The Strong MD | Season 2 Episode 4

Dr. Chris Myers and the Science of Tactical Fitness

Join Dr. Jaime Seeman in an exhilarating episode of The Strong MD podcast as she sits down with Dr. Christopher Myers, an exercise physiologist and coordinator of the Human Performance Optimization Program for the United States Air Force’s Special Warfare Tactical Air Control Party. Dr. Myers, who has an illustrious military background including three tours in Iraq and numerous commendations such as the Bronze Star, shares his incredible journey from enlisting in the US Army to conducting groundbreaking research with the Navy Experimental Dive Unit.

Dive deep into the unique challenges and strategies of optimizing human performance in the military, as Dr. Myers discusses the importance of exercise, nutrition, and recovery. Learn how these principles can be applied to everyday life, especially for healthcare professionals and first responders. Dr. Myers also sheds light on his research and insights from his book, “The Human Weapon System,” and offers practical advice on achieving peak performance through simple, foundational practices. Whether you’re in the medical field, military, or just looking to enhance your personal wellness, this episode is packed with valuable insights and inspiration.

Published on
July 08, 2024

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From Battlefield to Human Optimization: Dr. Christopher Myers on Tactical Performance

Strong MD podcast features Doctor Christopher Myers, exercise physiologist

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Welcome to The Strong MD podcast. I am your host, Doctor Jaime Seeman, and on today’s episode, I’m sitting down with Doctor Christopher Myers. He’s an exercise physiologist and he runs the Human Performance optimization program. He’s the coordinator at the United States Air Force’s Europe Air Force Special Warfare tactical Air control Party. Doctor Myers enlisted in the US army in 1997 and attended the United States Military Academy at West Point. After graduation, he served three tours in Iraq as a platoon leader, battalion operations officer, and company commander. Doctor Meyers was awarded, amongst others, the Bronze Star and overseas service ribbon three times in recent years. Doctor Meyers conducted his doctoral research and postdoctoral fellowship research with the Navy Experimental Dive Unit in Panama City Beach, Florida, and has authored several books, including the Human Weapons system. He’s also the host of the White Coat warriors podcast on the Influent network. There’s so much to unpack about health and nutrition today relating to military and our healthcare professionals, so let’s get after it. I hope you enjoy today’s episode.

Chris Myers, welcome to The Strong MD podcast.

Dr. Chris Myers: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: It’s good to have you here. So tell us about your background because everybody that I interview, I’m always trying to find what those little nuggets are that make people awesome, high performers. And that is exactly what you are. And we’re going to dive into that. So tell people about your background.

Dr. Chris Myers: Thanks for too kind. so, born, raised day in Ohio. So good luck, guys. Yay.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: This isn’t starting through.

Dr. Chris Myers: Okay.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Well, we’ll allow.

Dr. Chris Myers: Yeah, I know. And we win, so it doesn’t matter anyway. so. But because I’m from Ohio, I joined. I joined the army to kind of get out of Ohio for a little bit. So it kind of. It so works itself out. So I joined the army in 97. still in high school. Parents had to sign on the dotted line for me. after that, a couple years. Went to the academy in 2000, of course, towers came down. World changed, changed, my trajectory. Wanted, to go to medical school, actually turned it down to go to Iraq, follow my platoon in 2004 when I was commissioned in, military police corps. So after that, I was stationed here in Germany for about ten years. Fast, forward? Yeah, fast forward. A decade. A couple of tours, Iraq. Many explosions, shrapnel to the back, x, y and z. I was medically retired in 2012, right after I finished my company command. besides that, I was a broken product of the army physical training program. So the typical bad knees, bad back, ankles on top of the deployments. And that was my motivation to go back to school to get my, advanced degrees in, clinical and integrative physiology, because I wanted to go work with the army, especially up there, the research labs at Natick, called eucerium, and try to redo, help rebuild the army physical fitness training program. Well, fast forward to, 2019. When I finished my doctorate at Florida State in integrative physiology, the army rolls out the h, two f program, the Holistic health and fitness program, which is their brand new human performance program. So I missed the boat on that one. But the air force wasn’t too far behind, and that’s what I’m doing right now. So I am in. I’m an embedded physiologist, with a unit over here in Germany. And what does that mean? Is. So I work with the same operators day in and day out. So I have the same clientele that I work with. So I get to know, the. My clients. I. So it’s not where I have to deal with a rotating number, of soldiers or airmen. I have the same personnel that I’m responsible, responsible for day in and day out for their performance and rehabilitative training with our, with our embedded physical, therapist as well.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Interesting.

You said you want to go to medical school and decide to deploy to Iraq instead

Take me back to that decision. You said you want to go to medical school and decide to deploy to Iraq instead. I mean, tell me about why.

Dr. Chris Myers: Yeah, so that was my whole reasoning for, besides getting out of Ohio, is to join the military, you know, because they’ll pay for college, go to medical school. Because when I enlisted, I was. I went as a combat medic. And then, at the academy, that. So I went to West Point. I I did what they called chemistry, and life sciences, essentially biochemistry at that point before they, which they’ve kind of revamped it a couple years ago. So that was pretty much the pre med track there at West Point. But of course, my sophomore year, the towers fell and completely changed the landscape because when I joined the military, it was towards the end of the Clinton era. And so the only biggest, the biggest thing going on was Kosovo. Well, yeah. So nothing compared to, the global war on terrorism after nine, eleven. So when. When that happened, you know, they just really kind of changed the focus. It’s okay, let’s go. You know, we are a platoon leader. I have the opportunity to go lead, soldiers in combat. Let’s go do it. So it changed my mind. Turned down med school, I got, like, literally the last slot, at the academy, to be able to go to med school, turn it down, had fallen. My platoon in Baghdad. so as soon as I finished the, officer basic course, I went straight to Iraq, and got, you know, definitely very arduous, and, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, but did get to see the first free elections there in Iraq, which was amazing, seeing people be able to stand up for themselves, and hopefully be able to help, you know, as well. but on the downside of that, too, got hit with, personally, survived a vehicle, born IED. So car bomb hit my vehicle. I traveled to my back. my guys, my driver and gunner were severely injured. Everyone survived, made full recoveries. but, you know, between that, a couple ieds and mortars. Yeah. So we had to go through some traumatic events like that as well. So that kind of helps shape, you know, who I became, who I’ve become over the years. I had similar instances with that, with my second deployment in 2007 through 2008 as well, so.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Wow. Well, Chris, thank you for your service and serving our country. I mean, that’s a really noble decision. If you would have gone into medicine, was there, like, an area of medicine you wanted to practice in? I mean, you kind of had this exercise physiology, biochemistry background.

Dr. Chris Myers: Yeah, yeah. Probably would have gone more into either, you know, general medicine or, you know, acute traumatic. What’s the wording for it? Acute trauma surgery. Yeah, yeah. You know, that was kind of like, clearly. Yeah, yeah. So that’s where I would have gone in, but, you know, it’s. And honestly, I had a second opportunity to go to med school, too, and turn it down. but it just wasn’t meant to be. I’m happy where I’m at. I think I’m where I’m supposed to be at this point, you know, so I’m still helping. and it’s just in a different way.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: That’s incredible. That’s incredible.

The really human, uh, performance started initially within the military

So I’m super interested to hear when you, you know, were active and, you know, doing these deployments for Iraq, how does our armed services, I mean, how do people take care of their bodies in a way to perform in immensely stressful situations? I think there’s so much we can learn as just real, everyday humans and not capacity.

Dr. Chris Myers: Yeah. So what you’re talking about is resiliency. That’s, kind of the coin term that the military uses, and there’s many, and that’s that’s the beauty of human performance. There’s not just one, one size fits all. There’s a couple of different ways of doing it. so I guess I’ll have. Hopefully we’ve got some time. So I’ll backtrack a little bit to kind of give some background on this, at least in the, from what I’ve read in the military. So the really human, performance kind of started initially within the military, and it got its roots right around after 911, kind of those early times with special forces. and they saw some issues going on. You know, you had the MSKI, musculoskeletal injuries, but also had a lot more of the wellness type issues. Suicides, PTSD, TBI. TBI was just becoming apparent at that point. And so the ideas was, let’s take some of, these programs they find in elite athletics, and let’s start try doing, apply it to the tactical population, especially special operations. And that’s where you get the put of program. The potif program, started with the army special forces back in 2009 to, kind of really get after, some of the, wellness injuries, suicide rates, and, PTSD type stuff that they were seeing. Because, again, special forces have such a high turnover, when it comes to combat tours at that time, right, because we had the two fronts going on, Afghanistan and Iraq. And so they were taking a toll. And so that was the first stab at it. And potif is more of what we would call a wellness performance program. So when you look at human performance, it kind of can fall into a paradigm where one side’s true performance, the other side’s more wellness. Right. And Poto falls more onto that wellness side because they have more domains that focus on that wellness where it’s spiritual, emotional and behavioral. You know, they have three domains that just focus on that, where the others is, rehabilitative or family and, physical. So it’s. It’s a lot more holistic in that aspect. And so that was the first, the first, hp program you see in the military. And then Air Force picks it up, they create the, the true north. Yeah, I, think true north was the first, their first version, and it was modeled off the pOTAF program. They’re. They’re pretty much mirror abjects to that. And then within the air force, it morphs into you get another, called guardian angels, and then you have all these other. And then fast forward to probably about 2017, at least within the air force, you have different flares of human performance coming out, called through the, what’s called the occupational, special, excuse me, the OSt teams. not, yeah, occupational specialty teams. And the great news with this, within this program, there’s many different flavors of these OST teams. Ah, within the air force, I think there’s like 13 different, versions of it. And they’re different plays on the typical five or six, domains we see in human performance, which is, physical, rehabilitative, medical, nutrition, spiritual, emotional, and cognitive. And that emotional is sometimes called the psychological as well. And so you got the, you know, the big six. a lot of times now you’re starting to see, the. The performance or the musculoskeletal combined with the rehab just be called the MSK or the musculoskeletal domain. Because typically, when you have physiologists or strength coach like me, we’re typically working with physical therapists, and we’re both sides at the same point. You have rehabilitated side and the performance side.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Okay?

Dr. Chris Myers: So that’s kind of where that comes from. and so that’s kind of how, you know, and that’s kind of how it’s morphed, at least from my knowledge, with it. And then, of course, then in 2019, like I said, the army rolls out the, health, the holistic health and fitness program, also known as the H two F program, which is a, ah, five domain model. that’s more oriented towards the performance side. It kind of balances between that midline, between wellness, performance. But I would say it skews a little bit more towards performance. And so that’s kind of how the art, the military is kind of getting after it with this resiliency, overall. But kind of going back to the second half of your question is, how did we deal with it back then? you just dealt with it. And again, I hope, like you said, that’s how we kind of. That came about with these programs, because in those early years of GWAT, the global war on terrorism, we didn’t really have those. It was just suck it up and move on. Go out and do m. Yeah, go out and do, you talk to your battle buddy, or you just throw around a whole bunch of weights, you know, kind of get through it. Me, I’m an endurance guy, so I’d go run quite a bit, you know, or, you know, find a cycle bike and just ride until I got through it. and so occasionally you would have the chance to speak to the chaplain. the stigma with, psychological, issues was pretty big back then. I think the military’s made great strides and getting rid of that stigma. but, yeah. So it’s definitely evolved over the past 20 years.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Yeah, I know there’s a huge need. You know, I’m in Omaha, Nebraska, and we. I’m involved with a foundation called the 50 miles March foundation, and we raise money for veterans that are involved with, mental health disorders. And, you know, people have a life after their career in the armed services and. And getting them back into being productive humans. And part of our society is. Is a huge hill that a lot of these people face after they serve.

Dr. Chris Myers: Exactly. But the now. The thing now is, now that we’ve had human performance, within the military for 20 plus years, the paradigm for HP has not really changed. Right. So a lot of organizations still refer to our tactical populations as tactical athletes. I’m sorry, they’re not athletes. We’re not athletes. They’re not athletes. Because if you hear the term athlete, you think, okay, it’s someone that is designed for trains, for a particular sport, competing in their day. Yeah. And they’re the day everything is regimented form. Right? So if you’re an elite athlete or a professional athlete, you know when you’re getting up, you know what you’re eating, you know how long your price, you know exactly what you’re doing, you know what you’re eating, you know when you’re going to be able to recover. You have access to all these recovery things. Military don’t have. They don’t. We don’t have. They don’t have that. And honestly, their days are not regimented. You know, at, ah, for me, a. As a, ah, physiologist, I have my guys for guys and gals for like, 90 minutes a day. That’s it. And that’s.

We need to change the paradigm on how we look at tactical populations

And I can only control that to a certain point as well. They’re responsible for what they eat, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, meals in between, how they hydrate, how they caffeinate, little things like that. So we need to change the paradigm on this. Got me thinking. It’s like we need to change the paradigm how we look at the, tactical first responder and, you know, law enforcement populations. And when we look at any type of piece of equipment in the military or that’s funded by a government entity, it is a. It’s a program of record. And what that means, it has tight, it has funding that’s tied to it, right. Dedicated lines of funding. And it’s a program, it’s a holistic program. It’s got life cycle management, it’s got maintenance, it’s got training, it’s got policy and regulation. Right. Well, our tactical populations are no different. And honestly, and it’s being said that they’re the most important weapons that we have in the military. So we got me thinking of, and I came across term called the human weapon system. And it was basically kind of a. It was a, it was a, it was an academic paper that was written, I want to say, back in 2000, 920 eleven, I can’t remember exactly, but it was never, the term was never really defined, but it was an interesting introduction to it. And I liked that term. And so I started, it got me thinking, how does this actually apply? And it fit perfectly if you really break it down into some of its parts, where human beings got that weapon just means it really, if you look at the, definition of weapons, just a tool. It’s a means, means to an end. So, and then a system, the human beings, a system of subsystems. And so when you look at our population, these tactical populations, they are human weapon systems. And then kind of taking that, okay, so if we say they have different subsystems, you can start applying lifecycle management, principles to that paradigm. So it goes more than just to the five or six regular domain, HP domains I mentioned earlier. It expands more of that. So you start talking about fiscal, you start talking about educational learning, lifecycle management, maintenance, little things like that. And at one point, I think we had up to 18 different domains, both primary, secondary and tertiary, that really can affect these, populations. And so, at least for me personally, when I start talking about HP, I kind of start talking about it in that type of paradigm.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Okay, and so you went on to write a book called the Human Weapon system, is that right?

Dr. Chris Myers: Yeah.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: So, my understanding is the human weapon system, and this kind of idea of this tactical athlete, is what, what creates human optimization. And this is the program that you run. So tell us about, human weapon system. I mean, start to break that down more. Like, what give us the. What is the book about? How do we, you know, apply this to our own lives?

Dr. Chris Myers: Yeah, so it’s really, like I was saying, it’s, how do you, you have to look at these, you know, the population a lot more than just outside of the traditional four, five, six domain model of human performance. And for those who don’t know, the typical domains for human performance are seen as the, the performance, the recovery, the nutrition, and then the psychological. That’s your. Your traditional four domain model. To make it five, you add in either. You add in cognitive, to make it six, you. You add in, spiritual. Right. but within the Hws kind of paradigm, it’s. It’s bronze that a little bit more. Right. Because there’s more to the human being than just that. It’s like, okay, how do you learn? Right. How do you do education? Right. They’re. They’re two separate domains, but they’re equal parts of the same coin. Right. But they’re different. They’re not. And that’s stuff that’s not trained on. Right. It’s not really addressed, policy and regulation on, you know, for our tactical populations, first responders, that those types of guidelines drive how you train, how you take care of yourself, little things like that. So you have to look at kind of the second or third order, elements that affect your lives. And that’s really kind of what it comes down to then, more just than just focusing on the traditional elements of human performance. And that’s kind of what it. What it gets at.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Yeah.

Dr. Chris Myers: Now, those. Those core five to six don’t change. They’re still highly important, but you can get true optimization by looking at those other areas and trying to get it all together in one cohesive unit.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Yeah. I mean, I picture it in my mind, kind of like a pyramid, and I feel like, you know, in the medical system, my husband was a first responder. He was a police officer for almost 15 years. But, you know, I witnessed, you know, other doctors and first responders, police officers, firefighters, in our own community, that really aren’t getting those basic foundational things, you know, like, I love that you’re saying, like, there’s this and this and all these pieces to the puzzle that really build us and make us who we are and how we perform. But can we go to the. Just the basic principles and talk about exercise? Because I feel like, oh, yeah. Aren’t even doing that right.

Dr. Chris Myers: That’s true. It really. You’re 100% correct on that. And that’s the. That’s. That’s why I love these conversations.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Yeah.

Nutrition is highly individualistic. And I think it’s such a confusing area

So talk to me about nutrition. especially, you know, being in the armed services. Like, you would think that our, you know, elite performers are going to know exactly what this magical diet looks like. And I think it’s such a confusing area. So give us, give us kind of your insight.

Dr. Chris Myers: Nutrition is highly individualistic. Right. and if you’re not eating properly, you could be working out and recovering the best you can. You can, but you’re not going to be able to get, you’re not going to get the maximum portions out of if you’re not fueling properly. Because nutrition helps with fueling, but also with the recovery side of things too, as well. Also affects, chronic injuries, chronic diseases. It help, it can either quicken or hamper your recovery from an acute injury as well. So, you know, nutrition is just as important as going out there and exercising three to five times a week. it’s just as important to get, ah, eight to 10 hours. Eight to. Yeah, eight to 10 hours of sleep at night. Yeah, we should be getting about eight to 10 hours of sleep at night. Not the traditional six to seven. So, yeah, it, that’s the first thing. And most you a lot think, okay, we really need to dial it in. No, honestly, start off with just the basics. Eat balanced meals. yeah, you know, four to five times a day, smaller, meals throughout the day. that’s the first thing that I was, that’s the first thing I do, is just, let’s look, you know, let’s just do the bare basics, and go from there. Nine times out of ten. That eliminates most of the problems, is just, that is just working on balanced meals.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Yeah.

Dr. Chris Myers: And I, you know, I love my plate. it’s, you know, we, we probably grew up with the food pyramid, which, but that’s been changed recently to, the mic plate. And that’s a really good source to kind of just really start working the basics and then work from there. And that’s what I do is we work from there, you know, because it’s a lot of, it comes down to education. It totally is a great educational piece.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: And I don’t think people realize, you know, not just physical performance and recovery, but the mental health aspect. I have a great colleague who’s a psychiatrist in his whole area of clinical, practices and how diet affects our mood and how it affects our brain and how it affects, you know, our performance. And I think sometimes people don’t make that connection of how, I mean, we just hear it all day long, you know, eat protein, eat your fruits and veggies. Like, I don’t think people realize that it affects us on a day to day basis.

Dr. Chris Myers: It does. It’s funny is, I heard, it was almost like a ted, Ted type, a Ted style type of talk. But it was a, special forces team leader kind of talking about how when their team goes out to the field, and they’re only out there for three or four days, but they can only, since they pack it out, he was talking about they can only carry so much food and water with them. Right. And it all got. The human body can only carry so much. So I appreciate where he. Where he was coming from in this talk, and he was mentioning is how, you know, the first 48 hours are great, but then the last 24 to 36 hours of the short fuel exercise, the guys get really grouchy, and team dynamics really changed. People are at each other’s throats, and it turns out they weren’t eating enough. they would just. They can only. Yeah, they would bring out what they could. Right, but military rations are great, but you can only eat so much of it. Right.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: I was about to ask in Iraq, I mean, on your tour, like, what are you. What are you eating? What are they feeding you?

Dr. Chris Myers: Yeah, well, I’ll talk that a second. But it was, But coming out of the end of it, they realized, okay, we need to be eating better food. And they. They addressed it a little bit, and the team dynamics change. So it’s just really interesting, just on. Just a small, little training exercise, how nutrition affected that, just the team dynamic, and if team dynamics fall out, especially when, special tactics, because that team cohesion could be the difference between mission completion, mission failure. So I thought that was a really interesting talk that m the operator put out a couple of years back, so. But kind of answer your recent question.

What we ate out there was different from what we eat now

What we ate out there. it’s definitely. It was definitely different out there than it kind of is now. Because after a while. Right. Iraq, and Afghanistan, especially within Iraq, it was a lot more what we call sustained operations. So we had a lot of infrastructure in there. And so it was really different from when I was there in two, thousand four versus there in 2007. you had a lot of, you know, contracting services out there, kind of. So we had an infrastructure. you know, I had three hot meals a day on my second deployment, but the first one, it was, we were eating mres sometimes all day, every day. And, sometimes if we were able to get to the Baghdad International airport, because that we were kind of outside of there, it was like, great. We could grab a hot meal really quickly because that. That was where the, infrastructure first started getting built up. We’d bring it out, back out to our guys as quickly as possible. So. But what you would have, like, your.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: First deployment, like, what is an Mre?

Dr. Chris Myers: So if those who don’t know, an mres, a meal ready to eat. they’re very similar to what you can find at a camping store these days. the newer mres are much better than what they were when I first came in the military. I remember the first Mre I had at basic training. It was, it had a stamp from the, the original gulf war. So it was that point about eight years old. So those are kind of the last family things. But, they usually have a main meal, a side dish and a couple, you know, other things, the lickies and chewies. but they, they. So meals ready to eat. So they’re designed to have a large, shelf life, you know, upwards the ten years, I think.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Freeze dried or is it.

Dr. Chris Myers: I mean, they’re usually dried, yeah, some are freeze dry, some are not. it’s just preservatives. You’ll find packages of m and Ms in there that bit like six, seven years old and they taste great. but each one of these packages has a calorie count of anywhere between three, thousand and 3700 calories. So they’re really. You can get by, by, by just having one a day. you’re not truly satiated but you could get by on one a day now, depending. And that’s just dependent on the type of operations you’re running. Traditional, typical, military office. You’re seeing calorie expenditure rates of between 4000, 506,500 calories. So maybe two to three mres, depending on who you are. is not uncommon. But due to, And don’t get me wrong, they actually taste pretty good these, days. Back then they’re like, eh, okay, my favorite was the pound cake. if anyone military, listen, that they’ll know what pound cake is. the worst was the Frankfurter one. They literally had a pack. It had four frankfurters in it. It was the most disgusting thing I ever had. you could even put hot sauce on it and not. Yeah, chilling Mac was the best. but you do have the same issue with the mres back then that you do today is they do, they can cause Gi issues. and that’s where a lot of people stop eating them after a while because they block you up. Yeah, that blocks you up. And so. And, yeah, so it’s. Yeah, usarium has done a great job with DARPA, has done a great job developing these but there’s only so much they can do. And, so if you’re out there, I mean, just whether you’re doing a training exercise right now, or even back then, you’d ask people, you try bring your own food as best as you can. We call that pokey bait, you know, you know, snacks and stuff like beef jerky, little things like that. so these days, right, so when luckily we don’t have any enduring conflicts, going on like we did back then. So you can only take with you what you can carry out. And so, you know, if you’re, if you’re walking, the human body can really only carry anywhere between 81 hundred pounds and more food and water that you take. That’s less gear that you can carry because it’s all weight. So you have to understand, when traditional, soldier goes out, they’re carrying said they have their own body weight, then they have their body armor. The body armor itself weighs about 35, 40 pounds. It’s a lot lighter than what it used to be. Then they have to carry their full, we call it ABL ammunition, basic load. So if they’re. If you’re carrying an m four carbine, you’re carrying typically about six to seven magazines, 30 rounds each. That that weight adds up. Then you got your radios. Then when you put on your pack, you still have to carry typically about three days worth of clothing. And, it all adds up, right? So at that point, you’re already at 80 pounds. Then start putting in water. You know, three liters of water itself is about ten pounds. You start adding in an MRE or two, that’s another, you know, three or four pounds right there. It all adds up. And so, yeah, that’s where some of these limitations will come in too, especially if you’re, you know, if you’re, you know, if you’re regular ground infantry now, if you’re mobile infantry or mechanized infantry, sorry, it’s a little bit different. You can carry a little bit more, but it’s still alive. It’s very similar. So, you know, being dismounted does cause a limitations just because. Limitations the human body.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Absolutely. Okay, so let’s shift into exercise because this is more your. Definitely, your wheelhouse being, physiologist.

The way I train with tactical populations versus normal populations is completely different

so tell us about, training. I mean, you work with these, with these clients and tell us about how to train to optimally perform in our daily lives.

Dr. Chris Myers: Yeah. So the way I train with my guys versus, normal populations are completely different. So with the, with the tactical population I deal with, they’re, you know, they’re highly trained and they’re, for the most part of the year, they’re at the peak of what they’re going to, they’re going to achieve. If you look at it from a sports aspect, right. especially in a competition season. Let’s look at like soccer, right, is soccer is almost year round with a couple of offseason bits here and there. But you know, these players are expected to play at a high level all year round. It’s similar with our military, especially with my, with my population is they’re expected to be at that high level all year round. So we’re not going to get a lot of huge increases over the board. So really it’s like, it’s that type of. Even though it’s high intensity, it’s, it is performance training, but it really helps with resiliency with them, you know, to help, you know, so they come back, they can, they can deal with the daily stresses, they can deal whether it’s their job, emotional, physic, physiological, whatever. Right? So it’s really kind of designed there. And how do we keep, keep them at that highest level as long as possible? Right. Now, on the flip side, when it comes to, us normal, people, exercise is medicine. Stealing that from, ACSM, the american college of, American College of Sports Medicine. Sorry. Yes. But you that up. That’s their slogan. And it’s 100% right. because, you know, just regular exercise that the research is out there, you know, regular exercise can help with your moods, it can help with sleep, it helps with stress. you know, if we want to talk physiological, it helps with, endothelial dysfunction, which can help reduce CBD issues. you know, we don’t have to get bigger, faster, stronger, but it helps with regular functional movements. And so it’s just, if you work on your back squat, what is that really similar to sitting down in the chair or climbing stairs? Yeah. So if you, there’s different types of working, out that you can do that can just help with your daily lives or let’s, let’s bring in a little bit closer to the medical community. Right. So if you’re a surgeon, what are you doing for 13 to 15 hours a day? You’re standing, leaning over a, patient, really focused on your fine motor skills, but you’re hunched over. So that is going to cause neck and shoulder pain? Well, there are exercises you can do to help with that, to help with the muscular endurance, to help reduce that pain. If you can reduce that pain, you’re most likely going to help improve your professional outcomes. It’s little things like that.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that people don’t understand. Resistance training in particular is the only non pharmacological intervention that we have in medicine that consistently has been shown to offset age related declines in our skeletal muscle mass. The strength, the power. And you’re right. Like, as we age, as we get older, I mean, just the ability to go up and down the stairs, get up out of a chair. I mean, not, you know, performing at the level that we do in our prime, but it’s. It’s something that we really have to think about long term for. For our health.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: do you use, like, technology? Do you use. I mean, how do you track the. The performance? I mean, when you’re working with high performers like this?

Dr. Chris Myers: Yeah, you can ask my guys. I love my technology.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: so becoming such a hot thing, you know, patients are coming and.

Dr. Chris Myers: Oh, yeah. And so you gotta understand.

Are bio wearable devices accurate enough to be used for diagnosis

Let’s touch on the, bio wearable. Just discussion, really quick. So there’s two. There’s two primary, discussions going on. Is, are they accurate enough to be used and can you use them for diagnosis? All right, we’re not worried about this. Right, so we’re not diagnosing. Right. So they do work. Right? So. But you got to understand is we’re not trying to diagnose, so we’re trying to get just enough data to get into the ballpark. So when we look at a piece of, equipment to, gather metrics, we do. The first thing I look at is, okay, what is. What are we trying to answer? What is our research question? What are we trying to measure it? Basically, I take the basic scientific method approach to this, right? And that’s how it gets it. Secondly is, okay, if we identify a device that can answer our question, all right, what is the reliability of that device? All right, and does it properly measure where we’re going, or is it a good analog for what we’re trying to measure? And then we go from there. So, for example, let’s talk sleep. So there’s a couple of devices out there on the market that network. You know, we got. Let’s third grenade. Let’s talk that whoop versus our ring debate. Yeah. You got two camps that love whoop, others that like aura. Well, we use aura. just because the data is there, the research is there. and at least when we picked it, it wasn’t there for whoop. I don’t know where whoop is with the gen fours, but aura has the data there, and it’s been validated by the military. Research labs. That’s why we use it. But so that’s. We use that for sleep data for those who want to do it. we. We use, garmin devices and other biowareables like that to gather heart, rate, you know, heart rate data and other gps data when they do their cardiovascular work as well. when we’re. When we’re doing weight training, resistance training, there’s devices called vbts, or velocity based training. So we can actually measure barbell speed. So, traditionally, when you lift weights, you do a percentage of your one or three rep max to, you know, get intensity levels. Well, we can look at Barbell speed and get a better, you can get a better result because your one rm and three rm fluctuates throughout the week. Right. It’s day to day, depending on how you feel, how much you slept, how much stress you’ve been through. But barbell speed does not change it. It’s an objective measurement. And so we’re able to tie a sensor or a tether to it to measure how fast that barbell is going. And based on that speed, we can target how you’re lifting. You know, do you want to do a hypertrophy day? Do you want to do mat, are you. There’s certain speeds to do for max strength, x, y and z. And we can give a visual feedback to the guys, as they’re lifting, so they can get instantaneous feedback to see if they’re hitting the right training zone. It’s the same thing, whereas it just takes the guesswork out of what you’re doing for, the traditional lifting method. And I’m able to collect that data and see how trends over time as well. I use force plates, for those who don’t know what a force plate is, it’s a. Ah, yeah, it’s a box, you know, probably about, you know, two through three, two 3ft wide square. and it’s got accelerometers and tension, sensors in it. And it measures, when you jump on it, it measures the forces that you produce. So I’m able to get a power measurement. So all the others are just regular strength. I’m able to get a power measurement, with that, look at range of motion. And then also how, how well their lower leg developments are developing through the counter movement jumps that we do on the force place. So that’s some of the stuff that we, we utilize as well. We all, we also use body composition. how do you guys we, use the in body, which is bio impedance. so I would love to get a dexa scanner, don’t get me wrong. which is the coast hair, but, I’m not going to be able to. For one, that costs 140k apiece, and that’s. A lot of people don’t like all the x rays being given off as well.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Yeah, it’s a small amount. They’ve gotten cheaper. We have one here in our town that we use. I use on patients a lot, but, it inbody is obviously a lot more available and portable, and their technology has gotten better.

Dr. Chris Myers: And like I said, it gets you in the ballpark. That’s what we’re looking for, right? Is all right. I don’t need to be 99%. If I can get 85% to 90%, it gives me enough data to kind of really see. Okay, are we trending in the right direction? Right, because the objective data is only one side of it. The next is actually talking with the clients and getting their feedback as well. That is just as important as the objective. And so, especially with these guys, you know, these guys gals, they will surprise you, is like, you’re going to tell, like, the data shows that you’re not going to be. You’re not really ready for it. Next thing they know, they, they prove you completely wrong. And that’s what I love.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: So that’s like, I, had an oura ring that I can’t wear it a lot because I’m a surgeon. but I love it for the sleep data. But it’s so interesting to me, this, like, idea of this readiness score, because sometimes I’m like, oh, I’m ready. And then I look at it and it’s like, you’re not ready and stuff, like, I believe this. Do I just power through this? You know, like, what do I do? so you talked about this, you know, human weapon system just really being about resiliency, being able to come back and perform, you know, on a repeated basis.

Talk to me about recovery, because I think high achievers are a lot more focused

Talk to me about recovery, because I think high, you know, achievers are a lot more kind of hammer the hammer the nail. Hammer the nail. You know, over and over and over. And recovery, you know, sitting still is not something we do well. so talk with your clients. I mean, what are they doing? Like, are you doing breath work? Meditation? As ice plunges? Saunas? I mean, these days you see all these different things. What do you do with your high performers?

Dr. Chris Myers: I go back to the basics. Right.

We start talking about sleep hygiene first. But even before that I started talking nutrition. And that’s the funny part with

So, the first question we had when we were feeling fielding these out is are you going to try to get to m. Are going to try to get us to do more sleep? No, it’s. I can’t control it. But so, and I know you have really long work schedules, so say you only have 6 hours to sleep. What can we do to optimize that 6 hours? I mean, yeah, I would love to be able to get get you another 3 hours to get you to nine, but I can’t. But let’s talk about what’s affecting your quality of sleep with that in that 6 hours. And so we start talking about sleep hygiene. Right. But even before that I started talking nutrition. And that’s the funny part with, because there’s two portions of the nutrition that really can affect sleep. The first off is I call it the, the deadly three. Alcohol, caffeine, nicotine. Any of those is going to just throw your, your sleep off. Right. So yeah, you can follow there’s a couple rules of thumb out there. I think it’s like the ten 4321 out there or the 6321 where no caffeine, you know, no coffee or large amounts of caffeine. 6 hours before sleep, 3 hours. don’t, exercise 3 hours before sleep 2 hours, don’t eat one, don’t get away from your phone. Little things like that. Right. But I always talk to bit the deadly three first because that’s.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Are those highly used and or abused in your population?

Dr. Chris Myers: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, yeah. I mean, because the monster drinks are huge. You know, energy drinks are, a staple of the military population. And again, it’s just because of the long work hours, the weird work hours. There’s the circadian rhythms always all over the place. And it’s just a vicious cycle. Nick, nicotine is significant. It’s not smoking anymore. It’s. It’s smokeless tobacco, vaping, for some. Now you’re getting all these energy gums out there as well. So you’re getting like zens, Zen or zims, little things like that. and alcohol has been synonymous with military since I think day one. So it’s just kind of talking about. And it’s just working that education. And then if you’re able to affect that, great. If not the second piece, then let’s talk. Let’s start talking. When you eat, try not to eat. No late no or no later than 90 minutes to 2 hours before bedtime because data is now starting to show fluctuations in glucose stability will affect, sleep as well. So those are the first conversations I have. and then after that, we start talking about the true sleep hygiene. Is your area, where you, how, where you sleep at is, okay. Is your bedroom. Are you, do you have any blue lights on there? Are you turning your phone off? Are you trying to negate any distractions? Are you having. Do you have blackout curtains to minimize light coming in? Do you sleep with the tv on? Probably shouldn’t have a tv in there. Little things like that. Right. to try to help optimize the sleep in there. And that’s really kind of how I structure the conversations there. It’s really work, the basics. And honestly, for 99.8% of us, that’s what we need to be doing, is just kind of just working the basics to improve sweet sleep quality.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Yeah, yeah, I am into that.

Military is increasingly looking at holistic health performance to improve human performance

Okay. So at one point, you, you know, talked about that they had really gone into this, like, holistic health performance. Like, what other, you know, aspects? And when you say holistic, what, how does that make it different than, than how they used to view human performance in the past?

Dr. Chris Myers: Well, m so kind of put in, like with medical, teams, right? You kind of had these integrative medical teams. So, you’ll, you’ll have like a nutritionist. Right. You’ll have maybe a general general practitioner. You have the surgeon, maybe a psychiatrist. Right. It’s very similar to that. You have different. So we call them domains. Right. And I mentioned that before. So you have, we have, experts in each of these domains. We work together as a team, and really, you know, try to get to the root of the, if any, issues exists. And that’s how, that’s really where human performance in the military is kind of going these days is you have these teams that work together now, ideally, yeah. You would have one from all the different domains identified on the needs analysis for that unit or for that organization. But there’s usually a lot of factors that limit that. Money, available funds, available personnel. Yeah. So it’s for, so, like, personally, we, we would like to have a six domain model for us, but we can only run a four domain because that, excuse me, a three domain because that’s all we have available for us. But we maximize what we can and we outsource what we can. And so we, we make those relationships with other entities in the military community to kind of come help out and fill those gaps when they do arise.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Yeah, very interesting.

What else have we missed in the human weapon system?

Okay. What else have we missed in the human weapon system? I’m very interested in how, you know, somebody listening can take these ideas of, you know, human, optimization and apply them to, you know, their clinic, their healthcare system, you know, how to treat patients.

Dr. Chris Myers: It’s the basics, really. You don’t have to get overly fancy. Like, yeah, I mean, yeah, like for nutrition, for some of my, some high performing athletes I work with in the triathlon cycling world, I mean, we can get really deep into nutrient timing and sweat rates and really dive into. Okay, this is how much what, how much sodium. You should be drinking iron, you should be taking x, y and z. You don’t need to be doing that. It’s just really work on the basics. Balanced meals, you know, three to five meals a day. we traditionally have the three meals a day, but at least in my experience and what I’ve been taught is closer to five meals, you’ll feel more satiated throughout the day. so having smaller meals and it really helps with weight management and not with tiredness, little things like that. sleep basics. Right. Is, try to, you know, if you can try to get, go to bed roughly around the same time and get up roughly about the same time, try to get between eight and 10 hours of sleep. I know, yeah. We’re not really able to do that, but get as close as possible as you can. You know, sleep hygiene, try to look, you know, look into that. There’s many different, thoughts on sleep hygiene. You know, do a little bit of research, but if you follow just some of the tenants that we talked about here today, that would be great. And get out and just move. Motion slotion. Right. You know, go out. Yeah. You don’t have to go and bench press 2300 pounds to go work out. Yeah, you can, you can do calisthenics in your house. Pilates is great. you can spend $2 on Amazon and get a mini, mini resistance band. And you can find videos on there that can help, you know, strengthen gluteal to posterior chain type of stuff and just feel a little bit better. That just, it’s just simple, it’s just moving around. yeah, stretch, you know, especially if you’re on your feet all day as a surgeon. stretch. that’ll help. just little things like that. it’s just, it just comes down to basics. but what as a doctor? I know our first thing is really to kind of go through is chemistry, you know, is the first thing is to, you know, let’s throw, let’s throw some medication at it, knowing you’re wrong. I’m. I’m a firm believer in better living through chemistry, I really am. But exercise, just these basics and exercise, diet recovery has so much more to do with that and can help with a lot of the, the acute stuff that do plague our populations. So, as a doctor, I wouldn’t discount that. You know, it is worth having that conversation, if possible, because I know there’s other limitations when it comes to billing, insurance, and x, y, and z, and there’s definitely some limitations on the way our healthcare system is set up.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Yeah.

Dr. Chris Myers: But it is worth to have those conversations and, yeah, yeah, we face a.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Lot of those problems on a day to day basis like you talked about. You know, you’d love to have all of these things, but it’s a cost issue, and it’s the same thing in healthcare. You know, how do we provide this cost effective care? And a lot of times, the best thing we have is, okay, well, here’s a med to treat it, because, you know, how, you know, they don’t have a chef, they maybe they don’t have gym access, they don’t have. And as a medical doctor, you know, we are trained in physiology and pathology, and when it becomes pathologic, you know, we treat. And a lot of the tools, unfortunately, the doctors are given, and that’s unfortunately why a lot of our own, you know, healthcare providers are not healthy. I mean, you know, the chronic disease burden is not. We’re not immune to it as doctors. and people really are missing m the basics. I couldn’t agree with you more.

Dr. Chris Myers: Yeah, it’s funny they mentioned that because. So with my, curriculum at Florida State, and I don’t know how, if it’s changed now or not, but we took a couple, we took a good chunk of our classes with the, medical school there at Florida State. And if I remember correctly, they had one day where they spoke on exercise. One day and or organ, physically about.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: An equal amount on nutrition.

Dr. Chris Myers: Yeah, yeah. And so if we’re talking about, you know, exercise as medicine, which it truly is, again, the researchers out there may want to spend a little more time on the educational side of it. And if you’re already med school is, you know, read up on it, you know, at least listen to a podcast. you know, but don’t discount it, because the basics can really help out.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Yeah, yeah. Couldn’t agree more.

Chris Myers hosts a podcast called White Coat warriors on the Influent network

So, Chris, you are hosting, a podcast called the White Coat warriors podcast here on the Influent network. So tell us, tell us about your podcast.

Dr. Chris Myers: I appreciate it. Thanks for the plug. so it’s new WCW, white coat warriors. As you can tell, I love my acronyms. it’s really where we’re trying to have human performance meat medicine. Yeah, it’s really kind of what it is. and it covers a lot of what you and I have kind of talked about in a nutshell, but we break it out on each session. so what I try to do is take a different human performance domain. so one day we talked about strength conditioning. we’ve got one on the docket where we’re going to talk nutrition. we talk leadership. so that’s a big one, right? And that’s another domain that we need to be aware of. Maybe not as a young doctor, but definitely as you become an attending, senior attending, and start moving into those director positions. Leadership is important, because then you start making decisions that affect the performance of your subordinates. And so we bring, I spoke with a retired command sergeant major of the army. He creates some great tenants on, on leadership. So what we try to do is take these tenants of, human performance. We talk about it, and yeah, there’s a lot of tactical stuff in it as well, which I think it kind of makes it interesting, but then we really kind of relate it to the medical side because it, what we do in the, you know, in the tactical side of things has a lot of applicability to day to day life, if not medical as well. And so the idea is to try to give some, some attendance that young medical students, young residents. Now that I’m starting to find out, even senior medical personnel can use personally, right, to help with their own personal performance, personal professional performance, but also a little bit that they can provide to their clients as well.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Absolutely. I’m with you. I mean, I was a former collegiate athlete. I have a background in exercise science and nutrition and did some fellowship training in integrative medicine. So I think very differently than a lot of my colleagues. But I’m picturing you describing being in Iraq and what you’re eating and how you’re training and how you perform. And I could just make that exact analogy about going into the operating room and teams of people and you’re tired, and if your nutrition is not on point, you just can’t be your best self. And, and we could just apply it to home life, too. I mean, your relationships, your marriage, my life as a mom. Like, we really have to do these things to. To make ourselves thrive in those environments.

Dr. Chris Myers: Yeah, I know what you mean. I’ve got a little one as well.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Oh, they keep us busy, that’s for sure. Well, Chris, anything else you want to share with our listeners today?

Dr. Chris Myers: No. If you know, thank you very much for the time. Thanks for having me. it’s been a pleasure. Awesome.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: thanks, Chris, for being on The Strong MD podcast.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: I hope you enjoyed today’s episode with Doctor Chris Myers

Hey, it’s Doctor Jaime, and thanks for listening to The Strong MD podcast. I hope you enjoyed today’s episode with Doctor Chris Myers. We appreciate your feedback so much. So, like, subscribe, leave your comments here on our podcast, The Strong MD podcast. And if you enjoyed the episode with Doctor Chris Myers, check out his podcast here on the Influent network called White Coat warriors. We’ll catch you on the next episode.