Vitamin C and HRV with Dr Mike T Nelson

Vitamin C and HRV with Dr Mike T Nelson

It's Episode 10 of the Optimal Performance Podcast, and we've got Dr. Mike T Nelson on to discuss the importance of Vitamin C, Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and more on Episode 10 of the Optimal Performance Podcast.

Dr. Mike T Nelson is a nutrition expert, a globe-trotting speaker, and today he's dropping by the Optimal Performance Podcast to share his insights and experience on Vitamin C, Heart Rate Variability (HRV), metabolic flexibility and much more. Tune in to hear some crucial tips to help you elevate your habits and #LiveOptimal.



What You'll Hear From Dr. Mike T Nelson in this Episode:

  • Fact Of The Day: Vitamin C kills tumors and a study that it shows promise in cancer treatments
  • The REAL reason Vitamin C matters...and how much do you actually need?
  • You've heard of antioxidants...but what about "pro-oxidants" and why they're important?
  • What wine grapes teach us about stress and polyphenols
  • The correlation between Zinc and testosterone
  • HRV: Heart Rate Variability and how it removes the guesswork and emotional bias from training
  • 3 'divisions' of the body
  • Balancing the metabolic cost of your choices and activities
  • Dr Mike weighs in on the argument about eating 0.7g Protein per pound of bodyweight per day
  • How creatine can be used to treat concussions and boosting both mental and physical performance
  • Get more of Dr. Mike T Nelson (and a special Vitamin C discount code for listeners)
  • Mike's Top 3 Tips to #liveoptimal


Add the new Natural Stacks Vitamin C + Zinc to your routine to boost your immune system

Whey + Collagen Protein to support muscle mass, immunity and recovery

BioCreatine for neuroprotection, mental energy and physical endurance

Krill Oil for its protective anti-inflammatory properties

Smart Caffeine to give you a boost whenever you need it

Vitamin D3 to support healthy metabolism, hormonal function and more.

Vitamin C research from Dr. Mike T Nelson:

Vitamin C and HRV, with Mike T Nelson

Ryan: You're listening to the Optimal Performance podcast sponsored by Natural Stacks. If you're into biohacking, performance and getting more out of your life, this is the show for you! If you want more on building optimal performance, check out Alright, happy Thursday optimal performers and welcome to another episode of the Optimal Performance podcast. I'm your host, Ryan Munsey, and I've got our guest and co-host for today, Dr. Mike T Nelson hanging out with us! What's up Mike?

Mike: Hey guys, how are you?

Ryan: So Mike, thanks a lot for hanging out with us. For our listeners, Dr. Mike is an expert in nutrition, metabolism and doing cool stuff like kitesurfing and waterskiing in his lab coat. That's a true story, he actually did that yesterday!

Mike: I did! It was fun.

Ryan: And he also picks up some heavy weights. You know, Mike literally wrote part of the nutrition textbook used in colleges, he spoke recently at Paleo FX on some quantified self and biohacking tools, that we'll get into a little bit later on, and spoke in New York city just last month about metabolic flexibility. So get ready for an interesting and jampacked episode. But first, as always, this is your reminder that you can find the shownotes for the episode at

And we wanna take a minute to read 2 of our latest 5* reviews on iTunes. Remember we love your 5* reviews so head on over to iTunes, show us some love and let us know what you think about the podcast. So, number one. This is from Young JP: 'I'm so glad Natural Stacks started this podcast because I've been a big fan of their products for a while now. Very informative, great guests, and I'm always looking forward to the next episodes.' Thank you, Young JP. Next one is Activate Fitness: 'Ryan is doing a great job with this podcast and I look forward to listening to every new podcast. Definitely worth listening to!' So Activate Fitness, you broke the code. If you say I'm doing a good job, I will read your review on the air!

Alright, so, Dr. Mike, let's get our Fact of the Day and then we're gonna roll! We're gonna talk a little bit about vitamin C. So this is a cool fact from the documentary Food Matters. They presented some evidence that shows high doses of vitamin C have been proven to not only reverse, but cure cancer tumors and other chronic illness. And when we say high does, we're talking doses of up to 250,000mg per day, given directly into the bloodstream through IVs. And this provides the same cancer arresting benefits of chemotherapy, without the negative side effects. Unfortunately, the American medical authorities don't allow this type of treatment and you have to go to Mexico or some other foreign country to have this alternative treatment.

So I think that's a great example of just how powerful vitamin C can be. I think a lot of our listeners, and almost everybody out there will have heard at some time: 'hey you should take vitamin C, if you think you're getting a cold, you should take vitamin C.' It's not news to anyone that you need to take vitamin C, but I don't think many people understand exactly how/why/how much, things like that. So, let's really dig in and cover how vitamin C boosts the immune system and then we'll get into some of these other things; oxidative stress, increasing the speed of recovery, promoting cell health, protection, and Dr. Mike even has some really cool new studies, actually new this month, on muscle growth that he's going to share with us. So, Dr. Mike! I'm gonna stop talking and let's hear some of your expertise on how vitamin C can help boost the immune system.

Mike: Yeah, so, to me, what I find most fascinating about vitamin C is that in essence, it's a nutrient that we've known about for.. There's 75+ years of research on it. And even now, we're still trying to figure out exactly how it works and what amount and what combination, all that kind of stuff. And what's interesting about humans in general is that they don't make vitamin C. They're actually one of very few animals that don't make it; most mammals actually manufacture it. So a lot of the studies that they've done are on animals like guinea pigs. Guinea pigs don't actually make vitamin C so they are a good sort of human analogue for studies. So that's one thing just to point out, that if you're looking at supplementation in an animal that is already producing vitamin C, trying to extrapolate that to humans, you've got a little bit of a kind of conflict in the model there. So humans have to have some amount of vitamin C.

Most people probably know the classic stories of, you know, hundreds of years ago when people were sailing these huge massive ships and trying to cross the ocean. And a lot of the crew members just kept getting sick, they couldn't figure out what was going on and then when they started having limes and lemons and things like that, they found that: oh well, they don't get sick and die then, but no one really knew what was the mechanism, what was going on. So later, you fast forward and find out there's a disease called scurvy. And you don't really see it much anymore, in general, but at that time it was killing tons of people, because you'd be out at sea, you didn't have any access to vitamin C and humans cannot manufacture it and so they had all these diseases like scurvy that actually just kill lots of people. So, stockpiling limes was a really good military strategy to help keep the crew alive. And that's kinda how we initially found out about it, and later they realized that vitamin C was actually the main component that was helping with that.

Ryan: I've got a question and you may or may not have the answer, but you say, some other animals and mammals make vitamin C and that humans do not. I think the interesting thing to me is, how is that being done in other mammals and animals?

Mike: Yeah, I don't entirely know, to be 100% sure.

Ryan: Interesting. Yeah, we'll have to look into that and see if we can't get that answer for our listeners.

Mike: Yeah, cause I've tried to figure that out and I haven't looked at it too much, but to me it would make sense that we would be able to create it, but for whatever reason we're missing those enzymes and stuff and that process to do that. I don't know what advantage that confers to us, because in general, I mean if you look at all the mammals, humans are the most adaptable creature on the face of the earth, right. You know, our ability to regulate heat in different environments, to run fast, to run persistence hunting, long distance, pretty much humans are at the top of pretty much everything, but for whatever reason we can't make vitamin C, but I don't know.

Ryan: Now you talked a little bit about if we see huge, huge deficits in vitamin C, you know, scurvy and ultimately death. But if we're talking just small deficiencies, what symptoms would we see in everyday life and how does that impact performance?

Mike: Yeah, so if you're low, excluding like scurvy type symptoms which aren't really seen that much, tissue healing potentially can be affected, immune system can be affected, so those are kind of the main ones. You know, vitamin C is used in collagen and soft tissue formation, things like that. And it's one of those weird grey areas too, because the research is not very good at.. We're very good at saying okay, you have a deficiency, you have scurvy, we'll give you vitamin C, woo! Fixes it.

Then there's this huge swath of okay, you don't have scurvy, you don't have a vitamin C deficiency, how much more is going to be beneficial? And what you see is that in general it's kind of an interesting shaped curve. So if you're deficient, yep, by all means have some, you'll be better. If you're not deficient, you know, some may be a little bit better, and then at some point, too much is going to start creating a prooxidant and it's actually going to be detrimental. So the interesting part when you mentioned the cancer studies, so a lot of that is actually IV use of vitamin C and not oral use of vitamin C. And the mechanism of action of IV vitamin C is completely different than oral vitamin C because of some of the mechanisms that it bypasses. So it's mechanisms of action is completely different too.

Ryan: Will you explain that for our listeners?

Mike: Um yeah, so the short version is that IV vitamin C appears to actually be more of a pro oxidant. So in general when we hear pro oxidant we go, oh my god that's horrible, right, we want high amounts of antioxidants. In reality, you want a mix of both of them. So you want some antioxidants and you actually want some pro oxidants. So the body actually uses pro oxidants to kill different invaders, possibly cancer cells, things of that nature. But it's also highly regulated and it's a highly local effect. So if we get rid of all the pro oxidant activation of vitamin C that's actually bad, so you want them to be sort of balanced. And my understanding from the IV studies is that it locally may act as a pro oxidant actually on some types of specific cancer cells. That may be the mechanism of action of how it works.

There's also another study looking at it that showed that fatigue symptoms during cancer treatments were less, but again, it ends up in a little bit of the grey area too. There are some studies looking at it as a conjunctive therapy with other things, but because it's not technically considered a drug, you can't really make any money patenting it, per se. Which again, doesn't mean that there's no research involved, but then you're looking at, you know, who's going to sponsor the research. Usually it would have to be big organizations like NIIH or somebody like that, and not necessarily drug companies to sponsor the research.

Ryan: Right. And that's who's commonly sponsoring most medical research in the US.

Mike: Yeah, and I've got a study here that I just pulled up that's.. If people are looking at a good review, there's one called 'The Effects of High Concentrations of Vitamin C on Cancer Cells', this is in Nutrients 2013, by Dr. Park. There's another really good one on 'The Effect of IV Vitamin C on Cancer and Chemotherapy Related Fatigue and Quality of Life', by Dr. Carr, from Frontiers Oncology 2014. So if people really wanna geek out, those'll be good resources.

Ryan: Yeah and I'll get you to shoot me those on email. We'll put those links in the show notes so again, go to and you'll be able to see the video version of this along with the links to any of the stuff we talk about. Alright, so assuming that somebody is not a cancer patient and not doing intravenous, you know, super high doses, what are upper limits for mega dosing vitamin C?

Mike: It appears to vary on stress level, so there's some interesting data suggesting vitamin C needs may actually scale up with your stress. So the more stress you're under, the more vitamin C you may actually be able to use. So this is outside of the framework deficiency. There isn't really much of a negative effect, per se, so if you look at something the researchers call hard end point, which is ultimately people dying, because it's easy to measure; you're either alive at the end of the study, or you're dead! You know, which is sadly what they call a hard end point. Vitamin C from that stand point is exceedingly safe. Usually if you take too much orally, what happens is you'll have digestive issues, you'll be in the bathroom for quite a while, but to get to that point it's usually several grams per day.

While I don't recommend people do this, when I had a cold a while back a couple of years ago, I actually tried to do that, so I would scale up my vitamin C intake  until I had issues in the bathroom. I can't say if that actually cut the duration of the cold or not! Some data says that it may decrease the length of a cold, but it's pretty debatable and in terms of risk of getting a cold, the data on that again is still pretty debatable.

So in general, you in theory, could have other effects that we'll talk about, potential muscle hypertrophy and other things, but in general vitamin C is relatively safe. You don't see any acute issues with it. If you start taking super high doses then you're probably going to have digestion issues which is going to tell you to cut back. So if you're in that several grams per day area, you probably just don't need that much, the exception being maybe if you're under just wicked high levels of stress. So, Linus Pauling, right, was a famous guy, Nobel Prize winner who was looking at these super high amounts of vitamin C. And a lot of his research was saying that it is helpful, you know most of the newer research hasn't really proven that out though.

Ryan: Gotcha, so you know, with the way that our diets have changed today, whether it's soil quality, farming practices, cooking methods.. How have those things made it more important to, you know, pay attention to your dietary intake of vitamin C.

You know I think in general it's probably gone up, right. So people are under more stress, in general people don't eat as high quality food as they probably should, you know, sources and where it's come from, we're finding out, probably do matter. Even the amount of stress they're exposed to matters, so this is very well known in the wine industry. If you look at grapes that have this sort of stress in terms of high heat, actually restricting water from them for a period of time, those are sort of well known to produce higher quality wines, because they produce other chemicals in relation to the stress and things of that nature. So we're really just trying to figure out you know, all these complex polyphenols and different chemicals that are actually in food itself.

Mike: So my recommendation for vitamin C is, you know, eat a wide variety of citrus, citrus is known to be high in vitamin C. You can also get bioflavonoids and other compounds that interact synergistically with vitamin C. Some research would say that those maybe even more beneficial than vitamin C, but you know at the end of the day what we find is that it's usually going to be those things in combination. So the easy way that I tell people is if they're you know, making like a green veggie shake or something like that, grab a couple of lemons or limes or oranges and buy one of those big kinda squeezers and then just squeeze it into your drink. You know that's going to be super easy, not very expensive, and that way you know for sure you're getting whatever future beneficial compounds that we find are going to be in there too.

Ryan: Alright, I like that. And you mentioned in combination, zinc is another thing that pairs well with vitamin C. Can you talk to us a little bit about how and why they're synergistic?

Mike: Yeah, so there's a lot of things that are synergistic in the body, or I should say, additive, so different things that are helpful. Zinc is probably one of those, in terms of minerals, zinc and magnesium. If people are going to be deficient in minerals, those are probably the top 2. So for some people, especially if their diet is poor, adding in some zinc is probably going to be beneficial. They also support some of the same pathways in the immune system, like thiamine production and antioxidants, so that can be beneficial from that.

For guys, there's some bold studies from the ZMA work that showed that if you were deficient in zinc, replacing zinc actually helped with testosterone output and that type of thing. However when you went from being deficient to having enough, adding more zinc was not beneficial. So in the early studies that they did on basketball players that were deficient in zinc, they showed that testosterone did go up. Newer studies, I think that one was on soccer players, show that they were sufficient in zinc already so adding more zinc was not beneficial, and like all things, if you're taking super high doses then at some point it actually starts to become detrimental. So zinc at very high doses can actually start depleting out copper and then you can end up running into other issues with that too. But again, that's at pretty high doses and we don''t have any data to show that that's beneficial.

Ryan: Gotcha. Now, you mentioned a couple of times the effects of vitamin C on muscle hypertrophy, so let's talk a little bit about that because you know, not only can vitamin C help speed recovery and help with dealing with stress but it can actually, maybe, help to improve performance.

Mike: Yeah, so I've been kind of fascinated by that whole area for a while, just in terms of antioxidants in general. So a lot of the earlier thinking said, okay if you're an athlete, right, you're generating more pro oxidants just because of exercise, energy metabolism, things of that nature. And that in general, is actually true. So they said okay, so we're gonna start supplementing you with antioxidants and that should be beneficial. So one of the very early studies that they did, not on athletes, was done on smokers, I think it was vitamin C, E and beta-carotene in high doses actually made them worse. So, granted, smokers are not the same physiology as someone who's healthy, someone who's an athlete. So with athletes, it's really like all across the board. So there's some molecular data showing that the high amounts of C, E, some types of antioxidants, may actually interfere with the adaptations of exercise. So there's some nice data on that, and sort of molecular level data.

The big caveat is, you know, what is a dose? And then, when was it given? So most of the time it was given in pretty high doses, usually given after exercise. We know that if we take a healthy person and have them go do exercise, their body builds up its on endogenous system of protection. So that's been well known for a while. Some recent data on vitamin C and E.. I'm just going to pull it up so I have the info here in front of me. So I was looking for more human studies on what it would say.. There we go. So here's one on endurance training which is a little bit different to mechanism, this is from Physiology Response 2014; The Effects of Vitamin C and Supplementation on Endogenous Antioxidant System and Heat Shock Proteins in Response to Endurance Training.

So, what they showed was that a greater stress response to exercise in the +C group may indicate long term adaptations occur through different mechanisms, so this study may be beneficial. If you look at muscle hypertrophy, there's 2 pretty good studies on this. There's one from the journal Physiology 2014, and they'll have it in the show notes, but what they showed was that supplementation did not affect the increase in muscle mass or acute changes in protein synthesis, but it did hamper certain strength increases. But if you read it, it's only a strength increase in the bicep curl. So, you may have a short term adaptation or decrease in that adaption exercise on a molecular signalling level, but chronically we know from tons of studies that if you provide enough overload and if you're doing the things that are correct, then it's pretty hard to mitigate or just abolish that sort of a response.

And last study, real quick, this is the one you were talking about. I literally just found this this morning, so I haven't read the full study yet. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine, Science and Sport, this is from July 2015, the title is a little bit misleading: 'Vitamin C and E Supplementation Blunts Increases in Total Lean Body Mass in Elderly Men After Strength Training', but even just reading the abstract, what you find is this is not across the board. So they're looking at muscle thickness- I'd want to see how they measured that- and what they found was a thickness of the rectus femoris, so your leg muscle, increased more in the placebo group; so the group that did not get the supplement, however increases in lean mass in the trunks, arms and muscle thickness of the elbow flexors, was not significantly different between the groups. So if you look at that data as a whole, then it seems to think that vitamin C and E may effect only certain muscles, which certainly makes me wonder how they were measured and what they were actually looking at and that type of thing.

Ryan: Yeah and you know as you read those, one of the things that pops into my head is that most of those studies, you have to really, really look closely at who the participants are, are they detrained, are they untrained; this particular one, they're elderly. What are the perimeters of the training or the exercise? Most of the time it's leg curls, and as you said bicep curls. You know, in the strength world we know that hey, if we wanna get somebody bigger and stronger, we're probably not gonna have them do predominantly bicep curls and leg extensions!

Mike: Yeah, you know there's all sorts of caveats that go with it.. What was the dose? What was the timing? There's some molecular data to show that if you move the dose farther away from exercise maybe you don't have that type of effect. So, in practice, what do I recommend? I think if people are going to use antioxidants then probably taking them away from exercise at this point is probably a good idea. Because we know that it'll still have all the other benefits associated with them and whatever possible interaction with timing, you may, you know, get rid of and not have to worry about at that point. I wouldn't take high amounts of antioxidants after exercise.

Two caveats for that, you're correct on those studies, a lot of the time they use bicep work and leg extension, just because that's the easiest thing to measure in the lab using a biodex and the equipment. Natural sources of antioxidants, however, don't seem to have the same effects in the literature on the effects of exercise. So you've got all these people then who are like 'oh, I'm not supposed to eat like fruits and vegetables and all this stuff after I train and I'm trying to maximize, you know, my molecular response of the mTOR 1 complex', and blah blah blah. And there's no data right now to really support that at all.

Ryan: Right. So, in talking about best practices and timing. I take vitamin C and zinc first thing in the morning, I'm really pumped for this new vitamin C, zinc product, cleverly named, from Natural Stacks, so I can take that in the morning and not have to take two separate things. And another cool thing on that one is that the zinc is chelated so it's zinc glycemate. So, you mentioned a lot of stuff in there, so again if folks wanna come back and review that or see that, make sure you go to and you'll be able to see those on the show notes.

So we're going to get a little bit away from vitamin C, but before we do that, I almost forgot this one. We're gonna talk about this again at the end, but we will have a special promo code for our listeners: OPTIMAL C. If you pick up the vitamin c and zinc product then you will get a 10% discount with that promo code. So, obviously Dr. Mike is an intelligent guy, he's a highly sought after speaker; he's actually going to speak at two more events in the next 2 weeks, but right now we're going to talk about some of the topics that he has presented in his recent talks. So let's start with Paleo FX. What was your presentation there and how can we take some of that and immediately see a boost in our performance?

Mike: Yeah, so my talk there. I was on a couple of panels, and one of the panels was biohacking with Ben Greenfield who's going to be on here, Dave Asprey, some other guys. I did one on muscle hypertrophy and then the main talk that I did was actually on using online fitness technology to monitor your training performance. So there's all sorts of things that come out now to look at you know, when is a good day to go hard in the gym, when should you pull back. The main one that I liked the most is what's called HRV or heart rate variability, and that was one of the areas of research for my PhD. The nice part now is, when I was in a lab doing it, the equipment that I had to measure it was probably like about $8000-10,000, I mean if you were to buy it. And now you can literally get it to run on your phone, even if you have to buy a heart rate strap, which is still under $100. There's 3 studies coming out this year now showing that that system, I use the ithlete system- so instead of athlete it's like ithlete with an i- and that is accurate and really only takes literally just a couple of minutes. So you get up in the morning, put on this little heart rate strap, start the app on your phone and then it will actually run the measurement. So what it's doing is it's looking at the status of what's called your autonomic workout system.

So as you listeners probably know about the autonomic nervous system. Half is a parasympathetic, the other half is a sympathetic. So the parasympathetic is your rest and digest branch, the sympathetic is your fight or flight branch. Kinda like the parasympathetic is like the brake on your car, and the sympathetic is like the gas pedal on your car. And what you're looking at is the ratio of how these two are operating. So as you become more stressed, sympathetic is going to go up. As you're able to recover, or you are more recovered, your parasympathetic in general is going to be higher. So each morning it equates these on a 1-100 scale. So let's say you did a hard dead lifting and stone day, or whatever on Monday, you do the measurement Tuesday and you're like 'wow, went down like 5 points', but as it goes down that indicates that you're actually more stressed. So maybe I'm just gonna do a lighter day or maybe take today off. Next day you come in: 'oh wow, it's actually back up to where it was before. Alright, today's probably a day where I can go ahead and train'. So it can be predictive in terms of strength training, but what I really like is that it tells you the cost of not only what your training was, but actually also your lifestyle.

So if you went out, had too many beverages, slept 4 hours and then get up, then most people are gonna go, well of course my training performance is going to be down. But knowing that maybe 7 hours isn't quite enough, maybe your nutrition matters, maybe your carbohydrates are too low, whatever, your boss is yelling at you all day and you're stressed out of your mind, all of those things will show up in the HRV number. Again, because it is a measure of the audonomoic stress. And that allows you not only to make lifestyle changes, and see if they result in the change you want, or also you can modify your training.

Ryan: That's a beautiful answer. I'm so glad that you talked about it and used specifically the word, 'cost', of some of those lifestyle things. So I think you know, most people know: 'hey if I go into the gym and I pull some heavy dead lift singles and maybe even hit a new personal best that yeah, my nervous system's going to be a little bit fried in the next day or so. I may not be able to have that high output'; but I don't think many people have the same awareness of those lifestyle things like you mentioned. Where it's you know, maybe you're pulling an extra day at work for a month. Or you know, you've got to pull an extra couple of hours, you know, if you're CPA and it's April, your heart rate variability's going to be different than it is in June. Or anything like that. So it helps you quantify and put a number on and you see exactly what's going on. So these are really cool tools and ways to not only track, but to try to test ways to get either back to baseline or to optimize performance on the plus side of baseline.

Mike: Yeah, and that's the thing that's missing, right? So you have a lot of people doing you know, biohacking, or whatever word you wanna associate with it and that's fine, I don't particularly care for that word but I know what they mean by doing it; they're just doing things to try and make themselves better which I think is awesome. But then, how do you measure that? It's like okay, maybe I can look at performance in the gym, maybe I can look at some other type of work out, but I think HRV gives you a really good idea of literally, within the next day: 'am I going in the right direction or not?' And you know, things have like delays and that type of thing in them too, but by having that daily measurement you can then go back and look and see, oh wow, like you said- 'I only got one hour less of sleep for like the past 2 weeks,' but it's actually going down. I think if most people were left to their own devices they wouldn't realize that just the one hour less probably had much of a difference. And the nice part is you can now make a change to sort of interrupt it before you have those really bad consequences.

Ryan: Right. So HRV is one, are there any other measuring tools or devices that you like?

Mike: Yeah, there's a whole bunch of them out there so I've kinda looked at a lot of them. There's a Finnish company called Check My Levels that has a little electrode you actually put on your wrist. It literally zaps your thumb a little bit; it measures the twitch force of your thumb. It seems to be accurate. The in house study they had showed that it does kinda mirror HRV and that's kind of what I found from testing it off and on over the last couple of years. There's a portable omega wave system now, which is from Finland and Russia. It's interesting because it can differentiate between cardiac, metabolic and CNS, so it terms of..

Ryan: Oh, that's cool!

Mike: Yeah. So I love the fact that if you were to look at performance and just say, okay I’m gonna divide the body into three arbitrary areas, then I totally agree, I think that's probably the best division. The hard part is there's no way to sort of cross check it against anything else. So you kinda have to take the readings and go, okay yep, I think this is correct or not, and then test it. So that's kind of a downside that I don't like with that system to be perfectly honest.

Ryan: Right

Mike: And anecdotally, the cardiac function on there, at least for myself and a few other people I work with, just doesn't seem to be super sensitive. But again, maybe it's measuring something else so it's a little bit different to HRV, it's hard to say. Those are probably the main one. There's all sorts of HRV companies coming out now and all sorts of different measurements and soon we'll have so much data that I think it's going to be really hard to pull stuff out. So, out of all that stuff I've tested over the past 4 years, the thing that I literally use on a daily basis is still HRV.

Ryan: Yeah, I think that's a good point too. I mean I've played with some of these myself and I'll be perfectly honest, I used HRV for maybe a month and I just got tired of having to wake up in the morning and get the heart rate monitor on. It would take me longer to get the thing to stick to my chest than it would to actually get the readings. And you know I'd get so stressed out about the thing not sticking to my chest that by the time I lay down and started breathing it would tell me I was stressed out; you know, that probably tells you I am stressed out anyway, but..

Mike: Yeah, I picked up on that too. A lot of times if you're using the old school electrodes on there, if the air temperature's really dry then the electrodes don't have very good conductivity with the skin. So go to the store and buy like those little nasal saline sprays and just keep that little bottle next to your bed, and then just wipe the electrodes with that in the morning and it works really, really well.

Ryan: Well, there you have it! But I'm with you. I think you know, you mentioned that in time we will have so much information that it's like, what are we gonna do with this?! And from my end, it was: 'okay, I'm spending so much time to get this information, and at the time I really wasn't doing anything with it'. So that's why I got away from it, but I think if you.. I just kinda like to go intuitively. I've been doing this stuff for so long that I can tell with my body. But when I'm training other people, and as a coach- and you can probably speak to this with working with people online- it's a very valuable tool, because if somebody walks into our gym and says: 'oh yeah, I'm here, I'm ready to go', they may not be. And they're there so they wanna get their best possible workout, and these tools provide us with great feedback to say: 'okay well, Mike, you're actually in red or yellow today so we're going to hold you back and we're not going green even though you want to'. And if you, especially working online with people, if you are not able to see these people in person then I'm sure that's something that really helps you kind of in real time make adjustments to programming so we can keep people moving forward.

Mike: Yeah, yeah. Because I've transitioned and most of my clients now are online, which is nice, I get to work with people from you know, New Zealand to Denmark to Canada, to wherever. And I've been using HRV with them for probably the last, total 3 years now? Um, so I probably have tons of HRV data on online clients; probably more so than a lot of other people. And to me, at first I just kinda did it as an experiment, oh I wanna see what happens, and now I won't really train anyone without it. Especially if they get up to a slightly higher level or they're doing a physique show or a Strong Man competition or something like that, because of exactly the same fact you mentioned. They'll tell me, 'oh yeah I'm good', but if I watch their performance really close, I'll see over a couple of weeks that it's dropping so I know something is off, but with HRV I can intervene literally on almost a day by day basis. And what I really found out is that it gets them to be accountable over their lifestyle and their recovery and their training. And I'm just as guilty of that too, right. I wanna solve all my issues with you know, more coffee and metal music, right? Ahhh it fixes everything!

But it only works temporarily, right? There's a cost at some point that has to be paid. And so I still do my HRV because I know that if it's low, okay, today may not be the day to push it. Even though I really really want to, I know that it's not the day. And so for clients to see that trend actually going down, something literally clicks in their brain; they're like 'oh my god, wow. I guess I am really stressed!', 'I guess, wow, sleeping 5 hours a night is simply not working', you know where you've had these conversations with them almost on a daily basis for months, but until they have that visual thing of an actual physiologic response, then it clicks and then they actually email me and go: 'yeah, you know what, I think my sleep is affecting my stress', and you're like 'yeahhhh!' But now they're willing to do something about it so that's what I've found is actually the most useful.

Ryan: Yeah, I would agree with that. That's actually a very, very valuable thing. You know, most of our pursuits carry an emotional connection and we wanna get there, we wanna get there faster, we wanna get there sooner, and this is a great way to separate you know, the science or the reality of the situation from that emotional. You know, it's like I said, the guy shows up at the gym like: 'hey, I had a hard day at work, you know I just want more coffee and heavy metal and sling some stuff around'. Well it's like you said, you know, now we see that cost and we'll use the analogy as strength coaches or you know, people helping others, that you know; you're digging a ditch and if you continue to dig it, you won't be able to get out. And this, like you said, it's a visual that you can't argue with. And now as the coach, we're not the bad guy, it's you know: 'hey, this is what's really going on in your body. Here's how we fix it and get you going in the right direction'.

Mike: Yeah, and that's the beautiful part right. It takes me out of the loop of me being the bad guy, telling them [unclear 39.15], and I'm just as guilty of that myself. But we're saying that: 'okay, so if you want to train again, here's the things that you need to work on to increase that.' You know, whether it's aerobic based or nutrition, to supplements to whatever. And then we can see, was there a change? Oh okay, there was. So you are moving in the right direction so now you can do you know, WODs five days a week, or whatever training you want to do, more often. So it gives them that feedback to get to that point sooner.

Ryan: Yeah, and it brings in that holistic approach of everything. You know, your recovery, your soft tissue work, your flexibility, everything. Speaking of that, you and I have talked before and you actually mentioned something that I thought was really interesting; using the lifting of weights to act as a recovery method in place of maybe some of the traditional stuff like foam rollering or other soft tissue.. Explain to us, you know, your thoughts there.

Mike: Yeah, so in essence, every movement that you do in the gym or even just life, right. So the fact that we're sitting, having this awesome podcast. You know, our hip flexors are probably getting a little bit tighter. But that's just the cost of doing business, right. So your body's constantly adapting to whatever you're doing. So if you go to the gym and you're doing, let's say, heavy back squats today, super high amounts of tension to perform you know, 2 rep max. Your tissue is general is going to wanna get a little bit tighter, right. So if I break the bones in my forearm, we're gonna put a cast on it and we're not gonna let it move for months or weeks so that the bone becomes rigid again; so it heals. The opposite is true. So if I want tissue to be more elastic, right, and you see this in studies of sprinters, you're going to move the tissue very very fast, almost at the extreme and in a ballistic fashion- again, safely, you have to work up to that- then you will actually get those better tissue properties.

So, if you're foam rolling to get better tissue properties, I don't think it's enough to accomplish that, but we know that lifting or speed or force will definitely do that because it's a higher force. So, as an example, what I've been doing lately on off days is.. I don't know if you've seen the ViPR with Michol Dalcourt, it looks like a rubber strong man log. And the first time that I saw it, I saw a video and I went: 'this is the stupidest thing I've ever seen in my life! What the hell are these people doing slinging this strong man log around?! Just go get a real log and press it, for Christ's sake'! And then I actually took a course on anatomy from Thomas Myers, who does a whole bunch of dissection work and what it was they're doing, is they're using that in different motions; there's a lot of lateral motions, there's  lot of up, down, cross body. But the motions in general are very fast, so they're actually trying to target the fascial or the soft tissue part of the body, one by speed, and the loads are actually lighter. And two, by longer ranges of motion and movements that you're not normally doing.

There's a lot of lateral movement, a lot of rotational work, and what I found was, I combined it with a sort of light conditioning day. So I strapped the heart rate monitor on people and I did this myself and said okay, here's a bunch of movements that you can do with a Viper or Kettle Bell juggling, or medballs, or whatever it is you wanna do, but have it be fast, more across body. But I'm gonna tap your heart rate and the maximum I'm gonna let you go is maybe 130. So I'm going to keep you in a heart rate zone of like 110- 130 for 20, 40 or even 60 minutes. So I want it to be recovery work, from the cardiac system, but I also want to try to restore some of that elasticity in your tissue and give you exposure to movement patterns that you normally aren't doing. So that's kind of what I've been doing as more recovery off days.

Ryan: Alright, that's beautiful. And it's cool that you mentioned doing that with that Viper log. I was actually in Colombia, South Carolina at Sorinex Summer Strong, back in June, and Derek Poundstone was one of the presenters, and he went through every Strong Man implement and talked about technique for the actual event. But then he also talked about conditioning and he said this sort of jokingly, but sort of serious, where he was talking about the metabolic demands of some of those Strong Man things and you know, it's funny getting back to the log, where he was actually showing that ViPR-press as cardio. As a way to restore the muscles, so maybe as you said, on one day you do heavy log presses, heavy log clean and press or whether it's a stone or a keg, whatever the apparatus is. And then on the next training day, or if you wanted a cardio effect, and to loosen those up and to improve tissue quality, make your joints feel better, using the ViPR press as cardio where he would just set a timer for like 60 seconds or 2 minutes, and then you just go and try to get in as many reps until that timer stops. And I know that's a little different to what you're saying, but I think he's trying to accomplish something very similar. And I think at one point, he told us, I think he set a record in that and I don't remember what it was, but you know, very interesting that you know, he kind of intuitively stumbled onto the same thing with that.

Mike: I'd like to comment on that too, what you find a lot of times in especially in the higher level, more borderline elite guys, obviously Poundstone’s an elite guy, is that the cardio respiratory limit, a lot of times, in my experience, is a local muscle effect. So if I worked with a mixed martial artist who comes to me and says: 'yeah, I'm just gassed out in the second round or whatever', the first question I'll ask them is: 'is that standing or is that on the ground?', and most of the time they'll say 'man, as soon as I get on the ground, I gas out right away'. I'm like okay, 'what does your training look like?', 'oh yeah, all my cardio stuff is standing'. Ohh okay, so literally have them sit down, feet out, kettle bell press for a couple of minutes. You know, things that are longer duration, lighter load, but accentuate the upper body. If you have an upper body rower, ropes are really good with that, battling ropes. Right, cause you want a cardiac effect, but you also want those local muscle adaptations on more of the endurance spectrum too. So.

Ryan: Yeah, and that's probably why you see so many MMA guys using battling ropes

Mike: Yes, yeah it's brilliant for that. Especially for high velocity, high intensity movement. So John Brookfield's the man.

Ryan: So, actually his name popped up on a previous podcast! We had Tim Anderson on talking about calling and we're trying.. Tim's trying to get us in touch with Mr. Brookfield and we'd like to have him on. So if you're listening, hint hint!

Mike: Yeah!

Ryan: No, but back to Poundstone talking about the metabolic effect of all of that Strong Man work. He said, you know, if you do this as your cardio and you lift a bunch of heavy stuff all day, you can go home and eat Ben & Jerry's every night like I do. So I know that a lot of our listeners might wanna eat Ben & Jerry's every night, but in reality we're a little bit more health focused so I don't think we do. Which brings us kind of to the next stuff that you talk about. You're a big expert in metabolic flexibility; that's what you spoke on in New York. What is metabolic flexibility?

Mike: Sure. So metabolic flexibility, in the simplest way.. Is the two main fields, so if we just limit it now to 2 fields in the body, primarily fats and primarily carbohydrates, and each have their own benefits. Sadly in the fitness world everyone wants to prioritize, 'oh, ketogenic is the only way for everyone', or you know, 'high carbohydrates are the only way for everyone', and the reality is it's kinda bull, right. So, when you're just kinda going throughout your day or sitting here having a podcast or whatever, you actually wanna use fat to the highest degree. So your resting metabolic rate, low intensity work, you wanna use fat to the highest degree. However, when you go, maybe you train with Poundstone, wanna do some log presses or cross fit or whatever your training modality is, if you're doing high intensity weight training or intervals, you want to use carbohydrates to the highest degree.

Ryan: I just have to say one thing, I don't think all the carbohydrates in the world would help me lift with Poundstone!

Mike: Oh no! No, he's a freak. Haha. I can eat all the carbs I want and I'm not going to pick up a 350lb stone like it's not too hard. Haha.

Ryan: Yeah, I think he said the heaviest he's ever done was like 500 and something.. I don't remember, but it was up there.

Mike: I saw a video of him doing 450 and I was like 'holy crap!'

Ryan: Yeah, but that's great. I mean it's fats when we're doing our low intensity stuff, the majority of our activity, and I think that's where everything gets oversimplified. You know, I think that the public, the masses, want blanket statements, and I think that's where the evilness of carbs kinda comes in. Because most people spend way too much time being sedentary. The average person, let's face it, I mean you're mentioning what your day or my day might look like, when we're sitting, but then we are going to go and exercise and be active and try to have that output. But in reality, that may be what, 10-20, 50% of the population, that's not 100% of the population and the majority are people who are being delivered this nutrition advice, probably don't need carbohydrates. So, how do we set up a daily meal plan, without giving away too many of your secrets, obviously. How do we set up that daily meal plan so that when we are sitting doing our work we can use fats for fuel but then, okay, this podcast is over I'm gonna go to the gym and I'm gonna try to do some power snatches, and I know I need carbohydrates for that power output. What's the best way to optimize our diet for that?

Mike: Yeah, okay, so what I do with clients is in general I will set their protein amount first. Usually around 0.7 grams per pound of body weight, you know, and that's from one of the research textbooks I helped with. You can go up to 1 gram per pound of body weight, you know that's definitely on the higher end, probably more than you need but again, not you know, dangerous or anything like that. It makes for super simple math, that type of thing.

Ryan: And just for the record, that's very consistent with what we're recommending and what most of our other guests have said too.

Mike: Yeah, and even if you wanted to be real nit picky, the 0.7 is probably in excess. Again, the literature goes back and forth all the time.

Ryan: Well again, and that's probably for a sedentary person. So as we introduce more stress, mechanical stress, muscle breakdown, and you know, we're trying to build bigger muscles so we might need some raw materials for that, right?

Mike: Yeah, so if you look at the literature where the 0.7 came from real briefly, was chronic studies with people who were not athletic and they took.. And they said okay, you people here are slashing your calories by 40-60% overnight. And what they found was in the very low protein group, they actually lost muscle mass, so therefore overtime their metabolic rate was less. So that amount of protein, even in people who are not weight training, will help protect almost all of that drop in lean body mass. And then if you get into people who are extremely active, who do a lot of weight training, the data on that is.. 0.7 is probably still good.

Researchers like Dr. Stuart Phillips have argued that those athletes are actually more efficient at using protein and that their turnover is just a little bit better, so they might actually, paradoxically, not need quite as much. But I always look at it sorta the pro and the con, right. The pro, if I have a little bit too much protein- you know, even a gram per pound of body weight, I can handle it fine, I'm not going to run into kidney issues, I'm not going to have issues, other than it's a little bit more expensive. The benefit, maybe I get a couple more percentage benefit, you know to me, that's pretty good, but I think people don't have to worry that if they're only at you know, 0.7 or 0.6, that all their muscle's gonna magically fall off their body and they're gonna be you know, weak and look like a toothpick the next day, that doesn't happen either.

Ryan: Right

Mike: Essential fats like fish oil are good, 2-4 grams per day is a rough amount and that's probably on the higher end to be honest. And I have most people move, you know, most of their carbohydrates, again, depends on how many carbohydrates are taken in per day, move most of them before and actually after their weight training sessions. So in general, 40 grams of carbohydrate before a weight training session with 20 grams of protein, 40 grams of carbs with 20 grams of protein- these are kinda minimums- after training, and what you're trying to do then is that you wanna make sure you have a lot of carbohydrates to fuel your training.

I personally like to have insulin actually go up a little bit before training, because that will push your body to use carbohydrates a little bit more. Performance wise most people usually report anecdotally that they do better. And then the next part is that you have other time periods in the day where carbohydrates in general are relatively lower. So your insulin levels, in general, are gonna be a little bit lower and that's a little bit more of a stimulus for your body to use more fat. And again, for someone that's just starting to get more active, there's extreme out lyers to that all the time. Because people then read that and then go: 'oh my God I had carbs for breakfast, I'm a horrible person', and then that's not really true at all. You know, if you're up to eating 300grams of carbs per day and you're doing well, then obviously you have to split them out, you know, different parts during the day but that's just a template for the average person who's looking. Because what they'll do then is they'll actually scale their carbohydrates back, they'll actually have periods of time to allow their insulin levels to come down, they won't usually affect their training and performance, and so they generally start moving along the right path. And they generally eat more protein and they start taking essential fats too, so.

Ryan: Yeah, and you mentioned in there the importance of not having insulin present all the time. You know, when it's present, we're not able to utilize fat, store body fat as a food source. So for fat loss and for people paying attention to body composition, we want to limit those carbohydrate feedings or windows so that insulin isn't always there.

Mike: Yeah, and that's I mean, obviously you get in the argument of 'oh, do calories not matter then?' Calories by far are probably the biggest thing, right. Because you can actually become pretty metabolically inflexible, by just not exercising and taking in a crap ton of calories, regardless of what they are. So it's not to say that calories don't matter, but what you're trying to do is you're also trying to improve the person's health, right. Cause to me, if you have someone who, let's say, is an elite endurance runner but they have to go through and use a ton of carbohydrates all the time, I don't know if that's going to be the best thing from a health perspective long term. Even performance is still a little bit debatable too.

Ryan: So I do wonder sometimes, you know, about the old school classical body builder who has protein every 3-4 hours, tons of carbohydrates, and they do this like non stop for years. There's not any data now to say that that stuff's detrimental, they have a ton of protective effects from the fats because they are that active, they have that much muscle mass, but to me, if you look at the other extreme of type 2 diabetics, they actually start having issues with carbohydrate metabolism and over time what happens is their insulin levels go up and up and up, and that actually impairs their body from using fat. So if you look at the spectrum of type 2 diabetics, obviously disease process, they actually start losing the ability to use carbs and then they actually start losing the ability to use fat. And over time, they just can't move very well from one to the next, which is a classic hallmark of that disease. So in my head, I think we'll find that periods of lower calories or even fasting or even, just not having protein, and that could be as simple as you know, ten hours overnight, right, it could be something like that. And I think those periods you'll find are actually necessary, that you need that ability to move down and to use fats, and then still be able to use carbohydrates.

Ryan: Yeah, and for the record, I don't know if we actually ever defined that, but metabolic flexibility is the ability to bounce back and forth between those two energy substrates.

Mike: Yeah, and so to me, the nice part is how that manifests is that if you go out and have a whole bunch of carbohydrates, hey, your body can effectively use carbohydrates, there's not many repercussions in terms of health from that. Consequently you should be able to go through periods of time.. I have clients who go up to 19-24 hours progressively, without eating anything. And you should still be able to function quite well doing that. And that I think is a pretty good marker of health. Because in reality, I think 'what are people trying to achieve?', to me the average person wants high performance, better body composition, but they don't want all the inconveniences that kinda come with that, right. So if they missed a meal and they go 5-6 hours, it's not a big deal. And consequently, if they have more carbohydrates at one meal instead of the other, again, it's not that big of a deal, their body can handle it, so you're going to be okay. I get a little nervous about people that are so ultra-rigid.. And you know, I used to be this way: 'oh my god, it's been 3 hours, if I don't eat something I'm going to be really angry and not happy'

Ryan: Yeah, and I mean, coming from the physique background too, I was that way. I know what it's like and you know, I can definitely agree with you and understand that the inconvenience of having to eat all the time. 'Oh hey, Mike, sorry we can't do the podcast at 11 because I'm supposed to eat at 11.30', right? Like that's just not gonna work.

Mike: Yeah and if you're a healthy person physiologically, you're just not that fragile. I understand if you're trying to step on stage in your underwear and you know, with a very, very low body fat percentage, yeah you're going to have to do things that are not the average, and a lot of those things definitely do work. I just ask people to be cognizant of that. So like a physique person I work with, after their contest I would wanna see: what is their stress level? So that over time we can actually get that down to a normal level. Their calories are super low, so we'll slowly try to increase those back up and then we'll actually slowly try to progressively go longer periods of time without any food. Right, so can I get them back to sort of 'reverse dieting' or whatever term, back to more of a normalish lifestyle. So that is actually built into part of their program.

Ryan: Okay, so one more question on carbs and preworkout and performance. You mentioned that most people are looking for high performance, some body composition, optimization; so we want more muscle, less body fat. I am one of those weird people, you said, you know, anecdotally a lot of people feel like they train better with insulin. I like to train without insulin being elevated, but I also understand the importance of having glycogen to be able to use carbohydrates for that higher output stuff. So I like to have my carbs, after the workout and you know, almost that backloading approach for the next day.

Mike: Mmmhmm

Ryan: So is that another way of achieving the same thing? Does that have the same effect?

Mike: Yeah, so the biggest thing overall is two things actually, so 1 is your ability to use carbohydrates. So there's been 3 studies now showing that if you put someone on a very low carbohydrate diet and higher fat for longer periods of time, you know, several months at a time, they actually started losing the ability to use carbohydrates very well. Paradoxically, fasting doesn't seem to do that. The other part is that you want the ability to use carbs and you want to have them available, right. So you want access to them, and you want them available. Starch form of carbohydrates is glycogen, primarily in the muscle, also in the liver. Performance wise, muscle glycogen is probably the main thing. So if your backloading diet is high enough in carbohydrates, you're obviously a healthy person, you can access those just fine during training, so unless you're doing something that's really really stressful or very long in duration, you're probably going to be okay.

The only thing that's a little bit debatable is how far those elevations in cortisol are going to be and if there's any negative effects with that. So cortisol isn't really the big, bad boogeyman everyone's really afraid of, you actually want cortisol levels to go up during training because that allows you access to fuels and fat and carbs and all that kinda stuff. The catch is that as soon as training is over, you actually want that to go back down. So anecdotally in some people who train for more than an hour, I'll have them take in some carbohydrates actually during, and then just monitor their performance. Most of the time it goes up a little bit but I have a lot of people who you know, only train at 5 in the morning and they actually do that fasted, so again, I tell people to play around with it a little bit. In your case you could try some halfway through your training, just make sure it's a fast acting carbohydrate and see if you notice any difference in training performance or not. You know, if you've tried it and you don't hey, you know, you're good and I really wouldn't worry too much about it.

Ryan: Yeah, and just for the record I have in the past, I've used products that have branched cyclic dextrin and that would be the one that I would use in that instance.

Mike: Yeah, so I like Vitargo. Vitargo's got data showing that it clears the stomach fast, you know, shows up in the bloodstream real fast, and they don't pay me any money, so!

Ryan: Okay, so now, what other supplements do you use on a daily basis or are in your tool box with your clients?

Mike: Yeah, it depends on their needs and their goals, all that sort of stuff. But I would say in general just sort of basics across the board, in a way protein is good, fish oil is good, I think creatine monohydrate is really underrated because it's just old and boring and blah, óh yeah creatine, whatever, but ridiculously safe. Tons of studies, I mean the first study to be done on it was probably in 1981, so it's ridiculously safe. Newer studies are showing that there's some neuro protective effects from it possibly, especially at higher doses, 10-15 maybe 20 grams.

Ryan: Daily? That's a daily dose?

Mike: Daily dose, yeah, so a pretty high dose. Mark Tarnopolsky did a really cool presentation at ISSM last year on that. That they're actually using it for some neurologic diseases now. So any athletes I have that have a risk of concussion or head trauma, that would probably be the top one that I would recommend to them. And it's just cheap, it's what a few cents a day!

Ryan: So how does that work? Do we know that mechanism of that neuro-protectiveness?

Mike: Yeah. I don't think they know exactly what it is. My really limited understanding is that in higher doses, creatine will actually cross the blood brain barrier, so we do know that it appears to take higher doses for that effect to happen. Creatine is stored in some amounts actually in the brain itself, so one of the theories is that it may actually be helping to replenish some of that energy faster. Because we know that if you take a big shock to the head, that you massively disrupt the energy metabolism of the brain and the neurons and so that's where some stuff with like even a ketogenic diet; if you could get someone in a ketosis super fast, which you can now with like just a keto salt or an ester, Dr George Brooks' lab is doing it with lactate, so giving them an IV infusion of lactate, so give the brain an alternate fuel to run off of for a period of time that you know, may decrease your risks. So it may be something kind of operating along that mechanism possibly, is my guess.

Ryan: Okay cool. Now as far as creatine crossing that blood-brain barrier and being stored and used in the brain, you know in the biohacking- again that word- that space, creatine is becoming a little bit more popular, almost as a nootropic.

Mike: Yeah, probably similar reasons would be my guess. I've talked to a couple of formulators who do nootropic products and the reason it's not in a lot of them is because you need at least 5 grams and from a consumer dosing thing, putting it in the capsules is a pain in the butt because you'd have to take so many capsules. Even in a powder it adds a lot to the bulk of the powder. So a lot of them actually don't include it. But my recommendation is if the bulk of the powder, from a serving size, is not a big deal, just add it. I mean it literally is really cheap, lots of data to show that it helps and tons of data to show that there's virtually no side effects from it too.

Ryan: Yeah, and I have to say that the Natural Stacks BioCreatine is actually a different type of creatine, in the sense that you don't need the full 5 grams. I don't have the literature in front of me and I have not memorized why that is, so forgive me for not knowing that answer off the top of my head and I don't have another computer. I'm looking around trying to pull that up, so we may actually have that in the show notes so that people can check that out and see how and why that is such.

Mike: And in general, creatine monohydrate is the one that's been the most studied and efficacious.

Ryan: Yeah, okay. So whey, creatine, fish oil, anything else that may be on your quick list or short list of go tos?

Mike: Yeah, caffeine, you know, on occasion I think can be helpful. Those are probably the main ones. If they're in a northern climate then vitamin D is probably pretty good, a lot of people end up being low on vitamin D. Yeah, general multivitamins. If their diet is really poor then I may use zinc or magnesium, things like that. But this is kinda generally where I start. There's a lot of things you can kinda play around with from you know, nootropics to antioxidants to different types of like protein powders or even essential amino acids. I do like Vitargo for around the time of training, just as a fast acting carbohydrate. So in general that's probably where I'd have people start unless there's something really specific they're going after.

Ryan: Okay. Now, with everything that you do; training and speaking, teaching, coaching, do you use nootropics?

Mike: I have actually off and on to be honest, because I'm actually one of those weird people, whether it's training, nutrition or whatever,  I sometimes think I spend more time experimenting with stuff that I may have clients try than I do with my own stuff because I feel like if I haven't at least tried it for a short period of time then I'm not gonna give it to them to do

Ryan: Absolutely

Mike: Because you've done this right, you've run programs on paper and you go, man that looks easy. And I'm like 'oh screw it, I'll go to the gym and try it', and that's horrible! Yeah. So I have tried some off and on, nothing crazy. Like Acetyl-L-Carnitine, DMAE, creatine, those are probably the top ones I've tried. Just some other choline ones, Cognizin is pretty good, and so as a choline source there's some pretty good data on that. I've just started trying Alpha GPC. There's not much data on it if you talk to the manufacturers, so Chemi Nutra is the main manufacturer of that, they have some in-house data showing that it increases sort of neural output or neural drive, so like your higher stress sessions when we're at max, that kind of stuff. So I just started that actually just last week, and again, anecdotally, 2 sessions I did more grip-based stuff and it did seem to help. But again, you know, only 2 sessions so far. So there's not much research on that, and you know a lot of those for performance, it's kind of hit or miss and I think there can be some beneficial effects but I must be one of those weird people that if I see something that has a really huge effect, then I'm wondering what is the cost associated with that.

So let's take one that we know a lot about, like caffeine. So caffeine generally is known to be safe, yes you can take too much, yes you can die, but in general it's shown to be relatively safe. But we also know that if you're pushing the red line that high by taking just tons of caffeine every day, there's a cost that's going to be associated with that. So that's kind of how I view nootropics also, you know if you're replacing a deficiency you can get some pretty good effects without much of any side effects. But if you start going beyond that where now you're trying to get a greater effect, there's really just no free lunch. You know, there's going to be some cost that has to be paid later. Maybe you just delayed it by 2 or 3 days, maybe you made some changes. So I think the ones that have generally shown to be safer, generally have much milder effects, especially on focus and that type of thing, and are probably going to be a little bit better just from more of a safety standpoint in my biased opinion.

Ryan: Well I would have to agree with you, and since you mentioned L-Carnitine and that kind of, getting back to baseline, fixing deficits approach that's safe longterm, we're going to have to send you some CILTEP. If you haven't tried it we'll send you some and let you try that, so cool.

Mike: Oh okay, cool. Yeah I haven't tried that one yet.

Ryan: So we're almost out of time. Dr. Mike, where can our listeners get more of you?

Mike: Sure, the easiest way is just to go to my website which is just and if you scroll down you can get a 6 video fatloss course for a freebie. A lot of people have used it, it's been, you know, very effective and it's pretty short and again it kinda walks you through some of the stuff we talked about here so that you can put it into action and you can get a hold of me through there!

Ryan: Awesome. So before we let you go, we wanna know your top 3 tips to live optimal.

Mike: Yeah, live optimal. I like that! Um, I would say the biggest one is just enjoy what you do. I see way too many people that just don't enjoy anything that they do. Second to that is related, almost everything you do is an active choice, so you hear from people like: 'oh man, I hate doing my crappy job', and I'm like 'but you went to it everyday, right?', 'oh dude, I gotta go to work'. No you don't. I'm not saying there's not a consequence to be paid if you don't show up, they may fire you and you may be out of a job and can't find another one, but it's still a choice that you made everyday to go into work or to do whatever you wanna do. So that puts the onus back on them and gives them sort of control, that type of thing. And then the third one, which I'd say is also related to it, is just, you know, learn and apply. Take stuff, learn new stuff and figure out how you can apply it. I'm not a big fan of collecting all sorts of data without application. I don't think that's going to be a good thing long term. So those would be my 3!

Ryan: Those are awesome. Awesome, thank you for sharing those and Mike, thanks for hanging out with us today! This has been a really cool podcast, I hope our listeners enjoy it. So for everybody listening, that is it for this week's episode, and as always, we appreciate your support here at the Optimal Performance podcast. Remember the show notes are available at and make sure you check out the Natural Stacks vitamin C and zinc stack that we talked a little bit about in the beginning. That'll be at and remember special promo code, just for today's episode, OPTIMAL C and that'll get you 10% off.

Make sure you head on over to iTunes, give us a 5* review and we will see you next Thursday! Thanks a lot, Mike.

Mike: Thanks guys.

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