This week’s conversation is with Darin Olien, who you might be familiar with as the co-host of the widely popular Netflix docu-series “Down to Earth with Zac Efron”.

Darin is a highly recognized exotic superfoods hunter, supplement formulator, and author of the New York Times bestselling book, “SuperLife: The five fixes that will keep you healthy, fit and eternally awesome.

He’s worked with the fitness-company Beachbody to formulate one of the top superfood shakes in the USA a whole-food supplement called, “Shakeology”, as well as the plant-based, “Ultimate Reset 21-day” detoxification program. 

Darin is also one of the founders of Barukas™, a new super nut from the Savannah “Cerrado” of Brazil.  

So you can probably imagine what this conversation is about – we dive into Darin’s passion for nutrition – what makes a great superfood, the importance of proper hydration, and so much more.

“I’m clear on my mission: trying to help people, the environment and the world. Whether there’s a show or not, for me, I’m not going to stop. I don’t have any intention to. I’m just going to keep going.”

In This Episode:

How a high school football injury led him to studying the body

I think it probably saved me from a lot of head, neck injuries and everything else, and that was a career ending injury. And then a little depression, switched colleges. Then the light bulb went off. It’s like, “Well, what am I going to do with my life?” Because I picked some stupid major that I don’t really care about. Then the light bulb went off and said, “Well, why don’t I study this very thing that I actually need to study about myself right now, because I can’t play again and I’m hurt?” So, that’s where it threw me into physiology and nutrition.

His fascination with food

I started playing with formulas and herbs, and then I started seeing where companies were marketing something, but it just didn’t line up. It just didn’t line up in quality. It didn’t line up in advocacy. The more I dug, then to that point, I started formulating and playing with actual like, “I think I can bring this in the world.” And I said, “Well, I can’t do it. I got to go meet the farmer.” That’s where the Minnesota kid said, “I don’t care where they are. I just have to go meet them.” And it just happens to be at 15,000 feet in the Andes, or in the Amazon, or in the middle of the South Pacific. It didn’t matter. That was the innocence of the “superfood” hunting came by way of I have to know who’s cultivating, who’s growing.

I want to know from an ethnobotany standpoint, and how are they doing it. What’s the tradition? How can we bring that into the world that is efficacious, that is doing justice to not only the folklore, but the actual real science of what these plants are? Then how can I make this better for those people, for those indigenous people? So, all of this is playing and the environment at the same time.

His desire to help people thrive

For me, all of the water, the nutrition, the superfoods, it’s really to give people tools in their tool belt, so that they can unlock more and more potential. Because for me, it’s really simple. If I want to go run up this mountain that I’m staring at right now, I want to do it. I don’t want to go, “I can’t because this and that, and my body doesn’t work and all of these things.” If some emergency happens, if my dog gets attacked by a mountain lion, I want to be able to sprint after that mountain lion and get it away from my dog. Those are extreme examples of reacting to life. If someone is listening, and they want to play with their kids but their lower back is killing them, and they don’t have the energy because they’re not eating great, the whole point is to unlock so that people can live. And when you have less limitation and your body is thriving, you have more ability to dream, and pursue, and go after purpose. So for me, that informs everything.

The importance of hydration

We know that the root of most degenerative diseases is a form of dehydration. It really is. The number one downside of dehydration is fatigue. Instead of reaching for the water, we reach for coffee and stimulants and all of that stuff. Wake up from a good night’s sleep. Reach for your clean water. Drink that water. Go for at least a half a liter, if not a liter before you consume any other beverage. Get the body used to receiving water again, because you put it in the desert. Your body is so amazing. If it knows that you’re living in a desert because you’ve created it so that you’re not drinking enough, then it shuts down those mechanisms of screaming at you that it’s dehydrated. That’s the insidiousness of it. It will just get used to being dehydrated. So, you have to wake up those mechanisms again just by starting every day.

On the founding of Shakeology

The owner of Beachbody said, “I want to affect the lives of millions of people. And don’t worry about cost. Just do it right, and I’ll worry about selling it.” And I’m like, “What? Really?” And he backed it up. He’s backed it up ever since. I started formulating in 2006. I started running around all my connections I had, had. I started playing, jumping in and out of the lab. Just a huge amount of time. And then they launched it, and then came in with this amazing quality assurance program, and research and development to get their own … Because they realized that most companies were just selling stuff off the shelves. And when you really realize, especially with someone like me when you start talking about what, and where, and how with products and ingredients people have never heard of, you’re like, “There’s only one way to do this. You have to actually develop the system of quality, and of how to process it, and how to get it here effectively.”

Why he gets up between 3:30 and 4:30 everyday

It’s been my advantage, and my desire, and my love since I was a junior in college, actually. I realized that, that precious time went silent, and it’s just me, and my inner world, and my trajectory, and my path that’s just epically clear, and at least a space of cultivation. I started doing that, and it wakes me. The excitement of the morning wakes me up. Then I get my water down. I create some sort of elixir, some sort of adaptogenic tonic of some kind. Cacao, and schisandra, and chaga, and reishi, and rhodiola, or whatever it is. And then my restriction usually, I’ll workout and then I’ll usually … A flintstone bowl of fruit and Barùkas and maybe a little Shakeology, and greens, and whatever.

Why you don’t need to eat meat to get the right amount of protein in your diet

This whole thing, I would love to flip the script, like just eat a bunch of plants, eat a bunch of it. You’re getting a lot of upside. Focus on your fiber. For God’s sakes, the research around fiber and the microbiome, the prebiotic fiber, the diversification of fiber, the support around your immune system, brain health, serotonin, that’s where I want people to focus. It’s not about where you get your protein, it’s where you get your fiber. That’s what scares me the most when people talk about overconsumption of animal protein and stuff. I’m more concerned about their own longevity as it relates to, obviously, eating way too much animal flesh, but also not getting enough of the diversification and also the fiber content. That’s really where I sit.

It’s up to you how you approach nutrition

I’m not that guy that’s going to beat this over someone’s head. It’s not my job to convince anybody. It’s their own journey. It’s been my journey, and I’ve thrived as a result of it. Obviously, my focus is the highest quality foods ever. I like thriving off functional foods, superfoods, biodynamic foods, locally grown foods. I celebrate food, and then being able to tweak with some nutraceuticals and all of that stuff. It really comes down to the same thing, because I just want to kick some ass and live a great life.

How did “Down to Earth” with Zac Efron come to be?

We ended up having a two to three hour lunch. He asked about me, what I’m doing, about health, about superfoods, about life, and we just connected. It just so happens, I had written down a show idea that I wanted to do expanding from a superfood concept that people were trying to get me to do for so long. I just expanded it because I expose myself to so much in the world, and environment, and clean energy, and just indigenous people. And I was infinitely more about superfoods than it was in the past, so I wanted to. So, I brought that up. He asked me, “What else are you doing?” He got so stoked about it. He called me later, and he said, “I have a standing deal with Netflix. And I talked to my team, but we can change the concept to this one, and I’ll go with you.” And I was like, “What?” You have a lot of deal points to get through, and we did it.


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