A couple of Workouts, and Gut Health

Look at the contrast between these (my latest) two workouts; this is what I consider to be “Conjugate for the masses”.  I do think it’s possible to blend power emphasis work with HIT/strength work and the more MetCon-ish/HIIT sessions as well — all within the same overall plan.  Add a dash of some bodybuilding-like volume work and, well, we’ve got all the bases just about covered.  For most folks, I’d place a premium (and therefore more emphasis) on strength, work which can be effectively and efficiently accomplished using various HIT methods.  Work on these other physical aspects (or “strengths” as Louie Simmons tends to term them) can be feathered-in, though, quite nicely and, in my experience at least, without undo fear of overtraining.

Monday’s workout:  a short and sweet superset here, followed by a little CZT work –

*Gunthor-style clean and jerks: 115 x 10; 135 x 7, 7, 7, 7, 7

rev grip pull-ups: bodyweight x 7; 45# x 7, 6, 6, 5, 5

No rest between sets or between exercises in the above superset.  Then it was on to:

CZT horizontal  chest press: 3 hyper-reps (a max negative followed immediately by a max positive effort; 3 reps in rest-pause fashion)

CZT horozontal leg press: 3 hyper- reps

*Werner Gunthor; Swiss shot puttin’ bad ass from back in the day.  Possessed with the work ethic of a single-minded madman, and with a penchant for hellish training regimens.  Cast from the same mold as  Soviet Hammer-man Sergey Litvinov.  These two exemplify the term “power personified”.   Now, for what I call “Gunthor clean & presses”, check out the man himself demonstrating them at the 1:05 mark in this impressive clip.  The clean and jerk is a great movement, no doubt — however, I like Gunthor’s method a bit better, due to the incorporation of a reactive catch/pressing motion.  The Olys are great, but sometimes a derivative works better for athletic applications apart from the sport of Oly lifting itself.  And yeah, the audio is in French (note to self: I should have paid a little more attention in school) — but damn, do you really need much of a narrative, here?  Look out!  Heavy duty explosive work ahead:

I followed that beauty up with a HIT beat-down on Wednesday at the Efficient Exercise downtown studio.  Bouncing between the various Efficient Exercise studios allows me to pretty much do it all, in a weightlifting sense.  The fact that I now live about 1 mile from Lehman high school (nice outdoor track!), and work in central Austin (with an abundance of parks) allows me to get my sprint on whenever I want…and the fact that I’m now in Austin means that, yes, I am smack-dab in the middle of fixie heaven 🙂  Needless to say, I’m never at a loss for a workout outlet.  Here’s Wednesday’s dates with a HIT session:

Tru squat: (weight – 100, counter weight – 115, wide stance, 3rd pin, 4010 tempo) 15, approx. 15 secs rest, 15 – then immediately to:

Super-slow leg curl: 160 lbs x 10, approx. 15 secs  rest, 12 –  4040 tempo

Nautilus Pec Dec: 110 x 10 ( 4040 tempo), then immediately to:

Nautilus chest press/crunch: 170 x 8 ( 4040 tempo)

Nautilus pull-over: 215 x 9 (4020 tempo), then immediately to:

X-Ccentric pull-downs: (20# midline add), 9 reps @ 5010 tempo

Nautilus shoulder lateral raise: 170 x 9 (2040 tempo), then immediately to:

X-Ccentric upright press: (no counter weight, no added weight) x 7 resp-pause singles (40×0 tempo)

Notice that a pre-exhaust methodology prevailed here.  And yeah, so I preceded and followed that little jewel with a 5-mile, hard fixie jaunt.  Needless to say, I slept well Wednesday night  🙂   …and I’m still feeling it a bit today.

A couple of items to check out:

Gut health, from NPR’s Fresh Air, with Terry Gross.  We in the Paleo community are hip to the idea of maintaining an active an healthy gut flora, and the benefits of a Paleo diet toward that end.  The mainstream is just starting to come around to the healthy gut flora concept, though they’re still years away (or so it seems) from connecting the dots between a Paleo diet and a rockin’, healthy gut.  Can body fat levels be altered simply by altering gut flora?  You bet; check it out.

…and Skyler Tanner waxes poetic on the notion of “easy” results.  Workouts that are short in duration?  You bet; short on intensity, though?  Not on your life.

Back in the Gym, Tubers, IF, and “Eating to Gain”

I always feel a tad bit “slow” in my first explosive workout following a lengthy layoff; and yeah, 5 days completely off is, for me, quite a prolonged bit of down-time.  My theory is that keeping the CNS primed (amped, hyped, what have you) for explosive movement is metabolically expensive, and is therefore quickly down-regulated when the body senses that it is not required for “survival”.  And to that end (seeking to “jazz” my CNS a bit prior to each “money” movement), I opted to perform a ballistic, similar-like motion in immediate advance of performing the main movements of choice in today’s workout.  Those two exercises were a DB snatch (cred) + push-press (x2) + jerk combo, and an ab wheel roll-out.

The resulting complex looked like this:

drop + rebound jump: x 5, each round
cred + single-arm push-press x 2 + single-arm jerk x 1 combo: 75 x 5, 5; 85 x 3, 3; 90 x 3
straight bar muscle-up: bodyweight: x 2, each round
ab wheel roll-out: bodyweight: x 7, 7, 10, 10, 10
5 total rounds

drop + rebound jump: step off of a low box (approx 18″ high) and, immediately upon ground contact, spring up and over a subsequent, taller (approx. waist-high) box.  Focus on minimal ground contact time.

cred combo: number of reps indicates number of db snatches performed prior to the presses for that arm; i.e., 5 snatches (at 75 #) with the right arm and, immediately following the 5th snatch, perform the press/jerk portion of the combo with the same arm.  Then switch to the left arm and repeat the process; 5 snatches followed by the presses/jerk.

Why only 2 muscle-ups per round?  Because beyond the second rep I know that (from experience), I shift from a speed-strength/RFD emphasis to more of a strength-speed emphasis.  It’s purely a speed of execution thing.  In this case, I’m simply looking for a CNS stimulus in this particular movement pattern, I’m not looking to work the movement pattern, per se.  There is a difference, albeit subtle.

ab wheel roll-outs: now I am looking to work this particular movement pattern (notice how a full roll-out is a very similar movement pattern to a straight-bar muscle-up).  Full extension, minimal knee/body ground contact.  Lead with the butt on the concentric portion of the movement and don’t allow the hips to sag/sink in the eccentric portion.

Questions?  Answers!

TTP reader Alejandro (noted in italics) writes:

I first want to thank you for putting all this content out there (in your site). Your story is really inspiring and definitely shows amazing results. I started almost a year ago, for health reasons. I was 19 and had digestive issues which all cleared up a couple of months into paleo. Because of the results paleo has had on my health it has been really easy to stick to it (+ the food is amazing anyways). I have also started lifting, and here is where my questions arise.
– Friends at the gym are advising me to eat massive amounts of food. Since I started paleo I have just eaten when I feel hungry, I went from 155lbs to 135lbs (I am 5’6, stabilized at 135lbs). I don’t know my bf% but I can see my upper 4 abs, the only sport I used to do before lifting is racquetball  and I don’t have much muscle on. Should I eat when I am hungry or should I make a conscious effort to eat more. My friends always go through cut/bulk cycles, I would prefer to be fairly lean through out the year. What is your opinion on this?

The old school “eat to gain” idea is, in my opinion, totally misguided/outdated information.  Not that all “old school” guys advocated the notion, either, as Vince Gironda thought the idea was ludicrous; yet another example of the Iron Guru being light-years ahead of the pack.  Given the proper stimulus (weight training), the body will more than adequately adjust appetite to compensate for growth.  You need do no more than what you’re doing now — eat to satiation, and eat when hungry.  The only time I’d advocate (slight) overeating is in the case of someone wanting to gain bulk for unique, sport-specific reasons — an American football, offensive lineman, for instance.

Training-wise, you’ll want to identify if your goals lean more toward aesthetics or sport-specific betterment, as this will determine (in a gross way), how your workouts will be structured.

– I read in one of your posts that you eat tubers. Is this right? I also share the same idea that tubers could be an integral part of the paleo diet. I have tested to see how I react to eating tubers (sweet potatoes, cassava, taro, malanga, etc), they cause me no problem. But how much tuber do you think is proper? Do you try to go for a certain % of carbs in your diet? What is your opinion on the whole tuber issue?

I think tubers — and just about any root food for that matter — are fantastic carbohydrate sources.  Your intake ought to be personalized as to your diet intent (i.e., fat loss, maintenance, etc.), allowing for upswings in times of maintenance, and reductions if weight loss becomes an issue.  I don’t personally count calories, macro-nutrient percentages, meal frequencies, or whatever, nor do I advocate anyone else doing so (there are, though, always unique exceptions).  I simply eat what I feel like eating within the Paleo umbrella, to satiation, and when I’m hungry.  Due to cooking methods/options/recipes, I naturally eat more tubers, roots and such in the winter, and less in the summer.  Do a little n=1 experimentation on yourself and see how you respond to varying amounts in your own diet.

– I was fasting about 1 day a week before starting to lift but stopped after my friends advised me to. Given the benefits of fasting it is something I would like to keep in my lifestyle. Do you think fasting 1 day a week will hinder my gains?

Not at all — in fact IF’ing will serve to enhance your gains in the long run.  At first glance, this may seem counter-intuitive, however, look at things from a metabolic/hormonal/enzymatic optimization point-of-view, and you’ll see the opposite is actually true.  If anything, I’d have you (being still at somewhat of a high BF/low muscle-mass ratio) IF twice per week, 17 — 24-hours a pop.  And, under “every-day” circumstances (and if possible), always workout in a 10 -12 hour fasted state.

Genetics and Type 2 Diabetes

“Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to a divine purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: That we are here for the sake of others…for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day, I realize how much my outer and inner life is built upon the labors of people, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received.”

Albert Einstein

Genetic Stair Case
photo: Alias Rex

I ran across an interesting post today on the Scientific Blogging site, which acts to rekindle the question (debate?) of genetics as destiny.  Specifically here, the identification of a genetic variation that seems to impair the ability of the body’s muscle cells to use insulin to help them make energy.

The post in question is a summation of an article published in Nature Genetics titled, “A multistage genome-wide association study detects a new risk locus near IRS1 for type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia” (6 September, 2009).

This is highly interesting stuff, no doubt — however, it does beg the question of environmental influence.  In other words what is the environmental impact of diet type and fitness level on the expression of this genetic variant?

Case in point: Chris, of the wonderful blog Conditioning Research, recently highlighted Michelle’s story of surmounting diabetes with no more than the intelligence and wherewithal to  adhere to a strict Paleo lifestyle.  In Michelle’s case, I suspect that she was wrongly diagnosed as being a Type I diabetic — an increasingly common mistake as the incidence of “adult onset” diabetes increases among the young (Michelle is 21).  That’s mere hair-splitting, though, with the real story being Michelle’s new-found health as a result of her adherence to the Paleo lifestyle.  Check out Michelle’s testimonial, here, at her blog.  And please encourage her to continue keeping us informed of her progress.

Remember, genes are not destiny, they are merely signposts.  Environmental influence counts for much in the ultimate genetic expression.

And speaking of environmental influence, I’d like to point out this little tid-bit, as highlighted in the Scientific Blogging post:

Professor Philippe Froguel, one of the corresponding authors of today’s study from the Department of Genomic Medicine at Imperial College London, said, “We are very excited about these results – this is the first genetic evidence that a defect in the way insulin works in muscles can contribute to diabetes. Muscle tissue needs to make more energy using glucose than other tissues. We think developing a treatment for diabetes that improves the way insulin works in the muscle could really help people with type 2 diabetes.

“It is now clear that several drugs should be used together to control this disease. Our new study provides scientists developing treatments with a straightforward target for a new drug to treat type 2 diabetes,” added Froguel. (emphasis mine).

Ugh! I guess we should have seen that one coming, huh?  Now, I’m certainly not a Luddite when it comes to pharmacological intervention, but how about let’s promote Michelle’s method first and foremost, then proceed from there, if even necessary at that point, via the pharmaceutical route?

Unfortunately, we already know that answer.  It’s not about health, folks, — it’s about profits.

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,


120 Grams of Sugar? Oh My!

“We are less hurt by the contempt of fools than by the lukewarm approval of men of intelligence.”

Luc de Clapiers de Vanvenargues

So I’m waiting patently in a Raleigh Starbucks last night for the the cute (in a Suicide Girl kind of a way) barista to whip up my tall red-eye and, being the curious, fidgety sort that I am (and from all outward appearances, probably not needing the said red-eye), found myself thumbing through a Starbucks Nutrition By The Cup fact sheet.  Interesting, to say the least; and, well, scary as all hell, too.

Now, I love a good cup of strong-as-black-iron joe as good as the next guy, and, to be perfectly honest, I confess to having done more than my part to keep the Starbucks enterprise afloat during these turbulent financial times — this in no way diminishes the fact, though, that it’s common knowledge within the Paleo community to steer clear of the sweet stuff (in all forms — food and drink) while supporting your favorite corner purveyor of delectable caffeine.   And while most will readily identify sweet foods as being an item to steer clear of, the froo-froo drinks oftentimes escape the same level of scrutiny. Now, I’m a plain and simple red-eye kinda guy myself, so I don’t give these concoctions much more thought than damn, those things have got to pack a pretty hefty carb wallop — until last night, and waiting for the cute barista to work her magic, and my perusing of the Nutrition By The Cup fact sheet.  And what I found was — hot holy-damn, Batman.

And holy hot-damn in more ways than just this egregious example.  Wow, make that bad boy a venti with whipped cream, and you’re hammering down a whopping 120 grams of sugar in one, single pop.  120 grams! Just to write that makes my pancreas quiver with over-exertion.

Now, I don’t consider Starbucks to necessarily be part of the problem of American (and world-wide, really) obesity, but some of the company’s product offerings certainly are a reflection of that underlying problem.  Now maybe that’s a lame distinction, but let’s face it: we can blame these companies all we want for what they offer, but the true, underlying problem here rests solely on society’s shoulders.  Companies more so respond to consumer demand than do they create the same.  At least, that’s the case theoretically, and within an enlightened, educated and engaged society.  And therein lay another (and possibly the more substantial??) part of the problem — a collective, societal apathy towards true, inner health — which translates into lack of education, enlightenment, and engagement.  It’s a vicious, vicious cycle.  And one that’s apparently pretty damn tough for some to break free of.  The pursuit of health, though, is no different than any other worthwhile pursuit; the first step to success is mental — first and foremost, you gotta want it.  Really, really want it.  All else will surely follow.  And I don’t want to slide into a theological discussion here, but I also see this as a spiritual issue; the body being the vessel of the spirit and soul.

What to Eat?  The Essentials —

Sarah, aka Paleo_princess, offered up a question/musing to the “Twitterverse” the other day that got me thinking about how I go about making my own food choices.  What thinking process, or mental template, do I employ so as to make my day-to-day food consumption decisions?  Anyone who’s ever “dieted” (note: the lack of having to “diet” and, therefore, not being consumed by all that the word “diet” insinuates, is the yang to the Paleo Way’s yin of what is actually consumed.  The Paleo Way is a lifestyle more so than a conventional “diet”, and this is the essence behind its success) knows that the war is ultimately lost in the myriad of small, day-to-day skirmishes; that is to say, “diet” meets its death by a thousand bad meal choices.

So here’s my macro-nutrient “hierarchy”, so to speak; my mental template against which I hold all meal choices throughout the day.  And this, truly, is the extent of it:

  1. Meat/organs/eggs, and/or good fats.  In a pinch, raw (if at all possible) nuts
  2. Raw dairy
  3. Veggies/salad and the like.  Occasionally, a small sweet potato
  4. (and a way distant 4 at that) fruit

If #1 or #2 is unavailable, I will not eat.  Simple as that.  Now, am I’m what would be considered “textbook” Paleo?  Absolutely not.  And if consumption of raw dairy gets me booted from Paleo island, so be it.  I tolerate and respond well to raw dairy, and so I include it (albeit sparingly) in my diet.  The thing, folks, is this: in much the same way that genetics are the “guardrails” and not necessarily the “railroad tracks” of one’s ultimate phenotypical expression, there is a fairly wide “zone” of proper human diet.  About the only “universals of avoidance”, that is, things well outside of everyone’s “guardrails”, are simple carbohydrates, grains, legumes, sugar and hydrogenated fats.  I’d say that raw dairy teeters on the rails, and as to which side it ultimately falls is an individual tolerance issue.  And know this, too — there is no biological need for carbohydrates — the body does quite well in the total absence of carbs,via protein and fat (ketone) utilization.  I think of veggies and fruit as taste and texture variety, and little more than that.

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.

A Calorie is not a Calorie, and Other Dietary Heresy

“A hypocaloric diet, whatever the proposed type, is an inadapted treatment to chronic disease, like obesity. All diets are inefficient on the long term. The weight loss is generally small, about 1-2 kg a year. The results are the same, independently of the type of diet, and the patient’s compliance is clearly the main key to succeed. About 80% of patients regain weight the first month following the diet, and only 1% can keep the obtained weight a year later. Nearly half of the patients involved in a diet program give up before the end. Finally, because of risks of macro and micro nutriments deficiency, certain diets are to be avoided and hypocaloric diet shouldn’t be proposed.”

~ from, Hypocaloric Diets: Which Ones to Advise/Avoid? Di Vetta V, Clarisse M, Giusti V.

Readers of this blog are, of course, not the least bit surprised by the above quote, as it is common knowledge within the larger Paleo community; conventional dieting fails miserably, and those currently engaged in conventional dieting are, for the most part, well — miserable. The 10,000-dollar question remains, however; why do these diets fail? Now, in my real-world, day-to-day comings and goings, I’m not much concerned with whether I’m hypercaloric or hypocaloric. I know that, by whatever mechanism is at work in my Paleo way of life, over the long-haul I’ll maintain single-digit body fat levels coupled with a stellar blood profile; my health will be excellent and my vitality vibrant. And all of this will come free of any feeling of depravity, gnawing hunger, rampant cravings or lethargy. I’ll have no need for a calculator or scale, nor will I ever be concerned with meal timing. I am a curious sort, though, and so I wonder: Am I, over the long haul, actually either ingesting fewer calories or burning more calories than in my pre-Paleo days? Is it a combination of the two? Or, does the total calorie content really not play that significant a role?

I know I’m not going to raise the eyebrows of any long-time TP readers by stating that, in my opinion total calorie ingestion plays a minor, short term role in weight control (body fat and lean tissue) when compared to the hormonal/enzymatic environment elicited by the ingestion of those calories. In other words, it’s the type of calorie ingested that trumps the amount of overall calorie ingestion.

Now, it’s obvious to the most casual of observers that caloric restriction below the basic metabolic rate (BMR) and total calorie expenditure will result in weight loss. But are all hypocaloric diets created equal? Again, TTP readers know the answer, but, for purposes of comparison, let’s take a look at this study:

Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and LEARN Diets for Change in Weight and Related Risk Factors Among Overweight Premenopausal Women. The A TO Z Weight Loss Study: A Randomized Trial

Now, let’s have a gander at the recent Harvard study (Diets That Reduce Calories Lead to Weight Loss, Regardless of Carbohydrate, Protein or Fat Content) that I wrote about here.

Just what, exactly, is going on here? We seem to be getting mixed signals. If a calorie is truly a calorie, then what is going on with this Atkins group?  Thanks to Chris, at Conditioning Research, for finding this apropo cartoon, from this very smart and witty collection.

The problem with scientific studies, though, lay in (1) the minutia and, (2) in the interpretation.  And, as the above cartoon so very well illiterates, correlation does not necessarily imply causation.

Well, here’s the short version of my take on the issue

There is a dramatic shift to fat burning when insulin levels are low and/or not overly released with each caloric ingestion. Insulin immediately shuts down fat burning (the release of stored FFAs – free fatty acids) and begins the process of moving FFAs, and excess glucose in the blood stream into body fat. By comparison to a high carbohydrate meal, very little insulin is released by eating the TTP/Paleo way, and this slight rise in insulin will occur over a period of hours — not seconds or minutes as would be the case from eating the usual high carbohydrate, high glycemic-value, high total caloric load (all contributing factors) typical of the “normal”, western diet.

It is very clear to me that the bodily chemical processes (especially the action of insulin) that entail the digestion of all foods work via certain, distinct pathways, and knowing these pathways gives us the tools to knowingly adjust our diets which, over time (and which is clearly demonstrated by empirical evidence), can cause us to correctly assume what is optimal for our individual body types, and to allow ultimate control of our body composition. My contention is that that function of determining how a fuel calorie (glucose and fatty acids) will be utilized — whether stored as fat, or burned as energy in the muscles,or in the act of bodily repair/replenish — is carried out primarily by the hormone insulin via interaction with the enzyme lipoprotein lipase (LPL). It is interesting to note as well (though a bit of-topic for this discussion), that sex hormones also interact with LPL, which is why men and women gain/lose/carry body fat differently. It is insulin, though, that acts as the primary gatekeeper, the traffic cop, so to speak, in the ultimate partitioning of the end-products of food ingestion.

So what does all of this mean in practical terms? Well, it means that it’s your insulin levels that will determine what is to become of the calories you’ve ingested. A high insulin level (resulting from consumption of a high carbohydrate meal) will do two things, primarily (1) it will shunt the excess ingested calories to be stored as fat, and (2) it will shutdown the release of FFAs from the body’s fat deposits. The flip side of this is the maintenance of a low insulin environment via the elimination of simple carbohydrates and the limitation of complex carbohydrates. In other words, and from a purely biological or homeostatic perspective, lean people are not those who have the willpower to exercise more and/or eat less. They are simply people whose bodies are programmed to send the calories they consume to the muscles to be burned rather than to the fat tissue to be stored —the precise reason that Lance Armstrong and his ilk can get away with the massive amounts of carbohydrates they consume with no (outward) noticeable affect. A less active a person would tend to go the other way, shunting off calories to fat tissue, where they continue to accumulate to excess. This shunting of calories toward fat cells to be stored or toward the muscles to be burned is a phenomenon known as fuel partitioning. It is also why I think of the body more as a capacitor, rather than a simple thermodynamic machine; a capacitor whose charge/discharge properties are controlled primarily via insulin, the level of which is primarily controlled by the type and amount of carbohydrate ingestion.

So, is a calorie just a calorie? Well, no more than a bullet is just a bullet, I suppose. Would you rather be shot by the rubber variety, or a “cop killer”? Keep that metaphor in mind before you fork-up that next mouthful of pasta.

In Health,


According to This Study, Even the Thought of Working Out Will Prompt One to Eat More

“Middle age is when you’ve met so many people that every new person you meet reminds you of someone else.”

Ogden Nash

One of the few beefs I have against an otherwise fantastic book, Good Calories, Bad Calories, is Gary Taubes’s apparent dismissal of exercise as an adjunct to a sensible weight loss/weight management program.  But I do get his point, though, and to be fair, his work is intended to be a purely scientific look at the causes of fat accumulation.  The book was never intended to be a “how to” manual.  We all know that even a not-so-vigorous workout increases your appetite, and that one must fuel themselves properly (i.e., in a Paleo way), or chance amplifying an already dismal eating pattern.

Now this study, from professor Delores Albarracin of UIUC, shows that even thinking of working out will cause you to eat more.  The immunity to all of this is, of course, a Paleo diet.

When someone overcompensates for a drawn-out, low intensity workout — a workout that results in very little muscle/liver glycogen depletion — with excess carbohydrate calories, any dreams of resultant weight loss will be stymied.  Why can an athlete like Lance Armstrong get away with shovelling-down platefulls pasta (not that it’s healthy), and still maintain a svelte body?  Because he continually depletes his glycogen stores via intense workouts.  Moderate exercise does not deplete glycogen stores in this fashion, therefore, any carbohydrate (especially refined) overcompensation — which is quite easy to do — will result in weight gain, or at least a much diminished weight loss.

In Health,


…Or, They Could Just Adopt a Paleo Lifestyle

“Personally, I am always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.”

~ Winston Churchill

Here’s an interesting article about a groundbreaking study that has revealed, and apparently in great detail, how enzymes in the cell conspire to make fat out of carbohydrates.  This is one of those “way cool to know” scientific studies that, other than supplying a bit of “nutrition geek” thrill,  lends additional credibility to our reduced-carbohydrate, lifestyle of choice.  I find the article a bit frustrating, though, in that the apparent immediate impulse of the finding is to formulate a pharmaceutical disruption of the aforementioned process.  Ponder, for just a moment, if you will, this quote from the release:

“Fatty Acid Synthase is a remarkably complex structure. It contains all of the components needed to convert carbohydrates into fat.”

All well and good.  But isn’t this a bit like discovering the molecular underpinnings of why your car spits and spasms with an accumulation of water in the tank?  And isn’t it ironic, too, that no mention is made of the glaringly obvious, most practicable (and even illuminated by the study itself) method by which to reduce fat accumulation?  The bottom line, of course, isn’t that we need a new pharmaceutical on the market, it’s that the overweight need to quit eating so damned much carbohydrates in the first place. And I can’t even begin to imagine what the potential side-effects of the proposed pharmaceutical intervention would be.  I do, though, happen to know what the side-effects of eating in the low-carbohydrate, Paleo way are.  And speaking of that, check out the abstract of this study (hat tip to Scott Sonnon, of CST Free Weight Exercises for this find).  Of course, had the study been carried-out over a longer time-frame the results would have been much more dramatic.  We’ll take, though, what good scientific print we can.

Just something random I thought I’d throw in: So, your friends want to eat at dinner at Chili’s (an American chain restaurant), and, not wanting to appear anti-social, you go along — and actually endeavor to eat.  Can the menu be navigated in a Paleo-friendly way without (1) tying up the waitress for 15 minutes with a “prima donna” order, and (2) drawing too much undue, “freak in our midst” attention?  Sure.  I ordered the fajia trio with a side of veggies (turned out to be steamed broccoli).  I ate the fajitas tortilla-less and straight from the comal, as one would an appetizer.  And they weren’t too bad for “chain restaurant” fajitas, either.

In Health,


Here’s a Cyclist I’d Love to See Go Paleo

“A wise man will make haste to forgive, because he knows the true value of time, and will not suffer it to pass away in unnecessary pain.”

~ Samuel Johnson

Check out this story from the New York Times, about Canadian cyclist Svein (pronounced “Swayne”) Tuft.  What a character.  This is exactly the kind of athlete — if he were exposed to the correct science/evidence — who would, I’m quite sure, embrace the Paleo lifestyle.  Unfortunately (if the article is accurate), it sounds as if he’s fallen prey to the high-carb mantra.  I’m sure his cycling team “nutritionist” has only served to amplify that dillusion.  Regardless, I can’t wait to see him race and follow his progress.

In Health,