August 31st, 2013

The uniqueness of the long, long…

long distance runner:

…[T]here is one man whose physiological performance defies all convention: Dean Karnazes is an ultrarunner from California and, at times, it seems as if he can run forever.

Karnazes has completed some of the toughest endurance events on the planet, from a marathon to the South Pole in temperatures of -25C to the legendary Marathon des Sables, but in his entire life he has never experienced any form of muscle burn or cramp, even during runs exceeding 100 miles. It means his only limits are in the mind.

Karnazes says he once ran for three days and nights continuously, and he only stopped because he got sleepy.

Karnazes doesn’t seem to have what’s called a lactate threshold:

While supreme willpower is a common trait among ultrarunners, Karnazes first realised that he was actually biologically different when preparing to run 50 marathons in 50 days across the US back in 2006. “I was sent to a testing center in Colorado,” he recalls. “First, they performed an aerobic capacity test in which they found my results consistent with those of other highly trained athletes, but nothing extraordinary. Next, they performed a lactate threshold test. They said the test would take 15 minutes, tops. Finally, after an hour, they stopped the test. They said they’d never seen anything like this before.”

And in unrelated news, we’re getting fatter all the time.

Oh, you already knew that? Well, I’m not talking about just Americans. Or about people in general. Or even about just their pets and zoo animals. This refers to animals under many other conditions, too, such as lab rats, who are taking in the same amount of food as before and yet getting heavier.

I feel their pain.

Curioser and curioser:

Rats, mice and primates (four types were analyzed in this study) in laboratories are fed a highly controlled, known diet that has remained relatively constant over time. Why are these animals getting fatter?

Perhaps for some reason they’re choosing to eat more of what they are offered or are somehow changing how they metabolize it, he said.

Allison pointed out at least three potential contributions to this and the other observations: endocrine disrupting chemicals, pathogens such as a virus, and/or changes in temperature where the animals are kept.

I read several articles on the subject, and nowhere did I see speculation on whether animals’ gut flora might have changed in a way that favors weight gain. So I’m here to offer that idea. It’s not so very fanciful, either; a phenomenon of the sort seems to be true of humans.

16 Responses to “The uniqueness of the long, long…”

  1. vanderleun Says:

    Global Flabbing: The Science is Settled!

  2. Jim Nicholas Says:

    And isn’t it obvious that ‘global flabbing’ is caused by global warming. The two settle sciences confirm each other.

  3. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    I’m happy to learn of Karnazes the ultrarunner from California, as it lends credibility, to accomplishments in the past, that many historians have disparaged out of incredulity.

    There’s the origin of our marathons; Pheidippides (530 BC–490 BC), an Athenian herald or hemerodrome (variously translated as “day-runner” or “professional-running courier” or “day-long runner”), who was reportedly sent to Sparta to request help when the Persians landed at Marathon, Greece. He purportedly ran about 150 miles in two days. Hours later, he then ran the 25 miles from the battlefield near Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory over Persia in the Battle of Marathon (490 BC) with the word νικῶμεν (nikomen “We have won”) to then collapse and die.

    The Apache Indians, when chased by US troops, would sometimes ride their horses to a waterhole. Slay the horse, fill the intestines with water. Split up in multiple directions and then run up to hundred miles through desert heat to escape. We only beat them by hiring pacified Apache’s as scouts to track them down.

    Then there’s Mexico’s Tarahumara Indians, who have honed the ability to run hundreds of miles without rest or injury. There was even a race between America’s ultrarunners and runners from the tribe.

    So, I guess those scenes in ‘Forest Gump’ weren’t so silly after all.

  4. expat Says:

    I recently read (probably an Instapundit link) that gut flora changes in people who stop smoking and that this may cause the weight gain.

    This is truly a fascinating field, and it’s only in its beginning. It wouldn’t be possible without the technological advances in sequencing and computer metaanalysis spurred by the human genome project. And guess which country got that show on the road.

  5. Jerod Says:

    David Goggins is the man, he is the fittest real athlete.

  6. chuck Says:

    Animals getting fatter, maybe some global cooling is on the way ;) My pets fatten up in the fall.

  7. Beverly Says:

    Perfect thread for this: the best introductory fanfare in sports. Remember?

    Still gives me goosebumps when those kettledrums start to pound!

  8. Beverly Says:

    Okay, folks: everybody get creatine + CLA and start supplementing, especially if you’re over 50. No side effects, been around for decades, works within ONE week, and is unbelievable. I’m on week 2, and I’m kicking ass at the gym.

    Creatine is ATP, adenosine triphospate, which enables our muscles’ contraction. We produce less as we age, which is part of the cause of sarcopenia. Boosting the ATP and adding CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) has been shown, in randomized placebo-controlled trials of older subjects, to increase muscle strength by 15%. That’s in a group of people who were working out for 6 months, compared to another group in the same age cohort on the same training regimen. All benefited from the exercise, but the creatine + CLA group got an afterburner kick that was worth another 15%!

    The guy at GNC said women won’t use it because it can make you bloat. But it’s been 2 weeks, and no bloating: also, the water weight it does make you retain is in your Muscles, not in the Fat cells. By my third workout, I was keeping up with the kids!

    Mechanism: ATP makes the muscle fibers “fire,” so you are, so to speak, firing on more cylinders, and the gains are genuine, not transient.

    Check it out. :-)

  9. sergey Says:

    This guy must have had a special metabolic advantage, genetic in nature, to burn lactic acid and prevent its accumulation in muscle tissue. His ancestry needs a special consideration.

  10. Ymarsakar Says:

    This guy must have been one of those the village sent over the mountains to explore and communicate with others.

  11. Snackeater Says:

    We’re all getting fatter? Maybe Michael Moore is just a time-traveler from the future.

  12. blert Says:

    Appetite is stimulated enormously by fluorescent lighting and, now, LEDs.

    THAT’S the unifying stimulus.

    It’s is well documented that lack of sunlight not only puts you to sleep — but it can even trigger depression.

    Having white skin helps stave this off — but not entirely.

    The critical light frequencies that regulate mode and appetite are not produced by fluorescent rays, nor LEDs.

    Only the scorned incandescent bulb produces the spectra similar to the Sun: blackbody radiation.

    This impact is hormonal. The lack of the sun’s rays is a mammal’s universal queue to STORE FAT: winter is dead ahead.

    Now you know.


    The modern American woman is much more likely to be house bound/ office bound/ under the lights than today’s man.

    Even an hour of good sunlight, per day, is enough to re-jigger the hormones.

    It’s notable that software engineers, prone to the late hours, are also at risk of ballooning up. PBS had a whiz who’d reached two-stool status — and he was not even thirty-years old!


    Of course, all modern laboratories are going to be illuminated via LED or Fluorescent lamps. The CFL, alone, must be adding tons per hour to the national waistline.


    The above is also why tanning beds took off. They used lamps that made every attempt to replicate the Sun — on the hurry up.

    Unfortunately, they’re way too heavy with the UV; and must age the user mercilessly.

  13. blert Says:

    cue not queue… dang

  14. southpaw Says:

    Neo – The virus idea crossed my mind too when you posted a similar story a few months ago, and some link or contributor lead me to read the same thing somewhere- that all mammals were getting fatter. Not having any medical education, a bug was the only thing I could think of that might explain something like that. Or a genetic mutation in some primary food source.
    And then after a few beers and watching an episode of the outer limits, I also hypothesized that it such a thing would make a good sci fi story, if the virus was introduced by aliens fattening us up like cattle.
    The internet often leads me to wondering about idiotic things I would never share with people I actually know.

  15. southpaw Says:

    Note along the same lines- James Rollins book “the Doomsday Key” is a science fiction book describing the opposite scenario- a fungus that once ingested, blocks the nutritional uptake of anything else you eat, resulting in starvation. Used as a weapon by ancient peoples. Light reading, could have used more editing, but an interesting premise.

  16. Ymarsakar Says:

    One of the various chi gong recommendations is to get outside and do the routines when the sun rises, at noon, and when the sun sets. Basically anything that forcefully sets your body’s bio clock is good for all kinds of things. Which supports Blert’s thesis in subject, if not in details.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.


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