A Nifty Little Sprint Complex

Deal with the Devil if the Devil has a constituency – and don’t complain about the heat –

C. J. Cherryh

Not complaining, just sayin’, you know; 106-degrees F at the time I performed this little sprint routine, on the way to the day’s high of 111.  No telling how friggin’ hot it was out on the artificial turf; let’s just say it was blazingly so.  But hey, like CJ says — deal with the Devil and his constituency, and roll the hell on…  🙂

Here we go –

– knee to chest jumps for max height, as little a pause as possible between jumps.  x 7 reps

– 10 second, max effort sprint for distance (drop-off technique)

– tennis ball goalpost “dunks”, x 7

– dual leg hops x 30 yds (90 feet), fast as possible and covering the distance in as few hops as possible (again, utilizing the drop-off technique, here).

– “drum major” (stiff-leg) sprint x 40 yards.

Wash, rinse, repeat for 6 rounds.  Sweat a ton, get a bit queasy, lounge like a lizard the rest of the day.

A few notes on this one:

  • I’d originally intended to push until hitting drop-offs in both the dual-leg hops and the sprints — however, I pulled the plug after hitting drop-off in the hops only; discretion being the better part of valor today, due to the heat.  I probably had another 2 or three top-end sprints in the tank.
  • I covered right at 80 yards in each 10 second sprint today; self-timed, on turf, standing start.  Not bad for an old goat.
  • I covered the 90 ft distance in 11 dual-leg hops today, with the last round requiring an additional jump.
  • about 30 seconds recovery between exercises, except for following the 10-second sprint and the dual-leg hops, in which case there was an approximate 1 minute recovery.
Where does something like this fall on the Exercise-Activity spectrum?  Well, again, one man’s “play” is another man’s workout; the dividing line between the two, for me, is predominant fast-twitch fiber involvement.  I’ll get into this a little more in future posts, but a decided lack of fast-twitch fiber involvement in an activity makes that activity of little value in enhancing/preserving muscle tissue and, therefore, in helping one battle against the scourge of sarcopenia specifically and, more broadly, diseases of affluence.
Plenty of fast-twitch activation here, so we’ll bump this one near the “exercise” end of the spectrum.
In health,

Good Sunday Night Listening

“Not to invent yourself is to be false. To follow preordained rules is a profound betrayal of what it means to be human.” – David Starkey

In a recent episode of the Kathleen Show, host Kathleen Slattery-Moschkau interviewed T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study.

I know what you’re thinking: WTF?? Why would I want to waste time listening to this?  Well, my take on it is that I like to consistently challenge my beliefs; to continually hold what I think to be true in greatest suspicion.

That said, after listening to the good Dr. Campbell, my Paleo beliefs remain rock-solid.  It is interesting, though, to see and hear, first hand, how science, facts and statistics can become so badly twisted.  If you’re expecting a particular outcome before hand, chance are pretty damn good that you’ll bend your ultimate findings to support that notion.

Along that line of thinking, check out Seth Roberts’ recent, relevant, and most excellent posts here and here.

And just a quick thought for Dr. Campbell to ponder: would it make any sense at all, in an evolutionary sense, that a high consumption of animal protein would lead to cancer?  I’m just sayin’…

On a brighter note, Dr. Campbell does acknowledge the abysmal state of the nutritional education young doctors-to-be receive, and he seems to be an advocate of independent, outside-the-box thinking — thinkering, as we epistemocrats like to call it (hat tip to Brent for popularizing — coining? — the word).

Which makes me wonder what Dr. Campbell would have to say about this recent episode of To The Best of Our Knowledge. Art DeVany makes a guest appearance on the show, and of course, the whole “caveman” shtick has to be played up for maximal theatrical effect (Art has got to get tired of that crap).  Still, though, the entire episode (aside from the haha caveman element), is well worth the listen.

From the show notes:
“…We’ll discover how the Ice Age gave birth to the first modern humans. And, the real secret of evolution…cooking. Also, the founder of today’s caveman movement. He grunts in a more modern way…”

Sean Croxton interviews Dr. Robert H. Lustig, on Underground Wellness

We’ve talked about Dr. Lustig before, here, and his Sugar: the Bitter Truth talk.  Sean does a bang-up job with this episode, exploring similar ground.

From the show notes:
Robert H. Lustig, MD, UC San Francisco Children’s Hospital pediatric endocrinologist, joins Sean for a discussion about the dangers of excess fructose consumption.

Great show; informative, with some great questions and answers.  Listen to Dr. Lustigs’s layman’s term discussion of why a calorie is not a calorie, among other excellent explanations.

Wow, 5 years to kick the sugar jonse?  Well, I say the initial stages can be beat back in 2 or 3 weeks, but yeah, to rid the phantom kickin’ around in the attic, 5 years is probably true.

In health,

3/6/10; A Nice MetCon Combo,and…Diet Nimrods Abound?

“The one common experience of all humanity is the challenge of problems.”

R. Buckminster Fuller

2 miles from my house to the gym offers a perfect opportunity for a short fixie huck/warm-up prior to throwing around a little iron.  An odd combination, I know.  I was asked recently if I was the only fixie enthusiast/Paleo-proponent/physical culturalist that I know of.  Well, I don’t know about that, but it sure does feel at times as though I were deposited here from an alien ship.

…let’s just say I’m a member of a very, very small subset  🙂

Today’s Workout –
My focus is still primarilly on unilateral, lower-body work, and today’s MetCon session did not deviate from that theme.  The reps in each exercise are still fairly low, with the emphasis being placed on the explosiveness of every rep of each exercise vs attempting to reach some predetermined rep number.  I moved smartly between exercises, but I did not allow much, if any, degradation in my form.  Here’s how it shaped-up:

Post warm-up “bridge”: whip snatch to OHS, 3 sets of 5 at 95 lbs

The day’s combo:
whip snatch x 5
single-leg clean* x 1 (left)
high box step-ups (front squat bar position) x 5 (left)
single-leg clean* x 1 (right)
high box step-ups (front squat bar position) x 5 (right)
muscle-up + L-dip combo (1 mu  + 2 L-dips = 1 rep) x 3
rear foot elevated “elastic verts” x 6 each leg

~ all weighted exercises @ 135 lbs.  4 total rounds ~

The single-leg clean is simply, and in the end, a regular power clean — however, the pull phase is done with a single-leg emphasis; the catch is a normal, i.e., bilateral, catch.  I do allow a “balance touch” with the off leg when needed (i.e., as fatigue set in).  From the catch, I moved directly into the step-ups.  The box height here is just below knee level.  Notice that today’s step-ups were done with a front squat bar position; this translates to a bit more of a quad-dominant movement vs the normal back squat bar position.

Moving on to nimrods in the news

The following quote is all you really need to see of this recent NYTimes article on obesity to realize we’re dealing, once more, with a blindered, simpleton take on diet.

“…The answer lies in biology. A person’s weight remains stable as long as the number of calories consumed doesn’t exceed the amount of calories the body spends, both on exercise and to maintain basic body functions. As the balance between calories going in and calories going out changes, we gain or lose weight.”

Ugh!  To be fair, the author did interview a couple of dietary “bright stars” — and then conveniently dumbed-down their message.  How is it that the sane voices in pieces such as this become so marginalized?  I suppose it boils down to sound-bite journalism, and the general public’s reluctance to spend the time required to delve further into subjects that may lay outside their fields of specialization; a destructive, symbiotic relationship, of sorts.

I believe it was Dr. Richard Feinman (he of the Metabolism Society)  who so eloquently equated the “calorie-in/calorie-out” theory of weight managaement to (and I’ll use my own wording here):

“…considering the affect of gravity upon an object, absent of friction.”

A nice corollary, I think.  Real people and real metabolisms must operate in the real world.  No consideration of how a type of calorie affects metabolic response is as ludicrous as the aforementioned consideration of gravity absent friction.  A nice thought experiment, maybe; any real-world application, though, is not to be found.

And then there was this, uh…free-verse, anti-paleo ramble?  Not sure what Ms. King’s “Problem with Paleo” is, exactly — maybe she thinks animals are shouldering the load and/or bearing the brunt of abuse so as to satisfy the faddish whims of hipster caveman wannabes?  I dunno.  My thought is, fine, be a detractor — I rather enjoy having my convictions rattled — but please come to the fray with a grounded, plausible argument for Chrissakes.  Sheesh…

I refuse to end on a negative, though, and here to save me from that is a fabulous and recent TED talk given by chef Jamie Oliver.  I’m quite sure everyone with a diet/physical culture bent has seen this by now, but I wanted to “store” it on TTP because I believe in Jamie’s message — and in his dire warning.  Please show this to someone in your life who may not be as diet-centric as you — and for God’s sake, if you have kids, please, PLEASE pay attention.  This really is a matter of life and death.

In health,

Insulin Response

“Men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all the other alternatives.”

Abba Eban

photo cred: DeathByBokeh

Inundate yourself with Paleo-minded information long enough, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that insulin is the consummate “bad guy” hormone.  That’s a little too simplistic a way to look at insulin, though — even for those of us who, though not trained specifically in the medical sciences, choose to enhance our lives through proper diet, exercise and well-rounded knowledge.  Insulin is, of course, critical for life and optimal health, and it’s not the hormone per se that is inherently evil, but the gross tilting of that hormone level beyond anything that the human body has evolved to handle that defines the problem.

In this clip (alternatively, you can jump to the Nov. 8th, 2009 WOD from the CrossFit home site), Robb Wolf discusses a case study in obesity, metabolic syndrome, and (though he doesn’t get into it here), the classic indicators of carbohydrate addiction.   If you’re a member of the CrossFit Journal (I highly recommend it, though I’m certainly no shill for CrossFit, nor do I fully endorse all of CrossFit’s ideologies), you can view a much larger portion of this video (over 7 minutes worth).

The take-away message here — and what we, as Paleo-minded, physical culturalists need to keep in mind — is that, within the body, insulin’s dictate (when excessively elevated) is to is promote/accelerate energy storage, maturation, reproduction and decline (death).  And from an evolutionary prospective, of course, this all makes perfect sense.  Quicker turnover equates to a more nimble and adaptive species.  In your grandma’s day, young girls matured in their later teens.  Nowadays, girls as young as 9 have reached reproductive maturity.  I’m not saying all of this can be laid at the feet of a hyper-insulin environment — there are plenty of other notable suspects lurking about in our diets — but I’d be willing to bet that an out-of-control insulin level has a big hand in this.

And just as Robb alluded to in the clip, the body can’t be fooled by artificial sweeteners.  The key is to successfully break the desire for the sweet taste (and thus eliminate the carb jonze), not placate that need by the use of artificial sweeteners — the equivalent of handing out methadone to heroin addicts.

Though we use the metaphor frequently, the body is not a simple furnace that serves solely to liberate energy from raw material.   There are complex storage and release components at work as well; hence the truth of a calorie not being a calorie.  The amount of energy contained in a calorie is, of course constant; what’s not constant is the hormonal impact that calorie source will have upon its host.  The first law of thermodynamics works fine for a closed system (the “furnace model”), but not for an open system, i.e., a living being.

In health,


The Battle of the (Mainstream) Heavyweight Diets

“One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.”

Bertrand Russell

The following video is of a lecture given in January 2008 by Christopher Gardner, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, and focuses on the largest and longest-ever comparison (as of that time) of a selection of  four popular diets studied under real-world conditions.  The diets in question were the Ornish, Zone, LEARN (i.e., the diet recommended by most academics and the USDA — the food pyramid we all know and love), and, last but not least, the Atkins diet.  The 311 participants, (all pre-menopausal, overweight women) were divided into 4 groups, with each group having been provided 8 weeks of  “in-depth” nutritional training using the representative flagship book for each diet.  Training was led by a dietitian who preached the magnificence and utter superiority of each group’s assigned diet.  All of this makes for an interesting study because of the real-worldliness of having these participants attempt to “follow the book” for themselves (subsequent to the 8 weeks of brainwashing, that is).

An additional interesting twist here is that Professor Gardner is (was?) a twenty-five year vegetarian, who, having come into the study with a heavy, pre-conceived bias, admits (and you have to give him kudos for this), that his long-standing notions of the efficacy of a vegetarian diet may have been completely unfounded.

Of course, we in the Paleo community would’ve loved to have seen the Paleo way represented in this study — but hey, the fact that Atkins was included is a monumental step in itself.  In fact, Dr Gardner does bring up the subject of the Paleo diet toward the end of the lecture — to the hoots of snorts and laughter from what I can only assume was a very learned and open-minded audience (really, no sarcasm intended).  Whatever; I’m in the pharmaceutical business — all those snorts and all that laughter sounds like job security to me.

Anyway, I do think this lecture is well worth the time investment.  You may not learn anything new about diet, per se, but you’ll certainly pick up quit a bit in the way of diet psychology.  Keep in mind as you watch just how well a Paleo diet would have fared in this trial.  Remember, you’d have had 8 weeks to teach someone the whys and hows of the Paleo way; 8 weeks to stage for, and transition through, the carb Jones; 8 weeks of social re-conditioning and n=1 individualization tinkering.  What book would I have “preached”?  Well, personally I’d have opted for Primal Body, Primal Mind, by Nora Gedgaudas.  For homework, I’d have assigned selections from Taubes’s GCBC.

A few interesting things to keep in mind as you watch:

Dr. Gardner’s chart presentation on the spread of obesity throughout he US is powerful.  We all know these facts, yes — seeing it presented in this fashion, though, brings this static information “alive” in a profound way.

Notice as well all the maddening, tunnel-visioned viewing of the study’s statistical results data through the old “calories in, calories out” prism.  It’ll make you want to jump through the screen and remove the good doctor’s blinders.  It reminds me of the story of the two fish, wherein one fish asks the other, “what’s this stuff water I keep hearing about?”

Interesting, too, is the behind the scenes view of what it required to land a study grant, and how painfully long the wait is between grant acquisition and the release of actual study findings.  And add to this all of the Political wrangling — both in academia and in the government realm — that must be traversed.  It’s mind numbing.   If it were not for the internet allowing the immediate connection of like-minded folks, all of whom are actively engaged in n=1 studies of “Paleo science”, Paleo would yet to even have a fair hearing in the world of nutritional science.

Kudos, then, to us — for actively advancing the Paleo science.

And a big round of thanks are in order to the Balanced Existence website for having re-excavated this find.   You can read their interesting commentary on the lecture, here.

Sit back and enjoy.

In health,


Meal Frequency, and its Affects Upon Musculature

Diogenes struck the father when the son swore.”

Robert Burton

The following question comes by way of TTP reader Bret Brams (any relation to Johannes, I wonder?), a teacher from Belgium.  Bret tells me that his interests revolve around anything related to the fields of nutrition, sports science, psychology and biology.   Sounds like a pre-requisite hanging out around these parts, huh?  And when he’s not ladling knowledge over dry but eager minds, Bret busies himself with competitive powerlifting and sprinting.  Bret also wanted me to extend, for him, a hearty welcome to any serious trainees who’d like to join him in his fully-equipped home gym in Belgium; all are welcome to come down and train with him, or just hang out and discuss any and all aspects of physical culture.  If you’re in the neighborhood, look him up; if not, you can can find Bret here, at his Facebook page.

On to Bret’s question:

I’ve read your thoughts and habits on meal frequency and such. How much do you think this matters in muscle preservation? Slowly I’m weaning myself off the bodybuilding idea that you have to eat every few hours to retain muscle, however, it’s still somewhat foreign to me.

I’ve gone from 8 to 6 to 5 to 4 meals a day over the years, now eating fully paleo. Reliance on hunger has become something unnatural to me, as I’ve always disciplined myself to eat every few hours(for the typical reasons … digestion, etc.). I haven’t gotten around to fasting yet, but I’m trying. It seems I’m still hungry(for the good stuff, but still)and can easily eat the entire day, even on paleo foods.

Can you perhaps address what you noticed in terms of muscle loss/gain and fat loss?
I assume that initially one will lose some muscle(due to loss of muscle glycogen) but will afterwards gain it back when his insulin sensitivity rises and the glycogen sparing effects of the fasting improve.

Less is more?

Sincerely yours,


My Reply follows.  Bret will notice that I’ve embellished quite a bit from the answer I originally sent back his way; the advantage of a little extra thought and a little extra time:

I went through the same wrestle with the meal frequency issue, and truthfully, only recently do I think I’ve fully got a handle on it.  A few tears back I’d thought that, having completed a few months of full-on Paleo lifestyle, that I’d fully transitioned to the Paleo way — but the problem of meal frequency (and of still being “hungry” numerous times throughout the day) persisted.  Eventually, though, I reached the point of being able to listen — really listen — to my body, eating only when truly hungry. I do think that it takes a while, however, to get to that point; especially coming out of the old, ingrained, “6-times-a-day” habit.  And this is largely the result of two separate (but wickedly co-conspiring) phenomena —  social conditioning and carbohydrate addiction. Of course one must learn to navigate the practical issue of living Paleo in a modern environment as well, and this will be different for each individual due to their living/working circumstance.  For instance, I’ve had to learn how to square randomness in eating and working out with a mostly regimented and always extended-hours working life.  My solution(s) are not necessarily easy to implement or to follow — and they’re certainly not perfect — but they do represent the best I can do under my given, restricted, situation.  And that, I believe, is all that we can be asked to do.

But specifically, let’s look at the “big two” in way of obstacles to reaching meal frequency un-attachment — and forgive me if I begin to sound a little too Zen about this whole thing, but really, “un-attachment” and/or “dissociation” are key in finding resolution, here.  Are you truly hungry?  Then eat.  Eat what?  Well, I never go by hard and fast rules, but I try to consume more fat calories than protein, and certainly more animal protein calories than carbohydrate.  The rest takes care of itself.  How many times a day do I eat?  Well, the average is probably 3 — but I fast often (mostly in the 20 – 24-hour range, but sometimes as long as 36 – 48 hours), and many days I only eat once or twice.  In fact the only constant to my eating pattern is that there is no constant.  And as an overlay to this template is the random template of my workouts, with one having very little influence (if at all) on the other.  This was one aspect of the “social conditioning” that was so hard for me to break.  I’ve come now to believe, though, that the whole business (conventional notion) of “refueling” — timing windows and such as that — is, in a word, bogus.  And I am being quite generous here.  I also believe that the multiple-times-per-day eating regimens so popular now amongst bodybuilders and athletes is flawed — even if those meals are Paleo-like — because they act to limit the body’s need to and/or ability to utilize stored fat.  So this is more of a mental construct then, that must be dismantled and overcome.  My n=1 experience is that my musculature has taken on a definite degree of increased hardness due, I’m sure, by the shedding of  some intramuscular fat and a lack (due to a low carbohydrate environment) of water retention.  I’ve also experienced a reduction in subcutaneous fat and water retention as well.  And, to top it all off, I’ve banked a net gain in overall bodyweight (note the previously mentioned reduction in fat and water) over the last few years.   So, unless my bones and/or organs have massed-up, I’d have to say I’ve gained a decent amount of lean muscle tissue.  Hardly the “wasting-away” outcome from this manner of eating prophesied by the 6x/day “experts”.

The other half of the co-conspiring dynamic duo then, is carbohydrate addiction.  I almost hate to use the term, because it implies a certain level of sensationalism, but it is addiction we’re dealing with here, nothing less.  Now the degree of addiction may be more for some than for others, but addiction it is, none the less.  I’ve discussed the phenomena previously, here and here.  The short answer is, though, one is compelled to eat frequently for similar reasons as to why a smoker reaches for another cigarette — a combination of social conditioning and physical dependence.  Both phenomena must be overcome if one is to truly break the meal frequency cycle.

In health,


PS —  (10/23/09, 1550 EDT) I failed to include this post from Richard over at Free the Animal.  Make sure to check out the comments as well — lots of great information contained therein.  Carbohydrate addiction — and specifically, sugar and HFCS addiction — is no joke.

One Reader’s Progress, and a Question Answered

“To weep is to make less the depth of grief.”

William Shakespeare

TTP reader Sterling reports on his progress, and the age old question of how to put on muscle mass is answered — well, kinda.  First, Sterling’s report — followed by his question:

…Here’s the deal:
I’m currently 38, 5’8, 144lbs, 9 or 10% bf.  4.5 years ago I was fat and out of shape…badly out of shape; I was 225 lbs.  2.5 years ago I was 210.  I’ve slowly lost weight through proper nutrition and working my butt off using mostly the program P90X, some interval work, and sprints.

So, now I’d like to slowly add 20 lbs of muscle.  I know that I’ve got to be an anabolic, calorie surplus state to do that.  How would you suggest doing that as smartly as possible without adding too much fat?  At present, I only have access to dumbbells and bodyweight exercises.   What I think I’m going to hear is start lifting heavier weight, progressively overloading the muscle through, barbell squats, bench press, etc and full body exercises.  You are a big, fit, healthy dude so I thought I’d pick your brain.

Thanks again.  By following you on Twitter, I know that you know what you are talking about and believe in a paleo-type lifestyle.  Having a very busy life with 4 kids and 1 on the way makes it challenging sometimes, but I’m willing to put in the work.

And my answer; a bit more in depth than what I initially sent Sterling, as I’ve included some additional thoughts and/or clarification:
First off, congratulations on your successful weight loss, Sterling; and you’re right, living a full-on Paleo lifestyle will call-out your weight management issues and struggles of the past for exactly what they were — acts of utter futility.  No doubt some can lose weight on calorie restriction, energy expenditure and sheer will power (the 2nd law of thermodynamics does apply), but underlying health issues are left unresolved and, unless the person can maintain a proper energy deficit, either by exercise or calorie restriction, the weight (fat) will re-accumulate over time.  The world is replete with diet FAILs.
A note is in order here: setting up the proper hormonal profile in the body is key; thus the essence of — and the misunderstanding, too (and, of course, the heated battles over) — the statement, “a calorie is not a calorie“.  Maintaining low insulin levels is an essential — though an absolutely painless consequence of — following the Paleo lifestyle.  For an in-depth coverage of this subject, see Taubes’s fine work, Good Calories, Bad Calories.  Also of note is a recent video-taped lecture given by Dr. Doug McGuff (author of the excellent book, Body by Science).  Dr. McGuff does a fabulous job here of breaking down the complexities behind the whys and hows of fat accumulation/loss in readily understood, layman’s terms.  If you have a copy of BBS, I’d suggest opening it up to the depictions on pages 23 and 28, and following along with Doug’s verbal explanations.  If you don’t have a copy of Body by Science — or Good Calories, Bad Calories, for that matter — you’re really missing out on some great, foundational information sources.  Do yourself a big favor and pick up copies of both.  You’ll be glad you did.
Ok, moving on now to Sterling’s question…

On to your question.  Once you’ve fully adjusted to Paleo eating habits (I’m not sure by your email if you’re fully adjusted yet), your appetite will take care of itself.  No need to worry about increasing this or that — when you’re hungry, eat to satiation within the Paleo spectrum, and give it no more thought.  Now in some people, those many years of societal conditioning (eat at such-and-such a time, eat this much, eat until stuffed, etc.) take a while to break, so there may be a period where you’ll have to consciously decrease your volume and/or meal frequency to prevent putting on fat while you’re attempting to gain lean mass.  This means no more, though, than constantly questioning yourself as to whether you’re really hungry — or is that “hunger” really an old conditioning response?

And an interjection: no need, either, to get all wrapped-up trying to control/influence/predict anabolic and catabolic periods.  for one thing, the body is amazingly intelligent at balancing this sort of thing within a healthy equilibrium.  The second point is, is that the body continually and efficiently shifts between anabolic and catabolic states no matter what you do (or think you do) to “positively” influence a prolonged anabolic state — assuming, of course, we’re talking about a drug (steroid, growth hormone, etc.) free environment.  The things that are in your control, though are:

  • proper nutritional intake (via a Paleo diet, no more volume than to satiate)
  • proper biological stimulus/cue (see below)
  • proper recovery/stress balance (both daily, and between training sessions)

As far as training to put on mass, you’re correct again — progressive overload is key.  But that’s a cop-out answer in my opinion, because it does not take into account someone’s circumstance.  I’ll assume for the sake of argument that you don’t have access to a gym, heavy free weights, adequate machines and the like.  No problem, though, as you can put on substantial lean mass using nothing but bodyweight exercises — you just have to be creative as to how you perform these exercises so as to make gravity work for (or in this case, I suppose, against) you — elevated foot push-ups, handstand presses and the like.  Do you have access to a playground near where you live?  Pull-up and/or dip bars?  These plus a cheap weight belt (like this), and a few plates equate to a myriad of mass-building exercise options.

These are just some ideas.  Of course, depending upon your situation, you may be able to build/collect an assortment of homemade devises.  Here’s one of my favorite sites for homemade gear ideas.  Remember, the body doesn’t care if it’s being pushed on a 10K-dollar machine or with a 10-dollar sandbag — the body’s only imperative is to adequately respond to a biological stimulus/cue.  And it will do so, quite nicely, in fact — so long as it receives proper nutrition.

I hope this helps you out — let me know if you have any other more specific questions.

Just a quick word about P90X (or any heavily marketed workout program for that matter): there is no magic here, no secret formula, soviet “science”, or any other such ingredient contained in this program.  The program is successful in so far as its practitioners “stick to the protocol”, so to speak, and the 120-ish dollar price tag (i.e., a form of loss aversion) and flashy marketing will better ensure one’s compliance to the system’s dictates and frequency.  Now, I have nothing against P90X, per se, and I think the workout itself is fine so long as it fits one’s end goals.  All that I am saying is that what really matters — what’s more important for the vast majority of folks out there — is not what program is followed, but that any program is followed.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — I can build one hell of a power athlete, put on impressive hypertrophy and drop body fat of virtually any trainee into the single digits (men) or low teens (women) simply by placing them on a protocol consisting of no more than (1) adherence to a Paleo diet (and a very lenient, Paleo diet at that) and (2) four ass-busting training sessions a week entailing a rotating combination of deadlifts, farmer’s walks, push-presses, weighted pull-ups and sprints.  My point is that the body does not care about flash, marketing, what celebrity is currently doing “your” new-found regimen — this is the realm of the psyche and ego.  The body’s concern is with overcoming a perceived threat (stimulus/cue), plain and simple.  It performs this task by strengthening whatever system was taxed so as to better defend against that or similar future threats.  This boils down to no more than an on-going arms race (pardon the pun) — a metabolically expensive arms race, however, in both nutrient and in recovery costs.  That, my friends, is the “secret”, stripped of all marketing and hype.  For more on this line of thinking, see my post Simple vs Easy.

To read more about Sterling and his fabulous fat-to-fit transformation, check out the following links:

Also, you can follow Sterling on Twitter, here.
In health,

A Continuing Success Story

“The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerely, benevolence, courage and strictness.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War



You may have missed this comment in the Dynamic Warm-up post; as such, I’d like to share it here, as I think it’s so very important, and dare I say, inspirational.  Now the very word inspirational has been so watered down — hackneyed even — that I’m loathe to use it. But really, in this case, I think that it’s justified.  Check it out:

As always, I love your writing and appreciate all you do to keep us motivated.
I wanted to write an update on my continued attempts to put theory to practice as I have just reached 101 pounds lost. Having gone from 356 lbs. to 255 lbs. has given me so much vitality and joy. I can now fit in size 36 jeans and XL shirts, coming from size 48’s and 4XL!
I am still pumped about eating well (paleo with minimal cheats) and exercising (beginning Crossfit). I have survived stressful times without binge eating, which was a major concern.
Also, and most importantly to me, I am showing my children that these things are possible. A side note to this point: I have begun having the occasional ice cream with my kids. I felt that it was important to show good eating habits but also the ability to show restraint with foods that kids like. (Thoughts?)
They have begun to see that junk food need not be “everything” and they don’t ask for candy anymore. Well…at least not from me. :)
In fact, last week my dad even asked me to go over my diet with him. He sees the results and knows I am not eating poorly to lose weight and wants in. Yeah!
Anyway, this is where I am.
Hope you and yours are well. Please keep up your great writing.
Thank you,
Jeremy Palmer

A fantastic testimonial for the efficacy of the Paleo lifestyle.  And remember, this is nothing that I’ve created — this “lifestyle”, and the constituent building blocks thereof, have been around since the dawn of mankind.  This is our collective legacy.  I only endeavor to apply these ancient principles, best I can, within the challenges of a modern (and, let’s face it, nutritionally broken) society.  This is the task, the challenge, that confronts each and every one of us — every hour of every day.  Living this lifestyle requires intelligence, wisdom, a good dose of willpower (at least, initially) and a questioning — un-trusting even — attitude.  I’ve met with and conversed with a wide array of Paleo adherents throughout my own Paleo journey, as well as with many would-be, failed practitioners — from just about every ethnicity and socio-economic background you can imagine — and what I’ve found is this: what separates the adherent from the would-be and failed are two things; intelligence and a highly-skeptical, question-authority mindset.  At this point in the game — and until society as whole makes a drastic, nutritional U-turn (which I don’t see as happening in our lifetimes) — only those equipped with the tools and character to “break free of the Matrix” (red pill or blue pill, Neo?) — like our friend Jeremy, here — will succeed at the Paleo endeavor.  This isn’t a pessimist speaking, but the thoughts of a rationalist.  Think about how this manifests on your own lives.  How many of your own friends, family and associates are willing to cast themselves, without a net, into an intellectual solo-flight, an on-going n=1 experiment?  How many are willing to question heretofore “authoritative”, dietary, proclamations,cast aside what they once considered “truth”?  Red pill or blue pill, Neo?  Really, isn’t this what the Buddha asked as well?  Don’t blindly follow me, he said in essence, but tease these things out for yourself, in the laboratory of your own mind and in your own body.  Keep what works, discard what doesn’t.  Above all, though, question; aggressively and ceaselessly question.

And to quickly add my own 2 cents on the question of raising kids within a Paleo framework:

(1) Living as an example is, in my opinion, the best thing you can do, coupled with an on-going discussion of why (at an age-appropriate level, of course) you’ve made this dietary and lifestyle choice.  Do all you can to develop within them the notion of respectful questioning.  Because, let’s face it, sooner or later you have to let them free in the big, woolly (and woefully mis-informed) world, a world governed by — you guessed it — experts.  And being a mainstream “expert” only means that one has majority backing; that may, or may not, connote any modicum of truth.

(2) High dose fish oil, especially in children, will aide in blunting the effects of a less-than-perfect diet.  They will eat crap, no doubt — and lot’s of it — because society at large encourages it, and at a certain point, the need to fit in (or at the very least, not “fit-out”) will override all else.  More on fish oil in a later post.

(3) Personally, I’m not a believer in half-measures — but that’s just me.  I certainly understand where you’re coming from though, Jeremy.  Kids do need to be taught moderation so as to equip them for navigating the real, un-informed world.  This is a touchy question, and I’m calling out to experienced TTP readers to weigh-in on this one.  The way I approached this with my own was to say I choose not to partake because (insert age-appropriate reasoning).  Ultimately, though, you have to make your own choices about how to treat your own body and your own health.  Now, my kids were much older when I began this journey, and were familiar with this kind of talk, usually, though, centered around political ideals, or fitness/sports training topics, drugs, alcohol, sex, etc.  Of course, if I had young children in my home now, they wouldn’t even have access to “bad” foodstuffs (I can see me being a very unpopular grandpa), and hopefully their very early-established “tastes” would help moderate them through the real-world minefield once it was (inevitably) unleashed upon them.  My gut feeling is though, Jeremy, that you know what’s best for your kids at this particular juncture in their lives.  I’m an all-or-nothing kind of guy, and I was an all-or-nothing kid as well.  One thing the years have taught me is that the vast majority of people do not operate that way.  My coaching style works well and is fit for an athletic/sporting environment; in the general public, well…not so much  🙂

I’ll end the day’s pontification there, as I’ve gone on long, long enough.  The real point of this post is to acknowledge a gentleman who has fought the good fight well, and is flying the Paleo flag proudly.  My hope is that Jeremy’s action and success can ignite a desire in others (especially his kids) to do the same.

Here’s to you, Jeremy!  Good work!

In health,


Mainstream Media’s Take on the Paleo Lifestyle

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”

Helen Keller

U.S. News and World Report ran this story today in the on-line version of the magazine.  Not sure if this story is to go to press in the print version or not; I’d like to see the story in print, if for no other reason than to simply gauge John Q. Public’s reaction.

All in all, I guess you can chalk this up as a favorable review of the Paleo lifestyle; as favorable, at least, as we’re likely to find in any mainstream publication.  As excerpted from the article:

On its merits. History aside, the paleo diet has health merit. Except for the dairy and grain issues, it’s pretty close to the tenets of the traditional eating patterns like the Mediterranean and Asian diets and other dietary patterns that focus on plants, fish, lean protein, “good” fats, and whole grains. (Cordain says Stone Age eating is closest to a Japanese-style diet.) It also fits into the small but growing movement turning away from factory-farmed meat and toward eating animals fed what they’ve evolved to eat, like grass rather than grain.

Now, if we could just shake this damn energy balance notion once and for all.  Hell, even the mention that an “alternative” viewpoint (a.k.a., Taube’s, a calorie is not a calorie) would give me reason to cheer.  And then, of course, we’ve got the whole “proper exercise” issue to contend with.  Again, as excerpted from the article:

Ungar and Leonard don’t blame our modern diet-related health problems on any specific food group. Rather, they’re convinced that our major problems these days are the lack of that diversity in our diet—and a positive energy balance. In other words, unlike our Paleolithic forebears, we are taking in more calories than we burn off. “The difference is not simply in what we’re eating but in what we’re doing,” says Leonard.

The greater availability of cheap, high-calorie, high-fat foods is contributing to high rates of obesity, he says, but so is the fact that we aren’t moving anymore. “If you add even an extra 30 minutes to an hour of moderate exercise a day, it’s going to get you to a point where it will make a difference in your long-term energy balance,” he says. “Slow and steady is the mantra. You didn’t see people in farming and herding societies sprinting around. They moved at a low to moderate level of intensity over the course of an entire day.” (emphasis mine)

Uh-huh.  Well, Just a thought — I’d like to know what part of hunter-gatherer is consistent with farming and herding?  I guess that’s an idea, though, that’s lost on both Ungar and Leonard.

Progress in fits and starts, I suppose, is better than no progress at all.

In health,


*A late edit:  Here were my thoughts as posted on the US News and World Report article comment section —

Right Idea…mostly

A hearty thanks to Katherine Hobson for spelling out the basic tenants of the Paleo lifestyle. Between her article, and Richard’s (of Free the Animal) comment, readers new to the “Paleolithic lifestyle” will gain much valuable insight. I hope this sparks a curiosity that will culminate in the conversion of many new “Paleo disciples”. To be critical, though, I have to say that both Unger and Leonard have missed the boat when it comes to exercise prescription and energy balance.

Our paleo ancestors lived an explosive and sprint/power-dominant lifestyle that was anything but what is depicted here as the “slow and steady” farmer/herder lifestyle. This is exactly the point of the Paleo lifestyle – to consume what the body was engineered via eons of evolution to thrive upon, and to push the body physically in such a way as is best suited to encourage development of a powerful, explosive phenotype (i.e., infrequent bouts of short duration, high intensity exercise).

On the point of energy balance, one must remember (1) that the human body is anything but a closed energy system, therefore rendering the “energy balance theory of weight control” the fool’s chase that it is, and (2) the overriding contribution that insulin plays in the partitioning of ingested nutrients, and insulin’s response to the inordinate (and totally alien to our genome, I might add), ingestion of carbohydrates – especially simple carbohydrates, and those derived from grains. This, in effect (and to cop a phrase from Garry Taubes), renders one ingested calorie not necessarily equal to another ingested calorie.

Another in the Long and Sordid List of Diet Study Train Wrecks

“Troubles impending always seem worse than troubles surmounted, but this does not prove that they really are.”

~ Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.

The diet and nutrition “establishment” really just doesn’t get it, do they? You’d think that a university study (Harvard, no less!), titled thusly:

Diets That Reduce Calories Lead to Weight Loss, Regardless of Carbohydrate, Protein or Fat Content

might offer a glimmer of intriguing scientific insight.  Maybe a well-designed study, the results of which force a rethinking of prior-held beliefs.  Not. Just have a look at the carbohydrate content of all four of the various diets used in this study.  Carb. content for all of the diets used fell between 35 and 65 percent of total calories. And to make matters worse, no mention (at least not in this release. Maybe in the study itself?) of what, for the purposes of the study, constitutes a “carbohydrate” calorie. Did a carbohydrate block of Oreos and an equal block composed of leafy greens carry the same weight?  Things that make ya go, hmm.

Really, I expect quite a bit more out of an illustrious institution like Harvard.  I mean, it is Harvard, for godsakes.  Hell, I could get the same dull-minded drivel from The Biggest Loser — which, by the way, I attempted to watch for the first time this week while awaiting the Obama address.  What a complete waste of a perfectly good 5 minutes of my time.  I hate to sound like a pessimist, but with the likes of The Biggest Loser and Harvard leading the way, the overall health of this nation will get a hell of a lot worse before it gets any better.

In Health,