Interview w/ Sal Di Stefano – Episode 56: PaleOMG Uncensored Podcast

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Today on the podcast I’m chatting with the super cool Sal Di Stefano from Mind Pump. After listening to Joy & Claire from Girls Gone Wod I was super excited to chat with Sal myself and hear a little more about his own story. If you haven’t listened to Mind Pump yet, they usually share 5 episodes a week so you always have something new to listen to and they share some really cool information about people’s bodies, nutrition and exercise. And they are no bullsh*t kind of guys. I love it! I’m super excited because I’ll be heading to the Mind Pump studio soon to record an episode of their podcast! So stay tuned for that!

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Episode 56 Transcription!

Well hey there pumpkin head. Welcome to another episode of PaleOMG Uncensored. It’s Halloween weekend. It is on, guys. Kids are everywhere. It’s my living nightmare. And they’re all hopped up on Snicker bars and Butterfingers and Kitkats. Those things probably cause anal leakage. I’m just kidding; Snickers, KitKat, and Butterfinger. I’m just joking. Please don’t sue me.

But. If you don’t want to go the anal leakage route, know what I’m saying? Head over to www.PaleOMG.com because there’s none of that going on over there. No way Jose. This week I shared edible cookie dough. No eggs in there. No raw eggs, if you’re freaked out by raw eggs. I get it. I’m not. F*cking chug that sh*t down, if it’s in cookie dough. But this removes the eggs. So I’ve got a little treat on there for you. And then you know exactly what you are putting in your mouth. No sketchy ingredients, ok?

That’s enough. That’s enough from me. I have a special interview today. I am talking to the wonderful Sal from Mind Pump. The other day I was on Instagram, and I said “Sol”. And he was like, “Hey, Juli. My name’s not “Sol”, it’s “Sal” like pal.” So he put me in my place because I’m a dumbass.

So, Sal is one of the three hosts of Mind Pump, and I’m very excited because I am going to San Jose to record a podcast for Mind Pump next month. So I get to meet all three guys. But today, it’s just Sal, and we are talking about all kinds of different topics. He is just so incredibly intelligent. So well spoken. I loved chatting with him. I hope you guys enjoy this episode. And yeah, here he is. Go check out Mind Pump Media, if you haven’t checked out their podcast. And I hope you enjoy this episode. Bye-bye! Eat edible cookie dough! Bye!

This is Juli Bauer from PaleOMG and you are listening to PaleOMG Uncensored.

Juli Bauer: Hey everyone. Welcome to another episode of PaleOMG Uncensored. Thank you so much for joining me today, because today is a very special episode because I’m not talking to myself for an hour straight. Today, I have a lovely other human on the podcast. I have Sal from Mind Pump Media. Sal, what’s your last name?

Sal Di Stefano: Di Stefano. I know, most people can’t pronounce it right.

Juli Bauer: Yeah. I’m glad I didn’t even try. {laughs} Sal Di Stefano. And I’ve heard that a million times on the podcast. But I’m glad you’re saying it. So thank you so much for being on the podcast today. It’s really cool to talk to an actual human being.

Sal Di Stefano: Thanks for having me on, I really appreciate it.

Juli Bauer: Yes. Well, will you tell everyone; because I’m very new to Mind Pump. I heard about you guys through Girls Gone WOD, because I’m close friends with Joy and Clare. And so when they were on your podcast, I started listening, and I just really loved listening to your podcast. So will you kind of just talk a little bit about yourself, how you came into the fitness world. And then a little bit about your buddies with Mind Pump, and just how it all came to be.

Sal Di Stefano: Sure. So, I got into fitness at a pretty young age, at the age of 14. And I was motivated by what motivates most people, which is insecurities. I was skinny. I wanted to build more muscle, so I got into lifting weights. And I stayed in the world of fitness for my entire life and career from then on. At the age of 18, I was a personal trainer. At 19 I was managing health clubs. And then at 21 I opened my own wellness facility. That’s when I started as an entrepreneur.

But throughout that entire period, my process through fitness, the way I view it and the way I approach training people changed quite a bit. And it continues to change. My early motivates were based on my insecurities, and I had to face that later on as an adult. I think it’s what gets most people exercising. It’s a powerful motivator initially. But long term, it’s not a very effective motivator because it does get us to do things that aren’t necessarily the best for ourselves and our bodies. When I would be motivated because I felt like I needed to build muscle, I wouldn’t listen to my body when it came to food. I would feed myself too much, or eat too much protein. I would workout with too much intensity too often. And the irony of that is I didn’t even get the results I wanted because of that.

When I opened my wellness facility, my approach was a little different. More holistic. I was lucky enough to work with some incredible young ladies. I had a massage therapist that I had on staff with me, and a physical therapist that I had on staff. An acupuncturist. And their approach to health was different than mine. I came from the whole, lift weights and watch your macros side. And they came from the holistic side. And I learned quite a bit working with those ladies. And it helped me face my own motivations for exercise, and my approach towards training other people and became much more successful in terms of the results. Or at least the long-term results I could give people.

About three years ago, I got in contact with my cohost, Adam Schafer. Because I hadn’t meet my two cohosts until the podcast Mind Pump. But I had known of them, and we started conversing over the phone. We just connected over our love and disdain for the industry that we worked in. Love for fitness, because it helps people on most levels. And disdain for it because the industry is full of bad information. But the people that are getting all the attention are the ones that are telling people to do the wrong things when it comes to their nutrition and their exercise.

We started Mind Pump with the goal of bringing good information to people. And also entertaining people in a very uncensored, no-holds barred kind of way. Which I know you probably like. I’ve heard your show a few times. And it’s been pretty effective. I think we struck a nerve. We definitely pissed off a lot of people in the industry. We’ve gotten letters from supplement companies and other organizations. And the cool thing is we were never sponsored. We weren’t sponsored for the first, I don’t know, year and a half we were on air. Which gave us the freedom to say whatever we wanted.

Juli Bauer: Yeah.

Sal Di Stefano: And it seems to have struck a nerve. The show has grown, and it’s been awesome.

Juli Bauer: So how did you guys decide to start Mind Pump? The podcast.

Sal Di Stefano: So when I had my wellness facility, I was training Doug, who is now the producer of the show. And he had a lot of experience in history and fitness. He had been working out since he was a kid. He’d consider himself a hard gainer or a nonresponder. This is a term that people will use to describe themselves when they just don’t get the results that everybody else does when they workout.

So he comes to me, and I completely change his approach to training. And his body starts responding. And he tells me, “You know Sal, if you ever come up with a program or something that you think you can market, let me know and I’ll market it for you.” He had some experience in the internet marketing world. So I came up with the first program that now Mind Pump Sals, MAPS, or at least the concept for MAPS. And me and Doug had put together this whole sales video for it.

And I sent it to Adam because I knew he had social media experience, and I also trusted his opinion. I’d never met the guy, but I knew of him. So I sent it to him. He calls me. We get on the phone. And I mean, seriously, it was like 10 minutes into the conversation we were like, we need to do a podcast.

We get in Adam’s living room the next day; me, Adam, Justin, and for four hours it was nonstop just great conversation, chemistry, passion, anger, laughter, and we were like; we need to record this. We think this will be awesome. And I guess we guessed correctly; we’re doing alright for now. And we continue to grow. And it’s been fun.

Juli Bauer: And how often do you guys record? Because you come out with, what is it, 5 podcasts a week?

Sal Di Stefano: Yeah, we do a lot. That’s like our super power, is just putting out content. And really, we’ve had other podcasters come to our studio and record with us. And most of the time they’re kind of blown away by our lack of preparation. {laughs} I think the secret behind why we can put out so much content is we will literally sit down.

I mean, we all have between 15 to 20 years of experience as professionals in fitness. So talking about fitness is so natural to us, that we can just sit down. We can pull up questions, or come up with a topic on the fly. And just have a great conversation. Our podcast is very conversational. When you listen to it, you hear it. It’s not super structured. We do our thing. So we do. We record probably every single day we’ll record a podcast or two so we’ll have some in what we call the hopper, or in the bank. We also post a YouTube video every single day. So we do put out a lot of content. But we have a whole facility now dedicated to that, so it makes it a lot easier.

Juli Bauer: And so you guys spend every single day together, pretty much, recording something. Whether you’re talking about a certain subject, or you guys are just shooting the sh*t, and it becomes a podcast, right?

Sal Di Stefano: Oh yeah. I mean, I can’t tell you how many episodes we have no idea what we’re going to talk about. And we just sit down, and we’ll go. And believe it or not, those tend to turn out to be our best, most popular episodes. But yeah, this is our full-time job. We come into the studio, we have a recording studio. We have a gym that we film in. And we sit down and do our podcast. We do some video. Talk about what the next program is going to look like. We have a forum, which is our online community that we work with every single day answering questions about fitness or health or mindfulness, meditation. You name it. And yeah, that’s every single day.

Juli Bauer: And can you talk just a little bit more about MAPS and what MAPS includes? Because I’ve been to your website. And I’ve heard your podcast when you talk about Prime and Prime Pro. Can you talk a little bit about those bundles, and what MAPS really means?

Sal Di Stefano: Yeah, absolutely. Sorry about our website, we’re working on it. Super confusing when you go on there.

Juli Bauer: No, I don’t think it is.

Sal Di Stefano: {laughs} Well, it will get a lot better trust me.

Juli Bauer: Yeah. It always can, right? Always improving. {laughs}

Sal Di Stefano: So MAPS stands for muscular adaptation programing system. So as a trainer, or as trainers; me, Adam, and Justin. There’s a lot of common, what’s considered common knowledge in fitness. Ok? For example, we’ve all heard the, “You need to eat small meals throughout the day. That speeds up the metabolism and helps to burn body fat.”

Or, the best way to train the body if you want to build muscle, and get tone or amplify the metabolism, or whatever, is to do what’s called a body part split. Where you go to the gym, and you work your chest on one day, your back on another day, your shoulders on another day. And so there’s all these common knowledge tidbits of information that we’ve all accepted as truth. Although it’s getting challenged a lot more now, it wasn’t getting challenged that much 5 years ago, for example. This is just the way it was.

And because we’ve been in fitness for so long, I think when you do this for a long time you start; especially if you train a lot of people. You start to see what works and what doesn’t work. And a lot of times, it runs counter to what you thought was the truth. And when it came to exercise programming, this was the case. I would notice that these body part split routines were just not nearly as effective as training the body as a whole, and increasing the frequency that you would train body parts. So that was kind of the first realization.

The second realization was that intensity, although important, is overused with most workout programs. Too much intensity fries the body. But it’s not really the muscles that we’re worried about so much. Because muscles, they get damaged and they recover. It’s the central nervous system that really gets impacted through exercise. But the central nervous system gets impacted by everything. Sleep, stress, diet, you name it. And if we’re constantly hammering the body with intense workouts, and your lifestyle is also having times of stress, or lack of sleep, or you have kids and you’re super busy. Whatever. You’re going to overwhelm the central nervous system; and then the muscles, you can do whatever you want for the muscles, they’re not going to respond.

And I use this analogy all the time on the show, and it really resonates with people. You want to think of the central nervous system as an amplifier, and your muscles as the speakers. So if you know how stereo systems work, the amplifier puts out the power to the speakers, and the speakers make the sound. Well if you have a crappy amplifier, or a weak amplifier, you could have the biggest, baddest speakers in the world but they’re not going to put out much sound. And this is the relationship between the central nervous system and the muscles.

And MAPS aims to train the body according to the central nervous system. Because if you train your body based on how your central nervous system adapts, you’re almost always going to get great results with your muscles. But the reverse isn’t always true. If I follow the rules of muscle damage and hammer my muscles so that they get damaged and repair and rebuild, and I ignore the central nervous system, then I’m going to hit lots of plateaus. Or I may actually cause detrimental effects.

Which we see quite a bit now; especially in the hardcore training world. Where you have, whether it’s your stage presentation competitors, like your figure competitors or fitness competitors. Bikini competitors. Body builders. Or you have your athletes. Your collegiate level athletes. Or your weekend warrior CrossFit athletes, where they keep pushing the limit with the intensity. Their body stops responding; their response is to continue to increase the intensity. And then they start to get metabolic damage, or hormone issues, or downregulation of receptors that respond to stress hormone like cortisol. So then they get in this; whatever you want to call it. Adrenal fatigue, or HPA axis dysfunction. And it’s just this downward spiral.

MAPS is designed to work with the body, and work with the body’s natural systems of adaptation. And there’s different programs. One is our foundational program. Then we have one that’s designed for athletes, and one that’s designed for your stage presentation competitors, or people who are mainly focused with aesthetics. And we have correctional based MAPS programs. But they’re all designed by three trainers with lots of experience. And we put them together in a way where we know that if people follow this format, the likelihood that they’re going to continue to succeed long-term is much higher than if they follow the typical, whether it be the body part split routines or they follow the super high intensity driven other type workout routines without taking these things into account.

Juli Bauer: And do you have more men or women for your clientele? Or is it kind of balanced?

Sal Di Stefano: You know what’s funny; this is a great question. There are three guys on the podcast, right? It’s this kind of uncensored raw fitness information, but there’s also a comedy element to it. Especially the beginning of our episodes, which is about 20-30 minutes long. It’s three dudes talking. So the language can get whatever. And the programs are muscle building. MAPS; the first MAPS program is MAPS anabolic. So it sounds very male; it sounds like we would have mainly a male audience.

But the funny thing is we have a very large female audience. I’d say almost half of our audience is female. And maybe a slight majority of our program purchasers, or people who enroll in our MAPS program are women. And it’s fascinating because when I first started in the big box gyms; I started managing these big 24-hour fitness type locations, gyms looked very different than they do today. Gyms then were still trying to figure out how they could attract more women. Because the main consumers of health clubs; especially gyms with weights, were men.

So what these gyms would do is they would create, within their boxes, you’d have these women only workout areas. Which was literally another room in the gym with the same exact equipment, except the equipment was pink, or the dumbbells were pink or whatever. So hilarious, right?

Juli Bauer: Yeah.

Sal Di Stefano: Same stuff, though. And they would come up with terminology to attract women to the gyms. Like the word toned. Toned was invented by the fitness industry to get women to buy gym memberships. Because at the time, if you told a woman she could build muscle, they would all freak out, because nobody wanted to look like a bodybuilder. At least that was the image you had when you thought of building muscle.

So that was kind of the way gyms were for a long time. But then things started to change. I think; I give a lot of credit to the CrossFit movement. CrossFit brought back quite a few things. Big barbell movements got popular again. But it also got women to workout and to really get into the muscle building aspect of fitness. And there’s lots of information now that’s available to people and accessible where people understand that building muscle is a great thing. It speeds up your metabolism. You get more fit, healthy, you can move better. So now women are more; I see a lot more women looking to lift weights for the purpose of building muscle. Whereas before, I’m just looking, if I do lift weights, is to burn calories. Or I’m not going to do weights at all, I’m just going to do cardio.

So because of that kind of transformation or that morphing that’s been happening in the fitness industry, I’m now seeing women seeking out programs that are more serious. Or at least the ones that advertise to be more serious. And that’s what I’ve been hearing from my female audience. Because I’ll message them, and I’ll be like; “I’m just wondering, what made you; why did you choose MAPS?” Because the information we put out, it sounds very male oriented. And they’re like, “We want a program that works, and a lot of programs in the past that were advertised for women weren’t as effective.” So it’s kind of interesting what’s happening. It’s like the pendulum is swinging the other direction. But our audience is close to half men, half women.

Juli Bauer: Ok. Because that’s something I really loved about your podcast. Was as you start; so you see the three of you guys, and you’re huge, muscular, bro-y looking dudes. And then you listen to your podcast, and you’re very; it’s very easy to listen to and you connect with women. And you understand their body’s, and just the way you explain things. It’s very easy to listen to, and that’s what kind of hooked me in. I loved listening to all kinds of different podcasts.

And there was this one episode; and I’ve heard you guys talk about this a few times. But it’s something I wanted to talk to you about, because I talk about it all the time on my own podcast. Because I did exactly what you just said. I drank the CrossFit Kool-Aid, and I started seeing results. So I thought, the more workouts I do, the more results I’m going to see. If I’m seeing results from one workout a day, what can two workouts a day get me? What can three workouts a day?

And I finally hit that wall of, “adrenal fatigue.” And my body was just gaining weight. I had no energy. My workouts were terrible. I was more prone to injury. It was just this downward spiral, over and over. So me, I always tell women it was my f*ck it moment. It was like, f*ck this. Obviously this isn’t working. I’m going to take rest days. I’m not going to lift as heavy as I used to. I’m going to listen to my body when it needs rest, and take multiple rest days. And only workout once a day.

And as soon as I did that, my body was able to come back into this equilibrium stage of not only showing more muscle. So I was actually “toning up” as women thought it was. They were like, “How are you getting more tone?” It was like, my body was just able to relax. And I ate the food that it was craving instead of restricting so much.

And you talk about this on episode 599. I was writing up questions to ask you, and I wrote down this episode. Because you talk about dealing with this with women. So is this something you run into a lot with women of just working out too much, and they’re not seeing the results. And they’re probably restricting their caloric intake because that’s what they’ve been taught for so many years?

Sal Di Stefano: Yeah. I mean I run into it with both men and women. But you’re right, it’s a higher prevalence among women. I think the reason you see this so often is like I said earlier; the main motivation for exercise and nutrition for people tends to be because they don’t like something about themselves. They don’t like their body. They don’t like the way it looks. Or they feel insecure about themselves. Or they’ve confused their body image with their self-image.

So if you go to the gym, and you eat because you hate your body, you’re going to ignore the signals that your body is going to tell you. And you’re going to keep pushing harder. Because if I go to the gym, and again, if I’m motivated because I don’t like the way I look or I don’t want to look fat again, or whatever. And I go to the gym, and I’m tired. I’m tired, I’ve got cold, clammy hands. I’m having issues with my sleep. My libido is low, whatever. I’m going to ignore those signals, because I’m going to go pound the gym again. I’m going to go workout real hard, and push past this.

And you end up perpetuating the cycle, or kicking the can forward in the sense that it keeps getting worse and worse. Until the signals get louder and louder and louder, until your body is no longer whispering at you. It’s talking at you, and then it’s yelling at you. And then you’ll have where your body just rebels on you.

The same thing happened to me, Juli. When I was 30 years old, my body did the same exact thing, where it just stopped. I had a health crisis, and it forced me to take a look at the way I was treating myself. And the irony of it is the way I train now and the way now is motivated differently, and it looks different. The irony is that I look better than I did before. And it’s because I’m healthy. And that’s a message I like to say on the show all the time. People are so motivated by changing how they look, but nothing looks better than healthy.

Juli Bauer: Exactly.

Sal Di Stefano: Healthy looks the best. And if you chase health, and you chase wellness, you’re going to get a great deal of the aesthetics. But if you chase aesthetics all the time, not only; you might get aesthetics at first. But at some point, you’re going to lose it because your health goes down and then you have nothing. And this is the cycle that people tend to get stuck into.

And yes, we talk a lot about this message because we were trainers for so long. And you know, the thing about the fitness industry is that it preys upon people’s insecurities. It’s a strong motivator, you know what I mean? Making you feel bad about yourself. Making you feel like you’re not good enough. Making you feel like the reason why you’re not responding from your workouts is because you’re not working out hard enough, or you’re not restricting enough. You don’t have any willpower.

So it feeds on that. And it pushes that. And that motivates people to buy the next diet, program, the diet pills, or to sign up for the next super intense workout program. Whether it be your Insanity workout at home, or you go into your CrossFit box and beat yourself up. Or whatever it is. It does get sales; but it’s not solving any problems. And it really goes down to the root cause of all of this. Which is, we treat exercise like a punishment, and we treat food like a treat or a punishment.

And that process eventually leads to a lot of the symptoms that you felt. And a lot of what you felt, Juli; they call it adrenal fatigue or they’ll call it HPA axis dysfunction. But what we do know is that constant exposure to stress hormones and stress chemicals in the body, your body will adapt to those things. And the way it typically adapts is it adapts by either downregulating receptors that those hormones and chemicals attach to. Or by lowering or changing your hormone profile because your body is constantly trying to bring you into this state of equilibrium. But you keep fighting it and pushing it. And creating all these problems.

It’s really no different than when people eat a really high sugar, high calorie diet and become insulin resistant. Their body is pushing out all this insulin, because of all the sugar they’re taking in. So their body becomes more and more resistant to insulin, and then over time that becomes diabetes. The same thing can happen with your other hormones. If you’re constantly exposing yourself to high levels of cortisol by pushing your body all the time, and by restricting your calories all the time, your body will become resistant to cortisol. And what will happen is you’ll find yourself seeking replacements for that cortisol. So now I need more coffee. I need more stimulants to keep me awake or to give me the energy. Or, you’re going to seek out more and more high intensity situations to get that cortisol to come out. Like more intense workouts.

The type A, go, go, go, super stressed individual is typically the one that seeks out the super high intense workouts. And you ask yourself why; well they get temporary relief. Because that high intensity workout gets their body to squirt out a little bit more cortisol and they start to feel normal again. But then it kind of repeats the cycle.

So when you start to understand things from that perspective, then you can really change how you approach exercise and nutrition. And then your body starts to respond. And it almost feels; it gets to a point where it feels almost effortless. Where the body just wants to be healthy. Where the foods that you choose are the ones that nourish your body. And then it’s no longer this crazy struggle of hardcore workouts, restriction; oh, I’m off the wagon. I’m not working out, and I’m eating whatever I want. This back and forth type of thing that a lot of people experience.

Juli Bauer: And when you see men or women go through this, whatever it is. If it is adrenal fatigue. For me, I feel like it took about 3 years to really heal the damage that I had done over the past four or so. How long do you think it usually takes people to get back to a balance, where they feel that balance of; I’m eating the foods that I need and I’m not doing this yoyo “dieting” or feeling the need to get that extra boost of cortisol.

Because I was 100% in that. When you say that, I had never thought of it like that. But when I was feeling sh*tty; ok, I’ll just get another burst of an awesome workout and I’ll feel better. But then it was a vicious cycle and over and over.

So how long do you think it takes people to get back to their normal? Just a rough guestimate, because obviously everyone is so individualized.

Sal Di Stefano: So, I work with; I do have some online clients. I don’t work with a ton, but I continue to do it because I like to keep my finger on the pulse of what’s happening out there with fitness. And working with clients always keeps my perspectives really clear. Because I think when I go away from that, then I start to look at things from the bird’s eye view, and it’s harder to, again, to really connect to what’s going on.

I’ve recently been working a lot with people in this category. And it can take anywhere between three months to years. But it’s largely; of course there are genetic components that can determine how your body responds to anything. There’s also how much damage you’ve done to your body. Some of the worst people I’ve worked with are these chronic; I had a lady that I worked with that would just do marathon after marathon. It was how she motivated herself to workout. So if she didn’t have a marathon scheduled, she couldn’t find the motivation or whatever to workout.

So she did marathon after marathon. She had three children. She also had a job. She was just super busy, and just pushing herself over and over again. And her particular case, we had to take kind of drastic measures. And luckily she was very receptive. She’d listened to my podcast, so she trusted me. And we were able to make significant improvements in a 6-month period.

The main reason sometimes why I think it takes people a long time is because it takes them time to make those changes little by little, because it’s tough. A year ago; I’ll give you an example. A year ago, man I was working out so hard. I could work out 2 hours a day. I could sleep 7 hours. I was eating 1500 calorie or 1200 calorie paleo diet or whatever, keto, whatever it was. And I felt amazing, and now I feel like crap. What’s going on? It’s hard to understand that what you did before now is doing harm to you.

So then what people will do, if they’re self-aware, is they’ll start to change things. But they change things one at a time. Like, ok now what I’m going to do is I’m going to workout for one hour instead of two hours. And that starts to work a little bit. And then, oh wait, let me look at my diet and I’ll make a couple of changes here. And that’s working a little bit. Let me look at my sleep quality. Let me look at my mindfulness practice, or my stress management. So that’s why I think sometimes it takes so long.

If you look at the whole thing, and you approach it with a big change; like, ok you’re working out two hours a day. Here’s what we’re going to do. You’re going to work out; let’s ramp that down to three days a week. Let’s completely change your routine. You’re not going to do short rest periods. You’re not going to do cardio. You’re going to do straight sets, traditional resistance training. You’re not going to go to failure. On all the other days, your exercise will consist of yin yoga, or slow walking, or meditation while you’re walking. Because I’m trying to, again, get your body more sensitive to your stress hormones. And the way you do that is by lowering those stress hormones.

Then we’ll look at diet. I’m going to nourish your body, so we need adequate fat intake and perhaps adequate carbohydrate intake if that person’s been restricting for a long time. Protein intake can be something that we need to look at as well.

Let’s look at your sleep routine. I’ll take someone typically and I’ll tell them, an hour before bed, turn off all electronics. If you can, turn off the lights and go by candlelight. We want your body to be ready to go to sleep when you do go to bed. And studies show that this makes a big difference.

Upon waking, let’s do some belly breathing for 5 minutes in bed before you get out of bed so that we don’t automatically; because a lot of people, when they first get out of bed, especially if you’re a busy person, it’s like, “Boom, stress hormones! Let’s go!” You know. And so I’ll tell them, do belly breathing when you get up and let’s kind of ease into waking up. I’ll have people slowly reduce and then eliminate all stimulants, because stimulants cause that sympathetic stress response in the body.

And then we can go down the list. I can look at more specifics with nutrition. We can look at some supplementation that may help. We can look at potential hormonal disruptions that may be caused by birth control, or if it’s a man do they have low testosterone because of what they’ve been doing to their body. And all these other things. The body will adapt, and it will start to change. It just, there’s a lot of factors. Like I said, one of the main ones is how bought in is the individual to change all of these things that they’re so married to

I mean, it must have been difficult for you. You were a competitor, right? In CrossFit?

Juli Bauer: I was, yes.

Sal Di Stefano: Pretty high level. It must have been difficult to break free from that, because I’m sure for a moment it defined you and it felt awesome and you performed excellent. To break away from that and try something different, it must have been tough.

Juli Bauer: Yeah. It was so hard. I would go in, and know I wouldn’t be doing a workout as RX, and I would cry about it because I felt bad. And people gave me sh*t about it too. I had coaches who didn’t understand why I wasn’t going a certain weight. Because they’re male coaches; male rugby players. More is better, f*cking go hard all the time. So they had a very hard time understanding why I was doing something.

So yeah, it was very difficult. And I loved how empowering that workout made me feel. Doing a workout RX and beating males in that workout. Having the best score on the board; that really empowered me. And it was hard to relearn that that number doesn’t really mean sh*t. {laughs} So that was very challenging. And I’ve talked to other women who have gone through that same thing of rediscovering your purpose when that was your purpose for so long. It’s really hard to cut back, when you know you can physically do something. But it is not the best thing for your body.

Sal Di Stefano: Tough. Very difficult transition to do it. I’ll get bikini competitors; these are stage competitors that, they’re getting judged on their physique. And it’s not body building, it’s a lot less muscle. But still, you’ve got to be very lean and tone and all that stuff. So these women will go into these contests, and they’ll do tons of cardio. Extreme dieting. Hardcore workouts. And they’ll do 2 or 3 competitions, and then they’ve got all these symptoms. Like the symptoms I had just highlighted. All these bad symptoms. Their body is not responding. They’re eating 1200 calories a day, but they’re doing 2-hour workouts a day. And yet if they go anything above 1200 calories, their body just gains body fat.

And then they’ll come to me, and I’ll tell them, we’re going to slowly increase your calories. Reduce your cardio, eventually eliminate it, and you may gain; you’re probably going to gain some weight through this process. But that’s what we’re going to have to do to heal your body. And man, that is a tough thing to get through. And I think it all boils down to that we tend to identify with our workouts. Or identify with our bodies; which is a big mistake. We are not our bodies. When people say, “I’m fat.” No, you’re not fat. You have fat on your body. Or, “I am strong.” No, you are not strong. Your body is strong.

The reason why it’s important not to identify with; and it’s ok to be objective. It’s ok to say; I need to get stronger here. I want to get my body leaner here. Or these signs of poor health are showing up, so I want to get better health or whatever. That’s fine, but you don’t want to identify with those things. Because at some point, they’re going to change. You can do everything perfect, and at some point you’re going to get old anyway, right? 90 years old, you’re not going to be this hardcore young, fit athlete or whatever. You have to learn to not identify with these things. Because that will get you into big trouble. And if you need to change things, now it’s like this huge identity crisis. Who am I? What am I? Am I lazy? What’s going on?

And those coaches that were giving you sh*t for having to change your workouts; it’s threatening to them. It had nothing to do with you. To them, it’s their whole identity. “Oh, you’re just lazy. I’m not lazy. I’m going to keep pushing myself.” Or whatever. And they’re going to run into the same thing, Juli. It’s going to take a little bit of time. But if they continue with that attitude, they will also run into those problems and they’re going to have to learn those lessons. And hopefully they don’t learn them the hard way. I hope they learn them the right way.

Juli Bauer: I know. And I’m seeing that a little bit more and more, because they’re hitting about 40. And you can’t really feel that exact same way as you could feel when you were 25 and getting concussions constantly in rugby. {laughs} But I think one of the hard things was I was that coach and I was doing RX, so I could ask other women to do the same. And I think they were scared that me saying, no I want to go lighter, it was going to make other women do that.

And it did in a way because other women were like; you know what? I don’t feel comfortable with that weight. I’m going to stick lighter. But I think that is so much better as a CrossFit gym. Because CrossFit is, go harder. Push faster. Go heavier. And I was saying; you know, I’m going to go lighter. Because I want my form to be perfect throughout this workout and not to change in any way. And I think that empowered other women to kind of take responsibility for their own weight and think twice about what weight they were doing. And probably helped with injuries in their own CrossFit future, honestly.

So I think that was a hard piece for them, was seeing a woman in the gym who had been doing a certain weight and changing their identity, really, and almost not encouraging but opening up that door for other women. I think that was hard as males. When they’ve never experienced that in their own fitness world.

Sal Di Stefano: Right. And you know, men. By the way, this is much more difficult to work with when I work with men. When I get women who come to me with some of these issues, they’re much more receptive. Men tend to not be, because I think we’re taught to be tough, and push through it, don’t be a pussy or whatever. So when a guy is like; man, I’m tired. My body feels fried. Or whatever. First off, they have a tough time communicating that. And second, they tend to feel like, I can’t say that because I’m going to be weak. I’ve got to keep pushing myself. And what they end up doing is just stopping. They just quit and leave altogether.

Juli Bauer: Yeah.

Sal Di Stefano: But I’ll tell you what. This is a message I try to hammer home all the time on Mind Pump. We all have the most effective, accurate health and fitness coach available to us. All of us do, in the world. And that’s your body. There’s no coach on earth that is going to train you and help you eat a particular way or whatever to get you in this optimal state of health and performance and wellbeing. No coach in the world is as effective as the signals of your body.

The problem is, is that we learn to ignore them. We’ve learned to ignore our bodies since we were children. We’ve learned to ignore our bodies when we were kids, when we’re told to clean our plates. Even though we couldn’t eat anymore. We don’t know what hunger feels like, because most of us eat all day long, so we’ve never really gone. Fasting, for example. That’s a big thing now, but humans evolved fasting, so we knew what that felt like.

The foods that we eat are so hyperpalatable. And they’re designed literally to hijack our systems of satiety so that when you’re eating something, under normal circumstances we have something called palate fatigue. Where if I eat the same food, I stop. I don’t want to eat anymore. I’m kind of sick of it. But if you introduce a new flavor, then I’ll want to eat more. We all experience this when we have a big dinner, and we’re stuffed, and they bring out dessert. And oh, I can eat now.

So that’s ignoring your body’s signals. We’re taught to ignore our body’s signals when we’re tired, when we’re in pain, when we’re whatever. So when we go to workout, when we go to diet or whatever, eat right, you can’t listen to your body because you don’t even know how. We’re told to workout past the pain to the point where people don’t know the difference between good pain and bad pain, and they start hurting themselves.

So if we can really start to learn how to understand and listen to the signals of our body, then we will be able to train and eat in a way that truly serves us. And a body that’s really in balance can do amazing things. When you’re in this kind of amazing balance of intensity, but relaxation; of mindfulness, of being able to push yourself when you need to. Of strength and endurance and all these different things, your performance is incredible. And the physical representation of that; the aesthetics of that.

Let me ask you ask you a question; what do you think a body that is in total wellness and health; that is optimized; what does that look like? Think about that for a second. It looks lean, it’s got a good amount of muscle. It can move well. Sh*t; it looks the way we all want to look. But we forget that. We separate the two. We think health is over here, but the way I want to look is over here. So I need to train and feed myself a particular way. They’re both the same. And in fact, like I said before. Health is what gives you those things. And if we ignore that; if we ignore those signals, you’re not going to get either one.

Juli Bauer: And it’s hard. I talk about that all the time on my podcast; listening to your body. But it’s hard for people who have never listened to their body to understand what that even feels like. It’s hard to articulate how people get to that point. Because I got to that point, but I don’t know how exactly I got there. I was thinking; ok, obviously everything I’m doing is not working so I need to do something different. And kind of threw in the towel. And when I was craving carbohydrates, I had carbohydrates. When I was craving fat, I had fat. When I wasn’t craving fat, I didn’t have fat. And that was how I was able to listen to my body.

I think it’s very hard for people to understand what that feels like when they’ve never done that their entire life. They were forced to finish their plate, or whatever else. It’s just so hard to explain to people how to get there. But it is the most amazing feeling when you can get to that point.

Sal Di Stefano: It is. It’s a process. It is a practice, so it does take time. But here’s some simple tips that I like to give people, or things to consider when they’re trying to get to this particular state. First off, you should feel good after your workouts. You should not feel like you got run over by a truck. You should not feel, the next day, like you can’t walk. I know people brag about that. Like, “Oh, I had such a great workout, I can barely move today.” It becomes this badge of honor. No, you went too far.

And there are some benefits to sometimes going that hard. Most of them are mental. Most of them are being able to break through certain things, and mental barriers, and really knowing what your body is capable of. But for the most part, you should feel amazing and energized after your workout. But if you don’t, then revisit your workout, and figure out what’s going on. And that may mean that you’re overdoing it with your workouts.

Or it may mean that you’re doing the wrong workout. Instead of going to the gym and hammering yourself, perhaps you need to do a yoga class and stretch that day. So that’s number one. Your workouts should immediately make you feel good, energized, and feel that way for the rest of the day.

Number two is become mindful and present around your food. So here are some steps that I like to give people. And I’ll use myself as an example. Because I always felt skinny, and wanted to build muscle, the relationship that I developed with food was that I needed more of it and more calories, and in particular, more protein. So I had developed this habit of drinking lots of water with my food. Because I would chew my food a few times, wash it down with water. It was just like get the food in there and get the calories in there. So I became very mindless with my food.

One of the good things about having a fitness podcast is I get to interview all these incredible fitness leaders. I interviewed Paul Chek, who is like this wellness guru. And he told me; probably not a good idea to drink food while you’re eating. And I said why. And he said; well you’re not chewing it enough. That’s part of digestion. And it sounds like you’re just trying to get the food down there to get the calories. And I thought about it; and I was like; jeeze that’s kind of weird. So I stopped drinking water with my meals, and it forced me to have to chew my food. It made me more mindful. I started tasting my food. And it changed the whole experience.

So, make yourself; you want to create mindfulness around food. That means eliminating distractions, so you’re not watching TV or on your phone. You’re sitting down. You’re eating. You’re chewing. You’re tasting. And you’re asking yourself, am I really hungry or is this anxiety? Is this stress? Is this depression? Or is this a distraction?

And then don’t judge whatever decision you made. Because you’re not going to be perfect. There’s going to be things you’re going to eat and then afterwards you’re going to think to yourself; oh man, I ate that because I was stressed. I totally didn’t need to eat that. Well don’t add a layer of judgement on top of that. Just observe it. Be cognizant of it. And continue the process of being mindful around food. And what you’ll find over time is the decisions that you make around food start to change. And I’ll give you another example.

I had a client who, every morning she ate a bagel. This was just her morning routine. She’d been eating it this way for 5 years. And she always complained of also having fatigue. So we started this mindfulness practice with food. And I told her; listen. After you eat, pay attention to how you feel an hour or two after your meal and take note of it. And she started noticing that it was the bagel. After she ate the bagel, she would feel a little bit of bloat, and she would be fatigued. And so little by little, we were able to connect that the bagel was causing that for her.

Now, I didn’t tell her to stop eating the bagel. But because she started connecting that bagel to the way she felt afterwards; which she was completely unaware of before. She did not connect that before. Because it wasn’t immediate. It wasn’t like she ate it and got sick. It was like an hour or two later. She started to connect that bagel to the feeling of fatigue and the feeling of being bloated and uncomfortable. And she stopped wanting the bagel. Naturally. She stopped craving that bagel.

And the same things happened with clients with other types of food, where they become more aware how they feel after they eat broccoli, for example, or vegetables. Things that they didn’t want to eat. But now they notice they feel good after eating these foods. And what happens is they make a different connection to that food, and they find that now they enjoy the taste of those foods. This process takes some time, but that’s the next step.

Then you can start tracking your food. And there’s lots of apps that you can get that are free. Like Fat Secret and My Fitness Pal. Start paying attention to what’s in your food; calories, proteins, fats, carbohydrates. And then learn how to manipulate those to get yourself to lose weight or gain weight. And don’t go crazy with that. And over time, just become more aware of what your tracking. And then slowly take yourself off tracking. Because you don’t want to get stuck in that phase. Because that can also become an obsession. I have clients who come to me to track every single thing they put in their mouth; and it’s like, ok this is not a good relationship with food. We’ve got to get you off tracking as well. And slowly take yourself off tracking.

Fasting is another excellent tool to bring awareness around food. Mainly because it breaks the chains that we have to food. Because you’ll hear people say things like, “Oh, if I don’t eat lunch I get so irritable. Or I get hangry.” That’s the word people use. If I don’t eat breakfast or whatever. So I say; well, let’s go 24 hours. And this is for people who are healthy. Go 24 hours without a meal, drink water, and see how you feel. And then people start to notice that they feel ok. So now I’m really hungry; this is what hunger feels like. Before, it was just cravings or whatever. So that also helps with that relationship.

And then with exercise, again go to the gym to feel good. You know what your goals are. Definitely train towards those goals. But if you feel tired, if you feel fatigued, if you feel sore, if you feel inflamed, go to the gym and look to recover. Look to make your body feel better rather than beating it up. And through this process of doing just those easy steps, you’ll find that things will start to change. Your workouts will start to change based on the signals that your body is telling you. Your nutrition will start to change based on the signals that your body is telling you. And sometimes you can train harder, and sometimes you can train easier. And these are natural cycles of the body.

Juli Bauer: So, what type of workout do you do nowadays? Because I’m sure you’ve tried all sorts of things. So what kind of workout do you do, and what kind of diet do you follow? And that doesn’t mean an actual diet. But lifestyle choices when it comes to your food.

Sal Di Stefano: So, my workouts, they change depending on how I feel or if I have a particular goal. So does my nutrition. But there’s a general trend. My nutrition tends to be lower on the carbohydrate end. I do have sensitivities to certain foods; this is when I mentioned my body rebelled on me when I turned 30. It was food that really became a problem. I had all these gut issues all of a sudden. I was losing weight and whatever. And I still do have some food sensitivities. So I avoid gluten. I avoid dairy. I avoid egg whites; I have an intolerance to those as well. And although I do eat then every once in a while, I do for the most part avoid them.

I like to eat a diet that’s higher in fat. It feels better to me. It tends to nourish my body a little bit better. My protein intake is on the moderate side. I used to eat these ridiculous amounts of protein because I was told that you had to eat all this protein for muscle, whatever, which is also false. So now my protein intake is about 120 to 150 grams, which is high, but not super high. I’m a 200-pound male.

And then my workouts; I do resistance training almost every day. But that changes, depending on what my body feels like. Sometimes my resistance training is heavy. Other times it’s lighter. Sometimes it’s more focused on mobility and movement. I incorporate stretching into my routines. And then as far as cardio is concerned, I walk. I mainly walk. I’m not looking for tons of endurance. And cardiovascular training done super frequently does cause the body to adapt in a way that may not be favorable for modern lifestyles. It does cause the body to become more efficient with calories, so it will slow your metabolism down over time. And I do enjoy eating food and stuff like that, so I don’t necessarily want a slower metabolism.

Juli Bauer: {laughs} Yeah. I’m right there with you. I want to talk to you about alcohol, because that is a big thing in our society. We have so many different social situations, and it’s something that I talked about on my podcast, and that I talk to with people at my gym on a regular basis. Because we have a very young gym, and it’s in the heart of Denver so it’s people who are going out on a regular basis and drinking all the time. And they’re very frustrated when they’re not seeing results in the gym. And when I ask them to take alcohol out, it seems like an absolutely not doable thing whatsoever.

Do you talk to your clients about alcohol and what it can really do to the body without… I’ve heard so many things about how you’re not able to build as much muscle. And not only are you getting an excessive amount of calories; how do you talk to people about alcohol and kind of pull them back from the alcohol train? Because people love being on that train.

Sal Di Stefano: So, when you look at food or you look at substances, alcohol for example, you can look at them from the obvious standpoint of, how does this affect my physical body. Ok? And very clear that from a physical standpoint, alcohol has no physical benefits. There’s no physical benefits for your body. And most of what alcohol would do for your physical body is negative. Higher risk of cancer, even if you have low amounts of alcohol, it shows an increased risk of breast cancer. Of course it can add body fat. It can contribute to insulin resistance. And I could talk for an hour on the list of things that alcohol can cause.

Now, there’s another side to this. There are effects that alcohol has on you that are not physical, either. For example, it can either help or encourage bonding with other people. Or maybe it can help you relax in a particular situation. Or maybe it’s a celebration with people around you for a birthday or whatever. So although alcohol at that time may not be feeding your body, it may be feeding something else that also needs to be taken care of. And this is important to know for people, because this is where balance comes from.

If I’m at my; my son turns 12 and it’s his birthday, and we have cake there and maybe beer with the friends and family, and it’s once a year and it’s a great time. And I want to enjoy the people around me and bond with them. At that time, what’s important to me is that. Yes, I’m eating cake and I’m drinking beer and that’s not great for my physical body at the moment. But I’m bonding with people and I’m enjoying this homemade cake that I made for my son’s birthday. So at that time, that’s a good decision.

And this is how I talk to people about these substances. Because when people drink alcohol on a regular basis, many times it’s not to feed themselves in any good way. Sometimes it is, but many times it’s as an escape or they’re using it as a crutch to relax. Because they have no other way of relaxing. Like, a long day of work and I’m stressed out and that two glasses of wine or that beer, whatever, helps me settle down. And every once in a while that’s fine. But when you’re doing it all the time, you’re not helping yourself on that end, either. Because now you’re using it as a way to relax when there’s other methods that you need to learn and it becomes a crutch if you will.

So there’s balance around everything. And this is really what health and wellness really boil down to. It’s knowing when those things serve you. And what are you serving? Those are important things to know. And when you do that your nutrition, again, comes out and it’s very balanced. It’s not extreme at one end or the other. And the result of that, again, is this body and this mind and this soul or whatever you want to call it. It feels good and it looks good.

Juli Bauer: And how do you feel about snacking as well? Because those are the two things I think people ask about the most. They always ask about alcohol; what can I drink, how often can I drink? And then people always ask about snacks. So do you get that question a lot with your clientele as they’re kind of building their new diet and finding a new rhythm in their own eating habits?

Sal Di Stefano: Yeah. So, snacking for most people snacking is just a way to either alleviate anxiety, stress, or boredom. Although some people simple feel better when they eat throughout the day. So we also want to say that. Some people just look at everything and they’re healthy and everything is going great and they just, they try eating three meals or two meals or one meal a day. They just feel better eating throughout the day, which is absolutely fine. So really, I’ve got to look at the individual before I can make an answer. But typically, when I first get a client, I’ll tell them to avoid snacking and we’ll take it from there. And usually we don’t go back to it. Usually we end up not doing it.

For most people, snacking encourages more eating rather than less. Because I know we’ve been told if you snack between meals, you’re less likely to eat a lot of food and it staves off hunger. And actually that’s not true for most people. For most people, once they start eating, appetite increases and they want to eat even more. This is why when you go to a restaurant they serve you chips or bread. If chips or bread made you order less food, restaurants wouldn’t do it. But they know, here’s your carbs, here’s some food. Build up an appetite, you’re going to order more when the menu comes.

Juli Bauer: I’ve never thought of that!

Sal Di Stefano: Yeah. Restaurants definitely would not be serving bread or chips if it made you order less food.

Juli Bauer: Absolutely not. {laughs}

Sal Di Stefano: So yeah. For the most part I tell people let’s not snack, and we go from there.

Juli Bauer: So I don’t want to hold you on here for too long. But I wanted to; for people who are new to Mind Pump. And you obviously have so many episodes. So do you recommend people when they come to your podcast, you recommend them starting from the beginning? Or do you have a favorite episode that you always tell people, go check out this episode. Or I loved interviewing this person. Do you have any favorite episodes that you think are really helpful to people?

Sal Di Stefano: Well we have; I think we have over 600 episodes now.

Juli Bauer: Yeah. Crazy! Crazy.

Sal Di Stefano: We do three episodes a week, which are Q&A, or question and answer episodes. In those titles, we put the questions that we answer. So you can search or navigate, and if one of those resonates with you, we may answer what’s the best method for fat loss with exercise. Or what supplement should I take for this. Or how many grams of fat should I eat for whatever. How do I strengthen this part of my body? You’ll go through and you can see on the titles we have the questions that we answer, and you can pick from there.

We also have, if someone is kind of getting into fitness, what I typically recommend that they do is go to our website, which is mindpumpmedia.com, and enroll in 30 days of coaching. And 30 days of coaching, it’s free. It’s a free service that we give everybody. And when you enroll in that, you’ll get the 30 topics that we believe are the most important that you should learn about as somebody starting off with fitness.

So we cover basic subjects like proteins, fats, carbohydrates, calories. But then we get into other subjects like mindfulness, resistance training, what that should look like; cardiovascular training, what that should look like; supplements, and so on. And those topics are covered. And you also have links to episodes where we talk about those topics and they’re time stamped. So if you click on protein, because you want to learn about protein, you’ll have some stuff to read. But then we’ll have like 4 episodes where we talk specifically about protein, time stamps that you can click on. You can fast forward to minute 10.45 whatever, and we’re sitting there discussing protein. So that’s really the best place to start, I think.

Juli Bauer: Are there any podcasts that you listen to yourself? Because I can imagine, if you’re recording that many podcasts, do you like to listen to podcasts? Or you pretty much over it?

Sal Di Stefano: So I listen to ours, only because I’m being super critical and trying to see how we can do a better job. For myself, I listen to Smart Drug Smarts. Great podcast that talks about nootropics and nutrition, how it affects the brain. It’s just super interesting stuff to me. I love Rhonda Patrick, so sometimes I’ll listen to her podcast. Joe Rogan is very entertaining. Sometimes I’ll listen to his. Ben Greenfield has a great fitness podcast that I’ll listen to sometimes. But I tend to pick and choose; like find a topic and then I’ll listen to that topic. And if that encourages me or motivates me to want to learn more about that topic then I’ll end up going to different podcasts to learn as much about that particular topic as I possibly can.

Juli Bauer: And I wanted to ask you this last question, but I feel like this is a big last question. But they obviously can listen to your podcast and kind of see more of your viewpoint on this. But why I really started enjoying listening to you guys is you don’t push supplements. And I feel like in this world we live in, with social media. I mean, my Instagram explore page is just girl’s asses as they do some sort of ass movement. And they finish the video with taking some sort of supplement or some sort of energy drink or whatever.

And what I loved about you guys is you don’t push that. You talk about a green drink that you really, Organifi I think it is. You talk about that a lot. But are there any supplements that you take yourself or that you’ve loved? I’ve never really

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