In this episode, I am speaking with Brian Keane – one of Ireland’s leading experts on fitness, health, and nutrition. We will discuss nutrition for weight loss, exercise and more.
Table of Contents
In this Podcast, Brian and I discuss:
- Calories in Calories out do they matter?
- Why you can be on keto and still not lose weight
- Why Fat loss strategies have been overcomplicated
- Brian’s Fat Loss Pyramid of prioritization (It is not what you think!)
- The powerful impact of sleep on calorie consumption
- Processed foods vs whole foods – does it matter?
- The best ways to exercise for weight loss, energy, and longevity
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Ari: Hey, this is Ari. Welcome back to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. With me today is my friend Brian Keane, who has gone from primary school teacher to one of Ireland’s leading experts on all things related to fitness, health, and nutrition. He’s a brilliant guy, a wonderful man, and he’s got a lot of insight and wisdom to share on topics related to nutrition for weight loss, exercising for weight loss, exercising for anti-aging and longevity, enhancing athletic performance and fitness. I think you’ll find this podcast very educational and insightful, and I think you’re going to get a lot from it, so enjoy it.
Brian, welcome to the show, such a pleasure to have you.
Brian: Ari, the pleasure is all mine. I absolutely loved your episode on my podcast and the feedback was incredible, so really looking forward to going with a round two here.
Is fat loss only calories in and calories out?
Ari: Likewise, my friend. Okay, let’s jump straight into it, no fluff, none of this personal story stuff, though I am actually interested in your personal story, but let’s go straight into it for the listeners. What is the deal with calories? Calories in and calories out, what’s your take on this? On one hand, we’ve got these people who for ages said, “It’s just calories in, calories out. That’s the whole fat loss equation. All you got to do is count your calories.”
Then, we have this newer wave of people maybe starting 20-ish years ago who came along and started saying things like, “No, calories don’t matter. It’s actually hormones. Specifically, it’s this hormone called insulin. Insulin is a fat-storing hormone, and it goes up when you consume carbohydrates. Therefore, the solution is eat a low-carb diet, you lower your insulin levels, voila, you get fat loss. Calories don’t matter. That’s a bunch of old science, old nonsense.” What is your take on that landscape? How can you reconcile those two views?
Brian: That’s such a great way to kick us off, Ari, because as you mentioned there, you’ve given the two schools of thought. Without sitting right on the fence, the truth is, it lies right in the middle. When people, what are called calorie deniers, who are probably the more new age where they say, “Calories don’t matter. It’s all about insulin, or it’s all about hormones, or it’s all about X, Y, or Z,” there’s gaps missing in that nutritional science and the information that people need to be aware of, but also on the flip side, the coaches and the people who say, “Look, it’s all about calories. It doesn’t matter. A calorie is a calorie,” there’s also a good chunk missing from there.
The answer is the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Calories play a massive role when it comes to fat loss in particular. In order to tap into stored fat, you need to be in a caloric deficit, meaning that your calories below your maintenance so you’re tapping into those stores fat and you’re burning it for fuel. That’s not to say that that’s all that you have to do because food choices play a massive role in that. Hormones play a massive-
Ari: Brian, hold on one second before we get to that next bit. Let’s say someone is thinking, “Well, do I really need to be in a caloric deficit if my insulin levels are rock bottom, and I’m eating a zero-carb, ketogenic, carnivore diet with not a single plant food in it.” Maybe you could speak to the scientific evidence that says why calories do still matter.
Brian: Let’s say, for example, to play out that scenario, where you are in a ketogenic diet, and this is actually one of my biggest pet peeves, and I’m a big personal fan of ketogenic diets. I do ultra-endurance events. I drop in and out of ketogenic states just because it helps me with those races and I’m a huge fan with the evidence for people that have epilepsy. I think the research for ketogenic diets and epilepsy is phenomenal. I think if anybody is either suffering or knows someone who’s suffering from epilepsy, I’m like, “Look at the research of ketogenic diets.”
Mode for fat loss, I think of things like ketogenic diets like it’s the tool for the job. It’s kind of like trying to hang a picture in your bedroom with a sledgehammer. You’re not using the correct tool for the job. A ketogenic diet for fat loss is very similar. It’s a very restrictive diet, very difficult to follow. We can get into the ins and outs on how somebody will follow that plan or how to put themselves into a ketogenic state. What happens there is if you’re eating too many calories, and you’re in a ketogenic state and on a keto diet, you’re still not going to lose body fat. Because at the end of the day, it’s first law of thermodynamics. You can’t go against that with whatever plan you’re following.
If you’re doing a carnivore diet, or a ketogenic diet, or even a plant-based diet, the only advantage of a plant-based diet is it’s normally quite low-calorie, so it’s quite hard to overeat on a plant-based diet, where it’s easier with something like a ketogenic diet where there’s a lot of high fat, nine kilocalories per gram. It’s not that hard to put yourself into a calorie surplus. I think knowing that too many calories are too many calories regardless of the plan, even if you optimize hormones, and your insulin is exactly where it needs to be, you can’t just eat your heart’s content, even if your hormones are completely balanced.
I think it’s important to know that because it aligns the expectations accordingly, because sometimes people think, “Well, if I just drop my carbs down, and I get my insulin balanced, or I just do a ketogenic diet, or I just go into a carnivore diet,” which a lot of people effectively fall into a ketogenic diet off the back of that, and then they’re not losing body fat. They’re like, “Well, what’s going on?” I’m like, “Well, your calories are just too high.” I’m not saying don’t do those plans, but they are like hanging a picture in your bedroom with a sledgehammer. The tool might not be fit for purpose.
The advantage of something like a carnivore plan, or a ketogenic diet plan, or a low carbohydrate plan has is it makes you feel quite satiated. If you’re in a particular ketogenic diet you know this already, you’re going to feel quite good. You’re not going to be as hungry. Your energy levels are going to be really balanced. It’s going to make dietary adherence from a energy standpoint, which is your area. This is your bread and butter in terms of keeping energy levels high and optimizing that.
In terms of dietary adherence, it’s going to make it easier because you’re feeling satiated throughout the day. That doesn’t mean you’ll be able to stick to it. There’s so much other behavioral issues around food and dietary adherence, et cetera. To answer your question in a long-winded way, too many calories are too many calories, regardless of how balanced your hormones are.
Ari: Okay. Just to maybe stomp that one home, let’s say someone is burning 2000 calories a day and they adopt a diet that’s 1500 calories a day, either low-carb, high-fat diet, that is minimizing insulin levels, or the same exact amount of calorie diet, 1500 but from a high-carb, low-fat diet, in that scenario, I’m talking basically metabolic ward studies where they precisely control for those calorie intakes. What would the results be of those two diets?
Brian: It’s an interesting one because I know the studies you’re referring to. What you’ll normally find is, people with the lower carbohydrate will have a better response because of the insulin response and their body composition change will be different, but there’s much individual context needed there. You would nearly need identical twin studies for that to be really practical to take the advice.
One of the issues I have with some of the studies is they don’t take the context of the individual into account. Let’s say, for example, you have an individual who’s 80 kilograms, or 180 pounds, and you bring two of those into the study. One with higher levels of muscle mass is going to have a higher metabolic rate potentially. Straightaway, they’re probably going to be more insulin sensitive. They’re going to be able to withstand and take in a higher level of carbohydrate. That’s going to skew the results. I think it’s important for people to know when they’re going into the research and diving into the research that starting point matters a great deal.
Nutrition is something with body composition that can be very overcomplicated. I think, with your area of expertise with energy, the book was brilliant for this, for breaking that down for people. With fat loss, it can be overcomplicated. I think simplifying it down and asking yourself, well, what are the main things you need to do with a body composition goal? Whether it’s muscle building, losing fat, you know this from bodybuilding, that you need to look at macronutrients, you need to look at food choices, you need to look at calorie intake. None of them work as a silo by themselves. They all work on top of one another.
What I call the fat loss period of prioritization, calories are at the bottom of that. It’s the most important thing when it comes to fat loss but right above it, is your macro profile, your macro split. Is that low carb? Is that low fat, high carb? Because certain things will work for different people and depending on the timeline and the horizon that you’re giving them, you want to stick with, well, what can you stick to over the long term?
For example, Ari, I’m a high-fat person. You can drop my carbs to zero and as long as my fats stay high, I feel pretty good. My energy levels are good, my sex drive is good, my recovery is good, but the flip happens when I go high carb and low fat. I feel rotten, and I don’t feel good. I get cloudy in my brain. Even if the food choices are really good, which would be the next level of the pyramid, I just don’t feel as good with that. My ability to adhere and stick to a high carb plan over a long term is actually really difficult because I just don’t feel that good day to day. I feel kind of bloated, kind of watery. I just don’t feel that good.
I think when you’re looking at fat loss pyramid of prioritization, calories is at the bottom, your macros are above that, your food choices then are going to play a massive role in how you feel. You know this better than anybody in terms of energy levels, micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, all of those things are going to play a role. It’s not looking at it in isolation in a bubble because it’s too easy for people to go, “Well, go low carb.” I hate being the nutritionist on the side going, “There’s lots of different ways to see this, and it’s about finding what works for you.”
Nutrition is like a square peg into a square hole. If you’re a round peg, you’re not going to fit into a square hole. You have to adjust things and make them fit for you. Not overcomplicating this, at the end of the day, I have a philosophy not dissimilar, we’re actually very similar in alignment when it comes to energy levels. I’m like, “Hit your protein requirements for the day. Go with moderate carbohydrate or high or low carb based on what foods you like, what you feel better with, and hit your fat requirements.”
Something that a lot of my audience, we’re similar with a 60-40 split females to males, a lot of my females will struggle with fat intake because they’ll be like the old adage that the ’80s taught of fat makes me fat. One of the most debunked nutritional misconceptions out there, but some people still have that mindset ingrained. I think once you’re making good food choices, I like an 80-20 split, good nutrient, dense foods 80% of the time, 20% of the time having the foods that you like that allows you to stick to your diet, and keeping those protein requirements and sticking with complex carbs, healthy fats, plenty of plants, fruit, and veg. I don’t think you can go too wrong.
Obviously, we can go specific, whatever direction you’d like with that in terms of how to go with this, but that’s my overall nutritional philosophy. I think it’s a case of people finding what’s going to be a good fit for them so they can stick to it, and then they can double down on what’s working for them.
Ari: Okay, got it. Let’s loop back just for a second. You went into a lot of good details there, and nuances, and individualization aspects of fat loss diet plans. Just to move back to this calories in, calories out versus hormones piece, calories are at the bottom of your pyramid because they are the most important thing that is going to ultimately determine whether a person gains fat, loses fat, or maintains their weight, correct?
Brian: In a fat loss goal, yes.
Why good quality sleep is critical for fat loss
Ari: Now, having said that, should one extrapolate from that and conclude, “Well, all I need to do is count calories. It doesn’t matter what I eat. I just need to exert willpower and be extremely conscious of every calorie I consume and tracking it, and how many calories I’m burning.” That’s the key piece of the puzzle. You’ve already alluded to this, but are there other factors that are non-consciously regulating calorie intake, especially in a way that is distinct from just our efforts of conscious tracking of calories?
Brian: It’s a great question, Ari, and there’s two approaches I want to go in because I want to pull on sleep because I think sleep is probably one of the most underutilized fat loss tools that sometimes gets not mentioned in conversations. Just to build on what you’ve said there with the calories, I never want to be classified as a calories in calories out nutritionist because I don’t believe that. I don’t think that it’s just about calories in, calories out, but to say that they’re not important, I think is also unhelpful for people.
When I talk about the pyramid of prioritization, I normally have calories at the bottom, macros above it, food choices above that, and then everything else, your sleep, your recovery, your supplementation just from a nutritional standpoint, but I think sleep is one of the most underutilized tools for fat loss. We touched on this a little bit when you were on my podcast, things particularly hormones like ghrelin and leptin, your hunger and your satiation hormone, those hormones are effectively going to set you up for success if you can keep them regulated and balanced.
If you think about having a really poor night’s sleep, and your ghrelin levels are down, and your leptin levels are off, it means that you’re going to be hungrier than normal the following day. It means that when you eat, you don’t feel satiated with the amount that you would normally eat. If you think about that effect compounded over several days, several weeks, several months, that makes any nutritional plan very difficult to stick to, partly because you don’t feel that, you touched willpower there is one thing, but that also can become downregulated with poor sleep.
Again, that’s a bit more subjective, harder to test. I know it’s a separate area. For a lot of people subjectively, anecdotally, they’ll feel that their willpower is lower after a poor night’s sleep. With that, think about it’s like trying to run a marathon with one leg. You can, it’s just considerably harder. If you use both of your legs assuming you have them, it will be easier to run a marathon. That’s what sleep is like. Focusing on high-quality sleep every night, it sets you up for nutritional success.
I’ve had people come through programs or come through plans and people I’ve worked with in the past who are meticulous about their calorie intake, tracking every calorie using good nutrient-dense foods, they’re dialing in their macros, but they’re sleeping four hours every night, and then they’re struggling to either stick to that plan, or they’re struggling to get the body composition they want. I haven’t even gotten into cortisol and stress from lack of sleep. That’s a whole other conversation. I know this is something that you focused on quite a lot. Just to think on the hunger hormones and satiation hormones, leptin and ghrelin in particular, straightaway, you arm yourself with success if you get a good night’s sleep.
Again, this is very relative. Some people need seven hours. Some people need eight hours, some people need nine hours plus. It’s a very relative thing based on individual circumstances, genetics, training load, et cetera, but I think if you were sleeping four or five hours a night, or you’re one of those people who wakes up four or five times in the middle of the night, and you just have that broken sleep, that will be the first thing I would address. I actually think there’s even an argument for maybe looking at that before nutrition just to set yourself up on the front end.
How food processing affects you
Ari: Excellent. Are there any nutritional factors that tie into this, I know you’ve already alluded to this to some extent, but nutritional factors that tie into nonconscious regulation of calorie intake that determine, based on what someone is eating, how much they will end up eating or when someone is eating, how much they will end up eating?
Brian: Are you talking in response to food in terms of food choices and how it impacts something like processed food versus non-processed food?
Brian: I think there’s a couple of directions you could go with this, but probably the most common is the processed food versus whole food argument. Now, we’re very singing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to whole foods. I’m a massive fan. With processed foods, I think probably the biggest thing in some processed foods is the removal of fiber. If you think about fiber and its primary job, it’s to keep you feeling fuller for longer.
People have heard variations of this. In some processed ingredients and some processed foods, you can have that fiber removed and something else will be added in preservatives, additives, et cetera. Again, a whole other conversation based on potential negatives that they could potentially harm people down the line, we don’t know. With the feeling full, you remove that element from the food.
This is why I think, I can’t remember the study, but I remember reading the study on potato chips versus potatoes where they were giving people the equivalent potato chips versus real potatoes and people eating the potato chips were able to eat, and eat, and eat, and eat, and eat, and eat. Effectively, they were more or less the same ingredients, just one was completely processed. The group eating the potatoes got to a certain point, they’re like, “I can’t eat anymore. We’re done.”
Purely from a calories in calories out standpoint, it makes sense. If you’re able to keep eating, you’re going to consume more calories, but also just the satiation feeling, the feeling full with that fiber intake gives you an idea that your food choices play a massive role in how you feel. You speak about energy. If you’re eating the processes or alternatives that are lower nutrients, that have less vitamins, less minerals. They have extra stuff added to them, preservatives, additives. I know the States is slightly different to the EU with a little bit more regulated over here than it is in the States, in California.
Ari: Even if you look at specific breakfast cereals, for example, you look at Lucky Charms for example. Oh, that’s a perfect one since leprechaun, you’re Irish. I didn’t do that intentionally. The food coloring that they’re allowed to use in the United States, many of those compounds that are used to color those marshmallows in Lucky Charms are banned in the EU. If you look at the ingredients list of Lucky Charms here versus there, it’s a different ingredient list. Obviously, this doesn’t only apply to Lucky Charms breakfast cereal, it’s across the board. There’s much tighter regulation over there of many ingredients which have some evidence to suggest they’re not very compatible with good health.
Brian: 100%. I think when it comes to the research is probably the highest when it comes to gut health. I can hand on heart from research. If anyone has an issue with gut health and you’re looking at those additives, this is the same argument with diet drinks et cetera, to say that they’re good or bad is very difficult at this point because the research is still new, but when it comes to you’ve got microbiome, it’s pretty black and white that they’re harmful for your gut, microbiome, which has a whole other host of positive effects or negative effects in this case if you’re destroying your gut microbiome.
I think if you are concerned on that issue, you should either remove completely or at least reduce those foods intake. Funny you say that, Ari, there’s no Lucky Charms in Ireland. Until I lived in the States, I never had a bowl of Lucky Charms. The first week I was there, I was like, “Give me a bowl of Lucky Charms.” I was 19 at the time. I was at a different stage of my life. There’s no Lucky Charms over here.
Ari: Interesting. Are you familiar with the food reward, food palatability hypothesis of obesity, of fat gain?
Brian: Explain it to me.
Ari: Basically, there’s many, many lines of evidence around this, but it has to do with essentially how pleasurable, how rewarding at the neurological level, the food you’re eating is. It very much relates to the study that you mentioned of potatoes versus potato chips. If you take a potato, there’s a few things you could do with a potato. This is actually a good example just as a microcosm of the bigger picture.
You take a potato and you bake it, and you do nothing other than just bake that potato and you serve that baked potato to someone as is, how much of that baked potato that they will consume or how many baked potatoes will they consume before they feel full, before they feel the internal signal of, “I’m satiated with this meal. I’ve eaten enough food.”? That’s one scenario. Now, you take the same potato and you add some butter or cream to it, or you add some sugary sauce to it, or you add both, sugary sauce and condensed fat to it.
You’ve changed a couple things. You’ve changed the energy density of each bite of food in a pretty profound way by adding condensed sugar and condensed fat to it. You’ve also changed the reward value at the neurological level in a profound way. Each bite of that plain potato doesn’t light up the pleasure center of the brain very strongly, but you add some fat, you add some sugar to it, those are key reward signals to the brain. Those are the main ones, sugar and fat. Lesser reward signals are salt and crunch factor. The brain responds to all of these.
If you start to mix many of these different reward factors, and you start to take starch and you add sugar to it, and you add fat to it, and you add a little salt to it, and you add a little crunchiness to it, the amount of calories of that potato meal that someone will eat differs dramatically. They might eat 800 calories of potatoes if you start to add some fat and some sugar and a little salt and some crunchiness to it, or you turn them into French fries where you’re frying them in oil and adding some crunch factor and some salt to it, compared to if you had plain baked potatoes.
There’s a huge body, probably thousands of studies at this point on the food reward hypothesis of obesity, many, many animal studies where basically you can take animals, you give them access let’s say, ad libitum, all you can eat, when you can eat, whenever you want, access to different kinds of diet. One is the equivalent of a simple baked potato like a plain diet with low energy density of that food, not a lot of added sugars and fats.
Another one is what’s called a human cafeteria diet which has a much higher energy density. You have lots of added sugars and added fats into it, maybe a little salt and crunchiness factor thrown in. The animals on the plain low energy density diet, even though they can eat however much they want, whenever they want, they will eat in a way that they stay lean and maintain their body weight.
If you give them the same ad libitum access to the other kind of food, they will rapidly overeat and quickly make themselves obese. That is almost entirely determined by how much calories they’re consuming and whether or not they’re eating an amount of calories that is in accordance with maintaining a lean body weight or making themselves obese is determined by the quality of the food that they’re consuming.
There’s similar studies in humans, for example, Kevin Hall did a study a year or two ago where he put people on equal macro diets, protein, carbs, and fats, and fiber. One was a highly processed food diet. One was an unrefined whole foods diet. The people on the processed food diet gained three or four pounds within a few weeks. The people on the unprocessed diet lost three or four pounds within a few weeks without any intentional efforts to either gain or lose weight, or overeat, or undereat, or anything like that. They were given the same exact instructions in each context. Anyway, I’m going on a little bit here, but I’m curious about your thoughts on that whole landscape.
Brian: It’s very interesting. Again, I wasn’t aware that was the name of it. I’ve read the studies on it but I love that. I’m going to circle that into my brain so I can use it when I’m referencing the studies again. I think setting yourself up for success is a big thing. Knowing what’s happening with those pathways, with the dopamine, with everything that goes on, that pleasure center of certain foods, salt, sugar, fat, the main ones as you said sugar, fat being the main two, and then salt and crunchiness factor underneath it.
I think being aware of these things– A lot of people instinctively know that you can overeat on processed foods and it’s harder to do it with whole foods. Without controlling for calories, I don’t. This is just to give context, although when I’m working with people, I look at their calories, I look at their macros, I don’t track it myself at all, personally. I just generally work off that traditional whole foods. I don’t eat a lot of processed foods. It self-regulates because you’re not lumping butter onto your potatoes. You’re eating it as it’s supposed to be, without putting my own morality onto the food, as it’s intended to be in terms of nature. As a result, it self-regulates.
I think when you take that approach with clean eating– I don’t remember if you remember this, Ari, because back when you were doing bodybuilding in particular, there was a massive trend towards clean eating at one point where it took the whole health wellness fitness industry where it’s like clean eating is all that matters. The reason that worked so well is all the reasons you’ve mentioned. It’s self-regulating for the most part.
People tend to not overeat, and they tend to feel really good. They tend to be getting all the vitamins, minerals, micronutrients they need. Their energy levels tend to be good. Straight away, their NEAT activity goes up, their non-exercise activity. Thermogenesis tends to go up. Their resistance workouts or training if they’re training tends to be more intense and as a result, they might be increasing their metabolic rate because they’re creating extra resistance in those workouts.
It’s having this positive compound effect. Then if their energy’s good, they’re reducing their amount of stimulants, which could potentially be improving their sleep quality, which is further regulating ghrelin and leptin, and having all these knock-on effects that can help people. The reason why it spun back, I’m not sure, but I just think that’s the way the diet industry works where it cycles back. Nutrition industry works where things get popular, and become unpopular, and they become popular again. I think it works great. As someone that follows it personally, I couldn’t be a bigger fan.
Ari: I agree with you completely. I think the movement that the fitness industry took away from that was a very bad movement. Yes, there’s an Orthorexic issue with the– There’s a problem with the extremes of anything, and clean eating taken to an extreme is problematic. Also, the belief that if you eat clean, similar to the insulin and low carb thing, being the primary regulator of body fatness, which is not true. The idea that if you eat clean calories don’t matter is also a false belief. I think the movement that the fitness industry took away from clean whole foods eating– I would even argue took away from health more broadly. The fitness industry separated itself from health and wellness.
When I was into fitness when I was younger, they were very much intertwined. Now, the modern fitness industry and what they call the “evidence-based” and what I see a lot of the evidence-based fitness people doing now is these people don’t know anything about health. They become obsessed with body composition metrics. They’ve lost the context of health, and anti-aging, and longevity, and disease prevention. Then, you have the rise of these things called like, if it fits your macros, then it became a license to indulge in whatever you want as long as you’re counting your calories, and you’re at the end of the day getting in the proper amount of calories and percentages of protein, carbs, and fats.
I definitely agree with you. I also don’t count calories but do think that calories matter. I’m with you. I’m curious on that note. One of the things that happens when you eat the highly processed, highly rewarding diet that I was just describing is the body gets out of what’s called homeostatic eating, regulating energy intake in accordance with energy expenditure and maintaining a healthy body weight.
Naturally, we’re all, and really all animal species, are born with the natural ability to do that as a result of millions of years of evolution, but the modern food environment overrides that system. It takes us out of homeostatic eating and shifts us towards hedonic eating. We learn more and more to separate ourselves, to stop listening to those signals. We become disconnected from those signals from our body, and we start eating for pleasure and for entertainment just because it tastes good. “Oh, I want some more of that. That’s delicious.” That’s what the modern food environment does.
Given that many individuals who are, let’s say, overweight who have been consuming highly processed food diet for years or decades, unlike you and I who have probably been healthy since we were young, and into fitness, and athletes, and things like that. Those people are more disconnected from their internal signals. Do you think that maybe there needs to be more of a focus in that context of somebody who’s overweight, who’s been on a highly processed food diet to pay conscious attention to calories and macros, whereas maybe you and I can get away with not doing so much of that?
Brian: It’s a really interesting question. I think the starting point of the individual matters. If we’re using an example of somebody that doesn’t have a background or any conscious awareness around food– I think one of the natures of someone that’s into fitness or played a sport, you have some awareness of food. Somebody that’s in that overweight category, in that obese category. I’ve worked with a lot of those individuals over the years. I’ve kind of changed my opinion on the best way of approaching it. Sorry, I’ve got a file opening here in the background.
Why all or nothing approaches to fat loss often fail
I’ve changed my opinion on the best way of approaching it because I had a bit more of an all-or-nothing, black and white thinking as an earlier stage coach with overweight and obese clients. I would try and take them from this way of eating, which in some cases, I remember I had one client who would literally eat 10 Mars bars every single evening. He would sit down and eat two of those family packs every single evening. He was the first one I made the change with because had I taken him probably two years before, I would’ve been like, “We’re cutting those Mars bars. Let’s make you more insulin sensitive. We need to sort out your hormones. We need to get this right.”
What started to happen, I think it’s the Vince Lombardi quote that in theory, theory and practice are the same, in practice, they’re not. When I tried to apply that logic of what I thought would work best for people, they weren’t able to stick to it. I was losing clients. They were going away from me. I had my client. He was the first one that had the 10 Mars bars. He came to me thinking, “These are gone. There’s no chance he’s going to let me have 10 Mars bars.” His whole diet, now, that’s just a representation of the entire way that he ate.
I said, “We’re going to take a different approach with this. I want you to hit a step count.” We looked at the exercise site. I was like, “I’m going to try and bring down his calories by output instead of actually making any dietary change. I’m just going to get him to move a little bit more.” Now, he was 120 pounds overweight. Even walking for him was quite a metabolic thing. Think about strapping on a 50-pound vest and walking around for the day. It’s not the exact same equivalent, but it tells you how much difficulty it was for him to try and hit a step count. We did that for a couple of weeks. Then I went from the 10 Mars bars down to 9.
I didn’t make any changes with his nutrition except for instead of 10, he went to 9.
Then, a week later, we went to eight. We did that every week until I got him down to eating four and I kept him eating four. I didn’t change that at all because he’s like, “I’m getting four Mars bars.” What he was telling his friends because what happened was his weight started to drop on the scale, and he was getting motivated by that because he was seeing the physical results. He was telling friends, “Look, I’m down 5 pounds, 10 pounds, 15 pounds. I’m eating four Mars bars every night. They’re like, “What?’ You can’t do that.” He’s like, “I’m telling you.” He’s like, “Look, here’s my scales. Here’s what I’m eating.”
Ari: The friends who were eating zero were like, “That’s the secret. You just eat four Mars bars every night.”
Brian: That’s the problem without context. Exactly. It’s so funny. It’s unfortunately true. It got to the point where he decided he wanted to remove them. He actually always kept in that one single chocolate bar at nighttime. That was the thing that he liked. What happened was he was willing to make changes elsewhere because he was getting motivated by the results. He actually went and looked at his breakfast first, which I’m a big believer, either intermittent fasting, or setting yourself up with the first meal, whatever that looks like especially in someone in the overweight and obese category.
He was like, “Do you know what? I’m just going to go with some scrambled eggs for breakfast.” He was eating, it was Coco Pops which is like Lucky Charms, the Irish equivalent of Lucky Charms. He’s like, “Do you know what? I’m going to have a bowl of porridge, or I’m going to have some scrambled eggs.” He decided he was going to make those changes. Over the time, he lost so much weight. He came about 120 pounds overweight, he left when he finished and was off on his own, he’d all that weight gone, plus more. He was training for– It’s not a Tough Mudder. It’s an Irish equivalent of Tough Mudder. By the end of the 18 months, he was doing one of those races.
Now, he wasn’t sprinting it. He wasn’t going racing for a podium but for him, it was a massive win. I think looking at that, it’s important to realize that theory and practice aren’t always the same. I’d love to say, “Well, look, this is the theory. This is what works.” Then in actual clinical or in practical applications sometimes, you have to play around and maneuver with things. I just wanted to share that to show that there’s a lot of different ways to potentially hit an end goal. Sometimes, what you think in my side as a coach isn’t always the best approach for people. Although you know something else will work better, if they can’t stick to it, it doesn’t really matter.
The best exercise approaches to weight loss, energy, and longevity
Ari: Beautiful. I want to shift into exercise. I want to talk maybe about exercise in a few different contexts. Exercise in the context of fat loss, exercise in the context of energy enhancement if you have any thoughts there, and in the context of anti-aging, disease, prevention, longevity. We’ll take each one on its own. I don’t know how much your thoughts on exercise differ in those different contexts, but let’s start with fat loss. What are your thoughts on exercising for fat loss? Should one focus on burning as many calories? Hold on one second. I have somebody who’s incessantly knocking on the door here.
Ari: I have this old guy inviting me to go play pickleball with him.
Brian: Nice. You can think that.
Ari: I’m renting this Airbnb in a townhome complex right now. There’s a lot of old people that live here. There’s a number of these old guys who are really into pickleball, who have seen me and invited me to go play with them. I think they relish the opportunity for some young fit guy that doesn’t know how to play pickleball that they can pick on and destroy in pickleball and make themselves feel good and boost their ego.
Brian: That sounds fun though, man.
Ari: I played one time last week. I actually had a blast. Let’s talk exercise in the context of fat loss. There’s some people who might focus purely on the calorie-burning aspect of it. Other people who say, “Oh, it’s about the hormonal impact of the exercise. How much did you boost growth hormone, and catecholamines, and testosterone, and insulin sensitivity? That’s what we’re trying to accomplish,” or the metabolic impact of the exercise. Other people emphasize the importance of muscle mass and weightlifting. What’s your take on that landscape, and how one should organize an exercise program to optimize fat loss?
Brian: You’ve given it a great overview on the three main areas that it impacts. I think taking them separately is going to be important because the biggest misconception, and it might not be the same with your audience, but definitely, my audience is, what should I do for fat loss? Should I do cardio or should I do weightlifting or resistance training or strength training? That’s generally the question I get asked probably more frequently than anything else. My answer is, well, they both work in different ways. Cardiovascular training, running, swimming, cross-trainer, playing pickleball, playing dodgeball, they’re cardiovascular activities that will burn more calories all other things equal than, say, an hour equivalent of resistance training or lifting weights.
Obviously, intensity matters, whether it’s high intensity, low intensity, but for the most part, all things equal. An hour of cardiovascular training would burn more calories. People will jump on to the, well, if I’m trying to get into a calorie deficit, then I should do cardio because that will help me burn more calories. Another misconception people have just to say here is where people are like cardio burns fat. Cardio doesn’t burn fat, cardio burns calories, and being in a caloric deficit can potentially burn fat. With resistance training and strength training then, you might burn less calories per hour, but what happens is you increase your metabolic rate, so you burn more calories while you’re resting.
It’s what I call on podcasts click-baiting books and news articles is burn fat while you watch TV. It’s one that grabs people. They’re like, “How do you burn fat while you watch TV?” I’m like when you do resistance training or strength training, you tear those fibers down in training and your metabolic rate has to elevate as you repair it. Obviously, nutrition plays a role there, protein synthesis, making sure you’re repairing all of these other things. You’re increasing your metabolic rates, you’re burning more calories while you rest. A lot of people will look at that and go, “I’m burning 600 calories on the cross trainer for an hour, I’m only burning 300 calories when I do strength training, I’ll do the cross trainer.”
When you understand that, yes, you burn more calories with the cardiovascular activity, but after your resistance workout, you could be burning calories for 36 to 72 hours after depending on the intensity of the workout and depending on your starting point, so you’re burning more calories while you rest. It’s the metabolic equivalent of making money while you sleep. Combining those two things together is the real secret for fat loss for people because you’re hitting it from two different sides.
My issue sometimes when it comes to fat loss and the calories in, calories out, which normally accompanies the cardiovascular and doing more cardio, cardio bunny, cardio guy, just doing loads of cross trainer work is there’s only so much you can do with that before you’re going to plateau and your body stops responding. With resistance training and burning more calories while you rest, it means you don’t have to constantly decrease calories or you don’t have to constantly increase cardiovascular activity, because you’re burning calories by a different method.
Putting those two together, now the plan would be 100% dependent on the person, but I like three to five times a week, 30 to 40 minutes of resistance training, maybe 10 to 20 minutes of cardiovascular training in those sessions depending on the goal, depending on the starting point, of course. I don’t want to give a prescribed plan based without context on the individual. That, and then you’ve got everything in between with the hormonal balance, like you said, in terms of optimizing hormones. That all happens, particularly with the resistance element, the strength training element more so even in the cardiovascular. Although it can happen sometimes depending on the intensity.
If it’s high-intensity interval training versus steady state low-intensity, you’re going to get an element of that. I think with fat loss, the answer is the two and they work in different ways, and to get the best results, combining the two is what normally works best for people.
Ari: Combining the two in the sense that we’re getting a big calorie burn during the exercise and we’re getting a big calorie burn post-exercise.
Brian: Yes, and I think how you lay it out then depends. I personally like just putting them in the same workout so people don’t have to be doing multiple sessions and all of this. You can also just focus on something like be more active. For example, I’m recording this podcast at a standing desk. I have a step count that I train here every day, I’m bringing the dog out for a walk. That effectively serves as my cardio activity throughout the day, and then I’ve got my resistance workouts that I do. There’s lots of different ways to do this. It’s just about finding what works into your routine and scheduling and something you can stick to and ideally something you enjoy.
Ari: Yes, absolutely. My personal schedule, I don’t really do cardio in the gym because I’ve got surfing, I’ve got dog walking. I often take him on hikes where I’m hiking up mountains and small mountains. I’ve got rock climbing and I’ve got biking and skateboarding with my son, and so I let the cardio take care of itself in the context of fun activities where I don’t even really realize I’m doing cardio per se. I’m just surfing or I’m just climbing or skateboarding or biking or something like that. Then I go to the gym and do weight training.
Brian: As you said there, Ari, one of my secret sauces when it comes to exercise is if you can find exercise that you enjoy that doesn’t feel like exercise, you’re probably going to be on to a winner. I think hiking falls into that bracket, skateboarding falls into that bracket, and there’s a whole host of other things. Experimenting with different things. I’ve had people on my channel say, “I don’t like cardio” and I’m like, “Have you tried every type of cardio?” I’m like, “That’s like telling me I don’t like ice cream or I don’t like food.” I’m like, “Have you tried every type of food.”
There’s different things out there, so experiment. if you don’t like to run, try swimming. If you don’t like to swim, try hiking. If you don’t like hiking, try rock climbing as you said. If you don’t like rock climbing, try skateboarding. Experiment until you find something that you enjoy.
Ari: I don’t recommend trying skateboarding for older people.
I have to say.
Brian: Yes, true.
Ari: I just got back on a skateboard after not climbing one for 20 years and I feel so much more fragile than I did when I was skateboarding as a kid. I’m teaching my five-year-old son how to skateboard. I took him to the skate park just before this podcast and I did a couple of ramps, going down a couple of little ramps for the first time in 20 years and I’m like, “Man, I hope I don’t break an arm right now and I have to cancel this podcast because I have to take a trip to the hospital to get a cast on or something.” Whereas when you’re a kid, you can fall down a million times and your bones are more malleable.
Oh, the other thing I was going to say, we’ll edit this out of the podcast so listeners won’t know, but Brian, as you know, I just had somebody knock on the door a couple of minutes ago. This old guy in the townhome complex I’m in right now who wanted to invite me to go play pickleball. I’ve never played pickleball before. There’s this group of old guys who are really good pickleball players here. They relish the opportunity to pick on a young guy like me and make themselves feel good because they’re better at pickleball than me. I bring this up because this game of pickleball, which I had never played till last week, is really fun.
I know a ton of older people who are 50 plus or even people in their 70s and 80s who have become massive fans of pickleball. Basically, it’s like a hybrid of tennis and ping pong. It’s like tennis, but there’s much less running involved. It’s more quick reflexes and reactions, a few steps here, a few steps there, so it works much better than tennis does for people who are 50 plus. I just want to mention it to listeners so that maybe explore pickleball and explore opportunities for getting together with groups to play that game because I know tons of people who are just crazy about it and who get a great workout from it. That’s another thing you may, as Brian was talking about, fall in love with, which is the key.
The next thing I want to talk about is energy and longevity. Do you have any thoughts on, and maybe you don’t, maybe it’s the same as your previous recommendations but is there anything that you would do differently in terms of structuring an exercise routine in the context of fat loss versus, let’s say, someone’s primary goal is I just want longevity, I want to live as long as possible. I’m already maintaining a lean body weight or I want to maximize mitochondrial health and have amazing endurance, stamina, and energy levels. Anything that you would do differently in terms of structuring those programs.
Brian: Yes, slightly. I don’t want to come too far outside my own circle of competence because, particularly the longevity, I’m parroting back things that I’ve read or studies that I’ve read or people like Dr. David Sinclair who I’ve had on my podcast, so I’m parroting back what they’ve said. With energy, this is definitely your baby in terms of bread and butter, so I can offer an opinion on it, which is more down to my own interest in it.
Ari: Let me just briefly insert. I think the literature isn’t even clear necessarily. Yes, that’s my area of expertise, but I can go in the literature and I would say there isn’t a substantial enough body of evidence for one to make hard and fast conclusions “This is the one right way to do an exercise program for enhancing energy or longevity or disease prevention.” I think everybody is looking at that evidence and making their best logical speculation and extrapolations of what they think would be the best based on a limited body of evidence in that regard. I think as an exercise expert, your opinion is as good as anyone’s in that field, so don’t downgrade yourself too much.
Brian: I appreciate that and that definitely gives me a nice jumping off point because it’s very much my opinion on it. What I try and apply, because I’m in this very awkward what I want to do versus what I actually do. As somebody that used to be a competitive bodybuilder, who now does insurance events, a hundred mile ultramarathons, et cetera, that’s as far away from longevity and even help to a degree, but I get a whole host of other benefits from doing those sorts of challenges, more mental mindset. I like seeing how far I can push my body physically.
Ari: Talk about that, the trade-offs that you’re referring to because I think some people might not understand what you’re referring to. Why is doing ultra-endurance training not very compatible with longevity and what are the other benefits that you’re getting?
Brian: The analogy I give people is it’s like if you have a new car and if you just drive the hell out of that car and just go flicking around corners as fast as you can, not really looking after it. That’s kind of like what endurance events is like for longevity. Meaning that you get this body and you’re doing things that are going against everything when it comes to health and longevity because there’s so much poundage on the joints. For me, when I’m training for an event or a race, and, for example, I’m doing the Spartan world in end of September, so that’s a 24-hour ultramarathon with obstacles on the course.
As I progress and train for that, my training load could go up to two, three, four, five hours per day, multiple days a week, which is a terrible way to keep your body healthy and a terrible way for longevity because of the amount of impact that it’s putting on in just the training phase.
Ari: You said the race is 24 hours nonstop?
Brian: Yes, it’s a 24-hour race. It’ll be about 60 miles and obstacles on the 60 miles. It’s just you go for 24 hours. The person to do the longest distance effectively is the winner.
Ari: How long have you been a masochist, Brian?
Brian: 2018 was my first. I did Marathon des Sables in 2018. That was six back-to-back marathons through the Sahara desert self-sufficient.
Ari: Wow, dude.
Brian: Yes, that was hard. I ran 230 kilometers over five days through the Arctic in 2019.
Ari: Oh, snap.
Brian: Yes, so I’ve got a couple of cool endurance events done and I can talk about what I got from them. Then I did my first a hundred-mile ultramarathon in 2020, so this would be the next big race since then because everything shut down for two years. I’ve been a masochist for about four years now.
]I’ll be a recovering masochist someday, but jokes aside, I get so much mentally from those as someone that wouldn’t default to being very mentally resilient. I like seeing how far I can push my mind, how far I can push my body before it breaks, and it hasn’t broke so far so that’s good over the positive.
Ari: Isn’t that beautiful when a weakness, something that wasn’t a natural talent or gift eventually becomes a strength with that level of dedication and practice? That’s awesome.
Brian: Oh, cheers. Yes, it’s something that I stay on top of. I always think of it like it’s like sweeping the floor. You can sweep the floor today, but if you don’t stay on top of it every day, it gets dirty again. Having those challenges that I work towards allows me to do that, but it’s so far away from health and longevity that I feel hypocritical sometimes speaking about it because it’s a left field, but I get so much outside of it in terms of other areas of my life that it’s something that I’ll be doing for the foreseeable future for sure.
Ari: Talk about that, what are you getting? What are the main benefits that you get from that.
Brian: Self-confidence is huge. I struggled a lot already with confidence. I know when we were talking on the podcast, bodybuilding and the gym tends to be a good jumping off and catalyst point for people for building self-confidence. Even though I did that, I didn’t get as much from competitive bodybuilding. I didn’t get the huge confidence surge that some people get from pushing themselves to that level.
Ari: Yes, or they develop chronic body dysmorphia and insecurity.
Brian: That’s what I got. Got that all right. Yes, definitely I got that.
Ari: Yes, I did too. No matter how muscular you get and how lean you get, there’s always some guy who’s more muscular who’s leaner, especially if you’re a natural guy competing looking up to steroided out bodybuilders and extremely genetically gifted people who are then on steroids. There’s always somebody better to make you feel inadequate in terms of muscle mass or how lean you are. I think it goes either way, maybe you develop more confidence if you’re of that mindset that you can be content with a more normal-looking body, but if you’re striving for that, if you have the mentality that you clearly have based on what you’re doing with endurance, maybe it takes you in the other direction where you feel never good enough.
Brian: It did 100%. It was the less secure I ever felt in my life when I was at the peak of my competitive bodybuilding career and I did well in that world. I was competing in fitness model shows, I won a Pro Card in 2014, I competed at the World’s, finished eighth in the World’s in 2015. I did pretty good, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t get any of the confidence. I had the worst body dysmorphia and the worst relationship with myself then than I ever had, but the endurance events were different. Something that running does for me in particular, more so than any other endurance, is it’s very humbling. I find and found fitness very easy.
I enjoy weight lifting, I’m built to CrossFit, I was an athletic person that played multiple sports, so I always found fitness quite easy. It made me a better coach. Probably a better person as well, but definitely a better coach when I started to run because it’s so humbling. Every run is so hard. I’m 5’8″, 85 kilograms, I’m built like a Hobbit. I’m not built to run when it comes to how I look and it’s so humbling. When people tell me that they hate training and they hate the gym and they hate working out, I get it because I don’t enjoy running. I do it because it’s something that makes me more mentally resilient and I enjoy that element of it, but it humbles me.
That’s why I like it because I’ve never found it easy. I still don’t find it easy. If I take a two week break from running, it feels like I’ve never ran a day in my life when I go back, and staying on top of that just allows me to keep my own mentally resilient sword sharp for a lack of a better term. I enjoy it. The confidence I got from it, the belief in yourself, the shattering of all yourself limited limitations comes off the back of completing some of these races and I’ve done well in some of these races.
I finished, I think, ninth in my a hundred-mile ultramarathon, which I didn’t even set a target. I was like I just want to finish a hundred miles. Give me X amount of time, I want to do it. I thought I’d do it in 24 hours, it took me 26 and a half.
Ari: That sounds like maybe 95 more miles than I’d ever want to run.
Brian: You’re right, call a spade a spade. If I didn’t get all those benefits, I wouldn’t do it because I don’t enjoy it. It goes against what I said earlier about finding what you enjoy, but not necessarily what I advise is always what I do because we all have different reasons and different ways.
Ari: Do as I say, not as I do. [laughs]
Brian: It’s something I won’t do, Ari, pick up all sounds fun.
Ari: In this case, it’s not because you’re being sedentary and eating McDonald’s every day and telling people to go eat healthy and exercise, is it’s because you’re doing too extreme of a form of exercise that would be damaging for most, including me, I would say. If I did anything even half of what you’re talking about, I know that that’s way too much exercise and endurance exercise for me. I’ll end up with severe shin splints and stress fractures and nursing injuries all the time in tendonitis. My body can’t tolerate those kinds of extremes, especially running that you’re talking about.
I really admire that and I’m sure you get huge mental dividends from that and the confidence and the toughness and resilience that you get from that I’m sure is incredible.
Brian: 100% and that, at the end of the day for me, makes the trade-offs worthwhile. Now, I should also add, you have a little bit of a course of knowledge as a strength and conditioning coach, as a nutritionist that how damaging these things are to your body. I don’t do race after race after race. I normally do one per year, and then I back off completely. Your adrenal system, my adrenals full stop from the amount of cortisol, from the training load to the poor sleep and the lead up to races, et cetera, all has a negative impact on my body. As soon as the race is done, it goes into repair mode, recovery mode.
I’ve got my daughter, I’ve got my partner, I’ve got people who are amazingly supportive around me, but then the race is done. It’s back to family time because I’m not going to be training for four hours a day and recovering for two hours. I shifted into another focus and another area of my life that’s more important to me, but they’re very supportive for the two, three months that it takes me to train for these races, and then I try and pay it back on the other side.
Ari: Nice. Okay, so pulling from that and looping back into, let’s say, the average person looking for anti-aging longevity, energy enhancement, maybe they also want to really work on their endurance performance and stamina, which very much ties in with mitochondrial health. Obviously, you don’t recommend the extremes that you do personally, but
what would you recommend?
Brian: I think when you’re looking at my interpretation of the research was you’re nearly looking at where can fall or come into problems later in life. When I’m looking at people in their 80s, in their 90s and the things that are debilitating for those breaking a hip, falling down, all of those things, you’re nearly trying to do a forward projection on, well, if I’m not able to do a squat or if I’m not strong enough to withstand a fall of this bottom of a step, how do I design a program or a plan now that allows me to be in a better position when I come into that part or that season of my life.
This is where I think I’ll always do some form of resistance training to some degree, some form of squat, probably some form of deadlift, basic movement patterns that I want to be able to do when I’m 80, 90 years old, mixed in with some form of endurance training that’s lower impact. Probably a bike, swimming, things along those lines. I keep those in the back of my mind at all times because I’m in my mid-30s now, but there’ll be a time when I’m hopefully, all things going well, I’ll be in my mid-80s, potentially in my mid-90s, who knows. I don’t want to just get to those, I want to be able to move and be in a really good position mentally and physically when that time comes.
That’s where I’ll be shifting attention probably in my later years in 50, 60, 70 onwards to set myself up for those 20 years, but again, as I said, without stepping outside my circle of competence, that’s just my interpretation of the data.
Ari: Beautiful. Given the extremes of exercise that you engage in, I’m curious if you have any good insight into recovery techniques. If you have any special methods that you find uniquely helpful in helping your tissues recover from all that training you do.
Brian: This is something that I’ve gotten very good at in the last four or five years because with training, it’s a combination of switching disciplines from high impact resistance training body, building sports to the longer endurance style stuff mixed with just getting older where I don’t recover as quickly as I once did and I have to put a huge focus on recovery. Normally, my training load, I will spend half the time in that day, recovering based on the training program. If I did an hour of a workout, I do minimum half an hour of recovery that day.
If I have a two-hour workout, I’ll do a minimum of an hour recovery and that comes in different shapes and forms, so 80%, you know this already, Ari, 80% of your recovery is in your nutrition and your sleep. That’s going to play such a huge role. Supplementation to a degree, particularly when you’re at the amount of duration and level that I’m training at, supplements play a big role because it’s very difficult to get that entire recovery protocol right, which is food. I have a myofascial release protocol that I follow. Basic rolling with a vibration roller just for blood flow.
Ari: I love those.
Brian: I use a massage gun. Love them, unbelievable. I use it every day. I use massage therapy, massage gun on the body parts that I can’t get with a roller, but my biggest two are heat and cold. Those two without fail. When I get into a heavy training phase, so that’ll be from July, August in the lead-up to a race in the end of September, I’ll do a lot of ice. Recovery directly after training. Now, ice, it’s important for people to know, and I’m sure you know this from your bodybuilding days, based on goals, you don’t want to jump into an ice bath directly after training. It can potentially blunt your ability to build muscle, et cetera, all of these things without going to deep on it.
When I’m trying to go from I need to recover on Monday to run again on Tuesday, I need to recover on Tuesday to run again on Wednesday, I’m all about just optimizing recovery, so I’ll jump straight into an ice bath as soon as I come in from a workout or in from a run and I’ll stay in there anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. Now, my time when I was training for the Arctic was way up. I was sitting in an ice bath for the duration of a TV show. It was crazy how much you can build up that tolerance obviously over time. Then heat, so sauna or add some salt bath, the hot bath, combining those two for recovery I found incredible.
Now, there’s secondary benefits that I unintentionally found off both. When I started to do a lot of sauna work, I was doing it for recovery for the Sahara, but also to improve and increase my tolerance to heat as someone who lives in the west of Ireland to be able to survive the Saharan heat. I got huge mental health benefits mixed with the BDF brain drive neurotrophic factor. My ability to retain information off the back of a sauna session, I was like, oh my God, this is so useful, so I’ve kept it in other areas. The same with the ice, I found that my recovery went up, but things like my sex drive went up, my cognitive function felt really good, and cold shock proteins, et cetera.
I felt really good and there were secondary benefits that came off the back of them. I have a combination of that mixed with I do 90 minutes of deep tissue every single week religiously without fail, and being consistent with that recovery protocol really helps. Now, you don’t have to follow it exactly like that or have your own version of it. You can mix and match depending on what works for you. Those more so than anything else is what works for me with recovery.
How Brian structures his supplement routine
Ari: Beautiful. My last question to you and I’m grateful for the extra time that you’ve spent here beyond the allotted hour. Actually, sorry, I have two questions. One is what supplements are you on? That’s the quick one, and then I’ll get to my top secret question.
Brian: Supplements. Oh, top secret question. You’re leaving me while thinking about that. I’m excited for that. No, with supplements, I tend to follow the supplement which you’re missing in your sub-nutrition protocol. Some of my staples now with training are going to be obviously recovery based. I’ll take glutamine after training. For the most part, I’ll take some form of amino acids after training. They’re staples with the training load, but generally, I try and supplement back when I’m missing in my nutrition. If I’m going through a phase of eating very little red meat or going pure plant-based and I’m not eating pumpkin seed, I’ll supplement back in zinc.
I also have as two staples is a probiotic, an extra strength probiotic that I double up in the lead-up to races just because of increased cortisol, your gut microbiomes taking a pounding with the amount of food that you’re eating for recovery. Just staying on top of that. Sometimes I’ll mix in digestive enzymes and I take CBD oil for sleep. I think without fail, that’s been the most life-changing supplement for me of all the supplements I’ve ever taken because of my enhanced sleep quality off the back of it, but I go in and out. Sometimes before podcast, I’ll take some lion’s mane, functional mushroom, or I’ll take some phosphatidylserine as a natural nootropic, so it varies, but they’re some of my staples.
Brian’s top hacks for health body and life
Ari: Great. Okay, top secret question, what are your best hacks? Maybe two or three little hacks that maybe are your secret weapons that you use for this? It doesn’t have to be a big thing, it doesn’t have to be like, “Oh, I just take this pill and I magically lose 20 pounds,” or something like that, but two or three things that you do, and maybe in some of the work with your clients or you personally, that have helped you achieve any goal, whether it’s with endurance racing, maybe it’s a mindset key that’s allowed you to achieve that extreme of physical toughness and discipline. Some supplement or physical key or anything that you want to go, wherever you want to go to take with that.
Brian: That’s a great question, Ari. I’ve got a couple of CBD oil is the one I mentioned there that for me as someone who is a very naturally poor sleeper. I have done everything under the sun to improve my steep quality from stimulant intake to getting out and getting vitamin D and getting into the sun first thing in the morning to blocking out blue light. Everything you could potentially think of and I still do all of those things, but then I added in CBD oil in 2018 and it brought my sleeve from about a 5 out of 10 to a 9 or a 10 out of 10.
Brian: Oh, it’s unbelievable and the amount of benefit that that’s had and the secondary and knock-on effects with feeling better, recovering better, mood, all of it has been life-changing. CBD oil for me, it’s not a hard sell for people, but for me, it’s one that’s been a game changer.
Ari: I agree. Can I add to that? Because I personally agree with you and I’ve experienced benefits. I was surprised recently when I pulled my audience in my private members group about their experience using CBD. I was surprised that probably at least 60%, maybe 70% of people said they felt no effect from it, which is interesting for a couple of reasons. One, I do personally feel a strong effect for it, particularly for sleep enhancement, but there’s a couple of nuances and I’m curious if you also have experienced this. One is it needs to be a big dose. It needs to be a much larger dose than most CBD supplements or a dose stack. You got to get the really potent ones.
I double or triple dose, even the more potent ones because the studies are typically like 50 to 100 milligram of CBD that enhances sleep, but then a lot of people are dosing CBD at 5, 10, 15, 20 milligrams and then they’re saying they don’t notice an effect, but they’re 10 or 20 fold below what the studies have shown. That’s one thing that I think is a big thing that most people miss. The other thing I’ve noticed, which is interesting, is there’s some talk in the literature of the entourage effect, which is the effect of many of the other phytocannabinoids and phytochemicals and terpenes and stuff that are in the hemp plant that accompany the CBD molecule and CBG and some of these other things.
The literature says that that entourage effect, the presence of many of these other compounds rather than isolated CBD by itself, makes it more effective. Now I pooh-poohed that and said, oh, yes, maybe it’s 10%, 20% more effective, but actually, in my case, it’s the difference between no effect versus a large effect, which is really interesting. I don’t have any CBD to sell someone. I’d actually like to sell CBD, but legally, it’s so problematic that I won’t do it.
The thing I will say is that there are a few specific brands that do full spectrum extracts, where they have a lot of these other compounds rather than isolated CBD, and for me, that makes all the difference into actually getting a strong effect from it. I don’t know if you’ve experienced that as well, but I get almost nothing from pure CBD,
Brian: Nearly identical, Ari. So Interesting you say that because when I started taking the, Hemp Heroes is the brand that I use, when they sent me, it was a sample initially, I was like, “I’ve used CBD, it doesn’t work.” That was my language. The owner of Hemp Heroes, David’s his name, was like, “Look, you need to take the right dose. You need to give it a couple of days to kick in and you need to experiment to see what works for you in terms of the perfect dose and the different brands based on the full spectrum.” I said, “All right, I’ll go on.” I was like, “If you’re sending me a bottle, I’ll take it.”
When it worked, I messaged him and I was like, “Oh my God” because I remember the first night of sleep I had, the first good night of sleep, I thought it was a fluke, but I still messaged him. It stayed like that, then after. That’s why I’m so hesitant to, and it’s not that I’m recommending even that brand, it’s the one that I take that it works for me, but I think it highlights what you said that you might need to experiment with a different brand, a different dosage to find what’s going to be the thing that works for you because I know the dosage that works for me now and I know the brand that works for me, so it’s the one I stick to and I’m quite loyal to that because I know it works for me, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that that dosage or that brand will work for you. It’s worth experimenting until you find what does.
Ari: Excellent, and your second top secret tip.
Brian: I’m meticulous with digital detoxes. As someone that spends a lot of my work life on my phone, and I’ve got quite large social media presence on most of the channels, 120,000 on Instagram, I’ve nearly quarter of a million on TikTok, a big podcast, YouTube, Facebook, it’s very easy to get drowned into the social media world in particular, but just your phone in general; email, all these other things. Every day, I tend to not go on my phone at all for the first two hours. I tend to not be on my phone or on any devices for the last two to three hours of the day and I’m rarely near my phone at the weekends. That’s family time.
I’m with my daughter, I’m with my partner, it’s just proper connected time for me or my version of that, so I’m meticulous with that. Ironically, I probably get more done when it comes to the creation side of the content because of that. I have windows of time when I’m on it. When I’m on it, I’m not randomly scrolling. I’m posting now, I’m creating content, I’m replying to DMs, I’m replying to my messages now because this is the designated window. That’s something that’s a bit left field compared to what we’ve talked about,-
Ari: No, it’s awesome.
Brian: – but I’ve been doing it for years and couldn’t recommend it more.
Ari: I agree completely. In fact, I get complaints because I don’t spend enough time answering emails and messages and stuff like that.
Brian: Good complaints.
Ari: I have people mad at me constantly because I don’t spend enough time on those devices, but I need it for the reasons you talk about. I have two little kids and they need me and that’s priority number one, so I’m with you 100%. Brian, my friend, this was an absolute pleasure. We’ll have to do this regularly because I enjoy talking to you so much and this was a blast. Tell people where they can find you, feel free to direct them anywhere you want; your social media, your website, wherever is best
Brian: Amazing, Ari, I love this and yes, 100%. For those that are listening, definitely check out your podcast on mind The Brian Keane Podcast. A great episode. I know you do so much here, but we were able to dive into topics and do a deep dive of the book there. I know a lot of people picked it up off the back of that, so I’m very grateful for you coming on and sharing your knowledge with my audience too.
Ari: I will say on that note, I wasn’t familiar with your work prior to that. I was so impressed. I can tell who’s interviewing me, and I’m sure you can, how well they follow the train of thought that’s being laid out. Can they ask an intelligent question? Can they poke holes in an argument? I was very impressed with your interview skills and the knowledge that was clearly apparent that you had as you were interviewing me and I said, “This guy really knows his stuff, I got to get him on my podcast.” I’m so glad that I connected with you and I’ve since looked at a bunch of your work and it’s great stuff and I highly recommend it.
Brian: Thanks so much, Ari, and I acknowledge and accept that compliment. I really appreciate that, so thank you. As you said there, for everyone that’s just in, I’m Brian Keane Fitness on everything, but definitely our episode of the podcast is where I send people to. I think we’ve got some great stuff on there, but really enjoy this and yes, 100%, we’ll make it a more regular thing, so thank you so much again.
Ari: My pleasure. Where is your website, your social media channels. Where’s the best place to reach you?
Brian: Yes, Brian Keane Fitness. I’m on everything. I’m on all the channels under Brian Keane Fitness and the podcast is The Brian Keane Podcast and the website is briankeanefitness.com.
Ari: Beautiful. Thank you so much, my friend, I really enjoyed it. I look forward to the next one.
Brian: The pleasure was all mine. Me too.
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