September 9, 2009
Introduction: In this podcast episode: exercising in polluted areas, what detoxing is and how it works, how to lose muscle mass safely, staying fit when you can’t run, what to do if your legs get tired before your lungs do, what exactly processed sugar is, and much more.
Ben: Hey podcast listeners, this is Ben Greenfield. A little bit unorthodox podcast today. For a couple of reasons. The first is that I am on a bit of a vacation right now. I’m in Cape May, New Jersey. I’m pretty sure it’s in New Jersey, sitting out on the verandah of a hotel called Congress Hall watching the rain fall outside and unfortunately underneath the covered verandah here but you may hear the sound of children playing outside or people walking past, there may be music in the background now and again as someone opens the door. The reason for that is I’m not at my office or sitting at home at my home office like I usually am when I record, I am instead here at Congress Hall in Cape May, New Jersey. The other reason that this podcast might be a little bit unorthodox is because I have received a ton of questions this week and I’d like to take this podcast to address your questions. We’ve got some really great interviews coming down the line that I’ll talk about in today’s special announcements, but really this entire podcast is devoted to a Q and A. We could call this the Cape May Q and A, if you will. So we’ll move on to this week’s special announcements and then dive right into some thought provoking interesting listener questions that I think just about anybody could benefit from.
The first question this week comes from Listener Mindy. Mindy asks… by the way guys before we get into this, there are a lot of questions. Let me move my mike just a little bit closer to my face here, because it’s a little noisy out in the verandah. A lot of questions this week and we really span the gamut in terms of topics. So should be entertaining.
Mindy asks: I am just coming out of a bout of serious over-training – to the point of major pathology: I was forgetting things and actually gained fat. Devastating for someone in my position. But you taught me that this happens on your show. I’ve made some rather dramatic changes to my life to heal myself. Exercise is my passion and my stress release. I have returned to it. I do have a coach helping me to make sure I have guidance. He knows what I did to myself. I understand I need rest and recovery – as a matter of fact, I was feeling tired and took my text book, lay down, and actually ended up sleeping for 2 hours. I feel like that is the right thing to do – sort of like “sleep when a baby sleeps” advice when a woman just has a baby. Anyway, are there any special dietary measures and/or supplements that would be beneficial in my recovery?
Ben answers: Now for those of you in the audience who may not understand, when you exercise too much – I know some people would love to have that problem, when you exercise too much your body can actually get chronically elevated levels of something called cortisol, your stress release hormone. It’s what’s called a catabolic hormone, breaks down muscle mass, breaks down muscle fiber, lean tissue, it can eat into your organs. We’re talking about people who are exercising 3,4 hours a day. People who have exercise… people who have what’s called exercise anorexia or body dysmorphic disorder where all they’re doing is exercising. You can eventually, from these chronically elevated levels of cortisol and some other stress release hormones become overtrained. The body shuts down, your resting heart rate goes through the roof. You feel incredibly tired all the time. You go into 0 motivation to exercise mode, insomnia, all sorts of problems. Muscle soreness, lack of ability to recover and it sounds like this is something that happened to Mindy and she knows this is something that happened to her. It sounds like she has a coach and a physician working with her on it. But when it comes to actually repairing and recovery after doing something like that to your body, you’re on the right track Mindy. The body needs sleep. That’s why athletes who are getting 5,6 hours of sleep a night are not really in a position to be able to perform adequately and people who are trying to lose fat who are only getting 5,6 hours of sleep a night are actually building up in their bodies more of the fat storage hormone, more of the cortisol. And so sleep is one of the best ways to put a band aid on overtraining and also to enhance your ability to see progress from your exercise. Now in terms of supplements that you could take, things you could do or put into your body to help, I would reference you to a blog post that I made a couple of months ago, and I’ll put a link to it after your question in the Shownotes, but it’s called 18 ways to help your body heal faster and bounce back like Wolverine from X-Men. I just had to add that Wolverine part just to kind of make it interesting. But essentially there are all sorts of supplements out there, things that you can find in food but that you can also get in concentrated supplement form that can help your body repair and recover. You take something like glucosamine chondroitin. It assists in the formation of synovial fluid which is the lubricating fluid around your joints and if you have a lot of arthritic symptoms from training too much, that can help you recover. Believe it or not, vitamin C is not just an immune system booster. It’s also a potent antioxidant that can help with recovery. You’d be looking at about 1000 mgs per day of that. An apple has about 8 mgs so you kind of get the idea that you would really have to take a high concentrated vitamin C source to really get the full benefit of vitamin C. You could try something like Zip Fizz or Airborne, or you could just take a vitamin C supplement. Zinc is helpful as an anti-inflammatory to help you bounce back, repair and recover. There’s something called isocort which a couple of my clients take who have chronically elevated levels of cortisol. It’s not something that I personally take. It’s something that they were taking when they first came to see me and I’ve kept them on because I’ve looked into it and it is fairly legitimate in terms of what’s in it. But it’s a cortisol stabilizer. It’s called Isocort. The other things that I mentioned in this article, vitamin B3. Tuna is a pretty rich source but again you only get 15 mgs from tuna and you need about 250 mgs in order for it to be really a repair and recovery type of dose. So it’s like 17 tuna fillets. So you can get the idea that you would want to take a supplement probably. Selenium. Huge. A lot of people have a selenium deficiency and you actually can get pretty good amounts of selenium from brazil nuts, fish, mushrooms are pretty high in selenium as well. You can get about 40 to 50 mgs per serving in those or actually micrograms per serving and you only need about 200 micrograms for it to be a repair and recovery dose. Vitamin E. Really powerful antioxidant and believe it or not, sunflower seeds are a pretty high natural source of vitamin E. Multi-vitamin, I personally recommend for people who are coming off of overtraining a super food type of multivitamin with a lot of different anti-inflammatories, antioxidants in it. The one that I take is EnerPrime. That’s the one that I recommend to any of my clients who are coming off really hard training periods and just need to bounce back quickly. Protolytic enzymes. These are enzymes that help you break down protein, assimilate protein faster and use it for repair and recovery. I use a capsule called RecoverEase which has protolytic enzymes in it. Believe it or not, pineapple is also a great source of highly concentrated protolytic enzymes. So if you have for example pineapple with chicken breast, that is a great recovery meal to be working into your routine. That’s a garbage truck in the background. I don’t know if you can hear that thing, driving around. Carnitine. Carnitine is present in a lot of glucosamine chondroitin compounds. So that’s something that can help. Evening primrose oil is kind of like an Omega 3 or an Omega 6 fatty acid, it comes in a lot of those types of capsules. The one I take is called EnerEFA, that’s also a great anti-inflammatory, good for helping your body with repair and recovery. There’s a compound out there that’s called MSM with stands for methyl sulfonyl methane. It is essential for connective tissue repair. That’s something else you can take. DHEA, that’s a testosterone precursor. That can help out a little bit because a lot of times if your cortisol is high – your testosterone to cortisol ratio is low – it can be dangerous to take a synthetic testosterone supplement or even a natural testosterone replacement. You really have to make sure that you’re balanced correctly in order to do that. But DHEA is something that you could take a little more safely. Pollen extract actually really helps with DHEA levels and has kind of a testosterone like healing effect. Vitamin D, kind of along the same lines. Great hormone precursor that you should be on to help you bounce back. And then co-enzyme Q 10 is also really good for helping improve what’s called your mitochondrial density, again enhancing your ability to bounce back. So once you add all that stuff up, it makes a big difference and I know that sounds like a lot of pills, a lot of supplements, a lot of things that you’d have to be popping in order to do that. The way that I would do it – if it were just me and I was using the supplements that I personally know and use myself, I would take RecoverEase, about four of those a day. I’d take EnerEFA and that’s the Omega 3 fatty acid that has the primrose oil in it. I would take EnerPrime and then I would take the pollen extract which is called prostalon and then finally the last and fifth extract I would take would be glucosamine chondroitin extract with a bunch of natural herbal anti-inflammatories called Mt. Capra Capra Flex. So, you can link to all of those in the actual article that I’ll link to in the Shownotes to this podcast. So check that out. That’ll help you out quite a bit. I know it sounds like a lot of stuff you’d be popping, but in terms of bouncing back, yeah that stuff could definitely help you out. So great question, Mindy.
Matt asks: I’ve just discovered your website and podcast and absolutely love it. Very relevant and, more importantly, very inspiring. I’ve just started getting into triathlons. I’ve always played competitive sports and have spent a lot of time bodybuilding. I weigh 220lbs and stand at 6’1 although not quite at the 3% body fat you mentioned you were once at. At the Malibu tri last year I was passed and beaten by a Clydesdale 225 plus pounds who looked like a bodybuilder and his final time was 20 minutes better than mine. I’ve starting to find as I keep the balance of weights and specific tri training, my knees are starting to suffer on the runs. Can I have the best of both worlds or do I have to put the weights aside and lose some mass to be able to continue to enjoy triathlons?
Ben answers: Well Matt, it takes a lot of energy to pull a muscle, it takes a lot of energy to carry muscle. It can put a lot of stress on the joints to have to carry that excess weight around the same as it were fat. Although you are getting a little bit of extra support from the muscle tissue, I can personally tell you having been up at 210 lbs and done a triathlon and suffered the debilitating effects the next day from having to carry all that extra weight around on the course, comparing to the way my body feels after doing a triathlon at 175 – pretty stark difference. So, yeah if you really want to eliminate some of that soreness or even increase some of your speed, you are going to have to lose some muscle. The problem is you have to do it safely and effectively . I don’t recommend that you lose more than 1 lb of muscle mass a week which would actually put you at a 3500 calorie deficit per week which means you have to be at about a 500 calorie deficit per day. So you’ve got about 3500 calories in a pound of muscle. Now you can actually get fit while you’re losing that muscle. So rather than doing what a sedentary person would do or say someone who gets cancer would do to lose muscle and just sit around and let it atrophy, instead what you can do is increase cardiovascular fitness at the same time that you are shedding just a little bit of muscle mass. You want to retain more muscle in your legs than in your arms and upper body as you are going about this process. So what I would recommend that you do is you use your long bike rides as your chance to reduce your muscle mass for a couple of reasons. First, you can do your long bike runs just a little bit more calorie depleted than you can do your runs at and still be able to get some good training in. It’s tough to actually swim for a period of time that you would need to swim in order to be at the type of caloric deficit you’ll need to be at to shed muscle. And running can be really difficult when you’re calorically depleted. So the way you would do this is you would take for example, 3 of your bike rides throughout the week – let’s say you’re doing 3 bike rides and you’re going to minimally fuel those bike rides. So we’re going to say that 2 of the bike rides are going to be an hour. One’s going to be about 2 hours long. And you’re going to be burning anywhere from about 600 to 800 calories per hour during those rides. So you’d be looking at about 3200 calories total on those bike rides plus a slight increase in your post-ride metabolic rate. Now if you fuel each of those bike rides fairly minimally, we’re talking about – probably during the hour bike rides, not fueling at all and during that 2 hour bike ride maybe 1 gel halfway through, you’re well on your way to that 3500 calorie deficit, still gaining cardiovascular fitness, still maintaining some lean muscle mass in your legs as you’re trying to shed a little bit of that muscle. And also doing it with the exercise that’s most conducive to being able to exercise in a calorically depleted state. I can tell you right now that that is the exact technique that I personally used to shed 25 lbs of muscle and get faster in triathlon and experience less soreness afterwards. I did not try to lose weight while I was running. I did not try to lose weight while I was swimming. I did most of my weight loss calorie depleted type of efforts on the bike. And I actually ended up losing a lot more muscle mass in my upper body than my lower body just because the bike, once again, was not really significantly taxing for my upper body musculature. So that’s what I would recommend in terms of losing muscle safely or effectively to get you a little bit lighter for your next race. So great question, Matt.
Chuck asks: Hey Mr. Greenfield (thank you Chuck, I like it when I’m called Mr. Greenfield. Makes me feel old.) I hope all is going well– it seems like every time I read something on endurance training, there is an article by you. I was hoping to get you advice on my training for the next few weeks. This Sunday, the 6th, I am doing the Virginia Beach Rock n’ Roll half marathon. The next Sunday I am racing an International distance triathlon. The week after that I have a sprint triathlon at the beach followed by another international race the week after. Then another international after that. Finally, 2 weeks from then I have the Men’s Health Urbanathlon in Chicago which is a 10-mile adventure race. (Chuck, you must be single.) So the schedule looks like this: Sept 6: half marathon; Sept 13: International tri (for those of you listening, international is basically going to be about the same distance as an Olympic.) Sept 20: Sprint Tri; Sept 27: International Tri; Oct 3: International Tri; Oct 18: 10-mile adventure run. (And that 10 mile adventure run is the men’s health urbanathlon. I’ve actually got a few clients that I’m training for that race.) How do I train in order than I can still compete at my best but recover from each race and not burn out? I’d love your advice, thanks a lot for the all the help you’ve given me. I look forward to hearing from you.
Ben answers: That is a long peak if you’re going to try to peak in your fitness for all those races Chuck. The reason for that is typically when you’re getting ready for a race you’ll usually do about 8 to 12 weeks of fairly intense, fairly focused, fairly difficult training and then you’ll back off that training for about 1 to 2, maybe 3 weeks and that would be right before the race that you start to back off. And while your body repairs and recovers from that hard training, things happen. Your blood volume goes up. Your ability to store glycogen goes up. There’s an increase in something called your citrate synthase activity which actually affects your aerobic muscle capacity. Your red blood cell volume goes up. So all these really cool things happen that allow you to go faster and go harder. The problem is that those effects will typically last about 2 to 3 weeks before they really start to taper off a little bit unless you go back to a little bit more of that harder, higher volume training that you were doing before. So you’ve usually got about a chance to do 2 or 3 races coming off a peak until your body really can’t maintain that peak anymore and it starts to drop off. Sometimes if you’re a pro-triathlete and you’re training 40 hours a week or 35 hours a week, your body has enough volume in it to be able to peak a little bit longer than that. But in your case Chuck, what I would recommend is that you choose a few of these races that you really want to be your highest priority races. The ones that you really want to do very well in, and then you let the others be races that you’d be ok if you didn’t perform at peak capacity for. Now the races that you choose to be your high priority races, during the weeks of those races you would just do very low volume activity but high intense activity. We’re talking about exercising for literally about 40% of your normal training week volume. For the other races, you’re going to be bumping up to about 60 to 80% of your normal training week volume. So still a taper but kind of a half-ass taper if you will where you’re not really decreasing your volume quite as much as you would for a high priority race. So you got your medium priority and your high priority races through that string of races. So what it might look is you taper for a couple of weeks before that big string of races and for the first race, you really back off. You do about 40% volume because you want to do well on the half marathon. You race your half marathon, you go back and you do a week of a little bit bigger training where you don’t recover quite as much from the half marathon and you do about 60 to 80% of volume. You lead up to that international tri, you race it, your legs might be a little bit tired but then you recover from that and you race the sprint triathlon on again at about a 40% volume training week, you bump back up to the international tri, training through that one a little bit and then bump back down to 40%. There’s no rule that you would have to, say, high priority one, medium priority the next and then bounce back and forth like that. You could high priority the first three races and medium priority the next 3 races and high priority the last race. But the whole idea is that you want to adjust your taper for each race as you go through so you’re not doing a really, really low volume taper for each race. And all the taper weeks no matter what volume of taper you’re doing would still be very high in terms of intensity so you maintain as much fitness as you probably can as you go through that long period of racing weeks that are strung together. So it sounds like a pretty long season there. A lot of races, that’s hard to put all that together and do well. But people do it.
Kevin asks: Ben. Pulled the calf muscle apart somehow, probably over training and doing this all year. So went and saw a physical therapist yesterday and they told me to no running for 3 weeks so I’m done for now. Do you have any recommendations to keeping running fitness up when I can’t run? Should I just do water running instead? If so, how long? 15-20 minutes?
Ben answers: So Kevin, I’m going to put a link to this in the Shownotes but I actually wrote a pretty extensive blog post on what you need to do, aqua jogging and water running, how to do it, what kind of form you should have and I also posted some sample workouts on there. A lot of the clients that I work with online, we have to pull out all the stops to maintain fitness during an injury sometimes, and for the runners especially, two of the primary activities that we use or three of the primary activities that we use are water running or aqua jogging, elliptical trainer and bicycling and depending on the injury, sometimes an athlete cannot even ride a bike. But they’re still able to aqua jog pain free. They’re not able to do the elliptical trainer but then can aqua jog pain free. So of those three, the aqua jogging or the water running seems to be the most effective. 15 to 20 minutes, only if you doing really high intensity intervals is that going to be enough to maintain your fitness for something like a half Ironman. And Kevin’s emailed me before. I happen to know he’s training for a half Ironman right now. So you’re looking at probably wanting to do closer to 30 to 40 minute sessions to really keep your running fitness up where it needs to be for a half marathon, if you’re doing the aqua jogging. The aqua jogging things that you need to bear in mind – just a couple of tidbits from the article that I wrote that are probably the most important, you need to keep your cadence really high. You need to swing your arms vigorously so that your heart rate stays up. You need to lean forward so that you’re pushing through the motion using your hamstrings and your glutes which are going to be more the type of muscles that you’re going to use when you’re running outdoors. You’re going to need to do a lot of intervals which means you would sprint 25 meters to one end of the pool and then jog easy back and do something like 10 repeats of those. There are a lot of drills that you can do. High knee drills, heel to butt kicks, straight leg cross country style water running. A lot of different things you can throw at your body in the water. I’ve actually done 90 minute aqua jogging sessions before and I use an underwater mp3 player. I’ve also been known to put my regular mp3 in a zip lock bag to keep it water proof and use that as well. A lot of different ways that you can work out though in the water to keep your fitness up for running. They’ve done studies that have showed runners who have been able to maintain their VO2 max or their maximum aerobic capacity by doing high intensity intervals in the water and for those of you listening who are a little bit confused about how water running actually works – definitely read the blog post, but usually you do this in deep water where you cannot touch bottom. And as far as the elliptical trainer and the bicycle goes, you can use those. Same types of rules apply. Slightly longer 30, 40 minute workouts. Even longer on the bike especially if you’re training for a triathlon, but incorporating a lot of the high intensity intervals if you can do those pain free. Now in your case Kevin, you talk about the fact that it is a calf injury. Water running – if I were coaching you that’s about all you’d be doing in terms of your running type of workout. So I’d have you off the bicycle, off the elliptical trainer and you’d literally be in the water about four to five times a week doing short but highly effective aqua jogging sessions that I write out for you. But you can write out your own intervals and kind of do your intervals the same way as you would outside. The only difference is that with water running, sometimes your intervals are a little bit shorter.
Mark asks: I’m going to take your advice on the processed sugar elimination — but where do you think it could be coming from if this is the issue? Like yogurt or cereal? And what exactly do you mean by processed sugar? Is that different than say brown sugar that I would add to oatmeal? I don’t really eat trail mix so I can count that out–obviously you can tell I’m pretty fat-phobic, but I’m working on it. Would it be a good idea to try and healthily raise my body fat some? Honestly, the low body fat has already caused me to have low testosterone, like you said.
Ben answers: So I think that listener Mark’s question was related to a similar question that I got. He had asked earlier on the show about me telling him that his body fat was too low and he needs to bring his testosterone up. And yes, I absolutely still think that but I want to answer your question on processed sugar and what it is. So, basically of course your classic processed sugar is going to be white sugar. And it’s been refined. And I’ll explain what that means here in a second, but the alternative to that would be an unprocessed sugar. So we’d be talking about agave syrup, honey, even stevia would be kind of an processed sweetener. But refined sugar – processed sugar – references the fact that it’s prepared in a refinery. So, you take the sugar cane or sometimes they’ll start with beets and you will extract the natural sweet liquid that’s inside of it, the carbohydrate that’s inside of it usually through a pressing method. Once that is completed the liquid that’s formed is dried and made into a loose crumble. So you can wash that, you can extract some of the impurities, and unfortunately a lot of the fiber and the nutrients which means that it’s pretty nutrient void. You can pull out the molasses. That’s where molasses comes from when you extract some of the liquid from that dried crumble that you get from processing the sugar. What you’re left with is white sugar. You could add some of the molasses back in and that would be brown sugar, but when you add that molasses back in, you’re not really getting many of the nutrients back in or it’s very minimal. So, an unprocessed sugar or what would also be called a minimally refined sugar is sugar that’s not taken through every step of the refining process. It usually has a little bit more impurities. It’s not quite as fine a crystal, it’s a little bit harder to work with for baking or cooking but it does have more vitamins and more minerals than a refined sugar. Usually it’s made from what’s called the first pressing of the sugar cane. Those would be like the larger type of sugar crystals that you’ll see usually in brown bags at the grocery store versus the smaller white crystals that we’re typically used to seeing in the sugar bowl or in cooking or baking. The fact is that once you take that processed sugar, it’s actually added to a lot of different products and it’s added into water as well to make syrups and high fructose corn syrup is another type of sugar that you could consider a processed form of sugar and yeah it’s in a lot of stuff to answer your question. You asked about yoghurt. Yes, yoghurt can have up to about 4 tablespoons of processed sugar in it. What else did you ask about? I just lost your question here for a second. Let me find it again. You asked about cereal. Absolutely, cereal can have a lot of processed sugar added and you take the processed sugar that’s added to yoghurt, added to cereal plus you add the other things that are in yoghurt and cereal like a lot of the old, overly ripened almost rotten fruits that they’ll put in the bottom of a lot of yoghurt or a lot of the sweeteners that they’ll add to cereal, even a lot of the white high glycemic index grains, things of that nature and yeah, you can get a lot of sugar in your diet. Eliminating the processed sugar, absolutely. That’s something that you can do. The way you would do it is you would turn around the food that you’re eating, the package of the food that you’re eating because it is found in a lot of packaged foods and what you’d be looking for would be for example – sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, sometimes it’ll just be labeled sugar, glucose would be another one that you’d want to look for. Unfortunately something like maltodextrin which is found in a lot of sports supplements would be another one to look for. You want to cross these off and get the things that contain those out of your diet. Now there is still going to be a caloric load. There’s still going to be a glycemic response from the other unprocessed sugars that I mentioned like agave, like honey but technically the products that contain those usually are a little bit higher fiber, usually are a little bit healthier than the products that contain just pure processed sugar or high fructose corn syrup. What it really comes down here to Mark is you almost have to eliminate most of the eating from packaged food, processed food, food that comes in containers and return to more of the type of diet we really talked about a lot in last week’s podcast episode – the paleo diet. We’re talking about eating like a caveman. Lots of nuts, berries, seeds, meats, vegetables, fruits. Things of that nature. So eliminate the packaged foods from your diet and you’ll really be a lot more successful at eliminating the processed sugars.
Brad asks: When I train it’s mostly high intensity type of work. I think because of that, I often feel like my legs are more tired than my lungs or cardiovascular system. So while I feel like I’m in shape enough to keep working out, my legs say “no”. I can do the elliptical or something but some days I just can’t do a run even if feel like I’m in good enough shape to do so. Any advice?
Ben answers: Pretty common problem Brad, especially in people who do high intensity work because when you do high intensity work, you’re going to recruit more muscle fibers. You’re going to recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers. You’re going to do more damage to muscle tissue. You’re going to get more inflammation in the muscle. You’re going to get more calcium leakage. You’re going to basically require that muscle to produce a force that makes little micro tears at the muscle tissue level and all of those things mean that probably your legs are going to take a longer time to recover than your heart or your lungs. There are some things that you can do to make sure that your legs recover more quickly. We talked about it a few times on this show. But let me review those real quickly for you. Ice baths or ice showers or cold… you can’t really have an ice shower… cold shower is something I do quite a bit. You can also combine that with cold, hot showers where you stand in the shower for 2 minutes at cold water temperature and then bump that up to hot and go back and forth 3 to 4 times. You can make sure that you’re eating within 20 minutes after a workout and making sure that you mix a protein and a carb so you’re getting amino acids and glycogen back into the muscle tissue so it repairs and recovers more quickly. Massage therapy is effective whether self-inflicted with a foam roller or with a stick or performed by a massage therapist. Making sure that you cool down adequately so that the milking action of your muscles is literally pumping some of those metabolites like calcium and inflammation back up out of your muscle after a workout. And then essentially making sure that you’re pairing your anaerobic harder higher intensity days with your aerobic lower intensity recovery days in a smart way so you’re not doing two a day hard intervals on the run. Most of the athletes that I coach rarely do subsequent running days at all. Just because running is such a damaging exercise. So for example after your hard running interval day, the workout the next day is an aerobic, non-weight bearing cycling effort. And then after your cycling intervals hill workout, the workout the next day is a long easy swim. So you want to make sure that you’re giving that muscle the opportunity it needs to repair and recover and then understand that recovery does not mean that you sit sedentary doing nothing at all. You want to move. You want to introduce blood flow into the tissue so that you’re actually – you’re giving the muscle a chance to get glucose, to get oxygen, to get nutrients into it for repair and recovery but you’re also giving the muscle a chance to work some of the metabolites from training out of the area for recovery. So that’s what I would do and it all comes down to repair and recovery for the legs when the legs are more sore than the lungs.
Christine asks: I read a study that says the body can absorb magnesium through bathing in Epsom salt. This caught my eye as I’m on a very tight budget and this seems to be an economical way of getting magnesium into my system. What are your thoughts?
Ben answers: Well magnesium is going to be present in Epsom salts. Magnesium sulfate is the type of magnesium or the form of magnesium that you’re going to find in Epsom salts and you can easily get, as you say, pretty inexpensively Epsom salts just in about any drug store or supermarket and you can put a couple of cups of those in a bathtub full of hot water, actually not too hot a water because that can impair absorption but about a 100 to 103 degrees of water and that can get absorbed into your muscles through your skin and actually introduce minerals into your muscles that they need for repair, for recovery, for stopping some of the things like calcium leakage that I talked about earlier. The issue with the magnesium sulfate versus say like the pure magnesium chloride that I’ve talked about before, like the magnesium flakes, is that they aren’t absorbed as completely. They’re not quite as pure. And it’s essentially just a slightly subpar form of magnesium. It would be like, say, eating a steak to get your amino acids versus having a handful of nuts to get your amino acids. You’re just not getting quite as high a quality a protein from the nuts versus the steak. But as far as a budget alternative to magnesium chloride, yes magnesium sulfate would actually help you with repair and recovery. It would still reduce some of your post exercise soreness. You would still get some benefit from it. So, absolutely. If you’re on a tight budget, Epsom salts would be a good economical way of getting magnesium into your system. So, what I do is I take the magnesium flakes – the pure magnesium chloride magnesium flakes – and if I want those to last longer, I mix them in a 1:1 ratio with regular Epsom salts that I get from the supermarket or the grocery store.
Tommy asks: Do detox products really work? How does the body get rid of toxins? What are toxins? From my understanding the liver and kidneys do just fine with healthy individuals. Thanks Ben.
Ben answers: So, Tommy. Basically detox which stands for detoxification and that’s your body’s natural process that it does on its own, you don’t have to do a detox diet. Your body’s naturally always going through the process of neutralizing toxins that are in your body or eliminating toxins that are in your body. We’re talking about toxins, we’re talking about anything that could potentially harm your body’s tissue. So most of the time they’re transformed to less harmful compounds by your liver, by your kidney and excreted in your stool or in your urine but these would be things like ammonia that’s produced when your body breaks down the proteins that you’re eating. Chemicals that you might be absorbing from pesticides on fruits that you eat from household cleaners, from food additives or preservatives, pharmaceuticals that you might take, pollution in the air around you that we’ll talk about later. Second hand cigarette smoke or even heavy metals like lead that you can literally get just from swimming in an ocean or a lake. So you have all these toxins coming into your body all the time and yeah you do have natural means of filtering those. However, if you have been exposed to a high number of toxins, the idea is that you could accelerate your body’s ability to get rid of those or you could put your body into a more healthy state by not only eliminating the presence of a lot of those toxins by cleaning up your lifestyle and your diet but also by giving your body things that will help you to remove the toxins more quickly, whether it be from your gut, your fat cells, from your skin, etc. and that’s what a detox diet would be. So you minimize the amount of chemicals that you ingest, you emphasize foods that provide a lot of the vitamins, nutrients, antioxidants that your body needs to detox and then you also add things like high fiber foods or water that actually increase the frequency of your bowel movements or the degree to which you urinate so you get rid of the toxins even more quickly. The whole rationale behind doing that is that there’s this term called cumulative load or body burden that basically refers to the fact that your body can take on so many toxins before it gets to the point where it gets to break down which leads to illness, hormonal imbalance, depressed immune function, nutritional deficiencies, inefficient metabolism and so you get things like indigestion, bad breath, chronic fatigue, your skin starts to get real dry or you just get poor skin, muscle pain, increased soreness and so then you say ok, I’m going to go on a detox diet and a lot of times you will pair eating organic fruits and vegetables with high amounts of water and usually some type of herbal compound if you’re going to do a traditional detox diet that just flushes out your body. Now what I personally do myself is I utilize an ongoing detox diet that just naturally ensures that I’m not getting a lot of toxins in my body but I’m also putting things into my body that help it to flush toxins while not making me have to rush off and use the restroom every 20 to 30 minutes. I call it basically a gentle cleanse or a gentle detox. And the way that I personally do this is I take a potent antiseptic or antifungal. It’s an oil of oregano, put about four to five drops under my tongue before I go to bed at night or mix it into a glass of about 6 to 8 oz of water and drink that and that essentially cleans out a lot of the bad bacteria in my mouth and in my gut. And then I referenced this earlier but I take what’s called a green food multivitamin or super food multivitamin that has some high fiber extracts in it like inulin or Jerusalem artichoke extract. It’s got garlic, it’s got, it’s got things that are going to detox my body but they’re not going to do it in a way that leaves me feeling drained or leaves me feeling like all the energy has been sucked out of me or that I have to use the bathroom all the time. And I literally do that every single day. I take the EnerPrime everyday and I take the oil of oregano almost every day. So yes you can put your body in a state where there’s less toxins, less chemicals going into it and you can also detox without doing a traditional full on detox diet. So great question Tommy. And kind of along the same lines, I did get a question from listener Tammy. It’s kind of funny. Tommy asked about detox and Tammy also asked a question.
Tammy asks: Ben, I have a suggestion for your podcast. I am very interesting in the benefits of juicing fruits and veggies versus just eating them. I know that by juicing you lose the fiber because you don’t get the pulp, but is there anything else? Is juicing better for you or not?
Ben answers: So, the idea behind juicing is that fruits and vegetables, they’re very rich sources of a lot of powerful chemicals that help you promote health, that help prevent chronic disease, that give you a lot of the nutrients and the vitamins and minerals that you need and generally fresh fruit and vegetable juices are going to be a little bit easier to digest than eating the whole fruit or the whole vegetable. And sometimes it does taste a little better to have a freshly squeezed glass of fruit or vegetable juice more than a plate of spinach or broccoli. And the only issue that I have with juicing is that you do have to be careful with the number of calories that you can easily get from an 8 or a 12 oz glass of juice. Whereas the number of fruit and the fiber in the fruit that you take in from eating that amount of solid food would leave you full and satiated. Juicing a food can allow you to literally take in 300, 400, 500 calories and not feel full at all. And so you have to be really careful that you know exactly how much fruit in particular – vegetables are not that big of a problem – but how much fruit in particular that you’re taking in when you are juicing your foods and you don’t take in anymore than you would normally take in if you hadn’t juiced that product. As far as vegetables go, there are benefits to soluble fiber. There are benefits to insoluble fiber, both in terms of weight loss and in terms of keeping food moving through your intestinal tract and you are going to miss out on some of that when you juice vegetables. The flip side is you are going to get very concentrated sources of nutrients and vitamins and minerals when you do juice your vegetables. So what I recommend is if you’re going to use juicing, don’t do it too frequently especially with the fruits and used your fruit based juices primarily as a pre-workout or pre-activity type of nutrition. As far as the vegetables go, yeah juice your vegetables if you want to, but also make sure that you’re taking in other fiber laden foods throughout the day and that your vegetable juice that you drink, for example, in the morning is not your only serving of vegetables that you’re consuming in a day. And then our last question comes from listener Mohammed.
Mohammed asks: I’m an amateur triathlete living in Cairo, Egypt. If you’ve ever been here before or heard of it you’ll know that it’s ridiculously polluted. It seemed like walking in the streets before didn’t give me a problem, but now just standing in a place of congestion I find that the pollution really affects me. I have to keep several tissues over my mouth or at least my hand otherwise I get into a coughing fit. I spent several months in France in the summer and had no trouble with the “regular” amount of congestion and pollution that exists there. So it’s not asthma or anything like that. I’m concerned that this kind of exposure would really affect my lungs and my performance. Keeping in mind that a lot of the cars aren’t well maintained and a lot of carbon monoxide is released as well as unburned fuel and other exhaust materials, do you think it necessary to fully preserve my lungs to consistently wear products like Respro? Any other tips on how to handle living in a place like this?
Ben answers: When he references Respro – Respro, you can check it out Respro.com, they’re like urban survival equipment. They sell things like masks that you can use for exercising in polluted environments and of course this was a big controversy in the Olympics recently when some of the Olympians – I think it was the men’s bicycle team for the US that came off the plane and they were all wearing masks to protect themselves and their lungs from the pollution. So, yes. Your concerns are well founded Mohammed, a lot of athletes and exercise enthusiasts who live in densely populated urban areas are going to be always confronted with the air pollution that you’re going to get from traffic, you’re going to get from injury and a lot of times the pollutants reach concentrations that can impede your physical performance. You’re going to get everything from carbon monoxide to sulfur oxide, aerosol, soot, dust, smoke and these are of course going to be enhanced if you’re running or jogging or exercising in smoggy conditions. I personally remember going for a run in Bangkok last year, getting back to my hotel and literally being sick the rest of the day from the number of chemicals that I breathed in during that run and yeah it would have been safer and healthier for me to stay on a treadmill and run indoors or to not exercise at all. Carbon monoxide in particular which you’re going to get from emissions from vehicles… what that does is it actually is able to bind to your body’s hemoglobin about 200 times more significantly than oxygen can. It literally kicks oxygen off of the hemoglobin and the red blood cell and makes it so you cannot transport oxygen to the tissue. You’re instead transporting carbon monoxide. That’s why it’s very easy to kill yourself with carbon monoxide just because it kicks oxygen off that red blood cell and essentially suffocates you in your blood stream. Nitrogen oxide has an extremely dangerous effect, when that gets to a certain level in your bloodstream, it can be toxic. Not only that but it also irritates your respiratory tract, it can cause your airways to kind of close down a little bit, do what’s called a broncho constriction. Ozone is another thing you’re going to run into and that’s been associated with eye irritation, with respiratory discomfort, with nausea and then of course all the aerosols and all the other toxins and pollutants that you put into your body are potential carcinogens as well. So yes, your concerns are founded as you probably know. A few of the things you could do. Avoid exercising during rush hours which is when the carbon monoxide levels are going to peak so 7 to 8 o’clock in the morning, 5, 6 o’clock in the evening. I know in a big city, even that doesn’t make much of a difference but it’s something to consider. You can avoid high cigarette smoking areas prior to exercise and during exercise. Plan your route so you’re not running through an area with a lot of restaurants, a lot of bars. Avoid exercising when it’s humid or when it’s hot. Both of which are going to concentrate and magnify the effect of those pollutants. Make sure that you when you do exercise, you’re staying away from the streets and you’re running along parks, along rivers when you can. What it comes down to is that ultimately if you want to maintain your fitness, you may have to avoid exercising outdoors in the environment that you’re living in in Cairo and shift more to the type of winter training that we do up here in the northwest where we’re doing a lot of indoor training rides or doing a lot of treadmill runs, a lot of indoor pool swims. You may need to install in your home what’s called a hepafilter which can actually be very effective in getting rid of a lot of the pollutants that are going to be floating around your home. I talked about the oil of oregano earlier. I put a few drops of that in a spray bottle and I literally spray it in the air around my home. That’s a potent antiseptic. It’s a potent antifungal that helps to clean up your homes environment a little bit. It is dangerous to exercise in a polluted area like the one you described and you would probably get more benefit from your training and you would probably be exposing your body to a lot less damaging situations if you shifted more of your training indoors. As far as wearing a mask that actually filters the air that you’re breathing, I don’t have a lot of experience utilizing one of those. I would imagine that it’s going to be a little bit awkward when you train, but when people come into my lab for testing they are wearing a mask when they’re running on the treadmill and they’re able to exercise with one on and it could be if you change the filter on that mask frequently and you use it when you’re exercising in the polluted environments that it could make a difference. So, that Respro mask, again not something I’ve seen used a lot but it could benefit you and if it were me and I were living where you’re living, it’s definitely something I would give strong consideration to. So great question Mohammed, and that actually wraps up the questions for this week. I know that you as the listener may have some other things you want to throw in, some comments, some thoughts of your own, some other healthful tips, tricks, hints for people. And if you do, just go to the Shownotes for podcast episode number 59 and post them right there as a comment in the episode Shownotes. You can also ask follow up questions there or you can email me [email protected]. So that about wraps up our show from Cape May – the Cape May Q and A and next week we’ll return to our traditional interview format with those really interesting interviews on heart CT scans, on organic agricultural practices and that is going to be – I would typically release a podcast on Wednesdays or Thursdays so that’s about when you’ll be able to check those out. remember to look into the triathlon training camp link that I have there on the Shownotes as well as checking out the video on modern medicine by Dr. Carolyn Dean. So until next time, this is Ben Greenfield 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