Thursday, January 31, 2013

Kilgore on Interference

This link will take you to a long and technical examination of CrossFit from the perspective of a long term S&C practitioner and PHD - interesting if, like me, you like that sort of thing.  The larger point is relevant to my "Answering a Coach" post (which has been viewed 2000+ times) from earlier this month in that it shows an example of an S&C professional that bothered to examine CrossFit and understand it.  Dr. Kilgore, thank you.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

FOD Whats? Heck No I Don't Want to Eat That

"Sue Shepherd says she never expected to become famous for taming cantankerous stomachs.
"The 38-year-old Australian dietitian invented a food regimen with a bizarre name in her early 20s to relieve symptoms of bloating and stomach cramps. It’s now being adopted internationally, changing the way doctors manage a set of digestive troubles known as irritable bowel syndrome."
I'd heard of the term "FODMAPS" from Chris Kresser, but hadn't followed up at all, so I found this explanation interesting.  The sample diet the posted was interesting but raised many questions.  

I think this is a telling statement:
"Because it avoids foods with high-fructose corn-syrup, it can be difficult to procure appropriate products in the U.S. where the ingredient is widespread, he said, in everything from jelly to ketchup."
In other words, if you eat stuff in packages with labels, you are eating food with FODMAPS.  
So here's the BLUF:  if you eat according to the Paleo template (meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, little fruit or starch, no sugar no wheat) you will have eliminated most FODMAPS anyway, and several other problematic foods that the FODMAP diet seems to include.  To me, then, this diet is an explanation for one of the reasons why the paleo template serves us so well.

Meaning - you'll feel better, which is the point, and one I probably should make more often. Losing fat is great, being healthy is great, not being embarrassed or limited by a "beer tumor" is great, but the point of any of it is that your best life starts when your pursuit of what makes your life great is not limited by the side effects of eating nasty "foods".

Otherwise stated - it is easy for us paleolithic types, stuck in a neolithic society for which we are not optimized in many ways, to fixate on gaining pleasure from food by eating sweets, wheat, alcohol and other treats which we become addicted to (in greater or lesser degrees).  This is self evidently not the best way to have a fulfilling, satisfying, or exciting life, and for many, boils down to bare existence.  The trick is to eat such that, unhindered by health or energy deprivations, you can fill your life with activities and relationships that fulfill you.  

One of the characteristics of a "good diet" then, is that it does not require your effort and attention day and night to sustain it for years, or to sustain it when not in your normal routine.

At least, that's the way I see it.  

Here are a few more tidbits from the FODMAP article.  The story is another nail in the "more fiber is better" bandwagon, and generally aligns with the observations of the paleo template, but I found the story interesting in and of itself:
“I pieced together what was an experimental diet,” said Shepherd, who began teaching the regimen in her private dietetics practice in early 1997. “I wasn’t randomly picking these foods -- they all had something in common: they were all potentially not absorbed in the small intestine.”
"Peter Gibson, gastroenterology professor at Melbourne’s Monash University, helped coin the term Fodmap to describe the molecules people with irritable bowel syndrome have difficulty stomaching -- fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols found in dozens of everyday things from apples and wheat to milk, high-fructose corn syrup, and sugarless chewing gum."
"Shepherd, who has celiac disease, tested her diet on 25 people, preparing all their meals herself for 22 weeks in a study that formed part of a PhD thesis at Monash. She found the diet quelled symptoms in at least 70 percent of participants, compared with 12 percent given a placebo meal resembling typical Australian fare."
Usual diets here in the U.S. are laden with Fodmaps,” Portland dietitian Catsos said. “Doctors have pushed high-fiber diets and fiber supplements almost across the board for IBS patients. Therefore, health-conscious Americans are guzzling smoothies filled with yogurt and fruit, juicing, eating loads of cruciferous vegetables, beans and high-fiber nutrition bars and nuts, then they wonder why their IBS has gotten worse.”

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Lustig, Sugar, Controversy

"Let me tell you what's happening. You're not a glutton. You're not a sloth. But if you eat a lot of carbohydrate or drink those sweetened drinks, the sugar makes your insulin shoot up. You know that ring around your neck? It means your body has chronically high insulin. That's not good. Insulin steals the energy from your blood and puts it into your fat. Say you eat 1,000 calories. Your insulin grabs 500 of those calories and stores them in your fat tissue. And guess what? You're still hungry and you feel tired."

Here's a guy who's so right, and so wrong:

"All health debacles were originally categorized as personal travails before they were declared public health issues," Lustig writes in FatChance. "What if our breakfast cereal was laced with heroin by some unscrupulous food company?" Whose fault would it be if people became addicted? "Isn't it the role of the government to protect us?" 

Lustig, and many Americans, don't make the basic connection that government is characterized by ineffectiveness, largely because government only has one tool - force backed by violence.  
Our government, in its zeal to protect us is killing us by advocating a diet that was not supported by science (high carb, high industrial seed oil, and until recently, high sugar).  In short (and I blog at length about government and liberty on my other blog, Apolloswabbie) when "we" allow governments to have the power requisite to "protect" us in the way that Lustig imagines, we ignore a fundamental reality - governments serve the politicians that run them, and their political aspirations, and sometimes by accident do us favors as well.  As Thomas Jefferson stated so eloquently, "The government that governs least governs best."

Back to the part that Lustig is right about: 
The event that sparked his insight: "In 1995, when Lustig was a pediatric endocrinology attending physician at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, a group of children with brain tumors set him on his career course. Lustig noticed that, after neurosurgery to remove the tumors, the children showed signs of hypothalamic obesity. Their hypothalamuses were damaged, and as a result their bodies started producing too much insulin. All became lethargic and fat. Then Lustig prescribed octreotide, a drug that blocks insulin. With no counseling or any effort at behavior modification, all of the children started eating less, moving more, and losing weight. According to Lustig, elated parents started calling him, saying, "I got my kid back!" 
A follow-up study, in 1998, showed that insulin suppression using the same medication caused weight loss in 20 percent of obese adults. Lustig concluded that adiposity-fatness-must stem from a hormonal problem, not a behavioral one. In other words, fat people eat too much and gain excess weight because chemical imbalances make them hungrier and lazier than they should be. These hormonal imbalances cause the behavior, not the other way around. So if you want to fix the behavior, you have to fix the biochemistry."
I think Lustig casting his eye towards government to "make it right" is ironic - he'll have far more success, far faster, using his knowledge to help the people directly. When half the population has figured out that sugar and fructose and these other beasts of "civilization" are killing us, government will come along for the ride.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Leptin, Low Carb, and Alzheimer's


Accumulation of amyloid-β (Aβ) is a key event mediating the cognitive deficits in Alzheimer's disease (AD) as Aβ promotes synaptic dysfunction and triggers neuronal death. Recent evidence has linked the hormone leptin to AD as leptin levels are markedly attenuated in AD patients. Leptin is also a potential cognitive enhancer as it facilitates the cellular events underlying hippocampal learning and memory. Here we show that leptin prevents the detrimental effects of Aβ1–42 on hippocampal long-term potentiation. Moreover leptin inhibits Aβ1–42-driven facilitation of long-term depression and internalization of the 2-amino-3-(5-methyl-3-oxo-1,2- oxazol-4-yl) propanoic acid (AMPA) receptor subunit, GluR1, via activation of PI3-kinase. Leptin also protects cortical neurons from Aβ1–42-induced cell death by a signal transducer and activator of transcription-3 (STAT-3)-dependent mechanism. Furthermore, leptin inhibits Aβ1–42-mediated upregulation of endophilin I and phosphorylated tau in vitro, whereas cortical levels of endophilin I and phosphorylated tau are enhanced in leptin-insensitive Zucker fa/fa rats. Thus leptin benefits the functional characteristics and viability of neurons that degenerate in AD. These novel findings establish that the leptin system is an important therapeutic target in neurodegenerative conditions.

I doubt the author's conclusion will lead anywhere.  It is well established that high levels of triglycerides  prevent leptin from crossing the blood brain barrier.  My conjecture - and admittedly this is way over my head but a plausible conjecture none the less - is that this is one of the ways that high carb diets negatively impact development of "AD".
First, high carb diets drive high triglyceride levels, and with subsequent development of insulin resistance, high insulin levels.  The high trigs mean that less leptin will interact in the brain, perhaps creating the effects described above which drive amyloid-B accumulation at faster rates.
High insulin levels means that the body's scavenger system for amyloid-B, insulin degrading enzyme, is busy with insulin and never has time to attend to amyloid-B.
Third, fasting results in the body finding and using as much protein in the body as possible, and there's some evidence that this "protein scavenging" reduces build of of AGEs (a protein damaged by glycation) and other "junk" proteins that wind up in the plaques associated with AD.
Lastly, high blood sugar levels drives higher levels of advanced glycation end products, which are also accelerants in the plaques that characterize AD.

The example of the diabetics is telling - they get AD at higher rates than everyone else.  It would be interesting to know - can AD develop in a person who maintains normal to low blood glucose across their entire lifespan?  Or, the same question stated differently:  has a person ever been diagnosed with AD who maintained optimal blood sugar levels across a lifetime (or most of a lifetime)?

Saturday, January 26, 2013


Fire of the Gods passed the milestone of 100,000 page views last week - which is cool, although I know of affiliates in large CrossFit markets that hit 100,000 their first month!  Hope some of you are enjoying this, folks, I am.

Hero WOD: Sean

Ten rounds for time of:
11 Chest to bar pull-ups
75 pound Front squat, 22 reps

U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Sean M. Flannery, 29, of Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), based in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, was killed on November 22, 2010, in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. He is survived by his fiancee Christina Martin, mother Charlene Flannery, and brothers Sergeant Brian Flannery and Devin Flannery.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Working Wounded

"Drew Denny can do 100 burpees in 4:48 - on one leg.

"A soldier in the Canadian Forces, Denny was sidelined with a rugby injury while waiting to leave for a tour in Afghanistan. CrossFit Fredericton has been a large part of his rehabilitation - he even completed in this year's CrossFit Games Open on a single leg."

I was proud to complete the 2012 Open on both legs, tip of the hat!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Hero WOD: Loredo

Hero WOD, Loredo

Six rounds for time of:
24 Squats
24 Push-ups
24 Walking lunge steps
Run 400 meters

U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Edwardo Loredo, 34, of Houston, Texas, assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, based in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was killed on June 24, 2010 in Jelewar, Afghanistan, when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. He is survived by his wife, First Sergeant Jennifer Loredo; his daughter, Laura Isabelle; his stepdaughter, Alexis; and his son, Eduardo Enrique.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Another Chapter of "What's Your Excuse?"

"When Laurie Nelson was in high school, there were no women's sports. It wasn't until she graduated from college that college sports started for women. Once at Pepperdine University, where the 67-year-old is an associate professor of sports medicine, Nelson started the women's athletic program there.

"This year, she finished 10th at the CrossFit Games in the Masters Women 60-Plus Division.

"For about a year before she started the program, "she knew that CrossFit was not for her," says Mike Anderson, owner of CrossFit Malibu, where Nelson trains. Anderson explains that Nelson thought CrossFit was only for elite athletes, so while she encouraged others to go, she stayed away herself.

"She was 64 at the time and had a "bad knee" and a "bad foot," Nelson explains.

""I really, really had no experience with this," she adds."

I watched with pain as my grandparents degenerated in their late 60s, and I deeply believed they needed an appropriate fitness training system.  Now, here are folks, even non-athletes, proving the concept.  Incredible.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

CrossFit Loses a Leader

"Sadly for Joe, he was the man we all loved to try and outperform.  Realistically, who knows a 57-year-old man who can usually physically outperform most athletes half his age in any task?

If Joe happened to join you during a WOD, undoubtedly you tried harder, pushed more and kept your
standards tight. That is motivation, plain and simple."

Sounds like an incredible man and human being - fair winds and following seas on your journey!

My condolences to those who lost their father and their inspiration.

10 rounds for time of:
10 thrusters (95/65 lb.)
10 bar-facing burpees
10 pull-ups
57 double-unders

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Potomac CrossFit - Immorality of Veganism in Four Sentences

" As to the second point, it is a reality that most elementary school kids learn when their first hamster dies that death is a part of life. The cornerstone of our entire food supply is soil. For soil to "happen", it needs death. Death in the form of blood and bones, without which the 120 million nematodes, 100,000 mites, 45,000 springtails, 20,000 enchytraied worms, and 10,000 molluscs, that eat and shit in order to produce what we call soil wouldn't exist."

"Without the soil, neither the ruminants that I eat or the soybean that you eat would exist."

It is immoral to pretend that reality can be avoided.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Naysayers Say ... "CrossFit Is No Good For Sports Prep"

There are many "experts" who say - generally without having any idea of what CrossFit is - "CrossFit will get you no where as a strength and conditioning program.  It just makes you good at CrossFit."

Luckily, these four guys didn't know that.

NFL running back Ray Rice is interviewed by Men's Health:
"What does your strength-training regimen look like? How often are you in the gym, and what are you doing in there?

"In the off-season I do a lot of powerlifting. Especially coming out of the season. I'm working out four days a week and I use one day as a recovery day. On Wednesday I get a massage, deep tissue, just to work everything out. But I do a lot of powerlifting and a lot of explosions and a lot of CrossFit now. A lot of guys are getting into that. So that's really how my routine goes. The CrossFit was very new to me, but one thing I learned about it was it was a change of pace. So when I stopped doing my powerlifting, I went into CrossFit, and CrossFit, obviously, was different because you're just non-stop. You keep going and it wasn't as long as my powerlifting sessions were, but it did get me in great shape."

"Cerrillo has been training Matt Hasselbeck, former Seattle Seahawks QB and current Tennessee Titan.
Hasselbeck says his first exposure with CrossFit came from his brother Tim, who CrossFitted and impressed his family with his “chiseled” physique. Their father, Don, a veteran Reebok sports-marketing executive and Super Bowl champion, started CrossFit and also impressed Matt.
“He looked like me,” Matt says. “I need to step up my game.”
Hasselbeck was skeptical at first, but he gave CrossFit a try. He knew it would be hard but good, but he had no idea if it would transfer over to the gridiron.
“The thing I didn’t know is how much of this stuff would really help me in the season,” he says." 

"Third-year Denver Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno is ready for the 2011 NFL season. The Georgia product has been training with Matt Chan at CrossFit Verve to improve his game, and Moreno is already making an impression in the preseason.
"Training a professional football player brought an exciting challenge for Chan.
"“I know their plays are short. The time that they’re in the game is sometimes very limited. But when they’re required to do work, it’s explosive,” he says.
"According to Chan, his training for Moreno incorporates that explosive element.
"“We’re trying to move a very large load a long distance and quickly,” he says. “It’s benefiting him because, you know, he’s able to move faster with that heavy load.”
"Moreno is also happy with his coach."

"Pittsburgh Steelers starting fullback Will Johnson almost didn’t make the NFL.
"The West Virginia University graduate missed a post-college shot at the league because of the 2011 lockout. Determined, he started training with Andy Hendel at CrossFit Charlotte in North Carolina after moving to the state with his fiancee.
"Johnson stayed motivated by printing out the National Athletic Combine stats of the NFL’s top athletes and pasting them on his bathroom door.
"“So every morning I went to the bathroom door I could see those numbers and knew why I was gettin’ up, going to CrossFit in the morning, why I was goin’ to the field by myself,” he explains.
"When Johnson signed with the Steelers, he was ecstatic.
"“You wanna cry, you wanna yell,” he explains.
"Johnson’s fiancee says he might not have the best genes, but he does have the best work ethic."

120 and Counting

"PJ Cote sold his business to focus on losing weight. In September 2011, Cote weighed in at 420 pounds.

“I owned shares in a company and I decided the best thing for me ... was to sell to my business partners and concentrate on losing weight,” Cote says.
A month later, a friend told him about Grande Prairie’s CrossFit VO2Max. He visited the box, but was too intimidated to stay.
It took Cote three months to gather the courage for a Sunday visit. The gym wasn't open, but one of the owners, Janine Shillington, was there. She told him about CrossFit and he promised to show up the next day.
“My first workout was brutal. We did squats and more squats,” Cote says. “It took me five days to walk normal again. I didn’t go back until after Christmas, but I was hooked.”"

It's worth it to click on the link to see what a 120 pound weight loss looks like.  You don't get medals for saving someone's life if it takes months of weight loss, but the effect is the same as pulling someone out of a swirling ice cold river.  Congrats to PJ and his team!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Gary Taubes, Flash From The Past

"Not all carbs are fattening, obviously, or not all carb rich foods are fattening.  Some are more fattening than others.  By this hypothesis the fattening ones are the high glycemic index carbs, the breads, the pastas, the potatoes, the starches, umm, well, the whole bottom of the food guide pyramid that we've been told to eat since the 1980s."
This is from a presentation Gary made to the CrossFit HQ staff, linked here:

Interesting modification to Taubes' 2007 classic, Good Calories Bad Calories:
"You need the sugars to cause insulin resistance", and then once you are IR, all carbs are a problem.

This part just rocks, as Gary explains why the book he wrote, which was controversial because it explained the mechanisms behind what everyone (until the late 1970s) knew was the cause of obesity:
"If you went into a hospital in the late 1940s or 1950s, or a good hospital, you would get a diet for obesity.  And the ones published for the Harvard Medical School, Cornell MS, Stanford MS, the University of Chicago, were identical to this one published in the "Practice of Endocrinology", a British endocrinology textbook written by Raymond Greene, he was a most distinguished British endocrinologist, the brother of Graham Greene the author, and it had a list, and they were this:
Foods to be avoided: Breads and everything made with flour, cereals including breakfast cereals and bread puddings, potatoes and white root vegetables. The base of the food guide pyramid in effect.  And you could eat as much as you like of the following foods:  meat, fish, birds, all green vegetables, eggs, fruit, dried or fresh, except bananas and grapes. And the idea was the foods to be avoided are inherently fattening, they didn't know why in 1951, and you could eat as much as you wanted of the others, because they were not fattening.  That's it.  And this was effectively the Atkins Diet in 1951 in a British endocrinology textbook."

In other words - the science of diet and obesity went off on a lark sometime between 1951 and today, and is only slowly getting back to a useful concept of obesity and how to treat it.  You couldn't make this up.  I attribute the majority of the problem to the USDA's intervention back in the 1970s - once the "visible hand" of the government starts to push, and holds the research purse strings, it's not hard to make a mockery of science.
Minor edits January 14, 2012

Friday, January 11, 2013

Kicking That 18 Year Old's Butt

"In 2008, a friend introduced Greaver to CrossFit at a Christmas party.

""What exactly my friend was in love with I wasn't sure, but it had something to do with weightlifting, doing everything as fast as you can and some main website," Greaver recalls. "I was curious about all this, so about a week later, I looked up this website she mentioned and I thought to myself, 'OK, I can at least try this if housewives and grandparents can do it. I really don't have anything to lose.'""

What happened?

"She lost 50 pounds in nine months, and her body fat decreased from 35 to 12 percent.

"All of a sudden, I had a body better than back in my college soccer days. I was stronger and faster, too," she says. "To this day, it's still surreal that my 34-year-old self could kick my 18-year-old self's butt.""

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Brody - Mixed Bag

Jane Brody is an established health and wellness blogger, but when I read her posts I'm always surprised by the mixed bag of science and myth she brings to the table. The general pattern is that she will ask an expert about some topic or another, and report his/her opinions on various matters. In this column, she cites several and their views are what I think of as liberating myth busting.  
A top tip - trans fats generated during the hydrogenation process by which non-fats are transformed into "vegetable oils" are in fact very suspect. By contrast, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a naturally occurring trans-fat found in grass fed meat and dairy products, is thought to be a health booster (however, tests of pill based CLA supplementation have not proved beneficial).

I like the fact that she points out that the nitrite scare is just a scare - there's no evidence to support the conjecture that nitrites are particularly injurious to the body. But she concludes with this puzzler:
"If you're really concerned about your health, you'd be wise to steer clear of processed meats - organic, nitrite-free or otherwise. High saturated fat and salt content place them low on the nutritional totem pole." I wonder if she meant that comment about saturated fat and salt as the double entendre I see, which is the kind of science that supports the conjecture that saturated fats and/or salt is bad for you is about as "scientific" as a totem pole.  At this point, even the suggestion that these two essential human nutrients should be avoided by all humans is beyond comprehension.
It made sense to make broad brush nutritional recommendations 30 years ago when:
- The government wanted general guidelines that would help a person of an average IQ sort out what to do to stay healthy
- Testing for health markers was expensive; it wasn't smart "health policy" to say "base your dietary modifications off of your current health markers."
- They didn't know diddly  We still have not proved what will or will not kill you over the term of a human life, so the best thing one can do is to experiment with diets to see which works best for you. If you can down saturated fat by the pound and still look, feel and perform well - and your lipid profile doesn't scare the bejesus out of your doc - then you'd be silly to eschew saturated fat based on the absurdly inadequate science on the topic that has been completed to date.
Ditto for salt. If you don't have high blood pressure, you have no reason whatsoever to limit salt/sodium intake - none. Except for its mythical status as a "bad" thing. AND, even those folks who have high blood pressure can treat their blood pressure more effectively via carb restriction than via salt restriction.
These are facts, and can be tested by you on yourself. Do yourself a favor and stop taking her word for it about salt and sat fat.  
Mike Eades' examination (search for Brody at and summary of Brody's cognitive dissonance with regard to her lipid profile and experimentation with fat restriction is a great read for anyone who is still invested in the conjecture that saturated fats are a health risk.  
(Minor edits, Jan 9)