Monday, April 30, 2012

Kresser: Salt 2

The results of the Intersalt Study did not indicate any clear pattern between the level of salt intake and blood pressure in those countries studied. (23) And when average life expectancy is plotted against the countries’ average salt intake, the trend shows that higher salt consumption is actually correlated with longer life expectancy. While this correlation does not imply causation, it is interesting to note the compatibility of a high salt diet with a long life expectancy.

You eat whole foods, and add some salt here and there, you will be hard pressed to eat "too much" salt, and if you do, your healthy kidneys will easily flush the extra.  Best way to get into trouble with your kidneys is by becoming diabetic.  The cascade of nasty that accompanies uncontrolled blood sugars is causing renal failure on a large scale - that's why you see so many dialysis centers all over the place.

Best way to heal a kidney damaged by diabetes or metabolic syndrome?  Carb restriction.  Even the ADA recommends that for weight loss for up to a year (after that, I suppose you are supposed to go back to the high carb diet that almost killed you the first time).

Friday, April 27, 2012

Big Nutritional Brother

Hopefully, they won't be coming for me next.  This one is unreal.  The government, which has ineptly recommended ridiculous dietary advice - from the department of agriculture no less - is now taking authority to punish a blogger who cured his own disease.  I hope it is just an internet rumor, it is beyond belief.

Kresser: Salt Is Good/Bad?

Most of what we read and hear about salt these days is telling us that salt consumption needs to be reduced, and it has even been referred to as “the single most harmful substance in the food supply”. (4)
However, until recently, salt had maintained an extremely high level of value for thousands of years of human history. As Mark Kurlansky explains in his book, A World History of Salt, “salt is so common, so easy to obtain, and so inexpensive that we have forgotten that from the beginning of civilization until about 100 years ago, salt was one of the most sought-after commodities in human history.” (5) So how did we develop this insatiable taste for salt, and why is it that we now fear salt as being dangerous for health? And furthermore, what role does salt truly play in our health and wellbeing?
This is part one of three by Chris Kresser, read on and learn.

If there's any better indictment of the current state of science and health than the government's recommendations on fat and grains, it's the absurd recommendations on salt.  "The best health care system in the world" - which it is, measured by how well it fixes broken people and keeps sick people alive - and the basic science of human metabolism and wellness is still wandering in the darkness of NIH and Department of Agriculture led weird science. 

The strangest part of all?  Everyone knew better.  As far back as the late 70s, my father (a pediatrician) told me that triglycerides were a more important measure of heart health than was cholesterol, and that salt restriction was only useful if you already had high blood pressure.  These things were not secret.  How could a system "unlearn" so much in such a short period of time? 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Food Ethics

In the battlefield of ideas, vegetarians have won the start of the battle over the question of whether vegetarian or meat based diets are more healthy, and/or more ethical/environmentally sustainable.  This author nicely addresses the issues in 600 words.

“Meat is murder” is the battle cry of many vegetarians. But I see more murder in the plastic wrapped, genetically-modified, chemical-sprayed tofu burger than I do in my local grass-fed burger. How many animals had to die for that soybean field to be planted? I could say the same in just about every plant-based food in supermarkets which destroys the diversity in ecosystems to grow crops unsustainably.

Nature thrives on diversity and that includes animals. We need to honor the cycles of life and death in our food. That means choosing foods that promote sustainability.

Eating meat from farms that promote sustainability promotes life in all forms, including ours. This is not only ethical, it is necessary.


My good friend Pearl, who has been dabbling in low carb and recently attended a presentation on the Paleo Model, reports the following:

Week 3:
"Down 9 pounds and 1.25 inches of belly fat, including some massive cheating at Easter Dinner!"
What's his version of Paleo?
He's working out, and, besides morning coffee, he does not eat anything until dinner.  He says he's "not even hungry during the day.  I eat meats and veggies, and have nuts or a pickle for a snack if I get a craving.  It's the best I've felt in years."

Week 4:
"I've been eating paleo with almost no cheating for right at a month, plus exercise.  Down 12 pounds and 2.25 inches of belly fat.  I feel good, I'm almost never hungry.  I'm a convert."

I'm hoping he'll be telling me that he's off the blood pressure meds in another couple of months.  Even more important than the weight and fat loss is the cessation and reversal of damage that he suffered from what he was eating (what most of us eat) before.  Pearl's a young man, has a beautiful family, and a lot of good living in front of him - far better to live that way feeling strong, healthy and fit!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Young Athlete Specialization - Don't

Think specialization is a good idea for your youth athlete?  Think again.  Think about a 400% increase in the rate of youth ACL tears.

What's a better idea?  Play a variety of sports and find a competent strength and conditioning coach to help your kids actualize their potential.  

Cafe Hayek — The Creeping Menace

Cafe Hayek — where orders emerge
More fundamentally, each time the government expands its effective authority over economic decision-making, it sets in motion a variety of economic, institutional, and ideological adjustments whose common denominator is a diminished resistance to Bigger Government. Among the most significant of such adjustments is the Supreme Court’s consistent refusal to protect individual rights from invasion by government officials during national emergencies. Precedents established during extraordinary times tilt the constitutional balance even during ensuing normal times.

Normally this would go on my political blog vice this blog - but it applies directly to the government's actions in advocating dietary choices which are not based in acceptable science.  The government's bad advice is noteworthy:
-Don't eat salk
-Don't eat saturated fat, but do eat industrially produced polyunsaturated fats
-Eat mountains of grains
-"We're not sure sugar is bad for you"
-"Raw milk is dangerous"

Once ensconced in government policy, the guidelines must be followed by numerous institutions in our country - the government is an agent of bad food science, and we are made to suffer the consequences. 

I'm not convinced the government should advise anyone on any food choices, but I'm completely convinced it should not do unless it has intervention studies on the topic in hand.  Let's hope that very simple requirement can limit government mis-information in the future, OR, more likely, that folks will learn not to trust the utterances of politically based instutitions.

Edited: June 4, 2012 10:28 AM

CF Endurance Results

The linked article details some of the training and results of a group of CF Endurance athletes - the results are very impressive!  The concept of CFE is simple - an athlete can train for broad, general, inclusive fitness - increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains - but also sustain elite endurance performance (specialization, in other words, the capacity to work "not very hard" for a long duration).  Of course, a "normal" CFer should be competent in working "not very hard" for a long duration, or else, they would be missing an important element of fitness.  The CFE folks just take that a step farther - they add workouts to take their endurance capacity to greater lengths.  The cost?  Time, recovery, potential increased risk of over use injury, and most likely, some compromise of their ability to improve in another element of fitness.  So, as with everything, it's all about the trade offs!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Yawning Helps Keep Your Brain Cool

  • Yawning is an involuntary behavior that may perform the important function of cooling your brain
  • When you yawn, the influx of cool air may ventilate your sinuses and facilitate brain cooling
  • Brain temperatures increase when you’re sleep deprived, which may be one reason why exhaustion triggers excessive yawning
  • Yawning may also indicate a capacity for empathy, and may be an evolutionarily old process of great social significance

This is a fascinating thesis and it will be interesting to see how it develops in coming years.  I thought it was particularly interesting that there's no other compelling explanation for why we have sinuses.

Monday, April 23, 2012

It's That Bad?

I was at my son's scout troop tonight to get a physical so that I can play chaperone if available for camping or some such event.  The doc asked me what medications I was taking, or something like "You are not on any medications?"  "No".  He said, "I don't know anyone your age that's not taking any medications."

It's that bad?  

Sugar Intake and Vascular Damage


Background: Higher intake of carbohydrates and high–glycemic index (high-GI) diets could lead to small vessel dysfunction.
Objectives: We aimed to assess the associations between intakes of high-GI and high–glycemic load (high-GL) diets, carbohydrate, and the main carbohydrate-containing food groups and retinal microvascular changes in preadolescents.
Design: Students aged 12 y (n = 2353) from a random cluster sample of 21 schools underwent detailed eye examinations. Retinal vessel caliber and fractal dimension were measured from digital retinal images. A validated semiquantitative food-frequency questionnaire was administered.
Results: After multivariable adjustment, children who consumed soft drinks once or more per day had significantly narrower mean retinal arterioles (∼1.9 μm) than did those who never or rarely consumed soft drinks (P-trend = 0.03). When the highest to lowest tertiles of carbohydrate consumption were compared, girls had significantly narrower retinal arterioles (∼1.4 μm; P-trend = 0.03) and boys had wider venules (∼2.3 μm; P-trend = 0.02). In girls only, a higher-GI diet was associated with narrower retinal arterioles (0.98-μm narrowing of retinal arteriolar caliber per SD increase in GI, P = 0.01). Carbohydrate intake and a high-GL diet were associated with greater retinal fractal dimension in girls (highest compared with lowest tertiles: P-trend = 0.003 and 0.01, respectively).
Conclusions: Greater consumption of carbohydrates and soft drinks was associated with retinal arteriolar narrowing and venular widening. Because these microvascular signs have been shown to be markers of future cardiovascular disease risk, the presence of this risk factor in children could support the need for healthy dietary patterns that include lower consumption of high-GI foods and soft drinks.

Not a brilliant insight, but certainly another reason to minimize the high sugar drinks your kids eat, even if they aren't overweight.  Even one drink per day seems to show an effect.

Taubes On Epidemiology

Back in 2007 when I first published Good Calories, Bad Calories I also wrote a cover story in the New York Times Magazine on the problems with observational epidemiology. The article was called “Do We Really Know What Makes Us Healthy?” and I made the argument that even the better epidemiologists in the world consider this stuff closer to a pseudoscience than a real science. I used as a case study the researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, led by Walter Willett, who runs the Nurses’ Health Study. In doing so, I wanted to point out one of the main reasons why nutritionists and public health authorities have gone off the rails in their advice about what constitutes a healthy diet. The article itself pointed out that every time in the past that these researchers had claimed that an association observed in their observational trials was a causal relationship, and that causal relationship had then been tested in experiment, the experiment had failed to confirm the causal interpretation — i.e., the folks from Harvard got it wrong. Not most times, but every time. No exception. Their batting average circa 2007, at least, was .000.

Correlation is not causality - just can't be said too much.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Need Inspiration Today?

Comments (83)
Check out the awesome wounded warrior at this CrossFit link!

"I was wounded in Afghanistan on Aug 16, 2011. I lost my left leg below the knee, broke my right leg, broken ribs, sustained a lot of frag to my legs, and the list goes on. Its been less then 7 months since my injury and here I am completing 12.3."
- Jake Pope.

CrossFit for Hope, Four Days Until Registration

Worldwide fundraiser for St. Jude's - registration starts in four days.  I've been in Memphis for 12 years, it is long past time to make a contribution to this incredible institution!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Berardi and PN, Part 5

JB on the ubiquitous topic of "how to look good naked."

[The goal is to] demystify the eating process so that eating right for different goals is something everyone thinks about. And something anyone can do.
If you want to improve your nutrition, you have to consider three things.My general principles are pretty simple and straightforward.
  • food type (what you’re eating),
  • food amount (how much you’re eating),
  • food timing (when you’re eating).
And truly, improving muscle gain, fat loss, sports performance, or health is as simple as tweaking one or more of these variables.

In the Precision Nutrition approach, you make these "tweaks" if your goal is fat loss:

....adjust your food type to include mostly lean proteins, green vegetables, and healthy fats; you’ll adjust your food amount by eating less food than normal; and you’ll adjust your food timing by including your biggest, most protein and carbohydrate packed meal right after your workout.

JB offers other "tweaks" for those who may want to gain muscle.  Then he gets a bit more specific, detailing the only five things you need to consider to LGN (look good naked):
First, to lose fat, you have to gradually decrease your calories. In other words, you have to start eating less.Second, to support your muscle tissue, you have to gradually increase your protein. In other words, eat more lean meat, chicken, fish, or whatever lean vegetarian source you choose. These foods help speed up your metabolism, help you feel full, and provide important amino acids.
Third, to create the right environment for fat loss, you need to gradually decrease your carbs. In other words, eat less sugar and starches – like processed gains. Eating too much of these foods can wreak havoc on your bloodstream, increasing hormones that lead to fat gain.
Fourth, to make sure you’re healthy throughout the process, you need to gradually increase the amount of veggies you eat. You can think of it this way: start replacing your grains with greens. If you do this, you’ll be getting more fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
And fifth, to support your metabolism, you need to gradually replace your bad fats with healthy ones. By adding things like olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, and fish oils, you’ll speed your metabolism and lose more fat than ever.
That’s really it. If you do those things consistently, along with a solid training program, looking better naked is a pretty simple process.

The PN method uses these ideas and a few nuggets from human change psychology to get their clients into a new way of thinking about food and eating.  Do you think an approach like this would work for you?  

I suspect it will, but I would add that all behavior change happens most effectively when:
1.  You have leverage - you have a deep and powerful driver that's forcing the change.  Health scare?  Woke up one day and was just stunned by how far gone you are?  Feel tired or hungry or grumpy or some other bad feeling, that you know is related to diet?  Perhaps if it's all of the above - AND you realize that dealing with your food/health problem will have a POWERFUL POSITIVE impact on the people you love; now that's a potent change driver.  
2.  You are doing something every day to improve your knowledge.  This works for two reasons - one, there are many obstacles to getting diet right and one of the most significant is mis-information.  We think we're doing something that's helping, when in reality, it's hurting.  To get around the mis-information obstacles, you have to keep learning and refining your approach based on what you learn.
3.  You have some person or group with whom you share the wins and losses.  Humans are social animals, and behavior change is either reinforced or diluted by the company you keep. 
4.  You find ways that sustain the change but also make for easy habits to follow.  The harder it is to sustain the change, the sooner your motivation, which always falls to baseline unless you are actively working to sustain it (not an easy thing to do in the full catastrophe of life), falls below the effort level required to sustain the change.  IOW - the process as described above by JB is simple, but that doesn't mean it is easy!  Make it as easy as it can be.  

For me, this is where the idea of "combat meals" comes in.  I find things I can whip up in a flash, they are tasty enough that I will eat them, and I keep them handy so I'm never faced with making a decision on what to eat when I'm hungry.

And on that point, no dietary change will be effective if it requires that you do battle with hunger.  This is why carb restriction is so powerful for those who want to lose weight - you can eat fewer calories on a diet based in proteins and fats, without feeling hunger.  In fact, if you've been dieting for over a month, and still experience hunger, it's a sure sign that something's not quite right.  If you are using carb restriction - essentially, not eating processed foods, and therefore getting most of your carbs from veggies, and perhaps a sweet potato or a piece of fruit - you will feel hungry the first 10-30 days.  Be ready for that by having high fat, high protein combat snacks at the ready.  After the fat adaptation period, you body will have ample fuel (your belly and love handles), your blood sugars will be regulated, your hormones will be moving towards "healthy" from sick, and hunger will be infrequent and much easier to deal with. 

This concludes my introduction to you of John Berardi and his very impressive company, Precision Nutrition.  I've enjoyed having time this week to write these thoughts down, and hope the compare and contrast method has been of some use to you in formulating your approach to health and wellness.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Berardi and PN, Part 4

I really appreciate the common sense, and research advice JB offers on post-workout nutrition/recovery:
Basically, my graduate research focused on how we could use the right combination of protein and carbohydrate, in liquid form, to speed up recovery from endurance and strength exercise.

Although the research is complex, the conclusions are simple.
We found that if your training is hard enough to stimulate protein turnover and glycogen depletion, your recovery will speed up if you take a protein/carb drink during the peri-workout period.
Whether you drink it just prior to, during, or after training isn’t that important.

If that describes your training, take a look at the article link, JB prescribes a different "dose" for different folks.

The concluding advice:
The key here is to be honest with yourself. If your training is moderate, you probably don’t need a recovery drink. And, for the sake of full disclosure, during most of my training phases, I don’t even use one. Because I’m interested in maintenance for most of the year.

My guess is that most of my readers would fall into the group of us that don't really need a recovery drink, since we're exercising to live, vice living to exercise or compete.  So, my advice is not to worry too much about all the folks pumping down post-exercise shakes or super-storebought-foods.  Take the Art DeVaney route and eat when you are hungry, and let all the natural systems designed to keep you strong and healthy do their thing with the high quality paleo food you eat.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Civilized, Weak

Speaking of hip extension, the extensor group is one of the most under-utilized muscle groups in modern civili- zation. The advent of the La-Z-Boy and the television have arguably contributed more to the weakening of modern society than any other inventions of our time. As I sit writing this article, I can feel my hip flexors becoming tighter and my hip extensors becoming weaker. Fortunately, the recent surge in the popularity of lifting heavy things is beginning to reverse this trend, at least in a small segment of our population.

How long until this won't be the kind of observation that you only get from "real trainers", which is to say people who teach their athletes to lift heavy stuff, and jump, and climb, and such - vice folks that count reps, cheer and move selector pins on machines.  The day will come when it's totally pop to make these kinds of points.  

First, there will have to be a change in how athletes are coached - you can't address these matters well without using functional human movements - squatting, deadlifting, jumping, etc.  Hamstring curls and glute extensions won't get it done because they just create hypertrophy, or perhaps a little strength, without giving an athlete the frame of reference in which to apply the improved force generation potential.

Berardi and PN, Part 3

JB has also recently experimented with intermittent fasting, although he's taken a liking to a once weekly fast, vice the 5x mornings a week I'm liking these days.

How's his fast work?

Personally, I’ve been playing around with a 24 hour fast once per week. Sunday is generally my fasting day. Here’s how I do things:
  • 10 pm Saturday: stop eating
  • 9 am on Sunday: 1 multi-, 5 BCAAs, ½ serving greens+ in 1L water, 1 c green tea
  • 1 pm on Sunday: same as above
  • 5 pm on Sunday: same as above
  • 10 pm Sunday: eat a small protein, veggie, legume, and healthy fat meal
I’ve been doing this for 4 months, all as part of a fat loss experiment I’m working on. My goal is to lose as much fat as I can – and maintain this loss for a full year – while doing less than 90 minutes of super-intense exercise per week.

As JB cautions, fasting isn't for everyone.  I usually tell folks they should try to get comfortable just eating paleo for a couple of months before trying a fasting experiment.  However, I have a good friend who's recently switched to paleo style low carb, and started a "once per day" approach to eating.  In short order he lost 12 pounds and 1.25 inches off of his belly - that's a heck of a start!  He reports never being hungry and feeling very, very good.  I look forward to hearing how his next marathon training routine goes now that he's shedding the excess fat and restoring his health.  I also hope he's one of the 80% of folks who can get rid of their blood pressure medication with carb restriction.

Here's JB's very detailed publication on IF:

Next, we'll tap into JB's advice on post workout nutrition.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Berardi and PN, Part 2

JB on Paleo:

While I like the style of eating, the name does bother me a little. Because it implies that we actually know how our Paleolithic ancestors ate. And it implies that they all ate one way.
Neither is true.  
That is of course true.  But we know some things that healthy, pre-agricultural populations didn't eat.  They likely ate the seed heads of grasses with seed heads large enough to harvest (read J. Diamond's "Guns Germs and Steel" for more on that), but they almost certainly didn't eat these foods in huge quantities, that is the sole realm of the agricultural (neolithic) age.

JB continues:
With this new research, some of the basic “Paleo” assumptions are falling into question. And this is just the beginning. As we develop new techniques, and find new civilizations, no one knows what we’ll discover about the way our ancestors ate.

On this point, I think JB's off target, albeit, the disagreement is a small, philosophical one.  The paleo assumption that matters is that the human genome is not evolved to tolerate living on an agricultural diet, of which 85% of the calories come from corn, wheat and grain.  It isn't evolved to tolerate hydrogenated oils, partially hydrogenated oils, and trans-fats, in quantities these are consumed today.  It isn't adapted to pasteurization, and it isn't adapted to the highly bred super wheats/corns we have access to.  How much you might tolerate any or all of these novel-to-the-genome foods is not anything I could guess, but if you are fat, sick and not thriving on the standard American diet (SAD), these are the likely causes.  What is NOT the cause is you being lazy or gluttonous - at least, if you are lazy and gluttonous, it's probably a natural result of eating the SAD.  The point isn't to try to "eat like a Paleo man".  The point is to use the paleolithic model as a basis for examining the science of nutrition.  The high carb, high grain, low fat fad diet of the last 30 years was never based in sound science and has been a predictable failure.  As Dr. Loren Cordain likes to point out, nothing in the science of biology makes sense outside of the context of evolution.  Why nutritional got so far off track was by pretending that human diet is not a matter of biology.

I think it is erroneous, though, to think you are eating like "Paleo man" if you are not animals "nose to toes."  And I'm certainly not there yet!  Which is why I supplement magnesium and zinc, for example.

When asked about the possible downside of Paleo eating, JB says:
...for certain individuals with specific goals, unprocessed grains and legumes are a huge help. You just have to keep the amount in check and consider timing.

And it all depends on your genes.  Indeed, new research is showing that while Paleo-type recommendations are a great baseline, further adjustments would need to be made based on someone’s genetic heritage.
I think this one's obvious, even the more puritanical Paleo folks - Robb Wolf and perhaps Whole 9 come to mind on this end of the spectrum - advocate a 30 day experiment with controlled reintroduction of possibly irritating foods as a way to determine what foods might be causing negative symptoms that you've lived with so long you no longer notice them.  This is a hard thing to do right, but it can be very helpful.  You might be able to do well on dairy for example, if you eliminate the gut damage that many experience from wheat.

Speaking of dairy, JB offers the following:
In the UK, for example, almost 100% of the population has lactase persistence. This means that dairy is well-tolerated in nearly 100% of the UK. The same is true in Scandinavian countries and Northwestern Africa. However, in Eastern Europe, Asia, and Southern Africa, lactase persistence is less than 10%. Meaning, that in these areas, almost no one can handle dairy.
With dairy, we also need to consider a host of other things, from hormones and antibiotics to homogenization and pasteurization.

Seems like good common sense thinking to me.

There’s a similar relationship between our genetic heritage and our ability to digest and process carbohydrates.  People from Northern Europe, the UK, and Southern Asia make more salivary amylase and other carbohydrate-digesting enzymes because they’ve traditionally eaten a more carbohydrate-rich diet. While people from Africa and Northern Asia make fewer carbohydrate-digesting enzymes because of their traditional diet that’s lower in carbohydrates.
And, just as with dairy, one's tolerance of ancient varieties of wheat and other grains, and one's tolerance of the super production drought and bug resistant wheat varieties available to most of us today, are likely two different matters.  You may have an Arab's super wheat tolerant gut and still not be able to handle much or any modern wheat, with its uniquely blood sugar spiking carbohydrates.

JB provides a nice summary:
... it’s to point out that nutrition plans should always be a starting point for further experimentation. Not rigid, immutable guidelines.
Of course, if you’re new to all this, you need some guidelines to work from. To put you on the right track. But after that, your best bet is to adopt the adventurous attitude of a physiological pioneer. To boldly experiment and tweak until you find what works for you.
That’s what my whole nutrition philosophy is about. And sometimes, a few unprocessed grains and chickpeas make for a great experiment.

That idea has been systematized well in Chris Kresser's "Personal Paleo Code".

Monday, April 16, 2012

Berardi On "Paleo" And Other Topics

John Berardi started off in life as a trainer, competitive athlete and knowledge hungry nutrition geek - and from there got a PHD and became the the Chief Science Officer of his now very impressive company, Precision Nutrition.  PN is helping many thousands of people address their health and weight problems.

In the interview linked above, there's a rich trove of ideas for how to approach health and nutrition.  The article is informative and a good read for those still sorting through the intersection of health, performance, food and weight loss.  But it also provides context for what are, to me, interesting discussion points.  What I found when I read the PN text as part of a PN certification was that while I disagreed on several conceptual and factual points, the nutrition prescriptions were all aligned with what I would hope my clients would do; except for the exceptions I'll discuss in this and future posts.

First off, what does JB think of "Paleo" eating?

For most of the population – including recreational exercisers – eating fewer grains and less refined food should be a way of life. I mean, how can you go wrong eating a diet rich in lean meats, a wide diversity of dietary fat, a rich buffet of vegetables, and a host of nuts and seeds?
That’s exactly how most of us should be eating. Especially when we’re not blowing through lots of carbohydrates with high-level athletic training.
However, some exceptions do apply. When we’re not obsessively counting our calories – which most people shouldn’t do anyway – there are some folks who have a really hard time eating enough total food with only meats, veggies, nuts, and seeds.
I’ve seen it time and time again with elite athletes training 4+ hours per day. And with skinny ectomorphic guys who struggle to gain muscle. For their goals, the typical “Paleo” recommendations have to adapt a little bit.
This usually means we include more unrefined carbohydrates. Often at breakfast and during the post-workout period. We also include a protein/carb drink during training. And the rest of the day can be more protein, veggies, nuts, and seeds.

Since I don't work with a bunch of high level endurance athletes, I'll take his word on this topic.  I'd encourage any endurance athlete I was working with to get those extra kcal via fat - much like Peter Attia is doing - but I'll bet most would think that isn't possible.  What I like about this response is JB's "Paleo agnosticism".  In other words, whether or not you think the Paleolithic model of nutrition is the be all, end all of food perspective, it is still easy to see that it provides a template for health and wellness and feeling good.  Why?  Because it addresses the biggest issue in the poor health of most of us Westerners - glycemic control.  If you delete processes and industrially produced carbs (I count juice, bananas and wheat/corn products in that group), blood sugar will regulate much, much better.  If you want to take one additional step to get blood sugars under control, skip all fruit for a month or two to ensure you give your liver time to heal from what has likely been a long period of overindulgence in fructose.

Part two of JB's thoughts on the Paleo diet coming up tomorrow.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

What Is Seen

I was shopping for shoes yesterday and saw this photo, and instantly could see this runner is a picture perfect example of poor running mechanics.  Before I delve into that, it reminded me of the classic scene from Kung Fu (the TV show) in which the blind, old Master Po asks a young Quai Chang if he can hear or see the grasshopper at his feet.  Quai Chang had not, and asks "How do you hear so much?"  To which Master Po replies, "Why is it that you do not?"  

It is a profound question to consider.  Why don't we realize what we are seeing and hearing?  How can we learn to see and hear that which passes our perception?

But aside from my own enjoyment of that show, I have learned that I could "see" someone running and now know what it was.  What is running?  Or, as Hannibal Lecter said to Clarice (Silence of the Lambs), "What is the thing in itself?"  

Running is falling.  We think of it, and therefore see it, as propelling ourselves forward using the muscles of the legs.  We don't notice, because it is ubiquitous to our experience of life, how powerfully gravity affects us (until we "fall down", but then we think of that as a different thing that running).  

The "runner" above is working much, much harder than needed.  First, the foot should only be extended forward if the runner desires to stop or turn.  Otherwise, placing the foot on the ground in front of the runner's center of gravity MUST work as a brake.  Folks in the running world argue about heel striking v. mid-foot running - the point is moot.  If you let the foot fall to the ground underneath you as you pull the other foot off the ground toward you, you will land on the mid-foot.  It's actually quite hard to heel strike if you are not in the habit of placing the foot too far to the front.  

Second, the runner is letting his back leg get way, way behind him - probably out of a sense of "pushing himself forward" with the rearmost leg.  It is very easy to feel how much harder it is to fall forward with a leg extended behind - just try falling with both feet underneath you, and then try again with the leg behind. The difference is significant.  Even with just these two basic technique errors, it's not hard to see how folks hurt themselves so much when running.  Then, if you watch such a runner in slow motion, you see how, in order to run this way, they have to drive themselves way off the ground and therefore come crashing back down with every foot fall - it hurts to look at ... once you can see it.

I don't know if ridiculous, human designed shoes led to poor running, or if living in chairs/cars and without strength in our hamstrings/backs made us too weak to run as we were built to.  However, shoes like these make it much harder to run well. 

I used to gobble up all the shoe marketing stuff about how this or that shoe would help one to run with more speed and less pain - turns out, it was nothing but marketing.  The study that would prove this shoe design or that one would improve running and/or reduce injury has never been done.  When the Army tested shoes, they found no benefit to running with any running shoe tested.  

Obviously, technique cannot make an unathletic person faster than an athletic person.  Indeed, the fastest runners in the world run with fair mechanics, they either never lost the ability or learned it instinctively through "body intelligence."  The folks that benefit most from working on their technique are those who used to run pain free, but no longer can.  Or, it's folks who never did any running.  Or it's those who lost some kinesthetic precision following a major accident/surgery.  I am one of the later.

After a 16 hour seminar with POSE Method founder Dr. Nicholas Romanov, and six months of drills and short training sessions, I am running with pleasure again.  I ran a short run the other day 3 minutes faster than my time from December.  I expect to repeat my "after age 30 PR" in the 5k soon.  I enjoyed running quite a lot, ever since I turned 16 or so.  I ran, mostly pretty slowly, in many states, many nations, and both hemispheres.  Finally, I have the answer to what I always wondered when I ran - "am I doing this right?" 

The answer is the same as with any high level skill based activity - "no".   That's OK.  "Better today than yesterday, better tomorrow than today."
(Minor edits April 14, 2012, 2200)

Friday, April 13, 2012

CrossFit for Hope

CrossFit will put on the first "CrossFit for Hope" fund raiser on June 9, 2012 this summer!!

CrossFit's dynamic community is a powerful force and will raise a bunch to benefit the work of St. Jude's children's hospital, I'm excited to be a part of it.   Be ready - I'll be begging you for money to support this incredible research!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Get Healthy - Don't Eat

Not enough detail in this study to make too much of it, but the facts resonate with my observations of the effect of fasting, as well as with other studies I've seen (e.g. Muslims show better lipid profiles post Ramadan).  The bit at the end about HGH levels isn't something I'd seen before - but it's very interesting.

So, while I think fasting for up to 16 hours is something folks will benefit from if they are already on a "good diet" - lots of good quality fats, adequate protein, and with enough vegetables/nuts/seeds - it's not something to mess with until then.  Before playing with IF, get used to eating meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, little fruit or starch and no sugar/wheat.  Once there, and with stable blood sugar and progress towards your health goals, stretch other time interval until your first meal of the day. 

Two cautions - first, make sure as always that your "breakfast" includes a good helping - MINIMUM of 20g - of real protein; something that had a face and a mother.  That applies to your first meal whether or not it follows a normal fast (sleeping) or an extended fast. 

Second, don't try to go from last meal of the day until noon - just push breakfast back an hour.  If that goes well, try and move breakfast back another hour in the next day or two.  Keep up that pattern until you are reaching a 14-16 hour daily fast.  In general, men can tolerate a 16 hour fast, women 14 - after that, the body will be running short of available amino acids, and you may feel hungry even if your energy needs are well supplied through body fat. 

Does it feel good?  Does it help you reach your health and body composition goals?  If so, keep it up.  However, I recommend you pick one or two days to eat breakfast - perhaps on the weekends. 

Whether fasting in this way works by HGH manipulation, by resetting leptin, or by some other mechanism - or it just works because you tend to eat less when you focus on eating only within an 8 hour window - I don't know.  I do know that it has been a powerful tool for me for the last year, and I can see no downside as yet.

I plan to try 24 hour fasting, and have known folks who have fasted for much longer periods and felt it was very good for them - even athletes.  My only comment on that is "don't try this at home."  Find a mentor to help with the longer fasts as the potential is there for metabolic injury.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Colpo Finishes the "Fake Science" Smackdown

The last one on this topic:

The researchers divided meat intake into five quintiles, from lowest to highest. And as you peruse the table, something quickly becomes blindingly obvious: The more red meat people ate in these studies, the more likely they were to live unhealthier lives overall.
Remember how I said this paper covered two studies? The first was the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS), the baseline data of which shows that as red meat intake rose, so too did the prevalence of all the following:
  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking (the highest quintile of red meat consumption had three times as many smokers!)
  • Diabetes
Those who ate the most red meat also drank more alcohol, were less likely to use multivitamin supplements, and had a self-reported daily caloric intake over 800 calories more than those in the lowest quartile (2396 vs 1659 cals/day, respectively…more on that later).
So in HPFS, those who ate the most red meat also tended to live lifestyles that were unhealthier all-round.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Emotional Pushups?

3 Ways to Keep Your Word And Push Past Negative Emotions
One of the things I talk to clients about, especially if they are going through periods of being discouraged about sustaining a dietary change, is "emotional pushups."  The idea is a way of thinking about the idea of "conditioning" your associations to an activity.

Tony Robbins tells the story of getting a piano tuned, and how it takes a re-tune after a week, and then a month, and then two months, and then six months, to get an old, out of tune piano back in tune and kept in tune.  In other words, it's not a one time deal, it's a process.

Likewise, getting ourselves to sustain a change takes "re-tuning" of our emotions.  Usually, we change when we're in so much pain that we're willing to expend great effort to move away from it.  Once the change starts, however, the pain decreases and with that decrease come a corresponding decrease in the reasons to sustain the change.

The lessons from James Murphy's site - link above - are good examples of "emotional pushups."  The idea is that you are not required to simply endure and live through your emotions.  You can change what you feel by how you think, as James describes.  It's work, you get better at it the more that you work with it, just like pushups.  By changing how you feel you change your limiting patterns.

What kind of emotional pushups do I recommend?  First, make sure you celebrate the goals you complete, both process and outcome goals.  After every workout, if all you think of is how hard it was and how much faster you used to be, that's negative emotional pushups.  If after every workout, you find something to celebrate in the workout, and you give that celebration some emotional energy, that's emotional pushups.  If you have a good food day, and share the satisfaction of that accomplishment with a friend, that's an emotional pushup.  If you reach an outcome goal, mark the occasion and share it with someone that you know will understand the significance!

If you can find a consequence of the change that holds an emotional charge - if I lose weight and sustain/regain health and feel better, I'll be a better father/wife or leader - and sustain contact with and draw emotional energy from that, you will be doing emotional pushups.

Emotional pushups help you tap into the emotional drivers that will help you fuel changes in behaviors, thoughts and feelings that betray your well being.  Once you tap into this skill, I think you will find it is a deep well of possibility in all kinds of arenas in your life.

Go to James' site and learn more!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

CRP Indicator of Health


Previous studies have suggested that low-grade systemic inflammation is involved in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes mellitus.


To investigate the association between C-reactive protein (CRP), the classic acute-phase protein, and incident type 2 diabetes mellitus among middle-aged men.


A total of 2052 initially nondiabetic men aged 45 to 74 years who participated in 1 of the 3 MONICA (Monitoring of Trends and Determinants in Cardiovascular Disease) Augsburg surveys between 1984 and 1995 were followed up for an average of 7.2 years. Incidence of diabetes was assessed by questionnaire mailed to participants in 1998. High-sensitive CRP was measured by an immunoradiometric assay.


A total of 101 cases of incident diabetes occurred during the follow-up period. The age-standardized incidence rate was 6.9 per 1000 person-years. Men with CRP levels in the highest quartile (CRP > or = 2.91 mg/L) had a 2.7 times higher risk of developing diabetes (95% confidence interval, 1.4-5.2) compared with men in the lowest quartile (CRP < or = 0.67 mg/L) in a Cox proportional hazards model adjusted for age and survey. After further adjustment for body mass index, smoking, and systolic blood pressure, the observed association was significantly reduced and became nonsignificant.


Low-grade systemic inflammation is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus in middle-aged men. Inflammation could be one mechanism by which known risk factors for diabetes mellitus, such as obesity, smoking, and hypertension, promote the development of diabetes mellitus.


Very interesting study, but note the language of the epidemiologists, for example, "risk factors", which means "mathematically related."  Put another way, when you are reading about epidemiological "risk factors", that is different than thinking of driving fast while drunk and texting, from which one could predict a greater incidence of accident, injury and/or death. 

But they seem not to be willing to connect the dots - which is that (conjecture at this point) a diet that wrecks the body's ability to regulate blood sugar is also the cause of chronic inflammation which is connected by by "risk factors" and models to the diseases of civilization.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Chris Kresser » RHR: Does Red Meat Increase Your Risk of Death?
From this link, a podcast transcript:

there have been a lot of observational studies in the past that have claimed that red meat increases the risk of cancer, especially colon cancer, but this one went even further.  It claimed that red meat makes you die of everything, so it increases the risk of total mortality, which is death from all causes.  And they followed over 120,000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study over 28 and 22 years, respectively, and the data was published by a research group out of Harvard, which for better or worse — I think worse in this case — gives it some kind of instant credibility.  You know, a lot of people when they hear Harvard, they think:  Oh, it must be true.  If it comes out of Harvard, it must be true.  And they found that a single serving of unprocessed red meat is associated with 13% increased risk of death from all causes, while a single serving of processed red meat, like bacon or hot dogs, increased total mortality by 20%.  And then they made the claim, though they didn’t even study this at all, so I have no idea how they can possibly make this claim, that replacing red meat with whole grains, nuts, and chicken would extend your lifespan.

Another good analysis of the "red meat is death" study published in March.   As I said, if you should choose not to eat red meat, that's OK by me!  I'll take yours ...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Like My Story

I simply couldn’t fathom how this happened? I exercised more in one day than the average person did in one week. I didn’t eat at McDonalds or Taco Bell. I really cared about my health, but I was overweight, and felt like I was on a path towards chronic disease. I had many reasons to be concerned. My family history was not good – everyone ended up dying of heart disease. Worse yet, my own laboratory numbers were not good, suggesting I was on the fast track to metabolic syndrome (I had two of the five criteria and was rapidly approaching a third, which would have clinched the diagnosis).

I never knew a thing about food until I moment like this author describes (Peter Attia from "War On Insulin").  There was little risk I would accomplish anything even remotely as remarkable as Attia has as an endurance athlete.  Aside from that small detail, I came to my nutritional reckoning at age 32.  I was training a lot.  Weights and cardio, 4-5 times/week, and martial arts, 3-5 times per week.  I was focused on a low fat diet, as at the time it was the newest thing.  It was a fad diet, and I bought it.  I outgrew my pants and bought size 37s, which fit well, for about six months.  When those were too small, I knew I had to do something, starting with trying to understand what was happening.  

How could I be getting fat, by far (14 pounds) the heaviest of my life, when I was doing what the "experts" told me to do?  I didn't know at the time that my sleep problems (poor quality, always sleepy), much pain, intense reactive hypoglycemia, GI issues, and esophageal contractions that I thought were pre-ventricular contractions (a benign but unpleasant heart beat irregularity) were all related to eating poor quality food.

Here's the short version of how it happened.  When you eat too much carbohydrate you give yourself an emergency - if sugars go too high, they damage the nervous system.  In the body's defense against excessive blood sugar, it typically overdoes the insulin secretion (but transforms sugar to fat, and keeps fat in storage in the process), often sending blood sugar too low.  Low sugar could be adapted to by a switch to fat burning, during which the liver can make ketones and sugar, but in the chronically over carbed, this process is interrupted.  The only way, then, to get sugars back up is by eating - and the body rapidly learns that it needs to eat sweet/easily digestible foods such as crackers, cookies, juice, fruit or such to rapidly restore adequate blood sugar levels.  In short, this is the cycle of hunger, hypoglycemia, and fat creation.  If you add exercise to this equation, it may reduce the short term damage, but the fat accumulation will progress, since you simply have to eat more to compensate for the energy burned in exercise.

This is why the results of studies of exercise and fat loss are ambiguous at best.  The American College of Sports Medicine has reported there's no conclusive evidence that exercise is helpful for weight loss.  As many trainers have discovered, "you can't out train a bad diet."

He's doing some very interesting experimentation about the metabolism of low carb endurance training, I look forward to learning how to apply what he discovers.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Perfect Health and Red Meat

Perfect Health Diet author weighs in on the "Red Meat Study":

There are plenty of confounding issues: (1) We know pork has problems that beef and lamb do not (see The Trouble With Pork, Part 3: Pathogens and earlier posts in that series), but all three meats were lumped together in a “red meat” category. (2) As Chris Masterjohn has pointed out, the data consisted of food frequency questionnaires given to health professionals, and most respondents understated their red meat consumption. Those who reported high meat consumption were “rebels” who smoked, drank, and did not exercise. (3) The analysis included multivariate adjustment for many factors, which can have large effects on assessed risk. Study authors can easily bias the results substantially in whatever direction they prefer.