Introduction: In this podcast episode: performance enhancing mouthpieces, cannibalizing muscle mass, protein for vegetarians, pre-workout eating, the podcast awards, and is there really any reason not to eat breakfast?
Ben: Hey podcast listeners, this is Ben Greenfield and I’m going to go ahead and wish you a happy holidays. I think that’s legal now that it’s Thanksgiving week. So I think I can do that. If you haven’t gotten your Thanksgiving fitness survival guide yet, surf over to www.bengreenfieldfitness.com. It’s available for free right there on the website. If you’re one of the newsletter subscribes, you already got it for free. If you aren’t then there’s a way you can subscribe to the newsletter again for free and you get a special link to that hour long Thanksgiving fitness survival guide. Now I know that might sound a little bit biased for those of you who are international, who may not celebrate Thanksgiving, but the guide is designed to help you through the entire holiday season all the way through to January. So you’re going to benefit from it either way. Now if you are listening to this and you’re about to celebrate Thanksgiving, then you’d better go download that because you may end up changing a few of your recipes. Or you may just end up using some of the little tips and tricks that I put in there. While you’re over at the website, check out the post that I just made about the podcast awards. I just found out that the www.bengreenfieldfitness.com podcast was nominated for the podcast awards and it’s very simple to vote. Not only is it very simple to vote but they reset the voting clock at midnight every night so you can just vote over and over again. So what you do is you go to www.podcastawards.com and I’m there right now. I have it up in my computer and as you start to scroll down you’re going to see podcasts in different categories like people’s choice – one of my friend’s podcasts is actually on there. I’m going to click on his. And keep scrolling down, and as I go, go, go I get down to the right hand side of the page a little bit down towards the bottom and there’s the health and fitness category. Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast is the second one from the top, I click on that and then I keep scrolling to the bottom of the page and there’s a little place in there where I put in my name and my email address so that they can make sure I’m not some kind of a robot voting and cheating. Then I press submit and voila. It says “Thank you for your vote. Come back tomorrow to vote again.” And it sends you this validation email that you got to click on. You got to click on the little validation link in that email. But it’s super easy. It takes about five seconds. So voting ends Nov. 30th. Make sure that you go and vote at www.podcastawards.com. We’ve got a jam-packed Listener Q and A as usual. I also have an interview with a researcher on mouthpieces and the CEO of something called Bite Tech Technologies. So you are not going to want to miss this interview if you are interested in how a mouthpiece could actually help you exercise better and compete at a higher level. So we’re going to go ahead and move straight into the special announcements. We’ll get on to the Listener Q and A, and we’ll finish with that interview from Bite Tech.
As you listen to the questions that are asked in the Listener Q and A, remember if you have a question you can email [email protected], you could call. I have a toll free number set up that you can call. That’s 8772099439 and one of the extensions that you get an option – and I think it’s extension 703 – but it says “leave a question for the www.bengreenfieldfitness.com podcast.” That’s the one you want to click on and leave the voice mail. And I listen to those and can answer your audio question as well if you’re having trouble expressing something in an email. You could also use Skype which is a free conferencing software. It’s a really great audio conferencing software that you can use to communicate with anybody just about anywhere in the world. All the clients that I work with internationally, that’s what we use to communicate with each other with Skype. My Skype name is pacificfit. So any of those methods can be used to get a hold of me and ask me a question for the podcast. So we’re going to move on to our first question from Listener Jennifer who says…
Jennifer asks: Recently I’ve been in the process of turning vegetarian due to some ethical reasons. As an athlete I’m worried I won’t be able to get protein in my diet due to the elimination of meat. Are there any substitutes I could make to help this? I’ve heard some controversy on soy and how it could actually damage our bodies, so I’m afraid to use that type of product. Do you think this transition is good for me as an athlete or will it only cause more damage in the end? Thanks Ben.
Ben answers: So, the idea is that as a vegetarian you are going to have a more difficult time getting the complete amino acid profile that’s going to be present in meat – steak, chicken, whatever. And amino acids are used as the building blocks for proteins. So vegetarians need to be creative and I’m not going to insult your intelligence and tell you how to mix proteins and how to mix nuts with whole grains and bread with peanuts and all the type of things you need to be doing because those charts are available everywhere on the Internet. A couple of things that I would consider however are making sure that you have a good high quality protein powder around. Now if you’re not wanting to use any animal products at all, then whey protein would be out. But if you are open to the idea of using something like a whey protein, that’s one of the better absorbed complete amino acid sources and you can find whey protein in a lot of places. I personally use one made by a company called Mt. Capra. It’s from goats. And there have been a couple of podcasts on this show that talks about why protein from ghosts is more thermodynamically favorable or better utilized by the human body versus cow’s milk. But you can get whey that’s derived from goats or you can get whey that’s derived from cows. Either one of those is going to be a protein source. I recommend the goat whey as a really good whey protein source. Now as far as other kind of non-food based protein sources that you can have around, I was over at one of my clients’ homes the other day and they had this pea/hemp protein sitting on their counter. And the stuff is notorious for tasting just nasty. And this was a new powder that had just come out and this guy had some. It’s called Kenzen Body Balance powder. I’ll put a link to that in the Shownotes. It’s actually more of a meal replacement drink than it is a strict protein powder. But it has pea and hemp based protein and it’s also got a bunch of other stuff in it like probiotics. They use a Stevia based organic sweetener. Everything in it is all vegetable and organic so it’s got no soy, no dairy, no lactose, no gluten. It’s all non-genetically modified ingredients and I tried some. He made me a glass. He mixed it up with some almond milk and about one to two scoops of that and 8 ounces of almond milk and it was very, very good. It tasted like a malt milkshake from Wendy’s. So that’s another good protein source. Again, a pea protein and a hemp protein. People aren’t really aware a lot of times that both of those contain very good and readily absorbable amino acid sources. Now, when you eliminate meat from your diet of course all the little things that are going to fill in for meat would be like the protein from legumes. When I say legumes I’m talking about garbanzo beans and hummus, kidney beans, lentils, lima beans, split teas, navy beans. There’s a lot of different legumes out there. Grains – especially the higher protein containing, more non-adulterated whole grains… buckwheat would be a good example. Quinoa is a great example. Rye has protein in it. Even wild rice and brown rice have protein. Vegetables have protein in them as well, just about any vegetable you look at is going to have protein. Obviously they aren’t going to have quite as much. Vegetables are very low in calories. So they’re going to have low amounts of protein either way. Then fruits have protein. And just about any fruit is going to have protein. Nuts and seeds as well like almonds, cashews would be another good source. We talked about hemp protein. You can actually get hemp seeds. You can get Chia seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts and we’ll have an interview in a couple of weeks about why walnuts would be one of the better choices. I was competing at a triathlon a couple of months ago and had dinner with a gentleman who was a vegetarian. Not only was he a vegetarian, he was a raw foodist. Meaning that he ate primarily uncooked foods. And the guy literally had about five salads piled high with fruit, pineapple, apples, bananas and he’d just go back over and over again. And the guy was built. He had a good amount of lean muscle. He did fine in the triathlon the next day. My concern was the fiber intake and I asked him. He said well yeah initially it kind of disrupted my stomach and then your body gets used to it. So I was amazed at the amount of protein this gentleman was getting out of vegetables and fruits. He was doing just fine. Very healthy as a matter of fact. So while that diet is not for me, it does go to show that there is enough protein in plant sources to get you by. You just have to make sure that you are eating creatively in order to satisfy your needs. So hopefully that helps. I’ll put a link to that Body Balance hemp and pea-based protein that I was talking about in the link on the Shownotes for episode 70.
Brad asks: Greetings from Melbourne, Australia. (I won’t put on my Australian accent to read this as much as I’d like to. I don’t want to scare you away.) My first question is, do you know of any effective ways to shed muscle? I remember hearing in one of your podcasts that you went through a bodybuilding phase in your past, and that your first few triathlons afterwards specifically your runs were some of the most painful races you’ve done.
Ben: Yes Brad that is true. I think I had about 15 extra pounds of muscle in my chest that bounced up and down and that’s about the closest I’ve ever come to looking for a sports bra. Brad goes on.
Brad asks: I am in the process of getting ready for a series of half-Ironman races next year with the goal of culminating my season with a full Ironman. Hence my purchase of your Dominator plan. Here’s the problem, I’m coming off a year of intense CrossFitting (If you don’t know what CrossFit is, it’s just a series of pretty difficult workouts that are designed for more sprint explosiveness) which has sent my anabolic fitness through the roof, but bulked me up to about 90kg, I’m 178cm tall, in the process. How can I best get rid of this bulk? It’s killing my knees and back on the runs. I’m taking a full range of supplements at the moment based on your recommendations, however, I am hesitant to take any protein supplements. How did you shed your muscle mass?
Ben answers: Brad goes on to ask a second question but I want to address this question first. First of all, Brad, don’t think that you shouldn’t be eating protein because when you’re doing any type of endurance activities, there are micro tears that occur at the slow twitch muscle interface. Not just the fast twitch muscle interface. And you’re going to need amino acids for repair. Or you’re going to need amino acids to boost your immune system. You’re going to need them for more functions than just building muscle. So protein basically is not just for, say, body builders. But as far as shedding muscle. Here is what I did. For any of my hard workouts – workouts that involved intervals, weightlifting – any type of training that required me to push outside of my comfort zone, I would make sure that I was fed for those efforts. That I was not in a starved state or in a low blood glucose state or early in the morning before breakfast for any of those efforts. And I would typically have about two of those efforts per week for swimming, biking and running. But then I’d have a third effort that was a little bit longer, aerobic-based 1 to 2 hours long, sometimes up to 3 to 4 hours on the bike. And any of those sessions when I was shedding weight, what I would do is minimally feed. Do those on not a completely empty stomach but whereas recommendations from me would be 300 to 350 calories per hour, I’d do that and then have maybe 100 calories every 90 minutes. But the pace at which I was going was more conducive to fat burning and lower amounts of caloric utilization so I was able to push without fueling my body quite as much. Now if I would have tried to do that with the more intense efforts, I would have had massive releases of cortisol, I would have cannibalized my own lean muscle mass very quickly at a rate that was unhealthy and essentially over train and probably gotten sick. But by putting on just maximum about three sessions per week of the aerobic unfed type of conditioning, I was able to slowly chisel away at my muscle. I wasn’t completely burning 100% fat during those sessions because once my body made it through its fat stores it did pick up some of the muscle and start to utilize it as a fuel. It’s called gluconeogenesis – the formation of sugar out of protein. Okay? So it takes a little while. It was probably a good year and a half or two before I really, truly was what I consider to be that lean aerobic endurance athlete build. But by doing it slowly I was able to do so in a healthy manner versus starving yourself, getting sick all the time because you’re starving yourself and cannibalizing lean muscle too quickly. So the idea is yeah you are really going to cannibalize lean muscle. Your body is going to take it into sugar and burn it as energy or eat it as a fuel but you want to do so slowly and gradually. Just about anything in life, if you do it slowly and gradually over a long period of time, it stays off and it’s healthier. The same thing can be said for weight loss. So that’s what I did Brad. And the second part of your question relates to running efficiency. You say…
Brad asks: I am familiar with the Pose running method and am slowly building my proficiency in this technique. However, given a recent case of runner’s knee, I would like to incorporate a more targeted set of exercises geared towards strengthening my running technique. I’ve heard that Craig Alexander puts a lot of focus on building his core strength. I am currently doing lunges, one legged squats, fire hydrants and recently, hip hikes.
Ben answers: Yes, Craig Alexander, who for those of you listening and don’t know who he is – Ironman world champion. Yeah he puts a lot of focus on his core strength but more specifically the strength of his external rotators, his gluteus medius – the muscles that would tend to support and take stress off of the IT band, which when overstressed will lead to something like the runner’s knee. Okay? In one program that I have over at www.bulletproofknee.com, which is a website where I have a series of video and text modules that teach you how to get rid of runner’s knee or teach you how to get rid of IT band friction syndrome – over at www.bulletproofknee.com, one of those modules is based off of exercises to strengthen your gluteus medius. And you’re doing some of those like hip hikes that you were talking about where you stand on one leg on a platform and kind of lower the other side of your body towards the ground and then hike it back up using your hip muscles – that’s great for building your gluteus medicine. Fire hydrants, which is when you’re in a crawl position kind of hiking your leg like a dog, also great for the gluteus medius. One thing that it looks like is missing though that I include recommendations for in the bulletproof knee would be sidewalks using a band. Get an elastic band and actually move from side to side and I’ve done this for 10 to 15 minutes at a time before. You can even do it while you’re watching TV. Just shuffle back and forth, down in a kind of semi-squat position and it will burn the heck out of the little muscles in the upper side of your hips. If those are sore the next day, you’re doing the right thing. Those are your gluteus medius muscles. If they do get sore, they can lead to low back pain. They can tighten up your low back so if you have access to a foam roller, a stick, anything you can use to massage those the next day, it will really help you as you build your gluteus medius, not to tighten up and spasm in your low back because the upper sides of your hips are sore, okay? But that’s what you want to do, is gluteus medius types of exercises and that side elastic band walk is one of the top exercises that I’d recommend.
Jennifer asks: I love your podcasts and all the advice you give to athletes and non-athletes. I have a nutrition question for you. I eat a lot of Vitamin A and beta-carotene products, and for the past couple months my hands and feet are starting to turn orange. (That’s very seasonal and festive.) The doctor tells me that in the long term I could be damaging my liver. Do you have any advice on how I could substitute some of my food products? I’m currently eating pumpkin puree mixed in with my oatmeal in the morning, and then after my workouts I tend to eat a sweet potato with some almond butter. I’m trying to stick to vegetable products that can give me carbs as well as some substinence to my meals. I don’t want to have to deal with these oompa loompa features any longer and end up hurting my liver as a result. If you can give me some advice that would be great. Thanks Ben, can’t wait to hear from you.
Ben answers: So, when you’re talking about vitamin A and beta carotene and looking like an oompa loompa, you need to understand there’s a little bit of a difference between just straight vitamin A and beta carotene. Okay? When you consume beta carotene, your liver is able to convert that into vitamin A. now vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin meaning it can be stored by the human body and like any fat soluble vitamin it can be toxic in high amounts, and yes it can have a liver damaging effect in high amounts. Now, beta carotene is not a fat soluble vitamin. It’s a pre-cursor. Your liver will take beta carotene and if your body needs vitamin A, it will convert beta carotene into vitamin A as needed. If you do have enough vitamin A already in your body, your liver will not convert the excess beta carotene form the vitamin supplements that you’re taking in into vitamin A, meaning that you can substitute from beta carotene rich food sources all day long and it’s not going to harm your liver unless you’re popping vitamin A capsules and vitamin A tablets as well. So what you need to be concerned about would be any – and usually this is going to be factory produced or chemical produced forms of vitamin A that you’re taking in capsule form or tablet form okay? The beta carotene that you’re taking in – and I’m not sure exactly what your doctor told you, either maybe you misunderstood him or he wasn’t exactly correct, but beta carotene is not going to hurt your liver. Now as far as actually turning your skin orange, there’s an actual name for that. It’s called carotenosis. And there’s actually not really any good treatments for it. Even when you quit eating high amounts of beta carotene, sometimes it can take a couple of months for it to disappear. So you say that you are eating – let me see, what did you say? Pumpkin puree and then you also say sweet potato. You could try switching to some carbohydrate sources that don’t contain quite as much beta carotene. For example, instead of mixing pumpkin puree in with your oatmeal, you could try a banana puree or I’d even suggest to increase protein intake especially in the vegetarian question you asked earlier, you could mix in a little bit of that whey or pea or hemp protein in with your oatmeal. Eating a sweet potato with some almond butter after your workouts, you could try for example instead a piece of fruit with a handful of cashews, like an apple with some nuts, something of that nature. But if you work some of those beta carotene sources out of your diet, it will help a little bit, but it’s not going to be harmful to you. I understand that any type of dietary choice like that is going to take a little bit of a changeup for you, but try it out. Try and make some substitutions and then understand that you’re going to have to give it a couple more months.
Eric asks: What do you think of the following website: 7 Reasons Why You Should NOT Eat Breakfast?
Ben answers: I didn’t get a chance to actually look over this 7 Reasons Why You Should Not Eat Breakfast article. So, let’s just do it right now and see what this guy’s reasons are. He says, first – and I’ll put a link to this article on the Shownotes – breakfast doesn’t increase your metabolism. Studies show that fasting or less frequent meals don’t decrease your metabolism and eating every three hours including breakfast doesn’t increase your metabolism either. He’s dead wrong. I have a metabolic laboratory. I have tested my own metabolism and the metabolism of my clients, resting metabolic rate, how much CO2 they produce, how much oxygen they consume and how many calories their bodies burn and there is a digestive cost or caloric cost to digesting food. You burn more calories when you’re digesting food. Has anybody ever been really cold in the morning and then eaten breakfast and you’re starting to sweat and heat up? All that is the effect of your metabolism increasing. So his first point is just wrong. It’s well proven that there is a caloric cost to digesting food. And it’s significant. That can be 10 to 20% of the overall calorie burning that you’re taking in during the day. So yes it does jumpstart your metabolism. So two, breakfast doesn’t stop muscle breakdown. So he says “Starvation mode is a myth. You won’t lose muscle if you don’t eat every three hours, like when sleeping, and as long as you do regular exercise.” Okay, so if you’re well fed, if you’re taking care of your body the rest of the day then technically skipping breakfast isn’t going to cannibalize your muscle. However, when you eat breakfast and you’re going on to say exercise in the midmorning or in the early afternoon especially, what you ate during breakfast is going to serve as your fuel when you exercise. If you don’t have a pre-workout meal or if you have a very, very light meal like just a piece of fruit in the midmorning, when you do exercise, your body is going to burn through its blood glucose stores and then it will start to tap a combination of fat and protein. Okay? So if you’re just sitting around in the morning, not doing anything and then eating lunch and you have a mid-afternoon snack and then maybe go to the gym before dinner, skipping breakfast is not going to cannibalize your lean muscle. But if you’re exercising early in the day, skipping breakfast would be one of the bigger mistakes that you could make, okay? Or if you’re exercising early, early in the morning and not eating breakfast, even a bigger problem for your immune system, for your recovery, for your muscle rebuilding. Number three, he says breakfast doesn’t manage blood sugar well. The common advice is to have breakfast to raise your blood sugar and control your insulin levels. Insulin is key for muscle growth but is also responsible for fat storage. It depends on how you eat breakfast. If you’re doing the typical American, I’m going to have a bagel and a glass of orange juice, or I know for a lot of people a muffin and a coke or coffee with sugar in it, yeah. That’s sending your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride and breakfast is probably doing you more harm than good. If you are consuming protein with breakfast and rich protein sources, for example if you’re including that recommendation I made earlier, protein with your oatmeal or you’re having eggs with a little bit of lean turkey sausage for breakfast, that type of thing — not only are you controlling your insulin levels and slowing the sugar release of any carbohydrates that you have along with that meal, but there’s also a dopamine release that’s occurring when you’re consuming that protein that is keeping you satiated and feeling fuller for a longer period of time. So, yeah it can help manage your blood sugar and if you’re waiting to eat and then you’re hypoglycemic, low blood sugar – by the time you eat lunch, you’re going to be more likely to eat everything in sight and maybe even pull over into the fast food for lunch because you’re just so hungry you don’t have any of that self-control. He goes on and says “breakfast increases hunger.” He says that that’s a myth, that breakfast increases hunger. I’m sorry, he says that that’s a reason not to eat breakfast because breakfast increases hunger. He says “Many people including me, feel hungrier during the day after eating breakfast.” Well that kind of flies in the face of what you said earlier, what the author said earlier, about how breakfast doesn’t increase your metabolism. Anytime you bump up your metabolism and you’re burning more calories and your metabolism is more active and healthy, you’re going to get hungrier a little more often. And that means that your body is doing what it’s supposed to. It’s staying energized and being revved up throughout the day. And it’s okay if that means you’re going to feel like snacking a little bit more as long as you snack on healthy foods. So, when you wake up in the morning and you’re fasting and you don’t eat anything at all, sometimes your body will go into that very quiet non-appetite type of fast storage mode – that can be something that happens. It’s not that often that something like that will happen but essentially breakfast increases hunger is true, but it’s not a reason not to eat breakfast. Okay? He goes on and says “Breakfast is not healthier. People who don’t eat breakfast are usually the ones who don’t exercise and who grab a doughnut on their way to work, eat junk food at noon and a big dinner in front of the TV.” So what he’s saying is that breakfast is something that people do who – I’m not even understanding what he’s saying here. He says “Breakfast does not manage blood sugar well. Breakfast does not increase your metabolism. Breakfast does not prevent muscle breakdown. Breakfast makes you hungrier the rest of the day…” When he says breakfast is not healthier, he doesn’t really make any rationale for that. I think he’s using all of his other reasons that he said so far. Well breakfast is healthier. Okay? When you eat breakfast, you’re giving your body the vitamins and the nutrients and the minerals that it needs to do things like fight off infections the rest of the day, to do things like be active the rest of the day. Even do things like inspire you to maybe even park a little farther in the parking lot from your work and take the stairs. Because you have the energy from having eaten breakfast. So yeah, breakfast is healthier. Then he says “Breakfast impairs concentration.” He says “Studies show fasting for 48 hours doesn’t impact cognitive tests negatively. You don’t need breakfast for mental alertness. A lot of people, especially students skip breakfast because they know they’ll be more productive, concentrated and motivated during the rest of the day as a result. I’ve experienced the same thing.” Okay. I did use that trick a few times when I was going to school. You’d skip breakfast before a big test and you’d just be super, super focused. Now, the question is does the focus that you get from fasting actually give you benefit over and above all the other positive aspects of eating breakfast? I’d say probably not. I’d say if you have a very, very important meeting or interview where you have to be incredibly focused, if you find that not having food in your stomach makes you a little more likely to be able to concentrate well, that’s fine. But I don’t think that gives you a case for skipping breakfast every morning. That would kind of be a case by case basis. And then finally he says “Breakfast is unnatural. Our ancestors probably didn’t eat large breakfasts. They’d have to hunt it first. Unless we’re talking leftovers. Hunter gatherer meal patterns with large dinners and little during the day seem more natural.” That’s also the way that sumo wrestlers eat. They don’t eat anything the entire day and they have a big meal at the end of the day and that’s because they know that their body is going to be more likely to store more of that as fat. So I would say that to your breakfast is unnatural statement. I would also say that our ancestors probably did not go to bed at night knowing that they’d have to get up in the morning and hunt all day in order to find food. Maybe a historian could write to me to find this, but I’d imagine they have some little things like fruit and nuts and seeds and types of things that might be necessary when they go to bed to actually know that they had something waiting for them when they got up the next day. Then finally, whenever people make this “your ancestors didn’t do this, they didn’t do that…” they didn’t have a very long life span either. So, think about that as well. So an interesting discussion and what I’d like you to do is if you listened to this and you go to the Shownotes for podcast episode number 70 and you have your own comment on the whole breakfast issue, then leave it there. Start a discussion. I’d love to hear what you think about whether or not you should actually eat breakfast. Okay?
Miguel asks: Sometimes I do workouts in the afternoon and I would like to know what is the best pre-workout meal at that time (meaning after lunch and before dinner)?
Ben answers: Well what I preach to most of my clients is to carbohydrate taper. Meaning that you have the majority of your carbohydrates earlier in the day when your metabolism is higher and then you gradually move to fat and protein based sources in the mid-afternoon, into the early evening. Avocadoes and seeds and nuts and olives and things of that nature. The one exception to that is if you are going to be working out in the afternoon because you are going to need, especially if you’re doing a more intense exercise session, a little bit of blood sugar. So what I would recommend is that if you’re going to eat carbohydrates in the PM hours that you put the carbohydrate intake either immediately before your workout or right after your workout. It kind of depends on what you eat for lunch. If you have a very, very simple salad for lunch or a vegetable based lunch without much in terms of calories, you may have to have a piece of fruit before you go workout in the afternoon. If you have a sandwich for lunch, you’re fine to just go workout in the afternoon and then restore your carbohydrate levels a little bit afterwards so you’re not craving carbohydrates later on in the evening. So it kind of depends what you have for lunch and then as far as – let’s say you do need a snack right before – a little piece of fruit. Munch half an energy bar. That type of thing. Just 50 to 100 calories to boost your energy levels a little bit, assuming you’re working out, say, like an hour. That would be fine. So hopefully that answers your questions and again if you have a question email [email protected]. Call 8772099439 or Skype pacificfit.
This is Ben Greenfield and I have on the other line a couple of people who are involved with a new project that is pretty cutting edge and something that I was very, very intrigued with when I first heard about it. It’s something called Bite Tech Technology and it involves the use of a mouthpiece to actually enhance athletic performance. Now, just a couple of weeks ago I actually knew nothing about using a mouthpiece for anything other than protecting the mouth during exercise or during sports. And I happen to know someone who’s involved in dentistry and he called me up on the phone and asked me if I had ever heard of this mouthpiece that was actually supposed to enhance athletic performance. I hadn’t. But he sent over a couple of different studies that had been done on something called a UA mouthpiece by a company called Bite Tech Technologies, and after reviewing some of the information that was sent to me by this dentist, I was intrigued and very interested in finding out a little bit more about how this mouthpiece could actually help with performance and where one could get one and what the process involved and how this thing actually came to be created. And so, on the other line… I was able to get someone who was involved with the design and the research behind this product as well as the president of the company that actually makes this UA mouthpiece. Dr. Garner is someone involved with the research in the mouthpiece and Mr. Bob Molhoek is actually the CEO of Bite Tech Technologies, and I’d like to welcome you both to the call today.
Bob Molhoek: Thanks Ben.
Dr. Dena Garner: Thank you.
Ben: So, I guess an interesting place to start is that on your website I noticed that you say that the idea behind these mouthpieces originated in the fact that ancient athletes and warriors used to implement something kind of similar in their training and in their battle. Can either one of you expound on this and talk about if this was the original inspiration for Bite Tech, or how this mouthpiece actually came to be created?
Bob Molhoek: Absolutely. I’ll even rewind further back than the Viking warriors and Romans. The impetus for Bite Tech is really that the human body has a deficiency or a curious little glitch which stems from clenching your teeth which as we know as the fight or flight response and there are a couple of things that happen physiologically when we clench our teeth. The first is it puts pressure on the tempomandibular joint which sends a signal to the hypothalamus to produce cortisol and triggers a number of other chemical reactions in the human body.
Ben: Now for our listeners, that cortisol would not necessarily be a good thing, right?
Bob Molhoek: Correct. Cortisol is the sparkplug to adrenaline but in excess amounts cortisol can cause fatigue, tunnel vision, anger and hostility. It can decrease the immune system and metabolism, prevents you from building muscle. A lot of really bad things. I think in the bodybuilding community, cortisol is referred to as the weightlifter’s worst enemy because it prevents your muscles from recovering quickly or helps to contribute to that. And so the first kind of physiological piece of that is it triggers that production of cortisol. The second is that it restricts the airway. You get less – with an airway that’s smaller, you get less oxygen into your lungs and less CO2 out of your lungs. So this concept of correcting this glitch has been around forever. And as you mentioned, the fact that Viking warriors and Roman warriors used to bite on leather thongs to go into battle. Fast-forward to the civil war where soldiers would bite on a bullet if their leg was being amputated or even to the plains where Native American women would bite on sticks while giving work. Most recently even just interactions with Michael Johnson, the US Olympic sprinter and others learned that the Jamaican sprinters were taught to stick their tongues out when they’re trying to run. That concept of running and training with a relaxed jaw. There are some photos. If you search far enough, Usain Bolt, actually chewing, biting on a necklace when he’s in competition, trying to find a way to relieve that stress and it’s such a big deal from an athletic standpoint – that stress…cortisol is the stress hormone. We learned with relationships at the IMG Academy and others – I’m sure you yourself as well Ben, where stress for athletes is one of the single greatest detractors from performance. And it’s something that we have set out to try to unlock and uncover. How can we correct? How do we negate that curious little glitch in the human body?
Ben: Well it appears there’s actually a good little bit of research behind this mouthpiece that you guys ended up creating. But before we talk about that, what exactly is the mouthpiece? How does it work? Is this something that’s actually placed in the back of the mouth or in the front of the mouth? How practically would an athlete in competition use something like this?
Bob Molhoek: It’s Armour Bite Technology, which is the Under Armour Performance Mouthwear which is an entirely new category and there are two different kind of mouthpieces. There is a performance mouthpiece which snaps on the lower teeth. Has virtually no impact on speech. Most athletes forget that they even have it in which is the effect we have tried to accomplish and we’ve spent 15 years doing product development, research and development and creating a very broad intellectual property portfolio. Then we can also put the technology into a traditional mouth guard which we call a Performance Mouth Guard for sports that require where an athlete is looking for a little bit more protection, either for their teeth or to help reduce the G force impact from blows to the jaw which can ultimately lead to concussion. So there’s two versions of the product and the technology is really the same. And the quick explanation for how it works… in each of our products, there are two wedges that go between the molar. And by a wedge, it is thicker in the back than it is in the front. So when you go to clench your teeth – whether that’s to brace for an impact in a contact sport – everybody knows how tiring it gets when you get to that… late in the repetitions and you start clenching down or long distance runners who wear the product will often talk about “Boy I had no idea how much I clenched late in races or I would start to get tired until I had the piece in my mouth.” So when you go to occlude that wedge, it’s the optimal engineering mechanism to interrupt that fight or flight response and then also open the airway. And so, a broad range of performance benefits have come out of the testing we’ve done and I know Dr. Garner can speak in great detail about some of the findings.
Ben: Yeah, that’s what I’d like to hear from you Dr. Garner. What type of research has been done on this mouthpiece and what type of results did you find?
Dr. Dena Garner: Well we’ve been doing research since 2005 with cortisol, understanding cortisol levels with athletes and subjects who wore the mouthpiece versus when they did not during an exercise protocol. We also have assessed lactate levels, just trying to figure out the physiological mechanism. If there is one, what’s going on? And so surprisingly, we found with our first study with lactate – we had lactate levels that were lowered when subjects wore the mouthpiece versus when they did not. And the type of – the exercise that we had them do was on a treadmill at about 75 to 80% of their heart rate max, so they were going at a good pace for about 30 minutes. So when we had them tested with their lactates, pre, during, and after, those levels at the end of exercise were lowered. We continued to see that trend with the studies that we did with the mouthpiece. We’ve also done some studies with… our cadets have done studies on their own to see if it would improve the number of repetitions that they would do in the bench press and the preacher curl. And there was a significant difference between that too. Improvement in fact with the mouthpiece. They increased their number of reps on the bench press and the preacher curl by 10%, 17%. So, the cortisol – we found some good data a few weeks ago that we’re really excited about, but I’m not going to release that yet because there is some data we want to make sure of, but it’s pretty exciting what we’re finding with cortisol and lactate. I think we’ve opened a great exciting area of research that is just really, really exciting.
Ben: Now what would the proposed mechanism of action be to actually cause something like lower lactate levels?
Dr. Dena Garner: That’s a good question. So when you look at that – and that’s the question I had and just going to conferences and talking to people, we figured out with the last study that we had published that possibly as Bob indicated, the airways were open. So sure enough when we did the studies, with patients we see an improvement in airway openings when patients wore the mouthpiece versus when they did not. We weren’t sure if that would be applicable to a normal population. There’s been one study. Gill and his colleagues did a study with a normal population the same age as my subjects, between 21 to 25 years old, and he found a significant difference when healthy subjects wore a mouthpiece versus when they did not in their airway openings. And so when we did our study, we found a significant difference in the area right above the epiglottis. So if airways are improved, the next step is figuring out, okay how does that relate or translate to lactate levels? It could be that in the beginning of exercise, everyone, when we start out to exercise we don’t have immediate oxygen to our working muscles. It takes about one to two minutes for that to occur. And so, is it that we’re maybe revving that up, enabling that to occur quicker, that we can get O2 to our working muscles a bit quicker, so the oxygen deficit is decreased. So lactate levels would technically be decreased at the end of exercise. Or could it be that we’re able to rid our bodies of CO2? There are still a lot of questions that we are working on now but I think the exciting part is yes, we’re seeing a trend of decreased lactate levels and we believe it’s related to these airway openings being improved.
Ben: Interesting. Well Mr. Molhoek, what type of athletes that you’re aware of are using the mouthpiece now in terms of not only the sports that they’re being utilized for but also are there any I guess famous athletes in any of those sports who are utilizing the UM mouthpiece?
Bob Molhoek: Absolutely. Our company actually has a handful of those very famous athletes who are investors in our company. We don’t pay any professional athletes to wear the product or use the technology. Our investors include Adrian Peterson, who’s arguably one of the top football players in the NFL. Marian Gaborick in the NHL. Bernard Berry and Brett Hull, Rocket Ishmail. So there’s over 1000 professional athletes across a broad range of sports. So, from the football and hockey athletes to Under Armour’s suite of, again, some of the top athletes in the world. World champion triathete Chris McCormack. PGA tour player Hunter Mahan. Paul Rabol, one of the best lacrosse players in the world and it’s just a host of other athletes and what’s really exciting is you have a lot of athletes who aren’t even under Under Armour contract who use it. Larry Fitzgerald, Ladamian Thompson, Maurice Jones Drew in the NFL, to name a few. Probably 25 different professional golfers or more. A growing number of the Winter Olympic athletes from Lindsay Vonn to Body Miller was recently fit with the product and we’re hearing some great anecdotes. So a broad range of athletes really for any sport.
Ben: Now you mentioned that Chris McCormack was using the product and I know he’s a world champion and Ironman triathlete. We have a large number of marathoners, endurance athletes and triathletes that listen to this show and I’m sure the question that they’d be wondering as well as the question I myself was going to ask you is can this really be practically put into the mouth for something like a five hour bike ride?
Bob Molhoek: Absolutely. And Chris McCormack started using it in the two weeks leading up to the events in Kona and has been using it ever since religiously. I think he spent some time blogging about it as well. The beauty of this product and technology – what we tell the athletes is to forget that you have it in, and we’ve spent a lot of time designing it so that it’s the optimal engineering mechanism with the least amount of material in your mouth which for a runner, you don’t want to be distracted or in any kind of weightlifting routine or in your training, you want to be focused on the training and not worried about your mouth. And so, it’s something that you can drink with. If you’re on a long ride, you can eat with the appliance in your mouth although we discourage people because it can get gummed up, but it’s easy to pop out, stick in a little pocket or tuck it into your waistline, eat any type of bar and pop it back in without trouble. We have a lot of the marathon runners – obviously who wear it the entire race and train with it and a lot of the triathletes who wear it in all three aspects of the race.
Ben: Now, Dr. Garner I imagine that you would probably know the answer to this question, but obviously everybody’s mouth is different, everybody’s teeth are different and jaw are different. When you’re doing the research on the athletes or the individuals in your studies, are they using different mouthpieces or are you taking this into account or do you just put the same mouthpiece in each person?
Dr. Dena Garner: The research that we’re doing now is with subjects, everyone is custom fit and so they will get a mouthpiece that fits the individual so we don’t have to worry about that between subjects. So that’s a good question and going back to the other question you had with training, I use mine… I finished a marathon in December and trained with one and had no trouble whatsoever with it and just felt a significant improvement in my mile time. I feel like the people who would be listening to your program could certainly benefit. The studies that we’ve been doing are certainly applicable to that population. We’re looking at endurance lactate levels. That would be the person who it would be a benefit for.
Bob Molhoek: I was just going to say also, which is critical in training is, a lot of the athletes… in fact Adrian Peterson talked about Bobby Way, another NFL receiver, just in training how much faster they recovered from their workouts which I know is a really big deal when you’re training.
Ben: Yeah, absolutely. That’s interesting. I would imagine that would probably be linked to the lower cortisol levels or I guess maybe more oxygen. Are people leaving this in after a workout or going about their day at all with the mouthpiece?
Bob Molhoek: You know it varies by athlete. There are a lot of professional baseball players like Michael Cuddyer of the Minnesota Twins. He wears it all day on game day to stay calm and relaxed. He wears it during the game, while he trains. He wears it to sleep to help reduce his snoring and then you have athletes like Derek Jeter who from spring training through the entire season wore it all year during game play. And we’re very interested as he’s going into off season training, he’s very excited to see how that can change his training regimen. So from a prescription standpoint, we prescribe the product to wear during warm-up exercise or competition and then for 10 to 30 minutes afterwards just because it helps with the cool down and other aspects of recovery.
Ben: Okay, so a question for either of you. How would somebody actually go about… if you can’t just go to a sporting good stores and grab one of these off the shelf, if it needs to be custom fit, how would somebody actually go about getting fit for and then beginning to use the mouthpiece?
Bob Molhoek: The best way would be to go to www.underarmour.com. There is an authorized dentist locator at Under Armour’s website and you can search by zip code or city and find an authorized provider. There’s over 2000 in the US, since we launched in August. So we’ve got pretty well the entire country covered and a growing number of dentists signing on every day. And to go to the dentist, it shouldn’t take more than 15 to 20 minutes of an appointment and the product gets turned around within a week or two. So it’s two easy trips to the dentist and away you go with the technology.
Ben: Wow, and Dr. Garner, if people wanted to go… before somebody goes and decides they want to go to the dentist and get fit and get a mouthpiece, if they want to go look at some of the studies you were referencing, look at some of this research, where would be the best place for them to access that?
Dr. Dena Garner: We have published a couple of articles in the Compendium Journal of Continuing Education and Dentistry, in the July-August issue 2009. American College of Sports Medicine. We have presented there over the past couple of years and those are in the supplement issues. So, obviously someone could contact me if they needed those abstracts or wanted those articles.
Bob Molhoek: And there’s a link at www.bitetech.com to the Compendium Journal of Continuing Education as well.
Ben: For those of you listening to the show, what I’ll do is in the show notes, I’ll put a link to the Under Armour and the Bite Tech website so you can go find both that dentist locator as well as the research that Dr. Garner was referencing. And this interview will be coming out in December and one of the things that I wanted to make you, the audience, aware of is I’m actually going to myself be fitted for and try out one of these mouthpieces so in a future episode I’ll be able to give you feedback on what I experienced while using it. Dr. Garner and Mr. Molhoek, I want to thank you for coming on the show today.
Bob Molhoek: My pleasure.
Dr. Dena Garner: Thank you.
Bob Molhoek: I was just saying, we’re looking forward to giving you a fit and to hear the feedback.
Ben: Yeah, I’m looking forward to trying it out. This is definitely going to be a new concept for me as a coach and an athlete. So we’ll make sure and keep the audience up to date with how it’s actually going with the Under Armour mouthpiece. So, until next time this is Ben Greenfield signing out with Dr. Garner and Bob Molhoek from Bite Tech Technologies.
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