Introduction: In this episode: does Ritalin inhibit weight loss, compulsive eating, calorie tracking systems, are ab benches a waste of time, elevation training, losing sleep after workouts, how to recover from a bike crash, indoor bike training, leg tightness after exercise, what is muscle memory, stretching before a bike ride, chocolate milk, beets, headaches during exercise, a supplement called Elevator, and how to recover from an Ironman triathlon.
Ben: Hey folks, Ben Greenfield here. It’s been two weeks since we had an official podcast. So today’s podcast is devoted to the backlog – the huge backlog of Listener Q and As. I’ve picked the best questions that I’ve received and we’re going to answer them today. So this is definitely a podcast for anybody who’s interested in fitness or nutrition today, because lots of the questions cover those topics. Now we will be returning to having a featured topic and an interview next week. I’ve got a lot of great interviews lined up including interviews with Rob Wolf, Tim Ferris, very intelligent sports nutritionist named James Odio and also several other really interesting interviews. I’ve been listening to who you guys want me to get on the show and those are the people I have lined up to get on the show. Remember if you have someone you’d like me to interview, just write in, let me know and I’ll see if I can get them on one of our podcasts. Now I did just get back from the Ironman World Championships. And so before we go on to this week’s special announcements, I just wanted you all to know that I did not die. I crossed the finish line and due to a flat tire throwing off my race just a little bit, I was about 20 minutes off of my goal time for the Ironman World Championships. However I was very happy. Finished in 9:53 and for a hot day that got up to 100 degrees with about 120 degree pavement which I think might have been one of the reasons I flatted, I’m actually very pleased with the results. So I will later on this week be posting an article called How To Recover From Ironman and I’ll be posting that here at www.bengreenfieldfitness.com. And if you’d like a fun little race report that lets you know how the day went over there at the Ironman World Championships, you can just go over to my race report blog. I don’t know if many of you are aware of this but I do have a separate blog that I post things like race reports on and that’s over at www.bengreenfieldtri.blogspot.com. Alright, let’s move on to this week’s special announcements. Then we will get to the Q and A.
Folks, if you have a question, you can ask it to [email protected]. You can Skype to username pacificfit or you can call toll free to 8772099439 or just click on the “Info” tab in the new iPhone app and that will also allow you to fire a question over to me. The first question this week comes from Jessica.
Jessica asks: I know you’ve discussed the effects of caffeine and other stimulants with respect to one’s adrenal system, but have you ever gone into detail about medications used to treat ADHD Are there any negatives that might hurt one’s ability to lose weight?
Ben answers: Jessica is correct that there is a correlation between weight and ADHD medications, but it’s primarily that clinical trials have shown that they’re actually going to suppress your appetite and while ADHD itself is associated with obesity in children, the use of ADHD medications in both children and adults is associated with the side effect of weight loss, not weight gain. So, I wouldn’t be too concerned about gaining weight while on an ADHD medication. Now of course as you the listener would probably expect, I am a huge fan of first turning to natural alternatives before using something like Ritalin or Adderall. Diet can play a huge role in manifesting some of the symptoms of ADHD. Anything from processed foods to foods with additives, colors, preservatives, dairy products, a lot of the sugary sodas and processed sugars as well as foods containing caffeine can also aggravate ADHD or lead to a lot of the symptoms of ADHD. So before someone gets on to Ritalin or Adderall whether they’re an adult or a child, the diet should be modified and I’m not saying that that’s going to completely remove symptoms of ADHD, but it’s going to significantly assist with controlling those symptoms. So a lot of the foods that you’ll want to choose would be things that are kind of along the higher fat, higher protein realm. A lot of the nuts, except peanuts, chicken, turkey, salmons, sardine, trout. A lot of the healthy oils and fats. Olive oils, avocadoes are another example, coconut oil and coconut milk. All of those should play a huge role in your diet or in your child’s diet if one of you is struggling with ADHD. Nutritional deficiencies can be an issue as well. I would make sure that you look into the deficiency of fatty acids specifically, because especially children with ADHD have been shown to have a deficiency of fatty acids. My kids get flax oil. They also take a hemp oil. I personally take an oil called Udo’s Oil. It’s called Udo’s 3-6-9 Oil as well as a fish oil from Bioletics. And I would suggest you get your children on a fatty acid supplement or put yourself on a fatty acid supplement as well as look into a few other common deficiencies in people with ADHD and that would be iron, zinc and magnesium. I probably don’t have to tell you that physical activity is important. So I’m not going to kick that horse to death. But also look into herbal supplementation specifically a few of the ones that may be able to help you out would be valerian root, ginko biloba is another one to look into, as well as chamomile. All of those herbs have been found to be somewhat effective for ADHD. And then I would really look into something called neurofeedback. Look into a local neurofeedback practitioner in your community. One of the people who really knows quite a bit about neurofeedback and its ability to help control the symptoms of ADHD is based out of Portland and her name is Nora Gedgaudas and she actually has written a book called Primal Body, Primal Mind. I recommend that you look into reading that book as well. So I know that I kind of went beyond the scope of your question but I really couldn’t help making a few comments about ADHD in general. I’m not saying that there’s never a place for Ritalin or Adderall but I think there’s quite a few other things that can be done before those big cannons are used, so to speak, on ADHD.
Kathleen asks: The major thing that is holding me back is nutrition- one day I am right on my calorie goals and eat what I had planned for the day, and the next day I come back am for some reason lose control and consume more than my daily allotment of calories so by the end of the week I am usually break even. I was wondering what advice you have?
Ben answers: Well I’m not a huge fan of counting calories chronically, and what I mean by that is for anyone, it can be helpful to know how many calories are in one you’re eating. I personally did a fairly strict calorie counting in my life for about six months and that’s the only calorie counting I’ve done in my life. That amount of calorie counting was enough for me to be able to glance at something in my refrigerator, in the pantry, on a restaurant menu now and be able to mentally add up the approximate number of calories that are in it. Far less stressful and far less OCD than just counting calories all the time. Only someone who’s a bodybuilder or trying to cut from 3% down to 2% body fat or something of that nature would need to count calories down to the closest 10 calories or even the closest 100 calories during the day. So what I recommend is if you are a chronic calorie counter, look in to stopping and approximating it. It tends to take a lot of stress out of your life. But typically when someone is getting thrown off the bandwagon quite frequently as Kathleen is, it’s due to compulsive overeating and compulsive overeating can be a pretty big problem. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an eating disorder per se – a full fledged binging and purging eating disorder – but there’s definitely a problem with compulsive eating in people who get their nutrition right one day and then fall off the bandwagon the next day. So a few suggestions that I have for this is first of all, when you see something and you’re attempted to indulge in it. Try the 5 minute walk strategy. And all this means is say there’s a piece of cake sitting on the kitchen counter. You live with a family, you’re not going to throw out the cake. Maybe it’s somebody’s birthday cake but it’s there and you know you’re going to eat the whole thing if you’re not careful. Just leave. Walk out the door for 5 minutes. 2 and a half minutes out, and 2 and a half minutes back and what will happen is fresh air and the physical activity from movement will help you control the cravings. Sounds silly and easy but it actually works. The next thing is to use social proof. If you’re able to actually have someone who you can talk to on the phone or even via Facebook and you’re able to have an understanding with them that the two of you whenever you crave something, you’re going to be able to call each other up and talk each other out of it. Again, it sounds silly but it works really well. I’ve got a couple clients who do this and for example, if you’ve got a friend named Sarah who’s on the same page as you, you call her up and you say “Sarah, I’m about to eat this cake. Can you talk me out of it?” And just a simple one to two minute talk with a friend can actually work out quite well. And of course, any of my clients, you know you can call me as well. I’m always going to be that phone buddy that you can give a call to if you’re craving something and I will talk you out of it as well. Either before you even arrive at a party or even while you’re there if necessary. Just don’t drunk dial me at 2a.m. Then make sure you have small packages. If you have junk food in your house, try and make sure that it’s not like in a big package. Say you have peanut butter cereal in your house, it really does not work well to have something like a cereal box that you can reach into and indulge in over and over again without counting calories. Whereas if you have smaller snack packs, it can be a little bit more effective and I’m certainly not condoning the frequent use of cheat meals but for example, if you have 100 calories snack packs little Oreo cookies, 100 calories of Oreo cookies that are controlled in a small package are going to do a lot less damage in compulsive eating than having access to the regular sized container of larger Oreo cookies where you can take in 300, 400, 500 calories easily by grabbing a handful. So better packages help out quite a bit as well. And then finally, I would tune in when I talk later on about serotonin deficiencies to a listener who called in asking about sleep, because some of those same strategies are going to help you out quite a bit with cravings as well, and also listen to the last Inner Circle Podcast. It was Inner Circle Podcast number three where I went into some of the most common supplements that can be used for carbohydrate cravings including gimnera silvestra, chromium, vanadium and glutamine. So look into that podcast as well.
Michael asks: My mother and my brother are obese and both have an interest in losing weight by eating better and exercise. I was wondering which calorie tracking system should I get, if any.
Ben answers: Well there are a lot of calorie tracking systems that are out there and what a calorie tracking system does is it allows you to go in, log the food that you’ve eaten and then it spits out graphs and charts of the actual calories that you’re taking in. a few of the ones that I really like – one of the most popular ones is called Fit Day and you can check that out at www.fitday.com. And that’s got a weight tracker on it. It’s got a daily journal, a daily activities tracker so you can know how many calories you’re burning as well as a food tracker on it. It’s $5.49 a month at the time of this recording to use Fit Day and I have some clients that actually use Fit Day and then share their results with me. Typically those are people who were using Fit Day before they came on board with me because I actually have a different calorie tracking system that I use with my clients. The next one is called Spark People and you can check that out at www.sparkpeople.com. That one has a calorie counter as well and it’s mostly looking at people who are wanting to lose weight and it kind of has a community board, a little bit of social support on there and you can even join a team with other people who have your same goals or same interests. So that’s a very socially oriented calorie counting website and it has a pretty good restaurant menu as well. I’m not as impressed by Fit Day’s restaurant choices. Spark People’s is pretty good. Another one is called www.dailyburn.com and Dailyburn.com again allows you to join other groups or join other challenges or groups of people to give you motivation. It’s got forums on there as well, and of course a nutrition log and calorie counting device and that’s three months for $15 or you can sign up for that for a year for $45. It’s called www.dailyburn.com. Another one that I really like is put out by www.livestrong.com and it’s called The Daily Plate. Check that out. The Daily Plate.com. and that one I believe – I’m not confident, but I believe that pretty much every option on there is free. Totally free. So that’s got a very good nutrition tracker on it. It’s one of the more impressive ones especially because it’s free, I really like it. That’d be a good one to look into as well. Then I mentioned that there’s one that I use with my clients and it is over at www.trainingpeaks.com. And over there, what I can do, for example, is program in someone’s workouts and as they’re eating, they can write in the foods that they eat, choose them from a template and it will show the number of calories that they’ve taken in but it will also graph that against the number of calories they’ve burned during the workouts that I send over. The other nice thing about that is if I put one of my meal plans into my client’s Training Peaks account, they can actually go and print shopping lists from that meal plan. So say I drag a week’s worth of meal plans onto there, they can simply say “print shopping list” and it will print the shopping list they can take to the grocery store that gives them everything they need for the beginning of that week. So that really works well also. What I’ll do is put a link to some of the nutrition plans that I have on Training Peaks in my response to this question, Michael, so you can go check that out. And Training Peaks is also free. You can get a premium account. I think it’s $9 a month to do a premium account. But it’s also free if you want to do it that way. So check that out as well.
Now I have a question that came in via Twitter. If you want to ask a question via Twitter, just go to www.twitter.com, do a search for Ben Greenfield or go to www.twitter.com/bengreenfield and you’ll be able to ask your Twitter question, and this one comes from ryanqualle.
ryanqualle asks: Do ab benches in the gym actually help or are they just a waste of time?
Ben answers: Ab benches are kind of a tossup, Ryan, because in people with chronic hip flexor tightness and back issues, they can really aggravate those issues. But if you have good hip flexor flexibility and you do your hip flexor stretches like a lunging hip flexor stretch everyday and your low back doesn’t hurt when you’re using an ab bench, then they actually can work really well at strengthening the abs. And the reason for that is that an ab bench is typically at a decline and so you have to work against gravity to do a sit-up and you can also hold a weight plate against your chest or the back of your head. I’ll usually use an ab bench about once every two weeks. It’s one of those ab exercises that, no matter what, will get me sore. And sometimes it’s nice to be able to feel a muscle being sore after a workout because you really feel as though you’ve targeted it. So the ab benches can work well but you really need to be careful from an injury perspective. You also don’t want to overuse them. Like I said, I only get on an ab bench every one to two weeks and it’s not something that I’m incorporating regularly in my program. Crunches, sit-ups, ab bench – anything that’s a simple front to back flexing motion of the spine shouldn’t be the cream of the crop for your ab exercises. You should be doing planking exercises instead. Standing torso twists, things that don’t involve that flexion and extension of the spine because you really throw out your lifetime… you only have a limited number of times your spine can flex before those discs start to wear down. So if you just throw in kind of a difficult ab bench session once every couple of weeks or once every week, then you’ll still get a lot of benefit from it without overusing your spine or setting your low back up for injury. One of the things that I also like to do during an ab bench workout is I’ll do hip flexor stretching in between each set on the ab bench so I’m not chronically shortening my hip flexors every time I get on an ab bench to do a set. But one of the things I’ll do on there is simply hold the weight plate to my chest, 10 to 15 reps, do a twist at the top of each rep, go down nice and slow and typically do that for three to five sets through the course of the workout. So, not a complete waste of time. Just some things you need to think about when you use them. Ok, the next question is from Rebecca.
Rebecca asks: I live at 800 ft and want to do a marathon at 9000 ft next summer. I cannot train at elevation. Given how elevation affects my anaerobic threshold, would I best be served by focusing on raising my anaerobic threshold through hill work and speed sessions on the track or would I best be served by running a different race?
Ben answers: Well when Rebecca says anaerobic threshold, essentially what she means by that is the point at which your legs really start to burn and oxygen tends to become a limiting factor during exercise is going to happen at an earlier point when you’re exercising at elevation. Because the air is thinner, there’s less oxygen that you’re able to utilize and less pressure to be able to that oxygen from your lungs into your bloodstream. So if your heart rate at which your legs start to burn and your anaerobic threshold comes on is say 160 at your normal altitude, at altitude it might be 150. Specifically there’s going to be an elevation change here of 80 to 100 feet for Rebecca and performance is going to start to be affected at about 3000 feet. So you’re looking at already being 5000 feet above the point where performance deficits are going to start to occur. And specifically your VO2 max is going to drop by about 10 to 12% once you get above 6500 feet, and about 12 to 15% at 7500 feet. So we’re talking about… it’s basically a 15% decrease in capacity that you’re looking at for this marathon Rebecca. And the inability for you to train at altitude is going to be a pretty big factor here because unless you’re able to get to that location a good couple of weeks early to run your marathon, you’re really going to feel that. It may not even be that enjoyable of a race for you. If it’s impossible for you to get there early to acclimate, I would tend to consider asking yourself if that’s something you want to do to your body. Now interestingly, you may get a little bit of an offset from that drop in VO2 max. Because the air is thinner, the running economy does improve because you’re essentially running through a less thick medium. But still the altitude sickness, the headaches, the drop in the anaerobic threshold, potential of nausea, headache and even more severe fatigue can be an issue. Now if you go to www.bengreenfieldfitness.com and you do a search for “altitude,” you’ll find that I have recommended things before, specifically things like ginko biloba and cortaseps as supplements that you can take when you’re training or racing at altitude. But ultimately, you’re going to want to get there a little bit early because no matter how high you can get your anaerobic threshold through speedwork on the track or through more difficult efforts, it’s going to drop no matter what. No matter how high you have it. So, yes. Getting your anaerobic threshold high is going to help. Getting your ability to tolerate being at an oxygen deficit is going to help quite a bit. But ultimately with a change in altitude for your marathon of 80 to 100 feet, that’s simply not going to be everything that you need to really get over the change – the curve ball that’s going to be thrown at your body. So I would recommend that you look into ginko biloba. Look into cortaseps. Continue to do the speedwork and get there at least a couple of weeks early if you can. If it were me, I’d consider if this was a marathon I really wanted to feel good at, maybe choosing a different marathon especially with that change in elevation. But it’s ultimately up to you. And then Rebecca has another part of her question.
Rebecca asks: I have difficulty sleeping after a hard run. Even though I am taking magnesium and a Epsom salt bath. Suggestions as to why I cannot sleep on those nights? I do have a Gatorade after such a workout as well as one reward beer along with normal eating.
Ben answers: It kind of depends on the time of day of your run. First of all, if you’re doing a hard workout where there would be a run or any other type of hard workout and you’re within an hour or two of the hour that you go to bed, not only is your core temperature going to be higher which is going to affect sleep. But you’ll also have the release of a lot of the adrenaline and epinephrine based hormones which are still going to be surging in your bloodstream and also going to affect your sleep. Yes, magnesium is going to help. That Epsom salts bath is going to help relax you a little bit although it’s not really going to decrease your core temperature because the Epsom salts will only dissolve at a higher temperature bath so that’s an issue as well, but what I would consider doing is making sure your room is very cold, very dark. I would consider making sure that you’re trying to finish up that workout as far away from bedtime as possible and then I would look into addressing a few other possible nutritional deficiencies that could be going on here that might be affecting your ability to sleep. And those would be specific natural mood enhancing type of chemicals. The top four that you’d want to look into as being natural sedatives that are going to promote sleep would be dopamine or norepinephrine, GABA – which is called gamma amino butyric acid, endorphin which is kind of a natural pain killer but can also help with sleep and serotonin. So if you’re having a deficiency of any of those, you’re going to want to look into taking a few things that can help out quite a bit with that. Gamma amino butyric acid – I take a supplement called Somnidren GH. That also has 500 mgs of magnesium in it. So if you’re already taking magnesium, you may get some loose stool if you’re taking that along with the Somnidren GH. It’s put out by a company called Millennium Sports. I use that quite a bit especially when I need deep sleep and I’m having trouble sleeping. I always take it, for example, before a race. Amino acids are really going to help with the serotonin levels as well as the dopamine. The specific one that I’d look into is L-glutamine, especially L-glutamine supplementation prior to bedtime can really help. Taurine can also help out quite a bit. That’s another amino acid and you’d be looking at right around kind of the 200 to 300 mg range of the L-Taurine. 200 to 300 mg range of L-Glutamine as well. And this isn’t necessarily meant to be a medical prescription, but that’s about the dosage of amino acids that can assist with sleep. And those help to stabilize some of the neurotransmitters in the brain as well. Make sure that your blood glucose isn’t super high, which can happen especially when you’re taking in a beer which is not only sugar but also gluten along with Gatorade. I would steer you more towards a non-gluten based alcohol like a glass of wine. That could help out quite a bit as well rather than going after the beer, which is going to be higher in the carbs and gluten. I would also consider maybe even not doing the Gatorade in favor of just having a real meal along with the alcohol. So that you’re not actually taking in too many calories before bedtime, which can also be an issue with sleep disruption as your digestive activity will be very high. Finally you can look into L-tryptophan as another supplement that can help to stabilize the serotonin levels. And minerals. For example, there’s one mineral supplement out there called ZMK which can help out quite a bit. That’s also got magnesium in it so again, kind of look at a lot of these sleep-based supplements because they’ll add magnesium to a lot of them. Before you know it, you can be taking 1000, 1500 mgs of magnesium and you’ll be up at midnight with diarrhea. So make sure that you know what you’re putting into your body. But an L-glutamine, an L-taurine, tryptophan, magnesium, GABA, something like the Somnidren GH, along with controlling the total number of calories as well as the gluten-based foods and the carbohydrates before bed. All of that can help. Make sure your core temperature isn’t too high, the room is cool. It’s nice and dark. Try out some of those strategies and best of luck. Great question.
Chris asks: What considerations to nutrition and other methods, what is good to do when you hit the dirt hard. I recently crashed my mountain bike, but I don’t have any broken bones or very much to speak of with abrasions. I do feel like I got hit by a bus, with only minor bruises to show. Should this type of injury be treated any differently than a typical training injury?
Ben answers: Well I’m assuming that you’re kind of making sure that you’re covering your bases. That you’re icing anything that was strained or sprained. You’re cleaning out abrasions and things of that nature. But there’s definitely a few strategies you can throw into your body to help yourself heal faster, especially when it comes to some of the joint, cartilage, bruising – the type of muscle damage that can occur from a crash. Look into glucosamine chondroitin. One of the ones I really like is called CapraFlex, put out by a company called Mt. Capra. And glucosamine chondroitin will work a lot better if you’re also taking a branch chain amino acid and a protolytic enzyme blend with them. I know that these sound like big, long words and I’m throwing tons of supplements out there in today’s podcast, but that’s why you’re listening right? Protolytic enzymes would be something like bromolaine, papaine, trypsin, chimotrypsin. There’s one supplement called Recoverease that has a lot of that in it. Branch chain amino acids, you’d be looking at for example your leucine, isoleucine, valine. Recoverease also has that in it. You can get branch chain amino acids in a lot of the protein powders and recovery compounds as well. So, taking those on a daily basis along with glucosamine chondroitin can help to speed up healing. Decrease inflammation a little bit. Look into taking vitamin C as well. That kind of plays a critical role in your collage formation which is one of the primary components of your connective tissue. So that’s essential for your repair and your healing. Just popping anywhere from 1 to 2 mgs of vitamin C a day. Make sure you back off if your gut hurts at all because that can be an issue. But getting vitamin C into your body can help out quite a bit. Look into decreasing anything acidic or inflammatory that you’re putting into your body. Generally, especially in my injured athletes, I tend to really try to limit sports supplements that contain sugars as well as processed sugars from cereals, grains, processed foods, things of that nature. So looking after yourself nutritionally can help out quite a bit. Focusing on non-impact physical activity so that you’re still moving a lot of lymph fluid and blood around without actually jarring the joints too much can help. So aqua jogging, cycling, elliptical trainer and rowing can be good. Look into natural topical anti-inflammatories. Two of my favorites are arnicha and topical magnesium. Those would be very good as well. If you want to continue resistance training, switch to elastic bands or machines to control the range of motion and go light. You can do 20, 25 reps with a fairly light weight and you can even try something that studies have shown to really help in injured folks. And that’s caused vascular occlusion training where you actually wrap an elastic band lightly around the area above the joint that you’re working so that it’s just slightly cutting off blood flow to that joint and then you go with a very light high repetition rate of lifting. For example 20 to 25 reps. So let’s say that for example you’ve injured your wrist but you still want to strengthen your wrist, you would tie an elastic band around the area just below your elbow almost the same that you would do if you were going to for example get an IV done around the wrist and then you would do something like a curl or press for 20 to 25 reps. And it’s called vascular occlusion training, and that can actually help out quite a bit as well. Then you can also stabilize weak sections of the body with kinesthio tape. And kinesthio tape is a little different than athletic tape because it’s meant to kind of mimic human skin. So it can stretch quite a bit but still retain the ability to snap back. And they typically put weaves in these tapes that help to lift the skin away from soft tissue underneath the skin. So that can help promote blood flow and lymph drainage. That can help out quite a bit as well. If you go to www.bengreenfieldfitness.com and you do a search for the word “wolverine” I wrote a little free E-book called recover from your workout. It’s like Wolverine from X-men and that same book also will really help you recover quicker from your injuries like Wolverine from X-men. So go to www.bengreenfieldfitness.com. Do a search for “wolverine” and check that book out, read through it. That will help you out a little bit as well.
Jim asks: Could you recommend a good, reasonably priced, compact bike trainer that I can put in my closet when not using it and also discuss the differences in workouts between riding outside and riding on the trainer.
Ben answers: Well I’ll put a link to this in the Shownotes, Jim. But as far as a reasonably priced trainer, I’m a big fan of one called the Kurt Kinetic Trainer. Amazon usually has pretty decent prices on it. I’ll put a link in the Shownotes to the Kurt Kinetic so you can check it out. There’s a few different models. I use the Kurt Kinetic Fluid Trainer. They’ve also got one called the Kurt Kinetic Rock and Roll Trainer which kind of moves a little bit as you train. But either one of those would be a good choice to look into. Now, as far as the difference between working out on the trainer and the road, a few things you’re going to notice is that there’s no balance required when you’re on the trainer. One of the things you can do is you can put the front wheel of your trainer up on an air pillow or an bosu ball – the same type of things you would use in a gym and that can kind of make the front wheel move around a little bit and increase your focus, your awareness a bit as you’re riding. But ultimately, there’s not as much balance required when you’re working out on the indoor trainer. If you tend to kind of zone out while you’re working out, it doesn’t work too well on a trainer unless the trainer is holding your wattage constant, because say if you’re watching a movie, you may find that you look at your heart rate and your pace and it’s slowing way down because there’s really nothing keeping you focused on keeping your speed up like there is outdoors when you’re riding. And so one of the things that you may want to consider doing is making sure that when you get on that trainer, you have a specific workout in mind to make sure that you maintain your focus as you’re on that trainer. If you go to my YouTube channel, Ben Greenfield Fitness, I’ve got a few indoor trainer bike workouts over there. When you’re riding on a trainer, what you don’t have to worry about is what you have to worry about when you’re riding on a spin bike – specifically that there’s not a fly wheel on the trainer. You’re riding your own bike so there’s not a weight keeping the pedal turned around. So you don’t have to worry too much about making sure that you’re careful when you stop pedaling to keep the bike cranked from coming back around and hitting you in the back of the leg. That’s not an issue on the trainer. When you shift on the trainer, it is going to – just like it does when you’re outside – make pedaling harder so that’s a way to increase your resistance on the indoor trainer. However you are going to find that you need to make sure the resistance on the back of the trainer is set so that your tire actually has a good amount of resistance on it so that it’s not slipping every time you shift and so that you don’t feel like you’re pedaling against a very easy resistance. If you start to smell smoke or burning rubber, that’s typically a pretty good indication that the resistance on the trainer is set up too tight on the back wheel. And that would lead me into my final recommendation. That would be to get an actual tire that’s designed for an indoor trainer. Just go to Google and do a search for “indoor trainer tire” and you’ll find any number of tires that are designed.. they’re inexpensive, they last longer. They’re designed to work at higher heat or higher friction based heat which is what you’re going to experience on the indoor trainer. I recommend you throw one of those tires on the back wheel of your bike if you’re planning on doing a lot of indoor training. But I personally do indoor training at least once a week in the winter, sometimes three times a week, and it works out quite well. So, remember that the amount of time you spend on an indoor trainer — because you never stop pedaling – is typically about 1 and a quarter… so about 1.25 times what you do outdoors. So a one hour ride on the trainer is similar to a 1 hour and 15 minute ride outdoors.
Graeme asks: I just completed a half marathon after 3 weeks where I maintained intense cycle intervals and sessions but was unable to run due to a calf strain. I finished well exceeding my goal but I’m paying for it, I have chronic tightness in my legs. Can you explain for what happened physiologically?
Ben answers: Well Graeme, what can happen is that when you do injure an area in your leg, you can get what’s called tissue hypoxia. And essentially tissue hypoxia occurs when you get toxins that are released into a tissue area or you get a drop in blood flow from formation of scar tissue due to an injury and decreased partial pressure of oxygen in that muscle tissue area. And what happens is you can feel that muscle area is weaker. That it’s tighter. Typically you get metabolic acidosis setting in or decreased ability to really shuttle lactic acid out of that area as you get decreased oxygen saturation into that area. And that can not only cause this chronic feeling of tightness and a little bit of pain, but it can kind of also be a vicious cycle because it will set that area up for even further injury and scar tissue formation. So if you have an area of hypoxic tissue, one of the really good things that you can do is to work with a massage therapist to actually mobilize the scar tissue, especially early on in the injury. A foam roller or a muscle stick can be used but a massage therapist is typically a lot better at actually working through that area, re-aligning the scar tissue, making sure to work out those pockets of hypoxic tissue and those pockets of inflammation. Another thing that can work really well is just a cold laser. It’s something that a lot of massage therapists and physical therapists will have access to. Chiropractic physicians have them as well. I have one called a Kinko Wave. You can’t get it anymore. At least I don’t think you can get it anymore. Not that I’m aware of. But you can look into a cold laser device and those are typically going to be a few hundred dollars if you just want to order to have around your house. And then also look into electro stim. You can set up your electro stim patches right around the area of hypoxia and do one of those electro stim sessions a couple of times a day. That will really assist with recovery and blood flow in and out of that area as well. Compax is one company that makes home electro-stim units. I have one called the Sport Elite. That’s something really useful to have around for injuries as well. So, look into the massage therapy or the foam roller or the stick to kind of work through that area. Look at cold laser. And look into electro-stim as all things you can do to really help with that tightness.
Ok, we have another question from… I believe this is a different Graeme.
Graeme asks: When I used to weight train I believed in the theory of ‘muscle memory’ when trying to regain muscle force. Was this theory imaginary, does it exist and if so does it apply to regaining VO2 or threshold levels?
Ben answers: Well basically, this whole idea of muscle memory is that in sports science, what you notice is that when you start to train – whether you’re doing aerobic training or strength training – you’ll typically notice that stuff starts to feel easy within about two to four weeks. Although technically muscle adaptations don’t fully occur for about four to six weeks. And the reason for that is your neuromuscular system actually develops what’s called enhanced motor neuron excitability. Which means that the efficiency of your nerves and their ability to stimulate motor neuron in the muscle fiber surrounding that motor neuron are going to increase, so you’re able to basically recruit your motor units or the areas of muscle nerve more quickly, more efficiently and you’re able to gram more motor units for any given action. Then the other thing that happens is you get what’s called synapto genesis which is essentially an enhancement of the synapses between the nerves that are feeding the muscles. So both of those are going to help enhance communication between your nervous system and your muscles and all of that takes place more quickly than the actual growth of the muscle fibers themselves. Or the developments in the musculo-skeletal system. So, the deal with that neuromuscular training is that once that’s performed and once you’ve actually learned a specific task such as pedaling a bicycle or swinging a tennis racket, your muscles are able to retain much of that ability for a much longer period of time than they’re able to maintain musculo-skeletal fitness. That’s why when you return to fitness, the efficiency of your movement is actually going to increase and return to you much quicker than the actual musculo-skeletal fitness. So while you may find that when you go out and say you’ve been injured, you get back into running – your lungs will tend to be burning. Your muscles may also be burning but you’ll find that you’re running economy or efficiency is still going to be pretty good because your nerves and your neuromuscular system are able to recruit muscles in a similar pattern. So as far as muscle memory is concerned, it’s definitely not a myth. It does exist and when you’re getting into fitness or getting back into fitness, you’re definitely going to find that you’ll feel fitter within two to four weeks and that musculo-skeletal fitness is still going to take four to six weeks to fully return. But muscle memory is something that’s going to return a lot more quickly and it’s definitely trainable – the ability to recruit motor units, recruit more of them and recruit them more efficiently – is all something that you can train. So, next question is from Robin.
Robin asks: I am studying to be a Massage Therapist, and, have an opportunity to be a Massage Therapist for a bike training group. I am looking for an exceptional book to guide me to the best stretching techniques for cyclists, so I can incorporate them into my massage sessions, and, prior to the days riding.
Ben asks: Well the first thing I would say Robin is be careful. Because static stretching is going to reduce the force capacity of a muscle and can actually inhibit cycling performance. However, for example, in my recent Ironman triathlon, I actually got off the bike and stretched my hip flexors about 60 miles into the ride because they were getting tight. So there are advantages, especially from a mental perspective and a comfort perspective to doing stretches for cyclists. Specifically the stretches that really help are anything that extends the low back because the low back is held in a flex position during cycling. I’m a big fan of the cobra stretch where you simply lie on the ground on your stomach and push your stomach up off of the ground elevating yourself as high as you can and without your hips or legs leaving the ground. I also like the lunging hip flexor stretch where you’re simply lunging and reaching for the sky. Both of those stretches tend to extend the low back, extend the hip flexors and really help out with cycling. And then an IT band stretch where you’re seated or you’re standing. You’re crossing one leg over the other and getting into a deeper seated position to stretch the outside of the leg and the IT band and the outer butt, can help out quite a bit as far as cycling comfort is concerned. It’s actually going to be a detriment to your power and your strength on the bike but it can help with comfort. Now as far as a book for stretching techniques, I don’t really have a book I use for stretching techniques, primarily for those reasons. But I would not be focusing on the static stretching as much as the dynamic stretching. Lots of leg swings before the ride. Leg swings side to side, front to back, kicking out, kicking back and then look at static stretching as something you stop and do about halfway or three-quarters through the ride if people’s backs or hip flexors are starting to feel it a little bit, rather than doing all that stuff before the ride which is technically going to inhibit the power and the strength. So hopefully that helps out a little bit. There is a DVD that I use called Yoga for Endurance Athletes. I definitely wouldn’t do it before a ride but a different time of the week apart from the ride to improve flexibility – that could be something that you look into. So that’s called Yoga for Endurance Athletes. As a matter of fact, I did review it on the podcast. So what I’ll do is I’ll put a link to the review that I did on Yoga for Endurance Athletes in the podcast for you right there on the Shownotes for episode 115.
Dan asks: Wondering if you have seen the stuff about chocolate milk after workouts and the potential for beets to improve endurance performance? Can you comment on these?
Ben answers: Alright. Chocolate milk and beets. So, first of all chocolate milk is something we used to talk about eight years ago when I was taking sports science classes. It’s been around for a while. It seems to always get constantly re-circulated and people think chocolate milk is the brand new thing – the ultimate mix of sugar and protein. But it’s been around for a while. And the idea is that chocolate milk has had a pretty strong run in the research in terms of its applications to sports. It performs really well for re-hydration, for carbohydrate re-synthesis and for synthesizing muscle protein or helping with muscle recovery after exercise. There’s one study that compared chocolate milk, Gatorade and something called Endurox R4 and chocolate milk was as effective as Gatorade for enhancing the total work output and prolonging the time to exhaustion and both chocolate milk and Gatorade outperformed this other supplement called Endurox R4. And what the researchers speculated was that was because a maltodextrin was used as the carbohydrate source in R4 versus sucrose as one of the sources in the milk and the Gatorade. The other thing about chocolate milk is you basically have got of course your full protein spectrum in it, because it’s basically about 80% casein and 20% whey. This kind of gives it the advantage of having one of the types of protein that’s more of a slow release protein and one of the type of proteins that gives amino acids into your body a little bit more quickly. So you’ve got two different types of protein sources in the chocolate milk. You of course have the carbohydrate in it and specifically the sweet carbohydrate from the chocolate and the sweet carbohydrate can amp up the insulin a little bit better and enhance the deliverability of the amino acids from the casein and the whey in chocolate milk. Some people get concerned because a lot of brands of chocolate milk use high fructose corn syrup, but especially post-exercise, high fructose corn syrup is not going to be that big of an issue. It’s similar enough to sucrose in its chemical structure and its metabolic effect post-workout that high fructose corn syrup is really only something you have to worry too much about when you’re talking about its consumption outside of exercise. So if we’re talking right after the exercise, taking in some chocolate milk – not that big of an issue. Now interestingly, the low fat chocolate milk does not perform as well as whole milk when we’re talking about the ability to increase net protein balance. So if you’re looking at recovery, whole chocolate milk actually works better than fat free chocolate milk in terms of actually helping your muscles to recover more quickly. And chocolate milk also has a pretty good sodium ratio. Has a pretty good potassium to sodium ratio and so ultimately it’s got everything you need for recovery. The nice thing is that most of the supplements that are out there tend to be 250 to 300% more expensive than chocolate milk. Especially if you’re making your own chocolate milk at home with a little bit of Hershey’s and milk. So, there’s a price and a convenience issue as well with the chocolate milk being a lot less expensive and a lot easier to get your hands on. Now if you’re lactose intolerance, obviously you’re either going to have take lactase enzyme before you consume the chocolate milk or you’re going o have to make something like chocolate almond milk or chocolate soy milk which completely loses you the advantage of the casein and the whey protein that’s in the regular whole milk. And the other thing is that if you’re taking a milk that has a lot of hormones, a lot of steroids in it and you’re trying to lose weight, that might be an issue as well. So chocolate milk is something that can work for some people. Some people don’t feel too well on it. I always feel like I’m going to throw up if I take in chocolate milk after a workout and that’s primarily because I’ve got a little bit of a lactose intolerance. But some people do very well on it. So it ultimately comes down to how you feel with the chocolate milk, but it can definitely help and as far as the beets go – what you’re referring to is a recent study on beets that show that they could increase the production of nitrates. They’re a nitrate rich food, and nitrate rich foods improve blood flow. So one study that was done on exercise endurance showed that people who were fed 500 mls of beets on a daily basis – so beet juice on a daily basis for 6 days – were tested for cycling endurance, they compared it to a group that just got a juice cocktail. The people got the beets had a lower blood pressure and 2% better time for covering the specific distance they covered during that cycling study. So you get the lower blood pressure. You get the enhanced exercise endurance. 500 mls of beets for you American folks, is about 16 oz. so that’s a lot of beet juice. You’re definitely going to be slightly concerned or perhaps concern others if your urine and your stool is as bright red as it’s going to be when you’re consuming that amount of beet juice. But ultimately, there’s evidence that shows that it could actually help you out a little bit. If beet juice is your thing and you want to juice some beets or by beet juice that’s unsweetened, it could help a little bit. And so definitely no deleterious effects that I’m aware of from consumption of beet juice. Yeah, a little bit of carbohydrates that you’re getting on board. A little bit of sugar – natural beet sugar. But ultimately consumption of beet juice, probably fewer issues with that than consumption of chocolate milk. But beet juice would not be a recovery drink. Beet juice would be more of a performance drink, chocolate milk would be more of a recovery drink. So great questions. And we have a question now from Julian who asks…
Julian asks: My sport of choice is motocross. After riding I get headaches but not straight away. After an hour’s rest I get these acute headaches that only last while my heart rate is elevated. This only happens after riding motocross and doesn’t happen when I do other high intensity workouts.
Ben answers: Well this is interesting because I would have said, well you may need to look into an oxygen deficit. You may need to look into a lack of blood flow causing a hypoxic condition which could give you that headache, but if it’s not happening during any other workouts other than your motocross workouts, I’ve got two ideas. The first would be that the gear that you’re wearing during motocross is causing you to sweat more, to lose more electrolytes and you’re looking at dehydration causing that heart rate to increase a little bit due to your blood volume dropping and your heart needing to beat more to get oxygen out to your muscles. And then that combined with the electrolytes – drop in magnesium, potassium, sodium, calcium – could be an issue. And so if that’s an issue, then it would simply be making sure that you consume an electrolyte or a mineral based beverage during or after your motocross training. And then the other thing that I would look into would be a chiropractic treatment because if you do have some spinal issues, specifically a crooked spine which is pretty common among motocross athletes, that can pinch some of the nerves that branch out from your spinal column and that could potentially be giving you a headache. If you’ve got some spinal issues going on. So I would look into some neck and back adjustments as well from a sports chiro if the hydration and electrolyte intake doesn’t take care of the headache issue. And then you ask a second part of your question.
Julian asks: I just recently bought a supplement called Musashi Elevator. The guy in the store said that the new research shows that it starts recovery during the workout and this was a good product to prevent soreness.
Ben answers: I looked into the ingredients of Musashi and sure enough it contains branch chain amino acids in it and the consumption of amino acids during exercise can absolutely help with your recovery from an exercise. Looks like it’s got glucose and fructose in there, so it’s got a carbohydrate source. That can help with the uptake of amino acid as well as the energy replenishment during the workout itself. Some flavors, some natural colors in there, a little bit of citric acid. Ultimately, I don’t really have any big bones to pick with this supplement. I don’t know how much glucose and fructose is actually in it. It was actually really difficult to get my hands on an ingredient label for this supplement so I would make sure that you look at the number of calories that you’re taking in, make sure that it’s reasonable compared to your calorie burn if you’re concerned about gaining weight while taking it. And also this would definitely be a supplement to take during a workout or immediately after a workout, not during the day apart from the workout due to the sugar content. It’s similar to something I take. It’s similar to the Recoverease that I take. Only the Recoverease is in a pill-based form and it doesn’t have any sugars in it. It’s just the actual capsules of amino acids themselves. So I’ll put a link to that Recoverease in the Shownotes, but this other stuff is called Musashi Elevator and it doesn’t look too bad if you’re going after a carbohydrate protein blend to be able to take in during exercise. And it appears to be a powder source from what I can tell. So great question.
It looks like we have one other question from Ioan.
Ioan asks: Assuming you followed the nutrition plan in your Triathlon Dominator program pre and during your Ironman event – what exactly is your nutrition plan from the second you cross the finish line for the first 24-48 hours of recovery?
Ben answers: Well folks, I like this question so much that what I’m going to do is I’m going to write an article for you guys. And I’m going to put this article up on Friday. I will probably post it to the Rock Star Triathlete Academy website over at www.rockstartriathlete.com. I will make sure that it’s a free post. Some of the posts that I put up over there are free. They’re not just for Rock Star members. So I’ll put that up. It’s a free post at the Rock Star Triathlete Academy. We’ll probably do a longer podcast on it for Rock Star Triathlete Academy members. But for the actual question itself, I will give you my recovery protocol post-Ironman. It’s an interesting question because it’s been a couple of years since I’ve done an Ironman triathlon. I raced this Ironman triathlon even harder than some of the ones I’ve done in the past. I was in a lot more pain afterwards. I was actually crying due to the amount of pain that I was in, specifically my legs and within two days I was almost completely pain free, and I did several specific things that I’ll share with you guys in that article that I’d really like to get the word out about just because I was pretty flabbergasted about how quickly I recovered. I’m doing another triathlon down in Jamaica here in two weeks. Down at the Rose Hall Triathlon and when I cross the finish line, I thought ok, I’m cancelling my plane tickets and withdrawing from that race. I won’t be able to move in two weeks and within two days, I felt pretty rock solid. So I’ll share those recovery techniques that I used with you guys. I have a feeling that the 19 days that researchers have found people actually should take to recover after an Ironman could probably be cut down significantly with what I’ll share with you on Friday. So you’ll just have to wait until then. And that is going to wrap up our podcast for this week.
So be sure to grab the free iPhone app. If you’re an iPhone user over at iTunes, do a search for “Ben Greenfield Fitness.” Grab the app or just go to the link that I have right there in the Shownotes and also be sure if you haven’t yet to leave both that app as well as this podcast a ranking in iTunes. Huge favor that you guys can do for me. And then finally for anybody who downloads that app, I’m going to be over at www.bengreenfieldfitness.com on Friday. I’m going to be giving a huge, huge prize package for those of you who have the app or at least an opportunity to win a prize package for those of you who have the app. So if you don’t have the app yet, make sure that you get it between now and Friday if you’re able to. I’ve got about 300 bucks of goodies I’m going to be sending out to somebody. So, until next time, this is Ben Greenfield signing out from www.bengreenfieldfitness.com.
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