Written by Christopher Kelly
April 22, 2016
Christopher: Before we get into this interview with Dr. Brad Dieter, I wanted to apologize for talking about myself in this interview. I really tried my best to put myself in the shoes of somebody that Brad would normally be working with who I think is the strength-based athlete. And, of course, I ran out of ideas quite quickly and got back into talking about ketosis for mountain bikers. And I realize that can become repetitive and boring after a while. So, please do accept my apologies for that.
I'm really interested to know, if you've got any ideas for me how I can better put myself in somebody else's shoes and ask better questions and then keep the flow of the podcast going, I'd be very much interested to hear from you. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. And then the second thing I wanted to tell you about is that myself, Dr. Tommy Wood, who of course you've heard on the podcast many times, and then also my wife Julie who is a food scientist, we have got together and we have created an MCT oil powder.
Most people listening to this podcast won't need any introduction to MCT oil. It's a special type of fat which is not metabolized like ordinary long chain fats. It's sent directly to the hepatic portal and the liver works to metabolize into a type of energy called ketones, which of course you know about, we talk a lot about in the podcast. And the trouble with the oil form is it sends a lot of people running to the bathroom. And so the problem that we set out to solve was how can we stop this? How can we produce another version of this product that doesn't have the GI tolerance problems?
And it turns out that a powdered form is the way to go. And then also, the powdered form is much more convenient. If you're traveling, if you're a pilot, if you're flying, if you're a bike racer and you're going to bike races, then traveling with an oil is not very convenient. So, the powder, I think, is pretty awesome. And then on top of that, we found a way to turn the oil into a powder using a prebiotic fiber that we have been using in our practice.
So, some of you already know that there are some MCT oil powder products on the market and usually they use either regular maltodextrin, which is a very high glycemic carbohydrate, or they use some sort of food allergen like sodium caseinate, which many people have a problem with. So, what we set out to do was create a hypoallergenic or low allergen version of this product. And we've done it. We've got this special fiber. It says resistant maltodextrin in the ingredients.
But don't think that's anything to do with the maltodextrin that you see in goos and gels and Gatorade and all that kind of stuff. This is a very different type of carbohydrate that is not absorbed by you. It travels all the way to the large intestine where it's fermented by bacteria into short chain fatty acids which are also ketogenic. So, anything that's a short fat can readily be turned into ketones. So, this is a product I've been using myself for a while. It seems to work great.
I didn't want to jump into the deep end right away so I ordered the minimum, ordered a quantity of 100 kilos of this stuff and it's now headed our way. We have bags. We have labels. Julie and I are going to bag this stuff by ourselves. It's going to be fun. We're quite looking forward to it. And then each bag will be sealed by us and then shipped by Amelia. Come to Phat Fibre. It's PH. Of course, it is. Every domain in the planet is taken. So, it's not fat, F-A-T. It's phat, P-H, phatfibre, and then fiber, because we're British, we don't spell it E-R. We spell it R-E. So the whole domain is P-H-A-T-F-I-B-R-E.com, phatfibre.com.
And then you'll see there's a video at the top of the page where Tommy and I talk more about what this product is and why we created it. So, if you've been enjoying the podcast, it would help me out a lot if you would buy some phat fibre and then let me know what you think of it. My email address is email@example.com. Thank you very much. And now, on to the show.
Hello, and welcome to the Nourish Balance Thrive Podcast. My name is Christopher Kelly and today I'm joined by Dr. Brad Dieter. Hi, Brad.
Brad: Good morning, Chris. How are you?
Christopher: I am very well. Thank you so much for joining me this morning. I am super excited to have you. For people that don't know Brad, Brad is a Ph.D. trained exercise physiologist, nutritionist, molecular biologist and weightlifter. Weightlifter, I think a lot of people are going to be excited to that world, weightlifter. I'm a skinny endurance -- well, not too skinny but a fairly skinny endurance guy and I talk a lot about mountain biking and spinning small circles whilst in the seated position and all that kind of stuff. I'm not sure that everybody listening to this podcast is going to be too into that. It's great that we've got someone that lifts heavy thing onto the show.
Brad: Yeah. Well, moderately heavy. I guess, heavy for me, light in context to some of the other people out in the world. So, it's always a moving target that's for sure.
Christopher: Heavy for me is a bit TRX balance lunge whilst holding my daughter. I really wanted to sort of understand more about your background and how you became interested in molecular biology and physiology. So, how did you get started at all this?
Brad: Yeah. So, growing up, I was always the typical science person. I was always blowing stuff up in the kitchen and doing a lot of things like that. So, I've always had interest in science. I spent a lot of time in the clinical/medical world and realize that it really wasn't where my skill set fit best, so I went the research route. And my training throughout graduate school and post graduate school doing some more advanced training and my research fellowship has been everything from -- I've worked with humans. I've done human research. I've done animal research. I've done molecular biology, biostatistical training.
So, I have a very full breadth of what science entails in terms of the biomedical piece. And I think that's been probably the best aspect of the training is the more complicated the world gets and the more we learn is it takes a lot of understanding at different levels to really tie pieces together. And that's been really helpful, just trying to, kind of finding the truths and the research of everything from knowing the human physiology to knowing the molecular mechanisms to knowing how to really read and understand the meta-analysis and the epidemiology research has been really helpful. So, the wide range of background has been probably the best aspect of what I've been so fortunate to be able to do.
Christopher: Yeah, I know. I am very grateful for people like you and Tommy Wood. So, it's an interesting world where lay people like me have access to your tools. Not all of your tools. I don't have access to your lab. But PubMed and now with some of the papers on PubMed becoming freely available through certain sites I'm sure that you're aware of, we have access to your tools. But having that deeper understanding and understanding the limitations of the science I think is so important and have someone like you, a professional like you to have people like me be guided through the whole thing is just really important.
And then we already talked -- I should link to this in the show notes actually. So, Brad recently wrote an article on vitamin D and its effect on athletic performance. I know it's an area of research interest for you. That was awesome. It's like really technical. It's not like your regular blog post. It was more like a scientific article. It's quite dense but some really great information in there. What would you say? Maybe I should have you summarize that article? The takeaway is don't become deficient, could be immunosuppressive if you take too much.
Brad: Yeah. So, that's the one of the things about the research. We have all this information, trying to distill it into something that people can take action on. And really what the research kind of suggests is if you're really deficient in vitamin D it's going to likely to affect your performance. And so correcting any deficiencies if you're an athlete is a really good way to make sure that you're optimizing your body's function. And that the ranges of vitamin D intake really vary from person to person. Just trying to find the dose that kind of puts you in a sweet spot is really the best way to go. Just kind of over supplementing is not really the best answer ever.
Christopher: This is an excellent example of how you can create performance and possibly even longevity too in this example by doing some blood chemistry and finding out where you are because, I mean, what are the symptoms of low vitamin D?
Brad: A lot of it is things that you probably wouldn't think about. So, getting sick more often, hampered recovery. And then also your mood too can be affected a little bit by that. It's one of those things where it's kind of sub-clinical. Most people don't have overt symptoms that kind of say, "Oh, you're obviously vitamin D deficient." It's not like anemia where you're just lethargic and tired all the time and you get a blood test and you're anemic and it's like, "Well, that makes sense."
Christopher: But you see how all of these things are the same. You just said anemia, which is another completely different problem.
Christopher: And yet everything is fatigue. There's really no way you can know what the problem is unless you do a test.
Brad: Yeah. So, that's why those blood panels are really important for a lot of people.
Christopher: I've recently been doing your Eat to Perform training course. And I couldn't believe it when I saw it because of the price. How much do you think you spent on your education?
Brad: Let's see.
Christopher: You don't have to give the exact answer but kind of ballpark.
Brad: At least a quarter of a million probably.
Christopher: That's what I thought. And so this training course is -- how much is it?
Brad: It's anywhere from $100 to $200, I think is the price range, somewhere around there.
Christopher: And so, I'm not saying that all of your education is in this training course, not at all, but to compare those two numbers--
Brad: It's mind blowing.
Christopher: It's mind blowing. Right, exactly. So, how long this guy who's just distilled some of the most important things he's learned over his academic and professional career and boiled it down into this training course and is available to you for $200. I think that is amazing. I always think these training courses are underpriced. When you can make this consideration. And so every time, know that, if you're listening to this and you have a training course, I'm a real sucker for it. Like if you're willing to teach someone, I'm almost certainly willing to buy it and listen to it and do it.
And I'd been doing that. I haven't finished. So, this is actually quite interesting that you've actually bothered to put together an exam. And I haven't done the exam yet but I did make a first pass through the material. Yeah, I really enjoyed it. So, tell me what motivated you to create the course in the first place?
Brad: Well, one of the really big things is I'm a believer in education as power. And there's so much information out there and it can be really hard to tease through for people. And what I wanted to do and kind of the rest of us that are involved in this project is take all these really complex hard things and just make them simple and available to people at a reasonable, no, consumer price point. And one of my favorite quotes is from Spiderman, "with great power comes great responsibility."
The knowledge that it's my head and the other people who are involved in the course is useless if it doesn't get out to people. And so if we can take it, package it in a really, really nice consumable way and get it to people, that's how we effect change and we affect lives. The more you know the more successful you can be. And that was really what we wanted to do with it, is take all these concepts, put it in a really easy to understand and digestible course and then get it to people. And that was what we've done. Every time we teach the course, we add more content. And it gets better with each generation. And so it's been a really fun project.
Christopher: Okay. So, I'm Johnny-come-lately then, that this is not the first version of the course. It's just the first time I've seen it and I assumed it was you and it's maybe not.
Brad: Yeah. One of the great things too is since you've signed up for it, anything we add in the future, you're going to still have access to. When people put their value in us, we try to put it back into them. And once they're under our umbrella, is we continue to give them whatever knowledge and material comes out.
Christopher: Okay. So, I better put the link to the show notes for this. Mike T. Nelson and Brad Dieter have a training course and they're willing to keep you updated as they learn new stuff. And the cost is $200 right now. If I was you and I was listening to this, I would probably pull the car over and sign up for this thing. It is good. But tell me, who do you have in mind? Did you visualize the sort of person that will be doing this training course before you created it?
Brad: Yeah. And that's something that we always try to be very mindful of, is the target audience, I think our goal is to reach the most people. So, we've made the course kind of target what the big consumer market is and that's people in their early 20s to their mid-50s who are trying to improve their lives through health and nutrition and fitness. And it really covers a full range of everything that you'll need to know to really just get the basics and be successful.
Christopher: And would you say it's more practitioner-orientated? I'm a practitioner and somewhat technical and I will pause the video and check your references, all that kind of stuff. So, is that the sort of person you had in mind or is it more kind of the fitness enthusiast that's just looking to help themselves?
Brad: I think it's both. If you want, you can kind of take just the first pass through the material and you'll learn a lot. But we provide references and we cite studies and we give practitioners a lot of really good tools for those things. So, it's really, depending on how much you want to invest in the course yourself time and energy wise, it can be definitely for a practitioner or can just be for the fitness enthusiast, just depending on your level of engagement.
Christopher: Then what's your approach? Say, I'm really into CrossFit and I want to become more competitive, where would you start with someone like that?
Brad: So, my philosophy is start with listening because you learn more about people by listening and really trying to figure out who they are and what skills they have and figuring out where their weak links are because that's usually the best place to focus. So, our philosophy is always start with listening and really try to find out where their areas of weaknesses and strengths are and then have that person focus on that piece of their life that is the most in disarray whether it's their nutrition or whether it's training is all over the place, whether that's their sleep. Maybe they have some big hormonal issues. That's kind of where we start.
Christopher: Let's say the person did have some hormonal issues or maybe they had a few pounds of belly fat they wanted to lose, what do you say to them? How do you start?
Brad: Usually, we try to tell people that there's so many components to it. There's the physical piece and then there's the mental piece. And I try to spend just as much time on the mental piece with people as the physical piece because so much of it is the mental battle. And so what we try to do is we try to get people to buy into the idea you're doing this to invest in yourself and that losing a few pounds is kind of the secondary goal and that we're trying to just build all these tools of making you successful for what your goals are.
So, we'll usually start with kind of figuring out who somebody is, where they're at and what they're doing. And then we'll dial in some nutritional pieces of here's some tools we want to give you and where we think you should start with implementing that matches your training in that goal. And then we'll talk about the training pieces. Maybe your training style isn't ideal for your trying to lose the last 5% of 6% of body fat.
So, we'll shift their training and we'll shift their nutrition for six, 12, 18 weeks depending on kind of what their goals are. And we'll track them over time and reevaluate as we continue to go.
Christopher: And then what approach do you take to nutrition then? Do you have any kind of diet in mind?
Brad: So, I'm a big believer in everything is a tool. When I coach with people, I'll use anything from a paleo-ish diet to a flexible dieting diet to a GAPS autoimmune thing and just trying to find what works best for that person in their situation. So, instead of being really rigid and thinking this is the only tool I have, we try to take the approach of somebody in their life is at a certain point where they need a certain tool and we try to meet them with that specific tool. It's kind of like building a house. You can't just use a hammer because not everything is a nail. You really got to find out where they're at and try to reach them with the dietary tool that works best for where they're at.
So, someone who comes from eating a diet of fastfood all the time, their approach is going to be much different than somebody who comes from even a hardcore CrossFit athlete. They have had six carbohydrate, six grams of carbs in the last eight years and they're not seeing any progress. They're going to get two totally different dietary philosophies that we're going to give them because they're in two very different places and they need two very different things.
Christopher: And do you ever see that? Like I sometimes wonder, some of the slides, some of the videos in the course, I thought, wow, when do you ever see someone -- you mentioned fastfood. Have you ever had someone come to work with you that was still eating fastfood?
Brad: Yeah. You would be amazed.
Christopher: It must be. I would be. It's funny the way the internet works. You select a certain type of person.
Brad: You fall in this microcosm of the world but you only see a small percentage of it, yeah.
Christopher: So, in general, you can out eat any exercise regime. It's possible to eat more calories that you expend during exercise. But with a particular type of endurance exercise that I do, it is possible. Like I can go out and do a two and a half thousand calorie ride and then create huge deficit. But it seems like that's not what you're normally seeing. Am I right? I've used this word CrossFit to kind of identify a group of people. Is that a sort of group of people that you work with?
Brad: We have a lot of people who come from a CrossFit style training background, just kind of where the marketing and the niche of where the company kind of originated from. So, that's a big piece of what we see. And one of the pitfalls, I think, of the CrossFit realm is if you're not one of the top competitive people in that field and you're CrissFitting three days a week, your actual energy expenditure during your training in a week is not nearly as high as most people think it is.
So, when we talk about your basic total daily energy expenditure, that exercise piece of the 30-minute wad is so small in comparison to everything else you're doing in a day that we really have to figure out how much you're actually training to try to figure out what type of dietary approach is best.
Christopher: Yes. That's what I was getting at. It's interesting how these two groups of people can be so very different. But the effect of the exercise on your metabolism overall is still impactful. It's not really what happens in the 30 minutes you're working out. It's what happens the rest of the day that's important.
Brad: Yeah. And that's big piece. I kind of wrote this piece in an article on what we talk about is. The energy expenditure and the exercise really isn't the point. The point is exercise is to drive adaptation. It's to drive changes in muscle. It's to drive changes in your cardiac function, your overall body metabolism. That's really what we should focus on in an exercise. So, in kind of the first piece of my part of the course is I really walk through -- we don't exercise really to lose weight. When you look at the research of where they've looked at just diet, just exercise and the combination of diet and exercise, the exercise piece contributes so little to the weight loss. You really train and exercise for the adaptation and to become athlete and some of these healthy metabolic adaptations. So, that's a really key piece that a lot of people when they kind of begin to understand that, it really shifts their mindset quite a bit.
Christopher: What should we be doing then, do you think? If we had some kind of body composition goal, does aerobic exercise, does it kind of kill those goals? Is running on a treadmill going to make me fat?
Brad: It's not going to make you fat, that's for sure. If your goal is just body composition, I like to tell people do what's most effective for your goal. Typically, for people who are kind of in the traditional overweight, don't really have a lot of muscle mass or kind of that realm of people, putting more of your focus on resistance training is going to get you a lot more bang for your buck. So, for every hour in the gym you spend resistance training, you're going to get more towards you body composition goal than an hour on the treadmill. Just because of the type of stimulus it's going to give you.
Christopher: So, I guess, not everybody has time to do the three or four hour bike ride to expend that many carb. But does it just come down to calories in the end? Like you say, there's some sort of -- we know that maybe synthesizing new proteins is very expensive for your body to do and you burn a ton of energy just moving pedals on a bicycle. That's also very expensive. Does it just come down to calories in the end or is there something else going on here?
Brad: So, there's a lot more going on. I kind of made this figure in one of my articles. I'll shoot you the link for it because it kind of walks you through it, this idea that the body is calorie measure and bomb calorimeter is really kind of wrong. The body is not this black box. But what it really is, is you've got calories in and calories out but you also have these internal and external signals where the internal things are like hormones. If I shoot somebody up with a ton of testosterone, that's an internal signal that tell your body to build a muscle tissue.
External signals are things like resistance training. That's going to tell your body to build muscle tissue. So, you've got this combination of calories in and calories out but you've also got these internal and external signals dictate what those calories do in your body. It's more than just calories. It's what signals are you sending your body and what adaptation signals are you sending your body?
Christopher: So, let's talk about the minimum effective dose then. Do you send your clients into the gym with the message more is better? How do you work out the minimum effective dose?
Brad: So, that is the $10 million question, right? If I knew exactly what the minimum effective dose for everybody, I would make my DVD program for three easy payments in $19.95 and be out on the streets. For each person, it's different. The minimum effective dose for somebody who's kind of brand new to exercise is so much lower than any of those who's been training for ten years. For kind of each person, we try to do is we give them a starting point and we look for adaptation. And if there's no adaptation, they're obviously not at their minimum effective dose.
If they're too far gone, kind of they're doing too much, we kind of bring it back until we find that. So, it's a lot of -- A term I like to use is art and experience. You kind of blend the science with your ability to observe and make observations and experience in the field and things like that. So, the minimum effective dose is lower for people who are newer and higher for people who are more advanced.
Christopher: So, the thing I worry about, and I'm sure there's some CrossFitters worrying about this in the same way as I do, is that I've been doing this for a while now. I'm 40 years old and I've been riding my bike my whole life and racing at quite high level for a little while now as well. I'm wondering, do I just have to give my body more and more stimulus in order to get that training effect in order to get faster and stronger? I'm wondering, for the CrossFitters, do they have to do -- do they constantly have to be hitting PRs and really kind of overreaching in order to get stronger? Or is that not what the minimum effective dose is?
Brad: So, that's kind of a perfect way to look at it, Chris. The more you do an activity the more your body gets used to that stimulus. It's not novel. So, your body is going to need to go a higher and higher volumes and intensity to feel that same adaptation. For you, I'm sure when you first started on your bike, a two-hour hard ride was what will left you on the couch for two days. Now, a two-hour hard ride is like where's the next four hours?
It's one of those things where the farther you go into one type of training the more and more volume and intensity you're going to need to get that stimulus. If you were to just go to the gym and decide I'm going to be a power lifter, to see those adaptations, your minimum effective dose is going to be a five by five heavy dead lift and that's it. That's going to be like 30 minutes of work and you're going to be wiped out for two weeks. So, it depends on the novelty of the stimulus. And the more novel it is the lower the minimum effective dose the less novel it is the higher level the minimum effective dose is going to be.
Christopher: But at some point, everybody is going to plateau. It's possible, isn't it, that I've got to the point now on the bike and then people in other disciplines, they've got to a point where they're just not going to get any stronger, faster, or any of those things?
Brad: Yeah, you're really just going to be having to really push the training volume to get there.
Christopher: So, one of the things that you talked about quite a lot in the Eat to Perform training course, which I thought was quite interesting, was supplements. I do love my supplements. I've talked quite a lot about supplements on the podcast. What I thought was interesting was to have someone like you and Mike actually -- I mean, you're obviously not going to talk about all of the supplements. There isn't time for that. You talk about the ones which are most important. So, which of the supplements do you think are most important? if you're not going to get some advanced testing and you're just going to go with an evidence-based approach and a general approach, just for the fitness enthusiast say, somebody that likes to hit the gym and lift some weights and stay in good shape, which of the supplements that are likely to get them the most value for their money?
Brad: So, in terms of improving your performance in the gym, Creatine is the best well researched supplement with the most evidence to indicate it's beneficial.
Beta-Alanine is another one. That's got a lot of evidence to suggest for a lot of people it's beneficial. Caffeine, those are kind of the three major ones. One of the other ones that are pretty good staple for a lot of people just due to convenience and ease of use is whey protein or some sort of -- it doesn't have to be whey. Whey tends to be the most -- I hate to use this word but the most anabolic of most of them. Rice protein, pea protein, soy protein are all in that same family of helping with the lean muscle tissues. So, those are probably the four supplements that you're going to spend money on and take that you know are going to be effective. Those are probably the top four that I would indicate are going to be the most beneficial for most people.
Christopher: Yeah. I know that's really interesting. And we do actually have -- You wrote an article for me on beta-Alanine. I've written a little bit about beta-Alanine with the help of Tommy in the past. And you've written another article that I will be publishing shortly. So, it's kind of cool we got -- I'm very lucky to have this setup where Brad is writing the original material and then I've got someone who does peer review science for a living to actually edit the end result. And Tommy is very, very good at editing stuff. I'll look forward to publishing that soon. Creatine is interesting in that it's so cheap.
Brad: It's so cheap.
Christopher: And I was on -- Sorry. I listened to this interview. You'll probably going to kind of hate me for being so not knowing this already but I listened to this interview recently with one of the guys at Labdoor.com. Are you aware of that website?
Brad: Yeah. Oh, yeah. I go there quite a bit.
Christopher: Okay. Yes. So, again, Johnny-come-lately there. I only just heard about this. I think the nurse I work with, Amelia, already knew about it as well and she checks stuff on there all the time. But, yeah, it's amazing how many A-rated Creatines there are on Labdoor.com. Basically anything you can find is going to be pretty good.
Brad: Yeah, it's pretty amazing how the single most effective supplement that we know of is the cheapest.
Christopher: Yeah. And, I guess, I mean, the two things are probably related. Like if you've got something that works really well for a lot of people then it's a commercially viable product and when it becomes commercially viable a lot of people get involved and then the price comes down. So, what about protein then? I know this is kind of an area of expertise of yours. So, where do you start with someone like trying to decide how much protein they should eat?
Brad: It depends on who they are and where their goal is. I mean, someone like you would have a much different target than somebody kind of the typical client we see. Usually a good starting point kind of we start most people at is about a gram per lean pound of body mass. That's one really good place to start. There's some other really good kind of guides. I know Alan Aragon is somebody who I know fairly well and he does some really good work. He kind of suggests one gram per pound of goal body weight. That's kind of another moving target. And those are kind of places from most people to start and that's kind of where we try to start people.
Christopher: I watched this video on YouTube the other day. Tommy sent me the link. I have to post in the show notes. It's one of the funniest videos I've seen in a long time. And it's basically a riff on body building. They gave a rough rule of thumb as one chicken best per pound of body weight. It's a really funny video. I have to send you the link. It's called Casually Explained Lifting. This guy has this amazing deadpan delivery that just made me laugh so hard. So, I know that lots of people listening to this podcast have at least experimented with ketogenic diets. And I know it's the subject that you've written about in the past. So, tell me what you know and what you think about, ketogenic diets for your specific audience, the strength-based guys. Is it good for them? Is it just good for fat loss? Are they not going to get bigger? What do you think about ketogenic diets?
Brad: So, I think ketogenic diets are a tool that can be used in specific circumstances to very good effect. I think part of the problem with them is for people who work in higher intensity, higher volume style training. They're not as beneficial for people who are CrossFit athletes. I think they're really hard for bodybuilding athletes who are trying to add lean muscles tissue and that training, that really high intensity, high glycolytic capacity work.
I think that they can be used to great effects for certain types of athletes. I think some endurance athletes, when they train, kind of have a lower level most of the time can benefit from them, just from some of the adaptations that occur. I think it's one of those things where you can use them to affect in specific situations very, very well. I think any time you make a dogmatic approach to this is the best way for everybody and the only tool available, it can become problematic. I think there's some benefit in some circumstances and that it's one of those things that we need to continue to learn more about because I think there's some good therapeutic applications for them as well that aren't fully flushed out and fully understood. But I think it's another great tool we can put to the tool box.
Christopher: So, what do you do then? You just look at the, maybe the duration of the efforts that are being made, if it's above a certain duration then perhaps a ketogenic diet might be appropriate. So, for me, as a mountain biker, it's great. But if you're a CrossFitter and maybe your entire workout only lasts 20 minutes then less appropriate.
Brad: Yeah. And I think you have to -- duration is a big piece. I think intensity is a big piece too. One of the things that has come out of the ketogenic diet research -- this is my educated informed opinion -- when you look at the studies that have looked at ketogenic diets and adaptations, it's kind of that gear where you can push out a lot of power and a lot of performance is hampered when you are on a ketogenic diet even if you kind of re-feed with carbohydrates the day before the race. This is kind of where the basic molecular biology comes into the play. There's a lot of enzymatic adaptations that happens in your muscle cells that reduce your body's ability to complete glycolysis all the way through and produce the most energy out of it.
So, Chris, if you were to be somebody whose mountain bike races were series of heavy sprints and recovers, a ketogenic diet long term may have some negative performance aspect. But I think it is beneficial to go through those periods of training and learn how your body works through that because I think there are some beneficial adaptations that occur. Doing it for ten years, you're probably not going to end up being the best athlete you can because you're kind of limiting one system over the other. What could be beneficial is kind of some periods of, work in some periods of non-ketogenic phases.
Christopher: It's interesting you should say that. As we're recording this, it's going to be the Sea Otter Pro Cross Country. So, Sea Otter is a huge mountain bike race, probably one of the biggest in North America. It's certainly in the West Coast. And I just had to look at the course yesterday and I don't think I'm going to bother showing up because it's a three-mile lap and it's on the Laguna Seca race course and basically half of it is on the tarmac and then it goes like off the tarmac, up over some grass that's just like no one's ever ridden a bike so it's going to be bumpy as hell, and I know those guys. They can put out. So, some of the top mountain bikers of the world will be there and I know they can hold 600 or 700 watts for probably five minutes.
Brad: That is obscene.
Christopher: Yeah. So, I just know I'm going to get pulled on the third lap because it's just not an event that really suits me and the type of riding that I've done recently. Whereas in the summer, I'm doing the BC Bike Race which s sort of three or four hours every day for a while week. And for that one, I'm going to do the masters competition and I think have reasonable chance of winning that with the ketogenic approach. So, yeah, like I said, I promise not to talk about myself but I've blown it. Yeah, you got to kind of consider.
But do you think some of these things -- So, I've been listening to an obstacle racer podcast recently and I was quite surprised at how long these events were. They were talking about even over an hour which for me sounds quite aerobic. So, what do you do then? So, they're like doing things which resemble a dead lift during the event but it goes on for a long time. How do you balance that?
Brad: I think that's one of those things where you have to increase your body's work capacity, when you have to increase the ability so that those events are actually operating at a lower percentage of your maximum capacity. So, if the dead lift in the event is 80% of your maximum capacity, well, you won't be able to sustain that for very long regardless of how your nutrition is. You really need to get it to where those very, very sub-maximal training. It's one of those things where the training piece will be a big part of the success in those types of events.
And one of the things that comes up if we really think about it is if you ever watch kind of an Ironman, a marathon runner, somebody who's kind of done the traditional bonking where they just literally their body just shuts down and they can't go any further?
Christopher: Oh, yeah. I know that, all right. That's a system fail for me now. I follow some young pro mountain bikers on Facebook and for some reason that's what Facebook, that's the only thing that shows me now. It's weird the way the algorithm works.
Christopher: They talk about bonking. That's just a system fail. That's like a flat tire. You're doing it wrong. If you're bonking, you're doing it wrong as far as I'm concerned at this point.
Brad: Yeah. And usually that comes from carbohydrates levels, muscle glycogen and blood glucose levels getting to a point where your body just can't contract and function anymore. That's usually a combination of training and diet, race day nutrition.
Christopher: When you talk about this stuff, it kind of reminds me of this term metabolic flexibility. And I always think of that as being a lay person's term. But does it have any meaning in the scientific literature? I know you've got -- You and Mike are very evidence-based guys. So, if I were to type metabolic flexibility into PubMed, would I get any results? Does it mean anything?
Brad: Yeah. You'll actually get quite a lot of results. And it's a really big key feature of type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome. It's the body's inability to shift between substrate metabolisms. So whether your body is using carbohydrates or whether your body is using fat, that's one of the -- metabolic flexibility is a really key piece to that, is a really key feature of that disorder.
Christopher: So, exactly what is the definition? Is it the ability to switch backwards and forwards easily given the substrates that are available or do you think of it as more being, oh, well, if any given workload you're burning fat or glycogen then what's what defines metabolic flexibility?
Brad: It's actually a combination of both. So, people who have greater metabolic flexibility, if you eat a high carbohydrate meal, your body is going to oxidize most of the carbohydrates. If you're eating a high fat meal, your body is going to oxidize the fatty acids. If you're metabolically inflexible, your body won't really be able to shift between those. And there's a really good study that really showed this piece of -- I read this about four years ago so the method is a little bit fussy but they took people and they put them, it was like a -- to mimic kind of a vacation, they put them on a three-day high fat diet.
And the metabolically flexible people, their body's fat oxidation has increased naturally with the food. And the people who are metabolically inflexible, they didn't increase their fat oxidation so their body was storing more of that fat instead of utilizing them for fuel. So, that's a perfect example of the food piece. And then that also goes with the nutrition piece or the training piece, sorry. People who are metabolically more flexible, when they're training at lower capacity, their body is going to be using more fat and the one that are training at higher capacities, their bodies are going to be using more carbohydrates.
People who are metabolically inflexible, their ability to shift between substrates during training is really hampered and they actually start out at lower intensities burning more carbohydrates compared to their relatively metabolically flexible and lean counterpart.
Christopher: And you don't think that's a disadvantage then? Like I mean, we kind of bash ketogenic diets as not being very good for high intensity. But you know what, I think it's a huge disadvantage to be dependent on glycogen.
Brad: I think it's a very huge disadvantage because one of the things that's really key in training is the body's recovery capacity. So, you're always using -- most people think of your energy systems, kind of the three systems we talked about, the phosphocreatine system, glycolysis and oxidative metabolism, most people think about them shifting like a car where you're going from one, first gear to second gear to third gear. But in reality, they're all functioning at the same time.
And so when you have this impaired aerobic metabolism, your body's ability to recover and to sustain workload for a long time is really hampered. So, that's why -- I think that's one of the reasons why people who are overweight and have some of these metabolic flexibility issues is their work capacity is greatly diminished because their aerobic recovery capacity during training is so diminished.
Christopher: That's really interesting. So, I always want to divide these two groups of people. Either you're a strength-based athlete or you're an endurance athlete. But the truth is that nobody is either of those two things. Like even if you're a bodybuilder, it's still like pays dividends to have some kind of aerobic capacity.
Brad: Yeah. And even endurance athletes, if you think the key to probably where you're at in your career, if you think the best way to get to the next level is to just train harder and train longer, the real key piece is how can you make the workload you're doing now in a race a lower percentage of your maximal efforts. So, if your legs are stronger and your low end kind of gear just really cranking out a lot of wattage was higher, that race, your ability to sustain your race pace will increase. So, you'll be able to race at a higher speed. You'll be able to race at a higher output because that's a smaller percentage of your maximal output.
Christopher: I know. It's interesting you should say that because it's been something I've been trying to figure out lately. I'm definitely -- So, I'm a bit heavier now and I'm a lot stronger. 350, even 400 watts is not that a big of a deal for me now. So, I can do 20 minutes to 300 watts is nothing. I could do that every day. And that's certainly not true when I was a lot skinnier. But my heart rate is just going bananas. Since I switched to a ketogenic diet, I've got a new max heart rate that's ten beats above what it once was when I was eating a high carb diet. It used be like 182 was the highest I'd ever seen in the very earliest days of racing mountain bikes.
And now, I can hear 190 every day. And like in a cyclocross race at 60 minutes, I can average in the higher 180s. So, it's kind of interesting you should say, oh, well, you just -- You can maintain a higher percentage of your maximum for a longer period of time. But I'm kind of worried that like if you define maximum by heart rate then it's pinned.
Like every time that the road goes uphill, my heart rate is going bonkers. I can't figure out whether I'm just less fit or whether it's some property of the ketogenic diet or what's going on there.
Brad: It could be definitely a combination of both.
Christopher: But you haven't seen anything like them. I know that there's some things that change when you switch to a high fat diet, maybe some insulin regulation or signaling and maybe some electrolytes are lost. You don't know anything about that or seen anything about that.
Brad: Yeah. I mean, there is quite a few of those few pieces of those things too but there's also the stress piece. As we know that heart rate is dictated a lot by the stress response and all those sorts of things. So, if you're training at a really high volume and the recovery capacity especially the muscle glycogen recovery capacity is reduced, it's an additional stress on the system because your body is going to want to try and fill up those glycogen stores and so you're probably adding a little bit more stress on the system that could be modulating the heart rate. But with you, there's probably a lot of things going on.
Christopher: I know. It's so hard, isn't it? I still don't feel like we've got really great tools to hook somebody up. So when you drive your car into the shop and they hook up this $60,000 machine that's made by Bosch and they tell you exactly what's going on in the engine right now, it's just like I want that machine for the human body so you could see what's going on.
Christopher: And then what do you think? So, how do we combine these cardio and strength-based elements? So, I've got to this point where I'm -- as an endurance athlete, I'm really sold on the strength training and I really want to do more of that. But if I'm also riding my bike in the same day, like how do you get people to combine those two things? Which comes first?
Brad: Obviously, the event you're training for kind of takes priority. But doing periods of, in the off season, of really trying to spend more time focusing on the weak points. So, if I was someone like you, immediately after my riding season, that would probably take a week or two to kind of settle down or recover. And then I had spend a good chunk of time just kind of increase of top end strength with two to three days a week of just really focused strength training and then get more just kind of low level volume in on my bike to just kind of keep some of that aerobic base.
And then build that strength until you're in a point where now you need to start ramping the volume on the bike and then just keep the strength piece in but make it maybe down to two days a week and then down to one day a week until it's to the point where you can maintain that higher level of strength that you've established and continue the volume.
Christopher: And really interesting but what I really meant was like on the same day. Like I want to do strength training and I ride on the same day, which should I do first?
Brad: Every week a study comes out showing something different on that.
Christopher: That's why we have you here.
Brad: Yeah. But generally, if your weak point is the strength piece, do the strength piece first because you're going to peter out a little bit more on what you're weak at. And so if you ride your bike first and then you go to train or you're not really able to fully put everything you've got into the weakest point of your training. So, training the strength piece first and then getting on your bike where you're comfortable is much -- It's probably easier for you to ride fatigued than it is going to be for you to squat fatigued at this point in your training.
Christopher: Oh, yeah, you're right. I'd never thought about it like that. I can ride all day when my legs are tired even though -- just because I'm so good at riding my bike. But yeah, the squatting thing, I'm over it in two seconds. I'm like, "I'll do it another day."
Brad: That's why always do the weak portion first because that's when you have the highest mental focus. It's when your legs are fresh and things like that.
Christopher: That's a great tip. I'm glad I asked that question.
Brad: Yeah, it's a really good question.
Christopher: Okay. So, another thing that I kind of notice with your -- and I've noticed this before with other people's work -- is there seems to be a lot of complexity in the programming especially with respect to periodization. So, I've interviewed Joe Friel on the podcast before and I was just reading his book again yesterday. It's called Fast After 50. It's a really good book. And, obviously, Joe has been around forever. And he talks about all these complicated cycles of periodization and you talk about some of that as well in your presentations in the training course. They have fancy names like mesocycle and all this kind of stuff.
Christopher: It's funny because, in general, I enjoy that type of complexity. I'm a computer guy and I just love kind of knobs and dials and getting inside of things and understanding how they work. And usually, that would really appeal to me and I'll be all over that, like programming myself already complicated training program.
But at the moment, with running a small business and being a new father, and understanding, trying to understand biochemistry and chemistry and physiology and a whole bunch of things at once, I'm sure that everybody listening to this haven't got exactly the same things going on. You've got a lot of things going on in your life. And I just don't have the mental reserve to stop trying to program something really complex.
So, am I still going -- like how much difference is it going to make if I either hire somebody or do it myself?
Brad: Well, it's one of those things where depending on if you're newer in kind of whatever your sport is, periodization is going to be a lot less important. If you're an Olympic athlete, it's going to be a lot more important. I would say for 95% of people, the best way to go about it is offset your volume with your intensity. So, if you're doing higher volume work, do lower intensity work. And if you're doing higher intensity work, do lower volume work. And kind of modulate those over time.
So, start with a little bit more volume and lower intensity and slowly increase the intensity and decrease the volume until you kind of get to what we call like a peaking cycle where you're doing a lot of high intensity low volume work and then kind of reset and start all over. So, that's kind of -- if you're doing, if you wanted just a snapshot of what periodization looks like in the most simple terms, that's the best way to do it.
Christopher: And what do you think about my random approach? So, what I've been doing -- James Wilson, he's a mountain bike specific strength training coach. Basically, at one point, he just like said, "Okay, here's my life's work. You can have it for $79." And I'm sure this offer has ended now. You can't get this anymore. I thought, oh my god, are you kidding me? Of course, I bought it. It's more stuff than anyone could possibly digest. And so it's kind of overwhelmed me a little bit.
And so what I've ended up doing is I'll just open it and I'll just keep clicking until I find a workout and then I just do it. So there's a lot of just kind of serendipity if you like in what I do at the moment even though it's all mountain bike specific. So, do you think that's going to end in disaster then and I should get organized or is there any benefit like both mentally and physically to just doing it that way?
Brad: From all the experiences I've had, the knots and the bolts of a program oftentimes are a lot less important than focusing on just doing the work the best you can. So, if you've got something that has some structure to it and you're putting all your eggs in that basket, you're going to be pretty successful. Could a very detailed in depth periodized program get you a little bit better results? Maybe. Probably. But that's probably not going to be the single most important aspect of kind of getting over the hump is. A lot of times it's just getting in and doing the work is the most important thing.
Christopher: I've quite enjoyed the process of discovering new movements. By doing this, you end up doing stuff that you've never done before. It's kind of interesting. Of course, eventually, that will run out. Until then, I've kind of quite enjoyed that part of it.
Brad: Yeah. And if something is working, don't be thinking the grass is always greener on the other side either. If you find it works, just ride the train until it stops working.
Christopher: I know but it's so hard to do that, isn't it? I mean, you could never -- I mean, you've always got to wonder where you could be doing something better.
Brad: Yes. That's something everybody struggles with, I think.
Christopher: Well, this has been fantastic. Where can people find out more about you? We just talked a little bit about your journal which I signed up for and I've been enjoying that too.
Brad: Yeah. So, a lot of my writing work and stuff is on sciencedrivennutrition.com. And what we try to do is we try to take the hard core science and the PubMed journals and all those things and kind of try to distill them down into more easily consumable information. 98% of our content is free and there's a ton of good articles on there. And we also have a monthly journal that we send out to people once a month. It's usually between 40 and 60 pages of exclusive content.
It's got some really interesting stuff in it. That's one of the areas that I use to kind of explore some ideas and some new ways of thinking. And we have some really interesting articles coming out this month on actually a topic that I had never even thought of. That's going to be a really cool article on food sustainability and how all of us in this nutrition world kind of focus on how can we eat to be healthy, is what effect does that have on the planet? And that will be a really cool piece too that one of our guest contributors wrote.
So, yes, Science Drive Nutrition probably is the best place to find us. So, we also have a Facebook page that people can go and like and I will update them with all the new articles too.
Christopher: Okay. And then, of course, I'll link to the training course that I've done which is only $200. I can't believe it. You're probably going to put the price up now that I've said that. So, you got to go and register real quick.
Brad: Yeah. We try to make it as available as possible to people.
Christopher: That's awesome. Well, thank you so much, Brad. I really appreciate you and all of your expertise and the articles you've written for me and this podcast. So, yeah, thank you for doing what you do.
Brad: Yeah. Absolutely, Chris. It was a blast and I'm honored to be on. I'm looking forward to continuing our work and conversations together.
Christopher: Cool. Thank you.
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