Stan Efferding Vertical Diet

Stan Efferding
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Kelly: [2:27] Stan Efferding, welcome to The Ready State Podcast.

Stan: [2:30] Thank you. Appreciate you having me.

Kelly: [2:32] I was going to say, the last time we were together in person, I was trying to lift something very heavy. My face was bright red. Mark Bell was there. I think that was the last time I had the pleasure of hanging out with you. And whenever I’m around you, I’m always blown away at your positivity and the way you think about solving problems. I think of all of our friends who are definitely athletes, and the athlete hybrid sort of nutrition guru coach, you are the one who is sort of I feel like the greatest cheerleader, the most supportive, and really have taken on a crucial aspect of nutrition that doesn’t get talked about, which is how do I eat if I’m a strength athlete, how do I support mass, and how do I not destroy my sleep, be completely unhealthy, have a wrecked gut. And really, you’ve just done such a wonderful job. And I can’t wait to get into some of these things. So, that being said, you are very strong. How did you end up in this place as a very, very strong person, and obsessed with sort of the eating around that?

Stan: [3:46] Well, I associated strength with size back in the late 1980s when I was in college studying exercise science. I don’t think that we were as smart back then as we are now in terms of hypertrophy and the scientific principles, the contributing factors. Back then, I just assumed that the stronger I got, the bigger I’d get. And so I grinded away for quite a long time trying to achieve that goal. And it really didn’t happen for me until I met someone who took me aside and said, look, you don’t grow in the gym, which is an article that I ultimately wrote 10 years ago for the NPC News talking about the lessons that I learned some 30 years ago, that the training’s just the stimulus and that eat and sleep is where all of it comes from. And it was a miraculous transformation about that time that I discovered that you actually needed to fuel the body and recover from those workouts. You could only train about as hard and as long as that from which you could recover. 

And so I didn’t get to where I’m at and I don’t consider myself a guru because I learned all of these lessons by making every mistake more than once over the years. So every time somebody talks to me about bodybuilding, dieting, or about powerlifting, and strongman weight gain and strength, I can just share with them the experience that I have because I can just see when they tell me their stories, I’ve lived it. And that’s what’s really helped me be able to relate to people. And I just love being able to find — it’s kind of a bit of a treasure hunt. I just love to be able to look through all of their programming and find one or two or three nuggets that can yield a significant return, something that really moves the needle. I’ve always felt as though some of these great athletes, what can I do for a Hafthor Bjornsson, you know. Just an amazing world class athlete. Or a Lane Johnson, a pro-bowl NFL Super Bowl champion lineman for the Philadelphia Eagles. Or CrossFit National champions like Camille Leblanc and Becca Smith and Becca Boyd and Ben Smith. 

Every time I run into one of these people, I just think they’ve got it together. They’ve already achieved more than I have achieved in my career. But when you ask enough questions, you start to see that there’s gaping holes in the fundamentals oftentimes. And when I’m able to identify those and they realize a significant benefit, that’s very rewarding for me and for them. And so it’s really kind of an adventure for me and I just love seeing people make progress after all those years of working so hard. 

Juliet: [6:39] Well, that makes me think of a couple questions. But first, you mentioned gaping holes, and even the best have gaping holes in their health and fitness strategy or however you want to describe it. Is there a commonality among that, and what I mean is do most of those athletes have the same gaping holes or does it differ by athlete, you know? And I guess I’m wondering is there kind of a common thread of places that you see athletes are struggling.

Stan: [7:06] Excellent question. And there is. For my big athletes, generally speaking, there’s a few primary things. One, I don’t think they’re as diligent about understanding how important sleep quality is, and most of them have sleep apnea. That’s the biggest component with like Hafthor or Brian Shaw or Dan Green or Larry Wheels. All of those big athletes have some degree of sleep apnea. And some of them may even have a CPAP but aren’t using it regularly just because it’s uncomfortable. And I’ve been using CPAP since the mid-1990s and so I know how to jerry rig those things so that they work better, which masks to wear, how to set the settings on the machines. And a lot of those guys don’t even have them, to be honest. And so that’s a huge component. Sleep’s obviously important for the smaller athletes too. But generally speaking, if they don’t have apnea, they’re getting adequate quality. So I just work on quantity with them. 

Another big one is kind of a no brainer. I run a blood test on all my athletes that I work with. I like to see all the dad bods and soccer moms get to at least an initial baseline in case there’s opportunities there to find things like maybe elevated hemoglobin hematocrit. They might have some thick blood. Blood pressure, blood sugars is huge. This is a big one with my large athletes in particular. They start to develop some sort of insulin resistance, the metabolic syndrome problem, little bit of fatty liver. And then they start partitioning nutrients towards fat and not muscle. So they’re not as efficient at building muscle. And it affects their performance. And their blood pressure obviously is a huge component to performance. So the big athletes are struggling with those things. 

Vitamin D deficiency is quite common in some of the bigger athletes with insulin resistance. And you know, it may be a proxy marker that their poor metabolic health is resulting in suppressed D3. Not that D3 can solve all those issues. But it’s just something that they pay attention to. The dieters, everybody thinks that I work just with the big athletes, that The Vertical Diet’s just for gaining weight. But in fact, I work with Nadia Wyatt, who took third in the Ms. Olympia, and she’s 116 pounds. I worked with Tiny Tiff, who’s 103 pounds. I have a professional ballet dancer from the Sacramento Ballet Company who weighs 97 pounds. I do a lot of work with weight loss. Probably the vast majority of my clients are weight loss. 

The biggest problems they have, other than burning the candle at both ends and not sleeping enough and getting up at 4 a.m. to do cardio, which is stepping over $100 bills to pick up nickels because they’re losing more muscle than fat at that point, the biggest problem with those folks is that they’ve adopted these over restrictive diets, these guru diets that are egg whites and tilapia and broccoli. And they just become really nutrient deficient, particularly with their workload. They train hard. They don’t have an iodine source, their thyroid starts to slow. They take out egg yolks. They have no more biotin. And the egg whites are robbing biotin from their body. And they end up with brittle hair and skin, hair, and nail problems. They end up with anemia, you know, the female triad, and amenorrhea. And then some degree of osteoporosis starts to set in, like the track athlete from Nike that recently talked about her circumstance and the broken bones that she suffered. 

And it’s just tragic that we’re so keenly aware that any calorie deficit will allow for weight loss. But these folks choose to complicate that problem by becoming micronutrient deficient and then suffering from all of those maladies that I just mentioned when it’s completely unnecessary. They can continue to eat red meat. They can continue to eat fruit. They can continue to eat dairy. They can continue to salt their food. Of course, they need an iodine source. All those things will contribute to a much healthier weight loss. And I just think that we in the dieting industry, bodybuilding, figure, physique, and bikini, presume to think that the more we suffer, the better we’re going to perform. And it’s just simply not accurate. We all like to wear it as a badge of honor how much torture we put ourselves through. And I feel bad for these people because I’ve been there. I’ve done it many times, you know. I feel bad how good I feel when I roll into a bodybuilding show and I’m still strong and I’m healthy and I’m full and I’m shredded. 

That’s kind of on both ends of the spectrum, I try and intervene and restore some sensibility and try — and probably 90 percent of what I do is try and overcome a lot of myths and preconceptions about what you have to do, what foods are good and bad in terms of dieting. And my athletes end up being able to stay closer to competition weight, having less rebound after competition, edema and the excessive fat gain and the depression and all of that stuff. And they just are healthier longer. So I’m really just trying to get that message out. It’s not anything I invented. I think that Vince Gironda was talking about this in the 60s, eat red meat, eat whole eggs, get an iodine source. It’s not anything new. It’s just somewhere along the weight we kind of lost our way and we’ve been hurting people all this time. 

The saddest part about it is that in the general population, the professional diet industry, the bodybuilding, figure, physique people, they’re a very tiny, tiny part of this world. And what’s really sad is the general population see those women onstage in those bikinis in the best shape of their life and presume to think that that’s the diet they need to follow. And they have even worse outcomes because they’re not taking Anavar to protect their muscle. They’re not taking thyroid to protect their metabolism. And they’re not taking Clenbuterol to help them burn fat. So that’s the biggest shame about it is that a huge portion of the population is suffering through these restrictive diets and going through all of those problems without any of the pharmaceutical help that the figure, physique, bikini, bodybuilding industry enjoys. And that’s one of the biggest myths that I try and dispel because I hate to see those people ending up at the doctor’s office getting shots for iron and B12 and D3 deficiencies that were simply caused by a poor diet, that’s it.

Kelly: [14:03] If there’s an example of highlights for the people listening because I have followed your work and consider you a friend for a long time, as someone who recently within the last year or so within the Instagram or the Twitter, said, what about cheat days, Stan, and you said cheat days, you just had sirloin and rice and carrots. You’re like what are you cheating.

Stan: [14:27] Fruits. And yeah, carbs.

Kelly: [14:30] What do you feel like you need? You just gorged on incredible quality foods. And I guarantee you you’re not hungry. What do you mean cheat? There’s so much here. I really appreciate this approach. And I appreciate thank you for laying out just the depth and breadth of the spectrum of people you see. One of the things that I wanted to circle back to is, and I think it doesn’t get addressed as much, but I think because you work with strength athletes who have thick necks, and I will tell you I’m a big snorer myself. I’ve gone through a sleep study and I’m not apneic and I don’t have sleep disorders. But my wife is laughing because I snore. And of course, the more I weigh and the stronger I am, the worse my snoring is. 

But you have really taken this on, and there are a lot of people here who have body mass index or have people in their family who are overweight or obese, and this isn’t part of the dieting solution. We don’t talk about this at all. Could you talk just a little bit more about what you were saying, the CPAP strategy and sleep support for people who are heavy? Because I don’t think anyone has ever talked about this like you have talked about this and made a cornerstone of the feature of how you’re addressing people who are really trying to manage being big or manage changing from big to small.

Juliet: [15:49] Sorry. Before you answer that, could I add, I assume a lot of people know their apneic and don’t want to wear a CPAP. And can you dispel the myth that it will ruin your relationships and sex life if you have to have a CPAP next to your bed?

Stan: [16:03] Yeah. Yeah. Certainly. People think the vertical diet is about food. But it really starts with these more important, fundamental lifestyle behaviors, the biggest one of which is sleep. If you’re not getting adequate quantity and quality of sleep, you’re not really on The Vertical Diet because no food is going to solve that problem for you, nor will any pill. So the thing about sleep is it’s 99 percent your responsibility to solve. Most people that have problems with sleep simply aren’t complying with good sleep protocols, good sleep hygiene, we call it –they’re not allowing themselves even an eight hour window to sleep. They sit up at night playing with their phones at 1 a.m. in the morning or they just won’t even provide themselves a window that gives them a chance to be successful. You need seven plus hours, you really do. The harder you train, the more you need, really, to recover. And it’s not just quantity, it’s quality. And that quality is determined by a number of things. The darkness of the room matters. The temperature of the room matters. The how quiet it is matters. Blue light within a couple hours of going to bed, such as TV or phone light needs to be eliminated or it’s going to affect your melatonin. And those things have to be adhered to. And those are just strictly personal responsibility. That’s just discipline, is all it is. 

As for the apnea, it’s most prevalent in heavier people, there’s no question. But even someone like Jordan Feigenbaum, who’s 198 pounds, he has a thick neck from squatting a lot, he wears a CPAP. He has some degree of sleep apnea. So if you snore and wake up tired, there’s a good likelihood you have some degree of sleep apnea. Unfortunately, in some of the European countries, Canada, socialized medicine, Australia, it takes them a long time to get in and get a sleep study and then if they don’t have a severe enough apnea, they won’t be given a machine. It’s expensive. They’ll be told to lose weight. My strength athletes don’t want to lose weight. Although we can discuss later how I periodize their weight to improve their metabolic syndrome and their fatty liver. 

But getting a CPAP machine is like a 99 percent solution assuming you can get comfortable wearing it. Again, I use a particular mask and I program the machine such that the expiratory pressure relief is on so that you don’t have to keep fighting the air that’s coming in. It actually becomes quite calming once you get used to it. And I have some methods and techniques to help with that. But it’s important for a host of reasons. One, it’s one of the largest contributors to high blood pressure. I know people think of sodium as contributing to high blood pressure, but that’s really only for hypertensive people who don’t get adequate potassium, to be honest, and that’s a small percentage of the population. So I can generally see an athlete drop 15 points on their systolic blood pressure within a week or 10 days of using it. It’s significant. Yes. And it’s up to as much as 20. 

The second largest contributor to high blood pressure is low thyroid, especially in thyroid. Hypothyroid women as compared to normal thyroid women can have a 20 point difference in their systolic blood pressure. Those are very significant numbers. Same thing’s true with cholesterol, by the way, with respect to thyroid functions, can dramatically decrease your total and LDL cholesterol when you resolve hypothyroidism. And thyroid can be affected by apnea. It can be another potential suppressor of thyroid function. So those things are very important. And obviously lean body mass retention. Ghrelin, the hormone that makes you hungry, increases with apnea. Just the fact that if you’re awake more hours of the day, it gives you a greater opportunity to eat. It’s just —

Kelly: [20:03] Don’t we call that sleep for dinner?

Stan: [20:05] Yeah. So those are all really important factors. It’s probably the biggest contributor that I see to increased performance, blood pressure, blood sugars. It can have a significant effect on insulin sensitivity. So all of those things are important. And that’s why I start there. And that’s the most important thing, if that’s all I can do, is get somebody to get a CPAP. Nowadays, if you can’t afford a doctor or get a CPAP through the medical community, which can be quite expensive, it can be up to $2,000 or more, you can go on Craigslist and get a DreamStation is the one I recommend. It’s actually the one they connected me to when I did my most recent sleep study. 

I’ve had sleep studies periodically over the years to try and make sure everything’s optimal. And they end up hooking me up to that machine and when they wake me up in the morning, they tell me exactly that reading on the machine is what they want me to set mine at home on. So I’m like why did I hire them and pay them $1,000 for a sleep test. They just hook me to the same machine I use at home and gave me the same reading that I see every morning. I know it’s more complicated than that for some people. But I certainly don’t outwardly recommend people avoid seeing a doctor. But if you can’t afford it, it’s important enough because of the potential contribution to heart disease and heart attack that you do something to take action. 

And so I do recommend you can get on Craigslist or even at they have the new DreamStation. Order it and try it. It’s just a fantastic resolution to those problems. People say it’s life changing. And I don’t say that about much. I’ve been in this industry over 30 plus years and I’m cautious about things that — the pom poms I jump up and down about. Certainly, supplements and all of that. But this is life changing, for sure. 

Juliet: [22:02] Thank you. That’s so interesting. And in that you mentioned The Vertical Diet, which is obviously one of the main reasons we’re here to talk to you. So could you tell everybody what The Vertical Diet is and the backstory, how you developed it, and just speak to everything Vertical Diet?

Stan: [22:18] Yeah. Well, I mean the name’s kind of catchy, I suppose. It’s Get Vertical. That’s just eat, move, and sleep. Sleep, move, and eat is really what it is. About just building a foundation of highly bioavailable micronutrient dense easy to digest foods. They say you can’t put a three-bedroom house on a two-bedroom foundation. But once you build this foundation you can put a skyscraper on it. You can put a 450 pound Hafthor Bjornsson on it. Or again, 103 pound Tiny Tiff, who has the same foundational physiological requirements for micronutrients in her diet as Hafthor does. You just adjust for calories. 

And workload also needs to be fueled by a significant number of calories. You get a CrossFitter that’s training two or three times a day or a MMA fighter, they’re going to need a significant amount of fuel. And those micronutrients are depleted in athletes to a much greater degree than even sedentary people. So it’s really important that they refuel their bodies. They’re sweating out iodine and sodium and they’re using up a whole lot more vitamins and minerals than the average population. If they don’t replace them then they’re going to start to have deficiency in performance obviously, maybe even bigger problems as I mentioned earlier with the female triad and all of those other issues. 

So The Vertical Diet was really my way of looking at micronutrients first, to be honest, and looking at the digestibility of those, and this doesn’t branch into a conversation about the gut biome and all of that. It’s really just a matter of can you digest the foods that you’re eating easily. Do you have a whole host of gas and bloating, you suffer from IBS or IBD or Crohn’s, any of those autoimmune disorders that might come from poor digestion? Are you taking antacid medicating, which is a huge problem? I have so many athletes that get gastric reflux and start taking antacids. And they don’t realize that you can’t adequately break down proteins or absorb minerals, calcium, magnesium, iron, when you’re taking antacid medication. So it’s just a matter of time before you start having a whole host of autoimmune disorders or even depression is very common in people who take antacid medication. A lot of them, a high percentage, end up on some sort of antidepressant medication. It’s sad. It can be resolved. 

But people who go on diets tend to restrict all those foods I mentioned earlier. How many people have gone into a doctor or a nutrition guru to get ready for a bikini show and they tell you don’t eat red meat, don’t eat fruit, don’t eat dairy, don’t eat salt, all of those things are hugely important  and very, very dense in nutrients. And that’s presuming that someone can digest dairy. There’s certainly efforts that I make to look at lactose intolerance and whey allergies and we just simply start decreasing the amount of lactose in their food. If they can’t have milk, they go to Greek yogurt. If they can’t have Greek yogurt, they can go to a hard cheese. It’s almost lactose free, cheddar cheese. But calcium’s hugely important, particularly for performance. And people think it’s just for bones. But it also is for nerve signaling. It’s important for muscle contraction. For anybody who studied the actin myosin muscle contraction, it’s stimulated by calcium. 

So all of those things, I wish I had a quick answer for what The Vertical Diet is, but that’s the big thing, is that you aren’t just what you eat, you’re what you digest and absorb. So I try and pick the foods that provide you the easiest pathway with the most micronutrient density that’s easiest for you to digest so that people can perform more consistently. Potassium’s another big huge component that people just don’t get enough of. It’s really hard to get  4,700 milligrams of potassium a day. That’s kind of one of the reasons that the Paleo Diet kind of caved in and started allowing potatoes for the CrossFitters because it’s really hard to get enough potassium in a day if you’re not utilizing really potassium dense foods. And bananas aren’t them. There’s probably a third the amount of potassium in bananas as there is in a potato. So that’s kind of the gist of what The Vertical Diet is. And without even talking specifically about calories or macros, I just talk about the needs of the individual athletes’ bodies and what foods are the most dense in those micronutrients and which are the easiest to digest and absorb.

Kelly: [27:12] Part of what I really appreciate about your approach is that you are also a user. You are a really accomplished bodybuilder and really accomplished strength athlete. You are one of my strongest friends. And that’s saying a lot. And you also appreciate the demands and realities of trying to fuel while being a working athlete and an entrepreneur. I mean I think you are probably one of the hardest working people in my circle. You know, this focus on micronutrients we’ve heard over and over and over again. Could you talk a little bit about sort of the nuts and bolts? Because you’re a user and because you also understand the strength side, I think we haven’t heard about at all this season, sort of demands of what it actually looks like to support the eating of an NFL lineman. Because I think people think you just eat pizza and eat whatever you want. And what that looks like to set a world record. I mean I saw you set a world record for 502 kilos for a second before some of the plates fell off. 

But one of your athletes who is the strongest person on the planet and one of the better sort of cared for versions of that, I mean it’s freakish to see that human. But the demands of Brian Shaw to eat, the demands of Hafthor to eat, who’s The Mountain, if you’re not following this conversation. Can you talk just about the nuts and bolts because I think the digestion simplicity, when people are trying to prioritize what’s important, gets lost in that conversation for athletes who have to work hard and eat a lot.

Stan: [28:48] Agreed. You said something important there that it can be difficult to comply. I always say compliance is the science. And all diets work when they’re strictly adhered to. So one of the biggest things I work on is the logistics. Logistics are just as important for a working mother with two kids who’s got to take them to and from school and get them to piano practice. And she’s got her own workout to get in. And how about her meals? And so and then the teenager that goes to school and he’s got football practice and sometimes he’s got daily doubles. How is he fueling himself optimally to be able to perform well under those circumstances? And my athletes of course, some of whom travel a lot. And myself. I’ve been in 10 countries and 40 states in the last 18 months. I’m headed out on a 60 city tour in 60 days from June 13 to August 11, I’m going to be putting on a seminar in all 48 states, 60 cities. And I have to coordinate my food and my training throughout that whole thing. So the logistics become really important. 

And that’s one of the problems I try and solve for all of my clients, whether it be the working mother or the Hafthor Bjornsson. And so I do strategize to have them — meal prep is the huge component. It’s the number one method of compliance with diets when you look at the weight control registry and how the 10,000 people that they’ve measured over a decade who have lost over 60 pounds and kept it off for five plus years. The number one way that they do that is through meal prep, whether they prep or they buy meal prep. I own a meal prep company. I’m not pimping meal prep here. My athletes make their own food. But they make multiple meals at a time. And you know, this is really what the bodybuilding, figure, physique, bikini industry does very, very well, what I call the professional dieters. They pack their Tupperware around all the time. And I’ve done that for years. And it got a little annoying eating cold food or trying to find a microwave all the time or just the nasty dry taste of it. So I started using the thermos, which is something that almost all of my athletes use now. It’s just a $20 thermos on Amazon. And you put a hot meal in it and it stays hot for 10 hours. So now even the mom that leaves the house in the morning, drops her kids off at school and has to go to work, she can take a couple of thermoses with her. And she’s eating what she wants to eat, the foods that feel good on her body, the calorie count that she knows she needs to comply with her diet, and has what she needs when she needs it. 

When I work with Thor and Shaw, sometimes I’ll coordinate with their wives, where are they going to be, and what they need when they get there. I’ll even fly out early to the World’s Strongest Man or The Arnold and I’ll go shopping for them and I’ll bring them everything they need to their hotel room. As you’ve seen in some of those videos, the rice cooker and the Foreman grill and the refrigerator and all of their food. And we make sure that’s all resolved for them. If they don’t have a place for the kitchenette, I usually stay at extended stays so I can resolve some of those concerns there and have a microwave and a fridge. So a lot of what I do for those guys is really just making sure that they can manage logistics. And then when you have to eat a lot of calories, a ton of calories like these guys do, I try and make sure food is easy to digest. 

I can put this into two columns: Dieters, people on calorie deficits, the reason they fail generally is because they get hungry or they get tired. So I try and mitigate hunger with satiating foods, which is going to be any high protein diet, little more fiber. Usually they’ll cut up and eat steak as opposed to eating ground beef because it takes a little longer to digest. They’ll eat fewer simple carbs. They’ll use high satiety foods. If you look at a satiety index or satiety index, however you pronounce that, the potato and the orange are two of the highest on a satiety index. They’re also two of the highest in potassium, which is why they’re in all my athletes’ diets. They have so many great benefits. Well, I don’t want my big athletes to be full. So instead of using steak, I have them use a ground beef or a ground bison. I have them throw some white rice in there. The potato, if they’re going to eat that, they’ll have them for dinner or before a workout so that when they wake up or when they’re done training, they’re still hungry again. And I use orange juice instead of oranges. Still high in potassium. The fructose tends to really stimulate the metabolism. They’re hungrier faster. They can eat more food, digest it faster and eat more frequently. 

And that’s what’s important for people who have huge demands or people who want to gain weight and are struggling. If they start stuffing a bunch of pizza and pasta and pancakes down, they’re going to have a really hard time digesting it. Likelihood is that they’ll end up getting fatter than they will get bigger or stronger or more muscular because of that fatty liver problem that starts to take effect. So different strategies for different goals for different athletes, but all focused around the same fundamentals. 

Juliet: [33:47] What do you say, which I’ve heard other people say this, to those who say they don’t have time to meal prep? And I’m not thinking about the professional dieters. I’m thinking about the mom or someone who’s not a pro at this but just trying to either gain or lose weight based on their own goals.

Stan: [34:03] Yeah. And that’s why I have a video on how I prep when I take off on an airplane. If you’re going to make a breakfast, there’s no reason why you can’t make three. And that’s meal prep. You get up in the morning and instead of making two eggs, you make six. Instead of — I always recommend some sort of top sirloin, lean steak for women in particular who are dieting because of the iron, three times as much iron as chicken, like six times as much zinc, nine times as much B12. So you can cook three meals instead of one in the same time. And I’m standing there eating my breakfast while the other food’s finishing. And I pop it into two thermoses. 

That’s meal prep. So that’s how I manage meal prep. Or alternatively, you can order meal prep. Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers have very successful outcomes because they provide the meals. We provide the meals too. That’s certainly an option for those people who can afford it and for those that can’t, I recommend that they make three meals at once. Or some people will even make three days’ worth of meals at once in the evening time. They’ll just spend a couple hours prepping. Kids in particular. If you’ve got a young athlete, this is something that is near and dear to me because I wrestled 98 pounds as a freshman and sophomore in high school.

Kelly: [35:21] Unknown fact. 

Stan: [35:23] One fifteen as a senior and I was 140 when I was 18 years old in college. So I was a skinny kid. There was a reason for that. Too full, the two biggest things I harp on. One, I was working the swing shift at 7-Eleven. So I wouldn’t get home until almost midnight. I’d go to school in the morning and then get off of school and go straight to 7-Eleven. And so I was eating those nachos with the pump cheese, you know. I was drinking the soda pops.

Juliet: [35:49] Slim Jims.

Stan: [35:49] Yeah. Just garbage. Absolute garbage is how I got through high school. And so that resulted in delayed onset puberty. I was 17 years old and hadn’t even had a growth spurt yet. Sixteen years old plus and hadn’t had a growth spurt yet. And that’s because I wasn’t giving my body what it needed to grow. I wasn’t giving it enough sleep, I wasn’t giving it enough good quality food, protein, cholesterol, things that are really important for hormone stimulation and growth. I did a video about how important that is for kids. So back to what I was saying about if you have a student athlete that’s in high school, one, please don’t start starving and dieting them to reach a certain weight class in wrestling. I think that really does a disservice to an individual’s genetic —

Kelly: [36:38] Amen.

Stan: [36:38] Potential. It’s tragic what people do just to meet a certain weight class. But two, you would never send them out onto the football field without a helmet and pads. And therefore, you should never send them to school in the morning without food, without fuel. A couple of thermoses is all it takes. Just make up a couple of Monster Mash. It takes like five minutes. I’ve got a bunch of free videos on YouTube of me making Monster Mash. Grind up some hamburger, have some rice going in a rice cooker that you set on a timer the night before. It’s just sitting there ready. Scramble up some eggs. Put a little bit of bone broth in it, mash it all together and put it in a thermos. The kids love it. They eat the hell out of it. It’s obviously one of the things that’s been most popular about this Vertical Diet is the whole Monster Mash thing, which I trademarked, by the way.

Kelly: [37:29] I have to jump in. I’m so glad you talked about Monster Mash because it is miraculous. Juliet’s like what do you want for your birthday dinner. And I’m like it’s my version of Monster Mash except it has adobo seasoning in it.

Juliet: [37:42] And a fried egg on top. You had egg, I think.

Kelly: [37:45] And I ask her to make it all the time. I can’t make it the way she makes it. And the next day I’m like you know what I’m having for lunch? Monster Mash. Like and when I have a big ass Tupperware of it, I feel safe.

Juliet: [37:57] He feels so happy.

Kelly: [37:58] I am safe. 

Juliet: [37:59] He feels so happy.

Kelly: [38:01] I send pictures of my Monster Mash to Stan, unfortunately for him because I’m sure he gets tens of thousands of those, but once in a while —

Stan: [38:10] Every day all my stories are just reposting Monster Mashes. People unfollow me because they’re tired of looking at Monster Mash.

Juliet: [38:20] You know, Stan, I don’t want to get too controversial here. But obviously in this COVID epidemic, everyone’s been talking about the meat supply chain. And that’s obviously in the wake of the documentary Game Changers. And then there was a big article in The New York Times, I don’t know if you happened to see that a week ago. But there’s definitely sort of, for a variety of reasons, anti-meat sentiment going on right now. And I know obviously different kinds of nutrient dense meat are definitely part of The Vertical Diet. And I just wanted you to speak to that a little bit. If you’re following that, what you think about all that.

Stan: [38:54] Yeah. I don’t think much about it at all. I think it’s propaganda. I think it’s stuff that’s been forced down our throat by PETA, by Kellogg’s and Procter & Gamble or even the American Heart Association, which was paid millions of dollars in the late ’60s to tell us to eat seed oils. So I don’t trust any of those people. I think that the NutriRECS study, which is one of the most comprehensive studies of all of the epidemiology and randomized control trials with respect to red meat, summed it up pretty well. And that the epidemiology is completely worthless. This isn’t me talking. You can look at Dr. Ioannidis from Stanford who’s I think largely considered the godfather of meta research, has been very clear to say that all of that epidemiology, all the stuff coming out of Stanford for decades now has been just horrible information. It’s not scientific. And he’s completely — he’s written some great articles about that. 

Unfortunately, it’s been demonized for financial reasons, so people could sell more of the processed foods. It’s been lied about in terms of the global warming, trying to claim that animal agriculture is a large contributor to that. And if you understand anything about the carbon cycle, you’d know that’s completely bogus. It’s way been overestimated. The value of those foods for human health is extraordinary. As I mentioned just with the nutrient, the bioavailability of the nutrients, it’s just essential and critical for growing kids as well. There’s a number of different countries that specifically state that vegan diets in particular are unhealthy for nursing mothers, for adolescents. And so if that’s something an adult chooses to do based on their personal ethics, then that’s their personal business. Although billions of animals get killed every year growing crops. So it’s really virtue signaling. It’s kind of selective outrage. And we’re talking about foxes and rabbits and kangaroos.

Kelly: [41:19] Mice.

Stan: [41:20] Mice. Yeah. I could go on and on and on. This isn’t Stan Efferding talking. This is, again, the godfather of meta research, Dr. Ioannidis talking about how worthless that epidemiology is. The randomized control trials don’t show any advantage in terms of health. 

Kelly: [41:39] And I want to just jump in here for a second because one of the things that I appreciate is you can step aside from the politics of this and look at the reality of this, which  you do so well, where people have wrecked themselves from failed diets. I feel like you are the Lazarus coach where people have augured in, they’re not making success, and really toyed with their food. And we have good friends like Dr. Stacy Sims who’ve seen long-term thyroid damage to young women who just crashed, crashed their systems, their cars, in the short pursuit of performance. 

One of the things I just want to press is that you were always saying is what are the most micronutrient dense foods that are also easy and low calorie. And some of that lean sirloin and some of those things is a tool that you’ve chosen because it saves people and it really does, when people are trying to change their body image, you’re seeing it as a really powerful way to do that. Am I hearing that right?

Stan: [42:41] Well, yes, absolutely. And it works. At the end of the day, look, I’m really kind of agnostic about the whole thing. I want my athlete to perform. I want them to have the diet that gives them the best outcome that they’re looking for. Athletes don’t care. They really don’t. If it were better, they’d all be using it. And you just follow them, period. And that isn’t even to be flippant. It’s just a fact. We go to where the results are. And we’ll try a whole bunch of horseshit, anecdote or testimonial, along the way. But if it really worked better, everybody would be doing it. We don’t care if it’s red meat or a piece of broccoli, if one yields a better result, we’re going to consume that one. And that one just turns out to be the red meat. And then all the mechanisms of action kind of come in after the fact. 

Everybody’s explaining why something works or how it works. We don’t care, to be honest. We just know that it works and usually the athletes get there 20 years before the scientists do. So it’s kind of the bottom line for me is that it just, it simply works. I haven’t had good luck. I have a vegetarian diet and a vegan diet and I work with vegetarian and vegan clients and have for many years, and trained them for competition. And I find that it’s always a struggle and that it’s difficult to comply, which is a huge downside obviously for diet, as I mentioned earlier. And usually the problems start manifesting over time. Maybe not in the first 30 days, but certainly by days 90, that’s when you start to see B12, magnesium deficiencies, that host of digestion problems, the IBS and IBD, those things start to crop up and people just start feeling miserable, and then they’re told they’re not doing it right. I just think that’s a sad state of affairs. 

Juliet: [44:51] Well, I just so appreciate your perspective on that. Like really, I just love it. I love it. 

Kelly: [44:55] And that you are at the pointy end of this spear. You’re there with your athletes seeing what works. It’s not a prescription. You actually also have skin in the game because people fire you or don’t comply because it’s bullshit.

Juliet: [45:09] Not working.

Stan: [45:09] I have vegetables in the diet. I just mentioned I have potatoes. I  have a daily carrot for fiber and I break it up like three times. Somebody asked me the other day because they saw a plate. I post pictures of people’s meals. I make all my athletes send me pictures of their meals every day. And sometimes I like to repost them. And their body weight and their hours of sleep, by the way. So I’m big on tracking and compliance. I’m big on holding them responsible so I make them take pictures of their meals every day. I actually tell them, my dieters, I want to see a picture of everything you put in your mouth that’s not attached to your husband. So I look at the labels, I look at all the food, the supplements, and everything. But they send pictures and there’s often three or four baby carrots in a meal. And somebody said to me in one of the comments, you know, three baby carrots, seriously, what’s that about. And really, it’s a daily carrot, but we break it up into a few meals. And I like to answer, you know, you wouldn’t eat all of your protein at one sitting. So why eat all of your fiber at one sitting? So I like to spread it out throughout the day. The potatoes for potassium obviously. And then I use low gas vegetables. Spinach.

Kelly: [46:23] This is a big deal. 

Stan: [46:24] It is a big deal because so many people, I know they say the low FODMAP diet, that’s the first time I mentioned that in terms of digestibility. Fermentable Oligo- Di- Monosaccharides, and Polyols. These are foods that are more or less likely to cause you gas and bloating and distress for IBS and constipation, et cetera. They’re called FODMAPs. And high FODMAP foods tend to cause and aggravate digestion. It can cause pretty severe gas and bloating issues to the point where it’s terribly uncomfortable. So I use low FODMAP foods and the low FODMAP vegetables like spinach and squash and cucumber and root tubers like carrots and potato, those are all vegetables that I include in the diet. And they can provide potassium, obviously, is the most important thing, and some fiber and some resistant starch for your gut biome. I hate mentioning the word because we know so little about it. It’s such a huge endeavor. But you know, I do include those in there. I think they’re an important part of a daily diet. Put some peppers in there, they’re twice as high in vitamin C as oranges. 

So I’m chasing a lot of things with those foods. And I’m cautious about how they’re digested. And I understand this, that some people have an iron stomach, and so I say it’s individualistic, it’s dose dependent, and it’s cumulative. Some people may be able to handle half a cup of oatmeal in the morning but if they eat two cups a day or they eat a cup a day three days in a row, they’ll start to get those IBS potentially or gas and bloating symptoms. And then they’ll blame it on something else because they don’t realize that it’s a cumulative problem. So I was fine on Monday with the oatmeal and then Tuesday I was okay, and then Wednesday all of a sudden it’s like you have a bucket. And the same thing’s true with sugar alcohols. I talked about in my rant. Sugar alcohols and sharting your pants.

Juliet: [48:33] This is Kelly’s favorite subject all of a sudden.

Stan: [48:35] Yes. These are things like all the ols. The xylitol, mannitol, sorbitol. These aren’t artificial sweeteners, by the way. That’s a completely different topic. These are sugar alcohols. They’re indigestible. They’re used to sweeten products but yield fewer calories. Problem is, you can’t digest them. So they cause diarrhea. It’s kind of like the olestra disaster that was imposed upon us with the potato chips years ago. Everybody would be running to the toilet with diarrhea. Like oh gosh, thanks olestra. Well, now it’s sugar alcohols. And they’re even in —

Kelly: [49:08] And those sugar alcohols are in a lot of fake food. They’re in a lot of bars, they’re in a lot.

Stan: [49:12] Lot of bars.

Kelly: [49:13] Manufactured foods. And I don’t see much of that in your nutrition strategy. Do you use a lot of those kinds of foods? And I’m setting you up of course because I understand but —

Stan: [49:24] Yeah. I don’t.

Kelly: [49:24] But the older I’ve gotten, the further I’ve gotten away from those things as daily drivers. 

Stan: [49:29] Yeah. Halo Top Ice Cream. People would look at calories and not focus on the micronutrients and the nutrient density of the food. That’s a shame. And some of those calories end up being these sugar alcohols to get the sweetness without the calories. Unfortunately, you can’t digest it, so that’s a huge problem. 

The cruciferous vegetables, again, dose dependent, my concern is that if you’re not getting adequate iodine, things like broccoli and cauliflower, they block the uptake of iodine into the thyroid. So you have to consider whether or not you can overcome that problem by getting even more iodine. And again, it’s individualized. It’s how they cook. How it’s prepared also matters. Things like sourdough bread that’s fermented is going to be easier to digest than most grains, particularly the processed grains. So it’s not that those foods are bad for you necessarily. But if you eat too much of them, and how they’re prepared, can make a big difference. 

So that’s kind of how I start to filter the foods through all of these, I don’t know, what would you call them, kind of check — I check all of these things off on my list as I go down. And I start there. And then if people ask me can I add this, I’m like well, now that you have good digestion and you feel good, throw it in there, see what happens, but listen to your body. And if you react poorly, at least now you know what the trigger is because you’re doing it from a good state. Like I always say, I don’t eat foods I like, I eat foods that like me. And I make that decision about an hour after I eat. And that’s my reality. 

Kelly: [51:13] Well, it has led to the inclusion of a lot of amazing food and a lot of easy results that are easy to adhere to over the long period of time. Because sometimes Juliet and I, we look at — one of our sayings around the house is, “Don’t be heroic, be consistent.” And it’s really difficult to appreciate that we’re probably going to be 100 years old and this isn’t a diet that you’re actually supporting. It is you can tune it up or tune it down to gain weight or lose weight. But what you’re proposing is a really, really sustainable model of eating that’s very, very easy to do.

Stan: [51:48] It’s a lifestyle and it has to be long term. Six out of seven people who go on a diet lose weight. And the current statistics suggest that 90 percent of them gain it back. And that’s simply because of lack of compliance. So you have to find something that’s not just a short-term solution but that fits their lifestyle. And this is kind of the foundation of that. And then energy’s the other component of that. We talked about hunger. But energy is a huge component. Certainly, if you get hungry you’re going to want to eat more. But if you get tired, it’s another problem. And people get tired with over restriction as well. The number one thing with people getting tired is usually sodium depletion. The doctors recommend they get on these low sodium diets. The next thing you know, their electrolytes are depleted and they’re standing up from a seated position and they get lightheaded and they can’t handle any significant training without hitting a wall. It’s a horrible place to be. 

And it’s misinformation. There’s plenty of good research, again, in my Vertical Diet Ebook, I have over 200 references to videos, articles, and peer-reviewed published research so that people can see what the state of the science is on these things. And the recommendations I make, I mean they’re consistent with the NSCA. They’re consistent with the ISSN. Those are performance-based groups. 

And I think that everybody has an athlete inside, even that soccer mom who goes to do her Zumba class is a bit of an athlete. And to restrict sodium for her I think is tragic because then she’s going to be tired and she’s going to go home where compensation takes over, where you just sit more and eat more because of your being tired. So I’m really cautious to make sure that I start with those fundamentals so that people have enough energy to be able to perform at the level they want.

Juliet: [53:40] Well, thank you for that. One quick story for you, and that is that I have extremely naturally low blood pressure. And so in the ’90s when I was trying to eat a low fat diet and/or be a vegetarian, I was really trying to limit my salt. And I felt like I had won the lottery when I met Kelly and he said, hey, the reason why you want to always eat salt is because you’re self-medicating because of your extremely low blood pressure. And ever since then I have never tried to limit my salt once, and it’s glorious.

Kelly: [54:07] In fact, as we’ve gotten older, we have — and I would say we eat very few processed, refined foods — we have had to go chase salt. And we hear that across a lot of the experts have said hey, I think we misinterpreted salt. And even when you were hypohydrated out there in the world, your body is concentrating salt in your system because it’s that important. And we have added when I started — I mean just probably 5 grams to 7 grams of sodium a day, it’s like my body has turned on and it’s pretty remarkable to do that in a really easy and sustainable way. So thank you for being part of — and I love coffee, you were also part of that voice saying hey, you probably need to look at how much sodium you’re not eating. 

Stan: [54:55] Yeah. A few things there, and I did a sodium rant. I talked about the fact that when people eat healthy, and God bless them, that’s great, and they don’t go to fast food places and they stop eating processed food, they also give up the vast majority of the sodium that they were getting, and so they’ll end up getting tired. They have to now start adding it. The recommendation for adding it, this is from either Dr. DiNicolantonio’s book The Salt Fix, or from some of the information that comes out of Dr. Sandra Godek’s H.E.A.T. Institute. She’s a PhD in thermoregulation and hydration. Salt your meals to taste. Your tongue will tell you. It’s not like sugar. You’re not just going to start eating more and more and more. When you’re generally satiated or have enough salt, your tongue will tell you not to add more. So have a salt shaker at the table, salt your meals. That’s something that we haven’t been doing for years because we were told it was bad for us. 

And then before and after training, if you can pop 500 milligrams of sodium, which is just one quarter of a teaspoon, it’s a tiny little amount. I give half a teaspoon to my CrossFit athletes. This is Camille Leblanc at the CrossFit, at the Reebok championships, over the course of the five days of competing, she actually gained a pound. It’s the first time that ever happened. And that’s because one, we were feeding her Monster Mash. And two, we were giving her sodium, we were salting before and after each of the events, a little less if it was a shorter event, a little more if it was a longer event. 

And of course, Hafthor and Shaw, when they’re at The World’s Strongest Man, usually that’s held in like Manila, where it was like 90 and humid, and Florida, where it was humid. We have them take salt with almost every glass of water. We use a product called Thermotabs. There’s other tablets you can take if you don’t like the salt on your tongue. And they’re about 180 milligrams of sodium per tablet. So you pop three of those before a workout and after a workout, dramatically improved performance, endurance, stamina, you don’t hit the wall. You just feel like you could train for hours. It’s pretty extraordinary. 

And another thing is about what you had mentioned when you went on like a Keto or vegetarian diet, when you get depleted in glycogen, which is common in Keto diets, and I have clients on Keto diets, and we use that for a number of reasons. If they have high blood sugars in particular, if they’re Type II diabetic, or if they just tend to eat too much, generally if we limit carbs, it satiates them a little better. They tend not to eat as much as often. But the drawback to that is when their glycogen storage depletes out of their muscles, there’s three parts water to every one part glycogen. And that water’s 70 percent sodium. And so they do use the 70 percent water weight and then also they lose sodium with that water. So they lose energy and they get that Keto flu, which is what people call it. And it’s really just electrolyte deficiency, and if they would salt their foods better, they could manage those energy fluctuations that occur with the Keto diet.

Kelly: [57:55] Or if you’re training in your garage in Vegas right now without air conditioning in 115 degrees

Juliet: [58:00] One hundred thirteen degree weather.

Kelly: [58:01] I know you are walking the talk. Stan, every time I’m around you it’s inspiring. I just can’t tell everyone enough just the ripple of positivity that exudes from you when you’re at an event. And everyone, if you think you’ve seen a rock star, come to an event with Stan Efferding and you’ll see the definition of rock star. Because you’re not famous, you’ve impacted and changed people’s lives. You’ve given them the tools to do it. And it is extraordinary to witness. It’s really fun. Where do people learn more about you and your diet and follow you?

Juliet: [58:38] Where can they buy your prepackaged meals?

Stan: [58:41] Yeah, you know, everything’s at I have my link to my meal prep there, I have my link to my Vertical Diet 3.0 eBook, which is a living diet that I update and provide for free to anybody who’s bought a previous version. I’ve updated it three times now. And it’s 220 pages with over 200 references of everything we’ve talked about today. The deep dive into literature and much, much more. @stanefferding is my Instagram.

Kelly: [59:07] Fantastic. 

Juliet: [59:07] Love it. Thank you again so much, Stan. It’s such a pleasure.

Kelly: [59:10] And if you eat more Monster Mash, you too can pull 501 kilos off the ground. Amazing. Stan, thank you so much, man. It’s so great to see you and I can’t wait to hug it out in person before too long.

Stan: [59:22] Thanks guys. Thanks for having me.

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