March 9, 2011
Introduction: In this podcast, the New Evolution Diet with Art De Vany, calf swelling from running, difference between branched chain amino acids and protein powder, transfer factors, prolotherapy for back pain, how to run better without running longer, how long to recover from a marathon, xanthan gum and guar gum, alternatives to barbell squats, and exercises for becoming a better swimmer.
Ben: Hello, folks, this is Ben Greenfield and on today’s podcast, we got a guy who’s kind of known as the father of the Paleo movement. You see a lot about that Paleo diet and Paleo exercising these days, so I figured we should actually find out how all this got started. We’re going to be chatting with Art De Vany and I did get some feedback last week that you actually liked it when the Q&A was a little bit more stunted. So that means the podcast is going to be a little bit longer, but I will get to lots of the questions that you’ve been sending through. So let’s go ahead and jump right in to this week’s content from BenGreenfiledFitness.com.
Some of you may have gotten in on the breakfast seminar that took place this week, a live video Q&A. Well, I know that we didn’t even scratch the surface of the questions that you had about breakfast – the questions that many of you left for me over at BenGreenfieldFitnes.com when I asked you what confuses you about breakfast, but don’t worry, what I’m going to do is record a special podcast episode that’s just about breakfast and that only answers those questions that you asked. So that podcast episode is coming up, as well as a special follow up to the Inner Circle podcast that was done on fluoride. It sparked quite a bit of controversy and I guarantee there’s even more controversy once I release an interview with one of the head researchers over at FluorideAlert.org. So look for that coming down the pipeline as well as a special video about an experiment that I’m doing on healthy coffee alternatives. That’s coming this week to BenGreenfieldFitnes.com. Of course, if you are an android smartphone user and you haven’t grabbed the free smartphone app, I will put a link to that in the show notes of this episode, Episode #136, and I’ll also put a link to the free iPhone app. And then finally, if you want to advertise on the Ben Greenfield Fitness website, simply shoot me an e-mail to [email protected] and I’ll hook you up with everything that you need to know. So let’s go ahead and jump right in to this week’s Q&A.
Ben: If you have questions of the podcast, there’s lots of ways that you could ask it. If you’re a Twitter user, you can go to http://www.twitter.com and simply ask at bengreenfield if you follow me at http://www.twitter.com/bengreenfield. You can ask a question at the Facebook Page, http://www.facebook.com/bgfitness, where there are lot of other discussions and Q&As going on all week long. You can e-mail at [email protected] or use the handy-dandy Ask Ben Form over at https://bengreenfieldfitness.com. And finally, if you have that iPhone app or android app, you can use the convenient Ask Ben button that’s right there on the phone app.
Kim asks: I’ve been running for about 3 years. Over the last 9 months I increased my mileage to 30 miles a week. When I increased my mileage, I began to have swelling in my calves. The swelling/water retention went away when I wasn’t running, but it’s now back again. Any thoughts?
Ben: Well, when you run, or any time you damage muscle – weight training, running, any type of activity like that – what happens is you actually get a swelling in the area from an immune system response to inflammation that takes place from the muscle damage that occurs. And when inflammation takes place, you get a rush of fluid to the tissues to allow the tissues to heal. It’s a normal healing response. The problem is that when that type of inflammation is taking place in your lower extremities, just because of gravity and the constant pounding that’s taking place when you’re in that upright running position, you end up getting a lot more swelling in your legs, and specifically in your calves, your ankle and your feet. And some people get more than others. Sometimes it’s due to excessive stretching and straining because of weight issues. Sometimes it’s the running form or the running style, like an excessive heel strike that’s causing more of a breaking sensation in the leg, or loading on the tissue. But ultimately what it comes down to is you have to manage that swelling and inflammation post workout. One of the things that you can do is run with, and use after you run something like a compression sack or compression pipe, which will actually help to milk a lot of those metabolite back up out of your tissue. Now, whereas a cool down does get some of your inflammation, milk that out of the muscle, a compression sack will continue to do that, even after you finish the cool down and you will look for something like the gradated compression sack, which you’ll find offered by lots of companies out there: Zoot’s, ZEP, there’s a lot of different compression sacks and compression type manufactures out there and I would definitely use those. If you’re able to, try and get the feet elevated for at least one minute for each mile that you run. So if you go on a 5-mile run, what you would do is after you cool down following your run, and this is, soon after the run is possible once your heart rate’s come back down, you can simply lie down on the ground with your feet elevated up against the wall, and you would do that, for example, if you ran 5 miles, you do it for 5 minutes. If you ran 20 miles, you do it for 20 minutes. That can really help your legs drain some of that excess fluid. Icing, as well as ice baths, help quite a bit with that swelling as well. They help to constrict some of the blood vessels surrounding the muscles that you’ve been working, and limit some of that fluid accumulation. And then when your muscles heat back up, such as would be the case if you’re doing like icy hot contrast, going from cold water into warm water, you can help to get the blood flow a little bit better in the legs as well, which can also help to remove some of that swelling. And then finally, if you really want to get techie, you can grab yourself like an electro stimulation device. I actually one of those. I have one made by a company called Compex, and literally causes my muscles to contract, so when I’m sitting watching TV, I can have electro hooked up to my calves and be milking a lot of fluid back out of my calves just sitting around and that’s been incredibly useful for me when I amped up my running volume. So try elevation, use ice, use compression, use electro stimulation if you can and also make sure that you’re really giving yourself a good cool down and stretch after your runs and all that should help with some of the swellings in your calves.
Kyle asks: What’s the difference between taking a supplement that contains all the essential amino acids like a protein powder, and taking a branch chain amino acid supplement?
Ben: This is a good question. It’s something that a lot of people kind of get confused about. Branch chain amino acids are going to be present in any protein powder. Whether it’s a liquid protein powder, or a powdered protein powder, or tablet protein, all of them are going to have branch chain amino acid. But those branch chain amino acids are going to be combined with non-branch chain amino acids. So you’ve got all of these different amino acids in a protein powder, and all of those amino acids have to actually go through your liver, to end up being synthesized into the compounds that are going to be used for muscle repair and muscle recovery. But the branch chain amino acids, those can appear in your blood stream within about 30 minutes or so of ingestion. So there’s an almost immediate absorption of those branch chain amino acids which means that during exercise, you’re elevating your blood levels of amino acid when you use branch chain amino acids, and you’re also, after exercise, or before exercise, also able to get a good high blood level of amino acid without having to worry about digestion, breakdown, absorption, and all the other things that may actually be trapped from your workout. So whereas after you finish a workout, a protein powder, like say a whey protein powder, would be far superior to taking something like a branch chain amino acid. During the workout, a branch chain amino acid is a great way to go, because you’re basically just using the amino acids that are going to get absorbed and utilized very, very quickly. The only caveat to that would be if you can get your hands on a whole amino acid capsule, so something like one of the ones that we talked about on the show before is like a Master Amino Pattern, or MAP, and I’ll put a link to that in the show notes. NatureAminos is a whole amino acid source that actually doesn’t require the same amount of digestion as like a protein powder would. So that is something you would take before workout, about 20 to 30 minutes workout. And what happens is when all those amino acids are in your blood stream, you get a delay in mental fatigue, you get a delay in physical fatigue and you also get less breakdown of what’s called catabolism of the muscles that you use during exercise. So best case, gold standard scenario would be to use like a whole amino acid capsule before exercise. That can be expensive. Next best case scenario is to use a branch chain amino acid before and during exercise, and then in either of those situations, it would be beneficial – assuming that this is like a hard exercise session or a long exercise session, you know, one plus hours – to use like a protein powder after the exercise session, with the understanding that the protein powder is always going to take longer to digest, assimilate up to your blood stream, etc. compared to any of these amino acid capsules out there that you can get. So I will put a link to the Master Amino Pattern, the whole amino acid stuff, in the show notes for you.
Pepepacoluis via twitter asks: Hi, Ben. What do you think about 4Life Transfer Factor products?
Ben: 4Life is just the name of the company that makes this particular transfer factor, they call it an advanced formula capsule. And basically, they market it as an immune system enhancer, so what it’s got, some of what are called the adaptogens, which help to stabilize your cortisol levels and de-stress like a maitake and a shitake mushroom extract. They also put some cordyceps in there, beta-glucen, which actually are very, very promising for immune system strength as well as decrease the duration of a cold. And then most importantly, of course, well the thing is named after like the transfer factors in there. And what transfer factors are, there are these chains of amino acids called peptides. It’s about 40 or so different amino acids and they’re called transfer factors because what they have the ability to do is take immunity from an immune donor so in this case they get it from egg yolk and cow colostrum extract. And what happens is the immunity that’s contained in the cells from those products actually becomes a donor to the recipient who is ingesting this product. In this case, a human. So obviously, by strengthening your immune system, you’re getting some advantages. If you’re doing this from a performance standpoint, you know, athletes, people who exercise a lot, you know, you’re going to be more prone to infection anyways because heavy workouts, strenuous competition can depress your immune system. And the idea behind taking a colostrums is that you’d get some of that immunity to many of the pathogens that you’re going to encounter. The other advantages of colostrums could be to help with nutrient uptake, they help promote a little bit quicker recovery after exercise because it is considered anabolic, it does cause an insulin release. It helps the body to use energy more efficiently with a possible shift of fuel utilization from carbohydrate to fat. So you have that carbohydrate sparing effect. There also could be a little bit more ability, or greater ability to build lean muscle mass. I’m actually in the process of writing an article about the use of colostrums for BenGreenfieldFitness.com. If you stay tuned for the newsletter, you’ll be able to find out more about that. But ultimately the transfer factors are not really allowed by the FDA to be marketed as something that controls disease. But they could actually boost immunity to specific diseases, and there could be multiple additional benefits for athletes to use something like this. So there may still be some health issues that have yet to be discovered in long term studies with transfer factors and colostrums, but it’s definitely something to look into and colostrums is actually on my list of things to look into trying, especially from an immune system standpoint. Like it could be very promising. So I hope that helps with your question.
Mike asks: I’ve been dealing with a lower back issue for over a year now. I’ve tried every conceivable avenue to resolve. Much of the pain started at a time, after which I lowered the stem on my bike to get more aero dynamic. I wonder if I may have strained some ligaments which are the root cause of spasms and other referred pains that I have experienced. Have you any thoughts or experience with using prolotherapy for back pain?
Ben: Prolotherapy is actually a good treatment when back pain doesn’t actually involve nerve impingement or some type of loss of feeling or function in your lower limbs. And one of the people who I consult with, one of the physicians who I greatly respect is Dr. David Minkoff down in Florida. And I asked him about this and he said that he actually recommends and he uses prolotherapy frequently on his own patients, and it’s helped him personally a lot. He’s a guy who’s done 40 Ironman triathlons, and basically, the downside to it is that it does hurt quite a bit for about 10 seconds when you get prolotherapy, and there’s also inflammation at the site where you get the injection for a couple of days. But the idea is that when you get prolotherapy, you’re actually injecting cells that can accelerate recovery into the area of the injury or the inflammation. And he recommends that you go to a site called GetProlo.com and it says that sometimes it will take up to 6 treatments of prolotherapy. But when I asked Dr. Minkoff about this, because I know that he does offer prolotherapy, he said that he would highly recommend that you give it a try. So ultimately, yes. In a case where like chiropractic treatments, massage treatments, strengthening or core based exercises are not helping with your back pain, prolotherapy would definitely be something to look into.
Patrick asks: I have a 17-mile loop. I like to run and I don’t want to stretch it out any further than that. I’ve heard several pros never ran longer than 16 to 17 miles and add intervals to their long runs rather than additional volume. What can I add to my current loop without adding more base volume and without compromising high end aerobic fitness.
Ben: It really is true that one of the limiting factors for specially amateur and age group or athletes who are training for say like a marathon or an Ironman triathlon is that there’s kind of like this mental barrier to go out and including intervals during a long run. And so instead, you just make that decision that rather than doing like a hard 90-minute or even like a hard 2-hour run, you’re going to go out for 2 ½ or 3, 3 ½ hours. Not only is that amount of time spent in aerobic state, a lot of pounding without a ton of cardiovascular benefit, but it also could be a waste of your time compared to the benefits that you could get out of running a little bit harder and simply running for sure. So one of my favorite workouts to do when I go out for a long run and I want it to be a high quality long run, this is kind of like my gold standard runs before I go out for like an Ironman triathlon marathon, is to do a 20-minute/10-minute run, which is 20 minutes for my interval and then 10 minutes for my recovery. And I’ll repeat that 3 to 4 times for a 90-minute to 2-hour run. And so what I use for that run is something called Zone 3. Zone 3 is not the point where you’re breathing hard or your legs are burning, but it’s just a little bit before that. As a matter of fact, if you were to take the point where you’re going at your maximum all-out pace for 20 minutes and you were to measure your heart during an effort like that, subtract about 20 beats or so, and that is going to be that kind of Zone 3 maximum fat-utilizing heart rate that you do for this 20-minute interval. And then you just run super easy, stop and smell the roses, watch the birds, look at the trees for 10 minutes, and then you repeat. And so this 20-minute effort is very, very close to what your race pace will be, but by throwing those recovery repeats in it for 10 minutes, where you’re just jogging, what happens is that it’s not the same type of breakdown or recovery implications that there would be if you were to go at that rate for say the entire 2-hour run. So ultimately, doing intervals like that makes you pay attention. It requires you to look at your watch; it requires you to do some things I know some people don’t like to do when they go out for a long run. But ultimately, that’s a very, very effective intervals. Basically a long interval of 20 minutes on, 10 minutes off that you can add into a long run. The other thing’s very useful, simply strides. They keep you honest. What you do is every time you pass a mile marker, take about a hundred paces where you’re really picking up the pace. You know, going on about an 8 or so on a scale of 1 to 10. And once you get to a point where you can’t effectively do any strides without breaking form or going in a bad running form, that’s when you should probably stop training because at that point you’re just logging junk miles. So try interval strides about at the start of each mile during a long run. That’s something else that I’ll do to make sure that I’m keeping myself honest during a long run and running at the intensity that’s actually going to transfer over to say something like a race. Again, rather than just breaking down the body and trying to achieve X amount of time on the clock during that long run. And then the last thing that I would suggest is a fast finish run, and this is where you cut your run shorter than you would normally do, like if you’re going to go for a 20-mile run, you go out for say like a 15-mile run instead, but you tack on 1 to 2 miles of hard tempo, fast finish, where you’re pushing yourself for that final 1 to 2 miles or so up to an 8 to a 9 and finishing with a 10, like an all-out sprint on a scale of 1 to 10, and that’s another high, high quality way to end a workout and make sure that you’re not working out for so long on your run that you’re leaving yourself unable to perform quality work at the end of the run. Some of the great ways to build muscular endurance. So try some of those strategies. Try the 20 minute on, 10 minute off interval, try the stride to the beginning of each mile, and then try shortening your run significantly but then adding in a very difficult a 1 to 2 mile fast finish.
Tom asks: I’m running the Boston marathon and 19 days later, during the St. George Ironman.
Ben: You’re a glutton for punishment, Tom.
Tom: How long does it take to recover from a marathon and what would you recommend for recovery?
Ben: Well, we’ve talked about marathon recovery time before o the show, and the interesting thing is that most of the studies that looked into marathon recovery only inspect things like inflammatory markers in the blood stream and some of the things that go on after you run a marathon only for about 1 to 3 days after the marathon. And there’s very little in terms of long term research following a marathon that go past the 3-day mark. So of course, you see things like a big elevation in the epinephrine, elevation in cortisol, big elevation in some inflammatory markers like creatine kinase in the blood stream for several days after a marathon. But the only long-term study that I’ve been able to find was the study that found that it took 19 days to recover from an Ironman triathlon. Now, what you’ll get a lot of kind of the marathon coaches coming to a consensus on if you go and inspect what a lot of big marathon coaches are saying these days is that, you should, for each mile that you run, take one day to recover. And so they’re saying that if you’re running your marathon at a true hard race pace marathon, I mean, really racing it, then you would technically want to take 26 days to recover. Now, I’ve tried to basically recover from an Ironman triathlon the stupid way, and I’ve tried to recover the smart way. And when I say the stupid way, I mean not doing a whole lot in terms of active recovery, you know, taking some rest, going on some long walks, but not doing a lot. And then I’ve tried the smart way. And I wrote an entire article doing the smart way called Lightning Speed Ironman Recovery Secrets. It’s a free article. I’ll put a link to it on the show notes of this episode. But what I did for that was compression, ice baths, natural anti-inflammatories, whole amino acids, an anti-inflammatory diet, I did massage therapy, I did topical magnesium and ornica. Just a ton of different things. And I felt golden within a week after an Ironman triathlon. So I think it really depends on your recovery parameters. I would go read that article that I linked to in the show notes, but you should be able to recover 19 days later to do your St. George Ironman. However, because any type of proper marathon recovery is going to require you really laying off doing like interval training, doing like hard workouts, I guarantee that you’re going to lose fitness before your St. George Ironman. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. So if you wanted to prioritize your Ironman triathlon, I would go real easy during Boston. And vice versa. If you don’t care much about St. George Ironman, you just want to cross the finish line, go all out during Boston, but realize that if you really want to be recovered from St. George, you’re going to lose some fitness either way. I personally would rather go into an Ironman with a slight loss of fitness, than go through an Ironman very sore, inflamed because I didn’t recover properly from a marathon 19 days earlier. So I would recommend that you raise your marathon hard, and then really go with light short workouts and use all the recovery protocols that I recommended at Lightning Speed Recovery circles article. And understand that even though you’re going to lose a little bit of fitness before your Ironman. Ultimately, your legs are going to be a lot happier during that race.
Kim asks: I read xanthan gum or guar gum can be used to thicken smoothies. However I’ve always thought of these 2 ingredients as additives. What is your take on using these as a tablespoon or two in a daily smoothie?
Ben: Let’s talk about what these actually are. Xanthan gum is produced from the fermentation of a sugar with a bacteria. And incidentally, it’s fermented with a bacteria that normally causes diseases and spoilage in fruits and vegetables. So xanthan gum is basically about as natural as any other sugar that gets fermented or about as natural as something like corn syrup. So it is a filler, it’s used in a ton of different dairy products, salad dressings, typically as a thickening agent or as a stabilizer. And the advantage is that you don’t have to use very much xanthan gum at all, to make it go a long way in terms of giving kind of a gel-like quality to anything that you’re looking for. Incidentally, it’s also used as a substitute for wheat gluten, which is why you’re finding a lot of health food products because that gluten for your bread, pasta, anything based on flour that needs a filler or something to make it chewy, so to speak, which is what gluten does, normally they’re going to use something like xanthan gum. Now, in terms of health effects of xanthan gum, large consumption of it can result in some diarrhea, in some bloating, but there’s not a whole lot of evidence that the saccharide or the sugar used in xanthan gum are going to be really that much of an issue for you when they’re consumed in a very small amounts that are necessary to use it as a thickening agent. It does cause digestive irritability, bloating, gas, etc, though when consumed in excessive amounts, so that’s why a lot of people who do a ton of like good and free food are going to have issues with that. Now, guar gum is created from fermentation of a sugar. It’s actually created from seed from a guar bean, and the seed is de-husked, it’s milled and then it’s creamed to make this gum. And then the gum is ground into a powder and that’s also used as a filler. As a matter of fact, this particular filler is actually used in weight loss diets or in diabetic diets because it has very low digestibility, it makes you feel very full and actually there was an issue with it because the US Food and Drug Administration back around 1990, actually banned a bunch of supplements that contained guar gum because it actually could cause esophageal blockage especially when it’s combined with insufficient fluid intake. So if you’re doing a ton of guar gum containing food and smoothies, you may want to be a little bit careful in terms of intestinal blockage. Again, both of these I would use in moderation. We have xanthan gum in our house. We use it as a filler. It’s used in very, very low levels in moderation but it can give a little bit of thickening to a smoothie.
The next question is from John, who wants to know if there are alternatives to barbell squats. And John gives some background on some shoulder issues, scoliosis and spine curvature issues that he’s having that keep him from actually performing a squat with a barbell on his back. He says because of this pain, I mainly use lunges and leg presses for leg strength.
I personally rarely do barbell squats, frankly because when I’m doing a barbell squat, I’m typically going heavy enough with the barbell so I want some type of rack there behind me to actually touch the bar if I drop it. And because I do most of my workouts in my house, I don’t have one of those. So alternatives that I use for a barbell squat, some of the better ones that I found, first of all is the goblet squat. For a goblet squat, you take your weight, for example, a dumb bell, and you simply hold it to your chest clutching it along the top of the dumb bell. So holding that top weight of the dumb bell and letting the bottom weight just hang free. You clutch that to your chest and you perform your squat. That’s a good one. Just make sure you hold the goblet, or the weight, close to your chest so that you don’t put excessive strain on your low back. Another really good one that I like that still gives quite a bit of shoulder and low back loading without actually aggravating something like scoliosis or shoulder mal-alignment, would be to take two dumb bells and simply place one dumb bell lightly on top of each shoulder. Now you got to have a little bit elbow flexibility to pull this one off, but you will only do your squat holding a dumb bell on each shoulder. That’s another really good one that I’ll do. Front squat with a barbell. Again you got to work on your elbow and your wrist flexibility to pull this off, but you literally rack the barbell right there on the front of your shoulders, hold it there using your wrist and your forearms for support and do a front barbell squat. If you didn’t want to do a squat, all as you say you could do lunges, leg presses I’m not a huge fan of, they tend to be pretty bad for your low back and your knees, especially on a poorly built leg press machine. But there are tons of variations of lunges that you can do including step ups or step downs, reverse lunges, front lunges, lateral lunges. So there are definitely alternatives to barbell squats. And then, of course, one of my all time favorites, I do 10 a day for each leg, and that’s just the pistol squat. Single leg squat, trying to keep your butt back, trying to keep your knee behind your toes as much as possible using a wall for support for the balance issue. If you can get your legs up to the point where you can do 10 pistol squats or single leg squats, you have pretty string legs, and that’s a really good one to go with that doesn’t require any weight at all. Last thing would be an isometric squat. And I like this, as well, where you simply drop down into a squat position and hold it from anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes, and if you want a little bit of added core you could twist from side to side as you hold that isometric squat position. It’s naturally good for building up some muscular endurance in the legs.
Brian asks: I recently joined a swim in high school and found it difficult to fit in lifting weights into my schedule since I swim Monday thru Friday for 2 hours a day. When should I lift weights and what exercises can I do to become a better swimmer?
Ben: Let me start by saying I actually finished a book a couple of months ago and it’s at the publishers right now. It’s called the Ultimate Guide to Weight Training for Triathlon. That will be released sometime later on this year and in it, I did a thorough review of the research regarding the effects of weight training on swimming, cycling and running. And among those three sports, the one that shows the poorest response to weight training is swimming. Very, very little evidence that weight training is going to do much for you at all for swimming. There’s one study that shows some decent effects on it on 400 plus meters in swimmers. However, from an injury prevention standpoint, it can be quite handy, because what happens in swimmers as you tend to get very, very tight front of the shoulders, the one that’s anterior shoulder musculature and you tend to get that forward shoulder curvature that’s almost like a slouch that you see in a lot of swimmers, especially free style stroke swimmers. What you would want to work on to control that is rotator cuff stability and scapular stabilization. Some of the best exercises for swimmers are going to be anything that involves rowing. So pull ups, seated rows are especially used for if you can keep your shoulder blades squeezed back as you do a seated row. External rotation is also very useful where you hold a cable or an elastic band and you place your arm at your side, bent to 90 degrees at the elbow and you simply externally rotate out in a way from your body. Swimmers tend to be very strong in internal rotation because that’s the movement you create as you pull through the water, but very weak in external rotation. So scapular stability and external rotation come in very handy. I am a big fan of distant swimmers for doing some muscular endurance work for the core. Even though there’s not a lot of research behind that, I found it to be useful in my own training and the training of my athletes to make sure that there’s some type of core program involved, preferably one that includes 22 types of exercises. Like front plank holds, a side plank rotations are really good one getting on stability ball and a push up position with your legs on the stability ball and simply rotating the legs side to side. Anything that involves core stability or abdominal contraction combined with twisting, preferably in the prone position, kind of a stomach down position. All of those planking type of motions are really helpful as well. And ultimately, I wouldn’t worry too much about doing a lot past that if you’re swimming for two hours a day, because once you start doing a bunch of overhead presses, pushes, bench press, stuff like that, you’ll get to the point where you’re aggravating your shoulders. So to me, the ideal program for a swimmer is going to be scapular stability work, external rotation and rotator cuff work, and then if functional strength is desired in other aspects of like if you’re other sports, definitely in inclusion of some lower body work – squats, lunges, things of that nature – to take care of the muscles that aren’t working too much when you’re out there swimming. So that’s a great question and that actually wraps up the questions for this week. So we’ve got an interview with Arthur de Vany coming up. I got to warn you, a couple places in this interview, his voice disappears for about like 5 to 10 seconds, don’t worry, it comes back. It’s just one of the issues with using technology to record events. So listen in. I’ll put a link to all of Dr. De Vany’s stuff on the show notes of this episode, Episode #136.
Ben: Hey folks, this is Ben Greenfield and the man who is on the other end of this line right now is really known as one of the fathers of the Paleo movement. His name is Arthur de Vany and he is a professor at the University of California in Irvine. He is an economist, a behavioral scientist, he’s an author and he has actually just published a book entitled The New Evolution Diet. And today we’re going to be talking about some of the cutting edge concepts that he goes into in that book, and how those actually affect you when it comes to your human performance – your fat loss, your nutrition or your workouts. So Dr. de Vany, thank you for coming on the line.
Dr. de Vany: I’m happy to be here.
Ben: So the very first question that I have for you is when someone visits your website, or sees picture of you, or anything like that and takes a glance at you, you look like you are about 50 years old, that you’re ripped, you’re in incredible shape, it looks like you could basically be a professional athlete and you are, if I’m not mistaken, 72 years old.
Dr. de Vany: Well, I’m 73 now. Time marches on.
Ben: Wow! 73 years old. And it’s simply amazing to see a photo of you. I will put a photo of Dr. de Vany in the show notes for those of you listening in. But you know, the question that I’d like to start with is how did you actually get to where you are today? What led you to come up with this New Evolution diet, and live the diet and the lifestyle that you’re living today?
Dr. de Vany: It all goes back to my family. I was trying to keep my young son healthy and safe when he developed Type I diabetes at the age of 2. So I had to plunge in to the study of metabolism. I was a professional athlete, as professional baseball player, but my eyesight got the better of me and I decided to go on and become an academic. So I had a lifelong interest in health and fitness. Moreover, I played a lot of softball and so forth and in later years. So I’ve always been an athlete, always been interested in athletic performance, but being busy, I also wanted to be able to do these things without taking a huge amount of time because I’m going to have productive and successful career. Now the metabolism I studied in trying to keep my son healthy and believe me, this was the dark ages in the treatment of diabetes. They were recommending jello pancakes, fruit loops, loads and loads of glucose in a diet, and starches. Of course that is now found to be counterproductive. Even Banting, who discovered insulin, knew that the whole metabolic cascade results in the kind of damage, it’s glucose hydration that causes the damage of diabetes. In fact, diabetes mellitus was first named that by Greeks who called it a wasting sweet disease because of the urine was filled with sugar.
Dr. de Vany: Yes. So having worked through these things, I had to embark on the whole little family journey to trying to keep my son healthy and just a few years later, my wife had the same Type I diabetes. Obviously, it’s partly genetic, partly epigenetic in its cause. Now we can really look at this more scientifically and we carefully tested her glucose levels and eliminate the foods that cause her glucose to spike or require a massive reduction of insulin in order to control her glucose. And over time, it turned into this diet. I have not made the evolutional connection with that time, I was just trying to live in this modern world with diabetes and keep my family healthy. Then I had a chat with a graduate student in anthropology and she told me, well, that’s exactly the diet the tribe chief studies. So the end, that was the next step. I embarked on a study of gene expression evolution, the life graph of ancestors, and actually I was able to combine my knowledge of economics and decentralized complex systems to come up with a new way to look at human metabolism. It’s an old way but it’s also a new way. The senses of the cells are completely decentralized. Each one is an individual. But they’re all genetically related, so they have a disposition to cooperate with one another that our hormones direct where the nutrients we consume will go. That’s called nutrient partitioning. So the point is to manage your hormones to the extent one can manage where there’s a complex, decentralized system by doing the right types of exercise and eating in the correct way. That’s, in essence, the journey.
Ben: I definitely do have some questions for you about how to eat and exercise in the right way to optimize those hormone levels in the way that you described. But before getting into that, in your book, you recommend that before someone even go out and change up their diet or change up their exercise plan, they test 8 things. You talked about 8 things in your book. And you go into great detail in your book, but what are those 8 things that you actually recommend people look at or get tested before they start to change things up in their day to day routine?
Dr. de Vany: Well, I’ll make you get all the 8 right now, but the point is to determine the degree to which your metabolism is damaged and you are inflamed, and your body composition is improper.
Ben: A couple of things I noticed is – I actually have your book here in front of me – insulin is one thing that you recommend. A lot of people know that they’re supposed to test their blood sugar and that’s actually a common recommendation that you hear among nutritionists these days. But when it comes to insulin, how does somebody actually go about doing it, and why should they do that?
Dr. de Vany: First it’s an easy blood test, it’s not usually part of the metabolic panel but it’s easily added by your doctor. Here’s the thing, you can pass the glucose tolerance test where they give you a bolus of glucose and see what happens to your blood glucose. And your blood glucose can actually be in a relatively normal range, but your insulin may be extremely high, that is, if you have an insulin, let’s say of 10, and when you eat something your pancreas is still able to respond by producing additional insulin in order to absorb the… manage the glucose. You’re still on the verge of metabolic syndrome and the whole cascade of aging and metabolic derangement against that follow having high circulating levels of insulin in your body. So you can pass a lot of standard tests and still be overdriving your pancreas. You can even be on the verge of collapse. It barely is measuring the degree to which your pancreas is still capable of responding to a glucose challenge. By the way, the other point is, in terms a whole new stasis which for people who have money look at their glucose levels, it must use a broader terms called allostasis. It has to do with the operational multiple systems involved in keeping your glucose within that so called norm or healthy range. But the problem is, the body will begin to use a variety of other devices in order to keep blood glucose in a healthy range. For example, your stress level will rise because if your insulin is high, your blood sugars kind of crash after you had a meal. And you become insulin resistant. So the blood sugar crash causes your stress level to rise so that your stress hormones can mobilize glucose from your liver and from your muscle. It actually degrades your muscle mass in order to feed the glucose that your brain requires. So the thing is you have multiple systems operating and it is called allostatic load. You actually are imposing a multiple systems load on the body. For example, your blood pressure rises as well. Of course, your kidneys are suffering glycosylation and damage, you can become inflamed, so now you have inflammatory pulse disease also working, and inflammation causes insulin resistance. So imagine this, your glucose is not well-controlled. You make sure normal run on a test, but it spikes upward after you had a meal. Your insulin response, your glucose starts to decline, maybe rapidly, maybe not, but you now have elevated fatty acids, insulin and glucose all over. Sort of a toxic inner mixture of substances circulating in your blood stream simultaneously. So now the body _______47:34 is under stress half ways in order to cope with that load. So it’s far more complicated than managing extra bold number. Which is what most doctors tend to look at.
Ben: It sounds like what it comes down to is that the folks who are maybe just testing blood glucose after they eat a meal may not be getting the whole picture.
Dr. de Vany: A single number, a single response process, there may be multiple, it may be using up multiple other systems exhausting them in order to maintain that healthy range.
Ben: Gotcha. So a couple of things that seem pretty straight forward, you tell people to measure their body composition or their body fat levels. You tell them to measure their strength, to measure their physiologic capacity which we talked about on the show before about doing something like a VO2 test or bicycle test. And then you mention the testosterone and C-reactive protein.
Dr. de Vany: C reactive protein is easy. That is one of the many markers of information in the system. So you want to have some sense of the level of information. First test is just to look at your face. And if it’s sore or may redden, and tissues in your body appear to be a bit squishy, you get the sign of the inflammation. You actually have a larger sort of looking clubby than is really there because of the puff. Inflammation is in its ______49:07 send the immune system in to tissues ______49:12 or stress, and it makes the tissues permeable and making them permeable, they start to swell, just like, you know, a bad injury swells. So in a sense you have a low grade of information in swelling throughout the body, so that’s the first thing you notice when you start to eat a healthier diet, it happen, this inflammatory response that your body is nudging against the glucose assault that’s circulating inside you.
Ben: And a doctor will be able to run that CRP test for you at the same time that they do something like the insulin test?
Dr. de Vany: Yes. The CRP is usually part of the normal metabolic panel. If you do the whole metabolic panel, you usually get that. And other markers, if you want to look and see how your kidneys are holding up to the assault and many people ______50:13 swell sign of the impending kidney harm from the fact that the kidney is in stress by the high glucose in the blood stream. A fasting glucose reading is one thing but remember, glucose is a very dynamic pattern throughout the day. The mess is the one shot test that may not tell the story that’s really relevant, because our metabolism is a dynamic process. You can’t take a study picture and know all the answers. We passed over body composition, and I think this is crucial. I think it’s not our body weight or our body composition that our metabolism is geared to maintain. If there is a homeostatic objective that the body has, it tends to be a body composition, not weight. I weigh a lot because I have very little fat and quite a bit of muscle. Remember, when we first descended from the trees as primates, we humans became fatter, brainer primates. The fat is there to protect the energy supply of the brain, we develop small stomachs, high mobility, so we’re capable of large energy expenditures, but we have this small stomach, so we 51:00
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