In this episode, we do a deep dive with Robb Wolf into the topic of electrolytes, and then we also make our way into the topics of blood sugar, various sweeteners, and even agricultural practices. When it comes to electrolytes, Robb makes the case that they are the ultimate “energy drink.” All of our energy production ultimately comes down to driving sodium-potassium pumps at the cellular level, and if we don’t have enough of those minerals then energy production will be compromised. We talk about dosing electrolytes, how important they are for neurological (and overall) health, how our levels are impacted by different types of diets, and how they affect our ability to handle stress. We then move into a discussion on sugar and other sweeteners, the importance of “satiety” and what it means, and then hear about some of Robb’s most recent work in the realm of sustainable agriculture. And if you’d like a gift of 8 free LMNT electrolyte packs (which I *highly* recommend), check out www.drinkLMNT.com/NeuFit.
Welcome to this episode of the Neufit Under Current Podcast. I am very excited to have Robb Wolf joining us. And in this episode, we’re going to shift gears from more of our clinical concepts and talk more generally about nutrition, especially electrolytes, and talk about strategies that we can use to support overall health of the body and specifically the brain and nervous system. And part of the reason I’m so excited to have this conversation with Robb is his background. He was a research biochemist, and he’s turned into a prolific author and teacher. He has two New York Times bestselling books, “The Paleo Solution” and “Wired to Eat”. And also a recent book that I love, it’s on my bookshelf right behind me called “Sacred Cow”, which explains how well-raised meat is healthy both for us and for the planet. To give you an idea of what he’s been up to in his career, in other areas, too, he co-founded the first and fourth CrossFit gyms in the entire world. He’s an accomplished jujitsu and powerlifting competitor, and is also the co-founder of one of my favorite companies called “LMNT”. If you’re watching the video, you can see me holding up one of these salt packs here, one of these electrolyte packs. So we’ll definitely talk about these. I absolutely love these. And we’ll definitely start there. So welcome to the show Robb.
Robb Wolf 02:12
Huge honor to be here. Thanks.
Garrett Saltpeter 02:14
So let’s start with the concept of electrolytes and these salt packs. Obviously, you started this company to get more electrolytes into the world. Do you feel strongly about it? Can you let us know why minerals are so important and what some of the biggest misconceptions are around electrolytes, especially salt, and then, of course, what you’re doing to correct those misconceptions?
Robb Wolf 02:39
Yeah it’s interesting, because looking back five years ago, I would have never in my life thought that I would be hawking salt to people, you know, seemed like a total red ocean. Like the world needs another electrolyte product, like it needs another pandemic or something like that. And what was interesting is that in fiddling with my own health, I’ve generally eaten on the lower carb side of things for 23 years now. And generally motor along pretty well, like my cognition is good, most of my physical performance is good, but because I do some jujitsu and CrossFitty type stuff. That low carb fueling isn’t a perfect fit for that, because these are pretty glycolytic activities, and I would try cycling carbs and post-workout carbs and pre-workout carbs and all this stuff, and it helps a little bit, but it really didn’t tick all the boxes, and I just kept tinkering with this. And I found a couple of guys, Tyler Cartwright and Luis Villasenor, who were the founders of this this program called “Keto Gains”. And they’re just remarkably successful helping people do these amazing body composition transformations, and they had some people competing high levels and CrossFit and jujitsu and powerlifting, and they are all keto fueled. I was like, what are these guys doing? What are they doing that I’m not aware of? And so I started basically kind of stalked Tyler and Luis and started hanging out with them and had them look at what I was doing.
And the long and short is that they were like your protein carbs fat are fine, but you’re really deficient in electrolytes, specifically sodium. And I was like well I salt my food, I’m fine on that and their head probably almost rolled off their shoulders, like they rolled their eyes so hard I’m sure but they’re kind of benevolent people and so they let me flounder around for another six months to a year, and I just kept complaining about poor performance and all this and they’re like, no really you need more sodium specifically. So they laid this out, they’re like make sure that you take in this much sodium per day and tell us what happened, and it was magic, and of course, the guy who’s selling salt is going to tell people that salt is magic But the interesting thing about what we did there, it should have been so obvious to me understanding low carb diets and low insulin leads to this process called the “Nature Rhesus of Fasting”, which is the loss of sodium and water when our insulin levels are low. I knew about this, but I just hadn’t really connected the dots, but this was clearly such a huge problem within this kind of paleo keto, low carb world that I talked with Tyler and Luis, I’m like, hey why don’t we put together this guide for how people can make their own electrolyte beverage, like use this much table salt, this much no salt, which potassium chloride, some magnesium citrate, some lemon juice, stevia, add water, shake it up and go. And we did that, and we still have that available for folks, aut within six months, we had like, a half million downloads of this thing. It was crazy. And folks were just reporting that their sleep improved, their performance improved, when they would exercise they were like 5 to 10 beats per per minute, lower at any given work output.
This is one of the challenging effects of low-carb diets is that the average heart rate tends to be higher, which can kind of cap your maximum cardiac output, just ended up fixing all these problems. The main issue was that it was convenient if you were at home to mix all this stuff up, but very inconvenient if you were traveling or anything. So the folks that were downloading this, this guide said hey, why don’t you do some sort of a convenient stick pack option? And so we did and that’s a long roundabout thing getting to why are electrolytes important? Why is sodium specifically important? For a lot of folks, they really don’t need to supplement sodium in their diets, because they’re eating a standard American diet, highly processed foods, they’re getting more than enough sodium, and they tend to get an unhealthy level of insulin stimulation from the overeating and from the amount of processed carbs. But whenever folks make a shift towards a better quality of eating, and it doesn’t have to be paleo or keto, could be vegan, it could be like Mediterranean or what But one of the things that happens inevitably, is that people eat fewer processed foods, and when we eat fewer processed foods, that tends to be the primary source of sodium in our diet, and then folks end up in this kind of Hyponatremia, low sodium state and a lot of the physical challenges, psychological challenges that people face when they do dietary and lifestyle changes are due to low sodium ironically, like this is what you ultimately end up getting to, if you dig into this stuff. And it’s already really hard to affect diet and lifestyle change, but then if you stack the deck further, that it’s almost like going through like a nicotine detox or something like that, because you’re jonesing for salt and processed foods, like it’s just really stacking the deck unfavorably for people.
And we chatted a bit before recording, literally all of life is driven by sodium potassium pumps, most folks are familiar with ATP and the Krebs cycle and whatnot. And the end stage of all of that process is to drive sodium potassium gradients, which are, how we have nerve impulses and muscle contraction and all the rest of that. And it’s worth noting that, other than pH, electrolytes are probably the most tightly regulated physiological process in the body. I think you could argue one versus the other. But it’s crystal clear that if pH gets altered, high or low, people can feel quite unwell and can die from that. And the same thing happens with an electrolyte imbalances, ironically. Even though folks maybe get too much sodium in general from processed foods. The irony is that sodium is is arguably the most important kind of Keystone element to electrolyte intake, because if we are deficient in sodium, it’s very difficult to make everything else work. People really focus on potassium, they focus a lot on magnesium, and those things are definitely deficient in the modern diet.
When we’re eating processed foods, we tend to not get enough of those, but interestingly, the way that the kidneys function, if we have adequate potassium, adequate magnesium, but inadequate sodium, it’s hard for the kidneys to really get ahead of that and to really deal with that situation. But if the inverse is true, if we have adequate sodium, and maybe a little bit deficient in potassium and magnesium, the kidneys can get on top of that, and can motor through that. And it’s actually the therapeutic versus toxic window for sodium versus potassium. Sodium is a much more forgiving chemical to over consume before we have problems. If you over consume potassium, it can make your heart stop, and this is what a most lethal injections are is a big bolus of potassium, it causes the heart to cramp, and that’s it. So I know that was a long wondering, kind of expose on electrolytes in general and why sodium is important. But that’s a little bit of the backstory and a little bit of the physiology around why sodium and electrolytes are so important in life. Sodium really is kind of the linchpin electrolyte that folks need to address if they want to deal with the headaches and the brain fog and the lethargy, to say nothing of cramping, once people have gotten to the point of like toe cramps, and calf cramps and stuff like that. They’re very far down the electrolyte deficiency kind of spectrum.
Garrett Saltpeter 11:20
That’s a fabulous overview. Thank you for that. And I think that the concept of energy is so important. We think about metabolic health and blood sugar, we think about mitochondrial function, we think of everything that we do, the deeper down, we get it, that is exactly where it goes. Like you said, the sodium potassium pump, and that electrolyte that charge gradient across every single cell, is the actual mechanism by which we generate energy. And if we don’t have enough for that to occur properly, then we are going to run out of energy. And we’ve talked on this podcast and in my book, we talk a lot about the concept of, we need to have enough energy to meet all of our basics for survival, if we want to have any leftover for long term growth and repair for building muscle for repairing organs and various structures in the body and for having higher level cognitive function executive function, it’s also important. So this really is the key to energy. Is there anything else? You know, since we do talk a lot in that neurological realm or neuroplasticity, neurological based treatments and fitness and performance enhancement Is there anything specifically in that realm that you think we need to talk about there, regarding electrolytes, minerals, sodium, potassium, magnesium?
Robb Wolf 12:46
I think maybe just reiterating that everything that is an activity of interest with regards to performance, health and longevity, if we are trying to learn a new skill, the sodium potassium pumps and electrolyte status is huge. It becomes kind of fractal, like it starts folding in on itself. Our total allostatic load or total stress load will become a factor in our ability to adapt to a new stress or to imprint a new skill or something, because I do Brazilian Jujitsu, I think about it more like a calculus class or a history class or like, I’m learning stuff. And it’s kind of funny that people don’t really, there’s not as much thought around what are we doing cognitively to enhance our skill development versus, if you’re in an academic setting, people start thinking about nootropics and everything and the nootropics should have a place and like physical activity and proper neurological functioning is the most nootropic thing that you could really think of. So sleep is dramatically impacted with appropriate versus inappropriate electrolyte status, our allostatic load, like the total stress load is mitigated if our electrolyte status is on point. Just being able to function properly whether you’re doing a podcast like we are doing right now or you’re doing physical activity. Proper electrolyte status is a really big deal for kind of getting all that stuff right. So it’s again, the guy who sells salts is telling you salt’s important, like we have a free downloadable guide for it, you don’t have to buy our stuff.
As part of the guide we recommend eating olives and pickles and pickled juice and all these sodium rich foods to try to tick that box and oh, by the way, if you need something convenient than we add elements also, but it’s funny like we’ve chatted with folks like Lance Armstrong and some really high level performers. You know, hydration and electrolytes have always been under the radar, but they never looked at it as like, this is actually the center of the bulls eye gig because of that sodium potassium pump kind of orientation, and we are kind of nosing around the proposition that a properly formulated electrolyte option is really the only, there aren’t really energy drinks, like Monster isn’t really an energy drink, because it’s a stimulant that’s not producing energy specifically, that is sodium, potassium, pumps, ATP, all that type of stuff. So we’re kind of nosing around that as a concept. So if you want to optimize energy, if you want to optimize allostatic load, if you want to optimize all these other inputs that go into neurological status, like sleep and heart rate variability, and whatnot, then the electrolytes and sodium are just so incredibly important. Like it’s still three years into this company, and really looking at this in a different way, it still kind of blows my mind how critical this stuff is. And it really bums me out that I did figure this out 22 years ago, when I was still useful and had lots of physical upside ahead of me.
Garrett Saltpeter 16:23
Yeah, that’s very well said. And I think a couple things come to mind hearing you say that, when you talk about how electrolytes are the bullseye. There’s so many times in health and in life, when we try to go on to the sexiest or the fanciest things, and we go down to step D and E, but we pass A, B, and C, and we skip the basics. And the best people in the world in any task, you know the best musicians still practice their skills, the best basketball players still practice their free throws. And I think we can’t forget about the fundamentals, and it doesn’t get more fundamental, really than this. I’m so glad you said that. I’m also glad you brought up the concept of Allostatic load, the adrenals. I think a really easy way to think about as they deal with the three S’s, they deal with sex hormones, stress hormones, and then also salt. So if there’s issues with salt and sodium levels that is stressful on the body that does increase the allostatic load or the overall stress load. So dealing with that, I’m so glad you brought that up, because that can have a huge effect on the autonomic nervous system, and reduce our overall load or cumulative stress and challenge and help us spend more time in that parasympathetic state and more rest and digest and recovery. So that’s great. I’m so glad you brought that up. We’ve talked about, why this is important? What electrolytes are? Let’s go now even one layer deeper into the house. So, how much do we need? How do we implement these? How do we actually go about making sure our electrolytes are on point and we’re hitting that bulls eye?
Robb Wolf 17:58
Oh man, frustratingly, like the ‘how much is’, is maybe the least precise thing that I personally have going on in this story. You would love to be able to say, oh, you’re 6’2 male 205 pounds, your physical activity is this and we know that you need this much sodium per day. But what we’ve seen it, there are genetic factors or some environmental factors. So one thing that we can do, it’s very difficult to give people like a pinpoint answer to this stuff, and it becomes a little bit subjective for you’re just kind of have to check the wind and see and like feeling pretty good and go from there. But heat and humidity increase electrolyte needs, physical activity increases electrolyte needs, interestingly, cold weather can increase electrolyte needs, particularly, you know, people go skiing, and they don’t realize that they’re at altitude, and air is very dry, and the double kind of whammy within cold environments is that you just don’t want to drink fluids, like our natural sense of thirst tend to get down regulated in the cold environment. So those are all things that factoring kind of environmentally, on kind of a genetic and epigenetic level. We have folks, certain folks, mainly males, although some females fall in this category of being called “super sweaters”, where they just pour sweat and so they will produce about double the amount of sweat of other people and not only do they produce more sweat, their sweat is saltier.
So, we’ve done some work with some NHL teams in, they will track how much sweat these guys produce. They’re about 220 pounds, pretty big athletic guys, and of course have a hard practice or a game, these guys can lose 10 pounds of water and 10 grams of sodium, so 10 grams of sodium lost during a game. And our medical guidelines suggest we should consume less than 2 grams of sodium per day to be healthy. So this is kind of where we end up jamming up, against medical recommendations versus reality. So in a couple of different ways, we generally bracket sodium recommendations, somewhere between 5 grams at a minimum, up to 10 to 12 grams depending on an individual’s needs and their physical activity levels, size, and whatnot. But instead of being able to give a really pinpoint accurate, like you need this much per day, usually what we recommend is that folks just kind of hydrate to a point that they feel good, and then if they start noticing brain fog, lethargy, fatigue, certainly cramping, like cramping is an indicator that they are really far down the electrolyte deficiency kind of path, but about 5 grams minimum per day for most folks, especially if they are eating a minimally processed diet, which means they’re not getting much sodium from the diet for the most part unless they’re doing specific things like olives, and pickles, and pickled juice and stuff like that. So a minimum of 5 grams up to as high as 10 to 12 grams per day for most folks, and I’m trying to think if there’s any other consideration there.
Garrett Saltpeter 21:39
Just to reiterate, so the medical recommendation is not to exceed 2 grams a day, right? And you’re saying most people, regardless of activity, need at least 5 and it can increase from 5 grams, and it can increase from there depending on sweat, depending on activity, depending on auditors, etc. That’s already a fairly big difference.
Robb Wolf 22:02
Yeah. You know, for that high motor athlete, if he or she is trying to diligently follow American Medical Association, American Dietetics guidelines and stay under 2 grams of sodium per day, but is bleeding 10 grams of sodium per day, that will cause the person to feel awful, they will transiently be in these hyponatremic low sodium state, the body can adapt to that. And what it does is it pulls sodium out of the bones, but what it also pulls out of the bones at that time, it’s calcium. So this is one of the big drivers of osteoporosis, osteopenia is low sodium intake, interestingly. So this is also where a blood test for sodium potassium levels, electrolyte levels, in general, it’s a bit of a snapshot and it can be helpful. You know, we had a cat go into the vet with something, nobody knew what was wrong with it, and so you check electrolyte levels, and the electrolytes were within reasonable bounds for that moment. Okay, so that overtly isn’t one of the causes of the cat having problems, but we don’t actually know, this is a movie not a snapshot. Does that cat consume adequate sodium every day all the time? Same thing with us. So it’s important to really make sure that we’re getting adequate sodium levels dietarily, because it won’t be immediately obvious that we’re deficient in sodium or electrolytes in general, because we do have some compensatory mechanisms.
Again though, based off of activity level, we may go in and out of having really severe problems, like you’re doing a hard workout or you’re doing a game, like ultimate frisbee game or something like that. And your energy just tanks, you’re feeling lethargic, you maybe think that it’s a blood sugar dysregulation issue, which is what I did for years. Like I don’t handle carbs, great, I definitely feel better on the lower carb side of things. But I thought that a bunch of the kind of neurological weirdness that I was experiencing was from carb, highs and lows, but then I wore a continuous glucose monitor, and I would feel like shit, and I was like, well, my blood sugar is great, it didn’t change at all. And then it took a while to put it together, but I would take some electrolytes and then I felt fine. I was like, oh, I’m sodium deficient, you know, and that was more the problem. But yeah, again sorry, I know I’m bouncing around a lot but at least 5 grams of sodium per day for most folks. If somebody is a type two diabetic hypertensive, they know that they have high blood pressure, they probably don’t need to diligently add sodium to the diet, but interestingly low sodium diets don’t really help that situation either. There are great randomized control trials that look at that and low sodium diets really don’t move the needle much on blood pressure, high blood pressure and hypertension. What folks really need to do is modify their calorie and carbohydrate intake so that they have a lower insulin level so that they have normal blood pressure. This is kind of one of the side effects or hidden features of lower carb diets even kind of a Mediterranean type diet, is it we tend to see really phenomenal normalization of blood pressure relative to eating a standard American or Western type diet.
Garrett Saltpeter 26:19
That’s great information. So if I’m someone who’s listening to this, and I know I’m not hypertensive, I don’t have any of those concerns, and I’m thinking, okay, I want to try adding in some more sodium to my diet. I’m going to start with 5 grams, I feel good, I’m going to try 6, I’m going to try 7. You mentioned sodium can be forgiving that to the point where we’re not too concerned about getting too much. But at some point, if let’s say I go to 10, 12, 13, 15 grams, is there a point at which I’ll notice some negatives or what would be the sign that I have over consumed it, even if it’s forgiving? How do I… I don’t want to go too far.
Robb Wolf 27:01
Yeah. For most people, you get disaster pants if you go too far. So it will be immediate and pretty obvious. And so you get a…
Garrett Saltpeter 27:11
That’s a friendly way of saying diarrhea.
Robb Wolf 27:14
Diarrhea, yes. And, it’s interesting. With something like element or even when people are mixing a homebrew or doing something like pickle juice, a salty beverage won’t taste super salty, if you need more sodium, like it’ll be kind of pleasantly, it’ll taste even something like pickle juice. But folks, with regards to element, especially if they have it diluted at that, like 24 to 30, 32 ounces. They’ll be sipping on it, it tastes sweet, it tastes sweet, it tastes sweet, and then they’ll take a drink and it tastes salty, and they’re just kind of like I’m done. Salt is the only kind of micro-nutrient that we have an inability to taste. B vitamins have a flavor. If you crunch up a B vitamin, it tastes, it has a flavor to it. But we’re not biologically wired to be looking for B vitamin or leucine or what have you as a dietary constituent. Whereas a big chunk of our sense of taste of salt, you know, salt, sweet, sour, umami. And I think that there’s some interesting kind of feedback mechanisms there, where when we need sodium, it’s very pleasant to get exposed to a sodium source and then when we’ve had adequate sodium, it’s like, I’m good, like I’m totally good on that, I don’t need more. It’s no randomized control trial that flushes that stuff out, but mechanistically it makes sense and there’s a good amount of anecdote around this stuff and I think that that is again something that can be useful for people with regards to do I have enough to add too much?
My good friend Dr. Kirk Parsley, he lives in in Austin probably a neighbor of yours, but he is pretty sensitive to sodium on that like GI whoosh side. So he never really hits the point where it doesn’t taste good. He’ll top off and then he’s like, oh, man, I hope I’m not driving when this thing goes. So I think that those are kind of the two mechanisms, like a taste mechanism, when it really starts tasting salty and kind of unpleasant then I think that we’re probably good and especially then if we kind of internally inventory like do I have any brain fog? Do I have any type of cramping? Do I have generally good energy levels and like my focus and whatnot is good? If all those things were in place, and you’re like I’ve got chocolate salt in this, and it tastes good, but I’ve hit that point where I’m kind of like, I’m probably going to wait a little while or I’m going to add some more coffee to it, you know, to kind of kind of top it off because I think I’m at my fill I had a raspberry with before breakfast and then ate breakfast and then mixed up some coffee with a little bit of cream and a chocolate salt and this one and like it’s good, but I’m starting to taste the salt more and more. And so it’s kind of like okay, I think I’m done on that, and I feel pretty good right now. Like, I’m definitely not cramping, I don’t feel like I have like a hypoglycemic event, I feel like my brain is chugging along at a decent clip, and so I have both that more direct objective experience of this tasting saltier as I go along, and then also that subjective piece of like, well, I’m, I’m feeling pretty good, and my cognitions pretty on point and all that stuff.
Garrett Saltpeter 27:17
That’s great. And I can tell you from my own experience that my own experience is very consistent with that, where I’ll be drinking it and after a few salt packs at some point in the day, it just won’t taste as good. Yeah, and I haven’t gotten to the disaster pants point yet.
Robb Wolf 30:57
Even though I have all kinds of weird GI stuff in general, like I can take this stuff super concentrated, which can be problematic. I can do loads of it. I seem to be whoosh proof, at least with the levels that I’ve tinkered with thus far.
Garrett Saltpeter 31:38
That’s good. So you mentioned raspberry salt, chocolate salt. So these are a couple of the flavors of these LMNT salt packs. The one I have in front of me is actually an unsalted. That’s what I have in here. And can you talk to us here? Because this is an interesting topic. And I know something about it. And I think it has a lot of good educational value for our listeners. Can you talk to us about the sweeteners that you use in that? And then talk about sugar versus stevia versus artificial sweeteners in general? And the effect on health and the effect on blood pressure? I know that’s like a two or three layered question there, but can you tell us a little bit about why you use what you use? And then more broadly about sweeteners and the health and blood sugar ramifications?
Robb Wolf 32:21
Sure. So I’m a biochemist by training. And I’m really honestly pretty underwhelmed with the scare factor around a lot of artificial sweeteners, like a sulfate K and sucralose and stuff like that. A lot of those causes GI problems. It’s kind of the main concern that I have, like people like oh, it’s going to get the cancer and like I don’t think that’s going to give you cancer, may give you the trots. A lot of artificial sweeteners have potential GI ramifications, even some of the light natural sweeteners are with retort, maltol, those sorts of things that are used in like sugar free chocolates and stuff like that. If you grab a box of sugar free chocolates and eat half of it, you’ll pray for death, like you will be shitting so vigorously, you will wish that there was arsenic in that stuff. So there’s challenges with all these things. We ended up going with stevia. And there are some folks that are super concerned about some studies that suggest that stevia is problematic from hormonal perspective, the studies that have been done in animal models around stevia that suggest that it may be problematic with hormones, it’s just gargantuan amounts of stevia like you would need to consume the equivalent to something like 30,000 boxes of element, which each box has 30 stick packs. So you would die far sooner or from the sodium, the potassium lay all the other stuff than you know the stevia would be problematic there. But you held up the raw unflavored and the reason why we did that is we knew regardless of what sweetener we picked, somebody somewhere would have issue with it. They would have some problem with it, like some people hate monk fruit, some people hate stevia.
So it’s like okay, here’s the raw unflavored if you want to flavor it yourself you can. We still have our ‘make it yourself’ homebrew at drink element.com forward slash homebrew. So if you want to do it 100% your own way and use your own mystical you know celtic sea salts and everything you can do it that way but the stevia just seemed like the least problematic and also honestly it provided the best flavor overall for what we were trying to do. Like people comment often that the flavors are really good, and they’re not overly sweet and you don’t really get the stevia taste out, it’s not that weird, kind of bitter aftertaste with it. But again, we offer a couple of options, the Homebrew option, and then the raw unflavored, and then on the sugar side of this stuff, it’s interesting, because if you follow some of the like evidence based nutrition folks, which you know, for them if there’s not a randomized control trial, and it doesn’t exist, even though there’s no randomized control trial on the microwave background of the universe. So we have arrived at most of our models of cosmology, geology, not via a randomized control trial, but by inference, which is a whole other funny thing, but these folks will point out rightly, that if we live in a metabolic ward, and we are fed an ISO caloric diet, so we don’t overeat a diet that is very rich and sugar, there’s no problems, like at least under the short term, like people don’t suffer undue metabolic health, they don’t gain weight, that the real crux of that stuff is over consuming calories, fine. Nobody lives generally in a metabolic ward though, we live in these dynamic situations where you go into a 711. And there’s something like 11,000 different food items in there, all of them are engineered to bypass the neuro-regulation of appetite, they are engineered for us to want to eat all of them. And you could have a salty, crunchy thing here and then a sweet sour thing over here, and you just bounce back and forth between them.
And that’s my other book, “Wired to Eat”, talking about the neuro-regulation of appetite. That’s a difficult situation for modern humans to deal with. And I think sometimes people go a little crazy. They will have a good salad dressing that they’re looking at, it’s got like, some balsamic, vinegar in it, and some olive oil, and then maybe there’s a little bit of sugar in it , and at the end of the day, it’s like a half a teaspoon per serving, and people will freak out about that. They’re like, oh, I can’t do it. I’m like, I think that’s maybe being a little bit over the top. But then at the same time, sugar is just in every damn thing that we get exposed to. So you also, one does need to practice a fair amount of diligence in minimizing our exposure to this stuff, I guess, just generally avoiding processed foods is kind of a strong argument there. Sugar is interesting to me in that, like, baked goods are a problem because they taste good, and they’re easy to overeat. And that’s a problem but some work that Robert Lustig did looking at fructose, specifically which this can be sucrose or high fructose corn syrup, but when we consume sugar in liquid form, it hits the liver at a remarkably fast clip, so are the contents of our gut drain into the hepatic portal vein and then that dumps into the liver. And we don’t really understand why things work this way, but the exposure of the liver to liquid fructose causes some really interesting metabolic changes, it tends to encourage the liver to begin this lipogenesis process.
So we begin developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Now this is a dose response curve, like if you had 5 grams of sugar in some other electrolyte product, that’s not the problem. But it’s so easy to get 20 or 30 or 100 grams of liquid carbohydrate in things like fruit juice, or you know, like people go into again, you know, convenience store and get a big gulp or something like that, where there’s just mountains of sugar there. And there seems to be something going on metabolically that is different and much more dangerous and nefarious than just the carbohydrate content itself. The fact that it’s liquid, the fact that it hits the liver so quickly seems to have some really negative metabolic consequences there. And so those are the reasons why we opted for stevia and also why we have a raw unflavored for the people that know their sweetener was ever going to make those folks happier. Tick all the boxes and I I know we were going to touch on some ironclad takeaways here it’s some point in the show and one of those things is just avoid liquid carbohydrate It’s like the plague. This seems like such an easy one that anybody whether paleo or vegan, although the vegans like juicing a lot, and so that may be kind of problematic, but liquid carbohydrates are really problematic, very easy to overdo. And I think that they disproportionately negatively impact liver metabolism and skew it towards this pro-inflammatory, pro- adipose accreting process, like it just stacks the deck towards becoming fat, but not just fat in generally, but that visceral adiposity. The fact that it surrounds our internal organs and is so incredibly injurious to health and pro-inflammatory, and whatnot.
Garrett Saltpeter 40:46
So a lot of great information there. If we can try to reflect back and summarize. So you’re not as concerned about the health ramifications of moderate amounts of artificial sweeteners, or even sugar alcohols, artificial labmate, artificial sweeteners, stevia, whatever it is, and you think that there’s kind of a natural feedback loop there, because GI distress would be the main thing to watch out for? And then likewise, you’re not overly concerned with moderate amounts of sugar, unless it’s both excessive sugar, and specifically, are most emphatically liquid sugar, like soft drinks, fruit juice, coffees?
Robb Wolf 41:30
You know, like sugary coffees and stuff like that?
Garrett Saltpeter 41:33
So what about the in-between case of like smoothies that have blended fruit in it, where you still have the fibers of the fruit? Would you feel the same way about that? Or is that a little different, because it’s going to be this little slower, somewhere in between?
Robb Wolf 41:47
In my experience working with people clinically, like in a gym, and then I sit on the board of directors of a medical risk assessment clinic. I’m the crazy guy that really thinks that folks should just chew their food, like if you drink something, it’s coffee, tea, water, maybe milk, or used to, like 1950s, like a thing of juice was like this big, it was like a shot glass, and if we were drinking, if you drink alcohol in a shot glass and you have one, it’s not that big of a deal. 15 of them then, you know, it becomes a problem. So yeah, I just don’t see things like smoothies and shakes really sticking with people long term. With regards to satiety and mitigating hunger, like when we eat adequate protein, we find the appropriate glycemic level for each of us, which is just playing around with the amounts and types of carbohydrate that we do well with. And some people do better with a little more fat, some people do better with a little bit more carbs. But it’s all mainly whole, minimally processed food, just magic happens with that in the folks that I see that are just like, I’m just too busy to eat real food, and I just have to have a shake. They’re always kind of a hot mess, like it’s still almost always the person that’s struggling with the body composition that they want.
Occasionally, we have somebody who’s like a figure competitor, a bodybuilder or something and a real high motor, and they supplement their diet with a shake here and there, and that that’s fine. But it’s just really rare that I see someone who’s just kind of average person who wants to be healthy, who wants to be lean, and kind of physically fit that they benefit from a shake relative to even like a sandwich or something, like two pieces of bread, a whole lot of meat in between a little bit of veggies like that is going to work better for you than blending something up and shooting it down like the same 50 grams of protein, 40 grams of carbs, blah, blah, blah. That sandwich that you got to chew up is going to work better for you metabolically and satiety, like the real trick with all this is that you eat in a way that you spontaneously reduce calorie intake to the level that you need, and I just don’t see shakes tick in that box very well. And I could have made a ton of money selling different types of shakes and stuff like that. But just ethically I was really conflicted with it because in my clinical practice, I didn’t see that type of stuff work well for folks. Some people it might, but if somebody’s continually struggling with the body composition that they want, and they feel like they do a shake and then they’re hungry afterwards and whatnot, like try just eating whole real food.
Garrett Saltpeter 44:53
And is the best way to know whether this is what working for, anyone listening to this, know whether it’s working for them individually? Is it basically how long they can go between meals before they feel hungry? How long that sense of satiety last? Is that a sensible?
Robb Wolf 45:12
Yes, I completely dropped the ball on that. Yeah, one should be able to eat a meal, and go 6, 8, 10 hours without eating. And you may be hungry, you may be like, man, I really want to eat, but you’re still functional. Whereas when we get those really high glycemic load foods that don’t really stick with us like a shake, usually an hour, two hours later, you’re hungry again. And you may get into this kind of hypoglycemic valley where you’re lethargic, shaky, we call it hangry, where you start getting hungry and angry at the same time. That’s a great feedback mechanism for, you know, in general, is what you’re reading appropriate for fueling you properly. Thank you for asking that.
Garrett Saltpeter 46:06
That’s great. Yeah, I mean, you had essentially said that, I think we just want to wrap it up and put a nice bow on. And I think that definitely seems to be the best sort of indicator. And then for people who want to look a layer deeper, you mentioned, the use of a CGM, Continuous Glucose Monitor. Is that kind of the next best tool to look at that next level of detail to see blood sugar swings with that? Would that be kind of next place you’d go or something else?
Robb Wolf 46:36
Either a CGM, or just getting an inexpensive finger prick, blood glucose testing. And before, like, if the, with my second book Wired to Eat, we have the seven day carb test. And within that, what we recommend is that folks pick a battery of carbohydrates, they check their blood sugar before they consume the carbohydrate, they eat the carbohydrate, and then they check it one hour and two hours. Ideally, some people just do two hours, but that’s another good way to kind of get some objective feedback on this type of stuff, but a lot of people… My stuff was interesting when I did that finger prick blood testing. As an example, I had 50 grams of effective carbohydrate from rice, my wife had 50 grit, which is just one cup, it’s not a ton that is pretty standard serving. My wife does great with carbs, like her blood sugar never went above about 115 at one hour and two hour, mine went to like 198 like I was in diabetic range. And I felt awful, I had vision changes, I was hungry afterwards like really, really hungry. So objectively, I knew that I was in that you know, carbs are not my best friend camp, but it was kind of cool to get that objective feedback of the blood glucose testing. The CGMs are cool, the bugger with them, I guess kind of twofold, you have to get a prescription for them. There are some outlets now that like levels that can hook you up with that like they hook you up with a doctor, and they can get you to a CGM for kind of personal testing. But also CGM are good to show trends but they’re not as accurate at kind of pinpoint blood glucose levels. So that’s where like the fingerprint models are better for really knowing for sure what your true blood glucose levels are.
Garrett Saltpeter 48:39
Good. That’s good feedback. And I can definitely recommend wholeheartedly to anyone listening, “Wired to Eat”, your book that you mentioned there, too. We only have a few minutes left. And I do want to get into one last topic that’s near and dear to my heart. We actually just last week drove to a beef processor to pick up our family’s cow that we have in the garage freezer here. So I love sacred cow and the work that you’ve done there around agriculture and the health benefits of grass fed beef. Can you tell us in just a few minutes here, high level summary whatever we can cover in a few minutes. Tell us about sacred cow. Your thoughts on both the agricultural health of the planet and the health of our bodies, and how we raise meat can affect that?
Robb Wolf 49:27
Yeah. It’s the best way. I hate when folks… It’s like the vegan playbook where it’s like meat causes cancer. It’s terrible for the environment and you’re ethically a horrible human being and if you eat it. Peace out. Mic drop. Done. And the bugger though is that that’s a super compelling argument to be made. It’s an elevator pitch and it’s completely devoid of any nuance or background. It’s like, really meat is the cause of cancer and meat is the primary driver of climate change. And I’m really an amoral person, if I eat meat, what about all the traditional cultures that have eaten meat since time immemorial. Native Americans are horrible, because they eat bison. Really? It’s just this interesting thing that kind of goes on from there. And it’s not to say there aren’t ethical health and environmental considerations of consuming animal products. But it’s a pretty complex topic, and where the world is currently is in this really like meme fest, 15 second elevator pitch, treatment of so many things on the one hand. Then on the other hand, we have these opportunities for long form discussion, like Joe Rogan type podcast that can go on for three hours and really go deep on various topics. And 10 years ago, Diana Rodgers and I were talking about the need to write a book on this topic, addressing the health, environmental and ethical considerations of a meat inclusive food system. And that’s what we did it both a book and there’s a film so like, if you have somebody who’s interested in this topic, and they’re probably not going to read a 300 page book on it, it but they might be open to a Netflix type documentary film, we have “Sacred Cow”, the film, which is quite good and covers all this in a different way, but largely the same things.
But I guess what I would throw out to folks is, you know, is it possible that the media and social media and government are not giving us the full depth and breadth of treatment of this highly complex topic? And if we ever experienced a situation in which the government, the media and social media have given us kind of an infantilized assessment of some sort of important but highly complex process. And I think everyday, all the time, COVID, and fossil fuels and all kinds of things. As an example, I’ll just point this out. Most people are aware that if they buy gasoline, oftentimes it will say, can contain up to 10% ethanol as an additive in that. The thought there is that we’re somehow being green, green in quotation marks, by using ethanol, because it comes from corn. Well, the interesting thing with that is that it costs more energy to make ethanol from corn than what we get out of it. The ethanol manufacturers don’t drive their tractors and cars and trucks with the ethanol that they produce. They use gasoline and diesel, because the only way that whole thing works is subsidies, massive subsidization of the production of ethanol from corn to be used as a fuel, and it costs more than what you get out of it. And it’s a huge fucked up boondoggle. And the people who make lots and lots of money off of it, like there might be a few like Iowa corn farmers that are listening to this, and they’re like, fuck Robb Wolf, but they’re not doing anything for the environment. They’re not doing anything to reduce fossil fuel consumption, they’re actually worsening it. This is actually worse for the environment overall and that’s completely out there, very well analyzed.
This is simple thing. If you want to offset fossil fuels, and you’re going to use something like ethanol, you need to get more energy out of the ethanol than what you put into it. That is not what happens. So that’s just for example. And I will suggest that, like the notion that animal husbandry causes more greenhouse gas emissions than all of transportation. That’s completely inaccurate. The notion that cows in particular, use massive amounts of water as if it’s stealing it from somewhere else. The truth behind that is that the water that’s being accounted for there is the water that falls on grasslands as snow and sleet and rain and was going to fall no matter what, and has no other use, other than to grow grass. It’s not being stolen from somewhere else. It’s portrayed as if it was being stolen from somewhere else. Whereas like when we look at almonds, they’re actually 98% of water and almond juice is pumped from below ground as groundwater that is not immediately easily replaceable. And that’s actually a place that one could make a very credible argument about the environmental considerations of water usage around ailments, but nobody’s concerned about that, because it’s a plant-based food. So those are a few of the things out there. When we finished that book, it was 600 pages, and the editor whittled it down to 300. And I think they actually did a very good job on that, there was important stuff that we are releasing slowly that got cut out, but it’s a really complex topic. And so if people take this climate change things seriously, and I think they should, maybe starting with the film first, to just kind of get a two hour exposure to, you know, does this seem insane? Is what we’re putting forward Insane?
We have a story in there about a rancher, based out of the Chihuahua desert, where he has reversed a million acres of desert and turned it back into grassland by using holistic management and rotational grazing, and it’s absolutely amazing. And if every other claim around holistically managed animals was false, and I don’t think they are, but let’s say they all are, but we were able to use animals to reverse desertification, and we have literally no other way to do that, like you don’t plant crops in these areas to reverse desertification use holistically managed animals to reverse that. Places like the Sahara, the western states that are so dry and have turned into desert. There’s a movie, and I’m running long here, but really quickly, there’s a movie called “Sea of Grass” from the 1930s, 1939. And it talks about the area between new Mecca like Albuquerque, New Mexico, up to Las Vegas over to Salt Lake City that used to be a giant grassland, it is now a desert. And it’s mainly like sagebrush, and this is the plant sage is kind of the climax species in an area that’s been desertified, but that area was over grazed.
And so this is another thing that’s interesting to understand. Too many grazing animals on an area particularly it placed there the wrong way, like when they started putting in fencing, it changed the ability for animals to naturally move across the landscape, and it fed into a process of overgrazing, then you can under graze an area. These grasslands evolved with the grasses, co-evolved with ruminants that consume many of the grasses. Their lifecycle is dependent on going through the intestinal tract of these rumen. Other grasses need fires to go through the areas at various points to be able to make them all work. But the long and short of that is that we have horribly mismanaged these huge tracts of land, that could be reducing climate impact that could be sequestering carbon out of the atmosphere, and could be producing high quality, nutrient dense food for people. And this is kind of the compare and contrast, and you just couldn’t get a more stark reality here.
On the one hand, you have a future that all of our food is going to come out of a lab or a vat. It’s like impossible food and Impossible Burger. And it’s all good. Like the technology darlings and all of Silicon Valley loves these folks. And the flip side is that our food system needs to possibly look a lot more like something that from the late 1800s, with an integration of portable solar power, electric fencing and drones that take infrared scans of the grasslands to know which grass needs to be eaten at what cadence, and maybe some areas need to be watered and whatnot. So an integration of 21st century technology but with a backbone primary of something that doesn’t look too much different from farms from like 1600s to 1800s. And there’s just something incredibly unsexy suggesting that the backbone of our food system should look more like the 1800s than George Jetson growing food in a vat.
Garrett Saltpeter 59:27
It’s so interesting how you mentioned how stark the contrast can be, and how one group of people can adamantly blame grazing animals for creating carbon when there’s a very compelling case that them eating grass, creating manure actually helps with carbon sequestration, sequestering carbon, it’s tough word to say, and can actually be better for the planet. And I think you guys make a very compelling case and seems like that has to be part of the future. Not only is it not the problem, it’s actually a big part of the solution. And it also comes full circle because we were talking about how too much elements can give us disaster pants and now, a newer cow manure. So I think now that we’ve come full circle, it’s a good note on which to close. I know we’re coming up on your availability here, but thank you so much, Robb. It’s been an absolute pleasure having you on. For people who are interested, you mentioned the drinklmnt.com. Then the letters lmnt.com/homebrew. We also have a special offer for anyone listening. If you go to drinklmnt.com/newfit, you can get a free pack of these electrolytes. They’re going to give you a sample pack of several flavors. Opening mine up right now, it’s got 8 or 10 packs in there.
Robb Wolf 1:01:00
Citrus, raspberry, watermelon, lemon habanero, mango chili, chocolate. Is that it? I’m forgetting one.
Garrett Saltpeter 1:01:18
That looks right. Raspberry salt. Did you say raspberry?
Robb Wolf 1:01:21
I may have may have forgot the raspberry. Yeah.
Garrett Saltpeter 1:01:23
White raspberry watermelon? Yeah. So, I would encourage everybody who’s listening and go get that. I think they just pay for shipping, nut they’ll get free? So go, check that out. It’s a great gift. Thank you, Robb and the LMNT element crew from everyone there for gifting that to our audience. And man, I’d love to have you on again to finish the conversation about agriculture and beef and all that. We didn’t even get into the health benefits and the differences of the grass fed beef versus conventionally raised. In the meantime, before we get to have Robb on again, everyone please if you’re interested on this topic, I do encourage you to check out Robb’s and Diana’s on Netflix their documentary and the book Sacred Cow.
Robb Wolf 1:02:13
Sacredcow.info, I think. Let me double check. It’s Diana’s website, but that’s kind of our clearing house for… Yes, sacredcow.info. Amazing material on that site. Diana does a really phenomenal job. Managing, curating, all of that information just generates content constantly. And it’s funny because some folks have been like, you guys are just getting money from big meat, and I’m like a lot of what we talk about is not super friendly to like big meat. We’re in this kind of weird spot where we’ve managed to piss everybody off. This is not the vegan green watch, and I don’t want to pick on them too much. But if you see one of their documentaries, it’s like, you will be skinny, you’ll live forever, you you’ll be morally superior, you’re going to save the planet. And there’s absolutely no ifs, ands or buts, no details around that. It’s just this tsunami of good. And there’s kind of a reality that a scale of scalable food system that could be here for 10,000 years. There’s trade-offs to it. There’s pluses and minuses. There’s things that the really meat elitist people wouldn’t like about it. There’s things that the big AG [phonetic] wouldn’t like about it. There’s things that the Silicon Valley, tech moguls don’t like because they love things like Impossible Burger and growing meat in a vat, because they love the notion of food as intellectual property food as IP, because they could own that IP. Bill Gates is now the largest owner of farmland in the United States. And he’s a huge advocate of all of this fake meat stuff and paints animal husbandry in this very negative light. And there’s lots of money to be made both on the meat side and on the plant based side. But there’s a lot more money to be made on turning corn and wheat and soy into things that look other than corn and wheat and soy than there is meat and dairy. Like there’s just so infinitely more money to be made there and the ability to consolidate control of our food systems. So I would love to come back on, like really talking protein carbs fat, I do it, but I’ve been doing that for 22 years. The thing that really gets me out of bed in the morning is talking about this regenerative ag stuff and more systems based approach to like healthcare issues and all that type of jobs. So yeah, I would love to come back and chat more about that.
Garrett Saltpeter 1:05:16
That’s awesome. I love the work you’re doing across these. You said Wired to Eat and Macronutrients. I mean, it’s cool to see how your career has evolved now with the element salt packs and agriculture. Just want to acknowledge the work you’ve done. Thank you for all the contributions you’ve made and how graciously you share your time and knowledge and education. I’ve gotten to hear you speak and meet you at different events in the past and just had wonderful experiences and learned a lot from you. So it’s great to have you on thank you so much. And you mentioned sacredcow.info. We mentioned your book and website. Your Instagram is Das Robb Wolf with d-a-s-r-o-b-b, with two B’s and Wolf, right?
Robb Wolf 1:06:02
Yeah, I may be abandoning all social media soon. I’m noodling. I may have a sub-stack. And I may abandon it all because I think that social media, as it stands right now, is like this evil poison that is liable to literally destroyed the world. I also get that it’s kind of the only way to build a business and have reach and so I’m conflicted on that. But yeah, I’m seriously thinking about shutting it all down and just going to a sub-stack. So we’ll see, maybe a graded process. But @dasrobbwolf, at a minimum though. I’m going to shift most of my broadcast type stuff on to just my own podcast, and then the sub-stack.
Garrett Saltpeter 1:06:43
Okay. Very good. So we’ll find your podcasts or go on Spotify, on iTunes. Just search Robb Wolf, and it’ll show up there. And Robb with two B’s. Excellent. Well, thank you. Thank you Robb, for joining us. Thanks, everybody for tuning in and listening. Lmnt.com/newfit, if you’d like the free gift, get those 10 or 8 or 10 Salt packs. And I love them, I have every day. They’ve done wonders for me sustained energy, helping me be able to go longer in between meals, my HRV scores are higher when I have them, everything just works better. And things are going fairly well for me, but it’s definitely helped. It’s made a noticeable jump. So I really think getting down to the fundamentals like that, like we talked about is the key to sustainable success in any area, including health. And I just thank you so much for coming on and sharing that message. Huge honor. Thank you. All right. Thanks, everybody. We will see you on the next episode of the Neufit Under Current Podcast. But thank you so much for listening to the Undercurrent Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider leaving a review and be sure to subscribe to stay up to date as we release future episodes.