Sunday, January 29, 2012

Paleo Diet Update

Synopsis: When I started the paleo diet, I was just over 76kg. After a week, I was down to just under 73kg. I added back in Muscle Milk and creatine, and now I'm back up to 75kg on the dot today. Tempted to stop the creatine to see if water weight gets shed off.

In Other News

I attended the Wellness FX seminar at United Barbell this past Saturday. One of the presenters during the seminar wrote a phrase on the white board: "Every minute is training your body."

He emphasized that every choice we make trains our body and changes our internal system in some way or another. The choice to sit straight or slouch trains the muscles in our back, the choice of what food to eat and how to train.

I kind of wish he expounded on this further. His company is most interested in the markers of training and nutrition, but that phrase can mean so many things. I'm reading a book called Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength". (This is NOT a self-help book.) In the book, it's discussed how little decisions can strengthen willpower. People who practice the mundane, sit up straight, use "yes" rather than "yeah", etc, are able to show greater self control in other areas of life. I thought this mantra of thinking of every minute as training fell in nicely with the theme of the book.

I also came across this blog post with the preamble "Everything is Practice". This site, called Zen Habits, is a little more new age in feel, but that sort of consciousness is worth trying to attain. It can help in your nutrition and fitness to no suddenly end up at the end of a meal or workout and wonder, "Wait, what just happened?"

So here's to constant and consistent training along side thoughtfulness of actions and being.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Primal Week One

One week down and I allowed myself only one cheat: when ManFriend and I had dinner before the Edwardian Ball, we each allowed ourselves three pieces of sushi with RICE! But it was one meal, with friends, and it was at Kabuto Sushi. This sushi joint has quickly become a favorite place of mine. The creativity and tasti-ness of their concoctions are unparalleled. Sushi with fois gras, uni, and chocolate? So good! Hamachi, apple, and hot mustard? OMG yes!

Anyway. Primal, that's what this is about.

ManFriend is looking to be primarily ketogenic, therefore, many of my meals end up being ketogenic friendly by association. I have my milk, and I still eat fruit, but at any rate, I went from a pre-Primal weight of 76 (and change) kg to a weight of 73.4 kg. Interesting, I don't drop that much weight that fast when I'm cutting for a competition, it's about 6.6 lbs.

Now, granted, without the carbs, I'm not retaining water like I'm sure I used to, so probably ~2 lbs of this is just water weight. Plus, any time your restrict a food group, you tend to just overall eat less because you haven't psychologically adjusted to a food rhythm. That said, I never went hungry at any point. And I wasn't particularly active due to various reasons.

ManFriend is looking into getting an impedance scale to measure body fat, muscle density, and water weight. These usually don't work as well on athletes because they use algorithms with average composition assumptions. Would it at least give me some numbers, however wrong they may be, to watch how things change over time with this?

More updates to come.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Train Like an Astronaut!

What I'm about to share it undoubtably geared towards children, but given that I like to have people move around like animals, I have no problem with other playful things.

This site is an initiative through NASA to encourage students to get moving and really working: Train Like an Astronaut! Humor me, poke through, and if you train with me, don't be surprised if you see some of these movements start popping up. :)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Artificial Sweeteners

There is a lot of debate about the safety and healthy-ness of artificial sweeteners. I know I live and die by the availability of Splenda or Sweet-n-Low when it comes to my coffee. Sugar just doesn't cut it, and I was certainly led to believe it was a safe and healthy alternative to the extra calories and potential insulin spike of sugar.

I'm trying to be better about what I put in my body. And with ManFriend and myself going Paleo/Primal, I thought it was only smart to take a closer look at the real effects.

Safety and Toxicity

I honestly don't trust a lot of information out there on this topic, because most DOWN WITH TEH SWEETENERS websites also mention things like "holistic" and "cleansing". Call me a curmudgeon, but too many hippie-dippie words like that make me tune out. These are usually also the same people that try to convince me that you can cure cancer with juicing protocols. My graduate thesis was on cancer therapeutics, don't try to pull that shit on me.

Anyway, here, here, and here are some resources to read up on them. They take a pretty moderate stance (unfortunately, you have to pay to get the NCBI articles, don't get me started on that fraud of science), but my take away is this: Most studies mentioned only lasted 2 years. That's a REALLY short period of time to test the carcinogenic effects or other cumulative toxicity endpoint in animals unless they are bread to develop certain side effects. And with the inclusion of artificial sweeteners in just pretty much anything labeled "healthy", "diet", "low cal" or their ilk, you're probably consuming a lot of it.

Weight Control?

Artificial sweeteners were designed so that we could take in fewer calories and maintain taste when the "calories in/ calories out" was the weight maintenance theory du jour. We now have a better understanding that carbohydrates and the resultant insulin spikes are more to blame.

When you get hungry and start getting closer to eating, your insulin is already starting to rise in preparation. When you start to eat food, insulin starts to rise a little more. Now, if that food is sweet, whether due to real sugar or not, your insulin is going to raise even more. It won't raise as high as if you did swallow a mouthful of sugar, but it's higher than it would be if you tastes something pleasant, but savory rather than sweet. So the using of artificial sweeteners is further priming your body for fat storage.

But what CAN I eat or drink?

Part of what many people experience when they cut sugar out, after the initial "woe is me" and cravings start to disappear, people will start to really TASTE their food. If you think about it, bread doesn't really have much of a taste. Sugars and sweeteners have the sweet sensation, but sweet isn't really a flavor in the way meats and vegetable have. You train your taste buds to get a little more sensitive.

Another GREAT tip I got from a fellow Paleo follower is to use cinnamon in my coffee. It's definitely delicious. It's not sweet, but still gives a more dessert like taste and adds true flavor to the drink. It might take a while to not expect the sweet, but much easier to enjoy than black coffee cold turkey.

So mostly, just buck up and cut it out. Drink diet sodas? I shouldn't even have to go into why you shouldn't drink those. I like carbonation, so plain soda water with lime fits the bill for me. Also, plain water with lemons, limes, or cucumber sliced into the pitcher make for a refreshing drink that isn't quite so plain.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Going "Primal"

ManFriend and I are going Paleo. Blunt force Paleo. Well, I should say HE is going Paleo, and I'm keeping in milk (no other dairy). I'm keeping in milk because even when I go 80-90% Paleo, I lose weight too fast and it affects my training. Here is what I'm experiencing so far:

Day one was fine. I wanted a cookie only because I knew I wasn't supposed to eat them anymore. I don't even really like cookies that much.

Day two is today. So I had my normal breakfast of eggs and bacon at 5:30am before heading out to SFCF. Then around 11pm I was pretty hungry and ate again. I two small bowls of meat and spaghetti squash. Then two fist fulls of nuts. I'm full. And yet, I kind of have the hungry shakes...

I used to get the hungry shakes concurrent with stomach growls. That meant "time to eat" and that usually meant some sort of carb-y thing. Since I don't usually let myself get to the hunger shakes level, when I did I tend to eat the first thing I see. But now I have the hunger shakes with no hunger. I'm calling it my first symptom of sugar withdrawal.

I also left my phone at United Barbell and then locked myself out of my apartment. I'd like to chalk that up to sugar withdrawal as well, brain learning to work off ketones, but really, I'm just like that.

I'll document other things changing as I notice them. I'd like to think things will stay relatively the same. What I'm hoping to get out of this is to shed some excess body fat, help retain muscle, sleep better (I'm awful), and recover better from intense training. More to come!

Six Packs are Made in the Kitchen

What role does nutrition and exercise play in over all health? How do these two parts work together for better quality of life?

Abs Are Made in the Kitchen...

~70% of your health and fat loss progress is going to be made outside the gym. It's in what you eat, it's in how much you sleep, and it's in how you handle the stress of life. If you find that you're pushing yourself like mad in the gym, you have muscles for days, and yet there is still some softness left around your middle, there are probably a few things you should be addressing:

Wheat and Processed Junk

You don't have to go all out Paleo to get the benefits of a cleaner diet. Try cutting out anything made from wheat, even whole wheat, or anything processed to start better regulating insulin levels, help with nutrient absorption, and it will also leave room to create a more nutrient dense meal as opposed to a calorie dense one.


We need sleep. Go without for a few days, or just go with less, and you start performing worse at physical and cognitive tasks. Sleep occurs in phases, and scientists are just starting to figure out how the phases of sleep, outside Rapid Eye Movement (REM), affect memory retention and hormonal regulation.


The media is catching on to how stress, and it's resultant raised cortisol levels, can cause waist fat retention. What cortisol does is raise insulin, and as we discussed before, insulin is a storage hormone. When cortisol is high, and then insulin is high, you get a drop in blood sugar, and if you're on a carb heavy diet, you're going to get the sugar cravings. Then that sugar is heading straight to the belt-line.

Where does exercise fit in?

While you can't exercise your way out of bad nutrition and lifestyle choices, getting to the gym can help you in the following ways:

-Help you sleep deeper
-Help regulate hormones, particularly testosterone and HGH
-Increase insulin sensitivity through increase in muscle mass
-Increase bone density, less likely to get fractures from other activities or age
-Phycological effects such as decreases in stress and increase in self confidence
-And depending on the type of training you do (HIIT and strength, y'all!) you can get a metabolic "after burn"

So think about your overall day, and start approaching health as a 24/7 body-love fest!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Taking the Ground for Granted

One of the best instructions I got as a dancer was to always be aware of the ground and to always use that connection with the ground when doing movements. Think about the push through the full foot on leaps, the roll through the toes on the landing, the feel of the hard floor under your heel when doing demi plies, and the pressure under the ball of your foot when doing multiple turns.

I think that is a cue not given much thought to outside a dance studio. After all, the ground should just be there and we take for granted that gravity is going to hold us there. I was never told to be cognizant of the ground as a judo player, capoerista, or weightlifter. However, I find myself meditating on it anyway, and it definitely has a place in planting myself for a strong lift (or leveraging myself during judo ground work).

I think it's worth the effort for everyone to meditate on their connection to the ground and how they interact with it as they move through space. How does it feel under your heel as you press into it during a deadlift? How does your foot interact with the ground when you walk, jog, sprint, or jump?

And to get a little noodle-y on you, sometimes spending a few hours meditating on such things that we take for granted can give your experiences with it a richer meaning.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Cholesterol Debate Forges On

Here is a good primer on why dietary cholesterol isn't a problem, so stop worrying about egg yolks and animal fats:

Mark's Daily Apple: Definitive Guide to Cholesterol

Notice the repeated references to high carbohydrate diets being the source of high small, dense LDL (the BAD cholesterol) levels in the blood. And notice how it's not cholesterol being the immediate cause of artery plaques, but chronic inflammation? (Are you taking your daily fish oil yet?)

Just doing a search for "cholesterol" on this website will bring up a host of wonderful articles on the topic. I encourage everyone to do their research on this, because "Conventional Wisdom" is what got our society to this point of rampant obesity and heart disease, not to mention a host of other diseases of civilization.

Main point is, if you cut your calories down from animal fats, you're going to have to replace them with something. You can't go 80% protein and 20% carbohydrates, that induces a lovely syndrome known as "rabbit starvation" that puts IBS to shame. And really, when it's fat vs. carbs, fat is actually the least of the two "evils".

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Calories In VS Calories Out: Part II

A paper recently came out with the conclusion that when it comes to body fat, it's calories that matter. I take issue with that conclusion on a few accounts, but first thing first:

The Paper

You can read the intro ad abstract here.

You can access the entire paper here.

An Excess of HOW much?

The subjects were overfed by 1000 calories a day (40% more than weight stabilizing caloric needs), with varying levels of protein and fat, and the same level of carbohydrates.

Their conclusion that "calories alone account for the increase in fat" was based on the observation that "[b]ody fat increased similarly in all 3 protein diet groups and represented 50% to more than 90% of the excess stored calories."

We all know that insulin spikes in regards to carbohydrate consumption, but if you eat enough protein at a sitting, you can get insulin spikes, too. Drinking lots of protein in a shake after a workout will give you an insulin spike. Of course, if you're an athlete, that might be desirable.

I took a look at the diet laid out. Every single breakfast was carb based. Every. Single. One. Your insulin levels are naturally higher in the morning in response to higher levels of cortisol (an evolutionary thing that helps us be more alert upon waking). If you eat a bunch of carbs right then, your body is already primed to shove that junk away.

Low Protein = less weight increase?

At first glance "Hey, low protein means they didn't put on as much weight!" But wait! They have the same increase in body fat! That means they lost mass somewhere, and that is going to be in lean tissues (read: muscle).

PLUS! "In contrast, resting energy expenditure... and body protein... increased significantly with the normal and high protein diets." (Crazy data numbers removed.) So let's see. Even with a crap breakfast, these two groups saw a greater resting metabolic rate and more muscle.

This might be more extrapolation than most scientists would be comfortable with, but given this study and other articles I've read, I'd say it's pretty safe to conclude that high protein diets with increase your energy expenditure and help maintain lean tissue mass. And if you don't force yourself to read 40% more calories than you need (which, frankly would be hard to do if your carbs are kept to 20-30%) you're really setting yourself up for success.

All in All..

I would say that a diet 40% in excess and 41% in carbohydrates, regardless of protein levels, is not optimal. And I would venture to say it is STILL not about the raw calories. (Again, look at what each group ate for breakfast.) And even so, if you're going to eat "in excess", you will add and retain muscle mass in proportion to the levels of protein you consume.

I don't think this needs to be said, but... MOAR SQUATZ and MOAR STEAK! :)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Calories In VS Calories Out Debate

There are still women out there who are being told they only need 1200 calories a day to get by and be healthy. These same women are told to have meals with "healthy" whole grain wheat products and skim milk.

Men are being told to go low fat to avoid cardiovascular disease, and consequently, they are going high carbohydrate (translation: high sugar). Strangely enough, heart attacks are in the increase.

People are told that it's just a matter of "calories in versus calories out" and therefore, if you gain weight or can't lose weight it's because you're weak, slothly, and lack inner motivation.

Sugars Make You Fat

Fat doesn't make you fat. Sugars make you fat. The idea that you could absorb dietary fat and it would just float into your system and stick to your belly and thighs is a really simplistic view of human digestion and metabolism. And while simplistic is nice for the layman, that is just not how nature created us.

Most have heard that insulin spikes in response to sugar intake (and when I say sugar, I mean ALL soluble carbohydrates, from table sugar, to high fructose corn syrup, to starch, to any wheat or grain product). Insulin is a storage hormone, so this higher it spikes, the more of what you eat is going to be pushed into storage cells. Since the liver and muscles can only hold so much glucose, the rest is going into your fat cells.

Sugars Are Addictive

Studies in the past five years have shown that sugar, and anything sweet, activate the same brain receptors as cocaine and heroin. And just like those illicit drugs, they give you sense of well being immediately after consumption, but over time you need more and more to reach that same "high". People eat emotionally the same way someone with a drug habit will turn back to the rock when things get tough in life.

Funny thing is, many will also experience withdrawal symptoms if they try to quit cold turkey. The cravings get intense. Mood disorders come on strong, some people get shaky and queasy. And since poor eating isn't illegal and seen as morally corrupt as drug use, it's much easier to get your next fix at the nearest gas station or vending machine. It's HARD to quit!

It Is Less the Number of Calories as it is the TYPE of Calories

We see over and over how people in low income neighborhoods, people who are less than poor, people who can barely get enough to eat are obese. These are also often the people with hard working, blue collar jobs, so they are plenty active. These people aren't eating too many calories, these people are eating the wrong calories, which unfortunately, are usually the cheapest calories.

In the documentary "Killer at Large", a person goes into a grocery store with a dollar and the mission to get as many calories as possible. They could only get a few hundred calories in the form of carrots, but they could get nearly a thousand calories in the snack isle. If you have little money, and a family to feed, where are you going with your dollar?

This is only getting worse, as many of these cheap foods are chock full of HFCS. These "foods" are cheaper than the real deal. Our country is battling an obesity epidemic. And the government is subsidizing corn farmers. What the what? Yeah, the same government that is trying to get us to eat healthy, albeit usually in the wrong way, is also subsidizing the industry that is aiding our epidemic in the first place.

Further Information

I'm going to write a follow up on this, but in the meantime, here are some resources to follow up on.

If you want to know more about how sugars and other carbohydrates not only make you fat, but wreck all kinds of havoc on your health, I recommend the following books:

1) Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes

2) The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf

3) The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson

Friday, January 6, 2012

New Opportunities!

Hi everyone!


So in addition to working between United Barbell and San Francisco Crossfit, I have been brought on as an in-house coach for the Zynga corporate gym! I will be listed there as a Master Trainer (!!) and am excited to potentially host some Olympic lifting and strength and conditioning classes and seminars for the employees there.

You can see the locations that I'm currently cleared to work at here.

You all know of Zynga. They are the geniuses behind Words With Friends, Mafia Wars, and all the Facebook _______-ville games. And more. Anyway, they have a large population of young people that need to let off steam while working crazy hours, and I'm hoping, along with the help of the two guys running the joint, to get some people involved in safe and effective workouts. We want to give a breadth of offering that can show fitness CAN be fun and

- You don't need to jump from weight station to weight station busting out reps of dull, simplistic movements.

- You don't need to spend hours a week on a treadmill, elliptical, bike, reading a magazine and working your "fat burning zone."

- You can be social and creative, competitive and supportive.

These are things I want to bring to all my clients, actually.

The guys in charge of getting the Zynga gym off the ground are really cool people, and I think we hit it off really well. Level headed lovers of all fitness, we saw eye to eye on what makes a good fitness program and the sorts of things that are, well, meh and dumb. They are more what I call "fitness hippies" which appeals greatly to me. (Think barefoot and free running, weighted clubs, incorporating play, etc.)

There are some other things brewing as well, but I will keep my mouth and fingers shut on those until forms are signed and hand are shook. Happy 2012, everyone! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Taking My Own Advice, and Taking the Consequences as Well.

I wrote a blog post a while back about attacking new skills and being willing to fail. Pushing yourself to where you don't succeed is where you find your boundaries and can start to set goals to move those boundaries back. I guess one could say I did something similar to that on my trip to Belize over the Christmas and New Years holiday.

So I kind of have a discomfort, not quite a full on phobia, of being underwater. I can hold my breath, swim and splash around alright, but the last time I attempted to snorkel (about 8 years ago) was a disaster. In fact, childhood swim lessons often ended in disaster for me when the instructor tried to get me to fetch things off the pool floor.

So when ManFriend asked if I'd like to try scuba diving, I was, to put it mildly, apprehensive. I basically said, "I'll give it a shot, no guarantees." We decided that the day before I would at least attempt to snorkel again to acquaint myself with breathing while my face is underwater.

I have to say, as soon as I jumped into the water with my flippers, snorkel and mask, the anxiety started. ManFriend even commented that the look on my face gave him an "uh-oh" feeling. But after taking some time to remember how to just float, then slowly working on not panic breathing, things were underway.

That was an awesome experience. I knew what a disaster the last attempt was, and to be able to not only overcome that, but to end up enjoying it was an amazing feeling. I have to say, I felt a little smug the rest of the day. And I'm pretty sure ManFriend got tired of hear me say, "Hey, guess what? I snorkeled!"

The next day was the doozie: scuba diving. I was excited. I faced and defeated one of my fears, and since I had no precedent with this, I was feeling confident. For a while, anyway.

We get fitted for gear, jump on the boat and motor out to our beginner dive spot. Before we even suit up, the instructor is going over the skills we will go over before we can safely scuba. As she reviews how to recover and purge the regulator if it gets lost, how to purge water from your mask, and how to handle inflation and deflation of the buoyancy vest and how to come up slowly to re-pressurize your lungs and ears I feel my heart start racing and my breathing get shallow.

I put on my gear, fall backwards off the boat, and inflate my vest. Okay, so far so good, but I think ManFriend can see a thin layer of panic in my face. I put my face under the water just to get a sense of how it feels to breath through the regulator. Okay, that's fine...

Then the skills practice. It's coach, ManFriend, and me. We sink down, it's only about 5' deep, and she shows us the first regulator recovery technique. ManFriend does it fine. I, on the other hand, don't twist the regulator just so and get a face full of bubbles, and a mouth full of salt water. And I totally freak out and jet to the surface. Much hacking on the verge of ralphing ensues.

At this point my thin veil of anxiety has escalated to full on freak out. I'm gasping, choking, and shaking. Honestly, I just want out of the water. ManFriend calms me down and the coach says when I'm ready, we'll head back down and they will complete the skills and I can just look on. Maybe just being at the bottom and focusing on breathing will put me in a better place.

They go through all the maneuvers, and I'm still on emotional red alert. So rather than try to get to me do them, we just spend ~20 mins swimming along the floor around the boat. As long as I'm moving and looking at things, I'm okay, if we stop for any reason, I start thinking again about my breathing, how the regulator feels like it's going to float out, how it feels like water is getting in my mask even though it's not, and on and on. So, needless to say, I keep moving. We don't go any deeper than 10'.

When I get out of the boat, I'm shaking like a chihuahua. And it wasn't cold. We were supposed to go to a second location and do a 40' dive, but I opt out of it and let ManFriend and the coach go out. I lay out and work on my freckles.

I guess the moral here is, hell, I tried. I failed. And you know what, I'm going to try again. ManFriend and I are planning on getting PADI certified in Feb, because I think for me, being in a more controlled environment like a pool is a much better way to overcome. Baby steps are the way to take it when attacking a new skill. And no matter how athletic or intelligent you might or might not be, you might not get it right away.

And I'll be damned if the ocean is going to insult me like that and get away with it.