In this episode, we discuss:
- What skiing and snowboarding mean to Chris and Sean as lifelong athletes
- How reframing health as a way of prolonging what you love to do can create a meaningful mindset shift
- Why our modern diet is lacking in collagen and how a collagen supplement can improve your day-to-day functioning
- How Sean’s best friend Glen inspired his supplement company, BUBS Naturals, and what makes their products different
- Glen Doherty Memorial Foundation website
- It Takes Guts: A Meat-eater’s Guide to Eating Offal by Ashleigh VanHouten
- BUBS Naturals website
- Follow BUBS Naturals on social media @BUBSNaturals
- Learn more about the Adapt Naturals Core Plus bundle or take our quiz to see which individual products best suit your needs
- If you’d like to ask a question for Chris to answer in a future episode, submit it here
- Follow Chris on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook
- Get your free LMNT Recharge Sample Pack when you purchase any LMNT product at Kresser.co/lmnt
- Go to ZeroAcre.com/Chris and use the code CHRIS at checkout for free shipping on your first order
Hey, everybody, Chris Kresser here. Welcome to another episode of Revolution Health Radio. Over the 12-plus years I’ve been podcasting, I’ve enjoyed having a wide range of guests on the show, from scientists to physicians to entrepreneurs to athletes to people [who] are just really engaged in whatever it is that they’re doing.
And today’s guest doesn’t really fall neatly into one of those categories. He spans a number of them. His name is Sean Lake, and he was a professional snowboarder, one of the first, actually, who later eventually became a nutrition entrepreneur and started BUBS Naturals, which is a phenomenal supplement line focused on cows, coffee, and coconut. So collagen proteins, coconut [medium-chain triglyceride] (MCT) products, and most recently, coffee. I talk with Sean about his unconventional career path from professional snowboarder to entrepreneur. [We discuss] how he was inspired by his close friendship with Glen Doherty, a Navy SEAL who was killed in Benghazi and who was really the inspiration for starting BUBS Naturals in the first place. [We talk about] how to really get into your fitness groove in your 40s and 50s, which is why Sean ended up starting BUBS Naturals, the importance of mindset and turning tragedy into celebrating a legacy, the role of collagen in our health and well-being, and many other topics that I think will be really interesting for all of you listeners.
It was a very different type of show, and I really enjoyed this conversation with Sean and hope you do, too. Let’s dive in.
Chris Kresser: Sean Lake, [it’s a] pleasure to have you on the show, my friend. [I’ve] been looking forward to this.
Sean Lake: Chris, thanks so much for having me, man. This is fantastic to connect.
Chris Kresser: So I’m looking forward to the show because it’s a little bit different than some of the other shows I do. I run the gamut. We’ve had lots of different guests from lots of different walks of life. And sometimes, we go deep into the science and geek out, and other times I like to just talk to people with interesting backgrounds [who are] doing cool stuff in the health and wellness industry, and [who] have their own personal story about what led them into the health and wellness world and why are they so passionate about it. And for the listeners, Sean and I met in a group that we’re both in, and we connected, and [I] just thought it would be fun to have you on the show and chat a little bit about your rather unconventional career path from professional snowboarder to nutrition and wellness entrepreneur and all the steps in between. I also know that you were inspired by the passing of your childhood best friend Glen, who was a Navy SEAL, and we’ll talk a little bit about that, as well, and how that kind of shaped your journey. But let’s start with snowboarding because, as you know, I’m an avid mountain person, ski, or in my case, former snowboarder, traitor.
Sean Lake: What? Wait, what? You went to the dark side? I didn’t know that about you. You were waiting till this moment to dine that out.
Chris Kresser: I skied growing up. Not a lot, because I grew up in Manhattan [Beach], in Southern California. Not a lot of skiing there. Big Bear doesn’t really count. Actually, I learned to ski, night ski at Mountain High. That was my first experience. And then when snowboarding came on the scene as a lifelong surfer, it was like yeah, of course, I’m going to snowboard.
Sean Lake: You have to, yeah.
Chris Kresser: I did that all the way up until four years ago. And I actually took my daughter to Utah for our first father-daughter trip. That was more like five years ago or six years ago. Time flies. I think she was four. Okay, [it was] seven years ago.
Sean Lake: Oh, so you were doing pizza and french fries with her the whole time.
Chris Kresser: No, no, no. So I took her to Utah, we actually went to Solitude, and I was out there on my snowboard, [the] first run of the morning. It was super fast, icy conditions, and the visibility was low. And I just launched off of this feature that I couldn’t really see, flew through the air, landed on my ribcage, broke three ribs, and then after that was like, maybe I’ll try skiing again. I have two more edges and a little bit more control, and [I] just felt like it was time to do that. So I went back to skiing. But I did snowboard for 20 years. So I’m curious about your path and how you, yeah, tell me about your history as a professional snowboarder and then what led you into the world of nutrition.
Sean Lake: Yeah, one, I have a five-year-old daughter, and I just got back from Squaw Valley, I guess, oh sorry, Palisades, with its new name.
Chris Kresser: Yeah, Palisades.
Sean Lake: And I spent one entire day on the magic carpet with her, and for any parents who are listening, watching your kids unlock a little piece of their potential right in front of your eyes, you know is a magical moment.
Chris Kresser: It’s the best.
Sean Lake: And I was snowboarding, and my children both decided at a very young age to revolt against me and ski. And I sort of had to do this whole rundown with her for half a day where [I was] holding her hand on a snowboard, which [was] a bit of a balancing act, and by halfway through the day, she let go of my hand and said, “I don’t need to hold your hand.” And it was pizza and french fries for the rest of the day, and I could not be prouder.
Chris Kresser: For those of you who are non-skiers, that’s the wedge shape that skiers who are learning get into in order to not go too fast and fall down.
Sean Lake: Very key for the five-year-old. You want to make sure they’re very, very good with their pizza. They’re very apt to french fry it, which means they’re going to turn into rocket ships down the hill. So I grew up back East. I’m from a little suburb outside of Boston, Massachusetts. I was born in Gloucester; it’s a little fishing town. And my parents divorced when I was young. And my mom moved our family to Winchester, Massachusetts, and Winchester, for me, was this place in fourth, fifth, sixth grade, it was just filled with uncertainties. Your whole life has been torn apart. And my mom knew that. And one of the things that she introduced my brother, older brother and younger sister and myself to was skiing. It was a way to fill the weekends, to create activity, to give us something to look forward to. And it was the most perfect distraction, and her whole family have become lifelong skiers and big mountain enthusiasts as a result of that. My mom really invested during those transitional years into us spending time in the outdoors. And for anyone who knows where Winchester is, it’s just outside of Boston. So there’s not a ton of outdoors there. A little bit. But going up to the mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont and learning how to ski was just, it was all I looked forward to. And into my early teenage years, I just loved skiing. It was all I wanted to do when the winter season came around.
And right around that same time, I was discovering skateboarding. I was that little rebellious kid; I kind of had that little black sheep element to me. I was the middle child, and I discovered punk rock music, and all the things that horrify your parents were the things that I just gravitated toward. So skateboarding became the thing I just wanted to do. And I was 17 years old, I was a junior in high school going into my senior year, and I remember seeing a skateboard magazine that had a picture of snowboarding in it. This [was] 1987 or something. And I was like, oh my God, I have to do that. I have to figure that out. And it was really hard to find the equipment, but I figured it out. I started snowboarding in high school, and I absolutely fell in love with it. Whatever skiing was, was immediately forgotten and replaced by this new, incredibly hard sport to figure out on two edges, and that was it. I was absolutely locked in on snowboarding. And I think anyone who finds a passion for something to do, it could be baseball, it could be basketball, it could be hunting, I mean, you name it, you figure that thing out, you will do all of your schoolwork, you will do all of your chores, to find a way to get out and do that thing. And I just had that kind of one-track mind.
So, when it came to applying to college, I was like, where can I go out West where there [are] bigger mountains? And I tried college for one year, and I came home with a really grim [grade point average] (GPA). My [GPA] was just horrible, and I had hatched a plan over that summer with my best friend, a guy named Glen Doherty, to drop out of college and go and ski bum for a year. And Glen was like, I’m a pretty good skier. I think I can become a professional skier. And I was like, yeah, I want to be a pro snowboarder. What a great career path. This [was] in 1991. There was no Olympics; there was no real professional sports and career path and monetary reward.
Chris Kresser: People weren’t really making a living, they weren’t sponsored, or maybe a few people were, but it wasn’t a career path, per se, at that point.
Sean Lake: No, no, I mean, it was the Wild West. So at 19, I left college, [and] I moved to Snowbird, Utah, with my best buddy Glen and my older brother, Guy, and we became friends with this whole motley crew of other people our age who have the same ideas. And all of a sudden, this little tribe of skiers and snowboarders and misfits all banded together, and we were the dishwashers and the prep cooks and the lift operators for all these families coming out to Snowbird to have these vacations while we were trying to hone our craft. And it was like, what are the new tricks? What are the biggest cliffs you can jump? Hey, it’s going to snow a foot, and it’s going to be great powder. And we lived for those moments. And it’s funny because here I am 30 years later, and I still live for those moments. And I know you can relate to that, Chris.
Chris Kresser: I definitely can. But I have a joke for you.
Sean Lake: Uh-oh.
Chris Kresser: What’s the difference between a snowboard and a vacuum cleaner?
Sean Lake: What is it?
Chris Kresser: Where you attach the dirt bag.
Sean Lake: All right. I’m going to match that with one of my own. This is actually a joke we learned from Brad Holmes, who’s an old pro bum skier. Why do skiers use poles?
Chris Kresser: Why?
Sean Lake: So they can prop themselves up at the bar and tell you how great they are.
Chris Kresser: I love it. I love the rivalry, especially because I don’t care about it at all. And I used to snowboard for as long or longer than I skied and love it and would still get out there on the board occasionally.
Sean Lake: Actually, I enjoyed that when the rivalry was there. And for anyone who doesn’t know, there was that whole scheme [of] not liking snowboarding because there were a bunch of rebel kids. But really, it was a mutual appreciation for being outdoors and being in the mountains and enjoying all that it had to offer. And I think that’s a super valuable experience for anyone.
Chris Kresser: Absolutely. And I grew up full Dogtown and Z-Boys generation, surfing and skateboarding in Southern California. So I was already on Team Dirtbag, if you will.
Sean Lake: Oh yeah, you were.
Chris Kresser: So even though I’m skiing now, I have an affinity for that whole scene. It definitely reminds me of my childhood. And yeah, I think you’re right. I mean, bringing this back into the world of health and wellness, I have always had a deep passion for the outdoors. And growing up in Southern California, that was the ocean and the beach and surfing and spending as much time as I possibly could in the water and being outside and being physically active. And now, living away from the ocean, that manifests in mountains and hiking and spending lots of time in the backcountry, kayaking, paddleboarding, mountain biking, and all kinds of different activities and surfing when I travel and stuff. But now that you’re older, I’m skipping forward a little bit here—
Sean Lake: Yeah, it was a good decade. I enjoyed the mountains.
Chris Kresser: When you were hucking off 30-foot or 50-foot cliffs and falling occasionally, when you’re 20, you just get up and keep going, right?
Sean Lake: Yep.
Chris Kresser: When you’re in your 40s and 50s, it’s maybe not quite as easy to do that anymore, or you require a little bit of extra attention. So what was it for you? For some people, it’s an injury; for other people, it could be an illness. Or [for] other people, it’s just noticing that they’re not recovering in the same way as they were when they were 10, 20 years younger. So what was it that got you interested in health and nutrition?
Sean Lake: It was a couple of things that happened kind of concurrently. So I hung up the snowboarding thing right at the age of 30. I used the money from snowboarding that I made, and I paid for college. I went to the University of Utah, I knocked out a degree, and I ended up getting recruited into working in the snowboard industry. So I didn’t have any intention of working in snowboarding. Snowboarding was this thing I loved. But then there was an opportunity to work in the industry. And I did that with a handful of brands working in marketing. I worked at Burton Snowboards, [and] I got to work with a young athlete named Shaun White, who has gone on to become a household name. I worked with a bunch of really amazing athletes [who] were this next generation. And what I found in my 30s was, boy, I need to train a little bit to keep up with these kids, or I need to work my body a little bit harder. So the first nod to me was I’m not getting any younger and I still love doing this. So if I want to keep up with these kids in the market and work in a marketing job with them and be on the mountains, I still want to be able to hang. And there’s a little bit of ego involved in that, as well.
And then the injury recovery timeline. Like, I would fall—you’re absolutely right. I would not land a cliff, and all of a sudden, you’re like, ooh, that left a mark. It started not with diet, but with training. So I was kind of early in on the whole CrossFit scene. My best buddy, who I had moved out to Utah with, had actually dropped out of ski bombing at 25 and totally took a hard left-hand turn and decided to join the Navy—[a] radical career move—and become a Navy SEAL. And Glen served 10 years with SEAL Team Three out here on the West Coast, and we got to reconnect because when I took my job at Burton, they moved me to San Diego. So I got to reconnect with my best buddy. And he started sharing with me these gym routines and these fitness routines, and I just kind of was paying attention to him because I still wanted to surf and snowboard and mountain bike and be in the outdoors as much as possible.
That led me to a little bit of a journey around diet. Hey, if you drink a little bit less, you’re going to feel better in the morning. That’s a real[ly] basic one. Anyone can pick up on that. But then you start paying attention to your cognitive function. And you’re like, oh man, I’m just a little bit more alert. If I’m going to be doing CrossFit, if I add in different proteins, how does my body react to that? And it became a little bit of a point of curiosity. And then, what is my best buddy doing? Because he had already done the research, I didn’t have to pay much attention to it. And after working out and training with him for a few years, I just got more and more curious about it. And then, when I turned 40, that was definitely that body change. You don’t recover as well, so you’d better be prepared. Stretching, [a] good fitness routine, and all of a sudden, diet really kicked in. And that was at a time when the Paleo diet was having a pretty big presence around CrossFit. So I just started paying attention to it. I was like, “Oh well, if I just eat protein and vegetables and some fruits and limited grains or follow the general protocol around Paleo, well, then I can do whatever the hell I want to do.” I’ll just be invincible.
And it wasn’t quite as simple as that. But it was a good path to just start the journey. And then, from a supplement standpoint, I’m a bit of what you would call a supplement skeptic. Glen had introduced me to some products like creatine and whey proteins and these kind of like, get big supplements. And I’m kind of like you, Chris, I’m built wiry. I’m never going to be huge. That’s just not in the cards for me. I will never be 200-something pounds jacking steel. But with the right diet and application, you can be competent around a gym, but more importantly, competent in the sports and activities you love doing. And that just started me getting curious about nutrition and how it can feed into being more productive, having more energy, and it’s amazing what you can unlock with some really simple changes. But also, with the right amount of discipline.
Chris Kresser: Absolutely, yeah. I love what you said about being able to participate in the activities you love because I think that’s the main goal. And that’s what is not happening for many people in the [United States] and elsewhere in the industrialized world is that aging has become a slow or even rapid, in some cases, decline into debility. Just many people sought being able to do the things that they were able to do, and it brought them joy earlier in their life. And nutrition, for me, my goal is to stay active all the way up until the day I die. And I might not be surfing triple overhead waves at G-Land at that point, or hucking off cliffs. But as long as I’m able to still really do most of the things, many of the things that I want to do, I’ll count that as a huge win. And I think it’s possible, even with no further advancements in longevity, medicine, [and] things like that. Just with currently available technology, if you will, or knowledge, I think that’s entirely possible to do.
Sean Lake: Yeah.
Chris Kresser: I want to talk a little bit more about that and what that looks [like] for you. But before we do that, I want to step back and talk a little bit more about Glen because I know he was a major inspiration for you and for BUBS, your supplement line that you launched, a nutrition company. His nickname was Bub, I believe, so you named it after him. So yeah, tell us a little bit more about the role that that played in your path.
Sean Lake: Yeah. So Glen and I met in middle school. And in high school, you’re really establishing your tribe and who your people are. And Glen was just simpatico. We just saw the world really similarly. We were both middle children, [with] divorced parents, [an] older brother, [a] younger sister, and we both had that eye for a little bit of mischief. And Glen was kind of that person who can just light up a room. So being around him and being around that group of friends, it all kind of centered around his house and the friendships that were born from that era are some of my closest friends to this day. And at 52, I might go to people to talk to you about life and adventure and friends are some of the friends that I made at 15 years old. And Glen was a centerpiece in all of that.
In our 20s, we’d ski bum together, and we had countless mountain adventures. And Glen was a really eclectic person back in those days. I mean, high school wrestling to playing hacky sack and touring with the Grateful Dead, those were average activities for him. So he would have these adventures and literally put his thumb out and hitchhike around part of the country to tour with the Grateful Dead selling peanut butter sandwiches in the parking lot to fund his ticket. And then he would come back and pick up a paintbrush and work in the offseason to make enough money to buy a season pass. He always had a great work ethic. He always had great stories, and he was just an energetic force in a room. When we were ski bumming together, he was that same force. So all of a sudden, that band of misfits around Utah became really key friends with Glen. Glen was that centerpiece between everyone. And when he decided, “Hey, I’m not going to make it as a pro skier. I’m going to go join the Navy.” It was part patriotism, and it was also part challenge, right? What am I made of? What can I do here? What are the things that I can do and see? See what those challenges are all about. He was really curious about his limitations and proving that he could do more. And that was really infectious. That was inspiring to be around.
BUBS Naturals is a supplement company with a cause, created in the memory of national hero Glen Doherty. But it’s also a science-backed, research-based company dedicated to providing the highest quality collagen and MCT oil supplements on the market. Learn more about the company through founder and former professional snowboarder Sean Lake in the latest episode of Revolution Health Radio. #chriskresser #collagen #MCT #charitablegiving
Sean Lake: So hey, he didn’t make it as a pro skier in the ‘90s. Guess what? Almost no one did. It was a really hard time to be in that sport. But then he joined the Navy, and eight months later, [I went] to his BUDS graduation. And that was wild to see him in this completely different light. Here’s my buddy we used to play hacky sack with, and we had all these powder days together.
Chris Kresser: And go to Dead shows.
Sean Lake: And then the Dead shows, and all of a sudden, he served 10 years with the SEAL teams. And it was an awesome thing to see and to be around. And he never lost that personality. He never lost his infectious ability to tell a story and light up a room and make you laugh. And probably more important than that, Glen was the kind of guy that would never forget you. So Chris, you would tell a story about surfing G-Land, and years later, you [would] bump into Glen, and [he would] ask you how you were doing? Or have you been on any more surf trips? And you might be like, wow, how did you remember that detail? But that was Glen. And you got to carry a little piece of that around. And of course, on one level, it was incredibly obnoxious to have a best friend who was fitter than you are, who can run you around, [and] is a Navy SEAL. But it also is infectious, and he just brought the best out of everyone around him.
So Glen and I became roommates again in our 30s. Two guys live[d] in the same house in Encinitas. We were both training out of the same CrossFit gym, and Glen had gotten out of the Navy. And he was kind of figuring out what that next step was in life. I had my whole career in action sports, I was doing the whole marketing director thing, and Glen was deploying. He was doing government contract work for the Central Intelligence Agency. So he’d come home, we’d hang out, high five, go to the gym, go surfing, and then he’d go dip out and spend two months or three months in Afghanistan or down in Mexico or going to different areas of conflict. And it was a high-stress, high-caliber lifestyle, and he was doing this in his 40s, and that really takes a toll on the body. And we used to have these great conversations around nutrition. What can we do to stay in the game? What can we do to stay active longer? And for him, it was quite literally part of his job. He had to be able to perform 14, 16, 18 hours a day in high-risk places. I just wanted to look good and be able to surf.
And in the fall of 2012, Glen deployed to Tripoli. It was right after the fall of the Gaddafi regime, and Glen was going there. It was one of the first American security operatives with the embassy over there. Well, the embassy wasn’t really set. The whole government was absolutely in flux in Libya. And I think most people listening to this will probably remember the terror attacks on 9/11. And then the second terror attacks on 9/11 in 2012, the terror attacks on Benghazi. So Glen was one of the Navy SEALs [who] was killed saving all those Americans in Benghazi. I was the executor of Glen’s estate. I was his listed next of kin on all of his government paperwork. And all of a sudden, I went from having a fairly freewheeling fun lifestyle to a very serious national event. There were congressional hearings. Hillary Clinton got in a whole bunch of trouble. There was politics involved, and it was all revolving around the Americans killed over there, including my best friend. So life changes, and you change your focus on what’s really important. All those friends, those hundreds of people, whether they were Navy SEALs, or our friends in San Diego, the Utah ski bum crew or the high school friends, everyone really banded together, and [the] one common thing from everyone was that everyone wanted to keep Glen’s memory alive. We wanted him to have a seat at the table, and he wasn’t with us anymore. But how could we keep him inspiring us and keep us feeling inspired to act on his behalf, and being inspired by him.
And at first, we started a foundation. There’s the Glen Doherty Memorial Foundation. I’m really proud to say that it’s 10 years strong, with over 100 scholarships issued to transitioning members of the military, filling gaps in the GI Bill. And it’s given a lot of people purpose and pride, a way to channel grief in a positive light and a way to share Glen’s story with others. After the foundation had been up and running for a few years, I was kind of looking at the charitable space and realized that fundraising and charitable giving is a very unique space to be in. It’s very emotional, and it very much has different moments of captivity. And it’s tough to slog it out there. And I was thinking about how to institutionalize that. How do you bake charitable giving into people’s kind of economic life cycle? Purchasing products, engaging at checkout, just thoughts I was having that didn’t really have a home. Around that same time in 2017, completely separately from that, my wife bought me a jar of collagen peptides. Collagen protein, it’s known by both names. And Chris, I’m a Luddite. My wife bought me this, and I didn’t know what to do with it. But I looked at her, and in a totally crass way, I said, “Collagen? Isn’t that the stuff that porn stars inject into their lips? What is this stuff?” My wife [was] just shaking her head at me. She [was] like, “Look, you’re not getting any younger, and I need to preserve you in your old age.” And we had a one-year-old, and [my wife] was pregnant with our second. And she said, “It’s supposed to be really good for your joints, and you sound like crinkled up newspaper when you’re walking up a flight of stairs.”
So I [started] taking it, and she [said], “Look, you drink coffee. You’re supposed to be able to put it in your coffee. So just do that.” So I start[ed] doing that, and I just [drank] coffee every morning. So I put a scoop in my coffee. And after about three weeks, and keep in mind, this is me, the supplements skeptic. I don’t take anything. I’ve tried the creatine and the whey proteins and the branched-chain aminos, and I never really felt anything from those. But three weeks into taking collagen, I absolutely noticed that my fingernails were growing like crazy. I felt I was the Wolverine. [I was] like, okay, something’s happening here. And then, about two weeks later, I needed a haircut, and I had just gotten a haircut. And I was like, all right, there’s something else happening here. And I started reading the label. And [I was] like, so what are amino acids? I mean, literally, [I was] that dumb on the subject that I knew what an amino acid was, but I didn’t understand what it really did. So I started reading about it, and [I was] getting more curious. [I was] taking the product every day. And right around the two-month mark, I had this epiphany, oh wow moment. And I got up out of bed, and we had to fly to Boston from San Diego. I packed up all of our stuff, I grabbed my wife, we [went] to the airport, [and] we [flew] across country. Now, I’m six foot two, [I was] sitting in coach, my knees [were] cramped up, and my expectation [was] that [I was] going to get off an airplane and feel absolutely smashed. [I was] going to feel so achy and destroyed. [It was] going to take me a while before my legs [felt] normal. And I got up off the airplane, grabbed all our stuff, and you know what it’s like traveling with a kid. You have a lot of stuff.
And I remember walking off the airplane and looking at my wife and saying, “Oh my God, Heather. I feel great. Nothing hurts.” And [she was] like, “Oh, that’s nice to hear.” [I was] like, “No, you don’t understand. My knees don’t hurt. This is unheard of. This is crazy.” And I knew it was the collagen. So I doubled down. And I started taking two scoops a day. And it just got better and better and better. And I learned about glycine, and how it produces synovial fluid, and how it also can help in recovery and sleep patterns. And I just fell in love with the product. I was the guy who would almost stop you on the street and be like, “Do you take collagen? You really should. It works wonders.” And I just believed in it. Fast forward a couple of months. And TJ, my business partner, [came] over to the house. He was just a friend at the time. But he’s got a big ecommerce background. You’ve met TJ briefly. And he [saw] the [jar] of collagen on my counter, and we just [struck] up [a] conversation, sipping a cup of coffee, and he [said], “Oh, you take that stuff?” And I just started raving about it. [I was] like, “Oh, it’s the best ever. I can squat again. I’m running again. I feel so good.” And he [said], “Well, let’s start a company.” And I said, “[You’ve] got to be kidding me. I’ve got a one-year-old behind me. There is no version of my life that I start a company right now.” And he [said], “Well, what would it look like?” I said, “Okay, let’s sit down and napkin math this thing out.” And we talked to each other, and I said, “Well, what would a company look like? What would we do that is different? Because it has to be different.” And we both looked at each other. And we said, “Well, whatever we do, we have to do something cool for charity.” Opening line, both said at the exact same time. And it was just a lightning bolt moment. And I looked at him, and I said, “Well, I know the charity. It would have to be Glen’s charity.” And Glen’s call sign in the Navy was Bub. And this is exactly the kind of product that Glen would have taken if he were alive. So [we decided to] name the company BUBS Naturals as a tribute to Glen and his way of life, and [said we’d] give 10 percent of all profits to Glen’s foundation and charitable causes in Glen’s name.
And we just kind of stopped and looked at each other and said, “Is this, can we even do this?” And I called [Glen’s] mom. I called some of his teammates in the SEALs. [I] called his sister, and I was like, “What do you guys think? Is this crazy?” And the collective response was, “Glen would kick your ass if you don’t do this. So you have to.”
Chris Kresser: Nice.
Sean Lake: And that was it. The journey was started. I started the path of learning about natural supplementation in a deeper, more meaningful way. How do I find this product? If I’m going to put Glen’s name on the jar of a product that you can buy, it absolutely has to be the best. I have to look at sourcing and standards and all that, and Glen [has] been a North Star in my life. And now he’s the North Star for this brand. He guides the actions of what we do and how we approach product and partnerships and inspiration and people, and he just, he sort of lives right behind the surface guiding our actions. And it’s the greatest gift that I could have being in the position that we’re in.
Chris Kresser: Nice, yes. [It’s] such a powerful story, and I love the circular nature of it and how it just sort of comes back around in different ways at different points in your life, and all the different ways that he touched and inspired you along the way. I want to talk a little bit more about collagen because there’s more to it than helping with joint pain, which it absolutely does. And that’s probably the thing that it is best known for, and rightly so. That can be a game-changing difference. Going back to what we were talking about earlier, just the ability to allow you to keep participating in activities that you might not be able to participate in. If [you’ve] got a lot of joint pain and you’re not able to move, or you feel a ton of pain after you move, then you’re going to be a lot less likely to keep moving, right? That’s as simple as it gets. But there’s a ton of other benefits of collagen. What are some of the most notable ones that you think about?
Sean Lake: Well, when I think about it in that sort of like, hey, what do you see, when you see on the packaging. You look at hair, skin, [and] nails. You occasionally see something around bone density, gut health. But I guess pulling back to the 10,000-foot view, and the way I learned about it and explained it is like collagen is a protein in the body. It’s the most abundant protein floating around the body, and it’s a structural protein. So it’s sort of holding your body together. So the reference I always see on websites is it’s a glue; it’s a glue holding everything together. So when it comes to your skin, think tighter, fuller skin, stronger nails, your bones have a thicker density to them. And the joints, of course, get that little bit of cushioning. There [are] benefits around gut health and how you process your foods. I always go to glycine because that’s me. I’m not interested in the more vanity-driven metrics around collagen, although I think it’s fantastic for those. But then you think about things like proline, and there’s a bunch of it in our product. And boy, if you look at the different amino acids that are in there, there’s this sort of like all your essential aminos. And then there [are] aminos that they’re totally missing from it, because this isn’t a protein that’s going to build muscle mass, but it’s more around the recovery elements of it. And like, “Hey, if you’re worried about hair growth, there [are] amino acids in there for you.” But I love that it can do so much for the body.
And again, I sort of paint in really broad strokes around what these amino acids can do for you in terms of like, “Hey, do you have joint pain? Cool, this is something that can help with that.” It’s not the only thing. And I’m always quick to explain that to people. “Don’t just take this and don’t do anything else. You should have a holistic approach to your health. Don’t think just because you’re going to benefit your hair growth that you’re going to have stellar hair. There’s way more to the equation.” Or “If you’re sore from the recovery activities, or you’re having inflammation issues, you should address that holistically.” This is just one tool in the tool chest. So, to me, you’re not getting enough collagen naturally in your diet. I would say that as a general statement around America. No one’s eating enough chicken feet and cartilage and connective tissue of the animals to really benefit them to where you don’t need to supplement with collagen. If you’re over the age of 25, your body’s not producing naturally endogenously the right amount of collagen. So you need to get it from your diet; you need to get it from external sources.
Chris Kresser: Yeah, it’s interesting. I mean, I think this is an artifact of our modern lifestyle, right? If you look at traditional populations, and even the diet of Americans 100 years ago, there was a lot more nose-to-tail eating, and a lot more collagen-rich foods were in the diet. Oxtail shank, chuck roast, brisket, chicken feet, homemade chicken broth with chicken feet and chicken heads, and whole fish. Fish eye soup. All of these traditional cultures had collagen-rich diets. Or maybe not all, but most. And then came the low-fat craze in the second half of the 20th century and particularly ramping up in the ‘80s and ‘90s. You and I, Sean, we’re in a generation that was subjected to boneless skinless chicken breast and broccoli and egg white omelets and steamed broccoli with nothing on it and egg white omelets and that whole thing. That was really what was considered to be a healthy diet, and in a large part of the dominant mainstream culture in the [United States], [it] still is considered to be healthy. Non-fat milk, etcetera.
Sean Lake: Yeah. It’s stunning. Literally, the nonfat milk thing drives me crazy. And it was one of the few things that Glen actually drank just gallons of, was nonfat milk. And I’m like, “It’s just a bunch of sugar in this thing. It’s just stripped out. Where are those good fats in there?”
Chris Kresser: You take out any of the redeeming qualities of milk when you do that, right? The beneficial fatty acids, etcetera. But it’s really like, it was a thing where that change was made without understanding what the long-term consequences of it would be. Because, as you mentioned, the collagen and the other things that you get when you eat nose to tail, particularly organs, are extremely important for our physiology. And if you eat too much lean protein with not enough collagen or organs, or the types of things you get when you expand your diet like that, I believe, and I think there’s research that supports this, that you increase your risk of cancer over the long term. Because you have a very methionine-rich diet, but not enough glycine, or [vitamin] B12, [vitamin] B6, and things that lower homocysteine. And this isn’t talked about a lot in the context of collagen, and you certainly can’t talk about it on your website.
Sean Lake: No. I’ll talk about leucine and great skin and bone, but I’m going to shy away from “Hey, you might just kick up your [human growth hormone] (HGH) growth with that one,” because I don’t really want to tempt.
Chris Kresser: Yeah, I mean, and, of course, I have a supplement line, as well, and we have to be cautious about claims. And I think that’s actually a good thing, and a good regulation there. But here on this podcast, we can talk a little bit more just about the science behind collagen, and I always like to expand the conversation there. Because it’s not just something that helps your joints, although it is that it is. It has a broad range of effects on the body. And I think of it mostly as balance. If you eat too much protein or too much lean protein and not enough collagen, you’re going to throw your body out of balance, and then that’s going to manifest in a number of different ways.
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Sean Lake: Yeah, hands down. I mean, when you look at, again, I just talked about leucine briefly, or look at the back panel on your typical amino acid profile in a collagen, and you see where it’s loaded up. And you ask yourself, “Am I getting that naturally? And what are those individual amino acids going to do for me?” And the fact is, you probably aren’t getting them naturally in your diet. One of my favorite natural diet practitioners is Ashleigh VanHouten, and she kind of goes by this handle The Muscle Maven. And she wrote a cookbook [about] eating tip to tail. And she’s like, I know this is going to be niche, and I know that this isn’t for everyone. But I want to give people the access to recognize that there is so much value in those organ meats, in what is on that tip of the animal and what’s at the tail. And that for generations, this is where you got your nutrition. And 100 percent, yes. And if you’re not going to be [eating] a bunch of oxtail all the time, and you’re probably not, or fish eye soup and the idea of being able to still get access to those valuable components of the diet through supplementation, do it. What’s preventing you from taking a step to feeling a little bit better or being healthier?
And yeah, I usually talk about it through the lens of activity. At 52, I still want to be lacing up my running shoes and feeling really good or throwing some weight around or surfing and getting out in the mountains with you. And your whole approach to diet, and that goes beyond just the collagen world. And what we found kind of selfishly at BUBS anyway is that we keep introducing products that are completely baked into my daily life and routine. And it feels good because we’re getting behind and practicing what we preach when it comes to whether it’s our MCT oil, our creamer line, whether it’s electrolytes and hydration now, whether it’s our approach [to] coffee. It’s just, if you’re going to be putting these products in your body and you’re going to be having them as a part of your daily routine, seek out to have some of the best stuff that you can. And that doesn’t have to break the bank, but it does mean look at the integrity of some of the ingredients that you want to interact with. I know when I go to the vitamin cabinet, and I’m thinking about things that I want to take, I lean on you for that. I go to ADAPT for that. And that’s a great home for me because there’s trust built into that, and there’s a knowledge base on things, in areas of my supplementation and nutrition that I want to dine at the top. I don’t want to just go for some bottom-feeding brand on Amazon because it’s on sale. I’m willing to spend a couple extra dollars if needed to know that I’m going to get the results that I hope for. I think you take the same approach in coffee. Look, if you drink coffee, grab a specialty coffee. It doesn’t have to be BUBS brew; grab anything. But make sure you’re grabbing anything that’s good. And you’re just going to have a better experience with it. Same thing on, I think, any of those products.
Chris Kresser: Life’s too short to drink bad coffee.
Sean Lake: There is a meme out there. There is indeed. But yeah, we started with collagen. And one of the things circling back on that is how do you make collagen really adaptable? You can go on Amazon and buy any collagen. There’s literally 50 brands waiting to take your money. But what is their amino acid profile? How many milligrams are you actually getting of that, whether it’s leucine, whether it’s glycine? You just take a look. Are you getting enough out of it? Because there’s some that are just kind of mediocre. What’s the flavor like? Does it clump? Is it soluble? There [are] performance elements that are preventative in having anyone take something from trial to true habit-forming and true lifestyle adoption. And if you have a bad tasting product, and it clumps up and it doesn’t blend well, you’re not going to come back for seconds. You’re not going to adapt that to a good routine. And I think that’s something you and I can both relate to is we want these things to work for us. And you’ve got to go for the quality.
Chris Kresser: Yeah, no, I love that about BUBS, and I think a lot of people just have the idea that it’s collagen. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. They’re the same; it’s a commodity product. Down a lot of ways in people’s minds, but there really is a huge difference from the quality of a product like BUBS and just the cheapest thing that you can buy at Costco or on Amazon. And I’m glad we’re having this conversation because I don’t know that a lot of people understand that. There is a real difference; there’s a difference in the amino acid profile. Most importantly, because that’s what’s giving you the benefit, right? That’s what’s actually making [an] impact on your health. There’s also then a difference in the usability, which you mentioned, of like, if it clumps and doesn’t taste good, or it smells bad, you’re not going to use it. And then, of course, you’re not going to get the benefit if you’re not using it. But making sure that it’s actually doing what it’s supposed to do is the most important. And BUBS is an amazing product, and I think it stands out among this, I mean, how many are there now? Hundreds, if not thousands of collagen products?
Sean Lake: Yeah, there’s so many, and I mean, when you’re on the industry side, you sort of look around and you see all the different countries of origin and where it’s coming from. And, I really, really stress to our team, like, “Hey, we’ve bought our collagen from one source from day one. And we have a long-standing relationship with this group out of Uruguay and Southern Brazil. And that’s important to me from an environmental standpoint. I don’t want to be paired with any supplier that’s anywhere near the Amazon Rainforest. I don’t want to contribute in a negative capacity to deforestation. I want to work off of an agrarian farm system. And that’s important to us as a brand because happy cows are out in a pasture, and they are eating grass, and they are living off the land. And the idea of that and getting feed statements talking about hey, this is grass-fed. These cows live out there. That means a lot to me, as someone who’s considering that life cycle. And collagen’s an upcycled component in the cattle industry, and I think this is really important for folks to understand that collagen has been around for a while. But collagen in its present form as a powder on the store shelf at Whole Foods, that’s newer.
And this was literally a throwaway component in the tanneries in South America. This was part of the animal that was not being used. Because all collagen is at its core is ground up cow powder. But what part of the cow? It’s the inner part of that hide, that fascia, that connective tissue that is so rich in those amino acids. It’s the glue holding the cow together. So it makes sense that just like gelatin comes from the bone, and hoofs are used for glue, that this part of the animal should find a home. And it was being thrown away. A decade ago, this part of the animal was going into a landfill. It was being chucked. And a couple of smart folks figured out like, hey, if we scraped all this stuff up, and instead of throwing it out, we treat it with some enzymes. Wow, look what happens. We really bolster those amino acids, and they really come up. And then we can basically grind it up into a powder and here we are. And there’s a little bit more to the flowchart on producing collagen, but it’s a fairly clean process of taking this throwaway part of the animal and giving it a whole new life, which in turn is giving us a whole lot more life.
Chris Kresser: Absolutely, yeah. As you said, this was being tossed out as a waste product, which goes back to what we were talking about, how much the diet has changed in the last 50 years. Because before this was a key part of traditional diets all around the world. So it’s full circle. And fortunately, we came to our senses, and now we’re starting to incorporate this back into the diet. Tell us, we just have a few more minutes left, but your products are cows, coffee, and coconuts. I love that; it’s easy to follow. Cows being the collagen, coconut MCT stuff, and then coffee is the most recent. So what inspired you to do that? I mean, talk about a product that there’s a lot of out there. And then one that obviously, as you mentioned, it’s an integral part of your life. I get the sense that you like coffee. So other than that, what was your inspiration to make coffee and how are you guys doing that differently?
Sean Lake: So coffee was an interesting journey for us. The starter was part of Glen’s and my morning routine. Have a cup of coffee, start the day, have that first, [and] hopefully [have] enriching conversation about making the world a better place, or just talking crap on Boston sports teams. Whatever the case may be. When we were probably three years into BUBS, we sent an email to all of our customers. So this was about two years ago. And we asked a bunch of questions of them, and we got this incredibly high return rate from those emails. And one of the questions that I loved in there was, “Hey, what do you want to see from us? What would you love to see next from BUBS?” And it was a multiple-choice . We put down whey protein and greens formulas, and all the different trends that we were seeing out in the nutrition space. And the number one thing that people asked us to make was coffee. BUBS should make coffee. And I looked at that, and I said, “Oh yeah, we should make BUBS brew.” And the name just stuck. Oh BUBS brew, we should make coffee. Well, we shelved the idea during the pandemic. We really doubled down on the collagen and the creamer. We were all into our MCT and the collagen and said, “Look, let’s just make sure we do that really well.”
Then about just a little over a year ago, TJ and I were riding the chairlift together, and we revisited the conversation. We said, “Hey, we know that people want to see this from us. What does it look like?” And I said, “Well, if we were to make a coffee line, I think we should do it based on places that Glen had served, and let that guide us.” So Glen went to Costa Rica in his early [to] mid 20s. That’s when he discovered that he wanted to become a Navy SEAL. He met a couple [of] off-duty Navy SEALs in Costa Rica on a surf trip, of course, and they kind of built it up that he had what it took, and he should go and figure that out. So we came home from that surf trip. I said, “So we should do our first coffee roast as a Central American blend, and we’ll call it The Origin. Because it’s the origin of Glen’s journey into the Navy.” I said, “But I don’t want to just roast a coffee; then we’re just everybody else. What can we do with this coffee?” I’m a big fan of third-party accreditations. And I said, “Well, we can definitely source organic coffee, and we can also source fair-trade coffee.” I said, “But we’re also friends with Melissa Urban. And we’re friends with the folks over at the Whole30 approved, and we work with them already. Our creamer line is Whole30 approved, our collagen is Whole30 approved. They don’t have any coffee partners. Let’s talk to them about clean sourcing in coffee.”
So we had a conversation, and they thought it was a great idea. And they said, “Well, let’s talk about the criteria around that.” And organic and fair-trade were the foundation of that. I said, “Well, I think we can level that up with some lab testing. And if you really source good-quality beans, if you are really going to specialty coffee, it should be mold-free, aflatoxin tested free. So why don’t we just put that right on the packaging and test every roast that we introduce and make sure that you’re getting a truly clean coffee. Then what do we like about coffee? We like fresh coffee. So let’s not macro roast. No matter how we scale, let’s get on a roasting schedule so we’re roasting every other week. And then we can scale that into roasting coffee every week, so that you’re never getting five-, six-month-old stale coffee. You’re always getting a good experience in the cup, you’re getting a mold-free [coffee], [and] you’re getting the world’s first Whole30-approved coffee because it meets these good quality criteria.” And I mean, again, I’m putting BUB’s name on it; I’m putting Glen’s name right on the bag. It’s got to stand for that best in quality. And there’s a lot of great coffees out there. We wanted to meet at the top of that and just say, “Hey, go have a great cup of coffee, and know that you’re getting a really clean bean in the process. You’re getting it fresh roasted to you, and let it rip.”
So that was our first roast. [Also,] Glen did a really challenging deployment in Mexico. So we did a Mexican single origin as our second roast, and we called that one The Challenger. So every roast we have is tied to an area of Glen’s service. The next roast we’re introducing is called The Wanted, and it’s in reference to a very short-lived television show where Glen was hired to consult hunting terrorists in Africa. So we’re introducing an Ethiopian coffee in about a month, and that’ll be called The Wanted. So again, [there are] all these great little tie-ins to his points of service that circle back to the brand and just feel like the right way to approach it.
Chris Kresser: Cool. That’s such a great story. And thanks, Sean, for having this conversation. I really enjoyed it. I love what you’re doing with BUBS and just hearing about the whole trajectory of how you got here and all of the steps you’ve taken to ensure that the quality of the products [is] in alignment with your values and the way that Glen inspired you over the years. I think that’s an amazing story.
Sean Lake: Thank you. Thanks for having me on to be able to talk to you about that. And of course, having you on the Batphone when I have nutrition questions is pretty, pretty amazing. So thank you for that.
Chris Kresser: Cool. Well, tell people where they can find out more about BUBS products.
Sean Lake: Yeah, so our website, pretty straightforward. BUBSNaturals.com. For those folks that love Amazon, we’re right there. We’re actually Amazon’s choice for a number of the products, which is pretty neat. I don’t know how you get that widget, but I’ll take it. But [on] our website, you can learn more about the brand. All our social media handles are BUBS Naturals. So @BUBSNaturals and ask those questions. We don’t automate anything in our customer service. So if you want to dive deeper, reach out. I’m always one person away, and I’m happy to answer any questions and yeah, share a little bit of some Glen-isms out there with the world.
Chris Kresser: Nice. Well, thanks again, Sean. And thanks, everyone, for listening. Keep sending your questions to ChrisKresser.com/podcastquestion. We’ll see you next time.
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