Tomatoes: Terrible or Terrific Food Choice for Performance and Health?

nightshades

Hello Runners,

I recently saw part of an ad in which Dr. Steven Gundry holds up a tomato and proclaims that tomatoes are one of the worst foods that you could possibly eat. I don’t know if my grandparents and parents would agree seeing that they raised hundreds of tomatoes every year and canned or made salsa with them. In fact, I grew up eating lots of tomatoes in the winter in sauces, chilis, etc. Were my parents and grandparents wrong? Were they actually harming all of us and not even knowing it? And why is this important for you, as far as health and running performance?

What could be the issue? After all, tomatoes are an excellent source of biotin, potassium, iron, and zinc. For running performance these nutrients are important for skeletal muscle and nerve function, energy production from carbohydrates and fats, muscle repair and growth, and prevention of muscle cramping. Tomatoes are also one of the best sources of lycopene, an antioxidant that reduces inflammation, as well as conditions related to oxidative stress. Meta-analyses have suggested that tomatoes may be protective against cancer, especially that of the prostate. This likely has something to do with their lycopene content, which has been shown to slow the progression of cancer and tumor cells. Tomatoes also appear to benefit heart health, by lowering both your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and blood pressure among other cardioprotective effects (Xu et al 2016, Rowles et al 2018).

However, tomatoes also contain another substance that begins with “L” that can be harmful, which is lectins. This is why Dr. Gundry was proclaiming that we should not eat tomatoes. Is he right?

Lectins are a class of antinutrients. In my last post, I briefly discussed antinutrients and went more in depth on one class of antinutrients, oxalates. In this post, I will discuss lectins, including: the foods in which lectins are highly concentrated, the impact of lectins on health and running performance, how we can reduce lectin content in foods, and whether or not we should be eating foods like tomatoes.

What Are Lectins?

Lectins are proteins present in many plants and concentrated in legumes, whole grains, and certain fruits and vegetables. The lectins in food bind to carbohydrates, forming glycoproteins. These glycoproteins perform many functions within the body, from regulating the immune system to keeping protein levels in the blood under control. Since lectins are antinutrients, they can’t be digested in the body and pass through the digestive system intact. Lectins help a plant defend itself against microorganisms, pests, and insects, and help the plant be able to propagate itself, even if eaten.

Lectins have multiple health benefits, as mentioned, however, they can also have adverse health effects. So, it is helpful to be aware of foods high in lectins.

What Foods Are High in Lectins?

The ten foods with the highest concentration of lectins are:

  • Potatoes (excluding sweet potatoes)
  • Eggplant
  • Soybeans
  • Lentils
  • Peppers
  • Wheat germ
  • Red kidney beans
  • Peas
  • Tomatoes
  • Peanuts

What Are The Adverse Effects Associated with Consumption of Lectins?

Lectins can have several adverse effects on the body. The severity of these effects will vary depending on the level of consumption of lectins and an individual’s sensitivity to lectins. The most significant impact lectins can have are that they can damage the intestinal lining of the gut, which can lead to symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (abdominal pain/distention, diarrhea/constipation, flatulence, nausea, weight loss) and increase the permeability of the intestine, which can allow undigested food particles into the blood to circulate the body. This is referred to as “leaky gut” and can lead to significant health issues, especially autoimmunity. This is significant because autoimmunity involves the body’s immune system mounting a response against not only foreign invaders, such as undigested food particles, but the body’s own tissue. Lectins themselves are undigested and can enter the bloodstream triggering an immune response. For lectins this immune response has been shown to affect the joints potentially leading to rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In addition, lectins can facilitate the preferential growth of specific bacteria which can make an individual more susceptible to RA (Wang et al. 1998, Cordain et al. 2000).

Lectins can also facilitate bacterial overgrowth and contribute to leptin resistance, a condition that causes the brain of an overweight person not to receive the signal that the stomach is full (Jönsson et al. 2005). Lectins can disrupt small-intestine metabolism (the chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life) and damage the gut villi (finger-like projections on the small intestine’s lining that absorb nutrients). Lectins also act as an antinutrient, meaning that they can interfere with digestion and absorption of foods, upping the risk of nutritional deficiencies. This is especially significant for runners, who need to constantly replenish nutrients throughout their training.

Certain people are more sensitive to specific types of lectins than others.  If you eat something that contains the types of lectins you’re sensitive to (or a lot of lectins that you’re less sensitive to), the result is inflammation that you may experience as brain fog, sore joints, bad skin, or even migraines.  For example, the type of lectins found in the nightshade family of plants, which includes tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and potatoes, is one that many people are sensitive to.  It is a common autoimmune trigger that has been linked to a significant percentage of RA cases and is a trigger for skin problems.

What Can You Do To Minimize Lectins?

Some research seems to indicate that taking in large quantities of raw lectins could have negative health effects. Although this may be true, especially when consumed in excess or for those individuals with lectin sensitivities, cooking, sprouting, soaking and fermenting your foods can cut down on lectin concentration to help promote better health. Soaking grains and legumes prior to consumption can reduce lectin content and enhance their nutritional value and reduce other antinutrient content. Cooking legumes, in particular, can nearly eliminate all lectins, with one study out of the Roweti Research Institute’s Division of Nutritional Sciences in Scotland even showing that boiling soybeans for as little as five minutes virtually eliminated lectin activity (Pusztai et al 1998). Because legumes are generally eaten cooked and not raw, this means that most legumes in your diet are likely very low in lectins.

Soaking and sprouting grains and seeds can also be an effective method to reduce lectin content (Koval’chuk 2006). Sprouting, also known as germination, is a process that involves soaking seeds for up to 24 hours and then repeatedly rinsing and draining them every few hours for several days at a time. Not only can sprouting decrease the lectin content of your grains and legumes, but it can also enhance the nutritional profile of your foods while reducing the amount of other antinutrients that interfere with digestion (Chingakham et al 2015, Luo et al 2012).

Fermenting your foods can also help reduce the amount of lectin content. Fermentation allows the beneficial bacteria to digest the lectins and other antinutrients in foods to enhance the overall nutritional profile (Oluwole et al 2013). Plus, fermentation supplies valuable probiotics to your diet to improve gut health.

Back to our friend the tomato, cooking vegetables, especially pressure cooking, can reduce the lectin content. Also, cooking or stewing tomatoes and eating them with healthy fat can enhance the absorption of lycopene. This is seen in traditional cultures with Italian dishes pairing olives with stewed tomatoes, or Mexican cuisine that combines avocados and various tomato-based sauces and spreads.

In addition, if you are eating raw tomatoes you may want to opt for varieties like Roma, which have a lower lectin content.

How Are Lectins Beneficial?

To complicate matters…

Lectins also play many vital roles within the body. Lectins are involved in immune system regulation, and some research indicates that they may have antimicrobial properties. In fact, they have been shown to be effective against several types of bacteria, including the strain that causes staph infections and E. coli. Lectins may also help fight off fungi and viral infections (Lagarda-Diaz et al 2017). In addition, a review study found that certain lectins may possess anticancer properties. Specifically, these plant lectins can modify the expression of specific immune cells and alter signaling pathways to help kill off cancer cells and block tumor growth (Jiang et al 2015).

Therefore, the results of these studies suggest that having some lectins in the diet can be of benefit. However…

Who Should Avoid Nightshades and/or Other High-Lectin Containing Foods

Those individuals with a food allergy or sensitivity to specific nightshades should limit or avoid consuming them. There are anecdotal reports from people claiming that when they no longer eat nightshades, they stop experiencing painful inflammatory symptoms. It is possible that some of these people have an allergy of some kind. Therefore, it can be beneficial to keep a food log or journal and record how certain foods may affect you, such as causing sore joints, skin problems, or migraines.

There have been rare cases in which people have an acute allergic reaction to a nightshade, like an allergy to tomatoes. If that’s the case for you, then, by all means, don’t consume tomatoes!

People with inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis may also find that they do better when they avoid nightshades. Some of these conditions can cause intestinal permeability, and a number of test tube and animal studies have suggested that intestinal permeability can be negatively impacted by excessive intake of the alkaloids (concentrated in areas that are green) in potatoes (Patel et al 2002), fiber in tomatoes (Carreno-Gómez et al 1999), and capsaicin in peppers (Jensen-Jarolim et al 1998).

Bottom Line

Lectins are present in many of the plant foods that we eat, however they are highly concentrated in certain foods such as grains, legumes, and nightshades. Lectins can have beneficial, as well as adverse, effects on health and performance. Lectins have been shown to have some beneficial effects as far as immune system regulation and they can have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and anticancer properties. Also, the foods that are highly concentrated in lectins contain many beneficial nutrients for health and performance. For example, tomatoes contain zinc, potassium, iron, and biotin which are important for skeletal muscle and nerve function, energy production from carbohydrates and fats, muscle repair and growth, and prevention of muscle cramping, fatigue, and inflammation.

On the other hand, lectins are antinutrients that can have certain adverse health effects including damaging the intestinal lining of the gut, stimulating the development of rheumatoid arthritis, and affecting nutrient absorption. The severity of these effects will vary depending on the level of consumption of lectins and an individual’s sensitivity to lectins. Therefore, it is important to note or keep a food log or journal and record how certain foods, such as nightshades, are affecting you. Cooking, sprouting, soaking and fermenting your foods can reduce lectin concentration to help promote better health.

Individuals with inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, as well as those with lectin sensitivities may find that they do better when they avoid foods with high lectin concentration, especially nightshades.

However, unless you have inflammatory bowel disease or sensitivities to lectins, rather than focusing on eliminating lectin-rich foods from the diet altogether, such as tomatoes, it’s better to work on reducing lectin content through cooking, soaking, sprouting or fermenting foods instead, so you can still take advantage of the health-promoting properties of these nutritious foods.

 

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way. I would love to hear from you.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

 

References

Xin Xu, Jiangfeng Li, Xiao Wang, Song Wang, Shuai Meng, Yi Zhu, Zhen Liang, Xiangyi Zheng, and Liping Xieb. Tomato consumption and prostate cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sci Rep. 2016; 6: 37091. doi: 10.1038/srep37091

Rowles JL 3rd, Ranard KM, Applegate CC, Jeon S, An R, Erdman JW Jr. Processed and raw tomato consumption and risk of prostate cancer: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis. Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis. 2018 Sep;21(3):319-336. doi: 10.1038/s41391-017-0005-x

Irlanda Lagarda-Diaz, Ana Maria Guzman-Partida, and Luz Vazquez-Moreno. Legume Lectins: Proteins with Diverse Applications. Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Jun; 18(6): 1242.

Jiang QL, Zhang S, Tian M, Zhang SY, Xie T, Chen DY, Chen YJ, He J, Liu J, Ouyang L, Jiang X. Plant lectins, from ancient sugar-binding proteins to emerging anti-cancer drugs in apoptosis and autophagy. Cell Prolif. 2015 Feb;48(1):17-28.

Wang Q, Yu LG, Campbell BJ, Milton JD, Rhodes JM. Identification of intact peanut lectin in peripheral venous blood. Lancet. 1998 Dec 5;352(9143):1831-2.

Cordain L, Toohey L, Smith MJ, Hickey MS. Modulation of immune function by dietary lectins in rheumatoid arthritis. Br J Nutr. 2000 Mar;83(3):207-17.

Noah ND, Bender AE, Reaidi GB, Gilbert RJ. Food poisoning from raw red kidney beans. Br Med J. 1980 Jul 19;281(6234):236-7.

Pusztai A, Grant G. Assessment of lectin inactivation by heat and digestion. Methods Mol Med. 1998;9:505-14. doi: 10.1385/0-89603-396-1:505.

Koval’chuk NV. [Dynamic of lectin activity during germination of bean seeds (Phaseolus vulgaris L.)]. Ukr Biokhim Zh (1999). 2006 Jan-Feb;78(1):130-4.

Chingakham Basanti Devi, Archana Kushwaha,corresponding author and Anil Kumar. Sprouting characteristics and associated changes in nutritional composition of cowpea (Vigna unguiculata). J Food Sci Technol. 2015 Oct; 52(10): 6821–6827.

Luo Y, Xie W, Luo F. Effect of several germination treatments on phosphatases activities and degradation of phytate in faba bean (Vicia faba L.) and azuki bean (Vigna angularis L.). J Food Sci. 2012 Oct;77(10):C1023-9.

Oluwole S Ijarotimi, Oluwole A Adeoti, and Oluwaseun Ariyo. Comparative study on nutrient composition, phytochemical, and functional characteristics of raw, germinated, and fermented Moringa oleifera seed flour. Food Sci Nutr. 2013 Nov; 1(6): 452–463.

B Carreno-Gómez, J F Woodley, A T Florence. Studies on the Uptake of Tomato Lectin Nanoparticles in Everted Gut Sacs. Int J Pharm. 1999 Jun 10;183(1):7-11. doi: 10.1016/s0378-5173(99)00050-2.

Bijal Patel, Robert Schutte, Peter Sporns, Jason Doyle, Lawrence Jewel, Richard N Fedorak Potato Glycoalkaloids Adversely Affect Intestinal Permeability and Aggravate Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2002 Sep;8(5):340-6. doi: 10.1097/00054725-200209000-00005.

E Jensen-Jarolim, L Gajdzik, I Haberl, D Kraft, O Scheiner, J Graf. Hot Spices Influence Permeability of Human Intestinal Epithelial Monolayers. J Nutr. 1998 Mar;128(3):577-81. doi: 10.1093/jn/128.3.577.

Irlanda Lagarda-Diaz, Ana Maria Guzman-Partida, and Luz Vazquez-Moreno. Legume Lectins: Proteins with Diverse Applications. Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Jun; 18(6): 1242.

Q-L Jiang, S Zhang, M Tian, S-Y Zhang, T Xie, D-Y Chen, Y-J Chen, J He, J Liu, L Ouyang, X Jiang. Plant Lectins, From Ancient Sugar-Binding Proteins to Emerging Anti-Cancer Drugs in Apoptosis and Autophagy. Cell Prolif. 2015 Feb;48(1):17-28. doi: 10.1111/cpr.12155. Epub 2014 Dec 9.

Dr. Steven Gundry. The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in ‘Healthy’ Foods that Cause Disease and Weight Gain.

Dave Asprey. The Bulletproof Diet.

Yuri Elkaim. Super Nutrition Academy, Module 6 Lesson 4.

https://foodrevolution.org/blog/are-nightshades-healthy

https://draxe.com/nutrition/lectins/

 

Disclaimer: All the information presented in this blog is for educational and resource purposes only.  It is there to help you make informed decisions about health-related fitness issues.  It is not a substitute for any advice given to you by your physician.  Always consult your physician or health care provider before taking supplements or using any other recommendation in this post. Use of the advice and information contained in this website is at sole choice and risk of the reader.  In no way will Denver Running Coach or any persons associated with Denver Running Coach or Enlightened Performance LLC be held responsible for any injuries or problems that may occur due to the use of the advice contained within this post.  Denver Running Coach and Enlightened Performance LLC will not be held responsible for the conduct of any companies recommended within this post.

Spinach: Nutritional Superstar or Potentially Harmful?

antinutrients

Hello Runners,

I’ll admit I struggled during a recent run. However, it wasn’t with the run itself, but instead with coming up for a topic for this blog post. COVID-19 has disrupted our lives in many ways, and for runners that has included cancelled and postponed events, which has affected training. This has also affected the schedule of blog posts I was going to write and share. So, now I’m trying to be creative and write about other topics that may be beneficial.

One topic that I have heard about in the past and have heard some physicians and nutritionists talk about more recently are antinutrients. So, in this post I thought I would talk about one of these antinutrients and how it might affect you.

What Are Antinutrients and What Do They Do?

Antinutrients are toxins commonly formed in plants to keep animals, bugs, and fungi from eating them. Antinutrients reduce the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. The main categories of antinutrients include lectins, phytates, and oxalates.

In this post, I will specifically discuss oxalates, which are common in some of the vegetables that are considered to have the highest nutritional value. In future posts, I will discuss the other classes of antinutrients.

What Are Oxalates?

Oxalates, also referred to as oxalic acids, are natural compounds found in a variety of food sources. Some of the most common oxalates in food can be found in plant sources such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Oxalates can also be produced naturally by our body. In fact, most of the oxalates we have in our body are from those our body has produced.

In the body, oxalates can combine with calcium and iron to form either calcium oxalate or iron oxalate crystals, which are then excreted in urine, and thus are not be an issue. However, high amounts of oxalates can build up in the kidneys, leading to the formation of kidney stones. An estimated 80% of kidney stones are formed from calcium oxalate.

Also for people sensitive to oxalates, consuming even a small amount can cause burning in the mouth, eyes, ears, and throat. Large doses can lead to muscle weakness, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, especially in people with a high amount of oxalates already in the body.

Besides forming kidney stones, oxalates affect the absorption and bioavailability (ability to be used in the body) of calcium. This is significant because calcium serves several important functions for health and running performance (see below).

Foods High in Oxalates

Although oxalates are found in virtually all foods, there are several foods that are high in oxalate content. Green vegetables, especially spinach, beet greens, okra, leaks, and collards have some of the highest concentrations.

Here is a list of other foods high in oxalates:

Fruits: blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, kiwis, tangerines, figs

Vegetables: broccoli, rhubarb, okra, leeks, beets, potatoes, eggplant, sweet potatoes, zucchini, carrots, celery, olives, rutabaga, chicory parsley, peppers

Leafy Greens: spinach, escarole, beet greens, kale, collards, Swiss chard

Nuts and Seeds: almonds, cashews, peanuts, sesame seeds

Legumes and Soy Products: miso, tofu, soy milk, green beans and kidney beans

Grains: bulgur, corn grits, wheat germ, whole wheat bread, amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa

Beverages: cocoa/chocolate, chocolate milk, black tea, instant coffee, dark beers

I decided to pick on spinach in this post for two reasons. One, spinach has one of the highest oxalate contents of any food. Second, spinach was discussed in a recent interview I heard with Dr. Jayson Calton. In the interview, Dr. Calton spoke on deficiencies that can occur due to lack of micronutrients in our diet and bioavailability of these micronutrients from the foods we consume. Specifically, Dr. Calton discussed a patient of his, who happens to now be his wife, who had advanced stage osteoporosis in her early 30s. Dr. Calton’s wife was consuming a lot of raw vegetables, including a raw spinach salad every day. He shared that by having her minimize the intake of raw spinach, as well as other raw vegetables, and supplementing with specific nutrients, including calcium, she was able to significantly improve her bone health.

So, should we stop eating spinach? Isn’t spinach a nutrient powerhouse?

Benefits of Spinach

Spinach is considered to be one of the world’s healthiest foods, with researchers identifying more than a dozen different types of flavonoid antioxidants alone that are present in spinach, not to mention all of its other vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients. Also, spinach has significant anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and if you combine that with its very low amount of calories, it is easily one of the most nutrient-rich foods in existence.

Spinach contains many important nutrients, which serve many important functions including the following:

  • Protects Against Cancer
  • Defends Against Heart Disease
  • Boosts Immunity
  • Stabilizes Blood Sugar
  • Maintains Healthy Vision
  • Supports Bone Health
  • Keeps Skin Glowing
  • Aids in Detoxification
  • Preserves Brain Health
  • High in Magnesium

For more of details on the benefits of spinach click here

In addition, spinach does contain a significant amount of calcium, which has several important functions for health and running performance.

Important Functions of Calcium 

In addition to its importance for health of the bones and teeth, calcium serves the following important functions:

  • Optimal nerve transmission
  • Blood clotting
  • Hormone secretion
  • Muscle contraction
  • Appetite control
  • Weight loss
  • Controls levels of magnesium, phosphorus and potassium in the blood
  • May help prevent certain cancers

Click here to learn more about the specific benefits of calcium.

Spinach: Nutritional Superstar or Potentially Harmful?

So, now getting back to the question of this post. Should we stop consuming spinach, although it has many nutritional benefits? I have heard some physicians and nutritionists recommend this because of the high concentration of oxalates in spinach and the effect these have on calcium absorption and bioavailability, as well as the possible formation of kidney stones.

However, there are ways to potentially reduce the number of oxalates in certain vegetables, such as spinach, kale, broccoli and sweet potatoes that relate to how these vegetables are prepared. Boiling and steaming are techniques that can reduce oxalate content. Personally, I prefer steaming because this can minimize the loss of other nutrients compared with boiling. Also, soaking some of the high oxalate foods in water and a small amount of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice can potentially reduce the oxalate content. Also, avoid or minimize using raw kale, spinach, or Swiss chard in salads or smoothies. Instead, use greens with lower oxalate content such as green or red leaf or Romaine lettuce in salads and smoothies.

So, you certainly don’t need to give up spinach, especially since it has so many benefits. However, you may want to consider how you prepare it and consider using other greens, in addition to spinach.

However, there are exceptions for those with certain health conditions including: absorptive hypercalciuria and enteric hyperoxaluria. Individuals with these conditions should significantly restrict their consumption of high oxalate foods, such as spinach.

Other Important Factors

Research has shown that the intake of protein, calcium, and water influence the formation of calcium oxalate to a greater degree than the intake of oxalates from specific foods. High-protein intake can lead to kidney stone formation, while too much calcium in the body leads to calcification, crystallization, which can impact the risk for heart disease and kidney issues.

In addition, being properly hydrated is important for flushing the kidneys. This can also aid in removing other toxins from the body. In fact, I recently increased my water intake to about one gallon per day.

Bottomline

As far as the potential negative impact on health and running performance, oxalates are the least harmful of the antinutrients, with other antinutrients including lectins and phytic acid having a potentially greater negative effect. However, you should consider limiting the amount of raw vegetables, like spinach, kale and broccoli that you consume. Steaming can be a good option for these foods in order to lower oxalate content. Also, you may want to use other greens for your salads and smoothies, such as green/red leaf and romaine lettuce that have a significant lower oxalate content. Those individuals with certain conditions, including hyperoxolauria should restrict consumption of foods high in oxalates, especially in raw form. However, for most people there are significant benefits in consuming vegetables such as spinach. Just keep in mind which preparation is best and to include variety. Finally, avoid high-protein intake and consume a sufficient amount of water on a daily basis.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

References

Kim Wagner Jones, Lindsay K. Eller, Jill A. Parnell, Patricia K. Doyle-Baker, Alun L. Edwards, and Raylene A. Reimer. Effect of a dairy and calcium rich diet on weight loss and appetite during energy restriction in overweight and obese adults: a randomized trial. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013 Apr; 67(4): 371–376.

Vadim A. Finkielstein and David S. Goldfarb. Strategies for preventing calcium oxalate stones. CMAJ. 2006 May 9; 174(10): 1407–1409.

Noonan SC, Savage GP. Oxalate content of foods and its effect on humans. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 1999 Mar;8(1):64-74.

Mathew D. Sorensen. Calcium intake and urinary stone disease. Transl Androl Urol. 2014 Sep; 3(3): 235–240.

Bendsen NT, Hother AL, Jensen SK, Lorenzen JK, Astrup A. Effect of dairy calcium on fecal fat excretion: a randomized crossover trial. Int J Obes (Lond). 2008 Dec;32(12):1816-24.

Dave Asprey. The Bulletproof Diet.

Yuri Elkaim Super Nutrition Academy. Module 6 Lesson 4 Antinutrients.

Joseph Pizzorno. The Toxin Solution.

Jayson Calton. Supplements Revealed.

https://draxe.com/nutrition/foods-high-in-calcium/

https://draxe.com/nutrition/foods-high-in-calcium/

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/

https://draxe.com/nutrition/spinach-nutrition/

https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/calcium-fact-sheet#q5

What You Eat and Don’t Eat Can Affect Your Performance, As Well As Your Immune System and Your Susceptibility to Viruses, Such as COVID-19

positivity

 

 

 

Hello Runners,

I hope you continue to stay healthy and well in these crazy times. I also hope that you are connecting with other people, including loved ones and friends that you may not have been in touch with for a while. I have appreciated having more time together with my wife, Karen, and our dog, Zadar. I also recently connected with some college friends that I haven’t been in touch with for a while. It was a lot of fun! So, there has been some silver lining to our current situation. I hope you are finding your own silver lining and staying positive.

In a previous blog I provided some tips for building and boosting the immune system. One of the areas of science and medicine that is receiving more and more attention the microbiome and how it can impact health. In this post, I will briefly discuss what the microbiome is, how it can impact your immune system, and what you can do to support your microbiome, so that you can avoid the impact of COVID-19 and other viral and bacterial infections.

What is the Microbiome

The microbiome refers to all organisms that live in and on our bodies, includes bacteria, viruses, fungal organisms, one cell protozoa; basically all microscopic “critters” that inhibit our body. There are more than 100 trillion of these organisms in and on our bodies, which is over three times the number of cells in our body! Most of these microbes are beneficial, however some are not, and can cause disease.

Although all body surfaces, orifices, and cavities are teeming with microbes, the vast majority are located within our large intestine and make up what is known as the gut microbiome or microbiota. Since we can have the greatest effect on microbes in this area of the body, I will focus the rest of this post on the gut microbiome, and not microbiomes of other areas of the body.

The microbes that make up the gut microbiome can have a profound effect on all functions of our body, including hormone levels (can affect performance through such things as energy production), nutrient absorption, metabolism (important for producing the energy we need to run), brain function, and the immune system.

Variety is important for health and performance, when it comes to microbes. Unfortunately, the average American adult has ~1200 different species of bacteria in the gut. This number is significantly less than other populations, such as the Amerindian living in the Amazon of Venezuela which has 1600 species of gut bacteria. This lack of diversity in Americans can be attributed to our overly processed diet, overuse of antibiotics, and sterilized homes. However, the microbiome exhibits plasticity, meaning it can be changed and improved, thus providing us with the opportunity to shape it in a way that optimizes our health, as well as our performance.

How is the Microbiome Connected to the Immune System

As I mentioned, the gut microbiome affects many functions in the body, and it is worth discussing the role it plays in hormone levels, nutrient absorption, and function of the mitochondria because they can all impact our running performance. However, due to our current situation I will focus on the impact that the gut microbiome has on the immune system in this post, and save these other important functions for later posts.

The gut microbes of our microbiome are in constant communication with the part of the immune system (mucosal immune system) located in the intestine. These microbes help the immune system discriminate between harmless foreign entities like food and harmful ones like Salmonella. The microbiome helps train the immune system to make the distinction, so that we have a proper response of the immune system. An improperly trained immune system can lead to allergic reactions to substances that would otherwise be harmless, such as pollen.

Research has shown that the gut microbiome can not only impact the local or mucosal immune system, but also the more systemic immune system, impacting the rest of our body. For example, Hao et al. (2015) concluded from several research studies that consuming probiotics can also lower rates of upper respiratory tract infections, thus suggesting probiotic bacteria can tap into the function of the immune system in the gut (local) and systemically. Probiotics are basically strains of microbes that when taken can temporarily increase the number of microbes in the microbiome. Although there are no current studies showing a positive effect of probiotics on the lower respiratory tract, which is the primary region affected by COVID-19, the fact that microbes in the gut can affect the immune system in the lungs is promising.

In addition, there is some evidence that COVID-19 infection may lead to intestinal infection, as they found the presence of the virus in feces. (Zhang et al. 2020), thus showing the importance of the mucosal immune system in combatting COVID-19, as well as the systemic immune system.

How Can We Support The Microbiome In Order To Support Our Mucosal and Systemic Immune Systems

Basically, we need to provide foods that feed the good microbes and eliminate or at least minimize the foods that feed the bad microbes. This can be a challenge for many runners, who really heavily on foods and beverages with added sugars. These sugars feed yeasts and other microbes that can negatively impact our immune system and health. For events and long runs consider using supplements like UCAN, Vitargo, or Infinit-E (Millenium Sports), instead of the typical gels, sports drinks, etc. that contain significant amounts of added sugars.

It is important to add variety in the diet and not eat the same short list of foods day after day, week after week. This is the opportunity to get a little creative with your recipes and explore some new foods! Eating a wide variety of fiber-containing foods (especially onions, garlic and Jerusalem artichokes, as well as fruits, vegetables, legumes and some unrefined whole grains) provides different fibers to feed a greater variety of microbes, allowing them to flourish. This will also squeezing out harmful microbes, such as Candida. So as far as vegetables, “eat the rainbow”, that is eat vegetables of different colors. As far as fruits, berries are a great option!

You should consume enough fruits and vegetables daily that would include at least 25 grams of fiber per day. The average Americans consumes about half of this. These fiber-containing foods act as prebiotics, because they provide the food for beneficial microbes in the gut, which will promote their growth.

Other foods that can help support the microbiome include coconut oil, omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil or flaxseed oil), and fermented foods (unpasteurized sauerkraut, pickles, kefir, yogurt, miso, kimchi, kombucha). Probiotics, which are discussed below, can also be beneficial.

In addition the intake of other foods should be eliminated or minimized including: processed foods, gluten, dairy, added sugars, alcohol, caffeine, peanuts, beef, pork, and saturated and polyunsaturated fats. These can all be detrimental to the microbiome and gut health and thus, negatively impact the immune system.

What About Probiotics

We hear a lot about probiotics. So, what are they and what is their role in the microbiome and for our immune system health?

Probiotic means “for life” and are “live” micro-organisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host (FAO/WHO). Probiotic bacteria are transient visitors to the gut and offer a method distinct from diet to tune the microbiome, so that it can more effectively work with the immune system. As they drift through the digestive tract, probiotics communicate with resident microbes and intestinal cells. This can help in fighting colds, flus, and diarrheal illnesses. However, since most probiotics are not well-suited to live in the gut, they are transient and must be consumed regularly.

There are several considerations that should be made in selecting probiotics. First, the probiotics should be refrigerated so that the microbes are live. So, do not purchase probiotics that are not refrigerated because basically you are getting dead microbes that are of little or no value. The probiotics that are available are typically only a few different microbes, basically those that can be most easily produced by supplement companies. The effects of these probiotics can be unique to individuals because of differences in microbiota and this can vary daily as a person’s own microbiota fluctuates. So, it is impossible to predict the effect of consuming a specific probiotic. Thus, it is most beneficial to consume fermented foods in addition to taking probiotics.

Beware of claims by companies pushing probiotics. Avoid buying probiotics from online or e-commerce companies, especially those that sell only one product. Check to make sure third party testing was done in order to insure for safety of the supplement. U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) provides 3rd party evaluations on product’s labels for supplements. Only purchase supplements from reputable companies.

Discontinue use probiotic products that cause uncomfortable bloating, excessive gas, or headaches.

What’s Your Gut Microbiome Like?

There is still lots to learn about the microbiome and the impact it has on immune system, as well as other aspects of our health, and performance. You can learn about the health of your own microbiome through the American Gut Project. For $99 and a stool sample you can get a list of the bacteria in your gut to see how diverse your microbiome is, as well as how much of your microbiome is beneficial and how much is detrimental to your health. It is also possible to retest your microbiome to see if it has improved with any dietary changes you implement.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Stay healthy and stay positive!

Your friend and coach,

Brian

 

References

Dr. Robynne Chutkan. The Microbiome Solution.

Dr. Tom O’Bryan. The Autoimmune Fix.

Dr. Mark Hyman, Interconnected Episode 1: The Missing Piece in Health and Longevity.

The Good Gut: Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood, and Your Long-Term Health by Justin and Erica Sonnenberg, Penguin Press. NYC, 2015.

Yatsunenko, T et al. “Human Gut Microbiome Viewed Across Age and Geography.” Nature, 486.7402 (2012), 222-27.

Zhang Y, Chen C, Zhu S et al. [Isolation of 2019-nCoV from a stool specimen of a laboratory-confirmed case of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)]. China CDC Weekly. 2020;2(8):123–4.

https://www.who.int/news-room/commentaries/detail/modes-of-transmission-of-virus-causing-covid-19-implications-for-ipc-precaution-recommendations

Hao, Q, et al. “Probiotics for Preventing Acute Upper Respiratory Tract Infections.” Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2 (2015).

Shi N, Li N, Duan X, Niu H. Interaction between the gut microbiome and mucosal immune system. Mil Med Res. 2017 Apr 27.

Ben Greenfield. Beyond Training.

FAO/WHO Guidelines for the Evaluation of Probiotics in Food. 2002.

Disclaimer: All the information presented in this blog is for educational and resource purposes only.  It is there to help you make informed decisions about health-related fitness issues.  It is not a substitute for any advice given to you by your physician.  Always consult your physician or health care provider before taking supplements or using any other recommendation in this post. Use of the advice and information contained in this website is at sole choice and risk of the reader.  In no way will Denver Running Coach or any persons associated with Denver Running Coach or Enlightened Performance LLC be held responsible for any injuries or problems that may occur due to the use of the advice contained within this post.  Denver Running Coach and Enlightened Performance LLC will not be held responsible for the conduct of any companies recommended within this post.

Disclaimer: Dr. Brian Hand does not invest in or benefit in any way financially from any products mentioned in this post.

What Should You Eat and What Should You Avoid In the Hours Leading Up To Your Event

marathon-race-week-nutrition1

Hello Runners,

In the last post, I discussed the importance of a hydration and nutrition strategy for your event, and offered some tips. I also discussed what to eat the week of your event, including the day before. In this post I will discuss what to eat the morning of your event, including foods to avoid.

The principles to follow during the hours before the start of the race

  • In the two to four hours before your race, eat a meal with some protein and simple carbohydrates, and drink lots of water or sports drink. The more time until the race, the larger this meal should be. Minimize fiber and fats, since they can cause digestion issues. So, if you’re going to eat something like a bagel or toast, this is one time when you should go with white over wheat. Most importantly, don’t try anything new on race day!
  • Some good pre-race foods: gluten-free bread and/or cereal, fruit, smoothie, almond butter (not too much though). The more liquid and easier-to-digest these foods are, the better.-
  • In the hour before the race, don’t eat very much. Most experts recommend only water, sports drink, or energy gels at this point. I personally don’t drink much at this stage, to avoid having to use the bathroom during the race. Standing in the start corral already having to pee is no good, as this causes unnecessary stress and Porta Pots at the early aid stations will be jammed.

What to avoid before and during your event

  • Sports drinks or solids that include fructose or malodextrin, these can cause gas, bloating, and GI distress. Also avoid wheat, dairy, and fermentable fruits, including apples and pears before your event.
  • Artificial sweeteners and other chemicals including sugar alcohols, sucralose, aspartame, acesulfame potassium
  • Large amounts of caffeine
  • Large amounts of fiber

What to eat before your event

  • Blended and juiced foods
  • Small amounts of caffeine – in research studies caffeine shown to improve endurance performance
  • Easy-to-digest carbohydrates including white potato, sweet potato, yam, white rice
  • Easy-to-digest fats including MCT oil and coconut oil
  • Easy-to-digest proteins such as vegan protein (pea, rice, or hemp containing digestive enzymes), essential amino acids, or hydrolyzed collagen protein

In a future post, I will introduce future considerations as far as nutrition for your next event. These can help you better utilize fats more and spare the limited amount of carbohydrates you have available. Thus, reducing fatigue and enhancing performance.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

P.S. If you know anyone who might benefit from this post, please share this with them. Also, if this was beneficial, please “Like” our page. Thank you.

References

Bob Seebohar “Triathlon Nutritional Strategies” USA Triathlon Level I Coaching Certification Clinic June 7, 2013, Englewood, CO.

Luke Humphrey with Ketih & Kevin Hanson. Hansons Marathon Method. Velopress, Boulder, CO, 2012.

Ben Greenfield. Beyond Training. Victory Belt Publishing, Las Vegas, NV, 2014.

Matt Fitzgerald . Marathon Roadmap The Plant-Based Guide To Conquering Your First 26.2.

What’s Your Hydration and Nutrition Plan for Your Big Race?

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“Plans Are Nothing: Planning is Everything” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Hello Runners,

So, you’ve put in some great training, and you have a goal, and maybe even a purpose higher than yourself, which can get your through some of the toughest portions of your marathon. The weather on your race day is ideal. You’re able to run without any injuries. But, you could still fail to achieve your goal on race day due to dehydration or fatigue caused by burning up all your available carbohydrates.

Therefore, you need a plan before and during your event to make sure you stay as hydrated as possible, and don’t run out of available carbohydrates. Basically, we don’t have enough available carbohydrates in our body to complete a marathon. We need to take on additional carbohydrates during our event.

Where so many runners fail on race day is not having a game plan for how they are going to hydrate and fuel themselves during their event, or they have a game plan ahead of time, but don’t follow through. Also, many runners rely on what’s handed out at the event without practicing with it ahead of time (sports drinks, gels, etc.), and sometimes found out the hard way that what’s handed out is not best for them.

So, what’s your hydration and nutrition strategy for your event? How often will you drink? Will you use a sports drink? If not, what will you eat, so that you have enough energy to finish your marathon? Hopefully, you have been practicing your strategy during your training and have a plan you will use during your big race.

Practice Hydration and Nutrition (Fuel) Strategy During Your Long Runs

Your long training runs are a great time to practice hydration (how often and how much you will drink) and figure out what you will use for fuel during your event, as well as when you will consume this. There are lots of options available as far as fuel, including sports drinks, gels, beans, chews, real food, etc. You may want to practice what will be handed out at your event, that way if it works for you, then you don’t have to carry your own fuel.

Most likely your event won’t have these, but here are some fuel options you might try: SuperStarch by UCAN, Infinit-E by Millenium, and Vitargo. Some other options which are lower in calories, but provide electrolytes include Osmo Nutrition and Skratch Labs. Ideally, practice under similar conditions that you will experience during your event.

The Week Before Your Event

Before I talk more about your hydration and fueling strategy during your event, I will mention what you should do both the week of and the day before your event. After all, you want to start out with a full tank, otherwise, you will be trying to play catch up during your event, and that won’t work and will negatively impact your performance.

So, be sure to hydrate well throughout the week before, and especially the day before your event. Limit alcohol consumption during that week, as well, especially the day before your event. At a minimum you should be consuming half your body weight in ounces of water each day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should consume at least 75 ounces of water per day.

During the week of the event, this is the time to load up on carbohydrates, including grains, starchy vegetables, and fruits (such as blueberries). You should also be consuming proteins including nuts, seeds, beans, tempeh, fish, other meats, if you normally eat them. Fats are the nutrient you need least during the week of your event.

It is popular for events to have pasta dinners the night before an event. This is more traditional than beneficial. This pasta will really not help you during your event. In fact, you may want to have a salad with some nuts or a small bowl of pasta or white rice for dinner, and eat a larger meal for lunch or in the early afternoon. This larger meal should consist primarily of easily-digestible carbohydrates (such as white rice and white pasta), with some protein, and little fat. Avoid spicy foods and any new foods. Beware of eating a lot of fiber the day before an event and FODMAP foods (beans, onions, garlic, dried fruit, apples, pears, etc.), which can cause gas and bloating.

During Your Event

Don’t consume anything on race day that you haven’t practiced with during your training. Several years ago, when I was living in Maryland, I made an annual habit of running the Baltimore half-marathon. I really enjoyed that event and the crowd support throughout much of the event was great! Within the last few miles of the event there were people who traditionally would hand out gummy bears. Boy, was it tempting! Many people indulged. I passed and recommend you do the same. If you want gummy bears, have them after the race.

General guidelines for hydration

Water loss through sweat of as little as 2% can negatively affect performance, if fluids aren’t replaced because of:

  • Decreased blood volume resulting in the heart having to work harder
  • Increased usage of carbohydrates which can lead to fatigue happening sooner
  • Ability to dissipate heat is reduced
  • Imbalance of electrolytes which can cause cramping and weakness
  • Possible cognitive impairment

Keep in mind this will depend on your sweat rate and the conditions of your event. If you sweat profusely you will likely need to include electrolytes as well. In general you should consume 250 to 500 mg of electrolytes per hour. See previous post. During your event drink 3-8 ounces of fluids every 15-20 minutes (a gulp is ~ one ounce), basically drink to thirst.

General guidelines for nutrition

The main cause of fatigue in those participating in endurance events is running out of available carbohydrates in the body. You will need to determine if you will use fluids or solids for your carbohydrate fuel, and which you will use. If using solids, you may want to wash these down with water, don’t use a sports drink to wash them down. During your event, make sure you using something that doesn’t bother your stomach, contains little or no fiber and that you consume 30-60 grams of carbohydrate (~120-160 calories) every hour. For events lasting 4 hours or longer you may want to consume ~60 grams/hour.

Other Considerations

Keep in mind that you may need to carry your own fuel, whether it’s a sports drink or solid, during your event. This has been pretty much the case for me in every marathon I’ve run. I don’t do well with the sports drinks typically handed out at events.

Even if you have a strategy, you may need to develop a plan B and possibly plan C. What if you encounter heat and humidity during your event? What if they run out of sports drink or water at an aid station? (This happened at the Chicago marathon several years ago).

You should be well-hydrated before the start of your event. You should have eaten a well-balanced diet on the day before your event to ensure that carbohydrate stores in the body are maximized. Also, you should start calorie and fluid replacement early in your event.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

P.S. If you know anyone who might benefit from this email, please share this with them. Also, if this was beneficial, please “Like” our page. Thank you.

References

Bob Seebohar “Triathlon Nutritional Strategies” USA Triathlon Level I Coaching Certification Clinic June 7, 2013, Englewood, CO.

Luke Humphrey with Ketih & Kevin Hanson. Hansons Marathon Method. Velopress, Boulder, CO, 2012.

Ben Greenfield. Beyond Training. Victory Belt Publishing, Las Vegas, NV, 2014.

Matt Fitzgerald . Marathon Roadmap The Plant-Based Guide To Conquering Your First 26.2.

Should I Take Salt Tablets During My Long Runs and Half and Full Marathons?

Fueling-for-marathon-hydrating

“Strive for balance. Then shall you find harmony.”

Hello Runners,

In my last post, I discussed strategies you can use for running in the heat.

Another important consideration, when running in the heat, is replacement of electrolytes.

What Are Electrolytes And Why Are They Important?

An electrolyte is a substance that will conduct electricity when dissolved in water. They are essential for many of the body’s functions such as:

  • Skeletal muscle contraction for you to run (specifically the muscle needs calcium, sodium, and potassium and when these become unbalanced this can lead to muscle weakness or excessive contraction)
  • Heart function to deliver the oxygen and nutrients to your muscles to produce the energy you need to run
  • Nervous system function
  • Fluid balance
  • Blood pressure regulation
  • Maintain proper blood pH

All important functions necessary to keep you alive!

An imbalance of electrolytes through loss can result in cramping, twitching, weakness, and if not addressed, seizures and heart rhythm disturbances.

The important electrolytes include: sodium, potassium, calcium, bicarbonate, magnesium, phosphate, and chloride.

How Are They Lost?

Electrolytes are lost in sweat when we run. They can also be lost during a bout of diarrhea or vomiting.

How Should You Replace Them?

There are a number of different options for replacing electrolytes lost during exercise. Since balance between different electrolytes is important for them to function properly, I don’t recommend taking something that replaces only one or two electrolytes, like salt tablets.

Also, I don’t recommend many of the popular sports drinks including: Gatorade, Powerade, Propel, Vitamin Water, Accelerade because they usually contain lots of sugar/high fructose corn syrup and artificial ingredients, which can upset your stomach.

Here are some sources of electrolytes you might try (disclaimer: I have no affiliations with or investments in any of the companies that produce these products):

Tailwind nutrition endurance fuel

Nuun tablets

Lyteshow liquid concentrate

Ultima replenisher mix

Optimal Electrolyte by Seeking Health

Vega Clean Energy

Skratch labs mix

Coconut water in the refrigerated section of the grocery story by any of the following brands: Harmless Harvest, Unoco, Liquitera, Vital Juice or Juice Press

Another option is to make your own using by combining the following:

  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ cup of lemon juice
  • ¼ cup of lime juice
  • 1 ½ cups of unsweetened coconut water
  • 2 cups of cold water

I recommend experimenting with at least a couple of these during your training to find the one that works best for you to use for your event.

The amount of electrolytes you will need to take depend on several factors including: the temperature, humidity, your sweat rate, as well as your initial levels of electrolytes. The recommendations for electrolyte replacement typically focus on sodium. Typically, it is recommended to replace 500-1000 mg/hr of sodium for long runs and events, such as half- and full-marathons, as well as ultras and triathlons. However, you may need to adjust this depending on sweat loss. And remember, you will also be taking other electrolytes, along with sodium, to stay balanced.

You should continue to consume electrolytes after your long run or event (~500 mg sodium, along with other electrolytes).

In addition, it is important to include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet because they are a great source of electrolytes.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

 

P.S. If you know anyone who might benefit from this post, please share this with them. Also, if this was beneficial, please “Like” our page. Thank you.

 

References

Bob Seebohar “Nutrition for Triathletes” presented at USAT Certification Training 2014

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/electrolyte-water#what-it-is

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/153188.php

Chernecky CC, Berger BJ. Electrolytes panel – blood. In: Chernecky CC, Berger BJ, eds. Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures. 6th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:464-467.

DuBose TD. Disorders of acid-base balance. In: Skorecki K, Chertow GM, Marsden PA, Taal MW, Yu ASL, eds. Brenner and Rector’s The Kidney. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 17.

First Steps To Achieving Your Running Goals for 2019!

June 9 2018 pic 1 distant goal

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”  – Lao Tzu

Hello Runners,

Happy New Year! I hope that 2018 was a great year for you. If so, and even if not, I hope you a looking forward to an amazing 2019. I know that I certainly am! This year is my 35th year of running and I will be training to improve upon my marathon PR, with the ultimate goal to break 3 hours. My plan is to run a late summer or early fall marathon and will begin training next week. I plan to use the first couple of months of training for fitness training, before I transition into marathon-specific training, since I took about three weeks off from running while recently visiting New Zealand, which was awesome!

This fitness training will allow me to build my aerobic base and focus more on my running form (running economy) to make myself an efficient runner. The emphasis for my marathon-specific training will be to continue improving my running economy and aerobic fitness and then to build speed.

Depending on your goals and current fitness level, you may not need to train as long, however, if you have taken some significant time off from running, or if you are a beginner who is planning to complete your first marathon, you might consider taking at least 1-3 months to progressively build your aerobic fitness before engaging in marathon-specific training. I also strongly recommend performing strengthening exercises that will help you improve your form and minimize the risk of injury.

Next week, I will begin daily posts of what I did for my training, as well as recommendations and tips. You can access these posts at denverrunningcoach.com under Blog Posts. For those who opted in through my website to receive emails with tips and recommendations, I will send weekly summaries, so that you are not being constantly bombarded with emails! However, you can also access the daily posts, as I just mentioned. The tips and recommendations can help guide you to improve your running performance, although you may consider a more customized training program to meet your specific needs.

I believe the beginning of each year is a great time to assess your health, fitness, and running form. This is a great time to meet with your physician, if you haven’t recently, to assess for cardiovascular disease risk factors, hormone and various vitamin and mineral levels.  Assessing these can help you identify any areas that may need addressing, so that you can maximize your running performance and your health.

I strongly recommend the following post for guidelines on what assessments to do before you begin your training for this year:

http://www.denverrunningcoach.com/get-ready-to-achieve-your-running-goals-for-2017/

http://www.denverrunningcoach.com/what-are-your-vitamin-d-levels-and-other-important-testing-for-runners-and-triathletes/

I want to talk a little bit more about iron and vitamin D, which I mentioned in the articles above, since these are commonly low in runners, and so vital for performance and health.

Iron:

  • Why it’s important
    • Iron is a primary component of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to your exercising muscles for energy production to allow you to run
    • Thus, iron levels can affect running performance
  • What test(s) are best to assess iron levels?
    • Serum ferritin test
    • Tissue-mineral analysis, very accurate, but very expensive!
  • What do I do if my iron levels are low?
    • You should discuss your test results with your physician, and if your levels are low discuss supplementation options with your physician
  • What should you consider as far as selecting a supplement
    • Most important factors are safety, absorption, and effectiveness
    • Choose natural forms: ferrous fumarate, ferrous gluconate, and ferrous sulfate, NOT the ferric forms of these
  • What type of supplements are best?
    • I recommend a whole food as opposed to a synthetic supplement
    • Whole food supplements will display: “100% Whole Food”, “From Whole Food Source”, “Naturally Occurring Food Sources”, “Food-Based” or something similar
    • Beware! “Natural” does not mean whole food based and is often primarily synthetic
  • Why are whole food supplements better?
    • Generally, more effective and safer than synthetic supplements
    • You get a better balance of nutrients and synergistic effects, which are better for your health and performance
  • Are there health issues with high iron levels?
    • Yes, so you should be tested and discuss supplementation with your physician before taking any iron supplements
    • High levels of iron are toxic and can lead to heart disease
  • Who doesn’t need an iron supplement?
    • Generally, men and postmenopausal women because body’s stores are high enough

Vitamin D:

  • Why it’s important
    • Affects all aspects of health including: bone health, maintains nervous system, heart function, normal blood clotting, fights colds and flus, plays an important role in cancer prevention
  • What test is best to assess Vitamin D levels?
    • 25 hydroxycholecalciferol (yes this is a mouthful and not super easy to say!) test
  • Best source
    • Production in the skin when contacted by the sun’s UVB rays
    • This is a problem though in most areas of the U.S. during the winter months because it’s impossible to get enough UVB exposure then, therefore you will most likely need to supplement during winter months
  • What do I do if my Vitamin D are low?
    • You should discuss your test results with your physician and if your levels are low discuss supplementation options with your physician, especially for the winter months
  • Should I supplement all year around?
    • Probably not, because your body can most likely produce enough vitamin D from sun exposure, except for the winter months. Again, you should discuss this with your physician
    • For the non-winter months you should get enough vitamin D as long as you are getting about 10-15 minutes of sun exposure at noon or early afternoon at least twice per week on the face, arms, hands, or back without sunscreen
  • What are the best supplements for Vitamin D?
    • Food-based which specifically say vitamin D, mixed form of vitamin D, or primarily vitamin D3 (active form of vitamin D)
    • Probably the best is high quality cod liver oil (although not super yummy), although be weary of mercury toxicity
    • Another option is a vitamin D-only supplement, I usually take the one by Thorne Research (vitamin D3/K2). You can check ConsumerLab.com, which is a great source for quality of supplements (they do charge $35 per year)
    • You should take any vitamin D supplement with food, especially fat to help with absorption
  • Are there health issues with high vitamin D levels?
    • Yes, so you should be tested and discuss supplementation with your physician before taking a vitamin D supplement
    • High levels of vitamin D have been associated with certain cancers

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can help in any way.  Next, we’ll talk about running shoes and attire, as well as running in the cold and wind.

Be your best self today.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

References:

–              Beyond Training by Ben Greenfield. Victory Belt Publishing, Inc. 2014.

–              Super Nutrition Academy, Yuri Elkaim (Registered Holistic Nutritionist)

Disclaimers:

All the information presented in this blog post is for educational and resource purposes only.  It is there to help you make informed decisions about health-related fitness issues.  It is not a substitute for any advice given to you by your physician.  Always consult your physician or health care provider before beginning any exercise program or taking any supplementation.  Use of the advice and information contained in this blog post is at sole choice and risk of the reader.

Coach Brian Hand has no ties or investments in Thorne Research and does not receive any form of compensation for mentioning Thorne Research or their products in this blog post.