Dirt Cheap Performance Enhancing Hacks You’ve Never Heard Of, The Best Bottled Waters, Cold Thermogenesis Pre-Post Exercise Tips, & Much More With Dr. James DiNicolantonio, Author of WIN.

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Dr. James DiNicolantonio
Fitness, Immunity, Immunity, Podcast, Recovery

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My friend Dr. James DiNicolantonio's new book, WIN: Achieve Peak Athletic Performance, Optimize Recovery and Become a Champion, is undoubtedly one of the most evidence-based books I've seen on athletic performance.

The book teaches the underlying pillars of physical development and fitness, such as nutrition, muscle growth, fat loss, body composition optimization, recovery, supplementation, and much more.

Dr. DiNicolantonio is a brilliant guy who first joined me in the podcast “Why You’re Probably Mineral Deficient If You Eat A “Healthy” Diet, How Coffee & Ketosis Affect Your Mineral Status, Is Himalayan Salt Toxic, The Best Bottled Waters & More: The Mineral Fix.” He also wrote the book The Salt Fix and The Mineral Fix, both excellent guides to salt and mineral intake. Other books by Dr. DiNicolantonio include The Immunity Fix, The Longevity Solution: Rediscovering Centuries-Old Secrets to a Healthy, Long Life, The Obesity Fix: How to Beat Food Cravings, Lose Weight and Gain Energy, and Superfuel: Ketogenic Keys to Unlock the Secrets of Good Fats, Bad Fats, and Great Health.

Dr. DiNicolantonio is a cardiovascular research scientist and doctor of pharmacy at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Missouri. A well-respected and internationally known scientist and expert on health and nutrition, he is on the editorial advisory boards of several medical journals and is the author or coauthor of approximately 300 publications in the medical literature. Dr. DiNicolantonio serves as the Associate Editor of Nutrition and British Medical Journal’s (BMJ) Open Heart, a journal published in partnership with the British Cardiovascular Society. He has shared his expertise on The Dr. Oz Show, The Doctors, and international news media outlets.

Not only are there specific protocols for top athletic performance in his book WIN, but all the recommendations are backed by a wealth of scientific evidence. The theories and practices that have been formulated in the book are suitable for both beginners as well as advanced athletes, complete science nerds, bodybuilders, the average Joe or Jane wanting to lose an extra few pounds, and even top-tier elite athletes.

Let me just say that if I had this information available to me when I was competing, I know that it would have given me a significant advantage.

During our discussion, you'll discover:

-The solution that is 10-20 times better than any performance-enhancing drug (PED) when it comes to increasing exercise performance in the heat…06:06 

  • Salt solutions are better than performance-enhancing supplements
  • Performance-enhancing supplements like beta-alanine or beetroot juice have been shown to increase vigorous endurance exercise by 1-2 minutes
  • Studies show that consuming appropriate salt solutions before performance allows you to go 21 minutes longer or 10 to 20 times longer than taking typical supplements

-How much salt for athletic performance?…07:29

  • UFC Performance Institute recommends 60-90 milliequivalents per liter of sodium for rehydration of athletes (about half of what is optimal with regards to boosting blood volume before athletic performance)
  • Gatorade is 1/10th of the saltiness

-How do you make a high-salt solution that doesn't result in gut issues?…09:27

  • There is no problem until you start going above the saltiness of blood
    • Saltiness of blood: 3,200 mg of sodium per liter (0.8% salt)
    • Normal saline solution is 0.9% salt, which is slightly hypertonic (154 milliequivalents of sodium)
  • Most studies use a concentration of 3,500 mg of sodium per liter to enhance performance
  • 3,200-3,500 mg of sodium per liter results in a significant increase in diarrhea
  • With 3,200 mg,1 out of 8 people have diarrhea (not bad)
  • With 4,200 mg, it increases to 6 out of 8 with diarrhea
  • But there's a much better boost in plasma volume when you hit 4,300 mg of sodium per liter versus 3,200 mg
  • The question is: How do you balance the better blood-boosting benefits of a 1.07% saline solution with the increased risk of diarrhea?
  • Glycine has been added to salt solutions for decades in individuals with severe diarrhea, either from rotavirus or cholera
  • A glycine to sodium ratio of 2-3:1 ratio has been shown to reduce:
    • Total volume of diarrhea
    • Frequency of diarrhea
    • Volume of fluid needed to hydrate the individual
  • Adding glycine to a very high salt solution, like 4,300 mg of sodium per liter, will get you the best blood volume boosting solution while greatly reducing the risk of diarrhea

-How to make a performance-enhancing drink with just salt and glycine?…12:10

  • One teaspoon of salt is 2,300 mg of sodium
  • Preparing your solution
    • 4,300 mg of sodium, just under two teaspoons of salt 
    • 1 liter of fluid
  • Drink a colder salt solution for performance enhancement
  • Salt/salinity lowers the freezing point, so you can even drink a sub-zero liquid if there is enough salt in it to cool the body down
  • Studies show that a 39° to 40°F salt solution lowers the core body temperature by a half degree in 30 minutes
  • Cold liquid increases the time it would take you to hit a critical core temperature which can cease performance, so there's a dual benefit of consuming the salt solution cold

-What about the glycine component?…14:28  

  • A study shows that glycine can absorb sodium on a 3:1 molar ratio
  • For 4 g of sodium, 6 g of glycine would be more than enough to help prevent extra salt from causing diarrhea
  • 5-6 g of glycine or 5-6 g of spirulina mitigates the oxidizing and inflammatory effects of vegetable oils
  • Glycine helps boost glutathione levels, the master antioxidant, which can help with the oxidative stress from the Omega-6 seed oils
  • Spirulina does something similar to inhibit oxidative stress
  • Any brand of glycine will do 
  • Bone broth is salty and has high glycine
    • You could use bone broth as your fluid instead of water 
    • You can get some of the glycine and some of the salt from the bone broth, but you have to test the saltiness so you know how much salt to add

-Do you consume it all at once or sip on it leading to a workout?…18:29

  • Start 90 minutes before exercise to perform at the optimum blood volume boosting potential of the solution
  • Slowly consume the solution at an equal amount over 45 minutes in order not to oversaturate the absorptive capacity of the gastrointestinal system
  • If you overflood the system, that will also lead to diarrhea

-Sodium bicarbonate is also a buffering agent. Is it still recommended?…20:20

  • Sodium bicarbonate about two hours prior improves performance
  • Acute doses are so high that, often, this causes more gastrointestinal issues so that it outweighs any type of performance and recovery benefit 
  • Advice is to slowly build up bicarbonate stores over weeks of about 1,000 mg per liter (1,800 g per liter is better) and consume 2 liters of that fluid per day
  • A study shows that bicarbonate water, at around 2-3 liters per day, for 4 weeks, dramatically improved power output, recovery, and endurance
  • An anaerobic state is usually blamed on lactic acid and lactate buildup, but it's actually hydrogen ion buildup; lactate buildup just follows
  • Pellegrino
  • Gerolsteiner is good but is very carbonated
  • Magnesia Natural Mineral Water
  • Create bicarbonate water by adding sodium bicarbonate to water

-Am I also bicarbonate loading if I put baking soda in my morning glass of water?…23:43

  • Ben's morning glass of water
  • 3 g of bicarbonate per day, depending on your overall dietary intake, will slowly build up bicarbonate stores and lead to performance gains
  • Although a slower bicarbonate boosting substance, sodium citrate works well without messing up the stomach's pH
  • With sodium citrate, 4-4½ hours before performance and on a full stomach otherwise, it will be a little tough on the stomach
  • Don't go beyond 10 g in one sitting

-Creatine or creatine loading strategy…26:28

  • It reminds Ben of creatine, how taking large doses seems to lead to gastric distress and water retention, bloating, and sometimes cramping
  • James takes about 3 g of creatine from supplementation every day and 2 g from diet (usually from red meat) to get a daily total of 5 g

-Sodium citrate vs. sodium bicarbonate (and can you use both?)…27:22

  • James used to use sodium bicarbonate but worried about the inhibition of acid in the stomach to digest proteins and absorb nutrients, so he switched to sodium citrate
  • Citrate does not reduce acidity in the stomach
  • Citrate turns into bicarbonate in the body and is a very good alkaline substance
  • 1 to 2 g of citrate is enough to offset the acid load of an animal-based diet
  • Vivoo urine test strips to test urinary pH (use code BEN30 to save 30%)
  • Best time to test urinary pH is 4 hours after your last meal
  • Alkaline tide occurs after a meal; testing 2 hours after a meal will have an alkaline result  
  • pH should be around 7, where you don't have any net excretion of acid from the kidneys

-Do you see any issues with glycine and sodium citrate in a salty solution?…29:45

  • 3 g or more of citrate will have gastrointestinal issues
  • Consume citrate with a meal 4 hours before a performance
  • Consuming 3 g of citrate with a meal will be tolerated

-Taking glycine at night before bed…30:49

  • Glycine improves sleep because it reduces core body temperature
  • At a dose of 3 g, anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime
  • 4 benefits of adding glycine into a salt solution:
    1. Improves sodium and water absorption and hence
    2. Reduce diarrhea
    3. Reduce core body temperature
    4. Pickle juice acutely aborts muscle cramps within 30 to 90 seconds because the acetic acid in pickle juice releases the inhibitory neurotransmitter glycine which then inhibits muscle cramps
  • Pre-loading with glycine may also inhibit muscle cramps during performance as well, particularly in the heat

 -How to use cooling for training…32:20 

  • Ben practices cold water immersion
  • James prefers cool water immersion rather than cold
  • Cold is less than 59°F, and cool would be 60 to 84°F
  • Cold shutting the body too quickly closes the AVAs (arterio-venous anastomoses)
  • Cool water strategy does not do that
  • Start at 84°F or 74°F slowly working to 64°F – drops core body temperature by .5 to 1°F in 30 to 60 minutes
  • Overcooling – dropping the core body temp below 97°F inhibits performance
  • Studies also show that 59°F shows improvement while 55°F water reduces performance
  • An ice bath increases core body temp by closing the AVAs

-There's a big difference between a 2-3 minute cold shower and a 10-minute 40°F ice bath…41:13

  • Talking about inhibiting muscle protein synthesis, hypertrophy, and strength gains:
    • Studies show that an ice bath will inhibit some of those gains, but those studies are 10-20 minutes in an ice bath
    • A 2-minute plunge will not inhibit those gains; what probably will occur is you are inhibiting a lot of that oxidative stress
  • Quick ice baths dramatically improve power output the next day

-What about cryotherapy vs. cold water immersion?…44:10

-Going back to salt solutions…44:52

  • Dosing of salt solutions does not have to be done daily; it is for improving your performance during competition
  • On a day-to-day basis, you will perform better later on if you don't hyper-hydrate
  • The main benefit of exercise is the plasma volume expansion that occurs over multiple courses of exercise
  • Vigorously exercising decreases blood flow to the kidneys, signaling the body to retain more salt and water
  • The other way to boost plasma volume is simply to become dehydrated during exercise
  • The goal is to become either dehydrated or acclimated, and then you get the plasma volume expansion over multiple courses and then hyper hydrate with salt with a salt solution before a competition
  • Make sure to replace the salt that has been lost during exercise
  • What is important for people to understand is that if they are sweating a lot, they are losing a good amount of salt and should rehydrate with the appropriate amount
  • Train low – compete high phenomenon associated with carbohydrates
  • Inducing hormesis by not hyper-hydrating with salt and fluids
  • Consuming about 1,200 mg of sodium won't significantly boost blood volume

-Individualized sweat and sodium profile…50:47

-What's the difference between proteinogenic, non-proteinogenic, ketogenic, and glucogenic amino acids?…51:48

  • There are a total of 22 proteinogenic amino acids
    • 9 are essential:
      • Histidine
      • Isoleucine
      • Leucine
      • Lysine
      • Methionine
      • Phenylalanine
      • Threonine
      • Tryptophan
      • Valine
  • Kion Aminos
  • Non-proteinogenic amino acids like glycine 
  • Glucogenic amino acids can be converted to glucose through gluconeogenesis
  • The most common are the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)
  • BCAAs have some advantages, but they also have disadvantages to essential amino acids.
  • If you are using only use BCAAs, you are signaling your body to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, but you are not giving your body all the amino acids to do that; the body then breaks down muscle to get the other 6 acids to make muscle
  • Just taking BCAAs can lead to a decrease in muscle protein synthesis and an increase in muscle protein breakdown
  • Podcast with Milos Sarcev

-If mTOR activation is bad, why is exercise associated with longevity when exercise can stimulate the expression of mTOR?…56:17

  • It's like comparing one or two, or maybe three spikes in insulin versus having hyperinsulinemia because you're insulin resistant
  • So having small spikes of mTOR to stimulate muscle protein synthesis is good
  • Instead of worrying about acute mTOR responses, we should care more about things like chronically overeating refined carbs and sugar, which will chronically increase mTOR

-Are there different ways that mTOR is expressed?…57:38

-Are there any things that you do regularly that you adapted because science has backed them up?…1:00:05

-And much more…

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Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

Resources from this episode:

James DiNicolantonio:

– Podcasts:

– Other resources:

Do you have questions, thoughts, or feedback for Dr. DiNicolantonio or me? Leave your comments below, and one of us will reply!

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Ask Ben a Podcast Question

5 thoughts on “Dirt Cheap Performance Enhancing Hacks You’ve Never Heard Of, The Best Bottled Waters, Cold Thermogenesis Pre-Post Exercise Tips, & Much More With Dr. James DiNicolantonio, Author of WIN.

  1. matthew King says:

    What would be the directions on slowly building up the sodium citrate? If you didn’t want to use sodium bicarbonate?

    1. Ben Greenfield says:

      This resource might help: mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/citrate-oral-route/proper-use/drg-20070114

  2. Stanley G Olsen says:

    Aloha BGL,
    To complement the amino acid / protein info. on this episode, listen to Dr. Attia’s interview with Dr. Layman on the drive pod.

  3. Is the Tonal machine you mentioned isokinetic like the ARX? Thanks Ben

    1. Yes, just not as powerful.

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