Saturday, November 27, 2010

Standing Desk = Success

I'm typing these words with the help of my fresh-off-the-assembly-line standing desk. I'd spent a little time daydreaming about what the perfect standing desk would be like and all it took was a quick trip to Home Depot and some help from my shop craft-skilled dad (okay, he did 95% of the work, but I'll take as much credit as I can). In all, the expenses totaled $15 and it only took a about two hours to put together, which isn't bad considering this was our first foray into the art of building standing desks. I'm quite satisfied with the finished product, although we are considering modifications to make it even snazzier.

The obvious question: why a standing desk? Simple answer: better posture, less pain. You don't have to search for long to find someone with lower back pain. Chances are looking in a mirror will show you someone with lower back pain. Anyway, sitting for prolonged periods of time will cause your hip flexors and erector spinae to shorten, which often induces anterior pelvic tilt and back pain. So the purpose of the standing desk is to a) reinforce better posture and b) to prevent you from sitting and worsening your posture. I know that some people claim that they work more efficiently at a standing desk, but I haven't looked for any research to support that claim (if you know of some, please share it with me).

I'll be bringing it with me back to school and maybe I might find a customer or two although, as any parent who has failed to get their kids to eat their vegetables knows, most teenagers aren't be overly concerned about the deleterious effects of prolonged sitting.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fast and Furious Book Reviews (Long Overdue)

The Red Queen : Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature by Matt Ridley

Rating: 4/5

Thoughts: The only reason this book doesn't get a 5 is because it can get heavy with the science at times. Sometimes it almost felt like I was reading a Biology textbook, but the momentary suffering was worth it. He uses sexual selection and the behavior of other animals to make some fascinating conclusions about human nature. It certainly does make you look at humans (and animals) in a different light. I highly recommend this book, but realize that there are some dense parts.

The Miracle of St. Anthony: A Season with Coach Bob Hurley and Basketball's Most Improbably Dynasty by Adrian Wojnarowski

Rating: 5/5

Thoughts: I'm a sucker for a good sports book and this is one of them. If you like books like The Last Shot, Heaven is a Playground, or Friday Night Lights, you'll enjoy this book. You'd have to be a sports fan, but this is more than a sports book and I got more than I expected. It's an inspirational story and Bob Hurley embodies the notion of service in many ways (although he does have his shortcomings).

Open by Andre Agassi

Rating: 5/5

Thoughts: I don't read many biographies or autobiographies, but this was a book I had trouble putting down. He doesn't leave much to the imagination and it will raise some eyebrows. Right off the bat he confesses his hatred for tennis, which only his closest friends knew about before the book's release. There's a number of lessons to take away from this book and you don't have to be a sports fan to enjoy it.

Country Driving by Peter Hessler

Rating: 5/5

Thoughts: I don't consider myself to be a "worldly" or "cultured" person, so this was a different kind of book for me. Hessler tells the story of the several years he spent in China during the 00's, during which he witnessed China's boom and all the affects that accompanied the boom. He has a good sense of humor and he blends history with his own experiences expertly. I was able to learn about China and actually enjoy myself (I never thought that could happen). People interested in international affairs or China will enjoy this book, although I enjoyed it without much interest in the topic beforehand.

Last Words by George Carlin

Rating: 5/5

Thoughts: I picked this one up on the recommendation of my English teacher. In retrospect, it seems odd that a teacher would recommend a book that spends a good deal of time discussing drug abuse... Regardless, it was an entertaining read and provided insight into the counterculture movement, the life of a comedian, and, duh, George Carlin. It's not a short book, but it is hard to put down. After finishing the book I watched some of stand up on youtube, which added some perspective. Almost anyone will enjoy this book as long as they enjoy gratuitous amounts of profanity.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Recent workouts and notes

7/1 Upper body
1A Floor/pin press 185 1x3, 165 1x7, 155 1x8
2A Standing 1-arm cable row 100 1x9, 10, 10
1B TRX bodyweight chin-ups Bill Desimone style 4x(close to failure)
1B Seated EZ bar military press 85 1x6, 8, 6
EZ bar curl 85 1x5, 75 1x7
Wheel rollouts 2x6
TRX core
Hammer curls 25’s 1x13

Notes: A lot of exercises and some new ones that I was trying out for the first time. It was a lot of volume, but I was gone for the weekend and didn’t have a true upper body workout for another six days. This was my first time going heavy with the pin press from the floor and it’s challenging. My max bench is 205 and I can hit 5 reps at 185, but I can attribute my use of the stretch reflex to that. The pin press forces me to start the concentric portion of the lift without the aid of the turnaround point. More challenging for me and I plan to continue using the exercise in the future in conjunction with standard benching.

The 1-arm cable row is making a comeback! Hadn’t done this exercise much before, but I like the feel because I can rotate my palm throughout the range of motion. I can’t do that as much with a dumbbell and certainly not with a barbell. I can load it up heavy and balancing hasn’t been much of an issue. I also “feel” it more on my right side when I perform the lift probably because of the mind-muscle connection. If I want to get torturous, I can always do some overload negatives by lifting the weight with both arms and lowering it with one.

The chin-ups and military press come from Bill Desimone’s videos on youtube. I’ve read about him in the past, but only recently have I looked into his work. His youtube page is a goldmine and I plan on purchasing his book soon. No bounce on the chin-up and the TRX allows me to move my palms freely in a natural, shoulder friendly motion. The military presses were nice as well. I don’t do much overhead pressing because I used to throw a lot when I was younger, but I figure I can add some in now.

7/6 Lower body
Sprints 10yd 1x3, flying 20’s 1x3
1A Bulgarian split squats 145 2x5, 1x8
2A Explosive step-ups 4x3
Contreras hip thrust 265 1x8, 275 1x10, 8
Band pallofs, TRX rollouts, Bill Desimone calves

Notes: Started the workout with sprints, which was a change of pace. I want to improve my speed, but they also serve to psych up the nervous system. I stole the flying 20’s from Kelly Baggett’s site. You start at a jog and then sprint 20 yards, so there is less acceleration than a sprint from a dead stop. Nothing fatiguing, but they put me in the right place to start the workout.

Weights continue to increase for the BSS. I knew on the first two sets that I had more reps in me, so I decided to push it hard on the third set. I still think I had more. Again, I paired the BSS with the explosive step-ups for the PAP.

The hip thrust keeps jumping higher and higher. I try to make modest adjustments in weight, but it’s clear I can handle more with this lift. Ideally, I’d like to be working in the 6-8 rep range. Every damn time I do these I know that the next day my glutes will be sore. I like that.

I hadn’t done calve training in forever, so did some bodyweight calve raises Bill Desimone style to finish the workout. I got a good pump, but I did not anticipate the DOMS. Every step I took for the next two days reminded me that I have puny calves. Note to self: do more calve training.

7/7 Upper body
1A TRX Desimone chin-ups 40 1x3, 45 4x4
2A Band pull downs 6x3
1B Dumbbell bench press 80’s 2x5
2B Standing 1-arm cable row 105 1x8, 9
Seated EZ bar military press 85 1x11, 9
TRX core, rows

Notes: First time going heavy with the Desimone chin-ups. I expected that I wouldn’t be able to use as much weight, but it wasn’t much of a drop off (5 pounds). If I have noticed any differences between a TRX chin-up and a normal chin-up (aside from the obvious), I think that the motion is smoother and there isn’t a sticking point as much. This is probably because the TRX allows me to rotate naturally.

I should stop super-setting pushing and pulling exercises sometime because you need the back muscles to stabilize during the push, but I am too damn lazy and it’s more time efficient. It’s also not the end of the world. Anyway, I hadn’t done any dumbbell benching for a several weeks, so I wasn’t sure what I would get. I was hoping for 6 or 7 reps, but I’m not sure I would have gotten them.

Increased by 3 reps on the military press!

I’m leaving tomorrow for a five day wrestling camp at BU and I’ll be bringing a fridge full of sweet potatoes, eggs, and coconut milk with me. I don’t plan on wrestling in college, but it should be fun and challenging at the same time. So someone might ask why go? I don’t have a solid answer for that. It will be my senior year of high school, so I kind of want to do well (I’ve been varsity all three years). On the other hand, I realize that it is high school sports and it shouldn’t matter at all. I like the sport, but will easily walk away from it when my season ends. So am I going to the camps for me or my coaches and teammates? A little of both, I suppose. Not very self-reliant of me. Oh well. I also want to see if my strength and conditioning work have had any turnover onto the mat. There is something satisfying about being able to physically man-handle somebody on the mat. Alternatively, it sucks to have someone else physically man-handle you, but I digress.

I have some projects that have been brewing in my head. Some posts will be forthcoming.

I’ll be back on Thursday.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Quick Musings

- Spent the weekend up in New Hampshire at our new condo in Sunapee. It's on a golf course, next to a lake, with tennis courts, basketballs courts, and hiking trails everywhere. I was outside a lot, got a nice tan (for the vitamin d, of course), and surprised myself with my golf game. I played well for not having hit a golf ball in a year.

- I cruised through Andre Agassi's autobiography, "Open." I highly recommend it to anyone looking for something to read. It's not just for sports fans. I'll have a more formal review of that and "The Red Queen" soon.

- I did some training over the weekend. One day I set up the TRX at the playground nearby the condo and did some conditioning circuits as well as some Bill Desimone-inspired chinups on the TRX. This morning I went on a barefoot run up the hill to the condo in the morning (it's very hilly out there). I did 1 minute intervals of work and rest. The hill helped with the forefoot striking. I think my form is improving, but I'm taking a gradual approach just in case. The workout itself was challenging, but brief. I still am on the fence about steady state cardio and will stick to shorter work intervals for now.

- I discovered yucca while in a grocery store on the trip up. It's a tuber, but there are some issues about cyanide content. It seems like you can eliminate the issue by cooking it, so I am concerned. Still, it's a staple in some healthy H-G societies. I'll look into the preparation more. The first few times I had it I just pan fried it in butter or coconut oil and sprinkled some cinnamon on it. It has less flavor than sweet potatoes, but I don't mind it.

Until next time.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Training Updates

One of the issues facing me as I departed for Italy was how I would maintain strength and muscle mass over the course of 3 weeks without access to a gym. I brought my homemade TRX along for the trip (it weighs nothing), which proved to be a wise decision. Long story short, I came back to the states at approximately the same weight and leanness. I didn't do anything in Venice for the first 4 days, but when we moved to Florence I had more opportunities. A nearby park had a pull-up bar and I showed up once every other day with my TRX and went to work.

Lots of chin-ups, rows, push-ups, unilateral leg exercises, and tons of core work. Some of it was Crossfit-inspired training with a 21-15-9 race against the clock, other parts general sets and reps scheme, and some HIT thrown in there as well. This experience allowed me to fool around with TRX and I appreciate it more than before. I familiarized myself with a number of great core exercises and found ways to make simple bodyweight movements challenging. Still, it's not the only piece of equipment I'll ever need (as some people might argue). For the advanced trainer, having a weight vest to go along with the TRX is crucial because doing sets of 25 for the upper body might not deliver the desired stimulus. Can I use the TRX to leave me lying on the ground out of breath or with my core on fire? Sure, but it doesn't cover all the bases. It is still just a tool in a toolbox. Sadly, I think it has garnered a cult following and is being lauded as the second coming of JC. Nevertheless, it is a good piece of equipment and has its place in a training program.

I've had two training sessions since returning from Italy. Both have gone well and my strength levels are about where they were before I left. Monday was upper body and Wednesday was lower body.

1A Chin-ups bw+45 1x5, 50 3x5, 1x4
2A 1-arm explosive band pulldown 6x3
1B Floor press 165 3x6
2B 1-arm dumbbell row w/ thick grip 90 2x10
TRX work, band pallof press, explosive pullups

Notes: The floor press is a new exercise for me and I like it a lot. However, the way I have it set up is not a true floor press and is more like a pin press with with me laying on the ground. Without a spotter or a power rack I can't get the bar to a racked position at the top of the lift. Instead, I put the bar on top of two parallel "fitness steps." This is not ideal, as Eric Cressey discusses, because the scapula don't get set as well. I noticed this while performing the lift. I'll see what I can to correct the problem. Still, Christian Thibaudeau praises the pin press, so it's not all bad. The core work I did at the end was challenging, but the next day I was shocked to be so sore. It felt like all my ribs were broken and it still does a few days later. I had done the pallof press and Nick Tumminello's variations before, but not with bands. I stole the band idea from Tony Gentilcore' blog and I think I prefer it over using a standard cable. I'm going to be using those more and more.

Wednesday AM:
10yd sprint 1x3, Flying 20's 1x3
1A Bulgarian split squat 125 1x5, 135 2x5, 1x8
2A 1-leg explosive step-up 3x3
Bench hip thrust 235 1x15, 255 1x8
Landmines, band pallof presses, Turkish get-ups, weighted birddog

Notes: This was my first time doing BSS's with a barbell on my back. Previously I had held dumbbells at my side, which caused my grip to become a limiting factor. I felt strong on the lift and the weights should be jumping up quickly although my shoulders and wrists weren't fond of the exercise (made me wish I had a safety squat bar). Again, I paired a heavy lift with an explosive movement because of post-activation potentiation. It's a mouthful, but it does the body good. I also have been loving the hip thrusts. My glutes are dead right now. The weight continues to jump up and up. I might try some of Bret Contreras' explosive variations soon. I tried a set of snatch grip deadlifts, but it didn't feel right, so I stopped it there. It's supposed to be a great lower body exercise, so I'll look into the technique more. This was also my first time doing landmines, so I'm not sure how good my technique was, but it felt good.

I did a brief PM lower body session with the TRX. It was not intense because my AM session was way too much for a two-a-day. Still, I figured it couldn't hurt. I did some bodyweight BSS's on the TRX with a very slow eccentric and a five second pause at the bottom, which gave my glutes a good stretch and pump.

Today is upper body and then I leave tomorrow for New Hampshire. I'll be there for a weekend soaking up the sun, eating lots of dead animal flesh (in the spirit of July 4th, of course), and doing whatever else one does in that state. I've got more content coming soon: more thoughts on Italy, book reviews, and more good stuff.


Monday, June 28, 2010

The Fallacy of Italian Salad Dressing Part I

time with my friends hanging out, exploring cities, and the art was interesting as well. Okay, the art was phenomenal, but I won’t bore you with those details now. The trip gave me a new perspective on a society’s relationship with food. This is the first time I’ve immersed myself in a foreign culture and, while there are a vast number of similarities, there are some noticeable differences between the food culture in Italy and America.

As the title suggests, there is a discrepancy between America’s “Italian dressing” and the actual salad dressing in Italy. In fact, restaurants only ever gave us two things to put on our salads: extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette. I imagine that if I had ever asked for “Italian dressing” I would’ve gotten a blank stare or a slap in the face. The salad dressing we most associate with Italy is nothing like what they actually use. Take a look at the long list of ingredients in Newman’s Own “Family Recipe Italian Dressing”:

Ingredients: Vegetable Oil (Soybean Oil and/or Canola Oil), Water, Vinegar, Romano Cheese (Pasteurized Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes), Salt, Contains 2% or Less of Garlic Powder, Sugar, Spices, Barley Malt Extract, Anchovies, Citric Acid, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Xanthan Gum, Paprika, Molasses, Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Onion Powder, Tamarind, Natural Flavor

The bulk of the 120 calories per serving come from the omega-6 -loaded vegetable oil. Enough has already been said about the ills of consuming excessive amounts of omega-6 so that it doesn’t bear repeating. Sure, some paleo die-hards will lament that olive oil has too many PUFA’s (1.3g of o-6’s per tbsp), but I think that few would disagree that moderate consumption of olive oil is fine. Furthermore, there is no doubt as to which salad dressing is the “winner” and I think the comparison between the two could make for a great stand-up joke.

More reflections of my time in Italy will be forthcoming. Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Back to Blogging (Briefly)

Just got back from school, so I took a little time to refresh the blog with some of the newsletters I sent out this spring. However, I will be leaving for Italy on Monday morning and won't be back for three weeks. I'll be in Italy to for an art history class, but it will be a cultural and culinary experience as well. I doubt I will have the time to write any posts, but I should come back with plenty to write about.

In the meantime I'll post my recent workouts since coming home. Yesterday was a short, fasted sprint session in my Vibrams at a nearby terf field with the focus on quality and not conditioning. It looked like this:

Brief warm-up
10m sprint x6
50m sprint x3
100m sprint x1

I hope to include more outdoor training in the future.

Today's workout was a typical free-weight workout. It might be the last one I have for awhile, so I went pretty hard.

1A Weighted chinups +50 5x5
2A Front squat 185 4x5, 1x7
1B Neutral grip, 1-arm military press 50 2x7
2B Bench hip thrust 215 1x12, 235 1x10
C Moving pushups with bands 2x8
D Standing 1-arm cable row with forced negatives 110 1x8 +2 negatives
Pallof presses, TRX (planks, bodysaw, rollouts)

It took a little over 75 minutes, which is long for me although today was a full-body workout. I hadn't done much heavy front squatting in several months, but the movement felt good. I still love weighted chinups and the hip thrust. The standing 1-arm cable row was a new exercise I was trying out. It takes a lot of core strength to perform well and I can do a few forced reps by using two hands on the concentric portion of the lift. The core work at the end was not too intense and I tried out a few of Nick Tumminello's pallof press variations. I still like the original the most. The lateral version felt okay and the vertical version put a lot of strain on my elbows.

On a more random note, I am reading "The Red Queen," which is about sex and the evolution of human nature. I'm about 80 pages through it and it is fascinating. It confirms some of my vague theories and I'm learning plenty more. I hope to keep reading that in Italy as well as a few others: "The Miracle at St. Anthony's," "Wherever You Go, There You Are," and some assigned books about Italian art.

Speaking of Italy, I'm not sure what I'll be able to do for lifting, but I'm bringing my homemade TRX with me in hopes I can find somewhere to use it. I'm also excited for the World Cup, which starts in a week. I'm not a huge soccer fan, but it's hard not to follow the World Cup in the US let alone Italy. Should be a great time and I'll be back with some posts soon enough.

Most Recent Lifting Club Newsletter

Broskis and Braskis,

Sadly, there will be no meeting tomorrow. Perhaps there may be a meeting later in the week if schedules allow for it, but don’t count on it. I know you’re sad right now, but try not to cry.

Anyway, since it is finals week I thought I would give you all some more reading! Yes, more reading is just what the doctor ordered and there will be a test. Let the fun begin.
– An article discussing the potential benefits of fasted training for endurance athletes. The article focuses on the shocking findings of a recent study comparing the effects of fasted training versus fed training. I’ve messed around with fasted training in the past and this article seems to solidify a few thoughts I had earlier that fasted training in moderation can be very beneficial. It will blow your mind.
- If you’re not reading Bret Contreras’ work, you’re missing out on one of the most innovative thinkers in the field. This is a long article covering a whole range of topics that beginners and experienced lifters need to know. I cannot say enough about this dude without seeming like a groupie.
- This is an article discussing a variation of a popular ab exercise. When I say popular, I don’t mean crunches. I mean an exercise that won’t ruin your posture and give you back pain. What am I talking about? The pallof press. I’ve shown it to a couple of people in the gym and I’ve started to see more and more people doing it. Nick Tumminello is good at taking innovative exercises and making them more innovative, which is what he does with the standard pallof press here.
- The only word that can accurately describe this article is “dank.” Nothing more needs to be said.

That’s all for this week. Hopefully there’ll be more content next week. I also realize nobody checks their emails over the summer, so you can follow me on my rarely updated blog:

Yep, I got a blog. I’m a big shot. Please don’t judge me.


Lifting Club Recap

Beloved members,

For those of you who didn’t show up today, shame on you. Good times were had by all. We laughed, we lay on the ground gasping for air, and Du threw up a little. A perfect day. It goes without saying that it was suns out guns out.

The competition worked out well for the five of us in attendance and everyone agreed it was a killer workout. The overall winner was Tom Dacey with a final time of 3:23 and brought home some prizes. Dacey dominated the push and did well in the pull and sprint. Chris Kent came in second with a time of 3:26, I finished with 3:30, Du with 3:32, and Sven with 3:58. In Sven’s defense he had the best time on the pull and the competition favored bigger guys (we’ll fix that). Du manned up by going first and had the best time in the sprint, so he gets a pat on the back. Du also spent the most time on the ground complaining about how gassed he was, followed closely by Sven. I won no events and got shown up in my own game, but I’m planning on getting some sweet revenge next week.

We’ll have another competition next Sunday with more prizes (EAS, Muscle Milk, and/or whatever else I can get). Most competitive sports are ending Saturday, so we should have a bigger crowd. I’ll send out the time in the newsletter later this week.


Lifting Club Gets Personal

Lifting Club Gets Personal
Beloved readers,

PREFACE: Prepare to have your socks blown off. There will be another Lifting Club newsletter this week discussing our first official competition. I won’t give it all away yet, but there will be prizes for winners and participators. Show up and you could win big. Stay tuned.

This week I’m going to muster all the arrogance I can because I’m about to interview myself. Actually. Maybe some of you are going to wonder, wow, Palmer has a huge ego. Well, you’d be right. While part of the reason for this newsletter is to pat myself on the back, the other reason is that people ask me what I do and I have a hard time giving a simple answer. Hopefully I can set the record straight. I don’t do everything perfect (despite what my mommy says), but I think I serve as a real-life model for what I’ve been writing about all these months. Without further wait, let the arrogance begin.

I’ll start with my training. Right now I train three times a week, following an upper-lower split. Would four days a week be ideal? Maybe, but it’s convenient and flexible. I train Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, switching from lower to upper body. This provides me with plenty of recovery, which allows me to train harder when I am in the gym. My main goal is getting more explosive while maintaining or increasing my strength and size. As such, I’ve been doing more explosive lifting and using a method called post-activation potentiation (PAP)*, which is when you do a heavy lift (3 reps) followed by an explosive movement for 3 reps. PAP is a good method especially for people who have a good strength base, but lack explosiveness (example A: Palmer, Robert). Here’s a recent workout:

Barbell jump squats 8x3 (8 sets of 3 reps)
1A Trap bar deadlift 4x3
2A Broad jump 5x3
Reverse Lunges 3x8
Core, TRX, and whatever else I feel like

I paired up the trap bar deadlift with a broad jump for PAP. It is important that the exercises use the same muscles. In this case, both exercises hit the hamstrings and glutes. If you noticed, there’s not a ton of volume or high-fatigue sets. Why? I’m focusing on getting more explosive. If I wanted to get bigger, I would add more volume and adjust the exercises accordingly.

On a related note, I have been busting out the Vibram Fivefingers (toe-shoes) and I’ve been pleased with them. I used to get shin splints easily, but haven’t had issues since switching to the Vibrams. Of course, I am doing cluster ultimate, but I’ll take it. I’ve also been wearing them in the gym. They’re great for my lower body days because they don’t have a thick sole (hint: deadlift barefoot). The material itself is breathable and I don’t think they smell too bad. However, it meets the most important criteria: just like Australian accents, the ladies love ‘em. Seriously, like I almost got in a conversation with a girl because of them. Soooo close. At the very least, I now have stronger feet.

You might have also seen me using my renegade TRX in the gym. For the cost of production, it was very much worth it. There are a lot of great core exercise you can do on it as well as some challenging body exercises. I’ve also made designed some timed finishers for the end of my workouts which I do on occasion. My one complaint is that I wish I had a weight vest to make some of the exercises more challenging. Nevertheless, it’s an awesome piece of equipment for beginners and advanced lifters alike.

I’m still doing a few 16-hour fasts a week. I actually fasted during my Bio AP, so if I bombed it I can always blame it on the fasting and not my laziness and lack of studying. Why? Some people suggest that fasting increases focus. While I can’t say objectively whether or not I’ve noticed a difference, I never feel less focused on a fast. Some people might wonder why I would fast if I am trying to gain weight. It does seem like fasting would be detrimental to muscle gain, but anecdotal evidence suggests otherwise. There are loads of people who have gained muscle while fasting regularly. Even though my training puts lets emphasis on muscle growth and I fast, in the past month I’ve gained weight without any noticeable fat gain.

Another tweak to my diet is that I’ve been carb-cycling. I’ve done this instinctively for awhile. The premise of carb-cycling is that you consume more carbohydrates on days when you train and less when you aren’t. Why? You are providing your body more fuel when your body needs it and less when your body doesn’t. On my training days I’ll have sweet potatoes and some fruit, whereas on my rest days it’s very low carb. Of course, if there’s an important game of cluster ultimate that day, I really have to gorge on carbs to play my best. You know, because cluster ultimate is a serious sport. Let me also say this: carbs are not the devil’s incarnate. However, non-athletes could stand to lower their carb intake for two reasons: most people get their carbs from crappy, nutrient-depleted sources (i.e. white pasta, bagels, etc.) and high amounts of carbs are just unnecessary and potentially unhealthy. For the athlete, it’s a different story.

Still getting to bed early, waking up early, and taking naps every day. The naps are lifesavers. If you don’t take power naps regularly, start.

As I attempt to put myself in contention for the prestigious “weirdest student award,” I fashioned myself a standing desk. I took the desk chair that Andover gives every boarder, puts it on my desk, put my laptop on top of the chair, tied the laptop down with a belt, and now I have a standing desk. This should work for people almost anyone except for giants and dwarfs. Why? First, it reinforces good posture, whereas sitting slumped over at a desk for hours ruins posture. Some people also suggest that it improves efficiency. Again, I can’t objectively say I’ve noticed a difference. Regardless, I recommend people give it a try. If you don’t like it you can disassemble it quickly. No harm done.

My current supplement routine: lots of fish oil, cal/mag/zinc, 5000 iu’s of vitamin d on days when I don’t get sun, and a probiotic. Not too complicated. I also make smoothies that I drink before and after my workouts, which consist of whey, a little frozen fruit, flax, coconut, cinnamon, almond butter, and a little dark chocolate. Orgasmic.

My current snack of choice is sliced coconut (it comes in bags). I like the taste of it plain, although you can mix it with other stuff. It’s high fat and especially high saturated fat. Don’t worry, you probably won’t get a heart attack from this stuff. A lot of people claim that consuming coconut products helps their skin. The other interesting tid-bit about coconut is that most of the fats are medium-chain triglycerides, which are digested quicker than most fats. While they’re not a better source of energy for athletes than carbs, there’s some interesting research about MCT’s. If you ever look at a tub of Muscle Milk, you’ll notice they brag about their high MCT content. Coconut is also pretty cheap and you can get it down at Whole Foods.

I’ve bragged enough for one newsletter. Get excited for that next email.


Lifting Club Gets Shredded Part III

Lifting Club Gets Shredded, Part III

The weather-folk say that it will be awesome weather this weekend. Even though I have a thorough hatred of meteorologists, I am willing to take the risk and trust them. Some of you may know what is coming next… PROWLER FLU BITCHEZ!!! We will be busting out the Prowler for its first outside use in 2010. Yes, it’s a big freakin’ deal. We’ll also have some TRX’s, so it will be bananas. We will meet Sunday @ 1 outside the front steps of Borden and will go to the usual spot by the JV football field. Socks will be rocked. To get you excited, here’s a couple of good prowler videos that you may have already seen:

Anyway, I plan to wrap up this series on fat loss today talking about some lesser known techniques for fat loss and everything else.

A common myth that needs to be debunked: eating several meals a day does not increase your metabolism. There used to be (and still is) a paranoid fear that going several hours without a meal would cause muscle loss and fat gain. Yes, even I believed it. Shame on me. Regardless, there is a mounting pile of scientific evidence showing that our metabolisms don’t slow down even after days of fasting. From an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense. Cavemen didn’t have three square meals a day, so the body had to be able to function even when food was not available. Even more interesting was a study that showed that rats which fasted every few days lived longer over a control group.*

So what does this mean? Fasting every now and then can promote fat loss and a whole host of other “stuff.” A general fast consists of 16 hours of no eating (you are allowed to drink water, tea, or coffee and sleep counts for fasting) followed by 8 hours when you can eat. Break the fast with a large meal, but what you do after that is your choice. Most people have a total of 3 meals, while some may have one or two. On days when you train, increase the carbs and lower fat intake. On rest days, lower carbs and replace them with fats. Also, for some reason men are supposed to fast for 16 hours and women only 14 because for some reason women don’t usually respond to fasting as well although it may vary from each person.

Even though I’m not looking to lose fat, I still fast twice a week. If you eat and train for your goal, you can gain or lose weight. Yes, I sometimes get hungry, but it goes away. It’s important to note that I neither advocate nor oppose fasted training. The concept may sound odd, but there is evidence that supports both camps. I did some fasted training over winter and spring break and felt fine. Training fasted at school is less practically. Here’s what my day looks like when I am fasting and training in a non-fasted state:

8pm – stop eating
12pm (next day) – eat a large lunch
3:45pm – have half of my smoothie
4pm – get big in gym
5pm – finish second half of smoothie
6pm – large dinner with sweet potatoes and snacks in dorm later

On a day when I am not training, I drop the sweet potatoes and the smoothie. It looks like a normal day except for no breakfast. Of course, fasting alone may not help you lose weight if you’re still eating like crap.

So what are the practical applications of fasting? Some people fast every day, while others only once or twice a week. For anyone that is new to fasting, it is best to start slowly as there is a transition phase. After that, it may be best for you to follow your own instincts. Many people love the freedom of being able to sleep in while others claim to feel more alert and productive during fasts. Either way, the fat loss results and body transformations speak for themselves. A picture is worth a thousand words blah, blah, blah. Here are some transformations:
p.s. the guy who writes the blog is one of the most jackedest dudes ever and his blog is worth perusing.

Well, if you’re still here, there’s a lot more to talk about. Next up is the crazy hormone leptin. Leptin regulates the metabolism. When you lose a significant amount fat, leptin levels go down, the metabolism slows, and hunger increases. Using the perspective of a caveman again, this makes sense. If there were a famine (not a 16 hour fast, but weeks where there’s a food shortage), the body needs to lower its calorie requirements and tell you to find some food. However, when you get fat leptin does not jack your metabolism way up to compensate because having some extra fat was a good thing for survival. What used to be a life saver for cavemen is now an impediment to all those boys and girls that aspire to get hawt abz.

The obvious question becomes how can one manipulate leptin levels during periods of fat loss? Well, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Fish oil and exercise have been shown to increase leptin levels, so chalk that up as another miracle byproduct of fish oil.

Another method is carb refeeds, which is when you have a few meals rich in carbs. This tricks the body into thinking that food is plentiful, which boosts leptin levels. Thus, as odd as it may sound, having a lot of carbs every now and then can facilitate long-term weight loss. However, refeeds are infrequent, but more frequent for lean individuals. For those who are “chunky,” which I’ll define for males as over 14% bf (or no abs), you can refeed once every two or three weeks. For leaner individuals (those with abs), a refeed every 7-10 days may help. What does a refeed look like? A refeed is an opportunity to stray from the caveman principles if you want to. Shoot to have about 2g of carbs per pound of bodyweight over the course of a few meals. For a 150 pound person, that would be roughly 300g of carbs ingested within a block of several hours. It is important to limit fat consumption during the refeed, so don’t hit up McDonalds and go crazy. Pasta, rice, and potatoes are examples of food sources that are high in carbs and low in fat. Again, refeeds are paradoxical, but can be effective if planned well.

Funny enough, intermittent fasting has been shown to have beneficial effects on leptin levels during fat loss. Okay, that wasn’t funny at all. Regardless, when following an intermittent fasting program leptin levels remain the same. What does this mean? You can shed fat, keep your metabolism normal, and not daydream about food all the time. Awesome.

Next up on the list of tricks is practicing slower and more mindful eating. It sounds a little corny, but there’s some science to suggest that mindful eating can promote weight loss. It takes roughly 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain it is full. If you stuff yourself with calorie-dense foods that are easy to chew (i.e. pasta, chips, candy, nuts in excess, etc.) then you will consume more calories in one sitting than if you ate foods that take longer to eat (i.e. vegetables, fruit in moderation, meat).

What are the practical applications of this knowledge? Avoid eating foods mindlessly. Don’t get distracted when you eat. When you eat, focus on your eating (yes, I repeated myself three times). For example, you might sit down in front of the television with a bag of chips and soon enough the bag is empty. Instead, focus on the food itself and how it tastes and smells. A technique that is dorky but worth using: eat with chopsticks. If, unlike me, you’re competent with chopsticks, use chopsticks in your off hand. If you can still eat at a rapid pace, I applaud you. Another tip: get deliberately smaller serving sizes to make you get up for more food. Both tricks are for the purpose of slowing down food consumption, providing your stomach enough time to signal your brain to stop eating.

Next topic: stress. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is catabolic, which means it causes muscle breakdown. Cortisol is helpful under certain circumstances, but not for the purpose of fat loss. There are a couple ways of lowering cortisol levels: eat a caveman diet, get high quality sleep, stop stressing out, and lower your training volume. If you eat a crappy diet that has you crashing every couple of hours, not only is it going to hurt your body, but it can mess up your cortisol levels. I’ve spent enough time talking about sleep, but I can’t stress enough how important it is to get sleep in darkness. I’ll touch on training volume more soon.

If you have very high cortisol levels (someone who would be described as high-strung), then intermittent fasting might not be for you. Someone like this would benefit from consistent meal times. While I’ll put meditation in this paragraph, it is helpful for anyone. I am not a meditation expert, but there are some good breathing exercises you can try:
Another technique is 4 seconds in, hold it for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, repeat.

Next up is training during fat loss. As I said before, I believe that weight loss is mostly a product of proper diet. Training is still important for preserving muscle and strength. However, because you are expending more calories than you’re consuming, your body is under a lot of stress and excessive exercise can be detrimental. Too much exercise during a weight loss overstresses the central nervous system, which leads to burn out. This is not to say that exercise impedes weight loss, but in the extreme it can. What can we learn from this?

Cutting down your training volume prevents burn out. The good news is that you can preserve muscle mass and strength with 1/3-1/2 of your normal training volume. For example, if you normally deadlift 250 pounds for 6 sets of 3 reps, you can maintain your strength by using 250 pounds for 3 sets of 3 reps. It may mean leaving your ego at the door and you may feel as if you aren’t doing enough, but it’s for the best.

I also will not neglect the role of “cardio” and complexes in weight loss. I am not a fan of steady-state cardio for weight loss. Instead, high-intensity interval training has been shown to be more effective. However, HIIT sessions are very taxing on the CNS and brutally hard, so do them no more than twice a week. Anymore and your body will not be able to recover. A sample HIIT session on a bike looks like this:

4 minute warm-up
15 second sprint + 45 second rest x 8
4 minute cool-down

HIIT sessions elevate your metabolism for up to 48 hours after the workout through what is known as excess postexercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). If you’re interested in reading more about HIIT, check out this link:

If you are reading this far, please stop. Get a life. Go outside. Make some friends. Do anything else. In a change of styles, I’ll try to summarize my points from this entire series in a concise manner.

- Ditch grains and milk
- Eat more protein in the form of meat, eggs, and fish
- Eat more vegetables (and not just lettuce)
- Use olive oil and vinegar on your salads and not the poser salad dressings
- Have fruit and nuts in moderation
- Take supplements: fish oil, vitamin d, calcium/mag/zinc, and a probiotic
- Try intermittent fasting
- Use a planned refeed every now and then if fat loss is slowing
- Eat slower
- Lower your training volume
- Try HIIT
Yes, what I just spent three weeks writing could be summed up in a dozen bullet points. Yes, you probably want to hurt me right now. I’ll be finished soon, but they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll leave you with a before and after of a guy who has been going paleo for awhile and has made a ton of progress. His blog is also worth perusing:

Now, please leave. Go. Fly fly.


Lifting Club Gets Shredded Part II

Lifting Club Gets Shredded Part II
Buenos noches, amigos,

DISCLAIMER: I’ll expand upon this later, but it’s important to remember that to achieve optimal results you have to focus on one goal at a time. You’ll have a hard time being both a spelling-bee champ and a jiu-jitsu champ. The same goes for fat loss. While undergoing fat loss, it’s hard for your body to gain muscle or otherwise perform optimally. What does this mean practically? It might not be the best idea to follow a low-carb, fat loss diet during your competitive season depending on your sport.

This newsletter is a little late due to Upper Spring being a little too Upper Spring-y. Of course, I still got to sleep at 11 or earlier every night this week, so it’s all good. In this newsletter, I’ll be continuing the discussion about fat loss. I’ll get to a lot of important topics, but first I’ll recap what I said in the last newsletter.
- Eat protein. It’s filling, burns calories when you digest it, and preserves muscle.
- Avoid vegetable and soybean oils, which cause inflammation. Use olive oil on salads instead.
- Ditch the grains, which disturb gut bacteria, raise insulin, and don’t fill you up much.
- Eat vegetables and many different types. Don’t just get lettuce and chicken. Lots of good vitamins and minerals, fiber, and they’re filling.
- Have some fruit. There’s fiber in fruit, which is filling, but don’t go overboard.
- Only drink water, tea, and/or coffee. Protein shakes are also acceptable.

Onto the new material. I’ll first talk about supplements, which everyone loves to talk about because it takes no effort. If you’ve been reading my newsletters for long enough, this won’t surprise you, but one of the best supplements for fat loss and overall health is fish oil.

Fish oil has a whole host of benefits from cognitive function, skin and nail health, mood, anti-inflammatory functions, but it also lowers insulin, the storage hormone. Lowering insulin is “wicked” important for fat loss and overall health.
- What type? There’s been lawsuits against CVS and other fish oil brands for have toxins in their fish oil (these toxins come from pollutants). It’s probably safest to take a trip down to Whole Foods and get some even if it costs a little more. Carlson’s is a good brand, but pretty expensive. You can probably get the Whole Foods brand for less. Trust me, it’s worth the extra money.
- How much? Most people I’ve read recommend 1-3g of EPA+DHA, which usually translates into 4-10 capsules a day (depending on the brand). I take about 8 capsules a day, which sounds extreme, but it really isn’t.

Vitamin D and Calcium. I feel like lumping these two together because they work together because I’m lazy.
- I’ve spent way too much time talking and reading about vitamin d. Long story short, supplementing with vitamin d may promote weight loss.
- Calcium intake is also linked to increase fat loss. However, since milk is off-limits, supplementing is a good idea. You can get calcium from vegetables, but not enough. Bone marrow is also an option, but I have a feeling that isn’t a popular choice.
- How much? For vitamin d, 1000-5000 IU’s a day is good. The wide range is due to individual specificity. If you’re black and living in New England, I would bet my younger brother that you’re vitamin d deficient. White-skinned people aren’t as likely to be deficient, so they might want to supplement on the lower end. Of course, if you are getting lots of sunlight, you may not need any at all. A word on sunscreen: I don’t use sunscreen (yes, I’m paranoid) and think that clothing is the best protection. I aim for a healthy tan.
- How much calcium? I take a supplement that gives me 50% of my daily value. Some days I take one pill, other times two. I don’t know where the line is drawn, but too much is unhealthy. If you can, buy a calcium supplement that also has other vitamins/minerals. Mine has calcium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin d (not enough), and copper.

Protein powders.
- Protein powders are a convenient way to consume high quality protein around your workouts or for a snack. As I’ve said before, protein is good.
- I am allergic to casein, a protein found in milk, so I stick to a cheap whey powder. You can also get powders that have a combination of whey and casein, which may be ideal.
- How much? I make a smoothie with 3 scoops of whey (~65g protein from the powder alone) and drink half of it before and the rest after my workout. The general recommendations are .25g/lb of protein before and .25g/lb after your workouts. For me (160lbs), that’s about 40g before and after. Most people only consume their shakes after, but there’s evidence suggesting that before and after is superior to just after. However, if you have a tight budget, drinking it after is fine.

- I’ve discussed this before, but gut health has become a hot topic (okay, so maybe nobody else cares, but I do). Eliminating grains and eating more vegetables will help improve your gut health, but a probiotic can also be helpful.
- How much? There have been questions raised about how well certain probiotics work and whether or not stomach acid destroys them before they reach the intestines. Anyway, you can get a good one down at Whole Foods. My probiotic lasts 3 months and costs $30.

That’s all for this week, but there’s still more to cover. Yay!


Lifting Club Gets Shredded Part I

Lifting Club Gets Shredded,

Ladies and gentlemen, spring is here. With spring comes the long-missed sun, a distinct lack of clothes, and me sitting inside doing work. Although I have never witnessed such events, people tell of things like “going to the beach with friends” and crazy stuff like that. What are these friends they talk about?

After a long hibernation, there’s some evidence to suggest that spring and summer is ideal for losing fat and getting hawt abz and getting hawt abz is what I’m all about. This newsletter will be dedicated to understanding the process of losing fat. It will be long and boring and there will likely be a second part, which will be even more long and boring. Of course, there should be a ton of useful and practical information, so read up. I’ll start with a little anecdote and then I’ll dive into the super mundane.

A lot of guys are concerned that losing fat will make them look small and weak. In fact, the opposite is frequently true. If you have been lifting for awhile and gained muscle, but have some fat to lose, people will often think you’ve actually gained weight when you lose fat. Losing fat will “reveal” your muscle. Moral of the story: if you have muscle, losing fat can actually make you appear bigger and more muscular. Don’t be worried if the number on the scale is going down as long as your strength is going down as well (I’ll cover that later).

First, it’s important to understand one sad and depressing fact about our bodies: they obey the laws of thermodynamics. Weight loss (which is different from fat loss) is dependent on consuming fewer calories than you burn. The equation looks something like this: calories in – calories out = net gain/loss. If you’re going to focus on losing fat, that is your one focus. Unless you are new to lifting, you will not gain muscle while losing fat. To lose fat, you put yourself in a calorie deficit, which means your body doesn’t have much to “build” with. At best, an experienced lifter should focus on losing fat and maintaining muscle and strength during the calorie deficit. The obvious question then becomes “how do we create a calorie deficit and maintain muscle/strength?”

This is going to raise some eyebrows and get some rotten tomatoes thrown at me: “cardio” is not necessary, nor especially helpful for weight loss. Typical cardio has no magical fat-stripping properties. Why is this the case? Because your body likes to survive. If you burn calories, then your body is going to tell you to consume more calories. There is one type cardio which has been shown to be more conducive to weight loss and health, which is interval training, but I will discuss this later. By all means, be active and play sports because it is great for the body and brain. However, don’t be disillusioned into thinking fifteen minutes on the stairmaster is all you need to lose fat. As I’ll discuss, diet is the most important factor for weight loss.

One little rant: a lot of people say, “Look at endurance runners. They run a lot and they’re skinny, so running must make you lose weight.” Well, the same could be said for playing basketball players being tall. Playing basketball probably doesn’t make you tall. In both cases it’s likely that certain traits are desirable for success. In running, it’s a good power to weight ratio and in basketball it’s height.

I’ve discussed the caveman/paleo diet in great length and you will probably knife me if I discuss it again. Well, I’ll take my chances. As stated, the key to weight loss is creating a calorie deficit. Think about this logically: you’re going to want to eat foods that keep you full the longest and control your appetite. What foods are these? If you answered soda and muffins, leave. The correct answer is foods high in protein. Let’s learn about the awesomeness of protein:

- It keeps you full more than fats or carbs. Less hunger means less eating.
- It helps maintain muscle mass. Protein is crucial for muscle building, but also preserving muscle.
- Protein has a high thermic effect of eating. In English: if you eat 100 calories worth of protein, your body expends 30 calories to digest that. The TEF of fat and carbs are much lower.
It’s clear that protein is critical for fat loss, so how much should you eat? The general recommendation is 1g/lb. For example, I weigh about 160lbs, so I should eat 160g of protein a day. Savvy? And no, your kidneys will not explode and your bones will not evaporate. People misinterpreted some data and created a bunch of anti-protein dogma that still hasn’t gone away. Where to get your protein from? Meat, whole eggs (the yolk is good for you), fish, and various protein powders. In general, it’s best to chew your calories, but a protein shake after your training session will not hinder your weight loss. Would eating whole foods post-workout be better? Maybe, but I don’t think it’s critical.

***Dope study: It found that diabetics eating a caveman diet consumed fewer calories than people who ate a standard diet recommended to doctors for people with diabetes. In 3 months they lost an average of 13 pounds of body fat and improved a bunch of other health markers.***

What else should you eat? It’s pretty similar to what you should normally eat: plenty of fibrous vegetables (eat your damn broccoli), some nuts, and some fruit. Vegetables are great for controlling hunger. I don’t think there has ever been a person that got fat by overeating spinach or broccoli. Plus, they have lots of important vitamins/minerals and have a beneficial impact on gut health. I’ve discussed gut flora before with regards to probiotics, but vegetables can have similar effects. It’s also important to eat some fat with vegetables because it aids in absorption of the vitamins.

***Only use olive oil (and vinegar for taste) on salads. That means no Italian dressing or stuff that comes in a healthy looking container. If you look at the ingredients list, you’ll see vegetable/soybean oil at the top. Eating lots of vegetables, but slathering them in vegetable oils is like shooting yourself in the foot. Feel free to use a fair amount of olive oil.***

Nuts can be good in moderation. They have some fiber and protein (not high quality though), but there is some concern about the high amounts of omega-6’s. They can serve as a decent snack and some sunflower seeds on top of your salad are fine, but don’t gorge on them. A few servings a day (1-3) is good.

Fruit has gotten a bad rap lately and some of it is warranted. A lot of fruit these days are genetically modified to have more sugar and thus taste sweeter. As I’ll discuss, limiting sugar intake is important for weight loss and general health. That being said, fruit is not evil. Again, fruit in moderation is alright. In general, berries are the best kind of fruit. I put some frozen berries in my protein shakes/smoothies. For weight loss, a few pieces a day is acceptable.

What not to eat? The standard affair that everyone else is eating: breads, pasta, juices, milk, cereal, desserts, blah blah blah. Some people can be lean and eat lots of processed carbs and that’s due to reasons that are mostly outside their control. High intake of processed carbs can lead to a whole host of problems: high fasting blood glucose, type II diabetes, carbohydrate addiction, lack of energy, poor sleep, lack of bacteria in the gut, inflammation, etc. Grains also contain anti-nutrients, which can lead to vitamin deficiencies. The fact that cereal companies claim their product is good for you because it has 13 essential vitamins and minerals is laughable. I won’t spend much time talking about insulin, but the general rule of thumb is this: you want lower insulin levels and carbs raise insulin levels. This is not to say that carbs are evil. You can eat carbs and still lose weight, but it’s best to get them from good sources like sweet potatoes and berries after your workouts. You don’t need to go to the extreme of eating no carbs and I wouldn’t recommend if you are physically active.

As expected, I wrote way too much and maybe a few noble people have read the entire thing. At this point, I’ve covered I’ll write part 2 by next week, which will cover smaller topic relating to weight loss: supplementation, mindful eating, intermittent fasting, weight training, interval training, leptin refeeds, and tracking progress. Fun stuff. Now, I know you can’t wait to see part 2, but try to restrain yourselves.

With love,

Old Newsletter

Lifting Club Becomes a Global Sensation

Long time no talkie,
Since the last time I sent a newsletter, there have been a lot of going-on’s (little of which probably interests you, but read on). This will be all over the place and incoherent, which makes my life much easier. Onto the fun stuff.
- Chris and I got together one day over break and made a TRX. Of course, when I say “we made” I really mean “I watched on, while Chris came up with all the smart ideas and executed the plan,” but that’s not important. Since then, Chris has improved upon our model in many ways and I can honestly say it’s an awesome piece of equipment that I’ve been incorporating into my recent workouts. You can do a lot of beastly bodyweight exercises with it and it’s incredibly versatile. Most importantly, Kuta loves it. Why am I saying all this? Because I’m a capitalist and want your money. Chris and I will be selling them for $45 (or just three easy payments of $15!). Yes, it’s all about the Benjamins. Feel free to talk to me if you just want to try it out sometime or are interested in buying one. For reference, a real one costs $150.

- On that day of divine creation, we also made a short video. Some might call it cinematic genius, but most will probably call it a compilation of crappy clips shot from a hand-held video camera. Criticism will not deter us. In the video you can see the Prowler and the TRX in action. We might also use this video as a promotional video when we try to make this club official.

- I got my pair of Vibram Five Fingers and they have exceeded all my expectations. I went for a jog over break and the experience was nothing short of immaculate. I’m not a runner, but I immediately noticed that I was striking on my forefoot without any conscious thought. This is in huge contrast to when I wear normal shoes and I heel strike despite my best efforts. Of course, the chief concern is how they look. They pass the Alex Du test with flying colors. Nothing will get you friends faster than shoes with toes. If you are interested in getting a pair for yourself or want to try them out, get in touch with me. I would recommend them to anyone that runs a lot, but I might also use them in the gym.

- As stated above, we hope to push to make this club official (we’re serious this time). I am also trying to publish the sleep newsletters in the Phillipian soon, so look out for that. Don’t blink because you might miss Lifting Club become the hottest topic on campus. Or not.

- Random study of the day: optimism improves your immune system. This could be relevant in light of recent college decisions. For the people that didn’t get into their favorites, there’s a silver lining: you’re not alone. A year from now I’ll be standing in your shoes.
I’ll try to answer some more FAQ’s in next week’s newsletter and give away a free prize (just kidding). I also plan to be in the gym with the TRX on Sunday @ 1, so show up if you please. I guess that counts as a club meeting.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Quick Thoughts on Vitamin D

At this point, there's a lot of evidence supporting vitamin d's importance in the body. It has been shown to increase athletic performance and recently has been shown to help children against the flu and asthma. Thus, optimizing vitamin d levels seems like the smart thing to do.

Yesterday I read an interesting post which discussed how a paleo diet allows people to absorb and retain vitamin d better than people following a standard diet with grains.

"Since vitamin D appears in bile and cereal fibers may bind bile, Batchelor and Compston suggested that this may explain the loss of vitamin D in the cereal-fiber-supplemented individuals."

This doesn't come as much of a surprise to me, but the ramifications of this analysis are important. If the foods we eat directly affect our vitamin d levels, then the foods we eat affect our athletic performance, our immune defenses, and probably a whole host of other things. Ditching grains probably won't make you LeBron, but it could improve your game.

On the other side of the coin, the author mentions that paleo dieters require less supplementation and put themselves at risk of having levels of vitamin d that are too high. Like everything else, too much vitamin d can be an issue and I think I should get my levels checked out soon.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

TRX and Pemmican

I've got to keep this post short because I've been assigned raking duties this afternoon by my mother. Yes, apparently you're supposed to rake in the spring. This was news to me.

Anyway, I got to really put my homemade TRX to work yesterday. It's a dynamic tool and I'll be getting more accustomed to it. It weighs practically nothing and fits in my backpack easily. I was feeling adventurous, so I put in a little challenge at the end of my workout: complete 3 rounds of push-ups, knee raises, and rows on the TRX following a 21-15-9 rep scheme. It took me 6:54, which is a good number for me to beat. It wasn't too grueling, so I may find some other exercises to substitute in.

My mom came up with the idea of selling them. A normal TRX sells for $150, but I can make a nearly identical one for $20 in less than twenty minutes. I don't know where I'll be selling them, but they have been getting popular in some fitness circles. The one obstacle between me and the vast fortunes that await me is that I need to convince people to spend their money on a product made by a 17 year old. Easier said than done.

The other big news in my life was the completion of my biggest cooking accomplishment yet (and there have been many, such as the time I learned how to crack an egg), making pemmican. It was messy and a little chaotic, but we got it all done. Last night I rendered the fat, ground up the beef jerky in a food processor, and mixed them together in hopes that they would form a perfect marriage. Our hopes weren't exactly met. Nor were we completely let down. It might taste a little like dog chow, but, at least to me, it was a promising start. I plan on making a large batch before I leave for school, so I can gross out my friends.

I'll be leaving tomorrow to visit colleges and see some extended family. That's a winning combination.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Blink, Sleep, Vibrams, and More

It's been awhile since my last post, although I can't say I've been doing a ton of stuff other than relaxing. I suppose that's the point of spring break. Anyway, as usual I don't want to write in coherent paragraphs, so I'll be using the bullet-point format to discuss my latest musings.

- I just finished Malcolm Gladwell's book "Blink" and recommend it to anyone that is in search of a new book. He's great at telling stories and always shocks me with some fact or study. Gladwell discusses the importance of our initial reactions to something (that's a terrible summarization). It's a quick, engaging read and there are some practical applications, but the aspect of the book I liked the most is how Gladwell can synthesize and present all this fascinating information. There's some eye-opening stuff in this book.

- Since the start of break I've been attempting to fall asleep and wake up earlier. Easier said than done. I was inspired by a post a guy wrote chronicling the experiment he made. He and his family turned off all their electronics at 7:30pm for a month in order to improve their sleep. Immediately they noticed a difference and began falling asleep much earlier and waking up well rested.

Why would cutting out all light/appliances change their sleep habits? Melatonin is the sleep hormone and is elevated in the absence of light. However, blue light in particular prevents the body's production of melatonin. No surprise, the blue sky provides blue light, which makes sense because we are energetic during the day. However, most lights and appliances also emit blue light, which fools the body into thinking it's still day time.

My own experience has not been as successful because, well, I won't be convincing my family to stop watching TV at 7:30 anytime soon. Not to my surprise, the idea of lighting the house with candles (they don't emit blue light) was shot down as well. At the same time, I have been making some effort to limit blue light exposure in the evening, so I've made a small victory.

- My pair of Vibram Five Fingers (VFF's) arrived in the mail today. I've broken them in a bit and it's an entirely different shoe experience. I did a little jogging in them and they caused me to become more aware of my form unlike normal padded shoes. I might wear them in the gym a few times and raise a few eyebrows.

- I began the first phase of my beef jerky/pemmican making process a few hours ago. I have no expectations for this and I only hope to not burn the house down. Although I haven't failed yet, I think this will be a learning experience or something euphemistic like that.

I plan on writing a few Features articles over break for practice. Maybe you can't learn how to be funny, but I'm going to try.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Lifting Club Newsletter

Lifting Club Takes a Break

Dear Chums,
I regret to inform you that I will not be able to send any Lifting Club emails over spring break because I will be in the Bahamas partying like a rock star. And by Bahamas I mean Concord, Massachusetts and by partying I mean visiting colleges. It’s sometimes hard to be this cool.

Anyway, I’m all done with exams, but I’ll be keeping this email brief. I’ll try to continue the FAQ format in the future because there’s plenty more questions that need answering, but today is going to be informal.

Stuff I will hopefully be doing over break:
- Buying a pair of Vibram Five Fingers
- Run in and wear aforementioned Vibram Five Fingers
- Be ridiculed by friends and family for aforementioned Vibram Fingers
- Cry myself to sleep
- Build a TRX for only $20 (this will involve me watching Chris do everything)
- Build some fat grip attachments (again, this will involve me watching Chris do everything)
- Build a medicine ball (I might be able to do this one myself, but it’s safer if Chris does)
- Learn how to make beef jerky and pemmican (so I can have caveman snacks at school)
- Experiment with adjusting my sleep cycle (going to sleep and rising earlier)
- Read a lot of books
- Lift heavy stuff
- Eat lots of tasty animals and vegetables
- Learn to break dance (who doesn’t?)
- Get better at jumping rope (again, who doesn’t?)
- Hang out with all those friends that I have because I am cool like that…
I’ve made a list of books I want to read, knowing that I’ll never finish them all in two weeks. Any of them are worth checking out if you’re a loser like me and like to read.
- Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: an update guide to stress, stress-related diseases, and coping by Robert Sapolsky
- Blink: the power of thinking without thinking by Malcom Gladwell
- My Losing Season by Pat Conroy
- In Search of Memory: the emergence of a new science of mind by Eric R. Kandel
- The Paleo Diet for Athletes: a nutritional formula for peak athletic performance by Loren Cordain
Before I finish, I found a great article talking about light’s effect on sleep that Mark Sisson posted days after my newsletter. I think he’s copying me. If you’re lazy, just read the bold text.

Have an awesome spring break,

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Newsletter: FAQ's (diet and lifting)

Even though I am in my “off-season,” we will not meet this weekend to lift. I will be busy preparing to fail my math final. Go me.

With that said, I’ve got some good content in this newsletter. I wrote an FAQ’s regarding everything and anything that people ask me. This is not the most comprehensive FAQ ever and I may expand upon it in the future. Obviously, if you have a question you want answered, ask me and I’ll try to answer it. Onto the show.

Q: If cavemen lived to be 30 and people today average to be 75, why should I eat and live like a caveman? (actual question I got from someone)

A: Before I answer your question, you should get a napkin and wipe the stupid off your face. Considering all the modern conveniences that civilization provides us, I would hope we have a longer life expectancy than a caveman. Earthquakes aren’t common, but Haiti is a chief example of the destruction Mother Nature can inflict even with modern technology. That’s all theoretical, so I’ll spit some statistics: in the Aché tribe (a modern hunter-gatherer tribe), 30-40% die before the age of 15 and the majority of that number before the age of 5. Now, I know I’m like really super duper good at math, but you can imagine that infant deaths will drag down the average life expectancy. The study also shows that the Aché have a 30% chance of living to age 60 all without the aid of civilization. Furthermore, these people aren’t dying from cancer, heart disease, or diabetes related illnesses (three of the top killers in America). If you gave them the conveniences of modern civilization, I’d imagine they live much longer than 30 years.

Q: I’m new to lifting and want to get big, but not as big as CJ Queenan. What should I do? (Real question. Not kidding.)

A: First, you need to make sure your technique is suitable in the lifts you’ll be doing. You can’t train if you’re hurt. Once your form is good, start lifting heavier weights in multi-joint exercises like pull-up variations, trap-bar deadlifts, bench variations, rows, single leg works, etc. Isolation exercises have their place, but are more suitable for intermediate and experienced lifters. When I say heavy, I mean 1-5 reps per set. No, you won’t get a sick pump.

Q: Won’t heavy lifting make me slow? Shouldn’t I just stick to explosive lifts?

A: This is a big myth that won’t die and people who believe it are limiting their potential. You can become slow if you overdo the heavy lifting. Like everything, moderation is critical. The right blend of maximum strength work and speed work is what you want, but most beginners should put more emphasis on maximum strength because they lack it so much. Why does this matter? Because maximum strength has a waterfall affect on power and endurance.

I’ll dissect the vertical jump in more detail than you care. In a two-foot vertical jump you have about .4 seconds to generate force into the ground (the time when you dip and explode). If you have a max in the back squat of 200 pounds, which is a slow movement, and can exert 60% of that in .4 seconds you can exert 120 pounds in your vertical jump. If you increase your back squat to 300 pounds, is your vertical going to improve? Yes. You can also improve the percent of your max which you exert with explosive lifts and plyometrics, but that’s another can of worms.

A real life example of how max strength can affect muscular endurance: someone came to me asking how to improve their strength. I told them to do weighted pull-ups. This person has done more bodyweight pull-ups than I can count. I wasn’t surprised when they mentioned to me weeks later that they were able to do more pull-ups than when they had done bodyweight pull-ups alone.

The moral of the story: build a base of maximum strength before focusing on power or muscular endurance. Even distance runners can benefit from lifting heavy weights.

Of course, I could have saved you a lot of time and showed you two videos of Brian Cushing or Georges St. Pierre training. Brian Cushing won defensive rookie of the year in the NFL and Georges St. Pierre is the top fighter in the UFC’s 170 pound weight class. To say I love them does not do my idol worship justice. They are the immaculate blend of strength and power. I’ll stop drooling. – GSP is in the beginning

Q: Palmer, I’m still not convinced about this caveman diet because I haven’t seen the hard proof. Show me the money.

A: If you want the full article, read this. It’s pretty short and the graphs are easy to understand.

Most doctors have a hard time explaining this phenomenon: citizens of healthy societies that have low levels of today’s killers (cancer, heart disease, diabetes) move to the US and experience poor health. One study examined this phenomenon and the findings are mind-blowing. The number of heart attacks in Japanese-Americans and Caucasian Americans is roughly six times as high as that of Japanese living in Japan. The same trend is seen when comparing African Americans to Ugandans and Nigerians. With regard to the Ugandan rate of occurrence, they found one person that suffered a heart attack out of 4,000, which wasn’t even fatal.

“Africans in Africa and Japanese in Japan = low incidence of MI. Africans, Japanese and Caucasians in the US = high and similar incidence of MI. Genes only influence a person's susceptibility to MI when they live in an environment that promotes MI. Otherwise, genes are basically irrelevant. ” MI = heart attack

What could explain this? Maybe the Africans and the Japanese have the same diet? Nope, but they have common themes. Unlike the Standard American Diet (SAD), the African and Japanese consume a diet devoid of processed foods like vegetable oil, sugar, and wheat. They subsist on wholesome, “real” foods and don’t suffer from modern health maladies.

That’s the end of the FAQ section. Here’ a few links worth bookmarking: - He was the nutrition Guru for Crossfit and gives dietary advice to athletes and all other types. - A recently formed discussion for all things caveman. I recently asked a question concerning eliminating food cravings and it got 12 responses. I am awesome.

Buenos noches,

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Newsletter About Sleep

Lifting Club Takes a Siesta!

Get ready to be blown away by another fantastic email about crap you don’t care about… psyche! Pay attention, you sleep-deprived Andover zombies because this newsletter covers sleep and how to optimize it.

Now, a quick disclaimer: I don’t have extracurricular activities and am a general bum. I get my homework done, am in bed by 11 on weeknights, and take a power nap during 5th period every day. I win. I cannot help you much if you are falling asleep at 3 in the morning consistently. With that said, I hope to give some practical advice that I’ve read and implemented with success in my own life.

Another disclaimer: I know use the caveman rhetoric a lot, but I don’t use the logic that “if caveman did it, it must be good.” That’s a logical fallacy. It just so happens that—surprise—adopting a lifestyle similar to a human living in 40,000 B.C. would probably optimize sleep and energy. Just know that there’s science to back this up and it’s not simply romanticism. Blah, blah, blah, let’s talk sleep.

Here’s what people want from their sleep: get high-quality rest, have boundless energy and focus during the day, have a better brain, and be in a better mood. Here’s where most people go wrong: they get too much light at the wrong times, eat a crappy diet, get too little exercise, have a lifestyle that promotes too much stress, and have inconsistent wakeup times. I’ll tackle these issues one at a time.

Melatonin, as some of you may know, is the sleep hormone. It gets triggered at night and makes you fall asleep. However, melatonin’s sleep-inducing effects can be offset by light. As a caveman, the sun would go down and the only light might be a fire and the stars. Today, we’ve got lights everywhere: computers, lights, alarm clocks, etc. All these lights work against you when you try to fall asleep because they stunt melatonin production. What should you take away from this? Dim the lights at night if you can (or wear shades inside for style points), make your bedroom as dark as possible (ANY light hurts, so cover your alarm clock), and wear an eye cover. I started using an eye cover last year and I noticed a difference right away. The initial discomfort of wearing it was a miniscule disturbance compared to the benefits of getting to sleep easier. Harvard studies also show that it’s a pussy magnet. Okay, I made that one up. You can get them for $10-15—a worthwhile investment. On the other hand, light can wake you up in the morning. The best light to shut off melatonin is the sun. Odd fact: there’s a stat called lux, which measures light intensity and the sun produces 10,000-25,000, while office lights produce only 320-500. Yes, I stole these stats from Wikipedia. The takeaway message: wake up and get some sunlight to help wake you up.

You’ve heard me babble on about diet for months now, so I’ll spare you the details, but the effects of diet on sleep are eye-opening. This is just one person’s experience, but this sleep guru spent a few months following a very low carb caveman diet (<30g) and kept a sleep log. His need for sleep decreased by an hour and a half. By eliminating grains and sugars, he was able to sleep less and maintain his superb energy levels. (He wrote a great post about it, but I can’t get the link because his site is under construction, so I’ll post it in another newsletter) Carbs send blood glucose levels spiking, then the body scrambles to normalize, and the moral of the story is that you end up a sleep loser. I won’t go into the benefits of fish oil, but just remember that fish oil literally helps everything. Everything. Moral of the story: ditch the bagels, eat your meats and veggies, and take your fish oil.

Perhaps the most important and controversial tenet of my sleep bible, but should make sense: I wake up at the same time every day. Yes, that means weekends and Thursdays *gasp*. Why? Your body has an internal clock, which controls your circadian rhythms. Sleep quality is optimized during certain points of your circadian rhythms. If you wake up at 7 Monday through Friday, but sleep in Saturday and Sunday until 11 in order to make up your sleep debt, you’ll throw your circadian rhythms out of whack. Waking up at a consistent time every day is a difficult transition to make, but the benefits are huge: your body gets in a groove, you get high quality sleep as a result of stable circadian rhythms, and you have more energy. Thus, we can understand why Mondays suck: you have to wake up at 7 when a day after you woke up at 11. Taking a step back and considering the life of the ancestors helps explain things. Cavemen would not have had sleep-ins on weekends because they had the sun to wake them up. They slept when it got dark and woke up when it got light. The issue people have with consistent wakeup times is they’ve accumulated a sleep debt over the course of the week. My practical recommendation: instead of sleeping in, get to sleep earlier and wake up at the same time. Waking up early on weekends is also the best time to get homework done.

If you’re still reading, gold star for you. I hope this material is engaging and relevant. I just realized I wrote 1,000 words, I’m not done, and it’s bed time for this big boy. Still to come: napping, exercise’s role on sleep, and sleep’s effects on the brain. I’ll also talk about some of my own experiences and sleep habits I might fool around with in the future. Too much to say, too little time.

Get your sleep,

Features Article: Musings

This is an article I wrote which is a compilation of absurd "musings."

Features Article

I write in the funny section of my school newspaper. This week's theme was the future, so I gave a brief overview of the coming decades.

- After a heated election between Sarah Palin and Barack Obama, Obama prevails and is re-elected. Palin’s running partner, Tiger Woods, claims that her poor public image held them back.
- Anticipating the end of the world, millions of people flock to churches and pray for forgiveness. Of course, the world doesn’t end even though some coked-up Mayans predicted its demise hundreds of years ago.
- Snooki from “The Shore” enters mixed-martial arts after realizing she has an iron jaw. She has a successful career that ends prematurely after a scandal revealed she had several dozen STD’s after hooking up with every guy from the Jersey Shore.
- Twilight “Old Sun” breaks all box-office records as millions of prepubescent girls camp out in movie theaters months in advance. The forty five minute movie features shirtless dudes running around and not much else.
- LeBron is traded to the Knicks, prompting all Cleveland natives to burn themselves alive.
- Exeter deems relaxing a punishable offence.
- Obama is re-elected for the fifth time after narrowly edging out born-again Christian Lindsay Lohan. Ralph Nader finishes in a distant third.
- Muslims and Jews reach peace in Israel. The peace ends ten days later after a heated match of ping pong.
- At her own funeral, Oprah Winfrey gives everyone attending a Ford Taurus.
- Harvard scientists discover that global warming is a myth. Al Gore is forced to watch Glenn Beck for the rest of his life.
- Rocky 13 is released. Sylvester Stallone makes his triumphant comeback starring as Rocky, a morbidly obese, decrepit old man who steps into the ring one last time. By all measures, this was the worst movie ever released.
- After USA defeats Brazil in the World Cup Finals, soccer becomes popular in the US. Just kidding. Soccer never becomes popular in the US, so don’t get your hopes up.
- “The Situation” is elected president of the United States. His success is attributed to his shrewd economic strategies, articulate speeches, and hawt abz.
- Only days after “The Situation” is elected president he legalizes steroids and subsidizes all hair gel manufactures.
- After one and a half successful terms in office, The Situation is found dead in a tanning salon. His vice president, Ralph Nader, assumes his role as leader of the free world.
- Congress quickly impeaches Nader and he is never seen again.
- In a tell-all interview with Barbara Walters’ corpse, the girls’ Chinese gymnastics team admits that they entered 4 year olds into the 2008 summer Olympics. Big surprise.
- Scientists in Brazil invent a successful cloning device, flooding the world with thousands of Ricky Martins.
- Scientists discover the cure for hangovers. Finally.
- According to a study sponsored by Playboy, masturbation is found to increase intelligence in adolescent boys. Men and boys of all ages across the world celebrate.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Lifting Club Newsletter

Sup bros and bras,
So far this term I have been reliably inconsistent with these spammings. I can only hope that I will improve my production of said spammings, but I cannot make any promises because my schedule is just booked with all my extra-curricular activities. Like, all those extra-curricular activity which I do so much… (read: I do no extra-curricular activities and my college application is blank. I say the whiteness of the blank page represents purity, but my mom says it represents my laziness. Agree to disagree.)

Enough of beating around the bush and onto the awesome content (woo-hoo). In case you haven’t noticed, it’s winter term, which means everyone is sick. Sadly, this includes me this year. Yes, even I get sick and it still sucks. Why bring up the misery of illness? Because there is hope. Perhaps some of you have heard of probiotics or at least live active cultures (yogurt products highlight this). What do probiotics/LAC do? They replenish healthy bacteria in the gut, which can be destroyed by diets high in processed grains, sugar, a high omega-6 to omega 3 ratio, and other processed foods. Now, prepare yourself for a serious knowledge bomb: the gastrointestinal tract comprises 75% of the body’s immune system. Methinks gut bacteria may play a role in preventing illness. Now, could there possibly be a study showing probiotics aiding the immune system? Whoop, there it is:

The study showed that the use of probiotics significantly decreased the incidence of coughing, fever, and runny noses significantly (the numbers are astounding). So, if you’re still reading this (chances: exceedingly low), you probably want some probiotics and practical advice. The good news is that probiotics are fairly affordable. After I got sick I went down to Whole Foods and got 90 days worth for $30 (in other terms, 2 or 3 nights of ordering out). In the fall, I also got 30 days worth for $11, so you can get a starter pack. Summing things up, for optimum gut health, which is good for your immune system, weight loss (didn’t mention this, but gut health does seem to play a role in weight loss), and for ensuring you’re going number 2 often, do the following:

- Take a quality probiotic supplement daily
- Avoid refined sugar and carbohydrates
- Eat foods that improve the quality of gut health (vegetables, fruits, yogurt, raw fermented foods)
- Avoid foods that you have allergies to
- Take an omega 3 supplement (fish oil, 1-3g EPA+DHA)
- Limit omega 6 intake (no salad dressings with vegetable/soybean oil)

Well, I’m no Sherlock Holmes, but I’m noticing a pattern: eating a diet consistent with our evolutionary past results in optimal health and function. Furthermore, this was long, so I deserve some kind of reward. Maybe a Pulitzer. Perhaps a juicy steak. I’m not too picky.

That’s all for this week, but the next spamming should be equally as awesome with regards to content because I’m going to be talking about barefoot running and I’ll try to convince you that the barefoot movement is more than just a couple of hippies that are still trying to fight the man.

Muchas love,

p.s. for more reading about GI health/probiotics, check out the following links:

Monday, January 25, 2010

My newsletter

Lifting Club (long overdue)

I hope everyone hasn’t forgotten me. I know it has been awhile since my last newsletter, so I was expecting throngs of you to be asking me, “bro, when are you going to send out another awesome, information-filled, hilarious newsletter?” Much to my surprise, nobody said anything like that. Nobody.

But enough about me. The Green Cup Challenge is starting up soon and they’ve been showing some interesting documentaries on Tuesday nights at Commons. I’ve seen a few of them before and they’re worth checking out. Due to my negligence, I failed to promote “Food, Inc.” which they showed a week ago. The documentary’s goal is lift the “veil” that major food companies have put over your eyes because if you found out where your food was coming from you might stop giving the companies your money. It’s an informative and relatively brief documentary (it’s a walk in the park after watching any Spike Lee film) that will change your perception of the food you eat. To put it in layman’s terms, “Food, Inc” could quite possibly rock your socks off. I saw it with my parents a few months ago and my dad, who’s not much for hippy stuff, called it “terrifying.” I know you must be bummed right now because you missed the showing, but you can find it on youtube. You can also read “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” but who actually wants to read books these days?

For this week’s recommended reading, here’s a powerlifter’s testimonial about his experience on the caveman diet. Not only did he go from being a fat ass to shredded, but he experienced a few side effects that most people would consider miracles: his lifelong asthma disappeared and so did his arthritis. It also cured his erectile dysfunction. Okay, I made one of those up. Still, the fact that a basic diet can cure common maladies that doctors can only shrug their shoulders at means something.

Not totally related, but I’ve found directions for building a homemade TRX (Phil’s torturous strap-thing) and hope to build it over break. When I say “hope to build it,” I actually mean “I’m going to have Chris do all the work while I stand back and try not to mess anything up because he’s great with tools and I suck.” It seems easy enough, so I (meaning Chris) could make many TRX’s and all the world will rejoice. If all goes according to plan, my core will be so strong I’ll be able to grate a cheese grater on my abs.

That’s all for this week. I’ll be less lazy next time.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Lifting Club Email

Here's the email I sent out to my "club" today.


I hope everyone is enjoying the easy first week back after a relaxing break (except for seniors finishing apps). Wait, no, our teachers seem to have conspired against us and made this week annoyingly hard. Yipee.

Anyway, the workout/meeting this Sunday at 12:30 is inspired by a recent article (link below). The workout is a test of strength and endurance. The goal is complete 21 reps of 4 exercises (deadlift, bench, weighted pullups, curls) in under 30 minutes. How heavy the lifts and the time it takes you to complete the workout determines whether you go to heaven or not and how awesome you are. Obviously, there's a lot at stake here.

I know all of you read "Born to Run" over break... for those of you that didn't, the moral of the story is that your feet are better at doing their job than shoes. This statement makes sense because humans have spent bajillions of years evolving to be fit and strong without shoes.

To make up for you slackers, I read "Spark," the book from the ASM meeting about exercise and its effect on the brain. If I could sum up my review in one sentence, I would say this: some mumbo jumbo that I didn't understand, but the take away messages and practical information are terrific and make it worth the read. Por ejemplo (I'm flexing my spanish muscles), one Duke study showed that exercise was as effective as Zoloft for treating depression as well as other studies that showed a correlation between "fitness" and scores on intelligence tests.

My one complaint is that his take on nutrition is, to put it politically correct terms, "so stupid and hypocritical that I wanted to slap the author." Trust me, that's a toned down version of my thoughts. To support the need for exercise in modern life he uses the logic that humans evolved to exercise and, therefore, exercise is critical to optimum performance. However, he doesn’t believe this logic applies to nutrition. He spends about one page in the entire book discussing nutrition and recommends a conventional diet consisting of whole grains, fruits, veggies, and low meat intake, effectively screwing the pooch. I think he underestimates the importance of nutrition to health and well-being and should have looked into the “caveman/paleo” diet before blindly following conventional wisdom. And that grinds my gears.

That rant went on long enough. I have one recommended reading this week, which is a Navy SEAL's testimonial of his experience with training and diet. When Navy SEALs speak, it's worth listening because these people are the crazy.

Here's to a ballin' 2010,

Saturday, January 2, 2010

More Thoughts on Spark

While I may have come off a little harsh on the nutritional aspects of Spark, I want to emphasize that I think it's a great and informative read. Furthermore, his belief in the efficacy of exercise in treating common ailments such as depression, anxiety, and addiction was congruent to some of my principles.

I'm not a big fan of pharmaceutical medicine. That might be due to me being a foolish teenager, but I don't like the method that most medicines use: treating the symptoms, but not curing the problem at the source. Take cold medicines. They do nothing the get rid of the cold itself, but mask the symptoms and can have unpleasant side effects. I know some people claim that cold medicines are designed to prolong symptoms in order to generate profits, but I certainly cannot say its true. Antibiotics are prescribed for certain illnesses because they kill bacteria. However, it can kill the good bacteria in the gut that supports the immune system. Could this increase the chances of getting sick in the future? I'd say yes.

And this all comes back to exercise in a roundabout way: exercise helps cure these problems in a more dynamic way than Zoloft or other drugs. I can't explain the hard science behind it, but Ratey does a good job of explaining how exercise impacts "things" compared to just drugs. Ratey doesn't say to eliminate the use of drugs--he supports them in many cases.

The missing piece of his equation is nutrition. I can't say that proper exercise and nutrition will cure everything, but Ratey has shown that just exercise can have a profound impact. Add nutrition to a program that features exercise and, surprise, I imagine that the efficacy would be even better.