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Saturday
Nov242012

An Interview with Bob Seebohar

Heart rate training is the basis of the way we design cardio programs at Life Time and has been for many years. We also believe in the importance of reducing carbohydrates and relying on a little more fat and protein in the diet for health and weight management. We were excited to meet Bob Seebohar a couple years ago. He is a dietitian who embraces the same nutrition concepts we do and the importance of training based on individualized cardio programs based on assessments like we offer at Life Time. What was most exciting with Bob was understanding how he was using the same nutrition and exercise principles we had been applying to people for general health and fitness, but he was using them on high-caliber athletes.

Over the past couple years, we’ve gradually introduced Bob to our personal training and dietitians teams in the way of education. We’re also going to feature Bob in a couple articles on the blog each month. As a way to introduce Bob to our readers, I thought it would be good to start with a written interview, where you can get a little background on Bob. Enjoy the interview and feel free to add questions and comments in the comments section below.

-- Tom Nikkola, Director of Nutrition & Weight Management

Tom: Bob, before we get started with some nutrition, weight management and performance questions, why don’t you give our readers a little background on who Bob Seebohar is.

Bob: Well I certainly have a diverse background that cumulates with me wearing a few hats in my daily life.  I have a few college degrees in exercise and sport science and food science and nutrition which gave me a great academic springboard to this wonderful career that I have been doing for the last 19 years.  I am a trained exercise physiologist, registered dietitian specializing in sports nutrition, am a USA Triathlon certified elite and youth/junior coach and a certified strength and conditioning specialist.  My passion lies in educating others about nutrition, exercise and periodization which has also led me to authoring quite a few books, chapters and articles.

I’m honored to have worked with great athletes and programs in the past few years including directing the sport nutrition program at the University of Florida and as a sport dietitian for the US Olympic Committee.  In 2008, I served as the team sport dietitian for Team USA and was on the ground at the Olympics in Beijing for five weeks, one of which was spent as the personal sport dietitian/exercise physiologist for our Olympic Triathlon team.

My current hats include that of a sport dietitian for my company Fuel4mance, an elite triathlon coach for Elite Multisport Coaching, the founder of Multisport University which provides educational resources to athletes and coaches online and the founder of my non-profit youth organization, Kids that TRI.  The latter is very exciting for me to be involved in because it teaches youth how to live a healthy and active lifestyle through the sport of triathlon.

There is not a typical day in the life of Bob.  One day you may catch me coaching hands on with my adult or youth triathlon teams, conducting lactate threshold and metabolic efficiency assessments while other days you may find me on the telephone conducting nutrition consultations for athletes of all ages, abilities and sports or working on many of my writing projects.  Regardless, I always make time for my personal health and fitness goals as I am a recreational ultra-runner and a competitive triathlete.

Tom: I think a good way to get into the topic of nutrition and weight management is to start with your current self-experiment. You were a vegetarian for many years, and recently began eating more animal protein and following a ketogenic diet. What prompted you to drop your vegetarian way of eating and what drove you to drop from a moderate carb diet as an endurance athlete to a ketogenic diet?

Bob: I am often asked why I was vegetarian and to be quite honest, I was because it helped me understand food better so I could teach others more effectively.  I also felt good eating vegetarian, at least what I classified as the “old good.”  What drove me to try something different was threefold: 1) the continual need to educate myself about different nutrition strategies and their effects on the human body so I can teach others, 2) due to my family history and abnormal blood lipids and 3) to test the hypothesis that endurance athletes can maintain a low carbohydrate, moderate protein and high fat diet and be successful.

I grew up in an Italian family household so I am no stranger to animal based protein.  In all honestly, I have very much enjoyed adding them back into my diet as it gives me much more variety and much better control of my blood sugar. 

Tom: What kind of results have you seen with your change in nutrition?

Bob: The qualitative results in the first few weeks were outstanding and included a higher, more consistent energy level, a decrease in body weight and fat, enhanced recovery from training and better sleep.  I was very excited about this type of feedback but the scientist in me wanted to see quantitative results.  Each month, I am re-assessing my blood lipids and metabolic efficiency and I just finished the first round of quantitative assessments.  The data was, well, shocking to say the least. 

I knew my metabolic efficiency would improve, and you can see my data charts on my blog (www.bobseebohar.blogspot.com) but I had no idea just how much this dietary experiment would enhance my body’s ability to burn fat.  My pre-metabolic efficiency assessment showed a Metabolic Efficiency Point (MEP) at 7.1 miles per hour on the treadmill which was my first stage.  My 1 month metabolic efficiency assessment showed robust changes in that I was not able to achieve a MEP, even at my last stage of 9.2 miles per hour!  I did not reach metabolic fatigue but rather physical fatigue due to the fact that I am in my off-season and am not doing sport specific speed work.  I can only predict where my MEP is and my best hunch is between 9.5-10 miles per hour!  Phenomenal results considering I have only been at this for one month.

But those were somewhat expected results.  What I did not expect was the significant improvement in my blood lipids.  It is important to understand that my daily nutrition plan includes a large amount of fat, a large portion being saturated, which some experts would say that would drive blood lipids through the roof.  However, my cholesterol, LDL, triglycerides and VLDL all decreased while my HDL increased.  The complete opposite that what you may expect when eating more than 60% of your calories from fat!

Tom: You’ve worked with a lot of high-performance endurance athletes, but your methods for using heart rate training coupled with nutrition changes work really well for weight management as well. Your Metabolic Efficiency Training is excellent, and a great way to understand your concepts. Could you give a brief description of Metabolic Efficiency Training and how nutrition plays a role in your methods?

Bob: In brief, the body has two predominant stores of energy: fat and carbohydrate.  We have very limited amounts of carbohydrate stores (1200-2000 calories) but very large reserves of fat (80,000 calories or more in the average person).  Metabolic efficiency describes the body’s efficiency at using fat or carbohydrate as energy.  Blood sugar has a significant effect on the body’s ability to use these nutrients.  Whenever blood sugar is spiked (due to eating too high of a carbohydrate diet), insulin is released and actually inhibits the body’s ability to use fat as energy.  This usually works against weight and fat loss goals and can predispose individuals to developing metabolic syndrome (a series of risk factors that serve as a precursor to chronic disease states). 

Balancing nutrients, more importantly lowering the carbohydrate intake of the diet while getting protein and fat up to where they should be, will help optimize blood sugar and improve a person’s ability to burn fat, preserve carbohydrates and become metabolically efficient.  This is important for not only athletes but also recreational fitness enthusiasts with weight and body fat loss goals.

At the end of the day, everyone should have the focal point of controlling blood sugar through partitioning the three macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein and fat) more appropriately.

Tom. At Life Time, we try to steer people toward more reduced-carbohydrate diets, making up more of their calories through fat and protein, much like you do. You introduced us to a starch-based product called Generation UCAN that we now offer at Life Time. How do you use this product with your clients?

Bob: Generation UCAN is a great product in that the purpose of it is the stabilization of blood sugar.  This is the cornerstone of my metabolic efficiency concept and all of the work that I do with my clients.  This product has no simple sugars but rather modified corn starch, which has been proven to stabilize blood sugar extremely well.  I use this product with my athletes in three different ways: 1) before training to optimize the fat utilization window prior to training, 2) during training as a sports nutrition/calorie and electrolyte replacement tool and 3) after training to create a metabolic window that offers enhanced fat burning.  Generation UCAN is very diverse since there are no simple sugars and can really be used anytime before, during or after training.  Additionally, some of my athletes use it as a snack replacement throughout the day when food is not readily available.

As much as possible, I try to minimize the simple sugars that my athletes consume in their nutrient timing protocols thus Generation UCAN serves as a great substitute.

Tom: We’re planning to feature an article from you once or twice a month on this blog, so our readers will hear a lot more from you in the future. For now, what are three tips you’d give to our weight loss oriented readers on exercise, nutrition or lifestyle? From your experience, what three things impact your clients’ success the most?

Bob: The first, and probably the most important, is to develop a healthy relationship with food.  Allow what I term “misses” in your daily nutrition plan and do not get in the habit of labeling food as “good” or “bad” and certainly do not use food as a reward system.  There is a strong emotional connection to food and it is wise to embrace this fact and allow yourself to “miss” from time to time with foods that may not normally see much time in your nutrition line-up.

Secondly, anyone seeking weight loss should emphasize the control of blood sugar as their primary goal.  Future articles will be forthcoming but this is as easy as combining foods rich in protein, fiber and fat at every feeding opportunity.  Controlling blood sugar will control the hormone insulin which will allow the body to burn more fat.

Lastly, don’t get in the habit of counting calories.  Not only does this drive you to become a slave to numbers but it also distracts you from learning your true hunger and satiety signals.  The best thing we can do as adults is relearn when we are hungry and full and then make the decision whether to eat or not and what types of food to include in a meal or snack. 

Tom: Awesome Bob! Thanks so much. We look forward to future articles from you.

You can follow Bob on his own blog at http://bobseebohar.blogspot.com/. If you’re interested in learning more about his methods, you can talk to a Metabolic Specialist at your local Life Time, or check out Bob’s book Metabolic Efficiency Training from his website Fuel4mance.

Keep the conversation going below with a question or comment of your own below.

By Tom Nikkola – Director of Nutrition & Weight Management

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

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