July 27, 2011
Introduction: In this episode, is an 80% carbohydrate diet healthy, a good way to find out what is in the foods you eat, taking insulin during a workout, exercise stimulants that don’t act like caffeine, a new electrolyte drink, excessively dry skin, hornet juice, reducing chafing, head and neck tension, and how thin is too thin?
Ben: Hey folks, it’s Ben Greenfield here. And if the audio sounds a little funny that’s because I am podcasting to you via my portable microphone from Dealer Camp down in Park City, Utah where I am at. I’m doing things like testing out bikes shoes, wet suits, and generally just having a lot of fun trying not to hack up a lung in elevation up here in Utah. So anyways, today we have a really interesting interview with a guy who is a proponent of a plant based diet. I know that we’ve been talking about that quite a bit here at Ben Greenfield fitness. The person who I am interviewing in today’s podcast is Dr. Douglas Graham, who eats an 80% carbohydrate based diet of fruit and vegetables. And he created this into a book that’s actually called the 80-10-10 diet. So, look forward to an interesting interview with him. We’ve also got a jam-packed Q and A and a few special announcements. So let’s jump right in to this week’s content from BenGreenfieldFitness.com.
So, for those of you who want to see what I’m up to down here in Park City, head over to every everymantri.com. And at everymantri.com is where I publish things like videos and stories when I am out doing product reviews and checking out new and cool things like fancy bike toys. I’m actually going to go out today. And I’ll probably write a handful of ten and fifteen thousand dollar bikes here on Park City, Utah. So, I’ll be shooting videos. And showing you what those types of fancy machines are all about. Now, also just this week, I opened up RevDiet.com to the general public. And over at RevDiet.com, you can watch a video of me explaining exactly what the Rev Diet is, why I designed it for fat loss and for human performance, and what exactly goes into that brand new manual that I just published. That is available over there RevDiet.com. So go check out Revdiet.com. And in terms of other things, we are of course still interested in anybody who wants to come along with my wife and I to go do a triathlon down in Jamaica this November. And what I’m going to do is put a discount code for that Jamaica triathlon right there on the show notes for this episode, Episode #156 at BenGreenfieldFitness.com. Finally, if you enjoy the podcast and you get a lot out of this, be sure to check out that donate button. If you go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com, scroll down the right side of the page. You got the ability to donate one dollar a month to keep this podcast going and it makes a huge difference, trust me. So let’s go ahead and jump in to this week’s listener Q and A.
Listener Q and A:
Craig: Hi Ben, this is Craig from Birmingham. And first, thanks so much your help. As you know, about six weeks ago you and I talked after I had, got my Ben Greenfield shirt and posted it on Facebook. And I have struggled for several years with injuries mostly foot and knee injuries. And you put together a foam roller and strength training program that has just been great for me and after doing that for about five weeks now, I feel more confident and solid in my running and things that I can train as much as I want without injuries. I could be wrong but so far so good. So I really appreciate that. I do have a question for you as well. The next thing I plan to do is to start catering my food into training peak. And what I wanted to know from you is, what suggestions do you have for resources to find out what calories, fats, carbohydrates, etc… are in the food that I am eating? So, I sure appreciate it and thanks for all you’re doing, Ben.
Ben: So, this is a great question. The fact is there is a ton of websites out there that provide nutrition information about food that you eat. And most of it draws up the USDA government’s website that keeps a database of literally like tens of thousands of different types of foods and their carbohydrate, protein, and fat content, among other things. So, in my opinion, one of the easiest websites to access that information is a website called NutritionData.com. It’s one of my favorite websites. It’s just what it sounds like, NutritionData.com. Although, I got to tell you that most of the phone apps out there that allow you to upload your diet or look up foods and most of the software apps as well, they’re all kind run up that USDA database of food. However, for ease of use, I’d say that the one over NutritionData.com is a good one and congratulations on your progress, Craig. For those of you who don’t know, I do phone consultations with folks and I actually published some of them on twitter. And Craig’s consultation came across via twitter about a week ago. And you can go back and listen to that if you want. If you want to make sure you access stuff like that then follow me on twitter over at www.twitter.com/bengreenfield. And if you want to ask your question via audio, just call 877 209 9439. Let’s jump in to the next question.
James says: Could you recommend something to give a race day boost without affecting my sympathetic nervous system?
Ben: So, this is an interesting question because most of the supplements out there that are designed to kind of give you an exercise boost or to give you a feeling of energy during a workout or even just during the afternoon when you need a pick-me-up, they are central nervous system stimulant. So they work in the same way that caffeine does. They cause you to produce things like epinephrine and adrenaline. And that’s the way that they work. There are definitely things out there that don’t stimulate the central nervous system in the same way. And I would say that probably one of the better things for you to look into would be something from traditional Chinese medicine that’s called adaptogen. And basically adaptogens are used in a lot of workout supplements because they do give you a feeling of focus, a feeling of energy. They don’t quite stimulate the central nervous system in the same way. So you don’t get a racing heart rate. And you don’t get the same type of jittery feeling that you do with something like caffeine. So I would look into like rhodiola would be one example. Shetaki and reishi mushroom extract are another example. If you really want to get into the hard science of adaptogens, go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com and do a search for adaptogens. I actually interviewed a guy named Roger Drummer on adaptogenic herbs and the way that they work within the body. But that’s definitely something that I would think about and look into. The other thing that a lot of people find that helps out is like a Vitamin B12 because Vitamin B is so crucial for so many metabolic reactions that occur within the body as well as neurological formation and red blood cell formation. A lot of stuff that Vitamin B does for you. And that’s one of the reasons that a lot of these energy drinks contain Vitamin B12 mega doses just because it can definitely give you a pick-me-up that you can feel. So you could look for a Vitamin B12 based supplement. And then the last thing you may want to look into is an amino acid. You could look into something that contains thiamine. That’s one that can cross the blood-brain barrier, activate some of the alpha brain waves, give you a little bit more of a feeling of focus and energy. Tyrosine is another good one. So, both of those are going to act in a different way than caffeine, still give you some energy, and not over stimulate you sympathetic nervous system too much. So, I hope that helps.
Okay, so folks I am back to my regular microphone. You may have noticed that the sound was a little echo-y and just the technological barriers of podcasting while on the go. So, hopefully this microphone works out a little bit better for you.
Eva asks: I was wondering what is your opinion on a new electrolyte drink Sport Active Easy Electrolyte as it compares to something like Nuun?
Ben: This Sport Active electrolyte is kind of like all the other electrolyte beverages that are out there basically a mix of sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride. It kind of has some of the issues that I have with a lot of these dissolvable electrolytes and that is that it does use acesulfame potassium. The research goes back and forth on that. There are no definitive evidences that it could do much damage to you. But long term use, it could have a little bit of a neuro-toxic effect. So, it’s not something where I would be consuming something like these electrolytes in the morning and lunch time and an afternoon glass of water. But using it during the race for electrolyte intake is fine. I personally don’t really recommend the use of effervescent dissolvable electrolyte tablets when you are racing or when you’re competing just because you do have to wait two minutes for them to dissolve. They’re not quite as convenient or fast acting as a capsule. And I tend to go for the electrolyte capsules a little bit more than I do these effervescent tablets. Now that being said, for those of you podcast listeners who want more information on electrolytes, I do have an upcoming and in my opinion really cutting-edge, ground-breaking interview with Dr. Tim Noakes who you may remember came on and talked about the central governor on the podcast. And he’s going to be talking about some research that he has been doing on electrolytes. And he’s found out some really interesting things that you’re just going to have to wait until I get him on the podcast to find out. But that would definitely be a worth to listen when I get him on to talk about that. So I’m going to backtrack for just a second because listener James actually had another part of his question that I didn’t get into.
James asks: Have you seen any research into type one diabetics using higher insulin levels during races to replenish glycogen?
Ben: I have not actually heard of that. And it’s kind of an interesting concept because technically the role of insulin is to take glucose and get it into the muscles to be used as energy. And it could also have a little bit of a role to play in mobilizing your storage carbohydrate or your glycogen source to be broken down and used as energy. But the issue with really high levels of circulating insulin is that they will take the glucose, put it in the muscle. And it can get to the point where the glucose levels in your blood streams are dropping very quickly. And while you may be storing glycogen at a slightly faster rate because you’re supplementing with insulin, I think that risk of hypoglycemia is pretty high. Especially considering that while you’re exercising, hormonally you’re already going to have enhanced insulin sensitivity. The cell receptor surface for insulin is already going to be a lot more receptive to the activity of insulin. You pump extra insulin in and you can definitely risk hypoglycemia or too high of a drop in blood sugar. This isn’t meant to be medical advice but it’s certainly something that you could try out. I would speak to a Type I diabetic. Especially it sounds to me like you asked a question about racing so you’re probably a cyclist or triathlete. I would talk to another Type I diabetic and see if they’ve tried actually using insulin during an event for the purpose of replenishing storage carbohydrate. But know that anytime you’re using insulin during an event like that, the risk for hypoglycemia goes way up. And you got to make sure that you find the right balance with something like that.
Johnny G. asks: I currently live in South-west Florida and it’s hot and very humid down here. I seem to have a problem with dry skin but not necessarily dehydration. My skin is so dry that I will scratch until I bleed. I drink well over a gallon of water a day and only drink water. I do run in the beach often and usually in the middle of the day when it’s hot but it doesn’t bother me. But I do seem to have this dry skin. Do you have any recommendations?
Ben: There are a lot of things that could cause dry skin. Obviously, weather is just one of them. And cold weather tends to be more of an issue than hot weather. But since the skin really is one of the body’s primary walls or defenses against infections, if you have like cracked, bleeding skin that should be an issue that you take care of. I mean, case in point, I actually was just in the E.R last week. I had a steph infection, nasty case of cellulitis, lymphangitis, and huge infection. My arm swelled way up. And that was because something got in through a tiny crack in my skin. So you can imagine if you’ve got dry cracked bleeding skin, you’re definitely at a higher risk for infection. So it goes beyond the aesthetic or the comfort factor of having dry skin. So, the type of things that could cause dry skin is the type of moisturizer that you use. If you’re using a moisturizer incorrectly meaning like if you’re throwing a moisturizer on top of dry skin, it’s really not going to help that much. If you’re using the moisturizer, you want to use it when the skin is slightly wet because what it’ll actually do is it will hold the water in against the skin and maintain some of the moisture. So make sure if you’re using a moisturizer, you’re not completely towel drying your body or applying it to really dry skin. Make sure you use it on moist skin. Dry air is one issue. And this probably isn’t something that you’re struggling with especially where you’re at down in Florida. But if you’re listening in and you do have a dry skin problem and you’re not down there, if you’re in like a colder area, there tends to be a lot more dry heat especially heat that gets turned out by heaters and furnaces and stuff like that. Definitely use a humidifier if you’re struggling with dry skin in a condition like that. Another thing that you want to think about is showers. If you’re taking really hot showers, prolonged exposure to hot water. That can wash away a lot of the natural oils that protect your skin. So, that can get your skin pretty dry. I would consider taking a lukewarm shower. Or if you’re taking a hot shower, spend a little bit less time in the shower. I personally take almost all my showers just icy cold. I find that it helps me wake up a little bit. It keeps me nice and alert. There’s some evidence that it could cause a little bit of a metabolic boost, having like a calorie burning effect. So, no need to take long hot showers. That might be another issue. The soap that you’re using could be an issue. And soap that you are using in the shower. A lot of soaps can be harsh on the skin especially a lot of deodorant or anti-bacterial soaps. All that bubbling, all that lather that removes a lot of the oils from the skin; I’m definitely not a proponent of doing like the water only type of showering. But look for a really mild, fragrance-free soap. The less scented it is, the less ingredients that go into it, the better. For example, I just did a post about how to avoid getting wrinkled skin over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com. I mentioned that one of the skin products that I use is made by a company called Every Man Jack over at everymanjack.com. On that same post, I actually give you a big discount code for that stuff too. So go check out the post about wrinkled skin at BenGreenfieldFitness.com. And that’s something to think about as well. I don’t know if you’re under any medication. But any, like acne medication, like a retinoid medication, any high blood pressure medication like a diuretic, that can cause dry skin issues. And of course, in addition to medications, medical conditions specifically like low thyroid would be one and diabetes would be another. And then of course like eczema or psoriasis or some other type of skin condition, that could be another thing that could cause the dry skin. I’m assuming you’ve already ruled out those variables. So, on the things that I would really think about would be like shorter showers, proper use of moisturizer, really watch the type of soaps and deodorants that you’re using. You’re already doing a good job staying hydrated which is of course one of the best ways to improve the health of the skin and the moisture of the skin. So those are some of my suggestions and hopefully that helps out, great question!
Ross says: What is your opinion of using something like hornet juice? Does it work or is it a placebo effect?
Ben: So, hornet juice is pretty interesting stuff. I actually talked about this in a podcast awhile back. If you go do a search for hornet juice, it’s been around awhile. So basically, the idea with hornet juice is people were studying hornets specifically like this one hornet called the giant hornet. And they found that it could go for really long periods of time and have a huge amount of endurance. And one of the things that it did was it had this saliva that it ingested, a hornet larval saliva. And this actually promoted the burning of fat for energy and kind of had a carbohydrate sparing effect. One of the reasons for that is because it’s very high in amino acids. The other reason is that it actually has some enzymes in it that assist with your ability to burn fat as a fuel. They’ve done some studies with it and found that it does a pretty decent job at helping to trigger the oxidation of fats. And it obviously works for hornets. It’s one of those deals though where it’s pretty spendy stuff. And it may not give you an added benefit over just using like sports drinks supplement that has amino acids in it. So, this is one of those issues where you kind of have to use yourself as a case study of one. There’s not a ton of actual clinical research studies that have been done on using hornet juice. Most of the research out there is anecdotal, single case studies. It’s obviously kind of a sexy supplement derived from hornet juice. So, that makes it something that’d be interesting to try and brag about to your friends. And it may help. If you try it out, write into the show and let us know. But no long term clinical studies on it and it may just be an expensive way to get your amino acids.
Susan says: My boyfriend is training for the Ironman in Kentucky this August. We’ve been disagreeing about shaving to reduce chafing in his private areas. I’m aware of products like DZ nuts but was hoping you could let me know where I could find any information about reducing chafing or irritation.
Ben: First of all and I can tell you this from personal experience, if you’re looking into shaving to reduce chafing, I would highly recommend that you just go all the way and get a wax job. If you shave, the hairs grow back. And they don’t grow back very well. They grow back quickly. You get ingrown hairs. You get infections. It’s just not a good way to go. So if you’re going to shave down there guys, I know a lot of girls are more experts at shaving in those areas than guys are. But guys, highly consider a wax job if you’re going to do it. Okay, so some of the other things that you can do to reduce chafing. Spend the extra money in buying a good pair of bike shorts. They add extra material. They minimize friction. They minimize rubbing because they sow the seams a lot better. And that helps tremendously. So a good high quality bike short or good high quality triathlon short. And on the same note, change your shorts frequently. A lot of times, that will get rid of irritation. It’ll help to get rid of a lot of the bacteria that can cause the rashes and the chafing in your shorts. So, I would highly recommend that you wash your shorts frequently and you change your shorts frequently. I personally have about five pairs of shorts that I cycle through just to take care of that issue. You can use different brands of high quality shorts. The interesting thing about that is that kind of varies the pressure points where your butt hits the saddle. And there’s nothing wrong with having a few different brands of bike shorts that you use. Make sure your seat isn’t too high. That’s huge. The seat can rub on the inside of the thighs if it’s too wide. If it’s too high, you can also get that same issue, a lot of moving around in the saddle if it’s too far back or too far forward. So I would highly recommend that you get a good bike fit if it’s something that you’re running into. And then a good shammy cream helps a lot. I use Hammer Nutrition’s shammy cream. I’ve also used shammy butt. There’s another one called brave shoulder. There are a few different shammy creams out there. If you just want to make your own, you could just put a little bit of petroleum jelly, put a little shea butter. You either can smear it around on the actual shammy itself or you can just ladder it around down in your nether regions. And either of those will help quite a bit. So, those are some of my recommendations to reduce the chafing and hopefully that helps. And if you get a wax job, more power to you. You’re braver than I am.
Ken says: I’ve been getting a lot of tension and knot in my neck in the back of my head lately. I got really into my nutrition two months ago. Going all natural, no sugar, one cup of coffee in the morning but I can’t seem to get rid of this tension. What do you recommend?
Ben: Well, assuming the way that you phrase that question that you’ve had your tension since even before you changed your diet. And of course food intolerances, allergies, indigestion, that kind of thing can certainly cause tension in the neck. But more often than not, it’s stress. And a lot of times, even if you de-stress your body, you still have to do something physical to go in and remove a lot of those adhesions that can build up. I would recommend you look into cranial cycle therapy. This stuff works pretty well. It’s an alternative medical therapy. A lot of osteopaths do it. A lot of chiropractics are trained in it. Massage therapist can do it. Naturopathic physicians will do it. But the way that it works is you lie down on your back on a massage table and the therapist puts their hands on the back of your head. They kind of tune in to what they call your craniosacral rhythm and then they massage underneath your head, underneath your skull, down around into all the little sutures that kind of weld all the parts of your cranium together, part of your skull together. And it relieves a ton of pressure on the nerves and the blood vessels that pass through that area. And it can also help a little bit with restoring any of the bones that are out of position up in that cranial region and up in that cervical neck area. I would certainly look into that. Like if I had a bunch of head and neck tension, that’s one of the first things that I would do because I’ve had craniosacral therapy and had huge amount of tension released from my head and my neck area. And a lot of times you don’t even realize how tight you carry your jaw and how set you are with that type of stuff until you actually get therapy like this. And it relives a ton of that tension. So, that is what I would recommend that you look into. And you should be able to find a certified massage therapist or chiropractic physician in your area that offers something like that.
Jack says: How thin is too thin for endurance athletes? Obviously on average, they are skinnier than the rest of the population but where is the line where it becomes unhealthy or dangerous?
Ben: Well, we’ve talked in the podcast before about how you have your basic body fat but then you drop down to your essential body fat. And women have a certain essential body fat, a little bit higher than what guys have. But ultimately, if your essential body fat gets too low, then you’re going to have an enormous drop in your hormones, in your energy, and there will be some serious issues going on. So as far as how low you should go in terms of an athlete, there are some athletes that are very low like speed skater Apollo Ono who’s in the U.S winter Olympics just a couple of years ago. He was at about 2.8% body fat, which is super low. You don’t see a lot of athletes that low. And if you compare that to the average body fat in the U.S, its 22% for men, 32% for women and I don’t think that’s a healthy body fat. But athletes down at 2.8% are much lower than that. I get down to 2% when I was body building. And I can tell you I was completely destroyed. I had no energy. I had no sex drive. I was just lying on the couch. I was just basically a fatless piece of muscle. So, getting down to 2% body fat, what happens is you can lose a lot of your insulation, you can lose a lot of the fat that your body needs to rely on to create things like cell membranes, to create hormones. And your body does need a certain amount of fat in order to maintain health. So when you look at essential body fat, basically it’s stored bone marrow, it’s stored in organs, particularly in your central nervous system, your muscles. And guys, usually it’s about 3% essential body fats. And for women, it’s right around 12%. The reason for that is that women have more essential body fat in their breast or pelvis, their hips and their thighs. And lot of that is just because females need that for normal female reproductive function. So, in terms of body fat, that would be about as low as you’d want to go. I wouldn’t recommend guys going much lower than 3% and girls going much lower than 12%. There are anomalies. There are people who can get away with slightly lower body fat percentages than that and still feel okay. But it’s very rare. And in most cases 3% for guys and 12% for girls is about as low as you want to go. So, that about wraps up our questions for this week. We’re going to be moving on to the interview with Dr. Douglas Graham and I’ll put a link to everything that we talk about in the show notes for this episode, Episode # 156 at BenGreenfieldFitness.com.
Ben: Hey folks, it’s Ben Greenfield here. And over the past few weeks, I know that we’ve had a lot of good discussions about diets and specifically, as of late, kind of more on the realm of plant based diets. And today, I wanted to get one of the world’s experts on raw eating and plant based diets and kind of vegan based eating on to the show. And his name is Dr. Douglas Graham and he has written books about this stuff. He wrote a book called the 80-10-10 Diet that we’ll be talking about today. He’s written books about prevention and care of athletic injuries. He has a book called the High Energy Diet Recipe Guide, nutrition athletic performance, brain damage. He actually is known around the globe as being somebody who works with top performers from a ton of different sports and knows quite a bit about nutrition and diet. And he’s actually a raw foods and fitness adviser for VegSource.com which is the biggest vegetarian website on the internet. So, Dr. Graham has been doing this awhile, helping people out for awhile. He knows his stuff. And Dr. Graham, I’d like to thank you for coming in the call and joining us today.
Dr. Graham: It’s my pleasure, Ben. Truly!
Ben: Well, I guess what I first heard about you and maybe what you’re best known for is this 80-10-10 Diet. And it’s a very interesting diet. And I’d like to hear from you what exactly it is and how that diet actually came to be?
Dr. Graham: Well, it’s a fairly simple concept actually. I’ve studied nutrition and been interested in it since I was a kid. It was one of my majors in college. And of course we studied nutrition all the way through Chiropcractic College, as well, so by the time I got out of school, I had a pretty good idea what the professionals said. My interest really was as much as helping sick people get well as it was helping athletes to perform their best. And so I also wanted to find out more about what the sports scientists had to say in terms of nutrition and see how that coincided or didn’t coincide with what traditional nutrition is said. Of course having background in medicine, I could also look into that genre and see once again where the common ground was and where were the big differences. And what I found was that there are only a few things that pretty much everybody agreed on. And that was that if there was more fat in your blood stream, then we were designed to handle easily that it reduced our ability to bring fuel to our cells and it reduced our ability to bring oxygen into our cells. Well if you can’t get oxygen into your cells, you’re setting yourself up for cancer and heart disease. And if you can’t get fuel to your cells, then you’re setting yourself up for tiredness, poor performance, and overall malaise and lack of energy.
Ben: So, that kind of the starting point is based off of high levels of fat in the diet inhibiting the ability to utilize oxygen or utilize nutrients?
Dr. Graham: Basically as the fat in your blood stream goes up, your ability to carry oxygen and fuel goes down.
Ben: And when you say like the fat in the blood stream, are you talking about like fat that you get from eating food or fat from like breaking down fat on your waist line or what exactly are you referring to?
Dr. Graham: It’s definitely dietary fat. The thing that really clued me in was when I started reading what the director of nutrition for the U.S Olympic teams had to say about this. And what she said some years back was that she was recommending only 30% fat for her athletes, 30% of their calories to come from fat. But when she was asked why 30%, she said because I want to get them down to 30% so they can then drop them down to 20% effectively. I just had to start somewhere to get their fat down. The more we get the fat down, the more their performance goes up.
Ben: You mean their body fat level or their dietary fat intake.
Dr. Graham: Truly dietary fat. This is not about body fat which is another interesting issue and it can be related. But really, we’re talking day to day dietary fat intake. There are fats that we know we’re consuming when we consume fatty foods like oils, meats, nuts, seeds and things. And there’s fats that we don’t notice so much because they’re hidden in spreads and dressings and foods that we don’t tend to think of as being super fatty until we analyze how much fat is in a fried food. Then we get surprised to find out that we’re eating way more fat. Well, the longest study on nutrition and the largest study on nutrition, two separate studies, both came out with recommendations pointing towards about 10% of calories from fat being ideal. Then the sports science started coming out with different studies saying that somewhere between 5 and 15, some where’s around that 10 point as being ideal amount of fat in terms of dietary intake of fat. If you take in more fat, invariably you have to take in less of something else or else you gain weight. And so what you take in less of is you take in less carbohydrate. And if you don’t take in enough carbohydrates, the fuel for our cells, once again you end up not getting enough fuel. And not having the feeling of being fueled and being energetic.
Ben: But can’t the body like make carbohydrates, make glucose from fatty sources?
Dr. Graham: Absolutely! The body can make carbohydrates. The body can make carbohydrates very well. It can convert fat into carbohydrate in the presence of lots of carbohydrate. But in the absence of sufficient carbohydrate which is what we are talking about as the fat goes up, the carbohydrates go down and so we’re starting to function in the absence of sufficient carbohydrates. Then the body is exceptionally inefficient at making fat into carbohydrate. For an athlete, when they get to that point where they’re converting fat into carbohydrate but there’s not enough carbohydrate in their system to do that, then the feeling is called hitting the wall if you’re a runner. And if you’re a bicyclist, then it’s called bonking. And either way, it’s not a good feeling. You end up feeling like it’s a tremendous amount of work. You can’t drag yourself through with what you’re trying to do. And although the body can produce and does produce carbohydrate from fat all day every day, it can only do so well if there’s plenty of available carbohydrates in the system.
Ben: What would you mean when you say plenty? And the reason I asked because I’ve heard some people say that you basically only need like 400 to 600 calories or so of actual glucose coming from dietary sources in order to sustain the basic metabolic functions and you can generate everything from fat based carbohydrate or gluconeogenesis.
Dr. Graham: I would say that I disagree with these folks of physiology in understanding of it. We’re not attempting to function at the lowest possible level here. We’re talking about:
a.) Reaching high levels of health
b.) Reaching high levels of fitness performance
Guys who are fit are often blowing through 800-1000 calories an hour. And so to answer your question what am I talking about in terms of levels. What we find, and this is why I’ve given you a long intro, is that when the fat intake goes over 10% or goes much over 10% certainly by the time it hits 20, we see marked measurable and easily noticed decline in our ability to carry oxygen. This is called the reduction in VO2 Max. And it’s measurable. It’s easy to monitor. If the fat intake goes up, the carbohydrate intake must go down and both work against this.
Ben: So there have been basically studies that look at that VO2 Max versus dietary fat intake?
Dr. Graham: Absolutely. I’ve got plenty of athletes who have shown increases in VO2 Max in a matter of weeks simply by reducing the fat in their diet. Now, many sports scientist still say you can’t improve your VO2 Max once you hit adulthood. And they’re right. Physiologically, you can’t or anatomically you can’t change your VO2 Max. You get what you’re born with.
Ben: Can’t you like increase your mitochondrial density and your lung capacity?
Dr. Graham: It doesn’t affect your VO2 Max. This is a completely different issue. What we’re talking about is oxygen exchange and oxygen uptake. And in order to do that, you can either do it at your best or you can damp it down. You can reduce it. You can’t improve it anatomically. But you can hamper it, hinder it. You can compromise it by consuming more fat than we’re designed for. So, when you reduce that fat intake, you immediately notice that you can breathe better. You can think more clearly. You have more energy simply because you’re taking off the breaks of the high fat intake. In terms of protein, I have very little to say about protein. 10% is enough. The average person needs about 11% or 12%. It’s not really a big deal if it’s low teens. I think anywhere around 10% is certainly acceptable. And so the whole concept of the 80-10-10 approach really was simply to take a new look at fat intake. And rather than calling less than 45 which is somewhat close to what the national average is today. Calling less than 45 low, I call 10% which is our physiologic normal, I call that average. And single digit might be low. Or if you want lower than 5% which will be less than we require, that would be low. But 20% or 30% of calories from fat is not a low fat diet. It’s very much high fat diet.
Ben: Well, I want to get into like what a typical day of eating would look like with the 80-10-10 diet. And if you want to forward me these studies on the dietary fat intake and VO2 Max, I’d be happy to publish those in the show notes along with this interview. Going forward into what a typical day of eating would look like for the average person on an 80-10-10 diet. Or you can use yourself as an example or whatever you like. But how did it actually look? What is the typical day of eating look like?
Dr. Graham: A typical day of eating is really quite simple. The focus is on sweet and juicy foods. It turns out pretty much everybody like things sweet and juicy. Whether they convert that over into coffee and cake or milk and cookies, we still tend to all have a desire and enjoy our sweets. So, 80-10-10 diet actually doesn’t restrict sweets. All it does is say that we’re looking for certain parameters of healthy eating that can be applied to the way we eat. Typically, in the world of nutrition, we use six words to describe healthy foods. And those are whole, fresh, ripe, raw, organic plants, whole foods being more nutritious than their refined counterparts. Fresh foods are always being more nutritious than bottled, boxed or canned. Ripe fruit is always being preferred to its counterpart of unripe or overripe. Raw food invariably has a higher nutrient content than its cooked counterparts. And I know we can go into what happens when you cook foods that are inedible raw. I don’t think there’s anybody that argues that organic foods are healthier options than their conventional counterparts. And it’s pretty much a universal that if you don’t eat your fruit and vegetables, you’re not going to be as healthy as you can be. So, whole fresh ripe raw organic plants are the six key phrases that delineate the quality of food on your plate. Within that, I’m recommending that at least 80% of the calories come from carbohydrates. And so, what I really want to do is I want to be happy with my food. And so I don’t want to experience cravings. A fantastic number of people find that they eat due to cravings rather than simply because they’re hungry. And so I have a wide choice. I eat what’s in season. I have a wide choice within that. But typically my diet revolves around fruits and vegetables. I eat all the fruits I want so that I never experience the craving for sweets, so that I never start looking around for super heavy foods, so that I’m never tempted by cooked complex carbohydrate foods. And then I eat enough vegetables so that I never crave salts. And between fruits and vegetables, I might eat fruit for breakfast. Maybe something juicy like melons or grapes or whatever is in season. Peaches tend to have something fairly sweet at the midday meal. Bananas or figs or dates or papaya or mango or anything, persimmon, whatever the season happens to bring and the location makes available. And typically before dinner I have all the fruit I want followed by a large salad ‘til I’m satiated. I know how to make things. I know how to make it beautiful. I love to prepare food for my family. And I teach culinary skills courses. But it can be as simple as it is for every other animal on the planet. You see food, you eat the food.
Ben: In terms of like actual volume, how much food are you eating on a daily basis? In terms of like getting all the protein, all the calories that you need, the piles of food, are you juicing it or blending it or what exactly are you doing?
Dr. Graham: No. I just chew it then eat it. To be quite honest, Ben, it’s not that big of a deal. This is an easy program. This isn’t fast food, it’s instantaneous food. It doesn’t require preparation of any kind. People know how to eat grapes. You don’t need to juice it or dry it or freeze or pulp it or mash it or blend it. You can if you want to but it doesn’t have to be all that work. It’s just like eat an apple, eat a banana. It’s pretty straight forward. How many calories isn’t the focus of this diet at all. I make sure that I eat enough so that I maintain my weight and I hold my figure. And I have the energy properly fueled to do what I wish to do. But some people do well on 1500 calories a day. Some people need 4500 or 60oo. I’ve worked with pro-athletes eating 7500 calories a day. And whether that was all coming from hamburgers or whether it was all coming from bananas. You can’t say, well, eat this much per day. It doesn’t work that way at all. You have to eat enough for you. Some people have tremendous digestive efficiency. And they can get by on fewer calories than another person the same size as them who doesn’t chew their food well, doesn’t have a very good digestive efficiency, and doesn’t absorb much of what they eat. Malabsorption syndrome type people, you know, and so you can’t really just say this size, this many calories. But the calorie intake is the same for me as it’s always been. It didn’t really matter whether I was eating a box of cheerios or I was a bag of bananas. I would eat the same number of calories either way.
Ben: And what about cooking? Do you cook your food?
Dr. Graham: No, I don’t cook my food at all. I haven’t cooked any food in thirty-something years. I don’t do any cooking.
Ben: Why not?
Dr. Graham: Well, I started looking into the nutritional side of things and the health side of things. And also into the model that nature sets for us and in the same way that you don’t generally see orangutans smoking cigarettes. You don’t see cows cooking their grass. There is no model in nature for the cooking of food or no necessity for it. If we eat the foods for which we are designed. We’re designed by our anatomy and our physiology and our chemistry. Let alone our emotional aspects of kindness and abhorrence to blood and whatnot. We’re designed to consume fruits and vegetables. They just don’t need cooking. Is there damage in cooking? Sure, maybe 10,000 nutrients get damaged for every one that becomes a little bit more available. And there’s nothing in that one that says that we need more of it. So although you might say you get more carotenes if you cook a carrot than if you eat it raw, great! Who says we need more carotenes? And this is a basic problem in nutrition where people think that more is better. When we know in fact that it is not. More is not better. If it was then straight sugar would be really good for you. Or drinking a bottle of oil would be really good for you. Or getting the most sun possible will be really good for you. And we know this isn’t the case. We know that in all the medical parameters, more doesn’t equate to better. But what does work every time is that there’s a sweet spot, a mid-range that we’re trying to hit. And you don’t want too little Vitamin A, you don’t want too much. You don’t want too little iron or niacin or whatever it might be. But you also don’t want too much. There are overdose problems as well as under dose. And this is why in the definition of malnourished, it includes the phrase “too much of anything, excess of anything or too little of anything, deficiency of anything”. Malnutrition does not just mean deficiency, it also includes excess. And so, this is a tough concept for people to embrace that more does not equate to better in the world of nutrition.
Ben: So what about like in terms of the digestive process, do you find or do you have a hard time because of all the cellulose and the plant cell walls actually breaking down and getting access to all the nutrients inside the plants that you’re eating?
Dr. Graham: Actually, I find the opposite to be true. When I was still in school, we did a study on digestion of various foods using the acids that our body produces, hydrochloric acid. And we subjected various foods to hydrochloric acid. And what I was shocked to find out was that most of the foods that I’ve been raised on won’t break down under the exposure to hydrochloric acid. Meat of any kind, dairy of any kind does not break down under hydrochloric acid. And you don’t have anything else to do it. In order to break down those substances, the hydrochloric acid had to be ten times stronger than anything produced by a human. Like the hydrochloric acid that you would find in the stomach of a cat. Or a pelican that can digest feathers and fish scales and bones. We don’t produce the super strong hydrochloric acid. But I don’t need foods that are really tough to digest. I eat foods that are made up of soft fibers. They’re known as soluble fibers rather than tons and tons of indigestible or non-soluble fibers. Like the ones you find in grains or other cellulose rich products.
Ben: What would be some of like the soft fiber foods that you’re considering?
Dr. Graham: Fruits and the young tender vegetables are all soft fiber foods. Anything that is literally soft. If you can smooch it between your teeth, break it up in your hands. I mean you can smash a banana in your hand. That’s not tough fibers. Those are soft fibers.
Ben: So from a vegetable perspective, something like a cucumber would be better than a carrot when we’re dressing cell fibers?
Dr. Graham: Well the thing is with cellulose itself, you cannot digest cellulose as you need to. And so what you’re going to digest is going to be dependent upon how well you chew your food. Now, in most of the world where people are cooking their food, they’re used to the cooking actually breaking the food down for them and turning it into a digestible form. When you have to chew it, you better chew it because if you’d take a bite off a carrot that’s as big as a penny and just swallow, it’s going to come out the same way it went in. The same would be true for a grape. It’ll come out the same way it went in if you don’t chew it at all. You cannot break down cellulose. When you chew, however, it’s very easy to break the cellulose and obtain the nutrients that are in the cells inside that cellulose plant wall. It’s like cabbage or kale or something that’s relatively tough to chew. What you’re probably going to find is that if you didn’t chew it really well or use a machine to help you chew it a bit, then it’s going to come out in bigger pieces than you thought you had swallowed.
Ben: Now, do you spend a lot of time chewing your food? And the reason I ask is because we had Dr. Bill Misner on an interview a couple of weeks ago. And he said he spent almost three hours each night eating dinner in order to actually chew his food adequately to allow him to be able to digest an enormous amount of plant based food he was eating.
Dr. Graham: Interesting. No I don’t. My whole program is very quick. I don’t spend an hour a day eating my food. In total, I don’t spend an hour a day eating my food. Although I enjoy a leisurely dinner with some conversation, I certainly don’t spend that much time in the actual process of eating. Fruits require very little chewing. I mean they’re so soft you can mash them with your tongue in the roof of your mouth. And salad, most of my salad is cucumbers and tomatoes and some lettuces and things, they’re not tough. And because I’m not eating starchy food of any kind, I don’t have to ensalivate the food in order to try to break down those complex carbohydrates with my salivary amylase. This is simply that is a really slow processing. Don’t produce much salivary amylase. It means that if you do eat starchy foods, then you just spend a long time in your mouth because it’s not something that we’re designed to do well at all. The whole process is quick. I’m sure I spend a lot more time breathing than I do eating. Eating doesn’t take up much time out of my day.
Ben: You talked about fruit a lot. And I’m sure you’re aware that fructose has been deemed a poison by many, especially over in the paleo movement or in the low carbohydrate diet movement. It’s been vilified quite a bit. Mostly because it’s processed differently and ends up in the liver and getting converted into triglycerides and creates potential for weight gain, that type of thing. So when you see all these critics deeming fructose as a poison and then you’re eating pounds of fruit a day, how do you respond to that argument?
Dr. Graham: That’s a really good question. It’s a really good question Ben. There’s two parts to the question though. Let’s understand first of all that if you don’t overeat on total calories, your body’s not going to convert anything into stored fat. You must first overeat on total calories in order to store fat. You do this by either doing too little or eating too much. And the beauty of fruits especially is that they’re so satiating that it’s rare to uncommon to find anybody that ever actually eats too much of it because the body gives you feed back right away saying oh this is sweet. You’ve had enough. No need to eat more than you require. It’s a rather nice thing in that way. But at the second point of it is, let’s please not differentiate between the fructose found in fruit which is as you just mentioned also comes in a package that is rich in fiber from refined high fructose corn syrup. When people say studies on fructose show, they haven’t read the studies, I have. And studies were on high fructose corn syrup which is not fructose. It is a different product completely. Did it come from fructose? Sure! But it’s been changed. If it was still fructose, it would be called fructose, it’s not. So to say studies have shown us that we’re converting fat into the liver when you’re eating fructose. It’s really not true. First of all, you must overeat on calories in order to convert anything into stored body fat. And second of all, there’s a huge difference between the fiber rich fructose found in fruits. And they’re refined high fructose corn syrup that was used for the research that you’re referring to.
Ben: Well, in terms of like supplements and in filling in the holes, do you find that when you’re eating lots of fruits and lots of vegetables that there are nutrients that might be missing in your diet? You know, things like Omega 3 fatty acids or Vitamin B12 or any of these types of things that would be concerned for a vegetarian or vegan based diet? And if so, do you in the 80-10-10 diet allow for some type of supplementation?
Dr. Graham: Actually, let’s go back a step if we can as I answer this. And we’ll only go back to the point of more doesn’t equate to better in the world of nutrition. And at the most with the highest does not equate to the best in the world of nutrition. In fact, what you hear over and over again is that the most nutritious foods that we can eat, the foods whose nutrient content most closely resembles and contains our nutrient requirement, are fruits and vegetables, this is the bulk and basis of every healthy diet. You must eat your fruits and vegetables. It’s not because they’re missing things, it’s because they supply things that are missing from other diets. In terms of B12, you know the first couple of hundred cases of B12 that were ever studied were all found to happen on people who are meat eaters. B12 is not traditionally a vegan problem but the B12 issue has been spun into becoming a vegan problem. But it’s really not. We find that people are B12 deficient on every diet and in all walks of life all the way around the world. It’s a pandemic problem. And my suggestion is let’s look at the cause of this which is almost invariably not about insufficient exposure to B12 but insufficient absorption of B12. Most of the time, we insufficiently absorb B12 because we’re experiencing more stress in our lifestyle than we can deal with. In terms of Omega fats, what’s been shown is that we need to have at least 3% of our diet come from fats, from healthy sources in order to have enough 3’s and 6’s and the other essential fatty acids. What isn’t apparent to most people is the way to achieve the proper balance between 3 and 6. And this is the key issue once again. That sweet spot, more 3 is not the solution in a diet where you’re eating too much 6. What we find is if you get the right ratio of 3 and 6 and if we understand why they’re so important. Both the Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s have influence on our ability to clot blood or for blood to clot. And if you have too much 6, you tend to throw clots; you tend to be stroke prone. And so that’s not good whereas, if you have too much Omega 3, well then your blood doesn’t clot very well and you tend to bleed too much. An internal bleed or an external bleed, either case is not a good thing. What you want to have is the proper ratio between the two. But you don’t want to get too much of either one because if you get too much of either one, we’re back where we started, insufficient ability to carry oxygen to the cells, insufficient ability to carry fuel to the cells. If you eat a diet of varied fruits and vegetables throughout the course of the year, what you’ll find is that your 3-6 ratio is perfect and the quantity of it. It is in that sweet spot of not too little, not too much. You really want to have single digit overall fat consumption whenever possible.
Ben: And what about iron?
Dr. Graham: The story’s the same. Basically, my professional philosophy is that if someone is having a life threatening emergency, by all means let’s save their life. Whether that’s because their bleeding because their arm got chopped off because they’re in some kind of psychological issue, because their having nutritional problems, it really doesn’t matter. The first issue is let’s save a life. Do whatever we have to do to save the life which may include supplementation, if necessary. But from a health perspective and from a lifestyle perspective, what I always teach is let’s learn to eliminate the cause of the problem rather than treating the symptoms of the problems. Do we get enough iron on a vegetable and plant based diet? Absolutely!
Ben: I guess the last thing that I want to ask you was about kind of the difference because I know a lot of arguments for eating raw or eating more vegetables are that that’s what a lot of animals do. And I’m sure that you’re familiar with the concept of animal’s guts being different and primarily in taking a chimpanzee and a gorilla and looking at the gut. They do a lot of fermentation in their colon and in their gut. They take a lot of these fibers from the vegetables that their eating and convert it into usable energy or fatty acids in their hindgut, in their colon. And humans don’t have that same capability. So, when you compare the diet of an ape to the diet of a human, how do you kind of cross that barrier of the gut being built differently in human versus an ape versus a cow or something like that?
Dr. Graham: Well, I’m not suggesting for a second that we are apes or that we’re cows nor lions or fish or birds. Every animal is of course unique unto itself. At the same time, every species does have specie’s specific diet. And everybody knows what a cow eats. Well, a cow eats grass. And everybody knows what the apes eat. And the apes eat fruits and vegetables for the bulk of their diet. Most of them eat about 99% of their total calories from fruits and vegetables. Now, it’s interesting because what it is that a gorilla eats out in nature is in fact quite different than what a gorilla eats when he’s kept in a zoo. Now, in a zoo the gorilla typically lives almost twice as long as they do out in nature. In the zoo, they’re given an abundance of fruit. In nature, there’s hardly a fruit tree that’s going to carry a gorilla. 500 pounds going out on skinny branches, I don’t see it. And so, gorillas at this point are in a tough situation. And that’s why traditionally there have never been a tremendous number of gorillas. We’re in no risk of being overrun by gorillas because it’s tough for them to make a living as they were out in nature. But I agree. They do eat a lot of vegetable matter. They do ferment some of that in their hindgut. It turns out humans also ferment cellulose in their hindgut equivalent. And we do typically pull a few calories. Not really many. Perhaps a hundred or two-hundred calories per day are pulled through the fermentation of our fibers from the hindgut. But it’s not a huge part of our nutritional intake or dietary necessity. But scientists have known this for some time. It’s just lay people haven’t. What I do find interesting is that if we do look at a dietary analysis of all the anthropoid primates, we find that their overall calorie intake is about 80% calories coming from carbohydrate and about 10% protein and 10% fat. And then if we were to analyze those creatures according to their intelligence, the ones that are classed as being more intelligent eat more fruit. And the ones that are less intelligent eat less fruit. They all eat fruits and vegetables but the smartest apes eat the most fruit and least intelligent apes eat the least fruit. If we class ourselves as the smartest of the anthropoid primates, all indicators are that we should be eating even more fruit than the apes that eat the most fruit. But I agree that in terms of digestion of cellulose from vegetable matter in your hindgut, we’re not gorillas. And fortunately, I think that’s a good thing or we’d be walking around with wind all day just like a gorilla does.
Ben: Yes. And I do actually know some people who do that. I guess that’s a good place to end. We’re running short on time. Now, I know that if you’re listening into this interview right now with Dr. Graham, you probably have questions. And of course we would love to hear your feedback over on the show notes for this episode which is going to be Episode #156 at BenGreenfieldFitness.com. I’d be happy to see what you have to say and hear your comments. And also, I’ll put a link to Dr. Graham’s book over there, the 80-10-10 Diet. So you can go check that out, as well. And Dr. Graham, I’d like to thank you so much for joining us on the call today.
Dr. Graham: Ben, it’s my pleasure. You asked some good questions. I appreciate the attitude of it all and giving me a chance to explain what a lot of people don’t understand. If it turns out to be a popular subject, I would like to come back and answer some more questions.
Ben: Fantastic! Alright, thanks!
Well folks, that’s about going to wrap up today’s podcast. I realize the audio levels weren’t perfect but I really wanted to give you a podcast today. So, hopefully you can let that slide. And remember to check out RevDiet.com for the brand new rev diet that I created. And also for everything that we talked about today, you can grab the show notes over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com. Remember that every pod cast is also transcribed, so you can get that over there as well. Be sure to donate a dollar if you haven’t yet to support the podcast. A dollar a month helps to offset the cost of everybody downloading these podcasts each week. So, that’s about it. Until next time this Ben Greenfield signing out from BenGreenfieldFitness.com.
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