March 7, 2012
Podcast # 185 from https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2012/03/is-cortisol-good-or-bad/
Introduction: Is Cortisol Good or Bad? Also, how to raise testosterone levels while training, good reasons to jump rope, training for an uphill bike race, how to lose loose skin after weight loss, are gluten digestive enzymes helpful, numb toes, heel pain, and why your sweat smells different when weight training.
Brock: Good day everybody! Welcome to the Ben Greenfield Fitness podcast. I’m your host, Brock. And I’m here with another big bag of listener questions for the one and only Ben Greenfield. And yeah, are you ready Ben?
Ben: I am. I’m bleeding though. I’m bleeding profusely from my ankle. I shouldn’t say profusely. That make it sound like the ambulance is about to pull up.
Brock: Is it spurting because that’s what I’m picturing.
Ben: No. There is no monty python style spurting going on or squirting on the room. But I have an inversion table in my garage. And I had completely forgotten about it. There are the tables that allow you to hang upside down and drain blood out of your legs or do sit-ups or whatever else you do when you’re upside down.
Ben: And I was reading an article yesterday about health benefits of inversion tables and the ability of you to enhance recovery by draining blood and metabolites and inflammation out of your legs. And so, I just realized I have that inversion table out there to go hang on it. So, I went out there this morning. I was messing around with it. And then I got a little too violent in my hanging and I cut open my ankle. However on the flipside, I have a lot of blood flow to my head right now. So, it should be a great podcast.
Brock: Alright. So, let’s get through all the questions quickly before the blood pools. Well, it squirts out your ankle.
Brock: Okay. So, it’s been a busy week over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com. It’s been some awesome posts and some interesting stuff going on. What do you want to bring to the people’s attention?
Ben: I posted a couple of articles this week or actually an article and interview. The interview, I think, is incredibly important because I’m becoming a big fan of using Chinese herbs to manage stress and to increase your mental performance. And I spoke with a herbologist, the guy that actually puts together the formulation. I’m so sorry. I think I have a frog in my throat this morning, just a second.
Brock: It’s all blood from your ankle is now choking you.
Ben: Seriously, I’m wondering if that’s it from hanging upside down. Anyways, I interviewed a guy named Roger Drummer about how he formulates Chinese herbs and what goes into them. And I would highly recommend that folks listen in to that audio episode. The upcoming audio episode coming this week is going to be about the politics of food and how lobbyists and marketing organizations are able to affect our perception and our price of food in this country. And that’ll be an interesting interview as well that’s coming up. And then the other article that was posted this week was about whether you can actually get water intoxication and whether you need to even worry about it and even if you’re not worried about water intoxication per say, whether you’re drinking too much or too little during your workouts. So, those are the articles and learning.
Brock: So, is water intoxication the same thing as hyponatremia?
Ben: Not necessarily because you can get hyponatremia which is often a term that’s used synonymously with water intoxication by simply having low levels of sodium in your blood stream. And that could be caused by not drinking too much water before, for example, exercising in the heat after you popped a couple of ibuprofen.
Ben: That’s something that can affect your kidney function to the extent where you’d get hyponatremia without drinking too much water. And the article goes into that. It talks about things that can cause the same type of issues as hyponatremia that are actually hyponatremia.
Brock: Very cool.
Ben: So, check all of that over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com and then a couple of other things. If you want to be part of my free eating for endurance seminar, that is coming up next week. We’ll put a link to it in the show notes. But it will be a webinar put on by Training Peaks. And that’s going to be Thursday. That’s next Thursday at one o’clock Pacific Time and four o’clock Eastern Time. So, my apologies to international listeners, I’ll let you do the math on that. It’s probably at three a.m. where you are but either way, eating for endurance webinar over at Training Peaks. And then also, if you did not listen in last week and learned about the big trip to Thailand that’s being planned for double triathlon and the adventure of a lifetime, then please go follow the link that we’re going to put in the show notes. I found out this week that a fellow from Canada and his girlfriend happened to be coming along to the trip.
Brock: Oh yeah, I heard that too. And I heard that the fellow from Canada is totally pumped.
Ben: Yeah. So, Brock’s going to be joining us. We’ve already got six people coming on the trip. We’re taking a maximum of 12. It’s the plan right now. So, sign up soon. The registration for the race actually opens up at April first. But with plane tickets and all the planning that goes into it, I recommend you get on the ball and sign up for this thing. Follow the link that we’ll be putting on the show notes to get you in on the trip with me, a coach, and a bunch of us athletes going over and having a lot of fun. And then the last thing I wanted to mention is that for my upcoming book, Get Fit Guy’s Guide to Achieving Your Ideal Body Type, we’re still looking for testimonials, before and after photos from folks basically. If you’ve used my advice and have got any cool stories to tell about it, e-mail them to me. Ben@BenGreenfieldFitness.com and essentially we just want to shamelessly use them to publicize the book so that we can take over the fitness category of Amazon and get to number one. So yes, you’d be helping me out if you e-mailed me testimonials. And I would potentially make you famous or embarrass you one of the two but either way, it should be testimonials, photos, etc… And we’d love to use them for that book that’s coming out on May eighth.
Ben: Yes. If you check out Google +, you’ll be able to read a lot of mini articles that come out over there. We try and keep stuff fun over there. But I also sent out a few tweets this week that highlighted interesting studies that I came across. The first was a very good evidence that if you’re going to eat a high carbohydrate meal, that that meal should be breakfast. This was a study about meal timing and composition. And it compared a low carbohydrate breakfast with a high carbohydrate breakfast. And it found that people who, over a 16-week period of time, at a high carbohydrate breakfast lost more weight and maintained that weight loss better than the people who ate a low carbohydrate breakfast. Now, the reason for that is probably appetite satiety so, topping off your energy stores early in the day so you’re not cheating and getting hunger pains and cravings later on in the day. It may also be because when you eat a high carbohydrate meal with breakfast, you get a slight elevation or sustenance of your metabolic rate and there are multiple reasons. What this comes down to is that even if you’re controlling carbohydrates and eating a low carbohydrate diet, you may want to continue with the strategy that I’ve talked about before in the show. And that is carbohydrate timing. There’s two times the day when I get the majority of my carbohydrates in. I have a little bit of fruit and a little bit of oats with breakfast typically. And then before, during or after a big workout of the day, that’s the other time during the day when I inject carbohydrates. And mostly the rest of my diet is a high amount of fats and a little bit of protein. But this study did indeed prove that you’re not going to do yourself any disservice when you add carbohydrates to breakfast.
Brock: Awesome. So, what would a breakfast like that look like for the average 170-pound, 5’11 kind of male?
Ben: So, a low carbohydrate breakfast would be a couple of eggs with spinach and cheese.
Ben: And a high carbohydrate breakfast would be substituting those eggs with a small sweet potato. That’s an example. A low carbohydrate breakfast would be a protein shake with some seeds and nuts and some yogurt and some protein. And a high carbohydrate breakfast would be simply adding an entire banana to that. So, we’re not talking about a stack of pancakes. We’re just talking about adding in a little bit of carbohydrates to top off your energy source.
Brock: Yeah. I think when people, at first when you start talking about that, the first thing I pictured were a great big bowl of cereal.
Ben: Yeah. No, I’m still not a fan of cereals, grains, waffles, etc… But the use of healthy starches with breakfast, healthy carbohydrates with breakfast, fruit-based carbohydrate, potato-based carbohydrates, and those types of things is certainly acceptable especially in the case of breakfast. The next study that I wanted to mention that I noted that potatoes are more satisfying to your appetite than bread is what I tweeted and then linked to a study that came out. Actually it wasn’t a study that came out. It was something I found recently that’s relatively old that came out way back in 1995. But it’s a satiety index of common foods. So, it tested all these different foods and compared them to one another to see which foods were best at satisfying the appetite according to surveys that were given to folks after they ate these foods. And one of the things that I noted when I was looking over the results was that the highest satiety index of all the different foods that they tested specifically when it comes to carbohydrate containing foods was potatoes. And I thought that that was interesting that potatoes actually have almost seven times the potential to satisfy your appetite compared to bread. And in this case specifically white bread. So again, I’ve always encouraged potato-based or rice-based starches as a pre-workout fuel. It turns out that they also do pretty good job satisfying your appetite. Probably one of the reasons that, for example, when I have a couple of sweet potatoes before a big triathlon or a marathon, I’ll eat those two to three hours before hand and not be that hungry when the race rolls around. And I never really experience that when I used to do toast and stuff like that before a workout or before a race.
Brock: That kind of makes sense. Like historically speaking everybody, every society that went through a starvation or drought or famine turned to potatoes as their mainstay. So, I guess that makes a lot of sense.
Ben: Yeah. And after I tweeted that, I actually ironically last night had basically a huge bucket of potatoes for dinner because we were out running errands with the kids. And literally, the only thing I can grab from the refrigerator running out the door was a handful of sweet potatoes and just used those throughout the night. So, I definitely did not eat a low carbohydrate diet yesterday. But I also swam 5000 meters last night. So, I don’t think it was the issue.
Brock: No problem.
Ben: The last thing that I wanted to mention was a study that took people and had them workout during the day and then gave them protein at night. And no studies up to this point have ever investigated the actual rise in amino acid levels and ability to sustain the body’s protein levels and the body’s ability to repair muscles overnight after consuming protein. And it does turn out that protein is effectively digested and absorbed when you’re asleep. And it can thereby stimulate your muscle protein synthesis and improve your recovery overnight. One of the snacks that I recommend folks use when they are being active and they want to make sure they’re not going to bed super hungry is a little bit of protein powder mixed with some coconut milk. I love that as a pre-bed snack to keep my appetite satiated. And it turns out that it’s also doing a fantastic job helping the muscles to repair and recover while you’re asleep.
Brock: Wasn’t it like a 22 percent increase or something like ridiculously high?
Ben: Wow. You have a good memory. It was exactly 22 percent.
Listener Q and A:
Brock: Alright so, into our first question. It’s an audio question from Martin.
Martin says: Hi Ben, this is Martin from the UK. Ben I’ve got a question about cortisol. And background is that I’m a cyclist. And in training, I’m regularly doing miles about 80 and 130 miles a day. Well, I’m not competitive. I normally do mostly day rides about 100 miles per day for up to two weeks at a time. And this year, I’ve got a race on the French Alps where I’ve got to bounce off a 31 cold in a 100 hours and cycle 500 miles between them. My question is I’ve got a medical condition which causes a sudden drop in blood pressure. And this causes me to pass out and lose consciousness. And so, I have to take an artificial cortisol twice a day and 100 milligrams at a time I believe in a stage called floor and my question is in two-fold. Firstly, should I take extra supplements to counteract the negative effects of cortisol? And secondly, cortisol gets a lot of bad press. They’ve been talked about being catabolic and how I put on weight with that kind of thing. But it’s also a banned substance. And a lot of profound riders have been caught using it before. So, my question is how can it be both? How can it be negative and catabolic and have a bad effect but also be a banned and posted substance. So, there’s a lot of confusion to use that now. And I just wondered if you could help give me some clouds on that? The help would be very much appreciated. Thanks very much. Goodbye.
Ben: I thought this was a fabulous question. Martin is taking fludrocortisone. And I’m really not sure why he’s taking it. My medical knowledge does not exactly qualify me to say what disease or condition he has that he’s taking cortisone. I know there are some kidney issues like adrenal insufficiency issues, Addison’s disease, and stuff like that that might necessitate the need for something like this to keep your sodium and potassium levels where they’re supposed to be. But Martin’s concerns are valid because that particular medication is pretty much identical to cortisol. It’s called fludrocortisone because they substitute some fluorine in there or for some of the hydrogen. But other than that, it’s basically identical to cortisol. And so, there are certainly some concerns when you’re basically taking oral cortisol. So cortisol, I think, is a little bit misunderstood because we often hear it and associate it with bad things. It’s referred to as your primary stress hormone. But without cortisol, your body wouldn’t be able to respond effectively to stress. Without cortisol, when a lion is charging at you from the bushes back in the good old days, you basically just stand there looking at the lion as it comes at you to eat you. But when your cortisol is working properly when your body can release cortisol in response to stress, what happens is that it allows your muscles to release amino acids. It allows your liver to release glucose. It allows your fat stores to release fatty acids into the blood stream. So, you get this surge of energy. And when you get that surge of energy, it’s associated with things like high blood pressure, high blood sugar. And a lot of things from an acute stand point, from an immediate stand point are very useful in basically getting your body to run from the lion or during exercise, getting you to put out maybe a little bit more force power, intensity, competitive drive, etc. Now of course, cortisol can, because of its effect to raise blood sugar, raise blood levels of fatty acids , cause high blood pressure, cause high heart rate. That of course under long term conditions, can be quite stressful to the body. And many of us, because we are over stressed or we’re working out too much, we over react and we secrete too much cortisol. And that certainly has consequences. So, cortisol can be placed in a positive light when you’re endocrine system is working properly and releasing small amounts of cortisol when you wake up in the morning and light hits your eyes or when you need to pick a heavy weight off the ground. But when your body is constantly trying to deal with stress by attacking stress or running away from stress, that’s when high levels of cortisol become an issue. And certainly, if you’re taking cortisol as a medication on a daily basis, it would also cause that same type of elevated cortisol even if you’re stressed just because you’re taking the cortisol orally. So, you’ve got the increased fat in your blood stream. You’ve got the increased sugar in your blood stream. You’ve got some of the things that go along with that. And then one of the other issues that happen when you’ve got a lot of cortisol circulating around is that you actually can affect your fat storage mechanisms. There’s this fat storing enzyme in your fat cells. It’s basically called beta-hydroxy steroid dehydrogenase. But it’s abbreviated HSD. And that can cause cortisol that’s already done its job it’s already been deactivated by the body to get reactivated into active cortisol within your fat cells. And when you reactivate cortisol within your fat cells, what happens is your fat cells become much more prone to actually store away fat. Again, it’s one of those chronic stress level responses where immediate response to stress is to mobilize fatty acids from your fat stores so that you have energy to burn. But as you get more and more exposure to chronically elevated cortisol levels, this enzyme, this HSD enzyme becomes hyperactive and causes your fat cells to actually reactivate cortisol and cause cortisol to increase fat storage. And so, that’s why when you are chronically stress not only do you get retention of sodium and increased blood pressure and increased fluid retention, but you can also get increased fat storage as well. So, cortisol has its good side. And it has its bad side. Another aspect of cortisol that Martin refers to is the fact that it’s banned in the Tour de France. And the reason for that is more of its ability to massively shutdown inflammation than its ability to have this direct sports performance enhancing effect. So, cortisol has some really potent anti-inflammatory and immuno suppressive properties. Meaning that when you do something like get a cortisone injection in an area that’s kind of beat up after a race, you get some very quick healing. You also get, if you’re immune system tends to be hyper reactive, it can shut that down a little bit and keep you from getting sick on a multi-day tour. And the issue with that is of course is that it can mask problems. For instance, if you get repeated cortisol injections in a knee that’s acting up during a multi-day cycling tour, it’s going to get you through that tour. But your knee might be just toast by the time you’re done because you’re essentially masking your body’s pain and artificially elevating the healing process. And that’s the case with a lot of drugs that are banned. They’re banned because they’re trying to protect people from taking advantage of short term results in exchange for long term destruction of the body. So, that’s why cortisone or cortisol would be something that’d be banned during sporting events. It has that potent anti-inflammatory effect. But it can mess you up long term if you’re just getting an injection after injection. So, that’s the deal with cortisol. And Brock, Martin wants to know what it can do.
Brock: Yeah. What it can do to sort of stay away from the deleterious effects of what he’s going through?
Ben: Okay. I got you. So basically, you can certainly take supplements that are cortisol modulating or cortisol controlling supplements. The only issue is that most of the research that’s done on these supplements is done on people who have chronically elevated levels of cortisol due to stress. And I’m not sure that they’re going to have the same effect if you have chronically elevated cortisol because of a medication or even if they may actually interfere with the efficacy of the medication. Now, I know that there are many people out there who have elevated cortisol levels who aren’t on medication that is a cortisone medication. But they just are stressed out. Or maybe they’ve dug themselves into a really deep hole by working out too hard or too long or something like that. So, there are some of the things that you can take to stabilize cortisol levels. One would be something called Theanine. Theanine is basically an amino acid. It’s derived from green tea. Interestingly, you find it in some fat loss supplements. But it’s got really good anti-stress and cortisol controlling effects. And it can literally cross your blood-brain barrier and cause increased wave patterns in what are called your alpha brain waves which are your relaxed brain waves. They give you what’s basically referred to as relaxed alertness. And I’ve actually been studying these alpha brain waves more and more and ways that you can amplify them. But Theanine would certainly one amino acid. One of the supplements that I personally use has Theanine in it for increasing alertness and mental performance. It’s called delta-e. However, if you’ve got chronically elevated levels of cortisol, that wouldn’t be my recommendation. Delta-e is good if you’re not stressed out. But it does have a little bit of caffeine in it. And caffeine is definitely doing your body a disservice when you’ve got elevated levels of cortisol. So instead, you can just literally find Theanine as an isolated supplement in your health food store. So, Theanine would be one thing to look into. There is another herb called Epimedium. And that’s a medicinal herb that’s been used for a very long period of time. It’s like a tonic for the reproductive system to boost drive and treat impotence. It also has an effect on reducing cortisol levels. And it may also actually help with low testosterone levels. So, you can basically get that as an extraction. And you’d be able to find that at a health food store as another way to control cortisol levels. Magnolia bark is something used in traditional Chinese medicine. And magnolia bark basically has what are called biphenyls in it. And these biphenyls can help with controlling cortisol as well. So, magnolia bark would be something to look into if you wanted to experiment with using more Chinese to reduce cortisol levels if you are chronically stressed. There are certainly vitamins and minerals. And usually what you’ll find is people who are deficient in certain vitamins and minerals tend to have a lower ability to handle stress. And when you’re low in certain vitamins and minerals, it can allow cortisol to rise much more quickly in response to stress. Vitamin C is one of the primary vitamins that tend to be really good for fighting off stress, for strengthening your immune system, and also for controlling levels of cortisol. And really, you don’t need to necessarily take a high dose vitamin D supplement which can upset your stomach as much as you need to make sure that you’ve got a high level of vegetable consumption and a moderate level of fruit consumption in your diet. If you’ve got a really huge cortisol levels, two different studies have shown and one of these was an ultra-marathon runners and their cortisol levels. About 1000 to 1500 milligrams of vitamin C per day can actually bring those cortisol levels down. So if you’re high cortisol levels are due to beating up your body in exercise which maybe the case for all these listeners, you could benefit from not only doing fruits and vegetables but also including around a gram of vitamin C as a daily supplement. But check other supplements that you’re taking like anti-oxidants and stuff like that because a lot of the times they’ve already got vitamin C added to them. So, vitamin C would be one. Interestingly, calcium does a pretty good job at controlling cortisol levels. But as you may know if you’ve listened to this show before, for most people the amount of calcium intake isn’t an issue. But it’s the absorption of calcium that’s an issue. And typically if you’re not absorbing calcium well, it’s because you have a magnesium deficiency. And so rather than going and grabbing some Cal-mag from or some calcium supplement from Cosco or something like that, I’d recommend that you just include around 400 to 500 milligrams of natural cal-magnesium at night before you go to bed or even use a topical magnesium. I’m working on another article for BenGreenfieldFitness.com about how to properly use topical magnesium. But in addition to vitamin C, magnesium would be another common mineral that tends to be deficient. And deficiencies can lead to the ability for cortisol to take over. Interestingly, the other thing is that the vitamin B complex is super important. Everything from vitamin B5 to B6 to B2, all of the B-complexes are really important in terms of not only your cellular metabolism but also your ability to control cortisol levels. So, most folks tend to do okay with vitamin B intake. But if you’ve got a low calorie diet, if you’re not eating any meat in your diet, that type of thing or even if you’re going through a period of time where you’ve got a poor diet which a lot of times can be the case when you’re on a multi-day cycling tour that type of thing. Supplementing with a good vitamin B extract can be a good idea and a full spectrum vitamin B. So, think about that. And then another thing that’s got a lot of potential and I know I’m going on here and hopefully people are taking notes because this is really helpful stuff in controlling cortisol levels.
Ben: Whether you’re exhausted, whether you have adrenal exhaustion or you just exercise too much or you’re worn down or you’re concerned about cortisol levels. But I’m not done yet. There are a couple of other things that I’d recommend. One thing is phytosterols. And phytosterols are literally just plant derived of what are called sterol compounds. And seeds and nuts have fairly high levels. All fruits and vegetables contain some. And typically, you’ll also find phytosterols in high dose anti-oxidant supplements. For example, I take one called solar synergy. That’s got good levels of phytosterols in it. I’ve talked about living fuel before. Like they’re super greens and they’re super berries. Those have really high levels of phytosterols. But one of the things that you’ve got to realize is that while nature does give us much of what we need to control stress in terms of the sterols that will find in fruits and vegetables and seeds and nuts. A lot of the times we’re doing things that are unnatural to our bodies like training for triathlon or multi-day cycling races or doing cross fit everyday or that type of thing. And so, you may need to add in extra phytosterols that go above and beyond just what you’re getting from your diet. So, it’s just something to think about. That’s why I personally, I do take full spectrum anti-oxidants almost everyday when I’m in hot heavy training. Another thing that’s super helpful for not only your mental performance and I’ve talked about this on the podcast or over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com in an article on mental performance but its also important to modulate many of the aspects of cortisol over production is phosphatidylserine. And phosphatidylserine is basically like a fatty acid. It’s really highly concentrated in your brain cell which is why phosphatidylserine can help with your mental performance. But it’s also really important to keep high cortisol levels at bay. You’re going to get lots of good phosphatidylserine in your diet if you’re doing a lot of fish and grass fed meat and stuff like that. So, I’m a bigger fan of eating a high fat diet to get enough phosphatidylserine. Just go and download the Ben Greenfield Fitness food pyramid for example and that’s a great start because phosphatidylserine is really expensive. Like if you look at what you need according to studies to suppress cortisol secretion post exercise, it’s like up close to almost one gram a day which would cost you several hundred dollars a month. You can get pretty good levels of phosphatidylserine though just from eating a higher fat diet. So, that’s one big switch to make if you’re concerned about cortisol levels is to get a good amount of fat in your diet. And the last thing that I wanted to mention is amino acids. Not only have branched amino acids been shown to have a beneficial effect on counteracting the rise in cortisol especially related to exercise. So, now we’re talking about specifically exercise and not chronic stretch. But there are other amino acids. Tyrosine is one perfect example of stuff that’s been literally studied by the US military as a potential anti-stress nutrient to help soldiers have lower cortisol levels during and after battle. This is why I do recommend using a whole amino acid supplement prior to a hard event, hard training session, something like that. You’ve probably heard me on the show before recommend Master Amino Pattern as one example of a capsule you could take. There’s another one called Recover Ease. That’s really good. I’ll make sure that I note to myself to link to the Master Amino Pattern, the recoveries, and the full spectrum anti-oxidant that I mentioned in the show notes. But those would certainly all be helpful as well. By the way, what is this show Brock?
Ben: Wow. I was close.
Brock: Yeah. You’re way behind.
Ben: I’m back in 2009. So 185, we’ll put link in the show notes to 185. But those are some of the things that I’d certainly recommend for cortisol. I’m trying to think. You know what, there’s one other thing that I wanted to mention. And this is a biggie. I’m not going to talk about it too long. I just want you to go back and listen to the podcast we just did on Friday with Roger Drummer about adaptogens and Chinese adaptogenic herbs because they work on a completely different level than the other stuff that I talked about. So, we can come at stress from multiple levels. And Chinese adaptogenic herbs are going to be more useful for the type of cortisol and the type of stress you’re going to get from chronic stress like work, poor sleep, maybe some relationship issues, stuff like that. Chinese adaptogenic herbs are really good at treating that type of chronic cortisol release. So, whereas like amino acids and some of the full spectrum anti-oxidants that I talked about, stuff like that are really good for athletes. If it’s just like you’re stressed out from life, Chinese adaptogenic herbs work really well to stimulate adrenal gland activity to reduce cortisol secretion to counteract like an exaggerated adrenal response to stress. So, I would recommend that you go back and listen to that episode with Roger Drummer. And he talks about one adaptogenic blend called Ti and Chi. That’d be another one to look into. But yeah, that’s the deal with cortisol and with controlling cortisol.
Brock: That is one heck of a shopping list you just gave everybody.
Ben: Well, if you really drill it down, for me from personal experience in terms of what’s easy to find and simple to implement and I would say that of all the things that I just talked about. If you just want to start with the simple thing, you eat a high fat diet with lots of vegetables. You take amino acids like a full spectrum amino acid supplement before any of your hard workouts. And you use a full spectrum anti-oxidant after those workouts. And then at some point during the day, empty stomach afternoon or morning, you take a Chinese adaptogenic herb complex. What I just described to you is pretty much what I do to manage high levels of cortisol that I know that I am personally producing. And that’s a pretty simple scenario. And it works out really well on the cortisol levels. So, hopefully that kind of summarizes it a little bit better for you.
Brock: Yeah, that’s awesome. The only thing I’d throw in is Martin because you obviously do have a medical condition of some sort or another. Before you take in any of these herbs of supplements or go overboard in any direction, you should probably consult a prescribing physician and just make sure that there aren’t any potential issues there just because Ben and I, neither of us are doctors. And we don’t want to give you the wrong advice.
Ben: Yeah. Certainly run all this by your doctor because a lot of the stuff just described as I mentioned towards the beginning of my rant is that this is stuff that has been tested not in the presence of an oral cortisol medication but in terms of cortisol produced from exercise and stress. And so, when you’ve got that oral medication coming in and it could be a completely different biochemical scenario. So, I can tell you though, stay away from Fedra, and stay away from caffeine, ma huang, grana, senafrin, any of these energy drinks. Even like yohimbe, yurbematte, all of those. If anybody listening is concerned about cortisol, bump all that stuff out of your diet and even cut out coffee if you can. That sounds extreme but anything that stimulates your adrenal glands like that, if you’re concerned about cortisol and you even want to hit the reset button on your adrenals, just eliminate that stuff completely and look at the label of anything that you’re drinking that’s a health tonic or anything like that to make sure that it’s not in there.
Brock: With that, I’m going to have a sip of my decaf coffee.
Ben: There you go.
Brock: I think it’s time to move on to the next question. And our next question comes from an anonymous listener.
She says: My husband is a marathoner, and is training for his first full Ironman. I am supportive and interested in his athletic exploits as a shorter distance runner and a group exercise instructor myself. However, his training starts to take a toll when his athletic exploits start to interfere with our sexual exploits. During marathon training his sex drive takes a significant dip. During Ironman training it has been even more noticeable. I have read that endurance training can actually inhibit testosterone production. Is there a natural dietary way to boost testosterone while training? If not, is there a way he should alter his training and/or diet once he completes this event to “reset” his natural sex drive? He hasn’t had his testosterone tested, he doesn’t have ED, he’s not totally exhausted from training, and our relationship is otherwise healthy and happy. We are in our mid twenties.
Ben: Okay. I got you. Well, a lot of people don’t realize that even in for guys about 27 to 28 that testosterone levels start to naturally decline. And of course Ironman training can vastly accelerate that process. I’m going to make sure to link to a free video and pdf that I produced at the beginning of 2011 because at the end of that video and pdf, it’s called my top ten biggest fitness and nutrition breakthroughs of 2011. But I certainly go into, at the end of that video, how I tripled my testosterone levels while I was training for triathlon. I won’t talk about everything I go into their obviously because I already created the video and the pdf. But check that out. And I’ll put a link to it in the show notes for this episode. And also, I would recommend that you guys get my Tri-Ripped.com program. Even if you’re not going to do the workouts in it, just get it for the entire CD that comes along with you that tells you how to bump up the testosterone. I also have some other recommendations though that I’d give to you in terms of making sure that you can boost your testosterone levels. There is so much advice out there about ways that you can bump up testosterone. And most of the advice, you do want to look at with the perspective that any time you’re taking something that increasing your body’s testosterone levels you always run the risk of that testosterone getting converted into estrogens. And when a testosterone gets converted into estrogens in a man, you begin to take on female sex hormone characteristics. And that in most cases for most men would be considered to be not something that they would want. Things like gynecomastia or man-boobs, excess fat deposition in the hips and the butt and the chest and stuff like that. So, you always want to consider before you take something that just blindly bumps up testosterone levels that you may also want to make sure that you’re controlling the ability of the testosterone to not get converted into estrogen. And that means a lot of the times you’re taking what’s called an aromatase inhibitor. And in terms of things that you can do to control testosterone levels, first of all everything I just mentioned about cortisol kind of works on two levels because any time you’re lowering cortisol, you’re also increasing your testosterone to cortisol ratio. And when you increase your testosterone to cortisol ratio, that right there can automatically start to improve your drive. So, I would certainly come at this from a cortisol controlling standpoint. And I would also, when you’re looking at actual things that can bump up testosterone, definitely look at the high fat diet. A few other things you can look at would be like what I’m using right now is I take three grams of d’aspartic acid on a daily basis. You don’t have to cycle that or stop taking on the weekends or anything like that. It’s just that I use a brand called Hard Rhino. It’s an interesting name. It’s just I ordered that because I did a little research on it to get pure extract, just a powder, keep it out of the reach of children if you’ve got kids around. But about a teaspoon of that and then I take four of the hammer nutrition PSA caps because those have some decent aromatase inhibition activities. I’ll take that or I’ll take a prostalon. It’s another one. And that’s for me just for a testosterone maintenance protocol. But when I was trying to bump up my testosterone levels after they were low because I’ve gotten them back up, I was taking a supplement called Optimale from Bioletics. And Doctor Rick Cohen, who developed that supplement Optimale. And I’ll make sure I’m taking a note to myself to link to it. That same doctor has since told me that he’s also been recommending of the tricks which is it’s a tribulus extract. And tribulus is pretty popular among like the body building and weight lifting crowd for bumping up testosterone levels. But apparently, it works pretty well across the board. So, it’s called Vitrix. I believe it’s just the native name. It might some other weird name probably. I’m guessing it does like whatever triple male drive surprise or something like that. But anyways, I’ll find a link to Vitrix and put that in the show notes for you and also to this Optimale stuff as well s to my tri-ripped program and the fitness breakthroughs. But what it comes down to is in terms of natural dietary ways to boost testosterone would be a high fat diet. If you’re going to add supplements in, add in d’aspartic acid with an aromatase inhibitor. And if you really want to bump up, use Optimale and Vitrix. And then basically, as much as possible use the same approach that I use in Tri-Ripped.com which is high intensity intervals for Ironman training with minimal volume. So, you should be, if you’re concerned about your testosterone levels for Ironman training, you can still break ten hours in an Ironman by training eight to 12 hours a week which is what I typically do. I max out my Ironman training around 15 hours because I’m going pro this year. I’ll actually be bumping it up closer to 20. But understand that quality should be higher than quantity when it comes to making sure that you’re not depleting your hormones.
Brock: Cool. Well, that was a great question. Okay. So, our next question and actually I like Scott’s style.
Scott says: How and why should I jump rope? What are the benefits and what’s the best workout routine? What kind of rope should I use? How many calories are typically burned? I’m looking for an overview of rope work.
Brock: He sure is.
Ben: Yes he is. Well, first of all before anybody scoffs a jump rope as a playground activity for children. Jump rope is one of the most accessible and effective form of plyometrics that you can do. So, plyometrics is a fast, powerful exercise that’s designed to train your nervous system. So, you get two advantages when you do plyometric training or training where you’re jumping, landing, and then jumping again really fast. The first is you basically train what’s called your stretch shortening cycle. And what that means is that when your body hits the ground after your foot land, that’s called an eccentric contraction or a negative contraction. The muscle is lengthening as it’s loaded. And there is a certain period of time as that body is lengthening and storing. All that elastic energy that it’s absorbing as you land that the muscle has to go through in order to be ready for that transition into the next jump or the next phase which would be called the concentric phase which is when the muscle shortens and produces a force again. And the length of time between your eccentric contraction and your concentric contraction or the length of time between the muscle lengthening and the muscle shortening again is called your stretch-shortening cycle. And that’s one of the underlying mechanisms of plyometric training is that when you do training and you focus on minimizing ground reaction time which you could do by jumping rope really fast. You train your stretch-shortening cycle to be able to be shorter. And you make yourself more explosive. The other thing that happens is you actually train the neurological component of your muscles. Every muscle has what’s called a Golgi Tendon organ in it. And that protects your muscle. What it does is when your muscles are producing a force, the Golgi Tendon organ which is inside the muscle that sends a signal to your spinal cord that your muscles are contracting. And your spinal cord will respond by ensuring that the muscles don’t contract so hard that they tear. And this is the reason that a chimp is way stronger than a human because their Golgi Tendon organs have a much higher exaggeratory threshold. It’s the same reason that a mom can pull a car off of a child as the car is about to explode or something like that. You may see it in a movie or hear a story about. It’s because the mom’s spinal cord and nervous system is literally able to override that Golgi Tendon organ and produce a contraction that would otherwise tear the muscle. So, the reason I bring this up is because when you do plyometric training, you increase the exaggeratory threshold of your Golgi Tendon organ meaning that you increase the amount of force that you’re able to produce before your spinal cord shuts down the force potential of the muscle. So, when you’re jumping rope you’re actually training both the stretch-shortening cycle and the inhibition of the Golgi Tendon organ. So, that’s why it’s a great activity for becoming a faster runner or becoming more explosive in sports. As far as how you can do it, how I jump rope is I would just take a jump rope with me to the gym or grab one while I am at the gym. And I’ll throw in jump robe burst in between some of my weight training exercises. And when you throw in burst of cardio between weight training exercises, it actually does have an amplification of the hormonal response to weight training. And also intuitively, you burn a lot more calories too and bump up your metabolism higher. I go between a double leg jump rope, jumping very fast for anywhere from 50 to 100 jumps. Or a single leg jump rope and again trying to go anywhere from 50 to 100 touches per leg but trying to maximize the rate at which my foot leaves the ground. Those are the main forms of jump rope that I do. It’s just the double leg and single leg. I don’t do a lot of side swings or double under where you’re jumping and swinging the rope twice under your feet or any of these other really advanced combination jumps frankly because I’m not that coordinated. I just don’t have those skills. But you can certainly include those. I mean you could learn those. And jumping rope unlike running is a lot less likely to leave the knee damage because you’re absorbing the jump on the balls of your feet rather than your heels. It’s almost like you’re teaching yourself how to have that mid-foot strike rather than heel strike. So, you decrease the ground reaction forces that go through your knee. So, it’s kind to your knee as well. So, I will generally be jumping rope about once per week just as a form of explosive activity that I can throw in as part of the weight training routine. And really, that’s about where my entire knowledge of jumping rope stops. I don’t have a full on jump rope routine that you should use. I use it as part of a greater routine. As far as the type of jump ropes, I own a weighted jump rope. Yeah, it’s harder. It keeps your heart rate up higher. On the flip side, I can do better in plyometric training and jump faster when I’m using a rope that’s not weighted. So, the rope I’ll typically grab at the gym is probably a two dollar jump rope. So, it doesn’t even matter. I’d use just a regular old rope if that’s all they had. You don’t have to buy anything fancy because jumping rope for calories is not as beneficial as jumping rope for explosiveness. If you want to burn calories, go ride a bike or run. But if you just want to develop the explosiveness and athleticism that jumping rope can provide, grab any old rope, jump as fast as possible for a short period of time both legs or one leg at a time. And you’re going to get some massive benefits from doing that. And by the way in terms of calorie burn, yeah it could burn up to 1000 calories an hour depending on how fast you’re jumping. But look at it this way, you’re not going to jump for an hour. So, it doesn’t matter really, the calorie burning part of it.
Brock: Yeah. Is there any, when you’re mentioning the different kinds of rope, any benefit to or any difference between just standing there hopping up and down changing one foot to the other versus actually skipping rope? Like does the rope have any benefit?
Ben: You know, that’s a great question.
Brock: I just want to make sure I’m looking like a fool I guess.
Ben: Right. From a plyometric standpoint, not necessarily although jumping rope is like you, I don’t want to use pendulum, it’s not the right word, metronome. It keeps you timed and gives you something to count and makes it a little bit more interesting. Once you get into the more advanced routines like the double jumps and the side to side jumps as you swing the ropes side to side, then it becomes a little bit more coordination or a more agility coordination type of activity. But yeah, you could simulate the activity of jumping rope without actually jumping rope and still get a lot of the plyometric benefits. But you also miss out. If you’re with your friends at the playground, then you can’t have the fun singing games.
Brock: I can’t double Dutch.
Ben: You can’t double Dutch or do the awesome Annie or any of the other jump rope moves.
Brock: I guess the only reason I was asking is because I’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately. And when I’m stuck in some hotel room, I actually did a workout that where in interspersed sort of what would be considered skip rope moves without a jump rope.
Ben: Yeah. I mean I’ve done that before. You can literally, in between each of your weight training sets, just jump 30 times like really fast jumps as if you have a jump rope. And you’re going to get some more plyometric benefits. So, like you say Brock, you might look dumb because you’re not holding a jump rope.
Brock: I looked extra dumb because I was in my hotel room in my underpants.
Ben: Good visual.
Brock: There you go. Okay, down to Kate’s question.
Kate says: I am going to be entering a mountain bike race this spring in Sandpoint, Idaho. I have about three months to get fully prepared. Would you mind giving me your two cents on how I should go about training? Obviously, I have my own ideas, but I’d love to hear yours. The race is about 10 miles long, on pavement and mostly uphill.
Ben: So, it’s very uphill.
Brock: It’s very uphill.
Ben: Yeah. Ten miles uphill, you’re going to want to work on three different energy systems. Your lactic acid threshold, your strength, and your VO2 max. Your lactic acid threshold is the energy system that’s going to basically, when trained teaches your body how to buffer lactic acid more efficiently. And since you’re going to, for ten miles, be producing significant amounts of lactic acid. That’s going to help you. Now the way that you’re would train your lactic acid energy system is first, find out at what heart rate you’re producing the amount of lactic acid that is the amount that your body is not able to remove as quickly as it’s being produced. This is typically when you’re breathing hard, when your legs are burning. But you’re not slowing down. Your legs aren’t getting rubbery. You’re not reaching muscular failure. But there’s a good steady burn going on. The way I like to test that heart rate is to do a nice long warm up like a 20 minute warm up. And then on your bicycle on flat controlled course where you do not have to stop, not having to do a lot of climbing, you just ride for 20 to 30 minutes at your maximum sustainable pace. So, you’re able to maintain your cadence. You’re able to maintain your speed. But your legs are burning and you’re breathing hard. The average heart rate during that 20 to 30 minute effort would be approximately your lactic acid threshold heart rate. And then you take that same heart rate and you do shorter intervals at that heart rate. An example of a lactic acid threshold building interval session would be you take your lactic acid threshold heart rate and you do four eight minute efforts at that heart rate. And you give yourself about a two to one work to rest ratio. So, eight minutes on, four minutes easy. Eight minutes on, four minutes easy, four times through. That’s an example of a workout that’s going to train your body how to buffer lactic acid more efficiently. And it’s really good at getting you ready for efforts where you’re going to be basically time trialing, going at a steady, fairly hard effort for a long period of time. Of course, force production is also going to be a component of hill climbing. And one of the best ways to improve your muscle’s force potential for cycling in addition to just doing lots of hill climbing is through weight training. Weight training will increase the amount of muscle units that your body is able to call upon that your neuromuscular system is able to recruit as you are climbing. And so, I recommend that at least once a week and preferably twice a week, you do some type of workout that includes squats, lunges and dead lifts for example. Those would be three exercises that are really going to help you recruit more muscles during the pedaling stroke. So, I would be including weight training. And I would be, when you’re doing that, choosing a weight that allows you to lift anywhere from about five to ten repetitions. That would be closer to your strength range. So, not like 12, 15, 20 repetitions, not like circuit training classes at the gym but just pure weight lifting and picking up heavy stuff with your legs. And then the last thing I would do just in case you decide that during rails to resort race you want to try to really go hard as you’re getting towards the end of it and those last three to five minutes. You’re going to be bumping yourself up into your VO2 max range at that point. And so, to train your VO2 max, it would seem that you should just do like 30 second or one minute effort. But VO2 max is better trained with about two to three minute efforts at your hardest sustainable pace and long rest periods. So this could be for example, you go out for a ride. You warm up really well. And then you go really hard for two minutes so that you’re muscles are just rubbery. And you’re sucking air by the time you get to the end. And then you recover for about eight minutes of easy pedaling. And you do that three or four times through. That’d be an example of a VO2 max building workout. The type of workout that’s going to help you when you get to the very end of that race, go at all out capacity to go for the record at the top. So, lactate threshold, strength, VO2 max, I would be using those as your three key workouts during the week. Do one lactate threshold workout during the week. Do a couple of strength workouts. Do at least one VO2 max workout during the week. And then everything else is easy riding skills, drills, stuff like that.
Brock: Excellent. Good luck to you Kate. Kick some serious butt. Our next question comes from Jesse.
Jesse says: I recently lost 30lbs in 4 months in large part due to your podcast, thank you. Now I have a new problem, excess skin where my gut used to be. Is there anything I can do to make this go away faster?
Brock: I remembered you definitely talked about this at the get fit guy podcast.
Ben: Yeah. I did. I did a podcast on this over at my get fit guy podcast. And the fastest way, and I’m not going to lie to you, is to get it stapled. I mean, that really is the fastest way to tighten and lift loose skin is plastic surgery. However, there are other things that you can do. If you take care of your skin, it’s going to heal more quickly. And it’s going to maintain the type of elasticity that will allow some of that loose skin to go away. However, you should know that a typical period of time for skin to tighten and return to shape and to fit your new body is about two to three years. So, just realize that you’re looking at a time commitment here. And things that can help your skin to heal more quickly would be anything that helps to hydrate your skin or to strengthen your collagen or elastin. And collagen and elastin are two components of your skin that are the components that allow the skin to be able to be as adaptive as it is and return to shape after it’s been stretched. Protein rich foods really help collagen and elastic formation. So basically, making sure that you’re getting adequate amino acids from meat and eggs and dairy based sources, which would be certainly one thing to focus on. Water is a crucial component of maintaining your skins elasticity. So, you should make sure that you are staying well hydrated. And then there are actually skin tightening creams. And those work. They’ve got special formulas and special ingredients that can help to hydrate your skin and literally increase the collagen and elastin formation in your skin. Usually, the ingredients are going to be things like aloe vera, hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A, all of those types of things will help. If you’re using toxic personal hygiene products, and you could go read a recent post that I did entitled “are you creating a chemical cocktail in your armpits” where I talked about deodorant. But there are soaps, shampoos, things that you use when you’re cleaning your skin that can certainly decrease skin elasticity. That would include everything from the sulfates in soaps to the chlorine and heavily chlorinated water. And so, paying attention trying to use as many possible natural hygiene products and also trying to stay away from really hot water, chlorinated water, tanning booths, heavy sun exposure. Anything that would be considered to be skin damaging would certainly help the skin to heal faster. Obviously, that’s an incredibly inconvenient suggestion much of it. But if you’re wanting every advantage possible and you want your skin to heal as quickly as possible and return to its shape, those would be some of the things that I would recommend.
Brock: Wow, two to three years.
Ben: Yeah. And that’s life.
Ben: It’s the way the skin works.
Brock: Alright, fair enough. Okay. The next question comes from Billy.
Billy says: I have been following a Paleo/Primal lifestyle for about 8 months. After having much digestion problems in the past, living life and training gluten free has been revolutionary. However, from time to time I do ingest gluten in the form of beer and soy sauce etc. which is in some of my favorite Thai food dishes. Prior to ingesting gluten, I’ve been taking a Gluten Enzyme supplement by Now Foods. I would take one capsule before and one during a meal containing gluten. Can you comment on this type of supplement and is it doing me any good on the harmful effects of gluten on the gut lining? Or am I wasting my money? Are there any other methods to detox from gluten ingestion?
Ben: Yeah. It’s an interesting idea that you’d take a supplement that would help you digest gluten. And it makes sense if you’re concerned about cereal grains and what they can do to your stomach. And there certainly are digestive enzymes. Like the one that Billy mentions which is Gluten Digest which is a dipeptidyl peptidase. And that’s a digestive enzyme that can help to breakdown some of what are called the peptides that you’re going to find in gluten containing foods. It also contains some amylase and glucoamylase enzymes to help to break down some of the carbohydrates that would be on that food. Now if you have gluten intolerance or if you have intolerance for another type of food like lactose, taking an enzyme that helps you to digest that particular protein can certainly be helpful. For example, if you take a lactase enzyme, that could help you to breakdown lactose. If you take a lipase enzyme, it could help you to breakdown fats. And if you take this dipeptidyl peptidase enzyme, it could help you to breakdown gluten. And so if gluten tends to cause some issues for you in terms of some bloating or gas or the type of things that would be associated with intolerance, yes, taking an enzyme that contains a gluten digesting compound could certainly help. Now, there are a couple of other things to think about though. First of all, an allergy to what or an allergy to gluten is far different than intolerance. Intolerance is simply a deficiency in enzymes that helps you to breakdown gluten. And an allergy means that your body is literally creating anti-bodies against protein fractions that it finds in these gluten-containing foods. And your body is mounting an inflammatory reaction to fight off the presence of that compound. And an enzyme isn’t going to help at all with an actual straight up gluten allergy something like a celiac disease for example. Now the other thing that you need to realize is that a lot of the times the issues that people have with gluten, the ability of gluten to affect the way that kids think or the way that you think. It can literally have this gut-brain reaction, the ability of gluten to cause some immune system depression and things of that nature. Even a little bit of gut inflammation. That’s not due to the lack of enzymes. That’s again, due to an auto-immune reaction. So, it’s not the problem that you’re not digesting gluten even though that tends to be an issue. But the major problem is that your immune system reacts to gluten after gluten enters the blood stream. Your body produces the anti-bodies against gluten as soon as gluten crosses what are called the mucosal barriers in your intestine. And at that point, we begin to get a lot of the immune system depression, anxiety, migraines, just a lot of the issues that folks can get as a reaction to glucose that go above and beyond simply not being able to digest gluten all that well. The other thing that you need to realize is that of all the things that your body can digest, the type of gluten or the type of proteins that are found in wheat are some of the most difficult to digest. Now, plants have to rely on a way to protect them. And that’s the reason that the seeds of all the different grass families like rice and wheat and rye and everything. They have a high level of these defensive proteins that are called lectins. And when you cook and you sprout and you ferment a food, it a lot of times will help with making these lectins less resistant to digesting and less resistant to degradation by the ph and the temperature of your digestive track. But lectins are very tough. They have what are called disulfide bonds. That’s the same they use in vulcanized rubber. And it’s the same thing that your hair is made out of. It’s incredible strong. It’s flexible. It’s adorable. And even if you’re taking a dipeptidyl peptidase enzyme when you’re eating a gluten-based food, you’re still going to have a lot of resistance to digestion particularly with wheat because of the lectins in wheat. And the reason for that is not because nature is broken and somehow made wheat the wrong way so that we couldn’t eat it. But it’s specifically because of the way that we’ve bread wheat over the past 100 years in America. And you can read about this more in the book Wheat Belly by Doctor William Davis. I’ve had him on the show. It’s that wheat germ in gluten has been strengthened. And it’s presence in wheat has increased literally like ten folds. So, the type of wheat we’re eating these days is just simply not conducive to human digestion even in the presence of for example like a gluten digesting enzyme. So, other gluten containing foods that aren’t wheat, this enzyme could probably help you out a little bit with wheat. I’ve adopted the policy to simply steer clear of this stuff. So, that would be my advice.
Brock: Yeah. So, I guess the short answer is it depends and there are a lot of factors that it depends on.
Ben: Yeah, exactly. I would take a gluten-containing enzyme before you consume gluten-containing foods but just don’t eat wheat.
Brock: Alright. The next question comes from Ian.
Ian says: I have a question. My middle toe on my right foot is numb all the time except when I run. After about five miles the pain becomes unbearable and I have to stop and massage my foot and move my toe around then it is good for about another mile. I saw a doctor and he gave me cortisone shot in the bottom of my foot. This only helped a little the pain still becomes unbearable between six and seven miles. I don’t think it is my shoes I have three pair that I rotate.
Brock: Any ideas?
Ben: Yeah. That’s sounds like a classic of what’s called a Morton’s Neuroma. You have this nerve that can get compressed in your feet. And the most commonly affected side is the third toe and the inside of your fourth toe. And that’s called a Morton’s neuroma which is when if that nerve is constantly compressed, it develops a coat of scar tissue. And you can get constant numbness. And that can develop from when you’re running in hard surfaces, when your shoes don’t fit properly, when you’ve especially got a narrow toe box from the type of shoe that you’re wearing. That’s not conducive to the width of your foot. And the fix for that is to remove the pressure from the nerve. And you can use an orthodic that has what’s called a metatarsal button that literally spreads your bones apart that tend to put compression on that nerve. The cortisone injection gives you temporary relief. But it certainly doesn’t spread the bones apart the same way that literally having a metatarsal button in your shoe would. A lot of times you can simply get the button built into the actual shoe itself like built in to the orthodic of the shoe. If you ask your local running store about a shoe, if it’s got some type of metatarsal spreading mechanism built into the orthodic, they’ll be able to tell you whether or not it does. The other thing you can do is simply buy an orthodic that has a metatarsal button in it. Now, I have never had this issue with running. I’ve had this issue with cycling. And the orthodic that I use for cycling was the specialized body geometry orthodic. That has a metatarsal button that spreads the bones in the bottom of the foot. I’m not off the top of my head familiar with the actual brand of a running orthodic that has a metatarsal button. But I know they’re out there. You could probably go to Amazon or Google and literally just do a search for metatarsal button orthodic or orthodic for Morton’s and get something that’s going to help out with the numbness in the foot. So, that’s what I would do. I’m surprised that a doctor would give you a cortisone injection at the bottom of your foot and not help you find an orthodic that’s going to spread your metatarsals. But maybe that’s the case.
Brock: Okay. Our next question comes from Brett.
Brett says: I am curious to get your thoughts on a strained/pulled arch in my right foot. I am currently running in saucony kinvaras but have had this problem in the past with other shoes. The pain is localized in the middle of the arch and I have no heel pain. Is it time to explore orthotics or can strengthening and stretching my feet help alleviate the problem.
Ben: The latter. Anytime you have heel pain or arch pain, it’s usually because you’ve got tight calves, tight Achilles or tight plantar fascia. A really tight plantar fascia gives you plantar fasciitis which is really bad heel pain and really bad arch pain. But when that arch is stretched, you get pain in the arch. And when you can improve flexibility in the calves and the lower legs and the feet and even the toes, you a lot of times can alleviate that pain. And this can be as simple as leaning into a wall with your toe and doing that a few different times a day kind of like a typical leaning into a wall calf stretch. It could be lying on your back and using a belt or even a yoga strap to pull on your toes, each toe individually as you flex that toe back towards your shin and then also repeat that same thing with your entire foot. So, you’re basically just trying to flex your foot as far as you can and then flex each individual toe as far as you can improve your flexibility in the actual arch. And if you’re wearing cowboy boots or high heels a lot, it’s going to cause that arch to be in a chronically shorten position that can put stress on the tendons, stress on the plantar fascia. So, you’d want to make sure you address those type of lifestyle choices in terms of the type of shoes that you’re wearing. I personally store cowboy boots a lot. Now I wear vibrums in situations where I would’ve worn cowboy boots. They don’t look as cool. But my back and my arches both thank me for it. So, stretching and strengthening would be really the best way that you can address arch issues. I just talked about the stretching component. The strengthening component just means don’t wear shoes as much as possible. For example, I work at a standing work station during the day in bare feet to strengthen my feet. And I also almost run in minimal shoes or vibrums now to make my feet even stronger. Be very careful if you make that choice and ease yourself into it gradually. But just not wearing shoes can be one of the best ways to strengthen your feet as long as you’re not stupid about it. And you go and run on a gnarly trail in minimalist shoes and get a bunch of rocks and sticks causing damage to your feet or go play basketball game in minimalist shoes. There are certainly situations where you’d want to have a good built up shoe. But in most cases, stretching through some of the modes I recommended and then strengthen through just not relying on a shoe all the time is a great way to get your arches back to where they should be.
Brock: It’s amazing how much benefit you can get from a) just standing more and b) standing more barefoot. It doesn’t seem like it’s actually giving you any exercise or any strengthening qualities. But it really is. You’re just standing there in your bare feet switching from one foot to the other, standing from one foot, standing on both feet. It does a huge amount of work for your feet, your ankles, your knees, all your stabilizer muscles. It’s a great thing to do.
Ben: Yeah. And it’s a great conversation starter at parties too.
Brock: And we all need more of those. Okay. Our last question comes from Andrea.
Andrea says: I’m one of those people who don’t wear deodorant or anti-perspirant on a daily basis because I don’t really sweat throughout the day, and don’t have BO. I’ve done check-ins with friends. This isn’t just me fooling myself. I’m happy about this because I’m not a fan of trying to suppress a system designed to help us regulate body temperature. Everything changes when I exercise. I do sweat then and I’ve found that my sweat smells distinctly different if I’m lifting versus if I’m doing cardio. Cardio still smells “clean” to me, but I’m not too happy with how I smell when lifting. Is there any reason you can think of why my sweat would smell different at that time? If stinky sweat is related to toxins, why is it only lifting that releases them?
Ben: I was going to say, we all might think that to some extent.
Brock: I smell delightful.
Ben: Well, you certainly have a different hormonal release when you’re lifting weights versus when you’re doing cardio. And hormones can affect the smell of your sweat. In most cases its males that have slightly a more odorous sweat as just a natural way that we release pheromones and smells that can potentially can attract females to us. But if a girl is lifting weights and the weight lifting is causing production of energetic steroids secreted from the apocrine glands in the armpits or wherever else. You could certainly produce a little bit more. It’d be basically like a more musky smell because when you weight lift you not only get bigger releases of growth hormone compared to cardio. But you also get testosterone produced whether you’re a male or a female. You get greater amounts of insulin produced which incidentally could potentially also cause more carbohydrate odors in your sweat. You get more glucogon released which is a hormone released from your pancreas to make your liver release it’s storage carbohydrate and bump up your blood sugar. And then you get a cortisol release. And any of those hormones could potentially affect body odor or affect sweat. So, the ultimate solution to this is not to stop lifting weights because actually the release of all those hormones is really great. It helps your body with a lot of stuff especially your response to the strength training session and your ability to recover from it. And I don’t think that it’s related to toxins because if it was related to toxins, you’d be having stinky sweat both when you’re doing cardio and when you’re doing weight training. And it certainly is a sign that your body is detoxifying. If your sweat smells worse, you’ll notice for example, cigarette smokers, people who have been drinking the night before a lot, people who have been eating a lot of processed foods, their sweat stinks a lot. But if your sweat doesn’t stink at all and you only notice a different odor when you lift weights, then that’s more likely due to hormones. Unless by off chance you have some strange of every time before you lift weights, eating lots of garlic, onions, fish, maybe some mutton, and some spices, and maybe pop a little bit of alcohol before you head to the gym. And you only do that before you lift weights and not before you do cardio. All that stuff can make you a bit odorous. But that’s probably not the case. I don’t know. Do you tend to bake a clove of garlic to take to the gym Brock?
Brock: Oh yeah and the mutton especially. I love mutton before lifting.
Ben: It must be a Canadian thing.
Brock: Oh yeah.
Ben: So ultimately, it’s just hormones. And I mean, go grab my deodorant article and grab some good healthy non-chemical deodorant if you’re concerned about this.
Brock: Well, great. That’s the end of our questions for today.
Ben: That’s a good long Q and A.
Brock: It was.
Ben: I guess we’ll wrap it up quickly. But folks if you are interested in that Thailand trip, of course visit the show notes to check that out. E-mail me testimonials, before and after photos or anything else you have that would help my book to look cooler. And everything that I’ve discussed in terms of my recommendations during my answers to any of your questions, I’ll make sure to put links to in the show notes to this episode, episode number 185, right Brock?
Brock: That’s right.
Ben: 185. At bengreenfieldfitness.com. Have a fantastic week.
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