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Dr. Duncan French: How to Exercise for Strength Gains & Hormone Optimization | Episode 45
Dr. Duncan French: How to Exercise for Strength Gains & Hormone Optimization | Episode 45

Dr. Duncan French: How to Exercise for Strength Gains & Hormone Optimization | Episode 45

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Duncan French, Andrew Huberman
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Nov 8, 2021
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Episode Transcript
Welcome to the huberman Lab podcast, where we discuss science and science based tools for everyday life. I'm Andrew huberman, and I'm a professor of neurobiology and Ophthalmology at Stanford school of medicine. Today. I have the pleasure of introducing. Dr. Duncan French, as my guest on the huberman Lab podcast. Dr. French is the vice president of performance at the UFC performance Institute, and he has over 20 years of experience working with Elite professional and Olympic.
Athletes prior to joining the UFC French was the director of performance science at the University of Notre Dame. And he has many, many quality peer-reviewed studies to his name. Exploring, for instance, how the particular order of exercise whether or not one performs endurance exercise, prior to resistance training or vice versa, how that impacts performance of various movements and endurance training, protocols, as well as the impact on hormones such as testosterone, estrogen and some of the stress hormones such as
Cortisol, he's also done, fascinating work exploring, how neurotransmitters things like, dopamine and epinephrine, also called adrenaline can impact hormones, and hormones can impact neurotransmitter release. What's particularly unique about dr. French as work is that he's figured out specific training protocols that can maximize for instance testosterone output or reduce stress hormone output, in order to maximize the effects of training in the short term and in the long term,
Term. So today you're going to learn a lot of protocols whether or not you're into resistance training or endurance training. You will learn for instance, how to regulate the duration of your training and the type of training that you do in order to get the maximum benefit from that training over time. So whether or not you are somebody who just exercises recreationally for your health, whether or not you're an amateur or professional athlete or whether or not you're just trying to maximize your health through the use of endurance and or resistance training today's
Russian will have a wealth of takeaways for you. There are only a handful of people working at the intersection of Elite Performance, mechanistic science and that can do. So in a way that leads to direct immediately applicable protocols that anybody can benefit from dr. French also provide some incredibly important insights about the direction that Sport and exercise are taking in the world today and their applications towards performance and health. Before we begin. I'd like to emphasize that this podcast.
Is separate from my teaching and research roles at Stanford. It is however, part of my desire and effort to bring zero cost to Consumer information about science and science related tools to the general public in keeping with that theme. I'd like to thank the sponsors of today's podcast. Our first sponsor is rokka rokka makes eyeglasses and sunglasses that are of the absolute highest quality. I've spent my career working on the visual system and I can tell you that everything about the way that Roka eyeglasses and sunglasses were designed was with performance in mind.
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Up to $200 off, all mattress orders and to free pillows. That's Helix sleep.com / hubermann. Today's episode is also brought To Us by headspace headspace is a meditation app. That's backed by 25 published Studies. By now. I think most people have heard about or experience the benefits of meditation improve focus, better sleep, reduce stress more creativity and insight. There's just so many studies out there that support those claims. The challenge, however, is sticking to a meditation practice and over the years.
I confess there been times when I've meditated regularly and then I stop meditating even though it always provides benefits for me. The first time, I do it, and every time I do it with the headspace app, it makes it very easy to meditate consistently because they have different types of meditations to select from, and they come in different duration. So, sometimes I only have three or four minutes to meditate. They have those sorts of meditations. They also have longer meditations of 20 minutes or more. If you want to try headspace, you can go to head space.com slash special offer. And if you do that, you'll get
Free one-month trial. With head space is full library of meditations that you can use in any situation. This is the best deal offered by head space right now. So again, if you're interested, go to head space.com slash special offer and now my conversation with dr. Duncan French Duncan French. Great to see you again
flag Weiss likewise. Thank you. Don't often have many Stanford professors in the performance Institute. So I'm really excited
how well this place is amazing and you have a huge role in making it what it is.
It is the reason I'm so excited to talk with you is that you're one of these rare beasts that you have been involved in human performance and athletic performance at the Collegiate level. You are obviously very involved in MMA. Now in the UFC performance Institute, and you also had the fortunate experience. I like to think of doing a PhD in what exactly was the PHD in is exercise. Physiologist was the obvious. So you're familiar also,
Designing studies control groups, all the sorts of things that in my opinion. Anyway are lacking from the internet social media version of exercise science, which is that people throughout all sorts of ideas about how people should be training, what they should be doing and eating and not eating and doing. And certainly science doesn't have all the answers, but I just think it's so rare to find somebody that's at the convergence of all those different fields. And so I have a lot of questions for you today that I'm sure the
The audience are going to be really
interested in it. Well, listen, I mean, I appreciate that. It's very humbling. And yeah, we worked hard to get to where I am. But I've always tried to be authentic and I think authenticity comes alongside, you know, and academic rigor and objectivity and insight and a knowledge base. Right? At the end of the day. It's about having confidence, having expertise and being able to deliver that expertise to to in my world to athletes. And I think that's what I've always tried to do. I've tried to have many strings.
To my bow so that I can talk with many different hats on. You know, one day I'm talking to a coach next time talking to an athlete. The next day. I'm talking to a CEO the next time talking to a, you know, an academic professor and, you know, so I think, you know, being able to wear those different hats is certainly a skill set that I've tried to build throughout my career. And you know, like I said, I've been blessed to work with. I think it was 36, different, professional or Olympic sports last time of coat? I counted. So, yeah, it's been, it's been a wild ride. It's been great,
but would you
Of those Sports was the most unusual.
I've worked with crown green bowling which I don't know as an American guy. I don't know. Basically imagine a you know, a 20 foot by 24 square of turf with a small raised in the middle, IE the crown. So it's slopes to the edges and then, you know, you use you, you throw out a white jacket smaller ball, and then you smart the rollout larger balls to try and get closest to the jack.
It's a very European thing. Let's say she said but yes, boss performs, a crown green ball in. There you go. All
right. Wow, and then to mixed martial arts fighter solutely and everything in between. So, along those lines that could you give us a little bit about your background. You know, where do you start out? Where you from originally?
Yeah, from the north east of England. So I'm from a town called Harrogate, which is in Yorkshire, which is in Northern kind of area of the nice, sunny weather all year long if yeah, you can
Imagine, yeah, with the two weeks of some of that we get, you know, but yeah, I mean, I did my undergraduate studies there in sports science saying, you know, I did teacher training to be a physical education teacher after that. Like, most people are then worked as a high school physical education teacher, great experience, working with kids, you know, developing, you know, athletic qualities, but something in the back of my mind always, you know, I wanted more, I wanted to be to be at the higher end of Elite Sport, you know, I was a failed athlete like me.
Many people. I am representing my country in different sports and things but I never made it professionally. So, you know, that that little seed was sown in as much as I then started to reach out to, you know, to different areas to do a PhD. Whether it was in the UK or also chance, my arm took upon see if we could get over to the states and all my buddies were going on, you know, Gap years after the Finish University, or whatever and going to Bali and hanging out or whatever, traveling through Thailand. And I figured well, you know, I've always,
All of the states. And can I go and kill two birds with one stone and do something academic. Continue my studies but also doing a different environment and get some life life experience. And them many many rejections, as I'm sure you're kind of aware from different professors, weather is Rajan or Anoka or you know, William creme, you just wrote to these
folks. I just cold cold,
cold and send out information and saying. Yeah, so have you got any opportunities and push back from mall, but, you know, dogged and kept kept asking and yeah, dr.
Kramer, who was at Ball State University, in Indiana at the time, you know, I muscle neuroendocrinologist and researcher in muscle physiology using resistance training, you know, basically said, listen, I can guarantee your funding for the first year of your studies, but not the next three sounds like a typical academic response.
I can take care of you but not that well necessarily, right?
Yeah. I spoke to my parents and said how you can we can we take upon and that you know, they were great and supporting me and yeah, long story short, came out to begin my PhD.
Ball State, after a year, dr. Kramer transferred to UConn, you know, Connecticut in stores in the Northeast there and I transferred to him and with him and yeah, four great years with Matt with my PhD and, and getting my PhD with with a really prolific research group. That looked at, you know, neuroendocrinology hormone will work. But using a resistance training, primarily as an exercise stressor as the major mechanism and then looking at all the different physiologies off. The back of resistance training. Yeah, you
guys were
Reproductive. I found dozens of papers on how weight training impacts, hormones. And your name is on all of them and it's remarkable. I have a question about this. I'll just inject a question about weight training and hormones. You hear this all the time that doing these big, heavy compound, movements or resistance. Training, increases androgens, things like testosterone, DHT, DHEA and so forth. Does anyone know how that actually happens? Like, what about move?
What about in, what is it about? Engaging motor neurons under heavy loads, sends a signal to the endocrine system. Hey release testosterone. I've never actually have been able to find that in a textbook.
Yeah. Well, I mean and how can I
do more of that
as much as I know, you know, and again, I'm digging out into the annals of don't confront. She's kind of Brian now, but yeah, I mean, I think it's the stress response, right? Mechanical stress and its metabolic stress, and these are, you know, Downstream regulation of testosterone.
So the gonads comes from many different areas, you know, they're my work primarily looked at, you know, catecholamines and sympathetic arousal.
So there's like epinephrine address,
correct? Yeah. Epinephrine adrenaline, you know, and noradrenaline how they were signaling that signaling Cascade using, you know, the HPA axis, releasing cortisol. And then, you know, looking at how that also influence the Adrenal, medulla to release.
You know, androgens and then signaling
that the gonads, there is an interesting question. So in presumably weight training in women, people who don't have testes will also it increases testosterone. Yeah, it is that purely through the adrenals when women lift weights their adrenal glands released
estas. Absolutely. I mean that is the only area of testosterone release for females. And yes, it's the same Downstream Cascade, obviously the extent to which it happens is significantly less and females, but that's how you know, there's good data out there that shows
Those females can increase their anabolic environment, their internal anabolic milieu using resistance training as a stress. And then they get the consequent muscle tissue growth, you know, whether it's tendon, ligament adaptations, you know, that the beneficial consequences of resistance training which is driven by anabolic stimuli.
Yeah. I've two questions about that. The first one is something that you mentioned, which is that the, the androgens, the testosterone comes from the adrenals under resistance loads in women is the same true in,
When I mean, we hear that the testes produce testosterone when we wait trained for four men have testes. But do we know whether or not? It's the adrenals. Are the testes and men that are increasing testosterone. Yeah. For both a little bit from each
does it does it. The field is divided presently. And as much as understanding, the acute adrenal the Q Androgen adrenergic response, in terms of, you know, anabolic and response to exercise in an acute phase and the exposure.
Do you know a stimulus that is stress driven which might be partly from the adrenal glands, partly from the gonads versus a longitudinal exposure to anabolic environments, which is primarily driven by obviously the gonads in the release, the endocrine environment from from testosterone release at the gonads. So this the field is split in terms of how exercise is promoting hypertrophy muscle tissue growth and whether that is very much an adrenal.
Bye. Or if that's significant enough in these acute responses versus the longitudinal exposure to elevated basal levels of anabolic testosterone virtual
level. So sounds like a musket. Like with most things. It's probably both. It's probably the adrenals and the gonads. Yeah, and then you mentioned that testosterone can have enhancing effects or growth effects on tendon. And ligament also that you don't often hear about that. People always think, you know, testosterone muscle, but testosterone has a lot of effects on other
Use that are important for performance. It sounds like yeah. Yeah. What's that? Yeah.
Absolutely. I mean, I think you know, the the the testosterone hormone is I mean listen does Androgen receptors on neural tissue on neural axons, pretty much everywhere. Exactly. So, you know it the The Binding capacity of testosterone and influences in different tissues within the body had touched on, you know, muscle tissue, but you know, the the ligaments, the tendons and even bone to some extent, you know, testosterone is potential to influence that.
In terms of removing osteopenic, kind of characteristics Etc. So yeah, it's a it's a magic magic hormone. Let's say and with many many end and impacts in terms of adaptation.
I definitely want to get back to your trajectory. But as long as we're on the interactions between androgens testosterone and its derivatives and different tissues, you know, from the work that you did as a PhD student and and throughout your career. Could you say that there's a? There are some
General principles of training that favored testosterone production in terms of that the that somebody who's not an elite athlete could use somebody who's already adapted to weight training somewhat. Like they know the difference between a dumbbell in a barbell and they know how they know the various movements. They're not going to damage themselves. But once they're doing that, I mean, I've heard shorter sessions are better than longer sessions, but in rep, loads with that, there's a lot of parameter space, but if you were going to throw out some of the parameters that you think are most important to,
Pay attention to for the typical person who's trying to use weight training to build or maintain muscle. Yeah, lose body fat, so body recomposition and or stay strong and healthy for sport. I'm a different kind.
Yes. So the work that we obviously, you know, I was exposed to back him a PhD and it was a double-edged sword. And as much as testosterone is really stimulated by an intensity factor and also a volume Factor. Now, growth hormone is a little bit different. That's largely driven by an intensity factor
alone. Oh really Iris.
Growth hormone was driven by volume, which just goes to show you. Maybe I've no, no. No, I think you're probably right. It just goes to show you that most of what's out there on the internet has completely, right? Not only not only is it wrong? It's usually backward. So, no trust. I know trust your nothing because because I think people just make this stuff up, right? Because it's very hard to measure growth hormone and testosterone. And, and I'm can't imagine most of the stuff that I see out there, they're taking drips and and, you know, measuring free versus bound and all this kind of stuff.
But that's what you do in Laboratories.
Yeah, you look at total composition, and you look at how much of that is free circulating in the system. How much is bound and therefore biologically active bound to receptor creating limitation. But yeah, coming back to testosterone in terms of the training strategies. It's largely driven by Boston in intensity and volume Factor. So if you look at many of the exercise interventions that we use to try and investigate and interrogate testosterone it was, it was usually, you know, a 6x8.
And protocol. So you touching a six by ten meaning? Yes, six sets of 10 repetitions, which is quite a large, you know, 60 repetitions is quite a large volume for a single exercise and that was usually pitched about 80% intense over one repetition. Max intensity.
Okay. So 80% of the one rep, max six, six sets of 10 reps separated, by rest of my two minutes, two minutes, which is actually pretty fast at least to me
at anytime. You see this two to
three minutes, when you're actually watching the clock, those two minute, rest periods. Go.
By pretty
fast by the third full of set. You dying for more. Yeah, and I think, you know, we, you know, we formulated that kind of exercise protocol to really Target, you know, the release of testosterone and try and drive up these anabolic environments to study that the endocrine, you know consequences, but I think that's that's that's the type of protocol that is most advantageous for driving anabolic environment. And that was it
for the workout.
Yes, and we would do that in a back squat. So, you know, multi-joint.
You know, challenging exercise, multi muscle multi-joint, 80% loads of your one repetition Max and then 6 by 10. We did play around with, you know, you classic German, volume type 10, by 10, kind of protocols, but they were just unsustainable at that. 80% the the key to what we also did was, we always adjusted the loads to make sure that it was ten repetitions that were sustained. So, if the load was too too high and an athlete or
Participant had to drop the weights on the six repetition. We would unload the bar and make sure they completed the 10. Repetitions, bring me back to the point of it's an intensity and a volume derivative that is going to be most advantageous for testosterone
relief. That's really interesting. And one thing that you mentioned there is especially interesting to me, which is you said, when you go from six reps, sets of 10 repetitions to ten sets of 10, repetitions. You see? It's not as beneficial in might even be counterproductive, but to me the difference between 6 and
And that's his only four sets. It doesn't even sound that much. So that sort of hints at the possibility that the thresholds for going from a workout that increases testosterone to a workout that diminishes testosterone is actually a pretty narrow. Margin.
Yeah, and I think it comes back to the intensity factor, then you know what? We saw with that 10 by 10 protocol really sees pretty significant drop offs in the load. And again, we're trying to stimulate with intensity with mechanical strain through intensity, as well as metabolic strength.
Ooh, volume and I think that's that's the Paradigm that you've got to look at. Is that the mechanical load has to come from, you know, that the volume, the actual weight on the bar and the volume is the metabolic stimulus. How much it would driving lactate how much we're driving, you know, glycogenolysis in terms of that type of energy system for, you know, executing a ten by ten protocol. And what we often saw was just a significant reduction in the intensity capabilities of an athlete to sustain that. So, we shortened the volume.
I'm to try and maintain the intensity interesting
and you could imagine just taking very long. Rest, keeping the session being a big, lazy bear and right training. I sometimes do this. I tell myself. I'm going to work out for 45 minutes and then two hours later. I'm done but not because I was huffing and puffing the whole time. But because I was training, really slowly. Is there any evidence that training slowly can offset some of the negative effects of doing a lot of volume?
Well, it's an old adage, if, you know, two responses to the question. I mean, the first one I would say.
Say, you know, there's a difference between 10 sets of six and six sets of 10 and I think that comes back to the volume conversation, you know, six sets of 10 is driving up metabolic stimulus. If you're doing 10 sets of 6, you can probably take it to a higher intensity, but you're not going to get the same metabolic load. You're not going to get the same internal metabolic environment that drives the lactate release that there will end signal, you know, further anabolic testosterone release because of the lactate in your body, that that's a key.
Iteration, the rest is often the consideration. That's overlooked out there in general population. And in many sporting environment, you know, that the rest is, is as important, a programming variable, as the load, and the intensity, the intensity, the load, the volume, Etc. And yes, if you remove, if you extend the value, if you extend the the duration of your rest periods, what you're ultimately doing is influencing that metabolic stimulus. Again, you're allowing the flushing of the body, the removal of waste.
Products, you know, lactate to be, you know, removed via from from the body and then the metabolic environment is reduced. So
what, so if I understand correctly, you want to create a metabolic stress solutely. So, so the way that I've been training, slow and lazy is not necessarily the best way to go. I could, I could, in theory, do a 45 or 60 Minute session where I pack in more more work per unit time. I'm not going to be able to quote unquote, perform as well. I won't be able to lift as much now.
Unweight the bar between sets, or maybe even during sets, if I have someone who could do that, but it sounds like that's the way to go. So it's got to be. So this, the old adage of high intensity short, duration is probably the way to go correct.
And, and, you know, in layman's terms, if the same objective, the same training goal is just muscle tissue growth and we're not talking about maximal strength or any of those type of parameters. We're just talking about growing muscle. If there's an athlete, a, and they just six, six sets of 10 with two minutes rest and there's a flea
Maybe that does six sets of 10 with three minutes left rest athlete. A will likely see the highest muscle gain muscle hypertrophy gains because of the metabolic stimulus that they're driving with the shorter rest periods. Interesting.
For all the years that I've spent exploring exercise science and trying to get this information from the internet and various places that this is the first time it's ever been told to me clearly. So basically I need to put my ego aside and I need to not focus so much on getting as many reps with a given.
Eight and keep the rest restricted to me about two minutes. Yeah, get the work in and then I'll derive the
benefits. I mean, you've absolutely nailed it to be honest. And again, if you think about human nature and how we approach to we're inherently lazy, right? As humans. We want to, you know, we want to take that rest. You want to take the time out to recover and feel refreshed, but we're trying to create a training stimulus. We're trying to create a very specific stimulus, internal to the body and that is often driven by the metabolic.
Moment at that moment in time. Now if we allow the meta carbolic environment to change by extending the rest periods. We're not going to see as beneficial gains at the end of it. There are interested. It is, it is very much a motivational and ego thing, rather than saying, okay. I'm going to push my loads as high as I can and really challenge maximal, strength, do fewer repetitions take longer period of time. It's a completely different approach to training. It's a different end goal
interesting, you mentioned lactate. So it seems that still bit.
Controversial as to what actually triggers hypertrophy? You hear about lactate build-up, or people that the common languages the muscle gets torn and then repairs. But I don't know, does the muscle actually tear? I mean my control gate microtrauma
disruption of the mic within the muscle tissue show.
Interesting. And we're talking now about non drug-assisted people whose whose, let's just say, let's define our terms here are that whose testosterone levels are within the the range of somewhere between three hundred and fifteen hundred or whatever?
Oh, oh, because it does seem that athletes who take high levels of exogenous, antigens can do more work and just get protein synthesis from just doing work. Yeah, you know, I've seen these guys in the gym, right? That's that whole tale signs are not that hard to spot where they're just doing a ton of volume, not necessarily moving that much weight. They're just bringing blood into the into the tissue and then they're loading up on their eating a ton of protein. Presumably because they're basically in puberty part. 15 right there. You got it.
Fifteenth round of puberty where during puberty? You are approaching synthesis machine. I mean, that's to me, that's pretty clear about puberty interesting. So, and then you in terms of because I know the audience likes to try protocols so that that you described a protocol very nicely. What about day-to-day recovery. I mean, can work out the you described is intense but short how many days a week? Can the typical person do that and sustain
progress? Yeah.
I mean a thing that comes back to you training age and your trading history. Obviously, there's a resilience in a robustness with an incremental training age. So, you know, that's not a protocol that I would advise anyone to go out and start, you know, tomorrow,
they'll be mopping them off the gym
floor. But at the same time it's also relative, right? So 80% you know, you have your maximum at a young training age is still 80 percent versus, you know, been training, 10 years. It's still 80%. But yes, the mechanical load is going to be significantly. It's just more tonnage, right?
But yeah, I think a protocol like that. We would look at two two times, you know, week something that's pretty intensive like that because again, it comes back to the point you make is that you really need to be one of better term suffering. A little bit through that type of protocol both in terms of the challenge of the load, but also being able to tolerate them, the metabolic stress that you're exposed to. It's a, it's a, you know, a bit of a sicko feeling, right. Because the lactate that you're driving up. So I, you know, I wouldn't promote as an athlete doing.
That type of modality, you know, multiple multiple times and less Europe from the Realms of bodybuilding. And then you really that that's the sole purpose of what you're trying to achieve. Most athletes in most sports have diverse requirements in terms of outcomes that they're trying to achieve their not just targeting muscle growth. Muscle, growth is a conduit to increase strength increased power and increase speed obviously. So, yes, trying to get bigger cross-sectional area of a muscle means that we can produce more Force.
To the ground or wherever it may be if we're locomotive athlete. But usually Sports men and women are not just purely seeking muscle growth and they look for different facets of muscle endurance of must maximum muscle power muscle strength, you know, so then you've got to be very creative in how you build the workout if it's a bodybuilder. Absolutely. They're chasing muscle growth and they're going to do. So with these types of protocols, which sees high intensities and high volumes of workload on a pretty regular basis.
If it's just somebody, you know, a weekend warrior, that wants to keep in shape and look good. I would say, you know, two times a week for a really challenging workout like that and then Flex the other types of workouts within the week to have more of a volume emphasis, where you reduce the intensity, and you might just look at, you know, larger rep ranges, from 12 to 15 to 20 another workout where you're looking at, you know, reducing the volume but increasing the intensity and really trying to drive, you know, different stimulus to give you more endpoints of
success. Great know. That's, that's really informative along the lines of androgens and intensity. When I think intensity, I think epinephrine, adrenaline. And since you have a background in catecholamines and testosterone, last time I was here at the UFC performance Institute. We had a brief conversation, and I want to make sure I got the details, right? That in the short term, and a big increase in stress hormone can lead to an increase in testosterone like a like a
Parachute jump, but so stress can promote the release of testosterone that was news to me. We always hear about stress suppressing, testosterone stress suppressing, the immune system, all these terrible things but in the short term you're saying it can actually increase the release of testosterone. So I have that right? And correct. Okay, and so then the second question is does my cognitive interpretation of the stressor.
A difference. In other words, if I voluntarily jump out of a plane with a parachute, does it have a different effect on my testosterone than if you shove me out of the plane against my will, what? Presumably with a parachute, right
to. I mean, so this was what all my PhD work was looking at was the you know, that the pre the exposure to a stressor and the pre arousal of how your body essentially prepares for that stress or and then how it manages it throughout the
Exposure to the stress and it was actually motivated from parachute jumpers. There was an older study looking at parachute jumpers into into into combat and you know, they were studying, you know, the court has all the stress response and the epinephrine response of these parachute jumpers. So we got us thinking about hold on, you know, there's certain workouts that you do that are just the daunting, you know, it's like okay. It's squat squat Saturday or whatever. It may be. Oh my gosh. This is going to be a is going to destroy
me right? Where I have to talk to this person. I don't want to talk.
Do or you know what, right? I mean something or PhD dissertation exam or
something, even public speaking or whatever. Maybe now, you know, we used an exercise. We use the resistance training protocol that these athletes knew what was going to be very very challenging. It's going to be, there's going to have some anxiety to doing it. Then you are going to be some physical distress from doing it. And therefore, you know, them their mindset of how they were going to approach that was already set. So what we saw prior it, 15 minutes prior.
Prior to the start of the next exposure to the workout that the epinephrine, the noradrenaline. The adrenaline was already starting to prepare the body sympathetically to go into what it knew was going to be a very, very challenging workout. So that brings you back to, you know, exercise preparation competition for certain preparation, preparation for some competition. Excuse me, you know, pre workout, routines, the use of music, you know, all these different things that we know can now
You know, anecdotally in the gym, we put into place. But the data that I presented showed that it was the first of its kind to show that this link between, you know, epinephrine and norepinephrine release and arousal and then consequent performance. So Force output throughout the throughout the workout was intimately, linked. So
what's it? What was the takeaway there? Should, is it beneficial for people to get a little stressed about the upcoming impending event? Whether or not it's a lift in the gym or whether or not it's talking.
To somebody that you might be intimidated to talk to or an exam. What is the stress good for performance? Or is it
harmful? Yeah, nothing. That's a great question. And I think I can only talk to, you know, physical exertion, which is what we were. We were we were exploring and I don't want to try on the toes of the psychologist with Flow State and these types of things because
clearly, I think you're in the the position of scientific strike on this one. I think you have the leverage. I mean, I mean most, you know, I have a lot of friends in that Community as I'll just say,
As a buffer to your the answer, you're about to give that. There's there's very little science around flow and there's very little Neuroscience related to most psychological States. Anyway, so I think we've got a lot of degrees of freedom here.
Alright. Yeah breathing. Yeah. Thank you for that. Yeah,
I'll take it out. I'll be anything. You like credit Duncan anything. You dislike. Send the email to send the mean comments to me.
Yeah, I think from from my day to certainly the greater at arousal, the higher the performance was from a, from a physical.
Asian perspective. And I think that was the Intriguing part of some of my findings with the definitely a bio can individual biokinetics to some of these hormonal kind of releases in as much as those guys that had the highest, you know, a generic response in terms of epinephrine release norepinephrine release also sustained Force output through for a longer period of the workout than those that didn't. So the the individuals that adds a lower stimulus of the sympathetic arousal.
Let's say certainly didn't perform as well throughout the workout. Now. The Intriguing thing then becomes is okay. And I think this this really segues into what we're doing here. And that with combat athletes with mixed martial artists, you know that there's a philosophy, there's a paradigm now, from a self in terms of the exposure, repeat exposure, you know, the the more you do that challenging workout. Do you get the same psychological stimulus? Do you still get the same stress response and and the assumption is unlikely, you know you
Mandate, you become accustomed to the stressor. Your body will therefore adapt and that's the classic overload principle, right? And you then need to take the stress of down a different route. But I think when you look at, you know, the the athletes that we work with here, it's a fist fight at the end of the day, let's there's nothing more stressful than that, but I think just the exposure to the rigors of training to understand the bad positions. The bad situations to know that they can get out of certain situations that have certain, you know submission.
Also, whatever it may be. I think that really ties in with some of my PhD work in terms of what these guys do to approach. What is you know, really challenging sporting arena in mixed martial arts?
Yeah. It's definitely the extreme of what's possible in terms of asking does stress favor or hinder performance? Because? Yeah, like you said the end of the day, it's someone trying to hurt you as much as they possibly can within the bounds of the rules and you're trying to do the same. So that's, you know, I find that your thesis.
Thesis work, fascinating. We're you never to be at the UFC performance Institute. Luckily. They made the right choice and brought you here, but we're you have never to come here. I was still fascinated by this because over and over. We hear that stress is bad. Stress is bad, stress is bad, but everything I read from the scientific literature is that stress and epinephrine in particular is coupled to the testosterone response to Performance and to adaptation provided. It doesn't go on too long.
So unless I'm saying something that violates that, I mean, that's your work. So it's a really important and beautiful work and I refer to it often. So I'm just glad that I think we could, you know, bolt that down because I think the people need to know this that that discomfort is beneficial. Now, there's a, there's another side to this that I want to ask about, which is the use of cold in particular, things like ice baths, cold showers, or
Any other type of cold, temperature exposure, you know, in theory that stress also its epinephrine. And so how should one think about the use of cold for recovery. So if it's stress, how is if stress if colds causes stress? Then how is cold used for Recovery? That's what I don't understand and maybe you just want to share your thoughts on that.
Yeah. No. No, I think you know, I think it's a great question and I think
The the jury is still out there certainly not some of the conversations that we've been having, but I think, you know, when we talk about stress, it's your classic fight flight or freeze approach and you know, throwing your body into, you know, a cold tub, an ice bath, or whatever. It may be, and certainly is going to have a physiological stress response. Now, people are using that for different end and goals. And again, I think that's where the narrative has to be explained. If you are using the stress specifically,
E to manage the mindset to use it as a specific stress stimulus. That's the same as me doing, six by ten, eighty percent. You know, you're just trying to find something to disrupt the system to do something. That's very if want a better term painful. Discomfort, whatever you just finding a stressor and then being able to manage the mindset. But if you're using cold specifically from a physiological perspective to promote, you know,
Redistribution of vascularity of blood flow, you know, two different vascular areas of muscle that you feel have gone through a workout that a damaged or whatever. It may be. I think there's, we've got to understand what that stress mechanism is. And, you know, the data the literature is certainly still out there with respect to cryotherapy and cold baths. And some of these, you know, hi, these cold exposures, in terms of what they do at the level of the muscle tissue. If that's if that's the target, if you're
Trying to promote a flushing mechanism. Are you trying to promote redistribution of the blood flow? What you've got to understand is that cold is going to clamp down every part of the vascular system. And we've really got to understand how the muscle would be redistributed to areas of Interest. So, you know, I think the stress response is is a real thing with respect to, you know, cold exposure, but I think the narrative around. What are you using the cold for has
Precede the conversation because yes, it's, you know, it's like putting your hand over a hot coals, you know, that's a stress. The same way. I was jumping in a cold bath is,
I think most people don't realize that you're going to get the epinephrine release from holding your hand out to close to lime and you're gonna get it from getting in the ice
bat, your body doesn't know the difference, right? Your body does not know the difference. It is a, you know, a primordial kind of physiological response that it's created over millions and millions of years and I think
That's that physiology is is not changing and it's fixed in a particular way right now that that it doesn't understand the difference between whether it's six by ten doing a challenging workout over here, whether it's putting my hands on the hot coal where there's a lion stood in front of me, or whatever that epinephrine response from the, the level of the brain down to the whole signaling Cascade is the same
and called I've heard can actually prevent some of the beneficial effects of training that it can actually.
And get in the way of muscle growth, Etc.
Yeah, this this is some pretty robust dates are out there now showing that it definitely has an influence on performance variables like strength and power in particular, but absolutely in terms of muscle hypertrophy and there's a big kind of theme in the world of athletic performance right now, in terms of periodization of cold exposure as a recovery modality, in sure. What, when do you use cold, you know, should you be using cold for?
Every in periods of high training load when you're actually pursuing, you know, maybe General proprietary proprietary work. We actually trying to pursue muscle growth. Well, that's usually where you get the most saw. It's usually where you know, you feel the most fatigued but it's probably not the most beneficial approach to use an ice bath in that in that scenario because your dampening you dulling the, you know, the mtor pathway and the the high perch hypertrophic signaling pathway. Whereas in a competition phase, we're actually quality of
Size and quality of execution of skill and Technical work has to be maintained, you want to throw the kitchen sink of recovery capabilities and Recovery interventions in that scenario. Because you now, you know, the muscle building activity should be in the bank, that should have been done in there in the general Preparatory work and now you're focusing on technical execution. So you're absolutely right.
That's interesting. So if I understand correctly, if if I want to maximize muscle growth or power.
Our or you know, improvements and adaptations, then the inflammation response, the delayed onset, muscle soreness, all the stuff that's uncomfortable. And then we hear. So terrible is actually the stimulus for adaptation. And so using cold in that situation might short-circuit my progress, but if I'm you know, I don't know that I'll ever do this. But if I were to do an Ironman or something or run a marathon under those conditions, I'm basically coming to the to the race. So to speak with all the
Or in strength I'm going to have and so they're reducing inflammation is good because it's going to allow me to perform more work. Essentially.
Absolutely. Yeah, you have to be strategic about when you use some of these interventions and you know the time when you preparing for a competition is not the appropriate time, excuse me is the appropriate time when you want to drive recovery and make sure that your body is optimized, you know, when you're far away from a competition date or, you know, out of season or whatever it may be and you really
Trying to just tear up the body, a little bit to allow it to its natural, you know healing and adaptation process has to take place where you don't want to negate that you know, the you want the body to optimize its internal recovery, and that's how muscle growth is going to happen. So so interesting that there's a time kind of consideration that you need to make with these interventions. For sure.
At the UFC performance error that are the fighters period izing. They're called exposure or they just you doing cold cold at at will.
Well, it's not just the
See, and again, I talked about my personal experiences with different sports. I think just education around where science is at and I are understanding of Concepts like the use of cold exposure for Recovery ice bath, you know, everyone wants to jump in an ice bath, but I think as we've as we've stepped back and scientists of start to say I've started to figure out and look at some of the data, you know, we're now more intuitive about well, actually that might not be the best at all the most optimal approach and I think that's that's any given spot.
Port. So yes, certainly here at the UFC were trying to educate our athletes around, you know, appropriate timing. And it's the same with nutrition. Is the same with an ice bath intervention. It's the same with lifting weights. It's the same with going for a run or working out on the bike, you know, the the there's tactics to when, when you do things and when you don't do things and I think, you know, stress and cold exposure. We have to have a consideration around that as well, but it's not just, you know, MMA fighters up to any any athlete. And I think it's
The best the best professionals the most successful professionals. Do that, really? Well, they understand, they listen number one, they educate themselves and then they build structure. And I think, you know, at the most elite level, we always talk about it here at the UFC but the most elite level you're not necessarily training harder than anybody else. Everybody in the UFC trains hard, like everyone is training super hard, but the best athletes that the true Elite levels are the ones that can do it again and again,
and again, on a daily basis and sustain, a technical output for skill development. Therefore, their skills can improve our physical development that physical attributes can improve. So that ability to reproduce on a day-to-day basis falls into a recovery conversation. Now, when is the right time to use something like an ice bath and when ism is part of the high-performance conversation for sure, so really, there are scientists, they're
building structure. They're figuring out variables. Yeah, but it sounds like the ability to do more quality.
Work overtime is one of the key. Very, I
mean it's fundamental. I mean garbage in garbage out quality and quality. Ow, but in our sport, you know, I talked about, you know, mixed martial arts. It's truly a decathlon of combat. So there's so many different attributes. Whether the graph pulling was the wrestling, whether it is a transition, whether it's a stand-up striking, so the different facets of a training program. In this sport significantly large compared to something like, you know, a wide
Receiver in football. That's no. Disrespect for wide receivers, but they run routes, they are going to run a route passing tree and that's all they need to do. These guys have to be on the ground. They got to be great in the ground. They got to be great standing up. They got to be great with the figure of the back against the fence. So there's so many different kind of facets to our sport. So managing the distribution of all the training components is one of the biggest challenges of mixed martial arts and the best guys get that right? They allow their body to optimize the training and remember
Why are we doing training? We're doing training for Tat, Technical and tactical Improvement. Now, if you if your body is fatigued or you just can't expose yourself to more tactical development or technical development. Then you essentially do any self a disservice, you're going to be behind the curve. Whether it's with respect to those guys that can reproduce that day in day out
on the topic of skill development regardless of sport and we hear all the time and it certainly is
Intuitive to me, that the person who can focus the best will progress the fastest, but it's kind of interesting. Sometimes, I talk to athletes and they seem a little bit laid back about their training, some time is, and yet, they obviously know how to flip the switch and they can really dial in the intensity. Do you think that there are optimal protocols for skill learning in terms of physical skill learning like, could it ever be parameterised like the six sets of 10 reps?
You know, and this gets to the heart of neuroplasticity which is still, you know, it's not a black box but it's kind of a black box with portions of it illuminated. I like to like to say but you know, what are your thoughts on skill development? Is there for somebody that wants to get better at sport? Do you recommend a particularly long or short training session? It does intensity matter or is it just
wraps, ya think? No. It's not a volume driven exercise. It's a quality.
T driven, exercise. And listen, my expertise is not in motor learning and motor. Skill acquisition. I tend to default to Gap. Dr. Gabriel wolf here at UNLV, for, for that. She's one of the leading proponents in this area. But, you know, if you look at the true skill development. It is about rehearsal of accurate movement, accurate movement mechanics. And the soon as soon as that becomes impacted by fatigue or inaccurate.
You now losing the, the motor learner, you losing the accuracy of the skill that, you know, people can call it muscle memory or whatever the one right? But essentially you're grooving. Neural axons to create movement patterns, and their situational throughout sport, right? You know, whether it's a Cruyff, Turn in soccer or a jump shot in basketball or a forehand down the line, you can carve out that particular posture and position and skill and you can isolate it and you can drill it again. And again again I was soon as fatigue.
Egg is influencing that repetition. It's time to time to stop and the best coaches understand that, they understand that it's quality over quantity when it comes to skill acquisition. So, to answer your question in a roundabout way, I would say, yes, it's shorter sessions that are very high quality and I think the best athletes in my experience of the ones that consciously and cognitively are aware of it. Every moment of the training session. They should, they should leave.
training session, not necessarily just physically fatigued, but mentally fatigued, because they're completely engaged in the learning process, the, the problem then becomes. Okay, if we just do lots of, you know, 30 minute sessions, we've got to do a lot of 30 minute sessions to get the volume, exposure of the repetition and the rehearsal of the skill again, and again, and again, so it's a bit of a paradox. It's a bit of a double-edged sword. But, you know, as a three-hour session versus a 90-minute session, you know, will take the 90 minute.
Session any day when it comes to skill acquisition because that's going to be driven by quality over
quantity training and skill, learning is incredibly mentally fatiguing. I've often wondered why, when one works out hard with a knots with, you know, run or with the weights, why? It's hard to think later in the day, right? Yeah. It really there really does seem to be something to it. And I've wondered, is it depletion of adrenaline dopamine? I sometimes think it's might be dopamine and here, I'm talking.
Least speculating. I have any data support this, but if you had a really hard workout or run early in the day, oftentimes the brain just doesn't want to do hard, mental work, which gives me great admiration for these athletes that are drilling their mind and body, all all day every day with breaks. But so, what are your thoughts? What what it, what leads to the mental, fatigue after physical performance?
Well, again, I don't want to talk out, you know, talking that to the man here, you know this.
Well, we're we're just two sides is speculating on.
On this point up until now we've been, you've been giving us concrete peer-reviewed study based feedback on my questions. But but if we were to speculate and I think this is a common occurrence, people think about get that really good workout in the morning. I feel better all day. That's true. Unless that workout is is really Intense or really long. Yeah, and then you just the mind just somehow won't latch on to mental work, it quite as well.
I mean, just philosophically and I think there's there's a
Does a coming back to this kind of stress consideration, you know, like a public speaking or taken an exam. I mean if you're if you have an amazing coach, he was setting up training in a particular way. It's challenging it. There's a strain related to it. I'm not talking physical strain. I'm talking figuring things out, you know, figuring out the skill and I think that can be stressful like the learning process can be stressful. So, you know, we've touched on stress. I also think if they, if they if they hit the right technique, you know, that
Ward Center in the brain that dopamine shot is gonna fly up there and there's only so many times that we can get that before it that becomes dampened and I think there's an energetic piece to it. You know, there's the fueling of the brain. There's the, there's the the carbohydrate fuel in exercise. That actually the strategy around how you fuel for Learning and fuel for physical training is actually pretty similar glucose. Yeah, it's glucose. It's sugar at the end of the day, right? So, you know, I you
You fueling accordingly around your training sessions, be that very physical, because everyone thinks, okay, you know, I'm going to jump on a treadmill and I'm going to bang out, you know, 15, Sprint's at Max effort. And I'm going to, you know be dropping off and lying on the floor at the end of it. I need to refuel. Well, what about the refueling of the brain in a very demanding exercise or drilling session where you're looking at technique that you've trying to figure out this very challenging for your mind to figure out if the complexity of it, but still needs to be
You'll door refueled afterwards and I think that's obviously might be an area where athletes do themselves a disservice by not appropriate refueling from what might be considered to be a lower intensity session. But the the the the cognitive challenge has been significantly high.
So they're doing skill, work or drill work and it's taxing, the brain and order thinking. Oh, you know, I wasn't, you know, pushing hard lifts or doing sprints and so I can just go off and the rest of my day, but then, they're there their mind is drifting.
Yeah, I mean I speculate. Yeah, that
seems very reasonable. I mean, I know that here and presumably with the other athletes. You've worked with a nutrition is a huge aspect of that. And I think the general public can learn a lot from athletic nutrition because it is at the end of the day, the general public is trying to attend to their kids, attend to their work whether or not their lawyers or whatever. They need to focus nutrition. Is a barbed wire topic. Oh, yeah, but if since we're free, too.
Do what we would do. If we were just sitting in each other's offices, which is to just speculate a bit it for the typical person. Right? Do you think these low-carbohydrate diets? Typical person who exercises run swims, yoga lifts, weights, maybe not all those things. But some collection of those is pushes themselves to do those things and to do them well, but isn't necessarily a highly competitive athlete. Do you think that nutrition? That doesn't include a lot of glucose, doesn't include a lot of carbohydrates?
It is a problem, or is it? Okay? And what do you, what do you recommend for athletes? What do you recommend for typical people?
Yeah, again disclaimer. I'm not a dietitian, but I
do get the dietitians don't know what to recommend either, and I say that from having to spend a lot of time with the literature now, it's a
complete rhyme ass. Yeah. It's
like I thought we didn't understand anything about the brain. The nutrition science stuff is all over the place, right? So I think we have again a
large series of freedom.
Right, right. I mean, I think, you know, I think for its, it comes down to metabolic efficiency. So, we would never, we would never Advocate. Hi. Never Say, Never. Okay, but, you know, we really Advocate a high-performance athlete in a, in a high-intensity intermittent sport. Like MMA being. Totally ketogenic orbit. We are recommending. No. Because at the end of the day, some of those high intensity efforts. Usually require, you know, carbohydrate fueling.
For the high-end, the energy, the energy produced at those high intensity. So, we try to navigate around that. Now, the listen there are fighters in the UFC and elsewhere. Matt Brown is a great example, who promotes the ketogenic approach and it works for him. But we look at the science and the nature of the characteristics of a sport and we don't necessarily promote
that. Can I interrupt you real quick. What about ketones for people that are ingesting carbohydrates? This is an interesting area because people always here key.
Tones, and they think, oh, I have to be ketogenic to benefit from taking ketones, right? There are a number of athletes and recreational athletes. Now, as well taking liquid or powder based ketones on even though they doing, eat rice and oatmeal, and bread, and other things as so. Are there any known benefits of ketones? Even if one is not in a state of ketosis?
So the, the, the the only the use of ketones I'm primarily where of is
In our sport is after the event, you know, in terms of the brain health with with athletes are taking, you know, potentially taking trauma to the brain Etc and looking to maintain the the fueling and the energy supplied to the brain. But yes, it's probably a little bit on my remit. So, I don't want to talk on that because I'm not, I'm not fully familiar with that. Well, I've heard that
ketones after head injury can provide a buffering combined, correct, not going to reverse brain damage, but it might be able to offset some of the micro damage, right?
So that's what that's how we use it. Just to say,
Staying, you know, the energy supply to the brain. That might be compromised through brain trauma. And so that's why we use ketones and to come back to the original question. If it's, you know, general population, then yes, I think there's a place to argue that actually been on a ketogenic diet times and maybe this is a cycling exercise. Maybe not, I don't mean cycling and bike. I mean cycling ketosis is beneficial because I think it's going to lead to better metabolic management and and metabolic efficiency.
Those lower intensities where we should be fueling our our metabolism with lipids and fats, clearly the Western diet. And, you know, the modern day diet is heavily driven by processed food and carbohydrates that, you know, people become predisposed to utilization of that fuel source above lipids, use fat, use intensities that are very low. So, you know, some of our data with the fighters shows that as well, but I think the challenge for us is that were
Working with a clientele that require high intensity, bouts of effort. So, you know fueling appropriately is very important for that. Now, we use we use tactics here where we essentially have athletes on what you would say kind of, is it a larger ketogenic diet, but then we will fuel carbohydrates around training sessions. So we'll do very timed exposure to carbohydrates. So it's most training post training immediately pre during and then immediately
First and then the rest of their diets, you know, breakfast lunch and dinner. What would look like ketogenic type approaches. So we're trying to be very tactical in the exposure to maximize the intensity for the training and then return to a metabolically efficient diet, which is heavily reduced in carbohydrate because we have fueled the the sessions at need
it. I'm smiling. Because once again the this place the UFC performance center is doing things scientifically which, you know, to me.
Me the idea that and I'm pleased to hear that because to me that's idea that the ketogenic diet is the best and only diet or carbohydrates and low protein diets are the best. I, it's just it's ludicrous. Then you mentioned metabolic efficiency. I think some people might be familiar with that term, some perhaps not. But the way I understand metabolic efficiency. Is that your you teach the body to use fats, by may be doing long, long bouts of cardio, Maybe.
Lower in carbohydrates a bit. So teaching the body to tap into its fat stores for certain periods of training and then you also teach the body to utilize carbohydrates by supplying carbohydrates immediately after training and before training, you teach the body to use ketones. And then you use them at the appropriate time as opposed to just deciding that one of these fuel sources is good and all the others are bad or dispensable. Do I have that
correct? Even I'll do you mean from Bob? See, Bahar as formerly of USA Triathlon. Is the guy that kind of
Came up with the the concept of metabolic efficiency. But yes, you're absolutely right. I mean low intensities of exercise or just day-to-day living we shouldn't be tapping into our carbohydrate fuel sources, extensively that that's that's for higher intensity work or you know, the fight-or-flight needs of stress, you know, if you know athletes or any individual has a high carbohydrate diet, they're going to start to become
Bo's to utilizing that fuel source. Preferentially now a low intensity that can be problematic, certainly for an athlete because if they preferentially use carbohydrate a lower intensities. When the, when the exercise demand goes to a higher intensity, they've already exhausted their fuel stores, you know, they can't draw upon fat because the oxidization of that, that fat is just too slow. So they're essentially now become fatigued because of the variety utilized, the carbohydrate stores. So what we try to do, yes, through diet.
Population. And a little bit of exercise manipulation is, as you say, teach the body or train the body, to preferentially use a specific fuel source fat, obviously at lower intensities and carbohydrate at high intensities. And we look at specifically the crossover point between the two tells a lot in terms of how an athlete is ultimately, how their metabolism is working.
Well, again, I am smiling because I love this because it's grounded in something real and scientific, which is that we have these different fuel sources. The body can adapt to use any number.
Of them are one of them. I think most people are looking for, that one pattern of eating that one pattern of exercising, that's going to be best for them or sustain them. And they often look back to the time when they felt so much better switching from one thing to the next, but the adaptation process itself is also key, right? Teaching the body. And I, so, if we were to just Riff on this, just a little bit further, if somebody, I'll use myself as an example, since I can only,
Speculate? What other people's current nutrition. Protocols are. But if somebody is eating in a particular way and they want to try this kind of periodization of nutrition. Could one, say okay for a few weeks. I'm going to do more high, intensity, interval training and weight training and I'm going to eat a bit more carbohydrate because I'm depleting more glycogen. Then if I switch to a phase of my training where I'm doing some longer runs, maybe I'm not. Maybe I'm training, less. Maybe I'm just working at my desk a little bit more, then I might switch to a lower carbohydrate.
Do I have that, right? And then, if I'm going to enter a competition of some sort, certainly, not UFC, or MMA of any kind of be clear, not because it isn't a wonderful sport, but because it's that wouldn't be good for my other profession. But if I were going to do that, then I would think about stacking carbohydrates ketones and and fats, is that do I have that
moment of thing? I think. Yeah. You just said eloquently the end of the day. You're consciously understanding. What the
The exposure to physical exertion is and you're flexing your day accordingly. And I think it's
need-based eating
exactly. And I for one of relatives, you know, you can call it whatever fancy terminology there is out there. But yes, it's needs-based eating but you're very conscious and cognizant of what is my current exercise status, you know, if I'm, you know, if I'm taking some time off then, you know, don't gorge on the carbohydrates. We probably need to be cut. It's going to be lower intensity work or even just habitual day to day walking around doing your
Sir, is, you know, that that doesn't require massive amounts of glycogen storage and and carbohydrate be feeling so you can potentially go more ketogenic in