We met Sun Sachs, a long-time endurance athlete and software developer, CEO and Co-founder of Rewire Fitness, a mental fitness platform for athletes to avoid burnout by providing tools that improve mindset, readiness and resilience, and co-creator of thebeet.com, on a recent podcast about training your brain for performance. He is passionate about animal welfare, the environment and human health. He is a plant-based culinary chef graduate and continues to advise for The Beet.
In this week’s podcast, Sonya talked with Sun about his switch to a plant-based diet, his renewed energy, and commitment to hard work.
“Yeah, on some level that dissonance around understanding the negative impacts of animal agriculture to the environment to the animals, feeling good about the lifestyle choice, and knowing that I’m doing my part, that’s pretty meaningful. And there is something that changes, when you have more energy, and you feel healthier, you have a better chance of giving your best every day. You’re more even keel, less ups and downs. I think my cognitive function certainly seem to have improved quite a bit. And I wake up, I certainly I push myself hard in training, but I wake up every day ready to go and to be able to embrace the day is a real advantage in life.“– Sun Sachs
- Transitioning to a plant-based diet
- Energy and performance boost with the diet shift
- Setting expectations when returning to endurance sports
- Creating thebeet.com
- Becoming a trained chef
- How plant-based eating provides the needed energy stores
- Waking up refreshed after lifestyle change
- Don’t be intimidated by hard work
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- Check out thebeet.com
- Learn more about Rewire Fitness app
- Related Podcast: How to Train your Brain for Performance with Rewire App’s Sun Sachs
- Related Podcast: The Science of Plant-Based Nutrition with Dr. Michael Greger
- Related Podcast: How Not to Diet with Dr. Michael Greger
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Sonya Looney: Sun, welcome back to the show.
Sun Sachs: Yeah, super excited to nerd out on something else now. Another one of my favorite topics.
Sonya: I know, I realized afterwards there’s so many things for us to talk about. I think we just became best friends.
Sun: Big time. Nice. Yeah. Where do you want to start?
Sonya: So last time you were on the show, we talked about Rewire. We talked about some of the elements of mental performance. And we’ll link that up in the show notes for anybody that wants to check that out. But now, today, we’re gonna switch gears and we’re gonna talk about one of the other buckets the show covers, which is plant based nutrition and plant based performance. So how did you find your way into changing the way that you eat and live?
Sun: Yeah, yeah. So, you know from the other episode, there’s a little bit of story there about my journey as an athlete. Basically, retiring early, getting into tech for a good chunk of time, about eight years, I didn’t even touch a bike, look at a bike or anything, but I still had the mentality of I can eat whatever I want. And I have a big appetite and that’s fine. And over a period of time, I got to the point where I was the heaviest I’ve ever been. Unhealthy, just not feeling very well most of the time, a lot of stress, of course, in work and then bad eating habits. And I picked up this book called Finding Ultra, it must have been around 2011.
Sonya: This book that no one’s heard of. I’m totally joking.
Sun: Yes. Yeah, the second I read the intro, and I was like, okay, buckle in, you’re probably going to go plant based.
Sonya: That’s such a great book. I love that book.
Sun: Yeah, it really is, it really is a great book. You know, and that showed me that it’s possible to really have high performance athlete kind of lifestyle and be plant based. Really for me before that, understanding the ethics, understanding the environmental reasons, but didn’t really see it from an athletic standpoint. And so, of course, hit me at a good time when I was feeling super unhealthy. And I really wanted to change things. So I basically started off with, because following his rituals in the day, this is 2011, and start off with just a smoothie a day. The rest of my diet was the same, started feeling better and better. And then I was like, okay, I’m gonna do plant based lunch. And then after about seven months or so I went all in. And then, and that was in early 2012, so it’s been about 10 years now. And then after that, the rest of my family was not plant based, and so it was a progression of maybe another two and a half or so years. Eventually each one one by one decided on their own, which made things a lot easier. So there’s a lot more on the journey, but I’ll just stop there just in terms of the how it started.
Sonya: Yeah, so the book we’re referring to is Finding Ultra by a tiny podcast host no one’s heard of named Rich Roll, who is probably top 10 overall podcasts at this stage on Apple podcasts and a fantastic human, really great mentor for everybody. Podcast hosts are mentors I think. So yeah, and I read that book, gosh, it was after I changed my diet. But it was before I started my podcast and Rich’s podcast is what inspired me to start my podcast. So going back to going back to that, like how did you discover that book?
Sun: I’m just always looking and searching for new things and new ways to be better and I have a perpetual audible subscription and listen to tons and tons of books every year and I don’t remember exactly how I found it, but it’s not surprising that I found it because I’m always just…I like to hear first person accounts of transformation and that one appealed to me. They kind of spoke to me I was in the demographic so yeah, that’s kind of how it started.
Sonya: And what was it about that book specifically or what Rich said about plant base that made you decide to try that? Because there’s all these different things. I remember for me at one point, I was like, maybe I should try this paleo thing. What was it about plant base that stood out to you?
Sun: Yeah, it’s a good question. Well, I mean, I think from the perspective of it being great for the environment, being great for animal welfare and seeing that his description is sort of like I was middle aged, unhealthy guy, had a scare walking up the stairs, I changed my diet, and I suddenly had a lot of energy. And I was able to get back to my old athlete days and reaching the level of performance. When I saw that just the performance orientation and the gains, that’s what attracted me. That’s what drew me in to try it. Everyday claims different things. This is certainly more of a lifestyle. But I think it’s true, when you change something so fundamental, other things kind of follow suit, which is powerful.
Sonya: Yeah. So initially, it was you’re attracted to the idea of having more energy, and then maybe revisiting and becoming this old version of yourself where you used to be riding your bike at a super high level, and you had lost touch with that. And the book inspired you to take action, to start moving in that direction again.
Sun: Yeah, exactly. That’s right.
Sonya: And what was your decision to do it gradually, because I know some people when they change their diet, it’s like my husband, he watched Forks Over Knives. The next day, he threw out everything, including spices that had oil in it, like completely. And then for me, when I started changing my diet, it was more like you; it was more of a gradual thing. So what made you decide to do it gradually?
Sun: Yeah, it’s a pretty big lifestyle change. I knew I would feel better, but I wanted to sort of transition slowly to see how I would handle it. For a while, once I started to take on like the two meals a day, I would go to the health food store and grab a bunch of pre-made stuff, because I didn’t want to have my wife have to cook all this extra stuff. So there’s a lot of things to figure out. Initially, it feels very overwhelming. And so it was just this progression of testing, seeing how one meal a day felt, and then two meals a day. And by the time you’re at two meals a day and successfully doing it. Like why not? This is I feel awesome.
Sonya: You mentioned something that I think is really common for a lot of people is that they want to make some change in their life. And in this case, we’re talking about eating a plant based and having a plant based lifestyle and it’s really hard when your family isn’t doing the same things that you are because it is, in some cases, it can be more labor intensive, especially chopping things if you want to eat plant based. And it can also be more than that, because food is something that brings us together as human beings, and whenever you’re other at a dinner table, it can be alienating for certain people. So how did you address that in your family where you’re eating, you mentioned buying some pre made stuff, but the change, did that shock your family and did that cause any sort of issues along the way or problems?
Sun: For a while they they teased me about it because I was the one to take them to go have burgers and stuff like that. Now I’m doing the opposite. And my wife once they figured it out, she basically made a couple of sides that were vegan and then I would eat those and supplement with like some tofu or something. So we got it into workable process. And yeah, I didn’t push it on any on any one of the family members. Like my two kids came to their own conclusion separately on different timelines. And then lastly, my wife, she really liked salmon and that was the hardest thing for her to give up. And eventually she was like this, you don’t know where the where the meat is and all the different elements that maybe make something that might have been you could portray it as healthy have other risk factors with the pollution in the ocean and mercury and all that stuff. So eventually she was like I gotta give this up anyway, so she was the last one to jump in, but it took maybe two and a half years or so.
Sonya: Yeah, as an anecdote, salmon was a hard one for me to give up. It was one of the last things that I gave up. And something that did it for me is actually the opposite of what one might think is I decided, let’s go salmon fishing. I’ve never done this before. I lived on the ocean. So I went salmon fishing and the experience of catching a salmon and then seeing all the blood whenever it’s killed. And then I watched the fisherman or like the boat driver, whatever you call them, sailor? I don’t know. The fisherman, he killed it. He’s the one that killed it. And then he was the one pulling out the bones and doing all the things and I was watching the whole experience. And then he just gave me a medium sized garbage bag. And it was just all this meat in this medium sized garbage bag. And I’d picked up the bag and I remember walking away with this like, bag of meat. And then we cooked some of it that night. And I really did not enjoy it. Because I had that it’s the whole experience that there’s a lot of cognitive dissonance around the food that we eat and how we get the meat on our plate. And then after that I just never wanted salmon ever again. I was like this is I just can’t do this anymore. So it was really interesting.
Sun: Yeah, yeah, there’s some interesting things about our biology. I have animals that are carnivores, carnivores and omnivores here, dogs and cats. And when a dog sees a bloody animal, they start to salivate. When a human sees a bloody animal, they do not salivate. They’re repulsed. They’re repulsed. Right? You know? Yes, sure, you could condition yourself if you’re a hunter and all that stuff. But the default reaction is repulsion. And that’s one of the reasons of course, they keep all that stuff separate. And they package everything up in nice, neat and tidy, to go containers where it’s abstracted from what’s happened, because it’s not palatable to the average person.
Sonya: Yeah. Such a good point.
Sun: Yeah, yeah, there’s a lot of stuff if you look at our biology and how it’s designed, it certainly doesn’t match an omnivore even or a carnivore, of course. It’s much closer related to plant based eater animal. And could we, of course, we can physically eat meat, a vegetarian animal could also eat meat. And you might in a survival situation, great that you do what you have to do, but I don’t think that that’s our default state.
Sonya: So what did you notice about yourself over the course of this transformation? You wanted to change your diet, because you saw there’s energy and performance to be gained and then you started noticing with the smoothie a day that you’re feeling even better? So what did that trajectory look like for you over say the next couple of years?
Sun: Yeah, so I started getting more and more energy. I started doing sport again. I got into triathlon. In my first year I did like a half Ironman and some Olympics and some adventure triathlons and just started getting really fit. I lost probably like 20 pounds. And I noticed, in reflection, I noticed how uneven my prior diet was. So like this combination of eating a lot of meat and then eating a lot of fruit concentrated orange juice and sugary fruits. It’s almost like this spike, this just roller coaster of physical spikes where I would feel okay, then I’d feel really crappy and it’s almost like you’re in this vicious cycle of constantly having to re stimulate yourself. And I noticed when I started the plant based diet and and went all in on it, I didn’t have the same kind of hunger pangs. I was much more even with the way I felt and that naturally led to other things that just helped my well being. If I’m not having a food coma and then and then have to boost myself with sugar, caffeine, that that allows me to sleep better, to feel better to have more energy, recovery improved from training. Less inflammatory foods, and yeah, just continue to feel fantastic 10 years in.
Sonya: I wanted to also ask you about your expectations when you started doing triathlon again, because I’m sure that it was really challenging to line up for that first triathlon, when you have competed at a very high level. And I think that there are people listening to can really relate with this. Maybe they were athletic growing up, and it’s sort of fallen to the wayside in the last year, or maybe it’s been a really long time since they’ve done that. And I think that a lot of people compare themselves to the best previous version of themselves. And that makes them not even want to start because they know they’re not going to be, in that moment, as good as they used to be. So, how did you decide to line up? And what were your expectations moving forward given your background?
Sun: Yeah, that’s such a really good question. Of course, I still had high expectations. And I thought, well, on the bike, I’m gonna kick butt. It’s a complicated sport with three disciplines, and swimming and running we’re both not natural to me. Obviously, bike riding still was and I still felt pretty strong, but I had to just become a student again, and really go to the craft of biomechanics and learning the skills that I could start to have more efficiency and feel better doing it. So the original founder of total immersion was actually based here where I live, and I ended up doing one on one coaching and training and learned how to feel comfortable in the water. I went to some running camps. I did a bunch of stuff to try to really learn the proper way to do those other two disciplines. And that was a really cool journey. I guess to answer your question, I still had an expectation to try to perform at my best at an age group level, but I also understood where I was at. So the expectation wasn’t that high, but it was, I’m always sort of striving. It’s part of my personality and can’t really help that.
Sonya: But yeah, that sounds like having an openness to learn, to meet yourself where you’re at, but also to do the work to get to where you want to go and holding those simultaneously was something that was on your mind whenever you’re going through this process.
Sun: Definitely, and also, within triathlon, there’s so many different formats. So you kind of you kind of learn what formats are best for you, maybe like the sprint, it’s a short hour or so race or you like the Olympic and it’s a few hours or half and it’s maybe four and a half, five hours or Ironman. All of that sort of fit into your lifestyle so that there’s a lot of wiggle room in terms of finding exploring that and ended up liking of course, gravitating towards the off road and adventure one. Yes, so I gravitated towards the adventure kind of triathlons like there’s this one, it’s historical. It’s been around for almost 40 years now. It’s called SOS. And it’s basically an almost a reverse triathlon, you start off doing a time trial on the bike. And then you do a series of mountain runs and swims across lakes, but you have to carry all your gear like your shoes. And then you finish at the top of mountain. So you end up many cross three lakes, running about 20 miles off road and cycling about 30 miles. But because you’re swimming in a fatigue state, it introduces all kinds of interesting variables and you have to carry your shoes with you. So cramping in the water, dealing with the hydrodynamics, which are a little bit different when you have shoes on or you’re carrying them in your shorts or whatever. That’s it, you’re out in the wild, it’s really cool. That’s the kind of stuff like and when things get a little bit more unpredictable, becomes a lot more fun for me. A little bit less structured is what I gravitated towards.
Sonya: The adventure aspect of sport is makes it it makes it fun. It’s almost like there’s an added element of play to it. Like when you’re a kid you just want to have this adventure. It takes away from this grind of I just have to put out this wattage or I have to run this milesplit.
Sun: Yeah, exactly, exactly. Yeah, and I can triathlon can feel that way. I love triathlon, but it can feel very regimented. You know, the entire race can feel like that, because it is such a high performance rate, and you’re out there for a long time. And, in order to get a certain performance, you’re looking at the clock a lot, looking at the power meter. So yeah, it’s nice to have some, a little more play, where possible.
Sonya: So something that you said earlier is that I’m striving to be my best and based on what I know about you is that you don’t tend to do things small. You like to go big. So let’s talk about how you co-created thebeet.com.
Sun: Sure, yeah. This was actually before founded Rewire. Basically, I was already plant based and these investor folks I knew we’re seeing the trend in the plant based movement becoming more mainstream, whether it be like all the celebrities, or the science coming out, a lot of the food and the products being much more accessible. And so they asked me for some guidance, and helped build the media brand and platform and continue to advise the team. We basically built out this media brand, which the idea is just add plants. So this meet people where they are, really be a positive force for change, provide, one on one guides and insights. Show first person accounts, certainly talk about industry news. We do a lot of recipes and we do a lot of collaborations with famous plant based chefs, which is also really fun.
Sonya: Do you get to have them cook for you?
Sun: I wish. They will share recipes that will you know, will publish and every so often there’s events and things like that. But yeah, it’s pretty cool. And then we formed a partnership and then eventually merged with Forks Over Knives. So that’s one kind of parent company – Forks Over Knives and The Beet.
Sonya: Yeah, yeah, TheBeet, I’m looking at it right now. And the way that it’s outlined, like how it’s systematized in a way to purvey information to people, it makes it really simple, because there’s a lot of information that people might want and come at from different perspectives. And the way that it’s outlined makes it easy, because there’s meal plans, there’s everything you want to know about lifestyle, there’s an environment tab, restaurants, health. The layout, my website is much more simple than The Beet. But it’s really difficult to convey when you have a lot of information in a simple way where people are able to just click on what they want, and come to it easily without having to go through a bunch of different pages to get there.
Sun: That’s right, yeah, most people come in from search. So they’re looking for a specific topic. It could be some something random, like they’re trying to find out how to make wheatgrass juice or something, or how to make a plant based cheese. But then, once they come in, they can see all the other related topics and all the other related content and recipes. And that’s sort of how the magic happens.
Sonya: How does the merging with Forks Over Knives come about?
Sun: It was just a very, very complimentary opportunity. On The Beet side, The Beet is really a sort of consumer facing entry point for plant based eating. And then on the other side, Forks is really like an authority on health and wellness around plant based eating. So it’s continued on this journey from meeting people where they’re at and understanding maybe you just want to have a smoothie a day, and eventually, you want to explore something healthier and eventually you want to really have an extremely healthy diet. Well, we have solutions on that whole spectrum. So this is kind of a natural, natural fit.
Sonya: Yeah, Forks Over Knives, the documentary is what inspired me to change my diet. Gosh, was it 2013 I think it was?
Sun: It’s good. Yeah, it’s good. And there’s been a lot of great documentary since but that was definitely one of the best ones that sort of set a lot of awareness out there in terms of plant based eating and the health benefits.
Sonya: You mentioned celebrity chefs and I just wanted to give a shout out to Daniel Humm, who is the chef of Eleven Madison Park in New York, which just got his third Michelin star and Daniel changed his diet to 100% plant based restaurant, like this is a super fine dining establishment in New York. I’m sure you know it, but I’m sure people listening maybe haven’t heard of it. And that was a really big deal to win a Michelin star as a plant based restaurant. And I’m sure he received a lot of backlash against making that change. And fun story, I met Daniel Humm at BC bike race in 2012. Because he loves mountain biking and he loves running and I saw him again at Transylvania mountain bike epic another year, because he really likes endurance sports. And his background is actually he was an incredibly high level I think it was in Swiss Junior cyclist or something. But yeah, so he’s also like a really cool person and I was so stoked to see that. But you’re a plant based culinary chef graduate. So can you tell us about that?
Sun: Yeah, always seeking mastery. So Matthew Kenney, who’s another well known celebrity chef, he started in New York, trained in French culinary. And then very early like 2000 took all those techniques and started creating raw plant based cuisine. So I had been to one of his restaurants, I think it was Pure Food and Wine, I believe, in New York. And so was aware of him and been incredibly impressed by the recipes. And then I saw that he had a culinary course. And I always kind of had this little bit of a passion for cooking. And I also felt like I needed the skills to really to feed myself. So the combination of practical and also just passionate about it, so yeah, I did the the culinary course. It was a raw based course, 100 hours of education, and we learn some really crazy things like one my favorite dishes is red beet ravioli. So you make ravioli out of thinly sliced beets. And then you make a cheese and a pesto to go with it. And it’s phenomenal. And I learned how to make kimchi and taking young coconuts from scratch and making pastry dough out of them, all raw again, if you can imagine, using a hydrator and making dumplings and all kinds of cool stuff. So it was a really fun journey. I remember spending like five weeks on knife skills. His program is they’re really, really trying to develop classical skills, but then with all these insights into how to make plant based cuisine, and how to make it gourmet, and how to how to make it healthy. So it’s very cool. And then the interesting thing is then I took another course that was also part of that umbrella, Brendan Brazier’s sports nutrition course, based on his book Thrive. He’s a former Ultra triathlete. And then they invited me to teach so then I got to for a little bit of time, my schedule was super tight, so I only did it for maybe like six months, but I was able to really teach plant based nutrition for athletes, which was super fun.
Sonya: Wow, I didn’t know that.
Sun: Yeah, yeah, it was cool.
Sonya: After Finding Ultra, Thrive was one of the other books that I had in the early days as well. I’d love to hear some of the things that you learned from the sports nutrition certification because that’s a big question that’s still on people’s mind whenever they want to change the plant base is there’s a lot of fiber, especially if you’re eating a whole foods, plant based diet and people are concerned about how that’s going to impact energy demands, or just even being able to perform if you eat a lot of fiber. So can you talk about that to start?
Sun: Yeah, I mean and the ironic thing is like, everybody worries about the protein question. But it’s very rare that somebody has protein deficiency. See, but most people on a Western American diet have a fiber deficiency. So fiber is really important for gut health, and your immune system and has all kinds of micronutrients. And oftentimes, we don’t eat enough. And I understand this sort of like, don’t eat broccoli before a race, because it’s going to take too long to process. Well, meat is even worse. What it’s going to do is there’s gonna be a lot of blood in your gut for whatever it is 12 hours trying to process all the food, it’s going to create an inflammatory response in most cases, which is not going to help you with performance. Where as fiber, yeah, I mean, when I’m competing, I typically don’t eat like my, what I usually have for lunch is like a big dark green leafy salad, which is one of the best things I’ve ever done for my health. I may not do that, but I’ll certainly do something like sweet potatoes and rice, like a couple of really nice, complex carbs. Put those together, I feel amazing couple hours in. These days, people are really understanding, especially with endurance sports, like carb up, 120 grams an hour, and you’re gonna compete at your best. So anyway, a little bit of a tangent, but I wouldn’t worry about fiber fibers really good for you. Our guts design, why is our intestine so long, it’s similar to, we don’t have two stomachs and cow, but it’s similar in that it has to, it’s designed to process that type of food, wire our teeth flat, they’re designed to process plants. So they’re not they’re not spiky and pointy, not going to be able to tear into a raw piece of meat, but you can certainly tear into a raw piece of broccoli. I just wouldn’t worry about it. And if anything, it’s going to have more health benefits than than anything harmful.
Sonya: That’s so funny, I completely forgot about the protein comment. I actually made a t-shirt several years ago, and it said, where do you get your protein? And I had a huge red X through the protein. And then underneath it, I wrote fiber. So I was that nerd walking around like yeah, fiber.
Sun: Yeah, I mean, there’s so many products out there that give you you know, you can have a fiber drink and all that stuff, but just have some dark leafy greens, you know, some kale, some spinach, your you’ll be all good. So, yeah, that was one one aspect. Fueling strategies, being the nerd that I am, I learned about the 4:1 carb to protein ratio, post workout what your body’s trying to do. And on some level, for any athlete, it’s trying to replace, it’s your glucose stores. So basically, you actually have fuel in your muscles, and you’re going to deplete them. Even if you’re doing this strength workout today, well, my heart rate was in the endurance zone most of the time, so I’m burning glycogen stores and my muscles. And so you come out of that, you don’t want to just have a whole bunch of protein, which is sort of the wives tale or the classic, because your body, its first goal is to replenish those stores in case you’re going to go and do another workout. It doesn’t know when your next workout is. So its priority is let’s replenish what you used. So if you have a four to one carb ratio, what it’s going to do is help your body immediately refill those stores. And then the protein, of course, you’ve done some damage to your muscles and needs to rebuild. But that balance helps you refill the stores, and then build for the next time and if you do that from day to day, you’d be surprised how much higher your energy levels are. So what I did is I built this chart, I downloaded from the USDA database, and I basically put in all of the different ingredients and all the different weights and grams and cups and converted everything and then basically you could just plug in what you’re making it would tell you what portion you needed, and if you were in the four to one ratio. That was pretty fun.
Sonya: People listening would love to get their hands on that.
Sun: It’s probably a little bit out of date. But yeah, happy to share it at least just for kicks, you want to see what that’s like. Ultimately, there are a lot of things I learned from that course and from further study. But ultimately start to understand that the macro is more important than micro, like for a while I was measuring every single thing and trying to keep it balanced and thinking like, well, if I add more protein or add more carbs, my body’s going to do XYZ. Well, your body has its own agenda. And it’s in some ways a lot more intelligent than you’re thinking of it. And if you’re making sure you’re checking all the boxes for good health, at a high level, body kind of takes care of itself. The smartest thing I’ve ever heard a wellness doctor say is that your default state for your body is health. That’s your default, like your body is always trying to return to health. So if you’re not healthy, you got to look at your lifestyle factors and see what are the things that you’re doing, that are actually holding you back from getting back to that default state. So it’s less about the minutia and more about the macro, in my opinion.
Sonya: Yeah, kind of reminds me of something that Dr. Greger has said multiple times. And for those listening, he’s been on the podcast a couple of times, if you want to check it out. But he said that unhealthy habits, specifically, in his case, he’s talking about eating animal products, it’s like taking a hammer, and hitting yourself in the knee. Each time you each time you eat it, you’re just whacking yourself in the knee, whacking yourself in the knee. And you’re never gonna get back to that healthy state. Because every single time you do that you just keep whacking yourself and you don’t let your body heal itself.
Sun: I mean, think about like, what other thing do we do three to five or six times per day. It is so impactful when you make a full lifestyle change with your diet. In reverse, this is how disease can incubate over decades, and you’re not going to notice the little changes. But after 20-30 years of eating a bad diet, this is where you can have cancer, you can have all kinds of illnesses. And you’re just literally, contributing to bad health day after day. And that adds up. Humans are very clever animals, but we’re not very good at is looking at the long term effects of something, as evidenced by many, many things in the world today. Just think about there’s a massive percentage of people that are lactose intolerant. Well, if you’re having milk every day despite that, or cheese, you’re basically introducing what your body considers to be toxic, or at the very least damaging, and it’s creating an inflammatory response. If you’re having an inflammatory response every day, that’s analogous to disease, like that’s the environment in which disease evolves. So just that one thing, paying attention that one thing, can make a big difference in your health.
Sonya: So challenging as humans, because pain is often the greatest motivator. But a lot of times with lifestyle habits that have been not contributing to health span, over 20-30 years, as you said, sometimes death is the first option. That’s the first thing that happens before people can even make a change, or people will make a change…my mother in law changed her diet at 70, which was amazing that she was able to do that, because a lot of people think it’s too late for me, like why even bother at this point? There’s a lot of things that can change in your life, no matter what age you are, no matter how far you move the needle. Like you said, you changed with one smoothie a day. And that moves the needle for you. So it’s what is going to move the needle for you and what type of compounding effect is that going to have in your life? And also, what type of compounding effect is it going to have if you’re continually choosing to do things that you know are not health promoting?
Sun: Yeah, that’s right. And the good thing is these days, it’s the easiest it’s ever been to either be partially plant based or fully plant based. Like there’s just so many great foods out there. There’s so many recipes, there’s so much support. And even if you just start, like you said with a smoothie, you start to feel great, that is the best motivator. You know, it’s not a hardship, like you’re actually eating probably more variety of foods and experiencing more interesting things than before. So it’s not like deprivation. Though it may seem like it at first, what do I eat, I totally understand that because I went through the same thing.
Sonya: Coming back to Rich Roll who we talked about at the beginning, I got to speak at this plant based conference in Vancouver, recently and Rich also was speaking at that conference. So I finally got to meet him and was a super fan and completely got nervous. And my lip was quivering just because I was so nervous. But he told this great story. And he was just talking, and then somebody asked him, it was something to do with recovery and how a lot of people go out to the bars on the weekend, and they get drunk, and then they sleep in the next day. And people don’t exercise. They don’t eat healthy. And he said that his lifestyle probably looks like torture to a lot of people. And my husband and I laugh at that regularly. Because it’s like, yeah, we would go to bed early. We exercise. We eat plant base, we talk about personal growth and our feelings. Like for a lot of people that’s a nightmare. So he was talking about how to some people that does look like torture.
Sun: That’s hilarious. Yeah. But I mean, everybody knows you’re supposed to eat your vegetables. Let’s put it that way. And there and now you can eat your vegetables and enjoy it. I remember this recipe that I was following was a crazy recipe at the time was like, the kitchen sink, a handful of almonds, beets, blueberries, say all this stuff. But man, when I had that smoothie, I was set for half the day and I felt really good. Now I’ve refined my smoothie recipe over the years, and I have what I call the immunity smoothie.
Sonya: So what is it?
Sun: Okay, so it’s one and a half to two cups of blueberries, which are the highest food source of antioxidants. Then, we have a half a 1/2 teaspoon of matcha, which is the highest herbal source of antioxidants. Then we have a teaspoon of tumeric, which is anti inflammatory, anti-disease. We have ginger, same thing. I throw in a banana. I throw in coconut water. And I’m good to go.
Sonya: All right, that’s gonna be my next smoothie.
Sun: Yeah, it’s also four to one and a great recovery smoothie, too. So that’s usually after my workout.
Sonya: So we’ve been talking, the underlying like threads with this entire conversation has been nutrition as a pathway for positive change. So what other positive changes started emerging once you set your ship in the direction of I’m going to eat plant based, I’m gonna have better energy, I’m going to get back to myself being an athlete. What other things have emerged from that?
Sun: Yeah, on some level that dissonance around understanding the negative impacts of animal agriculture to the environment to the animals, feeling good about the lifestyle choice, and knowing that I’m doing my part, that’s pretty meaningful. And there is something that changes, when you have more energy, and you feel healthier, you have a better chance of giving your best every day. You’re more even keel, less ups and downs. I think my cognitive function certainly seem to have improved quite a bit. And I wake up, I certainly I push myself hard in training, but I wake up every day ready to go and to be able to embrace the day is a real advantage in life. A lot of the sports injuries that I’ve had have gone away. That’s in part to diet and also in part to learning different rehab techniques and things like that. But what would you do if you could have the energy of a of your 20 year old self but with the with the insight and knowledge of your adult self? That’s a pretty powerful thing. So yeah, I mean, I subscribe to Peter Attia’s longevity strategy where you try to be in an elite level in your fitness, ten years your junior. And I actually strive to be at a healthy level of a 20 year old. So what you want to do is basically just combat the natural aging process. And living a healthy lifestyle makes a huge difference towards that.
Sonya: Insidetracker is a sponsor of the show. And they basically are a technology company where they take your blood work, and they have an algorithm looks at all these biomarkers like 35-plus biomarkers, and one of the things that they do is show you your inner age. And that’s based on some of these biomarkers. So it’s always kind of fun to see that, how your nutrition and lifestyle impact your inner age based on some of these biomarkers that are, through the research that they’ve done, contribute to longevity.
Sun: Yeah, that’s right. You shouldn’t worry about your chronological age; it’s your biological age that matters. And there’s so many factors that go into that. Yeah, I actually was trying to get my biological age tested with a telomere company, which, is basically your telomeres are the tips of shoe laces, like the little hard plastic covering over your DNA strands. And so obviously, I know you know this, but when you’re telling me when your telomeres start to shrink, it’s very correlated to the aging process. And so there are lifestyle factors, like Greger is a great person to speak to that, that can positively impact your telomeres. But you can you basically use it as a proxy to understand your true biological age, which is pretty cool. But I haven’t been able to get the test yet. It’s not legal in New York, for some reason.
Sonya: I was actually gonna make some joke about telling me how long your telomeres are. But I just did it… there it is.
Sun: Hopefully, pretty long. I don’t know. I feel great. My race this weekend, I came in fourth. The other people in front of me were 30-32. So I felt good about that.
Sonya: So I’m gonna shift gears for the last couple of minutes here. Because something that’s been apparent to me, as we’ve been talking is that, number one, you’re not afraid of hard work. Maybe you actually enjoy hard work, because all of the things that you’ve done, it’s not only that you’re doing them at a high level, but they’ve required a lot of dedication, a lot of consistency and a lot of time. And that you also said that one of your guideposts is mastery. So what do you have to say to people who are afraid of hard work, because there are a lot of people out there that are intimidated by hard work? And they’ll say, well, I don’t want to do such and such because that sounds like a lot of work. And they use that as an excuse not to start.
Sun: Yeah, totally. I mean, though I have a strong work ethic, I’m also a recovering perfectionist. So it’s easy for me to say like, well, if I can’t do it all the way, maybe I shouldn’t do it. If I can’t do my three hour workout, maybe I shouldn’t do any workout, but was just totally binary. But the reality is, don’t underestimate this, again, this is where humans are just not that intelligent, don’t underestimate the positive impacts of small incremental gains or wins. Fine, the three hour workout doesn’t appeal to most people. But if you just did a five minute walk every day, you’re actually going to feel better, maybe not the first day, but second day or third day, you’re gonna start to feel better, you’re gonna feel healthier. If you could just do five minutes of mindfulness, if you could, okay, forget the plant based meal, if you could just once a week, try to have a plant based meal, like you can totally start somewhere and the snowball starts to roll and you start to feel better and that momentum can carry you. So it doesn’t have to feel like work. It shouldn’t be, in my opinion, this do or don’t do, just try something. The human body is so dynamic and and so intelligent that you could, like these days, I don’t have that much time to do a lot of training. So I’ll break up my workouts, I did a couple today at different times. So what? One’s 20 minutes, one is 30 minutes. But it’s so much better than just saying like, no, it’s not, I can’t have the perfect situation and the perfect workouts are not going to work out at all. That’s way worse. You know, you just start somewhere with something. Break it into tiny, little, little, little pieces, you know?
Sonya: Do you have time for one more question?
Sun: Yeah, absolutely.
Sonya: I heard you say once that you were, like meditating three to four hours a day. So how did you get into meditation? And how did it become something that you were doing that like that much in one day?
Sun: So always kind of seeking answers and seeking mastery. And I read this book, Autobiography of a Yogi, which is a pretty incredible metaphysical book. Paramahansa Yogananda – he’s the man. So he came in to the United States in the 20s. And one of the first people to introduce yoga to the Western world. And I read that book, and I was so captivated by it, I basically joined the organization. And that was, for the first two years, that’s the practice. You have to put in a lot of time in order to learn the master secrets, and you’re not allowed to share those, you have to sign a lifelong oath. And I learned a lot in the process, like an incredible amount. And I wanted to learn, and I wanted to understand how to feel healthier mentally, and have less stress, being able to reflect, and see yourself within yourself and recognize those patterns and have a practice that promotes wellness. And I got out of that, all those things. But at the same time, I was kind of stressed out by having to put so much time in. And one of the monks, he said that you should find your own relationship with it. And so I found a way, eventually, to just spend a lot less time. Like, for me, it’s about 10 minutes a day. And that works for me, it doesn’t add stress, it’s meaningful. It’s all that I need. And that’s to the point of like, you don’t have to boil the ocean, you don’t have to be as hardcore, you can find something even if it’s just a small simple practice. That is so much better than not doing anything.
Sonya: And now you are co-founder of Rewire and the CEO. For those who didn’t catch our last episode, can you give us a little rundown of that?
Sun: Yeah, so it’s a mental fitness app for athletes. When we speak to athletes, at every level, we’re like, what percentage of performance is mental? And they’ll typically say somewhere between 50 and 95%. Which we agree, but then we’ll ask them how much time are you spending on your mind, given how important it is. And there’s often an awkward silence. And so we’re really trying to answer that for them. What we have created, but we continue to evolve it, basically a structured way to train and recover your mind just like you would your body. And again, it’s built into the athlete lifestyle. They could spend two minutes a day and feel phenomenally better, and get more mentally resilient. And go through different exercises for sleep and for performance. I used it in my race this weekend. It was really helpful. And yeah, that’s what we’re about, just helping athletes reach their potential.
Sonya: Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. And you’re a polymath. You’ve done so many things. Where can people find you? And also where can people find rewire?
Sun: Yep, so rewirefitness.app is the website and you can find us on social via links on that website. But mostly if you just search for Rewire Fitness, you’re gonna find it everywhere. And my first and last name Sun Sachs. I’m really only on Instagram, but you could try to other places. And yeah, we are always happy to chat with athletes or folks that and or folks that are on their plant based journey in any way we can.