If you had to describe Levels’ founder Josh Clemente in one word? Builder. From his backyard experiments to his innovative engineering work at SpaceX, Josh has spent his life getting hands-on to build a better future. But when his health couldn’t keep up with his demanding schedule, he turned to glucose monitoring to unravel the mystery of blood sugar regulation. Today, tech start-up Levels provides continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) and intelligent data interpretation to help users make healthier lifestyle choices. In this episode of Behind the Shield, Josh and James Geering chat about the parallels between Josh’s professional background and sky-high goals for Levels. Topics range from the perks of homeschool, to lessons learned from Elon Musk, and the high-stakes role of a good night’s sleep.
SpaceX engineer and Levels founder Josh Clemente credits his entrepreneurial strengths to his home-schooled childhood.
“I was homeschooled from K through 12. The first time I stepped into a classroom really was for college. And I kind of developed two things throughout that experience. One was independence in learning, because my mom was teaching so many people at various stages of the education spectrum. She really had to rely on each of us to take a course and teach ourselves. And so I developed an appreciation and independence there. And then I also, in my spare time, became fascinated with machines, and vehicles primarily. So I spent a lot of time outside building crazy things. And my dad, who is an exceptionally mechanically minded person as well, he and I built many things. Buildings, machines, dune buggies, and everything in between.”
24:44 – Thinking outside the box
At SpaceX, Josh was introduced to Elon Musk’s “first principles” that lead to efficiency, independent thinking, and innovation.
“We will come up against the way things are done often, and we will need to just plow right through that because it’s not always necessary to follow the consensus and oftentimes it’s counter, it’s contradictory. It’s taking you in the wrong direction. And I just think it’s a powerful lesson for people who are getting started in their careers or no matter where you are in your career – to just reassess, what I do every day. Is it necessary that it be done this way? Is it the best way to do it, or is there a much faster route to success? Let’s connect A to B as quickly and directly as possible. And I just think there’s so much opportunity in our society to improve efficiencies. The beautiful thing is that if we did so we would have so much additional time to spend either solving other problems or just enjoying our lives more. We spend a lot of time in the process and unnecessary bureaucracy that I think could just be improved by taking this first-principles approach.”
38:47 – Lessons from Elon
Elon’s tough approach to leadership taught Josh and his co-workers to double down on responsibility for their work and the company’s future.
“His leadership is exceptional. He can be a very tough person to work with, frankly, but I think that’s necessary. You gotta be kind of bullheaded sometimes to get things done, but when it comes to those specific qualities of leadership, demonstrating by example that ego has no place in an environment where people’s lives are at stake. He looks at it, I think, even further in the future, it’s not just the people’s lives today that are at stake. It’s the future of civilization that is at stake. If we frivolously destroy SpaceX by making poor decisions that end up in a few failures to make orbit, and end up with SpaceX closing its doors, humans may never become a multi-planet species, and that would be the greatest mistake of all time. Not only should we drop the ego and just get this done the right way – whether or not somebody has to raise their hand and say, ‘Hey, I screwed up’. It doesn’t matter. No one will ever get fired for saying, ‘I made a mistake’. What will happen is they’ll get fired if they fail to raise a concern that is significant.”
48:34 – Searching for better health
Physically fit but unable to keep his energy up throughout the stressful workday, Josh began a search for deeper answers that led him to explore diet & glucose monitoring.
“By 11:00 AM, I’m getting my 10th coffee. I just want it to kind of crawl under my desk and sleep. And along with this physical fatigue, that’s just like the inability to keep myself moving forward. I also had a lot of mood disorders going on, just like a ton of ups and downs, highs and lows. Just across the board mentally, physically unstable. Just not feeling at my peak by any means despite that I was in really good physical condition. I was working out regularly, 8% body fat, great lifting capacity, like at a good point, physically and aesthetically. I had always approached health as just a synonym for physical fitness. So as long as you can, run fast, jump high, lift, heavy weights, you’re healthy, or at least that’s the closest you can get. And I actually came across a study that was done in collaboration with NASA, by Dr. Dom D’Agostino. He’s a ketogenic researcher in South Florida. And this study showed that rodents who are exposed to a high-pressure oxygen environment can live five times longer if they’re on a ketogenic diet and they have ketones in their blood than if they’re on a normal diet. And that study is actually the first thing – the first domino that tipped me off to the fact that diet alone, macronutrient composition alone is giving these rodents essentially superpowers in the sense that they are surviving five times longer than they otherwise would in this hostile environment.”
50:24 – The CGM “click”
Josh began monitoring his glucose levels in search of objective data that would point to a truly healthy diet.
“If diet has that much potential to provide benefit, what am I doing as it relates to diet to give myself these benefits? Because today I eat whatever I want because I don’t gain weight. And I assume that that’s fine, but maybe that’s not the case, perhaps this is a more meaningful part of health. And so I started to do some research on diet and nutrition. I became extremely jaded almost immediately because there was so much contradictory information. And instead, I decided, all right, I need objective data. So I’m just going to measure blood markers and the easiest one to measure is glucose – the primary molecule, the primary energy molecule for modern humans. And get a fingerprint device that you basically put your finger on, you take a drop of blood and you can measure your glucose levels on the spot. And so I got one of these devices. I started pricking my finger about 60 times a day, and it was like, couldn’t make heads or tails, but it was just kind of a scatter plot. Eventually, I read this book called Wired to Eat by Robb Wolf. He describes a continuous glucose monitor, and this is a device that you can wear full time. And it gives you a readout directly on your phone of your glucose information in the moment.”
57:48 – Results worth sharing
As Josh used his glucose data to improve his health metrics, he quickly realized CGM was a tool that could – and should – be available to all.
“So I was having this hormonal cascade, this rollercoaster effect throughout the day, multiple times at every meal. And this was causing just complete destruction of my ability to focus, my ability to basically continue moving through whatever task I was working on without trying to dig up another meal. It was very destructive to my day-to-day. Using the CGM to find those issues in my nutrition and remove them or substitute them demonstrated for me that this technology had a huge potential value. And so basically over the course of about two weeks, I was able to go from pre-diabetics down to the low normal, just by removing specific factors from my meals. I then went even further and got down into the lowest quartile of blood sugar risk by continuing to tweak specific lifestyle choices, like the timing of my workouts and the quality of my sleep. And so just going through this process myself, hands-on, showed me that this is the future of closed-loop feedback for lifestyle. And, it’s absolutely necessary that this gets into the hands of more people.”
1:00:52 – The secret danger of stress
In today’s high-stress world, our body’s survival responses can lead to metabolic dysfunction and negative health implications.
“That cortisol-related blood sugar response – if it’s repeated day after day in stressful meetings and sitting in traffic and letting our minds run wild, maybe getting poor sleep – we’re always in an ‘on alert’ elevated scenario. We’re kind of cheating our metabolism to constantly be in this aroused scenario and constantly in an elevated blood sugar situation, and that has hormonal implications that last for days. Seeing the effects of stress on my own metabolic control has caused me to start to really appreciate both sleep and mindfulness, finding those times to realize ‘I’m hyped up right now and I need to take five minutes and just close my eyes and breathe it out’ and then see the consequences. Like, see my blood sugar actually come down into the normal range again. It’s pretty profound. And it really shows that these systems do not operate independently of each other, like every day, whether we feel like we’re stressed or whether we feel we deserve to feel stressed or not, it has longstanding implications for our health going forward.”
1:07:43 – Data says: catch your ZZZs
Along with stress, lack of sleep prevents the body from efficiently clearing glucose from the blood – starting a cycle of poor glucose levels and health impacts.
“This has been pretty well studied – short nights of sleep can actually cause what’s called acute insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is essentially the same state that we see in issues like type two diabetes, PCOS, which is the leading cause of infertility in the United States, heart disease. Lots of issues are related to the body, the cells in the body ceasing to respond to insulin and ceasing to use it efficiently. And so research has been done that shows that after four hours of sleep versus eight hours of sleep, a person will need 40% more insulin to clear the same amount of glucose from their blood. And that’s a single night. And so I personally see this exact effect playing out in real-time where if I take a red-eye for example, and get just disastrous sleep all night long, my blood sugar will both be elevated throughout the day. And also my responses to the same meals that I rely on day after day will be much worse.”
1:09:59 – What’s a body to do?
Human metabolisms aren’t an exact science – each body responds to various factors and stressors to regulate glucose levels.
“We have these concepts like calories in calories out for energy expenditure and weight gain. That’s considering if we’re this perfect machine where the amount of fuel that goes in equals the amount of energy we get out. In reality, we’re kind of a wet chemistry set where hormones, basically chemicals, are being released in proportion to other chemicals and in proportion to chemicals that are being added to the body at any time. It’s what we would call an analog system. It’s not a perfect science. It’s not digital, things are not accurate. And oftentimes we can bias these hormonal systems in one direction or another through the choices we make.”
1:15:00 – Your body, your glucose
As recent studies confirm, the need for CGM data is critical because each body may process food choices differently.
“There’s some fascinating research out of The Weizmann Institute in Israel, which has very recently – using continuous glucose monitoring – allowed us to see explicitly both the differences between those complex carbohydrates that have basically a slower breakdown time and the simple sugars. And not just that, but then show the individuality that comes into play. The big trial from the Weizmann Institute showed that two people can eat the exact same two foods, in this case, it was a banana and a cookie made with wheat flour, and they can have equal and opposite blood sugar responses. What this shows is that although the complex carbohydrate concept really does matter, it is so individual that it’s important that each person understand whether they are more sensitive to a specific variety. For this example, it was like fruit sugars versus grain sugars in order to know how much it matters.”
1:19:41 – How data changes behavior
Josh believes that glucose monitoring can lead to behavior change -by helping users make individualized, data-backed choices to revamp their health.
“The concept is closing the loop between the actions we take and the reactions our bodies experience. So these things are happening, we are not creating new data. Your blood sugar is responding and your hormones are responding to the choices you’re making. All we’re doing is allowing you to surface those and see them and take them into account when you’re making your next decision. And so we can answer the question for the first time: when you sit down for lunch, ‘what should I eat and why?’ Previously it’s something that tastes good or something that I read on the internet is good for muscle growth or something that worked for a friend for their diet program. Now we can show you, these are the foods that you are sensitive to. These are the foods that can wreak havoc on your metabolic control, these are the foods that work super well for you. And you can build a truly personalized nutrition catalog and then go beyond nutrition to even further maximize those decisions.”
1:21:25 – Letting them eat ice cream
Need a treat? Levels data helps users understand how to indulge their sweet tooth without suffering the health consequences.
“It’s not all negative reinforcement. A lot of the time we hear concerns that, at the end of the day, I just want to relax and I just want to eat something that tastes good and I don’t really want to have to stress out about another thing. And actually, we’ve seen quite the opposite. We’ve seen a lot of food freedom where people realize, not only does this not tell me I have to eliminate all foods. I’ll give a personal example: ice cream for me is a really nicely controlled blood sugar response. So I can kind of indulge in ice cream and because it has kind of equal proportions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates, my glucose is very stable thereafter. And so that compared to something like bread or a muffin, which will cause a huge blood sugar elevation and a lot of instability and a lot of hunger and irritability, I’ll bias towards that ice cream, which I absolutely love anyway, and feel very confident that what I’m doing is an optimized indulgence.”
1:23:05 – Levels’ worldwide mission
Josh believes Levels will provide today’s metabolically unhealthy world with the dashboard they need to reduce risk of disease and harmful weight gain.
“Today we have such an abundance of foods available at all times of night and day. And that is allowing us to indulge in ways that we otherwise couldn’t historically. And so it’s important for us to have a dashboard, to have an understanding of when we’re going off the rails, and be able to correct course. I’m optimistic that people are really changing their behaviors quite quickly and building a better lifestyle for themselves within only a few weeks. And although we don’t have longitudinal data yet to show efficacy on, for example, avoiding Type 2 diabetes, we can say that the mechanisms that are at stake here, the glucose-insulin feedback loop and the hormonal theory of weight gain, these things are very well-established and researched. And if we can demonstrate the connection between control of our glucose levels through behavior change software like Levels and long-term benefits for risk of disease, I think we’re going to be able to really make a difference for metabolic outcomes around the world. And that is my personal hope and vision.”
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Welcome to Episode 381 of Behind the Shield Podcast. As always, my name is James Geering and this week it is my absolute pleasure to welcome on the show space engineer, Josh Clemente. So we discuss a host of topics from Josh’s work in SpaceX and the Hyperloop project, to his work now with Levels and continuous glucose monitoring and a host of other topics in between. Before we get to this conversation, as I say every single week, please just take a moment, go to whichever app you listen to this on, subscribe to the show, leave feedback and leave a rating. Every single five star rating elevates this podcast, making it easier for others to find. And this is a free library for you, the audience, whether individually, organizationally. So all I ask in return is that you pay it forward, share these incredible men and women’s stories so I can get them to everyone else on planet Earth that needs to hear them.
So with that being said, I introduce to you, Josh Clemente. Enjoy!
So Josh, I want to start by saying thank you so much for taking the time and being patient when I rescheduled to come on the Behind the Shield Podcast.
Josh Clemente: [00:04:02] James, I’m really excited to be here and glad we have a chance to talk.
James Geering: [00:04:05] Absolutely. So where on planet Earth are we finding you today?
Josh Clemente: [00:04:09] I am currently in my father’s office in Northern Virginia, visiting them for his 60th birthday weekend.
James Geering: [00:04:16] Very good. Happy birthday to your dad.
Josh Clemente: [00:04:19] Thank you.
James Geering: [00:04:20] All right. That’s a good segue then. So tell me about where you were born and then your family dynamic, what your parents did and how many siblings.
Josh Clemente: [00:04:28] All right. This is going to be an interesting one. I was born in St. Louis. Well, outside St. Louis, Missouri. It’s actually a really small town called Owensville, Missouri and I spent the first few years there and then my father became a St. Louis police officer. He was there for about seven years and then he moved to Washington Field Office for the FBI. He went through the training in Quantico and then became an FBI agent, worked on narcotics, counter-terrorism, weapons of mass destruction for about 13 years. And throughout that time, my family grew. I’m actually one of nine siblings.
James Geering: [00:05:04] Oh! Wow!
Josh Clemente: [00:05:05] Yeah. And my mom, who is a high school teacher originally chose to homeschool all of us. And so I was homeschooled from K through 12. First time I stepped into a classroom really was for college. So I developed two things throughout that experience.
One was, an independence in learning. Because my mom was teaching so many people at various stages of the education spectrum, she really had to rely on each of us to take a course and teach ourselves. And so I developed an appreciation and independence there. And then I also, in my spare time, became fascinated with machines and vehicles primarily. So I spent a lot of time outside building crazy things. And my dad who is an exceptionally mechanically minded person as well, he and I built many things – buildings, machines, dune buggies, and everything in between.
James Geering: [00:05:54] Beautiful. That’s a hell of a career for both of them. So with your dad being in law enforcement for 20 years, what is – Not of the inflammatory social media stuff that we’re seeing, but just overall now of law enforcement having experience in the the urban setting and then with the FBI.
Josh Clemente: [00:06:12] Yeah. He’s frustrated by the state of things today. Generally, he knows that there are specific issues that need to be corrected, of course, at the highest levels and all the way through the ranks. But at the end of the day, he has a great deal of respect and spends a huge amount of his time supporting veterans at both law enforcement and military in whatever ways he can. And through that experience, I’ve also developed a deep appreciation. I have two brothers both of which have served in the Marine Corps, one of which is currently out on a training deployment. And so, our family certainly is very supportive of men and women who do what they do every day to keep us safe and although there are some terrible anecdotes that come out, come to the front of mind. At the end of the day, as we’ll get into it, I think, in the subject matter on the show, anecdotes are not, they’re not statistically significant. I think that speaks the best that I can. That’s the best way to describe it, I would say, for both him and I.
James Geering: [00:07:02] Absolutely. Yeah. Everyone’s focusing on outliers at the moment.
Josh Clemente: [00:07:05] That’s right.
James Geering: [00:07:06] Beautiful. All right. Well then, just staying with that just for a moment with a lot of this show highlighting mental and physical health within the tactical professions, we’re all aware of many of the men and women in law enforcement and fire and EMS that do struggle with their health. With you being in this space now, what are some of the conversations you have with your father as far as physical and mental health in his profession specifically?
Josh Clemente: [00:07:32] Yeah. I think it’s a really tough problem because so much of the resilience that’s needed in those professions comes – it seems to be traded directly against health and personal self-care to an extent. And oftentimes, I think in those communities, there’s a feeling that you have to be immortal. Otherwise, you’re a mere mortal. A lot of the conversations I have with my dad are trying to break through similar barriers. He’s an extremely tough person. He can endure more than anyone I know. And although I do think he’s pretty close to immortal, I also worry for him, both the area under the curve, the amount of stress, the things he’s put himself through, both on the job and now in his new career. And also for people around him, who are now carrying the torch, so to speak, and I just see a lot of room for improvement and optimization for specifically stress and sleep management.
I think that that’s probably the biggest area of opportunity for those folks who are just like – They’re carrying a tremendous amount of cognitive burden, a huge amount of mental and physical stress all the time. And I think there’s a – In our daily lifestyles, there are ways that small tweaks can be made, little micro optimizations that stack up and you earn interest on those improvements over time, over years and decades. And really what I’m working on with my dad and with my current work is to try to help people get receipts for those micro optimizations, to see the benefits and be able to improve them, and these are diet, exercise, sleep, stress. Just very small tweaks really do have powerful effects. And so I think, again, for our men and women in uniform, it’s stress primarily, in my opinion.
James Geering: [00:09:05] Yeah. I agree a hundred percent. It’s interesting the way you put it in interest terms, and it would be a compounding interest with the ill health. But like you said, the nutritional choices, the exercise choices, the mindfulness practice, the mobility training, that’s all compounding interest in the positive way.
Josh Clemente: [00:09:22] That’s exactly right. And it can – The inverse is that it can also be compounding in the negative way. There are choices we make every single day and some of them are binary in the sense that this will either work for us or it will work against us. And if we repeat those for days and months and decades, it can take us very far off the path of health and wellness and just have these cascading, trickle down effects into every corner of our lives and families and I think that – Yeah. I’ve seen several examples of this. I’ve seen it a bit in my own family and so I’m optimistic that with better information this can be avoided and we can only earn positive interest.
James Geering: [00:09:54] Absolutely. All right. Well then, speaking of exercise, what about yourself as a young man? Were you an athlete?
Josh Clemente: [00:10:02] So I love sports. I’m a little bit ADD with sports. So I played pretty much everything, ice hockey, soccer, lacrosse, rugby. I stuck with rugby and ice hockey in college and played club versions of both of those. And I was also in ROTC for the army. I did not end up commissioning, but I spent a lot of time as a young adult physically training and always have really enjoyed athleticism and competition, especially when it comes to sports. And so a huge, huge fan of getting out there and playing the games. And that led after graduation as I got into a professional career, I chose to become a CrossFit trainer. And so I’m now a CrossFit L2 trainer. I don’t train other people that often, but it is an exceptional way for me to stay on top of my game and stay aware of the kinematics and just generally get deeper than just these superficial visits to the gym. It keeps me focused on the theory and the higher level understanding of what we’re doing and why.
James Geering: [00:10:59] Beautiful. Well I definitely want to explore CrossFit a little bit, but you mentioned about entering your profession. So when you were still the high school age, what was your burning desire as far as career?
Josh Clemente: [00:11:10] It’s funny. I never really spent much time thinking about this. It was really when the time came to apply, I only ever had one idea in my mind and that was to be a mechanical engineer. And that’s just because my parents told me, “Look, you should build things.” And I didn’t really know specifically what I wanted to build, but they said, “If you want the most flexibility in going out and spending your days similar to how you do today in high school, where you’re in the shop, welding and building creations that you love that give you adrenaline and a sense of accomplishment, the best way to do that is mechanical engineering. It’s the most broad engineering discipline for building machines.” And so that was it. I never second guessed that. I applied for engineering school. I didn’t consider computer science or software engineering even once. It was always, I just wanted to work with my hands on engineering creations. And so that’s what it was. I don’t remember a specific date. I honestly think the first time I was like, “Okay. I’m applying for engineering. That’s the career path I’m choosing,” was the moment I was filling out applications and it wasn’t a decision. It was just, “Oh yeah, I got to put that on the line because that’s what I’m going to do.”
James Geering: [00:12:15] So where did that take you? Which college, and then what was the first job?
Josh Clemente: [00:12:20] So I went to a fairly small school. It’s called the Catholic University of America in Washington DC and I got a scholarship there and it was close to home. My sister had gone there. I felt that at that time, the smaller engineering school would give me an opportunity to have maybe more flexibility and leeway. And I think ultimately it did. My senior design, for example, my senior design program, I was able to take over an entire building at the school and build a prototype of this four-wheel steering off-road vehicle. That was actually – The intention of it was to be an all-terrain ambulance for the scenario after hurricane Katrina. That was front of mind at that time and there was a lot of debris. It was extremely hard to get ingress/egress for ambulance crews and so a lot of people were doing this on foot. Myself and my team, we designed an all-terrain version of this that could four-wheel steer and basically it could – It had a 15 foot wheel base, but it could turn tighter than a Mini Cooper. And I not only designed that, but then spent about 40 hours a week building it in one of the outbuildings on campus. And that’s an example of, I think, just the small school and the flexibility it brought. And ultimately that program, sorry, that project is what I pitched to SpaceX and ultimately was I think the project, the proof of work that got me the job there at SpaceX after school.
James Geering: [00:13:38] Beautiful. And do you know if that concept was ever used in a rescue environment?
Josh Clemente: [00:13:44] I’ve seen similar, I’ve seen similar systems out there since, but I never ended up pursuing getting production going for it. It’s something that I would love to revisit. It was a really fun project. I actually still have it at my parents’ house. And so maybe at some point I’ll get a chance to reboot that and I think it would have value. It’s similar to the Chenowth sand rails that were used in Desert Storm. And actually I think are still used in certain theaters today, but it has the added benefit of, I think, enhanced maneuverability.
James Geering: [00:14:14] Beautiful. Now, speaking of which, I don’t know if you saw the YouTube video go viral, but there’s a company that makes jet suits in the UK and they just –
Josh Clemente: [00:14:24] Gravity.
James Geering: [00:14:24] Yes. Yeah. So the paramedic response unit that they were developing?
Josh Clemente: [00:14:28] Absolutely. I am a big fan of what they’re doing and I’ve been following closely. I tried to become a jet suit pilot for them and ended up just getting sidetracked. I need to reboot that conversation.
James Geering: [00:14:37] I’m hoping to try and get him on the show. I think that’ll be another great conversation.
Josh Clemente: [00:14:41] That’d be huge. Yeah. I love their ideas. If they can extend the flight time on that system, it’s going to be a game changer. It’s already just mind blowing. Yeah.
James Geering: [00:14:49] And it’s just another step forward from putting motorcycles of medics on, they’d done. Even in firefighting, motorcycles in London and places like that. So to be able to get to remote locations, whether it’s medical or even wildland fire to start to attack a fire before it gets, gains size. It would be incredible.
Josh Clemente: [00:15:06] A hundred percent.
James Geering: [00:15:08] Beautiful. All right. Well then, you’re going to have to educate me. I was actually at one of the very last space shuttle launches. We won the NASA lottery when we were over there. Before we even get into SpaceX, can you give me a history of the – demise is a very negative word – but what we saw as the downsizing of NASA and then the inception of SpaceX.
Josh Clemente: [00:15:29] Yeah. So first off, I’m a massive fan of NASA. I think the Space Shuttle is one of the most amazing machines ever. It is probably the most amazing machine ever created by humans and at the end of the day, what I think went wrong there, if wrong is the right term, is just the safety record of the system was not what it was hoped to be. And so the two high profile failures of Space shuttle ended up really undermining confidence in it at high levels in, I think, political ways and also in the engineering circles. The space shuttle was intended to be a very high cadence, reusable spacecraft in the sense that the intention was that it would land and refuel and take off again shortly thereafter and it ended up actually not being that way. It came down to numbers. I could be off by a bit here, but it’s something around a billion dollars per launch for the space shuttle. And so both the cost and those high-profile failures made it a bit of a, I don’t know. It slowly, but surely sealed its own fate. The program ballooned and a lot of safety concerns and committees were assembled in order to try to avoid repeating old mistakes and that ended up adding cost and adding process and schedule to every launch. It ended up just slowly, but surely, I think, sealing the fate.
But what that left was an opportunity for – NASA had a few dark years where there was no vehicle that could take American astronauts into space. And it was really an embarrassing time. However, there were some really forward-thinking folks there who said, “At the end of the day, although NASA has done amazing things – the Apollo program, Saturn five, the space shuttle – all of these are incredible accomplishments. Bringing humans into space is something and putting them on the moon is something that NASA can always stand proudly on. But we’ve developed an amazing private industry in the aerospace world and we should tap that and allow commercial companies to do the development work for us. Let’s be the customer rather than the primary contractor on space equipment.”
That was a highly controversial decision. The original commercial crew program even before that, the commercial orbital transportation program that SpaceX originally landed for NASA was highly controversial at every level. But to the credit of the people who pushed it through, it is the lifeline that developed SpaceX. So Elon had – He wanted to see innovation in space and he was willing to put his money in. But at the end of the day, he did not have the funding needed to build a system like Falcon 9 or Dragon. It required NASA saying, “We’re going to replace space shuttle with a commercial vehicle. And we’re going to put this out for bid.” And then rolling the dice on a company that, honestly, was just a bunch of engineers in a big open building and take that risk, frankly, and put their faith in the team that ultimately got us to where we are.
And so I think since then, the rest is history. We now have Falcon 9 and Dragon, which are both reusable vehicles that are much closer to the ‘takeoff, land, refuel, and take off again’ vision than the space shuttle ever got. And we have another system Starship, which is in development now that I think is going to take that evolutionary leap forward even still.
So I think it’s a huge success story. And there are plenty of other contractors now who are benefiting from the commercial programs that NASA put in place and it’s a beautiful thing to watch.
James Geering: [00:18:51] No, it is. It is. And like I said, being in Florida, it was a very sad thing to watch where it seemed like the space industry was just going away. I know that the financial impact on the East Coast was pretty significant.
Now, what do you think it is about Elon specifically and the way he thinks and his business mind that was different to so many other people that I’m assuming had tried and failed before him.
Josh Clemente: [00:19:14] I think the things that Elon does better than anyone I know are – He is relentlessly obsessed with the core principles, also known as the First Principles of a problem.
So when he first decided that he could build a rocket, what he did was he made a spreadsheet that was like, how much aluminum is needed to build a rocket and basically did the math calculation on how much aluminum and then saw how much that cost and then how much computing power. Okay. How much does it cost to buy that much computing power? It was like a few line items to decide how much a rocket should cost. And you could become, you could get just drowned in analysis paralysis, trying to quote out what a rocket should cost, but he did this very quickly in a single spreadsheet using First Principles basically saying, what are the physics limitations on this problem and what should those cost us? And then from there, why should it be any more expensive than that? Someone has to prove to me that it’s not possible to do it for this price before I’m willing to admit failure. And so he is just relentlessly obsessed with First Principles and always sifting through the details to get down to the core problem. And he drives that right through the culture at all of his companies.
And so there’s that, and then the other thing is the willingness to bet it all, to double down when other people will not. When things look impossible, whether it’s a deadline or it’s a problem, like hypersonic retropropulsion, which is what Falcon 9 does when it’s falling back towards earth and it turns its engines on. This is something that’s never been done before. The vehicles moving at thousands of miles per hour into a dense atmosphere. It seems like it’s impossible. Many aerospace engineers and large organizations said it was impossible. And Elon bet the company on it.
And he repeatedly does that. You can look at his track record and always see that when stakes are highest, he’s willing to put his own money and his own time and his own career and reputation right on the spot. And I think those two things together mean big things because it’s such an example for people to follow into battle, so to speak. And there are plenty of failures as well, but that’s part of the game, I think, when one is playing in these super high stakes arenas.
James Geering: [00:21:18] Yeah. That seems to resonate very deeply with me regarding so many of the people that I had on here when it comes to issues of – whether it’s farming, whether it’s, nutrition, whatever it is, if you just take a moment and reverse engineer, and I’m simplifying obviously what Elon, the genius, has done with rockets. But when you reverse engineer getting a plan from A to B, you realize, like you said, how much superfluous waste there really is and anyone can look at the way that a lot of organizations work when you have to have 10 emails just to get something done and I’ve even found this with the podcast. You and I had a phone conversation and we made a date and that was it. There was nothing else. So I’m seeing that common denominator of these people that can just say, all right, where am I now? Where do I need to be? And what is that actual ‘as the crow flies line’ as opposed to quote unquote “the way we’ve always done it”.
Josh Clemente: [00:22:09] Yes. Exactly. I use that exact way of framing it. We will come up against the way things are done often, and we will need to just plow right through that because it’s not always necessary to follow the consensus and oftentimes it’s contradictory. It’s taking you in the wrong direction and I just think it’s a powerful lesson for people who are getting started in their careers, or no matter where you are in your career to just reassess, like what I do every day, is it necessary that it be done this way? Is it the best way to do it, or is there a much faster route to success? Let’s connect A, to B as quickly and directly as possible.
And I just think there’s so much opportunity in our society to improve efficiencies. And the beautiful thing is that if we did so we would have so much additional time to spend either solving other problems or just enjoying our lives more. We spend a lot of time in process and unnecessary bureaucracy that I think could just be improved by taking this First Principles approach.
James Geering: [00:23:05] I agree a hundred percent. I think that this COVID period for some (not for all, but for some) has made people realize, “Wait a second. I used to sit in a car for an hour and a half to drive to a cubicle to do the exact same thing I’m doing from home now.” So I think, I hope, that some of the positive things that come out of this is efficiency in some of the businesses from that point of view.
Josh Clemente: [00:23:24] Definitely. I completely agree.
James Geering: [00:23:26] Then regarding SpaceX, what was your actual position in that company?
Josh Clemente: [00:23:32] So I had several. I started off as a structures engineer, working on manufacturing parts of the spacecraft and rocket and then I moved into what’s called responsible engineering, which is where you own an entire system and everything from design to sourcing components, to getting it produced, to putting it on the rocket and sending it up. And then finally, the last three-ish years, I was one of the first employees in the life support team, so in the life support group that SpaceX developed, and I led a small team developing the pressurized life support systems. So these were the breathing apparatus, the equipment that keeps the cabin pressurized with the appropriate levels of oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, the fire suppression systems and the valves that pressurize and repressurize the various docking adapters for the International Space Station, plug-ins on the space suits and things like this to keep the astronauts breathing. And so that program, I worked on that for, like I said, a few years with some amazing people and we got that through critical design reviews. And that system actually flew for the first time in May with Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station and they returned in August.
James Geering: [00:24:39] Beautiful. There’s two areas, obviously, that are very pertinent in our profession. So first the fire suppression systems. What were some of the innovations that you had there?
Josh Clemente: [00:24:50] Yeah. The tricky thing with fire suppression on orbit is that essentially everything that we – Every material that we have inside the vehicle is accounted for and what it’s made of. However, there are certain scenarios in which the atmosphere can be really fire inducing, let’s say, so there are scenarios in which the cabin can be at high pressures of pure oxygen, and these are rare scenarios, but they can happen. And so in the presence of pure oxygen, the reactivity is so high that essentially anything will combust. Titanium, aluminum, steel, it’ll all burn at a sufficient pressure. And so we had to consider a bunch of scenarios where the astronauts could be unable to personally battle the flames, whether it’s because they’re in microgravity and it’s very hard to maneuver or because they’re strapped into their seats on ascent and so you can’t necessarily directly confront the fire. And so we did some really interesting things with automated fire detection and response, and whether that’s closing off certain segments of the vehicle in order to allow it to starve itself out or purging the cabin by opening valves or ultimately suffocating it with a dispersion of some substances, like nitrogen. We had a multi-pronged approach to detection and response. And I think the really nice thing, and the thing that I’m quite proud of is that a great deal of it could be done while the astronauts were out of the loop, able to just remain in their seats. And so although the systems to my knowledge have not needed to be used, and I’m sure they’ve made some changes since I’ve moved on, I think it was really an awesome project to be a part of, to just learn about the material science and to work through the various failure scenarios or contingency scenarios that can occur throughout the various stages of the mission.
James Geering: [00:26:30] Beautiful. Very, very interesting. And then you mentioned breathing apparatus too, another thing that we have to use a lot. Any innovations on that side?
Josh Clemente: [00:26:38] Definitely. One of the biggest things is the space suits that were developed for the Crew Dragon capsule are – You may have seen them. If you watched the launch, they don’t look like any other space suit that’s been developed thus far in any space program. They’re very sleek. They’re very minimal. They’re quite flexible and easy to use, and they have an aesthetic appeal that I don’t think has ever been front and center in a design program before. And along with that, we were able to make some really nice improvements to the usability and the comfort of the suit system and also the breathing apparatus. The suits plug into the seats through this umbilical connection. So it plugs into the thigh section of the suit and then cool air is circulated through that. And the cool air is used to obviously keep the astronauts cool, like water falls down the face, but then also helps to keep air mixing through the cabins so that you don’t get pockets of carbon dioxide or pockets of oxygen that could be at higher pressures. And we also had several emergency systems built into the vehicle. For example, if it was necessary to do a ballistic reentry and crash land somewhere, they could then use backup systems to escape the vehicle. And a lot of really interesting things as it relates to breathing, which yeah, which was quite fun. The beauty of designing space equipment in the modern era is that with electronics and modern software, you can do some incredible stuff with automation and a lot of the knobs and switches and manual processes have just gone away and you now can just maintain an airline-like experience for the crew while operating in very hostile environments.
James Geering: [00:28:09] It’s amazing. Now going on that a little bit further as well with the materials. One thing that I’ve seen in my fire career is our gear is very bulky and then the big thing is the gloves. We have these giant thick almost like boxing gloves. So they’re so clumsy. And two things that I’ve always said that would revolutionize the fire service is, an actual communication system that works and we still struggle with that when we go into buildings, but then the dexterity in the hands too. Did you come across any materials that – I know you have extreme cold in some of the space environments that had the potential of being a great material for heat as well.
Josh Clemente: [00:28:45] There was a requirement that the suit material is, I’ll never say fireproof, but fire resistant and most of the time we were using synthetic materials. I didn’t get very deeply involved in the fabric development specifically for the suits. I know that there was some really advanced work going on with the anthropometrics there to make sure that the suit, the dexterity was what it needs to be. You can imagine trying to maneuver on orbit with no gravity is super tricky and it’s important that they have not only the dexterity to grab on and position themselves, but also to operate the sensitive switches. We actually used primarily touch panels, touch screens in the vehicle, but it’s necessary to have dexterity while you’re also accelerating at multiple Gs, being thrashed around by the thrust of over a million pounds of thrust during ascent. And so dexterity is a huge focus for the crew. And yeah, I don’t have any specific materials that came from the development process, but I can assure you that almost all of it was synthetic and and fireproof. So hopefully that trickles down.
One of the beautiful things about the space development programs is that so much of the technology that starts off in that most hostile of environments ends up in other industries down here on terra firma. I’m optimistic that we will eventually see those sorts of development projects make their way into, yeah, hopefully into the fire service down here.
James Geering: [00:30:03] Absolutely. I’ve got one more question then we’ll move on from SpaceX, but you mentioned about the design flaws that obviously, sadly, cost many lives in the shuttles. What was that issue and how were you able to overcome that with Falcon 9 and Dragon?
Josh Clemente: [00:30:18] Yeah. The Challenger explosion happened because of an O-ring failure. So it’s something along the lines of thermal stress on a seal on the solid rocket motors. Essentially, there were a few people within the organization that were aware that the environments were out of range for the system and they put up the warning flag that this shouldn’t happen and we should delay the mission. And it’s not entirely clear where the blame specifically lies, but at the end of the day, I consider that to be a process failure, the Challenger explosion. There was a lot of pressure, a lot of schedule pressure to make that mission happen on time and it ended up being disastrous, obviously.
And so that highlights how much process matters and how much reinforcing the appropriate values, the correct values throughout the organization matters. At SpaceX, before any launch, even without human beings on board, we had a lot of peer review. So people would check each other’s systems and they would do so with the intention of finding failures. The goal is not to have somebody else look through your stuff and give you the thumbs up and give you the pat on the back. It was please find the problems in my work. That is what we’re here to do is to help each other avoid disaster. And then Elon himself would send an email around and Gwynne Shotwell, the president of the company, would send an email around and say, “Here’s my number. If there is something that you feel is concerning with this mission, we will call it off. Just tell us. Reach out directly to me and I will pull the plug on this thing if we need to.” And so that commitment to checking, double checking, triple checking before something goes off is how we countered that’s systemic problem.
And then the Colombia, which disintegrated over Texas on re-entry, that was caused by a piece of – Basically it’s called like a foam insulation, but it’s this dense insulating material that was on the, I believe, it was the shuttle booster and it broke loose during lift-off and it damaged the ceramic tiles on one of the wings of space shuttle. Essentially, this was a really tricky one because they were already in orbit before people really started to pay attention and concern themselves with whether there was a problem. And it was ultimately decided, “We don’t think this is going to be a problem on re-entry. Let’s go ahead and come home.” Sadly, the damage to the ceramic tiles was so bad that hot plasma was able to enter that area that had been damaged and just shred the vehicle apart. That was a real heartbreaker because it feels avoidable. They did do a lot of work to try to discover whether there was a problem and ultimately they decided that it was not an issue. And it’s really hard to go back and point the finger there. Obviously, I wasn’t there and at the end of the day, this is again one of those things that – It comes with the territory. There is risk in space travel.
I think at SpaceX, we have a different vehicle architecture. Oftentimes, the focus is on reducing complexity as much as possible. And the reason for that is, if you can turn 10 parts into one, you’ve taken 10 potential failure modes and turned them into one failure mode. And so simplicity rules and if we can reduce the part count and reduce the opportunities for defects and manufacturing errors and loose parts coming off the vehicle and damaging other parts, that will ultimately, potentially save us from a problem we never saw coming. That’s the, I think, the best way to describe the approach to countering that second issue that came up. There were just so many moving parts. I think there were 2.5 million parts on the space shuttle, and you can imagine how many issues can happen when you have such a complex system.
James Geering: [00:33:47] Absolutely. Thank you for leading us through this because the parallels are very, very interesting coming from an industry that’s completely outside what most of the people listening are in. However, there’s so many intersecting lines. And one of the things that you mentioned with Elon sending the email, is to me – That’s a resounding understanding of the fact that ego equals death in many professions that I work with and among, and then with space travel as well.
So how was he able to foster that humility and that ownership within the organization?
Josh Clemente: [00:34:22] I think, to a large extent, it was leading by example and doing it himself. Elon’s not a perfect person, but I would say that his leadership is exceptional. He can be a very tough person to work with, frankly, but I think that’s necessary. You got to be bullheaded sometimes to get things done. But when it comes to those specific qualities of leadership, demonstrating by example that ego has no place in an environment where people’s lives are at stake and where, honestly, he looks at it even, I think, even further in the future and says, “It’s not just the people’s lives today that are at stake. It’s the future of civilization that is at stake. If we frivolously destroy SpaceX, by making poor decisions that end up in a few failures to make orbit and end up with SpaceX closing its doors, humans may never become a multi planet species, and that would be the greatest mistake of all time.”
So, not only should we drop the ego and just get this done the right way, whether or not somebody has to raise their hand and say, “Hey, I screwed up.” It doesn’t matter. No one will ever get fired for saying, I made a mistake. What will happen is, they’ll get fired if they fail to raise a concern that is significant. And that trickles down and people watch that example. And then every layer of management within and all the way down to the individual being called a responsible engineer. We don’t call them senior design engineers. We say you are a responsible engineer, meaning, everything that happens inside your system is your responsibility specifically. You are accountable. And of course your manager will also take responsibility all the way through to Elon, but at the end of the day, we want the buck to stop at the person closest to the problem.
James Geering: [00:35:56] Beautiful. There’s a lot of people in the professions that are listening to this because I think that’s almost the opposite in some departments. Whereas the ones raising their hands saying, “Hey, we should train more.” “Hey, maybe we should get better equipment.” “Hey, are we prepared for an incident X?” They get told to shut up. And I think that when we look at Elon and obviously Richard II as well, some of the great leaders that we have, it’s always the polar opposite of that. So it’s beautiful to hear that it’s not obviously a micromanager model, but a “hire well-trained, capable people and then trust them to do their job.”
Beautiful. All right. So then speaking of Hyperloop then and Richard Branson, how did you transition from SpaceX to that project?
Josh Clemente: [00:36:37] So when I was there, it was called Hyperloop One, or actually it was called Hyperloop Technologies and then it became Hyperloop One. And then ultimately it became Virgin Hyperloop One, so along the way.
I started at Hyperloop because they were – I really had a longing for that early, early stage. When I got to SpaceX, I think I was employee 640 something and it was over 7,000 people when I left. And although it was, they’re still doing incredible things for the first time, I had a desire to go back to the earliest stages and be involved in a very big concept development process for a new program and Hyperloop, essentially, it’s a long tube that connects two points or multiple points and you pull all of the air out of the tube and this allows a Maglev train to essentially move through the tube with no wind resistance and wind resistance or aerodynamic drag is the number one source of power consumption for Maglev trains, so if you pull all of the air out of the tube, you can move at a thousand miles an hour, for example, with minimal energy expenditure. And so this is a, it’s a really interesting concept. And since the vehicle is inside a tube that has no air in it, it is a spacecraft because that’s a vacuum just like the vacuum of space. And so it requires all of the systems that a space system needs or a spacecraft needs, including life support. And so that was my wheelhouse and I had a couple friends who were on the founding team over there. And so I went there for a year to design and work on the first full scale Hyperloop prototype, which was built out in North Vegas. And yeah, I had a great time working on a really cool out of the box system.
And it was during that time that I started experimenting with physiology and getting more interested in the metabolism side of things. And ultimately, I got into the human performance and glucose monitoring stuff shortly thereafter, which is how I cut my time at Hyperloop short, even before Richard Branson started to get involved. So I was there before he took over and unfortunately, did not ever get a chance to work with him on anything, which I do regret because I look up to him a lot.
James Geering: [00:38:36] Yeah. No. I think he would be an amazing person to sit down with, but I know that’s a shooting for the stars guest.
Is the Shinkansen, the Japanese bullet train, is that the same technology? Obviously not with the vacuum, but is it magnets as well? Or is that a traditional train?
Josh Clemente: [00:38:49] Yeah. It is Maglev technology and China has several Maglev technologies as well. So Japan and China are the front of – They’re the tip of the spear on that tech. Hyperloop does a few different things that are quite interesting. I think they’re going to announce some more details about their current state of the technology soon. But yeah, Maglev is an amazing tech. It’s literally the vehicle is hovering above the tracks. There’s no contact there. And so it’s essentially in flight the entire time. And it’s really nice because you have very little wear. It takes a lot of power to hover that thing and move it along, but if you can remove the wind resistance, it’s an opportunity for, I think, a game changer for transportation if we get there.
James Geering: [00:39:28] And then as far as the carbon footprint, I’m assuming that’s a lot lower than any fossil fuel vehicle.
Josh Clemente: [00:39:33] Sure. Yeah. You have to take into account construction and the additional materials needed to make the tube, but I think it can be done. Certainly if you look at timescales, the amount of time that a system could be in use, it absolutely lowers the carbon footprint. And yeah, I really hope to see a full-scale system in place soon.
James Geering: [00:39:49] Beautiful. All right. You mentioned about glucose monitoring. Before we do, when was it that you first found CrossFit?
Josh Clemente: [00:39:56] So I started CrossFit in college in like 2009. A friend of mine, Tom, was – He was one of the first people that ever brought it to my attention. And he got me into the gym to do a couple of the early benchmark workouts. And I didn’t really think much of it again until after school. It was probably my second year in the professional world and actually my cousin wanted to, he wanted to start a gym together. And so we both went and got our Level 1 certs for CrossFit and that was really when I got very interested. The Level 1 cert – I had done CrossFit before, but it really gave me a better perspective on the, I think, the holistic approach that CrossFit takes. They really drill nutritional sensibility, the kinematics of lifting heavy weights and then also just the functional nature of everything they do.
There’s not a lot of superfluous stuff happening there. It’s a very, it’s always focused on increasing capacity across various domains. And I think that really resonated with me. From that point I just dove in much deeper and I ended up getting my Level 2 in 2018 or 2019. Maybe it was just last year. I’m losing track of time here. But yeah, I’ve continued to get even more interested and I’m experimenting with a lot of different exercise domains now doing some more long duration endurance work. I’d love to complete a full Iron Man someday. I’m currently just getting started on some early triathlon training, but I still have a very strong respect for the CrossFit community and yeah, the broad range of capacity you can build in that training.
James Geering: [00:41:25] Beautiful. Speaking of Iron Man, there’s a young man, Chris Nikic, who I just, interviewed who has downs syndrome, who is about two weeks out now, I think, from running a full marathon up in Tallahassee.
Josh Clemente: [00:41:36] Oh, wow!
James Geering: [00:41:37] Yeah. The guy is –
Josh Clemente: [00:41:38] That’s incredible!
James Geering: [00:41:39] A beast, an absolute beast. You watch him. He’s got like a full poker face, but yeah, out-walking 99% of the population. It’s incredible. So that’s someone to look at while you’re working your way up.
Josh Clemente: [00:41:50] That’s fantastic. I’m going to have to look him up.
James Geering: [00:41:52] Brilliant. All right. so lead me through your journey for self-exploration as far as your own energy levels, and then how that ended up becoming the genesis of Levels.
Josh Clemente: [00:42:03] Yeah. So at SpaceX it was a very stressful environment, as you can imagine. oftentimes we were one launch away from closing our doors for good and there was a ton of personal accountability, as we talked about, and it’s easy to just blame the entirety of what we’re feeling on the requirements of our job and just say, “I’m working hard.” “I’m stressed out at work,” and not look at the bigger picture of how are we living our lives. And that’s what I was doing. So I got to a point where every day was just a really intense, personal struggle. I was literally – My energy levels were crashing. As I parked my car in the parking lot, I would oftentimes close my eyes to just try and get a few minutes of sleep before I had even walked into the office. And as soon as I’m going in, I’m getting my first coffee and by 11:00 AM, I’m getting my 10th coffee. it was just – I just wanted to crawl under my desk and sleep. And along with this physical fatigue that’s just like inability to keep myself moving forward, I also had a lot of mood disorder going on, just a ton of ups and downs, highs and lows, very just across the board, mentally, physically unstable, just not feeling at my peak by any means. And despite that I was in really good physical condition. So I was working out regularly, 8% body fat, something like that, great lifting capacity, at a good point physically and aesthetically.
And so I had always approached health as just a synonym for physical fitness. So as long as you can, run fast, jump high, lift heavy weights, you’re healthy, or at least that’s the closest you can get. And I actually came across a study that was done in collaboration with NASA, by Dr. Dom D’Agostino. And he’s a ketogenic researcher actually in South Florida and this study showed that rodents who are exposed to a high pressure oxygen environment can live five times longer if they’re on a ketogenic diet and they have ketones in their blood than if they’re on a normal diet, a glucose heavy diet. And that study is actually the first thing, the first domino that tipped me off to the fact that diet alone, macronutrient composition alone is giving these rodents essentially, super powers in the sense that they are surviving five times longer than they otherwise would in this hostile environment. And I was thinking about this from the perspective of astronauts and thinking, “Wow! just a dietary composition could potentially save them in these failure scenarios that I was dealing with.” And that’s when I zoomed out and thought, “Huh! So if diet has that much potential to provide people with physiologic improvement and benefit,” (and of course I’m extrapolating, it was a study on rodents) but I’m saying, “if diet has that much potential to provide benefit, what am I doing as it relates to diet to give myself these benefits? Because today I eat whatever I want because I don’t gain weight and I assume that that’s fine. But maybe that’s not the case. Perhaps this is a more meaningful part of health.” And so I started to do some research on diet and nutrition. I became extremely jaded almost immediately because there was so much contradictory information.
And instead I decided, all right, I need objective data, so I’m just going to measure blood markers and the easiest one to measure is glucose. Basically glucose is the primary molecule, the primary energy molecule for modern humans and you can get a fingerprick device that you basically prick your finger. You take a drop of blood and you can measure your glucose levels on the spot. And so I got one of these devices. I started pricking my finger about 60 times a day and couldn’t make heads or tails of it. It was just kind of a scatter plot. And so eventually I read this book called “Wired to Eat” by Robb Wolf and in that he describes a continuous glucose monitor, and this is a device that you can wear full time and it gives you a readout directly on your phone of your glucose information in the moment.
So I asked my doctor to write a script for these because they’re developed for the management of diabetes and he basically said “No way. You’re super healthy. You don’t need this. Don’t worry about it.” I talked to three other doctors thereafter. All of them turned me down. Eventually I did get one and I put it on and within two weeks I had enough data to know that I was either pre-diabetic or borderline, depending on who you ask. And that was the moment that completely changed my life and career trajectory.
James Geering: [00:46:10] Beautiful. With Dom D’Agostino, got his name right. For people listening, tell them about his work, because I know that he’s one of the revered figures when it comes to fasting and intermittent fasting.
Josh Clemente: [00:46:21] Yeah. I’m actually very lucky to be currently working with Dom. He’s working on this project with us as one of our primary researchers along with Ben Bikman and Molly Maloof. And so Dom is, he’s a neuroscientist by training and he is the foremost researcher on the ketogenic diet. So just to give a little context there. Basically the human body can use fat, protein and carbohydrates to create energy. And the processes that do that are called your metabolism. However, there’s a fourth molecule called a ketone, which is basically, it’s a form of fat that is repackaged so that it can dissolve in water. It becomes soluble and that allows this fat molecule to cross into the brain. So it can cross the blood-brain barrier and be used for energy inside the brain. And that is crucial because it can be used as a replacement for glucose or as a substitute. And so Dom became the foremost researcher on ketosis and he himself has been, I think, in a ketogenic state for something like 14 or 15 years now and he’s done things like setting lifting records. He’s an extremely physically fit person. He’s also gone on to forge a lot of new areas of research in the treatment of epilepsy for children using a ketogenic diet rather than pills and supplements. He’s done a ton of research on fasting.
So you can get into ketosis two different ways. You can either eat a very high fat diet, so like 80% fat by mass or you can get into what’s called fasted ketosis, which is where you just don’t eat anything and your body slowly depletes the reserves of sugar that are stored called – That’s glycogen and start to tap into your body fat stores and so it will actually take your body fat and convert it into ketones so that it can provide your brain with energy and he’s also pushed that field forward. So the understanding of how fast nutritional ketosis works and where it can be used for the treatment of everything from epilepsy to cancer and everything in between. He’s a fascinating guy. He’s extremely well-published and also just generally a really good person.
James Geering: [00:48:24] Yeah. He’s someone who definitely will go on here as well because I know with the cancer side, correct me if I’m wrong, they’re finding now that the ketosis seems to amplify the efficacy of some of the drugs that they use to treat cancer as well.
Josh Clemente: [00:48:39] That’s right. Yeah. He’s finding, their research team are finding a lot of ways in which ketosis can be exactly complimentary to some traditional treatments or potentially even a replacement for some traditional treatments. A lot of the theories of cancer are that it’s a mitochondrial dysfunction and that if you can starve the cancer cells of sugar you can kill them.
And so there’s a ton of really fascinating research going on here and just – Yeah, you should definitely connect with him and chat with him. I think the conversation would be amazing. And I know I learn something from him every time he opens his mouth.
James Geering: [00:49:11] Beautiful. Yeah. Thank you. So then as far as your own journey, so you’re looking for a better device. So with the engineering background, at what point did you realize that that was your ‘aha’ moment to create your own?
Josh Clemente: [00:49:25] As I mentioned, I got to that point where I realized I was pre-diabetic personally. And again, this is despite having a pretty excellent biomarkers, my doctor telling me that everything was great and being physically quite fit, not having the traditional body concerns or body fat that somebody that you might think of would be associated with pre-diabetes or diabetes. And so that was completely shocking to me. I did not anticipate that and that caused me to dive down the rabbit hole of metabolism physiology to try to understand why this could be possible. What is going on that physical fitness and general health could be so erratic that it could then allow such erratic metabolism or metabolic control or lack thereof.
Essentially, I used the same CGM, the same continuous glucose monitor that I’d used to discover this, to then change my dietary decisions. And so I started off just by paring down the portion sizes, experimenting with different foods and then biasing my whole nutritional strategy towards foods that helped me maintain blood sugar control.
And the reason for that is that glucose introduces a hormone called insulin and insulin is necessary to take glucose out of the blood and move it into the cells for energy or for storage as glycogen, or finally for storage as fat. Insulin has to respond in proportion to glucose, so if glucose rises very quickly to a very high level, insulin has to do the same thing in order to correspondingly reduce those glucose levels back to the normal range. And oftentimes if you have a big blood sugar elevation, your body will overcompensate to get that glucose out quickly by releasing a ton of insulin. And what you’ll see is that big spike followed by a huge crash. And this is called reactive hypoglycemia. And what I was experiencing was these large multi hour long blood sugar elevations that were then followed by reactive hypoglycemic crashes and my mood and my hunger, my satiety would all follow suit.
So I was having this hormonal cascade, this rollercoaster effect throughout the day, multiple times at every meal. And this was causing just a complete destruction of my ability to focus, my ability to just basically continue moving through whatever task I was working on without trying to dig up another meal. It was very destructive to my day-to-day.
So using the CGM to then find those issues in my nutrition, remove them or substitute them demonstrated for me that this technology had a huge potential value. And so basically over the course of about two weeks, I was able to go from that prediabetic zone right down to the low normal just by removing specific factors from my meals.
I then went even further and got down into the lowest quartile of blood sugar risk by continuing to tweak specific lifestyle choices, like the timing of my workouts and the quality of my sleep. And so just going through this process myself, hands-on, it showed me that this is the future of closed loop feedback for lifestyle. And it’s absolutely necessary that this get into the hands of more people, because right now there’s an accessibility issue because it’s only considered useful for someone with diabetes and there’s an actionability issue. I have to do hundreds of hours of research to understand what I was looking at and why I should change it and with some simple consumerization of the technology, we can make this the Whoop strap or the Apple watch of metabolism.
James Geering: [00:52:44] Beautiful. And it makes perfect sense to me. I mean that continuous monitoring of glucose and then down the road, maybe other hormones as well. Cortisol would be another great one for my audience. But yeah, to be able to see that instant reaction to a lifestyle choice, what you’ve put in your mouth would be very, very powerful data.
Josh Clemente: [00:53:02] Exactly. And cortisol is a really powerful molecule. it’s the stress hormone and it’s not something that we want to completely eradicate. It serves a purpose. It’s necessary to prime us for fight or flight scenarios. But in modern society, we artificially increase cortisol at every turn and cortisol has a profound metabolic implication. It interferes with the ability of insulin to do its work and basically will cause an elevated blood sugar environment. And the reason it does that is it’s trying to create enough energy to ensure that you can escape the fight, essentially, that you’re facing or that your body evolutionarily assumes it’s facing. You’ll see this, or I see this in my blood sugar information when I go and do an intense CrossFit workout. So I will have a very large blood sugar response. It’ll look like I just ate candy. Now it’s physiologically very different than eating candy because this is my body creating glucose from my stores of glycogen and from sources like protein and fat. It’s not my body responding to a bucket of sugar being dumped right into the bloodstream like what happens when you have a sugary meal. However, that cortisol related blood sugar response, if it’s repeated day after day in stressful meetings and in sitting in traffic and letting our minds run wild and maybe getting poor sleep such that we’re always in an elevated mood, or sorry, in an on-alert, elevated scenario. We’re cheating our metabolism to constantly be in this aroused scenario and constantly in an elevated blood sugar situation. And that has hormonal implications that lasts for days. And seeing the effects of stress on my own metabolic control has caused me to start to really appreciate both sleep and mindfulness, finding those times to realize, “I’m hyped up right now and I need to take five minutes and just close my eyes and breathe it out.” And then see the consequences. I see my blood sugar actually come down into the normal range again. It’s pretty profound and it really shows that these systems do not operate independently of each other. Every day, whether we feel like we’re stressed or whether we feel we deserve to feel stressed or not, it has longstanding implications for our health going forward.
James Geering: [00:55:08] Absolutely. The mindfulness and the sleep, I want to explore in a moment because I think that’s very important.
For you personally, and understanding that everyone is a little bit different. What were some of the nutritional and lifestyle choices that you changed that improved your overall biomarkers?
Josh Clemente: [00:55:25] Yeah. The biggest one for me was understanding that I’m extremely carbohydrate sensitive. It’s something that – I traditionally was not eating a huge amount of – It’s not like I was eating fast food or really bad ingredients. I was actually cooking most of my meals at the time and biasing towards things like brown rice and sweet potatoes and what I thought were, if you look at the glycemic index, relatively low-glycemic index items. Now the problem is that I also had these concepts in my mind that I needed to, after my workouts, I needed to replenish glycogen, I needed to carb up, so to speak, and you might hear these words a lot if you’re hanging out in CrossFit circles.
But that was how I was living is that every day before I would go to the gym, I would make sure I carbed up and then every night right after my workout or that evening, I would then replenish glycogen by making sure that I get in a few hundred grams of carbohydrates. And seeing the data, I then realized that was doing me no favors. I was actually completely, overclocking my system. I’m already carbohydrate sensitive and by eating all of this carbohydrate directly, whether it’s brown rice or sweet potatoes or what have you, I was spending hours in an elevated blood sugar zone, in the pre-diabetic range and then I would come crashing down and experience all of this variability all night long, which would cause terrible sleep and set me up for a stressful, poor metabolic control day the following day. And the cycle would repeat.
And so the biggest thing was by basically removing the large portion sizes and readjusting my perception of what is actually necessary to get the job done in the gym. Seeing the data that I would actually, my body will produce the glucose I need to get through an intense workout without eating anything. I can actually go fasted for 16 hours and my blood sugar is rock solid at the gym. So I actually don’t need this really intense carb replenishment approach to nutrition. I can instead, basically rely on my own body to do its thing. And so seeing that and basically completely readjusting my approach to fueling for workouts and removing those large carby meals has been really the biggest change I’ve made.
James Geering: [00:57:27] That aligns with Julien Pineau, who I’ve had on a few times now. He’s the French founder of StrongFit and just one of those mad scientists when it comes to movement and health. But one of the last conversations we had, he was talking about nutrition and the nervous system. And he was detailing how, in this particular philosophy that he was working on at the moment, he was having his carbs, and again, we’re not talking about processed carbs, but his carbohydrates earlier in the day, and in the evening, he would only have protein and/or fats because that would downregulate the nervous system and therefore cause a better sleep.
Were you seeing that kind of trend in your data too?
Josh Clemente: [00:58:05] Definitely. Yeah. I will find that my sleep will be affected no matter what, if I eat within say two to three hours of going to sleep. So I’ll try to cut off – And I think that has to do with just the body having to digest, having to allocate energy resources to digesting and that prevents it from dropping into the low energy environment of sleep. And also the exothermic, the heat byproducts of digestion also prevent you from letting your body temperature drop, which is necessary for sleep. So for those two reasons, I try to cut off eating by 7:00, 7:30 if possible.
But then also for sure, I have a very strong correlation between blood sugar variation and sleep quality and even heart rate. So if I eat a very carbohydrate filled meal for dinner rather than that higher protein and moderate fat, fibrous, lots of vegetables type of meal, I will have – All night long, I’ll have these fluctuations in heart rate pattern and blood sugar and my sleep scores, I do use several sleep tracking devices, will always reflect that negatively.
I personally bias towards a high protein, like I said, moderate, fat, low carbohydrate way of eating. And in general, this allows me to maintain really strong consistency across the board. I don’t have superhuman energy levels. I’m not trying to advertise that I’m lifting cars all day, but I do have consistency.
So I don’t have those super highs and I don’t have those lows and the hanger and irritation is just completely gone. I have better control over my mood and better control over my day-to-day quality of life then I really can remember. And so I think that has to do with the stability and the fact that the hormonal systems that are responding to the choices I’m making are having to do so in a much lower and more smooth manner, if that makes sense.
The hormones respond to each other in proportion and so when you have very large spikes happening, other hormones have to spike and that has longstanding consequences. And so if things are low and controlled, the hormones can respond accordingly.
James Geering: [01:00:05] Now, turning from the other lens, when you had a bad night, whether it was a short night focusing on the sleep deprivation element, what did you notice that the impact of a bad night’s sleep on the following morning’s glucose?
Josh Clemente: [01:00:20] Yeah. So this has been pretty well studied and short nights of sleep can actually cause what’s called acute insulin resistance. So insulin resistance is essentially, it’s the same state that we see in issues like Type 2 diabetes, PCOS, which is the leading cause of infertility in the United States, heart disease, lots of issues are related to the body, the cells in the body ceasing to respond to insulin and ceasing to use it efficiently. And so research has been done that shows that after just basically four hours of sleep versus eight hours of sleep, a person will need 40% more insulin to clear the same amount of glucose from their blood. And that’s a single night. And so I personally see this exact effect playing out in real time where if I take a red eye, for example, and get just disastrous sleep all night long, my blood sugar will both be elevated throughout the day. And also my responses to the same meals that I rely on day after day will be much worse.
So there’ll be exaggerated blood sugar spikes thereafter, and it can take me sometimes three days after one poor night of sleep to get back to my previous baseline. There’s also an effect called the dawn effect, which is – It’s thought to be a cortisol related increase right around the time of waking up every single morning. Basically your body’s releasing some cortisol to prime your system to wake up and hit the day. Now, when things start to get dysfunctional and you start to see some insulin resistance, the dawn effect will become very exaggerated for people. So they’ll have this literal blood sugar spike as though they’d just eaten something very sugary every single morning, despite being fully fasted. And especially after nights of really poor sleep, I see a really poor glucose control, a really exaggerated dawn effect in the mornings.
James Geering: [01:01:59] Now with you being so research-based, have you explored testosterone sleep as well?
Josh Clemente: [01:02:05] I haven’t dug into that one. This is something that I’m really fascinated by and I’d love to learn more about, but unfortunately at this point I don’t have enough personal experience to talk much about it.
James Geering: [01:02:14] Okay. Beautiful. Yeah. Because I know that’s another, one of the master hormones, the sex hormones that is greatly depleted, which then has a domino effect on cortisol, on glucose and all the other hormones that we’ve been talking about today.
Josh Clemente: [01:02:27] Exactly. It’s really interesting to think about the body, the way it really operates. And we have these concepts like calories in calories out for energy expenditure and weight gain and in reality, what that’s considering is that we’re this perfect machine where the amount of fuel that goes in equals the amount of energy we get out. In reality, we’re a wet chemistry set where hormones, basically chemicals are being released in proportion to other chemicals and in proportion to chemicals that are being added to the body at any time. And it’s a very, it’s what we would call an analog system. It is not a perfect science. It’s not digital. Things are not accurate and oftentimes we can bias these hormonal systems in one direction or another through the choices we make. So for example, continuing to have elevated cortisol levels can cause the inhibition of insulin, which can cause insulin to try to contradict the rising glucose levels by continually rising despite the fact that the tissues can’t respond to it in the environment of cortisol. And so you have this hyperinsulinemic, hypercortisolemia environment happening and weight gain sets in and irritability sets in and all of this stuff can go haywire. And yet all we’re doing is just sitting in traffic the same time every day drinking a sugary beverage, trying to calm our nerves and not realizing that this flywheel has an effect. And so that very messy chemical based concept of human metabolism is the right one. And it’s a little bit frustrating to think about, but then at the same time with better information, it’s actually something that we can really personalize and take that data and use it just to make choices that help us find balance.
James Geering: [01:03:58] Yeah. Especially the shift worker, the police officer, the firefighter, the medic, the dispatcher, all the people that are in our professions. I don’t think they understand how much shift work affects those balances. So yes, there is an obesity epidemic in a lot of these professions, and of course there’s an ownership element to that. But people have to understand that in many of these environments they’re set up for failure.
So knowledge is power. Once they understand what’s going on in their own body, why they’re craving coffee and donuts and it’s not a snide comment, there’s actually science behind that. Then they can start identifying choices that maybe, will reverse some of the damage that they’re doing.
Josh Clemente: [01:04:37] Yeah. I couldn’t agree more. I think understanding the context for our lifestyles and the decisions we’re making is so powerful. To be able to see the feedback, rather than it being advice or something from the internet or something that worked for somebody else. Having a closed feedback loop, which is what I get with my continuous glucose monitor that tells me how a specific choice I’m making is affecting me in real time. And it’s not just something superficial like heart rate. It’s going much deeper. It’s a molecule in my body that every tissue in my body needs to survive and being able to keep tabs on that in real time and see the response, like have my body speak back to me is really a powerful experience. And it’s something that, especially for people who are living these elevated stressful lives and especially with shift work and second shifts and late night shifts like that, that are disrupting our circadian rhythms, it’s all the more necessary and powerful for those individuals to be able to understand the context of their lifestyles.
James Geering: [01:05:31] Absolutely. Just one more tangent before we start heading towards people learning about Levels itself.
One, I think, very misunderstood word is carbs. So you have obviously a candy cane and then you have steel cut oats. Have I got that right? A very unprocessed, slow to digest carbohydrate. So did you do any observations on, for example, pasta versus, a much more complex carbohydrate?
Josh Clemente: [01:05:58] Absolutely. And you’re totally right. Carbohydrates are, it’s a very, very broad statement. However, essentially what it describes is a food that is made up of basically strings of sugars that are connected together. And those sugars in the more complex carbohydrates are, they’re bound more tightly. At the end of the day, they do break down into sugar in the bloodstream, but there are also basically straight monosaccharides. They’re just like your standard table sugar. It’s glucose. So it breaks down right into the bloodstream almost instantaneously.
And the power of this technology is that it can show you those details directly. And there’s some fascinating research out of places like the Weitzman Institute in Israel, which have very recently, using continuous glucose monitoring, allowed us to see explicitly both the differences between those complex carbohydrates that have basically a slower breakdown time and the simple sugars, and not just that, but then show the individuality that comes into play.
And so the big trial from the Weitzman Institute showed that two people can eat the exact same two foods, in this case it was a banana and a cookie made with wheat flour, and they can have equal and opposite blood sugar responses. And what this shows is that although it does matter, the complex carbohydrate concept really does matter. It is so individual that it’s important that each person understand whether they are more sensitive to a specific variety. For this example, it was fruit sugars versus grain sugars in order to know how much it matters. Basically this personalization element, I’ve seen in my own data and we’ve seen in the dataset significantly, which shows people can – They can eat that oatmeal and one person can have a pre-diabetic blood sugar response to it and someone else can have essentially no elevation.
And that’s where all the power lies, is going beyond just status quo nutritional science and then seeing specifically how you respond.
James Geering: [01:07:53] Beautiful. Speaking of Levels then, you have this continuous blood glucose monitoring. So tell me about developing the software around that so people are able to actually track their own peaks and valleys as it were.
Josh Clemente: [01:08:05] Yeah. What we did is we came to the realization that continuous glucose monitors, which have been developed for the management of diabetes, they’re amazing hardware and they’ve come a very long way in both convenience factor and basically the battery life or enzyme life of the sensor itself, and then also the cost. And so the hardware is really in a good place. The thing is that the accessibility and the actionability of the data need to be improved upon. And so what takes a heart rate monitor or an optical heart rate monitor and turns it into a Whoop band, for example, is the way the data is presented and the user experience.
And so we’ve been focused at Levels entirely on the data science and the user experience. So turning a simple medical device into something that provides a very elegant and intuitive experience to show you how choices you’re making across diet, exercise, sleep, and stress are affecting you.
And so this means logging your lifestyle choices and receiving scores that are contingent on the blood sugar response to those choices and seeing those and then being able to adjust, try different things and make comparisons. And so a classic example would be eating a personal pizza and sitting on the couch and then eating a personal pizza and taking a walk, a 25-30 minute walk, around the block. And using the tools that Levels provides, you can see specifically how a very simple light walk around the block can completely change your body’s metabolic response to the same meal. And that can then show – It’s basically a receipt for that little optimization you’re making. It shows you that it’s not meaningless to get up and do light exercise. It’s not meaningless. It really makes a profound difference and in fact, if you can do this every day and also make some tweaks to the meal content, you can improve and get that positive compounding interest on those choices for years and years. And so those are the small tweaks that we highlight through the Levels software to show people where the areas of opportunity lie.
James Geering: [01:10:03] Beautiful. Yeah. And I think that’s what I’ve seen even with the Fitbit.
In my last department, I watched the – Kudos to them. The HR department gave some wellness initiatives and they had a free, very basic version of the Fitbit and if people moved X amount of steps then they got Amazon vouchers and all this kind of stuff, and it worked I’m not a big wearable person myself, generally, I don’t even wear my wedding ring most of the time. But it was so great to see that people just got those small victories and my wife wears hers all the time and gets her steps. And so I think that feedback is very, very important, especially if you’re not intrinsically motivated. And again, that’s not meant to be standing on an ivory tower looking down. Some people just have that motivation and some people need that feedback. They need that verification that what they’re doing is actually working. So I think this is a great tool for people to, like you said, to play the scientist on their own body and really, really understand the effects on their own physiology of their choices.
Josh Clemente: [01:11:02] That’s right. Yeah. The concept is closing the loop between actions we take and the reactions, our body’s experience. So these things are happening. We are not creating new data. Your blood sugar is responding and your hormones are responding to the choices you’re making and all we’re doing is allowing you to surface those and see them and take them into account when you’re making your next decision. And so we can answer the question for the first time of when you sit down for lunch, what should I eat and why? And, previously, it was something that tastes good or something that I read on the internet is good for muscle growth or something that worked for a friend for their diet program. Now we can show you, these are the foods that you are sensitive to. These are the foods that can wreak havoc on your metabolic control and these are the foods that work super well for you. And you can build a truly personalized nutrition catalog and then go beyond nutrition to even further maximize those decisions. And that’s the timing of exercise and understanding the value of simple movement and understanding the value of deep sleep and enough sleep. And I think that all of this comes together into a tool that I personally have never benefited from something more than the simple data stream and specifically the way that the interpretation happens.
So showing it in the context of the decision, not looking at it the next day or a week later. It’s looking at it in the moment when the change is happening and that’s how it reinforces for me the habit change and the accountability.
James Geering: [01:12:20] Yeah. And then the people listening again, the audience, they are a very highly-stressed, under-slept group of men and women. So I think from that level, seeing the impact of shift work, understanding sleep hygiene as best you can when you’re in your station and then especially when you get home, this is another great tool for that too.
Josh Clemente: [01:12:39] A hundred percent. And it’s not all negative reinforcement. A lot of the time we hear concerns that at the end of the day, I just want to relax and I just want to eat something that tastes good and I don’t really want to have to stress out about another thing. Actually we’ve seen quite the opposite. We’ve seen a lot of food freedom where people realize, not only does this not tell me I have to eliminate all foods and for me, I’ll give a personal example. Ice cream for me is a really nicely controlled blood sugar response. So I can indulge in ice cream and because it has equal proportions of fat, protein and carbohydrates, my glucose is very stable thereafter. And so that compared to something like a bread or a muffin, which will cause a huge blood sugar elevation and a lot of instability and a lot of hunger and irritability, I’ll bias towards that ice cream, which I absolutely love anyway, and feel very confident that what I’m doing is, it’s an optimized indulgence. And so there’s a ton of examples of this, where people are realizing simple tweaks, things that they love actually a bit more than a choice they were making, can really work quite well for them and it is possible to really enjoy your lifestyle and do it in a way that works really well for your personal physiology.
James Geering: [01:13:42] Beautiful. Obviously people listening that are in great shape and want to optimize even more, this is a great tool. But there are going to be a lot of people listening as well that aren’t, that maybe are pre-diabetic, maybe are already on some sort of diabetes meds. What have you seen as far as this as a tool to not only can understand your own glucose levels, but maybe even get to the point where you are reversing diabetes now.
Josh Clemente: [01:14:08] Yeah. I’m super optimistic that that’s the direction we’ll be able to head in today. The tool is just that. It’s a tool. It’s for information it’s for wellness purposes. But the effects of glucose elevations and insulin elevations and ultimately insulin resistance, it’s absolutely an epidemic in our society. We have 88% of American adults who are metabolically unhealthy today and 90 million Americans are pre-diabetic and 90% of them don’t know it. And then this is data from the CDC. And this is because we don’t have a feedback loop we’re flying blind in every sense. And today we have such an abundance of foods available at all times of night and day and that is allowing us to indulge in ways that we otherwise couldn’t historically. And so it’s important for us to have a dashboard, to have an understanding of when we’re going off the rails and be able to correct course. And I’m optimistic that people are really changing their behaviors quite quickly and building a better lifestyle for themselves within only a few weeks. And although we don’t have longitudinal data yet to show efficacy on, for example, avoiding Type 2 diabetes, we can say that the mechanisms that are at stake here, the glucose-insulin feedback loop and the hormonal theory of weight gain. These things are very well-established in research and if we can demonstrate the connection between control of our glucose levels through behavior change software like Levels and long-term benefits for risk of disease, I think we’re going to be able to really make a difference for metabolic outcomes around the world.
And that is my personal hope and vision and the company’s entire mission right now is to ultimately make a meaningful impact on metabolic outcomes around the world.
James Geering: [01:15:44] Beautiful. Yeah, especially that population. If they’ve got to test their blood sugar anyway, why not use it for something positive rather than just to see if you’ve taken enough medication?
Josh Clemente: [01:15:52] Exactly. Yeah. I’m very optimistic that across the entire metabolic health spectrum we can improve the lifestyle component here. Many chronic illnesses like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease are stated by the CDC to be avoidable. They’re related to chronic lifestyle choices and if we can make better decisions on the fly, I think we can really reduce the burden of disease on our medical system and also just improve the quality of life for everyone, the human flourishing element. And it’s hard to predict all of the downstream benefits of that. You can imagine in a society where one third of us are not dealing with diabetes illness or 88% of us are metabolically healthy rather than unhealthy. What would that do in terms of downstream effects for a society? The opportunities are limitless, I think, and the quality of life certainly would be much higher for everyone.
James Geering: [01:16:36] Absolutely. Especially right now, you know what we’ve been through the last seven months. This has been one of my frustrations is we had a captive audience to really discuss prevention, holistic healing, health, nutrition, farming, and we haven’t. And diabetes has been underlined as one of the risk factors for deadly immune response to COVID. So I think that we need to have these discussions. So I think this is brilliant.
All right. So people listening, where can they find Levels?
Josh Clemente: [01:17:03] So check us out at levelshealth.com. You can find the blog right there and I definitely recommend diving in there. It goes much deeper on the metabolic health science and showing how metabolism is connected to everything that we deal with in our modern day. Basically underlying physical health and mental health is metabolic health. Our brains and our bodies need energy to survive and metabolism is how we get it. So the blog is a great resource there and then follow us at, @Levels on Twitter and Instagram. We post a lot of testimonials from people using it and then just a lot of tips and tricks. And then I’m @josh.f.clemente on Instagram. I love to connect with people and share more of what I’m learning and also just hear feedback from people who are interested.
James Geering: [01:17:40] Beautiful. And I want to say thanks to Miguel for connecting us as well.
Josh Clemente: [01:17:44] Definitely. Yeah. Thank you, Miguel. Shout out to Miguel and Ben Strahan, who connected me to Miguel.
James Geering: [01:17:49] Beautiful. All right. Well then, transitioning to some closing questions. The first one I love to ask, is there a book that you love to recommend? It can be related to what we’ve discussed today or something completely different.
Josh Clemente: [01:18:01] Related to the metabolism, I would definitely recommend “Why We Get Sick” by Benjamin Bikman. It just came out and it gives an unbelievably compelling story for how insulin resistance has crept into our lives and how it’s affecting us so negatively. And so I highly recommend that one.
I think a book that I’m reading right now that I really love is “No Rules Rules” by Reed Hastings. It’s about the Netflix story and just describing the culture they have there. And so I really liked that one. It describes a world in which people are given accountability and candor is used throughout an organization to just ensure efficiency and ensure that people have individual responsibility. Very similar, reminds me a lot of the SpaceX days and just the way that I feel organizations can optimize their efficiency.
James Geering: [01:18:42] Beautiful. I just watched a Netflix documentary with David Attenborough, “Life On This Planet,” “Life On Our – ” Oh God! I’ve forgotten the name of it now. Anyway, it’s incredible, but they go behind that. But this is testimony, basically, of a man who was on the frontline of the wilderness, of all these different jungles and beautiful areas of the planet where he studied nature. And here he is now as a 93 year old man saying, I have seen these changes, I’ve watched deforestation, I’ve watched the ice caps melting. Here’s these things that we can do to change it. So again, reverse engineering where we screwed up and then trying to use technology in a positive, productive way rather than a destructive way.
Josh Clemente: [01:19:19] Yeah. Absolutely. There’s so much opportunity if we can apply resources in the right directions. I feel firmly that we can not just slow things down, but turn them around and have a new era of really beneficial technological innovation that is beneficial, not just for us in financial terms, but also for the planet and other planets.
James Geering: [01:19:38] Absolutely. It’s called “A Life On Our Planet.” So I just looked it up to make sure I got it right.
Okay. So speaking of movies then. So the next question, is there a movie and/or documentary that you love?
Josh Clemente: [01:19:50] I love the documentary “Icarus.” If you haven’t watched it, it’s about the Russian doping scandal. And actually it goes a little bit earlier than that into just an individual’s attempts to see what doping can do for his own performance. And I think it’s phenomenal.
A movie I would recommend. So my favorite movie hands down is “Interstellar.” It’s a Christopher Nolan film about, it’s about a bunch of things, but space and time and I love it. I can’t recommend that one enough.
James Geering: [01:20:14] Brilliant. I know of it. I’ve never seen it. So I’m going to put that on my list. Okay. The next question, is there a person you recommend to come on this podcast as a guest to speak to the first responders, military and associated professionals of the world.
Josh Clemente: [01:20:27] I would highly recommend Dom D’Agostino and as a personal friend of mine, I think he can do more than the many people to just really help explain the benefits of alternative approaches to diet and nutrition and fasting and exercise. And I think he’s an example himself and he knows more than many, so I would highly recommend him.
James Geering: [01:20:44] Brilliant. Yeah. He’s been on my list for a long time, so I need to act on that. So thank you.
All right. The last question before we make sure everyone knows where to find you again, just to underline that. What you do to decompress?
Josh Clemente: [01:20:56] My favorite decompression is exercise. I don’t always love it, but it is the most effective means of bringing me into a centered space and just focusing on the task at hand. And that helps to declutter my mental space. I always feel my best when I’ve strung together some non-negotiable days of consistent exercise. Beyond that, I really love spending time with friends and family, and I just think it’s lost in our modern society just how much it matters to spend time with the ones we love and it has a really strong benefit, I think, cognitively to just have our principles in front of us and things we care about and the people we care about around us. Yeah, those are the two big ones for me.
James Geering: [01:21:33] Beautiful. All right. And then just to underline. So levelshealth.com is the best place to find out about Levels?
Josh Clemente: [01:21:39] That’s right. And you can jump on our wait list there. We are still in an invitation-only phase right now, in development. But we’re moving quickly and expanding access every day. So please reach out, join the wait list and we’ll get this thing out to the broader population as quick as we can.
James Geering: [01:21:54] Beautiful. And mindset in here. Like I said, I’m about to do it. I just had such a hectic few weeks. I knew it wasn’t going to give good data, so I’m waiting for – November, I think, is going to be nice and smooth again. Everything will be done.
Well, Josh, I just want to say –
Josh Clemente: [01:22:07] I totally understand.
James Geering: [01:22:08] Yeah. Thank you.
So thank you so much for taking the time to come on. This has been a great conversation. Thank you for being patient with my very basal questions on space travel. But the parallels between some of the work that you’ve done before and the profession that I’ve worked in are very, very interesting. So I appreciate you being so generous with your time today.
Josh Clemente: [01:22:27] Absolutely, James. I appreciate you coming on and I love talking about those topics probably more than anything. So talking about space and metabolism, I can’t beat that. And I’m excited to see what you find out with Levels. And yeah, hopefully can do it again sometime soon. .