Have you ever wondered what your body looks like on the inside after you do a hard workout, triathlon or marathon?
I decided to test it.
I did back-to-back triathlons on one of the world's toughest race courses (the Wildflower triathlon). This brutal protocol consisted of a Half-Ironman on the first day, followed by an Olympic distance triathlon less than 24 hours later.
Right before I hopped on a plane to California to head to the first triathlon, I went into my lab for a blood draw. My biomarker test weapon of choice in this case was a WellnessFX Performance Panel.
Approximately 40 hours after crossing the finish of the second race, I went straight back to the lab for an identical panel of bloodwork.
But that's not all.
I also used a special app called Sweetbeat to track my heart rate variability (HRV), which can be a key measurement of internal nervous system damage or overtraining. Specifically, I tested my HRV in the days leading up to the first race, immediately after the first race, and then the morning after the second race, and for several more days after that.
Finally, because it's already been proven that these type of extreme endurance events can elevate C-Reactive Protein (the primary marker for full body inflammation) by well over 250%, I decided to pull out every possible recovery method in my recovery bag o' tricks to see how much I could actually mitigate the inflammatory damage.
Ready for the results? Let's find out what happened (prepare to be shocked when you see my blood panel results) – and as usual, you can leave your questions below this post.
The “Pull-Out-All-The-Stops” Recovery Strategy
Before we get into the nitty-gritty blood work and heart rate variability data (which will probably shock you), let's take a look at how I actually performed during the race, the nutrition and gear I used in my attempts to mitigate the damage of back-to-back triathlons and how things panned out for race results.
Pre-Race “Damage Control”:
d-Ribose: In the seven days leading up to Wildflower, I loaded with d-Ribose, a potent ATP precursor. I knew my body would need to regenerate ATP from my available nucleotide pool as fast as possible between the two races. For anyone who wants to geek out on how loading with d-Ribose also allowed me to more easily tap into my body's own free fatty acids as a fuel, read neurosurgeon Jack Kruse's excellent article that reveals the truth about carbohydrates and exercise performance.
My “fuel of choice” for d-Ribose loading was X2Performance (they're aware I'm using their product and have offered you the code BENGREENFIELD to get $10 off a case of the stuff). I also slammed a shot of this immediately before the Half-Ironman, halfway through the bike, and on my way out onto the run.
Wild Plant Derivatives: I continued my daily use of wild plant derivatives, which are packed with natural antioxidants. I use these in my life on a daily basis to mitigate the damage from chlorine, toxins, pollutants, exercise, etc., but doubled up on both race days and also the day after the race. I get these in tiny portable packs called Lifeshotz, which I dump into my mouth and chase with a glass of water. My personal physician designed the stuff and I trust him.
Chinese Adaptogenic Herbs: For reasons you're going to find out about in just a moment when you see my blood work, I already had some serious cortisol damage control to do before either race even began. As you learn in my article about “digging yourself out of an overtraining hole”, adaptogens are the best way to naturally control cortisol, neural inflammation, and hormone imbalances. I normally use one packet TianChi a day, but doubled this up on the day before the race, the day of both races, and the day after both races.
Essential Amino Acids: I loaded with 10 grams of essential amino acids per day for the day before the race, race day 30 minutes before each race, and after both races. My weapon of choice in this case was Master Amino Acid Pattern (MAP), an amino acid supplement that is 99% utilized by the body to make protein. Compared to eating a steak, this is far less stressful on the digestive system to break down and absorb, and I didn't want to be making my gut work any harder than it had to.
Fuel During First Race:
In addition to the X2Performance listed above, I pretty much used the Pacific Elite Fitness Endurance Pack instructions to the letter. The Endurance Pack is something I personally designed to reduce gut distress, keep the body in maximum fat burning mode during a long workout or race, and reduce intake of high sugar and high caffeine compounds. It's basically comprised of 1) the MAP you already learned about; 2) a very slow release carbohydrate called “Superstarch” and 3) an ultra-concentrate of VESPA wasp extract.
All this stuff basically ensures you tap into your body's own fat while racing, you get stronger as the race gets longer, and you also aren't “tired and wired” the night after racing, which I've always found to be the case when using traditional gels, sports drinks, and bars. You can also read more about this fueling strategy in my Healthy Race Day Nutrition Protocol article, and leave your questions below.
Recovery Between Both Races:
20 minute cold bath, at about 55 degrees: Here's a good article I wrote about why icing and cold baths work for recovery. In addition, I wore my 110% Play Harder compression pants with ice packs, then took the ice packs out but kept the pants on the rest of the day, and slept in them.
Magnesium Lotion: I used a quarter size dab of topical magnesium lotion rubbed into both legs, both before each race, after each race, and before I went to bed at night. The stuff is basically like the traditional magnesium spray with a bunch of extras added in, like organic jojoba seed oil, olive squalane, organic coconut oil, organic shea butter, and MSM for enhanced tissue delivery. It also doesn't make your skin itch like regular magnesium spray does. Here’s why I slather my body with magnesium nearly every day, especially after hard workouts.
Electrostimulation unit (EMS): I propped my legs up on pillows and used a Compex EMS unit in “recovery” mode for 30 minutes after each race. EMS acts to pump inflammation and swelling out of the legs, without any massage therapist required.
Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy (PEMF): PEMF is the hottest new therapeutic tool in natural medicine. A home unit can be held up against injuries to help them to heal faster, but as you learn in my article “How To Beat Insomnia“, you can also place one of these under your mattress to lull your brain waves into deep sleep while at the same time speeding up the patching of damaged “holes” in your cell walls. On the night of both races, I used a small, portable PEMF unit called an Earthpulse.
Injury Pack: To speed up healing and shut down inflammation, I used the Pacific Elite Fitness Injury Pack, which is comprised of 1) Capraflex and 2) Phenocane. CapraFlex contains is a blend of glucosamine and chondroiton from type II collagen, along with a blend of 17 different anti-inflammatory herbs, botanicals, minerals and enzymes. Phenocane is a natural anti-inflammatory and COX2 inhibitor that relieves pain and eliminates inflammation without inhibiting COX1 development like aspirin does or causing many of the liver and stomach problems that ibuprofen and Advil do. I popped 6 Capraflex and 8 Phenocane after each race.
I also get into the stuff above (as well as my bike and run racing and fueling set-up for both races) in way more detail in a series of special videos I have inside the upcoming, brand new BenGreenfieldFitness phone app. Stay tuned for the release of that app in just a few days.
Fuel During Second Race:
Olympic distance triathlon fueling is fairly simple and straightforward. I slammed one shot of X2Performance and 10 MAP immediately before the race, then simply took a 1 hour serving of the Endurance Pack, mixed it all together into one bottle and gulped it down during the bike. I ate nothing on the run.
And in case you were wondering, I did indeed indulge in a glass of red wine and a nice big plate of Pad Thai after finishing up that second race. But up until that point, I was simply eating easy-to-digest food – specifically a blend of Living Fuel Supergreens, mashed up avocados, raw almonds, cinnamon, and lots and lots of coconut water.
I pushed relatively hard in both races, but think I subconsciously held back just a little bit – partially due to the fact that I was doing back-to-back events, and partially due to the shocking blood panel I'm about to reveal.
Despite the blood work you're about to see, the first race felt fantastic.
An even bigger surprise was that aside from the first two minutes of the swim (during which my body was asking me what the hell I was doing to it and why I hadn't just slept in) the second race also felt fantastic. As a matter of fact, my body performed like a well-oiled machine the entire weekend, and in particular, I posted some of the fastest swim and run splits on both days.
Ultimately, my goal was to have the fastest combined time of any participant who completed the back-to-back brutal experience (there were about 125 of us who were insane enough to try it).
I ended up 3rd.
For an early season “test” race, and the first time I've ever done back-to-back races like this, I'm happy with that result.
Blood Panel Results
OK, so now let's move on the the fun stuff: the blood work.
In my article “A Crash Course On Finding Out What Is Going On Inside Your Body“, you learn that one way to test your blood via a panel from a company called WellnessFX. This company is based out of San Francisco – but is able to test the blood markers of most people in the United States. They simply send you a special form, you bring it into your local lab, and a few days later, the results are e-mailed to you, along with a special chart to help you interpret the finding.
Here are my pre (and post) blood work results:
If you have a savvy eye for reviewing and interpreting blood panels, then you may have noticed that right off the bat, before I even did the back-to-back triathlons, I was relatively “messed up”.
We're going to delve in and take a look inside my body. You should be aware that if you're a triathlete, Crossfitter, or any other “extreme” athlete, your panel probably looks pretty similar to mind. If you find yourself scratching your head and having extra questions as I go through this, you should know that on May 24, I'll be teaching a blood work panel workshop to my Inner Circle, and you may want to join in.
High Cortisol & Low Testosterone:
Cortisol is released in response to physical and mental stress on the body. Cortisol can also increase during times of starvation or caloric restriction – primarily because it increases blood sugar for energy through the breakdown of muscle. Cortisol has also been shown to decrease fat breakdown, which can potentially increase fat storage on the body. Excessive cortisol suppresses your immune system, making the body more susceptible to infection.
Of course, you're probably familiar with testosterone as the hormone that does just about everything cortisol doesn't – it enhances drive, allows for muscle repair and recovery, increases competitive drive, protects your heart, and keeps you young.
If you notice under the Thyroid section in the chart above, both my pre and post-race cortisol levels were absolutely through the roof. In a well-rested and recovered individual, I like to see a morning cortisol of around 5-10. But I was at 23.1 before the race and 23.7 after the race!
But that's not all. Equally concerning is the fact that both my total and free testosterone were extremely low compared to what I like to see in active, young men. Generally, I look for 500-800, and my values were at 356. My free testosterone, the actual active, potent stuff, was also extremely low. So in a nutshell, I'm a ticking hormonal time bomb, and I find this incredibly disturbing.
In my case, the high cortisol and low testosterone values were likely due to an enormous amount of work stress from juggling multiple books, projects, websites and clients, combined with the daily physical stress of training and calorie restriction. This is a potent one-two combo that you tend to see in many “CEO's” or “overachievers”, and I am absolutely no exception. Based on this blood work, I have realized that if I were not using all the recovery methods I currently use, I would probably be in a deep state of adrenal fatigue (which I would estimate at least 50% of triathletes, Crossfitters, marathoners, etc. suffer from). Towards the end of this post, I'll outline my strategy for getting my cortisol under control and my testosterone back up, because if I don't take steps to fix these hormone issues, it will shorten my life and vastly increase my risk for chronic disease, heart attack, and complete burnout.
Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) is made by a small gland in your brain called the pituitary and triggers your thyroid gland in your neck to produce thyroid hormones (triiodothyronine or T3, and thyroxine or T4), which are crucial for your body's use of energy (AKA your metabolism). Thyroid hormones give your brain feedback as to how much TSH to release. If for some reason your T3 isn't getting converted to active T4 (poor liver function), or you have a lot of thyroid “antibodies” circulating in your bloodstream (poor diet), or your cell receptors aren't very responsive to thyroid hormones (high stress), then your body just keeps on churning out more and more TSH to no effect – and eventually your thyroid “burns out” and you're stuck with hypothyroidism and a low metabolism for the rest of your life.
My TSH appears to have been rapidly climbing since I first started testing it, and was up to 5.54 before the race. To put things in perspective, a healthy TSH is about 0.5-2.0. I'm on my way to hypothyroidism unless I take steps to fix this.
This high TSH is likely due to three factors*: 1) my through-the-roof cortisol levels causing my cell thyroid receptors to be insensitive; 2) small intestinal bacterial overgrowth from gut “dysbiosis”; 3) caloric restriction. In my case, based on my testing and symptoms, it's likely a combination of all these factors, and I'll be outlining my strategies to test and fix this in my summary at the end of this post.
*I also realize there are those out there who would propose that my low carbohydrate diet is stripping my body of glucose, which is necessary for the conversion of T4 to T3 in the liver. But because the body can make glucose from both protein and fats, this is unlikely. It is more likely that this is due to the fact that calories elicit an insulin response. This then spikes leptin levels in the blood. Moderate, regular consumption of adequate calories spikes leptin frequently enough to help signal to the hypothalamus that the body is being fed. Without leptin, the hypothalamus does not tell the pituitary to produce sex hormones or TSH. In other words (as you'll see from my rock-bottom insulin levels below), the low TSH is probably not due to low carbohydrate intake as much as it is likely due to low overall calorie intake, period. My “normal” weight when I follow my appetite is 185-190 pounds. But for triathlon, I keep myself at 170-175 pounds. That means daily calorie restriction. In other words, I may need to fatten up or really step up consumption of nutrient-dense foods if I want to optimize health. Ahh…the delicate balance between health and performance…
You may be familiar with this as a “particle count”. Apolipoprotein B (ApoB) are the primary proteins attached to LDL cholesterol. And while LDL cholesterol is really not an issue at when it comes to cardiovascular disease risk, a high ApoB is definitely correlated with cardiovascular disease risk. ApoB on the LDL particle acts as a “ligand” for LDL receptors in various cells throughout your body (i.e. less formally, ApoB “unlocks” the doors to your cells and delivers cholesterol to those cells).
My Apo-B is definitely elevated, and I actually tend to see APO-B levels elevated in nearly every active individual's blood panel that I see. Chris Kresser has an excellent article entitled “What Causes Elevated Particle Number“, and in that article, the 5 reasons are: elevated insulin with poor blood sugar control, poor thyroid function, a “leaky gut”, bacterial infection, and genetics. It is highly likely that a combination of poor thyroid function, a leaky gut, and bacterial imbalances in the digestive tract are all playing a role in my elevated Apo-B levels, but I also suspect that elevated Apo-B levels are also due to increased delivery of cholesterol to tissues in response to inflammatory damage from exercise.
My insulin levels are at rock bottom. Let's take a look:
While low insulin levels may seem like a good thing, I'm not convinced that I should be absolutely charmed with these low numbers, because insulin is actually a highly anabolic hormone that delivers energy to muscle tissue and allows for enhanced growth, repair and recovery. This is one of the reasons that eating after a workout can be very important for proper recovery – by boosting your post-workout insulin you enhance delivery of precious nutrients to muscle tissue. So somebody with constantly low insulin levels may not be able to recover or build muscle properly.
But high insulin levels can cause insulin insensitivity, skyrocketing blood sugar, and type II diabetes. Because I eat a very low carbohydrate diet (and as you can see, my fasted blood glucose is absolutely fantastic) this isn't really a worry for me. I suspect that my low insulin values are related to high cortisol, lots of training, and an overall low calorie intake (recall that my stable body weight is 185-190 pounds, but I keep myself at 170-175 pounds for racing).
Low Insulin Like Growth Factor:
Growth Hormone (GH) is a potent anti-aging and anabolic, muscle-building hormone. IGF-1, or Insulin-like Growth Factor-1, is stimulated by GH, and is an easier way to measure GH activity than to measure GH directly. Both these hormones are the main hormones responsible for cellular and muscle growth, and both support anabolic pathways that lead to enhanced repair and recovery.
As you can see, my IGF-1 is severely suppressed. This is likely due to the same reasons that my insulin is low, my testosterone is low and my cortisol is high: the triad of lifestyle stress, exercise stress and calorie restriction.
High Liver Enzymes:
Aspartate transaminase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) are enzymes that found mostly in the liver, muscle, and heart cells. Since these enzymes are found in liver cells, they are released when the liver is damaged. Mild elevations may be due excess calorie intake (which causes fat to get stored in the liver), heavy use of pharmaceuticals and alcohol, or (which is most likely in my case) physical exertion.
It's pretty typical to see these levels elevated if someone has has exercised on the day prior to a blood test, which I certainly did, so these levels are not extremely concerning, but do highlight the fact that anyone doing hard training should be very careful with the use of alcohol or pharmaceuticals. And yes, I should probably dial back the amount of wine I drink on the weekends.
Low Liver Enzymes:
Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) is also a liver enzyme. Alkaline phosphatase is secreted during processes that are normal for the body, such as bone growth and pregnancy, but another condition that stimulates secretion of alkaline phosphatase in the blood is injury and inflammation from physical exertion. Interestingly, my ALP is very low. A low level of ALP can be caused by a number of medical conditions, but as you're about to find out, I suspect that in my case, the low ALP is caused by by insufficient production of new red blood cells (anemia).
Low Red Blood Cells and Low Hemoglobin:
As you can see from the two charts below, my iron, my red blood cell count and my hemoglobin are all lower than what I like to see in endurance athletes. This is likely due to high red blood cell turnover from hard training.
As with the other variables above, I'll outline in just a moment what I plan on doing about this “borderline anemia”, but this is another value that is concerning to me, and may explain why I've noticed dark circles forming under my eyes for about the past two years.
BUN, or Blood Urea Nitrogen is a measurement of the amount of urea nitrogen in your blood. Nitrogen is formed when proteins from muscle or proteins from food break down into their amino acid “building blocks” and get metabolized to nitrogen in the liver. This value tends to be elevated in people who exercise frequently (muscle breakdown) or who are dehydrated. In my case, it likely the former. Similar to the elevated liver enzymes, this is an elevated value that didn't surprise me.
Similar to BUN, creatinine is also a waste product that is formed when muscle cells break down. Your kidneys excrete creatinine and therefore an elevated creatinine can certainly be a sign of kidney dysfunction, but in athletes is usually just a sign of everyday wear and tear. Considering that I've recently starting using 3g of creatine daily as a nootropic, these slightly elevated levels of creatinine did not surprise me and are not too concerning.
Low White Blood Cells:
Nearly all my immune system markers were borderline low – another common issue you tend to see in hard charging athletes, stressed individuals, or both. For example, take a look at my white blood cell count below.
This is just one example that my blood work revealed of across-the-board low immune system cells. This means that I'm particularly at risk for catching colds, flus or other foreign invaders. In my case, I haven't had the sniffles in nearly three years, but this low immunity brought on by lifestyle stress combined with hard and heavy training could certainly have been the reason I came down with a MRSA infection last year (in which I nearly lost my leg).
The Good Stuff:
Just for some happy times before we dig into inflammation, allow me to throw in a few high notes.
My HDL (good cholesterol) is through the roof.
My triglycerides (bad fats) are rock bottom.
My minerals and electrolytes are extremely well balanced.
My alkalinity (CO2) is fantastic.
And take a look at the chart bleow. Vitamin B12, which is a crucial element for hundreds of metabolic reactions, tends to be very suppressed in most athletes, (especially vegan and vegetarian athletes). But check out my B12 (I'm going to blame Lifeshotz for this one, thank you very much).
OK, let's jump back into the carnage that is me. Here's a result that came as absolutely no surprise.
C-reactive protein (CRP) is a protein found in the blood, the levels of which rise in response to inflammation and muscle damage. Its physiological role is to bind the surface of dead or dying cells in order to activate a healing response.
It appears that I do a really good job controlling inflammation, as evidenced by my rock-bottom pre-race CRP values.
But check out what happened after the race:
Yes folks, that's nearly a seven-fold rise in inflammation. In other words, this type of brutal event creates a complete inflammatory firestorm in your body.
It's certainly no secret that doing something like I just described or doing a tough Crossfit workout, an endurance race, or a solid bout of weight training causes muscle and body damage. Study after study have proven this to be true (feel free to click here and read one of my favorite “geeked out” papers that shows you the nitty-gritty details on exercise and inflammation).
But here's the very interesting kicker: aside from the massive elevation in HS-CRP, my blood work barely changed – even after being exposed to this brutal protocol.
Probably because I beat my body up so badly during these events, I experienced a slight dip in testosterone and immune cells.
Probably because I ate like a pig after it was all over, I experienced a slight increase in insulin and Insulin-Like Growth Factor.
And for reasons I can't explain but am currently researching, my TSH mysteriously dropped after the races.
But possibly due to my geeked out recovery protocol, and possibly due to the fact that my body was so messed up going into this whole thing that there wasn't really much more damage to be done, this whole back-to-back triathlon thing didn't seem to do much other than cause a crapola of whole body inflammation (which research has shown typically clears up with a week or two).
Now before we get to the heart rate variability scores, and also my plan-of-action to fix my obviously messed up body, let's chat for just a moment about inflammation.
Is Inflammation Bad?
Don't get me wrong.
I'm not saying that you should avoid damaging your body, or that post-exercise inflammation is a bad thing. Research proves time-and-time again that extended exercise programs actually reduce markers of inflammation over the long-term. This is because some degree of inflammation is necessary if you want to get any actual benefit from your workout. Muscle growth (hypertrophy), increased cardiovascular endurance, better strength, higher work capacity and pretty much any benefit of exercise actually occurs because your body gets stronger and better able to handle the inflammatory response to workout.
So every time you recover, your body naturally rebuilds and gets more hardy for the next bout. Hit me and I get back up. Over and over again. Usually stronger.
The problem is that in the absence of proper recovery, round after round of this acute inflammation can eventually become chronic inflammation, and that is when lack of blood flow to tissue, poor mobility, and risk for chronic disease or serious injury set in.
So go back and read what I did in between and after both these races to mitigate inflammation. According to my blood work, that's at least one area of recovery that I'm doing a damn good job with, so I'd recommend you implement at least a few recovery techniques into your own training if you don't want to get bit by injury from chronic inflammation.
Alright, let's move on to what this whole thing did to my nervous system.
Heart Rate Variability (HRV)
Using a phone app, a compatible chest strap, and a phone adapter, I can easily collect HRV measurements with a 5-10 minute reading while I lie in bed each morning. This allows me to constantly asses the health of my nervous system – a key and often ignored component of brain and heart health.
The genius folks at SweetBeat, who you may remember from my podcast on understanding heart rate variability, were kind enough to delve into my HRV data, and here is what they had to say (alert, this is about to get a little “nerdy”, but if you want to understand HRV better, listen to this):
“This first chart shows your HRV around your back to back events. The first 12 days in the graph are from a random chunk of your data from early January of this year.
You can see a downward trend of your HRV in the days leading up to the events.
Note also that your HRV dropped significantly the afternoon after your Half Ironman, though you did recover relatively well the next morning (which was after the Olympic triathlon) – and even more on the 2nd rest day, which says you have a robust and elastic nervous system.
But notice your HRV dropped considerably after the “easy” swim and bike you did in the recovery week after the race. Possibly you were not ready for that level of exercise. It went up again after weightlifting, and then fell again after the swim/bike/run – likely because you were using the same muscular and nervous system components you tapped into during the race.”
“SweetBeat also has a feature that plots your LF (low frequency) and HF (high frequency) power levels. This is important to track for a couple of reasons:
-Higher power in LF and HF represents greater flexibility and a very robust nervous system.
-Sedentary people have numbers in the low 100’s (100-300) or even lower, fit and active people are around 900 – 1800 and so on as fitness and health improve. You can see you have hit 13,000 with HF which says you have lots of rest and repair potential available.
-Tracking LF and HF together illustrates the balance in the nervous system. In general we want the two to be relatively close. When they are not, it may indicate that the body is in deeply rested state (HF is high) or in a stress state (LF is high).
Notice (below) on the days you measured high cortisol, your LF was higher than your HF, showing a stress response. In particular the day before the first race the difference is larger than the Tuesday after, though the LF power on both those days was similar and statistically higher than your usual LF number.”
“Finally note that in the past month, you've had a downward trend in both LF and HF power.”
I've got a healthy and robust nervous system, probably because I do meditation and yoga…
…but my nervous system health has been gradually declining since January, likely due to ever-increasing stress…
…the first race put a huge hit on my nervous system, although I bounced back quickly…
…and if I want my nervous system to recover as fast as possible, I probably should not do as much swimming, cycling and running in the week after a race.
Plan Of Action (e.g. Pulling My Own Parachute)
So finally, here's the moment I know that many of you (especially my lovely wife and dear mother) have been waiting for. What exactly am I going to do about my messed up body? I help lots and lots of people with these kind of issues, and it appears I could be doing a much better job taking care of…me.
Well, I'm a practical, brass-tacks kind of guy, so below is my exact plan of action.
1) My Borderline Anemia
I need to step up consumption of iron-rich foods. I've let my red meat consumption fall by the wayside, and haven't had liver in months (liver is a potent source of highly absorbable iron). We've already started into more red meat consumption (I downed a steak the size of a small child last night) and I've got a big batch of liver on order from US Wellness Meats. In addition, I've started a daily liquid dose of Floradix, a potent and highly absorbable source of iron and ferritin that unlike most iron supplements, does not cause constipation. Finally, I'll continue dosing with X2Performance, because the ATP Disodium in it has been conclusively shown to elevate ATP levels in red blood cells and plasma.
2) My Low Immune Cell Count
This article from WellnessFX has some great data on how to support your immune system through natural methods. In my case, I've ordered high quality astragulus and echinachea tincture from Mountain Rose Herbs, and I'll be using these on a daily basis.
3) My High TSH + High ApoB
This is one that I'll need to dig into a bit more, so I am going to be testing for both Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) with a Metametrix Dysbiosis Panel, and also testing with a more complete thyroid panel from WellnessFX that will include Free and Total T4, Free and Total T3, T3 uptake, Free Thyroxine Index, Reverse T3 and Thyroid Antibodies. This will allow me to get a better grasp of why TSH is high.
In the meantime, I've launched into daily use of iodine and selenium supplementation with this iodine tincture and selenium-packed, mold-free, in-the-shell Brazil nuts. I've also started into a potent oil of oregano for controlling bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, and ordered “Sweetbreads” (yes, edible thyroid glands), from US Wellness Meats.
If it turns out that I do indeed have SIBO (which I suspect may be the case due to the fact that I tend to take an enormously large dump each morning, combined with lots of bloating and gas if I ever eat a significant amount of fermentable carbohydrate), the ketogenic diet I am switching to for the next 3 months will probably be enough to “starve off” the bacteria. In addition, I will be combining that ketogenic diet with this gut healing pack.
4) My Low Testosterone
The Brazil nuts, liver and red meat will help tremendously with this, but I've decided that I should probably get back onto the herbal testosterone support formula I was taking when my testosterone was actually elevated. In my case, this would normally be a product called RenewMale, but they're currently out-of-stock, but I am going to use another very good herbal testosterone product made by fellow trainer Mike Mahler, called “Aggressive Strength”. The steps I'm taking to lower cortisol will also help to raise testosterone.
5) My Low Insulin and Low IGF-1
If I'm serious about getting elevating these numbers (and restoring proper thyroid function), then I need to eat more. Period. This is ultimately a health vs. performance decision: stay light for being fast, or fatten up for being healthy. In my case, I've already started adding extra calories (primarily in the form of calorie-dense coconut oil and coconut products) into my shakes, smoothies and workout nutrition, I must admit that I have already felt more energy – and a bit more sex drive too, interestingly.
6) My High Cortisol and Low Trending HRV Scores
I've already doubled up my use of TianChi, started into daily cold thermogenesis, added a complete rest day each week with very relaxing yoga, started into more deep breathing protocols and meditation. But that's not all it's going to take to save myself from completely stressing out my adrenals. I've also begun to vastly cut back on my work obligations – from article writing to taking on new coaching clients to saying “yes” to new projects. I'm also spending way more time with family, and simply “playing” and relaxing each day. And although I never was a high-strung-stressed-out-guy on the outside, I always had some amount of internal pressure. But I'm already noticing a tangible difference in the way I feel and the way I breathe each day. In other words, I'm letting a lot of steam out of this pressure cooker before it blows up.
Ultimately, this plan-of-action may simply be a band-aid to stop the bleeding until I decide to call it quits on training for a few weeks, a few months, or possibly an entire year off. But at this point, I've painted myself into a Ironman training for Ironman Canada, and until I simply call it quits for awhile, the strategy above is how I'll be mitigating the damage.
And who knows? As you're going to find out at the end of this article, I'm doing a special experiment in which I'll be tracking my biomarkers every single week for the next 12 weeks, and perhaps the steps I've outlined abovef will be enough.
You need look no further than my cortisol levels, TSH, insulin, testosterone, growth factor, creatinine, blood urea nitrogen, white blood cell count, and liver enzymes to see this to be true.
And heck – I actually take care of myself pretty darn well. I sleep 7-9 hours, eat a healthy diet, meditate, and avoid excessive training. Just imagine what someone who doesn't do all those things looks like.
But I'll be the first to admit that despite the healthy measures I take, I'm brutally beating my body up with the sport I've chosen (triathlon), and if you're reading this, you probably are too (Crossfitters – you don't get off that easy – I've seen hundreds of these blood panels and you have the same issues).
The Great Ketogenic Ironman Experiment
So what's next?
Like I mentioned, I'll be answering a ton of blood work questions and questions about this article, my blood work, and my personal recovery plan in a live, video Q&A for my Inner Circle on May 24. Replays will also be available to my members.
But I've got even bigger news than that.
For the next 12 weeks, I am going back into “experimental guinea pig mode” for Ironman Canada in Whistler on August 25 – in what I am calling the “Ketogenic Ironman Experiment”.
Here's how it will work:
I'll be implementing a 100% ketogenic diet, along with:
-weekly Talking20 blood measurements
-daily Sweetbeat HRV measurements
-All the other “underground training methods” I outline in this article.
I'll be presenting the results of the experiment at this year's Ancestral Health Symposium during my panel with Jimmy Moore, Robb Wolf, Mark Sisson, and Jamie Scott. And that will be exactly one week before I take things into the trenches and try to qualify for Kona at Ironman Canada.
For those of you interested in the full nitty-gritty details of this Ketogenic Ironman experiment, I'll be posting regular video updates on my diet, my blood testing results, my training and more to the brand new BenGreenfieldFitness Android and iPhone app when it gets released in just a few days. I'll also be keeping you up-to-date on how my personal recovery plan outlined above is actually affecting my biomarkers.
Stay tuned for more on that new app and the killer content inside it. It's really going to blow you out of the water.
But in the meantime, leave your questions, comments and feedback below – although I'm sure you don't have any after this super quick and short blog post…right?