Ben: In this podcast, beta-alanine supplementation, the VersaClimber, are pedicures healthy, back-to-back long run races, phosphatidylserine, are growth hormones and colostrums bad, eating for your body type, drinking beer during endurance sports, limu superfoods, fructose allergies, recovering between half ironman triathlons, when to do speed training for a sprint race, and can you drink too much green tea?
Hey folks, Ben Greenfield here. I am sipping my coconut water. I just got back from a beautiful bike ride here in Spokane, Washington, and today’s episode is actually a huge grab bag of questions. I decided to catch up on all the questions, the questions that haven’t been asked before, that is, that I’ve gotten from listeners over the past few weeks before we launch into this huge series of interviews that I’ve kind of had stocked up for the summer, kicking off next week with Dr. Bill Misner, who is a world champion masters runner, who happens to be a plant-based diet author and proponent. So, that’s coming up next week though. This week, a ton of questions as you probably heard from the introduction, so we will jump into the content in just a second. This week, released over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com, I put out a video about the 5 best 1-dumbbell exercises – I only do have 1 set of dumbbells at my house and I showed you 5 of my top exercises that I do with just one of them, there in that video over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com, and also, I’ll put up a video that is a seminar that I taught last week about 6 ways to begin training for ironman triathlons, so a lot of content over there on the blog. In terms of special announcements, I just want to remind you that if you do want to come party with my wife and I down in Jamaica this November, there is a triathlon down there that we both signed up for, you can sign up for it, too. I put a discount code over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com for you to sign up, and also, my book Shape21, which is the 21-day lean body manual where I teach you how to exercise and how to eat, is available on Facebook. Just go to Facebook.com and start to type in the word Shape21, or go to the link that I have right there in the show notes for this episode, Episode #153: Are pedicures healthy? And, you’ll be able to access that so, let’s go ahead and jump right in to this week’s listener Q & A after a quick announcement.
Ben: Okay! Now remember, if you’ve got the free Ben Greenfield Fitness iPhone app or Android app, which you can grab on the right side of the page over there at BenGreenfieldFitness.com, you can actually ask a question right there through the app and you can also get in to my BenGreenfieldFitness/inner circle for free, through that app as well so, check that out if you have the iPhone or the android Ben Greenfield Fitness free app.
Kristen: In one of your podcasts, you spoke about beta-alanine. Is this safe to take with caffeine on an empty stomach? And, are its effects on women different than men?
Ben: Well, beta-alanine in my opinion, is really an up and coming supplement that shows a great deal of promise for sports performance and athletic enhancement. It’s got a lot of similar research to creatine in terms of it performing over and over again – very well on a lot of the research and basically, the way that beta-alanine works is you got this peptide in your body, it’s called the dipeptide, it’s called carnacine, and carnacine is something that is syntonized or synthesized from a combination of histidine and beta-alanine. So, when you get this carnacine build up in your fast switch muscle fibers, and also in your nervous tissue, it acts as a buffer. So it neutralizes a lot of the acidity that is formed when your muscles contract in an anaerobic state, such as during a sprint, during a weight training session, during a hard cardio effort, anything of that nature, and the way that alanine or beta-alanine supplementation works is pretty basic – what it does is it increases your intramuscular carnacine levels and then you’re allowed to buffer all of the hydrogen ions or the ions, the acidic ions that build up when you’re exercising, and so, technically, that would allow you to push through the burn a little bit better, so to speak. So there are a ton of different, kind of beta-alanine studies that are out there – some of them, yes, have been sponsored by people who produce the beta-alanine supplements, but just to give you kind of a smidge of some of the trials that were out there, there was a 4-week trial where they compared beta-alanine and creatine, and found that beta-alanine had a lot better effects beyond creatine by itself when it was combined with creatine for healing fatigue and increasing the amount of work that you could do – not work like sitting at the office typing, like work in the gym so, there was another 4-week trial that use beta-alanine and without creatine and that increased the time to exhaustion while cycling. Another 10-week trial with combined beta-alanine and creatine, again, showed that beta-alanine had a lot of effects in addition to, when you just took creatine; you took beta-alanine on top of creatine for increasing maximum strength. There have been a few other studies that show, again, an increase in total work output with 10 weeks of beta-alanine supplementation, and usually, most of these days we’re having people dosed with about 4-6 grams or 4000-6000 milligrams of beta-alanine, kind of split up into 1-2 milligram doses throughout the day. Oh I’m sorry, 1-2 gram doses throughout the day. So, the only issue with beta-alanine is you get this reaction to it sometimes – I know I do, called paresthesia, and that’s this histamine reaction; it feels like you have this itchy, tingly sensation on the outside of your skin and you ask this question about caffeine and caffeine can actually make that tingling or itching sensation just a little bit more intense, and one of the reasons for that is that beta-alanine is a nitric oxide potentiate. What that means is that it magnifies nitric oxide function and so, nitric oxide is what allows a little bit of extra blood to flow through capillaries close to the skin surface, and so that’s part of what you feel with the tingling, and it’s really harmless but you will feel that. As far as women, absolutely – there have been studies that have been done on beta-alanine with women. There’s one study with a little over 20 women who took about 3-6 grams of beta-alanine; another group of women took a placebo and they measured the women’s cycling capacity and total time to exhaustion and the women who were on the beta-alanine did have a significantly greater working capacity and total time to exhaustion over the people, women specifically, who didn’t take beta-alanine. So, definitely a supplement that you could look into. I don’t sell beta-alanine, I’m not trying to pose a commercial for beta-alanine. I take Carnage, put up by a company called Millennium Sports, as a beta-alanine supplement and, I don’t use it all the time, usually if I’m going to do like a sprint or an Olympic distance triathlon, that’s when I’ll supplement with beta-alanine, when I’m going to be on really hard and heavy so, good question.
Matthew: I’ve been looking into this machine called the VersaClimber to help improve my running and cycling. Do you have an opinion about it or should I just stick to running and cycling?
Ben: Well, the VersaClimber is pretty cool – it’s this big long, vertical machine; you can get a home unit for little under $2000 actually, you can get a home unit VersaClimber and it’s basically an upright exercise device that puts you in a climbing position, so you’re working your arms, your shoulders, your back, your butt, your quads, and don’t get me wrong, it’s actually fairly difficult; it can burn a lot more calories than like, the spin bike or Stairmaster and I’ve been on them before and I really can’t last longer than about 20 minutes without getting both tired and yeah, maybe a little bit bored, kind of like a rowing machine, but it does show great promise in terms of having the ability to increase your oxygen consumption and give you a much higher heart rate during exercise compared to using a treadmill or rowing machine, and that’s actually research that has been done on the VersaClimber specifically, so it does provide, in some cases, a better workout than doing things like running or rowing or riding a bike because you’re using your arms, your legs, kind of similar to like an elliptical trainer, where you’re using your arms and legs, except it’s a little bit more difficult because you’re doing a lot more of the pushing and the pulling, so there’s quite a bit less oxygen to go around and it is certainly a good tool for improving your VO2 max. It’s never going to reproduce the same biomechanical motion as running will, but it is a good alternative, and similar to the VersaClimber – I’m actually, right now, researching another device called the ElliptiGO, which is an upright elliptical machine; I’ll be putting a video out pretty soon at BenGreenfieldFitness.com with me training on and riding it and then giving you my thoughts on it, and I’m kind of excited to start using that. Some of you who are out watching ironman in Coeur d’Alene may have seen me tooling around on an ElliptiGO machine and, not quite sure if I’m sold on it but stay tuned, I’ll kind of let you guys know what I think about it here, pretty soon in the future, but the VersaClimber is certainly a tough machine that will keep you in shape.
Joseph: My feet are nasty. My wife is on my case to get a pedicure, which I have refused. My latest argument is that the calluses on my feet are protected, and if they stay on the feet down, I will get blisters. On the other hand, I see no substantive reason to get a pedicure. Is there any good argument for or against getting pedicures?
Ben: Well, first of all Joseph, I doubt your feet are as nasty as mine – I actually put a photo of my feet on the show notes to this episode, Episode #153, so you can see what exactly my ugly, non-pedicured feet actually look like. So, for those of you who don’t even know what a pedicure is, a pedicure is kind of like a manicure for the hands and the nails, is a way to help your feet and your toenails look better so, what it is, it’s just a cosmetic treatment of your foot and your toenails and it can help, actually, to prevent some nail diseases, it can help to prevent some disorders in your nails like ingrown toenails, it can definitely make your foot look nicer, you can rub off a lot of the dead skin cells at the bottom of the foot, it would certainly get rid of those calluses – a lot of times, they’ll use a pumice stone to kind of, rub away some of the dead skin cells along the bottom of the foot. A lot of times, you can get like a leg or a foot massage when you go in to get a pedicure; you can get like shaving, waxing, exfoliation, moisturizing treatments so, it is really a nice way to pamper yourself – I’ve gone in and gotten foot massages and got my feet pampered a little bit whenever I go down and race in Thailand. They have this big foot and, I guess they’d be considered pedicure parlors down there but, you certainly do want to be careful, especially in terms of the cleanliness of the place that you go to. So for example, let’s say you shave and then you go in to get a pedicure, a lot of times, what can happen is that shave creates these little nicks and then bacteria can enter your skin if there are, for example, improperly-cleaned foot baths at the salon where you’re getting your pedicure, specifically, there’s a couple different types of fungi and a myobacterium that can grow in these foot baths and you can get a pretty serious foot infection and boils and nasty things going on with your feet when that occurs, so make sure there’s a) no open wounds on your feet, whether self-inflicted through shaving or via some type of an accident or overuse of your foot, and then also, make sure that you check and see how the actual foot baths are cleaned, and how clean the salon in general is – make sure they’ve got a license posted from the board of cosmetology, make sure that they’ve got a health and safety poster posted, make sure that any of like, the trimming and the cutting etc. preferably is done by you – it would be better if you trim your own toenails and let them just kind of clean things up a little bit. So, if you are a male, you’re probably not doing anything that kind of goes down the root of the nail polish, type of thing, but if you are a female, you probably are using nail polish and you do need to be careful with some of that. There are a lot of what are called dibutyl phthalates in nail polish, and that can cause some reproductive issues and it’s the same type of stuff you’re going to find in perfume and hairspray as well. Anytime you’re inhaling and absorbing these chemicals, there can be some pretty serious health effects that go on, specifically in your reproductive organs, and even for males, for visiting a salon, if they’ve got a lot of these phthalates floating around in the air, there can be some pretty disturbing effects to male reproductive health. There can be permanent damage done to your testes and your prostate gland and your seminal vesicles and lots of other issues. Nail polish removers and nail polish can be pretty toxic so, I would be really careful going to a salon that also uses a lot of nail polish or nail polish removers just because of the amount of toxic chemicals that are in those. So, just make sure that if you go into a place that doesn’t seem very well ventilated and there are a lot of chemicals, specifically the type of chemicals that would contain phthalates in them, other things you need to be careful of would be formaldehydes, an oxybenzone, I would be careful. I would not make it a regular practice to be breathing those compounds or letting them in your lungs so, ultimately, it can help your foot health a little bit, in terms of making your foot look better; if you got poor foot hygiene, it could certainly help out with that a little bit if you’re visiting a clean place but, just be careful where you go and what you’re breathing into your lungs and if you end up going in and doing it, send me a before and after picture of your foot and I’ll post it up over at the Facebook Ben Greenfield Fitness page so, there you go. Okay, never talked about that before.
Tony: Ben, I’m an experienced ultra marathoner. I’ve run a 100-miler, a couple of 100k and 750k events, along with a few marathons.
Ben: Alright, this guy is an underachiever.
Tony: I’m currently training for my first 50-miler on a very familiar, very hilly course. I also want to run a flat 20-miler that takes place one week before the 50-mile event. I usually have a low mileage run the weekend before an ultra but really want to run this 20-miler and I feel I can pull it off. What are your suggestions on this?
Ben: If you’ve got a good enough base going in, you can probably recover a little bit more quickly than a rookie can, from this flat 20-miler. Obviously your age, the amount of weight training and core and hip stability that you have is certainly going to affect your ability to bounce back from a 20-mile run, fast enough to do a 50-mle run a week later, but one thing I’m going to do for you is I’m going to link to an article that I wrote called “Ironman Triathlon: Lightning Speed Recovery Secrets” because there’s a lot of stuff in there that can help you out quite a bit. So for example, even before that 20-mile race starts, I would make sure that you’re not going in with a lot of tightness or a lot of muscle adhesions. I’d be doing a few massage therapy or foam roller sessions the week of that 20-mile run, and I would also be following up with more of that soft tissue work to workout a lot of the metabolized and inflammation after that 20-mile run. In terms of supplements, you could certainly take some things that may help you, in terms of like lactic acid buffering or hydrogen ion buffering, as well as use a gel or some type of supplement that has amino 6acids in it, something like a GU Roctane, because those amino acids are going to allow you to bounce back more quickly form your 20-mile runs so I would be taking proteins during the event and when I’m talking about free radical buffers, you could use something like that beta-alanine that I talked about earlier, that’d be one example of something you could use if you really wanted to make sure that you’re buffering the acid as quickly as possible. You’re not going to be creating a ton of lactic acid when you’re running at a 20-mile pace, but we’re talking about getting every little advantage that you could get. I would also make sure that you try and grab some topical magnesium – I do have a link to that in the article Lightning Speed Recovery Secrets and that can really increase blood flow, it can help to displace calcium, which is a common contributor to post-race soreness. I would, during and after the event, consider wearing compression gear to really help with a lot of the blood flow during the run and afterwards so you could use compression socks. If it’s not super hot out, you could even use like a compression tight. For example, I just got back from a bike ride and while I am recording this podcast, I’m wearing a compression tight called a Blitz 110%, and it’s got all these little pockets in it that I can fill with ice packs, and so that combination of ice and compression can help you to bounce back a lot more quickly, I would do the ice and compression after the event, but certainly, the compression would be something to consider even during the event. If you have access to something like physical therapy modalities like electro-stimulation, then you can get electro-stimulation units for home use, for as little as 100 bucks and up to $1000. Electro-stimulation is a great way to stimulate the muscles to contract and keep blood flowing, without actually engaging in like heavy joint impact, the same type that you get from running. So you could certainly use an electro-stimulation device for the days after that race between your 20-miler and your 50-miler, and as far as anything else you can do, certainly focus on the recovery component of nutrition, I would consider taking like proteolytic enzymes as well as a whole amino acid source as soon as possible after the event. For example, you could use something like recoveries for a proteolytic enzyme source, you could use something like Master Amino Pattern for an amino acid source, continued use like a topical magnesium for the days after the 20-mile event, and on at least a couple days after the race, try and get an ice bath and then follow that up – for example, the afternoon or the early evening with like an Epsom Salts bath or a magnesium salts bath, and that will certainly help you to recover a lot more quickly as well. Again, removing inflammation and helping out with displacement of some of that calcium that can also cause some soreness so, those are some of the stops that I’d pull out if I were trying to recover as quickly as possible, between a 20-mile weekend and a 50-mile weekend. As far as workouts go, just all light, easy stuff; just do some aqua jogging, you can do a little bit of time on the bicycle, but I really wouldn’t run much at all, between those 2 events. So hopefully that helps you out and give you some ideas in terms of recovery.
Chris: What is your opinion on phosphatidylserine and its use with endurance athletes?
Ben: Phosphatidylserine is interesting stuff – I’ve actually been recommending it to several of my clients, specifically for people who are having some issues with really high cortisol levels, and I’ll talk about why in a little bit, but phosphatidylserine is one of those things that is required for the functioning of pretty much all cells and you’re going to find it in really high concentration in the brain, in the heart, in the liver, and also in skeletal muscle so it’s this big molecule and it’s got an amino acid called serine that’s linked to a fat, basically what’s called a diglyceride or a fat via a phosphate molecule that kind of, bridges the 2 components of phosphatidylserine and what phosphatidylserine does is it’s involved really with a lot of the ways that cells communicate with each other. So, for example, it regulates the release of hormones like dopamine or a noradrenaline, they get secreted by your nerve cells. It’s related to the way that tissues are going to respond to some of the processes that are involved in inflammation, and it’s highly linked to like brain function and happiness, stress or distress and one of the reasons for that is that it’s got such a vital role in cell communication and nerve hormone secretion, which are very related to brain function. So they’ve done studies that have shown that when you supplement with phosphatidylserine, you get an enhancement of cognitive function, you can enhance learning and memory, you can decrease a lot of the effects of stress and so, it’s not really something that would be used, for example, for sports performance but also for people who are kind of struggling with mood disorders – phosphatidylserine can be really useful for stuff like that. Interestingly, in terms of cortisol, when you get these chronically elevated levels of stress hormones like cortisol, that are associated with like a suppressed immune system with an ability to repair and recover quite as quickly, phosphatidylserine can actually have a pretty cool effect on the release of those stress hormones, following an exercise session. So, it can actually blunt a lot of the cortisol release that occurs after you’ve done a hard exercise session, but it can do that without affecting the release of growth hormone. A lot of times, when you try and shutdown cortisol production, you can also shutdown growth hormone, which is anabolic, which allows the muscles to repair and recover more quickly, but using phosphatidylserine to control cortisol production actually doesn’t cause that to happen. It can also lead to lower perceived levels of post-exercise muscle soreness. Itt’s got a little bit of anti-oxidant activity going for it so it can reduce some of the markers of oxidative muscle damage, so after you exercise, you’re going to get a lot of like creatine kinase that you’ll find in the bloodstream, a lot of peroxides, which are free radicals, and those can do a lot of metabolic damage or damage to cellular membranes, and phosphatidylserine can buffer some of that. There have been other studies with phosphatidylserine that actually show a longer ability to complete an exercise about, up around a fairly high intensity about 85% V02 max, comparing subjects who take phosphatidylserine with those who do not. So phosphatidylserine is a legal supplement that you can take; there aren’t really a lot of risks for it or deleterious side effects from using it for sports performance and really, most of the side effects are positive, like this improved memory and lower levels of stress hormones. I would say that if you don’t really have issues with mood, and you’re eating lots of things like dark leafy greens and you’ve got meat consumptions so you eat a lot of fish; rice is another source of phosphatidylserine. Unless you actually have some cognitive issues or unless you’re struggling with something like adrenal exhaustion or huge amounts of cortisol, maybe a really poor testosterone cortisol ratio, some of the effects of overtraining, I don’t necessarily think that phosphatidylserine is as good a supplement as using something like a beta-alanine or amino acid, but if you kind of have a combination of a lot of cognitive issues along with a really high amount of stress, specifically from something like endurance sports, there’s certainly a promise for phosphatidylserine to help out quite a bit so, something to look into. As far as dosage recommendations, the dosages kind of vary a lot among quite a few of these studies, and they go from about 300 milligrams per day up to about 700-800 milligrams per day. As far as brands for phosphatidylserine, one brand that’s decent is a Jarrow phosphatidylserine, I’ll put a link to that in the show notes. I think you can get it on Amazon, but I’ll check and throw a link in there for you, and yeah, it’s a good question, good stuff.
Kathleen: Goats’ colostrums seems to be such a good supplement and I want to take it but I’ve had breast cancer and the information about colostrum talks about growth hormone. It is important that I do not raise my estrogen levels. Is this growth hormone something I should stay away from? Also, it says goat’s colostrum can raise low blood sugar. Should people with diabetes not take this supplement?
Ben: Well, first of all, if you don’t really know what goat’s colostrum is, we did an entire episode on it – if you go to BenGrenfieldFitness.com and do a search for colostrum, you’ll see it there but basically what it is, is it’s the early milk produced by mammals during the first few days after a baby’s birth, so like a goat, a cow would be a couple typical sources where they’re going to harvest colostrum, there’s no harm to the animal. They take what’s left over after the baby’s has already fed, but the reason that colostrum could be so beneficial is it’s naturally very high in some growth factors that help those baby mammals to grow muscles and to repair and recover tissue and to form a nice, healthy digestive tracts and in humans, it can have a lot of similar positive effects and so, for example, when you give colostrum to athletes, you’re going to see an increase in things like peak power and vertical jump. You can see a decrease in the amount of the gut’s potential for leaking during exercise – the gut tends to get very permeable when you exercise, it can produce a lot of gastro-intestinal discomfort and when you take colostrum, you can get rid of a lot of that gut leakiness. There are a lot of positive health benefits to colostrum as well, but anytime that you see the term growth factor drop, when it comes to any supplement, one of the first things you need to think about is that, what cancer is, is it’s basically unbridled growth of cells and that’s something that growth factor can certainly contribute to, and bovine colostrum, goat’s colostrum, any of these type of colostrums can really, significantly increase insulin-like growth factor levels and there are possible correlations between high insulin-like growth factor levels and various cancers, including breast cancer so, it is certainly something to think about. Now, I have not seen any studies that have looked into any correlation between colostrum and cancer. I would say that if you are someone who has something like a family history of breast cancer, someone who has been previously diagnosed, it may not be a supplement that you want to mess around with too much and I’m not a doctor, I can’t say for sure, but it could certainly, there’s not a direct correlation but the fact that it produces high levels of insulin-like growth factor, might give you a pause if you’re concerned about cancer risk due to growth factor. It’s something that I will look into a little bit more, and I’m going to also pass this question over to Joe Stout, who’s one of the head researchers over at Mt. Capra that makes the colostrum that I personally take, and hopefully we can delve into this just a little bit more. As far as the blood pressure question, I’m not really sure where you heard that because all the studies that have been done on colostrum actually show that it reduces blood glucose and it controls blood sugar levels, so this would actually be something that would be potentially helpful for diabetics and not something that’s harmful, so maybe that was just a misquote.
Tiffany: In one of your podcasts, you mentioned that you were writing or had written a book about eating, in accordance with your body type. I have realized recently that I am skinny-fat person and as a vegetarian that despises weight and resistance training, I’m trying to figure out what the right balance of protein/carbs/fat is for me. Thanks for any insight that you can give me.
Ben: Well first of all, I’m not writing a book about eating in accordance with your body type. However, and there is about a 100-page contract sitting here just a few feet away from me, that I’m still going back and forth with the publisher on, about a book that is in the works, and it does have to do with body type and body typing, and exercise and getting the body that you want. That’s about all that I can tell you for now. I can tell you that it’s going to be a very good book. It is going to be one of those books that just about anybody can grab and instantly use to make their body look way better. It’s not a body-building book, but it does have some stuff in there about eating based off of what your body looks like when you look in the mirror, like the shape of your stomach and your waist and your neck and your arms and your legs, but it’s not a nutrition book as much as it is like an exercise, body-shaping type of book, and I’ll certainly be keeping you guys up to date on that as it gets closer, because when you work with publishers, it’s like, I’ve got another book on strength training for a triathlon – that book, it’s about a 400-page book, it’s been done for a year and I am handcuffed, I can’t really do anything because the publisher has it and when you write a book, you sign over the rights through that book to the publisher, so I can simply sit here and wish that all of you could get your hands on it so, anyways, back to Tiffany’s question. In the question, she says that she’s a skinny-fat person and I’ve talked about that before in the idea that people who are naturally lean can still have quite a bit of inflammation, of bloating, and of subcutaneous and visceral or abdominal fat formed due to poor eating patterns. Now, the fact that you’re a vegetarian kind of gives me a pause, especially because you despise weight and resistance training, that’s kind of like the perfect set-up for getting the skinny-fat look because it’s likely that as a vegetarian, you’ve got a high amount of carbohydrate consumption, it’s likely that a lot of that is coming from potentially inflammatory sources like wheat and soy, and then you also are suppressing a lot of your body’s natural fat burning ability and natural ability to produce a lot of the hormones that are going to assist with fat loss and weight loss by despising weight and resistance training. So, if you’re trying to find out what the right balance of protein, carbs and fat are for you and you’re already skinny-fat, the fact that you’re skinny-fat and you’re a vegetarian and that’s not working for you, should give you a big clue. I would consider, if I were you, if you’re doing any long, slow cardio, I’m guessing you probably are, consider ditching that in favor of more high intensity cardiovascular intervals, start to throw a full-body resistance training routine in, about 3 days a week, my get fit guy podcast over at GetFitGuy.QuickandDirtyTips.com would be a very good resource for learning how to weight train – I would listen to the first 10 episodes of that podcast, it’ll be just a gold mine of weight training information for you and maybe help you to like weight training a little bit better, and then from a dietary standpoint, I would consider upping the protein and the fat a little bit; listen to the Perfect Health Diet interview that I had last week with Paul Jaminet, you may read that book, and certainly balance that out with information, for example, I am going to be interviewing a plant food nutritionist next week but most of the really successful vegans and vegetarians and plant food proponents that I’ve interviewed, they all have really intense focus on getting the proper amounts of amino acids and fats in their diet, whereas I find that a lot of the average vegetarians don’t, and especially the ones who have to deal with skinny-fat syndrome, they especially need to reinvent the diet and also pick-up more of the weight and resistance training and the high intensity cardiovascular intervals, so that’s what I would recommend for you and hopefully that helps.
Tomaz: The Technical University of Munich in Germany, has recently published research of a positive impact of beer on endurance sports. What is your thought on that?
Ben: My first thought on this was that every single study that I’ve seen on beer and sports have shown an incredibly deleterious effect of alcohol on the ability to do anything and a decrease in time to exhaustion, on speed, on power, on strength, everything, with the consumption of alcohol. So I went and took a look at this study and they used non-alcoholic beer, and specifically, what they were looking at was myocardial function or the muscles of the heart’s ability to function and vascular adaptations after strenuous exercise when someone consumed this non-alcoholic beer versus when someone also consumed a beverage but a beverage without what are called polyphenols, which is something that non-alcoholic beer has a lot of; and they study post-hard exercise, specifically, post-marathon run, risk for inflammation, risk for heart failure and risk for cardiac death, and the people who actually supplemented their pre- and post-marathon running with this polyphenolic-containing, non-alcoholic beer, actually had a better recovery and a lower risk of these cardiovascular risk factors or a lower instance to this cardiovascular risk factors granted they’re drinking about 1 to 1 ½ of these non-alcoholic beers everyday for 3 weeks before that marathon run and it appears, although I’m not completely sure from the abstract and the methods that I’m looking at, it appears they may have actually had some during the run as well. Now these polyphenols, you’re going to find a lot of them in the hops that is used to make the beer, and they’re basically this organic chemical and what they have the ability to do is scavenge free radicals and they up-regulate some of what are called the pollation reactions within the body. Specifically, what they’re going to do is they’re going to take care of a lot of these reactive oxygen species like hydrogen peroxide and singlet oxygen that are produced during intense endurance bouts and they’re going to remove these from the cells to maintain healthy metabolic function, and they may have some other, kind of health effects like a lot of the anti-aging effects that a lot of the other antioxidants have such as slowing the process of skin wrinkling and maybe preventing some of the risks for peripheral artery disease and you’re going to find them in tons of different fruits and vegetables – so apples and blackberries and chocolate and green tea and olive oil, all of these types of foods contain a lot of theses polyphenol antioxidants. So, do not use the results of that study to go out and drink beer everyday for 3 weeks before your marathon and definitely, do not use that as an excuse during your marathon, but do use the study as a reason to include lots of polyphenol-containing foods in your diet because they are fairly healthy for you and could have life-extending and, now we see endurance sports recovery-enhancing effects so, good question and thank you for bringing that study to my attention. I was concerned at first, that everything I knew about beer was wrong until I looked at the study.
Tom: At a running expo before a local run, a sales person gave me a sample of a dietary supplement called “Limu Original: The Premium Fucoidan Blend”. What is this?
Ben: Well, as soon as you asked this, I knew that this was probably one of those highly over-hyped and overpriced blends of some type of unknown or incredibly rare super food that comes in a bottle that looks a little bit like a wine bottle and cost you a lot of money, but at the same time, really doesn’t offer you any antioxidant or nutrient benefit over and above what you would find in something like a package of organic blueberries, and low and behold, I was correct. This is a multi-level marketing company – anytime you go to a website in one of the big buttons that’s on it that says “opportunity”, you know that you’re going to be paying more for the supplement most likely because of some of the money that are being ticked off to all of the reps, to actually keep the multi-level marketing model flourishing. So, I don’t want to say a lot about this because I’ve covered, I get these questions all the time about all these different, unknown super foods, all they turn out to be really are these high, what are called high antioxidant-containing components that basically have some sugar in them and tastes really nice and could offer you a lot of benefit but potentially, also have a lot of potential to make expensive urine. And usually, they’ll say that they have vitamins and minerals and amino acids and fatty acids in them and all of that’s true, but in most cases, you can replicate the properties of these by eating a healthy whole food type of diet so, good question – sorry for the brief answer, but that’s my response.
Jack: I recently competed at the Ironman 70.3 UK, I was in a good position going into the run, but after about the 1k mark of the run, I began to feel bloated and sick. This GI distress continued over the whole run and so, I was unable to take on any more fuel and unable to put together the 125 half marathon I was looking for, I was forced to slow down, stop and be sick, and finish with a disappointing 1 hour and 42 half marathon. I had similar issues last seasons in both Ironman 70.3 and Ironman UK, so this year, I adopted a paleo diet to help improve my diet and reduce GI distress. I thought that reduced gluten leading up to the race would help, but this was not the case. During the race, I had a gel just before the swim start, and then consumed 500 milliliters of Gatorade per hour, with a gel per hour on the bike. I would appreciate your thoughts and ideas to help me discover the cause and prevent it from ruining yet another race.
Ben: Well probably, and I’m just going to go out on a limb here and tell you something that you may want to look into if this is something that keeps coming back over and over again to bite you, Jack. You may have a fructose malabsorption issue, which would also be known as like a fructose intolerance, and that’s just basically a digestive disorder in which you, excuse me, can’t absorb fructose very well because you have deficient fructose carriers in your small intestines, specifically the enterocyte cells of your small intestines which are responsible for a lot of the fructose absorption that goes on, so when that happens, you get a bunch of fructose, basically fermenting in the rest of your intestine, it can cause a lot of irritable bowel syndrome, it can cause a lot of issues during exercise, and the fact that you were drinking one of the sport supplements that contains very high amounts of fructose, in this case Gatorade, while also consuming gels that may or may not have had fructose, could have put you at a high risk for a lot of stomach discomfort if you do have a dietary fructose intolerance. Now you can go get, basically, a breath test to find out if you have a fructose malabsorption issue, and that’s something that’s very easy to do and if that were the case, you’d want to begin to avoid a lot of these issues that may lead to the GI distress when you consume fructose. If you were eating a paleo diet, it’s likely that your consumption of fruit may have been fairly low anyways and so, you may not have noticed this until you started to throw down all of the fructose that you were consuming during the race. Now, to go even further into that, even if you don’t have a fructose malabsorption issue, I personally get stomach upset within about 2 hours of consuming Gatorade, during an endurance event – my stomach does not simply do well, mixing Gatorade with other sugars, and that maybe because of the use of multiple sugar transporters actually causing a little bit of GI distress or a little bit of malabsorption of some of the sugars that I’m consuming along with the Gatorade or the Gatorade itself, I don’t know. However, I do know that when I get rid of Gatorade during my endurance efforts, and instead stick to only gels with clear water, I’m fine. So, those are a couple of things to look into – hopefully those help you; try those out and get back to me, let me know how it goes.
Justin: I just finished my 2nd Half Ironman this past Sunday. I followed one of your training plans on Training Peaks and I took 23 minutes off my 1st Half Ironman time. I wasn’t sure how it would go as my missed a ton of the workouts, but I guess between absorbing as much knowledge from your podcast and doing the workouts I did, it came together for me on race day. My question is, I have another Half Ironman race in just under 4 weeks. Knowing that I have the endurance to get through the event, I want to focus on getting faster now, if I can. Should I be doing hill repeats and running hills to boost my strength and speed, or what is the best way to add some speed over the next few weeks?
Ben: Well, if you’ve got 4 weeks between these 2 races, the only concern is that you probably tapered or laid off some of your training, cut your training volume by anywhere from 30-60% for your taper, for your first race, and what that means is you probably lost a little bit of fitness, and so, if you spend the next few weeks before your next race only doing like short, hard workouts, you’re going to risk losing even more aerobic capacity and losing even more fitness before this next race. So if I were in your shoes, and I do this a lot when I have, kind of a 1-month gap between one Half Ironman and a Half Ironman the next week and the next month, and as a matter of fact, this is where I’m just going into – I did a Half Ironman last month, I did Racing Kona and this week, I’m doing another Half Ironman down in Portland, the Rev3 Triathlon. What I’ll do is after that first Half Ironman, I’ll return to about 2 weeks of kind of longer training to start to build back-up my aerobic foundation, what I would consider to be base training. It’s not a ton of hot and heavy and hard workouts, which actually don’t really help the muscles recover too well from that first Half Ironman, but instead, doing a lot of kind of slower more aerobic, kind of skill-based workouts combined with some of the recovery recommendations that I gave to the previous question who had asked about how to recover more quickly. And then, for a couple of weeks leading into your next race, that’s when you begin to reduce volume again, and you do a lot of the short, more intense workouts when the bike, all of your workouts might be intervals of anywhere from 1-5 minutes in duration, with long recovery times. All of your run efforts might be anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes in duration – those are all interval-based, again with long recovery times and then, short 50, 100 or 200-meter repeats in the swim to help out with your speed. Frankly, working on building your strength is something that is tough to do unless you kind of save that more for the off season or the early season, it’s tough to build strength right in the middle of a couple races; you’re better off focusing on speed and power and fast work application, combined with a little bit of a return to volume, initially after that first race. So, hopefully that helps out.
Sarah: I started doing cross fit December 1st. My background in fitness is a more traditional, body building type workout with your typical cardio like running or elliptical trainer. At first, I had a hard time with cross fits since it’s power lifting type stuff; it was like I had to be trained all over again. Since then, I’ve improved greatly but I lack in the intensity and endurance – many times, I’ll stop midway to catch my breath and regroup, but I see others pressing forth and pushing past. I’d really like to get better at cross fit; I’ve heard that doing 2 of the workout a day or the workout of the day a day, may help in my endurance and intensity but isn’t that overuse? I cross fit 5 days a week at 5:30 am. What recommendations do you have for a cross fitter to get faster, stronger and to gain endurance and stamina?
Ben: Well first of all, if you’re getting in to cross fit and you lack in the intensity and the endurance, more is not better; shifting to 2 a day, as you say, certainly is overuse and a fast route to injury and overtraining. Cross fit is very intense; doing it as a 2 a day is only going to cause you to go less hard and have subpar workouts or to go just as hard as you should and injure yourself. The workout of the day was just meant to be that, the workout of the day, not the workouts of the day, when you’re using something like cross fit to get fitter. What I would be focusing on instead would be, first of all, addressing any potential performance limiter issues that might be creeping up on you from a physiological or a biological level, so have you looked at your blood glucose? Have you looked at your minerals or your magnesium levels? Have you looked at your vitamin D? Have you looked at your hormonal recovery status by looking at like, your testosterone-cortisol ratios or your estrogen levels or your DHEA levels? Have you looked into the type of diet that you’re eating and whether or not it’s supporting the level of activity that you’re engaging in and if you are glycogen-depleted before you go to bed at night, before that 5:30 am workout? Have you looked into your iron levels or your ferritin levels which can lead to poor oxygen uptake if it’s low and cause a lot of the fatigue or the heaviness that you’re talking about? Have you looked into your essential amino acid levels? Do you have enough onboard? How is your diet, in terms of whole protein intake? Have you looked into your essential fatty acid status? What’s your Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acid status look like? Are you more inflamed than you should be, based off a really high Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acid ratio? Lots of things to look into. You could do something like get a performance profile. You can get a bunch of tests sent to your house. You can drip a bunch of saliva into a tube and bleed on a blood spot and send this stuff off to a lab. You can get just about everything I just mentioned, tested from the comfort of your own home. Use something like Bioletics for that, I’ll put a link to it in the show notes. That’s something that I did twice last year and it helped me tremendously. So, I would definitely look at your internal performance factors. I would also, before you consider doing more cross fit, consider doing less cross fit. Rather than going 5 days a week, look at going 3 days a week, like a Monday, Wednesday, Friday and then on the Tuesday and the Thursday, consider doing some things that are slightly less intense and that focus on your base endurance, so something like a 20-minute swim followed by a 30-minute bike ride, or a 30-minute bike ride followed by a 20-minute run at a slightly lower intensity than you’re going to be doing during the cross fit workouts, to allow you to engage in active recovery so you recover more quickly from your actual cross fit workout that you did the day before, but also to allow you to build up kind of this base foundation of endurance, which you never really had a chance to build, back when you were doing body building. So, that’s what I would recommend, hopefully that helps.
Craig: I’m training for a sprint triathlon. At what point would you recommend including speed training?
Ben: Well Craig, for example, over at the Rockstar Triathlete Academy where we’ve got about 300 people who are in there, learning the sport of triathlon and we write out workouts for them and training plans – one of the training plans that we have in there, the Rockstar Triathlete Academy Sprint Training Plan, it’s almost all speed training. I mean, from Day 1, it’s a 15-week plan and you do speed training the whole time, because frankly, for a sprint distance triathlon, if you’re wanting to go fast, you are red line the whole time. So for example, if I wear a heart rate monitor during a sprint distance triathlon, my max heart rate when I test it, when I go out and do like a 200-meter sprint and see what’s the max heart rate I can achieve, I’m usually up around like 186, 188, up around in that range. Okay, if you look at my average heart rate during a sprint distance triathlon, it’s usually about 180-184, okay. So you are red line during a sprint distance triathlon, and speed training from the get-go is going to help you a ton, and when I talk about speed training, I’m talking about doing treadmill or outdoor sprints, I’m talking about doing bicycle efforts that are doing like a half-mile and quarter-mile repeats, super fast stuff. I’m talking about, like I mentioned before, 50, 100, 200, even 25-meter sprint workouts in the pool, all of that stuff will help you tremendously for a sprint distance triathlon because you don’t have to build-up a huge aerobic base to be fast for a sprint triathlon or to cross a finish line in a sprint triathlon. Fast speed training is always going to be, or give you a better bank for your buck than long aerobic training, when it comes to sprint distance training. So if you were, for example, doing 2 swims, 2 bikes and 2 runs a week, you could have each of those be a combination of one being like a longer, kind of tempo-based workout where your intervals are anywhere from 3-10 minutes in duration, and then the other workout that you do for the skill would be shorter work repeats of like 30 seconds up to 3 minutes in duration, for the length of the actual interval that you’re doing, but the whole time, like for the 15-week sprint triathlon training programs that I write out for the academy, the entire program we’re doing speed training from the get-go.
Philip: I recently started taking Lipton Iced Green Tea as I could not take the plain green tea. After bringing some 36 cans at one stretch, I realize that they provide approximately 80 calories for a full can. After this, I have reduced my intake to 1 can a day. Is the Lipton Iced Green Tea really harmful?
Ben: Well I think, just based on the way Philip phrased his question, I think this is coming from an international listener. I’m not quite sure what you mean by bringing 36 cans at 1 stretch – I’m assuming you’re not like, drinking 36 cans in a day, but either way, it kind of depends because like, if you look at the ingredients of Lipton Iced Green Tea, so you could grab one brand and one brand or one variation of Lipton Iced tea is water, high fructose corn syrup, phosphoric acid, sodium hexametaphosphate, potassium ascorbate, potassium benzoate, caramel color, caramel disodium, natural flavor and red number 40, and that has a lot of refined, processed ingredients in it that will be deleterious to your health, that will do things like cause your liver to pack on a bunch of fructose and convert it into fat, that will do things like put potential neurotoxins in your body, with a lot of these artificial flavors and sweeteners and colors and benzoates, some preservatives, but then if you look at, like another brand of Lipton Green Tea like their natural green tea, the ingredients in that are green tea, water, a little bit of sugar but not too much sugar – I’d like it better if they even just sweetened it with just stevia, citric acid, fruit extract, and then a purified stevia extract as the last ingredient, so they’re using a little bit of stevia but it’s not the primary sweetener, and that’s obviously a much different story – that’s going to do you a lot less harm than drinking the alternatives so, one of the things that this comes down to is looking at the label of the actual tea, but I would highly recommend that in most cases, unless you’re an incredibly active person engaging in strenuous exercise on a daily basis in the heat, that you not drink your calories, rarely if ever. So, there are some exceptions to that rule – kombucha for example, your one exception. In the inner circle, my wife and I recently did a 3-part video series on how to make your own kombucha, and when you first start the kombucha before it ferments, you put about a cup of sugar in, but the bacteria feed on that sugar and there’s none really left in the kombucha by the time it actually is its finished product 2 weeks later. So, that’s a case where I can go grab some kombucha and drink that, I’m fine; me drinking the coconut water right here while I’m recording the podcast after my workout, again, I’m very insulin-sensitive and the small amounts of sugar in the coconut water is not going to be a big issue at that point, but typically, I would save any amount of liquid calorie consumption for pre, during or post-workout and pretty much anything else you drink should be plain water or soda water and if that really gets boring to you, either chew a little bit of like a natural mint gum, like I use a spry gum that’s sweetened with xylitol, or you can put a little bit of stevia and lemon juice in the water, or if you wanted to, you can take like an effervescent tablet like one of these electrolyte tablets, it has some vitamins and minerals in it (one that I use is like Nuun) and you can drop that in some water and make that flavored, but usually the bottled stuff that you buy, that’s like tea, it’s always going to have some added sweeteners, but obviously, there’s a big difference in those 2 labels that I read, so you really want to educate yourself but more often than not, drinking your calories from a processed bottled source is going to be more harmful than beneficial. So, that about wraps up the questions – we’re all cut up on questions, and you can ask your question over there at BenGreenfieldFitness.com; you can ask it using the free iphone or android app; click Ask a Podcast Question at the bottom of this page, and remember, please, if you get a lot out of this podcast, leave a donation over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com, a $1 donation a month does a huge amount of benefit in allowing me to afford the ability so support all the downloads that this podcast gets and then also, if you get a chance, go to iTunes, leave the podcast a review and a ranking and that really helps as well. So, until next time, this is Ben Greenfield signing out, from BenGreenfieldFitness.com.
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