In an Evolutionary Sense, Why Hypertrophy?

No passion so effectively robs the mind of all of its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.

Edmund Burke

The question of “why should there be a hypertrophy response at all” has puzzled me for some time.  On the surface, inflated muscle mass does seem to be a grossly inefficient answer (in metabolic terms) as to how best to endure repeated-effort bouts of high intensity work.  A massive, power-sucking brain we can surely justify — a huge return on metabolic investment, in an evolutionary sense.  Hypertrophy, though, in my mind, is a bit harder to justify.  Why not more of a hedge, for example, toward improved CNS efficiency?  Or a different type/mix of fiber?  Or an overall shift toward a more power-leaning motor unit makeup.  Of course the various “how to’s” of hypertrophy are, in and of themselves, quite enough to keep the forums and blogosphere rife with speculation, hate-mongering and discontent.  All well and good with the lively, on-going debate on that front; we ought, though, to be asking the deeper questions of just why hypertrophy should be in the first place.  Once we know this, we can better hone-in on how to produce it

Evolution for me is a roadmap that helps answer all questions (save for origin), as to what is most efficient at propagating genes from one generation to the next.  Note that “efficient” does not necessarily imply “optimum”.  Keep in mind that in an evolutionary sense, optimum is not required — what is required is that an organism be more efficient than the competition at passing genes from one generation to the next.  Evolution truly adheres to the wise dictum of not letting perfection stand in the way of the good.  Good enough to git’er done better than the competition is good enough.  Optimum phenotyipical expression is another question entirely.  This is where thinkering, manipulation, and critical thought come into play.  Having a firm grasp on where one is, and where one wishes to be, on the health-performance continuum is critical.

My good friend Ken O’Neill has suggested that hypertrophy can be considered in the same light as the neuroplasticity phenomenon associated with the brain.  In other words (and this plays right into our species’ niche as being extremely adaptive, nimble, and opportunistic), the evolutionary beauty of this response might not lay in it’s uber efficiency, per se, but in it’s extreme adaptability.   A leopard retains its leopard-ness, more-or-less, no matter the environment; humans, on the other hand, morph accordingly.   We are nimble enough to both craft a spear, and powerful enough to then hurl the thing…with enough fine motor control, by the way, to land the spear on target.  Our muscle fiber make-up and CNS “wiring” scream of compromise.

Does this get us any closer to uncovering the “secrets” to hypertrophy?  Probably not.  But if we realize that muscle is both metabolic currency, and that it’s metabolically expensive as all hell to gain and maintain, we begin to see just how much absolute work is required to elicit a hypertrophic response; we begin to see the difference between training for “health” and forcing the body into an all-hands-on-deck, survival response.  We also begin to see why we have such wide-ranging genetic predispositions for certain phenotypical expressions of “fitness” or “performance”.  You can take the lanky kid outta the savanna, but you can only somewhat take the savanna outta the kid, so to speak.

If hypertrophy is our species’ evolutionary answer to surviving an extreme (and hopefully short-term, from the body’s point of view) environmental onslaught, it stands to reason that the onslaught better be pretty damn severe for the body to invest in such a risky metabolic fix.  That this “fix” can also be utilized as a ready fuel source should the onslaught subside is just pure evolutionary genius.

Time, tools, techniques, and tenacity; preach it, brother...

This also implies (in my mind, at least) that an optimized hypertrophy response requires a stimulus from all sections of the force-velocity curve; something Scott Abel has termed “surfing” the force-velocity curve.  In essence, we need to perform work throughout the force-velocity spectrum, from the upper-left absolute strength zone on down to the lower-right land of RFD; it all matters and it’s all essential.

cowabunga, dude...

This then implies that if maximized hypertrophy is what you seek (as opposed to mere superior health), then you’d do well to (1) have  access to a large and varied tool box so as to enable working on various movement patterns from the totality of the force-velocity curve, (2) become a master craftsman (technician) so as to manipulate these tools properly, (3) be possessed of the tenacity — the wherewithal — to soldier through the requisite hard work; reading/writing about this is easy, implementation, however, is a never-ending series of gut-checks, and (4) you better have some expendable time on your hands.  We can effectively trim a lot of excess fat from workouts, but the fact of the matter is that an exorbitant amount time under the bar is a necessary evil.

Pushing the performance/hypertrophy envelope is a Faustian bargain, no doubt — which is why so few choose to pursue this path.  Many more are quite content with superior “health” and/or various degrees of performance leading up to the all-out assault on optimizing one’s phenotype — conquering Mt. “Swole”, as it were.  But isn’t this true in all areas of life?  In all areas of maximized performance?  Why is it that we think human performance should follow rules outside the dictates of of nature?  That there must be some inherent “magic” involved?  Sure, the totality of human performance has always been, and will always be, a mixed bag of inheritable traits, epigenetic factors, and human will — all in varying degrees no less.  We are the opportunistic species; placicity is our evolutionary endowment.  For each athlete who’s made it via brutally hard work, I can show you another who was just “born” phenomenal.  Same with the musician, and with the mathematician.  But there is no one formula, one recipe, for success.  We would not have survived as a species if it were otherwise; each step toward singularity is a step toward extinction.


So the 21 Convention is now in the rear-view window, and the Ancestral Health Symposium lay ahead.  It’s been a whirlwind last few weeks.  What a great time I had with Anthony Johnson and the rest of the 21 Convention crew.  Fantastic speakers, enthusiastic attendees and an awesome atmosphere.  The unveiling of the ARX Omni was a highlight of the event for me, and I was able to both discuss this tool’s place within the greater toolbox, and allow some of the attendees to give ‘er a test drive.

I also got to spend quite a bit of time with Richard Nikoley, of Free the Animal fame.  We hit it off like long lost pals.  And why not?  We’re both ex navy men, with a hell-bent Paleo leaning.  I can tell you that Richard is just as “take no prisoners” in person as he is in “blog life”.  What a cool cat.  I look forward to spending more time with him out in LA next weekend.  So what’s the TTP pitch going to be in LA?  Well, Skyler and I intend to champion Physical Culture’s rightful place — the “new” Physical Culture, that is; Physical Culture 2.0, if you will — in fixing the damn healthcare quagmire we find ourselves in now.  Since we hail from the epicenter of this integrative holistic medicine/fitness movement — Austin, Texas — it seems fitting.  Stay tuned 😉

In health,


The Mainstream is Causing Me Serious WTF, Tourette’s-Like Fits…

C’mon, Tourette’s-like fits?  Yes; indeed.  And I’m still pissed.  So much so that I’m gettin’ ready to go all Richard Nikoley on some serious mainstream ignorance.  Okay, so my man Richard is the undisputed king of the verbal beat-down, and this post won’t come near to his standards, but you get the point.

And the point is this: I just don’t understand the reluctance, on the part of mainstream healthcare practitioners, to at least consider the benefits of a Paleo diet.  I guess it’s too much to ask that all healthcare practitioners be as open-minded as, for example, Kurt Harris and Doug McGuff, but seriously… I mean, I fully understand and appreciate the day-to-day time demands placed on these folks, and I realize the seriousness of even the perception of incompetence or malpractice on a doctor’s livelihood.  That said, though, doctors are (or, in a perfect world, should be) in the business of healing, not in the business of, well…business — or dancing unquestionably to the AMA‘s ossified, dictate-fiddles.  I realize, too, that I come at this more from an idealistic point-of-view — I don’t have, amongst a host of other problems to deal with, the repayment of student loans, and insurance and business-related worries to contend with; and yet…

And yet, I want to scream at the top of my lungs to these people to get off the fuckin’ stick, and do some independent study already! People are suffering — dying, even — and the nation is slowly drowning in a quagmire of healthcare-related costs, in large part because you, the “healthcare practitioners” of this great nation, consistently give the wrong friggin’ advice on the very basics of health maintenance.  Wrong on diet, and wrong on exercise prescription.  I mean, damn, this isn’t rocket science, folks.

What is it precisely that’s got me so spun-up?  Well, two things in particular.

First up, check-out the correspondence that Meesus TTP had this week with a mutual friend of ours, a friend who has a young daughter who has recently been diagnosed with — yeah, you guessed it — diabetes.  What follows is a snippet of our friend’s (let’s call her “concerned mom”) most recent chat with Meesus TTP.  I’ve truncated, edited (denoted by parentheses) and/or dropped names due to privacy concerns, but the string of the narrative I’ve left intact.  And that thread is really what it important here, because it is repeated God-only-knows how many times each and every day.  Now tell me if this doesn’t just piss you the hell off.

About (April), she has been on the Paleo diet for about two weeks. She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes on January 6th. She is heading to (mainstream healthcare hell) tomorrow to spend a few days, which a nurse called to confirm today. To make this short…I got an earful about the dangers of the Paleo diet. Sugars are not bad, (April) cannot thrive on a low carb diet, and she STILL has diabetes even if this diet “artificially” lowers (April’s) glucose by an average of 100 points. I was told to feed her a “normal” diet, so they can figure out how much insulin she needs in order to eat like her friends.

Emphasis mine.  UGH!!!! Anyway, continuing on…

(April’s) comment to this was,”But I don’t want to feel like that again, and I have no pimples now.”

Before she was the one scared of the hospital, but now we both are. Why can she not be on the Paleo diet and simply take less insulin (which she still needs)? Another issue is how (April) spikes in the hundreds about an hour into dance. They better not tell us to quit dancing…

I am nervous. People are rude, and we are trying to keep our girl healthy.

(Concerned mom)

Meesus TTP responded, in essence, by telling “concerned mom” that she was obviously dealing with what was essentially a pack of clueless, Alpha-male-dominated baboons, and for God’s sake to get (April) to another, more open-minded (at the very least) facility.  We reinforced the need for her to absorb — and pronto — whatever she possibly could from Robb Wolf’s and Sarah Fragoso’s web-sites.  We’ve also put “concerned mom” in touch with Steve Cooksey, of Diabetes Warrior fame.  If you’re not familiar with Steve’s story, be sure to check him out.  He told the mainstream, in essence, to pack sand up their friggin’ poop-chutes, and in the process, saved his own life.  Too bad that it really has come to this, but alas, it has.  If you want to be healthy, you better take matters into your own hands.  To be sure, there are some fantastic practitioners out there; you’ll just have to do some vigilant, ass-busting research to find them.

What follows now is “concerned mom’s” response to Meesus TTP.  I include this interlude because of these numbers she refers to below — (April’s) blood glucose readings — which are, well…frighteningly off the charts.  Think the doctors have a clue?  Read on — that is, if you can overcome the urge to put your fist through your monitor.

Thank you, Michelle.

I hope we can work with the doctors. We need to enable (April) to dance without hitting 300 an hour in (it was off the charts the first time she spiked, which is when we found out she had a problem). But I still think going from 250 to 140ish throughout the day otherwise is an improvement worth noting.

And we all really love the food 🙂


The first time she spiked:
-Rice Crispies with goat milk for breakfast.
-Tuna with mayo on whole grain bread for lunch.
-An apple with green tea (lightly sweetened with honey) for snack at
about four pm. She hit over 500 at about six PM, an hour into tap.

This diet was before we gave Paleo a shot. I thought it was healthy.

(April) just called from (mainstream healthcare hell) to say they had her eat sugar, and her glucose is 344, but the nurse said,”That can’t be right.”

I’ll keep you posted.

No matter what, we’re keeping the Paleo diet. We just want to make sure we find out why (April) got to be like this to begin with.

Care to take a wild-assed guess as to who recommended this “healthy diet”?  Dammit, this pisses me off to no end!  Look, I take the ins-and-outs of my profession with the utmost seriousness.  I read every-frigging-thing I can get my hands on, and talk with anyone I can on items that are even remotely relevant to the subject of health, fitness and exercise science — whether or not, mind you, that I think at the onset of that read/conversation that I’m going to agree with the subject matter. Hell, I embrace my preconceived notions being pushed and tugged.  Simply put, that is what you do if you expect to be an honest representative within your field of expertise. Now I don’t expect anyone else to do anything more than what I do as a representative within my field of expertise — which is to say keep ahead of the learning curve.  Healthcare practitioners are, by and large though, dropping the proverbial ball, here, and the sad fact is that people are suffering unnecessarily — dying, even — as a result.  Those of you in the healthcare delivery system presumably entered this field to heal those in need — I say to you this: get off the fucking stick, and honor the profession you trained for, and agreed to do.  Be a help to humanity, versus being a damn obstacle to patient health.


Okay, so this next instance is laughable compared to the above, but it just highlights — once more — the mainstream’s utter friggin’  ignorance in all things health and fitness related.  No need to repeat what my Efficient Exercise brother-in-arms has already written, so go check out his piece, You Can’t Get Fit Lying on the Couch All Week, Apparently.

So yeah, sake your head, have a good laugh, and continue on in your own outside-of-the-box, primal pursuit.  And remember, we wouldn’t want people to think that they can get fit lying around on the couch all week  😉


Selected workouts from last week

Wednesday, 1/26/11

(A1) Nautilus pull-over: 255 x 12, 9, 9 (41×1 tempo)

(A2) Cuban press: oly bar x 15, 15, 15

(A3) Bradford press: 95 x 12, 12, 11

What’s up with the weak shoulders?  Well, 10+ years of being wielding my head and shoulders as a weapon in the course of being a defensive hit-man took a serious toll on (especially) my right shoulder; couple that with some ill-advised (and extremely ungraceful) mountain biking face-plants and a couple of recent fixie near misses and, well… welcome to shoulder prehab/rehab land.  I’m trying to swallow my own medicine here and not push through the pain of continued overhead work; attempting to bypass my natural inclination of letting surgery and surgery alone dictate my lay-off periods (Dan John knows what I’m talking about here — and so, I’m guessing, do many of you)  🙂  So yeah, now that I have this in “print” now, maybe I’ll actually follow through with a “cease and desist” on the overhead work until my shoulder quits yelling at me.  Or, I may just resort to cortisol/Novocaine cocktail and just keep on keeping on.  Juuuuust joking…   🙂

Thursday, 1/27/11 –

Two rounds of the following, with each round separated by approximately six hours, during which time I did a frac-ton of fixie riding.

(A1) breathing squats: 225 x 21

(A2) bicep curls (EZ bar): 105 x 21 (clusters x 3s)

(A3) “ski jump” shrugs: 305 x 21 (clusters x 3s)

“Breathing squats”?  Think extended rest-pause, without racking the weight.  Trap bar deadlifts/RDLs are good candidates for this technique as well.  Clusters?  Many, many ways to manipulate the “cluster” technique, but in this case I performed three regular tempo (3o1o) reps, then paused for approximately 10 seconds (weight still in-hand) before hitting the next “cluster” of 3.  Wash, rinse, repeat…

Friday, 1/28/11

(A1) Russian leg curl: bw x 10, 10, 10, 10

(A2) weighted dips: 45 x7; 90 x 5, 5, 4+

(A3) T-Bar swings: 100 x 30, 30, 30, 30

The Kitchen Klutz Stumbles Through Another Paleo Meal and, Commentary on the Atlantic’s Recent “Beating Obesity” Article

“The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance.” – Socrates

Crock pot meals may, to the culinary artist, boarder on the unimaginative, but they sure are easy as all hell to throw together — and they’re not too bad in the taste department, either.  And hey, for those of us who’d rather play outside than spend much time in the kitchen, they’re a Godsend.

What we have here is a simple pork sausage (stuffed in stomach lining), a grass-fed chuck roast, carrots, celery, onions and beef broth.  Season the roast with a little brisket rub, set the crock on low and let it roll for approximately 10 hours.  How easy is that?

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Marc Ambinder Makes Fighting Obesity Personal

Well, this is certainly not a statistic to be proud of — as of 2010, the U.S. became the most overweight and obese developed country in the world.  Unfortunately, this comes as a shock to no one. Against this backdrop, we have journalist Marc Ambinder’s making the rounds as of late, following the recent publication of his article in The Atlantic (Beating Obesity), which documents his personal and on-going fight against obesity. It’s interesting stuff, to be sure, and touches on a few issues (Bariatric surgery, for one) that are bound to incite much indignation among the Paleo tribe.

NPR interviewed Marc Ambinder recently about the article, which appeared in the May issue of The Atlantic.  Also on hand was Dr. Arthur Frank, founder and co-director of The George Washington University Weight Management Program.  Both guests talk about the plight of America’s ever expanding waistline, Ambinder’s recent article, and the two field some interesting call-in questions as well.  It’s well worth the listen.

In Beating Obesity, Ambinder writes:

“…In short, even as the nation is convulsed by a political struggle to “reform” health care, no effort to contain its costs is likely to succeed if we can’t beat obesity…”

Hmmm.  Now I’m not prone to beating my own drum, but I’ve said before, in reference to the nation’s healthcare reform debate, that:

“…No system can be created that will not ultimately implode under the weight of a diseased citizenry…”

This, in my opinion, is a self-evident truth.  And this is the reason why, that, although we Paleo adherents may continue on merrily in our own happy and healthy, insular bubbles, we cannot fully escape the train wreck that is the pending American healthcare crisis.  One way or another, Paleo brethren, we’re all going to pay (taxation, loss of choice, etc.).  It’s in our best interest to remain fully engaged, even though we find ourselves more fully, each passing Paleo day, removed from the mainstream nutritional-supply and healthcare-provision system.

Also from the article was this little data tidbit that I found quite interesting:

“…[I]talian economists recently divided the number of calories consumed per day by the amount of time spent preparing food, they found that Americans consumed 42 percent more calories per minute of food-prep time than Europeans…”

Can you say “reliance upon processed foods”?  Yeow-zaa.  Holy insulin rush, Batman.

Oh yeah, and the “Soft American” article that Ambinder speaks to can be found here.   My, my; I wonder what ol’ Jack would think about the state of American youth (not to mention, adults), today.

But hey, it’s not all bad news out there.  Here’s a story on an innovative new initiative in Baltimore, which allows inner-city folks the opportunity to order groceries from the library, and have those groceries delivered to the library the following day.  Very cool.  Couple this with some good nutritional educational resources, and a little “want to” on the part of the participants, and this program may just become one positive piece of the complex, American, “nutritional turnaround” puzzle.  Small steps do add-up, whether in health, fitness or in education.

In health,


Whole Foods and the Healthcare Uprising

“The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

Margaret Thatcher

photo: ThomasThomas

I’ve had a little bit of time now to mull over the moral outrage directed at John Mackey (and, by association, Whole Foods), over Mackey’s recent Wall Street Journal Op Ed piece.   From what I can tell, the nexus of the piss-storm from the left has come about from the following two statements:

“…Many promoters of health-care reform believe that people have an intrinsic ethical right to health care—to equal access to doctors, medicines and hospitals. While all of us empathize with those who are sick, how can we say that all people have more of an intrinsic right to health care than they have to food or shelter?”


“…Unfortunately many of our health-care problems are self-inflicted: two-thirds of Americans are now overweight and one-third are obese. Most of the diseases that kill us and account for about 70% of all health-care spending—heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and obesity—are mostly preventable through proper diet, exercise, not smoking, minimal alcohol consumption and other healthy lifestyle choices.”

And I can’t say that I necessarily disagree with Mr. Mackey on these points, or with the whole of his Op Ed piece, for that matter. I think most of us here can pretty much full-on agree with the second statement.  How much could be saved in the health care system as a whole, if we were able to eradicate metabolic syndrome alone?  And this “syndrome”, in the vast majority of instances, is totally, totally, preventable.  Remove metabolic syndrome from the table, and I dare say that this debate would not even be happening.  The general public, however, has not yet been forced to face the fact that they are a huge (dare I say the largest?) part of the health care problem — not government, not business — but the masses who choose not to take serious interest in the maintenance of their own health.

As to Mackey’s first statement, well…I’m an odd political mix, and I hold true to no particular political party or ideology; that said, I am for what works in any given situation, regardless of the origin of that idea’s ideology.  I do, however, find myself siding mostly with the libertarian point of view on most issues.  Not always, though — health care being one example.  Putting a man on the moon, the interstate highway system, the creation of the National Parks system — these would have never come to fruition without significant government involvement.  It is my opinion that health care reform is the same kind of animal.  There is no perfect answer, of course, but I feel that a good first step starting point — a platform from which to proceed further — would be something akin to the Swiss/Dutch system.

This does not mean, however, that I believe the government to be competent (or uncorrupted) enough to handle such an undertaking.  Far from it.  Unfortunately, the health care issue comes tethered with vast amounts of money, and, with that, a phenomenal amount of greed and power mongering.  If anyone believes that at the highest levels of government and corporate America, if this discussion is centered around anything other than profit and potential profits, you’ve already ingested you’re fair share of “blue pills”.  Go now, turn on a Three’s Company rerun, and rest peacefully until your number’s up.

*Seriously, that’s my last red pill/blue pill analogy for quite some time.  I think I’ve sufficiently worn that one thin.*

My personal gut feeling about how healthcare reform will shape up is summed-up beautifully here, in a post by Hunter, at the Daily Kos.  In a nutshell, you’ll get mandatory universal coverage — coverage supplied by private insurers, and something similar to the previously-mentioned Swiss/Dutch system.  Insurers will make up for the have-to-cover, “pre-existing condition” groups and/or expensive customers with the positive of adding additional millions of paying customers to the bottom line.  Both the left and the right will, after sufficient “spinning”, claim ideological “victory”, politicians will mostly be re=elected in their districts, and the system will continue to eat itself alive because the underlying problems of corporate greed, political power-mongering, and an inattention to basic personal health (diet/fitness) remain.  The Swiss/Dutch system works, not because it is a clever mix of government and open-market interaction, but because the Swiss and Dutch are culturally of a different mindset.  No system can be created that will not ultimately implode under the weight of a diseased citizenry.  In the US, attitudes must change.  Priorities must be re-arranged.  I know I’m speaking to the choir here when I say this, but if you want true healthcare reform, you must first reform that person in the mirror.  Everything else, then, will take care of itself.

Tonight’s speech will be interesting…and telling.

In health,


You Gotta be Kidding Me, Right?

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

– Thomas Edison

Uhhhh, ok?
Uhhhh, ok?

I’m not even sure where to begin with this; speechless, you might say — and when it comes to diet and fitness, that’s not at all like me.  The one thing that I can say, though, is that one can easily see how we as a nation ended up in the health care morass we find ourselves in now.  Now I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a conspiracy theorist per se, but damn, if the general public is gullible enough to be taken in by the utter bullshit spewed by the folks behind the Smart Choices food labeling campaign, well… I guess I’m the fool for not taking in some of that action, too.  Problem is, I can’t seem to muzzle my conscience.  The Smart Choices crowd, however, seems to have no problem at all with that little inconvenience.

Anyway, how’s this for a few selected pearls of “wisdom”?

Eileen T. Kennedy, president of the Smart Choices board and the dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, said the program’s criteria were based on government dietary guidelines and widely accepted nutritional standards.”

Emphasis mine.  Apparently, having a long list of credentials following one’s name does not inoculate against pure F*ing stupidity.  Or selling-out, for that matter.

“You’re rushing around, you’re trying to think about healthy eating for your kids and you have a choice between a doughnut and a cereal,” Dr. Kennedy said, evoking a hypothetical parent in the supermarket. “So Froot Loops is a better choice.”

How about a nice cup of arsenic, kiddos, or maybe a duce-duce slug to the temple?  Hell, CAFO animals are treated more humanely.   Donuts.  Froot Loops.  Health care debate.  Now I’m feeling suicidal.  If you haven’t already, check out Richard’s post for more on the subject of rampant, abject stupidity.

“Froot Loops is an excellent source of many essential vitamins and minerals and it is also a good source of fiber with only 12 grams of sugar,” said Celeste A. Clark, senior vice president of global nutrition for Kellogg’s, which makes Froot Loops. “You cannot judge the nutritional merits of a food product based on one ingredient.”

And just who is this Celeste A. Clark dumb-ass, you ask?

“Dr. Clark, who is a member of the Smart Choices board, said that the program’s standard for sugar in cereals was consistent with federal dietary guidelines that say that “small amounts of sugar” added to nutrient-dense foods like breakfast cereals can make them taste better. That, in theory, will encourage people to eat more of them, which would increase the nutrients in their diet.”

Ahh, I get it now. Nice move, doc.; now, how does it feel to be wealthy and soulless?  Explain to me again the difference between this and the business model for a successful drug cartel?

And finally this.  “Finally”, not because that’s all the stupidity and wanton greed exposed in this article, but because it’s all that I can stomach in one day:

“Ten companies have signed up for the Smart Choices program so far, including Kellogg’s, Kraft Foods, ConAgra Foods, Unilever, General Mills, PepsiCo and Tyson Foods. Companies that participate pay up to $100,000 a year to the program, with the fee based on total sales of its products that bear the seal.”

I bet they have. Now, take a wild guess as to what kind of political power these companies wield via intense lobbying efforts.  What kind of incestuous interests do these companies have in the pharmaceutical and insurance business?  Things to ask yourself.  You say you want health care “reform”?  I say you’re seriously fucked; pardon the French.  Comparisons to the military-industrial complex, anyone?

More on this later.

In health,


Usain Bolt’s Other-Worldly Performance, Sensible Healthcare Reform, Free-Range Meat, and More

“To find yourself, think for yourself. ”

– Socrates

Another fine, fine, n=1 quote.

Little Girl and Big Guy, courtesy of Farm City

Little Girl and Big Guy, courtesy of Farm City

A few things from this past week.  First off, a couple of observations from the world of track and field —

If you haven’t yet seen this clip, check it out.  I’m left grasping for something to compare Usain Bolt to.  One tends to forget that this kid is walking away from world class athletes.  Astonishing, is all that I can say…

Bolt is the “perfect storm” of sprinting; off-the-charts power-to-bodyweight ratio, aerodynamically put together, extremely long stride at top-end speed (with the ability to both maintain the speed and stride length for the duration of the race, i.e., anaerobic stamina) and the ability to transfer that high power development to the ground, both from a dead-start (piston action) and at full stride (spring action).  A perfect sprinting combination of fortunate genetics and fabulous, first-class training methods.  The Jamaicans know how to train sprinters, and they have a wealth of talent to choose from.

And speaking of genetics, genetic expression, and the powerful effects of hormones on the phenotype, how about the controversy surrounding the women’s 800 meter phenom, Caster Semenya?  Now, I’m certainly not trying to imply that following a Paleo lifestyle will impart an extra Y chromosome “advantage” to the Paleo ladies out there, or unleash an unlimited fountain of testosterone in the guys, only that the Paleo “push” that we do provide via positive genetic expression (and, hence, hormonal expression) does account for a good portion of our overall health and bodily composition benefits.

According to the NPR news story cited above:

Gender testing used to be mandatory for female athletes at the Olympics, but the screenings were dropped in 1999. One reason for the change was not all women have standard female chromosomes (i.e., an xxy make-up — my insertion for clarification).  In addition, there are cases of people who have ambiguous genitalia or other congenital conditions.

The most common cause of sexual ambiguity is congenital adrenal hyperplasia, an endocrine disorder where the adrenal glands produce abnormally high levels of hormones.

Health of the modern-day, semi-hunter-gatherers

What’s interesting here is that the people being studied (the Tsimane tribe, of Amazonian Bolivia) exhibit high C-reactive protein (CRP) levels, and yet show no signs, even in far advanced years, of heart disease or other markers of “metabolic syndrome”.  The high CRP levels — a marker of inflammation — are surely attributed to the high instance of parasitic infestation among these peoples.  What keeps them from developing good ol’ western style metabolic syndrome?  Well, my guess is that the Tsimane maintain low insulin levels due to a lack of simple carbohydrate ingestion.  Again, insulin is the main player, with other factors (in this case, inflammation) playing the part of “tools of convenience”; aiding and abetting, so to speak.  Very, very interesting, to say the least.  Check out the NPR story (podcast), here, and the University of Southern California news story, here.   We as modern Paleos can learn much from research like this.  The most practical take-home message here being that the intelligent Paleo practitioner will marry the best of the past (diet, movement patterns) with the best of modernity (sanitary practices) in what should be an ever-evolving, progressive and intelligent union.

On “Evangelizing” the good news…

Yes, it’s tricky business, to be sure, the practice of offering unsolicited advice; and I avoid it myself, as if were the plague (…attempting to teach a pig to sing will only frustrate you and annoy the pig).  But when the government is involved, though — in other words, someone with the power to force their will upon me — I feel it’s imperative to speak up.  Here’s an interesting bit of commentary on the on-going (American) healthcare debate.  The link is to a Super Human Radio podcast interview with Dr. Ronald Klatz.  Dr. Klatz is one of the Founders of A4M (The American Academe of Anti-Aging Medicine) and has presented a Healthcare plan that can not only (purportedly) save the country Trillions of dollars, but will also extend the lives of most Americans.  Also, check out A4M’s article on the 12 Point Action Plan for effective healthcare reform ( here is the 12-point plan itself).   My only problem with the proposal is that is conspicuously deficient of any mention of the positive health markers elicited by the adoption of a Paleo-like lifestyle.  One small step at a time, I suppose.  Even with that deficiency, this is still the best set of action points that I’ve seen floated by any group with any sibilance of influence (little as A4M may have) in Washington.  Kinda tough to compete with folks like this, ya know.

…and of having the good news evangelized to you

Again my good friend Carl Lanore, at Super Human Radio comes through with an informative and timely interview.  This time out, he’s got John Wood, of US Wellness Meats on the line.  John has been raising beef cows in the traditional, grass-fed way for decades.  Listen as the discussion turns to the health benefits of eating grass fed, hormone free, antibiotic free beef, over the conventional beef-look-alike that lines your grocery food store shelves.  When it comes to grass-fed beef, John knows his stuff.  Want to know why the Argentinians are so adept at producing a fantastic steak?  John will fill you in.  Now I’m lucky in that I live in a relatively rural area, so I have ready access to grass-fed/free-range meat.  If you don’t have ready access to these products, though, check out the folks at US Wellness Meats.  Really, their prices aren’t that much higher than what I pay for my locally raised products.  That’s a good deal for everyone — you and the producer of these quality products; not to mention the animals themselves who get to live out their lives naturally, and free of cruelty.

What I’m reading now…

417+3oDgsoL_optWant to try your hand at subsistence farming and ranching?  You say you’d love to, but live smack-dab in the city, and that, of course, ends that little dream.  Well, think again.  Novella Carpenter has written a gem of a book entitled Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer.  I could gush on and on about this book — it’s just fantastic.  The juxtaposition of farming and animal husbandry struggles against life in the “hood” is nothing less than fascinating.  Even if you have no desire whatsoever with delving into raising your own food, I’d still highly recommend this book.  Really, it’s the sleeper of the summer, and I’m so very glad that I stumbled upon it.  If anyone will make you want to chuck the ol’ 9-to-5 (7-to-6 is more like it nowadays), and try your hand at eeking it out on your own little plot, Novella will.  And before you think that Novella is some kind of militant Berkeley vegetarian, think again — she raises her own chickens, turkeys, rabbits, goats and pigs for consumption, and does her own slaughtering.  My kinda girl.  Anyway, pick up her book and check out her blog (cited above); you’ll be so glad you did.

And one final tidbit…

Psychological barriers: we all know what it’s like when we can’t seem to bust past certain plateaus in our workouts.  Maybe it’s a certain amount of pull-up reps, or a certain number of 100 meter repeats.  We feel like we ought to be able to pull it of physically, but for some reason our psyche is holding us back.  Well, Kevin Purdy of has a great idea to help overcome that overactive (and self protective) mind: using a camcorder; check it out.  Of course, in time you can train your brain to somewhat squelch that overly-protective-mom-like feature, but this camcorder idea looks to me like a perfect bridge to help get one to that point a little quicker.  Try it out and let me know what you think.

Is the Tipping Point Near?

I’m sure many of you have already heard about this tragic story in some form or fashion.  If not, check it out, and give it some serious thought.  We tend to think of healthcare (and health insurance) as being wholly independent entities, country to country.  At their heart, though, these “industries” are globally-connected, financial instruments, with many similarities to the globally-connected banking system (see this post for some discussion on that).

I won’t elaborate much more on this particular issue, as Sandy Swarc, of the fantastic blog, Junkfood Science, has given Japan’s healthcare woes wonderful treatment here.

I will say, though, that the root of Japan’s insurance crisis can be summarized in this statement (from Junkfood Science):

Single-payer medical insurance systems fail in part because of what they called “the tragedy of the commons.” Japanese health care is a typical example, they said. By “tragedy of the commons,” they were referring to grazing land: “free access to common grazing land drives each herdsman to maximise his own take from the commons, even when it becomes overcrowded with grazing animals.” Ultimately, this behaviour ruins the common land, as well as those who depend on it for survival, they said. The problem is clearly complicated, but their frustrations were palpable.

Another way to put this is, no one washes a rented car.  This is economics 101 for free-marketers, like my self (acually, I’m a little more open-minded about smart government intervention than the dyed-in-the-wool variety).  The time for creative, outside-of-the-box thinking on health and healthcare is quickly approching.

In Health,


The Pending Health Insurance Implosion

“We are continually faced by great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.”

~ Lee Iacocca

The following link is to an Edge video stream of a panel discussion between Daniel Kahneman and Nassim Nicholas Taleb concerning the global financial crisis in general, and the US (and now world-wide) banking crisis, specifically. This is a rather long presentation, and not necessarily a health-related, TTP topic, per se. However, some of the ideas floated during this very interesting discussion, could, in my opinion be massaged so as to be useful in the healthcare arena. Again, I am first and foremost a free-market guy, and so is Taleb. But apart from that, I am more interested in what works in a given situation.  If that happens to be some creative mix of government and free-market economies, I’m all for it.  Ultimately, though, I’d like to see the private industry set up so as to include these proposed (see below) paradigm shifts. However, being the realist that I am, I do see a heavy amount of government influence in this arena in the very near future. That being the case, I’d at least like to have my voice heard on the issue.

How can the current healthcare provider/insurance complex benefit from creative (and, really, completely outside of the box) thinking within the world of finance? Specifically, one of Taleb’s recommendations is to create a two-tiered finance system whereby “lending banks” would be insured (i.e., government backed), and operate as do modern-day utilities (gas, water electric, etc.), and “investment houses” (for lack of a better term) would be uninsured, and responsible in and unto themselves. All risk would be assumed, then themselves as would potential profits. Those investing with the investing bank would be under no disillusion as to the status of their investment – namely, it would be uninsured, with any profits distributed as per contract agreement. This would effectively insulate the nuts-and-bolts, borrowing-lending machinery for mortgages, businesses, etc., from the speculative end of the financial spectrum. Note that this is a very much condensed and layman’s version of Taleb’s complex idea, and is only intended as a segue into the following question: could such a two-tier model be used in the health insurance market? And, more specifically, how would such a model be constructed and managed, as seen through the prism of the comprehensive healthcare provider?

I agree with Brent Pottenger, of the healthcare epistemocrat blog, in his contention that we need a parallel establishment for the health insurance industry. Check out Brent’s blog, he’s got some really good ideas when it comes to fixing the nation’s healthcare issues. As Brent says:

We need a parallel group for the health insurance industry. When/if the health insurance industry crumbles, we will see, I suspect, a parallel situation emerge (quoting Taleb) ‘in which it’s the worst of capitalism and socialism, a situation in which profits were privatized and losses were socialized. We taxpayers have the worst.’

(emphasis mine).

My sincere hope is that the healthcare system remains wholly within the realm of the free-market, as I feel that only the free-market is nimble enough to pull-off such a far-reaching change; I remain, though, open-minded as to what government can bring to the table. I’d also like to see healthcare insurance rates tied to blood work, leaving private insurance companies the flexibility to charge rates depending on what they deem to be “a good blood profile”. I think we all know what the best blood profile leans towards and how to go about achieving that kind of a profile. It will not take long for the private sector to come to the same conclusions, once profit incentive is given free reign. Then, maybe my neighbor would be “nudged” toward chasing better insurance rates by adopting my Paleo lifestyle. Maybe this could be considered part of the “second tier”, or speculative insurance. One thing is certain: the system will have to morph into something drastically different, and soon.

In Health,


A Paleo “Nudge”; Can it Work?

“If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them.”

~ Isaac Asimov

TTP reader Brandon McNamara asked the following question recently to the Theory to Practice Facebook group (I’ve taken the liberty of some re-phrasing and paraphrasing – any instance of atrocious grammar and/or mangled sentence structure is therefore squarely on me):

Hey All –

I was wondering if anyone was interested in exploring the possibility of submitting a proposal for a competition for designing better health. The idea is to create “nudges” (see description below if you aren’t familiar with the term) in order to help people make better decisions regarding their own health and the health of others.

I think we may have some good habits that could be applied to others in order to help them make better decisions when it comes to eating and exercise.

Here’s the competition description:

What is a “nudge”?

A “nudge” is a subtle “carrot” (or, it could just as well be a stick) that serves to steer one toward a “middle way”, encouraging better decision making without taking away one’s freedom to choose. What is sought is a centrist path between the one side that believes freedom comes from having as many choices as possible, and the other side, that believes freedom comes from the simplicity of being able to accept or reject one good choice.

Here’s an example of a Nudge in action:

Take TB Meds, Get Mobile Minutes.

I look forward to the discussion!

While I can’t say that I’ve read the book, Nudge, by Thaler and Sunstein, (by the way, the provided link includes a couple of good interview video clips & a written interview/summary of the book), I have read extensively  (magazine, Internet) over the last week or so about the concept. In addition, the Nudge blog offers some good reading and insight to compliment that information contained in the Amazon, Nudge book link, cited above.

And after mulling over the concept, I’ve come away with a few ways to implement a “personal nudge” that I think would work (for me, personally at least); however, the “carrot and/or stick” concept falls to pieces when the attempt is made to morph this idea into a group dynamic. I’ve also found that it’s easier to come up with positive, or “do” nudges than it is to create a corollary, negative, “don’t” version. And dietary changes – at least in the initial stages – are usually more about “don’ts” and substitutions. This is especially true if we’re talking about eliminating certain foodstuffs – grains, refined carbohydrates, say — altogether, while retaining the good choices. Another major obstacle, of course, is that whatever defined “governing entity” – that “organization” which would ostensibly oversee the “nudging process”, would have to agree at the onset as to what, exactly, to nudge toward. Appropriately, a nudge in the broad direction of “better health” won’t work well, precisely because “good health” is too obtuse, too vague, and not easily defined. A good nudge needs to be readily (and narrowly) defined — and a little more concrete — to be effective in eliciting positive change.

I would suggest that, for a beginning point, common ground could be found in, say, identifying foods and actions that can be proven to promote favorable blood profiles – cholesterol levels, triglycerides, C-reactive protein and insulin levels, as an example – but as Richard (of Free the Animal) has so deftly pointed out in his LDL series, here (part 1, and part 2), do we really want to use the mainstream’s definition of a “favorable” blood profile to be used as a benchmark? The obvious answer is no, and herein lay the crux of the “group dynamic” problem vis-a-vis the nudge concept.

Now, it might very well be that “nudging” toward improved health may actually be a subsequent step (I’m speaking from, say, a national prospective) to first re-defining what a favorable blood profile really consists of in the first place. Readers of TTP are, of course, familiar with what constitutes a healthy blood profile, however, the mainstream is still largely aloof – not to mention clueless as to how a western diet serves to negatively affect these critical blood parameters. It seems to me then, that first pushing for a re-definition of measured “health” – maybe via a venue like Change.Gov, for example – is a sensible first step.  I think that it’s critical to first correctly define the goal, in no uncertain terms.  Then, let the war begin as to how best achieve those parameters.

But I am just one person, time restricted, and attempting to cobble together far-flung ideas.  What do you think? What are some personal nudges you’ve implemented to help guide you along your Paleo path? And could these same nudges (or tweaked versions of the nudges) work under the unique demands of a group dynamic? Where – and how – should the deck-plate level initiate on “overall health” be established? Assuming that for a wholesale change in the general population’s attitude to occur, first the mainstream scientific community’s mindset must be altered (knowledge trickle-down effect) – how best would an interest go about this?

Let me know your thoughts. Because, the truth of the matter is, like it or not, a more universal-style of health management is likely on the horizon. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to at least think that I publicly, and intelligently, voiced an opinion on the matter.

In Health,