Monday, February 28, 2011

Carbs, Insulin, Diabetes, Cancer

Evidence of an increased risk of cancer with diabetes and obesity from epidemiologic studies has led to great concern given the worldwide epidemic of obesity and diabetes. The intriguing data presented in this review suggest that this increased risk is related to higher levels of insulin and IGF-1. In vivo studies on animal models have been designed to tease apart the processes that explain these associations and to verify the credibility of the findings of epidemiologic studies. From these studies, we see that increased insulin, IGF-1, and IGF-2 signaling through the insulin receptor and IGF-1 receptor can in fact induce tumorigenesis by up-regulating the insulin receptor and IGF-1 receptor signaling pathways. In addition, disrupting these receptors or blocking their activity in animals prevents tumor growth and metastasis by inhibiting their downstream signaling.

Interesting summary.  This is the line of reasoning Taubes presents in Good Calories Bad Calories also.  It is also aligned with the observations of paleolithic peoples - they don't get metabolic syndrome, which is the vanguard for diabetes, cancer, heart disease and/or other vascular diseases.  There's a good reason to believe this entire chain is caused by excess carbohydrate intake, and, for example, whether you treat skinny (type 2) diabetics or obese (type 2) diabetics, when you reduce their carb intake they respond with lower blood pressure, improved hyperglycemia, lowered triglycerides, increased HDL levels, and a lower A1c (and their LDL levels, which may get higher, will convert to large, fluffy LDL which are not associated with cardiovascular disease).  In other words, change one variable - carbohydrate intake - and all the symptoms improve.

In short, you can treat metabolic disorder and arrest its descent into diabetes and progression towards premature death and drastically reduced quality of life by restricting carbohydrate intake, whether the sick person is skinny or obese.  Makes a strong case to me that the carbohydrate is the causal factor in most of these cases.

Interestingly, the article leaps right into the possibility that metformin, a fairly mild drug used to help pre-diabetics with glucose regulation, would reduce the incidence of cancer by helping to retard diabetes and lower blood glucose and insulin levels.  And I hope that is true, because it's going to be a number of years before enough people realize they could also save themselves via carb restriction. (Edited 1 March 11)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Protein Leaching

The most vocal proponents of the protein-causes-bone-loss theory are those who promote vegetarian and vegan diets. These commentators rail not just against protein, but specifically animal protein. Animal protein, they assure is, is a major cause of the high rates of osteoporosis seen in Western countries.

If this were correct, we would expect to see higher bone densities in vegetarian and vegan individuals. In fact, the opposite is true. Studies repeatedly show either no difference or lowerbone densities in those who follow vegetarian diets.
A recent meta-analysis encompassing nine studies of 2749 subjects (1880 women and 869 men) found that, overall, bone mineral density was 4 percent lower in vegetarians than in omnivores at both the femoral neck and the lumbar spine. The effect was more pronounced in vegans, who totally avoid animal products. While the researchers concluded “the effect size is unlikely to result in a clinically important increase in fracture risk”, the results do not even begin to support the incessant and rather shrill claims by vegetarian/vegan activists that meat and animal protein are harmful to bones[2].
BLUF:  The evidence does not support the thesis that "high protein" diets cause loss of bone minerals leading to osteoporosis, with the possible exception of those doing a very low carb, aka ketogenic diet,  for a long time.  This won't change what the vegans and vegetarians are saying, because the loud ones live in a world of fantasy anyway.  However, I hope it will change what folks like Loren Cordain say, unless he can find some evidence to support his conjecture that we should eat vegetables and fruits to balance the net acid load of proteins (and cereal grains if you are into that sort of thing).  
Aside from the lack of supporting evidence that "high" protein intakes present a risk to bone health through a high net acid load at the kidney, I have never thought it was smart to try and eat your way to a balanced acid load.  How one could possibly sort out how much veg was enough to balance all the acid sources was always a mystery to me.  For most diet inputs, if you don't have a way to measure the output, you are most likely just "whistling Dixie."  The one exception to this policy I practice is to eat about a gram a day of DHA/EPA in fish oil, but when the DHA/EPA tests become reasonably priced, I'll use those to inform my dosages, much like I will use my next test of vitamin D levels to set my dosage for next winter.
Lastly, Colpo's post is a good example of how hard it is to get a good scientific outcome in human trials.  Example:  Eskimo's are reported to have accelerated bone demineralization, despite otherwise great health, very low rates of the diseases of the West, and an active lifestyle.  It could be the high protein intake coupled with low plant intake that causes the bone loss, but it could also be low vitamin D from the long winters.  Further, what if you live on the ketogenic side of the spectrum (IOW, very low carb, say 30g/day), but have a FEAST day once per week in which you way over consume?  What if you are ketogenic but do a lot of strength work; will that overcompensation eliminate the bone loss?  Ditto if you are a hard training vegan - will the body find a way to pull more of the available minerals into the bones in response to the demands of hard training?  This is why application of even good studies, of which there are few, is problematic in real humans living in the variety of ways that we do, with multiple variables in diet, life style, age, gender, and other health factors like vitamin D levels, stress levels, sleep quantity and quality, etc etc etc.  
So keep working on your N=1 experiment on yourself.  And for that experiment, don't be overly fearful of your "high" protein intake.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Attack of the Protein Leaching ... Plants?

This is an interesting study, if far from conclusive.  The BLUF:   In the test subjects, the ones with the most animal protein consumption had the best bones.  This is getting into some very counter intuitive areas, for example, what if the way the body deals with excess calcium intake in the absence of vitamins like A, D and K2 is to sequester it in the arteries?  Speculation, yes, but there's evidence that supports the notion.  In other words, instead of meat protein consumption leading to calcium leaching of the bones, by adding good fat soluble vitamins, meat consumption helps mineralize bones by directing calcium to bones vice the lining of blood vessels?
The best part of the post is in the comments - like this one:

In my opinion it is the fat soluble vitamins A, D and K2 that are the cause of the increased bone density associated with increased intake of animal protein. Generally, intake of animals fats is proportional to the intake of animal protein and the intake of fat soluble vitamins. (Example found in data from pubmed 19124480)

It is not a matter of increased absorption of calcium, but a matter of increased synthesis osteocalcin, which requires vitamins A and D, and the activation of osteocalcin by vitamin K2. Activation of osteocalcin is required to put calcium where it belongs in teeth and bones and prevent it from accumulating in soft tissues where it does not belong.

Note that osteoporosis is associated with increased calcification of arteries.

It is not surprising that calcium intake made little difference as calcium deficiency is not widespread. Deficiency of vitamin K2, however, is common, and the amount of K2 required to maintain a given level of activated osteocalcin increases with age.(PMID 16469998)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Aging and Athletes

Do you want to live forever?  Do you want to avoid living in a worn out, useless, limiting body which makes a mockery of living?

Too me, these are two different questions but the yin/yang of aging.

In the long run, fitness is about living while being alive, and whatever your concept of living is should direct how you invest your training hours in 'fitness.'  While an old but tarnished concept of fitness involved endurance training, the newer and I think more relevant model requires that one attend to endurance, power, coordination and strength (and perhaps other trainable attributes like agility, flexibility, speed, stamina, accuracy and balance).  As the benefits of anaerobic training become more widely known, for example, we see more studies which document the "why."  Excerpts follow:

Exactly how exercise affects older people is complicated. On one level, exercise is a flat-out insult to the body. Downhill running tears quadriceps muscles as reliably as an injection of snake venom. All kinds of free radicals and other toxins are let loose. But the damage also triggers the production of antioxidants that boost the health of the body generally. So when you see a track athlete who looks as if that last 1,500-meter race damn near killed him, you’re right. It might have made him stronger in the deal.
Exercise training helps stop muscle strength and endurance from slipping away. But it seems to also do something else, maintains Mark Tarnopolsky, a professor ofpediatrics and medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario (who also happens to be a top-ranked trail runner). Resistance exercise in particular seems to activate a muscle stem cell called a satellite cell. With the infusion of these squeaky-clean cells into the system, the mitochondria seem to rejuvenate. (The phenomenon has been called “gene shifting.”) If Tarnopolsky is right, exercise in older adults can roll back the odometer. After six months of twice weekly strength exercise training, he has shown, the biochemical, physiological and genetic signature of older muscle is “turned back” nearly 15 or 20 years.
This article is a good read, and the conclusion matches the model of the paleolithic peoples:
This is the other story of the future of aging. When the efforts of medical science converge to simply prolong existence, you envision Updike’s golfer Farrell, poking his way “down the sloping dogleg of decrepitude.” But scientists like Taivassalo and Hepple have a different goal, and exercise — elixir not so much of extended life as extended youthfulness — may be the key to reaching it. James Fries, an emeritus professor at Stanford School of Medicine, coined the working buzz phrase: “compression of morbidity.” You simply erase chronic illness and infirmity from the first, say, 95 percent of your life. “So you’re healthy, healthy, healthy, and then at some point you kick the bucket,” Tarnopolsky says. “It’s like theNeil Young song: better to burn out than to rust.” You get a normal life span, but in Olga years. Who wouldn’t take it?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fasting for ... Health?

Legend has it that fasting or skipping meals will suppress your metabolism and cause you to store fat and burn muscle.  This is a myth; in fact, science shows that short-term fasting (up to 48 hours) increases fat metabolism while protecting lean muscle.
Humans evolved as hunters during the ice ages.  They ate only when the hunt succeeded and fasted otherwise.  In the nineteenth century, native hunter-gatherers typically ate meals only once or twice daily.  Although they often fasted more than 18 hours between meals, they had lean, muscular bodies and superior fitness.
At any point in time your body is either fed or fasting.  When fed, it burns fuels derived from food; only when fasting does it burn body fat. 
To burn fat, you must have normal blood sugar and low blood insulin.  Meals can raise blood sugar well above 120 mg/dL (the diabetic level) and insulin will rise to control it; this stops your cells from burning fat.  Fasting lowers both sugar and insulin to healthy levels that allow rapid fat metabolism.
Fasting dramatically increases growth hormone levels, which increases fat burning, stimulates muscle growth, and rejuvenates tissues.  At the end of a 24-hour fast, you will have a slightly elevated metabolic rate due to increased adrenaline levels.  In prehistoric times, this adrenaline helped your ancestors have energy to go hunting on an empty stomach.
If the human metabolism went awry upon missing a meal or fasting a day, we would never have survived the ice ages.  Evolution built you to thrive on brief high intensity activity, infrequent feeding, and intermittent fasting.  You can have a lean, fit future by incorporating ancestral practices like intermittent fasting into your lifestyle.

Continue reading on Slaying the fasting myth - Phoenix Low-Carb Lifestyle |

I don't see anything here I disagree with, and I'll guarantee you this formula will net you an infinite improvement over the current fads in fitness and diet which include high carb low fat diets, low intensity long duration training with "cardio" and "toning" exercises, and caloric restriction to manage body composition.  And frankly, even if this later bit lets you live longer by some miracle, I'd rather live in the aforementioned style and live well - intensity in life trumps duration!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lose Weight, Lower BP, Get Scolded

My blood pressure is lower, I've had a dramatic drop in cholesterol, and I can close my collar without a Wonder Button. But is it healthy? I asked my longtime friend and former physician, Dr. Michael Richter. "What you have done is all right for a quick weight loss," he tells me. "But you're still eating an unhealthy, high-fat, high-protein diet, and without exercising. It's not good. This is not a healthy way for a person to lose weight."
Read more:,8599,2023845,00.html#ixzz1E02uM7ar

No, you wouldn't want to lose weight and improve your health markers by eating in a way that reduces your appetite, that would be crazy risky!!  After all, we know that high fat, high protein diets make your BP lower and your cholesterol numbers better, not to mention improving your triglycerides and your A1c AND WE JUST CAN'T HAVE THAT CAN WE!!  And don't even get me started on how stupid it is to say "you are losing weight without exercise, knock it off!"

There are some topics which seem to render otherwise intelligent people into unthinking buffoons, and discussions of diet, science and health are one of the best ways to see that principle in action.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Taubes on Underground Wellness

Sean Croxton at Underground Wellness has posted both a video and podcase interview of Gary Taubes.  They discuss his new book quite a bit.  I like this point a lot: 
"If you look at the concept of calories in calories out, or energy balance, the amazing thing is not that some people gain weight, the amazing thing is that we all don't gain weight.  If you over eat by 10kcal/day, an amount equal to a potato chip or two, you will gain a pound a year."

Sean is one VERY SMART gentleman, you'll enjoy his site and his podcasts - and now, TV too.

Review of "Why We Get Fat"

This is a decent review of Gary Taubes' latest book, highlighting two of the central theses.  First is that getting fat is probably more about what you eat than how much, because the first drives the second.  The second idea is one I've blogged about several times:
Describing what he calls “the 20-calorie paradox,’’ he points out that for a lean 25- year-old to gain 50 pounds by the time he is 50, all that is needed is to consume exactly 20 calories more that he burns per day, every day. This is “less than a single bite of a . . . hamburger or croissant. Less than 2 ounces of [soft drink] or the typical beer. Less than three potato chips.’’ If calories in-calories out was all there was to it, “you [would] need only to rein yourself in by this amount — undereat by 20 calories a day — to undo it.’’

In other words, we can't make any headway if we view the body as a static vessel passively receiving and consuming "energy".  The body is a highly dynamic system, with inputs affecting outputs and vice versa.  If your work output didn't affect your energy inputs (aka "hunger"), all lumberjacks would have starved to death.  Likewise, when folks undertake to restrict calories over time, their energy expenditure (movement, body heat) decreases.  Obviously, I own a CrossFit affiliate and I view fitness as an essential element to a high quality of life, but for fat management, exercise is over-rated.  The key to health and body composition management is to eat the right food.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Hey - Where'd You Get That Creatine?

From the meat you should be eating, of course.

BLUF of another great post from Free the Animal - you think better when you have adequate intake of creatine which you don't get if you eat vegan.

Now I'm not against folks eating vegan, I'm against folks who eat vegan getting crazy and trying to make the rest of us eat like they eat.  I like vegans, as they help down the price of meat.  Actually, I have a lot in common with vegans as I've aspired to live a life as principled as theirs is.  I admire people who live according to principle, but I will admit, I think they would enjoy their lives more if they ate more animal products and just accepted the fact that the living are all benefitting from those that died before them, that the cycle of life is to regenerate life from death, and the living can't happen without the dying that came first.  There's no getting around it - if you want healthy plants, you must have dead animals to feed them.

It's a tale Lierre Keith tells very well.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Welcome New Kindle Readers

Hello new Kindle readers, several new comers are on board this week and I want to welcome you.

The posts you'll see the next few weeks are representative of what you'll get from this blog - generally a bite sized dose of why what we prescribe works.  We follow the paleolithic model of nutrition, and prescribe constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity as the best means to become fit.  The think of fitness as a state of readiness that best applies to the unknown and unknowable challenge, but which will serve as a base of strength and conditioning for sport, combat and life.

I work hard to be repetitive on the basics, while covering new research and illuminating as many useful sources of information as I can.  I'll try to introduce new thought patterns about diet, health and fitness, so that you will have a mental model that will empower you to process the myth and mis-information out there - of which there is plenty.

If you have questions you'd like to ask me directly, you can post a comment to the web site,, or send an email to me at pe19797 at gmail.

Thanks and I hope you find the trial period rewarding!  Paul

What If The Doctor's Advice Doesn't Help?

Would it be good to follow your doctor's advice?  Seemingly, not so much:

In many countries, there is enthusiasm for 'healthy heart programmes' that use counselling and educational methods to encourage people to reduce their risks for developing heart disease. These risk factors include high cholesterol, excessive salt intake, high blood pressure, excess weight, a high-fat diet, smoking, diabetes and a sedentary lifestyle. This review is an update of all relevant randomised trials that have evaluated an intervention that aimed to reduce more than one risk factor (multiple risk factor intervention) in people without evidence of cardiovascular disease. The findings are from 55 trials of between six months and 12 years duration conducted in several countries over the course of four decades. The median duration of follow up was 12 months (with a range of six months to 12 years). Multiple risk factor intervention does result in small reductions in risk factors including blood pressure, cholesterol and smoking. Contrary to expectations, multiple risk factor interventions had little or no impact on the risk of coronary heart disease mortality or morbidity. This could be because these small risk factor changes were not maintained in the long term. Alternatively, the small reductions in risk factors may be caused by biases in some of the studies. The methods of attempting behaviour change in the general population are limited and do not appear to be effective. Different approaches to behaviour change are needed and should be tested empirically before being widely promoted, particularly in developing countries where cardiovascular disease rates are rising. Further trials may be warranted.
In other words, the patients did to some degree what they were told, and their "risk factors" were lowered, but they didn't live any longer.  There's some speculation about why that might be the case, but it might be because the advice is based on unsound data about why folks get sick.
Interesting report from the same group, which amounts to a decidedly guarded recommendation about statins:
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is ranked as the number one cause of mortality and is a major cause of morbidity world wide. Reducing high blood cholesterol which is a risk factor for CVD events is an important goal of medical treatment. Statins are the first-choice agents. Since the early statin trials were reported, several reviews of the effects of statins have been published highlighting their benefits particularly in people with a past history of CVD. However for people without a past history of CVD (primary prevention), the evidence is less clear. The aim of this systematic review is to assess the effects, both in terms of benefits and harms of statins for the primary prevention of CVD. We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE and EMBASE until 2007. We found 14 randomised control trials with 16 trial arms (34,272 patients) dating from 1994 to 2006. All were randomised control trials comparing statins with usual care or placebo. Duration of treatment was minimum one year and with follow up of a minimum of six months. All cause mortality. coronary heart disease and stroke events were reduced with the use of statins as was the need for revascularisations. Statin treatment reduced blood cholesterol. Taking statins did not increase the risk of adverse effects such as cancer. and few trials reported on costs or quality of life. This current systematic review highlights the shortcomings in the published trials and we recommend that caution should be taken in prescribing statins for primary prevention among people at low cardiovascular risk.
That last bit is a heck of a finishing statement - in other words, they're not really sure you can trust the data sources.  I think they might be "onto something."

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Primal On Canines and Fitness

You can always find something interesting at Mark's Daily Apple, and Mark's Primal Blueprint brings one to many of the same conclusions we get from CrossFit.  I had not been exposed to this bit about dogs and humans before, specifically that we'd been running around together for so long - but I certainly love having a dog around the house.
10. Genetic evidence suggests that humans and dogs have been coevolving together for as long as 135 000 years. The mutual advantages conferred by this co-evolutionary process have been theorized to be related to cooperative hunting between domesticated wolves and our ancient hominin ancestors. Thus, both the dog and the human genomes may be specifically adapted to outdoor exercise involving cooperation between these 2 species. Indeed, studies indicate that dog ownership can facilitate adherence to an exercise program, improve fitness, and reduce excess weight among individuals.
I get my best workouts (most enjoyable, certainly) with my yellow lab, Buddha. He exudes confidence and serenity almost to the point of enlightenment, and I’m convinced that my appreciation of my dog isn’t just learned. These furry guys have been living, sleeping, working, hunting, and bonding with us humans for tens of thousands of years. It’s entirely feasible that genetic advantages to having a dog (for both parties involved) have arisen and persist today. I’ve actually written about what we can learn from and how to exercise with dogs. Read it and then get outdoors for some fractal fun.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Taubes - Counting Calories Is Absurd

Let’s say you’re carrying around 40 pounds of excess fat and you put on that 40 pounds over the course of 20 years, as many of us do. When you’re in your late 20s, say, you’re still lean, and then, lo and behold, you celebrate your fiftieth birthday and you’re obese and your doctor is lecturing you on eating less and getting to the gym regularly (and probably writing you a prescription for Lipitor, as well). Now, if you gain 40 pounds of fat over 20 years, that’s an average of two pounds of excess fat accumulation every year. Since a pound of fat is roughly equal to 3500 calories, this means you accumulate roughly 7000 calories worth of fat every year. Divide that 7000 by 365 and you get the number of calories of fat you stored each day and never burned – roughly 19 calories. Let’s round up to 20 calories, so we have a nice round number.

So, if we miss our calorie estimate by an average of 20kcal/day, 1 to 2 percent, we're going to be forty pounds overweight?  But that didn't happen to our paleolithic ancestors, why does it happen to us?  Why is Taubes so certain that "eating less and exercising more" won't equalize that 20kcal we're over-eating?  

The biggest problem with this "calories in calories out" idea is it assumes the body is non-reactive - it assumes there's no interaction between the calories in and the calories out.  In geekier speak, it assumes the calories in is an independent variable from the calories out.  This is not so - our bodies have feedback systems which change our behavior and our physiology based on what we eat and what we do.  The model I use to understand this process goes like this - if you eat the wrong foods, it throws off your metabolic regulation feedback loops to make you default towards fat storage.  If you increase the amount of exercise or other work that you do, it doesn't shift the default away from storing fat, it shifts your appetite up to sustain the fat storage. If you eat the right foods - meat vegetables nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar or wheat - the metabolic feedback loops work more like they were designed to.  Your hunger is regulated to match your metabolic demands.  You eat the right amount, just as our ancestors have for as far back as they were hominids.  

So you could spend your life in a metabolic math problem, doing some system that requires 99% precision, day in and day out.  But I have a better idea - eat the right food, let your body do the math that it evolved to do.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wheat and Type I Diabetes Link

Another potent post from William Davis, and a frightening one.  The statistical increase in Type I diabetes is a nasty, nasty trend, and it makes the disease look more and more like a combination of genetic vulnerability which is actualized through an auto-immune response.

Proving the point is tough: Would you enroll your newborn in a study of wheat-containing diet versus no wheat, then watch for 10 years to see which group develops more type 1 diabetes? It is a doable study, just a logistical nightmare. Perhaps the point will be settled as more and more people catch onto the fact that modern wheat--or this thing we are being sold called "wheat"--is a corrupt and destructive "foodstuff" and eliminate it from their lives and the lives of their young children from birth onwards. Then a comparison of wheat-consuming versus non-wheat-consuming populations could be made. But it will be many years before this crucial question is settled.

Walking - Part Of Why It Is Good For You

In healthy adults, the hippocampus — a part of the brain important to the formation of memories — begins to atrophy around 55 or 60. Now psychologists are suggesting that the hippocampus can be modestly expanded, and memory improved, by nothing more than regular walking. In a study published on Jan. 31 in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers randomly assigned 120 healthy but sedentary men and women (average age mid-60s) to one of two exercise groups. One group walked around a track three times a week, building up to 40 minutes at a stretch; the other did a variety of less aerobic exercises, including yoga and resistance training with bands.  After a year, brain scans showed that among the walkers, the hippocampus had increased in volume by about 2 percent on average; in the others, it had declined by about 1.4 percent. Since such a decline is normal in older adults, “a 2 percent increase is fairly significant,” said the lead author, Kirk Erickson

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gary Taubes' New Book

So that apple — a filling package of fiber and vitamins to the Weight Watchers folks — is just a serving of fructose to Mr. Taubes. Fructose is the problematic sugar our bodies turn to fat the most readily, and if you are programmed to be fat, an apple will make you that much fatter.  Mr. Taubes draws an analogy to cigarette smoking: Not every long-term smoker gets lungcancer — in fact, only a minority do — but among people with lung cancer, smoking is by far the most common cause. “In a world without cigarettes, lung cancer would be a rare disease, as it once was,” he writes. “In a world without carbohydrate-rich diets, obesitywould be a rare condition as well.”  How to account for the fact that in virtually all head-to-head comparisons of various diet plans, the average long-term results have invariably been quite similar — mediocre all around? The party line holds that backsliding is universal. Mr. Taubes makes much of the addictive effect of carbohydrates: once you taste them you never forget them.
I have a good friend who has struggled with his body weight for some time.  He mentioned that he tried Atkins and lost 40+ pounds, but then stopped Atkins and gained the fat back, plus another 20 pounds.  His conclusion was "I have to figure this weight loss thing out."  This is a very common experience of folks who 'diet.'  
In an interview with Jimmy Moore, Taubes points out - - that this attitude would be like a smoker who quits smoking, feels better, stops coughing, and knows they are healthier - but then starts smoking again and says, "You know, I stopped smoking and felt great, but now I'm smoking again and I feel like crap again.  I have to figure this smoking thing out."  
Why is it obvious that a person who wants to feel better by eliminating cigarettes from their life will have to really stop smoking, but a person who wants to avoid obesity and the diseases of the West by "doing Atkins" can be unclear that if they want the benefits, they have to continue to sustain a rational level of carb consumption?  I assume it is because the idea is not out there yet, it's not widespread enough yet, that much of what our friends and families eat isn't really human food, and it can't be safely eaten for many of us at any level, much like cigarettes.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Good Vibrations

"You can feel your muscles contract,” he said. “It sort of fatigues you.”  But if there is an effect, the researchers said, it seems to be short-lived. People seem to be slightly faster sprinters immediately after standing on a platform. They also seem to be able to jump a bit higher. Vibrations also seem to help people warm up before more strenuous exercise.  “The effect wears off very quickly,” Dr. Brown said. “We are not talking about using this to play a 90-minute soccer match. One sprint and the effect would be gone. You’d play for one minute and still have 89 minutes to go.”
I never thought there'd be a serious application for these things, who knew?

My guess is the effect is related to a kind of neurological reset, kind of like shaking yourself out to "loosen up" before trying a motor skill.

Monday, February 14, 2011

LeanGains on Intermittent Fasting

I prefer to eat big. When I eat, I eat. When I don't, I don't. That's how I'm wired and trying to fight against my natural inclinations always caused me to fail.

Intermittent fasting is in my opinion a very effective way to maintain some hedonism in your life while staying lean. I'm able to eat awesome meals (some go as high as 2000 kcal) without adding body fat. I wouldn't be able to do that on the six-meal-a-day-diets I tried to maintain on in the past. I never get cravings anymore. I don't fiend around for snacks. I don't need them.

I've been experimenting with Martin's approach, and I like it a lot for how I feel.  I like being liberated from the idea that I have to eat some protein when I wake.  I just eat if I want to eat, otherwise, Martin's work has made me confident I won't be starving any muscle tissue just by letting my night's fast continue.  

What is the virtue in fasting?  The big payoff seems to come from the adaptation that fasting engenders, which is that the body, when not being fed orally, feeds itself on your body fat, and gets really good at doing that.  The best I can tell, this is the normal state of affairs!  Your body is supposed to run primarily on fat, stored or ingested!  That's why you can store many days of fat, but only a few hours worth of glucose.  

In general, we see this pattern in the Paleolithic model.  We don't store or make (in our bodies) things that are present in food items that were presumably always present in our food when our genome formed - vitamin C, vitamin D, B12, and protein.  We get more than enough vitamin C and B12 and protein from animals, and we got the D from the sun.   

I've posted before about how the studies of Muslims post Ramadan show their markers of health are improved by the fasting.  One thing that seems to have emerged about long term health is regulation of blood glucose, specifically, keeping it from getting too high or staying high.  Fasting obviously would help sustain a 'normal' glucose because the only source of glucose is a small store of sugar in the liver, and gluconeogenesis.  When left to these sources, the body produces enough sugar and ketones to fuel the brain, but not too much.

In short, I think it's probable that intermittent fasting was common over the course of the millions of years that our genome was evolving, and it is 'good for us' in the way that sleep is good for us and vitamin D is good for us in that these are all things we're built for, and deviations from things 'we're built for' makes it more likely that we will deviate from the normally good health of the paleolithic people.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

YOU Are A Fructose Mutant

The mutation evolved 15 million years ago, during a period of starvation. One hundred percent of us have it.
While many of the details have yet to be published, Johnson said that the mutation led to an increase in how much uric acid our bodies produce after eating fructose, while also lengthening the amount of time that uric acid sticks around after a sweet treat.
The result, he said, is inflammation and an increased ability for cells to become fat. In other words, uric acid works within cells to amplify sugar's ability to cause obesity.
Even on a calorie-restricted diet, he said, animals that eat too much sugar develop insulin resistance, an early sign of diabetes. Other trials in people have shown that lowering uric acid levels lowered their blood pressure.
The premise: the adaptation that saved us in times past is killing us in the age of nearly costless sugars.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

CrossFit Lisbeth - A Crossover

By all rational thought, I should discard the barbell and buy some Mom jeans and take up scrapbooking or Zumba or some kind of “fitness” class wherein I try to dance or gyrate my way into a sexy body. That’s what “sensible women” of my age do, isn’t it?
But I doubt those sensible women have felt the cold steel in their hands. They probably haven’t wrapped their fingers around a 70 lb barbell and snatched it 30 times in a row, in the middle of a 2K rowing sandwich. They most likely have not felt the power of bringing that weight overhead and then throwing it down, rubber bouncing up from the ground, chalk particles wafting like snow through the summer rays of sunshine beating across the floor. Those women still think a workout must involve a cardio machine, and, maybe, if they’re feeling adventurous, a weight machine.
They don’t know they are a weight machine. The years are taking their toll. They can either carry that weight on their hips and their butts and their bellies for the rest of their lives . . . or they can put it in their hands, on a barbell, and toss it above their head. Maybe grunt. Most likely swear. But feel the power. Be the strength. Become dominant over themselves, over others, over the world right in front of them.

Judas I like Lisbeth's writing, HELL YES!!

Solving Primate B-12 Problems for Eons!

Humans don't produce a lot of B12 that can be absorbed. We produce a lot, but in the colon, via bacteria, but it's too late. By then, it's essentially poop. Ruminants, on the other hand, produce B12 in the rumen, well ahead of the digestive tract, so it's absorbed, which is why ruminant animal flesh (cows & such) is high in B12.  Thus the dilemma.  Vegans don't eat or use animal products, so B12 is a problem.  It's the truth.  A hard fact.  But do not worry because I have the ultimate - raw-ultimate - solution.  And this is free, for now.

Read on for the solution, folks if you have not already struck upon it - 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Minger 1, USDA 0

Under the subheading called “Needs for Future Research” (AKA “Stuff We Don’t Really Understand Yet”), they wrote:
1. Determine the benefits and risks of MUFA vs. PUFA as an isocaloricsubstitute for SFA. Confirm the metabolic pathways through which dietary SFA affect serum lipids, especially as some SFA (e.g., stearic acid) do not appear to affect blood lipid levels.
Basically, they’re recommending we swap saturated fat for unsaturated varietieswithout being sure what the effects are, and that we slash all saturated fat consumption without being sure whether the reasons are biologically justified. I guess by the time the next tome of guidelines is released, the USDA will get to see whether their lipid recommendations helped or killed us off faster. Welcome to America, land of 300 million guinea pigs.
The unfortunate part of the USDA recommendations, to me, is that they bind agents of the government to recommendations derived from immature science.  The more fortunate thing for now is that we can test these recommendations for ourselves using equipment from a 'drug store.'  If you eat meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar/no wheat, and you blood glucose readings are better, you lose weight, you feel better, your appetite is controlled, and you perform well mentally and physically, forget the USDA, you've already learned what they should.  

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thoughts Watching Biggest Loser

Saw the BL trainer's tip - they want us to have a healthy Vtines day, so we should pick dark chocolate over regular, we should workout first thing so we can 'burn fat' all day, and we should practice 'portion control' for our dinner - that apparently means cooking the amount you want but sharing it with your Vtine (assuming you have one).

First off - the show is compelling because these people are fighting for their lives.  It's an astonishing thing to see - life or death, and all it boils down to is 'what do these people choose to eat?'  Probably a lot of the "Big G" whole grain cereals that are so well advertised during the show.

The premise of BL is "calories in, calories out."  Just work out harder, eat less, achieve caloric deficit, weight loss is just a math problem.  And their formula works quite often - some of those folks are losing 10+ pounds per week!  Impressive.

What I wonder is how this is going to work out for those who get eliminated along the way.  Are they going to stick to their life of constant turmoil and hunger as they practice caloric restriction for life?  Why can't they do what humans have done for ages - eat when they are hungry and let their internal systems work out the math?

In short, their internal systems are broken from eating the wrong foods - neolithic foods like wheat, sugar, hydrogenated oils - and if they return to eating those foods, they will most likely, tragically, do what they did before, spiral down into metabolic derangement.  There was a man who faced a BL type challenge in his life and lost over 100 pounds.  When interviewed afterwards about the change, he said the thing that surprised him the most - about losing over 100 pounds - it wasn't looking or feeling better, it wasn't his new mobility, it wasn't his reduced risk of death from the diseases of civilization - the thing that surprised him the most about losing over 100 pounds was the appetite never went away.

There's a lot in that - Where's the joy?  Where's the sense of triumph?  Where was the amazement of how many new options were open to him in his life? - but the worst of all the weirdness about his outcome was - how long until he gets sick of being hungry?  Being hungry is not a life time lifestyle!  It won't work for very many people.

But being hungry is an entirely predictable outcome for folks on low fat, calorie restriction diets, as is emotional issues from living with too little fat.

So skip the calorie restriction, eat a lot of high quality saturated fat for satiety, primo fuel, and emotional well being, and enjoy your meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, with a little fruit (no sugar no wheat).  You might lose 100 pounds and enjoy it, and you won't be starving and too depressed to enjoy the days!

As for the BL, Robb Wolf for someone will find a way to get a Paleo Loser show going - they can all do a quick CF WOD, eat the good paleo food, and save hours of effort whilst losing more weight than the calorie is a calorie bunch.

Good With the Bad, 2

This is what I'm talking about:
The truth is that exercise doesn't have to take 60-90 minutes. The experts agree that short, intense bouts of exercise can actually deliver better results than traditional low intense exercise.
A study was recently conducted at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Medicine that tested whether multiple short bouts of exercise would deliver better results than one long bout of exercise. They found that participants who performed short bouts of exercise stuck with the program longer and experienced greater weight loss than the participants that performed long bouts of exercise.

Short bursts of intense exercise will give you the results you want, all you have to do is make the time for it. Somewhere deep down inside you know that it's now or never.

I'll guarantee you that your paleolithic ancestors didn't work out to lose weight, never worked out for 20 minutes of cardio, and were more fit than you are.

Go short, go hard; intensity trumps duration!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Take the Good With the Bad

I am, according to Jonathan Goodair, arguably the most revolutionary fitness trainer working in Britain today, a classic example of where most people go wrong. 'All you have been doing is exercising the same muscles again and again in the same way. In running you overwork your quads and underwork your gluts [that's thighs and bottom to you and me]. The body is a very clever machine. It adapts specifically to what you do to it, so it will find the easiest possible way to find fuel for that - in other words the most calorie sparing.'
Which is why at the heart of the Goodair Total Body Plan - a five- or six-week programme of between four and six 90-minute sessions a week - is what he calls treadmill aerobics. 'I want to work someone in the most challenging way possible, and put in as much variety as possible. I don't just make someone run, I make them skip or walk sideways or backwards, and then put in other movements that challenge their balance, and stimulate lots of muscles, not just the quadriceps.'

What's good about this?  The understanding that we're all - Americans, Brits, any neolithic society - frontal plane dominant, and inadequately developed in the glutes, hams and in the spinal erectors.

Imagine walking fast on a treadmill, then imagine lifting your knees high, like a little girl skipping down the street, then imagine doing that backwards, and sideways, and adding in lunges and squats and crossover steps, and sudden direction changes. This is what Goodair means by treadmill aerobics, and it's exhausting stuff.
What's the bad about this?  Well, first off, you don't need to work for 90 minutes!  If the athlete works hard enough, 10 minutes will buy more adaptation than will 90.  Intensity trumps duration!

Second, reading the above description, the athlete is not required to develop the two foundational attributes - powerful hip extension in combination with the capacity to sustain spinal integrity under load.    In short, this treadmill training is great for working "not very hard for a long time" but will not help the athlete generate force or power through hip extension, or transmit that power through a rigid spine.

Goodair says this engagement of the brain is key. 'Fitness isn't just about having a healthy heart and strong lungs and muscles,' he tells me in his soft Sheffield brogue. 'It is about co-ordination, about neural pathways, about the fact that your brain is connected to your muscles so you know where your feet are going, where your hands are going. If you do this kind of work you end up feeling much more coordinated, your body is much more connected even when you walk down the street.'

This is all fine - but coordination to what end?  Coordination so that you can walk the streets?  Can you lift your children?  Can you lift a suitcase when you are 60 or 80?

This approach continues in the resistance work, in which weights are largely eschewed in favour of stretchy bands attached to the ceiling, a giant pilates machine-cum-torture instrument otherwise known as the Garuda, and a series of free movements - arm swoops and leg swoops in every direction imaginable - that are incomprehensibly exhausting.
The author is overly impressed with exhaustion.  It's fine, it's far better than nothing, but more important is - what physical capacities are you cultivating?  If you can do that in 10 minutes, why waste 90?

Again, Goodair's chief concern is to avoid his client putting on muscle bulk; to encourage instead the development of the long, lean muscle we all covet these days.
This is nearly comic!  Look, guys can hardly put on all the muscle they want to, much less women - you can count on one hand all the women who will have to worry about gaining too much bulk in muscles!!  If you eat right and gain the benefit of an optimized metabolism, you will enjoy every strong muscle you can get, male or female.

However, here's some additional good:  'It is sugars that transport fat into fat cells, that disturb your body's metabolism, stopping it from burning fat,' says Goodair. 'Sugars make your body a less efficient fat-burning machine.' There is no calorie-counting on the programme, but all high-carbohydrate foodstuffs, be it bread or potatoes or pasta, are verboten.
Right as rain.

'If you are training consistently, yes, the ageing process will take effect, but the difference you can make is enormous. The less we do, the less we can do. The body adapts very specifically to what you do to it. You can stay supple and fluid.
There's aging, and there's quitting entirely.  The latter results in a rapid diminution of life, the former a very, very slight diminution of life.  You finish the race in casket either way, but the life lived can be remarkably different.

'You need to do 40 minutes of cardio three times a week minimum, ideally four, plus follow my resistance programme for 50 minutes four times a week [ see the video here ]. 
That's ridiculous - far too much time spent for way too little benefit gained.  Go short, go hard!  Intensity trumps duration.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A little rhabdo is common, a lot of rhabdo could kill you ... or shorten your coaching career.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Eat Fruit, Eat Veggies, Or Don't!

With great fanfare, it was reported last week that the current health advice about eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day is outdated, and that scientists now believe that eight portions is more beneficial.  While many people grumbled about how on earth they would manage those extra portions, I ­allowed myself a wry smile.  For more than two years I’ve known that the ‘five-a-day’ mantra we’re all so familiar with is nothing but a fairytale.

Of course, they are tasty, colourful additions to any meal. But in terms of health and nutrition, fruit and veg have little to offer, and telling us to eat eight portions a day is compounding one of the worst health fallacies in recent history.

(A recent study) found that people who ate eight or more portions of fresh food a day had a 22 per cent lower chance of dying from heart disease. Yet just 1,636 participants died during the study from heart disease, which is about half of one per cent.  Out of that very small proportion, fewer people died from the group that ate more fruit and veg.  However, the researchers cautioned that these people may have healthier lifestyles generally. They may be less likely to smoke; they may eat less processed food; they may be more active.  What we should not do is to make the usual bad science leap from association to causation and say ‘eating more fruit and veg lowers the risk of dying from heart disease’.

Read the rest, this article is spot on.  Observational studies are nice for establishing hypothesis, which could then be tested via intervention studies.  Observational studies, though, are useless for establishing causation.    Any way you want to slice them, there's still no evidence to support the notion that eating fruits and veggies will improve your prospects for living longer.  

What to do?  Eat a few fruits if you like them, not more than one serving per day if you have any challenges with regards to weight loss.  Eat the good veggies, such as lettuces, broccoli, cauliflower - if you like them!  

As always, eat meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit little starch and no sugar or wheat.  Supplement vitamin D to reach a minimum of 30 ng/ml, and take approximately 1 gram per day of DHA/EPA.