Breakthrough Technology Alert | Vol. 7 Issue 1
By Patrick Cox
As the headline implies, I’m going to tell you today about the first real breakthrough
in fitness technologies since the basics of physical training were established in ancient Greece. This report is very long and it has no short-term investment opportunities for retail equity buyers, so I wanted it separate from the regular monthly letter. Nevertheless, I think you will benefit enormously from the information I’m giving you today.
When I first talked to the two scientists who discovered and exploited the principles behind this technology, the word that came to mind was “unbelievable.” Since then, I’ve told a number of friends how much it can improve strength and endurance. Inevitably, the word used in response is, in fact, “unbelievable.”
This technology is remarkably simple. Though it currently utilizes a simple microchip, its power comes from its ability to modify an incredibly elegant and complex biological system. The bril- liance of this technology is not in the rudimentary electronics contained in the machine, it is in the DNA found in our bodies and the minds of the scientists who realized that they could “hack” our bodies’ temperature control systems to increase the benefits of exercise.
My colleague Ray Blanco pointed out to me that this is similar to chip “overclocking” devised by sophisticated computer gamers. Overclocking is a hacker technique that both of us utilized in the old days when computer power cost far more. It uses supercharged cooling devices such as oversized heat sinks and powerful fans, removing heat from microchips tricked into running much faster and hotter than they were designed to run.
Despite the simplicity of the technology I’m going to tell you about, its discovery was facili- tated by biotech tools that have arrived via accelerating technological progress — Moore’s law. Moreover, this discovery will have far-ranging impacts. The sports and fitness industries as well physical therapy, surgical procedures, veterinary medicine, the treatment of numerous human diseases and military tactics will see major disruptions as this technology works its way past understandable skepticism into widespread use.
A Short History of Physical Training
In the fifth century B.C., the Classical period of Greek history, the physician Herodicus and his pupil Hippocrates were researching and teaching the hows and whys of physical fitness. The basic training techniques at the heart of modern fitness, progressive resistance and endurance training, were already widely used throughout ancient Greece.
The Greek gymnasium was not simply the ancient equivalent of a modern health club or gym. It was a cultural and religious institution believed to be under the protection of the gods. A professional class of “gymnasts” were a fusion of priests and personal trainers. Even the secondary features of the modern fitness business, like therapeutic massage and nutrition, were firmly established 25 centuries ago.
At the core of the gymnasium was a technique known as progressive training. This approach to fitness, the incremental increase in physical activity to provoke physi- ological adaptation to increasing workloads, is fundamentally unchanged today.
In ancient Greece, progressive training was most famously used by Milo of Croton. This celebrity athlete and soldier utilized a dramatic form of progressive resistance training, lifting and carrying increasingly heavier weights to provoke improvements in strength and endurance. According to lore, he lifted and carried around a calf every day. Adapting to the progressively greater load, he was eventually able to bear the load of the animal even when it had become a full-grown ox.
While this legend is almost certainly an exaggeration for instructional purposes, it perfectly demonstrates the way that progressive strength and aerobic training increase strength and cardiovascular capacity. The impact of this philosophy is evident in the Olympics, a tribute to the Greek dedication to fitness and sports as a means of attaining optimal health.
The shiny high-ticket machines in today’s gyms are meant to appear modern. In truth, they are only marginal improvements on the basic techniques and principles that were well established in Athens, Sparta and other Greek regions. Unless you consider anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs an important fitness breakthrough, there have been no quantum improvements in exercise technology until now.
In fact, the technology I’m going to explain here delivers benefits, when used in conjunction with exercise, that are much greater than those derived from steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. It does this, however, with none of the negative side effects of drugs like steroids, such as sterility, gynecomastia in men and masculinization in women.
As I’ve already admitted, this technology seems “unbelievable.” Increasingly, however, biologists are using modern tools to understand and modify biological systems to yield advances that are so outside traditional experience, they necessarily inspire skepticism.
I understand and admire honest skepticism, which is not the same as stubborn cynicism or the inability to consider evidence that overthrows previously unquestioned assumptions. Somewhere between gullibility and recalcitrance is a true scientific attitude that requires but accepts unexpected proof.
This balance has always been difficult to achieve, but it’s even more difficult in our age of exponentially accelerating technological progress. More and more frequently, real effort is needed to understand the new technologies and invest- ment opportunities that accelerating science is delivering.
We’ll provide you with the basic tools to do that today. It’s important that I make it clear, however, that this company is not yet public. I’m hoping to see an IPO in the relatively near future, but you cannot at this time buy stock in this disruptive technology unless you are a “well qualified” investor.
That said, you will soon be able to profit from this sports and fitness device personally. Allow me to restate my standard disclaimer that I have, unfortu- nately, no financial interest in this company. I am advising everybody I care about, however, to get and use this technology as soon as possible.
Investing in Our Own Lives
The benefits of exercise are extensive and well-known. Physical fitness is not the entire health story. Dr. Craig Heller, one of the world-renowned sleep researchers who made this breakthrough, says there are three elements to a healthy life: nutrition, fitness and sleep. Fitness has an impact on virtually every aspect of our lives.
Researchers have shown that fitness reduces the incidence of serious disease while increasing life expectancy. By putting stress on the skeletal structure, exercise, in conjunction with nutrition, increases bone density and strength. Exercise can also help prevent the loss of age-related balance problems.
The Greeks believed, several millennia ago, that the intellect could not be properly developed without physical fitness. Recent studies show that suf- ficient exercise counters depression and significantly improves the quality of sleep, which produces additional health benefits. Exercise improves cognitive abilities and new research shows that it prevents shrinkage of the brain in aging individuals, a result that no amount of mental activity can prevent.
A serious investor should not regard optimization of physical fitness as secondary to financial health. It is an important part of planning for the family and future. Physical conditioning helps prevent or delay catastrophic expenses while reducing the distractions and
costs associated with ailments. Higher levels of fitness enable the allocation of mental and financial resources to other matters, financial and otherwise.
By definition, investors are people who think seriously about the future. Optimal preparation for the future necessarily includes fitness. The most successful investors may even support companies that are developing solutions to medical problems specific to them or their families. Many of my readers, by the way, are included in that group.
By extension, I believe serious technology investors should know about important fitness technology breakthroughs. From an economist’s perspective, healthy life is the only “good” that demonstrates increasing marginal utility. Putting aside tech- nical jargon, this means that we value every additional “unit” of healthy life, or time, at least as much as those that came before it. This is unlike all other goods, which provide less and less utility or satisfaction as additional units are acquired.
Financial confirmation of this truth is seen in the fact that health care is the ultimate counter-cyclical investment sector. During our current Great Recession, for example, the health care industry has consistently grown as new and superior technologies are adopted. This isn’t surprising or mysterious.
In hard times, we cut and delay expenditures related to virtually everything else — even basics like food, transportation and shelter. Health care expenditures, however, are the last thing we skimp on. We pay what we have to pay to be alive and healthy, for ourselves as well as our loved ones.
Even health-related expenditures outside of traditional medicine have grown during these stressful financial times. Health club and gym memberships have increased and now account for $20 billion a year in the U.S. alone, with more than 50 million members. The weight loss industry is estimated to generate $60 billion annually, and this number will increase as the population ages.
Obesity increases with aging, for a number of physiological reasons. What works to keep a young person fit and trim simply does not work in older people, and we see evidence of this fact everywhere. As the boomers, the richest generation in history, grow older, the ratio of Americans who are overweight or obese is approaching two-thirds.
The vast majority of these people tell pollsters that they want to lose weight and improve their general fitness. Only one in five, however, is part of a fitness program. Even if the motive is vanity, rather than health, we should not underestimate the financial importance of this urge. The $10 billion cosmetic surgery market, which has also grown in recent years, is evidence.
One reason that people do not spend more on fitness is that current technologies simply do not work for most people. Dieting and exercise are both unpleasant activities for most people. Dieting alone, without sufficient exercise, almost never results in long-term weight loss. Few people, however, stick to their exercise goals. Thanks to the work of two scientists I’ll tell you about shortly, we now understand far more about the reasons for this.
The Problem of Pain
People tend to fail at fitness regimens because of the many physical discomforts associated with exercise. If you’ve ever worked out regularly, you know what I mean. Exercise, whether it involves aerobic or resistance training, necessarily involves discomfort, if not actual pain. To get optimal benefits from exercise, we know we have to significantly exert ourselves. This entails, typically, getting hot and tired. Then, following exercise, there is often muscle and joint soreness.
Harvard behaviorist B.F. Skinner was right when he observed that an animal that experiences pain when it performs a cer- tain action will tend not to perform that action over time. Humans, of course, are subject to the same rules that Skinner labeled “operative conditioning.” We tend, therefore, not to exercise as much as we should, despite the known benefits.
The enormous fitness industry prospers despite this fact. If there were a solution — some fitness technology that actually reduced the pain and negative stimuli while increasing positive stimuli such as weight loss and increased strength — I believe that the market would be much bigger. In fact, that solution exists.
From Hibernating Bears to Super-Fitness
The “mechanism of action” exploited by this revolutionary fitness technology is rapid normalization of body core temperatures. Your core, of course, is your brain and organs. The two Stanford University scientists behind this breakthrough have discovered a way to quickly return core body temperature to optimal range.
Normally, when a person suffers from excessively low or high core body tempera- ture, potentially lethal conditions known as hypothermia and hyperthermia, it takes several hours of emergency medical treatment to restore normal temperatures. The device pictured below will normalize hyperthermia in only minutes. Altered slightly, it can do the same for hypothermia. I’ll explain exactly how it works after a little background.
Drs. Dennis A. Grahn and H. Craig Heller have pioneered the science of thermo- regulation, the study of body temperature mechanisms in animals, for decades. They focused initially on how the brain regulates body temperature, especially in hibernating and other usual animal species.
As with so many other areas of science, the arrival of new technologies transformed their research capabilities. Using devices that are quite old at this point, remote sensors capable of measuring and reporting changes in animal body temperatures, Heller and Grahn made discoveries that will change the way we think about fitness and other areas.
After studying small hibernating animals in their lab, they found it necessary to travel to Alaska to study bears. Bears are notable not just for temperature regulation during low-temperature hibernation, but functioning well in high temperatures despite being covered by thick insulating layers of fat and hair. This seeming puzzle would help guide their research in important ways.
Heller told me that a friend of the two researchers, anesthesiologist John Brock-Utne, challenged them about 15 years ago to “do something useful.” Specifically, he posed the problem of hypothermia in post-surgery patients. He was referring to the fact that anesthetized patients’ body temperatures fall during surgery, posing serious medical problems for many.
Patients under anesthesia are vasodilated, meaning the muscular walls of blood vessels are relaxed and blood flow is maximized. This leads to hypothermia. After surgery, they are tightly vasoconstricted, meaning blood vessels are tight and blood flow is minimal. This makes it very difficult to get heat from the surface of the body to the critical organs at the body core, including the brain. Failure to restore normal body temperature can cause long-term damage and even death.
At that time, NASA was researching the effects of zero gravity by putting test subjects on long-term bed rest. One of their experiments, meant to simulate the movement of blood to the legs due to sudden return of gravity, involved devices that lowered atmospheric pressure around the legs. Grahn believed that this approach to increasing blood flow might be useful in transferring warmer surface blood to the rest of the body.
Heller said, “We built a sleeve out of welding duct and had a hospital water-perfused pad and a vacuum pump. Dennis Grahn and John Brock-Utne (Stanford professor of anesthesia) took it over to the recovery room and, bing, the first patient stopped shivering in seven minutes. The second patient was about nine minutes.”
Heller told me:
It was amazing, and the thing is we could not understand it. We could not believe our own data. We were seeing it, but there was no way that we could be getting that much heat into the body.
It led to two discoveries. One discovery was that when you are cold and when you are regulating your body temperature, you don’t worry about the whole 155 pounds or whatever it is. The body is only concerned about the critical organs and that’s only about 10% of your body mass. So when you’re being rewarmed, you want to send the heat to that 10% of the body mass, the critical organs: the brain, the heart, the lungs, so forth.
That’s what the body does. It doesn’t matter what temperature your lower leg is or your arm is, as long as your core organs come up to normal. So that’s what we were doing. We were bringing the core organs up to normal and that stopped the shivering. The second realization was that the arm had nothing to do with it. It was only the hand. If we reduced the device down to just the hand, we had exactly the same effect.
This led Heller and Grahn to search the available literature. Surprisingly, the answers were easily found. Even in standard references such as Gray’s Anatomy there are long-established descriptions of previously mysterious anatomical features. They are the arteriovenous anastomoses and the retia venosa in the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet and the face. Though there was no mention in any of the literature about the function of these structures, Heller and Grahn were able to solve the mystery.
The Biological Heat Exchange Mechanism
First, let’s discuss the retia venosa. These are densely packed masses of specialized veins capable of expanding many times. They are mammals’ means of quickly venting heat. In response to high core body temperature, they expand near the surface of the skin to act as radiators.
Normally, blood flows through the capillaries instead of the retia venosa systems. When thermoregulation is required, however, the arteriovenous anastomoses (AVA) kick in. This is an alternate circulatory system that reroutes arterial blood flow directly to the retia venosa and back to the heat, bypassing the normal nutritive capillary system.
This conclusion was verified using various methods, including heat-revealing infrared photography. In hairy animals such as bears, infrared imaging revealed large amounts of heat being shed in five areas containing retia venosa radiator veins. They are the pads of the limbs and the nose, the only areas on hairy animals where heat exchange is practical.
Though humans are not furred, our cooling systems function as if we were. Animals with glabrous or nonfurry faces, like humans, have retia venosa located in cheeks and forehead instead of the large noses typical of bear, dogs and other mammals. Exactly like furred animals, however, humans have heat exchange systems in the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.
As a biological cooling system, this specialized blood flow is elegant and effective… but it has limitations. If the ambient temperature is too hot, there’s little heat exchange with the surrounding air. If air is hotter than the body’s core tem- perature, the system has very little effect. If the air temperature is too cold, the arteriolles in these heat exchange areas vasoconstrict, preventing blood flow and heat exchange.
Heller and Grahn reasoned that they could fix these problems by exposing the AVA-fed retia venosa in one or more locations to optimal temperatures. Because air has very low heat-carrying capacity, they used cooled water in a medical perfusion pad. This is a soft device through which water is circulated at a desired temperature. Because water is a very efficient heat-carrying substance, the rate of heat exchange is significantly faster.
Interestingly, I told a friend of mine, who worked for years in the construction industry, about this technology. He nodded and said, “It makes sense. When you’re working hard in the sun on a hot day, you can get heat shock. Whenever we had someone overheat on the job site, we had them put their palms under running cold tap water. It cools you down pretty fast.”
Grahn and Heller, however, took that simple treatment much further. They determined the precise range of temperatures that accomplished maximum cooling and warming. Then, they experimented until they found the optimal reduction in atmospheric pressure, or vacuum. Depending on various factors, this reduced pressure expands blood vessels and is capa- ble of accelerating heat exchange. This is because an increase in diameter of vessels increases flow by a factor of four. See Poiseuille’s law.
From Cold to Hot
At that point, Stanford licensed the rights to use the Grahn/Heller technology to reheat patients suffering from hypothermia. The company that acquired the license failed to perform, however. The two scientist inventors concentrated, instead, on the ability of their technology to cool subjects suffering from hyperthermia.
There are several obvious applications for a core cooling device. One is the cooling of soldiers in extremely hot environments such as the Middle East, though this will require a “hardened” version of the device.
The same technology that would benefit soldiers in the desert would also benefit workers in high-temperature environments. These include firefighters, miners, industrial workers and others. There are also a number of medical conditions that respond to rapid thermoregulation. Migraines respond to core cooling, and cooling ameliorates heat-related symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis. I want to concentrate now, though, on the impact of core cooling on sports and fitness.
The focus of the Stanford scientists’ early cooling research was centered on recovery from hyperthermia. To get data about cooling, it was, of course, necessary to study subjects with high core temperatures. The obvious, logical way to get those temperatures is through exercise. At the time, almost a decade ago, they had no idea that cooling would dramatically increase the efficiency of exercise.
Turning an Accidental Discovery Into a Health Breakthrough
The first experiments were performed using a lab assistant, Vinh Cao, who still works with Grahn and Heller. “He was a gym rat,” Heller told me, so he was the natural candidate for early experiments meant to determine how much vacuum optimally increased heat extraction from the body.
Various measurements were taken. Heller said, “In order to standardize it, we built a pullup bar in the lab, and we had him do repeated sets of pullups. He’d do 10 or 12 sets with three-minute rests. The purpose of this was just to get him overheated. We would cool him at the end of this 10 sets of pullups.
“He was a pretty fit guy,” Heller said:
At the beginning, he was doing about a hundred pullups in these 10 sets. The first set might be 20. Then it would go down. Then one day after we cooled him, he went back to the pullup bar and he did 20 pullups again.
We said, “Holy cow, what does that mean?” That means the muscle fatigue was eliminated by the cooling. That means the rise in temperature of the muscle is an important factor in muscle fatigue. Immediately, we started cooling him after every other set of pullups. In the next six weeks, we were doing this about twice a week. After the initial five or six weeks, he was up to about 180 pullups for his 10 sets. But over the next six weeks while we were cooling him during the workout, he went from 180 to 620. That’s 620 pullups in less than an hour.
A single test subject, however, doesn’t provide scientifically valid information, so a series of other experiments were done. One involved Stanford freshman women enrolled in a physical fitness course. They were not varsity athletes.
The subjects were asked to do 10 sets of pushups to failure, meaning that they ended a set when they could not lift themselves from the floor. After a measured rest period of three minutes, they would do another set and so forth until they had finished all 10 sets. Half used the cooling device between sets and half didn’t. Halfway through the experiment, they switched.
Initially, many of the test subjects could barely do 25 or 30 pushups in 10 sets. By the end of the experiment, however, many had worked to 600 pushups. Heller, who had been jokingly asked to act as “age control” in the study, was already working out and could do 100–125 pushups at the beginning of the experiment. By its end, on his 60th birthday, he could do 1,000. At 69, he is training to do the same thing on his 70th birthday, and he looks like it.
“It’s not magic,” he explained. “It’s just normal conditioning, but it increases the rate of conditioning. The incremental increase in pushups per workout was about five without the technology. With the technology, the increment was 10 or 11. It doubled the rate of conditioning.”
One day, he told me, a group of the women came into his office and told him that he had cost them all a lot of money. A formal dance was scheduled and none fit their dresses, so they bought sleeveless formalwear.
“It doesn’t cause the increase in muscle mass that you see with steroids,” Heller told me. “That’s a lot of meat with not necessarily much more ‘oomph.’ Steroids cause hypertrophy of the tissue. What you get with core cooling is an increase in muscle mass that is fairly lean and it’s healthy.”
I asked if the muscle tissue growth was slow or fast twitch. He answered:
Probably both slow twitch and fast twitch. Probably more fast twitch because that’s what we’re working on. But if we do endurance activity, like long-distance running or walking on a treadmill uphill, we also get huge effects in increased endurance while the technology is being used and a gradual increase in endurance even when you don’t use the technology. In other words, you keep your gains. It’s not just the effects of the technology. It helps you improve.
This is remarkable. Unlike the benefits of steroids, which fade when the drugs are not being used, the benefits gained from core cooling create a new plateau. Even without the device, continued progress and improvement can be made, though at a slower rate. This has huge implications.
Heller said to me:
Let me tell you about an experiment done last summer on obese women. This was a little project funded by American Heart Association. What we asked was whether cooling during exercise would improve the capacity of the obese to exercise and make it possible for exercise to become a more important part of their weight loss program.
So we recruited obese women and divided them into a control group and an experimental. Both of them used the technology, but the control group had the technology set at a temperature that would not have an effect. They didn’t know it. So they didn’t know they were control.
The results were that the women who were cooled showed a rapid increase in their exercise capacity. This was on a treadmill, and they lost a considerable amount of weight. The other group did not. The interest- ing thing however is that the control group had huge absenteeism. They just didn’t like it. They found all kinds of excuses why they couldn’t come in that day. Whereas the women who were being cooled had a 100% attendance. They loved it. They thought exercise was fun.
I asked both Heller and Grahn if they believe, based on their data, that the technology will have a significant impact on public health. Both believe that it would with widespread adoption.
“It could have a big effect on health,”
Heller told me:
The thing is that this is a platform technology and we don’t know all the benefits yet. For example, some people who were thinking about marketing the technology in sports had a prototype device that heated and cooled. Just by chance, one of the principal’s friends had migraines. For no reason at all, he tried the heating mode. I don’t know why he did that, but the migraine went away.
He found other people who had other complaints and the same thing happened, the migraine went away. They told me about it and I said, “That’s BS. That’s total nonsense. There’s no reason that would have an effect on migraines.”
Well, I had some people in our department who complained about migraines. I said if you have a migraine, come up to my department and try it. They did and, boom, the headaches went away. I took it over to the pain clinic and asked if they wanted to try it out. They said sure, but the problem is that migraine patients don’t go to the clinic when they have a headache. But the people in the building found out about it. If they got a migraine, they would come. Nine out of nine. Boom. It was successful.
Heller theorized that raising core temperatures was causing an outflow of blood to the radiator capillaries in the extremities. “If, indeed, a migraine is due to a slight increase in cranial blood pressure, if you pull off some of that blood into these reservoirs in the palms of the hands, you have an instant effect.
Another example I’m thinking about, though we haven’t done the research, is peripheral neuropathy of diabetes. There’s a question in my mind: Is the neuropathy due to the loss of blood flow, or is the loss of the blood flow due to the neuropathy? So if you used the device maybe several times a day to pull more blood into the feet, you would see whether or not you could reduce the progression or the development of the neuropathy. I think it’s highly likely that the problem here is loss of blood flow.
Another very promising area is multiple sclerosis, the symptoms of which are exacerbated by heat and reduced by cooling. I would like to concentrate now, however, on the reason that core cooling so dramatically improves the rate of conditioning.
Tear Down That Wall
Since the initial discoveries, multiple third-party researchers have validated the results that I’ve described in controlled studies. From endurance training to bench pressing, studies show that core cooling enables gains comparable or superior to steroids. Rather than spend time on the details of those studies, I will direct you to the AVAcore Technologies website, where a number of important papers are available for study. Go to the “How It Works” link in the Technology section for downloadable papers.
In particular, I would recommend reading an article in the Disruptive Science and Technology journal titled “Enhancing Thermal Exchange in Humans and Practical Applications.” This article was solicited by the journal when Heller and Grahn came under attack by the old school of thermoregulation scientists. The establishment, as it were, objected to the scientists from Stanford coming into their territory and pointing out that the old models used to describe biological thermoregulation didn’t reflect reality. The article is available online here.
Most of the studies and papers about the Grahn/Heller model, however, simply present evidence that their device works. I’d like to talk a little about why it works.
So let’s start with heat. Our bodies can generate an enormous amount of heat. Under normal conditions, this heat is easily removed. When excess heat is not dissipated, however, the consequences can be lethal. Our brains and other organs are, essentially, cooked. Long before hyperthermia kills, however, excess heat can do serious damage on a cellular level.
Our biological systems, our bodies, have four primary protective mechanisms designed to prevent such damage. When you are doing hard physical labor or are exercising, you encounter all three. Together, they are what athletes metaphorically refer to as “the wall.”
I suspect we’ve all hit the wall. We are trying to work out but find that we are overcome by a kind of lethargic exhaustion that saps the will and makes it difficult even to move our limbs. If you’ve ever spent time in a gym, you’ve heard personal trainers and workout partners exhorting people, often at high volume, to push through that wall.
In fact, this is probably not particularly good advice because the wall is your own safety mechanism for avoiding cellular heat damage. So how is the wall activated? What follows is my understanding.
When we are doing physical work, muscle cells create heat. That heat is moved via the circulatory system throughout your body, including your core organs. The AVA system responds by shunting blood to your radiator system. It’s not that hard to overwhelm this heat removal system, though.
The body responds by increasing blood flow to the heat loss structures so that it can protect the most important and heat- sensitive locations, such as the brain and other organs. This is a kind of personal organ triage. This results in a reduction of blood flow to the muscles in the extremities. Heat builds up in the muscles because the body is protecting the organs, and, in fact, damage is done to muscle and connective tissues that are no longer being cooled.
At this point, safety mechanism No. 1 is activated — sweating, which has limited impact. Then, the brain stops obeying your efforts to work muscles at maximum force. The muscle cells themselves remain capable of maximum contraction, but the brain refuses to send the signal.
When you’re overheated, you’re still capable of activating muscle cells. This is required to escape dangerous situations, but your ability to do work in the biological sense is severely reduced by the brain. This reduces the amount of heat being generated. Every instinct then tells you to stop what you’re doing and rest.
Sometimes, people ignore instincts, though. So there are other, more important safety mechanisms. One is activated at the DNA level in the chromosomes of the overheated muscle cells. Sensing excess heat, the heat shock family of genes begin transcribing or synthesizing proteins that do two things.
One, they act as chaperones to protect existing proteins because the folding or degradation of those proteins can cause all kinds of damage. Two, they shut down further gene transcription. The computer mechanism that runs your cells simply stops working until cell temperature returns to the safety zone. Personal computers do the same thing when their sensors detect dangerously high temperatures.
Also on the cellular level, your mitochondria, which produce usable biological energy (adenosine triphosphate, or ATP) from food energy, shut down. Specifically, the pyruvate kinase necessary for ATP production stops functioning outside of a very narrow temperature range.
This also is a good thing. If these safety mechanisms did not work, excess physical activity would cook our muscles and connective tissues. Nevertheless, overheating of muscle cells during exercise seems to slow recovery and adaptation to progressive training.
The discoveries of Heller and Grahn have not just enabled an important training and potential new medical device, but they rewrite what we thought we knew about exercise and muscle growth. We now know that you can stop that cell cooking by restoring core body temperature to normal. This means that recovery times after workout will also be dramati- cally shortened. In turn, this means that, with core cooling, we can work out more often and harder, increasing fitness levels much faster.
Less Pain, More Gain
In the course of researching this issue, I was able to speak at length to a number of important athletes and trainers and Ph.D.s at both the college and NFL level. I’m not going to quote them, but they all confirmed the basic impact of the AVAcore cooling device as presented by Grahn, Heller and other researchers in published articles.
It is this: By rapidly cooling the core following intense exercise, we quickly reestablish cooler blood flow to the muscles. This means that each successive effort is far more effective than it would be without the device. Recovery and gains also occur at an accelerated rate.
What surprised me, however, is how quickly the sense of fatigue caused by serious exertion goes away. For over a month now, I’ve been using a prototype of the core cooling device, and it has been a revelation. My friend John Mauldin is also using the device, and he reported vast improvements from his first use.
I’ve worked out for years, but as I’ve aged, my capacity for exercise has steadily declined. I get tired faster and my joints and connective tissue are far more prone to strain and injury.
My Personal Experience With the Core Cooling Device
The first time I used the device, it was leg day. I’ve suffered from shoulder problems for years due to a car accident of my youth. That accident caused upper spinal damage and associated nerve loss that has always given me shoulder problems. My knees, however, are in better shape than a lot of my younger friends’, so I was able to do squats and leg extension with maximum force on my first use.
I did my typical low-weight warmup set of leg extensions and applied the device to one hand, though I didn’t feel particularly hot. Then I did heavy leg extension to failure. Before I finished the set, I was sweating and panting. My heart rate was up and my ability to think clearly was fading as my body’s resources were rerouted to deal with my rising core temperature. In other words, it was a normal workout.
I put the device on one hand and flipped the switch. Water at the precise temperature, electronically controlled, circulated through a perfusion pad around my hand. The vacuum increased and the cold perfusion pad device seemed to tighten around my hand.
I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t what I actually experienced. I suppose that I thought I would feel different somehow as cooled blood went directly to my heart and then to the muscles that were getting much of the cardiac output because they were being worked.
We have no conscious awareness of internal temperatures, though. I felt nothing, really. Then, in just a few minutes, I realized that I had stopped sweating and panting. My heart rate had dropped dramatically. Cognitive function returned to normal and an unexpected sense of normality set in. I felt pretty much exactly like I did before I started exercising. It was remarkable.
After four or five minutes of cooling via the device, I did another set with even more weight. I really pushed it and did more repetitions at that weight than I have in many, many years. After cooling, I went on. And on. And on. I easily doubled my normal leg day workload and felt great.
In fact, I never hit “the wall.” I should mention that my weight bench is on the pool deck outside. I was working out in 90 degree temperatures with humidity close to 100%. I live, after all, on an island in the Gulf of Mexico at the same latitude as Miami.
Normally, after five or six hard leg sets, my T-shirt and shorts are soaked and I’m completely burned and shaky, ready only to turn up the air conditioning and take a nap. Instead, I was still fresh. My weights and the number of reps per set were falling, but far more slowly than they ever have before.
I quit, in fact, not because I’d hit the wall. I quit because I’d spent more than two hours lifting weights and had other work to do. It was simply bizarre. Though I was exercising more intensely than I had when I was much younger, I actually missed the exhausted Calvinist self-satisfaction that comes with the inability to go on.
Having worked my legs at such high intensity, I thought I knew what to expect in the next few days. Normally, that kind of workout would mean that I would have trouble getting out of bed two days hence. Standing up after sitting would reignite the pain in my legs and I would hobble for at least a day.
As a general rule, I would skip a day between intense weight-lifting sessions, but frankly, I was so enthused by my first workout, I went straight to my upper-body bench press routine the next day. Because my shoulders are my weak point, my bench presses and incline flies are done with relatively low weights and very, very carefully. Though my shoulder prob- lems have improved significantly since I started taking Star Scientific’s (NASDAQ: STSI) anti-inflammatory nutraceutical Anatabloc, I still feel it in my shoulders when I do pressing exercises.
The effect of the core cooling device on my shoulders was even more impressive than it was on my legs. Even after doubling the number of sets I normally do and raising the weight load far above my normal limits, my shoulders never complained.
To me, this is the most remarkable thing about this technology. It not only allows faster progress, but I personally believe it protects joints and connective tissues. I assume that this is because there is even less blood flow to connective tissues and joints than to muscle cells. Moreover, these are the moving parts in our limbs and they create more friction-generated heat than typical cells. When rising core temperature cuts blood flow to the limbs, it is connective tissue that cools slowest and, during lengthy workout sessions, cooks longest.
My own experiences after a month of nearly daily use lead me to conclude that a lot of joint problems are due to heat buildup. This is, as you know, a particular problem with older people, who have reduced thermoregulatory capacity. It’s older people, after all, who suffer and die at the highest rates when a power outage knocks out air conditioning in very hot weather.
Studies haven’t been done yet to confirm the role of heat in connective tissue breakdown, but I’m not the only person using this technology to report amelioration of the problem. Constant core cooling, I believe, allows the body to protect connective tissues during exercise. This, in turn, would theoretically allow strengthening of these critical tissues in response to stress. We desperately need studies to confirm or refute this thesis, but I’m very certain that the results would be positive.
The next day, by the way, I woke up with a notable absence of pain. The typical twinges in my shoulder weren’t there. More dramatically, despite a massive leg workout a day and a half earlier, I experienced no after-workout soreness in my quadriceps or hamstrings. I felt something, but it wasn’t pain. These are results very similar to those reported by researchers and professional athletes using the core cooling technology.
In the last month, I’ve continued to push the envelope of training. The length of time that I can spend on the treadmill wearing the device has nearly doubled. My maximum weights are where they were over a decade ago, and I continue to make rapid gains. I’ve put on noticeable muscle mass in areas that I could not work out hard, especially the chest and shoulder, while my waistline has actually diminished.
While this technology is going to be embraced by serious athletes and younger people who want to accelerate their training progress, I believe that the biggest net beneficiaries will be older people.
As we age, “the wall” appears sooner and sooner because thermoregulatory capabilities under stress diminish with the years. This device demolishes that wall. It will do so for younger people as well, but the practical impact will be greater for older people whose capacity to exercise has been diminished. Boomers, desperate for any edge in the fight against aging, have the resources and motive to make this device an enormous success.
Moreover, all varieties of pain associated with exercise, Skinner’s negative stimuli, are significantly lessened. This will increase the likelihood that people will exercise.
For me, I admit that I’m bordering on obsession with this technology. I wake up in the morning planning my next workout, and I am excited about seeing increased strength and bone density and, I believe, stronger connective tissue. There are also, of course, associated improvements in the big metabolism picture.
The AVAcore Pipeline
AVAcore Technologies made its share of mistakes in the past, but I’m convinced that the current CEO, Chuck Hixson, has overcome most of the early problems. He is, I believe, on track to manufacturing within half a year.
AVAcore has one more round of funding before the product hits the market, but I doubt Hixson will need to ask for capital again. Besides the initial cooling product, I expect to see a range of associated products, such as an industrial- strength unit for schools and gyms. For sanitary purposes, I think individuals would own their own “glove,” which would be plugged into a central unit providing precisely cooled water and vacuum.
Hixson told me, incidentally, that he would have gone after the veterinary market first if he had known what he knows now. Because pets have much lower body mass than humans, they are far more likely to die from surgical hypothermia. Many are asking for a technology that will allow safe use of anesthetics on animals. Unlike the human medical market, however, veterinary medicine is basically unregulated, so AVAcore could begin selling to this need as soon as a product is developed.
The military applications are also, I believe, inevitable, though they will take time. Further down the road are the medical uses for both core cooling and core warming. Big Pharma will almost certainly help with the regulatory hurdles once the technology is validated in the fitness and veterinary markets.
Finally, I would point out that the core cooling device is getting a lot of sports media coverage lately because various teams have adopted its use, including the Stanford football team and the San Francisco 49ers. Various videos can be accessed on the website in the “News and Events” section.
Yours for transformational profits,
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