From podcast: https://bengreenfieldlife.com/podcast/winbook-podcast/
[00:00:52] Podcast Sponsors
[00:03:41] Guest Intro
[00:06:05] The solution better than any performance-enhancing drug (PED)
[00:07:28] How do you make a high-salt solution that doesn't result in a gut issues?
[00:09:25] How do you make a high-salt solution that doesn't result in gut issues?
[00:12:08] How to make a performance-enhancing drink with just salt and glycine?
[00:14:45] What about the glycine component?
[00:18:27] Do you consume it all at once or sip on it leading to a workout?
[00:20:17] Sodium bicarbonate is also a buffering agent. Is it still recommended?
[00:23:41] Am I also bicarbonate loading if I put backing soda in my morning glass of water?
[00:26:27] Creatine or creatine loading strategy
[00:27:21] Sodium citrate vs. sodium bicarbonate (and can you use both?)
[00:29:44] Do you see any issues with glycine and sodium citrate in a salty solution?
[00:30:47] Taking glycine at night before bed
[00:32:18] How to use cooling for training
[00:36:31] Podcast Sponsors
[00:40:21] There's a big difference between a 2-3 minute cold shower and a 10-minute 40°F ice bath
[00:43:17] What about cryotherapy vs. cold water immersion?
[00:44:00] Going back to salt solutions
[00:49:16] Individualized sweat and sodium profile
[00:50:55] What's the difference between proteinogenic, non-proteinogenic, ketogenic, and glucogenic amino acids?
[00:55:25] If mTOR activation is bad, why is exercise associated with longevity when exercise can stimulate the expression of mTOR?
[00:56:46] Are there different ways that mTOR is expressed?
[00:59:13] Are there any things that you do regularly that you adapted because science has backed them up?
[01:09:03] Upcoming Events
[1:09:28] End of Podcast
Ben: My name is Ben Greenfield. And, on this episode of the Ben Greenfield Life podcast.
James: The other way to boost plasma volume is simply to become dehydrated during exercise. And, that will also signal plasma volume expansion pending that you basically take in all the salt and fluid that has been lost that you don't become deficient in salt and fluids.
The goal is to become either dehydrated and acclimated, and then you get the plasma volume expansion over multiple courses and then you hyperhydrate with that salty of a solution before a competition.
Ben: Faith, family, fitness, health, performance, nutrition, longevity, ancestral living, biohacking, and a whole lot more. Welcome to the show.
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Alright, folks, my guests on today's show has a name that's hard to pronounce, but if you practice, I guarantee you'll get there. His name is Dr. James DiNicolantonio. Boom. Nailed it. He's a really cool guy. He's a brilliant guy. He's been on my podcast before. We did a podcast on minerals and why you're probably mineral deficient even if you eat a healthy diet. We talked about how coffee and ketosis affect mineral status. We talked about the toxicity of Himalayan salts, bottled water, a whole lot more because James actually wrote “The Mineral Fix” and also wrote “The Salt Fix.” He's the guy who I would say is very much responsible for the increasing realization that salt isn't bad for you, at least not the way that we've been led to believe. And, that is probably not as bad for blood pressure, et cetera. And, his whole book, “The Salt Fix,” and what we talked about in my previous podcast with them was kind of all about that.
But, James has also dug in pretty hardcore into the sector of athletic performance. And, a lot of the underlying pillars behind physical development and fitness, nutrition, muscle growth, fat loss, body composition, optimization, recovery, supplementation, all sorts of things that are really relevant to anybody who wants their body to perform at peak capacity.
So, he wrote this book called “WIN.” I got it several months ago. It's been out for a little while. We're going to do this podcast a few months ago, but kind of got kicked down the road. However, he talks about electrolytes and mindset and temperature and biohacking. And, there was so much in here that I circled and said, “Ask James about this, ask James about that,” that I knew I was going to have to get him on to talk about this new book, “WIN.” It's a big book.
How big is this book, James? It's like, what, 600? 500. 587 pages.
James: Originally it was over 750, and we shrank the font and did some things to get it down to 500.
Ben: Yeah, I had to do it with “Boundless.” I actually deleted a bunch. Not delete, but I had to put up a special website where I had all the extra stuff that got cut from the book. It's like kissing your babies goodbye figuring out what to leave out. Typically, it's a deep science that gets left out because you realize the average person doesn't care as much about the science as much about the practicalities.
James: Exactly. Yeah, unfortunately.
Ben: There are so many places that we could jump in, but I kind of like to just get straight into the good stuff and talk about some of the things that that you mentioned that I think don't get talked about enough. So, I guess the first area that I found intriguing was performance-enhancing drugs, baby, because who doesn't want needles in their butt? Specifically, though, you say that there is one solution that's like 10 to 20 times better, that's what you wrote, 10 to 20 times better than any performance boosting supplement specifically when it comes to increasing exercise performance in the heat. Do tell.
James: So, that would actually be something very simple. It's basically just salt solutions. So, when you think about performance-enhancing supplements, what comes to mind for most people is things like beta-alanine or beetroot juice. Now, those have been shown to increase vigorous exercise endurance by one to two minutes. So, if you're running really hard, you can go one to two minutes longer if you supplement with beta-alanine or if you supplement with beetroot juice. But, if you consume appropriate salt solutions prior to performance, the studies show you can actually go 21 minutes longer, which is again 10 to 20 times longer than a typical —
Ben: That's crazy.
Okay, so when you talk about this, we got time to strip back and talk about the actual science of why that would be, I assume you're talking about more than just slamming a Gatorade before you head to the gym or to your competition.
James: Exactly, yeah. And actually, it's much saltier than even let's see what the UFC Performance Institute uses to rehydrate their athletes after sucking weight, which is typically what they use is around 60 to 90 milliequivalents per liter of sodium, which is really about half of what has been shown to be more optimal in regards to boosting blood volume before athletic performance and increasing actual physical endurance or power output. And yes, it's much saltier than Gatorade. So, Gatorade is about 1/10 the saltiness compared to what I'm talking about.
Ben: One-tenth. Now, thinking back to my exercise physiology days, it's kind of funny, I actually remember I got in trouble once when I was working with the athletic trainer as the water boy for the University of Idaho football teams like my freshman year, and I think it was Gatorade, it was Gatorade or Powerade or one of these companies. They had the super concentrated powder that's meant to be mixed into, in this case, I think I had enough to fill 10 coolers. It was a lot. And, I read the label wrong and I mixed it all in one cooler. So, we had this incredibly high osmolality solution that was ready to go out to these football players. And, of course, everybody flipped and they're like, “No, no, this is going to be horrible.” It's going to suck a bunch of water into their intestines. It's going to give them gastric distress. This high salt solution is nowhere near the actual concentration that's been studied by say the Gatorade Sports Science Institute. I forgot, was it 7, 8%, something like that as the ideal saltiness of a solution to enhance performance, particularly in heat.
So, how do you actually make a high salt solution that doesn't result in a lot of the gut issues that, I guess, seem to be feared in at least the football team that I was working with?
James: Right. So, in fact, really you don't see a problem with let's say a reduction in sodium and water absorption and an increase in diarrhea until you actually start going above the saltiness of blood. So, in fact, consuming the saltiness of blood is 3,200 milligrams of sodium per liter. Okay. Now, it's actually 0.8% salt, so actually, normal saline which is 0.9% is actually slightly hypertonic. It's actually 154 milliequivalents of sodium normal saline. So, it's kind of funny how they use the term normal saline, but it's actually slightly hypertonic. When you go to the hospital and you get like an IV of saline, it's actually slightly saltier than your blood. And, in fact, that's actually typically what most studies use to enhance performance is actually that concentration, which is 3,500 milligrams of sodium per liter.
So, once you start going above that, around 3,200 to 3,500 milligrams of sodium per liter, you do see a significant increase in diarrhea. So essentially, if you go from 3,200 milligrams of sodium per liter to 4,200 milligrams, you go from one out of eight people having diarrhea, which is not bad to six out of eight people having diarrhea, okay? But, there's a much better boost in plasma volume when you actually hit 4,300 milligrams of sodium per liter versus 3,200.
So, how do you balance the better blood volume-boosting benefits of a 1.07% saline solution, which again is 4,300 milligrams of sodium per liter with the significantly increased risk of diarrhea? And, one way to do this is actually adding the amino acid glycine to the solution, and we know this because glycine has been added to salt solutions for decades in individuals with severe diarrhea, either from rotavirus or cholera. You basically put in glycine at a ratio of 2 to 3 to 1 on sodium, and that has been shown to dramatically reduce the total volume of diarrhea, the frequency of diarrhea, and the actual total volume of fluid needed to hydrate the individual. So, when you add glycine to a very high salt solution like 4,300 milligrams of sodium per liter, you are probably getting the best blood volume boosting solution and significantly reducing the risk of diarrhea.
Ben: Okay. So, you add glycine to this high salt solution, but walk me through what it would look like if I've got glycine and I've got salt, and I would love for you to clarify if we're just talking about table salt or any salt here, what would I do? Let's say somebody's listening in, or I'm going to go to the gym after this, and I just want to try exactly what you've recommended and see what kind of boost it gives me to a workout that I might already be familiar with. So, if people are listening right now, I'd say, “Yeah, go do something that you're already familiar with to kind of see how it compares.” Walk me through what I'm going to do in the kitchen. How am I actually going to make a drink that has this amount of performance enhancement capability with just salt and glycine?
James: So, essentially, 1 teaspoon of salt is 2,300 milligrams of sodium.
James: So, if you want 4,300 milligrams of sodium, just under 2 teaspoons of salt in a liter of fluid.
Ben: 2 teaspoons of salt in 1 liter.
James: Yeah, just under 2 teaspoons of salt.
James: Yup, in 1 liter of fluid.
Ben: And, by the way, just to clarify real quick, a liter is going to be a big water bottle. That's, what, about 32 ounces or so?
James: Yeah, it's 33 point — I forget, maybe 0.8.
Ben: Okay, I like to go with approximation. So, around 2 teaspoons in around one of the bigger water bottles or 32, 33 ounces or so. Does the temperature of the water matter?
James: Well, we can get into that.
James: But yes, if you want to enhance performance, drinking a colder solution, particularly a colder salt solution, you can actually go subzero on a salt solution and it won't freeze because salt and the salinity lowers the freezing point. So, you can actually consume subzero liquid if you have high enough salt concentration.
James: And, that will actually dramatically cool the body down. You don't have to go that cold though. The studies show that even low-end refrigeration temperature, 39, 40 degrees Fahrenheit of a salt solution that's, let's say, a full liter will absolutely drop core body temperature by about half a degree in about 30 minutes. And so, that is going to increase the time it would take you to hit a critical core temperature, which can cease performance. So, there's a dual benefit of consuming the salt solution cold.
Ben: Okay, got it. And, I'm taking notes. I'm literally going to go work out this afternoon, try out what you're talking about.
And, by the way, for folks listening in, I'm going to put all the shownotes at BenGreenfieldLife.com/WINBook. It's name of James's new book, BenGreenfieldLife.com/WINBook.
Okay, so I've got around 2 teaspoons, I've got 32, 33 ounces or so, I've got the water preferably cold, but if I can cool it beforehand or after, and then tell me about the glycine component.
James: So technically, the studies show that glycine can absorb sodium on a 3 to 1 molar ratio. You don't have to have every single molecule of glycine pulling every single molecule of sodium into the body because passive absorption occurs very well with sodium. So, this is active transport or facilitated transport with glycine. So technically, if you wanted to, if you had 4 grams of sodium, if you wanted to have all the glycine drive all the sodium, you would use the 3 to 1 ratio, basically 12 grams of glycine.
James: But, it's not necessary. So, I would just probably do with 4 grams of sodium.
James: Just under 2 teaspoons. I would say 6 grams of glycine would be more than enough to help facilitate some of that extra salt from causing diarrhea.
Ben: Possibly a total rabbit hole. But, wasn't you who told me that to mitigate some of the oxidizing or inflammatory effects of vegetable oil that if you consume either around 5 to 6 grams of glycine, or I think it was also 5 to 6 grams of spirulina that both of those could mitigate some of that damage.
James: Yes, that's correct. It's really like the rate-limiting amino acid for the formation of glutathione when cysteine is available, which typically cysteine is available very well. So, it'll help boost glutathione levels, which is our master antioxidant, which can help with the oxidative stress from the omega 6 seed oils.
Ben: Okay, got it.
James: Yeah, spirulina as well does something similar to inhibit the oxidative stress from —
Ben: Yeah. Ever since you told me that whenever I'll go out to a restaurant and have a bunch of food, and I don't know what the dressings or the sauces have in them or I've had a big bolus a salad from the Whole Foods, hot salad bar, had canola oil in my system, I always fall back on that spirulina or glycine trick. I've been doing that ever since, I think it was four years ago that I read that by you or you mentioned it on a podcast.
So, the glycine, do you just get any old glycine powder? Does brand matter or just glycine, glycine?
James: Yeah. I mean, you can use, if you want a more easily dissolvable one, bulk supplements has one that's more crystalline that seems to dissolve better than some of the powders. But essentially, if you get a good strong enough blender, it should blend fairly well. It doesn't have to fully dissolve, but the one from bulk supplements seems to dissolve a little bit better than some of the other ones.
Ben: Okay, yeah. Those are big white bags I think that tend to be slam and deals, so you can get on Amazon, right?
James: Yes, yeah.
Ben: Yeah. Okay. Alright. Now, bone broth, James, is salty and it has glycine in it. What would be the advantage of maybe just drinking bone broth? Is it nowhere near the saltiness of a solution like this?
James: Right. I mean, what you could do is you could actually use bone broth as your fluid instead of water per se and get some of the glycine and get some of the salt from there, but you'd have to test what the saltiness of the app because you wouldn't want to overshoot or undershoot. So, it's how salty is the bone broth that you've created because then you just have to adjust how much salt you put in there.
James: The key to the to all of this, though, is really you have to start at least 90 minutes before exercise if you want to be performing at the optimal blood volume boosting potential of these solutions. So, you want to start at least 90 minutes before exercise consuming the solution.
Ben: And, do you need to consume it all at that 90-minute mark or can you just sip on it leading up to your workout?
James: Yeah, you do not want to consume it all right at the 90-minute mark. That's another key. So, the key is actually the rate that you consume these solutions is very important because the gastrointestinal system has a maximum capacity of how much sodium and water it can absorb at a given time. So, if you overflood the system, then that will also lead to diarrhea.
So essentially, for a full liter of fluid, it's probably best to start about 105 minutes prior to performance. And then, you would probably want to slowly consume that solution. And, when I say slowly, you want to try to figure out a good rate that is equal for this entire period, but slowly over probably 45 minutes. And, you want to try to consume an equal amount of fluid over that 45-minute, so you're not sort of oversaturating the absorptive capacity of the gastrointestinal system. If you want to do 30 minutes, figure out how much fluid and how often you would have to consume that full liter in 30 minutes. Or, if you wanted to be extra careful and do 45 minutes, just figure out, do some calculations. Let's say you divide 45 by 6, how many mLs you would have to consume over six different times over that 45 minutes to slowly consume it at an equal rate.
Ben: Yeah, that's the old-school trick back in college. We would dare each other to drink a gallon of milk without throwing up, and you just had to drink it in 60 minutes. And, the trick was to actually split it into 60 small individual portions and do one tiny individual portion each minute if you wanted to beat your roommate at the gallon of milk challenge without puking. So, that's a random cocktail party trick for any of you who want to drink a gallon of milk in public.
But, the other thing regarding the aspect of gradually consuming a solution like this leading up to your workout is that it reminds me a little bit of the use of bicarbonate. Sodium bicarbonate is a fantastic buffering agent, and I think you've talked about it before, but that's another one where, and you might have to remind me of the volume, you can actually get a pretty significant performance-enhancing aid for pretty dirt cheap, but you also have to be careful with the way you approach sodium bicarb. So, do you still stand by the recommendation to use sodium bicarb, particularly leading up to something that might be a very glycolytic type of exercise or something that would induce a lot of lactic acidosis?
James: So, there's no question that there's very good data that sodium bicarbonate about two hours before performance improves performance. The problem is the acute doses are so high that a lot of times it can cause more gastrointestinal issues than outweigh any type of performance benefit and recovery benefit that you would get. So, I'm more of a fan of actually slowly building up your bicarbonate stores over weeks by simply either drinking bicarbonate waters. And, it has to be fairly high in bicarbonate like at least typically around 1,000 milligrams per liter or 1,800 milligrams per liter would be even better in consuming 2 liters of that fluid per day rather than just acutely dosing yourself with 30 grams of sodium bicarbonate. Because that can lead to extraintestinal distress.
So, there have been studies looking at just drinking bicarbonate waters in basically like physical contact sports, and particularly like mixed martial art athletes consuming basically high bicarbonate waters at around 2 liters per day, 2 to 3 liters per day. You do that over the course of four weeks and it dramatically improve power output, recovery, and endurance. And, that's because when you go in aerobic, a lot of people blame it on lactic acid and the lactate buildup, but it's actually not, it's the hydrogen ion buildup and lactate just follows that.
Ben: Yeah, yeah, that's true. Yeah. Some sometimes I throw around terms like that, but it's because that's what people are familiar with. If I say hydrogen ion build-up, people don't get it, but people understand lactic acid. But, you're right, it's the hydrogen ions that accumulate as a result of the lactic acid, not the lactic acid itself that's problematic. This idea though of chronic intake of bicarbonate-rich mineral waters is actually really cool. I mean, I drink Pellegrino a lot of the time as my sparkling water of choice, mostly because that's what they sell at Costco and my wife picks it up. But, I think you had a couple examples of bicarbonate-rich mineral waters that you think would be better than that if someone was going to use this chronic loading approach. Which ones do you like?
James: Yeah, Gerolsteiner is pretty good, but it's very carbonated. So, if you don't want a bloat, I suggest just basically blending it in a blender for a couple seconds to fizz it out. Although it won't taste as nice because the carbonation basically blocks a lot of the minerally taste of that water.
There's another water called Magnesia. It's difficult to get in the United States though, but that also has high bicarbonate. Or, you could literally just create your own bicarbonate waters by actually just putting sodium bicarb in water.
Ben: That's what I was going to ask you because what I do is I have a little bit of vitamin C. I use a Whole Foods vitamin C source in my morning glass. I have a big Mason glass jar of water first thing when I get up in the morning, I put a little bit of hydrogen in there and I put a little bit of this Jigsaw Health makes, is called Adrenal Cocktail. It's like minerals and Whole Foods, vitamin C. But then, to offset a little bit of that acidity of the vitamin C, I'll typically put about a teaspoon or so of baking soda in my morning glass of water. So, if I'm doing that, do you think I'm kind of just passively bicarb loading anyways without needing to necessarily go out and get magnesia or Gerolsteiner and switch my bottled water brands?
James: Yeah, exactly. So, if you're getting around, I would say, 3 grams of bicarbonate per day, that will slowly — I mean, it depends on obviously your overall dietary intake too because the acid load of your diets depending on if it's alkaline or not will depend on how much sodium bicarb you will need to actually become alkaline. But yeah, that can slowly build up bicarbonate stores and lead to performance gains, which will then offset the risk of having to acutely dump, tens of grams of sodium bicarb a couple hours before performance.
Ben: Okay, that makes sense. I'm probably close to 2 grams, so I can probably do a little bit more, but it sounds like I'm close.
James: Yeah, you're close. And, what I typically do because sodium bicarb can mess a little bit with the stomach pH, I mean you're going to absorb it fairly quickly, so it's not going to increase the pH and reduce the stomach acid for too long. But, sodium citrate works very similarly but won't mess up the pH of the stomach. So, if you're worried about messing up the pH of the stomach, sodium citrate will work as well. It just is a slower bicarbonate-boosting substance. So, you can either slowly dose it like we're talking about or if you're going to dose it before performance, then 4 hours, 4.5 hours before competition will actually be best if you're dosing sodium citrate. But, you have to dose it with a somewhat full stomach, especially with at least about 30 grams of carbs or otherwise it will be fairly tough on the stomach. And, you probably don't ever want to go above 10 grams in one sitting even though a lot of the studies will actually go to 30. I've tried to go higher than 10 and I don't know how these people tolerate it from a gastrointestinal perspective.
Ben: Yeah, they just have good underwear. They double up on the boxer briefs for the track and field workouts if they're doing the sodium bicarb. I do know many people who have blown out their pants, but at the same time doing the sodium bicarb when you first get up in the morning in the morning glass of water can actually help with your bowel movement later on. Although, you don't want to do too much if you don't want any back of the toilet seat painting going on.
The other thing that this reminds me of when it comes to sodium bicarbonate, I actually want to ask you about sodium citrate is it reminds me a little bit of the strategy with creatine. I don't know how you feel about creatine or creatine loading, but rather than taking large boluses of creatine which seemed to potentially the gastric distress and water retention, sometimes bloating, sometimes cramping. I've, for the past several years, simply done almost 365 days a year just 5 grams of creatine with no loading phase just to kind of keep my levels topped off similar to your philosophy it seems with bicarbonate. And, that works pretty well. Do you use creatine that way?
James: Yeah, I do. I take about 3 grams of creatine every single day because I'm getting —
Ben: You take 3?
James: Yeah, because I'm getting about 2 grams from diet. So, I'm hitting that 5-gram mark, 2 from diet from basically red meat, and then 3 from supplementation.
Ben: Alright, cool. Perfect.
Now, how about sodium citrate? You mentioned sodium citrate. I'm curious why you talk about that versus bicarb. And, if you use both.
James: Yeah, I used to use sodium bicarb, but I started wondering about the inhibition of acid in the stomach, and that's important. You need to have very acidic stomach to digest proteins and absorb nutrients. So, I just decided to switch to sodium citrate because that will not reduce the acidity of the stomach, so there's no risk there. And so, citrate turns into bicarbonate in the body, but 1 molecule of citrate can also bind 3 hydrogen ions directly. So, it's a very good alkaline substance. I've actually tested my pH in my urine to see how much I need to offset the acid load of my animal-based diet. And really, 1 to 2 grams of sodium citrate is more than enough to offset the acid load of my animal-based diet per meal. And, I've done this testing using the Vivoo urine test strips.
Ben: Yeah, the Vivoo, V-I-V-O-O, right? Those are the ones you pee on. They tell you a lot of things like ketones and what else they look at, like acidity, osmolality, et cetera. So, what you're saying is that rather than using sodium bicarb, you'll use the sodium citrate to offset the potential acidic nature of say like the red meats that you might be consuming. And, are you using just basic food grade sodium citrate you could buy in powder on Amazon, for example?
James: Yes, exactly. And, the best time to test urinary pH is four hours after your last meal. So, you don't want to test in the morning because it'll be acidic just from how our biology works. So, if you're going to use urinary test strip to test your pH, you want to test about four hours after your last meal. And, the reason for that is when you have a meal, there's something called the alkaline tide that occurs. So, you may look alkaline if you test, let's say, two hours after a meal. So, you want to test about four hours after your last meal, and then your urine pH is very indicative of basically the acid load of your diet. And, you want your urinary pH from not having any risk of acid buildup in the body to be around 7. That's basically where you don't have any really net excretion of acid from the kidneys.
Ben: Got it, perfect.
Well, I'm definitely going to try. I think what I might try initially, because a lot of times I do work out in the mornings, is I'll probably just try adding maybe the glycine along with the sodium citrate to my morning glass of water, possibly just cool that down a little bit and add a little bit of extra salt. Do you see any issues in drinking a salty solution that also has the sodium citrate added to it along with the glycine?
James: Yes, I do.
James: If you are probably going, let's say, 3 grams or more because this is going to be on an empty stomach and I want to have before performance, it's going to have some gastrointestinal issues. So, if you're going to do sodium citrate, and it's going to be even better anyway to do it this way. You consume it with a meal 4.5 hours before performance. And, when you consume it with a meal, 3 grams of sodium citrate is going to going to be tolerated just fine. It's not going to mess with your gastrointestinal system. It's actually going to boost bicarbonate much better by the time you are performing 4.5 hours later.
Ben: Okay, got it, got it. These are really good tips. Okay, taking some notes here.
Now, the interesting about glycine. I don't know if you've come across this, but I'm sure it influenced your reasoning for putting it into this solution, especially prior to exercise in the heat is that it seems to do a good job dropping core temperature. And, I've actually seen it popping up more and more in sleep-enhancing supplements because of the link between circadian rhythmicity and core temp. Have you ever experimented with glycine much taken at night before bed?
James: Yeah. Another advantage of adding glycine is it improves sleep because it reduces core body temperature, as you stated, at a dose of 3 grams anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes before bed time. So, adding 3 grams of glycine in a salt solution is going to have three benefits; going to improve sodium and water absorption and hence reduce diarrhea. So, that's actually two benefits. The third benefit is that it's going to reduce core body temperature. So, that's the third benefit, particularly in the heat. That's going to be important. And, the fourth benefit is we believe that pickle juice acutely aborts muscle cramps within 30 to 90 seconds because the acetic acid in pickle juice releases the inhibitory neurotransmitter glycine, which then inhibits muscle cramps. So, preloading with glycine may also inhibit muscle cramps during performance as well, particularly in the heat.
Ben: Okay, got it. That's pretty cool considering again just how dirt cheap some of these things like sodium citrate and glycine and, of course, salt are to get your hands on.
Now, related to the cooling aspect of glycine, you talk about pre-cooling in the book. And, this one I found interesting because like way back in the day, I don't even think they published this magazine anymore but I used to write a lot for magazines. And, one magazine I wrote for was called LAVA. It was a triathlon publication. And, they quickly relied upon me for a lot of the immersive journalism stuff like, “Ben, this new supplement or gear or whatever came out, we want you to take it out and do a race with it and come back and write a report on what happened and how it worked.” And, for one race, particularly hot one, it was the half Ironman World Championships when they were in Las Vegas, they had me not only do some precooling strategies like the cold pre-race ice vest and pre-race hand cooling, but then during the actual event, I had cooling arm sleeves, cooling hat. They typically infused these with things like xylitol that induce the cooling sensation to the skin. During the run, I had a lightweight cooling vest on and then the frozen palm cooling devices you can hold as you run. And then, of course, during the run, anytime I come to an aid station, I would just grab a cup of ice and I would chew that as I'd run to get some of the internal cooling effects of ice slushy, which they've actually done some research behind as well.
And so, this idea of cooling the body, especially for hot exercise is something that I had some experience with and I've still found that a one to three-minute bout of super cold like cold water immersion — I actually have a device I sit in, it's called Morozko, it goes about 33 degrees. If I get in that for a couple of minutes before workout, I think it must be the adrenaline or norepinephrine response along with a little bit of cooling, I have a fantastic, fantastic workout. Like, my rating of perceived exertion, it plummets. So, for you when it comes to cold water immersion or pre-exercise cooling strategies, were there any that you came across writing the book as far as a standard protocol or anything that you would come right out and recommend to the average person in terms of how they can use cooling for better training in terms like timing, temperature or anything like that?
James: I actually prefer what I termed, I actually haven't even heard the literature call it this, but I'm terming it cool water immersion rather than cold. So, cold is less than 59 Fahrenheit and cool would be 60 to 84. Now, the reason why I like cool water immersion, again a temperature of 60 to 84 versus cold is because if you shock the body too quickly, it can close the AVAs, the arteriovenous anastomoses, which is what dilates and allows your body to dump heat. So, the cool water strategy will not do that. So, I like using a cool water. You can start at 84 or 74 and slowly work your way down to about 64, but within 30 to 60 minutes, you're going to drop core body temperature by, you want to drop it by 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit to maybe 1 degree. That seems to be the golden window that's been shown to improve endurance and power output.
If you over cool, if you drop the core body temp below 97, that will inhibit performance. And, there are some studies showing that 59 has shown improvements, but there are a lot of studies also showing that 55 Fahrenheit water, which is obviously a little colder, reduces. So, that's why I like the cool water strategy because it's a slower easier self into the cooler temperatures to not basically constrict the AVAs. And, that way the body's able to dump heat.
You can actually increase core body temperature by getting into a ice bath. If the AVA is clamped, even though you feel freezing, core body temperature can actually start increasing if you close the AVAs, which is kind of interesting for at least, we don't know exactly how long that would last because obviously that will lead to hyper hypothermia if you're in a very, very cold water. But acutely, if you jump into a cold bath for let's say just two minutes, you can actually get out, and core temp can actually be higher. So, you just got to be careful there.
Ben: So, if you read my cookbook, “Boundless Cookbook,” all throughout that I talk about salt a lot, I discovered this years ago when I was racing Ironman and I upped my salt intake from really good clean pure tasty salt sources to 6 grams a day. And, my recovery is better, my sleep is better, my training was better, no cramping. The idea here is that salt is good for you, but I like good salt. I'm super picky. I don't want it to have extra toxins, metals, additives. I like it thick and chunky so I can almost like crunch down on it. I love to sprinkle on sourdough bread and salads and soups and steaks. I even have a giant bag of salt in my fanny pack. And, people always ask me when I break it out, I'm an asshole, I'll just use this on myself, will pass around the table and people try it. They love it. They love it. It's like the best salt they've ever tried. People leave dinners with me like ordering bags and bags of this stuff. It's called Colima Salt. Alright, it's super delicious. It's super crunchy. It's totally free of ocean borne microplastics. It's harvested from the Colima salt flats in Mexico. They actually have this really cool sustainable practice you support, the salineros down there when you purchase. Those are the people who helped to harvest the salt.
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You might often hear that the average adult should get 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. That's not always possible, obviously. More and more people are forced to make lifestyle decisions to get more deep sleep. And, research has shown that quality matters just as much as quantity. Even if you can't stay in bed as long, the quality of that sleep really truly matters. Now, deep sleep, the first half of the night is that deep sleep window. That's when things start to drop, your heart rate, your breath, your blood pressure, your muscle activity, your body temperature. Since that temp drop is such a crucial aspect of the deep sleep stage, finding ways to activate that sleep switch can help to increase your levels of deep sleep. And, that's where this stuff called ChiliSleep comes in.
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I suspect that the ergogenic effect I'm getting from super intense precooling for a very brief period of time is indeed the adrenaline or norepinephrine response with probably offsets any slight rise in body temperature. But, there are some subtle nuances here, like I know that in at least a couple of the studies that you mentioned with cold water immersion, decreasing power I think was a maximum effort sprint on the bike, they were in the water for a while. I think it was 15 minutes or so at around 53 degrees. And, correct me if I'm wrong here, kind of similar to cooling post-workout and the potential for that to blunt the inflammatory response to exercise, the dose is the poison. I think that brief, brief, very, very cold, cold water immersion or maybe slightly longer but still relatively brief cool water immersion pre-workout likely wouldn't cause as much of an issue because there isn't that significant drop in core temp. You're just not in there long enough. Even if it's very, very cold, we're talking about a pretty brief exposure. I kind of have a similar philosophy when it comes to post-exercise cooling. The quick jump into cold water that slightly decreases core temperature and save for an early evening workout gives you just enough to wear, maybe you aren't super-duper hot during the night of sleep or you aren't sweating or pitting out with your dress shirt on at work. I think that that trumps any potential for negating the hormetic response to a workout. But, there's a big difference between hopping in a quick two to three-minute cold shower versus doing 10 minutes at 40 degrees in ice bath. Have you ever thought about much of that?
James: You're 100% correct. So, for example, let's say we're talking about inhibiting the muscle protein synthesis and hypertrophy and strength gains, there are some data that jumping into a cold ice bath will inhibit some of those gains. But, you're correct that most of the time those studies are 10 to 20 minutes in an ice bath. If you're talking two minutes, that's probably not enough to really inhibit those gains. And, what probably will occur is you are inhibiting a lot of that oxidative stress, and that's going to increase power output recovery for within 24 to 72 hours post-exercise.
So, quick ice baths, especially if people are in training camps and they have to train the next day, that's going to dramatically improve power output the next day. So, I agree that if you are working out hard that a quick jump into an ice bath is going to have a lot more benefits than any potential downside in regards to decreasing the muscle hypertrophy and strength gains that would have occurred had you not done that.
Ben: And, I forget, if you get into this in the book at all, but do you have any opinion on cryotherapy versus cold water immersion?
James: Water conducts cold two to four times better than air. Most of the studies, I would say 90% of all the studies on cold is using cold water immersion and cryo is on the tip, maybe 2% of the studies are using like that. And so, that's why I would prefer a cool water immersion as a means to cool just because the evidence is resoundingly in favor of using that strategy and there's not a lot of evidence using cryotherapy.
Ben: Yeah, it's a lot easier to hunt down cold water immersion anyways compared to a cryochamber.
James: Few things I want to touch on before we get past the salt solutions too far.
Ben: Oh, yeah.
James: Is that really the dosing of that high of salt solutions does not have to be done every day. That's really more so for improving your performance during competition. Okay, I probably should have made that a little more clear. In regards to if you are wanting to have a good training session too and you know you're going to be in an intense training camp and you have to train for two, three hours, then that might be a good time to take it as well. But, on a day-to-day training basis, you actually will be able to perform better later on if you probably don't hyperhydrate because the main benefit of exercise is the plasma volume expansion that occurs over multiple, let's say, courses of exercise. And, that is induced either from a drop in circulating blood volume.
And then, let's say you're vigorously exercising so hard, what will happen is you drop circulating blood volume because blood is flowing to the skeletal muscle because you're vigorously exercising so hard, and blood flow is also decreased to the kidneys. And, that will signal the body to retain more salt and water. If you hyperhydrate with salt and water prior to doing that, you're not going to get as big of a release of aldosterone in a signal to [00:45:23] _____ salt and thus you're going to reduce some of the plasma volume expansion of basically vigorous exercise performance. The other way to boost plasma volume is simply to become dehydrated during exercise. And, that will also signal plasma volume expansion pending that you basically take in all the salt and fluid that has been lost, that you don't become deficient in salt and fluids.
So, if you're constantly hyperhydrating with that high of a dose, you're going to either prevent or reduce the drop in circulating blood volume that you would have gotten had you not preloaded with such high amounts of salt and fluids. So, the goal is to become either dehydrated acclimated and then you get the plasma volume expansion over multiple courses and then you hyperhydrate with that salty of a solution before competition. So, I hope that makes sense.
Ben: It makes total sense. It reminds me quite a bit of the train low, compete high phenomenon associated with carbohydrates. Meaning that it seems that in people who restrict carbohydrates during much of their training but then for some of the harder training sessions, or the races, or the competition, increased carbohydrates or carb load, the increase in enzymes responsible for sucking away muscle glycogen, the ability to be able to almost be a hyper responder to the carbohydrate intake, and the simultaneous adaptation from a metabolic standpoint to be able to have some amount of carbohydrate conservation because you've trained your body how to burn fatty acids efficiently sometimes at higher intensities dictate that it's a pretty good strategy to not load with carbs for every workout, but under the theory that sugar is a sometimes drug, pull out the carbs when you really need them as an ergogenic aid and your body, kind of similar what you just explained with salt, may actually respond to them even better. Is that what you're getting after?
James: Exactly. So essentially, you're inducing hormesis by not hyperhydrating with salt and fluids. And then, you make sure you recover and you take in enough salt and fluids that you had lost to then recover from that hormetic stress.
Now, I will say though, most people do want to still perform and feel okay. So, in order to do that but do not significantly boost blood volume, consuming about 1,200 milligrams of sodium, but not really more than that will allow you to feel good. Make sure you hydrated before exercise, but won't significantly boost blood volume where you're preventing that drop in effective circulating blood volume and the hormetic response from that. So, I like to tell people, “If you want to feel decent when you're working out, you can go up to 1,200 milligrams of sodium, and then that will not be enough to prevent that drop in effective circulating blood volume.”
Ben: Okay, cool. That makes perfect sense. Anything else you want to mention regarding salt before I ask you a couple of questions about amino acids?
James: The one thing too is that you want to, if we're practicing let's say the hormetic response and not hyperhydrating, that you want to make sure that you are at least replacing the salt that has been lost during exercise. There are patches that will estimate how salty of a sweater you are. If you want to really nail this to a precise precision type of hydration protocol, most people are going to do that. So, if we look at the average sodium losses per liter of sweat, it's about 1,200 milligrams of sodium loss per liter. And, a liter of sweat is a kilogram. So, if you want to figure out how much fluid you've lost, you just weigh yourself before and then after and you can figure out how much fluid you lost, and if you lost a kilogram, that's a liter of fluid and you, on average, would have lost 1,200 milligrams of sodium. So, I just think it's important that people understand if they are sweating a lot, you are losing a good amount of salt and you should rehydrate with an appropriate amount.
Ben: Okay, that makes sense. Yeah.
When I did racing for Team Timex, we used to have an exercise physiologist, I think it was Allen Lim, was the guy we were working with who would come around and do sweat sodium analysis using these patches and approximate each of the individual athlete's sodium losses so that we could better customize our replenishment. And, I recall, gosh, I was two or three times the amount of most of the other athletes once I began to increase my salt and electrolyte intake, which I still do. I mean I easily exceed 6 grams of salt on a daily basis. I noticed an incredible difference in my recovery, in my sleep quality, et cetera. It kind of begs the question though, these sweat sodium patches, this was 10 years ago. It seems as though the industry should have come along during this time, even though I haven't looked into it lately, to get to the point where you could actually do your own sweat sodium analysis at home without necessarily going through what you've just described. Is anybody actually marketing or selling sweat sodium patches that you could just put on and approximate sodium loss rates?
James: Yes. To my knowledge, I'm pretty sure Gatorade has patches to do that.
Ben: Okay. If you wanted to get super precise, you could get an individualized sweat and sodium profile with a patch?
James: Yes, but I will say that your total body salt status is a big determiner of how salty your sweat will be. So, it will change depending on the salt status of the body. So, the more deficient and salt the body becomes, the lower sodium and chloride concentrations in sweat and vice versa.
Ben: Okay. Alright, got it. That makes sense.
Okay, so I want to talk about amino acids because you get into some real subtle nuances regarding amino acids. I've actually talked about amino acids on the podcast before, people understand what they are, but you get into proteinogenic amino acids, essential amino acids, ketogenic amino acids and glucogenic amino acids. I was wondering if you could kind of walk people through the difference in these types of amino acids and why you differentiate between them the way that you do?
James: Yeah. So, there's a total of 22 proteinogenic amino acids, and nine of which are considered essential. So, a lot of people know them; histidine, isoleucine, leucine, many people know those ones because nine of them are essential. The non-proteinogenic amino acids, more so building collagen, things like glycine and hydroxyproline, and then you have your glucogenic amino acids, which just simply means that they can be converted into glucose through gluconeogenesis. So, things like alanine, arginine, glutamine, histidine, those types of amino acids as well.
Now, a lot of people do ask me, “Is there evidence for glutamine?” There is some in regards to when you exercise vigorously, you're pushing blood flow away to the gastrointestinal tract. So, if you do that for a long enough period of time, you can actually see intestinal permeability increasing with vigorous exercise, especially if it's prolonged. And, there are some studies showing you got pretty much do at least 3 grams three times a day. But, a lot of study is actually go even higher than that for glutamine, that there is some benefit to glutamine for improving the tight junctions of the gastrointestinal system.
Ben: Yeah. For irritable bowel syndrome, I've seen a lot of recommendations, 5 grams three times a day with each meal just using a glutamine powder.
James: Exactly, yeah.
Ben: Yeah. So, in terms of your differentiation between these amino acids, the glucogenic amino acids, the essential amino acids, the ketogenic amino acids, and the proteinogenic amino acids, does that result in you making any recommendations in terms of overall strategies for the use of amino acids for exercise or recovery?
James: The most common is the branched chain, and they have some advantages and they have obviously some disadvantages to essential amino acids. So, some people tolerate branched chain a little bit better than essential amino acids. So, that's I guess you could say the one advantage if you're going to use pre-workout BCAAs. The problem is is that if you only use BCAAs, you are signaling the body to stimulate muscle protein synthesis but you're not giving the body all the amino acids to do that, so it will have to actually breakdown muscle to get the other six amino acids to then build muscle. So actually, just taking BCAAs can lead to a decrease in muscle protein synthesis and an increase in muscle protein breakdown, which you don't want. So, if you are going to use BCAAs pre-workout, which there is good evidence doing that will reduce delayed onset muscle soreness, you better be consuming essentials or whey protein post-workout to prevent muscle breakdown.
Ben: Okay. Now, when you talk about the use of amino acids, do you like to pulse them? I interviewed a guy named Milos Sarcev, a bodybuilder and he talked about how he'll literally do intra-sets amino acid supplementation. Well, he'll literally have a Shaker cup at the gym maintaining blood levels of amino acids to be elevated; do that pre-workout, also do it post-workout, and he basically swears by the fact that when it comes to anabolism, hypertrophy, and muscle strength, power, et cetera, you should be trying to keep your amino acid blood levels as high as possible before, during and after the exercise session. Have you come across that strategy at all?
James: There's more data on hitting the 2-gram leucine threshold or thereabouts. So, if you hit that threshold, particularly pre-workout, I don't know if you have to continue to dose or microdose once you've hit that threshold. I don't know if there's actually been studies comparing like hitting that threshold and then also intra-workout just continually dosing. There's no disadvantage unless there's gastrointestinal issues. So, if you want to just cover your bases and you don't care about taking some extra amino acids, then sure, go ahead and try that out.
Ben: Okay. Alright, got it.
Now, related to the protein component is, of course, this whole discussion of mTOR. You actually pose a question in the book, kind of like a hypothetical question that if mTOR activation is bad, like a lot of people are saying that overexpressing mTOR is going to lead to various cancers and genetic disorders and early onset of death and just a host of issues, a third eye growing out your forehead, then why would it be that exercise is so associated with health and longevity when in fact exercise can stimulate the expression of mTOR? Can you get into that?
James: Yeah. So, it's sort of comparing one or two or three maybe spikes in insulin versus having hyperinsulinemia because they're insulin resistant. So, having two or three acute increases in glucose and insulin is not a huge deal if you don't have chronically elevated insulin levels and you're still insulin sensitive. So, having small spikes acutely of mTOR to stimulate muscle protein synthesis is good. That's what should be happening. So, we shouldn't, I guess, basically worry about acute mTOR responses, we care more about things like chronically overeating, refined carbs, and sugar, which will chronically increase mTOR.
Ben: Now, when it comes to mTOR, is there different ways the mTOR is expressed? Meaning, maybe it was in your book that I came across this concept that there's certain types of mTOR, there's tissue-specific mTOR expression, and if you can activate it in certain places while inhibiting it in other places. That's kind of the ideal scenario for controlling mTOR?
James: Yeah. There is if I recall. It's been a while since I've actually looked at that data, so don't quote me on this. But yeah, I think a lot of it has to do with differences between skeletal muscle and liver. And, I think there is a similar effect too with IGF-1 as well where certain parts of the body expressing it versus others can have varying harms versus benefits. But, I think the key here is that small pulses of mTOR is actually beneficial in regards to muscle protein synthesis.
Ben: Yeah. It is interesting because mTOR can be really good for things like neuroplasticity. A lot of people don't realize that. And, when you exercise, I do know, and I think John Ratey talked about this way back in his book “Spark,” that exercise activates mTOR and BDNF production in the brain, and of course, it promotes skeletal muscle and torque expression, but it actually does inhibit mTOR expression in certain cells. I think you're right. One was liver. I think it would be logical that fat cells would also be included in that. And, that basically if you're triggering mTOR expression with overfeeding, you're going to get a different result from a longevity standpoint than if you trigger mTOR expression with exercise, particularly because the mTOR expression achieved via exercise is more localized to brain and skeletal muscle, whereas you have a more systemic mTOR activation if you're simply eating a lot, overfeeding with protein and not say fasting on a regular basis or at least on a moderately regular basis.
James: Precisely. And, I mean the same thing could be said for the elevations in glucose and acid that occur in the body when you exercise, right? Like acutely with exercise, that's not a problem. Chronically elevated glucose or chronically elevated hydrogen ions will be a problem. So, you could take any surrogate marker that's raised by exercise, and you can show that it's beneficial acutely, but it would be harmful if it's chronically elevated.
Ben: Yeah, that makes sense. That makes sense. Okay. There's so many subtle nuances. That's why I love this book.
And again, I'm going to link to everything that we're talking about at BenGreenfieldLife.com/WINBook.
In writing when, I know that you like to be active yourself, James, and that you aren't necessarily spending your entire day hunched over a chemistry counter and a lab coat or whatever it is geeks do these days. Did you actually play any sports? Do you currently play any sports or a certain flavor of exercise? And, if so, I'm curious what kind of things that you implemented, like practical boots on the street things you implemented that you haven't yet talked about because we covered glycine, we covered salt loading, we covered sodium citrate, and you gave some great practical tips along with a little bit about the cold water immersion and the use of amino acids. But, are there other things that you do on a regular basis, like walking through your average kitchen experience or cooking experience or workout experience on a typical day that you think you've probably adapted because you've just freaking seen that science has backed it up and that it's a pretty cool strategy that more people should know about who don't currently know about it.
James: Well, I actually really didn't play any sports. I wrestled. I did Judo. I did kenpo karate. So, it was essentially just fighting people in my childhood, which I had one of those dads that was like, “This is what you're doing.” You know what I mean? I didn't choose to do those. And, I ran cross country too to get in shape for wrestling. So, I've always understood the importance of salt from that aspect. But, I will say doing all those different types of activities and then writing this book really opened my eyes to training differently to improve different, let's say, metabolic pathways in the body. So, a lot of people sort of knock on steady state or low state cardio, but combining Zone 2 training essentially, which is let's say running at only 60, 70% max heart rate with also training at anaerobic thresholds where you're running 9 to 10 miles per hour, which is a faster pace is training different systems.
And so, when you train multiple systems, sort of like what you had said too when you train let's say fasted versus training carb-loaded, when you train fasted, your body is going to be able to utilize fat as fuel and ketones as fuel better which will help preserve glycogen stores, and actually that will help you in anaerobic or vigorous exercise performance because now you have more glycogen to use when you need it. So, training different systems is definitely something that I'd like to do. So, in regards to that, I will, let's say, jog at a fairly fast pace 1 mile, but then at the end of that, I will do hill sprints as fast as I can to train different systems. So, you're training aerobic fitness and anaerobic fitness, which is important. And then, explosiveness too. And, from a boosting blood volume perspective, combining both strategies is going to lead to an even better increase in baseline plasma volume. So, you can actually quickly boost plasma volume by doing what's called supramaximal interval training. Everybody knows about HIT, high-intensity interval training, but supramaximal interval training is basically sprinting all out as fast as you can for 30 seconds, resting 30 seconds, and doing that five cycles. You do that basically two or three times and you will have a dramatic expansion in plasma volume, whereas you'd have to run probably for a full week to get the same increase in baseline plasma volume.
So, I do a lot more though I actually tore my pectoralis tendon at 26 bench pressing too much. So, I actually don't do a lot of heavyweights on chest anymore. But, I still do heavy weights overall, but I do more functional movements. So, I have a tonal machine, which is like electromagnetic resistance. It's sort of cables or let's say resistance bands. So, I use a lot more resistance bands now, but I also use tonal a lot more too. It's not as hard on the joints and you can do more functional movements. And, what I mean by that is like literally just throwing punches or kicks with a resistance band to get both cardio in but also resistance training at the same time. So, I actually now work out more so doing those types of things plus more what I talked about before regarding running and sprinting uphill.
Ben: Okay, got it. Yeah, it sounds similar to my approach. It's very, very multimodal. I actually have one of those tonal machines. Supposed you don't know what it is that you mount it to a wall, it's got a pretty small footprint, but these cables are attached to a couple of motors with arms, almost like a free motion cable machine that you might see at the gym. And, you can adjust your exercises, you can adjust the extent to which the machine pulls back on you, how hard you have to pull against it. You can work out pretty hard and go to exhaustion like high-time detention without necessarily having a spotter. Lately, I've been using this fancier device, albeit more expensive device called an ARX, which kind of does the same thing. But, these newfangled machines that push and pull you through a range of motion are a little bit different than I think the Nautilus machines that so-called sit and be fit machines that I normally would have scoffed at, especially my days of really prioritizing functional fitness and athleticism because they tend to work the system as parts instead of as a whole. But, once you introduce some kind of technology that pushes and pulls against you and that makes especially the eccentric portion of the exercise far more difficult, I think that you actually can get a lot of these machines, especially as I age, I like the idea of combining a controlled range of motion with technology that really pushes and pulls against you and makes it more difficult.
And, like you James, I'll often combine things like that with high-intensity interval training, but using a very polarized approach, meaning I either have extremely hard high-intensity interval training sets like a Tabata set or a 30-second mitochondrial pulse followed by three to four minutes of recovery done just four or five times through and all low-level stuff, meaning 20% intensity say walking and very, very little so-called gray man zone or no man's zone training where you're just training hard enough to feel the burn, but not so hard that you aren't getting that fit and it's just exhausting. Even from an endocrine standpoint, it can be a little bit depleting. That whole chronic cardio long-term can decrease testosterone, has a little bit of truth to it. So, I'm right on board with you, lift the wide variety of weights from a wide variety of angles. When you go hard, go super hard. When you go easy, go super easy. And, don't spend a lot of time in the middle zone.
James: Yeah. And, I mean, for me, it was more, how do I get consistent resistance on my tendons and ligaments without having to risk tearing them? So, it's really starting to utilize these types of machines or resistance bands. The benefit of it is that it does reduce your risk of injuries, especially if you want to go fairly heavy. And, that's really part of the catalyst too is my injury is sort of this is like a workaround for that.
Ben: Yeah, that's a big, big part of it for me too is I'm over the days of performance for performance's sake. And, I want the ideal combination of things that are going to keep me in the game with good lifespan and health span while relatively strong. Yeah, maybe not quite as strong as if I was doing Olympic lifting or powerlifting, but the rate of injury and the risk of injury is so much higher on those activities that I find this slow, smooth-controlled lifting, high-intensity interval training, typically on low impact machines like the rower or the bike or even swimming in the pool, and a lot of walking works really well.
And then, if I do want to throw in a little bit of athleticism, I drag out the kettlebells. At the time we're talking, I'll do super slow training a few times a week, walk a lot, throw in a couple of high-intensity interval cardio sessions, and then if I drag out the kettlebells once or twice a week for some swings and some presses, some goblet squats, some moves that are a little bit more athletic and functionally fit, man, I'm good, especially because that unwieldy asymmetrical kettlebell just boosts your fitness and athleticism so fast. I feel if you have good form, paradoxically even though it's a hard object to throw around, I think there's a little bit lower risk of injury with the kettlebell, probably because the way that it moves in your wrist and your hands give you a little bit better joint range of motion and rotation than say a barbell or a set of dumbbells.
So, that's kind of the crux of my program right now. It sounds similar to your philosophy.
James: Yeah. I mean, I would agree with that too. And, speaking of low impact, so when I was running on concrete, my knees were killing me. But, now that I've switched over to running on grass, I don't have any issue. So, especially if you're running downhill, which will increase the load sevenfold on your knees, you want to be running on grass if all possible. And, that's really helped me. So, I don't know if people are struggling that I can't run anymore because my knees are just killing me, just running on grass will definitely help with that.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. Well, this book is fantastic. You co-wrote it with Siim Land and Tristin Kennedy, a couple of your coauthors, they aren't on the podcast right now, but they're also wealth of resources in their own rights. I was lucky enough to at least get one of you guys on. For those of you who are listening in, hopefully you've been clued into the fact there's a lot of unique things in this book. So again, it's called “WIN,” and it covers everything, again electrolytes, mindset, temperature, biohacking, all the stuff that we talked about and a whole lot more. I'll also link in the shownotes to it and my other podcasts that I've done with James and his other books, all of which are excellent. If you go to BenGreenfieldLife.com/WINBook. That's BenGreenfieldLife.com/WINBook.
James, thanks for coming on the show, man.
James: Thanks for having me, Ben.
So, there's two events coming up. You can go to both of them. I'm going to go to both of them. Obviously, I'm going to fly to Texas, then fly over to Lexington. The Texas event called RUNGA is October 13th through the 15th. The Wild Health one is October 22nd. Go to both. I am obviously.
You can also check BenGreenfieldLife.com/Calendar for all of the events that I'll be teaching at this year. So, I hope to see you there.
More than ever these days, people like you and me need a fresh entertaining, well-informed, and often outside-the-box approach to discovering the health, and happiness, and hope that we all crave. So, I hope I've been able to do that for you on this episode today. And, if you liked it or if you love what I'm up to, then please leave me a review on your preferred podcast listening channel wherever that might be and just find the Ben Greenfield Life episode. Say something nice. Thanks so much. It means a lot.
My friend Dr. James DiNicolantonio's new book, WIN: Achieve Peak Athletic Performance, Optimize Recovery and Become a Champion, is undoubtedly one of the most evidence-based books I've seen on athletic performance.
The book teaches the underlying pillars of physical development and fitness, such as nutrition, muscle growth, fat loss, body composition optimization, recovery, supplementation, and much more.
Dr. DiNicolantonio is a brilliant guy who first joined me in the podcast “Why You’re Probably Mineral Deficient If You Eat A “Healthy” Diet, How Coffee & Ketosis Affect Your Mineral Status, Is Himalayan Salt Toxic, The Best Bottled Waters & More: The Mineral Fix.” He also wrote the book The Salt Fix and The Mineral Fix, both excellent guides to salt and mineral intake. Other books by Dr. DiNicolantonio include The Immunity Fix, The Longevity Solution: Rediscovering Centuries-Old Secrets to a Healthy, Long Life, The Obesity Fix: How to Beat Food Cravings, Lose Weight and Gain Energy, and Superfuel: Ketogenic Keys to Unlock the Secrets of Good Fats, Bad Fats, and Great Health.
Dr. DiNicolantonio is a cardiovascular research scientist and doctor of pharmacy at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Missouri. A well-respected and internationally known scientist and expert on health and nutrition, he is on the editorial advisory boards of several medical journals and is the author or coauthor of approximately 300 publications in the medical literature. Dr. DiNicolantonio serves as the Associate Editor of Nutrition and British Medical Journal’s (BMJ) Open Heart, a journal published in partnership with the British Cardiovascular Society. He has shared his expertise on The Dr. Oz Show, The Doctors, and international news media outlets.
Not only are there specific protocols for top athletic performance in his book WIN, but all the recommendations are backed by a wealth of scientific evidence. The theories and practices that have been formulated in the book are suitable for both beginners as well as advanced athletes, complete science nerds, bodybuilders, the average Joe or Jane wanting to lose an extra few pounds, and even top-tier elite athletes.
Let me just say that if I had this information available to me when I was competing, I know that it would have given me a significant advantage.
During our discussion, you'll discover:
-The solution that is 10-20 times better than any performance-enhancing drug (PED) when it comes to increasing exercise performance in the heat…06:06
- Salt solutions are better than performance-enhancing supplements
- Performance-enhancing supplements like beta-alanine or beetroot juice have been shown to increase vigorous endurance exercise by 1-2 minutes
- Studies show that consuming appropriate salt solutions before performance allows you to go 21 minutes longer or 10 to 20 times longer than taking typical supplements
-How much salt for athletic performance?…07:29
- UFC Performance Institute recommends 60-90 milliequivalents per liter of sodium for rehydration of athletes (about half of what is optimal with regards to boosting blood volume before athletic performance)
- Gatorade is 1/10th of the saltiness
-How do you make a high-salt solution that doesn't result in gut issues?…09:27
- There is no problem until you start going above the saltiness of blood
- Saltiness of blood: 3,200 mg of sodium per liter (0.8% salt)
- Normal saline solution is 0.9% salt, which is slightly hypertonic (154 milliequivalents of sodium)
- Most studies use a concentration of 3,500 mg of sodium per liter to enhance performance
- 3,200-3,500 mg of sodium per liter results in a significant increase in diarrhea
- With 3,200 mg,1 out of 8 people have diarrhea (not bad)
- With 4,200 mg, it increases to 6 out of 8 with diarrhea
- But there's a much better boost in plasma volume when you hit 4,300 mg of sodium per liter versus 3,200 mg
- The question is: How do you balance the better blood-boosting benefits of a 1.07% saline solution with the increased risk of diarrhea?
- Add glycine to the solution
- Glycine has been added to salt solutions for decades in individuals with severe diarrhea, either from rotavirus or cholera
- A glycine to sodium ratio of 2-3:1 ratio has been shown to reduce:
- Total volume of diarrhea
- Frequency of diarrhea
- Volume of fluid needed to hydrate the individual
- Adding glycine to a very high salt solution, like 4,300 mg of sodium per liter, will get you the best blood volume boosting solution while greatly reducing the risk of diarrhea
-How to make a performance-enhancing drink with just salt and glycine?…12:10
- One teaspoon of salt is 2,300 mg of sodium
- Preparing your solution
- 4,300 mg of sodium, just under two teaspoons of salt
- 1 liter of fluid
- Drink a colder salt solution for performance enhancement
- Salt/salinity lowers the freezing point, so you can even drink a sub-zero liquid if there is enough salt in it to cool the body down
- Studies show that a 39° to 40°F salt solution lowers the core body temperature by a half degree in 30 minutes
- Cold liquid increases the time it would take you to hit a critical core temperature which can cease performance, so there's a dual benefit of consuming the salt solution cold
-What about the glycine component?…14:28
- A study shows that glycine can absorb sodium on a 3:1 molar ratio
- For 4 g of sodium, 6 g of glycine would be more than enough to help prevent extra salt from causing diarrhea
- 5-6 g of glycine or 5-6 g of spirulina mitigates the oxidizing and inflammatory effects of vegetable oils
- Glycine helps boost glutathione levels, the master antioxidant, which can help with the oxidative stress from the Omega-6 seed oils
- Spirulina does something similar to inhibit oxidative stress
- Any brand of glycine will do
- Bone broth is salty and has high glycine
-Do you consume it all at once or sip on it leading to a workout?…18:29
- Start 90 minutes before exercise to perform at the optimum blood volume boosting potential of the solution
- Slowly consume the solution at an equal amount over 45 minutes in order not to oversaturate the absorptive capacity of the gastrointestinal system
- If you overflood the system, that will also lead to diarrhea
-Sodium bicarbonate is also a buffering agent. Is it still recommended?…20:20
- Sodium bicarbonate about two hours prior improves performance
- Acute doses are so high that, often, this causes more gastrointestinal issues so that it outweighs any type of performance and recovery benefit
- Advice is to slowly build up bicarbonate stores over weeks of about 1,000 mg per liter (1,800 g per liter is better) and consume 2 liters of that fluid per day
- A study shows that bicarbonate water, at around 2-3 liters per day, for 4 weeks, dramatically improved power output, recovery, and endurance
- An anaerobic state is usually blamed on lactic acid and lactate buildup, but it's actually hydrogen ion buildup; lactate buildup just follows
- Gerolsteiner is good but is very carbonated
- Magnesia Natural Mineral Water
- Create bicarbonate water by adding sodium bicarbonate to water
-Am I also bicarbonate loading if I put baking soda in my morning glass of water?…23:43
- Ben's morning glass of water
- 3 g of bicarbonate per day, depending on your overall dietary intake, will slowly build up bicarbonate stores and lead to performance gains
- Although a slower bicarbonate boosting substance, sodium citrate works well without messing up the stomach's pH
- With sodium citrate, 4-4½ hours before performance and on a full stomach otherwise, it will be a little tough on the stomach
- Don't go beyond 10 g in one sitting
-Creatine or creatine loading strategy…26:28
- It reminds Ben of creatine, how taking large doses seems to lead to gastric distress and water retention, bloating, and sometimes cramping
- James takes about 3 g of creatine from supplementation every day and 2 g from diet (usually from red meat) to get a daily total of 5 g
-Sodium citrate vs. sodium bicarbonate (and can you use both?)…27:22
- James used to use sodium bicarbonate but worried about the inhibition of acid in the stomach to digest proteins and absorb nutrients, so he switched to sodium citrate
- Citrate does not reduce acidity in the stomach
- Citrate turns into bicarbonate in the body and is a very good alkaline substance
- 1 to 2 g of citrate is enough to offset the acid load of an animal-based diet
- Vivoo urine test strips to test urinary pH (use code BEN30 to save 30%)
- Best time to test urinary pH is 4 hours after your last meal
- Alkaline tide occurs after a meal; testing 2 hours after a meal will have an alkaline result
- pH should be around 7, where you don't have any net excretion of acid from the kidneys
-Do you see any issues with glycine and sodium citrate in a salty solution?…29:45
- 3 g or more of citrate will have gastrointestinal issues
- Consume citrate with a meal 4 hours before a performance
- Consuming 3 g of citrate with a meal will be tolerated
-Taking glycine at night before bed…30:49
- Glycine improves sleep because it reduces core body temperature
- At a dose of 3 g, anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime
- 4 benefits of adding glycine into a salt solution:
- Improves sodium and water absorption and hence
- Reduce diarrhea
- Reduce core body temperature
- Pickle juice acutely aborts muscle cramps within 30 to 90 seconds because the acetic acid in pickle juice releases the inhibitory neurotransmitter glycine which then inhibits muscle cramps
- Pre-loading with glycine may also inhibit muscle cramps during performance as well, particularly in the heat
-How to use cooling for training…32:20
- Ben practices cold water immersion
- James prefers cool water immersion rather than cold
- Cold is less than 59°F, and cool would be 60 to 84°F
- Cold shutting the body too quickly closes the AVAs (arterio-venous anastomoses)
- Cool water strategy does not do that
- Start at 84°F or 74°F slowly working to 64°F – drops core body temperature by .5 to 1°F in 30 to 60 minutes
- Overcooling – dropping the core body temp below 97°F inhibits performance
- Studies also show that 59°F shows improvement while 55°F water reduces performance
- An ice bath increases core body temp by closing the AVAs
-There's a big difference between a 2-3 minute cold shower and a 10-minute 40°F ice bath…41:13
- Talking about inhibiting muscle protein synthesis, hypertrophy, and strength gains:
- Studies show that an ice bath will inhibit some of those gains, but those studies are 10-20 minutes in an ice bath
- A 2-minute plunge will not inhibit those gains; what probably will occur is you are inhibiting a lot of that oxidative stress
- Quick ice baths dramatically improve power output the next day
-What about cryotherapy vs. cold water immersion?…44:10
- Water conducts cold 2-4 times better than air
- About 90% of studies on cold use cold water immersion
- Cryotherapy studies are about 2%
- James prefers cold water immersion because the evidence is in favor of using that strategy
- Podcast on Cryotherapy:
-Going back to salt solutions…44:52
- Dosing of salt solutions does not have to be done daily; it is for improving your performance during competition
- On a day-to-day basis, you will perform better later on if you don't hyper-hydrate
- The main benefit of exercise is the plasma volume expansion that occurs over multiple courses of exercise
- Vigorously exercising decreases blood flow to the kidneys, signaling the body to retain more salt and water
- The other way to boost plasma volume is simply to become dehydrated during exercise
- The goal is to become either dehydrated or acclimated, and then you get the plasma volume expansion over multiple courses and then hyper hydrate with salt with a salt solution before a competition
- Make sure to replace the salt that has been lost during exercise
- What is important for people to understand is that if they are sweating a lot, they are losing a good amount of salt and should rehydrate with the appropriate amount
- Train low – compete high phenomenon associated with carbohydrates
- Inducing hormesis by not hyper-hydrating with salt and fluids
- Consuming about 1,200 mg of sodium won't significantly boost blood volume
-Individualized sweat and sodium profile…50:47
- Gatorade sweat patch
- Total body salt status is a big determiner of how salty your sweat will be
-What's the difference between proteinogenic, non-proteinogenic, ketogenic, and glucogenic amino acids?…51:48
- There are a total of 22 proteinogenic amino acids
- 9 are essential:
- 9 are essential:
- Kion Aminos
- Non-proteinogenic amino acids like glycine
- Glucogenic amino acids can be converted to glucose through gluconeogenesis
- The most common are the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)
- BCAAs have some advantages, but they also have disadvantages to essential amino acids.
- If you are using only use BCAAs, you are signaling your body to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, but you are not giving your body all the amino acids to do that; the body then breaks down muscle to get the other 6 acids to make muscle
- Just taking BCAAs can lead to a decrease in muscle protein synthesis and an increase in muscle protein breakdown
- Podcast with Milos Sarcev
-If mTOR activation is bad, why is exercise associated with longevity when exercise can stimulate the expression of mTOR?…56:17
- It's like comparing one or two, or maybe three spikes in insulin versus having hyperinsulinemia because you're insulin resistant
- So having small spikes of mTOR to stimulate muscle protein synthesis is good
- Instead of worrying about acute mTOR responses, we should care more about things like chronically overeating refined carbs and sugar, which will chronically increase mTOR
-Are there different ways that mTOR is expressed?…57:38
- A lot of it has to do with differences in skeletal muscle and the liver
- Small pulses of mTOR are beneficial in muscle protein synthesis
- Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey
-Are there any things that you do regularly that you adapted because science has backed them up?…1:00:05
- James wrestled, did judo and Kenpo karate, and ran cross country to get in shape for wrestling
- Understood the importance of salt from that aspect
- James uses resistance bands
- Run on grass; running downhill increases the load on your knees 7-fold
- Ben uses ARX and kettlebells
- WIN: Achieve Peak Athletic Performance, Optimize Recovery and Become a Champion by James DiNicolantonio, Siim Land, and Tristin Kennedy
-And much more…
- Runga: October 13th-15th, 2022 (Austin, TX). This is the one event every year that I never miss. Join me and my family to tap into your full potential over three days of fully immersive programming and therapies. Gourmet organic chef-prepared meals, live podcast recordings, and personalized health consulting make this a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There are only fifty spots available, so claim yours today here.
- Wild Health Awake + Aware Principles: October 22nd, 2022 (Lexington, KY). Join me for a one-day intensive experience where I will guide you through a series of interactive lectures that explore purpose, meaning, and spiritual health. VIP guests will also join me on an immersive walk through nature and an intimate dinner. Learn more here.
- Keep up on Ben's LIVE appearances by following bengreenfieldfitness.com/calendar!
Resources from this episode:
- WIN by James DiNicolantonio, Siim Land and Tristin Kennedy
- The Salt Fix by James DiNicolantonio
- The Mineral Fix by James DiNicolantonio and Siim Land
- The Immunity Fix by James DiNicolantonio and Siim Land
- The Longevity Solution: Rediscovering Centuries-Old Secrets to a Healthy, Long Life, by James DiNicolantonio and Dr. Jason Fung
- The Obesity Fix: How to Beat Food Cravings, Lose Weight and Gain Energy, by James DiNicolantonio and Siim Land
- Superfuel: Ketogenic Keys to Unlock the Secrets of Good Fats, Bad Fats, and Great Health, by James DiNicolantonio and Joseph Mercola
- Why You’re Probably Mineral Deficient If You Eat A “Healthy” Diet, How Coffee & Ketosis Affect Your Mineral Status, Is Himalayan Salt Toxic, The Best Bottled Waters & More: The Mineral Fix
- Biohacking Muscle Growth: How To Maximize Anabolism & Muscle Hypertrophy Using Targeted Delivery Of Nutrients To Muscle Tissue During Exercise, With Professional Bodybuilder Milos Sarcev.
- Fire & Ice: Tips, Tricks & Biohacks To Maximize The Benefits Of Sauna, Hyperthermia, Cryotherapy & Cold Thermogenesis.
– Other resources:
- Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey
- Beta Alanine
- Beetroot Juice
- Bone Broth
- Sodium Bicarbonate
- Sodium Citrate
- Kion Creatine
- Kion Aminos
- Magnesia Natural Mineral Water
- Baking soda
- Hydrogen Tablets
- Jigsaw Health Adrenal Cocktail (use code GREENFIELD10 to save $10)
- Morozko Forge
- Vivoo Urine Test Strips (use code BEN30 to save 30%)
- Gatorade Sweat Patch
- BFR Bands
Do you have questions, thoughts, or feedback for Dr. DiNicolantonio or me? Leave your comments below, and one of us will reply!
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- There are a total of 22 proteinogenic amino acids