Well...for some of the time.
Saunas are your new best friend
Some people have their favorite musicians, some have their favorite authors, I have my favorite nutrition researcher. Dr. Rhonda Patrick is a brilliant mind who can talk dirty to you using words like mitochondria, thermoregulatory mechanisms and downstream mediators of growth hormones...are you excited yet? Here's the bio on her website (Highlighted are her most important attributes; which is mostly everything):
"Rhonda Perciavalle Patrick has a Ph.D. in biomedical science from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis TN and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis TN. She also has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in biochemistry/chemistry from the University of California, San Diego. She has done extensive research on aging, cancer, and nutrition. She did her graduate research at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital where she investigated the link between mitochondrial metabolism, apoptosis, and cancer. Her groundbreaking work discovered that a protein that is critical for cell survival has two distinct mitochondrial localizations with disparate functions, linking it’s anti-apoptotic role to a previously unrecognized role in mitochondrial respiration and maintenance of mitochondrial structure. Her dissertation findings were published in the 2012 issue of Nature Cell Biology.
Dr. Patrick is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute with Dr. Bruce Ames. She investigates the effects of micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) inadequacies on metabolism, inflammation, DNA damage, and aging and whether supplementation can reverse the damage. In addition, she is investigating the role of vitamin D in brain function, behavior, and other physiological functions. In February of 2014 she published a paper in FASEB on how vitamin D regulates serotonin synthesis and how this relates to autism.
Dr. Patrick has also done research on aging at the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences. At the Salk she investigated what role insulin signaling played in protein misfolding, which is commonly found in neurodegenerative diseases."
Feeling worthless and lazy yet? I know I am. She's a rockstar when it comes to science, especially science and nutrition. But what makes her even more interesting is her obsession with saunas. You heard me; the little huts where fat, bald men go to disrobe and drink hefty amounts of vodka---maybe that's just in Russia.
So, What's The Deal With Saunas?
In the US, we don't have the same sauna culture as in Russia, Finland or even Japan or Korea. In fact, we don't really have cultural traditions (Binge drinking and college football don't count). Yes, you can find a sauna or two in your local gym or YMCA, but how many people do you know actually take advantage of purposeful heat stroke on a regular basis? Anyone? Anyone?
That's right, because no one I know actually uses them. Most people in this part of the world either find them to be too hot, too gross or don't want to sit next to some stranger's naked body. Or maybe I'm just projecting. But hear me out. It looks like, yet again, what many tend to assume as folky cultural traditions such as the Russian Banyan, the Turkish bath or the Finnish Sauna are actually extremely healthful practices. Rhonda Patrick believes increasing your core temperature for short bursts is not only healthy, it can also dramatically improve performance.
Instead of getting wrapped up in the science jargon, I'm going to get down to the simple nitty and gritty to see why it's healthful and how can it help with your performance.
If you want, you can hear her talk about all the effects in this Youtube video. Or, you can read my normal human summary of the video below.
She's a genius.
The Normal Human Rundown on Sauna Benefits
heat acclimation = hyperthermic conditioning. i.e. sitting in a sauna forces your body to acclimate to higher temperatures creating certain changes in the body.
You can build a generalized tolerance to stress
improve endurance performance
increase the capacity to build muscle.
positively affect brain function and chemistry
another method of achieving "runner's high"
possible life extension properties
In More Detail (For the Over-Achievers)
- Using a sauna increases blood flow to the skeletal muscles. Oftentimes during endurance training your skeletal muscles are depleted of nutrients and then must rely on local glycogen stores. Oftentimes, runner's will report "hitting a wall" which in other terms means they've used up all their local glycogen stores. Sauna's help by reducing your dependence on glycogen stores during activity ----- in other word, you "hit the wall" less often.
- Sauna's also increase blood flow to the heart, which reduces strain during the same workload---meaning you can do things for a longer period of time (whatever that activity may be!)
- Saunas help increase blood-flow to the skin and help keep your core body temperature lower, allowing you to do things longer. Endurance, man!
- Sauna use helps increase Growth Hormone levels. And frequency matters. For example, two, 1- hour sessions per day at 80 degrees C caused a 16-fold increase in growth hormone levels. That's a 1600% increase!
- Sauna use increases insulin sensitivity
- Promotes muscle repair
- Hyperthermic conditioning increases lifespan by about 15% in flies and worms.
- Studying the effects of something like hyperthermic conditioning on longevity is inherently hard in humans (obviously), but there have been some preliminary positive associations with variations in the HSP70 gene associated with increased expression and longevity.
benefits the brain
- Increased neurogenesis, which basically means growing new brain cells.
- Improved learning and memory
- Improved Focus (May help with conditions such as ADHD due to increased stores of Norepinephrine)
- Decrease depression and anxiety from early life stressful events (due to BDNF or Brain-derived neurotrophic factor)
Are you overwhelmed yet? If so, I think you should go to your nearest sauna and let it do the trick.
Or, buy your own!
If you want more information on Saunas or Dr. Rhonda Patrick, visit her website HERE. She's a wealth of information--- this woman is the real deal.
If you, like me, is in constant need of noise streaming through your headphones, listen to her appearance on the Joe Rogan Podcast. It's lengthy, but informative.
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