Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Men's "Health" Or Not

In an article about high blood pressure (HBP), Men's Health shows the value of health journalism by listing a bunch of techniques which:
1. Most folks do anyway
2. Folks with metabolic syndrome, which is the largest cause of HBP, can't or won't want to do
3. May not actually help that much; they may just be things that folks that are healthy do, and folks that have metabolic syndrome don't do, meaning they will be correlates with HPB, not causative agents

What the article could have said, but didn't, is that carb restriction cures metabolic syndrome and HPB in about 80% of the population.

So, salt restriction, 2 drinks a day, and exercise may be counted on to lower HPB by a few points, if at all.  If that's your treatment you'll get on or stay on meds.  Or, you can stop sugaring yourself to death and get off of meds and eat as much salt as you like, if you are one of the 80%.

Luckily for "Men's Health" there's no such thing as medical malpractice journalism.


Monday, April 29, 2013

Diet May Slow Alzheimer's Disease

Mercola on Understanding Alzheimer's
The intro from mercola.com:

"Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. This fatal and progressive condition destroys brain cells, resulting in memory loss and severe thinking and behavioral problems (aggression, delusions, and hallucinations) that interfere with daily life and activities.
"The cause is conventionally believed to be a mystery. While we know that certain diseases, like type 2 diabetes, are definitively connected to the foods you eat, Alzheimer's is generally thought to strike without warning or reason.
"That is, until recently.
"A growing body of research suggests there may be a powerful connection between the foods you eat and your risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia, via similar pathways that cause type 2 diabetes. Some have even re-named Alzheimer's as "type 3 diabetes.""
It's a good read - 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hero WOD: Schmalls

TUESDAY 130423

Run 800 meters
Then two rounds of:
50 Burpees
40 Pull-ups
30 One-legged squats
20 Kettlebell swings, 1.5 pood
10 Handstand push-ups
Run 800 meters

U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Justin E. Schmalstieg, 28, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, assigned to the 1st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Camp Pendleton, California, died on December 15, 2010 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He is survived by his wife Ann Schneider, parents John and Deborah Gilkey, and brother John.

Fair winds and following seas on your journey, warrior!

Click to the link and you can view a video of the warrior's family.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Mercola on Tabata

This piece from Dr. Mercola is long, but there's are many nuggets contained therein.

After monitoring the Japanese speed skating team in the early 90's, Dr. Tabata noticed that extremely hard but intermittent exercise appeared to be at least as effective as standard workouts that require several hours a week. The training protocol he came up with as a result requires a mere four minutes, four times a week. The caveat? Extremei ntensity.
Dr. Tabata's HIIT protocol calls for just 20 seconds of all-out drop-dead effort, followed by a mere 10 seconds of rest. This intense cycle is repeated eight times. According to Dr. Tabata:
"All-out effort at 170 percent of your VO2 max is the criterion of the protocol. If you feel OK afterwards you've not done it properly. The first three repetitions will feel easy but the last two will feel impossibly hard. In the original plan the aim was to get to eight, but some only lasted six or seven."
When performed four times per week for six weeks, participants in one experiment increased their anaerobic capacity by 28 percent, and their VO2 max (an indicator of cardiovascular health) and maximal aerobic power by 15 percent. This is in contrast to the control group, who performed an hour of steady cardiovascular exercise on a stationary bike five times a week. These participants improved their VO2 max by just 10 percent, and their regimen had no effect on their anaerobic capacity.
Dr. Tabata also has forthcoming research findings showing that his protocol reduces your risk of diabetes, which other HIIT studies have already suggested. And, according to the featured article:
"Another soon-to-be-published finding, which Tabata describes as 'rather significant,' shows that the Tabata protocol burns an extra 150 calories in the 12 hours after exercise, even at rest, due to the effect of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. So while it is used by most people to get fit – or by fit people to get even fitter – it also burns fat."

Dr. Mercola offers a very thorough review of the benefits of hard, short workouts.  But the best advice is - just do it.  Short and intense builds muscle, rewards correct body position and mechanics and helps one to feel those things as applied to generating force.  Forget the 30 minutes on a treadmill five days a week - try 10 minutes of warm up workout and cool down instead.

If you like long slow distance, have at it, but please don't labor under the mis-understanding that short, hard exercise is bad for you; it's anything but.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

PN Strikes Out

There are few who are willing to write about kids and food, and this one makes me realize why. Even thought PN puts their finger on several true and important elements of childhood obesity, they fail to make the most significant point and they fail to make workable recommendations.

Whole grains for kids?  REALLY?  If you want to feed that crap to your kids, by all means ignore my fears of a food that isn't even good for adults.  If you have any concern for the novelty of modern grains in the human diet, the fact that at least 10% of humans are gluten sensitive and 3% find gluten downright toxic, or the issues with opiods, phytates or the high glycemic load, then like me you'll grit your teeth every time your kids eat birthday cake or pizza with friends.  But I would never willingly give my kids wheat/pasta on the notion that it's a good idea for their health.  I just give in to the reality that, like porn and violence and a government controlled education system, I cannot protect them from these things; perhaps I can limit the impact.

Yes, I just said that wheat is to food what porn is to healthy sexuality and what TV/movie/game violence is to a robust defense of one's own physical safety.

PN states that kids get fat from eating the most calorie dense foods - and whole grain foods are just that.  Modern wheat products pack a huge quantity of highly digestible carbohydrate into a package that typically has to be dressed in some flavor enhancing nastiness to be desired by kids - there's no long line of kids hoping to pack in pasta without a flavorful topping, or bread on a sandwich that has nothing to make it sweet.
For example, take a PB and J sandwich with 2 slices of bread and 2 ounces PB w 2 tablespoons of jelly.  This "food" has 24g protein, 84g carbs, 38.5g fat (for a sweet total of 778.5 kcal).  This would be excessive if were only 1 slice, 1 ounce, and 1 tablespoon (as I think of it, I'll bet most sandwiches are more like a half ounce of PB, but I used to slather on the jelly; it was like a contest to see how much jelly the bread would hold without collapsing or without the jelly sliming out of the side of the sandwich. Either way 40g of carbs from 2 slices of bread is not what I want my kids to start a meal with).  I might rather feed my kid a Snickers bar, which "only" has 4g protein, 27g of carbs, and 12g of fat for a fairly moderate 220 kcal but it has no gluten, phytates or opioids.  
As for eating the most "calorie dense foods", there's fat which has more kcal per gram than other macronutrients, but which is hard to overeat by itself.  No one gets fat eating lard from the tub.  What people can down by the box or bucket is crackers, cookies, bread, and other super carbs (rice, pasta, potatoes). Still, some can eat all that and do fine until they reach a critical threshold of sugar.

Finally, PN offers as advice to eat only whole, unprocessed foods.  Right - like meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, little fruit or starch, no sugar/wheat.  BECAUSE WHEAT IS ONLY A FOOD IF YOU PROCESS THE HECK OUT OF IT!  Holy cow, how can there be so much confusion about this topic - just look at the friggin' label.  If you want to eat unpulverized wheat buds, then you will at least be eating whole, unprocessed whole grains.  More power to you.
PN would probably counter that there are many people and kids who can do just fine on wheat.  They are likely right.  Most kids also survive automobiles, plane travel and infectious disease.  To me it's a simple matter to put them in a car seat to better their odds if there's a crash, and I'll have them minimize their wheat intake as well.  They'll get far too much wheat even if we never offer it to them.
As for workable recommendations, good luck stuffing your kids with fruits and veggies as PN recommends.  They'll eat the fruit all day.  Why that seems like a good idea is beyond me.  It does beat wheat as a food, but fruit is no panacea if your concern is an overweight kid, and if your kids eat fruit like mine do, you'll need a second mortgage to feed them.
According to the "Perfect Health Diet" author Paul Jaminet, kids DO need more carbohydrate than adults do.  Some fruit, veggies as able, good quality milk, sweet potatoes, white rice and very limited sweets (like small pieces of very high quality dark chocolate) can get them what they need without having to declare gluten Armageddon on their GI tracts.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Couldn't Have Said It Better ...

From Catalyst Athletics:
"There seems to be a lot of nail-biting out there among people trying to discover the perfect training program about whether or not it's "acceptable" or "good" or who knows what adjective. The point is, I feel like too many people are concerned about the appearance of their program rather than the effect. I don't mean this in the sense that these people are conceited or self-conscious and care only about how they look to others; I mean that those others have done such a good job of belittling programs, coaches and athletes that a lot of people are uncomfortable doing what they want to do.

"If you don't enjoy your own training, why bother? If you want to run, go run. If you want to do curls, do curls. If you want to do yoga, Pilates, rollerskate, get a Chuck Norris machine and a Bowflex, do it! It's no one's business but your own.

"The only time I will genuinely tell you not to do something is if it conflicts with what you tell me your goals are. I tell people not to run sometimes—it's usually right after they tell me their main goal is getting much stronger much faster, and then in the next breath that they run 800 miles a week or don't have time to lifts weights more than twice a week because they're busy with their Pilates classes. It's not a value judgment; it's a training and goal assessment.

"So consider people's opinions and input on your training, read, watch and listen, but do what YOU want to do and what makes you happy every day in the gym. If someone is really that upset about how you're training, they're not the kind of person whose opinion means much anyway."

Monday, April 22, 2013

Brilliant Summary

Generally when I read a nutrition article, even the best ones either venture into fully bore speculation or they over-emphasize the significant at the expense of the essential.
This summary of the biggest nutrition lies was a delight to read because it has neither of the above flaws.

This would be a great link to share with a curious but skeptical friend, someone steeped in the USDA's food myths of the last 35+ years, who you think might be interested to see the other side.

Here are the top 11 "lies":

1. Eggs Are Unhealthy

2. Saturated Fat is Bad For You
3. Everybody Should be Eating Grains
4. Eating a Lot of Protein is Bad For Your Bones and Kidneys
5. Low-Fat Foods Are Good For You
6. You Should Eat Many Small Meals Throughout The Day
7. Carbs Should Be Your Biggest Source of Calories
8. High Omega-6 Seed and Vegetable Oils Are Good For You
9. Low Carb Diets Are Dangerous

10. Sugar is Unhealthy Because it Contains “Empty” Calories

11. High Fat Foods Will Make You Fat

Here's the write up on #10 from Chris' blog:
"It is commonly believed that sugar is bad for you because it contains empty calories.
"It’s true, sugar has a lot of calories with no essential nutrients. But that is just the tip of the iceberg.
"Sugar, primarily because of its high fructose content, affects metabolism in a way that sets us up for rapid fat gain and metabolic disease.
"Fructose gets metabolized by the liver and turned into fat which is secreted into the blood as VLDL particles. This leads to elevated triglycerides and cholesterol (58,59)."

Friday, April 19, 2013


The paleolithic model points us towards eating as a hunter gatherer as a means of ferreting out what in the modern diet makes us sick. I hunted this out of my fridge this weekend and gathered up a bit more form the pantry to make a quick lunch - sandwich meat (no it's not grassfed, and no, that does not concern me), salted macadamia nuts (no, salt isn't bad for you), and saturated fats in avocado/coconut oil (of course saturated fats are the good fats!).  The dried cherries in the bowl of macs are outstanding (especially mixed with the macs and some coconut oil)!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Another Study Showing the Futility of Studying Red Meat and Mortality

"I'm sure many of you have seen reports on a recent study published in the journal Nature suggesting a possible mechanism linking red meat consumption to heart disease. The day after one such report was published in the New York Times, I received numerous emails and numerous Facebook and Twitter messages from concerned red meat enthusiasts. This is understandable, but rest assured it's not yet time to switch over to soy burgers."

Later, he continues by pointing out the fallacy of the diet-heart conjecture, and how by convincing people to eat carbs vice meat it has caused inestimable harm to many.
As Chris concludes: "The diet-heart hypothesis should be a cautionary tale that prevents us from jumping to rash conclusions based on limited evidence."

As to the epidemiological study in question, the fact that it received any press points to the scientific illiteracy of the press and those who consume the offerings of the same. There are epidemiological studies that show many results - Kresser details a few that show no relationship between red meat consumption and heart disease, but rightly points out:
"Even if red meat intake is associated with a higher risk of CVD (or any other health problem), such studies don't tell us that red meat is causing the problem. If you're new to this concept, I suggest reading these excellent articles by Denise Minger and Chris Masterjohn."

CK also points out that one of the predictable confouders of epidemiological studies is the 'healthy user bias." Folks who go against cultural norms and eschew things like red meat also do other "healthy" things and sometimes, one of those "healthy" behaviors actually is.  It's quite difficult to identify and tease apart the influence of those other behaviors on the data in an epidemiological study.

Kresser then addresses the next big wave of discovery - at least that's what I think it will be - which is on the potent influence gut bacteria have on health. 

"Gut dysbiosis (an imbalance between healthy and unhealthy bacteria in the gut) and small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO, a condition involving an inappropriate overgrowth of bacteria in the gut) have been linked to health problems as diverse as skin disease, depression, anxiety, autoimmunity, and hair loss."

This post by Chris is a gold mine of detailed analysis, and I recommend you read the whole article if interested in the topic. In the meantime, enjoy your steak and bacon and burgers.  I think the Mormons teach us what we need to know about red meat, and the lesson is - they eat more than any other population on the earth and have the best mortality rate as well.

"If ever you needed proof the world is heavily populated by utter morons, all you'd need to do is examine a recent study appearing in Nature Medicine, wonder how supposedly educated people coudl ever contrive such utter rubbish, then marvel at the ease with which this pseudoscientific slop has been uncritically soaked up by media outlets and individuals all around the world.
"I'm talking, of course, about the current "Carnitine in Red Meat Causes Heart Disease" nonsense doing the rounds in the mainstream media, that preeminent source of misinformation that plays a key role in keeping the general population as dumbed down, confused and distracted as possible."

AC may be missing the boat on calories and causation, but he does have a way with words.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

It's Not True Because He Said It

...but I think it's true nonetheless, and the evidence to support the idea that cholesterol intake or blood levels "causes" heart disease is paper thin.

"Despite the fact that 25% of the population takes expensive statin medications and despite the fact we have reduced the fat content of our diets, more Americans will die this year of heart disease than ever before. 

"Statistics from the American Heart Association show that 75 million Americans currently suffer from heart disease, 20 million have diabetes and 57 million have pre-diabetes. These disorders are affecting younger and younger people in greater numbers every year. 

"Simply stated, without inflammation being present in the body, there is no way that cholesterol would accumulate in the wall of the blood vessel and cause heart disease and strokes. Without inflammation, cholesterol would move freely throughout the body as nature intended. It is inflammation that causes cholesterol to become trapped. 

"Inflammation is not complicated -- it is quite simply your body's natural defence to a foreign invader such as a bacteria, toxin or virus. The cycle of inflammation is perfect in how it protects your body from these bacterial and viral invaders. However, if we chronically expose the body to injury by toxins or foods the human body was never designed to process,a condition occurs called chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is just as harmful as acute inflammation is beneficial."

Sorry for the double re-post doc, but this is very well said!

Friday, April 12, 2013

On the End of the Open 2013

"How often have you come to a crossroads kind if day, like the day you married, or the day a child was born, or the day a parent died, or the day you graduated high school? Have you anticipated the day? Have you let yourself feel the emotion of the event. Have you allowed yourself to be swallowed by your sense of gravity of the event? Have you ever just stopped and considered how the event fits into the course of your life, how it might change it, how you might be changed by it. Today the Open ends for me and golf season begins. At 6:00 am I am sitting in the dark thinking about that. It's certainly not as momentous a point as marriage or death. But, it is nonetheless a point. And we have been taught in our Crossfit life to measure, to record, to contemplate our results. And so I do. "

CrossFit Games Master competitor, Ray Garcia, writes eloquently about competing in this year's CF Games Open.  Read on friends and be inspired.

I finished a little better percentile wise than last year, a little worse than the year before. Next year I compete in an older grouping - can I crack the top 10%?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Killin It

Posted January 4, 2013 at 1:26 PM
I did my first powerlifting meet in 1968, have a degree in the field, and I've seen training methods come and go. Some are good, some are fads. Regarding cross-fit, without a doubt you can get a good workout, but expecting cross-fit to take you to the next level in any sport other than crossfit may result in disappointment. Jumping on boxes and shaking ropes will make you good at jumping on boxes and shaking ropes. Flipping tires will more than likely eventually result in back trouble as you go to heavier tires because you will be out of an ideal pulling position. Some people will never be able to get the olympic lifts, and doing them improperly will be a waste of time. I had a high school football player whose forearms were too long and he couldn't power clean without putting the bar into his trachea. This kid also squatted 350 as a 148 lb.16 year old. Norm Schemansky, who last medalled bronze in the 1964 Olympics once said, "If you want to increase your snatch, do more snatches." That pretty much sums it up for sports whether you're catching footballs, hitting baseballs, pitching baseballs, kicking field goals, punting, serving tennis, deadlifting, or whatever.

This was an interesting post from the same thread on the EFTS site that stimulated my "Answering A Coach" post from January 2013.  

The best part of this post is the example it provides for observation and analysis of "how to make an argument", and for how to consider these opinions from the perspective of a CrossFit advocate and practitioner.

First, establish who you are and why you care, which is this case is:
"I did my first powerlifting meet in 1968, have a degree in the field, and I've seen training methods come and go."

Most of us would respect the experience and consider the opinion of such a person.

He then makes it clear he has no axe to grind for CrossFit.

Then, he veers off into opinion, and is – accidentally - right.  The summary:  CrossFit, and other GPP methods such as tire flipping, box jumps, and "battling ropes", are great for being good at GPP, but these methods do not translate to specific activities in which high skill is an element.  IOW - for football, throw footballs, for snatching, snatch, etc.

Here, by the way, is a nice discussion of GPP: http://davedraper.com/blog/2006/11/01/what-is-gpp/

Killin articulates another widely held opinion:  "Some people will never be able to get the olympic lifts, and doing them improperly will be a waste of time."  He describes an athlete with unique anthropometry which made it impossible for him to put a barbell in the front rack position, and it’s true such an athlete shouldn’t spend a bunch of time trying to receive a barbell in the front rack. Clean pulls and snatches, though, should work fine.

CrossFit is a core strength and conditioning program designed to elicit increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains.  It was developed to provide generalized, vice specialized fitness.  Greg Glassman’s experience using CrossFit, related in several CF Journal articles and videos, could be summarized in the following statements:
-       When skiers learned and did pullups, they skied faster
-       When cyclists learned deadlifts, they cycled faster
-       If you evaluate any elite athlete, you can find significant deficiencies in their GPP, and correcting these deficiencies yields more gains that spending an equivalent amount of time on sport specific activities.
This approach has been validated by Louie Simmons’ comments.  As Louie points out, per the law of accommodation, once you have “learned how to spell your name, you can only spell it wrong.”  Louie relates how he can take a fast college athlete, train them using barbells, jumps and other methods unique to Westside, and make them run faster.  His point is easy to verify for oneself – if you always do the same thing, progress slows or stops.  For example, if you ran two miles a day, every day, how long would you expect to continue getting faster at a 2 mile run?  Progress would slow and then stop – because the body would accommodate to the demands of a 2 mile run.

So, based on that background, take the case of an aspiring young athlete – should that athlete CrossFit?  Yes – because generalized fitness is important for peak athletic function.  But that athlete may also benefit from deleting some elements of CrossFit – for example, endurance runners will have to spend more time running than a non-endurance runner.  Football players might do well to never run more than 200-800m.  Baseball players and tennis players should probably run even shorter runs, and only at top speed. 

In other words, because CrossFit is designed to provide a broad general result, a specialist should not be able to gain maximum results from CrossFit alone. 

But – some do just that!

More commonly, specialists use CrossFit and other GPP programs to eliminate deficiencies inherent in their sport.  Swimmers and cyclists have significant deficiencies in their ability to maintain a stable core under load.  Baseball players and golfers repeatedly place high force, asymmetric loads on their spines and their bodies generally.  CrossFit and other GPP based programs will help these athletes address these challenges to their overall fitness.

In other words, Coaches Glassman, Killin and Simmons may all be right.  The snatch is a high skill movement.  An athlete that wants to do nothing but snatches, and an oly lifter who has a GPP base might only benefit from doing more snatches.  Another specialist – for example a football player or track athlete - with gaping holes in his/her GPP, might make far greater gains addressing their deficiencies than by simply continuing to do what they have always done for training. 

Mr. Killin has repeated what the CrossFit white paper (link) says: CrossFit is intended as a core strength and conditioning program.  It is not intended to be a specialist’s program.

So is Killin right that an athlete should not look to CrossFit to “get to the next level”?  If I was a competitive athlete looking for a breakthrough, I would not just keep on spelling my name right!  I might try and find the deficiency that is holding me back, and CrossFit would provide a good test and prescription for finding that weakness in GPP.  CrossFit is not intended to build marathoners, powerlifters, weightlifters or 100m sprinters, but it has helped a few such specialists.