[Transcript] – The Top 5 Reasons Athletes Get Fat, And What You Can Do About It.

Affiliate Disclosure


Podcast from: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/podcast/fat-loss-podcasts/top-5-reasons-athletes-get-fat-can/

[00:00] Introduction

[03:28] Carb Intake At Night

[07:37] Probiotics

[11:38] Pre-Workout Fuel

[18:47] Nutrient Dense Foods

[23:29] Following a HealthyDiet but Eating A Lot

[26:39] Question and Answer Segment/Alternatives to Pasta Cravings

[28:47] Eating and the Frequency

[32:24] Dealing with Plateaus

[38:30] Drinking Milk

[41:10] Fat Adaptation

[48:04] End of Podcast

Ben:  Today, we're going to talk about weight management, and specifically weight management and fat loss for triathletes, 'cause we got to haul our asses around a lot of places, and in some cases, the smaller those asses are, the better.  Or waistlines, or hips, or bellies, or whatever else.  I come from a background where I had raced at 210 pounds before and, for me, it was more muscle than fat, but I still experienced a great deal of discomfort carrying and cooling that amount of body mass over a distance. And so fat loss and weight loss is not only a really good consideration when it comes to your comfort and your speed during the race, but also, I know a lot of us are in this sport frankly 'cause we want to look good, we want to look sexy, we want to have good aesthetics, and we want to get rid of our waistline, and all that good stuff.  And unfortunately, I've seen many times, this sport come back to bite people in the butt.  They do it because they think it's going to help them lose weight, and sometimes the opposite ends up happening.  You end up putting fat in new places, or not losing weight, or kind of starting the sport, and then stopping it, and then ballooning and getting even bigger, which actually happens to a lot of folks, people.

We see people who have started into endurance sports, and then stop, they just balloon because their metabolisms are damaged, and their insulin sensitivity has tossed out the window, and their thyroid is gone.  So, there are definitely some considerations for us when it comes to weight loss.  So, kind of similar to the nutrition and recovery round table that we had the other day, what I want to do is give you guys a few ideas, a few of my thoughts when it comes to weight loss, and fat loss, and some of the things that really pertain to triathletes and endurance athletes specifically, and then kind of open it up your Q&A and your burning questions about weight loss, or weight gain, or whatever your goals are.

So, I'm going to cover five things.  There's only so many things you can talk about because there's, I think I've got one article and it's like “24 Different Reasons That People Don't Lose Weight”.  And so, there's obviously lots of little things that we can delve into, but I want to dig into the biggest things that I tend to see as an issue.  I want to throw one caveat out there, because I know that some of you might call me out on this.  At the time that I'm doing this recording, I'm trying to gain 30 pounds. So, you may see me actually not following some of the rules that I'm actually presenting to you when it comes to weight loss.  I know that some of you do not have weight gain aspirations right now, but for me, I'm in a phase of my life where I am eating like a freaking horse and lifting heavy stuff, and that's kind of where I'm at right now.  Anyways though, let's start into some of the things.

The first thing that I tend to see really be an issue in triathletes and endurance athletes especially are evening starch, sugar, and carbohydrate intake.  There's a program out there called, it's by John Kiefer, it's called “Carb Diet”, I believe is the name of it.  That whole program is based around the idea of working out in the afternoon or evening at a pretty intense, hard rate that leaves you with a relatively elevated metabolism for hours on end after that session, and then really only eating your primary amount of carbohydrates in the evening.  Now, if you are the type of the athlete who's going out around four, five, or six PM, and throwing down your workouts around then, that's a case where a little bit of extra carbohydrate with dinner is okay.  And essentially, robbing Peter to pay Paul, eating low carbohydrate, getting lower levels of starches and sugars up to that point, and then kind of reloading with the primary amount of your carbohydrate intake after that late afternoon/evening workout can work.  But for about 75% of the people that I see, who're getting up in the morning, who're getting their workouts done, over with, having breakfast, and then the evening rolls around, and it just gets way out of hand from rice, to popcorn, to dark chocolate, to wine, to drinks, to just like all this stuff that you're dumping into your body right as you're getting into a window of inactivity where a lot of those carbohydrates are going to be more likely to get shuttled to the liver and converted into fatty acids, and deposited on your waistline, or your butt, or your hips, or wherever you tend to deposit them.

Now, of course, for example, when I was ordering a smoothie last night with me Mikhael, he had a little shot glass with with MPX100 in there to try and to control his blood sugar from carbohydrates he was eating in the evening.  Cinnamon work similarly.  Apple cider vinegar works similarly.  There are little tweaks and hacks that you can use to try and control your blood sugar response with evening eating of carbohydrates.  But ultimately, what it comes down to is that unless you're exercising after about 4 PM, the majority of your intake in the evening should be comprised of meats, fats, avocados, roasted vegetables, things of that nature.  And if your goal is to lose weight, shed fat as quickly as quickly as possible, that's a real, real big win for most folks.  And this also kind of comes down to the concept of periodizing your nutrition.  And all that means, even though, it's a big fancy word that strength coaches like to throw around to look smart, all it means is that you change up your nutrition from day to day.  If you've got a day where you have a morning workout, and in the evening, you're working all day, and heading home, and having dinner with the family, or whatever the case may be, that's a day where you're going to shove more carbohydrates in the morning with breakfast, and then as you're approaching the evening, you're tapering carbohydrates off.  Evening carbohydrate intake thought is one big, big issue I tend to see.

And for me, just with the amount of time I've kind of been in the weight loss industry and the fat loss industry, I can tell you that when I cut evening carbohydrates or tell someone they need to restrict evening carbohydrates, it makes a big difference in most of the folks that I work with.  And remember, my whole gig for years even before I got into triathlon was I was a personal trainer who specialized in making people look good.  And this is advice that I started into way back then.  And I don't want to toot my own horn too much here, but I was the top personal trainer in America in 2008, one of the reasons for that was because I was able to get people results, and one of those strategies that I used was you cut out the carbohydrates in the evening/late afternoon period.  So, the only exception to that rule is when you're throwing down a big workout in the later afternoon or evening.  But other than that, you limit that.  So, that's number one.

Number two is, and after I go through each of these, you guys can return and ask questions about specific topics that I just addressed that you may have further questions about.  Number two is gut imbalances, specifically with gut flora.  And a lot of research recently has shown that folks who have poor gut flora tend to struggle more with overweight or obesity.  Now raise your hand if you introduce a large variety of fermented foods into your diet?  Kefir, kombucha, yogurts, technically chocolate is a fermented food.  All the hands went up.  The key with probiotics is not to just get your hands on some good therapeutic grade probiotic and start popping that.  I always traveling with a probiotic just because fermented foods are hard to come by a lot of times when you're traveling.  In Asia, not so much, but in many other places, that's certainly the case.  But the key with probiotics and building up a healthy gut balance, there's multiple keys, but number one is a wide variety of probiotics.  So, it's okay to do things like switch brands if you're using a probiotic supplement.  It's okay to do things, like if you're using, say, you're buying coconut kefir from the grocery store one week to switch to kombucha another week, or to combine different flavors, get brands from different sources, cycle through different yogurts as long as those yogurts indicate on the back that they have active live cultures in them, or trying to introduce our guts to a lot of different healthy bacteria as we go through our daily diet.  And I try every day to eat at least one fermented item, one type of item that has a probiotic in it.

And it seems dumb, it doesn't seem like that would correlate too much with obesity, but there's all sorts of things that happen when you have a healthy gut flora.  Last night, the anti-aging doc hit on the neurotransmitter imbalances that can result when you have bacterial imbalances in your digestive tract.  And some of those imbalances, such as a dopamine deficiency, or serotonin excess, a lot of those things can lead to appetite cravings and you just not being able to kind of stop when it's time to stop, when you truly are full, and you can trace a lot of that back to gut and bacterial imbalances.  Of course, in addition to the commission of consuming probiotics and fermented foods, there's also the omission aspect of this, really being careful with foods that are going to do damage to the bacteria in your digestive tract.  Some of the things that can really contribute to that would be overgrowth of bad bacteria. Carbohydrates, sugars, and starches consumed in excess are a really good way for them to happen, especially if you have an underlying candida, or yeast, or fungus type of overgrowth in your digestive tract, which is incredibly common.  Tough to diagnose unless you get like a stool test.

For example, in the US, there's one called the GI Effects panel, which is really good.  I guess they do a stool test here, it sounds like.  But looking at what's going on in your digestive tract, I do a stool test once a year, and I've never ever tested and not found a parasite, yeast, fungus, something going on that I had to take care of.  So it's really common.  And when you have something like that going on, it's very easy to feed and for that bacteria to kind of basically overcrowd the good bacteria.   So considering your bacterial imbalances is really, really important.  And there are tonics that you can use.  I think most of you know I'm the fan of, for example, oil of oregano to control like overgrowth of bad bacteria in the digestive tract.  I'm a fan of sometimes using like that Capra Cleanse stuff I've talked about if you've got parasite issues, things of that nature.  But ultimately, there is not a disconnect between the health of your gut, and especially the health of your gut flora and your waistline and obesity, or overweight, or struggling with losing weight.

So, the next thing is pretty workout fueling.  Saturday, we had a big ride and I really wasn't sure what to expect on that ride.  I wasn't sure if it would get really gnarly, what kind of pace we'd be pushing, even though I was told it would be a casual ride, which it didn't turn out to be.  But ultimately, pre-workout fueling is for the most part overemphasized too much.  Most people stuff their faces before they go out for the workout, and the problem with that is you're burning all of that exogenous fuel that you put into your body.  But then when you get back, you're usually still kind of hungry.  Even if you had breakfast before, you're usually hungry when you get back. So, it typically turns into a couple of meals and you burning far fewer calories from your waistline than you would if you had, say, gone out relatively fasted, or perhaps with water and some amino acids, or Mikhael saw me this morning, for our workout this morning, I did amino acids and some adaptogenic herbs, and that was it.  Saved everything else for after the ride.

So, pre-workout fueling, heading to the pool in the morning with your banana, or your sport drink, or heading out on that morning hour, hour and a half long workout, set the clock early so you can get up and eat breakfast.  For the most part, your liver glycogen stores, and your muscle glycogen stores, and pools of amino acids, and everything else like that can fuel that type of workout.  And I see a real issue with people who are trying to lose weight doing their pre-workout fueling, and then within a 20 to 60-minute window after that workout while they're still burping up their pre-workout meal, rushing off to eat their post-workout meal, and it just ends up being this caloric compensatory effect that winds up you never really being at a calorie deficit by the end of the day.  And there's all these arguments out there that maybe a calorie isn't a calorie, and it's really the hormonal effect of food, et cetera.  But ultimately, you get to a point where a freaking calorie is a freaking calorie, and you need to take into account how much you're eating during the day.

Doing morning workouts fasted is a really good way to shed weight off the waistline. And when I am in a phase where I'm trying to burn fat or shed fat fast, I'll often do that for several weeks leading into an event.  And there was an interesting study a couple of years ago that they did in cyclists where they gave them some pretty intense caloric depletion in the few weeks leading up to their event, and it did not have a deleterious effect on their training, doing more fasting, more caloric depletion.  Some people get nervous that they're just going to waste away and lose performance.  And certainly, if you're really cutting calories to a really large extent, it could happen.  But ultimately, thinking about shoveling as much fuel as possible into your body for the last few weeks leading into the race is going to not be as effective as going out and doing pre-workout, or going out and doing your workouts in a fasted state.  So, pre-workout fueling, blown out of proportion.  Nine times out of 10, you don't need it.

Female Audience 1:  Even if you're going out for a three-hour hard ride?

Ben:  Not really, no.  You can take amino acids, you can take water, you can take electrolytes.  I mean, I'm just saying.  From personal experience, when I was doing the ketogenic thing, I could easily go out and do something like that.  And if your goal is weight loss, then sometimes you do need to send your body a signal that it's got to tap into its own energy stores.  Now what happens after several consecutive weeks of caloric depletion with no refeeding and being hungry all the time, you can get some metabolic down regulation.  There's a law of diminishing returns where you're actually going to get down regulation of thyroid production from constant caloric depletion.  So it's not like you would go smash it every day on an empty stomach, but putting in a few of those sessions where you just learn to pushed hungry, that's okay. It's not going to kill you, no matter what Gatorade tells you.  So, it's okay to do that. It just wouldn't be like every workout, for example, that you'd want to do that.

Female Audience 1: [0:15:53] ______.

Ben:  Yeah, yeah.  Exactly.

Female Audience 1:  [0:15:58] ______ day in, day out.

Ben:  Yeah.  Exactly.  I mean, you're training like an animal and you're a pro triathlete.  And for you, some of things that I'm saying, like a pro athlete training multiple times a day, for example, with this whole eat within 20 to 60 after the workout to properly replenish your amino acids and your storage glycogen, if you eat to appetite within eight hours, your body restores all of its glycogen levels and you're able to restore your energy levels just fine.  So unless you have another workout scheduled within eight hours, that post-workout meal is not as crucial as a lot of people would have you to believe.  Now in the case of a professional triathlete, they might be working out again in two hours, and then again in four hours.  And so for that person, pre-workout fueling, post-workout snack, pre-workout fueling, post-workout snack, a situation like that, that becomes a little bit more of a consideration. But then again, for most pro athletes, we're talking about weight loss goals that are really not as intense or as large as most age groupers who might be needing to lose 30, 40, 50 pounds.  For a lot of pro triathletes, it's, “Yeah, I got to shed two pounds of fat before race day,” and that's just a whole different ball game.  It's doesn't take was much.  So, the next thing, number four would be nutrient density.

Female Audience 1:  [0:17:27] ______ because people might be interested.  Delaying feeding post-workout for people that want to lose muscle mass.  ‘Cause I often get asked that question because people are like, “I'm not built like a triathlete,” because they've got too much muscle.  So if you delay feeding, that way you do get protein [0:17:43] ______.

Ben:  You can put yourself into a catabolic state if you actually want to shed muscle.  That was one of my strategies when I went from being a bodybuilder to a triathlete was I would do long rides in a fasted state without giving my body much fuel, I would wait for a really long time after working out, and I was catabolizing muscle.  It's not necessarily healthy.  This all comes down to that tradeoff between health and performance.  For me, I wanted to be a really good Ironman triathlete, and I knew I had to lose weight and I knew I had too much muscle.  So I just had to do that.  I sacrificed strength, I sacrificed power, I sacrificed my hormones a little bit.  But ultimately, yeah, you put your body into a catabolic state.  I could have maintained a lot of that muscle mass and then just lost primarily fat if I had something similar, but then dosed with branched chain amino acids, or whole amino acids, or the type of things that if you have high levels of circulating in your blood, you're not going to dip into your body's own skeletal tissue as much or cannibalize yourself.

Nutrient density.  Foods that are void of really, really dense nutrients tend to just leave you needing to eat more and more.  For example, breakfast downstairs, man, when I'm here, I got to keep eating, eating, and eating at breakfast because, let's face it, compared to the kale, cacao nib, coconut milk, Brazil nuts, what else do I freaking have in there, chlorella, spirulina, compared to that type of shake that I have at home, I dump that shake, whatever, 12, 16 ounces into a cup, take that thing down, I'm good.  I'm full for hours.  I eat breakfast down here where it's like some fruits, and some congee, and noodles, that's not nutrient dense food.  And you guys may have noticed this too, like you're just hungry a lot more after you take in those kind of foods.  So darkly colored, nutrient dense foods.  When we're talking about dinners, more along the lines of things like wild caught fish, and organ meats, and roasted vegetables, and grass-fed steak, and even if you're vegetarian, soaked and sprouted quinoas, and chia seeds, and flax seeds, and a lot of these foods that are high in amino acids, and fatty acids, and vitamins, and minerals.  That's the type of stuff that keeps you full and leaves you really able to feel like you can just push yourself away from the table, and you're good to go, and you need again for four, five, six hours.  By the time we finish our strength session today, I guarantee I'm going to be hungry again.  Because for breakfast, I had freaking congee, and steamed carrots, and some yogurt, and some dried fruit.  That stuff doesn't really pack a big nutrient punch compared to just like the-everything-in-the-kitchen-sink smoothie I make at home.

So, that's really important to think, when you look at your plate, if it's got more cardboard-y, white, thin, flakyness on it, in most cases, that's really what you're looking at in terms of nutrient density.  And you can certainly biohack your way into this.  You could, for example, eat a meal like that.  And then if you have chlorella or spirulina powder, and I love chlorella.  I talked about this the other day during our recovery and our nutrition session, it's like one of the most complete foods on the face of the planet.  I mean it almost ranks higher, for me, than like a cut of grass-fed steak cooked in butter in terms of everything that it has in it.  And so I have, back in my room, I've got these little chlorella bits, like the kind that you can just dump and eat.  I'll use those a lot when I'm traveling.  There's something you could, for example, eat on an airplane that can just be a meal, like half a cup of those.  But having some of that stuff around can certainly help a little bit.  But ultimately, when it comes down to just your day to day nutrition choices, if you're trying not to engage in mindless eating and you're wanting to get away from a lot of calorie cravings, and appetite cravings, and stuff like that, man, get nutrient dense foods.

One of my favorite websites for looking at the nutrient density of foods and kind of learning more about foods and why they're good is whfoods.com, whfoods.com.  The other thing, and I know that a lot of people are aware that I have this superhuman food pyramid on my website, and that's a downloadable PDF.  It's free.  And at first glance, it just looks like a pyramid.  But if you zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom in on the PDF, you see all these lists of food underneath each row, and one of the main categorizations used to choose whether a food falls into the Eat, Moderate, or Avoid category is the nutrient density of that food.  There are some other considerations that I have in there, like it's potential to be an autoimmune trigger and aggravate your gut, that kind of thing.  But that's really built on nutrient density.  And I also have almost, for almost every single food listed on that pyramid, I have a full article written on each food, how to prepare it, its benefits, everything over at superhumancoach.com.  I want to eventually take all those articles, just turn 'em into a book and put 'em out with the pyramid, but a lot of people don't know that I have literally a hundred different articles on almost every food on that pyramid over at superhumancoach.com.

So, if you see something on that pyramid and you're like, “Well, freak, I don't know much about natto, where to get it, what's in it, how to cook it,” you could go to superhumancoach.com and just do a search for natto and read my article over there on that, and it'll tell you everything you need to know about how to use that.  So, that'd be a really good resource for you if you want to kind of self-educate yourself on nutrient density.  And don't have anything better to do with your time than to surf to another one of my websites.

The other thing, the last thing I wanted to get into, and this is something I kind of touched on with what I just said as far as calorie's a calorie, but it's this whole healthy calorie paradox.  Now there are a lot of people out there who are making a shift into healthy diets, Paleo diets, primal diets, vegan diets that are a little bit more of kind of like maybe the healthy vegan diets, like a Rich Roll-esque diet where you're doing lots of smoothies, and juices, and seeds, and nuts.  Gosh, what else?  I mean there's so many different diets out there.  A lot of the ones that I see that are kind of like in the paleo community and stuff, 'cause I get a lot of followers in that community.  And I go to these conferences, like I go to the Paleo f(x), and the Ancestral Health Conference, and all these things, and a lot of people there are and I'm just going to use this term, I know it's not super PC, but they're fat.  They're fat.  And the reason is that they're eating really good food, like they're eating nutrient dense foods like bacon, and organ meats, and kale salads, and fermented food, but they're eating crap loads of those foods.  And that's the issue.

Like in the paleo community, for example, there's like this almost like, “I'm going to shove this plate of bacon in your face,” to the vegan community or whatever, and, “Hahaha,” and eat it, but that's like 4,000 calories worth of bacon.  There's this kind of trend in the health, and the fitness, and the nutrition community to take a healthy diet and then still not really ever engage in caloric restriction, or in learning how to be hungry, or in learning how to hold back, or in learning how to push yourself away from the table when you're 80% full.  So, I really want to give that caveat to a lot of you as well is when you make a shift into a nutrient dense diet, when you make a shift into eating one of these diets that's really healthy for you, you still have to get to the point where you look at your plate and you're like, “Wow, that's just too damn much food.  I shouldn't be eating that much food.”  That's one kind of pet peeve of mine is I see these people, I know they're building up high amounts of visceral fat, high amounts of fat on the outside of the arterial wall and then all the places that make you more prone to a heart attack or more prone to insulin resistance.  And if you look at their diet, when I get diet logs and I look over the diet, it's like really healthy food, but it's just too many calories.  And it sounds simple and stupid, but no matter how healthy your diet is, no matter how cool of a switch you make into the best diet ever, you still have to be aware that you can't just walk around, eating plates of bacon, and then expect the fat to magically disappear from your waistline.  So that whole kind of healthy calorie paradox is something I see quite a bit as well.

So, you guys, those are the five main things.  Evening carbohydrate intake, poor gut imbalance or poor gut flora, pre-workout fueling, and sometimes overemphasizing it too much, low nutrient density, and then switching to a healthy diet and then just thinking you can eat as many calories as you want 'cause all of a sudden you're on a healthy diet.  So, now that I've fed you through the firehose a little bit, let's take some questions.

Male Audience 1:  I've probably eaten pasta or too much fats in the evening.  I've tried it in morning and at lunch time, so I haven't been eating [0:26:47] ______.  What was the supp you mentioned before [0:26:51] ______?

Ben:  Okay.  So I'm going to repeat some of these questions just 'cause I'm recording, but some alternatives to, or some things you can consume in the evening when you're craving pasta, which shouldn't really be in your vocabulary anyways, unless it's quinoa pasta or rice pasta, really.  The longer time I spend researching carbs in the health industry, the more I'm convinced that gluten is pretty much just crap.  When I'm talking about pasta, rice noodles, stuff like that is what I'm talking about.  But things you can use.  Cinnamon.  I'll use that more often earlier in the day, 'cause it doesn't go well with most dinner foods, unless we're talking sweet potatoes. Cinnamon goes pretty well on something like that.  Apple cider vinegar, bitter melon extract, all of those can help quite a bit with the response to that food if you do eat it.

Now as far as kind of controlling a craving for a food like that, it all comes down to the source of your cravings.  That gut imbalance issue that I brought up, that can be issue.  Like starting out to a good probiotic regimen can help with cravings. Neurotransmitters can also be an issue.  And a lot of times, neurotransmitters are related to, as you learned last night, things like amino acid deficits.  Consuming higher amounts of fat with a meal can really help keep you from eating more of the pasta part of the meal.  There's a book called “The Super Health Diet”.  I don't agree with everything in the book, but one thing I learned in that book that I think really helps is to get about 10 to 20 grams, which is a lot, but of an essential amino acids supplement in about an hour before you eat.  So, you can use that Master Amino Pattern stuff as a hack, and literally just take a bunch of capsules of that before you go eat, and it really helps with cravings.  Kind of helps to shut down the appetite when you eat.  So, that's another option is to do something like that.  Other questions?

Female Audience 2:  That whole paleo that you mentioned just quickly, people get obsessed with it, but they don't realize that in those days, they used to eat one meal a day, and then someone's not going to eat for two days 'cause they've they just lost the availability.  And now everyone's going out and eating 10,000 calories for two days.  With the fat, and the organ meat stuff.

Ben:  Yeah.  That whole deal with going long periods of time between eating, there are zero research that indicates that eating anything more than three meals a day is going to elevate your metabolism.  Now you do actually get a little bit of a higher metabolism, a greater thermic effect of food is what it's called, if you're eating a couple of times a day versus once a day.  Or like breakfast skippers tend to have a lower thermic of food than people who eat breakfast, and maybe also eat some lunch and some dinner.  But once you get into the in-between meal snacks and all that stuff, I used to tell people this all the time back when I was a young personal trainer was like, “Eat your six to 10 small meals a day, Ms. Jones, and that's going to keep your metabolism up during the day.”  It's like I'd use the analogy, “Your metabolism is like this fire and you have to constantly keep it stoked by putting food on it.”  That's really not the case.  All it does is it teaches your body how to burn that fast burning kindling that you're throwing on the fire, right?

Usually sugars, and snacks, and things like that.  You throw a slow-burning log on the fire in the morning, you have some fats with breakfast and another slow-burning log on there during lunch with some more fats, and then finish it off with dinner, and then let the fire kind of burn down with dinner, and don't eat a lot before bed.  That's kind of a better way to do things.  People talk about the sumo wrestler diet and how you get fat if you don't eat a lot and then you eat a lot of the end of the day or something like that, that's more macronutrient composition.  I guarantee if you do you avoid eating all day and your diet is not indeed a deer that you hunted down and killed, but instead an entire vat of white rice, that's kind of more of the sumo wrestler diet.  So it kind of comes out into macronutrients a little bit too.

Male Audience 2:  What would be a good fasting [0:30:56] ______?  What's a good fasting to do?

Ben:  I'm not a huge fan of doing 24-hour anything more than about once a month.  I like some of the mental benefits that come along with 24-hours, where you just have one day, like lunch on Saturday to lunch on Sunday, where you drink green tea, maybe you take some amino acids, a cup of coffee, stuff like that, but it's mostly just a 24-hour fast.  Has a really good hormetic effect in terms of clearing out some cellular junk, and cellular debris, and that kind of thing.  Mentally, especially in triathlon, most people can't handle a weekly 24-hour fast just because we're training, it ruins our training the next day, or we're hungry all day we're doing the fast 'cause we trained the day before, that kind of thing.  So, that's tough.  I personally, almost every single day, do a 12 to 16 hour fast though.

Male Audience 2:  When you're training or when you want to lose weight?

Ben:  Just every day.  Period.

Male Audience 2:  You do a fast?

Ben:  Yeah.  Even if I'm trying to gain weight, I'll do a 12 to 16-hour fast and just eat more in the window that I actually am eating, in that eight to 12-hour eating window.  But over night fasting and doing that intermittent fasting deal, it certainly has a lot of benefits.  If not from a performance standpoint, just from like a health and longevity standpoint.  Makes your cells hardier.  Other questions.

Male Audience 3:  I reduced my weight quite a lot.  And it seems now it's totally stuck, steady.  No matter what I do.  My food is, I eat the same every day, except for dinner because I like kind of having steak.  So for breakfast, I eat a protein parfait. And then I eat a tuna salad, no dressing, for lunch, [0:32:44] ______.  And for dinner, I eat either the grass-fed steak with vegetables, or salmon, poached, or club salad, chicken.

Ben:  So, you're eating a healthy diet, and you're exercising, and weight loss has just plateaued.  Now in the case of someone who's training, someone who's doing triathlon, usually we can trace that back to some kind of a hormonal issue.  Usually, it's because of thyroid downregulation or a pregnenolone steal, meaning that you're getting more of your hormones shifted towards cortisol rather than towards more of the metabolic elevating hormones like testosterone and growth hormone.  It's just kind of the nature of the beast and it's one of those deals where you get to a certain point where you get to your weight that you're going to be at, you race, and then you try and reset your body and give your hormones a chance to recover so that you can continue to lose weight.  You have it go through a juice cleanse, or a detox, or a period of time where you're doing lots of yoga, and taichi, and mobility work, and not doing a lot of swimming, and biking, and running, and you just give the hormones a chance to reset.  That's one of the things that can really help.  You can also throw hormetic stressors onto your body, like doing more cold thermogenesis, doing longer cold swims, things of that nature.  So you do cold thermogenesis every day?

Male Audience 3:  Every morning.

Ben:  Now you do a cold shower?

Male Audience 3:  Yes.  I do it like the 10/20 routine for five minutes six days a week, and then I go a full dip for 20 in my bathtub.

Ben:  Full cold water immersion?

Male Audience 3:  Every Sunday.

Ben:  Yup.  The other thing, and I'm saying this to you specifically because I know you have a hectic kind of travel schedule, things of that nature, and remember that a lot of your fat burning hormones and a lot brown adipose tissue activation, a lot of the things that cause your body to be able to burn fat as a fuel or to generate heat by burning calories occur when you are asleep in the deep sleep phase.  And sometimes some of those phases can get messed up when you're traveling a lot.  So, that can be an issue too.  This tends to be more issue to women than men I find, but hypercortisolism can also cause a little bit of fluid retention and you can just be holding on to water, and a lot of it can be water and not just fat that you're just not shedding.

So, there's a lot of issues when it comes to weight loss plateaus.  But in an ideal scenario, I like to get somebody to whatever event that they're doing, get them through that event, continue to use as many strategies as we can, cold thermogenesis, and restricting evening carbohydrates, and taking supplements.  And then once we get through that event, we hit the reboot button on the adrenal glands, on the thyroid, give the body a chance to recover, detox a little bit, cleanse a little bit, eat fewer calories, do more fasting.  And then once you take a look at the hormones and they're looking good, then you move back into training.  It's always tough once you throw triathlon into the mix though because it's that fine balance between still having your body ready to race, but then also putting it under what really is a stress.  Losing weight is a little bit of a stress.  So it's kind of a tough balance and it makes my job really hard, honestly.  I got to do detective work all the to figure stuff out.

Female Audience 3:  Did you bring your own thermogenesis vest here?

Ben:  I did not bring any of my cold thermogenesis stuff here because it's just tough to travel with the ice packs and everything.  I should've, I totally blanked.  I'm wearing my 110% compression socks right now, or pants, and you can actually take the ice packs that they come with and just empty all the ice out of them, and they travel just fine, but I totally blanked bringing them.  But in a situation like this, like after the race, I'll take these tights and I'll go to the hotel ice maker and just get bags of ice and put them into the sleeves of these.  And I can also, if I wanted to, use that as a weight loss strategy if I were trying to do that.

Female Audience 3:  There's not a lot of weight on you though at the moment.  It's not really fat.  What is it?

Ben:  For me?

Female Audience 3:  Yeah.

Ben:  No.  My body fat is lower right now.

Female Audience 3:  It's all veins.

Ben:  Yeah. ‘Cause I just did Ironman Hawaii.  I got super lean for Ironman Hawaii.  So, I've got a long road to go for my own mass gain protocol.

Male Audience 4:  What if you want to be, or you don't want to be, [0:37:05] ______, but I just want to have a good physique.  [0:37:09] ______?

Ben:  You know, I look like somebody who gets sand kicked in your face in the beach.

Male Audience 4:  [0:37:21] ______ bodybuilding, but just have a six pack there.  [0:37:26] ______ workouts and stuff?

Ben:  No.  I think that for you, no offense, but I don't think it's a deal where, again, it's like a commission type of thing wherein you just take all these magic supplements and [0:37:42] ______.  For you, it's omission.  You gotto quit eating crap at night and you gotto quit throwing around words like pasta.  For you, that's going to be the key.  So, yeah.  It's not complex.  It's not magic.  It comes down to pure food.  Yeah. Looking at you, you've got muscle.  It's just covered up by that layer of fat, and in many cases, that's just from carbohydrate conversion in the fat and the liver, there you have it.  So, yeah.

Let's go with one more question.  That gives us time to go kid it up for the weight room.  One more question.  It has to be the best one.  If it's a last question, it's gotta be a good one, right?  Okay, we'll go with two more since you both have questions. Let's do it.

Female Audience 4:  I love milk and I've been trying to fine sourceable…

Ben:  You love milk?

Female Audience 4:  I do.  I used to drink, the fastest milkshake drinker in the [0:38:39] ______.

Ben:  Yeah.  I used to drink a lot of milk too.

Female Audience 4:  So, I've been kind of down, but last few weeks while I was really trying to finish my paper, I was having three or four [0:38:48] ______ in last four weeks [0:38:50] ______.  The only thing that I've [0:38:53] ______ was my milk.

Ben:  Milk is a great way to make a little baby animal into a big fat animal.  And it does the same thing in adult humans.  It's one of the secret weapons of bodybuilders, and powerlifters, and stuff.  It's like down that glass of milk.  Now it's also the reason that when I go to a fitness show, like IHRSA back in the States or whatever and all the big guys are walking around, they're all red in the face and puffy and everything 'cause they're just freaking inflamed.  Their entire body, and connective tissue, and everything is on fire from milk, and crappy whey protein, and processed foods.  I was in the same boat.  I used to down five ABB bodybuilding shakes per day 'cause I was sponsored by ABB, they sent me all these cans, and it was just like milk with crappy whey protein in it, and preservatives, and artificial flavors, and I'd just drink 'em.

Yeah, milk, it's got really good properties.  It's really good for the digestive tract if it's from a raw dairy source, it's really nice for making yogurts, it's got some good saturated fats in it, it can be food for cell membranes.  It's got some cool properties to it.  But if you're trying to lose weight, you shouldn't be drinking milk and you shouldn't be doing much dairy at all.  Period.  Now I talked about probiotics and everything, but you can get away with four ounces of full fat Greek yogurt from an organic source on a daily basis, and that's supplying you with a ton, like billions of probiotic organisms, and you don't have to have the entire container of yogurt with fruit, with Rice Krispies, with raw almonds, and frozen blueberries.  Sounds good, doesn't it?  I just made up a new recipe.  And dark chocolate chunks, of course.  But, yeah, milk is a great way to get fat fast.  And there is a photo somewhere out there in the interwebs of me running with a chocolate milk shirt on that was published without my permission.  I still get flak for that.

Male Audience 5:  I'm not sure if this a pertinent question for this clinic, the whole glycogen storage, and usage, and what it is to happen your body intend to use it, is it purely at the high, like if you get fat adapted, let's say, and you get the point where you are using fatty acids for fueling and [0:41:26] ______ tapping into the glycogen, how do you…

Ben:  Right.  As far as like your glycogen reserves is the question, like even if you are, let's say you've been eating a high fat diet and you're fat adapted, and you're not burning tons of carbs as a fuel, and you are, there's this measurement called the respiratory quotient that you look at when you go into a physiology lab and you get tested.  And the higher that that RQ is, the more carbohydrates that you're burning. And the lower that it is, the more it approaches kind of like 0.7-ish, the more fats that you're burning.  And everybody's at a mix throughout, when they start walking on a treadmill, it's some carbs, mostly fats as they get faster and faster.  They wear this mask where they measure carbon dioxide out and oxygen in.  And as you get to a higher and higher level of intensity, your RQ approaches 1 and you begin primarily burning carbohydrates as a fuel, which would indicate that you're either exogenous carbohydrates that you're taking from sports drinks, or gels, or Super Starch, or anything else, or you're burning your body's own liver carbohydrate reserves or muscle carbohydrate reserves.

For everybody, it's much different.  But what you tend to notice is that in the fat adapted athlete, they are achieving higher and higher intensities at a lower RQ.  So, one of the things that I ran into during Ironman Canada was I was able to maintain my muscle and my liver glycogen levels by primarily burning fatty acids as a fuel with very small amounts, about a hundred calories per hour worth of starch coming in from Super Starch, and everything else was just fats and oils, and I was using my own adipose tissue, but I did get to a certain point in that race at about the one hour mark where I really needed to use a lot of carbs.  I started to go faster, I shifted into what's called glycolysis, started to make the muscles burn.  And at that point, my muscles were so close to the edge of glycogen depletion that even though I had taken in probably like a thousand calories worth of Super Starch by that point, and you know some of the proteins that I was eating were getting converted to glucose, you get to a certain point where the glycogen just gets completely exhausted, and that's kind of the point where you bonk.

Now if you're just to go out and exercise without eating anything at all, for most people, it takes about two to three hours for you to completely bonk if you've had nothing coming in and you're trying to exercise at intensities that bring that RQ closer to 1.  But if you go out, and think kind of returns like tens of question, if you were to go out and train with no fuel for four to five hours at an aerobic intensity, you could technically, I mean you've got 20,000, 30,000, 40,000 calories of storage fat on your body.  As long as you've got water, you can just go, and go, and go if you wanted to.

Female Audience 5:  It doesn't work though, does it?  I think you asked Ethan [0:44:19] ______ to go out for five hours even at low intensity because you get neural fatigue, don't you?

Ben:  Your brain does need trace amounts of glucose, but you would actually get gluconeogenesis from cannibalization of lean muscle tissue.  In most cases, the reason that we say it doesn't work is because there's just so few fat adapted people out there that you can't do it.  But there are people, there's like, there's the Run Keto group on Facebook and on the internet where most of those guys are going off for super long ultra runs with nothing at all, just water.  There's a guy on Jack Kruse's forum, Dr. Jack Kruse's forum.  He works with a lot of Tour de France cyclists.  He's been doing fat adapted for 10 years, and he'll go out and just run in the mountains for hours and just have a bottle of water with him.  But it takes quite a bit of training to turn yourself into that kind of metabolic machine, to get yourself to the point where you can just go, and go, and go.  And you're also going to get some cannibalization and stuff at a certain point, so these are skinny people who had lost a lot of muscle too.

Female Audience 5:  Well, you mentioned about immunosupression in fasting, if you're going to do a fasted workouts?

Ben:  Yep.  So, there's a law of diminishing return.  When you fast, you certainly do get what's called a hormetic response.  You clear out some cellular trash, and cellular debris, and you can strengthen your immune system with small amounts of fasting kind of inserted throughout the day, or throughout the week, like intermittent fasting, 24-hour fast once a month, that type of thing.  But if you really send your body a message of caloric restriction in the presence of exercise for too long, you can suppress the immune system.  And this is a discussion [0:45:53] ______ and I had a little bit on our ride the other day where you see a lot of low white blood cell counts and stuff in athletes, and some of that is just due pure calorie depletion kind of overworking the body.  As an endurance athlete, especially if you're trying to protect your immune system, losing weight is not about being hungry all the time.  So it's not like more is better.  But there are certainly some times when you might be uncomfortably hungry out on a ride, and that's okay.  As long as it's not like an everyday kind of thing.  And this is total soft science.  Like I don't know the exact number of days you'd have to train in a row fasted to totally suppress immune system, that type of thing.  I do know that it takes about four weeks of excessive calorie depletion to down regulate the metabolism, the whole starvation mode kind of thing.  But as far as the immune system goes, you just want to be careful.  And if you're sick, cold, fever, that kind of thing, don't starve it.  Take care of your body from a nutritional standpoint, feed your body is that's an issue you're worried about.

Female Audience 5:  And if you're stressed at work, doesn't your cortisol's high and then you go do a fasted workout and then don't eat afterwards, your immune system's going to be suppressed.  And so do that you bounce around if you go on public transport, people are coughing around you, you're going to be more susceptible to picking up something?

Ben:  And you'll still lose weight, but you'll be the skinny sick athlete, and you don't want to be that person either.  So, it's always that balance.  So, yeah.  That about wraps it up, you guys.  So, hopefully you got some tips out of there.



It's frustrating when you do things like triathlons, marathons and other extreme bouts of physical activity, but you just can't seem to get lean.

You train your ass off, you put hours onto a treadmill or bike, you lift weights, you watch your diet and you still can't get rid of that pesky layer of fat on your waistline, or make yourself look good in that pair of fitted jeans.

Last year, we published a podcast episode “Why Women Gain Weight When Training For Endurance Sports“.

And now, I'm releasing this special podcast episode recorded straight from a recent triathlon camp I taught at Thanyapura resort in Thailand. 

It's called “The Top 5 Reasons Athletes Get Fat, And What You Can Do About It.”

Even if you're not a triathlete per se, you'll get a lot of insight into why your body may be so resistant to shedding fat, or why you are on a weight loss plateau. Leave your questions, comments and feedback below, and I promise to reply!


Ask Ben a Podcast Question

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *