The Quick-and-Dirty on Calorie Intake, and an Evening Iron Session

Calorie intake as it relates to phenotypical expression; to cop a phrase from Robb Wolf: “Holy Cats!”  I really have nothing but the deepest of sympathies for people who do not happen to make Paleo/Primal, Physical Culture their geek-out hobby – I can only imagine what it’s like to stumble into this arena trying to find a sane voice.  Who to believe?

Bottom line, folks:  calories do matter – they’re just not the end-all, not the full story.  Taube’s axiom of “a calorie is not a calorie” is true, to be sure; it should not, however, be considered as license to unmitigated gluttony, free of consequences (especially fat gain).  Calories ought to be considered as the co-stars of a jam-packed, star-studded stage, wherein insulin could be considered the production’s glamorous diva.  Ok, that’s about enough of that analogy…

Skyler Tanner has posted a nice observation on gross calorie intake vis-à-vis its effect on body composition, with some poignant takes on how his own body reacted to a few weeks worth of decreased caloric intake as a result of his recent vagabonding expedition around central America.  Now, I don’t bring this up to throw Skyler under the H8R bus (don’t be hatin’!) – being the naturally lean guy he is, who’s free to engage in extended leisure travel – no, the reason I bring this up is that it’s a perfect example of the fact that as people drop weight, at a certain point, calories will have to be restricted to reach ultra-low body fat levels.  Now, we can prompt this calorie restriction in a number of different ways, the easiest being to severely restrict all carbs (to the point of going zero carb in some cases) and increase the fat intake.  This approach offers a nice one-two punch, in that fat tends to satiate one’s appetite quickly, and we get a lower insulin response to boot.  Now, at what point calorie restriction  is required to spur further weight drop is dependent upon a multitude of factors, not the least of which are sex, hormone/biochemical milieu, activity level…and on and on it goes.  Sometimes one might even need to increase calorie intake for a short period (to re-vamp the metabolism), then return to a decreased level.  One thing is for certain, though: drill down just a bit, and the weight loss/weight gain game becomes a highly n=1 affair.  For more on that, check out this story, from my friends at Efficient Exercise, in Austin, Texas.

Another reason I bring up the calorie issue is that I have received quite a few questions as of late specifically asking about lean mass gain.  Skyler has stated that he intends to engage in a little n=1, weight-gain experimentation of his own.  And he’s in a perfect position right now to do so, having dropped down to a single-digit body fat percentage.  And again I ask: how friggin’ fair is that?  The guy returns from an extended vacation to find his bodyfat chillin’ in the single-digits?  Ok, so how about we drop the hate-fest for the lucky guy, and set about monitoring his upcoming weight-gain technique and following his progress?  Can he pull-off some sizable lean gains without tacking-on too much in the way fat gain and/or water retention?  I’ll bet the (organic) farm that he can.  Skyler is an experienced trainer and, bottom line, he knows what in the hell he’s doing.  I think we’ll all learn a thing or two from his experiment.

And along those lines, here’s a way-cool web-based BMI, Waist/Height Ratio, BMR, %BF, Surface Area, and Willoughby Ideal Weight and Waist calculator that Skyler alerted me to.  My own numbers (6’-0”, 205lbs, 33” waist) equate to a pretty good return, especially if I focus on the “Willoughby Ideal”, and ignore the “establishment’s” BMI recommendations.

Tuesday Evening’s Workout –

reverse lunge + (btn jerk): 95 x 10 (10); 165 x 6 (6); 175 x 5 (3).  I then put 195 on the bar and hit 3 more sets of 2 in the btn jerks.  On each set, I completed the lunge reps on each leg, then, after a quick breather, moved into the btn jerk reps.

Notice I only did three sets of lunges.  This is in deference to the amount of biking and sprinting (coupled with the hip-dominant Oly-derivatives) I do during the spring, summer and fall; I don’t want to tumble into the dreaded overtraining hole, so *usually* I’ll opt to drop the 2nd “to failure” set if I’m following a classic APRE leg scheme.

Following the lunge/btn jerk combo, I played around with some single leg good mornings into a high box step-up – just some explosive, bw stuff.  My legs were pretty well dusted from the lunges and jerks, though, so I kept things quick & explosive and didn’t add any additional loading.  I did a total of maybe 20 reps each leg, at bw.  I really love this movement, though I haven’t done them in quite a while.  Check out coach Jimmy Radcliffe explaining and demonstrating the movement progression here (via Jason Glass Performance Lab):

I’ve been doing a lot of high-rep, feet elevated, push-ups lately, so I decided to throw the body a curveball and hit it with something I do rarely – machine flyes.  This particular pec-deck is of the “straight arm” variety (versus the variety which places the arm/elbow at a 90-degree position).   Anyway, it offers a nice change-up every now and again.  Consistency of movement, especially within the same rep range and intensity, is just another of the many factors that can lead to overtraining, and just the kind of easy-to-fall-into rut that I avoid like the plague.

Atlantis pec-deck: 150 x 12; 210 x 7; 225 x 7+; 225 x 5+

The Battle of the (Mainstream) Heavyweight Diets

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

Bertrand Russell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sit back and enjoy.

In health,

Keith

A Continuing Success Story

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

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

photo:alsohbennett

photo:alsohbennett

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:

Keith,
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,

Keith

I Love Testimonials Like This…

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

Mohandas Gandhi

Keith,
Thank you so much for your blog. I am an avid reader for the past 5 months, and using your techniques in conjunction with a Paleo style diet has helped me to lose over 50 pounds and regain much vitality.
When I lose motivation, I find it again with your writing. I wish you the best.
Sincerely,
Jeremy

This is really what it’s all about.  Somebody sheds over 50 pounds, and, in the process, finds a vitality that was once thought forever lost.  I would imagine that so many new doors have been opened for this individual. 

50 pounds! Just contemplate, for a moment, the magnitude of that amount of weight.  I know we all hear wild weight-loss numbers tossed around in the media so often that we become numb — jaded even — to what that loss represents in the way of improved health and quality of life for the person having lost the weight.  In Jeremy’s case though, this weight loss (and even more to come) will be permanent, because he’s made a lifestyle change.  No mind-numbing (and unsustainable) measuring, weighing, timing, consumption logging, or counting calories, points or trading friggin’ pokemon cards/tokens for edible (or not so) morsels.  No misery, no depression; no rebound weight gain.  No, Jeremy is living real life, and beginning to realize the phenotype that he was truly destined to express.

And note, too, that this is not my program that Jeremy is following — no more so than he’s following my program for opposable thumb function or bipedalism.  No, Jeremy is simply eating (and moving?) in the way that the evolution of his ancestors dictated.  The success of this program was written in his genes long before I ever came on the scene.

You can follow Jeremy on Twitter, here.  Give him a follow, and some encouragement every now and again.  And if you haven’t yet caught the Twitter fever, sign up and check it out.  The benefits of Twitter can’t be explained, really — they just have to be experienced.  Believe me, you’ll enjoy it.  And this endorsement comes from someone who was adamently against the whole “micro-blog” phenomena until I was mercilessly shamed into jumping in.  In short, I’m sure glad I did.

And hey, keep up the good work, Jeremy!

In health,

Keith

…Or They Could Just Adopt a Paleo Lifestyle (Part 2)

Weighing 230 pounds, she had tried every possible way to restrict her caloric intake — including diets, diet pills and bariatric surgery — without long-term success.

“I’ve tried them all and [the weight’s] not coming off,” she said. “I really believe it’s got something to do with the brain.”

~ From The ABC News special, A Frontier of Medicine: Brain Surgery for Weight Loss

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Wow, I’m speechless. Just friggin’ flabbergasted.

The story cited above, as thoroughly and expertly covered by Sandy Szwarc, over at Junkfood Science, really makes my blood boil. Now, it’s one thing to get a fabulously good guffaw over mainstream obesity research’s continuous outpouring of misguided, asshat “studies”, offerings that are totally skewed from the get-go by the researchers’ insistence upon adhering to the dimwitted notion of treating the body as a simple, closed-system, thermodynamic entity; a notion, by the way, that has been both empirically, and via correctly run studies (there are a few!), thoroughly refuted. However, this isn’t about mainstream’s ass-backwards studies, or laughable, tunnel-visioned interpretation — this is about real lives; real human beings.

The mainstream obesity research community ought to be very ashamed that their reluctance to at least recognize a sensible, Paleo-like lifestyle as a viable option for the obese has had a hand in allowing such quackery to thrive.

In Health,

Keith