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OPP 018: The Perfect Health Diet with Paul Jaminet



Harvard astro-physicist Paul Jaminet is our guest this week on the Optimal Performance Podcast to discuss his book The Perfect Health Diet.


We're digging deep into specific amounts of each food group, what to avoid, and even get into some light "hacks" to optimize your performance.


Paul Jaminet & his wife Shou-Ching co-wrote the "Paleo-Perfected" The Perfect Health Diet in 2012 to help anyone lose weight, boost immune system function and regain optimal health by eating the way we were meant to eat.


Today, we're honored to have Paul Jaminet on Episode #18 of the Optimal Performance Podcast to break down the details of the The Perfect Health Diet for us. Enjoy!


OPP #18
What You'll Hear From Paul Jaminet in this Episode:
  • Fact Of The Day:
  • What to eat, how much and when - The Perfect Health Diet explained.
  • How much Fructose should we be eating?
  • Why Nitrites and Nitrates are not ALL bad...GREAT NEWS FOR BACON LOVERS!
  • The foods that contain nucleotides, boost RNA, slow the aging process and of course gut health!
  • How to make Ice Cream the new health food!
  • Why you NEED egg yolks
  • Paul reveals the ideal sleeping, fasting and eating windows for optimal health
  • [Tweet "4 MUST EAT foods for The Perfect Health Diet: egg yolks, liver, bone broth, & fermented veggies. Listen at"]
  • Paul's recommended supplements for longevity
  • The Perfect Health Retreat - I almost signed up during the recording!
  • How to "hack" your lights at home for optimal health & performance
  • Where to get more of Paul & The Perfect Health Diet
  • Paul Jaminet's Top 3 Tips to #liveoptimal





The Perfect Health Diet by Paul Jaminet & Shou-Ching Jaminet

And some extra links from Paul Jaminet:

The Perfect Health Retreat

Red & Orange LED lights

Recommended Natural Stacks Products:

Vitamin C w/Zinc



Natural Protein


Vitamin D3


The Perfect Health Diet with Paul Jaminet

Ryan: You are listening to the Optimal Performance Podcast sponsored by Natural Stacks. If you're into biohacking, performance and getting more out of your life, this is the show for you. If you want more on building optimal performance, check out

Happy Thursday all you optimal performers and welcome to another episode of the Optimal Performance Podcast. I'm your host Ryan Munsey, and I'm pumped to introduce you guys to today's guest, Mr. Paul Jaminet. Paul, thanks for hanging out with us! Say hello to everybody.

Paul: Hey Ryan, it's great to be with you and your audience!

Ryan: We are- we're the ones that are in for a treat. We appreciate your time, look forward to doing this. So, for all you guys listening, Paul and his wife- I know you just told me this and I'm gonna butcher it I apologize- Shou-Ching are co-authors of 'The Perfect Health Diet' and I admitted to Paul before we hit record, I'm a little bit intimidated. You know, I have a degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition but it's a little intimidating reading the biography on these guys. Paul is an astrophysicist at Harvard at the Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and his wife is a molecular biologist and cancer researcher at Beth Israel in Harvard Medical School, so we're gonna talk to some really, really smart folks and get some awesome information for everybody tonight. Go ahead, Paul!

Paul: Well, don't be intimidated because actually everything I know I learned through my mistakes so - [laughs]

Ryan: Yeah, and we just said something about that on a previous episode where, you know, all strengths kind of come from a deficit and that's one of the things we love about this movement is that most of the people involved with this movement got into it somehow through either some deficiency or issue or some kind of deficit. And I know you guys focus on treating chronic illness and, you know, anti-ageing, things like that. And before we really dive into everything about Perfect Health Diet, we've got a couple of housekeeping things to take care of. So number one, we love your 5* reviews, so keep them coming. Head on over to iTunes, leave us some love over there. We will read them on the air. We're gonna start with 2 of them for today. 'Bbrown' says: "Solid. Legit guests, great content. One of the best new fitness and health podcasts." And another one from 'Francis by the sea' says: "Incredible. Great info on working out and nutritional suggestions. Can't wait to try CILTEP and Dopamine Brain Food." So if you thought the nutrition suggestions were good before, wait until tonight. So, as always, show notes are available at For this specific episode go to You'll be able to see the video version of Paul and I as well as links to a lot of the things that we talk about, any resources, and of course the book 'Perfect Health Diet'. So, fact of the day before we really dive in. The obesity-related spending annually in America has now climbed to 190 billion dollars. That is 190 billion dollars every year just in America. And that is an average of 1,200 dollars a year more for an obese man compared to a non-obese man. For women that number is actually 3,600 dollars a year more for women. So, if you're not gonna do the health thing, if you're not gonna eat right and take care of your weight for the health reasons at least do it for your wallet, I mean you're talking enough money there to go on a really nice vacation. But, again, with optimal performer listeners I know that's not an issue, you guys are always seeking and striving for the best but we're gonna do our best to convince you and help you achieve that today with Paul. So, Paul, I'm gonna stop talking. I want you to tell me and our listeners how you and your wife got rolling with Perfect Health Diet.

Paul: Yeah, well it really started with our personal health problems and those were, you know, things we suffered from for a long time. You know, actually about 15 years or so. And it seemed like every year they'd get a little worse and every year we'd go back to the doctor and he'd say: 'Well, there's nothing we can do, you're ageing" or "I don't really know what it is", you know, "you don't have a diagnosable condition, you just have a bunch of complaints". And, you know, if it doesn't fit in their toolbox they don't know what to do and, you know, and we didn't know what to do either so, you know, we just focused on our jobs and, you know, watched our health get worse year after year. And finally that started to change for me in 2005. So first of all, I started noticing I had really gone downhill, I was losing my memory, I had very slow reaction time. I had, you know, most of my problems began when I took a year-long course of antibiotics at age 29 for acne, and in retrospect it must have really messed up my gut and um, I had some fungal infection issues. I probably had some kind of yeast overgrowth or something but, anyway I was a runner and my running time slowed way down over that year and they stayed slow. And then I started having more and more issues. And so I didn't really know what to do until in 2005 I discovered the Paleo diet and tried that and it was the first thing I tried that made a big difference. And some things got worse, some things got better but the really crucial thing is just to try something that matters.

Ryan: Yeah, it's getting started, right?

Paul: That's right, yeah. So, so then I knew diet mattered. And so then the question was, alright, you know, Paleo made some things worse to obviously the way I was implementing it wasn't perfect but, you know, it behooved me to try to figure out what would be a better diet, you know how to take what was good in Paleo and fix what was bad.

Ryan: So, if I can jump in right there- what didn't work? And how have you modified that?

Paul: Well the two big problems which were the first ones I figured out were that I was too low-carb and I also became deficient in vitamin C. And I really figured that out, um I had a scratch wound on my legs, you know I had - I'd gone running in the woods and got scratched by some thorns or something and it just wouldn't heal and 6 months later I still had the scratch wound. And then I took some vitamin C and it healed! And so I realized I had been vitamin C deficient and um, and before that I had realized that I was too low-carb and I did better, I needed carbs. And, you know, so at that point, you know I basically found two nutrient deficiencies, one of glucose and one of vitamin C and I figured I'd bet I'm probably deficient in a lot of other things, I just haven't noticed it yet. And so I decided the way to go would be to research all the nutrients, you know and figure out how much you need of each and then look at foods and see what should I eat in order to get those nutrients. And that's what I started doing, and it turned out to be a big project, it took over 5 years. I think. But eventually it became the 'Perfect Health Diet'. And, so the reason we chose the name is it's - it's related to the idea that, you know your reach should exceed your grasp, you know, you're never gonna be perfect, but you should strive for it. And the reason that's important in health is there's really many, many factors that contribute to health. So there's no magic bullet. You have to fix lots and lots of small things. And if you're not aiming to be perfect, you're just not gonna fix very many things. So if you really wanna have good health and optimize performance then you need to - you really need to optimize lots and lots of factors. And so, for instance if you think of optimizing nutrition, and there's like 16 known nutrients that, you know, we know we need and then there's a whole bunch of unknown nutrients that are in food but, you know they haven't really been assessed by science yet. You know, so there's a lot of factors just there and then when you add in lifestyle and all kinds of other things that you can optimize there are a lot of factors that matter for health.

Ryan: Yeah, and I think that's where we're really gonna dig in today is, you know as you said, if you're looking to truly live optimal you've gotta look at all of the little things, how every action that you do, everything that goes into your body, touches your body, all of that stuff affects performance and that's really today in this episode what we're gonna dig into is how the food we eat affects us not only mentally but in all aspects of health and, you know obviously physical performance as well. So, what I would like to do is just get right into your version of the perfect health diet and let's talk a little bit about how you guys have it structured, why it is that way. So, I mean our listeners are going to want to know what to eat. Now, if you visit I've found this on you guys' website, I love it. You have an amazing graphic. We'll actually share this on social media and of course on the with the show notes we'll have an image of this so people can see it. But it's in the shape of an apple and you have it broken down, I guess best analogy for people that haven't seen it is it's your version of the food pyramid or something like that. So, so for people trying to visualize this if they're driving and not watching and looking at it. I wanna go through each component of it and the amounts that you guys suggest and allow you to kind of provide insights in the rationale behind each one. Does that sound good?

Paul: Yeah, that's terrific!

Ryan: Okay, cool. So, first you guys have a category that you're calling 'sweet plants' and this is gonna consist of things like berries, carrots, beets, other fruits and you’re gonna recommend up to 1 pound per day.

Paul: Yeah, or more or less precisely 1 pound per day if you're on - that's for, those amounts are for a 2000 calorie reference diet so most men will need a little more, women if they're not active will eat a little less. Um you know, but that's a good - a good average amount for various people and, and we would say just increase the amounts to appetite. We recommend intermittent fasting, eating about 8 hours a day and fasting 16 hours overnight. And you wanna eat an amount that makes you just to start getting moderately hungry at the end of the overnight fast, so you know, you might have an hour of mild hunger and that means you'll notice it if you're not doing anything but if you start working or someone talks to you, you forget that you're hungry. And so getting to the, to the sweet plants. A pound, you know that corresponds to like 3 - 3 or 4 pieces of fruit. So you know, it's not a lot and you can have fruit as a snack as well as part of a meal so you can think of those in terms of a meal as something to flavor. Add just a little bit of sweetness. You know, so we'll often put cranberries or raisins in our rice when we make rice, you know, or we'll have beets or carrots or a little bit of fruit flavoring our meal. And then we'll have some fruit as a snack and as a dessert. So, you know, so the amounts - so one of the things we did was go through every nutrient and look at what's the optimal amount and fructose so, a lot of carbohydrates digest either glucose or fructose and fruits digest to about half of each. And so the amount of sweet plants we recommend is basically based on what we think is the optimal amount of fructose in the diet. And you wanna have some because fructose actually helps deliver, regulate glucose a little bit better. So fructose basically gets directed to the liver and, and it gets converted to glycocin there and it depletes ATP in the liver which helps the liver take up other things more effectively from the blood. So you'll regulate glucose a little bit better if you eat some fruit. You know, but you don't need a lot, you know like I said 3 pieces of fruit a day is enough to optimize your - the benefits that you get from fructose. And if you eat too much fructose or sugar then it gives you a risk of gut dysbiosis and fructose isn't absorbed as well as glucose and, and if you have fructose in your small intestine you can get a bacterial overgrowth or it can start to negatively affect your gut microbiome.

Ryan: So, so one question on that. If that were to happen, what symptoms would somebody experience? What should people watch out for?

Paul: Well you could get things like acid reflux. You could get things like your LDL cholesterol creeping up. You know you might be slightly inflamed; you might get a little bit of hypothyroidism. But, you know in most people, most people wouldn't notice anything, you know, it'd just be one of those very subtle influences. You might have a very slight inflammation, might be slightly more tired than you would be otherwise but, you know you wouldn't notice it because you feel the same every day, right. So, and it's such a small effect. You know most of these things if you're a little bit imperfect, it's such a small effect and people wouldn't notice it, but when you get 50 things that are a little imperfect it can add up. You know, so if you really want to optimize performance you want to get everything right. And any kind of inflammation in the body is gonna slow you down. You know there's no better recipe for fatigue than making your immune system deal with things. You know, so people who have food sensitivities, they get, you know exhausted, that want to go to sleep after meals. You know, so any kind of inflammation is gonna, you know, it's gonna make you fatigued, it's gonna make you slower.

Ryan: I'm glad you jumped right into the amount of fructose because that was actually gonna be a follow-up question I had in this sweet plants category. So you said that the pound suggestion is going to put people at about the amount that you guys suggest. Everything that I've seen is an upper limit of 15 to 25 grams of fructose per day. Is that consistent with what you found?

Paul: Well, that's a good amount but I wouldn't call it an upper limit I would call it about the optimum, you know, I - we recommend about 25 grams of fructose a day total. And we think that's about optimal.

Ryan: Okay, okay. So, the next category 'safe starches' and again, a pound a day. So, this is gonna be - we're talking sweet potatoes, you mentioned rice. What else are you guys putting into that category and how does something earn that stamp of 'safe starch'?

Paul: Yeah so, these are basically starchy foods, so the nice thing about these they digest entirely the glucose, the part - the carbs that are digestible. And glucose is, you know, sort of the mainstay carbohydrate, the building block that our body uses. And they also develop a beneficial form of fiber called resistance starch and you want to have some resistance starch in your diet in order to optimize your gut microbiome which is really important. And, and they have a lot of other, you know, they bring in some other nutritional benefits as well. Things like potassium, you know, so potatoes are a really good source of potassium and some other minerals. You know, so generally they're a good nutritional complement to the diet. And the word 'safe' that we use, that distinguishes them from things like wheat or some beans where we suspect that there are compounds that can negatively affect our health like digestive inhibitors that, you know have the risk of damaging the intestine or damaging our health in some fashion.

Ryan: Things like anti-nutrients, lectins, gluten.

Paul: Yeah, potentially, you know, things like trypsin inhibitors or other digestive inhibitors. You know, so basically these - these greens and legumes, the seeds of seeds and legumes, they grew in grasslands and have been fed on by herbivores, you know so they've been fed on by mammals. And so they're a little bit different than many other plants in - which are close relatives, like mammals have been their major predator. And so they've evolved some compounds that are really effective at targeting our guts and if they get into our body, if they can target our gut cells they can target other cells, too. And so if they get into our body they can cause problems as well. And there's some evidence for, you know some of these like soybeans seem to be associated with cognitive impairment and dementia. Wheat is associated with various, there are hints that it can have significant negative health effects even apart from Celiac disease. And, you know, a lot of these things like beans in their - raw beans are highly toxic. Just a small amount can kill you and, you know cooking destroys a lot of the toxins but not necessarily all of them. And, you know, so at least in some cases we think it's prudent to just avoid them.

Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. That makes perfect sense. So, let's move on to vegetables. And again we're looking at a pound a day of the green leafy stuff. That also includes onions, mushrooms and of course, fermented vegetables. Anything you would add to that?

Paul: Yeah, so um, so our approach was always to look at micronutrients, figure out the optimal amount of them and then see what foods we need to get there. And it was kind of tricky estimating, you know, the amount of vegetables that would be optimal. So we do not necessarily have an optimum but I would say you need at least a pound of vegetables. So, if you eat a pound of vegetables along with a pound of sweet plants, sweet fruits and also close to a pound of meat then you'll end up getting the optimal amount of potassium which is the critical nutrient. And, you know so you need about 4 pounds of food a day in order to get enough potassium. And - but 3 pounds of the more calorie-dense foods like meat and starches and fruit will get you to 2000 calories so you basically, you need to eat at least a pound a day of very low-calorie foods like vegetables in order to optimize potassium. So that's one and we also know it's good - you want a diverse, diverse types of fiber and vegetables diversify your fiber. So they have different types of fiber than starches and fruit. So, you know you definitely wanna get some vegetables for their fiber, you definitely wanna get some for their potassium and you want a mix - so you mentioned green leafy vegetables, those have some very beneficial nutrients, carotenoids, nitrite so, you know, folate. So there are various - there are good reasons to eat at least a pound a day of vegetables.

Ryan: Yeah, now you just mentioned nitrite, nitrates as beneficial compounds in green leafy vegetables, so a lot of times when we hear - most often when we hear those things mentioned we hear them in a negative light when we look for preservative-free things or packaged meats, bacon especially. Can you distinguish for our listeners the difference in the two?

Paul: Yeah, well, you know some of the nitrates used as preservatives could be beneficial. It's a - so basically, what happens is the nitrates can get converted by bacteria to nitrite. And the nitrite can get converted by sunlight to nitric oxide and that seems to be highly protective against cardiovascular disease. So, it's a good idea to eat green leafy vegetables and it's a good idea to go out in the sun and expose some skin. And, and there's also, you know, there are other ways to get some of those things so, for instance this company that is working with us at our retreats called AOBiome offers a skin probiotic called AO+ Mist where they have some bacteria that convert when you sweat ammonia from having eaten lots of protein. They'll convert the ammonia into nitrate.

Ryan: Very cool!

Paul: And, that'll get -

Ryan: And is that reabsorbed?

Paul: Yeah, it's reabsorbed by the skin and then when you get the sunlight it makes nitric oxide. So that's, you know, so if you don't like eating green leafy vegetables you can get the skin probiotic.

Ryan: That's really cool!

Paul: Yeah.

Ryan: Do you guys have a link to that on the website anywhere or - ?

Paul: Well if you go back to an old post, you can search on AOBiome on my blog and you can find a coupon code for our listeners to get 25% off.

Ryan: Okay. Do you have that - if you can tell me that I can put it in the show notes.

Paul: Yeah, the coupon code is PHD25 and the place to go is Alright, so, anyway and -

Ryan: Yeah, yeah, go ahead.

Paul: You know, so there can be downsides to nitrogen compounds and that's one reason why eating too much protein isn't necessarily a great idea because the, you know, the protein will release nitrogen when it's metabolized and that can create dangerous compounds, especially bacteria when they're consuming it. You know, but in general the - the nitrate looks to be beneficial.

Ryan: Gotcha! Okay. Yeah, and I know like I said that's one where commonly the way you hear it is in a negative light so thank you for - for clarifying that. So, while we're on the topic of vegetables. Fermented vegetables are also in that category for you guys. We love fermented vegetables, loaded with probiotics, vitamin K2. Anything else that you would add as a reason for people to seek out more fermented vegetables?

Paul: Yeah, well they're actually, you know they're very valuable nutritionally. And one of the overlooked nutrients in fermented vegetables are nucleotides, you know, so things like RNA, DNA. So you have all these bacteria and, you know they have a lot of DNA and RNA and, you know particularly when they multiply they're multiplying their DNA. And getting those nucleotides is actually beneficial, you know, so, they can be a little bit hard to make. And they can inhibit, you know, shortage of them can inhibit growth and wound healing and so it turns out, you know especially at young ages like babies it's very desirable to give them some nucleotides and breastmilk has a lot of nucleotides in it but formula doesn't and that could be one reason why babies don't do as well on formula. So we actually, we switched from breastmilk to formula with our baby at about age 3 months and I put a little fish sauce in his milk so that he would get some nucleotides from that. 

Ryan: That was gonna be my follow-up is, you know, I don't imagine, you know feeding sauerkraut or kimchi to a baby so how - if you're not on breastmilk - how would you supplement their diet with the nucleotides?

Paul: Yeah. It's - yeah and fiber is also lacking in a little fiber. Some of the oligosaccharides that are found in milk act like a fiber for gut bacteria. And so one of the things we did for that was add a little vinegar to the milk. So gut bacteria when they metabolize fiber they produce acetic acid which is vinegar and so you can make up for the lack of fiber by giving a little few drops of vinegar and in the milk as well.

Ryan: Awesome, awesome. Now, we've mentioned probiotics and gut health a few times already. What about prebiotics? Is that something that you try to get through food intake or do you ever supplement with that?

Paul: We don't supplement and basically vegetables are really good prebiotics and so eat your vegetables.

Ryan: Yeah, if you're getting 2 pounds of that a day you're probably taking care of it?

Paul: Yeah, yeah.

Ryan: Okay. Now, I know for a lot of people just hearing that number of a pound of vegetables a day or a pound of vegetables and a pound of the sweet plants, I think that can seem daunting or overwhelming to some. Is there a practical approach that you guys have found to help people go from not enough to baby steps to getting there? Juicing or -?

Paul: Oh, no no. Actually, it sounds like a lot and actually when I spoke at Paleo f(x) once and I mentioned that, you know, I recommend 3 pounds a day of plant food, it's like everybody gasped. Like it was something crazy. But then when you see it in action, you know it's basically 2 plates of food.

Ryan: Right.

Paul: You know, so if you take a plate and you split it into quarters and you have, you know, one quarter is, you know like a potato. And one quarter is a beet, and one quarter is some vegetables and one quarter is some meat. And then you have 2 plates a day, alright, well you've gotten your 4 pounds of food and 3 pounds of plant food. So, you know, it's not that hard to eat it, you know, people normally eat it. The big thing is just cutting out all of the processed food, the junk food and, you know and then you've got the appetite to eat that much.

Ryan: Yeah, and I think it's just - it seems overwhelming and it seems like a large number just because it's not necessarily the way that we're used to hearing food. We're used to hearing cups or ounces or something like that.

Paul: Yeah.

Ryan: When you start to say pounds, people start to - like you said they have that gasp, that reaction [unclear 00:28:45].

Paul: Right. Yeah, but no if you have like a fist-sized potato, you know, that's half a pound. So you have one for lunch, one for dinner, you're all set!

Ryan: Okay.

Paul: And it's not that hard.

Ryan: Alright. Well, so let's see. Meat! We haven't talked about your meat recommendation and that's gonna be .7 pounds up to 1 pound per day?

Paul: Yep. Yeah, so just - just slightly less than the amount of starches or sweet plants but, you know, it's pretty close in terms of, you know, size if you just visually look at your plate. You know, just have almost as much meat as you have potatoes or rice or - and you'll be doing well. And, you know, we recommend probably seafood is probably the healthiest form of meat or fish. We also recommend ruminant meats, that's like beef, lamb, goat. But with the exception who have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. So one of, you know the problems of mammals, eating mammals, they're closely related to us and there's a somewhat higher risk of autoimmunity eating them. So, you know, if you think of the mammals like pork from pigs, cows, sheep, lamb, you know, those are all mammals and so a slightly higher autoimmunity risk. You generally don't have to worry about that if you don't have an autoimmune condition, but if you do then you might wanna de-emphasize those. So they're really healthy, but they're a slight autoimmunity risk. And then the bird meats like chicken or duck are - were, you know, they're relatively safe in autoimmune terms but they're not quite as optimized nutritionally as the beef or lamb. And pork you want to get good quality. I would say seafood and fish are probably the number one. For most people the beef, lamb would be next. Pork has a few problems, it can carry some germs that can infect us and so it's - so you definitely wanna cook your pork well. But - and it's also desirable to get pastured naturally raised pigs.

Ryan: You mentioned earlier some issues with too much protein. Can you talk a little bit about what happens if we eat too much?

Paul: Yeah, well we don't - we don't need that much protein as protein. So if you eat more it's either going to go into the body and be used for energy, you know, so if you're on a low-carb diet that may happen. And in that case you're gonna release the nitrogen. You know, so basically the amino acids can't metabolize the nitrogen and so the nitrogen will get released it will become ammonia and then the ammonia may go to urea or uric acid and, you know, ammonia, you wouldn't drink ammonia. You know, you can excrete it in sweat, you can convert it to urea but it's not necessarily healthy for you. The other thing that happens if you eat a lot is you just don't absorb some of the proteins so it goes down in your gut and it's fermented by gut bacteria and they're releasing the nitrogen there and that's also making toxic compounds in your gut. And, so you won't have as good a gut microbiome if your bacteria are fermenting protein as you would if they were fermenting carbohydrate forms of fiber. And you'll be generating various toxins that, you know, are dangerous to your colon, will probably increase your risk for colon cancer and other issues. So, you know, as in all things you want to give your body the amount it needs and not an excess. Now, you know, if you're - if you wanna optimize how much muscle mass you have then sometimes you wanna force things, you wanna overdrive them, you know give them a little extra of the nutrition that you need. You know, so if you're a competitive bodybuilder or things like that, you know, or athlete, strength athlete then, you know you may want to eat more protein than is optimal for health. You know, but that's sort of a personal, personal thing. So our advice is basically optimized for health.

Ryan: Yeah, and that's one of those things where we've talked about this before on other episodes where everything is goal-dependent and you need to get back to why you're doing this so, so like you said if somebody is a bodybuilder, performance for them means something different than performance for you or - or maybe even a third person. So, if - if you were working with a competitive bodybuilder, just for example, how much higher would you go in protein?

Paul: Um, well I wouldn't - I wouldn't go about 150 grams of protein a day. And so that's basically where the liver starts to lose the ability to convert ammonia to urea and you'll start generating uric acid, you'll start generating ammonia. You know, you can get a bodybuilder smell from the ammonia in the sweat and you know, of course you can help get rid of that if you use the AOBiome, you know probiotic. You know, but you're still - you still have the ammonia inside your body before it gets excreted and that's not so good for you. And I think, you know, you can stimulate the, you know, the muscle-building pathways with carbohydrates and with fats as well so, you know, so you don't necessary want to, you know, just keep going with the protein after you get to that point where your body is no longer able to handle it.

Ryan: Yeah, one of the best analogies that I ever heard - you know my background is in some of the fitness stuff: gym owner, strength coach, came from bodybuilding and that world. The analogy was that when dietary protein is a - yes, it's a building block for muscles but if you imagine driving by a construction site where somebody's building a house if you send in more bricks than are needed to construct the house it's not going to get built bigger or faster. The foundation is what it is, the house is going to use the same number of bricks, you know, just because you send in more bricks doesn't mean the house is gonna be finished faster or bigger. I thought that was a really good analogy and that helps people make sense of, you know, more isn't necessarily better. 

Paul: Yeah, that's right. You want everything you need in proportion. You know, in balanced proportions, you know, so you need to build up extra tissue, you need to build up cells, you need to build up the extracellular matrix scaffold. And, you know, if you just provide one piece but not the other pieces then it's not gonna work that well. 

Ryan: Yes, beautiful. So, the next category that you guys have is the "do not eat". Peanuts, sugar, we talked about sugar, we talked about greens and beans a little bit. You also have vegetable oils in that category. Talk a little bit about some of those guys.

Paul: Okay, well sugar, you know, like we said we have a target of fructose of 25 grams and that's the amount in about a pound of fruit and - and you really want to get that from natural whole foods, you don't wanna get it from added sugar. And so basically anything that has added sugar in it you shouldn't eat. You know, so you should drop the cotton candy and - [laughs].

Ryan: What?! Cotton candy doesn't lead to optimal performance?

Paul: No. And, you know, peanuts. You should eat tree nuts instead. You know, so there's evidence that peanuts are not so healthy compared to tree nuts.

Ryan: They're actually a member of the legume family, so any of the information that you shared earlier about beans and other legumes are gonna be - they're gonna hold true for peanuts, right?

Paul: Yeah, that's right. Yep! 

Ryan: That's also why they're one of the top 7 allergenic foods.

Paul: Yeah. Yeah, well tree nuts can cause allergies too but they're generally healthier so, you know, so I would get cashew butter or almond butter rather than, or macadamia nut butter rather than peanut butter if you wanna have a nut butter - nut butter cooking. And vegetables oils are a big no-no on our diet, but basically that's the ones that are high omega-6 so it's the ones that grow at northerly latitudes. You know, so it's - it's things like corn oil, soybean oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil. You want to avoid all those things. The plant oils from the tropics are generally healthful. So things like coconut milk is good, avocado oil, olive oil, macadamia nut oil, palm oil is okay, and then most animal fats are healthful as well. 

Ryan: Okay, great. 

Paul: What we do.

Ryan: So what kind of ice cream is approved on the Perfect Health Diet?

Paul: Well basically we'd recommend making it at home. So, use egg yolks, use lots of egg yolks as a healthy fat. You know, use some good quality cream. Put in fruit, berries, you know, use those as, you know, lots of those as your primary sweetener. And if you need it sweeter, you know, you could use some honey, some dextrose powder like I mentioned. You know, but in general I would say, you know the store-bought ice creams they tend to have a little too much milk protein from skim milk, they tend to have too much sugar and the fats tend to be a little lower quality, they do not use the egg yolks, they should. So, you can definitely make more nutritious, healthier ice cream.

Ryan: A lot of the store-bought like you said is either soybean oil or some other inferior oil. 

Paul: Yeah, well even if it's all dairy fats, you know, that's a - that's a pretty good quality oil but it still doesn't have the nutrition that egg yolks would. 

Ryan: Right.

Paul: And, you know, we highly recommend eating egg yolk so, you know, you can make ice cream more of a health food if you make it yourself.

Ryan: So, since you're bringing that up, talk about some of the benefits of egg yolks.

Paul: Well, they're just nutritionally packed. You know, so any time you have to support the growth of a baby, the growth of an embryo then you need to provide complete nutrition and, you know, you need really good quality nutrition so things like - and most of the nutrition in the egg is in the yolk. So egg yolks, you know, things like fish roe, caviar is nutrient dense, you know, breastmilk is pretty nutritionally good so, you know, if you have to have just one food, you know, a single food diet then, you know, then milk would be a good choice. 

Ryan: Chocolate! Chocolate's on your, your apple graphic there.

Paul: Yeah, so it's in there, 'pleasure food' list which means that it's good for you in small amounts but it's easy to over-do it. And chocolate is good for you! It's good for your gut microbiome, it's got lots of beneficial compounds. You know, so that would be in a class like coffee, tea, nuts, you know, things that are quite beneficial in small amounts. But some of them have kind of addictive properties or, you know, if you put a lot of nuts on your desk you may find yourself reaching in and, you know, not stopping until the bowl is empty. 

Ryan: Right.

Paul: You know, some people have that with chocolate some, you know some drink too much coffee. So, you know, all those are good for you but you want to regulate the amount that you take in.

Ryan: Now, that covers most everything on the 'what?' in terms of what foods are involved. I know you mentioned that you guys suggested intermittent fasting, 16 fast, 8 for the eating window. So if people are not familiar with that typically you would maybe - let's say you started eating at noon, you would eat until 8 p.m., you would fast then from 8 p.m. each evening until noon the next day. Nutrient timing is something that is very important for performance and that's a question that I have for you. You know, obviously the fasting window is going to dictate a lot of that nutrient timing but how - what other considerations do you guys, you know, have when it comes to nutrient timing?

Paul: Yeah, well the key thing is you want to eat all your food in the daytime. So, the best time to eat is in the afternoon. So even if you're gonna end up eating late in the evening, you should try to eat most of your calories in the afternoon, you know, potentially have two meals in the afternoon, you know have like a lunch, big lunch and a second snack in the mid-afternoon. And then just, you know, eat a light amount of food and maybe save some of your supper as leftovers for the next day. And now the ideal - the ideal feeding window would be exactly 12 hours opposite your sleeping window. So, the way we recommend doing it is you have a 12-hour daytime, 12-hour nighttime, just an artificial one year-round, you know, set it up and avoid bright light in your nighttime, you know, try to make it only red-orange light and make everything as bright as you can in the 12-hour daytime. And then in your daytime the feeding window starts 3 hours into the daytime and ends 1 hour before the end of daytime. And your sleep window starts 3 hours after the start of nighttime and 1 hour before the end of nighttime. You know, so if your nighttime window was 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. then you'd sleep 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. and you'd eat 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Ryan: Okay.

Paul: And, you know, more natural if you're letting the sun dictate your daytime, might be 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and then you eat 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and you sleep 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. But most people find it much easier to shift a little bit later relative to the sun.

Ryan: Okay, cool. Now, what about supplements? I know we mentioned egg yolks before and I know on your website you guys almost consider egg white, or egg yolks as a concentrated food source. Are there any other foods that you would lump in to that category?

Paul: Yeah, well we have a group that we call 'supplemental foods' which means you should make a point of including them in your diet either daily or weekly just like you would a supplement, you know just make it a habit, do it routinely. So one of them is egg yolks, we recommend 3 egg yolks a day. Another one is liver, we recommend a quarter pound a week. You know, so just like some supplements you might take once a week, some you might take every day, you know it's the same thing with critical foods. Another good one is extracellular matrix, you know, so that's making soups and stews out of bones, joints, tendons, chicken feet, ox hooves and so extracellular matrix that's something, you know, most people really under-eat. And you can get a lot of benefits by including more of that in your diet. Seafood, fermented vegetables, you know those are things you should make a point to include.

Ryan: Yeah, and you mentioned that extracellular matrix, joints, tendons. The protein supplement that Natural Stacks produces is a 2:1 ration of whey to collagen and it actually has colostrum in it, so that's something that we're really proud of. So, now supplements for longevity. You know, some more similarities in our views and your views, you know, we're big fans of magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin C, you guys have those listed on your website also.

Paul: Yeah, yeah so those are really important nutrients and they're also things that it's pretty easy to be deficient in. They're commonly - particularly vitamin C and magnesium that you mentioned - they're kind of too bulky to fit into multivitamins so, you know, most people don't, you know, don't supplement them easily but they're among the most common deficiencies. So, yeah we've got a small group of nutrients that we recommend supplementing just because they're relatively safe, it's not easy to overdose on them, a lot of people are deficient, it's very easy to become deficient. You know, something like vitamin C, it's not in a lot of foods, it's destroyed by heat so cooking can destroy it. You know, if you ate a pound of sweet peppers a day then you'd probably be getting enough C but, you know not many people do that. And, you know, and it's very safe so, you know, there's a lot to be said for supplementing it. Similarly magnesium, you know, if there were a really good food source of magnesium then we might say just eat that as a supplemental food, you know, but really it's pretty widely distributed among foods. And, you know, it's another one that's really crucial for health and a lot of people are deficient so, you know, there's a good case for supplementing it.  

Ryan: Okay. Now, you mentioned in the very beginning part of the beginning of your journey was - with the Paleo diet you found that you became deficient in vitamin C. How did you fix that, was it strictly dietary or did you supplement with it?

Paul: Yeah, I used supplements. I found that I had to take 2 grams a day for a month in order to relieve my deficiency and get everything working again. Now in retrospect, you know having read more papers and stuff, what I should've done was take more like 20 grams a day and get rid of the deficiency quicker, you know so it can take a while to, you know, recover.

Ryan: So for people listening, is there a simple way to test for deficiency in vitamin C?

Paul: Not really. I mean there are blood tests but nobody gets the blood test done and, you know, unless you go into a hospital and you're bleeding then they'll - yeah, your gums are bleeding and -.

Ryan: You've got full-blown scurvy.

Paul: Yeah, your teeth are falling out, you know and then they'll test your vitamin C status but, you know, it's not a routine test. And yeah, the easiest way is actually to supplement it and what you can do is take a lot in one day and see how much you need in order to reach bowel tolerance. And bowel tolerance is when, once you've stuffed your body with vitamin C, your gut will stop absorbing it. When the vitamin C gets down to your colon then it really disturbs the gut bacteria and you start getting queasy, you'll get gas, you'll get - if you take too much you'll get diarrhea. And, you know, so you should really stop at the first sign of queasiness or any hint of gas.

Ryan: Or start carrying your gym bag around and tell people that it was the [unclear 00:49:53]. 

Paul: Yeah, that's right. Yeah, that's right. And anyhow, so if you assess bowel tolerance, if your vitamin C status is good then your bowel tolerance might be at 15 grams or less. But if it's more than 15 grams then you're probably deficient and you should be supplementing vitamin C and you know, for most people a gram a day would be a good dose and, you know, but you can do the bowel tolerance test. And when we've done it with people at our retreat it's not uncommon, you know, some people will need 40 or 50 grams in order to reach bowel tolerance and they should definitely be supplementing, you know maybe a couple grams a day. 

Ryan: Okay. Now, you mentioned the retreat you guys - this is the Perfect Health retreat. Tell us a little bit about that, where does it take place? What do folks get when they show up for this?

Paul: Yeah. Well, it's a really good deal. They take place on the beach in North Carolina. We've got luxury properties, 2 heated saltwater pools, 2 saltwater hot tubs, it's right on the beach. At the time of the year that we do it it's almost a private beach. You know, luxury accommodations and we just teach you everything you need to know about how to be healthy for the rest of your life and how to optimize performance. I give science classes every day, it's a complete curriculum on how to be healthy; diet, nutrition, lifestyle, exercise movement, managing your health, other things. We've got 4 movement classes a day. There's basically a morning light activity, initiate circadian rhythms, movement sessions, that'd be things like tai chi or yoga sun salutations. We'll do late morning late afternoon activity that would be more intense and, you know, over the course of the week, you know, there would be a dozen of those classes and it would be a complete education and, you know, physical movement, different modalities. So, you know everybody can find things they enjoy. And then in the evening we have a class that's devoted to relaxation, stress relief, healing, massage, meditation. And we use things like heart rate variability biofeedback to help make it more effective. And, you know, basically teaching people how to put their body into the right frame for rest, recovery, sleep.

And we do one-on-one health coaching starting before the retreat. We have cooking classes before every meal. We have great food and nutrition. And the environment is really optimized for circadian rhythms, we change lighting at night to red-orange lighting. We teach you how to set up your home with good - as a good circadian rhythm environment, sleep promoting environment. You know, we teach you what things to do when and what things not to do at different times of the day. You know, so it's a really complete education and it's a lot of fun. And, you know so it's like a luxury vacation, you know there's free time to enjoy the beach and the pools and the hot tubs but, you know, you're also getting - and, you know and there's great food. We call our diet 'ancestral gourmet cuisine' because it's pretty optimized for taste.   

Ryan: Yeah!

Paul: And, you know, we serve wine at dinner and stuff. So, you know, you can enjoy it but it's really healthful as well. And we've also had some partnerships, we did a partnership with uBiome for gut sequencing. And, so we've done before and after gut sequencing of the recent guests and we're gonna do studies on that and see how the retreat affects their microbiomes. And, you know, so we're really doing everything we can to give people a fantastic experience and teach them everything they need to know to be healthy for the rest of their lives.

Ryan: That sounds awesome, I want to come!

Paul: Yeah, you should come!

Ryan: So, if I or our listeners wanted to attend, where would they go to get more details on that?

Paul: Well, if you go to our website there's a tab that says 'Perfect Health Retreat' and you can look under there for web pages. And if you're really interested in coming then send me an e-mail: and I'll be happy to sign you up! And, you know, and give you any information you need to decide whether you wanna come.

Ryan: Okay. And, no pressure, I know we're on the spot but maybe an optimal performers discount or something?

Paul: Alright! Let me know! [laughs]

Ryan: [laughs] I'm kidding! I know I just put you on the spot. So, you mentioned, like, informing the guests of the retreat how to set up their home. Are there any hints or tips you can give us to set up our living spaces optimally to maximize circadian rhythms and things like that?

Paul: Yeah, well probably - well of course you want a really good sleep environment so when you sleep it should be dark, it should be quiet, it should be comfortable. But the really crucial thing is arranging your schedule and lighting is really crucial so light is one of the key circadian rhythm drivers and circadian rhythms are, you know, probably the key lifestyle element to good health. And it's blue light that set daytime rhythms and disrupts nighttime rhythms. And so you really want to get lots of bright white light - during the day I mean. But then at night you don't wanna get any blue or green light, you just wanna have a red-orange - you know think of a campfire - red, orange, yellow. Those are the - those are the safe colors at night. And so we have basically orange light bulbs and we basically have 2 sets of bulbs. We have a daytime bulb which - so one of the key things, one of the key problems people have is they get these cool white bulbs, the color temperature is like 2700 K. And that's not bright enough, not enough blue to really give you a good daytime but it's way too much blue to, you know, it disrupts your night. And so that's bad both ways. So we recommend getting like 5500 K bulbs for the daytime and then get red-orange bulbs for the nighttime. And if you go to our website we have a tab called 'Recommendations' and under there there's a page called 'Circadian Rhythms' and we have some light bulbs you can get. So basically, you know, the best thing is have 2 sets of bulbs: a daytime set and a nighttime set. And just switch over.

Ryan: So, so in a practical sense, I mean, what does that look like at home? I mean, just like one set of lights for any given space or are you actually alternating - you're not taking the bulb out at you know, as the light [unclear 00:57:12]. 

Paul: No, we're just - no, what we do is in the daytime you want very bright white light. And so like all of our overhead lights at home are bright white 5500 Kelvin and, you know, we try to get enough bulbs so that there's abundant light. Then at night, you don't need bright light. So what we tend to do is have floor lamps that have maybe 3 spots and we'll put the orange bulbs in there. And then at night we turn off all the other ones and we just turn on the orange floor lamps.  And, you know so that's a dim -relatively dim orange light and that's really good for nighttime, it's really relaxing, makes it easy to go to sleep after a few hours of that. 

Ryan: Yeah, so not only are you changing the spectrum but you're changing the intensity as well?

Paul: That's right, yeah. And, you know so we make it just bright enough that you can read if you're close to it. You know, but that's really all you need.

Ryan: Awesome. So, Paul we're getting to the end. Before we ask you for your top 3 tips to live optimal, I just want to say thank you for hanging out with us. Thank you for everything that you guys are doing to push this movement forward. And, you know we already mentioned a couple of times where folks can find you guys; We'll have a link on our show notes page where our listeners will be able to go back to your website, we'll have a link to the Perfect Health Retreat. Anything else you wanna add where people can find you guys? I mean obviously the book is available on Amazon. Any other bookstores?

Paul: Yeah, it's all over. It was published by Scribner, so major in print. And um, you know and I would say if you get a chance to come to our Perfect Health Retreat, it's, you know, it's really a great deal and, you know, we've - because we're really trying to gather evidence, you know, we want to help people become healthy, we want to establish that our diet and our lifestyle advice can cure most modern diseases. You know, so we try to stay in touch with guests after they leave, we try to help them troubleshoot any problems they have and we try and help them cure their diseases and we really want to demonstrate to the scientific and medical community that the ancestral approach is really what people need to be healthy. And, you know, so the retreats, they're really modeled on what the vegetarian doctors did if you think of like the Pritikin Longevity Center and so on. They got a lot of mileage out of a few papers, you know, saying that their guests had lower rates of heart disease. And, you know, we wanna show alright our guests have lower rates of heart disease, of cancer, of autoimmune disease, of everything else and obesity and so on. And, you know, so and we're on track to do that, we think and, you know, so we're working very hard to make our guests as healthy as they can it's really, you know, the cost is very similar to what you'd spend for a week's vacation. And, you know, so you're getting a lot of extra help along with a delightful week.

Ryan: Yeah. Alright, very cool. So, we just mentioned it, now it's time to get right into 'em. Your top 3 tips for our listeners to live optimal.

Paul: Alright! I'd say number one eat a natural whole foods diet, you know, so don't eat the processed food. You know, eat things like, you know, the caveman could have hunted and gathered, you know, so should recognize plants and animals. So that's number one. I would say the circadian rhythm entrainment is really crucial, you know, when we look at life span extension, you know, any kind of circadian rhythm disruption takes 6 years off your life easily, you know. And that's things like not exercising, it's things like night sleep apnea or night shift work, you know, it's things like blue light at night, watching a lot of television at night, you know, takes 6 years off your life because the TV is pretty blue. You know so basically however you, you know or social isolation, you know not getting social interactions in the day. That's another important circadian rhythm factor. And you know, so every way you look at it it's a major health impact. And then I would say intermittent fasting is actually a very powerful intervention. And, you know, that most people don't do.

Ryan: Awesome, awesome! Those are all great. Paul, thanks a lot for hanging out with us. This was very informative. And again, just thank you so much!

Paul: Alright! Thank you!

Ryan: You've been listening to Optimal Performance Podcast. Remember you can find show notes for every episode along with video version at And also remember Optimal Performance Podcast loves your 5* ratings so head on over to iTunes, show some 5* love. See you next Thursday!


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