In this episode, I am speaking with Alex Viada – one of the world’s top fitness experts – about the benefits of heart rate variability (HRV), “the cult of scientism,” the truth about CBD, how to optimize recovery from exercise, peptides to heal injuries and your gut, and more.
In this podcast, Alex will cover
- Why you should measure your Heart Rate Variability (HRV), and how you can use it to improve your energy levels and fitness (and what to watch out for)
- What is “the cult of scientism”? (The hardcore skeptics vs. the pseudoscience promoters, and the vast territory in between)
- Does eating 6 meals a day speed up your metabolism or help you lose fat?
- What does the science say about “adrenal fatigue”?
- How to optimize recovery from exercise
- What science says about CBD
- Gray market “peptides” that can help heal your body and heal your gut
- And more!
Download or listen on iTunes
Listen outside iTunes
Optimizing Recovery From Exercise, Heart Rate Variability, The Cult Of Scientism, CBD, Healing Peptides, And More with Alex Viada – Transcript
Ari Whitten: Hey everyone. This is Ari Whitten, and welcome back to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. Today, I have with me a special guest, a good friend of mine for the second time. His name is Alex Viada and he is a beast of a human being. He’s probably one of the fittest people on the planet, pretty much a freak of nature in terms of fitness. He’s participated and completed. I’m going to read you his official bio here and then I have some personal words to share. So, he’s participated in, completed in nearly every sport imaginable with some, with some with greater success than others being dragged to his first swim meet when he was four years old. He’s coached over 300 athletes of all ages and levels in sports ranging from bodybuilding, ultra-running to triathlon to cycling through powerlifting. He’s also prepared close to 40 individuals for ranger school, for also for a SEAL’s Training and [BUDS] and other selective military programs.
His hybrid training method is simple. It consists of breaking down the demands and unique stressors of every type of training for every type of athlete that each athlete requires and programming their program to target specific demands rather than labels like strength training or conditioning or endurance training, et cetera. The result is a style of programming that has produced a significant number of powerlifting triathletes and 300 plus pound runners. Wow. Many athletes working with Complete Human Performance, which is the company that Alex works with, find themselves setting personal records and strength, speed and distance at the same time, something that was traditionally seen as impossible.
So, I want to welcome Alex to the show for the second time. Welcome.
Alex Viada: Thank you so much. Really, really glad to be chatting with you again.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, I want to start with a personal note, which is that I want to say to everybody listening that you have actually been one of my absolute favorite podcast interviews that I’ve ever done.
I really appreciate the way your brain thinks about these issues. And having interviewed well over a hundred health experts, I have a good sense of this, and I have a good sense of how people’s brains operate. And, in particular, the psychological flaws that people fall into. Like some people become, sort of slaves to their own beliefs and dogmas and preconceived notions and ended up sort of cherry-picking the research and blinding themselves to all the evidence that conflicts with their views.
Or just, 20 years ago they came up with a system and they are convinced that their system works best, and they just haven’t even bothered to look at the scientific literature in the last 20 years. Or they’re a part of a particular “cult”. Whether it’s evidence-based fitness or whether it’s allopathic medicine or whether it’s functional medicine.
They’re part of sort of a group think where their particular community of people may have certain myths and preconceived ideas and belief systems, and they just adopt those belief systems without even necessarily realizing what’s going on. And they have so many blind spots and they’re not even able to see them. What I really appreciate about you, and I think that I also, strive to do this and I see it very, very strongly in you as a good example of somebody who does this extremely well.
You are a truly free thinker and you’re part of certain communities, but you’re not afraid to question certain ideas and go explore the literature and, and say, “Hey, I think the science says this”. Even when it’s not popular even when you’re pissing people off. I just really appreciate the commitment to the truth and commitment to the evidence that you bring to things. And I just want to say on a personal note that I think you are an extremely knowledgeable, brilliant guy and I’m excited to have you on the show for a second time.
Alex Viada: No, thank you so much. And kind of hearing that and hearing that that’s the perception is… That means everything. Because my whole thing has always been, you don’t have to be the guy with the answer, but you need to be the person who knows how to find the answer. And I think so much of this, and so much of this approach has come from a lifetime of honestly dabbling in so many things, but really wanting to get to the heart of it. Spending a lot of time after school, working in EMS and worked very briefly at a mechanics and finding that everybody out there, regardless of their belief system, knows something and has thought about something in greater detail than you. And having the humility to step back and say; Okay, what’s, what’s the quality in this here? What’s the quality in their perspective? What’s the quality in their viewpoint?
They’re rational human beings to some extent. Even if they’re complete advocates are fanatics or anything else. There’s some logical quality that keeps them coming back. And how can I approach that with humility and get them to, let me tease out what that quality is and use that to kind of develop my own beliefs that from it? And that’s been what I strive for. That’s exactly what I sense you strive for. And I think in many ways about a related to a topic. I think you and I were going to chat a little bit about today.
Ari Whitten: Yes. Yeah. Actually. So, before we get into that one thing in everybody listening, make sure that if you haven’t already, go listen to the first podcast that I did with Alex. Really a phenomenal episode. One of my personal favorite episodes that I’ve ever done and has amazing feedback from everybody who listened to it. And we cover in that episode a lot of sort of Alex’s core stuff around his philosophy of exercise for not only for fat loss and muscle gain, but more perhaps more importantly, depending on the person, but probably for everybody listening to this podcast, things like energy, And longevity ,and disease prevention. So really a lot of gold nuggets. They highly recommend listening to that. This is part two which we’re going to cover all sorts of really cool topics that I’m excited to get into.
Alex’s take on the “cult of scientism”
So the first one, as you alluded to just a minute ago, is I really want to talk to you about this “cult of scientism” And this is something that we’ve had a few personal interactions on Facebook and we’ve been part of debates and sort of seeing other people going at these online debates on certain subjects, whether it’s things like, organic versus conventional produce. And you can see how these… Certain people who are parts of certain groups, just absolutely are committed to a certain perspective. And it doesn’t matter how much you show them evidence that conflicts with their perspective, they’re unwilling to see any truth in any perspective that they didn’t already come into it with. And that that’s true of people on both sides of that debate and many, many other examples of topics that we could get into. So, what is this cult of scientism all about from your perspective?
Alex Viada: Well I think it’s going back to what you said before, how you have people who are fanatics for their belief system. And we all suffer from confirmation bias. We all love heralding anything that supports our viewpoints and we don’t really turn a critical eye on anything until it conflicts with it. And you’ll see these online discussions or even discussions in person between two professionals and they’ll each come up with a study or a bit of research or a case study to bolster their points. And they present that case study with very little scrutiny. And when presented with a case study or a piece of evidence that can flex with their viewpoint, they immediately start looking all the sample sizes, office method of analysis was often, and then they pick it apart with this fine-tooth comb.
And this is so antithetical to science itself. Science is a way of answering questions. It’s not the answer. Science itself is never the answer. It is a method by which you can take a question you have and hopefully find the answer to it. It doesn’t tell you what questions to ask. It doesn’t tell you what to do with the answers. That just gives you the answer to a question you’re currently asking. That’s what research does. That’s what studies do. And then that’s…
Science is very much about approaching everything with that humility and approaching the results with as impartial an eye as possible. And I think what’s happened in this field and the pendulum swings back and forth so much. But health, fitness, wellness, longevity, there is such a… it’s still the wild west out there.
If you have an idea, you can promote it, you can find something to back it up and you can sell it. And I think this the research and evidence-based perspective was kind of a needed check when it first started coming out and people said; “Okay, you’re making this claim. Let’s see what the science actually says about that. Let’s see what the research actually says about it.”
So, it’s led to this sort of skepticism about everything, which is correct. But it’s led to what I like to call an uncharitable skepticism. I think you should apply the lens of charitable skepticism when people offer something forward.
And this uncharitable skepticism is almost used as kind of a weapon, I think, by those who don’t understand the purpose of science. They’re presented with an idea that that challenges them, that may be more complex than they’re used to or that may conflict with something that they learned in high school biology 20 years ago or it may conflict with what their evidence-based idol is currently saying in a clever infographic on social media. And so, they reject it. And they reject it without giving it its proper due. The rejection comes without actual scientific rigor. And that to me is what “scientism” is. Is using the label of science and being scientific and being evidence-based to be equally as fanatic and, and frankly ignorant about dismissing new ideas and dismissing innovation. And very often, this desire to be right vastly outweighs the desire to actually find the truth. And I think in a field where, I always say that medicine was never about, “okay, let me design a study.”
Back in the day, the quote with medicine would be like, “Hey, hold my beer.” People would try things. People would try insane things. You look at the history of medicine in vaccines and everything else. I mean, what was it? Yellow fever where this researcher was taking fluids from a sick patient and pouring it into his eyes to demonstrate contagiously… I mean, this is the kind of stuff that science is always been about is innovation and trying new things and questioning current belief. And that’s missing.
And I think it’s been replaced with this skepticism that’s almost born of fear and its own sort of tribalism. And I see it so often and I really think it does a disservice to this evidence-based community.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. Extremely well said. That was more eloquent than I could have ever said it. I want to go deeper into certain aspects of this. The way I see it, there’s almost two sorts of camps that we have going on right now. One camp is, people who are genuinely scientifically illiterate, or just scientifically ignorant, or don’t care about the science or don’t understand that maybe they’re sort of camp that they’re in-Maybe they’re Ray Peat “cultist”, or some other particular… There are a carnivore diet fans or whatever other diet camp, and they’re following a particular guru or set of gurus and they’re getting spoon fed this cherry-picked for the funnel of research. If they’re seeing any research at all, it’s most likely cherry-picked.
And so, you have this camp of people who are either in the realm of pure pseudoscience or completely misrepresented cherry-picked science and have no real conception that they’re not operating in sort of a full picture of the body of evidence. And then, on the other side, you have the evidence-based camp. The hardcore evidence-based… like if there isn’t a study directly testing that specific nuance of that specific thing, then it’s nonsense and pseudoscience and they’re willing to rush to brush off everything as pseudoscience that hasn’t already been explicitly tested and explicitly proven.
So, it’s really like there’s this vast territory in the middle that very few people seem to be in which is a commitment to going wherever the evidence goes. If there’s a study coming out or see a body of evidence, a body of studies that come out that are really well-designed studies on a topic that I’ve speculated on and that these new studies clearly show that I’m wrong, I’m happy to accept that I was wrong and I’m happy to publicly acknowledge that I was wrong and say, “Hey guys, I know I publicly speculated this in the past, but it turns out really good evidence suggests it’s this, this and this.”
And I know you’re exactly the same way. But why do you think there are so few people who are putting their commitment to going wherever the evidence is ahead of, their preconceived notions and their belief systems?
Alex Viada: I think obviously a huge amount of it is fear. And I don’t want to say a lot of it comes… look no further than politics where if somebody changes their mind on a critical key issue, they’re seen as wishy-washy or flip-flopping or anything else – saying, “Hey, I’ve changed my mind on this. I was wrong.”
I think the concern, especially among individuals now who view themselves in some degree in the public eye are seen as authorities. Their concern is if they admit they were wrong, they will lose confidence in those who they believe hang on their every word because of this illusory sort of confidence. I mean, if I have everybody listening to me and I had this imposter syndrome going, I don’t actually think I know all that much, but they all seem to think so, so I need to keep impressing them. If I say, “Oh my gosh, I was wrong on this. Oh, I worried I was wrong all the time.” Now they’re going to think I’m wrong too.
And it becomes this fear that it’ll undermine confidence. And it, of course as you know, you’ve seen the times, you admit you’re wrong. When you say, I’ve changed my mind on this, people, people enjoy that. They love that. They think, okay, I can follow what you say. Because if the evidence says otherwise you are more concerned with giving me the correct answer than being seen as this all-knowing oracle.
Ari Whitten: Yeah.
Alex Viada: I can trust you. You, you’re moving, you’re not just steering the ship in one direction and blasting through icebergs. You’re actually gonna navigate this for me and I can just trust what you have to say because you don’t have an agenda. But I think as we get, you talk about those two camps and the super evidence-based and I think their mission has almost become disagreeing with everything the other camp says.
And you get that sort of tribal, “Okay this is our view. We are as fanatic about our evidence-based view as you are about the other thing.” So, if I say detoxes, don’t work in your liver and kidneys, do all the detoxes you need. And you point out that in fact, vitamin C and ascorbic acid can help neutralize phytic acid and can actually help in iron absorption and food and oh my gosh, wait a minute. What are we talking about here? Suddenly all these things that I can’t accept that there can’t possibly be any quality from that camp there to listen to.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. And this is, this is one of the ironies of that position, right? It’s like you’re so fearful of the possibility that you could be wrong, that you feel is need to cherry pick or what you talked about before, which is that any study which supports your preconceived notions, you put it forth and present it to all your followers without a skeptical eye, but then any study that conflicts with it, you’re going to go spend two hours getting all the methodological details of it and saying why you think that the researchers were biased or it didn’t do the study properly or something like that.
So, the irony is that these people are so fearful of being wrong that they’re doing this and they’re doing it with the fear that if their followers perceive them as being wrong on a certain belief from the past, they’re going to lose trust. But the irony is that people do lose trust over time as they start to encounter the evidence that opposes perspective anyway.
Alex Viada: Exactly.
Ari Whitten: The last thing I want to mention here that’s a pretty cool thing I saw recently is… do you follow Chris Masterjohn, at all?
Alex Viada: I do.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. So, so he, so he published this little meme recently called, I think it was called evidence-base trolls or evidence-based science. Did you see that?
Alex Viada: Yes, I did.
Ari Whitten: So he coined this term, which is basically talking about, some of the same things that we’ve just been talking about, which is within the evidence-based community, they are so intensely committed to this idea that if it hasn’t been explicitly tested that specific nuance of that specific thing, there isn’t a randomized controlled study on that specific topic, then it doesn’t exist and it’s nonsense and pseudoscience, and they don’t have an appreciation for the real experts out there who have a vast body of knowledge of knowledge of research, physiology, and biochemistry that they’ve accumulated over years and years and years and decades and who can understand how the body works and then goes just beyond whatever the current state of the evidence is. You do some logical speculation based on the existing evidence and say, “hey, based on what is known in the current body of evidence, I think it will be likely that this and this will also be true.”
And so, they react to any-you have these like 18-year-old personal trainers who have been reading studies for six months who are acting to those people, with a huge body of knowledge doing that sort of logical speculation with this, “oh, that’s nonsense”. “I haven’t seen any study tests in that. Can you cite a study that proves that?” And then if you can’t, then they say, “Oh, you’re a quack, you’re a pseudoscience.” And it’s this great irony that you have these people who are just massively ignorant talking to very knowledgeable people and thinking that they’re quacks.
Alex Viada: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And I’ve certainly done a lot of investigations over the last couple of years. And coming from a Pharma background where Pharma is all about, all these small biotech’s that come up with some crazy idea or find some mechanism and they say, “Oh, let’s investigate this. That this could be interesting…” This stuff is out of left field and you see the wildest herbs and that they look to folk remedies. They look for things that, people who have been doing for thousands of years and they say, “oh, well, there seems to be some historical efficacy to this. Let’s investigate this plant.” And they investigate and they find that there are 30 different alkaloids in it and some of them have this effect and then they go down the rabbit hole even further and they find that this, historical what would seem to be pseudoscience suddenly has some deeper, highly scientific quality to it that may not have been studied just yet. But the mechanism is there. The science is there, it goes very deep, but it just gets dismissed outright by those who want to be able to dismiss everything.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. But I mean this, the way science progresses is through exactly this sort of logical speculation. Somebody has a body of knowledge and then they create some bit of logical speculation and a theory based on the body of knowledge and then you go test it. If it’s right, you take an attitude of, “hey, if it’s right, awesome my theory was right and if it’s not right, cool, I get to discard it and move on to a better theory.”
Alex Viada: Exactly, exactly.
Ari Whitten: Well, I would love to continue this line of conversation. I’m having a lot of fun with it, but let’s move on to some specific topics. So, you have a Patrion, I don’t know what the proper word for the Patrion account or…
Alex Viada: I’m not sure what it is either. We’ll go with the account. Sounds good.
Ari Whitten: Basically, you post content there and in exchange for people who donate like five or $15 a month.
Alex Viada: Yeah.
The science on CBD oil
Ari Whitten: And I’m one of the donators I donate $15 a month. You post content on a variety of topics, whether it’s fitness and health-related topics and you dig deep in literature and then basically just communicate your findings in these very fun engaging short videos. So, you’ve got a wide variety of different topics there. I want to kind of go rapid fire through a number of these things so people can get a sense of your take on, on a bunch of specific subjects.
So, let’s start with CBD, which is a, it’s a cool topic and actually speaks to what we’ve been talking about, which is the fact you
Are open to going where the evidence goes.
Alex Viada: Yeah.
Ari Whitten: You came in with certain preconceived ideas and actually looking at the research changed some of your views.
Alex Viada: Yeah. You know what, CBD was one of those things where, three, four years ago even I looked at him, said this is ridiculous. It’s been talked about being everything from a cure to cancer too. You know, this is this great alternative to opioids and [inaudible]. I said you know what, this is this too much. The claim is being made by this is absurd. CBD oil is a great excuse for a lot of people, a lot of potheads to just, get more weed and it was really interesting. It is part of what made me lucky was coming here to San Diego and realizing that you UCSD actually has some of the leading researchers in CBD and the country and is investigating that topic.
I got asked about and I went in legitimately thinking this is going to be a crock. There’s not going to be anything here worthwhile. And the deeper I dug into it and looking at the actual biological, looking at the actual biochemical pathways involved, and looking at how it engages in anti-inflammatory actions, and looking how it engages in, kind of the antinociceptive action, and looking at the different ways that it binds to these receptors and the possibilities of the compound became more and more impressed. And said there’s a lot of possibilities here. And being used as a sleep aid. And then, of course when you’re being asked about a topic like this and you know that you’re speaking to an unknown audience, some of who may be very well versed in this topic, if you’re answering the question for them, you can’t just say stupid, you can’t say, “oh well, it’s it’s good for sleep or it’s not good for sleep.”
You have to look into it and say, “well, okay, it’s good for sleep, but I heard rumors that it messes up your REM sleep.” So, you start looking at that and you look at the effect on sleep architecture and find that it has no difference in sleep architecture, which was one of the concerns. Is CBD good as a sleep aid? Well, yes. It doesn’t interrupt REM sleep or anything like that. So, it was consistently finding that, in fact, a lot of the claims made about it. Were very true. And, in fact, it’s being looked at and being developed into an alternative for opioids and long-term chronic pain and as a sleep aid and as an antiangiogenic and the things you have to bear in mind is it’s all dose dependent. You take too much as it increases anxiety, a small amount doesn’t do anything a little bit actually decreases pain and decreases inflammation too much has the opposite effect.
So, you look into it and you realize that as it stands now, a big fan of the compound. And a big fan of the research that’s being done on it and really think that the possibilities are tremendous. I mean even as an anticancer compound, the more I looked into that and its properties as a [inaudible] and seeing what that could do to certain kinds of cancer in certain tumor lines and reduce and slow proliferation of certain kinds of breast cancer. And you look at that and you go wow, there are possibilities here. And you know, a classic example of something I dismissed, and I think a lot of the community that I was part of a dismissed and as I investigated it found a lot of the claims made, had a very solid backing.
Ari Whitten: So, like the whole topic of CBD.
Alex Viada: Yeah. Yep.
Ari Whitten: So, say a bit more about the sleep thing because I am seeing quite a few people saying that CBD enhances their deep sleep. Have you seen any evidence to indicate that?
Alex Viada: So, what I’m seeing generally with CBD is yes, it can enhance your deep sleep. The biggest question, first of all, the amount of THC in the compound matters. Too much. No THC whatsoever, apparently hasn’t been well studied too much, actually does decrease your deep sleep and you spend more time in REM sleep. But with that proper dose, which is, kind of still CBD. What it does is it eliminates or reduces the amount of wake cycles, but otherwise, it keeps your overall sleep architecture just about the same. And the results that I’ve seen is anywhere from, when you talk about a deep sleep and an eight hour night, you’re talking about the two to two and a half hours of truly deep wave sleep and saying that people who take it experience more like two and a half to three hours of deep wave sleep rather than one to one and a half that you typically see with more interrupted sleep. That’s signs of background anxiety, et cetera.
So, in that regard, absolutely it does seem to improve sleep quality in that regard. And like I said, the lack of negative effects on the overall ratio of REM to deep sleep was remarkable.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. So, a couple of other contexts here. Pain is one. And then anxiety. What’s your take on the literature as far as CBD and pain and anxiety?
Alex Viada: Well, for pain. So, pain is one of the interesting ones. And that’s one of the chief areas it’s being investigated is again, kind of the medium amounts of it. And what’s interesting is when you talk about pain, a lot of people in pain management talk about two kinds of pain. The experience of pain, kind of the emotional like I want to avoid pain side of things. And then the actual visceral, the no susceptive side of pain. Certain painkillers block one, very few blocks both. Only opioids block posts.
So, you talk about something like you take a bunch of Ibuprofen, you’re not going to suddenly dull it, it doesn’t necessarily dull your fear of discomfort. It doesn’t dull the emotional reaction to pain. It just dulls somewhat the ache and the visceral feeling of pain.
Opioids block both. That’s one of the reasons why they’re so tremendously effective. And I think it’s called a lateral and medial pain. I think that’s the term. And what’s interesting about CBD and THC is, they also block both. And so, for chronic pain patients whose lifestyles are not just inhibited by the actual physical discomfort but are also inhibited by the psychological effects of pain and pain anticipation. Phantom limb pain is one major area. It’s been investigated where the perception that there is a limb there or the perception that there is discomfort in the residual limb is very limiting to lifestyle. CBD is one of the only compounds outside of the opioid family of drugs that can be investigated that seems to reduce that. And that is what makes us such a fascinating area of inquiry for chronic pain patients, people dealing with discomfort is reducing both kinds of pain dramatically increase… as far as lifestyle management dramatically increases the chances of these individuals leading a productive active life and resuming normal activity or increasing activity level, et cetera.
Ari Whitten: And what about anxiety,
Alex Viada: Anxiety. So, anxiety is a challenging one because anxiety is one area where I don’t think we’re quite ready to use CBD of a large scale for anxiety because the THC constituent of it is very, very critical to dial in. You get this kind of I would say U shape with regards to your anxiety and the is you take very little and it has no effect and again too much and it actually seems to increase. And so, titrating the effect of CBD and anxiety with the amount of THC is very critical. And I think some people report that CBD made anxiety worse. It makes it hard for them to go to sleep, for example.
And a lot of that has to do with titrating the amount of THC and et cetera. And so, in terms of anxiety management, it’s a very, very promising compound.
But that is something that either takes significant self-experimentation or we really will have to do significant research and get more data on the exact constituents, amount of each constituent to really be able to manage it. Some people take it and right away saying, “you know what, it absolutely improved it. It reduced some of the peripherals, sensations of anxiety, the sympathetic response and all of that.” And so that’s there. But you know, again, we’re coming back to an area where it’s like, okay, we, we really got to take baby steps here because they can make it worse for some people.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. Interesting. I just want to flag something you said a minute ago that the proper doses TBD, which I think is pretty funny in the context of CBD. But speaking of dose, I know there’s a lot of studies kind of all over the place with dose. Some of the sleep studies I believe have used like close to a hundred milligrams of CBD, which is interesting when you consider like a lot of the common pills that are being sold in the market have like five milligrams.
Alex Viada: Yeah.
Ari Whitten: So, people don’t realize that to get to the proper dose or a dose that would approximate what the researchers used to get that benefit, they would literally have to take like 20 pills at one time.
Alex Viada: Exactly.
Ari Whitten: So, do you have, do you have any thoughts on dose range? What might be optimal? Like, and not a specific number but maybe a range?
Alex Viada: Yeah, I mean exactly it, I mean, for those sleep studies, the dose is always as one pain management physician put it is, is always more than you think, but less than you probably want. And I think the dose for sleep was about 20, I think 25 to 100 was the range of, they said to kind of titrate in at 25 milligrams to a hundred milligrams or along those lines. And again, so much is determined on the method of administration. The quality of what you’re getting. That’s a big concern is that many of those gummies and everything else that if they don’t have a hemp smell to them, they’re probably not as high in CBD as you might think.
But yeah, it’s, it’s a tremendous range. And some of these physicians, when they actually prescribe it, even though prescribing CBD is kind of a… you’re not really supposed to do it. Even though there’s such a range that they will give and the position themselves, right, 20 milligrams, to 100 milligrams. And you will titrate as needed. So again, that’s very individual. But yes, it’s, it’s always significantly more than you’ll usually find in those commercial preparations and single pills.
Alex’s take on adrenal fatigue
Ari Whitten: Gotcha. I want to talk now about one of my personal favorite topics, which is adrenal fatigue. And I know you did another one on this topic. So, tell me about your take on the whole concept of adrenal fatigue.
Alex Viada: So, my general take on it was basically when people confuse it with kind of adrenal insufficiency. And when people talk about the idea that your adrenals will eventually lower their output in regard to chronic stress. And in reality, the opposite tends to be the case. And talking about adrenal insufficiency being an actual condition and what adrenal insufficiency means and then looking at the mechanisms by which adrenal fatigue is purported to take place. Which is, chronic overproduction in the adrenal glands, the adrenal Medulla. And realizing that it’s actually regulation. It makes me… the problem with the adrenal fatigue diagnosis is that if you are under the circumstances that you think it chronic high levels of stress, it’s not going to have the effect that adrenal fatigue as a condition would state. And when I talked to, positions about adrenal insufficiency and the diseases associated with that, it’s a completely different presentation. Yeah. And so, yeah. I’m curious as this is come up quite a bit when talking about chronic fatigue.
Ari Whitten: Did you see my recent review of the literature on this topic? I did a really comprehensive review of the literature. Did you see it?
Alex Viada: I did not get a chance to dig into it yet.
Ari Whitten: You got to see it.
Alex Viada: Well, I do.
Ari Whitten: Basically, I did a very, I literally spent months on this compiled… So, I’ve done two big pieces on this topic. I’m gonna give you the super brief overview of this. It was months of my life. One is the link between adrenal function, cortisol levels, and fatigue conditions. So, to see if there’s any clear link between, stress-related exhaustion, burnout syndrome, vital exhaustion. There are a few different names of these recognized fatigue syndromes. Which is basically synonymous with the general concept of how adrenal fatigue is purported to work, which is chronic stress leads to fatigue and other symptoms.
That part is absolutely real and unquestionable. And then chronic fatigue syndrome. So, there are a few different sorts of recognized fatigue syndromes. But a lot of people don’t know is that there are 25 years of research of researchers all over the world examining adrenal function, HPA axis functioning, cortisol levels through all kinds of different ways, salivary measurements, urinary measurements, blood measurements, in people with these fatigue syndromes. And then comparing the levels of cortisol compared to normal healthy people without fatigue. Overwhelmingly, that research shows no clear connection whatsoever between cortisol abnormalities and any of the fatigue syndromes.
Alex Viada: Yeah.
Ari Whitten: And I mean, specific numbers, 15 out of a hundred showed slightly lower but still normal morning cortisol levels. 11 out of 59 is 15 out of 59 studies, 11 out of 59 showed slightly higher and 33 out of 59 showed no detectable difference in cortisol whatsoever between the fatigue syndromes and normal healthy people.
So that was one big piece I did. And then the other one that I just published a week or two ago is I’m looking at the theory of adrenal fatigue more broadly. And specifically, what I did is I looked at all these different types of chronic stressors that like every type of chronic stressor that you could imagine. So, everything from different types of psychological stress to chronic pain, to chronic cigarette smoking, to chronic alcohol consumption, to chronic stress from too much work, chronic stress from not being employed. You know, like every conceivable permutation of chronic stress that you could imagine. And even different chronic diseases, chronic neurological diseases, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and so on and overwhelmingly almost everything points in the direction of slightly elevated cortisol.
Chronic stress leads to slightly increased cortisol. There is no point for almost anything at which this translates into anything that resembles burning out the adrenal glands and resilient our cortisol levels. Oh, anyway, just wanted to interject that because it’s a particular passion of mine, but you found the same exact thing that I did.
Alex Viada: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I mean certainly nowhere near as an exhaustive search, but again, you really do. You think about the mechanism doesn’t make sense and you know what I think, and just to kind of back up a little bit, one of the reasons I think it’s sometimes unpopular to say adrenal fatigue doesn’t exist. I think a lot of individuals who are seeking answers, and you probably know this better than anybody so I don’t even know I’m telling you this, but individuals who are seeking answers, when they find that the answer and they find their condition, they find their illness. They almost identify that identification; I am someone with adrenal fatigue. I am someone with this, that part of their identity that is their reason why they don’t feel human. That is the reason why they don’t feel whole. And wanting to identify with it and realizing that they identify with it makes it very difficult to let go.
If you say adrenal fatigue doesn’t exist, they almost view that in a large way as invalidating their experience and invalidating their pain and invalidating the struggle which it’s not, but I think one of the places a lot of, and I don’t want to say the evidence-based type, but we’ll throw them under the bus again. But where they fall short is by saying, look, I’m not invalidating your experience. I am not saying you are not going through something. I am only questioning that specific diagnosis. Not because I want to tell you don’t have anything. Not that I want to tell you, it’s all in your head. But because I say I want to actually find the answer. And this particular answer that you’ve been given doesn’t help us help you.
Ari Whitten: Yes, exactly. Yeah, and this is the exact reason that before explaining I said it’s unquestionable that chronic stress does result in fatigue, exhaustion, other symptoms. So, I was telling people in my stuff on this topic, your symptoms are real. I want to be clear that I’m not invalidating your symptoms and what you’re feeling that’s real. But the theory that those symptoms are being caused by worn out or exhausted or burnt out adrenal glands is absolutely not supported by the evidence. So, the reason this is so important is because if we want to find a solution to this problem, we need to first conceptualize it accurately and actually be trying to fix physiological mechanisms that are actually broken instead of chasing after physiological mechanisms that are not the cause of those symptoms.
Alex Viada: Exactly. It’s like you’re feeling around in the dark and you feel something, and you feel fur, and you feel a part and you feel a tail and you think, “oh, it’s a rabbit.” What if it’s a mountain lion? Saying it’s a rabbit isn’t going to help you, Saying, “Oh, it’s a rabbit. I need to give it some carrots.” If that’s a mountain lion, you’re going to be in a lot of trouble. Thinking you’ve identified it and you know, planning out a course of action based on what you think you’ve identified. When that’s not what it really is at all is going to lead you to waste your time or if nothing else make things worse.
What studies show on Heart Rate Variability (HRV)
Ari Whitten: So, I want to get into the, I have so many other cool topics here. Let’s see, where should I go next? Heart rate variability I think is a great one. So that was a great one. And I have to admit that I’m a fan of, of a heart rate variability testing. I was a little surprised in watching your video that you’re not as much of a fan or not as stoked about it and impressed with the literature as I am. So, tell me a little bit more about your take on heart rate variability testing.
Alex Viada: I think heart rate variability is fascinating. I think the insights that these minor changes in impulse can give on the overall state of the autonomic nervous system. And by proxy on illness, on fatigue, on the endocrine state, on activity level, on heart health, on everything else. I think it’s fascinating. And I mean the potential there is insane. Where it starts to fall short for me is still in some of the devices and the limitations of our current data. Because I think a lot of the research being done on heart rate variability. We have both of them, de basically time domain analysis and frequency.
Ari Whitten: Actually, you know what Alex, really quick. There’s probably a lot of people listening who are not even familiar with the whole topic of heart rate variability. So, can you back up for me? I should have done this myself. But can you do it for me?
Alex Viada: Absolutely.
Ari Whitten: Give a proper explanation of what heart rate variability is and what it’s sort of purported to measure and give insight to.
Alex Viada: Sure. Yeah. I mean the way I think about it is, your heart when it’s beating say 60 beats per minute at rest. That 60 beats per minute don’t mean one every absolute second. It’s not exact. There is always a variance in how long between beats even at rest, even at a steady heart rate and a lot of things can affect that variance. What a lot of people don’t know is that if your heart had no input from the rest of your nervous system, it would beat at a hundred beats per minute. It is strictly the input of your autonomic nervous system. Well, not strictly is your autonomic nervous system and pressure receptors and everything else that’s kind of keeping your heart at its resting heart rate right now. Everything in your body can affect how quickly it beats and the variability between beats that’s keeping it from being exactly one second between beats tells you a lot about your overall health.
It’s basically… in a lot of people like to say that the more responsive your heart rate is, the greater that variability between beats basically the more relaxed and the more recovered and healthier you are. That’s a huge oversimplification. But when people talk about heart rate variability, what they’re measuring is the overall variance between beats at rest. A very low variance where it’s very mechanical and very little variance tends to mean it tends to be a sign of a lot of things. It can be a sign of high stress, a sign of even some heart conditions. Some illnesses when variability is relatively high and it’s responding very well to my new changes in your body. That’s usually seen as a sign that you’re well recovered. Your autonomic nervous system, your parasympathetic system is healthy and engaged.
That’s basically what it is, is that variance between beats. And what’s very interesting is a lot of the data when the way they analyze it, as you could do kind of short term analysis, you can say, okay, for the next minute we’re going to collect every beat and see how long between beats and take the average of that variance and give that a number like this beat is, your 0.9 seconds here, you’re 1.1 seconds here, 0.9 here when the average variability is 0.1 seconds or whatever. As an example. Okay, that’s your average variance. If the next day it’s only 0.05 well that’s probably a sign that you know you’re stressed, you’ve been training too much, you didn’t sleep too well. Again, as a gross oversimplification, but that’s kind of the idea. And so, it has a lot of predictive value I think for a lot of individuals. But the difficult thing is it really in measuring those beats. Precisely. And I think that’s where my issue with it came in, is that when people want to use heart rate variability for themselves. Because you can use it in hospitals. In fact, a lot of people who are in hospitals hooked up to 12 lead EKG right after heart surgery, heart rate variability, very accurately predict individuals who are going to have complications a sudden drop in that variability in these cardiac patients. And that’s a red flag. People say…
Ari Whitten: Yeah, no, I was just gonna say so there’s good research. From everything from that kind of scenario, even to elite athletes using this…
Alex Viada: Absolutely.
Ari Whitten: …As a form of, helping them regulate whether to work out hard that day or taking as I said, I’ve been mostly pretty impressed with the research on this.
Alex Viada: Yeah, no, and I think that’s where I don’t want to quite be misunderstood is the research is great. There is a lot of data on it and there was a lot of work being done in analyzing patterns of variances and you talk about low frequency… basically looking at how a lot of this data from you know, patients in hospitals and athletes et cetera corresponds to known conditions and we’re putting together a big database at this stuff and a lot of these companies are putting together the big databases. The difficult thing for me is a lot of the devices people use to measure it are not super accurate and…
Ari Whitten: And specifically, on this, I want to mention on a personal note, I was using a device that is a finger pulse sensor has a particular plug in a sensor that plugs into my phone and is designed to measure heart rate variability. In a conversation with you. Actually, you educated me on something that I was not aware of, which is that there’s a difference between true heart rate variability and something called pulse rate variability, which I’ve never heard of before.
Alex Viada: Yup.
Ari Whitten: And that specifically and especially in certain populations like young healthy athletes being one of them and very fit, very muscular people, pulse rate variability is not going to be a very accurate reflection of true heart rate variability. So, the research is really on heart rate variability but there are all these devices in the market that are really measuring pulse rate variability, is potentially not very accurate. And I specifically, I was also considering getting an Oura ring at them, which you basically talk to me out of that. Not Intentionally. But because you educated me on this topic of pulse rate variability. So, so talk about the difference between heart rate variability versus pulse rate variability.
Alex Viada: Sure. Yeah. Cause when we look at heart rate variability, heart rate variability is actually looking at is the electrical impulse from between nodes in the heart. It is an actual measurement of electrical. It’s a depolarization. It’s like looking at when the switch turns on. What these devices do, typically you’ll find them on your wrist like this Garmin I happen to be wearing or the Oura ring or anything else. What those are measuring is the actual pulses of blood coming through the body. Now the difference between that is heart rate variability is an electrical impulse it’s instantaneous. It instantly… The autonomic nervous system and the studies done on using this autonomic input, this nervous system, electrical input and electrical hormonal input on the heart. All of that data is on the effect on the electrical impulse. On that depolarization. You take the inputs of the nervous system. And it affects that polarization and how often that switch is going off and on.
When you look at pulse rate, that is a downstream effect. Once that impulse goes through the heart and propagates and you get the ventricle contracting and you get the blood getting pushed through all the various vessels and out to the extremities, it’s measuring the net result of that, which is the actual pulse. Now, if you think about one being the electrical input and the other being the downstream mechanical output, you suddenly see, wait a minute, there’s a lot of steps in between there and a lot of other things that can affect that. The first thing is right now there are studies being done that are trying to validate this pulse rate variability, which is heart rate variability measured by the distance, the difference in time between pulses trying to validate that against electrical impulses. Because if you think about it, you’d like to think, “oh, it’s the same thing.” When the pulse goes up, your heart contracts and the pulse goes.
But first of all, there’s a lot of distance between the two and things like back pressure, vascular back pressure can affect that. The overall health of your blood vessels, the size of your muscles, the position of your hand at the time. If your hand is higher or lower or even when you’re breathing. A lot of these things affect how blood profuses and can mask or add data interference to that heart rate variability. So, for relatively sedentary people who are not tremendously active, there’s a pretty good correlation between the two. But for people who are either very, very sick, very, very old or active, the correlation was much, much, much lower. So, it’s the kind of thing where heart rate variability is still the gold standard and its very interesting stuff. Using pulse rate variability, you’re not going to get as accurate a reading.
Now there was the argument, well I can wear this all day, I’m going to get lots of good data from it. Well, lots of bad data and lots of sloppy data, 30 bad datasets don’t equate to one good dataset. So, getting one good data set from an electrical-like chest strap measurement. First thing when you get up in the morning is going to give you one piece of very, very good data wearing all day device that may be taking your pulse rate variability when you’re swinging your arm around or maybe taking it when you’re sitting back and slouched and you’re, you’re not getting apples to apples comparisons may just give you a whole bunch of not very good data. Is it still going to give you some idea? Yes. But is it going to be as accurate? No,
Ari Whitten: And that’s the reason that I got myself one of these.
Alex Viada: Excellent. And that’s the standard right there and you know that’s first thing in the morning, same condition, same position and everything else that’s going to give you that either one minute or five-minute window where it’s going to collect that data. It’s going to collect that R to R, the electrical impulses and you’re going to get the most high quality validated against itself. Consistent data set you possibly can. Yeah. Sorry, go ahead.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, no, you’ve got, you finish what you were saying.
Alex Viada: I was going to say, cause that’s my issue with it. It is not that it’s not very, very interesting research, but that I think the potential for collecting data incorrectly is high enough that you have to say, okay, it needs to be done under these parameters.
Ari Whitten: Right.
Alex Viada: So that’s where I come from on it.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. I also actually want to say that I just got myself a Garmin Vivo smart four, which is like a wristband. Yeah. Not as expensive as the one that you have. It’s not gonna measure all activity in GPS and like the fancy one that you have. But it was, it sort of, it had a couple of measurements. One was based on pulse rate variability, they say HRV, but it’s actually pulse rate variability and they had like a stress level and the body battery detection, sort of measurement. And I was actually really excited to get it to be honest with you. I thought it was going to get all this really good data. And yeah, I just found it kind of mostly meaningless data. Like just didn’t find it accurate. I didn’t find it insightful. I find that taking the morning heart rate variability test with the chest strap in a really accurate way it takes two minutes to do, or three minutes or whatever it is. Every morning at the same time you get that one data point, then I know, okay, how hard can I push in my workouts today? And how much, or maybe I need to take the day off or, how did I sleep enough last night and so on. With that in mind, I don’t know if we explicitly stated this, but I would love if you could kind of, we’ve talked about how it applies to athletes and that example, but could you talk a bit about how this might be used for people with, regular people who are not athletes, maybe not even doing much exercise, but may be struggling with chronic fatigue and especially people with chronic fatigue syndrome who are known to go in cycles of boom and bust. Basically. When they’re feeling good, they have a tendency to really overdo it and then like a big crash and then they’re incapacitated for a few days and their condition worsens. So I’ve, this is why I’m a fan of heart rate variability is because I think it’s not only good for people like me but for training purposes, but for also people with fatigue do help them get an objective measure of how to self-regulate their energy, so that they can avoid the boom and bust cycle.
Alex Viada: Yeah. I think what’s so great about HRV in that regard is that it’s taking all of these inputs together and kind of giving you kind of a weighted average. And you know, there, there’ve been days, cause I went through, I went through a number of cycles myself where I use the regular dating mean measurements. You can feel great, but your heart rate variability can be terrible, and your body is always compensating. And your body is always doing what it needs to, to get through the day for the most part. And what’s interesting is HRV readings can proceed a sudden drop-off. You can feel fantastic, but your HRV will tell you, you feel fantastic right now because your system is compensating for an overall high level of fatigue. Your system is compensated for a high level of inflammation.
The day after a hard run, sometimes I’ll feel fantastic and you can apply this as an example. I may feel fantastic in some ways, but my HRV is in the tank and what’s happening in my system is, your system gets flooded with a number of Beta-endorphins and you know, your system is getting overloaded with a lot of these sympathetic outputs to make you feel great and get out of bed. And for all, I could take on everything and underneath your HRV is telling you “Yes, but that’s, that’s a compensatory pattern right now.”
Ari Whitten: Yeah. And what just popped into my head as you’re talking there is like military boot camps. I think there’s a… I don’t know if I’ve ever seen any research on this, but I know that there’s a general sort of feeling towards people go through this very intensely stressful thing. For a week or two or however many weeks, and then they are able to function on this intense physical workload and sleep deprivation for a period of time. And then after it’s over, tons of people get sick.
Alex Viada: Absolutely.
Ari Whitten: After the stress is done and they get sick during the rest is. I think it probably speaks to those sorts of mechanisms that the body can compensate during the stressor. Maybe HRV measurements would give some insight into a, if you don’t stop, you’re gonna completely overtax us and you’re gonna pay a price for it.
Alex Viada: Well, cause yeah, exactly. Because what the body does when it’s under stress when there’s a lot of inflammation that’s, those are the new opioid receptors were, getting all this, effects on it that’s causing you to feel less pain and less discomfort. Your autonomic nervous system is still crashed. Your hormone levels are still all going in the wrong direction without getting into specifics. You feel good, but you are feeling good because your body is effectively this general survival mode to carry about daily activities. A lot of hormones and a lot of the body’s response, it’s just stress are mildly euphoric hormones. Mildly euphoric neurotransmitters to make you not feel your discomfort. And one of the issues that I think a lot of people get into being they individuals with chronic fatigue or athletes under high training regiments is when you feel good and you say, I feel good, I want to push it.
You may only be feeling good because you’re in this compensatory pattern right now and all of that you’re going to do by pushing it now is truly put yourself so far in the tank that even all those neurotransmitters in that cocktail, a feelgood stuff that your body is releasing to keep you going suddenly that can’t even keep up and then you really crash. And something like HRV that’s actually looking at the input of the nervous system is actually looking at cardiac health, and it’s actually looking at all these other factors that are going to really tell you, “well wait a minute. No. This is a really shiny looking exterior and the engine is about to explode.”
Ari Whitten: Yeah. Excellent. I love it. So, I have, there’s like 10 more topics on this list, but I’m going to try and pick like two or three good ones here. And do you have, are you okay on time? I know we’ve gone a little bit over.
Alex Viada: Sure.
Ari Whitten: I won’t keep you too much longer, but let’s see. I know we need to talk about recovery. One other thing I’d for you to talk about is BPC 157 peptides or the literature on that at all. And you know, in relationship to, well, let’s just assume everybody listening has never heard of BPC 157 and I’m speaking Chinese, so please explain what that is and have you, what have you found in your review of the literature on it?
Alex Viada: BPC 157. It’s actually a naturally occurring peptide. And I believe it’s derived at the gastric peptide and its derivation. And what it is known for is actually speeding the recovery of connective tissue and injury. And its mechanism of action. We don’t have to go into the whole details on it. But one of the things I always say when people talk about these peptides is one of the questions as well. If it’s so good, why isn’t it marketed? Why isn’t this a marketed drug? But in fact, it’s actually being investigated to be a marketed drug. So, BPC 157 is being investigated under the name [inaudible] is a naturally occurring orally bioavailable peptide that can have systemic effects on speeding wound healing and injury healing. And, in fact, it looks like certain things on connected tissue health and joint health.
Fascinating stuff. Again, the mechanisms are a little uncertain, but the, the literature is very, very promising. There’s still a big question mark as to what the mechanism is, which is again, why if you were strictly evidence-based, you can discard it right now and say it doesn’t do anything, but it actually does. And it’s [inaudible] administration and orally dosing BPC 157 or they do intraperitoneal. But for humans, it would be orally dosing it. Orally dosing it does actually appear to speed recovery from injuries and from surgery.
Ari Whitten: And the reason that’s so significant like there’s this whole vast body of all these peptides. I think there are dozens, maybe there are hundreds of them, I don’t know. Yeah. But there are all these different peptides that are, there’s a lot of them are really gray market. Some of them have been FDA approved drugs for various things and then others of them are gray market and sort of sold for research purposes only. But they’re being, there’s this whole underground thing going on of doctors who are prescribing this, sending people to compounding pharmacies and there are peptides for anti-aging, telomerase inhibitors, other anti-aging peptides, nootropic brain boosting peptides, tissue healing peptides like BPC 157, TB 500 what else? Others like growth hormone-mimicking compounds. And yet there’s this whole body of like all dozens of these really interesting compounds that many of which have some really impressive research. BPC 157 is really unique for its tissue healing capacities, but it’s also one of the few that seems to be orally bioavailable and doesn’t have to be injected like the other ones
Alex Viada: Yeah.
Ari Whitten: What kinds of specific issues might a person have where this BPC 157 might come in handy?
Alex Viada: One of the interesting things that seems to do is when we talk about connective tissue, when we talk about things like a cartilage damage or ligament damage of the, like, one of the biggest challenges with those areas is that since blood flow is so poor to those areas, healing tends to be very, very slow. And BPC 157 what it appears to do, and again, specifics left outside of that is the growth factor is normally responsible for healing and repair and the whole proinflammatory than anti-inflammatory cascade. It appears to accelerate that in a lot of these tissues. And what’s interesting about that is if you do, if you have a knee injury or if you have chronic knee pain or if you have an ankle injury, even one that’s been a chronic one, something like BPC 157 could theoretically speed both the general healing and facilitate rehabilitation of the injured area much sooner.
One of the areas you typically see it prescribed for is things like either anything from saying the tennis elbow too, bad shoulders chronic knee pain, sometimes knee pain even as a result of old the injuries acting up and inflammation of like, and a lot of people have seen great success with this compound and those indications. And like you said, the fact that it’s orally bioavailable is fantastic because people don’t want to be sticking themselves with this thing. And, in fact, interestingly enough, injecting like actual damaged. So, what scientists have actually done is isolated, damaged tissue, taken it out of the animal, put it in, say a dish and put BPC right on it. And it doesn’t do anything. So, it’s obviously a systemic effect, something that’s a more centrally mediated that is responsible for the wound healing and tissue healing effects of it.
Ari Whitten: Something about the way it interacts with the living system.
Alex Viada: Exactly. Exactly. Whether it’s a release of some other kind of growth factor or some upstream, NTKB or anything else in the implement inflammatory cascades. Something like that. It’s doing something and they can’t put their finger on it, but there is enough data to repeatedly show that there are tissue healing impacts from this.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. One thing I just encountered really recently that is kind of exciting to me and then I think there’s probably going to be more really good research on is, especially since it’s orally bioavailable, is the capacity for this compound which promotes tissue healing to help re-generate the intestinal tract. Not only in people with Crohn’s were Al, but also just sort of more leaky gut, a gut ability issues that might have accumulated over of poor diet or, or other intestinal issues. My hunch is that this might turn out to be maybe the most powerful gut healing agent ever.
Alex Viada: Absolutely. I mean that’s, that’s purportedly one of the purposes of the naturally occurring peptide is actually to help repair and facilitate the repair of various structures in the, in the intestines. So, in that regard, that’s absolutely fascinating. And you don’t require any special administration. The incidence of side effects seems to be nonexistent almost, which is also what’s fascinating. Yeah. So yeah, I think if, I am hoping that this compound as [BEPECIN] as the trade name gets pushed through and actually gets approved because that’ll encourage a lot of repurposing and investigation being done into these other conditions.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. So, I have two last topics for you.
Alex Viada: Sure.
What science says about frequent feedings and metabolism
Ari Whitten: One is frequent feedings and metabolism. So, like the old idea that’s been around probably since the 80s, maybe the 70s, we should eat every two, three hours and then it keeps our sort of metabolic fire stoked and keeps our metabolism going fast. And what’s the relationship, in terms of the actual science between frequent feedings and our metabolic speed or how fast our metabolism is?
Alex Viada: Almost none whatsoever. The amusing thing is actually if you look at a massive meal, the thermic effect of food, which is just the cost of the body, the actual metabolic need metabolic input into digesting the food is actually higher for one big meal than multiple small meals. So, if you’re actually looking at the actual metabolic costs, eating a single big meal is actually got a quote-unquote speed your metabolism more than multiple small meals. So, there’s almost no relationship between the two. Other than that. Sometimes you get arguments made that more frequent feedings are going to give you more steady energy levels, which means your N.E.A.T. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, that’s going to be a little bit higher because you’re going to have consistently better energy levels. But what it fundamentally comes down to, there’s never been any proven, in fact, they, but they’re doing all these comparative studies now that are finding no relationship between meal frequency and actual metabolic output.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. A nice quick summary. ‘ I have no objections to it. That’s exactly what I’ve found.
Alex Viada: Almost Yeah.
Alex’s approach to recovery from stressors
Ari Whitten: So, the last topic, which is… I’m sure you could talk about it for hours, but I’ll ask you with trying to explain it in a relatively succinct way, is recovery. So, you’re obviously an expert in physical exercise and you’re a pretty extreme athlete and you’re an extremely fit guy. Well, I think you’re deadlifting, 600 pounds or more or 700 pounds or something, some ridiculous number and you’re out there running, extremely long-distance races at the same time, which is pretty much unheard of. You don’t see powerlifters and strength athletes who are also extreme endurance athletes. Usually, it’s one or the other. You’re somehow doing both. So, you’re a freak of nature. So, I assume, given that you probably know a thing or two about recovery. So, I would love to hear your thoughts on how you optimize recovery from all the intense exercise you do.
Alex Viada: Sure. I mean, the main thing is also one thing I want to touch on is that they, they seem like two completely different things, running and lifting heavy weights. But what I always tell people, you think about it is your body doesn’t see that you’re lifting weights. It doesn’t see that was running all that your muscles and joints and endocrine system and everything else, all that they see is that you’re asking them to do work. All it’s seeing is stress. It’s seeing an impact. It’s seeing, seeing joint loading. It’s seeing that tension and the tension on the long bones. It’s seeing energy needs, managing those stressors and realizing that not all exercises give the same stresses of are a major, major component here. The psychological difference between going out for a long run in the mountains and between pulling a heavy deadlift is very, very different.
And it’s part of the, the whole way we structure training is to, is to teach people that don’t think about it as lifting. Don’t think about it as cardio. Just think about all of it as different types of stress and manage that stress and look at your training week, not as, okay, today I’m lifting three days and I’m running this that I think about, okay, what is my psychological stress during this week? What days am I under high psychological stress because of my training? What days am I under high psychological stress because of work? How can I make sure that I’m giving myself enough psychological recovery in this week? So that’s one component of it. You look at the psychological stress of your whole week, you’re training week included, and look at your whole lifestyle together and say, okay, is my psychological stress going to be really, really high?
I am lifting a heavy max on Monday and Tuesday is going to be a really, really long day at work and Wednesday I have sprint scheduled and I hate sprints. I’m going from a period of high psychological stress, right into something that’s very demanding of my psychological energy. Should I space that out? What is my psychological recovery going to be in between there? On Wednesday, should I go in for a massage and I go in for a sauna session instead of doing this to enable that psychological recovery because that’s just as important as sore muscles? So, and then I break that down and say, okay, let’s look at our nervous system here a little bit. Kind of related the same thing you say, okay, am I demanding a lot of high-power output movements here?
Volume really taxes the nervous system and the nervous system output can recover quickly, but certain parts of it take a lot longer. So, by spreading out the week like that and understanding that every system recovers differently is a critical, critical part of this training. So, when I talk about recovery, I talk about the psychological recovery. Utilizing everything from quiet times to borderline sensory deprivation to even just spending time outside spending time in the sun. Finding things that are kind of negative stressors or you’re going to call you, I kind of positive recovery. They feel that in recovery buckets psychologically. Then Musculoskeletal, and you start to look at different recovery factors there and realize that muscle recovery isn’t the same thing as energy systems recovery. For example, a slow walk can be muscular recovery, but it’s still burning calories.
So, we look at muscular recovery and then I look at what I’m doing for it there. Looking at anything from active recovery to looking at things like compression, which can, all again, help with maintaining mobility looking at a lot of pre-habilitation type work on certain days when the legs are feeling really sore. And then we look at energy systems recovery and then you say, “okay, I’m doing a lot of work on Sunday. I’m doing a lot of work on a Monday. I need to adjust my calories to compensate for that. I want to look at my micronutrients here, look at kind of antioxidants state on those two days because there’s going to be a lot of stress on my system.”
So, it’s really hard to condense this down. But that’s a general idea is saying we’re not just looking at exercise, we’re looking at psychological stress during the week. We’re looking at musculoskeletal stress during the week. We’re looking at how all these things go together and we’re tracking each one. Not just in terms of the training you’re doing, but in terms of your lifestyle, in terms of everything else that you’re doing, taking all that together and helping each system stay at its peak.
Ari Whitten: Well done, well done on explaining that vast and complex topic in record time. Probably seven minutes or something.
Alex Viada: Hey, there you go.
Ari Whitten: Well, Alex, I have the feeling that we could easily spend three more hours talking. But you so much for spending a little extra time out of your day with me. I’ve really, really enjoyed this conversation.
Alex Viada: I really appreciate it. I enjoy being able to just kind of touch on, anything that comes to mind.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, no, this was an unusual style of interview. I don’t just normally just throw random topics out there, but you’re such a vast body of knowledge on all these random topics that I thought it would be cool to structure the interview like this.
Alex Viada: Absolutely.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. So, Alex, seriously, thank you so much for coming on the show again. I had a blast. This was really fun to do this podcast with you and you’re a brilliant guy. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with my audience.
Alex Viada: Oh, thank you so much. I really enjoyed it as always.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. So where can people find out more about your work or learn more from you? I know that you have the Patrion account set up where you’re, you’re posting videos on all these different things from BPC 107 to turmeric to CBD, to CNS recovery, central nervous system recovery from exercise, and other fitness and health-related topics. Where can people find that and sign up? And I also just want to say that this is an amazing opportunity to learn from a guy who is a real expert within fitness and health. For like five bucks a month, you can get access and so it’s really a steal for everybody listening.
Alex Viada: Well the place I can find it, if they have Instagram, just go to Alex.Viada. That’s my Instagram. It’s got the link to my patriot and I always put on live videos there and give people the chance to, just kinda quickly message him and say, Hey, I want to hear about this. And everything goes up there first. Then it goes on Patrion so if they have that format and want to add me on there, they can find the link to the patron and everything else. That’s kind of my preferred format. I really like the audience that attracts and kind of like the interactive aspect of it.
Ari Whitten: Excellent. And then you also have a website where you guys sell training programs and templates for different people. I think it’s called complete human performance.
Alex Viada: That’s it. Completehumanperformance.com
Ari Whitten: So, talk a little bit about what you guys offer there and may be interested in getting something.
Alex Viada: Yeah, we have both templates for a number of different kind of athletic goals. You want to, run 5k’s and lift a, there’s a lot of combinations out there that we have premade templates for, or we also do coaching. We have a, a series of coaches, all of whom at large diverse backgrounds in various sports, different conditions. We have physical therapists on the team, a whole bunch of people from different backgrounds and that can all do kind of custom coaching and they just work with you. They see exactly what you want to do. We route you to the appropriate coach to the appropriate actual expertise in that area and design custom programs for people.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. Excellent. Yeah. One final note. I want to say to everybody listening. To be perfectly honest and transparent, not everybody that I have on this podcast is somebody who I’m a fan of and somebody whose work I think is really accurate and reflective of the evidence and, is doing a good job of portraying the evidence accurately. And I generally try to be respectful and not antagonistic of people that I have on the show and not sort of have everything degenerated into a debate or an argument where somebody’s angrily signing off if I object to something that they say. But I want to say that in this case with Alex, he really has my highest recommendation. This is somebody who I think is doing amazing work. I think everybody should be following with you have an interest in fitness or in health which you should if you’re following this podcast. So, I really can’t recommend them highly enough. I’m personally a fan of his work, and like I said, I donate to his patriotic counts so I can get access to, his, his musings of the day. And I recommend everybody listening to the same. So, Alex, thank you again so much, really enjoyed this and I hope to do it again with you soon. All right.
Alex Viada: Thank you, sir. Yeah, absolutely. I’m 100% on board.
Optimizing Recovery from Exercise, Heart Rate Variability, The Cult of Scientism, CBD, healing peptides, and more with Alex Viada – Show Notes
Alex’s take on the “cult of scientism” (6:21)
The science on CBD oil (29:04)
What studies show on Heart Rate Variability (HRV) (47:56)
What science says about frequent feedings and metabolism (1:12:04)
Alex’s approach to recovery from stressors (1:13:49)
If you want to work with Alex and his team, you can check out his work here