The Now of CrossFit…

The Now of CrossFit
Posted: 01/23/2013 8:12 am
Huffington Post

If you’re into fitness, you’ve heard of CrossFit. Celebrities, athletes, moms and military vets are all stepping into the box (CrossFit lingo for gym). Some are doing it to lose weight, some enjoy the thrill of the competition and some probably don’t know why they keep coming back day after day to participate in this fitness phenomenon. The “sport of fitness,” as CrossFit dubs itself, has steadily grown to hold a powerful presence, proving it is more than just another passing fitness trend. CrossFit is booming so fiercely that it is difficult to find an accurate count on how many boxes are affiliated worldwide, but it is somewhere around 5,000 and increasing by 50 a week according to the most recent Wikipedia findings.

Inside boxes, groups of athletes push through grueling workouts together, against the clock and their own personal best. If one were to poke their head into a box towards the end of a WOD ( workout of the day), the sight would be difficult to forget. Sweat and blood may drip off the pull-up bar, bodies may be strewn about the floor like rag dolls straining to catch their breath, and the quaking sound of a loaded barbell slamming against the floor would affirm the last group member had completed their final squat snatch of the day. Members would write their scores on the board, high five and walk out the door — back to their more complicated and stressful lives outside the box.

What is difficult for an outsider to see is that these people just went to a place inside the box, and themselves, that isn’t accessible to them at any other point in their day. The physical intensity of the workout gave them no choice but to draw their attention inward — to the now. In the now, or the present moment, the mind experiences a much needed gift of rest.

I was a CrossFit skeptic when I heard of it a few years ago. I loved to work out, but I couldn’t understand why grown adults would want to beat themselves up day after day. Did they want to get buff and sexy? Were they in a fitness cult? Are they some kind of masochists? I was also resistant because I didn’t want to further injure an old rotator cuff tear and a delicate lower back. My self-conscious side thought people would smirk at my poor upper body strength, and my gazelle-like arms couldn’t even manage one pull-up. I was sure my fitness had peaked several years ago and it was only downhill from there.

I had watched other members who stuck with it become more confident, assertive, fit, stress-free, health conscious and eager to take on the world. I heard them talk about doing things they never thought they could do. A CrossFit workout seemed to yield something uncommonly good that seasoned veterans of the sport said I could only experience if I gave it at least a few months. They spoke as if CrossFit had given them some sort of indestructible sense of well-being that ran far deeper than the physical body.

Last weekend, I was barely hanging on as I fought to finish the Filthy Fifty. The FF is a CrossFit workout that requires you to complete 50 reps each of 10 different high intensity functional fitness movements, one after another with no rest. There is a 30 minute time cap. I was at the halfway mark when things got tough. I was swinging from the pull-up bar trying to force my core to engage and pull my knees up to touch my elbows 30 more times. My body was exhausted, and I wasn’t sure I could force it to obey. My mind was chattering away with negative self-talk, making me doubtful I was strong enough to reach the 50 reps I needed to move on to the next exercise.

I knew I had to dig deeper within myself. I faintly heard the trainer remind me I could do anything for 15 more minutes. I focused straight ahead at the white wall, and dropped fully into the present. My mind quieted and my body took over. There were no more thoughts of what was next and whether or not I could do it. I committed to make my way through the workout one repetition at a time from that point on. The seconds between deep gasps for air were filled with thoughts of nothing beyond my next breath.

As I hurled heavy medicine balls 10 feet up a wall, and repeatedly threw myself on the floor in the form of burpees, I steadily worked my way to the finish. As I called out my time, the sweaty, panting sight of me may have appeared disheveled, but inside I was in a state of peace and quiet that I hadn’t felt in days. I was in the now.

Having lived many years in New York City, I had a hard time learning how to be happy in the present moment instead of focusing on how I could get ahead. The race for more of everything was never ending until I developed a yoga practice, went on meditation retreats and spent periods of time at an ashram in India. These helped me to spend more time in the present, where every worry, stress, thought and fear falls away. It is the place where the joy of living truly occurs. Somehow, a CrossFit workout is able to bring me to this place too.

I’ve been joking with my friends lately that I’ve joined the CrossFit cult, and I know they are silently rolling their civilian eyes a touch. But I know they are curious what is happening inside this private world of fitness that is so good. I tell them you get a shortcut to inner peace through an ass-kicking workout. When well-being starts on the inside, the rest falls into place. I know it’s true because over a year into my CrossFit experience, I’m stronger and faster than ever, and even my injuries have improved. I don’t know if a WOD will always be my route to inner peace, but for now it’s working.


CrossFit and Paleo? Low Carbs? Are you Sure?…….Long But Worth the Read

My Thoughts On Low Carb And Paleo Episode 3: A New Hope
Robb Wolf
Wednesday, January 9th, 2013
Yes, I know A New Hope was episode 4, but I could not think of a catchy but Germaine line that sounds like “Revenge of The Sith”, and this thing was only supposed to be two parts as it is! Call it artistic license I guess.

If you missed part 1 and part 2 make sure to check those out.

I want to look at some of the specific claims, misconceptions, and actual benefits surrounding low carb. I think I’ve said this a few times now, but I’ll make the point again: I see many important uses for LC/ketogenic diets. I had more than a few comment that Keto was the “only” way they could control their autoimmune condition. Bully for them, and this is precisely why we need to not only research LC, but be willing to pull it out of the tool box and give it a whirl. While we are doing that though, let’s remember we have other tools, and situations in which LC simply is not going to be appropriate. No need to get poopy pants over all that, better to just learn and grow.

Is ketosis the “natural” state for humans?

I must throw myself under the bus on this one. I do not think it’d be tough to do some google searching and find some circa 2003-2004 era comments on my part stating ketosis was THE natural metabolic state for humans. I based this off the observation that ketosis was effective for a host of ills and might hold some promise for an extended lifespan (I’ll get to that mistake in a bit). Something I had not considered in all this was that the efficacy of ketosis had nothing to do with it being the natural metabolic state for humans, and everything to do with limiting the ingestion of too many calories and reducing pro-inflammatory gut irritants. When I started looking at the animal models of ketosis, it was interesting that we were not seeing therapeutic benefit of ketosis Vs. the animals natural diet, but rather a protective effect of not feeding critters diets that were KNOWN to cause metabolic problems. I talked at length about that in my post “Of Mice and Morons.” Said another way: We do not see metabolic problems in free-living animals such as mice, nor do we see these issues in contemporarily studied hunter gatherers. And, with the exception of the Inuit, none of these humans or critters are consistently in ketosis.

That LC can be used as a powerful therapeutic tool is without a doubt, but it has tricked more than just me into mistaking the effect of a therapeutic intervention for a cause. For more than 100 years medical practitioners recommended a LC approach for weight loss, but for the reasons related to specific individual insulin resistance AND satiety. Some folks do well on higher carb, some better on lower. We can do theory and internet flame wars all day and never get to a point that helps people. Or, we can take general guidelines, encourage folks to tinker, and actually see some results for our efforts.

One of the best explanations I have seen to date on both the important role of dietary carbohydrate in human health, and a credible mechanistic explanation of the pathogenesis of insulin resistance, is encapsulated in Chris Masterjohn’s talk at AHS 2012. I have seen similar proposed mechanisms of insulin resistance and fat gain being an adaptation to reduce oxidative stress since perhaps 2008, but Chris nails this.

Please watch the entire video and ponder upon it’s implications a bit, especially if you are leaning towards the Insulin hypothesis crowd.

Chris Masterjohn — Oxidative Stress & Carbohydrate Intolerance: An Ancestral Perspective from Ancestral Health Society on Vimeo.

We have a mechanism whereby excess calories can be either pushed through the mitochondria, causing severe oxidative stress, or we have fat gain and insulin resistance occurring in an effort to “lock up” excess calories and glucose, which can both pose significant metabolic problems. Let me say this again, as it’s important that folks get this: Insulin resistance is likely an effort to prevent cellular death due to free-radical production. This is facilitated by pushing substrates (primarily fat and carbs) into adipose tissue, which is RELATIVELY inert (aside from the hormonal messengers that adipose tissue produces). We also see elevated lipoproteins, triglycerides, and blood glucose as the body is trying to put nutrients ANYWHERE other than through the mitochondria. I’m working on a future post that will look at instances of insulin resistance not related to a caloric excess. What we see is another example of the body responding to stress. Stay tuned for that.

We can actually see a nice pharmaceutically induced version of this mitochondrial substrate overload from the drug 2.4-dinitrophenol (DNP). DNP causes uncoupling proteins to essentially “leak” electrons/protons out of the electron transport system. The effect is a lot of heat, and a lot of waste. The electron transport chain is designed to create a potential energy cascade to be utilized to build molecules like ATP and it’s intermediaries. If we are cold, we see these uncoupling proteins become more active in an attempt to boost our temperature. If we are eating an antioxidant rich paleo diet, not too much to worry about in all this. If we are nutrient deficient, this can be problematic due to the reactive oxygen species (ROS) which damage everything from proteins to organelles to DNA. This is what we see in the case of DNP, as many people have died from using the drug due to multiple organ failures as a result of ROS overwhelming the bodies ability to buffer this oxidative activity. An individual who overeats tends to be ‘warm.” This is a mild level of uncoupling protein activity attempting to “burn off” the excess cals. The body knows that too much of this will kill it immediately, so substrates are pushed into adipose tissue where it will kill one a bit more slowly.

That was a bit of an important side-road, let’s get back to Chris’ talk: This adaptation to excess calories fits the data much better than the insulin hypothesis, but again, does not diminish the therapeutic benefit of LC for specific populations. In his talk, Chris also discusses the gene frequency of amylase in both humans and primates. Even the least “carb adapted” humans have several more copies of the amylase gene than do chimpanzees, which implies a significant selection pressure to both maintain and propagate this selective advantage. Amylase is the enzyme used to digest STARCH.

If you follow the work of Richard Wrangham, you will understand that cooking is an important feature in all this, as amylase activity is best on starch which has been gelatinized via cooking. You can wrap the Expensive Tissue hypothesis right into this…humans started cooking both meat and starch, gut got smaller, brains got bigger. We appear to have strongly selected for the genes to assist in starch digestion. This wraps back around to the question of whether or not ketosis is the default metabolic state for humans. It seems a stretch when you consider the significant genetic and digestive machinery that has been allocated to dealing with starch. What I found particularly interesting in the talk is that we do not only see improved starch digestion with increasing numbers of these genes, but a lock-step improvement in insulin signaling Those people with the best ability to digest starch also have the best ability to handle the associated glycemic load.

One final point in this line: ketosis is the metabolic state of starvation OR significant carbohydrate restriction+ moderate to low protein intake. There are many good primers on the specifics of ketosis, including specific substrates produced, as well as the protein sparing effects of ketosis during starvation. I’m not going to reinvent the wheel on that, so if you want some specifics on ketosis, exercise your Google-Fu. What is intriguing to me is that if one consumes just a few too many carbs, or protein, one is bounced OUT of ketosis. I could easily imagine a system in which excess carbs or protein would be shuttled to storage activities, leaving ketosis humming along…as the “natural metabolic state.” Interestingly however, we see the exact opposite, the body seems to leap out of ketosis at any opportunity. I’d wager the default metabolic state is actually one of “metabolic plasticity.” We see pathology when folks can metabolize limited amounts of any of the macronutrients, with associated pathology and decreased health and longevity. Diabetes is a prime example in which folks lose the ability to properly handle carbs. One of my all time favorite papers, Secrets of the Lac-Operon describes exactly this. Aging cells are those which lose the ability to use fat as a fuel source due to mitochondrial damage. INTERESTINGLY however, transient carb exposure (cyclic low carb?) seems to offer both the metabolic flexibility of maintaining mitochondrial fat utilization, but also the hormetic stress response associated with transient elevated glucose levels. What this means in practical terms is cells show a more youthful profile while we also have systemic mechanisms which help to reduce the advanced glycation end products (AGE’s) which are inevitable with circulating blood glucose. If you are a fan of Art Devany, fractals, and punctuated equilibrium, this is in that wheelhouse.

Sorry about the diversion into uncoupling proteins, it just seemed to “fit” there. Hopefully this gave you some gristle to chew on regarding the claim that ketosis is the “natural” state for humans. The “natural” state for healthy humans is clearly not a static location but is typified by metabolic plasticity. We see pathology at those margins where ANY substrate starts creating problems. We see this in a host of genetic diseases, like various fatty acid metabolism diseases in which certain chain length fats cannot be metabolized (and can build up and kill the person). We see this with amino acid metabolism issues in the form of phenylketonuria (PKU) (the amino acid phenylalanine is not well metabolized, and can again, build up in the system and cause problems). We also see this in garden variety diabetes in which blood glucose is not easily disposed, and can subsequently wreak havoc via advanced glycation end-products. This fuel-storage/excess model is compelling to me due to the mechanistic robustness…it’s just kind of bad ass, but it also offers up an evolutionary survival story in that this process has been conserved due to it’s survival potential. Something I’m going to do is look at the proposed evolutionary advantage of various metabolic diseases such as PKU. It might be interesting to know WHY these diseases have stuck with the population.

What about longevity?

I was likely one of the most vocal advocates of LC for anti-aging purposes, and I do think the concept has merit…but within constraints. I know intermittent fasting is quite popular these days. I do not toot my own horn too often, but I’ll take credit for a big chunk of that, as I wrote about it back in 2005, and had been talking about it on the CrossFit message board as early as 2003. Studies, looking at mice to fruit flies to macaques, seemed to indicate ketosis, as associated with calorie restriction or intermittent fasting, could dramatically extend life. The data on the short-lived critters was crystal clear: one could expect an almost doubling of average lifespan from intermittent fasting or CRAN (calorie restriction adequate nutrition). Early work in primates looked promising. I thought we had a method that might dramatically improve health and lifespan. Well, unfortunately, humans are not fruit fly’s, nor rodents. In humans the genetic reaction norms are such that we do not allocate significant amounts of energy rearing our young RELATIVE to many other species.

This is a long but outstanding piece on genetic reaction norms. If you want to comment on the POTENTIAL of CRAN/IF/ketosis to extend human life, you need to be articulate in this material. I’m always game to entertain questions. I know I’m going to get some peanut gallery commentary on this, even if it is simply directed to other folks sites or inboxes. Instead of running around asking folks what their “opinion” is on this stuff, dig in and get comfortable with the material, and you will have a better chance of understanding it for yourself.

Evolutionary pressures dictate how a species may deal with scarcity. In certain cases, like mice or laying eggs for fruit flies, the energy input for offspring is significant enough that if calories are too limited, the organism will go into a state of dramatically slowed aging in the hopes of making it through the lean times, and then making babies like crazy. Humans, do not operate this way. We do experience decreased fertility when under caloric stress, but we do not see the longevity effects. One could live barely above starvation level, and the max increase in lifespan is estimated to be about 6-7 years, not several decades. Here are two papers from longevity expert Michael Rose, talking about all of this.

Paper 1 “Why Dietary restriction substantially increases longevity in animal models but won’t in humans”

Paper 2 “Caloric restriction does not enhance longevity in all species and is unlikely to do so in humans”

I mention this as some folks in the LC camp point to ketosis as mimicking the effects of CRAN or IF. That is completely true AND almost pointless as an argument for improving longevity when we consider genetic reaction norms and the work of Michael Rose. We are mimicking a metabolic state which is now understood to be ineffective at increasing longevity in humans to any significant degree. Six years appears to be the estimated increased lifespan of severe calorie restriction and/or intermittent fasting (eating one week, not eating the next). Prof. Thomas Seyfried has done work indicating if we want to see a solid therapeutic benefit from ketosis/CRAN/IF, we need to do them in a very severe manner. Likely worth it to battle cancer, not sure that it is worth it to gain an extra 6 years of life, especially when one considers how dramatically a calorie restricted ketogenic protocol, or eat one week, skip the next week, would impact our quality of life. This all seems really dubious when we overlay the fact exercise seems to increase lifespan by about three years. We get 50% of the benefit of the most severe CRAN/ketogenic protocol, yet can be jacked, and have a life.

When I first started reading the literature on IF, I had an idea that perhaps an alternate day fasting protocol could give one a nice boost in longevity, while maintaining good performance and quality of life. This was back in 2002 when the only data we had was in small animals. As data has come in regarding larger primates, the benefit of these protocols is simply not there. The genetic reaction norms of mice and men are too different to see these same benefits in any type of a livable protocol.

So, Low Carb is bad, right?

As sure as the night follows day, some folks will read this and the take-away will be that LC is bad. DESPITE my description of LC as a valuable therapeutic tool for a variety of conditions. Folks just want a black/white world. If your takeaway from this post is that I think LC is bad I will pray that you are circumcised by 1,000 desert fleas. (I wrote this piece BEFORE all the gnashing of teeth that led to my Part 2 scree. Prescient, I’d say!)

So, what Are some situations in which LC is valuable?

1-Insulin resistance/diabetes both type 1 and 2.

Lowering glycemic load can be incredibly powerful in reducing inflammation and metabolic derangement. One could likely get as much benefit from a moderate LC approach (75-100g/day) as a strict ketogenic approach. The study by Staffan Lindeberg looking at a paleo diet in Type 2 diabetic heart patients had carb levels even higher, and folks saw remarkable improvement in insulin sensitivity. In addition to our knowledge that overeating is likely the impetus for insulin resistance, Mat Lalonde has made the point that nutrient deficiencies are also a big factor in all this. If we have inadequate substrates for antioxidant production, ROS species increase inflammation, which itself deranges metabolism and insulin sensitivity, regardless of calorie intake.

2-Neurodegenerative diseases. Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other conditions seem to really respond to a very LC/ketogenic approach. It looks like we might actually get some studies in this area, which is good considering the growth of these conditions. Ketosis seems to stabilize calcium homeostasis in the brain (important for mitigating oxidative stress), and provide an alternate fuel source for glycation damaged neurons. We have seen some reports of simply adding a ketogenic dose of MCT oil in the form of coconut products, without carb restriction, actually improving some of these conditions. We have great data indicating a ketone-ringers solution could greatly benefit traumatic brain injuries (TBI), likely for the reasons mentioned above: stabilizing calcium homeostasis and providing an alternative fuel to glucose.

3-Certain cancers.

Breast, colon, prostate, and certain brain tumors appear to respond very favorably to a ketogenic diet due to limiting glucose for these tissues. Unfortunately not all cancers respond favorably to ketosis, some in fact become more aggressive as the cancer is “stressed” and appears to start shuffling it’s genetics to become more adaptable. Again, an important area of research that hopefully gets more attention. AND I’ll make the point that if we want research in these areas (certainly makes sense), LC proponents might consider not acting like religious zealots, conducting personal attacks, etc.

4-Hormetic stress

I do not think that prolonged ketosis/CRAN/IF is going to dramatically extend human life. I DO think that dropping into ketosis (via a cyclic low carb diet) or occasional 16-18 hour fasting is a great way to maintain metabolic flexibility and perhaps forestall some cellular aging. My problem in saying this however, is the people who should do it (reasonably sedentary desk-jockeys with low stress) will not be the folks doing this. It will be the 2 a day Crossfit games people, or SEALS who are so type-A they cannot see the forest for the trees. If you have a high demand training schedule, you are getting all the hormetic stress you need via exercise. You are likely training at a level that is already beyond the genetic norms for health and longevity. LC, fasting, etc is NOT a smart addition to your game plan unless tanked adrenals are a personal goal.

What are Some wanker moves with regards to LC?

1- CrossFit or very hard training while LC or ketogenic. Crossfit burns through glycogen like nothing else I can imagine. If you are going to do it, you need carbs, quite a few of them. If you are trying to be competitive I’d get at least 1.5-2.5g/lb of BW most days. Obviously with the normal caveats of trying to get those carbs mainly in the PWO when/if possible. I know most folks know Peter Attia, and have likely followed his ketogenic training program. Peter is a good friend and about 15x smarter than I am. He is tinkering and experimenting, but even he has noticed he must supplement with carbs or he has no “low gear “ (glycolysis). Tinker if you want to, but my gut sense is that we will not find a magical fuel source in LC unless your activity is ultra running, or similar very long but low intensity activities. If you do MMA, CrossFit, etc, I do not think LC will work. If you are a strength athlete, I think CLC is the bee’s knees. If I was not doing BJJ and just lifting and doing gymnastics, I’d be all over this. (I wrote all this prior to part 2. It’s a bit redundant at this point, but hey, electrons are cheap.)

2-Not realizing LC is a tool. This should have actually been #1. Please, don’t shit the bed on this.

What about ME!? What about MY needs? Or the Unique Snowflake Section

A couple months back we did a series of flow charts to help folks navigate specific issues like fat loss, muscle gain and optimizing athletic performance. You can grab those here, you just need to sign up for the newsletter. Those flow-charts actually are short hand for this entire series in that they will help you dial in your macros for your given goals. In reading the comment of Pat (from part 1) however, I see folks making some consistent mistakes with regards to FAT loss. They are focusing on the scale and not on measurements and performance goals. I talk about that here and here. Read, ponder! The Truth is Out There.

Even though I cover damn near every contingency in the flow charts and two posts I linked to, I’ll cover some specific macro considerations here:

1-Regardless of your goal, shooting for ~1g of protein per Lb of bodyweight is a solid place to be. If your goal is fat loss you will find this very satiating and anabolic enough to prevent most muscle loss under calorie restriction, especially if you are doing resistance training (you better be!)

2-Carbs: if you are insulin resistant (TG/HDL >1.0), doughy through the mid-section, under severe sleep debt, you should keep a handle on your carbs IMO. 50-110g per day should be plenty, try to get this from low-ish glycemic load sources such as onions and carrots (just suggestions, use whatever you like).

If you are training hard and insulin sensitive (not carrying fat at the midsection, no wacky blood work with skewed triglyceride/HDL ratio, you should be doing anywhere from 1-3g of carbs/lb of BW. Obviously the 3g is for folks who are training at a very high level, we want this to be “paleo” carbs more often than not. White rice is likely fine but it sucks compared to sweet potatoes. Just saying. I’m doing grappling 3-4 days per week, 2-3 days per week of lifting and I’m likely getting 250-300g of carbs per day and I weigh about 175lbs. Some days less, occasionally perhaps even more. I tend to only have a bit of carbs with breakfast, then I hammer down at my post jits meal, same at dinner time. If I travel, get sick, or miss training, I just dial the carbs down a bit.

3-Fat: I mainly use it for flavor at this point. Most sweet potatoes get a healthy slab of grass fed butter, and I use grass fed cream in my coffee. Given my very glycolyticly demanding sport however, I consume less of my cals as fat than when I was just lifting and doing gymnastics. This is where the tinkering comes in…If you are not recovering you likely need more carbs (and to look at periodization, intensity, and sleep!); if you are porking out, perhaps you need to dial all the cals back, while trying to maintain protein levels.

What about Calories?

Jamie Scott (That Paleo Guy) did a great 2 part series: Calorie Rants and Ketosis Part 1 and Part 2. Give those a read, they are very good. Jamie takes me to task on an important point. In Part 1 of this series, I made a statement to the effect “Calories matter.” Jamie is/was concerned that the focus on good old calories would push some people into calorie COUNTING instead of focusing on whole, unprocessed foods. They will avoid meat and nuts entirely for fear of the calorie costs of these food, missing entirely the satiating properties, to say nothing of the superior nutrient densities. I wish I could just sweep this under the rug and say “Ah, that won’t happen, people are generally smart…” but I’d be fooling myself, and ignoring the obvious lack of reading comprehension in part 1. Some people WILL read what I said and take that in the entirely wrong direction. I try to mitigate this by relying on VERY general guidelines (you see this in my book, the Quick Start guide, and the recommendations I’ve made above). As a coach I like basic food logs, especially if they are nothing more than a photo of each meal. With a quick look at a meal photo I can tell a person to “dial back” or “add some more” and we can get remarkably good results form this. No magic 40/30/30 numerology or food scales necessary. Which is why a comment in Part 1 of my piece AND in Jamies part 1 is troubling for me:

“I agree, there must be a limit somewhere. I think the only way to really answer it is by experiment.

The other thing that seems to be conflated in this discussion (not you, just in general) is whether that limit would ever be reached by a person eating ad libitum, but under the constraint that they have to stay ketogenic (not just what they think is ketogenic, but what is measureably so). It is one thing to say you can eat endless amounts of fat, and quite another to say that there is no amount of fat that you will want to eat that would make you fat. It’s possible that the latter is true even if the former is not.”

What I take from this is “If one TRULY stays in ketosis, is it IMPOSSIBLE to over eat?” My gut instinct is to say “No, I can find you people who can over eat, even in “nutritional ketosis.” But this is an opinion, I have no RCT to back this up. What I find intriguing from the simple interface of coaching/helping people is: How is this ANY easier/better than the basic eyeball method I have outlined in, again, my book, quick start guides etc. How much DETAIL will be necessary to guarantee we remain in nutritional ketosis? I hear the food scale getting pulled out, right along with the measuring cups. This seems neither easier nor better, and as I’ve said elsewhere, food neurosis REALLY kicks in when folks start scrutinizing their food as is typical in the CrossFit world of the Zone, or in what would be necessary to fit the standards here of ensuring nutritional ketosis. This feels vaguely of trying to make some kind of religious ritual produce a measurably beneficial effect in the real world…perhaps I’m missing something, but this line of inquiry seems to be valiantly trying to find a way to make ketosis magic.

I hope this helps clear up some of the drama around LC and Paleo. I see the evolutionary template as a means of making informed decisions about how we eat and live to optimize performance, health, and longevity. I see LC as a tool to be used for specific situations, and to achieve specific goals. Hopefully, a day will come when NONE of this is controversial or still adhered to with religious dogmatism. Someday ketone-ringer solution will be the go-to IV for folks with TBI. Ketogenic diets will be used in conjunction with standard chemo and radiation to not only fight cancer, but protect normal tissue from the damage these blunt force tools offer. Primary care physicians will recognize the therapeutic value of LC for insulin resistance. World champion athletes will still, for the most part, be carb fueled.

Remember, hammers are just as important and valuable as screw drivers. It just depends on what the project is and what we are trying to do.

Calories are Stupid…

Why the Calorie Approach to Weight Loss Doesn’t Work: Calories are Stupid
By Poliquin Editorial Staff

A calorie-based weight loss system doesn’t work for two principle reasons. First, the different macronutrients produce different hormone responses that directly influence the metabolic rate and whether the body is in a fat burning or storing mode.

Second, the amount of calories—known as the thermic effect of food— required for the body to break down different foods varies greatly. For a simple example, your body burns significantly more calories digesting a meal of animal protein and fibrous leafy greens than a meal of carbs such as pasta with tomato sauce. Even fewer calories are required to digest processed foods like cookies, white bread, or potato chips.

Macronutrients Dictate Hormone Responses
The first part of the faulty calorie system of weight loss is that the macronutrient ratios of your diet dictate hormone response. Carbohydrates, particularly those with a higher glycemic index, immediately increase the level of the hormone insulin. When you eat a lot of carbs—as is common in calorie-counting diets in which a person eats low-fat, high carb-foods—you will be consistently driving up insulin. Chronically elevated insulin makes the cells resistant to the insulin, which drives up levels of the stress hormone cortisol, causing cellular aging. The combination produce fat gain and diabetes.

If you were substituting protein and “smart” fats for a portion of those carbs, the protein would be used to restore tissue and build lean mass, while the fats would be used to strengthen cellular lipid layers to improve insulin sensitivity, restore brain health, and build hormones like testosterone. Of course it all goes wrong if you eat trans fats, processed protein or carbs, or foods with additives, dyes, and chemical sweeteners—I address the this below.

Calorie Restriction Alters Hormonal Response
Restricting calories to lose weight over the long term is more detrimental to your metabolism because it will turn your body into a hormone-induced hunger machine. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that after putting overweight individuals on a ten-week calorie-restricted diet of 550 calories a day, they experienced elevated levels of the hormones ghrelin, which stimulates hunger, and gastric inhibitory polypeptide, which promotes fat storage. Leptin, a hormone that suppresses hunger and boosts fat burning, was profoundly reduced after the ten-week diet and stayed that way for the duration of the one-year study.

Take note that after the ten-week diet, participants lost 30 pounds, but due to the way they had severely altered their metabolic hormone responses to food by restricting calories, they regained an average of 15 pounds in the next year.

The Thermic Effect of Food: Calories Are Stupid
A number of mainstream media outlets incorrectly (or stupidly) took the results of a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association proclaiming, “It’s the calories, stupid” that dictate body composition and weight gain. A close look at the study clarifies the misinterpretation and tells us exactly the opposite: it’s primarily the macronutrient content of the food you eat that dictates body composition, but if you overeat every day, then you will get fat.

The study compared the effect of overeating on body composition and fat gain from diets with three different protein contents. The thermic effect of the different diets was also measured, which is the amount of calories required to break down food, synthesize enzymes, and perform metabolic processes.

Participants ate either 5, 15, or 25 percent of their diet from protein with a whopping extra 954 calories a day for eight weeks. All the diets consisted of well over 3,000 calories a day and the macronutrient content was as follows:

• a “low” protein diet contained 5 percent protein, 52 percent fat, and 42 percent carbs

• a “normal” protein diet had 15 percent protein, 44 percent fat, and 42 percent carbs

• a “high” protein diet had 25 percent protein, 33 percent fat, and 41 percent carbs

All three groups gained the same amount of fat from the overeating—about 3.5 kg. The normal- and high-protein diet groups actually gained 0.2 kgs less than the low-protein group, but this was not statistically significant. What was most interesting was that the low-protein diet group gained the least total body weight because along with the 3.5 kg of fat gain, they lost almost a kilogram of muscle mass. The lack of amino acid building blocks in the diet put them into a severely catabolic, fat-storing state.

In comparison, the normal-protein diet group gained 2.9 kg of muscle mass and the high-protein diet group gained 3.4 kg of muscle. Therefore, along with the nearly 3.5 kg of fat they gained, the normal- and high-protein diets did produce more weight gain. But, from a body composition viewpoint, the normal- and high-protein diets were better even though participants gained more total weight than the low-protein group because their percentage of body fat went down.

Most significant, this study shows the extreme variation in the amount of calories burned on a daily basis from eating different proportions of macronutrients. The resting metabolic rate (RMR) is the amount of calories burned at rest during the day, and it’s highly influenced by dietary makeup and the thermic effect of food. The group that ate the low-protein diet experienced a 2 percent drop in their metabolic rate, meaning they burned less calories each day just from eating a low-protein diet.

In contrast, the normal- and high-protein diets increased RMR by 11 percent in response to the higher protein intake. This meant that by eating more protein, more of the energy consumed was turned into lean mass, and only about 50 percent of the energy consumed was turned into fat. Researchers estimate that more than 90 percent of the energy consumed in the low-protein group was turned into fat.

Whole and Processed Calories Aren’t the Same Either
A second study shows that the RMR and the thermic effect of eating whole foods is much higher than if you ate the exact same amount of calories from processed foods. This study compared the effect of a whole foods meal with a processed foods meal that contained equal calories and equal macronutrient content.

The thermic effect of the whole food meal was almost double that of the processed food meal. Participants burned 50 percent more calories after eating whole foods! Equally significant is that the participants who ate the processed food meal had their metabolic rates drop below their average RMR during the fourth hour after eating, while the whole food meal group never fell below the RMR. Also the duration of elevated energy expenditure from digestion in the whole food meal group lasted an hour longer than the processed food group.

Still Not Convinced? Check Out What Happened to the Pima Indians
The Pima Indians, natives of Arizona, provide a classic example of how body composition is affected by much more than just the amount of calories ingested each day. The Pima Indians have genotypically evolved eating a low number of calories, primarily from fish, small game, and foods they gathered. As early as 1901, a new “obesity epidemic” was evident among the Pima.

Local scientists who lived in the region were stumped as to why this indigenous group that had previously been “tall and sinewy” were now plagued by widespread obesity. More recent analysis has shown that shortly after the Pima came in contact with white settlers and adopted their foods—both foods that they began to grow such as corn, beans, potatoes, and processed foods like sugar, bread, and eventually soda—obesity became very common as did type 2 diabetes.

Analysis of changes in the Pima diet shows that the Pima were not overeating or ingesting more calories than previously when they adopted the “white man’s” diet of sugar, bread, starchy foods, eggs, and beef rather than fish and small game. Nor was their caloric intake greater than the amount of energy they burned on a daily basis. Rather, the Pima were eating the wrong type of calories for their genotype and it was causing a hormonal response that led to fat gain and diabetes.

For optimal body composition, the solution to any remaining confusion about how to adopt a diet for fat loss is to understand the following:

• A protein calorie is NOT the same as a carbohydrate calorie.

• The thermic effect of different macronutrients varies just as the thermic effect of processed foods is much less than of whole foods.

• Macronutrient ratios will determine hormone response.

• The total amount of calories you eat in a day DO matter for body composition—if you are overeating as in the study that had participants eating an extra 954 calories a day, you will gain weight, but whether that weight results in fat or muscle gain depends on macronutrient ratios.

• If you aren’t overeating, simply altering the macronutrient ratios to manage insulin and the hormone response of food can lead to fat loss and significantly improve body composition.

• Spot reduction works because fat deposits are related to hormone makeup. The hormone receptor sites are located on different spots of your body. This is a primary principle of the Poliquin™ BioSignature Modulation.

How to Get Big While Doing CrossFit….

Monday, January 21, 2013
Lift Big Eat Big
How To Get Big While Doing Crossfit

Based on the amount of emails I get regarding it, the question of the century seems to be “How can I put on more quality weight while still doing Crossfit and not losing my speed?” How I read this question is “How can I put on more weight without altering anything I am doing and without losing my abs?” You don’t have to be like me and get big by any means necessary, you can still put on quality weight over a period of time while improving your lifts and keeping your speed. I am going to outline three of the main issues I see when consulting Crossfitters who want to get bigger.

1. Altering Your Diet (Duh)

Let’s take a look at what CF says about diet: “Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and NO sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.” Right there in the definition it explains to eat enough to maintain your current body mass but not add extra. There is a reason why women can add some quality weight on paleo while men have difficulty putting on weight. Some women who previously ate less meat and fat are now eating more meat and fat and can see some gain, whereas men (who on average require more calories) are now eating less calories.

I am going to tell you something you probably don’t want to hear:

Eating bacon and eggs for breakfast is NOT eating big

There I said it. Let’s break down a bacon and egg breakfast in terms of calories. 6 pieces of bacon is about 200 calories, and 5 eggs would be about 310 calories. That is a whopping total of 510 calories. If you aren’t adding AT LEAST a whole avocado to that, how can you expect to put on weight?

Another thing to remember is that simply eating meat and a little fat won’t help you add very much weight. If you are eating low carb, the protein you eat is going to be used for energy, not for building muscle. Help protein do it’s job by adding more carbs back into your diet.

Most of the LBEB crew is gluten-free, except for the occasional lasagna. If you want to put on some decent quality weight, try adding in 1/2 cup (measured before cooking) of rice to your meals 3-4 times a week. I recommend white rice as the shell of the whole grain kernel can cause GI problems just like gluten can. If you don’t want rice, add in 3-4 extra sweet potatoes a day.

On top of these meals, adding in blended food shakes can help you add more weight. Twice a day, I will blend 3 cups of Rice Krispies with 100 grams of Cinnamon Bun grass-fed whey protein from
It is important to remember that shakes and post-workout drinks are SUPPLEMENTS, not REPLACEMENTS. Add them in to compliment your solid food intake, not replace it.

2. Decreasing The Training Days

The second most common question I get is people who want me to write a strength program followed by them saying they also hit 4-5 WOD’s a week, go to yoga 2-3x, run 5-10 miles a week, etc. It doesn’t take much brain exercise to figure out why hitting 8-11 workouts a week is keeping you from putting on mass, especially when combined with a diet that is supposed to help a sedentary person lose weight, not fuel high level athletes. If you are eating extra food to help you grow, working off those calories is the opposite of what you want to be doing.

When it comes to workouts, I believe in quality over quantity, and I believe in structure. Streaky learned this the hard way, she used to hit a random workout every day, some times twice a day, which led to some awesome injuries, right Streaky? She learned her lessons and now takes scheduled deloads, planned days off, and is always able to go to her next workout fresh and ready to roll. Her food is fueling her, as well as helping her grow. That is what we want when we are trying to cultivate mass.

You won’t get fat if you take a scheduled day off. In fact, that day off will allow your muscle fibers to repair and grow back stronger and bigger than before if you are eating correctly, and the fat will stay relatively low as long as you don’t overdo your carb intake. Not everyone wants to look like Marshall or myself (which confuses me!)

3. More Short & Heavy, Less Long & Light

As we have stated before, If you want to increase performance as well as increase quality body weight, decrease the amount light reps you are doing in favor of fewer, heavier sets. Doing a 150 air squats may give you an awesome lactic acid buildup, but as far as increasing mass beyond the average beginner gains, the progress just won’t be there.

Along with this, if you want to improve your Grace or Isabel time, don’t just do 30 reps as fast as possible with the prescribed weight: do 10 sets of 3 reps with 1.75-2x the prescribed weight. Not only will this improve your strength and help you focus on your form, it will make the prescribed weight feel like peanuts after a few months.

Trade off the 20-30 minute metcons in favor of shorter and much heavier workouts to improve your overall strength without decreasing your conditioning; that I promise you. The only conditioning I have done in the past year is my Strongman events on Friday, and I can still row a faster 500m than most of you who read this site (1:20) at 285lbs.

These three aspects of altering your Crossfit lifestyle will help you to put on the quality weight you want to, while still maintaining that speed that is all-important to Crossfit. You don’t have to be 300lbs, but if you are 5’11” and 170lbs, you might want to consider adding some mass to your body!

Pastor B out.

There Is No Such Thing As Junk Food…..

Do any of these excuses for eating junk food sound familiar?

“It’s cheap and it just tastes so good!”
“I don’t have time to cook.”
“It can’t really be that bad for us.”
“I’m too busy, how else am I supposed to get everyone fed on our crazy evenings?!”
“I work hard/I had a crazy morning/It’s going to be a crazy afternoon/I’m so tired/I just got a promotion/I didn’t get my promotion/the kids are driving me nuts… I deserve something easy and hot for lunch”
“I don’t have time to pack a lunch”

In 1970, Americans spent about $6 billion on junk ingestibles; in 2000, they spent more than $110 billion. Americans now spend more money on junk than on higher education, personal computers, computer software, or new cars. We spend more on junk than on movies, books, magazines, newspapers, videos, and recorded music combined.

Obesity is common, serious and costly, and directly related to junk. In the early 1960s, the average American adult male weighed 168 pounds. Today, he weighs nearly 180 pounds. Over the same time period, the average female adult weight rose from 143 pounds to over 155 pounds (U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services, 1977, 1996). In the early 1970s, 14 percent of the population was classified as medically obese. Today, obesity rates are two times higher (Centers for Disease Control, 2003). More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese.

Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.

In 2008, medical costs associated with obesity were estimated at $147 billion; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.

We can stop this. To beat this social suicide, we must bind together and resist the marketing lies which are designed to lower our awareness and lull us to nutritional slumber at the slow death we are facing.

Very respectfully,
Scott Sonnon19189_10151351093027988_2146864526_n

Fifty Fat Loss Tips…

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Fifty Fat Loss Tips

4/27/2012 1:24 PM
1. Train using the most “bang for your buck,” multi-joint lifts like squats, deadlifts, bench press, chin-ups, and Olympic lifts.

2. Avoid isolation, single-joint lifts such as bicep or leg curls unless you have unlimited training time.

3. Use very short rest periods (10 to 60 seconds) to trigger the greatest growth hormone response.

4. Vary the tempo of lifting phases and rest periods to provide new stimulus for the body to adapt.

5. To get lean fast, use a hypertrophy-type protocol (8 to 12 reps, more than 3 sets, 70 to 85 percent 1RM load).

6. Use a longer time under tension to burn more energy and increase postexercise oxygen consumption—try a 4-second eccentric and 1-second concentric phase.

7. Train to create an anabolic response. Increasing growth hormone is the priority because of its significant lipolytic (fat burning) effects.

8. Perform circuit training with little rest between sets for maximal growth hormone response.

9. For gradual fat loss over a longer period, include strength cycles that favor testosterone release with heavier loads (up to 95 percent 1RM), slightly longer rest (2 to 3 minutes), and lots of sets.

10. Work harder. If you’re not getting results, you’re not working hard enough.

11. Give priority to training the anaerobic energy system over the aerobic system when strength training and conditioning.

12. Do high-intensity sprint intervals for conditioning. Two examples are 60 cycle sprints of 8 seconds each, 12 seconds rest; or 6 all-out 30-second running sprints on a track, 4 minutes rest.

13. Be as active as possible in daily life. Move more: Take regular brisk walks during the day, always take the stairs, park far away in any parking lot, or do your own yard work.

14. Do relaxing physical activity instead of sitting in front of a screen: yoga, stretching, foam rolling, martial arts, or walking mediation.

15. Eliminate all processed foods from your diet—don’t eat them ever.

16. Eliminate all trans-fats from your diet such as margarine and shortening—they MUST be removed from the diet.

17. Don’t avoid fat. Research shows that people with diets with 30 to 50 percent coming from smart fats have higher androgens and lower body fat.

18. Eat smart fat, favoring the omega-3 fats that come from fish and wild meats.

19. Take fish oil to boost omega-3 fat intake and ensure your omega-3 to omega-6 fat intake is balanced.

20. Eat a diet with high-quality protein—organic meats will provide the largest “bang for your buck” protein.

21. Eliminate wheat and avoid grains in favor of vegetables.

22. Raise resting metabolic rate (the amount of calories the body burns at rest) by eating a higher protein diet with 15 to 25 percent of the diet coming from high-quality protein.

23. Eliminate all high-glycemic carbs and eat only low-glycemic vegetables and berries.

24. Eat an antioxidant-rich diet to prevent inflammation, which leads to fat gain. Try kale, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, berries, pomegranates, and cherries.

25. Non-green veggies that help you lose fat are colored peppers, eggplant, garlic, onions, mushrooms, hearts of palm, spaghetti squash, and water chestnuts.

26. Drink a lot of water (at LEAST 3 liters a day) to stay hydrated and help detox the body.

27. Avoid alcohol, juice, soda, and sports drinks. Stick to water, tea, and coffee.

28. For a radical approach, eliminate all alcohol. If alcohol can’t be eliminated, Sardinian and Spanish red wines are the best worst option.

29. Try acupuncture—studies have shown it can aid in treating obesity.

30. Make sure your vitamin D level is over 40 ng/ml. Take vitamin D if not.

31. Take a probiotic to improve your gut health.

32. Make sure your magnesium level is up to par. Scientists suggest 500 mg of magnesium a day.

33. Take a liquid zinc test to see if you can taste zinc. If not, you are deficient and should take zinc to speed fat loss.

34. Don’t buy cheap, poor quality supplements because they will do more harm than good if they are tainted with heavy metals or pollutants.

35. Take B vitamins, especially if you eat a high-protein diet or take BCAAs because the extra amino acids take away from the pool of available B vitamins need for detox.

36. Drink coffee or take caffeine before workouts to increase fat burning and work capacity—research shows we will self-select heavier loads if we take caffeine before training.

37. Drink organic green tea to elevate fat burning and aid in detoxifying the body.

38. Take carnitine to help the body use fat for fuel and increase time to exhaustion when training hard.

39. Take the amino acid taurine because it lowers the stress hormone cortisol and helps the body digest fat.

40. Take R-form alpha lipoic acid because it supports detox and recovery from training.

41. Use the herb fenugreek with meals to improve insulin sensitivity and energy use.

42. Remove body piercings to lose fat fast, especially belly piercings.

43. Limit fructose in the diet because it gets in the way of losing belly fat.

44. Never eat fructose before workouts because it blunts fat burning and lowers metabolic rate.

45. Avoid milk before workouts because it is very “insulinotropic,” meaning it causes persistently high insulin levels that make you burn less energy.

46. Don’t drink caffeine after workouts because it may raise cortisol at the point where you need to clear it for the best fat-burning and recovery effect.

47. Eat high-quality protein for breakfast. Avoid cereal and all processed foods.

48. Eliminate all sugar from your diet. It’s way more trouble than it’s worth if you want to lose fat.

49. Make an effort to get enough sleep. An early-to-bed, early-to-rise sleep pattern has been shown to improve body composition.

50. Know that you have complete control over what you put in your mouth. No one ever ate anything by accident.

Keeping Women Down…

Keeping Women Down…
by Eat Big…Lift Big

You don’t have to venture to the gym or on the internet for more than five minutes without seeing some dumbass remarks from men who shouldn’t be let out of their cages and give the rest of us a bad name. It’s hard to imagine why they felt the need to crawl out from under their rock to grace us with their presence, but it’s time for them to go back into hiding, post-haste. I can think one specific comment made on the photo of a friend of mine. It reads:

“Whatever you’re shooting into your body to gain muscle like a man, has made you look line. Even masculine facial features. Not to mention your man-like body. Why try so hard to not look feminine? Any man that thinks this is sexy should be f*cking another man. Just saying….Do you have to shave yet?”

Just to clarify, the woman in question is the farthest thing from looking manly. In fact, I consider her to be a petite woman. We aren’t dwelling in ye olde Victorian England anymore. We live in a world where woman SHOULD be seen and most definitely be heard. Nothing can hold a beginning female back more than a troglodyte who tells her that women need to remain limp and frail creatures.

Although I have personal goals to be as huge as possible, most of the people I work with are women who simply want to look better or get stronger, my personal goals don’t influence the goals of those I work with. It’s extremely difficult for these women to get over years of verbal abuse from insecure men who would rather step on women instead of bettering themselves. You can look at the success stories of Michelle or Streaky to see the amazing things they achieved, but also the comments left by detractors. These comments involve such things as “muscles are gross”, “eww she looks like a man”, and “wow that is just not feminine at all, sorry.”

Why do these things need to be said? Some men need to accept the fact that we don’t live in the 1950’s and women are actually real people, who are free to do with their bodies as they choose, free from societal presuppositions that are imposed on them.

Without sounding too much like a Pinterest motivational poster, weak men absolutely demand that a woman stays weak as well. Demanding that a woman not have muscle or get strong is implying that you as a man need to exert dominance over the women in question and if you cannot exert that dominance, then she is unattractive to you. Does this sound like a strong man to you?

These are the kinds of things that drive women to count calories, slave away on treadmills, and skip healthy foods for highly processed, fat-free foods. We will never advance as a society as long as we view women as a sub-species that is not allowed to pursue their own goals in strength, competition, and healthy living. If you simply cannot accept the fact that strong women are amazing, then it’s time for you to crawl back under the rock from whence you came.