I welcome my friend Zach Bitter to the show to talk about all things related to peak performance and endurance. Zach is the host of the Human Performance Outliers podcast and is definitely honoring the show title with his amazing ultrarunning performances. He is the world record holder at 100 miles with an astonishing time of 11 hours, 19 minutes, which equates to running 6 min, 48 seconds per mile all day long!
Go try running one mile at that pace, and then repeat 100 times! Zach also busted the world record for 100 miles on a treadmill, so don’t complain that you get “bored” after 42 minutes at the gym. Zach has also long been a leader in fat-adapted endurance training, having discovered that a nutrient-dense, low carbohydrate diet helps him recover faster and also gives him a performance edge during ultramarathon competitions because he doesn’t require as many on-board calories as when he was a high carb athlete.
Zach was a participant in the FASTER study (Fat Adapted Substrate utilization in Trained Elite Runners) where groundbreaking discoveries were made for the potential of humans to burn fat during exercise at a higher rate than previously thought possible. We get into a bit of science about athletic performance, but the best part of this episode is hearing about Zach’s methodical approach to peak performance and his evolved, process-oriented approach. He loves the challenge of ultrarunning, loves pushing the edges of human endurance performance, but has a healthy competitive disposition and strives to lead a balanced life.
Enjoy listening to this super informative show with Zach, and if you’re interested in connecting with him for coaching, check out his website here.
Zach Bitter is a world-record-holding runner who ran 100 miles in 11 hours and 19 minutes. He’s going to talk about his training diet. [01:50]
As Zach got more serious about his ultramarathon training, he learned more about nutrition. [05:25]
Even a strong “healthy” young athlete has energy swings that are not good for him. [08:28]
There is not just one way to do this dietary journey. [10:31]
Look at the individual plan rather than the group plan for diet and training to see what is best for you. [14:59]
Zach uses his training as a school teacher in his coaching work. Treat people as individuals, not by throwing them into one group. [20:04]
What was happening in the sport of ultra-marathon in 2010 when Zach got into it? The sport has grown massively. [25:27]
Zach fills us in on his succession of breaking records with him amazing times. [31:11]
Running on a flat track, Zach was averaging 06:47:05 per mile when he broke the world record. [35:12]
If you have a bad race, don’t waste time with a pity party. Think about how to use that experience to help me improve for next time. [38:52]
In 2011, Zach started to examine his diet and wanted to see if he could enhance his diet to accommodate his difficult workouts. He talks about his race fueling strategies. [42:36]
Here in the year 2020, with so much sports nutrition information, we are still seeing many severe gastrointestinal problems in elite athletes. [51:26]
The diet transformation had a huge improvement in terms of his recovery. He had swollen ankles. [54:19]
Mike McKnight ran a hundred miles with no calories. [01:03:37]
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Get Over Yourself Podcast
Intro (0s): Hey, listeners. it’s time to talk to my old friend and one of the leading humans at the cutting edge of ultra endurance performance, the world record holding Zack Bitter. He ran 100 miles in 11 hours and 19 minutes. That’s a pace of six minutes and 48 seconds per mile. Absolutely astounding. Go try to run one mile under seven minutes and you’ll see what this athlete has done in his amazing career as an ultra marathoner. But beyond that, he’s also a leading figure in the high fat, low carbohydrate fat adapted endurance training scene. He’s going to mention the FASTER study in passing during the interview, and you can look that up. It’s a stands for fat adapted substrate utilization in trained elite runners. So they put him in a laboratory on the treadmill with a bunch of other guys that were eating in a ketogenic or at least low carb pattern and discovered these amazing insights that the human capability for burning fat during exercise was far greater than previously believed by science. Brad (1s): So even if you’re not an ultra marathon runner and interested in the nuances of Zach’s training and diet patterns. You’re going to love this show because he talks about his methodical approach to peak performance and testing and optimizing and preparing properly for the exact record attempts that fit his, his body and his potential the best. So it’s a really interesting show. There’s a couple of departures into the deep science of metabolic function during training, but I think you’re going to skate through nicely as Zach explains things really well. And I also like how he puts in numerous plugs for using the, the pursuit of extreme endurance goals for personal growth, living a happy, healthy, balanced life, conveying the same thing to his clients. He’s a prominent coach in the ultra running scene and is very much in favor of individualization rather than putting everybody into a cookie cutter box or being dogmatic in: this is the way you should train. This is the way you should eAll kinds of fun stuff coming up from my man, Zach Bitter, host of the Human Performance Outliers Podcast. So go check out what he’s doing there, especially my interview, which I enjoyed so much talking to him. Brad (45s): And here we go, Zach Bitter, Zach Bitter. I finally got ya on the get over yourself podcast. It’s been a great pleasure to connect with you over the past four years. When I first heard of this dude that was running a hundred mile runs and, you know, following the, the low carb diet, and now you’re, you’ve really made this into a wonderful career path. You got your own podcast, which is super awesome. We’re going to talk about that. The human performance outliers. So welcome to the show. Zach (47s): Yeah, thanks for having me on, Brad. It’s always been kind of fun to follow your work. You were here well before I was, and you remained here. So you’re definitely someone I’ve had my eye on since I kind of started my own journey into kind of a high fat, low carb, a prima-esque type of lifestyle. Brad (47s): Yeah. So maybe you should just give us a little background, like you’re, you’re running a career and, you know, leading into this ultra endurance scene. And then maybe when you, whenever you want to cut in how, how this, how you came to the, the low carb diet scene, cause I’m sure you didn’t start that way when you were running in high school and slamming the cheeseburgers and the hot fudge sundaes. Zach (47s): And you know, it’s funny you say that I remember, and in high school, I don’t even know if this chain exists anymore. It probably does in the Midwest somewhere, but <inaudible>, they’d have like the, you know, all the pasta and less bread stick stuff. So we’d go there and we’d hammer that stuff after practice on a regular basis. So I looked back at some of my dietary choices in middle school and high school and I just like kind of cringe. And then I’m also thankful that I didn’t continue down that path for the most part. But yeah, you know, I think what my, my progression with nutrition followed, I think what a fairly common trend you’d probably see within endurance athletics is, you know, middle school, high school, and I don’t care what you, you, whatever was there however much you want and endless quantity seemingly. And then by the time I got into college athletics, I started taking both the understanding and execution of training more seriously. And with that kind of came nutrition. So I just looked into like, you know, what is an endurance athletes supposed to eat? And I’m sure you see a lot of this now. And you certainly did back in 2005, 2006. And I was kind of getting into the collegiate running scene and, you know, you see a lot of high carb, moderate carb, whole foods in the context of grains, fruits, vegetables, that sort of stuff. Brad (48s): But the one message that was kind of continuous throughout that was hit the carbs at the carbs at the carbs, keep your glycogen stores stocked. You’re going to dip them and work out. So you need to get, get it back up during, before, after, and then continuously throughout the rest of the day. So, you know, it basically did that. I followed what I would consider kind of a healthy high carb diets in the sense that I wasn’t eating a lot of packaged, processed, or as we should say, nowadays, highly processed because I guess everything is technically processed. But yeah, so I mean, I did that and it, it, it didn’t seem to be like necessarily a positive or a negative. If I would look back at what I ate historically, I’m sure I would be in the moderate, if not high carb category as a kid, I didn’t avoid fat, but I think the example I usually share, and I think we even chatted about this on, on the podcast that you came on was like, if you just go into a grocery store and randomly start grabbing stuff off the shelf, you’re probably gonna end up in it at the least a moderate carbohydrate side of things. So I think when people don’t pay too close attention to their diet, or just by what they think they’re supposed to buy it, they find themselves following a moderate to high carbohydrate diet almost by default, even if they’re not paying too close attention to the macronutrient profiles of the foods they choose. Zach (8m 2s): And, you know, from that kind of a foundation, I didn’t necessarily notice any positives or negatives in college from it. You know, I didn’t try anything different. So I don’t know if there would have been a huge breakthrough had I done something differently earlier, but what the catalyst for me actually was is when I got out of college, I kind of started to focus on building the volume I was hardening and that kind of led me into ultra marathon. And then when I got into kind of full season, my first full season of ultra marathon racing, where I did about three 50 milers in the fall /winter season of 2011, I noticed there was a lot of weird things happening to me outside of my training and racing that hadn’t been trans historically, which was just, you know, poor sleep quality, like rollercoaster, energy levels, things like that. Zach (8m 51s): That just didn’t seem like they were necessarily ideal from a long-term standpoint for someone in their mid twenties. Brad (8m 59s): Other than that, other than that, you’re, you’re feeling fine. You’re just falling asleep at the, when you’re a substitute teaching, the poor little kids. You’re like, what do we do next? Just crashed out. I, no, that’s a, that’s a serious deal, man. I I’m, you know, I relate to that too. When I was a triathlete, I was so unhealthy and crashed out on the couch all the time and you know, too lazy to get up and go get to the mailbox. And I, I tell this story that my drive to get my mail everyday was six tenths of a mile. And this would be, you know, on a day when I had ridden my bicycle, 84 miles through the mountains, but I couldn’t get on the cruiser bike and ride six tenths of a mile to get the mail and come back or even, even walk it for a nice evening stroll. Brad (9m 40s): And it’s, you know, it, doesn’t, it’s kind of ridiculous to think about now you’re telling the story of this, you know, healthy young guy and having energy level swings during the day. That’s a bad scene. Zach (9m 52s): Yeah. And I think one of the things that bothered me the most about it was I was still executing my workouts. I was having decent training blocks, but it felt like I had just enough to get through that. And then I had to spend, you know, basically whatever time was between that session and the next session feeling like, kind of like next shit. And then gradually trying to get back to the position where I felt like I could execute another workout. And that just seemed like a roller coaster that was going to have a bad ending if I’ve kept down it. And you know, I was, at the time I had no clue I was going to end up doing this as a profession. You know, I was teaching full time. I was just getting into ultra-marathon and historically speaking, I was a decent runner, but I wasn’t a great runner. I wasn’t like a D one recruit. Zach (10m 31s): I wasn’t getting sponsorship offers and things like that to run the traditional Olympic distances and things like that. So I knew I had to be mindful of, you know, do I want a hobby to, you know, destroy my health? And the answer was no. So then my next, my next decision I guess, was, do I scale back on this hobby that I’m just starting to get into? And I was actually really enjoying, or do I try to figure out a way to make it more sustainable? And one of the first things I tried, I got lucky here. I’ve had plenty of trial and error type experiences where I had to fail a few times before figuring out what route was going to work for me. But this one seemed to be a little more apparent right away. So, and near the end of 2011 is when I first kind of just switched my dietary habits to, you know, high fat, low carb diet. Zach (11m 19s): And I did the, the four week or 30 day kind of keto reset, where I was pretty close to classic ketogenic levels. And I did do it during an off season, which I definitely advocate anyone who’s doing like a big training program or a, like a paradise training program, wait till an off season. And this is actually, I don’t want to go off too much of a tangent. This is what bothers me the most about some of these. Some of the studies that we do have are along the, the realm of high fat, low carb endurance, is that, you know, we do need to have a task to decide like, is this going to be a task that high performance, because we want to decide like, is this to be a relative performance dip? Is it going to be a relative performance of Hanselman’s is going to be neutral and all this and the other thing. Zach (11m 59s): And a lot of times it seems like they’re grabbing a group of people who historically have been moderate to high carbs, switching them to high fat for three weeks, which is going to show much higher fat oxidation rates. I couldn’t increase my fat oxidation rates in a few days, probably by just avoiding carbs altogether. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to necessarily perform better in a week and two weeks and three weeks based on that increase in fat oxidation rates. In fact, it flies in the face of what any coach would advocate an athlete to do, which is do an overhaul on your dietary approach three weeks before your peak competition. And if I’m looking at like a time trial or a race or something like that to test the dietary pattern, I need to look at that the same way I would if I is, if I were peaking for that race in a training process. Zach (12m 44s): So I wouldn’t change my, my dietary habits drastically three weeks before my big race, my key competition, when I’d been doing something completely different throughout the course of the entirety of the buildup for that. So I think that’s something that, and that’s not necessarily a knock on the researchers they’re working with what they have for the most part and there’s limitations and all this other stuff. So I think a lot of times this stuff gets kind of blown out of proportion because as you know, we get these camps on both sides and the high carb, moderate carb camp, they’ll see a study that promotes carbohydrate usage in extreme endurance or something like that as the way to go. And, you know, they don’t hate it. They don’t care about the limitations when it says something they want to see just like the folks on the high fat, low carb, don’t always necessarily want to look at the limitations of a study that says what they want to hear. Zach (13m 33s): So even at the same thing with kind of with the FASTER study, which I was a part of FASTER study to give you some awesome information that we hadn’t had before, but it also has limitations too. Cause I mean, it’s like, you know, it’s a three-hour treadmill session. It’s at 65% VO, two max, you know, it’s, it’s not necessarily in the field. Like I is like what I want, I want to try to advocate for, because I think dietary habits are individual enough that, you know, we can see some drastic differences in the results on drastically different dietary habits. So for me, I think if I had to like identify like a direction I like to advocate is I would love for sports, endurance sport in general to stick, move away from this, this is the way to go. Zach (14m 18s): Or this is the one route to do things versus here is a variety of options. This is the one that seems to work the best maybe given the context of folks following a moderate to high carbohydrate diet, the majority of their life or their entire life. And if that works for you, great, if it doesn’t, we do have these other options here versus like, you know, we got the jam, this square peg through a round hole, just because 60% of people following an endurance training program improve on a high carbo, moderate carbohydrate diet or something like that. So for me, I think it’s the interesting thing is at the individual level versus the group model with that sort of stuff. Zach (14m 59s): And that’s the route I took. And I, the, the, the way I gauge whether it was working or not was just looking at workouts, looking at results, things that are going to tangibly push forward into part I’m interested in, which is improving on my race. So if my dietary habits were positively impacting my performance in workouts and in races, then, you know, that’s the evidence I need in the field versus what some lab is going to maybe say. And I think that’s, that’s ultimately the way that most people should be looking at this type of stuff. Brad (15m 30s): Oh gosh, I’m so glad you made that point. And we can extrapolate this and apply it to all different kinds of things. But in particular, the diet scene, as well as the athletic training scene, you know, when I was going through my time as a triathlete, trying to figure out the best way to train. You’d hear these quips, like show me the science, show me the science. Science proves this. Science proves that. And you explained it so nicely that there’s so many limitations on the studies, but then when you go to a race and stand at the finish line and look at the person who won, that’s a pretty good field study right there that something’s working for that person. And it’s probably more relevant to just track your own, you know, adaptations and your own improvement or regression. Brad (16m 14s): And then, you know, make conclusions accordingly. Because science can go and validate anything. And I remember, you know, we had this debate about whether you should just go slow all day, or you should do this, you know, intense interval based workout regimen that, you know, had much lower volume, but was, was more difficult. And, you know, I looked around and the guys who were winning the races were peddling their bike for hours and hours every day at a slow pace and then jamming for a two hour Olympic distance race. And it’s been proven for decades that, you know, this volume approach to training has relevancy and, and, you know, people succeed in every endurance sport, but you know, you get the monthly magazine will show that, you know, these, this group of athletes improved dramatically in six weeks by just running every workout really fast and getting fitter and fitter. Brad (17m 3s): And certainly there, the results were valid, but it was in, you know, it was in a bubble that doesn’t have a lot of relevance to someone who’s trying to do something sustainable, like you said. Zach (17m 13s): Yeah. And I think it can even go beyond that too. Like, I don’t think you necessarily always have to make a compromise by, you know, not following the standard protocol. Cause I think individuals are going to require an individual kind of plan. And the way I like to think about some of this, and this goes with training and nutrition is we kind of have this system where there’s enough interest in a lot of these sports, especially when you get to the professional level where there isn’t a huge incentive, I think to offer variety. Because if you say like this plan is going to work for, let’s just say 65% of the people who try it, then we’re just going to throw everyone at that. And then, you know, I throw a hundred really talented male endurance athletes into the standard protocol. Zach (17m 60s): Know if ten of them make it outta there as rock stars, just breaking records and fielding great teams. Then I don’t really care about the other ninety. And you see this in the collegiate training programming and stuff. And you see this at the professional level too, where I think a lot of times it’s like fit the mold. And if you don’t, we’ll move on to someone who does, because we’ve got a big enough pool of people that we’ll find some of that it works for. So it’s just like a little easier in the sense that you’re going to, you don’t have to like give yourself as many tasks. So when I think about myself as a coach, if someone comes to me and says, I want, you know, the training plan that you think is going to work best for me, I can throw like what works for me at them. And it might work. Zach (18m 40s): It might not. It’ll probably work with the majority of people. And then there’s some people that won’t, or I can look at what their individual needs are, how they respond to speed and intensity versus volume and program something personally to them so that they, as an individual have the best chance of succeeding, given their specific context, same thing with nutrition. I could just decide, Oh, here’s a one page of endurance sports, nutrition protocol. And you know, if this works for you then great, if not, then you know, this is maybe not the sport for you, or you need to have different interests or something like that versus saying, well, what have you tried? What are the results you’ve gotten now? Let’s find like which one’s gonna work best for you. And that’s what I like to do. Zach (19m 20s): I like that individual level, both training and nutrition I think is, is, is important to get down to the individual level if the person’s willing to. And that’s, that’s usually what it, what I, what I like to do. I used this practice when I was, when I was a teacher too. It’s like, I, wasn’t going to go to a student and say like, here is the way to do this math problem. If you don’t do it this way, you fail. So you may as well learn it this way, regardless of whether it sticks in your head and you actually remember it a year from now versus them actually looking at a math problem, not as math, but as problem solving. And then it’s like, if you find a way to solve the problem in a way that you’re going to remember, and it’s going to work for you the most seamlessly, then, then who am I to tell you that you’re wrong? Zach (20m 4s): You know? So like the results, right? You know, we’re looking at the results, just like I would look at the workout result. If someone’s not executing their VO two max short intervals, based on the nutrition they’re falling, we’re going to look for a different solution. You know, just like if I had a student in math and for whatever reason, the formula or the process or the steps that we’re trying to get them to solve the problem isn’t working for them, they’re not remembering it. You know, we might try to find a different way to solve that problem for them. That’s going to stick and be meaningful and useful then down the road versus them just, you know, passing a test once and then never thinking about it again. Brad (20m 37s): Fantastic, man, the teaching profession lost a good one here. I’m sorry, but at least you’re you’re coaching people. And I wish you were around when I was a collegiate runner, because what you just was this ridiculous survival of the fittest, you know, cauldron that you get thrown into. And I got chewed up and spit out the back and it was an absolute disaster. And the funny thing is, you know, this is decades ago and it still seems to exist where they just throw people into a quote unquote program. That’s what everyone calls it. Right? Our running program is great here. Like we’re little robots and the people that thrive are the ones that, you know, get their, get their picture on the internet and excel and bring glory to the university. Brad (21m 20s): And boy, it’s just so sad. My little niece joined the cross-country team at her high school when she was a freshmen and she was all excited and talking to her uncle about her training and she’s going to go do a race and we’re going to watch her run the cross country course. And it turns out like she went to a school that had a, a dynasty, a state level, a championship varsity program. And so the whole program was informed by these girls that were heading off to division one and had this amazing, you know, incredibly intense summer experience where you get up at 6:00 AM and go down to the beach and do drills for 45 minutes and then, then do the workout. And it was too much. And of course she quit after one year and it was like, I don’t care how many titles you have in banners you have on the gym wall, you just lost an actual individual that was really passionate, enthusiastic about running. Brad (22m 9s): And so, you know, to see that decades later still the prevailing approach is just it’s disgraceful. Zach (22m 16s): Yeah. I know. I think about that because I mean, I was fortunate that, you know, when I was in high school, I was at a small division three program. I went to school at a division three college and, you know, there were a really good division through college, but, you know, you know, had I been thrust into like, well, I mean, I probably wouldn’t have made it most division one programs, but like, you know, I would have maybe had the same story I would have given up. Had I been put in a position where it was like I had to hit this benchmark at this time or you’re, you know, you’re off. And then, then maybe I don’t even try an ultra marathon. So it’s like, it is, it gets really interesting when you look at the individual and where they’re at versus versus just how can we cater to the top? And I get it with professional sport when there’s like, you know, there’s money to be made, there’s sponsorships to be won in that, that you want to kind of start with what has been proven or what shows up in the literature. Zach (23m 3s): But what I, where I really struggle to get behind is this, you know, the, the, my way or the highway. And I know there’s people out there who aren’t going to be quite that dogmatic, but there are some that will to where it’s like, here’s the one sheet for nutrition follow this, or don’t, don’t bother. And it’s, you know, I, that, that, that bothers me because it’s like, I think like, let’s just pretend like even if like 15% of the population would benefit more with a high fat, low carb diet, when it comes to endurance as 15% of people who could enjoy a sport that maybe won’t, if they don’t, aren’t given that option, they might give up and move on to something else. And that’s where, where I think it’s where I think it’s, it’s fun to be a coach when you can work with people at an individual level and you don’t necessarily have to, you know, have to follow the standard protocol with everyone. Zach (23m 52s): So when an athlete comes to me, you know, when I let them bring up the nutrition topic first and they have something that’s working for them, I’m not going to fight them on it. I’m going to be watching the workouts. I’m going to be looking at the GPX files. I’m going to be looking at the heart rate for pace data and all that stuff. And you know, if they’re hitting results, I’m not going to push back. If they have questions, I’m going to say, here’s, here’s some options, but ultimately I want them to choose. I want to have like a couple options, at least if not more that they can say, well, I’ve tried this and it doesn’t work. Let’s try this other thing. And, you know, Brad (24m 24s): I did notice on your GPS report, you stopped at circle K for 27 minutes during that 10 mile, or what was that dude? Zach (24m 31s): 64 ounce mega golf Brad (24m 34s): Brutal. So I want to ask you, this is such an interesting story that you got out of collegiate running and then went straight into ultra and saw an opportunity to, you know, make it into a professional scene. And, you know, prior to that, like in my day, I lived in Auburn for a long time and the Western States would come through town and these guys would win a belt buckle at the finish line. And you thought they were, you know, running a pretty amazing performance. But you know, a lot of times the winner was Tweet Meyer when he was 43 years old and he’s a full-time employee and, you know, doing this thing excelling tremendously. But then, you know, in the last 10 or 12 years, it’s become this incredible exploding scene where, you know, really elite guys are toeing the line and breaking records and just, you know, shattering the previous kind of notion that this was just kind of a survival fast. Brad (25m 27s): So when you saw, when you graduated college and you still had some more, some more juice left in the tank, thankfully they, they must have treated you right at the school. What was the scene like? I mean, there was actually some prize money in sponsorships coming into the sport and you saw that you could compete. Zach (25m 43s): Yeah. I think when I got into ultra marathon, I ran my first one in 2010. And that’s really when the sport, the sport kind of started to accelerate towards where this can be more than just kind of a weekend hobby where everyone kind of meets up, runs all day and then drinks a few beers at the end, where I think is where it kind of had its roots for the prior couple of decades. So you saw the trail scene really blow up. And I think there was a couple of like catalysts with that. And one was this documentary on the Western States 100 that followed the, the men’s 2010 race, which was just perfect timing by JB Ben or the guy who put together the film Unbreakable. And we just because he had four guys who were really starting to pop up as like kind of big names in the sport, and none of them had lost a hundred mile race to that date. Zach (26m 29s): So there was this big lineup where you got four guys never lost a hundred miler. Three of them are going to have to in order for this thing to play out. So who’s going to be the one that remains undefeated and that got really popular. And it really, I think, made the Western States one, a focal point as kind of this historic trail, a hundred miler that in books like Born to Run, Dean Karnazes has made a book Ultramarathon Man that went basically mainstream in terms of like just people who had no idea what ultra marathoning at the time myself included would read and was like, Oh, wow, this is actually something that people do this isn’t necessarily just you, a handful of people like looking to destroy themselves intentionally, but a masochist out there running all day. Zach (27m 9s): So I think like that timeframe was just kind of a really interesting time for me to be getting into the sport as well. And one of the reasons I was drawn to it in the first place was just because in college, I did really enjoy our long runs on Sunday. I was kind of my favorite workout of the week. So when I got done with college, I just continued on this trajectory of building kind of the, the volume side of my training and that stuff. And that’s what kind of got me into the sport. And then once I got into this sport, I, I got into kind of like the methodology of it, where, where you move from just this idea of, well, Oh, cool. I do ultra marathon. So I can just do long runs like four out of every seven days of the week or something like that to where like there’s reason to do short intervals at certain points and really improve your lactic threshold intensities and things like that. Zach (27m 57s): And then kind of gradually moved towards the specific pace and intensity of the race itself as you get closer to it. But that can be very like localized around whatever your key races versus just doing the same thing we can in week out year round and hope for different results. So, you know, between 2010 to today, the sport’s grown massively where, you know, at that point there was probably a handful of guys and gals in the sport that could actually like reasonably decide, okay, I’m going to focus on this as my primary revenue source versus working a full-time job and treating it as a hobby. And that’s just kind of accelerated over the last 10 years to where I would say most pro ultra marathon runners are pro in the sense that they, they earn enough money to justify stepping away from like a traditional desk job in a lot of cases. Zach (28m 45s): But a lot of folks are still supplementing that with, you know, like what I’m doing, like coaching, helping out sponsors in marketing in ways that are more than about like the whole approach versus just training and racing and kind of getting paid to do that. And there are folks who are, who are doing that, but I like to be busy. So, you know, there’s only so much running you can do in a day, unless it’s a 24 hour race, then you’re running all day. But I like to, I like to be involved with other things too. So the podcasting, the coaching and that side of stuff has been also a cool thing. That’s grown a lot with the sport in the last 10 years to, to get it to where it is today. Brad (29m 21s): Yeah. I think having a balanced life is now being seen as really healthy and probably enhancing your overall, your overall experience and your potential as an elite athlete. And that’s kind of a new insight in, in recent times, but you know, this, this idea that you just sit around all day and rest and then go do another workout can kind of get stale really easily and you can probably make mistakes and get more easily into overtraining if you don’t have, you know, a, a life surrounding you, that’s also fulfilling. Zach (29m 53s): Yeah, you know, you hit it on the head. And we saw that early on, I think in like between 2010 and probably 2015, I saw a lot of guys kind of come in with that mentality where like, okay, I’m quitting my day job. I’m going to focus on training. And then they realized quick, like, you know, if you go out for three hour run every day, you know, you still have a lot of Brad (30m 12s): Now there’s three. What are the, what about the other 21? Zach (30m 15s): Exactly. And three hours a day is enough stress where you’re still going to drive yourself down. So if you try to add on to that then too, it’s like, I mean, you, you see people losing interest and you see people kind of burning out or like losing that edge that they had going in. And, you know, I think that’s unfortunate, but it’s like, it’s part of the learning process, I suppose. We’re now I think people are a little more mind mindful of that, where the thing I like to ask myself is if I have a bad race or a bad season, hopefully I have enough going on outside of that, where I’m not just bummed out and constantly thinking about how I wasn’t able to execute a race or how my training didn’t go well, and things like that. So for me, the perfect setup is if I have a bad race, okay, well, I’m just going to focus a little more time and energy on kind of resetting that and getting back to where I want to be. Zach (31m 3s): But also I have like other wins and other areas of my life that I can focus on. So it’s all just kind of like responding to a negative and trying to put a positive spin on it. Brad (31m 11s): Yeah. Well said, thanks. Tell us about your progression with your highlights out of college and what your favorite events were in times. And then when you got into the ultra scene, take us through kind of the, the last decade and, and tee us up with this exciting a hundred mile succession of breaking records with some of the most amazing times and just mind blowing, you know, pace for the, for the entire day, basically. Zach (31m 42s): Yeah. So I think if I had to look at a couple of things that I felt like I’ve learned the most since running my first ultra marathon was one, is there is benefits to the kind of peeradising your training versus like I said before, just running long all day, every day, the second is just specificity of the course itself. So for me, growing up in the Midwest, I had a ton of exposure to flatiron and whether that’d be on trail road or a track, it was still relatively flat compared, especially what you’re going to see out in California, where a lot of the big races are. So I kind of had a bit of a breakthrough in around 2013 when I started targeting some races that were just a little more runnable, a little less kind of climbing and descending at altitude type stuff. Zach (32m 25s): And that was a little foreign to the growth in the sport in the, in North America. As the trail scene, kind of really picked up and the road and track stuff kind of restate or grew, grew a lot slower. So for me, in 2013, I think really realized how important it was to train specifically to the environment. When I did a couple of races where I felt like they were flat, one was the Chicago lakefront that I actually did 13 days after it was supposed to be my eighth race for the season. And I ended up running five hours and 12 minutes for 50 miles with 13 days recovery. So, you know, I’m thinking like to me, I was like, well, that, that was one of the first races I did where I felt like, Oh yeah, everything was kind of clicking that race. Zach (33m 7s): Like it made sense. Like I could trust my training to produce X result a lot more accurately. So then I got invited to do the desert salsas track invitational in Phoenix later that December. And I had a similar experience where I was like, okay, I just felt like I ran a hundred miles and executed at about as well as I could expect based on my training. And that was kind of a highlight to me where it’s like, well, if I’m going to train on flat stuff, I should make my A races flat stuff. It doesn’t mean I have to do flat races all the time. It can still go and do some trail races and have fun on those if it’s not a peep bench or something like that. But really in order to maximize my potential, I need to be training in the spots that I’m going to race and that’s something I’ve cared for. And I think I’ve, I’ve learned for. So even, even when I step away from like the track and some of this flatter stuff where I probably made more of a name for myself, you know, I’ve now living out in Phoenix, I have more access to core specific stuff for more of the mountain trail stuff too. Zach (33m 59s): So like last year I did a, a buildup for the San Diego hundred, which was a really cool race. That’s more trail climbing ascending based. And I was able to win that one. And then later that year I refocused and started training more flat stuff. And then that’s when I broke the world record for a hundred miles in 12 hours. So for me, I think this kind of also feeds back to, we were talking before this, this idea of balance where I learned that specificity specificity is important. So I spent a ton of years focusing specifically on flat runnable stuff. But year after year of that, you start to lose a little bit of the, like the intrigue and the drive and you just kind of rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat. So for me, moving out to Phoenix was huge because then it gave me this opportunity to step away from that kind of forget about it for a few months and focus on something else, build my ability to run on more, very trained. Zach (34m 48s): And then when I came back to it, I was so excited to kind of see that building process reoccur again on the flat side of things that I felt like I just kind of like put myself in position to have a mental reset, as well as a physical reset from specific trains. And I think that was a big reason why I broke the world record for those two, for the a hundred mile distance and 12 hour time event. When I did versus some of the attempts I had made earlier in my career. Brad (35m 12s): So you’re running a hundred miles on a track or a flat, a flat course, and you’re going under 12 hours. That’s what pace per mile is. Zach (35m 22s): So for my a hundred mile world record, it comes out to 06:47:05 minutes per mile. Brad (35m 29s): That’s, that’s too hard to believe, man, I’m sorry. I need to go look it up on YouTube. It’s mind blowing. So the average listener who likes to jog has some competency in endurance running, you know, go out there and run a sub seven minute mile and you’ll feel the exertion and you know, what your body has to do to, to move at that speed. And then you’re doing that a hundred times in a row it’s it’s beyond belief. Zach (35m 54s): Yeah. You know, it’s, it’s funny. I think I, the first time I ran a mile was in sixth grade, we did the presidential physical fitness challenge with my, I had class. I think I ran like a seven 30 mile or something that I was good enough to beat my seven classmates. Right. Brad (36m 8s): Some he’d be clicking them off. Zach (36m 11s): That’s what he told me. Then like you’re going to run a hundred miles and 45 seconds per mile faster. And then I probably would have laughed at you, but you know. It’s just about staying with it and kind of focusing on building and developing yourself at the individual level. And then I think you’re gonna, you’re gonna find successes regardless of whether it’s the top of a field or a podium versus just, you know, making progress on your own efforts and lifestyle choices and things like that. So, yeah, it’s interesting. I think it, it it’s been a fun, fun build. And one of the things I like the most about it was, you know, I had a chance to do it in 2015. I was actually on pace for the a hundred mile world record through 80 miles. And the previous world record before I broke, it was an average of 06:52 and a half, I think, per mile. Zach (36m 55s): And I had gotten to mile 80 needing to just average seven minute mile pace for that last 20 miles. So even slower Brad (37m 4s): The minutes for 20 miles, that’s easy. But when you think about it, like, Oh, I forgot you ran 80 before that. Okay. Zach (37m 11s): Yeah. So I’d probably, I’d probably been at like maybe a 06:45 ish average going into my lady. And then I just proceeded to like rack up a load of 07::30, eight minute pace for the last, that last 20, just like a gradual bleed out of watching that world record kind of pass me by. And it wasn’t a terrible day by any stretch. I ran 11:40 and broke my American record there, but, you know, I, I kind of walked away from that thinking, okay, that was a step in the right direction. I got a seven minute PR and lowered my American record, but I also knew like there was a gaping variance between that last 20 miles in the first 80 that I needed to figure out. Zach (37m 50s): And I, I thought to myself, I can figure this out, but I wouldn’t have guessed. It was gonna take me almost four years to do that. But ultimately it did. And the funny thing was like, I got to my lady at, at the Pettit center last August at about the same spot. I think I was, I was, I was running slower. Actually. I think my split through 80 was slower probably by about five seconds per mile or so, but the difference was my last 20 miles or my fastest 20 miles at that event versus my slowest. So some of this, I think just, it’s just a process of kind of, you have these experiences that don’t go perfect. And if you walk away mad and don’t learn anything from those experiences, then you’re just going to repeat them versus walking away from them and thinking, okay, where are the positives that I can kind of keep in place, but what changes do I need to make in order to kind of fix that last part and really learn from those failures so that you’re looking at them as potential, like learning possibilities versus just something that you’re gonna have to live with for the rest of your life. Zach (38m 51s): So for me, when I hit my lady at the Pettit center, it was just like, okay, it’s been almost four years. And I finally found myself back in this position to kind of do this right way this time. And don’t screw it up this time. Right. So, I mean, I’m thinking about that though. Like the there’s no way I would’ve ran as fast that last 20 miles had I not had the experience I had in 2015. So I think anytime, like, and then it’s just reshaped the way I look at races and things too. Now, like even when I have a bad race, I it’s less about like, okay, you know, how do I let’s have a pity party? And you know, that sort of thing, it’s more about like, okay, what can I, how can I use this experience to help me have a race I wouldn’t have had had it not happened this way at this one. Zach (39m 31s): So how can I make this a positive experience versus the negative one? Brad (39m 35s): Yeah. It’s tough to get there, man. I mean, I think for all of us in, in all areas of life, maybe it’s the last job that you had and you got fired and your boss was such a jerk and it wasn’t your fault. And, and now you’re falling into the same pattern because your, your mindset was, you know, sort of the victim rather than, you know, always taking, taking some learning experience, even from something where, you know, you didn’t perform to expectation as well said. I appreciate that. Zach (40m 2s): Yeah. Yeah. I think it’s, you know, it’s okay. I think to recognize if you’ve been like treated unjustly or something like that, but it’s also a reality, like it’s just, it’s gonna happen. You know, it’s gonna happen at varying intensities to different people. So at the end of the day, it’s like, it’s okay. I think to speak up against that stuff. But at the end of the day, you also have to take those experiences and say, how can I shape this to make me a stronger person so that undeniable versus know, having to lean on someone above me or someone who’s making decisions for me as to like, you know, how my success is going to progress. Brad (40m 37s): Yeah. And I think doing something that extreme and pushing your body to, to run a hundred miles or whatever the example is, and, and the lessons you learn through that are so profound and so, so much more graphic than the everyday ins and outs and ups and downs that we navigate through relationships or jobs or life circumstances that I think, you know, when you can kind of own that personal responsibility and all the hard work required to adhere to a long-term goal like that, I think it carries over into other areas of life. It’s amazing. Zach (41m 13s): Yeah. Yeah. I think so too. I think like when I first got into ultra running, I thought of it probably more as just this, this cool hobby that I enjoyed kind of spending my energies at when I wasn’t, when I wasn’t working in this kind of cool way to test my physical limitations and things like that. But you know, the more, the more you go through that type of stuff and experience the sport and think about it holistically, the more you realize how much of that kind of translates into just good mindset principles and day-to-day life. And I think one of the, one of the things I learned probably the most, the last couple of years with just racing in general is finding kind of the small wins in the training program, leading up. So that like when I get to the race itself, I’ve already accumulated a bunch of small wins in terms of just like teaching myself that when I want to reach a goal, I can do it. Zach (42m 1s): Or, you know, if I put something on the schedule, I’m going to check that off and get it done. Like those are all really great kind of tools to implement in your day to day basis where, you know, if you have like 10 things you need to get done for the day to have a successful day, you want to look at that getting to 10 and completing a successful day as a win, but you also want to make sure each one of those things you check off are also wins in your mind along the way. Cause that’s, what’s going to keep you motivated to get to the next one and the next one, and then ultimately reach your end goal. And I think that’s the way I look at my training and that’s the way I look at a lot of things I do in life from an objective standpoint. Brad (42m 36s): So let’s go back to the 2011 area where you started to examine your diet and wanted to see if you could, you know, be healthier protect your, your, your overall health while you were doing these difficult workouts. And how, I mean, you, you talked about trying out the, the high fat, low carb, did you just like, see a flashing internet ad, like Timothy Noakes, or how did you, who exposed you to this thing? And, and then how did it go from there all the way up to present day and your, your carnivore influence and things like that? Zach (43m 11s): Yeah. You know, I think the first time I even heard of a high fat, low carb diet, I mean, I guess I knew it, it was out there, but I didn’t really think about it much only. My dad did a, did a stint of the Atkins diet back when I was a young kid, but I had no clue what macronutrient was at the time. I just knew my dad was eating a lot more eggs and bacon. So like, that was maybe like the first time I even saw that as like a potential dietary choice, but I didn’t really think about it in any meaningful way until I started listening to podcasts while I would run that if somewhere around 2010, 201 basically out of guilt, I was just like, man, I’m spending so much time running in the morning. How can I kind of justify this? And I’m like, if I can learn something during this two hour morning run, then, then it’s a win on two fronts. Zach (43m 52s): So it’s just that much more intriguing. And while I was doing that, I started listening to a lot of kind of sports nutrition podcasts, and things like that. And I don’t remember who it was that brought it up first, but I was listening to someone who was talking about that and that got me interested to kind of look into just like where they were getting their information on that from. And that kind of drew me to like the [inaudible] grouping and then also like a lot of other folks within the high-fat low-carb community like yourself and Mark Sisson popped up pretty quick around that time. And then it was just kind of like deciding, okay, is this something that is feasible for me or something? I want to give it a try. And ultimately it was just like, it’s food. Like, I mean, if I, if I try this for a month and it doesn’t work, I can go back to doing what I doing or try something different. Zach (44m 33s): It’s not necessarily something I have to cement in my lifestyle going forward. And for me, so many things clicked early. That kept me going with it. You, when I mentioned at the beginning, I was having a harder time sleeping than I had historically. And I’m sending these big energy swings throughout the course of the day when I was at work. Now, those things cleared up really quick. I think my sleep normalized within a week, I saw those energy swings basically dissipate in the first week or two as well. And the only thing that, that took longer than that to kind of normalize, which was my running pace, I would have like days where I’d go out and I feel like I was running a seven minute mile and I was actually running an 08:30 mile. Zach (45m 12s): And, and I’m thankful that those other things cleared up because had I still been sleeping poorly and my energy levels had taken a while. I don’t know that I would have stuck out a full 30 days. So it was that those cleared up that I was willing to say, okay, let’s stay on the course and see what else adapts. And fortunately enough that I had looked into this stuff that Vinny and Bullock had produced long enough to know that this wasn’t a two week transition or I shouldn’t expect to be, you know, to move up three spots on the ultra runner of the year list from switching my diet for two weeks or anything like that. So I stuck that out and then it just kind of became like once my kind of easy aerobic pace has started to normalize where I started having more and more days where my pace at a given intensity started to get back to where it was while I was following a high carb diet. Zach (45m 56s): Then it just became like a process of learning. How do I kind of step away from a strict ketogenic diet towards what I would say definitely fits within a high fat, low carb diet, but not necessarily at these plastics kenogenic grams per day type of metrics into the different phases of training. So like, what do I need to do in my training plan? When my primary focus is short intervals, what do I need to do nutritionally? And my training plan when my primary focus is improving my lactic threshold, and then what do I need nutritionally when my goal becomes working on the intensity and the specifics of race date and that sort of stuff. So I want, I want to say, probably took me about a year and a half to two years to really find a system where that worked well, where I had both the periodization of nutrition and the periodization of training to kind of match each other. Zach (46m 44s): And that was right around the fall of 2013. When I also started to kind of figure out what race courses were going to work well for me, given my training and things like that. And, and a lot kind of clicked for me that half of the year, the second half of 2013, that I kind of carried forward. And since then, from the, from nutrition standpoint, I basically stuck to a fairly similar macronutrient range throughout the phases of training where, you know, others phases where I’m kind of in an off season or in a lower volume phase of training where, you know, I will get down the classic ketogenic levels of nutrition of like 50 grams or last, but then there’ll be points where, you know, I’ll be doing like a big block of training. My volume and intensity are relatively high. Zach (47m 24s): And, you know, I might bring my carbohydrates up to like 20% of my intake for that day. And then, you know, I might take a rest day or an off day somewhere after those big buildups and then go back down to kind of classic ketogenic levels. So, you know, I can have like these averages throughout the course of the year when you couple in my highest carb days in my lowest carb days, but really it’s kind of paradise just like the training is. And that probably took almost like a year and a half to two years to really kind of figure out what was going to click for me and produce those results and the workouts that we kind of talked about at the beginning. Brad (47m 55s): So it sounds like in general, there’s a bit of a matching going on from the, you know, the calorie burning, especially the glycolytic workouts where you’re, you’re depleting your glycogen and then corresponding, you’re going to have a little more of the sweet potato action in the diet. And just as a, as a basic insight. And I, I feel like I’ve been trying to figure this puzzle out for a long time as well, because I think there are some tricky variables of, of course they’re highly individualized, but just in, in your example, or my example, you know, my, my blood work’s good, my body fat’s good, just like yours I’m sure. And so you’re going for performance and trying to optimize, and it seems like there’s, it’s warranting increased carb intake when you do intense exercise. Zach (48m 45s): Yeah. And I think like if you, if you do an appreciable improvement of your fat oxidation rates, which I certainly did. I mean, if you look at just what the literature would have shown before the faster study, you mean you were an outlier. If you produce 0.9 to one gram of fat per minute, from a peak fat oxidation rate. Whereas in the faster study we saw folks that were pushing up close to two grams per minute. My, I think mine was 1.56. So like you put yourself in a position where your fat oxidation rates are as above one and a half grams per minute, then you kind of have the flexibility to defend your muscle glycogen in a slightly different way. The way I like to describe it is everyone’s goal on race day is to defend muscle glycogen. Zach (49m 27s): Whether you’re following a high carb, moderate carb, low carb, zero carb diet, you want to preserve muscle glycogen. So that at the end of the race, you have the energies that come in and finish strong versus your body, limiting your ability to kind of push in. And that’s what it’s going to do. If you start getting down to those basement, low glycogen levels, then, Brad (49m 46s): Oh baby, I’m basement low right now. I need an energy bar. Zach (49m 50s): Yeah. Well, and I think the thing is, is what people oftentimes think. There’s like, I think they completely deplete glycogen, which isn’t the case like your body as your body is depleting muscle glycogen. It’s going to kind of, down-regulate your desire and your ability to run hard because it’s going to say, Hey, we’ve got finite reserves left here. We need to preserve them at all costs, which means burning exclusively fat. So if you try to push up your heart rate during those phases and your body’s like, no, go on the fast stuff, then, you know, you’re gonna struggle. So like you need to defend that to do well in a race. And, you know, you can do that by eating copious amounts of carbohydrate, the race to defend it. Or you can do it by putting yourself in a position to preserve that by burning higher rates of fat during the varying intensities throughout and still supplementing with some carbohydrate to defend that muscle glycogen, but not having to do it quite as much. Zach (50m 43s): So for me personally, my intro race fueling strategies, haven’t changed a ton from the, from like the types of foods I’m eating as much as they have the amounts. So like when I first started doing ultra marathon in a moderate to high carbohydrate diet, you know, I’d be taking in 300, 400 calories an hour and some of those 50 mile races. Whereas now if I get in, if I take in 200 calories an hour, I’m pushing the ceiling on what I, what I really need to do to kind of defend muscle glycogen, even, even at slightly higher intensity, from what my average is going to be for the day. So it’s, this is kind of like what I like to share with folks when it comes to them, deciding their nutrition program is I like to start with like, here’s everybody’s goal So this should be your goal, which is that defensive muscle muscle glycogen. Zach (51m 30s): And then it just comes down to what is going to work best for you as the individual to do that. And, you know, there are folks who can mainline carbohydrate all race long, whether that lasts for them, their entire careers anybody’s guess. If you look at the position papers on ultra endurance, single day events, you’re going to see that 60% of participants exhibit some sort of digestive issue during the course of a long race like that. So, you know, I think that’s pretty similar probably in Ironman, triathlon. Brad (51m 55s): Yeah. It’s, it’s shocking. I mean, here we are in 2020 with sports nutrition being a billion dollar plus industry, right. And I mean, you’re, you’re, you’re taking a survey. That’s 60% of these highly trained athletes are, are, you know, visiting the port-a-potties to excess and even in the ironman, which is, you know, extreme qualification standards. So you’re talking about the best Ironman athletes in the world. And I think the stat was like 30% of them have severe gastrointestinal problems that inhibit their performance during the race, because they’re obligated to just like you say, I love that term defend glycogen and our traditional way to do it was to slam the sugary products into the body while the blood is out there in the extremities, trying to perform. Brad (52m 40s): It doesn’t it doesn’t add up to be a very successful approach. And so when you reference that you can cut your carb intake by half and feel fine. That’s a huge performance advantage. Really. Zach (52m 51s): Yeah. I think it just limits the amount of times like that. You’re going to have a race that you get, you, you show up super fit, but for whatever reason, you’re, you know, you’re puking up your nutrition at mile 70 and then, you know, no level of fitness is going to is going, gonna bounce you back from having what you’re taking in coming out, both ends for the last 20, 30 miles. Maybe you want to avoid that if you can. And I think like you certainly want to avoid that at a 60% rate. So if that means you have to scale back your entire race fueling, then you know, you’re going to have to do that. I mean, there’s, there’s conversation about like training your gut to be able to like tolerate eating more than race day. And I guess, I mean, that’s, that’s potentially a short term solution. Zach (53m 33s): If, if you’re not worried about what it’s gonna take to do that. But essentially training your gut to be able to take in exotic genus carbohydrate sources, which tend to be engineered in the form of sports drinks and things like that. It’s like, I’m not going to be doing that on my 60 minute easy runs. I’m not going to be doing that three to four times a day during peak training in order to kind of, you know, train my gut to be able to digest some of these foods that I’m typically not going to eat on a daily basis in the meals I’m eating. So for me, it just seems to be more sustainable long-term to minimize the amount of intake I need during the race itself, so that I don’t have to train my gut to be able to tolerate twice as much than currently taking in. And then I can focus on my nutrition from a day-to-day standpoint, during training to be more whole food, more fat and protein based, which is what I kind of prefer anyway. Brad (54m 19s): Well, you were the first guy to tell me in, in such graphic terms that your diet transformation had a huge improvement in your recovery and reduce the next day inflammation. You were talking about your ankles or something. And I’m like, wow, this is, this is profound. And now we’re seeing a glimpse of the future, especially of endurance sports. But I think of all sports, the NBA guys who are getting pounded, you know, night after night, and then eating these inflammatory foods after. So maybe you can give us that little quip about the, the swollen ankles after workouts and so forth. Zach (54m 53s): Yeah. That’s something that I noticed too, kind of that coincided. It wasn’t something I was quite as focused on in terms of like improvement stuff that I was looking for from the nutritional strategies, because I didn’t notice that it was necessarily negatively affecting me. So it, to some degree, I just thought it was part of the sports. Like if I’m going to go on run 50 mile races, I can expect my legs to balloon up the next couple of days. And I mean, there’s still swelling. And I think swelling is a necessary like recovery process, but when that stuff becomes chronic and is lingering around after workouts where like, you know, it’s a coin flips chance any day that whether your ankles are going to be like, you know, an inch greater in circumference versus the norm, a normal stature, then it’s like that. Zach (55m 36s): I think that becomes kind of an unsustainable scenario in my opinion. So for me, it was like, that’s another thing that kind of cleared up when I scaled back on a lot of the moderate to high carbohydrate food groups in favor of fats and proteins. And the recovery is interesting. Cause I, I don’t think there’s any good science necessarily that supports this at the moment in terms of just like what’s happening as in terms of like, well, most people are going to experience, you know, faster recovery on a high fat, low carb ketogenic diet, but it’s something that pops up in the anecdotes all the time. And you know, for me, it was very noticeable after the races and after big workouts that I just was less tight, less swollen, you know, less inflexible or in mobile, those days leading. Zach (56m 24s): And a lot of the folks that kind of followed the strategy, I have implemented reported the same thing back to me after they did it. And you know, the guy that is probably the most intriguing example in my opinion, is Jeff Browning because he had something like 1600 milers under his belt. By the time he switched from a high carb to a low carb diet. And he, he sent me a message after he did, after he did a hundred mile race in Hawaii after having switched his dietary over. And he’s like, I couldn’t believe the next day, like after, after the race, the next day I was able to like actually squat down and pick something up off the ground. Like I’ve never been able to do that before. And this isn’t a guy who just ran his first a hundred mile. Zach (57m 6s): This is a guy who had 16 experiences of what it felt like post a hundred mile race saying it was like drastically different for him. And I mean, I’ve heard that story told over and over again. So I feel like at the very least there is like a subgroup of people who, for whatever reason, recover faster with this type of a nutrition strategy, whether that can be extrapolated onto the majority or everyone is anyone’s guess at this point, as far as I can tell. But again, it goes back to what we were talking about before though. It’s like, you won’t know if you don’t try. So it’s like at the individual level, if, if moderate high carbohydrate nutrition, isn’t working for you, what’s there to lose? You know, if it’s clear to you that that’s not a sustainable approach for you as an individual, you know, then you’re just going to be a little more open, I think, to try some of these different things or use these different strategies and having information out about them and kind of how to implement them, I think is important so that when people do find themselves in this situations, they don’t just say, okay, this sport isn’t for me, I’m out. Zach (58m 3s): They say, I like this sport. I’m going to try to find a way to make it work. And if this is going to do it, then I’m going to try it. And you know, some people might not find it that it works well, or they might find that whatever they are doing is still working and it continues to work. And then, you know, more power to them. I’m not going to try to, you know, I’m not gonna try to tell someone to change something that’s working on them. And I think that’s what, that’s how you end up getting people who are successful is when you introduce it at the right time and make it a choice like we talked about with them. Brad (58m 31s): Yeah. Nice. Rather than pounding it over their head. Sure. Tell us how you got hooked up with Sean Baker and the carnivore scene. And of course you guys started the prominent podcast, human performance outliers that you’re now carrying on yourself, but that was such an amazing pairing of the biggest buffets dude lifted the stacks of on Instagram. And then there’s Zack floating along like a, like a deer. And they’re sitting in the same room, cranking out the podcast. It’s actually like three people, cause he’s like probably twice your size. Right? What is he like? He’s 260, you’re probably somewhere around half that, but that was so fun to, to see you guys get together. So I’d love to talk about your, your foray into the carnivores scene. Zach (59m 14s): Yeah. Yeah. You know, Sean leaned out a bit with some longer efforts this last like few months. So I I’m slowly, slowly drifting away from being half his weight. But I think if you take his peak weight and my light lightest weight, we’re probably getting pretty close to half of him. So that, that was, that was kind of funny when we first got started is having that kind of polarizing effect. And I think it was interesting because when, when I reached out to Sean about doing a podcast or co-hosting a podcast, my thought was, this is gonna be cool because he’s, this was before he was super into the carnival side of things. He had been high fat, low carb keto for quite a while at that point. And that’s how I kind of discovered him. Zach (59m 55s): He was, he had this guy who was, you know, breaking rowing records and doing all sorts of cool things. And, you know, former professional rugby player competed the Highland games, orthopedic surgeon, you know, served in the military, all sorts of cool, like just interesting lifestyle stuff that I thought was fascinating about the guy that kind of drove me to reach out because I thought it’d be cool to have a high intensity athlete. Be cool to have someone who’s more strength and power based who is physically is just big human being. And then someone like myself, who’s going to go and run all day. He was relatively small and, but still both kind of following a similar nutrition plan to kind of have, we have polar ends of the, the opposite in our sport choices and our physiques, and then like, but then kind of similar in nutrition strategy. Zach (1h 0m 37s): And throughout the course of the podcast, Sean started kind of gaining a lot of momentum along the carnivores side. And that definitely is in my opinion, kind of the leader in that community in terms of the guy who’s been outspoken, as well as putting out a lot of information and things about it and helping people kind of navigate that strategy. So the, the, the influence from Sean, I guess for me, is just been, like I said before, like my macro nutrient kind of periodization has remained fairly constant the past, you know, seven, eight years after I spent about a year and a half, two years kind of fine tuning that. But what has changed a lot or has that I’ve played around with, within that context is just like what foods are making up those macronutrient ratios. Zach (1h 1m 20s): So I’ve done everything from like mostly plant-based very little meat within a high fat, low carb approach. Brad (1h 1m 27s): Two that’s a lot of avocados for you, I guess. How does Zack Bitter do mostly plant based and, and, and burn, you know, running a hundred mile weeks? Zach (1h 1m 38s): Yeah. Well, I mean, I didn’t do it for any long stretch relative to how long I’d done it, because it just didn’t seem to be ideal for me. But I mean, it was like, I think I spent maybe about three or four months kind of playing around with that, just to get an idea, you know, cause I, I like to see these things firsthand in myself to know like, you know, cause what if there’s a breakthrough, what if like limiting meat down to like the bare minimum and hitting a bunch of olive oil seeds, nuts and avocados at the expense of fatty cuts of meat, eggs, and dairy and that sort of stuff. What if that would have produced great results for me? I kind of wanted to know. And since I was convinced the macronutrient ratios I had kind of put together were going to work well for me from a performance standpoint, that was kind of the next step in. Zach (1h 2m 19s): And you know, that didn’t, that didn’t seem to work well for me. So I, you know, I’ve, I’ve mostly done kind of a pretty even split between the two. Like I don’t wanna avoid plants. I don’t avoid plant fats and things like that, plant proteins, but I don’t necessarily make them like the foundation of my nutrition either. So I’ve gone on the other end as well. I’ve done things where I’ve had very little to no plans for stretches of time. I did that for a good chunk of 2019, just to kind of see where that was and kind of what happens when I reintroduced some of these plants sources after that and things like that, just to see if there’s an appreciable, like benefit or reduction or neutrals type of stuff. Zach (1h 2m 58s): So, you know, right now I’m kind of probably somewhere in between. I definitely have a big foundation in animal products, in my diet from a lot of dairy, eggs, fish, red meats, things like that. But you know, also steam of broccoli. Also I have beets and some potatoes and fruit, some things like that. Some honey from time to time, as well as I’m kind of bringing back some carbohydrates sources. So I’m very much an omnivore, but I’m definitely an omnivore not concerned about really limiting my animal products side of things. So, and when those foods check the boxes I’m looking for, then they’ll find their way into my, my kind of nutrition plan. Brad (1h 3m 37s): I’m curious if there’s a way to really screw this up. Phinney and Volek talked about there being sort of a no man’s land where you’re trying to do this low carb approach to endurance training in particular, especially someone who’s putting out a lot of energy and you’re, you know, dutifully you know, following the guidelines to, you know, transition away from you slamming carbs all day and using all the products, but you’re not quite getting what you need, but you’re not down at zero into this closed loop operation. What was the gentleman’s name in Utah that ran a hundred miles with no, no calories? Zach (1h 4m 14s): Oh yeah. Mike McKnight. Brad (1h 4m 16s): Yeah. So like we have the Mike McKnight end of the spectrum where, you know, because he didn’t consume any carbohydrates, he had to be totally locked into this fat and ketone burning machine. But then at the other side, I just heard Zach Bitter say that he eats beets, broccoli, honey, and food. And so you’re mixing these two notions and do we have some risks to pay attention to there? Zach (1h 4m 43s): Yeah, No, I think Mike’s a great, a great example. So Mike’s, Mike’s main focus and kind of his niche and that niche in the sport where he’s really found a lot of success or in some of these, like, I guess what you could call ultra ultra marathons. So Mike has been kind of a bit of a breakthrough athlete with like 200 mile races. We’ve, there’s a series called the triple crown of hundred miles where it’s the Tahoe 200, which is actually 205 miles, the Moab 200, which is actually 238 miles. And then Brad (1h 5m 15s): We’ll call it the Moab 200 Man!. Are you Kidding me? Give him credit for those last 200 I’m training for the Moab 200, I finished the mob 200. Zach (1h 5m 26s): Is that long? Can you just kind of like round down from 38 miles crazy round down an entire ultra marathon, but yeah, so he’s, he’s got that thing, the course record at every one of those races individually, as well as the cumulative time course record. I think he’s got the fastest to actually, can we accumulate a time? So he’s done that a few times where he’s run all three of them and it’s not like they’re spread out. It’s not like January where’s one June’s and other one. And then like November is the next it’s they’re all within like I think a couple of months. So Brad (1h 5m 58s): The snow melt season up in the mountains. Yeah, Zach (1h 6m 0s): Yeah, exactly. There’s a tight timeline when you can actually execute that type of an event. So, so Mike, Mike, I think is in a position where for him to defend muscle glycogen, you can do it with no carbohydrates at a lot of the races he’s competing at because there’s so long, it doesn’t, it doesn’t benefit him to like push his heart rate up past where he’s probably burning almost exclusively if not exclusively fat. So when he decided to do the fast and a hundred mile where he’s like, when he does these 200 miles, he’s eating things, but he’s, he’s probably, he’s lower carb than I am in the sense that like, if you look at how many carbs he’s taken on a daily basis, it’s going to be lower than me, but he’s also peeking for longer races too, which I think is kind of the context required for that conversation. Zach (1h 6m 45s): But the interesting thing is, you know, with all this race cancellation stuff, we’ve had a lot more flexibility as athletes to take on personal projects. And one thing might want it to, he wanted to make sure he didn’t get a single gram of, of any calorie in them during this. So it would be a true zero calorie attempted, and he did it. I want to say you ran a hundred miles in like 18 and a half hour, somewhere around there. I think it is a goal originally was to get under 20 hours. So he exceeded that by a fair margin to be fair. Mike is a 16, his shower, a hundred mile guy he’s done like some six, I think, some 16 and a half mile hundreds. So whether it’s a performance advantage to go to zero calories during a hundred mile is I think still very much debatable. Zach (1h 7m 28s): But the, the question of can you do it? It’s certainly been, been proven by Mike. So I think it’s interesting to see, see what he’s got and like kinda pay attention to what he’s doing, just because it’s just, it’s different and it’s working for him. So he’s an interesting guy to follow and I’m happy to, to know him and have helped him out a bit with some of his nutritional strategies in the past. Brad (1h 7m 52s): So that’s a good point where you’re going for the a hundred mile record where you’re, you know, running in the sixes for any human is a little different than running 200 miles. And you know, you’re transitioning, you must certainly have been over your MAF heart rate when you’re trying to break that a hundred mile record or look at an elite marathoner crypto gay and that the rest of the guys, I remember you were talking about researching the foods to eat when you were a young runner, middle school, high school, early college. And I remember they went and studied the Kenyans in the early days and they had this, the stew that they ate was pretty much all they ate. I think it was called? What was it called? Zach (1h 8m 31s): Ugali. Brad (1h 8m 31s): Ugali I think, yeah, ugali right. And they, they did a macro nutrient analysis and it was like deemed to be the perfect diet for the distance runner back in the day. Cause it had, you know, it had carbs, protein, fat and everything. And I was like, okay, that was a good insight. But I see the, the distinction there from being a, you know, a fat adapted athlete at an aerobic pace, big difference from trying to be a competitor and possibly needing that little shot of Mountain Dew. I loved your diary when you first broke the American record, it was like, wait a second, can put this, you know, you had some random, random consumption there during the a hundred mile run just to get you to the finish line, I assume. Zach (1h 9m 13s): Yeah. You know, I’ve done a bunch of goofy things earlier in my career in terms of what I used as a fuel source. I did a hundred K actually with nothing but Mountain Dew. It was only 150 calories an hour, but it was all Mountain Dew. So it’s like, yeah, I don’t, I don’t even know if I could get away at that at low levels of fueling anymore. But, you know, I was, this would have been in 2014, so yeah, it was like, I don’t have a perfect blend of like a little, I just was like bringing in just enough sugar to kind of, to defend muscle glycogen. Like we talked before, but also had a little bit of hit of caffeine, which I think is a pretty clear performance enhancing aid that you can use if your body responds positively to caffeine. So, you know, that worked for that particular event. I don’t know that I would try that again.MI’ll definitely sip on some stuff. Brad (1h 9m 56s): Oh, come on. I know you’re negotiating right now with Mountain Dew, and it’s just a matter of putting the, putting another zero on the contract and then just going to have a big goal of sponsorship. You get to show up with a skin tight green suit sponsored by Mountain Dew for the a hundred mile record. Yeah. Yeah. Zach (1h 10m 13s): So it’s, you know, it’s, it’s funny to see kinda I’ve lived the way I like to look at it is like when you put yourself in a position to not need to go as high as the average, person’s going to target for fueling strategies, you can get away with more because you’re just not going to be bombarding your digestive track with as much exotic fuel sources. So, you know, I think like you limit the potential downside of that, but if you do the right things, nutritionally and training wise, going in, you also limit the potential of, of not being able to defend the muscle glycogen with those smaller amounts of foods and carbohydrates during the race itself, Brad (1h 10m 51s): Zach man, this has been fascinating. I think even if you’re a listener, not interested in doing a crazy ultra competition, just the compare and contrast to the strategies and the, and the methodical approach that you’ve applied to setting the world record is, is super awesome. I’d love to have you back on again, after the questions come rolling in, but I also want you to tell us about Human Performance Outliers, Zach (1h 11m 15s): Highly recommended show. I love being the guest on that show with you, and then how can we connect with you to learn more about the coaching and all that awesome. Yeah. Human Performance Outliers podcasts via audio and video options on YouTube or just wherever any podcast listening platform is. And yeah, Brad, we just had you on your episode 213, I believe it goes up tomorrow. So by the time this podcast, unless you turn this thing over, in like an hour, it should be up by the time this one publishes Brad (1h 11m 41s): it’s world record holder talking to world record holder Zach’s record was 11 hours and then change in mine was one minute and 38 seconds. But you know, we’re still, we’re still, bro. So I appreciate that. Yeah. So definitely check that one out. Zach (1h 11m 56s): Yeah. So it’s been fun. I, you know, shot, Sean’s taken a step back from podcasting. So I’m solo hosting at the moment right now, but we’ve had some cool interviews. We had a Dave Scott come on, who is a legend in the triathlon community. Brad (1h 12m 7s): And most amazingly Dave Scott was the carb King throughout his career. And he was known for, you know, cutting his fat back and just slamming, you know, the various foods and he came full circle. So I’m sure you got into that on the show, but boy. Yeah. It’s, it’s amazing to see the progress. Zach (1h 12m 26s): Yeah. Yeah. So it was cool to have him on. It’s cool to have all sorts of sorts of different people on there now, too, on I’m going to can kind of continue that way where it’s a variety of different types of guests. They won’t just become an marathon only type of set up, know that, you know, Sean’s huge biceps. Aren’t there to grace the screen any longer, but it’ll, it’s, it’s a fun, fun way to chat with folks. And I think we’ll get into some interesting topics going forward with that. But yeah, in terms of like where you can find me, my website’s kind of the one-stop place where there’s links to everything at zackbutter.com and I’m most active on Instagram, which is a@ZachBitter Brad (1h 13m 0s): Zack Bitter, people, world record holder, given you the straight scoop. Thank you for listening. Thank you for listening to the show. We would love your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org. And we would also love if you could leave a rating and a review on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts, I know it’s a hassle. You have to go to desktop iTunes, click on the tab that says ratings and reviews, and then click to rate the show anywhere from five to five stars. And it really helps spread the word so more people can find the show and get over themselves because they need to thanks for doing it.