029: Yes, You CAN Exercise Too Much! Will Ahmed Talks Overtraining
Did you know a big week at work can be harder on your body than running a marathon? Or that playing a spirited game of ping pong can affect your ability to “throw down” on the tennis court?
Harvard graduate and entrepreneur Will Ahmed says your body can be under immense strain… without you even knowing it!
With that in mind, he created a system to uncover the “secrets” your body is trying to tell you.
That system is WHOOP, a wearable band Will describes as a “24/7 life coach.”
WHOOP gathers data on your heart rate, temperature, respiration, sleep patterns, and other metrics — helping you understand how your body works, and what it needs to thrive.
Ultimately, this can help you train smarter, sleep better, and even deal with jet lag! And for Dr. Gundry Podcast listeners, you’ll receive $30 off – enter code “gundry” for $30 off a new Whoop Strap 2.0 and subscription at join.whoop.com.
On today’s show, Will and I will discuss how his experience as a college squash player inspired him to create WHOOP. We’ll also talk about how WHOOP is helping elite athletes, and Fortune 500 executives “bounce back” from everyday stressors — and how it can help YOU, too. Additionally, Will shares a simple “hack” to avoid feeling rundown, takes on WHOOP’s critics, and discusses the “big picture” implications of using data to optimize human performance.
On this episode, you’ll learn:
- How overtraining as a college athlete sparked Will’s interest in optimizing human performance 01:35
- The benefits of tracking your physiological metrics 24/7 09:45
- What WHOOP is, and how it collects data on YOUR body (It’s different than a Fitbit!) 11:20
- Ways data can help you recover from stress. “You can only really manage what you measure.” 18:20
- How the data of your peers, elite athletes and other “high profile” folks can teach you about your body (pro cyclist Lawson Craddock shared his data while racing in the Tour de France) 20:30
- How data can help you predict illness before you experience obvious “tell-tale” symptoms. “Don’t underestimate the amount of things that you can’t feel about your body.” 23:30
- How you can measure the effects of a hug 24:20
- Will’s clap back to those who say WHOOP is narcissistic. “That’s a very dangerous line of reasoning.” 26:55
- How WHOOP can help trauma surgeons and others people with high-stakes jobs save and protect lives. “When the phone rings, you’re at it.” 32:25
- The “basics” of what to do when your body is run down, and a hack to feeling better when you’re short on sleep 38:20
Mentioned in this podcast:
Dr. Gundry: 00:01 Hey there. Welcome to another exciting episode of the Dr. Gundry Podcast, the weekly podcast where I give you the tools you need to support your gut, boost your health, and live your youngest, healthiest life.
Speaker 2: 00:20 Each week, Dr. Steven Gundry, a cardiologist, medical innovator, and author of New York Times bestsellers, The Plant Paradox and The Plant Paradox Cookbook shares the latest in cutting edge health information. He’s excited to be a part of your unique health journey, so let’s get started.
Dr. Gundry: 00:38 So before we get into this week’s episode, let’s take a look at our review of the week. Review of the week, 12419. Dusty D writes, “Plant Paradox helping me with my hypothyroidism. I’m a bikini competitor and was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. I read an article about Kelly Clarkson being cured from her autoimmune disease and hypothyroidism because of Plant Paradox. Funny enough, I knew about the Plant Paradox lifestyle because my parents had been Plant Paradox followers for almost a year, praising Dr. Gundry’s way of eating. With all these positive reviews and promises of helping with my hypothyroid, I decided to do the 30 day challenge. Excited to see change and progress.”
Dr. Gundry: 01:19 Great, Dusty D. I’m gonna make a quick comment. I had a woman in the office today who’s in her 40s with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis that we diagnosed about four months ago. I saw her for the second time with new labs, and her local doctor had decreased her thyroid medication, saying that it was too much. We were talking, she says, “You know, I’ve got Hashimoto’s,” and I picked up her labs and I shoved her lab test for her anti-thyroid antibodies, which had been positive four months earlier, and they were now negative. I said, “Guess what? You don’t have Hashimoto’s anymore, just like Kelly Clarkson. That’s why your doctor’s decreasing your thyroid and will probably get you off of it.”
Dr. Gundry: 02:08 So I’m great to hear about this, and you’re gonna be really excited to see some changes. So if you want me to read your review, make sure to rate and review the Dr. Gundry Podcast on iTunes. On this episode of the podcast, we’re gonna talk about how your body compares to that of a super athlete. Now, spoiler alert, you have actually more in common with these folks than you actually think. We’re also going to dive into what love means for your health and how you could actually measure the effects of a hug and even petting your dog, and how top executives and elite athletes are bouncing back from jet lag and other stressors and how you can learn to do that too.
Dr. Gundry: 02:56 So today’s guest, now, I might actually be able to help. He’s Will Ahmed. He’s an entrepreneur, a fitness fanatic, a Harvard graduate, which I am not gonna hold against him because, as you know, I’m a Yale graduate, so we’ll probably get into that. He’s the founder and CEO of Whoop, a startup dedicated to helping people optimize their health. So Will Ahmed, it’s great to have you on the Dr. Gundry Podcast, and welcome.
Will: 03:25 Thank you for having me.
Dr. Gundry: 03:27 So let’s talk about your journey. You’re one of Forbes’ 30 under 30. How did you get there and why is health so important to you?
Will: 03:39 Well, I’ve been fortunate to run Whoop for the last seven years, which I founded as an undergrad at Harvard, and really our mission at Whoop is to unlock human performance, and I got very interested in health and performance when I was an undergraduate in school, actually. I was playing college squash, I was captain of the Harvard squash team, and generally speaking, I didn’t really know what I was doing to my body while I was training for three or four hours a day. I was someone who actually used to overtrain, where you go through this period of really pushing your body, and then all the sudden you fall off a cliff and you feel like you’re run down and actually out of shape, even though you’ve been training so hard.
Will: 04:19 So it turns out 70% of athletes actually go through some form of overtraining, and I got very interested in, okay, how can you prevent overtraining? How can you prevent injury? And also sleep, recovery, how do these things fit into an athlete’s life, anyone’s life? That’s where I ended up doing a ton of physiology research while I was in school, and I ultimately wrote a thesis around how I thought you could continuously understand the human body. That research really led me on this journey to understanding the human body and to monitoring the human body, and now to getting to work with really, really high performing people.
Dr. Gundry: 04:59 So tell me, a lot of people obviously overtrain. What happened to you? How did you know you were overtraining? Was there one ah-ha moment where you’d say, “Whoa. This is working for me.”
Will: 05:18 Well, what’s interesting is there’s this balance between overreaching and overtraining. Overreaching is what an athlete does to get fitter, so you may go through a period of two weeks or a month where you’re sort of intentionally pushing your body to the limit. The thing is, the fittest athletes are also people who have this mindset where they can actually push themselves too far. They’re able to keep going well beyond what is comfortable, and the reality is that there’s things that your body, you can’t feel about your body that can predict that your body is actually at a deficit, or it’s overtrained or it’s rundown. There are physiological indicators. There’s really these secrets that your body is trying to tell you that you can’t feel.
Will: 06:04 But the reality is, you can measure them, and that’s where I got fascinated with Whoop and finding ways to measure recovery, measure readiness so that I would be able to understand for myself, hey today is a day where I can put a lot of stress on my body, or today’s a day where I need to rest. One of the things that’s interesting about Whoop and the way we think about the world is we’re actually the first health and fitness product to tell you not to exercise. We’ll tell you to rest. We’ll tell you to do less.
Will: 06:35 What that comes back to is understanding the balance between stress and recovery, right? If you’re only putting stress on your body and you’re not recovering, your body’s gonna overtrain, and that’s what I did as a college athlete, because I was also a student and I would maybe go out on weekends. You’re 20 years old and you don’t necessarily know any better. The reality is that if were able to wear Whoop at that time or what we’ve built today, I would’ve seen how I was damaging my body, how I was overtraining my body, and I would’ve been able to prevent that.
Dr. Gundry: 07:08 So was there, and actually, let’s go back a second. Having both been on the east coast in an Ivy League school, when you tell me that you were an amazing squash athlete, that means something to me. It may not mean much to our regular listener, because some of our actual viewers and listeners may think that you chase a squash around a corn field. Squash is a very intensive sport with a lot of activity. It’s handball with a racquet, as I like to say it. You can have a high stress performance as a squash player. Correct?
Will: 07:55 Well, squash is actually considered one of the highest cardiovascular workouts relative to the amount of time that you spend doing it. So if you spend 30 minutes playing squash versus 30 minutes playing hockey versus 30 minutes playing fill in the blank, squash is often gonna come out on top in terms of the cardiovascular load that you put on your body. It’s right up there with jumping rope. It’s just, it’s really cardiovascularly demanding, and it also is a lot of start stop, start stop, start stop, because you’re lunging for, for people who are unfamiliar with the game, picture a racquetball court, but with a much softer ball. The softer ball means you have to run more to retrieve it, and it also means it’s harder to end the point.
Will: 08:42 So it’s a lot of running and it’s a lot of start stop. Then on top of that, I was also just friends with a lot of different athletes at Harvard, so I was exposed to how the football players were training or the hockey players or the lacrosse players, fill in the blank sport. I found that the challenges I was having as an athlete were really consistent across all sports, which is to say how do you know your body is peaking on the right day? You have a game on Saturday, and today’s Monday. How do you get ready for that game?
Will: 09:19 What I realized in part by being captain of the team too was that you’re creating these practice plans well in advance with the coaching staff, and so you’re trying to outline, okay, that game on Saturday, we’re gonna train hard on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and we’re gonna taper on Thursday and Friday, and then we’re gonna peak on Saturday. Everyone’s gonna do the same workout throughout that whole seven day stretch. The problem with that is over the course of a week, everyone’s bodies are evolving a little differently, and you’re only seeing what they’re doing for two hours a day. You’re not seeing the other 22 hours of the day, which is this whole picture that you’re missing. It’s kind of the difference between a photo and movie. You want to have the movie to understand what’s happening or understand the context.
Will: 10:04 So I felt it would be a much more efficient way to manage a team if you actually could understand each individual and then create practice plans for each individual over the course of that week rather than just catering the whole practice plan to the team. So that’s again, those were some of the problems I was identifying as an undergraduate and soon to be an entrepreneur and thinking about how do you build a solution that can make individuals healthier and perform better?
Dr. Gundry: 10:36 So what you would want to know is if one of your teammates was having three pizzas the night before the game that might impact his performance? Did you devise a way a to manage this?
Will: 10:49 Yeah, what I found is that generally speaking, I thought the amount of time an athlete or a coach spent thinking about exercise was pretty overrated relative to the amount of time they spent thinking about the other 20 hours of the day. So there’s this huge focus on what do you do during the three or four hours you’re training, and then it’s like, okay, you can do anything for the next 20 hours, but you’ve done practice so you’re fine. That was kind of maybe my naïve mindset as a college athlete, but what I realized in doing research is that that other 20 hours of the day was arguably more important. The way that your body was recovering, the way that you were resting, when you went to bed, the things that you put into your body, whether it be diet or alcohol, obviously, drugs. All these things would work the opposite direction.
Will: 11:41 So understanding what you were doing to your body and how that affected your body and your recovery was really important to me. So that’s where my vision for Whoops was to be able to monitor individuals 24/7. I didn’t just want to understand practice. I wanted to understand 24 hours of the day, and by measuring the body 24 hours of the day, you can understand these periods of time where someone doesn’t realize the stress that they’re actually putting on their body.
Will: 12:10 So a college athlete, for example, who is taking a test in a day, like a written exam, actually is putting a meaningful amount of strain on their body during that test. Their heart rate’s elevated, their galvanic skin response is elevated, and they’re psychologically engaged, right? They’re exposed to stress.
Will: 12:34 That individual actually needs to have a lower workout later in that day to accomplish the same amount of strain had that test not even taken place. This is one specific example. We had a tennis team that we worked with. It turned out after practice, these guys would play ping pong for two hours. In the process of playing ping pong, they actually put a meaningful amount of exertion on their body. Now, these things are all relative, but if you don’t think of that as some sort of stress or strain and you’re not measuring it, you don’t appreciate that’s the reason that your guys were flat the next day.
Will: 13:10 So with Whoop, we’re able to actually detect the effect of taking a test, the effect of playing ping pong. All these other things that you’re doing in your life. Now, this is, we’re very specifically talking about college athletes right now, but I can tell you how this applies to a much wider audience.
Dr. Gundry: 13:26 Great, so let’s go there. What exactly, what algorithm did you come up with that Whoop measures and how does it work?
Will: 13:39 So Whoop is a wearable system that you wear 24/7, and it sends data from your sensor to a phone, phone to the cloud, cloud back to a web dashboard. You can look at information on iOS app or an Android app. It’s really, really simple to use. I’ll show you the sensor, and tell me if this doesn’t come through properly. So here you can see the Whoop strap. It’s very lightweight, really small sensor, and doesn’t have a screen on it or anything else. You just wear it. You can wear it on your wrist. You can wear it on your forearm. You can wear it on your upper arm. It’s pretty lightweight, pretty simple to wear, and actually doesn’t really look like technology. That was part of the goal in the design. So it’s mostly material.
Will: 14:22 Now, you wear that 24/7 and it’s constantly sending data to your phone. What’s unique about Whoop is how much data we collect. So we collect about 100 megabytes of data on a person per day, which is anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 times as much data as something like an Apple Watch or a Fitbit. It’s just a much more granular understanding of your body. We’re measuring things like heart rate and heart rate variability, galvanic skin response, ambient temperature, movement, respiration, really, really in depth, accurate, accurate information.
Will: 14:57 Now, Whoop today is approved in major league baseball. We had to go through all kinds of tests to get that approval. We’re the official recovery wearable of the NFL players associations, so we’re being distributed to every player in the NFL. We won that right over 30 other companies, so we had to go through all kinds of third party testing and validation for that. We work with pockets of the military, like the Navy SEALs and the explosive ordinance division. We’re talking the very, very top of the top, 1% of the 1% of the 1%. In all these cases, Whoop has had to go through all kinds of third party testing.
Will: 15:32 So everything I’m telling you is available online, but ultimately, what I’m saying is that we measure the body really accurately. Now, with that information, with all that data, we summarize the world in terms of strain, recovery, and sleep, okay? Back to our conversation of overtraining, overtraining is really just mismanagement of stress and recovery. If you think about stress, it’s the amount of activity that you’re putting on your body, the amount of strain over the course of the day that you’re putting on the body. Could be in the form of exercise, daily activity, stress, right? It’s a measurement of strain, okay?
Will: 16:13 Recovery is how prepared your body is for strain, and if your body is more recovered, you should take on more strain. If your body’s less recovered, you should take on less strain, right? That sounds so obvious, but the reality is that if you can’t feel these things or measure these things, you’re just playing blind. So we’re able to tell people with great simplicity, hey, this is where your body is right now and this is what you should do to it, or you should do less or you should do more, right? That relationship, it turns out, has been phenomenal for professional athletes. It’s been phenomenal for college athletes, and now we work with a whole consumer audience that are, people like you and me, Steven, who are trying to function in our daily lives. We’ve got a lot of different responsibilities. We’re executives, right? These are people who work out at the gym, there’s fitness enthusiasts, they’re endurance competitors. They’re mothers and fathers, right? And they have to deal with newborn children or the stress of a family.
Will: 17:15 So just, I’d say in general that human beings have to deal with stress and strain throughout their lives, and by managing the way that you sleep and the way that you recover, you can really combat those things. So again, Whoop measures strain and recovery and sleep, and we do that really accurately.
Dr. Gundry: 17:36 Okay, so I’ve got a Polar 360 and I’ve got an Oura Ring. So I’ve got two apps feeding me information about myself, my sleep habits and my exercise habits. So help me, I mean, I gotta have this Whoop thing obviously. So what’s that gonna do for me?
Will: 18:01 So well first of all, it’s gonna replace two things on your wrist with one, so we can start there. You’re not gonna need two products to do this. Second of all, it’s gonna be able to coach you through the day. We like to think of Whoop as a 24/7 life coach. So you wake up in the morning with this recovery analysis, and it’s telling you, okay Steven. Your body is peaking today. Or okay Steven, your body’s rundown, and based on what we’re telling you how much strain you should then go on to put on your body. So Whoop is trying to live a step ahead of you, right?
Will: 18:36 Now, over the course of the day, you’re gonna accumulate strain. That could be in the form of stress, activity, exercise, right? Whoop’s gonna measure all those things. At any given point, it may say hey, do a little less. You’ve kind of maxed out based on your recovery, or it might say keep going, okay? Then at the end of the day, we’re gonna look at the strain that’s accumulated on your body. We’re gonna look at who you are and your typical habits around sleep and sleep debt, so if you got a ton of sleep last night versus no sleep at all, that’s gonna affect how we think about your need for tonight.
Will: 19:10 We actually tell you before you go to bed, this is how much sleep you need to recover for tomorrow, right? Then you go to bed and you wake up, and the hours of sleep that you get in relationship to the sleep that you needed all starts to contribute to your recovery along with again those specific physiological measurements that we’re able to measure to understand your body, like heart rate variability, which is lens into your autonomic nervous system, as you know. We’ll give you a new recovery and the whole thing resets.
Will: 19:39 Now, the other advantage that we have is that we work with really, really high performers, so we’ve got tens of thousands of the best athletes, executives in the world on Whoop, and by having that kind of an audience, we can also help you understand how you’re doing relative to who you’re aspiring to be, right? The better version of you. So we can say, hey, your sleep habits are a little bit worse than people your age who are also performing at a similar level. Or we can tell you that your rate of recovery is faster and maybe there’s certain reasons why.
Will: 20:14 The other thing that you realize the more time you spend on Whoop is how all these other things in your life affect your physiology. So that can be diet. I know you’ve written a lot about this topic, Steven, and how different diets can affect your body. That could be things like alcohol or other substances that you’re trying to figure out what’s right for you. It could be travel, right? A lot of people spend time jumping from time zone to time zone or they’re on planes. Whoop can help you understand how to combat the challenges with jet lag. It’s something that I’ve spent a lot of time personally learning.
Will: 20:52 So those are the types of things that you start to understand about your body when you’re on Whoop. I like to say you can only really manage what you measure, and by measuring sleep, by measuring recovery, by measuring strain, you understand how all these other things in your life affect you.
Dr. Gundry: 21:10 Yeah, I think actually, we have very parallel pasts in this. I got doing what I do now by looking at people’s blood work every three months and asked them to change certain foods or go buy a supplement at Costco or Trader Joe’s and see the effect on inflammatory cytokines and inflammation and cortisol levels just for an example. I could, I got very good at actually predicting what somebody had been doing even a couple days before or a month before just on this blood work.
Dr. Gundry: 21:51 So that predictability actually resulted in all the books that I’ve done, because you can see patterns, you can measure patterns, and then you can direct people, if they want, how to make a change and then measure that change. So something you said is interesting to me. So I think I’m friends with the people who invented the Peloton, and I think one of the interesting things about Peloton. I do spin classes. I like spinning a lot and I like Pilates and I like yoga, but I thought the concept of Peloton where you’re, in a way, measuring yourself not only against yourself, but against others in the community either live or on tape gives you a way of seeing where you are. Can I just to use the example, can I compare myself with Whoop to how Roger Federer is doing and managing his stress? Not a name per se, but can I compare myself to a super athlete?
Will: 23:05 Yeah, the community element of Whoop is I think one of the most interesting pieces and also something we’re investing in going forward as well. So today, if you wanted to join a team with people like you or people that you’re aspiring to be better than, you’d be able to do that on Whoop. We also, throughout the year, have all sorts of different data shares from professional athletes. One, for example, we did was with a cyclist named Lawson Craddock who was in the Tour de France and over the course of the Tour de France, he was sharing everything about his body 24/7 on Whoop with our Whoop members.
Will: 23:42 So you could actually join a team with Lawson and see how your summer training compared to a guy in the Tour de France, which is quite fascinating. There’s, I would say, a lot of different versions like that. We’re doing some more things with NFL players and some other things that we haven’t announced yet. So generally speaking, that’s one of the most interesting pieces is how do you compare with other people.
Dr. Gundry: 24:03 Okay, so we got all this information. What do you say to the mother of a two year old and a four year old when the Whoop is picking up the fact that you’re not getting much sleep? Does that empower the mother to tell the kids to shut up and she needs to get some sleep because her stress levels are so high? How do we use this in a day to day real world situation?
Will: 24:28 Well, look, I think we all go periods in our life where we don’t have as much time as we’d want to rest or to sleep, but even still, that’s gonna show you a baseline that’s like a bad version of yourself. Like how is your body functioning on five hours of sleep a night, right? Then the positive to take from it is, okay, well, I’m starting to get better. It’s six months later, and there’s certain things that have improved about the way I’m managing motherhood or the way I’m measuring becoming a father. Okay now, I can actually see a positive result.
Will: 25:07 Keep in mind some of these things you can’t feel, right? I think often people like to sort of talk about these things that are so obvious. Okay, a new mother’s not getting enough sleep because the newborn’s screaming. Okay, that’s somewhat obvious. But what’s unintuitive is that your body may actually be adapting to that new environment, or it may not be, right? There may be certain things that make five hours more efficient sleep, right? There may be certain supplements that are good for you or bad for you that you’re taking, right? That’s where again, measuring these things, I think is power, because you can start to figure out what’s right for you.
Will: 25:47 Again, don’t underestimate the amount of things that you can’t feel about your body that are just happening under the surface. There’s days where I’ve felt great and Whoop has told me I’m rundown and sure enough, two days later, I’ve got a cold. There’s opposite is true too, where I’ve got a sore throat and I feel kind of lousy and duh, duh, duh, duh, but my physiology, what’s going on in my body actually is fine on Whoop. So I’ll go exercise, I’ll go work out, and sure enough, I’m totally fine.
Will: 26:19 So there are things that you can’t feel and again, don’t just use my example for it. Look at Whoop online. There’s all sorts of people saying the same thing I’m saying. It’s just a fascinating phenomenon, so I just keep coming back to it. I think this information is power, and even if you’re going through a tough period in your life, there’s still ways to slightly optimize it.
Dr. Gundry: 26:40 Can Whoop measure feeling loved? If my wife hugs me, will Whoop pick that up, or if my dog wags its tail and licks my hand, will Whoop pick that up?
Will: 26:56 Well, what’s interesting is that psychological stress and physical stress have a lot of overlaps in the way they affect the autonomic nervous system. So you know, the autonomic nervous system is sympathetic and parasympathetic activity, and they’re constantly trying to balance one another out. Sympathetic is activation. Heart rate up, blood pressure up, respiration up. Parasympathetic’s on the opposite. Heart rate down, blood pressure down, respiration down, so it helps you fall asleep. You want for every sympathetic to be a parasympathetic response.
Will: 27:28 Now I bring all this up because the more in tune they are, so the more sympathetic and parasympathetic balance each other out, the higher your heart rate variability. Now, you can have a high heart rate variability because your body is getting fitter, because your body is well rested. It even turns out that you can increase your heart rate variability by doing things like meditation, right? By being really happy, and so the opposite is then true too. If you’re depressed, if you’re going through a period of time where you don’t feel fulfilled, this will show up in your data. If you’re going through a period just of psychological stress, this will show up in your data.
Will: 28:07 I wrote an interesting article a while ago comparing our first product launch on Whoop with recovering from the Boston Marathon. So as you know when you launch a product, you have to do a ton of work leading up to it and then once it’s out there, you have to do a lot of press and sorts of different things. So I looked at my body leading up to that event and after, and it actually turned out that my body was more run down following a product launch than it was following the Boston Marathon, right? Now those are two different stresses on your body. One’s primarily psychological. The other’s primarily physical, and just in that case, it turned out that the psychological stress had a longer effect on my body and was harder for me to recover from.
Will: 28:57 So that’s where I’m very sympathetic to anyone in their daily life that’s trying to overcome challenges, and that’s why I think that measuring sleep and recovery in particular are these incredibly powerful tools. It’s why we think of sleep and recovery as so fundamental at Whoop.
Dr. Gundry: 29:13 Now, when you have all that information, some people, some critics of let’s acquire all this data about ourselves say that why should we have that much data about ourselves? We are becoming narcissistic about ourselves and what is happening to us. Shouldn’t we just be going with the flow and be out there? You’ve heard this, I’m sure.
Will: 29:46 Yeah, I mean, you’ve made that argument about every stage of technology development honestly to date. You could make a case for why, by the same token, the printing press should never have been invented, right? That’s, I think, a very dangerous line of reasoning because it generally doesn’t think about the ways in which technology can advance understand or advance civilization. Now, that’s not to say that you have to be mind, like you shouldn’t be mindful of what to do with this information and how it may affect you. It’s interesting, we work with a lot of professional athletes, and because they’ve seen how much better they play when they have a higher recovery on Whoop versus a low recovery, we actually have to hide the scores for them on game dates.
Will: 30:37 So we have a feature that literally prevents them from seeing their own recovery before a game because they don’t want to know their recovery before the game in some cases. They just want to assume they’re peaking. So there’s a psychological or even a placebo effect there, you could argue. Now, they still want the information because they can learn from it, so after the event, after the fact, they go back and they review their data, and they’re able to say, “Oh wow, I was actually rundown. I didn’t play that well. That explains it, but it also explains maybe why I shouldn’t be eating that thing I had for dinner.” Right? “It also explains maybe that the supplements I’m taking aren’t the right supplements or my diet’s off or massage therapy or buh, buh, buh, buh, buh, right? Why’d I get in a fight with my girlfriend?”
Will: 31:23 You start to understand these things about your life that are pretty fundamental, and I hear where you’re coming from. Just be mindful of how to use the data, I agree with that, but the idea that you want to treat a third of your life like it doesn’t exist, which is sleep in an obvious form? That to me is a very silly concept.
Dr. Gundry: 31:42 Yeah, I absolutely agree with that, and I’ve become good friends with Dr. Dale Bredesen who wrote The End of Alzheimer’s. He’s really one of the great researchers on how sleep and washing our brain is so critical to literally cleaning out these deposits in our brain every night. This period of deep sleep, if you’re not getting deep sleep, you’re screwed in the long term in terms of athletic performance of your brain. But let me continue on this line of questioning. So do we, with all this information, do we reach a point where I call into work because my Whoop says that this is a really low day, and I’m at a very low performance level and I won’t be a good contributor to the team. Or we call in to Johnny’s teacher and says, “Oh, Johnny’s Whoop says this is a really bad day for him to show up for school and I’m keeping him home because Whoop says he’s not gonna perform well.” What say you?
Will: 32:58 Well, look, I think that we are collecting a lot of fascinating information with research partners on this, so we’re doing a study monitoring hundreds of trauma surgeons, as an example. We’re doing a study where we’re looking at construction workers, right? I mean, there’s obviously a lot of different jobs out there, so I don’t want to overgeneralize, but you can imagine that if someone’s performance is gonna put their life at risk or someone else life at risk and there’s information that can help improve that situation, okay, it’s probably worth looking at that information, right? I think there are broader implications around that. You have to think about who has access to data and when and why and there’s meaningful privacy considerations. Privacy, for us, we think of as a feature. It’s not a setting. It’s a feature. You have to really embed it into your product.
Will: 33:54 So we take privacy very seriously and we make sure that every individual has control of their data and what they want to do with their data. I think by starting with that as a mindset, you empower different organizations to think about how they want to use this information. I can tell you that Whoop is being rolls out on thousands of people at leading, leading organizations. The best consulting firms in the world, the best hedge funds in the world. Obviously we’ve talked about all the sports teams that are using Whoop. But this idea of just human performance generally, to me, feels like white space. There’s a lot of ways to improve human performance and really, the first step is measuring it.
Dr. Gundry: 34:41 Yeah, no, I think you’re absolutely right. I know in the field of medicine, particularly in the field of residencies, we know that the old, traditional system of kind of work until you drop. When I was a surgical resident, my record was staying awake three days in a row, and then I went to, literally three days in a way, and then I went to sleep for four hours and did it again. That’s nuts and we wouldn’t let an airplane pilot do that.
Will: 35:20 Right, yeah.
Dr. Gundry: 35:23 I think because of these sorts of measurements, which were very simplistic back then, we now have rules for how long residents can be on call in a hospital, how long a medical student can be asked to work. I think that sort of data is really good.
Will: 35:41 I was gonna say, and by the way, in the study that we’re doing on trauma surgeons, I’m not just worried about the patients they’re operating on. I’m worried about them, right? As you know, surgeons have this really high rate of PTSD and depression and unfortunately abusive alcohol and drugs, and so that’s a population that is helping really save the world. We need to help save them too. I think taking it far more seriously that that population gets the sleep it needs is important because there’s health outcomes related to them, too.
Dr. Gundry: 36:21 No, you’re absolutely right. In fact, I was a trauma surgeon, heart trauma surgeon and lung trauma surgeon for much of my career, and when the phone rings, you’re at it. No, it’s crazy. So, and it hurts you. There’s no doubt about it. Emergency room doctors, I moonlighted in residency as an emergency room doctor, and emergency room doctors have this incredible rate of burnout because they’re on life and death for 12 hours a shift, and you can only do that for so many weeks, months, years, before you’re right. The psychologic toll is really high, really high.
Will: 37:12 Yeah, I mean, I’ve been really fortunate in my work to get to look and understand data of literally the best athletes in the world, literally the top Olympians, literally Navy SEALs who have to perform like that, right? And other industries, like surgery and surgeons. So the common thread that I see across all of these audiences, again, super high performers, is yes, they can go through and yes, they can often get the job done. The question is, are they performing as optimally as they could be and how can we make sure they’re okay in the long run?
Dr. Gundry: 37:54 Yeah. So speaking of that, and as you know, hormesis is a really good thing. That which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, and in a way, that’s actually what you’re measuring. I write about it in all my books. Where does hormesis play in all of this? How much stress is good for you, and can you actually measure that with your algorithms?
Will: 38:28 Yeah, I mean, I think one thing that’s helpful for anyone who uses Whoop to understand, but probably anyone in general to understand is having a day where you’re rundown is not necessarily a bad thing. The goal is not necessarily to never be rundown. In fact, you may want to push your body to a point where it is going to be rundown. Olympic power lifters do this all the time, where a sign that they had a good lift the day before is if they’re too rundown the next day to actually lift. So that’s a sign that they put enough stress on their autonomic nervous system to get the results to then recover to get stronger, right?
Will: 39:03 I think that’s tying back to what you’re talking about, which is there’s a lot of ways that stress can be good for your body, and I definitely believe that. I would say that there’s a whole separate concept from a physiological, which is potentially more psychological, and that’s like, okay, if you’ve overcome something in your life, what does that then do for you? You going into an interview on no sleep or a bad travel or all kinds of jet lag, I bet you psychologically don’t feel any pressure doing that because you’ve had to operate on someone under much worse conditions.
Will: 39:42 That’s more of a psychological benefit to what you’re describing than I would call necessarily a physiological benefit. Now, the psychological can affect the physiological, which we talked about, right? If your mind is more at ease, then your nervous system is reflecting that. So these things are all related, and then again, I just go back to the value of being able to measure them so that you know the difference between being rundown today versus literally rundown for a week. We’ve had people on Whoop who literally had red recoveries for a week straight, and they didn’t know what was wrong with them. They went to go see a doctor, and it turned out they had Lyme Disease or Mono or these things that actually, there’s a delay to being able to feel. So that’s where it’s interesting, I think, to sort of separate from one day of being rundown to a longer period.
Dr. Gundry: 40:32 So let’s suppose we now have this information from Whoop that I’m rundown or I’m in the red. So what does our listener do with that information? How do I fix that?
Will: 40:45 It’s hard to broadly generalize, but I’ll say this. Broadly speaking, if your body’s rundown, rest is good. Sleep is good. Less stress is good, and not drinking alcohol is good. Those are like hard ultimatums I can make. Now, this is gonna go back to the individual where it varies a lot by who you are and all sorts of things about what’s right for you, and I guess that’s also why Whoop is interesting is because you can figure out what’s right for … Now there’s certain diets that are great for some people and not so good for others, and there’s all sorts of things related to hydration that are quite interesting and caffeine.
Will: 41:32 Caffeine’s something that stimulates you, right? As an example, and will often trigger your autonomic nervous system, but if you’re someone who drinks caffeine every day and then you don’t have caffeine, that will actually have a negative effect on the way your body performs. So all these things are dependent as well on who you are. What I’ll just say, generally speaking, is if your body’s rundown and again, you want to recover for tomorrow, a lot of it comes back to rest. A lot of it comes back to putting less stress on your body.
Will: 42:05 There’s a couple interesting hacks. One hack is it turns out going to bed and waking up at the same time is just as valuable as getting more sleep. So if you’ve ever met anyone who claims, “I only need six hours of sleep. I only need six hours of sleep.” The truth is that they probably don’t, right? There’s a really small percentage of people that actually need that little sleep, but what they are often doing is they’re going to bed and waking up at exactly the same time and they do it forever. What’s powerful about that is this element of sleep consistency, as we call it on Whoop, can improve your physiology. We saw a study with the National Institute of Health this past summer where they monitored this on 100 students. It turned out sleep consistency was a better predictor of having a higher GPA than the hours of sleep that you got.
Will: 43:02 So it was more important that you were going to bed and waking up at the same time than it was how long you spent in bed. So with Whoop, we actually took that information and we ran it across some of our population. So the difference between being a technology company or a research institute is we were able to run this across 10 million sleep datasets. So all of the sudden, we’ve had a pretty quick understanding of how effective this was. It turned out, sure enough, the people who slept more consistently, the next day had higher physiology, so they had better resting heart rate, better heart rate variabilities, and they were recovering faster.
Will: 43:41 So we then took that to our product, and we now tell you not just how long to sleep tonight, but when to go to bed and when to wake up based on who you are. So I guess that’d be one great example of a little bit of a hack you can do to improve your performance.
Dr. Gundry: 43:59 Perfect. All right, well that’s a lot of great information, and I thank you for coming on this show. We’re gonna take one audience question real quick, and then we’re gonna sign off. Okay, question. “Would soaking lentils, beans, and quinoa in slightly acidic water overnight, like with lemon juice, help to wash away the lectins or not?” So yeah, soaking absolutely helps wash lectins out, but you gotta do it more than overnight. Most traditional cultures soak for about 48 hours and change the water every few hours. Even with that, you still have to cook it, but why bother? Just get a pressure cooker and you’ll fix the problem. But why anybody would need to eat quinoa is beyond my imagination, but that’s another subject. So thanks for the question. It’s a great question. So how do we find Whoop? So you can get this, right?
Will: 44:57 You can find Whoop at whoop.com, W-H-O-O-P.com, pretty straightforward. You can learn about the membership there. It’s as low as $18 a month and the hardware is free, so ongoing analytics platform, new features come to you for free, hardware is included, and you’re gonna be part of this performance community. So we’d be fortunate to work with anyone.
Dr. Gundry: 45:20 All right. Is there a discount code for our listeners?
Will: 45:27 Yes, I understand that if a listener enters Gundry at checkout, they’re gonna get a free month free or $30 off at whoop.com.
Dr. Gundry: 45:39 Oh wow. That’s great. Gundry, let me think. How do we spell that? Oh yeah, G-U-N-D-R-Y. Gun dry. So just put that in the discount code. Well, thank you very much and good luck with this. You’re right, I think the more we know, the more we know. Love to have you back sometime and talk about the influence of the gut microbiome on performance, and whether Whoop can measure my microbiome’s performance on me.
Will: 46:16 I’d love to talk about it.
Dr. Gundry: 46:17 All right. So thanks again for watching. This is Dr. Gundry’s Podcast. I’ll see you next time, and tune in, because as you know, I am Dr. Gundry and I’m always looking out for you.
Dr. Gundry: 46:31 So for more information about this week’s episode, please take a look at my show notes below and go on drgundry.com. In the show notes, you’ll also find a survey, and I’d love to find out more about you. Please take a few minutes to fill it out so I can do my best to provide information you’re looking for.
Dr. Gundry: 46:50 Thanks for listening to this week’s episode of the Dr. Gundry Podcast. Check back next week for another exciting episode, and make sure to subscribe, rate, and review to stay up to date with the latest episodes. Head to drgundry.com for show notes and more information. Until next time, I’m Dr. Gundry, and I’m always looking out for you.