Saturday, February 23, 2013

Hero WOD: Hamilton  Posted: 22 Feb 2013 02:00 PM PST
Three rounds for time of:
Row 1000 meters
50 Push-ups
Run 1000 meters
50 Pull-ups
Post time to comments.

U.S. Army Specialist Adam Hamilton, 22, of Kent, Ohio, assigned to the 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, based in Fort Riley, Kansas, died on May 28, 2011 in Haji Ruf, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. He is survived by his father Scott Hamilton, step-mother Connie Hamilton, mother Nancy Krestan, brothers Brandon Hamilton and Nick Krestan, and sisters Shawney and Taya Hamilton.

Fair winds and following seas on your journey warrior!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

DHA, Females, Disordered Eating

I gave my presentation called "That Stuff Will Kill You" the weekend of February 16th, at Wolf River CrossFit, and it was a great time for me.  The crowd was attentive, and appeared to catch the "big rocks" of the presentation.  The process of preparing for and delivering this presentation is one that drives a good deal of revision, refinement and creativity as I reconsider how to best present the material.  This time was no exception.  I wish I could find an audience for this product about every two months - the creative cycle would be at its best on that schedule.

One issue that occurred to me was an explanation for the phenomenon of disordered eating.  Lierre Kieth's book, The Vegetarian Myth, pointed out a correlation between low fat diets and disordered eating, but I was left with little to hang my hat on in terms of causality.  Then, I ran across this article in Psychology Today that points out just how fat human females are supposed to be, relative to other mammals.
"Evidence from all over the world suggests that men strongly prefer women who have a lot of body fat (roughly 30 percent of their body weight) and whose body fat is distributed in a particular way, with very little in the waist but much more in the hips, buttocks and thighs, producing a small waist-hip ratio."

Reportedly, a healthy human female carries a higher body fat percentage than a whale.  There's no other female mammal that can hold a candle to a human female for carrying fat.

Lassek and Gaulin point out that a healthy human female stores a high proportion of hip fat as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which is one of two long, branched chain omega-3 fatty acids that are essential nutrients for humans.  DHA is the raw material necessary to build a human brain.

The term "essential nutrient" means we cannot make much if any DHA on our own.  There is an implication that may be drawn when considering any essential nutrient, which is that our genome evolved in an environment from which that nutrient was a plentiful part of the diet.  Put another way, if we didn't have readily available sources of DHA, vitamin C, vitamin D, creatine, B vitamins, fats and complete proteins (IOW animal proteins), and other trace minerals (magnesium, zinc, etc) in our diets as hunters and gatherers, we wouldn't be here as we are.  Because all these essential nutrients WERE readily available in our hunter and gatherer diets, we did not evolve to make these for ourselves (nor did we evolve to be independent of, for example, magnesium intake).

So, shifting gears a bit, consider a young lady who is transitioning into fertility.  Her genetic hormonal milieu should be driving metabolic processes which command that she accumulate large quantities of fat, but not just any fat.  She needs animal fats, and probably seafood of some kind if she can get it.  In fact, I'll bet such a gal would benefit from eating as many grassfed animals and their livers and brains as possible, so that she can reach the genetically programmed goal of filling the substantial quantity of fat on her hips with a brain's worth of DHA.

Why would this imperative be specific to a human?  As Lassek and Gaulin wrote:
"The reason this is a promising idea is that humans have extraordinarily large brains, on the order of six or seven times larger than expected for a mammal of our size.  Is it just a coincidence that humans have brains six times larger than similarly sized mammals, and that women have six times as much fat as typical mammals?  Probably not."

Now consider that same young lady emerging in to Neoland, in which the salient cultural message is that fat is bad for her, and skinny butts are a virtue.  She eats low fat, and as a result, eats high carb.  She feels HUNGRY!  Why?  She'll be hungry for all the reasons a high carb diet makes anyone hungry AND she's depriving herself of a nutrient that her genome thinks she needs in monster quantities.  At this point of deprivation, mis-information, and emotional disarray you might think it was a miracle if a person did not have an eating disorder.

Now, I'm as unqualified as a fella could be in actually telling anyone with disordered eating what to eat, or when to eat it, or anything of the sort.  But if you are willing to bite on the conjectures inherent in the narrative above, the thing you would want to tell your young lady is - eat fat!  Here's the fish oil!  Have some grassfed porterhouse and have some more!  Skip the wheat, sugar and other low fat neofoods, and chow down on anything fat that you can find!!!  Dinner time, honey, eat up!

Stock up the house with:
Avocado.  Coconut oil with grass fed chicken eggs.  Bacon!  Macadamia nuts and lots of salt.  Sour cream.  Butter on every veggie that comes to the table (Kerry Gold, s'il vous plait).  85% cacao chocolate, dressed in unrefined coconut oil if possible.  Full fat, pastured cow dairy.  Delicious full fat hard cheeses.

The dirty little secret is these foods are very difficult to overeat.  Add sugar and that story is entirely different - think of the difference between stuffing yourself on lard, and stuffing yourself on oreo cookies.

Fats to avoid - all those neolithic fats from seeds and corn that have been hydrogenated to turn industrial waste into a "food" product.

Foods to avoid like it's a matter of life and death - anything soy and anything that is made with wheat or breaded/fried.  Anyone who's struggling with emotional issues or addictive/compulsive behavior would be well served to skip the dose of opioids you get from modern frankenwheats (never mind the excessive glycemic response, the intestinal permeability, and the phytates which block mineral absorption).  Skipping these foods has no downside from a nutritional perspective.

Point out that the best fat loss machine on the planet is the Atkins diet, so that she may think you want her to achieve to goal of being "too lean".  But make sure she realizes that when she's eating as nature intended - lots o fat - appetite is a signal of physiological need, not a force to be contended with.  You might even dare her to eat so much fat and protein that she gets "fat".  I would also make sure she was getting the other good stuff - grass fed dairy, magnesium, zinc, sunlight and/or a good vitamin D supplement, and plenty of cholesterol.  You would want her to get anything that would add up to a "OK, that's enough of that" signal.

I do not know if anyone has tested this idea.  I do not know if it would work.  I do believe that a low fat diet is about the most unnatural thing one could conceive in terms of diet, and that for a young person in particular, the combination of low fat, excess carbohydrate, and the natural stresses of the time could easily be a toxic brew.  The worst that could happen from a high fat intervention is the person could learn that fat isn't toxic and may be just the nutrient she needs.

This concept, by the way, is a perfect example of how epidemiological science could work to benefit an understanding of human nutritional needs.  An observational study could determine the correlation between those with disordered eating and low fat diets.  If the correlation is weaker for those with high fat diets, it would justify an intervention study to determine causality.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"What's New"

Over the years I've been heavily geeking on nutrition/health and the almost bizarre science behind those topics, I've seen themes emerge almost annually in the maturation of the low carb/paleo model of nutrition and health.

One year, the topic of sleep, and the impact of poor sleep on diet and health, was ever present.  This was a subject that resonated with me, as I had noticed many times that when I slept poorly, I put on fat, even as a 20 something that was otherwise nearly immune to fat gain.

Another year, the slaying of the saturated fat boogeyman was taking place all over - even magazines like Slate.  Even the venerable Loren Cordain admitted that his prior judgement of saturated fat was mis-guided.

Another year, it was all about vitamin D, how many of us no longer have the capacity to made D from the sun as we should, and how it was believed that a D shortage was likely a contributor to any and all health issues.  I started to supplement one October, and was stunned at the change in mood/athletic performance/recovery.

Another year, the big news was about another fat soluble vitamin, vitamin K, and the interaction between minerals like magnesium and calcium - and how the combination of vitamins A, D, K and calcium/magnesium was thought to work in combination to invite the body to deposit calcium in the bones and teeth - whereas overmuch calcium, too little magnesium and too much sugar/carbs resulted in the body sequestering excess calcium in the arteries without being able to store calcium in the bones.  Acidity in the diet?  A non factor in bone calcium levels.

The last couple of years, skipping breakfast, long "known" to be a terrible practice, has been renamed "intermittent fasting" (aka IF).  After all, everyone would tell you that "breakfast is the most important meal of the day."  IF has been found to be a benefit for many elements of health, including insulin sensitivity and fat loss.  After I began an IF experiment, I lost about 10 pounds without changing a single other part of my diet/health practice.  After almost two years of IF, I find the practice of not eating to be a genuine pleasure many days, and find it is easy to fast up to 24 hours on days when I'm busy doing stuff I like doing.  Hunger?  None.

This year, the interesting trend is the emergence and validation of what Finney/Volek term "nutritional ketosis" in their remarkable book "The Art and Practice of Low Carbohydrate Living."  The key insight in that book is the use of newer ketone blood meters to evaluate one's blood ketone levels as an indicator of the right approach to optimal carb/protein intake.  The new devices - available because they can be used by the army of diabetics the USDA's high carb, low fat diet has produced to discern if they are inching towards ketoacidosis, which can be fatal - measure blood levels of beta-oxybutyrate.  Measuring beta-oxybutyrate in the blood vice the forms of ketones that are detectable in urine based ketone testing is a significant improvement in precision.  These beta-oxybutyrate testers work like glucometers, but at a much higher cost, and can provide rapid feedback in how a dietary change might affect the very desirable production of significant and healthy levels of blood ketones.  When folks are operating at the 0.5 to 1.5 millimolar levels of blood ketones, hunger is well controlled, mental acuity is very high, and mood is most often positive.  "It's all good."

I have had a lot of fun dorking around with the ketometer, and hope to test myself during the CrossFit Games Open to see if I can sustain high output CrossFit workouts while in nutritional ketosis (it seems to work in my workouts now - and I ran 4.4 the other day with zero carbs over 24 hours prior to the run).  In theory that should not be possible, but until recently low carb for endurance was also thought to be impossible - Vokek/Phinney have shown that is simply not true.  I have a model of how it might be possible to perform at a high level on a high fat, low carb diet on high output, glycolytic based workouts.  We'll shall see! 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Polyunsaturated Fats - No So Fast Industrial Oil Producers


Objective To evaluate the effectiveness of replacing dietary saturated fat with omega 6 linoleic acid, for the secondary prevention of coronary heart disease and death.
Design Evaluation of recovered data from the Sydney Diet Heart Study, a single blinded, parallel group, randomized controlled trial conducted in 1966-73; and an updated meta-analysis including these previously missing data.
Setting Ambulatory, coronary care clinic in Sydney, Australia.
Participants 458 men aged 30-59 years with a recent coronary event.
Interventions Replacement of dietary saturated fats (from animal fats, common margarines, and shortenings) with omega 6 linoleic acid (from safflower oil and safflower oil polyunsaturated margarine). Controls received no specific dietary instruction or study foods. All non-dietary aspects were designed to be equivalent in both groups.
Outcome measures All cause mortality (primary outcome), cardiovascular mortality, and mortality from coronary heart disease (secondary outcomes). We used an intention to treat, survival analysis approach to compare mortality outcomes by group.
Results The intervention group (n=221) had higher rates of death than controls (n=237) (all cause 17.6% v 11.8%, hazard ratio 1.62 (95% confidence interval 1.00 to 2.64), P=0.05; cardiovascular disease 17.2% v 11.0%, 1.70 (1.03 to 2.80), P=0.04; coronary heart disease 16.3% v 10.1%, 1.74 (1.04 to 2.92), P=0.04). Inclusion of these recovered data in an updated meta-analysis of linoleic acid intervention trials showed non-significant trends toward increased risks of death from coronary heart disease (hazard ratio 1.33 (0.99 to 1.79); P=0.06) and cardiovascular disease (1.27 (0.98 to 1.65); P=0.07).
Conclusions Advice to substitute polyunsaturated fats for saturated fats is a key component of worldwide dietary guidelines for coronary heart disease risk reduction. However, clinical benefits of the most abundant polyunsaturated fatty acid, omega 6 linoleic acid, have not been established. In this cohort, substituting dietary linoleic acid in place of saturated fats increased the rates of death from all causes, coronary heart disease, and cardiovascular disease. An updated meta-analysis of linoleic acid intervention trials showed no evidence of cardiovascular benefit. These findings could have important implications for worldwide dietary advice to substitute omega 6 linoleic acid, or polyunsaturated fats in general, for saturated fats.
This is what happens when a supposedly science based profession abandons the scientific method and abdicates to consensus.  It seems fantastic but it's true - for years there's been no PROOF (double blind intervention study on a large cohort) that shows these polyunsaturated fats are safe.  The notion that these man-made, industrially produced fats - novel to the genome until 60 years or so ago - are better for you than saturated animal fats - a staple of the human diet since we became a human - seems ludicrous in retrospect.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Harper in Hufpo @ CrossFit

Says Bob Harper, of Biggest Loser Fame:
I came from an endurance background of fitness that consisted of a lot of running, cycling and lighter resistance training. I created so much wear and tear on my body, not to mention that I was just getting bored with my workouts. I am 47 years old and am stronger than I have ever been with CrossFit. My metabolic conditioning is better, because I'm moving larger loads faster and for a shorter amount of time. There are some days that, with the exception of skill work in a session, my workouts can last only 10 minutes or less, and I love that.

Friday, February 15, 2013

"Squatting High"

"If your job on the team is to be the "down, down, down" guy, then be the guy to tell the squatter that pops up before the last "down" that it was a solid squat, but a merely solid squat. If you would tell your pal that his fly is down, or he has food all over his elitefts™ t-shirt from his last feeding, be your gym brother's keeper and say it loud and proud: "Dude, your squat was high!" You do your partner zero good by critiquing all of the other aspects of the squat without that vital piece of feedback.
"It could be that you are training at a gym where this issue has existed for some time, and now, all of a sudden, you are telling your training partner, especially that 900-pound squatter in your gym, that he is squatting high. You can count on the fact that this new bit of information will come as an unwanted shock to your partner, but so be it. Do your training partner right and be authentic with him or her and call it like it is."
My only comment on this is - high squats are better than no squats, parallel or better squats are - as the author points out - the best if you want healthy, knees and back.  The strange part?  That basic back squat is a lift I've been working on steadfastly for five years, and I'm still getting better at the skills in the lift.  The mobility requirement, skill in movement, balance demands, and ability to have as much strength and good position in the torso as one has in the hips makes this lift very challenging to do at a high level.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Bench Press - Just Say No

Many folks see deadlifts and squats as "dangerous", or even the olympic lifts (clean and jerk, or snatch), but the truly deadly lift is .... the bench press.

According to Mark Rippetoe (I do not remember if this was referenced in "Starting Strength" or "Practical Programming"), 12 people kill themselves annually bench pressing.  It happens when a barbell falls on the athlete's throat, resulting in (presumably) spinal cord injury or a crushed larynx or both.  This happened to a USC football player about two years ago, proving the value of "spotting" to bench press safety.  If so inclined, a YouTube search will reveal some gut wrenching video, and often from powerlifting meets in which the lifts have the so-called safety spotters, which seems to mean "someone who can safely lift the bar off of a guy after it crushed him."

You can certainly hurt yourself squatting, and it's pretty easy to do - just load up a bar really heavy and squat poorly; the less technique the better if you plan to trash your knees or back.  
Not that I recommend that!
In fact, I recommend you spend a lot of time learning to squat with skill, and squat to at least parallel, in which case the weights will be limited to just "human" levels when compared to the "superhuman" weights some folks foolishly do to quarter squat depths with poor technique.

However, looking at the risk/reward curve, the bench press is the worst of all worlds; it has no unique functional benefit (unlike squats, cleans and deadlifts), it is not safe without a physical object to prevent the bar from falling on a lifter's throat, and all the benefits you might get from "benching" can be had by pressing overhead, or weighted dips (and preferably both).  A big bench is fun, but a 50+ pound weighted dip is even more so!

I hate to even write those words - I benched unspotted, and heavy as I could manage, for years and scoffed at those who dared suggest there was anything wrong with that.  Luckily, I'm not benching stat today, and I plan not to be in the future.  I bench now, rarely, but with a home built platform under each side that allows me to bench with a high margin of safety.  BTW, these cheap platforms also serve for box jumps if needed, and with some adjustment allow squatting heavy (set up that way in photo below) without fear of a catastrophic fail (note for those who lift truly heavy - you won't need me to tell you that these boxes shouldn't be expected to save you from that 800 pound or heavier lift gone awry!).

Friday, February 8, 2013

LLVC - Gundry

This was one of the most information dense podcasts I've heard; truly a tour de force for LLVC and Dr. Gundry.

High points - what fats are good human fuel, and which are bad, and what are the varying effects of these fats on weight loss/gain and health/illness.

Low points - the doctor gives in to food purism quite often. Owing to his disdain for industrial food production, it's easy to throw the baby out with the bathwater when thinking through the imperfections in, for example, factory produced eggs/meat. However, the number one killer, the number one toxin, the number one threat to your health is not imperfect eggs/meat or even milk - it is excess carbohydrate consumption leading to metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and all the downstream effects of that process (gout, hypertension, cancer, CVD, and autoimmune disorders being the most commonly occurring examples).
A slight refinement of that conjecture is to specify that excess fructose consumption is apparently an element of the progression from fat to insulin resistant to diabetic.
AND, bombing yourself with grains and their accompanying insults to the digestive tract is an accelerant, at least.
Adding industrial seed oils and “vegetable oils” seems to have a unique capacity to add to chronic inflammation - IOW, these are also a potent accelerant for the inflammatory process that results from excess carb consumption.
Finally, deficiencies in minerals like magnesium, and vitamins like K and D make us vulnerable to the illnesses which excess inflammation sparks. 
Taken together, high carb, low nutrient, high omega 6 diets are going to lay most humans low.

Perhaps they make us vulnerable to the other supposed killers such as "toxins", excess sun exposure, "harmful chemicals", and supposed problems like synthetic chemicals which we seem to accumulate in fat cells.

All that being said, all it takes to drive people on a traditional diet into all the diseases of civilization is exposure to the western staples of sugar and wheat.

All in all, the doctor's message is a powerful reinforcer of what I've learned through experience - carb restriction is a necessary component of healthy eating, but as important is finding and eating good fats – a lot of them.  IOW – you have to replace the carbs with fat.

The doctor does a nice job in this interview of clarifying what is his opinion, and what is validated by others similarly informed, and what is backed by a measure of science. I appreciated his precision in that regard.
I've listened to his podcast several times now and I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"Hip Hinge"

Hip hinging ... it's amazing how many human movements follow from this basic pattern. My three year old does it with no instruction, but for those of us who are old enough to have learned how not to move, these progressions will be very helpful in helping you to create a movement pattern that generates great force in the way that is structurally compatible with your DNA.

If you ever want to lift anything heavy from the ground, lower anything heavy to the ground, or drag something or someone out of - for example - a burning building or a battlefield and still be able to walk the next day, this is the basic position for your body that will enable that work to be done.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Classic Quote, Parks

"I have learned over the years that when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear."
~ Rosa Parks

Applies equally to any physical endeavor, thank you Ms. Parks.