Introduction: The answers to all your burning questions from podcast episode number 51 at www.bengreenfieldfitness.com.
Ben answers: Hey podcast listeners, this is Ben Greenfield coming to you with podcast episode number 51, and for those of you who subscribe to the newsletter, you know that what you’re about to hear is a little bit unconventional. You may have receied an email from me just a couple of days ago that shared with you the bad news that i accidentally erased this week’s topic interview on natural anti-inflammatories and so I was forced to find content quickly for today’s podcast. I asked for your questions, your top questions about fat loss, nutrition and human performance and I have sat down with the best of those questions and actually going to answer those today. Here’s the thing, you guys sent me so many questions that I decided there was no way on the planet that I would be able to answer all of these myself. So I brought on my trusted assistant over at Human Wellness Solutions and he’s the head personal trainer at my downtown Spokane facility John Gilbert. What’s up John?
John Gilbert: Hey guys.
Ben answers: John, he’s got a degree in human metabolism and exercise physiology from Washington State University studying to be a registered dietician, very well versed when it comes to exercise. That’s one of the reasons you work here, right John?
John Gilbert: Yes.
Ben answers: And knows quite a bit about fat loss and so between the two of us we’re going to try and answer your questions but I threw a little bit of incentive in the pot and promised that the first question I got would get one of the brand new www.bengreenfieldfitness.com t-shirts and the top three questions which we’re going to answer first – what are they getting John?
John Gilbert: They’re going to be getting a free t-shirt?
Ben answers: Man, didn’t you read what I sent you? They’re getting 100 Ways To Boost Your Metabolism DVD. So we’re giving away three copies of that so if you hear that your question was chosen and we’re answering literally all the questions I received via email but if you heard your question was chosen for that 100 Ways To Boost Your Metabolism DVD, you’re going to need to email me your address. You’re also going to need to email me your address if you won the Ben Greenfield Fitness t-shirt. So you can just email [email protected]. So before we go on to all the questions that I received, I would just like to make a couple of quick announcements.
So, John what do you think? You ready to tackle these questions?
John Gilbert: Yes I am Ben.
Ben answers: Ok, remember if you have a question as you’re listening in, you can email it to [email protected] but I don’t know, well John when you were reading over these questions – before we hop in – what were your thoughts on kind of the range of questions that we received?
John Gilbert: Well it was pretty interesting, there were different ones ranging from why am I having a lower heart rate – some kind of physiological questions – to even some psychological questions of why am I not being able to do this when I know I can so it was a good wide range of different topics really.
Ben answers: And a lot of them pertain to fat loss or triathlon. There were a lot of triathlon related endurance questions out there. So we’re going to answer them today. But this was the very first question I received. Congratulations to Nicole because you won the www.bengreenfieldfitness.com t-shirt. Email me with your address, we’ll get that out to you.
Nicole asks: Hey Ben, I’ve been charting my meals online to monitor calorie intake now that I’m not training for long-distance events. The most frustrating thing I find is estimating your base metabolism and how many calories you truly should be eating in a day. There’s a huge amount of variance from side to side depending on your normal daily activity level and amount of exercise. Is it worth being tested or consulting a nutritionist or is there a reliable do it yourself source for this kind of information? And relatedly, many of these sites also estimate the amount of calories you burn during exercise which seems to be entirely arbitrary and potentially inaccurate but I know that my Polar heart rate monitor is off too, so I only use it for estimating purposes. This gets frustrating when I’m trying to balance diet and exercise more closely. The bottom line is good enough really good enough for using these systems for weight loss? I’m curious as to your opinion, thanks for the podcast and the newsletters. They’re always a good source of information.
Ben answers: So I think what this question boils down to John is she’s trying to figure out exactly how many calories she should be eating in a day based on how much she’s burning and there’s a lot of equations out there. There’s a lot of things – she mentioned the Polar, what else is there?
John Gilbert: Well we in school are taught a lot of different equations and kind of averaging those equations so there are different things you can do with that, but there’s indirect calirometry, something that we do here at Human Wellness Solutions in Spokane and that will measure the oxygen CO2 – you talked about it on another podcast – I don’t know how specific you want me to get.
Ben answers: Yeah, that’s like the gold standard. It’s a resting metabolic rate test. If somebody’s just sitting at home though and they want to be able – you can’t obviously hook this thing up to you and leave it on the whole day. It’s a good way to sit in a chair for 15 minutes and find out how many calories your body is burning when you’re doing nothing at all, to give you that base calorie count that Nicole was asking for. You obviously don’t take the machine around the rest of the week, the rest of the month so you couldn’t see how your metabolism changed. You could go get a test every four weeks or every six weeks. If you’re looking for a place to do this and you already want to find a physiology lab or a university then the name of the test that you’d be looking for is a resting metabolic rate test. Usually they run about 65 to 150 dollars. In that range. But now they’ve got the Body Bug, the Fit Bit, The Polar Heart Rate Monitors and yeah all these to estimate calories. How accurate do you think the equations are John?
John Gilbert: Well it really depends to be honest. There’s the Harris Benedict, there’s a lot of different equations but I would say in general if you take a lot of them and average them and then chart your progress of weight over time, that’s going to be the best from a practical standpoint but in terms of the percentage of how accurate, I don’t know from the top of my head.
Ben answers: Yeah, what I find is if I’ve compared the equations that people have come into our lab for metabolic testing and yeah they’re off 100 calories, 200 calories here and there. If someone is for example on a pharmaceutical drug like a depressant or a stimulant, if they’ve taken a lot of caffeine, if they’re on a heart drug – all these things can affect your metabolism. So if you’re using one of those equations, there is no place in the equation to say yeah I’m on a beta blocker or I drink three cups of coffee a day. So there’s a lot of variables that the equations don’t take into account. So the easy, easy way to do it and my favorite equation is one called – you mentioned John – Harris Benedict. The Harris Benedict equation, plug that in, you find out what your resting metabolic rate is and you multiply that by about 1.2. And that will give you about how many calories that you’re burning during the day. What it boils down to is if you’re using one of those Polar heart rate monitors, you’re going to get pretty good accuracy. It might be off by 10 to 15 calories but that really doesn’t matter that much. 100 calories there, 150 calories here… on a daily basis, yeah if you’re body building, if you’re really trying to slim down, drop from 15% down to 5%, that kind of information makes a difference. If you’re 200 lbs and you need to get down to 150, just start exercising and burning calories and approximate how many calories you should be eating during the day and that’ll help. So take into account some of those extra things that you might be taking like caffeine or stimulants or pharmaceutical drugs and then also consider doing one resting metabolic rate test to find out about exactly where you’re at, if you really want to know the exact number. So anything else, John?
John Gilbert: No, I’d just re-emphasize that they are estimations so it’s hard to get an exact, exact amount of calories and I can have you yourself doing some equations and tracking your progress over time in conjunction with the equations will give you a better idea kind of where those equations relate to you and your metabolism.
Ben answers: Yeah, so congratulations Nicole. I guess we should probably go faster when we answer questions. So we’ll try not to drone on. We droned on that one. We promise not to drone on anymore. So Buddy from Southern California, you are going to win 100 Ways To Boost Your Metabolism DVD, this was the first best question that we got. Here’s Buddy’s question. You want to read it John?
John Gilbert: How do you stay motivated when you know what to eat, how to lift and the amount of cardio that is necessary to lose weight, but you can’t seem to stick with it. I have approximately 20 lbs to lose and when I lose 10 lbs I seem to notice that I feel better, my clothes fit better and I receive compliments from friends and family. Then I fall off the dedication bandwagon and quickly put the 10 lbs back on. A month or two of dedication lost in a matter of weeks. I’m trying to understand the psychology side to my self-sabotage. Any suggestions? I know you’re not a psychologist but any suggestions you have would be helpful. Sincerely, Buddy.
Ben answers: I know that you recently took some psychology. Quite a few psychology classes, and you’ve been implementing some of the techniques that you learned with our clients helping them to lose fat. What would you say John in terms of staying motivated?
John Gilbert: Well there’s a lot to be said. I’m going to not try and drone on but address the question and also get at some other people’s inquires about psychology. I just took a motivational psychology class so hopefully this is helpful to all of you out there. One major thing is to just really be thinking more than you think you are. It’s kind of an odd intuitive statement but be a little bit more proactive about thinking if you’re reacting to your environment or you yourself are kind of creating your environment. It’s what’s called stimulus bound or goal directed and you can think about this in terms of barriers. You have mental and physical barriers and what you need to think about before or during exercise is what is causing you down the road here to give this up? You need to think is it physical? Is it not enough side on the road for a run or no equipment to work with? Buddy you seem to be in a situation that is pretty good for that, but mentally maybe you’re thinking you don’t have enough time, you’re too tired. You don’t have the belief in yourself that you can get past those 10 lbs and you need to address these barriers. In doing that, that’s going to be how you’re going to push through. It’s much easier to say than to do, I realize. One way of doing this is creating a belief in yourself and it’s something we call self-efficacy and so in doing this what you’re going to do is really make some sustainable but also short-term goals, even if it’s as little as 10 minutes that you believe that you can do 10 minutes this day and keep that going. That’s going to be what you want. You want to make sure that these are attainable short term goals and if you can combine this barrier approach of thinking about your physical and mental barriers along with this self-efficacy, there’s a lot of research out there to support this. I went to the American College of Sports Medicine National Conference this last year and there was a lot of research out there to support this type of an approach to some sustained long term nutrition and exercise. And something I wanted to discuss here too is intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation and rewards. You got to think about getting some extrinsic verbal rewards from your friends and families, that you’re getting compliments. Do you think that this is what’s driving you or what is really driving you? Think about it, is it the feelings you’re getting? The intrinsic worth of the working out and think about is that diminishing over time? What is diminishing? Something is not sustaining and that’s what your question is about. So it’s about figuring out what is lacking and sustaining. If it’s kind of a diminishing kind of return on the extrinsic or intrinsic motivation. And think about a principle of association here as well. What do you think about when you work out? Do you have music? Create situations where you have maybe some poster prompts around you, say, in your office or in the back of your door. Have something that’s going to remind you of the positivity of working out. maybe it would be in a car or again in another office, it’s in a cubicle, it’s on the refrigerator door next to the TV. You don’t want this haunting you. You want it to be a positive situation but you want to be having it make you think about what’s going on and the barriers you’re going to be facing here in the future. It kind of gets back to Yurks Absalob optimal arousal. You got to really think about not overwhelming yourself but not underwhelming yourself, creating some goals that you are going to be really satisfied intrinsically with down to the future. So, I challenge you Buddy to really think about, instead of you knowing how to lose 10 lbs like you say you do here, to lose maybe a few pounds over a longer period of time and sustain that. Maybe lose 2 to 3 lbs over a month and then I challenge you to sustain that loss over the next month and then maybe move on because that seems to be what your specific problem is, is the sustainability.
Ben answers: The biggest thing that I heard John say that I really agree with was the short term goals. When you get that 10 lbs off, then don’t think about the next 10 lbs. Think about the next pound and go after that one week, and then go after the next pound. You also… in addition to short term goals, John, you talked about the true reason that you’re really working out. Put a picture on the refrigerator of the person that you want to look like. I know that sounds shallow but if you’ve got this body image that you’re going for, find it in a magazine. If you’re embarrassed to put it on the refrigerator, put it inside your closet, keep it in your wallet, whatever, and pull that out. That’s what I want to look like. That’s how I want my body to look like and that’s why I’m going to go for that pound this week and then the other thing I think you also mentioned John is having ways to keep yourself motivated during exercise. I listen to the podcast and music. If I don’t have my mp3 player, I’m way less likely to work out and so, me – we talked about this last week. I’m an audio type. Audio really motivates me. So if I have audio, I’m more likely to work out. Maybe you’re a visual person. So rather than going out to a gym, you got to go work out in a park where there’s kind of a change of pace, change of scenery. Maybe you’re a kinesthetic person and rather going for a run, you need to put your hands around an elliptical trainer and do some of that and switch back and forth between different devices, feel different things. So I would say that it’s a multi-faceted approach really. But what I would say is keep yourself entertained and set those short-term goals. So that was a great question Buddy.
Steve asks: About nine months ago when I got back into a training routine I was able to hit my max heart rate of 170 with what seemed to be relatively low exertion. As my fitness improves I find it harder and harder to get my heart rate up. I used to do long runs at 150 beats per minute without a problem. Now 143 to 145 beats per minute is a huge effort. My endurance has improved, my pace is faster but max effort is now required just to reach lactate threshold. My lactate threshold test yielded lower numbers each time doing 100% effort, 1 minute sprints, 4 minutes of ab sessions won’t even allow me to reach maximum heart rate. I don’t believe that I’m overtrained and I don’t really feel terribly fatigued. What gives? Is it just me or does this happen to everyone else?
Ben answers: Steve, I got news for you. You’re in good shape. This is pretty common. What happens is that when you’re de-trained, when you’re a sedentary couch potato you can sometimes get up and have a higher vertical jump and better explosive power when you’re compared with someone who goes out and runs a marathon. And the reason for that is that muscle fibers are able to convert from fast twitch to slow twitch. Fast twitch muscle uses a lot of sugar for energy. It produces a lot of lactic acid. It’s very good at quick, powerful movements. It’s not good for endurance and slow twitch muscle uses a lot of fat for fuel. It’s very efficient. It doesn’t produce as much lactic acid and you can go for longer periods of time. What happens when somebody who is let’s just say your average Joe decides to become an endurance athlete, they have this fast twitch muscle. That’s kind of what the body naturally reverts to when it’s not training. You produce the slow twitch muscle and a few things happen. The first is you have less fibers on there that are going to produce lactic acid. And when you are producing as much lactic acid, what happens is you got to work a lot harder to be able to get up to the burden. The same thing happens with the heart rate. Your stroke volume gets bigger, your heart rate becomes more efficient so all of a sudden you have to work much, much harder to get up to the heart rates that you used to be able to get up to. One of the markers that I look for – if someone comes into our laboratory and does a blood lactate test – if I will look for lower levels of blood lactate in any given work load and technically that shows that they lost fast twitch muscle. They’ve lost some of that explosive speed, that power capacity and the same thing has happened to you. Well trained endurance athletes usually as time goes on have to train harder and harder to get the kind of burn that they were able to generate before just because their body has become far less efficient at producing lactic acid and more efficient at buffering it and more efficient at working hard at lower heart rates. Some of the best endurance athletes in the world – if they were detrained, their resting heart rates would be a lot higher but so would their maximum heart rates. My maximum heart rate when I’m not working out, when I’m not well trained is usually up in the 190s. I can tell you right now in the middle of triathlon season, it’s really hard for me to get up to 185. So, this is pretty common. John you have any experience in seeing stuff like this?
John Gilbert: Yeah most definitely. To kind of clarify, to shoot through some of the things you touched on physiologically, the reason you’re training is for these effects. This is what you want. Basically your heart – Ben talked about stroke volume – its left ventricle size is getting larger and your blood volume is increasing with this endurance style of training. Ben was referring a lot to muscle types and basically around the muscles you’re going to have capillary density and mitochondrial density. When you pair this larger amount of volume that’s pumped out of the heart with the larger amount of blood, you have more mitochondria to extract the oxygen, the gas that you need from that blood. Therefore if you think about the amount of beats you need per the amount of oxygen, you’re needing less beats because you’re having more being pumped out and then more extraction going on with the mitochondria and the capillary density, so essentially what you’re having is you don’t need those extra beats to accomplish the same workload and so that’s why you want to train – is for that effect – endurance…
Ben answers: It’s like having a chain on your bike and putting more teeth on it. All of a sudden you can go just as fat, not have to pedal around as many times per minute. So you got more teeth on your chain ring Steve. Good job. And then the last question was a three part question and we are spending more time on the questions that are kind of the best questions. But Therry… I don’t know where he was from, but anyways he gets a DVD for just going all out and asking a three part question.
Therry asks: What’s your take on krill oil as a substitute for fish oil supplements? I read it was more potent and does not give you the fishy burps or side effects.
Ben answers: You’re correct Therry, it does not give you the fishy burps. I don’t know what you’re referring to in terms of other side effects, but it does not give you the fishy burps and the other reason that krill is becoming more popular is it contains this antioxidant and the main reason is that krill is eating algae, and this algae has a bright, bright red pigment on it and the pigment’s called astaxtanthin and that pigment gives krills and some other crustaceans like lobsters and shrimps this reddish pink color and that’s an antioxidant. It’s just like eating a beet, a really dark red beet versus eating an apple. Both are going to be good for you, but the beet is a little higher in antioxidants. So yeah krill is higher in antioxidants, it’s a little bit more expensive than the fish oil typically. It’s a little tougher to get. I personally don’t like the fishy burp side effects, I use flax seed. I use something called EnerEFA. It’s a flax seed oil and I feel great with that. I get the great skin, get the cardio protective benefits so yeah as far as the krill go, it is a good substitute for a fish oil supplement and it is more potent. It is higher in the antioxidants.
Therry asks: There are a lot of claims being made regarding resveratrol and wine as a supplement. Is it something I should try and fit into my diet?
Ben answers: What do you think John? With resveratrol and wine?
John Gilbert: To be honest, I haven’t researched that as I just finished my class on motivational psychology.
Ben answers: Gotcha. He knows the psycho babble. So here’s the deal with resveratrol. Yeah it’s been shown to improve longevity in mice and have other cardio productive benefits. Mice and rats. When they first came out with the study everybody was excited, they went out and started drinking wine like it was going out of style until one scientist pointed out that you’d have to drink eight barrels of wine in order to get as much resveratrol as they’re injecting into those mice. And so now there are resveratrol supplements, resveratrol pills and capsules available. Drinking wine, in multiple studies, have been shown to have cardio protective benefits to reduce your risk of heart disease. To kind of be a de-stresser. But the idea behind the resveratrol is that there’s actually a little bit more of it in grape juice than it is in wine. And you’re getting a lot less of the damaging effects that alcohol could have on your body depending on your tolerance to it. So what I would say with resveratrol is that if you’re going to take it as a supplement, don’t be drinking wine and grape juice for resveratrol because you’ll have to drink a hell of a lot to give you what you need. But if you’re taking a pill or a capsule, concentrated forms of resveratrol… there is some evidence in mice and rats – not humans – that it could help to improve longevity. I personally have a glass of wine about three or four nights out of the week. Usually a glass of red wine because it is a little bit higher in the antioxidants and just know that wine is not going to be your most concentrated source.
John Gilbert: I’d also like to add to here that it can be dangerous with the alcohol involved but the scientists are saying that the alcohol helps to increase your good cholesterol, your HDL and that’s not seen with the grape juice. So having with all your nutrition, this is my biggest thing – is a variety of grape juice and wine is what I would suggest. Both in moderation. Both spread out over a week’s period of time.
Ben answers: Yeah definitely in moderation because really… I don’t know what your opinion is on this John but I would say empty calories for a lot of people trying to lose fat is really… it’s empty calories.
Therry asks: What do you think about taking the daily vitamin supplement 46 hours apart? Currently I break my tablet in two and take one half at breakfast and the other half at lunch or with a snack. I read somewhere that the body may not be able to absorb all the good stuff and it may be excreted if not taken in smaller doses.
Ben answers: Well basically, pretty much anything that you take Therry is going to go straight into your liver. Your liver has a great storage capacity for vitamins, for nutrients and your body will tap into that when it needs it. Breaking up your multivitamin is not necessary. If your body is overloaded with the vitamin – if it’s a water soluble vitamin, it’ll get rid of it over the course of several days, but just breaking up your multivitamin over the course of one day isn’t really going to make much of a difference. Your liver has a good storage capacity for things like vitamins. Especially those fat soluble vitamins. I would say more importantly than breaking it up throughout the day, is that you take them preferably on an empty stomach before breakfast. That’s kind of painting with a broad brush because there are some parts of a multivitamin that have enhanced absorption when they’re consumed along with something else. But for the most part, you’re going to get the best absorption on an empty stomach before breakfast. If it’s inconvenient for you to break it up into a couple of doses per day, then I wouldn’t worry about doing it. If you want to keep doing it, I haven’t really seen any research that’s shown that it’s going to increase absorption just because you got that storage mechanism in your body anyways. So what do you think John?
John Gilbert: Well in our classes, we talked about the absorption of different vitamins and minerals and you would be surprised how little absorption can occur even from foods. I mean there’s a lot of vitamins and minerals that aren’t 100% absorbed. Maybe even approaching 50%, is pushing it. So to keep in mind that a lot of foods – even whole foods – aren’t always going to be absorbing all the nutrients involved in there and that’s something to kind of keep in mind. But also know that if you’re lower in a certain nutrient – Ben was referring to our bodies are good at kind of regulating where we need to be so if you’re going to be lower in a specific nutrient, then you’re going to most likely absorb it from the multivitamin. I don’t know… I haven’t seen specific research studies that look at breaking up a multivitamin specifically but I do know that smaller amounts of vitamins and minerals over a period of time will be absorbed a little bit better. So it’s a little bit different perception than Ben’s but at the same time I would agree with Ben and the ultimate results that if it’s an inconvenience to break up the multivitamin, I don’t think it would be doing you too much better.
Ben answers: I don’t think there’s much added benefit from breaking it up. So those are the top three questions. Now we’re going to move on to the rest of the questions.
David asks: How can I add more muscle to my neck?
Ben answers: David, I’m going to tell you my top three ways to do it. The first is really simple. It’s called headstands. You go against the wall, you stand on your head and you stay up there for about 60 to 75 seconds or as long as you can tolerate with no neck pain or jaw pain or back pain and that can help with the neck. You can do – and again, I’m assuming that you have a healthy cervical spine when I tell you that. If you have a history of scoliosis or spinal defect, take all this with a grain of salt. Towel pushes where you have a sweat towel around your car and then you push your head against the front, to the back, to the side, to the side – what are called isometric 10, 20 second holds against that towel. That can also help thicken up the neck. And then the last thing I would say is something that works a little bit lower down on the neck, the base of the neck – something called farmer’s walks. You pick up a set of heavy dumbbells that are heavy for you, whatever – 50, 60, 70 lbs – and you walk around with them for just two or three minutes during the day. So those are my top three ways to build your neck. John? You got any of your top exercises for neck building?
John Gilbert: Well it kind of relates to the farmer’s walk. With shrugs. It’s not specific to the neck – what are called your vastus lateralis – or I’m sorry your cerval clitomastilid and it wouldn’t be specific to that but you’d be getting the thickening of around the neck with the shrugs and you can do that with dumbbells on the side. Kind of doing a shoulder shrug, like if you were carrying some groceries and you’re… I don’t know… the back of your neck.
Ben answers: Yeah, especially if you’re older and your skin is kind of getting folds around your neck, it can help to tighten and tone the muscle underneath.
Graeme asks: A nutritionist told me that it’s best to do your long ride or run on an empty stomach and not eat for at least the first hour as this improves the body’s ability to utilize fats when racing longer distances. Is this correct and why?
Ben answers: Yeah, it is correct. If you don’t have a lot of carbohydrate on board, your body is not going to be oxidizing carbohydrate quite as readily. Sometimes it helps to avoid eating until you’re about 30 to 40 minutes into an ultra-endurance event like a marathon or a long bike ride. The trick to this though is if you’re not eating before, you’re not eating for the first hour – you’d better be truly going at a low intensity. This better be a true fat burning intensity. We’re talking about the type of strategy that you would use for a 26 mile plus run or 100 mile plus bike ride where there’s no way that your legs are burning in that first hour. And it’s pure fat utilization. So yeah it’s correct and it can help for you to delay dipping into your body’s carbohydrate stores but man, it’s got to be low intensity.
Heidi asks: Dear Ben, being a vegetarian… (I’m jumping into this John because I wrote the book.) Dear Ben, being a vegetarian, can I still do the Shape21 plan?
Ben answers: Yeah, I talked about Shape21 earlier. You can go to www.shape21.com to read about the book. But it does have meats in it Heidi. It does. And the reason for that is for 21 days during that program, you’re exercising and I found that writing the program, that was going to allow you to maintain your iron levels, your vitamin B12 levels and get all your essential amino acids in day after day was going to difficult for me to make it just a vegetarian based diet. And then there was kind of the issue of well, you don’t want to write a book that completely cuts out meat because a lot of people aren’t going to be interested in my book if they can’t eat any meat. So what you could do is you could use Shape21 and you could use meat substitutes for any of the meals that do contain meat. And a lot of the meat containing meals are hypoallergenic meats such as lamb. There are certain… if you’re a vegetarian, you’re well aware of the combos that you need to do to make sure that you get your essential proteins. I’m not going to talk about those. You can find them just about anywhere. I’m sure you’re aware of them. But basically make sure that you’re supplementing with particularly amino acids. Like an amino acid supplement will be nice. I use one called RecoverEase, heme based iron – which you’re not going to get with vegetables. That’s all non-human based iron, you’re going to have to supplement with that and then vitamin B12 so as long as you’re supplementing those and you know just put something like tofu or whatever type of meat substitute that you’re currently using in for some of the other foods and you could still do it. Any thoughts on vegetarians and exercise that you’d say John?
John Gilbert: Well one kind of combination of maybe… you know this already, but it deals with vitamin C and iron. If you’re having some spinach or something of that sort, that’s going to be a non heme iron source. Try and get a little vitamin C in there whether that’s with some bell peppers, some broccoli or even some horseshoes or something like that. We want to get some vitamin C that will enhance the absorption of that non-heme iron.
Ben answers: Interesting. And yeah there are tons of fruits and vegetables in the Shape21 plan so you’re going to already get those but it will take a little bit of tweaking on your part, but absolutely Heidi, you can do Shape21 as a vegetarian. Remember, the thing is chock full of a complete no-guess work exercise plan too. So it’s not just the diet in there.
Anonymous asks: I’ve always been into fitness even as a smoker. I finally quite 18 months ago and feeling, looking ever so fabulous. Months after quitting I continue to work out six days per week. I didn’t change my diet by consuming more food yet the scale showed I was gaining weight. I have come down to 130 and yes I’m having a difficult time getting back down. I’m only 5’2. I’m very comfortable at 115 and I don’t want to take any type of drug to burn fat.
Ben answers: This is such a tough question because they don’t say whether they’re male or female. But essentially it looks like they’re working out, they’re gaining weight. They weren’t eating more calories and so I would say that if you really truly were working out – let’s say you were doing everything perfectly and you weren’t eating more calories, then there was something going on that was causing your body to retain water because again, you’re not going to build muscle if you’re at a calorie deficit. So there’s something going on that was causing your body to actually retain water. I’m just saying, I’m assuming that you really are telling me the truth here and that you weren’t eating more calories and that you were continuing to work out. Because it would be physically impossible for your body to actually put on muscle if you were at a caloric deficit working out, because muscle needs 3500 calories to build one pound of muscle. So if something was causing you to retain water, a lot of times that can come down to something like an allergic tendency, bloating reaction to food. Cortisol can actually be something that causes you to retain water. It’s a hormone that acts on some of the same mechanisms that cause water retention. There could have been something going on with salt and sodium type retention. But again I would first really rule out the fact that you really truly were at a caloric deficit. And then the other thing is that you mentioned you were a smoker and smoker does bump up the metabolism and it can take a while for your metabolism to return back to normal after you quit smoking. You do experience a dip in the metabolic rate. We talked about that in a podcast a while back. So, kind of a tough question to answer. But yeah there are some things that can happen that can cause you to gain weight that go beyond just eating too many calories or putting on too much muscle or putting on too much fat and a lot of times that has a lot to do with just simple water retention at the kidney level.
Joe asks: Hi coach, if you had to name five supplements that no endurance athlete should be without, what would they be? Thanks Ben.
Ben answers: Ooh, this is a tough question. Five supplements. Ok, I’m just going to name the five… you know what, John, I’m going to name three. You can name two. Ok so here’s the favorite ones that I take. I take cortaseps mushroom extract. I take something cortagen VO2. It’s from a company called Millennium Sports. It’s been used by Chinese sherpas for thousands of years climbing Mt. Everest. Not a lot of research done on it in the United States but it’s been used for that long period of time, it makes me feel like I have much bigger lungs when I’m working out. I use it. And I’ve used it for two years and I love it and I can really tell a difference when I don’t take it. So cortaseps mushroom extract. Yeah. The next thing I would say is like a complete superfood type of supplement. I personally take spirulina. It’s what they feed to racehorses. It’s an algae that is super high in all sorts of nutrients. Very high in protein. Another that I would really encourage and then an Omega 3 fatty acid supplement. Really helps with cardiovascular potential and it is great for your joints when you’re out exercising a lot. So I take a flax seed oil for that. So my top three are flax seed oil, cortaseps and spirulina. What would you say John?
John Gilbert: Well I would add in there – first of all I agree with an Omega 3. We both looked at research. Mine say DHA instead of just an ALA but that would be more of a fish oil than a flax seed, but people could experiment with that to see… both have been studied to help with performance but I would say vitamin D is a big one. Because so many people are deficient in this and it very much acts like a hormone. It’s a very hormone kind of based fat soluble vitamin and that may help with testosterone levels and things of that nature in acting to kind of help with performance in that way with different aspects of the muscle. So I would definitely say vitamin D and something else I’ve seen out there, Ben I would be interested what you have to say but it’s green tea extract. I’ve seen it for different things from increasing metabolic rate to helping with endothelia function and then finally what we’re talking about here, improving performance.
Ben answers: Yeah absolutely. And to paint an even broader picture, caffeine in general. So many studies out there that it helps endurance athletes, popping that stuff before you go out for your long ride to conserve glycogen and to enhance your rating of perceived exertion or lower your rating of perceived exertion. So, a cup of coffee – it may not sound like something… but technically caffeine is considered an ergogenic aid, that’s why the US Olympic Committee has certain restrictions on it. So what’s important to you? Caffeine and vitamin D.
John Gilbert: And to add to the caffeine real quick, most of the research looks at 3 to 6 mgs per kilogram of body weight if you are interested in trying that out. Anywhere from 90 to 30 minutes, you got to be wary of the crashes but there’s a lot of information out there supporting it.
Ben answers: That’s a hell of a lot of caffeine. But if you’ve got a big training session coming, it can help for sure. It can make 100 miles on a bike a lot faster.
Noah asks: How should daily diets and calorie intake differ from working out with two days through tapering or recovery day with no exercise?
Ben answers: Well, I’m going to give a big “duh” first. Lower caloric intake when you’re not exercising. And if you’re working out running in the morning, swimming at night, you’ve got a recovery day – lower caloric intake. But you’re going to be tearing down your body less. Lower protein needs. Kind of that standard 1 gram per kilogram range of protein. Not necessarily recovery days. Me, personally I do a lot of salads. A lot of fruits, a lot of vegetables. I don’t eat that much meat. I’ll do some nuts, some seeds. Because I’m not that concerned about complete proteins when I usually get them in right after my workout, my exercise days. So lower caloric intake, higher fiber, antioxidant, low calorie, fruit, vegetable kind of intake would be ideal. So, that’s what I would shoot for Noah. And what would you say John?
John Gilbert: I would agree with that. To definitely not cut out the protein. Those recovery days are going to be essential and kind of getting in those proteins that you’ve broken down and reconstructing, so to not take it out completely but since a lot of training days you can’t get in maybe fiber because GI problems that may be upsetting the stomach. That’s an important thing to add.
Ben answers: The other thing I watch is my supplement intake, I will sometimes limit my supplement intake on those days that I’m resting because I may not need a bunch of cortaseps mushroom extract if I’m going to be sitting around watching TV all day.
Jennifer asks: I have two small kids who often don’t sleep into the night. Some days I’m just so tired. Is it better to get a couple more hours of sleep or should I just get up and work out at 6 am anyway? I’m really frustrated because I have lost 23 lbs so far but I still have belly fat. I have only lost around one inch around my waist. What should I do?
John Gilbert: Well first of all Jennifer, congrats with the 23 lbs of weight loss. I think that is great. The one inch around the waistline – Ben, I’m going to put that to you because you have much more experience with that.
Ben answers: Yeah, this is body fat distribution loss. Different people will lose their weight in different places. The abdominal body fat a lot of times can be due to an inflammatory reaction to the foods that you eat and so if you are not eating a clean diet free of toxins, organic food – if you haven’t been identified for food allergies, things of that nature… a lot of times your gut is where your fat is going to hang out and manifest itself. So definitely look into eliminating some of the common food allergens like gluten, wheat, soy, eggs, dairy and basically step back and see how your gut feels. A lot of times a lot of it is just bloating and inflammation. Then as far as the sleep, yeah, it’s important. I’ve had people who’ve been perfect exercise, perfect nutrition. They quit losing weight because they were sleeping four hours a night. Cortisol goes up, testosterone goes down. (Inaudible) which can give you appetite cravings, that will go up. Leptin, which will reduce appetite cravings, that’ll go down. Serotonin and dopamine are two things that help you feel satisfied after a meal, those will go down when you’re low on sleep. So, I would say that I would try and find a good balance. Maybe find a few days where you are getting enough sleep even every 48 hours, try and get enough sleep and then get up and get your work in at 6am on those other days.
John Gilbert: Yeah, I think something I didn’t catch right away is that the balance here… it seems like an all or nothing question. Should I just sleep, or should I just workout. A lot of research looks at 7 to 8 hours of sleep with controlling the leptin and ghrelin levels that Ben was referring to. So if you’re really struggling for getting enough sleep, I would say try for at least 7 hours and then getting in that workout – you don’t give us approximately how much you’re doing it – but getting in that workout at least a few times a week and sleeping that extra sleep a few times a week. I would rather have a 7 hour continuous week with a little bit of working out than have you have 8 or 9 hours of sleep per night with no working out essentially. That’s a little obvious. Also one thing I’d like to add here is you’re asking what you should do. I’m hoping you’re not thinking that we’re going to tell you to do a bunch of sit-ups and crunches and things like that to spot-check your body. Our bodies aren’t going to lose fat in specific spots if we work the muscles in those specific spots. We just don’t have the physiological capability. So please don’t think you have to go out there and do a bunch of crunches. Rather, just be using as much calories as you can in your workout. Think about as much musculature with a squat, with a press to anything you’re doing. Just working and moving as much as you can to get the largest caloric deficit paired with the anti-inflammatory diet should get you where you want to be.
Ben answers: I had two babies last year and what I did was high, high intensity sets. I only worked out 20 minutes a day because I was going off very little sleep trying to take care of babies. I still did an Ironman triathlon that summer, but I used lots of high intensity intervals. We talked about those on other shows. I’m not going to go into them but those can be your very good friend when you don’t have a lot of time.
Julie asks: Ben, as a person with occasional irritable bowel flare-ups especially at stressful times like right before a triathlon, do you have any suggestions or nutritional thoughts on how to lessen or eliminate the flare-ups?
Ben answers: Two things that I do before a triathlon is two days before, I really lower my fiber intake. I’ll cut out apple and banana based carbs, salad based carbs. Get a little bit more sweet potato and potato starch. A little bit more bread sometimes, if it’s gluten free. I’ll do stuff like quinoa, some dairy foods like yogurt. The other thing that I’m really careful with is too much coffee, too much caffeine. That can really cause your gut to flare up and then last thing is some relaxation. You got to get rid of those butterflies in your stomach… in order… they’re still going to be there but relaxation. I close my eyes a lot before a race, go off to a quiet place and imagine myself going through, doing everything perfectly and that helps quite a bit with reducing that and do you think there’s anything else, John, that she should do to avoid bowel flare-up?
John Gilbert: You touched on caffeine, but acidic foods is what I’ve read about with things like orange juice and just low PH, high acidity foods can add to flare-ups and gastrointestinal flora there… or not flora, but cells. Also to keep in mind this relaxation is a big thing. Something that I’ve done in the past when I’ve done sprint tris is – this may sound strange – but get in a rocking chair and actually massage the gut or massage the intestinal area to just kind of get a little motility and moving mechanically and I’ve found that to be very helpful.
Ben answers: Where the heck is she going to find a rocking chair before a triathlon? So yeah, I can see that. Like maybe lying on the ground maybe, self massage the stomach. Yeah. I guess it could help with gut motility too. Not to be crude, but if you had to take a crap real quick before the race, whatever you got to do to get that out there that helps… that would be another thing.
Kevin asks: Can you recommend stretches or other solutions for extremely tight hips? I can’t bring my knees to my chest while holding them together and I have very little internal rotation in my hips.
Ben answers: If he can’t bring his knees to his chest while holding them together, very little internal rotation – he’s talking about tight external rotators basically. Tight IT band, tight gluteus medius. My biggest tips are yoga and a foam roller. Foam roller, there’s a lot of exercises you can do with that. If you go to www.bengreenfieldfitness.com, scroll down the right hand side of the page – there’s a website called Perform Better. Go to Perform Better, pick yourself up a foam roller. You’ll get a PDF or a CD that shows you exactly what to do. Start using that foam roller on your external rotators and I personally do about 10 minutes of yoga every morning and I include a lot of the external rotation stretches that are in yoga. There is a CD out there that I reviewed on the show called yoga for endurance athletes and that one literally has a place on it where you can just choose to do a quick 10 minute routine that is all external rotator stretches. What do you think John?
John Gilbert: Yeah, I would suggest going to the website and checking that out and when you’re warming up, do what’s considered a dynamic warm-up where you’re moving and stretching at the same time, such as maybe slow walking, lunges or things like this that are going to help with hip extension.
Ben answers: Before you work out, yeah. So including some of those. Like leg swings, side leg swings would be good for your external rotators. I do them before a run actually.
Tommy asks: Ben, I can’t figure out why I have this sensation when craving for fat at night, particularly for almond and sunflower butter. I know they’re not bad fats to eat but I’ll get a bag of baby carrots and go through a whole jar in one sitting. (So he’s dipping baby carrots in almond butter and sunflower butter. Ok Tommy that’s just weird. That sounds nasty man.) I do admit these cravings occur on big training days and I know I’m not supposed to be refueling on fat. How do I stop these drug like cravings for fat? Is it because my body prefers fat to carbs for energy? Not sure if this would help but I’m a 6 foot, 170 lb three hour marathoner who’s currently training for Lake Stevens Ironman. What would you recommend I do?
Ben answers: I think the most important unique part of his question is it because his body prefers fat rather than carbohydrates for energy. You know what, in America we’re all one big genetic melting pot. A lot of us came from different ancestries. You’re going to get some ancestries like those big Samoan islanders. Those guys function very well being at heavier weights. It’s part of their culture. They do well on higher fat, coconut oil, medium chain triglyceride based diet. Some people do very well, they don’t gain weight and they have great stabilized energy levels on high carbohydrate diets. Some people do well on high protein diets. There are several books out there on metabolic typing. Dr. Makola comes to mind as one individual who has a metabolic typing test out there. There are other metabolic type tests on the web that you can do. There’s one that I send out to some of the clients that I work with online. They fill this out so I can get an idea of how their body functions in relation to carbohydrates and proteins and a lot of times the people who crave for fats would fall into the higher protein, metabolic types. They don’t do was well on the 55, 65% carbohydrate, 15 to 25% fat, 15 to 25% protein diet. They do well on a 25-30 fat and a 35-30% protein. They have better energy levels. You could be one of those people but the other thing I would really make sure you’re doing especially on your big training days is if you’re getting these cravings for fat, look into something like a monounsaturated fatty acid supplement, meaning chain triglycerides supplements, branch chain amino acid supplement. I know I’m throwing all these phrases out. I’m not going to assume you know what these mean but basically you’re looking for the sports supplement that has proteins and sometimes fats in it. One example is the Hammer Gel Perpetuem Fuel. That’s a fat and protein based long-distance fuel. That might be something that’s a little bit better for your body than just pure sugar based gels. Roctane by a company called GU, that has branch chain amino acids and carbs in it, instead of just simply carbs. So two things to bear in mind. The first is yeah, your metabolic type might need a higher protein kind of diet and the other thing is make sure that you’re getting some fats in while you exercise. They also make now a pretty digestible coconut oil extract that you can take one to two teaspoons or tablespoons prior to a workout. What do you think?
John Gilbert: Yeah, I have three points that relate to this. One, with the medium chain triglycerides, I’d like to clarify here that what you’re eating definitely with the almond butter and that nature is going to be a healthy fat indeed but is not really going to have – especially compared to the coconut – those medium chain triglycerides which have been shown to really help with performance and so what I’m getting at here is that fat loading other than looking at medium chain triglycerides has not been shown to be better than carbohydrates or a source of energy in endurance events. So that’s a big thing to get across. Another point I want to make here is it’s difficult to assess this when you only tell us one aspect of your diet. It’d be interesting to see how much protein satiety you’re getting in the rest of the day. It may be that you’re only providing yourself with carbs or things of this nature and then at the end of the day you just haven’t had enough satiety throughout to sustain you. So kind of thinking about things leading up to the day and then the last point being that in consuming the almonds and these types of fats, there’s a lot of Omega 6 fatty acids as opposed to Omega 3s, so make sure you’re trying to balance that with either some alkaline acid from flax seed or the DHA oil or Omega 3s you’ll find in fish oils.
Ben answers: Good points, good points.
Peter asks: Hey Ben, what are your thoughts on night shades in relation to training and recovery, anti-inflammatory properties?
Ben answers: Ok, so as far as night shades… night shades are basically plants. They’re edible plants that would include tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and egg plants and they have been known to cause some of the symptoms that can make joint pain worse because they have what’s called a positive IF rating. Or a positive inflammatory rating. Now, if you tend to be someone who experiences joint pain it might help you to eliminate night shades from your diets. Those tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and egg plants and see if you notice a difference. So if you do, you might be someone who’s sensitive to the particular substance in these foods called solanine that can actually cause some of that inflammation. If there’s something that you’re sensitive to. Now it goes beyond just getting heart burn from tomato sauce. We’re talking about actually getting joint pain. So if you’re trying to heal, trying to recover faster, you’re consuming night shades. You’re noticing that your joint pain increases then try eliminating them from your diet. I personally don’t have anyone that I coach that I have eliminated night shades from their diet. But everything in moderation. And I would have to say that in a lot of the diets that I write out, there aren’t a ton of tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and egg plants but they creep up now and then in the day. If they’re staples in your diet, that might be the bigger issue. You guys study night shades at all in any of your classes over at WSU?
John Gilbert: No, we actually don’t. We haven’t gotten to that point yet so that was an interesting question to read initially.
Ben answers: Yeah, and if you in the audience – if you have comments on any of these questions or some things you want to add – go to the Shownotes for podcast episode 51 and leave us a comment especially with those night shades. Tell us if you have your own thoughts or things you discovered with night shades.
John asks: Does what you eat and when you eat really matter? If I have 3 slices of pizza will they give me belly fat and if I eat them 20 min before bed is the affect amplified?
Ben answers: I don’t think we should spend too much time on this question because we have answered this before, but yes. When you are physically active your body is more sensitive to insulin, it’s less likely to store what you eat as fat so yeah it’s not just about the calories. It’s about the timing. Go back and listen to some of the secret of fat loss episodes earlier in the podcast. So I’m not going to go into that question too much but absolutely. Three slices of pizza can make you fat and they’re more likely to make you fat if you eat them before bed because you’re going to be less insulin sensitive when you are inactive.
Angel asks: Ben, Are there certain foods that can aid in fat loss, or does fat loss depend on calories in versus calories out and musculature?
John Gilbert: This one, I know it’s directed towards Ben initially but I’m going to answer it here. It is about calories in and calories out to an extent. Ben has touched on this in podcasts and other areas in talking about inflammation, and so I’m going to pass this to Ben because he’s versed in this. But you are correct in that the musculature also plays a part in your metabolic rate with a higher bit of musculature, the higher the metabolic rate.
Ben answers: Yeah again this is one of those questions I don’t want to spend a ton of time on because we have covered this in previous shows that it really is more important than calories in versus calories out even though that comes into play, I think the first part of your question is interesting – certain foods that can aid in fat loss. Yeah, there are. There’s a book I’ve written 100 Ways To Boost Your Metabolism. Go pick it up, it’s like 14 bucks. Read through it. It gives you a 100 different foods that can bump up your metabolism and aid in fat loss. But ultimately what I don’t want to give you the impression of is that there’s some magic bullet – some food that you can eat that’s going to make you lose weight. You got to go work out, you got to exercise. You got to watch your overall caloric consumption. So I always like to be careful with these questions. Yeah, if you’ve gone for three years without losing weight and had a perfect nutrition and exercise program, yeah we’d start looking at some other stuff but ultimately there’s not a lot of magic bullets. You need to exercise, watch your calories and if you want to know about food specifically that can increase your metabolism then go check out the book. That’s why I wrote it, for questions like that.
Rich asks: Here is my question. How do you feel about the supplements like “fat burners”. They are all over in terms of advertisements and promise to boost metabolism for everyone, regardless of activity level.
Ben answers: Ok, first of all podcast number 44 actually covered most of the thermogenic fat burners out there. Did you read the recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning John? It’s called the Acute Effects of Thermogenic Supplements on Energy Expenditure and Cardiovascular Function. Do you have any thoughts on their findings?
John Gilbert: Well I was (inaudible) coming from a whole food perspective of not really believing in these thermogenic aids but they really have shown in these reviews that they can be helpful in aiding metabolism. And then I would suggest going to the podcast because some are more dangerous than others with the stimulants. But there are some out there that are beneficial and safe so that was a good point to come across in the research.
Ben answers: We use two with our clients. One is called Lean Factor, one is called ThermoFactor. Both of them don’t have all the caffeine and central nervous system stimulants in them so they don’t do damage to your body from an adrenal level and basically they have things that help stabilize your sensitivity to insulin. One has a little bit of green tea extract in it but not enough to make you jumpy. One has an enzyme that helps your liver’s fat burning enzymes to enhance their activity. A bit of orange extract to control the appetite, something called Avantra-Z. But Lean Factor and ThermoFactor are two that we use and if you just go to www.bengreenfieldfitness.com and do a search for those, you’ll find them and those are the ones that I would highly recommend but yeah, most of them actually work but it’s just a question of how healthy they are for you. You got to be really careful with some of the caffeine side effects – your liver, your kidney, your adrenals – with some of this stuff.
Jesus asks: What’s the best dinner and breakfast before race day, and also how long can you go without drinking water during a race. Is it a bad thing to not drink anything during a race? I usually don’t and my maximum distance is half marathon.
Ben answers: That’s not really a big deal. You can get away with that as long as you’re hydrated, you can easily go through half marathons assuming you’re running it fast enough without drinking any water. I think the better thing to pay attention to is once you lose 3%, in some cases 2% body weight from loss of water, your performance decreases. It starts to go down significantly at that point. Different people have different rates of water loss, and if you tend to be a heavy sweater or someone who loses quickly, that might come back to harm you in a half marathon. It’d definitely come back to harm you in a marathon. So, you can go as long during a race that it takes to lose about 2% body fluid and then I’d start worrying. So if it takes an hour for you to lose 2%, you better not be going out and doing any races that last more than an hour without actually starting to drink water. Most of the best athletes out there, they cross the finish line dehydrated but there’s a fine line behind giving your body just enough water that it needs to keep yourself from getting that 2%, 3% loss and over-hydrating. So, any thoughts on the best dinner or breakfast before race day John?
John Gilbert: Well carbohydrates, usually of a starch variety is what I’d suggest such as sweet potatoes. We’ve talked about this before and those are probably the highest recommendation I would go with. But just high carb, high starch – maybe pumpkin or these things – try to stay away from a lot of fiber but just getting in those carbs to top off the glycogen levels for the next day and keeping in mind too the other part of this question being what type of environment you’re in, that’s going to be an underlying implication as Ben is talking about here. If it’s hot, if it’s humid, these things are going to play much more of a factor in your sweat loss and losing that 2% body weight.
Ben answers: As far as carbo loading, a lot of my athletes are doing a lot better with gluten free carbs for dinner and for breakfast, so we’re talking about potato based starches, yogurt based starches, fruit based starches, staying away from lots of bread, lots of pasta.
Susan asks: Hi Ben, I recently listened to one of your podcasts from May (ooh, I almost ranked this as a best question) where an athlete mentioned gaining more weight during her Ironman training time than when she was a couch potato. Your comment was that you heard that comment a lot. Well, I’m in the same boat. I have been training for Ironman races since 2006 and every year since then have put on more weight and gained more jiggly bits, then when I was just weight training and running for short distances. I am not an elite triathlete or top age grouper. Rather, I’m your average age grouper, or a mere mortal. I have been watching what I eat, and feel I eat a clean diet 95% of the time. So why is it that I keep putting on the weight and gain body fat? Is this just a normal thing as you age – I’m in my late 30s. Or am I doing something wrong with my eating? I’m not sure if you can answer this question without knowing my training hours or looking at a food journal, but I’d greatly appreciate any advice you can give me.
Ben answers: So Susan, here it is in a nutshell. When you start training for Ironman, we talked about this earlier in the podcast, you’re using a lot of slow twitch muscle and one of the issues with the slow twitch muscle is that it really doesn’t bump up the post-exercise metabolic rate. You don’t get the same amount of testosterone release as you do when you’re doing fast twitch muscle high intensity type of exercise. A lot of the hormones that can enhance fat loss are not released and you tend to turn into – I’m just going to throw this out there as an example, especially if you’re not training as a pro and doing a lot of the faster repeats, you tend to kind of turn into a turtle, a tortoise. You’re able to go very long periods of time with exercise and if I said race, you wouldn’t be able to beat me to the next telephone pole but 20 miles later you might be ahead. Now the body likes to use fat for long distance fuels and it likes to turn itself into a good little fat burning machine with just enough storage fat on you in order to help you go for those long distances. If you combine that with the fact that you’re not doing much of the fast-twitch stuff and yeah, what I’ve done with… especially my female athletes who have this problem, is we incorporate weight training with high intensity intervals three times a week. Some of the stuff that’s similar to what I have in my book The Top 12 Resistance Training Routines For Triathletes. And then we incorporate higher intensities – a lot less of those four, five hour bike rides, a lot more of the quick one hour hard ride with 10 two minute efforts thrown in. Hard stuff. So that should shock your body off its plateaus, Thinking more about speed, less about distance. We’re not going to talk about your nutrition because I haven’t seen it. I’m going to trust you are eating a clean diet and tell you to go out there and throw some fast stuff in, get your body shocked out of that long, slow turtle mode.
Joanne asks: Hey, my burning question (having lost weight recently and being over 50) what can I do nutritionally, supplement / natural to handle the saggy baggy skin issue?
Ben answers: Get surgery. Get stapled. What do you think John?
John Gilbert: Well there’s different topical creams out there. I don’t know the research behind them but from a nutrition supplement point of view, I would look at Omega 3s. We talked about those earlier with the flax seed and fish oils.
Ben answers: Yeah that will really help your skin.
John Gilbert: Exactly. And there’s different vitamins and minerals out there that propose to be good for you, your hair, your skin and different proteins. What I would suggest is looking at your diet. It’s a little bit more of a forefront question of generalized… but if you add in those Omega 3s and look more at kind of getting more fruits and veggies in. As generic as that may sound, you’re going to get that vitamin K and some of those things that are purported to specifically help with hair and skin.
Ben answers: Yeah, like vitamin A, C, E, the essential fatty acids that John talked about. All of those can help the skin with its elasticity. Staying hydrated is very important to maintain your skin’s hydroelasticity and fullness. You want to take care of your skin. You don’t have to go out and buy expensive moisturizers or expensive creams but there are some simple moisturizers and creams out there. For example I use something called Action Wipes, and it’s just a tea tree oil and a eucalyptus oil with a few light natural moisturizers that I put on my skin to keep it kind of supple and elastic especially after a workout. Exfoliation, that can stimulate the cell turnover on your skin. It can help generate new skin. Exfoliation would be important if this is something that you’re dealing with. And again there are skin nourishing supplements out there. There are moisturizers out there. I don’t know if you’ve tried those but if you haven’t I would definitely try them and I would definitely stay with them for a good three to six months to actually see the difference. A lot of these aren’t designed to give you results right away but if you stick with them, they can help. Staying hydrated and anything else John?
John Gilbert: Yeah, to add to the hydration – I’m sorry I missed out on that – a general rule that I know there’s research behind this rule is taking half of your body weight in ounces and having that as a rule for water consumption. You don’t want it to overtake your life but that water consumption will help with the hydration of the skin. There’s research to support that and that water consumption will help with distention of the stomach. If you are working at trying to lose weight and consume less calories, that will help you feel fuller longer if you’re consuming those large amounts of water.
Jan asks: I am in my mid-50’s and used natural progesterone derived from yams for approximately 7 years and, at first, was able to have some control over my weight and then, all of a sudden, it didn’t work anymore. I switched to natural bio-identical compounded estradiol cream and it didn’t do anything. I tried estradiol) for 6 months with no success and discontinued using it as I noticed no change. I have continued my workouts – cardio and resistance – and am still stuck. Do female hormones really assist with fat loss? I’ve not seen it in my experience, and I’ve tried both progesterone and estrogen (bio-identical) with no success when used singularly or in combination. Thanks.
Ben answers: Jan, yeah they work for some people. There’s an excellent resource out there from a gentleman named Dr. John Lee who’s written some very good books on natural hormone balance and natural hormone replacement therapy and what his general recommendations come down to is that if you’re going to be taking these things, you need to test pretty extensively and you have to test accurately to make sure that you really truly are replacing what you are deficient in and that you really truly were what’s called estrogen dominant in the first place. So what I would say is if you’re just randomly throwing progesterone creams at your body or natural estradiol and you’re not actually testing to make sure that your levels are being optimized by the amount that you’re taking, then yeah it’s really not going to do much. But the hormone replacement has to have a lot of supervision in terms of having a medical professional kind of walking you through the testing prior. I would recommend the salivary testing versus the blood testing, a lot of those blood hormones are bound and inactive. The salivary hormones are unbound. They’re more active. And so once you get tested, specifically for progesterone and estrogen… I would suggest you get a 24 hour steroid panel for all six of your sex steroids and you can go to your doctor and ask for this. It’s called a 24 hour sex steroid panel. Get a look at it, and it literally is over a 24 hour period of time. See where you’re at and then you would like to actually go approach a physician who knows about natural bio-identical hormone replacement and who’s willing to actually continually test you as they optimize your levels. But the trick with using it is you have to test, you have to re-test and you have to make sure that the hormones are at the level that you want them to be at. But look at the books by John Lee. John Lee has some really good writing on that. There are other reasons that women can be stuck with fat loss in addition to hormones, but estrogen dominance is really the thing you’d want to look at.
Joe asks: Hi Ben, What are your thoughts on Hammer Nutrition products in general and specifically Recoverite and Perpetuem?
Ben answers: I like them. I’ve used them before. I’m going to give you a link Joe to talk about how I’ve used them. www.bengreenfieldtri.blogspot.com. I write out all my race reports there, what I use for nutrition, how I use it during a race. Check out my race reports for the entire year of 2007 where all I used was Hammer products. But yeah, they work well and there’s quite a few of them out there and they are a good quality natural supplement.
Nigel asks: Hi Ben, hope things are going great. I have one burning question: How do you lose weight without losing power on the bike/run. (He goes into his body weight and everything. But essentially he says he wants to do Ironman in nine hours and 40 minutes.) Plus I look at the weight for height ratio’s with the guys doing the Tour de France at the moment and that is roughly where they are at – the 183cm about 74 kg.
Ben answers: Yeah, have you seen Lance Armstrong, John? Just gone. He lost a good amount of weight. He’s about 2 kgs lighter, I think in the previous Tour de France. But that guy was ripped. Earlier in the season he had put on some muscle and that boy had to lose 8 to 10… boy, I don’t want to disrespect him… I kind of disrespected him last week with the (inaudible) question, so sorry Lance. I know you’re listening in. But yeah the man has lost 8 to 10 lbs getting ready for the tour. The way that I do it with the athletes that I work with, Nigel is because you have to be really careful training hard and losing weight at the same time – we talked about the study last week that showed that that really can kind of come back to haunt you and hurt your performance, is that we combine deficit days with loading days. That means that there are certain days when you really load up on food and you really want those to be your toughest exercise days. Usually you shouldn’t be doing a lot of interval training more than about three days per week if you don’t want to blow off your body. We’re really talking about true interval training. Those days would be your carb loading days, the days where you really are enhancing your overall calorie intake with high density foods. But then you have your recovery days and your lower volume days and I would especially recommend one of these low volume days be long. We’re talking four, five, six hours of cycling but primarily on flats, not a lot of rollers. And that particular day, you’re taking in a lower calorie diet so we’re trying to tap into those fat stores while at the same time we’re not doing damage to the body. So you’re trying to cycle the training and the nutrition and the aerobic and anaerobic workouts. So if you really want to look at this in a simple fashion, take your entire week – take the easier days of the week, start to calorically restrict on those days and on the other days, man get your nutrition perfect. Within 20 minutes get your calories in, make sure you’re optimizing your carbohydrate, protein, fat intake and then lose weight on the easy days and that’s really – that’s how I do it with my athletes and it works really well. John, any thoughts on that?
John Gilbert: Yeah, to add to that, something I’d like to bring to the attention here is that these are also different sports that utilize – the Ironman utilizes cycling but you got to realize the lats and a lot of other musculature with the swim, and the run and so you’re going to have to have some musculature on board to do the activities you’re doing. If you have the upper body strength of these cyclists and you were trying to do an Ironman, I would predict you wouldn’t fare very well.
Ben answers: Don’t lose all your upper body muscle, man. You got to carry a little bit of mass, especially for Ironman. You need that muscle.
Ashley asks: How much, when and what is your “best practice” for fueling for long training and racing? I’m training for my 1st triathlon but am trying to determine what type of fuel and how much I need.
Ben answers: I don’t really want to spend too much time on this question because it’s kind of basic. We’ve gone over a lot of this stuff in previous podcasts. The main thing I would warn you about Ashley is that a lot of the fueling advice that you’re going to find out there is trickle down advice from Ironman triathletes. The stuff that eats 600 calories before your event. The stuff that says to eat 200 to 300 calories during your event, the stuff that says go out and get four meals in after your workout – that stuff was written for people who are exercising 20 hours a week and doing 10 hour-long events, not for sprint distance triathlons. So, your main concern would be to not overfuel. So that’s what I would say to you Ashley. Just be careful with not over-fueling and then as far as the type of fuel and how much you need, you don’t really need anything during a sprint distance triathlon. If you’re getting anywhere from 60 to 80, 90 minutes… your body has more than enough storage carbohydrate on board. Just make sure you follow all the rules we’ve talked about on the show before with pre-workout, post-workout nutrition and you’ll be good to go.
Jim asks: Please explain the difference in sugars and also explain cortisol cycles as they pertain to circadian rhythm.
John Gilbert: Well we looked at this a little bit in school. To be honest I don’t recall all the specifics but we do have some information recently that we researched.
Ben answers: The sugars, Jim… when he said the difference in sugars, I’m assuming you’re talking about low glycemic versus high glycemic index sugars. We could take up the next hour talking about those, but just go Google “glycemic index” and you’re going to learn everything you need to know in about 10 minutes in the difference in sugars. But I really like the part of your question that asked about cortisol cycles as they pertain to the circadian rhythm. Because basically what we’re looking at is that cortisol is – it’s just a hormone in your body. Think about it as a type of hormone that kind of turns you and gets you going, but if there’s too much of it, like there would be if you’re stressed out all the time, then it’s not really that great of a thing for your body. You can essentially suffer from a lot of the symptoms of being over-stressed when you have high cortisol release. Things like muscle wasting, low testosterone levels, low metabolism, things of that nature. Cortisol levels tend to be triggered by light, by your natural circadian rhythm is triggered by light so they will start to really elevate in the morning and typically they’ll reach their peak about mid-morning and fluctuate, kind of roller-coaster throughout the rest of the day but then they do start to drop as the sun sets and as you get closer to sleeping. And your metabolism starts to slow down a little bit and you start to burn fewer calories and your body really starts to relax and you can get ready for sleep. So specifically in terms of what the cortisol reaction looks like is that sunshine is what signals your body clock to begin its active cycle. So your body responds by producing serotonin and adrenaline and cortisol among other things. And this helps with that cerebral activity. It helps to jumpstart you, get your motor activity going. Think about cortisol is kind of like your jumper cables. It’s just meant to be in the body for a short duration of time, cortisol is. So if you’ve got those jumper cables going but then you’re getting up and you’re going to work for a 14 hour day and being highly stressed out, that’s when that cortisol might not match what it’s supposed to match based off the natural circadian rhythms. Your body temperature increases throughout the day, your metabolism increases throughout the day. It reaches its peaks. It kind of depends. Sometimes it’s midmorning, some studies – actually mid-afternoon. But in terms of fuel in your body you want to really watch your overall caloric consumption as you get closer to dinner and about four hours before bedtime because that’s when cortisol is going to start to drop off, that’s when your metabolism is going to start to drop off and until the next morning when light hits your system again, and your circadian rhythm goes back up, you should be careful with doing things that are going to cause you to store calories. So that’s the deal with cortisol cycles and the main takeaway message is that cortisol is good in moderation. You need to watch your stress levels because cortisol is already going to be naturally released by your body and you don’t want to throw off that release by being stressed out throughout the day. Following a circadian rhythm that responds to a light-dark cycle is ideal. If you’ve got to work at night, sometimes that messes it up and sometimes that’s just the place that you are in life, but I would really recommend that you try to sleep when it’s dark, wake when it’s light and that will really help your body in terms of its calorie burning and metabolism. So good question, Jim.
Jeff asks: What are the three or more… pick any manageable number, most important initial steps for a beginner/novice to take when starting a fat loss program? What are the three or more most important initial steps to take in order to maintain/sustain progress after a fat loss program?
John Gilbert: Well, the most important initial steps, I would refer back to that psychology question we talked about earlier dealing with barriers, identifying barriers and setting short attainable goals to deal with the barriers specifically before you start any type of training and that that’s going to be what you’re going to look at for success, and then from there, once you have identified the barriers and getting going with understanding how to do that, that’s when you want to add in a fat loss program that is going to be sustainable. You can start one up right away and if you feel like you can deal with the barriers at the time, then great. But that’s how I would say you should go initially, and then sustaining – we talked about that in the psychological question as well with short term goals, attainable goals, feeling self-efficate but I’d like to put it over to Ben here.
Ben answers: Yeah man, when you’re first starting off, don’t guess. Don’t waste your time. Get a personal trainer, just for a month. Have him teach you exactly what to do and then take it from there and go on cruise control and see him whatever, once a month, once a week to help you out. And then once you have lost the fat that you want to lose and you haven’t wasted your time… you’re doing a program with no guesswork, when you’re in maintenance mode… cheat man. Give yourself a day where you just let yourself eat whatever you want or not exercise if you don’t feel like it, because that makes it a lifestyle. You can’t live like a monk your whole life, you won’t have any food. So have that night where you go out and have some fun and eat cake. So yeah, let’s yourself cheat. That’s part of maintenance.
John Gilbert: To add to that, my favorite thing is moderation including moderation, you have to have these days – even Ben, I’ve heard on his podcast – of all people has his Sundays, are his days to indulge and it’s just keeping in mind that you’re not going crazy with your indulgence but just keeping in mind that you need to stay sane.
Ben answers: Totally.
Scott asks: I recently found a calorie calculator online that is based on your gender, age, weight, average heart rate, and total time exercising. In my opinion, this would be a more accurate way of determining calories burned during any activity. What was your average heart rate during the total time of activity. Regardless of the activity, isn’t the increase in heart rate most indicative of intensity and calories burned? Thanks
Ben answers: Yeah. As long as the increase in heart rate is really, truly tied to an increase in oxygen consumption. If your heart rate goes up because a bear is chasing you or say because you drank eight cups of coffee before your workout, that’s not indicative of intensity and calories burned. That’s indicative of central nervous system stimulation. Doesn’t necessarily burn calories, just makes your heart rate beat faster. However, if your heart is beating faster because you’re low on oxygen, and you’re having to suck in a lot of oxygen and bump up your metabolism, the yeah that is indicative of calories burned. So there’s a direct link, a direct tie there. We talked about the resting metabolic rate test earlier, we also do an exercise metabolic testing in our lab. It’s based off that. We measure how much oxygen you’re consuming and that is directly tied to the number of calories that you burn. That is directly tied to heart rate. We tell you the heart rate that’s associated with the calories that you burn. You exercise at that heart rate and you don’t actually measure oxygen consumption because that’s really hard to measure while you’re exercising. But yeah to a certain extent, as long as it’s not because of central nervous system stimulation, yeah heart rate is indicative of calories burned.
Joe asks: If you only had one type of food to snack on during the day, what would it be and why?
Ben answers: Let’s both pick one John. What’s yours?
John Gilbert: Well it depends on how you frame the question. If you’re talking about health or if you’re talking about indulgence.
Ben answers: Let’s say if you were on a desert island.
John Gilbert: Well, let me first give the good commentation on health, broccoli would be the main health one I would use. But if I were to say something that would be indulging, something I like quite a bit would be mixed nuts. I tend to like those quite a bit and could eat quite a lot of those. The salt associated with mixed nuts, the crunchiness – that tends to be something that I can go overboard on pretty easily.
Ben answers: Alright, well I’m going to say quinoa. Quinoa was like a super food used by Aztec warriors back in the day. Highest protein content of any whole grain on the planet. My kids drink it. It’s very hypoallergenic. We’ll grind it up and make milk out of it. We’ll use it as our whole grain, I will make bread out of it, muffins out of it. It can keep the body going for a long period of time. As a matter of fact, some of the Aztec warriors were like ultra-marathon runners. They used to burn it and put the ash in their mouth and hold it as almost like a chewing tobacco in their mouth and run with it, and they’d mix that with cocoa powder and release what are called alkaloids in the ash from the quinoa, help them to go for forever. So quinoa. A big superfood. It’s always in my refrigerator and that’s the one food I would go with. It would keep me going for a long time, as long as I had water.
John Gilbert: I think you’d survive more than me.
Ben answers: I’d survive over John with his broccoli and mixed nuts.
Chip asks: I greatly reduced my stress level. I cut it by 75% and suddenly my workouts were much more productive. I asked my trainer what we were doing differently and he said nothing. It’s your stress level. So what exactly is it that’s going on there? What is it about stress that was killing me and keeping me fat?
Ben answers: I guess we kind of answered that question with cortisol. We mentioned about sleep right? The serotonin, the dopamine, cortisol, testosterone…
John Gilbert: It essentially deals with different hormone levels and that can then relate to different…
Ben answers: Neurotransmitters.
John Gilbert: Yeah, appetites and how you go about regulating what you do. A higher heart rate, placing higher blood pressure, more stress on what are called the endothelia cells – your kind of vessel walls – can then relate to heart attacks down the road. It all deals with kind of hormones and the amount of activity that’s going on with your heart and blood vessels.
Ben answers: Yeah, so it doesn’t have much to do with your brain. A lot of people think there’s this barrier between the brain and the body. It really is physical, it’s hormones and neurotransmitters and steroids that actually suffer when you’re stressed out. That’s what was killing you, that’s what was keeping you fat.
John asks: Name one essential, must-have, won’t-finish-unless-I-have-it thing that you take during your Iron distance races.
Ben answers: So, for Ironman triathlon. John? One thing that you won’t finish unless you have it? Assuming that you’re fat enough and your body is able to strip off fat and use it for energy during the race, pretty much all you really need is water. You can finish an Iron Distance race off of pure water. You got to be going at a snail’s pace man because you can’t use any carbohydrate but technically you could do distance… if you’re fat enough and you’ve got some fat you can tap into… you could do it on water. So that’s what I’d take out there with you. Kind of a silly question. But yeah.
Mary asks: I have heard recently that carbonation slows fat metabolism by 60%? what are the current facts about diet and/or regular soda? Thank you for all you do.
John Gilbert: Well, first of all I’d like to say that diet soda and regular soda have both been shown to be associated with obesity. Even though people are taking in less calories, there are strong correlations between this diet soda with its caffeine and everything and its acidity that we had talked about earlier that may be related to some of the weight. I’m not up to date on all the research dealing with diet soda but I do know that there are strong correlations, like I said, with diet soda consumption and obesity, even though the calories aren’t there.
Ben answers: Yeah, and as far as your question around carbonation slowing fat metabolism. No, there’s no evidence out there that a carbonated drink could slow your fat metabolism. As a matter of fact, sometimes things that are taken in a carbonated form can actually be released a little bit quicker into the bloodstream. So if you’re taking a caffeinated supplement in carbonated form, you might get the caffeine in your system quicker. That caffeine is helping you to lose weight. Carbonation might help a little bit. I’m totally just thinking out loud here. But basically, in a nutshell Mary, no way that carbonation does not keep you from losing weight. It’s all the other crap that comes in carbonated drinks that keep you from losing weight.
Jordeane asks: I’m allergic to all the non-steroidal anti-inflammatories that I’ve tried (aspirin, anaprox, meclomen, naprosyn, YADA). Do you have any ideas for some topical and for some ingestible natural anti-inflammatories that I might try? The amount of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories has to significantly accumulate in my body before I get a reaction so as not to worry – I don’t have an allergic reaction to the first few doses.
Ben answers: What are your thoughts John?
John Gilbert: In reading research last year on vegetarians, it was really interesting to read about that they had higher blood levels of what’s called acetyl salicylic acid or salicylic acid. And it’s actually the main ingredient – the main active ingredient in aspirin – and the fact that the higher levels of the salicylic acid was related to decreased inflammation due to higher – what we already know – fruit and vegetable consumption… so that’s going to be another generic answer here, but the more you can get fruit and veggies in your diet… it didn’t look at raw versus not… just the more you can get in, it seems to be the more that you’re going to benefit from this anti-inflammatory effect of the food.
Ben answers: Yeah, and as far as natural anti-inflammatories, I wrote a big article on this called 18 Ways To Help Your Body Heal Faster. Google that and go to www.bengreenfieldfitness.com, read that article. Just about every natural, oral anti-inflammatory that you can take is listed on there. And in addition to topical anti-inflammatories, there’s more than one way to skin a cat with that. I’ve used magnesium oil. I’ve used oil of oregano. I’ve used a mix of something called MSM and glucosamine. I’ve used arnicha. There’s another one out there called tromomyl. There’s quite a few different supplements, topical ointments out there that you could use and a lot of times if you’re combing these with an oral anti-inflammatory that is natural… avoid some of the reactions that you get through the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory… none of these are quite as powerful but if you’re getting an allergic reaction, there are options. There are options for you.
John Gilbert: And there also is research to point at Omega 3s. I know more about DHA and fish oils doing this more so than ALA and flax seed, but I know there’s research out there to support the anti-inflammatory effects of Omega 3 fatty acids, so that’s another… coming back to that supplement being quite important or at least getting in some fish along with the supplement. You can get that in many different ways but there’s even a warning to not go over 2 grams in a day due to the anti-inflammatory and blood thinning effects that can occur because of such a high amount.
Ben answers: Yeah, I was reading that article… that 18 Ways article as well. Those are all the questions. Man, I know we talked for a long time. If you have comments, leave them on the Shownotes to this podcast episode number 51, including additional questions that you might have about the questions that we answered. If you won a DVD or you won the t-shirt, email [email protected] with your address. Make sure you check out the Shape21 Lean Body Challenge that’s coming up. Next week we’re going to go back into our interviews. We have some really great interviews coming up and last thing is if you like this show, we spend a lot of time on it so there’s two things you could do. One is you could go to our iTunes page, leave feedback and give us a rating and then the next thing is you could consider donating to our show and we’re going to throw in a free t-shirt for anybody that donates to our show. Go to www.bengreenfieldfitness.com, right side of that page, there’s a link where you can donate. And there was one other thing that I wanted to mention. Oh new website, John and I, we work a lot with clients in the Spokane, Coeur D’Alene area and all over the world online. There’s a new website that just ties together everything that we do. It’s not completely full yet or completely completed yet, but it’s called www.humanwellnesssolutions.com. And I will put a link to that in the Shownotes, the very, very bottom of all the Shownotes – I’m typing it out right now. www.humanwellnesssolutions.com. I guess it’s spelled with three S’s. I hope that doesn’t confuse people. I’m just going to hide that in there so you can go check it out and surf around. See what we do and just give us an email if you have a question. There are some free newsletters and a calendar of events and things like that up there as well. And then keep your eyes posted because we are going to start up those live on-line TV Q and As soon. So until next time, this is Ben Greenfield and John Gilbert signing out from www.bengreenfieldfitness.com. Have a healthy week.
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