Ep. 001: THE SCIENCE OF MUSCLE – DR. JIMMY BAGLEY

Have you ever wondered how muscles work? Do you know why some people have more “fast twitch” muscle fibers while others are predominantly slow? Are you able to train your muscle to change from one type to the other?

Muscle has always been a mystery to me until I started my work into the field on Kinesiology at Cal Poly. That’s where I started to learn about our Anatomy and Physiology. I took one class on Muscle Physiology and always knew I wanted to learn more.

In the episode, I was lucky enough to pull from the extensive knowledge of Dr. Jimmy Bagley on genetics, muscle, how to test aspects of your training and your own human physiology, and much more. I am super excited to share this one with you.

Learn everything you wanted to know about muscle, on Episode 001.

"The only way, in humans, to tease out that kind of co-variate or control is to have identical twins."

Dr. Bagley is the definition of constantly trying to improve and become an expert in his field of Muscle Physiology.

If you haven’t heard of Dr. Bagley, he is the Assistant Professor of Kinesiology, and Director of the Muscle Physiology Lab, Co-Director of the Exercise Physiology Lab, and Research Director of the Strength and Conditioning Lab at SF State. What?

I felt so fortunate to sit down with him and have tell me everything he knows about muscle, genetics, and the human condition.

Discover all of that and much more, on Episode 001.

 

A Few Questions I Ask:

  • Where do you usually take biopsies? (10:29)
  • Has anybody done a clinical or multiple clinical studies on the effects of biopsies? (12:30)
  • If you were trained at one point, then became detrained, and wanted to train again, you’d be able to maybe get back to the same spot that you were at? (20:50)
  • Why is V02 Max important and what does it mean? (31:12)
  • And much more..

In This Episode, You Will Learn:

  • What V02 Max means and why it’s important (31:15)
  • How being a twin affects muscle (29:10)
  • What happens to muscle when you’re in space (43:25)
  • How not to bring your ego into scientific literature (52:30)
  • What the limits are of Olympic athletes (57:45)
  • And much more..
Click here to read full transcript of episode

Sean: Welcome back, everybody. My guest Dr. James Bagley. Thank you for doing this, sir.

Jimmy: Thanks for having me, buddy.

Sean: Yeah, man. I think we were talking about before doing your new podcast.

Jimmy: Yeah.

Sean: Which, will come out?

Jimmy: We’re shooting for June. So, probably like July or August. Whenever we get done, but yeah, June’s the kickoff hopefully. Right now we’re calling it Pass Class podcast.

Sean: Pass Class. P-A-S-S podcast.

Jimmy: Yeah. Physical Activity and Sports Science podcast. It’s going to be geared towards people that are interested in learning a little bit about sports science and maybe don’t have a background in it. Yeah, we’ll just be interviewing people and it’s going to be awesome. Me and you.

Sean: Yeah. I like it, bud. It will be I think a fun way to introduce people to exercise physiology without having jargon that maybe a lot of people can’t register with.

Jimmy: Yeah. It’s kind of like bringing science to the masses is one of our main themes, our main goals of it, because for too long, I think people have thought of universities as this ivory tower where all the information is locked up in this secret vault. Nobody else can access it and stuff. A lot of it is because, like you said, jargon or big words people don’t understand, but I think part of it has just been the culture. We’re over here. Society’s over there, but I think we are all in it together, so, it’s better for everybody to get this kind of information.

Sean: Yeah. Plus, you’d have to pay X amount of money per year. You’d have to get enrolled in those places and it’s always a challenge.

Jimmy: Oh yeah. Not everybody is going to go to university and that’s kind of the point, is we can bring as much as we can to, at least a lot of that we’re going to go through is pretty I would say “Basic concepts”. Basic doesn’t mean easy, it just means foundational. So, we’ll cover the foundational stuff that you might get in undergraduate kinesiology or exercise science degree, but in a more digestible kind of way.

Sean: Yeah, I like that, too. Why do we … We don’t call it university. We call it college. [inaudible 00:02:57] university calls it in-

Jimmy: I think that’s a Europe thing.

Sean: Europe?

Jimmy: Yeah. Go to University or go to Uni.

Sean: They don’t call it the university either. They just say university.

Jimmy: Yeah, uni. It’s just different slang. We say college, but I mean, eh, same thing. Go to school after high school.

Sean: Go to school after high school. Do something else. Learn more things.

Jimmy: Yeah. I mean, that’s how we all started. I started at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo with you. We played water polo there for a couple of years, swam. That’s really what kind of … I wouldn’t have gone on to university or to college if I hadn’t gone to Cuesta first and got my first experience in physiology, and exercise science and stuff. I think we have a similar kind of background.

Sean: Yeah, man. I went to Cuesta for three years before I figured out what I wanted to do in kinesiology, Ex Phys, and then I had to make that decision. If I want to go into kinesiology at [inaudible 00:03:49], that’s an extra semester of anatomy and semester of physiology. It means another year on top of my three years out of JC. Then, plenty of people go to school for seven years.

Jimmy: Yeah, they’re called doctors.

Sean: Yeah.

Jimmy: No. I was in the same boat, ’cause I was going to be … Kind of believe it or not, I wanted to be an archeologist. My uncle was an archeologist, I loved Indiana Jones. I was like, yeah, I’m going to go find buried treasure and stuff.

Sean: Get the whip?

Jimmy: Yeah. Get the whip, get the cool satchel, right? So, I took this archeology class at Cuesta and it was cool. We went out and did some Indian dig sites, and found some pottery, and we were actually at a trading post between two Native American tribes, and digging. I was like, “Oh, I found something.” They were like, “Oh yeah, that’s a shard of some pottery. Collect it.” It was cool, but then I was like all right, what next? They’re like, we’re going to do this for eight hours all day, every day, out in the sun. It’s just kind of like science, too. It’s the non-sexy part of science, or non-sexy part of archeology is really just sitting and cataloging everything you find, and digging, and being really methodical. I didn’t end up doing archeology, but I liked the class anyway, and then I went on.

Sean: My first love was architecture.

Jimmy: Yep, I remember that.

Sean: One of the first classes that we did was an architectural drawing class. I realized I couldn’t draw very well and architecture may have been not the best path to go.

Jimmy: How’s your calculus, too? It’s got to be pretty heavy on math.

Sean: I’m pretty terrible at math. We were chatting about that earlier, though. When people say, “Oh, this study shows X” or “This study shows Y”, I don’t think people understand the research. Like, when I say the word “Research” most people go like “Yeah, you research stuff”, but they don’t understand how you guys research it. That’s a lot more detailed than most people realize.

Jimmy: I think what you’re think of when you say research is like I went online and Googled it, or I even went through published literature and stuff in your researching like a montage scene from a movie, and you’re like pulling through the card catalogs, and stuff. That’s just a part of research. Real research, like not real research, but if you’re doing basic science research or using the scientific method, it’s really a method. You would start with that. Go do a little background. Look up, make a literature review. That’s part of your research. Then, you find the questions that need to get answered. So, you pose a question.

Jimmy: Then, you come up with a hypothesis based on your research. Then, you design a study that’s going to test this hypothesis and usually, it’s not one study. It’s not like I want to find the cure for cancer, so, here’s one study to find that. It’s going to be thousands or hundreds of studies, then you keep refining the question, refining the answers, and it’s just a long process. So, every time we publish research, I always use the words of Dr. Lee Brown, one of my mentors at Fullerton is, “You’re putting another brick in the wall.” So, you’re really building a wall of research with each brick. So, one little paper like I’m holding here, this is one brick. It’s not going to tell you the whole story. Even by looking at that brick, you can get a little snapshot, to really back up.

Sean: And, check out the entire thing.

Jimmy: Right.

Sean: Actually looking at studies and stuff like that is extremely time consuming and methodical, too. I’ve just went into the lab at SF State the other day with you and saw a student sitting there and pulling individual muscle fibers from a single muscle fiber, and you’re like “Hey, man. How many have you gotten done this hour?” He was like “Two”.

Jimmy: Yeah.

Sean: You’re like, “Great, just another 3500 more muscle fibers.” I was like Jesus.

Jimmy: Keep it up, keep up the work. Yeah, that’s like the “Non-sexy” part of science is you’re like “I want to do muscle research.” It’s like, cool, sit in that chair, look through that microscope and pull those fibers until you can’t see straight. That’s pretty much it. Put them in these little tubes and that’s your whole day.

Sean: Rinse and repeat for a few months? Depending on … Am I right? You did the math the other day. It was like, per, let’s say you took one biopsy out of somebody’s quad. Where do you usually take biopsies?

Jimmy: For muscle research, the most common is probably the vastus lateralis in your quads. It’s on the outside, right, and it’s easily accessible. Big muscle. You use it for most lower body exercises, so, that’s more common. But, yeah. We pulled out of the vastus lateralis, and you get one sample will have thousands of individual cells in it. It’s only about the size of a pea. Each cell is thinner than human hair, so, think about that. You’re using tweezers to pull these out of this sample, and then individually cataloging this fibers. Putting them in a tube, numbering them, labeling them, and then that has to get sent to the next step, and the next step.

Jimmy: So, if you mess up in one part, you might not even know you’re screwed. You have to get everything right the whole time. So, it’s super time consuming, methodical.

Sean: I think you had told me that if you don’t separate them down to the individual fibers … So, you could look at what looks to be an individual fiber, and it’s actually two.

Jimmy: Right. Yeah. They’re so small. I can post some pictures up online if you’re-

Sean: Yeah, we’ll link out to the show notes to have some-

Jimmy: So, you can see some pictures. We actually have some videos of some of our grad students pulling fibers, so, I can post those up for you guys, too.

Sean: We can link those out. Yeah, yeah. It’ll be easy.

Jimmy: Yeah, it’ll be cool, ’cause you can’t really appreciate it until you see the scale of everything. Imagine you have a dime there, basically like the letter, I don’t know, D on that dime will be the size of the bundle of the fibers that you’re pulling, and then within that, the hole in that D would be smaller than the fiber. You’re looking through a microscope-

Sean: Yeah, of course, of course.

Jimmy: You can’t do this with the naked eye.

Sean: Yeah, of course. Yeah. Do you have pictures next to you? It’d be fun to put a picture next to you.

Jimmy: I’ve got some things that we can show you. I think I do have a picture next to some change so you can see how big the whole sample is that you get. Obviously, we’re not taking a whole muscle out of somebody or something unethical.

Sean: No.

Jimmy: Yeah, we’re just taking smalls.

Sean: I’ll take your whole muscle, if you want. Give it up.

Jimmy: You don’t need your quad. You only got two, right?

Sean: Does that effect … Has anybody done a clinical or multiple clinical studies on the effects of biopsies? Let’s say you’re a high, high level professional athlete and you do 40 biopsies over your career or something. Anybody ever tested the one max leg extension strength test.

Jimmy: I don’t think you would lose any strength or any performance or anything. I’ve had over 25 biopsies on myself. My performance losses are from not training. They’re not from that. You’re not going to notice it. I mean, we’ve got studies, I work with Dr. Andy Galpin down at Fullerton, and they’re doing studies where you’ll do a couple biopsies, go do an exercise, and then come back and do more biopsies. That’s really common in the literature, so, it’s not going to effect performance really in any way, it just feels a little weird.

Sean: Listen, it wasn’t the 10 beers over the weekend, okay? It was ’cause you guys did a muscle biopsy and I lost all my strength.

Jimmy: Right. It was my biopsy four years ago that made me lose my strength.

Sean: My body composition didn’t get worse with the pizza and beer. It had to have been the muscle biopsy.

Jimmy: Yeah, I don’t think that would effect performance at all. Like I said, I’ve had dozens of them. It feels weird. I mean, it’s all under local anesthetic, so, you’re not feeling the actual needle. If you can explain it, it would feel like you bump your leg on the side of a table, like a charlie horse.

Sean: A pinch or something like that.

Jimmy: A pinch, yep. Then, the next couple days it will just be like a small cut that you have to take care of.

Sean: Do you guys use topical anesthetic or?

Jimmy: It’s an injection of lidocaine, so, it’s yeah, the injection feels like a bee sting. That’s really the worst part. Like, if you went to the dentist and you had some teeth work done, same idea. Then, we just take a small sample. Like I said, I’ve had dozens. We just finished a study actually where we did multiple biopsies on each leg, so, we looked at left leg versus right leg fiber type. Kind of the main findings of that is that it can be different between limbs, so, you have to take that into account too depending on what you do. Say you’re maybe an elite NFL kicker or something, I guarantee they’re going to have some differences between legs, ’cause they’re using one leg so different.

Sean: Yeah, you’re like an athlete that takes place in the high jump or something where you’re most likely, they jump off one leg, right? I think.

Jimmy: Right, yeah.

Sean: Your entire career has been jumping off of one leg versus the other, it’s got to do be different in … Do you guys have any research that showed different muscle fibers between the legs?

Jimmy: Mm-hmm (affirmative). It was just recreationally trained, resistance trained guys. We did a biopsy on both legs, asked them what their dominant leg was, asked them multiple ways. Like “Which leg do you kick with? If you fell, which leg would you land on? Blah, blah, blah.” All this.

Sean: Do you push them in the back and see which way they [inaudible 00:12:46]-

Jimmy: Yeah, and you know, the data was hard to sift through, because we found yeah, some people actually have huge differences. Some people don’t. It’s just something, another control. If we’re going to do a study that’s longterm and we want to know fiber type changes over time, we’d probably look at the same leg pre and post. It’s good to know, but that’s another brick in the wall. That’s one study we threw up there, because we had a question. We were like “I wonder if it’s different.” Design a study and figure it out.

Sean: Then, you would need to replicate that study another 999 times? Start looking at the bigger picture of what that means.

Jimmy: With experimental research, we have to take a sample of people out of the general population. If we’re going to generalize the study to resistance trained males, we obviously can’t take every resistance trained male in San Francisco and study them. So, we’ll take 10, 20, 30, or … The most we can do that’s feasible, then we run statistics to find out if that’s significant in that sample, if that could be generalized to the general public. We can say in our population this is true, but we don’t know in females, or in sedentary males, or in elite males.

Jimmy: That’s one other thing. You can redo the exact same study with a different population.

Sean: Barely a different age group.

Jimmy: Barely, or just change one variable, and you have a whole new study, and just keep doing it.

Sean: Yeah. These people are resistance trained, but have smoked for five years.

Jimmy: Yep. That could be a variable you’re changing. Or, like in a [inaudible 00:14:16] and that could effect who knows.

Sean: Everything.

Jimmy: Yeah, probably.

Sean: These people were the people that were stoked enough to get free pizza and come into the lab today.

Jimmy: Yep. That’s how it usually is. That’s another … If you look through a lot of scientific literature, who is your subject population?

Sean: Males 18-24.

Jimmy: Yeah, and whose that?

Sean: That happen to be on campus the day, have nothing to do, and there’s a sign for free pizza.

Jimmy: Right. They’re the easiest ones to get. I think in physiology, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because human physiology between all of us is going to be relatively the same. We have the same cell signaling stuff, but if you start doing studies in psychology, that’s been the problem in the field. I’m not a psychologist, so I’m just going to spitball here, but that’s been kind of the problem the last several decades in psychology is replicating studies, because they’re done in Western countries. Higher socio-economic class, mainly white young males. You do that same study in somebody from southeast Asia and you’re going to get totally different psychological variables, because they had different upbringings and [inaudible 00:15:21].

Sean: Yeah, yeah. Different biology, different culture, different … I guess socioeconomic status.

Jimmy: Right.

Sean: Different drugs or not drugs down there. Depending on prescription drugs, prescription psychotics, antipsychotics that they’ve been prescribed or not been prescribed. It’s all different. How their society views drugs versus how our society views drugs, it’s maybe a little easier to dough out there, depending on the where you come from.

Jimmy: But, psychology is one thing, but in physiology, if we went to southeast Asia, Europe, North America, South America, and we did that bilateral kicking study with fiber typing. We’re all humans. We all move. So, we can assume that it will be similar between groups. There’s going to be some differences.

Sean: Sure. Depending on fiber types. That’s pretty crazy. The stuff that Galpin’s coming up with, too, with the changes in fiber type.

Jimmy: Yeah, like fiber type shifting between with exercise or with aging, or detraining. That’s a big deal, so, kind of a little background is that humans have different muscle fiber types, which really means we have different cells that are good for different things. We have … People typically say slow twitch and fast twitch fibers. That’s the general idea, but that’s just one way to explain the fibers, how fast they can contract. Another way is to explain them metabolically, like, what kind of metabolic enzyme profile do they have? So many different ways to measure it.

Jimmy: The way we do it is this protein called Myosin Heavy Chain. We say “MHC”. MHC 1 is a slow twitch, MHC 2A is a fast twitch. Then, we actually know now that it’s not just slow and fast. You have MHC 2X, which is a super fast fiber, and then in between you have these hybrids. It’s like a 1/2A or a 2A/2X. These hybrids aren’t necessarily a good thing. We actually find those a lot in people that are detrained, or older, or people that have gotten into car accidents and have spinal cord injuries. They may have a lot of hybrids, because the muscles don’t necessarily know what to do, so, they start to kind of try to do everything, but they’re not doing it well.

Sean: Okay. So, they’re almost unsure muscle fiber types. They’re not specific. They maybe don’t know exactly what their function is supposed to be, so, they just ponder in the middle of it?

Jimmy: Yeah. So, if they’re not being used, then they’ll start to shift to something that’s easier for the body to hold onto. It’s not as metabolically active. The whole idea if you don’t use it, you lose it? It’s absolutely true, but the cool thing about muscle is that it will respond really quick to what you do to it. If you are untrained and you want to go back and retrain, or something, your muscles will come back a lot faster than things like bones, tendons, and ligaments, ’cause those are much slower turnover.

Sean: Or, if you were trained at one point, then became detrained, and wanted to train again, you’d be able to maybe get back to the same spot that you were at?

Jimmy: Yeah.

Sean: All depending, right? Case by case basis, right?

Jimmy: Right. That’s a big question that I’ve been thinking about the last four or five years since I got out of PhD school and some questions I’ve had, but this is the study, the holy grail of studies would be to see what happens if you did take, get in a really hardcore training program, like 16-20 weeks training, detrain, or de-load, completely go to bedrest for several weeks and months, then go back and try to retrain, and see if you can retrain faster. That’s the idea of muscle memory. Not like muscle memory like your motor learning and motor control, but muscle memory like the cells remembering where they were before. That’s kind of where the field’s going to try to figure out how that works.

Sean: But, you would need then, people that were keen on training, which is probably people that … If they’re keen on training to begin with, they don’t want to necessarily take a bedrest break-

Jimmy: Yeah.

Sean: … For three months. “Hey, we know you love squatting every day, and you’re really good at it. Now, for this part of the study, you’re not going to do anything for three months.” It’d be probably hard to get a lot of people that are like “Okay. Let’s do that.”

Jimmy: Yeah. That’s what I was talking about earlier is the sample that you choose. We don’t have to do 100 people in this study. This study is so intense. If we were to do it, we would probably do eight or something like that, and then run statistics.

Sean: The only thing you couldn’t do is then assess a causation or take that sample and say “Hey, this is the entire population.” You would have to put a caveat to that.

Jimmy: Yeah. You would say this has been shown in humans in this population. So, what people are doing now, there’s been a lot of studies like that that I just explained that’s like a training, de-training, retraining in animals and stuff like that. Like mice and rats. That’s what typically people study, because people are always like why do you do studies in mice and rats? It’s like, well, they actually have really similar genes and proteins as us, and their biology … If you look at the genome of a mouse, what do they say, it’s like 90 something percent the same as humans? They’re a mouse, they’re obviously a different species, totally different. But, if we do something in them and it seems to work, we do that same thing in humans, we can kind of get some ideas about how the cells respond.

Sean: Replicate that a little bit, yeah.

Jimmy: I mean, a mouse cell, if you pull it out of, like I was talking about isolating fibers. A mouse cell is about … I don’t know, I’m spit balling again, 60 microns in diameter. A human’s is 80 or 100+ microns. Human muscles are bigger, but we have the same fiber types, too. They have slow and fast. They actually have this 2B type, which humans don’t have, but [inaudible 00:21:09]-

Sean: Like another hybrid?

Jimmy: It’s another type of a fast fiber. That’s another crazy thing. Think about all the mammals, right, everything from a rhinoceros, an elephant, down to a mouse-

Sean: And, a blue whale.

Jimmy: And, a blue whale. We all have similar fiber types, but the smaller animals have different isoforms or different types of these fast fibers, because a mouse’s legs move pretty fast when they’re walking.

Sean: Look at birds or any kind of mammal that moves very quickly.

Jimmy: To us, but to them, they’re moving normal speed.

Sean: True.

Jimmy: An elephant, again, they’ll have less fast fiber types, because they’re moving pretty fast, but not compared to us, or a mouse, or something. We all have the same genes as a mouse, genetic makeup to make these fiber types, but they’re actually producing them, ’cause they need them, ’cause they’re mice.

Sean: And, they move quickly.

Jimmy: Yeah, yeah. The ones in our office do. Dang, we’ve got mice on campus.

Sean: Not at your school?

Jimmy: No.

Sean: No where to be found.

Jimmy: No, but, it’s an old building

Sean: I’ve always wondered, I think a lot of stuff that bugs me is somebody will tell me something. “Oh, did you know this is caused by this?” My first question is always “Where did you hear that?” And, they’re like, “I read it on a headline.” I’m like, okay, you’re so far removed from … Right? Because, that headline could’ve come from a study, maybe not. It could have been a good study, it could have been not. Is there an easy way for somebody that reads a headline, and maybe that doesn’t have access to the library of academically published studies to find that and then … I guess most people read an abstract, but-

Jimmy: I mean, in every major newspaper, there’s going to be your health and science columns, right? Those are usually pretty sensational stuff like “Oh, you know. This cures diabetes. This does this.” I would say take every headline with a grain of salt and read it. But, they’re going to cite an article that you may not have access to. But, if you click on that article they cite, it will at least give you the abstract, and the abstract is a short synopsis of the article, which again, I wouldn’t go off of that for the entire article, but it’s better than the headline.

Sean: True.

Jimmy: You can read the title of the article, that will give you something about it. Then, you read the abstract. That will give you a little bit more about it, but if you really want to get into details, go into their results, and see-

Sean: See the controls-

Jimmy: Nobody has time to do this. I don’t have time to do this for every study. I send grad students out just to collect papers and give me the cliff notes on it. That’s what you have to do when 10,000 papers are coming out every month or something. There’s more information out there than ever. It’s really hard to figure out what’s true and what’s not. That’s why we go to school and have to go to school for 10 years to figure out what’s true.

Sean: And, look at it. It’s a lot easier for somebody that didn’t go to school for that long to read a headline and say “That’s good enough”-

Jimmy: Yeah, because you’re reading, it’s published, and it seems a legit [inaudible 00:24:06]-

Sean: Somebody did their job at some point, hopefully. Right? It’s easier to say that, I guess.

Jimmy: Yeah.

Sean: It’s hard, man.

Jimmy: It’s crazy.

Sean: Not easy. Cool, man. What are you working on recently?

Jimmy: We’ve got a lot of projects going on in the lab. I mentioned we’re doing some stuff with Dr. Galpin down at Fullerton. One of the main things I’m trying to wrap up now and write is a study on identical twins. If you think about it, like I said, we’re doing … If we do a study on a population of resistance trained males, we can train them up and everything. How do we know that the genetics of one guy didn’t make him that much better than the other guys, which maybe didn’t respond?

Sean: Sure, yeah. There was always a guy in college that drives by the gym while he’s eating Chic-Fil-A and he just grows stronger, and bigger.

Jimmy: And, has eight pack abs.

Sean: Yeah. You’re like “What? How is this possible?”

Jimmy: I’m starving myself, swimming four hours a day and I still don’t have an eight pack.

Sean: Yeah.

Jimmy: Yeah. So, that’s part of genetics, right? It’s like the only way in humans to tease out that kind of co-variate or control is to have identical twins, or have clones, which we can’t really clone, I mean-

Sean: Getting … Eh, I think crisper action getting there.

Jimmy: Yeah. Side story is we could probably clone humans right now. Not ethical, we’re not doing it in the United States. They might be doing in some other countries, but, no.

Sean: We don’t know about.

Jimmy: Possibly, but they cloned a sheep decades ago in the 90’s.

Sean: And, we wouldn’t just clone humans for the sole purpose of “Hey, I want to see about this muscle study.” I want to see it, but I could take a [inaudible 00:25:41] of somebody that’s not trained. Let’s clone this person just for this purpose.

Jimmy: Plus, that would take a whole lifetime and people only live certain ages, so. The best thing to do is to find already born identical twins-

Sean: Cloned people.

Jimmy: Yeah, and the twins we found were monozygous, which means they come from the same egg, so, they’re identical. There’s dizygotic twins, which are non-identical twins, so-

Sean: Sure, paternal versus fraternal.

Jimmy: They have really close genetics. Then, your next closest would be brother, sisters. Siblings, then cousins, and then second cousins. Even if you’re in the same family, you’re going to find a lot of traits. So, if you start studying one family versus … You know, you can find things, but-

Sean: You look at the Gronkowski family and every one of those brothers, I think there’s five or so, all have done something. Rob obviously, insane football player. Another guy’s in tennis. Another guy … You know. They’re all superstars.

Jimmy: That could be upbringing, too.

Sean: Upbringing? Upbringing a little bit, yeah.

Jimmy: Probably genetics. Anyway, we were really lucky to come across a pair of identical twins in their 50’s, so, they’re middle-aged, 52 is when we tested them. One of the twins is an elite iron man triathlete, so, he’s been competing for years, has been training consistently since he was 20, has a pretty active job. Works as a physical education teacher. Super active his whole life. He’s recorded everything he’s ever done. Ran tens of thousands of miles, logged everything, logged all of his performance.

Jimmy: The other twin had done nothing exercise-wise. He had a normal job as a delivery driver. Maybe did a little walking, lifting, and stuff. Our whole plan was to basically see what 30-35 years of divergent physical activity patterns did to these twins over time. We did a huge battery of tests on them. Pretty much studied everything from body composition, muscle strength, muscle power. Did muscle biopsies, looked at fiber type, looked at gene expression of certain genes that are related to metabolism, genes related to inflammation.

Sean: Did you guys do body comp? V02?

Jimmy: Right, yeah.

Sean: Mass.

Jimmy: Yeah, we did DEXA.

Sean: Wow.

Jimmy: DEXA is a way to do body comp, gold standard. Yeah, it’s an X-ray machine that basically measures your bone middle density, as well as your lean mass, and fat mass. V02 max test, which we got them on treadmill … In this case, we got them on bikes, I believe.

Sean: Before we keep going, take a step back and let’s chat about … ‘Cause, I think a lot of people throw that number out. I have some buddies that are cyclist and they’ll throw that out as an “Oh yeah, this is really cool”, but I don’t know, if A, they’ve ever done one, or B, they understand what that means, right? You see somebody that has the high V02 Max, what’s an easy way to break that down and-

Jimmy: Why is it important?

Sean: Yeah. Why is it important and what does it mean, right? When you say V02, like your V02 max.

Jimmy: V02 max actually stands for the volume of oxygen that you’re consuming maximally. What does that even mean? What is … Think about when you’re lighting a match, lighting a fire. What do you need for that? You need fuel and you need oxygen. So, when your body is burning calories, or using calories, you need fuel, carbohydrates, fats, sometimes proteins, and you need oxygen. The oxygen comes from the air, you breathe it in, it goes to your muscles. It’s being used and then you blow off C02. That’s the idea. That’s basic biology, right? You’re a living organism, you’re breathing. So, what we do in the lab is we hook you up to a mask and that measures the amount of oxygen you’re breathing in versus the amount of C02 you’re blowing off. With that, we can equate how much energy you’re expending from your muscles.

Sean: Nice. You look like Bane.

Jimmy: Right. So, you wear this mask and you’re covered up like that. We get you usually on a treadmill or a bike, ’cause that’s what most people are used to. Start off them off nice warm up and then we do a graded exercise test. Each minute or maybe every two minutes, you increase the resistance or you increase the incline, or increase the speed until failure.

Sean: Failure meaning falling? Or almost?

Jimmy: You can’t do it anymore. Yep. Falling, somebody’s catching you. We have a treadmill with a harness, so if you eat it, the treadmill will stop immediately, which comes in handy.

Sean: That’s nice. A little bit different than we had in the kinesiology lab when you and I were in college.

Jimmy: Yeah.

Sean: I think we had an old treadmill that we maybe purchased or just took from an old 24 Hour Fitness.

Jimmy: No, that treadmill was from like the 40’s, dude.

Sean: I think our standard operating procedure was to have somebody behind the treadmill as the catcher.

Jimmy: Yeah. It’s like, get the biggest dude, and have them go behind that, and if they fall catch them. That’s not safe, but yeah.

Sean: Hey, when you can’t go anymore, we got you.

Jimmy: On a bike, it’s obviously easier, because if you can’t go anymore, you stand up and you can’t pedal. You’re not going to fall off a stationary bike, but on a treadmill you might fall off. Anyway, we get them going as fast as possible and then we take that number at the end. The number, the computer spits out an absolute number, so liters of oxygen that you breathe per minute. So, if you think about a two liter bottle, pretend that’s 100% oxygen, that’s two liters of oxygen. Most people our size that are guys are probably going to be around a three and a half to four and a half liters per minute of oxygen range. Somebody like Lance Armstrong, there’s actually data on this, when he was tested at his prime, he was at 6.1 liters of oxygen per minute.

Sean: So, double maybe of standard male.

Jimmy: Yeah. Also, to bring it … If me and you wanted to compare each other, ’cause I’m a little heavier than you by a few pounds. But, if we wanted to say “What’s my V02 compared to yours?” We would take a relative-

Sean: Relative body weight.

Jimmy: Yeah. So, we would take that and do milliliters per kilogram per minute of oxygen. A good number for that, an elite athlete male would be over 70 milliliters of oxygen per minute. An average Joe, 40, 43, something like that.

Sean: Yeah, but if you’re over 40, you’d want to try and at least be there, right?

Jimmy: Yeah. Just to kind of give you an idea. These guys that were 52 years old, the twins, I was telling you about that study. So, they’re identical twins. The one that had trained for 30 years, he was just over 50, 51 Mls per KG per minute and his brother was around 35. That’s a significant, that’s like a 30% more oxygen that his muscles are able to consume during exercise. And, they also have the exact same amount of lean mass. So, they had probably similar muscle mass, which is crazy. His muscles are way more efficient at oxidizing oxygenated metabolism.

Sean: Yeah. The sedentary twin just had a little bit more total mass on him, right? ‘Cause, he was a little bit heavier.

Jimmy: Yeah. He was heavier, so, he had more fat mass. Significantly more fat mass, but about the same lean mass. Actually, the untrained guy had a little bit more strength, too. He was stronger in the legs, but probably because he was carrying some weight around.

Sean: Yeah. If you walked around with a 30 pound weight vest for 30 years versus your brother who didn’t do that, and maybe trained a little bit more from an endurance standpoint, chances are you might be a little stronger.

Jimmy: Yeah. I think the V02 and the body comp were pretty … We expected that. We expect it if you’re training for 30 years, but we didn’t realize it was going to be that much. I mean, 30% better V02 is the highest it’s been seen in the literature.

Sean: That’s big and I think what people usually equate that with is “Oh, then, you’ll be really good in the gym” or “Really good on a bike” or “Really good doing an activity”, but it’s also just a lot more efficient in life in general, right? Like, getting up your stairs, playing with your kids, being able to go to the grocery store, having enough energy at the end of the day to do anything else. That’s even more important than V02 mass or exercise, in my opinion, when you take the general population, and health.

Jimmy: If you think about health, longevity, and stuff, V02 mass is going to decline with age. After you hit 55ish, it doesn’t matter if you’re as fit as could be, it’s going to start decreasing.

Sean: Yeah, that’s when you need to start [a lot of doping 00:33:41].

Jimmy: Yeah, exactly. That will bump it up a little bit. But, I think if you can keep that V02 max as high as possible, as long as possible, you’re going to have better outcomes, especially if something bad happens like you get hurt. There’s a limit. If this guy’s really fit, he has 50+, in those per KG per minute. Most people in their 70’s, or 80’s, or 90’s that are walking around, they’re probably cruising around at like 20 ML’s per KG per minute. The crazy thing is, if that number drops below 15, they’re not going to be able to climb flights of stairs, they’re not going to be mobile anymore. They basically say that 15 ML’s per KG per minute is the limit for being on your own and being able to live.

Sean: Without being at home or maybe even the use of a chair of something like that.

Jimmy: As soon as you get in a chair, then that number’s going to drop precipitously and that’s no good. You want to keep that number as high as possible.

Sean: Yeah. So, if you start with it higher, right, you’re a trained individual, and you start with it higher, it’s probably going to be a little bit easier to keep it high.

Jimmy: Yeah. Your total absolute loss would be more, because you have more to lose, but you’ll still be higher than what somebody else started with. It’s just like strength gain. If you stop lifting, you just lost a whole bunch of strength, but you’re still probably stronger than the average guy, because you started out stronger.

Sean: Yeah, if you squat 400 or 500 pounds, it’s going to take you a little longer to get down to where you can lift 100 pounds, than somebody who can only squat 100 pounds to begin with, if you both stop training.

Jimmy: Right.

Sean: Nice. Okay. So, you had these two twins. How’d you get them in the lab to begin with?

Jimmy: It was kind of a crazy store. In between my PhD, I’m an assistant professor at San Francisco State now-

Sean: Okay. PhD was Ball State?

Jimmy: Yeah. I did my PhD in Indiana at Ball State University at the Human Performance lab there, graduated, and I had some time in the summer. I had about six months or so in between that and my job at San Francisco. Luckily. Dr. Galpin, my buddy from college from PhD school was starting up a new biochemistry lab. He was like, hey, you want to help me out? I was like “Hell yeah, that sounds great.” So, I crashed at my parent’s for a few months over the summer, surfed in the mornings, went out to the lab in the afternoons, helped build his lab.

Sean: Academia life. Love it.

Jimmy: Yeah. Hey, I was working my ass off for pennies, literally. But, it was fun. I got to talking to some of the grad students and one of the grad students there, we were pulling fibers and isolating the fibers, the non-sexy side of science. Just-

Sean: Hours and hours of repetitive-

Jimmy: Yeah. But, we got to talking and it turned out that she’s like “My dad is a twin” and I was like, “Oh, that’s cool. Like, an identical twin?” “Yeah. Oh, and he’s an elite iron man.” “Oh, that’s cool, too.” I kind of got to thinking, “So, what does his twin brother do?” “No exercise.” “Never?” “No, not that I know of.” Then, I was like, the wheels started turning. I was like, oh, this is the perfect … This is stuff that kind of … You couldn’t recruit these people. You couldn’t find them.

Sean: Sure. If your hypothesis was “Hey, we want to do this”, right? That’s going to be extremely hard to try and find.

Jimmy: The percentage of identical twins is very small let alone ones that have done different things for 30 years. So, I was like, we’ve got to do this. As soon as I got to my job at San Francisco State, got a little bit of funding together, got these guys to come out down at Fullerton, we ran all the tests down there. We had them in the lab. Each of them were in the lab for three days. The problem with these kinds of studies … This study, our question was “What’s the difference between these guys physiologically?” And, our hypothesis obviously was that the trained twin would be better at this, this, and this.

Jimmy: But, we wanted to test everything. I wanted to get diet. We got as much as we could in three days.

Sean: Alcohol and consumption.

Jimmy: Yeah. We did get some dietary recall stuff, but as much as we could control for.

Sean: Yeah, it’s hard … I mean, if I asked you what did you eat for breakfast four days ago, you’re like “Hmm.” It’s the best you could do.

Jimmy: Yeah. For our purposes, we had them do it, they logged their diet for a week just before.

Sean: That’s perfect.

Jimmy: That’s supposed to extrapolate to the last 30 years. I mean, we can’t know what they ate for 30 years.

Sean: Yeah. Sure, sure.

Jimmy: But, as controlled as possible and we had them in there for three days, and just ran through all these studies, and I mean, the biopsy data actually is what was really interesting. Most people, going back to fiber types, have about 50% fast, 50% low fibers with a mix of hybrids and that.

Sean: General?

Jimmy: General person.

Sean: Okay.

Jimmy: We did the biopsy. We found that the untrained twin, yeah, he had about 40% fast, 40% slow. The rest were hybrids or mixed fiber types. That’s what you’d expect to see in most people that are not trained. His brother is actually about 90% slow fibers and the rest are fast.

Sean: Wow, ’cause he using those.

Jimmy: Right, yeah. So, that training for 30 years. Imagine they start at the same genetics, shifted his fiber type 40+ percent in one direction, which-

Sean: That’s a crazy amount.

Jimmy: … Is crazy. That just shows really how adaptable muscle is compared to every other organ, ’cause we look at their bone density and everything. I mean, all this stuff is really similar.

Sean: It’s pretty close. Even though that one twin had 40 pounds or so on his brother.

Jimmy: I think he had more bone density in pelvis area and stuff that you’d expect, too.

Sean: Sure, he’s carrying around weight.

Jimmy: But, not as significant as looking at the fiber type change between them. Other markers, again, we found markers of satellite cells, which are the stem cells that make your muscle fibers grow and repair. We found that number was higher in the trained twin. Some markers of inflammation were a little bit higher. Probably because he exercised a lot, which is not necessarily a bad thing. You’re going to have some inflammation when you’re training. That’s just how you repair your muscle.

Sean: Sure, [inaudible 00:39:31] stress.

Jimmy: Right. Again, a lot of this stuff was like “Oh yeah, we’d expect that”, but we didn’t necessarily think we would see the difference that we saw. That’s what the big-

Sean: Yeah. Let’s just say 40% is significantly different, statistically significant. 40% is plenty.

Jimmy: Our stats were pretty basic for this. It’s not like we could run some crazy model and stuff, ’cause we had two samples. If we had 10 pairs of twins and they had different ranges and stuff, I mean, that study would be … That would take decades. We’d have to search them out and everything. This just kind of fell into our laps. Anyway, I’m pretty excited about this. I’m trying to finish up the paper now. We’re going to submit it for review soon.

Sean: Okay. Trying to get that published [inaudible 00:40:15]?

Jimmy: Trying to get that published as soon as we can so we can share more data with everybody. Yeah, it’s got … We’ll have all the tables, figures, all their data from their diet, their training programs. Everything will be in there.

Sean: Okay. Have you guys … So, if somebody’s 90% slow, and he’s obviously trained that, and then the other twin was 40/40/20. 20, we were kind of the unknown, didn’t know what to do. Have we done clinical or observational studies? Or, looked up why it’s important, or why it’s kind of cool to have fibers that do know what to do? Like, why it might be better to have a slow or fast than a hybrid?

Jimmy: Than a hybrid? I don’t think all those questions have been teased out, yet. I think what we definitely know is that hybrids are probably not good, because one of the key studies that came out about a decade ago was in these spinal cord injury people. We found that they had a lot of these kind of fast hybrid type fibers and that’s just a shift from not moving at all. Same thing happens when you go to space. That’s another cool model of unloading, is astronauts. There’s been several studies where they looked at astronauts for six months in outer space. They find again they shift to these hybrid type fibers. Older people have these-

Sean: Yeah, ’cause there’s no gravity, so, they lose tons of bone and muscle density, right? And, their ability to walk around again. Aren’t there harnessed type squat and treadmill machines for space that they’ve tried to figure out now to try and almost simulate gravity, right? Simulate your muscles needing to work to stay where they’re at?

Jimmy: NASA has been working on this for years. They’ve been exercising in space since basically the Skylab Missions back in the 70’s and 80’s. They started making … Have you seen those old … I don’t know what they’re called. Those thigh-

Sean: The open up the thigh things, yeah?

Jimmy: Yeah, but they’re the ones that you can stretch that are basically like, they’re springs with handles on it.

Sean: Oh, yeah. There’s that in The Goonies. [inaudible 00:42:26] That older brother-

Jimmy: That back him up.

Sean: Yeah.

Jimmy: Anyway, they took that up in the 70’s and they were using that to do upright rows, and they were attaching it to their feet and doing stuff.

Sean: They had cut off crew neck sweaters and everything.

Jimmy: Right. [inaudible 00:42:40] they had that. Then, the first treadmill in space, you know what that was? A piece of Teflon with socks. So, they were wearing socks and walking on the Teflon and pushing their feet.

Sean: No belt?

Jimmy: No, no belt. It was just a flat, soft surface, and they were just pushing, but those were better than nothing. Nowadays, they’ve spent millions of dollars and there’s a treadmill, a bike, and then what they call the ARAD, the assistive resistance exercise device.

Sean: It’s like a squat type machine that moves, right? It’s almost like a-

Jimmy: Imagine a clamshell, it’s kind of a clamshell that’s attached by the hinge on the wall, because vibration is really important to. It opens up and down, and we can link the video on NASA if you want to check that out, but you can do squats, bench, dead lifts, rows. Anything with a bar that moves up and down, you can do that. You can’t do anything side to side or rotational. So, that’s that the limiting … You know, obviously in space, a lot of limiting factors come into play, but with the current machine up there.

Jimmy: Right now they’re doing a couple big studies where they’re looking at training, concurrent training. So, they do a couple days a week on the treadmill or bike, a couple days on the resistance device. It’s individualized per [inaudible 00:43:50].

Sean: [inaudible 00:43:51] individual type program that they change up a lot.

Jimmy: Yeah. The goal for that is to just maintain, which is almost-

Sean: Each average stay is like a 4-6 month type thing we’re up there and they lose a ridiculous amount of muscle.

Jimmy: Yeah, tens of percents of muscle mass and muscle strength depending on the person. Then, bone density. You lose about one percent of bone density per month in space.

Sean: That’s something that you may or may not, you’re not getting some of that back sometimes, right?

Jimmy: No. Especially older people and most the average age for astronauts is 40+. Think about post-menopausal women that are already having problems with bone density. So, you’ve got muscle, bone, and radiation. We have this thing called the ozone layer that happens to protect us from all the rays from the sun, right? If you’re in outer space, or even lower earth orbit-

Sean: Like, through the window.

Jimmy: You get a little bit of help from this magnet kind of around the earth, but a lot of those rays are going to go right through the spaceship, right through your clothes, right through your suit into your body, and then what does radiation … It could cause cancer, cause all kinds of unwanted growth, mess with all kinds of cellular processes. They’re trying to figure out how that works, too. So, if you want to go to Mars or something, you’re going to be bombarded with solar radiation from the sun non-stop.

Sean: Who wants to go to Mars, man? That would be an interesting trip.

Jimmy: I would do there and back. I don’t think I would do the one way trip.

Sean: Yeah. A there and back. I wonder how many people would sign up. I mean, if you know, hey, this is one way, you’re leaving … You can’t have a lot of friends or family. Who would just be like “All right, I’m out”?

Jimmy: And, it’s not like you can sit here like us talking on the phone where it’s maybe a second lag. You’ve got 20 minute lag.

Sean: Yeah. Or, more, right? I don’t know how accurate some of that Martian stuff was, but they had a lag of a long time.

Jimmy: Yeah. If you think of … It’s just … Your radio signal to Mars is traveling the speed of light. Mars is like 20 light minutes or whatever from earth at any given time, so, it’s about 20 minutes. From here to the sun is about eight or nine light minutes. So, if the sun were to explode, we wouldn’t really know for eight minutes, which is crazy.

Sean: Yeah, that’s so nuts.

Jimmy: Yeah. That’s how far away. It’s relatively close compared to everything else in space.

Sean: But, I guess it wouldn’t matter, ’cause nobody know that it actually exploded until it got dark here.

Jimmy: Yeah, and I think it would freeze immediately and we would not know it.

Sean: Yeah, that would be crazy.

Jimmy: [inaudible 00:46:13] We’re like, we wouldn’t be here.

Sean: We’re going down the rabbit hole.

Jimmy: Exercising in space is really important. Nutrition, too. So, they’re starting to do stuff with a lot of protein. The same thing that you would do on earth if you want to gain mass, you’re going to do that in space.

Sean: You need some protein, you have to be in a caloric surplus.

Jimmy: Anabolic steroids actually are on the table, too. I don’t know if they have any immediate plans to do that.

Sean: It’s not a bad idea. I mean, we demonize them a lot here, right, ’cause we can never … I mean, if you come from a good place, aw, that’s cheating. You can’t do that, right? But, if there’s like clinical really good applications for some anabolics, it’s just weird that people [inaudible 00:46:52]-

Jimmy: There’s no cheating in space.

Sean: Yeah, of course-

Jimmy: You’re just trying to survive the environment.

Sean: … To be up there. You’re trying to not lose bone.

Jimmy: Yeah. You’re trying to survive an environment that humans aren’t supposed to live in and we’re doing pretty well. Humans have consistently lived in space on the International Space Station since 1999.

Sean: That’s insane.

Jimmy: Yeah.

Sean: For a six month span?

Jimmy: We’re going on 20 years.

Jimmy: Yeah. Then, the longest for the US astronauts was Scott Kelly who went up for a year last year.

Sean: Dang.

Jimmy: Yeah, crazy. I mean, there’s been some cosmonauts sent from Russia that have been up for longer than a year, as well.

Sean: Dang.

Jimmy: On Mir. That was a big space station that was up.

Sean: Yeah, ’cause what else … In regards to nutrition, you only have so many options when everything has to be freeze died, right? I mean, it’s-

Jimmy: It’s food, right?

Sean: It has to … And, it’s got to be a food that you can do that to.

Jimmy: What about water soluble vitamins that you’re going to lose in that freeze drying process? Those have to be taken in pill form or in whatever liquids they can bring up. They’re recycling water to-

Sean: Yeah, like D3. Vitamin D3 is way better when it’s in a fat soluble form, right? You could even get a pill that has a nice fat gelatin gel around it with vitamin D3. You’re going to be able to absorb that a lot better.

Jimmy: NASA’s spending money on that, too. I was talking to a guy from Texas A&M that’s doing research sponsored by the USDA and NASA, and they’re looking at different types of powdered eggs, ’cause you can’t bring chicken eggs up to space. You have to powder them, but then you lose a lot of the cholesterol, and protein, and stuff in there. So, how can we make the best egg for the space. Like, that’s their whole question.

Sean: That’s crazy.

Jimmy: Right. Yeah.

Sean: That’s insane.

Jimmy: Yeah.

Sean: I think cholesterol is a good thing.

Jimmy: Yeah, I think it’s a good thing.

Sean: I think it’s a good thing. I think it’s something that we may have gotten wrong in the past.

Jimmy: Yeah. I mean, that’s the cool part about science is always changing. So, never, like you … What we were talking about earlier, never deal in absolutes. You’re like-

Sean: Yeah. Siths deal in absolutes, sir. I think that’s the part I like about science. Sure, we’re all human and we have egos. So, it’s hard to not bring your ego in and want to be “Right”, “I’m right in science.” That’s why I like science, the basis of it is trying to uncover the truth. But, if something comes along and is closer to the truth or better than yours, you have to step aside and say “Okay. This is now the new way we’re doing it”, which is pretty cool. You don’t get stuck in these ruts, or you try not to get stuck in these ruts. Sometimes these ruts could be 30 years. 30 years, fat’s bad. That’s a long rut. May not on the entire frame of human existence 30 years isn’t long, but that is a long rut to be stuck in.

Sean: That’s why I like science is ’cause you’re try and not get stuck in those ruts, I guess. If something else comes along that’s been studied and has a better outcome, you’re going to adopt that hopefully.

Jimmy: I think most people, a lot of people at least have a kind of a negative view of “Those scientists don’t want to be proven wrong, because that will just ruin their career”-

Sean: Discredit.

Jimmy: Yeah. It’s true. Sometimes, you’ll build your whole career on some model or something like that, and it could be shown wrong, and that may be a big ego blow. Some scientists might keep fighting and that’s good, ’cause you want this discourse. If the fields start shifting one way, eventually you’re going to be proven wrong, so, you’re going to be pushed out. But, for me, if my … Let’s say we figure out how to exercise in space, and it’s perfect, and we got, and I’m like “Dang, what’s the next question?” There’s always another question. You’re never going to run out of work.

Jimmy: So, it’s like scientists aren’t going to be like “Oh, I’m out of work now”. There’s always questions. We keep going down the rabbit hole farther, and farther, and farther.

Sean: Just trying to uncover more things.

Jimmy: Yeah. So, I was talking about how we measure fiber types. So, we measured fiber types with this protein, Myosin Heavy Chain, right?

Sean: And, the way you view it is through that micron microscope you guys use?

Jimmy: Oh, so, the confocal microscope? We can use that to look at the cells. Then, we can take the cells and we can divide the proteins out. We can look at what type of protein their area. That’s how the fiber type is. Then, we can also look at what types of genes are being expressed. So, if you remember this hierarchy going back in time to biology 101, you’ve got genes turned into basically an MRNA, which is a messenger, get turned into a protein. So, there’s like three levels. We can measure that MRNA, which we call gene expression.

Jimmy: On this twin study, we did it all. We did proteins, we did gene expression, we did images of the cells. All kinds of stuff, to get a whole picture, yeah. We can go down the rabbit hole more. Now we’re talking about things like epigenetics. I don’t even know if you want to go down that one, but that’s even bigger.

Sean: [inaudible 00:51:44], Dr. Bagley.

Jimmy: So, genetics, right? You have a genome. That’s what you’re made of, your genes. They’re all wrapped up in chromosomes.

Sean: This guy has an eight pack, it’s hard for me to get there.

Jimmy: Ah, but it might not be because of your genome, it might be because of your epigenome. So, the way your genes are wrapped up can kind of dictate how easy it is to pull that out and make a protein out of it.

Sean: Okay.

Jimmy: The epigenome is the way they’re wrapped. So, epi means outside of the genome. So, these are proteins and molecules that pack your genes up.

Sean: One more step removed when you’re looking at it, right? One more step.

Jimmy: Yeah. Your hierarchy of … You’ve got, here’s the hierarchy of the whole body. You’ve got a muscle, then inside the muscle you’ve got cells. Then, inside the cells you’ve got proteins. The proteins are made from genes. The genes basically are controlled by the epigenome, how they’re wrapped up, and there’s probably even more. It’s just going to keep going.

Sean: Yeah, you’re going to keep trying to uncover more, and more, and more?

Jimmy: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. So, in 2001 when the Human Genome Project was finished, everybody thought “Wow, that’s it! We’re going to figure out the cure for everything” and then we were like “Shit. There’s an epigenome, too.”

Sean: There’s more!

Jimmy: Yeah, so, now it just keeps going down, and it’s good. There’s too much. The problem is we only live to be what 80 years plus. I wish we could live longer so we could actually study all of this, you know?

Sean: Without having to pick up on the research from the human being that came before you, which might come with its own package of ID and ego, and like “Oh, that was that person’s work. I want to do something different. I can’t just keep living along on this person’s work, I have to change it somehow, because it needs to be different for me.”  Yeah. Human beings are flawed. We’re all flawed, which is a good thing, though.

Jimmy: But, that’s what … One of my favorite quotes kind of falls through that, and this is going to be the theme of my podcast coming out, it’s a plug. PASS Class Podcast.

Sean: PASS Class. P-A-S-S Class podcast.

Jimmy: The quote is from Sir Isaac Newton and is “If I’ve seen further, it’s by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Even Isaac Newton was using research from the past to figure out the laws of thermodynamics, which are like used everywhere in every field in the world now. So, he knew, he had to basically look back and build on. Now, people are building on Sir Isaac Newton. Physics has just gone crazy.

Sean: Even nuttier?

Jimmy: Yep.

Sean: And, we have amazing television programs that come from that.

Jimmy: Yeah, and that’s all that matters.

Sean: And, our cellphones. Cellphones and television programs.

Jimmy: Yeah.

Sean: Two camera television programs with a little laugh track in the background that makes it seem really funny.

Jimmy: Yep. If Issac Newton was here today to see what all of his research has accomplished-

Sean: He would call us all witches for having these things in our pockets.

Jimmy: Probably. What are these things? Yeah.

Sean: “We need to send a letter”. We don’t do that anymore, Sir Isaac Newton.

Jimmy: Yeah. Email. What does the e stand for? Electronic.

Sean: Ah, very good. [inaudible 00:54:40], man. Well, cool. I think the last thing we’re going to chat about is possibly what our physiology looks like in the future and are we tapping out? Are we starting to slow down on what our potential, I guess, like our potential progression looks like? We have somebody who used to high jump back in the day, and we can go a little higher, and a little higher, and a little higher. But, are we now kind of leveling off with our human potential?

Jimmy: It always comes up. As we’re recording this now, I don’t know when it’s going to air, but the Winter Olympics are on now, right?

Sean: True.

Jimmy: So, we always watch The Olympics and there are always records being set, but not always. Some records have been held for the last decade. Some have been held for 20 years. A paper came out a couple months ago and it was talking about the limits of humans, like, what are our limits physiologically in relation to performance and in longevity. People have been living longer, and longer, and longer for the past century-

Sean: Mainly due to modern medicine.

Jimmy: Modern medicine, vitamins-

Sean: Keep people older.

Jimmy: Yeah. Nutrition, exercise. Yeah, all that. People are getting older, living longer, performing better. But, what they’ve seen since about 1980, so about 30 or so years is that all this has started to plateau. Before that, there was a linear increase in performance and age, and-

Sean: Somebody ran a mile in five minutes, it was four and a half, then it was sub four. Then, once that first person did that in the late 70’s or something, then everybody ran sub four.

Jimmy: It was Roger Banister in 1954.

Sean: Yeah.

Jimmy: I remember that. ’54 was a good year.

Sean: Didn’t they think if you ran a sub four minute mile, wasn’t the current thinking your heart would explode, you would die, right? Like, nobody could do that. It’s impossible. That comes up all the time.

Jimmy: But, these were the times though when people were running marathons and it was cheating to drink water, though. That was like in the 20’s, though, so. We’ve come a long way since then, but-

Sean: I think before you start to marathon, you need to eat 10 waffles. That’s what you’re supposed to do.

Jimmy: But, I think the question is since those times we’ve been using science for nutrition. That’s why we have these supplements that are dialed in. We have food that’s dialed in.

Sean: Testing, re-testing.

Jimmy: So, how dialed can we get and then are we at the point where humans in general are not going to get much better? I think we’ll always have a little bit better shoe, a little bit better wetsuit. You can keep improving on those, but you know, still. The jury’s out. Are we plateauing? Is this 2020 when humans are piqued, because we’ve been training for four years, excellent the perfect way. Or, is there still room to improve? I think there’s still some room to improve, but I think it’s going to take some big leaps in science to get bigger leaps in performance and longevity, and stuff, which still probably would happen.

Sean: True. Like, maybe changes to an … Like, a crisper type scenario where you’re like “Hey. I want my kid to be a world record power lifter” almost to where that’s something, I mean it’s kind of creepy to think about, but-

Jimmy: You’re talking about designer babies? Yeah.

Sean: Yeah, designer babies. Something you can decide like “Hm. I want my kid to have amazing certain types of muscle fibers to be really good at tennis.”

Jimmy: Yep.

Sean: You know?

Jimmy: I don’t think we’re that far from that. You mentioned crisper, so, CRSPR CAS9 is this enzyme that’s found naturally in bacteria. The last decade humans have basically hijacked this enzyme to be able to produce, or to be able to edit genes in anything. In plants, which we do all the time. Think about farming. Farming is … We’ve been cloning and gene editing for decades and decades. That’s the only reason why we can feed seven plus billion people on the planet, but when we start gene editing with humans, which again is possible, the problem that you run into is when is this a human and when is it something else

Sean: Yeah, exactly. When did we now create some kind of new species?

Jimmy: Well, yeah.

Sean: Can you call this a human being? What is a human being? That’s kind of crazy.

Jimmy: Yeah, I mean. If there’s gene editing … There’s still some problems with implementing in a live human, but it can be done where we can take an embryo, like you said, a designer baby and change some genes to improve the odds of some traits happening, and other traits not happening. Again, it’s still … You don’t necessarily know what you’re going to get at this stage.

Sean: Yeah. Like, if you’re talking about eye color or something.

Jimmy: Yeah, you could probably change those, but if you’re like I want this person to compete in endurance, there’s a lot of genes that are related to endurance activity that you’re going to have to manipulate.

Sean: And, we don’t know all of them.

Jimmy: Not yet. I mean, there’s so many. The problem is we know maybe which ones they are, but we don’t know how they interact.

Sean: True. Yeah.

Jimmy: That’s why we do all these studies in animals to try to figure it out.

Sean: And, we only know the level that we have, right? Like, when you said the genome and epigenetics. There could be 800 other layers that we don’t even know, yet.

Jimmy: There’s probably other controls, right? So, we know the basic machinery inside of a cell, but the controls that we’re starting to figure, some of my friend Dr. Greg [inaudible 01:00:13], he’s at Tufts, he’s starting to look at things called micro RNA’s. So, I mentioned an MRNA as a message RNA, and this gets sent to be a protein. Micro RNA’s are just small RNA’s and they actually go and send signals to change the way proteins are made. So, they’re another controller. I mean, it’s a city. Inside your cell is a city. There’s stuff moving around. Some stuff you might not know what it is. Like, why is that guy sitting on the corner? I don’t know, but maybe he has a purpose. Maybe if something breaks over there, that’s the guy that fixes it.

Jimmy: So, you look through this cell and you’re like, everything has a purpose probably, and we don’t necessarily know what some of the things in the cell are quite for, yet.

Sean: Yeah. If we start tampering with it … It’s kind of like wheat. Like, the wheat that we call wheat now, we probably shouldn’t call it wheat. We should probably just call it like a modified thing that we’ve changed thousands of times that we call wheat, ’cause that’s what it was when it started, but it’s not the same thing. You know, it’s like, “Oh, my grandmother never had a problem with wheat.” Yeah, ’cause she ate something different than what wheat is now. It’s a little bit nerve wrecking to think about that.

Jimmy: Well, all the food that you eat is not the same as what was around 100 years ago.

Sean: Yeah. Of course, right? Even apples and bananas. We were probably never supposed to eat that. If you look at a banana, what it was original, it does not look good. It’s disgusting.

Jimmy: Little and green, yeah. It’s probably really tart per the apples. Think about the apples were small, teeny. Everything we have is genetically modified, which is fine. I love the taste. It’s delicious. Like, I have no problem with that.

Sean: Going to the grocery store and those apples are super shiny in Whole Foods and it entices me to pay $8 a pound for these super shiny apple that we know it now as.

Jimmy: And, it’s been okay to do that in plants forever. I mean, we’ve been breeding plants forever, and now we’re editing them. But, is it okay to do that in humans and other animals that are primates and stuff like that? Those are the questions that ethically you run into. The problem is too when you change the human … They call it the human germ line, right? So, if you get genetically modified, the things is if you had kids, they’re genetically modified, too, and they don’t have a say in that. So, when you think about ethics, we can change whatever you want if you say that’s okay. You’re signing off. You’re a grown up adult. Whatever. But, that’s going to affect your kids and their kids, and their kids, and their kids, and that is the question. Is that okay?

Sean: Yeah, ’cause you’re not just signing off on your life.

Jimmy: Right.

Sean: You’re now signing off on-

Jimmy: Potential future generations and how would that affect them? Maybe it’s not as good as we think, you know? We can only look so far into the future and when you start messing with these genes, like, yeah.

Sean: Especially when we just barely learned about what that is.

Jimmy: Yeah. Like, 16 years ago, we mapped the first genome and that’s not that long ago.

Sean: And, we’re already starting to have private technology companies that are like “Okay, yeah. We get it, we get it, we get it. Now, let’s mess around with it.”

Jimmy: Oh, yeah. In China, there’s definitely been somebody that used the CRSPR CAS9 enzyme on human embryos and it worked. It did something. So, their could be designer babies now.

Sean: Change your hair color to begin with and then …

Jimmy: Like I said, in 1990 something, Dolly the Sheep, remember that? Was cloned.

Sean: That was a big deal.

Jimmy: That was the first mammal that was ever cloned. That was like when Jurassic Park came out. Jurassic Park is totally feasible now. In 1993, right?

Sean: 1993 Jurassic Park?

Jimmy: Yeah.

Sean: It took the frog’s DNA or something like that. I don’t remember how they explained it in the movie, but, yeah.

Jimmy: Yeah. So, they basically took the DNA that they found from a mosquito that bit a dinosaur that was stuck in amber and there was missing parts, so, they attached the frog. It’s not that simple.

Sean: Yeah, of course. They have a little cartoon guy on there. Yeah. All animals in Jurassic Park are female. We bred them that way.

Jimmy: Yeah. Life finds a way. The new thing now is wooly mammoths. Wooly mammoths didn’t go extinct that long ago, like thousands of years ago, and they’re finding totally frozen ones that we can get the whole DNA from to clone them. But, the problem is, we can’t have a baby mammoth growing in another mammoth, because we don’t have that, but modern elephants are close cousins to wooly mammoths, so, they could easily make a hybrid elephant mammoth and have it grow inside of a female.

Sean: Fertilize a modern day elephant’s eggs with wooly mammoth DNA from a frozen wooly mammoth?

Jimmy: Totally feasible. It would basically make a really hairy elephant. They make ligers. That’s a hybrid. Donkeys. Donkeys. Think about all these hybrid animals that they can make.

Sean: Yeah. We just have no idea what that would do to the natural food chain, or how that would change anything.

Jimmy: Yeah.

Sean: Like, human beings have a decent history of messing anything up by trying to introduce new species, because we don’t know what’s going to happen.

Jimmy: We change things a lot.

Sean: Didn’t Australia have trouble with that? They had a problem with rats. Then, they introduced cats or something like and then-

Jimmy: They probably brought the rats from England, right?

Sean: The cats screwed everything else up and then they introduced something else. Now, everything is running rampant, and we’re like “Aw, man. Maybe we shouldn’t have done that first introduction 20 years ago.”

Jimmy: Yeah, it happens everywhere. Invasive species take over in Southern California even, too. I mean, we have a lot of invasive species here. Speaking of Australia, the eucalyptus trees around here? Not native to California. They smell delicious and they’re beautiful. They look pretty, but those things fall down when it’s windy, and there’s no koala bears hanging out of there eating the plants, so, they’ll grow anywhere, but-

Sean: I think, when we talk about koala bears, ’cause we were in Australia, the lady was telling us, she’s like “Yeah, these things are great, but if it wasn’t for human beings, they’re not the best at surviving.” Right? There probably wouldn’t be koala bears and panda bears in a wild setting. They don’t really have that much defense.

Jimmy: I don’t know. Koala bears aren’t even bears. They’re marsupials.

Sean: Like a sloth. I guess, we have [inaudible 01:06:37] sloth that survives.

Jimmy: In South America, yeah. I saw a sloth in Costa Rica one time. Andy and I were there. I spotted it on the tree. Totally looks like it’s part of a tree.

Sean: It’s kind of creepy. Huge talons, they don’t move very fast.

Jimmy: Yeah. Yeah, man.

Sean: Very cool. All right, sir. Well, I don’t know how long that’s been. I think we just did an hour.

Jimmy: Nice. This is solid. We had a good chat. Good chatting with you. I’m happy to come back any time and talk science.

Sean: Yeah. Thanks for being on, man, and I appreciate it. Yeah, I’m excited to see … When is this twin study coming out?

Jimmy: Hopefully as soon as possible.

Sean: Yeah.

Jimmy: I mean, if you want to follow more of our stuff, you can check out my website is musclephyslab.com. M-U-S-C-L-E-P-H-Y-S lab-

Sean: .com.

Jimmy: Or, you can check out our kinesiology website at San Francisco State.

Sean: Yep. What’s that Kines website?

Jimmy: It’s kin.sfsu.edu.

Sean: Okay. If people want to become a part of studies that you’re doing or help out by donating to the lab, are they able to do that?

Jimmy: Definitely. Just go to our musclephyslab website. You can get my email on there. Email me directly. If you’d like to donate, there’s a donate button on the bottom of the front page. That’d be awesome.

Sean: Very cool. Where we can find you on the social webs? Where do you spend most of the time? Twitter? Instagram?

Jimmy: I’m mostly on the Instagram these days. A little bit on Twitter, but you can find me on Instagram at DrJimmyBagley.

Sean: DrJimmyBagley?

Jimmy: Yes. Or, at musclephyslab is the lab one. So, that’s kind of the more professional. The DrJimmyBagley is the more personal, but still always science stuff on there, too.

Sean: Very cool. All right. Thank you, sir.

Jimmy: All right. Thanks, Sean.

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