Introduction: In this podcast episode: resistance stretching, the best temperature for ice baths, skipping meals, exercise headaches, runner’s knee, slow metabolisms, hay fever and exercise, more on carbo loading, sodium phosphate supplements, V8 juice, the health effects of alcohol, altitude training and trouble sleeping.
Ben: Hey podcast listeners, it’s Ben Greenfield and I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s the nice weather, people getting out and about more, people thinking about their health more, but I have gotten a lot of questions this week. So I’m not going to waste too much time, jumping right into the content. We also have an interview with one of the trainers who travels with Olympic swimmer Dara Torres and Dara Torres has something that she calls one of her secret weapons for fitness and I was able to track down an interview with the person who actually invented the program that Dara uses. So you do not want to miss that interview. It’s pretty cool, and it’s actually something that I’ve started to implement in my program. So we’re going to start off with a few special announcements, move on to this week’s huge Listener Q and A, have that featured topic and of course keep you entertained along the way.
If you have a question, then all you need to do is email [email protected]. As I mentioned earlier, just leave a comment or you can call and leave your audio question toll free to 8772099439. And the first question this week comes from listener Tina.
Tina asks: Hey Ben, in training for my Ironman I finally decided to try the dreaded ice baths. And I was amazed at how well I felt the next day. I’ve tried it by running down to the lake which is close to my home and standing in up to my hips for 10 minutes. I’ve also sat in lukewarm water in my tub and slowly added cold water up to the big dump of the ice tray from my freezer. So my question is, is there a certain temperature that ice baths work better in? If I’m still sore the second day after a hard workout, would another ice bath be beneficial?
Ben: Well, that’s actually a great question. With ice baths which are perfect for recovery and effectively eliminating a lot of that tiny microscopic damage that occurs to your muscles during exercise, more is not necessarily better. Most of the research points to about 54 to 60 degrees as the ideal ice bath temperature range. 54 to 60 degrees is definitely uncomfortable but it’s not so cold that it’s teeth-grittingly numb to even be for 15 or 20 seconds. It should be cold to the point where it is slightly uncomfortable but it doesn’t feel like it’s actually doing damage to your limbs. Believe it or not you can do damage by sitting in too cold of water for too long and you can also cause things like spontaneous fainting which can occur when you’re exposed to cold for long periods of time, almost the same as if you were becoming hypothermic. So, don’t worry about getting any colder than 54 degrees and you can just use any type of thermometer that you’d use in a pool to measure the actual temperature of your ice bath, if you’d like to go to that range. Typically, what I’ll do is just take one freezer tray full of ice, dump that in a bathtub full of cold water and that generally gets it pretty cold. I’ll also do a cold shower or as you do go down to a lake or river and just stand waist deep after a tough run. It really is one of nature’s best anti-inflammatories and very, very expensive when it comes to a recovery method. So great question.
Fitz asks: Ben, how do you feel about paleo primal diet proponents who advise skipping meals, avoiding carbs or even skipping breakfast? It seems like there’s a lot of science behind it.
Ben answers: Skipping meals or skipping breakfast is not necessarily going to do something magical to your metabolism. Contrary to popular belief it’s not necessarily going to shut down or slow your metabolism, but there’s also really nothing special that happens physiological aside from the ability to enhance caloric restriction and also the ability to burn a little bit of extra fat as you’re moving around because it’s likely that your carbohydrate stores are depleted. Now the problem that I find with my clients is that if I have them skip meals too often or if I do not stay on top of them in terms of making sure that they prioritize getting a nutrient-dense breakfast into their bodies, they end up getting hungrier later on in the day. Their exercise sessions – especially in the mid-morning or mid-afternoon tend to suffer because they aren’t able to bring themselves up to the intensity that they’d be able to do if they had ample carbohydrate on board. And they usually have less resistance to some damaging snacks later on in the day. A Snickers bar at 11am looks a lot more appealing when you haven’t had a bowl of quinoa with blueberries and a little bit of almond butter at 8am in the morning when you get up. Now the times that I do encourage people to skip meals would be if they’re going to incorporate, for example, a mini fast protocol. And this is something that I’ll do to lean up prior to for example a triathlon. I’ll eat dinner at 8 pm and then go to bed at 10 pm, get up at 6am. By then it’s been 10 hours since I’ve last eaten. I’ll exercise for about 45 to 60 minutes with some light aerobic cardio and then I’ll go eat. And doing that light aerobic cardio in the morning after the overnight fast really helps you burn through some fat stores and fires up those fat burning enzymes in the liver. So, that’s where I’d recommend skipping meals. For the most part, people tend to adhere to their diets a little bit more when they’re eating frequently and not engaging in irregular eating patterns.
I’m going to move on to a question from listener David. David is a personal trainer.
David asks: One of my clients complains of headaches halfway through the workout. I train him pretty hard. Usually circuits with minimum breaks in between sets. He doesn’t drink coffee or tea and keeps caffeine intake to a minimum. He’s 30 years old, in good shape, and of average weight with no special conditions. No diabetes, no high blood pressure, no high lipids. I’m looking to build his upper body strength and improve his core. I think the headaches could have something to do with his breathing technique. I do watch him and it appears he’s exhaling on concentrics and inhaling on eccentrics. (That just means he’s doing as he’s supposed to. He’s exhaling during the difficult phase and inhaling during the relaxation phase. David goes on.) So maybe he’s not breathing correctly or deep enough. What other possibilities do you think could be causing his headaches?
Ben answers: Could be low carbs or lack thereof. Usually glycogen depletion isn’t going to be a big issue with headaches. If it were going to be depletion of any type of nutrient per se, it would be water and dehydration and that would be just kind of… the big red flag would be – and I’m going to kind of assume you already looked at this. Make sure that he’s drinking enough water. Specifically his body weight divided by half is how many ounces of water he should be drinking at a minimum per day. That being said, I don’t know how his eyesight is, but people who have sensitivity to bright light or difficulty focusing can get headaches no matter where they are including exercise. Sensitivity to noise can cause headaches. It’s possible that if he has very good hearing or if he’s especially sensitive to weights dropping or loud music in the weight room, that can cause a headache. Other certain anxiety disorders – if he’s very tense in social situations, that can contribute to headaches. As can muscular tension in the traps and shoulders, which could be eliminated with foam rolling or massage or even just a little bit of trigger point work which you can do as a personal trainer. You can put your hands on your client’s traps and basically massage the traps. You don’t have to be a licensed massage therapist to do something like that. And then finally I’d look into magnesium as well. Magnesium deficiency can cause quite a bit of symptoms including headaches. I’ll put a link to topical magnesium that he can rub into his shoulders or his neck. I’ll put a link to that in the Shownotes. The other thing I’m going to put a link to is a breathing article that I wrote that focuses on breathing drills that can really help outside of exercise. Ways that you can breathe to assist with potential problems with too shallow a breathing or not having the right habits when it comes to getting deep breaths in when you’re exercising. So I’m going to put a link to that article David and you can click on that in the Shownotes to this episode, episode number 93. I’d consider some of those things. The eyesight, the hearing sensitivity, the magnesium, the breathing and the hydration. Those are some of the things that come to mind right away when you describe what’s going on.
Mike asks: Question one, I was hoping you could point me in the right direction on your recommended brands for vitamin D, magnesium, Omega 3s and greens.
Ben answers: I don’t want to be a supplement whore. I don’t want to necessarily tell you that there’s one single supplement that’s best. All I’m going to do Mike is tell you what I take in terms of those supplements. For vitamin D, I take the Bioletics stuff that I spray under my tongue. For magnesium, I take Ancient Minerals – that one that I just put a link to for David. For Omega 3s, I take the flax seed oil from IMPaX called EnerEFA, and I also take the fish oil from Bioletics. And then for greens I use EnerPrime as a greens powder and I use something else called Living Fuels Super Greens for a meal replacement powder that has greens in it. So, there you go. Now question two.
Mike asks: Do you have any treatment or supplement recommendations for jumper’s knee? I developed a severe case playing volleyball a couple of years ago and still struggle with it.
Ben answers: Number one thing I’m going to recommend to you Mike that has helped me tremendously, I used to play competitive volleyball. Played for a couple of years at the University of Idaho, discovered this and I’ve used it for both IT band and for jumper’s knee and that’s something called a Patt Strap. It’s a little strap, you put it over the front of your patellar tendon during activity and it eliminates a lot of the friction and the rubbing that can lead to the inflammation and the pain. For the IT band you can actually put that about two inches above the knee. I’ve even worn two before, one for the IT band and one for the knee. But that would be my top recommendation for something you could use for runner’s knee or jumper’s knee and I found that works really well.
Lance asks: Are there any other sunscreens worth considering other than the SCAPE product from podcast number 92.
Ben answers: You know Lance, the only real sunscreens that I’ve experimented with too much with are that SCAPE product which I actually wore in a triathlon last week and was really very impressed with it. I had interviewed Dr. Martins about it on the podcast, and tried it out during the Wildflower Triathlon. I was very happy with it not stinging my eyes, helping to cool more core temp, or helping me not to feel like my temperature cooling capabilities were being inhibited and then also zero sunburn lines or tan lines from my triathlon jersey. So, in addition to that one, the only other thing I’ve done is gotten coconut oils, jojoba oils and zinc and basically made sunscreen in my kitchen and that’s something else you can do. As a matter of fact, if you went to YouTube and did a search for my name plus “sunscreen” you’d find that video where I’m making it in my kitchen. But that’s something else you could do and other than that, in the past – I’ve been the guy that wanders into Walgreens and buys whatever’s on sale. So I’m kind of sold now on this SCAPE stuff after interviewing the guy about it, finding out it was really designed for people doing what I do, exercising hard in hot weather. So, that’s what I’d do. I’m probably not going to end up making any more in my kitchen just because of the opportunity and time cost versus just getting some from SCAPE. So there you go.
Lance asks: In podcast 92 I was puzzled by your fat recommendations. The research I have looked at indicates we need single digit percentages of daily calories from Omega 3 and 6s. Why do you recommend 15 to 25%?
Ben answers: The short answer is I don’t. I recommended 15 to 25% for total fat intake. Which means that if you take the fat that you’re getting from fish oils, flax seed oils, Omega 3 sources, Omega 6 sources – you take the fat that you’re getting from coconut oils, you take the fat that you’re getting from monounsaturated sources like olives, olive oil, avocado, seeds, nuts – you put all that together plus whatever fat you might be getting from dairy and meat and that should come out to the 15 to 25% mark. So I wasn’t saying that just for the Omega 3s and 6s. That’s total fat I recommend at 15 to 25%.
Josh asks: It’s been a mantra in my family that slow metabolism is a curse. Is it true that some people struggle with a slower metabolism, or do those people like me just eat a little bit or a lot more and slowly add to their body fat?
Ben answers: Before I progress to the second part of your question, Josh, it is true that some people do struggle with a slower metabolism. You can get your metabolism tested via something called “indirect calorimetry.” It’s done in a resting metabolic test where you sit down or you lie down after you’ve been fasting so there’s no thermic effect of food that’s skewing the results, and you simply sit there and breathe for anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes and you find out how many calories your body is burning at rest. It spans the gamut, I’ve had some lean people come to me with slow metabolisms and I’ve had some very overweight people come to me with fast metabolisms. And so that’s actually how you can get it measured versus using something like an equation online. So your local university might be able to hook you up with that. You could also do a search on Google for “metabolic testing” wherever you happen to live. Now you move on and you say…
Josh asks: No diet or meal plan seems to be able to really help me drop my body fat. My physician says my blood tests don’t indicate a slow metabolism but even his dietary advice doesn’t work. Can you help?
Ben answers: Your physician should not be giving you a blood test for a slow metabolism. Your physician can give you a blood test for thyroid or for anemia or something that’s going to indirectly affect your metabolism, or directly affect your metabolism but those don’t measure metabolic rate. Those are just measuring parameters that influence your metabolism. The only way your doc can directly test your metabolism is via the measurement that I just described. So I’m not sure why they’re telling you that other than maybe they’re just trying to tell you in some other way that your thyroid is normal. Let’s say that your thyroid is normal and you’re still having trouble dropping body fat. I can tell you right now that when my clients come to me and they complain about this or when potential clients come to me and they complain about this, usually I’m suggesting a range of tests from food allergy tests to yeast tests, fungus tests. I’m looking at their full nutrient profile. A lot of times looking at not just the nutrient intake but also the supplement intake, the hydration status, the actual exercise program that they’re utilizing as well as their lifestyle, their stress levels, their sleep levels. There are so many things at play here that you just having a slow metabolism could pretty easily be overcome if that’s all it is. But when you say no diet or meal plan seems to really be able to help, it doesn’t tell me much. Other than that, we would need to dig a little further to see what’s going on and those are some of the ways that we would do it. Now your second question is how far in advance do you plan your workouts? How do you anticipate muscles that you’re overtraining when you’re planning ahead? I plan out my cycling, running and swimming workouts in a macro perspective for the entire year. Meaning that I sit down, I look at the triathlons I want to do. I look at the shape I want to be in. I look at possibly maybe being a little bit heavier over the holidays, a little bit more body fat in the winter, a little bit less in the summer. And I plan out the big picture based on that. Knowing the time of year that I’m going to be focusing more on strength, knowing the time of year I’m going to be focusing more on cardiovascular endurance or fat loss and knowing the time of year I’m going to be focusing more on explosive racing type of fitness because I do triathlons. Now from there, if I know the macro perspective, what I do is at the beginning of every week and this is the same thing I do with my clients, I sit down and plan that week’s workouts based off of where I need to be from a macro perspective for that week. So if it’s a race week, then I’m planning lots of short, very intense sessions without much volume. If it’s a fat loss week, it’s a lot of early morning workout sessions on an empty stomach that are slightly lower intensity usually followed by some type of resistance training session or cross training session in the afternoon. If it’s strength building week, usually it’s a lot more time in the weight room with lower reps and higher weights. So as long as you know the general direction you want to go – for me, it’s usually on a week by week basis. Because what I find is if I plan out my entire month specifically or if I plan out one of my client’s entire month specifically, we end up running into stuff two weeks in. I’m having to go back and re-invent the entire program because they remember they had a family reunion or their foot starts to hurt or we have to do any number of things to modify the program based off of the dynamic things that are happening in their lives. So I wouldn’t plan too far ahead in terms of the workout details, but I always have a big picture. In terms of anticipating muscles that you’re overtraining and avoiding overtraining? Generally, you want to give a muscle enough rest to where it’s not sore the next time you work it. And that’s just a matter of knowing your body. For most people, it’s 48 to 72 hours. So if I’m, say, working my chest muscles with bench pressing or pushups, then the way that I’m planning out my week, I’m not going to be bench pressing on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I’m going to be doing it on, for example, Monday and Thursday. So there’s a lot of different ways you can split up body parts. One would be pushing exercises on Monday, pulling exercises on Tuesday, cardio on Wednesday, back to pushing on Thursday, pulling on Friday and then core on the weekends along with cardio. That’s just one example. Another example would be three full body workouts during the week with two cardio sessions. So as long as you plan it out so you’re not doing the same thing every day and allowing 48 to 72 hours between muscle groups, then it tends to be pretty effective. So good questions.
John asks: What’s your opinion on V8 juice? The 5.5 ounce cans are really convenient for eating on the go. Should I be concerned with BPA like most other canned tomato products?
Ben answers: Well John, I couldn’t necessarily find any studies for you that would indicate that you do need to be concerned about BPA. However, there’s really nothing that could truly replace the type of fresh juice that you’d get from making your own juice at home and then carrying that in whether it be travel coffee mugs or water bottles or whatever is convenient. Because V8 is made from processed vegetable juice concentrate. So it’s heated. A lot of times it’s reconstituted and they’ve added a bunch of salt to it as well as natural flavoring which in many cases can basically just be re-packaged MSG. So, if you look at the ingredient label of V8 juice you’re getting water, tomato paste, reconstituted vegetable juice blend – which is carrot, celery, beets, parsley, lettuce, water crest and spinach – lemon juice, salt, vitamin C and citric acid. You can easily make something like this at home and also save yourself the salt because you’re getting almost 500 milligrams of salt in a V8 which is not doing your blood pressure or health many favors. You’re almost getting your daily recommended dose of sodium from just a couple of V8s. So in terms of making your own at home, there are recipes out there. One of the things you could do is get a VitaMix or even a Magic Bullet or a blender like food processor, and you can get a bunch of vegetables that you turn around and see on the can of the V8. So you’re looking at getting some tomatoes, celery, onion. You can do some garlic like the whole garlic cloves and any other number of vegetables that you care to add and just boil them. Put them over heat for about 20 minutes and then once they’re boiled, throw them into your food processor or your blender and blend them. And then the things you could add to make it taste more like V8 would be the same types of things you’d add to a Bloody Mary. You can add a little bit of sugar or brown rice syrup or molasses or whatever sweetener you would prefer to use. You can use salt and generally not more than about a tablespoonful for anywhere from three to four servings. You can add some pepper, you can add a little bit of horseradish. You can put some lemon juice in there. Worcestershire sauce. But basically, you mix all this together and you can batch produce a big batch of fresh juice, throw it in the refrigerator and just hit on that during the week from your water bottle. And it’d be a good way to go if you kind of like that flavor of V8, without actually getting the reconstituted vegetable juice and salt that you’re getting from the canned product. That’s what I would do if you’re going to be relying on vegetable juice as one of your primary snacks through the day.
Casey asks: I have to work and go to school full time right now, and I often lose sleep and can’t wind down until very late because of it. Not to mention the mass consumption of alcohol which has become my main goal to eliminate. Do you have any suggestions that do not include quitting my work or school? I know that stress is slowly killing my body. I suffer from heart burn, fatigue, anxiety, high stress, etc. and I am only 21. I would just like a real world solution to what I’m sure is a pretty common issue.
Ben answers: Casey, you’ve kind of answered your own question. That you are working, going to school full-time, which in and of itself is doable. But mass consumption of alcohol combined with that scenario is probably holding you back just a little bit, especially when you have some of the symptoms that you’re describing. Now, alcohol in terms of a glass of red wine a few times a week has cardiovascular protective effects and de-stressing effects. On the flip side, mass consumption of alcohol in the way that you described is not all that great for you. Of course weight gain from the empty calories is going to be an issue but hypertension or high blood pressure is an issue. You can get dry skin because of the dehydrating effects of alcohol. You increase your risk for cancer and psoriasis of the liver. You affect your kidneys, not just the high blood pressure but also metabolizing all the other things that you’re getting in when you’re drinking alcohol and mixed drinks including the toxic byproducts of metabolism of high amounts of alcohol. Alcohol can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb calcium, so you’re going to affect your bones and your bone density. As far as your mental health, alcohol consumption is directly correlated with depression, anxiety, personality disorders, schizophrenia, disrupted sleep patterns. Essentially that would be the number one modification that you could make to your life right now to help you out. When I got serious back in college, I was drinking quite a bit. I was probably a three or four night a week party-er. So, not that much different than most of my friends in school, hitting a few frat parties during the week and hosting a party or two on the weekend, and usually each of those, you would average anywhere from five to 10 drinks. Once I decided to get a little bit more serious about my education and my life, that was one of the first things that I quit doing. After that point, I was working full-time and averaging 24 credit hours per semester and I really didn’t change that much in my life other than quitting my partying and late night drinking. My social life was still great. My health was still great because I was working out, but that was one of the biggest things I did to affect not only my stress levels but also my ability to be able to concentrate and focus and excel at my studies. So, I would recommend that you kind of tone the alcohol a little bit and if that means you got to start drinking sparkling water and maybe even switch to some of the things I’ve talked about in the show before like the flavored Noon or U-Hydration effervescent tablets that you can add to beverages that you still feel like you’re drinking something flavored, that can help out quite a bit. So, ultimately though, you kind of answered your own question during your question.
Jeff asks: What are the benefits of sodium phosphate? I’m thinking of trying a product called Race Boost from Hammer. Any thoughts?
Ben answers: Yeah, sodium phosphate is one of those classic supplements, been used for a long time. It’s a buffer. It’s highly alkalinic which means that it can help your body deal with all the acidity from the hydrogen ions that get kicked off from lactic acid when you are exercising. There have been multiple studies that have shown sodium phosphate to be effective in lowering the rating of perceived exertion or increasing the time to fatigue. The only problem is that most of that was done with short term activities like 800 meter sprints, and there was not quite enough time for the GI distress to set in, that’s going to set in when you’re taking that stuff long term during endurance exercise. And that’s the issue – is that in most cases, the gastrointestinal distress that occurs with the level of sodium phosphate consumption necessary for an ergogenic effect is typically not worth taking the sodium phosphate. You’d be much better off focusing on improving your ability to tolerate large levels of lactic acid and saving the sodium phosphate supplementation for a Master’s track and field meet where you got to run a very short distance for a very short period of time and you aren’t having to dump that stuff down the hatch. Even for a sprint triathlon, that’s a long time to be taking sodium phosphate. So understand that in a lot of supplements, the dosage that they’re going to recommend might not give you GI distress, but that means that it’s probably not a high enough dose to actually help you out when it comes to buffering acidity. Of course, ultimately you are your own case study, so you can try it out and see how you feel but most research points to the necessity to take quite a bit of that stuff to really see a good result.
Rich asks: Just a quick question, I’ve had a good diet helped by your tips and advice which focuses on the anti-inflammatory foods and wondered if you had any further tips on reducing my hay fever symptoms. I can deal with the extra mucus and itchy eyes using topical homeopathic remedies, but it is the systemic effect that really kills my performance. I noticed a dramatic change in form throughout May, June and July in my running, cycling and rowing times and recover more slowly after a tough session.
Ben answers: That’s something that’s pretty tricky. My wife actually deals with hay fever a little bit as well, and the idea behind hay fever is that it’s basically your immune system overreacting to what would normally be harmless airborne particles. But you’ve got enough allergens running through your bloodstream and enough sensitivity to them that it causes the runny nose, the sneezing, the watery eyes, the coughing, all those things that you might be able to tolerate when you’re sitting at your office, but once you’re on a bicycle it becomes a whole different issue. You mentioned some of the homeopathics and there’s definitely some out there that can help out a little bit. Specifically things like the Butter Burr, that’s one that’s typically used as a natural allergy treatment and that’s something you can get as a homeopathic remedy at your local health food store. Quercetin, which is interestingly an ingredient in the FRS energy drink that Lance Armstrong uses – that’s actually an anti-histamine but there haven’t really been many studies done on it in terms of its direct influence on hay fevers. It would be between about 200 and 400 milligrams of that three times a day, though, in terms of the anti-histamine like effect. I’m not a doctor. I’m not prescribing this as medical advice. I’m just saying the amount that’s been found actually show an effect on the histamine production. So caratenoids, that’s basically a family of plant pigments and you’re going to get that from a lot of the darker vegetables and also things like apricots, carrots, sweet potato, butternut squash and then of course all the darker ones I mentioned like the collared greens, the bok choy, the kale, the spinach. Taking in caratenoids or caratenoid rich foods can be a good idea as well because those can actually promote the opening of the airways and eliminate a little bit of the inflammation there. Identifying any food sensitivities outside of the hay fever that you might have an issue with, specifically all the things that you’ve probably heard me talk about before that people tend to be allergic to – peanuts, soy, wheat, dairy, gluten, even tomatoes in some cases, eggs in some cases – those are some things that I would get looked at. You can do a skin prick test for food allergies, a stool test for food allergies. There’s a company out here that I work with called Unikey Health Systems. They have you send them a stool sample and that’s fun to think about, and then they analyze it and send you back your results. You could call Unikey and tell them as well. I think they do give a 5% discount if you mention my name, which I guess probably saves you on your poop shipping. Moving on, Omega 3 fatty acids – those are something that… they’re usually for a variety of health conditions, but basically what they do is they can reduce the production of inflammatory chemicals in your body specifically something called prostaglandin and cytokines. And taking in Omega 3 fatty acids supplements is something that I would highly recommend, either a fish oil or a flax seed oil or do what I do and do both. So, I would recommend that. And then finally, acupuncture believe it or not is something that’s used for quite a few allergic type of reactions and it’d be worth giving a try. You could go ahead and Google your local acupuncturist. I believe that the new program similar to Craigslist, called Angieslist actually has reviews of local healthcare practitioners. I tend to like to review and research practitioners before I go visit them, because some of them can be really kooky and some of them can actually be good people who are well-educated and have done quite a bit of what they practice. So I would research that before you see an acupuncturist, but that’s something that would be important to consider as well.
Chuck asks: I was wondering for what distance should one do a carb load? Obviously for a full or half Ironman, but should I implement for an Olympic distance triathlon or is there a certain point where it’s just not necessary to do at all?
Ben answers: Well Chuck, basically you can look as a guy at storing anywhere from about 1900 to 2500 calories of carbohydrate on your body. And so, if you know that going really, really hard – exercising really hard – most guys are going to burn around 1000 calories an hour. You know you’ve got enough to last about two hours in terms of carbohydrate stores on board. So, no need to carbo load for anything under two hours. Once you get up to that point though, you can definitely start to carbo load and see the benefits of that up to 60% additional glycogen that you can store in your body from a carb-loading protocol. Now carb loading is a little bit logistically intensive, trying to figure out your percentages and gradually increase your carbs throughout the week and also do your carbohydrate depleting session a week before the exercise. Listen to podcast number 92 if you want to hear more about what we talked about with the carbohydrate loading. But for a shorter race, I really only focus on eating a high carb diet for two days leading up to that race. It’s the only carbo loading that I do. And then making sure that I of course get a high carb diet for breakfast the morning of a race. So really, there’s not necessarily a tried and true rule that I follow for carb loading for a shorter distance event like a sprint or an Olympic distance triathlon. It’s just basically upping carbohydrate intake for those last two days, and typically the carbohydrate intake is replacing proteins or fibers in my diet. So for example, instead of having a salad I’ll have a couple of sweet potatoes or instead of having, for example, a protein smoothie, I’ll have a fruit smoothie. And so I just throw things in here and there to replace some of the foods that I would normally be eating. So, that’s about as scientific as I get when it comes to carb loading for a shorter distance event, just because it’s not super important. But a lot of people don’t do Olympic distance triathlons in under two hours, so obviously you can get some benefit from carb loading a little bit for that distance.
Chris asks: I just got my butt royally kicked this past weekend at the Devil’s Punch Bowl bike race. I believe that the altitude which was 3800 feet at the start had a lot to do with that, as I live and train at sea level. My heart rate was skyrocketing the entire race, much higher than it ever had in the past. Do you have any practical advice on how to prepare for three days of hard racing at a similar elevation in mid-June?
Ben answers: You’ve got a couple of choices when it comes to that, Chris. First off, if you get to your place of competition just like a day prior to the event rather than two or three days prior to the event, your body doesn’t really have a chance to react to the altitude and you really don’t struggle with it quite as much. So one strategy is to get there as late as possible. The other strategy is to get there two to three weeks prior and acclimatize to the altitude which is logistically a lot more difficult to do for most people. Now, for altitude training, living low – meaning living at your normal altitude and training high, meaning training at the higher altitudes is a very good way to do things, because you get the physiological benefits of training at altitude but your body is given a chance to recover when you drop back down out of altitude, and that’s kind of the gold standard for altitude training. The problem is that means you have to live near a mountain. Then you can drive to the top of the mountain to train and then go back home down to sea level when you’re done. And so again, that’s logistically difficult to do. You can get full-on altitude training systems where you have like a tent that you train in and some people use those tents for sleeping, not training and I actually frown on that. I don’t encourage the sleeping in the hypoxic tents just because it can inhibit recovery, but I do recommend training in them. And that would be an investment but that’s something else you could do. There’s not much that you can do to really get your body ready for the type of things that occur at altitude other than training at altitude. But I would make sure that you have adequate iron and ferritin in your diet. Ferritin is a storage protein for iron and iron is of course essential to your red blood cells’ ability to carry and deliver oxygen to your muscle tissue. So I would make sure that you’re eating a diet that’s high in iron. You don’t necessarily have to supplement with iron. It can be actually toxic and it’s pretty easy to overdo the iron. Basically you’re looking at things like sesame seeds and dark leafy greens, and eating some of the more hemic containing meats like the red meats, the dark red salmon, the steaks, things of that nature. Making sure that you take in those types of foods and then focus on your breathing. Look at that deep breathing article that I recommended to David earlier in this podcast that I linked to from the Shownotes. Read that too, so that you make sure you’re getting as much oxygen in as possible when you are at altitude because there are fewer molecules of oxygen per breath of air and so you’ve got to breathe more to get more oxygen. Even though if you’re a physiologist listening in, I know that you’re jumping up and down right now, waving your hands in the air, talking about the partial pressure affecting the actual absorption of the oxygen at the alveola level, but again there’s not a lot that you can do about that other than training at altitude. So I’d focus on the breathing component if you’re not able to train at the altitude.
Ken asks: I am having problems staying asleep. I’m going to bed around 10 or 10:30, I’m waking up to go to the bathroom and I am not able to fall back asleep. I’m very wide awake after four to five hours. Also I’m drenched in sweat when I wake up. I do not work out before bed. Most of my stuff is done morning or early evening. Is this normal and what can I do about it?
Ben answers: This to me – again, not a medical doctor – but this sounds very much like an overactive thyroid. Hyperthyroidism is another way that you can describe it. Your thyroid is a little gland right underneath our Adam’s apple and it influences a ton of your body functions including metabolism and body temperature, and if it is overactive, then there are a variety of metabolism and body temperature symptoms that can occur. And this would include the type of things that you’re complaining about. Being really jittery, having lots of energy but it not being a good type of energy like more like a nervous twitching kind of energy, laying awake at night, trouble sleeping, cold or clammy skin, sweaty skin. All these types of things can occur with hyperthyroidism. Now, if you were to go see an allopathic medical doc, they’d tell you that what you could do if you do have that is take an anti-thyroid drug that will prevent the thyroid from producing its thyroid hormones. You could get a radioactive iodine treatment which basically means that the thyroid cells that absorb that radioactive iodine get damaged, basically get killed. Or you could surgically remove the thyroid gland or the thyroid nodule. Now, those of you listening to this podcast know that I’m not a huge fan of those options unless we’re talking about a very serious case of Gray’s disease or hyperthyroidism that simply cannot be managed. What I would instead recommend is you look into homeopathic treatments – herbal or homeopathic treatments – there are a few out there. Lemon balm is one, bugle weed is another one. Motherwort is another and I know all of you are snickering because it sounds like I’m talking about Harry Potter herbs. But bugle weed, lemon balm and motherwort are actual names of herbs. I would look into acupuncture, once again using some of the recommendations that you heard about earlier in the show. I would look into massage therapy as well, and I would have a very serious visit with a naturopathic physician and once again, you’ll want to research a naturopathic physician that is good and you can again use something like Angieslist for that. But everything that you’re describing to me sounds more like hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid type of issue. So I would definitely go speak with a medical professional about that.
Now I know that you’re all waiting with bated breath at the edge of your seat to see who won the free membership to my Body Transformation Club based on the question that they asked. And that’s actually going to go to listener Josh with the question about the slow metabolism. So Josh, if you email me, I’m going to give you a special code that lets you into my Body Transformation Club for free. Just email [email protected]. Now we’re going to go ahead and move on to this week’s featured topic after a brief special announcement.
Ben: Hey podcast listeners, this is Ben Greenfield and on the other line I have somebody from a company called Innovative Body Solutions. And if you watched the last summer Olympics, you may have seen Olympic phenom swimmer Dara Torres – the woman who wore several golds, five time Olympic swimmer, gold medalist, 28 time All American, American record holder, one of the best swimmers we’ve ever produced – if you saw her warming up before her swims or maybe you watched the video that was out there on TV of all the different protocols that she uses to keep her body tuned, you may have seen her being stretched and worked on by a couple of individuals. One of those people was Anne Tierney, who I have on the other line. Not only was Anne over there at the Olympics with Dara. She was also with the Olympic Gold medalist gymnast Nastia Liuken and has worked with a huge number of collegiate athletes, recreational athletes, professional athletes incorporating something called resistance stretching which we’re going to talk about today. So, Anne. Thanks for coming on.
Anne Tierney: Hi Ben, thank you.
Ben: Well I guess the best place to start for people is to ask you a little bit about what resistance stretching is and how you got into this.
Anne Tierney: So, what we call it is basically Ki-Hara resistance stretching. What it is, is it’s all based on eccentric training. So typically when people stretch a muscle, they just lengthen a muscle. That’s what you think of as stretching. You lay back, you pull your leg up. What we consider as stretching is that as you lengthen the muscle you contract it. This helps – actually it works in the (staging) mechanism. If you can’t contract the muscle as your lengthening it, then that means that there could be substitution or a weakness there. So it’s a staging mechanism that doesn’t allow you to overstretch the muscle. So it actually keeps muscles longer and stronger.
Ben: Okay and for the people listening in, can you go back and explain real quick – what do you mean when you say to lengthen a muscle or to stretch a muscle, how do the muscles actually work in that sense when they’re being stretched or lengthened or contracted?
Anne Tierney: Okay, well most people like when you go to a gym and you lift a weight, what you’re lifting or strength training is a concentric movement. So you’re going to do a bicep curl, you lengthen your arm where the muscle’s long. The bicep will be long. You put 15 pounds, 20 pounds whatever have you weight in your hand and you curl it up and that will be strength training or concentric movement. So we actually think that the stretch is when you lower that weight. The e-centric movement. So it’s actually lengthening the muscle while maintaining contraction. And most philosophies of stretching simply just go for lengthening the muscle, just trying to get it as long as possible and we want to make sure that as you’re trying to get it as long as possible it can still maintain a contraction.
Ben: Okay. So basically the concept behind resistance stretching is that you’re actually contracting that muscle as you lengthen it?
Anne Tierney: Exactly. It’s kind of very – actually very counter-intuitive. It’s not what most people think. Most people think you relax as you stretch or you relax the muscle. But that can lead to injury and overstretched muscles. Whereas if you contract it while you stretch it then it keeps it in a safe range and you won’t overstretch the muscle.
Ben: Okay, is there anywhere that somebody could go to actually see something like this in action? For the visual learners out there.
Anne Tierney: To see something like this in action… we’re actually working on our Web site to develop some… there’s video, etc., but if they want to see a diagram of the muscle lengthening, etc. we’re working on some animation for that, that will be up on the Web site eventually in the future. Right now there’s obviously videos. The hard part is when people see it… like our video that we have with Dara Torres, it looks like the person isn’t doing much work. Just like during the Olympics or any TV show, etc. that we’ve been on – it looks like they’re just lengthening their muscle when actually there’s a contraction going on. It’s a lot more work than what it looks like.
Ben: So let’s say that you were going to stretch my hamstring using resistance stretching, how would that work?
Anne Tierney: Yeah. Well you know, say we’re going to do a hamstring stretch, you’d lie on your back. You’d bend your right knee into your chest if we’re going to do a hamstring. I would first lengthen your leg up to a long position to see what kind of range you have, at the point where it starts to shake or you start to feel a tug, that’s kind of our (inaudible) point. We’d have you kick down. So we’d have you strength train the muscle first to help warm the muscle up, to teach the muscle the movement and then what we’d have you do is keep kicking down so you would keep kicking your heels to your butt and as you kept kicking down, creating that contraction – if I was stretching you, I would then meet the force of you kicking down to lengthen your leg only as far as I could feel you resist. The key with that – because people hear the word “resistance”, they think I should kick down as hard as I can. But really, you just need to kick down at a five or a six out of 10, and you just keep a steady contraction and it’s almost like a magnet – a magnet between your heel and your butt. They want to stay together but I’m the force in between them lengthening your heel away. And that’s kind of how that works.
Ben: If I didn’t have you there to produce the force, could I actually do resistance stretching on myself?
Anne Tierney: Yes, of course. There are phenomenal self stretches. What you do is instead of me producing the force, it would be your own hand. So your own hand would be on your heel. Your heel would be kicking in to your butt and your hands would be meeting the force of your leg. So in this situation, obviously your leg is stronger than your arm, you’d have to regulate it and not resist too hard. But because your arms are working to stretch your legs to get the contraction, your arms are actually going to get stronger. Because you’re working your upper and lower body at the same time, the core is engaged the whole time for stability. So it ends up being a really intense full body workout.
Ben: Gotcha. So when you’re doing resistance stretching, you describe it as a workout. How long would a typical resistance training or resistance stretching session actually take you? Is it like yoga where you can just choose a few moves and do a few moves or do you have an entire program that you go through?
Anne Tierney: Yeah, the great thing about it is you know, it’s portable obviously. All you need is yourself. Or if you’re with a trainer, it depends. Most of our trainers end up doing an hour and a half session because we try to get the upper and lower body as well a technique of massage we call mashing in as well. But sometimes with professional athletes, we’ll work as long as two hours and sometimes we can get a solid workout in with somebody in 30 minutes as well. Or if you’re going to do it on your own, you can pick and choose. I’m going to go boxing today so I’m going to do my chest and my back. I’m going to do some lats, I’m going to do quads. Pick and choose. Or like on our DVD, there are 16 self stretches that can be done, five to seven reps, both strength and search in under 20 minutes. So it’s pretty easy to get… you can make it as long and as hard as you want or you can kind of make it as short and quick as you want.
Ben: And the DVD just walks people through a resistance stretching workout?
Anne Tierney: Exactly. It’s a two DVD set and so on the first one, it’s like you learn the concepts of resistance and e-centric and why this works and balancing muscle groups and some problem solving. Then it goes through in great detail – probably excruciating detail – each stretch. And then on the second disc, it’s just Dara Torres leading you through all 20 stretches in a row basically. Sorry, it’s 16 stretches, 8 legs and then followed by 8 arms.
Ben: Okay, gotcha. I’ll make sure that I put a link to that in the Shownotes to this podcast. Now I know some people are worried about flexibility and the potential for an athlete becoming too flexible and not being able to produce as great a force as they should be able to. Is that an issue with resistance stretching? Getting too flexible?
Anne Tierney: No. That’s actually the benefit of this, is that you can’t overstretch the muscle as long as while you’re lengthening the muscle, you have a contraction, you can’t overstretch it. So, that’s the magical thing – is often times people end up overstretching their muscles and then that leads to pulls or injuries. This is its own spacing mechanism. If you can’t keep a contraction and you try to keep going, you’re going too far and that’s as far as you go. The other thing is it leads to more explosive muscles, and because of e-centric, it basically creates more tears in the muscle than typical weigh training does – so it can actually build stronger muscles as well. And so, it’s those longer and stronger muscles which lead to more explosiveness. It’s been really great for the athletes. We have a lot of triathletes that we work with. They’ve found it to be very beneficial. Not only keeping them not injured but also keeping them improving in their time even as they get older.
Ben: Gotcha. Okay. So could you actually substitute resistance training for a workout? Because the way you described it, it sounds like it’s actually kind of tough on the body if you’re actually giving yourself the resistance and resisting your limbs as you move through space. Do you actually get a workout when you’re doing resistance stretching?
Anne Tierney: You definitely get a workout. I think something that we hear the most is “I can’t believe I’m sweating. Aren’t I supposed to be stretching right now?” So it’s definitely a workout. But you know, our philosophy is we think it’s a great complement to anything you do. So if you like to do yoga, great. Do this with yoga. It will probably get you into some positions that you couldn’t get into before. You like to weight train? Perfect. This helps take that tension out that you just put in your body weight training. You like to run? Good. You’re going to get to run longer, etc. So, could you do this on its own as a workout? Yes. We have people who do that separately, and have I done that for periods of times as experimentation? For sure. But is it the be all, end all? No. I don’t believe that at all. I think that it’s great to have diversity in your workout to strength training, to do other forms of – other modalities of functional training. But it can be a workout, so yeah definitely. You’ll get a burn.
Ben: Gotcha. Now would you want to do this if you were going to do it before a workout or as a supplement to a workout – say a swim session – is it something you’d want to do right before a swim session, earlier in the day, immediately after? When is the best time to do resistance stretching?
Anne Tierney: We have all sorts of different… we kind of base that on people themselves, on individuals and what they like. For me personally, I like to do it before I go work out because then I feel so much better when I’m working out, so I feel like it’s such a better workout. I don’t feel stiff and I don’t feel tight. I’m not thinking “Oh, I’m cramping here.” Other people like to go get their workout in – like Dara for instance, she likes to do all of the other stuff that she’s going to do – swim for two hours, do her functional training, do her dry land, etc. She likes the last thing she does to be getting resistance stretched and mashed because she feels like it takes all the tension out of her body. So the next day she can start refreshed again. Whereas other people, you know, like to do it as soon as they wake up so they’re just fresh for the day or right before they go to bed. So it kind of depends on how you feel. So we like our athletes or anybody we work with to experiment with it. What do they like? And we can adapt it to that. That’s a great thing about it. You can do it before or after or both. And it’s quick and you can do it that way.
Ben: So if somebody isn’t an athlete and they just – let’s say they have whatever – low back pain, they’ve been told they need to improve flexibility – is this something that somebody like that would be able to handle or is this just limited to athletes?
Anne Tierney: No. I would say it’s actually probably 50 or 60% are people who come to us are just regular Joes. They stand a lot. They sit a lot at their jobs or whatever it may be or they have injuries. Tons of back injuries, knee injuries, whatever it may be. This is actually great for it because it’s a way to do it without – it’s a way to kind of get stronger without weight bearing. So we do have an older crowd. We have some clients in their 80s, 90s, etc. because they can do this. They can strengthen their bodies without load bearing. But the great thing about it is there’s a problem solving formula. So a lot of people think that their hamstrings are really tight. They can’t touch their toes, whatever it may be. So what that is is it might not be their hamstrings at all. It could be the balancing or agonist/antagonist muscle groups – their quads, the front of their legs, the hip flexors that are actually in the way. So the reason why this has worked so well is it kind of gives people an answer or a way to problem solve and fix it instead of “Oh your hamstrings are tight? Well just keep holding that position for another 20 minutes and maybe you’ll move a centimeter.” We have an actual formula that says, hey if this muscle doesn’t feel like a good stretch, let’s go try this muscle group, and then when you come back I bet it’ll feel better. And almost 90% of the time, you can get a pretty dramatic change in range of motion by just doing a couple of the other exercises based on how it’s laid out. So that’s a major thing, and the back problems come a lot from hamstrings and hip flexors of course. So, we’ve had a lot of success with the injury angle of it because it’s not weight bearing and it is your own body and you can control it.
Ben: Gotcha. Now I want to ask you one more question and this is kind of the personal trainer in me and this is for the trainers or the instructors who are out there listening. How would something like this be different than like PNF which for those of you listening is propeoceptive neuromuscular facilitation, where you contract and relax a muscle as you’re stretching someone.
Anne Tierney: So with PNF, it’s usually at the very end range. They take you to an end range and they have you contract and then relax and then move you farther. With resistance stretching, you’re actually contracting throughout the entire range of motion. So it’s not just at the end range, it’s through the entire range of motion. The other thing is the problem solving formula that I described, which is something that’s intrinsic in our system as well as we like to stretch in rotational movements as well. So a lot of the stretching is done in linear patterns. And we like to add rotational movements because every muscle has three functions, right? It either flexes of extends, it abducts or it adducts, or it externally or internally rotates. So, to truly stretch a muscle, rehearsing all three of those is crucial. So that’s what we really get into as well – working on rotations – and we kind of think of that as if you have a towel that’s wet, and you squeeze it, you get some water out. But if you squeeze and twist it, you get a lot more water out because you’re grabbing more muscle fibers. So the rotational components of the stretching is huge for us, grabbing more muscle fibers that way.
Ben: Okay, so cool. Alright, so those of you listening in, if you want to hear more, what I’ll do is I’ll put a link to this DVD that Anne talked about on the Shownotes to this podcast and I’ll also put a link to their Body Solutions Web site where you can find out more about what they’re doing and some of the really cool concepts they’ve got in terms of making the body more flexible, more athletic, etc. So, Anne thanks for coming on the call today and explaining this resistance stretching to people.
Anne Tierney: Thank you Ben. I appreciate it.
Ben: Alright, have a great day.
Anne Tierney: Thank you, you too.
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