Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"That's a Big Calorie Burn"

Our metabolic conditioning workout yesterday was simple but brutal.

Row 500m, rest 2 minutes.
Repeat four times.

The impact of this type of work is very high.  A 500m row allows an athlete to exert 80-90% of maximal force for 90-140 seconds.  This kind of effort is the definition of "sucking wind".

The point of a workout like this is simple - let an athlete test and improve their maximal output in the glycolytic energy pathway, recover, and repeat.  It fits right into CrossFit's purpose of "improved work capacity across broad time and modal domains."  In this case, the modality is a Concept 2 rower, and the time domain is ~120s with a 120s recovery.  Competence at that output level for that duration translates well to nearly any sport or task you may wish to attempt.

After the workout, one of my clients commented on the calorie burn from the workout.  I didn't know what to say - I should have said "actually, no, the calorie burn is insignificant, and we don't design workouts for calorie burn anyway."  What I thought to myself was "didn't I already cover that?"

Burning calories in a workout is a waste of valuable time.  No workout we program is designed to burn calories - they are all designed to increase your performance!  We program to increase your performance across broad time and modal domains, which is to say we program for fitness.

The idea that working out to burn calories can lead to fat loss has a simple appeal, but when tested via science the results are anything but conclusive.  In short, the body is not a simple input/output machine, and causes of fat accumulation are multifactorial.

"But Paul, you went to Aviation Officer Candidate School, and you workout out all day, and lost fat, along with all your classmates." Yes, yes we did, but we had restricted food intake; we could eat three times per day and the amount of very limited.  Nor did we get dessert!  "In the wild", when a human gets hungry, it eats.  In the wild, when a human gets hungry it often eats whatever crap is most easily obtained.  In other words, inducing caloric deficit in everyday life is as likely to stimulate increased intake of food as it is to stimulate fat loss.

"But Paul you have lost 36 pounds over the last 7 years, and you do CrossFit 3-5 times per week, are you saying those things are not related?"

No.  Those two facts are related.  But the takeaway is simple - you cannot out train a bad diet.  When you eat like we recommend, and train, you will lose fat and feel freaking great doing it.  You will not be hungry.  That's why it is sustainable over time.

In Part II, I'll describe a model for why exercise in combination with the diet that made you fat in the first place will not make the majority of you lean.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Habits - they kill you, they save you

Habits are behaviors that are beneath consciousness - slurping coffee, putting on a seat bell, squatting with the knees caving in and the arch flattening to the floor - these bits of stored and programmed behavior save us and kill us.  And CrossFit offers a unique setting to allow athletes to undo the damage from years of habitually poor movement.

In last month's newsletter we talked about better movement and how mobility restrictions must be addressed so that athletes can get into good positions for creating force safely.  Good position is an irreducible element of running, lifting, jumping, punching, kicking, climbing, throwing, hitting a baseball or kicking a football.  Simple test - imagine someone kicking a record field goal if their hands were clasped behind their neck.  Or a golfer hitting the legendary hole-in-one while standing with one foot off of the ground.  Never going to happen.  

But what if you happen to see an athlete who is out of position, but you know that athlete has the requisite mobility to be in a good position.  In other words, imagine what it’s like for me every day! 

How then do I help athletes get into better positions?  It’s easy - you talk to them, show them pictures, get hands on to help them, or use a “blocking device” so that the only way they can move is the right way in the right position.  But all of these techniques will fail in the long run if they are not repeated enough to create new movement habits.  

Do you remember putting on your seatbelt?  Some of you may not even remember driving to work or school!  An example with movement that we see is that almost everyone has is the habit of using quad dominant movement, with knees forward and glutes/hamstrings relaxed - suffice to say that this is not good.  As a famous football coach says, "We don't practice until we can do it right, we practice until we cannot do it wrong."  Yes, and that is also the goal of CrossFit with regard to good movement habits.

In the end, our job is to do what is required, whatever is required, to create success for each of you!  Solving complex movement problems is a significant and satisfying part of our job. We want you to move well, to create power and speed and look good doing it.  Over time, we find that better movement carries over into every aspect of our clients’ lives.  

Call 207-489-8996 or email cffotg at gmail dot com to schedule your introductory session today!  Let's get to work rebuilding your movement, you strength, your work capacity.  You will start where you are, and get stronger and better every day.

"Stronger today than yesterday, stronger tomorrow than today."

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Power of Exercise and Intermittent Fasting

If you're already off to a good start on a healthy fitness plan, and you're looking for ways to take it to the next level, then you might want to consider intermittent fasting. In essence this fitness-enhancing strategy looks at the timing of meals, as opposed to those fad plans where you eat just one or two things for several days in a row.
On intermittent fasting, the longest time you'll ever abstain from food is 36 hours, although 14-18 hours is more common. You can also opt to simply delay eating. For example, skipping breakfast may be just the thing to get you off a plateau in your fitness routine. The issue of fasting is a major shift from my typical recommendations. I've not been a major advocate for it in the past, but as many of you who have been reading this site for years know, I am always learning.

To that end, I've now revised my personal eating schedule to eliminate breakfast and restrict the time I eat food to a period of about six to seven hours each day, which is typically from noon to 6 or 7 pm.

I made this shift several years ago and it was a powerful change.  In the bad old days, though, I also tried this, and just wound up savagely hungry in the morning.  What makes it work is eating the good food when you eat.  

Dr. Mercola's other tips:

  • Don't blindly trust human studies on IF as some of these show misleading results due to major design flaws.
  • Don't even think about intermittent fasting if you eat the typical American portions of high glycemic junk food.
  • When following an IF regimen you need to make it low glycemic and high in protein and fiber. Eat whole foods, possibly high in dairy and whey protein, along with nutrient dense antioxidant foods.
  • Adjust your fuel food according to your specific condition and type of training.
  • Your intermittent fasting regimen must make sense. The length of your fasting intervals should be optimized to yield maximum biological impact. What really counts is your net fasting time (period between meals minus digestion time.) It takes your body roughly 5-8 hours to fully digest a meal and shift into a fasting mode. Three to six hours of "not eating" between meals will not be sufficient to put your body in a fasting mode and therefore will fail to get you the results you're looking for.
  • The female-specific response to fasting or intermittent fasting is no different than the female response to intense exercise. There is indeed a tradeoff between benefits and side effects. And the question "should women fast" raises the same issues as the question "should women exercise intensely".

Friday, September 26, 2014

NIH Test Supports Low Carb, High Fat

People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fatlose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study shows.

The new study was financed by the National Institutes of Health and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It included a racially diverse group of 150 men and women — a rarity in clinical nutrition studies — who were assigned to follow diets for one year that limited either the amount of carbs or fat that they could eat, but not overall calories.
"To my knowledge, this is one of the first long-term trials that's given these diets without calorie restrictions," said Dariush Mozaffarian, the dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, who was not involved in the new study. "It shows that in a free-living setting, cutting your carbs helps you lose weight without focusing on calories. And that's really important because someone can change what they eat more easily than trying to cut down on their calories."

Who's left to fight for the benefits of the world's most unnatural fad diet - the low fat diet?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

CrossFit: Coming to a Preschool Near You | The Fit List |

Although weight training can benefit teens, heavy weights should not be used with young children, says Dan Gould, director of the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University.
"I'm real leery of weights prior to puberty," Gould says.

Funny quote.  Here's what the CrossFit Kids designers, Jeff and Mikki Martin, say about it:

"Since founding CrossFit Kids a decade ago, the Martins have received a variety of criticism and concerns over whether young people should be engaging in weight lifting and a program as rigorous as CrossFit. Many observers assume that kids are engaging in the same type of intense workouts as adult CrossFitters. The Martins respond by explaining that the workouts are tailored for every age group. CrossFit Kids doesn't load children with weight until they reach age 10 to 12. Before then, they max out with small medicine balls or light dumbbells.
"People see high-end, top athletes doing amazing things on CrossFit Games on TV, and they assume we're doing the same thing," Mikki says. "CrossFit Kids is developmentally appropriate to age.""

Monday, September 22, 2014

An Oldie but Goldie

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

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

For more on this topic, read this:
The Scientist and the Stairmaster

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Road to CrossFit

A person asked me last week how I came to be a CrossFit trainer and then gym owner, and I enjoyed remembering the road I travelled.

My story is all over my blog, in our pamphlet, on our Facebook page, on our web site (, and still it doesn't really tell the tale.  So here's a bit of self indulgence.  I found CrossFit in 2006 just after my martial arts instructor and dear friend died.  A soldier I worked with suggested that I look at cross after he heard about some of the body weight workouts I was doing.  I tracked the WODs over time and marveled at how crazy they were - deadlifts and running, in the same workout, with no rest?  That's crazy.  But after a while I began to see what they were going for - so I decided to try it.

After my first workout of the day (WOD), I was hooked.  I was training hard at that time, lifting heavy weights, running sprints and longer runs, and doing body weight work (squats and handstand pushups).  Still, CrossFit humbled me, wrecked me.  It was clear I huge holes in work capacity.

So I trained as hard as I could and I went to a Level I certificate course.  Then I was invited to come to the Level II course.  Somewhere in there, I was doing PT with the Navy, and hated it.  It hurt my knee, it was not of high enough intensity to make anyone much more fit, and it was boring stuff.  I made a comment to the instructor about how to make it better and he gave me the gift of suggesting that I take the lead role for a class (he thought he was daring me, and I was in fact being a bit rude).  He never coached again while I was there.  I had the double bonus of not having to go through his class and instead being able to practice being a coach, learning every day.

With that group, I had no barbells, no pullup bars and only the gear I could pack in my truck and bring with me.  Still, we made CrossFit style WODs with what we had and they all noted the positive impacts from the workouts.  They approached the Navy fitness test with confidence, some noted huge improvements with just a couple of months of "low tech" CrossFit.  It was satisfying.  That period of time earned me the moniker "The Punisher" from some, but I alway laughed at that.  No CrossFit workout is hard - unless you work hard enough to make it hard.  It is all "self punishment".

About that time I had my first paying clients.  That was huge fun, and the clients made rapid progress.  I had a small framed former runner, who was an incredible athlete, who went from no deadlift experience to a 315 pound deadlift (double his body weight) in just a couple of months.  I was lucky to find Chad because he was so easy to coach - anything I asked him to do, he did.  No muss, no fuss, no real work on my part.  I wish I could work with Chad now, he'd become a monster.

Along the way I began to attend more training seminars - CrossFit Kids, CrossFit Olympic Lifting, CrossFit Coach's Prep Course - and then was able to apply what I learned with clients.  I started a CrossFit group on base that ran for about 18 months.  Again, the chance to work with real folks regularly was incredibly fun and satisfying - the successes were huge - fat loss, performance gains, friends made.  That group wound down in 2009 or 2010, but I am still in contact with several of them - and to Star, Angela and the gang, thank you!

In 2010 we bought a CrossFit Affiliate and started CrossFit Fire of the Gods in our garage.  We made enough money to get more CrossFit gear for our clients and pay for more training.  Janet was able to go to (and easily passed) a Level I Certificate course, and she trained friends (and their friends) in our garage.  To Laura and Paul and Jo Anne - thank you!  We miss you but are grateful for your trust and the lessons you taught us about how to work with athletes.

All this happened as I was winding down a career as a naval officer.  I put hours and hours, week after week, into reading and blogging about nutrition and fitness, watching training videos, and of course practicing what I learned on myself and then our clients.  I spent a lot of time exploring various avenues for how to switch from employee to business owner - all seemed prohibitively expensive.  Then a few things happened in our favor and here we are - owners of a CrossFit affiliate as our full time life.

Why?  We love to learn and teach.  Teaching about health and fitness lets us create:  Impact.  Results.  Change.  Transformation.  Athletes exceeding perceived limits.  Chasing performance.

We see the impact of improved physical capacity when applied to the rest of life.  That's what we do every day, every workout, every client interaction, every SM post, most things we read, and a large part of what we talk about.  How can we help?  How can we make more impact faster?  How can we reach every client?  How can we make these painful workouts seem desirable to the uninitiated?

So, come see us and help us make our dreams come true by chasing a better you through CrossFit.  Call 207-449-8996 or email us (cffotg at gmail dot com) and let's get started today making 2014 the year you made the big change in your health and physical capacity!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sugar? Fructose? Carbs? What's the Difference!

A friend asked about the difference in impact between blood sugar that is created from excess consumption of carbs that are not sugar, and from carbs that are sugar.  That is to say, why does high carb intake absent a high sugar intake seem to have a different impact than does the high carb/high sugar combination?

First, two facts:
There are islanders who eat at least 60% of their calories as starchy carbs, but they have very little sugar intake.  About 95% of the men smoke.  They have no heart disease.
Additionally, when studied it is often observed that there are healthy fat folks and non-healthy fat folks.

What happens in a very abbreviated answer is that fructose is processed via the liver, and when consumed in excess it seems to make the liver insulin resistant.  This seems to be a stage in development of full insulin resistance.  Insulin resistance is detected as metabolic syndrome, a precursor to diabetes, and a strong predictor of disease in and of itself.

You can find more about various elements of fructose ingestion here:
Fructose link:

Also, at Gary Taubes blog Gary summarizes three studies on this topic here:
Taubes summary of the three:–-the-ancestral-health-symposium-food-reward-palatability-insulin-signaling-and-carbohydrates…-part-iib/

The best, most solid science on this topic includes this study: ... which is summarized well here:

So here's my concept of the progression:

First, we find those who eat too many carbs, and store them as excess fat, but they are not insulin resistant, do not develop metabolic syndrome, and are healthy by most measures.
Second, we find those who eat "too much" sugar (too much is different by individuals for a variety of reasons like ethnicity, activity level, alcohol consumption, etc) and become insulin resistant.  For these folks, all carbs now become a driver of excess blood sugar, inflammation, and often progress to metabolic syndrome and diabetes.  Once sugar and carbs are reduced, these folks often become normal in their tolerance of non-sugar carbs.
Lastly, we find those with metabolic syndrome and diabetes.  Because they have become insulin resistant, often any kind or dose of carbs will make them fatter and sicker.

The implications for this model include the idea that eating meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, little fruit or starch and no sugar/wheat is a strong preventative for progression through these stages.  I would bet that it is not possible to eat enough of the above prescription to become insulin resistant.  Once one is in stage 2 or 3 as described above, it may take a more careful approach that includes measured carb restriction, and perhaps induction of ketogenic metabolism.

Monday, September 15, 2014

"Why sugar is worse than fat"

It was in the late '70s – in fact, there was a Senate commission, Senator McGovern, who actually looked at this issue and found that people who had very high levels of cholesterol tended to die early of heart disease. And there was also other studies that showed if you ate a diet high in fat, it raised your cholesterol. But those were two different studies. And they got really, really linked, not only by the Senate, but also in the scientific community and then by everybody else.
And what happened over the last 30 years, it got codified. It became the way that we eat low fat in this country. And nothing changed. In fact, things got worse. Cardiovascular disease remains the biggest killer of men and women. Diabetes rates are higher than ever before. Childhood obesity. So it didn't work. And I think that's what sort of prompted all this analysis.
I think there's two issues here. One is that fat doesn't get a free pass here. There's still some problems with it. It still raises cholesterol levels. That is associated with heart disease. The problem is that what we replaced fat with was sugar. And sugar may be more problematic, in some ways, for someone who's worried about heart disease than fat.
 All true, and yet, Dr. Gupta goes on to show he still doesn't really get it. So here's my dare to the doctor - provide one intervention study that supports your concerns about saturated fat and heart disease.

It's hard not to point out that he's about 7 years late to the low carb dance ...

Jacinto Bonilla, CrossFit and 70+ Years Old!

Have a  look at this awesome profile of Jacinto!  Jacinto and I were at the 2008 Games but somehow I did not meet him then - my loss.  He's been back to the Games many times since then at a Master's competitor in the 60+ bracket - that's right, he's in the top 20 fittest humans even when compared with those 10 or more years younger than he is!  If you could walk into a gym today and do what Jacinto does you would be very proud of yourself.

Friday, September 12, 2014

What is Strength?

Back in the day, I used to think a lot of weird stuff about strength and strength training.

I used to think bigger muscles were stronger.
I used to think strength was mostly something that happened in muscle tissue.
I used to think being better at bench pressing would make you better at - for example - punching or hitting a baseball.

In short, I thought about strength training like a body builder thinks about strength training.  At some point, it became clear that a bigger bench press didn't translate much to the athletic activities I valued.  Ten years later I found CrossFit and began to unravel why.

It turns out that the ability to generate for and the ability to generate force quickly is very complex and muscle size is a relatively small factor.  Which is why, I suppose, Louie Simmons says "Big is not strong, strong is strong."

It also turns out that while the muscle contraction has to be happen for strength to be expressed, that contraction is affected by what is happening in other parts of the body.  For example if you lie on your back and raise your legs and then turn on your core muscles, the output of those muscles will be lessened.  The first time I heard of this idea of "load sequencing" (meaning loading core muscles or for example posterior muscles first), I scoffed with the same characteristic arrogance I have always been unable to avoid.

There's also the matter of position.  If you play with yoga, they spend a lot of time focusing on postures or poses.  If you play with martial arts, the same applies - good position is very important.  Turns out that power lifters and gymnasts found the same things.  Good position is critical for high athletic output, and in particular if one wants to avoid injury.

Lastly, for athletics, stronger arm muscles are nice but they only pay off if you can apply them via powerful hip extension.  In other words, you have to know how to use your ass.  All day long I'm showing folks how to use their ass, so that they can safely generate high power - time after time.

To conclude, first you want good body position, then you want proper load sequencing, then you want  "strong muscles" and then you want bigger muscles (since the size itself can increase leverage).  But the holy grail of athleticism is force and speed together - so if you want to be an elite athlete, you have to develop, in addition to the above, the capacity to develop high force in a short amount of time.  That is to say you want a high rate of force development.  Combine them all and you get a home run hitter, a long ball golfer, a champion olympic lifter, or a world class CrossFitter.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Eat Before You Train? Maybe.

Remember all those folks over the last 20 years that wrote or said it was critical that you eat a large portion of a blue whale before and after each workout so you could avoid muscle catabolism and thus becoming a girly man with tiny biceps?  And that you should eat at least one blue whale fin every 3 hours?  And that breakfast is the most important meal of the day?  
That advice was worth what you paid for it - if you got it for free.

In previous installments, I’ve discussed the powerful effect of fasting on weight loss, particularly with respect toadipose tissue. I’ve explained how intermittent bouts of going without food have been shown to increase cancer survival and resistance and improve patient and tumor response to chemotherapy, and I went over the considerable evidence suggesting that fasting can provide thelife extending benefits of caloric restriction without the pain of restricting your calories day in, day out. And last week, I highlighted how fasting may have protective and therapeutic benefits to the brain.
As such you might be thinking that I only recommend fasting to the sedentary, the aged, and the infirm. Surely I wouldn’t go so far as to recommend to the active, the athletic, and the jacked that they engage in vigorous physical activity without having eaten a solid square meal beforehand – right? I mean, no good can come of a fasted training session, as the gym bros with the sweet ‘ceps are so quick to intone.
So, Sisson, what’s the deal? Can we exercise in the fasted state and live to tell the tale?
Yes. And there may even be benefits to doing it.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Benefits of Strength Training During Aging

As one of my first martials arts teachers said, "Too much work makes you sick, too little work makes you weak."  
You should see the glow on a face of a 76 year old, who is a lung cancer survivor, had a hip replacement, and needs another, when she hits a new personal record (PR).  Strength training makes folks feel good!  Strength gives you more choices in how to live your life, and makes you healthier.  
Come see us at CrossFit Fire of the Gods and let us show you how to double or triple your strength.
Most of us know that strength training (with free weights, weight machines, or resistance bands) can help build and maintain muscle mass and strength. What many of us don't know is that strong muscles lead to strong bones. And strong bones can help minimize the risk of fracture due to osteoporosis.
A combination of age-related changes, inactivity, and poor nutrition conspire to steal bone mass at the rate of 1% per year after age 40. As bones grow more fragile and susceptible to fracture, they are more likely to break after even a minor fall or a far less obvious stress, such as bending over to tie a shoelace.
Osteoporosis should be a concern for all of us. Eight million women and two million men in the United States have osteoporosis. It is now responsible for more than two million fractures a year, and experts expect that number will rise. Hip fractures are usually the most serious. Six out of 10 people who break a hip never fully regain their former level of independence. Even walking across a room without help may be impossible.
Numerous studies have shown that strength training can play a role in slowing bone loss, and several show it can even build bone. This is tremendously useful to help offset age-related decline in bone mass. Activities that put stress on bones stimulate extra deposits of calcium and nudge bone-forming cells into action. The tugging and pushing on bone that occur during strength training (and weight-bearing aerobic exercise like walking or running) provide the stress. The result is stronger, denser bones.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Better Late Then Never, NIH Figures It Out

Results: Sixty participants (82%) in the low-fat group and 59 (79%) in the low-carbohydrate group completed the intervention. At 12 months, participants on the low-carbohydrate diet had greater decreases in weight (mean difference in change, −3.5 kg [95% CI, −5.6 to −1.4 kg]; P = 0.002), fat mass (mean difference in change, −1.5% [CI, −2.6% to −0.4%]; P = 0.011), ratio of total–high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (mean difference in change, −0.44 [CI, −0.71 to −0.16]; P = 0.002), and triglyceride level (mean difference in change, −0.16 mmol/L [−14.1 mg/dL] [CI, −0.31 to −0.01 mmol/L {−27.4 to −0.8 mg/dL}]; P = 0.038) and greater increases in HDL cholesterol level (mean difference in change, 0.18 mmol/L [7.0 mg/dL] [CI, 0.08 to 0.28 mmol/L {3.0 to 11.0 mg/dL}]; P < 0.001) than those on the low-fat diet.
Limitation: Lack of clinical cardiovascular disease end points.
Conclusion: The low-carbohydrate diet was more effective for weight loss and cardiovascular risk factor reduction than the low-fat diet. Restricting carbohydrate may be an option for persons seeking to lose weight and reduce cardiovascular risk factors.
Primary Funding Source: National Institutes of Health.
I'm glad they finally got around to doing this since it's too obvious for anyone to still ignore, but they could have done this 40 years ago.  And they should have.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Fat Trap or Cognitive Dissonance?

For 15 years, Joseph Proietto has been helping people lose weight. When these obese patients arrive at his weight-loss clinic in Australia, they are determined to slim down. And most of the time, he says, they do just that, sticking to the clinic’s program and dropping excess pounds. But then, almost without exception, the weight begins to creep back. In a matter of months or years, the entire effort has come undone, and the patient is fat again. “It has always seemed strange to me,” says Proietto, who is a physician at the University of Melbourne. “These are people who are very motivated to lose weight, who achieve weight loss most of the time without too much trouble and yet, inevitably, gradually, they regain the weight.”
Anyone who has ever dieted knows that lost pounds often return, and most of us assume the reason is a lack of discipline or a failure of willpower. But Proietto suspected that there was more to it, and he decided to take a closer look at the biological state of the body after weight loss.
Beginning in 2009, he and his team recruited 50 obese men and women. The men weighed an average of 233 pounds; the women weighed about 200 pounds. Although some people dropped out of the study, most of the patients stuck with the extreme low-calorie diet, which consisted of special shakes called Optifast and two cups of low-starch vegetables, totaling just 500 to 550 calories a day for eight weeks. Ten weeks in, the dieters lost an average of 30 pounds.
At that point, the 34 patients who remained stopped dieting and began working to maintain the new lower weight. Nutritionists counseled them in person and by phone, promoting regular exercise and urging them to eat more vegetables and less fat. But despite the effort, they slowly began to put on weight. After a year, the patients already had regained an average of 11 of the pounds they struggled so hard to lose. They also reported feeling far more hungry and preoccupied with food than before they lost the weight.
While researchers have known for decades that the body undergoes various metabolic and hormonal changes while it’s losing weight, the Australian team detected something new. A full year after significant weight loss, these men and women remained in what could be described as a biologically altered state. Their still-plump bodies were acting as if they were starving and were working overtime to regain the pounds they lost. For instance, a gastric hormone called ghrelin, often dubbed the “hunger hormone,” was about 20 percent higher than at the start of the study. Another hormone associated with suppressing hunger, peptide YY, was also abnormally low. Levels of leptin, a hormone that suppresses hunger and increases metabolism, also remained lower than expected. A cocktail of other hormones associated with hunger and metabolism all remained significantly changed compared to pre-dieting levels. It was almost as if weight loss had put their bodies into a unique metabolic state, a sort of post-dieting syndrome that set them apart from people who hadn’t tried to lose weight in the first place.
“What we see here is a coordinated defense mechanism with multiple components all directed toward making us put on weight,” Proietto says. “This, I think, explains the high failure rate in obesity treatment.”
This is one of the most interesting articles on fat loss I’ve ever read - I’ve read it several times - that does nothing to help anyone lose weight or be healthy.  The point of the article seems to be “it’s hopeless, you may as well not even bother.”  

And that is an experience with weight loss many people encounter, some many times in their lives.  As I read it, I try to stack up my own experience - that my body weight is very responsive to carbohydrate restriction and to “eating quality food”, and that I’m 35 pounds lighter than I was 8 years ago when I was 42, and that I know I’m not working out more or exercising generally more than I was then.

The article is lengthly and detailed and describes what is known at the starvation response - the tendency of the body to increase appetite and decrease activity when it is subjected to caloric deprivation over a long enough period of time.  One of the story’s protagonists is getting all scientific about the mechanisms that enable the body to conserve energy, but to me there’s a huge pink elephant in the article - at no time does the author delve into the question of what type of diet the researchers are using to get their fat loss-to-starvation-response cycle?

Here’s why this is a pivotal question to me.  Nearly every study on the topic shows that those who lose weight by restricting carbohydrates have lower appetites and spontaneously reduce food intake.  So if you and your buddy both diet, and the buddy goes with caloric restriction (and perhaps exercise), and you just cut carbs (smartly) and sit on the couch texting with your significant other, you very well may lose as much fat, and with less hunger.  

The author of the article is an interesting study - to the best of my knowledge, she avoids the topic of low carb because she hob nobs with the scientists who have been in vogue over the last ten years or more who advocate a low fat diet for health and weight loss.  When our society went all fat crazy starting about forty years ago - we began to tell people not to eat saturated fats (“bad for your heart”), and to tell people to eat industrially produced polyunsaturated fats (“heart health fats”) - we also began a long experiment with the “a calorie is a calorie” idea.  That is to say, we looked at the first law of thermodynamics, which states that energy may not be created or destroyed it simply changes forms, and extrapolated that the human body worked like a bomb calorimeter.  

If you stuff a quantity of fat, protein or carbohydrate into a steel ball, and ignite the contents, and measure the change in heat that results from the incineration, you can derive that fat yields 9 kcal/gram, and protein/carbohydrates yield 4 kcal/gram.  With this nifty bit of data, folks decided that fat loss should be a simple proposition - eat less, move more.  

If you combine these two unproved propositions - fat is bad and has more calories - then fat loss and health should magically result when we eschew fats and exercise more.  After all, people who exercise are leaner than those who do not.  

Only one problem - systematically depriving an overfat person of calories via a low calorie and low fat diet with exercise only works for a while.  And if you read the whole article above several times, that is the stunning conclusion.  And the prestigious scientists the author quotes are figuratively scratching their heads like the clowns in the Monty Python skit trying to sort it all out, since it doesn’t fit their “calorie is a calorie” paradigm.  They have cognitive dissonance - “we’re doing everything right, we have to figure out why these peoples’ bodies are fighting so hard to regain the lost fat so we can create a drug to circumvent that.”  
The question for me is - are they asking the right question?  Are they really doing everything right?  What if the problem is just this simple - they are feeding humans low quality food they were not meant to eat (IOW low cal low fat), and humans are reacting with predictable problems.  What if a simple restatement of the topic of this very long, and very detailed article published in the new york times is “We fed people a small amount of stuff they were never designed to eat and it didn’t work out so great.  They acted like they were starving.”

The section of this article - which in some ways seems to be a lengthy defense for why the NYT editor for a wellness blog is 60 pounds overweight - which is most resonant for me is the portrait of a lady who has taken the calorie in calorie idea to its natural conclusion.  She spends what seems like every waking moment making sure she gets only the right amount of calories and the right amount of exercise, every single day of her life.  Her story is an amazing show of discipline and determination.  This lady is used by the author to kind of illustrate how nearly impossible it is to lose fat and keep it off.  

For the record, I think it is in fact just about this impossible to lose fat and keep it off for some people.  Fat storage is a function of hormonal and other responses that have been refined over the entirety of animal existence on this planet.  The human genome you have was developed to make sure you had just the right amount of fat stored on your body to optimize your chances for survival through reproduction (and survival of your offspring).  It is an impossibly well developed system, that worked nearly without fail until we starting eating the crap we eat now.  I’m not sure it is possible to undo a lifetime of eating like we eat, at least not for all people, and not in terms of getting to an keeping an idea body weight.  

And the problem is not just what we eat.  It’s how we sleep or don’t sleep, and how our hormonal cycles seem to have been disrupted by the ways we no longer live as we were designed to - the novelty of lights, the sleep disruption, the non-optimal food, and the loss of seasonal food variation, the practice of fasting and seasonal carb restriction; and who knows what else.  I’ve recently been around a female who is working to get her hormones optimized - better living through chemistry - and the way her body deposited fat changed over night.  So, yes, I think there’s more to the “fat trap” than just the “low calorie, low fat, more exercise” hoax.  

“Well, how will you wrap this one up Paul?”  Here’s the wrap up - start out by eating for healthy blood sugar levels.  Attack the problems that remain one by one.  Body fat - there are things you can do if you find that just eating good food isn’t enough to get lean.  Sicknesses?  There are things you can do to to heal the gut and for many that addresses autoimmune and inflammatory processes.  The road that has worked for me is chasing improvement over time, which for me started in about 1996, but didn’t really become consistent in my life until 2007, when I found a way to eat that I could live while I stayed/became more healthy.  Prioritize health, and get better day after day, week after week.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Reader Question: How Do I Get Over My Pullup Plateau?

Hey, Paul - question on pullups. Is there a regimen you'd recommend for someone who wants to improve? I'll alternate sets of pullups with other exercises (squats,bench, etc) until I get to 50, and over months I'd say I've gone from a max of 8 to a max of 11. Would you know a simple routine I could use to shake things up and break the plateau? Let me know if something comes to mind, thanks in advance, and Roll Tide !

Hi Fletch, thanks for asking.  I prescribe more variation.  Think of a three day rotation with some of these:

1.  Add weight.  Could be just a 10# plate in a back pack

2.  Add a pause at the top

3.  Do fewer reps per set - focus on explosive contraction/fast movement

On day four, go back to doing what you normally do

Occasionally do an EMOM - every minute on the minute for 5 to 20 minutes do 3-6 reps (start w 3 and work up in subsequent sessions).

The weighted pullup thing adds a new level of accomplishment - 100# weighted pullup?  You will tell all your friends

Louie Simmons: "Once you spell your name right, you can only spell it wrong."  IOW, once you get used to doing pullups like you are doing them, they no longer provide as much adaptive stimulus - thus the prescription for variation.

If you have the elastic bands CrossFitters and weightlifters often use, you can "band yourself" to add resistance with a different force curve.  The ways to add variation are only limited by one's imagination and determination to find a better way to train.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bodybuilder Goes CrossFit?

I've worked with a  lot of CrossFit athletes this year, helping several prepare fo the Canada East regionals.  I helped some with their Olympic lifting and others with their entire training.  I'll tell you this: I've trained figure competitors who go to extreme lengths in their dieting, cardio, and training, and quite a few of the CrossFit girls I'm working with have better physiques than the figure girls … and that’s without dieting.  Similarly, a former Canada national bodybuilding champion I know started training for CrossFit and she looks better - not just better, but also more muscular and stronger - than when she was bodybuilding! 
I always believed that CrossFit made girls look great and guys look small, in addition to making them lose strength.  I don’t' believe the latter anymore because some of the competitive CrossFit athletes are quite strong.  The average competitor in the CrossFit games can do a 245-pound snatch, 335-pound clean and jerk, 550-pound deadlift, and a 450-pound back squat. And several overhead squat in the 300s and front squat in the 400s.  Four of the guys I'm coaching can snatch over 225 pounds, which pretty darn strong!

This was an interesting read because I so rarely get a glimpse into the mind of the bodybuilder.  The focus on performance in CrossFit - no part of a WOD is build to make a body look better, the WOD is built to create performance - makes it a liberating way to train.

That said, most will not get the best results in body composition if they eat the same crappy foods that made them fat and sick in the first place.

So what I tell my folks is - train to develop the physical capacity you desire, and eat to be healthy (and more lean if you like that sort of thing).

Friday, August 22, 2014

"NERD Does CrossFit" - Changes

And sometimes they are great big GIANT leaps!!! Today was a Leap!

Fourteen years ago, I was put on my first blood sugar regulating med. I didn't think much of it at the time. I certainly didn't think I would be on it for the rest of my life. The thought just didn't occur to me. Before the year was out, I was on medication number two! Again, I didn't think much of it. Eventually, life happened, kids happened, bad food/exercise choices happened… and I found myself at the age of 41 on FOUR different daily meds. I can't really tell you how it happened, but there I was… and I wanted OFF! Thus began my search for… something different. I found Crossfit.
Three months into Crossfit, and attempting to eat better, I dropped med one. Six months into my often-failed attempts to eat better and Crossfit, med two dropped. Things were going well. Around the nine month mark, I was able to drop my daily shots. That was HUGE! I'd given myself daily shots since I was pregnant with the twins. But… there was one med left. I've been sitting on this med for over a year, waiting patiently to get rid of it. A few months ago, my doctor cut that med in half… and as of yesterday… IT'S GONE!!!!!!!
I did it! I really, really did it! I wanted OFF those meds and it took me 21 months to do it… and I did! :happycry:
My latest round of blood work was fantastic. My A1c is 5.5. I'm not even "at risk" for Diabetes anymore. My PCOS symptoms are generally under control. My fasting glucose has been consistently in the 80s. It's AMAZING!!!
I know I go on and on about Crossfit and Paleo/Primal, but it really has changed my life.

For me, this has always been the CrossFit dream.  To help other find the way to do what is necessary to save their own life, to not need the medications any longer.

Awesome physical performance?  That's cool.  Looking so good you feel confident?  That's cool.  Learning new movements and enjoying them?  That's cool.  Help a young person get close to their physical potential?  That's cool.  Make a community that folks take comfort in, celebrate in, and find is their "third place"?  That's very cool.  But the best - the best is going from sick to healthy.  The best is going from declining strength to increasing strength.  The best is having a vibrant, healthy body that feels good to be in, that is useful, that is not the limiting factor in your choice of how you live.

That's why I coach CrossFit!  That's why I love the CrossFit phenomenon.

Come see us so we can ignite your transformation and create a future of vibrant and growing health.
Call/text: 207-449-8996
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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Milestone: 200000 Page Views

Thank you dear readers for coming to see us and read along as we learn about health, fitness and nutrition!  If you are in the Brunswick area, come join us for CrossFit, we look forward to seeing you.

I feel funny celebrating page views when some gyms get that many hits a month (in the DC area for example).  Writing an obscure blog from a small town to varied readers with an interest in paleo and CrossFit makes 200,000 a big number to me.

Perfect Health Diet

"[We held a retreat] and one of the things that came out really quickly was it turned out to be super for weight loss.  And again it wasn't designed to be a weight loss program, you could eat as much food as you wanted.  And yet we had great weight loss results.  So I started thinking more about why is this working so well for weight loss, and started thinking about the obesity problem."
In the video, he gets into two questions: What are the most puzzling issues in weight loss?  What are the most important facts?
Pull it up on your phone and drink it in.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Saturated Fatty Acids

The linked article contains a nice analysis of health correlations related to saturated fatty acids (SFA). SFA's have been vilified as causatory agents in heart and other vascular diseases.  However, the analysis points out that the correlations with disease are strong with SFA's that are produced by the body as a result of carb, sugar and alcohol ingestion, vice ingestion of fats.  By contrast, blood SFA's that are associated with fat ingestion are inversely correlated with the aforementioned diseases.  In a way, this is just a BFO - blinding flash of the obvious - as it's been long known that blood triglycerides, including the SFA palmitic acid, are very well correlated with disease and metabolic syndrome. The nice thing about this analysis is it finds the same conclusion via a different methodology.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Simplest Change

Each of our clients wants to lose fat, except maybe one.  Most are already working within the paleolithic model of nutrition.  Some are having spectacular results, and that is putting smiles on both of our faces.  Some are stalled out.  Today's post is about the simplest change one can make to reaccelerate fat loss.

That change is to have a breakfast of only protein (some, 15-30 grams) and fat (a lot).  Why will this help?

First, let's get into how you body fuels itself.  The number two metabolic priority (in terms of urgency) is getting sugar to the brain.  The brain needs approximately 600 calories worth of fuel daily.  That's about 25% of the total caloric requirement for most folks.  If the brain does not get the necessary fuel, it will cease to function, you will fall down, and the ghost might leave the machine, depending upon how fuel deprived the brain is.  To keep this from happening, you were engineered with a redundant fuel system, that allows you to make brain food from fat, carbs or protein.

Most of your body runs best on fat as fuel.  The engineer's intent seems to have been that you would not need to eat or store much sugar, and that the sugar (not in large supply until very recently) you ate or stored would be used primarily by the brain.  The first contingency for lack of available carbs/sugar is that your liver will convert fat into ketone bodies, which can be an alternate fuel for the brain (in fact, there's some evidence the brain is most healthy when fueled by both sugar and ketones).  This system is what lets a person survive day after day with no food available (remember those stories of 60+ days in a life raft?).  If you ever face that situation, the body will also catabolize muscle to make protein and sugar for the brain.  So in all you have three ways to store energy - fat is the biggest source and the best fuel.  Sugar is the smallest source and is a preferred fuel for the brain.  Muscle is the desperation fuel, "for emergency use only."

Now let's get back to why keeping carbs out of your breakfast will help you to burn fat.  First, all night long, since you are not eating, your body has to start converting to fat burning (you know people have a serious sugar problem when they cannot sleep through the night without sugar cravings).  When you "break your fast", if you give the body sugar, it will stop running on fat.  If you give your body too much sugar, it will get busy converting that sugar into fat.  If you give yourself a moderate protein, high fat breakfast, this can keep your hunger at bay but let the body keep burning stored fat for brain fuel.

So the easiest, simplest, change to start burning more fat is to have a carb free breakfast.

If you want to take this one step further, stop eating by 7 or 8 PM.  That way, you may go as long as 12 hours from last meal of the day until first.  That also invites your body to get good at burning fat, and if you don't eat carbs until lunch, that's a 14-16 window of no "carbage".  This kind of carb fasting is very useful for those who want to get healthy and lean.  Why does this help with health?  In short, the number one driver of disease in our nation is metabolic syndrome, which is characterized by loss of glycemic control (that is to say cycling high and low blood sugars).  The above described carb fast interrupts the cycle of excess sugar/carbs, and restores normal blood sugar levels for many who are dangerously close to metabolic syndrome.

This is also why exercise alone does not work for fat loss or health - if you continuously over-eat sugar and carbs, you will not get glycemic control and you will not have your best health no matter how intense your daily workouts are.

If you want to take this another step beyond a carb fast, push your breakfast back by one hour each day, until you can go food free for 14-16 hours.  This path can be risky for some, so if you want to do this, come talk to me first.  You can also search this blog to find prior posts about how to start intermittent fasting.

Are you ready to make the simplest change?  If so, get going and let me know what you learn!

Does Aspirin Stop Cancer

This is a very interesting and relatively brief summary of the topic - the short answer is - "we don't know who will get the most benefit for the new risks."

Monday, August 11, 2014

Elite Athletes Who Do CrossFit | THE RUSSELLS

One of the most common myths about CrossFit is that no elite athletes use it. That’s completely false.
Here are some top athletes who do CrossFit. It’s not a full list. There are 10,000 CrossFit gyms, and we can’t possibly know every elite athlete who trains at them, or who does CrossFit on their own. Also, these athletes use CrossFit as part of their training – it doesn’t replace their specific training. No strength and conditioning program could.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Importance of Eating Together - ​Cody C. Delistraty - The Atlantic

On the one hand, the topic of this article would seem to be nothing more than common sense.  Folks that eat together are happier and healthier.  This is not new news.  On the other hand, this article shows how difficult it is to "know" anything about the complex animal we call "humans".

"After my mother passed away and my brother went to study in New Zealand, the first thing that really felt different was the dinner table. My father and I began eating separately. We went out to dinners with our friends, ate sandwiches in front of our computers, delivery pizzas while watching movies. Some days we rarely saw each other at all. Then, a few weeks before I was set to leave for university, my father walked downstairs. "You know, I think we should start eating together even if it's just you and me," he said. "Your mother would have wanted that." It wasn't ideal, of course—the meals we made weren't particularly amazing and we missed the presence of Mom and my brother—but there was something special about setting aside time to be with my father. It was therapeutic: an excuse to talk, to reflect on the day, and on recent events. Our chats about the banal—of baseball and television—often led to discussions of the serious—of politics and death, of memories and loss. Eating together was a small act, and it required very little of us—45 minutes away from our usual, quotidian distractions—and yet it was invariably one of the happiest parts of my day."
"Sadly, Americans rarely eat together anymore. In fact, the average American eats one in every five meals in her car, one in four Americans eats at least one fast food meal every single day, and the majority of American families report eating a single meal together less than five days a week. It's a pity that so many Americans are missing out on what could be meaningful time with their loved ones, but it's even more than that. Not eating together also has quantifiably negative effects both physically and psychologically."

This is where the trouble begins.  There's not anything quantifiable about the data the author cites.  This is not good science.  It's just correlation, which does not imply causation.  For example, it's long been known that wealthy people live longer than the poor.  What is not known is why - do they choose better lifestyle variables?  Probably.  Which ones matter?  No one knows.  I'd guess that on the whole they eat better food, smoke less, and sleep more/better.  Guessing is just a small first step in science.

"Children who do not eat dinner with their parents at least twice a week also were 40 percent more likely to be overweight compared to those who do, as outlined in a research presentation given at the European Congress on Obesity in Bulgaria this May."

OK, but why?  Answer:  we don't know.

"On the contrary, children who do eat dinner with their parents five or more days a week have less trouble with drugs and alcohol, eat healthier, show better academic performance, and report being closer with their parents than children who eat dinner with their parents less often, according to a study conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University."

Fascinating correlation.  I'm glad I eat with my family almost every night thanks to my wife's focus on this matter.  But this correlation does not tell us anything about prediction or control, which is what science is about.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

How USA Goalie Tim Howard Stays In Shape - Business Insider

"I've been paleo for about a year, and what I miss most is the Philosopher's Pie from [the chain] Mellow Mushroom in Memphis, where my wife and I have a home.
All else pales in comparison — it's a pizza topped with strips of filet steak, black olives, Feta cheese, and artichoke hearts. My cheat meal would be that and a microbrew. Good thing I live in England.
"My personal trainer suggested paleo to build muscle while staying lean, and it's one of the first plans that's worked for me. Sure, I like ice cream, but when you keep a healthy lifestyle, it's: Do you prefer sweets and crappy food, or do you prefer to have a nice body? It depends on what you want more. Breakfast is meat or eggs, and nuts. Lunch and dinner are more meat and a steamed green vegetable. Depending on how intense training was, I throw in extra carbs, like sweet potatoes."