Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 24 - Christie Aschwanden - GOOD TO GO - Part 3 of 3

One of the things I wanted to ask you about was, so I've seen-- So, here in Kansas City, maybe where you are, there's like a new recovery center like an iteration therapy, which I think is, frankly, dangerous since you have I don't think like a medic, it's not solid hospital.
Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 24 - Christie Aschwanden  - GOOD TO GO - Part 3 of 3

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JESSE: One of the things I wanted to ask you about was, so I've seen-- So, here in Kansas City, maybe where you are, there's like a new recovery center like an iteration therapy, which I think is, frankly, dangerous since you have I don't think like a medic, it's not solid hospital. And so they're using IVs to try to help people recover. What's your approach to seeing new things like that, that are, at least to some of us blatantly dangerous, put people at risk? CHRISTIE: Yeah, no, I agree with you on that. And in fact, people sometimes ask me, was there anything-- So, I tried a lot of weird stuff for this...private detail about that. But people often ask me, was there anything that - just was too weird or too scary? And this is one, this was one that I said no way. I mean, I was offered. I went and visited one of these places and they were like, here, here, we'll give you a free and I was like, no, thank you, this looks dangerous. But it's also unnecessary. I mean, the first thing that I will think about when I see something like this is okay, show me the evidence and what is the evidence that they're saying, and they're really not actually showing any evidence. But the things that they're saying is that it helps with hydration is one of them. Well, you don't need an IV to be hydrated. And look, I recognize that there are situations when someone is in the desert collapsing from dehydration and you know, whatever, an IV can be very helpful. If you're extremely sick with the flu, and you've been vomiting or something like an IV can be literally a lifesaver. But for the most part, healthy people do not need to be hydrated by IV. And in fact, drinking water works just fine, contrary to what sports drinks and the whole bottled water industry, there's sort of this whole industry that's arose from this. But then the other thing that these all sort of will promote that they have vitamins in them too which I mean, this is just nonsense. You don't need to take vitamins in this sort of form. If you're eating a healthy diet, you get all of those nutrients and those vitamins that you need. And so you're either giving yourself expensive pee, or in some cases, they're actually vitamins that having too much can actually be dangerous. And this is something-- JESSE: ...fat soluble. CHRISTIE: Yeah. And it's not good. So, I mean, really, one of the best things that athletes can do for themselves is stop taking supplements, just stop. You don't need multivitamins, you don't need vitamin C, you don't need calcium, you don't need any of this stuff. Now, the one exception that I would make to this is, in some cases, people may need iron up their training at very high levels, particularly women of menstruating age. But this is something that you should actually really talk to your doctor about and make sure because you really want some confirmation from a blood test that you're truly anemic or trending that way. And honestly, you can take an iron supplement or you could eat some red meat and the red meat is going to be taken up so much better by your body. And I hate to say this because I don't want to piss off vegetarians. I was a vegetarian for 13 years and I finally quit because I was having sort of continuous problems with keeping my iron up and I started eating red meat and I felt immediately better and you know, I tried all kinds of supplements and really high dose iron pills and they basically just gave me an upset stomach and my body was not able to utilize them nearly as well. And so I do think that it is totally possible and it can be very healthy for people to train at high levels as vegetarians. But in some cases if that's not working, I think meat is your best choice if you can do it, and I understand people have ethical reasons and I don't take issues with that. But really iron is the only one. And it's kind of interesting to me so many people will sort of only eat organic foods and they take supplements and it's like you know these are just like chemicals that are being synthesized in some lab in China. And a lot of the vitamins, the majority of vitamins come from overseas. But there's been all kinds of-- I mean, I described in the book two athletes who tested positive on drug tests from electrolyte supplements. This is so-- JESSE: Yeah, I was going to ask you about that because actually, with Lauren Barnett, one of my friends, his name is Lucas, I guess I won't say his last name. He was actually also caught up in that. He was a professional triathlete, same time, same deal, same product. And it was one of those situations where it's like, I've known the guy for several years through racing, but it's a situation of, do you believe them? You want to believe them and then ?? 4:38> to the questions of it seems like it was an innocent mistake. So, then I guess my question for you along that is like, should we require supplement manufacturers to like third party test purity of their products? CHRISTIE: I mean, yeah, there's all these things now, but the solution is don't take the stuff. It' tragic. No, I'm being completely serious. I know I sound really glib but there there is no good evidence any of this stuff is helpful, particularly for athletes who are already by definition really healthy, right? If you are an elite or a serious athlete, you're already being very careful about your diet, you're exercising enough, presumably your sleep-- all the things that you need to do. There's absolutely no good reason. I mean, to me, the tragedy of those cases is like why were you taking the electrolyte supplement in the first place? Do you know what electrolytes are? They’re salt, you get that from your food. In fact, it may be on the one hand we have doctors telling us reduce the sodium in our diets. Salt is not something you need to take in a supplement. The industry has been really great at convincing people that they need to put salt in their water and all this but this is just nonsense. I mean, you can eat regular food, you will get enough salt, you get these things in the food that you eat. Bananas are a great source of potassium, that's a great after/before snack. I mean, a lot of fruits have these things too. So, many of the foods that we eat are full of salt, it's just not something-- most people are not salt deficient. And this idea that you need to be doing that-- And again, this goes up all these other nutritional supplements, whether they're protein things. I mean, these protein powders basically exist because the milk industry had all this, like extra whey proteins they were like trying to figure out what to do with it. I'm not saying that you should never like-- These sorts of after workout shakes, I can understand that sometimes they're convenient and I'm not necessarily always opposed to them. But I think that we'd have-- I mean, the supplement industry has shown again, and again, there's been multiple, multiple cases of people testing positive for things that they ingested this way. And we know that there are manufacturing problems and the idea that you can find the good players and the bad. I mean, so many of the base products themselves are coming from the same place. So, I think it gets really hard. And yeah, there are programs and there are companies now that have quality seals and all this. But at the end of the day, I mean, I interviewed a lawyer who's basically made a career out of defending athletes who ingested stuff this way. No one's offering money-back guarantees if you get this stuff, and there's just not convincing evidence that any of it is helpful to people. You don't need these, there's always new studies coming out about some fancy derivative or an extract of X, Y & Z. Most of that science is garbage, but it's also no reason to go by the supplements. It's just expensive ways of getting things that you can get much better through actual food. JESSE: So, here's the one thing, for whatever reason I thought you addressed this in the book and now I went back through and I didn't see it, so I may have missed it. I've seen a lot of people kind of agree with the sentiment that you're saying. And then they'll say the one caveat is iron distance races where you need to take in easily digestible nutrition during a race. Would you suggest, say whole food during the race or…? CHRISTIE: So, during a race like that, no, this is a good question. I'm not at all opposed to using gels and things like this during a race like that. I mean, those products basically arose because they felt this need of you need dense calories that are easy to digest. And I think that that's fine and I think that you need to be careful, and again it's hard to know what's in this stuff. Personally, if I was going to use something like that. I prefer something that has a very short ingredients lists that are things that I recognize and doesn't sound like chemistry, chemistry set, which is not to say, I mean, everything is chemicals, I don't want to portray this idea that chemicals are somehow inherently bad. But what you don't want it to be taking stuff that is supplemented with a bunch of vitamins that you don't know where they're coming from. But that said, I mean I love eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I make these little ones that I'll take on long mountain bike rides sometimes. I mean, there are whole foods ways that you can do this. I understand that it's not always possible. But there are a lot of cookbooks and things out there are a lot. There are a few cookbooks out there. I know Shalane Flanagan has a good one that has some recipes there for like, yeah, some nice little energy, food and things like that. So, it is possible to do stuff. You don't need those products. But I wouldn't say that you should absolutely never take a gel or something like that, although you need to be careful. And in fact, I had heard a story, I didn't include it in the book because I think I was having trouble, this sort of thing you want to really triple verify it. But there had been some kind of gel or something had been given out in the triathlon somewhere where someone had tested positive and felt like it was from that or something. But yeah, this gets into the whole thing too of like-- JESSE: Hearsay here. CHRISTIE: Yeah, and it's very convenient. And I think at this point, I think any athlete who's taking supplements it sort of makes me wonder if you're also doping because it's a very good excuse, and there really isn't a good convincing argument for taking the stuff in the first place. JESSE: I do think this is a little bit of a different rabbit hole, but thinking about supplements and doping. I've taken supplements in the past, though I don't often. I have like a recovery drink because again, it is convenient. But other than that, despite my father's you know, harping on multivitamins, I don't take any. I do think about the mentality though of okay, let's say for the sake of argument, let's say that there is some efficacy in supplements, Where is the mental line between taking supplements and doping? You know what I mean? CHRISTIE: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think-- JESSE: Where is the difference. CHRISTIE: I think it's the same impulse though. It's this idea that there's like some little edge and you don't want to leave any rock unturned, right. There's this idea that if there's some little advantage that I could get and I mean, I guess I would just say get your advantage, it's much easier to get a big advantage by prioritizing sleep, doing all these things. I mean, it cracks me up these athletes who will be sleeping six hours a night, and then they think they're going to get a boost from supplements. It's like, you'll get 100 times more benefit out of sleeping some more and really taking care of yourself. And I think that that kind of self-care that really improves performance doesn't come in a pill. JESSE: We're getting close to the end. I have a couple more questions for you and then I’ll let you go. Are there any recovery methods you tried for the book that you enjoyed and didn't really have any evidence that you're still using? CHRISTIE: Yeah, floating is one that I absolutely love. And it's something I mean, the place that I went to the first-- I've gone to a bunch of places now there's one near my house that I go to still, occasionally. They make all these claims about boosting neurotransmitters and blah, blah, blah. And some of that may be, there may be a tiny bit of truth. But basically, it's just forced meditation which is something you know, you were sort of describing earlier, the monkey brain which I also have, where you always are sort of thinking about this that and the other. And I sort of felt floating so this is you're basically floating in a small tank of salty water, you’re very buoyant. They used to call these sensory deprivation tanks, they've been rebranded because floating sounds a lot more pleasant marketing. JESSE: ?? 12:24> look at that marketing. CHRISTIE: Yeah anyway, but I expected to hate this. In fact, I kind of put off doing it and I really enjoyed it. And it comes back to the same thing that we were talking about earlier, which is it just really helped me relax. It was a way of forcing myself to take an hour to relax and to do nothing and to you know, not have any external stimulus. And I found that really important and it's something that sort of transmits over to the rest of my life and I'm still not-- I did try a bunch of meditation while I was writing the book as well and I found it very helpful. It's something that I found hard to turn into a habit because I'm just-- it's not the kind of person that I am. But I have found that I sort of bring that mentality. I have made a priority in my life to make sure that every single day I have some time that is unscheduled, that I’m not expecting myself to be productive. I'm allowing my mind to wander. I go out for a run and I'm not looking at my watch. I'm not listening to music just sort of being in the world, I think is a really good way to do that. So, I think every person will find their own way. But I think it's really important to develop some kind of relaxation ritual that you do that's sort of your time to refresh. JESSE: Last question. This is a question I'm asking everybody this year and it is particularly - for you. I ask everybody if you can only choose one food for recovery for the rest of your life, what do you choose? CHRISTIE: Oh, that's a great question. Wow, that's really tough. I mean, I love banana with peanut butter after I do something but that's two foods I guess. I maybe if you can-- JESSE: No, that’s okay. I’ve gotten everything from chocolate milk to pizza. Like it's anything. CHRISTIE: Yeah. I think PB&J's are great. And the NBA stars all really like that too, but they're super easy. They're cheap. It's simple. There's a lot of-- you could have a different sandwich every day and still stick to PB&J. It’s got all the stuff...yeah. JESSE: Second solid answer. Christie, if people want to get the book, where can they get that and where can they find you if they want to see what you’re up to? CHRISTIE: Yeah, so here is the blog. Yeah,, has links to buying it on sort of online places, but also local booksellers, all of the different things. It's also available, of course, all the usual places online. The very best place to get it, of course, is your local independent bookseller and the other places that keep us writers in business. JESSE: Yep. Thanks for coming on today, Christie. CHRISTIE: Oh, thanks for having me. It's been a pleasure. JESSE: Take care. CHRISTIE: Bye. Go to Part 1 Go to Part 2

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