This week on the 20 Minute Fitness podcast we had the pleasure to sit down with Dr. Brett Kirby, who is currently the Senior Scientist of the Human Performance Team in the Nike Sport Research Laboratory and is on the Scientific Advisory Board at Amp Human. Dr. Kirby has always been passionate about exploring the possibilities that can help people become better today than yesterday, which is what led him to this career path.
Listen on to hear all about what Dr. Kirby means by human performance, how you can optimize your performance, and how the AMP Human products can help!
Three Things You’ll Learn
1) Human Performance Optimization
Dr. Kirby prefers the terminology ‘human endeavor’ as he believes everyone has a place where they want to go and hence we all have an endeavor. As an athlete, once you’ve decided what you want to achieve the progression towards it is how you define performance. Therefore, it is different for every individual depending on their goals.
According to Dr. Kirby, there are four main types of human performance: maximizing, such as maximizing how high I can jump; minimizing, such as minimizing my weight; making a trade-off; and making a target.
Press play to learn about the ecosystem approach, which defines how they spend time with athletes when aiming to optimize their performance!
2) The Internal & External Factors Impacting Human Performance
There are both internal and external factors and both dynamic and static ones when it comes to human performance. Taking the example of a runner, genetics is an internal static factor that you can’t change. However, the way you show up, the framework of your mind is an internal dynamic one that you can work on.
On the external side, the course of a race is static, so you can’t do much to alter it. But becoming comfortable understanding what’s on that course is a dynamic factor that you can work on. Even the sense of understanding of what factors are dynamic and what factors are static will give you power.
In today’s show, you can learn more about internal and external factors impacting human performance and why Dr. Kirby thinks that looking outside of where your micro-domain is helpful!
3) Nike Breaking 2 Project
One of the amazing projects that Dr. Kirby got involved in at Nike was the Breaking 2 Project that attempted to prepare athletes for running a marathon in under 2 hours. His role as a scientific architect included things like working on the performance program and the optimization plan.
They put together very detailed programs for the athletes containing not only training but hydration, and nutrition plans too. All three athletes got a completely individual program based on their personal needs.
Listen to hear more about the project that was almost 4 years in the making behind the scenes!
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Martin Kessler: Hello, boys and girls, ladies and gents, welcome to 20 Minute Fitness, the show that covers science and technology, in and around fitness and health in just a few minutes. I’m your host, Martin Kessler, and on today’s 20 Minute Fitness, I’m pleased to have Dr. Brett Kirby, joining the conversation.0:00:17.9 MK: Brett is a senior scientist of the Human Performance Team, at the Nike Sports Research Labs in Beaverton, Oregon, where his team focuses on Human Performance Optimization. He’s also been part of the Breaking2 project, which was Nike’s epic endeavor to break the sub two-hour marathon, back in 2017. Brett believes in a mix of science, tech and human experience, to get athletes to achieve their best results.0:00:43.2 MK: In today’s show, you can expect to learn some cues how, no matter your chosen sport, you can reach your full potential. 20 Fit is brought to you by ShapeScale, the personal 3D body scan that keeps visually track of your body composition, so you can see the changes your eyes can’t see.0:01:01.3 MK: Hi, Brett. Great to have you on the show.0:01:02.8 Dr. Brett Kirby: Thanks, Martin. It’s great to be here. Really appreciate it.0:01:04.8 MK: Awesome. Well, can you start off by telling our listeners more about, well, your own background and why they should listen to you and your know how about optimizing athletic performance.0:01:14.2 DK: I think it’s a good question, Martin, why they should listen to me. I think where I’d like to start is typically why I do what I do, what I care about, and usually, I start with my passion, which is to ignite the possibilities by which people think so they can be better today than yesterday. I try to do that in a kind of a holistic frame, where I’m trying to spend time thinking about things that I care about, integrity, empathy, honesty, curiosity. Those are kind of features that I use, and luckily, I’ve been able to come up with that little filter that I just shared there, about igniting that passion, because that helps me kind of choose what I get to do on a daily basis.0:01:45.0 DK: And so, when it comes down to my background, I think I’ve gotten the opportunity to leverage that curiosity through teaching, coaching. I coached athletes for many years. I’m a teacher at the University of Oregon. I get to work at Nike, in our Nike Sport Research Lab and so, I kinda had a variety of opportunities on where I get to see how people can progress and move forward in their own journey.0:02:04.1 MK: Right. And so, you’re currently with Nike Sport Research Labs, where you and your team are focusing holistically, on solving athlete problems through, I quote, “human performance optimization”. What do you actually mean by human performance?0:02:16.6 DK: When talking about human performance, sometimes now, I’ve moved to a new phrase, human endeavor is kind of what I care about saying now, ’cause performance sometimes, we have these pre-conceived notions, but for everybody to have an endeavor or a place where they wanna go, so talk about what is it that you wanna achieve as an athlete, where you wanna be and how can you progress, a progression towards some achievement is usually how we define the performance.0:02:37.3 DK: Then I spend time with that person to define what that is. It’s maybe dunking a basketball for one person, another person, it’s getting a start line with 5k, another person, it might be a gold medal at the Olympics. It varies in all different shapes and sizes.0:02:49.1 MK: Right and I’m sure you work with all kinds of athletes but are there some general factors that play a role when it comes to human performance? Like internal factors, when it comes to the human physiology or maybe even some external factors?0:03:01.3 DK: Absolutely. So one of the ways that we frame up how we spend time with athletes, I’ll think about this, it’s a ecosystem approach. Just like in biology, an ecosystem will be the interaction with, say, in this case, with an athlete and its surroundings. So for you, Martin, or me or somebody else, we’re all gonna have our own little ecosystem. Somebody’s gonna start and say, “I’d like to get going and try to run my first 5K.” let’s go with that example, has a different ecosystem around how they can get there. Maybe it’s the first time, as opposed to somebody who runs it once a year, the Turkey Trot for the last 20 years. The way they need to get there is very different than another person.0:03:33.1 DK: So I like to individualize this with what’s your ecosystem, around you as an athlete, even maybe even more deeply biological, what’s the habitat. When we think about an earthworm who has to survive in the dirt, versus marmot up on the mountains, versus a toucan in the rainforest, those are all unique aspects of where they have to thrive and survive. We’re taking that concept to the athlete, that can help them say, “Okay, what’s my habitat around me? How can I thrive, so that I can be the best that I can be, as I approach whatever my endeavour is, whatever that I need to optimize for?”0:04:01.9 DK: We start to break it down into specifics and what I really wanna… I’ll use four things: Maximizing, minimizing, making a trade-off, or a target. So let’s walk through those four. When somebody says, “I wanna optimize for something,” we’ll say, “Do you wanna minimize something?” you wanna minimize the amount of weight, let’s say, and you say, “I just wanna lose weight.” and they’re trying to minimize how much weight they have, or somebody might be saying, “I wanna maximize something. I wanna maximize how high I can jump, so we’re looking for, “Are you try to reduce something, lower it, or are you trying to increase something?”0:04:29.5 MK: But sometimes, they may be independent, right? It’s also about prioritizing. Minimizing my weight could have impacts on certain aspects of my performance, it may help me to achieve greater distances, at a better pace, because now I’ve lowered my weight, I have less weight to carry, but I may also risk losing some muscle mass, which may actually deter my lower distance performance, because I don’t have as much explosive energy anymore. How do you even go about evaluating what are the things to focus on, what to minimize, what to maximize?0:05:00.0 DK: That’s a good one. So that’s one of the fourth one, that’s the trade-off one. That’s viewing the world as a spectrum around us. Like you said, if I do something, something else might happen. If I lose weight, the payoff might be that I get to run faster, the penalty might be that I become at risk for a certain injury and that’s the trade-off. Typically, we land when we chalk through those four things, we’re gonna be in a scenario where there’s gonna be a lot of trade-offs. When we go through that, it’s spending a lot of time up front with a person to say, “What’s one thing you care most about? If you had to choose, what’s one thing?” then from there, looking at the dependencies that could be associated with that.0:05:33.6 MK: Right. And how do you even look at all different internal factors first? Do you have a check up? Are there some common biomarkers to look at, or some performance markers that you look at? We can stick with an example of the 5k or the marathon, endurance athlete per se.0:05:54.8 DK: Looking typically for internal and external factors and things that are dynamic and static. Those are typically what we’re looking for. Want me to explain those a bit?0:06:04.1 MK: Yeah. Yeah. I would love to hear more about that.0:06:05.8 DK: Okay. When we think about the internal, this is the body of the athlete and the mind, their soul and their spirit, so those things that are kind of them that make them get to the start line of the competition or their event and those are sometimes things that are also static and dynamic, things that say, “Okay, I have my body, my genome, my genetics, let’s say, is fairly set in place but there are some things I can change. I can change the way I show up so I can work on my framework of mine, that’d be a dynamic feature. I can edit it and adjust it and improve it so it’s good for me, when we’re spending time with athletes, we’re thinking about, “What’s editable?0:06:37.6 DK: What is dynamic here that I can shift the mood? Physical conditioning, that’d be something that’s me, it’s my internal body but I can improve it through some training. So those would be, an example there, when we talk about external and said maybe we just stick with a 5k marathon that are easy and obtainable. The course of a race would be fairly static. It’s a set course, race course, it’s a marathon. It is what it is. To me there’s not a lot I can do with it, but I could become comfortable understanding what’s on that course. Is it flat, is it hilly, is it supposed to be rainy? Whether… I think that’s dynamic, it’s kind of hit and miss. One day it could be rainy, it could be windy, it could be hot, it could be cold.0:07:09.9 DK: Getting comfortable with that kind of landscape that I’m gonna place myself in for the competition, understanding what’s static and dynamic, things that I can control or not control, give me a lot of sense of power, you show up at the start line. It’s all crazy athletes and if it’s a start line of a football game or soccer game, whatever we name it, what is in control that I can modify and edit if something comes away that I didn’t anticipate? Let’s say halfway through an event, I wanna be prepared to say I can tackle this because it’s not exactly as I expected, but I can pass through this.0:07:40.9 MK: Right, it’s like something that you have factored in in your training beforehand. And now over time, what are some of the things that you have learned in your research and also working with athletes? Where do you see really some of the highest payoffs to make?0:07:54.6 DK: I think diversity in thought. My background Martin, my training, my physiologist and my graduate work at Colorado State University, and that was in Human Physiology, and then I switched and went to Medical Sciences, I went into Hematology, which is basically the study of blood, and I switched back this work performance, here at Nike in my work and that taught me that looking outside of what our micro-domain is, brings a lot of breadth to our understanding.0:08:15.0 DK: So, one of the things I see most when I talk to athletes and spend hours encouraging them to move outside the micro bubble by which they think and live in. Getting a soccer player to talk to an American Football player, to a tennis player, to a cricket player, or moving out of sport domain in general, to talk to business individual who works in high stress situations. That cross-pollination of thinking and applying strategies is really valuable and I’ve seen it bear fruit in my life and also a lot of athletes.0:08:43.3 MK: What kind of cross-pollination are you seeing there? Is it about strategy, is it about training optimization? What is it that one can learn?0:08:52.4 DK: Physical is pretty straightforward, so we can spend time just understanding, let’s say what are the rehab modalities that somebody does in the football club versus in the tennis industry and kinda get a sense of just different sort of treatments, if you will, do somebody use ice bath, do somebody not, do somebody prefer they do… What kind of warm-up routines do they do? That stuff is available as well as the mental state.0:09:12.4 DK: What kind of preparation, let’s say, does a poker player do before a game versus martial artist versus a runner? These are different ways, and they all might have their own different routines and frameworks, but by learning and stretching out a little bit to see what another individual does sometimes gives a new nugget we hadn’t yet seen.0:09:28.6 MK: Yeah, that’s fascinating. It’s really broadening your horizon and I think that’s also something that’s directly applicable even like to every day weekend warriors, right? You may have your sport of choice, you might be maybe a road cyclist, maybe you prefer CrossFit, but we all strive to some goal, and it’s helpful to talk to people out of… That practice different sports, to learn from how they approach their own sport.0:09:54.5 DK: I think that’s spot on partly because in theory we’re unified by the progression towards the achievement but whatever it is that the person moving towards, wherever they wanna be, I wanna be somewhere too and together we can unite on that concept. “Okay, you’re doing something to help you move forward, I wanna do that too. What are you trying?” And we get this kind of co-operative, broader reach in understanding that together we’re moving forward, this is great. Okay, the little details are very, very different maybe again, how somebody holds a tennis racquet versus a punter kick in football. It doesn’t mean we don’t learn, we can explore in and see what is it that you’re doing that I can maybe try and apply to the way I’ve proved my mind or my body.0:10:30.0 MK: 100%. Now, you were also involved in Nike’s the Breaking2 marathon project, can you tell us more about that project and what your role was in that?0:10:38.3 DK: Sure thing. What a beautiful project. Breaking2 project was focused on attempting to run a marathon in under two hours the first time, so it was right around 2017, we did that event. Before that time, a marathon had just been around two hours and three minutes, it was two hours, two minutes, 57 seconds for the world record so we were trying to see if we could get roughly three minutes off the time. I’m grateful to have been part of it. I learned a lot and can share about that, my role was essentially sort of a scientific architect behind the scenes, if you will. So to spend time thinking about what’s the performance program that we put together, what kind of the optimization pattern that we’re talking about today and build that, and think about what athletes should we have involved here, what should we do for the actual event, what should we do to help make sure the athletes arrive on the start lines with the best conditions.0:11:23.3 DK: So we approached it with some of the things that we talked about, we had a target, which was two hours, had to run 26.2 miles in two hours and defined a clear target for us, we knew what kind of speeds we had to achieve, we had to think about how to get there and then that was some exploring with what’s possible to get there, look at what courses are available, what could we do different? A tangible for this Martin, most races, Boston Marathon, New York City Marathon, London Marathon, these big events, pick a day and no matter what, that’s the day of the race. Rain or shine, sleet or snow, whatever happens, that’s the race.0:11:51.8 DK: We know, from a physiological background that it makes a major difference to the athlete’s performance, whether it’s really hot out or really cool out. We were trying to just optimize conditions, so let’s… Rather than just take a dice roll of circumstances, let’s be a little smarter and say, let’s try to get you in a chance where you can showcase your maximum potential. So we worked with there three athletes to give them an opportunity to show their potential and see if two hours is possible and that was everything from course to fluid nutrition, hydration, to the training program, and you name a lot of other things.0:12:21.3 MK: And how long now did that whole process even look like, to plan out that event and training those three athletes?0:12:28.1 DK: In the Nike project, there was a lot in the making to get there. We started around, give or take 2016, the event was in 2017 but there was almost 4 years of brainpower behind that from the Nike engine, if you will. But that… In that year build up, there was some focused work on the trainers, with a roughly six-month program for them, and then there was really getting down to the wire of, we did a test event about a month or two before the final event, and that was tuning the preparation for them. What was the race day gonna look like? It was getting in their minds a visualization profile of the course, what it’s gonna be like to run a pace for a while, that’s really important to visualize. It was going through those strategies and in May 2017, they had a chance to show off and one Athlete named Eliud Kipchoge came very close with 2 Hours 25 Seconds. Beautiful.0:13:13.5 MK: It has the shame that he missed it by a hairline [chuckle], it’s crazy but amazing and now, also out of that project, I think the, what is it called, the Vaporfly Elite shoe came out of that project, which is now one of the favorite shoes to pick when it comes to running a marathon.0:13:30.4 DK: It’s true. Yeah. A lot of people really enjoy that shoe, that footwork came out of that project.0:13:33.7 MK: Doesn’t have a lot of mileage behind it, but for that one race, you really wanna optimize everything that you can. Now, I know there was quite a bit of involvement and optimizing well, who’s gonna run it and what track to run, what’s gonna be the weather conditions and how can we shield those runners from wind through pacemakers but when it came to some of the internal factors of those three athletes, and they were already pro runners right? Those were world class athletes. What could you still find to optimize among them to improve their performance any further.0:14:09.2 DK: That’s a good question, one we get often. One, I like to take the approach that we’re all just humans here and so there’s always something that we can spend a lot of time looking at them so let’s bring us more united on what we’re working towards and with these athletes, that was the same. We’ve been surprised actually that we had room to improve the hydration strategies and nutrition strategies, so before that time, in 2017, there were plenty of people in the sporting industry that were aware of the importance of nutrition. That goes back decades and decades.0:14:37.5 DK: But surprising, some of these runners were not familiar with using a nutrition support through the marathon and a lot of the athletes at the highest levels there were just using what’s available and what was given by the race course offering.0:14:48.9 MK: Huh! No way.0:14:49.6 DK: Yeah, shocking right? So that was again, the same kind of thing like, Wow! There’s a lot of opportunity. Why don’t we give you the nutrition that your body needs as opposed to what is maybe the dynamics of a race course, which is maybe logistics, at the marathon events. How do you get, organize these many people to get fluids? So again, it’s the opportunity to do things right for the athlete. Again, show you the course, get the weather right, give you the right apparel, give you right footwear, give you the right nutrition. Let’s give you a chance to show who you can be without, again, sort of the extraneous circumstances of life just having life…0:15:20.7 MK: Right and their nutrition was figured out down to the individual level? Did it differ between the three athletes, and if so, how did you figure out how it differed and how did that look at the end?0:15:30.7 DK: It did. We built an individual program for each athlete so the carbohydrate intake for, let’s say for the race day for simplicity here, what’s the carbohydrate intake that they need to manage and how much food do they need to take on? Simple Strategies for fluid management are just weighing yourself after a series of runs, and if you weigh your body, you can get a sense of how much fluid you’ve lost. So one litre of fluid is roughly one kilogram of body weight loss. Somebody weighs themself on the scale, they lose a kilogram probably should take in roughly a liter of fluid to re-hydrate. So you can use some simple strategies on weight to guide fluid intake and so we were able to spend some time, we went down to visit them in their country and got journals back and improved the hydration.0:16:09.0 DK: And then it was a matter of getting nutrition in and then that was just spending time, what are you taking in now? What can your stomach tolerate? A lot of athletes have trouble ingesting certain levels of carbohydrate and protein, if they take that in. So it’s finding A, something that they can tolerate in the GI, something they like and then something that works for them so that was getting them mainly carbohydrate or beverage.0:16:30.9 MK: And then how did you figure out what somebody can tolerate from the GI?0:16:35.2 DK: We start with some simple approaches. So you’re roughly trying to get between 60 and 90 grams of carbohydrate per hour per athlete. When we first started… When we spend time with athletes in general, sometimes they’re just 20 to 40 grams, we’re trying to get them up again closer to 60 for those kinds of events. You just see what is somebody taking in and let’s slowly increase this and over time, see does it bother your stomach? If it bothers your stomach, we give a little bit of a window because the stomach is just like every other… Let’s say it’s just like your muscle. You can train your gut if you will. You can train the gut to get tolerant and more comfortable with having carbohydrate in it and after a time, if they don’t adjust to it and the body doesn’t adapt, that we will maybe make a switch to the type of carbohydrate. The type of sugar can make a big difference on what their stomach is. Gets angry at.[chuckle]0:17:19.8 MK: And is there a limit how many carbs one should consume? Is there an optimum level?0:17:25.6 DK: Yeah. For high endurance, high activity that’s long, you’re trying to get again, between 60 and 90 grams carbohydrate. 90’s the upper game, typically most of the research right now is not saying that you get a lot, much more bang for the buck around that. I will say that I think some timing, some shortcuts people can do if they can’t get there is just the timing of it. Sometimes we don’t take it in early enough in an event, we kinda wait til we already feel like we’ve hit the wall, and that can be a miss-timed opportunity. So I think sometimes taking it a little bit earlier to start and trying to just offer a loss of the future, trying to offset anything rather than getting empty and saying, okay, let me try to take gel right now or take some drink, it’s kinda maybe a little too late so I think that’s one shortcut for people.0:18:05.4 MK: And what would be something that casual marathon runners could take away from some of those lessons, in your opinion.0:18:12.5 DK: I think one of the first things they can do is just become aware of it, are you doing anything right now or is it just again, is it just happenstance? The more we can spend time thinking about our event and our bodies and competition as we have control over, we can edit it and improve it. Let us see what’s available and so what can I do before I get to the race? Can I do something that allows me to be prepared? So I can’t maybe control what the race organizers give me, but what can I do to show up with my best opportunity and take advantage of that? So that’s being aware of maybe what I can tolerate or not tolerate and when I might take some food on or nutrition on.0:18:46.1 MK: And do you think there’s a pay-off in bringing maybe your own nutrition? If you don’t know what the race organizers are gonna provide and maybe it’s not gonna be the right fit for you. Would it make sense maybe to bring my own gel, maybe even a banana, if that’s what my stomach prefers?0:19:02.5 DK: Absolutely, Martin. So when we dig deep on this stuff and get really, let’s say, nitty gritty for high value competition, we examine the trade-offs and there’s always a penalty and a pay-off with the situation so if somebody goes to race and they typically know they have GI stress and they’re just fearful. They’re worried, they’re like, “Man I’ve showed up to so many races and I keep having to take a pit stop for the bathroom and it just bums me out because I wanna get through a race feeling great and… “Okay, so that trade-off is they just eat whatever is available and they know that they have challenges. They should bring their own and take the weight loss, put a little hip belt on and you just accept the penalty of “Okay, I weigh a little bit more because I brought the gel canister with me around my hip bone.”0:19:40.9 DK: But, I don’t have to stop and I don’t have to have GI distress at mile 12 and at mile 18 and I can go through the race feeling good and complete it the way I wanted to. The pay-off is way better than the penalty of rolling the dice. So getting an individual to frame up Option A against Option B makes sometimes reframe the way we look at things that, “You know what, actually, I don’t wanna have a messed up gut. I wanna feel good at the end, let me try this.” Not saying it’s that way for everybody, but that would be a way to go through the thought process.0:20:07.4 MK: Love that. And recovery is obviously also a big factor on that and there’s the recovery before you actually commit to an event, like let’s say you have a marathon or maybe you have like a big match, whatever sport you’re playing or a competition of some sort, you need to be well recovered and well-rested before that event and then you need to recover after that event, because you’re pushing, really, your body to its physical limits. What would you recommend? What have you learned in that regard?0:20:32.4 DK: When I think about recovery, I think about two things; optimizing and adapting. Optimizing is what we’re talking about a lot about the moment. It’s about today, in this time, what can I really do? Sometimes we wanna adapt for the future, wanna be strong for the future. The best way to prepare ourselves for recovery is to build a strong foundation. We want to allow ourselves to to naturally adapt to the stresses. So sometimes when we’re spending time with an athlete, we ask them “What’s going on?” So let’s say it’s summer time, someone lives in Arizona, it’s hot and there’s a lot of stress. They’re trying to do the hard workouts down there, it’s hot, they’re losing a lot of fluids.0:21:05.1 DK: In this case we might be saying, “Is it okay? Should we chase recovery right now or should we let our body adapt to the heat and the stress?” So that eventually, in three, six months time, you’re really robust and you’re gonna be better off in the future by adapting. So the first piece of recovery is typically, do you have time to let yourself naturally adapt and do you… Can you do that? So let’s say they’re in the basketball, like NBA, and they’re playing so many games over and over and over, there’s a managing of like, I need to recover pretty quickly ’cause I gotta get to the next game.0:21:32.9 DK: So in those cases, okay, we have to do what we need to do, massage or certain therapies to help them get the muscle and the tendon and the body back ready to play again. But if the person has time, we say “Let’s go to natural.” And then we need to use some modalities, recovery modalities, to get you back in shape and prepared.0:21:47.6 MK: And how much rest would you recommend then, if you have a big match coming up or a big competition and then now that everyone has different rituals, not almost doing any exercise for X amount of days or not having like… I don’t know, any sexual intercourse. Everyone has got a different theory of what’s helping but what have you actually learned? What is gonna be the best approach?0:22:13.8 DK: Well one universal; sleep, hands down. Sleep has the most potency for rejuvenation, just letting your body maximally rest. We’re not on our feet, we’re laying on our backs, typically or our sides and you’re just not stressing the body. It’s funny to be talking about the sides, sometime we’ll think about space flight. In space flight, the body is essentially in this crazy state where the body is de-training. That can be simulated when people rest on their bed. So sometimes that’s a maximum state of recovery, you’re just really letting things just go, even keel, mind is chilling, there’s not a lot of stimuli, the blood sits around the heart, muscles aren’t moving.0:22:47.8 DK: So again, sleep, powerful and thinking about how a person can get them in a relaxed state, powerful. I don’t typically use broad sleeping notions. I like to spend time with each athlete and say, “What’s best for you?” Some people, they just feel good doing something two days before an event, some people don’t and so we typically are balancing what helps you get right and then like mentally and what helps you get right physically for your event.0:23:09.3 MK: And how about nutrition? Would you switch anything up or would you just stick to a routine so you don’t stress your digestive system in any kind of way?0:23:18.9 DK: Practice routine, I think is good. There are strategies, certainly, before we get to an event that we might want to employ but we always want to practice those. So let’s say somebody is, maybe gonna take on a little extra salt, so salt will be a way you can improve the hydration status coming up to events, so you have salt loading. Maybe somebody wants to take on a little extra nutrition with carbohydrates, so carbohydrate loading. Let’s say these are endurance events, that kind of stuff is totally appropriate if the athlete is prepared and familiar with how they put their body through that.0:23:48.2 DK: I don’t typically encourage trying something out of the blue the first time. Maybe in the training for a good run you say “Okay”… Or in a good cycling, big couple of hours, you’re gonna do a Gran Fondo for a couple hours and you say, “Okay. I’m gonna prepare as if this were the real deal. Let me go through the practice and see what happens.”0:24:04.8 MK: Yeah, I love that. It goes back to the equipment. One probably should not introduce anything that’s new for that important competition or race day because it could really throw you off because something doesn’t work.0:24:18.8 DK: I think they… I think there’s a balance between… I’ve been trying to find a way I can get good terminology with this but there’s a variation and a self-discipline there that should go mutually hand in hand. So as we approach getting ready, we want variation, we want this diversity. There’s some cool studies out there that show when people take new routes of walking to work, they feel better, their mood state is elevated and that natural sort of newness is exciting for people and same with the workouts. Sometimes we want some variation in the way we’re thinking and doing and being but we also want some self-discipline.0:24:49.7 DK: So I think… I’m trying to find the way with this with athletes, but I think there’s some appropriate exploration early so that when we’re ready on race day, we don’t have to necessarily explore. We’ve got the discipline and the consistency to execute but we don’t wanna get there dull. So we don’t wanna get there flat and bored. We wanna get there like “I’m ready. I’ve done a lot of exploration and now it’s time to close the deal.”0:25:09.3 MK: Yeah. I mean that’s really what sometimes training can be for, to try new things, new strategies, new training regimens and see if they have an impact when you perform it.0:25:18.8 DK: Exactly.0:25:19.1 MK: Now, you talked a bit about passive recovery, namely sleep, which is a huge factor when it comes to being ready and also to recover after an event but still also some active recovery methods, like massages or percussion guns or anything that you can recommend, foam rolling, that you’ve seen particularly work well?0:25:39.3 DK: Surprisingly, I’ve seen a lot of people really like these percussion guns as you just commented on. A lot of anecdotal feedback. Some of the athletes just… I find they enjoy the feeling after that and they can kinda get in a little bit certain sections that’s harder to reach with self-massage. So always encouraged some level of self-massage if they want. Those guns get you a little more pressure in certain spots.0:26:00.0 DK: For individuals who may have sort of muscle strains, I do think there’s some compression benefit to certain muscular injury where they can keep a little tight support in those regions, that has been positive. A lot of athletes enjoy massage. There’s a debate on cold and hot, let’s say hot baths, that’s always really time dependent on, do you want adaptations now, do we need to manage inflammation where you have some kind of knee swelling, you need to actually treat it.0:26:22.3 DK: Maybe we would use some cold to get you, kind of, to the next stage. So it kind of depends a little bit on the timing of when you need to do what you need to and to what extent you need to perform. Somebody can have a full off week. That’s cool, to just take it down, do the massage, take some rest, get some sleep, get the good nutrition so you have protein. So one other example, easy one for athletes is protein and carbohydrate a little bit before bed. There is some nice data that’s just saying the timing of getting that protein when you sleep allows you, kind of, the double rate, you’re getting a recovery from the sleep but you’re getting some fuel to enhance the recovery process.0:26:54.4 MK: Right and do you, I don’t know, prefer any specific protein? I know a lot of athletes like to consume Casein protein because it’s slowly being digested overnight or do you have no preference at all?0:27:07.3 DK: I don’t have a… Not too much for a preference. The natural food, typically we start with and the first step is getting the athlete to do it. Let’s start with 80% of the gain as you choose anything, 20% will be refining what it is but let’s start with just, let’s give it a go and see if it works for you.0:27:23.3 MK: Now, you’re also on the scientific advisory board of Amp Human, which is also in the recovery space. Can you tell us more about Amp Human?0:27:30.9 DK: Yeah, you bet. Amp Human’s a human performance company. They’re venture-backed, they’re in Park City, Utah. They have a pretty cool vision. They’re trying to help every human they can to be limitless and they have a nice blend between doing what’s possible and kind of managing this leading edge tech, if you will, to inspire athletes to be their best.0:27:48.6 MK: And how does that look like? What do their products do? For our listeners who have never come across them.0:27:54.1 DK: Yeah, they have two, kind of, key products right now. Their signature product, that’s been out for a couple of years now, something that produced an evolution is their performance recovery lotion. Fascinating technology here. So for many, many years in the science industry and say in academics, even when I was going through grad school, we would study bicarbonate and so bicarbonate is this agent the body produces that helps us buffer acid.0:28:16.6 DK: Technically, it buffers this hydrogen ion in the body but that’s what gives us this sort of acid situation, doesn’t allow us to keep going, we get kind of fatigued. So these athletes, for many years, would take bicarbonate and be like an… It’s almost like a Pepcid or a Tums capsule. But they would get stomach upset and it would be beneficial to some performances in the research but they would feel like this massive GI complication.0:28:37.9 DK: And so this performance recovery lotion from Amp has circumnavigated that. They’ve turned it into a lotion where bicarbonate is transdermal so that basically means it can bypass the gut into the blood, into the muscle. So you don’t have to have this gut stress of getting really sick but you can get a benefit of bicarbonate, which helps the athletes feel better after so they have, sort of less fatigue state. We call it delayed onset muscle soreness. So what the lotion seems to get the athlete to a state of feeling less sore afterwards and then when they look at doing some interesting performance examples, the athletes are able to have a little bit better power output during cycling and weightlifting.0:29:14.9 DK: It’s pretty interesting phenomena with the lotion.0:29:17.0 MK: So it would be something that you only apply after a strenuous workout that could’ve really put a strain on your muscles or also something that you could sometimes use in preparation of a race.0:29:27.2 DK: I think we’ve got both here. I think we’re seeing that some athletes will use the lotion regularly during hard training and they feel like it helps them put out higher quality workouts and then on the race day, they feel they can get through the race feeling better, fresher, perceived exertion is a little lower and the power output’s higher. But also some athletes like to use it when they do massage. So if they have a massage therapist they can go to, or they do self-massage, they’ll put it on for recovery and they kinda put it in the areas they feel like… And they just massage it in and that gives that less soreness feeling afterward and they seem like, they say… The next day they come back feeling a little bit better.0:30:02.6 MK: What’s the science behind it? How does it really alleviate muscle soreness?0:30:07.2 DK: Yeah so I think the concept is again, this acid buffering concept. This molecule, bicarbonate, will basically just soak up these hydrogen ions and help reduce the acid plentiful state of the body there and also changes some metabolism and the way the body goes through managing its energy. But in theory, that’s the concept. It’s getting that bicarbonate in there to a higher extent and just taking it orally.0:30:28.6 MK: And do you see this as more something for professional athletes or is it for even weekend warriors? How do you see that product best being used?0:30:38.5 DK: I think you get anybody who wants to just progress to be a little bit better. I think you get anybody here. So of course, at the highest level, they may be attracted to that. But if something’s a barrier to an athlete, I always encourage them to explore getting past those barriers and so if somebody’s just feeling a lot of fatigue after their sessions, say it’s a local CrossFitter, who’s just trying to get to the gym, lose a little weight, look a little bit better and maybe they wanna try it out. Just to see if it helps them feel better to get to the next stage of their endeavor. I’m usually encouraging just say “Give it a go.” If it helps you… Placebo or not, science or not, physiology or not, it doesn’t matter to me. Typically like, let’s encourage you to progress and try forward.0:31:15.2 MK: Right. Now, when it comes to recovery and also athletic performance, there are definitely quite a few different products out there. How do you recommend our listeners to vet and evaluate those products? What really worked best for one? How should we make a good choice?0:31:31.8 DK: Martin, it’s really challenging. These days we’re in a flood of information. I typically look for transparency and credibility in the company or the group and so transparency, typically, if they’re showing data about their product, that’s a huge plus. Most of the time, things will have started in the academic side, you have to read through medical journals and say sign up for journals to find that and that’s hard for everyday people. It’s just complicated website to even get there kind of stuff and then reading it, the lingo and terminology is heavy.0:32:00.2 DK: But if a company is sort of forward and transparent that they’re doing research on it, that’s really a good plus. I’d say Amp Human has done a great job being super transparent, they open up. They have a bunch of studies from external groups to support some of their claims and product and so I encourage typically anybody when they’re trying to choose what to use for performance support for them, health, wellness etcetera, then, are they being transparent? Is there credible information by the claim that the company’s making?0:32:25.1 MK: And are there any particular products or supplements that you’ve seen having some of the greatest possible results? I mean it varies, of course, from person to person but what would be some must-haves you would consider for one athlete to use?0:32:40.8 DK: I don’t know from the surface. What I’ll say from the must-haves are the essential 80%. We’ve gotta get the sleep, we’ve gotta get the fundamental macronutrients right, we gotta get the timing of that, so the simple stuff of when I take my protein and carbohydrate in the first 30 minutes after exercise is key. To me, that’s step one as opposed to what is the first thing, the make-up of it? Step one is getting it in at the right time: The sleep routines, showing up consistently to my workout sessions, getting a community around me to help me get through the states of burn out.0:33:11.8 DK: Okay, those are all the must-have set ups. Outside of that? Okay, now let’s add some foam rolling, let’s look into percussion again, ’cause these are… They’re important, they might help me get to the next session so we don’t wanna ignore them. Okay and then get some proper footwear, some proper clothing, let me get the proper equipment to do whatever it is I’m doing and then we just slowly build the layers of the onion, if you will. Now, if somebody’s deficient in certain vitamins. Okay. Maybe they get some supplemental support from a vitamin and mineral state. Okay, we just kinda keep progressing to round out.0:33:40.8 MK: I love that. You have to have a solid foundation and that’s really the 80%, like you say and everything else you put on top of that, that’s really all those extra 10%, 20%. That might be what you need to really hit your new PR but they’re often like some lower-hanging fruits that really are part of that foundation that you have to get right first.0:34:01.0 DK: The payoff from the consistency on the foundation is massive. Our best world-class athletes have not skimped on the routine of the consistent stuff, they have always month after month, year after year, done the essentials and then they’ve layered on that stuff and then that’s where you see massive gains. It’s from any individual who’s been consistent for a long time and that’s, will usually show up in great ways.0:34:23.8 MK: On the flip side, what do you see most athletes actually get wrong when it comes to their own performance and optimizing it?0:34:31.2 DK: I’ll just use my own personal stories here even. I think the rate at which we come back into our routine, so if we… Let’s say something happens, I get sick or injured. We typically come back so hungry, we come back a little bit faster than necessary. That’s the number one thing we always see is, whether I just wanna get out to go exercise with a friend or I’m just hungry ’cause I got a competition coming up, we go out, we jam a little bit harder than we should for the first time so slowing the rate on entry and see if we can be a little bit… Okay, patient today will pay for tomorrow and try that a little bit. That’s typically the best move for what we see most in the early days.0:35:06.7 MK: Yeah, you just gotta pace yourself sometimes. I think that’s a really good note to finish off today’s show. Anything else that you would like to share with our audience, anything that could help them to make the next and right step towards better performance?0:35:21.2 DK: Yeah, I think so. We talked briefly about Amp Lotion and for performance recovery, they have a new one they came out with, a vitamin D lotion, yeah and this is pretty fascinating because a massive amount, I think it’s something like 70% of Americans are deficient in vitamin C and there’s a lot of people in this world deficient in vitamin D. Sorry, vitamin D.0:35:41.4 MK: Yeah, and it’s hugely important for your immunity, especially when it comes to COVID, right?0:35:46.9 DK: That’s what they say. I mean, the studies, I think, are associative, they suggest an association there but also cardiovascular health, general wellness, inflammation, sleep support. So surprisingly, it seems like it’s actually something that’s pretty beneficial and maybe has gotten under the table because we just call it vitamin D, people will think, “Oh, it’s like vitamin C.” but there’s way more to vitamin D than I think we had understood maybe 20, 30 years ago.0:36:10.2 MK: Yeah, it’s so hard to absorb also vitamin D from nutrients alone. I mean, you really need, unless you supplement, of course but from pure food source, it’s really hard to obtain sufficient vitamin D. I mean, that’s what you have to go out for sometimes, for sunshine but especially during winter. That’s a hard time sometimes, depending on where you live, to come by.0:36:29.7 DK: It is hard with the winter and then the skin color, so when someone has a little darker skin or they’re protecting from…0:36:34.5 MK: Oh yeah, that’s right.0:36:35.7 DK: Let’s say you’re wearing some sun protectant, you just have a long sleeve shirt or sunblock, you’re kind of limiting that support to get vitamin D so there’s different strategies to do it and they have the first lotion that allows you to not have to worry about the gut again, so that’s pretty nice.0:36:49.5 MK: That’s great, cool. Yeah, so we make sure to put links into our show notes so our listeners can look that up. Definitely some exciting new products coming there. Well, thank you again for coming on this show, Brett. Brett Kirby. Much appreciated.0:37:01.9 DK: Thanks for your time, Martin, I really appreciate. It’s good to learn with you.0:37:04.5 MK: Alright listeners, we have arrived at the end of our show. Lots and lots of things to take away from here. Three things really struck a chord with me. Firstly, you should really open up your eyes to expose yourself to other athletes, even outside of your own athletic discipline. It’s a great way to broaden your horizon and learn about new techniques that you might want to apply to your own training regimen.0:37:26.5 MK: Secondly, preparation is key. Whether you’re preparing for a race or a competition of sorts, the best athletes study and are prepared for the external environment and potential conditions they may face. They time their nutrition and hydration needs in advance. They stick to their routine and gear and don’t try anything new. In short, they don’t leave anything to chance that they can’t have control over.0:37:49.8 MK: Finally, and I agree 100% with the statement, that passive recovery and sleep in specific, remains one of the single most underestimated factors that can determine your maximum performance. So don’t forget to give your body sufficient time to rest. I leave it at that, and I hope you enjoyed today’s conversation with Brett Kirby.0:38:08.7 MK: As always, you can find our complete show notes on 20minute.fitness. You can also find us at shape20fit on Twitter and Instagram, and you can reach us or me personally @KesslerIO. We would love to hear your thoughts regarding today’s show and of course 20Fit in general. I’m Martin Kessler, 20 Minute Fitness is mixed by Lilla Laczo and produced by Shape in San Francisco. See you next week.