Are you complicating the nuts and bolts of nutrition way more than you need to? Nutrition is quite simple when you nail down the strategies and models that work best for you and your body. That’s why I wanted to bring a good friend of mine, Ryan Andrews, on today to talk about strategies and tactics we can use to make changes to our nutrition behavior and habits. Ryan received his undergraduate degree in exercise science from the University of Northern Colorado. He also completed his training to become a Registered Dietician at Johns Hopkins Medicine, which then led him to his career with Precision Nutrition since 2007.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when dealing with changes in your nutrition: budgetary considerations, life/job considerations, food preferences, having a family to cook for, digestive issues, etc. Where we find people struggling is actually taking the daily actions to execute a nutrition plan. Here at Rebel, our athletes are very serious about their training and performance, and in most cases, a lot of them are under eating. There are so many strategies we can use to supplement getting in more food, making physique changes, and bettering our performance.
In the last chunk of the episode, we dive into Ryan’s new book Swole Planet Building a Better Body and a Better Earth. We break down how changing our diet can accomplish a lot in the world. We can improve ecological health and farmworker welfare. It can also decrease our chance of chronic disease and help us build muscle. Listen in to hear Ryan and I unpack what you need to do to build your nutrition habit to make sure you reach your physique and performance goals.
What You’ll Learn in This Episode:
- [05:47] Intro to Ryan Andrews
- [12:30] Strategies and tactics to make nutrition habit and behavior change stick
- [14:14] Starting with one small change to your diet instead of drastically changing your entire pantry and recipes
- [16:57] One of the biggest obstacles that gets in the way of seeing change
- [19:20] Taking advantage of using frozen veggies and precut fruits and veggies in your nutrition plan
- [20:30] The time factor and its role in habit and behavior success
- [23:15] Utilizing shakes to supplement getting in more food, making physique changes, and bettering your performance
- [24:27] Restructuring our go-to, default meals
- [32:33] Ryan’s new book Swole Planet Building a Better Body and a Better Earth
- [37:50] The importance of healthy soil
- [44:26] Where to find Ryan Andrews
James Cerbie: Otherwise, let’s jump into the episode today with Ryan Andrews. Alright, there we go. And we are live with the great and powerful Ryan Andrews. Ryan, thank you for taking some time to jump on a call with me today.
Ryan Andrews: Yeah. James, it’s nice to connect again with you.
James Cerbie: I think it’s been a while, if I’m correct. I think the last time we connected was when I was living in Boston and we went to Sweet Greens, I believe it’s called, for lunch and kind of walked around downtown. Did all that? That feels like forever ago.
Ryan Andrews: Yeah, we had a good lunch, a good chat. I love Sweet Green. I think before that I feel like we connected. You were an intern at Cresses, weren’t you? Yeah.
James Cerbie: Back in the day.
Ryan Andrews: I think the first time I ever met you officially was you’re an intern at Cressey’s. And I think Dean Summerset and Tony Genilcore were having a weekend continuing education workshop and I remember connecting with you and I was like, James is smart and James as Jack, I need to connect with this guy and stay in touch with him.
James Cerbie: That was a great weekend because you were there. Mark Fisher was there. That was the first time I got to connect with Mark and his glorious head of hair and Jim Smith Smithy from Diesel. Was there Ben Bruno? There was a really solid crew there and I was super young within one year of doing this for a living strength coach. That was such an awesome weekend. Such an awesome weekend, both from a networking and education standpoint. It was great.
Ryan Andrews: Yeah, I was energized for sure.
James Cerbie: Need more of those. But let’s do this. So this is everybody’s least favorite part of the podcast for the people listening that don’t know who you are. Can you give them the rundown on who Ryan Andrews is, what you’ve done, what you’re currently doing. I’m very familiar with your background, all the work that you’ve done at Precision Nutrition, something a company that our listeners are probably very familiar with, but would love to hear, in your own words, that elevator pitch on who you are, what you do.
Intro to Ryan Andrews
Ryan Andrews: I have been involved in nutrition and health and fitness gosh pretty much since I was about 14 years old. I really got into this world as a competitive bodybuilder. So between the ages of 14 and 20, that was my life, so high school and some College, I was training to become the biggest baddest best bodybuilder in the United States of my age group. And it was a great thing for me at the time because I was kind of floundering in life and body billing taught me so many important lessons about grit and hard work and goal setting and all that stuff
And I mean, the biggest thing for me, too, with Bodybuilding was that I didn’t know you could change your training and change your eating and then change your physique. I was like, this is remarkable. Why did my parents not tell me this at a younger age? So that was really empowering to me. And I thought, I have to study this. I have to help people with this. And that’s what I did. I went to College and graduate school and studied nutrition and exercise physiology and did some certifications and ended up officially becoming a dietician.
I was a little bit back and forth because I had kind of mixed feelings about the Dietetics community early on. And I thought, you know, if I ever really want to immerse myself in the world of nutrition, I should probably become a dietician. And it ended up being a really good decision overall. And I did a wonderful internship to become a dietician at Johns Hopkins after graduate school. And I learned so much about the deep world of clinical nutrition, which was very helpful. And throughout this whole process I should say I went from being that in that body builder mind-set of like, what is this meal going to do for my physique?
And I felt like every year or two I started to learn a little bit more about health and the food system, and so it just kept expanding. So I first was thinking, how can I help other people with their health? How can I help make changes in the food system for farm workers and animals? So it just kept growing over the years, which kind of led me to where I am today. I still work with Precision Nutrition. I don’t do quite as much as I used to.
I do some mainly advisory things with them now. But for many years I was involved in leading some of their coaching groups and helping to write the PN certification content and writing a lot of the blog content. And I think I was officially maybe like the 7th employee at PN, and I think now they have I don’t know 200 employees or something. So it’s grown substantially since I first started. But for your listeners, I mean, working with PN has been a life changing experience because you get to work with people like John Priority and Chris Scott Dixon. Brian San Pierre A. Green. And these are people who I continue to learn so much from.
James Cerbie: Yeah, without question. Thank you for the quick background. And I think because I had met you, and when we first met, I had no idea that you had been involved in precision nutrition. I didn’t realize it until I signed up for the PN level. One third, and I got the textbook in the mail, and I was like, hey, hold on. I know this guy, his name on the cover. I know if I met him, we would email, yeah.
Ryan Andrews: People do that with, like, they take a picture and send it to me. Like, you didn’t tell me that.
James Cerbie: With your very extensive background in this realm where I wanted to start the conversation today is talking about this behavior and habit change surrounding nutrition. Because we talked about this a little bit, the actual nuts and bolts of nutrition are not that complicated for normal, healthy humans. If we’re talking about disease, obviously, things get far more complex. Disease does that in every aspect of physiology. But just in normal healthy humans, people like to make nutrition very complicated, and they like to turn it into this very tribalistic, almost warfare type thing of keto versus paleo versus this versus this.
And it’s like, well, at its core, the basic nutrition is really not that hard. And I think the vast majority of people can be in the ballpark of what they should be eating. Most people know I shouldn’t be pounding soda and crushing fast food. They’re doing it. But if you ask them, they’re like, yeah, I should probably do this less. Right. And then with our people here at Rebel, the majority of them are undereating, but it’s a pretty substantial amount. You’re training four to six days a week.
You probably just a little bit more of a type, a high strung, high performance individual who pushes it both outside the gym and the gym and at your profession, whatever you do for work and for a living. And whether you’re in that group or the group that’s potentially trying to like, I want to lose weight. So I need better habits and choices around food. It always comes back to what I just mentioned of the habits, the choices and the behaviors, because the nuts and bolts of all right, we need to be eating lean meat and protein.
We need some vegetables, you need some carbs, like potatoes or rice, and then we need some fat. I guess not that complex. And even if you wanted to get into the room of macros, you can make macros really simple. Beat gram per pound body weight for protein be somewhere in the point in 5.7 grams/lb fat somewhere in that realm, and then you essentially fill in carbs as you can handle them as needed. So it’s clearly not an education. What should I do? Problem, because what I should do is actually quite simple.
It’s more of the execution and the how. And so I would love to hear from you on what are I mean, I think if we want to talk about this as like tactics or strategies, what are some ways people can actually approach nutrition more from this habit behavior change standpoint so they can give themselves a chance to be successful, even if it’s somebody because I fall into this too. Or I probably under eat just because I hate eating lunch. Right? And just getting yourself to eat more food is a big change.
Right. And so if we wanted to shrink this down and make it small, how can people actually stack the deck in their favor to make these nutrition habit changes that are going to stick so that we’re not in this Yoyo phase of I’m going to go all in on this thing for six weeks, and then I was going to go all the way back to where I was because it was an unrealistic, unsustainable goal.
Strategies and Tactics to Make Nutrition Habit and Behavior Change Stick
Ryan Andrews: You said. I mean, knowledge isn’t the limiting factor for the majority of people. I learned very early that people are juggling a lot when it comes to food choices. So when somebody sits down to eat a meal on a given day, they might have budgetary considerations. They have job and time considerations. They have kids, they’re looking after. They have certain food preferences. Maybe they don’t digest certain foods. Well, so they have all these things that they’re thinking about when they make a food choice. And when you add on some sort of a body composition or performance goal or pursuit, like, I want to eat more to support my recovery and training.
That’s another thing to consider, and it can become very overwhelming. And a lot of people just throw their hands up and kind of give up and hope for the best. And one of the things I really like to encourage people to do is think about low hanging fruit. So you know how you’d like you to be different. How could you make a change that requires very minimal effort and disruption in your life? Because a lot of times, for example, when it comes to eating more food, I think of the knee jerk response as well.
I need to find a new meal plan with all new foods and new recipes and new times and new combinations, and that requires essentially a life. Overall, you have to go buy the food and figure out how to prepare and store the food and time the food. It’s a major deal versus if you were able to find one single small thing to change, that can be realistic, doable and fairly easy. And for people that are gaining weight. I often like to start with one of two things.
Starting With One Small Change to Your Diet Instead of Drastically Changing Your Entire Pantry and Recipe
If I’m going to offer a suggestion, I’d say one, adding more to an existing meal sounds ridiculously simplistic, but it’s a good first option to consider. Maybe that’s been exhausting, and they’ve already tried that. That’s totally fine. But it’s one thing to consider. Can you just add more to a meal that you are already eating on a given day? And then beyond that, can you add in another meal somewhere? And if the idea of adding in another meal is just absolutely, you can’t imagine in any way, consider a meal in another form, like some sort of a shake or a quote, unquote, a snack combination that doesn’t require cooking or food prep or anything like that.
So those are, like, my two go to suggestions for people who are trying to gain weight usually is, can you simply add more to an existing meal or add in, like, sneak in another meal somewhere throughout your day?
James Cerbie: Yeah, one in agreement there, because if you’re already consistently eating X number of meals per day, the easiest change is just to add a little bit more food to each of those meals. But I think the problem a lot of people run into, as you mentioned, is they don’t want to think about what’s the lowest hanging fruit. That’s the easiest, lowest path of resistance to start moving in this direction because they want this change to happen. Now. It’s like, oh, I want to be here, and I want it to happen within three days.
They’re not thinking well, with body composition and performance, nutrition, we have to expand our time, scale out a little bit. We have to think about what’s going to be able to sustain this over the long haul. And I think that’s another potential problem is just we want everything now mentality, as opposed to staying patient and saying, well, you know, maybe if I just add a banana to this meal and add an extra quarter cup of rice to this meal and then add maybe, like, a protein shake to this meal.
Just doing that and being consistent with that for the next four weeks is going to move me in the direction that I want to see. And then when that starts a Plateau. Okay, cool. Now I can add a little bit more. Okay. Now moving again. But I think people just want everything to happen immediately, and they’re not willing to play this game of okay, let’s just put me on the right trend line. I’m moving in the right direction. Eventually, that trend line is going to Plateau, and now we have to change something again, whether it’s removing food or adding some more food.
Okay, cool. Now I’m back on the trend line I want to be on. I’m going to ride this as long as I can. Do you think that that’s a general, fair assessment of one of the big things that gets in people’s way if they feel they have to change everything because they want it to happen so quickly and they’re not willing to pace themselves over the long term.
Ryan Andrews: Yeah. I think stepping back, I don’t think that’s a problem. I don’t blame people because that’s kind of how our society is structured for no matter what you’re trying to accomplish. It’s usually kind of promoted to you as a quick fix type of thing. So I don’t necessarily blame people for thinking about it like that. But we want to make a change and you want to almost forget you made the change and have it become in the background. And a by-product of that change is you’re recovering better, gaining muscle mass, you’re performing better.
And then, like you said, when a Plateau happens again, then you reassess and make another change if you need to. But if day in and day out, you are just white knuckling it and holding on for dear life. Like, I can’t do this anymore. I hate food prep. I’m miserable. That’s a sign. We probably need to adjust things a little bit. You want it to become almost like it’s a non-issue each day?
James Cerbie: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s funny you mentioned food prep there because I’m one of those people I hate prepping. Food hate. It makes eating and food for me the most miserable experience. I can’t stand it if I have to prepare my food and I’m eating the same thing for lunch every single day. It makes eating so unenjoyable for me that I just end up not doing it as bad as that sounds. I don’t like lunch. Lunch is just the most obnoxious meal of the day because it interrupts everything I’m doing.
And I don’t want to stop to eat lunch. But I think this message is essentially a small change if you’re consistent, consistent, small change over time leads to very large outcomes and results, as opposed to trying to scrap everything at once.
Taking Advantage of Using Frozen Veggies and Pre Cut Fruits and Veggies in Your Nutrition Plan
Ryan Andrews: Yes. I like your example. Try to cut you off, go for it. I think another thing that comes up is nutrition. We often have what we want, like, this perfect meal plan to happen. So we want, like, scratch food prep with the best ingredients, like hours in the kitchen. And I like that. And there’s nothing wrong with that if you’re able to do that. But this is a time to take advantage if you’re able to with your budget and your accessibility. If you can rely on frozen veggies sometimes great.
If you can get pre-cut salad veggie’s. Great, because I think sometimes people do that like, oh, this isn’t true. Food prep. Like, I’m cheating the system like a sheet. I take advantage of some of this modern invention that can make our lives much easier if you’re able to do it. So consider those things as well that can be really helpful.
James Cerbie: I think any time that you can afford that time trade, it’s 1 million% worth it. Right. Because the biggest thing we’re always trying to buy is more time. Time is the ultimate currency. You can essentially equate wealth by time, more or less. Right. How much do I have to work to acquire this thing that I want? And that’s essentially a sign of wealth in one way or another. And I think in the nutrition realm, especially what we’re talking about right now, stack the deck in your favor.
The Time Factor and Its Role in Habit and Behavior Success
You don’t have to do everything from scratch. If you have the funds like you’re mentioning. I know people who go do all the grocery shopping because they’re really particular about the quality of the food. They want to buy this, that and the other. And then they know the recipes they want to have prepared. And there are plenty of people now that you can find that will come to your house on a Sunday. They’ll do all the prep for you, they’ll chop it, they’ll make it, they’ll do the dishes when they’re done.
And then your food is ready for you for the week, and it’s just sitting in your fridge. If you can afford that, a really nice option similar to if you can afford to have your groceries delivered. Maybe that’s a way that you can win back some time, then you can spend more time cooking. But the time factor here is always going to be important. It’s the one thing that we’re always trying to get more of or trying to win back time in one way or another.
And then in the food prep realm, that’s where it can get really difficult. So if there are places where you can make that time trade, do it because it’s going to make things way easier for you. I always think of it in chemistry where we have these activation energy barriers and the lower I can make that activation energy barrier, the easier it’s going to be. So do it. Right. I don’t know if you would agree with that general assessment.
Ryan Andrews: Yeah. And this is where I mean, it can be helpful to kind of talk through it with a close friend or coach or something, because sometimes you get in your own head and you kind of create these scenarios of what needs to happen with your eating. And you’ve created this fantasy world that doesn’t make any sense. I got to do scratch food prep every day for 5 hours. I’m never going to do it. I can’t do it. Well, what about, you know, using frozen veggies three days a week or hiring meal prep every once a month, like just different kinds of solutions that can make life a little bit easier.
And if coming back to the big picture here, if that really is your limiting factor is just not having the nutritious food around. When you’re ready to eat, that could make a big difference. It could come up that you do all these things, and that still doesn’t help for some reason. Then you might have to step back and kind of reassess and think, what else is going on here.
James Cerbie: Yeah, I think having the food available and around you is one of the most important things that you can do, right? Because if you come home and you’re hungry, you need to have a meal and your cabinets are full of one type of food versus another or what you have in your fridge. That’s another moment where we can make a decision, and it’s like, Well, I’m really hungry, but I don’t have much, but I do have this top of ice cream in the fridge, and that sounds really good right now.
Utilizing Shakes to Supplement Getting in More Food, Making Physique Changes, and Bettering Your Performance
So I’m just going to hammer this because I’m starving and I have chips. I have salsa. There’s not any real food lying around. That’s where I think people don’t utilize shakes enough. I probably utilize shakes too much. To be honest, I’m so quick to just go make a protein shake, have an Apple and a banana, and then two tablespoons of almond butter. I love that. That makes sense. I’m so happy. It’s so simple. It’s not real food, but it serves a purpose for what that needed to be right then.
But I think shakes and those types of snacks, especially in this realm of we’re trying to figure out ways to potentially get in more food to supplement, either gaining weight, making physique changes or just recovering and improving performance. Use shakes. Use them as long as you tolerate the protein powder. Well, you’re not getting digestive issues from it, and you may have to just try a couple of different powders along the way. You can do like my go-to is a scoop of whey protein.
I use hydrolysed whey protein from True Nutrition. It’s the one I found that I digest best. Throw in a scoop of green powder, a rice cake with an Apple or banana, and then two tablespoons of almond butter. And that’s a really easy, quick snack. A small meal doesn’t take long to make. I think it’s delicious, and it’s a low hurdle. You want to make it as easy for you as you can.
Ryan Andrews: You’re reminding me, too, of another kind of concept that ties into this really well. A shake for you is a go to default meal in your rotation. You like it, you feel good after having it. It supports your goals. You’re familiar with it as much as we can. All come up with a short list of go to default meals that is going to be a life saver with your long term nutrition because we all have go-to meals. They might not support all of our goals, but we have meals we go to, we go.
Restructuring Our Go-To, Default Meals
I go to the same restaurant. We eat the same thing when we get home. It serves a purpose. If we can just restructure those go-to and default meals that can completely change people’s nutrition. And it can depend. Some people maybe have one go-to breakfast and they don’t need any variety. And then maybe they need a little bit more variety of dinner. So they are like five dinners or something. They rotate through every couple of weeks, but print them out, post them on the fridge. If you can get in that routine and have those default meals that can be so helpful long term.
James Cerbie: Yeah, absolutely. I’m one of those single breakfast people. I think I’ve had the same breakfast every day for probably the last six years. I love breakfast. It makes me so happy. Breakfast is fantastic. Dinner is going to be a little bit more complex, right? I can get a little bit bored with dinner sometimes, but I generally have, as you mentioned, I probably have, like, five to six consistent dinners that I’m always making. And then on a Friday or Saturday night is when my wife and I will get just fancier and actually make a really good dinner.
We spend way more time cooking. We make sauces and do like the bigger time commitment of it, whereas during the week it’s more what can I make? That’s going to be quick and still taste good and get the job done right? It’s usually just some type of grilled meat, a salad or cucumber salad or broccoli slaw or green beans and then rice or potatoes. And that generally covers my bases. And then the Friday or Saturday nights are where we’re going to do a nice steak and really spend time and effort on it and essentially just try to make something as bomb as we can.
And I found that just having that little thing to look forward to on a Friday or Saturday just kind of resets the switch of getting away from what can be a little bit boring from Monday through Friday, if that makes sense.
Ryan Andrews: Exactly. And I love how you describe it, because I think sometimes that’s all it takes. People can find a lot of comfort in some of the same familiar meals and some repeats on occasion and then kind of going all out and trying a brand new recipe or going out to a restaurant or something like that. It’s nice on occasion. And kind of like you said, reset things a bit. But this is where experimentation can come in handy with your nutrition. So if you have absolutely no default meals, then you’ll have to experiment with some.
Some might work. Some might not for a variety of reasons. But when you can get that short list, it’s a really nice feeling because it kind of frees up some of that mental bandwidth, too, instead of every week feeling like, oh my gosh, I have to start from scratch with coming up with meal ideas for the week, and that can be overwhelming.
James Cerbie: It’s totally exhausting. If you’re trying to come up with brand new recipes every single night of the week, it’s just way too much mental capacity going there. You only have so much of that kind of willpower, essentially to begin with. So don’t drain it, always trying to come up with new recipes all the time. The other reason I really like having that Friday or Saturday night as a reset is for me. At least it makes the experience of food more of what it should be because I think food is inherently meant to bring people together.
It’s meant to be shared with other people. And nothing makes me happier really, than when it’s me, my wife, maybe some friends. And we’re just cooking up a really big dinner and we take our time. And it’s more about the experience as opposed to during the week where it’s very much like, okay, I need to Cook it. I need to eat it. I need to be done with it. Being able to slow down and really enjoy that whole experience with people is another thing that I think is really important and overlooked in this food nutrition realm.
Just because I’m very much like food is meant to bring us together. We’re meant to be eating it together around a fire and talking and communicating and chatting about how the day went. Like, I was very fortunate growing up. We had family dinners every night, always. And it was just a staple. And so that’s one of those things that I’ve really come to enjoy and look forward to. Right. But I think that’s another bit of that Friday and Saturday, the reset that’s nice as we can afford to take that time and really enjoy the food and the company that comes with it and the experiences.
Ryan Andrews: Yeah. I mean, back to eating enough food and trying to maintain weight and promote recovery and gain muscle. I mean, it can be a chore to do that. And so I like that you’re not completely. I remember I think back to my body billing days. It was like taking another bite of eggs. I was like, I can’t eat another bite. This is terrible. So it’s nice to at least maybe on a weekly basis. Set aside a couple of meals where you’re getting back to like, you know, somebody prepared this food.
This food came from somewhere. It requires resources. I’m going to enjoy it on some level and breathe and talk to people. That can be a nice humanizing type thing. I agree.
James Cerbie: Yeah. Because I actually personally think that eating is substantially harder than training. I think the training is the easy part. Eating is far more difficult. Eating enough food to support your training. I think it’s way harder. I just don’t think people appreciate that at all because they go ham and crush it in the gym and then they eat like a bird and then they’re like, Well, I’m not really getting any better. I generally believe that eating is just the harder of the two variables for myself.
Personally, people may disagree, right? But people just drastically underestimate how much food they should be eating to not only support, but then grow from the type of training and stimulus that they’re getting. Yeah.
Ryan Andrews: Informally, like, this is my own anecdotal talking to people over the years, I feel like most people would agree with your approach. I think a lot of people would say that the nutrition angles a little bit more challenging and it kind of makes sense. I mean, it’s something that expands over the course of the entire day. Training is a little bit more focused. Short. I know from my experience I thought they were equally challenging. I thought they were really difficult. I was like, I don’t like squatting until I feel sick all the time. But that was back in my other life. But I think a lot of people probably agree with you.
James Cerbie: Yeah, because the training is so much fun. And then when I have gone through phases of really wanting to try to gain weight, I just have such vivid memories of sitting at my counter in the afternoon at some like, it’s already. 04:00. I’ve got to get this meal down, and then another two and a half hours. I got to eat this other meal. I’m just sitting there crying over my chicken and rice. I’m like, God, this sucks. So I could just blend this all together and somehow just get it down easier because this is taking forever.
Ryan Andrews: That reminds me of my tuna shakes when bodybuilding. I remember thinking I’m meeting every day. How can I get this Atta easier? And I came up with the idea of tuna shakes, and it didn’t help. It didn’t help it. It’s like the end of the story.
James Cerbie: Oh, dude, no, I would vomit. I would vomit immediately. This is like, I think I saw this in a Bruce Lee documentary. So Bruce Lee is potentially the originator of the protein shake. And no one do this. Like, do not do this. But he would take raw eggs and raw red meat, and he would blend it, and then he would drink it.
Ryan Andrews: Wow.
James Cerbie: Yeah.
Ryan Andrews: I have not heard that the Arnold stories of the raw eggs was all I heard about, but I never heard about the raw meat.
James Cerbie: Yeah, the rates do not try that. Either that or just the documentary was just like, making things up, which is another possibility. But I’ve ever seen that like, oh, my goodness. Like, maybe that’s why we lost Bruce at an early age. Who knows?
Ryan Andrews: That’s crazy. That’s crazy.
James Cerbie: Let’s transition here because I know that you got a new book coming out. I want to spend some time talking about this. I know it’s been a big passion project of yours for a while. So can you give us the run down here on the book? What it is and why you feel that this message essentially needs to be brought to the world.
Ryan Andrews: Yeah. So the book just came out. It’s called Swole Planet Building a Better Body and a Better Earth.
James Cerbie: I love it.
Ryan’s New Book Swole Planet Building a Better Body and a Better Earth
Ryan Andrews: So I mentioned this a little bit earlier. So over the years, my perspective just really started to expand. And this was through schooling and internship and spending more time on farms and working with nonprofits and doing all sorts of different things to kind of expose myself to different parts of the food system. And I just realized that there are things as powerful as it is to know that we can change our eating and change our own physique and performance. We can also change our eating and influence other things in the food system.
And I think that can be really empowering for people when they’re making food choices actually really motivating for people, too, because a lot of times nutrition is all about just your own personal burdens of performance and body composition. And if you can expand it out to some of these other greater good kinds of things, I think it could be really motivational. So that’s where the idea really generated from was thinking more about all these big things in the food system. And over the years, I also noticed a little bit attention in spending time with people who are really hardcore into training and strength and performance, and in spending time with people who are who dedicated their life to non-profits and farming.
It seemed like both sides were kind of missing some sort of middle ground. It was like you either don’t care at all about the environment, and you’re just like doing all these things that might harm the environment, or you’re just like living in a yurt in the mountains and you totally jeopardize your own strength and wellness and health. So I’m like, there’s got to be some sort of a go between you’re, like, how can I bridge the gap between these two worlds? So that’s the goal of the book.
And that’s what I try to write about. I talk about some dietary adjustments we can make that can help our health, our physique and the farming system and animal welfare and farmworker welfare. And I also expanded out to even how we can maybe slightly adjust some of our workout scheduling to maybe benefit the community and the environment a little bit more. For example, that might be instead of always doing conditioning work like inside on a cycle or treadmill or something like you can time it and cycle to the grocery store or walk to the friend’s house or something like that sounds kind of lame, and it’s not revolutionary vice, but that’s a really big deal.
Transportation is a really big source of greenhouse gas emission. So if we can incorporate it as a one, two like, it’s good for us, good for the environment. That’s a great thing. So that’s what I get into in the book and we’ll see how it’s received.
James Cerbie: No, I think it’s really important because it’s something that we talked about this a little bit off air. One of the things my wife and I want to do when we are going to be moving to Knoxville here, like, we want to get 510, 15 acres and be able to Peel back and actually spend time growing a lot of our own food, have some of our own farm animals, and just maybe feel like we’re doing our little part and how we manage this, because I’m very much like you like, this is a really important issue, both in terms of the farmland itself, our capacity to grow good nutritious food to feed people.
And I’m not sure if you’re familiar with a gentleman by the name of Doctor Zach Bush, who runs what his nonprofit is called because he’s very big in regenerative agriculture. And so that’s something that I’ve been spending way more time looking into, because just one small sample size of this larger problem that you’re talking about is that our soil health is just abysmal. We’ve been torching it for decades, ever since we started spraying and doing all these other things. Our soil is a disaster. And I don’t know if you can think of anything that’s more foundational to our human health than being able to grow food and good soil.
Right. But these are things that people aren’t thinking about. These aren’t the conversations we’re having, even though, in my opinion, I think it should be impacting your food choices in terms of what I’m buying. I’m going to buy from this person obviously depends on your income and that type of situation, because it will cost a little bit more money. But I’m going to choose to buy from this farmer because I believe in the way that this farmer practices. I believe in the way that he or she grows her food.
I believe in the way he or she treats her animals as opposed to just going and buying the biggest thing I can find a Costco or Walmart, and I think part of it people just don’t want to know they want to have the
Blinders on, like, don’t show me how the sausage is made. Just give me the sausage. But this is a very important part of the conversation moving forward, because if it’s not something that we each take ownership of, there will be a complication that comes from this.
If it’s not in our lifetime, it’ll be our children’s lifetime. It’s not their lifetime, it’s their kids’ lifetime, right. Because we can’t keep doing the things we’re doing without there being some type of ramification down the line. At least that’s my opinion, based on the evidence in my understanding of science right now.
The Importance of Healthy Soil
Ryan Andrews: I think the way that the evidence would support that I mean soil specifically. I mean, if the soil is not healthy and productive. I mean, our food is not going to be healthy and we’re not going to have productive crops and animals into the future. I mean soil. I always think about like a bank account, so we have to deposit and treat it well and do regenerative farming and add compost and not overly plow until and do all these practices that build up our soil savings account, because if we’re just looking at it really in the short term and just extracting as much as possible and telling it as much as possible and heavily relying on synthetic fertilizers that can deplete soil health.
That’s bad for the long term productivity and resilience of the soil. It’s bad for pollinators; it’s bad for the entire food system. So yes, it helps us in the very short term to produce a bounty of calories, but it doesn’t lead to a resilient food system long term. And like you said, I mean, if you look at any environmental marker, you can take your pick, water withdrawals, greenhouse gas emissions, algae blooms. It’s not looking good for the future of the food system. So we definitely need to make some changes.
Like you said, I mean, decentralizing the food system and growing some of your own food, supporting local farmers. Some people would probably argue that’s the most important thing we need to do; I definitely think it’s probably in the top five. So there are all sorts of changes. And in my book, I talk about the top five big things we can do as eaters in the United States are really on Planet Earth.
James Cerbie: And another one I would throw in that category also is like the massive monocultural crops, right? It’s like a farm, as it was intended, meant to grow a lot of different things. We’re not meant to just have hundreds of acres of nothing but corn, and it’s such a complex issue. It’s an issue that people want to avoid talking about. They don’t want to think about this problem.
They just give me my food and leave me alone because I don’t want to have to deal with this because there are so many other problems in the world that we’re trying to think about also.
But personally, this is one that really strikes home front and center because I love food, and I think people listen to this love food. You probably like to eat food, but I think that it is well worth it for people to take the extra step to think about. Where is this food actually coming from? How is it being prepared? What’s going into the production of this? When my wife and I were in Austin, Texas, recently, we got to go to a really awesome kind of, like big farm dinner.
My wife’s sister and her husband have good friends that are starting a farm outside of Austin, Texas, and so every once in a while, they host these big farm dinners. It was just fantastic. It was such an amazing experience because you come together like you mentioned earlier in our conversation here where you’re really appreciating where the food comes from. People are coming together around this food like you understand exactly where it was grown. You know how it was prepared. And there was just something really awesome about bringing all these people together around that experience of food.
Unfortunately, it’s just not something that people think you’re spending a lot of time on these days, so at least stuff for me, right. If you can buy organic and local, that’s great. I look into how they’re actually growing their food. There’s a company based out of Texas as well called Force of Nature Meets, and I order a lot of meat from them. They do a really good job. It’s all regenerative AG meat production, so you can put in a little bit of effort and you can find these places that exist.
It may not feel like you as an end of one person is going to make a difference, but it has to happen as an end of one, because nothing can take place unless you as a one person make that decision. And then you can talk to other people about it, right? Because of those food choices, little things you mentioned, if we can ride a bike to a grocery store, we can walk to a friend’s house. We don’t really know what’s going to happen with climate change. Like if you just keep taking carbon from the Earth and then dumping it into the atmosphere at a really high risk play, in my opinion, we don’t really know what’s going to happen. I mean, a pretty large gamble.
Ryan Andrews: It’s easy to downplay, but I do think what we buy and eat does influence the food system. I mean, I don’t think that’s an exaggeration to say that food companies and farmers, they see what people are buying and what they’re supporting. And if we support different things in a more sustainable food system, they will adapt to that for sure. And back to your point about respect. I mean, the more we respect something, the less likely we are to abuse it. And I think that’s really, really critical with food.
And there are so many things we could talk about. Check out the book if you’re interested in these topics. Hopefully some of the ideas resonate with you. Yeah.
James Cerbie: I’ll put one more point there in terms of our decisions as buyers. That’s the most important decision, because that’s essentially how the market functions. That’s capitalism; the market will decide what moves forward. And the thing that will decide that is what are people purchasing? Because we can have conversations about what people value. But at the end of the day, the easiest way to actually know people value what they are spending money on? And then the market will adapt. That’s essentially the whole thought process of capitalism and why the market itself is so important the market will determine that is the future. And so you as the buyer hold that power.
Ryan Andrews: I’ll add one last thing like high fives fist bumps to that. And that’s what a lot of my book is about. I will say there might be somebody listening and there are definitely people out there who might not be listening who it’s too much to put on their shoulders, like to be the ones leading the charge and going to the farmers market and buying the high quality organic produce or whatever. So I understand that some people are not in a position to be able to take a stand as an eater and buy the optimal choice.
So that’s when I would say if we can do something to shape the path and make it easier, whether it’s people on social media doing a better job or restaurants or grocery stores or policies or schools, whatever to sort of shape the path and make it a little bit easier for people. I’m in favor of those solutions as well.
James Cerbie: Absolutely. Well, Ryan, thank you so much for coming along today for the fantastic conversation. I feel like we should grab a coffee, maybe over Zoom sometime and we can really just spend more time on this. But where can people go to one find you and to find this book and find out more about this whole journey and mission that you’re on.
Where to Find Ryan Andrews
Ryan Andrews: Yeah. If you check out my website, it’s ryandandrews.com and you’ll see a link to the book there and a little bit more background about me. And I also have a 90 seconds video. I made it a farm I helped out a couple of years ago, so you might enjoy that as well.
James Cerbie: Beautiful, everybody. Thank you so much for dropping in listening today. We’ll be sure to throw links to everything Ryan got going on in the show notes, but have an amazing week and we’ll talk soon.
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