March 14, 2012
Podcast # 186 from https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2012/03/episode-186-how-liposuction-makes-you-fat/
Introduction: In today’s Podcast, how liposuction makes you fat. Also, dealing with a chronic calf sprain, what is P.A.P training, can you create glycogen from fat and protein, are unsoaked nuts and seeds a problem, the Maffetone vs. the Dominator heart rate zones, distances for long triathlon training sessions and reasons for fat loss resistance.
Brock: Hey everybody, this is Brock welcoming you to another question-filled episode of the BenGreenfieldFitness Podcast where you ask the questions that everybody wants the answers to and here’s the man with all the answers.
Ben: We hope so! We hope you got good questions that we hope even more that we got decent answers.
Brock: We roll the dice every week on that.
Ben: I’m scrunched up in my office chair right now with like two bikes behind me and they’re on trainers but basically the front wheel of my wife’s bike is about two inches from my head right now. So if you hear a bicycle, that’s me thrashing about trying to make a little room for myself. My wife and I are starting to get ready for the triathlon season and so we’ve got our spin bikes setup in my office and we spin in front of her computer which is next to my computer. Do a little Sufferfest and spin-over videos and what-not and so I right now, have bikes literally like right behind me. So, I’m feeling a little crowded.
Brock: Alright, just don’t stick your fingers and moving spooks and you’ll be fine. The only danger I’m in is I just finished off a big snack of blueberries and almonds and that’s a choking hazard. Between the skins of the almonds and the skin of the blueberries I’m….
Ben: I’ve never in my life heard of those being a hazard but good luck with that.
Brock: Okay, so we’ve got some special announcements. I am certain what do you want to tell the people about?
Ben: Articles this week that came out since last week’s podcast at BenGreenfieldFitness.com you may have heard on Friday, the interview with Dr. Marion Nestle about food politics and how the food industry influences your nutrition and your health and food safety. It was an interesting interview. I’ll be at short and so I also posted a more comprehensive and excellent video with Dr. Nestle’s talking more about how food affect our food choices and basically how food politics work. At least here in America and it’s not too much different than the way that they work in other places like U.K. or Australia. They deal with some of the same issues. So we’re taking a look at the video even if you’ll listen to the audio, if you’ve got any extra time, throw that video on. And then I also posted the other day about how to get rid of a magnesium deficiency. Just the ultimate guide on how to know if you’re deficient and what to do about it in terms of transdermal and oral magnesium therapy and why you want to do it and how to do it.
Brock: That’s awesome. Just celebrate that host I’ve spent the last couple of days slathered in magnesium oil or maybe not slathered in it but the back of my knees, back of my elbows, my neck, and shoulders.
Ben: Right! Been slathered in magnesium oil, choking on blueberry and almond skins, its good visual.
Brock: This is spring inCanada.
Ben: So for people listening in on the day that this podcast comes out tomorrow which is Thursday, March 15th at noon Pacific Time, is the Eating for Endurance webinar that I’m teaching. I will put a link to that in the show notes. It’ll be about an hour long and I’ll be kind of going on everything over everything you need to know for preparing for long distance events. Nutritionalize and what to eat before during that and I’ll also be going over physiology quite a bit, kind of like the Physiology of Nutrition 101. So what else? Brock, I found out this week, is going to be joining us, him and his girlfriend. They’re going to be joining us for the Thailand Adventure coming up this winter. I think we’ve got eight people right now signed up for that adventure. So folks, there are four slots left if you want to get in on this thing. We’re going to be doing two triathlons in Thailand. This is at the end of November or beginning of December. We’re gonna be like visiting a few islands over there hanging out, eating food, shopping, partying, just having a lot of fun. If you want to come along on that trip and get in on it then go to the show notes for this podcast, podcast number 186 and we got a link right there in the show notes. You can get in on the Thailand Adventure which you want to start planning for now in terms of plane flights and jazz. There’s one other thing that I wanted to mention. By the way Brock, are you working on your Thai language speaking skills?
Brock: I haven’t yet but I’m gonna learn at least please and thank you. I assume you’ve been there a few times so you probably have it down.
Ben: I have.
Ben: So your business, if you’re listening and you got a business, you want to get some big exposure for your business, I talked to my editor over at McMillan Publishing the other day and they want like a title sponsor for my next book and this thing is going to be huge. Rolling out an enormous launch and they are really honestly kind of low-balling in terms of the actual price that they’ll take for a sponsor to get tons of banner ads on the site podcast announcements, premium news letter placements, a ton of stuff. One of the better deals in advertising. Actually I thought about approaching them to advertise myself but I think there’ll be a conflict of interest there. So, if you got like a business and a fitness or nutrition sector this is one of the best opportunities I’ve ever seen in terms of getting literally like tens of thousands of eyeballs a day on your product and I will put the sponsor sheet, the sponsor perk sheet as a link in the show notes so you can check it out but huge opportunity if you got a nutrition or fitness business and you want to kind of be the title sponsor of my next book, really big amount of traffic you’ll get. So that’s it for the special announcements.
Brock: So things have been tearing up and lighting up and flashing up at the GooglePlus for the last couple of months actually but what do you want to highlight from there for us today?
Ben: Well, Google+ is kind of like the mini blog version of BenGreenfieldFitness. A few articles that came out there and we’ll put a link to any of these in the show notes if you want to find out more. One was about carob as an alternative to chocolate. Tastes a little bit different, it’s interesting though just the fact that it’s brown, I think makes it taste more like chocolate but it’s got a lot of good minerals in it, iron, vitamin B, magnesium. It’s a good source of fiber. It’s got a little bit of protein in there. Ton of anti-oxidants and polyphenols. So it’s a very kind of like non-acidic alkaline food and great healthy alternative to chocolate and we went in to have a post about carob over at the BenGreenfieldFitness Google+ page. So, the other things that came across this week on that page that were of interest was a look at injury rates among triathletes and what they found was that people like Ironman triathletes over distance triathletes and a lot of them listen to this show. Most common injuries are low back, Achilles and knees and then for like shorter distance athletes like sprint or Olympic-distance triathletes. Also, knees were huge site where injuries occur but also the calves, the hamstrings and the low back and interestingly, there was no association between cross training and reduction of risk injury or risk of injury simply because there was just so much overtraining going on in these triathletes that they studied. But it was interesting. The difference between the two groups of triathletes as far as the areas that were injured and they suggested that the enormous amount of Achilles tendon injury occurrence basically seem to be highly correlated to the amount to which the athletes did hill repeats and also did not stretch before cycling. So interesting study and I think it’s worth looking into.
Brock: Did the risks go up the more hills you did or did the risks go down the more hills you did as far as the Achilles?
Ben: Just based off of the shortening of that tendon as you’re running up.
Brock: So, it’s really like most of the evidence is just based on overuse or repetitive.
Ben: Yeah and we’ll talk about that type of stuff a little bit in some of today’s podcast questions about how to get away with training less and getting injured less. And then finally, last thing that I thought was interesting in terms of posts this week over at BenGreenfieldFitness Google+ page was just some advice about why running at a cadence of about 90 works when you’re running in terms of minimizing your risk of injury and decreasing the amount of ground reaction force that you have to absorb and dissipate and how to do it. So we’ll put a link to Google+ over in the News Flash section of this week’s show notes at BenGreenfieldFitness.com.
Brock: I just wanted to start singing I am Ironman, that’s 90 beats per minute that song. Have you sing that in your head and just run to it, it’s perfect. Nice.
Listener Q and A:
Brock: Alright, so our first question is an audio question and it comes from Jennifer.
Jennifer: This is Jennifer fromPortland. I have been following your advice pretty closely for about a year now. As far as eating and exercise, I’ve done Marathon Dominator and PR twice on both of my marathons last year. So, I loved that. My problem is that I still have this fat on my side and stomach that I cannot get rid of. I would say I’m definitely at a good weight. It’s just something that bothers me and it’s maybe not completely on slightly anybody else but I’ve had two pregnancies. One of which was twins and it’s just a stubborn area and I haven’t been able learn and follow your advice in eating. I think I’ve looked at everything on your website about fat loss and none of it’s worked at this point. So I run about five days a week and I weight lift twice a week and stay away from processed foods and wheat and all fats. So, I was just wondering, I saw a plastic surgeon who suggested liposuction and I want to see what your take is on that whether or not that is a last resort or if maybe you think there is a last or another resort that I haven’t resorted to yet. I have fears that liposuction can cause a lot of loose skin or the fat may be stored somewhere else. I’ve heard horror stories from people. Just wondering what your take is on. Is there ever a time when plastic surgery kind of is the last resort?
Brock: Oh liposuction, vacuuming out your guts.
Ben: Yeah, I like a good liposuction every now and then. But seriously with liposuction, it’s really important that you understand that removing adipose tissue in that way, which is not obviously physiologically a natural way to remove adipose tissue has some consequences. So they’ve done studies, first of all, on people who have gotten liposuction. So there was one study that was I believe, published back in 2004 and that looked at the health effects of liposuction in a group of women and what they did was they removed a bunch of the subcutaneous adipose fat in the abdominal region. Very large amounts of fat but what they found was at 12 weeks post-surgery, that all of the women who received liposuction did not show significant improvements in any of the things that tend to be highly associated with obesity and overweight like insulin-sensitivity which is a pre-cursor to diabetes. Blood pressure, blood glucose levels, insulin levels, circulating fat levels and these parameters actually were all of the bad things basically went up after 12 weeks and none of the risks of disease went down. So it was almost sucking out a bunch of fat tissue somehow made these folks less healthy. And there was another study that looked at basically a group of folks that, again got liposuction and didn’t really make any lifestyle changes after liposuction and they had their body fatness measured throughout the course of a year after receiving the liposuction. And what happen was that obviously shortly after the liposuction, the liposuction group was much leaner than the control group that didn’t receive liposuction and after about six months, that difference was a lot less and after one year, there was no statistically significant difference in the weight of the liposuction group versus the control group and furthermore, the liposuction group actually had regained fat in the area where fat tends to be the most highly correlated with health issues and that’s in the visceral fat region in the abdominal fat region. So, that again was pretty serious issues that not only may liposuction increase your risk for chronic disease but also appears to be fairly non-efficacious in terms of keeping weight off. And when you do put weight back on, it tends to be in an area that’s even more prone to causing issues in terms of metabolic issues than where you got the fat taken off in the first place like you can take it off of your thighs but it ends up back in your abdominal region which is not a good thing. That’s even the worst place to have fat. There was another study that came out recently, that was in April of last year and what that looked at was a group of women that received liposuction in their hip and lower ab and their thigh regions and those were compared to a control group of women at a similar body fat percentage who didn’t get liposuction. And the interesting thing about this was that the amount of visceral fat that wound up again, getting redistributed into the abdominal regions of the women who had liposuction was much higher or extremely high. It was like 13% of the fat had been regained in that region and it’s really concerning to me the metabolic damage and the redistribution of fat that liposuction can cause. And there is really a reason that occurs and it has to do with adipose tissue and fat cells having a really important physiological role in controlling your free fatty acid levels and your triglyceride levels. They also produce many hormones that are necessary for your normal metabolic processes. One of the hormones produced by adipose tissue is called leptin and leptin is basically a hormone that can act on the receptors in what’s called the hypothalamus region of your brain and it inhibits appetite. So when you have good levels of leptin circulating and you’re sensitive of that leptin and your cell surface receptors are able to interact with leptin then you’re able to control your appetite much better. So leptin is essentially like an appetite suppressant and the absence of leptin or the absence of leptin receptors or insensitivity to leptin can lead to uncontrolled food intake and is associated with obesity. So, when you remove adipose tissues, you remove a lot of that leptin signaling. You can also remove a lot of the effects of insulin sensitivity and the ability to produce insulin effectively when you remove adipose tissue just again based on hormonal signaling. And so when you take all of the adipose tissue out, you suddenly affect your appetite significantly and specifically, you can potentially decrease your ability to control your appetite. The other thing you have to understand about adipose tissue is that it is a storage mechanism. It’s the body’s primary storage mechanism. So when you’ve got high levels of circulating blood glucose and blood sugar from a meal and you have high circulating fatty acids from a meal, the way that you store that type of thing is in adipose tissue and in your adipose sites. And so when you don’t have a storage mechanism for that tissue, you get things like high blood sugar and high cholesterol in association with that high blood sugar which means you got higher propensity for like oxidized blood cholesterol and heart disease risk and you get a lot of metabolic disregulation basically because your body has had the natural storage mechanism kind of artificially removed. Now interestingly, when you take somebody who has an actual disease where they lose their fat cells not through liposuction but through, it’s called lipodystrophy where it’s actually a disease where there’s an abnormal death of fat cells. These people similar to what you observe in liposuction, they get metabolic disease, and they get like visceral fat formation like forming in the deep abdominals which is the most risky place to get fat. Fatty liver disease from the high amounts of triglycerides and fatty acids circulating in the bloodstream because they’ve got nowhere to go. Diabetes and all these metabolic issues and you can control this somewhat interestingly by actually injecting these folks with leptin which is one the super important hormones that’s made by fat tissue that can help to control some of these processes but they’re still in deep dodo from this loss of adipose tissues, this kind of non-natural loss of adipose tissue. What it comes down to is that the best way to get rid of adipose tissue is to put the body into a state where it’s naturally relying upon the fat stored in the adipose tissue as an energy source and that does mean that you’re going to be controlling calories and exercising as simple and as non-sexy a solution as that sounds. It is in almost every case, going to be far more effective than liposuction and far safer from a metabolic perspective because once again, this comes down to fat percentage and body weight not being the only parameter that influences your overall health and your longevity. So in this case, liposuction is more likely to make you sick and fat than it is to make you skinny and kind of whistling merrily long for the rest of your life.
Brock: So, Jennifer mentioned in her question that she feels like she’s had a good body weight and she has been following your advice really well but she does so have this abdominal, I can’t remember. She said her sides and her stomach.
Brock: What would you suggest that maybe she just needs to go a little harder or maybe needs to reevaluate her goals?
Ben: Well first of all, and this is something that when I was working with anywhere from eight to twelve clients a day as a personal trainer every day of the week, this is probably the question I got most often. Why am I not skinny and lean like I should be from all this work that I’ve been doing? And my initial response to that, as insensitive as it may sound, was how long did it take you to put this on? I mean, you in many cases, if you’ve started a lifestyle of relative inactivity combined with unhealthy eating when you were 15 years old and 25, that’s ten years of putting adipose tissue and training your body how to store fat. You can’t take it off necessarily with two years of hard work. Sometimes it can take just as long to take it off as it did to put it on and that’s just the way that the world works. So later on, because I know we have another question about kind of like how to get rid of that last little bit of fat although into more of the reasons that you might not be losing that fat as quickly as you possibly could but liposuction would definitely not be the best solution in this case.
Brock: Yeah! I think you made that abundantly clear if anybody had any question in their mind, don’t do it.
Ben: All the people listening to this podcast who are driving to your liposuction appointment, you can turn around.
Brock: Yeah, just pull over. Weep in the backseat for a while and go home. Alright, I think we should move on to the next question here and it’s another audio question from Jake.
Jake: Hi Ben and Brock, this is Jake from Philly. I’m 15 weeks now out from Ironman Coeur d’ Alene and have an injury I’m trying to get over. I’ve got chronic calf sprains that I’ve had since about October. I’ve tried a couple different things. I’ve taken a month completely off from running. I’ve tried some hill tops in my shoes. Some things that I’ve heard that I haven’t tried yet are putting cork lifts in the shoes as well as possibly compartment syndrome which I read a little bit about and doesn’t sound good. You should know that I’m running the new shoes. I did change last May from the Brooks Adrenaline to Brooks ST5 Race or so a more low-profile shoe but I’ve been running about five months before I had any issues. I’m currently seeing an ART doctor but that doesn’t seem to be going in a good direction so I’m wondering what else it could be or what else my options are and my other question is saying that I’m 15 weeks out from Ironman Coeur d’ Alene, at what point would you, as a coach, say your x weeks out from this race, you haven’t run from x weeks and you just can’t adequately for a race?
Brock: 15 weeks out from Ironman, is it too late?
Ben: No, it’s not too late. I think it was pro-triathlete Terenzo Bozzone, a pretty good New Zealand athlete and he had I believe a chronic Achilles issue and there was one race, it was either last year or the year before where he didn’t run at all and it was for like five or six weeks or something like that before the race. I was reading about this somewhere. I’m sorry to crypt it but it’s one of those things where I just don’t know where I saw it and he ran freaking fast a half marathon during the 70.3 with some very little running. I had a similar issue when I raced the Triathlon World Championships several years ago. I had an IT Band friction syndrome issue. I used some of the strategies that I’ll outline here in a second and very little running. I didn’t run super fast but I hit like a 126 or something like that during that event and again, that was with minimal running due to an injury that just kind of took me out of the game leading up to the race. So first of all, when we look at D training and they kind of use it or lose it type of principle, it’s really like beginning athletes and people who are new to exercising that will lose nearly all of their aerobic gains if they quit exercising. So if you’ve only been working out for a few months, in this case like the study that was done on folks to look at how fast you lose aerobic gains, they had people knew exercisers do a fitness program for two months or eight weeks and they made dramatic cardiovascular improvements. They boosted their aerobic capacity and then they just had them quit exercising for eight weeks and when they came back, there was nothing left at all. You take the same folks and you do that same protocol to fit individuals, fit athletes, somebody like Jake and an Ironman triathlete and you tell them to stop exercising entirely, completely and after three months, you only lose half of your aerobic condition. So you’ve got a lot of advantages just by being a fit person who’s done something like an Ironman Triathlon before in terms of slowing down that loss of fitness. Now when you are ill, when you are injured and you basically are able to work out less, there certainly are strategies that you can use. Will get in to calf specific strategy in a second but in most cases, intensity is going to trump volume when you’re injured. Short high intensity exercise is going to cause really good aerobic adaptation. We talked about this last week literally about how a one to four relationship. Meaning that for every hour of high volume aerobic exercise that you’d do, you can get away with about 15 minutes of like high intensity interval training instead. So you’re going to want to take any of your cross training that you’re doing as an alternative to running and you’re going to want to make sure that you do it in a fairly intense manner. Now the number one activity that I have personally used and I’ve found in the athletes that I coach to be the best thing for maintaining fitness when you’ve got a lower body injury like this and you have an event coming up is water running, without a doubt. I’m talking about deep water running where you can’t touch the bottom of the pool so there’s no ground reaction forces going on and you want to do the high intensity version of water running.
Brock: So is that the one with the floatation device or without?
Ben: I like to use a floatation device, meaning a floatation belt, because it allows you to focus more on pumping your arms and your legs unless on just like trying to manipulate your body in a manner that allows you to stay afloat. So you can go for longer and get better work for the legs done when you’re wearing one of these aqua floatation belts. A lot of pools have them and you can also go to any local sporting goods store and get one. You can get water running shoes and the advantage of those is that they’ve got little fins on them that increase resistance. S,o I recommend getting a pair of those if you want to be able to boost your heart rate even higher and get a little bit more bang for your buck out of high intensity intervals. Underwater MP3 player is my thing.
Ben: Because water running is just freaking boring.
Brock: So boring!
Ben: It’s more boring than running on a treadmill, I think but sample workout for something like training for a marathon. Sample workout for water running would be first of all, to do it in a pre-fatigued state because you’re already shorting yourself on volume for training for something like a marathon. You’d want to have done like your cycling already earlier in the day or the day before or you’re weight training or whatever else you’re doing so that you’re really not running super fresh so you’re simulating the way that you’re going to feel when you get off the bike in Ironman anyways. And then you’re going to do primarily higher intensity efforts which work really well with running because running is an isokinetic activity meaning that the harder you push against the water, the harder it’s going to push back against you. So the harder you sprint, the more efficacious a workout like that is going to be. What you can do is get in the water, you can warm up by jogging for about five to ten minutes and you’re going to want to lean slightly forward, you’re going to want to maintain a nice high cadence and once you’ve warmed up and you’re kind of breathing hard, one of my favorite things to do is just like 20 sprint repeats. So about half the length of the pool because most of the pools I swim in, they start off shallow and then get deeper as you swim. So you start at about the point in the pool where you can’t touch bottom and then you sprint to the end of the pool and then your recovery is you turn around and jogging back. It’ll take you about 20 to 30 seconds to sprint to the end of the pool. It’ll take you about 50 to 60 seconds to kind of jog nice and easy back. Workout like that, 20 repeats, is going to kick your butt I guarantee and give you a big fitness boost when it comes to run specific training. In addition to water running, elliptical trainer is kind of another solution. Sometimes that’s phase two where the calf has really started to heal and now you can put a little bit more stress on it. But elliptical trainer is another great alternative and you can even combine the two. You can do an elliptical trainer workout and a water running workout as an alternative to doing your 15 to 20-mile run prep workout that you can’t do because it’s putting too much stress on the calf. So hopefully that gives you so much ideas in terms of ways to stay fit and we should also of course address the calf itself and why you keep straining it and what the issue might be. Number one issue I see with calf is its overpronation. Faulty biomechanics making your foot roll inwards, putting a bunch of excessive pressure on the calf muscles and that can be addressed to the shoes. It sounds like you were changing up your shoes a little bit already but I would look at getting a biomechanical video analysis at your local physical therapist or your local friendly running store and look at yourself run in from the back, watch your foot in slow-mo, see how much you’re rolling over from foot strike to basically toe off and how much you’re rolling over to the inside of the foot. How much you’re rolling inwards after the foot strikes and if it’s excessive. There are a few things that should be addressed and it can start with the shoes and maybe even looking into getting your foot casted and getting a custom orthotic. I actually uploaded a video to Youtube.com/BenGreenfieldFitness page about this yesterday, about running orthotics and how to get your foot custom-casted to get running orthotics that are better built for your style. But in addition to orthotics, you can go up your kinetic chain and look at things like your hip mobility. That’s a big one when it comes to something higher up in your body affecting overpronation. The movement of your sacroiliac joint in your lower back / hip region, the amount of tightness in your IT band causing lack of hip mobility or potential for lack of knee mobility which can affect the pronation of the foot and even the strength of the hip flexors, the ability of yourself to actually pick the leg up off the ground. Weak hip flexors or chronically-shortened hip flexors from spending long periods of time sitting can both also aggravate overpronation. So those are things that could’ve caused this issue in the first place and remember that as you train, the body can change. Like you cannot change anything, you can just start riding your bike more and the act of riding your bike more and spending a bunch of time spent hunched over on your bike can lead to immobility in the hip which can lead to overpronation when you’re running which can lead to repetitive calf strain that wasn’t really caused by you changing much at all with your running program. So understand that there are lots of variables at play here. So we talked about what might cause a repetitive calf strain like this. We’ve talked about ways that you might be able to stay fit and you certainly can, at your point 15 weeks out, you could go all the way up to four weeks from Ironman just doing like elliptical trainer and aqua jogging and you’d still be okay but the last thing is things are going to speed up healing. I talk so much about supplements and stuff on this show and about alternative methods to heal but I’ll talk about the two biggest things I would look into if I had a calf strain, the two things that I would consider most. One would be pulsed electromagnetic field therapy, it’s called PEMF. So PEMF basically uses electrical energy to direct these magnetic pulses into injured tissue and that magnetic pulse sends this little electrical signal that can stimulate or speed up cell repair and it can also suppress inflammation, it can alleviate pain, it can increase range of motion. So I would recommend that you look into finding like a local physician like rehabilitative physician or even like an alternative medical clinic, anything like that that has access to a pulsed electromagnetic field therapy in it and I would do some PEMF treatments on the calf, I would certainly look into that. The other thing that I would consider and it’s going to depend on the location of the calf strain but I would consider prolotherapy. Then prolotherapy is a treatment where you inject what’s called a proliferant which is something that makes something grow or expand. Typically, it’s something like a sugar solution or solution of like vitamins and some other compounds that gets injected into the site. Usually this is going to be, if it’s an area that’s a little bit closer to bones so this should probably be like lower down if your calf strain is a little bit lower or if it’s potentially near the knee and when you inject a natural substance into the soft tissue, it can trigger a healing response. And for example, the physician who’s been on this show before down in Florida, Dr. David Minkoff, these are two methods that I know he uses quite a bit with the athletes that he works with to take care of chronic repetitive motion injuries and repetitive strain injuries and that guy really knows what he’s talking about, what he’s doing and he’s done like 40 Ironman triathlons and he knows the game. He’s a fan of these and I would definitely recommend that you look into these potential treatments as well. So that’s what I would say to Jake in terms of where to start and I would certainly say that at this point, definitely stay in the game but just quit running, period. Don’t try to fight this with heal cups and other stuff. I would just stop running because if it’s just like a grade one calf strain and it just keeps getting tripped up from you running on it, it’s going to heal within anywhere from about four to six weeks and that still leaves you with another good like ten weeks to train.
Brock: Awesome! Well there you go Jake, get out there and kick some butt. Alright, our next question comes from Eric.
Eric: I’ve been hearing a lot about P.A.P. training and was hoping you could help define what it is and how it may help endurance athletes.
Ben: P.A.P. training, yes. So PAP or P.A.P., that stands for Post Activation Potentiation. So basically in a nutshell, what it means is you lift something really heavy and then you go do whatever it was that you were going to do and that heavy lifting that you did helps you to use more muscle okay, that’s the basic idea behind it. So the underlying principle behind this is that when you load a muscle prior to an activity, you can get a bunch of central nervous system stimulation that causes you to recruit more motor units at the muscle level and produce more force and that effect can stay with you based on research from anywhere from five minutes up to thirty minutes after you’ve lifted the heavy object or produced the activity that causes you to recruit more motor units and produce a higher amount of force. So the way that this probably works, there’s a couple of ways that it could work but the way that it probably works is that when you lift the heavy object, you get more of what’s called phosphorylation or addition of phosphate to one part of one fiber that moves along the muscle during a contraction. That’s your myosin fiber and what happens is this allows for more of actin, the other fiber, the other protein that’s involved in muscle contraction to bind to this myosin. So you’re using more of your muscle fibers and when you get a bunch of calcium ions released which is what happens when your nerves send a signal to your muscle to contract, the more phosphorylation that’s occurred on the muscle fiber level, the more the muscle can respond to that calcium fiber release by producing a greater amount of force. So, you essentially are changing up the physiology of your muscle by increasing what’s called phosphorylation when you lift a heavy object prior to engaging in something like a sprint or an explosive jump or something like that. There may also be a little bit of an excitation of the spinal reflex. Meaning that your spine sends a signal to your muscle via your muscle nerves to fire and by lifting something heavy, it may produce basically a reflex reaction that causes your spine to either inhibit the muscle less or cause a more excitatory signal to be sent to the muscle. So either way, ultimately, who cares how it happens but it works.
Brock: That’s pretty interesting.
Ben: With explosive athletes, this works really well. So it’s just based off the percentage of fast switch muscle fibers. Fast switch muscle fibers respond really well to this phosphorylation. They respond really well to a heavy loading prior to doing something like engaging in a maximum vertical jump or a sprint. So how this would flesh itself out would mean that you’d do like a few reps of heavy squat about 15 minutes before you’re going to do a sprint or a ski jump or a boxing match or something that’s requiring a high amount of explosive force and that pre-conditioning load is basically used to prepare you for that activity. That’s where you would use Post Activation Potentiation kind of a more practical level. With slow twitch athletes, this doesn’t work quite well like a triathlete or an endurance athlete because Post Activation Potentiation is again more effective with fast switch muscle. They actually have done a study on this with triathletes though and what they have them do is isometric contraction of the elbows and the ankles and so that means that they would just like squeeze for five seconds as hard as possible the elbow muscles or the ankle muscles depending on which effect they were training and what they found was that there was a Post Activation Potentiation effect and it could slightly enhance endurance performance by offsetting fatigue but it only happens in the muscle groups that you did the Post Activation Potentiation for. So technically what this means is that it’s possible that like prior to a swim like contracting your muscles really hard for five seconds and then releasing them and then contracting them again and then releasing them and doing that a handful of times before you head out for like the swim and a triathlon could help you swim faster or doing that same thing except doing it like a few squat jumps before a 5k or a 10k or even just like maximally contracting your calves or maximally contracting your quads. That may also allow for a little Post Activation Potentiation effect. It’s just that research in terms of actual and total time to fatigue or how much it’s going to help you is a little bit scarce but it might have an effect and with weight training this stuff’s really fun because you can basically pair like a heavy exercise with an explosive exercise and this is called complex training and I do some of this where you for example, can go to a set of barbell squats in the gym and use a fairly heavy weight that’s causing a good maximum contraction and then you follow that up with a plyometric exercise like a depth jump or jumping up onto the box or a single-leg hop and you’ll be able to recruit more muscles and create more explosiveness with the exercise that you do after you’ve done the heavy lifting. And the cool thing about that is that, that has a direct performance effect because essentially what you’re doing is the same thing you should be doing if you like to creatine before you go workout. Creatine phosphate which in a similar manner, allows for a greater phosphorylation in your muscles. What you’re doing is you’re allowing yourself to do maybe a couple extra reps or you’re allowing yourself to produce more force with the reps that you do and so there’s a training effect when you finally do end up going out and doing your event that you’re training for. So for example, if you do a set of heavy squats and then you go do a set of plyometrics and you’re able to produce more explosiveness from the plyometrics because you did the heavy squats beforehand, then the increase explosiveness that you’re able to produce from the plyometrics may help you with that 5k that you’re training for two weeks later. So there certainly is some benefit to Post Activation Potentiation. I think the greater amount of the benefit is going to come from using this in your training sessions more than it’s going to come from like doing an isometric contraction as you’re standing on the starting line of an event but ultimately it’s cool stuff.
Brock: Yeah it is, that’s a very cool stuff and I’ve heard of that before. That sounds kind of cool. I wonder if my coach might add some of that stuff into my training plan.
Ben: You are going to see that as you’re getting into the plyometric phase. Basically there are some workouts that I prescribed. By the way, for those of you listening in, I’m Brock’s coach.
Brock: It wasn’t obvious.
Ben: It wasn’t clear. So you’ll find that you’ll be hitting the weight room a few times for some plyometric sessions that actually use this principle. I generally work those in about four to eight weeks prior to the race.
Brock: Very cool. Okay, our next question comes from Andrei.
Andrei: I keep hearing about how after a workout you have to eat to replenish the glycogen storage. Also, during a long training run or a race, you have to ingest carbs to top your glycogen storage. My question is if you can do this with fat or protein instead of carbs. Can I just eat fat and protein after a workout to restore my glycogen levels? How about during a workout?
Ben: That’s a good question. Can fats or protein be turned into glycogen for muscle and just to connect the dots here, glycogen is basically a bunch of glucose molecules that are connected together in this branch that forms like this branchy type of starch and that is the form of storage carbohydrate that you’re going to find. For example, in your body’s liver or in your muscles and when your blood glucose levels are low and you don’t have large amounts of dietary carbohydrate coming in while you’re performing an activity that relies on carbohydrate as a fuel, your body mobilizes this glycogen. It breaks it down, it’s released into the body where it is basically found as blood glucose and that blood glucose gets turned into energy for ATP. So, if you look at fat molecules or lipids, those can be basically turned into glucose. So that’s called gluconeogenesis. When you take fat and you turn it into glucose or you take protein and you turn it into glucose and the way that it happens with fats is that fats can be broken down to form a molecule that’s called glycerol and through a series of biochemical reactions, glycerol can get converted into glucose molecules and the issue is it’s very unlikely that those glucose molecules are going to be used for glycogen synthesis or stored away and the reason for that is that glycogen is typically made when blood glucose levels are high and carbohydrate energy is in abundant since that when you have an excess of glucose in the body, the amount of glucose in the liver goes up and that triggers glycogen synthesis in the liver and also glycogen getting transported to skeletal muscle to boost the energy reserves in skeletal muscle. But the conditions under which fat would be turned into glycogen are quite different to the conditions under which like dietary carbohydrate would be converted into glycogen. Typically when you’re storing away energy, it’s because you have an energy excess coming in. So this is why we carbohydrate load the week before we do something like a triathlon or an endurance event because we’re giving the body energy excess and it’s taking that energy and converting it into storage energy that we can rely on upon a later date but when you are consuming fats, typically your blood glucose levels are somewhat lower and there’s less of a signal to your body that it needs to store away glycogen or store away energy and in an ideal scenario, if you’re eating a high fat diet, it’s not in energy excess because at that point the high fat diet isn’t really doing you much good. You’re just going to make yourself fat. So what this comes down to is that the conditions under which you would be able to take the glucose that you make from fat and convert it into glycogen are not conditions that you’d normally be in. So that’d be a really inefficient way to make storage energy. In this case, carbohydrates would just be a better more efficient way to go. What you want to do is make muscle glycogen or make liver glycogen. Protein can also get converted into glucose in the body. Protein is basically very similar to carbohydrate except it has a nitrogen group on it and so when you deaminate protein or you remove that nitrogenous part, protein can be easily converted into glucose and theoretically, that too can be stored away as glycogen but by using protein as your method of making storage carbohydrate, you’re causing a bunch of nitrogen to be released and so the metabolic effects of like a high protein low carbohydrate diet can put you at risk in a lot of these issues that happen when you’re creating a lot of nitrogen and getting a lot of the byproducts of protein release. For example, you’ve got a lot greater like calcium excretion and so you have a higher risk of kidney stones. You can basically increase your risk of renal insufficiency just because of all the nitrogenous byproducts that have to be broken down or removed from metabolizing protein as your primary energy source. And even though you could technically get as much glucose as you actually need from proteins and fats, it’s just biochemically not the best way to be like storing away storage glycogen. So when it comes to replenishing your body’s carbohydrate stores post-exercise so that you can have carbohydrates to rely on for the next exercise session, from a biochemical standpoint in the way that your body works, just eating carbohydrates post-exercise is the best most efficient way to do that. Fats don’t get converted to glycogen very efficiently because when you’re consuming fats usually it would be because carbohydrates are not present and blood glucose is low and proteins get converted into glycogen a little bit more efficiently or could get converted into glycogen a lot more efficiently but then you’re having to deal with all the nitrogen build-up that happens when you’re using that as your strategy. So I see absolutely no reason that you would want to basically build muscle storage from proteins or fats instead from carbohydrates unless you somehow been convinced that a low carbohydrate diet is the best way to go even post-exercise and post-exercise is one of the times when it’s not the best way to go just because you’re insulin sensitive and the carbohydrate is not going to cause the same issues that it would when you’re in a state of inactivity. So ultimately have your carbohydrates after the workout. Rely on primarily fats and moderate amounts of protein during the times that you’re not in your workout state and that’s the best way to go.
Brock: He did also ask about doing the same thing during a workout and I think your answer kind of fills in that information as well. It’s not an efficient way to go.
Ben: Well, if you’re working out in a low intensity manner, then you can burn free fatty acids as a fuel and you can also metabolize amino acids from protein as a fuel but you’re not eating the fats and proteins to make storage muscle glycogen, you’re eating them to directly metabolize them. So yeah, you can eat them during a workout but it’s not so that you store away muscle glycogen. If you want to store away muscle glycogen during a workout, eat carbohydrates.
Brock: Exactly, yeah. Alright, excellent! Well, next question comes from Hosanna.
Hosanna: To what degree do eating unsoaked nuts and seeds affect the bioavailability of nutrients? I was eating a dried fruit and nut and seed mix daily as a significant portion of my diet until I read to limit intake substantially on the paleo diet lifestyle website.
Ben: Yeah, that’s because of phytates. So phytic acid is something you’re going to find in beans and seeds and nuts and grains. Usually you’re going to find it in like the bran or the outer hole and what that phytic does is it’s where the grain has phosphorus locked up in it, the mineral phosphorus, and the way that phytic acid molecule is built is it’s got all these little branches or these little arms that come off it and at the end of each of those arms is basically a hydroxy endpoint in oxygen and hydrogen molecule stuck together and that tends to attract a lot of minerals, all of those little end chains in phytic acid. So you got phosphorus bound up inside the phytic acid and when you consume these foods with a bunch of phytic acids, what happens is a lot of minerals tend to bind to the phytic acid. So you don’t get like zinc and magnesium and all these other minerals well absorbed from your diet when you’re eating foods that are high in phytic acids. Seeds and bran are the highest source of phytates. You’re also going to find phytates in like coco beans and chocolate and coffee beans but really like seeds and bran, beans, seeds, nuts and grains are going to be the highest sources of phytates and a high phytates diet because of the way phytates is built, can result in mineral deficiencies and you’ll see this in populations where cereal grains are providing a major source of calories. Studies have shown that mineral deficiency-related diseases like rickets and osteoporosis are fairly common and in folks who are looking for a higher performance lifestyle, the fact that minerals are in the interval part of most of the metabolic reactions that take place within your body should give you cause for concern if you have a lot of phytates in your diet. So there are things that you can do of course, to make phytic acid digestible or to cause it to cause less mineral blocking or blocking mineral absorption. So there’s an enzyme called phytase and phytase is what neutralizes phytic acid, opens it up and it liberates that phosphorus mineral that’s inside the phytic acid and you’re going to find phytase in plant foods that contain phytic acid. They just naturally are found in plant foods. You’re also going to find higher levels of phytase in animals that rely on grains. Their bodies naturally produce this phytase enzyme that breaks down phytic acid. So you’ll find a lot of phytase in like a ruminant animal like a cow or a sheep or a goat because they’re grazing on grains and grasses and seeds and they got to have this phytase so that all these grains and grasses and seeds aren’t stripping the minerals from these animals’ bodies. Even mice, they produce like 30 times more phytase than humans and mice are grabbing seeds and nuts and things like that of the ground all the time. So they need to be able to break down that phytic acid. Humans don’t produce a ton of phytase. If you got a really good level of probiotics and a lot of good fluorine in your stomach, that’s going to produce some phytase. That certainly helps out a little bit with you being able to digest foods that have a lot of phytic acid in them but humans generally need to do other things to the food to activate the phytase enzyme in the food and reduce the phytic acid in the food and there are things you can do. So for example, when you soak a grain or you soak a flower in an acid medium at a warm temperature that activates phytase. That’s why sourdough bread is one of the breads that I will consume because a lot of that phytic acid has been reduced or eliminated. You’re going to find that soaking and sprouting and germinating can in most cases for most grains, help out quite a bit and as far as the actual percentage to which you’re going to increase the mineral availability and decrease the activity of the phytates, it really depends based on the grain. So kimwa is going to be different than oats is going to be different than grains, etc. but it’s extremely significant, the amount to which soaking and sprouting and germinating can activate the natural phytase enzymes in seeds and grains and nuts and grasses and cause you to be able to digest that phytic acid-containing food. There are some treatment processes that actually can completely destroy the natural phytase that is found in a grain and one of those methods is heat processing which you’re going to find in pretty much every breakfast cereal that’s out there on the market and so there are some foods that are simply impossible for you to eat without getting tons of phytic acid and like cereals are one of those like commercially-produced cereals. You can take the same ingredients that are in those cereals and you could soak them and you could sprout them and you could germinate them and these are a lot of the things that my wife and I teach inside the Ben Greenfield Fitness inner circle. We make videos and put information forms on the forum. Basically, we teach folks how to make this food digestible but yeah, there are some foods where you just can’t eat them because you can’t treat them that way and that would be like breakfast cereals. Now the other interesting thing is that they have found in studies that a higher amount of calcium consumption can actually help out quite a bit when you are consuming large amounts of grains or seeds or grasses. That maybe a lot of times why you’ll find in agriculture that the consumption or the production of cheeses and yogurts and milks and preferably raw, natural dairy compounds can actually decrease a lot of the damage that consuming something like a high phytic acid-containing food would normally cause. So that’s why it’d be okay to have a piece of fermented sourdough bread with some raw milk cheese and some butter and a little bit of meat. I mean that’s fine to have as a meal. You aren’t really going to get much risk of phytic acid because of that. So another strategy that you can use when you’re eating this soaked and sprouted and germinated seeds and grains and grasses etc. is to also include some natural dairy on the side, get your hands on some yogurt and some raw milk and some good natural cheese and stuff like that and that helps out quite a bit as well. So I hope that kind of gives some type of direction to you Hossana but ultimately, that dried fruit, nut and seed mix that you’re eating, it’s probably, I’m guessing at least not soaked, those seeds and nuts. I would say you may want to look at identifying the seeds and nuts that are in your nut and seed mix and then just Google how to sprout them, how to germinate them and you can teach yourself how to do that.
Brock: We always have one question that revolves around delicious food and it always comes right in the middle of the episode when it’s not time to eat yet.
Ben: I know! I hate that.
Brock: Sounds like torture.
Ben: I never eat breakfast before we record just because it’s too early. I just don’t roll out of bed and eat breakfast. I just don’t do it and yeah I get hungry while we’re doing this podcast sometimes when people ask questions like that and I get to talk about sourdough bread fresh cooked and warm with raw cheese. Alright, let’s move on. Let’s find a non-food question.
Brock: Yeah, alright! Jeffyt01, interesting name.
Jeffyt01: I listened to your podcast with Phil Maffetone and I was wondering what your thoughts are on his 180 formula versus how you lay out the heart rate training zones in your Dominator plan. Also, do you need to do more volume when using Maffetone’s method?
Ben: So in the Dominator plan at TriathlonDominator.com, I do include frequent testing in that plan and the testing that you’re doing is what’s called a lactate field test where you’re going out and you’re exercising at your maximum sustainable pace for 20 to 30 minutes and then you’re subtracting the average heart rate that you experience during that test. You’re subtracting about 15 to 20 beats from that heart rate and that correlates really well to what would be your maximum fat-burning heart rate or what is called your aerobic threshold and I have specific sessions that you do in the protocol of that Ironman training program where you will go out and you’ll do like a two-hour bike ride where you’re just at that heart rate the whole time at that aerobic threshold, kind of a maximum fat-burning zone the whole time. And that heart rate that you are finding by doing your lactic threshold and subtracting 15 to 20 beats, it’s very similar to Maffetone’s 180 formula which is essentially going after looking at a similar number. If you want to find out what that 180 formula is and how it’s laid out and everything, just go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com and do a search for the word Maffetone and I’ve interviewed Phil and we’ve talked about that but it’s just kind of a quicker way to find out where your aerobic training threshold is than doing the test that I have people do in the Dominator but the test that I prescribe is Dominator, it’s more accurate and more personalized to your body.
Brock: And it’s one hell of a workout too.
Ben: It is, it’s a good workout. Now here is where I think that some people kind of get confused. Knowing where your maximum fat-burning heart rate is which is really your money zone for endurance sports because if you’re going to go out and try and last ten hours, then ideally you want to find the point where you’re at your maximum fat-burning zone because we’ve all got 30,000, 40,000, 50,000 calories of storage fat that we can burn and so if we’re working out at our maximum fat-burning efficiency we’re minimizing the extent to which we’re going to burn through all our storage carbohydrate and we are using the most efficient form of fuel possible that’s on our body. Now that doesn’t mean that all of our training is done in that zone and the reason for that is because you can speed up fitness gains in other areas like VO2 max and your muscle power and force and your speed and your turnover by doing harder workouts, by doing interval training. And so some people will take the whole idea of Maffetone’s 180 formula or my formula for finding your fat-burning heart rate zone and they’ll say “Okay, I’ve got that zone. I’m just going to go out and do every session in that zone” and so every day, two to three hours of steady running in that zone or steady swimming in that zone or steady cycling in that zone and that’s really not the most efficient way to go about training. Instead, my recommendation is when you’re kind of in your main Ironman preparation or your main marathon preparation or half Ironman, whatever it is you’re training aerobically to do, that you just do one workout per sport or per skill at that heart rate where you’re hoping on your bike and you’re riding for two or three hours at your maximum fat-burning heart rate zone or you’re doing a 90-minute run at your maximum fat-burning zone or you’re doing a 45-minute steady swim in that aerobic zone but most of the other sessions, just to maximize the efficiency of time that you have and to work on other fitness parameters that go above and beyond just your fat-burning zone, you do an interval training and sprint workouts and hill repeats and stuff that take you up higher at a higher intensity than that zone and that’s really the ultimate way to train especially if you’re pressed for time and you don’t have 20, 25, 30, 35 hours a week to just be like getting up every day and doing all you’re and your fat-burning heart rate zone. So part of it is time availability and efficiency and part of it is training muscle systems and energy systems that go above and beyond just that fat-burning energy system because you certainly also need things like the ability to maintain a high cadence and the ability to produce a lot of force and the ability to have enough strength to where your joints are protected and things that go above and beyond just doing all your training in that one heart rate training zone. So hopefully that kind of gives you a little bit of understanding of the difference between my formula and other people’s formulas and how much volume you’d actually need to do. For me, training for an Ironman using my formula or something like you’d find in TriathlonDominator.com, you’re generally training about ten to 15 hours a week and for most folks, you can go at least ten hours doing that. I range from nine and a half to ten hours using that method for something like an Ironman triathlon.
Brock: Cool! Well, speaking of those nine to 12 or 15 hours of training, Jack asks:
Jack: In training for different triathlon distances, what distances you would recommend for a long swim, long ride and a long run? Also, what sort of bricking do you recommend most? I am especially interested in the Olympic triathlon distance.
Ben: So bricking by the way, for those of you who haven’t heard that term before, typically you’re first to doing a bike followed by a run. Okay, so training for long distances. This is pretty straight forward. If you want to do a sprint distance triathlon, you should be able to, and I’m going to give you a range here and the more advanced you are and the more time you have and the more you want to focus on your kind of like over distance training and being able to have a lot of muscular endurance even when you get towards the end of a specific part of a race, you’re going to choose the higher end of the spectrum but first, sprint distance triathlon, you should be able to swim for your long workout about 400 to 1,000 meters. You should be able to bike ten to 20 miles and you should be able to run two to five miles. Sprint distance triathlons tend to kind of vary in their distance but generally it’s about a 500-meter swim, about a 12-mile bike, about a three-mile run around in that range. For Olympic distance triathlons, I recommend you be able to kind of your long swim be about 1,500 to 2,500 meters. You should be able to have your long bike to be about 20 to 30 miles and your long run about five to eight miles. For a half Ironman triathlon, you should be able to swim about 2,000 to 3,500 meters for your long swim. Your long bike about 40 to 60 miles and your long run about ten to 14 miles and then for something like an Ironman triathlon, about 3,500 up to about 5,000 meters for your long swim, about 80 up to 120 miles for your long bike and anywhere from 17 up to about 22 miles for your long run. Like my first Ironman that I did, my long swim was about, I think it was about 3,000 right around in there. My long bike was about 70 miles and my long run was right around 18.
Brock: You Americans are so confusing. You measure the pool in meters but everything else in miles.
Ben: I know, but the reason I’m saying miles is just because that’s what I live with here where I live so my apologies to you meter folks and Canadians but yeah, it’s really going to vary but those are all ballparks and most people do too much volume training and try and a lot of folks will try and be able to swim 4,000 meters straight and hard, be able to bike 112 miles straight and hard and be able to run 26.2 miles not on a row, but they try and be able to do all that for the race. You generally need to be able to do about 75 percent of what you’re going to do in the race to be able to feel pretty decent during the event. Remember that humans are aerobic animals. We’re really good with endurance, we can outrun a horse if we need to or any other animal on the face of the planet and the ability to go long is not our weakness. Typically our weakness is the ability to have high turnover and the ability to produce large amounts of force, the ability to go fast so my philosophy is always kind of prioritizing those elements in training and trusting the human body’s innate endurance and the ability to go long as an adaptive response to even something like anaerobic training or interval training and that works really well for me and it also allows me to have a life when training for something like Ironman. As far as my favorite brick workouts or like combined workouts, one workout that I like to do is like a hard swim workout like a swim interval-based workout like hundreds and two hundreds and five hundreds. A good hard workout that leaves your arms a little bit rubbery followed by more of like that fat-burning zone bike that I described. So you get out of the water. For me, like I’ll swim at the YMCA, my bike’s parked outside, run to the locker room, change and head out for like a longer bike like a two-hour bike after doing a hard like 4k swim. So that’s an example of a good brick workout. I also like to do like shorter bike-run repeats. So what I mean by that, for example, is by the way, Brock you still with me?
Ben: Okay, good. I want to make sure, sorry. For a second there, I had a fear I was talking to dead air. So bike-run repeats, what I mean by that is like last weekend, I went to the health club and I did a one thousand meter row and then a three-mile bike and then a one-mile run and I went through that five times and that’s an example of like a brick workout where you really break things up and allows for a higher intensity on each of the difference skills. The row kind of simulates the swim and you can go through it as a circuit and a lot of times it’s a lot more interesting than just like biking for an hour and a half and running for 45 minutes. And then the other workout that works really well is to go on a long bike like hop into one of your local sentry rides or put in a really long bike day and this is something I’ll generally throw in about three or four times before something like an Ironman triathlon, then you follow that up with a short run. So I never do long runs off the bike and by long runs, I mean anything longer than an hour. The longest run you ever do off the bike should be like 59 minutes, so in most cases, you really don’t need to do much more than that. Very few situations where you’d need to and the shorter run off the bike at a decent intensity really trains your body just how to run fatigue and I also try and throw that as a key workout before something like an Ironman triathlon. Those are some of my favorite bricks, doing a hot tough swim workout and an easy bike. Doing like really short bike-run repeats or row, bike-run repeats and then doing a long bike with a short run.
Brock: Okay, so our last question here comes from Josh.
Josh: I’m a cat one cyclist, really pushing myself this year to get some big results. I’m 25 years old, my coach has me doing some solid high intensity intervals and some longer endurance rides and my fitness is much higher than previous years. He mentioned some of the supplements that he’s taking and says my coach and I are obviously working to bring the watts up, but I’m struggling to get my weight down. I’ve been stuck around 170-173 lbs and 10% body fat forever. He’s getting frustrated and would like to break that barrier. He’s counted calories, went paleo over the last few years and gluten free, and was pretty pleased to find that he was following your food pyramid pretty decently when you published it. So he said I’ve had blood work done, and everything is normal. I just can’t figure out how to lose the stubborn weight so I can get down to 7-8% body fat for my first races. Any suggestions.
Ben: Yeah! Kind of similar to Jennifer’s question, in the beginning, you got this body fat, seems like you’re doing everything and it just won’t go away and certainly people I would say, some people have more of an uphill battle than others. Everybody, based on their genetics, have different levels of essential fat and essential fat is what your body needs for normal, physical and physiological function and so genetics are the biggest determinant when it comes to your level of everything, from obesity to just body fat distribution. So understand that you can’t just compare yourself to other guys on the starting line beside you but as I mentioned, there are potential reasons that you could not be losing weight as quickly as you feel like you should be losing it based off of what you’re doing. Most of them come down to hormonal issues or physiological issues. I know that Josh mentioned or that he’s gotten blood work done but a lot of times, typical blood work that you’re going to get when you walk into the doctor’s office is like red blood cells, white blood cells, cholesterol numbers and like a few other metabolic variables that a lot of times don’t give you the full picture when it comes to why you may not be losing weight. So for example, one big thing would be the activity of your thyroid gland which can significantly affect your metabolism and your fat loss and the reason that I mention this for Josh is that active individuals, highly-competitive individuals, they tend to have lots of stress in their lives and stress is a really significant contributor to thyroid dysfunction. And that can be stress from work, it can be lack of sleep, it can be stress from exercise. It can even be stress from blood fluctuations due to you eating lots of foods to support your cycling adventures. So what happens though is that stress can cause hypothyroidism or reduced thyroid functioning because it can disrupt what’s called your hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis or your HPA axis and what that means is in a nutshell, that this HPA axis is tied intimately to the amount of adrenal hormones that your causing your adrenals to shorten out from your high-stress lifestyle and your HPA axis can, in response to that, down regulate your thyroid function. And that can reduce the amount of T4 that you can convert to T3, so we’re going to find your blood test. Your T4 numbers are just fine, that doesn’t mean it’s getting converted very well and it can also result in hormone imbalances like chronic cortisol elevations and that chronic cortisol elevation can cause fluid retention and stress-related fat deposition where you tend to deposit fat. It can also reduce your liver’s ability to clear excess estrogen which can be a big issue in females more than males and the inability to lose weight but it creates basically this vicious cycle where you’re stressed out, it affects your thyroid function and a dysfunctional thyroid causes even more stress and in greater number of hormonal imbalances. Now you would know if you have the type of adrenal stress that could cause hypothyroidism if for example, you’re having a lot of trouble with sleeping like falling asleep, staying asleep, waking up, mood swings, food cravings like sugar and caffeine specially. Irritability or light-headedness or getting really low energy between the meals that you do eat, feeling fatigued a lot, getting headaches, getting sick a lot. All these can indicate a level of stress that could be a significant contributor to your thyroid dysfunction. So I would certainly look into your stress levels and try and control them as much as possible. Get adequate sleep, reduce the amount of light that you’re exposing yourself to at night that you do get adequate sleep and reduce as many stressors in your life as possible. If you haven’t always eaten healthy, you can certainly potentially be in a state where your cell surface receptors are insensitive to insulin or maybe you have a little bit or leptin resistance going on and either these issues can be issues if you’ve ever been on this standard American diet for long periods of time where you’re eating high amounts of processed or sugar-laden foods and you may need to look into the type of supplements that could improve your insulin sensitivity like getting on some chromium or some vanadium or just really focusing, even if you’re doing like you said a Paleo diet, on really getting only starches in immediately before, during or after your cycling workouts and that can be helpful in helping you to burn fat as well. I mentioned that hypothyroidism can have an effect on your hormones but other things can have an effect on your hormones too and even if you’re 25 years old, you could have low testosterone just because you’re exercising so much and so hard that you’re stripping a lot of the hormonal building blocks from ever being able to create hormones in the first place and the stress can also affect your ability to produce testosterone. So I would look into, like go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com and read the post that I did about how I boosted my testosterones called something like I admit to taking performance-enhancing drugs and you can look into things like D-aspartic acid or tribulus or even cocktails like Bioletics makes one called Optimale that maybe able to naturally bump up your testosterone levels and at the same time, you’re on what’s called an aromatase inhibitor to make sure that testosterone isn’t converted into excess estrogens, so that can be helpful as well. And then kind of the biggy here that it sounds kind of simple and stupid but write down what you eat because in many cases, even if you’re eating a super healthy diet, you’re just eating an extra 200, 300, 500 calories a day and you’re never putting your body in a state where there are significant calories deficits and that’s necessary to break through the barrier a lot of the time is simply getting to the point where you’re tapping in to that storage energy. So, there are lots of different variables there but that’s where I would start the detective work in terms of why your body fat isn’t going down as quickly as you’d like. So I think that was it for the questions.
Brock: That was it, that’s the last one and not to be too Stuart Smalley or anything on you guys but like Josh and Jennifer and anybody else out there who’s like just living just spend all that time standing and looking at yourself in the mirror and sort of poking at your fat and I know I do it and I get mad at myself but you have to remember to balance that out with just recognizing what you are good at and what you do have sort of genetically gifted to you. I know with me, if I look at extra calories, it goes straight to my belly. Just directly right there but I know that in the past and right now, my arms and my shoulders, all I have to do is look at weights and they bulk up, they look really good, they react really well so just doing moderate amounts of exercise. So I may have a little bit of extra fat on my stomach and that’s a genetic problem but I’ve got some advantages too and I encourage you to do the same thing. Look at what you’ve got as an advantage, not just your disadvantages.
Ben: I’m good, I’m great, I’m wonderful and gosh, darn it! People like me.
Brock: So cool!
Ben: I think we should wrap it up there. Folks, all the show notes and everything we talked about, you can access in podcast # 186 at BenGreenfieldFitness.com. Be kind and leave a ranking or rating in iTunes. Be sure if you have or know of a fitness or nutrition-related business that would like tons of exposure by sponsoring Get Fit Guy’s Guide to Achieving Your Ideal Body that you check out these sponsoring perks that we’re going to throw in as a download in this week’s show notes at podcast # 186 and until next time, this is Ben and Brock wishing you a healthy week.
Brock: One more time! I am Ironman.
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