Sunday, March 30, 2014

Happy Birthday

To me!  It's my fiftieth birthday today.  At the moment I'm in range of a top ten percent finish in the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games Open competition (Masters age 50-54).  It's easily the greatest athletic accomplishment of my unheralded athletic career.  

The Right Nutrition for You - No One Knows

The links that follow tell an interesting story.  The author makes the case that very low carb is not a good formula for fat loss for a female CrossFitter who is perhaps over training, who is not consistent yet in low carb (binging occasionally on carbs/booze), and who is therefore hungry.

I think her advice is solid, but if the client really needed to be low carb, there's an option that was apparently not tried - using blood measures of beta-hydroxy butyrate (ketones).  If the athlete were able to fly right for 3 weeks, and thus convert to a therapeutic production of ketones, she may find her physical performance would improve, and her appetite would be moderated even while losing fat.

The other option to test is an AM carb fast (just protein/fats for breakfast), with minimal carbs for lunch, and a generous portion of carbs for dinner.  This may also generate a therapeutic level of ketone production, and deliver this athlete from her hunger and poor physical performance.

But there's no way to be sure without testing!  Different folks will have different needs and preferences.  This is why the food prescription based on the paleolithic model is so potent.   Eat meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, little fruit or starch, no sugar/wheat/industrial oils.

Friday, March 28, 2014

"True Paleo Diet"? We Don't Know

The anthropological record provides a framework for further examination of nutritional science; it does not prescribe a diet. It gives us somewhere to start so we’re not flailing blind men dropped off in the middle of a strange city. That is why we’re interested in what early humans ate (and didn’t eat).
It may surprise you to know that I think the first assertion is absolutely right. We don’t know exactly what our ancestors were eating. There are no pleistocene food journal entries scrawled on a cave wall someplace, and many of the primary sources we can access – phytoliths (which indicate the presence of vegetal material) and stable carbon/nitrogen isotopes (which indicate the source of dietary protein) – require analysis and interpretation, thus becoming secondary sources. If you thought food frequency questionnaires were unreliable, try figuring out if the phytoliths found on Neanderthal dentition originated from the direct consumption of plants or the consumption of fermenting plant inside a recently hunted animal’s stomach, or whether the isotope analysis of African hominins from a few million years ago indicate diets high in grass seeds or diets high in grass seed-eating herbivores.
However, we absolutely do know what early humans did not eat:
We know these things because these foods either didn’t exist until the late 1880s (seed oils like corn) or only graduated from expensive luxury item to widely-used staple food in the 1700s (white sugar).
As to the second claim, of course there is no one true ancestral diet with a strictly curated, specific list of dietary DOs and DON’Ts. Humans have managed to populate every barely hospitable nook and cranny of this planet. If living things grow, slither, crawl, flap, swim, or otherwise reside there, we will set up shop in order to eat them.

Read more:

We also didn't eat modern wheat and it's processed products (bread, bagels, breakfast cereals, etc), nor did we dress up the old variants of wheat in so many processing steps nor consume it under a pile of sugar.  And when we did eat primarily wheat/grains, we got short and fat, bad bones and bad teeth, and other nastiness.

This is why I like the idea of the paleolithic model of nutrition, not a blind devotion to "paleo".  Some neolithic foods have little impact on some people - I can eat cheese and feel great, for example.

Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, little fruit/starch, no sugar/wheat/industrial oils.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Live Better = Get Stronger

Regular physical activity promotes general good health, reduces the risk of developing many diseases, and helps you live a longer and healthier life. For many of us, "exercise" means walking, jogging, treadmill work, or other activities that get the heart pumping.
But often overlooked is the value of strength-building exercises. Once you reach your 50s and beyond, strength (or resistance) training is critical to preserving the ability to perform the most ordinary activities of daily living — and to maintaining an active and independent lifestyle.
The average 30-year-old will lose about a quarter of his or her muscle strength by age 70 and half of it by age 90. "Just doing aerobic exercise is not adequate," says Dr. Robert Schreiber, physician-in-chief at Hebrew SeniorLife and an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. "Unless you are doing strength training, you will become weaker and less functional."

I couldn't agree more.  The "cardio is king" idea for health and longevity is just another myth that is biting the dust in the fact of experience.  Aging well, living well for longer, means having the strength to do what life demands.  Cardiovascular endurance is nice but strength is essential.

Monday, March 24, 2014

PN - Vitamin D = Good/Bad? Yes

The “K” in vitamin K comes from the German koagulation. Coagulation refers to the process of blood clot formation. This should hint to you that vitamin K plays a crucial role in the body’s blood clotting pathway.
Put simply, vitamin K allows the body to use calcium to perform its clotting function.
If vitamin K is low, the body can’t use calcium in this way, and therefore, cannot clot.
Besides its role in clotting, Vitamin K also helps to form and maintain our bones and teeth.
It does so by activating a specific protein called osteocalcin that helps the body use calcium and deposit it where it belongs.
In other words, there is a very potent calcium-vitamin K connection in that vitamin K helps the body use calcium properly. And if we’re deficient in vitamin K, calcium levels can build up and deposit themselves in our soft tissues.
People who are low in vitamin K are more likely to suffer from atherosclerosis, or calcification of the arteries.
And those with a high vitamin K intake (especially vitamin K2) seem to have less calcification of their arteries.
In fact, research in rats has shown that supplementing with vitamin K2 (but not K1) not only inhibits arterial calcification, it can also remove 30-50% of the calcium that has already been deposited.
Unfortunately, this magic effect has not been shown in humans as yet.
Hopefully by now, you can see the delicate dance that’s going on. Vitamin D increases calcium levels in the body. Vitamin K helps the body use calcium.
So if one were to supplement with high-dose vitamin D in the presence of vitamin K deficiency, the long-term results could be disastrous.

PN's conclusion: in the presence of other deficiencies, we should be careful of supplementation with vitamin D.

I think PN is right, because as the article explains, each of these micronutrients works in conjunction with each other.  D and K balance each other, in conjunction with magnesium and calcium and vitamin A.  Eat meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, little fruit or starch, no sugar/wheat.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

CrossFit Games Open Workout 14.3 - This Is CrossFit!

This is the season for the CrossFit Games Open competition.  This year, in the neighborhood of 200,000 competitors world over are signed up.  Workouts are announced on Thursday nights for five weeks.  Each workout is posted to an online leaderboard.  At the end, we’ll know who will attend regional competition, and who in the masters age groups will get to go to Carson to compete at the Games.  That masters cut, by the way, is becoming an insanely high bar.  For example, I have around 2000 athletes in my division of males aged 50-54.  20 will be offered the ticket to Carson. 

This year’s third workout was as follows (men’s weights, age 54 and below):
Complete as many reps as possible in 8 minutes of:

135-lb. deadlifts, 10 reps

15 box jumps, 24-inch

185-lb. deadlifts, 15 reps

15 box jumps, 24-inch

225-lb. deadlifts, 20 reps

15 box jumps, 24-inch

275-lb. deadlifts, 25 reps

15 box jumps, 24-inch

315-lb. deadlifts, 30 reps

15 box jumps, 24-inch

365-lb. deadlifts, 35 reps

15 box jumps, 24-inch

So, for whatever your skill level, at some point you would face being quite gassed and looking at multiple reps with a heavy deadlift.  This was a point that had many speculators with their panties in a bunch.  "Folks are going to blow their backs out!  This is dangerous!"

But all those chirping blue jays were missing the point.  This kind of workout is just what CrossFit is about.  Can you express strength when deeply fatigued?  If not, I hope you don't plan to compete in sport, or to be in a position where you have lift something heavy off of a family member after you ran your tail off to get there quickly.  In other words - what's the point of having strength if you can only apply it when rested?  

For who think at this point that a power lifter who can lift 700 or 800 pounds in a deadlift would be better off in this workout than a CrossFitter - you are mistaken.  There are not many powerlifters, perhaps none, who could manage this kind of workload.  They are specialists in lifting insanely heavy weights, once.  

As a masters athlete of average strength I was proud to lift 23 deadlifts in the round of 275 pounds within the 8 minute time cap, and I was huffing like a steam engine the whole time.  I was fairly sore in my back and hip muscles the next day or two, but did a light workout the next day.  This is CrossFit!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

WHS on the Masai

At approximately 14 years old, Masai men are inducted into the warrior class, and are called Muran. For the next 15-20 years, tradition dictates that they eat a diet composed exclusively of cow's milk, meat and blood. Milk is the primary food. Masai cows are not like wimpy American cows, however. Their milk contains almost twice the fat of American cows, more protein, more cholesterol and less lactose. Thus, Muran eat an estimated 3,000 calories per day, 2/3 of which comes from fat. Here is the reference for all this. Milk fat is about 50% saturated. That means the Muran gets 33% of his calories from saturated fat. This population eats more saturated fat than any other I'm aware of. 

How's their cholesterol? Remarkably low
. Their total serum cholesterol is about half the average American's. I haven't found any studies that broke it down further than total cholesterol. Their blood pressure is also low, and hypertension is rare. Overweight is practically nonexistent. Their electrocardiogram readings show no signs of heart disease.

It is hard to draw firm conclusions from this data, beyond the fact that about half of the people I see everyday would like to be as healthy as these Masai eating high fat animal products.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Stats on Statins, Dr. Briffa

'We're told by the authors this meta-analysis that treating with statins prevented 11 major vascular events for every 1000 people treated for a period of 5 years. Put another way, 91 people would need to be treated for 5 years to prevent one major vascular event. Or in other words, only about 1 per cent of people treated with statins for 5 years will benefit (and about 99 per cent won't).
"Professor Baigent and his colleagues give us some soothing reassurances about the fact that the benefits of statins vastly outweighing the risks of adverse events such as myopapthy (muscle pain and weakness). They quote of the excess incidence of myopathy as 0.5 cases per 1000 people over 5 years. However, the source they quote is based on diagnosing myopathy once the marker for muscle damage (creatine kinase) is at least ten times the upper limit of normal. Many individuals will have significant pain and weakness with much lower levels of creatine kinase. Statins are also linked with adverse effects on the liver and kidneys, and increase risk of diabetes too. Overall, adverse effects of statins affect about 20 per cent of people who take them."

Why would a health and diet blogger care about statin research?  Because the case for statins is the case for high carb, low fat, and I think that diet will kill you.  Taking statins is not a topic I should make recommendations one, one way or the other.  But if you know how weak the statin case is, you can infer that the case made by what Mike Eades calls the statinators is very weak:
1.  We can't prove that dietary reduction of blood cholesterol lowers mortality rates
2.  But, since statins lower blood cholesterol, and statins reduce heart disease, we can assume that lowering blood cholesterol is good for you.

For one, this assumption is invalid; there could be a number of reason why a statin might reduce heart disease.  Two, the reduction of heart disease is risk is not very dramatic (see above).  Three, it is accompanied by an increased risk of death from other causes, thus all cause mortality for statin users is identical to that of non-statin users.

In other words, what is known about statins doesn't say anything good about eating a low fat diet.  

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Best Exercise There Is, Hands Down | Mark's Daily Apple

I enjoyed both of these articles by Mark's Daily Apple.  The BLUF:
- The best exercise, all all time, hands down, is ... the one you will do.  Anything beats nothing all day long.

- Body weight exercises can make you very fit, very strong, and give you the appearance of reproductive desirability.  Kettlebells, dumbbells, and barbells can add to that if you want the additional training stimulus.

In my observation, people like barbells more than they think they will, because barbells allow one to measure improvement in increments large and small.  Improvement is what keeps folks going back for more.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Just Another Observational Study

"Drinking more than four sweetened beverages a day, especially diet soda, doesn't appear to be good for one's mood, a study by the U.S. National Institutes of Health found.
"In a study of more than 200,000 older adults, those who drank more than four cans of soda a day had a 30 percent greater risk of depression than those who consumed none. The same amount of fruit punch was tied to a 38 percent higher risk, according to research released today by the American Academy of Neurology. The risk was even greater for people who consumed diet drinks, whether soda, punch or iced tea.

The study, one of the first to look at sweetened beverages and depression, doesn't explain the connection, so it's still unknown how the drinks may be tied to mental health, said Honglei Chen, one of the study's researchers. One theory is that the drinks have been linked to diabetes and obesity, which in turn can lead to the mood disorder, he said."

We didn't need another observational study, but these things get funded so they do them.  The study can't answer the important question:
Does drinking soda/diet soda make you depressed?
Because the answer very well could be that depressed people drink more soda of any type to make themselves feel better.
However, there's a good reason to think that drinking this stuff does in fact make you depressed, because the best model for depression is based on inflammation as the cause.  In other words, the same chronic inflammation that is caused by a diet that features high blood sugar spikes, high chronic insulin levels and systemic chronic inflammation causes depression in some or many of those on this diet.  
Ever see a depressed person socking away avocado?  Lard?  Or bacon and eggs?  More likely, they are eating cookies or other sweets (processed foods made from wheat, soy, HFCS, and omega 6 laden industrial "vegetable oils"), along with their cola (diet or otherwise).  
Eat meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, little fruit or starch, no sugar/wheat.