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Dr. Duncan French

In this podcast episode, Dr. Andrew Huberman interviews Dr. Duncan French, the Vice President of Performance at the UFC Performance Institute. Dr. French has over 20 years of experience in working with elite athletes, and has conducted various studies in the area of endurance and resistance training. He has been able to determine protocols to maximize the benefits of such training, and shares his insights on the direction of sport and exercise in the world today and their applications for health and performance.

Duncan’s Background in Exercise Science

Dr. Duncan is a Stanford professor who has experience in human and athletic performance in the collegiate level and in the UFC Performance Institute. He has a PhD in Exercise Physiology which he obtained by reaching out to professors and taking a chance. He is originally from the northeast of England and worked as a high school physical education teacher. He did his PhD at Ball State University and then transferred to Yale in Connecticut. He did a lot of research on neuroendocrinology hormones and weight training and has a lot of papers with his name on them. He is passionate about helping athletes and being authentic and delivering his expertise.

How Certain Exercises Increase Testosterone

Weight training can have effects on hormone production in both males and females. In men, it is likely a combination of testosterone release from both the testes and the adrenals. In females, testosterone is only released from the adrenals. Testosterone has effects on many tissues in the body, such as muscle, ligament, tendon, and even bone. It is a powerful hormone with many potential impacts on adaptation. Further research is necessary to understand the interactions between androgens and hormones.

What Kind of Training Increases Testosterone & Growth Hormone?

There are some general principles of training that favor testosterone production. These parameters involve intensity and volume factors, such as six sets of 10 repetitions at 80% of one repetition maximum. It is important to adjust the load to make sure 10 repetitions are sustained. Growth hormone, on the other hand, is largely driven by an intensity factor. It is important to note that most of the information available on the internet is incorrect. Therefore, it is best to trust one's instinct when deciding on a workout plan to boost testosterone.

Intensity: Mechanical Load; Volume: Metabolic Load; Inter-set Rest Periods

In order to increase muscle growth, it is important to focus on creating a metabolic stress through volume and intensity. High intensity and short duration is the most effective approach for this. Doing 10 sets of 10 repetitions may be counterproductive due to low intensity. It is important to keep rest periods short, around two minutes, in order to maintain the metabolic stress and derive benefits from the workout. Longer rest periods will reduce the metabolic environment, reducing the benefits of the workout. Motivation and ego should be set aside in order to maximize muscle growth.

Training Frequency & Combining Workout Goals

The discussion centers around the concept of hypertrophy, or muscle growth, and the debate as to what actually triggers it. It is thought that lactate buildup can play a part but this is still controversial. It is recommended that a protocol involving high intensity and high volume of workload should be used for bodybuilders specifically, who are chasing muscle growth. For other athletes, a more diverse approach should be taken that involves different facets of muscle endurance, maximum muscle power, and muscle strength. For weekend warriors, it is recommended to do a challenging workout twice a week and flex the other types of workouts within the week, reducing the intensity but increasing the volume.

How Stress Can Increase or Decrease Testosterone

The takeaway from research into the link between epinephrine and norepinephrine releases and performance is that a certain degree of arousal before an event can be beneficial. This was tested in the context of physical exertion, and it was found that the higher the arousal level, the better the performance. Stress can also lead to an increase in testosterone, though it is usually seen as a suppressing factor. There is still a lot of research to be done on the effects of stress on performance, and it is important to keep in mind that too much stress can be detrimental. The UFC Performance Institute has been exploring this topic, as well as the effects of repeated exposure to stressful events. Ultimately, understanding the impact of stress on performance can have a huge impact on athletes.

Using Cold Exposure for Mindset, Anti-Inflammation, Muscle-Growth

The use of cold for recovery is still being studied, but it is known that it causes a physiological stress response. Cold exposure, such as ice baths or cold showers, can clamp down the vascular system, which can have an influence on performance variables like strength and power. It is important to be strategic when using cold as a recovery modality, as it can prevent the beneficial effects of training like muscle growth. It is important to educate yourself on when to use cold and when not to, as it can help athletes optimize their training and improve their technical and tactical capabilities. Quality of exercise and execution of skill should be maintained when preparing for a competition, so it is beneficial to use the "kitchen sink" of recovery interventions.

Skill Development

Skill learning and motor skill acquisition require accurate, fatigue-free movement repetition in order to create movement patterns. The best athletes are conscious and cognitively aware of their training sessions and understand that quality is more important than quantity for skill development. It is recommended to have shorter, high quality sessions instead of long and less effective ones. Dr. Gabriela Wolf fear, UNL V is a leading proponent in this area and offers insight into the optimal protocols for skill learning. The paradox is that it is difficult to get the necessary volume of repetition while keeping the quality high, but with conscious and cognitive awareness, the best athletes can achieve this.

Why Hard Exercise Creates Brain Fog: Role of Nutrition

Training and skill learning can be mentally fatiguing. It is possible that the fatigue is caused by depletion of adrenaline and dopamine. An intense or long workout can make it difficult to focus on mental work afterwards. Proper nutrition and fueling of the brain is important to help prevent this fatigue, as athletes and the general public alike need to be able to focus on tasks. Nutrition is a major factor in this and can be learned from athletes.

Low-Carbohydrate Versus All-Macronutrient Diets on Performance

The debate surrounding the effects of low carbohydrate diets on the typical person who exercises is a complex one. Dieticians do not have a clear answer to what is recommended for athletes or for typical people. It is suggested that metabolic efficiency is key and that high performance athletes in high intensity sports usually require carbohydrate fueling to produce energy. There are fighters in the UFC who promote the ketogenic approach, however its effects are not always proven. It is interesting to note that ketones can be ingested even if carbohydrates are consumed, and that this is being practiced by athletes and recreational athletes alike. Ultimately, it appears that there is a large degree of freedom when it comes to nutrition and that the effects of low carbohydrate diets should be considered on an individual basis.

Ketones & Brain Energy, Offsetting Brain Injury; Spiking Glucose During Ketosis

Ketones can have potential benefits for brain health after a head injury, as they may be able to offset some of the micro damage. Ketogenic diets may also lead to better metabolic management and metabolic efficiency for those with lower intensity workouts. The UFC Performance Center is taking a tactical approach to using ketones by having athletes on a largely ketogenic diet and then fueling carbohydrates around training sessions. They are aiming to maximize the intensity of the training and then return to a metabolically efficient diet which is reduced in carbohydrates. Ultimately, there is no "best" diet and the approach should be tailored to individual needs.

Metabolic Efficiency, Matching Nutrition to Training, “Needs Based Eating”

Metabolic efficiency is a concept in which the body is taught to use fats for lower intensity exercise, carbohydrates for high intensity exercise, and ketones for appropriate times. Bob Babbitt, formerly of USA Triathlon, popularized the concept. Needs-based eating is important in order to understand what type of fuel source the body needs in order to sustain a particular level of exercise. Through diet manipulation and exercise manipulation, the body can be trained to preferentially use specific fuel sources. It is important to be conscious and cognizant of the current exercise status, and to adjust the diet in order to support it. Individuals should experiment to determine what works best for them and pay attention to the changes they are making and how they are affecting themselves.

Duncan’s Work with Olympic Athletes, NCAA, UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship)

After completing his PhD thesis, the speaker went on to work in the British Olympic system for 14 years as a strength and conditioning coach. During this time, he was also working in universities and academia, and publishing various articles. After leaving the Olympic system, he went on to work for the University of Notre Dame, the English Premier League, and British TaeKwonDo. The UFC then recruited him out of Notre Dame. He values having a beginner's mindset, and is still learning new things every day from athletes and coaches. He was introduced to MMA a few years ago, and finds it interesting due to its incorporation of multiple types of movement.

Why UFC & MMA (Mixed-Martial Arts) Are So Valuable for Advancing Performance

MMA fighters have an impressive array of tactical skills they need to learn and perfect, and the degrees of freedom in the sport are exponential compared to other sports. The variability of the sport and considerations that need to be made are unprecedented. Additionally, MMA fighters must be prepared for both long term and short term fights, as there is no set competition schedule. The mental resilience and internal drive of MMA fighters to do what they do on a daily basis is impressive, and their ability to switch off and remain calm and polite is a skill in itself. The combination of physical, mental and psychological elements of MMA is what makes the sport so impressive and unique.

Voluntarily Switching Between Different States of Arousal

People who are obsessed with human performance and high-performance, such as fighters and elite military, experiment to find the outer limits of what's possible. They have discovered the ability to toggle between high alert states and calm states, something that most typical people cannot do. MMA fighters are particularly skilled in this, as they have to manage their energy and efforts to be successful. This practice is a bit like science, as it involves Evidence-based practice and practice-based evidence. Scientists could learn a lesson from this method, as it is a great way to maximize performance and achieve success.

Heat, Getting Better at Sweating, Heat Shock Proteins, Sauna

Heat adaptation is a form of training that can be beneficial to athletes. It involves gradually increasing exposure to heat in order to increase sweat rates and limit time spent in the sauna. Heat adaptation is a stressor, but when managed correctly can lead to beneficial responses. It can take between 8 to 10 weeks to become fully heat adapted, and this type of adaptation is applicable for recreational athletes as well. Adaptation led programming is a concept that applies to many aspects of training and performance.

Using Rotating 12-Week Training Programs; Logging Objective & Subjective Data

12 weeks is a good amount of time for someone to experiment with changes to their training regimen, diet and metabolic efficiency. Every individual will have different responses to the same workout, and it is important to be conscious of one's own body and to track progress. It is also possible to achieve results in less than 12 weeks, however this may require a more intense overload. Becoming a scientist to one's own pursuits, such as athletic pursuits, is a great way to maximize results.

Surprising & Unknown Aspects of The UFC and UFC Performance Institute

The UFC is dedicated to optimizing human performance and influencing the global community. They are progressive and cutting edge, utilizing technologies, data management, and nutrition partners to achieve this goal. They offer services to their 600 global athletes, as well as the general population, such as CBD and psychedelics, heart rate monitoring, and more. The UFC also partners with laboratories to explore new ways to improve performance. Duncan, the guest speaker on the podcast, praised the UFC for their mission and for informing the public on how to train and eat better for performance. Overall, the UFC is a leader in human performance and is committed to helping people reach their goals.

Dr. Duncan French