Der Mensch ist, was er ißt (A man is what he easts)

The Nov. 18 RunnersRoundTable featured a Canadian named Yuri Elkaim. He has a bunch of websites, some of which are aimed at those seeking to lose weight and has a line of treadmill-training podcasts. “Interval Training iPod Workouts to Help You RUN FASTER, Farther, and Longer Than Ever With Just 2 Runs Per Week…Or Your Money Back!”

The topic of nutrition arose. Here’s a follow-up email exchange (me in italics):

Toni [RRT’s top honcha],

There were several items that were brought up on today’s show that I think could use clarification. I went to Yuri Elkaim’s site but, alas, there is no email address. I’d like to email him directly or have you forward this. I’m sure he can set my mind at ease about a couple of points.

In particular, I believe he said that raw food digests more easily than cooked food. Now I’m no scientist, but based upon the recent “Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human” — an excellent read by the way which includes reference to the evolution of the human foot — I understand that in fact cooked food digests with far less energy use than does raw food and that homo sapiens are unique in the animal kingdom because they do eat cooked food and, accordingly, use less energy for digestion, had more energy to devote to other uses (specifically the development of larger, more energy-intensive brains, and have a far smaller digestive system than do other animals (or pre-cooking ancestors). Hence the notion that raw food diets are preferable because animals in the wild follow them is wrong.

I raised this question several times in the chatroom but, alas, it was missed. This is distinct from the eat-more-fruits-and-vegetable point, with which I agree.

Similarly, Matt, the other resident skeptic in the chatroom (I’m cc:ing him), questioned Mr. Elkaim’s comment about acid and alkaline in food. Matt [Tartar, of DumpRunners fame] linked to an article “Acid/Alkaline Theory of Disease Is Nonsense.” I confess to even less knowledge about this, but I think it is something that warrants a response from Mr. Elkaim, if only to, you know, explain why it’s not nonsense.

Again, I’d appreciate getting his email address or forwarding this to him for his response, which I’m sure will clear things up for me. I may do a post on it.

Finally, as to interval training which you raised as to your own training, it is a useful part of any training regimen. But it is only a part. Taking training to the next level requires a judicious mix of all of the types of training (long runs, intervals, repeats, tempos), and application of them in an intelligent manner. So an interval is not simply “run as fast as you can for a bit and then rest.” I hate to see anyone identify any single workout or type of workout as the silver bullet.

Joe Garland

Hey Joe,

I understand that you need some clarification based on some of the stuff we discussed on yesterday’s call.

First off, I don’t understand how cooked foods are easier to digest than raw foods??? I haven’t read the book you refer to but my from my own knowledge and research raw foods are easier for the body to digest because they are loaded with food enzymes, intact “recognizable” nutrients, and require less energy and water to be broken down.

The only caveat to this is that some people have a tough time digesting the more fibrous vegetables like celery, brocolli, etc…

Second, the acid/alkaline theory is a big concept in health and disease prevention.

These are concepts which I discuss in my book and I would rather not spend more time than this email to debate over this stuff.

No matter how much research you do you’ll always find opposite views. Find what works for you. That’s my best recommendation.

In regards to interval training, I wrote a blog post about it on my blog this morning. Here you go:

Hope that helps.

Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN
Owner, Total Wellness Consulting
Author, Eating for Energy

Mr. Elkaim,

Thanks for the response. Again, I’m no expert, and I recommend “Catching Fire” to you. It details the studies concerning the digestion of food, raw v. cooked. Also, a quick Google search (“digestion of raw food”) found a 2000 article “Raw vs. Cooked” that discusses the enzyme theory and says there is no evidence to support it. That people on raw-food diets lose weight also suggests that raw foods require more energy to digest as does the fact that the human digestive system is materially shorter than that for all other animals (all of which eat just raw food) is also consistent with that book’s thesis.

But we need not resolve this here. I just wish we had the chance to have you discuss it on the show. I do agree on the importance of a balanced diet and the avoidance of junk foods (well, in excess at least). I do not agree, however, that in science “you’ll always find opposite views.” I mean, sure, you’ll find creationists out there, but their rants don’t compromise the theory of evolution.

Also, I’ll comment on your “interval” post on your site.

Finally, Toni has asked me to post this thread on the RunnersRoundTable webpage, and I trust that’s alright with you. I’ll probably also post something on my blog.

Joe Garland

Sure thing sounds good Joe.

Thanks for the reference.

As noted, I posted a comment on his interval post, which describes:

    Interval Protocol #1
    1. Sprint for 10 seconds
    2. Jog for 30 seconds
    – repeat for 20 minutes

    Interval Protocol #2
    1. Run at 90% for 2 minutes
    2. Jog for 1 minute
    – repeat for 20 minutes

My comment:

    I don’t think your Interval Protocols #1 or #2 qualify as interval workouts as runners understand them. Or at least as I understand them.

    Protocol #2 is a tempo run, which is designed to improve one’s lactate threshold.

    I don’t know what Protocol #1 is designed for. It is too fast to be an interval and too short to be a repeat.

    I use terminology adapted from “Daniels’ Running Formula.” In that world, an interval workout is designed to improve one’s VO2max. To reach the max, and thereby stress it for adaptation, one must run for a certain period and limit the recovery. The recover is the “interval.” In its simplest manifestation, one runs for 5 minutes. From scratch, it takes 3 minutes to reach one’s VO2max. Five minutes allows for 2 minutes in that zone. One takes a somewhat shorter, i.e., under 5 minute, break before the next.

    Alternatively, one can run 400s. But that doesn’t get into the VO2max zone except that if one shortens the interval one doesn’t fully recover and one doesn’t start the next one from scratch. So, e.g., one workout I do (corresponding to a Daniels workout, is 16 X 400 at 80 w/ 40 sec. break. (The data for this are set forth at page 125 of Daniels’ Running Formula, 2nd ed.)

    The third variable, after distance and interval, is speed. I get to the 80 seconds not randomly but because it corresponds to the appropriate pace for someone who is in 35:30 10K shape. When I was younger and faster, the pace would be quicker as well. And every bit of running, from first to last, is at the same pace. Were I to do the first ones too fast, the last ones would be too slow. (This calculation is based up the “Running Formula” whence the book gets its name.)

    Now it may well be that “90%” matches one’s interval pace, but I can’t say since I don’t know what it is 90% of. And your description of the purpose matches tempo runs.

    The formula tells me that my pace in a tempo run, which would be ideally 20 minutes, about 88/400. The pace is slower because the system being stressed differs from the one being stressed in an interval workout.

    As to protocol #1, given the full recovery, I don’t know how one will get to the VO2max. Indeed, a third type of workout is the repeat, in which you run faster than in an interval workout and have full recovery, which works the anaerobic system as well (and more importantly) one’s form.

    In a sense your #1 is more akin to short, steep hill workouts. Brad Hudson describes these — 8 seconds (later extended to 10 and then 12 seconds) “at maximal intensity on the steepest hill we can find.” The purpose of this workout, however, is to build strength and to “increase the power and efficiency of the stride.” (Run Faster, at 35.) They are more like weightlifting and I periodically supplement my other workouts (or sometimes do part of a workout on a track and then head up a nearby hill) with them. By definition they are full recovery since it takes a while to jog back down the hill.

    Perhaps it is more akin to a short hill workout that some coaches add as an element of a t

    Now I don’t know any serious runner, of which I count myself one, who does not do interval workouts as well as tempo runs. Repeats are rarer.

    In the end, my point is that pointing to a single workout as the key is silly since each workout has to be part of a whole. I’m sure you recognize that, but I took from RunnersRoundTable (and I apologize that I was disconnected for a brief portion of the discussion) that interval training was being suggested as something more than it was, and it also seems that your use is inconsistent with the terms as commonly (albeit not universally) understood. The degree to which one does these various types of workouts also varies by the events for which one is aiming. I would do only a few interval workouts in marathon training and many more if I was shooting for a 5K since the need to push one’s VO2max in a race won’t arise in the former as it will in the latter.

    And, of course (and I’m sure this is done elsewhere on your site) it is crucial that one define the pace of any workout and also not to have everyone simply do it at X pace. The Goldilocks principle applies, not-too-fast/not-too-slow.