If you’ve ever been that nerdy kid who never gets picked for team, then you know what Mike Mills felt like as a kid. Mike is a certified personal trainer, corrective exercise specialist, nutrition coach, and also has a BS in Kinesiology. Before he became all of these and developed his ten holistic health hacks, he was a very thin and skinny teenager. He tells the story of how he got his first taste of my passion for fitness when he was about fifteen, taking Aikido classes just a couple blocks away from where he lived. It was a very transformative experience for him and the first time in his entire life where he felt safe to cultivate skills without feeling judgment from other students. Mike shares the one thing that made him happy consistently and thoroughly and probably the thing that saved his life was exercise.
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Holistic Health Hacks with Mike Mills
We have a very special guest, Mike Mills. Mike is a certified personal trainer, corrective exercise specialist, nutrition coach and also has a BS in Kinesiology from USC. Welcome, Mike Mills.
It’s good to be here, Kevin. Thank you so much.
Mike, thanks for coming on. You are a wealth of knowledge in many areas, nutrition, personal training and everything. Where are you from originally?
Chicago, Illinois, born and raised.
Were you initially into sports growing up as a kid or was that something you found later?
No. I was that nerdy kid that never got picked for the teams. I don’t know who decided that was a good idea to have team captains that gets to play favorites and make you hate your life because you weren’t born with an athletic silver spoon in your mouth. I was a very temperamental kid growing up. I wasn’t picked for sports. I wouldn’t pick me either. I wasn’t very gifted athletically, but I discovered my latent athletic talents later in life. I first got my first taste of my passion for fitness. When I was about fifteen, I started taking Aikido classes just a couple blocks away from where I lived at this place called Keller’s Martial Arts. It still exists to this day. This is back in ‘97, ‘98. I was about fifteen years old and that was a very transformative experience for me. It was the first time in my entire life where I felt like it was safe for me to cultivate skills without feeling judgment from other students. Martial arts does a good job of that, helping cultivate talents and perseverance without the team dynamics of competition. You’re only competing with yourself.
What did you find after martial arts? Did that lead you down to another path?
My martial arts instructor, Master Keller, is a great guy. His arms were as long as his legs. He’s built like a monkey, like an ‘80s rock star rocking the mullet and everything. Headbanging martial arts master. I love that guy. He called me Bruce, which I took as a term of endearment.
Was it like Bruce Lee?
Yes, because I was very live, very skinny, very thin but pretty strong and fast for my size. When I started getting into training with Aikido, I started building a little bit of muscle, so I wasn’t just skinny, I was lean and developing muscle. I was like, “Muscles look good on me. I should figure this out.” The quest began and I joined Powerhouse Fitness in Chicago. I don’t know if they still exist. I joined a gym and just rattled my brain doing probably all the wrong exercises and form as most young people do. They do the best they can.
Were you looking around the gym and seeing what everybody’s doing and then just giving it a shot?
I’d look at some guy that looked like he had a good sense of what he was doing because he was either big enough or strong enough. He was doing something that impressed me and I’m like, “I’ll just follow that guy’s routine and see what happens.” It’s funny because as a professional, I see that there’s a big problem with people needing to get certifications or licenses to do things, like a license to drive or ride a motorcycle or something like that. There is absolutely no license or certification required, no real formal education beyond PE teachers, which bless their hearts, they’re trying the best that they possibly can to teach about exercise and the fundamentals. I blame society. I did a lot of things the wrong way, but over time, that tenacity and commitment just built. Eventually I learned a lot as a result of getting into personal training, learning about exercise science and functional anatomy. It helped accelerate my growth.
Were you taking classes or you’re researching everything you could?
I remember having this functional anatomy book that was bodybuilders with cartoon anatomical references overlaid to the pictures. They weren’t even pictures, they were artist’s renditions, but it was impressive. I was learning about the best ways of hitting triceps and distinctions between the lateral ahead, medial head, long head, the short head of the bicep, the long head of bicep. I was learning about all these distinctions in bodybuilding techniques and how it pertained to anatomical development, but it didn’t get into the functional aspect of anatomy, so I started working at Equinox Fitness in Pasadena back in 2003.
What made you move to California?
Change of pace, to be honest. I was studying to become an architect in Chicago, which is like the polar opposite of fitness professionals. I was passionate about drafting. As a young person, it was my career of choice. If people asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I said, “I want to be an architect.” My brother came up with that term first. I stole it from him. To his demise, he hated that I stole that from him. As he was getting into more visual graphic arts and illustration and fine arts, I was pursuing drafting in high school. I did four years of drafting, a couple internships and competitions, and I was primed. I was ready to go.
What exactly is drafting?
Drafting is a mechanical or technical drawing. It’s something that’s required for architects to learn as part of their craft. I was doing all of that before getting into the philosophy and higher education of learning to become an architect and understanding why Frank Lloyd Wright was Frank Lloyd Wright and it Mies van der Rohe and all these other greats over the years. Even though I was probably one of the more qualified and a little bit more seasoned veteran going into my first semester in architecture school at UIC Chicago, one semester and I burned out. I didn’t want to do it anymore.
My freshman year roommate was an architecture major and he would wake up at 2:00 AM and start doing all his work. All those kids looked incredibly burnt by finals. They don’t sleep.
They don’t care. It’s the weeder course. The professors on day one in architecture studio tell you, “We don’t give a fuck,” because they’re very expletively speaking. That happened. They’re like, “We know you are freshmen. We know this is all very new to you. We know you have other classes. We don’t care. You’re going to eat here, you’re going to sleep here, you’re going to shit here. You’re going to hate it. If you don’t like it, there’s the door.” I’m looking around the room and all these people are looking nervous and I’m like, “I got this.” Lo and behold, four months later I’m the one that disqualifies myself, which is tragic in ways. It’s a relevant story because it leads into how I discovered my passion for fitness.
How did that happen?
I was extremely depressed. In general, I was suffering from depression for a while and completely burnt out. I was thinking like, “What am I going to do with my life?” The one thing that made me happy consistently and thoroughly was exercise. It was probably the thing that saved my life. It didn’t matter if I was having a good day or a bad day, if I was depressed or excited about life, going to the gym was always a hard reset for me psychologically speaking. I would go in and get my work done and feel good about the process and also about the results that eventually came. The most important thing for me was the intrinsic satisfaction that I developed in the beginning. The extrinsic rewards, seeing the results in the mirror, feeling stronger, being able to lift more and all that stuff, that took a little bit more time. The intrinsic satisfaction with the work that I was doing was instantaneous and very palpable. That’s something that I used.
It’s funny that you mentioned that because I noticed that sometimes you just get caught in the office for two or three days. You don’t work out or anything. My mood plummets and there’s nothing to be depressed about. I’ll just go for a bike ride, hit the gym, and within an hour, my mood is completely different. It’s amazing what exercise can do for everybody.
There are a lot of research that shows the psychological benefits. It’s not just mood and emotion, it’s everything. It’s increasing interconnections in your brain between the central nervous system, peripheral nervous system. It’s good for Alzheimer’s. The benefits of exercise training are pluripotent and I daresay high intensity training is probably better than low intensity training just because the effect is greater.
You’re out in California and you moved out there. then. Did you want to become a personal trainer right off the bat?
As an architecture student refugee, in the wake of that chaos, I fell into fitness and it was the one thing that made me happy. I’ve got prospected by a personal training manager at the Bally Total Fitness in Chicago where I was training at. Back in the day and when Bally still existed. I remember him coming up to me and he’s asking me a bunch of questions. He’s like, “I see you here often. It seems like you know what you do and you’re very friendly. You’re always talking to our members. I’m just curious, are you a personal trainer?” I’m like, “No, I’m not. I’m trying to figure this thing out. I’m just a gym rat. I talked to people about their programs. I’m trying to learn from them.” He’s like, “I thought you were a personal trainer trying to poach clients.” I’m like, “No, not at all.”
It was the complete opposite. He’s like, “If you’re not a personal trainer, would you like to become one?” I’m like, “I’ve never thought about that before.” He was like, “Let me sell it to you. You get to set your own hours, you get decent pay, and you get to control people.” I’m like, “Sign me up.” I kid about the control thing. There is definitely a coaching aspect to what a good personal trainer needs to do. A personal trainer isn’t just creating a kickass workout during the session, but it’s inspiring their clients to do work in between sessions as independent practice and helping them manage other aspects of their lifestyle.
I feel like a lot of trainers, they’re good at what they do at the gym but I feel like the best trainers allow their clients to be better without them there. They give them exercises to do when they’re not around. You’re a teacher teaching them how to live a better lifestyle rather than just being with them.
It’s like that saying, “You give a man a fish, he eats for a day. You teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.” Some of my most successful clients are the ones that are training with me only one or two times a week and being rock star students, taking that academic approach to their training and crushing it. I’m very honest with my clients. That’s what is required. It requires a tremendous amount of tenacity, not necessarily time, but requires tenacity and sacrifice because there’s going to be so many things in life, temptations or external circumstances that can perturb people’s commitment. I’m there to reinforce and remind them that they need to stay on task if what they want is that important. I always tell my clients this, this is one of my favorite coaching style coaching cues, which is, “You can have excuses, or you can have results. Pick one because you can’t have it both ways.”
It looks like you’ve developed a nice program, Ten Holistic Health Hacks, that looked very interesting. There are a lot of good stuff on here, very educational. Where did you come up with this? Is it all your own or is it a bunch of research you’ve done? If you can run through a couple of these topics because they’re really great and informative.
I decided to start a certification process with NSCA and then moved out to Pasadena back in 2003. I was taken on as an intern before I was even certified with NSCA, working at Equinox Fitness Pasadena. There, I established my career and my passion for fitness. I’ve been doing it ever since. I left Equinox after two and a half years. It was a conflict of interest. They were all about sales and I was mostly interested in quality of service and experience. I have been independent since the end of 2005 where I established EDGE Personal Training, which was my own fitness studio for my own personal training practice. It eventually evolved into Edge Holistic Fitness as I did more and more research on the mechanisms that influence fitness and fatness physiology.
What I mean by fitness and fatness is there are things that we do to improve our fitness. There are things that we do to deteriorate that fitness and that makes us fat. It’s their lifestyle choices. It’s choosing to go to the gym or choosing to hang out with friends. It’s choosing to eat a healthy meal that’s high in protein. “Healthy” meals are very subjective. I believe in individual biochemistry influencing how people respond to both training and nutrition protocols. There’s no one-size-fit-all methodology. Find what works for you and eat accordingly, but do not get on a soapbox and then tell everyone else that they need to do exactly that and promising the same results because it won’t work for everybody despite their dedication and diligence.
I did a bunch of research on mechanisms that influence our fitness and body composition, trying to lose body fat, and build muscle. That got me on this path of coming up with EDGE Holistic Fitness, which is the synergistic relationship between exercise, nutrition, stress management, and optimizing sleep. That’s is the underlying foundation and inspiration for creating that PDF. I do a lot of talks on wellness, for corporate wellness programs, or people that are interested in learning and joining in on a workshop, for example. I’ll do talking points on some of the top ten strategies that people can implement in order to significantly improve fitness and fatness.
It starts off with customized macronutrients. Break down what macronutrients are and why are they so important.
A lot of people are focusing on the bottom line, which is like, “2,000 calories is what you need if you want to lose body fat if you’re a man or maybe it’s 1,500 or 1,600 for a woman.” It’s based on empirical data, whether our bodies actually need 2,000 calories to sustain its stuff and what the actual deficit should be depending on lifestyle factors. Some people take it a step lower, deeper and they’re like, “You’re on a 2,000-calorie diet, let’s do what the USDA recommends,” which are dietary reference intakes. There are these government agencies that recommend that everyone on a 2,000-calorie diet should have about 300 grams of carbohydrates and 50 grams of protein and about 70 grams of fat or whatever the case may be.
The macro nutrients are the constituents that make up the total calories. You have proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. I look at carbohydrates as net carbohydrates because dietary fiber is indigestible and does not have any effects on actual energy intake. It serves a very different role. Dietary fiber nourishes gut health and can have other ancillary health benefits, but there’s no actual energy equivalent to consuming dietary fiber because it never ends up in our bloodstream.
What are some examples of dietary fiber?
Great examples of dietary fiber are a lot of fruits and vegetables. They are high in fiber. For example, pears are high in dietary fiber. A cup of raspberries has about maybe fifteen grams of carbohydrates, seven of which are our dietary fibers. Your net carbohydrate content for a cup of raspberries is only eight because you’re taking the total carbohydrate content minus the dietary fiber. That’s your net carbs. Legumes are also a great source of dietary fiber, but they’re high in lectins and other things that may influence or disrupt your metabolism or your gut health, so I’m not a huge fan of legumes.
Will they slow down your metabolism?
Animals have adaptive and evolved mechanisms to attack prey or runaway from predators. We have limbs. We can run, we can climb. We have teeth, we can bite. We have nails, we can scratch. Some animals have vicious claws, the lions of the world. Plants don’t. They’re rooted. They can’t move, so what are their protective mechanisms that they’ve evolved over the years? Chemical mechanisms. Plants are living beings. They don’t want to be consumed, so they’ve adapted chemical defenses to avoid predation. Some of the more highly evolved chemical defenses are seen in the legume kingdom or the legume family. It’s not just edamame or soybeans because I know that gets a lot of conflicting and controversial press when it comes to health.
Some people tout it as a super food. I think it’s questionable at best, but there are a lot of intrinsic factors. Things are naturally occurring. This is not because it’s GMO or because it’s heavily manufactured and processed, naturally occurring phytotoxins. There are a lot of them in legumes. Some people are better adapted at metabolizing them and negating the negative effects on the body. Some people, not so much. Lectins are big ones and they’re known to disrupt a gut health. It could help break down these things called tight junctions that are the stitching between the cells of our intestines that make sure things don’t go between the cells.
They’re like blocked off alleyways but if they’re broken down, they also can get into the bloodstream. Instead of going through the front door of the cell, you’re going in between the alleyway of the cells. That’s not good because you’re having all these unchecked things flowing through from the intestinal epithelium and the space within the intestine is now getting into the bloodstream unchecked. The reason why those epithelial cells and tight junctions exist is to regulate what gets in and what stays out. It’s important that that physiological function is preserved.
Do you do a personalized breakdown for each client of how many macronutrients they should be taking a day? It’s like having their own thumbprint. It’s going to be different for everybody.
Yes. There are genetic tests that you can do now that are getting close at creating distinctions between macronutrient needs. You have these three basic categories, low, medium, and high or slow, medium, and fast between a high-carb, low fat and high-fat, low-carb type individual. Then you have something in between, which is a medium, moderate amount of carbohydrate, moderate amount of fat. Everyone should be on a higher protein diet, focusing on about at least 80 grams per a small person. If you’re a bigger person that does a lot of resistance training or exercise training in general, that can go up to a 200 or 250. The range is big and that range also exists for carbohydrates as well. I take into consideration what their metabolic type is based on empirical data that they have, or I do a guess.
I dare say in America, the majority of people I work with that are overweight are probably on a high-carb diet to begin with. If they come to me and they’re like, “I have 30 pounds of body fat that I want to lose,” I do a nutritional intake and I see that they’re on a high-carb diet, it’s a fair estimation and guess to say, “Let’s switch it. If you’ve been on a high-carb, low-fat diet, let’s switch it up a little bit and get you on a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. Push your carbs down and push your fats up and make sure that you’re getting ample protein.” The macronutrients are designed in addition to taking into consideration their genetic information if it’s available and their lifestyle factors, are they exercising a lot, it’s the muscle mass. The muscle mass is definitely way more important than total mass because if you think about it, muscle mass is metabolically active tissue. Adipose tissue, in research, has been shown to have hormonal effects, that it is a metabolically active aspect of our endocrine system. The more body fat that we have, the more it’s secreting certain types of hormones, hopefully leptin and ghrelin to an extent. High body fat levels have also been associated with increased estrogen secretion, which is not good to have too much for women nor men.
Generally speaking, aside from these small regulatory, hormonal factors, adipose tissue is there for energy storage. It’s warehouse space. Like warehouse versus a retail space, a warehouse is where you’re storing stuff. All the activity, all of all the customers, all the action is happening at the store fronts. Your organ systems like your heart tissue, liver tissue, brain tissue, muscle tissue, huge metabolic expense. The leaner tissue you have in your body and the more muscle mass you have on your body, the greater your total energy expenditure will be and likely the more amount of carbohydrates and protein your body will need even if you’re a high-fat diet responder.
How do you feel about the ketogenic diet, all those diets, and all that stuff? Do you think that’s going to be changed in five years? I feel like all that stuff changes over the course of time.
Look at the Atkins Diet from ten years ago. The Atkins Diet was a buzzword for me when I first started training. It seemed ridiculous that people wouldn’t eat any fruit or vegetables, but then I was drinking the USDA recommendations. The government were committing that everyone should be eating about 60% of their macronutrients as grains, fruits, and vegetables. I was drinking that Kool-Aid and I was having all of my clients doing that. It seems crazy to go to the extreme polar opposite and say, “Very little fruit and all the vegetables that you want as long as they’re lettuce and dietary fiber. No carbohydrate content, no potatoes essentially.” That seemed pretty extreme to me, but the Atkins Diet, which was successful in ways if you look at some of the research and the data, is now evolved into the ketogenic diet.
I’m sure there are distinctions between it. I’m sure it’s not just a rebranding and repackaging of an old system, but the ketogenic diet is very extreme. It generally recommends that people consume 60% to 75% of their total caloric intake from fats. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you are the type of person that responds well to a ketogenic diet, stay on the course work. Do what works well for you. Don’t expect that to be the same for everybody. I have personally experimented with ketogenic diet. It got me soft. Meaning I lost some muscle, I gained a little bit of body fat, and my weight stayed about the same. This is after a month. My training sucked. My glycogen stores very quickly got depleted and I had to train my body to start oxidizing fat at a faster rate to keep up with that ATP demand, which is the energy currency that powers all cellular activity within the body.
The body will oxidize carbohydrates primarily to produce ATP and secondarily dietary fat. In absence of carbohydrate, dietary fat becomes somewhat primary. This is where some of the research regarding high-fat, low-carb diets may be advantageous for endurance athletes. If an endurance athlete can train their body to rely on more dietary fat for a marathon for example, they can build that physiological system that pushes glycolysis and upregulates beta-oxidation, which is essentially fat loss, fat burning, those two mechanisms combined. If you can get those two things happening while doing endurance training and preserve glycogen, then all the sudden, you can do that glycogen loading a few days or a week before, super saturate your glycogen stores, but your body’s still very fat adapted. Instead of running at a 50/50 fat carbohydrate utilization for your race pace, maybe you’re somewhere around 70% fat utilization, 30% carbohydrate utilization. All of a sudden, your glycogen stores at the end of the race are a little bit higher. You can push yourself a little bit faster.
Aside from all these dietary fads, the one thing that I think that’s going to be around for a very long time and it makes complete sense is intermittent fasting, which is one of your points. Our ancestors were not snacking out twenty hours a day. They would eat a big meal and then they would go rest and hunt for the next one. They wouldn’t eat for a very long time after that. That just makes a lot of sense. Can you go over and touch on intermittent fasting?
It’s something that I recommend to almost all of my clients that are interested in losing body fat. It’s probably one of the easiest things to adapt into your lifestyle. For those who are rolling their eyes, give it ten days. You can drink water, tea, black coffee, anything that doesn’t have calories in it, you can use as a way of perturbing hunger. Eventually, after about ten, maybe fourteen days, you should feel that your satiety lasts longer from your previous day, that the hunger starts kicking in instead of at 8:00 AM or 7:00 AM or whenever it is you’re usually having breakfast, it starts getting pushed further and further to 11:00 AM, 12:00 PM, 1:00 PM, 2:00 PM. It’s nearly a 1:10 PM and I still haven’t eaten yet and I’m not even hungry.
You’ve got to push through those first four or five days and then your body starts getting used to it. I’ve gone like 24 hours, which I never thought was ever possible. I was like, “There’s no way I can go the entire day without eating,” then it’s like, “I can probably go longer.”
It definitely can be a long-term intermittent fasting for a whole day. I haven’t tried that much. They experimented with it once.
It happens by accident.
Sometimes it does. It’s a lifestyle. I was busy with work and I found myself drinking coffee with MCT oil, which is like with the Bulletproof diet thing, and I wasn’t hungry until 8:00 PM. It was probably a full 24 hours from the previous day eating at 8:00 PM. The typical intermittent fasting paradigm that I recommend is the 16/8 split, meaning if your last meal is at 8:00 PM from the previous day, go sixteen hours after that to have your first meal the next day. That usually translates into stop eating at 8:00 PM yesterday and then today start eating at 12:00 PM. That gives you a sixteen-hour window. That’s about 25% in increase in the fasting state versus the conventional diet where people usually stop eating at 8:00 PM and they eat the next morning at 8:00 AM. Some people, if they’re hanging out late at night, hanging out with friends at night and their last meal’s at 10:00 PM, the first meal is at 8:00 AM the next morning, that’s a ten-hour window. You want to extend that window as far as you possibly can because it confers health and fitness benefits.
One thing is it gives your body more time to clean out the GI tract, which has health benefits in and of itself. Studies have shown, and there’s not a lot of research on it but it’s emerging, you’ll see a lot more in the next couple of years, is that it’s increasing insulin sensitivity by increasing glucagon activity. There’s an inverse relationship there. As your blood sugars go down and glucagon goes up to help release stored sugar within the liver, which is the livers job. One of the liver’s primary jobs in terms of energy, metabolism, and maintenance, is to keep blood sugar levels stable. If you’re not eating and your blood sugar levels drop, your liver will start pumping out glucose as a result of glucagon’s activity. Those two hormones are antagonistic, so if his blood sugar goes up from a meal, your insulin level goes up, glucagon goes down. If you’re not eating, your insulin levels drop, and your glucagon levels go up and that helps regulate blood sugar systemically in your body. The cells of your body can get the glucose it needs to produce ATP.
It increases glucagon sensitivity and insulin sensitivity, which is great. Even if people aren’t worried about diabetes or prediabetes, the more sensitive insulin is, the less your body needs to secrete it to do its job. Insulin’s job primarily is to facilitate the uptake of glucose from the bloodstream into target tissues, primarily brain tissue, muscle tissue, heart tissue, and also liver tissue too, because that’s a huge storage site. If it takes less insulin to do the same job, that’s good. Insulin levels are correlated with weight gain in general. What do I mean by that is if your insulin levels are searching high throughout the day, you’re more likely to either build muscle or build body fat. It’s a key primary anabolic hormone, and this can be used to your advantage. If you are exercising for the purpose of developing muscle mass, you will want to strategically surge insulin levels to help stimulate protein synthesis and glycogen resynthesize.
The majority of my clients, regardless if they’re on a low carbohydrate diet or not, there’s this concept of nutrient timing. Making sure that they increase their carbohydrate intake either before or after or both of their workout, so it’s pairing workout. Load up on your carbohydrates because it’s going to help you not only with your future workout performance, but it’s going to help you put on muscle mass. This is great news, and this goes into one of my other talking points in the top ten holistic health hacking system I put together, which is if people want to have a cheat meal, something that’s usually high in carbohydrates that they shouldn’t be eating. You can ameliorate the negative effect of eating that thing by timing it in the post-exercise state when the body is more likely to oxidize those carbohydrates for immediate energy replenishment, ATP replenishment, versus synthesizing it into body fat to be used later.
Any macronutrient that we consume can either be broken down for immediate energy now or energy later. If you’re in a physiological state where your energy reserves are depleted right after workout, for example, or right after intermittent fasting, if you haven’t eaten for a bit, you’re more likely to use that energy source, that carbohydrate that you consume. If you’re going to have a donut, have it after intermittent fasting or have it after a workout or even better yet both, work out in the fasted state and watch. You’d be surprised how many people can get away with eating a little bit of junk food. I’m not saying go nuts and have Krispy Kreme donuts. You’ll be surprised at what you can get away with. There’s a little bit of nutritional murder that people can get away with if they take advantage of that.
I want to ask you about this other interesting point you have on your holistic health hack, fuel partitioning. What is that?
It is the strategic upregulation of macronutrients into key compartments. That sounds really technical, but basically post-intermittent fasting, post exercise, your energy reserves are depleted and there is a greater chance that the thing that you’re eating will be used to regenerate those energy stores. Have you ever tried putting gas in a tank that’s full? It overflows, and it spills out. Physiologically speaking, that doesn’t happen, but let’s say that your muscles are full of glycogen, your liver is full of glycogen, and you ate a bagel with cream cheese with a glass of orange juice. If your glycogen stores in your liver and muscle are full, where does that sugar go? It can’t remain in the bloodstream. The glucose can’t remain there. It’s got to go somewhere. Where does it go?
It just gets stored into the liver?
No, adipose tissue. That’s one of the primary functions of adipose tissue is to take on excess nutrients, not just carbohydrates. It takes on excess dietary fat and also dietary protein and synthesizes it into triglycerides in stores it for later, which is a very convenient and physiologically advantageous mechanism that allows us to evolve during periods of famine. If you haven’t eaten in a while, your muscle and liver glycogen stores are likely a little bit more depleted. Right after a workout, your muscle and liver glycogen stores are depleted. There’s room now for those carbohydrates that you’re consuming to be put into their primary places, which is the glycogen stores. There’s a physiological imperative to replenish glycogen stores before putting it into body fat. If you create the mechanisms by which the body needs, not even wants, to replenish glycogen stores and you consume carbohydrates in that state, then you’re more likely not to store it in body fat.
That’s what I mean by fuel partitioning. The foods that you’re eating are being strategically sent to your muscle and your liver for storage or oxidation, but it’s not going to the body fat stores. That’s what we want. If people want to lose body fat, they need to burn fat. You need to break it down, which is lipolysis. It liberates from the storage. It gets circulated throughout the bloodstream. It’s taken up by metabolically active tissues, like muscle mass and then undergoes beta oxidation. If that happens in conjunction, you’ve lost body fat, but there can be a feudal cycling situation. You do half the equation and then circulates around and then it just goes right back into adipose tissue stores. If you want to burn body fat, if you want to lose body fat, you have to prevent storage and maximize utilization. You want to get the best of both worlds. Training is a great way of depleting glycogen stores so that the next carbohydrate meal that you eat is less likely to go to adipose tissue.
There are millions of supplements out there. It’s all depending on what you’re trying to do and what you’re trying to accomplish but as far as everyday supplements, what do you see some supplements that are beneficial for mostly everybody? You probably see a whole spectrum of different clients that are trying to do different things, but what are most of the supplements that you find yourself giving to most people?
There’s definitely metabolic effects associated with particular supplements do what they’re intended to do. I call them effective supplements because there’s the last sample amount supplements out there. They’re garbage either because there’s no real efficacy. There’s no scientific data or even anecdotal evidence that indicates that they work. Then there could be a quality issue where it should work, but you bought a crappy software. It doesn’t do its job. In general, I would say the vast majority of people should get on a high-quality protein supplement. If you’re vegetarian or Vegan and you’re wary of whey protein or casein protein or things like that, there are plenty of plant based, but the reason for it is because the American diet doesn’t seem to be to be very protein oriented.
We tend to be very carbohydrate oriented or secondary fat oriented. What I mean by that is when you go to a restaurant, you’re much more likely to get your carbohydrate goals filled for that meal and your fat goals filled for that meal and maybe not have enough protein in that meal. Unless you’re a very low protein responder or your high protein responder and you’re at a steakhouse and you’re eating a twelve-pound steak. That probably has 60 grams of protein in it. For the majority of people that need to be eating about 40 to 50 grams of protein per meal and they’re getting something close to like twenty to 30 per meal, there’s a huge deficit at the end of the day. A protein shake as a supplement or a meal replacement is a great way of getting your protein goals satisfied. It’s also very cost effective too.
Per gram of protein, you’re looking at pennies on the dollar. I would say eggs are pretty inexpensive source of protein. Whey protein is pretty inexpensive source and also some other dairy products. I know that everyone can’t eat dairy and there are a lot of concerns regarding that. Find what works for you and play accordingly. Protein is number one. Number two, your real only health insurance policy in life is a multivitamin. You have health insurance that you buy through health insurance companies and hopefully you never have to use it because you don’t want to be in a catastrophic accident or you don’t want to be sick. It doesn’t do anything until you use it. A multivitamin will likely improve your immunity and reduce inflammation systemically in the body and help the body repair and heal itself through antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
I call it the health insurance people will never know when it’s working until the next cold or flu season comes around and all of a sudden, I’m not sick anymore or they find themselves not having to do the flu shot just because their immune system is strong enough to prevent any sickness from setting in. A high quality whole food-based multivitamin is really important. There’s of course synthetic vitamins and minerals out there, some are better than the wholesome version, but if you can find something that is 70%, 80% food-based, that’s probably the best way to go.
Beyond that, there’s a bunch of fat burners that people can experiment with. Probably the best researched fat burner is green tea extract. EGCG extract, and Matcha, which is green tea powder. Super concentrated, has strong a toxin or strong antioxidants and there’s something unique about those chemicals, which is that it helps increase lipolysis and/or beta oxidation. Those are the two aspects of fat utilization, fat loss. You want those two to happen in tangent to effectively lose body fat. Part of it is because of the caffeine. Caffeine is well-known to increase your metabolism by small amounts. It can, depending on the research that you’re looking at, increase lipolysis, but it doesn’t necessarily increase beta oxidation.
That needs to happen with training to get the benefits of that loss with caffeine. Some of those fat loss benefits are associated with the caffeine in green tea, but it’s not 100% of it. The other part of it is because of these catechins, these polyphenols, which is what a green tea extract is, that it’s these very potent polyphenols that have this very potent antioxidant effect on the body. It stimulates fat loss and it’s pretty remarkable. Not everyone’s going to respond though. I wanted to be a green tea responder for months. It didn’t work for me, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Try and see what works for you.
I’m glad you throw that out there too because it’s very tough to say that this is going to work for everyone with anything. It might work for you, it may not, but you just go for it and try it out, see if it does work for you.
Another possible effect of fat burner is Acetyl-L-carnitine or L-carnitine in general, Acetyl-L-carnitine version has been well-studied that it also crosses the blood-brain barrier. It’s supposed to also help with mood and maybe Alzheimer’s. There’s L-carnitine fumarate and then there’s glycine, propylene, L-carnitine GPLC, which is supposed to be like the end-all be-all, but it’s four times more expensive than your traditional L-carnitine or a L-carnitine variant. My recommendation, try Acetyl-L-carnitine. It’s fairly inexpensive. You can get it in bulk powder. It tastes like the sour port of the sour candy without the sweetness. It would be bitter if you drink it with just water, it’s not bad at all. I would say that at all it, it’s fairly palatable. If you put in like a splash of juice, like an ounce of juice just to give it a little bit of flavor, it should be very tolerable.
Then beyond the fat burner, if you’re experiencing joint pain or if ample protein intake, you’re still having problems with muscle recovery post-exercise, I would get it on potent anti-inflammatory supplements like turmeric. It is loaded with curcumin and that’s the active ingredient, the curcuminoids, which help downregulate the inflammatory and upregulate the anti-inflammatory pathways. It may be associated with the production of Prostaglandins E1. Curcumin with turmeric is good. Resveratrol is supposed to be good as well. I would say anecdotally, I’ve noticed a benefit from taking curcumin and also my clients have as well. In general, less pain in the joints and a little bit more improvement in joint mobility as well.
I usually ask this question at the end of every episode. What is one piece of advice that you’ve taken with you over the years that’s helped you out that you would like to share and give the audience with?
This is going to be a hard pill to swallow and this is that high intensity short duration thing. Most people don’t have the time to invest in very long six hours a week, seven hours a week training programs. They want the benefits of those long-dedicated training programs, but they either legitimately don’t have the time or they’re just too lazy. There’s something to be said for ripping the band-aid off quickly. I advocate, and I train all of my clients either 30-minute training sessions or 45-minute training sessions and they walk out absolutely gasped. That is one of the most important things when it comes to fitness and fatness training. If you are looking to improve muscle mass and lose body fat and that’s the top of your list, high intensity is going to be your primary very variable that you need to work with.
Alternatively, if you were to tell me, “I am an endurance athlete. I want to improve my endurance performance. I want to take my race pace from nine miles an hour to 9.5,” or “I want to cut down my total race time from two hours and 45 minutes to two hours and 40 minutes,” there is no way around it. The bulk of your training is going to have to be lower, moderate intensity, longer duration. You just need that different physiological response to stimulate your mitochondrion and all other factors to increase aerobic respiration. High intensity training is anaerobic, and you can do that through lifting weights or you can do that through sprints or high intensity interval training. Both are great, but the take home message is this, and this is something that I see with all new clients that I work with. Let’s just say I’m having them do a set of pushups. Somewhere in the middle of the set, they want to stop. Kevin, how many pushups do you think you can do?
Max, probably 50 on a good day.
Let’s say that you’re a client of mine and you weren’t adapted to training but you were capable of doing 50 pushups maximum if I pushed you and you really let yourself get pushed. Typically, what I would see in this situation is you slow down and want to stop at around 25, maybe 35, just as it starts getting tough, just as lactic acid starts accumulating, just as your muscles start shutting down. That’s when people usually want to stop, but I encourage them, and I coach them to give everything they got on every set because it’s not the beginning of a set of exercise that stimulates growth. It’s the end. It’s like anything in life.
Starting is cheap. Anyone can start a relationship. Anyone can start school. Anyone can start a job. Start writing a book, start this new thing, but it’s finishing that requires dedication and it’s finishing that has the real development in it. Every set of exercise, regardless if someone’s lifting something that’s heavy and they can only do say eight or ten reps or something that’s relatively light and they can do something like twenty or 30 reps, push yourself to failure, burn yourself out because therein lies the juice and you have to squeeze hard, just like a lemon. That last bit of juice takes the most amount of effort, but that is what it takes to thrive. The caveat is if it causes sharp pain, don’t do it. Fatigue is generally uncomfortable. It’s more like a dull achy feeling, but it feels sharp. Don’t do it. That’s a bad response.
Mike, where can people find you? Do you have a website? Are you on social media?
You can find me primarily on my website, EDGEHolisticFitness.com. I do have an Instagram account that I neglect. I will, at some point, start doing a little bit more posting on as I need to. You can find me @EDGEHolisticFitness. In Twitter, it’s @EDGEHolisticFit. There’s also EDGE Holistic Fitness on Facebook. I’m based out of Pasadena, California. I also specialize in worksite wellness. If anyone’s like, “I love for this guy to come in and talk to our group of employees,” I’d be honored to do that. I have a kickass PDF they put together for people to take home and be able to disseminate the information. When I do the presentation, it’s a lot less words on screen but that one is the take home version, so people don’t need to memorize anything. All the information’s right there.
Mike, thank you so much for coming on. I’m definitely going to have you on again at some point.
I’d be honored, Kevin. This was so much fun. Thank you so much for having me as a guest on your show.
Mike, thank you so much.
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