Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ever tried hemp protein in your smoothie?

I’m happy to report (in a healthy way) that in the past two months, my experience with hemp protein has been a good one. I first learned about the nutritional benefits of hemp in an article I read from Runners World. Up until a few months ago, I’d always associated hemp with the eclectic people I would encounter when I walked through parks in Moscow, ID while attending school down there. I still think about those guys, and the word “hippie” comes to mind.

Yet when I read about the nutritional benefits of hemp, I thought it would be kind of fun to try. After all, I’d already embarked on a new diet emphasis that aligns with the Paleo diet (minus the pieces of dark chocolate I regularly enjoy, which I’m sure no caveman would EVER have been so lucky to come upon while ambling through the woods). Speaking of Paleo, in addition to adding hemp protein to my diet, I’ve developed a huge appreciation for the oh-so-versatile sweet potato. I used to have oatmeal every morning, but because Paleo’s stomach doesn’t agree with grains, I’ve substituted sweet potato, nuts, and dried fruit for it. Apparently, my dermatologist noticed. He took one look at my hands and thought I had an orange hue. (Maybe a new tanning technique?)

Back to hemp: I did some research online about the nutritional benefits compared to other protein and healthy fat sources. Interestingly enough, the hemp nut contains mainly oil (44%), carbohydrates (12%), and vitamins, specifically those of the Vitamin E complex.1 What makes hemp so nutritionally beneficial is the composition of its oil (or its fatty acid profile) and its protein, which contains all the essential amino acids in nutritionally significant amounts.

First, looking at the fatty acid composition of hemp: Humans should ingest essential fatty acids (EFAs) in an omega-6 / omega-3 ratio of 4:1.1 Did you know the average Western diet has a ratio of 10:1 or more? The overall message is that we are far too deficient in omega-3 fatty acids. What hemp offers that other nut and seeds don’t is an omega-6 / omega-3 ratio of 3:1 or less, depending on the plant variety. In addition, hemp provides significant amounts of the more rare polyunsaturated fatty acids, notably gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and stearidonic acid (SDA).1

The bottom line is that, hemp contains all of the essential amino acids in a more nutritionally significant amount and at a ratio closer to “complete” sources of protein, like meat, milk, and eggs. This comes as good news to me, as I have had trouble tolerating other supplemental sources of protein in the past. (I must add, however, that my re-introduction of meat into my diet—thanks to Paleo—has been a HUGE deal. Steak and pork chops have never tasted so good after a long bike ride!)

Finally, the next thought on your minds (I’m sure) is that I’m essentially consuming cannabis. I had to do some research on this because, quite frankly, my entire professional and racing career depends on a clean background check. Here’s what I found:

The two cannabinoids most preponderant in cannabis are THC (the psychoactive ingredient) and CBD (an antipsychoactive ingredient).2 Marijuana is high in THC and low in CBD, yet industrial hemp is low in THC and high in CBD (the opposite of marijuana). Marijuana has a potency of 3-20% by dry weight of THC (psychoactive ingredient), yet hemp has a potency of less than 1%, and the normal range is under 0.5%.2 Therefore, don’t get any ideas that I’m over here at home sniffing my protein powder. I couldn’t possibly get high off it, and believe me, it tastes so good I wouldn’t think of ingesting it in any other way.

Like I noted before, hemp is low in THC (the psychoactive ingredient), but relatively high in CBD (the antipsychoactive ingredient). 

As I approach my first race of the season, St. George 70.3, I continue to eat my sweet potatoes, snack on carrots and broccoli embellished with almonds and raisins, and recover from hard workouts with meals that most closely resemble that of a caveman: meat, vegetables, tubers. I’m not sure Paleo would be impressed by my addition of hemp protein smoothies to his menu, but they sure do make for a delicious, healthy “dessert.”

1.  Leson, Gero. Nutritional Profile and Benefits of Hemp Seed, Nut and Oil. Article accessed April 16, 2013.  Original article taken from The Vote Hemp Report. 2002/2003. <http://www.votehemp.com>

2. Hemp vs. Marijuana. Arizona Industrial Hemp Council. 2001. Article accessed April 20, 2013. <http://www.azhemp.org/Archive/Package/Legal/legal.html>

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A trip to Libby at Elements Massage

I have a extraordinary relationship with my massage therapist, Libby, who works at the Wandermere Elements Therapeutic Massage. By the way she mashes my back, kneads my quads, and spirals her elbows in my butt, you’d think the last thing I’d do is schedule another 80-minutes of anguish with her. Yet I find myself sitting in the lobby, staring at the three pictures on the wall that represent what nature is supposed to exude: calmness. Perhaps it’s the calm before the storm, so to speak. How else can I justify the utter excitement I feel, knowing the muscles that have worked so hard to carry me through each and every training day will soon meet the strength and skill of Libby’s hands?

My friend greets me at the door and leads me back to the dark room of calmness. The soothing music hardly drowns out the list of “problem areas” I make Libby aware of. Quite frankly, I don’t know why I always repeat myself, as she has yet to miss a muscle that isn’t already aching or tight, just by her skill alone. She simply stands, listens, and then exclaims calmly, “I’ll go get some heat. You lay on your stomach.”

Let the “therapy” begin.

Libby starts by poking and prodding my back, coaxing muscles to literally jump out into her hands using her touch alone. It’s like a game of hide-and-seek, but upon finding the culprit muscle, she tackles it with whatever tool she finds most useful—her thumb, her forearm, her elbow. I know Libby for her deep tissue technique, and so her thumbs, her forearms, and her elbows hardly do the work her entire body weight can do far better.

Then she has me roll over so she can target my legs, perhaps the most tortured part of my body. With all the cycling and running I do, I usually arrive at Libby’s doorstep with quadriceps riddled with knots, hips resistant to movement, and butt cheeks whose muscle mass makes a great target for impending elbows. I know when Libby warns me to “take a deep breath,” I’m in for a soft tissue mobilization that will leave me sweating and breathless (I may inhale, but I forget to let it out). For Libby, one time isn’t enough. God blessed humans with just about two of everything, and for me, those “two of everythings” come with a whole load of problems.

What makes Libby so genuine and perfect as my massage therapist is her ability to target my muscles using her uncannily precise tools: her hands. Libby’s deep tissue experience may hurt, but the result is why I keep going back. She does the job exceedingly well. In all the pain and sweat, her conversation keeps my attention on her instead of on my screaming muscles. Her nutrition ideas continually inspire me to try new recipes and foods, and her jokes make me laugh through tears of pain that blind my vision.

As I write this, I look forward to my next massage with Libby I have scheduled tomorrow. While my mind may know what this body is in for, thankfully, my muscles do not. If you haven’t tried a massage, I suggest you delve in and see what the experience is all about. Perhaps the deepest of deep tissue isn’t the right place to start. Maybe it is. Either way, consider seeking the massage therapy services offered by Elements. Let me know if you have any questions or would like some recommendations. I have plenty to offer.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Investing in time

Spring. New beginnings. New priorities.
New goals.
I sat in the dermatologist’s office this past Wednesday, thinking just how ridiculous these past two months have felt. Everything that could happen—has happened. Everything that needed to start—has started. Yet time hasn’t slowed. 

My training has definitely continued, but a number of different “events” have cropped up that have made life slightly more interesting. The trip to the dermatologist was the result of a “rash” that has invaded my hands over the past few weeks. While friends enjoyed diagnosing it as athlete’s hand, I found relief when the dermatologist diagnosed me with hand eczema, the result of excessive hand washing and hand sanitizer use. Apparently, my change in lifestyle by working as a student of physical therapy (washing my hands before and after seeing each patient) has taken an uncomfortable toll on my hands.

Today, I felt remarkably blessed by the opportunity to ride outside in sunshine on a day forecasted to be shrouded in clouds with a nearly 100% chance of rain. Aren’t days like that great? My ride today more than made up for a missed day last Saturday, when a developing sinus infection forced me to drag myself to urgent care the day before Easter—a sunny, warm, perfect day for riding—to start my 7-day round of antibiotics. While Levaquin took care of the sinuses, it did a number on my stomach.

My saving grace: Running on 80-90% of my
body weight feels great!
Starting my final rotation at B&B Physical Therapy two weeks ago, I finally felt a little more comfortable playing the role of physical therapist in a setting I have—up until now—played as the patient. By the end of my last rotation, I felt incredibly at ease with my patients and my role to make them better. I loved the skilled nursing setting. Only until the end of last week am I beginning to see the fun in practicing in the outpatient setting. Once I can get over the fact I spend 10-12 hours at the clinic, I think I’ll fully enjoy it.

Perhaps the most important aspect of this rotation I have discovered, is just how incredibly blessed I am by the timeliness and situational circumstances of it all. I’m still fighting left knee pain, but thanks to the direct access I have to the AlterG treadmill, I have found a way to run with less pain, for more time, and complete harder interval-type training than I would have been able to if I still had to fight against 9.8m/s2 of gravity. Instead, the AlterG has afforded me the ability to run on a body that only weighs 108 pounds. My knee couldn’t be happier about the weight loss! Patients working through their own injuries enjoy it as well. A few people experiencing some nagging injuries before their Boston Marathon appearance have used it to continue to get in training, but with less impact on the body. For $15/30 minutes, you can do the same.

In the end, while the last couple months have caused a lot of stress, I have learned just how much I can take on—and get through. St. George 70.3 lies just 4 weeks away. It won’t be my fastest, my strongest, or my best performance. I try to remind myself each day that I am doing all that I can to be the best and smartest competitor I can be on race day. When I read this quote by Mary Blake, “We each have all the time there is; our mental and moral status is determined by what we do with it,” I am pleased by the way the events that have had the potential to wear me down have actually made me stronger. With the 4 weeks of time I have left, I will strive to remain calm, train smart, and stay within myself.