June 8, 2011
Ben: Hey folks, this is Ben Greenfield, coming to you at about 2:30 a.m. from the Seattle Airport. I just came in from the Hawaii 70.3 Triathlon and happen to miss my flight back home to Spokane. So as I lay here on the hard floor of the airport, trying to get a little bit of shuteye, I realized that there’s absolutely no way that I’m going to be recording the podcast tomorrow morning, as is my usual MO from the home office and so, I am providing you today with a replay of a podcast that I did with the folks over at the marathon training academy. Now, don’t stop listening if you don’t run marathons because this is actually a very good bit of information to anybody who wants to know more, specifically about, what to be eating before and after workouts, and specifically in this case, things like cardio workouts. We talked a lot about breakfasts, about sports supplements, about low-carb diets; we talked about diets for building and maintaining a lean mass, losing weight while preparing for a thing like marathons and runs, and how to control hunger pangs. There’s a lot that we can go in over in today’s podcast and this is of course, kind of an unconventional podcast from BenGreenfieldFitness.com. There will be no special announcements and no special music. We’re just going to jump right in to the podcast, and again, this is a replay of an interview that I did with the folks over at the marathon training academy and by the way, I promise, that next week, we will be back to the regular podcast format. I have a lot of really great interviews that I’ve been conducting with guests that you have asked me to interview so I’ll be releasing those in the next few weeks and until then, enjoy this podcast. Be sure you do head over to BenGreenfieldFitness.com and check out some of the recent articles and videos that have actually been stirring up quite a bit of comments and discussion, and let me know if you have any questions, feedback, or comments about what you hear today, by leaving them on the show notes for this episode, Episode #149 at BenGreenfieldFitness.com. Enjoy!
Host: Alright! We are on the podcast today with Ben Greenfield, he is a nutrition and fitness expert and a tri-athlete, and also has a popular podcast called the Get-Fit Guy. And Ben’s come on the show to let us ask him some nutrition questions, so we’re excited about it and we’re going to jump right into it. So I have the first question, and this involves breakfast before a long run, and this question is from Rachel.
Rachel: I usually get my run-in 1st thing in the morning. What should I eat and drink, if anything, before I head out the door? Something quick, nutritious and easy on the stomach. I usually try to make breakfast the biggest meal of the day, but that’s hard right before I run. Should I split it up and do half before, and half after the run? I need some help.
Host: So Ben, what would you say about eating breakfast before a long run?
Ben: Cool, great question. That was from Sarah, did you say?
Ben: Rachel, okay cool, great question Rachel. Well, before you head out for a run like in the morning, what’s going on in your body is you got lots of storage carbohydrate on board still, yet some people think you burn through it all when you’re sleeping, and basically, you have 2 places on your body that you store carbohydrate; you store it in your liver and you store it in your muscles, and you pretty much only burn through the stuff that’s in your liver while you’re asleep. So, you still got a good 1000-1500 calories of carbohydrate onboard to burn through, when you roll out of bed in the morning. That’s assuming of course, you ate dinner and you weren’t on some weird fasting protocol the day before. But that being said, that means that you can technically roll out of bed, start running, and within about 5-10 minutes, you’re body is going to be starting to shuttle some of that carbohydrate, that storage carbohydrate out of muscle tissue and round in your bloodstream where your blood sugar goes up a little bit, deliver some glucose to your brain, basically that begin to make you able to use that carbohydrate. So getting out of bed and just heading out on the run is fine. Now, depending on the distance of the run, the storage calories that you do have onboard will start to run out, you know, let’s say that you’re running for, let’s say you got a long run and you got 2 hours. Once you get about 60-90 minutes in, you’ll start to run a little bit low on that carbohydrate and at that point, you would benefit from having some carbohydrate with you, like a gel or some other type of sports supplement you can take with you and as a matter of fact, you’ll be a lot more comfortable if you start taking in your carbohydrate before you reach that point. I think we’ve all reach the point where the blood sugar gets a little low, it always seems like you got to eat everything in sight to dig yourself out of that hole, so it’s better not to let yourself get there. But ultimately, before you head out, if you want to eat something, just a quick digesting carbohydrate is fine; research doesn’t show that there’s any difference between eating a sweet carbohydrate or non-sweet carbohydrate so, what I mean by that is a banana would just be as good as a sports gel, would be as good as, if your stomach tolerates it, a bowl of oatmeal. So basically just carbohydrate is fine; stay away from the rocky-style steak and eggs though, no eggs in a blender; that’s going to take about 4-5 hours to digest, and once you’re running real slow, you’ll get some GI distress with that.
Host: That’s just nasty anyway, drinking an egg like that.
Ben: Yeah, it’s macho though; makes you look good.
Host 2: If anyone’s watching I guess.
Ben: That’s right.
Host 2: The next question does relate to what you were talking about here, it’s about real food versus energy bars before a long run.
Marice: What is the best fuel food before a long run or marathon? Which should I prefer on the long run, real food like bread, legumes, corn, or energy bars and gels?
Ben: It’s a great question, you know, this question pops up a lot nowadays because of the whole paleo diet thing and everybody wants to go out and eat more or less like a caveman…
Host 2: Right.
Ben: The problem with eating real food while you’re running is that a lot of choices for real food, let’s say some of the common things that people grab like dried fruit and dates and figs and even some forms of vegetables, you mentioned corn and carrots; I’ve seen people grab those, and chomping down a few bananas. Lots of that stuff tends to have fiber in it that draws water into your colon, and so, whereas it’s fine for about 30-60 minutes; once you start to get up to 90 minutes, 2 hours, more than 2 hours, you really risk some gastric distress, you risk some gas, some bloating, possibly even some leakage, for lack of a better word, when you’re fueling with that type of real food during your run. That’s why a lot of times, even though they’re not the healthiest thing on the planet, from a nutrition stand point, these engineered foods like bars that are jam-packed with lots of calories and not much fiber, like a power bar or a goo or a sport gel, or even a sport drink that’s got a little bit more of the sugar concentrate in it, this type of things are really designed to be consumed during activity without causing GI distress, and they’re the best choices and for me, as somebody who likes to prioritize real food as much as possible, I don’t like to tell people to go out and eat engineered packaged food all the time but the one time that it really comes in handy, is when you don’t want a lot of fiber on board. Now, if I could say one other thing, it’s that research doesn’t show any difference between solid and liquid, so there’s really not a difference in absorption or comfort with a bar versus a goo versus say like, a flask with some concentrated liquid fuel in it, like a Gatorade or some people mix those powders even more stronger than that so, it’s ultimately kind of, what you like, what keeps you entertained while you’re out there running.
Host 2: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Okay!
Host: Okay, the next question is about gels, beans and sports drinks, and it’s sent in by Lisa.
Lisa: How can I fuel during long runs? I have tried gels and I find I actually get hungry so, how frequently should I take gels? Am I better off with sports drinks or gels, beans or a combination? What is the best way to help me maintain my energy during the run?
Ben: Great question. I coach marathoners and I see a huge range of nutrition intake among people, both guys and girls, in terms of what they can kind of, tolerate and what they actually need to keep their blood sugar levels from dropping. One girl who recently did, what she did in Chicago, and I had her on about 200 calories an hour in Chicago, she did about a 2:48 over there, but just felt her blood sugar levels dropping almost too low than we wanted them to drop, even though she was a gel every half hour at about the 20-mile mark or so. So then, we did Phoenix and she did Phoenix in, it was 2:50 and changed, but we bumped up the calories, so then she was taking a gel every 25 minutes, and she still, at that same mark, got the low blood sugar so next race, we’ll be taking in a gel every 20 minutes; that’s 300 calories an hour, if you’re going to need an entire gel into your system…
Host 2: Right.
Ben: And whereas on paper or in a laboratory, that seems like a lot for a female to be consuming per hour during a run, that’s what we found we actually need so, usually, if I were to just paint with a broad brush, I find that for a marathon-based distance to really feel great the entire time, girls need about 200-250 calories an hour, guys need about 250-300 calories an hour, and that’s basically like a gel-based carbohydrate.
Host 2: This lady in question, she’s a 6-hour marathoner so she’s going to be out there for a long time. Will that make any difference as far as calories per hour or mile intake?
Ben: Yeah! I noticed among the Ironman triathletes that I coach, were always up towards the higher end of that calorie intake because you’re going into the run hungry, or you just gotten off the bike for a 112 miles so, you have a lot fewer carbohydrates on board and you would kind of, fall into that category.
Host 2: Okay.
Ben: Even though she’s not burning as many calories per hour, somebody who’s going to run it in say like 3 hours, she’s out there for a long period of time, so once she gets up to about 2 and a half, 3 hours, she may find that she has to bump it up to even close to a gel every 15, maybe every 20 minutes, so we’re looking at 300, 400 calories an hour to keep her from bonking, and it’s really genetically variable, some people have high metabolisms, some people burn more carbohydrates, some people burn more fat, but one of the things that she should be doing is, especially if she plans on being out there for a long period of time, she should be practicing in some of her training sessions, just seeing what she can tolerate, and then the other thing that, kind of the flip side of it, if you can train your body to use a little bit less carbohydrate, and rely on carbohydrates a little bit less during activity, if you throw in a few sessions where you just kind of push through the discomfort and the feelings of, like you’re going to bonk, and just kind of, get yourself to burn fat as a fuel, so, you throw in a few, for lack of a better word, fasted run sessions, or you’re just kind of getting used to running on fat; you can lower your carbohydrate need just a little bit that way.
Host 2: Okay, so your main advice will be to practice during her training for her marathon to try to work out that formula for her body, so that she knows what to do on race day.
Ben: Yeah! If I were her, what I’d be doing it is a combination. Let’s say she’s running 4 times a week; do a couple of sessions that are, kind of in the morning, without much fuel, so you’re training your body to run on fat as a fuel, and then throw in the session on the weekend where you’re practicing your fueling, you know, where you’re kind of getting the best of both worlds.
Host 2: Okay, that makes sense. I have a question on the 3 phases of Gatorade.
Rob: I’m wondering if I should buy in to the hype with the whole 3 phases of Gatorade, 1 before the long run, 2 during, and 3 for afterwards or, if I’m okay going with regular old Gatorade?
Ben: Okay! I think what you’re referring to is the new Gatorade; there’s this new Gatorade, it’s called the Gatorade G series sports drink.
Host 2: Okay!
Ben: And what they did with that is they made like 3 different types of Gatorade and you take 1 before, and then 1 during and 1 after, and the idea is that technically, you need protein after you finish working out, and research has shown that a nice ratio of protein to be taking in after a workout is about a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein. So, they make 1 type of Gatorade that has protein in it, and then they make another type that is for, before you head out, it’s basically like a gel, like all these 3 things come together, and then 1 that you take in during is basically just traditional Gatorade. So, what Gatorade has done is they’ve marketed science; a nice little package, you pick it up, you take in your gel right before you head out to bump up your blood sugar a little bit, you take in your Gatorade during training to keep your blood sugar levels elevated, and then you take in your Gatorade that has protein added into it, after, to help your muscles repair and recover and also help to replenish storage energy. And it’s a cool concept; you’re basically overpaying for it, in a sense, to get it all packaged together, I mean, you can do just as well eating like, half a banana before you head out, eating your gel while you’re out there on your run, and then eating chicken and some brown rice when you get back, and you’d save yourself some considerable amount of money, but Gatorade has just kind of packaged it all into 1 convenient package where you take your, I think they call it “their prime is their pre, and then perform is their post or their during”, and then they have something like protein for their after. Kind of weird thing about it though is even though Gatorade is kind of bragging that they’ve really gone after science with this whole new 3 phase drink package you can get from them, their post-workout beverage is a 1:1 protein to carbohydrate ratio, so basically, they’ve kind of like, broken all the rules and chosen a ratio that research shows is not anywhere near as good as a 4:1 ratio, so it’s kind of a weird that they’ve gone after the science but at the same time, kind of mess things up.
Host 2: So if you want something like that for convenience, go for it, but you can do the same thing at home, if you’re willing to do the real food.
Ben: Yeah, exactly.
Host: Alright, so now we’re going to get into some diet questions and this question is about low-carb diets. Somebody sent the question in, but the person asked “I’ve lost a lot of weight on the Atkins diet. Is this, and other high protein, low-carb diets, compatible with running long distance? Should I add more carbs to be prepared for race day?
Ben: This is an interesting question because it really depends on the person’s history. The reason I say that is if I’m coaching, let’s say a really lean person, and they come to me and they want to go on a low-carb diet, I can also or almost guarantee that they’re going to get an overtraining injury or they’re going to get sick a lot because they’re not taking in enough carbohydrate to actually keep their immune system functioning or actually keep their muscles firing in a proper pattern, to keep them from injury. Now, if somebody who’s not lean come and wants to go on a low-carb diet, then it’s a situation where I know they have enough storage energy on board on their body; they’ve got enough adipose tissue or fat to be able to burn. It’s going to be a little bit uncomfortable for them if they’re used to constantly feeding on carbohydrate, it usually takes about 1-2 weeks to kind of get over the blah feeling that you get when you switch to a low-carb diet, but that person can typically do it and stay pretty healthy and not really risk overtraining because of the process of something called “gluconeogenesis” which is basically just a process of turning your own storage fat into glucose. So you can basically turn your storage fat into carbohydrate, burn that in a low-carb diet; assuming you have enough fat, you’ll be okay, you don’t have much risk there. But if you’re lean, you got to be real careful with low-carb diet. I don’t have any lean people who successfully do a low-carb diet without getting injured or sick. The only thing you really got to be careful of, if you do kind of fall into the category of a person who’s got some extra fat to burn, a little bit overweight, you want to lose weight, you’re going to switch to low-carb diet, I’d recommend that you cycle your carbohydrates, and what I mean by that is on your higher activity days like on days you have your long run, or maybe your hard intervals day, do bump up the carbohydrate intake a little bit; it’ll give you a higher quality workout; you’ll get less of a chance of depressing your immune system from long-term carbohydrate depletion, and you also kind of get yourself a mental break. You’re able to stick to a low-carb type of diet a lot longer when you inject these carbohydrate re-feeding type of days to bump your energy levels back up so, it’s very difficult to just straight up do a low-carb and maintain that for more than a month without something breaking or the wheel’s fallen off somewhere.
Host 2: Would you recommend increasing that carb intake like the night before their long run or the race, to kind of prime the body with extra carbs for that?
Ben: Yeah! There’s 2 ways to do it; it kind of depends on the time of day that you’re going to work out like, I sometimes use a low-carb diet when I’m really trying to lean up, like if I’m coming off the off-season and into the race season and for me, because I tend to be like a late afternoon, evening-type exerciser, my re-feed day starts in the morning with breakfast; I switch to a higher carbohydrate breakfast instead of having like, protein or eggs cooked in coconut butter, all have like a couple of whole grain waffles and eat those until I’m super full in the morning to really soak up a bunch of carbohydrate and I’m not running or doing a workout for another 4-6 hours so, it kind of depends. If you’re workout really starts in the morning, yeah, you’re definitely going to want to get the fueling in the day before.
Host 2: Okay! This next question kind of relates to this whole topic and it’s about building and maintaining lean mass.
Bryan: Can you tell me the proper diet to follow for someone who’s interested in maintaining and even building lean mass, while at the same time, fueling properly to train for a half marathon?
Ben: Yeah, it’s kind of difficult and this falls into the same type of science that you’d use for like a build-muscle, burn-fat type of approach and the idea is that they’ve done research studies on people who have tried to go on a low-calorie diet or be at a calorie deficit so that they could lose fat, but also build muscle at the same time and the only populations in research studies that have been observed to be able to burn fat and build muscle simultaneously, are people who went on a diet but at the same time that they went on a diet, they did weight lifting. And they’ve actually seen people go in as low as 800 calories a day, and still put on muscle during their weight loss phase because they were lifting weights. So there’s just something very special about resistance training, the type of hormonal response to that that really can help you build muscle and burn fat at the same time. So you’d definitely want to be lifting weights and most of the studies, they’re doing it 3 days a week for anywhere from 30-60 minutes so, I would definitely include that in the program and you can absolutely train cardio and resistance training at the same time; you don’t have to do like a 4-week weight lifting phase and then a 4-week marathoning phase. I generally recommend that people who are training for a primary sport, focus on that primary sport first then the workouts. So for example, all the tri-athletes that I coach know that they have to do their swimming, biking, or running workouts for the day, before they do any type of weight lifting, and the people who I have, trying to build muscle, know that they’re supposed to do their weight lifting during the day, before they go out and do any of their cardio intervals or their sports or anything like that. Does that make sense?
Host 2: Yeah, that’s good. Thank you.
Host: Alright, I got the next one and it’s, let’s see here. “Do metabolisms react differently to a specific diet?”
Ben: Yes! I’ve talked about this a lot over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com that people have generally 3 different types of metabolisms; you tend to be a protein type, a carb type, or a mixed type, and depending on which type you are, you’re going to respond differently to carbohydrates, protein or fat. For example, I’m a protein type and I eat typical day, I’m eating 30-40% protein, 30-40% fat, 30-40% carbohydrate and I know those ratios based on a comprehensive questionnaire that I did called “metabolic typing”. I actually interviewed the guy who does that questionnaire over on my podcast and my wife, eats about 50-60% carbohydrate, 20-25% protein, 20-25% fat because she is a carbohydrate type, and she feels better energy levels based on that and so, yes! Depending on your metabolism, you may be a high carb, a high protein, or mixed type, and it’s very easy to assess through a questionnaire, just series of questions that you answer that ask you things like what type of foods you crave, how you feel after eating certain types of foods, what you like, what you don’t like, and it’s one of those deals where you answer the question based off the first thing that comes to mind, and it’s typically very accurate and now, I feel a lot better than when I was eating a higher proportion of carbohydrate.
Host 2: I think that’d be really helpful for a lot of people because some people, we get to our section on the weight loss questions, they seem to be, think that you’re in a pretty healthy diet but they seem to be stuck.
Host 2: As far as their goals, their weight loss, and maybe this is related to their metabolism, they’re just not having the right ratio like you’re talking about.
Ben: Yup, absolutely.
Host 2: This next question is from Denise.
Denise: I want to know if there’s any special requirements for vegetarians during their marathon training.
Ben: Yes! I coached a couple of vegetarians and we have been very careful with 2 things, one is the fats and one is the proteins, and vegetarians said to be chronic “carboholics”; they eat a lot of fruits, a lot of potatoes, a lot of whole grain type of products and tend to really neglect the fats and the protein so, you neglect your protein, you get inadequate muscle recovery and repair, and you can get an immune system depression, and if you neglect fat, then you tend to lose a lot of focus, you can basically depress your brain function. They did a study over at Oxford University on vegetarians and found that due to a lack of vitamin B12, many of them had poor memory function and it’s really one of those things where if you’ve chosen to be a vegetarian or a vegan, you better be willing to really pay a lot closer attention to your fueling needs than if you’re actually doing things like eating eggs and steak and dairy and things of that nature so, a protein combining is important; meaning that, you need to be able to, for example, combine rice with peas to get a whole protein or you could combine like a bread with a nut, like a sprouted grain bread with an almond butter; you could combine something like a quinoa or an amaranth or a millet or even like a barley or a rye or a wheat, with some type of nut source. So basically, the idea is that most of the food sources that you’re taking in have incomplete protein profiles, and you can mix them with another source so, be sure that you’re really familiar with the concept of protein combining and then also, really go after things like extra virgin olive oil, flax seed oil, throw some hemp oil in or get your hands on like, some vegan-type of protein powder, prioritize things like avocadoes, olives, healthy fats, lots of seeds and nuts, make sure that you’re getting your hands on those and not just on like, the whole grains, potatoes, vegetables and fruits that vegetarians tend to choose more often.
Host 2: Okay, thanks.
Host: Good stuff. Alright, now we’re going to move into the weight loss section, and I have the first one. Is losing weight while preparing for a marathon doable? Can runners lose weight and not have an effect in their training negatively? What is the best way to drop a few pounds and still train well?
Ben: Rewind whatever you’re listening to this on and listen to the part where I talked about cycling your carbohydrates. That’s really one of the only ways to do it because you got to have fuel on board to fuel your long runs and have them be productive and not just like death marches where you felt you’re starving the whole time, but you also have to go through those periods of calorie deficit and carbohydrate deficit in order to get your body to tap into its storage fat. So, if you’re going to lose weight during a marathon, you need to have days in which you are low carbohydrate, low calorie and then your heavier training days in which you’re higher carbohydrate, higher calorie and one of the little tricks that I really encourage people to do is something called “intermittent fasting”. And it works really well, especially if you’re training. The way that you do it is you eat dinner, and then, try not to eat anything for 2 hours before you go to bed. So, you sleep all night, you wake up, get out of bed in the morning, and if you have a little bit of coffee, you can accelerate the fat burning process a little bit. What you do is you get up and you do an exercise session, like just like an easy, kind of fat-burning, cardio-based exercise session. For me, it’s like about a 45 to 60-minute easy bike ride, typically on the indoor trainer in my office while I review the news for the day and I have a cup of coffee before that. For some people, it’s a nice, easy walk or jog outside, but you can really watch the fat get stripped away when you’re doing something like that, and you can still be training while you do it. The flip side is, don’t go out and do, like, your hill repeats or your long run, in a fasted state. That’s where you really got to be careful unless you’ve got a protocol going where you literally have like 1 workout during the week where you’re pushing yourself just a little bit harder in a fasted state, don’t make a habit of doing your hard workouts in a fasted state because you’re training yourself to go slow.
Host 2: Yeah, that’s good. This next question is kind of, the same type of thing, we get this tons of questions about weight loss, and I think a lot of people go into their marathon training thinking they’re going to, just magically drop the pounds and they find that they’re so hungry, they end up eating more and they either don’t lose or they actually gain weight.
Sandy: I want to lose weight and I know running is the best calorie blaster, but it’s so hard to cut calories while training because I’m starving hungry. I ran several races last year, but I didn’t lose any weight. What should I do differently? How can I balance training and ravenous appetite and have a healthy diet?
Ben: Well, first of all, definitely do pay attention to some of that carbohydrate recycling stuff I talked about. The next thing is that, because people who tend to train a lot tend to have more ravenous appetites, post-exercise you can get hungrier. Take advantage of the fact that right after you work out, your body is in this state where it’s less likely to take things like cheap foods and carbohydrates and turn them into fat; those type of foods are a lot more likely to get sucked up into the muscles and use the storage energy so, take that time to have, whatever it’s going to be like your Snickers bar or your bowl of ice cream, or whatever it is that you tend to be craving, typically like later on in the day or at night, take that in after you workout, when you’re a little bit more bullet-proof to, especially like carbohydrates and higher calorie foods, and then also, consider supplementing with things that can help stabilize the blood sugar and keep your appetite under control. For example, cinnamon is a great supplement to have around and use a lot, stabilizes the blood sugar and can control the appetite. I’ll add cinnamon a lot of times to, for example, like a protein-powdered smoothie or a bowl of oatmeal in the morning, occasionally like putting it in a wrap or something like that. The other thing that you can use, some other supplements that are out there, vanadium is one, chromium is another, there’s one called Genera Sylvestre, which is really good for carbohydrate cravings; sounds kind of nasty, you can literally break the capsules open and put them on your tongue, it’ll make a brownie taste like chalk, so people who really crave carbohydrates, it kind of shuts down your ability to enjoy sugar.
Host 2: That’s what I need.
Ben: That’s another one that works really well. I’d stay away from some of the extremes like the high caffeine, ephedra-based stuff, hydroxycut and all that type of stuff that can just throw your central nervous system out of whack and make you produce a bunch of adrenaline and feel like you drink 4 cups of coffee, but some of this stuff that’s just supposed to stabilize insulin or stabilize blood sugar, can really help out with appetite cravings and it’s stuff that works well to take about 30-60 minutes, prior to a main meal. In full disclosure, I do run a supplement-based website and one of our highest selling supplements, because it’s really good for this, it’s called Thermofactor, and you just pop one before lunch and one before dinner, and it really reduces your appetite for carbohydrates or your craving for carbohydrates, and that’s got a lot of those things in it like vanadium and chromium and it’s got like a bitter orange extract in it, and some of the things that just make you a little bit easier not to eat lots of sugar.
Host 2: That sounds like it could be really helpful for a lot of people.
Host: Yeah! What’s the web address?
Ben: That is over at my coaching website which is PacificFit.net, pacific like the ocean, fit like fitness dot net.
Host: I heard you mentioned cinnamon, Ben, I had to ask you. Have you ever taken the cinnamon challenge?
Ben: I don’t know, what is that?
Host: It’s really simple. Just take a spoonful of cinnamon and just eat it, without coffee.
Ben: Well, I think I’ve done that on accident when I forget to stir it into my oatmeal, but I’ve never actually done it intentionally, no; that sounds unpleasant.
Host: Alright, so, now we’re going to ask some food questions. What foods helps speed recovery and decrease muscle soreness and inflammation?
Ben: I don’t know if the listeners have heard of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids before, but Omega 6 fatty acids are the type of fatty acids that are found in like vegetable oils. You get them in a lot of processed foods, some nuts even are pretty high in omega 6 fatty acids and those are pro-inflammatory, meaning that they actually help out with inflammation and where it’s a good thing to a certain extent, most of us eat way too many Omega 6 fatty acids. When we get canola oil and vegetable oil, when we go and eat out at the restaurants, most foods that come in packages or containers have lots of vegetable oil added to them, crackers, chips, cookies, things like that, all of those are really high in pro-inflammatory compounds. So, the 2 most inflammatory things you could be consuming are those Omega 6 fatty acids and then sugar, so, we’re talking about like whatever, white bread, cookies, candy, stuff like that, so, I would stay away from that stuff, and then the stuff that would help to speed up recovery and decrease inflammation would be, first of all, Omega 3 fatty acids, so those would be found in, like fish oil, it’s really high in Omega 3 fatty acids, flax seed oil is really high in Omega 3 fatty acids, hemp seeds and hemp oil, flax seeds, chia seeds, lots of those type of things, really high in Omega 3 fatty acids so, I would include those, I would include something called “proteolytic enzymes”. Another supplement to look at if you go over to PacificFit.net, one that I take everyday, I literally just got back from a run and pop 8 of these, it’s called RecoverEase, and it’s got enzymes in it that actually was first discovered by surgeons who were giving them to their patients to recover faster from surgery, but they’re called proteolytic enzymes. You can find them naturally in meat, in pineapple, and in papaya, those are 3 of the highest sources of them, but if you want to get like, the equivalent of choking down a few pineapples and just take it in pill form, something like a RecoverEase proteolytic enzyme would be good. The other thing I would recommend would be a whole amino acid so, whereas like a protein powder, like a whey or casein protein powder, it’s going to have amino acids floating around in it. You can also get amino acids that are super high absorbed in like a capsule or a powder form, and I’m going to warn you that amino acids tend to be kind of expensive because they’re expensive for people to make, but I guarantee, if you were to be taking like a fish oil and Omega 3 fatty acid source like that, if you’re going to be taking a proteolytic enzyme, and if you were to be taking a whole amino acid in like a powder or a capsule form, you’d notice a big decrease in soreness and all of those you could take literally like, 30-60 minutes after a workout.
Host 2: What about cherries, cherry juice? Do you recommend that to decrease inflammation?
Ben: Yeah! Anti-oxidants can be pretty helpful too, that’s something I can talk about, thanks for bringing that up. Anti-oxidants, what those do is, they can shut down or what’s called scavenge free radicals. When you breathe in oxygen, you make energy out of oxygen, your body can kick some extra electrons off in the process and all those extra electrons circulating around your bloodstream, they’re unpaired and they’re called free radicals and if they’re an excess, they can damage some of the cell walls, they can slow down cellular metabolism, they can slow down recovery, they can cause inflammation, and that’s why using anti-oxidants in moderation is good. The flip side to that is that if you’re using anti-oxidants all the time and you’re using a lot of them, it’s bad because your body never learns how to fight off free radicals, so you lose a lot of the benefits of exercise which is basically, to teach your body how to recover from the stress of exercise and grow stronger. So, what I have people do is only really use like anti-oxidant-based supplements on really hard workout days, and not use them the rest of the time.
Host 2: That’s a great tip because I think, someone will think “Oh, this is good so let’s do it all the time” and maybe, decrease the benefits of it then.
Ben: Don’t go get a keg of cherry juice.
Host 2: Oh man! It’s pretty tart, it’s hard to take anyways.
Host 2: The question is asked a lot. What are the best foods to eat the night before a long run or marathon, like for dinner? And, should the runner focus on carbohydrates, protein, or some sort of ratio?
Ben: Mix is best. What you want to get is you want, ideal if you’re not a vegetarian, you want to pick some type of meat that has good iron content, like a dark meat, dark turkey, dark fish, grass-fed beef, something of that nature, and make sure that you chew it really well; pre-digestion can begin in the mouth, so chew your protein really well so that you digest it faster, because it can take a while to digest and if your marathon starts at 7 am and you’re eating at 6:30 pm, you want to give yourself every extra advantage that you can. So, choose a protein like that and we’re looking at right around 6-8 ounces for a girl, 8-10 ounces for a guy, and I know that I am not including vegetarians among that, but we’ll get to that in a second. Next thing is choose some type of whole grain source that’s easily digested, but that’s also pretty high in nutrients. So, a low nutrient grain source should be like white rice, which is just sugar; a high-nutrient whole grain source would be quinoa, which I mentioned before, that’s a really great source; it’s also got a lot of amino acids and proteins in it, so that’s a great choice for vegetarians, pre-race the night before. You can mix like nuts and seeds in the fat if you want some extra protein, if you’re vegetarian, otherwise, if you’re not, you have your meat, you can just have a side of quinoa; you can also do like a brown rice, or like a whole grain spaghetti noodles, something like that, but generally in the range of about 400 calories or so of that carbohydrate, for girls, and closer to about 600 for guys, and try and choose a nutrient-dense carbohydrate, a healthy, whole-grain or like a quinoa, amaranth, millet type of carbohydrate; the kind of going down the more non-agricultural, paleo-type of root; go for sweet potatoes, yams, even like a baked potato, all those are really great starch sources as well, and then, try and include also a vegetable that’s high in iron. So, we would say for example, like a bed of spinach and kale, a dark, leafy, green, a cruciferous like broccoli or Brussels sprouts will also be good, but choose vegetables that are really dark, and then also, try and choose something dark for dessert like dark chocolate, like a pomegranate, something that a pomegranate, not a pomegranate martini, you can do a like a pomegranate seeds, you could do, typically, dark chocolate or pomegranate is what I go after really so, and then like, a glass of red wine is okay if you need to settle your nerves a little bit, that’d be fine; it’s not going to really mess up your race to do something like that.
Host 2: Well, I could definitely get into the dark chocolate.
Ben: Yup. Dark chocolate, red wine, piece of grass-fed beef, a couple of sweet potatoes, I mean, that’s magical for me, the night before a race, as long as I can get it in at least 12 hours before, so it’s not sent to my stomach.
Host 2: Sounds good.
Host: Yeah. Andy and I are going to run at Little Rock marathon, she’s doing the Half on March 6 so, I’m going to be sure to chew my food really thoroughly, the night before.
Ben: Yeah, like 20-25 chews, it works really well.
Host: And then, I’ll definitely think of you when I do that.
Host 2: And I don’t want you to eat dark chocolate.
Ben: Be careful. Chocolate is a carminative, which means that it can give you gas so, be conservative.
Host 2: Thanks for the warning.
Host: Alright, this next question comes from Odom.
Odom: If you had to pick 3 foods to stay away from because they hinder your performance the most, what would they be?
Ben: You know, alcohol would be one to be really careful with. I’m actually taking my wife out in the town tonight, it’s a Valentine’s Day and we’ll probably have a couple of martinis and I’m not planning on working out at all today because I know those are going to dump my testosterone levels down into the dish. For both guys and girls, alcohol can really inhibit recovery and reduce your ability to train the next day, so, I’d be real careful with alcohol, lean moderation, a few glasses of red wine here, and if you’re going to go out and get more wild than that, it’d be best to really avoid doing training the next day or just plan something easy like a yoga class. Next thing would be sugar. I already mentioned that it’s pro-inflammatory, so that would be something else that you’d really want to stay away from, and I’m not talking about like sugar, like a type of sugar that you find in a yam. I’m talking about just like straight up processed nutrients-stripped sugar so like, for example, eating lots of things that have high fructose corn syrup in them. So, that’ll be another example of something that’s going to hinder performance. The last thing that I would say, gosh, I don’t want to keep this horse to death, but it’s just so important and that would, again be the Omega 6 fatty acids. I’d really limit your vegetable oil. So basically, if you look at it this way, like for all your kind of cold cooking, salad dressings, things like that, use an olive oil or a flax oil and for all of you, your hot cooking, use something like a coconut oil or like a butter, and just stay away from vegetable oils, period. And you’ll do a lot better job shutting down inflammation and decreasing soreness and increasing recovery, so, stay away from vegetable oils, sugar and alcohol; those would be the top 3 to avoid, especially the night before a long run.
Andy: This next question comes from Ryan.
Ryan: How often should we eat for optimum energy and an efficient metabolism? I’m currently eating every 3 hours, 5 meals a day, with 12 hours between meal number 5 and number 1.
Ben: You know, I used to kind of be onboard and follow all the other nutritionists as you said, eat like a squirrel graze, eat every 1 and a half to 3 hours, whatever, but having gotten smarter and look through all the research that’s out there, I finally decided to go and see for myself if this stuff was true. The fact is, that there’s not a single study out there that shows that you get any additional benefit once you go above 3 meals a day. So, if you were doing 3 meals a day, you can decrease metabolism a little bit, but once you get up to 3 meals or more, that’s about as high as you’re going to spark your metabolism, as far as research is concerned. So, what that comes down to is basically whatever works for you, as long as you’re eating, at least 3 times a day, whatever works for you so, when I found that out, I used to eat at, I eat like breakfast around 7, I have a snack at 10, I’d have a snack at noon, I’d have a snack at 2, I’d have a snack at 5, I eat dinner at 7, maybe a little dessert at 8 and so, I was eating like 7 or 8 times a day. Now, I basically do breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner; I’m basically eating 4 times a day. Occasionally, there’ll be something after dinner like, I’ll do a little chocolate protein powder, something like that, before bed, but there’s really no need to eat more than 3 times a day unless you feel like it.
Host 2: Probably gives you a lot more time in your day too and you don’t have to worry about eating so often.
Ben: Yeah, it does, and you feel less guilty too if you skip a meal, knowing that there’s no evidence that it does anything in terms of your metabolism. If you are the type of person who has a really high metabolism, and skipping meals or skipping snacks makes you really hungry, and you know that you’re going to cheat a lot more when you do that, then it may be beneficial for you to eat frequently and not let your blood sugar levels get too low, if it’s a matter of you basically doing lots of cheating and overeating if you let yourself get hungry but, otherwise, you really don’t have to worry about eating more than 3 times a day.
Host 2: Would that also apply to someone who has trouble with blood sugar stability? Would they be better off eating more frequently and not letting their blood sugar levels drop?
Ben: It’s kind of a caveat because, to a certain extent, yeah; if you’re like pre-diabetic, you don’t want to let yourself get hypoglycemic, but there’re some people that are just used to constantly tapping in the carbohydrate for energy, and frankly, some people just need to learn how to burn their own fat as a fuel, and that’s uncomfortable, and sometimes it means that you’re a little hungry, sometimes it means you’re a little bit hypoglycemic but, carbohydrates are the one thing that we can live without because our body an make them out of protein and fat, so, you don’t have to eat carbohydrate, and as long as you know that you’re able to go for awhile without eating and you’re not doing it because you’re addicted to sugar, then it’d be okay, to kind of keep yourself from getting hypoglycemic too often but if you’re struggling with weight, and one of the things you’re doing is grazing all the time, I guarantee you’re probably going to notice something a difference in your ability to burn fat if you quit grazing all the time.
Host 2: Okay, that sounds good. Thank you!
Bob: Concerning supplements, is there a runners’ cocktail of vitamin supplements? I’m looking for a secret injury prevention formula.
Ben: Not according to research, but I can tell you what I do. I take a greens supplement, so there’s tons of different ones out there, I take one 1 called Enerprime. Basically, a green supplement just mixes typically, a bunch of super foods like spirulina and algae, sometimes there’re some Chinese adaptogens in there to control stress, so you get some mushroom extracts, basically just like a ton of stuff. Green supplements are usually a little more expensive because there’re so many things in them, but that’s one thing. Next thing, we are to talk about, could be fish oil. Next thing you’d want to include are those enzymes and the amino acids that I talked about, and then there’s a couple of other things that work really well, that I take and that I recommend. One would be something called Coenzyme Q10. It’s part of the cell that’s responsible for taking oxygen and turning it into energy, and it’s a really great thing for runners to be taking. So, I’d be taking some type of coenzyme Q10, for example, like Hammer Nutrition makes one called Race Caps and, let me think if there’s anything else that I would throw in there, you got a greens, fish oil, oh I’m sorry, the two big ones, big ones that are cheap to get and easy to get your hands on; vitamin D and magnesium, are the last two I’d throw in there. Get yourself on at least 500 milligrams of magnesium a day, get yourself on a good, I take 5000 Vitamin D a day, but at least 2000 of Vitamin D a day, and you’d be in a real good place so, that’s what I do.
Host 2: Now, I did have a question about Vitamin D supplementation because it’s pretty much in the news everywhere, you need to be taking the Vitamin D. Is the best form the D3 or the D6? And, she also asked, since it’s a fat soluble vitamin, how do you avoid toxic levels in your liver?
Ben: You’d definitely want the D3, which is called cholecalciferol, and the idea behind D3 is that it is used for a ton of different processes in the body, from your immune system to your hormone formation, your testosterone formation, cellular metabolism, it’s like one of the most important things you could be taking and I do blood tests on a lot of the athletes that I work with, and I have yet to test any of them who weren’t deficient in Vitamin D.
Host 2: Wow!
Ben: Endurance athletes, any of them. So, the idea is that yeah, it’s a fat soluble vitamin; however, studies have shown that you’d need upwards of about 600,000 International Units of Vitamin D to reach toxicity; the current recommendations for it are 600 International Units, most like alternative medicine physicians or people like myself, recommend anywhere from 5000-10000 International Units and I’ve seen nothing but positive benefits from that; very easy to go out and pay 30 pr 40 bucks at your local lab, or even over at my website, grab a Vitamin D blood test and you can immediately find out if your levels are below 45 and you’re an athlete, you should bump it up, your levels are getting up around 80, sure, back it off; you don’t need that much but you still got to take a ton of it to get up to the toxicity levels and the current recommendations are incredibly conservative, disappointingly conservative in terms of Vitamin D, and the last thing, in terms of Vitamin D, is a lot of the capsules that out there, a lot of them used oil from genetically-modified soy, and a lot of them have to be broken down in your digestive tract, before the Vitamin D gets to your liver and is metabolized to its active form, so I recommend you use something like a spray; I use a Vitamin D spray, I put 4 or 5 sprays in underneath my tongue, every morning, and it’s basically a molecular form of Vitamin D to absorb instantly, like a Suez that as I spray it underneath my tongue, I hold it for 20 seconds, and it’s in my bloodstream right away because it completely bypasses the digestive system so, that’s a really good way to get your Vitamin D in and if you’re really concerned about toxicity, just test yourself every 5 or 6 months to make sure that you’re not getting super high levels of Vitamin D3 but, I have yet to see that happen in anybody.
Host 2: That’s a great tip. I know, since we talked to you last time; that was one supplement I really bumped up was the vitamin D, so, that’s been really helpful.
Host: She has a few more great hairs since the last time we talked so, I don’t know if…
Host 2: It’s not caused by Vitamin D toxicity, thanks a lot.
Host: Okay, last question. It’s about loading up on electrolytes.
Sam: Is it possible to load up on electrolytes during the week, before a marathon to reduce the chances of cramps and the later stages of the race, through the use of the supplement or a concentrate?
Ben: Yeah, it is, and actually, I recommend it. I always, especially for a hot weather race, you’ll see me salting my foods typically, about 5 days out, putting effervescent electrolyte tabs and like my water that I drink, like I take a Nuun tab or electrolyte tab and put that in there; so yeah, absolutely. You can get your body to store more sodium just like you can get to store more carbohydrate by carbohydrate loading. Be careful, especially if you’re pre-disposed to high blood pressure. Most people consume a lot of sodium anyways, if they’re consuming a lot of packaged foods; well, fact is, if you are eating healthy, and you’re eating like lots of real food, raw vegetables, salads, stuff like that, kind of shopping around the perimeter of the grocery store and not eating lots of stuff out of boxes; could be that you’re not storing away quite as much sodium as you could, and well, that’s healthy, for the most part, long-term, during marathon, you could definitely get yourself a hand up by throwing a little bit more down the hatch, so yeah absolutely; you know, bumping up, your daily sodium intake to closer to like 2000, 2500 milligrams, around in that range, it can help out for sure.
Host 2: And if you’re taking the magnesium supplement, should you bump that up, if you are taking a magnesium supplement, should you bump that up the week of the race, too?
Ben: Yeah, I mean like, you allude to, with that question, sodium chloride. Table salt isn’t the only mineral that you need. You need calcium, magnesium, potassium and a bunch of other little minerals so, ideally you’re taking some type of supplement that has all the minerals in it and yes, you can bump that up during race week, but just make sure that you experiment a little bit because one side effect of taking in too much magnesium, as I’ve mentioned earlier, I think, is loose stool. So make sure that you’re not taking in more than you’ve experimented with in the past, or you can have a nasty surprise on race day.
Host 2: I heard from a listener who was running comrades, actually, in South Africa and he decided that he was going to take some magnesium supplements, race morning, not realizing the side effect, and he said he had to use every porta pot along the way and get creative in some places too so, it was pretty miserable.
Ben: Yeah, I’m sure that made for an eventful race.
Host: Well Ben, we appreciate you coming on the podcast and can you tell everybody where they can find you online.
Ben: Yeah, my pleasure to come on the podcast. I really enjoy talking to you guys and, good place to go to start, we mentioned that PacificFit.net is my coaching website and then, BenGreenfieldFitness.com is my blog, and I always have tons of free videos, put out a newsletter a few times a week, with lots of interesting information, and do videos, audios, I try and keep people entertained with stuff that they, hopefully, are not hearing a lot of other places. I do a lot of reading, a lot of research and basically, keep you up to speed on everything pertaining to performance, nutrition and fat loss, so, BenGreenfieldFitness.com would be a great place to go.
Host 2: Sounds great, thank you, Ben.
Ben: Well, thank you guys.
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