High Fat Diets and Athletic Performance

If you still believe that athletes need to consume diets high in carbohydrates and sugars before and during competition and training, you are living in the past. The research that you are basing this assumption on is old and likely funded by the Gatorade Sports Science Institute. Not only can athletes perform at elite levels on low carbohydrate diets, but often receive performance enhancing benefits of converting their metabolism to burning fat!

Early adopters of low carbohydrate/high-fat diets are currently setting course records and dominating the competition. Athletes like Timothy Olson, Ben Greenfield, and LeBron James are just a few recognizable names that have taken a leap of faith and modified their diets counter to the high carbohydrate sports science. Once fully adapted, these high-fat athletes have a seemingly endless fuel tank, improvement in mental focus, and a decrease in body fat.

EPIC_TimothyOlson3Timothy Olson is a prolific professional ultra mountain runner and a whole foods/high fat athlete.

To realize the full potential of low carbohydrate diets, a metabolic adaptation known as ketosis must take place. This occurs when carbohydrates are limited to below 50g/day and dietary fat is significantly increased. On a metabolic level, our body converts from a sugar burning machine into a fat burning beast! This process of burning fat as a primary fuel source unlocks a myriad of physiological adaptations that favor athletes.

In an effort to help you understand the basic physiology and science behind low carbohydrate diets, these are the primary benefits of fully keto-adapted athletes.

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In carbohydrate dependent athletes there is competition for limited glycogen stores between skeletal muscles and the brain. Skeletal muscles are larger and will utilize glycogen to exhaustion. This causes the non keto-adapted athlete to bonk!

  1. Superior Brain Fuel–  Bonking sucks! I call it “transcending time and space” as well as “running with the buffalo spirit”. It happens when your body runs out of available sugars (glycogen) to produce energy. At any point in time a sugar burning athlete can maximally store around 2000 calories of glycogen. In a keto-adapted athlete, the body does not rely on this limited fuel source but instead utilizes the over 40,000 calories of stored fat! In a fat burning athlete, you will not bonk!

–Maintaining mental focus

  • Carbohydrate dependent athlete will eventually exhaust liver glycogen reserves
  • Muscles and brain compete for small amounts of glucose derived from gluconeogenesis from protein

–Protecting athletes from hitting the wall

  • Bonking, blowing up, running with the buffalo spirit, transcending time and space

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Fat utilization is much higher in a low carbohydrate athlete! Sugar burning athletes rely on sugar as fuel and spare energy dense fat.

  1. Improved Body Composition– Counter to popular belief, consuming dietary fat does NOT make you fat. In fact, if you consume a diet low in carbohydrates and high in dietary fat you are likely to significantly decrease body fat while building lean muscle mass. This is accomplished due to improvements in insulin sensitivity.–Decrease fat while maintain or build muscle
    • Increased quickness, agility, and performance

    –Maintain specific body weight for sport

    • Wrestling, boxing, powerlifting, martial arts
    • Bodybuilding, gymnastics, dance, fitness modeling

    –Improved self-perception

    Better mental state going into competition

  2. Improved Exercise Recovery– Keto-adapted athletes have shorter recovery times and thus can train harder and longer than their sugar burning counterparts. Obvious training advantages that translate to superior conditioning on race day!–Fat oxidation lessens the stress response to exercise

    –Less metabolic stress

    • less inflammation, immunosupression, gastro-intestinal distress, muscle damage, soreness

    –Less generation of reactive oxygen species

    • Preservation of highly unsaturated fatty acids in cell membranes
  3. Improved Digestion and Nutrient Absorption– One of the most frequent causes of a bad race day is gastro-intestinal distress. Because sugar burning athletes have a limited supply of glucose, they are required to constantly replenish glucose during exercise. Consuming high levels of carbohydrates and sugars for hours on end is very difficult on the stomach and can cause serious pain and discomfort. This unpredictable fuel source is exponentially more unreliable when you introduce altitude or increase intensity. When you body burns fat as a primary fuel source, you can avoid constantly consuming foods during exercise (remember, your body can store up to 40,000 calories of ready to mobilize fat!). This fat burning system spares the stomach and leads to more glorious days!–Fat oxidation is a sustainable and reliable fuel source for skeletal muscles
    • No gastro-intestinal distress

    –Ketones are a sustainable and reliable fuel source for the brain

    • No bonking

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A keto-adapted athlete has enough accessible fuel to run for over 48 hours straight without fuel!

To learn more about the science behind ketogenic diets and the ergogenic improvements for athletes, read The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance. It is the book that both Katie and I have used to guide us into nutritional ketosis and has led to our most successful race seasons!

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The bible for anyone looking to learn more about ketosis and training!

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Ketogenic diets offer a slew of health benefits that are not limited to athletes! In fact, the performance benefits mentioned above translate into real life, ass kicking advantages for anyone that modifies their diet! Ketogenic diets have been shown to effectively stop certain types of cancer, treat obesity and help with weight management, as well as cease diabetic symptoms! Read Keto Clarity by Jimmy Moore to learn more about the overall benefits of a ketogenic diet!

Holistic Land Management- Beyond Grass Fed

EPIC is committed to redefining what constitutes a “healthy snack” by sourcing meat from the finest purveyors possible. While “grass fed” and “organic” is generally synonymous with healthy and humanely raised animals, the EPIC team believes that these standards are only the beginning to a greater and more encompassing system that can create value and restore the land. In our efforts to provide consumers with the healthiest snacks possible, we strive to source meat from ranchers that we deem EPIC.  In particular, we get most excited about producers committed to holistic land management practices, such as those advocated by the Savory Institute and Joel Salatin.

e95b7084f7d278c6625de7e23c7005e2Joel Salatin is undisputedly one of the most EPIC people on earth

One element of holistic land management includes rotational grazing in which ranchers carefully monitor the amount of time herds of livestock access plots of pasture. The alarming effects of overgrazing are a driving force in desertification and loss of nutrient dense topsoil. When the soil is depleted of nutrients, ranchers become dependent on routinely fertilizing the land with harsh and dangerous chemicals. These fertilizers do not add health to the soil and only further wreak havoc on all surrounding ecosystems.

A helpful video to explain the global effects of desertification and introduce Holistic Planned Grazing 

Amazingly, when abused land is managed properly, the addition of livestock alone can reverse the effects of desertification and return grass to the barren landscape! It’s amazing to observe fence lines between holistically managed land and neighboring lands to see the difference. The only thing separating the properties are a barbed wire fence, however they often look like different planets. The Savory Institute sponsors many large scale restorative projects and some of the results have been nothing short of extraordinary.

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Complete transformation of the land pictured above with the reintroduction of livestock

Since 1975, USDA handbooks document a 50% drop in the amount of calcium in broccoli, a 88% decrease in iron content of watercress, and a 40% reduction in vitamin C in cauliflower. Another alarming result of topsoil erosion and poor land management is the relationship between soil health and the nutrient density of the fruits and vegetables that we love. When soil is depleted of its natural matrix of microorganisms, our food is depleted of vitamins and minerals. Since 1975, USDA handbooks document a 50% drop in the amount of calcium in broccoli, a 88% decrease in iron content of watercress, and a 40% reduction in vitamin C in cauliflower. Properly managed land is the only answer to rebalancing the innate nutritional gifts of our food.
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Nutrient dense vegetables and fruit need nutrient rich soil to grow

When land and livestock are holistically managed, pastures convert into brilliant ecosystems that are rich in biodiversity and create habitats for native and migratory animals. A simple way to evaluate the health of a ranch is by looking for biodiversity. If you notice monoculture grass and no birds, you have to ask yourself, would the livestock choose to be here if there were no fences? The answer is probably no. The EPIC bison ranch is an amazing place teeming with snakes, insects, coyotes, elk, hawks, and thousands of other organisms. Our bison are contained by mere 5′ fences that they could easily leap over (bison can jump over 6 vertical feet from a standstill!), but they choose to stay because they have abundant water, healthy grass, and a thriving ecosystem. 

One of my favorite ranching videos of all time! A must watch!

Another powerful impact of holistically managed land is the unique ability of healthy grass to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The sequestrion of carbon from the air and returning it to the soil is a brilliant and relatively unknown feature of pastureland. Grasslands are the second most effective resource to carbon sequestration and can effectively reduce the acceleration of global climate change.

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Alan Savory is the man who coined Holistic Land Management and a hero of EPIC

EPIC is committed to being a constructive part of changing the paradigm in which ranch land is managed. We will continue to seek partnerships with ranchers that we deem EPIC and reward them for their commitment to healing the earth. Producing the finest meat available is only achieved when livestock creates a net positive return on the environment. By supporting ranchers who practice holistic land management, consumers can feel that they are no longer doing “less bad”, but actually “more good” for their own health, the lives of the animals, and the overarching ecosystem that we call home. Live EPIC, Eat EPIC.

Investing In Your Brand- EPIC Style

In the 10 years of being lovers, Katie and I have started 3 companies together. The first was a commercial recycling business that serviced over 25 restaurants, condos, and bars in Austin. We were in college and this money paid for our tuition. Our second company was a whole foods, raw, and vegan brand called Thunderbird. We grew the brand to national distribution and our biggest customer was Whole Foods Market! Our first two business ventures were 100% self funded and we learned a lot through hard work, passion, and mistakes.

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Katie frequently power-posed during Thunderbird demos circa 2010

When we decided to unleash our inner carnivores and start EPIC, we knew that creating a protein bar using 100% grass fed animal muscle meat was going to be game changing. We also knew that in order to become a category leader we needed to raise some capital to support the expenses of rapid growth. As a result we went to a business accelerator showcase and pitched to a crowd of over 200 investors. After our highly energetic pitch in which we talked about improving the lives of consumers, restoring the environment, and creating a consciously profitable business we soon realized that most traditional financial investors suck!

Discouraged but not disheartened, Katie and I left the venue wondering if all investors sucked and if so, how could we find one that only sucked a little? As our cosmic trajectory would have it, the next day we received an email from a Houstonian named Cameron that was eating a Thunderbird bar at his daughters swim meet. His email simply said “Hey, I love your bars! If you guys are ever raising capital, I would love to talk.” We thought that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to continue to practice our pitch and decided to call this stranger.

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This was very day that we decided to bring Cameron into the EPIC family! 

Within the first 10 minutes of our conversation things were sounding too good to be true. Our pheromones were compatible and my gut told me that Cameron was the kind of guy that we wanted to join the team. Cameron radiated with energy, immediately saw our vision, aligned with our company culture, and freaked out with excitement when I told him we were going to make a meat bar! Unfathomable to us, this phone call would change our lives and be the financial foundation that help started EPIC.

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You should only take money from investors who are willing to get their hands dirty. We put Cameron to the test last year and he passed with flying colors

Over the past 2 years, Katie and I have shared some incredible life experiences with Cameron and his family. They are very near to our hearts and we are thankful to have them in our lives. Since then we have had the opportunity to join with other investors who also share our vision, mission, and values. I always look forward to seeing them because I enjoy each one of them on a personal level.

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Cameron & Elizabeth with the EPIC crew and our good buds at Cappellos during Expo East 2014

Here is my advice to entrepreneurs, don’t take money from anyone that sucks. If an investor asks you about EBITDA, revenue multiples, exit strategy, and margins during your first meeting, DONT take their money. Look for people who are in alignment with your vision, understand and believe in your mission, and fit into your company culture. Find your Cameron!

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Only take money from investors that are cool enough to wear v-necks

Here is my advice to investors, try and see entrepreneurs as people willing to take a risk. They are just like you, but probably have a much smaller house and a cheaper car. Make investments in people, products, and companies that you personally believe in. Take a risk, and email a business owner of a company that is inline with your own vision of how to create a better world. When you do this, EPIC things happen.

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Cameron and Elizabeth at our wedding in 2013! Cameron was raging on MCT oil and kombucha cocktails… look at his right fist

Certified Gluten-Free

We are proud to announce that all EPIC products are now officially recognized by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization and The Gluten Intolerance Group! The GFCO is the leading and most trusted gluten-free certification program in the world. As a result, all EPIC products are transitioning to wrappers that proudly display the official Certified Gluten-Free logo!

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Although EPIC products have always been gluten-free, our commitment to quality and consumer trust has led our company to attaining the highest standards of allergen control, supplier sourcing, and kitchen traceability. Products that bear the official GF logo represent unmatched reliability and meet the most stringent standards of gluten-free testing.
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Similar to the EPIC brand, the GF logo has long represented an independent verification of quality, integrity and purity of products and is easily recognizable by consumers.
Onwards to EPIC health and quality!

Embrace your instincts

By all practical accounts Katie and I are not what you would expect from the executive team behind a category-revolutionizing brand that is the quickest growing company represented on the energy bar aisle. We are young, did not study business, wear athletic clothes to board meetings, and often make decisions based on gut instinct. These decisions are frequently counter to those of seasoned entrepreneurs, consultants, and executive teams behind large and successful brands and through their lens, our success is often attributed to luck.

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The fact is, there is NO repeatable path in business that will consistently yield success. Although your odds of glory increase by reading educational business and leadership books, listening to mentors, and following a path laid by successful entrepreneurs before; starting a business is an unpredictable creature. Similar to bringing a child into the world, the birth of your business is an expression of your own genetic make-up. At a core level, this evolving entity shares a deep-rooted emotional connection with its founder and like a nurturing parent; a good founder makes decisions based on this very special connection.

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What Katie and I may lack in traditional business development, we make up for with highly tuned instinct. Through natural selection, we are all alive today because our ancient relatives were good at listening to their gut. The innate ability to evaluate danger, thoughtfully plan, and carefully execute, are all human characteristics that have kept us on this earth for over 250,000 years.

Its very easy to recognize this instinct in wild animals. It’s a driving force that is biologically in tune with protecting their young, selecting a mate, and finding food. In wild species, decisions are exclusively based on this instinct. Unfortunately, when wild animals become domesticated like humans, they allow this inner instinct to atrophy. It withers away from disuse, and like humans, domestic animals rely on external commands.

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Whether your goal is to perform better at business, find a soul mate, or just kick ass at life, try tapping into your gut instinct more often! Its an EPIC way to thrive!

 

The Great White Bison

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Last winter we visited one of our bison suppliers to see these amazing animals during the snowy season. The temperature was around 10 degrees fahrenheit, there was over 5 feet of snow covering the earth, and to make the environment even more harsh, a blustery winter storm was on the horizon. It was an incredibly humbling experience to share the winter climate with these hearty creatures for a few hours. Although pushing us to our breaking limits, these bison thrived in a high mountain winter season.

 

 

One of the greatest insights of that trip happened when I noticed the ranch fences completely covered by snow. In some areas, the bison could have easily walked over the fences due to the 5-8 feet of vertical packed ice that had temporarily elevated the animals above any soil or grass. Without any confinement, these animals could have left the ranch property at any point in time. Amazingly enough, the bison stay because of daily deliveries of hay from the ranch manager! All they have access to is snow and grass, and their surrounding environment is seemingly lifeless, yet they are some of the most content creatures on the earth.

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These amazing ruminates are native to the great plains of North America and due to a brilliant genetic lineage that pre-dates homosapiens sharing their land, they are hardwired to survive in a myriad of natural environments. Like all ruminates however, these great animals quickly become ill when they are forced to eat corn, soy, and other grain based foods. Once you see a bison covered in snow eating grass, you understand the vital power of pasture and the brilliant symbiotic evolution of this iconic American animal.

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