Written by Christopher Kelly
Nov. 22, 2017
[00:00:00] Start of Audio
Chris: Hello and welcome to the Nourish Balance Thrive podcast. My name is Christopher Kelly and today I’m joined by not one, but two special guests in person in Berkeley, California. I’ve got Robb Wolf; say hello, Robb.
Robb: Hello, Robb.
Chris: And Dr Tommy Woods.
Chris: Well I am delighted to have you both here. Robb, we’re going to talk about your Keto masterclass. Very excited, I’ve done the course myself, really enjoyed it. Perhaps the first place we should go is why. Tell me about your purpose for creating this…
Robb: Before we jump to that, you guys at some point in this thing really need to do like a Darth Vader voice and say “Where once I was the student, now I am the master.” Because I don’t even research anything anymore, I just wait for my Nourish Balance Thrive feed to basically populate my brain and update things. So just to get that out of the way.
Chris: That’s very kind of you. I thought about doing a standard bio and then I thought “Oh no I bet Robb doesn’t like bios.” And then I thought “Well maybe I should just say what Robb means to us as an entity.” I mean the first thing you did for me was recover my health, and then the next thing you did was help me launch a business helping other people recover their health.
Robb: And then you [00:01:07] [indiscernible].
Chris: That’s right.
Robb: Which I just discovered that on…was it Kenford’s? Stem talk, yeah. So that’s awesome.
Chris: Yeah thank you for that. I’ll get back to my original question that I rushed into, which is tell me about that purpose. So just to give people some more context, you already wrote an award-winning, New York Times bestselling book on the Paleo diet that still forms the foundation of our business.
You get people eating a minimally processed whole foods diets, free of refined seed oils and refined carbohydrates and all that good stuff – you get amazing results. Then you went on to talk about high palatability and optimal foraging strategy and all, and that was really good information as well. Well I go down this direction and start talking about very low Ketogenic [00:01:50] [crosstalk] [indiscernible].
Tommy: Is it the same direction?
Robb: Very very much the same direction. It’s interesting even though I’m known as the Paleo diet, my first foray into ancestral eating was a ketogenic diet. And for me at that point in my life, it was a lifesaver. Like I kind of delineate my life before that time and then after that time because I can recall all of my childhood feeling like my head was stuffed with cotton, like everything was happening a mile out away from me and little windows of time where I would have some mental clarity but most of the time I had a between meal window of opportunity of maybe 2, 2 And a half hours.
And that got less and less as I kind of shifted my diet towards higher and higher carb, more grains, more legumes. For me it was a bad mix, but also looking back now, I was trying to do a graduate program, I was in Seattle, I had not seen the sun in months. And so I was still in the mindset that sleep was for the dead, I wore sleep deprivation like a badge of honour and so I had maybe 4 years of super bad sleep, a diet that really wasn’t copasetic with my physiology on the best of terms and I wasn’t living in the best terms – to do stress and photo period and all that type of stuff. It just crippled me.
So looking back now, had I moved to Costa Rica and adopted a vegan diet, I might have been able to navigate it a little better. Bake on a sun and it would help the digestion. But with that environment, it really wasn’t a good fit. It was such a profound life altering event for me. It drove me to want to help other people and that was right around the time that CrossFit started popping up online and I got connected with those folks, co-founded the first and fourth CrossFit affiliate gyms in the world and got to work with a ton of people.
And this low carb kind of ketogenic approach to things was fantastic for people that were metabolically broken. Oftentimes a great reset for their gut, it proved not to be so great for glyocalitically based athletes and I broke many a person trying to [00:03:53] [indiscernible].
Chris: As long as you learn from it, that’s okay.
Robb: Still I had to wait for you guys to come back around and be like ”Yeah that doesn’t work”, and I’m like okay it really doesn’t work. There literally was no stone that I left unturned with that. I broke a lot of people including myself, and so I think one of the lines in Wired to Eat, I think the chapter heading is Ketosis: The Best Tool That Your Doctor Will Never Talk About, or something like that. So it’s a phenomenal tool grossly misunderstood both in the people that are promulgating the ketogenic diet, like we have kind of almost 2 camps.
One camp is fat bomb city, like the only route to getting to ketosis is huge amounts of fat, super low protein, avoid insulin like the plague, and the other camp is recommending maybe you should change to whole foods based diet, allow protein to really satiate the individual so that we get a spontaneous caloric reduction and man there’s no overlap between those 2 Venn diagrams, other than that they both claim to be heading into this ketosis kind of realm.
And I saw a lot of need for comprehensive yet concise treatment of this ketogenic approach, including at the very beginning of it a triage process which may say “Hey, you may not be a good fit for a ketogenic diet.” And so even though it’s a key to a master class, part of what we do in the beginning has actually put people through a sorting mechanism – sort of an algorithm. I have to give a hat tip to you guys; I started thinking more about the sorting mechanisms with the work that you’ve done.
Chris: And we were inspired actually…I noticed you were using [00:05:25] [indiscernible] software and we were inspired in part by a Ryan Lebeck and his last method. It’s like “How about this? You just ask people how they feel.”
Robb: Holy smokes. Instead of guessing, I don’t know. Maybe they need this, maybe they need that. So that was actually something that was interesting; we surveyed our leadership and Keto is a huge topic of interest. And then there were kind of different flavours of where people fell down with it. Some people just didn’t know how to do it, they were brand new to it and they were totally overwhelmed. Some people were at the end of the day, there was no more day. Like they had no more time to do this stuff, so there was a time criticality piece. Another big piece was social interactions, like husband, spouse, and coworkers.
People would stick to the program for the week and then on the weekends, it was going out to the bars and everything went sideways. Then they would feel like they needed to just abandon ship. So we kind of delineated some different groups of people that we felt would benefit from some really good stewardship through this process. And then also I wanted to do the best treatment I could on both the scientific side but also the clinical implementation side.
Like when is a large amount of fat consumption appropriate and when should we really focus on protein and fibrous veggies and almost like a protein sparing modified fast and try to navigate those different needs. Because you guys know this all the time, you can’t start with those granular details but if you don’t throw those granular details out there, all of a sudden that big picture thing you threw out there chiselled in stone has become another set of commandments and there’s a religion that’s developed around it. So there were a lot of different reasons that kind of lit a fire under me to do this treatment, but a lot of it is that I just love these approaches to eating. Like for me again, it’s been a lifesaver. I still kind of navigate around that very ketogenic realm interestingly, and you guys just shot me some papers recently like Tommy’s blogpost on…
Chris: I’ll link to this in the show notes, it’s a really interesting blog post I think that maybe ketosis or ketogenic diets is a little bit misunderstood in the amount of carbs they really have.
Robb: Holy smokes they really have and he was eating upwards of 300 grand a day in this very demanding mountain bike.
Chris: It was the [00:07:44] [indiscernible] 7 day mountain bike race in South Africa. He really is working but still…
Robb: He would do a vigorous refeed and wake up the next morning and be at like one in a millimetre ketone levels. So there’s just so much stuff to unpack with that but I really feel like these approaches to eating our vastly under-utilised but at the same time there’s a tendency to engrave themselves in stone, turn it into religion, lose one’s mind about how you can tweak and modify this stuff.
And maybe it’s appropriate for you today and maybe 6 months down the road it’s not, and being able to provide a guidepost for that so that if things change, you have a template to be able to go back and say “Oh Okay, this indicates that maybe I need to up the carbs or maybe I need to do some sort of a targeted approach or something like that.”
Chris: I’m so glad you made a video training course rather than a book.
Robb: Oh thanks.
Chris: I’m kind of tired of the book format, it feels like something from times gone by before we had the internet and video and all that kind of stuff.
Robb: You know it’s funny, there was an old Beck album right as they started getting some CDs that had some video interface and stuff like that, and it was so cool because you had the music. But then you had all this kind of multimedia interactive element to it and that thing really struck me. It was like mid-90s or something this came out and it was pretty avant-garde for that time. But I thought about that because some people take in material from a written perspective and sometimes it’s just easier to articulate it because you really want to maintain a concise flow of consciousness and for some people, they can set up a Teleprompter and just rattle that stuff off and really are great at doing that.
So the written piece is nice on the one hand but the video modules are actually a little more free form. I have an outline, I have some slides to kind of keep me on track but oftentimes I get some pretty good ideas even in the process of doing that. So thank you, I enjoyed that process so much more than just writing a book. Even though time invested-wise was probably comparable to doing both my greatest books, it was a chunk of work.
Chris: So who’s the cause for…you’ve got lots of people listening right now who are athletes, maybe practitioners, CP users, people who are really technical; and I’m wondering whether this is a course for them or did you have someone else in mind when you designed the course?
Robb: Honestly what I geared this course for is the weight watchers crowd. Like that was my goal because I feel like those are the people that really need the most help. That’s where westernised society is going to implode if we don’t change the vector on this diabesity kind of story. With that said, there are a lot of people that again maybe they have not figured out how to manage the time element of this. We have some phenomenal resources on helping people managing their actually meal prep. Nicky come up with this system of making sauces and she’s actually thinking about doing some stuff with that but she would make 5 or 6 sauces on the weekend, and then you cook your hunk of protein. And then on day 1 you’d have a pesto sauce, day 2 you have aioli sauce, day 3 you have like a Mexican themed sauce.
Robb: So even though you’ve got the same protein, on day 1 you would eat it whole, on day 2 you would cut it into strips, on day 3 you would cube it; so you’re getting both a palate and a sensory change. So kind of harkening back to Wired To Eat, you have enough variety in there that almost the same stuff is different enough that you’re not “Oh my god I’m going to hang myself.” Yeah so the raw beginner’s definitely a good person, people who are time crunched, it’s definitely good. And the people who have run aground on that social piece, actually provide a lot of mindset type stuff in helping to navigate that.
I actually put together a couple of videos which we haven’t released those yet but it’s basically a conversation with the parent or the spouse or the significant other. It’s like “Hey so somebody who cares about you wanted me to talk to you. I’m Robb Wolf, New York Times’ bestselling author. My parents died when I was young. You have a child who’s concerned about your health, they don’t want you to die young and what they’re asking you to do is try this for 30 days but it’s basically an attempt of offloading that social friction.
So I become the virtual intermediary in that. So we’ve been working on that, couldn’t finish all that in the way that I wanted for the course but that’s going to be some bonus add-ons that we provide. So I’m really trying to tackle the people who have run aground in this scene. The high level athlete – God bless ‘em, they’re great – and that’s where it’s awesome you guys are here because you guys can really help them. But for me, my passion is really the folks that might die young, that might not see their grandkids grow up and stuff like that. So a high level athlete certainly gets some material out of this but it’s really not geared for them. If they do any coaching, it could be a phenomenal resource to recommend to coaching clients and stuff like that.
Chris: So maybe I could ask the listeners then – if you know someone who might benefit from this type of course, then perhaps you’re the person to…don’t shove it in their face but just maybe nudge them into the direction of contemplation, so I’d say.
Robb: Right, right. We’ve been doing some pretty good videos, like I did a breakdown in the difference between Paleo and Keto. And it’s pretty solid – it’s like an 11 minute video piece and the response has been great to that. It’s all a lead in towards promoting [00:12:55] [indiscernible].
Chris: Was that background a poster shot by the way? I saw the video. I thought it was pretty interesting, I wanted you to talk about it because it’s a demonstration, it’s an example of the tremendous resistance you get from people when you’re exposed to enough of them. Wasn’t that incredible? Why don’t you tell me about the…There was that background photoshopped.
Robb: It was hilarious. This woman who I’m sure is just absolutely wonderful – in some ways I feel like a jerk – but she said “I just couldn’t pay attention to what he was saying. The background was fake, is it a brick background in a building? How did you wrap it up?”
Chris: Why would you distract us with this?
Robb: It was wide deception. I wrote back to her like are you serious? That was the Sierra Nevada Mountains! And then I put in another photo from a different angle with my kids but you can see the mountains and everything. I took out her name but then posted the comment on my private Facebook page and everybody savaged the person. And then it turns out she’s this retired woman and the picture she has in her profile is of her now deceased war hero husband and everything.
She’s like “Oh I’m really sorry, that totally makes sense. I thought there was a cow in the background.” What she thought was a cow was our goat house and everything, so then I basically wanted to go hang myself because I’d become such a dick.
But it was interesting that clearly…and she said “I’m really interested in this stuff,” but the potential that there was a fake background or something spun her out. It’s funny, if you get a large enough population size, you get the most wacky responses. Like you just would never in a million years predict that people are going to go the direction that they go and it’s really interesting. It’s kind of crazy but yeah.
Chris: We saw a little bit with our analyst [00:14:37] [indiscernible] Facebook advertising, and so we put that whiteboard explaining video in front of maybe a million people. And some of the comments, I just couldn’t believe it. It was not like our normal comments at all – intelligent, well referenced, great questions, really wonderful people who are very kind and happy. It was just like “This is black magic, this is witchcraft. There’s no way this could work!” And I’m just thinking “Yes it can!”
Robb: All these people like one word – bullshit. It’s like “That’s fine. You come here, I will send you the science. I’ll send you thousands of words if you want.” But no, they’re just happy to turn up and call bullshit because that’s what people do when they’re at that kind of level of social interaction. It hurts when you go from the well-curated group of people you’re used to hanging out with and then you end up at the YouTube commentary kind of comments. Holy smokes man, yeah.
Tommy: So is that something that you’re sort of gearing yourself up to see more of and you just kind of hope that enough of the messages will help enough people – which I’m sure is probably the case?
Robb: Oh yeah I already had a couple of Keto critique groups totally savaging me because I’m playing around with some Facebook marketing. So we’re doing some kind of [00:15:55] [indiscernible] piece and man they just…so what was funny was one group, their reason for being is criticising the nuttery that occurs in the Keto scene.
Chris: I know who you mean.
Robb: Yeah. So the 2 things they seem to be critical of is that Keto is appropriate for everybody, and then the fat bomb to Nirvana kind of deal. So it’s interesting; they were super critical of me, they were critical of Mark Ciss and they were like “Yeah you guys are just jumping on the bandwagon. You’re trying to take this stuff, repackage it and just explain to them how to exercise and eat in an intelligent fashion.” And I’m like “And your issue with that is what exactly?” Okay so your reason for being is you want people to not portray Keto in the way that it’s being portrayed. Other folks are not portraying it that way but it’s not. It’s almost like if we solve their problem, then they’re not going to have a reason for existing. It was interesting. I put on my…you guys know Mike Row, the dirt jobs guy?
Chris: Oh no I don’t.
Robb: He’s amazing, he’s hilarious, he was the host of the show called Dirty Jobs. They go in and show what garbage collectors do and horse inseminator so. And he’s hilarious but the guy never loses his cool and he always comes out on top in the way that he treats this online nuttery. So I kind of think I did a…instead of my usual Viking Hulk smash kind of gig, I did the [00:17:24] [indiscernible]. Interestingly then we got a bunch of sales out of that, so another Obi Wan deal. Cut me down and I’ll be more powerful than you can imagine.
Chris: Tommy, who do you think the ketogenic diet is for? Like who would you recommend? You get people coming up to you all the time like “What do I do to fix my problems?” To which people do you say “Oh yeah ketogenic diet would be a good option for you”?
Tommy: It’s almost always somebody with some kind of metabolic disease, which is absolutely the crowd that you’re catering for. Which is also two-thirds of the population in which we live, essentially. And I think that’s where – at least using these principles – chasing a certain ketone number or anything like that I think is genuinely going to lead you to craziness when that’s actually not at all what you’re trying to achieve. You’re trying to achieve some kind of increase in your metabolic health but anybody like that, that would always be my first go-to.
And you have to – as Robb knows – you have to kind of sell it to the person from where they’re at. So as soon as you go if you’re just like say a ketogenic diet, for some people they’re going to back off and say “Exactly you think about fat bombs and all this other kind of craziness”, or they think about [00:18:33] [indiscernible] which is a whole other bag of tricks. But just sort of changing the dietary plane, such that you’re removing all that crap that essentially got them in trouble, that’s essentially what you’re doing right? Then that just gives the body a chance to heal, but then the other question – and I think this is very suitable for you, Robb – is you expand this to hopefully hundreds of thousands and millions of people. That’s the goal and certainly hope we get to that point. Where is it required and where is it no longer required? How do you get to the point where some people would call it an intensive or severe intervention, which depending on how you look at it, it may or may not be.
Robb: So is multiple amputation.
Tommy: No absolutely right, so you can get to that point. People will sustain themselves in the diet forever and they’ll feel great, but that way that I think about it is if any intervention, you should get somebody to appoint where they can eat carbohydrates again. Or you can go back to something…
Robb: That’s more latitude.
Tommy: Yeah Exactly, however you want to describe it. So say somebody gets into it, how do they then figure out when they’ve had enough, when have they achieved what they wanted to achieve? Is there any metric or do you go by feel?
Robb: It’s largely chicken entrails and tea leaves right now but I have a few thoughts on that. Generally if we get someone down to a reasonable degree of leanness, usually some good things have happened although not everybody who’s metabolically broken is overweight. So that’s a whole confounder but generally some degree of leanness is a pretty good starting point.
Robb: I do think that inexpensive, a short sweet testing like an LPRI score or maybe something like a Kraft test or something like that really kind of establishing a little bit of that metabolic health. So we have an objective element of that. Then on a somewhat more subjective, although there’s a little objectivity to it, is doing something like the 7 day carb test.
Like finding some carbs, reintroducing them, having a process whereby you would transition from a basic ketogenic diet to a modest carbohydrate diet to set yourself up for some success on that. And we have 2 pieces to that – we actually have the blood glucose numbers and then we have kind of “How do you feel?” I have Good cognition, my digestion is good – and then we can figure out a way or a spot that we can introduce some greater latitude with that.
And if we can encourage people to then do some things which I think are a lot easier, like just eating while the sun is up, trying to get outside and get some sun on their skin; there’s a bunch of these other paleolitive elements that so long as we can stop the house from burning down and we can kind of turn the direction.
4 months, 6 months down the road, they would probably have a lot more latitude than what they do and because they’ve had that success, when we tell them “Hey man, 5 days out of 7 don’t eat or drink anything after sunset.” Summer you’ve got more latitude, in the winter you’ve got way less altitude; particularly if you live [00:21:22] [crosstalk] [indiscernible]. I think a lot of people are like “Okay I can do that” because it’s not such a constraining process. So I do think we need some biometric kind of milestones so that we have a little objectivity with it. It needs to be inexpensive, it needs to be easy to track but I think there’s enough individual variability then relying on how do you feel and just some simple things. What you Guys largely do…
Chris: Right, subjective questions.
Robb: Yeah I mean how’s your sleep, how’s your digestion, how’s the libido doing? Man you learn so much from that, particularly if you have the 1000 data points of correlative data on the back end, like you guys do. But I think that that’s a really good spot to be and then within that population, there will be some people that they’re probably going to eat Keto-ish the rest of their lives. It’s going to be a great fit, we even got some of these folks doing the fully carnivore thing and by all accounts, crushing it.
Those people aren’t doing that because they want to be in the cool carnivore crowd, it’s because it will cripple before and this is the one thing that keeps them healthy. And then we have this whole huge spectrum that expands out from there, but the challenge I think is almost always it’s like taking a microscope and zooming in and zooming out. How do we start with a big picture broad brushstroke approach, get people moving in the right direction and then provide the sorting to get them going where they specifically need to go.
Tommy: So what about when people don’t achieve the results that they’re expecting? Have you thought about what steps they can take to figure out what is this hold up? Because when Chris hosted the Keto summits and I’ve given some talks at some low carb comps and all these people would come up and they’re like “I was doing really well, I felt really good for x amount of time but then my fasting insulin didn’t come down or my blood glucose kept going up or I still didn’t get my fertility back or I didn’t lose weight as I thought I would.” So how do people start to navigate that and figure out what they should be changing to kind of get those results?
Robb: That’s a great question and in the course, we call it the dreaded plateau and generally, we reference that to weight loss specifically. We really lean heavily on the work that the Keto Gains Guys have done. They’re so cracker jackered at this stuff on kind of that systems implementation system but we really sleep – we refer back to sleep when you go into bed, what’s the quality, what are you doing, are you doing proper electrolytes for that? So the electrolyte piece ends up being really huge, encouraging people to go back through and recalculate their macronutrients And make sure that they’re not…
Chris: They’re not leaving anything to chance.
Robb: Yeah. I think one of the cool things about low carbs and kind of ketogenic diet is that is reasonably easy to do them seat of the pants and not overeat.
Chris: [00:24:02] [indiscernible].
Robb: Generally it works pretty good, but people can overdo it. We had a client that I mentioned in my first book where this guy was losing a little weight. He was over 400 pounds but he wasn’t like just lighting it up and then I said “Okay just write down approximately what you’re eating. He said breakfast, and then he had lunch and then he had a snack and the snack was almonds. And I’m like “How many almonds?” And he said the Costco container of almonds. So he would sit down and eat 3500 calories of almonds in a sitting and I’m like “The fact that he was losing any weight was kind of a miracle.”
So reorienting people on making sure their macros and the total caloric load is within reasonable boundaries. Calorie matters, food quality matters and the way that we are able to reduce our caloric intake spontaneously is by having good quality food. So it’s kind of a virtual cycle and its crazy, the amount of pissing matches around this stuff. People would want to burn me at the stake for even saying that. And then finally having reasonable expectations also. Sometimes people get in and there are great examples of people who were maybe sarcopenic, overweight, and then they start lifting weights and they increase their protein intake and they’re just looking at the scale.
Robb: And even though they’ve gone down…there are some amazing pictures of women in particular, like 80 kilo women, 50 kilo women and the 80 kilo one looks amazing because she’s put on a ton of muscle mass and she’s now got some curves and everything and yet she’s a lot heavier. Some people are like they’re so freaked out on that scale number, it’s literally this mystical religious kind of thing, like you couldn’t have a conversation with them around that. But those are kind of the things that I would address on the plateau.
We do mention part of the sorting process is asking do you have any known or suspected thyroid or adrenal issues. Are you a glycosidic based athlete, like CrossFit games, MMA, those sort of things? Pregnant or breastfeeding woman? And usually in those situations, we recommend against generally specifically ketogenic diet.
We recommend starting somewhere around that 75 to 100 grams of carbs using that same macronutrient calculator to establish caloric load, make sure you’re getting adequate protein and then trying to get the bulk of those calories from low glycaemic load vegetables and the appropriate fat level. So this is again where even though it’s the key to a master class, we don’t necessarily sort everybody into a classically ketogenic diet.
Chris: If you think about all those people that we’ve seen, Tommy, who have been undereating on a ketogenic diet and if they’d done the macro calculator and had some rough idea of how many calories they need, that problem may never have happened in the first place.
Tommy: The only problem I think with the macro calculator is as an endurance athlete when you’re spending so many hours out on the road, how do you adjust that? There’s a new trick there but it’s absolutely true. When people ask me what’s the main issue [00:26:28] [indiscernible] they’re just not easy enough. They’ve listened to the low carb guys, they’ve listened to the anti-protein guys, they’ve listened to the fasting guys and they’re doing all of it and training 20 hours a week, and it’s a disaster. But like you said, if they use a macro calculator…
Chris: [00:27:13] [indiscernible] you don’t know how many calories are in food. Like I don’t believe you know how many calories you had spent when you exercise, this is completely meaningless. Like why would anyone ever bother doing this. And then you see the people who didn’t do it [00:27:27] [indiscernible].
Robb: I forget who I had on my show. She was talking about how easy it is to undereat when you’re lower carb. And I was kind of noodling it like “Man I have been kind of cold lately.” I tracked for 3 or 4 days, I was maybe like 1200 Calories. I just wasn’t hungry and that spot where I started reintroducing more carbs just so I had enough appetite to want to eat.
Bun’ I really want to save people from this, I got to get some more people that we’ve worked with in the podcast to talk about it. This magic elixir, people think it must be the – to give you one recent example – Doc Parsley’s sleep remedy which we’ve had fantastic results with but it isn’t as good as eating enough food if you’re [00:28:11] [indiscernible]. I’m like oh it must be some supplement you sent me. No it’s a recommendation to eat more food. We’ve seen this mess a lot of people up now at this stage. Sometimes you’ll see [00:28:23] [indiscernible] publish an article about thyroid function and how they think the changes in thyroid function may be not as important as anyone makes out. But in the testing that we do, we’re seeing downstream effects of what looks like hypothyroidism. So somebody with a [00:28:36] [indiscernible] 99 and then not clearing quarters in their testosterone…
Tommy: The other time.
Chris: Yeah. Do you worry about people doing the diet as symptom control? So you’ve got some underlying pathology that you need to take care of and sure you feel better on the diet but you’re really just managing symptoms.
Tommy: Yeah and I could be blindsiding myself so focusing on the kind of diabesity story but that seems so huge right now. And if we can get any type of movement towards just kind of appetite management, carb awareness, carb intolerance – it seems like a win but again, we’ve got this problem and to your point, what other collateral problems are we dealing or creating in trying to deal with this first problem of diabesity and overeating?
I am concerned about that and that’s where to the best of my ability without making this thing super complex, we try to provide this kind of…we actually have built into the program these weekly and quarterly self-checks – sleep, fertility, how do you feel tolerating hot and cold and all that type of stuff – so that hopefully we can kind of head that stuff off so that we’re addressing these big challenges of metabolic syndrome and everything that goes along with that, but then not creating like you said the cottage industry of all these people with thyroid dysregulation and [00:29:59] [indiscernible].
You cure diabesity and 200 million people and then you make a new cause that cures whatever the next problem is. I think Warren Buffet is the largest owner of dialysis centres in the world and he’s like a principal stakeholder in Coca Cola, so horizontal and vertical integration of the whole process. We just do that so we shut down the diabesity clinics and we open up tons of functional medicine clinics and we get everybody on HRT.
Chris: I thought you were going to tell me he had mitigated his risk by going long and short, so he’s got shares in Coca Cola and verter health at the same time.
Robb: I don’t think they’ve done that yet.
Chris: Alright let’s go down this direction. Okay so I’ll do a little bit of name dropping right now because it is a rare opportunity for me. So I had breakfast with Steve Finney.
Robb: Oh nice, nice!
Chris: I got invited down to the verter offsite, Jim McCarter was most kind enough to invite me down, I got to have breakfast with Steve Finney. And we were talking about the length of time it takes to keto adapt and that’s why so many of these studies and exercises floored is because they didn’t give enough time for these athletes to adapt. And I said to Steve I took me 2 years to get back most of my exercise performance and he said “Yeah that’s because you’re not eating enough salt.”
I suddenly realised you think that some of this stuff is so trivial like I just said “Just throw away the bun, you’re done, it’s a ketogenic diet.” You could say the same thing with the salt. Like if only I’d done the training course, I probably would’ve saved at least 12 months, maybe even more. So can you talk a bit about maybe the importance of electrolytes and anything else, any other gotchas you’ve seen.
Chris: Yeah the electrolyte thing was interesting and this is funny because when Paleo lands…so Lauren Cordain is very much against sodium intake. He’s got a position around this. It’s interesting because clearly I’m a big fan of the evolutionary biological framework but the only place you could…that is hypothesis generation, then you get out and you start testing.
You can test on a clinical level, that’s fine, but it was always interesting to me early on because we had these epidemiological studies that should this really fascinating U curve with sodium intake and it was very steep morbidity and mortality on the too low sodium intake, like it was really nasty. And then you ended up at a low ebb of morbidity and mortality – 8 grams of sodium intake a day which is really like 16 grams of table salt. And then the trailing edge where morbidity and mortality increase was really flat.
You got out till 20, 25 grams before the thing really started juicing up. And again that’s 25 grams of sodium. So you’re talking about 50grams of table salt basically to get that, or some other form. So that was something that was always at the back of my head that I was kind of like “Huh that’s interesting” compared to a lot of other recommendations that I think Lauren was very pressing about. But even on a clinical level, when I would recommend something that looked kind of like a Paleo type diet in our gym setting, once we hit things like no vinegar – which is something that Lauren recommended – and no salt, people were like “Screw this, I’m done. I am done.”
And so I was like “Okay if we’re getting people generally off of wheat because a lot of people are gluten intolerant, then salt’s a negotiation spot.” So for me, I think I was coming from the spot where I was almost trying to avoid [00:33:21] [indiscernible] kind of classic Paleo camp even though it felt like I was consuming quite a lot of sodium comparatively.
Then I started really digging into the material that [00:33:33] [indiscernible] originally published and really look at how much are they talking about? And then hanging out around the keto games forums. Those guys will do a 5 to 8 grams sodium bolus before they work out. And I was like “Okay”. Then Nichol Antonio’s book came out and I had him on the podcast. I was chatting with him and he had some really interesting perspectives again on the evolutionary biology, collecting the blood and all those types of stuff.
I was like okay so I started playing with that. I’m not even specifically keto, I’m lower carb 750 grams a day. But before Brazilian jujitsu sessions, I started off at 2 gram boluses. I would take 2 grams, mix it in a little bit of water and then do some additional water on top of it, and it was like I had infinite fuel tank. I just didn’t bonk off, I just went and went. The intensity was higher and people were like “What are you doing?” It was a multiple areas that helped educate me on this but again, I have to give a real hat tip to the keto gains guys, Tyler and Louis.
They’ve just been pretty steadfast in that and this is one of their go-to positions if people are not getting the success that they should be getting. Where your electrolytes at and not “I had a little of this and that.” What did you weigh out, what did you consume and they’re recommending sodium potassium magnesium.
They’re also playing around with some recommendations around calcium, which were kind of nervous about because it seems like every study you look at where people supplement their calcium, their cardiovascular risk deal is kind of an issue but the ketogenic state may be different enough that we maybe need to give that some airplay. It was part hitting a brick wall multiple times, part smarter people helping to inform me on this and just continuing to kind of pick at the edges of the story. But the electrolyte piece and it’s kind of funny because it’s just salt. You would think is that really the key…
Chris: It sounds sexy but it’s the initiative.
Robb: It sound sexy and it is huge. Even a lot of the sleep disturbances that people experience, if you consume adequate salt then you suppress the albastarone disease which also has collateral stimulation of cortisol and eponeforin. So a lot of folks that are experiencing sleep disturbances, if they get that sodium potassium magnesium storage didled in, all of a sudden they're sleeping great. And then a penny solution for something that could really be derailing the whole process.
Chris: Can you talk to some of the mechanisms there? Why would it be that you would need more collateralised sodium in particular on a ketogenic diet?
Tommy: I think the one that most people focus on is actually the mechanisms of retention of sodium which are driven by glucose and insulin through different mechanisms. But basically as those come down, you just retain less of it. So you're being out more essentially and you just need more to maintain balance. So that's kind of the...there's some really interesting papers on how insulin regulates electrolyte reabsorption into the kidney for instance. So as your insulin drops and your carbohydrate load drops, then you might need more to just sort Of maintain the same levels.
Chris: And how does this fit into the ancestral health framework? So we've always said the reason you couldn't enter this turbo mode ketosis thing is so that you can survive periods of not having much food. How does that fit in with evolutionary health? You have like some giant salt lip you had access to in times of scarcity?
Tommy: I actually don't know, that's a good question.
Robb: I think it paints a picture that although I think ketosis was a constant companion of humanity, it was not a consistent state. So due to exercise and comparative food scarcity, I think we kind of went in and out of it and that transition was probably pretty seamless. I don’t think people were hitting the low carb flu. I did some experiments between my wife and I – she’s very insulin sensitive, handles carbs fine and then she transitions straight into ketosis and has no problems. No difference cognitively, no difference on her performance doing athletic stuff and I think that should be kind of the human norm. But if we have some mitochondrial issues, some other problems then that could be something that’s stymying that.
But I think that really Chris Masterjon did a really great treatment of this where he makes the case that there are many laudable recommendations for the ketogenic diet but really trying to paint a picture that it is the default ancestral metabolic state is really hard to do. There’s so many reasons that it just doesn’t seem to pass the sniff test but again I think that it was woven into the framework of our day to day existence.
We went in and out of it all the time and then if we were getting potentially higher sodium intake from things like interstitial fluid and blood and different products like that, then maybe that’s where we kind of puff some of that up. It’s interesting and I don’t know if you guys have had Chris Masterjon on the show yet…
Chris: We have.
Robb: I think part of the issues when you talk about struggles of keto adaptation is because athletes are how abnormal the diet was from before. So you’re talking about the ancestral framework, you’re so far away from how you would’ve been previously. Changed ketosis isn’t seamless anymore because it’s such a big…
Chris: Huge drop in insulin.
Tommy: It’s a huge physiological gap and maybe that’s where the struggles come from. Not because it was something that wasn’t part of the framework of what we should be able to do just because we’ve treated our bodies in a way that they’re not supposed to be treated, then it suddenly becomes a big issue when you’re trying to achieve it.
Chris: What other gotchas have you seen?
Robb: Around ketosis, definitely the fat bomb thing.
Chris: Talk about the ways to enter ketosis cause then the fat bomb sort of fits into that.
Robb: Ted Neman has a great kind of info graphic on this where it’s eat nothing, enter ketosis; eat low carb, enter ketosis; eat high protein and not much else, enter ketosis; eat a super high carb diet and exercise like somebody’s trying to kill you and you enter ketosis. So there’s all these different kind of paths into that and something that is often forgotten is that the ketogenic diet was developed as a starvation medic in response to seeing benefits for epileptics and potentially some other neuro degenerative conditions.
And so we saw that these people enter ketosis effectively during starvation periods. We know that that’s kind of the fast…that really is the fastest way to enter ketosis – starvation plus exercise – because you’re providing no additional substraints. So even the fat bomb, people will argue that that gets you into ketosis faster, which just cannot be correct. Because you’re providing triglyceride as a backbone and that can feed into depleting glycogen status and what not. So I mean really the fastest way to get into ketosis – I don’t know if anybody’s done this study – but it’s like starve people and exercise them at high intensity, exercise them to exhaustion.
You’re going to get somebody ketotic rather quickly and profoundly. I think one thing that’s happening in that fat bomb story though…so I don’t want to fully throw it under the bus, is that when people have a disordered appetite control mechanism, they don’t know when off actually occurs. And so allowing them to eat a lot of food and feel fully satiated, there’s not that kind of panicked experience of hormonal driven hunger, and you may think that this one’s kind of far afield but when my wife was pregnant, we were kind of learning about petosin and everything.
We pretty well understood petosin can be released naturally to facilitate all the birthing process and what not but if a woman is given a dose of petosin, it’s a super physiological level and the severity of the pain she experiences makes it impossible to go without some sort of exogenous pain relief. And so in a somewhat similar way – and this is kind of what you alluded to a moment ago – what if the hunger that people are experiencing is due to a disordered modern lifestyle is so terrible that it’s something that we really have no ability to deal with on kind of an evolutionary basis.
It makes you crazy, you would kill somebody and eat them. So in that way, fat bomb may be beneficial in that it finally hits that satiety centre where it’s like “Okay, you’re okay.” And then possibly over the course of time, the insulin resistance starts reversing, possibly even gets some remodelling the hypothalamus due to the presence of ketones and there may be some hypothalamic damage that may be reversed over the course of time with elevated ketone levels and just generally not overeating.
So maybe we’re fixing some of that. Even though the fat bomb is kind of a gotcha, as usual I’m in the spot where I end up managing to piss everybody off, where there may be an argument where to some people it’s like “Okay let’s do that for a week and then let’s re-evaluate and see how we’re doing with everything and then start focusing more on nutrient density and stuff like that. So again it could be a viable tool but if your goal is reducing body weight and leaning out and reducing inflammation and what not and you’ve just been hammering bulletproof coffee and every manner of fat and you’re avoiding protein like crazy, and if we were to plug you into Marty Kendall’s nutrient optimizer, like we would need a private detective to find any valuable nutrient in this thing, there’s probably a problem there.
And it would be reflected in the fact that you’re probably not feeling good, probably not losing body fat and we could probably track down some good markers of systemic inflammation in those people. So definitely the fat bomb thing is kind of a gotcha, and the electrolytes are a big one. Sleep, as usual – just doing all the sleep hygiene stuff, it really pays such huge dividends.
But those are probably the biggest ones, I don’t know if you guys have other gotchas. I guess the big other one that the ketogenic or low carb eating is super powerful in appetite suppression and its super easy for people to undereat. So that can be great in the beginning when we’re trying to lose body fat, that can be disastrous down the long haul.
Chris: Yeah I think so with the process you just described, like learning to understand when you’re hungry and when you’re not, learning to control your appetite; that is the beginning of the road that leads to under eating, specifically for athletes. I can’t speak to other people [00:43:47] [indiscernible] diabetes but certainly that’s where it begins with the athletes that we’ve worked with is for the first time, they’re feeling like they don’t have to eat. Like I’m doing 12 hours a week of exercise and…
Robb: It’s so liberating.
Chris: It’s such an incredible feeling, just being able to relax and enjoy your life without thinking about food the entire time. And then you follow that to the nth degree like so how little food…we’ve seen this as well with metabolic flexibility. You hear about people being able to do 6 hour bike rides or 10 hour runs with only 1 sachet of coconut oil or one stick of pemmican. And then everybody think that that’s now the goal, I’m going to go out on Saturday, I’m going to ride a bike for 10 hours and see how little food that I can eat.
And it’s not really a goal, its just kind of a barometer, do you know what I mean? So by trying to attempt it, it’s like trying to shove the mercury down inside of a thermometer. It’s not really going so I think you really got to watch out for that. Just because your hunger went away and you feel so much better, you shouldn’t keep pursuing that to the nth degree. In our experience, it leads to disaster.
Robb: It’s important to recognise the two different groups there though right.
Chris: Context is everything.
Robb: Yeah context is super important. So when you’re looking for somebody to be able to get to the point where they’re not hungry all the time, where they’re physically overeating, eating whatever’s in front of them just as their moods stable, that’s what most of the people you’re surrounded by, that’s the staple they’re in. At that point, the ability to control appetite or if appetite just regulates itself is super important that you get spontaneous reduction in calorie intake. But it’s worth remembering that maybe some of the people who are listening to this is the risk of them undereating. So the people that Robb’s talking to in general are very different populations, that’s the message they need. That’s what they need is just somebody to get their appetite under control.
Chris: So the people who are listening to this podcast, you need to worry about the undereating problem. But the people whom you’re going to send to Robb’s course maybe not so much.
Robb: They have a different set of issues to deal with and that’s the constant challenge, is keeping people flexible enough with that that we’ve got different tools, different context. We need to be able to shift that around and it’s not easy to get people to do that either on the coaching side or on the client side.
Tommy: It’s difficult because everybody wants one answer. I mean still no matter how intelligent or engaged, everybody wants the “Just tell me what to do, this is the one answer. This will be the answer forever.” You do all this stuff and you feel great, then you figure out you actually have to fix something else or do something different, you know.
Robb: I have to admit I was in a mild depressive state when you guys were finally like “Okay for glycosidic work, you got to eat some carbs.” I was like “Those guys will figure it out and then I’ll just follow what they’re doing.”
Tommy: The same thing happened to Chris actually. When Chris and I first started [00:46:09] [indiscernible] I’m like “Chris maybe you could eat a few carbs, it might actually help.” And he pushed back forever but also heard it from Mike T Nelson and somebody else and finally did [00:46:22] [indiscernible].
Robb: It’s funny though when you’re sick, you don’t want to get sick again.
Chris: Yeah it was amazing how much benefits I got just adding in a relatively small amount of carbohydrate into my diet. It brought back 5th gear right back. We’ve interviewed a bunch of top athletes – Jeremy Powers, Katie Compton – they all said the same thing, that the diet is phenomenal for cognition, is a really useful tool for me to maintain my body composition in the off season.
But when it comes to game time, I got to have some carbs. This can’t hang with the competition, this is how I made my money and so it’s really not an option during the season. It surprised me the small amount of carbohydrates as well. I measured my blood ketones randomly, I [00:47:04] [indiscernible]. I tried it for the first time, it said 1.1 minimal first thing in the morning. I was like “Oh shit I guess that’s still probably the…”
Robb: That’s the thing, you’re still eating carbohydrates and it’s relative to the intensity of the work that you do. Then you still manage to maintain ketosis. That’s exactly what we should do.
Robb: Yeah and I do feel like that’s where I’ve been with this. This whole podcast has been about me discovering all these different levers you can pull. It’s just like somebody pushed an untrained guy into the cockpit of an airplane. The first lever I tried was the one that pulled the airplane up from the ground, that was the diet lever. Then I start playing around with the other things and they’re so important to understand that there’s more than one way to skin a cat. It’s all so complicated.
Robb: Yeah I guess we would call ourselves health educators or whatever you want to call it. It’s just for me it’s a constant struggle between again keeping that generalised approach but then not allowing people to turn it into religious dogma. The desire to carve it into stone and leave no opportunity for nuance and discussion is incredible, it’s super powerful in people.
Chris: Yeah definitely. Talk about what you get people to measure. So are you a fan of measuring your ketones?
Robb: Not really. We go over how to do it in the course because I know people are going to do it, so we at least want them to do it right. But there’s definitely been this tendency for people to chase ketones and it becomes a little bit of a dick measuring contest where it’s like “I got to 4.4” or whatever. How’d you do that? So much MCT that I had to wear a diaper for 3 days but my ketones got to this point. So we do provide guidelines for how to measure them and what the context would be.
Usually it’s in the beginning, just so that people can start getting a sense of “my blood ketones are here, my blood glucose is here. What do I feel internally? How is my digestion? How’s my sleep? How long can I go between meals? So we use that as a little bit of a benchmark kind of the first couple of weeks so that there’s an outside objective measure people can look at and say “Oh yeah when that ketone’s up a little bit, I feel pretty good.”
You get a little bit of feedback with that but I really try not to have people chase the ketones, chase the performance, chase the outcome; pick a goal and then based off of where you are and what the goal is, then we can figure out the diet, the lifestyle, the exercise plan that’s going to get the person there.
Chris: Do you not think this might miss out on some opportunity for ketones as a [00:49:28] [indiscernible].
Robb: I don’t know. It’s interesting, if the person is just exercising and they’re eating a modest amount of carbohydrates, they’re going to produce ketones. And so is that enough to get all the benefit of the signalling molecule kind of process? Is there a dose response curve with that? Is there a diminishing comparative returns? So there is a certain degree of myostat inhibition. If you want to feel like you should be in ketosis all the time, you go hang with Ken Forred at the IHMC and like “Oh my god I’m never eating carbohydrates again.”
Tommy: I was just there last week.
Robb: The power is strong with that man, he’s brilliant. So it’s everything from myostat inhibition, the BDNF pathway is triggered by ketone signalling and what not. So is simply eating kind of a modest degree of carbohydrates, being physically active, maybe eating within a time restricted feeding window; is that enough? To your point, you appear to still be producing some ketones at a decent clip.
So that man in fact be enough and it’s really interesting. I mean Megan’s work, looking at the potential longevity elements of the stuff – like that’s really powerful and compelling but I have noticed that if people get too freaked out on the quantification stuff, they just kind of…
Robb: It’s literally like people now with their iPhones and they can’t just look at street signs and figure out how to…like if their phone goes down, they’re screwed. They literally cannot navigate an urban environment right now and I kind of feel like people can get where they so rely on those external cues or feedback medium that they just don’t pay attention to what their bodies are telling them.
Chris: That part of the brain starts to atrophy.
Robb: It literally does, yeah. To your point. It could be some really compelling reasons to monitor those ketone bodies. I think the next 5 years will be really fascinating because you get a much better sense of how often, how much do you need these signalling molecules? At what level? But even then there’s going to be epigenetic differences from one person to another and what have you. You have some people who are hyper responders to it and they get phenomenal myostat inhibition with comparatively low levels. Other people will have sky high levels and it doesn’t inhibit the myostat genes at all. So there will be some shenanigans on that.
Chris: Have you got any thoughts on that, Tommy? With your knowledge of biochemical physiology, do you expect there to be a magic number beyond which lots of good things happen?
Tommy: No, nothing in biology is like that. Not a single thing.
Robb: You’ve got new curves and you’ve got population distributions and you’ve got some sort of weird overlap of those 2 things.
Tommy: So 2 bell shaped curves that maybe offset one way or another. But we don’t yet know and you’re not yet to the point where you can say “That’s the magic” number.
Chris: And then continuing that idea then, do you think it’s possible that the singling is happening through multiple mechanisms and Okay you can get the keto mojo meter now and measure your blood [00:52:25] [indiscernible]. Really these changes are happening through many different singling molecules and we don’t know yet. Do you think that’s a possibility?
Tommy: So recently we discovered [00:52:35] [indiscernible] cold released in response to extreme exercise and some people think that’s one of the key singling molecules to deal with, mitochondrial coupling and metabolic health and all that kind of stuff. Then a whole other group of researchers did the same research again and they were like “Well this thing exists but it doesn’t really seem to do very much.” So we’re still kind of at the point where we’re learning new molecules and we still... one day the thing controls everything and then the next day like we don’t really know if that’s the case.
That’s probably going to continue for a long period of time and when it comes to the ketones obviously [00:53:07] [indiscernible] thing that we focus on. We don’t know what the other mechanisms associated with that are, we don’t know…I mean almost anything that seems to have a beneficial effect in biology does a whole load of stuff at the same time because any time you try and do one targeted intervention with one drug that targets one pathway, it never fucking works.
Robb: That’s one that works so well because it does so much.
Tommy: And we still don’t know all the things that it does. So I think that process of ketosis and going in and out of the metabolic pathways that you’re activating, many of them are going to be tied to the ketones themselves but many of them are going to be completely not tied to that. I think that’s…
Robb: It’s kind of interesting aside some people who don’t respond to conventional ketogenic diets for epilepsy, the acetone is actually the key signalling molecule for that process to work. And so they tinkered with giving these people Antabuse, which inhibits their breakdown of the acetone and you get a dramatic improvement in the therapeutic efficacy it had given ketone level.
Tommy: It’s not just because they turned acetone back to glucose and it happened because they have higher glucose.
Robb: I think it actually has something to do with the acetone modifying calcium channel activity. But it really was the acetone that seemed to be the driver in that thing. I was just listening to a podcast you were on the way here so it’s funny I’m kind of like “Did I talk to him before?” Yeah where you talking about calorie cycle, the big importance of ketones under one circumstance is that it’s providing calorie cycle intermediates to provide glucose for this other situation.
Chris: So no optimal zones for ketones then?
Robb: There might be but again…
Chris: [00:54:46] [indiscernible].
Robb: I think at a minimum sometimes, dipping in and out sometimes and maybe trying on that sweater occasionally. And that could be as ranging from time restricted feeding with a little bit of an eye towards the carbohydrate content, so maybe you frontload carbohydrates in the day and then later in the day you have fewer or none. And then you have a 16 hour fasting period so you have a little bit of a mild ketosis with that. Maybe at the end of that fasting period, you do some very low level cardio like you walk or a little bit of exercise bike just to kind of goose that stuff up.
Chris: I was thinking about that the other day, like I was able to do that now. It’s the first thing I do, it’s become a little bit more challenging with the days being so short but first thing in the morning, first thing I would do is go out and walk the dog often with my daughter.
Chris: Back in 2012, I’d have to get up in the middle of the night because I couldn’t make it through the whole night without eating a bowl of cereal. It’s so amazing to be able to do that and not feel like you’re going to have to eat somebody’s arm. I think this is quite reminiscent of [00:55:46] [indiscernible] sometimes you’ll have dinner earlier, sometimes later, sometimes you’ll skip breakfast, sometimes there’ll be an intense workout in the morning and then these things are going to be fluctuating.
You going to come in and out and it’s just going to…I think in the environment that we live in, you almost have to build that in. It doesn’t happen naturally anymore so you have to almost mimic those patterns that we would’ve been exposed to in terms of carbohydrate intake, calorie intake, activity. So we almost have to create those cycles again unnaturally if you want to call it that, because it’s not something that we’re going to be exposed to otherwise. But anything that sort of mimics those fluctuations is probably going to get you most of the way.
Chris: What else you get people to track? So let’s say I have a fat loss goal – would you have me weigh my body mass?
Robb: At the beginning.
Robb: And then you hide your scale or give it to the neighbour or something like that. We recommend monthly check ins at the earliest. People just get so wrapped around the axle of saying that scale moves and sometimes it’s exactly the way that we would hope but ideally folks are starting to life more weights, whether it’s just callisthenics or just generally more physically active.
Oftentimes they just start eating more protein on a ketogenic diet, even though a ketogenic diet isn’t necessarily high protein but they’re comparatively eating more. And all of a sudden they start gaining lean body mass, bone mineral density and everything. So if that scale shift isn’t ideal, they forget their tight pants test – which is one of the things recommended.
Find a pair of pants that it’s like “Man I might pop a button getting into these”, try them on once a week and photograph tight pants test. I really like those and then I really like having some performance benchmark or a couple of different performance benchmarks. Whether it’s walking a quarter mile loop to go get your mail and you set your timer and you try to do it a little bit faster. Every couple of days, you try to shave some time off on that.
And that’s some of the power of CrossFit type interventions, where you’re quantifying the work output in some manner and you’ve got a [00:57:52] [indiscernible]. One thing that I’ll really give props to the kind of CrossFit methodology, I never saw [00:58:00] [indiscernible]. Because everybody wanted another pull up, they wanted another 20 pounds on [00:58:06] [indiscernible]. We had a couple of folks that they would show up and their performance from one day to the next at gym had tanked.
And I’m like “What’s up?” And then a little digging “Oh I had eating disorders, I didn’t eat today or maybe I binge or purge or whatever.” I’m like “Hey do you see where you’re at the whiteboard there? Last. And the only way you’re going to be first is you need to fucking eat.” And then they’re like “Damn.” So there’s some real beauty to that in a way that their performance orientation can really goose the process. Now clearly it can become neurotic and everybody thinks it’s going to be a CrossFit games champion. So this is again where this some sort of a diminishing returns. But for a lot of people that have been maybe sedentary and they’re trying to figure out how to find a why, finding that performance orientation can be really powerful and empowering at the same time.
Chris: Working with athletes, I’ve come to realise spending a lot of time talking to Simon Marshall is the only way to work with athletes. You can’t talk to women and say “Look this low [00:59:07] [indiscernible] is eventually going to lead to stress fracture. It’s just about is this going to get you the time that you want when you do this race next month.” That is the only thing and I think it’s the same with every sport. I don’t care whether you are a ballet dancer or a tennis player or an ice hockey player. It always has to be about performance if the goal is behaviour Change. I was talking to my friend Paul Latoy. Paul has a fantastic cap called Senza, Senza.us.
Robb: I’ve heard of that, yeah.
Chris: It is designed and branded at the moment specifically for keto and I think he’s doing food logging better than any other application I’ve seen, but I’m not supposed to be really talking about this yet, I’m not sure if he’s quite ready. He says he’s got 40 thousand users but he’d still not ready. One of the things he mentioned was he thinks people are inspired when they see that early weight loss. So let’s say you’ve been eating a high carbohydrate diet, you start the ketogenic diet and initially, lose some water with the glycogen. And you see that change on the scale and you’re like “Oh my god it’s working.” Do you think you’re missing out on that?
Robb: I don’t because immediately on the heels of that amazing weight loss grinds to a halt. And there’s something in…you might remember the term but there’s something in human evolutionary psychology where we are more loss averse than gain motivated. You see it in primates so it’s literally the bird in hand is worth 2 in bush kind of gig. If we’re gaining something, then if that gain slows down, we have a perceived loss and so I would argue quite the contrary.
Robb: And I could be wrong but that’s where I kind of just want people to focus on things like the tight pants test, some performance metrics, sleep, photographs; just because man I’ve seen so many people get super neurotic on the weight loss. And the weight loss is really dramatic in the beginning because of that kind of diuretic effect and what have you. But then when it grinds to a halt and if you’ve got muscle mass gain occurring in conjunction with that, you could have somebody gain weight.
And then they just completely lose their minds. So personally I would steer clear of that. He may have some deeper insight into it, I’ll be happy to be proven wrong on that at some point but my gut sense is to try to steer people away from the really consistent scale measurements, Yeah.
Tommy: That always brings you back to Jason Slide’s famous quote of “Nobody cares about the force exerted by your body on the earth due to gravity.” I mean in reality it means so little. I mean society is kind of driven to focus on that but anything you can do to get people to focus on something that means a lot more, even [01:01:39] [indiscernible] telling you so much more about your body composition than the number on a scale. So I’ll agree with that.
Chris: Okay so if we’re not measuring our body weight, what about caloric deficits? You insisted I’m still the same person that has a weight loss goal. Do you think it’s essential that I maintain a caloric deficit?
Robb: Yeah I mean we have to. It doesn’t need to be super severe although things like a protein spurring modified fast – Holy smokes those things are effective.
Tommy: [01:02:10] [crosstalk] [indiscernible].
Robb: Yeah the protein’s very modified. In fact it’s been used clinically in medical settings and they oftentimes use some sort of a proprietary shake. It’s basically high amount of protein, decent amount of fibre, low carb, low fat. And so you’re getting a significant amount of satiety because of that high protein intake but you have a really large caloric deficit even without exercise. Usually you don’t motor along on this for an extended period of time, depends on how much excess body fat the individual has.
But bigger competitors and just some people who are very physique oriented will use something like protein spurring modified fast for 3 or 4 days. They do 3 or 4 meals a day, as much lean protein…I mean doing things like tuna and chicken breast and stuff like that. Egg whites and then a bunch of veggies, fibrous multi-colored veggies.
What you want is as severe a caloric deficiency you can get with as much protein as you can so that you’re not starving and wanting to eat your own arm off. You can get a remarkable body fat reduction rather quickly by doing that and interestingly, the protein is not turning into chocolate cake in the process. But beyond that, I think a more modest approach to this is again using a good calculator like what the keto gains guys have. You’ve got a modest caloric deficit, 500 or 600 calorie per day.
That will vary base off how large you are and your physical activity and what not. But yeah I mean it’s interesting again, I think that some of the things that can get confusing about this is it is easy to undereat on a low carb or ketogenic diet. And for the first time in one’s life, you’re not tied to the food. And so then the suggestion that calories don’t matter, really seems to be true. And in a way it doesn’t, because you spontaneously don’t overeat. But then if you figure out a way to overeat, then it’s going to be a problem.
Some people are lumpers, some people are splitters, I’m kind of a lumper and I see everything connected and it’s all groovy man. Even when somebody says the calories don’t matter on low carb, I’m kind of like “Yeah you’re right because you tend to spontaneously reduce calorie intake and so it’s super easy.” The other person says “Hey wait a minute. People overeat on that like bulletproof coffee.” I’m like “You’re right, got to pay a little bit of attention. So it’s like all of that stuff is true, it just kind of boiling down to keep context.”
Tommy: From what’s you’ve seen, how much of that spontaneous reduction in caloric intake associated with macronutrient shifts and how much is associated with just an improvement in diet quality because we would always argue diet quality before you worry about quantity. So I guess when you first started working in Paleo, it’s much less macro oriented. It’s a quality thing. I assume you saw some of that happening spontaneous anyway, so do you have an idea of how those 2 contribute?
Robb: That’s a really good question and I will not have a really good answer. One thing I would throw out there in favour of this ketogenic state – and I don’t know if it’s because it lends itself to easily tracking the total macros and the total caloric load and what not – but I have never seen so many 400 pound plus people get down to A normal body weight. I’ve just never, anywhere. I’ve also heard a lot of people who had disordered eating of various flavours. That ketogenic state ended up being the thing to address what they had going on.
Robb: So again there’s probably a context deal there where some people maybe the macros end up being kind of the bigger driver in that we do want that ketogenic state, we want that protein, we want the satiety signalling the ketone bodies. Then there may be other folks for just that softer approach of “Hey man, whether it’s beans and rice and chicken, whole unprocessed food – eat to satiety, don’t eat processed elements to it” And they’re going to do amazing with that. What your gut sense on that? I feel like that was a very paltry answer to a really phenomenal question.
Tommy: I honestly don’t have the answer better than you do and I think…the reason why I think it’s an important question to ask is because if you look at clinical trials of diets broadly, you can get very similar weight loss regardless of the diet. And actually I think that the best trial based dietary study in terms of weight loss over 3 to 12 months was actually a plant based whole foods vegan diet.
It required you to eat a lot of carbohydrates and very small amounts of fat. So I just wonder if part of that hypothalamic appetite regulation comes from the inflammatory nature of the general foods they were eating. However you can get rid of that; the 2 easiest ways to do it are wholefood plant based vegan or ketogenic.
Robb: To your point if you had somebody who was really suffering from endotoxinia, like the LPS endotoxinia, maybe that super high fibre low fat vegan approach is going to be superior.
Tommy: That’s what we’ve done. Some people, depending on what’s going on in their gut, some people do so well on keto. Some people feel terrible and they’re like “Yeah every time I have my bulletproof coffee, I just feel foggy and terrible. I just think I need to restrict carbs more” but we go exactly the other way and they feel great.
Robb: That’s kind of the cool opportunity that we have, is we have these…if we didn’t learn a single thing more about ketosis or metabolism or anything ever, and if humanity went on for a million years and we didn’t learn anything else, but we just got good at sorting people and then prescribing something that was appropriate for them based off of sorting mechanisms, we would solve most of the issues that we have.
And that’s kind of the cool opportunity, is to kind of like we tried this so that’s not working and we’re getting all these signs and symptoms of endotoxinia, we’re not getting the clearing up of brain fog, we’re getting a worsening. So let’s seal those tight junctions, let’s not provide these fats that can help piggyback the LPS through the gut and do this other intervention. So that’s cool.
Chris: It’s the drive to figure out. You want there to be one answer, actually there’s 10 answers and if we can implement all of them in the right person, that’s going to get us so much closer. Having those conversations between…everybody always has good ideas but then they always want to…
Robb: But that’s such a big step for you guys because you guys are kind of known as being kind of the keto performance folks, keep it up.
Chris: It’s very confusing. If I were to listen to my podcast about doing my day job, you would think if you were going to come to Nourish Balance Thrive you’re definitely going to get a ketogenic diet.
Robb: But it’s almost never…
Chris: We spend all the time trying to get people off ketogenic diets. Again it always comes down to who are you and what are your goals. You’re a 110 pound female triathlete and I can see veins in your belly and you get stress factors in your feet [01:09:04] [indiscernible] like this is probably not the time for keto for you. I mean it’s obviously not who you’re trying to talk to in this training course.
Robb: But inevitably, the funny thing is focusing that population they want to get leaner even though they’re already skeletor lean already. And they see somebody go from 400 pounds to 185 pounds and they look amazing so “Oh I’ll just do that.” And it’s just like that’s not the direction that you go at all. It’s off season, it’s when all these other things get addressed.
Chris: Yeah. Well let’s wrap up here; so correct me if I’m wrong, it’s a video training course, it’s called the Keto Masterclass.
Robb: Keto Masterclass, it’s a 45 day course, 13 video modules, a huge workbook that basically guides people every day through nutrition, exercise, sleep, mindset. I mean it’s really remarkably comprehensive. I did a pretty in-depth piece on keto and cholesterol, kind of talking about the different stories between lipoproteins and cholesterol. I’m actually pretty proud of it, it’s pretty solid material. And then we actually commissioned an epidegeneticist to do an epigenetics piece to kind of talk about the potential of just any long term change being able to literally rewrite who you are at kind of a molecular level.
Robb: So those are a couple of several bonuses in the thing that I think are really phenomenal. It handholds people through the process, we try to make it as intuitive and support-intensive as possible.
Chris: And whose it for? So you already said it was maybe for people who knew nothing at all about the diet.
Robb: The person who knows nothing about the diet but is maybe curious, definitely someone who is known to have some metabolic issues, some insulin resistance, someone who’s hit a plateau on keto. But the thing is, this is during the sorting process. It may not be more keto. Part of the sorting may point you somewhere else. Even within that context, it’s not “Oh you need to do something else.”
If you’re eating more carbs, it’s guiding you through that process in that high carb intake. So the dread plateau and navigating the social situations. Also if you’re just time pressured, there’s really some remarkable resources that help people get food generated in a more time efficient fashion. It’s pretty slick.
Chris: You know what? I think this would be good for even the [01:11:23] [indiscernible] is out there to have a Look at the instruction manual. Have you ever gotten great results by taking some sort of gadget or some sort of process and you play around with it and you see how it works.
Once you have a basic understanding of how it works, you then read the instruction manual. And only then is the instruction manual interesting, and I wonder if this might be interesting of us in the same way lest you be falling into some trap like I was. Steve Finney saying to me “Oh you didn’t eat enough salt, that’s why it took you 2 years to keto adapt.
Robb: You know part of my hesitation in recommending it to a super savvy crowd like you guys have is oftentimes people go in and they want one of your graduate level biochemistry lectures.
Chris: [01:12:02] [indiscernible].
Robb: And it’s not that but it is like I really tried mrs part of this. You guys gave really great feedback on “Hey you should populate all of a day’s food input.” So fully populating it instead of only a partial population but we had a lot of people kick the tires on it. I mean I try to not leave anything out of it. So to your point again, just the troubleshooting part of it – like if you run aground somewhere, the troubleshooting part of this thing could be worth the whole deal.
Because you were talking about had you addressed the electrolytes early on, it might have been an 8 month keto adaptation instead of 2 years and maybe a lot less downside for you. So yeah but I have been nervous about suggesting the really geeked out keto folks do it because they’re like “There’s nothing new in here.” No there’s nothing new but there’s everything.
Chris: So here’s the thing – and I’m finding this a lot personally and I think our clients are finding it the same. All the information is out there, what I really need now is someone to curate that information. Just the most important bits. All the answers are there, it’s just what matters for me at this time, that’s the thing.
Robb: And that’s part of the reason why I think the prices is $49. Like we had people in Canada and they’re like “This should be a $500 course.” I said “That’s a little steep.” And so we wanted it so be completely like people get it. They check it out and they’re like I would’ve paid 4 or 5 times or for that. So over deliver under promise, you know that whole deal. But we really tried to curate everything in it and again make it a soup to nuts program where when you start on day 1, you know where you’re going to be on day 20 and day 30 and moving your way through the whole thing.
Chris: That’s phenomenal, good for you. I wish we’d done this honestly because we did the keto summit and we asked those people what they wanted and they didn’t want more talks of acetone, they just wanted an instruction manual for the diet.
Tommy: They wanted the key to a master class.
Chris: They wanted a key to a master class and that’s the number one really hard question I get every day is “I really want to work with you guys but I don’t have $10,000. What have you got?” And I’m scratching my head doing “I don’t really know.” And so to do a $50 thing is incredible so congratulations [01:14:18] [indiscernible].
Robb: So for the people that have been critical of the whole process, I’ve thrown out the following controversial position. Let’s assess it based on its merits and weaknesses. And wherever the merits are, we’ll play with those and if there’s weaknesses, I’ll get in and address it and we’ll go from there…
Chris: [01:14:36] [crosstalk] [indiscernible] aversion 2.0.
Robb: Exactly. Anybody who buys the first one is going to get all future updates on it. Because as it is right now, I want to include those kind of mindsets, video modules so that hey you want to talk to your parents. Your parents are the first thing that I’m going to address because you have so many people who have older parents that are ill and are trying to get them to modify their diet.
I’m just basically going to hold up a picture of my mum and my daughter and say “My mom got to meet my daughter once and then she died. She died early, didn’t have to.” I’m here talking to you because you’ve got a child who’s tried to talk to you. I got this whole thing kind of laid out, I really hoping that that provides a buffer and so, we’re going to add all kind of stuff. People are going to have lifetime access to that stuff.
Chris: That’s amazing, where do people find it?
Robb: Let’s see, robbwolf.com/ NBT.
Chris: Okay I will of course link to that in the show notes.
Robb: That’s assuming Nikki’s finished the link by now but I’m pretty sure that will be a good link. So we’ll make it the good link at this point.
Chris: Excellent, awesome. Was there anything else you wanted to talk about, Robb?
Robb: Just huge thank you, I am so indebted to the work that you guys do and I am so incredibly tickled that I had any influence in the work that you’re doing. A couple of folks like you, Marty Kendall, like you guys have really picked up the torch in this next iteration in kind of integrating this nutrition and lifestyle for optimised living and have just taken it to amazing places, somewhere I’d never have been able to take it and nowhere near. I’m so honoured to have played any role in this stuff, thank you.
Tommy: Oh you played a huge one and thank you. And we’ll continue to, I’m sure, as you are doing right now.
Chris: I think we’re all standing on the shoulders of giants here in a way. You can really notice when you’ve got someone who’s clearly brilliant but they’ve synthesised that information in a vacuum. You really need to listen to Ivan Cumming’s presentations. There’s some important parts missing from your understanding, it’s exactly that listening to what other people are doing, I think is very important. Thank you, I’m too honoured for that. Thank you.
Tommy: Thank you.
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