Doc’s Talk 03-24-2013

Dr. Scaff talked about the magic of running 1 hour.

Last Sunday Dr. Scaff noted that you can think of yourself as being similar to a car, with a motor, a carburetor, a circulation system, and we burn exactly the same kinds of natural fuels that the dinosaurs did, vegetables and etc., until it became coal.

We’re built to work on both carbohydrates and fat.  Carbohydrates allow us to sprint, but we don’t have enough carbohydrates in our body to go 26 miles, maybe 3 or 4.  Fat, we have enough to go almost anywhere.  You burn up 125 calories per mile of running, and at 2 or 3 miles you’ve burned up most of your carbohydrate fuel.  Fat has nearly 4,000 calories per pound, so none of us are suffering from a fuel shortage.  With a little bit of water we should be able to run across the U.S. non-stop, and indeed, people did that, they were called the Bunion Derbies.

Dr. Scaff also mentioned we are in pure carbohydrate metabolism because carbohydrates allow us to sprint and run away from trouble, and when we take in 1 molecule of oxygen we expel 1 molecule of carbon dioxide and water, in a respiratory quotient of 1.

As we start getting into fat metabolism our respiratory quotient becomes less efficient and the ratio drops down to about 0.8 which is protein, then 0.6 which is fat.  People used to say you can’t go below 0.5 …and it turns out that you can.  Marathon runners get down to 0.4 – they are extremely efficient fat burners.  So when all these books tell you that you should be on a low fat diet that is like not putting fuel in your tank.  Your body was built to burn fuel and when you are burning it you are not raising your cholesterol or your blood sugar and all the other things you have heard are bad.

If you’ve been reading in the papers lately you see eggs are ok, but Dr. Scaff and others said that 20 years ago.  Fat, including animal fat, is ok.  The key is eating a mixed balanced diet.

Running for 1 hour, 3 times per week, that’s the magic.

At 20 minutes of running you start switching from burning carbohydrates to burning fat, and after 40 minutes you are burning 80% fat.  So if you don’t run for longer than 40 minutes you are not getting any benefit.

As you run, the byproduct of running, just like in an automobile, is heat.  You start to sweat.  That means your basal metabolic rate is going up.  If you took your temperature right now, it’s about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.  If you run for an hour it’s about 101 degrees Fahrenheit.

As long as you are at 101 degrees Fahrenheit you are burning more calories than you would at any other timeand you continue to burn your own fat until you take that first bite of food.  If you watch your temperature you will notice after a 1 hour run, your pulse rate and temperature slowly come back to normal over 3 or 4 hours.  During that time, with the increased basal metabolic rate and not eating, you are burning your own fat, almost exclusively.

A lot of people report that they are losing a lot more weight than they would have anticipated. Well, of course.  You are opening the fat burning enzymes.  Long distance running is one of the easiest ways to lose weight on a regular basis.

Nobody can sprint a marathon, which is why we like to start with running 1 hour, because as you get in better shape, you’ll start going faster naturally.  Running, is base training for all sports, whereas all sports are not base training.

The magic of 1 hour
As you start running, you’ll note that you start to feel good after a while.  The first 12 weeks may be the PTA (Pain, Torture, and Agony), you don’t feel so good until you get used to it, and you start coming back.

If man must run in order to survive, running should be pleasurable, just like eating, sex, and everything else.  If you measure oxytocinthe cuddle enzyme, oxytocin goes up during a runand it makes you feel good.  Those are called endorphins.  Endorphins are natural morphine products which suppress the pain while you’re running, since you have to do it, might as well make it fun.  Endorphins do not go to your brain, the protein is too big to cross the blood-brain barrier.  So your brain makes cannabinoids, a marijuana substitute.  So you watch when the people come back from running, they look like they have been doing something strange out there, but they are having a good time.  So, it is good for you.

Ernest van Aaken, a famous German physiologist characterized running as re-creation of primeval child’s play.  Kids are programmed to run, they feel good about it, and that is why Dr. Scaff does not mind properly motivated 8-year-old kids running marathons, because they are running anyhow.

One other thing man tends to do is throwing.  On the first snowfall of the year, what executive doesn’t playfully throw a snowball at his secretary, and his endorphins go up.  It feels good.  So even the couch potato who has not exercised in years when he feels stimulated in the reptilian part of the brain, the endorphins go up.  Remember, running and throwing are the origin of all our court sports.  It’s fun to watch baseball just like it’s fun to look at a swimsuit magazine.  Bottom line is in running we are doing something that makes us feel good and it’s good for you.

Run 1 hour, 3 times per week, that is all you have to worry about, don’t worry about your speed, just be able to talk the whole time.

For much more running-related information, read Your First Marathon – The Last Word In Long Distance Running, by Jack H. Scaff Jr., M.D., F.A.C.S.M., available for purchase at the Honolulu Marathon Clinic on Sundays and online at:

Next week:  How to judge if you are going at the right pace without going through the expense and time of calculating maximum pulse rates and percentage of that.


For some good reading on nutrition, Dr. Scaff recommends everyone check out the daily postings on Dr. Alan Titchenal’s “Got Nutrients?” web site:

Here is a recent posting from the “Got Nutrients?” web site:

March 23, 2013
Vitamin D is well known for its benefits on bone health. Ongoing research is uncovering many other benefits of good vitamin D status associated with the vitamin’s effects on the expression of hundreds of genes linked to multiple health risks such as cancer, autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases and cardiovascular disease.

Consumer Link
Study Reveals Potential Immune Benefits Of Vitamin D Supplements In Healthy Individuals

Research Link
PLoS ONE 8(3): e58725.