KC Craichy’s SuperHealth Podcast: Exercise Medicine – Stress, Recover, Repeat

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Posted on 17th May 2012 by admin in Super Health |SuperHealth Podcasts

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Today on KC Craichy’s SuperHealth Podcasts, we continue our important series Exercise Medicine with extreme human physiologist Dr. Greg Wells from the University of Toronto. Dr. Wells is the author of the new book Superbodies: Peak Performance Secrets from the World’s Best Athletes. In today’s episode, we dive into stress and recovery. We explore how physical exercise, emotional stress, and physical health challenges similarly tax the body, and in turn, how our body recovers and adapts. Whether you perform on the field, at the office, on the sidelines, or at home, there’s much to learn from KC and Dr. Wells, including the single most important element of recovery that costs absolutely nothing!

Click below to listen.


Audio Transcript

KC: Welcome to Living Fuel TV, I’m KC Craichy with special guest Dr. Greg Wells. Greg, great to have you back.

Greg: Yeah! Thanks! Good to be here again.

KC: Greg is a sports scientist to elite athletes in Canada, and a doctor at All Children’s Hospital in Toronto. Now we talked in a previous show about how relevant those two things are. Explain briefly how that crossover works.

Greg: So, I work as an extreme human physiologist. I’m a scientist, I study how the body works in extreme conditions, either in chronic diseases like we see at Sick Kids’ Hospital in Toronto or with the Olympic athletes trying to win medals at games like the Olympics.

KC: So, we deal with things in regular life in the middle, right?

Greg: That’s right.

KC: You got the extremes on both sides, and most of us fall in the middle there somewhere.

Greg: Yeah the vast majority of us mere mortals will fall in the middle zone, but we can still learn from what happens at the extremes. We can learn how to live healthier lives, we can learn from the elite athletes how to perform better and out of all of that have greater, better, more exciting, more healthy lives.

KC: So the elite athlete is on the edge, gets to the edge of unhealthiness, literally, when they push themselves out there, and the kid in extreme surgeries or treatment situations, say like cancer, gets to the very edge also.

Greg: Yeah we push the body as far as we possibly can in high performance sports, we literally put as much stress on them as we possibly can and then allow them to recover and then do it again, and then allow them to recover and that stimulates the body to adapt positively. And the benefit of that ultimately is that we end up stronger, healthier, faster, fitter. What we try to do on the opposite end of the spectrum in children’s chronic disease is to sort of use the information we have about how the body works, physiologically, from my perspective, and to help treat that ultimate stress of disease and lack of immune function or whatever is supporting it, in order to bring it back into the healthy zone as quickly as possible. I try to do both through a knowledge and application of exercise science and also through, supported by incredible nutrition as well.

KC: So, the people in the middle, they deal with stress in a different way. There’s different kinds of stress but the result is similar in how you might handle it could be similar.

Greg: Exactly, the physiological response to stress is pretty universal, and there’s a great story that I love telling from the last Olympics in Vancouver and being Canadian we love our Winter Olympics. So there was a figure skater, Joannie Rochette, and she went out at the Olympic games ranked sixth in the world and right before the Olympics, actually at the beginning of the Olympic games her mother passed away. And so you can imagine what it would be like trying to go out and compete at the highest level possible and having just lost the most important person in your life. The person that took you to practice for ten years, the person who was your confidant and as you went out onto the ice to skate, 20,000 people in the stadium went crazy to support her now what else could you possibly do? But she became emotional, she began to lose control, she became tense and tight and you could see that happen to her. To her credit, as a young athlete, she went back to her coach, stopped for a moment, took a drink of water, took three deep relaxing breaths, her coach smiled at her, which was an incredible response. Because her coach is feeling just as much stress as she is, having probably been very good friends with her mom. So there was this physical calming of the athlete and this positive support of the mentor in this case which allowed her then to go back out and perform the skate of her life to win the bronze medal. It’s a perfect example of what we can do, imagine if you’ve had a tough day at work and right before you walk into your home you can stop and take three deep calming breaths, before you arrive and try to deal with your family or there’s a crazy situation at the office and instead of rapidly reacting to the situation you take a moment, twenty seconds really to compose yourself before you walk in. You know that’s a perfect example of how we can learn from elite athletes to positively benefit our own lives.

KC: That is a fantastic story.

Greg: Yeah, it’s pretty powerful.

KC: So what about, there’s a difference in repetitive stress versus what you just talked about, you know, tragedy, those sort of things, but most people get into repetitive stress like, you know, unending deadlines or financial issues, that sort of thing. How might what you teach help someone in that sort of situation?

Greg: Well, unfortunately in the world that we live in, I doubt we’re ever going to get rid of those stressers I think, it’s a time of constant change, it’s a time of financial upheavals we’ve seen are going to continue and the pressures on all of us to perform our best are going to increase. So I really don’t focus so much on getting rid of stress. I think we’re going to be faced with that in our lives, that’s just the nature of the game. What I focus on is helping people to recover faster. Can we get people back to 100% by the time they arrive at home? Maybe even by the time they get back to work the next morning. Can we help people to eat better? Can we help people get massages every once in awhile? Can we help people sleep better? Can we help people to speed that recovery from the negative pressures of stress, in order to get people ideally back to at least level, maybe even better the next day. So we can improve performance, improve health despite the fact that we live in a crazy, stressful, high-pressure environment.

KC: All right, so, the example you just gave is similar to an athlete, you stress them to the max and then you can recover them.

Greg: That’s right.

KC: How might that work in the situation we just talked about?

Greg: We have a protocol that we try to use as much as possible with our athletes, we put them under a tremendous amount of stress. The first thing that we try to do is to help them to eat immediately after exercise. Within 20 minutes of finishing a workout they’re eating carbohydrates and protein, high-quality carbohydrates to fuel the muscles, proteins to help repair the muscles within two hours. We like them having high quality fats to fix the nervous system and to provide long-term fuels. We concentrate a lot on getting people rehydrated as quickly as possible because water would be one of the most important things that we need during exercise to stay alive. Then we’ll work on longer-term recovery things like hot-cold contrast baths, making sure that once a week athletes have a great massage to get rid of inflammation out of the body and then as much as possible making sure that people have eight great hours of sleep every night. Not everyone needs eight hours, but ideally that’s what we try to get for people.

KC: How important is that?

Greg: It is one of the most important things. When we sleep a number of hormones get released into the body and one of key ones is growth hormone and when growth hormone is released into the system all of the muscles get repaired, the nervous system gets repaired, skin actually improves. So allowing athletes the opportunity to get into those deep levels of sleep as quickly as possible for a consistent period of time is really important to keep the bodies recovering and regenerating and their minds recovering and regenerating and let’s face it, we all need, how great do you feel on a night of sleep. On a consistent basis that makes a huge difference for all of us.

KC: That’s even an energetic component. It’s energy-enhancing to sleep and energy-robbing to not sleep, so it’s really a fascinating thing. We talked about to stress, Monica talks about stress being if you don’t have pressure you’re dead. So you need a certain amount of stress.

Greg: Right.

KC: So it’s really about like you talked about and stress can be good like athletics and doing things that are challenging and competitive. That actually can extend your life is the stuff that people focus on is the negative stuff that tears them down. How is the stressful is the American diet? They’re eating french fries and I saw somebody the other day they got a burger, they got rid of the vegetables and then they had a huge pile of fries. How stressful is that to the body?

Greg: Well our diet is killing us, there’s no question, North American and certainly Canadian diet is absolutely toxic, it’s really really bad for us. The sad thing is that I just got back from a trip to India and you see that spreading now around the world, doesn’t matter where you go, this is a growing problem internationally. The World Health Organization has designated obesity and type 2 diabetes as the number one concern worldwide for our health. And we talked a little bit about stress and sleep and there’s some great new research coming out about how stress can predispose people to increased obesity and how lack of sleep predisposes people to increased obesity. It is a vicious cycle which I believe, my approach is to try to prevent it in the first place through exercise and nutrition and there’s a lot of good research that says great nutrition improves obesity and Type 2 diabetes, but if you add exercise to it, it’s an amplifier effect.

KC: Sleep and so on.

Greg: You just get back the positive effects then build upon each other and we hopefully repairing this problem that we have and the key thing being prevention. You know if we can educate people and get people to buy into the exercise nutrition principle we’re going to be able to change the world.

KC: Awesome information, I look forward to the next segment. Guys his book is “Super Bodies” Dr. Greg Wells. I hope it’s helpful to you, God bless you and have a great day.


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