Episode #108: Dr. Andy Galpin – Scientist and Professor in Bioenergetics and Human Performance
My guest today is Dr. Andy Galpin. Dr. Galpin is a scientist, professor, has his Ph.D. in Bioenergetics, CSCS, NSCA-CPT-KINESIOLOGY, CSUF, works with athletes in MMA, weightlifting, and can go down just about any path you want when it comes to human performance. Brilliant and irreverent, Andy is one of my favorite people to talk to in the space of performance, food, and how we should approach optimization. He breaks complex information down in a way that all of us can use it in our everyday lives regardless of our physical goals. When I am looking for help this is one of the people I go to too. I encourage you to check out his Instagram for tons of informative videos.
Listen to the episode here:
- Starting as an Athlete [00:03:10]
- Choosing Your Qualifiers [00:10:26]
- Planning and Laying the Landscape [00:26:02]
- Adaptation [00:34:11]
- Blood Work [00:39:48]
- Stressors [00:44:00]
- Physiology, Hygiene, and Habits [00:48:14]
- Sugar Reset [00:57:55]
- Choosing What’s Best For You [01:05:15]
- Get A Good Night’s Sleep [01:09:56]
- Allergy And Intolerance [01:17:20]
- Being A Professional and A Parent [01:22:05]
- Hydration [01:35:27]
- Longevity and Aging [01:45:02]
- Things (And Mistakes) You Should Know [01:56:40]
Dr. Andy Galpin – Scientist and Professor in Bioenergetics and Human Performance
My guest is Scientist and Professor Dr. Andy Galpin. Andy is a friend of mine and someone that Laird and I would both go to for new information or ideas about optimization and human performance. He does train a ton of professional athletes, fighters, and weightlifters. It’s like, “Let me snip your muscle fiber and check this out.” However, Andy is practical, no BS, even a little irreverent when it comes to speaking to things about longevity and human performance. It’s not about adding more mystery to it.
He’s trying to figure out how do we get people to approach this as practically and realistically as possible but yes, backed by science. I love him. I get excited to interview him because you can go a million different directions with him. I also encourage you to check out his Instagram because he gives away a load of free, helpful, and supportive information.
I want to do the upfront heavy lifting stuff and then I do want to circle back because I would love to get your insight. Even the dynamics of how the couple changes, it’s a cycle. All of it, it’s such an incredible dance. It’s not that misery loves company but you do see certain people and you think, “I bet you, with that personality, they won’t have to do all that.” Secretly, when they were going through the same spin cycle you went through, you’re like, “We all get that.” You and your wife are dialed people.
You’ve had a lot of different jobs. Maybe you can touch upon how you’ve gotten here. What I appreciate is that you go from learning yourself, teaching, doing studies, doing all these different perspectives around performance and it’s led you to a newer place. Maybe you could share your journey. You hear about, “I’m a doctor. I work in performance and all this.” You have a perspective that’s more playful, direct, and also one of the guys that you’d see at the gym. It’s like, “Go do that.” Talk to me a little bit about how you arrived at being interested in all of this.
Maybe I’ll start with where I am and then we’ll go back to where I got there. I’m a full professor, that’s my day job. You can think of my career in three parts. Part one is I run the Center for Sports Performance at Cal State Fullerton. We’ve got research laboratories and we study anything that we feel is potentially relevant to human performance as can be from exercise physiology space, muscle physiology, biomechanics, anything else.
A third of my job is research. We’re conducting and disseminating research that we think will improve human performance. The second part of my job is teaching. I teach at the graduate level of strength conditioning, exercise physiology, nutrition, human performance stuff. The other third is I work directly with professional athletes. I work with a lot of combat sports athletes like NFL, Major League Baseball in a high-touch environment.
This is not like off-hand consulting where we talk once a month or something. It’s total performance control. What time do you wake up? How do you train? When do you take an off day? How do you recover? Sleep, nutrition, bloodwork, everything from top to bottom. It’s a bit unique in the sense that in the morning, I can be taking muscle biopsies from somebody and finishing up a study. I could then get on a call with the highest-paid player in one of our major sports and then from there, I can go teach some undergrads the basics of how to squat. That’s what I do.
To rewind a little bit back on how I got there, I came from a small country town. My parents are not in science or anything like this field. I’m modest beginning there. I played sports in high school and as you do when you’re from places like that, everybody plays everything. I remember when I first got to college being shocked about all my teammates not being able to do everything. It’s like, “How are you a collegiate football player and you can’t throw a football? That’s amazing. That’s incredible.” I could hit a golf ball. I could play tennis. I could do all these things serviceably even though I’d never done them or done them one time.
Resiliency and being able to handle everything at some level, where I grew up, you had to do that. You had to be able to fix your plumbing at a reasonable level. You had to be able to eat or not eat. You had to be able to wake up early or stay up late. You had to be able to handle any problem because you didn’t have the resources, you didn’t have people around, there’s not a lot of money where we come from. If you don’t do those things, you don’t survive. That was the ethos that I grew up with.
If you have a problem, you handle it. If you can, you work harder. If it failed, it was your fault because you didn’t work hard enough. That’s the way I grew up. It’s not just my parents, it was all the parents around me, it was every kid I grew up with. That’s living in the country. There are no simple solutions. Do it or don’t. If you don’t, you’re going to go hungry. Too bad, nobody cares. I took that. I got to college. I played college football at a small level. I got a degree in exercise science. I took a quick journey from there thinking I would maybe want to be a strength and conditioning coach.
You got to remember, this was years ago. We didn’t have all these routes that we have now. It’s being an athletic trainer and tape ankles. I was like, “There’s no way that was going to be it for me.” Even a strength coach back then, you’re probably making $20,000. It wasn’t a field. I did that. I worked immediately with Major League Baseball players and NFL folks. Quickly, that wasn’t for me.
Intellectually, I knew that autonomy was going to be a problem. I couldn’t control my schedule. I was training a bunch of people who didn’t care as much as I cared. It was an immediate problem. I went back and got my Master’s degree. I eventually got a PhD. I positioned myself at that time thinking, “I know a decent amount about strength and conditioning. It’s something I’ve been part of for a long time. It’s my own personal journey. I skipped on that end. Maybe I’ll add that right here.”
What’s important to note here is as a high school and college athlete, I was decent. I was in that perfect part of the arc where if I wasn’t so bad to where I was like, “It doesn’t matter. You’re never going to play.” I wasn’t so good where the opposite was true. I was in the middle where when I did things a little bit better, it made a difference. If I didn’t do things right, I probably wasn’t going to get the award or get that thing. I had that perfect amount of incentive to learn everything I can about every aspect because I wasn’t going to walk on and be the best of everything I ever did once I got past high school.
We need that feedback. It makes a difference. No matter who we are, it’s that tiny little feedback. Most of it is never immediate but it makes a difference.
A sneaky important point is there’s a lot of trust there. If I lift a weight today, I don’t feel stronger tomorrow. The way that I lay it out is you have to make a conscious decision between immediate and delayed gratification. An old phrase is, optimization versus adaptation. You’ve got to think about things that sometimes you need to choose optimization, which is the thing that makes you feel the best right now. Sometimes you need to choose adaptation, which is what’s going to be the long-term benefit? You guys talk about this all the time, short versus long game. It’s slightly different but almost the same concept.
In those positions, you had to go, “I’m going to train this way for the entire offseason. I hope it works. If it doesn’t, I’ll lose my job. There are consequences to me. I’m not going to be able to play because I’m not good enough to screw up an entire offseason and still have the results on the field.” At the time, there’s no internet. I can’t go and google things. It’s not even a possible thing. I have to spend every resource I have to try to learn and to try to think critically about as much as I can, “Who can I contact? Where can I drive? Where can I go? I don’t have any money. I don’t have the internet.” You’re going to learn a lot of lessons that way. The beauty of it was you try and fail. Sometimes the results come in a month. Sometimes it’s six weeks. Sometimes it’s six months. Sometimes they don’t come at all. Yeah.
The lesson I learned the most was you need to be careful about paying attention to concepts versus methods. Are you using a tactic or are you using a philosophy? If you pay attention and spend too much time on simple tactics and you’re not thinking about the philosophy, you’re maybe going to get right but you’re maybe going to get wrong. I didn’t have that luxury. I had to be right. Transition this to now with professional athletes. One of my favorites is preparing for the Olympic Games. I do not have the luxury of missing. You can’t be wrong. You can’t think about tactics, tricks, and tips. If you don’t understand how the entire thing works, you might get right but you might not. That’s a huge problem that I had to deal with. Professionally, I don’t have the luxury of being wrong.
If someone is starting, we have a lot more information and access constantly. It’s better in a certain way and it’s not because you talk about that critical thinking component. Sometimes it’s too much and you have to watch something unfold for a moment to think, “Does this make sense in that philosophical way?” If someone’s reading this, how did you pick the people that you thought, “I’m going to go ask them questions. I’m going to go to a two-day lecture with them.” What were the elements that existed that you thought, “This is worth at least taking a chance.”
It’s an interesting question that I’ve never consciously thought about. When I was a kid, especially where I grew up, if somebody is putting on a clinic, you’re going to go and you’re going to be right to go because there might not be one for another eight months. The answer was always yes in that particular case. You got to drive overnight to Vegas, it doesn’t matter. You got to drive up to here, you’re going to go seven hours in your car for a one-hour talk, the answer was always yes, no matter what.
Now we’re in an opposite scenario where there’s a seminar click thing every single second. How do you choose? That’s an interesting question. In the beginning, my answer was always yes. Any opportunity was yes. The way that I do it now though is the opposite. I am traditionally looking for a handful of things. Number one, sometimes technical knowledge is important but I don’t always care about that part. I want to see, do they make absolute statements? Do they make qualifiers?
Ask any of my students, they’re going to say, “What’s the answer to everything? In Andy’s class, it depends.” I’m constantly searching. If somebody has an entire branding behind a tactic, I’m almost guaranteed to be out. The coconut water guy, every single answer to everything is coconut water. I’m not listening because you might have something right but you don’t even critically think through this because you’re sold everything on this outcome. It doesn’t matter if you’re the vegan guy. Everything, your branding, your name, everything you sell, everything you believe, your shirts, it’s all about a tactic. That’s almost always a guarantee for me with one exception.
[bctt tweet=”You have to make a conscious decision between immediate and delayed gratification, between optimization versus adaptation.”]
If for some reason I’m interested in coconut water and there’s somebody that this is all they do, I might go to their talk because I know, “This person is going to give everything that they have on coconut water. I’m not going to pay attention to them as a person because they believe way too much in this but I could probably learn these things about this subtopic and come back out.” Those things, the concepts, and approach. Are they giving the qualifiers, “We use this when we see A, B, and C. If you see this, you’re not going to probably want this approach.” That’s how you can tell someone is using critical thinking and they’re not simply tied to a tactic rather than an approach.
I love the idea of these absolutes. You’re working also with Dan Garner he said one time, “If anyone is an absolute, run.” I have people all the time who are like, “I’m a life coach.” The older I get and I try to accrue more information, the more sometimes I’m confused. There are certain things that become crystallized.
When someone is considering it and looking at it and is saying this is what they’re seeing but they seem unsure, I trust that way more than, “Let me tell you how to do it.” These things, I know for sure. It is interesting how even in science, it’s like, “We’ll know. We’ll find out.” Which situation? Which genetics? Which environment? In a way, we all want the answer.
There are certain things like hydration, getting to bed, and all these things. How do we get there? This is important. Why I lean to someone like you is because you’re like, “This is what we’re seeing. It’s still always can be different for these other subset reasons.” You’re not bouncing all over the place but keeping an open mind. I don’t know why we need it definitively or even programs.
I have your Unplugged book that you did with Brian Mackenzie and Phil white. Even within that, you’re saying, “You should be aware and you should be feeling it.” If your certain ring or bracelet tells you you’re not your best today, does that mean you can’t have a big output. I appreciate that you go, “Let’s look at the science and we have to keep our eyes open.”
Anyone who talks like that or writes like that, I don’t think that they’ve ever worked with a human. They’re liars. They’re fakes. They’re frauds. Maybe they have given somebody a program and maybe that person had good success. To me, that’s not working with someone. If you came to me and said, “I want to work for you, Andy.” I said, “Okay, great.” I had you do all the analyses that we do, your blood, stool, saliva, and hair. We did all that stuff and I looked at it and I gave you a program. To me, that’s not working with you. That’s helpful. We could find some things.
To me, working with you is what we do that and we check in daily. We’ve got multiple metrics. We have things and we’re going back and forth. We’re making tweaks every day or twice a week or whatever we’re doing. Six months later, do we have quantifiable improvements? Were there objective data or subjective data? The reality of it is some things will get better and some things won’t. Some things will change because your life situation will change. You’ll have other stressors come up. You have life situations.
To think I can give you one program, whatever that is, nutrition, training, yoga, breathing, and to think that all of a sudden, we’re going to have guaranteed results, is not true. I don’t think you’ve ever done that with a human. You’ve written these things and put them in your book but you’ve never walked somebody through this journey. Once you have, you’ll realize that there’s no way. You’re never going to land. You’re liars, frauds, and you’re putting things out there. You’re waiting for people to come back and say, “I got better.” You’re like, “I worked with Gabby.”
You ran a diagnostic. Do you know who it worked with? It’s the engineer on the car who comes every day to check your oil, your tires, and puts it back there. They’re not the guy that changed your tire one time and was like, “Do you want to race?” A year later, “You don’t work with me.” You can’t make comments. You’re dishonest or you’re ignorant. You make comments or statements like that because you’re dishonest and you’re trying to get people to believe that you have the answers or you’re ignorant and you realize you didn’t even do that. You didn’t take someone through that journey.
You can’t scale it. It takes me hours a day per person. I only work with a small number of people per year to be able to dial things back to figure it out, “The breathing stuff, maybe it’s not moving the needle like we thought it was. Maybe it’s moving more. Now we have to dial this thing back.” There’s so much of a mosaic that’s moving. It’s not like we flip this lever and this light goes on. If you flip that lever, all of a sudden, this curtain opened up and the foundation moved and now we got to hold. You’re constantly juggling. That’s humans.
We do research on specific things. Some are the molecular pathway that drives muscle hypertrophy. I can learn more about that. When I have that next phone call, I do science on cells and I work with humans. This is difficult. I don’t understand how anyone could have an opinion or an approach that’s not that humility base. If you don’t, you’ve never done it. I don’t believe you’ve conducted science because once you’ve done that, that’s a whole other journey of uncertainty. I don’t believe you’ve worked with somebody from start to finish in some high-performance field. I don’t believe you.
You’re doing this controlled work with someone where you’re not saying, “Here’s your exercise program and your nutrition. We’re going to have conversations around your stress, your sleep, your meditation, and all these other things. You’re communing with nature or what have you.” You’re now in a situation where you’re trying to be involved with all these touch-points.
I’m sure you have athletes that come to you and they want to do this with you. For someone reading, in our world, this is what we would call a treat. This is high-end, specific information that you’re getting and feedback and access. If you have an athlete that comes to you and they can afford it and want to do it, what would make you say no to someone? Let’s say they’re even successful and great, what is it that you see that you’re like, “No.”
The noes happen more than the yeses. If you look at our roster of yeses, it’s not the ones that are necessarily the highest-paid. We have more noes from the ones where you’re like, “Why did you say no to him?” The question is, what makes those things? It’s not that we need to be in control. This is not a big issue. I’ll play whatever role.
It’s compliance. You’re saying, “If you want to do this, these are the rules of this game we’re playing.” A lot of these people when they’re fancy and busy, it’s hard to be compliant.
We had to fire somebody. More Instagram followers. You can even imagine. It was like, “I had to make this decision. You’re fired.” The guy was like, “What do you mean?” We’re like, “No, you’re fired.” It wasn’t even the person. It was the person’s management team.
I love the teams around people.
This has happened twice. Those are red flags. Are you as invested? You don’t have to pay me a tremendous amount of money for me to care more than you. If you’re at that level, we have no shortage of interest. This is not a relationship I want to be in. You’re starting to see a little bit of my personality and things that make me do this. I’m like, “If you can’t match that fire with me, it’s not going to work. If you can’t match with Dan, it’s not going to work.” That’s a big thing that we’re doing. Part of our process at the beginning is an application process. What we’re trying to shake out is are you going to be able to hang here?
Dan is intense too. I know this is a little off-topic but I went to Florida State. I understand the importance of certain athletes or athletes having the opportunity to be able to have some revenue and opportunity. Because they’re at college, they can’t afford to do their laundry. I get that part of it. On the other side, you’re going to have athletes, quarterbacks from big schools that can make $1 million before they even go pro.
This is going to be interesting because there’s something about when you’re hungry. That’s why the athlete that wins a lot that’s still only interested in winning is the scariest one like an MJ or a Tiger. You’re like, “They’re obsessed.” Those come around seldom. Usually, it’s like, “I need to make it,” that curve that you’re talking about, the other side of that curve. It’s interesting to see what’s going to happen to college athletes now that they can make money prior to. I saw these two girls, they’re twins, they’re basketball players. They’ll make about $500,000. That’s more than their AD and their coach.
That’s dope. I love every second of that. I’ve worked with a lot of amateurs, these are Olympians and stuff. You’re getting to the point where the vast majority of the time, I’m like, “Don’t even pay me. The amount that you can pay me, I don’t even care and it kills you. I would rather you save that money and buy a little better food, get a massage, or whatever we’re doing.” We worked with a lot of those and we will continue to work with a lot of those because they do that. One of the reasons I started with the community I started with was because of that.
Probably, I’ve never thought about this but my first exposure to high-level athletes were folks that were Hall of Famers or close first-round draft picks and it was everything I didn’t want to do. Money was there and fame would have been there. That part of the game wasn’t there for me. I went the exact opposite direction, which is like, “I’m going to work with nothing but people who can’t afford me anyway.” At that time, they could afford me. I’m like, “I’ll never be famous.” You’re never going to be famous as an amateur wrestler. Who the hell cares about that? You’re not going to be famous as a volleyball player, rarely.
It’s true, though.
I want to do these people. The reason that they are 28 and are still doing this is that this is their whole soul. When I give everything I have, this is the journey I want to go on. When we get to the end, we win, lose, or draw. We all have to have something. Science didn’t give me that much. Teaching is a pleasure but it doesn’t give me that. Nothing in my life was giving me that, “I’m going to give you everything I have here.” When you walk into your cage, octagon, field, quarter pitch, or whatever it is, I’m going to collapse. At home, I’m going to collapse because I knew I put everything into it.
I worked with a guy who was competing at a local regional strongman. We told him, “We’re going to go here.” He showed us and I’m like, “I don’t even know how to keep up with this guy.” He was one of the greatest things and he was like, “I want to go.” I’m like, “When it comes down to crunch time, 2:00 AM, 1:00 AM, I don’t care, call. This is what we ride for.” He’s like, “Really?” I’m like, “This is what you paid for. This is what we’re doing.” He’s like, “Done. That’s what I needed.” I’m like, “That’s what I needed.”
Paying attention to all these details, someone else cares about that as much as you do. It’s interesting living with Laird because he certainly is still on a mission. I’m not on a mission to play volleyball anymore. I’m on a mission to train and stay healthy. It’s also different because I’m not going to be putting myself in jeopardy. When you have a sport like fighting, football, big wave surfing where there’s real jeopardy, there’s another incentive. I not only have to be prepared but I have to be ready.
Let’s talk about the buckets. Maybe we could do it in a two-pronged way. You’re one of them even, you don’t have barely time to do the things that you need your athletes to do. You’re working, y2ou have a family, and you have all these things. Maybe we could say, “Here are the big buckets that are the sharp end of the stick where you’re touching all of them for your athletes.” Maybe we could translate it for everybody.
Personally, I have a decent amount of information and there are many things I don’t do that I know would be good for me. I had a situation where my quads are always like beef jerky from jumping. I know I need to grind them out and do all this stuff and do stretches that are uncomfortable. I have to tweak my knee a little before I go, “I got to do my homework.”
This happened and Laird was like, “How are you doing?” I’m dragging my foot around because my knees are swollen. I go, “This is awesome.” This was a tiny reminder of, “Idiot, you don’t need to do the thing you were doing that you’re good at. You need to spend some time and we’re going to give you a warning. The next time, it’s going to be something else.” When an athlete comes to you, how do you lay out the landscape of the areas of what you’re going to be diving into?
This is where we’ve set up a pretty unique system. The challenge has always been when I have been brought into people, it’s something like a contractor and it’s like, “I don’t care what it takes. It’s a big year for me.” It’s like, “I’ve lost a world title fight.” Maybe not a complete rock bottom. That’s not what we get. Usually, it’s like, “I got to go to the next level to get this thing.” The first thing we do is an incredibly in-depth analysis. Most folks can’t afford or have the know-it-all to do all these things but that’s fine.
How do you even ask for that?
The way that we can put it together is you have to think about a handful of things. The first conversation that has to happen is, “What is our target? Do we have a competition day?” I can’t tell you any direction to go. If you said, “We’re going to leave the house.” I’m like, “Where are we going?” “We’re going to drive. Eventually, we might run to the ocean.” “I’m going to go that direction.” We have to figure out where we’re going. This is sometimes a difficult conversation.
For the non-professional athlete, you still need to have the same thing. Where am I going? Where am I trying to get to? Is it six months from now? Is it a year? Am I looking at the 5-year, 10-year longevity? Where am I going? I can’t look up at all the stars. I’m going to see stars.” You’re going to look from 1 to 1. You have to figure out where you’re going.
Kenny Kane puts this together. The way that we have this conversation is you get ten points. We get to split your ten points into four quadrants. Quadrant one is your physical practice. Quadrant two is recovery. Quadrant three is relationships. Quadrant four is business. Kenny has an article on this if you want to read more that he’s written somewhere. The first step is identifying. Where are we playing with our ten? Everyone goes, “Four into training. Three into recovery. Two is my business.” We’re like, “We’re at twelve.”
It never lands there. Here’s what always ends up happening. Physical training is typically pretty high. Business is extremely high. Relationships and stuff are 0 to 1. Recovery is zero always.
Those things are the ones that you think you can ignore.
You don’t realize it until your quad gets lit on fire. This is exactly what happens.
Even when you know better, by the way.
Conversation one is, where are we going? Conversation two is, how are we going to reallocate? How do we need to reallocate? Kenny was brilliant about this. We’re going to take this and potentially after some other diagnostics, the reason you’re feeling some of these emotional psychological things is you have no connection of purpose. We have got to put at least two in relationships. Relationships are vague.
Your friends or community.
Whatever that is to you. “It means we are taking one from the business. We’re going to take one from training. We have ten. You’re not willing to do that? Here are some other people I can refer to you. Good luck.” Step number one is you have got to make a change in lifestyle if that’s needed. If you’re not willing to do that, do you want a Tumeric supplement? What do you want to do here? This is small compared to understanding how you position yourself to succeed.
The way that we think about it is what to do and how to do it. Until we figure out how we’re going to execute the system, it doesn’t matter what the system is. You have got to be in a position to succeed. There’s an infinite amount of things we know we are supposed to do, stretch and meditate. That list becomes unending. The first task I have in the analytics process is figuring out how to whittle that list down to a handful that is the most impactful right now. Where do we need to go? We reallocate that lifestyle system.
From there, we do the same thing where we say, “The last time you competed or the last time you did this or the last time your business failed or whatever the hell the thing was, why did it fail?” There’s a handful of reasons. That can be bucketed into tactics. You throw the wrong pitch at the wrong time. It’s a wrong choice.
I’m not a striking coach. I’m not a baseball coach. I’m not a business guy. I don’t know anything about business. We can find somebody that can teach you tactics. It wasn’t tactics? Was it physical? Was it an endurance issue? Was it technical? You knew what to do but you didn’t execute. Your elbow got up high in your punch. Your foot came off the board. You knew how to do it, you knew you shouldn’t be there, but you made a technical mistake.
The last bucket over there is we’ll call it X. Was it psychology? Was it other things that you got freaked out? You had an adrenaline dump. You didn’t do something else right. It’s a painful conversation. What we need to establish is this is not a blame game. I’m not trying to get your strength and conditioning coach fired. I don’t care. We’re well past that.
What we’re trying to do is figure out why you didn’t win a world championship, why you didn’t have the best round of golf in the history of golf. It’s always like, “Shoot it better.” Why are you not having the highest testosterone, the most energy, having the best relationship? Whatever it is, we’re going to walk it backward and break it down and figure out what bucket it’s in. If it’s not in my bucket, then we say, “We need to spend more time on the technical side.”
It’s a map, too. You’re helping them not silo it out. It is overwhelming to understand how you’re feeling or what you’re going through. When you can have an honest conversation and look at all of it, it’s helpful because it’s a way to check in.
What we do is once we reallocate that quad, now we start having to have accountability. What we do is we have a notecard and your quad goes on your notecard. Your notecard goes on the front of your laptop or your workplace. In most people’s cases, it goes on the refrigerator. The key about that one is it’s somewhere where your family sees it.
You’re being held accountable to yourself when you look at your notecard every day when you’re sitting down to work and answer those emails at 9:00 or whatever you’re doing, “I’m supposed to be pulling back on this. Did you do your sauna session today?” “No, I don’t have time.” “You said we were going to do two in recovery? Have you done more minutes in recovery than you did last month?” “No.”
“You’re not being accountable for what you said. Why are we going to expect any change to happen when you’re not following through? You’ve got to make your decision. We said three on business, you’re at four. Have you done it?” “No.” Where’s the pullback?” Now, it’s you. You’re simply not disciplined. You’re not working hard enough. By working hard enough, you’re not doing your quad steps, you’re not doing the thing. We’ve told you this. No one wants to do those parts. No one loves to do the recovery. I’m not being productive.
What is that? Is that fear-based?
It’s anxiety. We call this training anxiety out. You feel less anxiety physically. We know the neuroscience as well as endocrinology behind this. You will feel less anxiety. The current moment is the short game by doing physical practice. It’s one of the beauties of physical practice and for mental health especially. The downside is you’re always going to be training in an anxiety way.
You’re hiding the thing instead of sitting down and going, “I have to accept the fact that my business is going to go 10% slower. If I don’t do that, I’m not going to physically make it to Q4 or whatever the case is.” We sat down and we had this conversation. You had this conversation with your business partners. You had this conversation with your family. Now, 3 to four, you’ve left this thing.
We hide in that, too. It’s not only anxiety. Sometimes that’s easier to deal with than your weaknesses or your real life. It’s like, “I’m going to busy myself, quiet, meditate, sit in a sauna, stretch on the floor.” This is some internal stuff. It’s interesting. Besides offloading anxiety, you’ll be like, “I’m being productive.” I notice it too when I’m hiding in my busyness. I’m like, “You have to go get still for a minute.”
One of the major things people are having a problem with right now is particularly with the heat, the sauna, or the jacuzzi. It feels great but that is not a substitute for exercise. Are there some crossover benefits? Yes. If you’re like, “I don’t feel like working out today but I’ll go to a sauna.” I’d rather use the sauna than Netflix, for sure, 100 out of 100. If it’s constantly picking you’re going to go sit in your jacuzzi over the other things, you’re abusing our system. You’re abusing the benefits of the heat. We’ve got to make sure that we’re following the plan to round out the analytic system.
Once we get all those things squared away and we figure out what part of that quad tactical, technical, physical, or X factor, when it’s on our side, then we can come back and we can say, “We knew the problem last time. We know what we have to do in the lifestyle to make sure that you’re in the position to execute. Now, how do we figure out what to do?” As an exercise scientist, this is dead under my wheelhouse. It’s super easy. We can figure out any diagnostic we need to do to figure out what part of the physical was a thing.
The way that we handle it is human physiology is unique to all mammalian physiology. We have the most plasticity. We are better at adapting physically and physiologically than almost anything we’ve ever encountered, which is bizarre. We have this unique ability on many levels. That’s the goal. The target is always we’re trying to do something, we’re trying to cause adaptation.
Adaptation is a simple equation. It is simply your recovery capacity divided by what we call your total stress. The higher your recovery capacity, the more adaptations you get from the same thing. If you and I go to do the same workout and you’re better at recovering, you get more adaptation from the same stimulus. You can do it more often, you’re less sore, you have all these things.
On one hand, we can push the needle of recovery by getting you better. We can talk about what that is and how to do that. Underneath the equation, the divided part is total stress. We divide total stress into visible and hidden stressors. Here’s the fun part. If you know basic math, the higher that number is in the bottom, the lower the total, in this case, adaptability goes. If your total stress gets high, you hurt adaptation.
[bctt tweet=”Until we figure out how we’re going to execute the system, it doesn’t matter what the system is. You have got to be in a position to succeed.”]
You’re dividing by a large number. Five divided by ten is two. Five divided by 100, crap. What we’re trying to find is where are you personally? Do we need the top and bottom numbers to be so that you get the most amount of adaptation? If you divide that bottom number by zero, that gets you zero adaptation. Five divided by zero is zero. You can’t divide by zero. The stress game is where we live. If we don’t have enough, we get no adaptation. If we have too much, we are hurting adaptation as well.
All we do is run games on looking at your visible and hidden stressors, looking at your recovery capacity, and trying to figure out where are the 2 or 3 easiest levers for us to pull that will make that score move the highest. We run through all 21 factors. There’s 21 total here between recovery, hidden, and visible stressors. It’s too much. There’s no way I can have you do something. I’m telling you, people that are training for major world championships and things, it’s way too much. I can’t get you to execute. We typically look for 4 or 5 depending on what your situation is. We try to figure out if there’s a hidden stressor that we can remove that has a huge impact on its recovery capacity.
From there, we run analytics. Some of the stuff you can do at home. Some of it, most people have already done. You can quickly figure out what to do. Once you figure out what the problem is, putting the plan in place is a little more complicated. It takes someone to think, “This is the last piece of this multiple-step math equation. How can I pull one lever that moves multiple?” This is when they crush things. For example, let’s say you’ve got visible stressors of excessive emotional stress.
Yes. Visibles are things that are symptomatic. Hiddens are ones that are maybe not symptomatic. You don’t even realize what’s going on. Visible ones, I also consider emotional stress. You see it on a daily basis. If your emotional stress goes up today, it’s visible. If your hidden stressors change today, you don’t know. You don’t feel anything different. You may not see anything different.
What are examples?
Hidden stressors can be things like a toxicity overload. It can be a parasitic infection. It can excessive Vitamin D binding up, which is another common example of people playing short games. It’s like, “I got my blood checked and Vitamin D is low.” I took a bunch of Vitamin D. It’s fantastic. I got my blood checked again and it’s still low. I took more Vitamin D. Do you ever stop and think why is it low? I’m getting twenty minutes in the sun. I’m taking 15,000 IVs a day.
This is a classic sign that your physiology is screaming something at you. There are a million reasons it could be. We know that the role of Vitamin D plays in storage. Oftentimes, what’s happening is you’ve got some heavy metal toxicity going on. Vitamin D is auto regulating itself to be low so that you will not continue to store more of that toxic element. it’s always going to be low no matter what you do until you rid yourself of that heavy metal toxin.
These hidden ones, a lot of that, you could see it in the blood work. Is that a pretty good guide?
If you know what you’re doing with blood work, that stuff can be a miracle. If you are looking at the reference ranges, don’t even bother.
A lot of bloodwork or ranges is set up that it’s like, “Your thing is out of whack or it’s high.” A lot of doctors will be like, “You’re not in the place where it’s a problem. You don’t have the thing.” Instead of showing the indication that you’re moving in that direction. They only call it when it’s a problem.
We have a whole host of issues with this. Number one, if you understand each thing you’re measuring in blood, the reference range. You get your blood work done and it comes back and it says, “Your blood glucose is 85. It’s supposed to be between 80 and 90.” That 80 to 90 range is what we call the reference range.
Depending on which company you purchase your bloodwork from, those reference ranges are different. Some of them are more valid than others. Some of them are terrible. Some of them have a low scientific rationale. Depending on the actual way that they measure it, you’re going to have a different reference range. Depending on who’s interpreting it, you’ll have a different reference range. Leaving aside the fact that the reference ranges are set up based on folks that are not feeling great.
In addition, we have other problems with reference ranges. Are you measuring the right type of vitamin? The active form and inactive form? Vitamin D is another common example. Almost always, the poor form of Vitamin D is what’s being measured. It’s the part that we don’t even care about. All those are problems. If you’re not understanding interactions between something like your basophils and your LDL, they can both be within perfect range “in the green.” If they are at a certain ratio to each other, we know that almost for sure something’s going on in your immune system.
Unless you have somebody that understands this stuff, that pays attention to biochemistry science, if they’re looking at the chart that comes back and says, “Everything’s in green,” you don’t know. They’re looking for what they’ll call clinical deficiencies, which have a certain actual number behind them. They don’t differentiate between those and what we call subclinical. Things that are low, within the green maybe but low but not a vitamin deficiency based on numbers from a bunch of people that are probably are almost surely sick decades ago.
I don’t even need the reference values. Not only do we not use them but I know the exact numbers I’m looking for. I know the ratio between all of the 50 things that come out in your blood work that we’re looking at in different combinations. One of our recent ones was a middle of the pack in his particular sport. Two years later, he’s the highest-paid player in the sport. These things happen from a 29-year-old to a 30-year-old.
By the way, we don’t use drugs. We don’t use any hormones. This is all figuring out what’s happening in your system and being able to come back and say, “This is a hidden stressor.” You don’t even necessarily know what you’re feeling. We see these numbers and we can track these now over the last three blood drives. We can see that this is happening with your B6, with your B12.
We know that the relationship that plays is something like cluster headaches. The reason you’re getting your cluster headaches is that this is what’s going on in B6. The reason that happened was because of the dysbiosis we found in your gut. We’re going to clean that up and then we’re going to do something to correct the B6. All of a sudden, the focus comes back and you’re like, “Wow.” Those are the hidden stressors. I could give you so many examples of those.
It’s interesting though because if I put on my householder hat, I’m a person who’s working and trying to get it done. You often feel not only not having things like sleep and not understanding the accumulation and the load on your system by eating crappy oils and getting into all that but I can imagine the amount of frustration. Let’s say 10 or 20 pounds. If you’re not an athlete, it’s pretty much weight loss. There are a few people that are interested in vitality, the life force. I want to go through life and I want to feel good. That’s cool. For a majority of people, it’s like, “How are my pants fitting?” They have all these unknown things working against them and that accumulation and then they have no idea and nobody can help them.
I’ll scare them a little bit
That’s how I try to parent. It doesn’t work. They go, “What are you doing?”
Natasha tries to scare our little one all the time and he doesn’t care.
He laughs like my daughter.
If you said, “Don’t grab that knife,” he’s going to grab it. If we think about these hidden and visible stressors, the visible ones are things like emotional sleep, hydration, diet quality. I call one of them idiot stressors. Idiot stressors are smoking cigarettes.
It’s the obvious crap. What about booze?
That falls in that category. Context is what matters, everything in dosage. Dosage is what matters. Generally, a glass of wine, cocktail, beer, or whatever. Idiot stressor to me is you drink three beers a night. Do you want to know why your testosterone is low? We’ll run some hair samples on you. I don’t need to but if you want to pay for it, I’ll do that. I can tell you right now why this is down or whatever your metric is that you care about. If you’re not feeling refreshed or whatever the thing is, I can tell it.
I want to make it clear. We have solved a lot of problems on the hidden stressors side. The hammer is on the visible side. I can’t reiterate this enough. I know it’s the boring stuff. Everyone wants to be like, “I’m probably one of these people with a gut infection.” The heavy hammer, the visible side, if you haven’t, we don’t need to waste the time over here. Many of our problems are with elite athletes. If we can make a 20% improvement in the visible stressors, it’s an 80% improvement in life. It’s that powerful.
Eventually, you do filter down to the people who have some stuff going on. We’ve had this happen many times with athletes where we’re several years in running analytics and stuff on them. We have to dive deep and we do find something on the hidden stressor side. We’re like, “Crap.” It’s things like allergies to a tree in the neighborhood where we’re like, “We’re going to run this mycotoxin test.”
The science is shaky. I’m not even sure I trust this stuff up. Something flags up, we’re like, “That’s interesting.” That makes total sense with a year worth of stuff. It all lines up. We remove it and the symptoms change overnight. You can’t start there though because the science is shaky and sometimes bad in these areas. You’re picking up one weed in the forest. Let’s first clean up. Let’s do the big moving first before we go picking through individual flowers. Everyone wants to start there though.
It makes them justify why it isn’t going the way they want. Sometimes, like anything in life, it’s the basics. These visible stressors, it’s like, “I should go to bed.” It’s like, “Yeah, you should go to bed.” You shouldn’t be precious. You should change it up and things like that. The visible stressors, it’s high-quality eating. What are the buckets that you would think a lot of athletes would be dialed in and good at?
They’re no different than you. They’re better sports. They’re oftentimes worse in all these areas.
By definition, they’re almost young. By definition, they have less likelihood of having children. If they do, they probably have good support systems because they’ve got financial resources. With their job, they can’t do it. They don’t have the challenges in executing many of these things that real people do. They’re typically poor. 80% of the problems we’ve ever fixed are basic stuff. It’s like, “Let’s take a look. Sleep is crappy for 1 of 3 reasons, sleep hygiene, sleep habits, or there can be some underlying physiology.” Quickly, we can figure out these are habits or hygiene issues. If it’s so, 95% of our problems are gone. Occasionally, it’s physiology. Now we got to get some hair or some stool.
For people reading, hygiene would be a cold, dark room. Turning things off a certain amount of time before you go to bed, having that practice. I’ve heard you talk a lot about changing where it’s like, “Once in a while, be sleep deprived.” In general, you also talk about the importance of paying that back right away. It isn’t about doing it and doing it. You got to pay that back. Do you like people overall trying to go to bed or in a window that’s consistent?
If we look at those three things, physiology, you’ve covered hygiene and habits. Habit is the big one. The first thing that we get under control habits-wise is a consistent frame of schedule, plus or minus an hour. This is something I’ve been doing for a long time. Thankfully, science has come up and supported that. One of the first things I noticed decades ago is it doesn’t matter if you’re going to bed at X time for a variety of reasons. Science used to show that. I didn’t believe that.
I want you to go to bed at a fairly consistent time. Now we have a ton of physiology to support why that happens. Consistency is number one. We’ll do this with the high performers. You can buy these things, PSG systems. You can buy an actual sleep study kit if you will at your house and you can have it live with this thing. It’s like going to a sleep center but it’s home. It’s not like an app.
Does it film you, what your movements are?
We’re going to have the ability to bring a full-scale sleep study into your bedroom.
There are ways that they can measure that. What are the things in these habits? Is it eating and drinking too close to the bed and going to bed at all these different hours and then you’re looking at screens and maybe you’ve had a fight with your partner right before? You’re talking about cleaning up all of these habits. What are physiological reasons?
[bctt tweet=”Adaptation is a simple equation. It’s simply your recovery capacity divided by your total stress.”]
We can look at things like dopamine. We can look at serotonin concentrations. We can look at melatonin. Those are physiological things. Circadian biology is real. You wake up with cortisol. Growth hormones need to be in certain places for you to start feeling sleepy. Depending on what’s going on in your brain chemically, you’re going to be feeling more alert, more energized, more wanting to talk, more wanting to problem solve at certain times of the day. If the timing of those things is wrong, all of a sudden, you’re like, “I couldn’t turn my brain off.” Sometimes turning your brain off is psychology. The more and more science we get, the less psychology is real. We have biological driving factors here.
Think about hormones, I go, “I know I have a spirit but I know that my hormones set up how the spirit can enter and express itself.” It’s an interesting thing where you’re like, “Am I chemistry?”
You are. There are only two sciences in the world, mathematics and chemistry.
Chemistry is math.
It needs to be more, Dr. Galpin.
The lame part of the joke is there’s chemistry, mathematics, and reductionism. If you don’t get that, don’t worry but it’s done. The point is there can be habits that are causing those things. You laid a bunch of them. There can be lifestyle things. There can sometimes be underlying physiological problems. One example is we’ve had people come back and their melatonin concentrations are like 100X the reference range. Shouldn’t that put me to bed? No, it won’t.
This is what happens, your melatonin is off the charts. You go through the night and how do you feel the next morning? Terrible. What do you do? Overuse stimulants. Stimulants have a half-life. You’re going throughout the day on stimulants. You feel groggy and terrible all day. What do you do the next day? You need a better night’s sleep and more melatonin. We end up in this vicious cycle of stimulants and melatonin.
All these things have half-lives meaning if you take melatonin today, it’s not all gone the next morning. Only half of it is gone. If you continue to take even 5 or 10 milligrams of melatonin, which are normal dosages even though there’s strong literature that supports anything over three milligrams has a little additional effect. Those things then build up. You’re walking around sedated. This is a physiology problem. We got to go in there and we’ve got to clear that out.
We’ve got to figure out if you have a vitamin deficiency. We know the role of B5, B6, B12 and converting things like tryptophan to serotonin. If you’re having low serotonin versus melatonin, one of these things puts you to sleep and one of them keeps you to sleep, what’s your problem? We can diagnose these things with questionnaires. From there, if we have suspicions, we can run follow-ups on blood to confirm. It’s like, “Is your problem falling asleep? Is your problem staying asleep?”
What is the difference if someone can fall asleep but can’t stay asleep? Is the melatonin too high if it keeps you awake or if it wakes you back up?
Serotonin is what’s going to put you down and melatonin is going to keep you down. That’s the problem. The problem is if any of those things are too high and you feel groggy the next day, you’re in a spin cycle. We can quickly figure out, are you waking up a bunch? If you wake up, you can’t get back to sleep. Is it that you can’t shut down? If you can’t shut down, why? You wake up at 6:00 AM. What time do you get in bed? 10:00. This isn’t a physiology issue.
This is a fact that you’re not even giving yourself the opportunity to get to sleep because you’re getting into bed eight hours before your alarm goes off. This is why. Do you know why you’re wired and awake at 9:00 PM or 10:00 PM? It’s because you’re not going to bed till 10:00 PM. If we move that clock back, I don’t even need to give you any drugs or run analytics here. You need to start your habit pattern sooner. We don’t do drugs or any of these things. Physiology is magical. If you get out of its way, it will fix almost everything we need. We can correct a little bit of lifestyle and all of a sudden, you’re like, “I’m starting to get sleepy earlier.”
Your output is greater. When you’re rested, your output is greater and you’re more tired. It’s that cycle. Let’s say you’re flip-flopping yourself in bed and you have a lot going on at work. You have two kids. You have a wife. When you’re in that moment yourself and you know exactly what’s going on, what do you tell yourself?
In the actual moment, you have two options. Option one, there are tactics you can try to get back to sleep, basic things like breathwork and meditation stuff. You guys have probably covered this a bunch. If you haven’t, we could talk about them. Probably the most successful one we have that I’ve used is any type of full-body relaxation. You’re in bed, start at your toes, feel your toes get heavy, let them relax, and move up to your ankles. Your eyes are closed, you’re breathing through your nose only, and you’re checking in. That tends to be pretty successful.
Can you distract yourself from your thoughts? Don’t run away from thoughts. The first practice is running away from thoughts. You’re trying to focus on the breath, focus on taking those thoughts of workout. Sometimes I go the opposite. I go directly into thought but I go into a thought that I want to be in rather than the one I was in. For example, I can think, “I’m going up to Gabby. What do I want to talk about?” Things that are happy and exciting to me.
Versus you’re grinding it out about some details at work and you’re worried about your son grabbing like knives.
Cashew allergy or whatever the thing that you’re going to have to deal with. You’re like, “Am I going to leave my wife?” These are hard things. Put your mind in a place where you’re thinking about something that’s as close to your soul purpose as you can. It’s the thing that drives you, whether that’s sports or whatever the hell the thing is that you get super pumped that you’d be talking about. Those are options 1 and 2. Try to redirect brainwaves.
The other way that sometimes I prefer is you go, “We’re not going to sleep today. Get up. Go to work. 2:00, let’s go. We’re going to go back to work and we’re not going to a pity party here. We’re going to get after it right now.” Do you know what’s going to happen? You’re going to be super sleep-deprived. I’m a fan of that, occasionally. The fastest reset we’ve had from people that continually struggle to get good sleep, let’s go sleep deprivation.
We’re going to go hunting and we’re going to be going to sleep at 11:00 PM because that’s the time we’re getting back. We’re going to wake up at 3:00 because we’re going to hike out the next day. The sleep deprivation problem is gone. People with actual narcolepsy and stuff are different. For most people, we’re like, “Let’s go through a battle of that.” It’s the same thing we would talk about with stress management, physical activity, and diet.
The body responds well adaptation-wise to massive insults with recovery time. They don’t respond well to slow, continuous, gradual insults. Short-term sleep deprivation often gets matched with a quick change of circadian rhythms. It’s pronounced. You could talk to Andrew Huberman. He can tell you all these things about slowly shifting your time clock. You can shift it right now fast by not sleeping for a couple of nights. The problem is when we get six hours of inconsistent nights over eight months. This is different.
The only way that the system I’m talking about works though is then if you pay that back. You woke up at 2:00 and you went to work. Now you need to go, “It’s night, the shutdown is here. I’m probably going to need three nights.” It’s not going to be, “I lost six hours of sleep tonight. I’ll gain six more tomorrow.” That math does not work with sleep. It has to be a gradual build back into the platform you want to be in. Sugar resets are the same thing. Fat resets are the same thing.
What do you mean about a sugar reset?
It works for fat too. Fat is the same thing. Your body pays attention so carefully to what’s going on. It notices subtle changes that are going on. We can get to breathwork stuff because this is the easiest way to diagnose. We run these diagnostics on everybody and it tells me everything fast. With the food things, you can go seven days minimum. Fourteen is probably better but seven is fine. Five is okay for some people. I have grad students of mine do this and it’s a pain.
Caffeine is effective for this as well but sugar is my favorite. It’s seven days without eating anything that has the sensation of sweet. I’m not even talking about added sugars. No fruit or anything like that. Sugar in general is not bad for you. This is highlighting the fact of how sensitive physiology is. It’s seven days without them. Immediately come back off of that and have either 1 of 2 things, either have a giant glass of fresh-squeezed oranges. You won’t even be able to drink it. You’re going to be like, “This is unbelievably sweet.”
You’re talking about almost resetting your definition of what is sweet to you.
That’s all you’re doing.
I have this with my kids. I have never been weird about things like, “You can’t eat this or that because I know it doesn’t work. This is how we eat this house. This is what’s available.” Believe me, with my youngest, some of the stuff she’s eating, I’m like, “Wow.” What you realize is if you never have soda in your house and your kids don’t drink soda, they won’t drink soda. They’ll be like, “Can I get a root beer?” You’ll go to the movies and I’m like, “Knock yourself out,” 2 or 3 sips. They can’t do it. It is interesting.
Orange juice is the first one. Soda is the second one for that exact reason. You won’t be able to finish a Coke or Pepsi. It’s terrible. The fun part about this last one is on that seventh day, take a bite of bell pepper. If you think about bell pepper, people used to call them sweet bell peppers. You may not even realize that. The reason is you’ll take a bite of bell pepper and you’d be like, “Whoa.” You can do the same thing with standard bread. You will taste the sweetness in bread.
Natasha, my wife, has a strongly sensitive palate and that’s why she’s good at cooking. She can taste all the little stuff. I’m like, “Beef is great.” The point is if you’ll take a bite of bell pepper and be like, “That’s sweet.” That’s recalibrating. There’s no, “Your body’s physiological addicted to sugar.” That’s all nonsense. It’s a habit for the most part. The habit is what’s been ingrained. You become desensitized and now the habit. Fat is the same way. Don’t eat anything fatty for a week and then you’re going to come back and be like, “This is so delicious. It’s so good.”
With sleep, we’ve talked about it a lot. Whatever breath that they exhale is longer than the inhale would be helpful for downregulating. I’m not going to overcomplicate it. If you can do that and start at the base of 2 to 3 minutes, that’ll at least start to kick you into that. It’s interesting. I have some stuff where I have had challenges sleeping. Once I became a mother, it got exaggerated. You get high. I walked around high for a couple of years. You’re sleep-deprived and you either are going to go crazy or you’re going to be like, “We’re rolling.”
Three years is a safe number of struggling because of the difficulties of both pregnancies. During the pregnancies, those nine months were a train wreck of sleep. Your first nine months past that and again. Years of the problem end. Natasha got to that point where she was losing it. She started to lose it. That chronic sleep deprivation, that’ll do it. You have to fix those habits. You have to have the target. In this particular case, the mistake people make on these things with sleep conversation is, “You got to sleep more. I got a business to run.”
In the same boat, here’s what you have to do. You have to set targets, “In 2022, I’m building this new business.” By Q4, we’re going to do a quarter reset. We’re going to have a different target. We’re going to do whatever we can take. There are for sure six-week periods of your life when you need to knuckle down, “Let’s go a little more caffeine.” It’s not the best but if that is the consistent lifestyle practice, it’s a problem. If it is a short-term thing that you then match on the back end with a quarter, months of recovery, I don’t think that’s a terrible system because now you have a target and you’re like, “We’re doing this. I’m going to work Friday night.”
[bctt tweet=”The way that you don’t get into a bad sleep cycle is you have to be judicious about what you’re going to do about your fatigue the next day.”]
It’s always pulling you. You’re using that quadrant system. Even sitting down with your partner and being like, “Here’s the deal, the next six weeks is going to be bumpy.” Even for us internally, I know that sounds strange but if you go on a trip with your family, there are times where you’re like, “I am not getting anything done.” My physical practice, the chips are out, they’re out of my business practice, and then you go, “Great.” You’ve got six chips in the family one. Understanding and knowing that too is important is helpful. I am guilty of this, I’m not a good sleeper. They get into defining it, “I don’t sleep.” Also, with that, the practice has to be a releasing of, “I don’t sleep.”
I shouldn’t say this either but I will. We’ve run several genetic studies, twin studies, and things like that through our lab. It is quite clear that a number of your physical traits are in a large part if not entirely based on genetic inheritance. If you globally took you, whatever you is you, if you took that, the number of you that is your genes and the number of you that is what we call the outside stuff, the more science, the higher the number gets of you or not you. You are a product. There’s little you. Little you is here because of our understanding of epigenetics and all these other factors.
The number I use is 20%. You are 20%. 80% is it, depending on the exact thing we picked. Maybe it’s 50%. In global, because of what we talked about, adaptation is being driven here. We’ll use this when sleep all the time. Some people will say there are larks. There are morning people and there are night people. Some people are like, “I do better at sleeping in.”
People think that is them. That is sometimes the case but is almost always the function of what have you been teaching your body to do. You are incredibly resilient. Sugar is the same thing, “I do better in intermittent fasting,” or, “I do better on eating six meals a day.” Do you? I don’t think you do. The vast majority of people are going to do equally fine on either one given you make them both good. It’s not going to matter.
It’s what you’re saying. You talk a lot about this when you’re even talking about your calories. It’s like, “Can you get it done in two meals? Maybe you can if you’re getting the right and the good.” Usually, for most people, it’s probably three. It’s also getting it done.
Sometimes I’m looking for what works best for you. I’m also thinking, “I’m going to build it.” You don’t go to your car and be like, “What works best for you today?” I’m going to build the engine to run this fuel. This is what we’re doing. You don’t do well with carbohydrates. They blow you. First of all, you’re sensitive. You’re either driving resiliency or sensitivity in every single choice. You’re driving either resilience or sensitivity and you want both and you want some things in the middle.
We’ll go through an example of each so you can get the bigger point here. Some things you want to be highly resilient to. Some things, you want to be highly sensitive to. Some things you want in the middle. Some things are like sensitivity. If you said, “If I have one beer, I get hungover.” You’re sensitive to alcohol.
I probably don’t want people who are super resilient to 25 beers a night. I took 25 beers and I feel great. That can happen. I don’t think that’s the place we want to be in. Alcohol is one of those things where we probably want to shift that towards pretty sensitive. I went through a period of time where I and Natasha consciously drank more alcohol. We will make it a point to make sure we have a drink because I like it.
Is that how you ended up with two kids?
I love to know that discussion, “We’re liquoring it up for the next few weeks.” What does that look like?
What happened is we would have one cocktail. I feel terrible. We would hang out with a chef friend of ours. We would have these seven-hour things and then we’d have one glass of wine that he had selected from Southern Italy. He’s like, “This is going to pair perfectly with the venison.” We’d have it and she would immediately get a headache. The next day, she felt trashed. We were like, “I don’t want to live a lifestyle where I’m that precious to alcohol.” Do you drink rarely?
I want to be able to have something like that and not have my day ruined. We’re like, “All I have to do is once every month or something.” Even once every couple of weeks, we’ll have a beer, a drink, or something like that so that my body, without overcomplicating it, continues to have the enzymes necessary to break down some of the stuff.
I think of that even with gluten. I try to eat good gluten like I have if I’m going to have bread or whatever. Laird and I talk about this a lot because he’s hyper disciplined but he’s like, “I don’t want to get precious.” You have to do one drive-thru because there’s no place. All of a sudden, you’re sick to your stomach. It is interesting. You talk a lot about awareness, being aware.
The other thing that I appreciate is someone asked you once, “What’s the best thing you could do for your health?” You said being accountable. That doesn’t mean that someone wasn’t dealt a certain card but it’s like, “What do you want to do about it?” This falls in that for me, which is being sensitive and aware but then you have to be durable.
You have to be. You have to understand where on this sensitivity or precious to resilient spectrum are you? If it’s something like alcohol and you don’t mind being super sensitive to it, fine.
[bctt tweet=”Do not let short-term optimization always undercut long-term adaptation.”]
It’s not part of your lifestyle.
If you’re over here where you’re massively resilient to everything, the downside of that equation is you probably have no awareness of what’s going on because you don’t feel anything. You’re super resilient to every single thing. You can’t gauge what’s happening and the problem with that is you can’t make adjustments. We had this happen many times where we have an athlete who’s resilient and it’s like, “We’re going to change something. How do you feel today?” “I feel the same.”
Is that a physical thing? Is that someone also whose mental state is they’re rolling?
It’s dullness. It’s dull because they’re not responding to anything. They don’t understand what it feels like to have a little more energy. They feel a little bit less energy. They don’t understand any of these things because they’re not calibrated at all.
I wonder how that shows up in their everyday life.
There are several downsides to it. An upside is they can follow any diet you give them because they don’t care. It’s like, “It tastes fine.” “I’m going to give you chicken with no salt, no seasoning, or anything. It’s boiled chicken, a quarter cup of rice every meal, seven meals a day.” “Okay.”
There’s a lot of people who live like that. It’s interesting because how do they do it? They do it. Also, do you know the difference between when you feel good or not? That’s the other side.
We need to drive them back too because resilient people can’t peak, that’s the downside. Sensitive people, we can turn the knob and we’ll shoot way up or they’ll shoot way down. We can time peaking easily with sensitive people. With resilient people, you feel the same every day and that’s a big problem for people who are like, “I have a huge meeting today. Plus, I got to do this whatever. I need to feel my best today.” If you’re in the middle, I can go, “Do this and this. We know you’re going to respond well. You need a great night of sleep. Let’s have a bunch of carbohydrates tonight. Let’s go have a big carb meal tonight and you’ll sleep amazing. That’s always how we get our best sleep.”
What’s your favorite source of that carbohydrate?
Any of the classic starches are going to be fantastic. Any kind of potato, sweet potato, normal potato, rice, corn, all those things are fantastic at night.
It’s to make you go to sleep.
They all work great. They work fantastic. For example, one of the physiological problems we have is sleep. Another one is cortisol. Cortisol is the thing that wakes you up in the morning. You want a high cortisol spike. By understanding that, it needs to be done at night. This is the reason why if you’re stressed or upset, cortisol comes up and you stay awake. It’s because of a bunch of other chains that it does.
We know clearly that a large bowl of carbohydrates can suppress cortisol acutely. Quickly, you take the carbohydrate, you get this nice blood sugar rise, you get a cortisol reduction, that comes down, you feel full, you feel satiated, and stress reduction comes down. You do that with either hot or cold treatment depending on how you respond. For some folks, you’ll get a compensatory downregulation. For some folks will get jacked up from the cold. I’m pretty neutral on it. I can take it and go right to work. Also, ice and heat, the same thing. We figure out, what do you do best with a cold or hot combo or whatever it is? With food, almost always some breath-related thing, and lights out.
One of the major services we’ve had with sleep dysregulation is scaring people away from carbohydrates and then certainly scaring them away from carbohydrates at night. It’s difficult to fall asleep if you’re sensitive over here and you’re not matching that and you couple that with no down regulation internal approach and then you couple that with no help outside.
In other words, you’re not doing anything inside your body like giving it carbohydrates to help downregulation. You’re not doing anything outside your body like physical practice, downregulation approach, breathing. Why are we shocked that you’re like, “I’m not super wired but I can’t fall asleep.” You’re not doing any of the things that we know need to happen to go to bed at the right time. You don’t have long-term practices. You’re not a night person having a hard time. You are a being who has been conditioned to go to sleep at this time.
The last thing I’ll say about this is a common thing that we’ve done to fix people that have this, like, “I’m inconsistent getting to sleep.” It’s not, “I wake up a lot.” It’s the ones that can’t get to sleep. A lot of the time, I have them go to bed later. What’s going to happen is you’re going to fall quickly into this pattern loop of you getting into bed at 9:00 and you go to sleep at 12:00. Get in bed at 11:00. You got to bed at 11:45. We moved fifteen minutes. Now we’ll walk back.
The same physical mechanisms by the way as my short-term sleep deprivation. You have got to have a large insult of the circadian rhythms to get them to move outside once you’ve taken care of the hygiene stuff. If that’s still there, great. Nutritionally, we can play with stuff from the hidden stressors side. That’ll do it too. Once we figure those things out, some people are still not going to be amazing, especially when you have external factors like a three-year-old getting out of bed at night.
There’s a level of emotional grace and acceptance. It’s easy to freak out especially as you’re sleep deprived because then your fuse is shorter but understanding and having that moment with yourself and being like, “This is going to pass. It’s going to be okay.” Your kids are going to be like, “Get away from me once in a while.”
What we don’t do too is after coming out asleep, you have two choices. I am a scientist. It’s always systems, algorithms, and numbers. The way that you don’t get into a bad sleep cycle is you have to be judicious about what you’re going to do about your fatigue the next day. For example, we know that a crummy night of sleep plays almost no effect on the physical ability the next day. If your eyes are burning all day, there is no reason you can’t perform that day without caffeine, without any stimulus, without Modafinil, without any of these things. I’m not anti these things. We use them. We are judicious.
What ends up happening is crummy and out of sleep, fill in the blank. Crummy and out of sleep, now we’re in this pattern. You had a crummy amount of sleep, what’s the goal intent of today, this week, this month, this quarter? If you feel like crap today and you got a couple of meetings and whatever, you’re going to eat today. You’re not going to take a nap, by the way. We’re not going to nap. I hate napping furiously.
We’re not going to do that and we’re not going to skip our workout. We’re not going to skip the meeting. You’re going to do the things today and you’re going to be a little bit uncomfortable but it’s not that bad. Most likely, you’re going to get to bed sooner the next day. If not, eventually. We’re not going to screw up the circadian rhythm because of short-term discomfort. It is a different scenario. It’s like, “Here are the things I got to do.” Let’s hit up whatever the thing is that you do. Let’s optimize for today. We’re not going to let short-term optimization always undercut long-term adaptation.
We have to understand what we’re trying to do for the day. If you pick that appropriately, then you’re going to be fine and you don’t run into these issues of, “I have this addiction to caffeine.” You can’t think without your precious. You can’t think straight unless you did your twenty-minute meditation, you had your coffee, you had your yoga tea. Get out of here. You have to be able to perform without anything. You become way insensitive that you’re not resilient over here at all to any of these disruptions because life will bring them, number one, kids. Number two, it’s not the best physiological state. You’re not going to function at your highest capacity on your best days if you can’t get through those crappy days. That’s how physiology works.
What’s interesting is once you get into the practice of you’ve been in that spot a few times and you give yourself the self-talk, “This isn’t ideal and we’re moving forward.” Sometimes getting wound up about, “I didn’t sleep well. It’s too late.” That is worse than like, “It’s okay.” Even getting up at 2;00, you flip flop, “Let’s get up. Let’s go.” That’s something better about that.
I want to move around. You mentioned something about introducing certain things to your children. For example, peanut butter. I have a lot of kids. We joke that there’s nutritious peanut butter that they load full of vitamins and minerals. I don’t want to call it sticky-something but they realized that they could make peanut butter cheaply and load it with a bunch of vitamins. They were sending it to places where kids were malnourished like in Africa and what have you. Only in the US where we’re like, “What about the peanut allergies?” No kid over there has a peanut allergy.
You and your wife have a smart way of slowly introducing and observing. Even when your daughter was little, putting peanut butter on the skin and then watching that for a week or two or whatever and then slowly putting some in the mouth. We live in a modern time where kids are allergic to everything. I thought that was a great point.
A couple of things. The science of allergy and intolerance is murky. It’s better though. Number one, we don’t have a lot of clear answers relative to things like physical exercise. We have a lot of straightforward answers, hydration. Number one, it’s still a guessing game. Physiology is magic. Some of these clinics have over 80% success rates even severe allergies. If somebody has a peanut allergy, you probably can’t cure that.
There are certainly nut allergies you don’t grow out of but the other ones, many of these clinics have up to 80% success rates at least taking it from, “You may die,” to, “You’re going to have a runny nose.” It’s a huge one. Effectively, all they’re doing is micro-dosing and slowly increasing the amount of the actual algorithm that they give you over years. These are typically 2 to 5-year protocols. High success rates, some risk, of course. If you’re a parent with a kid with a severe allergy like that, the chance of them bumping into peanuts in the natural world is already high.
M&M’S, number one.
It could be anything. It could be a residue on the gas station. Somebody ate peanuts and walked in and put their money on the table and that’s it. I’d rather have that exposure happen in front of a physician at controlled doses. Our approach was like with everything, it wasn’t about allergies. I want the kids to be exposed to as many things that they will need to be able to handle as an adult in the proper doses. We didn’t do baby food or any things like that with the exception of early learning tastes.
I would give them a piece of elk before they could have it. They could suck the juices of it. You see the expressions, like, “Great.” You don’t let them eat the whole thing, chew it, or swallow it. It’s a controlled setting. Get it out. Taste all of these things. We give them sugary foods. We don’t give them Capri Suns. They’re getting grapes, watermelons, bananas, all these things that they’re going to taste. You always want to go in the mouth first. Never start in the skin. You don’t want to take peanut butter and dab it on their skin.
One of the things is not subtle but there is a theory that one of the reasons that causes allergies is if there’s a break in the skin and you introduce something through the skin that causes the inflammatory and the fight response. They’ve had it invading their skin before they ever had it in their stomach. You want to be careful. If you have little kids, if they have any cuts, scrapes, or things on their faces, make sure the first time they have anything that has common allergies, shellfish, and all these things, you want to make sure when you give it to them that it gets all the way in their stomach. Don’t let them smash those things on their face.
That is far from a confirmed scientist’s thing. That is an ever-growing thought. Because the body hasn’t had it before, it sees it as a foreign invader and doesn’t recognize it. Now it develops this attack system to it, which is what allergies are, autoimmune responses. We were careful about anything in those categories. There was one time when we would spoon-feed them. You make your mistakes and all this stuff. You learn how to chew. You learn all these things. You get food and you have to choose. You develop positioning strength and tactics for all those things. That’s the one exception.
Even things like high acidic tomatoes, lemons, all that stuff can cause a big response. Differentiating between an allergic response versus a simple acidity sensitivity is difficult. All you have to do is pay attention to your kids. It’s hard because you’re watching them non-stop. You want to pay attention. We would try to have them eat as much as possible in the least amount of clothes as we can. You can see, “You’re getting a huge hive on your thigh.” Without letting them get exposure to those things. That was the basic approach on that one.
I have a friend’s daughter who is allergic to pineapple on her skin but she can put it in her mouth.
That’s common. You’ll see that with a lot of things. Avocados do the same thing.
Let’s talk about academic people now shifting into parenthood. How does that work? Are there all these plans and discussions? Do you feel like you’re flying by the seat of your pants like the rest of us mortals? What parts did you think, “I’m going to brush up on that. We’re going to create a strategy around this.”
[bctt tweet=”If kids have any cuts or scrapes on their faces, make sure the first time they have anything that has allergens that it gets all the way into their stomach, and don’t let them smash those things to their faces.”]
Strategy number one is to understand when you are severely over your head. I let Natasha take care of it. I would be bold-faced lying to you if I said that anything besides the fact that the vast majority of the parent strategies came from is 100%. That was our personality. Her skillsets in life and mine are almost the exact opposite. It worked out. We were not even going to have kids.
This is what’s amazing, I haven’t seen you because of COVID. Since I’ve seen you, you now have had another child. Your daughter was young the last time I saw you. I was always like, “Galpin, who knew? He was barely going to get married.” It then was like, “Boom.”
I’m still anti-marriage. I hate it as a concept.
Why do you hate that? Is it, “I’m tied down.” “Why should I?” “It’s between us.” What is it?
It’s more like, “I’m locked in. You’re locked in. I’m not going anywhere. Why do I need to make this more complicated with the damn things? That made no sense to me. I’m like, “You want marriage? We have a 30-year mortgage.”
It’s like, “How much more committed could I be?” Laird said to me a long time ago, “I’m here every night.” I’m like, “What the hell does that mean?” I then understood. I was like, “I am too.” I understood what that meant.
That’s the main translation there for you. It’s like, “What more do you want? I’m coming back every night. What the hell?”
“I’m with you.” You weren’t expecting to have children. Was it a surprise?
She said, “Since we’re married…”
Neither one of us ever felt that was our mission in life or that was a core thing. I was always indifferent. She was indifferent as well. We talk about things a lot. Over many years, it was like, “Maybe we’ll come back.” Eventually, we both moved more towards like, “We want to do this.” It then was like, “We want to do this.” We’re like, “Let’s pull the trigger.” It was a selective decision.
I feel extremely fortunate in the fact that we were blessed enough to have children in our mid-late 30s. Personally, when you have kids in your early twenties, those people are tough. I’m like, “We have financial security. We have all of these things already in place. We are mature. We’ve got a lot of life figured out already.” Now we get to go into this massive chaos with a lot of things being controlled. Almost nothing else in our life is chaos. That helps a lot.
I have some friends getting ready to have a kid and they’re in charge. They’re organized. I’m like, “I can’t wait to see that.” How has that blown a hole from somebody who studies and looks at outcomes and things are measured? “That didn’t work. Let’s try this.” What about parenting surprised you?
There was a lot. We didn’t read any of the books or any of that stuff. I thought it was all useless. She was prepared for things like allergies. All the medical stuff, she was prepared for. What we didn’t anticipate were several things. It’s more like, “There will be X amount of hours a day that I hang out with the kid and we do things.” I didn’t anticipate losing whole days at a time. It’s simple stuff like, “The kid has a cold.” “You can’t go to school.” “What do I do? I have a doctor’s appointment.” I’m like, “We have to do this. The plumbers are coming.” All these things and you’re like, “I won’t work today.”
For someone that has a schedule like mine, I’m like, “I can’t lose a whole day at work.” Yeah, you can. You’re about to.” There’s no more like, “I’ll work on the weekends.” That space has been filled. You know the words but it doesn’t land with the unpredictability of all those things. You have your fingers crossed that everything goes okay.
Before you have kids, maybe women do but I never thought about the complexity and danger of childbirth. Even to this day, it’s still extremely dangerous from both ends. I never sat with that and felt it until you’re like, “This, this, and this.” Even with things that are small but still leave your kid with something that you’re going to deal with the rest of your life, you’re like, “I hope that doesn’t happen.”
Other things pop up with kids, you’re like, “It’s healthy. It’s great.” All of a sudden, it’s two and then this thing pops up where there are three and you’re like, “These things happen.” You’re like, “My kid had a little extra part of his kidney. He almost had kidney surgery when he was six weeks old.” You’re like, “I did not anticipate that. I didn’t anticipate having to spend weeks trying to figure out what this is. What the hell’s going on?”
Now you have to make critical decisions, “Do you want to have surgery? Do you not?” All those things, I didn’t anticipate. You assumed, “I’m young and healthy. She’s young and healthy. With these habits, we’re going to have a healthy kid.” It turns out, it was totally fine. It’s that stuff where I lost weeks of work.
For someone like you who will go, “What’s an issue?” You even said, “If we have a problem, we’ll fix it.” Whether it’s the plumbing or you need better cardio to perform. What I mean is we’re the scientist, the human, the dad. I’m always intrigued by people who have to go along for the ride and they’re used to not doing that as much.
One thing that’s interesting is you probably already see this but I have this analogy of the baker and cooks. When I’m trying to figure out an athlete or any individual, one of the things I’m figuring out is if I’ll categorize them as cooks or bakers. The functional difference is anyone knows how to cook for the most part but baking is different. If you’re sitting there thinking, “What the hell is the difference between cooking or baking?” You’re a cook. Baking is precision and chemistry. You cannot bake a cake and be like, “Did that say baking powder or baking soda? I’ll throw one of them in there. Did it say teaspoon or tablespoon? I don’t know.” It is precision and timing. Everything matters.
Cooking is the opposite. You turn the stove on. Is there some oil around here? Yeah, put it on there. Is there some protein? Yep, put it on there. Do we have any cheese or hot sauce or anything? Put that in there. What else is in there? Are there any vegetables? Toss it in. Almost done. I pulled it off. More hot sauce, more cheese, and salt, we’re good. Cooks tend to have anxiety with too much detail. They get trapped. They get held down like, “Do this. I can’t remember all this stuff.” It’s too confining. I feel freer. I feel better. I feel like I can do what I need to do with guidelines. Have a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and hit this and this is the concept.
Bakers are the opposite. If they don’t have precision, that’s when anxiety comes in. It’s like, “Did you say 7 almonds or 8?” “I don’t know. Let’s have some almonds.” “How many?” “Don’t add too much.” They hate it. You have to give them extreme precision with detail, “Have three almonds. Wait six minutes, not seven.” You’re always trying to deliver information in a way that’s accessible. People are chefs, cooks, or bakers in different areas of their lives as well.
For me, when it comes to how I work with an athlete, I’m a baker. Because of that, for the vast majority of the rest of my life, I’m a cook. I hate detail. I’m very much like oh, “We’re going to go to London. Let’s get a hotel and get there.” Natasha is the opposite. When it comes to the parenting thing, the unpredictability wasn’t that hard for me.
With that part of my life, I’m like, “Let’s go to the park.” “Did you bring their water bottles?” “No.” “Did you bring their diaper bag?” “No.” “Do you realize he’s going to take a nap for 30 minutes?” “No.” “Do you know what to feed him?” “I don’t know. I’ll get him some cucumbers.” That part of it wasn’t a hard transition for me because, with them, I’m like, “Let’s roll. Let’s see what happens.” She has that burden because of the personality stuff. With some parts of my life, I can be here.
The transition with the kid wasn’t that difficult for me. The hardest part by far for me is sometimes I have these bursts of creativity and these bursts of clarity. My entire life, I’ve been able to be like, “That’s the thing. Go do the storyboard. Go write this or whatever you’re trying to do. That’s why those data look like that. This is what’s going on.” I’ve been able to go right to it. That’s gone. I couldn’t be like, “Yeah.” She’s like, “The kid is screaming and wants breakfast.” I’m like, “Can you feed it?” It’s like, “No. I’m changing his diaper.” That part drives me nuts. I’m like, “Can’t you stop wanting to eat for a second? I want to finish this paper.”
We say there’s no off button. As a couple, have you made any adjustments? You want to keep the romance alive. I know you admire your wife a ton. How do you adapt and adjust to that? A lot of people get eaten up by that.
We’re the same, no question. We were fortunate and unfortunate in the sense that we had my son a week before the lockdown. It was dope in the fact that a week later, I’ll be able to go in there. It would have been horrible. I feel awful for those people. It’s terrible in the sense that my kids didn’t leave the house. Especially my kid, he didn’t have the socialization stuff for a year. I remember the parks were shut down.
I had a two-year-old and for three months, I couldn’t leave my house. I’m like, “What? No wonder why she wants to sit and read books.” He had nothing to do but run up the stairs and run down the stairs. That part of it was a struggle. That wore on us big time. Eventually, it was like, “She has to have a day without somebody screaming.” Natasha is into food. She’s like, “I want to eat a meal where somebody isn’t throwing something on the floor or screaming at me.”
One of the reasons why I signed on to be around her for life is we handle problems almost identically. She and I are both are able to separate logic and emotion pretty well. It’s not always perfect. I can do things like, “Here’s why ABC.” She can do things. We’re able to be like, “You’re wrong here.” We can have these without getting too into it. It’s not the emotion. The emotion is clearly there. It’s easy for me to be like, “You’re right. That was me.”
It does get easier, don’t you think? The longer you’ve been with somebody and you have trust, you get to that quickly if you’re both on the same page of like, “I’m not here to torture you. Let’s solve this.” There are people who have different agreements where maybe one person is like, “I want to work this out.” The other person is like, “On the way there, I want to torture you.” That doesn’t work. It also doesn’t make it safe to take accountability.
The other thing I could say to any people is if you have a partner that’s willing to go, “I blew it,” you have to say, “Thank you,” and move on. You’re not allowed to bring it up again. You’re not allowed to hit him over the head later. It’s like, “Awesome, thanks.” It’s important. You learn that even with your kids. I had an interesting thing with my youngest daughter. I’m always on her about her phone. I’m going to have you back in another few years when you have to deal with that.
She’s on her phone and I’m always like, “Good for you.” It’s all this stuff. I go, “I can show you the science.” Sometimes I get there. I go to her room and she wants help with her homework and she hands me this paper that’s from a book about the problems with telephones. They’ve taken an excerpt from a book. She goes, “You should read this. It’s interesting.” She was writing a paper on it. I read it and it was all the things I had been saying for a year.
I’m going to give you a secret. This is the third kid. It’s taken me this long. I said, “It’s an interesting article. Thank you for sharing that with me.” She’s like, “Aren’t you going to say anything?” I was like, “No because I’m well aware that you shared it with me and I appreciate that.” I got out of her room. It’s the same thing with marriage. Laird has done something where he’s revealing something and it’s his way of saying it. I’ll go, “Thank you.” I move on. You want to keep that door open. You don’t want to be like, “I told you so. That’s what I’ve been saying.” That feels good for four seconds. You put goop in there that you put a block up.
Athletes got a different notion of the things that they can control. When we look at the bucket, it’s your food, it’s movement, it’s your stressors. You do have to have some relationship or be in nature and sleep. Let’s talk about hydration. We’ve talked about sleep. I want to get into hydration because people go, “I walk around with a water bottle all day long.” I know that a lot of moisture goes through the skin but it doesn’t impact the system. When you say to somebody the hydration, first of all, why? We don’t give it its credit. For women, we can say, “Your skin will look good.” That might do it. Sleep recovery, elimination, all these things, maybe we could visit hydration.
There are a handful of things. Everyone knows about the basics. The easiest way to think about it is it is the core of every single physiological reaction in your body. What’s the metric that’s important to you, your sleep, your recovery? Every single enzyme, water is going to play a role in that. It is an essential requirement for every single living thing. It is the only thing that is essential for every single living thing. There is no other vitamin, no other mineral. Nothing else is 100% essential for every living being that we’ve ever encountered. Not even in this world but ever. That’s the same thing.
If that alone isn’t enough, I don’t know what more you want. We could talk about the reason why you’re either constipated or the reason why you have gas or the reason that you know feel great or how much it plays an executive function, decision making, critical thinking, and memory. We could go there. We could go physically. We know how it improves things like shooting accuracy, free-throw shooting a basketball, or firearm shooting. Small tasks are improved there, golf swing accuracy. All these things, at their core, are going to be reduced with insufficient hydration status. I can go on and on about all the different reasons that hydration is important.
A lot of people don’t know if their water is good to drink. Now we got plastic bottles or whatever. I’ll be honest, there are days where I go, “I blew it today. I can feel it.” A lot of times, what I’ll do is I’ll have salt water drops that I might take in water. I don’t know if it’s a placebo effect where I take it before bed. I also know it’s better for your heart to not go to bed dehydrated. Secretly, I’m like, “I’m going to catch up in my sleep.” Is there a bridge gapper?
You do want to be careful because improper hydration will negatively affect your sleep. In other words, if you drink too much water, it can make your sleep worse because now you’re waking up. If you’re waking up three times to pee, it’s a problem. One is the number we shoot for. If you wake up one time at night to pee, you’re okay. Anything more than that, we’re doing it wrong. We have a timing issue. What happens is people don’t drink enough earlier in the day and they smash a bunch at night, “I feel great. I feel hydrated.” They go to sleep and wake up three times to pee, they feel terrible because they’re waking up all night.
There are three things. If you’re constantly feeling like, “I drink enough water but I don’t feel proper or I feel like my mouth is dry when I wake up. I’ll start this over.” I’ll make this easier to start with. You can use what we call the WUT system. If you wake up in the morning, check your weight, that’s the W. You can look at your urine color, that’s the U. You can check your thirst, which is T. Those three are a fairly strong predictor of actual hydration status. It’s shocking. It doesn’t take anything. You can use all the crazy science we use. Those alone are a pretty good indicator.
One of the things that we’ll do with the seven-day hydration test that we do with all of our folks is you track that every day. We track your weight pre and post going to the restroom. If you weigh yourself and you weigh 180 and then you pee and then you get back on the scale and you weigh 179.5, you’ve lost eight ounces, half a pound. That’s pretty low. I’m already flagging, “Did you wake up and pee 2 or 3 times?” “Yeah.” That’s what it was. “No, I didn’t pee all night.” You’re dehydrated. That’s a low amount of urine for the morning. We should have more than that. We’ll check that throughout the day.
Every time you go to pee, hop on the scale pre and post. I don’t want to see the color. I want to know the weight and then I want to know your thirst level. If you’re like, “I’m drinking enough water. My pee is fairly clear-ish unless I had coffee or vitamins. I’m dehydrated. I’m not sure.” Here’s how you can tell. If you feel that sensation, you have 1 of 3 issues. Number one, you’ve got some kidney dysfunction and regulation. That’s reasonably common enough. You could have that checked. For most people, unless they abuse their kidneys, your liver can take an absolute pounding and kidneys do not. If you have anything going on you’re your kidneys, you need to get work with a nephrologist and get that fixed. They didn’t respond. They don’t come back.
Chinese medicine, too. They talk about if you have kidney issues, you’re also reluctant. There’s apprehension. For athletes especially, you don’t want that.
It’s not good. They don’t come back. The liver will respond to anything. Anyone who made it to college knows that. That’s the first thing, you can check that out. Number two, it could be simply a blood glucose issue. We know the direct correlations between blood glucose concentrations. This ties into one of the vitamin things you’re talking about with the peanut butter stuff. That’s generally what they’re giving folks. If you’re a Type 1 or Type 2 diabetic, you already probably realize that. If not, if we see dysfunctions and blood glucose are a little bit high, even numbers that are still within the reference range, we know that every point above 95 is starting to get one point higher to vision loss and hydration issues. You want to be careful.
Assuming you’ve got those two things taken care of, the third option is you’re probably not at an appropriate salt concentration. A common problem that we see people with that are having an issue with hydration is not having enough salt in their diet. I’m assuming that people reading this are not the people that are eating fast food three times a day. We see the opposite problem. Folks go to a mostly whole food diet and you’ve cut out almost all of your salt consumption.
[bctt tweet=”Improper hydration will negatively affect your sleep. If you drink too much water, it can make your sleep worse because you’re waking up to pee three times. Anything more than once a night, you’re doing it wrong.”]
We get low daily salt intakes like a gram of salt a day. It’s difficult to hold in water when you’re doing this. You’re constantly peeing things out. You’re constantly feeling thirsty. You’re like, “I’m dehydrated,” even though you’re drinking a gallon of water a day or more. That’s because your salt concentration isn’t enough. You’re either not adding enough salt to your food or you’re not having a proper salt electrolytes combination.
You can test this. We will test and see exactly how much salt and what types come out in your sweat. One of the strategies we use is we drink sweat. We figure out exactly the concentration of magnesium, calcium, potassium, chloride that are coming out in your sweat. We put those exact back into you and people feel outstanding.
The first step for you if you’re trying to figure out your hydration at home is the WUT system. Try to figure out how much you’re weighing. Number two, try to track this. Use MyFitnessPal or one of these basic ones and track and log all your foods. Note if you’re adding any extra salt in the cooking process or not. MyFitnessPal and all those things will give you a basic estimate of your salt intake. Most people probably need at least two grams a day. This is not counting the exercise. Some people may even do better 3, 4, or maybe even 5 grams a day. Play with your salt intake. It can be from electrolytes, supplements, and things or more salt on your food.
Who doesn’t love that?
We’ve been conditioned to hate that but that’s because we are in a society of people having 7 or 8 grams a day. They’re having single meals that have two grams in them because they’re packed, shelf life, and all these things. A lot of the people that are probably reading have gone the opposite direction. You figure those things out. In terms of water intake, an easy number is half your body weight in ounces. That’s a standard thing. If you weigh 200 pounds, have 100 ounces.
You can pay attention to that. Drink more water. As everyone says, step number, drink as much as you can possibly get. There are a couple of tricks with that. The research is pretty clear that three things will enhance water consumption throughout the day. Number one, having it in visible sight. It has to be there, not in your refrigerator. It has to be within your direct line of sight. If you see it more often, you’ll take more sips. You can get a 40% increase in daily water consumption by seeing it. Step number one is to see it. The best ability is availability.
Number two, it has to taste better. There are easy things. Take a strawberry and throw it in there. Any flavor enhancement tends to bring a pretty good increase. Pineapple, cucumber, mint, toss it in your thing. You’re going to be like, “This is delicious.” It’s the stupidest, easiest, little thing. Number three is salt. Salt makes you want to drink it more. You can take a dash of salt and put it in your water. You can do electrolyte packs if you want. Sometimes you can graze them. Take the pack and take the smallest amount of salt and the smallest amount of flavor. I promise you, if you take a cherry, throw it in your big Yeti, or whatever your water thing is, put a little bit of salt in there, and you’re going to smash that thing.
You talk about technology, food, adaptability, adopting versus optimizing, and all the differences. You have so much information that you talk about. It’s interesting when I’m getting ready to talk to you. I call PJ Nestler. You can go in ten different directions. I want to try to keep it in one location but I appreciate it. I do want to finish on two things. One is I loved that you did the study on real markers for longevity. It’s straightforward. Maybe you could mention what those are. We all think it’s something over here and you’re like, “This is based on a Scandinavian country and Olympians.” I can’t remember the exact study.
I’ll walk you through that study. There are two that may be pertinent to this. One of the twin studies we did as well can tie into this. The one thing to keep in mind here is as we have the conversation about longevity and aging, one thing that is fairly clear that puts in the wrong direction are aging and longevity type of things are counter to muscle quality. What I mean by that is if you look at a lot of the things that are being pushed in the longevity and aging space, it is typically things like calorie restriction. It is maybe even some intermittent fasting. It is things like the regulation of blood glucose. It is things like the regulation of testosterone.
All of these things may demonstrate a longer lifespan, especially in mice, fruit flies, worms, and things like that. We also know that those things are the direct opposite of animalism. Why that is a problem with humans is clearly, muscle quality is if not the strongest predictor of longevity. We are going in the exact opposite direction. If you want to live long, starve yourself, keep mTOR super-low, live on Metformin. You can do all these things. You might have a longer total time frame. If you do that to the effect where you compromise muscle quality, you’re not going to get there.
The science is unclear at best if not somewhat dangerous in this. We have to understand what is going to keep us alive the longest. That’s what we’re shooting for. That’s the target. We want to be 90 and still climb this damn mountain. You’re not going to get there by following all these things that pull you backward. By the same token, you’re not going to live to 90 by doing all the things that ramp you up in the anabolic site either. There are no free passes in physiology. We’ve got to think, “How do we find some blend between longevity, muscle quality, life quality, and all these things?”
Having said that, one of the studies you’re referring to that we did several years ago is we went out to Stockholm, Sweden. We looked at 80-plus-year-old athletes and we compared them to 80-plus-year-old non-athletes back here in America. What’s interesting is even the 80-year-old control group that we used was non assisted living. If you’re 85 and you’re still living by yourself, it’s pretty good. That’s something to keep in mind. We’re not talking about bedridden living at home folks.
The Swedish folks who are cross country skiers, all of them were Olympic champions in the 1940s and 50s but they were still competing. Some of them had done more than 50 or even 60 consecutive years. Some are competing in Vasaloppet, which is their version of the Boston Marathon but it’s a ski race. The best in the world is two hours. The average person is 4.5 hours.
They’ve been competing in this thing for 50 or 60 years. They’re in their 90s, 88, 87, and things like that. We ran a gamut of testing, muscle biopsies, strength tests, we scanned their hearts, blood, everything on them. We compared that to the folks back home. What was clear was the VO2 Max, which is a function of how much oxygen you can bring in and utilize. It was almost double in the skiers than the control group.
To give you some numbers here, when we talk about a VO2 Max, anything below twenty is what we call the line of independence. If you fall below twenty, you’re probably not able to live by yourself. In the control group, the average is 23, 24. They were living at home but they were close to that line. Any little cold, any little thing, that’s it for them. Our group was closer to 40 with some of them being over 40.
In fact, we had a 92-year-old that set a world record for the highest VO2 Max ever for a 90-plus-year-old. For more context, the VO2 Max of 40 in milliliters per kilogram per minute for those of you science folks, that’s an average number for a college kid. These folks are 88, 87. The joke that was made is if it came down to it and there was a bear attacking, that college kid is going to get eaten. It’s not the 90-year-old. You would gasp before that guy. He would not outrun you and it would be over.
They were resilient to everything. If they got sick and they dropped 10% or 15%, they’re so far above the line of problems that they were okay. That gave us one strong clue. Why are you aging well? How are you aging well? These guys were so incredible. We’re in Stockholm and so we’re at hospitals. We’re running all these things in cardiology departments. People would be like, “You’re going to take a 90-year-old, put them on a bike, put them on a mask, and exercise. Can they do it?” “Yeah. It’s going to be fine. Trust us.” They thought we’re nuts.
They would walk across the street and snow everywhere and slip and fall and they pop right back up. They would jump on tables. We had two guys that finished it. They took a couple of deep breaths. They don’t speak English. They’re from way up north. We’re yelling them Instructions in English. Two of them are like, “We didn’t understand the instructions. Could we try again?” It’s not like they’re going to come back tomorrow. A minute later, they’re breathing heavily. Their heart rate is well over 170 for 90-year-olds and they’re like, “Can we try again?” We’re like, “Yeah.” The cardiologist was like, “No. you’re done here.” That was pretty telling to us.
The literature is going to support it. I’m generally going to say two. If we understand what’s predicting that, VO2 Max is high on that list. VO2 max is a function of two things. Number one, how much oxygen your heart can pump out per pump? How well you can extract oxygen from your blood into your tissue? Those are the two factors. You multiply those together and that’s your VO2 Max score.
This is another diagnostic that we do. If your VO2 Max is low and you want it to go higher, where in that spectrum is it coming from? Is it an oxygen intake thing? Is it an oxygen extraction issue? We have different diagnostics. We have different approaches to solving one of those problems. Sometimes we call it reverting central. The VO2 Max is important.
If we think about that in the context of what we’ve been told for help and mortality as well, it makes complete sense. If someone cares about your blood cholesterol levels, if they care about your blood pressure, why? High cholesterol doesn’t kill anybody. High blood pressure doesn’t kill anybody. What kills someone as their heart stops. Why are we worried about these indirect measures of heart function when we have a direct measure of heart function?
It’s not to say don’t take your blood pressure. Take your blood pressure. It’s not to say don’t look at your blood cholesterol. 100%, you should look at those. You could die tomorrow. It’s a dumb thing to not pay attention to those. If we can, why not look at the most direct measure of maximal heart function? This is what the VO2 Max is going to tell us. Shockingly enough, when you do that, it predicts mortality.
If someone’s sitting here reading and they’re 40, 50, 60, or 25, is there a way that you can continue to intelligently increase that?
Yes, there are a number of them. Number one is you can diagnose it yourself quickly. There’s a large number of what we call the VO2 Max estimators. You can look up estimators and there are all kinds of two-minute tests you can do. They’ll give you a way to predict your VO2 Max. My favorite is to run a mile and a half. You can cycle or do whatever you want. Something that takes you 8 to 12 minutes. You can take those numbers and plug those directly into free things on Google and that would say, “Your VO2 Max is 28, 48,” or whatever you want it to do. You can google VO2 Max estimator.
My favorite one for athletes is 1.5 miles. They run it for 8.5 minutes. You plug that in, “Your VO2 Max is 53.” Got it. It’s super easy. If you have a heart rate monitor, that makes it easier. Most of you have it on your watch or something like that. You can do a two-minute test where you walk for two minutes and you take your heart rate pre-imposed and then it can estimate your VO2 Max from there. It’s not super accurate but their ballpark is.
Let’s say you’re somebody and you’re young and you’re only at a third-year or something.
You have an extremely legitimate health problem. This is going to affect you when you’re in your 70s. You’re in crap right now. Do you want to know how to fix it?
Yeah, I want to know.
It’s super easy. Science is simple. Physiology is simple. It’s what I call the SAID principle, Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. If you want to get better at shooting free throws, shoot free throws. If you want to get a higher functioning heart, make your heart try the hardest it can. All you have to do is challenge your maximum heart rate. That’s effectively it. How do you want to do it? I don’t care. This is principles versus method.
You want to do it in the pool, fantastic. You want to cycle, I don’t care. You want to swim, I don’t care. You want to do steady-state, great. You want to do intervals, dope. Whatever you want, it doesn’t matter. You need to do something that gets your heart rate up to a max or close. You do something that challenges its ability to sustain work overtime. They could be the same workout. They could be different workouts. It could be different phases of the year. They could be different days of the week. Those details don’t matter as much.
An easy solution that I will tell people is to do three things once per week. One, do something at a low intensity that your mouth does not open, nasal only. This could easily be a walk or whatever they happen to be. Produce it for 40 minutes. Low heart rate, 90, 100 max. Walking, easy. Number two is to do something at a maximum. I don’t care if it’s 30 seconds, 20 seconds, 1 minute, 6 minutes.
Do whatever the hell you want. Something that takes you up, you recover back to baseline or close and do it again. Do it 2 times, 6 times, 60 times, I don’t give a crap. Do whatever you want. Do it in Orangetheory. Do kettlebells. I don’t care. Something that’s going to take you up to a point where you’re like, “I can’t breathe. My chest is going to explode.” It’s once a week.
Number three is to do something that requires something more than the 20 to 30-minute range. It can be longer if you want. The minimum is 20 to 30 where you can’t talk but you’re not dying. This is more of a standard steady-state cardio thing but it’s not like, “I’m having a conversation. I’m reading People Magazine while I’m on a treadmill.”
I never understand that, reading the paper.
Go for a walk. Get the hell out of here.
That counts your one with your mouth shut.
All three of them can be done with your mouth shut. That’s ideal. Number 2 and number 1, you’re going to get to a point where you can’t keep your nose close. If you can keep your nose or mouth closed, you not going hard enough. You have to be in a position where it is maximum ventilation. That’s it. Do those each once a week. Those could all be combined too. It could be one total workout if you had to do it that way.
[bctt tweet=”We have to actively play a game of, “What are we not going to do that we know is good?””]
The other thing I like is your flexibility because of the principles that you’re like, “We need to find the environments to do that.” I want to encourage people. You have a ton of content. I went down the rabbit hole when you’re talking about complete proteins. For people to understand, they can find your YouTube and they can subscribe to your channel. The book I was referring to is Unplugged. It came out in 2017.
Leaving this conversation, you can hit many areas of performance. These are not the athletes. We’ve already explained to the athletes that there are ways through understanding what you’re dealing with and how you can improve. For the person who is a working, regular athletic, people who are putting training in, what are the things that they most likely could be making a mistake on and what you’d like to invite them to do?
Number one is if you have a body, you’re an athlete. You get to choose what sports you play. Do you want to play basketball? Fine. Do you want to play life? I don’t care. You’re an athlete and you’re playing a game. Having said that, any athlete will tell you, “In the preseason, we learned 700,000, 800,000 plays. For each individual week, we picked the five that we think are going to work best.” We call it gameplan. Everyone should do the same thing. There are a thousand things that I know but I’m going to pick these three things to focus on and I’m going to do them.
If hydration is the thing you’re going to be on, cool. Don’t do hydration and breath work and learn to workout. You’re going to get nothing done. With the athletes, we always refer to this as training to nowhere. I know you’re working out. You’ve been eating better. You’re doing all these things. Have you made any progress? Not really. Why? We’re not getting anywhere. I don’t want you to do that. Pick 1 or 2 things, whatever your aptitude is, how much time you have, and all those things. Get better at something. Check that off the list and then go to the next.
With the fighters, particularly, we have to actively play a game of what we are not going to do that we know is good. It’s hard. I know that we need to stretch more. We’re not going to do that right now. I know that we need to improve our food. We’re going to make sure this thing is done. We’re going to improve our hydration. We’re going to work on sleep. Nothing else is going to get in the way, “We can still work out or whatever.” Everything right now, if it’s going to take away from sleep, we’re not doing it. We’re going to spend eight weeks, eight days, or whatever the hell the number is until we’ve got that thing.
What happens is you’re going to try things for four weeks and then there’s another thing that’s going to come up and you’re going to get excited about something else on a podcast and you’re going to do something half-assed. A year later, you’re going to be like, “I’ve done all these things. I spent $35,000 this year on different little things. $500 for this. I bought this. I went to this. I don’t feel that much better than I did last year.” You have to be more focused. If you can do three things, great. If you can do five things, great. If you can do one thing, I don’t care. Pick one and get it done. Now we can add it to the list.
This is exactly how we drip things on athletes. I do not give them the full money. Our program is in the preseason. We have a three-week roll-up. We have the first half of the season. This is a year-long process with athletes. Some of them, it’s multiple years. We’re in year three and we now start to add another layer. Now let’s talk about breathwork. If I would have dumped that on them on day one, it won’t matter. With some of them, breathwork is day one. Figure out what the thing is that is going to move the needle the most for you and everything else is like, “Cool. I got a free extra couple of hours. I’ll play with that. Right now, this has got to get tackled.”
Something that I appreciate also is I’ve heard you say that if you have this one worst habit, can you stop that? If you’re smoking a pack of cigarettes, can you go down to four? It’s also having a realistic approach to this. Dr. Andy Galpin, if somebody was able to and you guys had the bandwidth to do a program with you and Dan Garner, where can they find you for that and get a hold of you directly or there’s no bandwidth and that shop is closed? There’s not enough of you.
There are ways we can go about different things. The educational stuff is on YouTube. If you want to be your own thing, you can go there. Shoot your shot. We’ll see.
If you’re down and out and you have no money at all and you’ve worked harder than Dr. Galpin, you’re in.
Honestly, you’d be surprised. My email is public. You can find my email and come to me. It’s probably better to come to me than Dan because Dan probably won’t read your email but I will.
I want to also finish this up by, first of all, saying thank you. Also, you talk a lot about variation versus randomization. I want to encourage people to google you and google that. That was important. I didn’t get to that but maybe in another two years. Who knows? Another kid or something later. Your son has cured you of that.
The plan was always to hit our number and walk away from the table.
Congratulations. I appreciate how you have this incredible knack of being hyper-focused, significant, specific, and being like, “Whatever, that’s on you to decide.” I appreciate it. Thank you.
Great to be here.
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About Dr. Andy Galpin
I don’t come from science, fame, or money. I was born & raised in majestic Rochester, WA and am a die-hard Seahawks, Huskies, & Mariner fan (RIP Sonics & welcome Kraken!). I played football, basketball, baseball, and track & field and was pretty darn good. I worked at a grocery store, gas station, hayfields, the blueberry farm, and in road construction with my dad, brother, and occasionally grandfather. Around 14 y, I started lifting weights and immediately knew it would be a part of my life from then on.
I’ve been a full-time Professor at CSU Fullerton since 2011 (tenured in 2016 and promoted to “Full” Prof in 2020!) and Director of the Center for Sport Performance since 2015 where I conduct research on anything I think is relevant to human performance. My interests range from nutrition to strength training to single muscle fiber physiology (I’ve performed hundreds of muscle biopsies) to breathwork and much more.