On Human Performance:

Harley Pasternak   

The Big Jump host, David Gardner, interviewed celebrity trainer and nutritionist, Harley Pasternak, at the Propel Co:Labs Fitness Festival in Chicago, IL. Check out some of the key takeaways from David's talk with Harley and learn about The Big Jump, a podcast on human reinvention. 

Harley’s journey into sports science

  • Started off as an “enforcer” in elite hockey
    • Not fast, talented, or coordinated
    • Beat the crap out of competitor’s players
    • Thrived in the gym
      • Didn’t have to hit anyone or get hit
      • Fascinated by how bodies changed w/ certain exercises
  • Led to an interest in kinesiology and study of performance
  • Worked w/ Gatorade Sports Science Institute — leading sports physiologist group

What’s the difference in nutritional needs for an elite athlete vs. exercise enthusiast?

  • Our needs fit into 3 overlapping circles
    • Aesthetic: changing the way your body looks
    • Performance
    • Health
  • We have different habits, foods, and exercises that fit into each of the circles w/ some overlap
    • Example 1: Avocado is very healthy for you, but won’t necessarily increase your performance
    • Example 2: Electrolyte beverage could save you, but it won’t necessarily change the way your body looks
  • Need to ask yourself: What is the main goal?
  • What’s the main reason you exercise?
    • Look better
      • Main reason why people work out
      • Primary person Harley tries to address
    • Increase health
    • Increase performance
  • For people who exercise to look better, they have to address these 5 habits -- health and performance will benefit as a byproduct
    1. Walk at least 12,000 steps a day
    2. Sleep 7 continuous, uninterrupted hours a night
    3. Unplug from technology for at least 1 hour a day
    4. 3 meals, 2 snacks
      • Protein at least mass of hand (chicken, meat, fish)
      • Unlimited vegetables
      • Up to a palmful of a high fiber food (fruit, whole grain, legume)
      • Healthy fats the size of your thumb (avocado, nuts, seeds, olives)
    5. Push, pull, or lift something for 5 min a day
  • We are all over-exercising but underactive
    • No amount of diet or exercise can make up for sitting on your butt all day
    • We live a completely sedentary lifestyle
  • Balance is important — indulge in moderation
    • What’s the point in exercising and eating well if you can’t occasionally indulge other parts?
    • Example: Nutella-filled chocolate chip cookie

Learning about nutrition

  • U.S. is one of the most obese countries in the world

  • Most people get their nutrition information from social media, fitness magazines

  • Very rarely do we get nutrition information from people who have the credentials to give such information

  • None of the top-selling U.S. nutrition authors went to school for nutrition

  • Medical doctors only get a 2 hour lecture on nutrition in first year medical school

  • Need to find the right voice to talk to you

  • Primary sources to get nutritional information from: sciencedaily.com, hubmed.com, Mayo, Harvard, Stanford, Cornell  

Debunking food trends & myths

  • Carbs
    • Fat was the enemy, then salt, and now carbs
    • Refined carbohydrates (i.e. sugar) are bad  
    • Carbohydrates are needed to burn fat
    • What kind of carbs do we need? How much?
      • Eating for performance: need more carbs (especially endurance)
      • Eat to look good: reduce sugar
    • Better to focus on what to eat rather than what not to eat — if you focus on what to eat there is not enough room left to be vulnerable
  • Açai Bowls
    • Have you ever seen an açai berry?
    • Went to Brazil 4x to find a berry
    • Found that açai is a nut that grows in the forest — take the skin off the nut, mix w/ sugar, create mulch, freeze
    • Claim it’s a “superfood”
    • Blackberries & blueberries have more antioxidants, fibers, available locally w/o sugar
  • Collagen
    • Why do people drink it? Knees, joints
    • Connective tissue made out of collagen (heart, nails, hair)
    • Body doesn’t generate collagen at same rate as we age
    • Collagen made by boiling skin of animals (cows, pigs), create viscous liquid, bleach to kill bacteria, dry, turn into a protein powder
    • When we eat a protein, it’s broken down into basic amino acids — not processed in the form we ate it
    • Drinking collagen is equivalent to eating someone’s hair to make your hair better — Just doesn’t work
    • Why it’s popular: popular proteins (whey) have become popular and thus more expensive
      • Needed to find cheaper, higher margin supplements
      • Collagen (along w/ pea and rice protein) was cheaper
  • Alkaline, pH water
    • pH is the measure of acidity/balance of a biological entity
    • Low pH = acidic, high pH = basic
    • Alkaline water leads people to believe that our bodies are too acidic — we need to drink water to balance pH out
    • No such thing as pH of human body
      • Body is made up of different human systems
      • Different pH for different parts
    • Don’t want to change pH of body — we all have identical pH to each other
    • Body does Homeostasis: maintain a constant state
    • Don’t need a pH water, need a doctor to find the root cause that’s making you burp acid or have acid reflux
    • Alkaline water is really just water w/ calcium
    • Nothing bad, but nothing helpful
  • Intermittent fasting
    • Go extended period of time w/o eating
    • Equivalent of “Being American” — skip breakfast
    • Means different things to different people
    • Like Ramadan — Average person gains 2.5 lbs over 30 day period
    • Issue is about making good food choices (not fasting)
    • Skip breakfast, eat bad food and a lot of it for the rest of the day — gain weight
    • Need to eat right food and eat right amount of foods
  • Veganism
    • Benefits
      • Eat more vegetables — more fiber
      • Less foods that contribute to coronary artery disease
      • If you eat vegan properly, eat less calories (no butter)
      • Many people replace butter w/ cashew oil, coconut butter — eat the same amount of fat
    • Comes down to choices you make as a vegan
      • Balance macronutrients, maintain proper caloric intake and output
      • Difficult to get enough protein, iron
    • Can have a healthy diet as a vegan, but why?
      • Humans are designed to eat healthy and experience culture through food (Japan; sushi, Chicago; deep dish, etc)
      • If you’re a vegan for philosophical reasons, it’s respectable
      • If you’re vegan for health reasons, it’s misled.
  • Dairy
    • The World Diet book
      • Took a year off to travel to the 10 healthiest countries in the world
      • Learn what are they eating, how do they cook and eat their food
      • All 10 countries had nothing in common
    • Most of the top 10 heavily rely on dairy
    • The type of dairy is important
      • Organic dairy is important — U.S. is the last country in the world to allow hormones to be put in dairy
      • Lactose intolerance — people have a tough time breaking down sugar in dairy
      • Dairy not high in lactose: greek yogurt, icelandic yoghurt, fermented dairy
    • Don’t be scared! Purchase the right kind

Parting thoughts:

  • No such thing as a magic bullet
    • No powder, pill, capsule, or cleanse that will help you|
    • Question everything — don’t blindly follow
    • Look for multiple sources of information and examine who is providing that information (neutral, credentialized source, will they profit?)
  • Fitness is a new thing — look at the impact it’s having on everything
  • Check out Harley on Revenge Body


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