Exploring the Concept and Flawed Application of the Caloric Measure

Sometimes it’s good to take a step back, check our logic and assumptions on a topic, and make sure our basic understanding still holds water.  Kinda like checking for that weak link in your strength chain.  A sanity check every now and then can save us from wandering lemming-like over the cliff of smug confidence.  And what could be more at the root, in reference to our understanding of diet, than checking our assumptions about the basic unit of nutritional measure, the calorie.

Well, not much of a surprise in this instance; the calorie – the unit measurement standard of nutritional science — is still a lousy standard for measuring human fueling requirements; a little like trying to accurately measure in inches with a metric ruler.

So here’s one major problem (among many) with mainstream nutritional science; in fact, I believe this problem to be, ultimately, the “shifting sands” that has bedeviled mainstream nutritional science’s foundation from the get-go: the concept of the calorie as being an accurate measure of the human body’s energy metabolism.  The problem is, of course, that the body does not “burn” fuel in the same way as does, say, an internal combustion engine.  And that single misstep – that simpleton way of thinking about human metabolism — drives the entire “all calories are treated equally in the body” mindset.  It’s an “error carried forward” that mucks-up the entire science.

The problem, of course, is that the body is not a simple, thermodynamic entity, but is more akin to a highly, highly complicated biochemical reactor; a calorie-equivalent amount of fat and carbohydrate will undergo radically different processes within the body, and result in two totally different metabolic outcomes.

Sanity check?  Yeah, we’re still on the right track.  It’s not the amount of fuel so much as the content that matters.

Carl Lanore, of Superhuman Radio, recently interviewed Dr. Peter Rouse (who wrote a guest post with respect to the “calorie standard flaw” on Carl’s blog, here).  Nothing new to those of us who’ve busted free of the “all calories are created equal” mindset, but an interesting interview and blog post nonetheless.

Thursday Night’s Beat the Storm Workout –

…another from the “it ain’t gotta be complicated to be effective” files…

Living in eastern North Carolina has hardened me to the scare tactics of Doppler RADAR, as a check of the region’s conditions on The Weather Channel for any given summer evening will reveal shifting splotches of greens, yellows, oranges and reds – enough to keep any (sane) rider from venturing out.  Not me, I saddle-up and hit the road anyway.  Last night, though, was different, as Doppler RADAR revealed the leading edge of a cold front marching west-to-east across the region.  Severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings began rolling in from counties to the west.  So what to do?  Drive to the gym?  Yeah, right.  What, and miss out on such great incentive?  I did what any true fixie man would do – I saddled-up and hit some serious sprints toward the gym.  And that hard tailwind had me feeling like superhuman – until I remembered that I’d have to fight the same wind on the return trip.  Oh well…

My idea here was to blast through these 4 sets as fast as humanly possible, then saddle back up and make the mad dash for home, hopefully beating the storm.  Autoregulation at the 6-rep range.  Only enough rest between exercises to allow for shifting stations.

deadlift (over/under grip): 225 x 10; 315 x 6; 365 x 6, 5

weighted dips: 45 x 10; 70 x 6; 90 x 6, 7

Nothing at all pretty here, but damn if it wasn’t metabolically taxing.  This was completed, door-to-door, in just under 40 minutes.  2.5 miles of fixed-speed intermittent sprinting, the blistering super-set, and a 2.5 mile sprint (with urgency!) back home.  The headwinds from the approaching storm had to be topping 40 mph, and that sprint home – especially on the heels of that dips/DL superset — was punishing.  The reward?  Watching the storm rage while frying up some post-workout NY strips 🙂

4/13/10; In the Gym with a Strength-Speed Emphasis Plan and, Another On-the-Fly, Paleo Dinner

Cranked-out about an hour’s worth of mixed-intensity fixie riding yesterday evening (rode for a half-hour or so, hung-out at the coffee shop for a while, then hit another half-hour or so on the way home), just to keep the legs loose.  I’d put a tri-tip roast, celerity, and carrots into the crock pot prior to leaving for work that morning, so I had a nice Paleo meal waiting for me when I got home from the ride.

This morning’s workout was basic iron game fare — deadlifts and weighted dips.  Nothing fancy, here — simply basic movement patterns performed at a super-high intensity.

I lead-off each set of deads with box drop jumps (3 reps) as a CNS primer, and each set of weighted dips was preceded by a 3-rep primer of ballistic, bodyweight dips.   Here’s how it all shaped-up:

box drop jumps*: x 3 each round

Conventional deadlift (over/under grip): 225 x 5; 315 x 3; 365 x 3; 385 x 2, 2, 2

ballistic dips: x 3 each round

weighted dips: 45 x 5; 90 x 3; 100 x 3; 105 x 3, 3, 3

The deadlifts and dips were performed with an emphasis on speed of execution — there was nothing slow about any of the day’s movements, everything was geared toward targeting maximum power output.  I probably could have used a little more weight in the deadlifts without sacrificing any speed, however, since I’ve been sprinting and biking pretty hard lately, I decided to err on the side of being too light.

*Step off an 18″ box and, immediately upon landing, rebound over a 30″ box.  Emphasis on minimizing ground contact time.

On-the-Fly Paleo Chow:

Tonight’s dinner:

What do I call it?  Hell if I know.  Hot Italian beef sausage, stir fry beef, cubed lamb, fresh broccoli, olive oil, beef stock, cilantro…spices of various kinds…

I browned the meat and sausage, then threw in the rest of the ingredients and let that simmer for awhile.  Whatever you want to call it, it was pretty damn good.  And I’ve got plenty for leftovers.

Here’s an interesting commentary on Bart Hoebel’s (et al) recent HFCS study; a question/answer format that is rather illuminating.  As you can well imagine, much uproar over this study has come from HFCS-central, and its minions (another take, via the Huffington Post).  I won’t waste a whole lot of time on this; it’s needless, really.  Vet the evidence, and tell me if you’ll want to ever consume this crap again.  ‘Nuff said.