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.