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,