Today I got to Interview Bob from Quantified Bob. I hope you enjoy it!
Links from the show: Quantified Bob http://www.quantifiedbob.com
Mosquitos Can Be Choosers http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2013/07/why-do-mosquitoes-bite-some-people-more-than-others/
Ari: Hi and welcome to the podcast. Today we’re talking with Bob from Quantified Bob, how are you?
Bob: Hi, Ari. Thanks for having me.
Ari: Of course. Thank you for taking this time to talk to me. First of all, just tell everybody what Quantified Bob is.
Bob: Well, Quantified Bob is really just a blog that’s an extension of my self-tracking and bio-hacking exploits by day. I'm sort of just an everyday sort of person kind of like yourself. I run a business, CEO of a marketing technology firm in New York City and this has always been a passion of mine. I've been self-tracking since I was a kid, basically. Once I got more involved with sort of what became the self-quantified movement seeing as there are other people that carry the same interest as myself. It really triggered me to create an outlet to sort of express and share what I work on with others.
Ari: Now, are there particular areas of your life that you focus on tracking or I'm assuming throughout the year you just track everything but is there things that you particularly focus on now?
Bob: Yeah. Back when I was a high school athlete and a college athlete a lot of it was around tracking workouts and diet and just trying to find correlation to that and physical performance. As I got older, my analogy sort of evolved to allow for more detailed tracking. Being able to do things like get blood work done on a monthly basis, getting your DNA analyzed. They also run censors and technology that can passively track different data points for you. It’s really allowed me to capture a much bigger view of myself. I sort of differentiate self-tracking which is really the question of data with kind of self-discovery. It’s sort of like taking that data and trying to learn about yourself. It wasn’t that I necessarily set out to fix something; sometimes it’s about looking over the data I've gathered and trying to find correlation. Then, you can go from there into what is considered the bio-hacking area which is where you can sort of run the experiment on yourself and see if changing diet or different areas of your life can have impact. My personal interests now are still very much in personal optimization. You know, how do I get the most out my time to make myself work more efficiently on the inside and the outside? Whether that’s diet, nutrition, exercise. I'm also very big in reducing stress and keeping tabs on that. Then the last area would probably be more about, again, it’s self-discovery, just being more aware, being impacted by things in the environment of myself.
Ari: That’s great; it’s a really kind of diverse range of area to be tracking things on that you can try to optimize. What would you say is the most profound thing that you’ve discovered about yourself or the most actionable change you’ve been able to make?
Bob: Yeah, that’s a good point. You can collect all the data in the world, and I think a lot of people the problem they have with self-tracking is you collect a lot of information and if you don’t act on it – even if there's insight you can learn from it – if you don’t act on it sort of doesn’t have much of a purpose. For me, probably one of the most recent examples would be how I switched my diet about 8 months ago. I kind of went into a lot of what I had historically been doing and seeing what that impact was. I've always eaten rather healthy. I don’t go to fast food restaurants; I cook a lot at home. What I do is eat a very lean, low fat diet. I would eat lots of pasta and meat; I come from a tiny American family so I do it in moderation but I enjoyed it. I enjoy pizza but for training I would eat chicken and turkey. If I ate steak it would be the leanest cut. About a year ago, what sort of triggered a lot of this was, again, I run a company, I have a pretty active, stressful sort of daily routine and I'm in the process of selling my business. Between that and later understanding how I was over-training at the gym; so while I may have looked good physically, I was sort of a bit wrecked internally. My testosterone and energy just dropped and I sort of just shut down. I had like a weekend where I literally just rolled up on the couch and I didn’t want to do anything. I just needed to recover but I didn’t know from what. As I started exploring diets and everything, I was sort of looking into different paleo movements and seeing how they're approach to you can actually eat fat and healthy, saturated fat and by cutting out things like meat and grains from your diet, how that can have a profound impact on not just how you feel but in terms of your hormones specifically and other areas of your life. I kind of went about it in a very just sort of everyday person sort of way. I had done blood work, established some baselines where my key biomarkers were. During that time, I was learning a bit more about what markers can identify if you're over training, if you're suffering from some form of inflammation, and just knowing what's the correlation between things like cholesterol, testosterone, and vitamin D. When I do something, I try to go full force into it. so, I sort of ate my last big bit of pasta one Sunday and then I started basically following – and I hate using the word diet because it’s not like I'm trying to lose weight or anything like that. It was more like a lifestyle. You may have heard of the spinoff of the paleo movement called the bullet proof diet. It’s a little bit like taking the premise of paleo and reducing the amount of toxins and things in your diet to help improve your performance even more. Basically, the way it works is you get about 50 to 60% of your calories from healthy fats, maybe 20% from things like vegetables, healthy or kind of starchy carbs. So you really want to keep a low carb diet. With that, you work in what's called interment fasting. What that means is I consume all my meals basically in a 6 to 7 hour window. So, I eat my first at two in the afternoon and my last meal at 8 o’clock would be dinner and after that I won’t eat anything. What you're doing is changing the way my body sort of process or use for energy. So instead of storing away fat and using carbohydrates for energy it leverages ketosis and puts your body into a state where it learns to use fats for energy. The difference between paleo and the bullet proof diet, especially when you bring in the interment fasting, is that you kind of cheat in the morning. What you do is make a special type of coffee that you corporate grass fed butter and some tea oil which is just instilled coconut oil. What you're really doing is your body that energy that will get you through; you won’t feel hungry or anything like that but you're not tripping out that state. I just programmed; my initial sort of experiment was let me just track it for a day. I did it. I logged every meal I ate. I kept track of everything. I incorporated a different workout routine. I actually went from going to the gym six days a week for like an hour a day, I was focusing on a routine that was maybe three days a week, 30 minutes – again, to ensure I'm not over-training and I’ll have the ability to recover. After that 30 day period, I went and got retested with the blood work and the changes were pretty, from that standpoint, pretty amazing. You get the ability to increase or get all my biomarkers in line especially with relation to getting testosterone up by 40%. There was elevation to my cholesterol which is sort of a natural byproduct of switching diets initially. A lot of people are dealing with things like, me personally, things like leaky-gut or having mal absorption issues. I'm still dealing with them from [9:13] where I would sort of troubleshoot other doctor [9:16] years of eating meat or from genetic [9:22] how my body can process fat. But there are a lot of other areas that I saw benefits from. Just general sort of mood and energy, being able to be on point in the morning for that 9am meeting and not feeling tired or trying to wake up. You're pretty sharp and focused. I think having that coffee plus healthy fats in the morning certainly helps with that. I also, that general mental acuity was definitely noticeable factor. I also, [10:02] that person that 4 o’clock cup of coffee in the afternoon; you kind of have to crash and you need that pick me up. What's weird is that you'd think you'd be drinking more coffee but quite actually I did not need it anymore. I pretty much powered though the whole day without ever feeling ups and downs, especially people who drink soda all day, your blood sugar is going up and down. You're pretty stable throughout the day. For me, it’s been a pretty dramatic change; not just on the outside but on the inside as well.
Ari: You actually just covered a lot of what I was going to cover with you, which was great. Yeah, David has actually been on the podcast; I'm a big fan. I also pretty much follow a fairly high fat diet. I wouldn’t exactly say that its bullet proof but high fat has been very important for a number of reasons. To mention a few of these, the energy that the anti-inflammatory benefits of things like butter, olive oil, coconut oil; the biomarkers is an interesting one. You mentioned blood testing; I work with Inside Tracker, I get pretty regular blood testing. It’s interesting how the cholesterol levels changed but what I recently learned, and i that you covered this in one of your blog posts, was that the ratio between things like [11:20] and triglycerides total cholesterol are much more important than numbers themselves. So, can you test on that?
Bob: Yeah. So, the big problem I think with doctors in general in the medical community is you'll go get a blood test and they give you the results and say, hey, look at how high your cholesterol is; your LDL is horrendous. But I think before we even talk about ratios I there's the understanding that with cholesterol you have two types. You have HDL which is considered like good cholesterol and then you have LDL which is considered bad cholesterol. Now, the problem is LDL; there are two types of LDL, there's two particle types. Even if you have a more elevated level of LDL, there's a small particle – the tiny one – that’s what causes issues. People having issues with their arteries clogging and all of that because of these little particles get packed in through the larger particle side that sort of a bit fluffy and bigger types of LDL that your body can process through. What I did find is that even though my cholesterol levels went up the LDL particle found composition all the way over to the large, fluffy particle. Basically, my body was just flushing it through. Now with ratios, I did a little research and I came across a few interesting one. Basically, what you want to track is there's an HDL to your total cholesterol. They say you want a ratio higher than 0.24; probably doesn’t mean a lot to your listeners until you go into a spreadsheet and put numbers down. But what you want is a higher ratio as possible. That ratio for myself is pretty stable. Actually, I did my 30 days stable and now since then it keeps increasing. Then you have triglycerides HDL; they say that’s actually a good predictor of heart disease so you want that ratio pretty low. They say below 2 but I think my numbers are below 1; they're pretty low. Then there's just the general HDL to LDL overall ratio which is one divided by the other; anything over 0.4 is great. Again, my numbers went up through there. So, I'm not too concerned with the cholesterol numbers; I did go to the doctor to kind of talk through it. I think the thing about any diet or program, whatever you want to call it, is general sort of following [14:19] our bodies are all different. Whether we've done damage in the past and we’re still trying to heal it or we have genetic dispositions. In my case, I realize that I actually have issues with processing fat. I never knew this because I always ate a low fat diet. I never had the issue of my body having to process the extra fat in my diet. Whether it’s a combination of that mal-absorption or just having leaky gut and actually [14:54] back into your blood stream, I'm still trying to troubleshoot that a bit and we’re testing different theories out with that. That just takes time. Still, for me, it’s self-discovery on top of just trying to set out and make myself feel better and more optimal.
Ari: What I love about this and what I want everyone to kind of gain from this is whether you're trying to be more productive or healthier or whatever it is, there are different pathways for them. A lot of people tell you that a good diet is the basis for doing anything but if you want to be a better athlete or you want to do better on your SAT’s, whatever it might, they could say it’s the diet. Some people might say sleep, some people may say it’s meditation. Regardless of what it is, Bob is giving you guys a really good example and I've had these experiences myself, a really good example of somebody who is not a biologist or a doctor or another kind of scientist can really experiment with their body, measure the performance and the changes and then continue along that pathway to what works and what doesn’t. I find that changing the bullet proof for 30 days and measuring those metrics is such a perfect example of why Quantified Self makes so much sense. What I really want to end with is what I do with everybody. I’d like to know what your top three personal productivity tips are. The things that make you better every day.
Bob: Top three? I would say the first, even though it does sort of relate to body and mind it has a definite impact on productivity. I think it’s important for people, especially if you have a very high pressure lifestyle to have an outlet to relieve the stress. What I mean is there's two parts to it. One is the ability to sort of clear your mind. I know some people practice meditation and they find the moment to sort of do that. For me, I'm a musician; I played in bands for years. Sometimes you have a situation where you have to focus all of your attention on something else. It takes my mind off everything else that’s sort of happening in my life. It’s a way to sort of escape and it is a very Zen sort of outlet for me. Also, playing team sports; I'm an active soccer player. When I'm playing soccer, again, it’s just a way for me to both get exercise but it lets my mind drift off away from thinking about all the things that are going on in my life [17:31]. It’s a little bit different than going to the gym in the morning. For me, my entire day I don’t have any alone time. From the moment I wake up, girlfriend, dog, work, everything else, the gym is actually the one place where I can sort of have a moment to reflect. It helps me sort of get through the morning; first thing in the morning. It’s a way for me to think through my day a little bit. By the time I get to work, I've sort of worked a lot of things out in my head. That’s sort of like a 2 in 1 tip; the second, I would say is pretty important as well. You really need to conserve your decision making energy. Low power is a treatable resource. There are days where you can come home from work and be just completely exhausted and you're like, why? I didn’t exercise today, I ate okay; I don’t know what wore me out, and it’s just the mental decision making non-stop. If you're just constantly making those choices it can wear you down. There was a great article recently in Vanity Fair where they interviewed Barrack Obama and he talked about this. He actually said the only reason he only wears grey or blue suits is that he can reduce his choices. He wants to tear down all his decision making and conserve his power only for important decisions. I sort of try to take that to heart; when I can avoid having to make a decision here [19:05], somebody else can do that for me. I have to focus my energy on more important things in my life. Third, I started this early in the year. This is the idea of [19:19] recent schedule. I borrowed this from Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter. He takes each day, and you're always going to have other meetings and obligations and all that, but the moment you have available when you're not in a meeting, you're not having something to do or some assignment, you focus on an area. For me it’s work. Like Mondays, I could say that’s committed to how the company works; management meeting or a new business strategy. So, people know don’t bother me on Wednesday with that kind of question or request. We’ll get to it. I’ll split the week up so I might do a morning; each area has a morning, one day and afternoon the other. One day might be product development, one might be communication, one is HR company calls or recruitment or writing financial. So, the idea of scheming, for me, it allows me to always remain focused. I know on any given day like what am I working on when I'm not doing something else. It keeps me very on point. Also, allows other people around me to clearly already know what I'm working on and when to sort of bother me or if they want to make a request, they know when I can get to it.
Ari: Those are really pretty diverse and really good examples; I love it. Thank you for those. Where can people find out more about what you're doing and what you're working on?
Bob: Yeah, go to QuantifiedBob.com or just follow quantifiedbob on twitter. That’s where you'll find my exploits; I’ll try to be posting more frequently. I've a bunch of personal experiments queued up. The challenge is you can only run a certain amount at any given time because you don’t want to impact one experiment with another. I've got some pretty interesting experiments planned as far as to focus on mental acuity, stress release, as well as trying to improve cognitive function. Hello?
Ari: Hey, sorry. We lost you for a second. You said you have some pretty cool experiments and what else did you say?
Bob: Oh, did you drop out on the last part?
Bob: I've got some interesting personal experiments chewed up. I was saying how you can’t do everything at once because if you're running numerous experiments some may impact the others. You need to stabilize and have a baseline, certainly. I'm doing some things related to quantifying things around stress, along with mental acuity, and trying to raise intelligence in terms of cognitive function.
Ari: Okay, cool. Actually, cognitive stuff is something that I've been focusing on recently, too. Maybe we’ll be able to swap notes. Bob, thank you so much for talking to me, it is always fascinating to me to hear from someone who’s tracking something from such a high level. Thanks for your time and I hope everybody gets a chance to check out Bob’s site and follow along.
Bob: Thanks, Ari.