Mark Sisson joins me to discuss my recent reflections on the fundamental principles of ancestral health, metabolic flexibility, why any form of exercise counts as cardio, and the greatest misconceptions about ‘calories in, calories out.’
We talk about time-restricted feeding, training, glycogen, and increasing carb consumption, and if there is an optimal number or range of calories you should take in every day. Mark also touches on why he describes his diet as “keto-ish” and not as fully keto, reveals what the ultimate “Ancestral skill” is, and explains the importance of looking at your meals granularly when you’re in performance mode.
Basic metabolism works pretty much in alignment in all of us. [01:40]
Is it as simple as calories in, calories out? [05:09]
Brad is enjoying his recent change in eating by consuming food in the morning instead of fasting and eating more fruit. [07:16]
The extra carbs that Brad is taking in have not added fat to his body. If one is consuming extra calories than one needs, the body adjusts to burn the excess calories. [11:11]
What is enough movement? What is enough protein intake? Our ancestors were focused on survival, not performance. [15:50]
We are wired to overeat. You need to be intuitive. [21:09]
Time restricted feeding’s benefit is that you are not consuming unnecessary calories. Eat the most amount of nutritious food that you can without gaining extra body fat. [25:00]
There has to be a balance in your athletic goals and how you want to live your life. [27:44]
Overdoing your exercise is antithetical to longevity. Eat more nutritious food (mostly protein) and move more. [39:46]
You can’t fix a bad diet with portion control. [43:24]
What about thyroid function? [44:40]
What does Mark’s future look like as far as his exercise routine goes? [45:31]
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I’m author and athlete, Brad Kearns. Welcome to the B.rad podcast, where we explore ways to pursue peak performance with passion throughout life. Visit brad kearns.com for great resources on healthy eating, exercise, and lifestyle. And here we go with the show.
Mark Sisson, I’ve been calling you in desperation for about three decades. Remember back in the triathlon times when I was training with some of the top guys and I just couldn’t match their level of, of volume. Right. And I’m like, Mark, I sleep so much. I’m eating right. What’s going on? And I kept asking you and peppering you like, but Pigg wakes up the morning after a race and rides a hundred miles. And finally, like, you ended the conversation thread with, Hey man, life’s a bitch. <laugh>. And it was the best answer ever. And I was like, yeah, man, why am I comparing to other people? Right. Why don’t I just, you know, stay on my path and do what works for me and not worry about it. Yeah. So it worked. And then here we are years later. Yeah. Yeah. We’ve been talking a lot offline, cuz I’m calling you up going, Mark, there’s some challenges to the fundamental principles of ancestral health, like fasting, keto, time-restricted feeding, carb restriction.
And, I’ve had some reflections lately. I’d love to run these by you.
Have us all reflect a little bit.
You’ve explained very nicely the concept of metabolic flexibility as the, the holy grail of health. Is that, that’s it. Yeah.
That’s it. The holy grail of health. Yeah.
Now that metabolic flexibility means many things, and it might be nice to like, compare and contrast with this. I say emerging concept of eat more, more, move more, get fitter.
Be more active.
And that may might conflict at first glance with how good can you get at fasting or optimizing your caloric intake rather than going and looking to eat more?
Well, I mean, first of all, let’s go back 30 plus years to the advice, or the observation. Life’s a bitch . Um, it basically described this concept that we’re all unique in some ways. Uh, yeah. Our, uh, basic metabolism works pretty much in alignment. You know, we all burn fat in the same way. We all build muscle the same way. We all have immune systems that work the same way. It’s just the degree to which we do these things. It varies. A lot of it has to do with our, our parental genetic contribution. You know, our, what we inherited from our parents. Some of it has to do, a lot of it has to do with our current lifestyle and our diets and our exercise patterns. So the extent to which we build muscle or burn fat or support an immune system. Um, you know, there are a lot of variables in what I would call this complex equation.
And at the end of the day, you know, the, I think the biggest revelation from all of the ancestral health templates that have, that have been cast about in the blogosphere and, and, you know, in books and seminars, is basically the experiment of one and equals one. Like you are an experiment of one. And as long as you are able to understand the basic principles of biology and metabolism, and as long as you’re willing to observe what happens when you consciously make changes in your exercise patterns, then you can learn from that in a way that best suits you to moving toward your goal. So there, you know, there’s an obligation to understand, to learn. Um, there’s an obligation to be willing to make changes and then and note the outcome of those changes, right? And then either choose to incorporate that or not into your life.
So that gets us to this, you know, the, the latest, you know, uh, calories in, calories out, which has been a, you know, that’s been a topic of discussion for decades within the community. Is it as simple as, if I eat fewer calories and move more, I will lose weight? Or is it, is it a bit more nuanced that it’s, you know, does it come down to the types of calories that I choose to consume? The timing of those calories, the input, um, the amount of sleep I’m getting as it relates to the stress and the stress impact on the calories? And, and I’ve always said, and we’ll always say it’s extremely nuanced that the idea that, I mean, we, we sort of hit upon this the other day. Um, some of our contemporaries in this space have said, um, you know, uh, they’ve swung the pendulum back toward kind of calories and calories out in that, you know, like eat more quality foods and move more is, is now the mantra.
Like, eat more protein and move more. I don’t disagree with that. In principle, eating more protein. I would say even when we talk about food, we should probably break it down into its component parts. Protein is like the essential element, the most essential element of what we, of what we consume. And so if we ate mostly protein and then a little bit of fat and, and varied the amount of carbohydrate we took in, everyone would be well off for doing that. From there, you just have to decide how much protein am I willing to eat? And how many, how much carbohydrate do I want to consume in, in pursuit of a hedonistic gustatory experience, right? Because at the end of the day, we still have to live our lives. We still have to consume this, these calories. We have to take in these nutrients, but we also want to enjoy the experience.
Eating shouldn’t be this thing that, oh, I have to do because I brought my Tupperware and I’ve got my little skinless boneless chicken breast and steamed rice, you know, and it’s, and it’s time to eat. And if I don’t eat, then my, somehow my metabolism will go haywire, you know? And I, and I’ll lose all my gains with a Z um, <laugh>. So, you know, we we’re gonna try, I guess, in this talk here, in this, in this piece here to kind of unpack some of that mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and, uh, and, and it ultimately, it doesn’t matter because ultimately you’re gonna live a great life. You’re gonna, much of, much of your enjoyment of life is gonna be up to you and the choices you make and how you experience life and your perception of what goes on and how you react to the negative things that go on about you. So this little, this diet part of it is one little area of life that I happen to have a lot of information on, and I think I can give some advice, but even that is tempered by the fact that there are so many alternatives, so many choices, so many different ways to, to eat and to you know, build muscle, burn fat, support an immune system, have all the energy you want, not get sick and, and not get hungry,
Right. Those are important checkpoints. And every time you say metabolic efficiency, metabolic flexibility, what’s the least amount of food I can eat and nail all these objectives? So we definitely want to take that outta context. But I always should relate my recent experiment where I said, okay, I’m listening to, to this new information and, and processing it. I’m gonna try to wake up in the morning and instead of my historic pattern of fasting or nibbling on dark chocolate until midday, and then I’d prepare my delicious meal and then have another meal, Two Meals a Day, <laugh>, great book, I heard.
Now I said, okay, I’m gonna wake up and hit a huge bowl of fruit and a huge high protein smoothie with liver chunks in there, and fruit and creatine and all these performance agents. So I’m, I’m fully fueled every morning versus relying on my metabolic flexibility that I’ve worked so hard for to feel great and be alert and do a workout, and then go sit down to my meal at midday.
I can’t report any amazing breakthroughs where now I’m setting records on the track. In fact, I’m injured, so I’m not setting any records. I don’t know if that matters. However, one important thing to note is my body composition, my body weight is the same, even though I’ve been consuming significantly more total calories for this past now it’s about six months. So the question comes, where do those calories go? Am I turning up some important dials like my thyroid, my immune function, my performance, and my recovery rate? Um, or does it <laugh>? Does it matter? Do you have any observations?
So I only have observations that are sort of based on my, um, personal experience and my opinions. But basically I would say you started this new, uh, experiment fully metabolically mm-hmm. <affirmative> flexible. So you’ve, you’ve achieved metabolic flexibility. And by that we mean you’ve, uh, spent years, uh, <laugh>, uh, with different practices that we’ve both engaged in, whether it was primal to begin with, then keto, so certainly low carb, uh, high fat keto. Then it was restricted eating, intermittent fasting, two meals a day. So over the years, you’ve developed a metabolic flexibility, which gives you the leeway to now be able to consume more calories, burn, and still efficiently burn the carbohydrate, the excess carbohydrate that I might suggest you’re taking in the carbs that you don’t really need, but it doesn’t matter that you eat them. So there’s a, there’s, there’s a, a differentiation right there.
You don’t really need those extra carbs, but the fact that you can eat them and you can burn them off selectively in, you know, initially in your workouts mm-hmm. <affirmative> doesn’t, doesn’t negate any of your metabolic flexibility, doesn’t negate any of the work you’ve done. It’s just telling me that you, you’ve ended a phase of metabolic flexibility where you can get away with consuming more calories throughout the day. Now we would ask, is that a good thing or is that a bad thing? Or has that had no impact at all? I don’t know the answer, but I do know, or I do suspect that once again, um, in, in consuming more calories than we actually need, the body, and especially a body that’s efficiently, um, adapted to burning fat and, and, and manufacturing ketones, a body will be prepared to amp up the metabolism and find ways to burn off the excess calories.
Ergo not altering body composition by adding body fat simply because you’ve added calories. So this, this kind of brings up a whole question about like, what’s, is there an optimum number of calories that you take in, in a day? Or is it an optimum range of calories that you can take in a day mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And at the low end of the range, as long as you don’t exceed the lower and go even lower than that, you’re fine. And you’re, and, and you’re adapt, adapted and adept at doing what you’re doing. And at the high end of that same range, and maybe that range is a thousand calories a day for you mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, from lowest to highest. If you’re within that range, even at the high end of the range, you’re, you’re still, uh, your body’s a adjusting to the intake of the extra intake of calories by the, you know, the thermic effective food by revving at a slightly higher rate, by incorporating, by maybe using brown fat at a, at a, at a, um, a higher level.
Like if I was really, if I was doing an experiment with you, I would want know like, what’s your temp, what’s your sleep temperature now?
In a controlled situation, are you sleeping hotter now?
Then, and then you would have at the low end of that caloric temperature right now temperature throughout the day. Right? Yeah. So, so there’s no, there’s no wrong answer. Well, there’s a lot of wrong answers. There’s no right answer to this. There’s, there’s several right answers, right. There’s no, but there’s no, there’s, there’s a lot of wrong ways to do this. But there are a lot of right ways to figure out, you know, how, how to incorporate this. And as we discussed a couple of days ago, I don’t even look at my nutrition plan meal to meal, or day to day. I look at it maybe in the, over the course of a week mm-hmm. <affirmative>,
Like, did I cover all the bases? Did I have enough protein? Did I have ample protein to support you know, muscle growth, bone growth the manufacturing and remanufacturing of all the enzyme systems? Uh, did I get enough fat to offset the need to burn my own stored body fat? Did I get enough carbs to fill the glycogen reserves enough to do the hard glycolytic workouts that I did? So when you talk about your performance hasn’t changed, and you are, and you’re entering a workout in the morning fully fueled, it’s, maybe it’s after the workout, but just like you said over the course of a week’s time. Right. But I mean, you made a point there. So fully fueled. So a lot of people say, well, you know, I, and a lot of trainers would say, make sure you have something to eat before you come to the gym.
Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, I want you to be fully fueled for your workout.
And, and, and like, what is, what does fully fueled mean to me? <laugh>, it doesn’t mean that you had something in your belly that’s just hanging out there, there, uh, diverting blood away from your muscles Yeah. To try and, or, or when you work out diverting the digesting process.
The. you know, the blood away from that. Right. The opposite, the opposite of that. And if you’ve crafted a workout schedule that, that isn’t an elite level workout schedule, but is one contemplated to maintain or build muscle mass, maintain energy, and stay and, and hit that same peak of health and fitness. In other words, you’re not training so much that fitness continues to go up, but health declines. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, then I would submit that your muscles are already fully, they’re, they’re already full of glycogen and the fact, and whether, whether you have, you know, 500 grams of glycogen in your muscles Yeah. Or 425 Yeah. You still have enough to get through. Yeah. A hard worker.
What if they’re half full? I still have
Enough. You still have enough.
Maybe I’ll get near empty and then go have a big meal. To
Which, at which, at which point some coaches would say that’s the best way to train. Because you’re training in a, you know, even though you’ve got enough glycogen in your muscles, if you, if you drop it down to empty mm-hmm. <affirmative> by the end of the workout, that’s that point at which your body makes the adaptation to become more metabolically efficient, more metabo, metabolically flexible, so that the next time you do this, it’ll be easier. Yeah, of course. Of course the, you know, the, the process of training involves not doing the same thing over and over again. Well, for a lot of people it does. But, but trying to improve Right. In a stairstep fashion, in a ratchet fashion. Um, in a cyclical fashion. Cuz because, you know, over time, um, even elite athletes, especially elite athletes will go through a cycle where they’re bill, bill, bill build, and then they’ll stop and they’ll have to mm-hmm. <affirmative>, they’ll have to drop off for a little bit just to get the repair mm-hmm. <affirmative> and all of the, the rebuilding necessary to hit the next level of upswing mm-hmm. <affirmative> the next level of improvement. So, um, so where does that leave us? I mean, you know, I agree with when, when our, when our contemporaries say, make sure you eat enough and mostly protein, and make sure you move enough. I’ve always said that mm-hmm. <affirmative>, really the, the question is what’s enough,
What’s enough? And then also, the question that keeps coming up for me is like, what’s possible versus what’s optimal. And it opens up a whole nother <laugh> like a paradigm here where this ancestral health movement has become so popular and it’s exploded and there’s all these different opinions and people might be forgetting at the very start, what you said with the Primal Blueprint 10 laws is these laws are to be adapted into the realities of modern life, right. Including wanting to enjoy yourself. And it now seems like we’re obsessed with honoring our ancestors to the extent that we model them and all the shit that they went through. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and I believe that, you know, the hunter gatherer, uh, message is that they were focused on survival. Yeah. They weren’t focused on peak performance. They were not trying to break van Niekerk’s record in the 400 meters, nor, like you always mentioned, they could do their amazing endurance feat and kill the antelope stalking it for four hours, but they sure as heck weren’t doing it the next day. Right. Getting up and running an easy 10 or whatever. So I want to go for optimal rather than what’s possible. Right. And I know keto is possible for me and doing workouts and all that. Right. But I don’t think I was optimal because the stress factors were stacking up on one side of the balance scale. Yep. My age, the workout that I wanted to do, the fact that I was deliberately restricting carbohydrates, which might have given me a performance benefit if I did go home and refuel with a big dose. So
Between, plus you were doing
Right. And you were doing, uh, you know, uh, cold hormesis, right. <laugh>. Right. Which is, which is a huge stressor.
And, uh, having a stressful modern life Yeah. Where I was firing up my computer Yeah. And engaging in more stress producing
Yeah, yeah. Building a business
Activities, getting divorced, whatever, when I was doing keto Yeah, yeah. All this stuff, boom, boom,
Boom. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So, so that, when I say it’s a, it’s a complex equation. It’s a very complex equation. And so it’s so, it’s so difficult to try and identify one variable and say, if I just changed this one variable, everything’s gonna be better. Yeah. So you have to look at it in the context of an entire, uh, you know, uh, life. And I would say, you know, had you not gone through a divorce, had you not been doing cold hormesis, had you been refueling after your heart, like specifically refueling after your hard glycolytic workouts with 150 grams of carbs from sweet potatoes or something like that mm-hmm. <affirmative>, then keto would’ve been mm-hmm. <affirmative> would’ve been sustainable for the rest of your life. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> for you. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. I, on the other hand, um, I, I’m people, you know, cause we’ve written a couple of books on keto and intermittent fasting and Two Meals a Day. And, um, I’m not keto, I’m keto ish mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, but when I say I’m not keto, there are days on end. There are three, four days in a row. Well, I’ll, I’ll have nothing but, um, protein and fat. Right? Yeah. Then there’ll be a day where I have, um, 350 grams of carbs,
Gelato, and then pasta. The vacation. Yeah.
Yeah. Um, but because I’m metabolically flexible and efficient, the only thing I might notice is, you know, I might get bloating from sugar or, or, you know, some form of pasta that, that doesn’t agree with me because of the wheat content. Mm-hmm. The gluten content, but the actual composition of the calories and the macro profile has no short-term or, of course, no long-term, but no short-term effect on, well, I’m bloated and I’m, uh, I I’m kicked outta key keto, so my, you know, so now I’m, I’m, I’m logy cuz my brain doesn’t, is fuzzy because I gave it a dose of carbs. And when I go back to keto, it takes a away No, I’m flexible enough that, that I’ve developed this skill, which is basically the ancestral skill. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, there’s food and there isn’t food. Full stop. You just have to be able to, you know, to, to go with that flow.
And then in the context of modern society, understand that when there’s food, you don’t need to overeat. Because even though we’re wired to overeat, we’re wired to overeat because for two and a half million years of human evolution, they say 3 million now and a hundred million years of mammalian evolution before that, um, you know, we were wired, overeat because there was not going to be any food for a while. And so we had this amazing system that, that takes excess food that we take stores still, again, it’s incredible and stores it as fuel that we get to carry around with us, conveniently located right above the center of gravity, like on the hips and on the thighs and on the and on the belly. And then it sort of works its way up. That’s why this, you know, the apple shape mm-hmm. <affirmative>
Is kind of a, even the pear shape, uh, that, that heavy people find themselves in. Those are, um, those are so, um, advantageous in a survival situation. If you have to walk, you know, over the next five days you have to walk a hundred miles to get to the next source of food. Imagine if we stored <laugh>, if we stored our fat on our shoulders Right. We’d be top heavy. Yeah. Look, it’s bad enough that we’re on two feet. We’re basically segues Yeah. That, that how do we not, like how do we not fall over every step we take? Well, you know, part of it’s because of this center of gravity, obviously balance. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> obviously most of us want to go barefoot or wear minimalist footwear to stylish minimalist footwear. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Anyway, so, so, um, you know, the, the ultimate goal that I have for most of my readers and adherence and followers is I want you to be intuitive about, about your meals so that there’s never a thought process of like, okay, what would Mark do?
Or how would Mark be yelling at me right now? Or what did I read in that last book that said, you know, I can’t, I can’t have this at this meal. No. You just intuitively over time adjust and adapt to whatever setting it is. And that could be you know, shopping at Erewhon or Whole Foods on an empty stomach <laugh> and buying and buying stuff that you looks really good right now. And I’m really, you know, and, and, and, you know, or it could be going to a restaurant and rather than going, well, nothing I can eat on this menu, there’s nothing I can do here, to knowing exactly how to order on any off of any menu. The first experience you and I had of that, I don’t know if you remember this, but I came up to Sacramento to give a talk, Uhhuh <affirmative>. And we went out to a,
Dos Coyotes there, the local chain of, uh, fresh Mex Fresh
Mex Yeah. Yeah. And we look at the menu and it’s Taco Burrito Empanada to, and it’s, uh, wheat, you know, wheat tortilla, corn tortilla. And you and I look at each other and we’re like, I like a bowl of carne asada, a bowl of guacamole and some sour cream. It was one of the best meals we ever had. Yeah.
You know? Well, they were confused for a while when you, you asked for like a double side order of, uh, of steak. Yeah. And they didn’t know what to charge and <laugh> it ended up to be like four bucks or six bucks for this giant plate to beat. Yeah. Yeah. That was crazy. Yeah. You just tricked them. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Um, well, you bring up those points about the constant access to food now, unfettered access to indulgent foods. And it occurs to me that a lot of the success of the things that we’ve been talking about and the strategies that people have employed with great success, keto, fasting, all that, the benefits are essentially indirect because they keep you away from unfettered access to indulgent foods, or they help regulate your emotions and your, you know, uh, issues that you have that you’ve developed toward food for your whole life.
So now all of a sudden, because you’re fasting until noon Dr. Peter Attia mentions that this wonderful research about time restricted feeding and it’s so awesome for lifespan. The, the only benefit is a default reduction in the number of calories you consume. It’s not the magic of tightening up your window, oh, I’m now on a six hour window instead of an eight hour window. I’m doing better. It’s only the backdoor benefits, which is not to discount them in any way because we need that control. Mark Bell talks about just controlling your life. Everyone wants to have a sense of control mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So now you have a sense of control about food because you’re keto and you have your card to prove it. You always talk about the keto card. You’re not gonna lose your keto card if you have one dessert. Yeah. Yeah. Um, but if that indeed is the main benefit of these things, and I want to consider myself, I wanna rise above all that and just focus on peak performance recovery, more peak performance, better body composition, better muscle mass throughout life, then am I asking myself a different question and going back to the eat more, move more concept.
If I solely choose highly nutritious, easy-to-digest foods and I’m eating more. Yeah. Could I, could I, theoretically, you’re talking about different ways to burn off those calories and I don’t need them, but if I, if I need them to qualify for the Masters’ Track Meet, is this a reasonable strategy to just hit it hard? Dr. Tommy Wood told me this a few years ago. Yeah. He said, eat as much nutritious food as you can until you gain a pound of fat and then you dial it back. Yep. And that’s what he considers optimal. But that’s, that’s distinct from someone who’s getting better and better at fasting and tightening up their window in the name of autophagy and health and all these things.
No, I, I would agree with, with Dr. Tommy Wood, I would say that, um, if you are in a, uh, performance, uh, mode and your goal is to continue to improve then you, you need to look at granularly at the meals, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you need to look at what’s the workout plan over the next seven days and how do the meals assist with my accomplishing the goal of the workout. So, uh, and to the, to the extent that eating the most amount of nutritious food that you can without gaining extra body fat, I would say that’s a, that’s probably a really good plan. Because as we said, you know, as we said for 20 years, and I’ve said for 40, um, training for elite competition is antithetical to health mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So there’s a point at which you say, I wanna improve my performance, I’m willing to sacrifice my health, whatever that looks like a little bit Yeah.
To get to that level. And it may not be some obvious, you know, short-term thing, you might get more colds and flu because you’re stressed out more. But, um, there, there’s the recognition that, that at some point there’s, there’s an optimum level where, um, health and fitness climb the chart together, <laugh>, uh, because what’s good for one is good for the other. But then as you start to add the elements that require, um, the breakdown of the body, and that’s really what physical performance at its highest level looks like. Like how much, how incrementally more can I break my body down, but not too much mm-hmm. <affirmative> so that with the right rest and nutrition, I build it back even stronger within the next 24, 48, 72 hour period. So it is a different, it’s a different mindset when you are seeking peak performance. I’m coming that it’s, it’s, it’s weird cuz this has sort of been a through line in my life, but, you know, I was pre-med in college and I realized, uh, in order to get into med school you had to get all A’s it was, this is back, I dunno what it is like now, but back in my day, med school was, now it’s.
just getting into University of California, you have to have all A’s.
Yeah. Yeah. So like a year in, I’m like, this sucks. I have to, I have to study like 10 hours a day <laugh> to get all A’s. Yeah. And, you know, seven hours a day to get A minus average, but I get a B plus with three hours a day <laugh>. And so I said, with more free time to Yeah. And I said, you know what? I’m not that interested in med school. Yeah. And I am interested in getting good grades, but I’m not interested in allocating that amount of my life. Yeah. In other words, the marginal utility of the next hour of studying dropped off dramatically. Maybe you should have been an econ major instead. I know. I know know. Um, I minored in econ <laugh>, so, so I did two to three hours of study a day and got my B plus. Yeah. Average. Um, and so that’s now kind of how I live my life. I love it. Which, which is, yeah. I like to be in B plus fitness, so I’m not racing Ironman next year in the 70 plus age group, we talked about it, but we saw
Those times were pretty
Fast still. So I could, I could do it on a, on a bet Right. With the whole on a bet if I was willing to give up. Right. A lot of my enjoyment of life over the next year,
Say goodbye to Grandpa JJs gonna go train for five hours like he did in
The eighties. Yeah. . Um, I could, I could do that, but it, it’s not appealing to me. Right. So, um, so my own particular vision of health and fitness in combination and, and maximizing or optimizing each before the inflection point drops off is, you know, I, I have a, I have a cross-training lifestyle that is fat biking on the beach. I get to ride the bike as hard as I want. I get to keep my heart rate as high as I, you know, on those hard days. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I can, I can ramp it up. I do standup paddling, so it’s a full body workout, um, with relatively low heart rate mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, it’s really interesting how it’s a cardio workout and I come off and I’m like, pumped and Huh. You know, I’ve been working hard for an hour, hour and 10, sometimes an hour and 20, but not, not more than an hour and 20 ever.
So that’s a full body workout. I’ll do sprints on the beach, but not so much that I, that I need to set a PR Yeah. But just enough to get, I mean, this, the thing about sprinting is so, which is so amazing is, uh, you know, um, five repetitions or six repetitions of a 30 second sprint is enough to do some amazing, have some amazing maintenance or even breakthrough. Now I’ll do, you know, I try to do eight to 10 when I, when I do sprints, but it’s still the workout from warm up cooldown is 35 minutes mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and I’m done. So I could say, well, I’m pretty good at sprinting still. Maybe I should train for sprinting <laugh>, but then I get injured. Yeah. So I don’t wanna get injured. I wanna find a way to cross-train so that I’m, I spend two days in the gym where I’m just doing lifting stuff, which is, which you would almost call it body building stuff now.
It’s like, you know, full body routine kind of stuff mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, I play some ultimate Frisbee, uh, which is a, which, you know, which is a game that I enjoy and to the extent that I can, I can keep doing it. But my point is, I, I mix it up every day. So I don’t ever do two things in a row. Like if I’m lifting in the gym, I need at least 72 hours and sometimes 96 hours between lifting sessions. Because I know that’s what, like, if I lifted hard enough to be effective, then I should not be able to repeat that performance within 72 hours. Yeah. Otherwise, I didn’t do it well enough. Now, part of that’s because at my age, it just takes longer to recover. So when I was in my twenties, I could lift every other day. Yeah. And, and there, you know, I had enough testosterone, I had enough growth hormone, I had all these things that I could, that I could, um, I could recover and build by lifting every, every other day.
So anyway, so, so I would lift, say on a Monday. I might ride the bike, uh, on a, on a Tuesday and go hard on the bike. I might paddle on a Wednesday, which is still upper body, but it’s a different, it’s a different form. It’s, instead of doing, you know, three sets of 10 or 12 reps, it’s basically one set of 2000 reps of a full body Yeah. Exercise. Right. And it’s all, and, and so the average output per rep is, is dramatically reduced. Um, I might sprint on another day, once every 10 days, I’ll do a leg day in the gym, or I’m doing a series of leg exercise, but it’s kind of all based around, uh, a hex bar deadlift as kind of the centerpiece of that workout. Now I’m, I’m really fit, but I’m not race fit. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>,
You know, so I’m fit for life, I’m fit for movement. I’m fit for games, but I’m not,
you’re fit to do your routine, which you enjoy. Yeah. And you just said you never go over an hour 20.
Why don’t you do a three hour paddle, Mark?
It has no interest. Zero, zero interest. Right. So it’s, it’s funny, back in the olden days, um, after doing Ironman, I realized that I could do anything for 24 hours <laugh>, but once you cost me a night’s sleep Yeah. I’m not interested. Right. So I got invited to be on these adventure racing teams, you know, before Mark Brunett was doing Survivor, he was doing adventure racing even before he was, he, he actually participated in Ray Gawa, and I was, you know, I was talking to him about being on his team, and I was like, I just, I can’t, I’m not willing to give up ridiculous nine nights of sleep <laugh> in pursuit of that goal.
Yeah. Right. So then, uh, I said I could do anything for 24 hours, and then Yeah. As I’ve gotten older, it, the, the amount of time I’m willing to do anything has dropped down. And so, you know, I would do a hike for two hours a couple years ago. Yeah. A hard hike, Uhhuh <affirmative>. And then that’s like, now it’s just not, it doesn’t feel like it’s a sweet spot. So now an hour is like my sweet spot for anything I do. Yes. So if I do an hour 10 on the bike and the sand, it’s all, and it’s hard. Um, that’s a, that’s a great day for me. If I do an hour 20 of anything, including paddling, that’s the most I’ll ever do now mm-hmm. <affirmative> and, and I feel like that’s a sweet spot because I’m getting the good hard work done, but I’m also allowing myself, I’m not getting beat up so that it takes me four days just to recover, to do anything. Right. Yeah. So if you, you know, if you remember back in the, in, well, as a marathoner, it actually took longer to recover from a marathon than it did from a triathlon,
Ironman. From an Ironman. Sure. Yeah. Oh, yeah. Because a
Marathon, because you’re going fast <laugh>,
You’re going fast from the gun, it’s painful, it’s hard on the joints. I mean, we used to piss black after the end of a race. It was like, you know, you’re like, you got little rambo going, you got a little, it was, yeah. It was horrible. And an Ironman, I’m not, I’m not diminishing anything because, because we didn’t get to the level that, I didn’t get to the level that the guys are doing right now. But it was so, it was so difficult, but spread out over such a long period of time that by the time you finished the marathon, you weren’t really pounding. You were barely, you know, you were barely moving. So it wasn’t like you were sprint finishing. Still tough, but, well, it was wicked tough and it took a long time to recover. Yeah. But, and the vow that I’ll never do this again, lasted for five, four or five days, and then you
Then, until the last one, <laugh>, then you say, maybe you didn’t say I’ll never do it again. You just think I’m gonna improve my time next year.
Yeah. Year, then you start, that was the last one. No, you start thinking, yeah, okay. That’s what I could do. But anyway, so yeah. I don’t know. I’m, I’m rambling. So
You’re, you’re describing all these fitness exercise activities. We were talking about metabolic efficiency in terms of diet, and we mostly hear that in terms of diet Yeah. That also relates to all the stuff you just described. Yeah. Because metabolic efficiency has both sides, the calories that you burn and the calories that you Yeah. Theoretically human
Process. When, when, when you’re working out hard, you, in my mind, in my book, you literally don’t want to be expending a lot of calories. You wanna be doing whatever amount of work you’re doing over time, you wanna be able to do that same amount of work with fewer calories. Right. Or with, with greater ease, I should say. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, and, or, or with a higher percentage of the ca of the, of the energy coming from the combustion of fat mm-hmm. <affirmative> versus carbohydrates. At the elite level, you can say, well, it doesn’t matter where the fuel source comes from as long as I’m able to get fuel in during the race. Uh, and I was a great sugar burner as a, as a marathoner carbo voted every day, uh, managed my fuel intake. Um, so I’m not suggesting that I would’ve been much faster as a marathoner had I trained at keto, because I was still going fast enough that it was, that that, you know, it was, was say there
Was a lot of impossible.
Yeah. Now when you
Start something per mile
Yeah. You low fives per mile. So when you say somebody like, uh, Zach Bitter, he’s a keto, you know, long distance ultra runner. Yeah. He’s getting 97, 96, 90 7% of his calories from fat at 06:54 a mile or
Something. Right? Yeah. He’s running a hundred miles. He’s running a hundred mile so’s a whole different
Category then. So it’s a different category. Um, and as, as the length of like, when Sami Inkinen and his wife rowed a boat from San Francisco to Hawaii. Yeah. you know, they had a million and a half days,
43 days. Yeah.
They, they had like, almost all their, their provisions were fat. Yeah. Fat and fat and, and protein. Yeah. Yeah. Because that they were pacing themselves to burn almost all fat doing that.
Right. So we’re you doing this with your hands, and I’m thinking health or longevity Yeah. Could count the same thing. Right? So it sounds like you’re trying to dial in both sides of that Yeah. Longevity equation where you’re eating appropriately as well as being efficient with your caloric expenditure. Right. So I think that’s an important question when I’m thinking about, uh, uh, eating more food and performing better and recovering faster, but also looking at that side where, how much is enough? And that’s this, this tightrope, which we probably don’t have answers to, but I’d love to know, you know, like, are you fit enough to say that you’re getting a 99% score on longevity? Or should you once in a while throw down a three hour paddle so that you can make it to 115
Instead of a hundred? Yeah. I would say no to that. I would say there’s no, there’s no,
Um, you’ve already graduated past.
Yeah, yeah. I’ve already gone past, like, you know, Mark Allen will tell you he thinks he left 10 years of his life on the lava fields of, of Hawaii by going so deeply to the well. So for me to do a hardish three hour, anything, again, it’s, it’s antithetical to longevity. I think there’s a point at which because going back to the Robb Wolf, Doug McGuff, uh, you know, notion that that all exercises, cardio, and if cardio as a generic term for moving the heart in a beneficial way that promotes health, um, if, if what you’re after is, is a healthy heart to keep pumping for as long as you can. You could argue that if you’re, if you subscribe to the finite number of heartbeats theory that you’re better off after having developed a strong heart to then to then, uh, ramp it down a little bit, rather than keeping your heart rate high all the time, um, you wanna keep it strong, but lifting weights keeps your heart strong, you know?
We would, we would, you know that when you go to the gym and you do a heavy leg day, like when I do dead lifts, I’m out of breath. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, I, it takes me long time to recover, to be able to do the next set. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> my heart’s beating really fast. That’s cardio. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, that’s, that’s, that’s a signal that you, that your willingness to do the work. So your brain tells your legs to, and your, and everything to drop down and, and lift this heavy weight. And the heart’s just going, all right, I guess it’s time to get to work. So we gotta beat faster. The heart has no say in the matter. The heart is a re it’s responding to the signals produced by your, your wanting to do the work, and then you’re doing the work with the muscles that you have. So any form of exercise, exercise is cardio. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>,
And I guess most people that are, you know, interested in health or wishing for better health don’t move enough and eat too many processed foods. Exactly. So as far as metabolic efficiency, you’re screwed over here and over here, and then we’re looking at life.
Yeah. So back to the opening statement of you know, you know, eat more nutritious foods, mostly protein and move more that advice applies to 90% of the population who eats a diet and doesn’t move enough to begin with. So, great. I agree with all that. Now, as you get better and better and more developed and more, you know, more keto adapted and, and fat adapted, maybe that advice maybe you don’t need, maybe you don’t need to move more. Maybe you need to more just, you know, move, do what you’re doing. And, and, and maybe you don’t even need to eat more because you’re in that, that, that zone where you’re sort of optimizing the, the, the curve of health and fitness as they go together just before the inflection point.
Does that make sense?
Yeah. It’s a tough one to figure out. And obviously every time I can report an injury or even muscle soreness, I contend that I made a mistake and I over, I went past the inflection point. Yeah. Um, so you playing with a minor illness?
No, no, no. But you play, you play on the edge. Well, I mean that’s, I I say play on the edge, and that’s back to the experimental one. Like, like, okay, I, I played on the edge. I saw where my, where the issue was, I dialed it back, I won’t do that again. Or I’ll try not to do that again. Or if I do that again, shame on me. You know what I mean? Yeah. So that’s, that’s the experiment. That’s the playing around with it. But most people don’t even play on the edge. Most people have a long way to go. They gotta lose 50 pounds of body fat. They gotta
Improve, ditch all that food,
Get rid of all the, you know, the industrial seed oils, the sugary, you know, the crunchy, salty, fatty, sweet, all the stuff that, you know, they, they’re using in the standard American diet and then thinking that portion control will get me where I need to be. Mm-hmm. You know, that’s really the greatest, uh, misconception about calories in, calories out, is that you can’t, you can’t just fix a shitty diet with portion control. Yeah. Doesn’t work that way. Yeah. You gotta eat nutritious food, calorie dance foods. Mm-hmm.
So protein is a priority
Always. Protein is the, is the major must have, you know, get your protein right. And again, it doesn’t even have to be meal to meal. It doesn’t even have to be day to day. It can be over a period of three or four days, certainly over a week, if you took in the right amount of protein, your body will adjust with its, all of its, mechanism for retaining amino acids. So, um, and then, you know, fat to sort of control, um, I would say, um, you know, energy expenditures and then carbohydrates, partly to refuel glycogen, but mostly because carbs, uh, are in, in many cases the most, one of the most enjoyable parts of some people’s diet. And I don’t want you to have to restrict them just because,
Uh, what about thyroid function? Adrenals, recovery from stress, nutritious carbohydrates?
Uh, yeah. Yeah. I mean, uh, but you can do all that on a low carb,
On a relatively low, on a relatively comparison to Yeah.
Yeah. Yeah. You
Don’t, you don’t Western diet.
Yeah. Yeah. You, if you, if you’re eating, uh, if you’re eating nutrient dense foods, and even if you’re keto, you’re not gonna, you know, if you’re doing it right and you’re not working out, you know, too hard mm-hmm. <affirmative> glycolytic every other day mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, all, there’s a lot of ways in which you can mess up, um, a, a otherwise perfectly balanced keto program. So, you know, just pay attention. But if, if, if the answer to you is, I don’t want to make all those adjustments and I’d rather just ramp up my carbs, then if you’re metabolically flexible, fine. It’ll work.
What do you see in the decades ahead with your strategy? Are you gonna gracefully take that fat tire bike down to 40 minutes from an hour? And, um,
With everything? Are you gonna try to just fight that battle?
No, I’m gonna fight the battle. I’m gonna do, um, as much as feels comfortable for as long as it feels comfortable. Right. You know, so, so I don’t, right now, an hour to an hour and 10 feels like a of a hard ride. Feels comfortable. And comfortable is also defined as something I could do again in a couple of days. Mm-hmm. But if I do something for, you know, too hard, too long, then I, then I sour on it. I get, I get like, nah, I’m not, I don’t, I’m
Not. Yeah. Tell us about your summer where you did the hard bike ride, flew on a jet, uh, and then landed and then went straight into the water for a long lesson and you cooked yourself. Yeah. What was that, uh, that sequence?
Uh, that was recently,
Yeah. You did the fat tire bike ride. Oh,
No, no, no. You, you know what it was. No, I’ll tell you what it was. It wasn’t swimming. Uh, it was, uh, I thought it was swimming, you’re talking about? No, um, I did a long hard bike ride with my, with my buddy. And by the way, this is the other thing. He’s, so, he’s like, he’s one of those half wheelers, like I was
Half wheeler. Right. Is defined as
<laugh> someone who just will not let you get, get ahead. Always gotta stay
Together. He’s always a half wheel ahead. Um, and so, you know, Peter and I did like an hour and 45 minute sand, you know, hard hot beach ride. And then hopped on a plane, flew to Necker Island, <laugh>, and that afternoon I had my first kite surfing lesson. Well, the first kite surfing lesson is basically, you know, controlling the kite in the water without a board and just, and just, they call body dragging. So you, you, you let the kite drag your body and I’m in the water for an hour and a half without a wetsuit, cuz it’s the Caribbean, but you know, the water’s still 76 or 77. And so I got hypothermic. Yeah, right.
I got the charts. Your 98.6 pot is gonna get cold
And my and my in the Caribbean 9% body fat. Yeah. So, I got cold. Well, I had a, I had a, I had a thing the next day. I had another lesson the next morning. Yeah. And I showed up for that and I got up and I got a nice 20 min, a 20 second ride and, but I got sick because it was just too much, too much stress. Right.
So were you fasted on that day and that flight, you know, started?
No, I ate, I ate, I, I, I ate enough to, you know, fuel myself. Yeah. But still the work itself, the hard in the heat, the hard fat bike on the, on the sand in the heat and then, and then flying to the island and then, and then like I say, first thing we do when we get there, your, your lesson is at three o’clock. Yeah. Boom, boom. The, the water. Yeah. Anyways, I mean it was great. It was fun, but it was also like, I know better than that. But you know, when I’m out in the middle of the channel and uh, a mile away from the pickup boat, <laugh> floating in the water, shivering waiting for the boat to come get me, it’s not like I can, I say, well I’ve already get out now. Yeah. It’s like I got another 20 minutes of this before I
Yeah. You know, that research on, uh, hypothermia, if you fall off the boat into cold water Yeah. You’re gonna last for this long. Yeah. And you’re gonna last for half as long if you’re swimming. Yeah. So if you see shore and you swim for it Yeah. And it takes 10 minutes and then you die or you stay still in one place for 20 minutes. But you have to decide like how far is the shore. Right. Just so you know in case you’re ever get in cold water.
Uh, I think we got a lot of good information and good, good helping reconcile some of these apparently disparate points of view. But I really think some of the important points you emphasize when you’re talking through your weekly exercise schedule is working within your capabilities. Yep. And not being in this category that we both fell into for so long where we were burning too many calories, eating what would be considered too many calories in a lot of ways. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> especially cuz you have to take in processed foods at that point Yeah. To get to 8,000 or whatever. Yep. That in fact is the performance limiter for the top high performing, high calorie, highest calorie burning athletes like the Ironman triathletes and the bodybuilders.
So that’s a big one. And then starting out way back when you said it’s important to look at this as an experiment of one and constantly try to optimize and see what works and what’s individual for you, cuz Right
Within the context of what we just talked about today, within the context of nutrient-dense food, protein being the number one, uh, macro that you need to really keep an eye on, um, you know, healthy fats, avoiding industrial seed oils, avoiding, you know, pies, cakes, candies and sugars and crap like that as much as you can. Within that context, there’s a lot of room to play around in terms of meal timing and you know, uh, whether you, whether you’re keto or or not, whether you’re, um, you know, Two Meals a Day or fours a day, there’s, there’s room for, um, for experimenting there
And there’s room for chilling out about it too. Yep. When you get into that, that over over obsession with all these things. Yeah. Listen to the Sisson, people, that’s what we’re talking about. Thank you.
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