Cardio and Metabolism Part 1

Due to a heinous error in the World Wide Web half of this post was deleted somehow, someway by mysterious cosmic forces. Thus I’m obligated to give you the first half of this post and completely rewrite the other 1000 words or so of the second half. My apologies. It will be a couple of days before I’m able to get to the second half, …..again. Essentially this became a two part post so enjoy Part 1.

Every time I go to the gym I see something that sometimes drives me nuts. Not for my own personal sake mind you because this doesn’t affect me at all. But I worry about how it may adversely affect others who do it. I’m talking about people who go to the gym to run and run and run or use the eliptical for endless hours a week.

Please don’t misunderstand, I don’t believe that doing cardio is bad, quite the contrary. It can be beneficial. Yet if you’re sole purpose for a gym membership is to get on the treadmill then please consider a few things about how you’re metabolism is affected by endless running.

Please do not make this your goal!

Please do not make this your goal!

I’m not going to go into some of the benefits of a MODERATE amount of cardio. So if that’s what you’re looking for please don’t read on. I’m going to discuss the problems of doing more than a moderate amount of cardio.


Simply put too much cardio will wreak havoc on your thyroid. First lets do some thyroid 101 for anyone that needs to be up to speed. This won’t be super in depth seeing as this is a 101 course so if you want more information please use a good anatomy and physiology text.

Your thyroid gland is located in the neck and pumps out what is known as triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). T4 is a much less active form and T3 is the most active form. These are your thyroid hormones.

T4, while just mentioned is active, isn’t super active like T3 and in fact is transformed into T3 in the body. Some think that T4 may act as a pool for T3. it’s also interesting to note that carbs help this conversion. More on that in a bit.

Pretty much all your cells have thyroid receptors. They are important for growth and metabolism. Thyroid hormone is responsible for heat production and that’s why some people who are hypothyroid have cold intolerance, they just don’t generate enough heat to withstand the cooler ambient temperature.

If you haven’t guessed already, thyroid is also responsible for fat metabolism. This is also why some who are hypothyroid gain weight. If no T3 is getting to the fat cells then the fat cells aren’t receiving any signal to give up the fat for energy. This can make it difficult or impossible to lose weight if not enough thyroid hormone is around.

What does cardio have to do with thyroid?

The answer to this is that it can thrash thyroid hormone. [1-6]

When a person does a lot of steady state cardio the body requires a lot of energy to move that much. Energy requirements of the cells go up. Rightly so. You will burn more energy running like a maniac down the street than if you casually mosey on down. Cars are the same way. My truck burns way more fuel at 85mph than 35mph.

But that’s where the similarities between cars and bodies end.

Your body is an adaptive organism that wants to live. It’s programmed to live. When you start running endlessly it wants to conserve energy if nothing else has changed because it wants to live tomorrow. Your truck doesn’t know if it’s going to get fueled or not it just keeps burning gas at whatever rate you tell it. Your body doesn’t know if it’s going to get fueled or not or with how much so it shuts down energy production for you. How kind.

One quick way to shut down energy usage is to slow down the thyroid. This way your body can conserve energy for other things. Without as much T3 roaming your veins the cells aren’t getting the signal to burn and create heat.

Moderate to intense exercise actually can make the fat cells unwilling to give up their precious cargo for energy as well, compounding the problem. [7,8]

Another issue with thyroid is carbohydrate consumption. Many people, not all, but many are going low carb in the hopes of losing all kinds of fat. “Not so!” says the science.

In one trial of active men, three different diets were given at the same caloric values but differing carbohydrate intake. 88%, 44% and 2% percent of calories from carbs were the ratios and the group with 2% calories from carbs ended up with lower T3 and more nitrogen in their urine (ie more muscle wasting).[9]

In one of the trials already cited, women performed aerobic exercise and were given different amounts of calories in their diet, either 8kcal/kg/day or 30kcal/kg/day. The women who received 8kcal/kg/day had reduced T3 by 18%. Exercise quantity didn’t affect thyroid in the women, as long as they were receiving 30kcal/kg/day.[4] If you’re a 125lb woman that’s 1700 calories/day. If you were taking in 8kcal/kg that would be 454 calories/day. This is a fairly drastic cut and definitely not sustainable but makes sense. If you are working your body you have to feed it to keep energy production up or your metabolism will shut down to conserve energy.

In part two we’ll talk more about diet and how to avoid shutting down the metabolism while trying to lose a pound or two.



1.Baylor, L., and A. Hackney. “Resting thyroid and leptin hormone changes in women following intense, prolonged exercise training.” European journal of applied physiology 88.4-5 (2003): 480-484.

2.Boyden TW, Pamenter RW, Rotkis TC, Stanforth P, Wilmore JH. Thyroidal changes associated with endurance training in women. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1984 Jun;16(3):243-6.

3.Wesche MF, Wiersinga WM. Relation between lean body mass and thyroid volume in competition rowers before and during intensive physical training. Horm Metab Res. 2001 Jul;33(7):423-7.

4. Loucks AB, Callister R. Induction and prevention of low-T3 syndrome in exercising women. Am J Physiol. 1993 May;264(5 Pt 2):R924-30.

5.Rosolowska-Huszcz D. The effect of exercise training intensity on thyroid activity at rest. J Physiol Pharmacol. 1998 Sep;49(3):457-66

6.Hohtari H, Pakarinen A, Kauppila A. Serum concentrations of thyrotropin, thyroxine, triiodothyronine and thyroxine binding globulin in female endurance runners and joggers. Acta Endocrinol (Copenh). 1987 Jan;114(1):41-6.

7.Jones, N. L., et al. “Fat metabolism in heavy exercise.” Clinical Science 59.Pt 6 (1980): 469-478.

8.Romijn JA, Coyle EF, Sidossis LS, Zhang XJ, Wolfe RR. Relationship between fatty acid delivery and fatty acid oxidation during strenuous exercise. J Appl Physiol. 1995 Dec;79(6):1939-45.

9.Bisschop, P. H., et al. “Isocaloric carbohydrate deprivation induces protein catabolism despite a low T3‐syndrome in healthy men.” Clinical endocrinology54.1 (2001): 75-80.



Body Image and Eating

I’m going on a different journey in this post. This has been on my mind lately so I figured I might as well write about it because why not?

homer body

Homer has a great self image!

Everyone has a self-image. Everyone! Some have a healthy self-image while others need some help. Some may even have a confident self-image when they really need a revamp and others may have a horrible perception when they are in fact quite capable of many things.

Self-image can become downright destructive when it comes to health. Poor perceptions of body image and self-efficacy (one’s perception of what they are able to accomplish) are strongly correlated with binge eating. [1] Binge eating is bad. I’m not talking about a splurge every now and again which I personally feel is fine, but a full out binge where you eat excessively and usually unhealthy food comprises the meal. I’m not sure that I’ve heard of people overdoing it on celery or broccoli but I suppose it’s in the realm of possiblity.

I also think it a fallacy to think that women are the only ones who suffer from this problem. While the numbers may not be as big they are still a problem. One study looked at high schoolers and found that 85% of young women interviewed wanted to lose weight while only 40% of young men felt the same way. In contrast (and I believe this is the big difference between guys and dolls) 45% of the young men wanted to gain weight. Both sexes shared negative body perceptions if they wanted to lose weight. [2]

It is interesting to note though that as men age they increasingly want to decrease body weight. [3]

Other forces play on both sexes to alter self-image and self-efficacy. Schooling, teasing, health status, health status related teasing, parenting style as well as many other factors contribute to how a person views themself. Weight seems to be a huge factor for many and some feel they can’t be happy until they achieve a magic number where everything will be hunky dory.

While a healthy weight certainly helps one be “healthy”, the magic number in and of itself cannot by definition make a person happy. I was just as happy at 190 as I am now at 240. Unfortunately I can’t help but think that many internet blogs, including this one, while helping others may also be contributing to people’s destructive self-image problems. If for example a person was to read this blog and make the goal of getting “healthy” and then wasn’t able to achieve whatever that specific goal was then they might feel a failure, thus adding to the problem they originally set out to “fix”.

Don't get sucked into the YoYo dieting trap. YoYo doesn't equal YOLO

Don’t get sucked into the YoYo dieting trap. YoYo doesn’t equal YOLO

Most problems with self-image and food or weight go something like this:

1) Person feels that bodyweight is too high and makes decision to lose weight.

2)Person decides that once the magic number is attained happiness will ensue.

3) Person begins exercise, diet or both. While in the thralls of this new diet (rather than lifestyle) person obstains from everything pleasurable about food, thus becomming a food celibate.

4) After some time, be it weeks or months person either

A) Attains desired goal and continues on with new lifestyle

B) Attains desired goal and returns to old lifestyle beginning the vicious yo-yo dieting

C) Feels like garbage because they workout and starve themself and hasn’t lost a pound and throws up their hands and gives up. Depression might set in here and the person goes back to eating garbage with hunger to rival a great white shark (they can eat 400-500 lbs of tuna in one feeding)

D) Doesn’t make it more than a week because the new diet is too hard and gives up before making any progress at all. Feels like a failure, depression sets in and food jumps into the rescue.

Many of us have hit one of these scenarios. Some of us may have only made it part of the way through step 1 before deciding to give up before we even start. Why do we do this to ourselves?

Food is Powerful

Some think that food is the dark side of the force and good for only causing pain and grief. Other believe that food is neutral, only allowing us to have energy to live. For others food is a wonderful part of living. Not only does it provide energy to live but it acts as one way of experiencing life, through enjoying good food.

So what’s the impetus behind a binge? Why do we turn to food when we have these problems of self esteem or self-image or self efficacy?

Like all things we observe in nature, there is a balance of two opposites. Yin and Yang, high tide and low tide, Star Wars prequels and Star Wars originals….they all have an opposite effect.

Admit it...without the prequels you wouldn't appreciate the originals as much

Admit it…without the prequels you wouldn’t appreciate the originals as much

In our brains we have different neurotransmitters that accomplish the same thing, alertness and awakeness as well as calm and sleepiness. Different foods have different building blocks for creating those neurotransmitters. Spinach and kale have high levels of folate which are good for creating serotonin, one of the calming transmitters.

L-tyrosine, an amino acid, is a precursor for dopamine, which in turn is turned into norepinephrine. These are more the excitatory hormones in the brain. Eating complete sources of protein like meat is a source for l-tyrosine. Both kinds of transmitters are required for good mental health, both physically and emotionally.

Dopamine, like serotonin, is required for proper feelings of bliss or pleasure. Another way of saying that you have too little dopamine is colors lose their color, food loses its taste, or relationships lose their love.

An improper diet can affect these neurotransmitters as they may be out of balance. Food can also temporarily increase serotonin and cause feeling of comfort or well being. The specific food, if you haven’t already guessed is carbohydrate.

Judith Wurtzman, a researcher at MIT found that people who crave carbs are trying to give their brains a serotonin boost. She and her husband, Richard Wurtzman found this effect is the greatest when there is little to no protein consumed with the carbs. [4] People that binge on carbs, especially in the afternoons or evenings are apparently trying to increase their serotonin levels.

This act is very much like the behavior of drugs addicts. The brain “knows” that with a hit of drugs, or this case sugar, there is a reward that is expected. It is similar to as one report puts it,

We like to receive gifts, for example, but we want food, sex, and drugs.” [5]

In other words our brains full well know what is coming when they crave sugar, and so we eat some sugar.

Self-Image and Cravings

As discussed at the top of the article self-image can drastically change our outlook. It can cause us depression and in an effort to relieve those feelings some will turn to carbohydrates. Maybe after being teased or harrassed at school or work a person will turn to carbs because they make that person feel better, albeit temporarily.

Another instance in where craving sugar may be explained is the need for energy. Depression can cause a perceived loss of energy and someone may feel the need for carbs as a pick me up to get going, much the same way in which many people need coffee to get going during the day.

What to Do?

For starters I think it important for anyone and everyone to remember that no one controls your happiness. That is hard to believe at times because the things people do can affect us both directly and/or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally.

Remember that if you’re trying to change your lifestyle, not your diet, please do so in a way that is incremental and progressive. What does that mean? It means making changes that you can handle over time. Going from a garbage diet to a healthy diet can be trying at times. Dont focus on the scale either, focus on how you’re feeling. Dropping weight isn’t as satisfying as not having to take diabetes or acid reflux medication or getting rid of that scaly skin.

Change a few things at a time and get control. Trying to overhaul everything at once for some will be like deciding to play collegiate football after watching Rudy or thinking you can box like a pro after watching Rocky. Did you notice how much training Rocky did? Nope, because training montages from the movies and tv typically last only a few minutes. This is why I have a hard time with things like Dr. OZ and his shows. They market remedies or cures for weight loss like candy. Anything marketed like candy probably should be treated as such.

Choosing to be happy is something that is hard for some to understand, even myself at times. I don’t mean to sound insensitive nor am I trying to be but keeping a stiff upper lip and not letting trends or perceived “beauty” or “accomplishment” is rather important in not succumbing to a poor self-image. This again goes back to not comparing yourself to others.

Women will usually compare bodies or how beautiful they look with other women while for men it is usually more a problem of comparing accomplishment. “Her legs are so much nicer than mine” or “he makes so much more money than me” are destructive and self demeaning just as “my legs are so much better than hers” or “I make way more money than he ever could”.

Comparing yourself to other people is a sure fire way to kill yourself emotionally and increase any perceived need for a binge. It seems like most Hollywood stars, rock stars or anyone else in the limelight has demons they deal with, you just don’t see them.

Remember to thank you legs for all they do for you and be grateful that your paycheck is feeding you at all. And if someone has the audacity to tell you straight up that your legs aren’t all that or that your paycheck is too small….well my advice is to tell them to go pound sand! I don’t have time for negativity in my life and neither should you.

If during a hard day you’re having a craving to eat all things sweet get some support not some ice cream. Call a friend or sit down and write your feelings out. These won’t give you the immediate relief that devouring chocolate will, but it will be a lot healthier in the long run.

Sometimes knowing how the body works is helpful when confronting things like cravings, especially in the wake of something like self-image. It can give you a plan for action. In the grip of something like an all out craving attack it doesn’t do much good though. Knowing that you brain is trying to increase neurotranmitters doesn’t change the fact that the force it has on you is nearly as strong as the impulse to breathe.

Try to splurge from time to time and have some fun with your food, but keep it healthy the rest of the time. Eating a balanced diet that includes carbs is good. Eating a diet devoid entirely of one macronutrient I believe is a bad idea. Not eating carbs, especially for someone who is active can lead to a carb binge day. Some people do it without any problems. I say be cautious.

Be aware of avoiding carbs because sooner or later they will seek you out.

Be aware of avoiding carbs because sooner or later they will seek you out.

Remember to surround yourself with supportive people. If you have to dump someone because of negativity then do it. I don’t want to be surrounded by people that are pulling me down, only pushing me up. And get people that you can call when things get rough. I’m amazed at how a person’s attitude changes after we talk at the pharmacy window. They may be worried or sad or confused and then after venting a little to me they feel much better. Usually all I have to say is “Have a great day”. It really is that simple.

Don’t get discouraged by others thoughts or anything else. If you’re having some issues with some goals you’ve set, reevaluate them and determine what you’ve already accomplished. And don’t let others be the judge of how you look. Contemplating how awesome your next workout will be or how much you can’t wait to see the next Star Wars trilogy is a much better use of brain power than how your legs aren’t forever long or your paycheck not 6 or 7 figures.



1.Cargill, Byron R., et al. “Binge Eating, Body Image, Depression, and Self‐Efficacy in an Obese Clinical Population.” Obesity research 7.4 (1999): 379-386.

2.Drewnowski, Adam, and Doris K. Yee. “Men and body image: Are males satisfied with their body weight?.” Psychosomatic Medicine 49.6 (1987): 626-634.

3.McCabe, Marita P., and Lina A. Ricciardelli. “Body image dissatisfaction among males across the lifespan: A review of past literature.” Journal of psychosomatic research 56.6 (2004): 675-685.



Are Sodium Guidelines Too Restrictive?

If you missed my previous post on salt you can access it here:

The CDC seems to be the perp when it comes to misinforming everybody about salt intake and what it does (or doesn’t) do for health. As I mentioned in my other article, salt is crucial for us to survive. Sodium is found in every cell and is key for electrolyte balance as well as nerve conduction. Without sodium your nerves wouldn’t work…period!

Without sodium you wouldn’t see, hear, feel or taste anything. While I don’t put salt on all my food, some things need a pinch or so and I don’t feel bad about it in the least bit. I think there is a reason we crave salty foods and that is because our bodies need it.

While overdoing salt isn’t a good practice, just like overdoing anything, underdoing it is also nonsense. From the first DASH study performed you’ll see that while the three groups who were assigned to different diets all had roughly the same amount of sodium, the group that lowered blood pressure was the group that got rid of the junk and ate more vegetables and increased their potassium intake. This was all while the sodium level was around 3 grams/day in all the groups.[1]

Potassium intake in the form of vegetables IS a healthy thing to do. Carrots, broccoli, celery, kale, onions, and all the other bounty that is mother nature’s goodness should be consumed regularly. This I believe is a building block of solid health.

A new study has been released (although I haven’t been able to access it so what I say is based on the news article, not the study itself) that shows that,

“The study recorded ‘a U-shaped correlation between sodium intake and health outcomes.’ The researchers found that when consumption of sodium fell outside the range of 2,645-4,945 mg per day, there was an increase in mortality. This means that both excessively high and excessively low intakes of sodium were linked to an increased risk of death” [2]

U-shaped curves seems to be common in medical studies which corroborates the idea that too much is bad and too little is bad. Goldilocks wins everytime in biology.

So I wouldn’t worry too much if you’re consuming closer to 3 grams a day of sodium. The evidence in my opinion of detriment to health just isn’t there. Unless of course your sodium is coming from chips, McDonalds, Cheetos or other forms of garbage. Then you might need to be a little more careful.

In addition it might be beneficial to reduce added sodium to your food to be able to enjoy other flavors that might not be readily accesible to your palate if your tongue has had sodium overload. It takes some adjustment but changing up your preparation of food can bring about some amazing and remarkable changes in how you perceive taste. Try it out and enjoy your food.



1.Sacks, Frank M., et al. “Effects on blood pressure of reduced dietary sodium and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.” New England Journal of Medicine 344.1 (2001): 3-10