March 10, 2009
Ben: In today’s podcast, I have a fantastic interview with Lance Armstrong’s personal massage therapist and physical therapist, Dr. Jeff Spencer. But before we get onto that jam-packed interview, I also am going to have an important Listener Q and A on the recent multi-vitamin study as well as announcements about several special events that are upcoming from www.bengreenfieldfitness.com. You’re not going to want to miss this episode. Stay tuned.
Frances asks: I just heard on the radio about a new multi-vitamin study that found that multi-vitamins don’t actually give you any advantage. What do you think about this study?
Ben answers: Well first of all Frances, that’s a pretty broad question to ask about the advantage that multi-vitamins give you just because there’s so many reasons that people take multi-vitamins. The listeners of this show know that I suggested different forms of multi-vitamins for everything from boosting sports performance and recovery to enhancing fat loss to fighting chronic fatigue to enhancing sleep. There’s a lot of different things and a lot of different vitamins out there that can be used for different purposes. Now the study that you are referring to, in particular, is a fairly referenced study of late that appeared in the Archives of Internal Medicine on February 9. And this was a study that was done in the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. It was a fairly powerful study because it studied over 160,000 post menopausal women and this was over an eight year period of time, and what they reported in that study was that there was no difference in disease outcome between these women aged 50 through 79 who took multivitamin and mineral supplements compared to the women who did not. Now the first thing that you need to remember is that this study looked at cancer and it looked at heart disease. So first of all, if you’re taking vitamins for energy or you’re taking a multi-vitamin complex that includes a lot more than just multi-vitamins then there may be advantages for you that aren’t inspected in this study. But I have some other problems with the study that go beyond that factor. First of all, they used very low levels of multivitamin supplementation. As a matter of fact, they excluded any multivitamin or mineral supplements that exceeded the US RDAs which I suspect are already a little bit too low to yield very useful heart disease or cancer protective effects. Now, any multivitamin with less than 10 nutrients was also excluded from the stress supplements group which is one of the groups that was studied in this research and basically there’s a ton of products out there that include far, far more than 10 nutrients. The one that I take every morning has a ton of different nutrients in it. Everything from ecanasia to spirulina to the entire vitamin A through E complex. It’s got milk thistle extract and dandelion leaf powder and green barley grass and just everything that you could name in it and it definitely would not have been one of the multivitamins that was looked at in this study. The other issues that I have with this study is they didn’t actually use multivitamins. All they did was ask the women if they took multivitamins. There wasn’t much quality control meaning that they didn’t know whether these women were taking Kirkland brand multivitamins from Costco, were they taking multivitamins from a high quality lab or a low quality lab? This wasn’t even tracked in the study. So we don’t even know if they were actually taking multivitamins or not because all they were doing was asking them if they were taking them and we don’t know what type of multivitamins they were taking. They didn’t look at frequency of multivitamin consumption. They didn’t look at whether they were taking them daily, once a week, once a month, once a year. I personally take six every morning and feel fantastic when I do and notice a big dip in my immune system when I don’t. So now what we’re seeing from the media is that there are all these attacks on vitamin C, vitamin E, antioxidants, multivitamins, mineral sources and I don’t want to go out on a limb here but I think in my opinion the mainstream media is a little bit enamored with big pharma and really not on the side quite as much of multivitamin supplementation and natural methods of controlling health just because there’s not a lot of money in that. You really can’t patent things that are natural and insurance isn’t going to cover a lot of that and it’s just that so many people now are saying I’m wasting my money on multivitamins or they’re not going to do me any good, when in fact this study in no way suggested that multivitamins are going to do you any harm and it also did not suggest in any way that multivitamins are not going to give you benefits. Yeah, if you have cancer and you have heart disease and you’re taking a multivitamin – who knows which one – that has less than 10 nutrients in it and that has the minimum FDA requirements, then perhaps there are better things you could be doing for cancer or heart disease. In my opinion, especially for our listeners leading active lifestyles going after fat loss, going after a lot of things that go beyond heart disease or cancer, there are other considerations. So that’s my long answer Frances. And remember if you have a question, just email me [email protected] or you can leave me a voice mail by Skyping me with the free Skype software. I’ll put a link to that in the Shownotes and my Skype name is pacificfit. Look forward to hearing from you and let’s move on to this week’s interview with Jeff Spencer.
Ben: Hey podcast listeners, this is Ben Greenfield coming to you again and today I have a guest who has worked with some of the world’s most successful individuals especially from an athletic standpoint but also a wide range of other people as well. This doctor has worked with Olympic, world, PGA, WTA, Tour de France, triathlon, motocross and NASCAR champions. He’s worked with the world series MVP, ultra successful business executives, rock band legends, MLB and NFL athletes, formula one drivers and in total the gentleman that I’m about to speak with – his clients have won eight consecutive Tour de France, 22 national championships, Olympic medals and multiple world championships. He worked with the Discovery Channel professional cycling team over the Tour de France, same team that the United States Postal Service Professional Cycling Team – same team that Lance Armstrong was riding for. He’s worked with American Honda Sports, US Suzuki Motor Sports, Yamaha Motor Corps, Diamondback mountain bike racing team. A wide range. The list goes on. A lot of experience and he’s on the show today to hook us up with some of the techniques, some of the philosophies he uses to achieve success with his clients. I’ve got Dr. Jeffrey Spencer on the other line. Dr. Spencer, thank you for joining us today.
Dr. Jeff Spencer: Well thank you Ben.
Ben: What I’d like to hear from you is a little bit about your background in sports performance, in recovery, in enhancing the success of some of these people that you’re working with. How did you get into this?
Dr. Jeff Spencer: Well in a former lifetime I was an Olympic cyclist. So I know what it’s like to do what’s necessary to get to the top and stay there. Part of being an Olympic cyclist is that you’re going to get hurt, you’re going to get injured, you’re going to travel, you’re going to do a lot of things that need to be addressed to be able to get you to the top and keep you there. While I was an Olympian, I was between my junior and senior year at the University of Southern California where I was studying physical education, sports science and exercise physiology. And after I graduated, I worked as a consultant to professional athletes and teams, developing their conditioning programs and part of what went along with that was giving people advice with questions that I was asked about how to manage injuries. And it became apparent to me that after being at a school for 10 years that I wanted to enter a formal learning setting again, so I went back to chiropractic school because I love working with my hands and I know what it did for me as far as my preparation, recovery for the Olympic competitions, etc. and I felt that I wanted to develop a broadbased approach to providing the services for my clients to get them to the top and keep them there that included injury prevention and injury management, how to get and stay well, how to perform at your highest level and how to condition yourself so you have the mental and physical ability to create a long, extended and very productive career.
Ben: Now I get the feeling that you do a little bit more than massage therapy in achieving recovery and enhancing the performance of for example the US Postal Service or Discovery Channel professional cycling teams. Lance Armstrong, he actually referenced you in Every Second Counts. He said “Jeff is part doctor, part guru, part medicine man. We believe Jeff could fix any and all of our problems. Well he fixed us physically, he also fixed us mentally. If you judge the most important man on the Postal team by the traffic in and out of his door, then it was Jeff. Without him, we knew we’d never make it to Paris.” Jeff, what kind of things were you doing with the cycling team to achieve that kind of respect from guys like Lance Armstrong?
Dr. Jeff Spencer: The first thing that I’m dedicated to is making sure that we put the body back on its most basic fundamental baseline for recovery, which means that we need to take as much of the tension out of the system as quickly as possible by taking soft tissues and putting them back at their ideal length. There’s a variety of ways of doing that. I use cold laser which is my most important tool. I use my hands and manual techniques to relax muscles that are overtense and elongate muscles that have contracted and become more short. I deal with inflammatory pockets. I deal with misalignments. I do first off a first pass to put the body back where each tissue has its ideal geometry because only when tissues have ideal length and tone can the biology that promotes recovery work at its top peak performance. So that’s really how I did it. I worked with each of the riders after each of the stages and I addressed their individualized needs as well as injury management goes, and we also had global systemic recovery procedures that we did. We were very aggressive with using some pretty neat technologies and very significant strategies to be able to get the riders so they can recover everyday and perform at their best on each of the 22 consecutive days of the tour.
Ben: Now what was the scientific basis behind that first technique that you brought up? The cold laser?
Dr. Jeff Spencer: Well the cold laser is absolutely magic. The way that I used it, and the cold laser can be used in a variety of different ways. We actually use white wavelengths and white light frequencies to produce biologic effects that are consistent with controlling inflammation, turning on inhibited muscles, increasing ATP or energy in the body to be able to improve the immune system, to help tissue repair. And the advantage of using lasers and these other electronic modalities, using frequencies and wavelengths and electrons is that it deals with high speed biology where you can get things done in the fraction of the time it takes some other biochemistry or nutritional procedures. So it gives us great flexibility and great predictability in accelerating dramatically recovery from the days of performance, etc.
Ben: So in other words, do you think it would actually speed up the repair of damaged tissue?
Dr. Jeff Spencer: That’s part of it, absolutely. And to do that you need to get nutrients delivered. You need to get oxygen there and you need to make sure that most importantly that the control mechanisms that orchestrate how tissue needs to be repaired are operating at peak efficiency and that’s purely a function of having ideal tissue length and tone. If you have the good nutrition but it doesn’t know where to go, doesn’t know what to do and the cells have no clue because you’re not getting the message from the control mechanisms of what to do – then the body doesn’t know how to repair itself quickly.
Ben: For our audience, when you describe something like ideal tissue length and tone, how would something like that actually occur and how would a lack of tissue length and tone actually inhibit recovery or inhibit performance?
Dr. Jeff Spencer: The mechanisms that create change in tone – you can have muscles that contract and shorten up, you can have fascia that actually grows short so to speak. Those are all things that ultimately distort body tissue and it’s interesting because body tissues are what generate their own frequencies and the frequencies generated by tissues are the way that cells talk to each other to orchestrate tissue repair and wound recovery. And when the geometry of the body is changed by having tight muscles, postural changes, having hypertonic muscles or having scar tissue – these are all things that ultimately distort the body, that creates that domino effect that ultimately leads to poor recovery and poor healing.
Ben: So if people are out there – let’s say you take a typical triathlete that’s listening in to this show and they’re interested in actually achieving some of the proper tissue length and tone that you’re describing, are there things that they can do on their own that would help them along in that process?
Dr. Jeff Spencer: Absolutely. The first thing I would say is a person needs to learn to move as the body is designed to move so they can control movement and have adequate speed of muscle contraction. That’s the only way that the body can move with good energy economy, with the least risk of injury. And there’s a workout that I put together, now that I’m thinking about it, that’s available on DVD. And a person just needs to go to www.theprehabit.com and look at the DVD supplemental strength training program that I put together that is absolutely the foundation by which quality movement takes place.
Ben: Did you say prehab? Or prehabit?
Dr. Jeff Spencer: The prehabit and that will gain people access to the program that I put together and it’s a summation of all the things that I’ve learned that allow a person to develop the physical capacity to make all the specific training that they do in their sport have the greatest physical and conditioning benefit possible with the least amount of effort invested. There are other things that one can do as well. You can use stick post training to be able to facilitate recovery by giving yourself a muscle massage. That’s another important thing. I’m also a big fan of daily global stretching. What I mean by that – I’m not a big fan of doing isolated stretching, but I’m a big fan of doing full body movements such as Qi Gong and Tai Chi and those not only help create pliability in the body so the body can work together as an integrated whole but it also helps relax the mind so the mind conserves energy and makes more deliberate, appropriate choices during competition and training.
Ben: Would you say that the type of dynamic stretching done in yoga would fall into that category or is that different?
Dr. Jeff Spencer: Yeah, absolutely. You’ve got yoga, there’s tai chi, there’s qi gong. These are all global body activities that do have a personal preference for the individual. Certain body types lend themselves to each one of those more than the other but if I was to spend time doing anything to try and create pliability and elongation in the body, I would not do single isolated muscle stretches because the brain thinks in terms of global movement, not individualized muscles and no muscle works in isolation by itself in the body. That’s why I believe – if my clinical experience tells me right – that doing these full body motions are much more important. And that’s interesting that you’d say that because the basis by which the Prehabit workout that I just mentioned was put together was with those fundamental movement patterns that yoga teaches that are foundational to developing ultimate fitness in a sport specific activity.
Ben: It’s interesting. The one time or the time during my training that I tend to get injured is when I quit my daily or weekly yoga practice. And I can always tell, after about two weeks. Now you mentioned the stick. How about something like a foam roller?
Dr. Jeff Spencer: You can do a foam roller. They just have a greater diameter and they’re longer and they take up more space. So I don’t think they’re any more productive than using the stick. The stick itself being only 17 inches long, is extremely portable. It’s something we use virtually every Tour de France stage to help support the immediate recovery for the riders after they get done with the day’s stage and I think that’s a little bit more economical in terms of size, in terms of transportability. But yet, at the end of the day they both basically serve the same purpose.
Ben: So to get these guys to bounce back day after day, you’d use thing like cold laser, massage and finding and removing inflammatory pockets, lengthening the tissue through things like the stick and the foam roller. Anything in addition to some of these connective tissue type of treatments that you would do with the athletes? Do you do anything special from a nutritional perspective in terms of supplementation protocols? Things of that nature?
Dr. Jeff Spencer: Yeah. I think the most important thing is after you’re done training to take some protolytic enzymes, and what protolytic enzymes are, they’re basically a protein that breaks down into your tissue and helps mop up metabolic debris from training and I’m a big fan of taking three or four of those to be able to start the recovery process by breaking down the debris in the body that’s got built up from the efforts from training. The other things that I think are important are Co-Q-10 because they help produce energy in the body that the body needs to relax and recover. I’m a big fan of amino acids because the body needs building blocks to be able to create new tissue and the body itself is basically like a water filled connective tissue bag is what it is. I think those are really the key supplements that one should use immediately after exercise and then supplements you can use to create general overall health to support your recovery and performance – your digestive enzymes to break down your food. I think those are extremely important for everybody, particularly when you’re under stress. Other supplements that play a role in this are going to be the B vitamins, because they produce energy and they also support detoxification. And surprisingly, probiotics which are good digestive tract bacteria because they help keep the ideal function of the gastrointestinal tract working at peak level so the body can not only digest food but can also get it into circulation to create body growth, body repair and energy production as quickly as possible.
Ben: Now, you talk about the nutritional component and some of the treatment components. Does mental stress as well as sleep fit into this equation when it comes to optimizing performance and recovery?
Dr. Jeff Spencer: It does in a big way because lack of sleep and stress both create inflammation in the body and inflammation is the gateway to not only every illness and disease on the face of the earth, but what it does is it also steals energy. That’s the problem with it. That’s why when we have pretty aggressive recovery procedures and part of that is also learning to control your mind and relax your mind so as the mind slows down, so does the body and as the body becomes more relaxed, it recovers more quickly. It’s impossible to be a consistent top performer if you cannot control your mind both on and off the competitive field. It’s just not possible.
Ben: What type of things would you do with a competitive athlete like a rider on the Tour de France or with a guy like Lance Armstrong to enhance let’s say sleep?
Dr. Jeff Spencer: So we use a revolutionary technology called earthing. As I mentioned, they can look that up if they like. It’s getearthednow.com. That’s an important thing. Do some pre-sleep stretching and the use of the stick to elongate and relax the muscles and take tension out of the system. Also play a vital role. You don’t want to eat too late because then your body’s going to use it for digesting the food instead of promoting sleep and you also need to have regular sleep hours. It’s always better to go to sleep a little bit earlier and get up a little bit earlier so the body’s synchronized with the natural rhythms of the day and night cycles of the body and those are the things that we work on. A lot of people feel stretching is so insignificant, why even do it? Well my position is if you spend five or 10 minutes stretching, it gets you to sleep quicker so you have a better recovery, it’s worth its weight in gold. So we should never look at these insularly things that support recovery as being insignificant because they’re actually what the longevity of our career is going to be, because the worst thing that can happen to an athlete is get sick or injured at the wrong time and a lot of that is completely preventable by spending more time concentrating on appropriate recovery strategies.
Ben: Now I don’t think that this concept of earthing that you brought up is too mainstream, and for people listening in, what’s the overall description of something like that?
Dr. Jeff Spencer: Earthing is a revolutionary new technology. What it does is it uses the earth’s free electrons and the earth’s natural frequencies to normalize body physiology so that the body can recover as nature has intended it. And it’s pretty new technology. All you do is lay down on the bed pad or the sheet and go to sleep and do what you normally do. It doesn’t take any extra time and when the electrons transfer to the body along with the natural frequencies, the body has a tendency to relax. People have a greater sense of wellbeing. Their body seems to be more in synchronization with the light and dark natural daily cycles. People get up more refreshed, have more clarity of thought and so from my clinical perspective, that’s an important element that’s necessary to create optimal recovery.
Ben: So for somebody going for ideal performance, that might be a little bit more efficacious than wearing a sleep mask and some earplugs.
Dr. Jeff Spencer: 100% because those are really not active procedures, where what this does, this actually couples your body’s electrical systems. We’ve got EKGs, we’ve got EEGs, we’ve got EMGs that are all electrical measurements of body physiology that actually control the rate of healing that control the rate of recovery and when those become synchronized with the electrons and natural frequencies, then the body is really as nature intended it which facilitates then our recoveries.
Ben: Is this type of stuff in the book you’ve written. I know that you have put out a book but what exactly is your book about?
Dr. Jeff Spencer: The book Turn it Up, How to Perform at Your Highest Level for a Lifetime – that was a great book. My feeling has always been that we’re all born winners and it’s just that most of us don’t believe it. We’ve never been taught it or we don’t trust it. And the position that I have seen in my old life and with the others that I deal with is that success is learned behavior. I find that most people want a better life. I know they’re capable of a better life but they just don’t know what to do. So I decided to write a book that serves as a proven methodology as to how they can address and develop their own personal fail-proof success system that allows them to convert their talents into their greatest assets in their life platform and live the life that they’re capable of and destined and want to live.
Ben: So these types of concepts don’t just apply to say the elite professional athletes…
Dr. Jeff Spencer: Not even.
Ben: They’re things that – there are some people that listen to our show and they’re just wanting to accelerate fat loss for example and to exercise pain free.
Dr. Jeff Spencer: It’s the same thing. Yeah, exactly. Success is success, no matter how you slice the pie whether it’s business, entertainment, sports, family life. Success is success and success is a learned behavior and my mission of life so to speak is to give people the tools and the knowledge to help themselves live abundantly successful, purposeful, productive and prosperous lives because I know that it’s a learned behavior that anybody can learn anytime in their life but there needs to be a certain level of structure. A lot of people believe that if you have enough will and you have enough talent, that’s going to take you to the top and keep you there and it’s not. There’s plenty of people with a lot of will and talent that go nowhere, that’s because they don’t have the infrastructure to be able to convert their talents into usable assets for the life platform and that’s what the book Turn it Up is all about. Because if I have anything to say about this, I want to make sure that everybody has the best opportunity to live the life that they’re capable of and the life that they want to live.
Dr. Jeff Spencer: Well I have a couple personal ones if they’re interested in that. I do have a couple of blogs. I have a membership website. It’s www.connectwithdoctorjeff.com and this connectwithdoctorjeff.com is a way of people connecting with me about my experiences learning my training and health care methodology and it’s a chance for me to share with them each month the new recoveries that I’ve had through my month’s research and interfaces I’ve had with some very important, very knowledgeable people and the clinical experience that I’ve had. And this is a little bit more geared toward the clinician and then we have another website called www.becomingyourownchampion.com and that’s going to be coming out online soon here where this is dedicated to a discussion of how to get to the top and stay there and how to stay connected especially in this day and age. The world’s in a little bit of a jam right now and people need the technical skills and the fellowship to be able to push through this and come out the other side a more confident individual that’s capable of creating a life that they want to live.
Ben: Well, Jeff I think it’s fantastic how you have this combination of practical methods like the cold laser and some of these nutritional protocols and connective tissue lengthening protocols that you talked about. But it’s really fantastic how those are combined with some of these other aspects that I think people don’t think about. I know that there are people listening to this show who do want to just lose a few pounds, but then there’s some other people who have been trying for years to get to Kona to do the Ironman triathlon or even win their local race. I want to emphasize to people that it really does take more than just going out and training hard. Like Jeff said, you got to have this infrastructure in place. The recovery has to be there and the mental component has to be there. Well Jeff, thanks for coming on the show. I’m going to put a link to all of this in the Shownotes to the podcast so people can go explore a little bit more about what you’re doing and some of the resources that you have out there, and until next time this is Ben Greenfield and Jeff Spencer signing out from www.bengreenfieldfitness.com.
For personal nutrition, fitness or triathlon consulting, supplements, books or DVD’s from Ben Greenfield, please visit Pacific Elite Fitness at http://www.pacificfit.net