04:01 – Ulrich was inspired by what Dr Mosley showcased on BBC
09:24 – The team reached out to researchers to learn how to use high intensity techniques
12:25 – The science behind CAR.O.L
17:20 – Two 20-second sprints are the minimum effective dose needed
22:50 – CAR.O.L monitors you and ensures each session is highly personalised
27:52 – Why the CAR.O.L session is structured in the way that it is
32:39 – An average of 10-12% improvement in VO2max after the first eight weeks
37:37 – Moderate intensity exercises are great and enjoyable, but many people are time-poor
42:24 – Three sessions a week is enough
46:41- What data do you get from using CAR.O.L?
51:57 – Recovery is as important as the exercise, if not more so
54:25 – Where can you try out the bike?
Welcome to the Fitter Healthier Dad podcast where you can learn how to improve your diet, lose fat and get fitter in a sustainable and fun way, without spending hours in the gym. Here is your host Darren Kirby.
Darren: This is Episode 23 of the Fitter Healthier Dad podcast. In today’s show, we’re going to be learning about how artificial intelligence in fitness can mean that we can work out for less time and get better results. And who wouldn’t want that, given that time is our most precious resource? Joining me on the show is Ulrich Dempfle who is one of the founders of CAR.O.L AI. Ulrich co-founded and is currently the Chief Product Officer and acting Chief Operating Officer at CAR.O.L.
He has experience in manufacturing product development due to his mechanical engineering background. He’s led AI and machine learning initiatives and helped to develop the interactive exercise bike that is CAR.O.L. Hi, Ulrich. Thanks very much for joining me on the show today.
Ulrich: Thank you for the invitation to be on your show.
Daren: Nice. It’s fantastic to have you on here and to hear a lot more about how AI. Like we were just discussing before we started the show, I’ve actually used the product myself, and my son has used it at the Health Optimisation Summit. It’s a fascinating product because, like I said, the common perception around fitness and health is it’s all very time consuming and it all takes a lot of time, whether that’s an hour in the gym or 45 minutes on a spin bike.
Obviously, what you guys have done and what you’ve developed really condenses that for the same results that you would get if it was a 45 minute or an hour session. So really keen to jump into the detail about that. But before we do, Ulrich, can you give us a bit of background on you and the journey you took in order to start developing CAR.O.L?
Ulrich: First of all, I think by now I can honestly say I’m also a fitter and healthier dad. Since I’ve been using CAR.O.L, I’ve lost probably about like 12/13 kilos of weight; got a ton fitter. Like VO2max, my cardiovascular fitness, improved by almost 50%, so phenomenal improvement. I’ve got three kids and I now can kind of compete in football on a Sunday–got three sons. So I think I now deserve the title “fitter and healthier dad.”
Darren: Hundred percent. Yeah, definitely.
Ulrich: You’ve mentioned already, my background is mechanical engineering. I’ve worked most of my working life as a management consultant–for McKinsey and Company, for PwC– and used data analytics, machine learning, AI, to improve healthcare. We’ve worked a lot with hospitals and health systems and that’s also where I met my co-founders, Ratna and Oliver.
Now, how do you get from there to developing CAR.O.L? We’re obviously industry outsiders. This wasn’t a planned journey per se, but what we did was we designed and implemented chronic disease management programmes. At the time, that was in the Middle East where they had seven star gyms but at the same time the highest level of diabetes anywhere in the world, and we couldn’t get people to exercise. It didn’t work.
We then came across the science about high intensity training and specifically reduced-exertion high intensity training. That was actually showcased on the BBC by Dr Michael Mosley and it was just kind of a light bulb moment for us where we thought like, that must be the answer. And so literally the next day, after we’ve seen that, we went out and got ourselves really nice spinning bikes and tried to replicate the workout routine that was showcased there by the BBC, and we failed. We failed really miserably. It didn’t work.
They claimed that you wouldn’t sweat, that it was really easy and really fast and that was just not our experience. Despite having that, you know… We’ve seen how it’s done on television and the fascinating science was explained, we couldn’t do it. And so what we did is we called up the researchers on the programme and said: what’s happening guys? You say this is the best thing since sliced bread, why can’t we get it to work?
And then suddenly more facts came out that you can’t do it on every single bike, it needs to be a quite specialised bike, it needs to be performed to precisely the right resistance level, the way the resistance gets applied needs to be quite specific. And so the researchers in an academic environment, obviously they have equipment that does that but it’s literally a two- man operation. You have a subject who performs the exercise and you have a lab technician or so who controls the bike. That’s not very practical.
And the equipment is also very, very expensive. Those bikes were like, somewhere around £15,000. And so we just thought there’s a massive gap in the market for a consumer friendly and also more affordable solution to take really fantastic science out of the lab and bring it to a broader base of users. Because it wasn’t there, we thought, why not do it ourselves? So we started developing CAR.O.L and it took a few years and several versions, but I think we’ve got now an excellent product–we’re on the market for a bit more over a year–that basically ticks those boxes. We’ve left the consulting world completely behind and are focusing only on CAR.O.L now and that’s our baby.
Darren: Okay, fantastic. It’s a great story, it’s a great journey, obviously coming from where you are in chronic illness management. I just want to touch on that slightly because I spent a little bit of time on a family holiday in the Middle East and it’s exactly like you say. I’m not sure whether this is cultural or whether it’s a mixture of cultural and climate, but they are very sedentary and their diets are very high sugary-fat based diets.
To give you an example, when we were on holiday, it was in Abu Dhabi and they got the Formula One racing circuit there. They actually opened up the circuit on a Tuesday and Thursday in the evening to try and encourage the locals to either walk around it, run around it, or cycle around it, and they provide bikes for free. So you can see that there is a massive epidemic there. The reason I wanted to bring that up is whilst that’s chronic in that area of the world, I strongly believe that that’s now mushrooming out to the more developed world– the UK, the US–it’s a massive problem.
Obviously, we need to start moving more. With the advent of technology and everything, what I call the Amazon economy where we want everything now, people are less inclined to wait for results or wait for outcomes, and I think it’s a big epidemic.
You said that you saw this interview with (Mike) Mosley and the concepts, but was it literally you decided the very next day, you and the other founders went out and bought the bike and you were going to do it? How did that really manifest itself in terms of- this is a great concept, we’re going to prove it and we’re going to do something for the consumer market?
Ulrich: It’s literally exactly that. The next day after we’ve seen it, we’ve bought a set of conventional bikes, tried it, couldn’t get it to work. Then we’ve connected with the lead researchers, for example Dr Niels Vollaard, he’s the one who invented or came up with what’s called “reduced exertion high intensity training,” and that’s the protocol we’re using. We work very closely, so he’s an advisor to us.
It’s several stages, then. The first, we had to learn exactly how to perform the exercise. The first thing was that we did some consumer testing where we basically tried to replicate what they did in the universities by literally having a lab technician next to the bike. That worked really well and we had some good initial responses, and then we built a first prototype. We actually ran it together in some offices, not even in gyms or so, but had it in offices. Again we got good results, and then just basically invested more and more into it and we’re now on the third big version of CAR.O.L and that’s the one we’re marketing.
So obviously it took quite a few years to get where we are now but the path was taken as soon as we heard about it, because we were so enthusiastic about it.
Darren: Yeah, I mean, it’s kind of in some ways unbelievable, isn’t it? Because you assume that when you do your fitness and when you do exercise, it has to be hard, and the longer you do it, the better it is. But once you put the science behind it and you understand the science… And I believe we’re in an age now of science where the acceleration is just phenomenal in terms of the amount of data we can get together, we can crunch and we can understand what all that means.
It does seem kind of unbelievable. On the science behind it, can you explain at a reasonably high level what it actually means? What I mean by that is that generally I’m a cyclist and if I want to improve my cycling, I generally do VO2max sessions, but generally sessions are an hour, and high intensity sessions if I increase my functional threshold power and things like that. Then obviously with this, it’s a really small window, isn’t it? Can you explain how the science works behind that?
Ulrich: Sure, I can. Basically, on the CAR.O.L bike, there are several protocols but really the anchor protocol is focused on two 20-second sprints. That’s literally all the hard work you do, two 20-second sprints, but at absolute maximum intensity. Basically those two 20 seconds of very, very hard work give you the same benefit as like 45 minutes, an hour, of running.
Now, why is that the case? The magic that happens is basically to do with rapid glycogen depletion of the glycogen stores in the muscle. As you do exercise, your body burns, normally and for most people, sugar. Glycogen is the storage form of sugar and you have glycogen in your liver, you have it in your bloodstream, and you have actually also very large stores in your muscle.
As you do exercise, your burn that and you would normally absorb glycogen from your bloodstream, and your cells would metabolise that and use that as fuel. When we do these two 20-seconds maximum intensity sprints, we basically simulate an emergency situation, we basically trick our body to think that it is in a fight or flight or in a situation where you either have to fight for your life or run for your life. We go to such high intensity levels that you cannot access quickly enough the sugar, the glycogen, from your bloodstream.
Your muscle is forced to burn through the locally stored glycogen and it’s also an anaerobic exercise, which is, in terms of glycogen, how you burn it and the metabolism–kind of less efficient so you have to go through a lot more to create the same level of energy. That allows us to achieve in these two 20-second sprints, about a 25 to 30% depletion of the glycogen stores in the muscle. First, those two 20-second sprints are actually really hard. It’s almost like once you’ve tried it, the whole claim becomes a lot more believable because it’s not easy. Like 20 seconds can be a really long time.
Then what happens is as you go through those 20-second sprints, you burn the glycogen and then certain signaling molecules get released. So first AMPK and then another one which is called PGC1a, which is basically like a master switch when it comes to building your cardiovascular fitness and also just in terms of building muscle, and the heart is at the end of the day, also just the muscle. So you activate a different adaptation pathway than you would activate if you, say, go for an hour of moderate intensity running. That’s basically what happens.
The beauty of it is first it’s a really, really well researched and well-documented training concept. It was first invented, if you want to call it that way, by the Wingate Institute in Israel. Many people will have heard the term Wingate sprint or some people will have heard the term Wingate sprints, which is basically these maximum intensity sprints. And this mechanism that I’ve just described has been well researched so the molecular changes and the biological response to them has been quite well understood, and it is exactly that these specific signaling molecules get released. That’s the first thing.
And then the second thing is that after people understood, okay, this is why it’s so effective, academics went round and tested what is the minimum effective dose? What’s the minimum I can get away with of doing that to trigger that adaptation pathway? And again, that has been just proven, so we know it now. It’s two 20-second sprints. That’s all you need to trigger that pathway. If you do more sprints or longer sprints, you get the same effect but it’s a lot harder. So for example if you do 30-second sprints, 40-second sprints, you will feel a lot rougher afterwards. Also, if you do three, four or five sprints, you’ll feel a lot rougher. Two 20-second sprints are enough. On the other hand, any less is also not effective. So that’s just the minimum effective dose needed to get the most effective cardiovascular workout.
Darren: Okay. Yeah, that makes sense. I’m assuming, based on what you’ve said around the glycogen store depletion that the more sprints you do, you don’t want to become completely glycogen depleted. Because that’s when we have this term where we hit the wall and your body just can’t go on anymore.
Ulrich: Exactly. And the signaling molecules that basically tell your body “you need to get stronger because hey, you have to run for your life or fight for your life” get already released after those two 20-second sprints. Any more, it’s the same signaling that occurs. There’s no additional benefit.
Darren: Okay, that makes sense. Just for the benefit of the people listening, when we’re talking about glycogen, you’ll probably explain it better than me. But in terms of glycogen, we get our glycogen stores from taking in carbohydrates and then it obviously gets converted into sugar and then stored in the muscle. Is that…?
Ulrich: That’s correct, yeah. Glycogen is just the storage form of sugar and you have it a lot in your liver but you also have like quite substantial stores in your muscles. But those stores you wouldn’t usually access, those are for emergency situations. The last thing the body wants is to tap into those because you might need them. You really have to trick the body into that, kind of force it to do that.
That’s basically what CAR.O.L does very well, is that it implements a sequence. You first pedal as fast as you can at a low resistance and then the computer control brake applies a resistance that’s very specific to you very, very quickly, and then that way you can reach your maximum intensity. For example, if we ramped up the resistance before you’ve accelerated and you were trying to accelerate into that high resistance, you would struggle or most people wouldn’t reach their max intensity. It’s a quite carefully designed sequence of steps to make sure you reach maximum intensity.
One thing is basically, I think high intensity training has maybe a little bit been mis-sold because what researchers do in the lab, they go to max intensity levels. Anything that’s less than max intensity or anything you can do for longer than 20 seconds, is not true high intensity or maximum intensity training. That’s because the pathway that gets triggered depends on this rapid glycogen depletion in the muscle. So if you do something that’s pretty high intensity, maybe you also do it for a little bit longer, you can’t be sure that you trigger that same pathway because you don’t have this rapid glycogen depletion. Basically, if you do something that’s longer than 20 seconds, it won’t be as effective because you really do have to go to max intensity levels to trigger this adaptation.
Darren: Yeah. And I guess that’s where the AI comes in, doesn’t it? Because like you said, in the first set of the 20 seconds, it’s measuring where the intensity is, because everybody’s intensity level is different. And then on the second go, it applies based on where you’re at currently to allow you to reach that maximum intensity, to obviously open those pathways.
Ulrich: Yeah, so what we do is before you use the bike for the first time, you just sign up on our website and create an account for CAR.O.L You give us some of your age, your weight, your gender, and so on. Based on that, there we’re using the same reference tables the academics would use, we basically take our best guess at what the right resistance level is for you. Then we go a few steps further in that we adjust the resistance every single ride and adapt it, so first that it’s entirely right for you and that it’s the perfect resistance level for you. And as you get fitter and stronger, that the exercise bike, that CAR.O.L keeps challenging you so you kind of plateau out… I mean, I guess not everybody is an Olympic performer at the end of the day, but you plateau out as late as possible and CAR.O.L keeps challenging you every single ride.
Darren: Which I think is important, to recognise and to actually just highlight that part. Because if we look at traditional exercise methods, and let’s take the gym as an example and an exercise bike in the gym. You will go in there maybe the first time, and you’ll obviously find your resistance and you’ll probably leave it at that, that resistance that you’re used to for a good few weeks. Whereas with CAR.O.L, it’s constantly monitoring and adapting your sessions in relation to your overall fitness, which I think is really important.
Ulrich: That’s clearly one of the key differentiators. CAR.O.L, basically, you don’t have any buttons or so, it’s fully automated, it’s fully computer-controlled, a highly personalised adaptive version and implementation of this RE-HIIT protocol, which is the most effective form of cardiovascular exercise. What we basically wanted to do is make it really, really simple. And it’s a bit borne out of the experience that we’ve had in the beginning, that maybe somebody who has like a personal trainer next to him, they can try to get to something that’s similar or also effective and so on. But we wanted to make it really easy and make it something that helps normal people to benefit from this fantastic science.
Darren: Yeah, and it is amazing. Like I said, I’ve tried it and I’m a relatively proficient cyclist. It was amazing just in that 20 seconds how absolutely depleted you could feel.
Ulrich: I recommend everybody who has doubt and there is obviously… We have a bunch of research papers on our website. An independently run, randomised control trial evaluated by the American Council on Exercise was done at Western University in Colorado with fantastic results. We’ve outperformed government guidelines, basically by factor of two across a whole range of important measurements and that in spectacularly less time.
But a good thing is always to try it because you will notice it’s not a free lunch. It’s very, very short, very time efficient, it’s still hard, but you get used to it. I do my CAR.O.L rides, I’ve got obviously a bike at home, I do it usually in a fasted state, straight after I get up. And for me, it’s a habit; I do it every other day. You don’t have to do it quite as often, but that’s just what I do. For me, it’s very easy to fit it into my day but at the same time, each sprint, those sprints are still very hard!
Darren: Absolutely. In terms of the actual structure it’s obviously very brief. We’ve got the two 20-second sprints that we do, but what is the structure of the session and why is it structured in the way that it’s structured, i.e., you know, warm up and cool down, and things like that?
Ulrich: You get on the bike: you just log in, get on the bike, and then there’s first at two- minute warm up. Then you have the first 20-second sprint, then a three minute recovery, second 20-second sprint, and then a three minute cooldown. The whole protocol is eight minutes, 40 seconds.
You could argue basically the bit that gets you fit, you could fit into three minutes, 40 seconds. Just sprint, three minute break, another sprint, get off. But there’s a couple of reasons why that wouldn’t be such a great idea. First, the warm up, in the warm up recovering cooldown, you work very, very light. So basically, it’s this very gentle pedalling, but we still want you to loosen up your joints a bit. You can focus on your breathing in that time. The first two minutes also gives us a chance to monitor your heart rate. That’s kind of the warm up.
CAR.O.L talks to you, either you can listen to some music or CAR.O.L actually talks to you and coaches you through the exercise, she puts you into some Palaeolithic landscape and I quite like it. Then the sprint, first 20-seconds, that’s all out and you will reach your peak power after something like two, three, four seconds and then you will drop off. Nobody can hold that maximum power for very long: you drop off. By the end of the 20 seconds, you couldn’t do it anymore and you’re very glad that it’s over. Three minutes recovery, the next sprint, and then three minutes cool down.
The recovery and cooldown periods, that gives us an important opportunity to measure your heart rate and your heart rate recovery. That way, we can calculate, we call it, the octane score. It’s basically a measure of power per heartbeat. It very closely attracts VO2max very well and it’s almost like a controlled experiment, like a fitness test that you do two or three times a week to get a highly quantified measure of your fitness and of your improvement, which I find that’s very rewarding. Measuring the recovery periods allows us to do that.
Then the last thing is, as you burn through a lot of sugar in a very short time span and empty out those glycogen stores in your muscle, what happens afterwards, especially in the cooldown period… Because you burnt the sugar, you have the metabolites in your muscle, you create an osmotic imbalance between what’s in your muscle and what’s in your bloodstream, so you have a whole lot of water shooting in your muscle. At the same time, the body tries to replenish those sugar stores as quickly as possible.
What happens is after the second sprint, both your blood pressure and your blood sugar will dip a little bit and so it’s just a good idea to stay for another two, three minutes–the cooldown is three minutes–on the bike to let your body normalise again and then you’ll still be a little bit out of breath when you come off the bike, but you’re… Like I’m now so used to it, I can I can literally get off the bike and get on with my life. But that three-minute kind of normalisation period from all out sprinting is a good idea.
Darren: Yeah, that makes sense. Obviously, we talked a little bit about the benefits of CAR.O.L and how it works, but in terms of results, if we’re looking at somebody wanting to either increase VO2max … And by the way, I think you’re increasing VO2max is incredible because I’ve read studies and reports that we are only able to increase our VO2max by a small percentage. So the fact that you’ve been able to do 50% is just extraordinary.
Ulrich: There’s actually really hard data on that. For example, researchers like Dr Vollaard, what they have shown is that, on average, people who engage in that type of exercise get after six to eight weeks, a 10-12% improvement in VO2max. And then for example here this American Council of Exercise randomised controlled trial that I mentioned earlier, in our group, we’ve had over an eight-week period, also there was 12.6% improvement of VO2max. And that matches very well.
Obviously, we’ve got the data of all our users, what we see in real life. So we see 10-12% improvement on average after the first roundabout eight weeks. We see the same level of improvement on average in the next 10-12 weeks. And then you have like different types of responders, yeah? Nature is maybe not quite fair, but you have like 60% of the population would be average responders who see those types of improvement.
Then you have 20% of the population that are called super responders and I guess, then you’re lucky, we see much higher improvements. I guess it’s also been a question of where your baseline was. I said I earned the fitter and healthier dad title. We were not exercise enthusiasts when we started that, I didn’t engage in sport before I started CAR.O.L, so I had some ground to make up.
There is a third group which are low or even non responders and who wouldn’t see that improvement in VO2max. Now, the good thing is, it’s not just about VO2max. I would argue there’s basically like three buckets of benefits from CAR.O.L. One is the fitness and that would be measured by VO2max or by our octane score and you get the improvements as I’ve outlined them. The next one is just cardiovascular health.
Maybe I’d be very happy to send that to you for show notes or so but it’s on our website. The ACE study, the American Council on Exercise. They’ve measured a basket of indicators that indicate cardiovascular health–blood pressure, blood sugar, HDL, triglycerides, and so on–and calculated based on that what’s called the MetS z-score. That’s a risk score to develop metabolic diseases–heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and so on.
In our group, those were 32 participants. 16 in doing our exercise, CAR.O.L, three times a week for eight minutes, so about 25 minutes time investment per week. Control group followed government guidelines, which is five times per week, half an hour moderate intensity exercise, so running. All participants had a sedentary lifestyle beforehand and the government guidelines group did see good improvements. If you do no sports, please do some sport, you will get some benefits. They had a risk reduction in this MetS z-score of 27%, which is very remarkable. That’s excellent. In the same time, our group had a risk reduction of 62%, so, massively outperformed. And that with like, 25 minutes versus 150 minutes.
Absolutely not advocating against not doing moderate intensity exercise; that’s fine and many people enjoy that very much. But if you’re time starved, and you want the most effective exercise for fitness and for cardiovascular health, this is just the most effective thing you can do.
The third group is around weight management. And here, this is not a very direct link but basically what CAR.O.L does, it improves insulin sensitivity. There have been some publications and trials where this type of exercise was shown to be as effective or more effective than diabetes pills are, like medication. The improvement in insulin sensitivity is really quite spectacular. Insulin sensitivity in itself is just a very important prerequisite to manage your weight, so if you’re insulin resistant or have a low insulin sensitivity, it becomes very, very hard to lose fat. If you have high levels of insulin sensitivity, then it’s much easier for you to access your fat stores and if you combine it with dietary change, to make a dent in terms of weight management.
Darren: The improvement, 27% versus 62%, the science speaks for itself. And I think, for me, at least, and hopefully people listening to this, that’s one of the key elements to your product. Is that you can back it by science and it’s not just another product which has come to market and it just kind of comes up with these outlandish claims. You’ve got real core data to back it up. It’s just quite profound.
When you were talking there about people that are time poor, the majority of us are time poor. There’s two sides to it, really. One is, you exercise for a health reason and a health benefit and the other side to it is you exercise for maybe some community side of it, either to be part of a running club or a cycling club, to have that community element to it. What CAR.O.L gives you is options, right? The majority of our listeners are busy parents that don’t have time. It’s just amazing that you can jump on the bike for you eight minutes, 43 seconds or whatever it is, in the morning, and you’ve got that massive benefit. For me, that’s really profound.
I think for me as well in in my own training, I’m trying to train to qualify for Ironman Kona next year and I’ll have to spend a ridiculous amount of time on the bike. If I can incorporate this into my training to lift my functional threshold power and to increase my VO2max, it’s just going to enable me to focus on other areas as well that I can improve upon.
Ulrich: Yeah, exactly. If you love sport for the social elements, yes, of course, do that and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. It’s just most people either don’t enjoy sport that much or just don’t have that much time. With three kids, I would find it incredibly difficult to find the time to goof off to the gym for an hour or two. I think my wife would tell me she would be very happy with that, I guess! This is a form that I can fit very easily into my daily routines or kind of my weekly routines and get those benefits.
Darren: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve talked about the length of time: how many sessions would you recommend to take in a week? Or is it dependent on what your goal is? For example, if it’s just general fitness, maybe three sessions, but if you’re working towards a specific goal, would you increase the amount of sessions or not?
Ulrich: Most of the academic research was done with three sessions per week. Now, we wouldn’t recommend doing terribly much more than that because you need to give your body a chance to recover and that’s when it adapts, and that’s when it gets stronger. So we’re not saying to do it every day. In fact, what we did is we’ve built some kind of lighter protocols into CAR.O.L because we have users who want to use it every day, but then do a version with 10 seconds sprints, for example, that gives your body the chance to recover. We say three, three sessions per week is enough.
There is actually- it hasn’t been published yet, but that might come out soon, that even two sessions per week are enough, but at the moment our advice is to build and to improve fitness, three times per week. And then once you’ve reached some people call it the genetic set point. Because not everybody will be Usain Bolt and not everybody will be an Olympic performer, so there comes a point where you’ve reached your potential and then for maintenance, one to two times per week should be fine.
Darren: Right. Okay. That’s better than the standard recommendation which is three times a week exercise or three times a week going to the gym. Just cuts it down even further. But obviously we’re talking about cycling here and my understanding is the legs are one of our largest muscles in the body and it is going to improve our overall fitness. But do you recommend or do you suggest that people should do some other physical activity alongside CAR.O.L or are you saying CAR.O.L is just enough for your overall fitness?
Ulrich: I think CAR.O.L is an excellent start, and for cardiovascular health and for fitness, and weight management, it’s the best thing you can do. I can confidently say that. Obviously, having enough muscle mass is important and so I think if people do want to look after themselves, then lifting some weights or engaging in some sort of resistance exercise is definitely also something that’s good for you.
I don’t think that’s terribly available in Europe, but in the US, for example, we have a company called ARX that does a very similar thing: minimum effective dose for resistance exercise. If you can do that in conjunction, then that would be an ideal workout routine. Because, yes, obviously for building muscle and bone density and so on, some form of resistance training is a good thing. There’s no question about that.
Darren: Yeah, absolutely. I would agree; it’s been scientifically proven, like you say, just once a week, doing a heavy set of weights is really good for muscle mass, bone density and all the rest of it. So if we’re looking at CAR.O.L itself as the bike and the product, in terms of information that the user gets out of the bike, what kind of information? Because the screen’s quite compact, it’s quite comprehensive. You obviously get your data and the goal you’re supposed to be hitting when you’re cycling. What kind of historical data or data do the participants get to measure?
Ulrich: It’s a cloud based system. All your data gets uploaded to our servers and then you can either access it through a web app or mobile app and track your metrics. And the metrics that we currently provide is basically your peak power and you can see how the strength in your legs increases, peak power per pound, your total power over the course of a sprint and then, very importantly, the octane score, which is power per heartbeat and it tracks VO2max. We’ve designed it very carefully to track VO2max and that is a measure for your fitness. Those are the key metrics we have right now.
We are fundraising again, constantly developing the product and many of those things it’s on the software side, to add additional things. So at the moment we don’t actually show, for example, calorie consumption. The reason for that is while we know your energy expenditure and we know the direct calorie consumption… It is actually quite interesting. It’s fairly low because it’s only two 20-second sprints and in fact it’s so low that most people don’t even sweat, because you don’t burn through enough calories on the bike to increase your body temperature enough to break a sweat. And that’s why we have like a number of our CAR.O.L bikes in offices where people use it in their lunch breaks or coffee break.
But anyway, I digress. What we will soon have is what’s called EPOC. That’s excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. While the calorie consumption on the bike is relatively low, you have higher energy consumption after you’ve done it right. So that will come fairly soon: what your total calorie consumption was or the calorie deficit that you’ve created.
We pride ourselves of being scientific and fact-based so at the moment we’re working again with academic partners to measure that properly. Once it’s done and once we have all the data, we’ll enable that. That’s something to come. The other thing we’re quite keen to bring out as soon as possible, but I can’t give a date yet, is for example, like HIV measurements and then based on that, further tailoring and recommendations as to what you should do in your exercise.
CAR.O.L is our AI personal trainer, health coach, and ultimately we want to get there that she can give you really relevant and actionable advice, in the first instance related to the exercise. But that she could tell you, for example, look, Darren, maybe today don’t do the intense, don’t do the 20-second sprints; only do the 10-second sprints because your HIV is a bit lower than what it usually is. So you might not be in the best shape to engage and do a really hard workout, even if it’s really short. Those are things to come. We’re constantly developing and investing and because it’s a cloud-based product, our customers get those updates as we release them.
Darren: I think the part about the heart rate variability, which is a measurement of how you can tell the fluctuations in your heart rate, which can ultimately tell you how stressed your body is. I think that’s really, really important because for so many years, particularly in the fitness world, it’s about going hard, really smashing it hard, and all the rest of it. And actually, the gains come when you’re resting. For CAR.O.L to be able to measure that and then maybe to tell you today, you just need to back it off a little bit… Kind of habitually as humans, because we’re exercising, we want to get results, we want to go hard, and actually sometimes that’s doing more damage than it is good.
Ulrich: Exactly. The recovery is definitely as important, some would say more important than the exercise. You have to give your body a chance to grow stronger and adapt.
Darren: Definitely. The other point that you mentioned around calories; this is a genuine measurement. People put so much emphasis on calories but for me calories is just a really overarching measurement of burning energy and stuff like that. To come back to your original point, whilst you might not have burnt calories, the glycogen depletion in your muscles will mean that over a period of time, your body will be in a burning mode, won’t it? Because it’s got to try and replace that 25–30% of glycogen depletion you’ve just instilled in it.
Ulrich: Yeah, absolutely. Because it’s an anaerobic exercise, you burn through quite a lot of sugar and get quite little energy out of it so even if you get off the bike, you basically have to process all the waste products and metabolites and you have to replenish your sugar stores. And then you operate at a slightly higher level–your basal metabolic rate is elevated for a longer period. The early data we see is very clearly that you burn more calories after the ride than during the ride.
Darren: And I think that’s the general basis on which HIIT workouts are… I don’t know whether marketed is the right word. But it’s on the basis on which people do HIIT workouts. It is not necessarily whilst you’re doing it; it is the after effects, the fat burning and all the rest of it that takes place.
When we’re talking about I should get access to a CAR.O.L bike and things like that, it’s quite a significant investment. But once you’ve got it, you’ve got it, and then you can use it forever and ever and ever. What are you doing as a company and a business to work with gyms and things like that, to get your products out there into the market?
Ulrich: It depends a bit where your listeners are. We have quite a few bikes in fitness facilities in the US and they’re not your traditional gyms. Some of them refer to themselves as biohacking facilities, upgrade labs or so, or HACKD in New York, who have like the most advanced equipment in their facilities. There you would find our bikes. There’s a growing number and I think on our website there’s a map with quite a few of them, I think it must be over 50 or so, where you could go and try them, spread out geographically across the States.
With traditional gym chains, let me put it this way. We’ve not had that much traction and for very specific reasons. We’ve spoken with the very highest level of some very large gym chains, and they say, yeah, it’s a fantastic product. We love it, but it doesn’t fit into what we offer our customers at the moment. First, they say its’ a very confusing message if you have like 20 traditional upright bikes and recumbent bikes and ellipticals and so on. And then you basically tell them, yeah, but you don’t need all of this; all you need is this. That’s like one thing–it’s not great.
The other thing, and they’ve been quite open with us about it–they obviously want people to spend time in their facilities. Because when you spend time there, you also spend money there on, whatever, your smoothies and your protein and this and that, and on personal training sessions. CAR.O.L is your AI personal trainer so that’s not a perfect match.
I’m sure we will be in your more traditional gyms sooner or later, but I think that’s more something that will be consumer-demand led. I would argue that will happen. The gyms will put it in if people ask for it: I don’t think they will naturally jump on to it.
Darren: No. And I think it comes back to time poor people. If you can exercise for eight to nine minutes, you won’t want to necessarily spend the time traveling to a gym in the first place anyway. It would defeat the object of what the product gives you. By having it in homes, having it in offices, it just means you can be more efficient. And like I said in the introduction, we are all vying for more time, we can never get more time, it’s about being more efficient. Obviously, CAR.O.L gives you that ability to be more efficient with your time.
So Ulrich, in terms of what actions the listeners could take today. You’ve mentioned that in the US there are bikes in some biohacking facilities and labs and things like that. What about in the UK? Is there any specific areas where people could maybe go to just give CAR.O.L a try?
Ulrich: Yeah, of course. For listeners who come to London, if you go to Harvey Nichols at Knightsbridge, where on the fourth floor they have like a health and wellness area. You can either do your workout with us or you can try CAR.O.L and see how you like it. Seeing is believing or trying is believing; that’s an opportunity to test it out. This is not something I’m too happy about but literally we are represented on all continents. We have bikes in Australia, in South Africa and South America. Our focus is really the US and then across Europe and some bikes in Asia.
We have a pretty big geographic footprint already, so if you want to try it, get in touch. Usually the facilities that have a CAR.O.L are very good to let people who are interested to try it. We can certainly arrange that. In London, Harvey Nichols is one place where we have a very nice showroom there, where you can try it out.
Darren: Perfect. Okay. Before we wrap up, Ulrich, is there anything that I didn’t ask you that you feel I should have asked you that would benefit the listeners?
Ulrich: I think we’ve covered a lot. The one thing to just re-emphasise, and this is our own backstory. If you look at the overall population, it’s about 15% that engages in sport, in exercise. The other 85% just don’t and if you survey those people, the number one reason is that they don’t have enough time. Obviously, some people might be lying a bit and say that time is not the barrier, but if you survey them, what people answer is, it’s not enough time. And that’s really what we’ve created CAR.O.L for: to make it really easy and very, very time efficient to get that benefit.
So, CAR.O.L, we really want it to be mass market. I think compared to what some other products cost in this space, obviously it’s not cheap, but I think it’s very reasonably priced and we want to be mass market. We really want to shift the needle. There is an obesity, there is an inactivity epidemic and we very much hope that CAR.O.L will shift the needle and just make exercise more accessible to a broad audience.
Darren: Yeah, definitely. I think for me, like I said before, it ticks all the boxes. Obviously, you mentioned when people are surveyed, time is the biggest thing. But it gives you the biggest results because even if let’s say for argument’s sake, you could get a bike and you could do the 20-second sprint, because of the AI behind it, there’s not this constant need as a human to actually keep pushing yourself. You don’t need to worry about that because CAR.O.L is going to do that for you. Effort obviously needs to go in but there’s no kind of thinking; you don’t need to as a participant of it or somebody who wants to get fit and healthy. You just need to get on and do exactly what CAR.O.L says.
Ulrich: Exactly. You will get it right and you will see the benefits. Exactly that.
Darren: Fantastic. It’s been great to talk to you today, Ulrich. We could talk for ages, but how can people connect with you? What’s the website?
Ulrich: Please do have a look at www.CarolFitAi.com. It’s one word CarolFitAi.com. And on social media, our handle is @CarolFitAi across all platforms, so do get in touch. Our team would be very happy to answer any queries that you have or arrange for any of your listeners to find a space where they can try it.
Darren: Yeah, perfect. I highly recommend people listening to actually do find the space to go and try it. Me and my son, like I said, we tried it at the Health Optimisation Summit and I was completely blown away by the impact. I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the fact that it was just like, Wow, I’ve just done literally 40 seconds of high intensity and I’ve got the equivalent of a 45-minute workout. Who wouldn’t want that? So, yeah, I highly recommend they go and try it out. Do connect with CAR.O.L on social media and look at their website. Once again, Ulrich, thank you very much for your time and I look forward to seeing the progress of CAR.O.L.
Ulrich: Thank you. Thank you so much for having us.
Darren: Thanks for listening to the Fitter Healthier Dad podcast. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please hit subscribe and I would really appreciate it if you could leave a review on iTunes. All the links mentioned in the episode will be in the show notes, and a full transcription is over at FitterHealthierDad.com