Introduction: In this episode, what is a good pregnancy exercise routine, supplementing with citrulline, should you worry about high cholesterol, is kombucha okay, diabetes diet recommendations, liquid food diets, does co-enzyme Q10 increase your metabolism, can you turn white fat into brown fat, and acid reflux during exercise?
Ben: Hey, folks, this is Ben Greenfield and whether you’re a man or a woman you should be aware that much of what we’re taught these days about pregnancy and exercise is wrong, so whether you or your wife or your mom or your daughter or anybody else, is expecting a child or maybe they just had a child, this is a can’t miss podcast. To learn more about exercise, pregnancy, and nutrition, I receive lots of questions about this so I figured that it’s high that we actually got an expert, in this case Cassandra Forsythe on to talk about this. Now, in addition before we launch into this week’s special announcements, I would like to give a big shout out to the people who, this week, donated a dollar to the podcast or in some cases more, to help keep the podcast alive and you can do that by clicking on the big “donate a dollar” podcast button over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com, so big thanks to Veda, Luke, Bob, William, Paul, Camille, Richard, Elise, Digit, Peter, Ronnie, Julie, Keith, John, Reese, Kyle, Paul, Aldo, Heathe, Cynthia, Mark, and Todd for their generous donations this week to help, basically, pay the Amazon hosting expenses to keep streaming this podcast to you. Alright, let’s go ahead and jump in this week special announcements.
Ben: Well, not a ton of special announcements today, just a couple quick things for you tri- athletes out there who still want to get in to the Ironman triathlon camp that I’m teaching in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho in May, from May 13th to 15th, there still time to get into that but you’ve only got about three days left to register so you can go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com, click on the show notes to register or go to pacificfit.net and head over to the calendar there to register and get in to that camp that’s going to include tons of swim clinics, guided bike rides, running clinics, seminars and lots of good times including a kick butt post camp party, so be sure to check that out. And then also, the last two weeks we have had KC Kraichy come on to talk about the book that I highly recommend called “Super Health: The Last Diet You’ll Ever Need”, and again, I do have twelve autographed copies of that, that I will give out to anybody who uploads a video to the Ben Greenfield Fitness Facebook page or put a link to a video at the Ben Greenfield Fitness facebook page in which you tell me why you feel that book could actually help you based on what you learned in those interviews with KC. Alright, let’s go ahead and have one quick announcement and then move on to this week’s listener Q and A.
Ben: Remember, if you have a question, you can call toll free to 877 209 9439 and leave your question via audio, you can use the free iPhone or Android app which you can download at BenGreenfieldFitness.com and just click the handy-dandy Ask Ben button right there on the app or you can use the Ask Ben form over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com and of course, if you follow Ben Greenfield on twitter, you can do what our first listener did and ask your question via twitter.
Chunkybearcub asks via twitter: What do you think of citro- aid, a citrulline amino acid supplement?
Ben: Well, citrulline is pretty interesting stuff, and first of all, let me say before I tell you about it, that I do take citrulline prior to some of my tougher triathlons, I load with this compound called citrulline. So basically, what citrulline is it’s an amino acid, it’s a non-essential amino acid which means that your liver can make it from other amino acids from your diet, but it is a precursor to something called arginine. And when citrulline is metabolized by your body, it can create arginine, and one of the things that’s kicked off when that happens is nitric oxide. And nitric oxide can help to increase blood flow, it could help with some of your glucose, your oxygen uptake, it could even assist with the ability to increase your propensity to oxidize fatty acids. So that’s one way that citrulline can help, is it can increase the nitric oxide production when it’s converted into this other component called arginine. Citrulline, when its converted into arginine, also helps to remove some nitrogen bi-products and ammonia build up from exercise, which could also help reduce overall acidity in a muscle and fatigue, and a citrulline is typically bound to something called malate. And malate is capable of acting in basically like a shuttle between your self fluid and your mitochondria, which is the little piece of machinery that make energy within your cell and what this does, is it helps your body to convert lactic acid into or back into usable energy more quickly. So, there’s few different ways that citrulline could work or that citrulline malate could work and interestingly, there haven’t been a ton of great studies on citrulline until recently, there was a pretty good one that came out in the journal strength and conditioning research and this was in April of 2010, so almost a year ago now and it found that citrulline actually really helped with anaerobic performance and also to relieve muscle soreness and in this case, anaerobic performance was actually a weight training protocol and not necessarily like running or bicycling or something like that, but it does show some good promise and it could be one of those things, you know, kind of like creatine where it becomes a more popular supplement based on ongoing research that shows it to be promising but I definitely noticed that it helps with reducing some muscle burn, specifically before the swim starts. Some of the triathlons I do or during the intense swim starts in some of the triathlons that I do. The particular supplement that you ask about, the citro aid, the only issue with it, you know, it is a citrulline compound, the only issue with it is it does have some mannitol and some xylitol which are sugar alcohols and those can cause some stomach distress on people, also some gas and bloating during exercise so, you may want to make sure that you try it to see if your body actually agrees with it. But ultimately, it’s something that I recommend trying, out especially for more intense exercise sessions.
Helen says: Can I ask about my friend who has a medical lab result with the following areas of concern?
Ben: And then she throws a bunch of values out and first of all, I’m not a doctor I mean, when you send me blood lab results, it’s a little bit tricky for me cause I’m not a doctor and I can’t go out and give you medical advice, but I can help you out a little bit and just point you in the general direction. So, the first value that she throws out that her friend has was this value called MCHC and if you ever get a complete blood count usually its going have an MCHC on there and that’s just the reflection of your hemoglobin concentration and specifically the amount of hemoglobin that you have relative to the number of red blood cells that you have and in this case, this individuals hemoglobin or MCHC was at about thirty one and the normal range per grams, per deciliter, which is the values that she gave me was about thirty-one to thirty-six. So, you know, it’s a little bit low in terms of what I would personally do like, if my hemoglobin were a little bit low, is I would focus on consuming iron rich foods and also making sure that I specifically prioritize iron rich foods that contain adequate protein so, things like eggs, things like some dairy sources typically like you know, an organic grass fed cow’s milk, or yogurt would be really good, some cheeses would be okay, but iron along with protein is a good choice along with Vitamin C, to facilitate the absorption of the iron. Vitamin B actually can help to increase the hemoglobin level so taking a Vitamin B complex or including Vitamin B fortified foods along with high consumption of fruits and vegetables. Beets, interestingly, has had a lot of good research lately especially in terms of sports performance and those do stimulate hemoglobin production and can help with red blood cell production as well. So, that’s something that I would focus on is making sure that you’re getting lots of iron rich food but that you’re also getting Vitamin B complex, getting in some Vitamin C, and then taking in adequate protein. You also talk about the Gamma GTP and that’s one of these liver enzymes and the Gamma GTP was at 167, and basically what this is, is it’s a liver enzyme, it’s actually gamma glutamyl transferase and liver enzymes, when they’re elevated like this is, can be indicative of some type of liver disease or even inflammation of the bile ducts sometimes psoriasis can cause this issue, high alcohol consumption can cause this issue, but interestingly with this test, a lot of times in athletes who are very active individuals, liver enzymes can actually be elevated and it’s not a cause of concern. We’ve talked about this a little bit a few weeks ago. But they have to go hand in hand with some other indications that there are issues going on with the liver. So that could include like a lot of weakness, a lot of fatigue, a loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, jaundice kind of a yellow colored skin, any type of abdominal swelling, abdominal pain, really dark urine, lots of itching, you can’t just take like an elevated liver enzyme and say that there’s a big issue going on with the liver. So, for example, if your friend exercises a lot, that could be enough to cause his GGT. Even something as simple as consuming alcohol the night before the test, you know, like a couple of glasses of wine could also cause this issue. So, something that you want to look at with a host of other issues and not all by itself. But again, not a huge red flag by itself. Then finally, the cholesterol is at a 4.6 and total cholesterol at 6.7 and that’s a millimoles per liter, those are typically, you know, the type of values we’re going to see internationally, not here in the States, but you know, according to, you know for example, over in the UK where they have the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence and the Department of Health which are, kind of our version of our health institute over here in the US. Basically that would be considered high, because total cholesterol is supposed to be less than five and LDL cholesterol is supposed to be less than three and your values are above that. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a high risk or a problem from a cardiovascular stand point. The idea with this cholesterol issue is that it dates pretty far back to a guy named Ancel Keys and a 7- country study that this guy did back in the 50’s and what this study was, was it was an epidemiological study that compared saturated fat consumption and the prevalence of heart disease in seven different countries and there seems to be this direct correlation between saturated fat consumption and the prevalence of heart disease that led Ancel Keys and the health professionals who made dietary recommendations based on Ancel Keys’ studies to believe that we should be limiting saturated fat if we want to avoid heart disease. However, there are a lot confounding variables in these studies that were done back in the fifty’s 50’s. So for example, in some countries where the heart disease rate and the saturated fat consumption was high, there were a bunch of other things going on and that could affect heart disease like smoking, pollution, unclean water, different lifestyle and activity levels, more sedentary levels of activity. So basically, there were a lot of confounding variables and there was also a lot of cherry picked data. So for example, Ancel Keys studied seven countries or reported on seven countries, but he studied twenty-two different countries in that report and if you look at the graph from all twenty-two countries, there is no correlation at all between heart disease and saturated fat consumption. So, only the seven countries kind of handpicked for the study results show this direct link between saturated fat and heart disease and then, interestingly, the same guy, Ancel Keys, published another study in which he suggested that there was a direct link between saturated fat consumption and cholesterol levels in the blood, which there actually is, but he then took the leap that this high saturated fat diet that potentially could increase the cholesterol would cause heart disease, which again is not the issue. And his findings were really, widely criticized when they came out and even the American Heart Association was not really in agreement with his idea, that saturated fat and cholesterol consumption correlated with heart disease or that increasing the consumption of vegetable oil, which is the other thing that he suggested, would reduce heart disease. But what happened was in the early 60’s, the American Heart Association kind of changed its view and began to recommend that we reduce saturated fat and cholesterol, that we stop eating things like natural butter or you know, beef or egg yolks or full fat milk or any of these things and replace them with higher carb, lower fat equivalents and also vegetables or seed based oils. And between the time that the American Heart Association in the 50’s kind of criticized Ancel Keys’ findings and the time in the 60’s when they actually started to agree with what he was saying, there weren’t any big trials that were done or big studies that were done that suddenly proved what Ancel Keys was saying was right. All that really happened was there were some changes in the make up of the American Heart Association’ board, including the addition of Ancel Keys himself to the actual board. And from that point on, the American Heart Association started recommending this diet that’s low in total fat, that’s low in saturated fat and cholesterol and that’s high in carbohydrates and also high in grains and high in these vegetable oils. And here’s the issue, if you have high cholesterol, it’s a big issue from an inflammatory stand point and a risk of cardiovascular disease stand point, if that high cholesterol or if that high saturated fat intake diet is accompanied by other elements that can increase inflammation, increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. So, a high fat diet is risky when it is accompanied by a high consumption of sugar or high consumption of inflammatory producing foods like tons of seeds and nuts and especially things that are like, rancid vegetable oils or vegetable oils that have been heated to high temperatures. So when you look at it in isolation though, just eating a higher fat diet that has things like, you know, eggs in it and real butter and grass fed beef, those aren’t an issue in themselves. There has to be an inflammatory component combined with those in order for them to increase risk of heart disease. So I never really see a big red flag when I look at high cholesterol unless I see that, that high cholesterol is accompanied by high consumption of sugar, by high consumption of vegetable oils, by lots of, you know, breads and grains and starches and sugars, that’s where it becomes an issue. So, ultimately, I’m hoping this gives you a little bit of insight into these values and first of all, when you’re looking at blood counts, know that you can’t simply take them in isolation, you have to look at the rest of the diet, you have to look at other things that are going on including potential symptoms so when you see something like low hemoglobin, you know, do you get shorter breath during exercise? Do you get dizzy during exercise? Are you getting adequate iron in your diet? Are you eating an adequate protein? Are you getting enough Vitamin B, enough Vitamin C? When you see things like elevated liver enzymes, maybe that’s not something to worry about, maybe you’re just exercising a lot or you have a couple glasses of wine the night before the test. When you see high cholesterol, do you have the other factors that could make that high cholesterol an issue? So lots of things to think about when you get a look at a blood test and hopefully that gives you a better idea about how to interpret some of these stuff.
Nick says: I’ve read that kombucha should not be eaten by pregnant women and why is that?
Ben: Well, kombucha is one of those things that has appeared on some list as something that pregnant women shouldn’t consume and that’s because it isn’t herb and there hasn’t been a lot of studies done on kombucha and pregnant women so it’s basically, not a sin of commission with kombucha and that it has caused a bunch of issues with pregnant women. It’s that there is, it’s basically omission, there’s not a bunch of research that shows that kombucha is necessarily supposed to be consumed by pregnant women or is good for them. But the idea is that kombucha is basically just a fermented yeast enzyme tea and as an herbal tea, it has potential to have some detoxifying effects and you know, I’ve said before that I don’t really like to throw the word detoxification around too much because especially when it comes to alternative medicine, there’s not, you know, really a definitive agreed upon definition of what detoxification actually is but the basic idea of detoxification is that it is a clearing of any type of toxins or harmful substances or minerals or metals that may have built up in the body. Although your liver and your kidneys are very good naturally detoxifying your body, if you have for a long time been eating a lot of junk food, a lot of processed foods, a lot of potentially toxic materials that could cause some metabolic waste, it might be that your liver and your kidneys are actually loaded up with more toxins than would be healthy. And so the idea is that there are certain herbs or teas or compounds that can help to detoxify the body which can basically in turn help the increased energy improve the metabolism, etc. Now, the main reason, in addition to the fact that there hasn’t been much research done on kombucha and pregnant women, that a pregnant woman might want to avoid kombucha is if she’s started to drink it during pregnancy, because the last thing you want to do is detox your body, get a bunch of toxin circulating around in the blood stream or post pregnancy, in the breast milk, and do harm to the baby and you know, we’re going to talk with Cassandra more about nutrition and pregnancy today but the idea is that you shouldn’t do anything really, really extreme with your diet when you’re pregnant that you haven’t done before. So if you’ve been drinking kombucha for a long time and you get pregnant, you can keep drinking kombucha. If decide when you’re pregnant that you’re going to take kombucha in to detox your body and clean up your liver and get all these things floating around your blood stream, probably not the best idea for the baby. So, it kind of comes down to a timing issue, if it’s already staple in your diet and you’re pregnant and you keep drinking it probably not an issue. If you start into it when you are pregnant, that’s where it would be something that may not be advisable. But ultimately, in most cases, I am a fan of kombucha. It is full of really good probiotics, really great compounds, it’s easy to make it at home actually, if you go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com and talk about kombucha, I’ve told you before in a podcast how to make it at home. Or you can buy it for whatever it is, like twenty bucks a bottle at the grocery store. So that’s the deal with kombucha, it just kind of depends on who you are, what your history is with it and in terms of whether or not you should take it during pregnancy.
Chuck asks: I like to listen to audio books while I drive and I know you recommend some good ones, what are your picks for health and life balance/prioritization/efficiency?
Ben: Well, first of all Chuck, I would recommend that you visit my personal blog, where I do things like post pictures of my family and talk about stuff that would probably bore people if I talked about it on this podcast or on this blog. I’ll put a link to my personal blog and on the right side of that blog there are a bunch of books that I recommend. In addition, if I were to recommend one book that I would go out and read, to kind of set up a foundation or maybe like some eyeglasses through which to see the way that you’re prioritizing certain things in your life or the way that you’re setting up your life to be more efficient to achieve more, there’s one that I would recommend called Psycho Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. I will put a link to it in the show notes to this episode, Episode #141 at BenGreenfieldFitness.com. Psycho Cybernetics is basically, it’s a discussion of how to really focus your subconscious and realize that your subconscious, more than your conscious mind is responsible for a lot of the decisions that you make and Psycho Cybernetics has been around since the 60’s and sold millions and millions of copies is kind of a guide to learning how to train your subconscious to achieve the things that are high up on your goal list. You know, whether it be just to you know, for example, playing better golf and training your subconscious to be able to play better golf, or you know, achieving huge goals in life that are more you know, career or family oriented. So, I highly recommend that you check out site for Psycho Cybernetics, I’ll put a link to that in the show notes and also check out my blog where I suggest a lot of other books. I live about two blocks from the library, I go through typically one to two books a week and that is one of the better ones that I have recently read. Although I did just finish the book Defining Happiness or Delivering Happiness by the owner of Zappos, which is also an interesting book.
Steve asks: I’m an avid follower of your training and nutritional advice. My younger brother is soon to return to the UK. He is morbidly obese, has acquired Type II diabetes while living abroad and suffers from the associated health problems. I would love to get him on the right path to good health and longevity, but frankly, the diabetes issue confuses me. Could you please advise a good training and eating strategies or some good resources to refer to?
Ben: Well yes, absolutely. The issue is that if you look at say something like the American Diabetes Association and I know for you international folks that you know, when somebody from the UK asked this question that I’m bringing up American Diabetes Association or the American Heart Association recommendations, I know that’s not exactly what you have internationally, but it’s still a good yard stick to look at because a lot of governmental organizations are very similar in their recommendations for these type of diets. Now what the American Diabetes Association has recommended traditionally for a very long time in the past is really a higher carbohydrate kind of grain containing diet. If you look at their ADA diet, they do recommend six to eleven servings of grains and starches per day and about anywhere from, right around a hundred and eighty to three hundred grams of carbohydrates per day which for most people comes up to about fifty to sixty percent carbohydrate based diet. And when it comes to controlling blood sugar, when it comes to stabilizing insulin levels, that is probably causing more harm than good compared to a lower carb, higher fat, higher protein diet for a diabetic. Again, I am not a physician but even the American Diabetes Association lately is beginning to admit that a mix of carbohydrate, protein and fat may actually vary depending on the individual circumstances involved and they recently, one of their co-chairs said that there is a growing recognition that a variety of diets including low carbohydrate diets could improve a blood glucose. So, the issue is that the American Diabetes Association is beginning to realize that maybe all of the recommendations for like this whole grain “healthy” starch diet may not be the best thing when it comes to controlling diabetes, blood sugar and you know, blood lipids, blood pressure, a lot of the other things that go along with diabetes and well, they haven’t straight up said that a low carbohydrate diet maybe more successful in treating diabetes. I think that in the next decade it’s probably going to be at the forefront of the recommendations. Now, if you did want to get to the information about why a low carb diabetes diet is probably the way to go, I would look up a guy named Doctor Richard Bernstein. This would be very good information if you know somebody who has diabetes or you yourself are concerned about diabetes. Doctor Richard Bernstein has a website at diabetes911.net. I would check out diabetes911.net, I’ll put a link to his books in the show notes. But he actually has a low carb diet for diabetics. It is very good. It’s been around for a while and its helped a lot of people. It’s much, much better in my opinion in controlling blood sugar than the traditional whole grain based diet that the American Diet Association recommends, which really would be for a lot of people more like a moderate to high carbohydrate diet and they’re a definitely better, higher fat, higher protein ways to go. If you really want an extreme example of a high fat, low carb diet, listen to the interview that I did with Jimmy Moore. He came on this podcast and talked about his low carb diet and he is extremely low carb, but in some cases that may be a better way to go for diabetes. So check that out.
Patrick asks: I’m getting all four of my wisdom teeth pulled out of my head and the dental hygienist told me some terrifying facts about my future nutritional practices. She said I should expect to eat semi-solids like mashed potatoes and apple sauce. She went on to say that because of the craters that will be left after surgery, I’m forbidden from hard foods for six months including all seeds and nuts. So what are some food suggestions that you have to 70.3 Ironman triathlon training, but that won’t be as damaging to my dental health?
Ben: Well, basically what you’re looking at is kind of like a high calorie liquid diet that actually gives you enough nutrients. First of all, I would highly recommend, I seem to be recommending this more and more these days, this Living Fuel Super Greens stuff that you basically mix with coconut milk, you could mix it with rice milk, almond milk, vegetable juice, and water. But this stuff is basically a mix of super foods, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, probiotics, amino acids, and herbs. It’s like this shocking approach to nutrition and it’s just basically forms a paste, really, when you mix it with stuff. I mean it can really stick to your ribs and I would recommend that you, at least use this stuff for one meal a day. I would highly recommend this stuff and also the Living Protein if you wanted a slightly lower carbohydrate kind of higher protein version of it. I will put a link to both those in the show notes. I would also recommend that you look into just some basic mashed or blended foods that would be a little bit higher in nutrients or vitamins or minerals like mashed sweet potatoes, mashed yams, those would be great, you could make a humus or a guacamole, you could include almond butter, I would be including green smoothies as well, and I will put a link to a green smoothie video that my wife shot with a Vitamix which is a blender that I would highly recommend that you add into your protocol if you’re not adding a juicer to make some vegetable juicers into your protocol. Basically, if you’re going to start off with all of those that would be a pretty good start. So for like breakfast, you could have a green smoothie. For lunch, you could do, for example, like a guacamole or a humus and you could essentially eat it by the spoonful if you wanted to or if you wanted to dip something in it that is less crunchy than a carrot or celery or you know, seeds and nuts. You could even spread that on lettuce or kale or batchoy, any of that. You could do oatmeal or quinoa, which is very soft and you could mix almond butter or coconut milk or protein into that. You could definitely use this Living Fuel as like an afternoon type of snack. You could also go with like softer, easier to chew meats, you know, steak something like a wild salmon or a fish, for example, those tend to be pretty easy to chew and you could have something like that with mashed or blended vegetable like a blended cauliflower and broccoli and actually there this really cool recipe for a sauce for pasta that would also go really well with fish or a vegetable that my wife made in one of the Inner Circle videos. That’s one of the free videos, I think its video number one. If you go to Ben Greenfield Fitness Inner Circle or bengreenfieldfitness.com/innercircle, check out this blended sauce that my wife makes for the boys. She puts on pasta but then you could also put like a fish or like a soft cooked vegetable, like a broccoli or cauliflower, that’ll be also something to look into. But I’ll put a link to the Living Protein, to the Living Fuel, to that green smoothie video; I’ll also put a link to that other sauce that I just talked about. I’ll put all those in the show notes. You can kind of check those out and that will get your creative juices flowing, no pun intended.
Layla says: I know co-enzyme Q10 and you ubiquinol supplements are recommended for older people for energy and antioxidant benefits, but since these molecules work in the electron transport chain in the mitochondria, will they increase metabolism?
Ben: Okay, lots of big words there. Basically, co-enzyme Q10, which is also known as ubiquinol, is this vitamin like substance that’s found in your cells, in your mitochondria, and is part of what is called your electron transport chain, so this is one of the pieces of machinery in your mitochondria that helps you to make energy and basically does so by taking the oxygen that you breathe in and producing ATP from that by moving electrons along with what’s called this electron transport chain and depending on what state that co-enzyme Q10 is in, in this electron transport chain, its known as ubiquinol or ubiquinol. So the idea is that what the suggestion is, is if you supplement with this stuff that it could increase your metabolism because obviously it’s part of your metabolic rate. That’s basically metabolism when your mitochondria is making this energy. If your mitochondria is healthy, if your cell membrane is healthy, if your cells are operating properly, then all this metabolic energy production is going to take place to an optimized extent. So it’s nice to think about but the question is, does it actually work? If you take an extra co-enzyme Q10, could it boost your metabolism? Well, there haven’t been a ton of studies on co-enzyme Q10, and weight gain, but first of all, if you kind of knock out co-enzyme Q10, if you either look at people who are, who have mitochondrial diseases, or who have basically, an alteration in their mitochondrial protein chemistry or a DNA mutation that causes the mitochondrial defect, we can look at what happens to their resting metabolic rate or to their oxygen utilization. And you find is that, in people who have these mitochondrial diseases that the metabolic rate can be decreased by anywhere from thirty up to eighty percent, and that is a direct reflection of the inability for the mitochondria to work properly. So I realize that, that doesn’t mean that taking co-enzyme Q10 is going to increase your metabolism but it does mean that the inability for co-enzyme Q10 to operate properly or a lack of sufficient co-enzyme Q10 can significantly affect metabolism. Now, in addition, if we look at the indirect effects of co-enzyme Q10 on metabolism, there have been a couple of studies. First of all, as you age and as your body composition becomes more skew towards fat gain, and a drop in muscle and a gain in overweight status, there was a study back in 1996 that shows that along with that the co-enzyme Q10 plasma levels do decline. Now again, that’s pretty indirect correlation, but it’s a suggestion that dropping co-enzyme Q10 levels could play a part in that drop in metabolism and gaining fat. And then, it’s also been shown that in obese individuals who were studied, this was actually after they’d undergone surgery, but these obese individuals were studied and they were found that their co-enzyme Q10 levels in all these obese people were very, very low, which again suggests that it may be possible that one of the things that contributes to obesity is low levels of co-enzyme Q10 or a low metabolic rate. Now again, I know that we’re kind of drawing some pretty shaky conclusions here, but when you step back and look at co-enzyme, when it comes to issues beyond weight loss, there’s enough of an argument to be taking it as a daily supplement. So not only is it a very, very powerful antioxidant, but it can, and clinical studies have shown this, it can reduce your risk of heart disease. Low levels of it are associated with congestive heart failure, it can lower blood pressure, for people who are on statins or have been on statins for a long period of time and maybe trying to get off of them, statins deplete co-enzyme Q10 in the body and taking co-enzyme Q10 can correct that deficiency. It could help to manage high blood pressure in people who have diabetes. It could help to improve their heart health and their blood sugar and studies have actually shown that to be beneficial. It could help out with heart damage caused by chemotherapy. It could improve their recovery from heart surgery. It could lower risk of breast cancer. It could help with gum disease. It can improve immune function. It could even improve fertility. There are a lot of studies that have shown co-enzyme to be beneficial for variety of effects so, I would recommend that even if it may not be like the magic weight loss pill, that you consider taking it as a daily part of your supplement intake. I take this stuff called Race Caps from the company called Hammer Nutrition and that’s the form of co-enzyme Q10 that I personally use.
Layla says: I live somewhere really cold, so I’m interested in shifting my metabolism towards heat production, therefore, I’m wondering if there are any ways for adults to convert white fat to the more metabolically active brown fat?
Ben: Okay, so white fat versus brown fat. Basically white fat is one of the two types of adipose tissue found in people and the other type of adipose tissue is the brown fat. So what white fat is, is primarily, it’s used to store energy, so when you think about white fat, that’s the storage fat that you store in your butt or your waist, or wherever else you happen to store fat and you’re either storing it there or else you’re breaking it down into fatty acids to be used as energy. And you know, in addition to staying there and being used as energy, it also has some insulation effects and some padding effects but this brown adipose, its primary function is not energy. When it’s broken down, it doesn’t produce energy. It produces heat and its really abundant in babies who need to stay warm and tends to eventually become white fat as we age but the idea behind brown fat is that, it really regulates body temperature and interestingly, people who do things like, engage in cold water swimming competition, they have much higher levels of these brown fat or these brown fat levels. So it appears that by constant exposure to cold training, cold conditions, the body tend to produce more brown fat, but that’s not necessarily through the conversion of white fat into brown fat and as a matter of fact, where brown fat comes from is, it’s actual muscle cells that are converted into brown fat. And there have been studies that have done on this where they essentially introduce this regulatory protein into brown fat that they disabled that protein and what happens is that brown fat revert back to the cells that they were formed from and they basically become muscle cells when you block out that protein. So, right now, muscle cells are converted into brown fat and what the question is, is can you take this regular storage fat and convert that into brown fat? Well, they have looked into this a little bit whether or not you could actually convert white fat into brown fat, and the idea is that there’s this protein called uncoupling protein which is the protein present in brown fat that allows it to release energy as heat rather than to release energy as energy and if you could get white fat to actually activate this uncoupling protein, then technically white fat would take on some of the properties of brown fat. And so rather than releasing energy into your blood stream or it could potentially just be converted back into fat, it would release energy as heat and you might just heat up a little bit which if you could regulate your temperature might be okay. So, there is not yet a supplement or a pill or anything like that, that can cause these white fat cells to actually replicate the same activity that brown fat cells are making but the idea is, that through genetic technology, you could potentially coax the pre-cursing cells to white fat cells to produce brown fat cells instead of white fat cells. So, it essentially involve a little bit of genetic play and you know, I’m not entirely convinced that that is as healthy or prudent at this point until it’s proven to be safe. However, that’s the way that it would be done is through, actually activating via genetic manipulation or molecular switch that causes a white cell pre-cursors to be converted into brown fat instead of white fat by actually activating the activity of this uncoupling protein. So, that is the messy chemistry that would be involved and that’s the way it would work. So at this point in time no, there’s no magic pill that would do it that I’m aware of but it’ll be pretty interesting to see once that comes out.
Craig says: Whenever I drink from the aero bottle on my bike, I get a burning sensation in the back of my throat, it feels like gastroesophageal reflux disease or disorder, I know it’s not the water source, it’s the same one I’ve been putting in my bottle for decades. What gives? How can I stop it?
Ben: Ok, so the idea behind gastroesophageal reflux is that, that occurs when this esophageal sphincter, which is basically the sphincter between your esophagus and your stomach, is weak or it relaxes inappropriately and that allows your stomach contents to go back up into your esophagus. So, in a lot of cases, you know, hernias can cause this and ulcers can cause it, and eating too many fatty foods and coffee and alcohol and chocolate and pepper mints and all sorts of things can cause this reflux disease including a great big plate of spaghetti before you head out for a bike ride. But assuming you’re not doing all that, it’s likely that the issue is that when you’re drinking out of your aero bottle on your bike, you’re aerial position and when you’re scrunched up in that aero position and your diaphragm is contracting heavily and your abdominal muscles are contracted and you’re basically compressing your core, compressing all these inspiratory and expiratory muscles, it’s likely that you may be inhibiting the contraction of your esophagus or you maybe inhibiting the ability of that esophageal sphincter to actually work properly and so you’re getting some of that reflux back up the same way that you get for example, if you tried to drink upside down and that is the likely issue. The way that that could be fixed is that you can literally kind of take a sip from your aero-straw in the aerial position then before you swallow, sit up, get out of the aero position, sit up on your bike so that you’re vertically straight up and down and then swallow, rather than trying to swallow while you’re in the aero position. So, that’s what I would recommend and I personally have had this problem before, you know. I’ve thrown up in my mouth and that’s kind of gross but I’ve had that happen before in races just because it’s harder to swallow when you’re in that aero position and typically, its alleviated by just sitting up and trying to do any drinking or eating in a seated position and choose hills or places where you’re not going so fast so when you sit up there won’t be an aero dynamic disadvantage to being in that sitting position. So, hopefully that helps out Craig. Great questions and at this point, let’s go ahead and move on to a quick message and then this week’s feature topic on a good pregnancy exercise and nutrition routine with Cassandra Forsythe.
Ben: Hey, folks, Ben Greenfield here and as you know, both my wife and I are into fitness and my wife maintained a relatively good amount of fitness while she was pregnant. I get a lot of questions from you about how you or someone you know could actually maintain fitness during pregnancy or return to fitness more quickly afterwards. So I decided to get the expert on, someone who’s actually in the process right now of writing a pretty comprehensive book on fitness and pregnancy but actually has published books in the past on fitness including the new rules of lifting for women which she co-authored with Lou Schuler and Allan Cosgrove and also the women’s health perfect body diet. Cassandra Forsythe is going to be on the call today. She’s a Ph. D, she’s a registered dietitian, and she has a degree, a Doctorate Degree in Kinesiology, as well as, of course the registered dietician certification, she’s a certified strength and conditioning specialist, certified by the National Strength Conditioning Association, she’s a Certified Sports Nutritionist, she’s done a lot of stuff especially when it comes to women’s health, women’s nutrition, and of course women’s fitness. So Cassandra, thank you for coming on the call today.
Cassandra: Thank you Ben and thank you for that great interview or that introduction, I should say.
Ben: And of course, yes, the interview’s not over yet.
Ben: Of course, just so that people know that you’re not pulling stuff out of nowhere, you actually have yourself been successfully pregnant, correct?
Cassandra: Yes. Successfully, you know, one year ago I had my daughter actually.
Ben: So you have a one year old daughter and I’m assuming that she’s doing well, she’s healthy.
Cassandra: Absolutely, yup. She comes to boot camp with me and eats the bands while we’re at the camper. You know, tries to pick up the kettle bells but definitely she’s a very healthy, fit, very bright little girl and there’s nothing wrong with her whatsoever and I credit it to a very healthy and fit pregnancy.
Ben: Alright. Well let’s talk about that. So how did you exercise during your pregnancy? What did your exercise routine look like?
Cassandra: Well, that’s funny because right before I got pregnant, I had actually just graduated from my Ph. D and then graduated from my dietetic internship within a month’s time period of each other. So the year before I got pregnant was a pretty intense year. I wasn’t training as hard as I would’ve like to as you could imagine. Doing a Ph. D and a dietetic internship at the same time did really leave me a lot of wiggle room or work up room, I should say.
Cassandra: So, when I got pregnant, I was not happy because all I wanted to do was to get back into my training routine and do what I wanted to do and I was really concerned and worried that I wouldn’t be able to do that because I was pregnant, because after I started reading things, and you know, hear what people say, you read some recommendations even from the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology, they’re, you know, they say keep your heart rate low and you know, be careful of what you do and don’t do this, and don’t do that, and it’s really just a bunch of don’ts and that really frustrated me. So, well the first trimester, I was really tired anyway. Like for the first eight to ten weeks, tired and nauseous. So it really wasn’t a lot of crazy work out going, working out going on anyway. Second trimester, I hit it full force. I hit my work outs with more intensity than I’ve hit them in years of being in my Ph. D. I was teaching fitness boot camps three times a day and doing all the classes coz I would instruct within that group then I work out during the day. I would do a lot of walking, you know, I stay walking instead of running because a.) I’m not a runner and I’ll just admit that I’m not built to run but running, when I first tried to start running after I started feeling better, I immediately thought it was going to pee in my pants because it of the extra weight on my uterus, my bladder or my uterus being an extra weight on my bladder so it wasn’t a lot of fun so I just, I kind of botched that idea but I cycled. I was mountain biking until I was about three months pregnant, I would just wear a brace because I do actually have a back problem. So anyway, I am, I’ve worked out really hard and I’m into a lot of strong man training and heavy weight lifting. So, I’m assuming like log clean and presses with a twelve inch log diameter, big log.
Ben: An actual log.
Cassandra: Yeah, a big log. Metal log and flipping tires, hitting tires with sledge hammers, jumping on tires, doing jump rope, doing jumping jacks, doing tabata interval training with body weight and weight exercises. So basically, I was crazy when I was pregnant. People are like “wow” and I actually hit it really well because I gained weight, mostly in my first trimester. That just kind of made me look like I overate a bunch of Doritos or something, you know. I didn’t really look pregnant but I was even four months pregnant and still not really, you know, showing necessarily that much or if I was, I would hide it with baggy shirts. So I was still able to o it but then when I started, people could actually start seeing my belly you know, on the fifth month. You know, I did get some sideways glances when I was dead lifting like you know, about a hundred and eighty-five pounds, it’s not too heavy because I do have a back problem as I said, but you know, heavier than you would see most women lifting and I would have guys in the gym come up to me or even my boot campers, you know, say “wow!”, you know, you’re kind of an inspiration for pregnancy but guys in the gym say “I wish my wife did that when she was pregnant!” or you know, “that’s great! You’re working out so hard!” and I felt great.
Ben: What did your doctor say about that or did they know?
Cassandra: I told them what I was doing and he actually made notes in my file and he’s like “be careful!”, “she’s really active!” you know, “watch her!” but I was fine like really fine and I felt really good but I did, I listened to my body and like there’s a couple of dizzy spells I had and sometimes I would push through it just a little, not excessive, but you know, sometimes you feel like oh! Hey, it’s alright. I’m used to having a little blood pressure, feeling a little dizzy when I stand up so that wasn’t a big issue but you know, the biggest thing is no matter what you do, there has to be something your body is used to doing like I’m used to doing that kind of stuff, I used to do it to my body, I used to always kick my own butt in the gym. I would go and work out with the football team at the University of Connecticut and I would do all the work outs they were doing, maybe not with this much weight, of course, but you know, I would always be doing crazy stuff, that’s the way I like to roll and so when I was able to do that again, even though I was pregnant, it made me feel really good about myself and just throughout the whole pregnancy but you know, I did get some certain comments from people or what not every once in a while and my doctors would just say be careful but they did give me the green light. They didn’t say stop because I was healthy and really strong.
Ben: Right. And did you actually track your heart rate because a lot of physicians and the medical profession in general, has like a certain heart rate cap for pregnant women. Did you pay attention to that?
Cassandra: Well, no because actually I came across research showing that was irrelevant. That it actually isn’t necessary to keep it below a certain level and actually, and then I started reading case studies and reports of high level Olympic athletes and just high level athletes, you know, training marathons, triathlons, while they’re pregnant and there’s no way that their heart rate was below one hundred forty. You know, so they were training that hard and then the benefits of that was that after they had the baby, their PR’s all increased, their VO2 maxes increased, their anaerobic threshold increased, because they put the demands on while they had all this extra blood flow and oxygen demand from the baby, they were able to push their limits to a different level, they call this training an altitude in a way.
Cassandra: I mean we do that right? The biggest is, again, and I’m just going to stress it like you can’t push beyond what your body is going to let you do so high level Olympic athletes, their body can do that. But if you’re like someone that’s never really worked out before or you’re just starting out your training, whatever that may be, if you’re endurance athlete, you’re a strength athlete, or a combo of both, you know, you have to go the level that you know your body has either been at before or can do because there are some stories that I did read of you know, pregorexia, women under eating when they’re pregnant or exercising so much that they actually cause the miscarriage or death of their child and but those are women that they got some psychological problems and I was pretty sure I didn’t have one of those.
Ben: Do you write work outs for clients who are pregnant?
Cassandra: Not really because I don’t like to like necessarily prescribe like I have pregnant clients come to my boot camp classes.
Cassandra: So, I have them join in and then we modify and we can talk about modifications in a bit here but I haven’t necessarily written weight training programs because I don’t have a lot of people in my circle around me here that wanted weight training on a program when you’re pregnant. I don’t know if its psychological or what not but you know, your body is changing so much and you just kind of, you go at whatever you can do in a way, and also there’s a lot of stress just being pregnant and sometimes having a program to follow for some people is stressful. So, I haven’t yet got there but I would like to so for the book I’m going to be writing, it’s more of interval training types of work outs with body weight, and weights and bands and kettle bells and things like that. So it’s not necessarily like, you know, five sets of this or five reps, it’s more on time so the way I’m writing the book is on time because you can change the intensity by how short your rest periods are and how long your work periods are, so we’re going to do it more that way. And I see that being a new future of training anyway.
Ben: Now, how do you compare protocols like that, that you’re including that book with what the current medical recommendations are for pregnancy or are there really any specific medical recommendations beyond the heart rate advice?
Cassandra: Well, you know, the recommendations for pregnancy are always very conservative and the reason being because if a medical professional and or a medical professional organization, recommended that a woman go do tire flips and sledge hammer slams and burpees, and she’d never done them before and then the woman miscarries, she could sue. And that’s the problem with most doctors anyway, is that the conservative that they have like the highest liability insurance and they have to be as careful as possible, so a lot of doctors will say to their clients, don’t work out because they don’t want to have any liability. But when you think about it, they’re causing more issues than stopping them by telling the woman not to work out because she’s going to gain more weight, she could become fit, and she’s going to have a harder time losing that weight after she’s had the baby. It’s going to be more ill and she’ll have more back pain, like I, as I keep saying, I have a bad back, I have spondylolisthesis, actually my L5 and my S1 are not connected. It was a gymnastics injury basically. I was a gymnast when I was little girl and it causes me a lot of pain. Every day I have pain and some days are worse than others but I, you know, I’m used to it and I was told when I first found out about that back pain, that I would not be able to have a normal pregnancy, that I would be in a wheel chair for probably last three months of my pregnancy because my back couldn’t take the weight. So I was scared to death to be pregnant, so when I first got pregnant, I was like, “Oh My God! Am I going to have to buy a back brace, what’s going to happen?” I ended up having zero to no back pain in my entire pregnancy because of how fit I was. It actually was beneficial for my back. So I almost wanted to find that doctor that told me not to do anything when I was pregnant, to be in a wheel chair for God sakes, excuse my language, I’m swearing here but I was so upset about this, but you know, for being in a wheel chair is just like, how do you say that to someone? And then I ended up having probably the best pregnancy anyone could ever have. I just, it was so you know, I gained a total of fifteen pounds from the start to finish of my pregnancy and I was probably five pounds overweight when I got pregnant. So my total weight gain was about twenty. It was on the low end. I measured small but I delivered an incredibly healthy baby who had, you know, ten out of ten in all of her Apgar scores, she’s very bright, she’s very agile, she’s very strong, you know, and she’s got a low body fat levels, you know, not under but you know, she’s not a chubby baby whatsoever. So, not that that’s a bad thing, but she’s not chubby, you know what I mean.
Cassandra: So anyway.
Ben: It’s very interesting because all the women who I have worked with, who have been pregnant, my wife, they’ve all had very healthy babies and I really can’t think of anybody who hasn’t, who has actually kept themselves relatively fit during pregnancy. Now, are aware of any studies that have compared women who exercise during pregnancy with women who don’t or can we just kind of go off of what we observe?
Cassandra: Well, there’s only been observational because they really couldn’t do studies. There’s actually what I’ve heard is John Hopkins, is doing research on weight training in pregnancy and endurance in pregnancy so there’s some new stuff coming out. I’m trying to get in contact with the researchers on that and then there was some people at John Hopkins to find out some details but they are, you know, they have a control group of women that aren’t working out and then they’ve got the group of women that are working out and they’re going to follow their various variables and report that. It’s probably going to take a couple of years for that to come out because they are trying to get a lot of numbers but you know, I have heard a bunch of papers that you know, tracked, you know, Olympic athletes, etc. during their work outs and they all report very healthy babies and then the book by James Clapp, Exercising Through Your Pregnancy, he did the same thing and he’s not really researching anymore but he observed pregnant, very high level, athletic women and showed you know, their baby’s body fat levels were lower, the babies were a little bit lower in weight and had extremely good glucose control, they had great muscle tone, they had head control, they were picking their heads up earlier than other babies in two or three years, they had better memory and cognition, so there are so much that is beneficial for exercise. So, that’s why I find it really frustrating when a doctor will tell a woman not to exercise.
Ben: And the moms look good, too. If you don’t mind, maybe in the show notes for this episode, I can put a couple of pictures that you have posted over on your website of you during your pregnancy. You know, you look very fit and vibrant and it seems like a really good way to go if you’re actually in a situation where you’re able to exercise.
Cassandra: Yeah. And it keeps an attitude positive, too. Because during pregnancy you’ve got this, so many worries especially if it’s your first pregnancy, you’re worried about like what’s this kid going to turn out like, am I going to be a good parent, blah, blah, blah. Like the woman almost feels like she’s going crazy when she’s pregnant because there’s a lot of things to think about but if you exercise, it creates all those endorphins, makes you feel good like, your run is higher, your lifts are higher, whatever it may be, why not just perpetuate that and help you have a good pregnancy throughout the whole time instead of some woman get really depressed when they’re pregnant or you know, they go on eating binges, you know, just to let go, I’m pregnant, well I’m going to eat this. I remember my sister, I called her when she was pregnant once. She’s not really active but I was like what are you doing and she’s like, I’m eating a donut, she’s like, actually, I’m eating a dozen donuts. She’s like I’m pregnant, I can do it, and I’m like no, that’s the wrong way to think.
Ben: Now, I want to get into some nuts and bolts in terms of like, sample exercises, sample work outs, I know that you’re a sports nutritionist and we are going to touch on nutrition as well. Well, we’ve talked so much about kind of the general over view of exercises, what are some things that pregnant woman can do, you know, you mentioned that running might not be the best idea on the planet but what are some exercises or work outs that are good during pregnancy?
Cassandra: Well, I’m not saying running may not be the best idea; it just depends on your body. I guess I’m not really a runner, like I can run maybe like, five miles, ten miles, I probably can’t make a ten but I just know that about my body. I’ve got flat feet and I’ve got loose joints, when your pregnant your joints are even more loose so I wasn’t, like I said, I almost peed in my pants, like I had to run for the bushes, probably like a quarter mile into this run, I was trying to do, I was like ok, it’s enough, but do what you can do. Now, sample exercises, a lot of things that women need to focus on during their pregnancy is keeping a strong core but not doing crunches because crunches may perpetuate the rectus diastasis, thesplitting of the abdominal wall and we all know or we’re all starting to learn that crunches are probably the worst idea for your abdominal wall. Anyway, as for the new rules for lifting for abs, the research by doctor Steve Magill and his ultimate back solution so, crunches are no good. Anyway, so why you know, don’t do them when you’re pregnant. And plus, medical professionals recommend, and I don’t really agree with this and I’ll tell you why, but they recommend not to be on your back when you’re pregnant because of the reduce blood flow and I will tell you this and I’m going to tell you about this and the girl that I have as my model and she’s my colleague who’s pregnant right now. I’ve worked out on my back, all the way up until I delivered and you’ve got to think about it, you’re delivering on your back, too, sometimes so what the heck, right? So I worked out on my back. I was bench pressing at eight, nine months, I was still doing like supine hip extensions and that’s one of the recommendations, exercise recommendations because there’s three things you really need to have strong when you’re pregnant: core, your upper back to support the load of the baby in the front and your glutes, well, and your legs, sorry, I guess there’s a few things, glutes and legs, basically. So core, a lot of great core exercises for women just involve the abdominal bracing. Things like pallof presses or anti-rotational cable presses, things like side planks, front planks become really hard, first of all your stomach is hanging out so sometimes your stomach is touching the ground and you would have a hard time bracing kind of in that plank but I did a lot of side planking and I had like really great obloquies when I was pregnant, it was awesome. So, that was nice and then, supine hip extensions which can be both for glutes and your core. I did cable chops like a lot of urban chops, you know, just for your horizontal plane and you’re rotating towards the cable and away from the cable using your hips, squeezing your glutes, keeping your chest up, so I did a lot of those. I had a really hard time and I think most pregnant women will agree is that anything that causes extension, so where you do say an AB wheel and your extending out the abs or stretching them, you do a hanging leg race or roman chair, those are almost near impossible because your abs are really stretched out and you can’t force them beyond a certain point. Like I felt like my abs are going to rip in half one time when I was, just got to the point where my abs or my belly was growing and I was like no AB wheel, not happening. So, things like cable squats and row, so if you’re standing towards the cable machine, you got two handles in your hand, you squat down with your kind of leaning back against the weight and then when you come up, you row so you’re squeezing in your mid and lower track region, any type of face pulls, any bend over rows, three point rows, four point rows, two point rows, all the different things. So nice squeeze in the upper back but then dead lifts are also great and I did a lot of them when I was pregnant, as long as women have good form in that, I’m talking about stiff legged necessarily I’m talking about like conventional full dead lifts and you got to think you know, you got to get used to squatting. Some women actually deliver in a squatting position so if you have nice strong legs, you can squat the baby out and you’re good to go. So, it helps also with pushing muscles, so squatting , dead lifts, trans squatting, I should say not back squatting because you don’t need extra weight on your lower back with the back squat, you just focus on the front squatting position, so you also challenge your core. And then side bridges, like I said on the floor but you can also do one on a bench. So, things then but if it makes you nauseous, don’t do it. Like I was saying about being on my back, I could exercise at my back and I found research by doctor James Clapp that showed that women could exercise on their back and this is why I don’t understand why the American College of Sports Medicine what not, still has this recommendation but it said that if you have compensatory blood flow mechanisms while you’re exercising, so myself and my girlfriend who’s pregnant right now, we’re both exercising on our back, you know, did when we were pregnant. For the exercises we could do especially the hip extensions.
Ben: And the reason that you’re not supposed to exercise on your back, can you explain why and explain about this compensatory blood flow mechanism?
Cassandra: Yeah, well they say that it squishes basically like the weight of the baby or the uterus or the womb is squishing the vena cava, it’s one of your major arteries throughout your body, so it can cause syncope like fainting, dizziness, it can cause reduced blood flow to the placenta and they don’t, what Dr. Clapp found is that, that was not the case at all. That there was no problem that during exercise, while you’re moving and heart is beating faster you have that extra blood going to the placenta feeding the baby, making sure you don’t pass out. So it wasn’t an issue, you know, I mean he’s published one paper maybe that’s what’s the problem is that he’s only published one paper but you know how science works like we make claims that eggs give us heart disease and then we tell people thirty years later, “Oops! We were totally wrong!” right?
Ben: Yeah. And it’s very interesting because those are the general recommendations that you see in just about any, you know, you go through whatever shape magazine or any website and a lot of what you’re seeing in terms of the exercise recommendations are stay off your back, keep your heart rate under one hundred forty or one hundred fifty and you always wonder how much research there is to back that up or for just spitting out things that have been, you know, general accepted knowledge for a few decades and maybe haven’t been looked back into.
Cassandra: Yeah. Or who were just hypothesized knowledge. Like maybe there’s one woman who’s having a problem on her back but you got her, I will admit, like I couldn’t sleep on my back when I was pregnant, I could immediately feel like I was going to throw up if I started, if I just laid down on my back. Like it’s almost as spontaneously but exercising, like I said, is not a problem. You got this thing when you’re doing a bench press set, or even if you’re doing supine hip extension, how long you’re really on your back for. It’s not like sleeping where it’s like eight hours, hopefully but actually when you’re pregnant, it’s like ten hours because women sleep a lot when they’re pregnant but you know, it’s not that long and if you’re moving, you’re not always just in a single plane, you know, your muscles are moving, pumping blood to your heart or your heart’s pumping blood to your muscles, etc, so, it’s reciprocal. But you know, even the heart rate stuff, that’s not even the same information. There is new information showing that that’s not necessary but you know, you just get these magazines out there like, well said before, keep saying it, and you know, it’s kind of sad because there’s a lot really fit women out there that are enjoying great pregnancies at heart rates of like one hundred sixty and they’re totally fine.
Ben: Yup. Now let’s go ahead and shift focus a little bit here and talk about food. How did you eat during your pregnancy, aside from eating more?
Cassandra: Exactly. I had a hard time and a lot of women I talked to, a lot of women I’ve interviewed have been really kind of being on the band wagon and getting to know what other peoples experience are. There’s a lot cravings that go on during pregnancy, like a lot. Like I’m kind of known as a low carb advocate. I did my Ph D. research in the low carb world. I eat a fairly eat low carb diet. You know relative to what other people would eat, you know, on a constant basis. And I had a hard time doing that when I was pregnant. Like I was a carb machine when I was pregnant. I remember my first trimester like I had to eat sushi rice. Like I would drive by this place that they had sushi and you know, I know everyone’s you know, “sushi, oh my gosh!”, it wasn’t really raw fish, it was really just a rice I wanted.
Cassandra: And like, I would get eel which is cooked. I would something else that was cooked and once a while I did eat sushi but I don’t really whatever. I’ll admit I ate sushi when I was pregnant but whatever so but it was the rice, like I just know like it was like almost every day like clockwork. I was like, I have to have this rice. And it was like this incredibly intense craving like I’ve never experienced in my life before and I just, I had to eat it. And a lot of it has to do with there’s a lot of blood sugar issues going on when you’re pregnant because of all the changes, like all that nutrients being delivered to the baby and so you do, you crave, your blood sugars are dropping and so you do need to eat regularly so you will probably eat more carbs but what I have now recommended and now that I know more about the whole thing is that always ensure to eat protein or fat with whatever carbs you do decide to eat. Like you’re probably going to eat carbs that’s just the way it’s going to be probably fruit. Fruit is like a huge one for women when they’re pregnant so instant like you feel good but always include some protein or fats, so say if you have like an apple or an orange, you have some peanut butter with it or some way protein, you know some cheese, whatever you decide to eat. Just make it a high protein or high fat food to keep it really nice and balanced. That would also help control blood sugar level fluctuations because if you are just responding to the carb craving and you’re just eating carbs, it’s going to cause more highs that lows and just going to make it worse.
Ben: Now in terms of actually craving carbs, needing carbs, etc, from a physiological stand point, what good is that doing for the baby?
Cassandra: The baby is a very big glucose demander like there’s a lot of glucose going to that baby and so are having more you know, glucose requirements, I should say. Now some people who have very poor glucose control before getting pregnant like if you’re a fit person you probably have pretty good glucose control for the most part, if you’re kind of unfit you probably don’t, but you know, if you usually eat a fairly low carb diet, you may bump up your carb intakes lightly. But you’re not going to like, you know, triple it or quadruple it for example so, you probably do need a little bit more, unless you’re completely carbon tolerant and you may have to just keep sticking with you know, maybe higher carb, low carb sources like some of like spaghetti squashes, something like pasta or whatever. Now I can recommend pasta. So when I was pregnant, I did not eat any artificial sweeteners so I take a lot of whey protein and most whey proteins contain like surcralose or like sulfane potassium or whatever artificial sweetener’s in there because in you know, it can be low car,b right. So, I found a unsweetened natural whey protein so just a whey protein isolate, had no sweetener in it at all, and that’s what I use the whole time when I was pregnant because I was off artificial sweeteners and I used to drink like a diet Snapple or something like that once in a while completely only went to self serve.
Ben: Why didn’t you do artificial sweeteners?
Cassandra: I just feel that there is a lot of chemical toxicity to them. There’s a lot of controversy in the literature, you know if they give, I’ve read some papers on it where they, you know, like they give rats who are pregnant, you know, artificial sweeteners and the babies, you know have either increased carb cravings, you know, sugar cravings, problems with blood sugar levels, blood glucose control, etc. not necessarily the cancer picture wasn’t as clear but still, I just didn’t feel that they were great and I don’t really feel artificial sweeteners are good for most people anyway. So when I counsel my clients on nutrition, I do my best to try to get them to get all of it out, like you know, if you’re having like ten diet cokes a day, that’s a problem.
Cassandra: Even if you’re having one diet coke a day, I try to get people to switch to seltzer or sparking water instead. Or just use sugar and own up to the fact that you’re having something sweet because if you really compare this sweetness between the artificial sweetener and sugar, artificial sweeteners are way over the top, it’s just gross. And they don’t, they’re not all that good so just you know, use real sugar and that’s what I ended up doing. If I needed something sweet, you know, I’d be, I’d add more fruit to my smoothie with my whey protein or I’d have you know, I like Cheerios when I was pregnant.
Ben: So, in addition to carbs which are obviously going to do some good for the glucose for the baby, did you have certain other knack for nutrients that you’ve focused on? Did you supplement with certain things?
Cassandra: I supplemented, well first and foremost choline. The supplement choline, some people classified it as a B vitamin, it’s not really, but it’s put in kind of that classification. Choline is a nutrient that’s highly responsible for nervous system development in the baby. I had the lucky fortune of, right before I got pregnant, I was at the American Egg Board meeting because that’s where I was presenting my Ph D. data because that’s who I was sponsored by, I study eggs in my Ph D. and there was actually a choline presentation because an egg yolk contains a hundred and twenty five milligrams of choline. It’s the highest choline containing food out there. And they recommended that pregnant women have one to two eggs per day during their pregnancy because of the choline requirements of the baby to prevent neurotube deep birth defects and increase memory cognition, you know, spatial learning etc. and just as important as DHA, which I did take DHA, I’ll explain it in a second and just as important as folic acid. If not more, because they did find, they have found, there has been papers published showing that women that’s still supplement with folic acid still had babies with neural tube birth defects. So, choline is really important so I took two hundred and fifty milligrams of choline on top of taking two eggs a day, the RDA for choline is for fifty milligrams, so I kind of went a little over the top, but I did you know, so no problem. So I didn’t think more of the good thing that’s bad thing. In that case, I took pearl oil and the fish oil, I kind of had both in my diet. High quality to get my EPA- DHA, my Omega 3 fats and I craved, it was really crazy, I craved seafood like insanely during the last probably four months of my pregnancy and I was eating mussels and clams and salmon and trout, like crazy when I was pregnant.
Ben: Now, aren’t there some nutritional recommendations against that in terms of like heavy metal consumption for a baby?
Cassandra: There is and you will see pamphlets showing which fish to avoid because of the mercury and or the other toxic accumulations in the water but the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids, which called ISFAL, which is a membership society apart of as well, they still recommend that the benefits of the nutrients in fish far outweigh the mercury contamination. And the studies and I did read like the study of the Japanese women that were eating these fish out of the river that was contaminated highly with mercury from the mercury plant up stream and their babies develop the major, like developmental abnormalities, that was a, like you know, an extreme overload case and dolphins are really big problems etc. but I was eating like a low mercury fish which salmon is a low mercury fish, silver clams, silver muscles. You want to avoid things like fish, canned tuna, you know, limit it. I did have a canned of tuna in a week, I had like a craving for tuna once a week and so I just had one. It was actually subway tuna wraps but like once a week craving bus or you know, you remember this crazy things but gross, as gross as that was. I ate a lot of fat during the last three trimesters as well and from what I was reading, that fat requirements do increase during the last trimester so I was like, eating like lots of flax oil, lots of nuts, lots of fattier meats and I don’t have a problem with animal fat, I don’t think it’s an issue, I studied it in my masters. It’s not a problem so you know, I do buy wild boar sausages and I always try to wild and free range meats. And then I try to buy low pesticide fruits and vegetables as often as possible. So you know I followed like the dirty dozen clean fifteen rule, etc. and made sure I bought like local and all that so, I ate very similar to a good diet should be regularly on a normal basis, you know, but I was more careful about artificial sweeteners which now I’ve bought artificially sweet whey proteins again and I just use a quarter of them whenever I have a shake and in addition to the unsweetened, the excess. I maybe don’t take as much fish oil as I do, and Vitamin D. Vitamin D 2000 while I was pregnant and I’m doing 4000. I actually am just finishing breastfeeding then back to the 4000 I use. I always breastfeed.
Ben: Gotcha. Okay so let’s say that there’s a pregnant woman listening in or someone who’s just had their baby and maybe they didn’t do everything that you just recommended from an exercise stand point or perhaps even from a nutritional stand point, but they want to get fit now. They want to get back to fitness, they want to maybe get rid of some of the fat that accumulated while they were pregnant, what type of things can they do safely that are going to get them into shape at this point?
Cassandra: Well there isn’t necessarily a lot of safety concerns post pregnancy like right away there is a little bit because I mean your body just basically like turned inside out. That’s how I felt after the baby. I was like “oh! What happened!” but the other thing is not just that, I mean your body just kind of isn’t itself, I will tell you at three weeks postpartum, I was right back into working out as hard as I did during my pregnancy. I was a little more tired but I was right back into it three weeks postpartum and I kind of had to because I had to go back to teaching my boot camps so I had to be there again. One of the things I had a problem with this post pregnancy is urinary incontinence so the first time I was doing jumping jacks with my group of people like right at three weeks, I completely peed my pants in front of class and I didn’t really realize what was happening until I looked down and I was like “Huh! That was crazy!” I was like no one notices the big wet spot of my crotch region right. That was pretty embarrassing.
Ben: It was sweat.
Cassandra: Yeah it’s sweat, totally. It’s just a lot more sweat now but it was yeah, that’s intense. There are a lot of problems with pelvic floor control after you’ve had a baby and now I understand why there’s a big demand for panty liners in the market. Ben you may not understand this and maybe like lalalala.
Ben: I don’t shop for panty liners too often.
Cassandra: No, I didn’t think so, thankfully but it is a common problem and I try to learn more about it. There was this woman, Katie Bowman, who was doing this like pelvic floor seminar and basically her, she said you know kegel exercises are absolute crap, like, you know, don’t bother with them when you’re pregnant, don’t bother with it after pregnancy, because they don’t really help because I was looking into like those kegel balls and all the stuff and I was like “Oh my God! How do I stop this?”. Really it’s just strengthening back up the glutes and the abdominal wall to pull everything back up again and now that I’m stronger, I don’t have those problems and I didn’t do like the kegel balls and all this kind of stuff even though I thought I was supposed to but really, Katie Bowman had shown us that her research is, you know, show that the pelvic floor control had more to do with glute control, abdominal control, just overall body tone. I hate that word tone but muscle strength, I’m sorry, I can’t believe I even said that. Wow! And then the other problem is this right after a woman has a baby, she has a baby to look after. That was my bigger issue because like I can’t really go to the gym right now or I can’t really go out and do this right now because the baby is sleeping or the baby needs this. So, there’s a lot of times I felt pretty cooped up in the house and I still do right now, I have a you know especially when it was winter where it was too cold, you know like I wasn’t going to succumb to my baby to minus thirty weather just so I could go for a run, you know, with the baby carriage or go for a hike. I did take her snow shoeing, you know, and I bundled her up and it was really cold outside and that was awesome but you know, still pretty, you have to remember you’ve got this baby to take care of. So you know to get back into shape, get fit quickly is, well first and foremost, have support, have someone to help you watch the baby, give you some time to yourself because, and that’s another reason why I tell women to work out harder in their pregnancies because after you have the baby, you don’t really have the time to do it. And most daycares, if you are in the US, they don’t take the baby until three months. In Canada, daycares and gyms don’t take babies until they’re a year old. So, and in Canada that’s why women, and its different between the US and Canada as well, Canadian, women at Canada get a year off after they have a baby so they have more time to you know, themselves.
Ben: Now, if you’re breast feeding, can you actually lose fat while you’re doing that or can or can it be chloric deficit that would allow you to burn fat actually you know, decrease the effects of breast feeding?
Cassandra: Well, let’s see, like I said, I’m just finishing breast feeding, I’m at a year postpartum and I’m saying finishing because I’m just kind of done. My daughter bit me so hard this last week that it was just blood coming out and I was like, that’s it, I’m done, I’m sorry but you bit me like really hard and I was in pain for like three days, I’m like this is done, she has a lot of teeth now. So, anyway you can lose fat, yes, you can, while your breast feeding but your body does hang on to a lot of body fat. So there is you know, limitations to how lean you can get but as you come to the end of the breast feeding as I am now, I’m really starting to drop fat really quickly now. So, if you can kind of hold off, if you want to breast feed for a year, if you want to breast feed for two years, you know, and just know that your body might hold on to a little more fat than possible or the normal, it will go away as soon as you’re not breast feeding so you know, you only get one chance to breast feed your kids so, you don’t have to really be selfish about it.
Ben: Gotcha. So as far as things that women can do in those first few months after pregnancy, a lot of it is kind of similar to what you recommended during pregnancy?
Cassandra: Yeah. It’s do what you can, do what you have time for, get back well, actually some of them I’ve recommended exercises is, is do the things you couldn’t do when you were pregnant so I started doing more pushups and front planks and front bridges and AB wheel after I had the baby because I wasn’t able to do them beforehand so, I got those back into my routine. So, those are the ones that I couldn’t do. So, put the ones that you had issues with, like I really had a hard time doing pull ups when I was pregnant because I mean, you weigh so much more, it’s like putting a weight belt but then your core isn’t as strong as it used to be, so that’s one thing. So just work back up to the strength levels you were at prior to being pregnant.
Ben: And did you basically get your body back? Do you feel like you were able to regain your fitness? Do you feel like you’re more fit or stronger or where do you fit at this point?
Cassandra: Well, I had a goal. My girlfriend and I were actually pregnant at the same time. She had her boy two weeks after me and we had a goal, we were like by six months we want to be back at our, you know, pre-baby like fitness levels and stuff and as I told you I wasn’t as really as fit as I should’ve been right before I got pregnant because I was doing a lot of work on my Ph. D, but I am now, more fit, way more fit, than I was during the last year of my Ph. D, so I’m back to my acceptable levels for myself and I went and bought new clothes from Lucy fitness and stuff and everyone was like “wow! Oh my gosh you’ve drop so much weight” even just the last few weeks of just kind of tapering back the breast feeding, like first and foremost I don’t look like I have porn star boobs anymore because that’s an issue and that is just kind of going back to you know, women and when they have a baby. If you are breast feeding, that was one of the kind of barriers to working out was like every time I had to go you know, teach a class or something I had to pump and like sometimes I was like “shit! I forget to pump” or when and I was like oh! But I have to or my boobs are going to explode when I’m working out like it’s like, literally that bad so you kind of have to, you have to figure out this whole new routine and a whole new balance and you just, you know, work things out in a new way and it does work out but it’s more challenging and now that I’m kind of you know, my daughter, I switched her over to goat’s milk because I don’t take any cow’s milk and I’m actually cow’s milk intolerant. So she’s on goat’s milk and she eats a lot of food but now that she’s like good with that and I’m traveling more, you know, I feel better about you know, her not necessarily being on breast milk and it gives me more freedom, you know, I don’t feel like “oh! I have to pump!” right before I leave and its troubling.
Ben: Yeah. Our kid switched to goat’s milk about…
Cassandra: Oh that’s good.
Ben: I think was about seven months and or so. That definitely saved my wife a lot of hassle, so that’s interesting, to,o that you also switched to that because it is a home goat. Baby goats are closer to the size of a human baby than a baby cow is so there’s some enhanced protein absorption and lots of other good things going on.
Cassandra: Yeah. And I just have a real problem with cow’s milk in the USA like it even taste different between Canada and the US. It’s kind of strange, taste differently and it’s just so mass produced and I’m just really skeptical and because I personally have the intolerance to cow’s milk and I’ve never, ever exposed my daughter to the cow’s milk protein, like never when I was pregnant and never when I was breast feeding. I didn’t want to just also put that in her diet because I didn’t want you know, who knows and she’s been really good with the goat’s milk, it’s been nice. I’ve actually, I don’t know if you found this with your boys or maybe you were better than I, but the goat’s milk, it’s a little sour and so my daughter was kind of like “eww” so I’ve added a touch of maple syrup to it and she likes that and I’m almost like, am I creating this sugar monster, but if you taste breast milk, it’s really sweet so I just kind of made it the same sweetness as breast milk and she’s much more happy with it.
Ben: Yeah, that’s a good idea and you know we’re going into cow’s milk, we did switch our kids briefly to cow’s milk and one got pretty sick for about a week and so we switched them back to goat’s milk but yeah, it’s definitely a lot better digested so interesting. In your book, you said its going to be about four months or so before that comes out?
Cassandra: Yeah. I mean writing a book when you have a kid and I run a business and I write for other companies and I’m starting a new job as a registered dietitian at an insurance company. So, I have like six jobs and in addition to being a mom, this book will get done, the pictures are there, so it’s a work in progress but I’m trying to get it as quickly as possible. I’m probably going to take a few weekends and just like you know, lock myself in my office and tell my husband to go take the kid somewhere now that she’s not breast feeding, too, gives me a little more freedom. So probably about four months. The working title’s going to be The New Rules of Lifting or The New Rules of Exercise for Pregnancy.
Ben: Nice, I want to get…
Cassandra: It’s not just going to be lifting because it’s not just lifting so, sorry what were you saying?
Ben: Well, when it comes out, you know, if you want to let me know for the listeners who are listening in right now, I’ll keep you guys posted via the newsletter or via the blog at BenGreenfieldFitness.com when Cassandra’s book comes out because I know that some of you who are listening in will definitely want to use that as a resource. You can also check out Cassandra’s blog and I know this is going to be tough for you to spell so I’ll put a link in the show notes as well but its cassandraforsyth.com and I’ll be sure to put a few pictures of Cassandra in there, too. She’s got some good ones on her website but I know those of you women who listened in and heard that she did a lot of heavy lifting and things like that and she’s a perfect example that you really don’t have to look like a freak of nature and if you’re a woman doing things like that so I’ll put all that stuff in the show notes. Cassandra, thank you for coming on the call today and sharing this knowledge with us.
Cassandra: You’re welcome, thanks for having me.
Ben: Well folks, be sure to visit BenGreenfieldFitness.com to get a link to Cassandra’s books. I also put pictures of her up on there and also link to everything that we talked about in this podcast, Episode #141, including the link to my personal blog, the Psycho Cybernetics book by Maxwell Maltz, some of those low carbohydrate diabetes diet books I talked about, the vitamin screen smoothie video, the super health Living Fuel, everything is over at the show notes for you to click on and while you’re there if you can, please donate a dollar to keep this podcast going and it’s a great way to kind of offset the gigabytes and gigabytes of information that gets transferred from the thousands of downloads that we get each week so you can do a all that over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com and then ‘til next time this is Ben Greenfield wishing you a healthy week. Until next time from BenGreenfieldFitness.com.
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