Today’s guest blog comes from Eric Talmant, an old friend of mine who has achieved excellent success as a powerlifter. Eric credits a lot of this success to discoveries he’s made on the nutrition front, and he’s carried forward this knowledge to help others. In the series we’ll be publishing here over the next few weekends, Eric outlines his approach to nutrition. Eric will be checking in, so feel free to chime in below with questions/comments.
Building Vibrant Health: Part 1
By: Eric Talmant
I would like to take a moment and briefly summarize my own personal journey with building health. I have been involved with Metabolic Typing® since 2001 after a serious injury in the military. I was able to radically rebuild and repair my health using the basic Metabolic Typing® principles, which I will discuss in parts 2 and 3 of this “Building Vibrant Health” series. After seven years of working the basic program, and advising many others as a certified Metabolic Typing® advisor, I took the next steps…
In April 2008, I enrolled in the Functional Diagnostic Nutrition (FDN) course, which is when I first took the BioHealth 205 Adrenal Stress Profile and the 101 Metabolic Profile (saliva and urine tests). I discovered that although my digestion and kidneys were working really well, my adrenal glands were in Stage 1 fatigue; not the worst case scenario but certainly room for improvement. Of course, many things can contribute to adrenal fatigue; some of which I can improve and some of which I was not willing to change just yet (Sheiko training for one). So, in an effort to improve my adrenals, I began supplementing with DHEA and Pregnenolone. These are both legal and can be bought over the counter without a prescription.
I also began to meditate ( Meditation for Dummies ) and started working with someone who practices homeopathy. I then took the BioHealth 304 Mucosal Membrane Barrier test. Here, I received more specific information indicating that I had a dysbiosis going on in my body as well as a bit of a leaky gut; which is a generic way of saying that I was eating too many foods that I am either allergic or sensitive to. So, I then took the Signet MRT Food Sensitivities Test and the ELISA finger stick IgG allergy test (both of which I am now authorized to dispense and offer on my web site) and found out the foods to which I have a sensitivity or subtle allergy. Eliminating them has in turn has improved the integrity of my mucosal membrane barrier, which has positively affected my adrenal glands.
HOWEVER, I was not done yet because I needed to still address the dysbiosis in my stomach that the 304 had originally identified. I most recently took the BioHealth 401 stool culture for pathogens and found out that I have bad bacteria (proteus) that is abundant in my body. It is impossible to tell when I might have acquired this bad bacteria, but my guess is that it happened when I was in the military many years ago. Obviously, due to the fact that the good bacteria are constantly fighting the bad bacteria, it is a constant ping (a drain) on my adrenal glands. And, who knows how long the good guys can keep on dominating and winning?
My first option is to come in with an A-Bomb, in the form of an antibiotic, and completely eradicate not only the bad bacteria in my body but the good bacteria as well. This option would require a lot of recolonizing of the gut, with good bacteria in the form of probiotics and so forth, and is -at least for me - a last resort. So, as an alternative, I have decided to supplement with a natural anti-microbial that is composed of ingredients that are found and processed straight out of the Amazon rain forest. The company is called Raintree Nutrition and my FDN instructor Reed Davis has seen very good results with their anti-microbial product for combating dysbiosis. However, my strain (proteus) is one he has not dealt with in a long time. In addition, my report came back as saying that it is “abundant.” Therefore, I am going to see what I can do in the form of supplementation and by cultivating my body to listen to my mind and rid itself of the bad bacteria. This is going to be hard and take a lot of mental effort on my part, but I know if I tell my body to do it that it will do it.
Why am I telling you this? Because building health is aprocess. In this series of articles, I am going to take you from step 1 to step 10 and teach you the things you need to know to build and maintain vibrant health. Some of the things that I mentioned in the introduction - such as adrenal fatigue, food sensitivities, and the mucosal membrane barrier - probably do not mean anything to you now; but down the road, they will. I only wanted to put them out there to let you know where we will be headed on our journey. However, each journey begins with a single step, and ours will begin with some basic parameters you can use to evaluate your state of general health.
I have been using nutrition as a successful weapon in such athletic endeavors as powerlifting, running, swimming, sprint triathlons, special operations military training, and then back to powerlifting. Has it made a difference for me? Unequivocally, yes. How? Primarily by increasing my ability to recover from and be prepared for the next workout. I can also say that the quality of life that I experience today is directly related to how well I took (and continue to take) care of myself nutritionally. Is it easy? It does take work, and it is an ongoing process. The foods that I currently eat are different from the foods that I was eating six months ago. Not entirely different, but the ratios (protein/carbs/fats) have changed, and I have changed some things that suit my metabolic rate and metabolic type for my current situation.
Over the course of several articles, it is my objective to teach you the things that I have learned along the way, how to properly identify your metabolic type, and how you can apply these things to yourself and those around you. Some of this may sound a bit unconventional, hokey, new age, or just too troublesome. However, if you at least read what I have to say, I can assure you that you will take away at least one principle that you will apply for the rest of your life.
In order to achieve optimal health, we must first check and see how strong our foundation is. Just like any good workout template, we must first have the basics in place. Yes, we have all heard of these factors before; but if I did not believe that they were important enough to call our “health foundation blocks” then I would not have included them. These three indicators are your insulin level, ideal blood pressure, and cholesterol level or cholesterol ratio. These three indicators can tell you so much about your own state of health, how aggressively you need to change your dietary and exercise habits in order to maximize yourself in (training) and out (recovering) of the gym, and improve your quality of life.
Before we determine how we will go about testing insulin levels, let’s first discuss insulin. The small intestine is responsible for separating glucose (sugar) from the dietary carbohydrates that we ingest. Once the glucose is free, it enters and is absorbed into the blood. Most adults have close to a gallon of blood in their bodies, and roughly only a teaspoon of sugar (1). If your blood sugar level were to rise to a tablespoon, you would go into a coma and certainly die. Our bodies work very hard to prohibit this from happening by producing appropriate amounts of insulin. Insulin acts on the cellular level in our bodies to stimulate the uptake, use, and storage of the glucose (sugar) that we just ate from the carbohydrates. This action keeps us from dying when we ingest sugar. However, high (inappropriate) levels of insulin are bad for us.
Whenever we decide to eat grains and sugars, we end up increasing our insulin levels. Increased insulin levels can lead and help contribute to diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity. There are two types of diabetes: insulin dependent (type 1) and non-insulin dependent (type 2). This article is referencing the most common type, type 2. In type 2, the insulin receptors fail to respond the way that they should to the insulin that our bodies secrete from eating carbohydrates (sugar). Therefore, we continue to secrete more and more insulin. This is bad news.
The best way to find out our insulin levels is to request a fasting blood sugar test (FBS) from a doctor. It is a simple blood withdrawal after a fast of at least six hours. Personally, I prefer and recommend at least eight. It is a relatively inexpensive test that should not require much of your time. Normal levels for a fasting blood sugar test are around 87mg/dL, but anything below 90 is fine. Clinically, type 2 diabetes is not diagnosed until levels reach or exceed 126mg/dL, but you should be very concerned with anything at or slightly above 100mg/dL, regardless of what is considered “normal range”. This is a direct indicator that you are becoming increasingly insulin resistant (your receptors are failing, as we discussed above) and that it is becoming harder and harder for your body to control your blood sugar. Blurred vision, excessive hunger, excessive thirst, excessive urination, and difficulty with wound healing are all symptoms that may indicate that you are insulin resistant. Now do you see why controlling insulin levels are so important?
With the drug companies promoting statin drugs (Lipitor, etc) more than ever, most people are confused about cholesterol. Actually, cholesterol is a vital component of every cell membrane on this planet. Without cholesterol, there would be no life on earth. I would say that is important, wouldn’t you? Cholesterol is also needed to make estrogen, testosterone, cortisone, and just about every other vital hormone you can think of. The majority of cholesterol in one’s bloodstream is manufactured from the liver. The amount of dietary cholesterol has little to do with your cholesterol levels. Please read that statement again and repeat it out loud. The cholesterol that you are consuming in eggs has little to do with your cholesterol levels. We will discuss the importance of cholesterol again when we talk about the steroidal hormone principle pathways and the functions of the adrenal glands.
When you go to get your cholesterol levels checked, the total cholesterol is measured and expressed in milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL). HDL and LDL levels are also given. What I want you to be more concerned with is not total cholesterol, but the ratio of HDL to total cholesterol. HDL has been referred to as “good cholesterol” and LDL “bad cholesterol”. These are misnomers, as HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein, and LDL is low-density lipoprotein. Lipoproteins are proteins that are combined with fats. Therefore, there really are no such things as good and bad cholesterol. There is just cholesterol. However, all of these levels are important. Simply put, the lower your LDL levels the better.
More importantly, let’s look at the ratio of HDL to total cholesterol that I mentioned above. On the “average”, HDL levels for males should range from 40-50mg/dL. In women, the levels are 50-60mg/dL. It is important to note that progesterone and anabolics, specifically exogenous testosterone lower HDL levels. In order to determine your ratio, take your total cholesterol level and divide that by your HDL level. For example, if your total cholesterol level is 200mg/dL and your HDL level is 50, then 200 divided by 50 gives you a number of 4. The American Heart Association states that the goal is to keep this number below 5, but I believe that the cut-off point should be 4. The lower the number the better it is. There is a rare genetic condition (1 in 500) known as hypercholesterolemia where cholesterol levels are usually around 350 or higher. Obviously, if this is the case for you, immediately contact an experienced natural health care clinician.
I believe that there are other indicators that are much more reliable predictors of heart disease than cholesterol that we will discuss in one of the upcoming articles, but I wanted to say a bit about it in general since many folks are “up” on their cholesterol readings.
Finally, we need to look at blood pressure. As our hearts pump blood, it is pushed through our arteries and against our arterial walls. Blood pressure is measured by cardiac output, or the force with which blood is pumped out of the left ventricle and the amount of resistance that is encountered (2). Blood pressure is expressed as two numbers. For example, “normal” blood pressure is 120/80 mm Hg. The first number is systolic pressure, and it measures the pressure within the arteries when your heart beats. Systolic pressure increases steadily with age. Diastolic pressure measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest, between beats, and filling with blood.
There are many different opinions on what is considered an optimum blood pressure. If I had to define it, I would say that it would be less than 120 over 80, but the take-home point is that it should be as low as possible. What is not disputable is that when taken accurately, elevated blood pressure makes the heart work harder. This leads to increasing its oxygen demands and a whole host of other problems that we simply do not want. It is interesting to note that I have been unable to find, and other prominent doctors in the field have pointed out, that not a single clinical trial has ever proven that lowering an elevated systolic blood pressure reduces the risk for death due to coronary disease (3). Why is this? Simply, the cause of high blood pressure cannot always be identified.
When a disease is treated, we first identify and then treat its cause. The problem with high blood pressure is that there seems to be many plausible causes. The high insulin levels that we discussed previously are one of the main factors that contribute to high blood pressure. Insulin resistance can increase blood pressure by causing the kidneys to retain sodium. Stress, tension and anxiety, excess caffeine, diet, regular alcohol intake, carrying too much body fat (but how much is too much?), anabolic use, and fat burners (yohimbine, ephedrine, guarana, etc.) can contribute to the problem as well. It is my belief, however, that following a nutrition plan that is correct for you, such as Metabolic Typing® (which we will discuss in the next article) will go a long way in lowering and controlling blood pressure as well as many other “problems”.
Finding a way to manage stress that works for you is essential as well. For some, this may be praying, meditating, or listening to soothing music. I have some personal things that I do to manage stress that seem to work very well, and I mention some of them in the opening paragraph of this article. If you would like to know some of these techniques, I can provide you with the key words to search under so that you may do your own research, find your own conclusions, and apply what works for you. Finally, I believe that walking can do miracles for lowering blood pressure. I recommend working your way up to one hour of low impact exercise, such as walking, at least three times per week and preferably every day.
When you go to get your blood pressure taken, it is recommended that you get at least two readings before you leave. These two readings should be divided by as much time as possible, and you should not take the first one until you have been sitting and relaxing for at least five minutes. It is very important to know that your arm position can directly impact your reading. Make sure your arm is perpendicular to your body and supported at the level of the heart. In other words, pretend like you are doing a phantom bench press at your desk, but only with one side. You do not want your arm hanging straight down or parallel. If this initial reading is high or not pleasing to you, have the next reading taken while lying on your back. After this reading is taken, go ahead and trouble the nurse or doctor again by requesting to have one more done standing to see if there are notable differences. If there are not, then you can assume that the readings are not influenced by your posture and are fairly accurate. If you are still reading high or are still displeased, go through the same drill a week or so later, only this time have all of the readings taken in the opposite arm as before. Now make a comparison and draw your own conclusions. It is safe to say that whichever arm is higher is the one that you should monitor.
Something that often gets overlooked in the powerlifting and weightlifting community is the fact that most have measurements that are larger than “average”, especially in the arms. The width of the cuff should be about forty percent of the circumference (completely around) of the unflexed arm (4). For example, if you have 20-inch arms, then the width of the cuff should be around 8 inches. Yes, I want you to take a tape measure with you and check the cuff for yourself. If the cuff is considerably smaller than what your measurements call for, and they do not have any that are larger, then simply note to yourself that this reading may be skewed.
If you believe that the readings you have taken are accurate and that they are high, then I suggest you buy a reliable automated electronic device to check your blood pressure at home. Make sure that the one you buy has the appropriate cuff for your arm. Many quality models will cost between fifty and one hundred dollars. If feasible, you should calibrate your machine against the one in your doctor’s office. Testing at home allows you to check at various times of the day and rules out “white-coat” syndrome, or being anxious at the doctor’s office. You can take as many readings as you would like, but four times per day should suffice.
Now that you are armed with the knowledge of what to do for an initial assessment of your health, I urge you to put the wheels in motion…today! After you have made your determination based on your tests, it is then time to take the next steps to improve upon these conditions. For some of you, the process will not be so urgent. For others, we will need to make some immediate changes.
The most efficient and most effective way to start this is through a proper, individualized diet. Trust me, when we discuss Metabolic Typing® you will be very interested to learn how one man’s food can certainly be another man’s poison. If you think broccoli is healthy for everybody across the board, then think again. Metabolic Typing® teaches you how to choose the foods that work best with your body and why. I do not want you thinking strictly in terms of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. That is seeing the forest before the trees. Metabolic Typing® will be a very fun, ongoing journey because it is a self-discovery process. Once you discover how to apply Metabolic Typing®, everything changes. You will look and feel better, enjoy better health, and you will be stronger in the gym than ever. Stay tuned…
About Eric Talmant
Eric Talmant is a top lightweight powerlifter and has a “passion for all things nutrition.” A 1996 graduate of the University of Evansville, Eric is a certified Metabolic Typing® advisor and Functional Diagnostic nutritionist. Talmant is certified to offer the Advanced Metabolic Typing® Test as well as order blood work (the Signet MRT Test, U.S. BioTek ELISA IgG allergy test, the High Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein heart health test, and the BioHealth Diagnostics Adrenal and Hormone Profiles to name a few) and dispense hormones.
Eric has competed in the ADFPA, NASA, AAPF, APF, APA, the WPO, and the Raw Unity Meet. He holds the APF Florida state men’s open equipped squat record of 678 pounds. He has been ranked in the top in the 75K class among all raw lifters in the United States for the past two years and he was a top equipped lifter in the two years before that.
His best-equipped lifts are a 683-pound squat, 391-pound bench press, and a 650-pound deadlift in the 75kg (165-pound) weight class. His best raw lifts to date are 485-pound squat without knee wraps, 290-pound bench press, and 635-pound deadlift.
He is also the founder and contest director of the Raw Unity Meet, which experienced great success in 2008 and 2009.
Talmant brings a unique skill set and 16 years of nutritional experience to his sponsors BMF Sports, Ultra Life, Inc., Critical Bench, and Titan Support Systems. He lives in rural Spring Hill, Florida, and can be reached through his web site at www.EricTalmant.com.
1. R. Bowen, “The Physiologic Effects of Insulin”-Personal Notes from Nutrition Lecture.