HPN 34: Holistic Winter Prep — Light Therapy, Protein Goals, Hydration Needs and More, Plus: Julie’s Rut 50k Race Reflections

October 21, 2022


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Intro Banter

  • Tawnee shares about how dancing has been therapeutic for her during this season of pregnancy, and also really helpful for her body from a movement perspective, opening up hips, etc.

Julie’s Rut 50k Race Reflections 

  • After a great summer, the air quality (AQI) was really bad the day of The Rut 50k, adding another difficult element to outdoor endurance events.
  • The day before–Julie was supporting her partner in her race the day before her own and the toll that took on Julie, as she shares, but why she wouldn’t change a thing.
  • Motivation: On not being excited when she signed up for this race back in January. Her motivation was to learn from past mistakes and improve on her execution and results… but she learned that was not meaningful enough to keep her excited all year for the training.
  • Even so, she stuck with it and had a really strong race, ran faster, climbed the rankings and had an overall much better experience (fitness-wise etc) than last year.
  • In particular she was very strong in the second half of the race, which was new for her. This had her questioning whether she went hard enough and if she left anything out there? Perhaps this is just a sign maturing as an athlete and not going out there to just wreck herself. 
  • The biggest post-race struggle for Julie was not soreness or fatigue, but a mental hangup: She was more proud of herself last year than this year. We dissect that.
  • On nasal breathing while racing and the benefits.
  • Drinking coke and healing the disordered eating mindset: This year she was much less stressed about the food/drinks she was wiling to have on course, in particular being more open to coke and drinking it this year whereas last year she wouldn’t even allow herself to drink it.

Holistic Winter Prep

Light Therapy and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

  • Different types of light can influence immune function, inflammatory response (can benefit), mood/depression and circadian rhythm. In winter, those up north especially but in general we lose a lot of natural light exposure and this affects us to varying degrees.
    • Different wavelengths have different benefits.
  • Sunlight exposure = helps serotonin production.
  • More traditional SAD light boxes have blue light and/or full-spectrum light… but what about red light over white light in winter?
  • SAD lamps can provide that extra light we lack in winter, but they are a big dose of blue light so running these all day may not be the best for your circadian rhythm, especially running them in evening.
  • Meanwhile, white light from some light boxes is the full spectrum and may just be too much/overstimulate the eyes, is this actually unnecessary or even harmful?
  • Maybe use SAD lamps more strategically like in AM to mimic early morning sun? but not all the time nor later in the day.
  • Research showing us that red lights still provide the same kind of needed natural light w/o blue light issues.
  • Red light = wavelengths that you would get from the sun, but without UV rays, and can help with things like SAD:
  • More on SAD lamps vs red lamps, a comparison.
  • Red light benefits beyond SAD
    • Increase cellular energy: Mitochondrial health; when mito exposed to red led increased ATP – great for athletes!
    • Healing
    • Skin health (collagen, beauty, etc)
    • Arthritis and other health conditions
    • Helps eye health
    • Gut health/microbiome restoration??
  • Red Light Dosage?
    • Doesn’t take much! Once a day, 3-5 days a week, or daily, for up to 20 min. That’s it and what the bulk of research indicates at this point.
    • However, probably no negative effects if you did more. (Any day outside at the beach gives a much higher dose of full spectrum light (joules)).
    • Can also work your way up; start with 5-10min and build.
  • What about a combo of both lamps—both a SAD light box and red lamp??
    • Start with the bright light early on in the morning/day then switch to a red light in the later hours as to not negatively affect circadian rhythm.
    • Cortisol awakening response – getting bright light/sunlight first thing in the morning to help circadian rhythm, aids in adrenal fatigue recovery.
    • Tawnee and Julie’s (limited) experience with red light therapy.
    • Sauna can help with detox, retraining muscle mass in downtime—combine with red light?
  • Study: Transcranial Photobiomodulation for the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder. The ELATED-2 Pilot Trial
    • Photobiomodulation (PBM), a natural, non-invasive therapy that delivers beneficial wavelengths of light to your skin and cells.
    • Transcranial photobiomodulation (t-PBM) consists of delivering near infrared radiation (NIR)—or red light—to the scalp of the patient, which penetrates the skull and modulates function of the adjacent cortical areas of the brain. PBM with red light and/or NIR appears to increase brain metabolism (by activating the cytochrome C oxidase in the mitochondria), to increase neuroplasticity, and to modulate endogenous opioids, while decreasing inflammation and oxidative stress.20–26 t-PBM penetrates deeply into the cerebral cortex,27–29 modulates cortical excitability,30,31 and improves cerebral perfusion32–34 and oxygenation.35 Studies have suggested that it can significantly improve cognition in healthy subjects,36–38 and in subjects with traumatic brain injury (TBI).
    • What they did:
      • Small sample size: 21 total in control and experimental groups, but several were lost along the way.
      • 8 week intervention, 16 sessions, between 20-30 min each session (increased as study went on), applied lights to heads (lights literally wrapped around their head)
      • The device used for this study emitted NIR at a wavelength of 823 nm
      • The exposure time was designed to allow a fluence of 60 Joule per cm, despite relatively low power density (irradiance) of 33.2 milliwatt per cm.
      • Lights exhibited anti-depressant properties in those with major depression; fairly well tolerated with none of the adverse events causing study discontinuation
      • The beneficial effect of t-PBM (NIR) on brain metabolism is the primary putative mechanism for its antidepressant effect.
  • Takeaway:
    • There’s never just one thing that is going to change and fix all your problems, but red light therapy use is promising for many applications
  • Next level: Vitamin D Lamps
    • Another winter option for those who may benefit–these do have UVB rays not naturally generate vitamin D in the body, but may be overkill for most–are we actually depleting that much Vitamin D over the winter?
    • Most of us probably don’t need a Vitamin D lamp, but there are situations when it may make sense for someone.
    • Tawnee did a self-experiment on her own D levels last winter: measured in October and then again in March and D levels remained stable with some supplementation and no D from the sun for a long duration.

Hydration in Winter

  • Thirst mechanism changes in winter.
  • Lose water through respiration when outdoors.
  • Baseline of hydration (before accounting for exercise): Drink 1/2 your bodyweight in ounces per day.
  • Might not be drenched in sweat but you still need water and electrolytes! We lose water through respiration, urination and sweating. The dry, cold air causes our body’s fluids to evaporate faster.
  • Indicators you are not getting enough water: dry skin, dry or chapped lips, dark urine, constipation, feeling faint or tired, low blood pressure, and decreased appetite.
  • “As the temperature drops, we lose more water and heat through our lungs to humidify and heat the air we breathe. Specifically, depending upon the humidity, at 0˚C (32˚F), we can lose anywhere from 20-30% more water through our lungs compared to 20˚C (68˚F), and from 40-50% more water compared to when the temperature is at 30˚C (86˚F).” – Skratch Labs Article
  • Lots of great electrolyte options on the market these days or make your own:
    • Around 1/8th tsp salt* with 1 tsp maple syrup** in 16-20 ounces of water.
    • (Equates to ~250mg sodium, ~5g carb and some potassium).
    • *Himalayan pink salt, Celtic Sea Salt
    • **Maple is lower fructose; can use honey if no fructose issues
  • Can even throw in some coconut water.
  • Supplement with magnesium at night as needed.
  • If you’re not keeping up with your hydration in winter, try setting a timer to remind you when training or working out.

Protein Needs in Winter

  • First off, it depends on what kind of winter/offseason you’re planning.
    • Will you still be training for an early-season race in 2023? Are you focusing on a strength training program as you pause the endurance and looking to build lean muscle mass and/or lose fat? Or are you planning a full-blown offseason with minimal everything/maintenance?
    • Even if you are planning a “sedentary” winter that doesn’t mean to follow RDA bare minimums for protein, as this is not necessarily what is optimal for health and athletes.
  • Muscle protein balance
    • The body requires 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram bodyweight per day.
    • Athletes, older people up to about 1.6 grams per kilogram bodyweight daily.
    • Meanwhile the RDA is only about 0.8 g/kg/bw.
    • RDA may prevent deficiency but it is not geared toward optimization. 
  • ISSN position stand: ​​”For building muscle mass and for maintaining muscle mass through a positive muscle protein balance, an overall daily protein intake in the range of 1.4-2.0 g protein/kg body weight/day (g/kg/d) is sufficient for most exercising individuals;” or about 20-40g per meal.
  • Tracking?
    • Our big “beef” with these guidelines/ranges is our disdain for food logging and/or measuring food. So how do we find a happy medium to ensure you’re getting enough protein without it being mentally detrimental?
    • Food logging for 1-3 days may work some people, when they’re at a place of being more objective about it with a mindset of nourishing one’s self as needed (not seeing it as a means to restrict or cut)
    • If you can food log for purely educational purposes and not be emotionally and subjectively wrapped up in the numbers that could work.
    • Food photos can work when you’re working with a nutritionist or coach. It’s not “hard data” but gives a really good idea when you need the feedback.
    • But there are times when someone is looking to heal, e.g. break up with their food log, and should not even be measuring protein in winter, for example… maybe it’s best to focus on the process of letting go of the food log, then down the line you can fine tune things like protein intake.
  • LEUCINE & Essential Amino acids 
    • BCAAs as a whole may be a bit pointless, the more we learn, but not leucine, which is shown in research to be effective and “acute protein doses should strive to contain 700-3,000 mg of leucine and/or a higher relative leucine content while training;” or 2-4 g in offseason/general diet.
    • However, Leucine likely won’t help preserve your muscle if inactive
    • Overall maintain  balanced EAAs and you’re likely to be getting enough so you don’t need to measure these things.
  • Add Vitamin D?
    • Not only a lack in winter from lack of sun exposure, but D may help aid in MPS. Get levels checked to decide proper dosage needs. Thorne D3/K2 or Biotics Research D3 or D3/K2.
      “Vitamin D inadequacy or deficiency is associated with muscle fibre atrophy, increased risk of chronic musculoskeletal pain, sarcopenia and associated falls, and may also decrease RMR.”
  • Add omega-3?
  • Lastly, protein is so grounding and therefore benefits mental health in winter… little things like sipping bone broth this time of year is a great option.
  • This winter check out Fullscript to help your supplement needs (and receive an exclusive discount when you sign up through EP):
    • Nordic Naturals
    • Thorne Vitamin D3/K2 drops
    • PerfectAmino
    • Electrolytes

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