Ben Greenfield Podcast 46


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Listen to this podcast at Podcast Episode #46: A “Green” Triathlon, Vitamin D, and How To Convert Fast-Twitch Muscle to Slow-Twitch Muscle.

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Ben Greenfield Podcast 46

  1. 1. Podcast #46 from episode-46-a-green-triathlon-vitamin-d-and-how-to-convert-fast-twitch- muscle-to-slow-twitch-muscle/Introduction: In this podcast episode: A green triathlon, vitamin D and sports performance and how to convert fast twitch muscle to slow twitch muscle.Ben: Hey podcast listeners, this is Ben Greenfield. Welcome back to the podcast. I have an interesting interview to bring to you today with the founder of a particular triathlon event that actually is doing more for the planet than just sending Styrofoam cups and plastic water bottles and litter all over the highways. It s actually really interesting how this particular individual is actually putting together a triathlon event that saves the planet. I know there are a lot of triathletes that listen to this show. So this might be interesting for you and if you re into marathoning, cycling anything of that nature that requires an event that happens on the planet Earth, you may be interested in listening in. Before we move on to this week s special announcements let me just say that after the conversation with Dr. Cirkis on transdermal magnesium therapy last week I have actually started using that in my own protocol for soreness and for sports performance. I am mixing about ½ to 1 cup of 100% pure magnesium flakes with an aluminum free baking soda that I got at the grocery store just in a 1:1 ratio so about ½ to 1 cup of baking soda with ½ to 1 cup of magnesium flakes, putting that in a bath that s not super hot. If it s too hot it will interfere with absorption, about 103 degrees, 106 degrees max. So abou t the level it would be in a hot tub and soaking in that for about 15 minutes. Let me tell you right now that my body feels simply amazing. Those of you who work out, you probably know this feeling of maybe going out, maybe having a run, having stale legs or sore legs or maybe having a little bit of sore joints when you first get out of bed in the morning. I feel like I m about 2 years old in terms of my joints and my muscles. It s pretty amazing so I was very surprised at the inexpensiveness and the effectiveness of this type of therapy that we talked about. I ve been doing quite a bit more research on the magnesium therapy. I ve also started
  2. 2. spraying a little bit of this 100% absorbable magnesium oil on my forearms prior to a workout and it s probably the closest thing you can get to steroids. Although it can assist with testosterone activation and strength, it s not a steroid hormone. It s completely legal. It s just a mineral and literally you spray it on your forearms or rub it in before your workout. You can combine that with taking these baths. Just a couple of times a week, whatever, when you re talking on your phone. I don t recommend you do it while you re curling your hair or using a hair dryer but if you are simply sore and you re competing in sports or you re exercising on a frequent basis, I really recommend that you work this in. I m going to put a link in the Shownotes exactly where I got my magnesium flakes, exactly where I got my magnesium oil and I would recommend that you get it. I think the flakes cost me something like it was somewhere around 45 or 50 bucks for about enough to last me a mon th. That s less than a massage and I feel awesome. So check those out and let s go ahead and move into this week s special announcements.Nick asks: Hi Ben, this is Nick in San Francisco. My question has to do with endurance training and racing for individuals with large amounts of muscle mass and a high metabolism of blood sugars. I recently had my metabolism tested and learned that I burn through stored blood sugar much faster than the normal endurance athlete. I also tend to race at a relatively high weight even though my body fat percentage is low and I do very little in the way of strength training. Are there any special training principles or nutritional protocols that will allow an individual such as myself to delay fatigue in an attempt to race better at longer distances such as Ironman?Ben: Nick, great question. Ok, first of all this test that you did that showed how quickly you were actually using blood sugars I m guessing that was probably a substrate utilization test. it s also known as a metabolic rate test. It s basically just a way to see how much fat, how much carbohydrate you re using at rest. Based on your description you probably had a high what s called RQ or respiratory quotient which means that you re burning more carbohydrate at rest than the average individual. Theoretically because it does burn a lot of carbohydrate somebody with a high amount of fast twitch
  3. 3. muscle may actually as you have indicated be burning a littlebit more carbohydrate. Essentially what your question boilsdown to is how can you convert fast twitch muscle to slowtwitch muscle because slow twitch muscle is your endurancemuscle and fast twitch muscle is your heavier and denser,more powerful strength based muscle. So, let s talk a little bitabout slow twitch muscle and fast twitch muscle and whateach one contributes. So first of all, you can actually test theexact ratio of slow twitch muscle and fast twitch muscle inyour body by getting what s called a muscle biopsy. It s not areal pleasant test. They basically push a needle down intoyour muscle and the muscle has kind of almost like aguillotine mechanism in it and it slices off about a rice sizeabout a grain of rice size piece of tissue and then that s takenout and that s chemically analyzed. They do a PH stain on it.And even though there s a lot of different variations of thetype of muscle fibers in your body, they re basically slowtwitch or also known as type 1 muscle fibers or fast twitchtype 2 muscle fibers. Another term for the slow twitch is redfibers and the fast twitch are known as white fibers. Thereason the slow twitch are known as red fibers is becausethey have a lot of mi tochondria in them and we talked awhole bunch about mitochondria last week. If you want thelowdown on mitochondria, listen to podcast episode number45. But basically slow twitch muscle twitches at about 10 to30 twitches per second and fast twitch muscle, you get about30 to 70 twitches per second. So fast twitch muscle creates alot more wo rk in a lot shorter period of time. Now there hasbeen one study done that looked at the long term effects ofendurance training on muscle fiber adaptation. What thestudy found was that when they took skeletal muscle fromthe front of the thigh in people who had about 10 years ofendurance training under their belts and compared it withpeople who were basically untrained control group theyfound that the training group had about 70% slow twitchmuscle fiber. And the group that wasn t doing the aerobictraining over those 10 years had about 37% of slow twitchmuscle fibers. And then of course conversely the traininggroup had a very low amount of fast twitch muscle fiberabout 25, 30% and the other group had about 50to 60% offast twitch muscle fiber. So the researchers in this study
  4. 4. concluded that the endurance training promotes thattransition from fast twitch to slow twitch muscle fibers andyou actually lose that fast twitch muscle fiber as you do so.This is the same reason that for example when you go outand you train for a marathon or a 10K or a triathlon, you maylose your vertical jumping ability. You may lose your benchpressing ability. You may lose a little bit of that power andthat strength and that s why we always want to include just alittle bit of fast twitch muscle type of work when we aretraining for an endurance sport so we retain some of ou rstrength. But when we talk about somebody like Nick whohas this high amount of fast twitch muscle, very dense kindof strong muscle tissue, he would be type of athlete that if Iwere writing out a coaching program for him, we wouldn t doas many intervals, as much weight lifting, as much power, asmuch strength as somebody who tends to have a lot less fasttwitch muscle. I don t send everybody out to get a mu sclebiopsy. You just look at body type. You can usually tell.People typically fall into one of three different body types.The real skinny, high amount of slow twitch muscle. They rekind of thick, muscular, athletic type, high amount of fasttwitch muscle or else they re fat and that also most of thetime is a little bit higher in the fast twitch muscle. So one ofthe ways that you can actually train your fast twitch muscleto convert to slow twitch muscle is by actually performingaerobic exercise at your long slow distance pace meaningthat you re really trying not to tap into to much carbohydrateutilization. How do you know when you re usingcarbohydrate? Because when you break down carbohydrate,it produces hydrogen ions and those hydrogen ions have toget breathed they don t get breathed out of the body butbasically they get converted into a form of CO 2 and so whenyou start to breathe hard, when you start to breathe off CO2,that s an indication that type of ventilation is an indicationthat you re actually using your carbohydrates, that you restarting to use more fast twitch muscle. So if you re trying toconvert fast twitch muscle to slow twitch muscle, you wouldactually want to stay away from that range where you arebreathing hard and I m not saying this is the way I believeyou should train for maximum fitness, but if you re justtraining for maximizing that slow twitch muscle fiber
  5. 5. capacity, that s the way that you could do it. There s also atheory called the central governor theory, which basicallyargues that you can alter your brain s ability to perseverewhen it comes to endurance sports. In other words you canmake those slow twitch muscles get accessed for even longerperiods of time if you are able to reset your brain s ability towithstand long amounts of endurance activity. And thereason for that is that a lot of times, even when somebodythinks that they ve exercised for as long as they re physicallyable to exercise, what they found is that the body can stillhold on to about 80 to 90% of its ATP or its energy levels andalso hold on to quite a bit of its carbohydrate or its storageglycogen levels after an intense endurance effort and so whatresearchers who are looking at this central governor theoryhave been doing is one way to actually get the body to lastlonger to not fatigue quite as quickly from a mentalstandpoint is to actually precool the body with ice baths,ice vests or ice helmets. This is kind of new research but thewhole idea is that you essentially reset your body s ability towithstand endurance by precooling it. It s a little morescience than we re going to get into right now but the idea isfor example that earlier in the day you would take an ice bathor go swim in a cold river or lake and then go do your longestendurance activity of the week at some point after thatprecooling has occurred. The interesting thing is that Ipersonally have had some of my best long runs on the sameday that I went for a nice cold icy swim in a river or a lake onthat same morning. So it is interesting. It may hold somecredence that you can actually get your slow twitch muscle tolast for a longer period of time, stimulate more of it, get morefast twitch to slow twitch muscle fiber conversion by not onlydoing long slow endurance sports but also precooling themuscle prior to engaging in those sports. So all we re tryingto do is enhance the slow twitch muscle fiber that s alreadythere, convert more of it into fast twitch muscle fiber withlong distance cooling and then work on that precoolingtechnique. Now understand that fiber reversion occurs afterinactivity. Meaning that if I go sit on the couch after I do anIronman triathlon I stay on that couch for four weeks, I mgoing to have a bunch of fast twitch muscle fiber and I mprobably going to be able to jump higher than I would than if
  6. 6. I hadn t sat on that couch for four weeks. I m going to be able to run faster because what happens is I get all that slow twitch muscle fiber reverting back into my powerful strong fast twitch type muscle. Obviously that s not saying that couch potatoes are fitter than people who run 10ks but what it does say is they do have more fast twitch muscle fiber and they would have a little bit more power and strength but unfortunately it would also fatigue very quickly. So let s wrap this up. In a nutshell, my recommendation to Nick would be to do lots of long slow endurance training several times per week, to not do a lot of wei ght lifting, not do a lot of power, not do a lot of fast twitch muscle fiber stimulation and from a nutritional standpoint, you know you could try to limit the amount of carbohydrate that you re consuming just so you don t have as much capacity to use fast twitch muscle fiber because carbohydrate is its main fuel source. Of course the problem with that is I never like to recommend that people go on a super low carb diet just because they re a lot of times replacing those slow carbs with proteins that can get hard in the liver, hard in the kidney. So you want to be a little bit careful. But I definitely wouldn t be taking in a high carbohydrate intake with the type of training that I just recommended for fast twitch to slow twitch muscle fiber conversion. So you could combine some of th at endurance training, some of those precooling techniques with a slightly lower carbohydrate intake. So, try some of that out and good luck. Great question. Now my second question this week was from Listener Chris.Chris asks: With as much as Dr. Cirkis talked about magnesium and magnesium deficiencies, I was surprised he didn t mention vitamin D. Are you familiar with any of the recent research on vitamin D and sports performance?Ben answers: And in Chris s question, he is referencing the interview with Dr. Cirkis from podcast interview number 45 wh ich was just last week and that is a fantastic question about vitamin D because it has been mentioned on this show before, we did an interview with Dr. Minkoff down in Florida several episodes ago and you can just do a search for Dr. Minkoff over on the website and he talked quite a bit about vitamin D,
  7. 7. vitamin D deficiencies and the fact that a high amount of thepopulation is actually deficient in vitamin D. Now the studythat Chris is probably referring to is the brand new studythat came out in Medicine and Science and Sports andExercise in their May 2009 issue. And what this study didwas they had researchers review all the world s literaturesince the 1950s for any evidence that shows that vitamin Dcould affect physical or athletic performance. And what theyfound was that there was a consistent trend in exercise andscience research that showed that physical and athleticperformance is seasonal that it peaks when vitamin Dlevels peak, it declines as vitamin D levels decline and itreaches its lower point when vitamin D levels are at theirlowest points. They also found quite a bit of research thatshowed that vitamin producing ultra violet light couldimprove athletic performance. Now befo re we talk a little bitabout these findings, let s just review real quick what vitaminD is. It s basically a steroid hormone. When vitamin D isactivated in your body, it s a steroid hormone. It regulatesover 1000 different genes within your body. Unfortunately alot of research indicate that a lot of people can be deficient invitamin D, even people in sunny climates like Arizona orCalifornia or Florida. People who have darker skin, whoseskin produces less vitamin D in response to sunlight, theytend to have higher amounts of deficiencies and the problemis that because vitamin D is a steroid precursor if you havea vitamin D deficiency, you re not going to have the properamount of hormones on board for many of your body sfunctions and especially because vitamin D is found in itshighest concentrations in the nerve tissue and muscle tissue especially for athletes, that can be a pretty big problem.Now vitamin D deficiencies have been associated with quite afew chronic diseases like cancer, hypertension, heart disease,even obesity. So if you re vitamin D deficient, there could bequite a few considerations for you from a health orperformance standpoint. Now the research study inMedicine and Science and Sports and Exercise came to thefinal conclusion that vitamin D could improve athleticperformance in vitamin D deficient athletes. Because of thehigh number of people that are vitamin D deficient andbecause athletes tend to use more hormones and more
  8. 8. vitamins than the average person anyways, it is fair analysisto say that vitamin D should be something an athlete isconsidering as part of their sports performance protocol. Youcan go get your vitamin D levels actually tested if you want to.There s a simple blood test you can do. You can just call yourphysician, tell him hey I want to go get my vitamin D tested.They can get it done for you. But what I would recommendas an athlete is that you make sure that you re spendingenough time in the sun and while I do recommend that younever let yourself get burned in the sun, I would recommendthat you do allow your body fair exposure to sunlight, asmuch as you can get without burning and then the otherthing you can do and it ll only cost you probably about five orten bucks for a month s supply I ve seen it as low as $4 issupplement with a vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D3 isgoing to be your best bet. It s also known as cola calciferolbut you can supplement with vitamin D. I would recommendthat you keep track of how much you re taking usingsomething called an international unit. How much vitamin Dthat you actually take is going to depend on your age, yourbody weight, how much body fat you actually have becausevitamin D can be stored in body fat, the latitude of whereyou re located in terms of sun exposure, how much skincoloration you have, what season it is, what sun tanninglotion you use. Old people usually need more than youngpeople. Big people need more than little people. Heavierpeople need more than skinnier people. People in northernclimates need more than people in southern climates. Darkpeople need more than fair skinned people and so there squite a few different individual considerations for vitamin D.So, the maximum that the actual FDA says that you shouldtake is about 2000 IU and I would recommend that youactually start at only about 400 units because you can getvitamin D in some other supplements you re taking like say afish oil supplement has a vitamin D. So you re getting it fromother sources and then you automatically start taking 2000,you might be reaching toxic levels. You ll know, you ll getnauseous, you ll get diarrhea. A lot of times your body justdoesn t feel quite right when you re overloading with a fatsoluble vitamin because unlike vitamin B, you aren t going topee it out. It s actually going to get stored in your body. So
  9. 9. pay attention to the way that your body feels, you shouldn t feel nauseous or light headed or dizzy or have bowel difficulties. But I would recommend that you start adding in vitamin D at about 400 IU per day. You could gradually bring that up to 2000 but research shows that it can improve sports performance. Spend a little bit of time in the sun, add some vitamin D3 into your protocol and make sure you listen in to the very end of this podcast today because I m going to share with you about 18 other ways that you can get your body to heal like Wolverine from Xmen. So listen to that. I ll put it at the end of this post right after our interview with Jeff Henderson, the interview of the Portland Triathlon.Ben: Hey podcast listeners, this is Ben Greenfield and I have a gentleman who happens to be the race director of a very unique event. And one of the things that I m always looking at when I try and give you cutting edge health or nutrition or fitness information on this show is, is it healthy for you? But for those of you who listen in to the episode on (salmon) and some of the things that are going on in the fish farming industry, you know it gets a little bit more involved than just thinking about the effect that something has on your body. Sometimes you have to think about the effect it may have on other people, on other life or even on the planet. And that s what we re going to talk about today because I know that there are a lot of triathletes out there that listen to this show and I know that a lot of you are even from the Northwest and the guy I have on the other line is from Portland, Jeff Henderson. Jeff, thanks for coming on the show.Jeff Henderson: Thank you Ben, I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you today.Ben: Jeff is the race director of the Portland Triathlon. Jeff, why is the Portland Triathlon unique?Jeff Henderson: Well, the Portland Triathlon really started three years ago and in living in Portland and being an athlete myself, you can t help but realize the environment around you. You can t help but notice the clean lakes and rivers and the air that you breathe and so starting the triathlon in Portland it seemed appropriate to honor the city s efforts and being an
  10. 10. environmentally responsible city and trying to (audio cut). What we tried to do from the very beginning is hold a race that aligns with people s views and people would be pleased to compete at because it held the same values that they do in their homes. You made an interesting point there, Ben. People are taking care of their bodies, they re eating right, they re working out and when you go to an event, a race that you want to participate in, you want that race to do the same thing in the environment.Ben: Yeah, and that s one of my pet peeves is when I m rolling around town the day after I ve gone and done a triathlon or a marathon or a 5k or something of that nature and there s gel packs lying all over the place, there s cups here and there, you see plastic bottles in ditches. You see people walking around with sometimes five or six different plastic bags. What have you guys done to try and minimize some of the effects of that?Jeff Henderson: Well, it really is embarrassing. You hit the nail on the head. There s a lot of waste. There s a lot of inefficiency. It s difficult to go to these events and not see it these days. It seems to be ubiquitous. So, what we try to do is from the outset just eliminate all the unnecessary stuff. People want to go to a race to race, to enjoy the athletic experience and they don t need all the other clutter. So things like goodie bags, things like advertisement and flyers all of those things, we tried to rethink and come up with a better way to do it. Is there a better way to showcase the sponsor without putting a flyer on every goodie bag and it turns out there is. Is there a better way to hydrate an athlete without handling a plastic water bottle to each and every one of them at the finish line? And it turns out there is. It s just getting away from common practices that we tried to do first and foremost and when you think about 20 years ago, races weren t doing all these things but there were still races and people were enjoying them. So it s really just a matter of getting back to where we were without all the additional stuff that people are immersed in when they go to a race.Ben: So what do you do? You gave some great exa mples there of ways that you can eliminate race but in a practical sense,
  11. 11. how do you give somebody water without using the plastic bottle or how do you give them goodie bags without actually cutting down 10 trees for 18 different brochures and so on and so forth?Jeff Henderson: Well, it turns out that technology is a big help. You can cut down on a lot of things right from the get go. With everybody using the Internet now and computers and hand held cell phones and things like that, you can do your registration system entirely online without using a single piece of paper and a lot of races are starting to do that. So you can distribute information through email and through your website, you can spotlight your sponsor with electronic coupons or electronic flyers. A lot of these things that used to have to be printed, you can now do electronically. So that s a good place to start. As far as the plastic water bottle, if you just put a cooler at the finish line with some compostable cups and you seek out a way in your local community to compost those cups and just let athletes take them if they need them, that cuts down on a lot of waste from the beginning. Because not every athlete is going to take one, first of all, and if they do and if you ve figured out a way to dispose of those cups responsibly then you re cutting down a lot of waste that doesn t go into the landfill. So that s one way to do it. And there s other ways too.Ben: What about the water that s out there in the course? On the rest of the course? Because it s an Olympic distance triathlon, right?Jeff Henderson: That s right. We ve eliminated the aid station on the bike course and one of the first things you ve heard the saying reduce, reuse, recycle. And the key part of the whole phrase is reduce right on the front end. So if you can eliminate something that you don t need, you ve automatically gotten yourself steps ahead because you don t have all that waste to deal with. The Olympic distance triathlon we ve eliminated the aid station on the bike course. You don t need one. Because it s only 25 miles and if people are told beforehand that they need to carry two water bottl es with them then they bring their own, they fill them up with what they need and
  12. 12. they can use them along the way. So you don t need to hand anything to them.Ben: I see, so the participants come a little bit more prepared.Jeff Henderson: Yeah, yeah. The key here is getting your participants involved in this. Telling them what you re trying to do and getting their support and an amazing thing happens when you do that Ben. You end up with participants who are really invested in the race. People who are not throwing gel wrappers on the ground. Who are not taking 10 water bottles at the finish line, because they know that what you re trying to do and they ll support you in that. People want to do the right thing. You just have to give them the opportunity to do so.Ben: Now what about I noticed another thing that you guys do is you ve got bamboo rac e shirts. Tell me about those.Jeff Henderson: Bamboo race shirts are something that we did for the very first time, the first year. We were the first triathlon in the company to have the bamboo rac e shirts. It was an attempt to get away from cotton. Because cotton is a very water intensive and pesticide intensive crop that is very damaging to the environment and so trying to get away from that is a difficult thing to do because a lot of ath letes expect a race shirt in their goodie bag when they come to a race. So we started experimenting with bamboo, wh ich is a little bit more of a responsible and sustainable fabric. It s not the best solution and there are going to be better ways to do it but it is better than cotton for the sustainability aspect, and people love them. It s very soft. It s silky smooth. And it s a neat fabric.Ben: Is there anything else that you guys do to make the Portland Triathlon green?Jeff Henderson: Well, we wan ted to make a statement with the race. We wanted people to notice what we were doing so they could take it home with them and try to add some habits into their own lives so what we did was I commissioned an artist in Portland a local artist to make a finish line arch that was completely different than any finish line you ve seen in your
  13. 13. life. And he came up with this arch that s made of surplus steel that was left over at a steel yard and cedar prayer boxes which he created and we got native local Oregon plants growing out of the finish line. So it s a fusion of recycled materials and actually living things that people are running through at the end. And we put it up the day before the race and people walking through the park see it and they notice it and they ask what s going on here? And it s a beautiful piece of public art that becomes a valuable piece of the triathlon infrastructure and that s what we re trying to promote.Ben: Wow, I really admire what you re doing down there. You know, a lot of th e listeners who are athletes, especially the listeners who spend a lot of times outdoors swimming, cycling, running, walking, hiking, whatever the case may be you want your children to be able to d o that and enjoy that. To be able to f eel the wind in their hair and to be able to breathe fresh air and have trees and flowers and birds singing. We have to make sure that the sport that we re participating in basically isn t raping the earth and I think that the Portland Triathlon sounds like it s a great model for people to look at when they re seeing how to do an event and how to do it properly. So if you re listening to the show and you know somebody who s organizing a triathlon, have him listen in. have him go to what s the name of the website, Jeff?Jeff Henderson: It s What s the race date?Jeff Henderson: Race date is August 23rd this summer. And we ve got a sprint distance triathlon, an Olympic distance triathlon and this year we actually added a $25,000 open water swim to the Saturday before the triathlon. So we ve got a swim as well in the middle of Portland.Ben: Holy cow. Can I bring my family?Jeff Henderson: You can bring your friends, you can bring whoever you want. It s going to be fun.
  14. 14. Ben: For $25,000, I ll do it. Alright, well Jeff. Thank you for your time. Thank you for coming on the show and maybe I ll see you down there at the Portland Tri.Jeff Henderson: No problem Ben. Thank you for having me.Ben: Alright, from, this is Ben Greenfield and Jeff Henderson signing out.For personal nutrition, fitness or triathlon consulting, supplements, books or DVD sfrom Ben Greenfield, please visit Pacific Elite Fitness at