Introduction: In this podcast episode: training and nutrition for runners, benefits of training while calorie depleted, exercising with a low back injury, can you rebuild cartilage? How to choose your amino acids and proteins, stomach sloshing while running, runner’s knee and how to take a rest day.
Ben: Welcome to the podcast. Now, I have a question for you. Actually, it’s more of a quest for you. I want to know who you want to see featured on the www.bengreenfieldfitness.com podcast. I recently had a listener recommend that I get Michael Pollan, a nutritionist and author on the show. I’m working on getting him on the show. But this podcast is big enough now and ranked high enough on iTunes where I can get most people that you would like me to get on the show. But I just need to know who you want to hear from. If you could sit down with someone, have them into your living room and talk to them whether they be an author, a nutritionist, a coach, a personal trainer, a physician, who would it be? Because I have the leverage to be able to get those people on the show. But I want to know who you want to hear from. So, the way that you can tell me who you would like to hear on the show is to email [email protected] or to go to the Shownotes where I put all the goodies from each show and on those Shownotes, leave a comment and tell me who you’d like to see on the podcast. The advantage of doing it via leaving a comment is you get to engage in discussion with other people who may or may not agree with your desire to have a certain individual on the show. Because obviously health, fitness, nutrition can get a little political and opinionated at times. It’ll be interesting to hear who people want to see on the show, what people’s opinions are of those individuals and ultimately make the podcast even better and more tailored to what you want to see on it. So what are you waiting for? Go over there and leave a comment or shoot me an email and tell me who you want to see on the Ben Greenfield Fitness podcast. Finally, like I mentioned last week, a new way to communicate with me and get a hold of me is via Twitter. And to contact me via Twitter, just go to www.twitter.com/bengreenfield. Hit the “follow” button and then shoot me a message or write a post and include the word @bengreenfield. The little “@” sign, and then “bengreenfield” in your post or your question or your feedback and I will get it. So let’s go ahead and move on to this week’s special announcements and then the Listener Q and A and an interview on training and nutrition for runners.
Alright triathletes, tune in. You’ve heard me talk about the triathlon trip to Thailand that I’m organizing this coming winter. But there’s been a new event that’s been added to January and February for the winter. I’m going to be throwing down the triathlon training camp down in Austin, Texas once again this winter. So if you’re a triathlete and you’re listening in, go to the Shownotes because all the details for that camp have been posted. It’s officially going to happen January 31st through February 7, 2011. Now is the time to start planning and get that into your schedule. So go to the Shownotes to check that out. In addition to that, under the Special Announcement tab in the Shownotes, I tell you what we talked about in the Body Transformation Club this week. If you want to get into the Body Transformation Club, there’s a little button you can click there where you can go find out more about how to have me send you postcards each week with training and nutrition tips. The Ben Greenfield Fitness T-shirts are still going out on a weekly basis. Anybody who donates more than 15 bucks to the show automatically will get a T-shirt sent to you. That’s free shipping. I don’t charge anything. I just put it in the mail and send it to you. I usually include a bunch of goodies as well. So those are all the special announcements for this week: the triathlon training camp, the Body Transformation Club and the Ben Greenfield Fitness T-shirts. So let’s go ahead and move on to this week’s Listener Q and A.
So if you have a question, you can email [email protected]. You can call and leave it via audio to 8772099439 and that’s toll free. Or you can Skype to Pacific Fit. You can also, like I mentioned earlier, ask your question via Twitter and once again this week, I will be sending a T-shirt to the top question of the week asked via Twitter. So the first question comes from listener Graeme.
Graeme asks: I understand the benefits of logic of training low, racing high in relation to carbs. Recently I went too far with that and bonked. My question is, is there any training benefit of bonking and if there is any notable recovery issues?
Ben answers: Well, the issue that Graeme is referring to is the fact that there has been research that training with low levels of stored carbohydrates in your muscles can actually help you become more fit. So basically there’s been studies done in the past few years where individuals would train twice a day, but in between those training sessions they wouldn’t eat very much carbohydrate at all so they didn’t replenish their energy stores for that second training session of the day. So that second training session of the day was done in what’s called a glycogen-depleted state or a carbohydrate-depleted state. What happened is the athletes who trained in the carbohydrate-depleted state actually showed better training adaptations in their muscles. What the researchers did is they took muscle biopsies, where they take a little clip out of a muscle and study it under a microscope, and they found that some of the enzymes in those muscles and particularly the enzymes involved in fat metabolism actually increased compared to the individuals who trained when they had a bunch of carbohydrates on board, or they were in what’s called a glycogen-loaded state. So the actual training program that they used during this glycogen-depletion training study was pretty short. It was only a few weeks and the issue is whether or not A, training like that for a long period of time would actually result in significant performance improvements and B, how hard can you actually push yourself when your blood sugar levels are low and you’re calorie depleted? So, the way that I personally do it is I’ll typically include at least once every couple of weeks in my training plan, a session where I don’t eat as much as I normally would during a normal training session. So, for example, I will have my pre-workout meal two or three hours prior to a workout. I’ll go out and do a workout but I will do it before a long workout. So this will be before say for example a two-hour bike ride. I would really only go out on that two-hour bike ride with one gel and do it in a pretty glycogen depleted state. The other option you can do is a two a day where you do one training session and you don’t eat that much between that training session and the next training session. And again, it can beat up the body pretty easily doing that over and over again. But every once in a while, there is evidence to suggest that it could help you out quite a bit. So what Graeme says is what happens if you go too far and you bonk? And what Graeme means is when you bonk, a typical bonk when you’re out training and you run out of fuel is you have all of the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia. So, you get fatigued, you get dizzy. You begin to get confused. You can’t think very well. Usually can’t produce much of a muscle force at all when it happens to people and they’re riding their bikes. They usually have to either slow to a crawl or begin walking their bike. When it happens to people when they’re on a run, they usually have to start walking, even sometimes just sit down on a park bench or on the ground and call someone for a ride. It’s pretty serious. It’s literally no fuel on board when even a very, very uncomfortable feeling with any exercise is attempted. So you’d think that someone would be able to just keep pushing through and oxidize primarily fat, but in a true bonk you’re going even past that stage. There’s been no research that I’ve seen that have investigated whether someone takes themselves to that level repeatedly will actually increase their fitness. I can tell you that when you get yourself very, very carbohydrate-depleted like that, it takes a longer time to refill those carbohydrate stores. You obviously turn your training session into a junk training session. In terms of recovery, implications for the next day’s training sessions – if you have 24 hours between a bonk and the next day’s training session you’ll be fine but if you’re planning on working out more later on in the day or you bonk in the late afternoon or evening and you have a morning training session planned, you’re not doing yourself any favors. So you can use this strategy of depleting your calories on a rare basis – every couple weeks, possibly every other week in your training but you want to be really careful with it and not take it to the extreme.
So the next question is from a Twitter listener.
Listener asks: My brother-in-law is a cancer survivor with some back and spine damage because of low back treatments. What are some good exercises for him?
Ben answers: Well, I’ll put a link to this in the Shownotes for you, but I have an upcoming episode over at my other podcast The Get Fit Guy over at the Quick and Dirty Tips network and that podcast is primarily based around what to do if you get a low back injury and you need to exercise. Many of the same type of concepts discussed in that article and that episode would apply to your brother-in-law. Some of the top suggestions that I give in that episode include aqua-jogging, swimming and water aerobics. Anything in the water really is very non-impact on the back. The one caution that you need to take is if you swim freestyle, it’s very easy to hyperextend your back and a lot of times a breaststroke or a backstroke can be easier on the back than freestyle swimming. If you use weight machines, those can give you a lot more controlled environments than free weights, but the issue with weight machines is you need to suck your belly in, keep your core tight and really create a stomach vacuum so you’re not slouching in your low back and creating compressive forces on the low back. Bodyweight exercises like knee pushups or squats if they’re pain free can help out quite a bit. A recumbent bicycle and if it’s pain free, the elliptical trainer are also good modes of exercise. So, there’s several options there; more importantly what to avoid would be impact-based exercises like running or hopping or skipping or plyometrics as well as anything that involves a lot of flexing and extending of the spine. A lot of people are under the impression that if they get their abdominals strong by doing crunches then they’re going to protect their low back or heal a low back injury more quickly, but think of crunching the same way you would think of bending a credit card. If you have a credit card in your wallet or your back pocket and you take the credit card out and you bend it repeatedly, you’ll eventually start to see that little white crease form and after a while, the actual plastic in the credit card will fail and it will break. Think of flexing and extending your back in the same way. You have a finite number of flexions and extensions that you can perform before your low back begins to become overfatigued and overworked. So you need to be really careful doing lots of crunches and low back extensions and exercises like that, that are going to put stress on your low back. But ultimately, what I would say for your brother-in-law is really look at water-based activities as one of the primary sources of aerobics and then after that non-weight bearing activities like elliptical or bicycling and then controlled weight bearing activities like the weight lifting machines at the gym. Because you were the top question that I received on Twitter this week, I’m going to say your Twitter handle – it’s fflovessg1, I have no clue what that stands for but if you message me on Twitter or send me an email, let me know your postal address and I will throw a T-shirt and some other goodies in the mail for you. So, great question. The next question is from listener Chuck.
Chuck asks: My dad is one of the healthiest people I’ve ever met, but at 56 years old, he was competitively playing roller hockey, he got hit, severely tore his rotator cuff and ended up having to have surgery on it. While he has made a great recovery, the shoulder still hurts him. The doctors told him there’s basically cartilage left in the shoulder and eventually down the road, he may need a shoulder replacement. Do you know if there is either a way through diet or exercise to rebuild healthy cartilage in a joint?
Ben answers: Well Chuck, you can rebuild cartilage to a limited extent. Basically anything from osteoarthritis to injuries to overuse can cause breakdown of your joint cartilage. Cartilage typically doesn’t really have good blood flow. It takes a lot longer time to heal. You take something like a meniscus that has very little blood flow – that’s why mensical tears almost always need to be repaired – but basically the idea is that it really depends on the amount of damage that’s been done. If the doctor is right and there’s literally no cartilage left in your dad’s shoulder, then it is likely that if he wants to continue with shoulder intensive base exercises and sports, that he may have to look into a shoulder replacement or a resurfacing. Glucosamine chondroitin is of course kind of the gold standard supplementation protocol to use when you have a cartilage issue. This isn’t medical advice. I’m not saying it’s going to heal your dad but I would recommend that he look into a glucosamine chondroitin supplement. The one that I typically recommend is the one called CapraFlex. It’s by a company called Mt. Capra and that one is the only one that I’ve actually ever had clients write to me and call me and tell me that they actually felt it compared to other glucosamine chondroitin supplements, which they didn’t really feel relieved their symptoms at all. So you can try glucosamine chondroitin supplements. It’s not necessarily going to rebuild the cartilage if the damage is extensive, but it can help manage the pain a little bit. If the damage happens to be perhaps not as extensive as the physician says, then it may be possible to rebuild some of that cartilage. The other thing that I’d look into is another supplement called OsteoDenks. You can go to www.bengreenfieldfitness.com and Google it. I did an interview with a physician about OsteoDenks. And the active ingredient in that – lactoferrin – has some promising implications for bone and soft tissue injuries. So I’d look into that as well.
Chuck has a follow up question about a creatine.
Chuck asks: Can you go over or recommend – if you recommend at all – protocols for taking creatine? I bought some the other day because it was on sale. Each serving is 130 calories which includes 5 grams of creatine and 30 grams of carbs – 29 of which come from sugar. The product suggests a five day loading phase. Due to the high sugar content, if I were to take this at all, should I only use it immediately after a workout and do I need to do a loading phase? Finally, will taking it even really help me that much?
Ben answers: Well, the idea behind creatine is there’s tons of studies that do affirm that it increases power and strength and even as little as five days of supplementation can increase your creatine phosphate levels – your body’s natural creatine phosphate levels – by 10 and up to 40%. So creatine phosphate is used in the part of your body that generates energy up to about 15 seconds. So it’s kind of like the power sprint-based energy. However there have been studies that have showed that with creatine loading, you can actually get a glycogen sparing effect, meaning your body burns through carbohydrates a little more slowly and the suggestion is that you’re using a little bit more creatine with each contraction. And so even short term creatine supplementation has been shown to increase your maximum power and your strength from 5 to 15% and increase sprint speed also by 5 to 15%. Now the issue with a lot of people is it can cause weight gain. It can cause water retention and it can cause cramping. And that’s why most of the triathletes or endurance athletes that I coach – I do not recommend that they do a full loading protocol. A full loading protocol means that for about four days and up to a week, you take 20 grams a day of creatine and then you taper that down to 5 grams a day and as low as 2 ½ grams a day. That ends up in most cases causing some deleterious effects. I recommend that you half that or quarter that and load with seven days prior to a race or an event if you’re planning on using creatine. I’ve tried that in a sprint triathlon with and without and always felt more powerful in a sprint triathlon when I’ve taken that creatine just for a week at about 5 to 10 grams a day leading up to the race and not really doing a full-on loading protocol. Even though the loading protocol for strength and power athletes who don’t have to worry about cramping issues or weight issues ends up being superior. So typically creatine loading for gold standard recommendation for non-endurance athletes would be load with that 20 grams for around four to seven days. If you want to do even more exact in terms of your loading rather than loading with 20 grams, you’re supposed to load with about 3,000 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. And so if you figure out that you are 70 kilograms, then you would basically multiply that by .3. That would be the number of grams that you take in per day. And then after that, you move into just 2 to 5 grams per day. And the idea is that to really amplify creatine storage, you’re supposed to cycle. So you load for a week and then you take 5 grams a day for three weeks and then you don’t load for another three weeks or don’t take any for three weeks. Then you go back into that maintenance phase or reload. The idea is that after about two to four weeks of creatine supplementation and then stopping creatine supplementation, your body will kind of revert back to its original natural levels of creatine stores. Now, the interesting thing with the sugar concept, Chuck, is the idea is that the insulin spike that occurs when you consume sugar along with creatine is supposed to help you absorb and retain more creatine. But there’s been some newer research that shows that when you cut the sugar in half and replace that with protein, you get the best boosting effect. So my recommendation would be that you ultimately don’t get a creatine powder that has a bunch of sugar added. But you instead get a creatine capsule that’s just creatine and nothing else. No other funky calorie based compounds. Then you just consume that with a regular meal like quinoa and chicken or a piece of pizza or whatever else happens to be your meal for that day. Ideally, it should be consumed with your pre-workout meal and not post-workout. You want to have that creatine in pre-workout. So, the stuff that I personally use is called CreO2. It’s from a company called Millennium Sports. If you’re one of the athletes I coach, then you know about that company. You get a 50% discount on all their stuff. But that’s the one I recommend using and it’s in that capsule form, and I would definitely not use something that has as much sugar as what you just explained, Chuck. So the next question comes from listener Brad.
Brad asks: I frequently recommend you two different versions of amino acid supplementation. The whole chain amino acid powder from Bioletics, or the Recoveries branch chain amino acids featured on www.pacificfit.net. I am a 25 year old cross-fitter with the goal of increasing my fitness through Cross Fit. I’m hoping that the inclusion of amino acids to my supplementation regimen will increase musculature repair in response to my frequent episodes of soreness. Which amino acids should I use and what would be the protocol for taking the supplement that you recommend?
Ben answers: Brad, there’s two different forms of amino acids that I use and I personally recommend. One is Recoveries. Recoveries is not all the amino acids. You’d have to take a whey protein or eat a piece of steak or have an egg to get all your amino acids. But Recoveries has just what are called the branch chain amino acids. The advantage of the branch chain amino acids is that they tend to bypass metabolism in the liver and become available at the muscular level very quickly. The branch chain amino acids are leucine, isoleucine and valine. I don’t believe I’m forgetting any there. But Recoveries also has glutamine in it, which is another amino acid that is very advantageous for recovery. It also has protolytic enzymes in it which are anti-inflammatory and also help the body to break down proteins in their amino acid components for more speedy repair and recovery of muscle tissue. So the idea is that the Recoveries with the branch chain amino acids, the protolytic enzymes and the glutamine is basically like a capsule that you can take after a workout. My protocol and the recommended protocol on those is to take four of them after a training session during the day and then take six to eight of them after a race of after a hard workout. I will also take six to eight of them on a day in which I’m very sore. They’re actually a little bit better in terms of their anti-inflammatory effect if you take them on an empty stomach. Now you compare those to something like the Bioletics amino acid and the Bioletics amino acids has more amino acids in it. The idea is that your body has eight essential amino acids that it essential can’t make and needs to get from the diet. The Bioletics amino acids are those amino acids – essential amino acids – and so you’re basically getting more amino acids than you get with the Recoveries. So you do not get from the Bioletics amino acids the glutamine or the protolytic enzymes. So when you put the two together, essentially from the Bioletics you’re getting the essential amino acids and it’s about 10 grams of those in a serving. Then from the Recoveries you’re getting the branch chain amino acids which actually happen to overlap. Some of those are essential amino acids, along with glutamine and protolytic enzymes. So you put the two together and that’s kind of an ideal scenario. The way that I would do something like this there is some evidence that maintaining high daily levels of amino acids will actually help stave off muscle degradation and help to decrease soreness. And so what I’ll do is I’ll typically split the serving of Bioletics amino acids into two different servings during the day. So I’ll take two different 5 gram servings – one in the morning and one in the mid-afternoon or evening – and then I’ll take the Recoveries after my workout. So three different times during the day, I’m spiking my amino acids and assisting with body repair, staving off protein degradation. So yes, you will get all those essential amino acids through something like whey protein and steak, but the idea is that the bio-availability is a little bit lower and the absorption basically takes a little bit longer. So a couple of good resources for you would be to go to www.bengreenfieldfitness.com, do a search for Dr. Cohen and Bioletics, and we had an interview on branch chain amino acids. I also interviewed Dr. Minkoff who has an essential amino acids capsule called Master Animo Pattern. And if you go to www.bengreenfieldfitness.com and do a search for “steak in a pill” you can find more information and an interview with Dr. Minkoff where he explains why the stuff works and what’s in it. So hopefully that clears up the discussion and gives you some ideas about how you would use those and what the difference between them is.
Then I have a question from listener Ryan. Ryan’s question is somewhat long, but essentially as we get to the end, what he says is that he’s getting a ton of stomach sloshing during his racing. He’s decreased what he’s drunk, he’s decreased what he’s eating and he still gets the stomach sloshing. He finishes by saying…
Ryan asks: My stomach normally does not digest food easily and it has been like this for a long time. I just don’t know what else to do. I obviously need to drink during my races but even when I drink a small amount, I still have sloshing.
Ben answers: Well Ryan, there are a few different factors that can cause the stomach sloshing. Here are some of the things that I’ve worked with, with my athletes. One is because the sloshing a lot of time occurs as soon as you get off the bike and start to run, you actually begin to taper the number of calories and the amount of fluid that you take in about 15 to 20 minutes during a triathlon before you get off your bike. So you’re pretty much kind of fueling and hydrating minimally in the last 15 to 20 minutes of the bike ride so that some of that gastric emptying occurs before you get out on the run. The gastric emptying of liquids is going to take about 15 to 20 minutes. So that’s one thing that you can do if you try that and you’re still getting some of the sloshing, then you need to assess your bike intake to make sure that you’re not taking in more than 30 ounces of water per hour during a bike ride and during cooler weather bike rides, preferably closer to about 24 to 28 ounces of water or the equivalent of one water bottle. You can also make sure that during the run, you’re only taking about 10 to 15 ounces of water per hour during something like a half Ironman event and during an Ironman event, closer to about 14 to 18 ounces of water per hour. So you’re not taking in as much water during the run as you do on the bike. As far as fuel goes, if your stomach is empty it is going to get this gassy feeling. You’re going to get basically that feeling of stomach sloshing, so it is important that you actually keep adequate calories coming on board. That would be in the range of for most guys 300 to 350 calories per hour on the bike, about 200 to 250 calories per hour on the run. Make sure that you also maintain the proper osmolality of the fluids you’re consuming by consuming electrolytes as well and not consuming too many of them. So make sure that all the fluids that you’re consuming aren’t just Gatorade. Because for Gatorade to give you the amount of salt that you actually need, you have to drink so much of it that gastric emptying is going to take a lot longer time to occur and you end up over-hydrating.
Finally, you say my stomach normally does not digest food easily. I would look into anything that could be causing some digestive irritation, Ryan. Look into your gluten, look into your dairy, your whey, your soy. One of the companies that I use for food allergy testing for my athletes is called Unikey Health Systems. The best one to go with is through them and you can email me if you want some information about it. But it would be their mail-in stool sample. I know some of you are giggling out there as you think about taking a poo and putting it in an envelope and mailing it off to some company out in Idaho, but it actually is pretty comprehensive. My one complaint with that company is they do try and upsell you. They try and upsell you a ton of different supplements after looking at your poo, but the idea is it is a very good way to find out everything from parasites to yeasts to food allergies and it’s fairly comprehensive so I would definitely look into that, and that’s Ann Louise Kittleman’s company. Unikey Health Systems. So, good question.
Brad asks: Ben, will your Bulletproof Knee program be likely to alleviate the classic symptoms of runner’s knee I experience. It seems the program is emphasizing IT band systems. Would you please provide a comprehensive explanation of runner’s knee as well?
Ben answers: Brad, you are correct. I designed Bulletproof Knee to primarily be for runners, cyclists, triathletes and athletes in general who are experiencing IT band friction syndrome or pain on the upper or outside of the knee. Even though it’s a lot different injury than runner’s knee, many of the protocols in that program would definitely help with overall knee health. But that program is specifically designed for IT band friction syndrome. Now the runner’s knee that you refer to is also called patello-femoral syndrome. I’ve had that before. When I used to play a lot of volleyball, I got that. The idea typically is that you get a little bit of worn cartilage in the knee joint and so you get some reduced shock absorption, a little less cushioning and if you combine that with tight hamstring muscles or tight calf muscles, those can put some backward pressure on the knee. You throw in a weak quadriceps muscle so the patella or your knee cap doesn’t track properly and you end up getting a lot of cartilage damage when that mis-tracking knee cap irritates a lot of the cartilage inside the femoral groove or the area inside your femur that the knee cap is supposed to track in. So tight hamstrings, tight calves, weak quads, lots of jumping and impact without a lot of proper recovery and you set yourself up perfectly for runner’s knee. Usually you feel tenderness, like if you could reach into your knee cap back behind the patella, that’s generally where you’d feel it. Sometimes it can manifest itself a little bit towards the inside of the knee. But it’s a huge problem for runners. Some of the things that you can do are definitely to engage in a very intensive hamstring and calf stretching program where you’re doing either partner-assisted stretches or self stretches. I would definitely recommend you use something called PNF stretching, which is where you would for example lie on your back on the ground, stretch your hamstring by pulling your straight leg and then contract down against your hand for about six seconds and then relax the hamstrings and they should stretch a little bit deeper. You can do that with a partner or you can do it yourself. Doing calf stretching from as many angles as possible will also be important. Doing foam rolling on the hamstrings and the calves can also help to increase flexibility in those muscles. The other thing that you can do conversely is to strengthen the quadriceps. Some quadriceps strengthening exercises that have worked really well for the athletes I’ve helped with runner’s knee are standing straight leg kicks, where you take a cable or an elastic band, you fix it around the area just above your ankle and you kick straight forward with a straight leg, trying to keep your leg almost locked out. So your quadriceps are supporting your knee in the same way that it would during a running gait. If you go to my Web site where I have a bunch of free exercise videos, that’s www.pacificfit.net, go over to the resources section and click on exercises and I’ve got the cable straight leg kick on there. You could be doing cable straight leg kicks every day. The other thing that can really help is to do uphill walking or hill walking either on a treadmill or outdoors to help improve the strength in the quadriceps. I know that the leg extension machine in the gym is supposed to be a quadriceps exercise but in most individuals, that aggravates runner’s knee rather than actually helping runner’s knee. So do that stuff and then make sure that you’re not running or engaging in impact-based activities on consecutive days. When I had runner’s knee it took me about four months to realize what I needed to do and at that point, I started strengthening my quadriceps, stretching my hamstrings and I just ran once a week until I was pain free. And I’ve never had to deal with it since. So hopefully that helps you out. It’s going to take a little bit of management. The Bulletproof Knee can help you a little bit. There are definitely some nutrition protocols in there that will help you and some core and hip strengthening exercises, some cross training exercises, definitely for IT band friction syndrome it’s going to help – not specifically designed for runner’s knee but it could help a little bit with that. And in the meantime, I’m working on developing a program similar to the Bulletproof Knee for your shoulders. So, I will have that available soon for you as well for any of you who have shoulder issues.
Bob asks: I’m currently using a recovery drink of heed (and for those of you who don’t know what heed is, it’s basically like electrolytes and sugar) and whey protein powder. I use about 300 to 350 calories. And I use your recommendation of drinking 2 calories per pound of body weight. What do you recommend for a recovery drink and how important is the type of protein powder used? Do you differentiate between isolate and concentrate?
Ben answers: Well, let’s address the first part of your question – what I recommend for a recovery drink. I personally as much as possible to eat real food for my recovery meal. So a typical post-workout scenario for me is I walk in the door from a run, I take the Recoveries I talked about earlier with a glass of water, sometimes I throw a Noon tablet in there for a few extra electrolytes and then sometimes I’ll have a piece of fruit with that, like a banana or an apple or an orange. Then about 20 minutes or a half hour later, I’ll sit down and have myself a meal after I’ve showered and stretched out and the meal will typically be real food like quinoa and chicken or a salad with some almonds, poppy seed dressing and some fruit on it. But the idea is that if you are going to drink your calories, you just want to be a little bit careful that you get the ratios correct. You’re doing pretty well with that heed and whey protein powder. There are a few supplements out there that actually give you the carbohydrates and protein in the proper ratio which is 3:1 or 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio. Recoverite is one example. Recoverite is made by Hammer Nutrition. Endurox R4 is another one, and basically we’re talking about compounds that are just sugar and protein mixed up in the proper ratios. You can make your own recovery drink by taking a couple of bananas, a scoop of ice and a couple of scoops of whey protein powder or soy protein powder or rice or hemp or whatever you tend to tolerate in using something like that. The other thing you could do is you could use for example the Bioletics amino acids that I talked about earlier and put that in there for some added amino acids and quicker absorption. A lot of different options in terms of recovery drinks. After some real, real hard workouts, I’ll also include antioxidants. Like I’ll include the Solar Synergy in there – that’s a high antioxidant beverage. You could also use frozen blueberries or thawed blueberries and blend those in with your recovery drink as well. I actually had a great recovery drink the other day. I just took frozen blueberries, water, added the Bioletics amino acid powder and just basically ate that out of a cup with a spoon. It was actually pretty flavorful. The type of protein powder in terms of the isolate versus the concentrate, basically what it comes down to is you’ve got three different types of whey protein. You’ve got a whey protein concentrate which generally has a little bit higher level of lactose in it, and so if you’re lactose intolerant you need to be careful with that. It is typically a bit more affordable. The isolates – the whey protein isolates – they process that to remove the fat and the lactose, but you also lose some of what are called your bio-active compounds which help your body to absorb that protein a little bit better. So you could get a little bit better absorption with the concentrate, but you could also get higher fat, higher cholesterol and more lactose. I’m not really worried about the fat and the cholesterol but for those of you that are lactose intolerant, that can be an issue if you’re using a whey protein concentrate, you’re getting stomach upset, you might be able to fix that by switching to an isolate. And then finally there’s a new more expensive form of whey protein called a hydrosylate and what that means is that it’s pre-digested. They partially – what they do is called hydrolyzing the protein which means they break them up with water and so they’re more easily absorbed but they do tend to cost more. The interesting thing is there’s really only one non-industry funded research study on the market that shows that the whey protein hydrosylate is any better than the whey protein isolate. I tend to recommend the Mt. Capra double bonded whey protein and that would be classified as a whey protein isolate. They also add casein protein to it and casein basically results in a little bit slower, longer absorption of the amino acids in the protein. So a lot of different options out there. What I would recommend is that for your recovery drink after your very hard workouts, you make sure your recovery drink has antioxidants, it has electrolytes. It has a 3:1 or 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio. After your easier workouts, you can get away with some Recoveries capsules, piece of fruit and then just a regular meal afterwards. So I typically will save my full-on recovery drinks for after a real, real key hard workout and that’s when I’ll use either a pre-mixed formula or I’ll use an actual recipe where I’ll mix the recipe with the fruit and just do that in a blender with some ice. I neglected to mention one other brand of recovery supplement which I’m probably going to get in big trouble for now because they’re one of my sponsors. Goo Recovery Brew. Goo Recovery Brew is actually the one I have in my cupboard right now. I mentioned the Recoverite and Endurox R4 and this will fall into that category of being kind of a pre-formulated recovery beverage. But that’s also the really good and quite tasty one. They have a watermelon flavor that’s pretty good. So we have one more question and it’s from listener Ron.
Ron asks: I signed up for my first triathlon and have been reading about training. Most sources suggest taking off one day per week. I found this to be challenging. On the day off, can you still workout if it’s not a run, bike or swim? Would an easy bike ride with my wife or a yoga class be okay for that day off?
Ben answers: Well Ron, a couple of things. First of all, it depends on the training volume. If you’re just doing a six or seven hour training week for a sprint triathlon, a lot of people are successful with not ever having a day off but just having a day that includes an easier technique based swim, technique based ride, soft surface run but essentially still includes elements of triathlon training. If you’ve got a real hard or high volume training program, you’d definitely benefit from an easy day but the easy day even in the hardest of programs should never include just sitting on the couch. Light walking, some time splashing and playing in the water, basically getting the blood flowing helps to remove a lot of the inflammation from the week’s workouts and speed up your recovery. On my recovery days I play a tennis match. For me it’s a mental break, but it’s a little bit of a physical break too. A tennis match does not take as much out of me as a typical hour and a half training day of bike and run intervals. So it really depends on your training program but ultimately yes, a light workout on a recovery day is going to be much better than a day that is typically off. In my personal program I take a day that’s completely off, like literally nothing at all about once every two to three weeks where it’s just a day where it’s absolutely nothing. And even those days still include walking around and stretching and activities of daily living. So great question.
Now we’re going to move on to the training and nutrition interview with me and the idea behind this interview is that it was released over at the Marathon Training Academy. A couple of people from over there interviewed me and it was a really good interview I thought and so I wanted to give it to you guys over here and let you listen in, so enjoy.
Male Speaker: Alright, well we’re going to get going on the podcast. We’re here with Ben Greenfield and I’m so glad that he came on letting us interview him. He’s recognized as one of the top fitness triathlon nutrition and metabolism experts in the nation. Ben coaches and trains individuals for weight loss, lean muscle gain, holistic wellness and sports performance in Spokane Washington and Corti’lane, Idaho. He also runs the Rock Star Triathlete Academy, the Internet’s top school for learning the sport of triathlon and how to be a better triathlete. He was voted in 2008 as the personal trainer of the year by the National Strength and Conditioning Association – an internationally recognized and respected agency. Ben’s also a public speaker on fitness and nutrition and training and he’s the host of one of the top ranked fitness podcasts on iTunes. The Get Fit Guy with the Quick and Dirty Tips network. Real good podcast. And Ben’s also on the board of directors for Tri-Fusion Triathlete Team and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Spokane Health and Fitness Advisory Committee. As a triathlete, coach and competitor he competes at Ironman and half Ironman World Championships holding a ranking as of USAT’s top ranked age grouper triathletes and competes in 15 to 20 triathlons each year both nationally and internationally. Ben, do you have any time to breathe?
Ben: I don’t know. It sounded like you didn’t have much time to breathe during the bio. I should take you with me places so you can introduce me. That was quite comprehensive.
Male Speaker: Oh man, tell our audience what is involved in the Ironman triathlon. I think that’s pretty awesome.
Ben: Well a marathon of course is involved but you’re a little bit smoked by the time you get there. You swim 2.4 miles and bike 112 miles and then you run your marathon and if you are trying to make the time cutoff you need to do that in 17 hours and my goal is always to get it done in 10 or less.
Ben: So that’s what the Ironman triathlon is.
Angie: I always thought that it’d be easier to do the run second and then have the bike ride for the last thing, but I suppose they’re not in it to make it easier for anyone.
Ben: And then have lots of people drown during the swim because their calves are cramping.
Angie: No, I thought swim first and then run and then bike.
Ben: Oh, I see what you’re saying. Yeah that could work. It would still be uncomfortable. I personally would rather bike 112 miles knowing that I have to run a marathon then run a marathon knowing that when I finish I need to bike 112 miles.
Angie: I guess you have the experience doing it. I just thought it’d be nice to sit after a marathon, you know?
Ben: Yeah, it would. I don’t know, for some reason I find it easier to run after I bike than I do to bike after I run.
Male Speaker: I can’t imagine how sore you are after one of those things.
Ben: Well the swimming and biking are non-weight bearing so that’s mostly just glycogen depleting and it leaves you tired but not necessarily sore. Anybody who’s gone out and done a century bike ride that probably the sorest part of your body is anywhere where you forgot to put Chamois cream because of the chafing. But when you’re running, it always leaves you sore. But really if you were to go out and swim 2.4 miles and bike 112 miles, you wouldn’t be that sore. So the soreness really is about what you would get after running a marathon at a difficult race pace.
Angie: It’s interesting. I guess if I got my swimming up to par, then you know, I might have to try one of those sometime.
Ben: You should. Just hop into your local friendly neighborhood triathlon.
Angie: Yeah exactly.
Male Speaker: I think you need to start in one of those smaller ones first.
Angie: You’re right.
Male Speaker: So how did you get into triathlon?
Ben: When I was in university, I was studying sports science and exercise science and ended up discovering the triathlon club as a great avenue to use myself as a guinea pig for a lot of the stuff I was learning. And so, because I was already – I was swimming, I was doing a little bit of lifeguarding, playing some water polo, so I had the swimming component down. I was a really ugly swimmer but I could swim. I was riding my big heavy mountain bike with a backpack full of books to school every day. At that point, all I really had to do was run and my wife now, who was my girlfriend then, actually ran for the University of Idaho. So she was a good motivation and good teacher for me to learn how to really run distance since all I’d done up to that point was sprint style training. At that point, I kind of had all the components to try out – like you just mentioned the short triathlon – the sprint triathlon, and I loved it and I’ve been doing them ever since. So that was really how I got into it, was as an avenue for exercise science and to meet some people and get involved in a sport where I could apply some of those physiological concepts and it really became a passion.
Male Speaker: Awesome. So what’s your favorite event?
Ben: Eating. Probably other than that, biking. Because you get to play around with all sorts of cool little toys on the bike and bikes are just fun. It’s like the next best thing to being able to work on a motorcycle or race car when you have a bike that you can do all sorts of cool things with. Granted swimming and running are fun, but biking – something about having an extra piece of equipment, that’s a pretty involved and necessary piece of equipment, it makes it fun for me. I like the bike split.
Male Speaker: Yeah, well I was hoping you’d say running because this is Marathon Training Academy.
Ben: I know.
Male Speaker: I don’t know if we can continue with this conversation.
Ben: I do love to run, but you just asked me what I like better: chocolate, peanut butter or pizza… I mean I like them all, but yeah.
Male Speaker: We do have some triathletes in our community and of course everyone I think is going to benefit from this interview today because we’re going to get into nutrition and Angie’s had so many questions about that. So, let me ask you what got you interested in the study of nutrition?
Ben: Well, it goes hand in hand with physiology. So as I was studying sports science at the undergraduate level, I was exposed to quite a bit of human nutrition. Then when I moved on to my Master’s course of study, I wanted to continue to learn that component of exercise and sports science just because by that time, I already understood it’s a big component of fitness and competition and diet, so I studied a lot of biochemistry and more advanced human nutrition and after the Master’s degree, I went on and got a sports nutrition certification and now I find that just the biochemistry and the challenges of eating properly are just as interesting to me as training properly and putting together a solid training program. So for me, the enjoyment I get out of it is the fact that I understood its enormous importance in actually bringing you to the next level or getting you to the point where your body actually feels good and you have energy.
Angie: Yeah, I think I heard you say that the nutrition part of it is like 50% of training for a marathon. It’s so important.
Ben: Any sport of attrition, any sport where glycogen depletion is an issue which would include marathoning and triathloning, is going to be very dependent on your nutritional status and that’s not to say that a 100 meter sprinter isn’t going to benefit from taking some sort of nutritional supplement or eating effectively but when you’re looking at wanting to spare carbohydrate stores and keep your body going for long periods of time, it moves to the forefront in terms of its importance. So absolutely. I would say 50% and in some cases even more.
Angie: Right, that makes sense. So what do you see as the key components to a healthy diet for a long distance runner or an endurance athlete?
Ben: Well as you’d probably guess, carbohydrate intake can be skewed towards a slightly higher percentage in that population. Really in any active populations, simply because in a sedentary population if you dump a bunch of glucose into your bloodstream you’re eventually going to become unresponsive to the hormone that gets released in response to glucose – insulin. But when you’re exercising a lot, you don’t do quite as much damage to your body when you’re putting more fuel in the tank, when you’re filling your body with more carbohydrates. And so, an endurance athlete can benefit from slightly increased carbohydrate intakes to a certain extent. There are a lot of people who take that to a very high level and will consume 75 to 80% carbohydrates as part of their daily diet. Even if that’s a healthy type of carbohydrate – even if you’re eating gluten free and avoiding sugars and cokes and things of that nature, still 75 to 80% is a big load of insulin being released. Unless you have a screaming high metabolism then that’s a pretty high carbohydrate intake. 55 to 60% is better unless you’re carb loading and as you’re carb loading through race week, you’ll gradually get up to about 80% carb intake. But about 55 to 60% carbs is good and that’s generally accompanied by anywhere between 20 and 30% protein and 20 and 30% fat. Those ranges are so big because I’m very big on people eating according to their metabolic types and the type of fueling that’s actually correct for their body. So I don’t want to give an exact, specific range because somebody who’s of Icelandic descent is going to be different than someone who’s of Asian descent is going to be different than somebody who’s Hispanic. So the actual metabolic rates really vary but for the most part if you’re hitting that 50 to 60% carbohydrate, 20 to 30% fat, 20 to 30% protein window it’s pretty good. There have been studies that have looked at the fact that endurance athletes consume or burn more fat so maybe they should eat more fat and they’ve taken endurance athletes, put them in a lab and given them mostly fat as a fuel – like put the fat up to 40, 50% of the diet with the theory being that you’re going to perform just as well, but the fact is there’s a lot of GI distress that occurs with that and there is actually no increase in performance that was observed. So, that’s why even though we’re burning more fat, the higher fat doesn’t really work too well. The higher protein gets to be pretty tough on the liver and the kidneys after a while so you’re kind of left with that macro nutrient ratio that’s been observed in a lot of studies to be really good for athletes in general, and especially endurance athletes.
Male Speaker: Ben, when you got to the GI distress, I was distressed. I don’t have to remind you and Angie since you both have a medical background to keep it simple for us.
Male Speaker: I know now. She whispered in my ear.
Ben: I’m not talking about the army.
Male Speaker: So for us in the audience that are not as elite as you two, keep it simple for us simple guys.
Ben: Yes sir.
Angie: Well, you read a lot about the different recommendations of percentages of carbohydrate and protein ratios and I think a lot of people get bogged down by that because they don’t understand sometimes even the basics of nutrition. So trying to get down those percentages can be really confusing to them. Personally, I think it’s the quality of the foods that you eat also. The quality of the fats like you were talking about – what is your take on that?
Ben: Yeah. I think it’s enormously important what the protein, fats, and carbohydrates are derived from and before I comment on that I want to be clear, I don’t have a scale in my kitchen. I don’t keep track of those percentages very carefully. For me, if at the end of the day I can close my eyes and put all the food that I consumed on one of those divider plates in my mind then carbohydrates should be about half that plate and the protein should be on a third of it and the fat should be on a third of it.
Ben: So basically, as far as the actual quality – yeah, it’s enormously important because obviously you could go out and buy whatever… the Weight Watchers meals, the pre-packaged… I’m blanking on the name of the really popular one… Nutrisystem. Any of those type of pre-packaged meals and they can put them in the percentages that are correct for your body, but you’re getting tons of sodium and preservatives and chemicals and artificial sweeteners and neurotoxins and all sorts of stuff dumped into your body when you’re eating those versus real food. So the quality is enormously important and of course the easiest way to just dial in the quality instantly is to make sure when you’re shopping for the carbs, the proteins and the fats, you’re shopping on the perimeter of the grocery store. Or the Farmer’s Market if you’re lucky enough to have access to one of those. You’ve got all your produce and your dairy and your meat and your starches and everything that really doesn’t come in a package or a box, generally around the perimeter of the store, especially the produce, the fruit, the vegetable aisles. So that’s where the quality comes in. And the quality really, truly is important. The fewer chemicals that you can put into your body when you’re eating, the better.
Angie: That’s a great point. I like to tell people that if they don’t understand what’s written on the label, they probably shouldn’t put it in their body.
Ben: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, to a certain extent, you look at a lot of sports supplements and they’ll say something like maltodextrin on them – a lot of people don’t know what maltodextrin is but it’s just sugar. You burn it for energy. Something like that is fine. But it’s very rare that you’re going to find a list of ingredients that are not pronounceable in a food that you’re eating and have that food actually be good for you, or be doing you a service or helping you out with your sports performance. In most cases, it’s going to be more deleterious to your function than it’s going to help you out. So that’s one of the things – a lot of the athletes that I work with, because I do a lot of nutrition consulting – I mostly work from my computer helping people out via phone and email and I get lots of questions from people about nutrition labels and adding up the calories on the nutrition labels and reading the ingredient labels. One of the first things I tell them is okay, as I’m explaining this to you, one of the first things you should know is that you should not be eating many foods that have labels. Period. You should not be eating many foods that you’re taking out of a box anyways. The pepper that you get at the grocery store or the apple, those don’t have labels, UPC codes on them or bars or anything like that. They’re just food.
Angie: That’s a good point.
Ben: It’s really important that if you find yourself always looking at labels, then maybe you need to step back and look at your diet from a crow’s eye view and kind of see how many things you’re eating out of boxes and how many things that you’re eating the same way that your great, great grandparents would have eaten or hunted 150 years ago.
Angie: Right, yeah that’s a good point. I mean your body is going to perform so much better on the fat that an avocado contains as opposed to the fat in a bag of chips. That’s pretty far ends of the spectrum there.
Ben: Exactly. Exactly.
Angie: So what are some cutting edge nutritional principles that you suggest?
Ben: Cutting edge… well, we all know that gluten free is very cutting edge right now.
Ben: I actually – I’m not on that bandwagon full force. It really is good for some people and then some people get really carried away with it but the idea behind gluten free or paleo style eating is that essentially the use of breads and starches and the glutenated proteins that are formed while things like that are made is something relatively new in the human diet. So from an evolution of the human body perspective, and when I say evolution what I mean is just the body’s ability to adapt to certain foods that our bodies are not quite capable of digesting that very quickly – and so there’s a lot of inhibition of absorption that goes on and a lot of undigested food fragments that end up in the bloodstream, a lot of allergic reactions, inflammation and basically it’s not a clean burning carbohydrate and so one of the cutting edge concepts is that you limit the number of carbohydrates that you take in from gluten or you eliminate it all together. Now I fall into the former camp with myself and the athletes that I coach unless they have something like celiac disease or they’re gluten intolerant – I tell them it’s not that breads are bad necessarily and you can’t have whole grains or whole wheat and you can’t have brown rice or any of these foods but you should experiment with some foods that aren’t grain based. You should try things like sweet potatoes and yams and carrots and parsnips and beets. And these vegetable-based, root-based, tuber-based carbohydrates that still give you food energy, carbohydrate energy but don’t contain those glutenated proteins. You can choose foods that are kind of halfway in between too. Oats have a little bit of gluten in them but they’re not quite so bad. Three grains that I really like that technically somebody who is big on the paleo diet or the non-gluten diet would be completely against these, but that I use quite a bit are quinoa, amaranth and millet. Those are foods that are just the endurance athlete’s best friend because they’re kind of like rice. You get them, you cook them the same way as rice. You can batch cook them at the beginning of the week and use them as breakfast foods. For example when my children have breakfast, we mash it with bananas, the quinoa with bananas. You can throw a little bit of feta cheese and chopped up spinach and kale, some almonds and some tomatoes and turn it into an afternoon or evening salad. So, there’s a lot of versatility in some of those grains that go beyond spaghetti or rice and have a little bit higher protein content as well. So when you say cutting edge nutrition concepts, especially when we started off this discussion talking about carbs, the idea of really expanding your horizons when it comes to carbs and thinking beyond the almighty bagel is really a good thing. All my athletes who have ever PR-ed on any event have done it on sweet potatoes or yams. That’s just a fact. That holds true for myself as well. So, the carbohydrate concept is really important in terms of one of the cutting edge nutrition concepts that’s probably utilized most frequently among myself and the athletes that I work with.
Angie: I think that’s great. To think outside the box a little bit, and you can only eat so much spaghetti to do your carbo loading and I think people don’t even know that there are other options out there. So those are some great hints there.
Male Speaker: It made me hungry.
Ben: Oh sorry.
Male Speaker: That salad you were talking about.
Ben: I didn’t mention nuts and legumes but those are also really effective for that front as well. For us marathoners and endurance athletes, a big problem for us is gas. Because we’re always eating all these carbohydrates and we’re eating more foods anyways. You’re kind of that endurance athlete who already has gas or you’re the one that’s going to get it. So for that, if you’re using the legumes and the beans and the nuts and things like that as your carbohydrates stores – doing things like soaking can really help, which can help pre-digest a little bit and you mentioned the Rock Star Triathlete Academy. I shoot nutrition videos for them and do training videos. I just recently shot a video on how to make your own hummus and a couple really simple things you can do to make garbanzo beans digest a little bit easier is you soak them overnight before you put them in the blender with all the ingredients and then as you boil them just right before you put them in the blender, you add a little bit of seaweed and there are enzymes in the seaweed that help to digest the stuff in the garbanzo beans that can give you gas.
Ben: So little tricks like that can help you out and of course Beano is really good as well. You just have to eat that stuff about five minutes before you eat a bean-heavy meal. That’s the trick. So yeah, those are other good carbohydrate sources that you have to know the tricks of the trade when you’re using those as primary fuel sources.
Angie: Yeah, that’s awesome. I had a listener ask me recently if using decreased water or I guess not consuming any water or gels during an 18 mile run would make him have more endurance. If it would train his body to be able to respond better on less. What’s your take on that?
Ben: You know, you always hear the human body isn’t a camel. If your mom didn’t tell you that, your teacher did or your P.E. coach. You got to drink water, your body isn’t a camel, but you can condition your body to conserve a little bit of extra water by doing unhydrated exercise sessions in the heat. The problem is that the blood markers produced after a session like that are indicative of a high amount of inflammation and risk of overtraining. And the question is do the hydration adaptations that you incur during a session like that where you go out and do a tough training session with limited amounts of water – do those training adaptations that make you better able to exercise in the heat overshadow the fact that it beats up your body a lot more when you’re doing a dehydrated exercise session. It takes a lot longer to recover and if you don’t recover properly, you’ll end up increasing your risk of overtraining or not getting as good as a fitness response out of that training session. So you got to be really careful. If you’re getting ready for a hot weather race, then it makes sense to ensure that you’re trying to expose yourself to hot, humid conditions; trying not to take in tons of water in those conditions and choosing very carefully the training sessions that you do that for. Preferably making them not your longer training sessions or your really, really intense training sessions. So that would be the strategy that you’d want to use if you were not going to consume water. You just want to be careful the sessions that you do that with. For example, case in point, I’m getting ready for a race in Hawaii that I go down to in a week and I’ve been doing exercise sessions in the steam room, in the sauna. I’m doing core training sessions, yoga sessions, calisthenics sessions and they’re only 20 to 30 minutes long and they’re kind of like child’s play compared to an 18 mile run but that’s enough for my body. If I go out and do that without drinking much water then that’s conditioning my body and it’s not doing as much damage or putting as much stress on my body as going out and trying an 18 mile run on six ounces of water.
Angie: Right. So you’re saying more limited sessions and probably not for the beginner who’s not sure how their body is going to respond in the first place to long distance.
Ben: Yeah, this would be an advanced technique. You’re looking for the extra 5 or 10% if you’re doing this technique. So, and the same really goes for fuel. Same thing. There have been studies that looked at people depleting themselves of carbohydrate and going out, doing their sessions – both their hard sessions and their long sessions with minimal fueling – and again, there is indications at the muscular level that you actually – you can cause the muscles to respond a little bit better to that exercise session when you do it that way. But again, it’s very stressful to the body as well. The blood markers that indicate stress during training goes sky-high when you do that. And then you get to the point where mentally, how hard are you going to be able to push yourself? How high quality of a training session are you going to be able to have if you’re starving and you’re kind of in that dazed pure fat burning mode? So again, that’s a session that you’d want to use really infrequently. I’ll tell you when I use that session in the athletes that I coach. I’ll do it with really muscular athletes who we need to cannibalize muscle from, and literally put them out there and do training sessions completely unfueled just to strip muscle off their body. I don’t do it with people who are wanting to engage in fat loss, because you can actually depress the metabolism a little bit, decrease the post exercise metabolic rate and decrease the number of calories burned during that session. I use high intensity interval training for my fat loss folks. Really, the only other people who do that glycogen depletion as well are the people who need to get a little more mental toughness and I need to have them go out and do a hard exercise session, push through discomfort and do so with minimal fuelling. But only the people who are trying to cannibalize muscle or really get them the mental edge are the people who I have go out and do that. I don’t work with ultra-marathoners. That’s just not a niche that I’ve really done much coaching in. If I was coaching an ultra-marathoner, they would also fall into that category because they train really slow. So they can move at a rate that really efficiently uses fat and they can get away with more mobilizing their own fat stores, assuming that they have some than putting a ton of calories on board. So that would kind of be the third category, if I worked with them, who I would have do that.
Angie: Okay. That’s great.
Male Speaker: Alright. Well I’m going to ask the next question and people have also been wondering about this. What do you eat before, during and after a long workout?
Ben: I guess long is relative. Since we’re talking to marathoners, would long be kind of in that 90 minute plus, two hours plus? In that range?
Angie: Yes, that would be good.
Ben: Before is the time when you really want to avoid proteins and fats. They take a long time to digest. They divert a lot of blood into the stomach and they essentially – by diverting a lot of blood into the stomach, deplete your extremities, your arms and your legs, from the blood they would need to deliver oxygen and to cool. So doing the whole Rocky steak and eggs, raw eggs in a blender type of thing before a long training session would not be advised. The caveat to that would be if you’re going for a super-long session. Like a five or a six hour ultra-endurance Ironman type of session where you do need a little bit of proteins and fats on board. But for everything up to about two hours, just pure carbohydrates is fine. Most studies show the glycemic index of the carbohydrates doesn’t matter and what I mean by that is you could eat really sweet carbohydrates or you could eat carbohydrates that are less sweet. So you could do your carbohydrate pre-workout, it’s supposed to be two hours pre-workout at least to allow for the gastric emptying to occur. You could do that with some sports drink and some fruit and an energy bar. That would be the sweeter way to go. Or you could do it with sweet potatoes, a couple of sweet potatoes, a couple of yams, a big bowl of quinoa and that would be more the complex carbohydrate route. What I find is when I go with the sweet route, I tend to have an energy slump before the training session. So I prefer to use the complex carbohydrate. Research doesn’t back me up on that. But I do know just my own body and how I feel, I do better on the complex than the simple carbohydrates. Now, during the session, it really ranges for runners. You’re usually looking at maxing out in terms of the max amount that a runner can really consume and this would be for marathon style training, not for ultra-marathon style training – at about 250 calories per hour. Most of the females I work with will do pretty well at about 100 to 150. Most of the guys, 150 to 200, and some of the people who are a little bit bigger can get to around that 250 calorie mark. But basically that would be your hourly goal in terms of simple carbohydrates. So you could take for example a gel at the end of each hour. If you’re pushing a little bit harder, it should be a gel every 40 minutes. If you’re big, you’re a guy, you could go with a gel every 30 minutes. But basically carbohydrate is fine during those sessions than again proteins and fats wouldn’t really be advised for that length of an exercise session. We’re looking at the really long stuff, that’s where we’d start to work in the proteins and the fats. Then after the workout, that’s when you pull in the proteins and you do your post-workout protein carb blend meal. Now the magic ratio for endurance athletes is 3:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio. That’s not super important. Chocolate milk interestingly enough hits that ratio almost perfectly. But what I tell people is just mix protein and carbohydrate and try to do a little more carbohydrate than the protein. So for example, have some brown rice and have a little bit of chicken in there or do a fruit smoothie and put a little bit of protein powder in there. But try and get that protein carbohydrate blend and try to get it in within 20 minutes after the exercise session. No more than 60 minutes after the exercise session. You really hit that window where your muscles are likely to pull in what you’re fueling in and actually utilize it for recovery and for energy replenishment. So that’s the short answer to the pre, during and post-workout nutrition.
Angie: Yeah, that’s great. That’s really helpful. Now many runners find themselves either gaining weight or struggling to lose weight when they’re training for a marathon or as they’re increasing their mileage. Why do you think this occurs and what are some suggestions for someone who wants to run a marathon and still lose weight?
Ben: It’s kind of tough because you’re trying to strip your body of energy while still having enough energy to actually do the training session. So, first of all, understand that there’s no research to show that a bunch of aerobic training actually helps you to lose weight. There have been studies that compared people who have dieted and lost weight and people who have done dieting plus cardio plus aerobic cardio, and there was no difference in the people who dieted and did aerobic cardio and the people who only dieted. So thinking that all those aerobic training sessions are really going to help you lose weight is actually false. It’s not going to work compared to just eating healthier. But assuming that you are eating healthy and you’re working in at least that single long aerobic training session that’s kind of the foundation of a marathon training program – your long weekend run – that type of thing. The incorporation of the higher intensity intervals are really going to help you. Like I mentioned, I don’t have my fat loss clients actually do those sessions with minimal fueling. We do a good pre-workout meal, we make sure if the session’s longer than an hour that they are actually taking fuel out there with them and everything is high intensity intervals so what we’re inducing there is the release of hormones like testosterone and growth hormone that are crucial for fat loss and really spark the body’s fat burning process. Then we’re also increasing the post-exercise metabolic rate because when you’re really huffing and puffing during an exercise session versus doing the entire exercise session with 60 or 70%, you end up burning a lot more calories for the hours after that exercise session.
Ben: The high intensity intervals are really important, rather than just focusing on the aerobic training. Eating healthy outside of those sessions is also really important or eating in moderation outside of those sessions. So you engage in caloric restriction, but you don’t engage in caloric restriction during or around the exercise sessions. You do it later on in the day. You quit eating two hours before bed time and you cut an afternoon snack out if you’re not an afternoon or early evening runner. And so you really base the majority of your fueling around your actual workout session for the day when your body’s going to be a lot more likely to use that fuel and not to store it as fat. Then the final trick that you can do – and this actually works pretty well if you’re very, very careful with this trick. I’m careful to lay down that caveat when I share this with people but what you can do is you can quit eating two hours before bed time, go to sleep, get up in your fasted state when your body’s burned through its liver’s carbohydrate stores while you’re sleeping and you go out and do an exercise session. I know this flies in the face of what I just said about exercising without fuel, but the trick here is it’s a very easy exercise session. We’re just talking about sparking the activity of the fat burning enzymes in the liver. So we’re just going 20 to 30 minutes, very easy brisk walk, light jog, light bike ride, that type of thing, and incorporating that exercise session that’s very light in a fasted state and then supplementing that with the higher intensity intervals works really well. So that’s kind of the key 1,2 combo for weight loss is using the intervals and more the muscular training with those unfed very light fat burning sessions and not just focusing everything on the aerobic training.
Angie: Right. Right. I think people just think I’ve got to be out there. I’ve just got to run, run, run and that’s what’s going to burn those calories and I’m going to lose the weight. But there’s also other important elements to integrate into your workouts.
Ben: Right, exactly. I worked a lot of these concepts into a fat loss book that I wrote called Shape21. It’s kind of this 21 day clean up your body, lose a bunch of fat type of program. And in Shape21, I use a lot of those same concepts but then I also put weightlifting in there because weightlifting really is important as well. Maintaining lean muscles so you actually can improve the calorie burn based on the fact that your fiber of lean muscle is always going to burn more than a droplet of fat. So if you’re not lifting weights at all, that can help out a little bit too, is making sure that you include some type of resistance training.
Angie: Good, that sounds wonderful. Now what kind of nutritional supplements would you recommend for a long distance runner?
Ben: Oh, there’s a lot of them out there. You could spend a few thousand bucks a month if you were to follow every single ad you saw in Runner’s Magazine. It’s a great question on the nutrition supplements. I can tell you what I take and what I recommend to my athletes based off of the research that I’ve done.
Ben: I always put – if you go to my coaching Web site, which is www.pacificfit.net, you’ll see that I have a lot of the supplements that I recommend there and I break them into three categories. Fat loss, performance and recovery. So for the people who are trying to lose weight from a fat loss perspective, the type of supplements that I like to focus on are A, meal replacements that are not the type of meal replacements we talked about earlier. They have the chemicals and the preservatives and things like that in them. There’s one called Living Fuel and it’s basically like a greens supplement. You can use it as a meal but it really is whole food. It’s real food. It’s just basically in finely ground powder. That stuff works pretty well. The other thing for fat loss I recommend are blood sugar stabilizers. I have my athletes who are trying to lose weight use a lot of cinnamon. Another couple of things that work really well are chromium and vanadium for stabilizing insulin levels, reducing carbohydrate cravings and there’s one supplement I have on there called ThermoFactor which is really good for that. For performance, there’s a lot of different supplements out there but fish oil has a ton of research behind it, the Omega 3 fatty acids supplements for cardiovascular health, for helping your joints bounce back quicker. So fish oil is something I really recommend. Vitamin D is also extremely important. Most multi-vitamins have 200, 400 milligrams of vitamin D. I test most of my athletes via lab testing. I have them do all their blood, saliva, urine testing. I hook them up with labs. I have them do it for them in the comfort of their own homes so they don’t have to go out and do all this for themselves. But, I do those on myself as well. I tested my vitamin D levels in the middle of the summer and they were just at rock bottom. About 75% of the population has vitamin D deficiencies. Since it’s a steroid and a hormone precursor, it’s kind of like the secret cheap performance enhancer that nobody’s actually using. So I take about 4000 to 6000 international units per day of that. Ten times more the recommended dose and I feel fantastic on vitamin D. So vitamin D in addition to some type of fish oil is really important. Magnesium – again tons of people are very deficient in magnesium. It’s essential as an electrolyte. Especially if you cramp. That’s another secret weapon in my performance protocol that I use. I personally use a topical magnesium. I did a big interview over at www.bengreenfieldfitness.com about magnesium and all the different advantages you give yourself when you use it. But that’s another one and finally for performance, some type of a green supplement. There’s been lots of studies done on the spirulina, the chorela, the algae, these types of greens powders or green pills that you can get. Those work really well, not only for your immune system but also for your performance. So some type of green supplement is also really important to include. Then for recovery, two different things. I really recommend essential amino acids along with branch chain amino acids. The one that I use is called Recoveries, but some type of quickly absorbed amino acids source that you can get into your body after a workout and amino acids also work really well when you’re restricting calories but you still want to give yourself enough protein so you don’t cannibalize lean muscle. Amino acids are basically like getting the protein without getting the calories. So you can for example have a glass of water with some amino acids in them in the afternoon and still get proper recovery for your muscles without consuming too many calories. So amino acids and then something called protolytic enzymes. Those really assist with digestion of proteins. Really help with post-workout soreness and you can find them in pineapples, papayas, thing like that. You can also get them from the pancreas of various farm animals. But you can also get them in pill form or capsule form and protolytic enzymes are another one that I really recommend for recovery. So, that would be kind of the staple of a nutrition supplement program for endurance athletes. The fat loss stuff, you’re wanting to do that but then definitely a fish oil, a vitamin D, a magnesium, a green supplement, an amino acid supplement and protolytic enzymes would be the top things to take if you really want to give yourself the edge.
Angie: That sounds like some good suggestions. In fact, I want to go check my multivitamin to see how much vitamin D it contains now. You got me curious.
Ben: Probably like 200, usually not much.
Male Speaker: I’m wanting to go pee in a cup. Check my vitamin D level.
Ben: Vitamin D would be blood actually. But you can get your mineral loss, which is really important for endurance athletes. That’s a urine test. You can also do Ph testing. See if you’re too acidic or alkalinic with the peeing on the strips. So there you go.
Male Speaker: Thanks man.
Ben: No problem. Have another cup of coffee and get at it.
Male Speaker: Alright, I got the next question. What advice do you have for a person who wants to break poor nutritional dietary habits like sugar, soda, fast food? All the stuff that tastes good.
Ben: Well the most important thing mentally is to understand that it takes a while for your body to form a habit, to make a change. And your subconscious gets very rooted in the habits that you currently have in place. So, you take for example the study that they did on athletes at NASA and they put goggles on them that made their whole world turn upside down. Then they looked at things like the astronauts’ blood pressure and their heart rate, their stress levels and it took an average of 28 to 32 days for them to actually begin to accept that new world as a reality. And so the human body, when you’re trying to force changes on yourself is no different. It gets stressed out and your subconscious – a part of your brain called your emigdulla will actually stress your body out and try and keep it in the zone that it’s comfortable in. Eating the foods that you’re comfortable with, staying with the habits that you’re very accustomed to. So unless you can start the entire process of change by actually getting your subconscious into change mode, it’s very difficult to make those changes. One of the best ways to train your subconscious is to visualize. So a lot of my fat loss clients especially will do the process of visualization where what we do is we picture or you would picture yourself – you close your eyes, you find a quiet place – you can just do this for 30 to 60 seconds a few times a day, see yourself with the body or being at the weight that you want to be at, see yourself with a refrigerator full of the foods that are on your meal plan, full of the healthy foods that you’ve actually decided that you’re going to start eating. See your pantry with the right foods in it. See yourself at each meal making the changes and incorporating the changes that you want to make that are actually going to help you break that habit. Then when you combine that with the actual knowledge of what you’re supposed to be doing, it’s kind of the ultimate 1,2 combo. But it has to start with the subconscious. Very, very rare to run into somebody who tried to just quit cold turkey without using any type of mental training and actually made it through the first 28 to 32 days without falling off the bandwagon. So that’s number one, is training the subconscious. Then as far as empowering yourself with the knowledge to actually break the nutrition habits and take in the right things – first of all, make sure you understand what’s going on inside your body when you’re consuming sugar and soda and fast foods. Make sure you understand all the damage that it does to your body. There’s tons of resources out there. One really good one to kind of scare you into change is a book called Suicide by Sugar. I think Nancy Appleton wrote that one. But it really just shows you all the things that sugar can do to your body. I interviewed her on my podcast at www.bengreenfieldfitness.com and put out an article by her over there. Really, if you know what’s going on in your body, it really helps you make that change and break your habit. Then once you’ve taken care of those things, that’s when you can start to incorporate some of the little tips. Like I mentioned the cinnamon and the chromium and the vanadium to reduce the carbohydrate cravings and the appetite cravings. Making sure that you drink lots of water, chewing gum can help out a little bit. As a matter of fact, I wrote an entire book on all of the little things that you can do to actually bump up your metabolism and keep your appetite down. It’s called “100 Ways to Boost Your Metabolism.” That’s all it is, just page after page of all these different herbs and supplements and food choices and tricks that you can do throughout the day to take care of habits like that. But that’s ultimately what it comes down to.
Male Speaker: That’s powerful stuff.
Ben: Yeah, sorry I didn’t mean to get all Jedi mind trick on there.
Male Speaker: No, I liked it. That’s awesome.
Angie: It really does have to start in the mind because you see the people who are somehow able to get down to the weight they want to be but they don’t see themselves as that fit and healthy person. Oftentimes they just gain the weight back once they stop whatever program they’re doing because it hasn’t started in the mind. So I think you’ve got the key there definitely.
Angie: Now for people who may be trying to cut sugar out of their diet, I hear a lot of conflicting reports about the artificial sweeteners and the high fructose corn syrup. Do you think those substances are harmful? What’s your take on that?
Ben: Yeah, they are. If you’re just starting to eat healthy, you have a lot bigger fish to fry than worrying about sucralose or high fructose corn syrup. What it really comes down to when you’re first starting out is calories. You have to make sure that you’re at a caloric balance. And then after you take care of the calories, then you kind of get down to the next tier where you take care of the hormonal response. Meaning that you try to choose the sugars that are released a little slower. You try do what I talked about and eat more of your fuel in the presence of exercise. You try not to eat two hours before bedtime. And you do a lot of things that help get your fat loss hormones in their proper flux, then you start to go after the smaller battles. Like the artificial sweeteners – yeah, a lot of them… there’s anecdotal evidence that they’re neurotoxic. There’s been research done on sucralose that it kills 50% of the good bacteria in the gut. There’s all sorts of things that go on that are associated with appetite cravings. Diet sodas are linked with obesity. So, they are a chemical and even though there’s not tons of really solid research that says that they’re going to kill you, I like to walk on the safe side in terms of looking at some of the anecdotal stuff that’s out there and really limit the amount of sucralose and acesulfame potassium and aspartame and those types of things that I take in. So you want to be careful with those sweeteners. I wouldn’t say that if you’re just getting into healthy eating that you need to be a complete zealot when it comes to looking at every single label for artificial sweeteners. Worry about the calories and the sugars first. You would do yourself a service, both from a metabolic and from a health and a mental standpoint by cutting artificial sweeteners out in as many places as possible. If you want a non-caloric sweetener, use something like Stevia, which is a root-based sweetener. It’s super sweet but it’s natural. That’s a really good one. Then Xylitol isn’t too bad either, but Xylitol can give you bloating and gas so you want to be careful with that. Then high fructose corn syrup, with that again it’s kind of this villain that’s been blown out of proportion. There’s not really a huge difference between high fructose corn syrup and just glucose or carbohydrates when it comes to the person who’s needing to go from 220 pounds down to 200 pounds. That’s not going to make a big difference. Now when you’re going after just a few pounds, a little bit of body fat, that’s where the fact that fructose is metabolized a little bit differently in the body doesn’t really result in the same insulin response. It can result in a little bit more fat storage than regular sugars like a glucose. That’s where it comes down to eliminating that from your diet and replacing it with non high fructose corn syrup sources can help you out a little bit. But even bigger than that, my issue with the high fructose corn syrup is that if you’re taking it in, you are by definition eating packaged foods. There’s just no natural foods out there that have HFCS in them and so, that’s the bigger issue – is why is this a question in the first place? Why are you worrying about it? Because if you’re worrying about it then you’re eating enough packaged foods to where you need to be worrying about it. So if you start to eat real food, you just kind of automatically take care of the whole high fructose corn syrup problem.
Angie: Yeah, that’s a great point. That’s good.
Male Speaker: Yeah, Angie was elbowing me in the ribs when you talked about eating two hours before going to bed, and diet sodas.
Ben: Yep, there you go. Setting you on the guilt trip.
Male Speaker: This is very convicting. No, this is great content. And I think people are really going to enjoy this podcast. We’ve got one more question and if you just want to remind everybody, we’re talking to Ben Greenfield from www.bengreenfieldfitness.com. He’s a triathlon expert and nutrition expert. And we’ve got some great questions and answers so far, but one more question is Ben, you lead a very busy life with work and family. How do you take time for training and keep that a priority and keep motivated?
Ben: Well, making family a part of your sport is really important. It’s pretty rare to find somebody that picked up a hobby and left their family out of it and either kept the hobby or stayed with their family. If you pick up something like marathoning and don’t bring your family into it at all, then you’re going to find yourself five years down the road without a family and marathoning or you’re going to find yourself five years down the road having given up marathon because you just couldn’t do it and still prioritize family. So, the important thing is being very frank with your spouse and your family about what’s important to you and being very clear with them when you’re training, when you have races, about what’s happening, what’s on the schedule, being able to make sacrifices in your schedule for what’s going on with the rest of your family and then making your family a part of it. We’re big on doing race vacations where when we go do something that’s fun for the whole family, it’s not just like “Go watch daddy race.” We’re planning other things around it. Turning things into a mini-vacation, whether it be hiking in the area or going to an amusement park or just going and taking part in things other than just the race and the pasta party and the post-race awards. Getting things like jogging strollers and bicycle trailers and all the little things that help make your kids a part of your sport is really important as well. Then for the really focused training, the last six to eight weeks leading up to your big event, trying to do as much invisible training as possible – which again takes sacrifices on your part – but that means your training is invisible to your family. You’re setting the clock for 4:45 and throwing down your training session between 5 and 7 a.m. Or if you have young children, doing it during their afternoon nap like I do a lot of the time. Basically being around when your kids are around and when your family needs you and getting your training session out of the way when they’re sleeping. It makes a little bit more sense from a family perspective. So, that’s really important. Just to make sure that your hobby is not your hobby. It’s your family’s hobby and you’re very communicative with them about your training and making them a part of it as much as possible. Just one more example, when I’m leading up to a big race and I’ve got four weeks before the race, four weeks before I’m telling my wife, “Okay, I’m going to be training a little bit extra on this day and this day and this day, honey. Then this day I might not be around for dinner.” Then a week away from the race, okay I’m tapering. I might get a little bit grumpy, trying to take care of my body now. So I’m going to be training a little bit less and a lot of times I’m spending more time with the family during a taper week. But basically just being very communicative with your family about what’s going on with your training is very important too. So, just don’t go solo. If you try and make it a solo hobby, it’s just not going to work it.
Angie: Yeah, I think the lone ranger type of mentality is going to be detrimental to your own performance and like you said, your family in general.
Ben: Yep, exactly.
Angie: The thing I like is scheduling your training in like you would any other appointment too, and like you said making the family aware of that so it’s not this big shock that you’re skipping dinner that night of the week or whatever.
Ben: Right. Exactly. Yep.
Male Speaker: Well great. This has been a lot of fun, Ben. I want to thank you for coming on our podcast. And can you tell the folks how they can connect with you?
Ben: Oh yeah absolutely. I do a free newsletter and blog and all that good stuff over at www.bengreenfieldfitness.com where I do interviews kind of like this where I’ll get doctors on and athletes and coaches and just interview and talk and share knowledge. So that’s a really good place to go. So www.bengreenfieldfitness.com would probably be your best source of information if you wanted to learn a little bit more about what I do and get a little bit more knowledge in your head. So go over there, we’ve got a free newsletter, a free podcast, free blog, free articles. So good place to learn.
Male Speaker: Alright great. So everybody go over to www.bengreenfieldfitness.com and check that out. A lot of good information. Ben, thanks for coming on the call.
Ben: Well, thanks for having me guys.
Angie: Thank you.
Ben: Well folks, that’s going to wrap up the podcast. But please remember, let me know who you want me to get on the show. I do have an upcoming interview with Dr. Roby Mitchell that will be part of next week’s podcast and we’re going to be talking about alternatives to getting your metabolism up and increasing your thyroid without using popular thyroid medications that are on the market today. And, the other thing I would recommend that you do in addition to letting me know who you want me to have on the podcast is to go to iTunes and leave the show a ranking and a rating. The higher we are on iTunes, the more likely it is that I can get some smash, bang guests on the show for you. So until next time, this is Ben Greenfield signing out from www.bengreenfieldfitness.com. Have a great week.
For personal nutrition, fitness or triathlon consulting, supplements, books or DVD’s from Ben Greenfield, please visit Pacific Elite Fitness at http://www.pacificfit.net