What would it be like to get down to 3.8% body fat? How would you ever get to be that shredded?
Today’s guest will tell you exactly how he did it.
William Shewfelt is an actor, fitness model, and public speaker, best known for his role as the Red Ranger on Nickelodeon’s Power Rangers Ninja Steel.
William went from no acting experience to landing his role as the Red Ranger and being nominated for two Kids Choice Awards in just one year.
How did he do it? Find out on this show, plus:
- How the red Power Ranger leans down to 3.8% body fat
- What it’s like to transition from a plant based diet to a low-carb ketogenic diet
- How the new world of Instagram, and other social media platforms, shape our minds and culture.
- How to stay in shape, even when you’re working or filming 14-hour days
- And much more…
William Shewfelt: Vegan to Keto—What’s on the Red Power Ranger’s Plate?
Abel: William, you’re the very first superhero on this show. How does it feel?
Well, for one, it feels great. It’s great to be talking to you.
Two, I also have to note that you would make a perfect Blue Ranger. I’ve never seen anyone rock the color the way you do.
Abel: Thanks man, I appreciate that.
It’s a huge honor. I’m excited to be on. I have been listening to the show for about 2 years now, and I’ve learned a lot.
It’s definitely helped me in my journey away from perhaps a more difficult diet and exercise strategy, doing what a lot of people do. It’s helped so much, and I’m just excited to get into the weeds here.
Abel: Good. Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, you’re one of the youngest people I’ve had on the show, at least in a long time since I started seven years ago.
Right before the show, you were about to tell me what your name meant.
Shewfelt, that is my dad’s name. My dad is… well, his dad was German. So it’s a German word that comes from [Weizen Landwirt], which means wheat farmer.
So, as I was mentioning to Abel, I have carbs in my ancestry. And some things you just can’t avoid.
Abel: It’s true. But how would carbs enter into it now?
Carbs don’t really enter into it at all now.
Depending on how you do them, they’re slow release and we could talk about complex carbohydrates, and fructose in fruits.
I think there are healthy ways to do carbs, especially with nutrient timing and managing the insulin spikes.
But I just feel better without them. They seem to do something to my appetite now.
If everything’s going great and I throw some carbs in there, suddenly this ridiculous appetite comes out of nowhere. So, I just prefer to not mess with them at all anymore.
Abel: As I understand, your diet was plant-based for the most part, and more carb-based before this. So, when did that happen and how did it go?
For 4 years when I was in college, I did a strict whole foods plant-based diet, and I did this thing by the book.
I was reading Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. Michael Greger and just pretty much any blue zones, How Not to Die, and Healthy at 100 by John Robbins. I was just getting my hands on all the literature I could, and I was utterly convinced this was the healthiest approach.
I thought all of the science backed it up, but the strange thing was I felt terrible. It wasn’t vibing well with my body, no matter how many variables I manipulated.
I started this when I was about 18, and I did that for quite a while. But the outcomes that were mainly negative for me would be in terms of my energy; energy was always low.
I would have these sort of hypoglycemic events, where if I went too long without food, the whole hangry craziness, and it was very, very difficult to do any sort of fasting, that was kind of off the table.
Constant bloating. It was a very high fiber diet for me, so that led to other complications which I won’t mention on the air.
Abel: We can use our imaginations.
Yes, please don’t. Please don’t.
So there was that, and it was just no feeling of satiety, that was the other thing. No matter how much I ate, there was absolutely no satiety.
And I never got all the way lean. I was never able to get into that single-digit body fat percentage, which was what I was aiming for, in terms of the whole acting world and the physique I wanted to create.
I wasn’t as strong in the gym, it was a whole number of things.
I did that for 4 years, and I manipulated so many variables, I tried so many iterations, and I finally had to come terms with, this isn’t working for me.
So, I had to figure something out. If the science is saying, I’m going to get cancer from eating meat. You know what, I’ve got to eat some meat, because this just isn’t working.
I started researching and I came upon ketogenic diets, and I started looking in to primal, paleo diets, and increasing dietary fat, healthy sources of fat. Which for us are saturated fats, lots of different fats.
Most people would think twice about that. But I started researching into these higher fat, lower carb diets, doing more whole foods.
And I was actually one season into shooting Power Rangers. I had been doing a vegan diet, and my health was just crashing. It was absolutely terrible. Especially given the long hours and all of the circumstances of shooting; it’s pretty rough on you.
Abel: Yeah, certainly.
We had a 3-week hiatus in between seasons, and I completely changed my diet. I straight up went cold turkey into a Primal keto style diet.
And I came back, and just everything changed for me, it was night and day.
And I’ve been pretty excited about it ever since. It’s been about 2 years now.
Plate Comparison: Vegan vs. Keto
Abel: If you’re looking at a plate of food that you would have eaten before, a full meal, a hearty meal, compared to the meal that you’re eating now, how would you be filling yourself up eating both ways?
Interesting. So in the past, if I was going to fill myself up a whole foods, plant-based diet, I would include definitely some sort of whole grain. There would be a huge portion of that. There would most likely be vegetables, there would always be some source of protein, so probably beans, nuts, seeds, legumes, something like that. And then I would probably include some sort of dietary fat, so it would usually be avocados, maybe some nut butter, something like that.
And the thing is, it could be satiating for a short amount of time, but that would last about no more than 2 hours and the hunger was back.
Nowadays, it looks like a whole lot more like steak and eggs, probably some bacon. Usually foods like that. I really stick to basics.
And I’ve been experimenting recently. I know this is like a whole new craze that’s going on with carnivorous diets, but I’ve been experimenting with doing a lot less plant foods and my body’s responded pretty well to that.
There could be a number of reasons, and I don’t think we’re sure yet if that’s the optimal way to eat, but it’s something that I’m responding well to at the moment.
Abel: I’ve seen so many people go through this transition, myself included.
We have a similar backstory. In my earlier 20s I was vegan, for a very short time. It didn’t last long for me, but I was vegetarian on and off for years, up until my early 20s, most of my life. But I was never in tremendous shape.
And like you were saying, I was never able to lean down to the extent that I wanted to. Not just for looks and aesthetics, but more for being really into running, and mountain biking, endurance sports like that.
You want a solid, power to weight ratio. And for me, I tend to be more on the heavier side if I let myself go. I can put on muscle pretty easily, I can put on fat pretty easily.
But it was obvious to me that I’m really sensitive to diet, in the sense of changing it from the typical vegetarian way of eating and the more processed carb, grain-heavy (not necessarily sugar-heavy). I wasn’t really ever eating sugar that much because I always wanted to be as healthy as I could. But it was a similar thing when I made that switch.
I still continued to eat vegetables. Not necessarily a ton of them, but I think it’s important to keep that in balance, and not just eat some of the more keto things that are going insane these days.
One of the things that drives me nuts is that, about five to seven years ago, there were different trends and there were different cycles of people who come through, but the keto thing hit hard about 2 years ago, despite the fact that people have been doing this for a really long time. It’s an ancient, ancient way of eating.
But all of these new products came out and all of these people saying like, “You need to eat nothing but cream cheese, and you’re going to have these shiny abs and you’re going to feel great”.
There’s definitely a happy medium there.
And so over the course of time, especially like keto, if you’re doing it in a strict way, it can be really hard.
Did you find that it was a hard shift when you made the change?
Not at all, surprisingly. The satiety was so powerful and the foods, obviously, tasted so much better. Especially with the addition of salt.
One of the things that is often brought up is electrolyte imbalance then your insulin levels are low, and you don’t want to be excreting too much sodium.
So now I was salting these fatty foods and eating that when I had been subsisting on quinoa and kale for years.
So it was honestly fantastic for me.
And one of the things I loved was, after that period of fat-adaptation occurred, I was able to just go for such a long time without eating and I would feel fantastic.
My body was very well-adapted to fasting. So that was huge to me just in terms of the work that I do and the schedule that I have.
Just to be able to not have to constantly focus on food. And when I eat, I am not a huge fan of calorie counting, so I like to just pick the highest quality foods and then just let my body decide the quantity to eat.
So it worked out really, really well for me.
Abel: And how long would you say it took you to be more fat-adapted, and for you to lose that constant hunger, and feel your body make those changes?
Honestly, I’d been experimenting with intermittent fasting even as a vegan.
Abel: Oh okay, you had a head start.
Yeah, I sort of had a head start. I’m sure my body was maybe a bit more adapted to producing at least some ketones, at least increasing some fatty acid oxidation.
When I switched to the keto diet, it wasn’t so much like an adaptation where I felt worse, I actually started to feel better. And you could just think about increasing the fat levels and the hormonal changes that will happen. Eating to satiety.
As a vegan, I was calorie counting because that was the only way to stop myself from just straight up binge eating.
So, eating to satiety, allowing my body to be nourished. We know, animal foods for example, if we’re talking about pastured eggs or about grass-fed meat or wild caught seafood, it’s so nutrient-dense that it was just a huge shift. Increased mental focus, energy, satiety, and improvement physique wise.
So becoming fat-adapted was sort of a gradual improvement, to be honest.
I didn’t necessarily experience a whole lot in terms of keto flu. I was salting my foods heavily, I was doing bone broth, and I was including a lot of diverse foods.
So the adjustment period was pretty gentle on me.
Abel: I had a similar experience, and it’s probably because I started fasting earlier, as well. It was hard to fast at first. Especially once you’re on that carb train.
If you are eating whole grains, and what you think to be healthy carbs, it can be tough. Hunger changes in a big way once your body adapts to being fat-adapted.
The hunger I remember during my vegetarian days was like, you eat and you stop because you know that you have to. I was counting portions more than counting calories because I always hated doing that. But anyway, you have to stop yourself.
And then, it’s that Chinese food thing where an hour and a half later, you have this hole in your stomach and you need to fill it up again.
But you just ate, you just got back from the restaurant and you’re hungry again. That type of thing, I haven’t experienced in years.
I’ve been eating one or two meals a day for five to seven years now, and it’s like, when I eat, I can put down quite a lot, but when I’m done, I feel good. I don’t feel like overly stuffed. I don’t feel sluggish, maybe a little bit more sluggish than before I ate, but I tend to eat in the evenings and that’s kind of what I want.
What other changes did you find in terms of lifestyle? We can get into what it’s like to eat this way when you’re shooting on set.
In terms of lifestyle, well, the grocery list obviously got a lot more simple.
And I was also able to sort of end the food obsession that I had for so long, which was really starting to make me question myself and think, “Do I have an eating disorder? What’s going on here?”
Because I couldn’t stop thinking about food.
And it’s exactly as you described, it’s a feeling of you eat, your stomach’s sort of bloated, you can tell you should be full, so you just stop eating. But you’re not necessarily satisfied, you could eat more if you let yourself.
So, that was an issue with me.
Lifestyle-wise, things got so much better. For one, going out to eat is so much easier now. I just order a steak with a side of vegetables.
It’s just very simple not having to have a specially prepared mushroom burger or anything like that. So, it was a lot more simple on my lifestyle and just in terms of being able to eat less.
So, like you, I also usually do one or two meals a day. I love the benefits of fasting, the autophagy, the mental focus.
And I’m also a huge fan of coffee, so just throwing in a cup or two of coffee in the morning and I’m really able to zone in. It’s so good.
Abel: It is. It’s a lifestyle choice.
So yeah, my lifestyle just got a whole lot easier with that.
Abel: Right on.
So, one thing from being on My Diet is Better Than Yours—there were 5 teams, and the other teams were primarily eating more carb-heavy foods.
How long do you guys usually shoot or what’s a long day of shooting for you guys?
We get picked up 5:30 to 6AM, and then we’re in makeup and costume until about 7:00AM. And then we’re on set, from 7:00AM usually until about 5 to 7PM, so they’re pretty long days.
We could do 12 to 14 hour days, and that’s about 5 days a week.
And then on the sixth day, we’ll usually do voice-over work in the studio, so it’s pretty long weeks, and they can be intense.
Obviously, we get a lunch break, things like that. There’s afternoon tea, but they’re pretty full on days.
I’m sure you experienced this, you never actually have time to yourself. If they need you at any moment, they have complete access to you.
It’s like, if you’re taking a nap in the trailer, you better get out of the trailer and go shoot the scene right now.
So, you just have to be prepared for that. And it can be a bit hectic and stressful, but you just have to show up ready.
When you’re on set, you are the property of whatever production company and you just have to be ready.
Abel: I know what you mean.
One of the many intelligent ideas I had when I was on set was the idea of getting up at three in the morning to work out.
I hope you can read the sarcasm. It was a terrible idea.
And I felt “Oh man, I don’t know why I did that.”
I couldn’t work out after a long day of shooting, it was inconceivable for me. I wanted to study my lines, maybe get some food in me and go to sleep.
So, the only time I really had to set aside time for myself was at 3 or 4 in the morning. I’d go workout, and then I’d go to set.
It was a rough lifestyle. So combining those things with the vegan diet I was doing in the first season, was just a recipe for disaster.
Abel: Yeah, It increases stress and crankiness. That’s what I remember from doing the show, too. It sounds really familiar.
We had 12-hour, 14-hour days, sometimes six or seven days a week.
And ironically, even though I was on a fitness show and you’re a Power Ranger, you don’t really get exercise while you’re shooting.
You’re mostly just standing there waiting for them to fix the lights or get the shot right, or what have you.
But other people were freaking out because they needed to eat every 2 hours.
Sometimes you have to stand there for 6 hours in a row. So, that was something that I got to experience.
Kurt, the guy I was coaching, transitioned into it. It was really hard at first.
It’s like when you first start fasting. “What? I haven’t eaten in four hours, six hours.”
But then after that, we started to get this huge advantage over some of the other teams.
Even Kurt was laughing at the production crew because they’re just grabbing Cheetos and Oreos and all this stuff because they’re hungry every 2 hours.
Especially if you’re in performance type careers, like if you’re filming or if you’re a musician, or if you’re traveling a lot, and you just don’t have enough time or access to healthy food, especially veggies.
Sometimes it’s better to just not eat and you feel fine. You don’t get that same kind of angry hunger with that hole in your stomach feeling before or after you eat.
I just find that there are some tweaks that almost everyone can make to make your day-to-day life a lot more comfortable, and a lot less complicated.
Like you said, eating vegan or vegetarian can be very complicated.
Yeah. If we’re talking in terms of supplementation, and food sourcing, and how is your B12 and your D3 and your Omega-3. There are so many variables. I think it’s a lot harder to do than this sort of diet.
I got to tell you, when I was on set that first season, the bane of my existence was the craft table. Crafting with the cookies and everything they had on there, it was just painful to avoid that, and I had days where I would just go hard on that.
So coming into that second season, I would be showing up with butter in my coffee in the mornings.
And honestly, I don’t do so much fatty coffee anymore. I’ve sort of scaled back on that.
I find I’m a bit leaner if I just go with straight up black coffee and I sort of manage my dietary fat.
But when I was doing that on set, and I was showing up with some MCT oil and some Kerrygold in there and what not, I just had laser focus, almost obnoxiously so.
It’s a really good feeling.
Abel: I think that’s a really good point. A lot of people are going through the same sort of transition. You don’t want to get carried away with a fatty coffee type stuff. You don’t want to be pounding down 500 calories worth of pure fat in your morning coffee every day because it’s kind of better just to eat a chocolate bar.
I mean, psychologically for me, it can be a nice transition to fatty coffee, but what I tend to encourage people to do is step it down over the course of time.
When I drink coffee, most of the time, it’s usually a tablespoon or two of fat, like heavy cream, sometimes half and half. But I’m not dumping in the whole thing of heavy cream.
Another really important thing about keto, and I’m sure you realize this as well, it’s not as much about what you’re adding, it’s much more about what you’re subtracting from your diet that’s getting you results.
If you’re doing keto correctly, I believe, it’s more like fasting, it’s a fasted state for your body because your blood sugar is in check.
The reason that you’re not as hungry anymore is because your blood sugar isn’t going up and down like this crazy wave all the time. Now, you can be a little more chilled out.
Have you any other mental effects? Anything else, mentally or emotionally?
Yes. So mentally, absolutely.
In college, I was studying all the time, but doing a very low-fat, calorie-restricted diet. And I was trying to fast, and I was training hard, and I was usually sleep deprived.
Trying to focus was next to impossible.
And I was starting to reconcile myself with the fact that maybe I’m just a person that can’t focus very well. Which is crazy.
I’m sure there are so many people that think the same thing, and then they get medicated, and there’s a whole load of complications that come with that.
When it may have just been something as simple as diet and lifestyle changes.
Which, man, that’s what’s great about the kind of work that you’re doing. It gets this information out there, so it corrects things before they can become a problem.
I completely agree with you—it’s more about what you’re taking out of your diet. Especially if we’re talking about fatty acid oxidation.
I kind of fell for the whole “eat more fat to burn more fat,” which I don’t think is necessarily true. And there is something to be said for energy balance.
Ultimately, carbohydrates and fat are both energy sources for the body, which are going to be stored. So, if you’re living a relatively sedentary life and you’re consuming massive amounts of fat throughout the day, especially if it’s hyper-palatable cheeses and you’re doing tons of fatty coffee and nuts, you might put on some body fat.
Obviously, it’s not going to be as bad as if you’re downing tons of carbs, but you might put on some body fat doing that.
But mental focus was huge for me when I switched type of diet.
Man, combining fasting with a lower carb approach, and whole foods. The brain is actually being nourished by Omega-3s in the saturated fats and all of the foods you’re eating.
It was really, really big for me.
So, the other thing I love is that I can sit down and just work for hours, and hours, and hours now.
And there’s no, “I need to go eat.” There’s nothing I have to worry about. I’m completely able to zone in and focus.
Abel: Now, are there any downsides that you’ve noticed or any things that you had to get used to?
Man, life just kinda got better after doing this. I’m able to really just simplify my diet.
I’ve done so much trying to make my food diverse and trying to consistently use food as entertainment, and I really like to keep my menu simple now.
It works so well for me.
I can talk about a number of upsides, but I can’t think of too many downsides at the moment.
Mental focus got better, energy got better, sleep got better, gym performance, body composition, skin got better, which was fantastic.
Abel: Because your gut was probably getting better at the same time.
And I probably had better Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio, my inflammation was most likely going down. Yeah, life’s just been a whole lot better since.
Abel: Right, on. So I saw some pictures of you getting down to, what was it? Like 3.8% body fat?
Abel: Low single digits. So let’s talk about how you’re able to manipulate body composition on a keto-ish type diet.
How are you able to zero in on the type of composition that you’d like by eating this way?
Because it’s not necessarily the same as other ways of leaning down.
So the 3.8% body fat was on an InBody scan, which is not as accurate as, let’s say as a BodPod or a Dexa scan.
But they’re supposed to be within 2% accuracy. So taking a 2% margin of error, then I may have been around 5.8% body fat.
My personal opinion was that I was most likely in the 4% to 5% range, and I’m able to hover at that pretty much throughout the year, as far as I know.
And it’s not taking a toll on my hormones. I still feel fantastic, gym performance is great.
I don’t like calorie counting, and I really like to eat to satiety. So mainly what I’ll do if I want to cut down, I don’t do long cutting periods of 3 or 4 weeks where I slowly restrict. I like to just do a one-meal-a-day approach. I put that meal towards the end of the day.
Earlier in the day I’ll workout fasted and I include weight training and some form of zone two cardio, usually about 30 to 45 minutes. I’ll go for a run, I’ll do jump roping, I’ll go to a boxing class, I’ll do Muay-thai, Jiu-jitsu, or even StairMaster every now and then.
So it’s usually just a combination of weight training and about 30 to 45 minutes of cardio, and that’s able to lean me down so quickly.
Abel: That’s all fasted?
Yes, that’s all fasted.
Abel: Okay. Wow, cool.
And I find that it’s really critical when I’m in that fasted state that I’m eating enough salt during my meals. That seems to have a huge impact on my performance.
I’ve tried lower sodium which is really bad for me. I’m sure all of my electrolytes are just flooding out of my body, magnesium, potassium, sodium. So I definitely try to keep my salt up in terms of what I’m eating during that one meal a day.
I no longer concern myself too much with gluconeogenesis. I like to keep my protein pretty high and my fat relatively high, so it usually looks like a one-to-one ratio of protein to fat.
In terms of grams, ratio-wise, that’s probably more like 70 to 30 grams since fat is more calorie-dense. But I like to keep it about 1:1.
So, usually I’ll have some beef or bison, I’ll throw some fish in there, I like to do a lot of pastured eggs. And then I’ll supplement with some cod liver oil, sometimes I’ll eat beef liver.
I keep it pretty simple in terms of supplementation. That’s about all I take; cod liver oil, and beef liver every now and then. As well as bone broth.
And then in terms of plant foods, I do now is mainly just some low sugar fruits, so I might do some avocado, I might do some tomatoes, something like that. I don’t do too many leafy greens or cruciferous veggies which is just more of a recent experiment for me.
Usually, if I’m just maintaining my physique or if I’m really active, I’ll do two meals a day. Sometimes I’ll go up to three meals a day. But that’s kind of rare.
That’s pretty much what it looks like for me, and I’m able to get down to that low body fat.
Usually people think you have to be counting calories or eating five meals a day of broccoli, brown rice and chicken breast, and that’s a great way to make yourself hungry and crazy.
So, I feel fine throughout the day, and I’d much prefer this approach.
Abel: Do you ever feel like you’re close to bonking when you’re working out fasted?
No, I’ve never had that bonking feeling.
Sometimes I do get the feeling that my glycogen stores are pretty low, and I’m talking mainly in terms of muscle glycogen. So if I’m doing something that’s more heavily anaerobic, if it’s Jiu-Jitsu, Muay-Thai, if I’m doing a really hard leg workout or I’m doing a bunch of sprints, and this is way towards the end of the day, and I’m really pushing it with that.
I do listen to my body. And if my body is telling me like, “Look, now you’re just pushing your stress hormones up. You’re tired. We have no more glycogen for you, just chill.” I will just chill and I’m not going to push it too hard.
But ultimately, it works out really well. And I think obviously having the contribution of fat towards your energy is huge.
As you’re in that steady state with a heart rate in zone one and two, major contributions from fat. And for those shorter bursts, you’re going to get some of the muscle glycogen contributions.
I usually feel pretty good as long as I’m just keeping my salt up there.
One of the reasons that I’ve recently increased protein is, it was just from something I was reading recently about gluconeogenesis making larger contributions to your muscle glycogen than your liver glycogen.
As soon as your liver glycogen is depleted from fasting, you’re able to sort of maintain that fasted state, still producing the ketones running off of that, and the muscle glycogen is spared for those anaerobic type activities. And it’s not necessarily contributing to the liver glycogen.
I’m not a doctor, but that’s something I’ve been experimenting with and I feel pretty good on it.
Abel: Well, one thing worth pointing out is that even doctors and researchers have no idea what they’re talking a lot of the time.
You can hone in on these tiny little pathways and tiny rabbit holes that kind of explain how the body works.
I think it’s good to take it all with a grain of salt, so to speak, because especially if you’re physically active, your body is going to be different.
Your body is different year to year, season to season, and that sort of thing.
So it’s really important to take an intuitive approach.
And if you’re feeling good doing what you’re doing, it’s important to not just keep track of that now, but also to put that in your little back catalog of like, “I felt good when I was doing this. Maybe this is why.”
You can never know for sure. You’ll always be chasing those personal bests and that sort of thing, but the experimentation that you’ve been doing, trying a bunch of different ways of eating, will definitely serve you in the future.
For anyone who’s listening—experiment, try it out.
Read, but more importantly, try them yourself, because you will be surprised.
Let’s say this were five years ago and you tried listening to the Fat Burning Man Show, hearing all about bacon and delicious grass-fed-butter and steaks, and stuff like that, it doesn’t jive so well for someone who’s in a completely different headspace back then.
Abel: But focusing on more of the keto path, you can bring in some of the things that felt good when you were more plant based. You can do different hybrid diets for a period of time.
I think it’s really important to cycle different foods in and out, because you can find a lot of people who find this one way of eating, and they think it’s the best ever. So they double down on four foods or something that they’re eating. But the whole point is that you’re supposed to diversify your diet.
The way to eat like our ancestors did is that you eat a lot of different foods, you try a lot of different things, and that’s good for your head, too. It stimulates your pallet.
A lot of people are trained to eat for entertainment or to eat for emotional reasons. The more that you experiment, try different things, and really get in touch with the way that your body works, the more you see it as this powerful fuel.
Because if you’re only eating one or two meals a day, and then you’re working out fasted the next morning, you’re going to eat dinner the night before a lot differently, right?
Like you said, you’re adding a bit more salt because you know you’re going to be losing the electrolytes the next morning. You dial it in a little bit more. That’s important.
Yeah, it’s true.
And in terms of what you’re saying about food diversity, as an ancestral point of view, that’s completely true. There are so few cultures you could find that were doing like a mono-diet.
They were all eating a diversity of foods, and they were including plant foods, they were including animal foods, different parts of the animal.
Seasonally, things would change, depending on what was available. And that has a huge effect on the gut and the microbiome and that bacterial diversity. So that’s absolutely something that people will have to keep in mind.
When you think you’ve found it, are you setting yourself up for deficiencies in the long term? Might there be trouble down the road?
It’s really good to shift around with these things. And ultimately, like you said, unless you’re managing a disease or unless you’re managing some sort of condition, it’s really good to get in tune with that subjective feeling of well-being, that intuitive approach.
Finding Balance in an Image-Obsessed Society
Abel: Let’s shift gears a little bit. In this image-obsessed Instagram society we live in now, it’s pretty easy, especially if you’re out in Hollywood or if you’re being shot on film, or if you’re just an Internet personality, it can be pretty easy to go insane or to go down the path of orthorexia, or being too obsessed with food, or being too skinny.
And I’m sure, in your line of work, you see people who are trying to take shortcuts, whether it’s performance enhancing drugs or if it’s dieting too hard, too fast.
What would you say to people who are having some trouble finding balance in the world we live in now?
Oh, man. Especially when there are so many platforms where people are able to put themselves out there, especially if we’re talking about Instagram and Twitter and things like that. We’re connected and there’s a pressure to constantly present your best self to the world.
And there’s that whole dopamine spike with, “How many likes am I getting? How many followers do I have?”
It creates a really unhealthy relationship with your body and with food, where you’re always looking for quick results so that you can present them to people.
But the thing is, this is a long-term journey.
You’re looking at longevity and health and this is a project that you get to work on for the rest of your life.
So, you don’t want to be doing a two-week crash diet. You don’t want to be starving yourself, drinking nothing but lemon water. You really have to look at the long game with these kind of things.
Just like you restrict when you eat and you give yourself that break from food, I think it’s so powerful to restrict things like social media.
There are studies that have shown how this has been gamified to create an addictive cycle. When you slap that thing like a slot machine, it does so much to the brain.
It’s really tough because I see a lot of my generation and even my little siblings—they’re 14 and 16—kids are being raised by their iPads nowadays, and everybody’s got their neck hunched over looking at their phone.
They’re completely detached from the world.
I don’t really know what the solution is for that besides taking time away from it.
Yes, I do think it’s a tool that we should use. It is keeping us a little bit more connected, but in different ways. It should be used and moderated.
I definitely grew up on it. I was 13 and I was on MySpace, and then I was on Facebook.
I tried for the longest time to stay away from Instagram because I just had this perception that it was just a platform for vanity. Literally, all you can post on there are pictures.
I wasn’t really into taking pictures of myself, and I was just like, “I think I’m going to stay away from that.”
Eventually, it got to the point where I was like, “Okay, this could contribute in a valuable way to my career.” So I embrace it a lot more now.
But ultimately, I try to stay away from the comments and what people are saying, and try not to get too involved in that.
Because that stuff can mess with your head.
If you get too obsessed with what are people saying about me… Do they like this? Do they like that?
Really, get in touch with yourself and with your family and your friends.
How do you feel about what you’re doing? What are your own personal goals? Don’t let those get so influenced by the crowd and the herd mentality.
It’s a tricky thing, and I think we’re all still figuring it out because it’s currently evolving in so many different ways.
Even with augmented reality and virtual reality and things like that. It’s an interesting situation.
I guess we’re all going to see, and we’re going to figure it out as it happens.
Abel: While we’re on the subject, I haven’t posted to Instagram in like a year-and-a-half. I was posting a lot during the TV show because I wanted to connect with people wherever they are.
But you could see it morph from food pictures and pictures of where people were, to just selfies.
As someone who’s on the screen a lot, I think it’s really important to take those breaks, like you said.
Yet, the way all these things are built with gamification, requires that you keep posting, otherwise, you lose your steam. Or at least that’s what people worry about. You lose your followers, you lose that connection, what’s going to happen to me now that I haven’t posted in a long time?
Who has time or the sanity to post to 5 to 10 different platforms every day and respond to all the private messages, and all that.
So, it is something that we’ll definitely have to keep track of and work on.
We can celebrate parts of it. This isn’t necessarily social media, but as soon as we post this interview to YouTube, it will be, right?
And as soon as we post some of this stuff to other social media platforms, it can be good. But it’s something to watch out for.
Usually, before I interview anyone, I look at some of their social media accounts, I go to their blog, to see what’s happening with them. And it’s really interesting to see how people are presented on social media, and then actually interact with them in a more realistic way.
And hopefully, where this is going, is a place where we can interact in a more realistic way.
Because right now, for most of the people who I’ve had on this show who I meet for the first time, there’s a big disconnect between their social media accounts and who they actually are. And I know that’s true for me, too.
We all need to figure out a way, especially as people in the health field of how to do this without making people more insane.
Basically, the reason I stopped posting to social media as much, I read a few articles, went down that rabbit hole. And it basically says, pretty conclusively from the research that I’ve looked into, the more time you spend on social media, it doesn’t matter which kind, the less happy you are. The more it sucks your soul away.
So anyway, we don’t want to create hungry ghosts and we want to make sure that we’re kind of moving this in a positive direction.
And I’m not sure what the answer is, but I figured you’d be a great person to talk to because, like you said, you grew up with it more so than I did.
And your younger siblings are growing up with it, even more entrenched with their lives and even their personalities today.
Anything more to say about where social media is going?
I think the one comment I would have on that would be that we simply need to maintain a clear vision of why we’re using it, and then keep ourselves to that.
As soon as you notice that you derive too much pleasure, too much affirmation or approval from others, from social media, you’re starting to get a bit off-target.
So if you know why you’re using it, if there’s a certain form of marketing or self-promotion or brand awareness that you’re trying to create, stick to that.
But social media is not life, it’s not even close to life.
And the more you can disconnect from it, especially restricting the amount of time you use on it, the better.
There are people who check it 15 times a day. And if we’re talking about the younger population, it’s probably more than that. It might be as high as 15 times an hour.
They’re constantly swiping that thing. They got notifications binging the whole time and then you got to go check what’s going on.
So start restricting notifications, and then pick your moments.
Knowing, “Okay, so I might post in the morning, but I’m not going to check this thing until the next morning.”
I definitely think that controlling it is important and also knowing why you’re using it, and knowing when to get yourself back in check.
Abel: That’s great advice. And easier said than done.
True, very true.
Minimalist Running: Abel Answers William’s Questions
Abel: Since you’ve listened to this show, I promised that I’d save some time for you to ask me any questions.
So why don’t we do that now if you have any ready.
Yeah. So one thing I really wanted to ask about, this is kind of a very in the weeds question, but it’s mainly about minimalist running.
I’ve tried my hand at minimalist running, whether it’s a barefoot approach, whether it’s Vibrams, whether it’s zero-drop shoes. How long does it take to strengthen your feet to do that?
Because basically, I deal with shin splints constantly. So, I’m still trying to make that thing work for myself. Do you have any advice on that?
Abel: Totally. Actually, one of the reasons that I switched to minimalist type running, not necessarily barefoot, but sometimes barefoot, is because I had shin splints all the time.
I was a runner, pretty much as long as I can remember, I was really into running, and mountain biking, and shin splints were just something that I got relatively fast, then I’d be training too much and the shin splints would be so bad that I’d have to stop for two weeks, three weeks, four weeks. Then my conditioning would go way down. I couldn’t be fast anymore. And so, it was just this cycle on and off of that.
But when I originally switched, I did the cold turkey thing, and I was running about five, six miles in regular shoes, and I’ve always liked trail running a lot more than running on a hard top. And that’s really important when you switch.
So I went from running like five or six miles, to the first couple of times I did barefoot running, just 0.5 miles or 0.75 miles, that’s all I could go and my muscles felt like they had never been used before in my legs.
Your posture is based upon your shoe, much more than it should be. It’s allowing your feet to be dumb and blind to the way they’re actually supposed to communicate with the ground and move correctly.
So basically, what happened to me is that I was running more, but I was landing incorrectly. That’s what was causing the shin splints.
So once I removed the shoes, I was landing not necessarily on the ball of the foot, but more like in-between the middle of the foot and the ball. When you’re barefoot, if you run wrong, it hurts and you can hurt yourself real fast. That’s important because that gives you feedback in terms of like, “Okay, that hurts, don’t run like that anymore.”
You’ll definitely feel it a lot, if you run on a hard surface, blacktop, asphalt, anything like that. I wouldn’t recommend running with Vibrams for more than like a mile or two.
If you have to go between one part of the trail, on a piece of road or something like that, it’s okay to go on something that’s really hard. But for minimalist running, that was the biggest thing that I noticed. You’re going to have to start slow and especially start on soft ground, because you’re basically re-learning how to run.
It took me many weeks, many months, to get back up to running five, six miles again.
But once I passed that, I would go out and run for 20 or 30 miles sometimes, when I was more in that condition, just because it felt good and it felt fine.
And ever since I made that switch, I have not had shin splints in like 10 years, whereas I had it constantly before.
But like I said, I’m running on roads less, I’m running on trails more.
And when I do run, sometimes it’s Vibrams, but a lot of times it’s Earth Runners, which is the type of sandal that I really like. It’s basically just a minimalist sandal that will stay on your foot and you can run for really long distances or hike in them.
One mistake I would like to bring up is I broke my foot while hiking wearing minimalist sandals one time. This is actually while I was writing my book.
I had the manuscript for The Wild Diet in my backpack with a bunch of equipment, and I had to make this jump over water and I stuck it too hard, broke my foot, and then I couldn’t run for like six months.
So if you do make the transition to minimalist running or walking or just standing, which I would definitely recommend, take it slow. And the whole point of it is to get back in touch with how your body feels, how your body is supposed to run.
One thing that I was researching at the time, was called Pose running, and Chi running. I’ve had Danny Dreyer on the show several times.
Danny has a wonderful book, actually, several books. And he has running programs.
So it’s a big transition. Getting away from those nasty, pernicious shoes is definitely worth trying.
So you were actually able to run 20 to 30 miles in minimalist footwear?
Abel: It depends on the terrain. That’s the most important thing, it’s like if you’re going to be doing trail running, minimalist shoes can work depending on the trail.
You have to know the trail, and how technical it is. If there are a lot of rocks, if you have to jump from one place to another you might want that padding on your feet. You don’t want to break your foot.
I think I was wearing Mizuno shoes for a while there, and I wore out like three pairs in a row. I did enjoy those, and I actually combined those with some of the minimalist running, but I noticed that if I pushed it too far, and ran too far in the shoes with the elevated back platform, then I would get IT band issues. And mostly my right knee would start acting up. Sometimes some of my muscles would freeze up and feel like they were taking too much of the brunt of it.
It’s important to plan your runs or your hikes before you go on them. Know what you’re up against. And worse case scenario, you can always bring a backpack with a backup pair of shoes and kind of do a hybrid approach.
Mostly what you want to do is re-train the muscles that need to be strong to run barefoot, to be strong and available when you need them.
Even if you’re super athletic, people don’t have those muscles, unless you spend most of your time barefoot.
How do you lift? Do you lift in shoes?
I usually lift with these Merrell shoes that are very minimalist. You can literally twist them backwards. I forget what they’re called, I think they’re Vapor Gloves?
I usually lift and run with those, but every now and then, it’ll just get tough on the achilles and the calf.
I don’t think I’ve built up that strength in my feet yet.
So I’ll switch over into running with these zero-drop running shoes, and I sort of alternate between the two, but I would really like to just make that switch.
Abel: Cool. I would say it’s definitely worth it. Just take it slow and just shoot me an email if you ever have any questions about it.
Abel’s and William’s Favorite Books
Abel: I think we have time for one more question if you have one.
Oh, okay. So last question. I want to know… Oh man, which one do I pick?
Abel: We can do two more if you want.
Okay, okay. So one of them is, what are your top three favorite books?
And then the other thing I’d like to know about is what your daily routine looks like? And do you have any rituals that make their way into every single day for you?
Abel: I love both of those questions. Let’s start with the daily routine one.
We live in the mountains now, and, depending on where we live, that changes the routine somewhat.
But basically, first thing I do when I wake up in the morning, I have a very excitable yellow lab, and she’s 75 pounds and can handle almost any amount of activity. So we’ll run up the mountain for a little bit. We live at 8000 feet. I’m breathing heavy just thinking about it.
It’s not like I go for a big sprint, it’s more like I bound up the mountain to take my dog up there for a little bit.
That’s something that’s really good to get me in a good headspace where I feel like I’m making progress already before I even know what’s happening.
Before I go out, I already started the coffee so that’ll be ready by the time I get back from my walk.
So usually, I’ll come back inside, drink a little bit of coffee as I read the “I Ching” or some sort of spiritual practice. Something that will get me in a right headspace for the day, usually just a few minutes.
And then, I’ll go out and do some light Qigong for about 10 or 15 minutes. Fortunately, it’s sunny almost every day here in Colorado, which I love, but I’ll get a little bit sun in the morning which helps me wake up.
When the light hits your eyes and your skin, certain physiological things happen to wake you up. So that’s happening at the same time that I’m doing the light martial art type activity.
I don’t do the heavy Krav Maga that I used to, but I really enjoy the more spiritual aspect of some of the Qigong, Tai Chi type stuff, and maybe a little bit of yoga.
So, a little bit of that, and then I spend a lot of the day reading, researching, playing music, or doing these interviews.
In the evening is when we feast. I don’t want to say it’s a ritual, but we do try to be very intentional about it.
When you’re only eating one, maybe two times a day, you really appreciate it. And we take our time.
And oftentimes, I’ll be playing music and Alyson will be cooking up dinner, and then we’ll eat it together outside watching the sunset.
When we go to sleep at 9:00 or 9:30pm these days, which makes us sound old and boring. But the longer we go not partying or seeing a bunch of friends, we go to bed earlier, and earlier, and earlier, and all of a sudden, we’ll be like, “What time is it? 8:30. Let’s go to sleep.”
I never used to be like that, but the most beautiful thing about that is that you wake up early in the morning, and that morning that I described to you, with my dog, it’s like you get all of this free time that a lot of people don’t necessarily have.
When I was growing up in New Hampshire, I’d come downstairs in the morning, it’d be like 6:30am before school, and mom has been up since 4:00am. She’s had two pots a coffee and she’s like, “How’s it going? What are you doing today?”
We’ve been really enjoying going to bed early and waking up early.
And for my book recommendations, let’s see it, this book is called Wabi-Sabi. It’s basically, an aesthetic. It’s a really nice, short read. Lots of pictures in there too, but I got that from one of my art teachers when I was back in high school, and I re-read that very often.
There’s one Qigong book by my cousin’s sifu, or master, that I’ve been reading recently. Kind of esoteric stuff.
I read a lot about the music industry, too. I’ve been reading stuff about how the music industry actually works, and some of the subliminal messaging that’s put into the worst types of songs.
That’s going back to some research that I used to do at Dartmouth. My first book was about the musical brain. I like going into those rabbit holes.
If I had to recommend a book that other people check out right now, it would definitely be “Wabi-Sabi”.
Okay, I’ll have to check that out.
Abel: It’s a good one. But it’s one of those books that you go back to.
For the most part, I’ve been disappointed with books that have come out recently. I think one of the reasons, and we’re seeing this a lot, not just on social media, but also in the TV, movie, podcast, media spaces these days.
There’s so much. It’s so saturated, and you don’t know if what you’re reading is true.
You don’t know if what you’re seeing is true.
And so, for me, it’s been challenging to find an author, or to find a source where I’m just like “Yes, I can trust it completely.”
It takes a lot of research to find sources that you can trust.
One thing that I’ve been enjoying recently is using the Kindle app. If there’s a book that looks interesting, I’ll get the free sample, and then you get like one fifth of the book or something like that, and you can check it out beforehand.
But yeah, I think books are a really interesting one, especially being an author. The landscape of media and how you communicate information now is totally different, and I’m not sure if books are necessarily the future. We’ll see.
What are your favorite books?
That’s true. My favorite books, let’s see. I like to read a good variety of things. But for the most part they’re non-fiction. I’m kind of boring like that.
I am sort of in that hustle and grind stage of my life, you know in the early 20s.
So a lot of what I read is oriented towards that. One thing that I really loved was Siddhartha. I thought that was fantastic.
I also like—it’s not necessarily a book but it’s more of a philosophical treatise on visions and goals—As a Man Thinketh by James Allen.
I’ve re-read that when I’m trying to figure out my path forward.
Just because, for me, going from economics with no acting background to going straight into acting, I had to get myself together really quick.
How to Become A Power Ranger with No Acting Background
Abel: I didn’t realize that you didn’t have any background in acting. That’s fascinating.
No I had never acted in anything in my whole life.
Abel: And now you’re the Red Power Ranger on Nickelodeon. How does that happen?
It was pretty much a process of just strict goal setting for a good year.
I went from one year, zero acting experience to booking that role and there were a lot of little steps that led up to it.
But it was basically having that big goal of booking a starring role in a TV show by the end of the year. And then I chunked that thing down.
Abel: That was your goal?
Yes. That was my goal.
And I chunked that thing all the way down to what I was doing every single day.
And there were monthly and weekly and quarterly goals. There was a whole lot that went into it.
But it just taught me a lot about what you can achieve, what’s possible when you really apply yourself to it, and what sort of strategy works for that.
So that’s still the point of my life that I’m in right now.
But yeah, I’m enjoying it. The thing that’s biggest for me is that I love what I’m doing now. Which wasn’t necessarily the case when I was in college. It’s just a whole perspective shift.
Just waking up excited to work every day, excited to do what you’re doing because you believe in it, and because it’s what you’re good at. And so it’s big for me.
Abel: You were a Power Rangers fan growing up, and now you are a Power Ranger. That’s got to be a head trip.
It’s a bit of a head trip, especially from the martial arts background I came up with.
All the kids at my karate school, that’s the show they were watching. So that was pretty exciting for me.
The other thing, I’ve been able to meet a number of those previous Power Rangers that I used to watch when I was a kid, so that’s been awesome.
I’m still kinda getting used to it. I try not to take it too seriously, or look on accomplishments too much.
I like to keep moving and enjoy the process. But it’s really fun. I do really enjoy it.
My little siblings for example, they’ve become popular at their schools now because they get to talk about their brother the Red Ranger and stuff like that, so that’s really fun to experience.
Abel: How are they ever going to be as cool as you?
Those kids are so much smarter than I was at their age. They’re on another level.
My little brother’s producing music already and he’s 16 and he’s coming out with great stuff.
My little sister, she’s in these engineering programs and she does a whole lot of STEM things, and she’s 14.
I was watching professional wrestling when I was their age, so I have high hopes for them.
Abel: Maybe you learned some sweet moves from watching wrestling.
That’s very likely.
Abel: Well, right on. I know we’re just about out of time, but before we go, aside from watching you on Nickelodeon, where else can everyone find you?
I have two movies coming out next year. One of them is an Indie film that I’m the lead in and that’s kind of my first starring role in a film, so I’m excited about.
Thank you. I appreciate that.
That film is called “Palms in the Sand.”
And then I also have one that I’m a supporting role in that’s a Lifetime movie, that’s going to be coming out later next year.
We have lots of conventions going on, so I’m going to be at Comic-Con this weekend if anybody is at San Diego Comic-Con, I’ll be there. We’re going to have a booth. We might be doing a panel. So that’s something to check out.
I’m probably going to be doing more conventions next year.
Abel: William, thank you so much for being here, this has been a fun one and we should definitely have you back. I want to hear what you have to say about being a veteran Power Ranger and the new cool projects that I’m sure you’re going to be doing in the years coming up. So thanks so much for coming on, man.
Abel, I appreciate it.
Look, I’ve been a fan of this show for a while. I’ve been watching so many of these. I was trying not to get lost in your blue eyes as we were talking here, but honestly I’m a huge fan. It’s been an honor and I really appreciate it.
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