Wellness

Recovering From Hard Races

Unnatural damage requires an unnatural level of support and therapeutic practices for recovery. When it comes to recovering from hard races, your best bet is to throw all you can at it!

  1. Enter the race as healthy as possible.

    I recently coached a friend for his first marathon with a short runway—about 10 weeks. Needless to say, he was “trashed” afterwards. But he made it in just over 4-hours and had caught the bug! Now, with his very minimalist training plan, he continues to run a marathon per month and keeps beating his personal record by at least a minute or two. Humorously, his body feels so strangely good after each race that he’s been wondering if something is wrong with him.

    Entering a race with training that maximizes structural, metabolic, and respiratory efficiency, while reducing both the trauma to soft tissues and excess fatigue to the nervous system, is the way to exit the race feeling fine by about Tuesday.

  2. Ensure adequate electrolyte intake pre-race, during, and post-race.

    In addition to smart training, a half teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate dissolved in water each morning throughout your training, then a little bit extra leading into a big race or event, is a great protocol to support your body’s ability to buffer lactic acid. Furthermore, you can really optimize your body’s electrolyte status with regular consumption of sea minerals, or by simply adding pink salt to all your purified water—especially during a race.

  3. Cold exposure. Cold exposure halts a lot of the inflammation in the legs and entire body following a tough race. Since so many races are in the middle of nowhere, plan on filling your hotel room bathtub with ice and at least giving your legs a soak. If possible, find a Russian Bathhouse or Cryo Lab for full-body cold immersion. If you have access to a sauna, even better! On recovery days, I go back and forth between my Sunlighten infrared sauna (for 5-10 minutes) to the ice bath (for 1-2 minutes) for about an hour.

  4. Sports massage, recovery boots, or foam rolling. I really like Normatec recovery boots to help flush the legs of toxins and acidity following hard bouts. Of course, hands-on therapy from a professional is the optimal choice after a hard race, but that’s not often possible or convenient for athletes within an hour of crossing the finish line. The boots travel reasonably well and the quicker you can get them on, the better. These are worth the investment for the Type-A endurance athlete running hard races with some frequency. If you are running a single or just a handful of races, or simply want to opt for the “Poor Man’s Normatecs,” just go with a foam roller.

  5. Soak up the Magnesium. Topical magnesium oils or lotions, or even magnesium bath salts are a great hack for reviving a physically run-down body. Magnesium helps improve energy production and reduces muscle damage. In topical form, it also allows for higher doses without the GI distress that often comes from oral consumption.

  6. Self-massage. After a hard race, the body is truly recovering from trauma. With trauma, whether it’s physical or emotional, the benefits of human touch are profound—even if that touch is your own. As a self-care practice, I will often sit in my infrared sauna or stand in a hot shower and give much of my body a massage. I focus on the upper traps, the hands and feet, the gut, and the lower legs and will often use some coconut oil to improve the depth I can achieve.

  7. Nutrition. Consuming adequate carbohydrates and high-quality protein in the hours following a hard race are essential to kickstarting your recovery. This will support the replenishment of glycogen stores and kickstart protein synthesis to repair your beatdown muscles. In addition to the macronutrients required after a hard race, I would double-down on many of the supplements I speak about with some frequency, such as curcumin, vitamin D, and colostrum. On occasion, and when I’m near a high-quality west coast grocer, I’ll even opt for this Raw Milk Kefir Golden Milk.

  8. Movement. Whenever there’s a bodily injury, which is exactly what “feeling trashed” is (just low-grade and widespread as opposed to localized and highly painful), movement is key to maintaining blood flow and flushing the area. Even after a hard race, going against what your brain is telling you and walking around as much as possible in minimalist shoes will have you back in action faster than the couch will.

Keep in mind that part and parcel with recovery is beginning with the end in mind: proper nutrition and training pre-race is paramount to your post-race recovery. I hope my post-race recovery protocol helps you in your next race—big or small!

 
 
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Joe DiStefano

Joe has been a wellness and performance coach for over 15 years. His teachings focus on engraining profound mindset shifts, giving individuals the courage and the tools to align their actions with their objectives throughout daily life.

 

Exercise is a Stressor—And You May Be Overtraining

Every beat of your heart is influenced by your nervous system. The nervous system’s sympathetic branch, vigilant in every moment, is responsible for maximizing our safety. The sympathetic initiates physiological responses and adaptations to stressors and threats from our environment. Meanwhile, our default branch, the parasympathetic, is striving to quiet the sympathetic and direct as many resources as possible towards optimizing repair, digestion, detoxification, and hormonal balance.

Today, the sympathetic nervous system is frequently overwhelmed with threats coming from all directions—occupational stressors, environmental toxins, unhealthy foods, stimulants, time-zone changes, EMF, faulty breathing patterns, and even our own thoughts and high-intensity exercise. An intense training program without a “stress-mitigation program” that tackles the other pieces of the puzzle is a sure-fire way to overtrain and create stress in the body.

In terms of dose response, the simply stress needs to exceed your current “comfort zone”—it does not need to bury your comfort zone six-feet into the ground.

Improvements in fitness or any form of durability are the result of the body adapting to external stressors. When you break down your muscles by exposing them to more stress than they’re used to, they grow back bigger and stronger. This is called the Principle of Overload. The take-home message is simple: the body must be exposed to stressors that exceed its current capacity in order for the stimulus to be strong enough to elicit a change and improved ability to deal with that stress in the future. In terms of dose-response, the simply stress needs to exceed your current “comfort zone”—it does not need to bury your comfort zone six-feet into the ground. The best results come from a slight “over-reach” that allows the body to interpret the stress and recover from it, not release a massive dose of stress hormones and glycogen like the world is ending every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

As I’ve said for 10+ years, “workouts are the gas station, not the race track.”

Knowing If You’re Overtrained

Common overtraining symptoms include declining performance, hormonal imbalances, and depression. However, these are downstream effects indicative of an individual that’s been overtrained for months or years. The two far more common symptoms of overtraining are:

  1. Decreased desire to train.

    The body is very smart. The first sign of over-training is the mind requesting a day off. Does this sound familiar? Here’s a good rule of thumb: if, after a 10-minute warm-up, you still wish you weren’t there, it’s probably a day you shouldn’t be. Take it easy, and make sure this workout does not beat you down.

  2. Slower than normal results / fat loss.

    What makes the body store body fat? Fear or anticipation of an emergency or fuel shortage. In other words, stress hormones case fat storage. When exercise sessions are too hard, ramp up too fast, or we go from the couch to being a gym-rat for the first two weeks of every New Year, the body floods itself with stress hormones. The greater the disparity between the demands of your lifestyle in the previous 12-weeks, what I call your “lifestyle-A1C,” and today’s workout, the higher the likelihood it’ll be more of a stress than a therapy.

What You Can Do

  1. Cut all your “hard” workouts.

    The words “AMRAP” and “For Time” are temporarily stricken from your vocabulary. This is something I have done for nearly every coaching client I’ve had this year—and suddenly they’re getting the results they’ve been chasing for years. The beauty is, you can still work out—just keep your efforts to 60-70% of “max” and try to fuel everything with nose breathing. This helps you stay in a more fat-burning, relaxed state.

  2. Increase your 12-Week A1C score.

    Immediately begin walking 10,000 steps per day and incorporate a daily mobility practice or flow. This will improve circulation and detox your entire body while reducing inflammation and mobilizing stuck joints.

  3. Sleep.

    As my friend Bobby Maximus says, “there is no such thing as overtraining, only under-recovering.” Click here to for my favorite ways to improve your sleep hygiene and maximize the restorative benefits of your bedtime hours.

  4. Nutrition.

    Cut all alcohol, sugar, late-night eating, and junk food from your diet. When you feel stuck, it’s not the time to take a “balanced” approach to these things. You need 100% of the food you eat to be nutritious and vital to your recovering mind and body.

 
 
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Joe DiStefano

Joe has been a wellness and performance coach for over 15 years. His teachings focus on engraining profound mindset shifts, giving individuals the courage and the tools to align their actions with their objectives throughout daily life.

 

What is Stacked?

Over the last year, I’ve been having some of the most meaningful conversations of my life. Life in LA has dropped me into the epicenter of all the major industries I serve—wellness, health, fitness, nutrition, and longevity. Well, I figured it was time I hit the “record” button.

My all-new podcast, Stacked, launches next Tuesday, September 3rd. Stacked will feature a weekly conversation with guests that have a profound message or perspective to share. This podcast is not an interview or a pitch. Rather, Stacked offers listeners a seat at the table—an opportunity to listen in on the real, organic conversations two experts would normally have off-the-record.

This project has quickly become something very close to my heart. I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with amazing people that have incredible stories and lessons to offer, and this unstructured, unfiltered medium has been a true joy to create within. Through free-flow conversation, every episode has a different flavor. The red light simply stays on until the takeaway value, entertainment, or benefit to the listener comes to a close.

In the first batch of episodes, you’ll hear from people such as Dr. Ara Suppiah, who went from flipping burgers at Burger King to being the primary care physician to some of the world’s top golfers, and Doc Jen, who helps us understand how we can move better, avoid injury and better understand our bodies. You’ll also hear from Marc Weinstein, empowering us to think differently about the technology in our life, and Rachele Brooke Smith on the importance of resilience and following your own path.

I hope you enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed recording these episodes. In anticipation of the launch, we’re celebrating with the Stacked Launch Giveaway—giving you the chance to win $140+ worth of my favorite Four Sigmatic mushroom products (and we’ve tossed in a RUNGA mug for you too!).

Onwards and upwards,

Joe

 
 
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Joe DiStefano

Joe has been a wellness and performance coach for over 15 years. His teachings focus on engraining profound mindset shifts, giving individuals the courage and the tools to align their actions with their objectives throughout daily life.

 

When Whole Foods​ Aren't Enough

Scavenging the internet, there’s no shortage of healthy recipes, superfood smoothies, and articles promoting the benefits of eating whole foods. While eating vegetables and leafy greens can be incredibly beneficial to our health, the issue arises when we think that our plant-rich diets mean that we don’t need to take supplements. Of course, in a perfect world, we wouldn’t need to take supplements. However, in 2019, I believe it is near, if not entirely, impossible to do this to get all of our nutritional needs met from our diets.

Problem 1: Loss of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients in our fruits and vegetables.

Throughout the last tens of thousands of years, humans have incidentally been stripping away essential nutrients by breeding more palatable fruits and vegetables—increasing sweetness and decreasing bitterness in our diets. The fruits and vegetables we know and love today are much lower in vitamins, minerals and healthy fats than wild fruits and vegetables, and unsurprisingly, significantly higher in sugar.

As an example, the wild plant purslane has six times more vitamin E and 14 times more omega-3 fatty acids than spinach, and seven times more carotene than carrots. Wild apples, too, have on average 475 times more phytonutrients than modern varieties. The reality is that most of us don’t have access to wild plants like this, hence why supplementation is a good idea. To learn more about how nutrition has shifted over time, and how to maximize the bioavailability of nutrients in our food today, I highly recommend picking up Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson.

Problem 2: Chemical farming has destroyed our soils. 

Healthy soils put the medicine into our food. Unfortunately, chemical farming has left our soils so depleted that the nutritional value of our foods is a mere fraction of what it used to be. The fruits and vegetables that most of us have access to are simply not providing us with what we would find if we were to research their respectful nutritional profile (especially when it comes to non-organic, conventionally grown produce).

Some of these foods, like non-organic strawberries, cucumber and kale, are actually harmful to our health due to the egregious amount of pesticides used which can significantly disrupt our gut microbiome. As we have all been exposed in one way or another, certain gut support supplements can be incredibly useful, such as l-glutamine and beneficial probiotics. RESTORE is another product that I’ve used for a while, designed to restore your gut microbiome and protect it from even more harm from certain environmental contaminants in our food, water, and even air (more on this below).

Problem 3: Environmental conditions, toxins and pollutants.

Our nutritional needs have never been higher due to pollutants in our air, water and food supply. This, in addition to fluorescent lights, high-stress, lack of sunlight and our general disconnection with nature, affects our bodies in countless ways. It is not surprising that the vast majority of the American public are deficient in both Vitamin D and magnesium—perhaps the two most important nutrients for health and longevity. With so much detracting on a daily basis, our bodies need maximal nutrition in order to be able to heal from these unnatural conditions and substances—hence a heightened need for many important nutrients via supplementation.

This isn’t to say that you can get the benefits of eating well from supplementation. In fact, eating a plant-rich, whole foods diet and supplementing is essential to do together—especially to the extent that eating whole foods is preventing you from consuming processed, inflammatory foods. I often see signs such as “do no harm” and “leave no trace” on hiking trails, because when left alone, nature can rebuild and heal itself. Our bodies are the same in many ways, and for that reason, removing unhealthy foods is just as important than (if not a prerequisite to) the addition of superbly healthy foods or supplements. (Of course, being careful about which supplements we introduce is a whole other topic. For an overview of my top recommendations, click here.)

 
 
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Joe DiStefano

Joe has been a wellness and performance coach for over 15 years. His teachings focus on engraining profound mindset shifts, giving individuals the courage and the tools to align their actions with their objectives throughout daily life.

 

5 Ways to Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation exists at the heart of all disease, with many naturopaths, doctors and scientists agreeing that no disease can arise without the preliminary presence of inflammation. With the palpable amount of stressors that exist in our modern world—everything from our cell phones, to the WiFi networks circling around our homes, to chemicals in our food systems—we have to take advantage of the most effective compounds and practices known to reduce inflammation.

  1. Turmeric

    Turmeric may be the world’s oldest medication, with health-focused usage dating back over 5,000 years. In terms of its powerful anti-inflammatory and sports-recovery benefits, much of turmeric’s potential has been attributed to a single polyphenol compound within it, known as curcumin. When it comes to curcumin, 1,000 mg twice per day is how much most people should be consuming for optimal benefits. I also consume up to a tablespoon of turmeric root powder per day, often in the form of golden milk, a shake, or other foods (such as Emilía’s Turmeric Tahini Cauliflower).

  2. Breathwork

Living in a more sympathetic, “fight or flight” state than in “rest and digest” can cause mouth-breathing, hyper-oxidation and eventually, damage to our mitochondria. With an increased number of free radicals being produced and more inflammatory cytokines being put into circulation, our immune systems become impaired.

Through real-time measurements of my and my clients’ heart rate variability and heart-brain coherence, I have found box breathing to be one of the most effective ways to get myself and my clients into a parasympathetic, “rest and digest” state. Here is my modified version of box breathing:

Prior to starting the breath, practice activating your sex organs a few times (as you would if you were trying to stop yourself from urinating) by contracting for 4 seconds, then relaxing for 4-seconds. Repeat this 3-5 times.

Next, inhale slowly and steadily across 6-seconds, expanding the abdomen with air. Then hold the breath in for 4 seconds.

After holding, exhale slowly and steadily across 6 seconds.

Hold your breath “on empty” for 8-20 seconds.

After a few cycles, try activating your sex organs as you inhale and exhale the air out of the nose. You should feel that it allows you to control the airflow and extend the time spent inhaling and exhaling. Extend your inhale and exhale by 2 seconds at a time as you see fit. Eventually, do not be surprised if you find yourself inhaling/exhaling across 20 or more seconds.

3. Cold Immersion

Any form of cold immersion is going to clear the slate on your nervous system and allow you to take control of your day. A simple 3-5-minute cold shower each morning is enough to start reaping many of the benefits of this age-old practice. When you’re ready to take things to the next level, read this article.

4. CBD

CBD is one of the most beneficial compounds for combatting inflammation. When I am in tough training blocks, as I am at the time of writing this article, I completely lather my shoulders with this CBD enriched hemp oil after every upper body workout. This oil combines hemp with curcumin and a number of other natural anti-inflammatory compounds including ginger and eucalyptus. I also take these pills of full-spectrum CBD extract, containing 0% THC.

5. Meditation

Evolutionarily, we are engineered to react to the world around us—it’s how we kept ourselves and our families safe across millennia. However, the “outer world” used to only approach us in ways that demanded a reaction a few times per day. Today, our environment demands our attention thousands and thousands of times per day—not limited to morning traffic, coffee choices, social media and email. If we’re not careful, we can ride these waves and life carries us away.

Meditation allows us to connect with our inner world, giving us a portal into the present moment and a means of working with our emotions. In beginning meditation, the aim is just to anchor our focus and simply bring it back when it gets away from us—think of it as bicep curls for your attention. Just 10 minutes per day of silent deep breathing with your eyes closed, using your breath as an anchor, is a great practice to start with.

 
 
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Joe DiStefano

Joe has been a wellness and performance coach for over 15 years. His teachings focus on engraining profound mindset shifts, giving individuals the courage and the tools to align their actions with their objectives throughout daily life.

 

Your First Ice Bath—Here's What You Need To Know

With the weather in many parts of the world starting to warm up, you may have had the thought of taking an ice bath or a cold shower. By now, the benefits of cold immersion are well known, yet many struggle to integrate this powerful practice into their regular routine. Before you dive head first into the cold, here are a few things you should know in order to create an enjoyable (and repeatable) experience.

 
As people begin to navigate evolutionary shortcuts in our physiology they no doubt will stumble onto the power of exposing our bodies to extreme cold.

As people begin to navigate evolutionary shortcuts in our physiology they no doubt will stumble onto the power of exposing our bodies to extreme cold.

 

Getting comfortable in cold showers is truly a prerequisite to a sustainable, healthy relationship with cold immersion. Regular cold showers will help you understand the basic physiological responses that you will experience in an ice bath, and you’ll get better at managing them. This will also help you have more pleasant ice baths — both in terms of the time that you will be able to stay in and your body’s reaction to the cold.

When the time comes that you want to give your body that extra shock, this guide will come in handy. Here’s everything you need to know for your first ice bath:

What’s the right temperature?

For most of us, the benefits of cold immersion begin at any temperature that makes us uncomfortable, and yet still empowers us to make the practice part of our regular routine. That means you also don’t want it so cold that you’ll struggle with consistency. Ice baths and cold plunges are typically between 38°F to 45°F, but personally, the sweet spot for me lies somewhere between 45°F and 52°F. You can always stay in longer!

How do I set it up?

Before investing in a tank (such as a cattle trough), start with your home bathtub or locate a spa with a cold plunge. When filling your tub or trough, I recommend using enough water so that you can submerge your entire body up to your ears. Exposing the neck and thyroid gland to the cold is hugely important in order to regulate your body temperature, and will help your body adjust to the cold.

If using a 100 gallon tub or pool, I recommend starting with 60 lbs of ice and 70 gallons of water. This should bring the temperature to about 50 degrees and allow for a tolerable yet challenging jumpstart into the realm of cold immersion.

How do I prepare?

Prior to cold immersion, you want to activate the parasympathetic, “rest-and-digest” branch of the nervous system, and maximize your body’s natural nitric oxide production. You can do this easily using deep breathing. Start with 1-2 minutes each of alternate nostril breathing to help you relax, then incorporate cat-cow and finally end with 1-3 minutes of powerful inhales and exhales through the nose. When you’re ready to step in, do so while holding your breath on an exhale to reduce the shock.

How long do I stay in?

The target time of a cold plunge, especially when considering all the effort you have exerted so far, is three minutes. This is why you should build up to a 5-minute cold shower in the weeks preceding your plunge. Three minutes is also long enough to tap into the most desirable cold-immersion benefits, such as improved blood sugar regulation and fat burning.

That being said, if you are at 50-degrees or just under, the body can withstand far longer than 3-minutes. In fact, the goal after 4-6 weeks would be 10+ minutes at this temperature, which should then be reduced by 2-3 minutes with every 20 lbs of ice added to your 70 gallons of water. The most important thing here is to listen to your body — usually getting out as soon as or shortly after you start shivering.

How do I get the most out of my experience?

Submerging your whole body as you get into the ice bath is another beneficial detail. The total-body dip exposes the whole body, thyroid and back of the neck to the cold, which elicits a more dramatic maximal hormonal response. After the initial dip, you can also dip your face in periodically throughout the plunge, which continues to send a dramatic message into the nervous system, ensuring that you get the benefits that you are after. Remember to breathe through your nose throughout the experience, and know that the first minute is the most painful.

 
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Cold immersion is truly an enjoyable practice — one that you can build a very pleasant relationship with. It isn’t meant to be torture, and it’s important to respect and appreciate it for all of the benefits it can bring you, including the immediate benefit of feeling more awake and present. The most important aspect of the practice is to enjoy yourself.

 
 
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Joe DiStefano

Joe has been a wellness and performance coach for over 15 years. His teachings focus on engraining profound mindset shifts, giving individuals the courage and the tools to align their actions with their objectives throughout daily life.