Sunday, September 30, 2012

Training Volume Is It THAT Simple?

Is it as simple as time training = better performance.  if you're a part time runner, you'll just have to live with part time performance?  

Big races coming in this area and it's got me 'athinking.  'Training volume' is it an aggregate indicator of how you finish in a race?  Picture this: The army 10-mile'r about 20-25,000 finishers.  Imagine the finish in a single file line.  Could you take a picture of them in single file and draw a circle around each group of 100 runners and write the average training miles (or weekly time invested) next to each group and see a definite trend of training volume to finishing times?  Is it as simple as finishers 1-101 trained 'xxhours/week, the next hundred averaged xx-1 hours/week, and so on?  Maybe the 10-miler is too short to see a definite trend, how about a big city marathon, or an ultra (like Comrades)?

This is easily true at the extremes.  Those that plan to walk these races probably have zero to 'a couple miles' a week under their belts - and those finishing at the top logged up to 100s of miles a week.  I'm generalizing here, many athletes have differing histories of volume, better/worse genetics, etc etc.  but could logging miles be the 'key' in endurance sports?  

I found this helpful study on finishers of the Comrades Ultra (Link Here).  Form the piece:
Those with the fastest times (6 to 6.5 hrs) had done 2574km (1600miles) and the 10 to 11 hrs finishers 1030km (640mi) <<miles done in the 6mos leading up to the race>>. The current elite runners claim to run in excess of 3000 to 3500 km (1864-2174mi) in preparation for the marathon, which is similar to what runners were doing twenty years ago.
 …<also note>Despite their high training load the male silver medallists were the least likely to have spent a week off due to injury and illness (28.6%) - but then the corollary is that this would have allowed them to complete a higher total mileage.  The majority of the men who finished in over 10 and over 11 hours (76% and 58% respectively) had been unable to train due to injury or illness.  Likewise, the women who finished in under 9 hrs had the least compromised training (15.1% were unable to train for a week or more) while up to 50% of the women in all the other medal groups had been affected.  Six of the seven women who did not finish had been ill and/or injured and their total training mileage was lower than any other group in the study.
In table form, years of experience running, and training volume in the 6mos leading up until the race.

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Training volume equals performance and training volume equals less injury rates.  If you're competitive, it is your job to accept how much time you have to train and that is most likely to determine how you race (or be injured ...more on this later!).  

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Dreaded Side Stitch

Depends largely on intensity of activity, but you've only got so much blood to go around.  If your legs want blood to move, you'll turn off other less important bodily functions. In our ancestral past, running meant surviving, so yeah it's ranked high on the priority list - higher than digestion.  Want a cramp in your side?  Make sure and eat/drink just before running ;).

From Trail Runner Magazine:
GOT CRAMPS?Avoid Painful race- and training-ending muscle spasmsBY Jason R. Karp, Ph.D
In high school, I was leading a cross-country race, with a pack of runners from another school right off my shoulder. I felt confident, and then with 800 meters to go, a cramp seized my calf. I stuttered for a few steps, and the entire pack flew by me as if I were standing still.
Have you ever been running along enjoying a trail’s scenery, the smell of tall pines or eucalyptus and BAM—you get a nasty cramp? Whether it is a sharp stitch in the side of your abdomen or a sudden, piercing tightness in your calf or hamstring, cramps can downright destroy an otherwise great run. But they don’t have to if you understand how to deal with (and avoid) them.
Why Do You Get Cramps?
Side stitches affect nearly 70 percent of runners, typically occur on the right side of the upper abdomen and are less prevalent in both older and fitter runners. Why cramps occur, though, is still somewhat of a mystery to physiologists and doctors. Scientists believe that side stitches, which are given the fancy name of exercise-related transient abdominal pain (ETAP), result from either eating or drinking too close to running, especially food and drink that has a high sugar content, or from the movement of internal organs inside the abdominal walls, causing their connective tissue to pull on the diaphragm, which moves with breathing. 
While many runners believe that muscle cramps are caused by dehydration and/or an electrolyte imbalance, which could theoretically affect a muscle’s ability to contract, research has shown that neither is the cause. Drinking a sports drink on your long trail runs, while helpful to maintain hydration, won’t prevent cramping. … Read More

Saturday, September 22, 2012

What Athletes Need to Consider Before Going Paleo

What Athletes Need to Consider Before Going Paleo

Article By: Rocco Ferraiolo | September 22, 2012
Paleo Diet
Are you eating the way your body was meant to, or scarfing down processed convenience foods? A well-rounded meal plan is crucial for athletic performance enhancement, recovery and regeneration, maintaining proper body composition and preventing disease.
But what is the perfect meal plan?
Recently, the Paleo diet, which mimics how our caveman ancestors ate, has received lots of attention. It consists mainly of fish, grass-fed meats, vegetables, fruit, fungi, roots and nuts, and it excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar and processed oils. Some researchers and athletes who have gone Paleo have reported significant results. The problem is that the Paleo diet violates much of the nutrition advice given to athletes today. (See Is the Paleo Diet Right for Athletes?)

Paleo Positives

Eating like a caveman means consuming fewer additives, preservatives and chemicals. Since the diet is big on fruit and vegetables, which are high in alkaline, it helps balance out the body and prevent soft tissue breakdown. This can help athletes reduce inflammation. Another issue athletes often face, iron deficiency, can be prevented with the Paleo's high meat consumption. Plus, a diet low in saturated fats can improve cholesterol levels. While no research results confirmweight loss in athletes, there is evidence of weight control benefits in the general population.

Paleo Negatives

High quality carbohydrates—like legumes, brown rice and sweet potatoes—are not part of the Paleo meal plan. Not taking in enough carbohydrates can have negative effects on performance and recovery, potentially leading to depletion of glycogen stores and low energy levels. And since dairy products are eliminated, calcium intake is reduced, putting athletes at risk for stress fractures. Low calcium levels, combined with the acid load of higher protein intake, can result in calcium loss in the bones. This can be mitigated by consuming foods that contain potassium, but athletes on the Paleo diet must focus daily on taking in potassium-rich foods like peaches, tomatoes, bananas and greens.

Athlete Modifications

Considering the Paleo diet? Ask yourself the following questions before going full caveman:
Why are you considering the Paleo diet?
If it's because you want to eat more natural, unprocessed foods, go right ahead. But if it's to achieve a specific goal related to weight modification, health or performance, work with a sports dietitian to establish guidelines.
Will Paleo eating affect your training?
Athletes have changing nutritional needs during the season and off-season. So there may be times when Paleo eating is more suitable. During intense training, carbohydrate needs are higher. Trial and error can help athletes learn about their diet needs, but be sure it's an appropriate time for experimentation.
Will you get enough carbohydrates?
Athletes on the Paleo diet must still take in carbohydrates before, during and after training sessions, workouts, and competition. For some, that may be enough, but for others it may not be. Don't set yourself up for early fatigue, soreness and/or potential injury. Be sure to include plenty of natural carbohydrate sources.
Will you get enough calcium?
On the Paleo diet, it's possible, but more difficult, to get the recommended daily allowance of calcium. Alternate sources include almond milk, spinach and canned fish, like sardines and salmon. If you cannot meet your calcium needs through diet, take 1,200 to 1,500 milligrams of calcium citrate or carbonate per day.
Will you get enough vitamin D?
Most dairy is fortified with vitamin D, so if you are not consuming dairy, this is a concern. Adequate vitamin D levels contribute to normal calcium metabolism and deliver other physical and mental benefits. Good sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, tuna, liver and eggs.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Nutritional Science Initiative - nonprofit group to study diet preventable diseases

This morning, at 9am Eastern Time, we officially launched The Nutrition Science Initiative Details Here.  A non-profit think tank of nutritional experts.  (such as DR Gary Taubes) .   I think this is a good thing as their interests could possibly be aligned with those of us that want to live a long time as healthy as healthy as we can be.  ((example, the difference between meeting our grandchildren and playing with our grandchildren.)) 

From the piece:

NuSI was founded on the premise that the reason we are beset today by epidemics  of obesity and type 2 diabetes, and the reason physicians and researchers think these diseases are so recalcitrant to dietary therapies, is because of our flawed understanding of their causes. We believe that with a concerted effort and the best possible science, this problem can be fixed.  We hope you’ll give your support to NuSi in anyway you can.

"It is in vain to speak of cures, or think of remedies, until such time as we have considered of the causes . . . cures must be imperfect, lame, and to no purpose, wherein the causes have not first been searched.”

-The Anatomy of Melancholy, Robert Burton, 1893 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ticking Time Bomb, How Children's Shoes Cause Problem Later in Life


Ticking Time Bomb, How Children's Shoes Cause Problem Later in Life
What's wrong with this photo? Plenty! The young boy's shoes will screw up his gait and cause muscle imbalance. And he's stretching!
by Dr. Phil Maffetone
Twenty years ago, a review of shoes and gait in the journal Pediatrics outlined some key factors that affect children’s feet. Pediatric orthopedist Lynn Staheli, M.D., from the Children's Hospital and Medical Center, Seattle, Washington, listed these important points:
1.) Optimum foot development occurs in the barefoot environment.
2.) Stiff and compressive footwear may cause deformity, weakness, and loss of mobility.
3.) The term "corrective shoes" is a misnomer.
4.) Shoe selection for children should be based on the barefoot model.
5.) Physicians should avoid and discourage the commercialization and "media" obsession with faddish footwear.
6.) Merchandising of the "corrective shoe" is harmful to the child, expensive for the family, and a discredit to the medical profession.

The Nike V Infant toddler shoe.
Perhaps the most offensive aspect of the footwear industry is the harm it deliberately inflicts upon unsuspecting children by encouraging them to wear bad shoes. Between the twin forces of television and parental encouragement, little Johnny or Jill are defenseless. In particular, there's the potential damage to the young developing body and brain. And, this could be a primary cause of physical imbalances, injury and disability and later as adults.
It was evident from Dr. Staheli’s article that shoe companies in 1991 were already heavily marketing unhealthy children’s shoes, playing on the parent’s emotions and those of older children. Today, shoe companies continue to use clever million-dollar advertising campaigns to encourage kids to ask for, and parents to buy, harmful shoes. And it’s obviously successful. The U.S. children’s footwear industry, which includes shoes for kids up to 16 years of age, generates over $5 billion annually, where products are made for cuteness and style rather than function.
What’s the best shoe for your child? None—barefoot is best and nothing comes close. Children should be barefoot, most, if not all the time. This provides the optimal stimulation of the foot by the ground, which helps train the brain for proper gait and other natural movements that children require from the start.
When a shoe becomes absolutely necessary, Dr. Staheli says it should be lightweight, flexible, shaped more or less quadrangularly, and should not have arch supports and stiff sides. She says that pediatric orthopedists strongly oppose "corrective" or "orthopedic" shoes for straightening foot and leg deformities like flat feet, pigeon toes, knock-knees, or bowlegs, claiming there’s no evidence that these so-called therapeutic shoes are effective. Instead most of the supposed deformities in children naturally correct themselves. How you might ask?
Being barefoot is the best way for that to happen. Most healthcare professionals who properly understand a child’s body mechanics know this. (Yet there are many “experts” who recommend the regular use of shoes for young children, but they are usually aligned with the shoe industry or companies making orthotics and other corrective devices.)
Any shoe has the potential to seriously disturb the gait of a young child. His or her sensitive feet sense footwear much more than the adult foot. Even relatively minor pressure on a child’s foot from a shoe can begin deforming it, leading to a permanent problem.

During the first year following the acquisition of independent walking, most of the child’s gait activity, in particular, the neurological memories—the communication between brain and body—becomes well established.

Barefoot is best for children.
During this time, if the feet are not allowed to develop well, gait and balance disorders begin to occur. In many children, these irregularities are often subtle (the “clumsy kid”) while others more serious such as increased vulnerability to physical injury and various neurological imbalances anywhere in the body, including those associated with eye movement.
The full development of a child’s balance and compensatory mechanisms, and overall gait mechanics, takes years to mature. While the first five years of life are most delicate, neuromuscular interference from footwear can occur at any and every stage along the way into early adulthood. This can lead to more serious and chronic physical imbalances later in life, such as a running injury or back pain, and even amplify the stress caused by imperfect shoes.
Earlier this year, Caleb Wegener, Ph.D., and colleagues from the University of Sydney, Australia, reviewed the problems associated with a variety of different shoes worn by children for walking and running. Their study, published in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research, states that, “Shoes affect the gait of children. With shoes, children walk faster by taking longer steps with greater ankle and knee motion and increased tibialis anterior activity. Shoes reduce foot motion and increase the support phases of the gait cycle. During running, shoes reduce swing phase leg speed, attenuate some shock and encourage a rearfoot strike pattern.” In short, these are some of the specific items that are a recipe for physical and neurological disaster, and the start of a process of chronic injury and disability that could last a lifetime.
These researchers noted Dr. Staheli’s 20-year old suggestion that shoe design should be based on the barefoot model. But some of the shoes they tested were designed on these principles and still caused gait irregularities in children. 

The researchers also state that, “Further attention could also be paid to reducing the weight of shoes which may be responsible for some of the [abnormal] changes found in children’s walking and running gait.” (It’s interested that this type of “free” information is available to shoe manufacturers but may never be utilized—instead, they test their shoes on machines, not real people.)
Among the untold problems that wearing shoes can impose in the developing child is the impact on the brain. From a baby’s very first delicate steps, each walking and running gait pattern significantly influences brain development. These actions affect lifelong patterns in the nervous system, even beyond the gait and balance mechanisms—they include postural habits, the ability to compensate to physical stresses, and the growth of muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons and other tissues. Normally, with each muscle contraction and relaxation, and every joint movement, important neurological patterns are created by the brain, just like with any memory. Shoes distort this process, and instead, the brain learns and designs irregular patterns of movement throughout the body.

Most childen's shoes are health hazards. It's like handing them "smokes"-- which is what candy companies did for many years.
In addition, other areas of the brain can be impaired. Normally, during early development in children, all the important neurological input from body movements trigger increased blood flow throughout the brain. This brings in oxygen and many other necessary nutrients to promote growth and development in areas that include learning, speech, and memory. Without the natural muscle contraction in the feet, for example, especially in the very small immature muscles that move the toes, impairment from wearing thick, oversupported modern shoes can reduce the brain maturing process.
In children plagued with posture- and gait-related problems, avoiding wearing shoes is even more important. This can help stimulate the above-mentioned neurological functions, which can, in itself, be very therapeutic. Rather than attempting the use of “corrective” shoes and related devices, such as inserts or braces, finding and correcting the causes, including  neuromuscular imbalance, is important.

Many physical ailments in adults could begin at this young age. Think about all the physical problems you’ve had in your life—it’s possible that many began during development of the important brain-body mechanisms due to significant interference by shoes.
It seems silly to even be discussing the issue of children’s shoes. Most people don’t question the fact that eating junk food is bad for kids, or smoking cigarettes. The level of brain and body stress from wearing bad shoes can be just as damaging. The most logical, effective, and healthiest way for children to develop their whole body is by being barefoot.
This essay originally appeared on Dr. Phil Maffetone's website. For more information on the do's and don'ts of children's shoes, Dr. Mark Cucuzzella has a lot more on the kids page on hisTwo Rivers Tread website. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Quick Guide to the Paleo Diet for Athletes

A Quick Guide to the Paleo Diet for Athletes

© 2005 Loren Cordain, PhD and Joe Friel, MS  (update due this year, patiently waiting) 
The Paleo Diet for Athletes was released in October, 2005 from Rodale Press. Written by Loren Cordain, Ph.D., author of The Paleo Diet, and Joe Friel, M.S., author of numerous bestselling books on training for endurance athletes, the book applies the concept of eating as our Stone Age ancestors ate to the extraordinary demands of training for serious endurance sports. Although it is now the 21 st century, athletes still have Old Stone Age (Paleolithic) bodies. There has been no significant change in the human genome in the past 10,000 years. Physiologically speaking, we are still Paleolithic athletes.

The Paleo Diet

The basic premise of Dr. Cordain’s research on paleolithic nutrition is that certain foods are optimal for humans and others are nonoptimal. The optimal foods are those that we have been eating for most of our time on Earth—more than 4 million years. Only in the last 10,000 years, a mere blink of the eye relative to our species’ existence, have we been eating nonoptimal foods. Unfortunately, these foods comprise the bulk of what western society eats today and include such foods as grains, dairy and legumes. Given that our bodies have not changed, we are simply not welladapted to these nonoptimal foods and they moderate health and peak performance.
On the other hand, we have been eating optimal foods – vegetables, fruits, and lean animal protein – for hundreds of thousands of years and we are fully adapted to them. Science tells us that these foods also best meet our nutritional needs. Eat these and you will thrive. Avoid or strictly limit them and your health and performance will be compromised.

Paleo for Athletes

Serious athletes, however, when it comes to immediately before, during, and directly after workouts, need to bend the rules of the Paleo Diet a bit since we're placing demands on the body that were not normal for our Stone Age ancestors. Hour after hour of sustained high energy output and the need for quick recovery are the serious athlete’s unique demands. This requires some latitude to use nonoptimal foods on a limited basis. The exceptions may best be described by explaining the athlete’s 5 stages of daily eating relative to exercise.

Stage I: Eating Before Exercise

In brief, we recommend that athletes eat low to moderate glycemic index carbohydrates at least two hours prior to a hard or long workout or race. There may also be some fat and protein in this meal. All foods should be low in fiber. Take in 200 to 300 calories for every hour remaining until exercise begins. If eating two hours prior is not possible, then take in 200 or so calories 10 minutes before the workout or race begins.

Stage II: Eating During Exercise

During long or hard workouts and races you will need to take in high glycemic index carbohydrates mostly in the form of fluids. Sports drinks are fine for this. Find one that you like the taste of and will drink willingly. Realize that events lasting less than about an hour (including warmup) don’t require any carbohydrate. Water will suffice for these. A starting point for deciding how much to take in is 200 to 400 calories per hour modified according to body size, experience and the nature of the exercise (longer events require more calories than short).

Stage III: Eating Immediately After

In the first 30 minutes postworkout (but only after long and/or highly intense exercise) and postrace use a recovery drink that contains both carbohydrate and protein in a 4-5:1 ratio. You can buy a commercial product such as Ultrafit Recovery™ ( for this. Or you can make your own by blending 16 ounces of fruit juice with a banana, 3 to 5 tablespoons of glucose (such as CarboPro) depending on body size, about 3 tablespoons of protein powder, especially from egg or whey sources and two pinches of salt. This 30minute window is critical for recovery. It should be your highest priority after a hard workout or race.

Stage IV: Eating for Extended Recovery

For the next few hours (as long as the preceding challenging exercise lasted) continue to focus your diet on carbohydrates, especially moderate to high glycemic load carbohydrates along with protein at a 4-5:1 carbprotein ratio. Now is the time to eat nonoptimal foods such as pasta, bread, bagels, rice, corn and other foods rich in glucose as they contribute to the necessary carbohydrate recovery process. Perhaps the perfect Stage IV foods are raisins, potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams.

Stage V: Eating for LongTerm

Recovery For the remainder of your day, or until your next Stage I, return to eating a Paleo Diet by focusing on optimal foods. For more information on the Paleo Diet go to or read The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain, Ph.D.

How Much Protein, Carbs and Fat Should I Eat?

The macronutrient requirement changes with the demands of the training season and so should be periodized along with training. We recommend that athletes maintain a rather consistent protein intake year round. As a percentage of total calories this will typically be in the range of 20-25% for athletes. This is on the low end of what our Stone Age ancestors ate due to the athlete’s increased intake of carbohydrate in Stages I to IV which dilutes protein as a percentage of daily calories.
On the other hand, periodization of diet produces significant and opposing swings in the athlete’s fat and carbohydrate intake as the training seasons change. During the base (general preparation) period the diet shifts toward an increased intake of fat while carbohydrate intake decreases. At this time in the season when a purpose of training is to promote the body’s use of fat for fuel, more healthy fat is consumed—in the range of 30% of total calories—with carbohydrate intake at around 50%. During the build and peak (specific preparation) periods the intensity of training increases placing greater demands on the body for carbohydrate to fuel exercise. At this latter time of the season Stages III and IV become increasingly critical to the athlete’s recovery. Carbohydrate intake increases accordingly to around 60% of total calories with fat intake dropping to around 20%.
During times of the year when training is greatly reduced (peaking/tapering and transition periods) the athlete must limit caloric intake to prevent unwanted weight gain.

Why is the Paleo Diet Beneficial?

Health and fitness are not synonymous. Unfortunately, many athletes are fit but unhealthy. Frequent illness, injury and overtraining reduce performance potential. The Paleo Diet for Athletes significantly improves health long term. Compared with the commonly accepted athlete’s diet, the Paleo Diet:
  • Increases intake of branched chain amino acids (BCAA). Benefits muscle development and anabolic function. Also counteracts immunosuppression common in endurance athletes following extensive exercise.
  • Decreases omega-6: omega-3 ratio. Reduces tissue inflammations common to athletes while promoting healing. This may include asthmatic conditions common in athletes.
  • Lowers body acidity. Reduces the catabolic effect of acidosis on bone and muscle while stimulating muscle protein synthesis. This is increasingly important with aging.
  • Is high in trace nutrients. Vitamins and minerals are necessary for optimal health and longterm recovery from exercise. The most nutrient dense foods are vegetables and seafood. On average, vegetables have nearly twice the nutrient density of grains.

Excerpt from the Paleo Diet for Athletes

Training for endurance sports such as running, cycling, triathlon, rowing, swimming, and cross country skiing places great demands on the body, and the athlete is in some stage of recovery almost continuously during periods of heavy training. The keys to optimum recovery are sleep and diet. Even though we recommend that everyone eat a diet similar to what our Stone Age ancestors ate, we realize that nutritional concessions must be made for the athlete who is training at a high volume in the range of 10 to 35 or more hours per week of rigorous exercise. Rapid recovery is the biggest issue facing such an athlete. While it’s not impossible to recover from such training loads on a strict Paleo Diet, it is somewhat more difficult to recover quickly. By modifying the diet before, during, and immediately following challenging workouts, the Paleo Diet provides two benefits sought by all athletes: quick recovery for the next workout, and superior health for the rest of your life.
For more information on The Paleo Diet for Athletes go to…

Thursday, September 6, 2012

An interesting study on the macronutrients of your day's first meal setting the type of fuel you'll burn the rest of the day.  Link is here: Bacon+Eggs For Breakfast

...research team found that fat intake at the time of waking seems to turn on fat metabolism very efficiently and also turns on the animal's ability to respond to different types of food later in the day. When the animals were fed carbohydrates upon waking, carbohydrate metabolism was turned on and seemed to stay on even when the animal was eating different kinds of food later in the day.

"The first meal you have appears to program your metabolism for the rest of the day," said study senior author Martin Young, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine in the UAB Division of Cardiovascular Disease. "This study suggests that if you ate a carbohydrate-rich breakfast it would promote carbohydrate utilization throughout the rest of the day, whereas, if you have a fat-rich breakfast, you have metabolic plasticity to transfer your energy utilization between carbohydrate and fat."

I don't avoid carbs, but I do avoid breakfast carbs (and a max of 50g / day).  You will feel the difference if you try, and you'll not be 'dying for lunch'.  Experiment with yourself, we're all an experiment-of-one.