re a muscular person trying to get big in the gym, probably not. If you’re an endurance athlete, who’s doing endurance-based exercising, you’re looking for more of the aerobic adaptations, then it’s certainly not going to do you any harm and it will likely give you some benefits as well. But there’s loads of benefits of just basically being in cold water. There’s the brown fat, there’s increases in metabolism. Personally, I feel awesome after it, improves your mood, improves your cognition. So there’s loads of benefits to doing it.

Stu

(36:31)
And how do you use the two together, heat and cold? Because I’ve heard mixed strategies in terms of split your sauna, jump up into a nice bath, get back in the sauna and other people saying, well, there’s potential vascular constriction, so you want to be doing it a slightly different way. What’s your thoughts?

Dr. Plews

(36:51)
Well, I tend to be all over the place with myself. It depends on how my day is going. Because at the moment it’s so hot here in New Zealand. When the kids go down to sleep at 7:30, I get in for two to three minutes, just because it gives you a bit of a reprieve and you’re just cold before you go to sleep and it can really help with sleep.

Dr. Plews

(37:13)
So that’s a great recovery modality. If you are someone who is in a hot environment talking about those three pillars, if you can do the cold water immersion to improve your sleep, that is of course going to have a massive positive effect on your overall recovery. But generally what I do is I’ll even do two to three minutes in the evening. I tend to not go to long in the evening because if I get too cold I’m pulling the sheets over me, then I wake up too warm.

(37:41)
But then generally if it’s just during the day, I’ll sometimes just do three to five minutes straight and my ice bath, basically, it’s a chest freezer that’s on a timer and it sits at between one and five degrees. So it’s pretty cold. And I’ll do between three and five minutes just sat there. And sometimes I’ll do it after sauna as well.

(38:05)
And if I do a sauna, I’ll nearly always do 20 minutes at 80 degrees, which that’s been so to be the standard minimum effective dose for getting the main benefits of elevating your heat shock proteins and getting cardiovascular response.

Stu

(38:23)
And is that traditional or infrared?

Dr. Plews

(38:26)
It’s traditional.

Stu

(38:26)
Okay.

Dr. Plews

(38:29)
I know there’s some people talk of the benefits of infrared, but I really struggle with it. I think for number one, if you are looking to use sauna from a heat acclimation point of view, I think infrared doesn’t do the job. It’s just not real, it’s not specific enough. I did an infrared sauna over the Christmas period at my friend’s house and I just don’t find it hard enough. I was seeing that my heart rate was like 65 and whereas even in my traditional sauna I’ll be sat there, heart rate’s 115, 120.

Stu

(39:05)
They definitely don’t get as hot, that’s for sure.

Dr. Plews

(39:07)
So I think when you’re considering what you’re trying to do, you’re trying to mimic cardiovascular exercise. So if your heart rate’s not getting high enough, there may be benefits from the infrared itself. But you can probably just get that from a normal light, you don’t necessarily need sauna and do that. So I took a long time to decide which one, but I think it’s quite clear that the traditional, it was a good choice and you can get it done in 20 minutes. I think if you are in infrared you’ll have to be in for a little bit longer.

Stu

(39:38)
Wow. It sounds like you have all the toys, which leads me into my next question then. Tech and wearables, again, from a weekend warrior standpoint, anything that we should consider purchasing just to track the basics that you think will be truly useful for our training?

Dr. Plews

(39:58)
I think we’ve already touched on it. The Oura Ring is a great one, because it basically gives you everything that you could possibly need. I’m a really big fan for monitoring HRV with the app HRV4Training. Because I know Marco, the creator, and lots of what he’s got in his app is based on my PhD work as well. So I’m maybe a little bit biased, but I’m quite a big fan of that particular app.

Dr. Plews

(40:22)
And the great thing is, Oura Ring, it syncs direct training, so you can just sync it every morning. I use that a lot of my athletes because it really helps improve athlete compliance. So it is really important to get that data. But I think things like the Oura Ring, where you’re collecting those main things, your sleep, your activity levels and you can actually make sure that things are going in the right direction and you can actually make some changes.

(40:48)
I mean, a primary example is I went away over Christmas, came back and then for a period of four, five days, my heart rate with HRV was just terrible. And I had no idea why, and I wasn’t feeling that good. So I just made a few small tweaks. I didn’t have any beer, no alcohol for a few days. I think it’s a really good thing that you can take control of your life a little bit. And the idea is you can’t manage what you don’t measure.

(41:12)
So if you don’t have a clue, I think it’s quite good to have that. Another thing, I mean, there’s Oura Ring, there’s WHOOP, is another option, HRV4Training. But there’s great wearable options. Another thing that I’ve been getting into quite a lot is CGM, continuous glucose monitor.

Stu

(41:36)
Super handy. Because the price has come right down now, so it’s definitely more affordable.

Dr. Plews

(41:40)
I’m on the scientific advisory board for Supersapiens. They’re the continuous glucose monitor for… It’s more athlete-focused. So I’ve found that to be really, really helpful as well for titrating your diet, understanding what affects you and-

Stu

(41:56)
Did you have any unexpected triggers while we were in the CGM then in terms of food that you’re

(42:00)
Your eating that you didn’t realize was affecting you from a blood glucose standpoint?

Dr. Plews

(42:05)
I think the main thing was… Well, I got two big things that really stuck out, was fruit would get me, particularly if I had it at the wrong time. If I ate it without any previous exercise, it would really spike me quite a lot.

Stu

(42:19)
And any particular type of fruit?

Dr. Plews

(42:23)
I’ll notice it mainly with apple. You can do things to help it. You can put peanut butter on it.

Stu

(42:29)
That’s it. Just blunt that.

Dr. Plews

(42:32)
And it just stops it. And then these are great learnings. These are so powerful for people who are trying to understand low and less variable… I always say low, but I don’t mean low. Between four and five… and low variability. Basically, you want to be seeing… I’m thinking about this in deciliters now. It’s around 15 deciliters per milligram variation during the day, and around 90 milligrams per deciliter in terms of what your actual [inaudible 00:43:03] glucose is. I think that’s really powerful. Another thing that got me was chicken breast. Chicken breast didn’t always go that well with me either-

Stu

(43:14)
Really?

Dr. Plews

(43:15):
Which was a very big surprise. It happened to me twice, It doesn’t happen to me every time, but it happened more than once, and I don’t know if it was just a misnomer, but I didn’t certainly get to a chicken thigh, which it obviously contains a bit more fat. Maybe the leaner meats, who knows, but yeah, so.

Stu

(43:33)
That is interesting. Well, I wonder why that would be. Would you classify yourself as fat adapted?

Dr. Plews

(43:45)
Yeah, definitely fat adapted, yeah.

Stu

(43:47)
So would that amount of protein maybe induce I don’t know gluconeogenesis something along those lines that might?-

Dr. Plews

(43:56)
Well it may, but it wouldn’t do it that quickly when you do it. And gluconeogenesis isn’t a supply driven process so only to a point you can produce carbohydrates, but it would never spike your blood glucose because it’s just a long drawn out process. It only goes to a point, so the more and more protein you eat doesn’t mean you get more and more and more glucogenesis.

Stu

(44:21)
Right. Got it.

Dr. Plews

(44:22)
So I don’t think it would be that, but yeah who knows?

Stu

(44:27)
Might have been the beers that you were having with your chicken breasts.

Dr. Plews

(44:27)
Yeah, who knows exactly. Well, these are all the compounding factors because I didn’t… It’s hard to know because you never really any food in pure isolation either.

Stu

(44:38)
Exactly right, exactly right. Yeah, you do wonder when you look at all the different values that come out of the glycemic index and things like that. It’s very few people eat a slice of white bread on its own, in a vacuum. You normally going to have a sandwich with something else.

Dr. Plews

(44:56)
Yeah, I would love to have had one on back in the days when I was full covering, I used to… I thought I was doing the right thing. But I would get up, I would have white bread with Marmalade and margarine probably. And then middle of the day I’d have a blueberry muffin with a low fat coffee.

Stu

(45:15)
That’s it.

Dr. Plews

(45:17)
[inaudible 00:45:17] for lunch and then pasta for dinner. That’s the way that [crosstalk 00:45:20]-

Stu

(45:19)
That’s what we did. That’s how it was.

Dr. Plews

(45:22)
The way forward. Yeah.

Stu

(45:24)
So did-

Dr. Plews

(45:25)
I know.

Stu

(45:27)
So on that note, do you think then with everything that you know today, would you have done anything different back in the day when you had that fantastic win at Kona? What would you have done differently in terms of training diet, recovery, et cetera?

Dr. Plews

(45:44)
I don’t think I would’ve done anything differently really. It’s a difficult one. Nothing jumps to mind as of the top of my head really. Because everything went my quite well. I think I could go faster now potentially with differences in technology and whatnot. But yeah I had my daughter train for a year when… With a less than one year old, that was something that I might try and do differently.

Stu

(46:17)
Yeah.

Dr. Plews

(46:17)
I managed to get through though so yeah. And I wouldn’t even change that either really. I’ve been asked this question before and I always struggle with it. Maybe I’ve warped it I just want only want good things and memories from it so.

Stu

(46:34)
No that’s excellent. And sometimes there’s information overload as well. And I always liken it to a golf swing. The moment you start to think about everything you need to do to swing perfectly in golf, it just falls apart. Yeah, yeah. There’s so many… Oftentimes it’s just intuitive. Just get there and just do it and enjoy it.

Dr. Plews

(46:57)
Yeah. No, [inaudible 00:46:58] I wouldn’t really… I’m fortunate enough that I was very fit at the time and was one of the people who managed to put together a good day on that particular day. So that’s pretty good.

Stu

(47:10)
Fantastic. That is massive. That is the most grueling thing I could possibly imagine. So yeah.

Dr. Plews

(47:17)
I’m just-

Stu

(47:17)
Hat’s off to you.

Dr. Plews

(47:18)
– watching 14 Peaks on Netflix. I don’t.. You’ve ever seen that?

Stu

(47:21)
I’ve seen it. It’s brilliant. Quite unbelievable. How does he do it? How does he do it?

Dr. Plews

(47:26)
I was inspired. It’s one of those things that you watch and you come off it feeling quite inadequate.

Stu

(47:32)
Totally, completely. Especially when he… He was ascending and descending these things that are just. Some people would be, that’s a lifetime achievement and then it’s right. Lets onto the next one. Or we’ve got to go up there again because there’s somebody still on the mountain. Fantastic. I love that kind of stuff, but yeah, totally. You look in the mirror and you think boy, what a failure.

Dr. Plews

(47:55)
It was good. I recommend that to anyone listening is a really, really good one.

Stu

(47:59)
It’s excellent, yeah. So we’re just coming up on time. I just have a couple of questions that I’d like to ask before we wrap up. And first one is your top three tips that you think could make the biggest impact on our overall health. And that could be anything, anything. It could be, find purpose in life or something along those lines. What might that be?

Dr. Plews

(48:21)
Yeah, I think the main thing is I really, really strongly believe in the concept of community and having a bit of a tribe. Surrounding yourself with friends of virtue, I like to call them, people who are like minded, similar of the values. I think that’s so important to have someone with you for those journeys. And obviously if that’s your family hopefully, even better. I think that’s one thing that I think is really important for just general health.

(48:50)
There is finding the right diet that suits you. Obviously I’m a big advocate for a lower carb lifestyle, I think that benefits the majority of people. I’m not saying it benefits everyone, but I think having rules around eating is absolutely critical and it doesn’t have to be my rule. It can be any rule. Do not go for your life with no rules, I think, whatever it is. You just low on calories, you have some kind of time restricted feeding, you avoid some type of macro, whatever it might be, choose a rule and switch from time to time. It doesn’t have to be the same rule all the time, but always have one rule in place. Otherwise, you’ll just end up on the standard American diet, which is eating whatever you want, how much you want, whatever, and whenever you want. And that’s just not healthy and not right.

(49:45)
Yeah and then the third would be exercise, moving the body, just get out there, just get out there and do it, take some action to… If you want to change something, something’s not right. I think moving the body is always a good answer to everything.

Stu

(50:03)
No, that is great advice. And since Christmas I’ve been moving a little bit more. I’ve always ignored the activity section in the aura ring. But since Christmas I thought, “I’m going to pay a little bit more attention to it.” And I’ve found that the 15 to 20 thousand steps a day almost mitigates any form of waking up during the night, it just goes away. And it’s just that sweet spot. It doesn’t need to be crazy exercise, but just walking.

Dr. Plews

(50:34)
Just some simple… And there you go, that is something you wouldn’t been able to identify that if he didn’t have a wearable. Which is why getting it wearable for everyone, I thinks is… I know it’s being connected in that, but if you didn’t get that wearable, you wouldn’t have known that that small exercise is affecting your sleep and that having good sleep is going to have massive implications on your overall health and wellbeing. So such a good example.

Stu

(51:01)
Yeah, no, I love it. Love it. So what’s next for Dr. Dan Plews, what’s on the horizon?

Dr. Plews

(51:08)
I have my own company in general IQ and we are always striving to build community, empowering athletes with knowledge and the right information. We really pride ourselves at having the ability to take scientific information, distill it for people to understand, but also make it into practically applicable things for people to use, which might be training plans or courses. If anyone is interested, we have a number of courses on the website, so we’ve got one on heat adaptation, one on low carbohydrate performance, one on training, one on athlete monitoring, which is the latest one, but also one that’s purely on heart rate variability and how to use it for, we’ve got a module on health, we’ve got a module on training.

Dr. Plews

(51:53)
So yeah, 2022 is the year where we are really trying to build our community and just bring like minded people together really. We talked about the idea of health and building a tribe. I think getting like minded people together, who have a similar vision is part of our mantra. And that’s what we’re really looking to set the standard at.

Stu

(52:17)
Fantastic. We’ll put all of the links that you’ve spoken about on the show notes and hopefully send some eyes your way. And lastly, for everybody that’s listened to this, wants to find out more about you, your work, your other businesses, maybe your social channels, where can we send them?

Dr. Plews

(52:33)
Yeah. The best starting point would be on Instagram, we’re quite in active on Instagram, which is at the @theplews. And then there’s Endure IQ, which is endureiq.com. With that we have a biweekly newsletter called the Brew Up. You’ll appreciate that. Know after a good cup of tea, five steps to making the perfect cup of tea. We five top tips in that Brew newsletter where it would go through a workout, we’ll talk about our latest publication, some sports science that’s come out, a great podcast that I’ve listened to, a good book and some new tech, things like that, that we just cover off in five top tips.

Stu

(53:15)
Fantastic.

Dr. Plews

(53:16):
[inaudible 00:53:16] up to that. It’s really popular. And every person says it is the only email that they open that comes into the inbox so it’s not junk. So yeah, make sure you… You can sign up to that straightaway on the website.

Stu

(53:26)
That’s awesome. I’m going to do that as well today. But thank you so much, really appreciate it, great conversation, so much knowledge, can’t wait to share it, much appreciated.

Dr. Plews

(53:35)
No, thanks for having me on Stewart. Thank you.

Stu

(53:36):
Thank you. Take care.

Dr. Plews

(32:25)
Well, when it comes to recovery, I always think of the three pillars of recovery. And just like we talked about with the HRV, the main things you have to get right first is the three is your sleep, training periodization. So you’re having easy days between your hard days, or lower intensity training between your higher intensity training days that’s really, really important. And then obviously your nutrition, the types of food you’re eating when you’re eating them, the macronutrient content.

Dr. Plews

(32:56)
So those three things, the first that you need to get right before you go looking at the other things that you’ve described, whether it’s sauna, ice bath or whatever it might be. So I think just to be clear on that, get those ones right, particularly the training periodization.

Dr. Plews

(33:12)
If you have a good coach, and I find this a lot with my athletes, I don’t have to often intervene with the wearable data. Because if I can get the training right beforehand, I know that the training’s properly distributed to make sure that they’re not going to be getting in a hole, so I don’t have to intervene. So you only intervene when they don’t get a good night sleep or they’ve got a baby crying or there’s some other life stress. So I think that’s really important.

(33:38)
But with those other things, I mean, if I go to sauna, I have a sauna and ice bath at my house every single day. But do I do that from a recovery perspective? Probably not. I don’t think sauna has being shown to have any benefits from terms of actual exercise recovery, not to say it doesn’t have benefits. It has massive benefits from just cardio, respiratory fitness and longevity and general health and wellness.

(34:05)
So I think there is a bit of that. And then the ice bath again, I don’t always use it from a recovery perspective. I think there is some evidence to suggest that it can benefit from recovery perspective. Most of the research with ice bath is it always looks at inflammation. So protein kinase like the dehydrogenase, it looks at all these muscle damaged markers and C-reactive proteins and things that are generally at the muscular level. And it always shows that it comes up with nothing. But one thing that it does show is that it definitely does show that it increases your personal learning activity. So it does help with your HRV.

(34:43)
So if you are doing really, really high intensity exercises where you are activating the sympathetic system, doing cold water immersion, after that may help you reactivate your parasympathetic activity. I mean, there’s also a bit of a school of thought with the cold water immersion that you can blend some of the adaptations. But I think I’m not convinced.

(35:06)
There was a good systematic review that was just brought out that cold water immersion, if you are a gym person and you’re looking to get muscular hypertrophy, then yes, getting and doing cold water immersion after doing a big gym workout probably isn’t that great. [crosstalk 00:35:23] athlete, it might actually benefit you. You may actually purposely go and do a cold water immersion, because it is thought to blunt the [inaudible 00:35:30] is one of the main things that is associated with muscular hypertrophy.

(35:37)
So it stops basically getting bigger, but you might be a benefit from an endurance athlete because you actually don’t want to be big. But then at the same time, it has been shown to elevate PGC-1alpha, which is like it’s a enzyme associated with mitochondrial biogenesis, which is something that’s really great for endurance athletes.

(35:58)
So again, it’s in the context of what you’re trying to achieve. So if you’re a muscular person trying to get big in the gym, probably not. If you’re an endurance athlete, who’s doing endurance-based exercising, you’re looking for more of the aerobic adaptations, then it’s certainly not going to do you any harm and it will likely give you some benefits as well. But there’s loads of benefits of just basically being in cold water. There’s the brown fat, there’s increases in metabolism. Personally, I feel awesome after it, improves your mood, improves your cognition. So there’s loads of benefits to doing it.

Stu

(36:31)
And how do you use the two together, heat and cold? Because I’ve heard mixed strategies in terms of split your sauna, jump up into a nice bath, get back in the sauna and other people saying, well, there’s potential vascular constriction, so you want to be doing it a slightly different way. What’s your thoughts?

Dr. Plews

(36:51)
Well, I tend to be all over the place with myself. It depends on how my day is going. Because at the moment it’s so hot here in New Zealand. When the kids go down to sleep at 7:30, I get in for two to three minutes, just because it gives you a bit of a reprieve and you’re just cold before you go to sleep and it can really help with sleep.

(37:13)
So that’s a great recovery modality. If you are someone who is in a hot environment talking about those three pillars, if you can do the cold water immersion to improve your sleep, that is of course going to have a massive positive effect on your overall recovery. But generally what I do is I’ll even do two to three minutes in the evening. I tend to not go to long in the evening because if I get too cold I’m pulling the sheets over me, then I wake up too warm.

(37:41)
But then generally if it’s just during the day, I’ll sometimes just do three to five minutes straight and my ice bath, basically, it’s a chest freezer that’s on a timer and it sits at between one and five degrees. So it’s pretty cold. And I’ll do between three and five minutes just sat there. And sometimes I’ll do it after sauna as well.

(38:05)
And if I do a sauna, I’ll nearly always do 20 minutes at 80 degrees, which that’s been so to be the standard minimum effective dose for getting the main benefits of elevating your heat shock proteins and getting cardiovascular response.

Stu

(38:23)
And is that traditional or infrared?

Dr. Plews

(38:26)
It’s traditional.

Stu

(38:26)
Okay.

Dr. Plews

(38:29)
I know there’s some people talk of the benefits of infrared, but I really struggle with it. I think for number one, if you are looking to use sauna from a heat acclimation point of view, I think infrared doesn’t do the job. It’s just not real, it’s not specific enough. I did an infrared sauna over the Christmas period at my friend’s house and I just don’t find it hard enough. I was seeing that my heart rate was like 65 and whereas even in my traditional sauna I’ll be sat there, heart rate’s 115, 120.

Stu

(39:05)
They definitely don’t get as hot, that’s for sure.

Dr. Plews

(39:07)
So I think when you’re considering what you’re trying to do, you’re trying to mimic cardiovascular exercise. So if your heart rate’s not getting high enough, there may be benefits from the infrared itself. But you can probably just get that from a normal light, you don’t necessarily need sauna and do that. So I took a long time to decide which one, but I think it’s quite clear that the traditional, it was a good choice and you can get it done in 20 minutes. I think if you are in infrared you’ll have to be in for a little bit longer.

Stu

(39:38)
Wow. It sounds like you have all the toys, which leads me into my next question then. Tech and wearables, again, from a weekend warrior standpoint, anything that we should consider purchasing just to track the basics that you think will be truly useful for our training?

Dr. Plews

(39:58)

I think we’ve already touched on it. The Oura Ring is a great one, because it basically gives you everything that you could possibly need. I’m a really big fan for monitoring HRV with the app HRV4Training. Because I know Marco, the creator, and lots of what he’s got in his app is based on my PhD work as well. So I’m maybe a little bit biased, but I’m quite a big fan of that particular app.

(40:22)

And the great thing is, Oura Ring, it syncs direct training, so you can just sync it every morning. I use that a lot of my athletes because it really helps improve athlete compliance. So it is really important to get that data. But I think things like the Oura Ring, where you’re collecting those main things, your sleep, your activity levels and you can actually make sure that things are going in the right direction and you can actually make some changes.

(40:48)
I mean, a primary example is I went away over Christmas, came back and then for a period of four, five days, my heart rate with HRV was just terrible. And I had no idea why, and I wasn’t feeling that good. So I just made a few small tweaks. I didn’t have any beer, no alcohol for a few days. I think it’s a really good thing that you can take control of your life a little bit. And the idea is you can’t manage what you don’t measure.

(41:12)
So if you don’t have a clue, I think it’s quite good to have that. Another thing, I mean, there’s Oura Ring, there’s WHOOP, is another option, HRV4Training. But there’s great wearable options. Another thing that I’ve been getting into quite a lot is CGM, continuous glucose monitor.

Stu

(41:36)
Super handy. Because the price has come right down now, so it’s definitely more affordable.

Dr. Plews

(41:40)
I’m on the scientific advisory board for Supersapiens. They’re the continuous glucose monitor for… It’s more athlete-focused. So I’ve found that to be really, really helpful as well for titrating your diet, understanding what affects you and-

Stu

(41:56)
Did you have any unexpected triggers while we were in the CGM then in terms of food that you’re

(42:00)
Your eating that you didn’t realize was affecting you from a blood glucose standpoint?

Dr. Plews

(42:05)
I think the main thing was… Well, I got two big things that really stuck out, was fruit would get me, particularly if I had it at the wrong time. If I ate it without any previous exercise, it would really spike me quite a lot.

Stu

(42:19)
And any particular type of fruit?

Dr. Plews

(42:23)
I’ll notice it mainly with apple. You can do things to help it. You can put peanut butter on it.

Stu

(42:29)
That’s it. Just blunt that.

Dr. Plews

(42:32)
And it just stops it. And then these are great learnings. These are so powerful for people who are trying to understand low and less variable… I always say low, but I don’t mean low. Between four and five… and low variability. Basically, you want to be seeing… I’m thinking about this in deciliters now. It’s around 15 deciliters per milligram variation during the day, and around 90 milligrams per deciliter in terms of what your actual [inaudible 00:43:03] glucose is. I think that’s really powerful. Another thing that got me was chicken breast. Chicken breast didn’t always go that well with me either-

Stu

(43:14)
Really?

Dr. Plews

(43:15)
Which was a very big surprise. It happened to me twice, It doesn’t happen to me every time, but it happened more than once, and I don’t know if it was just a misnomer, but I didn’t certainly get to a chicken thigh, which it obviously contains a bit more fat. Maybe the leaner meats, who knows, but yeah, so.

Stu

(43:33)
That is interesting. Well, I wonder why that would be. Would you classify yourself as fat adapted?

Dr. Plews

(43:45)
Yeah, definitely fat adapted, yeah.

Stu

(43:47)
So would that amount of protein maybe induce I don’t know gluconeogenesis something along those lines that might?-

Dr. Plews

(43:56)
Well it may, but it wouldn’t do it that quickly when you do it. And gluconeogenesis isn’t a supply driven process so only to a point you can produce carbohydrates, but it would never spike your blood glucose because it’s just a long drawn out process. It only goes to a point, so the more and more protein you eat doesn’t mean you get more and more and more glucogenesis.

Stu

(44:21)
Right. Got it.

Dr. Plews

(44:22)
So I don’t think it would be that, but yeah who knows?

Stu

(44:27)
Might have been the beers that you were having with your chicken breasts.

Dr. Plews

(44:27)
Yeah, who knows exactly. Well, these are all the compounding factors because I didn’t… It’s hard to know because you never really any food in pure isolation either.

Stu

(44:38)
Exactly right, exactly right. Yeah, you do wonder when you look at all the different values that come out of the glycemic index and things like that. It’s very few people eat a slice of white bread on its own, in a vacuum. You normally going to have a sandwich with something else.

Dr. Plews

(44:56)
Yeah, I would love to have had one on back in the days when I was full covering, I used to… I thought I was doing the right thing. But I would get up, I would have white bread with Marmalade and margarine probably. And then middle of the day I’d have a blueberry muffin with a low fat coffee.

Stu

(45:15)
That’s it.

Dr. Plews (45:17):
[inaudible 00:45:17] for lunch and then pasta for dinner. That’s the way that [crosstalk 00:45:20]-

Stu

(45:19)
That’s what we did. That’s how it was.

Dr. Plews

(45:22)
The way forward. Yeah.

Stu

(45:24)
So did-

Dr. Plews

(45:25)
I know.

Stu

(45:27)
So on that note, do you think then with everything that you know today, would you have done anything different back in the day when you had that fantastic win at Kona? What would you have done differently in terms of training diet, recovery, et cetera?

Dr. Plews

(45:44)
I don’t think I would’ve done anything differently really. It’s a difficult one. Nothing jumps to mind as of the top of my head really. Because everything went my quite well. I think I could go faster now potentially with differences in technology and whatnot. But yeah I had my daughter train for a year when… With a less than one year old, that was something that I might try and do differently.

Stu

(46:17)
Yeah.

Dr. Plews

(46:17)
I managed to get through though so yeah. And I wouldn’t even change that either really. I’ve been asked this question before and I always struggle with it. Maybe I’ve warped it I just want only want good things and memories from it so.

Stu

(46:34)
No that’s excellent. And sometimes there’s information overload as well. And I always liken it to a golf swing. The moment you start to think about everything you need to do to swing perfectly in golf, it just falls apart. Yeah, yeah. There’s so many… Oftentimes it’s just intuitive. Just get there and just do it and enjoy it.

Dr. Plews

(46:57)
Yeah. No, [inaudible 00:46:58] I wouldn’t really… I’m fortunate enough that I was very fit at the time and was one of the people who managed to put together a good day on that particular day. So that’s pretty good.

Stu

(47:10)
Fantastic. That is massive. That is the most grueling thing I could possibly imagine. So yeah.

Dr. Plews

(47:17)
I’m just-

Stu

(47:17)
Hat’s off to you.

Dr. Plews

(47:18)
– watching 14 Peaks on Netflix. I don’t.. You’ve ever seen that?

Stu

(47:21)
I’ve seen it. It’s brilliant. Quite unbelievable. How does he do it? How does he do it?

Dr. Plews

(47:26)
I was inspired. It’s one of those things that you watch and you come off it feeling quite inadequate.

Stu

(47:32)
Totally, completely. Especially when he… He was ascending and descending these things that are just. Some people would be, that’s a lifetime achievement and then it’s right. Lets onto the next one. Or we’ve got to go up there again because there’s somebody still on the mountain. Fantastic. I love that kind of stuff, but yeah, totally. You look in the mirror and you think boy, what a failure.

Dr. Plews

(47:55)
It was good. I recommend that to anyone listening is a really, really good one.

Stu

(47:59)
It’s excellent, yeah. So we’re just coming up on time. I just have a couple of questions that I’d like to ask before we wrap up. And first one is your top three tips that you think could make the biggest impact on our overall health. And that could be anything, anything. It could be, find purpose in life or something along those lines. What might that be?

Dr. Plews

(48:21)
Yeah, I think the main thing is I really, really strongly believe in the concept of community and having a bit of a tribe. Surrounding yourself with friends of virtue, I like to call them, people who are like minded, similar of the values. I think that’s so important to have someone with you for those journeys. And obviously if that’s your family hopefully, even better. I think that’s one thing that I think is really important for just general health.

Dr. Plews

(48:50):
There is finding the right diet that suits you. Obviously I’m a big advocate for a lower carb lifestyle, I think that benefits the majority of people. I’m not saying it benefits everyone, but I think having rules around eating is absolutely critical and it doesn’t have to be my rule. It can be any rule. Do not go for your life with no rules, I think, whatever it is. You just low on calories, you have some kind of time restricted feeding, you avoid some type of macro, whatever it might be, choose a rule and switch from time to time. It doesn’t have to be the same rule all the time, but always have one rule in place. Otherwise, you’ll just end up on the standard American diet, which is eating whatever you want, how much you want, whatever, and whenever you want. And that’s just not healthy and not right.

(49:45)
Yeah and then the third would be exercise, moving the body, just get out there, just get out there and do it, take some action to… If you want to change something, something’s not right. I think moving the body is always a good answer to everything.

Stu

(50:03)
No, that is great advice. And since Christmas I’ve been moving a little bit more. I’ve always ignored the activity section in the aura ring. But since Christmas I thought, “I’m going to pay a little bit more attention to it.” And I’ve found that the 15 to 20 thousand steps a day almost mitigates any form of waking up during the night, it just goes away. And it’s just that sweet spot. It doesn’t need to be crazy exercise, but just walking.

Dr. Plews

(50:34)
Just some simple… And there you go, that is something you wouldn’t been able to identify that if he didn’t have a wearable. Which is why getting it wearable for everyone, I thinks is… I know it’s being connected in that, but if you didn’t get that wearable, you wouldn’t have known that that small exercise is affecting your sleep and that having good sleep is going to have massive implications on your overall health and wellbeing. So such a good example.

Stu

(51:01)
Yeah, no, I love it. Love it. So what’s next for Dr. Dan Plews, what’s on the horizon?

Dr. Plews

(51:08)
I have my own company in general IQ and we are always striving to build community, empowering athletes with knowledge and the right information. We really pride ourselves at having the ability to take scientific information, distill it for people to understand, but also make it into practically applicable things for people to use, which might be training plans or courses. If anyone is interested, we have a number of courses on the website, so we’ve got one on heat adaptation, one on low carbohydrate performance, one on training, one on athlete monitoring, which is the latest one, but also one that’s purely on heart rate variability and how to use it for, we’ve got a module on health, we’ve got a module on training.

Dr. Plews

(51:53)
So yeah, 2022 is the year where we are really trying to build our community and just bring like minded people together really. We talked about the idea of health and building a tribe. I think getting like minded people together, who have a similar vision is part of our mantra. And that’s what we’re really looking to set the standard at.

Stu

(52:17)
Fantastic. We’ll put all of the links that you’ve spoken about on the show notes and hopefully send some eyes your way. And lastly, for everybody that’s listened to this, wants to find out more about you, your work, your other businesses, maybe your social channels, where can we send them?

Dr. Plews

(52:33)
Yeah. The best starting point would be on Instagram, we’re quite in active on Instagram, which is at the @theplews. And then there’s Endure IQ, which is endureiq.com. With that we have a biweekly newsletter called the Brew Up. You’ll appreciate that. Know after a good cup of tea, five steps to making the perfect cup of tea. We five top tips in that Brew newsletter where it would go through a workout, we’ll talk about our latest publication, some sports science that’s come out, a great podcast that I’ve listened to, a good book and some new tech, things like that, that we just cover off in five top tips.

Stu

(53:15)
Fantastic.

Dr. Plews

(53:16)
[inaudible 00:53:16] up to that. It’s really popular. And every person says it is the only email that they open that comes into the inbox so it’s not junk. So yeah, make sure you… You can sign up to that straightaway on the website.

Stu

(53:26)
That’s awesome. I’m going to do that as well today. But thank you so much, really appreciate it, great conversation, so much knowledge, can’t wait to share it, much appreciated.

Dr. Plews

(53:35)
No, thanks for having me on Stewart. Thank you.

Stu

(53:36)
Thank you. Take care.

 

Dr Dan Plews

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