Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 18 - Dr. Matt Laye - FINDING YOUR NICHE - Part (3) of 3

See, I'm trying to figure out if, I don't know if you saw like when I sent you the email asking you to come on I mentioned, Greg Rosicky. And he also studies gut microbiome. And he's currently doing a case study with one particular ultra runner. I can't remember his name at the moment.

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JESSE: See, I'm trying to figure out if, I don't know if you saw like when I sent you the email asking you to come on I mentioned, Greg Rosicky. And he also studies gut microbiome. And he's currently doing a case study with one particular ultra runner. I can't remember his name at the moment. So, I'm trying to figure out if it's just because my little world seems to revolve around endurance athletes, there's something particularly interesting about what's going on in the gut of ultra runners. MATT: I mean, I think ultra running and particulars interesting for this just because there is just this nutritional load component. You have to eat and just because of the prevalence of GI issues, that's why I think the microbiome is interesting with ultra runners. And also like, frankly I need to find a little bit of a niche to be able to study that I won’t get sort of swooped in by bigger labs with better resources and more time to do something. So, it's a little bit nippy, and Greg is similar a way. Greg and I actually-- I reached out to Greg about trying to collaborate on the project, and eventually through him found the person that I'm collaborating with at the university Kentucky. So, a PhD student, Taylor Valentino who’s an ultra runner himself. So, it's a perfect fit. And he's been a great guy to work with so far. Yeah. JESSE: Yeah. I was like this is such a small world, I was like if you don't know, Greg, I’m like, you've probably heard of Greg, I just can't imagine that there's that many people like in that kind of intersection of study. MATT: No, there's not. But I don't know if you had heard about this massive study, that came out in nature medicine, which is one of the best most high impact journals, I won’t say best, but has the highest impact of any journals. But it looked at Boston marathon runners, gut microbiome. Have you heard about this study? JESSE: Well, I saw it in your Twitter feed, but I was actually going to let you kind of digest it for me a little bit more than me trying to digest it just myself. MATT: Yeah. So, what is fascinating is they found that there's a specific species or strain of bacteria that was higher prevalent in the faster runners, and it was related to lactate metabolism. And what they did is they actually then took that strain and put it in mice. And they found that those mice had improved performance. So, they not only found that there was a strain just associated and correlated, and we know that you know, correlation is not causation with increased performance. But then they actually went one step further and inoculated these mice with that strain of bacteria, it showed that just by doing that, it could improve the mice’s performance on the treadmill. Now, whether that relates to human performance, it's still not completely known. But the fact that they can just change one bacterial strain in a mouse microbiome, and then have it improve in endurance performance is pretty remarkable. And you can bet that there's products being made or developed, that are looking at that specific strain as a product or prebiotic, and seeing if you can do the same in humans. JESSE: Yeah. And that's what I talked a little bit to Greg about this, just like, since I'm an entrepreneur, and I love that a lot of your research and interest is in practical studies what can we do that people can literally take and try to apply? Just because that's my interest, as an entrepreneur, what product can create, what solution can provide that helps people have a better life, whether that's better performance, or just happier, or whatever it is? Sometimes what I think we run into with science, is almost these esoteric studies that sometimes something will come up them and other times they just kind of float into the ether, and then don't really get used for anything. So, it's my personal brand, I probably really should have been an engineer, because I'm so like problem solution-focused. But no, that's really cool. And yeah, I'm sure if we don't see that-- That study was just recently published, wasn't it? MATT: Yeah, three or four weeks ago, I think. JESSE: Yeah. So, I'd say if we don't see something in the next year, using that, I'd be surprised. Especially for people that are already in that space that already know how to produce that kind of stuff. I'd think they’d come up with something-- MATT: I'm pretty sure-- I mean, this is a study published by researchers at Harvard, and they've probably already spun out a company or have a company that is sort of licensed to use this and probably have intellectual property on the specific stuff already is my guess. Yeah. JESSE: Yeah, that makes sense. I kind of want to ask a little bit about-- I read on your not very updated blog a little bit about you've had issues with cartilage damage, and kind of like personal trials, with running and in marathoning. Can you tell me a little bit about, I guess what happened with the cartilage damage, and kind of how that's all developed? MATT: The first thing I always have to preface it with is it wasn't because of running that I hurt my knee. It was because of running but it wasn't because of like overuse injury, it was actually traumatic injury. So, I was running and I slipped and I basically, my knee just went straight into like a big old granite rock. And at the time, I was maybe trying to ignore it more than I should have. And over time, over the course of a year, I developed sort of a knee pain. Tried all sort of physical therapy to try to get rid of that pain, and eventually had an MRI and it showed that there was a cartilage defect, which basically means that that cartilage is actually completely gone. And so there was a spot where my knee flexes over the patella here and it's the tibia, where it just basically is bone on bone. And so that was causing the pain and the inflammation. So, as I would run, that motion would hit that bone and like inflame it, and probably caused more and more cartilage damage. So, I was looking into what sort of things can be done for cartilage damage, and there's not a lot. Cartilage does not really grow back. So, there's a few different surgery options. And eventually, I settled on the option of what is called a microfracture. And it's not the most up to date surgery but it's one that is has been used for a number of years, with pretty much the same success as any of these other options, that allows these other options just sort of stay on the table. And so what they do with the microfracture is they went into my knee and into the femur and they basically poked holes in the bone. And then the bone marrow, it fuses out and in that bone marrow are cells that and can make cartilage. And those cells hopefully stick, make cartilage and sort of plug that hole. The caveat is that cartilage is far inferior to the - that we’re born with, it's a different type of cartilage that was more likely to break down. So, I did that started running again, was up to like 20 or 30 miles a week, even ran in Club Nationals last December. But I was still having knee pain. In the spring, I still had knee pain after running, I was doing the workouts with the guys. And then so I got a second MRI, and they showed that the lesion was actually bigger than it was before. So, more damage had occurred. And I may not have actually had much recovery from the initial thing. So, I'm at the stage now where I'm in this sort of weird spot where like, what we could do a another surgery if you have pain symptoms - can relieve the symptoms, or you can just modify your lifestyle to not induce the symptoms if possible. JESSE: Whic is a polite way to put it. MATT: Yeah, which is a polite way to say don't run. Yeah. And even if, you know even if they did the surgery, they would recommend not running because all these surgeries have very limited efficacy long term there. None of them are really that great for long term, sort of, there's no reversal of the damage. So, long term I'm probably now looking at getting a knee replaced eventually, and until that trying to mitigate any of the symptoms and such as I can. I'm on the list for a particular type of surgery, which they take a cadaver knee and they actually take a little bit of the bone and then the cartilage, and they just sort of fitted into your bone and cartilage to match and hopefully, that will then prevent the damage. But I probably won't get that surgery at least for a couple of years as it stands right now. The recovery is really terrible. It's six weeks of non-weight bearing. So, that's a pretty significant hurdle even to a college professor at summers off. It's not typically what I want to be doing for six weeks. JESSE: Right. I think I saw you’d spent time in a ?? 10:33> machine after the surgery? MATT: Yes. So, I was definitely researching different ways to improve the outcome of the surgery. And one of the things that they found, at least in animal models is that passive range of motion, which is basically this machine that takes your knee, it goes from here and then flexes it up and then back and back and forth... JESSE: Yeah, real slow. MATT: ...six or eight hours a day, sitting on the couch with that machine. And that was one thing that was supposed to improve your outcome from the surgery. So, that was one thing that I was trying to do. Another thing I was trying to do was eat more gelatin, soft tissue, and sort of tendon ligament health, which is work that Keith - at UC Davis has done. Which is some really interesting stuff, and very unique that not a lot of people are studying. But how you can actually improve and repair tendons and ligaments and term non-muscle tissue, which cartilage is one as well. There's no evidence that it works your cartilage. But there was no harm in eating like this-- JESSE: Right, it’s one of those like it's not going to hurt, but maybe it'll help me. MATT: Maybe it’ll help, yeah. And then the last thing that I was trying to do and something that as I read more and more on is getting in the sauna, so even passively heating delay as I wasn't able to put any weight on it. So, it's going to atrophy naturally. But it does seem that heat can attenuate some of the atrophy. And I think I just tweeted about a paper yesterday that is showing this similar thing that you just heat up the muscle, you can sort of block the breakdown of muscle mass, and maybe the loss of mitochondria you typically get. So, I'm a firm believer that sauna is an important thing for recovery from a surgery like that. But also just, in general, it's something that I do prescribe some of my athletes as well, not just for the sort of heat acclimatization stuff, but just in general, I think it can be useful. JESSE: Yeah. Does the method heating matter, say like spending time in a hot tub, is that going to be the same effect as being in a sauna or is there something particular about, I guess I'll say heated air, versus heated water? MATT: Yeah, it doesn't seem to be because even this last study, used the difference or technique to heat just the local muscle. And so one leg was non-heated control leg and one leg was heated. And so that didn't seem to matter, but I think you get more systemic benefits if you're in sort of heated air or heated water, say up to your neck, and you basically have to feel uncomfortable. That’s the rule of thumb for actually getting any benefits is, you can't just go in there and get that warm a nice warm feeling, but you actually-- JESSE: Slightly toasty, feel good. Okay. MATT: Yeah, it's at that point where you start to get uncomfortable you stay in another three or four minutes, and then you're probably getting some sort of benefit. And that's the same for heat acclimatization. You need to make sure that you're actually feeling uncomfortable in order to be getting that sort of benefits from heat acclimatization. JESSE: Yeah, yeah. So, are you at the point now where you're basically off, you're just not running? MATT: Yeah, I'm running once a week, or five miles, and get pretty sore afterwards, which is very funny. And I’m trying to do more biking and just stay active other ways. Yeah, and just focus more on my coaching and trying to live vicariously through all those other athletes that I coach. But it's a good opportunity to take a step back from my own running and it is really fun to help athletes sort of reach their potential, the puzzle through each athlete’s different, and it takes time and an effort to do it well. So, I think that not running give me more time and time to be able to sort of focus on the coaching part, which is it's a reasonable transition. And I may get back to running at some point, but not for the immediate future. Yeah. JESSE: Yeah. So, I mean, you're feeling good, and you're not like having any mental breakdowns? MATT: So, let's see, this happened. I mean, over four years ago when I first hurt my knee and it's not easy to come to grips with the fact that you might not be able to run. I did it at a time when I was having probably the most success I've ever had as a runner. And so to table that and have to move away from the sport at that specific time is, yeah, it's really hard. It's really, really, really hard and it’s probably why I kept going back and like, trying to run and trying to run and then developing the same pain and sort of banging your head against the wall over and over and over again. And, yeah, it just, it has taken a lot of time to sort of mentally say, all right, I'm going to be retired from the more competitive aspect of running of sport. So, mentally, I'd say, I'm much better than I was a year or two ago. But you still get a little bit of fo-mo when you see people that you were running, going out there doing great things and having fun and seeing great places on their feet, and knowing that you might not get back there for a while. So, yeah. JESSE: Yeah. Was there anything you did to kind of cope with that or is it just a matter of like time heals all wounds? MATT: I think you definitely to change the perspective. So, changing my perspective from as a runner to as a coach has been important to see that as more of an identity than the runner, the runner an athlete, part of me. And it's not like I have now a bunch of free time, I've been busy. I have this career and path that I'm on, and it can consume all of the time if I want it to. So, it's not like I have now this gap in time that I'm trying to fill. But I also think in one of the recommendations, my wife had this idea, which I thought was quite brilliant, and we haven't fully done it yet. But we were basically going to have a retirement party, so that you can have closure, and like bring out a few of the old like metals or things and just say like, all right, we're retiring, and sort of it. So, at least mentally, I've been thinking of myself as retired from that aspect and I think that helps. Not just injured and coming back anymore, I'm just retired and that's fine. JESSE: Yeah. It gives you this kind of space and identity shift like you're talking about moving from runner to coach. MATT: Yeah, and that's a really hard thing because we definitely identify as runners like if you've been doing it for 20 plus years, then it's a hard thing to shift from. And despite all of the talk about meditation, mindfulness and letting go of the ego, one of the reasons why we run is often is for ego to sort of express our competitiveness, and to see what we're capable of, the I, what I am capable of. JESSE: Yeah, I'm still good enough to do this, or I'm still, whatever it is we have in our mind's eye about who we are and what we can do and our capabilities. MATT: Yeah. So, we talked about that not necessarily being a good thing, but we all have those outlets, that sort of ego outlets that we need and for runners, the running is important for that. Yeah. JESSE: Yeah. Matt, I'm going to ask you the question I asked everybody for this year. This is my like, ending question. I like to ask everybody, if you can only choose one food for recovery for the rest of your life, what do you choose? You can't choose gelatin by the way. MATT: Okay. I won't choose-- I wouldn’t choose gelatin anyways. One food for recovery, I gotta go chocolate milk. Yeah. I'm sure I'm probably not the first person to say that. JESSE: No, the first person to say that was actually one of the guys that put together the chocolate milk study. MATT: Okay. Yeah. Yeah, I think chocolate milk has a nice balance of sort of the carbs and protein that you need, and plus it's pretty delicious. So, I definitely would down some chocolate milk after my super long runs. It’s always in my repertoire. Yeah. JESSE: Yeah. Good deal. Matt, if people want to see what you're up to, follow you, see kind of what's going on, where can they find you? MATT: Yeah, on Twitter, I'm @MJLaye, that's L-A-Y-E. So, it's just my first initial, middle initial, last name. And that's where I try to share whatever research I’m finding interesting. And then if you're interested in the coaching side of things, you can find me on Sharman Ultra. So, just Google Sharman Ultra Matt, and you can see sort of my bio, as well as the other coaches that we work with that on Sharman Ultra who are a great crew to work with. And, yeah, those are the two best ways to get ahold of me and interact. Yeah. JESSE: Sounds good. Thanks for coming on today, Matt. MATT: Yeah, thanks, Jesse. Go to Part 1 Go to Part 2

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