I am coming up on 62 years old. But to my amazement, while some may argue that I am not getting any wiser, the stats show I am getting fitter. Two weeks ago I ran a 15k race and was 4 minutes (!!) faster than last year. This week, my 1650 time in the pool was the fastest it's been in at least ten years. This is not to brag. It's only to say that things are possible which at first glance or with common sense, seem not.
It got me thinking... why? What am I doing that changed the downward spiral that I was not enjoying for the past 10 years?
Here are my successful actions. Perhaps they will help you too.
I had been mostly a vegetarian since age 14. It was then, as a Boy Scout, they took us on field trip to visit the Oscar Meyer Meat Company. The home factory is located in my home town of Madison Wisconsin. When I saw the conveyer belt killing the cows and pigs and then saw the vats of slush that went into hot dogs, I saw the light (just before I nearly barfed and my knees buckled from the grotesque smell) and I was converted. No more meat for me. This did not go over well with my family, particularly with my mother. She was a Gold Medal Blue Ribbon (Jewish) mother who was famed for her brisket and chicken soup with mazah balls that had "surprises" inside. The "surprises" were pieces of chicken fat tucked inside.
This was her invention and she was proud of it. We were a meat and potatoes and rendered chicken fat family. I don't ever remember seeing a salad on the table through most of my childhood. My mom, may she rest is peace, was still so angry at me for doing for not eating her prized cooking (though I did eat my share of her chocolate chip bars) that even two years my vegetarianism, when I turned 16, she didn't allow me to drive her car for a whole year in spite.
Then I started to go downhill. I could not figure out why. My routine blood tests were fine, my physical exam was fine, but I could not do hard workouts without getting injured. About 6 years ago I discovered I was very protein deficient from being a vegetarian and found MAP, and that helped enormously. I began taking 10 tablets before workouts and saw improvements right away. Then about two years ago I was at a medical conference and saw Dr. Loran Cordain give a lecture on The Paleo Diet. If you have not read this book, I recommend it highly. You can get most of the data by going to and reading the FAQ section. It is the anti-diet to what I had been doing for so many years.
Now in our medical clinic we frequently see patients that we test for food sensitivities. Commonly dairy and grains are the biggest offenders. When someone tests positive to these foods, we would routinely have them eliminate them from the diet. This would often yield dramatic improvements in energy, joint pains, digestion, sleep, eczema and mood.
But I never tested sensitive to them. Besides, what would I eat? I lived on dairy and grains. After hearing Dr. Cordain's lecture (he is a Professor of Anthropology at Colorado State) I thought I would do an experiment. I would just eat "The Paleo Diet" (Paleo means "old" in Greek-it is short for Paleolithic (lithos is stone) which is early Stone Age, about 2-2.5 million years ago) and see what happens. This is the diet that these folks ate between about 2.5 million years ago and 10,000 years ago. A long time. So I thought, what the heck, I would give it a couple of months and see if I noticed changes.
The diet consists of what a cave man would eat....meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. In those days, there was no cultivation of grains and no milking of animals. So, on the diet I ate NO GRAINS OF ANY KIND AND NO DAIRY. I did alter the diet by eating some legumes (I was in Israel during this time doing some volunteer work and you can't go there and not eat the Hummus).
Surprisingly to me, after only a few short months on the diet, voila, miracles happened. My tendency to pull muscles in my legs with hard training went away. I eventually (within 4 months) lost 15 pounds of body fat and went from 20% body fat to 6%. I found I could do harder workouts and not get injured, and I started to race really well and took second place in my age group in one 70.3 and 6 th at another. I bettered my time at IMAZ from the year before by over an hour and 15 minutes and got 7 th place in my age group in a very competitive field. I was excited.
I asked myself, could this get any better?
I made another modification. I doubled my MAP intake. Ten twice a day instead of once.
This caused another bump up in fitness. I started doing hard 440s running, hard sets in the pool. I was able to recover. No sickness. Lots of travel and challenges at work. Body stayed good. I haven't broken 25 minutes in a 1650 pool swim in 10 years. I did it last week. 24:58. That's exciting.
TAKING MORE MAP WORKS.
Why? Well here's the scientific rationale. The body, organ by organ and cell by cell, has to turn over (replace) it's proteins. These proteins are the structure of our tissues. Through wear and tear and oxidative stress (from chemical stress of internal combustion and environmental toxins) these proteins get damaged and have to be either repaired or recycled. In our bodies, there are over 50,000 different proteins that have to be in good shape for everything to be working optimally. That's a lot of individual pieces to fix each day.
Additionally, each organ gets rid of its aging cells and makes new ones. The lining of the gut turns over every few days and the bones only every 7 years. The proper rate of turnover only occurs IF there is enough incoming usable protein from the diet to do this. If there is not, those older cells stay until either you supply your body with the needed protein or you die prematurely (because they never got fixed and so they fail earlier than they should.) These body proteins include the immune system and hormones.
So what does taking more MAP do?
It insures quick turnover, and new cell replacement (so faster healing and better structure- so the tissue doesn't injury as easily) and one more critical thing and this will take a paragraph of explanation so you can follow it.
The body takes in fuel (carbs and fats and to some extent proteins) and oxygen, and turns these into packets of energy called ATP. These ATP units of energy are what every cell in the body uses so it can do it's work. It might be ATP for a leg muscle to contract, or ATP for brain computing, or producing saliva. Each cell must be able to have enough ATP OR it won't be able to do it's work. If an adrenal gland can't make enough of it's variety of hormones, you'll be tired all the time, have low blood pressure, suffer from allergies and feel like you're dying. If it has enough ATP so it has energy (and the other things it needs to make the hormones) you'll feel like yourself on a really good day.
Now here's the catch. The tissues that make ATP (they are called enzymes) are also made out of protein. If enough quality protein is not coming in daily from the diet (I will address what is a quality protein in a minute, but lest you think that dairy, soy, beans and rice, spirulina, quinoa, almonds or any other fruit or vegetable is a quality protein, forget that notion right now). Please excuse the long digression, anyway, if enough quality protein is not coming in daily, the proteins that make the energy will not be there in the amounts that they should either. And those and similar proteins (other enzymes) that are needed to digest the food we eat may be lacking also, so the foods don't get digested either.
This is the triple whammy of NOT ENOUGH PROTEIN COMING IN THE BODY: low building blocks to make or repair tissue, low energy to do the repair and other things, and low amounts digestive enzymes to allow the foods that are eaten to be broken down and used.
What do you get? 60 year olds who are going downhill with "normal aging." Unfortunately, this problem is not just in 60 year olds who are prematurely aging, it's occurring with nearly everyone who is walking around. They are not eating enough and assimilating enough quality protein.
Its protein malnutrition! Protein malnutrition causes premature aging and often underlies many of the diseases of aging.
The correction is sufficient amounts of quality protein.
Now, what is the definition of quality protein?
I must digress just one more time to explain this more fully. A protein is a chain made up of smaller pieces of another material. Think of protein as a word. A word is made up of smaller pieces, that we call letters. The letters in a protein are called amino acids. Amino acids are found in nature and there are about 20 of them that our body uses to make its proteins. Amino acids are made up of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen in various combinations. A few of the amino acids also have sulfur. So we have words, proteins, made up of letters, amino acids. The body assembles the amino acids in different combinations and it gets different proteins.
Now if you imagine there is this innate intelligence in the body that originally built it and now must maintain it. As we said before, our body has 50,000 proteins that make up its structure. A good example would be a common protein found in the body called hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is inside of every red blood cell and its job is to carry oxygen to the tissues. One Hemoglobin molecule is made up of 574 total amino acids! That's a long word. Now really these 574 are made of 20 different amino acids used in various combinations so the "spelling of the word" hemoglobin comes out right. So to build this one hemoglobin unit would take each of these 20 amino acids being available in the body at all times. In actuality there are millions of hemoglobin molecules that are being made or repaired all the time.
Now of these 20 amino acids, there are 8 of them which are most used. They are akin to the vowels in our own alphabet. If you are playing scrabble and you don't have many vowels you won't be able to make many words. These 8 amino acids are called the "essential" ones. They are called essential, because unless they are all present, and all at the same time, and in the right quantity, the body can't make any of its proteins. If you eat a food that does is not a complete protein, i.e. does not have all essential amino acids, the body will not make protein out of it. Period.
With this in mind, we can now define Quality protein. It's a protein that has all eight essential amino acids, in the right balance, so the body can use those amino acids to make its own protein.
For example, we know from scientific experimentation, that if you try to make, for example, hemoglobin out of a dairy (whey or casein) or soy derived protein, that only 16% of those proteins (really the amino acids that make up those proteins) can be used by our body to make protein. The reason they are considered low quality, is that there aren't enough essential amino acids in the right balance for us to use most of them. You do get calories and fuel and waste products but low amounts of protein being made.
Meats and fish are much higher quality. About 33% other their amino acids can be used to make protein in our body. Whole eggs are the best food and 48% of them can be used to make protein. This may be one of the reasons why eating a Paleo diet is better for the body. More quality (animal) protein. By the way, if you only eat the egg white, the quality goes down to only 16%. So cholesterol be dammed (it's not true anyway that eating egg yolk raises your cholesterol) eat the whole egg.
The vegetable proteins, nuts, and spirulina are of very poor quality because the amounts of essential amino acids and the balance of them is poor.
Now MAP is unique in that 99% of the amino acids (no wonder, it is made up of only the 8 essential ones in exactly the right balance) can be used to make protein by the body. It's the highest quality protein known and no food can compare to it. And it's the only amino acid blend available that has all eight essential amino acids in the exact right ratio so that 99% of it can be used for making body protein.
So what did taking an extra 10 MAP do for me each day?
Made me fitter because I could train more, train harder, get injured less, keep my immune system healthy and not get sick because my body could rebuild protein and recover.
Now it's fun to grow older and see things improve. When my dad was 62 he had already had two heart attacks and a triple bypass. My uncles and grandparents were also cardiac cripples by age 60. So for me, this formula of triathlon training + Paleo diet + 10 MAP twice a day (and a few other supplements) can make the golden years golden indeed. I don't wish I was 35, because I feel like I'm 35 and am having more fun now than I did then. Excitedly, I am looking forward for PRs.