Friday, July 29, 2011

What You See, Part 4

Part 4 (from this article):   On average, study participants gained a pound a year, which added up to 20 pounds in 20 years. Some gained much more, about four pounds a year, while a few managed to stay the same or even lose weight.  Participants who were overweight at the study’s start tended to gain the most weight, which seriously raised their risk of obesity-related diseases, Dr. Hu said.
This is an interesting finding.  It would be curious to study their diet questionnaires to see what the common factors are in their diets.  What I suspect may be true is that either:
-They were fatter because they already ate too many carbs for too long, and/or:
-They continued the pattern of eating that led to their initial weight gain, but as their body began to mal-adapt to the excessive carbohydrate intake, they gained weight even faster.
A third possibility is that this population is a group that had the most insulin sensitive fat cells, which could continue to respond to insulin and absorb excess carbohydrate as sequestered fat.
The foods that contributed to the greatest weight gain were not surprising. French fries led the list: Increased consumption of this food alone was linked to an average weight gain of 3.4 pounds in each four-year period. Other important contributors were potato chips (1.7 pounds), sugar-sweetened drinks (1 pound), red meats and processed meats (0.95 and 0.93 pound, respectively), other forms of potatoes (0.57 pound), sweets and desserts (0.41 pound), refined grains (0.39 pound), other fried foods (0.32 pound), 100-percent fruit juice (0.31 pound) and butter (0.3 pound).
This part of Ms. Brody’s reporting is pure fantasy.  All they could report is which foods correlated with the greatest weight gain.  They may have had high paid statisticians who assumed some numbers and attempted to determine causality – but to believe that such a thing could actually be done is to believe in voodoo and chicken bones.  These are great statistical equivalents of card tricks, and can be a heck of a lot of fun, but they do not and cannot determine what caused what.  What’s far more significant is what happens when well designed intervention studies are completed – and these studies consistently show a benefit for carb restriction with moderate protein intake and a high percentage of daily calories from fat consumption.
Also not too surprising were most of the foods that resulted in weight loss or no gain when consumed in greater amounts during the study: fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Compared with those who gained the most weight, participants in the Nurses’ Health Study who lost weight consumed 3.1 more servings of vegetables each day.
This is interesting, but it is meaningless to try and convert co-relation – people who lost weight ate 3 times as many vegetables – with causality; “people who eat more vegetables will lose weight.”    Part 5 tomorrow.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Colpo Has A Way With Words

Hopefully by now you can begin to see why I’m not a big fan of epidemiological research. It has its place (for example, determining the origin of  viral epidemics, and those most susceptible to them), but most epidemiological research conducted nowadays is largely useless money-wasting nonsense. It certainly keeps many researchers in paid employment, but its contribution to the betterment of public health is next to zero. In fact, looking back over the last several decades, one can see that it has produced/furthered several highly counterproductive falsehoods that have gone on to gain global acceptance (cholesterol and vegetarian myths, anyone?)

AC is not my favorite blogger, as he can be like a nasty little terrier gnawing a bone when he gets riled up about a topic (like low carb diets), in which he obsesses over some detail or another while sometimes seeming to miss the larger points.  But ... he does have a way with words!  And he's dead on the money in his assessment of the utility of epidemiological studies, aka observational studies.

What You See, Part 3

Part 3 (from this article):
But the researchers found that the kinds of foods people ate had a larger effect over all than changes in physical activity. “Both physical activity and diet are important to weight control, but if you are fairly active and ignore diet, you can still gain weight,” said Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health and a co-author of the study.  As Dr. Mozaffarian observed, “Physical activity in the United States is poor, but diet is even worse.”
Most good trainers will tell you that “you cannot out train a bad diet.”  In other words, exercise is great but it won’t save you from a bad diet, especially if you are already overweights.  So there’s nothing new here, and there’s really no way they could reach such a conclusion, even an obvious one, from this observational study.  They are either expressing an opinion they already held or gained from another source.
Even more important than its effect on looks and wardrobe, this gradual weight gain harms health. At least six prior studies have found that rising weight increases the risk in women of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and breast cancer, and the risk in men of heart disease, diabetes and colon cancer.
On this, there’s little argument.  There’s still an argument about whether it is the fat itself, or the food one ate to become fat, that causes the increases in mortality that are seen in obesity.  However, it’s even more complicated than “what causes what”.  There are healthy fat folk and sick fat folk.  It’s a matter of degree, as in really fat is still also always a condition with many symptoms of sickness.  But folks who gain 20 pounds and hold there can be relatively healthy.
The beauty of the new study is its ability to show, based on real-life experience, how small changes in eating, exercise and other habits can result in large changes in body weight over the years.
This is just not true, because an observational study can show no such thing.  All that is “shown” is “co-relations”.  The author is assuming she can determine causation, because several of the “co-relations” can be placed into her “fat people eat too much and work out too little” model of weight gain.   From where she's standing, that's all she can see. Part 4 tomorrow.  (Minor edits 28 Jul 11)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Glassman and Eades Agree

The surest road to failure in the first few days of low-carb dieting is to listen to your body.  The whole notion of listening to your body is one of my major pet peeves.  In fact, just hearing those words makes me want to puke.  
Listening to your body is giving the elephant free rein. If you’re three days into your stop-smoking program, and you listen to your body, you’re screwed.  If you’re in drug rehab, and you listen to your body, you’re screwed.  If you’re trying to give up booze, and you listen to your body, you’re screwed.  And if you’re a week into your low-carb diet, and you listen to your body, you’re screwed.  Actually, it’s okay to listen to it, I suppose, just don’t do what it’s telling you to do because if you do, you’re screwed.
Another post I've read and re-read from Mike Eades' site - with a great point about what we should or shouldn't listen to.  Coach Greg Glassman made the same point in a video from, to wit, if you are training at a screaming heart rate, lifting heavy weights, doing pullups, and then running (like a classic CrossFit WOD, or any truly anaerobic workout), if you "listen to your body" you'll quit that nonsense workout - it hurts! - and go get a cold beer and a wet towel for your head.  
I've often wondered how to understand pain and/or discomfort.  I've a long history of sports, and years of learning how to workout, and years of trying to learn how to push myself harder.  Polish that off with a 13 year go of fairly intense martial arts training, throw in a pair of knee surgeries, and then wash that down with four years of CrossFit - I'm confident in saying I've  had a sincere relationship with both pain and discomfort.  
So my conclusion is - discomfort in exercise is a physiological question.  Your body is asking: "Do you REALLY want to do this?  If so, it will cost you."  And for a gozillion days of human experience, that feedback mechanism was enough to keep us from just up and running ourselves out of fuel.  Now that we get unlimited quantities of fuel (there are stores filled with the fruits of our agricultural bounty) for just a bit more than a song, I'm not sure that feedback system is totally necessary, but it is probably still largely functional.  I wouldn't say you should "listen to your body" but you should be aware of why you are doing what you are doing so you will have an answer when the body asks.
The curious thing is that if you REALLY want to exert yourself, it will hurt in the short term but feel so much better in the long term that you'll likely repeat the effort.  And as long as you continue to workout in ways that give you positive feedback (neither too hard or too easy, not too long, and not too destructive), you'll keep on engaging in pain, facing up to the question pain asks you, and living all the better for it.
Last night I dosed myself with some front squats, some weighted pullups, and then pushed a weighted sled up and down my driveway in 20s intervals with a 10s rest interval.  The heavy front squats sucked as much as they always do, but I did less than ten total reps.  The heavy pullups were kind of fun - no kidding, strapping a weight around your waist and putting your chin on the bar is a blast.  The sled - that was just one big dose of nasty as my body was fairly strident in asking me whether I really thought that was a great plan; but it was over after 4 minutes and a 400m walk was all that was needed to "recover" (except for the sweating).  
Go hard, go short, be ready for your body's question!
(minor edits, 28 July 11)

What You See, Part 2

Part 2 (from this article):
The study participants … were followed for 12 to 20 years. Every two years, they completed very detailed questionnaires about their eating and other habits and current weight.
In other words, this study relies on the memory of the participants over 2 year intervals.  I say we shouldn’t bet the farm on the “detailed” questionnaires.  But as expensive as it likely was to run this long term study, it was much cheaper than the intervention study, which if designed well and run for the same period of time, would have actually had the potential to show causality.
The average participant gained 3.35 pounds every four years, for a total weight gain of 16.8 pounds in 20 years.
To gain 17 pounds in 20 years, one must accumulate an excess of about 8 kcal/day.  Makes you wonder why they couldn’t just exercise a little bit more each day and therefore sustain their healthy weight, right?  That is the observation and question that has ruled the weight loss science for recent times.  It seems so simple, so common sense; why doesn’t it work?  The “experts” weigh in, the same ones that have shown such consistent support for the calorie is a calorie argument as the conventional wisdom:
“This study shows that conventional wisdom — to eat everything in moderation, eat fewer calories and avoid fatty foods — isn’t the best approach,” Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health and lead author of the study, said in an interview. “What you eat makes quite a difference. Just counting calories won’t matter much unless you look at the kinds of calories you’re eating.”  
“There are good foods and bad foods, and the advice should be to eat the good foods more and the bad foods less,” he said. “The notion that it’s O.K. to eat everything in moderation is just an excuse to eat whatever you want.”
I’ll be real curious to know what the good doctor classifies as “good” foods, or “bad”, and how he does so.
The study showed that physical activity had the expected benefits for weight control. Those who exercised less over the course of the study tended to gain weight, while those who increased their activity didn’t. Those with the greatest increase in physical activity gained 1.76 fewer pounds than the rest of the participants within each four-year period.
Here’s where they logic becomes treacherous.  In the “carbohydrate hypotheses” that Gary Taubes laid out in “Good Calories Bad Calories”, it became clear to me that the primary mis-perception in interpreting the first law of thermodynamics was the matter of causality.  It’s one thing to say that putting a pound of fat in a calorimeter, and measuring the change in heat in that contained system, shows that a pound of fat is equal to 3500 kilo calories of energy.  It’s another entirely to say that therefore “a calorie is a calorie” and thus we should just eat less and exercise more to control accumulation of body fat.  So – did those who exercised more reduce their rate of fat accumulation, or did those who ate fewer and/or better carbohydrates, and a higher percentage of protein and fat, exercise more?  And in any event, gaining a half pound a year is better than gaining 1 pound a year, but it’s still five pounds every ten years.  Is that really the best we can hope for?  Part 3 tomorrow. (edited for format 28 July 11)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What You See Depends Upon Where You Stand

Still Counting Calories?

This is an old quote I've often thought of considering how unusual it is for human beings to understand things in the same way.  I also think of the biblical story of the Tower of Babel - in which, it is understood that because of man's arrogance, which leads them to try and build a tower to heaven, God decides the only way to keep them humble is to ensure they do not understand one another and therefore, cannot ever really conspire with each other.

This is a polite way of saying - I see things a little differently than Jane Brody does.  However, as frustrating to me as that may be at times - since she has an audience and could do so much better for them - it is also a great opportunity for me to take a short ride on the Brody train to illustrate what I think are useful insights about diet, health and weight loss.

Here’s some of the ground we can cover:

What can you use an epidemiological/observational study for?
Why does calorie counting fail?
What happens when you use the wrong model to interpret data?
What is the role of expert opinion in science?
How can we be deceived by obvious falsities like the “heart healty whole grains” mantra?

On to Ms. Brody’s review of the study, from the link above (her comments italicized):

So the newest findings on what specific foods people should eat less often — and more importantly, more often — to keep from gaining pounds as they age should be of great interest to tens of millions of Americans.
It is inaccurate to call the results of an observational study (more on what the study design was in a moment) “findings.”  Rather, it is inaccurate to consider them to be “findings” as in “this study determined these causes and effects.”  Observational studies are useful in determining correlations, which can then be tested via intervention studies to determine what are causative agents in the correlations. 
The new research, by five and public health experts at Harvard University, is by far the most detailed long-term analysis of the factors that influence weight gain, involving 120,877 well-educated men and women who were healthy and not obese at the start of the study. In addition to diet, it has important things to say about exercise, sleep, and alcohol intake.
Of course, the experts must be cited, but let’s hope the experts, if asked, would agree that Ms. Brody is using the results of the study incorrectly.  An observational study has nothing “to say” about anything, beyond the fact that there is a “co relation” between some factors.  For example, the sun comes up and I get out of bed 99% of the time.  It may be the case that I get up because the sun comes up, or that the sun comes up because I’m about to get up.  We don’t know until we try some experiments to see which is true, if either, because both things could be caused by an additional variable.  Part 2 tomorrow.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Getting What You Need

One of the best indicators that there is that a person does not know what they need from food is if they think a banana is a health food, and therefore eat one for breakfast.

Sadly, they have been influenced by the low fat food fat, and the mantra to "eat a million pounds of fruit and vegetables every day" that is the ubiquitous message from "the authorities." 

While it is true that some fruit and some veggies have a high level of micro nutrients relative to their caloric content, most of what modern fruit and vegetables have is a selectively bred high carbohydrate content - a content that is demanding in the marketplace by a population that eats over 150 pounds of sugar per year on average, and is therefore much less sensitive to sweetness - and thus needs an ever higher intake.

It's been covered in many of my prior posts - but it bears repeating - you could live a healthy, long life and never eat a fruit or vegetable.  The evidence that eating a lot of fruits and vegetables will help you live better or longer is about as convincing as the evidence that aliens have landed on earth and are being examined at Roswell.

So, if you like them, eat some apples and bananas and lettuce and make a splendid salad, but whatever you do - don't start your day with a banana!  Why?  For all practical purposes, except it is harder to carry, it's the metabolic equivalent of starting your day with a can of Coke or Pepsi.  Bananas are rated at 20 to 35 grams of carbohydrate.  That's a third of carbs you should eat in a day, which you will belt down in five minutes.  What does your body do with all that sugar, when it only needs about 5 grams of sugar to be "fully loaded"?  In defense of your nervous system, it will do whatever it takes to keep your blood sugars from going to high - so it will use insulin to turn some of that sugar to fat, and it will shunt some into your muscles if they are glycogen depleted, and it will convert some of the banana to liver glycogen.  In short order, especially if you are not fat adapted, your blood sugar will fall to a level that makes you feel "sub-optimal", and you will notice that you are hungry, and in all likelihood, the next doughnut you see will be a goner.  You will have put yourself on the carb train to crazy town, to the detriment of your health, performance and waistline.

Instead of the yellow elongated sugar pill, if you have to eat in the morning, eat a serving of protein, preferably with some fat - "bacon anyone"?  Fat is the A-1 diesel of the human body, as Dr. Kurt Harris put it, and does not stimulate the blood sugar reindeer games that carbohydrates do.  Protein is high in satiety, and is a versatile fuel source (it can serve as a building block or a fuel, as needed).  You will need to 60 to 100 grams of protein daily anyway, which isn't easy to get, so breakfast is a good time to start. 

My prediction - within a week you will feel noticeably better after eliminating yellow elongated sugar pills and taking the protein/fat substitute, with better appetite control and better mental and physical performance.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

On The Way

Cooking up a huge post, but it's a doozy.  It may not be here until tomorrow ... but I believe it will be worth the wait.

Until then check out this incredible pod cast from Jimmy Moore's Livin La Vida Low Carb Show.

From the show notes:  For over 30 years, Deborah Krasner has been writing and broadcasting about food, perhaps culminating in her achievement of the prestigious James Beard Award for culinary excellence. Today she talks with Jimmy about sourcing wonderful meat, raising meat, meat CSAs, the best burger recipe on earth, food vacations to Vermont and Italy, exploring farmer’s markets and so MUCH more!
Deborah discusses why grassfed meat is the best, how to pursue a stash of grassfed beef economically, and what the heck to do with it once it's in your kitchen.  This woman is a wealth of pertinent knowledge - can't wait to get her book!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Thinking About Speed

I guess my central point is, the only way we can travel at faster velocities is through the way in which we affect ground force production and therein the equation given above. Therefore understanding good technique, good coaching cues and effective drills is about seeing how these things are related to ground force production.
Fast feet drills have an outcome of focussing attention on geting the foot off the ground quick, but this isn’t how we reduce ground contact time in sport. In sport we reduce ground contact time by expressing our forces more quickly to enable the acceleration job to be done in less time and so the athlete to move off the ground into their next movement skill. Fast feet drills are therefore cueing an inappropriate pre-activation pattern which results in low ground force production on contact.

Lot's of big brained folks out there are trying to see if there's a way through coaching to make faster runners run faster.  Like many debates, the debate about running technique is dominated by thoughts and ideas, but very little data.  In other words, no matter how much I like Dr. Romanov's ideas about running faster (, or the author above, neither apparently has the large studies that would show using their techniques actually results in the greatest increases in speed.

It will be a long time before such studies exist, however, because they are likely to be expensive and complicated to plan and execute.  

However, based on what I have learned in the last couple of years - and I started as a blank slate as regards running technique - the key is to allow gravity to pull you forward off of a lever, that being your leg.  Faster runners exert the highest forces against the ground relative to their body weight in the least amount of time.  

The best concept for being a faster running that I've seen is to get stronger without gaining weight.  That way as gravity rapidly returns you to earth via a forward vector (just like a tree falling forward, only a short, light 'tree'), you swap feet, lean the right amount, and keep on falling forward, fast.  

I've always been hampered athletically speaking by a lack of athletic ability, to wit, speed.  That said, when training for Aviation Officer's Candidate School in the 80s, I had occasion to run sprints one morning on a dew covered field close to my apartment.  I was stunned to discover that my foot prints in the dew were about six feet apart, as I recall now some 23 years later.  It was a cool thing to realize that I was 'flying' my body length in the air with each stride - but unfortunately, the realization did not help me run faster.

What does all of this mean for you, aspiring to a life of wellness, strength, fitness, and exceptionally high work capacity?  I'm glad you asked.  Like Art de Vany, I find great joy in (slow) sprinting.  It offers strength, relatively low potential for injury, and the attributes cultivated by sprinting are 'all good' as regards other athletic desires and pursuits.  My sole complaint with regard to sprinting is that it is very hard to do in conjunction with a CrossFit WOD - that is to say, when near collapse due to extreme metabolic duress, I find I do not have the ability to actually sprint.  So, of late, I have pursued sprinting much like I do a max effort deadlift or squat - take a day, and run as fast as I can for several short intervals.  The pleasure exceeds all expectations, and I heartily recommend it.  

My old friend Crusader recommended sprinting over jogging many years ago, and with due consideration for the many enjoyable miles I've logged around the globe, Cru, you were right.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Booze - A Neolithic Phenomenon

Chinese apothecaries started making a potent, rough spirit as early as 670. But in the West, it wasn’t until the Middle Ages that anyone really started thinking about drinking hard alcohol; physicians in Salerno first tippled distilled wine in the mid-1100s. The technology kept improving: The famed Murano glassworks in Italy provided carefully engineered tubing and better glassware for allowing distilled vapors to cool and condense. Even Leonardo da Vinci worked on a still furnace design. By the late 1600s, most of Europe was smashed on cheap Dutch gin, French brandy, and corn spirits.
Distillation was literally a transformative technology. If you were a farmer, you could harvest all that grain or fruit and distill it down to a few easy-to-transport barrels of liquid. The product never spoiled and was worth more at market than the grain or fruit itself. The economics made a lot of sense.
Here's another part of the Paleolithic model, which hints at why alcohol can have such a debilitating effect on humankind.  For many a generation, being able to tolerate and enjoy booze without going off the deep end wasn't an issue because it was only rarely around.  Then, boom, in a couple thousand years you get all to booze you can buy, and you can buy a lot because it's cheap - it's made from the world's crappiest foods, and most of the labor is done by micro organisms.  
We Europeans can thank the Dark Ages for our relatively high percentage of alcohol tolerance - it doesn't kill us quickly in most cases - because the genome for alcohol tolerance was so important for survival in that time (the only germ free source of hydration was beer) that if your ancestors weren't relatively tolerant, you wouldn't be here.  So we are partially "evolved" for alcohol - but since you can trace about half of "society's problems" to alcohol issues, partial is the key word.  
And all of this heavy thinking brought my mind back to how good that mint julep was last night ...

Monday, July 18, 2011

William Davis - Ease Up On That Pancreas

If you’ve lived the life of most Americans, your pancreas has had a hard life. Starting as a child, it was forced into the equivalent of hard labor by your eating carbohydrate-rich foods like Lucky Charms, Cocoa Puffs, Hoho’s, Ding Dongs, Scooter Pies, and macaroni and cheese. Into adolescent years and college, it was whipped into subservient labor with pizza, beer, pretzels, and ramen noodles. As an adult, the USDA, Surgeon General’s office and other assorted purveyors of nutritional advice urged us to cut our fat, cholesterol, and eat more “healthy whole grains”; you complied, exposing your overworked pancreas to keep up its relentless work pace, spewing out insulin to accommodate the endless flow of carbohydrate-rich foods.  So here we are, middle aged or so, with pancreases that are beaten, worn, hobbling around with a walker, heaving and gasping due to having lost 50% or more of its insulin-producing beta cells.
I really enjoy this man's writing  - it's a rare cardiologist that has this much creativity about his job.  

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Meat - It's Why Lions Eat Us

Humans - providing nutritious meat to predators for more than a million years ... but I'm not sure how many we've "served" ...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Finding the Real Killer

Salt War
What if you are a "public health authority" and you are passionate about helping people live longer and better.  You get used to the idea that your job means wielding a clumsy club - for example, you know some percentage of people will die every year from adverse reactions to vaccination, but you believe many more will be saved.  Therefore, you can live with the requirement that people can't send their kids to public schools unless they've been vaccinated.

If you are a parent however, the calculus comes out a bit differently.  Other parents can "protect" their kids if they feel the need to, but you may think that the risk of vaccination exceeds the risk of infection by, for example, measles, mumps or rubella.  You don't care about the odds - you just don't want to be the parent who loses a kid due to an un-needed vaccination, and you believe that for a healthy, well fed kid, most infectious diseases have a relatively low risk of mortality.

What's the point of describing this situation?  The point is to illustrate that the playing field looks differently depending on where you sit.  The link above describes the salt wars - the ongoing battle amongst health professionals and their critics about whether or not salt will make you sick.  Here's the short version of the answer:  if you don't have high blood pressure, salt will not make you sick.  If you have high blood pressure, cutting back on salt will help - but for most with high blood pressure, salt restriction only helps a little (if you want to cure your high blood pressure, try carb restriction - works very well for most folks, because most high blood pressure is a result of excess carb intake and hyper insulinemia.  Once your normalize your BP, you can enjoy your salty food with a clear conscience).

Why's that a big deal?  Because those passionate health professionals have done some interesting math.  If you reduce a population's salt intake enough, you can get an average reduction of that population's blood pressure equal to a percent, or maybe a little more.  If you make some assumptions and do some complicated math, you can predict that the aforementioned salt restriction will reduce heart attacks and strokes by some percent, thus saving lives.  Thus, the passionate health professionals are pushing for restrictive legislation to reduce salt intake (Say What?).

You may or many not have a problem with that course of action depending upon your sense of what the limits of government should be.  I have a significant problem with it, however, because it the government can dictate what you eat based on the flimsy science supporting the case for salt restriction, they can make you do anything they want to.  Nevermind the bizarre logic that allows them to take aim on salt but allow cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, selling gatorade like drinks as a health food, and driving in cars.

I mean if you want to save a bunch of lives, get rid of automobiles and don't let anyone make or sell booze, for crying out loud.

Of course, that's the point - they know they can't get away with taking your car to save your life because we'd all rather be dead than to lose our cars - or booze for that matter.  But they think they can bamboozle you with shady salt science and save some random folks from an untimely death.  At least they mean well.

Read the articles linked above.  Read this gem by Gary Taubes which examines the topic in even greater depth.  Consider that there's evidence that salt restriction may kill as many folks as it saves.

Then ask yourself:  What should the standard of scientific proof be before government may impinge upon your liberty "for your own good"?

I obviously do not think that standard has been met for salt.  Do you?

Friday, July 15, 2011


While on the road the last ten days, I have been able to indulge in listening to the incredible, the one and only, Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell fame.  Louie is funny, but trying to follow him is like trying to follow flubber through a raquetball court with 10 good players - the stuff just comes from anywhere and everywhere and you have to be ready for him to say anything as he free thinks his way through the mountains of information and concepts he's applied to his profession over the last forty plus years of elite powerlifting.

Louie is 62 or so, and still squats over 700 pounds, benches over 450, and deadlifts over 600.  That wouldn't be easy for any 62 year old, but Louie does in spite of having broken his back twice, and tearing his pec and shoulder tendons at least twice.  The way he tells the story, his pain could be your salvation, because he says he's learned to train now in ways that give more strength with less injury.

Westside Barbell
CrossFit Journal (search for Louie Simmons)

In the many videos and articles by Louie in the CrossFit Journal, Louie lays out the principles of his methods.  Big picture, variation is the key.  Western style block periodization doesn't work, he says, because it is limited by the law of accommodation - that is, as the body becomes accommodated to a stimulus, it will no longer adapt.  This concept should not sound strange to a CrossFitter, the prescription for which is "constantly varied functional movements at high intensity."

Louie's system is three fold - go heavy in the major lifts once per week, but almost never do the same heavy movement two weeks in a row.  That means they work on many variants of the deadlift, going for a PR in each variant, but it may be weeks before they lift in the movement they will use in competition - as Louie puts it, "there are builders and there are testers." Builders are movements that develop strength, while testers are movements they will use in competition. Part two is speed work - they use 50-60 percent of their 1RM and strive to move the bar at maximum speed, again in some variant of the major lifts.  Lastly, after the max effort days and the dynamic effort days, they work on their weaknesses using the repetition method - in other words, while working the compound movements that are the three power lifts (squat, deadlift, bench press) they lift heavy, or lift for speed, but they use many sets with reps that rarely exceed 3, with short rest intervals in between.  Then, to work on weaknesses, maximize their GPP, and perhaps bulk a little, they use high rep isolation movements for 2 to 3 sets.

What that amounts to is four days in the gym, with relatively short workouts when one considers that these incredible men and women are the strongest group of humans on the planet.

Louie's system is a brilliant simplicity, and based on Westside's performance, you'd have to bet it works. I've always wondered how much Westside's focus on variation influenced CrossFit founder Greg Glassman as he developed CrossFit's prescription - perhaps someday I can ask.  Of course - he may have just stumbled across the truth as Louie did after many years of frustration.

As you think of your own training, remember the law of accommodation - if you are doing the same things, eventually, your body is no longer stimulated, and will stop adapting.  If you can think of new ways to get the stimulus you desire, and train with sufficient intensity, the body will continue to adapt.

It's taken a year or more of haphazard study for me to get my head around what Louie's method entails, and it's been a pleasure to gain some understanding of it.  I have a plan for how to use Louie's ideas to enhance my "work capacity across broad time and modal domains" - CrossFit speak for becoming more fit - as part of CrossFit's generalized training.  My goal is to surpass my prior PRs for the squat (365), deadlift (400), and press (172) in 2011 - but be able to complete a 5 minute Fran, a 10 minute Helena, and a 20 round Cindy!

EFS Long Band Calibrations

Good to know if you are using these for accommodating resistance training.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

One Man's Pleasure Is Another Man's Pain

Today we face an epidemic of chronic diseases in the United States, and throughout the world. Kelly Brownell would have us believe that obesity and other metabolic diseses are the result of a “toxic food environment.” (Brownell, 2002) Too much cheap food (including fast food) causes us to eat too much. It’s easy to entertain such flawed theories when people are well-fed on less than 10% of their disposable income (USDA ERS, 2002). But as Gary Taubes has documented in Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat, there are numerous examples of obesity and malnutrition existing in the same impoverished populations at the same time. Their condition was NOT the result of too much food, or a life that didn’t include sufficient exercise.

The thinking farmer's blog - and it's a point well made.  It's easy to blame fat folk for being fat, but there are many examples of fat, poor, hard working people who are subsisting on food that obviously forces the sequestration of excess blood glucose as fat, and at the same time, makes the fat unavailable as fuel.  What could cause such metabolic derangement?  The same foods that cause it in wealthy nations where folks don't have to do physical labor to survive - because the process of forcing the storage of energy via hormonal disruption means these people have massive amounts of stored energy but little to use to get their lives done.  They are not fat, then, because they eat too much and don't move/work enough - they don't work/move/live enough, and eat too much, because they are fat.

Change the food and that changes the behaviors by restoring hormonal normalcy, and allowing fat to function as an energy storage facility, not an energy sequestration facility.  Taubes' latest book does a marvelous job expounding on this idea, and does so in layman's terms.  Whether or not agriculture is pain or pleasure for you will depend upon your choice of foods, not the "toxic food environment."

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Jaminet's On Inuit Cholesterol

The Jaminet's are running a series on this topic - it'll be worth following, as these two are brilliant.  The topic?  Were paleo folk more likely to have high or low cholesterol -  and I'm betting on a mixed bag of results.

Their podcast with Jimmy Moore was informative and entertaining.  The articulate a very interesting case for why you should not supplement vitamin D above 30-40 ng/ml, even though it may very well be natural and normal to have those higher levels with enough smart sun exposure.  IOW - there's a case for paleo sun derived vitamin D, too.

The J's are not shy - their book is entitled "The Perfect Health Diet."  More to follow as they wander through several different studies and populations.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Stanford Study

This is a summary of a great study by a committed vegetarian - who looks the part - who designs a study that shows that high carb loses in almost every measure to a relatively high protein, carb restricted diet.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Paleo Childbirth

My gutsy wife has had four home births.  During the Bradley Method Natural Childbirth classes we took in preparation for Dash 1, we learned much of what is written in the post that follows.

Aside from a certain frustration with the medical profession and its current practice of treating childbirth like a medical procedure, rather than the most natural thing on the planet which is more likely to end badly with intervention than without - the interesting thing is that once you notice which things probably should be done with respect for how humans did them for a million plus years, the lens of "what's wrong with this picture" is new.  What's wrong with this picture is humans were not evolved to be agriculturalists living in cities.  What's wrong with this picture is we didn't have to adapt to the reality of unlimited mood altering substances available for nearly nothing, 24/7.  What's wrong with this picture is we were built to live in small, enmeshed communities, doing a fairly few things, over and over again as we moved around with the seasons.  What's wrong with this picture is that while our ancestors couldn't have survived without the experience and accumulated wisdom of their tribe, our elders largely outlive their ability to keep pace with the change.

Oh, and what's wrong with childbirth is that never before have babies been born to such unhealthy, unfit mothers, who are struggling to get with a physiological process that was designed to happen in the confines of darkness, with only familiar folks around, and with no one poking anything into you or measuring this or that or telling you "you gotta sit this way so I can see" and never mind if the position that's easiest for the ER/delivery room is the least comfortable and natural way for moving an 8 pound body through the birth canal - mind you, in the right birthing position, the 8 pounds is moving towards the earth, vice having to be pushed away from the earth by the laboring mom.  Yes, the delivery room doesn't even account for that well know, not optional and very pre-paleo force, gravity.

Now I'm not laboring under the delusion that life would be grand if we all just up and went paleo.  It would suck, not least because precious few of us has lived that life and has the essential knowledge.  What I'm suggesting is the Paleolithic Model suggests a different understanding for the apparently incurable suffering of the life we see every day - understanding, but no cure.  For the cure, you gotta do what mankind has done since we went Neo - blaze a trail, look for the yellow brick road - aka, figure it out!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Blog Review

Modern Paleo This blog is run by a very bright lady, it will be fun to track.

Here's a taste of her work:

  1. Eat real foods, prepared well. Prepare your own food as much as you can. Beware the junk ubiquitous in convenience and restaurant foods.
  2. Don't eat wheat, corn, rice, or other grains. If you choose to eat some grains, eat them sparingly and prepare them to minimize toxins, such as by sprouting and soaking. Wheat seems to be the worst of all the grains, while rice seems to be the most benign. Whole grains are not better than refined grains. 
  3. Don't eat sweets: avoid sugar, corn syrup, agave nectar, honey, maple syrup, and artificial sweeteners. If you must have some sweetener for a dish, you might try a bit of stevia. With time, your tastes will adjust: ordinary sweets will taste cloying, but formerly bland vegetables will seem delightfully sweet.
  4. Don't eat modern oils derived from grains and seeds -- such as canola oil, corn oil, or soy oil. Make your own mayonnaise and salad dressing. Don't eat fried foods in restaurants: rancid vegetable oils are standard for frying. Avoid all hydrogenated fats; they contain damaging artificial transfats. Instead, use liberal amounts of animal fats -- like butter, ghee, lard, and tallow -- as well as unrefined coconut oil and olive oil. (Reserve your bacon grease: it's delicious rendered lard!) Do not fear saturated fat: it's healthy, including for your heart. 
  5. Don't eat soy. Some fermented soy might be okay, if tolerated. However, all soy is goitrogenic and contains estrogen-mimicking hormones. 
  6. Don't eat beans and other legumes. If you choose to eat some legumes, eat them sparingly and prepare them to minimize toxins, such as by soaking them. 
Not rocket surgery but it is always good to review the basics.  As she points out, "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."  Eat to enjoy, but work to optimize your "pleasure only eating."  In other words, I enjoy the heck out of eating paleo foods, all the more so since I've outgrown, in the last year or two, my sweet tooth.  But I still work up a good old craving for certain foods that are distinctly not Paleo, especially around holiday weekends!  So I eat them.  But I recommend you only eat the really, really, exquisitely good feast foods - skip the chips and those "not very good anyway" baked beans.  Dodge the ridiculous white stuff they call "buns" on your dogs and burgers.  Enjoy the dogs!  Eat up on the burgers, with an extra serving of cheese (assuming it is actual cheese!).  Save room for some ice cream, if is is actually ice cream, and better yet - high quality ice cream, vice some sugary junk that's stuffed by the pound into a plastic tub.

In other words, even with feast days, work for quality in your food selections!