The Marathon Experiment

 

The quick and dirty of it all is this:  I am running my first marathon in April 2012…in Paris.  It’s my honeymoon…and I am going big.

I don’t come from a long line of marathon runners. My husband does, though.  In fact, he comes from hearty German stock and very athletic parents.  His mom ran the entire duration of her pregnancy with him, through lush Bavarian forests and cobblestoned streets.  Both of his parents have competitively run many races–it was through a recent discussion with them that we officially caught the marathon bug.

I have always been a bit more of a gym rat than a marathon runner.  As a personal trainer for the past 10 years, I have preached to many the great benefits of circuit training—the idea of keeping cardio/endurance workouts in moderation with strength training and stretching.   And, as I have already had two knee surgeries earned from competitive downhill ski racing, I am maybe not the best candidate to train for a marathon.  But, at the end of the day, I really want to run one.  So I am going to.  In April.  In Paris.

I by no means hope to compete in this one-and-only marathon, but to complete it and then enjoy the rest of my honeymoon.

Here is where the plot thickens a tad: not only am I going to run this race, I am going to take the best care of my body as possible. I am assembling a team-care approach to training, that I am hoping to employ with other athletes (both professional and non) as well as myself.   I am lucky to work in a holistic clinic and have access to such a great team to take care of me, but a large portion of it will also be self care, the easiest thing to let slip as a healthcare provider.

The plan:
·      Acupuncture 1x/week
·      Chinese Herbs
·      Massage 1-2x/month
·      IV Therapy every two weeks
·      Supplements
·      Diet Change to the ‘Paleo Diet’
·      Chiropractic/Naturopathic Manipulative Therapy weekly

Throughout the following weeks you will get a taste of what I am doing to both train and heal my body as I prepare for this huge task!

Image courtesy Caitlinator

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Super Supplement Strategy: Part 1

March 15, 2012

About two weeks ago, I hit the wall. My long runs have been feeling VERY long and my body has been taking days to recover. We are in the final month and counting before our trip, and I am getting a little anxious over the race… all I want to do is finish it, but on the other hand, these long runs are slowly breaking me down, making training for that hopeful finish harder by the run.

So, this week, I am going to mention the super-supplement-strategy that I beefed up even more in the last few weeks to get my through this next month.

First of all, I had been getting a mini IV Therapy treatment weekly. Seeing as how I co-teach the IV Nutritional Therapy Course at NCNM, it won’t shock many to know that this has been incorporated into my treatment plan from the beginning. In the last two weeks, I simply increased the dose of a few of the vitamins and minerals to help compensate for the increased loss of nutrients on my long runs. (This next section is going to sound like a bit of a commercial for IV Therapy, so stick with me… I figure I would just teach it outright on this blog, and anyone interested could come and talk specifics with me if need be.)

IV Therapy is a form of treatment that most naturopathic physicians learn as part of the their basic education, but not many specialize in, due to the amount of set up required to infuse nutrients and the inherent risks of the treatment. I have learned to love the benefits of IV Therapy and prescribe it with many of my patients: from Hepatitis C to GI disorders to improved athletic performance.

Potential Benefits of IV Therapy include:

· Easy access to rapid administration of solutions

· Easy to monitor delivery of fluids, electrolytes and nutrients (for those with impaired GI tracts)

· Nutrients are not affected by stomach or intestinal disease (so, we don’t have to worry about mal-absorption issues that can plague us during times of high stress…like marathon training)

· Total amount of fluid and nutrients enters the circulation, therefore it is available to the tissues.

· Higher doses of nutrients can be given by vein than by mouth without nausea, abdominal discomfort or diarrhea.
Here is an abbreviated list of a few of the vitamins and minerals that I am including into my IV Treatment and why I chose them:

Vitamin B5:

· Aids in release of energy from foods.

· Involved in the transport of fatty acids to and from cells and accelerates fatty acid breakdown in the mitochondria.

· Stimulates healing.

· Supports adrenal glands and alleviates stress.

Vitamin B6:

· Participates in multi-enzyme systems, chemical reactions of proteins and amino acids.

· Promotes normal red blood cell formation.

· Helps in energy production and resistance to stress, enhances mood.

· Co-enzyme in carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism.

· Relieves some joint pain and muscle spasm.

Vitamin C:

· Antioxidant, prevent muscle soreness post exercise.

· Helps in collagen tissue health.

· Supports the immune system

Calcium:

· Participates in metabolic functions necessary for normal activity of nervous, muscular and skeletal systems.

· Plays important role in normal heart function.

Magnesium

· Relaxes tight muscles and muscle spasm.

· Relieves night time leg cramps.

· Regulates normal heart rhythm.

· A cofactor in numerous enzyme systems and is involved in muscular excitability and neurochemical transmission.

I include most of the above nutrients in many of the IVs that I provide here at Nature Cures Clinic, and many more, always creating specific formulas (or, cocktails as many patients call them) for specific patients.

Stay tuned: I’ll talk about oral supplements next!

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Supplements for a Long Run

March 1, 2012

For the past two months, I have been trying to find the perfect on-the-run supplements to use for electrolyte balance and calorie upkeep.  I have attempted to veer away from the sugary supplements that are out there, as the main ingredients of maltodextrin and fructose are not exactly what I would call perfect fuels for the body.  (For a reminder of why I don’t particularly love fructose, please see previous posts)

Maltodextrin:  This is a highly processed starch, derived form other starchy foods (potatoes, wheat, etc).  It is a bit of a useless, nutrition-less, overly sweet-tasting filler.  It can be converted to glucose in the body, but it is otherwise pretty worthless.

I have been using basically three supplemental food products (notice I mentioned food and not sugar-based products?) to get me through my long runs:

  • Homemade fruit and nut energy bars/bites
  • Easy to make sports drink with electrolyte replacement
  • Almond Butter Packets

Homemade Energy Bars/Bites:

Here are some recipes that I have been using with great success for a pre-run and sometimes mid-run whole foods snack:

  • 2 tbsp Coconut oil
  • 1 cup almonds
  • ½ cup cashews
  • ½ cup dried cherries
  • ½ cup dates
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Put all ingredients into a food processor and process until the mix is slightly sticky—enough to form small bite sized pieces.  Wrap these pieces in some waxed paper (don’t make them too big, as I have definitely had a bit of a choking fit while trying to gobble too much at once).

Sports Drink:

Use the guidelines below to make a drink that tastes good to you.  I go lighter on the honey and heavier on the salt, because I have found that at about mile 8-10 I am needing some salt replacement.  I am choosing sea salt over iodized salt for its maintained natural levels of iodine, magnesium, and other trace nutrients that are removed from iodized salt during the refining process.

  • Fill bottles to the top with filtered water
  • ½ tsp – 1 tsp of lemon or lime juice
  • 1 tsp – 1 tbsp of raw honey
  • ¼ tsp – ½ tsp of sea salt

Almond Butter Packets:

Check these out:   http://www.justinsnutbutter.com/products.php

I have been using 1-2 of the almond and honey packets per long run and I love them.  They provide a huge burst of energy and are a pretty perfect mix of fats, carbohydrates, and protein!

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Sugar Smackdown

February 3, 2012

A friend of mine recently said, “Dr. Fuller, in my house we think that white sugar and high fructose corn syrup are the devil, and that agave and honey are just fine… but why is that?”  It is a great question, especially in this time of fad diets, sugar free trends, and new sugar substitutes competing for the consumer’s attention nearly every week.  As an athlete (and now, by default, a runner…), I have been indoctrinated to think that I need quick release sugar in the form of goopy packets and sports drinks to be able to survive my runs…but is that really the case?

To start get to that answer of that question, let’s break down the idea of sugar even more.  First, lets talk about what sugar even really is. This site is a fantastic place to get a brief education on what sugar is and how it affects us: http://www.realfooduniversity.com/best-sweetener/

Two vocab words to stick in your head are glucose and fructose, which are each single-molecule sugar forms. Table sugar is a combination of glucose and fructose, called sucrose.  And high fructose corn syrup is a combo of fructose and glucose with over half being composed of fructose, making it seem sweeter to our tastebuds.

Glucose is essential to life.  Glucose is the form of sugar that fuels our bodies, both during exercise and during rest.  This is where the buck stops, as all other sugar forms have to be converted to glucose to be used by our cells.  Most other fats and proteins that we eat (or that are already a part of our physiology) can also be turned into glucose…we are that awesome and efficient.

The quick and dirty (well, really not-so-quick, and pretty dirty-lookin) on fructose is as follows: “Fructose is a sugar found mainly in fruits, which undergoes metabolic processing in the liver. The main problem with fructose is that little piece about needing to be metabolized by the liver. Studies have suggested that consuming too much fructose messes up all kinds of things in the body.  Some show a correlation with obesity. Fructose tends to promote an increase in triglycerides in the blood, which are a definite marker for heart disease. Other studies have shown that fructose pulls important minerals from the blood, chelating them out of the body. This little gem also increases levels of uric acid in the body, an abundance of which brings about the symptoms of gout.

Studies have shown fatty liver disease from too much fructose, making the liver look like that of an alcoholic. And finally, fructose reduces circulating insulin and leptin, while decreasing suppression of ghrelin levels, hormones which control satiety and appetite.” Fructose, then, is a little tougher on the body, but it is also the main sugar in fruit…does that mean fruit is bad for me in this marathon training frenzy I find myself in?

Not necessarily… fruit does have sugar in the form of fructose but, couple that with some fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other goodies that you don’t get in the sweeteners, contributing bulk that limits how much you can eat.  In high fructose corn syrup there are no coupling-goodies (for lack of better word) and the body is just taxed by this form of sweet.

I asked Maria Zilka, our Certified Nutritionist here at Nature Cures Clinic, to talk to me a little more about the goods and bads of sweets in the eyes of athletic training. Here are some key points that she passed along to me:

·       Every cell in our body needs sugar for energy production—just not processed sugar.  All the essential sugar that we need for health can come from fruit and vegetable sources.
·       When you eat any processed form of sugar, you eat something that has some or all of its synergy taken away.
·       When you have sugar in nature, you have something to couple it with: either fat or fiber.  Refined sugars are completely devoid of most minerals, vitamins, and micronutrients.

Maria has also encouraged me to leave the sugary on-the-run packets behind for a more of a combination approach:

·       Fats are the logs on our metabolic fire, sugar is the kindling.  Endurance and sprint athletes know the value of sugar…but, at the end of a long ride or a huge run, it is actually the fats that have provided the power and endurance!  We need them both to keep our fires going strong!

To sum it all up:

Avoid processed sugar sources and stick with unprocessed sources. Some examples include:

·       Raw honey contains nutrients and enzymes when we filter it.
·       Grade B maple syrup (filtered one less time) has more nutrients
·       Dates (fiber and cellulose)

Stay tuned for next week’s post, where I’ll share some recipes for on-the-run nutrition that Maria has helped me develop!

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The Straight Fats (errr, Facts…)

January 27, 2012

For so many years, the word ‘fat’ has been vilified in our society.  Low-fat this, non-fat that, trans-saturated-hydrogenated-confusing.  What I want to impress upon you, as I explain my fat-feeding-strategy, is that fat is so very needed and important to allow our body to function.  It is also a perfect source of fuel to use when training for an endurance sport.  We just have to make some educated choices about what fats to use and when to use them.

A fantastic site that discusses the ins and outs of good and bad fats can be found here:
http://www.realfooddigest.com/complete-guide-to-fats-and-oils/ It is well worth bookmarking and even printing the chart they include!

Understanding how fats work in and out of the body:

At the end of the day, what it comes down to is simple biochemistry: how the molecules line up dictates how fats will fold and lay atop one another—creating solids, liquids, and gelatinous goo in between.

There are two main factors to consider when it comes to oil/fat biochemistry:

·       How easily they oxidize. The oxidation of fatty acids changes the chemical properties of the fat; it reduces the nutritional value of the fat, darkens its color, can cause off–flavors, and may be deleterious to your health.  As I mentioned in my last post, I am avoiding all things that might increase my oxidation level, leading to free radical accumulation, starting with keeping oxidized fats out of my diet.  (For a very science geeky/technical explanation of oxidation, check out this site: http://www.machinerylubrication.com/Read/475/oil-breakdown.  Keep in mind, it is discussing machinery oil products… and I am attempting to become a better-oiled-machine)

·       Omega ratios:  The key is that omega 3 is anti-inflammatory while omega 6 has the possibility to generate more inflammation. (Again, I am generating enough inflammation on my own, without the added help from the fats that I consume…)

The quick and dirty with what to do with these fats and how to incorporate them into a diet is as simple as this:

·       Avoid trans fats.  They are gross.  Both in taste and in what they do to the body.
·       Use monounsaturated oil (olive, sesame, etc) for low heat only: they have the tendency to oxidize with high heat.
·       Avoid using polyunsaturated oils (canola, cottenseed, corn, soybean, etc). Oxidation and inflammation central.
·       Embrace saturated fats (grass feed animal fat/lard, butter, coconut, etc): worry more about the source you are getting the fat from than the fact that it is saturated (Think happy, pasture raised, grass loving animals)
·       Remember: Omega 3 is good for me, Omega 6 is ick ick ick.

Stay tuned for the Sugar-Smack down, coming soon, when I talk Carbohydrate Strategy.

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Planning on Stress — Understanding the Nutritional Strategy

January 20, 2012

There are hundreds of articles and websites out there dedicated to the topic of using exercise as a stress reliever.  And as my patients know, I am always asking what they are doing for exercise and making suggestions on how to get more movement into their lives.  Exercise — cardiovascular, strength training, stretching —is undeniably important to our health and well-being. Overexercise — like one might find themselves doing as part of a marathon training program — causes its share of stress on the body, however, rather than relieving it.

Strenuous exercise increases oxygen consumption and causes disturbance of intracellular pro-oxidant/antioxidant homeostasis — generating boat-loads of free radicals.  An increasing body of evidence has implicated this oxidative stress, and the resulting free radicals, in the pathogenesis of numerous diseases, such as diabetes, certain cancers, and cardiovascular disease. Oxidative stress can lead to damage or destruction of cellular macromolecules such as lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids (building blocks to DNA!) — it is what I spend a majority of my time attempting to mitigate with the patients that I treat.

It is no surprise that oxidative stress has been associated with decreased physical performance, muscular fatigue, muscle damage, and overtraining. High intensity exercise induces quite a bit of oxidative stress and although there is no evidence that this affects sporting performance in the short term, it may have longer term health consequences.

Free radicals are usually neutralized by an elaborate antioxidant defense system consisting of enzymes such as catalase, superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase, and numerous non-enzymatic antioxidants, including vitamins A, E and C, glutathione, ubiquinone, and flavonoids (I will dedicate a whole post to the topic of Glutathione in the near future).

Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between free radical generating processes and available antioxidants.  Several environmental, nutritional, and lifestyle choices can cause the balance to swing in the favor of oxidative stress —including high intensity and long duration exercise.  So, the question then becomes, what strategy am I going to use to counteract all of this intense training and free radical generation?

Antioxidants, as I mentioned above, are the nutrients we require in order to neutralize free radicals so they can then be eliminated from the body in a harmless form.  Many people in our society live on nutrient-deficient diets from highly processed and refined foods that do not supply essential nutrient protection.  My strategy to diminish the effects of this intense training using a highly nutritive diet strategy is 3-part, and will be discussed over the upcoming posts.

Over the next two weeks, I am going to delve into two important components of nutrition that comprise a healthy, antioxidant rich diet: macronutrients — like proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, and micronutrients.

I am going to spend the following week talking about the different on-the-go nutritional aids that Nature Cures’ own Maria Zilka is helping me to create.  These will replace the traditional sugary goo packets and sports drinks that have been popularized in the sporting community.

And finally, my favorite topic, I am going to dedicate a post to the fantastic treatment of IV Therapy, a subject that I teach at the National College of Natural Medicine and one of the best ways to pump the body full of micronutrients and antioxidants that can often be a challenge to absorb in high volume orally.

References:

1.     Exercise and oxidative stress: significance of antioxidants with reference to inflammatory, muscular, and systemic stress. Exerc Immunol Rev. 2001;7:108-33.

2.     Exercise, free radicals and oxidative stress, Biochemical Society Transactions. 2002, 30(2):280-5.