Saturday, January 30, 2010

Exercise Equals Weight Loss? Or Hunger?

Taubes' intro is masterful:
"If lean people are more physically active than fat people—one fact in the often-murky science of weight control that’s been established beyond reasonable doubt— does that mean that working out will make a fat person lean? Does it mean that sitting around will make a lean person fat? How about a mathematical variation on these questions: Let’s say we go to the gym and burn off 3,500 calories every week—that’s 700 calories a session, five times a week. Since a pound of fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories, does that mean we’ll be a pound slimmer for every week we exercise? And will we continue to slim down at this pace for as long as we continue to exercise?"

Read more: Does Exercise Really Make Us Thinner? -- New York Magazine"

The answer is - no.  Once thought through, that answer seems the commonest of common sense.  After all, if it were not true, lumberjacks would all have starved to death, leaving only typists and other office workers to rule the world.  In other words - the body must have a mechanism to increase hunger based on increased physical activity or we would starve to death with our first bout of several days of increased physical activity.

“Vigorous muscle exercise usually results in immediate demand for a large meal,” noted Hugo Rony of Northwestern University in his 1940 textbook, Obesity and Leanness. “Consistently high or low energy expenditures result in consistently high or low levels of appetite. Thus men doing heavy physical work spontaneously eat more than men engaged in sedentary occupations. Statistics show that the average daily caloric intake of lumberjacks is more than 5,000 calories, while that of tailors is only about 2,500 calories. Persons who change their occupation from light to heavy work or vice versa soon develop corresponding changes in their appetite.” If a tailor becomes a lumberjack and, by doing so, takes to eating like one, why assume that the same won’t happen, albeit on a lesser scale, to an overweight tailor who decides to work out like a lumberjack for an hour a day?"
The speculation - that populations and individuals fatten due to too little physical activity - has an appeal to the moralist in us; "it's their own fault."  It's a moral failing.  But what if it isn't?  What if we're eating the wrong foods, egged on by governments and impassioned vegetarians and other interest groups?

The conjecture that inactivity throws off the body's fat regulatory systems seems to be supported the observation that the obese are less active than the lean.  However, as with any correlate, the challenge for science is to utilize the scientific method to determine causality.  In this case, scientists have been unable to show that in fact, sloth leads to obesity.  Instead, what they find is that the obese often eat fewer calories than the lean, and that increasing the activity level of the obese does not prove to be a long term solution to their body fat problem.

Taubes continues:  "Meanwhile, the evidence simply never came around to support Mayer’s hypothesis, even though our beliefs did. My favorite study of the effect of physical activity on weight loss was published in 1989 by a team of Danish researchers. Over the course of eighteen months the Danes trained nonathletes to run a marathon. At the end of this training period, the eighteen men in the study had lost an average of five pounds of body fat. As for the nine women subjects, the Danes reported, “no change in body composition was observed.” That same year, F. Xavier Pi-Sunyer, then director of the St. Luke’s–Roosevelt Hospital Obesity Research Center in New York, reviewed the studies on exercise and weight, and his conclusion was identical to that of the Finnish review’s eleven years later: “Decreases, increases, and no changes in body weight and body composition have been observed,” Pi-Sunyer reported."

"As for the authorities themselves, the primary factor fueling their belief in the weight-maintaining benefits of exercise was their natural reluctance to acknowledge otherwise. Although one couldn’t help but be “underwhelmed by” the evidence, as Mayer’s student Judith Stern, a UC Davis nutritionist, wrote in 1986, it would be “shortsighted” to say that exercise was ineffective because it meant ignoring the possible contributions of exercise to the prevention of obesity and to the maintenance of weight loss that might be induced by diet. These, of course, had never been demonstrated either, but they hadn’t been ruled out. This faith-based philosophy came to dominate scientific discussions on exercise and weight, but it couldn’t be reconciled with the simple notion that appetite and calories consumed will increase with an increase in physical activity. Hence, the idea of working up an appetite was jettisoned. Clinicians, researchers, exercise physiologists, even personal trainers at the local gym took to thinking and talking about hunger as though it were a phenomenon exclusive to the brain, a question of willpower (whatever that is), not the natural consequence of a body trying to replenish itself with energy."

It does not matter how you try to starve the body - the result is the same.  Hunger, listlessness, irritability, feeling cold relative to the real temperature; one or more of these symptoms will be evident as the body responds to deprivation of energy by trying to conserve what is available.  Fat loss, then, results from making available the fat stores as an energy source, such that the body is never starved for energy.  Theoretically, exercise might contribute to that process by improving insulin sensitivity, but such has not yet been proved.  

Low Carb Wins Again

A low carbohydrate Mediterranean diet improves cardiovascular risk factors and diabetes control among overweight patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. A one-year prospective randomized intervention study

Background: The appropriate dietary intervention for overweight persons with type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM2) is unclear. Trials comparing the effectiveness of diets are frequently limited by short follow-up times and high dropout rates.
Aim: We compared the effects of a low carbohydrate Mediterranean (LCM), a traditional Mediterranean (TM), and the 2003 American Diabetic Association (ADA) diet, on health parameters during a twelve-month period.
Methods: In this twelve-month trial, we randomly assigned 259 overweight diabetic patients (mean age 55 years, mean body mass index 31.4 kg/m2) to one of the three diets. The primary end-points were reduction of fasting plasma glucose, HbA1c, and triglyceride levels.
Results: 194/259 patients (74.9%) completed follow-up. After 12 months, the mean weight loss for all patients was 8.3kg: 7.7 kg for ADA, 7.4 kg for TM and 10.1 kg for LCM diets. The reduction in HbA1c was significantly greater in the LCM than in the ADA diet (-2.0%, and -1.6%, respectively p<0.022). HDL cholesterol increased (0.1 mmol/l±0.02) only on the LCM (p<0.002). The reduction in serum triglyceride was greater in the LCM (-1.3 mmol/l) and TM (-1.5 mmol/l) than in the ADA (-0.7 mmol/l), p = 0.001.
Conclusions: An intensive 12-month dietary intervention, in a community-based setting was effective in improving most modifiable cardiovascular risk factors in all the dietary groups. Only the LCM improved HDL levels and was superior to both the ADA and TM in improving glycemic control.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Who Is More Fit?

Which athlete is more fit?
- a powerlifter who can squat/deadlift/bench press over 2000 pounds
- a marathoner running 26 miles in under three hours
- a gold medal sprinter
- a champion 800m runner
- a champion Iron Man Triathlete
- an Olympic gold medal swimmer
- a champion olympic lifter; lifts 500 pounds from the ground to fully overhead
- an NFL running back
- a 7'2" NBA center
- Beckham
- a champion olympic decathlete
- a champion gymnast

Before you start writing, please define what you mean by "fit."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

How to GH Raise by Tate

This one of the most highly recommended movements for powerlifters who desire to boost their lifts.  The focus is on the hamstring.  This sort of isolation movement is not common in CF, but would add a potent variant to your arsenal - and who wouldn't benefit from stronger hams?  Use it in your warm up, if nothing else.

How to do a standard GHR

"To do a GHR, you'll start with your body in a horizontal position on the bench with your toes pushed into the toe plate. Your knees will be set two inches behind the pad and your back will be rounded with your chin tucked. You then push your knees into the pad and curl your body up with your hamstrings while keeping the back rounded. As you approach the top position, squeeze your glutes to finish in a vertical position."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Alwyn Cosgrave

"You cannot out train a bad diet."  This is the practitioner's equivalent of Gary Taubes' well researched perspective highlighting the fact that there's little evidence to support the conjecture that exercise is helpful in fat loss.  That exercise would not help with fat loss is also the commonest of common sense, else all lumberjacks would have died of starvation.  In other words, more exercise generates more hunger to the extent that it successfully consumes calories.  Caloric deficit - whether from exercise or under-eating - generates hunger, thank goodness.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Study Post Mortem, How It's Done

The link below will steer you to a fantastic post from Robb Wolf's site which picks apart a study examining the effects of a high fat diet on mice.

The key points are that the authors do not consider a key variable - omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acid balance - which would significantly alter the outcomes if changed.  This observation is useful in learning how to think about scientific studies.  Virtually every study you will read about in the mass media is similarly flawed, and even if the study is not, the reporting almost certainly will be.

This is why most folks won't bother with working through the science and will instead depend upon the advice of a guru.

Weigh-Measure-Eat-Prick Part Two

Pop quiz - what's better for you, a whole wheat bagel or a couple of pancakes with syrup? 

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Weigh and Measure Before, Prick and Measure After

I love this guy's idea.  I've been wanting to do this for over a year, now with these recommendations I know how to pursue it.  Brilliant!!

A Vegetarian Examines Evidence For/Against High Carb/Low Carb

This is a great compliment to Gary Taubes' "Good Calories Bad Calories."

Meat - It Is Why We Are Here

Mike Eades, on the money wrt physiology and meat eating.  If you really want a deep look at this topic, Lierre Kieth's book, The Vegetarian Myth, will open your eyes.  No way to get inside the head of a vegan than via an ex-vegan!  And beyond the health issues, Lierre makes it clear that in terms of ethics and sustainability, annual monocrops are the scourge of humankind, animal kind and the 'earth'.
"At a more general level, this exercise has demonstrated other important points. First, diet can be inferred from aspects of anatomy other than teeth and jaws. For example, an indication of the relative size of the gastro-intestinal tract and consequently the digestibility of the food stuffs being consumed is provided by the morphology of the rib cage and pelvis. Second, any dietary inference for the hominids must be consistent with all lines of evidence. Third, the evolution of any organ of the body cannot be profitably studied in isolation. Other approaches to understand the costs of encephalization have generally failed because they have tended to look at the brain in isolation from other tissues. The expensive-tissue hypothesis profitably emphasizes the essential interrelationship between the brain, BMR, and other metabolically expensive body organs.
I hope you are now armed with enough knowledge to be able to see through these articles and/or charts that are all too common showing how the GI tract of humans is closer to that of a gorilla than it is to that of a cat or some other carnivore. It seems to me that Aiello and Wheeler have pretty thoroughly demolished the notion that humans are actually designed by the forces of natural selection to be vegetarians. Based on the data and the argument they present, it is actually the opposite: we evolved to be meat eaters.
It was our gradual drift toward the much higher quality diet provided by food from animal sources that allowed us to develop the large brains we have. It was hunting and meat eating that reduced our GI tracts and freed up our brains to grow. As I wrote at the start of this post, the evidence indicates that we didn't evolve to eat meat - we evolved because we ate meat.
Lierre Keith had it right in The Vegetarian Myth:
The wild herds of aurochs and horses invented us out of their bodies, their nutrient-dense tissues gestating the human brain.
If we evolved because we ate meat, why would we want to stop now?"

Friday, January 22, 2010

Are You Fit If You Can Run a 4 Minute Mile?

"Keep your 500 pound bench press, keep your four minute mile, give me the capacity to bench moderate weights at screaming heart rates and come back and do it again and again." Coach Greg Glassman

"Intensity is the independent variable most commonly associated with maximizing favorable adaptation to training." Coach Greg Glassman

Specialists need to run a 4 minutes mile or better to compete internationally, but they pay a price in reduced fitness.  A specialist may want to bench press more than 500 pounds, but will pay a price in reduced fitness. 

Athletes, parents, brothers, sisters, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, firefighters, police officers, home makers ... in other words, the vast majority of Americans ... need to have a balanaced capacity of athletic adaptation.  The generalists of the world will fare far better on average than the specialists when it comes to combat, sport, and life.

Studies - How to Think About Them

Consumers can't be blamed if they feel confused or even frustrated by the latest diet news, doctors say.

Today, for example, two studies show that vitamins E, C and selenium don't prevent cancer, even though earlier studies had suggested they might protect people from the disease.

Researcher J. Michael Gaziano says he's used to hearing from patients — including family members — who struggle to keep up with the latest research.

"Even my 93-year-old grandmother calls me to say, 'One day you guys say to eat oatmeal, and the next day to say don't bother,'" says Gaziano, who was involved in the new studies and works as a doctor at the VA Boston and Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Gaziano and other researchers offered to answer questions about diet research.

Q. Why do the new studies contradict the findings of earlier research?
A. Many of those earlier studies were preliminary. That means they usually can't prove cause and effect, Gaziano says.

Scientists are familiar with these limitations.

"Conflicting results are part and parcel of the scientific process," Gaziano says. "It's why we're often reluctant to make a clinical recommendation based on a single result."

But consumers — who pay much closer attention to diet news than to other areas of medicine — can easily get confused if they mistake these early findings for solid results, says Peter Gann of the University of Illinois at Chicago, who wrote an editorial accompanying Gaziano's studies in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Q. So which studies should we pay attention to?
A. The strongest studies are called randomized clinical trials.

These are the best experiments for proving that one thing causes another, Gaziano says.

In these tests, researchers randomly assign one group of people to do one thing, such as take a vitamin, but assign a comparison group to do something else, such as take a placebo pill, he says. In a "double-blind trial" — the most rigorous kind — neither patients nor their immediate doctors know which pills they're taking. Only the researchers running the trial know who's in which group. An outside panel oversees the study to make sure that patients aren't harmed and may stop the study early if problems surface.

Q. Are all diet studies randomized trials?
A. No. There are many other kinds of studies, Gaziano says.

Observational studies: In these studies, doctors observe different groups, such as people who choose to take vitamins and those that don't. They follow both groups for many years, then note how each group fares. They might measure which people develop cancer, for example.

This kind of study can find associations, such as the fact that people who take vitamins are less likely to get cancer, Gaziano says. But an observational study can't prove that vitamins actually prevent cancer. That's because there could be something different about people who choose to take vitamins compared to others. For example, people who take vitamins might be more likely to exercise and get regular checkups.

Subgroup analyses: Doctors sometimes look through their data to see if there are other interesting trends, Gaziano says. These findings also can be misleading, though, because each subgroup may be so small that any trends could be caused by chance.

Laboratory studies: Studies in animals or cells are interesting, but doctors don't usually base their advice to patients on these tests, Gaziano says. Instead, scientists use these tests to decide whether to do more definitive studies.

Q. What's the best way to research a health study?
A. Because all drugs — including vitamins and herbs — have side effects, it's worth taking the time to do some research putting them in your body, Gaziano says.

Gaziano suggests that consumers read news stories carefully to assess how doctors got their results. If a story isn't clear, patients should consider looking up the original article in a medical journal or asking their doctors.

Patients can also consult the websites of major medical organizations, such as the American Cancer Society,the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the National Cancer Institute. These groups sift through scientific evidence when making recommendations about diet, screening tests and other health issues.

Q. Why is there so much confusion about diet news?
A. Everyone likes good news, Gaziano says. So it's tempting for everyone — from researchers who want to further their careers to journalists looking for a scoop — to overplay preliminary results. Consumers are often quick to put too much faith in the latest "advance" out of wishful thinking. Lots of people, for example, would rather take a pill than go through the hard work of diet and exercise.

Interesting Study on Vitamin D Needs by Season
See also my post on how to take vitamin D, how much you need, and how to tell if you are taking right amount:

Interesting Heart Disease Predictive Model

What do you need to know to predict heart disease more accurately? Contrary to what all the statin advocates would have you believe, NOT LDL levels.

How To Take Vitamin D, How Much You Need, How To Measure Efficacy

From the Heartscan Blog (
The three big takeaways are:
--"We use 60-70 ng/ml of 25-hydroxy vitamin D as our target. Most men and women require 6000 units per day to achieve this level."

--"I advise everyone that gelcap vitamin D is preferable. Some, though not all, liquid drop forms have also worked. Take a dose that yields desirable blood levels.

--"And blood levels of 25-hydroxy vitamin D are ideally checked every 6 months: in summer and in winter to provide feedback on how much sun activation of D you obtain. If your doctor is unwilling or unable to perform vitamin D testing, fingerstick vitamin D test kits can be obtained from Track Your Plaque."

Fruit is Sugar, Right?  How to know what you're eating when munching on that fruit folks think is so great for you.

Stretching Mythology

From Coach Mike Boyle - nicely addresses many of the questionable aspects of the conventional wisdom regardling stretching, flexibility, and fitness. An athlete gets all of the flexibility they need from full range of motion functional movements. If you can squat below parallel, complete a full range of motion pullup, and hold a bar directly overhead, how much more flexibility do you need? The sit reach in particular is a poor measure of meaningful flexibility, as it encourages athletes to gain flexibility in their lower backs. The lower back is designed to have limited ROM in order for it to provide a stable, weight bearing capacity. It is not desirable to significantly increase the flexibility of the low back unless you are a specialty athlete, like a contortionist, or you are in rehabilitation. Hamstring length is cultivated naturally with weightlifting exercises such as the deadlift, weighted back squat, and weighted front squat. If you desire to gain more hamstring flexibility faster, use Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF).
"A recent NY Times article once again questioned the value of stretching.
Here is the article -

A Facebook link posted by one of my friends brought the article to my attention.
To be honest, I am amazed that writers can make the jumps in reasoning that they make with so little knowledge. In my opinion the author makes three huge mistakes in the first two paragraphs.
1- The author studied distance runners. These are at best an interesting sub-group but have no real relationship to most team sport athletes.
2- The study used the sit and reach test as the indicator of flexibility.
Any strength coach or fitness professional knows that this is a poor test as the test actually looks at movement across multiple segments. To call the sit and reach a hamstring test is really a display of ignorance. The truth is it as test of relative flexibility, which is often a problem, not an attribute.
3- Last but certainly not least the author states that the test measures elasticity. Flexibility, even if their measurements were valid and reliable, and elasticity are not nearly synonymous.
The end of the article gets slightly better but, not much. What the author fails to grasp is that the key is not the gains in flexibility but, the losses of flexibility over time.
Bottom line, neither the article or the study is very good.
Mike Boyle"

Functional Strength Coach

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Plainville, MA

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Saturated Fat - Not the Boogeyman
Background: A reduction in dietary saturated fat has generally been thought to improve cardiovascular health.

Objective: The objective of this meta-analysis was to summarize the evidence related to the association of dietary saturated fat with risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke, and cardiovascular disease (CVD; CHD inclusive of stroke) in prospective epidemiologic studies.

Design: Twenty-one studies identified by searching MEDLINE and EMBASE databases and secondary referencing qualified for inclusion in this study. A random-effects model was used to derive composite relative risk estimates for CHD, stroke, and CVD.

Results: During 5–23 y of follow-up of 347,747 subjects, 11,006 developed CHD or stroke. Intake of saturated fat was not associated with an increased risk of CHD, stroke, or CVD. The pooled relative risk estimates that compared extreme quantiles of saturated fat intake were 1.07 (95% CI: 0.96, 1.19; P = 0.22) for CHD, 0.81 (95% CI: 0.62, 1.05; P = 0.11) for stroke, and 1.00 (95% CI: 0.89, 1.11; P = 0.95) for CVD. Consideration of age, sex, and study quality did not change the results.

Conclusions: A meta-analysis of prospective epidemiologic studies showed that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD. More data are needed to elucidate whether CVD risks are likely to be influenced by the specific nutrients used to replace saturated fat.

Received for publication March 6, 2009. Accepted for publication November 25, 2009.

Ever Wonder What Resveratrol Is and Why Folks Are Talking About It?
Sceptics continue to ask whether resveratrol really can delay the effects of ageing.

Men's Health on Heart Health - And Correct!
This is an easy to digest summarization of the work of folks like Gary Taubes. 

Bottom line - lower carb intake equals lower triglycerides and higher HDLs and better heart health.

Everything You Want to Know about Vitamin D Supplementation

From the "heart scan blog",

--"We use 60-70 ng/ml of 25-hydroxy vitamin D as our target. Most men and women require 6000 units per day to achieve this level."
--"I advise everyone that gelcap vitamin D is preferable. Some, though not all, liquid drop forms have also worked. Take a dose that yields desirable blood levels.
--"And blood levels of 25-hydroxy vitamin D are ideally checked every 6 months: in summer and in winter to provide feedback on how much sun activation of D you obtain. If your doctor is unwilling or unable to perform vitamin D testing, fingerstick vitamin D test kits can be obtained from Track Your Plaque."

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Detox? Finally One That May Be Legit

Ever wish you could get the funky Persistent Organic Chemicals (POPs) out of your system?  Dr. Eades leads the way.

Magnificent Summary on What LDL Is and Is Not

This is a great summary of the information that Gary Taubes Highlights so well in "Good Calories Bad Calories" in regards to the significance of LDL.

BLUF:  LDL does not predict risk of heart disease nearly as well as triglicerides and HDL levels do.  With low triglycerides and high HDL, you needn't worry about LDL levels.  In my book, taking statins to treat LDL levels makes no sense at all.