Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sugar? Fructose? Carbs? What's the Difference!

A friend asked about the difference in impact between blood sugar that is created from excess consumption of carbs that are not sugar, and from carbs that are sugar.  That is to say, why does high carb intake absent a high sugar intake seem to have a different impact than does the high carb/high sugar combination?

First, two facts:
There are islanders who eat at least 60% of their calories as starchy carbs, but they have very little sugar intake.  About 95% of the men smoke.  They have no heart disease.
Additionally, when studied it is often observed that there are healthy fat folks and non-healthy fat folks.

What happens in a very abbreviated answer is that fructose is processed via the liver, and when consumed in excess it seems to make the liver insulin resistant.  This seems to be a stage in development of full insulin resistance.  Insulin resistance is detected as metabolic syndrome, a precursor to diabetes, and a strong predictor of disease in and of itself.

You can find more about various elements of fructose ingestion here:
Fructose link:

Also, at Gary Taubes blog Gary summarizes three studies on this topic here:
Taubes summary of the three:–-the-ancestral-health-symposium-food-reward-palatability-insulin-signaling-and-carbohydrates…-part-iib/

The best, most solid science on this topic includes this study: ... which is summarized well here:

So here's my concept of the progression:

First, we find those who eat too many carbs, and store them as excess fat, but they are not insulin resistant, do not develop metabolic syndrome, and are healthy by most measures.
Second, we find those who eat "too much" sugar (too much is different by individuals for a variety of reasons like ethnicity, activity level, alcohol consumption, etc) and become insulin resistant.  For these folks, all carbs now become a driver of excess blood sugar, inflammation, and often progress to metabolic syndrome and diabetes.  Once sugar and carbs are reduced, these folks often become normal in their tolerance of non-sugar carbs.
Lastly, we find those with metabolic syndrome and diabetes.  Because they have become insulin resistant, often any kind or dose of carbs will make them fatter and sicker.

The implications for this model include the idea that eating meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, little fruit or starch and no sugar/wheat is a strong preventative for progression through these stages.  I would bet that it is not possible to eat enough of the above prescription to become insulin resistant.  Once one is in stage 2 or 3 as described above, it may take a more careful approach that includes measured carb restriction, and perhaps induction of ketogenic metabolism.

Monday, September 15, 2014

"Why sugar is worse than fat"

It was in the late '70s – in fact, there was a Senate commission, Senator McGovern, who actually looked at this issue and found that people who had very high levels of cholesterol tended to die early of heart disease. And there was also other studies that showed if you ate a diet high in fat, it raised your cholesterol. But those were two different studies. And they got really, really linked, not only by the Senate, but also in the scientific community and then by everybody else.
And what happened over the last 30 years, it got codified. It became the way that we eat low fat in this country. And nothing changed. In fact, things got worse. Cardiovascular disease remains the biggest killer of men and women. Diabetes rates are higher than ever before. Childhood obesity. So it didn't work. And I think that's what sort of prompted all this analysis.
I think there's two issues here. One is that fat doesn't get a free pass here. There's still some problems with it. It still raises cholesterol levels. That is associated with heart disease. The problem is that what we replaced fat with was sugar. And sugar may be more problematic, in some ways, for someone who's worried about heart disease than fat.
 All true, and yet, Dr. Gupta goes on to show he still doesn't really get it. So here's my dare to the doctor - provide one intervention study that supports your concerns about saturated fat and heart disease.

It's hard not to point out that he's about 7 years late to the low carb dance ...

Jacinto Bonilla, CrossFit and 70+ Years Old!

Have a  look at this awesome profile of Jacinto!  Jacinto and I were at the 2008 Games but somehow I did not meet him then - my loss.  He's been back to the Games many times since then at a Master's competitor in the 60+ bracket - that's right, he's in the top 20 fittest humans even when compared with those 10 or more years younger than he is!  If you could walk into a gym today and do what Jacinto does you would be very proud of yourself.

Friday, September 12, 2014

What is Strength?

Back in the day, I used to think a lot of weird stuff about strength and strength training.

I used to think bigger muscles were stronger.
I used to think strength was mostly something that happened in muscle tissue.
I used to think being better at bench pressing would make you better at - for example - punching or hitting a baseball.

In short, I thought about strength training like a body builder thinks about strength training.  At some point, it became clear that a bigger bench press didn't translate much to the athletic activities I valued.  Ten years later I found CrossFit and began to unravel why.

It turns out that the ability to generate for and the ability to generate force quickly is very complex and muscle size is a relatively small factor.  Which is why, I suppose, Louie Simmons says "Big is not strong, strong is strong."

It also turns out that while the muscle contraction has to be happen for strength to be expressed, that contraction is affected by what is happening in other parts of the body.  For example if you lie on your back and raise your legs and then turn on your core muscles, the output of those muscles will be lessened.  The first time I heard of this idea of "load sequencing" (meaning loading core muscles or for example posterior muscles first), I scoffed with the same characteristic arrogance I have always been unable to avoid.

There's also the matter of position.  If you play with yoga, they spend a lot of time focusing on postures or poses.  If you play with martial arts, the same applies - good position is very important.  Turns out that power lifters and gymnasts found the same things.  Good position is critical for high athletic output, and in particular if one wants to avoid injury.

Lastly, for athletics, stronger arm muscles are nice but they only pay off if you can apply them via powerful hip extension.  In other words, you have to know how to use your ass.  All day long I'm showing folks how to use their ass, so that they can safely generate high power - time after time.

To conclude, first you want good body position, then you want proper load sequencing, then you want  "strong muscles" and then you want bigger muscles (since the size itself can increase leverage).  But the holy grail of athleticism is force and speed together - so if you want to be an elite athlete, you have to develop, in addition to the above, the capacity to develop high force in a short amount of time.  That is to say you want a high rate of force development.  Combine them all and you get a home run hitter, a long ball golfer, a champion olympic lifter, or a world class CrossFitter.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Eat Before You Train? Maybe.

Remember all those folks over the last 20 years that wrote or said it was critical that you eat a large portion of a blue whale before and after each workout so you could avoid muscle catabolism and thus becoming a girly man with tiny biceps?  And that you should eat at least one blue whale fin every 3 hours?  And that breakfast is the most important meal of the day?  
That advice was worth what you paid for it - if you got it for free.

In previous installments, I’ve discussed the powerful effect of fasting on weight loss, particularly with respect toadipose tissue. I’ve explained how intermittent bouts of going without food have been shown to increase cancer survival and resistance and improve patient and tumor response to chemotherapy, and I went over the considerable evidence suggesting that fasting can provide thelife extending benefits of caloric restriction without the pain of restricting your calories day in, day out. And last week, I highlighted how fasting may have protective and therapeutic benefits to the brain.
As such you might be thinking that I only recommend fasting to the sedentary, the aged, and the infirm. Surely I wouldn’t go so far as to recommend to the active, the athletic, and the jacked that they engage in vigorous physical activity without having eaten a solid square meal beforehand – right? I mean, no good can come of a fasted training session, as the gym bros with the sweet ‘ceps are so quick to intone.
So, Sisson, what’s the deal? Can we exercise in the fasted state and live to tell the tale?
Yes. And there may even be benefits to doing it.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Benefits of Strength Training During Aging

As one of my first martials arts teachers said, "Too much work makes you sick, too little work makes you weak."  
You should see the glow on a face of a 76 year old, who is a lung cancer survivor, had a hip replacement, and needs another, when she hits a new personal record (PR).  Strength training makes folks feel good!  Strength gives you more choices in how to live your life, and makes you healthier.  
Come see us at CrossFit Fire of the Gods and let us show you how to double or triple your strength.
Most of us know that strength training (with free weights, weight machines, or resistance bands) can help build and maintain muscle mass and strength. What many of us don't know is that strong muscles lead to strong bones. And strong bones can help minimize the risk of fracture due to osteoporosis.
A combination of age-related changes, inactivity, and poor nutrition conspire to steal bone mass at the rate of 1% per year after age 40. As bones grow more fragile and susceptible to fracture, they are more likely to break after even a minor fall or a far less obvious stress, such as bending over to tie a shoelace.
Osteoporosis should be a concern for all of us. Eight million women and two million men in the United States have osteoporosis. It is now responsible for more than two million fractures a year, and experts expect that number will rise. Hip fractures are usually the most serious. Six out of 10 people who break a hip never fully regain their former level of independence. Even walking across a room without help may be impossible.
Numerous studies have shown that strength training can play a role in slowing bone loss, and several show it can even build bone. This is tremendously useful to help offset age-related decline in bone mass. Activities that put stress on bones stimulate extra deposits of calcium and nudge bone-forming cells into action. The tugging and pushing on bone that occur during strength training (and weight-bearing aerobic exercise like walking or running) provide the stress. The result is stronger, denser bones.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Better Late Then Never, NIH Figures It Out

Results: Sixty participants (82%) in the low-fat group and 59 (79%) in the low-carbohydrate group completed the intervention. At 12 months, participants on the low-carbohydrate diet had greater decreases in weight (mean difference in change, −3.5 kg [95% CI, −5.6 to −1.4 kg]; P = 0.002), fat mass (mean difference in change, −1.5% [CI, −2.6% to −0.4%]; P = 0.011), ratio of total–high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (mean difference in change, −0.44 [CI, −0.71 to −0.16]; P = 0.002), and triglyceride level (mean difference in change, −0.16 mmol/L [−14.1 mg/dL] [CI, −0.31 to −0.01 mmol/L {−27.4 to −0.8 mg/dL}]; P = 0.038) and greater increases in HDL cholesterol level (mean difference in change, 0.18 mmol/L [7.0 mg/dL] [CI, 0.08 to 0.28 mmol/L {3.0 to 11.0 mg/dL}]; P < 0.001) than those on the low-fat diet.
Limitation: Lack of clinical cardiovascular disease end points.
Conclusion: The low-carbohydrate diet was more effective for weight loss and cardiovascular risk factor reduction than the low-fat diet. Restricting carbohydrate may be an option for persons seeking to lose weight and reduce cardiovascular risk factors.
Primary Funding Source: National Institutes of Health.
I'm glad they finally got around to doing this since it's too obvious for anyone to still ignore, but they could have done this 40 years ago.  And they should have.