Podcast # 181 from http://www.bengreenfieldfitness.com/2012/02/episode-181-why-your-back-hurts/Introduction: In this episode, why your back hurts? Also, a functional obstacle course, is hot yoga good, fuelling for a mid-day race, drinking only when thirsty, how to know when to end the work out, help for nerve damage, lifting with scoliosis and training for wilderness first aid.Brock: Hello! there podcast listeners, this is Brock welcoming you to episode 181 of the Ben Greenfield fitness podcast, recording live somewhere between the Pacific Northwest and Atlantic Canada, somewhere in the internet, and here is the man himself, the reason we’re all here, Ben Greenfield.Ben: Is there actually a city in Canada called Atlantic?Brock: I don’t think so.Ben: Yeah, it’s a region.Brock: Yeah, like the Atlantic Ocean.Ben: Hey, you know what that is?Brock: Something delicious I’m sure.Ben: Yeah, its coconut water.Brock: Something I’m not allowed to have while I’m on the rev diet I’m sure.Ben: This is crazy. This is a Tuesday afternoon podcast recording, we usually do Wednesday morning, should be interesting. We’re going to find out if we’re dumber or brighter on any afternoon versus the morning.Brock: I am so on the ball, you wouldn’t even believe it.Ben: Trough by fire, we’ll find out.Brock: And I actually meant that I’m sitting on a yoga ball.Ben: Ah, nice. I am in my low back-destroying chair and I think my wife made out of like liquor and plastic and little sticks. She just makes furniture and pulse worth of stuff and I know that’s ergonomically sound but…
Brock: If she decides to sell it, don’t call it that.Ben: What?Brock: The back-destroying.Ben: Oh, the back destroyer, yeah, probably not. We get a lot of masochistic customers so, speaking of masochism, we should put a link in the show notes. I totally destroyed my body yesterday and put it up on Youtube, did a commercial for Timex and rode my bike into the Spokane River in the freezing rain and then snowboarded essentially on sticks and boulders on this hill, no business being on and went on to the hockey rink and had a bunch of guys in hockey skates decimate me against the wall and then staged me getting hit by my buddies Yukon, so let’s put a link to that in the show notes.Brock: Absolutely! I think everybody need witness you injuring yourself in the name of comedy.Ben: Nice! What do you think, should we move on the News Flashes?Brock: Let’s do it.News Flashes:Brock: Alright, so what’s going on? What kind of new, exciting stuff is happening?Ben: I wanted to mention a couple of tweets that I did about eating a lot and eating a little. So first of all, I came across a really good info- graphic about how much you actually need to eat in terms of carbohydrates prior to an endurance event if you want to actually get the benefits of increased carbohydrate intake the day before, in terms of like maxing out your body’s storage carbohydrate, your body’s storage glycogen. I will put a link to it in the show notes but it comes out to about 10 grams per kilogram and to put that into perspective based on the info-graphic and adding up with 10 grams per kilogram would actually be for the average person, we’d be looking at, for breakfast, the equivalent of about five pieces of toast or if you’re going gluten-free, you could say the equivalent of right around two and a half potatoes and about a thousand milliliters of a sports drink, like a sport sports drink like a Gatorade, PowerAde full of sugar type of sport drink. Lunch would be the equivalent of, and I’m reading this right off the info-graphic, one can of baked beans, two cups of cooked rice and another thousand milliliters of sports drink. And then dinner, dinner would be eight cups of cooked pasta and 500 milliliters of sports drink. That’s a lot of
what I drink and that may shock people but how many people, who listen in, do a triathlon like an iron man or do a marathon and find themselves hitting a wall and running out of energy and I’ve done that.Brock: I’ve done that.Ben: and a lot of people have done it based off of more and more studies that have been seeing on carbohydrate consumption the week of or the day before, like a hard and heavy endurance event, suggest that most people just plain, aren’t eating enough and don’t get me wrong, that’s not healthy what I just described. That’s like blood sugar and insulin coming out of your eyeballs but if you want to make those sacrifices for being fast and not running out of energy during a marathon or iron man triathlon or something like that, that maybe what it takes.Brock: That wasn’t meant to be the diet to have, that was just an example of how you’d get that amount right?Ben: That’s an example but still, even if you’re looking at getting that from healthy carbohydrate sources that is a lot of sugar but, just thought I’d mention that, put it in the context for folks. And then at the same time, when I bam on the other side of things, was a study that showed that essentially starvation can cure a type two diabetes and this was based off of a super low-calorie diet that was done over in Britain for two months on folks with type two diabetes, a relatively small study granted but these people slashed their calorie intake to about 600 calories a day for a couple of months and it’s hard to do.Brock: It is!Ben: But these people did it and they reversed all the symptoms and the insulin sensitivity and everything else associated with type two diabetes and apparently, like kind of back in the day, back in ancient times when people have symptoms of diabetes and this onset of obesity and insulin sensitivity, a lot of times prolonged fast was the way to get rid of this and I’m not saying this is the end-all cure for type two diabetes but diabetes and a lot of the chronic diseases we face are diseases of over consumption and this is a perfect example of how something like that can be addressed. It’s certainly not going to hit the mainstream because people can’t really make money off it per say, you can’t necessarily sell a drug that restricts your calorie intake to 600 calories a day.Brock: It is actually losing money with that kind of drug.
Ben: You would, and people don’t like to eat just 600 calories a day but it definitely caught my eye and if you have type two diabetes, if my mom or my dad had type two diabetes, I would certainly show them the study and make a suggestion that they consider something like prolonged fast or very low calorie diet. Yeah, there’s going to be a little metabolic damage that takes place but you can dig yourself out of that hole. So, those are the two news flashes that I wanted to mention and of course, you can get lots of other tidbits from me over at Twitter.com/BenGreenfield all week long.Listener Q and A:Brock: Okay, so we got a whole bunch of questions to get through but is there anything else you want to throw in before we get into the questions?Ben: You know, blame it on a Tuesday afternoon being a recording time this week but we did kind of brushed over the special announcements and it’s not because there is absolutely nothing special at all going on in BenGreenfieldFitness , the fact that there’s not much in terms of events this week but there was a post that I highly recommend that you go and read if you don’t want to do things like “forget the special announcements” and that is a post that I put up about 12 mental performance hacks, a cheap cheat for boosting your brain power and a lot of this stuff really actually works in terms of making you smarter, improving your focus, improving your cognitive performance, I’d highly recommend that you check it out. I hid some gems in there for sure, one in particular that comes to my mind being tea and chi and you’ll see that on one of the tips there on that post but stuff I’ve been taking on the afternoon on an empty stomach and swearing by in terms of like this kind of brain buzz that it gives you. So, check out that post over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com and that’s pretty much the only thing that I want to mention.Brock: There was that awesome interview that you did about the running drills with Gram, everybody should check that out. For sure, if they haven’t read it and watched those running drills that are posted on Youtube, that was good stuff.Ben: Yeah, go check out the dog poo drill.Brock: Okay, so let’s get into the questions. We’ve got a whole bunch of audio questions, starting with this one from Kumar.
Kumar: Hi Ben, this is Kumar. I’ve been listening to the podcast and it’s really great, I’ve learned a lot of things regarding diet and fats etc. so I have a question. I am a 28-year old male and I was never physically active until the age of 25 but I started doing P90x on and off for the last two years but I always get injured or something happens then I give up but the problem here is my lower back. I cannot do plyometrics and leg exercises from that program because I have pain in the lower back and I also cannot run outside for more than two miles because the back starts paining again. So I visited a chiropractor and he said assubluxations and I’ve been visiting him for six months now and the lower back pain is not too much but still I cannot do plyometrics at all. So, please give me a suggestion on whether visiting the chiropractor is a good idea and if there’s something I can do to strengthen my lower back so that I can run longer distances, thank you.Brock: Alright! I was tempted to, I think we should name this episode “The Back Pain episode” because there’s a lot of people with sore backs.Ben: Yeah, and I noticed that quite a few questions came through about backs this week and Kumar’s question in particular. You said the chiropractic physician has been telling you that you got subluxations and I know that a lot of chiropractic physicians listen to this show and I’m a fan of chiropractic therapy but vertebral subluxation is a term that I think is used too much by chiropractors and it can be a catch-all term for a lot of signs and differences in your spinal column that can be linked to a whole bunch of different pathologies that are going on in other places of your body that are blamed on a vertebra being out of place or pressure being on your spinal column or on your nerves from a misaligned vertebra and what happens sometimes, this isn’t every case. I don’t want to get a lot of angry letters from chiropractic docs but subluxation will simply be an excuse to keep you coming back and keep billing you. I have found that most people really can, if they take care of their bodies, be able to visit a chiropractic physician a little less frequently than many people do. And in Kumar’s case, one of the things that I would look into that I think is a big issue, I’ve written an entire book and program about it over at RunWithNoPain.com is a sacroiliac joint that is stuck or is immobile. It tends to be a big problem in folks and basically what it comes down to is you have this joint. This sacroiliac joint in your pelvis bone and when you’re running or you’re weight bearing or you’re bending, there are surfaces in this joint that move against one another, anywhere about two to four millimeters or so. Amounts a ton but there’s enough movement going on there to where when you are overusing your pelvis or when you have a muscular imbalance that’s causing one side of that joint to be overloaded or dysfunctional. Essentially,
the two surfaces of that joint can lock and it can take a chiropractic manipulation to unlock that joint, to adjust the sacroiliac joint. I’ve found that in about 90% of the athletes that I’ve spoken to who have low back pain, especially low back pain that manifests just one side of the other, that this fixes it and it’s a pretty simple fix. Anywhere from one to about three visits to a chiropractic physician to get that sacroiliac joint adjusted and you are good to go if you pair that with fixing the imbalance that it’s causing in the first place. One of the reasons that you may find yourself stuck with a Stuck SI Joint is that you have a weak butt. That’s a really big issue and so you can buy a sacroiliac joint adjustment with a butt-strengthening program where you’re doing kick-outs and bridges and lunges step-ups and things that strengthen your butt. Another reason can be leg length discrepancy that can often be functional due to a core bike fit or improper run gate and so what I’m getting at here is that if I were you, what I would do is I would possibly get a second opinion from a different chiropractic physician. I recommend you to find one that works with your local sports team like your local professional sports team. A lot of those guys are really good and they typically have a good amount of experience adjusting sacroiliac joints. You see them and you can buy an adjustment from them with a butt- strengthening and a full-body flexibility protocol, a lot of foam rolling, little bit of massage and you can read my book “Run With No Pain” if you want to get into this and even more detail but that’s the basic overview of what I’d do.Brock: Yeah! If you’re looking for a physiotherapist or a chiropractor, I think the best, like what Ben said but also you can go to your local university or college and find out which one the athletic department goes to and some of them have them on staff there too.Ben: Yeah and I think the big part of that is just that athletes that need to enhance their performance and get worked on by a chiropractic physician and show results in their performance kind of prove that that doc knows what they’re doing and I’ve never really found a chiropractic who’s not really good who works with a local professional or semi-pro sports team and so I just stick by that recommendation and that’s a really good way to kind of vet out a good chiropractic doc.Brock: For sure! Alright, so our next question comes from Kent and it’s another audio question.Kent: Hey Ben, this is Kent Steibler from the Upstate New York. I actually have a little bit of a crazy question for you, I’m putting on an obstacle endurance, something of a side taste. There’s not really endurance for this, an obstacle race and we wanted to base our
obstacles off of true fitness principles. So for instance, a couple of the obstacles are obviously we have pill strains of the UAC pills and we have a tiny cloth that we pull out of the water so you’re pointing like a cinder block on a rope out of the water, so stuff like that. It’s not really sexy stuff but really fitness-based and the terrain is a mix of gravel, train running and field running. So I was just wondering if you have any good influence with some cool opts what we could do with that fitness-based and not like tough-mother-sexy-based. Thanks man, appreciate the podcast, love it.Brock: Okay, so he’s trying to steal some ideas from the great mind of Ben Greenfield.Ben: Love this question, it’s a great question.Brock: I thought you’d like it.Ben: Okay, so what I would do is I would split this entire functional movement deal into several different basic movements that we all function or need to function with on a daily basis and there would be seven movements that I would basically split your obstacle course into or include in the exercises that you have as part of your obstacle course. Squatting would be one, bending would be another and sometimes those two are combined, and then lunging, pushing, pulling, some type of gate-type of motion and then twisting. So squatting would be anything where you’re bending at the knees and the hips and kind of keeping your back straight and lifting something from the ground or pushing a weight that’s on your back or your chest. Bending, again, which I mentioned is sometimes combined with squatting, would involve some type of flexing and extending at the waist, usually in a standing position. Lunging, just like it sounds like, would be moving forward, stepping up, typically with one leg at a time, either side ways or front to back. Pushing would generally involve using your arms or your chest or your shoulders to force some kind of a weight up and way out from your body and then pulling of course would be just the opposite of that, dragging the weight or pulling the weight towards the body. Twisting would involve turning and rotating usually using some part of your torso to apply a force and then you got gate which would basically just involve moving over terrain like walking or jogging or sprinting or what not and if you look at all these patterns, these are patterns that humans really need for survival. Squatting would basically, you got to lift up a heavy rock to move it out of the way and bending. You’re using that motion when you’re lifting that rock as well. Lunging, stepping over a log, stepping into a throw, traversing over a terrain. Pushing, you’d need that for like anything that pushing a plow to hurting animals to hoisting way over head.
Pulling could be something as simple as pulling yourself up into a tree. Twisting, throwing a spear, fighting, throwing a rock, that type of thing and gate, of course, just ambulating whether you’re moving from place to place or tracking down an animal or sprinting an animal down or whatever the case maybe, so a lot of these would be kind of like “primal” type of movements and I would include all of them. So, kind of putting this into practice, squatting/bending, you could do something like literally transferring heavy rocks from point A to point B or rolling really big rocks from point A to point B, that involves squatting and bending as does an activity like hoisting a heavy object. Hay baling is a perfect example and you can get your hands on hay bails I’m sure and use them as part of your obstacle course. Lunging, think about like pushing a car, pushing a heavy object, a football sled or car whatever the case maybe, that’s going to involve lunging against resistance. Another action that would involve lunging would be like those heavy chains that you can get. A lot of football teams use them but basically like a chain drag where you’re dragging a heavy chain from point A to point B, that involves a lunging motion. Pushing motion would be like doing really heavy rock or medicine ball throws, any type of overhead lift like a log lift or rock lift, anything like that would also be a pushing motion. Pulling motion, you can do rope pulls, tug of war, that type of thing or tree climbing, make sure you hand out helmets and blain equipment but that really is a good pulling activity, tree climbing, rock climbing that type of thing. For twisting, you could do wood chopping, that’s a perfect example, chopping a tree, chopping a log. You could also do some type of throwing motion like a spear throw, javelin throw. Again, like a heavy object like a rock or medicine ball throw and then for that gate motion that I mention, you could do like a farmer’s walk where you got two heavy objects that you’re holding and you’re walking from point A to point B or you’re carrying really heavy weight up a hill. So in responding to Kent’s question, hopefully I’m giving the listeners an idea of things that you could do for a tough workout that maybe doesn’t take you in the gym, it kind of takes you out the nature or present your body with new challenges but yeah, squatting, bending, lunging, pushing, pulling, twisting and some type of gate motion is what I’d recommend.Brock: And definitely send us a list of the things you throw in your obstacle course once you have it all nailed down because now I’m curious.Ben: Or videos, that would be better.Brock: Okay, so our next question comes from Megan.
Megan: Hi Ben, my name’s Megan. I have two questions for your podcast. My first question is about bikram yoga and what your thoughts are on it for endurance athletes. I do it one a week, I used to do it three times a week but I found I got too flexible and I think to retain my running could certainly, muscles and running are supposed to be tight, tighter and on the same note, I wanted to know your thoughts about stretching after a long bikes and runs like dynamic stretching before working out but stretching like with a Wharton stretch strap, that green strap you’re holding ecstatically for two minutes as proposed by Kelly Starwood, like the mobility wise. I think Brian McKenzie mentioned Kelly Starwood to you, but he has people hold certain stretches for like two minutes. That’s the therapeutic dose. Thank you!Brock: Okay, so are we allowed to say Bikram without paying some sort of fee? Isn’t that the brand name of yoga?Ben: Yeah! It was actually invented by a guy, I don’t know his full name but his last name was Bikram and at some point in the past, he came to the States and opened up a bunch of studios and started teaching his practice and I know he got a lot of celebrities involved with his style of yoga and it got really popular and essentially, I’ve talked about it on the show before I think but it’s hot yoga. It’s going into a hot, humid room and it’s a fairly standardized practice like you do the same routine every time. That was invented by good old Mr. Bikram and it’s kind of an intensive temperature-regulated yoga practice involves a combination of the lunges and squats and down dog and some floor poses and some standing poses and some balance poses. I’ve done it a few times. It certainly is more intensive than a regular yoga class because of that heat. I wrote an article about this that appeared in the Huffington Post recently and the unfortunate thing is that there are some claims made about it that are simply not true. Like that it can burn 800 or 1000 calories an hour because your heart rate is going so fast and of course, your heart rate isn’t going fast because you’re burning lots of calories or contracting your muscles significantly. It’s because you’re shunting all this blood to your skin to cool your body and so your heart rate goes up. Another claim made by Bikram practitioners is that it detoxifies your body and you certainly can lose some toxins along with some menirals and other metabolites through sweat and through urine but the liver and the kidneys do the majority of toxin filtering and toxin excretion. Sweat really isn’t part of that equation. It’s a very small part of the equation. Attempting to detox your body through sweat is not a very efficient way to detox your body. You’d actually be better off like eating a higher fiber diet or going through like a cleanse and getting toxins out of your body through your digestive system and having your liver and your kidneys do the
work. So don’t fool yourself that you’re going to be detoxifying your body, you’re burning lots of calories when you do bikram but your core temperature is higher so you’re muscles are warmer so they stretched better and so if you want to improve your flexibility, maybe even decrease your risk of injury while working on your flexibility, bikram is a good way to do it. Bikram is also really good if you’re trying to get ready for a hot event like I’ve done it before leading into an Ironman or half Ironman in a hot weather. I did it going into half Ironman down in Chile. I did it before Hawaii one year multiple times and it’s a great way to heat acclimate. You can also just do yoga like in a dry sauna or in a steam room and kind of get a similar effect without going to a standardized bikram yoga class if you don’t have the time to find a good one in your area. Ultimately, I think that if you can squeeze it in, it will present a new challenge to your body but just don’t think it’s going to detoxify your body or burn a lot of calories, there’s better ways to do those two things.Brock: Megan mentioned something about, she was afraid she was getting too flexible while she was doing it. Is that something to worry about?Ben: It is if you’re involved in a sport where power is something that you want to produce because a tight muscle produces more power like sprinters have tight hamstrings and tight butt muscles as do jumpers. Even a lot of really good endurance athletes tend to be a little bit tighter. There’s this happy medium between not being so tight that you increase your risk for injury and you increase the impact that your joints have to take on but also not being so flexible that you lose the ability for your muscles to produce power and force because there is an inverse relationship between that and flexibility and so I certainly would be careful. If you find yourself turning into human Gumby and you’re also wanting to lift a lot of weight or ride a bike fast or run fast, you’re not doing yourself any favors. I personally kind of have a few different yoga moves that I do like warrior one and warrior two and warrior three, a little bit of down dog, some hip-opening moves and I just go through a series of those in the morning typically and then I’ll usually throw in like a 30 to 40-minute yoga practice at some point once a week and that’s about the maximum amount of yoga that I do and I personally walk that fine line between being kind of too flexible but just flexible enough to avoid injury so yeah, it certainly can be an issue and it’s really tough to say what too flexible is, it’s going to vary from person to person but yoga ultimately is going to decrease the amount of power that you can produce but it will also reduce risk of injury so I really wouldn’t do it more than once or twice per week and then just throw in a little bit of stretching.
Brock: Excellent! Okay, our next question comes from I’m going to call him Nooner just because he didn’t tell us his name.Nooner: Hi Ben and Brock, I have a question for the podcast. I’m racing in Boise 70.3 this year and as you know, it’s a little bit of an unusual start time to this race, starting at noon. My question is how to handle my nutrition on race morning so that I don’t end up going into the race feeling heavy but also making sure that I have enough nutrition in my system to get it going on the swim and not end up with some kind of GI distress later in the race for having eaten too much or the wrong kind of food? so if you could help me out with this, I’d appreciate it. Thanks, bye.Brock: Okay, so 70.3 that starts at noon. How civilized, that’s just delightful.Ben: I know! It’s wonderful. I did that race, just sleep in and sit around and you sit there nervous and you waste the whole day being nervous.Brock: Yeah, I guess.Ben: And then you do the race and it’s like bedtime by the time you finish. So there are advantages to racing seven 0’clock in the morning. It may seem kind of ungodly, there are certainly advantages. So I’ve received this question before about events that start in the early afternoon especially like an endurance even,t and the answer is really simple. You just don’t over-complexify things and that’s a pretty complexified word. What I mean by that is, stick to your guns and do fairly similar to what you would do if you would wake up in the morning and having a bet and that would be get up in the morning and you have a meal, primarily comprised of easy-to- digest carbohydrates, couple of sweet potatoes is fine. Put a little salt on them, put a little honey on them, maybe a little bit of like omen butter or yogurt and then two hours before your event you just do that again and that’s it and I’ve advised multiple people like literally dozens of people who have done that race, that particular one in Boise, because it’s only like five hours from my house so I get this question a lot and that always works. Like you get up and you eat breakfast when you normally do, whatever seven, eight, nine and then I don’t think the race starts at noon. I actually think it starts at two unless they moved it recently but then you eat again around 11:30 or so, some more meal. So it’s almost like you’re just eating two breakfasts and it sounds really simple and kind of like a stupid answer but it works, so that’s what I would do.Brock: Keeping it simple is always a good way to go.
Ben: Yup, and then just find something to take your freaking mind off that race. Just rent a movie or something, watch a movie at seven o’clock in the morning. Just whatever kind of keeps you relaxed because the main issue for me was you’re just hyped up all morning and you’re almost like you’re mentally exhausted by the time your race rolls around so I would keep yourself really chill by finding something that’s just super relaxing to do in the morning.Brock: Yeah! I ran a 10k once. It started at six pm but that’s a much different beast, like ten kilometers isn’t really that bad so you actually spent the day sort of doing normal activities knowing that ten kilometers, I could belt that out anytime but yeah, 70.3 is you really have to stay on your back.Ben: Yeah, whole different beast. Once you’re doing any event that is going past the point where you are depleting your body’s carbohydrate stores, depleting your body’s glycogen store which is two-plus hours. It’s just a whole different beast.Brock: Okay, our next question comes from Dan.Dan: Dr. Noakes says to drink when you’re thirsty, makes sense. No reason to drink more than your body needs from a hydration standpoint but what about reducing the risk of rhabdo and acute renal failure in endurance events? I’m an ultra runner training for Leadville 100 this summer and I would hate to wind up in a hospital because I didn’t drink enough during my race. I can see a benefit in this situation to drink beyond my basic hydration needs.Ben: Well, rhabdomyolisis which is basically I won’t get into too much of the science because I’ve talked about it in the show before but, essentially you’re overworking your kidneys and you’re putting yourself into acute renal failure usually by the production of some metabolite that your kidneys can’t handle. You can put yourself into rhabdomyolisis through dehydration, basically when your kidneys just don’t have enough water to filter stuff. You can also do it by drinking too much though. I mean hypernatremia or water intoxication that can cause rhabdomyolisis or kidney failure and in most cases a lot more than drinking too little water. S,o if you look at any cases of serious illness or death from dehydration in athletes they’re very few and far between. Most of the deaths you see in endurance events are from hypernatremia and they’re related brain and head swelling called ‘encephalopathy’ that comes along with that and so I really do recommend that you drink according to thirst. Your body is smart. It’s not going to let you go into rhabdomyolisis and acute renal failure before getting thirsty. A lot of what Noakes
has said about thirst being a key indicator of when to hydrate during an event is based off of a few different factors. First of all, the study back in the 60’s that showed that athletes who are dehydrated have really high body temperatures and it’s really bad for their performance. That study was fairly flawed. I wouldn’t get into it too much but it just wasn’t good, well-performed research study and studies leading up to that point had shown that there was really no physiological issue even when you lose as much as two liters through sweat which is a lot of sweat loss. There was another study back in the 80’s that the United States Army Research Institute did and that study was also flawed. It wasn’t randomized properly and that also included that if you drink a whole bunch that you would reduce your risk of heat illness and between those two studies this enormous sports drink industry kind of came to be in the US and worldwide. Gatorade and that was followed by PowerAde and all these other sports drinks that have come since but ultimately, mild dehydration from basically drinking when you feel like drinking really isn’t associated with any increase of health consequences and everything from short events all the way up to multi-day endurance events. Your body has a good amount of fluid reserves first of all, and second of all, it’s got a really finely-tuned thirst mechanism that basically means that if you drink when you feel like drinking you’re generally going to drink enough. I’ve personally tested this and I’ve found that during a race like Ironman Hawaii, if I drink according to thirst I’m drinking anywhere from 35-40 ounces of water per hour and in less hot and humid conditions, if I drink according to thirst, sometimes I’m down around 20-25 ounces of water per hour. So not only is drinking according to thirst going to give you the amount of hydration that you need to avoid something like acute renal failure but it’s also going to self adjust based off of the environment that you’re in. So your body is smart, listen to it and my recommendation stands with what Dr. Tim Noakes recommends and that is to drink to thirst and you can read a fairly comprehensive article that you can find online for free. Dr. Noakes read about this in the annals of nutrition and metabolism. As a matter of fact, I’m going to write a note to myself and put a link in the show notes for you to check out but I would look into that if you need more convincing.Brock: Once again, keeping it simple. It’s the theme of the day. The next question comes from Angel.Angel says: How do I know if I am working out enough or too much? Most times when the workout video ends (The Daily Burn – where I found Ben) or I finish what I’m doing even though I am trembling I want to do more. Is the trembling saying that’s enough? Aren’t I
supposed to go until failure? Often if I work out in the morning I want to work out again in the afternoon but I hear things about over training etc. I don’t know where the line is. Should I go until I’m a puddle in the floor or stop when the video ends or the written set is done? How do people judge?Ben: Go until you pass out.Brock: Yeah! Right now everybody does it.Ben: I think you should do cross set. Basically, training is a science to a certain extent. In one respect, we can once again keep this simple and say that when your body is trembling and sore and tired then you’re done and you should stop working out but that’s a really great area. So, what I would recommend is that you monitor variables during your training week. That would be able to tell you if you’re training too much or perhaps if you can train more. You can monitor your morning resting heart rate. You can monitor your weight. If both of those are fluctuating significantly, it could be a sign that you are training too much. If your sleep is disturbed, if you find yourself getting up a lot at night even though you don’t have to go to the bathroom that can mean an indication that you’re overtraining. You can get for fairly expensively what’s called a “pulse oximeter” which tests your oxygen saturation and you can take that in the morning and if that’s dropping very low, if you’re getting below 95% on a consistent basis that can indicate that you are training too much. Peeing yellow, really dark yellow, that can be another sign that you’ve got a lot of muscle-damaging metabolites building up in your kidney or metabolites that indicate muscle damage. Losing your appetite is another example of something that can happen when you’re training too much. Excessive muscle soreness like when you touch your muscles and they hurt that’s a pretty good sign that you’ve really beat them up and they need some rest and then it’s your mood state and your well being. If you’re really grumpy and negative or easily stressed out, that can be an example or a sign that you’re adrenal glands are kind of over-stimulated producing a lot of cortisol at risk of adrenal exhaustion. So those are things that you can monitor on a day-to- day basis. As far as drawing the workout it totally depends on who you are and what you’re training for. If you are training to race in the Tour de France, then a six-hour bike ride on six days of the week is going to be your training protocol and that is enough and that’s obviously not the same type of protocol that a housewife who wants to lose three pounds would do. So that really depends but hopefully some of those variables that I mentioned help you to decide whether or not you’re actually training too much.
Brock: It sounds a little like you just described rest wise.Ben: That’s very similar to what we use at Pacific Fitness with athletes who want to send that type of data to me we’ve got this program called “Rest Wise”. Takes a lot of those variables that I just mentioned and creates an actual numerical score that I can track on a day-to-day basis. So, I actually have an alert system setup rest wise where I get an alert as a coach if any of my athletes’ rest wise scores drop below a certain level then I can go and nip that in the bud, give an easy day, adjust the workouts etc.Brock: Okay, so on to the next question from Robert and Robert is yet another one of our sore back people.Robert says: Twenty years ago, as a weightlifter, I herniated a disc and a pinched sciatic nerve and resulted in severe leg nerve pain and foot drop. Surgery and physiotherapy got rid of the pain and most of the foot drop to the point where I can walk and run but not do too well moving my toes or lifting my foot against weights. Now as a triathlete this limits me in two ways — 1) in the affected leg my leg strength, particularly in the calf, ankle and foot, is weak. This affects balance and cycling power. 2) At higher speeds of running, my foot can’t keep up with my cadence and gets tired quickly. Beyond the normal strength training and physiotherapy exercises, do you think there is any way of stimulating nerve regeneration which is the source of the problem? I realize this is the holy grail of addressing paralysis and I am 20 years into this injury. But I was thinking that with all your research perhaps you have come across some supplements or other promising techniques that would help with nerve damage resulting in weak muscles.Ben: Yeah, sure! I’m not going to talk about things like stem cell transplants and surgical treatments just because we can get into some really deep territory talking about that stuff and that would be better discussed with someone like a neurosurgeon. However, this drop foot is related to the perennial nerve and typically damage to your perennial nerve and your perennial nerve is what can actually allow dorsiflexion or cause dorsiflexion which is when you move your toes up towards like the front of your leg to the opposite of pointing your toe. And so if you can’t do the opposite of pointing your toe, you kind of point your toe too much and your foot just kind of drops like a lazy foot. So, with the perennial nerve or any type of nerve issue you can come at it from two standpoints. First of all, like a supplement standpoint or a nutrition standpoint, you could easily read that mental performance hacks article that I just wrote at BenGreenfieldFitness.com and you could use a lot of that stuff because the whole reason that most of that stuff works for your
brain is because your brain is comprised of so much fat. And the sheaths around the nerves that conduct basically communication in your brain are relying on fatty acids as a primary substance to build and to process neural communication properly and that neural communication and physiology and biology of nerves is very similar throughout your body. So you can do supplements like fish oil, one to two grams of fish oil on a daily basis and eat a lot of foods that are really high in fat soluble vitamins like grass-fed beef and egg with a yolk and full-fat Greek yogurt and stuff like that. You can also take some of the supplements that I mentioned that can have a neuro-protective effect that have also been used as a treatment for diabetic neuropathy and I’m certainly not saying that or quoting that as “medical advice”. These are simply supplements that may help with neural issues those two are alpha lipoic acid and acetyl-l- carnitine and I mentioned those in that actual article. I’ll link to that article in the show notes. By the way, for people who are listening in to this podcast whatever days or weeks or months after it comes out or 20 years from now.Brock: Let’s hope so.Ben: Yeah, there we go. The other thing I would look at from another standpoint is electrical stimulation and specifically, it goes by the term “functional electrical stimulation” but that is something that basically involves using electrical currents to activate nerves. A lot of times it’s used to innervate or cause muscles to fire in extremities that have been affected by paralysis. Typically paralysis that comes from something like a spinal cord injury or head injury or stroke or some type of neurological disorder and it involves stimulating the nerve that’s been affected. Now, this is something that unless you are trained anatomically you probably want the assistance of a physical therapist or a physician or a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant or something like that to do but what you could do is actually use electro-stimulation on your perennial nerve to do a little bit of nerve training. There are home electro- stimulation units like I have Compex. That’s an electrical stimulation unit that I use primarily for recovery or to increase blood flow to an injured area but it certainly can be used to stimulate muscles in specific areas. I would certainly speak with a physician about this or a neurosurgeon about this but electrical stimulation or electrical therapy specifically to the perennial nerve, placed in the area of your leg that would directly stimulate the perennial nerve. Maybe something to also look into in addition to those supplements that I mentioned.Brock: Well, I hope Roberts gets the help he needs. Alright, our next question comes from Colin.
Colin says: When I was in my teens, I was diagnosed with moderate scoliosis in my lower back and had to wear a brace for a couple years. I’m now 31, and I haven’t had any real issues since then despite keeping an active lifestyle that includes running, swimming, weightlifting, skiing, and tennis. The only time I feel discomfort is when I try to perform traditional “main lifts” that place stress on my lower back, like dead lifts and any weight-bearing squats. I don’t want to hurt my back but I also don’t want to miss out on the benefits of these kinds of full-body movements. Do you have any suggestions for alternatives? Any help would be much appreciated!Ben: Yeah! Scoliosis is just being that spinal curvature and it sounds like it’s a little bit more serious than in some cases in the case of Colin and what happens is when you place an actual load on the spine, a heavy load of something like a barbell that’s kind of loaded equally bilaterally across both sides of the body, well obviously one side of the body is going to be overloaded and prone to injury if you got scoliosis because your spine is tweaked to one side or the other. So you do need to be careful with things like dead lifts and squats and you may need to avoid some of those exercises especially if your scoliosis isn’t something that can be fixed through simply strengthening some muscles and stretching out or if it actually is like a functional issue with the spine. So, a few things that I would do would be, first of all, to really make sure that you’re training your core and training all the muscles of your core, your transverse abdominus and your multifidus, your internal obliques, your external obliques essentially doing really comprehensive core routine. So, not just crunches but doing a whole bunch of different plaque variations and a lot of different kind of standing and twisting variations to really get your core to be able to support your spine and your hips and your sacroiliac joint. Now, there are some exercises that you should also be doing to improve the mobility of your low back because the more mobility that you have in your low back the less that this issue is going to bother you and there are many different types of back stretches that you can do. One that I am a big fan of is the cat and the dog stretch where you’re basically on all fours and you’re arching your back and then flexing your back up towards the sky. The child’s pose from yoga is another really good one where you’re kneeling and your arms are extended out in front of your body. Spine rolls where you’re kind of dropping your chin and putting your head down and rolling your head up as you progress from kind of a bent-over to a fully-standing position is really good. Foam rolling all along your back, your erector spinae, muscles on either side of your spine, going into the sides of your back, in between your shoulder blades whether with a foam roller or a cross ball or a tennis ball or like one of those trigger point therapy
devices you can roll your body on top of that would be really good. And of course, if you can get like massages on a regular basis to loosen up a lot of the tight muscles that can aggravate scoliosis, that would be really good too. Now, as far as like strength training exercises there’s really interesting study that I found that was basically investigating symmetrical weight training, like training with a barbell in your back versus asymmetrical weight training, specifically like loading just one side of the body or using a lot more dumbbells and single side movements and this was done in people who had scoliosis and what they found was that we use asymmetrical exercises like a bent-over dumbbell row or lifting weight over head but just doing it on one side of your body and then repeating for the other side of your body, single-leg squats, basically anything that’s using one side of your body so that’s an asymmetrical exercise that is associated with improvements of the type of postural deficits associated with scoliosis and actually an increase in what’s called “EMG amplitude” or muscle firing in a lot of the spinal muscles that are related to scoliosis. So for example, instead of a dead lift, you can do a single-leg dead lift instead of a squat. You can do a single-leg squat instead of an overhead press that directly loads the actual spine on both sides of the body. You can do a single-arm overhead press. So those are the modifications that I would make and asymmetrical exercises, you need to know that you’ll need to go lighter in weight to avoid injury but you can certainly stay very strong doing those type of motions that loads you on just one side of your body.Brock: Excellent! Good luck to you Colin.Ben: Our listeners do have a lot of back issues today, don’t they?Brock: They do! I think that’s it for the back issues I think. Maybe I’ll throw in another one at the end just to round it out.Ben: Don’t pull out your back while we’re doing this episode.Brock: I almost fell off my yoga ball already. Okay, next question from Tommy.Tommy says: Does your weight affect your power output on a stationary bike? I know it affects your power output climbing hills, but how so on a stationary bike? For example if I’m setting up my weight on a cycle- ops, is it only for calorie expenditure? Also, what’s with the deal with professional cyclist freezing their bodies before races? Is this an anomaly, or is this a new pre-race “warm-up”?
Ben: Cool, I like that question. The part about cooling the body. I also like your question about power output but it’s not as interesting to be honest. So power output, yeah. I mean, if you lose weight your total power that you produce on something like a bicycle is going to usually decrease but that doesn’t matter because what’s important is your power-weight ratio and that’s typically expressed as your power in watts divided by your weight and really to be specific, it’s usually your weight in kilograms and it really confuses all the American listeners but everybody else spread across the world. So, you increase your power in two ways – you can do intervals and interval training and hard power efforts that increase the maximum amount of power that your legs can produce thus increasing both the belly of your nerves to recruit a lot more muscle fibers and also the actual number of the muscle fibers themselves or the amount of lean muscle mass that you have in your legs, so that’s one thing you can do. The other thing you can do is you can lose weight and both of those things will increase your power-weight ratio and make you a better cyclist than gaining weight which is going to increase your power but typically it always increase that bottom number, the kilogram number, and so your power goes up, your power rate ratio will often decrease or stay the same. So in terms of like typical power-weight ratios, it’s really going to depend. There are charts that you can find online that go into power-weight ratios of professional triathletes and professional cyclists versus average mere mortals like the rest of us, but I would really not be looking at gaining weight as way of increasing power and I don’t think that you are necessarily suggesting that.Brock: Yeah, I hope he’s not suggesting man.Ben: Yeah! So when something like an exercise bike is asking for your weight, yeah it’s mostly asking for your weight to both calculate how many calories you’re burning. Power I think it’s gauged in that based on some kind of a strain or something of that nature or like a strain gauge in the crank or somewhere else. So ultimately power- weight ratio, try and get that better, lose a little weight, do hard power intervals. Now a hard power interval would be like 45- minute bike ride where you’re going really hard for 30 seconds and then give yourself four minutes of rest and then go really hard for 30 seconds and just do your whole workout like that. As far as this whole central cooling thing which is actually really cool, it’s basically the idea that you subject yourself to very cold temperatures like an ice bath or a cold ice vest or even like a glove that has a bunch of ice in it as a way to cool the blood that is getting circulated through your body and pumping cool blood into your core by cooling a lot of the blood that’s on the extremities and when you pump cool blood into your core, then it could potentially
decrease the amount of work that your body has to do. Shunting blood to the extremities to cool your body and so there’s that much blood leftover to do things like carry glucose and oxygen to your muscles to be able to produce a contraction or go faster. So you’ll see a lot of cyclists and a lot of triathletes doing a little bit of this. I wrote a big article about this in Lava Magazine a couple of issues ago. You could go to a search, it’s probably available. I know, like their past episodes available, in many cases free, the digital editions. You could do a search for Lava Magazine, cold therapy, something of that nature. We’ll see if we can find a link for that to put in the show notes. The issue is that there actually was a study that came out last month that looked at basically lying to people, lying to cyclists and telling them that it was cooler than it actually was and seeing if that affected their ability to cycle in hot temperatures. So I don’t know if they lied to one group until it was cooler than it actually was. If they lied to another group and told them it was hotter than it actually was but in either case, what it turned out was that when you perceive it to be very warm, it can actually cause you to feel like you’re working harder than you actually are working. Meaning that if someone tells you “oh, whatever, Ironman Hawaii is incredibly hot, you’re going to melt out there”, that’s going to cause you to do worse in a race like that than if someone simply tells you “it’s not that bad, it’s a little warm but everybody survives” and going to a hot race with that type of mentality can actually help you out literally like thinking cool thoughts and so in many cases, a lot of times the failure that can come with exposure to hot exercising conditions is as much your mind convincing you to shut down because of danger, as is your body actually physiologically not being able to go anymore and a lot of times heat and the ability of heat to shut us down during competition is something that can be manipulated through different thought processes and a different mental approach to the heat. I hope that no one takes this as an excuse to go out and get heat exhaustion or heat sickness from going too hard on hot weather but you certainly need to understand that your mind could be just as powerful as a cold bath or a cold vest or icy gloves or something like that at helping you to go harder in the heat and that study was in the journal of Physiology and Behavior in December of 2011.Brock: The Chicago Marathon’s had so many problems with heat in the past especially a couple of years ago with so many people passing out and actually some deaths and stuff. They have this alert scale, like this heat scale, they put up this great big thermometer at the race expo and on the course and I really thought they were like just totally freaking people out by saying that it was like an orange alert or something like that before the race.
Ben: I think they’d get better bang for their buck by alerting the medical staff rather than alerting the participants.Brock: Yeah!Ben: That’d be smarter.Brock: Alright Chicago Marathon, are you listening?Ben: I hope so.Brock: Alright, our last question comes from Ed.Ed says: I am working on becoming a trainer for wilderness first aid. It will include search and rescue and getting the injured person to an extraction point, occasionally very physical. My question is, in an effort to be in better shape than my students, how should I train and what should I be doing in terms of nutrition? I was hiking three miles every other day in the hills in our area with a 40 lbs pack. This training helped out a lot with a two week course I went to. I’m 49 and in pretty good shape but want to know more about dietary needs for strenuous hiking. My knees don’t do well with running but the hiking works out Ok.Ben: Go back and listen, 45 minutes ago, to what I was saying and do a protocol that involves squatting, bending, lunging, pushing, pulling, twisting and gate.Brock: Yeah!Ben: And I’m not saying that in jest, I’m serious. That will help you quite a bit with what you’ve just described in terms of wilderness first aid and a lot of the obstacles that you’re going to encounter in that type of situation, so squatting. Even if your knees aren’t that great, you can even do partial range of motion, barbell and dumbbell squats or a squat to an overhead press. Bending, you could do dead lifts for example, that’s a perfect example or you can even go a little bit lighter like a medicine ball lifts. Lunging, you can go to the gym and do walking lunges, you can weight those with a barbell or dumbbell or medicine ball, you can combine lunging with twisting, twist from side to side as you’re lunging. Pushing, you can do everything from like a standing cable chest press to push-up variations to standing overhead shoulder presses with dumbbells or a barbell. Pulling, obviously pull-ups and assisted pull-ups, pull- downs, rows with a cable, rows with a dumbbell. Twisting, cable torso twist is a perfect example where you’re twisting a cable from side to side or an elastic band, wood choppers with a medicine ball
or even throws from side to side with a medicine ball, another example, and then gate. I talked about the farmer’s walk and just picking up a heavy object and moving it from point A to point B. another one that I like that I use to have a lot of my personal training clients do is literally like sprinting about 15m in the gym and then hoisting a medicine ball and throwing it after the sprint. You can do skips, stair mill, elliptical rowing, cycling, all of those are going to qualify for gate as well but I would really use a lot of those type of movements in your training program for what you’ve just described and in terms of nutrition, understand that usually for a low intensity event like hiking, a higher fat intake is going to be the way to go so bring meals out with you on the trail that are primarily comprised of seeds and nuts which you can mix with coconut flakes and a little bit of dried fruit. Ginger is one of my favorites actually. I’ve lately been really getting hooked on little pieces of dried ginger. It’s like an anti-inflammatory but also a little bit of a source of sugar especially if you get the ones that have a little bit of sugar coating on them. If you want to, you can mix those with dark chocolate for a little added anti-inflammatory calorie effect. You can also do like mixing protein powder with coconut milk and cans of coconut milk as well as protein powder, both portable. You can carry that stuff in backpacks and that would also work well and a lot better than some other fats like avocadoes and olives and stuff like that don’t really transport all that well. I don’t think mashed avocado in your backpack would be all that tasty buy you can certainly carry it. A can opener, a can of coconut milk and a zip lock bag full of protein powder, spoon those together mix them up and it’s really going to stick to your ribs and still allow you to function and those fats are going to sit differently in your stomach and give you a different energy than the fats that you get from like a double bacon cheese burger. So that’s what I would do in terms of your training and in terms of your nutrition, stick with more of the slow-burning fats for the nutrition, stick with more of those really functional movements for the exercise part of things.Brock: Actually it made me think of Kent’s question back to being with an obstacle course, there’s a fireman Olympics that happens every year, I think it’s in Las Vegas or somewhere like that. You should take a look at that because I think they do a lot of this stuff that a lot of the things that Ben’s been describing, they incorporate and a lot of it is very specific to firefighting but easily adapted to something else.Ben: Yeah, absolutely. I would not necessarily go as far as to like set fires in the wilderness, but the actual exercises I’m sure gets.Brock: Oh come on, you’re no fun.
Ben: Don’t take that to the extreme.Brock: Alright! Well, that wraps up our Q and A for today.Ben: Cool! Well, I’ll put all these links together and get them out in the show notes for people who want to head over there and check them out or check out any of those articles as well as, we’ll link to that video we talked about to, the one where I’m doing the Timex Torture Test.Brock: Yes, please do.Ben: And putting the Timex watch through a series of torturous bloopers, so check that out… go ahead!Brock: Sorry, I was just going to say, if you don’t mind, in the episode right after Christmas, you asked me what I got for Christmas and I totally blew my family off and my sister who’s a listener to this podcast. Just caught up to that point and I got a text from her the other day, it’s totally like calling me out and bashing me out like my sister Joline is a certified fitness trainer and she’s done some really cool stuff with Stroller Size, she’s doing some really cutting-edge stuff like with all these new moms and she actually gave me this super cool little scale, it’s called “perfect portions” and it’s a nutrition scale that you like put your stuff on and then you punch in a code. So if I’m having like spare ribs, I’d punch in 0012 and then put the spare ribs on there and it gives you like a total nutritional breakdown of that and I know it’s just a ballpark but it’s a super cool thing. It’s been really handy especially with me doing the rev diet and trying to keep an eye on everything really close. So I’m sorry Joline, you did give me an awesome present. You’re not clueless in whatever episode that was.Ben: So two thoughts on that, first – the Ben Greenfield Show not only teaches you a lot of about fitness and nutrition but it also tears apart families.Brock: It does.Ben: And second, that’s probably a mistake to tell your coach that you have a calorie-counting scale.Brock: Oh! Oh yeah, that’s you. Wait, why is that a bad thing?Ben: Alright, well. It’s not, it just means I may get a little bit more anal with you, you never know. So well, we should wrap things up before this gets out of hand.
Brock: Absolutely.Ben: So thanks for listening folks. Leave a ranking in the review in iTunes if you get a chance. Your podcast donations are always appreciated and helped to support this show and we will be back next week for sure. I am also trying to put together an interview on corporate wellness to give to you this Friday and kind of what goes into a perfect corporate wellness program for people who are working as employees at a corporation or for you corporate CEO types out there. So, that about wraps it up, thanks Brock.Brock: Fantastic! Yeah, thanks Ben. For personal nutrition, fitness or triathlon consulting, supplements, books or DVD’s from Ben Greenfield, please visit Pacific Elite Fitness at http://www.pacificfit.net