296: Why AI-Assisted High Intensity Training Is the Next Exercise Frontier With CAR.O.L

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Katie: Hello, and welcome to the Wellness Mama podcast. I’m Katie from wellnessmama.com, and this episode is going to be all about the science of high intensity interval training, and how there is science and studies that support the idea that you can get more benefit from a workout that in total takes less than nine minutes than from a 45-minute run, specifically from two very short, measured, and intense bursts of high intensity exercise that are only 20 seconds long. I’m here with Ratna Singh, who is a mother of two. She has been married to a neurologist for 25 years and lives in London. And she is a co-founder of a new startup called CAR.O.L, which is C-A-R.O.L, which stands for Cardiovascular Optimization Logic. And it basically uses AI and an exercise bike in a really complicated and amazing way to mimic this highly effective high intensity interval training or not mimic, but to create this high intensity interval training that is the gold standard in the studies. And the American College of Exercise, and many other institutes have backed up the benefits of this, and we really go deep on how it works, how to get the benefits, how it does things like affect your IMPK, and your HRV and all kinds of fun stuff. Really fascinating episode and I loved getting to talk to another mom and founder who is on the top of her game and just knows her stuff. And I know you’ll enjoy this episode as much as I did.

Ratna, welcome. Thank you so much for being here.

Ratna: Thank you so much for having us. Really excited to be here with you, Katie.

Katie: I am so excited to chat with you. It’s so fun to get to talk to another mom who’s in startup mode and running a company and all that goes with that. And I mentioned it in your intro, but you are the founder of the team. Is it CAR.O.L? How do you say the bike or is it?

Ratna: It’s CAR.O.L. Yes it is abbreviated for Cardiovascular Optimization Logic.

Katie: That was gonna be one of my follow up questions. That’s awesome. That makes total sense and easy to remember. So I think that’s where we need to start, which is can you explain what CAR.O.L is?

Ratna: Yes, of course. So first of all, the brand and where did that come from, and why it’s CAR.O.L. I got my inspiration really from Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey 2001, all those years ago where there was a rogue computer program aboard the spacecraft and he was called HAL. Had quite a personality actually, quite an endearing, but he was crazy. And HAL stood for heuristic algorithm. And since then, you know, other people, other movies have used names as abbreviations for something a little bit more complicated from a technical perspective. So in Samantha in “HER,” there was VIKI in the Will Smith movie. So because we are all about artificial intelligence, and because we want to be a brand that you feel very closely attached to, we wanted to give our bike, our system, our technology, a personality. So we combined the two together and came up with CAR.O.L. CAR.O.L stands for Cardiovascular, that’s the C-A-R. The O stands for Optimization and the L stands for Logic. And that’s exactly what she does. She will increase your cardiovascular health, diabetes and other things as well, but generally your fitness, she will get it to as good as you are genetically able to get to and she is, you know, an AI we are building the fitness of the future. And she has a personality. I mean, you’ve probably done a couple of rides now Katie, you probably saw her interaction with you, like her first ride is a first date with you. And then, you know, when she’s got lots of little witty quotes that she’ll give you throughout the ride or at the end of it or she’ll send you an email, etc. So I want people to build that relationship with CAR.O.L. At the moment, we released her lips as her logo, and the lips are made up of a lot of small heartbeats. And over time, we will release other parts of her face. So there’ll be the nose, and then the eyes, and then eventually, CAR.O.L will be this person with a face and then you’ll be like, “Ah, that’s my coach.”

Katie: That’s so fascinating. I think it’s important to note, because you’re right, I’ve done a couple of rides now and I have the CAR.O.L bike in my kind of like workout room. And when it comes it looks like an exercise bike, But I think it’s important to talk about how it’s very much different from other exercise bikes because there’s obviously a lot of different types out there with the rise of some of these at home bikes and then also spin classes. So walk us through how this type of bike and this type of software is so different than other types.

Ratna: Well, it’s a bike because if you try to do this kind of exercise on any other piece of equipment like a treadmill or a stairmaster, you just wouldn’t be able to. First of all those machines are not reactive enough to go from zero to maximum intensity in under a second. And two, if you were to run or, you know, try and do the stair climber at that speed and that intensity, you would injure yourself. And also, you know, we need to target your thigh muscles because they are the biggest stores of sugar in your body. And the best way for us to execute this kind of exercise is using an exercise bike. So that’s why it’s an exercise bike. Now, the laboratory, all the science that you hear about, they have bikes that they use, but they’re all highly specialized bikes. They all use a certain formula that allows them to set a resistance that’s unique to each person that’s doing the ride. And it’s usually a two-man operation. They’re quite sophisticated machines. They’re big, they’re ugly, you know, they’re bulky, and we just couldn’t imagine having one of those in anyone’s living room, or bedroom, or workout room, anywhere, particularly in Europe. Well, you know, we don’t have as much space as you guys do in America. So we had to come up with something as compact as our bike, it’s very compact, it’s about one foot long and one foot wide or less than that. And we have the bike that is built to execute the exact protocol that the laboratories use. And I will say that what they do is something, what’s called True HIIT. The interpretation of that in the normal world is not exactly HIIT. So when people say they go to a HIIT class, they’re pretty much at least going for 20 minutes or 30 minutes, sometimes 45 minutes. That’s not what the scientists would call HIIT. Because if you do what we do, if you do true HIIT, you wouldn’t be able to do it for longer than 20 seconds. And that’s what happens on the bike. The reason we have the software is so that we can calculate the exact resistance and that’s tailored and personalized to you, that will get you to your peak power very quickly within 5 to 10 seconds. You will reach that peak power for literally a fraction of a second and then you’re going to start losing power because you’ve triggered the depletion of your sugar stores in your thighs, and by the end of 20 seconds you will be at absolute fatigue.

So after two 20-second sprints, you will not be able to do anymore, nor would you want to, nor would you need to. So that’s the key difference between what we do and what, you know, other HIIT modalities that are out there. I think, you know, in order to get to absolute fatigue doing a HIIT class in your gym, you’d have to be there for 30 minutes. We do it in 40 seconds. And this requires, you know, specialized software, it requires machine learning, it requires calculations, algorithms, and because we want to continue to get you fitter and train you for the long term, we don’t just stop on your first ride. Every ride you do is different because you will get fitter. And we calculate things like your rate of fatigue, which is very important for us to know whether you are tiring fast enough or not. And obviously, as you get fitter, you will not fatigue as much as you could, so we will increase resistance. But because there are no knobs on our bike and everything is controlled by the computer, we do it in decimal points so it’s very precisely calibrated. And CAR.O.L, you know, it’s not always evil. She’ll bring the resistance down if you’ve been struggling or keep it where it is if, you know, she thinks that your rate of fatigue is exactly the way she wants it. So, you know, the idea is that you get on the bike, you log in, and CAR.O.L does the rest. All you have to do is breathe, and pedal, and follow the instructions.

Katie: Yeah, I love it. And I can definitely vouch for the fact that when, those two 20-second sprints really, by the end of it I was like I have nothing left. I could not do this for 20 more seconds, and you can feel it. I feel like it adjusts up. So like if you think you’re getting stronger and you feel like you’re pushing harder then it adjusts right beyond that to kind of keep pushing you. And I love the concept of this, especially as a mom of six.

Ratna: Wow. Six, wow. Wow. Congratulations. You’re a hero, man. That is amazing.

Katie: Oh, thank you. It’s a wonderful fun life. But you know how it is as a mom, we’re so busy. So I love that this can fit into under 10 minutes. And I wanna talk about the science of that, of HIIT training, because I think there’s so much misinformation when it comes to fitness and especially what is actually ideal. And so many people have this idea that we need to be doing tons and tons of cardio, and going for runs, and, you know, biking for an hour, and I personally have looked into this science because I don’t love running for an hour. And I love that there’s some really solid science about HIIT or high intensity interval training. So walk us through the science especially for people who may be think like there’s no way something so short could be so effective.

Ratna: Oh, absolutely. And trust me, 90% of the time we get this reaction. You know, “Oh, come on. It just cannot work,” you know, “This is snake oil, it’s hogwash, it’s all about sweating.” Because the other thing is when you do the rides you don’t sweat, it’s because you work hard for two 20-seconds sprints. Your body just doesn’t get hot enough to start sweating. Unless, of course you’re doing the exercise in a sauna, then you will sweat. But, you know, you sweat because you get hot. It’s not because you worked hard. There’s no equation there, because you could be sitting on a beach and start sweating if it’s a hot day, right, by just sitting there. So the science is extremely solid and we get this skepticism from everybody all the time. And my answer really is very simple. And that is that you’ve been sold something that has not been incorrect, but it’s what people knew at that time. And, you know, science progresses at all times, and we have found this modality that works better than anything else. And until CAR.O.L came on the scene for the consumers, it was literally hiding inside laboratories and elite sports training places etc. And what we’ve done is brought it to the masses because like you, Katie, there’s millions of people out there, myself included, and I frankly built this for myself in many ways, that we don’t have the time, we are really busy and frankly, you know, if I do have an extra hour, do I want to go to the gym? No. I’d rather do something I really enjoy even if it is just sitting in front of Netflix and, you know, dozing out on some program. So, you know, when we did the research, we found that most people who say they don’t exercise enough is because of time definitely inconvenience because you have to go there, you have to change, you have to do the run, you have to shower, you know, change again and come back. That’s inconvenient. And frankly, it’s just dull, it’s just boring. So that’s why we have this, you know, obesity crisis that we have right now in the world. So it is something that has got, you know, years of scientific evidence behind it. And we have worked really hard. We’ve spent like four or five years in R&D, mostly because we needed the data to be able to really refine our algorithms to make sure it is adaptive, and it’s accurate, and it’s, you know, producing the results that the laboratory produces, and for sure it does.

So that’s, you know, the story behind CAR.O.L. The reason HIIT has been misunderstood is simply because the ability to do what the scientists do in the lab was just not possible. You know, if you look at the equipment they use and the methods they use, it is very different to what everybody else uses. As you know, Katie, when you do a ride, and the intensity is pretty high, right? And you don’t have the option to dial down that resistance. Now, when we did our own tests, and we asked people come on, you know, just up the resistance, they would up it, but it would never be high enough. And if it got tough for them, they would dial it down. And, you know, what you perceive as high intensity and what the system perceives as high intensity are two very different things, and the data isn’t gonna lie. So even now, and I’ve got people who come and they get on the ride, and, you know, they do the ride, and at the end of it, they go, “Oh, my God, that was really hard. Can I stop? Can I stop.” They’re wanting to stop it, you know, 12 seconds in, sometimes 10 seconds in. And at the end when we see the trace of their performance, clearly they had a lot more to give. But what was holding them back was their mind. And that’s what happens. And this is why CAR.O.L will not allow you to lie. We don’t allow you to change the resistance. And we set the resistance that we know is going to deplete your glycogen. And also, we know if you’re not pushing hard enough. So the next time you come, you know, it gets a little bit harder and then you clock, “Oh, okay, fine, I better, you know, do it this way,” until you establish your rhythm with CAR.O.L. So, you know, it’s not really as simple as intervals as in, you know, do this for a short time, then go hide. Do this for a short time, do this, hide. It works, Katie. I’m not saying it doesn’t work. It just takes longer. Which brings me a little bit to the science of it because everything is depending on the rate at which you burn your sugar stores in your thighs. Now, if you want to burn them through exercise like jogging, it’s gonna take you a longer time because it’s just lower intensity, lower impact. So it just takes longer to burn that sugar. You can accelerate that burn if you do a HIIT class in your gym, like, you know, crossfit or whatever, or you can do it in 20 seconds through CAR.O.L, through true HIIT through what the laboratories use. And it’s the pressure cooker idea of HIIT really because we wipe out those sugar stores within 20 seconds. And you will see it in your own graphs, Katie, because you reach your peak power, it’s for a fraction of a second and then you start to lose power. Now, that’s your sugar stores going, and by the end of 20 seconds, you know, there’s not much left.

Katie: Yeah, it’s amazing how you actually very much do feel that. Like rev up, you can start sprinting and then you’re like, “Oh I got it.” Then like, “No, there it goes.” It’s like you HIIT that peak and then it tails off. So why is that glycogen depletion so important? Like, what’s happening in our muscles and in our body when we do that?

Ratna: Okay. So we target the biggest stores of sugar in your body, your thighs, yeah? We are, as humans, still evolutionarily behind. Our lifestyles have evolved a lot faster than our bodies have. And the sugar in our thighs likes to stay there, because who knows, a tiger might come around the corner, and you need to be able to run away from the tiger. So, you know, if you look at caveman, the caveman was walking, gathering food, or he ran for his life. He couldn’t afford to jog because if he jogged all the time, just wouldn’t have the energy to run away from the tiger, right? So that’s the natural exercise for us, walking and doing, you know, very hard sprints. The other thing to realize is that the sugar that’s in your thighs, that’s either burnt locally, or it’s sucked in from your blood and stored for burning later on. It doesn’t actually give it out if you need sugar. If, for example, your blood, you know, has got less sugar in it because you haven’t been eating your carbs and your glycogen stores in your liver have gone, your body will turn to fat, which will be turned into sugar to supply you the energy that you require. It’s not going to come out of your muscles until, you know it’s an extreme diet and an extreme condition.

So when you deplete the glycogen in your thighs, a panic reaction goes up. It says, “Oh my God, Katie is under threat. We have to change ourselves in order to give her the power, the energy, the oxygen that she requires otherwise, as a species, she’ll be extinct.” So the scientists obviously have gone into great depth to understand what happens. It’s literally second by second. First of all, they use ultrasound to see how much glycogen is burned and, you know, they’ve tested our bikes and absolutely glycogen is burned. We were tested live on TV. And then in the first 10 seconds of the sprint, you basically have what’s called rapid glycogen depletion. So you reach your peak power and then you start to drop. So it’s rapid. It’s all about the rapid glycogen depletion. And then, when that happens, it releases other proteins, other hormones, other enzymes, and the key one is AMPK during the first sprint. That’s released the next 10 seconds of the sprint. So that’s how it splits. And then you recover for three minutes so that you can have a good second sprint, and in the second sprint, all these molecules that have been released in the first sprint become activated, so that they can go on and facilitate the other molecular processes that are required to make you fitter, that are required to make you slimmer, that are required to make you more insulin sensitive etc.

And the master switch, there’s something called PGC-1alpha, that’s the master switch that controls a whole bunch of other, you know, regulating molecules, and that’s the one that’s activated in the second sprint. And scientists have found that within 20 seconds, everything that needs to happen happens. You don’t need 30 seconds, you certainly don’t need a third sprint because nothing else is happening in that third sprint. So this really is the minimum effective dose of exercise. I hope that makes sense.

Katie: Yeah, it absolutely does. And I think it, you know, flies in the face of this idea that we have, especially in America, that if some is good, more is better. And there’s always that temptation to do more or take more of a supplement or whatever it may be. And in this case, you’re saying what the actual science says, you looked at the minimum effective dose which is gonna get you the best result with the least amount of time and input, which is, you know, really helpful for those of us who are especially busy. And I know there’s a lot of really amazing science on the long term effects of this type of training, the intensity training. Can you talk about like, what are some of the effects people see when they do this regularly?

Ratna: Yeah. I mean, again, the American Council on Exercise tested CAR.O.L against what the government guidelines are for exercise, which is 30 minutes of, you know, medium intensity exercise five days a week. And, you know, we showed that we doubled the fitness gains, we doubled the drop in blood pressure, we doubled the improvement in your cholesterol levels, like literally every parameter we doubled the improvements. And the long term effect of this is you as, you know, as you get older, your risk levels drop significantly, a lot more than if you were doing the government guidelines or other types of exercise. So, for example, when you do this kind of exercise just by increasing your fitness, your VO2 max, which is linked to, you know, your future risk of getting ill, by increasing that by 20%, you drop your risk levels by 20%. So when the scientists, the ACE people did the comparisons, they did, you know, check to see what effect the two types of exercise modalities have on people’s risk levels for future illness. And we, CAR.O.L dropped the risk levels by 67%, whereas the government guidelines dropped it by 26%. So that’s the long term effect, you’re going to live longer and more healthily. But you got to keep doing it obviously, you can’t do it for eight weeks and stop. But that is the long term benefits. And so from an individual basis, obviously, that’s important, but also from a public health and healthcare systems perspective. That’s huge. Because, you know, healthcare systems are collapsing, and they’ll be on their knees soon if we’re not careful.

Katie: Yeah, absolutely. It’s a sobering thought. You mentioned VO2 max. Can you explain what that is for anyone who’s not super familiar with that and why that’s such a good predictor of long term health?

Ratna: Yeah. So VO2 max is basically, it’s how much oxygen, the maximum amount of oxygen your body can take in and utilize, right? And the better you are at utilizing oxygen, the healthier you’re going to be because, you know, you’ve got more mitochondria, if you’ve got mitochondria who can use that oxygen, you have, you know, all your bodily processes just work a lot better if you are able to take in and process and use oxygen better. And it usually, you know, is related to how fit you are. So there’s lots of interrelated aspects of it. So VO2 max measures your fitness levels, but your fitness level is also due to many other things. For example, you have more mitochondria, which are tiny little cells, power cells in your body, and they are the ones that produce energy. You definitely want more of them because that gives your skeletal muscle much greater health, much more integrity, especially as you get older. So if you are, you know, have more fitness, you’re gonna have more mitochondria. And the other thing it does is just, you know, how flexible your arteries are so that your body can, you know, use that oxygen better. If you’ve got hard arteries and not very flexible or clogged arteries, you know, you’re just not gonna be, so your fitness is gonna be low. Although VO2 max is a measure of fitness, it actually shows that your body is functioning well as it should be, you know, your arteries are good, your heart is strong, it’s pumping out more oxygenated blood with every heartbeat. And that means that your heart doesn’t have to work so hard, right? I mean, if you’re not fit, it’s like, you know, to do job X might take double the heartbeats. If you’re fit, it might take half the heartbeat. So it just means there’s less stress, less pressure on your heartbeat, and your body is just working in a really nice way. So once you have all of these great things happening to you reflected by a VO2 max score, then you are gonna be healthier in the long run and less prone to illness.

Katie: That makes sense. And I’m curious, it made me think of something else and I’m gonna throw it out there. I don’t actually know the answer myself. But what about heart rate variability? Is there any data that you have seen on HIIT training and improving heart rate variability?

Ratna: Oh, absolutely. And in fact, again, this is part of CAR.O.L’s AI future release. I’m actually looking at my co-founder as I speak because he’s working on the algorithms right now. We have the data, we just have to make sure it’s, you know, processed properly. So we do measure your heart rate variability, and we want there to be a day when you hold the handlebars of CAR.O.L and she says, “Not today, Katie, you’re too tired,” because she’s analyzed your heart rate variability. It most definitely improves your heart rate variability. I don’t have hard scientific data that’s been published about it, on CAR.O.L, but I can just tell you from observation, I look at my own HRV and, I mean, I’m surprised that at the moment my readiness score because I wear my Oura ring, is high, and the only thing I can attribute this to is CAR.O.L. Literally, a year ago, that was not the case. And other than CAR.O.L, I literally have done nothing else. So yeah, it definitely helps.

Katie: That’s fascinating. I’m new to it, but I wear an Oura ring as well, and I’ve noticed, like the times when I’ve done it I seem to have good readiness even the next day which can be unusual after a hard workout. So I wondered if that was the case.

Ratna: No, it definitely affects you. It is a hard workout. But remember, it’s very short for your body. Although when you come off, you’re like, “God, I’m absolutely wasted,” The impact on your heart has been only 40 seconds, right? So the damage isn’t great though, in fact, there’s none, there’s very little. You get more damage when you’re jogging because of the constant pounding of your heart and the constant pounding on your capillaries, you have more micro tears which leads to, you know, scarring, and inflammation, and stiffness, so that’s actually less good for you. And that of course, would affect your heart rate variability, right? Because it depends on repair. And we say you have to give 24 hours to recover, let your body, you know, repair. But the damage that it’s doing to you is not that great.

If you’re jogging and you’re, you know, exercising for longer, this constant beating actually hurts your arteries and your heart, and your capillaries, and they end up having a lot more micro tears which leads to inflammation and takes longer to recover, etc. So I think all in all, all the factors that can affect heart rate variability negatively are just absent from this kind of exercise. It’s just positive. I know it sounds like utopia, and I’m sorry it does, but it does.

Katie: It really does. And so to kind of give it an overview of an optimal scenario based on what the science is saying, how often per week, per month, would someone use this? Is it something that can be done every day or is that actually not recommended? And are there other things we should be doing as well like just walking or like low intensity, or is this, does the data say this is enough on its own?

Ratna: So for your health, for fat loss, we would say, you do not need to do anything more. So anything that you do cardio, any cardio that you do, for whatever reason to lose weight, or whatever you don’t need to do anymore. CAR.O.L is all you need, and you should do it three times a week. Now, very recent research is showing that actually twice a week is good enough. But I think three times a week at the moment is the recommend…well, I know it’s the recommendation. You can do more in between because we have more than one program, so we have the energizer which is 10-second sprints. If you want to do something every day, just pack that in on your days that you’re not doing the proper intense sprints. And let’s say if you want to lose fat and do it in an aggressive way, then we have a fat loss program on there as well. Which, again, is not very long. You will sweat on that one, it’s just, you know, you do 30 sprints which are eight seconds long, followed by 12 seconds rest and it’s back to back, 30 or 60. And the endorphins that come out at the end of that are just amazing. But that protocol has shown to lose nine times more fat than, you know, if you were jogging or doing lower intensity exercise. So you can do something every day if you want to, but as I think you probably know, Katie, you know, it takes a while to recover and you probably don’t want to do it every day. And if you don’t want to do it every day, just don’t, you know. Most people who do three times a week of the intense get spectacular results. That’s what the ACE report got, spectacular results. So there’s no reason why your listeners wouldn’t be able to get the same.

Katie: And you mentioned you’ll sweat on the fat loss one, and you also mentioned in the beginning on the just the high intensity one you actually don’t sweat. And I think this is another important point to bring up, because I think in a lot of people’s minds, sweat is tied to a good workout or to fitness. And I think that’s something we need to kind of like separate because I think it, from my understanding at least, and you can correct me if I’m wrong, there’s benefits to both. Sweating is great because it helps things come out of our skin, it’s a detoxification mechanism the body uses, but it doesn’t necessarily indicate whether a workout was or was not effective. My personal opinion is we should be sweating every day in some form. I prefer saunas personally, but that doesn’t necessarily tie to fitness. But I’d love to hear your take on that.

Ratna: Absolutely, 100% what you said is correct. So the sweating is not necessarily related to how hard you work. Like I said, if you sit in a hot room, if you sit in a sauna, if you are on a beach and it’s a hot summer’s day, you’ll start sweating, right, because you get hot. You sweat because you get hot. With the CAR.O.L exercise, you do just two 20-second sprints, the rest of the time you’re just pedaling very slowly, just at walking pace. And so your body just doesn’t get hot enough to start sweating. The number of people I’ve seen in pinstripe suits do the ride and then, you know, get back to work. Some people tell me that they’ve totally reverse the way their morning routine used to be. So instead of, you know, going to the gym, showering, getting ready, and leaving, it’s shower, get ready, do a ride, leave. So you don’t sweat, certainly not enough to need a shower. You may get a little bit warm if your room is warm. But that doesn’t mean that you haven’t worked hard because you have worked very, very hard. And what you’ve done is triggered the processes in a very smart way. If you were to do something for longer and sweat, you will still have triggered the same processes, it would just take you a lot longer to do, so it’s your choice. I agree with you. Sweating is really, really important. I personally love to sweat, like you, in a sauna, or I do some hot yoga. And you asked the question, what else should you be doing? I think you do need to do some resistance work, especially for the upper body. I think yoga and CAR.O.L go extremely well together. But if you want to do something else, that’s up to you. But you definitely don’t need to do any more cardio.

Katie: Perfect. And you mentioned also that, and it’s no secret, obviously, we’re seeing the healthcare system have all kinds of problems. We’re just seeing a rise in health problems across the board. What do you think are some of the other factors contributing to this and other things we can do complimentary to obviously the study benefits of high intensity training, to help reverse that trend, even if it’s just us personally taking initiative in our own lives?

Ratna: I think that, you know, you’ve gotta do diet as well as the exercise together. I think that it’s a simple equation, calories in, calories out and you should take responsibility and choose, you know, healthy food. It’s not that we don’t have the education about what that is, we all know that, you know, a bowl of blueberries are going to be better for you then a bowl of Smarties. But we don’t always make that choice. And sometimes it’s just a mental health issue or whatever. But we just need to be aware of that. And I think the government needs to do a bit more, you know. Sometimes trying to create behavior change isn’t just about telling people they should be doing something, just make it difficult for them to do the undesirable behavior. So, you know, raising taxes, for example, on unhealthy food is one example. It’s, you know, maybe prime, maybe incentivizing good behavior is another example. But on a public health level, I think they should be doing a little bit more. And in fact, something that CAR.O.L is going to be doing at some point is just to help you, again, it’s not supposed to punish you, it’s just supposed to help you, that people don’t realize how much sugar is in a, you know, a baguette, for example, because they think, “Oh, well, it’s just, you know, some meat in there, there’s some lettuce, there’s some tomatoes,” but the baguette itself is massively, massively heavy in sugar. So what we are gonna be doing is taking the common food groups that people consume and just instead of, you know, let’s say you taking a baguette of, filled with prosciutto, we will show you a baguette, but the baguette is made up of sugar cubes, and there’s prosciutto inside there. So you just get the mental idea that, “Oh my God. There’s 40 teaspoons of sugar in that baguette.” Once you have that education, I think you just wouldn’t want to touch the baguette anymore. So a lot of it is just not knowing, you know, what’s in there and people think that so many of these, you know, healthy foods are healthy, but no. You look at them, they are loaded with sugar, loaded with sugar. It doesn’t matter. Healthy sugar or not. Sugar is sugar, and the worst kind is fructose which, you know, like agave syrup people say is very healthy. No, it’s fructose. It goes to your liver, it turns into fat there. And it’s just a lot of Broscience that’s out there as well, a lot of just anecdotes and what’s trendy etc.

I think people have to be better educated, and I think the government needs to have a little bit more of a hand in doing this. Exercise, I think, is really vital. If people don’t have the time to do it, then we need to be able to provide a short and effective alternative. That’s what I think we’re doing, that’s our part of contribution to this we think, we hope, and we’d like government to sponsor this and just, you know, because you don’t sweat CAR.O.L should be literally everywhere people congregate. We can be in airports, we can be in train stations, we can be in service stations on them, you know, highway so when people stop and take a break, have a quick ride, it will wake you up and, you know, instead of sitting, these taxi companies, they should have them at the depos. I think, you know, if these became more publicly available, then people would just do it more. I don’t want to preach to anyone, Katie, because, you know, we all have our own, you know, situations in life and you can’t judge people. But I think awareness is a really important thing.

Katie: I absolutely agree. And oh, wouldn’t that be amazing if we had tools like that in airports? I spend so much time in airports these days. I’ve also heard you, the thing I love about CAR.O.L is it gives you like a very simple, quick, and highly effective tool that you can use. And I’ve also heard you mention before in other interviews, a couple things that dietary-wise can be very simple, but very effective. One being not combining sugar, carbs, with fat. And I think that’s a really simple rule that people can remember. Can you explain why that’s important?

Ratna: Yeah, because, you know, fat will be turned into carbohydrates, that will give you the energy that you require, right? So if you add carbohydrates and sugar on top of fat, it’s just a quadruple whammy and you don’t want to do that. It’s the excess, it’s something your body won’t be able to cope with and it just gets stored as fat. So just don’t do that. You know, leave as much of a gap between the two different food groups. But I, Katie, I’m not a believer in eliminating food groups. I really am not. I just think that it doesn’t make instinctive sense to me. But forgive me, this is just my opinion. I know that there’s lots of people much smarter, much more experienced than I am and they have their opinions. I’m just giving you mine. For me, I think what’s the best is to do intermittent fasting and eat what you want other times. Obviously, don’t go crazy, and don’t eat donuts all the time or anything like that. But as long as you make healthy choices and do intermittent fasting, you will have great weight control, but also you’ll have better health because intermittent fasting does more than just help you lose weight or cut your calories. You’re lowering IGF-1 levels, lower rates of cancer, your body gets to repair in the time that you’re not eating. So it’s just much, much, much healthier. And I don’t know, sometimes when I do it I, I get a kind of I just get more present. Just because you’re looking at yourself, and you’re starving, and you’re thinking, “Okay, let’s just observe the trees a little bit.” Sorry, I’m digressing now. So I should stop.

Katie: I love that you brought up intermittent fasting. And I think it’s another area that’s misunderstood, certainly by the conventional recommendations. And, you know, because it, you often hear that from the conventional world of like, “Oh, you should eat small meals every three hours,” or whatever it may be. And women, especially, I feel like get a little nervous about the idea of fasting. And I always say like, there’s so much data, if it makes it less scary, call it time restricted eating or time restricted feeding, which a lot of the research calls it, but there’s so much data and you do it anyway, when you’re asleep. We all fast when we’re asleep. So just build, like extend the window.

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Katie: And I think to me what all of this points to, like the science on the exercise, and the science on the time restricted feeding and on diet is to metabolic flexibility and heart rate variability as well. Like, our goal should be to be these adaptive, highly flexible beings that can handle if you eat, like you said, eat what you want in the meal when you eat. Or when you wanna sprint, your body can handle it. Or if you wanna just go for a long swim with your kids, your body can handle it. To me that’s like the gold standard, is that we’re highly adaptive and highly flexible. Is that kind of how you feel as well?

Ratna: Oh, 100% Katie. You’ve hit the nail right on the head. We are, as humans, you know, highly adaptive, otherwise, we simply wouldn’t have survived all these years with all the changing conditions and the threats that we’ve had as we’ve evolved. So our bodies are adaptive. And that’s how our exercise works. By putting you under severe stress for 40 seconds, and your body just not knowing what has gone on, all it thinks is that you are in danger and it needs to make you a fitter, leaner, healthier human so that you can survive as a species. And so what you do is you adapt, and that’s why you need to leave yourself 24 hours of recovery in between so your body can adapt. So, for example, if you’re depleting your glycogen and your body doesn’t have the time to restore that glycogen, you know, what are you gonna deplete the next time you get on the bike? And so it’s counterproductive. Right? So as you said earlier, as well, just make sure that you’re, you know, you’re eating correctly, you’re allowing your body to do what it’s supposed to do. Your muscles are supposed to be stores of sugar. But, you know, if you burn it, and then you eat sugar, it will go into your muscles because there’s space for it. It’s a bit like going into your kitchen and trying to shove the groceries into cupboards. If they’re full, where do you put it, right? So, you need to create space. So that in that in that analogy, you want to deplete your glycogen stores so you can fill up when you eat carbohydrates or whatever and you can burn it again. If you don’t, you know, create space in your muscles then that sugar is just gonna become fat. And that’s what you don’t want. And, you know, as you say, people are adaptive, right? If you’re gonna be a couch potato, your body’s gonna adapt to be a couch potato, because your body will give you what you are asking of it.

And I see this, Katie, interestingly, because, you know, the worst skeptics are the runners, the marathon runners. They’ll come and they’ll say, “Oh, no, this is nonsense, nonsense. And I’m very, very fit.” And I get them on the bike, and I really push them hard. At the end, they are pretty wasted. But what’s revealing is that we have all this data, right? Like, we have our octane score which tells you your power per heartbeat, it’s approximate to your VO2 max. And the theory is that the fitter you get, the more power you produce with fewer heartbeats because of, your stroke volume is much greater. And they come out with lower scores than half the people that are, you know, that are using CAR.O.L and would not consider themselves exercisers or, you know, fit people, or runners. It’s quite sobering. So the reason I’m saying this is that a runner’s body has adapted to making him a runner, a marathon runner. A sprinter’s body will adapt to making that person a sprinter. So you’ve gotta choose, you know, if you walk and I’m walking is a fantastic exercise, but my walking will certainly not, at a leisurely pace will certainly not improve your VO2 max. But any movement is good for you. Motion is lotion, you know, your joints get lubricated, you get fresh air, and your body feels alive. So you should do it, you should do something. But if you want to optimize yourself, and optimize your health, and optimize your time, then, you know, there are other modalities to choose.

Katie: I agree totally. My thing is I love to just walk with people that I love to spend time with, with my husband, my kids and have it be a social thing versus I’m not trying to exercise. I’m just trying to spend time with people I love and be in a silent move while I do it.

Ratna: Exactly, perfect. And that’s, you know, the joy you get from that is so much better, and so much better for you than the exercise itself from the walking, you know, the endorphins, the feel good factors that come out and just being present with your family. That’s fantastic.

Katie: I’m also curious because I’ve been in this nutrition side of this world for 13 years now and brought up things to moms, like maybe the best thing to feed our babies in the beginning is not rice cereal, maybe we should look at nutrient density instead of just palatability, and some of these things went against the grain. Pun-intended there, but I know that you’re also kind of bucking the trend when it comes to exercise. And I’m curious if you’ve run into any challenges going against these strongly entrenched belief systems like that we need more cardio or we need to work out for 30 minutes, five times a week or whatever it may be.

Ratna: Every day, Katie. A hundred times a day literally. There is not one person who hasn’t said, “Really? But, come on. Can’t be true,” until they get on it. Every single day it happens. And I just tell them the facts. And once you’ve explained the rationale to them, most people who are open-minded will get it and we’ll give it a go. And I have to tell you, the American people are amazing at this, you know. They may not necessarily end up choosing you, but at least they’ll give it a try. And that’s why America is our biggest market because your mindset is so wonderfully open. So we do get that and then you get some people who just won’t believe it and just do everything they can to trash you. And at that time, you just shut up and you basically say, “Okay, you know, please carry on doing what you’re doing, you know, perhaps this is not the right option for you.” But you know, if you’ve got hard science, if you’ve got randomized controlled trials, when you’ve got a publication in the National Journal that’s peer reviewed, I mean, hello.

Katie: Yeah. And another area I think that you probably have some great perspective on is this idea of just balancing work, and life, and family. Most of the women listening, have children, and many of them…well, every mother works very, very hard, but many also work outside the home. And I know firsthand doing that myself that there’s a lot that comes with balancing family and work, and all the things that go with that. So you are a busy mom in startup mode. I’m curious if you have any things that help you keep balance or stay sane through all of that.

Ratna: I will be really, really honest and tell you that I don’t. I don’t. I try really hard to, but it always fails because I prioritize CAR.O.L at all times. And I suspect I’m a workaholic anyway, and I think I’ve come to terms with that. Luckily, I have two children who have come up to be fairly balanced and normal. I have no idea how that happened. Maybe it was boarding school that did it, but they are fine. I’ve got a great relationship with them. And they’re polite, you know, good human beings, which is what you’d want your children to be. But like all mothers, I’ve suffered my life with guilt. Guilt, guilt, guilt, guilt, guilt, you know. Am I doing the right thing? Am I being the right mother? Did I say the right word? Did I feed them the right thing? Did I spend enough time with them? And I guess kids just kind of adapt to what their parents are doing. And in my case, the only thing I’ve done is I’ve not had a social life. So they either see me working, whether it’s at home or in the office, but I’m around them, you know, and I think maybe that’s helped. But it’s very hard. It’s really difficult, especially when you have a mission like you do, Katie, and like many people do. When you’ve got a mission, you just have to fulfill that mission, you know. And I hope that, you know, I’m an example to my daughter. And I hope that I’m an example to my son too that, he went to an all boys boarding school and I suspect that his ideas of women are slightly distorted, and an English boarding school on top of that. So I hope that seeing what he sees in me helps him balance the view. I’m sure it does because as a millennial, you know, they’re wonderfully right on people. And yeah, so I’m waffling on, but it’s very, very difficult. And what we say about CAR.O.L is this, she has one fantastic little line. She says, “Ditch the guilt, not the kids by doing the ride.” But when you have a start up, I don’t think you ever ditch the guilt if you’re a parent. I don’t know why men don’t get this. Why don’t they get it? They’re just so easily able to compartmentalize. I don’t think women can, and I certainly can’t. I’ve totally failed at it. It can go down in my book as failure.

Katie: Well, maybe that’s actually the key is admitting that in the modern world, with all the things on our plate, it is difficult and there’s a lot that comes with it. And we’re not gonna do it perfectly. And you certainly aren’t gonna do all the things all the days. And maybe it’s also about that, supporting each other. I think community at the end of the day is a huge part of that and having those support systems around you that help you get through startup mode or help you get through whatever the challenge anyone faces in their daily life and supporting each other. And speaking of kids, I feel like that’s another point we’re probably gonna get questions about is, assuming they’re tall enough, can teenagers and kids use the bike as well? And if like a family has the CAR.O.L bike, can everybody use it? Who’s big enough to use it?

Ratna: Oh, definitely. So my 12-year-old daughter uses it and so definitely can use it. The only thing we find with younger kids is that their heart rate just tends to be a little bit faster than adults. And because we have safety algorithms that we build in, it’s checking your heart rate, not, if your heart rates too high and it doesn’t recover fast enough the ride aborts automatically. Sometimes that happens with the kids, the ride is constantly aborting. But we have an override factor. You just kind of go override, and you can keep going. But they can certainly use it. Absolutely. I mean, our scientists will say it’s a fantastic thing for kids. You know, childhood obesity is on the rise, you’ve also got childhood diabetes has doubled in the last 10 years. So it’s great, as long as they are tall enough to use it. Absolutely. Right.

Katie: Awesome. And for anybody who’s interested, I know we’ve talked a lot about the science and people maybe wanting to just try it by now. The website is carolfitai.com. That’ll be, of course, linked in the show notes. And I believe you guys have given me a discount code, which is just wellnessmama all one word, which gives $150 off. Anything else people need to know if they want to jump in and try it?

Ratna: No, that’s about right. And I think we do have several locations where people can go and give it a whirl and see what they think. Because I think, Katie, until you experience it, it is really hard to believe. But once you’ve experienced it, you know, you get it. But how do you do it with your children, you know? You’ve got six children, you’re doing this. I mean, that must be absolutely insane.

Katie: It’s a busy life for sure. I am very big on systems. And actually, to get vulnerable for a minute, several years ago, I probably came very close to having a full nervous breakdown just with everything that was on my plate. And I almost deleted the website because I realized I could not balance everything anymore, and I wasn’t gonna let my family suffer. And in that moment, I had this clarity of realizing, in business, everything runs smoothly because I have systems and I have people who help me and I have KPIs, and I have all these things. And then at home, I’m just trying to do it all in my head. And so I implemented a ton of systems in our personal life that keep the family running smoothly, and that take mainly the mental stress away of, I know what I’m gonna cook. I know what the meal plan is, I know when everything is gonna happen so there’s no stress of the overwhelm of trying to figure that out. Basically, I still have to do the activities, but I don’t have the stress of trying to figure out the activities. So I kind of just solved that variable.

Ratna: Could you please write about that, because, you could tell me how you do that? I need it. Help. I need those systems.

Katie: I know. I think that’s gonna have to become my next book. I think I’ve had enough people be like, “Yes, I need to know how to do that.” But I think also it’s acknowledging that motherhood comes with a lot these days, and it’s hard.

Ratna: And then, in my mother’s time, I mean, it was a very different world. But I have to say, I think even then they did an amazing job because, you know, I come from a family of doctors and these ladies are working, working hard, long hours, yet they’re amazing cooks. I don’t know how they did it. Anyway.

Katie: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I can’t believe our time has flown by so quickly. But I am so grateful to you for being here and for sharing today. This was such a fun interview, and I really appreciate your time.

Ratna: No, thank you, Katie. Thank you so much for your time, and I hope, you know, I’ve been half sensible, and I look forward to staying in touch with you. And, you know, any of your listeners can easily drop me a note on [email protected], and I’ll be sure to respond.

Katie: Amazing. Thank you so much. This has been incredible, and thanks to all of you for listening. I hope that you’ll join me again on the next episode.

If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.

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