I am delighted to connect with Brad Kearns today! Brad is a New York Times bestselling author, Guinness World Record setting professional Speedgolfer, #1 ranked USA high jumper, and a former US national champion and triathlete. He hosts the B.rad podcast covering healthy living, peak performance, and personal growth.
Brad has always had high standards and a competitive edge that he never wants to let go of, especially as he ages. In this episode, we define fitness and dive into the cultural programming within the western medicine mindset. We talk about avoiding overtraining or training when we are stressed or sick, stress hormones, and the importance of having an ancestral health perspective on your physical activity. We also spoke about nutritional dogma, nutritional philosophies, critical thinking, and more.
I hope you enjoy listening to today’s conversation with Brad Kearns as much as I did recording it! Stay tuned to learn how to pursue peak performance with passion throughout your life!
“Many experts contend now that just increasing all forms of general everyday movement is vastly more important than adhering to a regimented, diligent fitness program.”
– Brad Kearns
IN THIS EPISODE YOU WILL LEARN:
- The importance of preserving functional lean muscle mass throughout life for longevity.
- How to improve your level of fitness in a healthy and stress-free manner as you age.
- Fitness does not have to be an ordeal that involves struggling and suffering.
- The benefits of sprinkling opportunities to be more active into your daily routine rather than going to extremes and pushing yourself too hard.
- What happens to your metabolic and hormonal processes when you over-exert yourself physically?
- Brad shares a formula to work out your heart rate limit for aerobic activities.
- How to change your mentality and become more peppy and active throughout the day.
- How to do more appropriate high-intensity workouts.
- What happens to your body when you go too hard for too long?
- Overcoming patterns of over-exercising, over-fasting, and avoiding certain macros.
- Brad discusses his nutritional evolution over the last ten to fifteen years, shares his personal alternative to fasting, and talks about his Carnivore Scores Chart.
- How to maintain optimum metabolic health and avoid losing muscle mass as you get older.
Brad Kearns is a New York Times bestselling author, Guinness World Record setting professional Speedgolfer, #1 ranked USA age 55-59 high jumper and former US national champion, and #3 world-ranked professional triathlete. He hosts the B.rad podcast covering healthy living, peak performance, and personal growth with his carefree style and lively sense of humor.
Brad has written over twenty books on diet, health, peak performance, and ancestral living, and is a popular speaker, retreat host, and host of numerous online multimedia educational courses at BradKearns.com. In 2017, The Keto Reset Diet (co-authored with Mark Sisson) became New York Times bestseller, and #1 ranked overall bestselling book on amazon.com for two days.
Brad’s main message is to encourage the pursuit of peak performance with passion throughout life. He promotes the importance of performing a daily morning exercise routine for a natural energy boost, improved strength, mobility, and flexibility, and better focus and discipline in all areas of life.
Connect with Cynthia Thurlow
Connect with Brad Kearns
Today, I had the opportunity to connect with Brad Kearns, who’s a New York Times bestselling author, Guinness World Record setting professional speedgolfer, number one ranked USA high jumper and a former US national champion and triathlete. He hosts The B.Rad Podcast, covering healthy living, peak performance and personal growth. Today, we dove into what defines fitness and all the cultural programming we have within our western medicine mindset. The importance of not overtraining or training when we are stressed and sick, the role of stress hormones, the importance of an ancestral health perspective as it pertains to physical activity. We spoke at great length about nutritional dogma, the common ground between many nutritional philosophies, including a reduction or elimination of processed foods, the importance of critical thinking and so much more. I hope you will enjoy this podcast as much as I did recording it. This the first of what I hope will be a series of conversations with Brad Kearns. Enjoy.
Today, I’m delighted and excited to connect with you, Brad. It’s really a pleasure and an honor. I’ve been a huge fan for a long time. And if listeners know this about me or not, there’s a lot of pressure when you are a fellow podcaster to interview another podcaster because we understand the process of podcasting, wanting to make our conversation organic and unique. But welcome.
Brad Kearns: Oh, my gosh, I never had thought about that. [Cynthia laughs]. And I agree with you. I can tell when you’re doing your tricks, like you’re monologuing because I’m so boring. And then I have to like up my game again. Here we go, two podcasters hitting it hard. Okay.
Cynthia Thurlow: Well, the hope and the intent is that you meet out individuals that you will not have a great and vibrant discussion with. In the midst of preparing for a conversation, I was listening and watching, watched your morning routine, watched some of your sprint exercises, listen to your conversation with Abel James, who’s been a guest on this podcast as well, listen to your conversation with Melanie too. I have a good sense of what I’m getting myself into. I know it’s early on the West Coast. I’m sure you’ve already gotten in your morning routine, already walked your dog, did all the things.
Brad Kearns: Well, I wish I could say I’m an early riser, popping out of bed and ready to crush the day. But I’m constantly trying to optimize and experiment. And like Paul Saladino says, when people disagree with him, especially he goes; “Look, I’m just trying to take you from level seven to level nine.” And then also we don’t know what level we’re at. I want to level up. But I don’t know if I’m at level five or level seven yet. So, I’m always open to more possibilities. I generally feel pretty good. I’m 57. And I occasionally get accolades that; “Oh, you have so much energy;” “Wow, you’re so healthy.” But to me, with that competitive athlete mindset that frames my background, I’m always looking down the road to the guy who’s still beating me by a little bit. And I always have these high standards that I never want to let go of, especially as we chronologically age. I’m frustrated that I’m not recovering as fast as I did when I was 24, and racing on the professional triathlon circuit. And part of me likes to have that little competitive edge where I can’t accept that graceful decline into aging, that has become the norm. And it’s so much the norm that we all kind of commiserate together with it and accept it.
And, boy, we want to bust out of that. And that’s what I try to do on my B.Rad Podcast, express that competitive intensity and encourage other people to go for it, even if it’s baby steps and making small changes, because we certainly don’t want to get overwhelmed. And we don’t want to get intimidated either, because someone is ahead of us and doing more things. And especially in today’s social media culture, this person is crushing it in the morning and the other ones doing it in the evening. Where am I going to fit in my thing? Oh, boy, it gets overwhelming. If we can just focus on a little bit of improvement each day, that’s the way to go.
Cynthia Thurlow: I love that reframe because, as a clinician, and now as a middle-aged woman, if I had listened to what even my own doctors had said to me in my early 40s, I would have just bought into this concept of, “Oh you’re just going to gain weight and you’re going to slow down and your sleep is going to be terrible, and you’re just going to have to white knuckle it through this middle age point of your life.” I think it’s so important for all of us to be thinking conscientiously day to day, week to week, how can we improve things.
My kids who are teenagers now fully understand and appreciate that my husband and I really have become examples of what they can achieve, if they get the right mindset. And I’m laughing inside because I’m married to a guy that played senior level across up until the pandemic now does do ju-jitsu. So, that competitive drive that you find in very athletic people is something that I have to temper myself when he gets frustrated with the recovery piece, or he just had a little kerfuffle in the house and broke two toes, and that’s kind of maligned him. And he’s been very frustrated because the teenagers are impervious to everything. And so, finding that reframe and reminding them like maybe it’s time to get back in the pool, maybe it’s time to do some recovery workouts. [laughs]
Brad Kearns: Yeah.
Cynthia Thurlow: Instead of thinking, “Oh, my gosh, all or nothing, doom and gloom. The sky is falling, being Chicken Little,” etc.
Brad Kearns: Yeah, good point. It’s part of the game if you’re going forward. If you never get injured or any setbacks, then you have a push yourself hard enough, for sure. The one thing I’m experiencing, especially at this age, 57, is you are compelled to reframe your goals and make them age appropriate, lifestyle appropriate. And also, I’m not judging, but I would recommend things that promote longevity, and overall health and vitality. And in contrast, when I was a young person in racing on the professional triathlon circuit, it’s a very extreme sport, the training is quite grueling. A lot of endurance, it’s chronic exercise in so many definitions. And it was directly compromising my general overall health for that decade when I was going forward and trying to make incremental improvements in my swimming and biking and running times. And of course, that’s a worthwhile trade off that any elite athlete will acknowledge.
But then when you get spit out, and your career is over, and then I had to look on the horizon and go, “What now?” I don’t want to continue to bash my body. And people ask, “Do you still do triathlons just for fun?” I’m like, “No, of course not. Do you like to go back to high school for one year just for fun?” No, been there and done that. So now, I’m trying to orchestrate fitness goals in particular that are aligned with the longevity markers, like preserving functional lean muscle mass throughout life, as many experts believe is the number one longevity promoter, and identify so many other things if you’re muscular and lean, that suggests that you have good metabolic health, and you’re not carrying a lot of excess body fat by virtue of building that muscle and doing whatever that person is doing to stay fit. I also like to transition from this extreme endurance machine that I wasn’t my youth. And now my competitive passions are high jumping, and sprinting, and doing things that are brief and explosive.
And it’s completely disparate to what I did before being out there, pedaling my bike for hours and hours and running the trails for hours and hours. But I contend that it’s vastly healthier. It’s better for my hormonal health in so many ways. And it’s also a new challenge, something fresh and exciting.
I’m not genetically adapted to be a high jumper, otherwise my head would be out of the screen if you’re watching on the video, but I’m doing the best I can. Since there’s so much attrition in the older age groups, I actually rank pretty well. So that’s fun for me to say, “Hey, I’m a ranked person, even though this is not my game. I’m an endurance athlete coming into this,” but it’s constantly adjusting and reframing. People say, “Hey, happy birthday, age is just number.” I heard someone counter that aggressively a few years ago, and it stuck with me. I forget who it was, but they said, “It’s not just a number, and if you think is just a number, you better wake your ass up and start to make some acknowledgments that you got to do some things differently to take care of yourself better, and wake up to the fact that you’re aging.”
Cynthia Thurlow: I think you bring up so many good points. And obviously, we’re going to touch on all of this. You mentioned that you have this incredible competitive athlete, elite level athlete background. And I’m hopeful that you can identify for listeners, if they’re not familiar with your very vast– I mean, I started writing down as I was doing podcast prep, there are many, many hats that you’ve worn throughout your sports career. And this elite level endurance sports, now explosive sports, I’d love for you to tie in your background and emerging trends that you’re starting to see, because I see them both as a clinician, and I saw the trends even when I was working in Washington DC. The Weekend Warriors, the people that maybe they’re sedentary during the week, and on the weekend, they want to start training for an Ironman. They come in with significant injuries because their bodies are not adapted to be sitting, five days out of the week, and then putting their body under extreme stress.
Touching on some of those key areas because, I think, this is an area that we have not really explored on the podcast but one that I think is certainly very relevant and also very pertinent, given this global last two years where we’ve had a pandemic, and maybe people picked up some healthier habits and others have not. But for those that are looking to achieve some level of fitness at different stages in their lives, how can they go about that safely?
Brad Kearns: Well, that’s a great setup, you’re getting me riled up now, little did you realize. When I look at the fitness industry as a whole, I have some great disappointments, because there’s so much marketing hype and cultural programming that drive us to things that are unhealthy, and overly stressful. And we formed this mentality, especially the recreational enthusiast who’s very well meaning and wants to get up one day and do something about their life and get in shape. And we get ushered into these marketing driven mainstream programming, that is, by definition and by structure, unhealthy and too stressful. And so, what I’m talking about is everything from, “Hey, it’s pandemic, I’m going to get one of those bikes and put it in my house and turn on the machine and there’s the prep instructor, and they’re going to guide me through a very exhaustive 45-or-60-minute workout, especially based on a recreational fitness level. But even for the serious recreational competitor, who’s out there with a race number on the weekend and trying to go for to get on the podium, as they say. There’s by and large, a pattern of overtraining and inappropriate training protocols to where the person is chronically over producing the stress hormones. You talk about that on your show with relating to too much fasting or dieting, while you’re already a fit person and so forth.
We get into this pattern that we– this is our perception of fitness and a fitness lifestyle is setting the alarm, getting over to the gym getting on that bike at 6:00 AM, the music’s cranking up, and you make your way through the workout, the instructors urging you to do one more sprint, and then they tricked you. And they said, “Okay, one more after that, ha-ha, isn’t that funny?” And guess what? Afterward, you feel great, because you are bathed in these adrenaline like cocktail of hormones, and you have a sense of euphoria. The endorphins give you that pain killing effect. And you’re walking around buzzed on this wonderful feeling that exercise gives you, and so you want more and more of that and you go back and do it the next day and the next day. And then what happens is the very familiar fight or flight mechanisms become exhausted because the stress by nature is chronic.
When we look at the elite athletes, we often misinterpret and misappropriate what they’re doing. They’re setting an example of what the best humans can do. But we don’t realize that they are almost always working well within their capacity at every single workout, every week, every month, year in, year out and they’re steadily improving. If they’re doing a good job, they’re avoiding injury, but those injuries are going to be common when you’re going for it at the highest level. But the elite athletes take better care of their body. And they don’t push themselves as hard as the average person sitting on a bike in an everyday town, a fitness center, who is just trying to get in shape. The big awakening that the general public might want to embrace here is that fitness does not have to be a struggle and suffer or deal. It’s about moving your body.
And, in fact, many experts contend now that just increasing all forms of general everyday movement is vastly more important than adhering to a regimented diligent fitness program of heading to the gym or doing the workouts at home or getting out on the road and putting in this many miles per week. And the reason is, is because we have so many inactivity and stillness forces in everyday life that a devoted fitness regimen cannot make up for doing that 6:00 AM workout, jumping on the subway sitting, going up the elevator sitting in your office and coming home and sitting on the couch. So, you’d be better off to just walk that dog twice a day for 15 minutes, drop for, what I call micro workouts, which is a wonderful fitness trend. I think it’s the greatest thing that’s happened in fitness in decades is this concept that a workout doesn’t have to be this grand formal event where you go drive over to the fitness center, look for a parking space because there’s no– you’re driving around looking for a space, going in, beeping your tag, getting a towel and having this big ordeal that sometimes you run out of time for. It can be as simple as getting up from your cubicle and dropping for a set of 20 deep squats, which is pretty difficult. Even if you’re in good shape.
When you get to 17, 18, 19 you’re breathing hard, you feel that burn in your muscles, and then you go back to work and you’re busy, hectic day in front of the screen. So, if we can sprinkle in these opportunities to be a more active human, that will give you a better payoff with far less risk than plopping down several thousand dollars for a fancy bike where the person is going to turn on and push you too hard. And that would be the starting point. I couldn’t pick apart more of the things that we’re doing as a culture that are disturbing one of them you mentioned. And right out of the mouth, the first thing you said someone wants to get in shape, they say, “Oh, I’ll do a triathlon,” or, “I’ll do a marathon,” or something like that.
Why does this have to represent the ultimate fitness achievement? Why can’t a 5K, which is 3.1 miles, and they’re all over, sprinkled all over, and everyone’s saying, “I’m going to do a few 5K’s and then I’m going to do my half marathon, my great accomplishment, and I’m going to go get a tattoo on my body that says 13.1, or sticker on my car.” And it’s like, that’s fine that you can shuffle along and finish 13 miles. It is a great fitness accomplishment, it represents so many things that you train so hard and you practice. But what about running a quality pace for just three miles, showing that you can be more of a powerful explosive all-around athlete who can move with speed, rather than just shuffle through, block after block, in the name of saying, “This is the ultimate fitness achievement.” So, I’m going to challenge kind of that obsession with endurance, and then certainly challenge the general level of intensity that most people exercise that from all levels, novice even up to hardcore.
Cynthia Thurlow: I think it’s really important because as I’m listening to you, I’m thinking of examples, patients, friends, family members that go to extremes, or they think they’re still 20, and they cannot exercise their poor-quality eating habits, which I know is a whole separate rabbit hole. But I’m thinking specifically about individuals that feel like they have to be in a class, they want the accountability, which I totally understand. But one thing that pandemic did for my husband and I, was that there were moments and I was in a very conservative part of the country, and we weren’t allowed to do a whole lot. But we did walk these two dogs that we have, who were comical in and of themselves. And the dogs were getting four and five miles a day of walking, we were getting lots of sunlight exposure. And it’s now become this trend for us to do these– with the exception of when it’s hot and humid, like it is right now. Just that connection with nature and reminding people we don’t have to go to these extremes. There are so many people I interact with, we’re in a new city. And they’ll talk about, the lack of access to classes, or the lack of access to a better gym.
And I’ve actually said, I’ve teenage boys, so for me, right before the pandemic, we bought TRX bands, we bought kettlebells. It was completely serendipitous. But the point of why I’m sharing this is that we overcomplicate fitness. There’s a lot of vanity metrics, especially with social media, there’s good and bad about social media. There’s a lot of great information about social media, but I think for many reasons, are people truly living the authentic lives they want to be in or is it because they want the vanity metric, the validation from perhaps strangers or people that follow them on social media to say, “Oh, good for you, you did the marathon.” Good for you, you did the Ironman.” Good for you, you did these brutal burpees laden classes,” which if I never do another burpee for the rest of my life, I’ll be a happy woman.
Brad Kearns: Yeah, good point. And it’s not inherently bad. And so you point that out with social media, and same with all the exercise programming and opportunities that we have. But it’s up to the individual to take personal responsibility for your journey. And make sure that these workouts are feeding your general level of energy, vitality, health well-being. And that means that, six hours after your session, we don’t want to see people crashing and burning and reaching for the Ben & Jerry’s tub later that evening. And I think that’s a lot of what happens is we get this rebound effect. That’s called the compensation theory of exercise where if you over exert yourself, if you expel too much energy for exercise output, you’re going to turn down these other very important metabolic hormonal dials. And one of them like you’ve talked about on your show this reproductive fitness is the best marker for whether whatever you’re doing is in line with stress risk balance.
And the most extreme example, we have with elite female athletes that get down to low body fat, they experience loss of menstruation, turning off the reproductive dial by virtue of over exerting themselves. There’s a quote from, I think it was Dr. Herman Pontzer author of Burn. He says reproduction, repair, growth and locomotion are a zero-sum game. If you over use one of those, you’re going to borrow from the others. Locomotion encompassing all physical exercise energy expenditure. And we can all relate to getting an injury from overuse, or a sore throat comes up when you first jump into your 12 pack of personal training sessions twice a week out of nowhere. And that’s the body telling you that, “Hey, my immune function, my hormonal function is compromised because you’re pushing yourself too hard.” And we all have that great intuitive sense to know of when we’re off base and out of balance, but we kind of ignore it. I think, again, because of that cultural programming. Someone’s urging you to come back and do more, and do another sprint and do another sprint. To orchestrate it properly, the first thing we want to do is just move more at a comfortable, gentle pace.
Mark Sisson started this 15 years ago. He said, here’s the Primal Blueprint. Here’s the laws that inspired by our ancestral past of what the human needs to do to be fit. And one of the laws was moved frequently at a slow pace. The other one was lift heavy things. And the third one was sprint once in a while. It’s pretty simple. So, what you’re doing is you’re moving around a lot where you’re not taxed, you’re not dipping into that glucose burning heart rate zones. Instead, you’re burning primarily fat, and the characterization there is that it’s comfortable. And so that’s walking for most people. If you’re going to jog, that means you’re getting really, really fit. And walking is so easy that you can jog and still remain at those aerobic heart rates. But I contend that most joggers, just by virtue of, picking up the pace to a slow jog, the heart rate is starting to exceed that maximum aerobic limit, and drift into the more anaerobic heart rate zones where you switch over from optimal fat burning into more and more glucose burning.
Now, if you’re training for the Olympics, those athletes are going to be working in different zones and knowing what they’re doing with anaerobic threshold training. But for most of us who want to be healthy, be metabolically healthy, perhaps contribute toward fat reduction goals, you want to emphasize that fat burning pace when you are going for a sustained period with your cardio, and they have the machines at the fitness center. Have heart rate now, you can get heart rate so easily on the smartwatches. So, it’s really easy to keep track of that heart rate. And the widely respected formula to use is 180 minus your age in beats per minute. And that represents the limit for a pure aerobic activity. So, if one is 50 years old, 180 minus 50 is 130. And so, you’re going to set a beeper perhaps, and watch that number. And when you’re doing stair climbing and watching CNN or pedaling the bicycle, or out there jogging, or jog walking, you want to make sure you do not exceed 130 beats per minute, because that represents the point where you’re burning the most fat and minimal amount of glucose. And if you go up to 135, or 140, or 142, it still feels comfortable because we’re talking about many, many beats below your maximum sprint heart rate. It still feels comfortable, but metabolically the effect of the workout is different, and it’s most likely not going to align with your overall healthy lifestyle goals.
And so that’s the move frequently component that we are mostly strongly deficient in. Especially the athletic world, where are those fitness freaks that are on the bike at 6:00 AM or going to their personal trainer twice a week to throw around weights, they have a tendency to pull out their hall pass for sitting around laziness, cruising the parking lot for a closer spot, all those kinds of behaviors where, “Hey, I already knocked off, boom, my fitness objective for the day. Now, I can relax into the couch and forget about it until the alarm rings again the next day.” So, we want to like change that mentality, to be more peppy, more active, dash up the stairs in your home or at your office put workplace if you have to ascend stairs during the day, and things like that, that sprinkle in. Of course, they’re not going to tax you even if you’re unfit, anyone can hustle up the stairs more so than their general walking pace, and drop for a set of 20 squats. And now we start counting these little behaviors that can turn into habit. Oh, yeah, we’re walking the dog twice a day. All told, it’s not a huge time commitment, but it will pay off better so than getting into too extreme of an exercise routine.
Cynthia Thurlow: Well, one of the things that I always value about your work and Mark’s is that it’s reasonable, it’s down to earth, it’s accessible. And I think anyone that’s listening, whether it’s walking more, just being conscientious when you’re wearing your Apple Watch or your WHOOP band, whatever you utilize, just being attuned to the fact, have you moved enough that day? I typically will say, it’s a good day if I’ve done 10,000 steps before I start my work day. Then there are many days that start that way. And I do it, I’m very deliberate, but it’s also like I’ll stop podcasting, when I finished with you, I’ve got laundry upstairs and I’m constantly moving around. Not at a frenetic pace, but that being conscientious about being less sedentary. And then also the zone tune training, which is kind of what you’re talking about. Robb Wolf was on and was talking about this, and now I feel much more comfortable sharing with people that being aware of that physical activity, those levels in which you want to coexist, I think we’ve been conditioned to believe for far too long that we have to get breathless, that we need to be breathless all the time when we’re exercising.
What you are alluding to, what I’m talking about is you can get sweaty, yes, you can generally have a conversation, yes. You’ll have opportunities, whether or not it’s doing HIIT, and I know this is something in particular want to talk about with you because a lot of people, lot of the fit pros have gotten the concept of high intensity interval training actually gotten it wrong, too longer duration, too high intensity, etc. But for the average person understanding that just making sure you’re more active throughout their day has a lot of profound net benefits, as opposed to doing that CrossFit class at 5:00 AM and then sitting on your rear end for the rest of the day.
Brad Kearns: [chuckles] Very well said. And, yeah, then we have this other critical objective, if we want to age gracefully, and look good and hit these other fitness goals, which is we want to put ourselves under extreme challenge on a regular basis. So that’s other resistance load, or sprinting, doing things that are brief and explosive. And we’ve definitely blown that one too, with this fascination with HIIT, High-Intensity Interval Training, where we now think that we’re have to do this for an hour. But the trick with high intensity exercise, brief explosive movements that help with those adaptive hormones flooding the bloodstream, sending the strong genetic signals to build or maintain lean muscle mass, reduce body fat, all those great benefits that happen when you push yourself hard, it’s a very high-risk workout with a high return. But the high risk is from overdoing it. Pushing yourself hard too frequently, or conducting a workout that is too long in duration, such that it is no longer explosive and powerful. It’s just exhaustive.
The key factor of doing high intensity training properly is that you are putting in a very quality effort. So, if we take a simple example of going to the bench press, and maybe not a big interest to a lot of people, I don’t do it. Some people say it’s a ridiculous exercise, it doesn’t have functional benefit. But everyone’s familiar with the person lying on the bench with a weight over their chest, and they do however many reps. At a certain point, you’re going to get tired. So, if you do six, you’re done, and you rack the weight. Now, if you were to go do three, or four, or five sets of that, what’s going to happen is you’re going to start to have a breakdown in technique, you’re going to start putting joints and muscles in compromising position, because you’re becoming exhausted, you’re out of energy, and you’re trying to lift this heavy weight too many times. And so that sweet spot of getting strong, might be just a single set in this simplified example. And with HIIT, where we’re familiar with doing this on the stationary bike, or doing it out on the running track with our running club, or what have you, generally, they’re asking the participant to push their body hard for too long a duration, and then do too many repetitions of it with insufficient rest in between.
So, for going out to the running track, and doing eight times 400, that’s one lap with some rest in between, number one and number two, and number three are going to feel pretty good. And then when you start to get to number six and number seven, you’re going to have a breakdown and technique, you’re going to be straining too hard, you’re going to be over producing these stress hormones, because the workout is now transitioned into this survival mode where your body’s getting the message that, “Oh, the coach is blowing the whistle once again, and now I have to summon the deep reserves of my energy.” When you walk away from a workout like that, an overly stressful workout, you’re going to feel exhausted, it might not happen for however many hours because you’re bait in stress hormones, remember. And it might be the next morning you wake up with stiff calf muscles and a headache, and the whole rest of the day you don’t feel sharp. And these are all clear signs that the workout was too stressful.
When it comes to pushing yourself hard, there’s a beautiful sweet spot between 10 and 20 seconds that represents kind of the ideal duration for a sprint effort. Whether it’s on a bike, whether it’s running, if you can do it with high impact on flat ground that has a lot of hormonal and bone density, and genetic signaling benefits for fat loss. But a lot of people need to build up to that by sprinting on a bike or sprinting on another form of cardio equipment. But you can sprint for 10 seconds or 15 seconds or 20 seconds, and that’s plenty. And then you stop and you take an extensive rest period. Dr. Craig Marker down in Atlanta, he wrote a beautiful article called HIIT versus HIRT. And that’s his spin on it to do a more appropriate high intensity workout, but he calls them luxurious rest intervals. So, you do a sprint for 20 seconds, and then you rest for six times as long as the duration of your sprint. So, if you’re doing a 10 second sprint, you rest for a minute, and do another 10 second. If you’re doing 20 seconds, you rest for two minutes. And it’s like, look, you only went for 20 seconds, and now you get to rest for two minutes. That would be easy pedaling or slow jogging, if we’re talking about running. It’s a very, very long rest period for such a short sprint. And then you go back and do another and then do another. And generally, for most people, somewhere between four to eight repetitions of this sprint is plenty to represent a fantastic workout.
So, let’s say at the maximum you’re doing eight sprints of 20 seconds on a stationary bike. Each sprint has a two-minute rest period. It’s not overly daunting for virtually everyone. I’m favoring running sprints. So, I’ll do work out where I do six sprints of 10 seconds with a minute rest in between each one. And I’ll go home and call it a day. And what I’ve done there is a wonderful fitness stimulation to develop a truly powerful and explosive athlete, because guess what? When I get that much rest and the sprints are that short, I can really go for maximum explosive effort, and not degrading the workout by getting tired between the 32nd mark and the 45 second mark, because someone’s telling me to sprint for 45 seconds. And the literal truth when it comes to the substrates used for exercise and the metabolic effects of trying to give maximum power output. The human is not capable of literally going all out for more than around eight seconds. That’s the ATP creatine phosphate energy pathway for absolute maximum, 100% explosive effort.
Everything after eight seconds, you are slowing down anyway. It’s not literally maximum output, but we can go pretty fast as we’ve seen on the recent World Championships, track and field that I attended in Oregon, these guys are going pretty fast for 20 seconds. They are sprinting pretty hard. When we put that upper limit up at 20 seconds, the reason that’s there is because if you ask your body to deliver a maximum effort beyond 20 seconds, you start to experience this phenomenon of cellular breakdown, in order to fuel the cells that desperately seeking maximum energy throughput through the cell. And I’m not to get too scientific here, but it’s like when you’re trying to go hard for too long, your body basically burns down the cellular structure to throw that ATP into the cell. And you experience a prolonged recovery time, increase risk of injury, breakdown, burnout, illness, all the things that happen in the aftermath of an extreme effort that was simply too stressful.
Cynthia Thurlow: But I love the idea of doing HIIT, but doing it– coming from a place of efficiency, but as you stated, doing six sprints with a longer recovery period, where you probably are then able to give an all-out effort. I would imagine a lot of people when they’re doing HIIT, maybe they’re going at 60% to 70%, they probably aren’t going full on out. And as a reframed competitive athlete, I’m sure you know where your body needs to be to be able to do an all-out expenditure in whatever activity that you’re doing. But I would imagine a lot of people, when they’re really thinking they’re doing HIIT, they’re really not going 100% in. That’s my guess.
Brad Kearns: Right. And what happens is you start to traffic in this mediocrity, where you are going and putting in some good work. The running example is classic as we have our community runners, you see him out there running every day, and they’re going for the race mode, and they’re pushing themselves. And you can see the strain when you drive by them, and they’re on the next block. And what’s happening is you’re constantly drifting into this what the exercise physiologist called the Black Hole heart-rate zone, where it’s not easy enough to be considered a truly nurturing aerobic session. And it’s not hard enough, it’s not impressive enough, it’s not difficult enough to be truly considered a powerful explosive sprint training session. And so you’re working on these in between heart rate zones, that are chronically stressful, but lasting for too long and done too frequently. And that’s where you get into the overtraining patterns and the hormonal imbalances and all the negative aspects of a devoted commitment to fitness. Your workout program is too stressful. And so, you never do experience what it’s like to be truly powerful and high quality with excellent technique preserved for the duration of the session, because you have those long rest periods, because you’re not sprinting for that long. And you’re only doing this maybe once a week when you do that proper high intensity sprint workout running on flat ground. You only need to do it once in a while because the training effect is so profound.
When you become competent at pushing your body to the maximum for this short period of time, you become fitter at all lower levels of exercise intensity, because your brain, your central nervous system that fires the muscles and ask for that explosive effort, it can now start jogging and go, “Wow, this is easy. This is all you want me to do? I know how to sprint.” So, jogging becomes easier, both psychologically as well as for the sodium potassium pumps in the muscles to fire and send you down the road at whatever pace per mile that’s way slower than a proper sprinting effort. So, you get these fitness benefits, these profound fitness benefits. Again, many people are looking for fat reduction and supporting their body composition goals. And, of course, you can find articles and all this exciting announcement that HIIT training and sprint training has a vastly superior return on investment to jogging, jogging and jogging. And that’s true, but you have to do it correctly, because if you’re just doing the traditional HIIT workout that lasts for too long, all it’s going to do is spike your appetite, and turn down those other important dials reproduction, repair and growth.
Cynthia Thurlow: I think it’s all very important. And this was not intentional, there’s a triad that I’ve started witnessing, in many ways intermittent fasting chose me, I didn’t per se choose intermittent fasting to be known for. But over several years of working with patients and clients, predominantly women, this triad is starting to emerge of overtraining, over restriction over fasting, and people are wondering why they’re no longer getting results. And I’ve actually done some real– my team and I very carefully have navigated addressing this on social media. And it’s very triggering for some individuals. We get a little bit of a blowback whenever I discuss this, and I always say, just because a little bit of fasting is good doesn’t mean more is better. Same thing with over restriction of certain macros. And there’s an intention to why I’m bringing this up. The fear of carbohydrates, the fear of fat, I have witnessed it all the fear of protein over a lifetime. And so, I would love for you to just briefly, and then I want to dive into the diet dogma, which I think is certainly very relevant. I’m seeing this emerging triad, as I call it, I don’t know how to refer to it. And I know for you, you’ve pulled back a bit on fasting and recommending fasting and probably being more intuitive in your eating.
Were you starting to see similar patterns between men and women? In terms of people that– probably also associated with people that are more fitness oriented as well, did you just have this prevailing personality of the little bit of something as good and more is better. And I wanted to address this with you, because I haven’t actually addressed this with anyone on the podcast, but it seems particularly relevant and timely to do so.
Brad Kearns: It’s relevant, timely, because my head is blowing up right now, and I’m rethinking a lot of the foundational principles of ancestral health that I’ve been writing about and working with Mark Sisson for so long. And I give you a lot of credit for that extreme devotion to individualism of everything, especially the distinction between female hormonal needs, and metabolic function in the males. I think one of your shows, maybe it was with Melanie Avalon, where you’re tired of male health figures telling women how to fast and how to do this and how to do that. And so that’s fair point taken. The more we learn, and the more sophisticated we become with the research and the years of experience here. We’re compelled to be more and more individualized and to test and refine, and especially remain openminded and think critically at all times. And I think it’s really easy, especially when we’re living and breathing this stuff, and putting out content to become wedded to our own points of view or the camp that we’re in. And that’s where the amazing exchange of information that we have in modern era can be really destructive.
So, constantly challenging myself to listen to alternative points of view and process it. And be willing to test my own approach to my own strategy. And, yeah, I think that triad as you describe it–we’re talking about a segment of the population that’s already so far ahead of baseline that you can get too wrapped up in it, and have too many stress factors happening. And then everything’s destructive. Same with the exercise example. Getting your butt off the couch and getting out the door. No matter what you do, I don’t care if you go sprint to the next mailbox, or collapse at the next block and get a ride home, you’re still raising your hand saying, “I want to change my life.” And then you definitely want to get more refined as you proceed further down with exercise goals. But with eating, I think I like to start with this common ground. And it’s become clear that the number one priority here is to just simply eliminate processed foods. These are so prevalent, they’re sneaky.
Most people aren’t even aware when they’re looking on their labels for their condiments, and what have you that the refined industrial seed oils are still present, or we go out to a fancy dinner on the anniversary and the entrees are between $35 and $47. And that beautiful steak and fish or whatever they’re offering up is generally cooked in the refined industrial seed oils. The cheap, nasty garbage that the restaurant is using, simply to save money. My son had a job for a while in a very fancy Los Angeles restaurant. He’s cooking up $100 steaks, don’t get me started that they were paying a minimum wage, but anyway, it was a very high-end restaurant. And I said, “So what do you guys use?” And he’s nodding his head like, “You don’t want to ask.” And so for $100 steak, they’re dipping the grill with the cheapest and most dangerous of agents that we can consume. I’m getting on a tangent there. I forgot what I was going to say next. You’re talking about what the dangers of kind of overdoing it, I guess.
If we can just make this commitment to clean out our pantry and our refrigerator and make choices for healthy wholesome foods, we’re going to be so far down the road, and so far escaping from this disastrous path of destruction, decline and disease that we’re seeing all around us, that the rest of it’s just fun and games and cotton candy and bubblegum. But so many people are stuck in that realm of comfort foods, cultural programming, all these things that we somehow are resistant to give up, or we give ourselves an excuse, because I’m at someone’s birthday, and of course, they want to have a slice of cake. But the cake was purchased from a typical supermarket, and there’s all kinds of chemicals and ingredients in there. They’re going to disrupt your metabolic function for a sustained period of time.
So, if there’s anything we can do today, you having me as a guest, I’m going to say, look, people just cut out those processed foods. And then let’s talk about the rest. But if you can’t seem to do that, forget about fasting or with keto or anything, that the time windows, all that stuff is sort of folly if there’s stuff leaking into the picture, especially the seed oils, especially dining out if you’re doing good at home, then we got to turn our attention to our restaurant choices. And that’s my favorite starting point now. I love the quote from Dr. Robert Lustig, author of Metabolical and many other great books. One of the world’s leading anti-sugar Crusaders. And he contends, and he’s a pretty darn good resource. He says, “If you simply eliminate processed foods, and you consume exclusively, wholesome, nutritious natural foods, you cannot get fat, you cannot become obese; you cannot get metabolic disease if you’re eating wholesome foods.”
A lot of people have said. I told that to Mark Bell yesterday, the Power Project guy. He says, “I can. I can eat enough steak and eggs and all that. I can get fat.” “Okay, fine. But if you think about it for a second, have you ever walked away from dinner and pushing your stomach and say, ‘I ate too many steaks. Oh, my gosh, I feel terrible. I had too many omelets. I had too many cuts of salmon.'” It’s really difficult to kind of overdo it on those high say tidy, nutritious foods, the high animal proteins and things that you talk about as the priority. And even with natural, nutritious carbohydrates, like I can eat a whole pineapple. I’ve done it just recently. But I can’t eat two or three or four. But we can certainly do that with the one scoop that we intended for the ice cream and then we had four and then the pine is gone.
Cynthia Thurlow: Well, there’s so many good points. I’ve done a couple talks recently talking about metabolic health is wealth. And the number one ingredient that everyone listening should be conscious and aware of are the seed oils. I did a great podcast with Dr. Cate Shanahan, last year talking about the Hateful Eight. The most commonly consumed fat in the United States is soybean oil and that is because it proliferates in the processed food industry. Ben Bikman, who is a wealth of information, and this amazing insulin researcher puts out incredible content. I like to bring up the fact that when you have your $100 steak in the fancy restaurant, it is likely adulterated with soybean oil. It’s probably in the dressings you get in restaurants. So certainly, we want to be mindful and take these things out of our diets.
Now, with that being said, the whole concept of the processed food industry, it’s designed to blow through these satiety centers in our brain. It doesn’t tell our bodies that we’re full, that’s why you can eat endless bags of Doritos. Not that I would ever suggesting would do that, but much, much harder to sit down and eat a big steak and a bunch of eggs, at some point, your stretch receptors in your stomach are going to tell your brain, “I am full, stop eating.” You don’t get that same chemical messaging signaling in the body that you do with real whole food.
I would agree with you eating less processed foods. And fun fact, I have my husband doing a Whole30. He’s never done one before. And he has completely blown his mind that all of a sudden, his world has gotten very small. We eat very healthy, but now all of a sudden, he can’t just eat the ice cream. He’s pretty healthy, but he can’t just do the things. “What do you mean, I don’t have a chip I can eat? What do you mean, I can’t have that ketchup?” I mean, all of a sudden, his world has gotten smaller. Even just the last few days, even with a fairly healthy lifestyle and eating choices, he’s been really humbled. He was like, “I woke up very hungry this morning.” I said, “Good, that’s a good thing.” But for listeners, really focusing on honing in on less processed foods, that’s absolute. I would say that one of the things I appreciated when I was prepping for your discussion today was you have this Carnivore Scores chart that I went through.
For the benefit of listeners, I probably lean carnivore-ish more than anything else. I like meat. I like fish. I like eggs. I don’t eat a lot of carbohydrate. And if I do, it’s a whole food carbohydrate. That’s what works best for me and my body and this life stage. But let’s talk a little bit about your evolution, because I know in your past, just like all of us, as you mentioned, we should critically think, we should evolve, we should shift, we should change our perspectives. What has changed about your personal nutrition dogma over your last 10 or 15 years?
Brad Kearns: Oh, boy. So, I got involved with Mark Sission back in 08. I was coming from a lifelong devotion to health, athletic training, performance and all that. But he said, “Here’s this primal thing. And it’s about honoring the lifestyle of our ancestors, our genetic expectations for health. Here are the foods that nourish human evolution. Ready, take notes, please. We’re going to write a book together. Meat, fish, fowl, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds.” And that kicked off the Primal paleo movement where, look, if it didn’t exist, 10,000 years ago, you know all those taglines from the old days. And I remember that first discussion with Mark. “So, wait, is oatmeal a grain?” Mark’s like, “Yep.” “What about cereal?” “Yep.” “Okay, bread, I got that. So, no rice, no pasta, no this, no that.” And I pretty much went cold turkey into the primal living. And that was a wonderful health awakening from basically a grain-based diet, or I should say, a whole grain-based diet because I was trying to be healthy and honor the cutting edge of, especially for athletics and we’re eating a lot of carbs to fuel that level of training.
And so that was now 15, 14 years ago. I think operating within that paradigm, and choosing your personal preference, through that very simple list meat, fish, fowl, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, you’re doing pretty well. And you’ve graduated so far from the widespread consumption of processed foods, especially the refined grains, sugars and industrial seed oil. So, Mark, and I talked through numerous books about just ditching the big three toxic modern foods. The oils, and the refined grains and sugars. And then you can strategize per personal preference.
I’ve fooled around with this and that, and experimented just for fun, and just because I’m in this game. For example, we were chartered to write this book about the ketogenic diet, called The Keto Reset Diet, that was our first book. It’s still one of the best-selling books about keto. It was one of the earliest books about keto. And so we plunged full bore into ketogenic macros, which meant for me restricting many of the typical carbohydrate foods that I would enjoy just from being healthy and eating fruits and vegetables and what have you. But that was sort of a short duration experiment to go deep into it and assess some of the results. And like you hinted at earlier, when you’re an athlete, and you’re burning a lot of calories, I feel like you’re stacking a lot of were all acknowledged to be stress mechanisms in the body. And I’ve recently had even bigger awakening to that because if I get out my stress scoreboard, the first thing I write on the stress scoreboard is “Age 57, still trying to do crazy athletic stuff at an advanced age.” That is a highly stressful project that I’m on to preserve this competitive intensity and shoot for goals like running around the track really fast or jumping over the high jump bar.
So, I’m already in a high-risk category because I like to train and push my body. And, yes, sometimes I make mistakes and overdoing it. I was talking about the protocols for sprinting, and I’ll go out to the track, I’ll feel great, I’ll do a proper set that will help me prepare for competition. And then a day later, oh, there goes that left calf again, or that left glute muscle. I overdid it. And I didn’t realize it at the time, because I was having so much fun. So, I’m really working on dialing back everything and working within my capabilities with even more intention because it’s so easy to get carried away when you’re having fun. Just like your husband playing lacrosse or tweaking his toes, who knows what he was doing, but when you’re pushing it, sometimes the pieces pick up later.
So, if that’s the case, and I’m already stressing my body with these explosive high intensity workouts, is there any justification at all for me to fast or intermittent fast from healthy nutritious foods? And that’s the thing that I’m rethinking recently, I’ve been inspired by this guy, Jay Feldman Energy Balance Podcast, so, it’s called the– he promotes the bioenergetic model of health where he wants the cells fully fueled and nourished at all times. So, that your exercise, energy expenditure in your daily life is less stressful. And it’s an interesting point that’s really relevant to me because, look, I just got my labs, my triglycerides are 27, my fasting insulin is 2.3 My body composition is fine. I don’t have any metabolic disease risk factors. In fact, some people when your eyebrows raise if you’re watching on video, some people contend Chris Kelly, Nourish Balance Thrive, he said, “27? That’s too low. Your triglycerides are too low, I want to see them higher. I’m like, “Okay, well, what do you do?” “Oh, I guess you got to go eat more sugar to raise triglycerides.”
These things that we talk about with standard Western diet, and standard typical unfit, inactive population, that we have all kinds of problems that we need to jump into immediately in triage mode in the emergency room and say, “Hey, stop eating so much crappy processed foods, and get your body moving more.” That’s the general recommendation for a lot of people. That’s why books like yours will sell like crazy because if you start fasting or doing anything that represents a departure from unrestrained, unfettered, indulgent access to processed foods, you are going to have a massive health awakening. Even following the Keto Reset Diet. Luckily, we put in a 21-day reset period, we didn’t say do this forever for the rest of your life. So that was kind of covering our bases there, because we’re now getting a lot of backlash, a lot of fallout from people that have been pushing to the extreme and turning down those dials that I was aforementioned dials, and experiencing, particularly those compensatory mechanisms that kick in.
You’re going to feel tired, sluggish, your thyroid is going to turn down, your adrenal function, all these things that we talk about in the health space as problems, those things will happen when your body perceives that it’s not getting enough energy. It’s really, really smart at economizing. And my awakening is, “Hey, what if I eat to the maximum amount of nutritious calories that I can put down?” And then I’m being as energetic as I possibly can or as I want to, I’m not telling people to go walk nine miles every day. Some people are criticizing 10,000 steps is too daunting of a goal for a fat inactive population in general. So how about you go for 1,000,and then we start talking about Cynthia’s 10,000, just show me the 1,000 first, and then we’ll keep talking., Just show me a clean slate for the junk food and getting that processed food out of your diet, and then we’ll keep talking.
So that’s a bit of rambling, but my personal reflections are– and this is coming from great advice from Dr. Tommy Wood, one of my most respected authority figures, really sensible, reasonable guy, leader in Ancestral Health space, and he says, “Hey, for fit active people, I suggest that they consume a maximum amount of nutritious calories. Until you gain a pound of body fat, and then you dial it back a little bit and know that you’ve just hit optimal.” So, for me, I am no longer fooling around with a ketogenic stint, nor playing around with extended fasts or even general everyday fast, which has been so much a pattern of my life for so many years.
And what I typically do, I’d wake up, I work hard in the morning, I feel great, I’m alert, I’m energized, I might be nibbling on my dark chocolate, which I can never do without. And then somewhere around midday, I’ll have this fabulous nutritious meal, have another one. We just wrote a book called Two Meals a Day talking about, “Hey, pick your two meals, it could be breakfast, dinner, it could be lunch, dinner, whatever. So, I’ve been in this pattern for a long time. And now I’m going out of my way to make this concerted effort to start my day with a huge bowl of fruit, and a huge protein smoothie that has frozen liver chunks in there, and frozen fruit, and several scoops of protein powder, 20 or 30 capsules, I like the animal origins supplements from Ancestral Supplements. I have one that I copromote called MOFO. So, there’s plugs going in there. And I have this giant protein smoothie and fruit. And that’s my morning, instead of fasting. And I’m just sharing this to be open and talk about my personal experience. And the next person might experience more benefit from fasting and tightening things up. But you have to see where you are on that spectrum, and determine your performance goals, mix and match with your blood results. What was your quote? “Don’t guess, test.”
Cynthia Thurlow: Yes.
Brad Kearns: Something like that? Is that what you said?
Cynthia Thurlow: Yes, that’s my standard mantra when people are stuck.
Brad Kearns: Yeah.
Cynthia Thurlow: Figure it out.
Brad Kearns: So that’s my current state of the evolution. But I should mention because you mentioned that Carnivore Scores chart. Dr. Paul Saladino, leader of the carnivore movement. He’s a big public figure now. He likes to go extreme. He likes to be radical. He has a series of his videos where he shouting at you, talking about this is bullshit, that is bullshit. And I love his style, because he’s trying to get us woken up from the giant beast of mainstream health programming that we’ve been brainwashed very severely to our detriment. And so that’s all great. Taking some of his insights that, for example, the most nutritious foods on the planet are the animal-based superstars, like pastured eggs and grass-fed beef and animal organs, and the superstars of the fish family the smash fish, salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring. So, these are the most nutrient dense foods on the planet, per evolutionary biology and other experts. This is how humans evolved and branched off from our ape cousins who still chew on leaves for 11 hours a day to nourish their very tiny and less functioning brains. And so, we have a lot of support for the idea that an animal-based diet where we focus on the most nutritious foods is going to give us the best health. I guess in contrast to the grain based American diet where you’re having toast and cereal and orange juice for breakfast, and then you’re having a sandwich, and then you’re having pasta for dinner. And you’re filling yourself up with all these foods that are by undisputedly vastly less nutritious than having your steak and your eggs and your fish and all the things that you love from the animal base. I created a chart with Kate Cretsinger, she’s a health coach on the East Coast. And we strategized the tiered ranking system. So, liver is on the top and salmon eggs and superstar foods like that.
And then you can drift down to things that are lower ranked due to their nutrient density. So, if I describe my diet, most of my nutritional value comes from the animal-based foods. In fact, most of it comes from ButcherBox, because it’s so simple, you can now get this very high quality, carefully selected animal foods, because that’s really important. And I respect and appreciate all the disputes about concentrated animal feeding operations, feedlot animals, bad for the planet, bad for the human. So, you want to choose wisely. Best example is when you go buy a dozen eggs, it’s $4 for the conventional egg, and it’s $8 for the pastured egg, but the nutrient improvement is the greatest return on investment, not to mention your concern for the animal’s welfare and all those things.
So, we’re finding the best sourced superstar animal foods. And then when it comes to the plant foods and the carbohydrates, there, I think we have a lot of personal preference to respect, especially with the emergence of the carnivore movement, which is fascinating to me. I wasn’t a sufferer and a survivor. But when my eyes bugged out when I hear these people saying that they turn their whole lives around by eliminating these natural plant toxins that are highly concentrated in some of our favorite superstar plant foods. So, to think for a moment that that kale smoothie, and then your salad, and then your stir fry in the evening could not only be unnecessary or so-so, but it could also be potentially health compromising was a huge eye opener for me. When I talk about thinking critically and being open minded, when I first got exposed to Dr. Saladino’s message and Shawn Baker and the other leaders in carnivore, I was like, “Wow.” I’m drinking this huge green smoothie every morning, inspired by a Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s viral YouTube video, where she’s dumping in the raw celery and the raw kale and the raw spinach and the raw beets and the raw carrots and blending it up. And then there’s more room, so you should dump more stuff in there. And I’m like, “Well, this is really super nutrition.” I was drinking that every day, and my stomach would bloat out for about four hours afterward.
I was telling my friend about it, who I inspired to also prepare the smoothie. And he goes, “Yeah, my stomach bloats out too. But you know what? It’s so healthy that it’s worth it. And that stopped me in my tracks, because I said if something is causing me this transient digestive pain, I’d get little cramps, and then they’d go away, but it’d be like a big bowling ball for a few hours. And then it would settle and I’d go on with my day. But I’m like, “If something that I’m consuming is causing that kind of reaction, there’s a problem there, I need to investigate and look at this.” And so that was just transitioning from the super fuel green smoothie now to one where I’m putting frozen liver chunks in, who knew a few years ago that it’d be on that game. But, again, I’m trying to get from perceived level seven to level nine, or whatever is possible. So, there’s always more progress. And that’s what makes it fun and fascinating to listen to the resources and what people are doing. And then test it out for yourself. But, again, to loop back, if there’s processed foods in there where I’m sneaking Oreo cookies after my podcast talking about my liver smoothies, then we got real problems. So, I have a very strongly favor, zero tolerance and aggressive intervention to escape from the clutches of the big food marketing and the billboards and the commercials and the programming that this stuff is okay. It’s not okay.
Cynthia Thurlow: I have to agree. I really appreciate your transparency. For everyone that’s listening, almost everyone in the health and wellness space, we do evolve shift and change throughout our careers. And for me, certainly I spent nine months doing carnivore after being hospitalized. I credited for getting me back to a place of health. For me those plant-based compounds, like kale still, actually I don’t tolerate kale at all, but some of those plant-based compounds that may be a period of time in your life that it doesn’t work well for you and it could show up as bloating or loose stools or whatever that we may manifest as. And that’s okay. The power of bio-individuality is so important. And we need to determine and experiment to find what works best for our bodies.
I also appreciate and embrace your desire to change things up. I have started– over the course of the summer, I was away with my family on a vacation. And obviously when I’m with my kids and my husband, and we’re on vacation, I don’t have as much control over when I’m eating, what I’m eating. And so, I started doing more experimenting. I ate two breakfast some days and then didn’t eat till dinner. Some days I fasted longer. Some days I fasted less. And I think it’s all about finding what works best for you and your body. Unfortunately, there’s this one size fits all methodology that evolves out of allopathic medicine. I’ll be the first person to say that. Every patient gets treated with the same drugs. That’s just the way things are. Everyone gets the same starting dose that ever worked well for me and my patients. But there’s still people that fervently believe in that. I think it applies to us as well that we need to trust that we need to be part of the process of experimentation.
And just because your mother or your brother or someone that you love, has success with keto and fasting, doesn’t mean that you will necessarily have the same results. And so, I think it’s really important to be open minded to the possibility that you may fast, you may not fast, but we are all aligned on eating more nutrient dense foods. Don’t be afraid of organ meats. Although I’ll fully admit when I interviewed Paul Saladino for the podcast, I think he had just eaten pancreas and spleen. And I kept saying, “Okay, well, I think I’m going to start with liver.” Which harkens back to my childhood because my mom was Italian. But one of the things I want to make sure we touch on, I want to be respectful of your time. But before we loop through, because I could easily talk to you for hours, and I have pages and pages of podcast prep, because there were so many different rabbit holes we could have gone down. I want to just close the loop on strength training.
We talked a little bit about it at the very beginning. You touched on sarcopenia, which is this muscle loss with aging. When we’re talking about metabolic flexibility, I think it’s very important to at least close this loop about the muscle loss with aging is not a question of if, but when. And why so many people don’t even start thinking about this until they find out they’re insulin resistant. And then we have to go down that whole discussion of muscles the organ of longevity, Dr. Gabrielle Lyon, but why it’s so critically important to do the work, so that you don’t lose muscle mass as you get older because there’s so many metabolic health benefits to it.
Brad Kearns: Yeah. It’s so simple to look at this challenge of living a long, healthy, vibrant life in terms of your physical fitness and your body composition. Dr. Ted Naiman has made a great communication of this. I think Layne Norton does a good job too, saying, if you carry a lot of muscle mass, a functional amount, we’re not talking about bodybuilder or some– the women are afraid to lift weights because they’re going to get bulky, whatever. It’s healthy functional muscle mass that applies to your frame appropriately. If you just can preserve that throughout life, you’re going to, by definition, have excellent metabolic health. There’s this concept called Organ Reserve, and that is the functional capacity of your organs to perform beyond baseline level when called upon. When you start to decline from aging, your organ reserve drops and drops, and you become a weak, sensitive, frail person. And so if you have a surgery, you don’t come out of it very well, because the liver, the kidneys, the things that are trying to clear waste products or whatever they’re charged with, and you’re trying to recover and heal and get out of the hospital, the organ reserve is compromised, it’s directly tied with your functional muscle mass, because to have good organ function, you are using– the muscles are demanding that the organs work hard.
When you start getting on the bike and pedaling, your lungs are kicking into gear, your heart, of course, is pumping blood, the liver is sending nutrients, so the liver is working hard, the kidneys are working hard. It’s an all-around, total body experience to be fit. And so, it’s the best way to protect sarcopenia. That’s the opposite where if we just sit around and look at the clock, we’re going to naturally have a decline in muscle mass over the years and decades. And that’s not going to go away. What we’re just trying to do is delay and minimize the effects of sarcopenia. And it’s pretty simple. I mean, unless we’re talking about the Olympic athlete who is wanting to qualify for the team when they’re 57. And I tell people, I’m training for the Los Angeles Olympics 2028 going back to my hometown triumphantly, when I am, what’s that going to be? 60 something years old. And they’re like, “Really?” And I go, “No, not really, but I can talk about it and want to dream.” But I’m doing the best I can to stave off that age related decline. In many ways, I’m a fitter person than I was when I was a pro-triathlete competing and going for prizes on the pro circuit around the world, because I was only good for one thing. And I sacrificed so many aspects of fitness, just to go a little bit faster in running and pedal the bike a little bit faster.
Now, I can do sprints, I can do pull ups, I can lift some weights, I can get into a weekend festivities and be able to run around with little kids. When I used to coach them playing soccer and basketball and track, I pretty much dominated every practice. I went full bore on these poor guys when my son was age five to 15. And it was so much fun to mix it in there and show them some competitive intensity. And I didn’t let up at all. I wanted to win those scrimmages, and I was right in there in the mix, dribbling the basketball and driving to the hoop. And I learned that from another dad, he said, “No, no. You, never let up, you go full bore, and one day they’re going to beat you. And that’s fine. But until then you’ve womp on them, and you teach them how to be competitors.” And it was so fun to have that stage of my life to be working hard and building my skills and my quickness, and all these things that we tend to just reminisce about, and then sit and watch others perform on TV. So that’s closing the loop on strength training. Again, a little goes a long way.
So, if you can put yourself under resistance load, just for a few minutes, here and there, that’s a great start. And then ultimately, even when you’re very serious about it, and you’ve made a lot of progress, you don’t need to go and lift weights for longer than 30 minutes. A maximum duration of an hour, and that counts resting and chit chatting and sending a text message and then going back to another set. But you don’t want to be in the gym for too long a period of time. Dr. Andrew Huberman talks about this on a recent podcast where anything over an hour and 15 minutes, if your fight or flight mechanisms are called upon for longer than that, that’s when you transition into sort of a breakdown experience rather than a building and a thriving experience for the body.
We have to be very careful tapping in to that wonderful fight or flight mechanism that allows us to perform and rise above and do great competitive things. But we have to temper it constantly. So hopefully, that’s sufficient inspiration to go and use your own bodyweight at the start. You can see Mark on YouTube, Mark Sisson’s Primal Essential Movements. And he shows these four quintessential human athletic bodyweight exercises of push-ups, pull ups, squats and planks. “Oh, you can’t do a pull up, you say?” We call them progression exercises, where you get under the pull up bar, and you have a little stool and your feet are on the stool. And so you go up on your tippy toes, and you provide just enough support, so that you can actually go and do six reps of a pull up. Even though you’re using your feet, you’re cheating, but you’re still taking the muscles through the range of motion and you’re emphasizing the lats which are used to pull up. And with push-ups. Instead of being on the ground, maybe you start with your hands on a chair. So, it’s a chair push up, whatever you want to call it, much easier. A wall pushup is the easiest. I had my dad knocking those out when he was 96, 97 years old, right till the very end where he just– it used to be on the picnic bench, and then it was on a wall, but putting your muscles through those range of motion, and wherever you starting point now, you can progress and get better and better, and preserve that functional muscle mass.
Interestingly, the research is the octogenarian age group makes the quickest gains in strength of any age group. So, my mom who just started with OsteoStrong program, you go in there and you do these very safe, full body resistance exercises where they measure your output, and it helps you preserve bone density. She can make faster gains than my 24-year-old son who’s a beast in the gym, and he’s throwing around heavy weights. But he’s only improved his squat by 10% in a year. And my mom’s chart says that she’s doubled her power from her first session four months ago. And so, that’s the promising thing is it’s never too late. Even if you’re starting from a sorry ass starting point, you’re going to make massive incredible gains and be celebrated for that.
Cynthia Thurlow: That’s amazing. Well, thank you for this inspiring and insightful conversation. Please let listeners know how to connect with you, how to reach out and get your books and to listen to your incredible podcast.
Brad Kearns: And you’re going to have to get on there. So maybe they’ll start by listening to The B.Rad Podcast and we can start with the Cynthia’s show, that comfortable space and then branch out into whatever else this guy’s talking about. But, yeah, I love doing the podcast and I love connecting with you today. And you can look at bradkearns.com. I have great, fun, exciting content there. A lot of free stuff, the Carnivore Scores chart, you can download for free, print it out, put it on your fridge, and I really appreciate the opportunity here to share and we’re on this journey together. So, it’s ever more excitement.
Cynthia Thurlow: Absolutely. Thank you again.
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Cynthia Thurlow: If you love this podcast episode, please leave a rating and review, subscribe, and tell a friend.