"It never gets easier, you just go faster." - Greg Lemond

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Fish Oils
Polyunsaturated fatty acids are important for optimal health.  Recent evidence suggests most people not consuming a diet high in fatty fish are at risk for deficiency in specific polyunsaturated fatty acids known as Omega 3 fatty acids, especially Eicosapentaenoic acid and Docosahexaenoic acid.  These fatty acids are now widely marketed as being able to cure any disease.  I won't get into what there is, and isn't strong evidence for, but will again reiterate that fact that most people are probably on the deficient side of things.

These fatty acids oxidize very easily, in fact when we feed these to mice in the lab, the diet has to be made fresh every 8 weeks even when refrigerated, and fresh diet is given to the mice every 3-4 days when at room temperature.  Look for high quality sources and keep refridgerated and protected from light (i.e. the dark amber bottles), if there are antioxidants in the oil this can slow the oxidation process.  I have heard the actual oils posses a higher bioavailability, but haven't seen any real evidence for this.

Cod liver oil is very high in vitamin D.  A vitamin with a similar deficiency/marketing story as fish oils.
Contains Omega 3s, but NOT EPA and DHA.  For a while Udo argued that the Omega 3 in this oil (alpha linelenic acid aka ALA) has a high conversion rate to EPA and DHA in humans.  Most experts agree this is totally false.

So Udo came out with an oil containing DHA

Coconut oil is a good source of saturated fat.  Hah, thats me being funny.  Seriously though, coconut oil contains some very unique fatty acids, including the medium chain length triglycerides.  It can be argued that these are burned more efficiently for fuel, but I've yet to be overly convinced by any studies (maybe I should look into this more).  There are some things to be said about some of the saturated fats in coconut oil in that they aren't common in a lot of other foods.  Saturated fat probably has a bad name in most households, and I am glad to see that coconut oil is helping people get past that anxiety.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Super Starches

Super Starches
Most of these are engineered starches created to have a very low if not totally absent glycemic response. From what I understand, they were originally created for people with the inability to utilize or store liver glycogen (glycogen storage disease); super starches promote steady blood glucose levels even in people who have no liver glycogen (sounds like me towards the end of a race).   

From a racing standpoint, the lack of glycemic response in theory should result in enhanced fat burning due to no/limited insulin signaling.  Interestingly/suprisingly, this has been supported by scientific data.  That being said, these are probably NOT good for recovery nutrition, where a large insulin spike is desired.  

I would suggest these products to be used as pre-race nutrition, while normal maltodextrin products would be fine during race as insulin is not as dominant during exercise (if you even have an insulin response) so the likelihood of insulin shutting down fat burning during exercise is minimal.  There seems to be real support this these products in the literature, and actually by researching this stuff I've nearly convinced myself to give it a try.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Amino Acid Supplements

Amino Acid Supplements
Generally speaking, high dose amino acid supplements, utilizing pure amino acid sources.  While a chicken breast, or handful of peanuts may contain similar amounts of some of these amino acids, getting them in a proper ratio is very important (from what I've been told by experts in this field).  There is a strong body of evidence that BCAA (leucine, valine, isoleucine) are metabolized by skeletal muscle in order to meet increased energy demands during exercise.  BCAAs may also participate in inhibiting central nervous system fatigue (mental tiredness).

 I still don't know what dosage of amino acids is the best to use for exercise, but generally you see between 1-5 mg as a general amount of mixed or pure amino acid.  5 mg is a lot!  Remember, more is NOT always better, especially because it is important to get the proper ratios.

Other amino acids such as alpha-ketoglutarate, glutamine, ornithine, and taurine have more speculative roles that are perhaps less proven/researched.
I like that they are very clear as to what is in this supplement

Vespa is popular, but whats the amino acid breakdown/profile?

There exists evidence that by encouraging intramuscular carnosine synthesis beta-alanine supplementation results in lactic acid buffering within the muscle cells and perhaps increasing VO2 max under certain test conditions.  Generally thought to be more important for sprint or anaerobic workouts that generate a lot of lactic acid, recent evidence suggests there may also be some benefit for endurance athletes.  This particular supplement could have its very own blog.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Nutrition products you may or may not have seen

Not endorsing any of this stuff.  I've been listening to a lot of triathlon podcasts, and those folks are very up to date on endurance nutrition products that might give them an edge.  So, why aren't ultrarunners?  It's an interesting difference between the two endurance camps.  Let's not argue about the respective difficulties, but appreciate that there are different approaches taken to the two different endeavors.

That being said, I have compiled and grouped several different classes of supplements that may be utilized or marketed to endurance athletes and just put my random (slightly scientific) thoughts in along with them.  I think they'll be published in this order.  If you can think of any other supplement groups that might be interesting, leave a comment or shoot me an email.

Before we start, I want to emphasize:  MORE IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER

1st - Natural Food Supplements (is that an oximoron?)
2nd - Amino Acid Supplements
3rd - Super Starches
4th - Oils

 Natural Food Supplements - Dehydrated food stuffs as well as isolated nutrients.  Usually chocked full of anti-oxidants including all the new ones such as polyphenols, isoflavonoids, catechins, and other plant phenols.  Generally speaking, the marketing behind these compounds is well ahead of the science, but there is at least some evidence that components in these products can be beneficial for endurance athletes.

Of the many compounds found in these products, the most compelling and consistent evidence supports the use of beetroot or beets in these products, as this contains nitrate, which acts on multiple systems which could enhance running performance.  Read more here:  Dietary nitrate and performance

Low calorie, but contains tons of nutrients.  Also should be a great source of nitrate which has been proven to increase endurance
Based on literature, a source of nitrate

Not sure what to say.  The publication on their website is definitely on the weak side of things.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Shaved Legs Look Sexy

Talked to my fellow runner friends who also keep the legs shaved.  Obviously the #1 reason was for the aerodynamic benefits.

Real(?) reasons to shave your legs.

Explanation #1.  I have leg  fur, not leg hair
  • After the poison ivy at my first Hell I couldn't shake the oil in the 'fur' and the rash continued. I shaved and the rash went away quickly.
Explanation #2.  In addition my wife wanted to stay quite close, so that was nice.
  •  Lets be honest, 93% of things men do is related to...  getting "closer" to women.  
Explanation #3.  Easier to get mud out.
  • I have a memory of a muddy huff 50k from 08' where my buddy was literally crying trying to pull the mud out of his leg hair.
Explanation #4.  Feels good.
  • I used to for cycling for road rash, but the best reasons I've heard are for getting massages.
  • I remember when I was a competative swimmer and we would shave everything (yes everything) before our championship meets.  There is no feeling quite like jumping into a pool with totally hair-free body.  Shaving my legs reminds me of that feeling.
    • Perhaps in this fashion, it is a part of my big-race/big-even routine.  Its strangely calming and gives me a confident feeling when my brain is trying to over-think a long run.

Reasons against shaving your legs.

Ewwww.  Stay manly. - one response from a lady ultrarunner (not sure why).  Is running 100 miles not manly enough?

"I happen to like my leg hair, I have alot so that makes up for the lack on my head, I have the perfect disbursement pattern, it is a fine hair nice and soft, it keeps me warm in the winter" 

So keep it, shave it, do what you like.  But just know, your legs wont look like these legs unless they're freshly shaven.

Ok, maybe this is a little vein

Can you tell whose legs aren't shaved?  2/3 ultrarunners shave their legs - fact.

Shaved legs trophy
Shave your legs not your face says Scott

Scott is really fast, probably because he shaves his legs.  He also has impeccable taste in singlets.
And just in case you get enough shaved man legs

Monday, November 12, 2012

RecoFit Leg Compressor Review

I'm not sure the last road trip that I went on that didn't involve some sort of running.  Similarly, I'm not sure the last road trip I went on that I didn't bring my RecoFit Leg Compressor Leg Sleeves with me.

These are full leg sleeves that are intended to provide compression for your hamstrings, quads, calves, and any other muscles that might exist in there.

I'm not going to bore you with the details that you can look up on RecoFITs website, but rather tell you about my experience with them.  I should also say that they have a very comprehensive sizing chart on the website that helps out a ton.

The first thing I should emphasize, despite having skinny runner legs, these things really stay put nicely.  I've had trouble with other brands of compression wear slipping and sliding down my legs, making me question the degree of compression and making the sleeves essentially useless.
Photo Wilderness Running

RecoFIT sleeves have a nice sticky polymer that is at the very top of the sleeve to that they stay in place.  The polymer seems to have just the right amount of tack, as they dont pull on my leg hair (when I let it grow out you know?).  They are a little difficult to get on, but I think that's just fine, it lets me know they are nice and tight, and actually doing some compressing.

Photo Wilderness Running
After using them for months, they still stay in place just as well as they did originally, the only noticeable wear is that the label on the outside of the sleeve is starting to peel, which in no way influences the function.

In my opinion the durability is a huge benefit to the Compressors, since I am kinda rough on my gear.  Sometimes tights/compression wear tend to rip and tear wayyy too easily, especially for stuff that you have to tug a little bit to get on.

To be completely honest, I don't notice much of a benefit of using the leg sleeves on a weekly day-day basis, where my runs are usually between 1-2 hours.  HOWEVER, over the months that I have been using them, I personally have found the Leg Compressors to be very useful in two specific applications.

1.  Recovering from hard biking - I don't bike too often these days, but occasionally get out for a nice quad hammering.  The leg compression benefits from the RecoFIT sleeves was clearly noticeable as I started working more biking into my cross-training/recovery routine post-100 mile races.  Without the Compressors, my legs felt totally flat when I ran the day after a bike ride, with the sleeves, my runs felt significantly more fluid the day after.  I think this has something to do with the nature of biking, in which you really isolate the big muscles in your legs.

2.  Recovering from long runs - especially during car rides.  I'm not a huge fan of driving several hours after a long run, mostly because I find it hard to sit in a car for extended periods of time after running for 5-6 hours, however I frequently find myself in this situation.  Normally, I try to stay mobile post-run, I think moving around, even if its just walking up and down the street helps promote blood flow and speeds recovery.  But, if you are incapable of moving (post-100 miles or riding in a car), these babies are awesome.  Something about the compression keeps my legs feeling fresh, even when I take those first few steps out of the car after driving post-long run.

I think noticed it the most when Ben Vanhoose and I were driving back from a week of pretty aggressive trail running in the Upper Peninsula.   It was a long, rather impromptu car ride home, and boy was I happy to have the Compressors to pull on.

The nice thing about the Leg Compressors is that they aren't overly warm.  Sometimes I even sleep in them, and usually I don't like to sleep with much more than a sheet.

While I don't use these on a daily basis, they are a must when I am packing my bag for a trip that involves a lot of running.  I will again emphasize the durability and excellent fit, because I think those are really important aspects to consider when purchasing compression gear.  That being said, the RecoFIT Leg Compressors retail at $75.00, which I seems reasonable for a piece of clothing that seems as if will last me for well over a year.

If I had one complaint or suggestion, I think it would be nice to incorporate a sock, even if it just pulled on separate from the sleeve, as this would aid in maintaining the compression for the entire leg.  I put on the sleeves after the Woodstock 100 mile, and while my legs felt nice and secure, my feet did swell up like sausages (not unusual for me).

* I was given a pair of RecoFIT leg compressor sleeves to try by the Wolfhound Marketing Group.

Friday, November 9, 2012

6mm drop Speedcross 3

Well I'm on the 2nd pair of Speedcrosses.  The first pair served me well through the winter, but received significant abuse on the snow-sidewalk style running.  And as my feet keep growing, they became too small, so with Woodstock 100 mile approaching, I opted to get a new pair.

I like the speedcross 3, they are a solid built shoe, that is very comfortable, provides adequate protection, and fantastic traction, especially in gnarly mud.  But, extensive running in them definitely lets the sides of my knees (IT bands) know that they have a pretty heavy/overbuilt heel.

So, lets fix this.  The Speedcross actually have a nearly perfect heel for manipulation.  While Salomon claimed to have reduced the drop on the SC3 to 9mm, I thought it felt more like the typical 10-11 used in the 2.  Thus, I wanted to cut out 5-6 mm and end up with a 5-6 mm drop.

Its pretty simple:  Get a hacksaw and go at it.  Tools required:  Tape measure or ruler, hacksaw, gorilla glue.

First I used the tape measure to draw an outline to determine where to cut using the saw.  Be patient when doing the cutting.

Trying to follow my outline

Cut all the way to the edge of the red foam, where the black line ends, top middle

After making your initial cut, go ahead and cut a slice (5-6mm slice) for me.  Again exercise patience when doing this.

Saw'd out a 5-6mm foam slice

Shoes - foam slice

Gorilla glue the shoe back together

When glueing them back together - I used Gorilla glue.  Gorilla glue requires a little bit of water to activate, thus lightly dab water onto both of the sides of the midsole you want to glue back together.  Be very conservative in your application of gorilla glue as it tends to expand and bubble if over applied.  Also, you'll need some weight to keep the midsole compressed while the glue dries.  I used a chair, and by having a chair leg sitting into the heel cup of each shoe, I was able to weigh down the chair, and thus compress the midsole (sorry I forgot to take a picture of this).

6mm drop speedcross 3 hard at work @ Woodstock 100 mile

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Almost 6 weeks paleo (but not living in a cave yet)

Paleo, rambling, and stuff on the way...

  Honestly, I've been thoroughly enjoying the paleo diet.  I almost find it liberating (who would have thought eating bacon is liberating?).  There have been a couple times where I "cheated" on the diet, but honestly I'm not going to be so strict that I am miserable or turn down a piece of chocolate raspberry birthday cake that my mom baked for me.

Being in PhD candidate in a nutrition department I struggle with the concept of going against what is classically defined as a healthy diet (low saturated fat, high carb, moderate/low protein) by the higher ups.  This includes the American Dietetic Association (maybe most prominately), but one thing I know from first hand experience is that members of the ADA aren't always great at understanding the biochemistry behind a diet (no offense!), and stick to memorizing guidelines.  Well what happens when those guidelines are outdated, lack incorperation of the latest scientific knowledge, straight up wrong, and perhaps motivated by politics?

Ok, I am not going to go all conspiracy theory, overzealous, paleo promoting. There are lots of other people out there doing that, so if that's what you want, check out Robb Wolfs blog.  Hah.  But seriously, he has some great ideas, and his podcast is fun to listen to.

Lets see, first hand impressions from the diet.   I've been avoiding grains, especially wheat.  When I am hungry, lacking paleo snacks, I'll still try to avoid wheat, sometimes I can find nuts at the cafe's on campus, but I am not totally opposed to some corn chips, or Mediterranean chicken kabobs that are served on rice.  I'll occasionally grab some hummus, and although legumes are a no-no on paleo, hummus is high in healthy fats, so I am ok with that.  As I said, this is a generalized way of eating, where 90% of my food is within the optimal window, and most days are 100% paleo, but sometimes I want to sprinkle some goat cheese on my salad, so I do. When in a tough situation and I am hungry, I will resort to high-fat low carb foods that are free of processed ingredients.

Following a paleo style diet has also encouraged me to reintroduce foods to my diet that were somewhat lacking following a high carb, low fat runner diet, like butter.

Coffee in the morning + 1 tbsp (grassfed) butter + 2 tbsp heavy cream.  Ummm that is dang tasty.  Put some cinnamon in there and you are good to go for a couple hours.  I'll will have this for breakfast before long runs on the weekend and find it keeps me quite satietated.

nom nom nom

 Other foods I have been recently been experimenting with include kale, parsnips, squash, sunflower seeds, various vinegars, eggs from birds other than chickens, buffalo, and venison.  No longer am I perusing the grocery store isle looking for lean ground beef (96/4), but instead try to buy grassfed beef with normal 85/15 lean/fat ratios, and honestly, it costs a similar amount.

As a runner, who occasionally does a glycogen requiring run (ok I like lazy, slow fat burning running, most of the time), I still do need to make sure I am getting enough carbs.  Carb sources for me include sweet potatoes, white potatoes, squash (butternut and pumpkin mostly), fruits, and occasionally I will eat rice.

Another thing I have been doing on my longer runs, besides having mostly fat for breakfast before running, is that I have been avoiding consuming calories during them.  Doing this "hopefully" will help optimize my bodies ability to run on fat (mechanism), and I have completely multiple 3 hour runs with no calories and felt no ill effects.  If I can keep this up for the rest of the winter, it'll be interesting to see how this influences my racing in the spring. I think the concept of becoming fat adapted endurance athletes is becoming more and more popular, and I am guessing this is going to be a HOT topic in the next couple years.

Several blogs are in preparation, including an overhaul my interpretation of the data on how diet influences cholesterol levels, something grossly misrepresented by the ADA, and most MDs.  I will also explain data from the EPIC study conducted in 2003 in the UK which compares several indices of health between vegetarians and meat-eaters with a HEALTHY diet.  Lastly, I'll give my two cents on celiac disease versus gluten intolerance versus wheat intolerance.

Lastly, I keep hearing the diet term FOD-MAPs being thrown around.  I think one of my classmates is doing a presentation on this type of diet, and will listen to what she has to say, and try to synthesize some of my own thoughts on the topic.

**  Just saw this on the twittersphere thought id post it here too!  Duncan Callahan (Elite ultrarunner) talks about 1 year paleo  **