Podcast Episode #71: Can Electrical Stimulation Devices Make You Fit or Help You Burn Fat?

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In this free December 2 audio episode: electrical stimulation devices, amino acid supplements, high protein diets, food allergies, barefoot running, the fathead movie, creatine, cramping, and much more! But before you go any further in the shownotes…check this out…

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Featured Topic:

In this featured topic interview, I talk to physical therapist David Markovich about the use of electrical stimulation devices (also known as “ESD's” or “e-stim”). You may have seen these advertised in commercials for fat loss, muscle performance and injury rehabilitation. The question is…do they really work? During our interview, I ask David the following questions:

-What is the mechanism of action for estim to actually help with recovery or performance?

-Can an estim unit actually maintain or enhance muscular fitness or endurance?

-What about fat loss? Does electrical stimulation actually work as a fat loss enhancing tool?

-Where can people actually get a home estim device?

-What types of injuries or activities can estim be used for?

-What are the guidelines for using a device, and should anybody avoid using electrical stimulation?

Listen to the interview with David to find out the truth about electrical stimulation devices!


Listener Q&A:

Do you have a question for Ben? Just click Ask a Podcast Question at the bottom of this page and leave a voicemail, leave a Skype voicemail to username “pacificfit”, or e-mail [email protected].

Listener Patrick asks: “Ben, I have a question regarding MAP, the product you featured in Podcast Episode #26 as well as your most recent post on bengreenfieldfitness.com . I've seen the product advertised in magazines for some time now and haveMAP always been interested in its potential benefits. On a recent trip to the local health food store I saw several different amino acid supplements, all costing between $12-15 for a month's supply. What's more, they all claim a serving size to be 2-3 pills and caution use of more than 4-6, compared to MAP‘s 20-30 per day depending on age, size, diet and exercise load.What are your feelings on MAP vs. other amino acid replacement supplements? Is MAP the clear winner across the board? And does it justify the $53 + shipping price tag?” (click here to read Bens' previous post about MAP)

Listener Amie asks: “I wondering what your thoughts are on a high protein diet.  I am not referring to the Adkins.  There has been some “buzz” (again) about high protein diets.  The suggestion for a typical day is oatmeal w/protein powder and soy milk for breakfast, then mid morning protein shake, 2 slices of whole grain bread w/thick layer of organic meat (poultry preferred) no mayo and veggies if you wish and then salad or steamed vegetable with brown rice and lean organic meat for dinner.  The days snacks suggestions are raw veggies and/or fruit or raw almonds. I have heard mixed feedback on whether this is an ideal lifestyle choice.  I recently heard too much protein (regardless of the carb combination) can be toxic, is that true?  And, will excess protein pack on the pounds (even if exercise regularly)?”

Listener Miguel asks: “I have bought your book “Holistic Fueling for Ironman”. I find that you are really capable to change people view about Powerbar and other brands that only care about profit. When I drink milk or eat whole wheat bread and then after 1-2h will head to a run most of the times I have GI distress. Does that mean that I have allergies to cow milk or wheat/gluten products?”

Listener Lisa asks: “Just wanted to write in with a question of my own this week. It has to do with running gear. What are your thoughts on barefoot and minimalist running shoes? Out here in Southern California, there's been a lot of hype lately about barefoot running and minimalist shoes, such as Vibram Five Fingers. Barefoot enthusiasts claim that the most natural way to run is barefoot because the foot naturally knows how to land in order to be most efficient at running. Shoes, they say, are to blame for a lot of running injuries because they force the foot to do something that it's not supposed to do, like excessive heel striking. Do you have any experience with barefoot running or running in something like Vibram shoes? I typically train in very minimalist shoes like Nike Frees or racing flats and just got a pair of Vibrams. I'm trying to figure out how best to incorporate them into my workouts.”

Listener Corey asks: “I enjoy your podcast and find it very informative, i have a question about nutrition during an olympic distance triathlon, this distance usually takes me around two hours to complete depending on the course and i normally don't eat anything during the event and finish ok so i guess i can store enough fuel to get through two hours of racing but would there be any benefit to eating anyway and topping up during the bike leg?”

Listener Chuck asks: “I watched a movie the other night called “Fat Head.”  Essentially, it is a response to the movie Supersize Me, but instead, this guy shows how he lost weight on a Mcdonald's diet.  Not by eating purely salads, etc. but my eating the real foods just not gorging himself.  The film is somewhat tongue in cheek, but what I really found interesting was the research he did and his interviews with doctors concerning the intake of saturated and regular fats.  His main focus became to avoid highly processed carbs later in the day, for example, a double cheeseburger for dinner, but no additional sides like fries.  At the end of his “diet” he has actually lost weight and had healthier cholesterol and body fat levels.  Obviously, I won't recap everything in the movie, but I was wondering if you had seen it, and what your thoughts on it were?  If you haven't, I suggest you take a look at it (I just got it from Netflix) because I think a very interesting entire podcast episode could be made from it, possibly with an interview with some of those doctors?  Just a thought. There's also a website, http://www.fathead-movie.com. My other, short, question is about the triathlon dominator package.  You say its the a great plan for those people who either have jobs, or still want to have a life and not neglect loved ones.  But for those who might actually have the extra time, is this still the best training method?  So if an athlete had infinite time in their day to train, would this still be the best plan for anyone, or would that vary?  I haven't purchased it quite yet, but it sounds to me like you have constructed the best overall plan altogether!  Thanks again Ben, I look forward to your answer.”

Listener Paul asks: “I love the podcasts which I discovered about five weeks ago (… where have I been?) ‘m enjoying my 40 minute drive to work for the first time in years while I trawl through the archives! The first thing I do as I switch off the engine is jot down all the changes I'll make to my protocols .. then I check the show notes! Anyway on to my question… having read some research about glutamine and creatine supplements I bought some. I take one teaspoon of each once a day with juice. I've been “loading” one month on and one month off. During each on cycle I have developed one episode of cramping on the outside of each shin within 10-15 days. Is it possible that these supplements are causing the cramps? It's not something that I suffer regularly and this is my only change to my routine in these months…having listened to the Magnesium Miracle podcast I know this is something I really do need to be taking! Keep up the great work Ben, and thanks for making a difference to my running and well being in general!”

In my response to Paul, I recommend CreO2 from Millennium Sports.

ListCEOBigBoxener Clay asks: “I have purchased the Triathlon Dominator package, have set a goal for a half ironman next summer, and am currently three weeks into it.  I enjoy the depth of information as well as the thorough workouts spelled out day to day, it is exactly what I need to stay focused and motivated.  There is, however, a few times throughout the 36 weeks that I will be on vacation, out of the country etc. away from my bicycle or pool for up to 10 days at a time. What are your suggestions for maintaining training intensity when you cannot logistically maintain the training plan.  How do you adjust your training when you know you will not have access to a cycle or pool?”

Listener Eric writes in: “I just posted this on Facebook – but I wanted to write to let you know that thanks to the Ironman Dominator Plan, I have already shaved off 10 seconds on my 100 mtr T Pace in the pool – down to 1:38 now!  Only 5 + weeks in now and that’s a full 7 minutes off the Ironman swim!”


Special Announcements:

1. Another Ben Greenfield Fitness success story! Congratulations to Jan (pictured below), who went through one of Ben's proprietary fat loss programs. If you want to learn more about utilizing Ben's personal training or nutrition consulting online services, just go to Ben's training website at http://www.pacificfit.net!



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4) The Triathlon Dominator Package is officially live and available with exclusive web-only pricing. You can learn more about exactly how to successfully train for Ironman without neglecting your family, career, hobbies and social life by clicking here. Special: Anyone who becomes a “Triathlon Dominator” between now and January 1, 2010, will automatically receive a $97 Golden Ticket to the official Pacific Elite Fitness Triathlon Training Camp with head coach Ben Greenfield!

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That's all for this week! Remember, if you have any trouble listening, downloading, or transferring to your mp3 player just e-mail [email protected]. And don't forget to leave the podcast a ranking in iTunes – it only takes 2 minutes of your time and helps grow our healthy community! Just click here to go to our iTunes page and leave feedback. Upcoming episodes include expert interviews on Essential Fatty Acids, Liquid Vitamins, and Optimizing Biomechanical Movement Patterns During Exercise. Finally, remember all the time put into producing this podcast for you, and consider donating to our show, we’ll throw in a free T-shirt or your choice of any of the BenGreenfieldFitness active singlets, hoodies and hat pictured below and available in our new store.

Ask Ben a Podcast Question

5 thoughts on “Podcast Episode #71: Can Electrical Stimulation Devices Make You Fit or Help You Burn Fat?

  1. Perry says:

    Its too bad you need a subscription to listen to old podcasts….you should take a lesson from one of the top podcasts (Joe Rogan Experience) and make all your content available and make it all FREE!

    1. 9.99 for an entire year and ALL seven year's worth of content isn't too bad if you ask me. ;)

  2. cardiovibe says:

    I use EMS myselve as a Mountainbike rider. For me the use of a musclestimulator like the new Globus Cycling Pro is a great addition to my bike training in case of training my shoulders, neck and arms. Also it is great for Warm-Up and faster regeneration. But as Giovanni wrote, it will not burn fat, cause you have no higher calorie burn, if you use normal home devices, where you can only use a maximum of 8 electrodes at a time. Its a bit different if you go to a special ems training club, where they use professional ems devices, where your whole body can be trained at once. But even so, its not a special cardiovascular training, which should be used in combination with weight training to get best results in fat burning.

  3. Giovanni Ciriani says:

    I hope you allow me a few observations, and constructive criticism.

    In a nutshell, PT David Markovich says a number of corrects things, but his education is lacking in EMS for Sport training. He even says it himself: “I have not seen anything regarding EMS for Sport training”. One is misled into thinking that he has not seen anything, because there is nothing. Here is a bibliographic link. An easy read to summarize EMS use in Sport is:
    Maffiuletti NA. The use of electrostimulation exercise in competitive sport. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2006;1(4):406-7. (PDF from the link)

    * Abstract: After a brief introduction on electrostimulation methodology and applications in competitive sport for performance optimization, this technical report presents the principal effects of electrostimulation-induced resistance exercise on neuromuscular features. The advantages and limitations of this technique compared with those of voluntary exercise training are also discussed. Excellent concise scientific summary supporting EMS use in sport; only lacking in support for AR, which research subsequent to this summary found positive. The writer Nicola A. Maffiuletti, PhD, has been studying and researching neuromuscular electrophysiology for over 15 years, and has contributed more than 70 articles to the field, and authored dozens of studies published in peer-reviewed journals around the world. He is the Director, Neuromuscular Research Laboratory, Schulthess Clinic by Zurich, Switzerland.

    If you notice in the bibliography most research is published by European authors; unfortunately education in the US on this subject is sub-par. I know this first hand, after auditing a couple of classes in the Master program for PT, at one of the top institution in the field (U. of Connecticut, was voted #1 doctoral program in Kinesiology in the country). Not much is taught in terms of how parameters affect EMS, and there are at least half a dozen of such parameters that need to be mastered in order to do it correctly. Please check out the blog of one coach who has tried Globus, the hand-held EMS I import and distribute.

    * What I’ve found good in PT David Markovich’s interview:
    o Good explanation of TENS vs NMES (aka EMS), he seems very competent in TENS, too many people confuse them;
    o You are asking the right questions, i.e. if it can improve endurance and recovery;
    o he explains that EMS can help micro trauma;
    o he explains that the temperature patterns shown are generated through increased blood circulation;
    o EMS do not burn calories (mainly because they activate a muscle vs the whole system of several muscles, pulmonary and cardiovascular systems;
    o It needs to be done properly.
    * Bad:
    o he has not read sport studies, yet talks about them as if he had; there are actually many, which he needs to read;
    o he doesn’t believe one can gets stronger biceps, that has been shown it can be done;
    o He says that the bigger units are better; there are actually professional hand-held units;
    o Units that clinicians use are multiple thousand $; there are actually good ones around the $1,000 price level;
    o He says that 9-Volt-battery-operated units are no good; battery doesn’t necessarily equate with bad quality, electrons are electrons, no matter whether they come out of the outlet or out of a battery; he’s states that only because he uses large units that plug into an outlet.

    So overall I praise you for the effort, but what the interview with David is not presenting, is the truth about electrical stimulation devices in sport, which is the main topic your audience is interested about. I’ve also found a paper that PT Markovich has written in collaboration for the VST device you tried, and I’m sorry to say that many of the claims in that white paper completely unscientific, and incorrect. I also checked out the characteristics of the machine you tried and I saw that it’s an underpowered machine, at least compared to the machine I distribute.

    One notable coach who has used EMS with world class athletes is Charlie Francis. Charlie used EMS with sprinters for the last 40 years. He used most notably (or infamously) with Ben Johnson (overnight 100 m world champion, then stripped of the title because of steroid abuse). Regardless of what you think of Ben Johnson, it shows that EMS is a complement to sport training.

  4. heamfile says:

    yea i do use the nike free’s and I like them but I don’t feel they are as minamalist as VFFs for obvious reasons. this is a comparison of the 2:


    I am still a fan of the VFFs tho

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