Written by Christopher Kelly
Dec. 30, 2016
Christopher: Hello and welcome to the Nourish Balance Thrive Podcast. My name is Christopher Kelly and today I'm joined by Dr. Mike T. Nelson. Hi, Mike.
Mike: Hey. How's it going?
Christopher: Good, thank you. Good. Very good. For those of you that don't know Mike, Mike has spent the last 18 years of his life learning how the human body works specifically focusing on how to properly condition and burn fat, become stronger, more flexible and healthier. He has a PhD in exercise physiology, an undergraduate degree in natural science and a masters degree in biomechanics. You are extremely well-credentialed, Mike, and I'm always really happy to hear you speak because you give so much great information. Thank you so much for joining me today.
Mike: Yeah. Thank you very much for having me on the podcast. I greatly appreciate it. This will be a good time.
Christopher: Yes. It's absolutely my pleasure. I should probably circle back and talk about the Keto Summit because I think you provided us with some really great information there on metabolic flexibility. Is it possible for you to give us a synopsis and then leave the link in the show notes for people if they want to check that video out?
Mike: Yeah, perfect. So, metabolic flexibility is how do you use both fat and carbohydrates even though in the fitness world we always tend to go one polarized direction or the other? But it basically just depends upon what you're actually doing. So, in my bias, if you're doing lower intensity activities or like we're chatting on this podcast, things of that nature, that should be primarily fueled by fat. It's like you'll now get a crossover effect.
And then as you get to higher and higher intensities of exercise and doing some sprints or some pretty intense weight training, it's to your advantage to use carbohydrates to the highest advantage at that point because from a bioenergetics standpoint that's going to provide you more energy than just fat in and of itself. So, metabolic flexibility is using the right fuel at the right time and then how do you transition back and forth between the two. It gets even more complicated when you start putting in other fuels into system such as talking about ketones and lactate and things of that nature. But as a simplistic overview, that would be a good starting point.
Christopher: Yeah, that's great. That's absolutely great. And can you talk to me about your current work? So, are you doing research at the moment? Are you working with clients? What gets you out of bed in the morning at the moment?
Mike: Yeah. So, right now, I'm doing mostly client work. I have a couple -- The studies, I'm just kind of helping them, consulting with. They're not much beyond that at this point. So primarily just working with clients such as mostly online. I do see some people in person here in Minnesota. I converted my garage into a gym, which works out pretty nice. And then I've got a couple other products and things of that nature just trying to take information that's research based and also from my experience and translating that into terms and programs and things that people can understand and also apply at the same time. I think there's sort of a missing gap between what the research is telling us and then how do we make that also practical? So, trying to blend those two together nicely.
Christopher: Well, plug your stuff then. If you can't plug your stuff here, you can't plug it anywhere. Tell me more about the products.
Mike: Yeah. So, the main product I'm actually just launching right now. It's kind of like a better word for a paid newsletter. I have a whole membership site and everything that I had developed and done everything on it about a year and a half ago. I finished it probably eight months ago and I ended up tanking the whole thing because membership sites, I think, are very cool but you run the risk of having too much information all at the same time. So, people who come in, they tend to get overwhelmed and it's all really cool stuff but they tend not to do anything with it.
So, what I did is I organized a complete training program that has training, nutrition, lifestyle and then also how do you monitor it. And then each one of those actually has a different level. So, it's level one, level two and level three. So that if you're more intermediate, you probably start at level one. If you're super advanced then you want to get up and measure blood glucose in the morning and your HRV and your lifestyle rock star and you're meditating and all those cool stuff, then yeah, you're probably closer to level three.
So they can follow along to that. And then it's customized. So, maybe if you're using HRV or biofeedback or different things like that, it kind of guides you along the path. And then I include, usually, some coaching tips and all the warm-ups. And then I usually have a section with recipes and then another section that's like all sort of the deep dive. Like this month, for December, is the talk I did at NSCA national conference for personal trainers on metabolic flexibility and some of the stuff we'll talk about here today. And it comes out each month. Each month you'll have a program that's for the whole month level one through three.
And what I like about it is that it gives you a lot of information, gives you all the details but is focused in one direction. So, everything kind of flows from one to the next instead of letting someone go bonkers in a membership site which they tend to get confused pretty fast. I wanted to make it kind of more focused so people can get it. They can go to the training. They can go to nutrition.
They can do all the lifestyle components and then they can build on that from one month to the next without feeling like they're getting completely overwhelmed. If they want to check out our lecture video, they can go to that too but it's not taking them away from what they actually need to do in their life to make it practical.
Christopher: That sounds awesome. What type of people would want to sign up for this? Is it just strength athletes? Is it endurance athletes? Is it weekend warriors, people with a body composition goal? What type of people?
Mike: Yeah. Right now, it's geared more towards, I'd say, probably intermediate athletes, little bit more on the strength and power, definitely not endurance mindset. That's the direction. For example, the December program is the deadlift realignment program for meatheads, the people who are pretty good at lifting but they've kind of managed to break themselves with symmetrical lifts and their joints kind of hurt and they're just kind of achy. So do how you take and incorporate a heavy lift like a deadlift and then some accessory work and not have it pound your joints into dust and things like that?
And there's videos for each one. I like throwing in different exercises too. This month, there's a play press from lunge stance. It's a pressing motion but it's an open hand from different stances. This is, obviously, the compound list since the basic list everyone is used to. And then I like throwing in some little bit different stuff like that that's unique and people probably haven't seen before.
Christopher: Interesting. Do you not think you need to see people to have them advance? I always think, oh my god, what if someone could see me now doing this deadlift? They'd probably cringe.
Mike: Yeah. That was the biggest problem I had initially when I started training clients online is that -- I swear that I was not going to do online training until I could figure out how to get all the data from them that I needed. It was about four years ago. I could figure out, okay, video was popular. I can get a video, a side view of say their deadlift. I could have them do like a biofeedback method so maybe like a range and motion test.
I can measure their heart rate variability by using an app on their phone. There's different things you could do to kind of make sure you're not just burning them into the ground in the process. And I kind of took all those concepts and then put into a template form so that it's more scalable. Because one of the things I didn't like is even online -- I probably only work with like 12 to 15 people at once. There's a lot of incentive to people to be like, "Huh? No, just take all your templates and you can run 500 people through it and tell them it's custom."
I'm like, it's not custom. And that's cool if you want to do that and you're telling people that this is a template approach and this is what you do. I don't have any problem with that. But I couldn't tell people that's a completely custom approach when it wasn't. With the paid newsletter, they'll get as close to being custom as they can but it's also then scalable. If I have 20 people to 1,000 people, it's the same amount of work on my end and it scales nicely.
Now, I can reach more people without having to just work with them one on one and, obviously, it's going to be cheaper for them too. If you're working directly with someone like if people come and work directly with you, because it's a lot of your time and you're doing a lot of custom work, it's going to be more expensive too. It allows a little bit lower price point for people also.
Christopher: Okay. And is it something that people can sign up for right now?
Mike: Yeah. The sign up should be out. If you just go to miketnelson.com and then just go to /podcast.
Christopher: Okay. That sounds good. I should also mention, actually, you reminded me as you were talking there that I had a really great interview with you and Jason Moore and Jason has launched a new podcast on heart rate variability that people might want to check out.
Mike: Yeah. He's awesome. Yeah.
Christopher: And have you found heart rate variability to be a useful tool for your clients?
Mike: Yeah, extremely useful. Like I said, I've used it online with clients going back almost probably four to five years now. I'd have to look back to see when the actual start date was. My research, I did a study on HRV and they introduced me to Simon over at ithlete. I've met Jason along the way and Marco and James Heathers and all the HRV guys. They kind of do that stuff.
And to me, it was amazing so I'm like, "Oh, this is so cool." You don't have to come in to the lab. The equipment I used in the lab was like ten grand just to measure it. You got to show up. Now, I just run it through your phone. That actually was what got me back into doing online training with people again because now I have at least a marker for their autonomic nervous system stress.
And I can tell that, okay, if I see it just tank all of a sudden, I can at least email them and go, "Hey, what's going on? Are you not sleeping? Is it a lifestyle thing? Is it a training thing? What actually is it?" Where in the past, you can use subjective indicators and things of that nature but people tend to lie and they're not really that objective a lot of the times and it's a pain to collect them. This way, I can just see them now that it uploads to a cloud just remotely.
So I just go in and look and go, "Oh boy, something didn't go well there." Or if I'm purposely trying to over reach them, I know about how far to push them and then I know how far to back off for the super compensation if they're doing a meet, do an event or things of that nature. Because what I found was in person you can look at someone and come in and go, "Man, you look beat to crap today." And you'd have an idea. You adjust your training. For online, it's like you're kind of waiting for them to tell that they're beat up and most of the time when they told you that, it was a little bit later than when you wanted to know it. So, I found this super helpful.
Christopher: Isn't it funny the way that works, that you can talk to someone online in any way you like for a long time but the moment you see them in person and look them in the eyeball, it's almost like you've learnt 1000 words in 30 seconds. It's so telling.
Mike: Totally. And what I realized was that when I see people in person I'm primarily looking more at their movement patterns and their posture and things of that nature. And you've removed all that online. And if you can talk to someone even on the phone you can after a while get better at telling what their normal voice inclinations and things of that nature or you can kind of get some pretty good info that way. But when you're doing it primarily just by email, man, you've like removed all of those things and it's just too weird for them to be like, yeah, just send me a video of you just kind of walking around. Good luck with that.
Christopher: We found Zoom, the video conferencing software, to be tremendously helpful. I saw a real change in our ability to sense how people were and when we started using that video conferencing -- You just look somebody in the eye and it changes everything. It's still not as good as seeing them in person but it's definitely better than speaking on the phone.
Mike: Yeah, I know. I totally agree. I did that for a quite a while, actually, and it was extremely helpful. The only reason that I don't do it now -- I do it on rare occasions if it's a one-off thing or that type of thing but it just got to be, as you scale more clients, it just got to be harder from a time management type standpoint. But, yeah, I totally agree, being able to watch them and especially their eye movements.
Mike: Where they look, where they look away, did they seem kind of nervous, do they get fidgety, do they change the subject and look nervous. Yeah, super helpful.
Christopher: You just described me as a podcaster to a T right there.
Mike: That's why we don't do video. No.
Christopher: It's true. It's totally true. Okay. Let's shift gears. I wanted to talk to you about the idea of high ketones and carbs at the same time because, I think, this is really, really interesting. To fill people in with the back story, I did a test of a ketone monoester where I raised my blood ketones up to about six millimoles very, very quickly. It happens in about 30 seconds with this ketone monoester supplement. And then I wrote out what happened and I put that on my blog and I will, of course, link to that in the show notes.
I think I posted it on Facebook and maybe Mike saw that there. I suspect that, I couldn't really tell, but maybe he was raising an eyebrow remotely. Why don't you tell me about what you thought when you saw that article and what might be up here?
Mike: Yeah. It's funny because I talked to, as you know, Dom D'Agostino a couple of years ago about this after we did a seminar together. We were on a panel at ISSN in Florida maybe two or three years ago now. I had known some of the researchers who were doing research on ketones and ketone esters. Obviously, Dom's lab does a lot of that. And we were talking about body composition and performance. I was asking him and I said, "So, you're telling me that if you take, let's say, ketone ester, in essence, you could still consume carbohydrates and both of them would go up?" And he's like, "Yeah." I'm like, "That's crazy."
Because if you think about what goes on in physiology "normally," I kind of think of, other than maybe ketoacidosis or extreme disease promises in a healthy person where insulin would be high and ketones would be high at the same time. Because as you know, I mean, your listeners probably know too, that they're usually inverse because insulin tends to mirror carbohydrates. So you take in a bunch of carbohydrates and your body puts out a bunch of insulin, pushes you to use carbohydrates. But at the same time suppresses the use of fatty acids and ketones.
And anyone who's doing a ketogenic type diet knows that very small amounts of carbohydrates primarily because of the insulin release will suppress ketone production pretty hard. But now you bypass all that by consuming like a ketone ester, monoester, different types in this case, and you can whack your blood glucose as pretty much as high as you want. And there is one study that looked at that in pretty high level competitors and that did show a performance increase from doing that.
Because in theory now, you've got ketones around and you've got carbohydrates around so you've got kind of the best of both worlds from a fuel standpoint and performance perhaps. But in the back of my head I keep going, "Huh." So now you've kind of override this mechanism that's always been in place. I don't know. It just makes me kind of nervous and that's why we're doing the podcast.
Christopher: Okay. Let's take a step back. Do you think there's any performance advantage in supplementing with exogenous ketones, say, for endurance performance?
Mike: Yeah. So, if you look at the anecdotal reports, most people will say yes. If you look at the research, it's just--
Christopher: One study.
Mike: Not anything really there.
Mike: And the thing is that ketones kind of occupy this weird place where from a bioenergetics standpoint they are higher than fat. I haven't seen anything directly that shows me that they're better than carbohydrates although there are definitely a lot of closer to a carbohydrate than they are to a fat. I think if you're looking at longer endurance types events, I think you can make a pretty good argument that they may be beneficial for that.
And another part is just the fueling strategies. If you can get them where they don't cause GI distress and other things, because we know that, especially like running, not so much in cycling, high amounts of carbohydrates, wrong times, people reported of GI distress and things of that nature, so if you can kind of maybe bypass some of that or you can get into hyper loading your body on ketones before a race or things of that nature, it's not even in a guided system. The bloodstream kind of hangs out for a long period of time depending on the health life and pharmacokinetics and all that kind of stuff, I think, in theory, you can make a pretty good argument that they should lend itself to performance bumps especially as the races get to be longer and are more kind of a classic endurance type event.
Christopher: Okay. Yeah. I think that's been shown in the literature. I should link to some studies here. It seems like it was just the longer low intensity time trials, so 70% of VO2 max, and two hours in duration, so quite long. That's where, you would agree with that, and you wouldn't see much of a benefit if your event was shorter or harder?
Mike: I don't think so. That's kind of my gut feeling right now. I think you're going to see a drop off as the intensity goes up. And the caveat with that too is that if you're looking at athletes who are doing that from an individual level, in a perfect world, you'd have to compare them as a crossover design on both conditions and allow enough time for them to say, let's say, 100% carb adapted and then maybe using the ketone ester or something like that too.
And then the other sort of monkey wrench in that too is we know that we can give someone a bunch of ketones, say ketone ester, but what's fascinating is that the body appears to use them quite well. So, in most cases, if you remove something long enough and the body doesn't have exposure to it, the use of it isn't that high. But with ketones, it appears that people who have never been in ketosis in their entire life you can give them a whacked ton of ketones and, boom, they seem to use it pretty well.
If you talk to Dom and some other guys, there is some stuff where you body will up regulate the use of ketones perhaps a little bit better. But to me, that's fascinating and, I think, it's because ketosis is from a survival standpoint, basically, the backup system to fat. If you went out and you're hunting wooly mammoth years ago, there's no wooly mammoth or nothing that shows up for three, four days then you have to be able to break down enough fat and see an elevation in ketones to survive.
It appears that we keep that system around probably for that very reason. And now we're just, in essence, bypassed all of that with a supplement and people do appear to use that to a high level. Last thing too is when you're looking at research, people have to be careful of a time trial and then versus ride time to exhaustion.
Because ride time to exhaustion, even though I've done studies on that with energy drinks and caffeine stuff, does not always necessarily confer a performance transfer. So, you may look at a supplement and say, "Oh, this increases ride time to exhaustion." But when you're doing an event it's the fastest person across the line first that wins, not how exhausted you are. And then the other part too with the time trial data, as you mentioned, I think we have to look at what percentage that it was actually done and how long it is.
So, sometimes, they cap the percentage within a range and just kind of let you ride. While other times it's the classic time trial, it's this amount of time, how far can you go? I think we need to really look at what are the intensities that are actually being studied and longer intensity, I think, will probably show a bigger benefit.
Christopher: Yes. So, to be fair, Kieran Clarke, the professor of biochemistry that's been working on the monoester that I took, did pull me to one side afterwards and said, "Hey, look, you can't raise your ketones that high because it's going to inhibit glycolysis which is going to be an important substrate when you're racing cyclocross. That's not going to work." It's that impressive. You take this drink and raise your ketones to six millimole and then you post it on the internet and everyone is like, "Wow, look at that. This is the best thing ever."
But actually, you're doing yourself harm. That's not the optimal. But it seems like there's another end to that spectrum whereby you need to raise the ketones above a certain level else you're not going to see any uptake in skeletal muscle which is probably what you want to happen.
Mike: Right. There's going to be a threshold effect which I'm not really sure we know where that is at. But you're correct. A small amount, probably not big of a benefit. A whacked ton, yeah, probably big benefit but probably overkill. So, trying to find the Goldilocks porridge amount of just enough or this is good but you're not pushing it too far on that extreme. I wonder though if you can -- maybe you probably know this. Can you override that effect on glycolysis by just taking in a crap ton of highly insulinogenic carbohydrate?
Christopher: Yeah, I don't know. I really don't know.
Mike: I don't know either. That's what I wondered but, yeah. I'm not recommending people do that.
Christopher: What I do know is that you do need a certain amount of glucose to re-generate oxaloacetate in a process of anaplerosis. Tommy and I talked about that on a recent podcast. I should link to that one because Tommy went into some detail there. So, it seems like you do need a little bit of both in order to be optimal. But it's just like trying to find where is that threshold for both ketones and glucose. I wonder, do you have any insight on that or have you got any ideas?
Mike: I don't know, to be 100% honest. And for that process, could you also run amino acids through it or does it just have to be carbohydrates?
Christopher: Yeah, it could be amino acids, I think.
Mike: I think it's amino acids too. You can drop carbs even lower as long as you have amino acids present. But, yeah, I don't know. To me, it's fascinating because literally I feel like in the middle of the wild wooly west with different types of ketone esters, different types of ketone salts so people can buy now as over the counter supplement. I mean, people just kind of combining stuff, toss MCT or C8 oil. The research is there's a bunch of labs looking at that kind of stuff now but even stuff that they've just found out two, three, four years before we'll be able to read it in print. A lot of unanswered questions but they're good questions.
Christopher: Okay. And so, this is not something you're recommending for your clients right now for any reason?
Mike: No. What I have done is, because in my head, I think combining ketones with carbohydrates is a one thing we know the absolute least about from just the framework physiologically and just pure data. I think there's only that one study on it other than some anecdotal stuff. So, what I've done with people though is I said, okay, if you're doing like a long slow distance type run and the goal there is we want to increase your aerobic capacity, it's a low intensity, and we do know that low intensity work how well your body uses fat for that is extremely variable from one person to the next.
The different study I did through the University of Minnesota, we showed that, the [0:24:29] [Indiscernible] showed that, Helge has showed that, [0:24:32] [Indiscernible] has showed that. And it ranges from like 20% to like 93% difference. So if you just take -- These are again mostly non-athletes but recreationally active people. You pull them in, you stuff them on a treadmill, throw them on a metabolic carb and go, "Hey, do some long intensity work. This is fasted. And we're just going to measure how well you can use fat or are you using more carbohydrates?" And you see a pretty wide spectrum.
To my surprise, I expected it, and if you read all the classic exercise phys textbooks, it would say that no, all these people are going to be using fat to a high degree because it's long intensity exercise, it's crossover effect, it goes back to Brooks and Mercier in their early 90s. But what they forget is that when that was created that is still true but that's in rough average. And as you study more people you find that that is quite variable. So, some people may be burning more carbohydrates than the next person even though they're doing the same work, they were fasted, all their conditions were the same.
I'm thinking, okay, I want to up regulate fat metabolism. So, have them do fasted. We push insulin levels down, pushes the body to use more fat, then we're going to have them do lower intensity work, cool. So, that is where we should be using more fat in terms of the percentage. And then is there anything else I can do to kind of push that process? And, I think, using like a ketone salt with like a CH or caprylic oil does seem to kind of push that process a little more.
I've had some clients use that before their "fasted runs", not talking fasted at this point, but I wanted to see does their performance go up or how do they feel or what do they report? It's been pretty mixed. Some people really liked it. Other people didn't notice too much of a difference. So, that's kind of the main area that I've been using right now.
Christopher: Okay. And then you don't worry about the beta-hydroxybutyrate inhibits lipolysis as well, so inhibits that fat burning process as well as inhibiting glucose utilization so you don't worry. That sounds like it might be contrary to your goals but you don't worry about that.
Mike: Yeah. Because in my head, I think it depends upon what was the main goal. So, my main goal there was more performance based. So, thinking can I just get them to do a higher performance, sort of semi-fasted, and then I would have them do it without the supplement and see if there's a transfer. I don't know, to be honest, because the clients that were doing that had a bunch of other stuff happen so it wasn't as clean as my little anecdotal experiment I set up.
I do agree with you that if it's purely body composition, no, probably not really going to have them do that. But my thought process was if I can up-regulate their low intensity aerobic performance, does that maybe transfer to other parts of their life? Can they go longer between meals, being fasted without feeling hungry? Do they feel better? Do they recover faster from training? So, maybe I could program another session of training to kind of get that effect. That was kind of my thought process with that.
The other part you mentioned too about glycolysis is interesting in that fasting doesn't seem to mess with carbohydrate adaptations. So, if you take someone and you put them on like a ketogenic type diet for a long period of time, again, it's highly variable from one person to the next probably because of the PDH enzyme changes. They can't use carbohydrates to the fullest degree. So, one of the thinking was, and it's pretty good idea, "Hey, we just have someone do a ketogenic diets for super long period of time and then the night before we'll carbohydrate replete them and, boom, they'll have performance in both."
But it turns out, for most people, is that they can't fully 100% access those carbohydrates to the highest degree that they had before. Is that a bioenergetics thing? Is it a practice thing? Is it some training defect? Probably all of the above. But what's interesting is that fasting doesn't seem to do that. So, longer periods of fasting doesn't seem to mess with PDH enzyme changes and it's probably because fasting, unless you're exercising, doesn't target muscle glycogen. Now, if you fast overnight, definitely glycogen will definitely be lower but muscle glycogen doesn't really change that much.
Christopher: Right. And that's because the glycogen is locked in that muscle and you're not using the muscle.
Mike: Right. So, that's going to be the other reason that I like fasting a little bit better with that, because I'm trying to push sort of both ends of the spectrum at the same time.
Christopher: I was going to ask you about -- So, what do you think about ketones for weight loss? Physiologically, does it make a sense at all? You're giving something which is anti-lipolytic so it's going to block fat burning but at the same time it may suppress your appetite. So, that's one thing I did notice with the ketone ester. It was like taking amphetamines. Just the thought of food revolts you. There's no way you're eating for a while once you have both blood glucose, 150 milligrams per deciliter, and ketones at six millimole. You're just not thinking about food at that point.
Mike: That's the same thing I noticed too when I tried some of like one version of the ketone ester and I've tried a bunch of different ketone salts.
And, yeah, exactly the same thing. So, blood glucose, in my case, drops as fasting and just not hungry. I don't care. I think in terms of weight loss, that's probably going to show to be the biggest effect. I haven't seen any formal research on that but I think it would serve as a really good bridge. And I have used this in a couple of people. For people who have a very hard time fasting I'll have them use ketone salts maybe once or twice during the day just to kind of sort of bridge that gap.
Pretty much across the board, I think everyone reports they're just not hungry at all, their energy is good, everything feels good. I think the sort of the anorexic effect of ketone supplement, I think, will probably show a pretty big effect overall.
Christopher: I should make it clear that for any reason my glucose was simultaneously high with the ketones was because I was exercising very intensely and that's really good at raising blood glucose. I've done the same experiment with the continuous blood glucose monitor both with the ketone salts and with nothing at all, the same thing happens. I get a really strong stress response and then tons of blood glucose, which goes down quite quickly after I stopped racing but it wouldn't be the same effect if I just take the monoester and just be around do my normal thing and then, you're right, I would see that same blood glucose lowering effect.
Mike: Right. And that's what I wonder about using ketones as you get to higher and higher intensities of exercise because, as you mentioned, you're still going to have a fair amount of blood glucose release. And I'm just fascinated, what does the body use? Can it pick both and just use one for this or that? Or does it push one a little bit higher and drop the other one? But it doesn't seem to override that release. The body is still putting out glucose. It still appears to be using a fair amount of glucose because of the intensity of exercise.
Christopher: Right, right. The ketones definitely got used or at least they did. I measured them again after the race and they dropped from six millimoles to more like two or something like that. But maybe I just chose a wrong event. I did cyclocross, which is 60 minutes as hard as you can go, and perhaps this particular supplement is more suitable for Ironman races, for example.
Mike: Yeah. I don't know. I'm interested but I don't know.
Christopher: You mentioned that there's tremendous individual variability with the respiratory quotient and that reflects how much carbohydrate versus fat that people are using. I sure as hell know this. I'm sure that when I first started doing endurance training seriously, my respiratory quotient was one at all times. Recording podcast, it was one. On the bike, it was one. Sleeping, it was one. It was just -- And I'm sure now I should really get into the lab and test this.
Mike: That would be interesting.
Christopher: Surely, it must be lower, like closer to an 0.7 because I can do these long fasted rides and not think about food at all. Have you seen any clients improve their respiratory quotient?
Mike: Yeah, I've seen a few. I've only had a few that had been able to be tested so I don't have any hard data on that. I know I've been able to do it on myself from when I was in the lab compared to now being out of the lab and being tested again. Granted, when I was in the lab, I was doing my PhD and all that stuff so stress was crazy and working two jobs and all that stuff doesn't help it.
Jeff Rothschild, he's in Los Angeles, he's got a lot of pretty cool data on that too. The conversation I had with him is that you definitely can lower it. The next question is sort of the shape of the curve. So, for a while I thought, okay, if we can move that crossover point that would be a good thing. What I think, in general, it is but I was thinking you want this kind of nice low transition from fat to carbs which all the textbook show. We have some interesting data and I tend to agree with them that a harder transition is probably better.
So, there's new literature now looking at what they call fat max and that concept has been around for a long time. But, I think, you want to push your fat max as high as you possibly can but not lose the ability to transition to aerobic metabolism and the carbs. And that that transition may be better off from a performance standpoint if it's more of a hard transition. Meaning, that if you can run right at your fat max, let's say, kind of like your lactate thresholds and more concepts, and you've got a super long event, it's probably going to be to your advantage, at least from a bioenergetics standpoint.
If you've got an event that's sort of mixed where cyclocross, in your case, is pretty high intensity, if you had breaks in between, kind of like cross fit type thing or longer endurance events, you've got hills and not hills and things of that nature, I think having both of those elevated as high as possible is beneficial.
So, Dr. Ben Peterson here did some work at the University of Minnesota hockey players looking even at aerobic versus anaerobic and just how specific type of lactate training and intensities, the adaptations there seem to become very specific. So, if you wanted someone to be really, really good at sort of the extreme sprinting, extreme high end anaerobic events, you had to do a fair amount of work training that.
If you get closer to kind of lactate threshold, that took a fair amount of work and then aerobic took a fair amount of work. So, it appears to be that as we push these systems farther and farther you're going to need to be more and more hyper specific about what adaptation you want to get enough stimulus to bump it but then the other ones may start to trend down a little bit, which gets on the whole sort of Russian block periodization ways of trying to get all the things that you want to kind of come together for an event.
How I think this ties in to ketosis is that we've now kind of skipped a lot of that part. If we really wanted to try to use ketosis as a way of increasing ketones, you had to go on a pretty restrictive diet, glycolytic work during that time probably not so good, but now maybe we could get 80% of the benefit by just taking a supplement. So, we don't have to allocate as much training to that. We don't have to see these other qualities kind of erode, and maybe we can get more of them at a higher peak at the same time.
Christopher: You talked about pyruvate dehydrogenase earlier and how that might disappear in someone who's not using that pathway much so the more of a fat burning ketotic type state. Can you give us any advice for reintroducing carbohydrates so that those pathways, those glycolytic pathways might be fully present and operational for race say or is that going to be completely individually variable and you can't say anything about it at all?
Mike: I talked to Dom a little bit about this too and he agreed with the concept and said his experience that he's seen just massive variation from one person to the next. The person I kind of classically see, though I haven't seen much in the past couple of months, it's just kind of weird now that I think about it, especially last year beginning of this year, was a person doing fair amount of high intensity exercise, typically cross fit in this case, they went and they did a ketogenic diet for eight weeks and they said, "Hey, I did it for six weeks. I felt great. It was amazing. And then the last two weeks I felt like I'd been hit by a train. My performance sucks and everything is horrible."
And when I first started working with that group of people, I thought, "Oh, perfect. You just need carbohydrates." And one of the first calls I had with a guy, it took me an hour to convince him to eat a sweet potato before training.
Christopher: Oh my goodness.
Mike: He did and he's like, "Oh my god, I felt amazing." And so I'm thinking, "This is simple problem. I got this stuff figured out." And did the same thing with the next three people and it didn't work crap. I'm going, "What the hell?" And so then I thought, okay, so if they have a harder time with carbohydrates and reintroducing them, what would probably be the best time to reintroduce them when the body's most receptive?
So, I started doing like a carbohydrate and protein solution after heavy weight training. My thought was, well, one, from a safety standpoint, if they get symptomatic, they're not under a heavy load, they're seated or just kind of hanging out. Two, we know that we get an up regulation of all the counter regulatory hormones. We get everything down the line from things that are basically the opposite of insulin.
So, cortisol, GH, is probably more a fuel selector than anything else. Epinephrine, norepinephrine, blah, blah, blah, you go down the list. And we know we have some non-insulin mediated uptake of glucose. We've got glut4 translocation. We've got all these things going on. If there's any one point in an entire day that's probably the point that they're going to be the most sensitive to using glucose. And most of them didn't appear to be that symptomatic at all if you're to handle it pretty good.
So then I would start shifting that closer into their training. Again, making sure that they're not symptomatic from it. And so I'd have them start sipping on it like halfway through their training. And then I would look at like the reporting of RPE, maybe next day heart rate variability, some markers of stress, and most of the time they reported that their training sessions felt a lot better, the quality of training was higher at the end. And then over time just basically kind of keep shifting that forward so then they're consuming a protein carbohydrate drink before their weight training sessions.
And just kind of sort of spread out from there. Again, anecdotally, but that seems to work pretty good. And in most of the cases, it didn't take a very long period of time. It wasn't like this was like months and months. It's usually a few weeks, sometimes a couple of days. It wasn't an extremely long process either.
Christopher: Okay. Flipping that, Mike, how are you going to program this for 100,000 people?
Mike: Yeah. That's where there's always an individually component that comes into it. Because people always come in with different adaptations and backgrounds. The good part is you can say, "Hey, if you're an outlier and you were doing like a hard core ketogenic or some type diet, here's something to look out for. Here's something to kind of try." And there's always individual responses but, I think, this is guiding people into what is probably the best time. Because a lot of those people I found would just say, "Okay, so I'm having oatmeal for breakfast tomorrow." And they call back and go, "Yeah, I was face down on my oatmeal in like 20 minutes and I felt horrible."
Christopher: That would be me.
Mike: And then I have association that, "See, I told you carbohydrates are bad, man."
Christopher: Yeah, you could say that about anything you haven't done for a while.
Mike: Totally. And it's not that there's anything horrible or bad about ketosis. It's just that you haven't done that for that period of time. So, your adaptations are going to be skewed because of it. It's like I don't do a lot of running so if I go to running marathon it's going to be horrible. And I'm probably not going to finish. It's not because marathons are bad. It's just I didn't train for that. I haven't been exposed to that stimulus.
Christopher: Yeah, absolutely. We paid for that. I did a workout with Julie, my wife, last weekend. We were doing sprints on the tarmac and the road was wet and we didn't know that -- Yeah, I had no clue. Tommy sort of filled me in with what goes on. Basically, your muscle moves farther than your brain is expecting so you're sort of wheel spinning on the wet tarmac. And it feels fine. We finished the workout, no problems. And then the next day I'm like, "I'm getting a little bit sore." Day two, holy shit. Day three, I'm taking phosphatidyl curcumin so that I can sleep. The muscle soreness lasted a whole week. Yeah, it was really bad. I think it's just because I haven't tried to sprint since I left high school about 30 years ago.
Mike: Yeah. You'll be sore in funky places. Like people forget how much like your ad doctors and all that stuff is stabilize you on one leg.
Christopher: Yeah, it was the outside of my butt was the worst thing. But, yeah, I mean, it's the principle--
Mike: Sure. [0:42:33] [Indiscernible] the other one.
Christopher: Yeah, as the principle was, you're not used to doing it. What do you think about strength training for endurance athletes? I mean, I know that's a stupid question but, say, you had someone come to you and their goal was Ironman, say, what kind of strength training would you have them do and how would you have them work that into their already ridiculous schedule because I think that endurance activity can actually counter the benefits of strength training, right?
Mike: Yeah, it can. So, you're looking at what's called an interference effect. A lot of the sort of classic literature -- And again, which was not done at an Ironman and endurance triathletes. So that strength training doesn't appear to affect endurance performance as much as endurance work can affect strength training. Again, over generalization.
But if you look at the effect of endurance work on strength training, there was a neuro study that came out this past July in females that had one group did some strength training, they measured vertical jumps, things of that nature, or some power stuff, and the other group did the exact same training but they did, I think it was 40% or 50% of the VO2 max on a treadmill for 40 minutes immediately after the strength training session.
And what they found was in the group that did the moderate aerobic work directly after strength training, [0:44:01] [Indiscernible] size is smaller, the power was decreased so that endurance was affecting the strength training. And that's what they were primarily looking at in the study. I'm a big fan of having the endurance stuff be programmed separate from strength stuff as much as you can. Now, if you're getting someone who's high level triathlete, it becomes really tricky just because of the sheer amount of volume--
Christopher: They're already doing three sports?
Mike: -- of endurance sports that they're doing. And it's split over three sports. If possible, what I would do -- Again, it's kind of a perfect world. I would look to see where are they weakest? I would take which of the events is their weakest? You could then debate about is it worth training it that much to make up a difference because you're biking longer than you're running and you're running longer than you're swimming?
But try to bring up their weakest one as best you can, where are they weak and the mechanics? So, if they're running and they get fatigue and they can't hold their hips stable, probably do a lot more hip stuff, probably even end range motion stuff there.
From a programming standpoint, I would program endurance stuff ideally in the morning, more strength stuff later in the afternoon and, if possible, probably not possible, they would not do any endurance work that next morning but maybe in the later afternoon. So, if we look at molecular adaptations after training, endurance stuff, again, this is not real high level, probably a few-ish hours, two, three, four, six, eight.
You're going to be sore. You're going to have other types of stuff going on. But in terms of how long that signaling is active, probably somewhere around there. Again, if you're doing crazy stuff like triathlons, it's probably longer. The strength training is actually 24 maybe 48 hours. So, it's significantly longer than endurance stuff. So, I would program endurance stuff first and then strength stuff later and, if possible, let 24 hours elapse before they would do another endurance type thing.
Mike: You're just trying to get -- In strength stuff, maybe only two sessions a week depending on how weak they are and that type of thing. In a perfect world, I would have them do an off season where they prioritize strength training and mechanics and we would put their aerobic stuff basically on maintenance. And then I would transition them back into more heavier aerobic type stuff.
Christopher: It's funny you should say that because that's exactly what I've been doing for the last month. I've hardly ridden my bike at all and just been doing more strength stuff. But I can't really say that I planned it that way. It was just I wasn't riding my bike. I thought, okay, well, I'll go do some deadlifts in the garden if I'm not riding my bike. I just thought about it that way.
Mike: Yeah. No, I would agree with that. The thing that really changed my mind on that, if you look up [0:46:49] [Indiscernible] thing on residual training effect or RTE. And for speed and power you're looking at only a couple days. Meaning, if you're really trying to peak for speed and power, you have to re-address that motor quality every couple of days or at least two, three days.
Now, if you're looking at max strength and actually aerobic base as the same level, not necessarily glycolytic but aerobic based work, you're looking at three to four weeks plus or minus a week so you could go for a long period of time without specifically addressing that and still be okay. Now, strength stuff, you're going to lose some of the skill component and your performance isn't going to be exactly there but everybody has done this, right?
They've taken two, three, four weeks off strength training, first two sessions back in the gym kind of sucks. But after that, not too bad. It wasn't like they started back to four years ago. It doesn't erode all that fast. So, you could then maybe get by only doing one or two aerobic type sessions a week, ideally on separate days, probably more than enough just to maintain where you're at.
Christopher: Okay. That makes sense. That's good information. Thank you. Is there going to be a training camp somewhere, Mike? Not in Minnesota though. I'm cold enough as it is in Santa Cruz right now. I need somewhere. Can we do it in Maui or something like that? I really want someone to have a look at my deadlift and my other biomechanics and I'm not convinced you can do that over the internet. Can there ever be a training camp?
Mike: Yeah. I'm down for whatever because in Santa Cruz and Hawaii, they have kiteboarding there so you know I'm in.
Christopher: Yeah. Tell me about that briefly because I'm really interested. I used to be a kiteboarder myself and for some reason now I live really close to the ocean and I don't do it which doesn't make any sense at all but maybe I'll get back into it soon enough. But, yeah, tell me about your kiteboarding?
Mike: Yeah. It's just fun. So people listening, it's a board and then you got this upside parachute looking like thing and it pulls you across the water. And if you do it correctly, you can actually pull the kite basically straight up over your head really fast and it will pull you off up the water. If you do it correctly, you'll land nice and soft. If you do it wrong, you kind of get dropped out of the sky like a stone.
Christopher: You spread eagled and then you land on your side and then you bruise all your ribs. It's horrendous.
Mike: I've done that. Oh, god, a lot of times. Yeah, it's just super fun. And the one thing I love about it is you can go different places. You can see different scenery or interacting with nature. And even just riding fast in a kite board just never gets boarding. There's always that -- I think it's all about using the wind and just that sensation of speed. When you're jumping and kind of floating through the air it's just so quiet and effortless and sometimes very scary all at the same time.
Christopher: Yeah. You're absolutely right. The waves are really fun as well.
Mike: Oh, super fun. Yeah.
Christopher: Yeah, I've had some amazing holidays kiteboarding. We went to Brazil once and just did it with--
Mike: Oh, nice.
Christopher: Yeah, these big [0:49:50] [Indiscernible]. Fortaleza was where we flew into and then we just made our way north. We had someone follow us on the sand in the beach.
Mike: A buddy of mine just did that November.
Christopher: Oh my goodness. It was absolutely amazing.
Mike: It's absolutely amazing.
Christopher: Yeah, it's absolutely brilliant. And then you see 20 miles downwind on the waves and then you come out the water and they have these lagoons that sort of form on the beach that's like a tropical river that flows out, dumps out, it doesn't quite make it into the ocean and so it forms this really flat water lagoon so you can switch between the waves and then the completely glassy flat water. And then they have loads of really seafood. You just have this tin shacks that you just eat, that the fishing boat just brought in. it's such good times.
Mike: That's on my list now. I got to do that.
Christopher: Yeah, highly recommended. Well, for everyone listening, Mike T. Nelson is Mike's website. You should head over there and at least get signed up for your newsletter. I've certainly done that already. But is there anything else that you'd want people to know about, Mike?
Mike: Yeah. So, they can go to miketnelson.com/podcast. If there's anything I can do to specifically help them out, they can drop me an email, just firstname.lastname@example.org. And just put on the subject line at ActionPodcast and it may take me a few days or sometimes a couple of weeks to get back but I usually try to get back to everyone. Yeah, I appreciate your time and good discussion and it was very interesting to pick your brain about all of this stuff and experience you've had with everything too. I find that very fascinating. Kudos to you for going out and trying this stuff.
Christopher: Thank you. I'm not an expert but I'm sometimes like a chairman. I have interactions with lots of experts and sometimes I can connect the dots in a way that no one expert could by themselves but that doesn't make me an expert.
Mike: Because you see things that other people won't see. And that's a good thing. That's awesome.
Christopher: Thank you so much, Mike. I really appreciate you.
Mike: Yeah, thank you very much for having me. I greatly appreciate it. It was just fun.
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