Dr Tommy Wood

Dr. Tommy Wood is back for another great show, this time to discuss a pretty radical idea—the idea that second-guessing this constant quest for optimization in the area of health and fitness might actually be a good thing. 

We talk about how our mindset and attitude come into play regarding our health and he explains why he is so concerned about what he sees as the “pathologization and objectification” of things that specifically should bring us joy (mainly food and sleep) and why so many people tend to fall into over-obsession and perfectionism when it comes to certain vital health practices. Dr. Tommy proposes we steer away from overcomplicating and overthinking things when it comes to our health and fitness, which delves into another conversation about toeing the line between taking care of your health and caring too much. Where and how do you find that healthy balance? We also talk about the power of the placebo effect, sleep, fitness and figuring out how hard to push your body, and much more! If you want to hear some great health and longevity advice through a big-picture (and extremely practical lens), then this is the episode for you!


Guest Tommy Wood talks about the pathologizing of health practices. [01:22]

There is a coherence between who you believe yourself to be and your actions. [05:36]

Many people disregard the importance of sleep, but if you begin to focus, counting the hours, you start to lose the joy of sleep.  [12:51]

Sleep debt is when you establish your optimal hours of average sleep, then if you have a particular episode of shorter time of sleep, staying up late, you have sleep debt that needs to be made up. [21:01]

The genetics come into play for sleep requirements. [24:30]

Is there a strong correlation there from energy output to increased need for sleep? Rapid loss of body temperature is one of the triggers for sleep. [27:15]   

The volume of training that the average person needs is much smaller than professional athletes need. Consistency is important. [29:00]

If you think others are doing more than you, if you think you should be doing more, it has a negative impact on your health and actually increases your risk more. [32:41]

Glucose monitoring has created the pathologization of food. [36:30]

We can create psychological effect that affects the way we respond.  A placebo is a placebo. [39:33]

There has been much more information, studies, and experimentation on athletic performance that changes how we think about health and fitness. [44:17]

How do we tiptoe over that red line of optimal training so that we are not hindering our health and fitness? [46:46]

When we talk about cardiovascular fitness, muscle mass, and longevity, we are talking about data from truly average general population people. We don’t know who is going to live longer. [52:08]

We hear many rationalizations and cop-outs in everyday life.  Many people are delusional about their actual health. Understand that commitment is important.  Motivation fluctuates. [01:00:12]

Genetics plays a big role in longevity.  Get regular blood testing. There are some medications available for aging, however, there is no evidence how beneficial.    [01:05:54]



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B.Rad Podcast

BRAD [00:01:22]. Hey listeners, what an incredible treat to welcome back to the show. I believe this is the fourth official show with Dr. Tommy Wood counting my recap show, and we cover an incredible variety of topics on this fast moving, ever interesting show about all matters of healthy living, longevity. Uh, but starting out with this, uh, idea that Tommy’s conveyed recently, uh, about the, um, the second guessing of this constant quest for optimization in the area of health and fitness and what he calls it is the pathologizing of health practices, the over obsession with eating perfectly or getting your exact optimal sleep environment, especially relevant to me, cause I’m such a baby when it comes to getting my perfect amount of sleep. Um, he cite a lot of research. He’s, uh, deep into the academic field, working in the area of brain research and brain injuries at the University of Washington in Seattle and on his, uh, professor track, but he still keeps his toe into the, the health scene very nicely.

Brad (00:02:33):
He’s got a great Instagram site and please follow him for all kinds of helpful practical and common sensical tips and insights. Uh, here’s a recent quote that I love that he shared on another show. The finding mastery podcast and this kind of teed up the beginning of our conversation, then I’ll tell you really quickly some of the other interesting topics that we cover, uh, but Tommy said, one thing I’m really concerned about is in the biohacking community is the pathologization and objectification of many things that should bring us joy, mainly food and sleep. As soon as you start to quantify something, you can lose the joy in it. You start to objectify it, and it’s no longer that can bring you joy in the same way. So have the necessary knowledge, but then don’t overcomplicate or over-focus on it. Uh, that tees up some follow up questions about <laugh> if towing that fine line between, um, saying, Hey, life is short, might as well, enjoy it.

Brad (00:03:36):
And then, uh, drifting down the path, the destructive path that we follow in modern life toward, um, disease and demise because we aren’t keeping our, our game straight. So I, I hit him with that question in the show. Um, you’re gonna learn about the, the pros and cons and particularly the cons of the continuous glucose monitor and over obsessing about how meals are affecting your glucose. We’re gonna talk about sleep. As I mentioned before, and we get deep into the fitness concepts because he’s a extreme fitness enthusiast himself, and he’s pretty modest on the show, but this is a highly fit, highly muscled individual that works very hard in the gym and is, uh, cutting edge and works with a lot of top athletes there. So you’re love the fitness insights as well as the diet, um, things about how the placebo effect is real and extremely powerful, even if you know, it’s placebo <laugh>.

Brad (00:04:31):
So, uh, boy, um, I, I loved it. I hope you love it as much as I do. We’ll get him back on the show on a regular basis. There’s nobody like him and I, or urge you to go back and listen to the other shows because if you’re looking for basic common sense, overall big picture health and longevity advice, Dr. Tommy Wood, there are a few better to listen to. So here we go, Dr. Tommy wood. I, I don’t say this too often, but you’re absolutely one of my favorite guests ever. Same with a lot of listeners. I, this is like maybe the fourth official podcast counting my Dr. Tommy wood summary shows where I compile all the great stuff we talked about, but it’s been a while. So thanks a lot for reconnecting. We, we got tons to talk about.

Tommy (00:05:15):
Yeah. I’m really happy to be here. Really happy to chat with you again. You’re right. It’s been a couple of years and even longer. I’m guess since you were sat at my kitchen table, like surrounded by surrounded by white boxers.

Brad (00:05:26):
Yeah. Other colors.

Tommy (00:05:28):
Yeah. No. So

Brad (00:05:29):
Nonstop entertainment.

Tommy (00:05:30):
<laugh>, I’m really happy to be back and always enjoyed chatting with you. So, so this I’m really looking forward to it.

Brad (00:05:36):
So just before we hit record, we were talking about, checking in on each other and I’m reporting my athletic goals, continue to compel me at age 57 to try to do my best, but I was saying, wow, you know, it’s kind of, um, it’s kind of a challenge, cuz there’s always something, uh, to complain about aches, pains, niggles, uh, delayed recovery and, and things like that. And um, you, you put up a, uh, a really, um, interesting goal and that is, uh, forget about the finish line. Let’s just have a goal of getting to the starting line. I’m like, dang, that’s a revelation right there.

Tommy (00:06:11):
Yeah. I think, um, you know, obviously you are, you are an athlete and you body many parts of what it is to be an athlete and, and, you know, being an athlete is part of your identity, which is, you know, a then, you know, you want to continue to have that. So there’s a, there’s a coherence between, you know, who you believe yourself to be and your actions, right. That’s, that’s an important part of, of creating, you know, a long term, a, uh, environment for ourselves that, that, that supports us. Um, so, so I mean, that’s, that’s great, but it’s, you know, as, as we age, you know, as we all will, and you’re doing pretty much everything we might say, uh, you should be doing in order to, you know, have that process take as long as possible. Uh, but it is, it, it, it is, it does happen and, and it will happen.

Tommy (00:06:57):
And particularly if you continue to be an athlete, um, you know, part, you know, the, the, the whole struggle, particularly as mass, you know, you work your way up, the master’s ranks, it’s just getting to the starting line, right. You know, being in good shape, having the body, um, you know, be physically fit and functioning. Uh, everybody else is falling apart or they give up on training and, you know, give up on competing. Um, so yeah, I think that’s, you should celebrate that, you know, 57 in great shape, still doing great things. I see, see you on Instagram, you know, still looking pretty good. So, so I think that’s all, that’s all stuff to be celebrated.

Brad (00:07:32):
<laugh> yeah. The identity of, uh, getting old is, is not as empowering as keeping that identity of an athlete, but it is a tricky, um, situation. Mark Manson, you know, Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k. He has an interesting line where he says, try to have as little of a self-identity as possible and, you know, and, um, that self, uh, self-esteem and, and self self concept is a myth. It’s a form of persistent low level narcissism to try to cultivate self-esteem and instead see your life as a series of decisions and actions. And that quote echoes on me because I know from back when I was a younger athlete and having my identity strongly attached to my athletic performance, it’s a, it’s a source of a potential continued pain and suffering when you’re always, you know, nothing’s ever good enough can see that with the great champions of the world too, where they have a difficult adjusting to everyday live.

Tommy (00:08:25):
Yeah. I mean, I, I adore Mark Manson’s work. He’s my, you know, he’s not a psychologist, but he’s my favorite psychologist because he can turn, you know, he turns evidence based, uh, stuff, into things that are applicable. And there’s a, a program out of swearing that always makes it more enjoyable to read. Um, uh, so one thing that, um, I have found useful, so a friend of mine, uh, Simon Marshall, Simon Marshall, is a psychologist. And when we’ve talked about this previously, um, you know, people get these things to sort of become part of who they are. So, so in the context we were talking about was people who have had a chronic disease for a long period of time, and it becomes part of their identity, such that it’s then hard, you know, even if they want to improve their health, it’s hard to make those changes because, you know, maybe they’re part of online support groups that are around their disease, or, you know, they, they get a connection with, with, uh, other people, healthcare providers through their disease.

Tommy (00:09:20):
And then it becomes part of like their beneficial support network. So then it’s hard to divest from that as, you know, things change and maybe their health improves. And so his recommendation is, um, you know, maybe we don’t think about, uh, not having an identity, but about diversifying our identity. So just like you would, um, diversify your stock portfolio so that, like, if one thing crashes, you don’t lose all your money, you would diversify your identities so that you have lots of identities to draw upon such that if one then is no longer accessible to you. Um, so say being a professional athlete, you of other things that form parts of your identity. So, you know, like my identities, I still identify as an athlete. I’m a professor, a scientist, a dog lover. Right. All of these things can then provide a buffer if I lose one of those that’s that would at least be the idea.

Brad (00:10:13):
Um, yeah, I suppose that includes being open to wherever you’re headed in the future and perhaps a new identity and a whole new, you know, set of, of beliefs around that. Yeah. Yeah. Interesting. Wow. I didn’t know. You’re a Mark Manson fan. That’s kind of cool cuz um, you know, the academic side and your traditional training and especially with brain research and that, um, you know, it might be a, um, somewhat of a, a difficult fit, but that’s nice to know.

Tommy (00:10:44):
Yeah. The, uh, I actually spend a lot more time telling my scientific colleagues how they’re wrong in their application than I do, uh, otherwise. And, and mainly because, you know, as, as you get too deep to neuroscience say, and people come really highly focused on specific small areas of the brain and specific signaling molecules and all that kind of stuff. And like, it’s interesting, but like most of it isn’t that useful. Whereas, you know, Mark Manson, maybe he sort of takes off some of the scientific edge of stuff, but like his, his is useful. It’s applicable, you identify with it. Um, and so I, you know, in general, even though I would like to draw on the more scientific things I, I would, you know, prefer to be much more like him, like, can I create stuff that’s applicable and meaningful and still evidence based for the average person,

Brad (00:11:35):
I guess that’s kinda like Malcolm Gladwell being number one on the bestseller list with this string of books where, he’s accused and criticized of taking liberties with the science and, uh, bringing out a, an argument and then, you know, finding a way to support it to where he is convinced all the readers that if your child is born early in the year, they will play better in the hockey leagues and have an advantage the rest of their lifetime. Oh, wow. I guess I’d better hold my kid back from school. And then, um, you know, it can, it can get refuted, but just having fun with it and making a case and bringing it out to the public is, um, a, a different, a different track that, you know, has a big impact. Right?

Tommy (00:12:12):
Yeah. I think, um, the stuff that I really like, like where this, you know, where that sort of the rubber meets the road on that for me is that are the things that you are sort of putting out there, do they have a large, like positive asymmetry being that, you know, even if I don’t have all the hun like, uh, evidence in and randomized clinical trials, like if I recommend something to you, is the risk so small that the potential benefit, you know, and is really great that it is worth trying anyway. Like that’s, that’s the stuff that, that I, I think people should focus on more rather than trying to like get into the nitty gritty details where we, we don’t really know whether it’s worth it or not.

Brad (00:12:51):
Well, it, it kind of leads us to one of the topics I wanted to talk about, which you called the pathologizing of the extreme health pursuits, the biohacking and how this can potentially, uh, be a, a net negative or, or, you know, bring some negative energy into your life because you’re so highly tightly wound about doing everything correctly and, and optimally, and being on the cutting edge at all times in every direction.

Tommy (00:13:21):
Yeah. You know what I used, I, I used to be all about optimizing. I used the word optimal all the time <laugh> um, right. And, and then you sort of realize that maybe that’s not the best approach, like one, because half the time, I don’t like I have a good idea of what optimal might be, but that’s like an average level. Whereas I, you know, it’s, it’s very difficult to know exactly what’s gonna be optimal for you and it could be your blood work or your sleep, or a whole raft of other things. And I think the pursuit of optimal be, can become self-defeating. And, and I have two examples that I think are very relevant, uh, to, to the audience and to that kind of like biohacking group, the first one is sleep. Um, and, you know, sleep trackers are all the rage nowadays in, you know, the kind with the kind of people that you and I hang out with, maybe not with the, the sort of the more general population <laugh>,

Brad (00:14:14):
Sleep, what what’s a sleep tracker. You like, you put your bed on the rails and it goes up and down. No, no <laugh>,

Tommy (00:14:21):
Uh, and you know, so I’m really glad that people are focusing on sleep and trying to sleep better. So I think that’s important. And that that message is even like permeating into the, the general public now, like it used to be sleep when you’re dead, all that kind of stuff for now, we know that, well, if you don’t sleep, then you will be dead. Um, sooner,

Brad (00:14:40):
Sooner that

Tommy (00:14:40):
That will happen sooner. Um, and although actually, uh, I was giving a presentation to some health coaches this morning, like looking at sleep and, uh, and risk of death. And, and it, it seems like you don’t really start to see an increased risk of death unless your sleep regularly goes below six hours, which is actually less than I thought. Um, wow. You know, so, so that’s a meaningful thing. I think if we, if we’re telling people you have to sleep at least seven hours or else, or this bad stuff’s gonna happen, not necessarily supported by the evidence, but with, um, with sleep tracking, what, what happens is that, um, the goal becomes optimizing the numbers on the tracker. Whereas, well, the goal should be, is getting restorative sleep that allows you to recover from your activities and be a more helpful, happy healthful, cognitively performing person.

Tommy (00:15:36):
Um, and there’s some issues with this. One is the, is the quality of the data. So most sleep trackers, the data. aren’t great. Um, they’re, they’re fine for like, um, tracking maybe trends over time, particularly if you’re looking at sleep stages and stuff, but like, if you’re sleep, track tells you, you have X amount of deep sleep, you don’t really know if that’s true or not. And you also don’t really know if that matters or not, but if we become hyper focused on that number, right, then we start to lose, uh, we, we start to lose the joy of sleep, right? It’s this amazing thing which feels great. And we get, you know, we, we should enjoy it, but there’s actually a negative cognitive effect of becoming about hyper focused on these numbers. Um, so that’s like one part that, and, and, and again, you’re sort of, you’re pathologizing this process that is, is supposed to be joyful and restorative, and there is some evidence, and actually I’m, I’m stealing this right from mark Manson, because he wrote about this, where if you start to quantify and objectify a process or something in your life, you start to lose the joy in it.

Tommy (00:16:42):
Um, and so I, I actually, there was some papers on that, that, that I actually, uh, got got from something that he wrote. Um, so, so that concerns me. And then equally we see something similar with, uh, continuous glucose monitoring. Um, and well, well actually I wanna, I wanna continue on sleep. So there was a nice study done in, in, on, on sleep where they took individuals and they put them in, you know, like a, a, a, they had them in the lab and they had them sleep a certain amount of time, but they manipulated the clock time. Um, so

Brad (00:17:13):
Brutal. Yeah. They signed off their right before they started the study to get, to get hosted.

Tommy (00:17:19):
Yeah. I love it. You slept either eight hours or five hours. <laugh> and then you were, you were told you slept eight hours or five hours, but they crossed them over. So you had people who slept eight hours and were told they slept five hours and vice versa. And what they found was that if you slept for five hours, but you were that you slept for eight hours, you didn’t feel more sleepy, right. You didn’t feel more sleepy the next day, cause you thought you’d slept eight hours. Um, and if you slept eight hours and were told that you slept for five hours, you had worst performance, which they measured with reaction time. So the reason why I’m worried about some sleep trackers or getting so, so worked up about this is because your sleep tracker says, Hey, you had a bad night of sleep. And then you internalized that, and that will affect your cognitive performance, regardless of whether that night of sleep would’ve affected it because of the cognitive to being told that you slept badly. Um, so that’s, that’s what, so, so that’s why I think like focusing on these numbers rather than the process is, is really an issue.

Brad (00:18:17):
Oh, mercy. That is just brutal. And I I’d, I have to think that, um, I could tell, right. I, I don’t, I don’t, I don’t wanna sign up and, uh, think that I’d be manipulated in such a way that I, I certainly know. It’s kinda like, um, am I, am I influenced by advertising? No, of course not. I, I pick whatever shoes, most comfortable and most functional. I, I don’t mind the billboards or the magazine ads, but of course I’m lying to myself, but yeah, that, that’s pretty heavy because, and, and especially relevant to, to me, because I’ve been such a little, uh, uh, you know, uh, uh, you know, pretty boy about getting my correct sleep dating back to my days as an athlete where mm-hmm, <affirmative>, you know, we’re pretty much obsessed with getting maximum amount of sleep and, uh, recovering as quickly as possible.

Brad (00:19:02):
And I’m kind of fragile, I would say in the mind and also the body. But, um, maybe we could talk about that part where, because I’m so worked up about getting perfect sleep, um, maybe I’m becoming my own worst enemy. And, um, not that I track anything cuz I, I do feel like, um, the, the mere act of tracking could bring some, uh, anxiety or some, you know, negative energy into the situation. So I, I definitely don’t wanna look at anything, but I’m, I, I know that, um, you know, I’m, I’m always, uh, trying to, you know, get squeeze every last hour minute because I think it’s so important. And if I don’t get it, I’ll have a less productive day.

Tommy (00:19:44):
Yeah. And, and, and I’ve noticed the same thing, uh, in myself and then like people, clients, athletes that I’ve, that I’ve worked with. So, so, which is why I, I, I think it’s important to, to talk about it. Like there are some, there are some people who with enough exposure to the data or with the right kind of personality can just like at a distance, see the data, acknowledge it, you know, change something or appreciate that one night doesn’t make a big difference. And then, and then they can sort of, you know, keep moving forwards, but a large, I would say the majority, majority being more than 50% of people can’t do that. Um, the, you know, tracking this stuff can, can have a, have a negative, um, impact. And I have also, you know, I’ve, I’ve sort of worked with myself and others to acknowledge that, you know, one night, a couple of nights of bad sleep in reality. And if we look at sort of prolonged you know, uh, lower amounts of sleep and health outcomes, like it really does need to be maybe less than six hours for it to be a strong signal of being detrimental. Um, and, and I think that the cognitive processes we put on ourselves, because we are worried about the fact that we didn’t sleep enough. I think those are worse than the fact that we just didn’t sleep that great last night. Mm

Brad (00:21:01):
Yeah. Uh, I had a sleep expert named Jeff Kahn on the show and he argued that there’s only one thing that is beneficial or that he recommends tracking. And that is this concept called sleep debt. And so you establish your particular, uh, optimal hours of average sleep. And the way you do that is to go into a very dark room on vacation and have no of thing to wake up for. And you wake up and you, you say, gee, I got eight hours of sleep and, you know, maybe there’s some genetic differences. I wanna ask you about that for sure. And cover that. Uh, but he says, just look at over a cumulative period of time, the month or six months, whatever, um, how well you’re hitting that number. And if you have a weekend of a lot of staying up late and you missed an hour below your average here and an hour below your average, again, your two hours of sleep debt, you take a two hour nap on Sunday afternoon, and now you’re back to even, and it’s a nice, pretty concept that everyone can kind of, uh, go forth in a inexpensive manner and just see how you’re doing from your historical average.

Brad (00:22:10):
But I’ll, I’ll ask for your comment on that. And then also about the genetic differences between, um, you know, Mia Moore. And I, it seems as though she gets by just fine on vastly less sleep than I do. And it’s kind of, I, I’m not gonna say frustrating, but, um, sometimes I dream of being Superman and only needing six hours instead of eight and a half or nine or nine hours and 15 minutes after hard workouts. And it’s like, what, what’s my problem? You know, <laugh>

Tommy (00:22:38):
So, so I mean the concept of sleep debt, I think it’s potentially useful, but only if you use it in the way that it’s intended, right? Because if, if instead you, every night you document an additional hour of sleep debt that you are never able to recover. Is there any benefit there? Cause all you’re doing is creating additional stress. So, so, so that, that that’s, that would be my one comment. Um, and yes, you know, in, in reality, we’d all ideally as much as we’re able to every night, but that’s that doesn’t often happen. Uh, and it’s, you know, I think people should put things into place to give themselves the ideal amount of sleep opportunity, which basically just means you actually spend seven to nine hours in bed. That’s probably the most important thing in terms of actually getting enough sleep is giving yourself the chance to sleep if you can.

Tommy (00:23:30):
Um, so, so yeah, so that, that would be my one comment is, is we, we get, you know, if, if you’re tracking this thing and then it’s just a thing that you can’t ever fix and it becomes a stressor, then, then, then I have similar concerns to, to track, you know, tracking the sleep, uh, itself. Uh, one, one thing that can potentially be useful is rather than tracking sleep. So this idea comes from my friend, uh, party rather than tracking sleep, maybe track the things that, you know, affect your sleep. Right. So when did you have your last cup of coffee or, you know, when did you get into bed or when did you put on your blue light blocking glasses or did you have, um, uh, you know, a hot shower before you went to bed? If, if that, what you know, was your room, did you have the window open? And the room was cool enough? So, you know, just rather than tracking the thing, track the things that affect the thing, and then that maybe allows you to put into place better habits that that can then support sleep longer term. Um, and so I think that that can maybe be useful and you can diarize it or just, you know, even just think about it.

Tommy (00:24:30):
The genetic aspect, there’s obviously a big genetic component to sleep requirements. What it sounds like in your relationship is very similar to my relationship. I need a lot more sleep than my wife does. Um, and that’s, you know, initially what I did is I was like, well, there must be like, what are you doing wrong? That means that you can’t sleep anymore, which is entirely the wrong approach. I mean, I was just completely off base with that previously.

Tommy (00:24:56):
And you then realize that, well, if you are sleeping, however much you sleep and performing well, cognitive feeling good, not tired during the not falling asleep inappropriately, you know, like the questionnaires that the, where steep in a scale ask you about how likely you are to fall asleep and like during everyday activities, right? If, if, if all of those things are in place, then I don’t think it matters how much you slept, because obviously you are, I think you’re sleeping enough and I wouldn’t worry about the absolute time. I worry about the subjective and how you then feel, uh, afterwards. So there’s a genetic component and I think there’s a genetic component to sleep requirement, as well as maybe susceptibility to the modern environment. So people talk about chronotypes and, you know, so you go to sleep or wake up at different times of day and you feel most cognitively alert at different times a day. And I think there’s some evidence to suggest that is, is basically, um, a large chunk of prototypes are, are driven by the modern environment because when you take night town, oh

Brad (00:25:58):
Yeah. Isn’t that interesting? I’m a night owl I can’t stop watching Netflix until two in the morning. Oh, is that, so what about when you’re on a camping trip? Geez.

Tommy (00:26:06):
Yeah, exactly. So that’s, so that’s the right. So these, these, uh, studies done at, um, University of Colorado Boulder, where they take people and they go camping and, and the night owls, you know, people who are normally awake late into the night, their, um, their circadian rhythm starts to shift to be closer to morning lucks, you know, people who are more awake early in the day, or go to sleep early in the day. So, um, my hypothesis and, um, it, you know, there may be something else entire that’s driving it, but, you know, if, if there’s a certain, may, it may be, there’s a genetic susceptibility to light at night or other stimuli at night that then keep you awake later that, you know, you know, create shifts in your circadian rhythm, which, which are present in some people, rather than others. It could be something else, but we, we know, or we think we know that if you put people in a, in a natural light environment, that their circadian rhythms will get closer together, they won’t necessarily perfectly aligned, but they’ll be much less starkly different than they were previously <affirmative>. So there’s probably a, you know, an environmental component to, to sleep requirement as well. And so like, if you’re doing a huge amount of working out, you’re probably gonna sleep more, you know? So that, that, that may be, that may be a difference too. And all these things will kind of stack up,

Brad (00:27:16):
Uh, is there a strong correlation there from, uh, energy output to increased need for sleep?

Tommy (00:27:23):
So I dunno if it’s energy output necessarily. I mean, it, there there’s, there’s gonna be a component of repair requirements, but the one of the driving factors is an increase in body temperature, which is caused by exercise. And then that seems to correlate with accumulation of metabolites in the brain that at drive sleep like a Dee. So there’s the, the process of using up energy through exercise creates heat. That heat is then part, part of, uh, the, the picture of creating an increased sleep drive.

Brad (00:28:01):
So how does that line up with all this talk about getting your body temperature cool. So that you can fall asleep getting on your Chili Pad, taking a, a, a bath and then having that cooling response.

Tommy (00:28:15):
Yeah, so, so, well, I mean, it’s part of it. You sort of like you have, you have one before you have the next and, and people will. Um, so the act of going to sleep now, let’s hone and, you know, getting down into deeper, deeper, getting down into sleep itself requires, or the body cools itself as part of that process. And so if you heat yourself up beforehand, people may have had a hot shower or a, a gone in the hot tub or something, and they feel really hot bath feel really sleepy afterwards. That’s because rapid loss of body temperature is one of the triggers for sleep. And you accelerate that if you heat yourself up, um, beforehand. So, so get getting hot and then cooling down is one of the triggers for sleep. So it kind of ties into it that way.

Brad (00:29:00):
What other areas of concern do you see with this pathologizing of extreme health pursuits? Maybe a diet would be an obvious one to talk about, but whatever you like and including, uh, fitness and training and keeping to your training schedule, and I’ve spent so much time in the endurance community where, uh, I’ve, I’ve talked plenty about how I identify all these unhealthy attributes to this, uh, this type, a competitive drive to put in your hard work and, and stay consistent. And I question whether consistency is, um, even appropriate for, you know, this consistent application of heavy stress when you’re pursuing these athletic goals. And I think it was your quote that today’s, uh, elite performing athlete, whether it’s CrossFit games or, uh, Ironman is doing, six times more, uh, more training than, than the hunter gatherer, something like that.

Tommy (00:29:54):
Yeah. So I think the, the most extreme difference is a Tour de France cyclist where yeah. The, that that’s the, the biggest differential and that’s, that’s true. And I think, um, so we, we can certainly start with that and then get, get into, to diet. Um, it, it kind of, it all has to come back to what the, the goal is, right? So, so if you are a professional athlete and your athletic performance pays the bills, then, you know, consist performance, consistent training, consistent recovery is, is incredibly important, right. You know, as part of a periodized cycle or, um, you know, competition cycle or season, right. I, I think that’s, that’s important and because it particularly cuz it supports your livelihood, I think you have to do that. Kidding yourself, that that volume of is, is beneficial to your health. I mean, that’s, we think that’s not true at that point.

Tommy (00:30:47):
You’re at the, the pointy end of athletic performance, particularly with endurance volume, you are probably gonna start paying that back later, increased risk of, uh, atrial fibrillation, you know, maybe, uh, some other detrimental factors, you know increased risk or of infections. And we certainly see a very high volume trainers. We start to see some changes in the immune system that are similar to those that we see in people who are insulin resistant with metabolic syndrome. And you know, that seems to be part of this continuous inflammatory process, increased oxidative stress then affects insulin signaling. And, and with, with high intensity, uh, exercise repeatedly in like over training or, uh, overloading period can actually start to create some things that look like insulin resistance because of that stress. So yes, you may then add, adapt and perform better later, but don’t tell yourself that this is gonna make you make you live longer because the evidence suggests that, that it won’t, you can have too much, uh, of a bad of a bad of a good thing.

Tommy (00:31:48):
Sorry, too much of a good thing. And in reality, the kind of volume that looks optimal for long term health is gonna be 30 to 45 minutes of brisk walking and lifting weights a day. Like, that’s it, uh, you know, maybe you add some, some sprinting in there. Okay. The volume that you need to get maximal benefits from exercise is much, much smaller than what those athletes are doing. Um, in, in the consistency phase, I like consistency realm. I still think it’s important to be consist if you’re, if it’s consistency in behaviors that sort of like support your long term health. So, you know, consistently just doing some exercise or consistently, you know, eating, uh, a diet that supports your health and that doesn’t, and the other side of that is acknowledging that sometimes that doesn’t happen and actually that one meal or that one night of sleep or that one missed workout doesn’t really matter.

Tommy (00:32:41):
But for long term health, you know, getting it done 80 to 90% of the time, that’s what really matters. So consistency can be important, but don’t kid yourself that like the absolute maximum of everything is gonna be beneficial. Then you, then you do potentially see a detriment. And, and the other thing that from that, it was a really interesting study, um, using Hans data where they, they looked at individuals and they looked at how much exercise they did with, they had pedometers. So, so they actually measured activity. And then they asked them, how much do you think you do compared to people like you? Um, and then they adjusted for a whole bunch of stuff like everyth related to the environment and health and, and, and all those kinds of things. And they found that within a category of people like the amount of exercise they do after you adjust for the amount of exercise they do, if you think that others are doing more than you, if you think you’re doing less, if you think you should be doing more, that had a negative impact on your health and actually increase your risk of more.

Tommy (00:33:40):
So this continuous, like I need to do more, I’m not doing enough. That cognitive process may create a negative physiological environment that could, that could damage your health. So always thinking you need, like, that’s, again, that’s the problem with optimization is I’m not doing enough. I’m not do, you know, I could be better. You know, everything needs to be improved. I’m not optimal yet. I think that negative thought processes can actually affect our, our physiology, um, and .

Brad (00:34:07):
FOMO, FOMO. Yeah. I mean, it’s Dr. Sinha calls this an actual disease with metabolic consequences and he’s relating mostly to the consumerism and his patients in Silicon valley who are the, the single most affluent working population anywhere on the planet. And they widespread suffer from FOMO because their neighbor might have 10 times, a hundred times a more wealth than them with all that crazy disparities. But yeah, I think the marketing machine pounces on this too, especially in fitness where, um, there’s, you know, females with glistening six packs, which is probably below their genetically optimal health baseline. Uh, but if you’re not up to that standard, you’re gonna keep sweating in the gym and, and feeling, uh, feeling like less than until you, you break through. And then, um, meanwhile you’re purchasing a lot of goods and services that are promising that.

Tommy (00:34:58):
Yeah. And I think, um, you’re right. It’s a lot of it is probably deeply tied into this, um, you know, comparing yourself to others, always thinking that, you know, the grass is greener or some somebody’s better. And I think, you know, to the extent that people can work through that process, you realize that, you know, probably so acknowledging that you’re doing enough in, in both in the fact that it doesn’t, you know, do you probably are doing a huge amount for your health already, right? Somebody who eats, eats, uh, ho you know, home cooked real food gets seven hours of sleep a night, you know, goes to the gym. And two, three times a week walks around, you know, walks the rest of the time, right. That person is already doing all the things that we think are, are optimal. Right. You know, maybe they walk and go and meet your friends. There’s some good social connection. Right. So acknowledging that you’re doing enough is important, both because you probably are doing enough, or a lot of people are doing enough in there.

Brad (00:35:55):
Right. One it’s true. And two, because it’s, it’s true, good for your mental health.

Tommy (00:35:59):
Exactly. And then it’s also not detrimental to negative to your mental health, which we know that this sort of, uh, comparisons can be. And again, I think, you know, we’re talking about overall long term health for the average person. Mm-hmm, <affirmative>, you know, that, that, you know, in the elite performance environment, we have to take a different approach. Uh, usually, uh, but again, acknowledging that that’s not necessarily, we’re sort of maybe borrowing from some future health in order to perform now, and that’s fine. You just acknowledge that. And that’s, that’s part of it. That’s, there’s no problem with that. We just need to know that that’s the, with.

New Speaker (00:36:31):
So with the diet stuff, continuous glucose monitoring has become, so that’s, that’s so continuous glucose monitoring has created the pathology or has supported the pathologization of food. Um, and, and don’t get me wrong. Food is, you know, has a massive effect on our health and, and I’m, and I’m not saying that it doesn’t because it does. Um, however, I would argue that. So I would argue that most people do continuous glucose monitoring don’t need to do it. Um, you know, outside of diabetes, there is some data that suggests that continuous glucose monitoring improves health outcomes in people with diabetes and can also improve their behaviors because, you know, they’ll, they’ll eat something, they’ll see a massive glucose spike. They’ll see that they need to inject more insulin, and that can actually improve maybe, maybe start to improve, uh, some of their health behaviors in biohackers.

Brad (00:37:23):

Tommy (00:37:24):
Uh, I think there is a potential utility of identifying foods that for you, cause big spikes in blood sugar, cause we know big spikes in blood sugar can cause blood sugar crashes. It can affect, um, the, uh, sympathies neuro uh, nervous system. It can affect course or release, right. It, so it can affect hunger later on. So big spikes in blood sugar are probably something that we want to avoid happening frequently. I think we can agree on that. And we should also now agree that the glycemic index of a food is a completely useless piece of information. That means nothing to anybody because we know that how individuals bond to foods, carbohydrate containing foods, incredibly different from person to person, right? You and I can eat the same banana and they have a very different, like, I could have no spike, you have a big spike.

Tommy (00:38:11):
And then we eat a piece of cake and I have a big spike and you have no spike. Right. And, and there’s, there’s nothing from, you know, the glycemic index or the, the ingredients and the food that were, sorry. Tell us that. So if you, if you did say two weeks of continuous glucose monitoring, okay. Maybe you identify something that you eat regularly that you thought was pretty good, but caused the big spike in blood sugar. And then you’d be like, okay, maybe I’ll eat less of that. That’s that’s useful information to have. And I think that that’s fine. What I don’t. And what I don’t understand is why you would then continue to monitor for more than two to four weeks. Mm-hmm <affirmative> because we eat the same thing again and again, and again, and again, and again, like we are creatures of habit.

Tommy (00:38:48):
I eat the same thing multiple times during the week. Right. And so if I, if I monitor myself while I eat those things, that’s all the information I think that I need, because what then happens if you continue to monitor is, is you create you an, an, an anticipate stress response to the food that you’re about to eat. Right. <laugh> and I I’ve seen this on Instagram where people that, you know, they have continuous glucose monitors, and they’re like, I’m gonna eat this piece of cake and it’s gonna cause this big spike in blood sugar, and I’m already stressed about it. Um, and the, the, the thing is that yes. Okay. The, the cake is probably gonna cause a spike in blood glucose. I would argue that if you’re gonna enjoy that cake in the right scenario, I wouldn’t worry about it. Uh, but equally we know that if you anticipate a bigger blood sugar spike, you will have a bigger blood sugar spike.

Tommy (00:39:33):
So there was a study done by Ellen and Lang. This was in, in di in diabetics. Uh, but she gave them a milkshake or they, and they crossed over, right? So two different milkshakes, one milkshake, and they got to read the nutrition label. So like, this is how many carbs are in here. And obviously diabetics, particularly if they inject insulin, they know, right. I eat this many carbs. I have to inject this much into. So they, they, they have a high carb, um, milkshake and a low carb milkshake. And they see that unsurprisingly, the high carb milkshake causes a much bigger blood sugar spike than the low carb milkshake. The problem was that it was the same milkshake both times. Oh. So they see it. Here’s how many carbs I’m gonna eat. And it causes a bigger blood sugar spike than if they think there’s, there’s less carbs in there.

Tommy (00:40:17):
Right. And so I imagine in your bio hacker, who’s worried about his blood sugar. Like I see these carbs I’m about to eat and I cause a bigger blood sugar spike because I’m expecting it. Um, and, and then I know my, I know my CGM is gonna tell me, Hey, you know, you shouldn’t have eaten that piece of cake. And so there is useful information to be had here, but we can create stress responses around food, particularly, you know, and when we’re doing this particularly around carbohydrates, and I can’t think of a better word for it than I, I, you know, I see people do this. It, it is disordered eating. Like it is an eating disorder, you know, like worried about the amount of blood sugar spikes you’re gonna see on your CGM because of the cake that you just had.

Brad (00:41:00):
I wonder if you could, uh, manifest the opposite where this cake ain’t gonna bother me. I’m a, I’m a all star at processing sugar and moderate your stress response.

Tommy (00:41:12):
Yeah. So I believe that that is, is true and, and possible. Like we, we know that the effect works, even if you know that the placebo is a placebo <laugh> so right there have been there have been

Brad (00:41:25):
Here, lift this weight. That’s got, uh, you, you know, those fake, uh, weight plates that weigh, you know, one pound and it looks like 25 and you just, uh, yeah, you go in there and you get strong from, uh, pretending to lift weights. Oh my God.

Tommy (00:41:37):
So, so they, they have done studies where I think particularly in pain control is where they do this, where, you know, so, so, so most studies, you have a, a placebo control trial. You don’t know whether you’re taking the active drug or the placebo, but they’ve done studies where the placebo like, know it’s a placebo, here is a drug. It is a placebo. Take it. And you see improvements in, in pain response. So even if we know the placebo is a placebo, we can create, um, you know, a psychological effect then affects the way, the way that we respond. So if you were like this, you know, this cake isn’t gonna affect me. You know, I’m in eating it with my family. It’s my friend’s birthday. You know, you know, this is important, uh, uh, social scenario, it’s absolutely worth me eating this cake. I think you will get a smaller blood, sugar spike and, and worse. Like you can’t mitigate all of it. Of course. Right. Mm-hmm, <affirmative>, it’s not magic. Um, but, but there’s definitely the, the amount of impacts that your thoughts gonna have over this process is, is not ne

Brad (00:42:35):
Man, the brain is infiltrating everything where we’re, we’re always coming back to, uh, to Dr. Tommy’s baseline here. It’s, it’s just, it’s just messing with all our notions.

Tommy (00:42:46):
Yeah. So I, it is funny because, but the more time I spend thinking about this stuff and working on these things, you know, I’ve, I’ve worked with some of the top, top athletes and performers in the absolute world, you know, like house household names and you, you sort of, and, and I’ve worked with all the te like all the fancy tests that you can like throw at a person, try and understand their physiology. And I just, most of it just does, doesn’t really matter that much like, and, or, or the information is wrong and you kid yourself that it’s useful when it isn’t. Right. So, so we see this with a lot of, uh, genetic testing and, and what happens is you are like some, some of it’s just like self-fulfilling prophecy. So this, this says, um, oh, well, because of this genotype, you’re gonna respond really well to this type of training.

Tommy (00:43:36):
And you’re like, oh yeah, I like that kind of training. I’m I’m that kind of athlete that’s right. But then at the same time in the report, it’ll be like, oh, well, because of this genotype, you shouldn’t eat this food. And you’re like, well, that’s not true because I eat that food all the time and I feel great. So like, you take the bits that kind of fit into your world and you just ignore the rest. And this is what happens with the vast majority of, you know, complex testing and complex data. We’re like, we pick the stuff that already tells us what we wanted to know, and then we just ignore the rest. So then I’d just be like, well, maybe we just don’t need to do that. Uh, because the, you know, the big rocks for the, for, for most people, for the average person, you know, that’s, that’s, it does matter, you know, we know that matters and that’s where I would, that’s where I would focus rather than trying to optimize this or that.

Brad (00:44:17):
Wow. That’s interesting. It, it, it takes me back through the decades of athletic training and how incredibly sophisticated it’s become. And indeed we see continued progression with a lot of the records and that the raise standard of play in the NBA, uh, I don’t think your, your favorite Spurs of the nineties could compete with today’s team because everybody on the, on the court is shooting threes accurately and all that great stuff. But, um, putting that aside for a moment, um, and thinking of, you know, Rocky Balboa training for the fight against, uh, the laboratory created Drago and the great athletes of, of decades ago, um, whose performance standards still stand in in certain areas Elgar Rouge. My record is 25 years old. The high jump record is 30 years old, and these guys were probably out running, uh, on the, um, on the packed sand at low tide and doing all kinds of rudimentary stuff, that still, you know, holds to the, to the highest standards. And they probably enjoyed themselves and had more playful aspects. And there’s so much research about that versus just this linear approach to peak performance in athletics or anything else.

Tommy (00:45:25):
Yeah. And, you know, so its absolutely true athletic performance has continued. You need to get better. I mean across most sports, uh, obviously David Epstein makes the argument that most of it is due to improvements in technology rather than in terms of

Brad (00:45:41):

Tommy (00:45:42):
Raw human performance. So you put today’s athletes back on cinder tracks, right. They they’re gonna run a lot slower. Um, and so that’s, that’s an aspect of it too, but of course we’ve, we’ve improved, we’ve improved, uh, sleep and recovery and periodization of training. It used to be, um, much, much more so. So before people were professional athletes, um, you know, it was, it was obviously a little bit more haphazard, but then we got to the point where most training models were pretty attrition. Like you just beat yourself down for as long as you could. And that those people who survived that kind of training with the people that, that rose to the top. Um, but now we have a much better idea of, you know, personalizing you know, individualizing training based on responses, maybe a bit of physiology, you know, checks some heart rate variability and you make sure people sleep properly and you, you know, pay attention to nutrition. And it’s like, all this stuff does matter for peak performance. The problem is when we take that and we say all of this is important to make sure that I don’t get Alzheimer’s disease in 40 years time when in reality that’s probably not the case.

Brad (00:46:46):
So we kinda just to stay on fitness for a moment, you communicate this pretty low bar for how health optimization, Hey, I’m getting my 40 minute walk and I, I go on to the gym and throw weights around once in a while. And then, um, here I am, uh, you know, and, and same for you. Like we get a, a great amount of, um, positive energy and satisfaction from pursuing elevated athletic goals that very possibly could tiptoe us over that red line of optimal into, I mean, right now my, my glutes and my high hamstrings are sore for like an extended period, cuz I, I messed up and did too much in previous weeks. I don’t think that’s furthering my health nor is it furthering my fitness goals. So, you know, how do we walk that tight rope where we wanna get that pleasure and satisfaction from pursuing incredible goals and, and competing, uh, whether it’s with ourselves or others. And I’m, I’m mostly competing with myself, but I’m just as intense as whether I wanna beat my next door neighbor at the high jump. I know I already can. So it’s mainly about myself, but it’s no less, uh, level of intensity. And I know that sometimes gets in my way and compromises my, my long term development and all those things. So if you have any thoughts on that, we we’d love to hear for the competitive types listening.

Tommy (00:48:06):
So I, I obviously don’t have the perfect answer you you’re right. All I, I know that my strength, my muscle mass, my cardiovascular fitness, which are all pretty good compared to the average population, um, they’re more than they need to be for me to maintain ideal long term health, right? I’ve got a much bigger buffer than I need really. Um, and, and I acknowledge that I don’t need as much muscle mass as I have. You know, my, if I, if I look at, um, data from like average people at their VO, two max and you know, their, their risk of death, you know, if I maintain mine where it is, um, you know, it, it is probably higher than it needs to be for like optimal long term outcomes. And so, right then I, then I need to balance does that matter to me now versus long term and, and humans are really, I mean, we’re terrible at that, right?

Tommy (00:49:00):
<laugh>, um, we’re really very bad at, at long term planning. So I do those things one because there’s still, you know, the not very helpful voice in the back of my head that says, you know, you should be, you should have X, uh, shape. You should look X in the mirror. And I know that those are, those are my own issues to work through. I don’t think they’re necessarily beneficial. Um, but equally in order to motivate me to go to the gym, which I know is important, I need to have some kind of target or I’ll like, things just get boring or, you know, I’ll, I’ll, you know, I’ll skip more and more workouts and that cuz that’s just, I under, I understand my own motivation. So if I sign up for a strong man competition, then I know I have this competition coming up and I need to get in the gym, uh, and, and work out.

Tommy (00:49:46):
And I’d like to think that as I get older, the structure of my training, maybe not the volume currently, but the structure could stay the same. Like I lift weights four times a week and I do some kind of cardiovascular workout twice a week. Right. I think, you know, that could go down to maybe three and one or something or two and one, that’s probably gonna be enough. So I think that that structure is, is sustainable, but maybe not, maybe not the volume. Um, I, and you know, I’d like to think that I could, you know, compete as a master strong man when I’m 60. Right. That would, that would be a nice goal. Right? Um, so, so I think there is, there is a, a part of you, which is, you know, what, what do I need to do in order to keep myself consistent and keep doing these things that I know are beneficial versus, you know, just being honest with yourself about what is it that I think I want now versus what’s gonna be beneficial in the future.

Tommy (00:50:39):
That doesn’t mean that gives you an answer, but I think you should just, you should just, you should just know. Right. So I, like I said, I know that I don’t need as much muscle mass as I to, to survive a long time. There’s right. And actually, I don’t even know. So this is the interesting thing for me. I don’t even, it might be bad, right. I, the amount of muscle mass that I have and, and, and I don’t, again, I’m not, if you, if you look at Instagram, I’m not like the biggest or the strongest person by miles, nevertheless,

Brad (00:51:05):
People, this modest man here is, is pretty jacked. Especially if you’re lining up the professors at UDub or whatever other population you mix in, um, a picture of fitness, for sure. But yeah, it’s, it’s an excellent, excellent question to ask, like, yeah.

Tommy (00:51:21):
So the reason why I’m making this point is that right? So, so again, depending on who you, who are am myself too, right? Not that big, not that strong compared to the, the population I am big and strong. I appreciate that. However, if I want to look at study and I’ve done this recently, and I’ve done these like statistical analyses of population data sets myself looking at say, muscle mass and how long people live. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, there is nobody in a population data set that I can get hold of. That looks like me as my body composition. Right. So, so I know what the average person, the amount of muscle mass, the average person could have and would live along, you know, in the general population. And I think that’s useful so I, cause I can, I can give recommendations about that. But if I was like, well, if I found somebody, um, you know, with, with this amount of muscle mass and this amount of body fat, how long do they live?

Tommy (00:52:08):
If I don’t have that data, I just don’t know. Right? There’s, there’s a theoretical possibility that those people die sooner, but we just don’t have that data. So it’s worth bearing in mind that when we think about things like cardiovascular fitness and muscle mass and longevity, we are talking about data from truly average general population people. And then you are up who and you or I, right. There’s nobody in Hans who has the body competition that you do, Brad. So Hans being like this big population data set in the us where we, where we look at this stuff.

Brad (00:52:40):
Interesting. That’s like the, the Cooper Institute, the famous study that I talk about a lot, the competency and the one mile run at age 50. And they laud that very highly, even better than blood pressure readings and blood markers. And so they have a lot of people went through it to tens of thousands of people, uh, did their time in the mile at 50. And if you were under eight for male, under nine female, you were exceptional. And if you were over 12 or over 13, you were in the needs to improve high disease risk category that you couldn’t even go when asked to go all out, mind you with a stopwatch and a white person, a lab coat, white lab, coat, and clipboard. Um, that’s not very impressive and it shows that you’re, you’re on a bad path. Uh, but I think what you’re getting at is like, okay, um, what about the person who runs a, a 05:12 at age 50?

Brad (00:53:28):
We don’t, we don’t care or, or know much about their prospects, but you know, getting under eight for, for the average runner, who’s, you know, um, competent that’s, that’s not a big deal. Uh, but yeah, the outliers that, that, that reminds me, like I I’m asking this question, like who’s gonna to be 123 and break the record. Is it gonna be the Yogi who meditates for two hours every morning, like Deepak Chopra and walks around and eats a little bowl of rice and then, uh, does some stretches, or is it gonna be the person who maintains this impressive level of functional muscle mass and athletic exploits up into, uh, you know, the, the, the record centers in the master track, this guy, Charles Alley at the age of 70 broke 60 seconds for the quarter, it’s just absolutely astonishing. He’s like, it’s like grandpa coming outta the stands and running the anchor leg on the mile relay for a high school, varsity track meet. I mean, um, that guy seems like he has excellent longevity prospects, but maybe we’re, um, you know, interpreting this, um, with blind spots.

Tommy (00:54:28):
Yeah. The, I, I think that’s, that’s exactly the, the point that I’m, that I’m trying to make is that we assume that more is more and in reality

Brad (00:54:37):
More is better.

Tommy (00:54:38):
Yeah. More is better. And in reality, we just don’t know. So yeah, we have great, you know, I think if you are, um, if you’re, if you’re a man and you want to live as long as possible, you should have a fat free mass index above 18 or 19. And that’s something you can measure. If you, if you take how much you weigh and then you remove your body fat percentage. And then so that’s your total lean mass, you know, organs and muscle mass and bone, that kind of stuff. And then you can calculate an index sits limit to the BMI, you divided by your height in, in meters square, right? And so that is probably the amount of muscle mass or, or lean mass that you need for optimal long term health for the average person. I think that’s great. But if you were, if you’re a fat free mass of 25 or 26, which is right at the upper limits of what most people could possibly achieve with, with, very intense training and focus on, you know, nutrition and recovery and all that kind of stuff, weight and focus, particularly on weight training, there’s no data from people like that.

Tommy (00:55:37):
Right. So I just don’t like is if you get to that point is more better almost certainly not. So that’s like, and then you’re right. If you can run less than an eight minute mile, we know, you know, for an average person that’s, that’s associated with great V2, max, we know V2 max is an amazing predictor of longevity, probably the best one that, that we have, if you suddenly, you can easily improve and anywhere where you and what’s nice is it’s pretty much linear up until up to about maybe 40, uh, a V2 max of 40 to 50. Um, the, so wherever you start, any improvement has a very significant, uh, effect on your longevity. And so that’s, that’s something we know, but if you run a five minute mile, is that better than somebody who runs a six or seven minute mile? My guess is probably not in terms of longevity. Um, and also because of what you had to do in order to be able to do that. Certainly not something I’m gonna, certainly not something I’m gonna do anytime soon.

Brad (00:56:30):
Right? Uh, interesting Vo2 max listeners, if you’re not familiar, it’s a volume of oxygen. You can process per kilogram of body weight. So I, I, it occurs to me, I’ve never thought about this, but the less body weight you have, right, your member’s gonna be more favorable. So you’re talking about a lean person who also processes oxygen well. So you’re kind of hitting it from both sides. And that’s why the, the great, uh, Bjorn daily in the cross country skiers and Elga Rouge have put up the highest Vo2 max numbers as they’re extremely lean individuals. And they have, have a tremendous amount of, uh, oxygen capacity. So the average person, um, can improve and improve, improve by, by getting in better shape. And then they hit some ceiling where they get, uh, the five stars. And then they’re, they’re good to go from there, I suppose, is what you’re saying.

Tommy (00:57:19):
Yeah. So there’s a nice study, uh, in jama network open that came out for you, like think four years ago, 2018 Manang AAL, which, which looked at cardios, respiratory fitness measured as VOT max in people doing a, a, a treadmill test. And again, it’s just sort of regular people. And then they classified them by, by their level of, um, cardiovascular fitness. And they also separated by sex and age group. So they had like below average, average above average, high and elites, they called it. We’re not talking elite athletes. This is sort of elite, regular people. Um, and you can actually go, I can send you this table and you can like read it off and be like, here’s my age, here’s my VO two max. And like, here’s where I stand. And then you can see how that correlates with longevity. And again, it’s not.

Tommy (00:58:02):
So in somebody my age to be in the like above average or high group, you need a V02 max around 40 or 45. So, I mean, that’s fairly high, but it’s not elite elite, athlete by, by any stretch. So, you know, these are sort of average, average people numbers. Um, and what’s nice is that you don’t necessarily need to go out and get a formal V02 max assessment. There are some good proxies. So there’s the Cooper run test, right? That probably that comes from the Cooper data you talked about earlier, right? So how far can people run in 12 minutes is how they do it. And then there’s a, you can use your, your body weight and your distance, uh, to estimate your V02 max. Um, if you prefer a row machine, then if you get on a concept two rower and you row two K, 2000 meters as fast as you can, then there’s a calculator based on a couple of studies on their website that can estimate your view to max.

Tommy (00:58:54):
So there are like ways to estimate this, but basically if you do a max effort in like five to 15 minutes, and it could be max effort on the bike or a run or rowing machine, if you either in a set amount of time, get further, or for a set amount of distance, get there faster, your V02 max is improved. So that’s just like a really, that’s like an easy way that anybody can sort of test themselves against themselves over time to see if their VO 2 max is improving without having to like really measure the number

Brad (00:59:24):
Without having to go breathe into a mask on a treadmill, to the point of complete exhaustion. Those are some of the hardest things I’ve ever done in sports is going in the lab and doing the VO two max test. Okay. So, uh, we have this, um, you know, sensible and basic, not necessarily extreme commitment to fitness. We’re gonna be choosing the right foods and going back and listen to the other Tommy shows where we got more into those details and a really sensible approach. Uh, but then I guess, like layering back in that stuff, we talked about mindset, uh, forming this incredibly empowering mindset where you’re gonna use the placebo effect to maximum advantage and saying, I’m gonna live a long time. I’m gonna feel great. I do this and that it might not be perfect, but, um, it’s enough to get me to the exceptional category.

Brad (01:00:12):
And then I guess you’re firing on all cylinders in that respect. Um, but I, now that I’ve made that, uh, rant, um, I also wanna, uh, ask you about these, uh, rationalizations and cop outs that we hear in general everyday life, where, you know, I I’ll be talking with my peers or whoever, and they think they’re really healthy. But they, upon further scrutiny, you might want to, um, look at that, uh, visceral body fat score and see what’s in their cupboard, how much refined industrial seed oil is still present in the diet. And I think a lot of us are kind of delusional for some reason. Um, and it, it might not be serving us. So what’s the, what’s the right way to leverage that empowering mindset and also get your shit together?

Tommy (01:00:58):
Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s a good, um, it’s a good question. And, you know, I’ve struggled with in, in various ways because, right, so you have a friend and you can see that way circumference, you can see that visceral outta positivity, right there is pointing that out to them gonna benefit them in any way. And in reality, it probably doesn’t, it probably just benefit you because you feel better. Having told them that, Hey, you know, you’re a, you know, you don’t look great or you’ve probably got instant resistance and that’s associated with increased risk of death. So the, the starting point has to be, are you somebody who’s in a place who’s interested in identifying things and making changes, right? So like just offloading this stuff onto other people I don’t think is, is particularly useful. So there’s, there’s two, there’s two parts of that.

Tommy (01:01:50):
One is that the vast majority of people probably who listen to this podcast already do all the things that you, you said. And, and, and I just wanna reiterate that if you, you know, have a reasonably good muscle mass, you don’t have insulin resistance, you get seven hours of sleep, you move for 30 to 45 minutes every day, you don’t smoke, you don’t drink a lot of alcohol and you have good social connection. You already have probably added 20 years to your life. Like not even joking, like compared to the average population, like that’s, that’s the size of the effect that, that we’re looking at. And so, like everything else in addition to that, teeny tiny, probably not even worth worrying about for, for most people. So that’s like, that’s one part. The other part is so, you know, for others who maybe aren’t in that scenario, you need to find the thing that they’re interested and motivated to change, right.

Tommy (01:02:48):
Or find a way to help them find that motivation if there’s something that they’re interested in. So it, it, it just goes back to, you know, so if, if somebody’s like, you know, my dad had a heart attack at 60, and I’m starting to look like him in the mirror. Right. Is that the motivating factor? Then he, that, that then opens the door and it’s like, well, you know, here are some things that we know well, a will improve your health outcomes. Even if you don’t change how you look in the mirror, right. Mm-hmm, <affirmative>, you can take a, a weight neutral approach, which can be, or body composition, neutral approach, which can be really beneficial to some people, right. Just go out and walk for half an hour a day, may not change anything else, but dramatic effects on your health, or, you know, maybe it’s, you know, here, you know, here we removing refined carbohydrates or refined seed oils, you know, that’s, you just remove those from the covers, maybe that thing, and then waste conference comes out.

Tommy (01:03:39):
So I think it’s, it’s, it’s a matter of finding what motivates the person. Um, and then sort of beyond motivation. Again, this is something I’ve learned from Simon Marshall, more important. The motivation is commitment. Cause motivation fluctuates like today. I don’t really feel very motivated to go and do my workout. I have to go and do sprints on the rower as part of my program. And to be honest, I hate it every time. And it sucks. It really sucks, but I’m committed to doing that. Cause I know it’s, I have a, I have a, a competition in six weeks and it’s gonna help me perform. Right. So I’m committed to doing it. So being committed to something is more important than having motivation cuz motivation fluctuates. So again, finding something that helps you be committed to a change and then, you know, go in, even though it’s not all evidence based and some behavioral psychologists like hate bits of it, uh, because it isn’t, it’s applicable and it’s useful.

Tommy (01:04:34):
And it speaks to people go and read atomic habits by James Clear sort of breaks down how you start to build these things a into parts of your identity, but also just make it so that it happens automatically, right. Be it that, you know, a 10 minute walk every day or, you know, you know, changing little bits of your diet or little bits of your sleep, um, that’s kind of how, how I’d approach it. Um, although going back to the fact that most of the people who listen to this my guess is they are already doing those things. So then just so that, and, and, and enjoy it

Brad (01:05:05):
Hope so. Right. So if we’ve added that big fat 20 year chunk, uh, now we’re getting up into life expectancy of, uh, I guess, uh, you know, 90 instead of 70 or, or whatever you wanna throw on there. Um, and then to, to go further, sounds like we don’t have a definitive answer in that. Uh, more is not better in many ways, including muscle mass, including aerobic, cardiovascular, athletic fitness, um, including extreme dietary scrutiny, to the extent that we’re, militant about out it. Um, don’t need to have that, uh, monitor on for the next three decades straight in order to achieve the thing. So, um, what is that, uh, distance zone there, if we aspire to, to go into the centenarian category,

Tommy (01:05:51):

Brad (01:05:52):
Genetics, I mean <laugh> yeah.

Tommy (01:05:54):
Then so then like genetics plays a, a huge, a huge role. Um, and you know, there are other things that become important. So, you know, maybe you keep an eye on things like, you know, so some regular blood testing, right. That, you know, that’s where I think things become useful. So maybe you look at hormone levels, nutrient status mm-hmm <affirmative>, um, and, and just like ticking off the, the, the things that are, are obvious. So, you know, really dysregulated blood glucose or blood lipids or inflammation, right. Inflammation is one of the best predictors or lack of in lack of inflammation is one of the best predictors of li living a long life. And if you do have elevated inflammation, you know, is it an injury, is it dental disease? Is it, you know, some, you know, a food intolerance or an infection or something. Right.

Tommy (01:06:37):
So, so just stuff like that, you know, that you could probably add, add a few years, add a few years there. Certainly. Um, but, but everything else, I, I, I honestly don’t think we know the majority of longevity supplements or drugs that people might recommend currently, um, Metformin, um, I think, or the, the data suggests that in people who are physically active metabolically, healthy, good body composition, I don’t think they’re gonna be beneficial and they may be detrimental. Um, then, uh, so, you know, there’s a couple of studies in supposedly healthy, older adults. Um, you know, at least they don’t have diabetes and other things, if you, if they’re taking Metformin, they respond on average. So it’s not like there’s variability as there always is, but on average they’ll respond less well to an aerobic training program and less well to a resistance training program.

Tommy (01:07:30):
They’ll gain less V02 max on average and less muscle mass on average, uh, if they’re taking Metformin versus placebo. So if you are somebody who’s doing all the things we’ve talked about, I don’t think there’s any evidence. Those things are beneficial and they may be detrimental. Other stuff like Rapamycin is probably going to be, um, you know, the ne it is the next big longevity drug it’s being studied in multiple ways, including the, um, the dog rapamycin study at the university of Washington. We don’t have the answer there yet PO it works in pretty much every animal model, uh, that you could imagine. Um, but we don’t have good evidence for humans yet, but it it’s coming, but it’s not at the point yet where I’d be like, this is so good that I would just like, recommend it to everybody. I, I think all of these things, you know, the drugs and all this other kinda stuff that we’re recommending, I think the biggest signal is in people who are already down the pathway of chronic disease, and then there’s probably benefit, you know, so, but if you’ve managed to do all the stuff that we’re talking about and you’re still in pretty good shape, I’m not sure what, what, what additional benefit they’re gonna provide?

Brad (01:08:35):
Hey, people, Dr. Tommy Wood says no shortcuts. I love it. <laugh> we, we killed it today. We covered so much interesting ground. It was just, uh, wild times. I appreciate it so much. Um, we will get you back on the show on, on regular intervals, cuz we just have to, it’s just so fascinating and tell us what you’ve been up to and, uh, where to, uh, connect with you further.

Tommy (01:08:58):
Sure. So I think over the, over the time period that you and I have known each other, I’ve become more and more of a professor and academic. Obviously I still do this kind of stuff. I still try and find ways to apply, uh, the science to real people. But my, my day job is running a lab at the University of Washington. Um, and uh, you know, doing animal studies and trying to figure out how to treat brain injury. That’s the majority of my work. Um, people can, you know, either look me up on pub, if they’re really interested in that kind of stuff or Instagram is probably the place you’re most likely to find me. I’ll usually post, um, you know, interesting that are very relevant to this, uh, arena or, you know, maybe you’ll see a picture of something that’s happening in the gym or a picture of a, of a white boxer, um,

Brad (01:09:46):
Occasional rare photo of the, of the magnificent animal, the white boxer. And it is a real thing. People it’s, it’s worth it’s worth following you on Instagram, just for that and all the other great stuff too.

Tommy (01:09:57):
Yeah. So at Dr. Tommy Wood come and find me hang out, uh, with my white boxer of Boeing, uh, she’ll, she’ll be highly appreciative.

Brad (01:10:04):
Thank you so much, Tommy. Thanks for listening everybody. Da da da, da, da, da. Thank you for listening to the show. I love sharing the experience with you and greatly appreciate your support please. Email podcast@Bradventures.com with feedback, suggestions and questions for the Q and A shows. Subscribe to our email list@bradkearns.com for a weekly blast about the published episodes and a wonderful bimonthly newsletter edition with informative articles and practical tips for all aspects of healthy living. You can also download several awesome free eBooks when you subscribe to the email list. And if you could go to the trouble to leave a five or five star review with apple podcasts or wherever else, you listen to the shows that would be super, incredibly awesome. It helps raise the profile of the B.rad Podcast and attract new listeners. And did you know that you can share a show with a friend or loved one by just hitting a few buttons in your player and firing off a text message? My awesome podcast player called Overcast allows you to actually record a sound bite excerpt from the episode you’re listening to and fire it off with a quick text message. Thank you much for spreading the word and remember Brad.




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