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Ultra Endurance Exercise: Nutrient Deficiency in Magnesium, Iodine, Iron, Copper, Zinc, Selenium, Chromium?

Most of the population is already deficient or highly deficient in key things, like magnesium, Vitamin D3, Vitamin K2, etc.

My working theory (with a considerable amount of science to support it, albeit unfocused science) is that not just some but MOST health issue derive from nutrient deficiency. Pile on insults to the body like high sugar consumption and trans fats, and a myriad of poor health outcomes can be expected from an organism with nutrient deficiency—insult to injury is Bad News. Isn’t it obvious just how poor the health of people is today in the USA in particular? Just walk into any Walmart and it’s a very sad state of affairs to witness.

My hit-and-miss performance

I’ve been an ultra endurance athlete for around 11 years now. During that time I have had on-days and off-days, never quite sure why, but pretty sure it had to do with nutrition.

When things are working well, I am highly competitive in my age group, such as in my decisive solo win (no drafting) in the 2015 Central Coast Double highland route—an exceptional day for me—and I don’t why it all came together so well. If only I could extract that kind of performance every time. Heck, that kind of high-grade performance would be awesomely satisfying even 1/3 of the time—so why have’t I achieved that, ever? It’s more like 1 in 10 at best, and that is not satisfactory.

Tailwind Nutrition sports drink endurance fuel

Many of my doubles (not all), I had gut distress but when I switched to Tailwind for my double centuries, all of my gut distress issues went away for the past 15 or so double centuries, never to return.

So clearly the stuff I had been using for the first 37 or so doubles was not a good choice for me and the Tailwind has been beneficial, and I think it is the electrolyte mix in it. Also, the severe muscle cramps are gone now with Tailwind, supporting the idea of electrolyte depletion now being solved. But a symptom averted does not mean it is enough for optimal performance or optimal health or recovery.

I also wonder whether, at 14mg per serving, Tailwind has partially offset magnesium deficiency due to exercise, since I typically use 3 servings per 1L of water, so that’s 52g magnesium in just one 1L water bottle in the form of Magnesium Citrate, which is alleged to have about 60% bioavailability—quite good, though a far cry from ReMag. It would mean that my consumption of 7 to 12 liters in a double century would be Mg supplementation of 364g to 624g over the course of the double—probably enough to offset all losses. While the prior product I used also had magnesium (“chelate”, unspecified molecule), it also contained Xylitol and I could never tolerate it towards the end.

Nutrient deficiency in athletes

I’ve been looking at how to maximize recovery and performance so as to have a “good day” reliably. A key step in that process is looking at nutrient deficiency in a host of elements, which are heavily depleted by intensive training and especially during double centuries. I am pretty sure that most of my issues revolve around deficiencies, which impair recovery, lung function, metabolism, and brain function too.

I came across this summary article which tends to confirm my suspicions—there is no way that even the best diet could replace enough of what is lost by intensive exercise, particularly magnesium which is highly deficient in the modern food supply—one just cannot eat enough to get enough of some nutrients, certainly not under extreme exercise loads. Ditto for iodine and other key elements.

Plus, a deficiency in just one element can screw up the critical balance within cells and with numerous metabolic processes. For example, too little magnesium relative to calcium can lead to calcification of the body especially arteries, which might explain my miserable coronary artery calcium score. Moreover, therapeutic magnesium levels might actually be able to reverse coronary artery calcification.

The Effect of Exercise and Heat on Mineral Metabolism and Requirements

Prolonged strenuous exercise can result in marked changes in chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, and zinc metabolism. Evidence of these changes can persist for several days after the exercise is discontinued. Some of the observed changes in plasma mineral concentrations may be attributed in part to an acute-phase response, which occurs as a result of tissue trauma or stress. Reductions in plasma mineral concentrations may also in part reflect an increased loss of these minerals from the body via urine and sweat. The increased rate of mineral loss that occurs in sweat with exercise is amplified by the simultaneous exposure to hot temperatures.

Given the above observations, the following questions emerge: do endurance-associated changes in mineral metabolism result in some or all of the following:

  • a compromised endurance capacity?
  • a compromised immune defense system?
  • a compromised antioxidant defense system?
  • a slower rate of recovery from injury?

Additional work on the influence of prolonged exposure to strenuous exercise and heat is urgently needed. The influence of diet on the above changes in mineral metabolism, or whether dietary manipulations may attenuate some of the negative consequences of these changes, is an area of research that needs to be expanded.

Reading the paper, note well the blood serum levels of nutrients are a very poor way to gauge nutrient deficiency, since they gyrate wildly for many reasons. A good example of this is magnesium, 99% of which is stored in body tissues. So blood serum tests are scientific garbage when it comes to assessing deficiency of key minerals, and why (for example) a magnesium RBC test is far superior.

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