Written by Christopher Kelly
May 15, 2018
Christopher: Brad, thank you so much for joining me today.
Brad: Chris Kelly, glad to be here on the Nourish Balance Thrive podcast, one of my favorites especially because of the diversity of content. You guys are going out on different limbs bringing these exciting new people in here. There's always good takeaways. I was just talking to just off the recording about the incredible chocolate experience with Torea. I followed up with her, did a show with her and now I'm a full on chocolate aficionado just like a wine snob but I don't like wines so now I'm a chocolate boy.
Christopher: She did the same thing to me as well. I was like, what difference does it make? I'm just going to get some dark chocolate from Amazon. And then I met Torea and she introduced me to her stash of incredibly expensive and incredibly delicious dark chocolate and I've never been able to look at the cheap stuff from Amazon since.
Brad: Yeah. The Fruition that you talk about is one of the top ones I've tried. There's so many other little finds like Theo in Seattle or Creo in Portland, Lillie Belle Farms in the small town in Oregon. I just go on the internet and I get these guys. Yeah, you're right. It's twice or three or four times as expensive as the Trader Joe's things that I used to live on but you feel like you're helping the planet, you're working with sustainable operations rather than child labor which is a big concern in chocolate. Here we are starting our show with a tangent, man. I love it.
Christopher: Absolutely. Well, I feel like I've learned so much from you over the years. You and Mark Sisson and then more recently Lindsay, through all the work that you've done. Thank you so much for everything you've done over at Mark's Daily Apple and other places too. I feel like we're standing on the shoulders of giants here when I started my business in 2013. Really what I was doing was coaching people in the stuff that I'd read on Mark's Daily Apple and other places. Thank you.
Brad: Well, thank you and I'm wondering where the hell you were in 1993 when I needed you because it seems like what Nourish Balance Thrive has done is just taken all these little thousand shining points of light, as the old President Bush used to say, where we have these great healers and these great strategies for alternative to mainstream medical care when you're trying to be athletic and perform.
Back in the day when I was competing on the pro circuit I had to spend a significant chunk of my income on healthcare and holistic healing because I was constantly beating myself up. I didn't know where to turn to. My blood work was fine by traditional medical standards but I was tired or this was happening and that was happening.
I engaged in all this alternative healthcare and tried to piece it together myself and do this test and that test and do these one off trips to Colorado to find this notorious healer that did this and then all the way back to San Diego for someone else. All the athletes did that. Mike Pigg was famous for traveling around the world in search of healing. He had gut dysfunction before we even knew that term.
These top athletes were dealing with this so long ago and now, honestly, I mean, to put a plug in on your show, it's like now an enthusiast can be sitting at home and decide that they want to get the best out of their body and do one stop shopping and go to the website. I guess, take the free assessment is the first thing. As long as I'm pitching you guys, we'll go through the whole thing.
To have everything under one roof and have that expert consultation all the way through, it's a magnificent transformation and breakthrough especially for the athlete enthusiast but also for regular people that are trying to get through the day and raise their kids and do their job without feeling exhausted and falling apart.
Christopher: Thank you. I appreciate that. That's very kind of you.
Brad: No kidding, man. I'm a fan because, of course, you've put me through the program. We've done a couple few shows on my Primal Endurance channel with you and with Dr. Tommy Wood and going through my results and getting those surprising insights. The main one or the most profound one was back in September 2017 where you and I were talking through -- It was actually my official consultation.
We talked for a couple of hours and one of your big conclusions was, "Brad, this keto stuff is great. You're doing fine. You report that you're not hungry, your body fat is good, but I think you should eat more food especially this powerful super nutritious green smoothie in the morning." And so on that day, September 1st, 2017, which is now recording seven or eight months later, I've had a great breakthrough in my athletic performance and recovery.
Tommy and I got into this deep on the show with him where I already had optimal body fat, my blood work was pretty good, I didn't have any complaints about metabolic dysfunction or struggling for years to drop excess body fat. It was presented that maybe I had a different set of decision making parameters as the next person might in terms of what my carb level should be and how strictly I should limit things. And opening up and trying to consume more healthy nutritious food has been a big help for me.
It's been an eye-opener to realize that we're constantly refining and tweaking our approach and there's no definitive end all, like the lower your carbs are the better, or any of those nonsense things that sometimes we're drifting in that unhealthy direction with our mindset.
Christopher: Right. You were just like all the other athletes that we work with. I'm just looking at some of my notes here. The normal TSH, low total and low free T3. So your thyroid function is kind of low. And then low white blood cell count, very low globulin, low alkaline phosphatase, low triglycerides. This is just kind of low energy state. Triglycerides are stored form of fat energy floating around in your blood.
Presumably your muscles are hoovering those all up and then you end up with low triglycerides that's on a blood chemistry. We're talking about in the 30s or 40s maybe here. I feel like it's the signature of the low energy state. You just need to eat some ice cream. Actually, that's a terrible choice of food but you get the point, just to eat more foods.
Brad: Some of those guys like my cousin Hillary in Portland takes me down the street to his homemade ice cream place and they have four flavors a day. It's like I haven't eaten ice cream in ten years when I used to eat a ton of it with Ben & Jerry's and the garbage from the store. There's even quality ice cream that can make a free pass when you're trying to have the highest dietary standard. But that's interesting because we're always trying to get people to get those triglycerides under control and under 150 urgently to protect against heart disease but you're saying there's a low end concern as well for athletic people?
Christopher: Yeah, definitely. We talked about this previously on the podcast. I can link to some evidence in the show notes for this episode. Like all things in physiology, lower is not always better and there does seem to be a connection with autoimmunity. I think the connection with autoimmunity is more doctor's clinical experience.
They see the low triglycerides and they know that autoimmunity is a possibility for that particular patient. And then also it's the low energy state. I mean, when have you ever seen anything in physiology where more is better or less is always better? It just never works like that. There's always U shaped curve.
Brad: Right. Interesting, we're trying to go for optimum. So I guess, if you were reporting some of those lows like I showed, increasing those carbs, increasing the insulin production, getting back into the optimum zone rather than this strict approach to try to get low, low, low in the name of arresting the metabolic disease process, that's not my concern individually. Maybe the next person is going to have to work for the next three years to get those carbs down into a safe healthy range but then you're in a different category all of a sudden.
Christopher: Right, exactly. It's very rare for us to see people in that insulin resistant on the edge of type II diabetes overfed state where you see that the elevated fasting glucose, elevated hemoglobin A1C, elevated fasting insulin, elevated triglycerides. We almost never see that now. And I wonder if it's because of the fantastic work that you and others have done talking about low carbohydrate diet. People have tried that by now. It's very important work. It is the biggest problem that western civilizations are facing right now. It's very important work. But it is possible to overdo it especially if you're an endurance athlete.
Brad: Well, my concern is the people listening to this show, the people enrolling in your program, the people buying our books are all in this small, tiny, relatively tiny segment of society where we have our heads screwed on right and we care about our health. We're talking about the masses. I love how Phinney and Volek in their book, The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance, talking about how you can get an advantage as an athlete with your keto efforts and all that.
And at the end, they say, "You know, this stuff is probably most beneficial to the global obesity epidemic so we're going to try to address that little issue too. Besides improving your time in your next race, let's try to save the planet." There's two distinctive audiences here and I think the people that are on the progressive train, it's wonderful to note how much progress we've made.
I especially like in my lifetime how smoking has gone down into virtually nil. And so now when you see a smoker, they stand out as an annoyance at the airport because they're near the exit doors all the time. But generally speaking, society has transformed since the time when I was a little kid here growing up in LA and looking at the smog at my window all the time and then seeing smokers everywhere you went. It was awful.
Christopher: I should take you for a little trip back to the UK and I can -- A little trip down memory lane, you can find out what it was like. Be reminded of what it's like to be surrounded by smokers. It's still a huge thing in the UK.
Brad: So sad, yeah.
Christopher: Well, let's take you way back. I really want to know the Brad Kearns story because it is pretty interesting. Take me back to 1980, say, and tell me about how you first became interested in running.
Brad: See, that was a nice transition because I was talking about the smoggy times of LA back in 1980. I wrote that Facebook post that you commented on where I can see these mountains now at my parents' house, the house I grew up in. They're about nine miles away where the crow flies. They're 3,000 feet to Santa Susana's and literally you could not see the mountains for at least six months of the year in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles due to the pollution.
And so, boy, we've come a long way. But back then, when I got into high school, I went to this large public high school in LA and I was this kid who was obsessed with sports and I was the superstar player on the flag football team at the park and the basketball team also made the All Stars and I'm thinking I'm going to go to high school at the height or probably around 5'4" to be generous as a sophomore and go and play these sports.
There was no chance. We were like city champions in basketball. The football team had guys that were headed to the NFL and continued to pump out these great athletes from large public school. And so I was directed to the running team very quickly upon my arrival on campus. That my destiny as a runner was made very clear to me as soon as I started in with a higher level of competition.
Running is a great sport especially for kids because it's mass participation. You're going to the cross country team. It's coed. You get 80 fun kids that you're enjoying and interacting with and then able to have that personal challenge where you could go out there and try to improve your time and not have to be cut from the team or sitting on the bench of those kinds of things. Everyone's got that challenge when they toe the starting line. That's why these are great lifetime sports as well.
Yeah, I became a pretty serious distance runner. I went from the guy who was hiding in the bathroom as the team went by because I didn't feel like running six miles that day and then sneaking home to about 18 months after I started, I got mixed in with these very serious training partners, Steve [0:11:40] [Indiscernible], and I was making it all the way to the national junior Olympics finals and I was ranked 12th in the country for 16-year olds at the mile or it was 1500.
So, I was achieving high level really quickly and it just became my passion. We had a wonderful approach and a wonderful attitude back in those days because it was before the days of extreme rigid overly competitive high school coaches that were pushing the poor kid too hard and getting him injured. We just ran for fun. We ran in the evening. We do a second workout which is pretty rare for high school kids but our destination was the yoghurt store and then kids would pick us up. Maybe there'd be some girls there.
You'd be like, of course, I'll run five more miles today even after we did a hard track workout. We kind of backed into elite level young performers. It was just great. It was all positive, all fun and then I got to college. I dreamed of continuing my career at NCAA division one UC Santa Barbara. I just arrived there and they absolutely destroyed me from the very first day that I tried to keep up with this incredibly ambitious training schedule.
I'm a 17-year old freshman running with these bearded 23-year old fifth year seniors and their 100-mile a week regimens and the pounding of twice a day runs and so I was injured or sick four seasons in a row after my initial season which came off of high school training and I did really well and I thought this was going to be -- I was just going to continue to breeze along and continue up the ladder of running excellence.
Oh my god, it was a huge slap in the face. It was the start of this story that I think the listeners are going to really appreciate because it ends in present day and the primal endurance philosophy and the things that we talk about now about balancing your health in pursuit of fitness goals rather than just obsessively trying to work as hard as you can to achieve success.
Christopher: I'm really interested to know how you made it from the kid that used to hide in the bathroom to suddenly being the kid that was okay with running another five miles. What happened there? Was it that you were spotted as a talent and that you were told that you were really good at the sport and your times reflected that or was it something else?
Brad: Yeah. Thanks for pulling that up, Chris. You're a good interviewer, man. That's great. I like to talk about that with lectures too because it was allowing the natural process and the cultivation of a pure motivation to take place because there were no outside external forces measuring and judging me and forcing me to do something that wasn't naturally meant to be.
When I talk about my athletic career as a whole especially my nine years as a pro racing on the triathlon circuit, the number one takeaway that I have is that results happen naturally when your motivation is pure. That's my favorite piece of wisdom to dispense. What I mean by that is when you're doing something for the pure love of the activity and you're not overly consumed with the results and you're not attaching your self-esteem to the results, that's when you avail your greatest center of power and you make the best decisions.
You don't force things to happen. You don't get down and discouraged and negative when you have an adverse result. That's when you can really not only reach your potential but also enjoy the journey. Because we see a lot of athletes that are Olympic champions, world champions, top professionals and they're a train wreck of a human being.
They behave ridiculously in real life. They're on the cover of the gossip magazines as well as the sports magazines. When I was this kid, I didn't really feel like it. My coach was really hands off. He was easily faked out by the hiding in the bathroom and it was no problem to skip workouts and deliver whatever effort I felt like which sometimes wasn't giving my very best.
Today, we're talking about parenting before we started recording too. These parents today want the best for their kids. They're nice people but they end up trying to squeeze out what they perceive is their kid's potential or what they perceive is a worthwhile and wonderful journey for their kid starting when they're super young and they're angling to get the best reputed second grade teacher rather than just go in the lottery or try to get their kid on the A team instead of the B team because, boy, if you're 12 and you're on the B team, your soccer career is destroyed.
All this kind of fears and anxieties that your kid is going to somehow fall behind if they don't orchestrate everything perfectly. My experience was the exact opposite. My parents were really hands off and supportive of whatever I want to do including if I didn't feel like doing this or that. There was no one whipping me with five lashes. What happened was, yes, I would hide in the bathroom. The guys didn't even know me on the team because I didn't show up that much.
And then we went to the very first meet and it was this huge meet all the way across either side of Los Angeles with a whole bunch of schools and this crazy 100 kids on the starting line all running the frosh soph two-mile course. I came out and won the thing at the end and was like people accuse me of not doing the entire race because they'd never seen me in a workout before.
But to have that little glimmer of hope and potential, that maybe I could be good at this, that's what got me a little more interested to continue and then hooking up with these guys that were insanely motivated and so focused and just so positive -- Your peer influence is huge at that time and it's huge all the way through whatever level of athletics you're performing at. The NBA teams that win are the ones that have the most chemistry and camaraderie in the locker room.
Christopher: It's so interesting for me to connect the dots. I've interviewed two world class athletes, two national champions, Jeremy Powers and Katie Compton, and they both said exactly the same thing. I mean, of course, they're world class athletes and they care about the results but the result is not what makes them throw their leg over their bike. They're very process driven which is, I think, exactly what you just said.
Brad: Right, exactly. You don't want to miss out on that second run because everyone's running down to the yoghurt store and a bunch of cool girls are going to be there. So, it's the joy of the entire experience. And same with the track meet. The biggest thing in California is to qualify for the state championships. You go back and you look in the program of who's won the events at California State and there's something like 27 Olympic gold medalists listed in the program.
The record in the 200 is Allyson Felix and Marion Jones has the 100-meter record. This gold medalist has the pole vault record. It's awesome. So, to set this goal that we set years out and say maybe one day with continued progress and hard work we could dream of qualifying for the state meet. And so when I had my chance to do it, there's a video that people still laugh at because I was having a rough day, I had food poisoning before the qualifying meet and on the last lap I was 55 meters behind the guy in front me. The next guy was in dead last place.
I just sprinted for all my life and ran a 59 second quarter to come back and dive at the finish line and get that fourth and final qualifying spot for the state meet. I kind of like brought the stadium into a frenzy because everyone knew what these qualifying spots were all about. And that was digging deeper than I ever imagined I could go but I wanted to take that trip to Sacramento and get on that chartered airplane with all the best athletes in the city.
What I'm trying to say is like it's okay to have these compelling and distinct performance goals and to want to make a million dollars and to want to be on the bestseller list or, in my case, I wanted to beat the school record and make it to the state meet, but it's really all about the process and the love of the activity. And so asking your body to do something that's beyond comprehension in terms of pain and suffering and all that, you have to be coming from a position of joy and excitement rather than someone judging you and you think you're not enough until you can achieve something and then you'll be worthy of high self esteem.
That's not at all going to be -- It's not as effective as just doing something because you're happy to be there and you enjoy the whole experience. If you lose and get your butt kicked, like I did many, many times, I'd get up the next day with a smile because I realize that this was just another learning and growth opportunity that I got dropped in the swim on the triathlon race and that caused me much, much money and much glory and fame from having a chance to win the race but instead I got seventh because a moment of inattention and maybe not as good enough training as I could have.
That's when you get up the next day and go, "All right, I'm going to solve this problem. I'm going to go kick some butt and throw down next time," rather than some people get up and I think they're so discouraged because everything is riding on the result that they say, "What's the use? I'll never make it. I'm not good enough," and all those negative self talks that we engage in routinely throughout life.
Christopher: Talk about your transition into professional triathlon. You didn't go straight to professional triathlon, did you? You did some work before you started.
Brad: Yes. Speaking of pure motivation, I don't know if that's the most pure thing. So, my college running story leaves off where I was getting sick and injured and just devastated and finally had to walk away. I immediately jumped into the triathlon scene because I could train without that impact trauma. Even when I had a stress fracture -- I remember getting the diagnosis for a stress fracture and the doctor's saying, "Yeah, you're history, dude. Your season's over."
It was right at the start of track season. I was in phenomenal shape. I had just done this incredible workout that was leading a pack with the team and then all of a sudden I'm done. And so I got on my brother's bike who's 6'3.5" and I'm 5'11" but I got on this giant bike and I pedaled all the way from Santa Barbara to my home in Los Angeles, 103 miles. That's when I announced, "Now, I'm going to be a triathlete. Forget this running stuff. I'm just going to redirect and recalibrate my goals."
Now, there's something in front of me that's incredibly exciting and compelling. So, I started swimming, biking, running. And then I graduated and then this great tragedy occurred in my life at that time which was transitioning from graduation to getting an actual job. That was brutal, man, because I was going from shorts and a T-shirt and riding my bike around the UC Santa Barbara campus to wearing a suit and tie and jumping into rush hour traffic in LA for an hour to my job at the high rise downtown for the world's largest accounting firm.
I had this job for 11 and a half weeks and it was complete misery. It was just like the biggest most rudest awakening to the real world because I didn't want to be there. I didn't like a minute of it. Everyone around me was so excited to be starting their careers for the prestigious firm and digging into their spreadsheets and their adding machine and I just felt like the biggest fish out of water.
In the back of my mind I realized I had a lot of fun doing these triathlons at the amateur level doing some age group results and doing pretty well and so I just decided to announce my retirement from the firm after 11 weeks and pursued a--
Christopher: At the tender age of...how old were you then?
Brad: I was only 20 years old at that point. I graduated college early. I was just a young guy mixing in with the business dudes downtown. It was not a good feeling. Good for you if that's your destiny but I think we all -- We'll take a little commercial break here to say that if something doesn't feel like your destiny and it doesn't feel right and deep down in the pit of your stomach you're wondering what you're doing there and how you made this mess of your life to graduate college with honors and jump into a prestigious job, that's exactly how I felt.
What is going on here? When I walked out of that office building for the last time I felt like I was freed from jail. It was one of the most exhilarating feelings I've ever had. That feeling, that sense of where I'd been in terms of the career setting and then having this chance, this small chance to pursue something that I was really passionate about, which was to try to compete as a professional on the circuit, my motivation level was off the charts for years and years after that.
Because I did not want to go back to that high rise building and I never ever wanted to complain about, "Oh, it's raining and I have to ride my bike. Isn't that a bummer?" Or, "Oh, I got 12th in this race and I was really hoping to get fourth or fifth." All those things kind of were like I was going with the flow so well because I was so happy to be in the athletic scene mixing with people that were like-minded and fellow enthusiasts and we were pushing and challenging ourselves.
I went all the way through this journey with Andrew MacNaughton who's one of the old time legendary pros and now he's a coach. He's a frequent guest on my Primal Endurance podcast. We would talk for hours while we're riding our bike about how much fun it was to try to escalate up the ladder of the competition and go all over the world and try to ask the most from our bodies and see how it could do on the circuit.
We had really wonderful competitive attitudes where it was all about mutual support and encouragement as well as healthy competition where everybody was friendly as soon as we cross the finish line and we talk training and we talk technique and there is none of this posturing or nonsense that you see a lot of times in the sporting world. There was just young guys traveling around the world having fun. Motivation was never ever a question even when I did struggle which was quite frequently as a matter of fact.
Christopher: You must have had some ambivalence though. When you left the accounting firm, you must have had some thoughts that were both for and against leaving. Or am I completely wrong there? How did you resolve that ambivalence?
Brad: The guy who was ambivalent was my boss where -- I mean, I worked there for 11 and a half weeks. Four of them were putting me through expensive training to become a quality accountant. So, these guys had invested heavily on me when they hired me and the guy is like -- I remember his reaction when I told him that I was leaving. He was like, "Well, are you going to another firm?"
I'm like, "No. I'm going to be a pro triathlete." And he goes, "What the heck are you talking about?" Because this was 1986. There was no such thing really as a professional triathlete. There was a few guys that were making money, the very top guys, the legendary big four, they call them. Everyone else was just lifeguarding and then racing on the weekend kind of thing. It was really a pipe dream. I don't think that I--
Christopher: You weren't afraid? You weren't worried that you were going to be skimped for the rest of your life and you'd have no opportunity to get back into accounting if it didn't work out?
Brad: That's a good question. I do reflect on that because I was in a pretty good position at that time. I had a college degree. Oh my goodness. My parents let me live at home rent free while I was pursuing this dream. I had a lot of things that's set up nicely for me. I would say I probably had a safety net if I did fail. I didn't really think in those terms but I think there is a little difference when you're comparing that to, let's say, a Tour de France guy who is going to be punching steel in the factory in Belgium for the rest of his life if he doesn't make it with the squad.
That desperation and then that true athlete coming from poverty to the highest level, that's a whole different dynamic. That's a pretty powerful set of motivators as well. I feel like in my case my approach was really healthy. I'm sure in the back of my mind I realized that life would not end if I didn't make it on the pro circuit but I was no less motivated than some of those people that had that more of a desperation approach and, in fact, probably had a better chance to make healthy sound decisions rather than someone who was desperate and thinking that every single race they did was do or die.
Because we had people come and go on the circuit that just -- They had incredible athletic physical talent. They had the competitive instinct because everyone did. Everyone was ferocious competitively. They just couldn't get the mindset right because they had these impure influences like desperation or trying to cut corners.
A lot of people would quit their job and leave their hometown and go move to Boulder or San Diego to mix it up with the top guys but in doing so they would have to sleep on filthy couches and eat junk food because they just didn't have any money to even live a normal stable lifestyle. Again, I'm going to put a plug in for that pure motivation where I was doing it because I loved it and I certainly had better things to do and more economic incentives to pursue a business career like all my friends and my peers.
That part was -- My only misgiving was as I got years into my career, Chris, I started to realize that there's economic realities here. My time is valuable. My opportunity cost is extreme because of the other opportunities that avail a young person who's supposed to be building their career. That's when I started to really be compelled to treat this like a business and require a return on investment rather than just having this be Bradley's global playground to have fun and race.
It was very important to deal with the sponsors, make sound economic decisions, understand that your brand has value and not give it away for free because people will take advantage of you and that kind of stuff. I was always trying to be Mr. Nice Guy and sure I'll try, I'll wear your shirt and ride your bicycle and then come back later and get screwed over in the process because people would take advantage of a young nice guy that's just trying to help them.
And then I realize that, "Oh, you're selling a lot of products on my shoulders and not compensating me properly. Let's try to wake up and have a discussion where I actually am an economic entity." That kind of transitioned as -- It's a fun learning experience for any athlete especially an athlete who's basically on their own and trying to navigate these waters with minimal support as you would find from a team player or something, a person who's on the NFL or the NBA. Big difference.
Christopher: The reason I'm laboring this point is because I think it's interesting and very important. We have this in common, the two of us. I just was reminded on Facebook with those memory things. It's been four years since I quit my job at a hedge fund and started NBT and I have this picture of Julie and our very young -- I guess, she was six months old Baby Ivy then. Julie's got this look on her face which is kind of happy not happy. "Oh great, you just quit your job at a hedge and start a health coaching business." How do you do that?
I mean, I thought, well, what does it matter? I can just go get another job as a computer programmer. I'm in Silicon Valley already. How long is it really going to take me? Probably two weeks. What's the big deal? And we've seen many clients now where perhaps the last thing holding them back from achieving their full potential in health and in life is their job.
In fact, just last week, we had one long time client decide that she wasn't going to renew our program and instead she was going to give up her job as a truck driver because she knew that was what was holding her back from her fullest potential. All of us were like, "High five. This is the best news." We've lost a client and the world has gained a better human. This is just fantastic news.
It's hard. You need to be brave. You were brave. I suppose I was. But it seems like the thing we have in common is we didn't really think about the consequences that much. Would you say that's true? I guess, you did put on your -- You kept that suit and tie on really because you just told me, you started thinking about sponsors and you started treating your athletic endeavors as a business rather than just a bit of fun. Would you say that's true?
Brad: Well, that was several years into it. At first, it was absolutely a whimsical rash decision and it was probably surprising to family, friends and loved ones but I think that these are, the people that have that courage to take those leaps, these are the people that we laud and celebrate in life. These are the people that are doing in incredible things.
Go look at anybody's story like Richard Branson in his wonderful podcast where he was a milk boy or he was writing a magazine and then he jumped from there to there and then he bought an airplane. It's wonderful that not everyone is just content to put their head down and trudge through life. I think we all have to get some perspective. I have to say, man, I'm 53 years old now. I have a lot of perspective and looking back that I didn't have at that time where we're all going to get old and we're going to wind things up at some point.
To waste time in something that's not a perfect fit for you right now like a job that's heading nowhere or who knows what else, a relationship, a city that you live in, things that are getting stale and old but you're just trudging along because you've always done what you've always done, that's when we really deserve these wake up calls. I think athletics and any type of fitness pursuit can be such a wonderful catalyst for applying those risk taking attributes into other areas of your life for sure.
Christopher: Yeah, that's powerful advice. Remember you will die. Imagine this was your last week. Would you be doing this job right now? Why are you doing it now?
Brad: Yeah, exactly. And it's like you're looking on the competitive faces on the starting line and here's me coming out of the accounting firm office. That's not too intimidating of a story. But deep down, it's like you better watch out for that guy that just quit his accounting job or you better watch out for that guy at the hedge fund who left a lucrative career and positive linear direction forward to doing something fun and exciting because you're going to have a high predictability of crushing it at your next objective.
Christopher: Tell me about your diet at that time then. As a newly fledged professional triathlete doing well on the scene, how did you fuel your activity?
Brad: Well, I think, generally, we didn't know anything about this low carb high fat type of operation that's become so popular in recent times, the ancestral health movement, and realizing that a lot of the conventional wisdom, a lot of the US government dietary recommendations were disastrously wrong. I was probably using margarine at that time and cooking in the pan with refined vegetable oil and so forth.
I was definitely health conscious and so I wasn't one of these junk food guys like some of my fellow competitors. They might as well have been sponsored by McDonald's and Burger King and Mrs. Fields cookies. Kenny Souza, one of my favorite training partners, just great personality, but he was basically fueled by synthetic chocolate powdered shakes that one of his sponsors sent and then Mrs. Fields in the afternoon and then whatever at night, pizza and beer. He was the number one guy in the world for many, many years.
Christopher: What does that say? Does that mean we're all doing it wrong? It's like talking about that one guy that lived through 105 years old and smoked [0:34:13] [Crosstalk].
Brad: Exactly. That's what we're talking about. I remember hearing, I don't know if it was your podcast, someone was talking about the Brownlee brothers are known to have all their British little treats and pastries and not too diet conscious and my immediate come back to that is like, "Yeah, but those are the Brownlees, man." You're going to take dietary advice from the most genetically optimal endurance humans that have ever been created on earth? Come on, forget it.
These are these brothers from Great Britain that have dominated the sport of triathlon for maybe up to ten years now. We talk about these genetically superior beings. I spent time around Lance Armstrong and I wasn't too impressed with his dietary habits either when he was winning Tour de Frances. But he was Lance. He can have the Oreos and the diet soda out of the mini bar at his private jet and I'll make a sarcastic quip about it and he won't like it and we won't talk for six months.
He was a guy who he didn't care that much because his engine was running at a whole another level than the average person who might be better off paying more attention to diet. So, back then I was trying to eat healthy per conventional wisdom guidelines. I wasn't throwing down all kinds of crap but I would definitely go get my frozen yoghurt in the evening and burning calories for four, five, six, seven hours a day. That wasn't a big concern. That's how we all went along and went about our business.
I would have loved to know what I know now and take it back there because I feel like for the athlete a lot of the six-pack community is not overly concerned with throwing down all that junk food but I'm going to make the argument that the people who ask the most of their body and are pushing themselves for hours and hours a day, they probably weren't the most nutrient dense diet of anyone.
So, they should be staying away from that inflammatory junk food that's going to delay their recovery and instead eating higher portions of the sweet potatoes and more steak, more grass fed Wagyu hamburger from Lone Mountain Wagyu and getting the very best from around the world shipped to them so they can indulge. That would be a huge performance advantage which I think we're only just seeing now finally.
Dr. Cate Shanahan had that program going with the Lakers where she planned their meals and they'd get quality stuff at Whole Foods. Now, these top, top athletes in whatever sport are finally awakening to the idea that maybe they should eat like a thoroughbred and just go to the highest level of dietary quality as well.
Christopher: Wait. I thought the Lakers' performance tanked after they made those dietary changes.
Brad: Yeah, with that nonsense video. I love how people are going to talk about an NBA's team one loss record and improved dietary quality in the locker room and make some correlation like, "Oh, they're eating too much fat and none of the carbs." Ridiculous. Any athlete who is looking for career longevity, I think that's what we're really talking about.
Because if you get an elite level performer, you're going to get four years out of that body no matter what, even if they take the off season and screw around and ride their boat around Miami all off season. But then what's going to happen when that explosiveness starts to wear down a little bit, the joints start to wear down because they haven't nourished their body properly?
The endurance athletes are creating so much inflammation and oxidative stress from not only the dietary pattern but also over stressing that heart every single day. And so if you go into this high carbohydrate burning training pattern and high carbohydrate eating pattern you're asking for trouble. There's validated science now. I love Dr. O'Keefe's Ted Talk about the cardiovascular disease risks of vigorous endurance training. A lot of the things that we're doing that we think are healthy are actually increasing our risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Trip out on that.
Christopher: It's back to that U shaped curve, right? You don't want to be sedentary but you don't want to be over trained either.
Brad: Unfortunately, the U shaped curve, as Dr. O'Keefe and others, Dr. Attia, comment, the maximum cardiovascular disease protection benefits come at an embarrassingly low level. It's supposedly like a couple hours of moderate aerobic exercise per week and you max out your cardiovascular benefits and anything beyond a couple of hours a week at a slow pace, you're going for fitness and that's fine and certainly you're going to be in probably better shape than your sedentary neighbor.
But if you think about it in those terms and you realize that all this training is not really predictive of health but more predictive of fitness and quite possibly putting your health at risk, that's a real eye opener and it's a real cause to slow down as I had to do halfway through my career. I had this awakening that I would still be hot, there were still guys in front of me on the road, which was so frustrating, but I was training at my absolute limit.
I was sleeping half of my life. I slept ten hours every night and I took a two-hour nap every afternoon. I was doing well in the sleep department. I was pushing my body to the max in training and doing everything I possibly could and I was still getting my butt kicked. I had to wake up and go what's going to change here? What can I do?
Thankfully, I was talking about the free exchange of information, guys like Mark Allen, the greatest of all time. I remember taking him aside at a race and I said, "Dude, what is going on? How do you do this and recover so quickly? I'm trying my hardest here and I'm a talented guy. I've shown my potential." And he said, "You got to slow down." He talked to me about Dr. Phil Maffetone's principles.
Mike Pigg adapted those principles around the same time where everybody started strapping this heart rate on and dramatically slowing down their routine training pace, getting out of that constant competitive mindset where every day every workout was a race or a miniature race and trying to build that aerobic pace.
And so for me, it allowed me to break through from -- I was kind of like a number seven or a number eight guy in the world and I'd win races and I'd go to big races and I'd get 12th or eighth or seventh or fourth and it allowed me to have this huge leap improvement in my overall base conditioning. That's when I was able to reach the highest level that I did as an athlete where I was national champion.
I was rank number three in the world at the end of '91 and winning seven races in a row at one point and just kicking it up to the next level that I was dreaming of for so long and working so hard to get there but not achieving it until I slowed down, took it easy, relaxed, actually moved away from the large training environment of Los Angeles to train mostly by myself up in Northern California, and all these changes where you're thinking, well, this guy is getting soft and slacking off. Those were the things that allowed me to break through to the highest level.
Christopher: That's amazing. How was it though, the first time you put on a heart rate monitor and went out for a run or a bike or swim? I guess, maybe you couldn't have done it with the swimming but what was it like trying to stay under 140 beats the first time you went out?
Brad: Yeah. My number was 155 and so what you're supposed to do is go do a performance test where you peg your heart rate at 155 and run five mile test on the track or two mile test on the track. It was embarrassingly slow. Mark Allen and Mike Pigg relate the same thing where they're like, "Wait a second. I'm supposed to get off the bike and run five minute miles and chase these guys down? But I can't. It starts beating if I go faster than 730."
It didn't make sense for a long time. But then what happens, what I notice really quickly was my aerobic function got better and better to the extent that I was running faster and faster and faster at the same heart rate. Without it beeping I go my pace down to six minutes a mile for five miles. I could hold six minute miles at a comfortable aerobic heart rate and carrying on a conversation if need be with someone next to me.
So, envisioning what would happen in a race when I turned on the gas to push the pedal to the medal, I had a much bigger and higher platform to jump off of to try to get those incremental benefits in the race. Because when you're talking about going from finishing eighth place to finishing second or first, you're taking a minute off your time in a two-hour race. It's incremental. And the only way to do that is to work from the bottom up. It's like building a foundation. You need a proper foundation if you're going to put a second floor on your house and if the inspector says, "No, your foundation is weak, I'm not going to give you the permit," then you're screwed.
You have to kind of go back in time and rebuild that foundation and break yourself down to get that aerobic system functioning right and holding back on that invigorating buzz that you get from doing the high intensity workouts that give that immediate return on investment, that high satisfaction level. You feel like you're going to conquer the world because you'd go did a great track workout.
But you don't realize that, basically, you're tweaking a tiny inferior engine. You got a used Volkswagen bug and you're redoing the spark plugs instead of taking the time to build up a solar powered Tesla that runs from zero to 60 in three seconds eventually.
Christopher: And did you figure it all out yourself? Did you have some help from Phil Maffetone or anyone else?
Brad: My strategy was to absorb information from everywhere I could and so I had so many wonderful influences. I believe that piecing it all together myself as the final decision maker, the CEO of the operation, was the best way to go rather than just move to the training camp in Australia and do whatever the coach said. There was some of that going on in triathlon but that would not work for independent thinker like me.
So, Johnny G was a big influence. Andrew MacNaughton was a big influence. The other elite athletes that were so kind and generous to share information, and we all did that, and we helped people that were coming up the lowest to try to build the sport and bring in the next generation of athletes. People would go and crash on each other's couches and train in different environments and learn more.
It was a wonderful community aspect especially in the old days. I don't know how things are now. A lot of times that element goes away. But it was a journey and I think the most profound lessons you learned are on the race course. I would go back from these dismal failures that were really devastating at that time and have to wake up the next day and maybe sit there with a note pad and write down how did I get myself into this business.
A lot of times I would go into these over training spirals because I was really fragile and I couldn't handle the level of work that almost all of my peers could do routinely. I was like a low mileage guy and also a low intensity guy. It took me years and years to learn that I was not suitable member of the bike pack or the running pack on the track. And then I had to step off the track two-thirds of the way through the workout and let all these other guys work really hard right in front of me.
I wanted everything to be in there and to express my potential as an athlete but I had to learn these hard lessons that I was the bailout guy because when it came to race day I was able to express my own potential by honoring my own voice in training. That's a really, really hard place to get to.
The same within the workplace. Some people are built to work those 60-hour weeks and grind away but if that's not you and your family's waiting for you at home, it's possible that you should leave the office at 5:00 p.m. and just be more clear thinking, more time efficient, have all these attributes going for you where you're going to be more productive and more resilient than someone who's just grinding away with extra hours and extra junk food to fuel those hours.
Christopher: And so how did you work your way into the primal way of eating? How did you make the transition from margarine and Teflon into coconut oil and lard?
Brad: Oh, Teflon's bad?
Christopher: Well, Teflon makes it possible to eat an extremely low fat diet. When I look back at my diet, I'm like, if it wasn't for Teflon everything would be sticking to the pan. It made the [0:46:06] [Indiscernible].
Brad: Oh my gosh. Well, since you inspired me to go out and get these cast iron pans, and I have to say besides being able to grease it with coconut oil, baking grease or butter, there's something about cooking in old time super heavy cast iron skillet, it just feels better. The food tastes better and it's just a different experience. Now, when you try the non-stick stuff or I even see it, I'm just not as appetized. It's really weird.
Christopher: Well, tell me how you made the transition. I'm really interested to know how you ended up eating a primal diet.
Brad: Long after I retired from competitive racing. Now, I'm a suburban dad trying to be healthy. Mark Sisson who is an old, old friend. He was my coach when I was an athlete on the circuit. He was a former triathlete as well. This is now 2008, so it's ten years ago from the recording, but long after I retired from the circuit in 1995 and he decided that we should write a book together.
He wanted me to help him with that project and kind of build this brand. It was a brand new eye opener awakening for me. I wasn't really aware of the primal Paleo scene because there was no scene in 2008. Loren Cordain's book was out for years before that but it was sort of an afterthought. Mark was the one that really wanted to bring it to the mainstream and shout out against conventional wisdom and US government dietary recommendations, that this breaking science and this evolutionary science that had been there for a long time with the early guys like Boyd Eaton doing the research on the ancestral populations, that this was the way to go.
So, I kind of went to this cold turkey experiment when we started working on the book project. I left his house in June of 2008 and I said, "Okay. So no grains, okay. No sugar, no grains, no bad oils. What about oatmeal?" He's like, "No, dude. That's like grain. These are all grains. Cereal, bread, rice, pasta, wheat, all those things." That's been ten years now that I'd been basically adhering to the main principles of no sugar no grains and none of those bad oils that we used to pound.
And then just recently in the last couple of years when ketogenic eating started to become popular or started to become scrutinized and studies were going on, we jumped into that realm because it's really a natural evolution of low carb primal Paleo in general eating pattern, is to experiment with this nutritional ketosis and get some of those benefits that have been well studied about improved cell repair, improved cognitive function, reduction of inflammation and autoimmune conditions.
That was fun to jump into that realm and try that out for a while. Now, at this point, experimenting with -- Today, I'm kind of a more fluctuating approach where I'm not a strict keto person, inspired by you guys, and knowing that I have other goals such as doing athletics even at an advanced age. So now I'm extremely healthy eater, extremely health conscious
I don't have any interest in consuming junk food or indulgent treats. I just don't have the taste for it anymore because I've habituated away from junk food. And then also I have this alignment in my mind that I want to be healthy, I want to live a long time. So, even if you'd set something in front of me that was really tasty, I wouldn't enjoy it for that reason.
I mean, it might be okay on my taste buds or if tomorrow we woke up and said, "Hey, the sugary synthetic heavily processed cheese cake from the national chain restaurants are actually really good for you," I might have to force myself to eat them. But what I was saying was my previously most treasured indulgent was to go to cheese cake factory and have a cheese cake three or four times a year. Now, I'd say the last two or three times I've had it, it was just turned my stomach because it was too sweet. That's kind of a natural evolution away from what was my former life, was a lot of sugar involved growing up and being an athlete too to now I'm just trying to obviously enjoy everything that I eat and not have some sort of strict regimen that I can report on a podcast and people can take notes on that I don't eat this and I don't eat that.
I eat whatever the heck I want and it will change every day. But the common thread is that it's nutritious foods that are good for your health.
Christopher: I love that. And I love the title of the book. It's about the Keto Reset Diet: Reboot Your Metabolism in 21 Days and Burn Fat Forever. I like the idea of it being a program with a definite end date and it being a reset. It's a button that you can press periodically that can help improve your metabolism. But it's not necessarily the one true diet that we should all be eating for all eternity regardless of your athletic endeavors, right?
Brad: Right. I think it's worth trying for everyone. I feel like everyone would benefit from breaking free from carbohydrate dependency and becoming fat-adapted. I don't think anyone would dispute that on any side of the coin. So, if your next guest is the vegan low fat king of the world, they probably would agree that this extreme dependency upon regular feedings of outside source of energy namely carbohydrates, does not seem to be good for the body.
The metabolic syndrome that's identified as the number one health problem in developed nation today is driven by insulin resistance and that's also undisputed by anyone in medical science. So, the better we can get at burning internal sources of energy, namely stored body fat, and also making ketones as needed, if we restrict our dietary carbohydrates that level, those are all good things that deliver positive benefits.
The idea is that, in my case personally, I don't feel like I need to eat keto every single day although many days I would qualify if I wrote everything down, which I never do, I'd probably be in keto alignment for this day and that day or these four days in a row but not for this entire week. The pattern is fluctuating and ranging but it's ranging inside a tight, I guess, you would call it a standard deviation.
I'm not going into a large pizza and a giant Pepsi two liter bottle from Little Ceasars. That's not ever happening. The disparity between one day to the next is not even worth dissecting when we're talking about hitting this big picture objective. That's really what Mark has done a great job over the years with Mark's Daily Apple an also in the books that we've written, kind of supporting that intuitive approach where we're not trying to tell you exactly what to do or exactly what to eat but we just want to give you some rules and guidelines to live by such as perhaps you should choose the foods that have nourished human evolution for two and a half million years and understand that a Pepsi or a pack of Jujubes is something that is going to be in direct conflict with our genetic expectations for health.
Christopher: Talk about the mastery courses.
Brad: So, we wrote the Primal Endurance book for the endurance crowd. Both Mark and I have that affinity for the endurance scene having been in it forever. And so the goal there was to take the primal principles especially the dietary part and apply it to the compelling goal of endurance events because, generally speaking, the endurance community today is still stuck in this rut of habitual over training, misplaced competitive intensity, where you're trying to push your body every day because you think that's what it requires to be successful, and then fueling that overly stressful regimen with excessive carbohydrates.
Because they kind of go hand in hand. When you're depleting yourself conducting slightly two difficult workouts day after day after day you're going to crave sugar even if you have the highest ambition to clean up your diet. So, the primal endurance approach is kind of taking a step back from all that and saying, "Okay, look, this is a fat burning sport. You're going to teach your body to burn fat and you do that by slowing the heck down, toning down that competitive intensity and then redirecting your meals toward emphasizing natural nutritious fats."
Of course, carbohydrates, the healthy kind, are certainly acceptable and recommended for the numerous health benefit they offer but you're not going and looking for additional sources of gels to squirt in your mouth or blocks or powders or all that crap that we trafficked in for so long that we now know as extremely offensive to health in general and only necessary because you're doing it wrong in terms of needing these things to get through a workout.
So, what we did was we brought the primal endurance book and then the Keto Reset Diet book to life with these online multimedia educational courses. I sit down with Primal Endurance and take you through all the material on each chapter. If you're too busy to read or you'd rather learn from a video where I can be more emphatic with my points and more descriptive and have more little offshoots in the side to explain the points further, there's over 100 videos that take you through every single detail of the book and then an assortment of experts on athletic training, some of the great legendary athletes of all time talking about their philosophy and their reflections.
All this is sort of like a college class experience in endurance training. And then we did the same thing with the Keto Reset Diet where step by step, everything that's covered in the book is covered in video form but it's brought to life in such a nice way because we have Dr. Lindsay Taylor making the meals in the kitchen and showing us how to up our game in the kitchen if we're trying to go keto and make it fun and varied and what's okay and what's not and also talking about some of the psychological aspects that trip us up.
We got our multi-talented Lindsay doing her kitchen thing and then going into the next room and sitting on her couch and talking about why it's so hard to adhere to dietary transformation from a psychological perspective. So, we have all these bells and whistles to elevate something we could do in written form in a book and it's really fun direction for me because I like to communicate in that video format because then you can really get the personality and the connection comes across better.
It's a wonderful opportunity to go all in. If you're thinking about doing keto, and you and I have talked about this so much, there's so many people that are doing it in an objectionable manner where they're going to flame out and burnout a few weeks or a few months down the line because it is an extreme dietary restriction strategy. You have to do it the right way.
That's what the online course is all about. It's a total immersion into the game so that you can know what the experts are saying. We could bring out the matters in the book in a way that's easy and bite size to learn and you don't have to suffer from the mistakes of others or the misinformation that's being dispensed out there because it's such a hyped diet category at this particular time.
Christopher: I feel the same way about these courses as you did about our program. Where were you in 1990 something? I made all of these mistakes as well with endurance training. If only I've known you in 2008 when I started getting serious about mountain biking. I made all the exact same mistakes and how much time and trouble you could have saved me had I done the primal endurance course.
And then even the same was true of the ketogenic diet which I ate for a couple of years. My approach is much like yours now. I think I've said this before in the podcast that I spent two years becoming keto adapted and then I had breakfast with Steve Phinney and he said, "Yeah, that's because you aren't eating enough salt." I could have had a two-minute conversation with him and it could have saved me literally two years.
Brad: That's brutal, man.
Christopher: It is, learning it the hard way. It sucks. I just wish that I had resources like these ones. Life is too short. Just go get the training course. I feel like it would be even better to work with you one on one as a coach but this is a very next best thing.
Brad: Well, thanks. I feel the same with the Nourish Balance Thrive when you have that plug on your website about for the price of a new bike, and I know it's a little bit tongue in cheek but when I see the behavior patterns of my fellow endurance athletes for decades and decades nothing has changed. We're kind of attacking this problem from a frenzied misplaced competitive intensity manner where we're thinking that technology is going to be the end all and spending for new equipment--
Same with golfers. They're buying their new irons but their back is so inflexible they can't even hit the iron. What's going on here? The consumerism is taking over from common sense and from natural and healthy approach to athletic goals. I'm giving you a bit of my biased view here especially in the video. So, if you're offended listening to the podcast, you might not like me offering tidbits about endurance athletes slowing down and taking themselves less seriously in order to actually enjoy it more and actually go faster in the race.
Same with the keto folks. Lindsay's on the Facebook group. That's a really engaged community, the Keto Reset Facebook group. There's like 24,000 people on there. She's filtering through the questions along with our other awesome moderators. Layla McGowan is out there and she's so good that we got her going on making a cookbook for us. They're looking at some of these comments. The comments are indicative of a flawed overly stressful, overly obsessive approach.
Some of these answers are pretty easy like, "Hey, just chill out, relax about it. Don't get so stressed about the foods you eat because by definition your diet will be stressful rather than nourishing when you're worked up about the wrong things." And then regarding the stuff that we're missing, the same thing for me, I feel like I missed my sodium optimization there because I didn't know what I was doing the first time I tried keto and I bombed out after three weeks.
You're right. The electrolytes and those things, the minerals are stuff that you want to know about and not fool around with because we're just setting ourselves up for failure without compiling the information and making the informed decision.
Christopher: Well, the books, of course, I will link to in the show notes, are Primal Endurance, which is available on audible and Brad did the narration for that book which is completely awesome.
Brad: Oh gosh, I did the narration for the Keto Reset and the other one we published ourselves. The Keto Reset was published by Penguin Random House and so I was in their recording studio. My hobby when I'm reading an audio book is to go off script and adlib and give the listener more value.
Christopher: You can't do that.
Brad: And so I had to go off for like two or three or four minutes talking about something and the guys like through the glass, the engineer is like tapping the window going, "What's going on here?" And he's like, "I don't see this on the script." He's tracking the script and making sure everything is exactly like the book and he's just shaking his head and I'm like teasing him on the recording.
The audio engineer can't believe I'm still going off on a tangent. But this is an important tangent. Okay, let's get back to the book now and I'll change my voice a little and then go right back into the book. So, if you like audio books, we are going to have a good time together for 13 hours and eight minutes. The Primal Endurance was a long book anyway. It's a cool way to engage. I'm too busy to read now because I read all day for my job. Audio book is where it's at and videos.
Christopher: Yeah, definitely. I'm a huge audio book fan, walking, in the sauna, my two places, occasionally on the bike while I'm climbing up to the trail ahead I'll listen to a book. So, that's fantastic. I will, of course, link to the mastery courses in the show notes. Is there anything else you'd want people to know about, Brad?
Brad: Well, thanks for having me. So happy to be on the show. Yeah, they can go look at ketoreset.com and primalendurance.fit depending on their distinct area of interest. I hope to catch up with you again. It's good talking. Lots of stuff. Lots of fun stuff.
Christopher: Likewise. Thank you, Brad. I really appreciate you. Thank you.
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