JOYCE: Brian’s story is staggering...training 20 plus hours a week at that intensity and gaining weight?! You’ve told me some of these stories before, but it’s still so perplexing to hear.
DR. COOPER: The metabolism is complicated and it’s different for each person. What helped enormously is that Brian’s career is all about numbers and he’s meticulous about keeping track of his training stats, like his weight, food intake, heart rate and pace. So, when he saw that he was gaining weight, when according to normal calculations, he should have been losing-- he knew something was drastically wrong somewhere.
JOYCE: And that’s when he came to you. What did you do first?
DR. COOPER: I did a series of tests that discovered, while Brian thought was eating enough, it really wasn’t enough to fuel his training. The more he trained, the more his ghrelin increased. Ghrelin is the hormone produced in the stomach that tells the brain that the body is hungry. So every time he worked out, the ghrelin levels would increase-- eventually to a level so high that it caused his brain to panic and tell the body to store fat for protection against starvation.
JOYCE: So does this increase in Ghrelin happen in a lot of athletes??
DR.COOPER: Well, studies show that this problem can happen in many athletes. And since Brian had weight problems when he was young, his system already had some built in vulnerability that scientists call being 'weight prone'. Combining a high level of training with insufficient fuel intake to support it actually created a huge trigger for metabolic dysfunction. But, it doesn’t even take extreme training for the brain to tell the body to hold on to fat...Studies show that even after just a single workout, some men’s' ghrelin levels increase 12-24%. ! (and it’s even higher for women)
JOYCE: So, for some people, exercising for long periods or at a high intensity can make your body gain fat? You could lose more body fat by eating and sleeping properly and lying on the couch?
DR.COOPER: Yes, that’s why I encourage people to figure out their metabolism issues and fuel their workouts appropriately! For Brian, we calculated the amount of food and sports nutrition that he needed to consume before, during and after training. We also made sure he got enough sleep and then supported this with a medical treatment to help lower his ghrelin levels. As a result, his body fat decreased and he was able to complete the Ultra Man event.
JOYCE: Only about 150 people in the country can complete this...it’s beyond hard-core!
DR.COOPER: But, something wild happened during the 3 days of his Ultraman competition. He gained 10 pounds and his body fat increased by 2% just in those 3 days!
JOYCE: HOW could that happen?
DR. COOPER While he could match his nutrition intake with expenditure in training really well, there was no way to keep it up completely during this intense competition! The last day of the 3 day race was a double marathon! So his body went back to its old ways, conserving energy and storing fat...So now, Brian is focusing on shorter events that won't tax his system and trigger the weight defense system as much- to let his body recover!
JOYCE: The metabolism is so incredible.