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#32 – Clean Keto, Running 100 Miles in 24 Hours, and Cultivating a Positive Body Image with Drew Manning

Our guest today is Drew Manning from Fit2Fat2Fit. Drew is a fat-adapted personal trainer who deliberately gained 70 pounds, and then lost it, to better empathize with his clients. We discuss his approach to ketogenic diets, why he ran 100 miles in 24 hours for charity, and how to teach our children, and ourselves, to have a healthier body image.

 

 

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This Episode Covers:

  • Drew discussed his Jay Leno appearance [5:30];
  • Societal judgment of body image and the pressure to fit in [11:45];
  • How much protein to eat on Keto [18:30];
  • Running 100 miles in a day on Keto [26:00];
  • The importance of positive body image for kids [38:00]

Transcript:

Drew: The keto diet is the only diet that you can prick your finger and prove that you’re actually doing the diet right or wrong. Like, if you’re in ketosis, you’re definitely doing it right. And if you’re not in ketosis, there’s something there that needs to be addressed, whether too much protein or too high of carbohydrates, or whatever it is. But that’s…I think it’s really important in the beginning. Now, some people get hung up on numbers. Some people get addicted to higher ketone numbers, thinking the higher the better, when, in reality, that’s not necessarily true.

John: Welcome to “The Gene Food Podcast.” I’m your host, John O’Connor. Hey, everybody, welcome to the show. Before we get into today’s episode, I wanted to give a little plug for a new product that we are creating at Gene Food that is very relevant to today’s episode, we’re doing an app called Keto Score. So there is a gene called PPARA, which determines whether people can achieve nutritional ketosis. Because we all know that when you go on the ketogenic diet journey, you’re looking for those ketone levels being elevated in the blood. And those are what are protective. And as it turns out, there’s a genetic dividing line between us, fairly common polymorphisms and PPARA, and we’re putting together a tool that’s gonna tell you, A, can you achieve state of nutritional ketosis? And, B, is a high fat, saturated fat diet gonna do something good to your body, or do we predict that you might wanna go into a more of a direction of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, or maybe just avoid ketogenic diets altogether?

Our guest today is a follower of the ketogenic diet, but one of the reasons why we love them is because he recognizes that there’s a great deal of bio individuality out there, and the ketogenic diet is not suited to everybody. However, it certainly suited to him. Drew Manning, Fit 2 Fat 2 Fit, one of the smartest and best commentators on the ketogenic diet. Drew just completed a race where he ran 100 miles in 24 hours for charity, which is very impressive. And he has a lot of really cool things to say about empathy in the health and wellness space, about raising kids on social media, about body image, about how he approaches keto and what his macros are and how he eats, and how he measures, and how he tests. Really impressive guy. We’re very excited to have him on. So without further ado, here’s Drew Manning from Fit 2 Fat 2 Fit on “The Gene Food Podcast.”

So we have drew Manning here from Fit 2 Fat 2 Fit, joining us from Utah. I was on Drew’s show a few weeks back and he has an awesome story. So I kind of had to have him on “The Gene Food Podcast” as well. So Drew, thanks for joining, man. How are you this morning?

Drew: Doing great. Thanks, John, for having me on. Appreciate it.

John: Yeah, no, I was really happy to get you in front of our audience because you have such a cool story. You got to be one of my favorite people in the keto community, which we’re gonna get into in a minute, but I think for the people that haven’t had exposure to you or heard of your story before, can you just tell us how did you get the name of your business, Fit 2 Fat 2 Fit?

Drew: So that name came… I actually came up with that idea back in 2011. So I had this crazy idea. I was a personal trainer at the time. I had never been overweight a day in my life at the time. And here I was trying to help people who were overweight, most of their lives. And I could tell there was a disconnect. I couldn’t understand why it was so hard for my clients just to do what I told them to do. Like their meal plans, their workouts, like they would struggle. And I’m like, “Why is this so hard? You just put down the junk food. You go to the gym, and it’s not that hard. Like, why is it so hard?” And they would tell me, “Drew, you don’t really understand what it’s like, because for you, you’ve always been fit.” And I kind of took that to heart. So I was thinking of ideas. Okay, how can I gain a better understanding of what it’s like to be overweight, and this idea of getting fat on purpose, as crazy as that sounds, it popped up in my head and it just made sense. It felt like it was a calling to me. And so I was thinking of ideas, like, or names I could call this journey, “What would I call this?”

And the Fit 2 Fat 2 Fit kind of had a ring to it and I test it out with friends and family, “Like, what do you think about Fit 2 Fat 2 Fit?” And they were like, “That makes perfect sense.” So that’s where the name came from. And that was my journey of gaining weight for six months. So I stopped exercising for 6 months, put on 75 pounds, which was way more than I thought I would gain, and then I had to lose the weight. I had to walk the walk and put my money where my mouth is and show people, “Okay, this is how you lose the weight in the next six months.” So it was a year long journey. The story went viral, wrote a book about it, had a TV show about it, went on a bunch of TV shows as well. And that’s where most people know me as, as the Fit 2 Fat 2 Fit guy.

John: Yeah. And you went online all for that, didn’t you?

Drew: Yeah, Jay Leno was the first TV show I went on. He had me on and it was very entertaining, very fun. I was sitting next to Chelsea Handler, and that was an interesting experience.

John: Dude, what was that like backstage? I mean, I would have been terrified to go online, though. I would have been like, “Oh, my God, that’s such an intense platform.”

Drew: Yeah, it was intense because you’re in front of a live audience, even though it’s taped earlier in the day, right? They release it at night, and you’re next to a celebrity like Chelsea Handler, I was super nervous, but I compared it to sports, wrestling, football. Once, like, that first whistle blows and you start, like, you kind of tap into different parts of your brain, that’s what I felt like on Jay Leno. I was like, “All right, I’m in the zone. I’m not worrying about what to say or what not to say.” And I just kind of let it flow naturally, and I kind of compare that to or I attribute doing, okay, on the show, I thought it did really good from my sports background, and so that’s what it was like, so it was fun. Jay Leno was really a nice guy.

John: Yeah, I had a previous startup, failed startup that I worked on where we did Shark Tank. So I have some, like… I don’t think it’s quite as intense as Leno, but you kind of get out there and I know what you mean, you’re kind of nervous to begin, and then you start going and you’re like, “Whatever,” and we’re taking heavy fire too. So, yeah, that can be really intense. So in terms of the protocol for putting on 75 pounds, like, because right now you’re keto. I mean, you’re strict, like, measuring ketones, like, fat-adapted athlete rips, going to the gym. What were your go-to foods for putting on that kind of weight?

Drew: So I wanted to focus on everyday American foods that a lot of us grew up with in the ’70s and ’80s. Because I remember watching Morgan Spurlock on “Super Size Me” and he focused heavily on fast food, specifically McDonald’s. And I think most Americans know fast food is super unhealthy and you’ll gain a lot of weight eating only fast food. What I wanted to do was focus on these everyday American foods that we grew up with in the ’70s and ’80s that sometimes we don’t think is that bad for us. So things like white bread, white pasta, juices, granola bars, chips, cookies, crackers, SpaghettiOs, Hot Pockets, Top Ramen, mac and cheese, all these foods that are super affordable and cheap. That’s the thing. They’re so affordable, and they’re so cheap, but they’re also convenient, because all you have to do is either warm it up in the microwave or add some milk to it, and you have a meal. And they taste really, really good. I’m not gonna lie. The hyper palatability of these foods is like nothing you can find in nature. And so we become so addicted so quickly to these foods. It’s incredible. And even for me, I found myself getting addicted to these foods. But those are the types of foods I wanted to focus on. Because I feel like 80% of America, they buy these foods because they’ve been marketed to us since we were kids. I remember seeing commercials in the ’80s as a kid,you know, a complete American breakfast, which was a bowl of cereal, a tall glass of juice, and a piece of toast. Like that’s what we’ve been ingrained and programmed to think, “Oh, well, that’s what we eat for breakfast here in America.” So that’s what we eat, and that’s what I ate, was that food probably 90% of the time.

John: Yeah, and did you get any blow…? Because I know Morgan Spurlock, I love that movie, “Super Size Me,” I’ve seen that movie like 100 times. Some of the most compelling scenes in that movie are when he goes in and talks dispositions and they’re like, “Dude, if you keep doing this, you’re gonna, like, drop dead tomorrow.” Did you do any blood work during that time to see what your cholesterol looked like, or what your blood sugar numbers looked like, or any of that as a contrast?

Drew: Yes, I did. I did about every month I would drop blood work with my doctor and I can’t remember the specific numbers of everything. I do remember a couple specifics, obviously everything was in the red, as far as health goes, health markers go triglycerides, HDL, LDL, all your basic lipids. But then I remember my blood pressure got up to 167 over 113.

John: Oh, God.

Drew: And my testosterone actually measured that, it was in the low 200s, which is very low for a 31-year-old male that was as healthy as I was, but then eating this way totally dropped it, which was not fun to have a low testosterone. So I wish I had the other numbers memorized. But I got up to 32% body fat and 269 at my heaviest.

John: Wow. And how did people…you know, I mean, people that are listening to the show should definitely follow you on Instagram, we’re gonna get into some of the cool messaging that you have. We really admire your message and your brand, which is why we wanna have you on. But you’re clearly somebody who’s a trainer, you said at the beginning of the show, you’re used to being in good shape. It’s kind of, I think, I know from your bio and chatting with you previously that you played college sports. So how did you notice the world changing in how they reacted to you? Like, when you’d go into a room or you’d go socially, did you start to feel like you’re a different person in terms of, like, you know, I don’t know, attention from women, like, social respect? How did that change when you put on all this weight?

Drew: Yeah, that’s a good question because that was the biggest challenge for me, was the mental-emotional journey that I was on, being overweight. Because physically I was prepared for that side of it. Mentally, emotionally, it was really what I struggled with. So here’s the thing. When you grow up your entire life in shape, like I did, most people, their identity becomes their body. And the opposite of that is true, too. People who grew up their entire life overweight associate their self-image with their body image, and that was for sure me. And that’s why I freaked out going out in public because I was so uncomfortable being overweight for the first time because it’s a loss of identity. So I wanted to go up to strangers and tell them like, “Hey, I’m not really overweight. This is just an experiment here. Here’s my before picture, like this is the real me, this is not who I really am. I just want to let you know what’s going on.” Because I was so uncomfortable, and it was difficult for me. Now here’s the thing. No one treated me differently, I would say, because I feel like society doesn’t judge men as much for being hefty or bigger, right? I think women have it harder. And I feel like, they’re judged more harshly in public if they don’t look a certain way. But men, I don’t really remember anyone being rude to me or say anything rude to me, but I do remember this. I remember at one time I was in the grocery store, checking out with my shopping cart full of junk food. All right. And then there was three women behind me. And I was overweight at the time, of course, and I remember checking out with all this junk food, and cereal, and soda, and all kinds of stuff. And I just remember looking at them, kind of noticing them looking at me, looking at the food and, like, I felt judgment, whether they were judging me or not, I don’t really know. I just was so uncomfortable in that moment where I wanted to say, “Hey, ladies, I normally eat spinach and broccoli and kale. Like, I normally am healthy, but this is just an experiment I’m doing.”

And I kind of bit my tongue, and I didn’t say anything in that moment because I wanted that feeling to sink in. Because it was in that moment where it clicked for me, “Man, this is what my clients go through on a daily basis.” They’re probably feeling that judgment everywhere they go because they’re overweight, because people might be looking at them differently. And whether people are judging you or not, you don’t really know, but you feel the judgment. And I felt that for the first time, and that’s where I start to empathize with my clients like, “Man, I see how hard this is, and I see, like, how hard it is in society to be overweight because…” And I didn’t grow up overweight, so I’m not trying to pretend I know exactly what it’s like. This just give me a small taste of what some people have to go through. And it was really intense and it was really hard for me. So I do remember that, and that was a huge lesson I learned was how much of this journey was mental and emotional, more so than physical?

John: Yeah. And then, of course, so I mean, you’ve got the fat is the kind of the sandwich in between the two fits in your brand. So, of course, we know you came back fit. And one of the things that I think is interesting about how you approach your current sort of eating philosophy is you push a lot of content out about, “Hey, this is how I eat.” You have your keto school, teaching people how to do low carb lifestyle, but you’re also open to other schools of eating and realizing that people are unique in terms of what works for them. So how did you come to keto? How did you find out conclusively that it worked for you? Did you start low carb then go keto? I wanna kind of get your wisdom on the ketogenic diet here and how you decided to go for it.

Drew: Yeah, so a lot of people think I did keto because they know me as the keto guy now. But back then, in 2011, keto wasn’t very mainstream, not a lot of people were talking about. It wasn’t very well known. And the internet and social media isn’t what it is today back then, or wasn’t what it is today. So I do more of a paleo-ish approach to lose the weight, which worked fine, right? It worked great for me to lose the weight that way. I stumbled upon keto about five years ago listening to a podcast with Tim Ferriss and he was interviewing Dr. Dominic D’Agostino. And I remember hearing about the ketogenic diet from a different perspective on the podcast, it wasn’t about weight loss, it wasn’t about fat loss necessarily. It was about the therapeutic applications to the ketogenic diet. So things like epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, brain toxicity, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, all these studies that have been done on the ketogenic diet for these diseases. And I had no idea that that kind of research was being done on a diet. And so I was like, “Man, this is very intriguing to me. And if Tim Ferriss is interested in it, maybe it’s something I could look into.”

So I decided to experiment with it. Did my own six-day experiment, and the thing that I loved about it was the improvement in mental clarity. For me it was like night and day the way my brain functioned being an ketogenic state, plus not being a slave to food anymore. So I was used to eating six meals a day, every few hours, and it worked for me. As far as like physique goes, yes, you can still look good that way. But now I can eat twice a day, or sometimes once a day and still feel satiated. My brain felt so much sharper and my digestion was way better because I wasn’t eating all day long. And so that’s what I loved about the ketogenic diet. And then I fell in love with it, I started to study it more, got to meet Dr. Dom, and then from there, through him, was able to go on the Dr. Oz show to teach people about the ketogenic diet. And that’s where I started doing more research and teaching more people about it because people wanted to ask me, “How do you do it?” And then that’s what led me to my second book, “Complete Keto,” which is my approach to keto, which kind of incorporates the mental and emotional lessons I learned from Fit 2 Fat 2 Fit, plugging that into a ketogenic diet that’s based on whole foods. It’s all dairy-free and nut-free recipes in the book. Because I feel like those are the two problem areas that people tend to gravitate towards when they go keto, because those are the cheap, easy foods that we over consume sometimes, keto, maybe just because they’re low carb or they’re keto-friendly. So anyways, that’s kind of my approach to keto in a nutshell is the mental and emotional side, plus the dairy-free, nut-free, whole food approach to keto.

John: So when you got started then, did you find for you that nuts and dairy were something that you were relying on because you thought, “Okay, I’m a beginner on keto. I know I need to get fat, I know I need to stay in ketosis.” And you basically sounds like you might have done too much almond butter, too much peanut butter, and then you course correct it and went in one direction instead? Like, what are your staple foods on keto right now?

Drew: Yeah, so I think everyone, when they go keto, especially back in the day, there wasn’t as many resources back then of how to do keto. There weren’t programs, you know, like there’s…nowadays everyone has a keto program, right? Back then there wasn’t a lot of information. And so it was a lot of dairy because, like, you’re kind of learning what to eat. Okay, cut out carbs. All right, what food doesn’t have carbs? Nut butters, nuts and seeds, and dairy are easy snack type foods. But then, over the years, I kind of learned more of a whole foods approach. And yes, I felt good and still being in a ketogenic state. But I felt like I felt better once I cut some of those foods out for the most part, not forever, just every once in a while, so I wasn’t eating so much of those foods, which can be inflammatory for some people if they over consume them. And so, nowadays, it’s definitely more of a whole foods approach. I wouldn’t say it’s 100% dairy-free. I do a little bit of whey protein just in this phase that I’m in now because I just finished 100-mile race a month ago or so, and now I’m trying to put on some size, so I’m doing a little bit of whey protein. But for the most part, I try and avoid dairy and I feel really good on it. And then it is mostly a whole foods approach. I started adding organ meats to the meat that I consume. I feel great on that. And it’s a lot of meat and vegetables for me, personally. But I cycle through my vegetables ,I cycle through my protein sources and my fat sources. So I’m not always eating the same foods over and over again.

John: Yes, so let’s talk protein because I know a lot of people that are big advocates of keto will warn you that proteins can kick you out of ketosis just as quickly as eating some white bread or some carbs. How much protein are you getting on your ketogenic diet?

Drew: That’s a good question. So in the beginning, I was so afraid of protein because there was this…you know, in the industry it was fairly new, and there wasn’t a lot of blood ketone testing going on at the time, but it’s like, “Hey, gluconeogenesis is something that’s legit, that can happen. So you got to keep your protein really low.” So in the beginning, I was doing 80 grams of protein a day, which the interesting thing was I was still able to maintain my muscle mass and my strength and eating 80 grams of protein a day. But I feel like now that I’ve been done more blood testing, and it’s becoming more well-known that gluconeogenesis is very bio individual as far as eating too much protein to the point where you’re kicked out of ketosis. But I’ve done some carnivore experiments. I know some people have done carnivore, that are eating mostly protein, 200-plus grams of protein a day, and still staying in ketosis. So it is very bio individual. Someone that’s sedentary, that maybe doesn’t exercise at all, there is a point where they would consume too much protein, which is probably less than me who’s working out a lot, lifting heavy weights, have a lot of muscle mass, where I could probably utilize that and not get knocked out of ketosis. So it’s very individual. And this is why I’m such a huge proponent of people finding out what their carb threshold is and their protein threshold is by doing blood ketone testing on a daily basis, before and after meals, to see what their protein threshold is and their carb threshold is. Because it’s going to vary person to person. So if I say, “Hey, standard 30 grams of carbohydrates per day to get into ketosis.” Well, for someone like me, I could eat upwards of 70, 80 grams of carbs a day and be in ketosis, but someone that’s maybe sedentary, that doesn’t have a lot of muscle mass, their metabolism is a little bit slower, maybe they need to be less than 20 grams a day. It just depends on the person. And so that’s where it’s very individual, and there has to be testing.

John: Yeah. And that’s a great point because I think a lot of people don’t realize that. You talked about Dom D’Agostino and I’ve heard previous podcasts and done a little bit of the reading from, like, Richard Veech at Harvard, and some of these guys who are the pioneers of ketone research. But I think there’s a kind of a disconnect in the public because what is protective about the ketogenic diet are the ketones. And people who are going on a ketogenic diet without measuring to see if they’re actually in a state of ketosis, how do you see that? I mean, do you see that as a danger zone being in a ketogenic diet without the corresponding ketone levels up?

John: Yeah, because I feel like you never really know if you’re in ketosis. So I know so many people that have been, they say, like, “I do keto. I’ve done keto. I just didn’t lose any weight on it or didn’t really know what I was doing wrong.” And I feel like unless you know for sure what your ketone levels are, you never really know if you’re doing the diet right. The keto diet is the only diet that you can prick your finger and prove that you’re actually doing the diet right or wrong. Like, if you’re in ketosis, you’re definitely doing it right. And if you’re not in ketosis, there’s something there that needs to be addressed, whether too much protein or too high of carbohydrates, or whatever it is. But that’s…I think it’s really important in the beginning, Now, some people get hung up on numbers. Some people get addicted to higher ketone numbers, thinking the higher the better, when, in reality, that’s not necessarily true. Anything above 0.5 on the blood ketone meter is nutritional ketosis. So whether that’s 0.5, 1.5, 3.5, it doesn’t really matter, as long as you’re above that 0.5 threshold. But it is important to know if you’re actually doing the diet right, to know if you’re actually in a ketogenic state. But I would say maybe do it for the first two to four weeks. Get some data, like, in the morning time, afternoon time, evening time, after certain meals. And then from there I don’t really measure all the time. So I take breaks for a couple months unless I really wanna do some experiment, experimenting.

John: Yeah. And what I wanna get into is how you as a fat-adapted athlete ran for 100 miles. Before we do, I have to ask, ask about the kind of the Morgan Spurlock experiment. Do you have any interest in or are you regularly testing your cholesterol levels and lipid, blood lipid levels on the ketogenic diet? You do hear anecdotally out there, and I think there’s an emerging scientific realization that some people, when they go on a ketogenic diet that’s more focused on monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, have a much better outcome in terms of their lipid numbers, as opposed to some people can go on a super saturated fat, heavy ketogenic diet, and not really even see that much of a bump in markers, like their LDL cholesterol or their LDL particle number. What are your comfort zones to the extent you’re measuring for those types of metrics?

John: Yeah, so there’s a really good book that I read that really helped me understand cholesterol or lipids in general. Not that anyone has a complete understanding, because I feel like it’s still something that’s being discovered of what really matters and what doesn’t. The problem is we’ve simplified it to, “Okay, your bad cholesterol is high, therefore, you need to lower that, otherwise you’ll have a heart attack.” It’s so much more complex. It’s not as simple as, “Okay, my cholesterol is elevated, therefore, I’m probably gonna die.” I think there’s a few different things that I look at now. The LDL number for me, isn’t that important. For me, it’s the trend of my HDL, my good cholesterol, is that trending upwards, which, if you are consuming a good amount of fat, your HDL should rise and you’re exercising as well. And then your triglyceride number, is that number trending downwards? If your HDL is trending upwards and your triglycerides are trending downwards, then for me, I don’t put a lot of value on the LDL number by itself.

If my HDL to triglyceride ratio is in the good range, or optimal range, and another thing you mentioned, LDL particle size, that’s I feel like all the doctors and professionals I talk to in the field, they put more value on that than just your LDL number, right? And so there’s a lot more to look at it. And so when people come to me and say, “Hey, my LDL went up or my total cholesterol went up on keto,” that’s probably true for some people. But a lot of people see a drop in cholesterol number, so it’s very individual. But what I tell them too is if you are concerned about your LDL numbers, a couple things you could do is cut out some saturated fat and eat more poly and monounsaturated fats. So your lipid numbers might look better for you if you really are concerned about that. So cut out dairy, cut out maybe a ton of red meat, and maybe consume more plant-based fats like avocados and all those to get in those poly and monounsaturated fats, and see if that improves your numbers to where you want them to be, but also go off of how you feel too. But that’s kind of my take on cholesterol. I definitely recommend that book to so many people, “Cholesterol Clarity,” because Jimmy Moore does a good job of making it very simple. But cholesterol is something that’s still so complex even for doctors.

John: Yeah, it is. I mean, it’s fun to watch being in the nutrition world, the debates between kind of the more low carb community, which is much more liberal with cholesterol. And there are some very credible commentators on that side of the fence. I mean, we here tend to side a little bit more on the traditional view of things, but you’re 100% right. It’s incredibly complicated. I mean, you have Dr. David Perlmutter, he’s one of the most notable out there who’s in favor of this kind of, look, it’s not necessarily the LDL number. It’s, as you pointed out, the particle size, it’s the small dense, it’s the VLDL, all this stuff. So lipids is a crazy, crazy, crazy thing that I think is still very much in flux, and people out there have different perspectives. So it’s good to hear yours, but you talked about how you feel. I mean, I’d imagine you have to be feeling pretty damn good to wake up one morning and then run 100 miles in 1 day. What? Like, I saw that, I was like, “Dude, I’m waking up here…” Like, where I’m at is I’m waking up, and I’m, like, I’m gonna go for…I might jog a couple miles, I might do some push ups, maybe a little bit of yoga, a walk. And then I’m seeing you and I’m just like, “Dude.” First of all, I think you did this to support a charity. Was that the catalyst behind it?

Drew: There was two reasons. One was this organization operation, Underground Railroad. I’m friends with the founder, Tim Ballard. And he’s all over the place now on social media because of what they do. They save children from sex slavery. There’s over 2 million children enslaved worldwide that we don’t even know about it. It’s a horrible truth that that is truth that exists. If you look into it, it’s hard to look away once you realize that this is something that’s happened…that still happens in 2020. And it’s sickening and it’s sad, and they actually do something about it. And that’s why people like Tony Robbins and a bunch of celebrities back them up is because it’s one of those things that’s pure good versus pure evil, you know? And so I wanted to do something to help raise money and awareness for them. But the second thing was, I read David Goggins book “Can’t Hurt Me.” And I highly recommend that book to anyone out there, just listen to it on Audible. It’ll change your life and your perspective of what you think hard is.

So that’s where the idea came from, of, like, you know what? We all have these self-limiting beliefs. And for me, I’m not a runner. I’ve never been a runner. I’ve never ran a marathon or half marathon up until this point. And I was like, “You know what? Why not go for 100 miles?” Everyone, not everyone, but a lot of people do marathons, and it’s cool and that’s still an amazing feat to do is run a marathon. But very few people go out and run 100 miles. And I was like, “You know what? I believe that I can do harder things than I think I can do and so I’m gonna attempt to do it.” Now here’s the thing, last year, I tend to this with about 6 weeks of training, and I only got 80 miles done, which is still an amazing accomplishment. I was…

John: You only got 80 miles done, bro? Dude, what was wrong, man? [crosstalk 00:28:20.560]?

Drew: I know it’s pathetic, right? Just kidding. I was still proud of myself, but I wanted to see if I could actually train properly for this time to see if I could do it. So this year I trained for about six or seven months, hardcore, and I had brought on some professional help with people like Zach Bitter, he’s the world record holder for the 100 miler on a track and a treadmill now, which he just broke, and he’s a fat-adapted athlete. I got to pick his brain, and some other good friends of mine, and I had them help me train for this. And this year I wanted to do it. We had to push it back because of COVID-19. I wasn’t able to travel. So I had to do it here in Utah. I was gonna go to California to do it.

And, you know, it’s amazing what your body and mind can accomplish when you really put the effort into it, right? Like I said, I’m not a runner, I’m not naturally gifted, I had to train really hard for this. And yes, I was able to accomplish the 100 miles. And we’ll talk about how I did that as a keto athlete, but I wanted to say I could do it. It’s not something that’s gonna become a hobby, where I love running now and I wanna do it all the time. It just became something that I wanted to say I did, because I wanted to show people that, “Look, we can do harder things than we think.” For someone that might…and this doesn’t have to be 100 miles, but it might just be a 5k, like, getting out there and doing something that you never have done because you’re like, “I’m scared. It’s out of my comfort zone. I don’t know if I can do that. That’s gonna be hard.” I get it. But I want people to prove to themselves that they can do these harder things than they think they can. And like I said, it doesn’t have to be 100 miles, it could be whatever. Just find it and do it, and I promise you, it’ll carry over into other aspects of your life, like, “Man, what else can I do?” So anyways, that’s kind of why I decided to do it.

John: Yeah, I think…and it’s inspiring. I mean, it’s really inspiring. It was really inspiring to watch you do that on Instagram. And I guess I knew that there was a charity, hearing this specific charity that was involved just makes it that much better. I mean, what a great cause. We’ll have to make sure we link to that in the show notes and do our small part to try to hopefully get a few people to support… I would like to learn more how to support that organization. That sounds very important. From the athletic standpoint in the ketogenic side, I mean, what are you doing, nutritionally, to prepare for that level of exertion? Are you just eating? Like, are you eating as you’re going? What did you eat the night before? The conventional wisdom is you load up on…you try to pump as much glycogen into your muscles and into your liver as possible, and obviously you’re not doing that. So what did the fat-adapted piece of this look like for you?

Drew: Yeah, so for me, the key in this moment for me with the 100 miler was to train my body to become fat-adapted, so I would always train in a fasted state. So I train my body to run off of ketones as much as possible. So whenever I eat before I do my long runs, I’d always do it in a fasted state. So my body, during those six months of training, became really efficient at using fat as energy during my long runs. And so after talking to people like Zach Bitter, I also talked to a friend of mine who…what’s his last name? Michael… Yeah, I talked about him on my podcast, he was on my podcast recently, he ran 100 miles with no food. And he’s, I think, the first person to ever do that. And he did it without any food at all, just water. And so I was like, “Man, okay, maybe I’ll take Zach’s approach and then take his approach and meet somewhere in the middle.”

So I went as long as I could without food during my 100-mile race. And the night before I did eat carbohydrates, clean carbohydrates. I ate potatoes and sweet potatoes and squash and things like that with my normal meal. Because now that my body is efficient running off ketones, my body’s still as efficient running off glucose, and my body will know how to use glucose because we’ve been eating glucose for a long time. But now that transition, when I run out of glucose, is pretty smooth and easy because I’ve trained my body to run in the fat-adapted state. So yes, there were some glycogen in the beginning, but obviously you burn through that really quickly. And then from there, it’s being efficient at running off of fat as fuel.

And so from there, what I did is I went the first 20 miles with no food, just water and electrolytes. And then at mile 20, I started incorporating simple carbohydrates. So here’s the thing I learned from this year versus last year too. I didn’t bring in enough variety of food because last year, I was so sick of the texture, the taste of the food that I did bring, which was mostly boiled potatoes, and a couple of keto bars and maybe some chips. Nothing tasted good, nothing sounded good. So I ran out of anything…I stopped eating the last 5 hours and that’s why I crashed at mile 80, I think. This year around, I brought all kinds of carbohydrates, all kinds of foods, all kinds of, like, variety so that I could… My palate was was somewhat open to eating certain foods, like I was open eating certain foods. And so at mile 20, I started incorporating watermelon. I remember eating watermelon, which tasted amazing, but here’s the trick. I would also fuel with exogenous ketones. So I would use ketone esters from Ketone Aid during the race, so I’d get a bump in ketones and then get a bump on glucose. So my body could use both fuels during my run, and then every hour or so I would refuel, honestly, with a couple bites of food. This wasn’t like I couldn’t sit down and eat a whole meal because I would feel so, like, nauseous. I would feel so full from eating so little that I didn’t want any digestive issues, like, running to the bathroom or anything. That was [crosstalk 00:34:09.420].

John: That’s the worst thing ever. Yeah.
Drew: Yeah, so I would just eat a couple bites of food here and there, whether it was like a peanut butter sandwich, watermelon, banana. Sometimes I would do M&Ms, I would do gummy bears, but also with a sip of the ketones every hour. And honestly, I just was able to maintain that pace throughout the whole 24 hours to where I was able to finish before the 24-hour mark and get it done with no digestive issues. And I ate maybe 1000 to 2000 calories max, but at my WHOOP that I was using said I burned 14,000 calories.

John: Wow.

Drew: So I lost a lot of weight during that run, plus a lot of water weight just because it was so hot here in Utah and it was summertime, and yeah, I sweat a ton. And so, anyways, yeah, I survived. I’ve did it. I’m glad I did it. It’s over. I’m taking a break from running for a long, long time. So that’s where I’m at now.

John: What was your darkest moment in that race?

Drew: There was two moments. One was during the day, it was like sunny and mid-90s, and there was no shade. And heat exhaustion, heat stroke was something that I could tell what’s happening. So I was getting dizzy during my runs, and I was getting overheated. And then my brother actually did the race with me. And he had to drop out at mile 45 because he was getting sick and he was gonna pass out. And so he decided to throw in the towel. So the hardest part, darkest part for me was that moment when he dropped out and it was the middle of the day. And I didn’t know if I was gonna be able to overcome the heat. So a couple things happened during that time. Luckily, we had an ice bath, which we brought with us just in case, and we filled it with ice, and I would jump in there every hour or when I would go get a break and eat some food, I would jump into the ice bath with my legs. And I would carry this thing around my neck, this cold towel that would stay cold. And that saved me, honestly, because it helped to cool me down every hour and kept me going.

And now, the other thing is that the first 20 miles, I was way ahead of pace because I had more energy and I was feeling good. I was running fast. But then once the heat exhaustion started to kick in, I had to do a lot of walking, because I told myself, “Look, if I could just survive the hottest part of the day, like noon to 6 p.m., if I could just maintain even a slower pace, but slow it down, then once the night comes, I feel like I could pick up the pace and make up for some of that time,” which I totally did. And my average pace was ahead of schedule going into the night because, even though I slowed down and walked a lot, I just told myself I have to survive the hottest part. And then once the night comes, then it cooled down a little bit, I can pick up the pace a little bit. And then luckily that’s what happened.

John: Yeah, it’s kinda like a fighter filling out those early rounds and wanting to get into that. I’ve been watching a lot of UFC lately, so I can do the UFC now. No, that is awesome man. It’s pretty awe-inspiring. And I think 100 miles is what, a marathon is what, 27 miles?

Drew: 26.2.

John: 26.2. So it’s basically running back, to back, to back, to back, basically four marathons.

Drew: Yeah, almost four marathons.

John: Within one day, which is absolutely insane. When we talked about the introduction, I wanted to close out with, you’re not only into fitness and doing training and out there as kind of a thought leader in keto and an advocate for keto, but you’re a dad. And you had something that you put up on your Instagram the other day… I’m not a dad, I hope to have kids one day, but I don’t have kids, but I do have a lot of friends that have kids and I love kids. And there’s obviously a lot of pressure on kids these days with social media. You said some stuff that I thought was was really powerful about body image and daughters and kids. And so I was hoping we could close up the show just by talking about your approach with that and kind of getting that message out there for people.

Drew: Yeah, thank you for letting me talk about that. Because a lot of people know me as the Fit 2 Fat 2 Fit guy, but I’m a dad, first and foremost, and I love being a dad, I have 2 daughters, they’re 9 and 11 almost. And it’s really important for me to help break the cycle of, like we talked about, the pressure that women have in society is more than men do. And women are scrutinized and judged so much more harshly than men do, in my opinion. And it starts from a very young age, and I feel like a lot of daughters learn it from their moms. And luckily, my ex-wife, who I’m still good friends with, she is a body positive type of person and she does not judge her body. She used to, back in the day, when we were going through a divorce and things like that. But she’s done a lot of self-healing and a lot of personal development work with therapists and life coaches, and she’s in a place where she loves herself now she loves her body.

But if, like, that message, subconsciously, gets passed on from one generation to the next through moms and dads to their daughters and their sons because if they see their mom or dad picking their body apart, like, “Oh, I’m so fat, I’m so ugly, I’m so this, I hate my hair.” Like, that is seen by that kid, and it’s passed on to them, because I remember I just had some lady messaged me after I posted that post on my social media. She said, “Thank you for posting this.” She said, “I remember my mom would always criticize herself, her body, her hair, her looks, and one day someone said, ‘You look just like your mom.'” And she remembers her mom hating her body, hating herself, and that’s where she started to hate herself too, was because someone said to her, “You look like your mom.” And she never really saw the beauty inside of her.

And I feel like that, like I said, that’s something that needs to be broken, and that cycle is something that is passed on. But also what happens in society is we buy into this myth. We think we’re valuable because society judges us based on our bodies, unfortunately. And so we think, “Well, we wanna fit in, I don’t wanna be made fun of, I don’t wanna be teased. So I’m gonna do whatever it takes to try and fit in,” whether that’s more makeup, or plastic surgery, or dieting all the time, or unhealthy eating habits. You know, we see anorexia and bulimia are pretty common in our society, unfortunately. So, I feel like, kids will do whatever it takes to fit in. And I wrote that post because it’s so important for all parents to understand how to talk to their kids about their bodies. It’s not about weight, and it’s not about looks, it should never be about weight or looks, especially to your kids. It’s all about health, it’s all about being strong, and setting the example.

And here’s the thing. If you don’t love yourself, you’re gonna have to learn to fix that if you don’t want to subconsciously pass it on to your kids. So if you don’t love your body, you have to learn how to heal yourself from that and let go of that. Otherwise, it is passed on. Whether you’re as careful about it as possible, but if you really have that self-hate beliefs, I feel like it’s gonna be passed on, it’s gonna be noticed at some point. And that’s why it’s so important for us to heal ourselves, first and foremost, so that we can then pour from a full cup instead of an empty cup to our kids and teach them about self-love. So that’s kind of where it came from. That was my intention, to really help the moms and dads out there, realize that it starts with us. And then from there, here’s the dos and do nots when it comes to talking to your kids about about their bodies.

John: Yeah, I saw that and I was like, “Man, that is so powerful.” Just you and I both being in different spheres of the nutrition and kind of health and wellness community, I think the dark underbelly of the health and wellness community can be an almost spiritual autoimmunity, where it’s like you’re always looking at this event horizon that you need to finally reach, where you can change yourself such that at that point things will be okay. You know, you go on this strict diet at this point you’ll achieve this, or this, or this. And as much as it does come across a little bit, you know, people could say it’s a little bit touchy-feely or whatever. But I think the ability to accept yourself and kind of be part of a health and wellness movement, while still accepting who you are, is a hugely important message that not a lot of people are out there pushing, and I was really…I just was glad to see you using your platform for that message. So I wanted to highlight that towards the end of the show.

Drew: Thanks, man. Thank you. I appreciate that.

John: Yeah, we’re really inspired by what you’re doing. And I think you’re one of the really good, nuanced, empathetic commentators in this world. So we’re definitely rooting for you and want to see you keep up the good work and we wanna support you in any way we can. Is there any final thoughts you wanna share, people can find you, Instagram? Any closing wisdom you wanna throw out there?

Drew: Yeah, no, thank you for letting me come on here. And obviously, my social media is all Fit2Fat2Fit. And for me, the biggest thing is our perception of health and fitness. And so many times I’ll just say this, because it’s so true to me, our perception is the success in our health and fitness journey is to be skinny or be fit. And we think once we get that, once we achieve that, then all of our problems will go away, then we’ll be happy. And so we’re chasing after the results. But so many people don’t love the process to get those results. And that’s why it’s short lived. And that’s why some people have a hard time living a healthy lifestyle long-term is because they only want the results and they’re doing the process just to get those results, and the process is hard and it’s not easy. If you could shift your perception and learn to fall in love with that process, the process can look differently. It doesn’t have to be, you know, one hour in the gym and then one hour of cardio and starving yourself and doing this diet or that diet, the process can look differently. But if you can learn to fall in love with the process and operate out of a place of self-love where you’re like, “You know what? I love myself, I want to feed myself good food because it feels good. And I want to move my body and exercise because it feels good for my body, but also my mind.”

And then from there, the results end up taking care of themselves over time because you’re consistent with the process because you’ve learned to fall in love with it. And your focus is on loving yourself and doing the process because you love yourself, instead of, “I want the results so I’ll sacrifice and do this process, even though it sucks.” Right? It’s about shifting your perception of what success looks like in health and fitness.

John: Yeah, very well said. We appreciate you coming on, Drew. Thanks so much.

Drew: Thanks so much, John.

John: Good luck, and we’ll be in touch, man.

Drew: Thanks, brother. Have a good one.

John: Yeah.

Announcer: “The Gene Food Podcast” is our attempt to synthesize the latest developments in the fields of genetics, nutrition, and medicine, and offer you practical tips and stories you can use in your own unique health journey. If you enjoy this podcast, you can find more information online at mygenefood.com.

John O'Connor

John O'Connor is the founder of Gene Food, host of the Gene Food Podcast and a health coach trained at Duke's Integrative Medicine Program. Read his full bio here.

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