Introduction: What to eat the day before a marathon, a strange clicking in the hip, what figure competitors eat to get lean, when is it too late to break up scar tissue, is wheat germ okay, how to become a fast triathlete, recovering from standing on your feet all day, soy foods, low back exercises and training for strength and endurance at the same time.
Ben: Welcome to Part Two of this week’s podcast series. As mentioned in Podcast #163 which actually was just released a couple days ago, I have a lot of questions in queue and so we’re getting to them all this week. We decided based on a tweet that I sent out and listener feedback to release these two podcasts to separate episodes just to make them a little bit more palatable. So, all of the special announcements were in the previous podcast for this week, podcast Episode #163, as well as a lot of really good questions. So we are basically going to skip right over the special announcements and move straight into this week’s listener Q&A after a quick message.
Pete: Hi, Ben, I’m from Minneapolis, Minnesota. I’ve got a question for your podcast and I hope you can answer. I’m planning on running the twin cities’ marathon on October 2nd and my goal is to go 12/3/15. My four previous marathons and long triathlons, I’ve experienced painful side stitches which has slowed me down significantly. So, I’m limiting my food and fluid intake during races but predictably, run out of energy to push a fast pace. Typically my issues arrive at or after mile 18. For my nutrition status from the Ironman I did last year was to wake up in the middle of the night and drink about 600 calories of naked juice. So my question for you is whether that would be a good strategy that would allow me to go very light on the calories during a marathon? In other words, is it possible to store enough calories the night before or day before a marathon without really needing to feel much strain in race? I’m planning on taking about 550 calories of Infinit sports drink during the first 16 miles of a marathon and little water the rest of the way and I wonder if you think that’s a good approach?
Ben: Well, as attractive as the idea is of getting up at midnightto drink 600 calories of naked juice, it’s not an approach that I would recommend. So first of all, we will get to your issue of the side stitches that you say are arising up around mile 18 of your marathon but first you need to kind of understand a little bit of what’s going on here from a physiological standpoint. When you’re running a marathon (and I know that many listeners are kind of aware of this) you reach a point where you hit the wall and you run out of storage carbohydrate and at that point, your feet really starts dragging and it gets hard to keep going and that’s because your body’s run out of storage glycogen, it’s run out of storage carbohydrate. Most people can go somewhere in the range of two to two and a half hours before that actually happens although the kind of blah feeling of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar that accompanies that hitting-the-wall scenario can set in even after just an hour to an hour and a half, depending on how hard you’re actually going. So that being said, you can’t just fill up your body’s storage carbohydrate levels right the day before the marathon and then go into the marathon and not eat anything. If you plan on running the marathon in two to two and a half hours, theoretically you could get away with that but the pace that you’d need to be running is pretty quick to do a marathon in two to two and a half hours and you would probably be very competitive if that were the case. So now you’re left with the scenario of needing to eat during the marathon. Now the day before the marathon, you need to try and fill-up your body with storage carbohydrate and the best way to do this is you go out for a quick training run in the morning on an empty stomach and when you run on an empty stomach, the levels of an enzyme called glycogen synthase will start to work into overdrive and what the glycogen synthase will do is it will take the carbohydrate that you eat after that fasted run and kind of work overtime to put that carbohydrate into your muscle. So the morning before your marathon, you go for a run on an empty stomach and then you fuel up with a good, easily-digested carbohydrate, something plain. Oatmeal works well, sweet potatoes and yams work well. If you’re okay with wheat and gluten and all that, I mean you can do toast and cereal, I personally have a problem with that and I tend to steer people more towards like a gluten-free oatmeal or sweet potato or yam, put a little bit of almond butter in there, put a little bit of Greek yogurt along with it if you like and then go through the rest of your day eating as you normally would but really trying to limit fibers. No big salads, no more than two pieces of fresh, raw fruit and no huge servings of vegetables. So in between breakfast and lunch, you might have a banana. For lunch, you might have a brown rice with a small serving of vegetables and maybe some chicken or maybe some nuts, perhaps an avocado. In the afternoon, you could basically grab another handful of nuts or a lot of times in my case, I’ll just have like a sweet potato in the afternoon to bump up the carbohydrate storage just a little bit more before that tough effort that’s coming up the next day. And then the evening, have a little bit of quinoa or amaranth or millet or rice or sweet potato or yam with little fish, small side of steamed veggies like kale or spinach or something like that. And then go to sleep and wake up in the morning. Two to two and a half hours before your race have, again, a clean digesting carbohydrate. Preferably, again, like a sweet potato or a yam or even a baked potato or a baby potato, salted works well. If you find that it really doesn’t satiate your appetite, you can add a little bit of a nut butter like an almond butter to that and then go run your race. Waking up at midnight to drink 600 calories of naked juice means that you’re getting a ton of fiber which is not going to be all that great and could be part of the digestive issues that you were having beforehand. If you’re not getting side stitches early in the marathon but you’re getting them later in the marathon, it’s likely that the issue has less to do with eating and drinking excessively during the race and more to do with inspiratory and expiratory muscle fatigue. So there’s basically two things that lead to the side stitches, one is you eat and drink too much so you’re having to digest a lot of food in your stomach and you’ve got lots of blood getting diverted to your stomach and the muscles surrounding your gut tend to kind of go into a fast spasm. Now particularly, your diaphragm goes into what’s called diaphragmatic spasm. The same scenario, that same type of diaphragmatic spasm can occur in many of your other inspiratory-expiratory muscle if you’re simply breathing too hard or breathing very laboriously and this is a scenario that can occur whether or not you’re eating or drinking and it’s probably what’s happening when you’re at mile 18 because typically, you see an eating-or-drinking-related side stitch earlier in the marathon and fatigue-related side stitch later in the marathon. So what I would suggest that you do is you do some breathing exercises. You can focus on learning how to engage in deep diaphragmatic breathing during your running, during your sessions by first learning how to do it, during yoga and during weight training and during times when you’re not running and then begin to try to use that same type of breathing when you are running. You can use one of these power breathing devices, some people swear by them. I’ve talked about them before on the show. I don’t personally use them but there is essentially a device that trains the muscular endurance and you’re inspiratory and expiratory muscles, it’s called a power breathing device. I will put a link to it in the show notes. I don’t personally sell them, I have no affiliation with the power breathing company or anything like that but I’ll put a link to that in the show notes so you could work on your breathing that way and that’s what I would do. Now just in case this is eating-or-drinking-related, make sure that you’re not drinking too much water all at once while you’re running and that you’re slowing down or walking an aid station that you drink water from so that you’re able to really get it all down the pipes so to speak, so you’re not having to fight against it with your drinking muscles and put yourself into that spasmic state by doing so. So try all that stuff out. If you’re listening in and you want more of, kind of my expertise on marathons, I would definitely recommend you go checkout MarathonDominator.com which is a program that I co-wrote with a coach from Seattle and it’s really focused on kind of quality-over-quantity marathon training that we go over eating, we go over injury prevention, we go over strength training and a lot of, kind of extra bonuses like shin splint prevention in that program, so it’s over at MarathonDominator.com. Check that out, I’ll put a link to that in the show notes. I’ll also put a link to this power breathing device in the show notes.
Tina: I’ve been told by my doctor that I have some bad hip inflammation and I’ve been asked to stop doing high impact exercises for a month. Prior to this diagnosis, I’ve had a dull ache in my left hip and sometimes when I walk, I hear a clicking. I’ve been told by my physiologist that this is just muscle sliding over muscle. I’ve also been told that it has something to do with my core being unstable or a tight lower back. I’ve had x-rays done and it’s not bone-related. Could this be muscle sliding over muscle? Would stretching help, ice, heat? I want to get back to my exercising and don’t feel I will get a very good workout doing low-impact cardio, any suggestions or ideas?
Ben: So hip inflammation and a snapping hip or what’s called snapping hip syndrome, you’re basically looking at three possible things that could cause that. One would be what’s called an iliotibial band snap or an IT band snap and the IT band, which many runners are intimately familiar with due to its potential for getting inflamed and giving you pain on the outside of your knee, it’s just this big tendon that goes up the outside of your leg and it is the biggest tendon in your body and what happens is that can slide over what’s called your greater trochanter or the bony part on the outside of your hip joint. You can actually feel that bony part when you palpate the outside of your hip and when that slides over the outside of the hip joint, it causes this IT band snap and you hear this kind of snapping sound and you can eventually get bursitis or irritation of what’s called the trochanteric bursa or the fat pad that’s reaching from that iliotibial band snapping over and over again. A fix for that is to work on flexibility in your IT band. Do foam rolling on it, get some massage work done on it and basically just engage in some hip stretching, do some yoga-type of hip-opening exercises. I’ve got a program for iliotibial band over at BulletProofKnee.com, you can check that out but essentially, working on the flexibility of the IT band, super important! The next thing is similar, it’s called an iliopsoas tendon snap and the iliopsoas tendon is your hip flexor, it’s the muscle or the tendon on front of your body. So a tight tendon or a tight hip flexor tendon can catch on the bony part of your pelvis and cause a snap right there in the groove of your hip and typically, that’s not going to lead to a lot of pain like an IT band snap does but it can lead to discomfort and annoyance and the best way to get rid of that is to do a hip stretching or a hip-opening type of routine before you go out and you do your running or your movement that’s causing that snaps. So most of the time, hip flexor stretches involves some type of a lunging position that you hold with your arms overhead, and in yoga, these are known as the warrior positions. I would definitely incorporate some of those if it’s a hip flexor issue. And then the last thing is it’s just a tear, tear of the cartilage in your hip joints called the labral tear and what happens in that case is you get this little loose flap of cartilage and it catches in the joint and it causes this snapping sensation and the hip labral tear, because the labrum is an area that really doesn’t get a lot of circulation, that’s something that may actually need a surgical attendance to remove the cartilage tear. In your case, if you’ve been told that your hip is inflamed, I am hazarding a guess that this is a tight IT band issue that’s causing some bursal inflammation. Simply laying off, going non-weight bearing for four to eight weeks and staying in shape with alternative methods is the way to go. It’s something I had to deal with IT band syndrome, that’s why I wrote the Bullet Proof Knee program. I’ve talked about it on the show before. It’s simply 13 different modalities that you work through, everything from your nutrition to your supplements to special things that you put in your shoes to special braces, certain types of braces you can get for about 10 bucks. You put them in a certain spot on your knee and it really helps with all of these issues on the IT band. So that’s what I would do, is look at the Bullet Proof Knee, I’ll put a link to it in the program and then just be patient because you are going to need a good four to eight weeks without running in order to get over this if that’s what it indeed is.
Sue: What is the truth behind natural female body builders? I’d like to make the transition from triathlete to natural body builder. I understand you did the opposite. What’s the real scoop on female contest diets? Can they really get that ripped while consuming 1300-1500 calories a day like they claim they do? Also, most seem to have undergone breast enhancement. What else are they not telling us?
Ben: When I was a body builder, we’d all be backstage and a lot of times the female figure competitors would be back there as well and many of them were very beautiful and some of them were a little scary, typically the ones who were more, kind of along the lines of the body building side were the ones who were a little bit scary. Maybe a little bit too much testosterone hanging around on them and not enough estrogen but the competition diet for a female figure competitor is very similar to the competition diet that you’re going to see in a body builder. It’s a high protein, low fat, low carbohydrate diet in most cases. Now when I was a body builder, I had a very similar diet. It typically involves some type of protein powder-based meal with breakfast, kind of a mid-morning meal that involves like chicken, fish and tuna, usually with some vegetables or fruit. Lunch again, chicken, fish, tuna, protein powder, some vegetables. Yourmiddaymeal, afternoon meal, again chicken, fish, tuna, protein powder, some vegetables, a little bit of complex carbs and that kind of tends to get tapered off as you get closer and closer to competition. And then dinner, usually not too heavy because you’re trying not to spike the insulin levels too high before you hit the sack and you’re done exercising for the evening but you guessed it, chicken, fish, tuna, lean meats, protein powder sometimes, some vegetables and then if it’s not too close to the competition, a little bit of complex carb. Now don’t get me wrong, this can certainly help you to lean up. It can also be incredibly stressful on your kidney, on your liver, as your body breaks down all that protein that is often in excess of what you actually need and it can be very damaging to you long term. There’s been research that has been done lately on this metabolic pathway called the mTOR pathway and essentially what the mTOR part of your body is, is it’s your body’s protein sensor. It monitors how much protein or how many amino acids you kind of have onboard. And when you have so much protein onboard, that it’s over and above what you actually need for your basic body muscle and repair and recovery and maintenance, what happens is that up regulates what’s called like an anabolic response, a cellular proliferation response and so it stimulates cellular proliferation and a lot of increased cellular activity but this goes hand-in-hand with decreased life length or decreased length of what would be called the telomeres which are a part of your DNA, a part of your cellular make-up. And so what can happen and what they’ve been doing lots of studies on with this mTOR pathway, is when you have excess calories and especially when a lot of those excess calories are coming from a ton of protein, you can essentially be decreasing your life span as well as increasing your risk for carcinomas and for cancers because that is what cellular proliferation or a very large growth of cells over and over again can lead to. So the trick is that you always want to have enough calories and enough protein onboard to maintain and repair and regenerate muscle tissue but in the case of female figure competitors and body builders, often there’s way too much protein being consumed primarily because they’re still kind of this fat-phobic mentality among the figure competitor and the body building industry. In reality, if I personally were to go back and begin body building again, I would use enough protein to actually allow my body to repair and recovery properly but I would also be doing a large amount of fattier cuts of protein – rib eye steak and salmon with the skin on and chicken with the skin on and things of that nature. Lots of coconut oil, avocadoes, olives, olive oil, all of the things that are going to get burnt as energy very well, the same as protein will without putting the body into the same stressful state that it goes into with excessive protein intake. So in terms of body building, there are some body builders and some figure competitors that are now kind of getting the idea that not only do fats do less stress or create less stress in the body than protein but they also help you to maintain your level of adequate hormones while you’re out body building. There was another big issue I had was my body fat dropped very low and I had almost no sex drive and very little drive and motivation, I’m sure part of that was due to my low body fat levels but another part of it was due to the very low cholesterol and fat intake in my diet which wasn’t giving my body what it needed for protein intake. So ultimately, I don’t know if you really want the typical female figure competitor diet versus a diet that’s fairly low in carbohydrate, focuses on adequate amounts of protein and then fills in holes with lots of healthy fats. As far as breast enhancement, this goes beyond my level of knowledge but I would have to say that there did seem to be a rather unnatural level of perkiness going on. Not to say that that can be achieved with a good combination of incline and straight and decline chest pressing and push-ups but I’m just saying, so hopefully that helps you out. Gives you a little bit of an idea of what goes on there and we could go into the details of kind of like the salt depletion, water loading, carbohydrate loading that happens just as you’re going into the show but I think that’s a conversation for another day. I have helped out a few body builders and gotten them kind of ripped up for their competition but there are some things that go into looking very good on stage. They go way above and beyond diet.
Mandy: I have this scar tissue in my calf for the last 15 years. Is it too late for it to be broken down by massage?
Ben: Well, the short answer is no. Scar tissue is just your body’s normal replacement tissue anytime you get an injury or you cut an area, if you get surgery or as your body heals that area, there’s a little bit of scar tissue that forms and if you’re continuing to exercise and move the area as it’s healing, a lot of times the scar tissue is laid down in a very asymmetric pattern and because of that, if it’s not aligned properly, it tends to be less mobile and tighter than normal tissue and this, a lot of times, leads to the pain and the lack of mobility that occurs in areas that we’ve previously injured. Now the nice thing is that scar tissue, no matter how old it is, can certainly be mobilized. If you want to keep scar tissue from forming in the first place, you should be getting things like deep tissue massage and acupuncture as you rebound from a surgery or from a serious injury or something like, even a contusion (say like a baseball hit your leg) but if it’s kind of past that point, you’re 15, 20 years down the road, there are certainly things that can help. Acupuncture can really help, they’ll literally put a needle right into the tough scar tissue and try to break it up and increase the blood flow to the area. Deep tissue massage therapy works wonderfully for this type of stuff, usually you’ll have to return for several appointments but they’ll manually manipulate that area, break up that scar tissue. Ultrasound, which you’re going to find in a lot of physical therapy clinics, is a great way to break up scar tissue. It just shoots sound waves into the body and use a wand or a probe with this round head and it shoots sound waves around the area and the sound waves cause the tissue to vibrate and the vibration causes heat but it doesn’t feel really like a burn unless you use the ultrasound improperly. And anyways, that heat can opt to break up scar tissue that’s causing immobility or causing problems. Some people swear by magnetic therapy, I don’t know if I’m convinced that magnets or magnetic therapy will help that much with scar tissue. I do believe that magnets will certainly help with blood flow to an area, I’m just not convinced they’re going to do a lot of difference when it comes to scar tissue but those are certainly some of your options and if it’s really bad, you can get surgery to literally break up scar tissue and then treat that area that had the surgery as it’s healing with the things that I mentioned like the deep tissue massage and the acupuncture but that’s a pretty big step to take and in most cases, the other things that I mention will work just fine to break up scar tissue and improve your mobility.
John: What, if any, is the benefit to consuming wheat germ?
Ben: Well, the germ of wheat or of any cereal is the reproductive part of the cereal, it’s the part that germinates that’s why it’s called a germ. It germinates and grows into a plant. It’s the embryo part of the actual plant or the part of the seed and germ is something that is a byproduct that’s produced when you mill a grain and so you can get this wheat germ, you can buy it at the store, in a can or in a jar and a lot of people will like sprinkle it on salads, use it as part of a cereal, put it on casseroles or even add it to things like protein shakes or muffins or pancakes or yogurt cookies, things like that because it does have a lot of nutrients in it. It’s a really good source of Vitamin E, it’s got a ton of folic acid in it, it’s got a lot of minerals in it like magnesium and it also has a pretty good punch of essential fatty acids granted a lot of them are the Omega6 fatty acids, not a ton of the Omega3 fatty acids but it does pack a pretty powerful punch of nutrients in it. Now I am becoming a less and less of fan of wheat as the years go on, I certainly realized that if it’s soaked and if it’s sprouted, it can cause fewer issues but I’ve worked with many clients who have issues with wheat and wheat germ itself, don’t get me wrong, it’s not gluten-free and it is something that does have a lot of lectins in it and it can act as what’s called a adjuvant which means it can cause your body to generate antibodies against other proteins. So for example, if you weren’t normally allergic to like eggs, you could be allergic to eggs if you are eating wheat germ as part of your diet along with eggs and one of the reasons for that is a part of wheat germ can really bind strongly to sugar and when it binds to sugar, (and specifically a type of sugar molecule that’s found on the border of your intestines) it can cause your body to create antibodies that attack that sugar-wheat connection that’s been created in your intestine and so what can happen is you almost cause yourself to be become allergic or really sensitive to a lot of foods when you’re eating a diet that’s high in wheat. Now is this going to happen if you sprinkle a little bit of wheat germ on your salad now and again? Unless you have celiac disease or really intense gluten sensitivity that might not be the case but I certainly wouldn’t use wheat germ as a staple in your diet. You could get a lot of the fatty acids from something like a ground flax seed. You can supplement your diet with magnesium and other minerals to replace some of the minerals that you might not be getting when you take in wheat germ (and I’ve never tried this with wheat germ) but if someone handed me a jar of wheat germ, telling me they want me to somehow include it in my diet, I’d soak it. I’d try and sprout it, what they will do is it will cause it to germinate, you’ll lose a lot of the nutrient-inhibiting potential allergenic forming properties of the wheat germ as it germinates and as it sprouts and then you just would eat it as fresh sprouts. However, I have never tried to sprout wheat germ and I don’t know if this is something that you could actually do but that is what I would look into doing if I were given wheat germ and asked to have it as a part of my diet, so hopefully that helps you out a little bit.
Cassie: I am 23 years old, living inUtahand I really want to become an elite athlete in Olympic distance triathlon. I have the ability and drive but I don’t have an awesome bike or a lot of money. Should I try to get sponsored and do I need a coach?
Ben: Yes, yes and yes. Let me put it this way: You can certainly become a fast triathlete on a really limited budget. I mean, you look back at even like the Ironman times of guys like Mark Allen and Dave Scott and these guys were riding bikes nowhere near the bikes that the guys are riding these days, still throwing down awesome times, running very fast off the bike and doing things like winning Ironman. However, you are probably (unless you are an incredibly-gifted cyclist) going to need to eventually invest in a decent bike, specifically one that is light and handles very well and is, if you’re in a non-draft legal race, is very aerodynamic and you will need things like nutrition and nutrition testing. You’ll need to be changing out $120 pairs of shoes extremely frequently. You’re going to be wanting to swim in wet suits and skin suits that are buoyant and that are cutting-edge that you’re able to come out of the water in the lead pack and so you’re talking about a $600-$1000 wetsuits and $300-$600 skin suits. Triathlon is not a cheap sport. It’s kind of like gold in that respect. Now I’m not saying that money buys you speed but when you get up to the elite level and you start talking about seconds, you do start talking about money and so my recommendation is to first prove yourself in as many races as possible, racing with what’s available to you and try and form a relationship with your local running store, try and form a solid relationship with your local cycling shop or triathlon store, even if it means that you have to work there and get your hands on wholesale or sponsored product as much as possible and start to turn some heads in your local triathlon community so that you can begin to get sponsorships that maybe go beyond like your local bike shop and your local running store. If you’re winning races, suddenly your local bank maybe interested or your local credit union maybe interested in getting their logo on your jersey and giving you a little bit of money to do so. Your local travel agency might be interested in sponsoring you and getting you some miles so you can travel to races and go race in bigger races with bigger prizes and with bigger sponsors. And you really should start at the community level and work your way up from there. There’s certainly lots of sponsorship opportunities that give you 10% off this or 15% off that at the national and international level but I think that you would benefit more by forming as many relationships as possible within your local community and then branching out from there as you kind of grow your brand, that’s actually what I did. I’m not an elite athlete or a pro triathlete, I don’t have any goals to become a professional triathlete but in terms of my coaching business, I formed lots and lots of relationships in the local community with my local triathlon classes and for me, as a local athlete, before I begin to approach bigger national sponsors. So that would be my recommendation to you and as far as coaching, same thing. Try and develop a relationship with a coach where it’s a win-win. You win, you talk a lot about them, you do a lot of social media work for them, you put their sponsor everywhere, you put their logo everywhere, you make people turn their heads and wonder who’s coaching you and want to be coached by that same person and that’s a good way to perhaps get yourself a discount on a triathlon coach, so that’s what I would recommend.
Chris: I work at a restaurant and I’m on my feet all day, mostly from 7am to 5pm. Since I know my legs and knee are going to be extremely tired after work, I have to fit in Half Ironman triathlon training before work, usually doing 1-3 hours of intense training in one of the disciplines. What should I do to optimize recovery throughout the day since I cannot sit down and rest?
Ben: Well, I can tell you exactly what I would do Chris. As soon as you finish your intense training, if you can squeeze in an ice bath before you head to work, get it in. If there’s no time to do that, at least get in a shower. You can stock up your freezer with ice from a gas station or get your freezer to go into hyper mode for producing ice, mine produces ice pretty slowly so I don’t know if better freezers make ice faster, but you can literally make your ice bath even before you head out to train and have it ready there, cold for you to get that blood flow to kind of pumping back up out of your legs after you finish your workout. 15, 20 minutes of an ice bath out of the way while you check your e-mail. Just don’t electrocute yourself. I would also be wearing compression tights like all the way from your calves up to your hips, some really good compression tights like CEP or the ones I use are made by a company called Blitz 110 and they like to put some ice into the compression tights but wear those at work so you’re getting that full-body compression pumping blood up out of your legs. And then if you get a chance whenever you’re kind of on your break from work, try and get your feet up. Even 10-15 minutes of laying on your back with your feet elevated up against the wall can help to drain blood out of your legs very efficiently. So those are some of the things that I would do to optimize recovery when you can’t sit down and rest, it’s all about blood flow, blood flow, blood flow and make sure that you’re taking supplements that are enhancing blood flow. Some of the better ones that you could take would be like Arginine or a Citrulline supplement which cause your body to produce nitric oxide which keeps your blood vessels nice and open. Another one that you could try that you should be on anyways that I think almost everybody should be on would be a really high quality fish oil. So get on some supplements to help with blood flow as well and last thing would be, put a little bit of topical magnesium like a topical magnesium oil. I use this a lot after workouts, I’ll put anywhere from 10-20 sprays on each appendage after I finish a workout routine and what that can do is help to alleviate soreness, improve blood flow, displace calcium a little bit from the muscles which can cause some of that soreness and I will put a link to the magnesium that I use in the show notes for you.
Paul: My wife has been suffering from extreme tiredness despite around 10 months at the gym and keeping a good diet plan. Her doctor has recommended a supplement called Cardio For Life. I thought I’d run it past you before I giving it a try.
Ben: So I went ahead and looked at this Cardio For Life supplement and it is a supplement that combines arginine and citrulline with a bunch of different vitamins and some extra things in there like resveratrol extract and grape seed extract. Now the reason a supplement would use something like arginine and citrulline is, for the reason that I mentioned earlier, basically it’s used to make nitric oxide and that’s what relaxes your blood vessels. So when you take arginine or when you take citrulline, it opens up your blood vessels. A lot of people kind of get a tingly sensation when they use it but it’s used in everything from Viagra, some people recommend it for like congestive heart failure, it’s used to help with blood vessel function in people with angina which is a medical condition where you’ve got some issues with blood flow to the heart and I assume that’s why they’re putting it in there in this Cardio For Life product is essentially to help boost the performance of the cardiovascular system through the release of nitric oxide. So, I mean, it’s certainly something that could help with extreme tiredness. If for some reason, the doctor has found that the extreme tiredness is related to a cardiovascular issue. In most cases, a woman who’s over 40, who’s suffering from extreme tiredness, it’s usually more of a hormonal issue than it is an issue of not having enough nitric oxide onboard. I mean let’s face it, the older individuals who need nitric oxide are guys who can’t get it up, who need to take Viagra. Women who are aging who are experiencing tiredness, usually it’s an issue with an estrogen dominance which I’ve talked about in the show. You can go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com and do a search for estrogen dominance. It can be an issue with adrenal fatigue which I’ve also talked about before on the show and those are really kind of the top two things that would be more likely to be the issue. As far as like the resveratrol and the other stuff that goes into this supplement, just be careful with stuff like that and the reason that I say that is because most supplements that are sold these days has resveratrol. They contain a form of resveratrol that’s called the sis form, that’s pretty much an inactive form. It’s cheaper for them to put in the supplements but it’s pretty much inactive, it doesn’t really work. The type that was used in studies that have been shown to have a ton of like anti-aging benefit is called trans-resveratrol which is the active form and it’s definitely more expensive. You’re looking at any supplement that contains like trans-resveratrol, $100+ per day to use something like that. So if a supplement is inexpensive and it has resveratrol in it, you’re probably not getting the actual active form of resveratrol, so just a side note to be careful with stuff like that.
Chris: You mentioned in one of your previous podcasts that soy is inflammatory. Is all soy inflammatory, including less-processed and healthy forms like tofu, edamame, soy beans and soy milk? How much is too much?
Ben: Well, what I’m going to do, Chris, is I was recently interviewed by a fellow podcaster from a podcast called The Garden Variety Tri. He has an upcoming special on soy. I would recommend that you go listen to it and I’ll put a link to it in the show notes but here’s the part of that show that he did with me…
John: Alright! So, before I get in to the topic of soy and the athlete and the triathlete and the endurance athlete, let me bring in an expert on the subject and joining me on the line is Ben Greenfield, host of the Ben Greenfield Fitness podcast and if you’re a subscriber to this podcast, there’s probably a very good chance that you are a subscriber to his or you’ve at least heard of his. Ben, thanks very much for taking the time with me this morning.
Ben: Hey, no problem, John.
John: So I’ve been talking about soy, about soy as part of a diet that people who want to either eliminate meat from the diet or just want some variety of protein in their diets. A lot of people’s turned to soy, how soy isolate shows up in a lot of different foods that you eat, whether you realize it or not and I wanted to get in to specifically the topic of soy and the athlete and in particular, the amino acid profile and the branch chain amino acids of soy as it pertains to an athlete’s recovery. So what role do you think soy plays, good, bad or ugly in the role of the athlete and is this something that should be embraced or avoided?
Ben: Well, in my opinion, you can’t talk about soy without putting soy into two camps. There’s kind of the white hat soy and the black hat soy, the good guys and the bad guys. In most cases, most of the soy that you are kind of going to find in a typical western diet is going to basically be like a texturized vegetable protein, a tofu, a soy milk or like a soy protein powder and these are all typically marketed as health supplements but I suspect you probably are mentioning this at some point in your coverage of soy, they do contain a lot of really potent nutrient inhibitors and I get concerned about those forms of soy, for an athlete, for a few reasons and first of all, the phytic acid content. In those type of soy sources that I just mentioned, can really reduce your ability to absorb minerals in your diet, things like calcium and magnesium. So when you’re talking about a sweating athlete who’s already losing minerals and losing electrolytes, putting a bunch of phytic acid into your diet, that’s going to further reduce your ability to absorb that stuff from food is really not doing your body any favor considering how many different reactions that those minerals are involved in. So that’s one thing you want to think about. The other thing you want to think about when it comes to those type of soy compounds is that they have a lot of what are called trypsin inhibitors in them and that can interfere with your protein digestion. So specifically, trypsin is one of the compounds that assist with your body’s ability to break down and assimilate protein and when that’s being inhibited by these soy sources, once again, you’re limiting your body’s ability to take something that you’re eating and use it in the way that it’s supposed to be used. So you basically got your kind of bad soy on that side, there are some other issues with those soy sources that we can get into if you want to but then you also have good soy which is okay in moderation. It’s a decent source of amino acids. It doesn’t have all of them. Soy in not a complete protein, kind of like lentils or like legumes, it doesn’t have cystine or methionine in it and those are two amino acids that your body needs in order to make a protein like a complete amino acid. So you’d want to be sure that you still covered your bases with other protein sources if you’re eating soy but the soy sources that I would be okay with, and a couple of these I actually include in my diet, would be any fermented soy source because when you ferment soy beans, you destroy a lot of these trypsin inhibitors and phytic acids that are in the soy. So basically, you’re talking about tempe, miso and nato as being kind of like the primary soy sources that would be okay, that would’ve been fermented in Asian countries for thousands of years because they’ve discovered this long before we did and that’s really the best way to get your soy if you’re going to have soy at all. Obviously, you can’t get like a healthy protein shake made with miso (I’m aware of) and it’s really hard to even find like fermented tofu because tofu is really convenient to cook with, it’s like a meat substitute but frankly, the unfermented stuff is just nasty and it’s horrible for you and it goes way beyond the reasons that I’ve just mentioned but tempe, miso, nato, those would be all okay. Kind of, sort of a protein sources for an athlete. There’re more just ways to dress up food. I personally don’t go anywhere near relying on soy for my protein sources and don’t recommend that any athlete does that.
John: So particularly, you talk about (and I know there’s a lot of debate on that 30-minute window after exercise) about how important it is to get protein into your body at that point and then the athlete that comes in and is hell-bent on getting a lot of protein in their body at that point and they take a big scoopful of soy protein isolate and let’s say make a smoothie, arguably, what damage could they be doing to their body by introducing a lot of soy protein isolate concentrate protein after an intense exercise like that?
Ben: Well, you got to think about where the soy protein isolate comes from. I mean, it didn’t just like grow on a tree in a canister, the powder didn’t just fall out of the sky, it came from soy beans. So what they have to do is they have to isolate the protein from the soy beans, so they mix it. It’s basically like separated with an acid wash and then they non-acidify it by mixing it with what’s called an alkaline solution. So you start off with an acid wash with the soy beans and then what they do is they take all the curd that they get after that wash and that’s spray dried at a really high temperature and that makes your protein powder. Then its subjected to really high temperatures and really high pressures and the issue with that is anytime you take a protein and you subject it to really high pressures and really high temperatures, you produce nitrates and nitrates are potentially pre-carnicogenic substances, that’s like what you find in like a lot of beef jerky and cured meats and stuff like that. A lot of times I’ll throw some MSG in there to actually add to kind of like the natural flavor of the soy and the soy beans themselves to extract the protein, a lot of times what they’ll use is a hexane which is basically like a gas. So hexane is a hazardous chemical, technically the FDA approves it, but they shouldn’t, and that’s also being used to make your soy protein powder. Probably the last thing to bear in mind is that soy is, compared to corn, wheat, any fruits out there, soy is the most genetically-modified organism that’s out there when it comes to the process of genetically-modifying our foods to make them grow faster, to make them resistant to certain herbicides and pesticides, soy is number one when it comes to being a GMO food. So it has potential to cause DNA and genetic damage as well once you consume it, so as you’re probably suspecting from what I’m saying, I’m not a huge fan of using that soy protein isolate as a recovery drink. Yeah, it’s going to have some of the amino acids in it that are going to spark muscle growth but from a health perspective, it’s probably doing you more harm than good.
John: Yeah, I’m glad you brought up the GMO source and this is, I’ve already talked already in this podcast, about the troubles with GMO soy protein, soy bean production, and I’ll talk a little bit further. I have sort of a general holistic health person coming on a little bit and we’re going to talk about the genetically-modified part of it but I like to hear your take on it. Do you tend to rely on companies when they say that they are using non-GMO sources or do you think there’s been too much muddying of the water in that regard?
Ben: There are GMO certifications out there and I don’t remember the names of any of the top of my head but there are actual organizations that go through and ensure that a company that says its GMO actually is GMO or non-GMO. The reason I know this is my wife was launching an organic baby food company a couple of years ago and she had to go on research which certification was actually good enough that she could put it on her baby food to show that it was non-GMO organic baby food and what we found was there was like a non-GMO certifying agency that kind of covered Portland, Seattle, kind of our local pacific northwest area and it was actually going out and researching the ingredients of each of these foods and finding out whether or not they were indeed non-GMO. So I would say you certainly have to go beyond looking at what a company simply says and see if they’ve been certified or labeled as such by some type of organizations that’s like a third party objective organization that’s actually looking into this. So I imagine that you could probably go to something like Google, type in non-GMO certifications and kind of get a list of some of the ones that are out there in your area but I would not just go based on the word of the company.
John: Excellent! Well, Ben, I’m very happy to get your take on the soy situation. I always appreciate your points of view. Certainly, it is a tremendous amount of work that you put into your own podcast, the Ben Greenfield Fitness podcast, and probably even more work that you put into your blog and your blog is an invaluable training resource for me as I make a sort of, in the last years or, I’ve made a radical change in the way I approach diet and exercise. While I don’t want to get into the topic of amino acids but I do just want to point my listeners to an article that you put out on your blog this past April, the title is “Do Amino Acids Really Help You Exercise or Are Nutrition Supplement Companies Putting a Fast One on You?” and I thought this was an excellent primer in what the role of amino acids are in an athlete’s diet and certainly it’s something that my listeners should go and check out. Ben, I want to thank you very much for your time here and thank you very much for your podcast. That is a companion to me over many miles of pavement.
Ben: So, I hope that addresses your question on soy, Chris, and that, again, was from the Garden Variety Tri Podcast and I’ll put a link to that in the show notes.
Melanie: I know of several exercises that are for the low back but I like to know what you think are the top five exercises for strengthening your lower back and preventing low back pain. I’m not overweight so I don’t have a gut pulling on me and my abs is in okay shape. I asked for five exercises because I like variety in my workouts.
Ben: Certainly, Melanie. I would say in terms of exercises, pretty straight forward. If I had low back pain, this is what I would do: I would stretch my hip flexors because that’s the number one contributor to low back pain in people who, especially, are seated for long periods of time. Talked earlier about lunging hip flexor stretches and hip opening exercises and like the warrior positions in yoga, I would be incorporating all those on a frequent basis throughout the day and also before your weight training or your exercise routine. I would be doing foam rolling specifically on the external rotators of your hip. Meaning if you got a foam roller, the one that I use is the Rumble Roller because it’s got some ridges coming out of it that really dig into your hips and you want to work the muscles called your gluteus medius on the outside of your hips, you just sit on that foam roller, kind of roll to the outside of your hips and just roll up and down that foam roller. It’s not the most pleasant feeling in the world but what that will do is relieve a ton of stress on your low back because if your hip flexors are tight and your hip external rotators are tight, I guarantee you’re going to have some issues with your low back. I would be doing some low back stabilized crunches and what that means is you lie on your back with your knees bent or kind of pulled up towards your chest, your hands clasped across your chest and you simply press your low back as hard as you can into the ground and then release, and then press and then release and once you get really good at that, then begin to do kind of a many crunches as you press and release and you can include those as part of your abdominal or as part of your lower back routine, big fan of those for teaching your low back how to stabilize your spine. I’m kind of working up the list here in terms of from stretching to light exercises to tougher exercises. Next I would be doing planking, side planking and front planking. A lot of people think that plank just works your abs, they don’t. They work the entire muscular, kind of belt that goes around your mid section so I’d be doing many different variations of the side plank and the front plank. If you go to Youtube.com/BenGreenfieldFitness and you type in the word plank there, searching among my videos, you’ll find me demonstrating many different variations of the front plank and the side plank. And then finally, in folks with a healthy low back, I’d be doing the dead lift. Simply holding onto a bar or a weight or a sandbag or whatever other heavy thing you found that you can lift off the ground, bending up the knees, keeping the weight close to your body, lifting it off the ground. One of the best ways to get a really strong back. A couple of these moves, a couple of these exercises come straight from my book “Run With No Pain”, it’s a primer on how to run and not get low back pain. I will certainly put a link to that in the show notes for you. It’s not for everybody, it’s actually for people with a specific type of low back pain that arises from a tight sacroiliac joint but a lot of people have this kind of rotated hip tight SI joint issue and what I do in that program is I teach you how to fix your back and then how to strengthen your back, so I’ll put a link to that in the show notes to this episode, Episode #164, in my response to your question Melanie.
Joe: About a year ago, I decided to challenge myself with something that would require me to focus on both endurance training and weight training. My plan is to bench press 300 pounds and run a marathon in under four hours in the same day. Is this something you have ever considered or have you ever heard of anyone doing these sorts of challenges that require two completely different training modes?
Ben: I’ve never, in my wildest dreams, thought about doing that to be completely honest with you, at least not in the same day. I think you would be pretty cool to be able to bench press 300 pounds and also run a marathon in less than four hours. The reason so many people don’t do it is because it uses two completely different energy systems. Let me tell you, there’s been lots of studies that have been done on doing strength and endurance training at the same time and what happens is that what’s called concurrent which is kind of simultaneous strength and endurance training, has been found in most studies to inhibit your strength or to inhibit your strength development when compared with just strength training all by itself. It’s not to say you can’t get stronger while at the same time you’re doing your run training but there’s a lot of different things that happen from stimulation of your slow twitched muscle fibers to a lot of stimulation of the hormonal and the nervous system that’s the complete opposite of the system that you’d want to be using for strength training when you’re out doing marathon-style training. So endurance training can definitely throw a wrench in strength development but it can certainly be done because most research studies have found that a lot of the inhibition or at least the hypothesis of these research studies is that the inhibition of strength from endurance training comes from the fact that endurance training can kind of, sort of deplete hormones and over-stimulate this parasympathetic rest or digest part of your nervous system. Because of that, what I would do if I were doing something like you’re doing is I would have specific weeks where I really focus on strength and then specific weeks where I really focus on endurance, so you aren’t doing heavy blocks of endurance and strength training at the same time. So for example you might have a two to four-week period where you’re doing lots of heavy weight training and building up a ton of strength and then you’re kind of backing off for a couple of weeks and focusing on more intense running intervals, track workouts, hill workouts and longer run workouts and then you go back into strength training and every time you go back into strength training, all you’re doing is just enough running to help to maintain what you did before like a few easy jogs and maybe one semi-long run a week. And by breaking it into blocks like that, you’re going to be able to build your strength much faster because bench pressing what you want to bench press is no joke. You’re going to be able to build up your strength much faster. In terms of how much time to spend on each block depends on you, man. If you’re naturally strong, you’re probably going to be able to spend less time on the strength blocks. If you naturally have a lot of endurance, you’ll be able to spend a little bit less time on the endurance blocks and focus more on the strength, so that kind of depends on you. There’s a really good, kind of synopsis of all the different studies that have been done on concurrent strength and endurance training and I’ll put a link to that in the show notes for you, it’s fairly recent. It goes up into the 2000’s so it’s up to this decade in terms of a lot of the research that’s been done on training strength and endurance at the same time and hopefully that helps you out a little bit if you want to go geek out on this stuff and read out more on it. So that is actually going to wrap up today’s questions and this huge, kind of two-part fitness grab bag Q&A. Now I’m going to keep it a secret who next week’s guest will be, I promise I’m going to be giving you a pretty sweet guest next week and some cool topics forthcoming as we build up to my departure for Ironman Hawaii down in Kona, and I also have some really cool plans coming forth on the website for that as well. We’re going to be running kind of daily Kona diaries of exactly what goes into preparing the body and packing and planning and tackling a race like the Ironman World Championships. So look for a lot of videos to be coming up as soon as I depart for that race on October 2nd. So I’ll be talking to you next week and until then, stay healthy. Be sure to checkout a few of those special announcements that I mentioned a couple of days ago particularly nominating the podcast for the Podcast Awards at PodcastAwards.com. Put that date for September 27th for the Live Facebook Q&A onto your calendar and following the link in the show notes to go to that Live Q&A with me and then get in to that podcast hash-tag contest, tell me your craziest exercise. Just tweet to @BenGreenfield with a hash-tag crazy exercises. Alright folks this is Ben, from BenGreenfieldFitness.com, signing out.
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