Ben Greenfield Podcast 79


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Ben Greenfield Podcast 79

  1. 1. Podcast # 79 from episode-79-what-does-your-body-use-first-for-energy-carbohydrate- protein-or-fat/ Introduction: In this podcast episode: soy milk choices, uric acid in your foods, bilateral breathing during swimming, are rice cakes okay? Beer vs. wine for losing weight, how to choose your chicken, and what does your body use first for energy: carbohydrate, protein or fat? Ben: Hey podcast listeners, this is Ben Greenfield and this is actually the last week in which we’re going to be doing primarily Listener Q and A. We’ll be returning to our interviews with health, fitness and nutrition experts from all over the country next week and we’ll be kicking that off with an interview with the author of Suicide By Sugar, Nancy Appleton. We’ll also be featuring an interview this February with Carolyn Dean as well as with Dr. Richard Cohen. So lots of good interviews coming your way and the reason that I’m going to be able to return to devoting more time to this podcast is that we’re officially launching the Rock Star Triathlete Academy, over at this week on Thursday. We’re going to be opening that up to charter members and it’s everything from private member forums to coach Q and As, twice weekly call-ins with triathlon coaches and experts and lots of insider tips and tricks and just a perfect little community for triathletes to learn the sport. Kind of geared for beginner all the way up to advanced triathletes. That Web site is a dollar to join, as a charter member with all the bonuses that we’re offering to the new charter members this month as well. So you can go check that out at and I’m very excited about bringing that to you. So, in today’s podcast episode I’m going to be responding to Listener questions and before I get to those questions. Just a couple of things. If you have a question, email You can Skype Pacific Fit. If you’d like to leave an audio question, you can even call toll free to 8772099439, and I do have a line that’s devoted to listener call-in Q and As. And then also, please just write a mental note to yourself or a physical note – leave us a ranking in iTunes. If you get a chance or you haven’t done that yet, it really helps support the show. It
  2. 2. helps us to continue to grow. That as well as the opportunity to make donations to the show, which you can do at the bottom of any of the Shownotes. Really helps me to be able to bring this show to you on an ongoing basis. So, we’ve got some really great questions this week and actually the question on carbohydrates, I think is really good just because it hasn’t been answered very well anywhere and I’m going to answer it today for you. So let’s go ahead and move on to this week’s listeners’ questions. The first question for this week comes from Listener Curtis. Curtis asks: I’m 59 and I’m finally getting back into shape but gout is making mighty painful at times. I know that there are many foods that a person should stay away from in order to control the uric acid levels but many of those foods are also foods that I need to assist me in other things that I have going on. I have been running and walking through the pain, except at times it’s too much. Are there any herbs or supplements that reduce uric acid and can the already built up of crystallized uric acid be eliminated? Ben answers: Well that’s a great question Curtis. And first of all, for those of you out there who are trying to understand what’s going on with Curtis – uric acid is basically – it’s something natural in our bodies. It’s the byproduct of the metabolism of a class of chemicals known as purines. And a lot of times those are found in high protein containing foods like meat. But a lot of times, and usually people with gout, the body doesn’t have the proper enzymes to actually deal with these purines and so uric acid builds up and it ends up crystallizing and this leads to things like kidney stones, high blood pressure, joint pain. It can even lead to diabetes and atherosclerosis and so it can be kind of an issue and a lot of times, it manifests itself in soreness in the feet which is referred to as a gouty arthritis, just because of that crystallization of uric acid in those areas. It can be treated with prescriptions. There are also certain foods that people with gout are generally advised to stay away from. A lot of those foods would include, like I mentioned – meat, and that would include poultry and seafood as well. There are some vegetables that tend to be a little bit higher in uric acid. Asparagus is one, spinach is
  3. 3. another. Cauliflower. Some of the cruciferous vegetables. Most yeast products, especially baked goods. Beer. Alcohol and coffee can be a big problem as can just about any food that’s fried or rich or has a lot of spices in it. There are obviously some pretty significant limitations to what you can actually take in. Now, some of the things that you can do to help prevent gout and help prevent the uric acid build-up – and this is not something that I’m doling out as medical advice designed to treat you – I’m just saying that these are the things that people traditionally have used, would be staying hydrated. That means just taking your weight, dividing that by half and at least getting that many ounces per day of water. Foods high in potassium can help out quite a bit. Fruits and vegetables that aren’t on the list of those that people with gout should avoid, would be on the list. Quercetin is actually a pretty popular natural remedy. Quercetin is something you’ll find in the FRS energy drink that Lance Armstrong endorses but you can also find Quercetine as a supplement, like at a super supplement outlet or any supplement type of store. Lemon juice is another thing as well as baking soda that people have used to control the uric acid levels and then a high fiber diet. Just because that helps absorb a lot of the acids that are formed in the liver, and a lot of those acids can serve as a precursor to uric acid. Now when you get into the supplements, there are a lot of supplements as well that can act as anti- inflammatories against some of the acidic build-up. A fish oil would be one. Flax seed oil is another, bromelain is something that’s traditionally taken. Vitamin B, making sure that you actually get adequate vitamin B, specifically the B5 – the pantothenic acid – that can help out quite a bit. Dr. Dean talks about it quite a bit in her book Magnesium Miracle, but magnesium – whether topical or oral – could help you a little bit in terms of your mineral balance as well and vitamin E is another pretty powerful antioxidant that you can use. There are other things that people use. Apple cider vinegar is one that I’ve heard of, cherries would be another just because of their powerful antioxidant properties, as would be red clover. We could probably spend an hour talking about natural remedies for gout but the basic idea is that there are some foods you want to avoid. There are some
  4. 4. supplements – some of which I mentioned – that are associated with something people have tried for gout anecdotally successfully. But some things to consider. Great question, Curtis and hopefully that helps you exercise in the presence of your gout and uric acid build-up. If we were to sum up everything, I would definitely be looking at the higher fiber vegetable based diet with some of the supplements I talked about. Richard asks: A quick question regarding my wife. She is both gluten and lactose intolerant and so she consumes soya milk and products. She has had two children and suffers with more mild ailments like colds and generally lower energy levels than myself. I was wondering whether you think that soya milk may be a contributing factor to this and whether you suggest that she should mix up her intake with rice milk, etc. Ben answers: If your wife already has a lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance, Richard, she may have other food intolerances. Soy is a known food intolerance and the basic idea is that if the intestinal lining can’t properly digest proteins like milk proteins and soy proteins then those proteins are actually taken up into the bloodstream. And the body treats them like a foreign object in the bloodstream – what’s called an antigen – and the body produces antibodies against those antigens and that causes an allergic response which is basically an inflammatory condition. You can get intestinal inflammation, you can get a drop in energy levels, a drop in metabolism, and that happens with some people with soy. It’s more common for unfermented soy products like tofu or soy milk to be an issue, and fermented products like miso or tempe or natto to be a little bit less of an issue. So it can kind of depend on the soy that she chooses, but absolutely if soy milk is a staple in your wife’s diet and she has a food intolerance to it, then it could affect her energy levels and her immune system because anytime you mount an inflammatory response in the body, it can cause the immune system to become hypersensitive and increase the frequency of things like colds. What I would do is as you say, try and substitute some of that soy milk. Rice milk would be a good alternative, check the nutrition label. A lot of times they’ll
  5. 5. add sugar to rice milk so be careful that there’s not any syrupies or anything sweet or artificial being added to it. Almond milk is another great source and there are a lot of good home recipes out there for almond milk. It’s easier to make than you think. Basically just requires a blender, some water and some almonds. The other thing that you can use as an alternative to the almond milk or the rice milk would be a goat protein if she can tolerate those. Some people actually can that can’t tolerate cow’s milk and we’ve had an interview with a gentleman from Mt. Capra on the show before about that. You can do a search at for “goat’s milk” and then the last thing that you may want to consider is something like coconut water – another thing that’s been discussed on this show – as an alternative to milk consumption. But I would definitely look into some replacements for the soy milk. Chuck asks: My question is about Rice Cakes. I’ve always figured these are pretty much a useless form of healthy carbohydrates, but I picked up a bag in the grocery store the other day and, for the plain variety I was looking at, the only ingredient listed was “organic brown rice.” This doesn’t actually seem like a bad choice. I wouldn’t eat them all the time, but they seemed like a nice option for some variation to put some almond butter or lean protein on. What are your thoughts? Ben answers: Yeah, absolutely. Rice cakes are low in calories and although they’re high in the glycemic index meaning they cause a pretty quick release of blood sugar, they’re fairly low on calories and low on what’s called the glycemic load. Like you say, Chuck, what you looked at was the plain variety and that’s generally what you’re going to want to choose and then you add a protein to that like a guacamole or a hummus or a nut butter or something of that nature. Now if you go and you look at something like the Quaker Caramel Corn rice cake, pull up that rice cake on a Web site, just at or Nutrition Data and you can see that they’ve got a whole grain brown rice as their initial flavor but then they add corn, they add sugar, they add fructose, they add maltodextrin, caramel colors, salt and soy lecithin. Now, once you add all that into the rice cake then it becomes a
  6. 6. completely different food all together. So if you’re going to use rice cake as a snack, I would highly recommend that you use just regular old plain rice cakes and add your own protein. Richard asks: I listened with interest to your interview with and have been trying to make changes to my freestyle swim stroke. I swam competitively when I was younger and, as such, learned to swim taking my breath over my right shoulder. I am finding that adapting to bi-lateral breathing is very difficult. How long do you expect it takes for this new behavior to become the norm? Ben answers: Well first of all, if it’s triathlon that you’re attempting to compete in, Richard, bilateral breathing is definitely going to be something that you want to work at. It helps you smooth out your stroke, it keeps you balanced. It gives you an option to breathe against the waves or away the waves or away from somebody who happens to be swimming on one side of you – in that case you’d have to breathe away from that person, so you’re not sucking in all the water that they’re churning up and bilateral breathing in my opinion is crucial for an athlete to actually be able to learn. Now in terms of improving your bilateral breathing, the best advice I can give you is to just do it. I know that sounds really simple but that would be step one. Just start to incorporate it and get past the fact that you have that habit of breathing to one side and just begin in every set to force yourself to breathe to both sides. Now some drills that can help you achieve balance on the side you’re likely not able to balance on are going to be side swimming drills, meaning that you’re practicing swimming on your side and emphasizing especially that side that you’re not good at breathing on so that your body learns balance. You’re basically kicking on your side with one arm extended and one arm at your side. A couple of other drills that you can look at – there’s a Web site called Go Swim TV that has some wonderful examples of these drills, would be the 61 and the 63 drill, which are initially taken from the total immersion program. I use them a lot with my athletes, but they’re great in teaching you to be balanced on both sides of your body. Those will also help your bilateral breathing. I like the zipper
  7. 7. drill where you zip up the side of your body during your stroke and learn to have proper rotation and balance on each side, and finally I’d recommend the head out of the water swimming which will teach you some of the subtle shoulder movements that you’ll be able to make and that’s just Tarzan style breathing where you’re breathing with your head completely out of the water. So some side swimming, some 61, some 63, some zipper drills and some Tarzan style swimming and all of those will help quite a bit with your bilateral breathing. But definitely don’t get in a rut. As far as the time it’s going to take you to learn that. It’s typically about a month to really get a new physical habit in place, so great question. Tom asks: My question would be if I cut down to say a couple of glasses of wine instead of my usual 6 or so beers would it be less harmful to my fat levels? I’m 24, never had to exercise until say 22, had a slim body no matter what I ate or drunk until the past year or so and now I’ve had a dramatic increase in weight and it really is doing me no good, especially being summer time. Any advice? Ben answers: Alright, so the whole idea behind beer versus wine versus liqueur is that before you make any of those choices, you need to understand that drinking does mess with your metabolism. Because when you drink the alcohol that you consume is converted into something called acetate in your liver and your body will preferentially burn acetate over the other calorie sources in your diet. And any of that acetate that doesn’t get burned or any of those excess calories that don’t get burned are converted to storage fat. Alcohol can also suppress your testosterone levels which will inhibit your ability to build lean muscle mass and it will bump up your cortisol levels – especially if you’re drinking in excess and that again in excess can lead to fat storage. So when you’re choosing your drinks and looking at beer versus wine – wine, you’re looking at about a four ounce glass depending on the type of wine you choose being from 65 up to about 140 calories. Typically white wines are going to be lower in calories than red wines. But either way wine is going to be slightly lower calorie overall than beer, which is about 100 to
  8. 8. 200 calories for a 12 ounce bottle. The light choices are going to be closer to about 100. The darker fuller beers like stout or Guinness are going to be closer to 200 calories. And then finally when you look at liquor, it’s actually really high. Like a one and a half ounce shot of rum is going to cost you about 125 calories. And the same goes for liqueur. Vodka is a little less but either way, liqueur is calorically dense. Even though you drink less of it, a lot of times you get just as many calories. Now the other thing that you need to consider is that the gluten based proteins from the wheat and the beer can also – if you’re gluten sensitive at all – affect your metabolism and wine is sometimes metabolized a little bit cleaner if you happen to be sensitive to gluten based proteins. My recommendation would be that you consider – if you really want to decrease your body fat levels – bumping down any alcohol consumption to just one serving, preferably of a wine, or a light beer, just about three to four times a week. So as little as you can get away with it and never in doses of more than one serving. I personally – and I talked about this a little last week, about how to stay fit when you’re partying – if I’m out at a party or a social event or a club, most of the time I’ll do one ounce of vodka with a little bit of soda water and a splash of cranberry. And for any type of drinking that I do at home with dinner, I’ll usually do one glass of red wine. So calorically, you’re dumping empty calories into your body either way but wine and then beer and then liquor in that order would be least damaging to most damaging in terms of fat formation. So hopefully that helps out. Great question. Tim asks: Maybe you have addressed this before but what’s the truth regarding chicken? A butcher told me today that there was no difference since the government prohibited the use of hormones now and that “chicken was chicken.” I see some marked as “all natural” but does that mean just at go to market time? I’ve heard rumors of them pumping the chicken full of growth substances and then “flushing” them before butchering so they are “natural” at that time. Ben answers: First of all, Tim – fresh on my mind because I just watched it last week… I would recommend that you check out the flick Food Inc. because that does a great job at laying out the
  9. 9. whole idea behind free range chicken versus basically a chicken that’s kept in a dark coop 24/7 in very tight and stressful living conditions. There’s definitely going to be a difference between the way those animals are treated, the way they are raised and the type of meat that you consume as far as the amount of hormones, and additives and growth substances that are added to a chicken… to my knowledge there is no current limitation or prohibition on the use of hormones in raising your chickens. For that reason, I choose the natural, organic free range chicken. But of course the issue with that is that free range is not defined very well. And it could mean that the chicken just gets 15 minutes, five feet away from the coop just on a daily basis. Whereas some chickens, you’re going to find they’re out in fresh range pastures all day long getting tons of sun and there’s going to be a big difference between those two types of chickens. One of the things that you need to understand is that when an animal is put into a feed lot – studies have shown this – the amount of valuable Omega 3 fatty acids in the meat is going to decline dramatically. So if you can ensure that the chicken you’re consuming is true free range organic chicken – preferably from a local farm – that’s going to be best. There are a lot of local farm coops in a lot of cities now. There are also what are called CSAs or Community Supported Agriculture. That would be the best bet to go for in terms of chicken. Where I live locally, there’s a grocery store called Fresh Abundance, at and they get local safe chicken from… basically it’s a farm. It’s called Spring Water Farm up in Deer Park. I know right where it’s at. It’s 30 minutes from my house and these chicken have local organic feed. If you drive to the farm and look at it, there are chickens roaming all over the place and they’re in a loving family and you can definitely taste the difference between those chickens and the type of chickens – the feed lot based chickens that you get from the grocery store. So I would recommend that you choose your chicken wisely and yes there is a case to be made for getting organic free range chicken versus getting just the stuff that you’d find mass produced at your grocery store.
  10. 10. Kai asks: You probably don’t know the answer to this (geez Kai, thanks.) but I’ll ask anyway – why don’t food labels add up right? I just looked at Subway 6” turkey sandwich on and the total kCal don’t tie out to the math 9 kCal per gram for fats, 4 kCal per gram of carb or protein, etc. Ben answers: Well believe it or not, I actually do know the answer to that question. So, let’s talk about the missing calories in nutrition labels. It’s not really your math that’s off, it’s basically the rounding off that is allowed on nutrition facts labels. So basically the idea is that the FDA has some rounding rules that corporations need to follow when they’re determining their nutrition breakdowns. Let’s start with fat. So the idea behind fat is that fat has to be declared on a food label if it has at least 0.5 grams of fat. And it is rounded to the nearest half a gram if there are fewer than 5 grams of fat in a product. And if a product has more than 5 grams of fat, they round to the nearest whole number. So, if a product has 4.6 grams of fat, they’d round that to 4.5 grams on a label. And if the product has over 5 grams, let’s say 5.4 grams of fat, then the product would be able to say that it has 5 grams. Now as far as carbohydrates and proteins, they are simply required to round those to the nearest whole number. So 9.6 grams of carbohydrates would be 10 grams and 15.2 grams of protein would be 15 grams. So calories also have to be listed in specified increments. So what that means is that if a product has 50 calories or less, a manufacturer needs to round off to the nearest multiple of 5. And if a product has more than 50 calories, they have to round off to the nearest multiple of 10. So let’s say you’re eating something that has 36 calories, they would round that down to 35. If you’re eating that has something that has 73 calories, then they would round that down to 70. And so again, just these little changes in the calories can affect the total calorie count on that food. Now as far as that 949 number that you bring up – the fact that fat has 9 calories per gram, protein has 4 calories per gram, and carbohydrates has 9 calories per gram… that’s actually not the exact numbers. So, carbohydrate actually has about 3.6 calories per gram. Not 4 calories per gram. Fat is just a little bit over 9 calories per gram. Protein usually has about 4.1 to
  11. 11. 4.2 calories per gram and if we’re looking at 156 versus 150 calories once you add up that math, it’s not going to make that much of a difference but that’s the reason that calories really don’t add up sometimes on the nutrition label. Then the final thing that the FDA allows people to do is that manufacturers can subtract out from the calories. Any calories that are attributable to insoluble fiber. Because insoluble fiber just passes through your entire system and doesn’t get digested, those calories don’t get utilized. So for example if you look at Quaker Oats, they subtract out all the insoluble fiber when they’re adding up the calorie content. But overall, most of these are going to have a very small impact on your actual diet. So great question, Kai. Chuck asks: I know the importance of eating before working out, but how much of what we eat actually fuels the workout, as opposed to the carb and fat stores the body has? If you could explain that briefly, that would be great. Ben answers: Alright, this is my last question and I’m going to spend a little bit more time on this question because ultimately it’s a really important question and I want to give you guys kind of the basics and then move on into the specifics of how the body actually utilizes fuel. Okay. So the idea is that muscles burn sugar for energy, as most of you know. The longer you exercise, the more carbohydrate your muscles are going to need for fuel. And when I use the term “carbohydrate” I’m using that synonymously with the word sugar. Now let’s say you get on a bike and you start peddling, the demand for sugar for glucose to your leg muscles starts to increase and your leg muscles send out a signal to your body to start supplying the glucose that you need. But that glucose isn’t just coming from raw glucose stored inside the body. The body is actually making glucose from other substances. And essentially what’s happening is when you eat glucose, it gets converted into glycogen or storage carbohydrate and it can also be derived from your storage fat or your storage protein. That’s through a process called gluconeogenesis. Now, with all these different carbohydrate sources your body can actually supply the glucose that your legs need to pedal that bike, so it can break down protein and turn that into sugar. It
  12. 12. can break down fat and turn that into sugar, and it can break down storage carbohydrate and use that as sugar as well. Now you’re going to get more fuel in the form of blood glucose from breaking down a gram of fat than from a gram of protein or a gram of carbohydrate, but the idea is that when you break down fat, that’s a very slow and inefficient process so your body is only going to break down fat and turn that into glucose to be used for energy if you’re moving at a very slow pace. And to keep yourself from cannibalizing your lean muscle mass, your body will also only rely on protein as a significant source of blood glucose for breaking down protein and turning it into sugar – only after about three hours or so of exercise. So unless you’re exercising at a very low intensity or for a very long period of time, fat and protein sources of blood sugar are not going to predominate. So that leaves us with two possibilities for you while you’re riding your bike on a typical 30 minute or 60 minute or 90 minute training session -- storage carbohydrate inside your muscles or the actual blood glucose that’s circulating in your body from the sugars that you eat. Well the answer is that your body is going to go first to the circulating blood sugar, because it doesn’t have to actually be broken down. There’s fewer chemical processes required to take pure, raw blood sugar and use that as energy versus taking storage carbohydrate branches and breaking them down and using those for energy. But here’s the thing, in most humans, basically you’ve got about 80 up to about 110 of what are called mgs of deciliter of actual blood glucose, okay? Based off of the total blood volume of somebody who averages about 160 to 170 lbs, who’s got about 5 liters of blood – if you do the math on that, that’s going to come out to the equivalent of about 5 grams of glucose in the blood. From the carbohydrate equations that we talked about earlier in this podcast, that gives you about 20 calories, about the equivalent to a small sugar packet that you would put into your coffee… about that type of size. So that is what your body has available to burn through before it starts to rely on your storage carbohydrate. Then once you’ve burned through all the storage carbohydrate. That’s when you start to go after more of the fat and the protein. Now it’s not all or nothing. A lot of people will burn 60% fat, 40% carbohydrate at lower
  13. 13. intensities and eventually at higher and higher intensities, we’ll get up to 100% carbohydrate and 0% fat, but the idea in terms of order while you’re exercising – it’s first blood sugar, and then a combination of fat and carbohydrate, until your carbohydrate stores are emptied and then it is a combination of blood sugar and fat and protein. So hopefully that answers your question. I think it was a great question and hopefully you answer the physiology of the process a little bit better. So, those are all the questions for this week. Now please leave us a ranking in iTunes and be sure to ask me your questions if you have some. And go check out the Rock Star Triathlete Academy if you’re even mildly interested in triathlon. This is going to be way up your alley at Consider donating to our podcast or just going out and checking out the Shownotes where I paste a lot of useful information and until next time this is Ben Greenfield signing out from Have a healthy week. For personal nutrition, fitness or triathlon consulting, supplements, books or DVD’s from Ben Greenfield, please visit Pacific Elite Fitness at