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.