Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Kresser: 3, 2, 1 Treat Your GERD

To review, heartburn and GERD are not caused by too much stomach acid. They are caused by too little stomach acid and bacterial overgrowth in the stomach and intestines. Therefore successful treatment is based on restoring adequate stomach acid production and eliminating bacterial overgrowth.
This can be accomplished by following the “three Rs” of treating heartburn and GERD naturally:
  1. Reduce factors that promote bacterial overgrowth and low stomach acid.
  2. Replace stomach acid, enzymes and nutrients that aid digestion and are necessary for health.
  3. Restore beneficial bacteria and a healthy mucosal lining in the gut.

It's no surprise that the first thing you have to do to reduce bacterial overgrowth and low stomach acid is to reduce your intake of carbohydrates to rational levels.  In other words, GERD can be addressed the same way that hypertension can be addressed, the same way that gout can be addressed, the same way that abdominal fat stores can be addressed, the same way that osteoporosis can be addressed, the same way that a disease forecasting lipid profile can be addressed, and same way that diabetes can be addressed. 

Clearly, this correlates nicely with the paleolithic model of nutrition.  None of these diseases are either "normal" or "mysterious."  They are a likely result, a predictable result, of feeding the human machine in a way that is contrary to design specifications.

The rest of the article details the process more thoroughly, read it.  GERD is not just an annoying disease that you should be popping pills to treat for the rest of your life, it's a symptom of ill health created by a poor diet.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Fiber - Beneficial?

High fiber diets and bacterial overgrowth are a particularly dangerous mix. Remember, Almost all of the fiber and approximately 15-20% of the starch we consume escape absorption. Carbohydrates that escape digestion become food for intestinal bacteria.

High fiber intake was an interesting speculation but has never been proved beneficial as regards long term health.  Did you read that right?  Yes you did.  Despite all the assertions heard by authorities all over the place, fiber has never been proved a valid benefit for long term health.  Because fiber intake for its own sake is foreign to the paleolithic model, I distrust it until proved otherwise.  But as the post above points out, there are marked reasons not to believe fiber is good for the human machine. 

It can help in some cases when the human machine is fed improperly, as it irritates the gut enough to stimulate mucous production and can restore gut motility which may have been limited by eating poor quality foods.  There is a much better option to maintain guy motility - eat as much magnesium as your paleolithic ancestors did when they drank unpurified water.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Taubes/Attia to NYT "Fat Trap"

....this regulatory role of insulin in fat metabolism was established in the 1960s, a viable alternative explanation for the cause of obesity has been that it is caused by a dysregulation of insulin signaling.  By this logic, the way to treat obesity is not by eating less and exercising more, as Ms. Parker-Pope implies, but by reducing insulin levels, perhaps as low as possible. That is accomplished most efficiently by severely restricting the carbohydrate content of the diet and removing, in particular, refined grains and sugars that have the greatest effect in stimulating insulin secretion. 

The implication of this basic endocrinology is that obesity is caused not by eating too much and sedentary behavior, but by a disruption of the hormonal and enzymatic regulation of fat tissue caused by the easily digestible, refined carbohydrates and sugars that we do eat. Indeed, by this logic, calorie-restricted diets – starvation and semi-starvation diets as used in the studies Ms. Parker-Pope discusses  can be thought of as particularly counterproductive ways to reduce carbohydrate consumption and so insulin levels, starving the body, as they do, of the energy required to effectively run metabolic processes. 

In the past decade, clinical trials have repeatedly demonstrated that when obese and overweight individuals consciously restrict the carbohydrates they eat, but not calories, they not only lose weight, on average, but their heart disease and diabetes risk factors improve significantly.  Their insulin resistance, in effect, resolves. Those of us who have lost weight ourselves and witnessed the effect of these diets on our patients can confirm that this is exactly what happens. 

An outcut of the letter to the NYT in response to the 5000 word article about fat loss in which the primary regulator of fat storage, insulin, was not mentioned, even once.  The entire letter is worth a read, and it's only two pages.  They are asking for something radical - testing of the alternative hypothesis.  

Friday, January 27, 2012

Your Leaky Gut May Be Caused By Excessive Grain Consumption

There's no human requirement for grains. That's the problem with the USDA recommendations. They think we're hardwired as a species to eat grains. You can get by just fine and meet every single nutrient requirement that humans have without eating grains. And grains are absolutely poor sources of vitamins and minerals compared to fruits and vegetables and meat and fish.

Gliadin is the primary immunotoxic protein found in wheat gluten and is among the most damaging to your health.  Gliadin gives wheat bread its doughy texture and is capable of increasing the production of the intestinal protein zonulin, which in turn opens up gaps in the normally tight junctures between intestinal cells (enterocytes).
There is a growing body of scientific evidence showing that grains, as well as legumes, contain anti-nutrients and other problem substances that may increase intestinal permeability. This includes:
In celiac disease the body will make antibodies to gliadin after it is digested by the intestinal enzyme tissue transglutaminase, resulting in severe autoimmune damage to the delicate, absorptive surfaces of the intestines. It does not, however, require full blown celiac disease to suffer from the adverse effects of this protein. In fact, it is likely that our intolerance to gliadin and related wheat proteins is a species-specific intolerance, applicable to all humans, with the difference being a matter of the degree to which it causes harm.
This helps to explain why new research clearly shows gliadin increases intestinal permeability in both those with, and thosewithout, celiac disease.
Leaky gut - a bad way to start the new year.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mercola: Rice, No Wheat

An interesting survey of the topic of how much carbohydrate is necessary, is it the same for all of us, and if needed, which kinds are better?

The biggest takeaway - if you need to up the carbs beyond what you can get from vegetables, go with rice.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Blog: War On Insulin

While I appreciate the author's perspective, I would have named the blog differently.  Insulin saves us from neurological damage when blood sugars go too high, and those with no insulin die a cruel wasting death, as insulin is necessary to get vital materials into cells in order to sustain life.  BUT - the fact that the science of the last thirty years has focused so much on fat intake (and dislipidemia) as the cause of disease, and by extension accumulated body fat as the cause of disease, while almost ignoring how necessary insulin is in the accumulation and maintenance of excess body fat, has resulted in a generation of weird science (much of which you and I funded via the NIH). 

So, as blog author Petter Attia says: 
My mission is to demonstrate that insulin — not calories — is at the heart of the most pervasive chronic diseases: obesity, heart disease, and even cancer. Suppressing the secretion of insulin is the key to running your body on your own fat, which leads not only to weight loss, but also to what I call “chronic health” and peak performance.

I think I would pick a minor nit and say it's the excess carb intake - that makes hyperinsulinemia a short term necessity, and a long term death sentence - that's killing us.  You could eliminate the body's ability to generate high insulin output, but if you still ate a high carb "heart healthy whole grain" low fat diet, you'd still be dead from excess blood sugars, and sooner rather than later.

Attia addresses Tara Parker Pope's "The Fat Trap":
I fully agree with Ms. Parker-Pope’s assertion that obesity is categorically not an issue of weak will, and I’m encouraged that she feels a sense of renewed optimism in her own journey.
There were two aspects of this article, however, that disappointed me. First, it focused a great deal on hormones that almost certainly play some role in obesity – leptin, peptide YY, ghrelin – but not once in over 5,000 words was the hormone insulin mentioned.  The reason this disappoints me is not because I fixate on insulin, and therefore assume others should.  It’s because I’m reminded of how confused mainstream nutrition and obesity research is.  All of these other hormones – leptin, peptide YY, ghrelin – are reported to play a role in appetite.  The notion that “the answer” to treating obesity lies in manipulating these hormones suggests folks still think obesity is a disease of over-eating rather than a disorder of abnormal fat accumulation.  This distinction is not subtle, as I try to point out in the posts The great medical disconnect and Revisit the causality of obesityIf you believe obesity is caused by overeating then it makes sense to study hormones that govern hunger.  Certainly hunger matters, and a person who is constantly hungry is likely to overeat, but the fact that this article doesn’t even suggest a role for elevated insulin levels strikes me as missing something.

It's more than missing something, the author is trying to be polite.  It's an astonishing oversight.  It's proof that the scientists Mr. Pope counts on in her reporting are off the reservation.  It's an indictment of a generation of scientists who assumed they could reduce human metabolism to the simplicity of a bomb calorimeter and now are completely at a loss for what to try next (except pharmaceutical intervention) - but still have not confronted the reality that they have taken a dead end street. 

Those same scientists who's work is rejected by their failure to either understand or treat obesity are the ones who control much of the funding for research into diet, obesity and health.  Strangely, they don't want to spend much money trying to prove they have been wrong all these years.  Gee, I wonder what to make of that.

If it is sad that someone like Tara Parker-Pope, who has such a potentially potent stage, is still trailing through the scientific boonies with the lost generation of science, the awesome thing is so many people like Peter Attia are on to the "alternative hypothesis".  These folks are treating their patients, and spreading the word, and empowered recipients are recovering their health and their futures.   Their scientific results can be measured in smaller waists, eliminated medines, and by the fact that they look, feel and perform better.  This is science you can do.  Eat meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, little fruit or starch, no sugar/no wheat.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Eades: What Makes You Tick

How does your body deal with the multitude of problems associated with an unpredictable food supply, varying food quality, and the feast or famine nature of the environment in which our genome was refined over time? 

In one of my all time favorite blog posts, Mike Eades describes the process here in incredibly few words:

BLUF:  you store excess energy from fat and carbs as triglycerides.  You store excess protein in the "amino acid pool" and in muscles (of the two, it's better if you use fat first, muscles only in desperation).  Most of your cells run well on either fats, glucose, or ketones.  Certain cells, brain tissue for example, run well on glucose or ketones only (the heart, by the way, reportedly runs extremely well on ketones).  If you are not ingesting enough food, the glucose hungry brain still needs sugar, and obviously keeping the brain well fed is a metabolic imperative.  Thus, the liver will begin a process of converting amino acids to glucose.  To power this transaction, the liver takes energy from fatty acids, and in the process creates ketones.  Since ketones serve as a glucose proxy, the process of gluconeogenesis (making new sugar from amino acids, which come from muscle tissue or ingested protein) helps alleviate blood glucose short falls via both glucose and ketone production.  The fact that the body can transform both fat and protein into glucose or a glucose substitute is a reflection of the criticality of feeding the brain.  Here's the rub - this process can only keep you running if most of your cells are fat adapted, which is to say, they run on fat often, and thus at the cellular level adequate stores of fat oxidizing enzymes are maintained.  If you are chugging down carbs all day, you've given yourself a totally different metabolic emergency - sugar disposal.  To help with that, your tissues will burn sugar instead of fat when sugar is present in excess.  If you are only sugar adapted, when food intake is delayed or not sugary enough, you will not be able to maintain adequate levels of blood sugar - and that feels bad.  You will be highly motivated to eat more.  And you will eat the kind of food that most rapidly becomes blood glucose, which will likely sustain your metabolism in "SUGAR DISPOSAL EMERGENCY MODE."

So, if want to be more lean, or need to get control of glucose levels, stop downing the mountains of "healthy whole grains" and processed high carb foods and modern frankenfruits like apples/bananas/corn/oranges and etc.  The unfortunate belief that magic carbs are protecting you with phyto nutrients, anti oxidants, and vitamins is the health equivalent of "penny wise pound foolish".  Restrict your carb intake to vegetables, preferably cruciferous gems like broccoli and brussel's sprouts, and become the fat burning machine you were meant to be.
No, I don't think a banana or apple a day will kill you if your total carb intake is 100g/day or less.  But you could also just eat a Snickers bar or Dr. Pepper unless you like bananas better; until you get your blood sugars under control, there's not much difference.
After you fat adapt, your body will still need something like 150g/day of glucose to feed your brain, but since your other tissues won't be competing for glucose, your liver will make that 150g for you from ingested proteins, as well as from ingested fats and fat liberated from adipose tissue.  Of note, fat adapted people rarely feel hungry because they can run 14-16 hours before they burn up the amino acids in the "amino acid pool" - and all the while with a stable, normal blood sugar level.  In other words, fat adapted people aren't hungry because they have all the fuels their body needs, there's no biological reason for hunger.

With no hunger you also get the liberty of eating according to when you want to eat, vice eating to stave off hypoglycemia - or in response to your body's "this is a sugar crisis feed me now dammit" demands which will put you on the high carb express to crazy town.

There's every reason to believe there's nothing more significant for your long term health than glycemic control.  The people with the worst glycemic control - diabetics - are the sickest population on the planet, short and long term.  They are vulnerable to every disease of civilization at rates higher than non-diabetics, and they age about ten years more rapidly than the rest of us. 

Carb restriction gives you excellent glycemic control, because the liver will make the glucose that you need - but not more.  Along with glycemic control, you will see improved measures of every health marker and improved (improving) body composition.   Eat meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, little fruit or starch, and no sugar/wheat.  Live long and prosper.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Taubes, Pope, Attia, Ancestral Registry

Gary Taubes did the world a favor by responding to "The Fat Trap" - linked in this link - and then going a step farther.  He responded with a letter to the editor which he had signed by as many willing MDs and PHDs as he could get on short notice.  The letter's point was - if Ms. Pope is correct that all of the "eat less move more" advocates are ready to throw in the towel and admit that it's impossible to lose weight over time, perhaps that's because they are using the wrong prescription.  Thus, there's a good reason to invest in the alternative hypothesis - carbs drive insulin which drives fat - as the primary reason why we Westerners are getting fatter, and sicker, and more expensive to keep alive, even as we work out more, diet more, and obsess more about our diabetes and the resulting cascade of diseases of civilization.

Here you can find additional thoughts from GT's new comrade in arms, Peter Attia.

They also created the Ancestral Health Registry for those who have lost weight via a low carb/paleo diet to log their experience.

The Fat Trap is a good read.  It fully represents to cognitive dissonance inherent in the last 30-60 years of the science of diet, in which the wisdom and science of the pre-WWII leaders in the field - that carbs are uniquely fattening - was dumped.  Remarkably, an unproved, and still unproven, scientific model was inserted and became the accepted scientific template for diet and health science.  That model is an imprecisely applied interpretation of the 1st Law of Thermodynamics to human metabolism, which does not account for the fact that the human body is not a closed system.  It also does not account for the fact that in a living being, energy in and energy out transactions are dependent variables - in other words, each affects the other.

Once the absurdities of "a calorie is a calorie" are seen, it becomes nearly astonishing that anyone ever fell for a plate full of such unproved (and improbable) scientific reductionism.

Lean Gains Led The Way

After reading the wealth of information on fitness and fasting at Lean Gains I tried an implementation last spring.  I can't I say I did exactly what Martin Berkhan would have recommended, but adapted the info he provided to a version I knew I could commit to.  It worked. I lost body fat while maintaining the ability to lift large loads long distances rapidly via CrossFit programming.

I got even more than better body comp and excellent physical performance, though; I also got liberty.  Liberty to get up and get going without worrying about eating.  Liberty to be unafraid if I miss a meal.  Liberty to know that I can eat when I want to and not have a blood sugar crash.  Liberty to train when I want to, not around some notion of a pre-training fuel requirement.  Time is money, time is relationships, time is the only truly limited commodity - having more time and flexibility in how I spend it is truly the gem of intermittent fasting.

And I never would have tried IF except for Martin's testimony - and the convincing photos - that one can both lean out and maintain the muscle needed to perform well, even perform better, through demanding high intensity workouts.  Farewell to the specter of fasted training leading to muscle catabolism - I won't miss you.

I think IF is nearly mainstream now, as even Precision Nutrition is onto the game - as evidenced by the PN IF Guide.  PN has not always struck me as an avant guard institution - although it is a very, very well run business and does a tremendous job for clients - so when they took the time to validate IF, I think it's a reasonable sign that IF is no big secret.

Bottom line - IF works, it benefits health as well as body composition, and I think it is self evident why the news is spread mostly via the web, and not via some print monstrosity that makes all its money via advertisements for junk that folks don't need - which people buy anyway due to the poor quality of science in diet and nutrition.  Because so few of the opinions asserted in the muscle rags can be tested, folks fall for anything and everything.

Ignorance leads to fear and poor choices, universally as far I can tell.

Folks argue that there's more mis-information now that ever due to the web - but there's also an amount of knowledge one can gain, in exchange only for time and effort, that was never before accessible to many for so little.  Amazing times!

Chains Plates and Barbells - Here's Why and How

What's Up With Chains - EFTS

Ever wonder what a gym full of plates and barbells needs with chains?  I used to see this box with 5/8 inch chain - which by the way looks very cool and darn sure should be put to some use - and wonder "WTF?"

Short version - it provides a way to vary the stimulus of a movement.  As Louie Simmons says, "Once you spell your name right, you can only spell it wrong."  Which is to say, to get the body to keep adapting, you have to present a stimulus.  What was a stimulus yesterday is not a stimulus today; you already know this, because you know if you lift 50 pounds for ten reps every day, it will not help you lift 100 pounds some day.  This concept is termed "the law of accommodation."  If you want your body to adapt, you have to present a stimulus to which the body is not already accommodated.

"So why not just lift more today than yesterday, won't that cause an adaptive stimulus?  After all, that's how Milo lifted the bull ("He was said to have achieved the feat of lifting the bull by starting in childhood, lifting and carrying a newborn calf and repeating the feat daily as it grew to maturity")"

Yes, it will, with beginners.  But when have trained using linear progression long enough, gains will eventually slow.  At that point, you have to find a new way to stress the body in order to continue to make gains.  That's why, both with Westside Barbell, arguably the most successful gym in the world for competitive power lifters, or CrossFit, variation is continuous.

Chain attached to a barbell allows a lifter to keep the weight at what is an achievable range when the barbell, and the chain, are on the floor, but makes for an increasing weight as the barbell is lifted.  So a 325 pound deadlift with 50# of chain provides a 325 pound stimulus in the start position, when leverages are low, and a 375# stimulus as the chain is fully lifted.  This is most assuredly a "different" stimulus than lifting a barbell that is plate loaded only.

Or as the article linked above puts it:
The biggest difference between chains and straight weight is the ability to add accommodating resistance to whatever lift you’re training. For those unfamiliar with the term, accommodating resistance basically means that the load changes during the lift to accommodate to your natural strength curve.

Another benefit of chains, or there accommodating resistance, is that they allow us to fully accelerate through an entire movement when working on speed.  If you are squatting a moderate rate for the purpose of moving as fast as possible under load, you have to slow down near the end of the movement - since it can be truly inconvenient to launch a heavy barbell into the lower atmosphere directly above your body.  Chains or bands, by providing increasing resistance as the barbell moves further from the ground, prevent this dilemma, allowing maximal exertion - and everybody wants that.

Most of us have no need for $150 worth of chains, we'd be better served putting that money towards coaching or bumper plates or a good pull-up system.  But it never hurts to know the answer so you don't have to be the one asking the stupid question when you see the chains in a gym!

Friday, January 20, 2012

POSE Certified

Passed my POSE Method running certification test today, first try, and learned even more in the process - which to my way of thinking means the test was a "good test."  

Next goal - try to add photos and video to the blog which will help folks start to learn better running technique.

Fat Head Hits 'Em In the Junk (Science)

I highly recommend "Fat Head the Movie", the creator of which (Tom Naughton) is both funny, smart and diligent in defense of high fat eating for health.  Among other feats, he totally dismantles the pretense of seriousness to which "Super Size Me" pretends; SSM is a funny but dis-ingenuous film.

The linked post from the Fat Head blog provides an elegant way to interpret the vast number of observational studies - which are released with great fan fare and media coverage - which mean nothing.

Pancreatic Cancer, Processed Meat, and a Load of Bologna

Fat Head: As the authors of the current study noted:
The Study:  Our study has some limitations. First, as a meta-analysis of observational studies, we cannot rule out that individual studies may have failed to control for potential confounders, which may introduce bias in an unpredictable direction. All studies controlled for age and smoking, but only a few studies adjusted for other potential confounders such as body mass index and history of diabetes. Another limitation is that our findings were likely to be affected by imprecise measurement of red and processed meat consumption and potential confounders.
Fat Head:  Let me put that into plain English:  Our findings are meaningless. The studies we analyzed were based on food-recall surveys that are notoriously inaccurate, and most of them didn’t control for body mass index or diabetes, which essentially means they didn’t control for intake of sugars and refined carbohydrates.  Okay, folks, move along; nothing here to see.
Observational studies are cheap, relatively speaking.  And they have a role in science.  So they get funding.  But their main role is to examine correlations to determine if any are interesting enough to justify further research for the purpose of determining cause and effect.  In short, when a study says that breathing air increases your risk of death by 27% or eating red meat is guaranteed to kill you in 15 minutes or less, or some such stuff, but there are already intervention studies that show meat eating and low carb reduces your markers for every known disease of civilization - you should just file that study away as the smelly bovine excrement that it is.
Then again, if you don't want to eat industrially produced bacon, salami, hot dogs, and sausage every day, that's OK too.  I don't.  But I eat it when I want it and I like it!
(Minor edits 20 Jan 2012, 1415)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bray On The Loose

The article linked below examines a study of what happens if you feed folks 1000 kcal/day more than you think they need.  To test the question, the participants were combined to metabolic ward.   The results and study design itself are quite interesting.

-Exercise was not part of the study, and their physical activity was controlled
-The low protein variant result in lean muscle mass loss and fat gain; but the total weight gained was less than that of the other variant
-The carbs levels were kept the same, it was protein levels and fat levels that varied

The author didn't seem to understand the study and essentially parroted the party line:
Whether you are just starting a New Year's diet or struggling to maintain a healthy weight, a provocative new study offers some timely guidance. It isn't so much what you eat, the study suggests, but how much you eat that counts when it comes to accumulating body fat.

"That's a very important message," said Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, an obesity researcher at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., who wasn't involved with the study. "Weight gain depends primarily on excess calories, regardless of the composition of the meal."

These are funny conclusions to reach when the study shows that calories do not dictate weight gain – the groups all ate the same excess calories, but the low protein group gained as much fat while losing muscle mass. 

The study author is well known – some might say notorious – for his advocacy of the concept that might be know as “a calorie is a calorie.” 
Dr. Bray said the more than 50,000 extra calories were roughly equivalent to the excess calories the average American consumes over a decade.
And he is of course right, as regards oxidation of macronutrients in a bomb calorimeter.  However, his own test shows that calories are not calories when we’re talking about a human subject:
After eight weeks, all participants in the study gained weight. The 16 men and nine women made similar gains. The low protein-diet group gained about seven pounds, about half the 13.3 pounds added on by the normal protein participants and 14.4 pounds put on by the high protein group.
In other words, sometimes the body takes extra protein calories and makes (or sustains) muscles from them, and sometimes, the calories become fat. 

This is a great study for illustrating how truly difficult it is to do good science on humans.  For example, one of the common observations about folks that are leaner is that they are more active in unconscious ways than heavier folks are.  Their bodies adapt to higher food intakes by expending more energy as activity.  Likewise, folks that are starving tend to be lethargic and to feel cold, as if their internal feedback systems find ways to conserve.  In short, there are plenty of reasons to believe that the body is “not a closed system” and therefore, simplistic application of the first law of thermodynamics to humans is problematic. 

One very important element that was not included in the write up from the article would have been an assessment of what the subjects’ fasting lipid profiles were like.  It would also be interesting to see what would happen if the carb levels were not held constant – cause I’ll bet you 1000 kcal per day extra of a 60% carb diet would indeed have had a measurably greater fat gaining effect.  But that’s part of the problem; if you can’t hold constants constant, the study cannot determine causality.  Of course, there’s the other problem – if you hold constants constant, you are not examining how the human body responds “in the wild.”

Luckily, you don’t have to subject yourself to the vagaries of the scientific method with a bunch of other folks being force fed high calorie diets, with their activity constrained, and their calories counted.  You can just eat meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, little fruit or starch, and no sugar/wheat, and prove for yourself whether or not it is good for you. 

PS - Here's Fat Head's review: Another Bad Study, Badly Reported

Eccentric DOMS

In regards to this post, a friend asked whether the reduction in muscle soreness (DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness) referred to in this post -  BCAA Supplementation - was a sign of decreased adaptation to the workout adaptive demand.

In short - the answer is no.  Muscle soreness in not a sign of adaptive demand per se, it is a result of eccentric load on a muscle.  Two examples illustrate the idea.

Cyclists are very strong, and if introduced to weighted squats, they can often post a large number on day one.  However, their muscles are conditioned to concentric loads only - which is to say, pushing or extending the legs.  If you let a cyclist workout to capacity without an adaptation cycle of squat training first, they will be crippled from DOMS the following day.

Sled pushing is known as being intense, but it's virtually impossible to become "sore" after a sled training session.  Why?  Like cycling, sled driving requires concentric effort only.  Unlike squats, deadlifts, pushups, pullups, etc, there's no point at which the muscle is loaded and getting longer.

In short, muscle soreness represents muscle tears resulting from eccentric loads or volumes which exceed the athlete's conditioning for eccentrics.

Yes, that's right - all those times you thought "this post workout soreness sucks but at least I'm getting stronger" you were right and wrong.  You were getting stronger due to the adaptive demand you placed on your system, but the soreness was a reflection of eccentric loading only - which, thankfully, the body adapts to relatively quickly.

Faster by Technique

Running speeds improved in the 1950s with the introduction of interval training, a method that interspersed periods of high-intensity work with periods of rest.
It took a leap forward when races began being held on synthetic tracks and runners began wearing track-spiked shoes. World-class results for five-kilometre runs improved by 30 seconds virtually overnight. Sprinters could improve race times by ~0.2 seconds on a 100-metre dash. These were huge gains in a sport where performance is measured in the hundredths of a second.

Recent advances suggest support time - the amount of time each foot spends on the ground - is the key driver of speed. Shorter support time means faster running.

The interesting thing to me is that speed - like any athletic endeavor - can be taught as a skill and improved like any skill.  I don't think technique will transform my slowish self into the Barry Sanders, but it will allow me to express the athletic potential I have.  Perhaps more important, by relearning an innate skill, one that has degraded by mis-perception of running and the inevitable muscle imbalances of the modern life (lived in chairs), I'm running with the least pain I've experienced in years.  And because I've learned the skill and have a framework from which to judge degradations in technique, I can avoid another technique downturn like the one I experienced post-ACL surgery.  Lastly, I can give the same gift to others.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Classic Quote, Eisenhower

"In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable."
- Dwight D. Eisenhower

I think this is truth for one's personal food war too. 

Interestingly, Eisenhower was a victim of the "lipid hypothesis".  Diagnosed with high cholesterol, he was given a diet, described in Gary Taubes' "Good Calories Bad Calories", consisting of very low fat, very low cholesterol, and very low in nutrition.  He was observed to be grumpy, complained of his mental clarity, and he gained little reduction in cholesterol.  If the carbohydrate hypothesis is correct, Eisenhower was in effect poisoned.  He was given exactly the foods that would worsen his "disease of the west."  That he died relatively young isn't as tragic as unnecessarily having to live badly.

Cancer Sugar


Study Links High Carbohydrate Diet To Increased Breast Cancer Risk

In a case-control study of 1,866 women in Mexico, those who derived 57 or more percent of their total energy intake from carbohydrates incurred a risk of breast cancer 2.2 times higher than women with more balanced diets. Dietary patterns in Mexico are characterized by higher consumption of carbohydrates and lower intake of fat and animal protein than those in more affluent western countries.
The team of researchers from the Instituto de Salud P├║blica in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, suggests that the association between carbohydrates and breast cancer may be related to elevated levels of insulin and insulin-like growth factor binding proteins in the blood.
“Scientists have long suspected that diet was among the factors contributing to breast cancer,” said study co-author Walter Willett, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H, the Fredrick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. “Now, with studies like ours, we are beginning gradually to understand what elements of diet specifically are associated with the disease, and to grasp the chemical and biological processes that contribute to it at the cellular level.”
Of all the carbohydrate compounds, sucrose and fructose demonstrated the strongest association with breast cancer risk in the study. Sucrose is derived from sugar cane, sorghum and the sugar beet; it is most commonly found in table sugar and sweetened prepared foods and beverages. Fructose is a component of sucrose and is also found in fruit.

Eating sweets and starches causes a rapid rise in the body’s blood sugar levels, which in turn cues the production of insulin and triggers a biological process that ultimately can influence carcinogenesis by causing cells to proliferate.

Dietary fat – certainly a contributor to obesity – fared well in the research, showing no significant association with breast cancer risk overall.

Yup.  Although - I'd like to see how they think that dietary fat is "certainly a contributor to obesity".  And for that matter, if you ate enough fat to be fat, you still wouldn't have the cluster of other disorders - hypertension, dislipidemia, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease - that come with the standard high carb style obesity. (Minor edits 17 Jan 2012, 1250 CST)

Monday, January 16, 2012

2,000-year-old Mummy Cancer

But they also found a variety of tumors,‭ ‬measuring between‭ ‬0.03ins‭ ‬and‭ ‬0.59‭inches,‭ ‬interspersed‭ along ‬M1‭'‬s pelvis and lumbar spine.‭
Prostatic carcinoma begins in the walnut-sized prostate gland and typically spreads to the pelvic region,‭ ‬the lumbar spine,‭ ‬the upper arm and leg bones, and the ribs,‭ ‬ultimately reaching most of the skeleton.‭
Agonising end: The mummy, known as M1, was a 5ft 5ins adult male who died a painful death at the hands of the disease aged between 51 and 60
Dr Prates and colleagues‭ ‬considered other diseases as alternatives.‭ ‬But‭ ‬M1‭'‬s sex,‭ ‬age,‭ ‬the‭ ‬distribution pattern of the lesions,‭ ‬their shape and density,‭ ‬strongly argued for prostate cancer.
'It is the oldest known case of prostate cancer in ancient Egypt and the‭ ‬second‭ ‬oldest case in history,‭' Dr ‬Prates said.
The earliest diagnosis of‭ ‬metastasising prostate carcinoma came in‭ ‬2007 ‬when researchers investigated the skeleton of a‭ ‬2,700-year-old Scythian king who died,‭ ‬aged‭ ‬40 to 50,‭ ‬in the steppe of Southern Siberia,‭ ‬Russia.‭
'This study shows that cancer did exist in antiquity,‭ ‬for sure in ancient Egypt.‭ ‬The main reason for the scarcity of examples found today might be the lower prevalence of carcinogens and the shorter life expectancy,‭' ‬Paula Veiga,‭ ‬a researcher in Egyptology,‭ ‬told Discovery News.
Moreover,‭ ‬high-resolution CT scanners,‭ ‬able to detect tiny‭ ‬tumors‭ only ‬became available only in‭ ‬2005., which suggests earlier researchers may have missed them.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2057026/Prostate-cancer-2-000-year-old-Egyptian-mummy.html#ixzz1icLxS39d

IOW - the diseases of the West are probably better termed "Post agricultural disease cascade."

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Paleo Start Tips

I know I have a few readers who are starting or restarting their low carb effort - these two posts link to a great summary from Mike Eades on how to make it less difficult to transition to becoming a fat burner vice a sugar burner.

Mike Eades on How To Start or Restart

Eades on Low Carb/Paleo Transition Tactics

Note on Cancer Ketone Relationship

Interesting collection of notes which is consistent with other materials I've read.  It makes a case for intermittent fasting, low carb intake most days, and in short - comports well with the Paleolithic model of nutrition.
Thomas Seyfried–“Ketone Bodies and Cancer”
  • Most brain tumors are untreatable and patients die from the pressure build-up
  • Calorie restriction is necessary for treating brain tumors
  • The mitochondria are dysfunctional in human brain tumors
  • Otto Warburg noted that cancer leads to irreversible damage
  • Tumor cells are unable to shift from feeding on glucose to ketones
  • Cancer is more of a metabolic disease than a genetic one
  • There’s an 80% reduction in tumor weight when calorie-restricted
  • Calorie-restriction one of the most powerful therapies for killing cancer cells
  • As glucose is decreased, cancer cells reduce as well
  • A low-carb, calorie-restricted diet is better than the best drug therapy for cancer
  • Ketogenic calorie-restricted diets have reduced brain tumors in mice and humans
  • Blood glucose remains too high on an unlimited calories low-carb diet to treat cancer
  • Calorie-restricted low-carb diets create adequate ketones for treating brain tumors
  • Ketogenic, calorie-restricted diets don’t cure cancer, but they come close
  • Tumors can’t grow when calories are cut to create ketones
  • Limiting carbs and calories puts you in the zone of managing tumor growth
  • Brain cancer in children can be treated with ketogenic diets by reducing glucose
  • Avoid radiation therapy if all all possible–ketogenic, calorie-restricted diet is best for cancer
Dr. Eugene Fine–“Reduced Carbohydrates in Aggressive Resistant Tumors (RECHARGE Trial)”
  • Not all cancers are dependent on glucose for growth, including prostate cancer
  • Hyperinsulinemia is a major cancer risk factor–that’s why reducing insulin in paramount
  • It’s plausible that reducing insulin secretion could inhibit cancer growth
  • The typical American diet contains 300-400g carbs daily–spiking insulin
  • Cut the carbs and you’ll cut the insulin and reduce your cancer risk
  • You don’t want an insulin knockout (Type 1 diabetes), but rather an insulin knockdown
  • A low-carb diet provides the proper control of insulin without eliminating the good it does
  • Reduced carb diets have not demonstrated adverse effects up to 2 years as a medical therapy
  • Humans were built as hunter-gatherers to be in a ketotic state most of the time
  • Fasting is in our ancestral biochemistry with no ill effects
  • There is no known dietary requirement for carbohydrate in your diet
  • Grains and vegetables are only a relatively recent addition to the human diet
  • A very low-carb diet changes the metabolic environment where cancer would grow
  • Too many people are living outside of a sustained ketogenic state leading to more cancer
  • RECHARGE Trial used very low-carb diet on 10 patients who failed on chemotherapy
  • The study placed the participants on a very low-carb ketogenic diet for 28 days
  • Average daily intake consumed by study patients was 27g carbs and 1236 daily
  • All of the study participants were ketotic
  • Future direction of research will be a larger study using ketogenic diets–funding needed

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Dogs, Tails, Wags

The scientific study of obesity has been dominated throughout the twentieth century by the concept of energy balance. This conceptual approach, based on fundamental thermodynamic principles, states that energy cannot be destroyed, and can only be gained, lost or stored by an organism. Its application in obesity research has emphasised excessive appetite (gluttony), or insufficient physical activity (sloth), as the primary determinants of excess weight gain, reflected in current guidelines for obesity prevention and treatment. This model cannot explain why weight accumulates persistently rather than reaching a plateau, and underplays the effect of variability in dietary constituents on energy and intermediary metabolism. An alternative model emphasises the capacity of fructose and fructose-derived sweeteners (sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup) to perturb cellular metabolism via modification of the adenosine monophosphate (AMP)/adenosine triphosphate (ATP) ratio, activation of AMP kinase and compensatory mechanisms, which favour adipose tissue accretion and increased appetite while depressing physical activity. This conceptual model implicates chronic hyperinsulinaemia in the presence of a paradoxical state of 'cellular starvation' as a key driver of the metabolic modifications inducing chronic weight gain. We combine evidence from in vitro and in vivo experiments to formulate a perspective on obesity aetiology that emphasises metabolic flexibility and dietary composition rather than energy balance. Using this model, we question the direction of causation of reported associations between obesity and sleep duration or childhood growth. Our perspective generates new hypotheses, which can be tested to improve our understanding of the current obesity epidemic, and to identify novel strategies for prevention or treatment.


Translation:  Gary Taubes might be on to something.

Of course, Taubes has just re-articulated what might be called the pre-70s conventional wisdom, as well as the pre-WWII scientific consensus - which was that excessive carb intake makes you fat.  And it still does.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Dr. M - "Glassman Is Right"

“…high-intensity interval training cuts down on your exercise time so dramatically. You're actually getting MORE benefits from high-intensity training than you do from aerobic/cardio, in a fraction of the time—all because you're utilizing your body as it was designed to be used. You can literally be done in about 20 minutes, compared to spending an hour running on the treadmill.
"… [T]he exercise physiology world has created an inextricable link between the aerobic metabolic system and the cardiovascular. But that's not true at all. There's no way that your heart and blood vessels are hooked up only to the mitochondria. The heart and blood vessels support the entire cellular metabolism," Dr. McGuff says. "The best way to get that benefit is with high-intensity intermittent exercise."
If you give it some thought, it's actually easy to see that your body was designed for high-intensity, short-interval exercise. As Dr. McGuff says:
"… the issue isn't necessarily the running for hours and hours and hours. It's the modality itself. You will never, in nature, see an animal jogging… What the steady-state activity does is it trains the plasticity out of your physiologic system—that ability to handle widely varying levels of exertion within a short span of time gets trained away. You actually make yourself less plastic and less adaptable to physical stress in general."

It is interesting to see mainstream, relatively speaking, medical folks saying, in essence, "CrossFit makes perfect sense."  It works that way often - a practitioner finds something that works, and eventually, everyone else says "of course it does."

Another interesting nugget:
Your body's need for sugar is, biologically, very small. And when you consume more than you need, your body turns it into fat. As I've stated before, you do not get fat from eating fat—you get fat from eating too many carbs (sugar).
Dr. McGuff explains:
"Your skeletal muscle – if you're lucky – can hold maybe 250 grams of glucose, and your liver holds about 70. If you take 320 grams of glucose as what your storage capacity is, you can kill that with a single trip to Starbucks. Once you go beyond that, your body is going to find some sort of way to deal with those excess carbohydrates.
If your glycogen storage is full, your body has nowhere else to put it. So instead of going all the way through this metabolic pathway, it… produces body fat. That's called the novel glycogenosis. We are in the midst of a very bizarre, evil-scientist type experiment in the Western world, because we are dumping into our bodies an amount of carbohydrate and, in particular, refined sugars, that are way above the capacity of our metabolism to handle normally."
Simply put, intensity trumps duration.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Consideration For Northern "Hemisphere-ers"

A study of more than 81,000 women found those with the highest intake of vitamin D from food sources had a significantly lower prevalence of depressive symptoms.
The researchers suggested that vitamin D may affect the function of dopamine and norepinephrine.
These are neurotransmitters that are likely involved in depression, while also modulating the relationship between depression and inflammation.
This adds to growing evidence showing that if you're suffering from depression one of the best choices you can make is to spend as much time outdoors in the sun as possible.
Sun exposure is by far the best way to optimize your levels of vitamin D.
This is particularly useful to know as Daylight Savings Time is now over for most and will not having access to enough sunshine to make vitamin D until spring.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Low Fat, Low Health

What happens when folks eat low fat?  This study showed that folks who ate low fat had a number of desirable health behaviors, but on average were larger than their peers who did not reporting eating low fat.  BMI is a lousy measure of individual health, but may have some merit in a population - in general, a group that's heavier is a group that's fatter and less healthy.

From inside the Paleo bubble, it just seems like a matter of time until the masses see the obvious.  It still surprises me when I see how many folks buy the low fat fad diet.

Conclusions: age, BMI, physical activity and non-smoking were associated with an increasing consumption of low-fat foods. The fact that low-fat foods consumers had a higher intake of carbohydrates and proteins question the efficacy of these items in energy reducing programs.
► The two most daily consumed low-fat foods were meat and yoghurt. ► BMI was associated with an increasing consumption of low-fat foods. ► Consumption of low-fat foods was associated with a decreased daily total and saturated fat intake. ► This decrease was compensated by an increased intake in carbohydrates and sugar.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

You Could Learn A Lot From A Mummy

The BLUF:  before sugar, before transfats, before fast food, before high fructose corn syrup became the source of 20% of our caloric intake, before mean people began forcing us to eat processed foods carefully dosed with sugar-fat-salt ... the mummies were getting heart disease.

I hope it won't seem too radical to suggest that you'd be a dummy to eat like a mummy.

Sorry, I just had to ...

The study concludes:

Forty-four of 52 mummies had identifiable cardiovascular (CV) structures, and 20 of these had either definite atherosclerosis (defined as calcification within the wall of an identifiable artery, n = 12) or probable atherosclerosis (defined as calcifications along the expected course of an artery, n = 8). Calcifications were found in the aorta as well as the coronary, carotid, iliac, femoral, and peripheral leg arteries. The 20 mummies with definite or probable atherosclerosis were older at time of death (mean age 45.1 ± 9.2 years) than the mummies with CV tissue but no atherosclerosis (mean age 34.5 ± 11.8 years, p < 0.002). Two mummies had evidence of severe arterial atherosclerosis with calcifications in virtually every arterial bed. Definite coronary atherosclerosis was present in 2 mummies, including a princess who lived between 1550 and 1580 BCE. This finding represents the earliest documentation of coronary atherosclerosis in a human. Definite or probable atherosclerosis was present in mummies who lived during virtually every era of ancient Egypt represented in this study, a time span of >2,000 years.


HT:  @dreades

Monday, January 9, 2012

Glucose Control? Pick Up Heavy Stuff

The link below will take you to the abstract of an interesting prospective study.  As always with these studies, it would be impossible to assert cause and effect relationships.  At least, it shows that having more muscle mass is not bad for you, and that perhaps sustaining activities which result in creating and sustaining muscular strength are healthful as regards glycemic control.
Conclusions: Across the full range, higher muscle mass (relative to body size) is associated with better insulin sensitivity and lower risk of PDM. Further research is needed to examine the effect of appropriate exercise interventions designed to increase muscle mass on incidence of diabetes.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

CrossFit Memphis

I gave my best shot at explaining the what and the why of the Paleo diet to an audience at CF Memphis yesterday, and as always, benefitted from the effort.

The best I can tell I made the impact that I hoped to.  Like anyone, I can tell the stakes are high as regards eating and living a life we can enjoy.  I have a lot of respect for folks that will step out of their comfort zone and do something they know they should.  It is exciting to share hard won knowledge with folks who can put it to good use.

My thanks to Mike, Doug, Ashley, Rob and Chris and all the Team Faction folks that made it a great event!

Wheat Belly - The Wheat or the Running?

An interesting read from the wheat belly blog.
BLUF:  going wheat free might be all you need to do to cure what ails you.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Low-Salt Diets May Raise Risk of Heart Disease

Cutting back on salt may not be as beneficial for your heart as once thought, a new study suggests.
While a diet low in salt reduces blood pressure, it increases the levels of cholesterol, fat and hormones in the blood that are known to increase the risk of heart disease, the study found.
Overall, the good and bad consequences of a low-salt diet may cancel each other out, so the diet has relatively little effect on the development of disease, said study researcher Dr. Niels Graudal, of Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark.

So if lower blood pressure equates to lower risk of CVD, and lower salt levels decrease blood pressure, then how could it be that low salt diets don't lower risk of CVD?

In short, high blood pressure is a symptom of a high carbohydrate diet.  It results when the body retains sodium due to excessive insulin levels.  So, the key factor isn't how much salt you eat, it's how much your body retains.  Even though treating the symptoms of the illness - metabolic syndrome - somewhat results in decreasing risk of CVD, lowering salt or medically lowering blood pressure is still only treating a symptom.  In this way, low salt diets and BP meds are just like statins and just like gout medications.

Eat meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, little fruit or starch, and no sugar/wheat.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Beware the Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

I eat about 80g/day of carbohydrates.  The average for Americans is between 300 and 400 grams per day.

Interesting label on a "healthy and nutritious" drink. Note the 33 grams per serving of carbs, with 4 servings per bottle, for a whopping 132 grams of carbohydrate in one bottle.  I would love to know how many purchasers drink this all in one sitting.

So, if you find you need to get a bunch of empty calories but convince yourself that you are doing yourself a favor, here's the ideal solution, which has "NO SUGAR ADDED."  It's also "ALL NATURAL FRUIT."

According to this site, a cup of blueberries has ~21g of carbs.  (http://www.carb-counter.net/fruit/1061)  That means you can get 6 cups of blueberries in just one bottle of this stuff!! Such a deal. 

Here's a smaller version of the same product:

Sorry for the sideways angle, but the numbers are:  2 servings, 29g of carbs per serving, which delivers a  nice daily jolt of 58g of carbs to start your day off on the right track.  I just can't figure out why we have this epidemic of diabetes in our country ...
(Minor edits 4 Jan 12, 2141)

Low Mouse Carb, Low Mouse Cancer

Since cancer cells depend on glucose more than normal cells, we compared the effects of low carbohydrate (CHO) diets to a Western diet on the growth rate of tumors in mice. To avoid caloric restriction-induced effects, we designed the low CHO diets isocaloric with the Western diet by increasing protein rather than fat levels because of the reported tumor-promoting effects of high fat and the immune-stimulating effects of high protein. We found that both murine and human carcinomas grew slower in mice on diets containing low amylose CHO and high protein compared with a Western diet characterized by relatively high CHO and low protein. There was no weight difference between the tumor-bearing mice on the low CHO or Western diets. Additionally, the low CHO-fed mice exhibited lower blood glucose, insulin, and lactate levels. Additive antitumor effects with the low CHO diets were observed with the mTOR inhibitor CCI-779 and especially with the COX-2 inhibitor Celebrex, a potent anti-inflammatory drug. Strikingly, in a genetically engineered mouse model of HER-2/neu-induced mammary cancer, tumor penetrance in mice on a Western diet was nearly 50% by the age of 1 year whereas no tumors were detected in mice on the low CHO diet. This difference was associated with weight gains in mice on the Western diet not observed in mice on the low CHO diet. Moreover, whereas only 1 mouse on the Western diet achieved a normal life span, due to cancer-associated deaths, more than 50% of the mice on the low CHO diet reached or exceeded the normal life span. Taken together, our findings offer a compelling preclinical illustration of the ability of a low CHO diet in not only restricting weight gain but also cancer development and progression.

Interesting, of course, if not conclusive - and though not conclusive, it fits quite well with the Paleolithic Model of nutrition, in which high carb intakes like those associated with the "Western Diet" provide a novel adaptive demand to the human genome and might easily be assumed to be destructive.
(Minor edits, 4 Jan 2012, 2148)

Monday, January 2, 2012

How To Fail At Weight Loss

Just talking to Bridge about the effort required to maintain her weight is exhausting. I find her story inspiring, but it also makes me wonder whether I have what it takes to be thin. I have tried on several occasions (and as recently as a couple weeks ago) to keep a daily diary of my eating and exercise habits, but it’s easy to let it slide. I can’t quite imagine how I would ever make time to weigh and measure food when some days it’s all I can do to get dinner on the table between finishing my work and carting my daughter to dance class or volleyball practice. And while I enjoy exercising for 30- or 40-minute stretches, I also learned from six months of marathon training that devoting one to two hours a day to exercise takes an impossible toll on my family life.
This is a telling clip from a long article about why fat loss is hard.  The author comes off as sincere and likable.  She is also disciplined and skilled at telling the story of the conventional wisdom of weight loss.  In short, that theory is:
-Fat makes you fat, so eat low fat complex carbs and enough whole grain to keep cement running through a 100 foot hose.  Also, eat enough fruits and vegetables to employ half the world's population of immigrants in fruit/veggie farming, unless you can jam down a few more pieces of fruit in addition
-Most people gain the equivalent of 50-100 kcal per day of fat daily, so just exercise moderately every day to burn that extra amount of kcal
-We are in a toxic food environment which is riddled with food marketing and social temptations making it all but hopeless for most folks to manage their weight.  Medical interventions (drugs, surgery) are the only hope we have

These folks would also say something like, "sure, carb restriction is effective and safe in the short term, but because folks don't stay on low carb diets, they don't work."  As Gary Taubes says, that's like saying "sure, quitting cigarettes works but as soon as you start smoking again, you just get sick again."  

Although there are many telling elements, the element best highlighted by the article is how lost a science can get when it starts with no guiding framework.  Nutritional science should be a sub set of biology.  Nothing in the field of biology makes any sense outside of the context of the evolutionary model.  If you insert nutritional science into the context of biology, nearly all of the cognitive dissonance of nutritional science can be viewed as part of a logical whole.  Instead, the field seems dead set on trying to solve a large complex puzzle (human nutrition) by peering through the equivalent of a straw.  Or, put another way, the evolutionary model gives a scientist a conceptual alternative to the reductionist and minimally helpful concept of caloric balance as the driving factor in health and obesity.  It is not the case that caloric balance is evident by fat gain or loss - but it is also not the cause of fat gain or loss.   This last fact, by the way, is well illustrated in the references the author cites.  Strangely (to me) though, she never thinks to question why human who were never fat as hunter gathers are inexplicably unable to live now without becoming obese.

This article is fertile with material for future posts as the author does a faithful job of highlighting most if not all of the "calorie is a calorie" confusion that has led so many to despair.
(Minor edits 4 Jan 2012, 2152)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

For A Happy New Year - Start At The Beginning

Your number one New Year's Resolution should be learning how to squat with grace and power, to squat with thoughtless ease, to squat as well as the average eighteen month old child.
Read on and learn why.

...data show that squats are excellent for building strength, power and mobility.  Full squats can help counteract many of the chronic musculo-skeletal problems we face today, such as weak glutes, hunched back, weak torso, etc.
If a person can perform a full depth squat with their own bodyweight, they’re probably a fairly fit person.

I like to think of the squat as your ticket away from the nursing home.  In other words, a person that can perform ten full depth squats will not ever be so immobile or incapable that they will be unable to care for themselves.  Squatting demands and develops the capacity for healthy knees, hips and back, as well as the ability to use them together to generate force.  As the Precision Nutrition article points out, about the only muscle not engaged in a simple "air squat" is the eyebrows - although you can get some eyebrow action going if you desire to do so, and high rep squatting will likely get enough of a pain induced scowl that you can take the eyebrows off the list of ignored muscles. 

That said, some squats are better than others.  Conceptually, learn to see the squat as a hip movement vice a leg or knee movement.  Start the movement by moving your hips back - as if you have an armload of groceries and you need to close the car door with your backside.  There are many details involved in learning to squat - and typing is not a great way to communicate them. 

If you are new to squatting, start with a chair or box, perhaps around 12" tall - a $15 plastic electrical junction box from a big box home improvement store works perfectly.  Put a stack of books or pads on top until the surface is approximately 18" high.  Sit on this "squat box".
-push your knees out
-raise your hands as high as you can reach
-VERY slowly, lean forward until your center of gravity is over your heels; then stand. 
If you can do this from the 18" box, take an inch or so off, and repeat.  Over time, you should develop the ability squat to full depth, glutes to heels. 

When you can squat as effortlessly and deep as an 18 month old child, consider yourself an expert.

Teaching yourself, or someone else, to squat is not a "one and done" proposition.  Watch videos from CrossFit.com, Elite FTS, and keep learning about squatting.  This effort will be well rewarded because there's nothing else I know that has more potential to positively affect your physical capacity for work and movement than mastery of the squat - with the possible exception of the deadlift.  (BTW, the above referenced link has a treasure trove of links to further your understanding and practice of the squat).

I squat to keep my knees healthy, and the left one in particular is significantly damaged.  I squat to keep my back functional and strong - this has been an issue for me since I was 18.  I squat to sustain proper hip function - and the squat's propensity for building hip function is, I believe, why the squat is so good for those with knee issues, because the squat can be used to learn how to use hip/hamstring levers vice the inferior levers of the quads, to significantly reduce knee stressors.

It is the commonest of common sense to use to body's largest levers and strongest muscles to move yourself - but most of the people I see every day have no idea how to do that and don't even know they are not doing it.  This is one of the reasons why we live longer today but not better.

Your paleolithic ancestors "squatted like you read about."  They were delivered to this earth by a squatting mother, squatted for life's other essential functions, and probably ate and rested in a squat.  The squat was a ubiquitous element of human life - until we became neolithic, chair building, house living, inflexible and weak. 

If you can't squat - you should consider yourself defective, disfunctional and unhealthy.  This is not bad news, because for most of us, defective, disfunctional and unhealthy can be converted to functional and healthy with minutes per day devoted to learning and practicing the squat. 

So assess yourself today, set a goal for squatting brilliance and let me know how you are doing through the year!

PS - I'm available for online coaching for the squat, call me!