Introduction: In this podcast, the Central Governor with Dr. Tim Noakes, is non-alcoholic beer healthy, receding gum lines, serum vs. free testosterone, isometric ab exercises, how to raise natural hormone levels in women, and indoor cycling workouts.
Welcome to the Ben Greenfield Fitness podcast. This is Ben Greenfield. I think that last week I told you I'd be podcasting today from the Carribean, but I'm actually not quite there yet. I'm going to be heading down there tomorrow to go race in an event called the Tri-Star Nevus. I actually don’t even know. I should probably figure that out before I get there. But basically, it's a triathlon; it's a 1000m swim, followed by a 100k bike, and a 10k run. So it should be an interesting event, and I will be releasing lots of videos and stories from that over at one of my partner media websites called everymantri.com, so stay tuned for that and by the way, today's interview with Dr. Timothy Noakes is fascinating. It actually really changed the way that I work out and the way that I train. It kind of, it really put up a light bulb in my head and changed some of my previous beliefs about the way that the body responds to pain and intensity, particularly during exercise. So be sure to tune it to that interview if you really want to change your paradigms about exercise and working out and training and competing. I will also have a Q&A of course, so, let's get on to this week's special announcements.
Ben Greenfield: So the first announcement today is that I will be teaching an interactive, live video webinar with Dr. Rick Cohen from Bioletics and the title of this webinar is the Shocking Truth About Vitamin D and Fish Oil. And the purpose of it is to teach you about why both of us believe that Vitamin D and fish oil are two supplements that everyone should be taking. And we're also going to be talking about what goes into making them and how to actually choose Vitamin D and fish oil, how to get tested to see if you actually need them, and pretty much everything you'd ever need to know about these. So I've put a link in the show notes to this episode, Episode # 138 over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com so that you can RSVP for that live video webinar. You're actually gonna be able to ask your question via video and so I would highly recommend that if you plan on participating in this webinar, you go over to the website BenGreenfieldFitness.com to RSVP because it allows you to do a camera and mic check on your computer if you want to ask your questions via video. There are also options during that webinar to ask your questions via a chat box. Now, the date of that is Tuesday, April 12, at 6 o' clock pm, Pacific time. It's going to be about an hour to an hour and a half for anybody who is interested in learning more from other scientific or consumer perspective about Vitamin D and fish oil; why they work, how they work, etc. You aren't going to want to miss the shocking truth about Vitamin D and fish oil. The next thing is that it was just announced yesterday to the athletes who I coached, but it will open up this Friday to the general public and that is my Ironman C’oeur D’alene 2011 Triathlon Training Camp. It's going to be on March 13th through 15th and it's not open for entry yet. But if you want to learn right away when it does become open for entry to the general public, you will need to subscribe to the BenGreenfieldFitness newsletter or follow BenGreenfield on Twitter or go over to the Facebook page for BenGreenfieldFitness and any of those methods will allow you to tune in and be one of the first people to find out when that camp actually opens to the general public. The camp itself is going to take place May 13th through 15th in C’oeur D’alene, Idaho and it will be jam packed with both seminars and workouts and of course a little bit of fun and partying thrown in, to0. So don't miss that and then the last really special announcement here is that as many of you know, my wife, Jessa, and I run a kind a secret section of BenGreenfieldFitness.com called the Ben Greenfield Fitness Inner Circle where we dish out tons of advice on healthy lifestyle; on family fitness tips, on cooking. We do live video webinars each month. Folks inside there have 24/7 access to both Jessa and I to ask questions about everything from cooking and cleaning supplies to fitness and nutrition. We just decided to make that available to anybody who just wants to go check it out for a dollar so you can get in full access to everything 14 days sneak peak for one dollar at the BenGreenfieldFitness.com Inner Circle. So just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/inner circle to check that out.
All right, lets go ahead and start right in to this week’ listener Q and A.
Remember if you have a question to the podcast, you can use the free BenGreenfieldFitness iPhone or android application to ask your question and you can download either of those from the iTunes store or the android app store or you can simply call to 877 209 9439 or you can Skype pacificfit. Any of those methods would allow you to ask your question and of course there's always the handy-dandy Ask Ben form over at the BenGreenfieldFitness.com website. And the first question this week is from listener Jeff.
Jeff asks: Hey Ben, this is Jeff from Tampa, Florida. I have a question for the show. Hey, what's your take on non-alcoholic beer as sort of like a nice little treat in the evenings after work? Is that nutritious? Is the lack of alcohol have issues with the sugar or is there anything like that? Just curious what you think. I have been enjoyed O’douls amber in particular and that's actually pretty tasty. So I appreciate your take. Thanks, man. Bye.
Ben: Alright, so, first of all, let's start with this. Most of the benefits found in alcohol in terms of reducing risk of cardiac disease, stroke, and even Alzheimer's or cognitive decline; most of that is because of the actual alcohol in the beer so you're not going to take a ton of these benefits when you remove alcohol from the beer in terms of the health effects of alcohol itself and from the moderate consumption of alcohol. However, they have had a few studies that show that even low alcohol or no alcohol beer can have some anti-carcinogenic or anti-cancer properties and there's one small study that showed that non-alcoholic beer might mimic some of the cardiovascular benefits associated with regular alcohol containing beer but most of the research suggest that the primary health benefit from beer itself is going to come from the alcohol. Now, they do use brewer's yeast to make both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beer, and that does contain a lot of nutrients, tons of minerals like Magnesium and Potassium; others are a lot of B vitamins in there as well. So you're going to get all these benefits but as far as any type of sugars, added sweeteners, syrups, herbs, extra compounds, anything else that they throw into regular alcoholic beer, all that is still going to be in the non-alcoholic beers. So for example, if you're very sensitive with something like gluten, you know, a non-alcoholic beer is going to mess you up just as much as an alcoholic beer. So the idea that we may make the non alcoholic beer, the important thing is to maintain the flavor of the beer so it tastes really close to beer. So you don't get rid by actually heating up the final product. They typically will remove alcohol either through what's called a vacuum distillation process which basically changes the pressure. It allows you to boil off the alcohol at a lower temperature. The other way that they'll do it is through something called reverse osmosis, which basically involves passing the alcoholic beer through a filter that has tiny, tiny pores that only allow water and alcohol to pass through. So you remove the alcohol and the water and then everything else that's left over, you add back into whatever mixture of sugars and other flavor compounds that you have from the original beer. When you've got your non-alcoholic beer, incidentally, it still does have a little bit of alcohol in it. It can actually contain up to 0.5% alcohol and still be called non-alcoholic, so you're still getting a little bit alcohol in there but ultimately, the only real thing that's different in terms of the content of non-alcoholic beer and alcoholic beer is the alcohol itself. So in terms of whether or not non-alcoholic beer would be healthy for you, even though you do get some of those minerals and some of those B vitamins, ultimately, it's mostly empty calories. You know, it’s very close to just kind of munching on bread after you work out. So it's not doing you a ton of favors, you know, like I mentioned, maybe some of those anticancer properties but it's also not going to be a big issue if you're not supersensitive to something like gluten or you're trying to eliminate things like that from your own diet. The other thing that's important to remember is that if you're doing it because you maybe struggle with alcohol or alcohol addiction or have in the past, there has been some research that shows that any type of anything that even remotely resembles beer can trigger enough of dopamine release in your brain to cause a relapse into a heavy use of alcohol. So over covering alcoholics still would want to be careful with non-alcoholic beer. And as far as O’douls that's fine. There's a ton of other companies out there that make alcohol or non-alcoholic beer, Becks makes one, Coors has a non-alcoholic, Old Milwaukee, St. Pauli has one, and as far as gluten free beers since I did mention that, they're not non-alcoholic but gluten free beers, three of the ones I know are Bard’s Tale Ale is gluten free, and there’s another one that's called Redbridge, that's gluten free and then the Woodchuck ciders, which I actually enjoy quite a bit, high sugar but also gluten free. So great question and our next question comes through from Cara.
Cara says: I read the book Digestive Wellness and the author states that receding gum lines in the mouth are due to bone loss. I eat paleo but I do eat plenty of vegetables and I strength train. Is that enough to prevent bone loss? Should I not supplement with any calcium or should I do something different?
Ben: Well, the idea that receding gum lines in the mouth are due to bone loss is possible, but it's only one of the causes of a receding gum line. You know, everything from over aggressive brushing which kind of wears away some of the enamel of the gum line to kind of abnormal tooth position, eating disorders like bulimia, inadequate brushing, inadequate flossing, any type of gum infection. All of that stuff could result in a receding gum line as well. So essentially, what it comes down to is take care of your mouth. That's very important. But when it comes to not eating dairy, but still eating some plenty of vegetables and strength training, you know dairy is going to be one of your primary sources of calcium and especially for women over 50, but for women in general, that's of course very important. And so, if you aren't consuming dairy, it may be prudent to include the calcium supplement, definitely prudent to include Magnesium supplement, which is a crucial co-factor to allow calcium to work properly and then also look into things like canned fish for example. Canned fish is a great source of calcium incidentally. It also has a really good level of Vitamin D in it, so like sardines, canned salmons. Those contain these tiny little bones that are super soft, you don't notice them, but they're really good sources of calcium. Tofu, if you are okay with soy, would be a decent source of calcium as well because it's made with calcium sulfate, that's what's used as a setting agent for tofu. And even like a half cup of tofu can give you about 50% of your calcium needs. As far as vegetables go, definitely continue to consume those, especially those in cabbage family that's like broccoli, kale, bok choy, cabbage, mustard greens, turnip greens, all of those have a lot of really highly bioavailable calcium in them. So again if you're doing like half cup of a good bok choy that will almost get you a lot of absorbable calcium as a glass of milk. So again, keeping up with those is good. Some foods are fortified with calcium, you know you take something like soy milk or orange juice a lot of times, a lot of those fortified with calcium, unfortunately, there's some other issues with those that mimic them not the best thing to be relying on as a staple in your diet. But from a gum receding standpoint, I would also make sure that you're just taking care of your mouth in general. And as far as taking a calcium supplement, if you have a really solid diet, you could probably get away with not taking calcium supplement and if you're an active heavily sweating individual or woman over 50, you definitely want to make sure you're addressing your calcium needs and probably taking calcium supplement and of course taking magnesium citrate as well something like, Natural Calm is a really natural one. So I'm going to stop there because I'm not a dentist. I do know from our fluoride back lash that we got when we did the fluoride podcast that dentists do listen into the show. So if you're a dentist and you're listening in or into that profession, I'd be happy to pass on to Cara anything that you leave as a comment on this on the show on this podcast, Podcast #138.
Gerry says: I know you've talked about serum testosterone. Is there a direct relationship between serum testosterone levels on the blood and free testosterone levels? My serum testosterone levels are 843.
Ben: Well, the basic idea behind this question is that no matter where your testosterone levels are at, what really matters is how much testosterone is actually bio-available. And your bio-available testosterone would be the actual free testosterone that's present in your blood which only really makes up anywhere from like 1-4% of your blood. And the rest of the testosterone is bound to something. So it's bound to one of two things, it's either bound to albumin which is a protein in your serum in your blood or it's bound to a called sex steroid binding globulin or sex hormone binding globulin. And when you look at the binding between testosterone and albumin, that's not very strong and it's easily reversed. So that counts towards the bio-available testosterone. So the sex hormone binding globulin that binds testosterone far more strongly and you can't count the sex hormone bound testosterone as your actual free bio-available testosterone levels. So typically if you were to get like a serum test, that's testing your total testosterone levels, everything, what's free, what's bound to the sex hormone globulin pretty much everything. And anything that's below 300 from like a morning serum sample is considered to be low. I know 843 is fairly high but again it doesn't give a very good picture of how much of that testosterone is actually free and available for you to use and that's why doing something like a salivary testosterone test gives you a far, far better idea of where your testosterone is at. We've talked about the salivary test before in the show. If you go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com, do a search for testosterone. There’s two different interviews that we've done with one of the world's experts on this, Dr. Cohen. And he talks quite extensively about why it's a good idea to get a salivary testosterone test rather than this total serum blood testosterone test just because what you're testing with that test doesn't give you an idea of how much of your testosterone is actually bio-available and free and how much is bound tightly to this sex hormone binding globulin. So ultimately, what it comes down to is even though your serum testosterone levels are at 843 would be considered high, it still doesn't give you an idea of how that's gonna affect what your body can actually do in terms of its use of bioavailable free testosterone. So I get a salivary test and I recommend every male who really wants to know what they're doing, what their testosterone levels, get a salivary test done.
Julie says: I had back surgery on L4 and L5 a few months ago. My doctor told me to start exercising that recommended avoiding exercising that include a crunching or bending motion. Can you outline effective abdominal and lower back exercises that are isometric?
Ben: So when Julie says isometric that basically means you're contracting the muscles in the abdomen but there's not an actual movement but that's occurring around the joint. So taking like the biceps as an example you could squeeze your biceps and flex without bending your elbow and that's an isometric contraction of the actual biceps. What the means is that your elbow joint isn't undergoing stress but the muscles itself is still being stimulated. So for example, some of the ways that you could do this with some abdominal exercise, first of all, the most popular one would be just a plank. So you get down on your plank position, both feet on the ground or just one foot on the ground. If you elevate one leg, it makes it more difficult and you're just resting on your forearms with your abdominal muscles kind of contracting and squeezed in. Imagining you almost have like a zipper, zipping up your midsection from your sternum to your pelvis, or from your pelvis up to your sternum. You could also do a side plank, so plank variation with a side plank. When you're in the planking position, you can do things. You row in the planking position, you can hold on to a dumb bell and do side raises or front raises in a plank position. You can put quite a bit of stress on the abdominals without bending when you're using the plank position, lying leg holds, where you place both of your hands underneath your low back to support your and then you simply lift your legs off the ground while you're lying on your back. You feel a really strong contraction on your abdominals when you do that. Simply doing a stomach vacuum or stomach flattening exercise when you're driving in your car, sitting on an airplane, sitting at your desk, flattening your stomach, and hold it for 20 seconds then release, that works really well. Anything like a decline hold where you lift your legs as high as possible off the ground and then you slowly lower them and hold them in the most difficult position. Frame rep from 10 to 30 seconds, that's going to put a huge amount of stress on the abs without really hitting the joints too much. And then finally if you wanted to do like a partner based exercise, you can lie flat on the floor with your back on the floor, bring your knees up so its above your hips, so your knees are bend, your hips are bend and then you have somebody put their hands in your sheens and push down hand from anywhere like 10 to 30 seconds and if you contract your abs, you're going to try to resist your heels from dropping if somebody pushes down on your sheens. That's a really good partner based isometric abs exercise. And then the last thing that you could look into, would be something like one of these electro stimulation devices. I have one and I have used it on my abdominals before. You sit on a chair You’ve win the team contracts and tighten up your abs. Your goal is to not let your back bend. And so that works really well to strengthen the low back as well as the abdominals without really causing you to bend that joint, so that's called an electro stimulation device. You can get them for like 70 bucks and they can only cost as much as a thousand dollars if you get one with like a preset programs, and that type of thing. Not totally necessary to get one with the preset program but it certainly does give you a little more versatility in terms of your workout.
Liz asks: My question is essentially about menstruation and hormone level. And I'm 33 year old, active and female. I run an average of about 40 miles a week. Sort of qualified for Boston and that is primarily due to your Marathon Dominator package which is absolutely stellar. I have recommended it to anyone. I'm pretty lean and 117 to 120 lbs. And I stopped getting my period by a year and a half ago and although irregular menstruation runs in my family, somewhat, it used to be a three month thing, but this is unusual and it did, and I give up my fitness level body about a year and a half and I've catch that up and so it coincide with that, and my general fitness level definitely and my weight had gone down in that time frame as well and my doctor recently prescribed a 10-day dose of progesterone to induce the period and he’s saying that he prefers that I get my period east three times a year, so I’m wondering if you can offer any nutritional guideline for helping to raise my hormone level naturally.
Ben: Well, this is a big issue among female athletes, the amenorrhea or loss of the period due to drop in hormones associated with that increased level of activities, especially common in endurance athletes and of course the #1 recommendation that I give to women who are in this category is to increase overall caloric consumption, especially focused on higher consumption of fats specifically from things like avocados, coconut milk, seeds and nuts to a limited extent and lots of Mediterranean based healthy fats. You can also consume foods that contain natural amounts of progesterone which we'll talk about in a second that this doctor has put you on, for example eggs, specifically the yolk of the eggs and dairy products both contain some amounts of natural progesterone. Walnuts have a good amount of Vitamin B6, so do any cereal or whole grain that’s fortified with Vitamin B6, again, I'm not a huge fan of heavy consumption of especially cereals and the whole grains but B6 is good for maintaining your estrogen progesterone balanced. Zinc, just like it helps with testosterone in guys, it can be essential to help you produce adequate levels of progesterone, so high Zinc foods like consuming red meat, shellfish, chicken, turkey, all of that can help with your progesterone levels and then curries, anything that has turmeric is going to help with the body's progesterone levels as can a couple of other herbs particularly thyme and oregano. So I would be looking at including those compounds in your diet and then when it comes to progesterone in particular, what that is, it's that a steroid hormone and it's made by your ovary and it's made a little bit by your adrenal glands as well and it's a precursor to a bunch of other steroid hormones and so it plays a very , very important role and it essentially balances out estrogen, kind of like magnesium balances out calcium, think that progesterone balances out estrogen and if you don't have estrogen balanced out, then you create a strong risk for yourself for things like breast cancer, or reproductive cancer and it's also essential to have a proper hormonal balance so that you are able to have your period. Now a lot of doctors will prescribe non-natural progesterone replacement specifically something called progestin via a medication called Provera, and that unfortunately, has a lot of undesirable side effects and it's not natural. However, you can get your hands on natural progesterone. My wife actually uses it. She finds it helps her tremendously with drop of energy, with headaches and with some of the symptoms of PMS, and she uses that progesterone cream at a certain time period during her cycle. And it helps tremendously with that. So it's a natural progesterone cream, it's very different than a non- natural Provera medication. The progesterone creams themselves, they're applied to the skin, they're extremely fat soluble, so they're absorbed well through anywhere where you find the blush for example, for that means you got like capillaries, so like your face, your neck, your chest, your breasts, your inner arms, the palms of your hands. All of those are good places for application of something like a progesterone cream and it's basically for the most part extracted from the plant fats or plant oils. Mexican wild yams are one of the primary sources, soybeans are another. You can actually chemically synthesize progesterone in the lab, too, from a precursor for most of these natural creams and lotions are made from something like a wild yam extract. The dosage varies, I'm not a doctor so I'm not going to dish out dosage on the show. You know I tell my wife how much to take but that's because she is my wife and she's not going to sue me if I tell her how much progesterone she should take. So that's something you need to talk to your doctor about. I can also point you to a great resource and all this stuff, go to johnleemd.com. John Lee is reading a bunch of books basically entitled things like what your doctor won't tell you about menopause and he is a great resource in terms of finding out more about this topic, but I would definitely look into using a progesterone cream. And by the way, my wife is an endurance athlete and she 100% regular in terms of her periods and I attribute a great deal of that success that she's had to her consumption of higher levels of good fats and the use of this progesterone cream. I hope that helps.
Chris says: Indoor bike sessions are painful and I would rather be outside. My question to you is how long is the fair enough of time to spend on a bike trainer and what can of drills, intervals, etc., can I do on the trainer?
Ben: I agree indoor bike sessions because you don't have birds and trees and wind in your hair, and all that jazz, can be pretty boring, even when you have a movie on or your favorite music, they still kind creep by pretty slowly. The nice part is that because you're not interrupted, you're not stopping at stop sign or stop lights or cruising, you can actually get a lot more done during an indoor bike session than you can when you are outdoors. So typically you can take the amount of time that you spend on indoor bike trainer and multiply that by about 1.2 to get the equivalent of how much you would have ridden outdoors if you ride for say like you know an hour inside that can count for like an hour and ten minutes in terms of this translation to outside riding. You know, I've spent an hour on indoor trainer, I've spent at the four hours on an indoor trainer when training for Iron man and as far as drills, intervals etc., I'll give you my favorite drill workout and my favorite indoor trainer workout. For a drill workout, what I like to do is basically do single leg pedaling efforts followed by super fast cadence efforts. So what I'll do is I’ll warm up on the bike and I'll go anywhere from 30 to 60 seconds of just the right leg, then 30 to 60 seconds of just the left leg, and then 30 to 60 seconds of pedaling with both legs. Now, when I'm pedaling with just one leg, I don't remove the other leg from the pedal, I instead de-weight it. So imagine I have pins and needles on the pedal of the side that I'm not trying to pedal with and I'm trying to make those pins and needles, imagine that they would pierce my foot if I put pressure on that pedal. So I'll go right side, left side to both sides and go through that anywhere from to six times. And then what I'll do is some super fast spin efforts that really train your body have efficiently recruit muscles, so I'll do something like ten by one hundred plus rpm efforts each one lasting for 20-30 seconds. And that can really improve your efficiency on the bike. Now as far as an actual interval training session, I going to tell you to one that I did yesterday. It's a great one for kind of easing you into intensity. Okay, on the bike, I'll do an 8 minute warm-up, and then I'll do 2 minutes hard like at a real tempo, you know 85% intensity pace and the I'll do 7 minutes easy, 3 minutes hard, 6 minutes easy, 4 minutes hard, 5 minutes easy, 5 minutes hard, and go all the way through until I get into basically 1, going to 1 minute easy and then the final 9 minutes hard. Great workout and it's a nice little ladder and you can do it for anywhere, you know, from 30 minutes all the way up to if you can do a full workout, you can be up there for longer than an hour. So lots of ways you can go with indoor bikes sessions, you know, as any of my clients that I coached will tell you during the winter, they get a great deal of variety in terms of the indoor bike sessions but they always have that one workout during the week for you're just at that aerobic heart rate training yourself with the intensity that you're going to have to sustain during the race itself and sometimes you're just there for two hours watching a movie. So I think this is a great, great question that's kind of segue into the discussion with Dr. Tim Noakes, on training and racing and the Central Governor Theory. So fascinating interview, I really enjoyed this one. We're going to have a special message and then go straight into that interview.
Hey folks! This is Ben Greenfield and as promised I am here with Dr. Timothy Noakes, who is in South Africa, Professor of Exercise and Sports Science at the University of Cape Town. The man himself has multiple studies and multiple books to his name, the most popular being the running book called “The Lure of Running” which is one of the most comprehensive guides to that particular sport that you will ever find. And he himself has run more than 70 marathons and ultra marathons, so very accomplished author and athlete, Dr. Noakes, thank you for coming on the call today. ”
Dr. Noakes: My pleasure, thanks for having me, Ben.
Ben: One of the things that you are most well-known for that seems to be popping up more and more in the news these days is something called the Central Governor Model. Can you describe what the Central Governor Model actually is?
Dr. Noakes: Yes, Ben. The basic philosophy behind the Central Governor Model is that the body's function and performance during exercise is a regulated process. This conflicts with the traditional explanation which is that the body has its limitations and then when you exceed those limitations, the system fails and you get tired, as a consequence you stop running. Now, the reality is that the human body could not be designed in that way. We couldn't run to the point where catastrophe occurs and then we stop. There has to be a control mechanism that over a period of about 20 years researchers slowly going that the old limitations model simply don't work; that humans don't run to the point of failure; that empty brain anticipates what's going to happen in the future and since a basic strategy that allows you to get to the finish of whatever you're doing, be it your training session or race it’s cool in perfect health and good condition. Essentially, what the Central Governor Model, it says that the brain regulates all performances; make sure that you get to the finish line in homeostasis that means that the bodily systems will balance. And before the basic catastrophic failure they can face absolutely with the traditional explanation. This is a brainless model which means that you exercise to the point when the system breaks down and then you stop and that is what’s making it a Brainless Model.
Ben: So, this Brainless Model, if I could interrupt briefly, why does the Brainless Model propose that people become fatigued during exercise? How would that model propose that fatigue occurs?
Dr. Noakes: Well, what that model says is that there's some limiting condition or limiting factor in any exercise. So for example, if we put you on a treadmill and make you run faster, and faster and faster or for example, we have you run 400 and 800 meters, the reason why you stopped is because you run out of oxygen that supplies the muscles and the muscles become anaerobic. The lactic acid then impairs the function of the muscles causing the fatigue and so you stop. Or unless you will be running on a marathon, you hit the wall when you run out of glycogen. The system has learned to support control and it allows you run as long as you can until the system fails, so what physiology expect the last 50 or 80 years doing, is trying to define what's the limiting factor in the whole condition and that never occur in the brain, and will very seldom occur at the brain some other biological process in the body, which doesn’t include the function of the brain.
Ben: Now, to me it does seem to make a little bit of sense what you're proposing because in other situations it does seem like the body will protect the brain with something like, say, hypoglycemia, the way that I understand is that is that the body will kind of shut glucose over to the brain, as with the brain being the preferential organ. How does the body actually work in the sense of regulating exercise, when it comes to the brain? I mean, what goes on the neural level to actually hold you back from complete fatigue during exercise?
Dr. Noakes: Great question. The brain is there to protect itself and at the same time it protects the body because if the body breaks down, the brain breaks down, so the brain is incredibly selfish and looks after itself. But now let's take the example that when you're exercising and you were at the risk of running out of oxygen to the muscle, at same time, the brain is getting a blood supply so it’s getting oxygenated and the brain will make sure that it doesn’t itself has run out of oxygen. We think that perhaps during maximum exercise, what the brain is actually sensing is its own blood and oxygen supply, and it protects that absolutely. Now, how does it protect it? Well, it protects it by only recruiting or activating a certain mass of muscles. Now, what no one ever tells you is that when you run faster, the first thing that happens is the brain must activate a larger muscle mass. Then the heart comes along and pumps more oxygen to the muscles but no one ever tells you that the reason why Haile Gebrselassie is such a great runner because he recruits better muscles and perhaps more muscles than any one else in the world. They say, “Oh because he transports more oxygen.” Of course, he does. But that’s not the cause, that's the consequence. And the cause is the brain activates the muscles. Everyone knows that if you want to lift a heavy weight, you must activate more muscles and eventually the brain says hold on, you can't activate more muscles because if you do, you’re going to rupture the muscles and you're going to break the bones. It says, no, you can't recruit more muscles. To run faster, you recruit more muscles up to the point at which recruiting more muscles will threaten the brain and the rest of the body and there puts damage. When the brain says hold, what the brain says is hold on. If you activate this much muscle for this long, something's going to go wrong, so we won’t allow that to happen. That's the way the brain protects itself and the rest of the body from damage.
Ben: Now I know that many people believe that the heart is kind of the big important part of the body. It sounds like you're kind of saying that the brain predominates, but I believe that many people think that the idea of fatigue occurs with the heart rate getting very high and being unable to deliver oxygen to the muscles. How does that philosophy does jive with the Central Governor Model that you've described?
Dr. Noakes: Well, absolutely, you have to protect the heart and the heart is at great risk and in fact, it's one of the best ways that disproving the other model, that if the heart ever would reach the limit, in other words, it can't pump anymore blood, the first muscle to be affected would be the heart itself. Then the heart cannot ever reach a maximum heart performance and the heart would suffer and you will die as a consequence and we see that every few weeks. A patient with heart disease exercises to the point where they overstress the heart, there's not enough blood getting to the heart and they die as a consequence. They don't die because not enough blood is getting into the muscles, they die because not enough blood is getting to the heart, so the brain would never ever, ever, ever allow the heart to reach its maximum capacity, otherwise you would die. So that's one of the protective mechanisms. But of course, everyone knows that when you run a marathon, you don't run at an excellent cardiac output and you don't run at an excellent heart rate. Anyone can ever say that the heart limits performance during endurance doesn’t make any sense. So what we believe, we believe that the sensations of fatigue are actually completely unrelated to what's going on in the rest of the body or maybe tells you how close you are to the finish. That's clear, those sensations of discomforting fatigue lies as a linear function of how close you are to the finish and it starts right from the start of exercise and that in the sense tells us that the brain already knows when it's going to stop you almost as it stops. And this something occurs during the activity that is gonna make it more difficult for you to finish where fatigue sensation will rise and you will slow down as a consequence.
Ben: Now, oh go ahead.
Dr. Noakes: So, we don't see fatigue as a physical phenomena; we see it purely as an emotion and that's one of the great benefits of this model because it tells you, however bad you feel, it's actually just your brain playing the trick on you. And try to make sure that you don't damage yourself. Once you understand that, it becomes so much easier to exercise in my view and certainly helped my career to become a good runner, but certainly I find it much easier to try it and to compete knowing that the sensation to try to fool myself and I should perhaps try to control them and then I will be able to run faster.
Ben: So when we look at this from a training perspective, obviously, we don't want to completely neglect doing things like, you know, training your body to have more muscular endurance because I don't think you're saying that you don't need to train but would training based on this model only involve some type of mental or emotional training or do you actually also try to train to help your body to recruit more muscles so that the brain fatigues less quickly or both?
Dr. Noakes: Absolutely, I think, that the great coaches have always known that they’re really trying to frame up the body but maybe they haven't put it that way, and so they use all these techniques that will make it, make you believe you can do a little bit more than before when you started. So when someone describes coaching, it's merely bringing someone in another design of effort that they don’t believe they could achieve. And the best in what you do, you keep pushing harder and harder and you slowly tell the brain that actually can do so. So that's the focus of training and we do it all the time, that when we’re training for marathon, we slowly increase the distance until eventually we believe we can do it and once you put yourself believing you can do it, then it happens.
Ben: Do you believe that a greater amount of intensity or a greater amount of volume is best for helping to reduce this Central Governor fatigue that you've described?
Dr. Noakes: I think intensity is the key and that if you look back and go off running, I think that the great runners were the ones who trained with the highest intensity. It wasn't the one who did the most volume.
Ben: And why is that?
Dr. Noakes: Because I think they teach themselves, they teach the brain that it can cope with the extra efforts and that they simply slowly get there since signs of fatigue slightly less. I have a lovely story from one of the good things that the Governor predicts, is that if you have a running race in any particular race and the distance between the first and the second runner is inches or few feet then it's clear that the second runner chose to lose, he chose to become second and he'll say how do you know that? And it's simple the athlete could have done and all model tell us that we have reserves and why couldn't we activate that reserve? But why does the brain said no? And the brain says no because in the most circumstances, an athlete couldn't convince himself that it was important to go even more. So they produce more discomfort than actually they need and they accept coming second.
Dr. Noakes: Now what we used to say is the guy who comes second hasn't trained hard enough and they put too much lactic acid in his heart he’s not pumping enough oxygen, and so on and so forth. So what do you do? You train the guy harder when that's not you can understand why did that guy accept becoming second? What was it in his make up that came from his childhood and his training and what he how sees himself that cause him to come second? And that's the real question, because it's not training and its not physiology that makes you come second under those circumstances. It is a mental choice you make, probably the subconscious level. And you know I have many videos where the moment of truth, that's the key in this event, that's the moment of truth. What's the guy thinking when he quits and the difference is the guy who loses says I can't do it and then they can't do it whereas, the winners say I can do it and they do it. And what determines that is the key to superior hormones.
Ben: When it comes to recruiting these motor units in teaching your body how to neurally activate more muscles in training, so that perhaps you may be able to go a little bit harder, a little bit longer during the race. Do you think that athletes who are training in a fatigued state or say, you know, an endurance athlete will be a perfect example who's pushing himself every day, is actually holding himself back in terms of allowing their body to be in a state to actually recruit as many muscles as possible during the training session for the day?
Dr. Noakes: Absolutely, so that the intensity comes down and the intensity is the key in my view because that teaches the brain that it can go a bit harder and so I'm not suggesting that you can ever do away with distance training but if you read, and as I said, the great runners are the ones who did the highest intensity training and they did enough endurance training but not too much. And I think that the average runner and the classic example of the average runner in my career, I also thought that you can get away with just endurance training because I think a lot of athletes are trying to train than actually train to race.
Dr. Noakes: And it's a very few athletes who really train to race, most of us love racing because it gives us excuse to train. We train and train and train and it's much easier to train with your friends than talk to them and chat and so on and so forth. They want to do the intense training but if you want to change how your brain functions, I think you have to do a good proportion must be the high intensity. And when we study the best South African runners, like runners in South Africa, they were training at a much higher intensity and the sort of second run of athletes.
Dr. Noakes: I think if you look, if you look at the Kenyan, they have a different attitude and they push behind intensity.
Ben: In a moment, I want to ask you about good mental tricks that you can use during the race to take advantage of something like this but just on a personal note and on a coaching note, you know one of the things that I found to really help my running that I literally changed this year was I switched to 2 kind of longer one hour runs that I went on during the week to a 10 X 10 treadmill sprints for 20 to 30 seconds and I actually gain speed and gained endurance and it seems that the athletes who I coach who limit their volume and when they get more time, they go harder instead of going longer seem to do better. So it's interesting, a lot of athletes seem to jive with what you're saying. Now, during the race when you get to the race and you are in a “pain cave”, are there things that you can do to actually get your Central Governor to shutdown a little less quickly.
Dr. Noakes: Well, two weeks ago I was with Ron Lawson who has run these small triathlon three times. He's a Swedish ultra marathon runner. In fact he’s ride across the Atlantic. When people say tell me why did he do it? He said you know, it’s a 218 marathon, it’s 218 miles upon us. We hadn't achieve what he achieved. His brain sees things slightly differently than the rest of us and I'm not sure quite what those differences are but when they get discomfort, I don't think that they see it as pain and discomfort in the same way in the others' minds. They see it as a challenge, that's to lose the feature of the sport, but you carry on. And that's what you have to see, the pain is kind to be absolutely individual. No one has ever really studied how do I feel pain and how do you feel pain. But the Central Governor says that it's your unique brain which is producing unique symptoms in you, and you need to learn how to cope with those symptoms, and your brain will be slightly differently than my brain endurance and I suspect that the best runners have gone a different way of handling that discomfort. And so, I don't know what the answers are but all I can say is that if you realize that it's your brain playing the trick on you and you start talking yourself in those context, I think it gets easier to end. Because now you can understand what’s actually going on. Your brain is trying to make sure you don’t damage yourself. The answer is you still can get faster, but you can only go faster if you can control your core thinking process. And that’s the game. The beauty of running is that it’s all about emotion control and mind control.
Ben: Okay, got you. I've got just a couple more of questions for you. The first is kind of interesting. Do you actually do anything like lifting weights or resistance training to improve neural activation or recruitment more of your motor units for endurance training?
Dr. Noakes: Okay, I don't, firstly but I absolutely believe that it should. So let's now get back with what makes a great runner. So what makes a great runner is the incredibly powerful carb and powerful muscles. If you don't have powerful muscles, you can't run fast. But now, that's no one has ever said that I'm sure on your show. They always say, you have to have a high cardiac rate. Nonsense. But first, you must have an incredibly powerful muscle that can drive you off the ground because the limiting factor in running is your contact time the foot's on the ground. So to be a great runner, your foot must ever, ever, ever be on the ground. It must be on the ground for a millisecond, and it must be, it must shoot you off the ground and propel you to space. Now, the great runners, their feet are never on the ground, and when on the ground, they're on the ground for an instance. And so, your peak speed is determined by how much you can reduce your contact time. To have a short contact time, you have to have an incredibly powerful muscles. Now, but in addition, if you have incredibly powerful muscles, but the rest of the system doesn't work, so that when you activate too much muscle, it's breaking the homeostasis of your heart or your lungs or whatever for your muscles, you're not going to run fast so that's not going to help. You have to have every thing in synch. But ultimately, you got to have very strong muscles. And so you must also develop strength for the muscles. And my colleagues, have done many studies showing that right timing and specific eccentric training does improve your running performance. Yes, you have a great cardiovascular system but if you don't have the muscles to power you to run through space, you're not going to run fast.
Dr. Noakes: And people make a mistake as I look at the Kenyans leg and I see it's so swollen, it's so lean and they can produce enormous forces and without that you can't run fast.
Ben: What type of research is going on right now in this area? Is there anything that's cutting edge or new or anything that you're involved in that you want to tell people about?
Dr. Noakes: We're doing brain imaging studies and these are very difficult to do for a number of reasons and firstly, the equipment is expensive and so what we do is, we agreed that secondly the brain moves, so the head moves, and so you’re going to stop the head movement to measure or to get the imaging of what structures in the brain are active. And we spent the last year developing a system where we can get people to cycle to their maximum, what's keeping their heads stop? That sounds silly but in the equipment that we use, we live it. What we hope to show is which part of the brain becomes active and we hope to show that the sense we lost become active. And that they become more active the harder you exercise. And then it's these sensory parts that are inhibiting the motion parts. So in the past people have looked at it. As you run faster, you're recruiting more muscles. We tried to look at which part of the sensory control mechanisms.
Ben: Well, I'm looking for the same, what actually goes on with that. This is fascinating, fascinating topic, fascinating area of research. Dr. Noakes, I know you have a lecture to head off to, so I'd like to thank you for coming on a call today and sharing some of this research in the Central Governor Model with us.
Dr. Noakes: It's been a great pleasure, Ben. I must tell you, I've been trying to speak to one of the local state Rugby teams. By the way, we just coined American football to be the greatest and one of the most complex sport in the world, greatest coaches, greatest athletes. We just study everything you guys do and try to apply to our game. But anyway the point is I'm going to speak to discuss about self belief and how self belief is so critical in determining an outcome.
Ben: Self belief is so critical in determining their what?
Dr. Noakes: To determine the outcome. Like you’re doing. That’s what I’ve come to believe from looking out and try regulate exercise performance.
Ben: So big transfer over from your research not just endurance sports, but also some of these team sports.
Dr. Noakes: Absolutely and the video clips I have are of Michael Phelps swimming and Jason Lee's out swimming there 4 x 100, and he’s swimming out of his socks. You can’t explain how he does it. And that's just astonishing and it's had to be in his brain and nowhere else.
Ben: Well, Dr. Noakes, thank you for your time today.
Dr. Noakes: A pleasure to be on your show.
Dr. Noakes: Bye bye.
Ben: Well folks, despite the somewhat canny audio from Dr. Noakes, I hope that you picked up as much as I did from that interview. Remember, mark it on you calendars, Tuesday, April 12 is the shocking truth about Vitamin D and fish oil with Dr. Rick Cohen. I put a link to that in the show notes and have of course put a link to everything I talked about including Tim's books. In the show notes this episode – Episode 138 at the BenGreenfieldFitness.com. Remember that a 14 day sneak peak at the Ben Greenfield Fitness Inner circle is available for $1 over at Ben Greenfield inner circle and as usual, the free Ben Greenfield iPhone apps, and android apps are available in those stores, tons of cool stuff in this and of course if you're a triathlete, stay tuned to the newsletter, the Facebook page or Ben Greenfield on Twitter to learn about the 2011 Iron Man C’oeur D’Alene training camp coming up May 13th through 15th. It's limited to 20 people. All you athletes that I coached got first dibs on it a few day ago, your chance will be coming up here in a couple of days. So until next time, this is Ben Greenfield signing out from BenGreenfieldFitness.com.
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