November 17, 2010
Introduction: In this podcast episode: Everything you need to know about the paleo diet, glucosamine chondroitin vs. MSM, is it a myth that electrolytes prevent cramping, how to stay fit when you can’t run, and whether converting slow twitch to fast twitch muscle is a good idea.
Ben: Hey folks, this is Ben Greenfield podcasting to you once again from Spokane, Washington. In today’s podcast we’ve got a great interview with the author of a book called the Paleo Solution. A guy named Rob Wolff and he’s going to tell you everything you need to know about the paleo diet and maybe some things that even if you’re familiar with the paleo diet already, you may not have known. And we’re also going to have a Q and A with a few special announcements before we get on to that Q and A. So let’s jump right into podcast number 120 from www.bengreenfieldfitness.com.
Now remember if you have a question you can email [email protected]. You can Skype to username pacificfit especially if you’re international. That’s a good solution. Or you can call toll free to 8772099439. Actually the first question today came through via Twitter. And to ask me a question via Twitter just go to twitter.com, follow Ben Greenfield and ask your question. This question is from gmurran.
gmurran asks via twitter: @bengreenfield: Which is better Glucosamine vs. Sulfate for athletes?
Ben answers: So let me start by noting that there’s really no studies that have compared glucosamine chondroitin and a sulfur based anti-inflammatory compound like MSM or DMSO, those are the two most popular, when it comes to athletes. Really there haven’t been any direct comparisons that I’m aware of between those two supplements in the population as a whole and the glucosamine chondroitin basically it’s made of glucosamine which is an amino sugar and chondroitin which is a carbohydrate and the glucosamine part of it is supposed to be able to – or the hypothesis is that you get increased stimulation of cartilage cells because that amino sugar assists in helping to synthesize what are called glycoso aminal glycans or proteo glycans and the chondroitin is a carbohydrate and that’s supposed to help promote water retention, elasticity and also to inhibit some of the enzymes that break down cartilage. Glucosamine, you typically get that from shellfish, chondroitin usually from cow cartilage sometimes from chicken cartilage and there have been studies that have been done on glucosamine chondroitin. They’re better known for a while. The bigger studies were funded by the National Institute of Health done on multi-thousand patients on a long term basis and really found no significant effect in terms of reduction of pain or symptomatic relief when comparing glucosamine chondroitin versus a placebo. There have been a couple of other long-term follow up studies. Same thing, no real proof that the stuff works. Of course if you have a shellfish allergy you’re going to want to avoid glucosamine in the first place. However, I personally do have glucosamine chondroitin on hand. Now the stuff that I have is called CapraFlex and it’s got some other enzymes and herbal anti-inflammatories in it. it’s got cherry juice, ginger, turmeric, things like that in it as well as protolytic enzymes which can help to control inflammation and so I suspect that the reason I feel that stuff is maybe not due to the glucosamine chondroitin but due to some of the other things that are in that particular supplement. However if you find a glucosamine chondroitin supplement and you’ve got knee pain, joint pain and you want to try it out, that’s the type of stuff that this is marketed for and “indicated” for. That’s the relief of arthritic type of symptoms or chronic pain or even acute pain, in some cases from joint wear and tear. MSM is a little bit different. The idea with MSM is that it’s supposed to improve your cell membrane permeability, your cell membranes – they essentially have kind of a fatty acid on one side and a sulfur containing amino compound on the other side and by adding MSM whether via topical or oral form or adding an anti-inflammatory sulfur compound to an area then the idea is that you can improve cell permeability and you can help with some of the removal of the byproducts of inflammation, improve oxygen and nutrient delivery to the tissue, etc. Same thing, not a lot of studies that show much effect of MSM. There’s been a couple of smaller studies and really, there isn’t a ton of evidence that the stuff actually works and furthermore, kind of if you have shellfish allergy, you should avoid glucosamine. If you have a sulfur allergy, you’ll of course want to be careful with these sulfur based compounds. But again I’ve had some athletes, I personally haven’t – but I’ve had some athletes that I coach use a topical MSM or DMSO which are both sulfur containing anti-inflammatory compounds and had some success in terms of pain control with those. So if you try it out and it works for you, then more power to you. But there’s not a ton of evidence behind these. Also though, not a lot of risks. Not a lot of side effects, and not a ton from a safety perspective unless you have a lot of those allergies that I talked about. So worth looking into, worth trying and if it works for you, let me know. Leave a comment on the Shownotes and it’s also nice to hear if someone finds something that works for them, what situation it worked in, what they used and what they felt. So, the next question is interesting. It comes from Patrick.
Patrick asks: Just how important is it to supplement with electrolytes during exercise? A recent Tri-Talk episode made some pretty bold claims about the need to take in salts during exercise; more appropriately the lack of need in most situations. The podcast went on to say that the only reason one would put such a premium on taking in salts while exercising is if he or she knows from personal experience that salt either helps or doesn’t hurt. What is your take on the issue?
Ben answers: I heard that episode and that episode was about muscle cramping. Essentially David Warden who’s the host of that podcast – I’ve co-hosted that podcast before, guest hosted that podcast. He was laying out all the different reasons that muscle cramping might occur. So for example, he put up lack of fitness so if you’re out racing in competition in the heat of battle so to speak, you might be subjecting your muscles to greater contracture than they would experience under training conditions. Just because of adrenaline and competition and so you might experience a cramping due to lack of fitness in a situation like that. He brought up a possibility of lack of flexibility. Really not any research behind that but the idea that maybe if muscle doesn’t have enough elasticity or enough flexibility or if you’ve got a lot fascial adhesions, knots and things of that nature that a muscle might be more prone to cramp. And then he brought up hydration and electrolytes. And he did make some interesting points and specifically cited a couple of studies. One that was done on Ironman athletes that really didn’t show an association between electrolyte and water intake and improved performance or a reduction of cramping. As a matter of fact, one of the studies that was done in medicine and science and sports and exercise in 2005 that he cited took 20 Ironman athletes and they divided them into those who had muscle cramps and those who didn’t during an entire Ironman triathlon and the group who did cramp actually was more dehydrated. They lost more body mass through water loss than the group that did cramp and the group that did not cramp took on less potassium and magnesium electrolyte supplementation than the cramping group. And so they suggested it’s possible that having too much or too many electrolytes and too much fluid could actually aggravate muscle cramps rather than getting rid of muscle cramps. And one of the ideas behind this of course is that your body is pretty good at maintaining balance or homeostasis. So as you lose water, the concentration of electrolytes that you have available to your muscles to maintain that proper muscle conductants across their membranes will actually stay pretty much the same assuming you have enough storage electrolytes or even extra electrolytes coming in to a limited extent and taking in too much fluid will decrease that concentration and taking in too many electrolytes will increase that concentration to a detrimental effect. So, interestingly David went on to bring up a study that was titled Reflex Inhibition of Electrically Induced Muscle Cramps in Hypo Hydrated Humans. And that’s a heck of a title, but basically what this study looked at was whether or not ingesting small amounts of pickle juice could reverse a cramp within about 30 seconds of ingestion if folks were dehydrated in a similar fashion that they would be during an endurance event and what they found was that the ingestion of pickle juice compared to a deionized water placebo could inhibit those muscle cramps in people. And the interesting thing about this study is that 30 seconds is too fast for your electrolyte balance to be restored. Or for your body fluid balance to be restored. And so the researchers in this study hypothesized that what happened was the taste of that salty fluid actually caused your brain to get this signal – this neurally mediated reflex that inhibits the firing of alpha motor neurons which are the – the alpha motor neurons can cause that spasmic or that cramp to stay within the muscle. And so rather than ingestion of salts actually working in physiological electrical fashion, it’s possible that it could be actually a neural inhibition of the spasming or the cramping. This is really interesting because I’ve personally broken up a salt capsule during a cramping session in an endurance event and experienced almost immediate relief of the cramps. And I was under the impression that this was due to rapid intake of the electrolytes but it’s possible that there’s something going on on mental level or a neural level rather than a simple physiological level. So it’s interesting. However, considering that the average person has about 8000 grams of storage sodium – your major electrolyte on board – and you’re going to burn through anywhere from about 1000 to 2000 grams of that during exercise, you’re still for events that exceed about 7 to 8 hours going to be doing yourself a favor by having electrolytes in a proper electrolyte ratio on hand. Not only to reduce cramping but also to give yourself a little bit of a hand up when it comes to optimizing muscular contractions. So I also have my best performances when I’m taking in the range of about 600 to 800 mgs of sodium per hour and that’s mixed with potassium and magnesium and calcium and the reason that I chose that amount is that’s about 40 to 50% of what I lose. I’ve been sweat sodium tested in a lab and you don’t have to get sweat sodium tested in a lab. You can approximate your losses but ultimately if you’re taking about 40 to 50% of what you’re losing during a long term event like let’s say a half Ironman or Ironman event then you can definitely help yourself out and the harder you’re going the more that can help you out and possibly it may be due to that neural inhibition of cramping, possibly there may be an actual physiological effect going on there but either way, every athlete that I’ve ever coached across hundreds of people have always done better in long term endurance events when they have electrolytes on hand. And of course water to go along with it. So don’t use that podcast as an excuse not to take electrolytes. Use it as a reason to modify your electrolyte intake if you’re taking in too many. So a lot of salt capsules out there are going to give you a range of 1 to 2 grams an hour when you need sometimes less than half that amount. And if you’re listening in and you’re not competing in that distance or that length of an event, you definitely don’t need Gatorade or salt capsules to hit the gym for an hour and a half or two or four or five. It’s really for this longer term event that electrolyte supplementation comes into play unless you’re sodium depleted from your diet which is really not the case in 99% of people who are eating a typical diet that has adequate minerals or a good portion of minerals along with salts in it. So great question. And let’s go ahead and move on to a call in question from Listener Chuck.
Chuck asks: Hey Ben, this is Chuck and I have a question for the podcast this week. I just finished up an entire year of racing basically mostly half Ironman distance triathlons and I actually finished yesterday with my first marathon and actually qualified for Boston thanks to the help that you give me, especially the Triathlon Dominator package. My question is that now that I’ve been doing all these long races, my fast twitch muscle fibers have pretty much been totally converted to slow twitch. I could grab a basketball rim but I can barely get off the ground now. So I was wondering if in this offseason if it would be a good idea to work on the fast twitch muscle fibers improvement and how it would help me going into the season next year. I would do this by adding in more plyometric explosive exercises as well as more power lifting. So I just wanted to see what your opinion on this was and I appreciate everything you do through the podcast. Take care man.
Ben answers: So there’s really kind of two parts to his question. The first is can you convert that slow twitch into fast twitch muscle fiber and the second is would you even want to. And the idea for those of you who need a quick anatomy review is that your muscle has three basic muscle fiber types. There are a bunch of side or subtypes but to keep it simple you’ve got your type 2B muscle fiber. Your type 2A muscle fiber and your type 1 muscle fiber. The type 2B muscle fiber has a very fast contraction time, really big motor neurons. It gets fatigued very quickly but can produce a huge amount of force in a very short period of time. Uses sugar, uses creatine. It’s kind of the muscle that you’re going to find in sprinters, you’re also going to find in de-trained people and in couch potatoes as well. And then you have type 2A muscle fibers. They’re kind of halfway between the type 2B and the type 1. Still pretty fast contraction time, still pretty large motor neurons. Not quite as short a time to fatigue as the type 2B muscle fibers but still considered very anaerobic, very short term energy or short term force production. Pretty good blood flow to those versus not really good blood flow or capillary density in a type 2B fiber versus type 2A fiber. Sterilized primarily in creatine and sugar force energy source. And then you have the type 1 fibers and these are the slow twitch lean aerobic muscle fibers, very small motor neurons but don’t get fatigued very quickly at all. So primarily used for aerobic activity. They can use fat really efficiently as an energy source, burn up triglycerides. Pretty low capacity really for storing carbohydrate or for carbohydrate conversion into energy and really the type of thing you’d see in a marathoner. So you’re looking at a marathoner is going to have typically around 80% of the fast twitch muscle and about 20% of the slow twitch and very little of that type 2B muscle fiber. You’re going to get a sprinter as having usually right around 20% slow twitch, 45% or 50% or so of that type 2A muscle fiber and actually a pretty high percentage of kind of a hybrid that’s almost a cross between type 2B and type 2A – I told you I didn’t want to get into the subtext too much but sprinters really have a little bit of this – I guess you’d call it a type 2X fiber, and then the average person is kind of 50-50 mix of slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fiber. Now like you mentioned Chuck, it’s pretty easy to convert that fast twitch into slow twitch. Anybody who’s gone training for – to use your example, basketball to training for a marathon finds that they can’t jump as high. They can’t run as fast and a lot of that is due to the fiber type conversion of type 2A muscle fibers to type 1 slow twitch muscle fibers and also type 2B fibers to type 2A fibers to type 1 slow twitch muscle fibers. So that conversion happens pretty easily once endurance training or aerobic training takes place. Now conversion back the other way, you don’t see that happen too much. Usually it’s due to de-training, so let’s say you take a marathoner, they get injured they’re sitting on the couch for two weeks, they typically will have conversion from type 1 to type 2 muscle mass. Or conversion of the ratio to type 1 to type 2 muscle mass. And you’ll not experience that if you take a power athlete or a strength athlete and have them go – or I’m sorry you won’t experience that if you take a marathoner and you have him go do weight training or power lifting or something like that. Typically the conversion of type 1 to type 2 muscle fibers is going to happen with detraining more than it will with strength and power. So, very efficient way to convert type 1 to type 2A muscle fibers is actually to stop, rest, de-train your body so you get the type 1 converting to the type 2B fiber and then you convert that type 2B fiber into type 2A fiber with weight training and plyometrics and the type of stuff that you brought up. Which is why if any endurance athlete wants to stop endurance sports and get big fast then it does require some lazying around. Some really strict moderation or elimination of aerobic work, some de-training, some sitting around and not doing too much and then returning to higher levels of power and strength activity after a few weeks off. Now the question is whether or not this would actually help you to get that fast twitch muscle fiber conversion by doing strength training, etc. in the offseason. Short answer is no. Yes, you do need some strength training, some rebuilding of a base foundation, some rebuilding of the tendons and ligaments and joints that are going to support you, help resist joint impact and give you a little bit of a platform to reduce injury during the next year’s triathlon season. But as far as actually bulking up and getting a lot of ratio conversion of type 1 to type 2 muscle fibers, that’s really not going to help you if your goals are purely to get better at triathlon. Focusing more on swimming, cycling, running, doing interval training, working on your skills, your drills during the offseason and doing a limited extent of strength training is going to help you more. That being said, you’re going to find me doing a lot of heavy weight training, plyometrics, short sprints, suicide sprints on the basketball gym, medicine ball slams, lots of power work, hitting in the iron a little bit more heavily in the offseason and I’m not doing that – don’t get me wrong – I’m not doing that because I think I’m going to be a better triathlete because of that next season. I do it because my offseason sports are fast twitch sports. In the offseason I snowboard. I play basketball, I play tennis. I do things that require me to sprint and have a little bit more fast twitch muscle fiber and I also frankly am a little bit vain. I like to get my arms back when triathlon season is over. I like to get a little bit of my upper body definition back and my shoulders a little bit bigger. It’s just something I like to do. I’m actually creating a program just based on what I personally do called Tri-Ripped that takes you a skinny triathlon body and get some muscle on during the offseason without losing too much speed. It’s definitely not something like the pro or the semi pro athlete would want to do. But average age grouper triathlete who wants to just look pretty dang good with their shirt off or in a bikini once the spring and summer rolls around and not lose a lot of their triathlon speed, that’s the type of thing this is created for. That’s a little ways off in the future though. But anyways so returning to your question, yeah. If you just want to get big and look better and do some fast twitch muscle fiber off season sports type of training, that stuff will help you. If not, if you just want to become a better triathlete, really moderate that. You only need two to three – limited time 30 to 60 minute weight training sessions and maybe one plyometric training session if that during the offseason although most of the power, heavy explosive types of work should really be saved for the final eight weeks leading up to the start of your race season or your next high priority race. So good question Chuck, and if you have questions about that – follow up questions, of course leave that as a comment in the Shownotes and then Jeff asks…
Jeff asks: I’ve thought that I’ve been suffering with plantar fasciitis, but have actually been diagnosed now by my podiatrist with Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome. I’m a runner and looks like running is out during rehab and recovery. What types of fitness activities would you recommend?
Ben answers: That can be a frustrating injury Jeff. If I had a proneal tunnel syndrome which is kind of similar – lot of pain going up in the outside of the foot all the way to the outside of the ankle and one of the things I would caution you about is to not completely give up the idea of running. Of course I’m going to assume that you’ve kind of taken care of this from an anti-inflammatory perspective. That you’ve rested it, you’ve done your ice treatments, mobilized to a certain extent, done some physical therapy modalities like ultrasound, electrostim, maybe some cold laser and some vibration therapy but moving on, look into orthotic devices. A lot of times that tarsal tunnel syndrome is due to a flat foot and if you can get a custom shoe insert to help maintain that arch, that can help out quite a bit with the excessive motion that can cause compression of some of those nerves in the tarsal tunnel. Same thing with shoes, look into a more supportive running shoe and look into bracing. When I had proneal tunnel syndrome, I couldn’t run at all. I put on an ankle brace – just one of these high quality ankle braces, tighten that up a little bit, sense it up, put on my running shoe through an insert in the shoe and I could run just fine. So that bracing can help reduce a lot of the pressure on the foot kind of the same way that an orthotic device like a custom shoe insert could. So look into those things. And if you’re really still up against a wall when it comes to not being able to run, tons of things you can do. We’ve talked about aqua jogging on this show quite a bit. I won’t kick that horse to death but if you go do a search for “aqua jogging” or “water running” at bengreenfieldfitness.com, remember that all the shows are transcribed and you’ve got all that information there. I talk about how to aqua jog. Aqua jogging workouts and also aqua jogging equipment that keeps you from shooting yourself on the head when you’re aqua jogging due to boredom like underwater MP3 players. Talk about flotation belts, aqua jogging shoes to make it harder, things like that. Look into doing non-weight bearing of course. This should go without saying. I’m sure you’re probably thought of this but recumbent bicycle, elliptical trainer, try the one with the arms so you use even less of your feet and leg musculature. You could look into the rowing machine. Upright bike might put a little bit more pressure on that foot but it’s worth a try and then you can also do more explosive single leg activities on any of those. So you could do explosive 30 to 60 seconds elliptical efforts or bicycle efforts. Not only do you get a cross training effect to the musculature on the leg that’s injured but you also get a pretty strong cardiovascular training effect from those kinds of intervals as well. Finally, this is kind of a little bit more fringe but if you’re just wanting to get some blood flowing, get a little bit of lactic acid going, kind of burning – if that’s the kind of thing that you like and that’s one of the reasons you were running – then try just a high rep low resistance weight training routine that moves you from station to station, shuttling blood between different parts of your body. So for example if you were going to use something as simple as a weight machine workout during the lunch hour, go from chest press to leg extension to seated row to leg curl to seated press to lat pull down to shoulder lateral raise to seated row. And granted that’s not very functional but you’re going to find that something like that – especially maybe throw in a quick explosive single leg elliptical training effort at the end of each round and go for five rounds – something like that is going to completely kick your butt and you’ll really feel like you’re maintaining a relatively high amount of fitness while you’re rehabbing that tarsal tunnel. So I hope that helps Jeff. And one last question here from Laura.
Laura asks: I had two arthroscopic surgery on the same knee in the past two years. The first was a torn meniscus due to jumping on a trampoline, and the second was cartilage damage clean up. It’s been 10 weeks since the second surgery, and my knee is still very painfully sore and full of swelling. The doc says I need time for the lubricant to build back up, but I am almost to the end of that time frame. This injury has compromised my lifestyle tremendously and I shudder to think I may kneed, no pun intended, more surgery. Do you have any suggestions for my knee, particularly any kind of supplement you might recommend?
Ben answers: Yeah it certainly would be nice if there was a magic pill or magic capsule you could swallow that would make your knee better. You heard me talking about MSM and glucosamine chondroitin earlier. It’s unlikely to make much of a dent in terms of your functionality. It may help out with pain and symptoms a little bit. But ultimately especially if you’re like a lot of people that listen in to this show – you have that hamster on a wheel, I’m super healthy, always got to be exercising temperament. I’m swimming and cross fitting and running and cycling and playing noon ball at every possible change – you may actually need to back that off quite a bit in terms of lifestyle. You say it’s compromised your lifestyle tremendously and you may need to find some other things that kind of replicate the neurotransmitter and hormonal release that you get that creates that positive addiction to exercise. So that you don’t become depressed as you rehab your knee, because it could take some time. I personally – because I beat up my body too much playing volleyball and tennis and water polo and intramural sports and all these other activities during college had to take quite a while off. I though I’d never run again much less jump or walk quickly. My knee was so messed up. It took about eight months of really not doing much at all except some upper body strength work. And it took that amount of time to actually heal my body from the damage that I’d put into it and sometimes people need to accept the fact that it may just be a clean up year and you take up maybe music, reading, wine tasting – some other hobby. Making crafts, I don’t know. I know I’m kind of grabbing at straws here. But things that still keep you kind of excited and entertain you and give you something to do aside from just beating up your body, specifically your knee. And then ease yourself back in after you’ve done some of that rehab. Listen to last week’s episode where I talk about strengthening some of the musculature around the knee. Those were some exercises that you’d use initially. A lot of those straight leg cable kicks and straight leg raises with an ankle weight on the ground. And then gradually ease yourself back in. I know that’s what I had to do with my knee. Everybody’s different, every injury is different but ultimately if you’re at the point where you’re going crazy because you can’t go out and exercise and you’re looking for that magic pill that’s going to make the pain go away. That magic pill might be rest with a little bit of activity modification to maintain fitness to a limited extent, kind of like I was explaining to Jeff. And then a hobby or something that’s going to still entertain you and replace some of that fitness lifestyle that you’re craving. So maybe not what you want to hear but ultimately that might be what you need. So I hope that helps you out and we’re going to have a quick message and move on to the interview with Rob Wolff about the Paleo Solution and everything you need to know about the paleo diet.
Ben: Hey folks this is Ben Greenfield and on the line today, I have Rob Wolff. And some of you may be familiar with Rob Wolff. He’s really an educated and respected voice in the paleo diet community and actually just finished writing a book about the paleo diet which I’ll let him tell you a little bit more about when we get to that point in today’s interview but Rob is both a scientist as well as an athlete. He was a research biochemist for several years and now is primarily involved in Paleolithic diet research and writing and advising and also is a certified cross fit coach and has attained the highest level of cross fit training certification and is a respected strength and conditioning coach as well. So he’s an author, he’s a researcher and he walks the walk and talks the talk as well. Rob, thanks for coming on the call today.
Robb Wolf: Hey Ben, thanks for having me. I just wanted to let folks now that I do not do windows however.
Ben: You do not do windows. Ok, so folks he does have a weakness. Now most of the people listening in to this podcast Rob are going to be kind of familiar with what the paleo diet is but there are some people I know who may not have heard of it or may not be familiar with it. Now I know that you could talk for hours about what the paleo diet actually is but if you were going to compress an explanation of the paleo diet into a 30 second elevator pitch or let’s say even just a couple of minutes, how would you explain the paleo diet to someone who’s not really familiar with it?
Robb Wolf: You know it’s always kind of a slippery deal but I try to focus – the paleo diet is an emphasis on food quality. We’re focusing on whole unprocessed foods, focusing on good quality proteins, carbohydrates that come mainly from fruits, vegetables, roots, tubers, those sorts of things and then lots of good fats from sources like coconut, olive oil, avocadoes and those sorts of things. So what this turns out to be is a very low inflammatory diet. We’re removing all of the types of foods that would normally cause some sort of gastrointestinal irritation, tweak things out of balance with our essential fats, our omega 3, 6 balance and then also it helps to control insulin levels so we’re putting our nutrients where we want them to go. Glycogen storing in the muscles and not in the fat, not sticking to the glucose sticking to proteins in our bodies and causing accelerated aging. So that’s kind of the perspective and the reason why we call it a paleo diet is we’re looking at what our pre-agricultural ancestors had available to them to eat and we also notice from anthropological information that these folks, our pre-agricultural ancestors were quite fit, quite health. So this is the micro view and the macro view of what the paleo diet is.
Ben: Gotcha. Now it sounds like kind of a buzz word that gets thrown a little bit, with both the paleo diet as well as other diets is the word inflammation. I know a lot of people maybe don’t understand exactly what that is when that word is used in relationship with diet. So when we’re talking about foods that may cause inflammation, what does that mean for folks?
Robb Wolf: Well at a base level, inflammation is a normal process in the body that’s an outgrowth of our immune system protecting us. So if we get a cold or a virus or even when we experience sore muscles from exercise, that is an expression of our immune system helping us. That’s good obviously because we need to fight colds and flus and parasites and things like that and then part of our recovery from exercise involves the immune system actually helping to break up little protein fragments in our myofibrils of our muscles and help them start to repair and recover. But where these go sideways is that our modern diet and our modern lifestyle has turned up the volume on the inflammatory process in our body such that our immune system is overactive. It’s going after things it shouldn’t attack so we get some autoimmune type responses where our body attacks us and we get things like plantar fasciitis, shoulder impingements, IT band syndrome – that is a manifestation of excessive inflammation in our body and too much insulin from too much carbohydrate or the wrong types of carbohydrate, gut irritating foods, imbalances between omega 3, omega 6s, these essential fats that are in our diets, lack of sleep, overtraining, lots of little things can play into an over expression of inflammation in the body. So what our paleo diet perspective or paleo solution perspective is to remove the foods that are problematic and to also keep an eye on lifestyle and exercise parameters to keep those inflammatory markers within good optimum levels. We don’t want it too low, we don’t want it too high. Goldilocks and the three bears. We want it just right.
Ben: Gotcha. Well I want to ask you in just a second about your new book, but before we do that, just so people can see the practical manifestations of something like the paleo diet, do you think you could walk us through a typical day of eating for you? Whatever you ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner yesterday or how a typical day looks for you in terms of nutrition?
Robb Wolf: Totally. And folks should keep in mind that I’m mainly a sprint athlete. I do Olympic weightlifting. I do some sprint work and I do a little bit of Brazilian jujitsu which is a glycolitically demanding sport but it’s short duration. So folks should keep that in mind. So when they listen to this, they’ll think wow that may be a little bit skinny in carbs but the reality is the demands of my sports are such that I don’t need that many. If I were a hard charging endurance athlete who was doing 20, 25 hours a week of training, then this stuff would be a little bit different but for me, like yesterday I had four pastured eggs that were scrambled in some olive oil with a little bit of rosemary and actually some baked pumpkin slices along with that. And then a little bit of coconut oil on the pumpkin slices. For lunch, gosh what did I have for lunch? I had some grass fed ground beef and just a ton of veggies and again some coconut oil with it and then I did a sprint workout which was basically a couple of 40s as some warm-up work. I did a bunch of warm-up mobility work. Did 10 by 100 meter sprints from a flying start and then I had about a five minute rest in between. So this is not a conditioning work per se but very much high end kind of motor neuron training. Training to be as fast and explosive as possible. So I did ten of those. I did a little bit of just strength workout at the end that involved some gymnastics. Strength work mainly kind of core work, front levers, some back levers and then for a post workout meal with that, I had basically half a chicken and a bunch of vegetables and then some more fat from coconut oil again. So, as a whole that day would have been fairly low in carbs but my work output was quite low and so I didn’t need that much carbohydrate. On my jujitsu days, I would have significantly more carbohydrate, both pre-workout and especially post workout to help improve my recovery, get my glycogen stores back up. But again I’m never doing anything that is very physically demanding longer than maybe five to eight minutes in a block before I have a significant rest period. My endurance athletes that I train or if I were doing more endurance type work myself, you would see a very different profile. You would see a lot more yams and sweet potatoes, much more fruit. So we would see the composition shifted here. Folks get really freaked out when they see how I eat if they’re coming from an endurance background. We just need to tweak the fueling parameters a little bit. I’m more of a sprint athlete.
Ben: Ok, gotcha. So, basically on a jujitsu day or say with an endurance athlete, you’re looking more at a similar diet to what you described but then adding in a little bit more fruit and like a potato was the example you used.
Robb Wolf: Yeah, sweet potatoes. Yams. Regular white potatoes are fine for that, processed too. If I’m really pushing quite hard with my training I’m not usually a fan of liquid food in general. But because the vast majority of the folks that I’m working with are overweight, they’ve got metabolic derangement. Kind of heading towards type 2 diabetes and liquid food is not really a great favor for them, but for lean hard charging athletes they’ll start pulling in some things like coconut water, coconut water plus a little bit of whey protein in the post-workout window to really speed the recovery but I find few of my athletes really need that because they’re not at a level of leanness or the level of work out put that really necessitates that. I see people kind of overdo the post workout nutrition and they’re actually carrying around too much fat, too much inflammation for what they need. It’s kind of a rare circumstance, but for sure we have some options for some liquid refueling in the post workout window as well. Malto dextrin, malto dextrin glucose combos and then BCAAs and whey protein for the appropriate people. But I’d like to save that for a select few. Most weekend warriors try to fuel the way that professional athletes do and they end up chubby and inflamed as a consequence.
Ben: Right. When you talk about things like maltodextrin or whey protein, obviously in a Paleolithic diet from an ancestral viewpoint, they didn’t really have access to those types of things, but you would consider those to be ok in a paleo diet?
Robb Wolf: Yeah. And you know there’s a perspective here where we’d like – for me I like to use this paleo diet perspective as a way for making decisions and for kind of viewing my overall lifestyle from a grounded perspective. It’s kind of like if we were looking at physics, the guiding principle there is quantum mechanics and statistical mechanics and then we get into Newtonian physics. So it’s a guide for making decisions but it’s not a necessity to create historical revisionism. We’re not going to go live under a bush and club each other with sticks and stuff like that. When we start pushing the outer boundaries of human performance, there is no doubt that we’re going to get some benefits and some bump from some modern fuels and some modern techniques that we have at our disposal but the reality is we can still – the vast majority of our time, the vast majority of our food should come from this kind of Paleolithic perspective, but where appropriate we introduce some other foods like maltodextrin and even some coconut water and stuff like that, whey protein isolates, branch chain amino acids certainly have their place in the appropriate situation. I just see people go there too soon out of laziness and they haven’t gotten their ducks in a row with their basic nutrition and lifestyle and sleep and stuff like that.
Ben: Gotcha. I think that’s an important viewpoint to have because you’ll get a lot of – for example, we have a lot of Ironman triathletes that listen to this show. And I know that some of them are trying very hard to implement a strict paleo diet that doesn’t include some of the things that you mention – the liquid nutrition or the whey protein, the branch chain amino acids. And one of the things that I tell them to consider is the fact that you probably didn’t have a lot of our Paleolithic ancestors for example going out and doing the equivalent of an Ironman triathlon. That’s simply not a natural or necessarily safe or healthy sport to be engaging in from the get go.
Robb Wolf: Right. We have some interesting examples out of anthropological studies – there’s a great video piece on YouTube of Kumsan – a Saharan African hunter gatherer doing a persistence hunt where this guy tracks and follows an antelope for eight or nine hours and they cover a remarkable amount of ground and then just blasting heat. But the interesting thing is the standard foraging lifestyle provided a base of conditioning that would allow one to do something like this but they weren’t training in this way day in and day out and it still was not the same amount of volume and intensity that we see with what folks are doing at the elite level of endurance athletics. Multi day endurance events and stuff like that. So we have a perspective that our hunter gatherer ancestors were very fit, very capable of some pretty amazing feats but we are pushing that envelope further and further out all the time and at some point, you do need to keep a perspective of we may need to pull in some modern foods to augment what’s going on there but I do still find that we’ve worked with people who competed at World Championships in triathlon and what not and they still end up using more paleo foods than not but they need to tinker with where the correct introduction of an isotonic glucose and electrolyte solution with some branch chain amino acids – where is that appropriate? At what training volume and training intensity because it absolutely can make or break the process.
Ben: Right and I would imagine the data would be hard to come by but I’d hazard a guess that a multi hour or multi day hunt would probably be done at a lower percentage of VO2 max than something like an Ironman triathlon.
Robb Wolf: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Ben: Interestingly though, on that carbohydrate front, I did recently see a study where they substituted a good portion of the carbohydrate with protein. I believe it was a whey protein and kept the drink at the same amount of calories and still saw similar performance benefits with increased protein intake rather than a glucose or a maltodextrin blend.
Robb Wolf: Yeah, and we’re understanding more and more that a lot of our perception of fatigue is not necessarily a substrate depletion – the complete burnout of glycogen out of musculature – but it’s happening in the brain in the hypothalamus and it’s the central governor awareness of how much energy do we have in our body right now, and a lot of this is communicated by a neuron regulatory hormone like leptin, a dip in opectin, neuro peptide PYY and what these things communicate is how much energy stores do I have? It’s almost like an accounting system and then when we start getting into long duration endurance activity, our brain has an understanding of how much energy has gone out via this process and the brain is really not concerned with us winning an Ironman triathlon or anything like that. It’s concerned with our survival and so what we’re finding is that the supplementation of even non-traditional sources like a branch chain amino acid blend with electrolytes – the brain then perceives this input of calories appropriately and then it allows us to keep pushing on and actually to access body fat for energy and some different things like that because it knows that we’re not making such massive inroads into our energy stores. So it’s much more complex than simply how much glycogen do we have in the muscles. If we deplete the fat stores to greatly, we will also get a dramatic increase in our sense of fatigue but it’s not a substrate burnout. It’s not a fuel burnout. It’s actually the central governor in the brain that’s running this stuff. It’s very interesting.
Ben: It is interesting. Well, the new book that you’ve written Rob, what’s the title of it?
Robb Wolf: The Paleo Solution.
Ben: Ok, so there’s obviously a lot of resources out there on the internet about the paleo diet and I know that there’s been books in the past about the paleo diet so why did you write a book? A new book on the paleo diet called The Paleo Solution. What are people going to find in that that they might not currently have access to?
Robb Wolf: Well you know Professor Loren Cordain wrote the first book, The Paleo Diet and actually Boyd Eaton wrote the Paleo Prescription. He’s a physician from Emory University and he wrote that early 90s and then Loren Cordain wrote his book around 2000, 2001 and just my perspective on the paleo diet and the reason why I call it the Paleo Solution is it wasn’t just the nutrition but it was also exercise, lifestyle, sleep, cortisol management and it was written from the perspective of having been a research biochemist and then having worked as a coach and training just tens of thousands of people and interacting with tens of thousands of people via my blog, via the seminars that we’ve done and getting feedback from folks ranging from topics of just simply fat loss, muscle gain, performance improvements but also how to modify the paleo approach for improving outcomes with different autoimmune diseases and what not. So it’ s written more from the coach’s perspective but also with a very heavy orientation on the science. And then also it’s been 10 years since Professor Cordain wrote his book and we just understand a lot of the science much better now. So it was kind of an updating of the information but also I think the book made the New York Times best seller, it’s selling really, really well. The feedback is great on the book and I think that is largely because it’s written as – it’s really a dialogue between myself and then tens of thousands of people with me saying hey what do you think about this and then people responding – I tried ABC and I got these results, so it’s a very refined message. It’s fairly funny. I try to write it from a humorous perspective. It definitely is generally more appropriate for our parents and aunts and uncles – we have a brother or sister who’s not particularly healthy and then we want to give them something to give them the information about why eating or living this way would improve their health, you could apply all this to high level athletes but it’s not written for the athlete. It’s really written to really save people’s lives and there’s just a much larger pool of people who need that than need help with high end athletics. There’s the paleo diet for athletes which was written by Professor Loren Cordain, Joe Frial who’s written the Triathletes Training Bible – Runner’s Training Bible – all those training bible books are written with a paleo diet orientation also.
Ben: Yeah, it’s interesting. I was wondering about the content of the book. I subscribe to Loren Cordain’s newsletter and I know that when I receive that – if I were to forward that on to my parents, there’d just be a complete huge question mark over their heads. About 99% of the terms used in that newsletter… so your book is digestible, no pun intended, by the average person who just wants to find out a little bit more about what this paleo thing is all about?
Robb Wolf: Yeah, and you know it was a really cool process working with Erich Krauss, my publisher and editor. He’s very fit. He’s a kickboxer. He’s lived in Thailand and fought in Thailand as a professional kickboxer. But he doesn’t have a scientific background and so he was reading my initial draft when we were in the editing process, he would ask me ok so what the heck does this paragraph mean or what are you trying to say here? And so we would flesh this thing out and re-articulate it and so it would make sense to him and then we would take that shipment and ship it to his father who has also been a lifetime – I wouldn’t say health nut – but he’s always exercised and had an orientation towards a healthy diet but his father is German and only learned to speak English I think in his 40s so not only did we have this go through the filter of someone who was health and fitness oriented but totally not technical, and that was Erich but we also had someone who was 74 years old and non English speaking as their primary language. So he would read the section and then give us feedback and what we found is if you read the Amazon reviews, it’s very accessible. People are able to read the book basically in a day or a day and a half but it’s got a massive amount of information in it. And had I picked a different publisher, it would have been a completely different book. That process that it went through took the book’s contents from probably like a C plus, B minus readability to really honestly I think like an A plus readability and accessibility and I’m shocked with how good the book turned out and that’s trying to be as humble as I can with it. I knew I had a lot of good information but the way that my publisher helped me to organize it and make it more readable really made the book. It was an amazing process.
Ben: Cool, we’ll put a link to that in the Shownotes folks for those of you listening in who want to check out the book. Now let’s move on to some of the common arguments against the Paleolithic diet Rob. Specifically for example you’ll hear some people say that our Paleolithic ancestors may not have had a high quality of life. Died early. And essentially say why would we want to live or eat like them? They had horrible lives. What would your response be to something like that?
Robb Wolf: You know, it’s kind of funny. This topic comes up a lot. One of the most common counterpoints to the whole paleo concept is that the average life span of pre-agricultural humans was about 35 years. But the interesting thing, if you and I were having a conversation about mid 18th century Russian literature and we made some bold statements about the literature, the content or the style or whatever – nobody listening in to that conversation would commentate on it. They would typically just kind of shrug and say ok, I don’t really know a lot about that concept so I don’t really have anything to say about it. But when we talk about paleo nutrition, I don’t know what it is because everybody has watched the Discovery channel or something like that, they feel they’re an expert on this stuff but the funny thing when you get in and look at the reality of our Paleolithic ancestors, yeah they had an average short life span but if people lived into their 30s they had as much likelihood to live into their 60s and 70s as we do. They actually tended to live very long, very fit healthy lives. The anthropological data on this is crystal clear. If you go into a department of medical anthropology, department of anthropology of any university and you posit these questions – how healthy were our hunter gatherer ancestors relative to us and how can we view that even given the fact that they had short average life spans, people tended to get infectious diseases, they got injured and those were the reasons they tended to die but the people who lived tended to be quite healthy and actually lived quite a long time and the interesting thing is with the advent of agriculture that life span actually went down. During the Roman empire, average life span dropped from an average of 35 years for the hunter gatherer down to about 22 years for people living in confined city areas where you started getting increasing rates of infectious disease and stuff like that. That’s just an element of it. If folks really take the time to educate themselves about that topic then they would have a deeper understanding, but usually they just shoot from the hip and really have no basis for what they’re talking about.
Ben: So as you’d go from paleolithics living in that 35 year old age range down to the Roman empire in the 20s to 30s and then back on up to where we’re at now, obviously we are an agricultural society now. We eat cereal, grains and rely on farming for much of our food – modern farming for much of our food – would you attribute our increased life span then to modern medicine or how do you explain the increase in life span compared to Paleolithic times?
Robb Wolf: Much improved sanitation, vaccination, emergency medicine – those are the really big markers that we see that have improved average life spans now. And the perspective that I’m trying to encourage people to simply consider is that possibly the parameters under which we evolved – the types of foods, the relative amounts of down time, like we tended to have a lot of down time. We had a very active lifestyle but also lots of rest. Relatively large amounts of leisure. Emulating those things plus the great benefits of emergency medicine and some of the modern perks that we have now – that that combo could very well lead to an optimized existence now. We live better, live stronger, live longer and better health outcomes overall with this coupling of a Paleolithic perspective plus all the perks of a modern bio medicine that we have. Some people – and it’s kind of funny, they’re these very black and white type of personalities – they say well if you’re going to eat a Paleolithic diet then you should live under a bush and have no modern conveniences, and this is just bollocks. It’s absolutely ridiculous. You don’t have to create all these all or nothing kind of black or white scenarios, just get in and sniff around with this stuff and play around with it. The thing that I always throw out to folks is that whatever your nutritional approach, ideally you look, feel and perform better. You can track biomarkers of health and disease and see them go in a favorable direction. If we can get somebody to actually buy into this paleo diet concept, do it for 30 to 60 days then they will look, feel and perform better. We can track biomarkers of health and disease and see them go in a favorable direction. And you don’t have to wear a loincloth or live under a bush to make that happen.
Ben: Right. Well how about the evidence that you see floating around here and there on stone age tools or dental indicators that Paleolithic man may have eaten grains or even gluten based grains? What are your thoughts on that?
Robb Wolf: Well you know there’s no doubt that hunter gatherers made a huge – they made very good use of everything that was around them. But the funny thing is that archeological data just keeps pushing everything back. For a long time, it was thought that we were only using fire for about 500,000 years. Now we’re at about 1.5 million years and possibly even some indicators of the use of fire for as long as 2 million years. And then it was thought that domestication or usage of cereal grains was about 5000 years old and now it’s pushed back to about 30,000 years. The funny thing is that there was a recent article that was picked up by Reuters that was mentioning some research and they called it Paleolithic bread but the funny thing was there was not a single mention of grains being used in this bread that was being ground into a paste and then made into these kinds of flat breads. It was things like cat tail roots and essentially like yams and sweet potatoes and then the end of the Reuters piece – which is funny – you’d think that journalism is supposed to be kind of neutral, but they said this really calls into question the assumptions that the popular paleo diet puts forward and again this is bollocks too. It doesn’t change anything with that. This follows directly into what everybody’s been saying out of the paleo diet community which is that people made use of roots and tubers and bulbs for a very, very long time. We do see some indications of some grain use earlier but it’s transitory. That was not the staple and it wasn’t until you start living in city states and you get the full domestication of cereal grains and that’s kind of the main deal that we see this transition from hunter gatherer living to agrarian living. We see some very specific changes in the health and the morphology of teeth and bones and all the rest of that when they made this full transition. But there’s obviously some bias and some backlash on this concept. There are a number of folks particularly out of the dietetics community that do not like this whole paleo diet concept. And there’s money and politics and there s just general kind of fear and misunderstanding of the whole thing, but a lot of this recent research has had an interesting spin put upon it. it misrepresents the data that’s actually there.
Ben: Now something that I’m really not clear on when it comes to the paleo diet is milk and dairy consumption. Is that something that our Paleolithic ancestors utilized? Is it something that is “allowed” in the paleo diet or what’s the deal with milk and dairy?
Robb Wolf: You know for me the whole “allowed” deal – this again is – we’re using this ideally in my mind not to make a religion, not to make a cult but to make some informed choices about how we’re living so that we can live better lives and what we find is that a lot of folks when they consume dairy have some inflammatory responses and this is completely unrelated to lactose intolerance. This is related to some actual proteins in dairy – casein, beta celuline and some other proteins that actually cause some gut irritation. Now what we find is that pastoralists, people who are herding dairying type folks tended to be pretty darn healthy and tended to live long healthy lives. But what they were consuming was grass fed dairy. And we find that a difference between grass fed dairy and grain fed dairy involves some changes in Omega 3, Omega 6 balance – grass fed dairy being loaded with Omega 3s, not very high in Omega 6s. It’s also loaded with some great stuff like conjugated linolaic acid and it has lots and lots of fat, associated caritonoid that are considered very, very health. And most pastoralist type folks like the Masai out of sub-Saharan Africa – they have what’s called an A2 cattle type of dairying cattle, which the type of proteins that are in those dairy products are less inflammatory than the type of cattle that we’re using. We have what’s called an A1 type of dairying cattle. And this stuff gets all very oblique and kind of out there. But what we find is that the basic take home is the folks who were pastoralists that were using either dairy as milk or yoghurt or extracts like cream and butter and stuff like that – historically this has been much higher quality. It’s been grass fed, we now grain feed our cattle and the grains have leptins in them which are these proteins that cause gut irritation and those gut irritating grains get concentrated in the grain fed dairy. And so it’s a very simple deal when folks remove most of their modern dairy products from the rotation and they tend to have less inflammation, less GI problems. But also a lot less problems with joint inflammation. They tend to see better recovery and folks will say oh that’s crazy, I’ve been eating dairy my whole life and that’s exactly the point. You’ve never had a moment or a week or a month in which you were not consuming the dairy and so you really have no baseline to compare what your inflammatory state is with dairy versus without dairy. So if folks wanted to run a comparison then I just recommend they pull the grains, legumes and dairy out of the diet, after 30 days reintroduce them and then just see how you feel, look and perform. If you’re really wily about it then you track some biomarkers of inflammation like C reactive protein or alpha protein A and then we can see whether or not you look, feel and perform worse or we get some increased biomarkers of inflammation and then you can make an educated decision about whether or not you want that dairy in your diet. If you’re going to do dairy, I just recommend that you try to track down grass fed dairy sources. It’s much more nutritious, much less likely to be inflammatory and for people who are talking about kind of food politico type stuff, much less environmental impact. There’s all kinds of good things about grass fed dairy that are not put forward with our regular grain fed dairy.
Ben: Gotcha. Now when we’re talking about grain based inflammation – I was recently reading an article by Alan Aragon where he was talking about an inverse association between whole grains and inflammation. He brought up some study where they compared whole grains and refined grains and found that whole grains actually reduced that C reactive protein level. In a study like that, how does that jive with the argument about grains and grains causing inflammation when that reduction of inflammation was found in a study like that?
Robb Wolf: You still need to compare a grain based diet versus a non grain based diet. It really isn’t telling us anything at all because we’re not comparing one thing with another and we have some nice stuff that we can pull from that – Dr. Stefan Lindberg of University of London in Sweden did a human clinical trial in which they compared a grain based Mediterranean diet – low fat, high carb, low fat dairy sources – but essentially a grain based Mediterranean emulation diet. Grains, legumes, dairy, some lean protein sources and what not. And these folks were type 2 diabetics. So they had significant amounts of metabolic derangement and systemic inflammation. These folks were compared against type 2 diabetics that were given a paleo type diet. So the carbohydrate sources were from fruits and vegetables and then lean meats and things were rounded out with good paleo type fats – nuts, seeds, coconut oil and what not and what was interesting is that at the end of the study at about an eight week period, was that the paleo diet group at the end was essentially not type 2 diabetics any longer. So they had normal glucose tolerance. They had normal response to insulin and their systemic inflammation markers were significantly decreased. Whereas the grain based Mediterranean diet had no change at all in their glycemic index, glycemic control and all the rest of that stuff. And we know for a fact with some other research from Professor Lindberg that lectins – part of the inflammatory process actually impacts our insulin sensitivity. So, Alan Aragon – he’s a pretty smart guy but he does some very spurious comparisons trying to – I’m really not sure what he’s trying to accomplish with this stuff, but it’s really not a complete accounting. We have some very nice comparisons and this is really what it has to boil down to, if we’re going to talk about grains being pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory, then we need to say relative to what? Not simply is it more or less inflammatory to other grains. I don’t care about that. If we’re talking about comparing an ancestral diet versus a more modern diet, then let’s compare those head to head and that’s what historically has not been addressed but we’re getting more and more research showing those directly head to head. And here again, so folks are clear on this, the Mediterranean diet at the end of this intervention – there was no change with regards to the status of a type 2 diabetic. They were still type 2 diabetic. The Paleolithic group was not clinically type 2 diabetic anymore, because type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance and the insulin resistance had been effectively reversed.
Ben: That’s interesting. And you yourself Robb, you haven’t always been paleo have you? Didn’t you have some health issues that the paleo diet helped you with.
Robb Wolf: Yeah, I was really sick and I was eating a high carb, low fat vegan diet. I was checking out macrobiotics. I had a biochemistry background and so I was doing food combining to make sure that I had all my basic nutrients covered and I had ulcerative colitis, high blood pressure, bad triglycerides, depression and at the age of 26, 27 they were talking about doing a bowel recession on me and so I’ve tinkered with a ton of this stuff. This isn’t to say that somebody out there isn’t going to run well on a vegan based diet. I think Runner’s World or somebody – I remember somebody was just featured recently who was a vegan power athlete, triathlete type of gig. I recommend that people try… I equate it to trying on a sweater. Man, give it a shot. Give it a whirl. High carb, low fat vegan diet. Try it for 60 days. Track performance metrics. How do you do on the run, bike, swim? How do your blood lipids roll and then give a paleo diet a shot for 60 days and see how you roll with that. I really feel like what I’m putting forward is an accurate and good but I’m confident enough that I really want people to try… give it a shot. Try this other stuff out and see how you roll with it. Maybe it works better for you.
Ben: Well, interestingly as an Ironman athlete. I have. I’ve gone vegan raw food, tried that out for six weeks. I’ve gone paleo. Main difference I noticed was loss of muscle and loss of weight overall on the vegan raw diet versus the paleo which actually adversely affected my performance. You know I wanted to finish up Robb with doing a little bit of rapid fire on some controversial foods that I think people get confused about when it comes to the paleo diet, the possibility for increasing inflammation or the overall health thereof and if I could fire some of these foods at you as kind of a fun way to finish up the podcast and maybe your 20, 30 second response to each of these.
Robb Wolf: Sure.
Ben: So bananas. Where do those fit in?
Robb Wolf: Post workout and with lean individuals.
Ben: Ok, any quick reasoning behind that.
Robb Wolf: They’re very high glycemic load. They do contain a high amount of fructose but I’m ok with that with lean individuals and in the post workout period. If we really wanted to emphasize glycogen repletion in the muscle then I would go with a starchy yam or sweet potato but if we’re ok with doing a little bit of hepatic or liver glycogen repletion and muscle glycogen repletion then something like a banana papaya – some sort of a tropical fruit – those are fine too.
Ben: Gotcha. Ok, how about rice?
Robb Wolf: Rice. It’s still a gut irritant. I think its orders of magnitude less than wheat type products like wheat, rye, oats, barley, millet which are gluten containing items. I eat it once every two or three weeks going out to sushi or something like that. I just don’t use it all that often. I would use it as more of an occasional item because it does still introduce some gut irritation.
Ben: Gotcha. Coffee.
Robb Wolf: You would die without it. Just don’t do too much of it. Shoot more for espresso and stuff like that. Arabica beans, lower caffeine content, higher antioxidant content.
Ben: Gotcha. Grains that are gluten free like a quinoa specifically if it’s been soaked to remove some of the saponins, things like that.
Robb Wolf: Quinoa technically isn’t a grain. But if it quacks like a grain and walks like a grain, then you’ve got grain type issues and quinoa is right in that realm. If you really like it, go for it but it still has some significant gut irritating elements and it has some GI reactivity – virtually identical to celiac. Different people react to all of these things to varying degrees. Like for me, corn is pretty benign. Rice is somewhat problematic. Glutamine items and quinoa are quite problematic. So you just have to play with it and see where you are.
Ben: Yeah, I’ve played with some of those and I actually find that bread irritates me quite a bit as do most of the grains such as oatmeal. Quinoa soaked overnight and strained I seem to be fine with but again that’s me. I was going to ask you about whey protein powder but we kind of already hit on that.
Robb Wolf: Post workout, lean individuals and keep on your inflammatory state.
Ben: Gotcha. How about creatine?
Robb Wolf: Creatine is great. Even if you’re a non responder, I like creatine. It has some nice benefits on cholesterol benefits. It functions somewhat like an antioxidant particularly in the brain. I kind of like it.
Ben: Ok. Regular potatoes.
Robb Wolf: Regular potatoes are a really, really good option relative to grains of any variety. The regular potatoes don’t pack as much nutrition as a yam or a sweet potato but they’re obviously more accessible, they’re less expensive and if somebody wanted to do best stimulation of the paleo diet with an easy starchy carbohydrate source, then potatoes would be a great option.
Ben: Ok, then the next question. Sweet potatoes.
Robb Wolf: They’re more nutritionally beneficial than a standard white potato loaded with caritinoids, magnesium, zinc and all kinds of good stuff in the sweet potatoes.
Ben: Regular potatoes are a little bit higher in protein though, isn’t it? Than a sweet potato?
Robb Wolf: Yeah, but if we’re looking at fruits and vegetables as a protein source, then we’re missing the boat in my opinion. We’re talking thimble fulls of protein versus just doing chicken, fish, beef and all that sort of jive.
Ben: Gotcha. Ok, Stevia.
Robb Wolf: Stevia for lean individuals, anybody trying to lean out. Like any artificial sweetener can be problematic. People throw up their hands and say it’s all natural but plutonium is natural. It’s not good for you either. So for the right person at the right point but if you’re having any type of body composition issues, I would really avoid artificial sweeteners of all varieties.
Ben: Gotcha. And then the last one here – have some fun with this one. Booze.
Robb Wolf: Booze. Drink as much as you can to optimize your sex life but not so much that it decreases your performance.
Ben: Any particular varieties that you would encourage that is healthier, less inflammatory?
Robb Wolf: You know our favorite is the NorCal margarita which is two shots of gold – preferably gold tequila, juice of limn lime, splash of soda water. The lime juice helps insulin response. The bubbles, the carbon dioxide bubbles in the soda water act as a non-polar solvent to naturally extract the ethanol out of that aqueous matrix and then when these bubbles interact with your gut lining, it releases the ethanol in your system faster so you get drunk quicker.
Ben: Folks, that is the type of advice that you can come to expect from Robb’s new book the Paleo Solution. Being released in the holiday season, this podcast should come in quite handy for people now that they know how to drink their booze.
Robb Wolf: Oh man, the funny thing is that that is by like an order of 100, a factor of 100, the most popular recipe we’ve ever released – is the NorCal margarita.
Ben: So you said tequila, lime and soda water.
Robb Wolf: Yeah, a lot of lime juice. Juice of one lime, splash of soda water and you’re good.
Ben: Alright folks, if you take anything away from this podcast it’s the NorCal margarita. Well Robb, the Paleo Solution – we’ll put a link to that in the Shownotes and I’d like to thank you for the time spent today explaining the Paleo diet and dispelling some of the myths, talking about some of the controversy, clearing up some of the foods that people can rely on as being inflammatory or less inflammatory and any final words for the audience?
Robb Wolf: You know, just encourage folks to give it a shot. Try that sweater on. Try a paleo diet for 30 to 60 days. How do you look, feel and perform? Track some biomarkers of health and disease and make sure that they go in the right direction. If it doesn’t work then try something else but I don’t see it not work unless people don’t do it. So that’s the only thing I’d encourage folks to just give it a shot. You may find that you recover faster or perform better and feel better and who wouldn’t want that?
Ben: Awesome. Well folks this is Ben Greenfield and Robb Wolf signing out from www.bengreenfieldfitness.com.
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