Yuri Elkaim: Adrenal Function, Neural Fine Tuning & Training – #212
By: Dave Asprey
April 17, 2015
Why you should listen –
Yuri Elkaim comes on Bulletproof Radio today to discuss optimizing training and recovery, how to hack eating, your adrenal glands, and eating more greens. Enjoy the show!
Yuri Elkaim is founder and director at Elkaim Group International, a company dedicated to helping people achieve greater health. He is one of North America’s leading fitness and nutrition experts and has created hundreds of workout programs, including the Amazing Abs Solution. He is the writer of The New York Times bestseller The All-Day Energy Diet and his mission is to help ten million people get in the best shape of their lives by 2018.
What You Will Hear
- 0:16 – Cool Fact of the Day!
- 0:41 – Welcome Yuri Elkaim
- 3:44 – Hack your adrenal glands
- 7:30 – Controversial science
- 10:56 – Being open minded
- 14:54 – Food beliefs
- 18:54 – The most important food group
- 25:50 – Neural fine tuning
- 32:18 – Training and recovery
- 40:10 – Top three recommendations for kicking more ass and being Bulletproof!
Questions for the podcast?
Leave your questions and responses in the comments section below. If you want your question to be featured on the next Q&A episode, submit it in the Podcast Question form! You can also ask your questions and engage with other listeners through The Bulletproof Forum, Twitter, and Facebook!
Dave: Today’s cool fact of the day is that if you breathe the air on a bad day in Mumbai, India for one day it’s the health equivalent of smoking about a 100 cigarettes according to a recent, probably alarmist study. It’s probably not great if you want to be an elite athlete however.
Air pollution in general is bad for your brain, it can actually cause inflammation long before you end up getting major coughing attacks and things like that. Air quality matters especially in direct quality no matter if you live in Mumbai or anywhere else.
Today’s guest is a personal friend. He created more than a 130 workout programs including Treadmill Trainer, iPod you workouts, The Amazing Abs Solution, and things like that. He’s also the best-selling author of Eating For Energy and The All-Day Energy Diet, which was a New York Times Best-Seller. I am talking about none other than Yuri Elkaim. Yuri, welcome to the show.
Yuri: How is it going buddy? Thanks for having me. Good to be here.
Dave: You got this crazy mission you want to help 10 million people get in great shape and eat healthier by 2018.
Yuri: Yes, and a 100 million by 2024. That’s, you know, kind of raise the bar after 2018.
Dave: That’s kind of quantified. Is that it?
Yuri: For now I think. I don’t know. I have no idea how that’s going to happen but I just know that setting the intention is just unraveling things to make it happen.
Dave: The 100 million number is there in my intention as well. We share that goal. It’s one of the reasons I came out to you when I got a chance.
Dave: You do some other things that the reason I wanted to have you on the podcast other than to talk about your latest book and keep people aware of it, is that you talk about how belief is the juice to propel you forward and that idea of motivation and intrinsic willpower and energy is something you pay attention to. We have a lot to talk about today. The other thing is you’re kind of a foodie, right?
Yuri: I’m a huge foodie. I live in Toronto which I would say, I’m going to just put it out there, Toronto is the best city in the world for food. I love it. It’s great.
Dave: You might have made a few enemies with that because I’m told that Chicago people are like, “No! It’s us,” but hey –
Yuri: Actually I spoke to somebody who lives in Chicago or lives in Chicago and they said, and they’ve been to Toronto a number of times they’re like, “Yeah, Toronto is so much better for food.” I was like, “I know, it’s amazing.” It’s great, we’re pretty blessed.
Dave: The last time I was in Toronto it was for a strategic coach session with Dan Sullivan. I was talking with a couple of the guys and there’s two different church bells going off, and one went off and then 30 seconds later the other one went off. One of the guys goes, “Why do you think there’s two church bells?” I don’t know why, it just came to me, I looked at him and I’m like, “Hey, there’s a reason for that, like we’re in Canada, so by law the first one was in English and the second one was in French.”
Yuri: I don’t even know that.
Dave: It’s true.
Yuri: That’s amazing. It’s great. You just enriched my life. That’s awesome.
Dave: I actually just spun up a complete line of BS but it was a good answer, and I really said that on the fly, I’m like, “This is the funniest thing ever.” We’re never going to figure out, they’re like, “Oh my God that’s actually kind of funny.” Because as you know being a Canadian citizen everything here has a label in French and a label in English, and they have to be equal size, which means everything has super tiny labels and everyone in Canada has squinting problems from looking at tiny labels.
That’s another fact of the day, there you go.
Anyway, enough about Toronto. Let’s talk about something else that’s kind of cool. Your 30-Second At Home Eye Exam. Tell me about what you do with that.
Yuri: This is a really cool at-home diagnostic test for adrenal health and it’s never going to replace the salivary hormones has but it’s a good starting point.
Dave: A flashlight?
Yuri: A flashlight.
Dave: I’ve got my own –
Yuri: Flash it off –
Dave: I’ve got mine right here.
Yuri: I got all the flashlight and this cool pants. I see that.
Yuri: What you do is you go into a bathroom and it’s not like, we’re not doing any kind of Ouija board stuff but pretty much like that. We’re going to go into a bathroom, look into the mirror, close the door, shut off all the lights. You’re basically in a dark room, what’s supposed to happen here is that in a dark room, in a dark environment your eyes or pupils will dilate to allow more light in.
What were doing with the flashlight is we’re going to take the flashlight and we’re going to shine it at about 45 degree angle at our eyeball, and in that dark room looking at our self in the mirror our pupil should constrict. If it constricts then stay constrict, and if it stays constricted for about 15 to 20 seconds that’s an indication that your adrenal glands are relatively healthy. They’re able to pump out the epinephrine, the adrenaline to keep those small little muscles constricted in your eye.
However, I don’t really know many people who have been able to achieve that level of basic adrenal health, what ends up happening is a lot of people shine the light in their eye, it constricts for a second or two and then it starts to pulsate and dilate again, which basically means that the adrenals are a little bit taxed and they’re not able to send those stress hormones to the eye to keep those muscles constricted.
It’s a really cool, simple diagnostic test that you can use then to follow-up with a salivary hormone panel if you want to.
Dave: I first heard about using this in Dr. Wilson’s book on adrenal health, one of the first ones, is that like the genesis for this or does it even have deeper roots than that?
Yuri: I don’t know if that was the first place I read … I read his books as well which was definitely a great intro to adrenal health and I don’t know if it was there or if it was somewhere else in my research over the years.
Dave: In your years of research, I understand that, but like you, I think I … when I first found out I was like, “Look, but everyone I tested that worked.” Every single person to a tee didn’t meet the standard. I always wondered if maybe 8 seconds or 10 seconds was maybe more apt for normal people versus this sort of impossible standard which means everyone has adrenal dysfunction, which a lot of people do, or at least mild but it’s an interesting quantified self-test maybe that a bunch of people could run.
If a bunch of people who sleep enough and eat reasonably healthy, and aren’t complete stressed cases all of them are going for a little bit less than the recommended number. I just got to wonder is the data right? Any thoughts on that?
Yuri: That’s the thing it’s like how do you … everyone’s individual, what if somebody’s adrenal glands are perfectly healthy but in their body it’s represented by a 14-second constriction as opposed to 17-second constrictions in somebody else? I think there’s always going to be a bit of variation, and ultimately the best data would be … Let’s take a 100 people or a 1,000 people or however many people that have perfectly normal salivary hormone tests in terms of cortisol and TSH stuff and let’s test them on this test and see what their average time is and cross-reference that.
I guess that would be the most accurate way to do it but I think it’s a decent starting point, where you have people start to look at their pupil and was like boom, dilating right away, that’s a bit of a warning sign. It’s not the gold standard but it’s a good place to start.
Dave: It’s an awesome place. I fully support your recommendation there to use that as one of the simple things you can do that just let’s you know what’s going on.
What are your Seven Energy Commandments?
Yuri: The Seven Energy Commandments, these are things that are actually quite controversial. It’s funny because when I was on Dr. Oz we had to modify the segments because some of the stuff has not “been shown in science literature” yet.
Dave: I heard that you guys actually have like a wrestling match on stage and Jerry Springer had to break you up, is that true?
Yuri: It was funny, we were demonstrating, but then we were talking about the blood at one point which is one … One of the Energy Commandments is that “Energy really comes from the blood.” If your blood is sluggish and acidic it’s not able to deliver oxygen throughout your body because oxygen is transferred under red blood cells. If your red blood cells starts to clump together because the blood is acidic as a result of some decrease in electromagnetic charge around the cells, this is what I just said as very taboo in the medical community, they’re like, “What the hell are you talking about?”
Dave: I followed you on the clumping, the acidicness though I have some questions for you about that later, but all right, cool.
Yuri: It’s interesting it’s one of those areas that is … there’s research at Germany that shows that there’s changes electromagnetically that kind of …
Dave: You can see them if you look at live blood cells. It’s not that hard to see.
Yuri: Exactly. We had to modify the segment because they weren’t too sure if they wanted to go down that road so we diverted the discussion to the kidneys, where the kidneys deal with the acid alkaline balance. As we were warming up for the show and doing a rehearsal Dr. Oz spilled some of the “fake blood” that they had on his shoes and he is like … I don’t know if I can swear on this show. I don’t know if he can swear on the show but he dropped an F bomb. He was like, “Omp, F. Why would I wear my shoes? The first time I wear my shoes in rehearsal I get this stuff on them.” It was pretty funny.
Dave: You’re the man who got blood on Dr. Oz?
Yuri: I guess. I guess. Let’s see.
Dave: New York Time’s Best-Selling Author and bloodier, I don’t know.
Yuri: Food dye, food dye contaminator.
Anyways, that’s kind of the premise of Energy and again it’s a philosophy or it’s an idea that’s somewhat not as well accepted but what I’ve seen personally, as well as having done this with thousands and thousands of people is that, as you said it when you look at your blood under a live microscope, live blood cell microscopy you can’t really deny that. There’s stuff that you see in your blood you’re like, “Oh my God,” like, “This is crazy.”
Dave: The reason for this, just for people listening who haven’t heard of live blood cell microscopy, it has a bad name amongst medical professionals because they’re trained to kill the cells, make a thin little slide, maybe stain them a certain way and look at dead cells, but when you look at cells swimming around you notice there are patterns in the swimming.
I’ve gone through and have mine, my blood was extremely stuck together like long chains of red blood cells when I was exposed to heavy doses of mycotoxins and I did some EDTA chelation, which is also medically shown to work but also poo-poo’d by science, and magically when I looked at my live red blood cells again they weren’t stuck together anymore, like okay kind of cause-effects. There is science here but like you said it its controversial science, right Yuri?
Yuri: I’m sorry, I’m not ignoring I’m just sifting through my phone to see if I can find a video that I have from a blood test that I did with a client a little while ago. The way I see it is like even though something isn’t scientifically proven doesn’t mean that it’s not valid. If we haven’t proven something yet it doesn’t mean that the laws of the universe are automatically going to change tomorrow and then it’s going to be valid. There’s this fine line between mysticism and magic and what science is showing today.
I’m a very science-oriented person but I’m also very open-minded to be like, “You know what, there are things that we can’t explain. I believe that the invisible is more powerful than the visible and even if we can’t quantify something yet it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not taking place or happening.”
Dave: The first step there would be observation in science and if the way you observe things is you say, “That didn’t happen because it can’t happen given the rules I believe,” then you’re actually not observing. There’s so much of that just in society in general, not to mention medicine and nutrition.
Yuri: Totally, and I think it’s unfortunate that so many medical doctors are so close-minded to … as scientist you have a hypothesis, it’s like, “Okay, this might be happening or not,” but then you have to test it. Instead of just closing the door say well, why don’t you actually take some of your patients through this process and see what happens. I think just being open-minded is a really important aspect of just moving forward in terms of helping patients.
I think there’s a lot of medical doctors that obviously more open-minded than others but if we’re just kind of generalize the profession it’s a little bit, they know what they know and that’s basically what they’ve been taught.
Dave: It’s shifting. There are thousands and thousands of doctors listening to Bulletproof Radio right now and I get emails from them and it’s really cool because half of them probably think that you and I are full of BS because we’re talking about live blood cell microscopy to be perfectly honest, and it’s okay that they think that.
We don’t have to all agree on it but can we say that there’s an observation here, and that we may not have all the explanation and that there’s more work to be done there versus just saying, “We’re not going to pay attention to it.” It’s that, “Where do we put our focus? I want effects that no one can explain rather than denying the effect, I’d want to quantify the effect and then figure out the variables, because it’s fun and maybe we’ll learn something.”
Yuri: It’s like your segment on CNN. People seeing that they kind of position you as this like crazy pill-popper and it’s like they’re kind of positioning it as like, “Are you sure like …
Dave: I’m sorry.
Yuri: “Are you sure what you’re doing is safe? Like are you worried about the side effects?” It’s like why are we not questioning the massive amounts of pharmaceuticals that people are ingesting? We’re probably ingesting more pharmaceuticals than we are fruits and vegetables on a daily basis as an average, and we’re not really questioning that on CNN. It’s just funny how we have this double standards.
Dave: I had a chance to ask one of the very, Craig Venter actually, the first guy that sequences human genome for a $100 million. I’m like, “So we’re still waiting on the fundamental hardcore, like definitive statistical science here but in the next five years, like there’s 6 million people like tuned in to listen to Bulletproof Radio, so what should we do now given our best efforts, or should we all just have pizza and beer and wait ’til the science is in?”
He’s on stage at a Peter Diamandis Event which is awesome and he goes, “Let’s talk about that over pizza and beer.” Afterwards he said, “Dave, you know I don’t want to tell people what to do because I’m afraid I might be wrong. It could be harmful.” But your perspective Yuri, and mine is that, “Well, everything is harmful and so we might as well at least choose what we think is the best path now instead of just doing nothing until we’re absolutely certain.”
That maybe a personal risk-taking tolerance and as a bio-hacker I’m willing to take that tolerance because I could just eat fast food everyday and say, “Well, I don’t really know for sure, maybe it’s good, maybe it’s not, whatever,” and assume there’s no impact from that, which is false. Or I could just, “I’m going to do with the very best from all the stuff I can do and maybe I’m wrong but at least I tried.” Do you agree with that?
Yuri: No, I do, absolutely, and I think there’s a big element of belief in there. I was actually thinking of my next book is going to be called like The Belief Diet or something, because I think like, there’s so many in these day and age, like so much information and we can become a little bit too obsessive about how we approach any aspect of our life, but especially our health.
I know a lot of people, I’m sure you do too who they think they’re eating healthy and then they make one little slip up say, “Oh my God, I had this piece of bread,” and it’s like the end of the world, or they’re eating something that is not like at the pinnacle of health and they start to beat themselves up. I think energetically it’s like you kind of impart this belief that what I’m eating, “Oh my God, this supposedly healthy food is not organic, therefore it’s doing damage to my body,” versus just kind of accepting and blessing the food and allowing your body to just deal with it a little more naturally.
I think the way we … The energy that we emits onto our foods has a big impact on how we ultimately absorb them.
Dave: There’s some kind of mystical thing where … in Nashim or you go to the place in Nepal where I learned Tibetan style meditation. Before you eat you sit there and you put your hands over your food and you like send love into your food and consciousness. In the rational part of my brain, like the pre-frontal cortex is like, “Whatever dude,” and then the irrational part of the body, like the nervous system and the more instinctive things it’s like, “All right, well I’ll just go with the flow.”
I don’t know that … Anyone other than maybe Lynne McTaggart talking about the field has really tried to pull together any real body of science about whether that has any effect at all but maybe it just makes you feel better, which makes your body absorb the food, but I have no idea but there’s probably something about eating your food with intention that matters.
Yuri: I think so. I think Bruce Lipton wrote the book Biology of Belief which is really awesome. There’s the … the many Messages of Water, for that as well. I think the many Messages of Water by …
Dave: The Japanese guy.
Yuri: By Masaru Emoto I think, like showing the difference, like just by emitting love versus hate it’s your water, and how the crystal line structure of the water changes, that it gets crazy.
Dave: People listening to us right now have one or two reactions to those four books we just mentioned, right? Either they’re going, “These guys are such charlatans we should like go. I’m pissed right now. I’m going to go drive into a bridge,” or not, right?
But why there’s a strong emotion response to asking questions about this? I haven’t figured out yet, because I’m not saying that I know, I’m just saying that there’s something going on that we might want to measure and quantify the attention to.
Yuri: I think when we’re opposed to such violent opposition it usually, it’s because it’s striking a cord that is against a deeply held belief. It’s like the dogma of, “This can only be true,” and then we chant like, “Hey, the Earth is not the center of the universe, or the solar system.” That’s a huge statement and for a long time that was accepted as just fact, or the Earth is flat, and Copernicus and then other amazing scientists and astronomers were able to eventually get through the ridicule even though they were ostracized, and now we know that that’s just fact. There’s always violent oppositions or anything when anything kind of new challenges the status quo.
Dave: There is and it’s pretty annoying that we don’t have the world’s hardest science to say this but the understanding that your perception and my perception might be different, and there’s no way for me to know exactly what your perception is makes this kind of essentially hard but there is something that I believe big data and quantified self can tease out from this. We don’t know everything about it like dark energy or dark matter but we’re pretty sure it’s there.
Yuri: That’s fascinating. It’s really cool.
Dave: Let’s talk some more about the things you talk about in your book. The Most Important Food Group, what’s that?
Yuri: I believe the most important food group are greens, green vegetables and the reason for that is because they are unanimously the most nutrient dense as a class of foods in terms of phytonutrients and vitamins and minerals and so forth. I don’t think there’s any research that I’ve ever come across that shows eating less or eating more green vegetables or vegetables in general is bad for your health.
Dave: There’s the ones about rock cruciferous and thyroids suppression. There are very extreme cases where like people will have problems from this.
Yuri: I wrote an extensive blog post on my blog about this because I was getting these questions so often, because I recommend, I’m a big fan of eating more of your vegetables in their raw states, juicing, smoothies, salads, and the biggest question I get is, “What about the rock cruciferous vegetables? Aren’t they bad for your thyroid?” Here is the thing, I looked at all the data, all the research and there’s really very, very small correlation between rock cruciferous vegetable consumption at the level that most human beings would be eating.
There’s one case of a lady who was eating, I can’t even … it was like 5 lbs. of rock cruciferous vegetables a day and it just completely messed up her thyroid, but in the capacity that most people are eating them it’s so insignificant. The reality is that, I don’t know about you but I’m not eating broccoli or brussel sprouts, I’m not eating cauliflower, I’m not eating all those foods in a raw state, I’m usually steaming them.
Dave: When I was a raw vegan I would blend all of those things and I’d chop them finely and my salad was a head of broccoli, a head of cauliflower, half of cabbage … I bought these giant bowls, because I’m a big muscular guy, I’m trying to get enough calories. You and I probably disagree on nutrient density just because I actually think that using water or volume is not that meaningful. I want actual nutrients in the amount that I can put in my body and I couldn’t get enough of this food to make myself full. I was eating huge amounts of cruciferous vegetables and I did get thyroid suppression.
Was it caused by that or something else? Like a lot of saturated fat in my diet? I have no idea but … This is N = 1 and not definitive but encouraging people to eat more green vegetables is just a really, really great idea, and you and I fully agree there, but not necessarily the ones that tastes like brussel sprouts raw are just gross.
Yuri: It just doesn’t make sense that why would you eat brussel sprouts raw? I don’t know of any human that is consciously doing that.
Dave: The thing is like there … It’s one of those discussions where people freak out about, “Oh my God, it’s going to hurt my thyroid,” but let’s consider something that the cruciferous vegetables are probably the most important vegetables for preventing cancer. There’s so much research showing that, like even cabbage, and I’m a huge fan of sauerkraut, I make my own sauerkraut at home. One serving, I can’t remember the exact data, I can pull it up if I wanted to but it’s like one serving of cabbage per week decreases the rate of breast cancer by like 30% or something like that.
It was like they showed studies where they had, “Traditionally the normal fruits and vegetables to have for the week would be these and it would decrease your amounts for the risk of cancer by this.” And then we’d, to say we tested half of that amount in cruciferous vegetables and it led to a greater decrease in risk of various cancers. It was like if you’re avoiding these foods because you think that they’re hurting your thyroid, which they’re really not unless you’re eating pounds and pounds of them a day, you’re really doing your body a disservice by missing out on all these amazing health promoting properties.
Yuri: I would say you might want to cook the majority of them but not all of them, because those benefits are robbed, but if you are the kind of person like me who would make a smoothie out of raw brussel sprouts and I’ve done that, because you think it’s good for you I question that, like there’s a reason your body doesn’t want you to eat them raw. It’s okay to steam them lightly and add some good stuff to them and make a meal out of it.
That’s also, for most people though like when they eat brussel sprouts they go to a steak house that deep fries them until they’re blackened in canola oil that’s been recycled for two weeks like, “I eat my vegetables. I’m doing so well.” I’m like, “This is not the same.”
Dave: That’s not good? Darn it, I made a mistake.
What do you think about burned vegetables? Like I get grilled vegetables at some place where they’re just blackened on the outside, especially brussel sprouts, they are the ones, the vegetable they like to torture the most. What’s your take on burning vegetables?
Yuri: I think burning anything is probably not a good idea because it’s the charring of the carbohydrate that’s an issue, whether it’s meats or toast, or it’s that burning, charring that glycosylation that’s a big issue when it comes to the development of cancer and other issues in the body. Definitely you want to avoid that.
Dave: It’s interesting, you and I, we actually don’t agree on everything in our recommendations, which is fine. I love having people on the show like Joel Kahn was just on, he’s advocating a low-fat diet but there’s all sorts of cool stuff. I’m the first guy, if you read the fine prints, it says like, “Guarantee something on the Bulletproof website is wrong.” I do my best here but there are things that we just don’t know or things we’re like there’s a division of opinion. This is one thing where I suspect that if you and I both have the same set of ingredients then I would probably cook more of mine and yours but we both have somewhere I would probably go ahead and have some cooked.
Yuri: Maybe, and to be honest, my approach is like eat more plant-based foods. I’m not like you can totally follow your approach for that and have more of them in their raw state, basically what that means is make a big salad with your meal, have a green juice, make a green smoothie and that’s it. It doesn’t have to be more complex. You don’t have to become a raw vegan for that. I was raw a number of years ago and I felt great for a little while and then I was like, “Well, I don’t know if I can really sustain this.” I was like, “Yeah.”
Everyone is individual but I think fundamentally as a species we do better with vegetables because, remember like plants produce phytonutrients to protect themselves against the environment. When we eat those we basically, those benefits are transferred over to us. That’s why like Vitamin C, for instance in organic vegetables is higher than non-organic vegetables because the plant produces more Vitamin C to protect itself. When we eat these nutrients we are just ingesting all those benefits and it’s just a great thing.
Dave: It’s one of the reasons that herbs and spices are so important. They are so pungent because they are like super powerful for protecting themselves. You want to get that pungency, that bitterness, that spice because it actually delivers stuff to your gut biome as well as to your body itself. I couldn’t agree more with you there, Yuri.
You do something else that’s kind of cool and you call it neural fine-tuning and hacking your nervous system into something that’s just cool in every way, at least from where I sit. What’s your approach to basically fine-tuning your nervous system? You have a morning practice I think that listeners will love to hear about.
Yuri: It’s funny because I was just at a Tony Robbins Event this past weekend and it’s so interesting how so many things in different spaces has come together and a lot of what I teach is very similar to what Tony talks about. One of the things was like, “Emotions comes from motion.” If you feel kind of crappy and depressed, look at how you’re using your body. Are you kind of lunge forward? Is your head down? What’s your facial expression like?
If you want to feel the opposite of that then simply just sit up taller, shoulders back, put a smile in your face, these are simple things that our biology or like our muscles, so our physical body can change or our neurology, and essentially how we experience the world, simply by smiling instead of frowning. It’s a really simple thing.
In the morning what I like to do is first thing is I got to get my body moving. Actually the first thing I do is I’ll do about 10 minutes of meditation, I prime my body for the day ahead and my life ahead. I start off with just a couple of deep, a breathing exercise that takes me about two minutes just to get some oxygen into my system. Then what I’ll do is I’ll just go through a series of gratitude and the visualization processes to just ground myself and project love and all these other stuff. To just visualize what are the most important things I want to do today in moving forward.
Once that’s done I say, “Okay, let’s get the body moving.” I’ll do some dynamic exercises to open up my hips, my upper body, and staying supple is really important to me because it’s not just about being strong and fit, I want to touch my toes, I want to be able to have great range of motion and that lessens the more you sit. If you’re sitting at a desk all day or sitting at a couch your muscle, your body’s just seizing up.
I like to do things that are getting the body active, getting the body moving and there’s really cool things … I don’t know if you know Eric Cobb from Z-Health?
Dave: Eric’s a buddy. I love Eric.
Yuri: He’s amazing. I had a shoulder injury a number of years ago from tennis, he took me through four exercises, some kind of nerve flossing stuff, and within a day it was just gone. I’ll do these kind of nerve flossing exercises on my upper and lower body, just kind of open up my joints, allow better range of motions, just kind of feeling better overall. The cool thing is that because everything ultimately comes from the brain, as we’re doing a nerve flossing exercise for instance for your biceps or for your shoulder you’re actually improving communication between your body and your brain, and what I’ve noticed is that actually helps focus.
I’ll do a couple of those nerve flossing exercises before I start working and then my focus mentally is a lot sharper. That’s typically, I’ll spend the first 20 minutes of my day doing that kind of stuff, and then throughout the day every 30 minutes to an hour at the most I’m getting up, jumping on my rebounder. I’m doing some more dynamic exercises. I’m doing push-ups. I’m doing pull-ups, like what I call micro-movements throughout the day just to stay limber because I workout maybe four times a week at the gym or at home with weighs, but that’s not enough to counteract the effect of sitting or just sedentarism, being sedentary.
Being active on a low level throughout the day is very important. Walking, taking the stairs, get up, standing at your desk instead of sitting, these are all things in the long run that I believe are much more important than just working out a couple times a week. Research shows even going to the gym five days a week does not counter effect, or sorry, counteract the effect of sitting for 8 to 9 hours a day. It’s pretty pronounced. Those are a couple of things that I do to prime my nervous system and get it going.
Dave: Would you prefer like lounging instead of sitting to take the pressure off your butt?
Yuri: It’s interesting because you’re like sitting … We’re not meant to sit obviously because there’s too many tailbone.
Yuri: I’ll say standing is obviously best, but when you think about lying down I think a lot of … Again, coming back to energy, when we feel the most tired we end up lying down, we don’t want to stand, we want to lie down. I think part of the reason for that is because our heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood against gravity.
Dave: It’s true.
Yuri: If we’re lying down that’s temporarily okay in terms of restoring energy but if we’re always lying down or in a horizontal position we’re essentially getting our heart lazy. That’s why something as simple as standing more often throughout the day can be a great thing for your heart because now your heart has to say, “Oh my God, I got to move blood 6 ft.” As opposed to no ft., and just the act of standing can now prime you heart and the muscles in your lower body to start really pumping the blood back up to your head, which just by itself can be a big thing for a lot of people.
Dave: The idea of standing versus sitting properly, like there’s this whole school of thought about, “Well, you’re sitting wrong. You’re crossing your legs. You’re not doing this.” But I watch my kids, the reason I asked about lounging it was, partly because it’s funny but also probably because I watch my 5 year old and my 7 year old and they’ll lay on their stomach and they’ll do something. I’m like, “Get up and run around,” and then they’ll sit down but sitting isn’t natural for them, but laying seems more natural than sitting for kids versus that we’re, fold yourself into a chair.
I’ve never seen a standing desk or they’re just from lounging, like laying on your stomach, working in your elbows desk all the way to standing. I’ve never tried that but I always wonder if that might be a better choice and I thought you might know something about that.
Yuri: I’ll take my laptop and I’ll just work on the floor sometimes. That’s it. I’m just getting my back into extension and alleviating some of that stress, sometimes I’ll do that.
Dave: There’s also the proprioceptors in your joints, they sense motion, they sense pressure and all. There’s probably value from feeling the floor when you lay on the floor versus like laying on the world’s fluffiest mattress. There’s a signal that should be coming to your body that isn’t coming in when you do that. I often wonder what those little tweaks and whether it is like a whole universe of best practice that is somewhere between standing and sitting and maybe we’ll get the data someday.
Yuri: Indeed we will.
Dave: What’s your deal with training? What should people do for optimal results?
Yuri: Whats my deal like workouts, like physical trainings?
I think I’m definitely in the camp that less is more and that quality over quantity basically is just what I said, but intensity is very important. It’s a Catch-22 because intensity will kill you if you do too much of it. Intensity and duration are inversely related. The higher the intensity the lower the duration. You can run a marathon but you can’t sprint for two hours. That’s why you can only sprint for 10 or 12 seconds.
The benefit, again, I played pro soccer so much of how I trained was explosive training. I was a goalie so I didn’t do much during the games but in training it was very explosive training, 10 to 15 seconds full-out and then recover and then we go again. If you look at sprinters, if you look at a lot of the most powerful athletes in the world, a lot of the leanest athletes in the world that don’t look like they’re going to fall apart because they’re running hundreds of miles a week, they’re incorporating high intensity, lower volume.
I remember when I was at the University of Toronto I used to watch the sprinters train and this is basically … Sprinters used to train, this is just one of the examples, they’d be sitting on the bench by the track and they’d just be like looking at their phone, just like talking to somebody on the phone for like 10 minutes and then the next thing you know it’s like, “Vroom.” Like sprints after they warm up a little bit and then they’re back on the bench talking to somebody or reading a book.
I’m like, “How is this doing anything?” But again, at the complete, one of the spectrum we have, they are training their nervous system to respond at a 100% of its ability. They need lots of rest and recovery. They’re not going to wear themselves down, they need every single rep to be at a 100%. You train, you get what you train. They’re training to be at a 100%. I think for most people we’re not obviously sprinters but I think we can take elements of what these guys do, what these athletes do and bring it down to our level.
I think, and what I’ve done with hundreds of thousands of people and probably more than 1,200 elite athletes is focus on less or fewer workouts, I would say about four times a week and anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes is all you need. If we’re talking about the goal of getting lean, strong, burning fat, that’s my thing. I don’t deal with people who want to build mads amounts of muscle. If that’s the goal, burning fat is the goal, staying strong and lean is the goal you need to be using big movement, getting your body to very metabolically active using large muscle groups.
The simplest way to remember this is a simple physics equation, Work = Force X Distance. Work is the amount of work you do or the number of calories you burn, Force is how much force you generate, either move your body weight or weights, and then Distance is distance. If you do a bicep curl with 20 lbs. you’re doing a 20 lbs. bicep curl, let’s say over 1 foot, versus taking those 20 lbs. from the floor to above your head.
That’s a very different metabolic exercise. You’re getting a lot of muscles involved, you’re moving that same weight over a greater distance so you get more caloric benefit in that same amount of time. As it pertains to burning fat and really engaging as many muscles as possible that’s the way to do it. When you do that instead of doing, because I’m going to do triceps, and back and biceps, and chest, when you’re focusing the workouts around full body movements where you don’t have a lot of rest in between you’re able to get a lot more done, more density in less time.
That’s a huge benefit for saving time in the gym, getting more muscles involved which is ultimately going to burn more calories, and it’s very important for women to understand you have to be lifting heavier weights. You cannot be lifting weights for like 20 reps, that’s a waste of time. Women do not have the same genetic hormonal make-up as men so you’re not going to bulk up as we do. You want to keep your repetitions to within, I’d say 4 to 8 repetitions max. That means that you maybe lifting a weight that only allows you to do 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 reps. If you’re doing anything that’s … if you’re able to get to the 8th rep and you’re like, “Oh I could do a couple more,” then increase the weight.
When you do that you’re going to stimulate more muscle fibers which is going to have a lot of benefits for strength, for caloric expenditure and it’s just the smartest way to train. It’s amazing that people, especially women are still spending so much time and so scared of lifting heavier weights when it’s proven to be the most effective way to burn fat, but also to strengthen your bones. If you’re somebody who’s worried about osteoporosis in introducing heavier weights that’s the best way to do it.
Three to four times a week, full-body exercises, heavier weights, get to a point where you’re huffing and puffing a little bit, and really kind of, where you feel your body generating heat and those benefits are going to last for a long time after the workout, not just during the workout, what I call passive fat loss.
Dave: You’re not concerned about adrenal fatigue on four times a week? Do you have people doing that protocol, looking at their eyes, they probably need a lot of recovery to do that much.
Yuri: Again, four times will be the max. I’m usually recommending people, like most of the workout programs I’ve developed are three times a week, but again if you have adrenal fatigue and you know you have adrenal fatigue I would say those type of workouts are probably not the way to go because you need to … If you’re doing that same, you can still do a full-body movement but instead of doing like a circuit training fashion we’re you’re doing like one exercise the next, the next, the next, with little rest, if you have adrenal fatigue … I remember when I was going through adrenal fatigue a while ago I couldn’t train the same way I did, like I did before when I was playing soccer. I was like, “Okay, well what am I going to do here?”
You have to spend more time recovering. You essentially have to train like a sprinter. You’re doing exercise, you still lift a good heavy weight but you need to give yourself a good amount of time until you’re fully recovered before you go again. That’s a really important distinction for people to understand. If you have adrenal fatigue exercise is a stress. You need to really keep that in check.
That’s why I think programs, I won’t mention any names but a lot of the ones we see on infomercials where it’s like, “Two hours a day, seven days a week, you’ll have the best shape of your life,” that’s probably true but what happens after 90 days?
Dave: There’s one, I don’t even remember which one. We took interval training and we turned it upside down. The whole time we’re at high intensity except for this little brief… and I’m like, “This is going to wreck you,” just like a raw vegan diet after three or six months of that, I feel good at first but it’s not going to end well and either one of those things. That’s just my jaw dropping, I heard that I’m like, “This isn’t going to work but you might look good for a little while.”
Yuri: I think the workout itself is a stimulus but then your body has to recover and it has to rest and that’s why you do these short bouts of 20 to 30 minutes of activity three times a week, the rest of the time is recovery. It’s like good quality sleep, doing things like yoga, stretching, foam rolling, walking, just staying active and those are really important because it’s the rest. It’s like the 80-20 rule, it’s like 80% of the time should be spent some recovery mode, we’re just kind of just lightly moving your body. Because if it’s the other way around it’s like driving a car at 7000 RPM’s, like you’re going to burnout, you’re going to kill yourself.
Dave: We don’t want people to do that no matter what dietary philosophy or exercise philosophy they’re doing. People who are nearing burnout they tend to get angry and snippy and they attack other people and they’re mean online, and generally doesn’t lead to a happy place for anyone.
Yuri: Not at all.
Dave: Yuri there’s a question that everyone who’s on the show gets asked and it’s one that you may expect to be coming but given all the stuff we just talked about, all the stuff that you know, and you’ve been a pro athlete and you’ve trained lots of people, the top three most important things for people who want to kick more ass, what would you say?
Yuri: I would say first and foremost is get your own stuff together. Basically what I mean by that is spend time on yourself, figure out what really drives you in life and spend more time doing that. If you spend more time in your passion you’re naturally going to feel more energized, you’re going to feel happier. Spend time figuring what that is for you and if you know what it is spend more time doing it because that’s really important.
If you’re working in a job that you hate, I’m not saying quit your job but you may want to consider really exploring what really jazzes you up because that’s the essence of life in terms of feeling fulfilled, that’s … I think the foundation is very important to just follow your bliss.
Second is just, again, from a nutritional perspective just create a foundation of plant-based awesomeness. Get a lot of greens into your body. Just raise the alkalinity inside your body, you’re going to feel instantaneously better within like 24 to 48 hours. I’ve seen this in thousands and thousands of people, and it doesn’t matter if you’re having, like if you’re following your plan which is a high fats or whatever it is, just getting more greens in, more green juices, all that great stuff is tremendous.
Third would be to just … Again, there’s so many things but I would say probably just move more. Think about … instead of thinking about working out just think about moving more. Even if you never go to the gym, hey can you go for a walk on a daily basis? Can you stand instead of sit all day? Can you just do some exercises here and there that keep your body moving and limber and just moving.
I think that’s a really important distinction to move away from using the gym as this way of repenting our sins from sitting all day to just being a little more active on a day to day basis. I think in the long run that’s probably going to be more beneficial than just, “I’m only going to go to the gym a couple times a week.”
Dave: Makes great sense. Yuri, thanks for on the show. Will you tell people where they can find you, find your latest book.
Yuri: I’ve got a lot of properties online, the best place is probably my blog which is yurielkaim.com, and you can grab my book, The All-Day Energy Diet which is right there. You can grab that on Amazon or any bookstore, and it’s probably the two best places.
Dave: Thanks Yuri.
Yuri: Absolutely buddy, thanks for having me.
Dave: If you enjoyed today’s episode of Bulletproof Radio I’d like you to go out there and check out Yuri’s book because that’s why we have guest like Yuri on so you can go out there and learn what they’re doing and I really do my best to bring you leading-edge thinkers, people who are thinking outside the box and doing things that are uncommon but uncommonly good. While you’re at it pick up a copy of The Bulletproof Diet book and they make a great pairing. Have an awesome day and I’ll be back shortly with another episode for you.