An Upbuilding Discourse

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Research on Being

Towards a Hierarchy of Pseudo-Grains and Pulses

This is something that I’ve been wondering about ever since I decided that pulses and pseudo-grains should come back into my life. When it comes to plant foods there is always a balance that must be made between toxins and the value of the food. In the end, a lot of this nutrition stuff is about finding the highest value, lowest toxin food. Animal foods are virtually all value and no toxin since they have no need of producing endogenous chemicals to discourage consumption of their flesh, however, when it comes to plants we have to consider toxicity as this is how plants protect themselves. There is the issue of phytic acid, saponins, PUFAs, and so on which must be taken into account in addition to how much enzyme activity is available to break down these toxins and if the value of the food is high enough to negate whatever toxicity remains. This need for high value, low toxin plant foods is what has lead me towards the reintroduction of pseudo-grains and pulses as these are some of the highest value plant foods you can get with toxicity levels that are low or average, however, among them there are ones that are better and ones that are worse and that is what I shall now discuss.

Pulses

Among pulses, we have the common bean which is split into many varieties. All members of the common bean, however, contain the phytohaemagluttinin lectin but with varying degrees. White kidney beans (Cannellini) and red kidney beans contain the highest amount of this lectin. In fact, there is so much that you can get food poisoning from eating a few raw beans and there have been cases of this happening for people after having consumed improperly prepared kidney beans. It is for these reasons that I recommend avoiding red and white kidney beans, however, all other members of the common bean should be fine if properly soaked before cooking (black beans, navy beans, haricot beans, pinto beans, anasazi beans to name a few). Soy is well known for its high toxicity and consequently should ideally be eliminated from the diet except in fermented form (miso, tempeh, natto, soy sauce). Fava beans also have some toxins that you may or may not be reactive to and peanuts are widely contaminated with aflatoxin. Many pulses fare much better than these as far as toxicity goes and these are the ones I recommend you make the bulk of your pulse consumption from. These pulses are lentils, adzuki beans, mung beans, black eyed peas (cowpeas), split peas, lima beans, chickpeas, and urad.

To summarize:

Avoid: Red kidney beans, white kidney beans (cannellini), fava beans, soybeans (except when fermented), peanuts

Prefer (from least to most PUFAs): Black eyed peas (cowpeas), adzuki beans, lima beans, mung beans, lentils, split peas, chickpeas (garbanzo)

Pseudo-Grains

Pseudo-grains are one of the few plant foods with a full amino acid complement making them very valuable. These foods have varying levels of toxicity, enzyme activity, and PUFA content. Unfortunately, there is also a lot less information on pseudo-grains than other foods so I could only come up with a ranking in terms of PUFA content. As far as toxicity is concerned, I know that millet is relatively low in phytic acid (but also in phytase) and that buckwheat is high in phytase. This makes buckwheat the best overall pseudo-grain due to high phytase content, high nutritional value, and low PUFA content.

From lowest to highest PUFA content:

Buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa

There are also some less common gluten free grains which may be viable as well.

From lowest to highest PUFA content these are:

Teff, sorghum, millet

Rice and Corn

Rice can also be eaten. If you want to eat brown rice, ensure that you soak it with something rich in phytase which means water from a buckwheat soak or ground buckwheat. White rice, though somewhat refined, is very low in toxicity thus making it allowable on the toxicity versus value spectrum. In general, white rice is preferred. Corn may be okay occasionally as long as it is properly prepared, however, much of the corn supply is also contaminated with aflatoxins and mycotoxins not to mention being of GM origin so corn is still best avoided.

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Filed under: Diet, phytic acid, pseudo-grains, PUFA, pulses

New Directions in Nutrition

It it high time for an update around here. I had been hesitant for a while mostly due to the fact that what I’ve been reading about recently (sexuality) does not seem to fit in thematically with this blog. However, I have recently also changed some of my views on optimal nutrition and am finally implementing some of these changes. Most of my changes in thinking come from my experience with the GAPS diet, the Perfect Health Diet, the Danny Roddy Blog, and 180 Degree Health.

On the Question of Gut Dysbiosis

“Gut dysbiosis” has become a sort of trendy phrase these days and I do not doubt that it is a widespread problem in our society from the lack of fermented foods, overuse of antibiotics, pollution, chemical adulteration of food, and so on and so forth. How is one to deal with it? There are a lot of ideas about this. I basically bought wholesale into the idea that starch is impossible to digest and that simple sugars feed pathogens. This led me to do the GAPS diet which is pretty low in carbohydrate as a therapeutic diet for a while. The problem is that I had already been pretty low carb for a while at that point as my reaction to subjective feelings of gut dysbiosis has always been to go ZC or VLC as a way to starve the bad guys. I realize now that this path was mistaken since probiotics will not grow well without prebiotics and this was shown time and time again by constipation and reduced stool volume. At the time, I also didn’t realize that a VLC diet increases susceptibility to fungal infection in addition to the other problems postulated by the PHD. It is now my conviction that to treat gut dysbiosis it is important to eat a lot of prebiotics and probiotics along with gut healing foods and a low toxin load. This means foods that contain resistant starch or inulin as these seem to be the least problematic sorts of prebiotics and ones that are preferred by good bacteria. Reducing sugars is still important but going low carb can backfire by increasing susceptibility to fungi and also impairing immune function while not providing enough feedstock for probiotic colonies to flourish and do their work. For healing gut dysbiosis, I have thus changed my mind from the GAPS diet to instead a GAPS-style diet plus foods high in resistant starch and inulin including pseudo-grains, white rice, pulses, and starchy tubers. I would also eliminate nuts, seeds, and fruit. Each person will need to test these foods to see if they have reactivity to any of them and eliminate those that produce reactions. In general, however, I have changed the way in which I believe these sorts of problems need to be conceptualized. Instead of starving out the pathogen while also starving yourself of important foods, it’s better to eat enough of every major macro- and micro-nutrient category while simultaneously adding immune system and detoxification support otherwise you risk weakening yourself as you weaken your pathogen which may have more tricks up its sleeve to feed off of you. This does not mean your diet can be a free for all but you must not be totally carbophobic and take the food lists provided by the diet to be gospel. For instance, on the GAPS diet why are lentils and white beans okay but not adzuki beans or mung beans which are both supposed to be very low in toxins and easily digestible.

On Hypothyroidism

It has come to my attention by way of Matt Stone that it seems that part of the efficacy of low carbing is the fact that it pumps up your adrenals for a while and makes you hypothyroid. In the short term, this works out great but it backfires when one does this relentlessly. Low carbing would thus be most effective when combined with carb refeeds every so often to allow the adrenals to rest. Many low carbers have experienced a certain pattern of symptoms that comes after being low carb for a while, this includes oral thrush, dandruff, intolerance to cold, low body temperature, reduced libido, the return of some fat, and so on. I have experienced many of these at this point especially since returning to the GAPS diet for a few weeks thus providing another reason to increase my carbohydrate intake.

On Protein Consumption

By way of Danny Roddy I have become acquainted more and more with the detrimental effects of high tryptophan consumption on the body. These negative effects are largely the result of the increased circulating serotonin that eating a lot of tryptophan can produce. The tryptophan amino acid is, of course, especially rich in muscle meats. In addition, eating too much protein does not seem to be all that beneficial unless you are attempting to build muscle mass. High protein consumption is associated with hypothyroidism, decreased testosterone production, and a shorter lifespan. In addition, restricting protein can produce beneficial results from the autophagy that may be induced. All these considerations make me feel that protein can be anywhere from 5-15% of a diet and should come mainly from variety meats, seafood, gelatin, pulses, and pseudo-grains.

Other Stuff

A few other things to consider are that fructose and alcohol both appear to be treated similarly in the body and thus produce similar effects when consumed in excess (such as a fatty liver). A few studies, however, appear to show that many of these ill effects of overconsumption can be significantly reduced or eliminated when the consumption is done in the absence of polyunsaturated fats. It thus seems to me that in the hierarchy of evil things that supposedly destroy health, fructose and alcohol may, in fact, both be conditional toxins whose toxic dose depends on PUFA consumption. Reduction of PUFA to minimum levels (while also balancing n-3/n-6 ratio) appears to be the chief thing to do with reduction of fructose and alcohol being secondary. Another interesting thought is about stress. It seems that people who’ve grown on very nutritious foods in a traditional manner can tolerate way more dietary stress without having as many food allergies or problems. I am thus starting to wonder how much optimal adrenal and thyroid function have to do with susceptibility to food intolerances. Recently, I have either become lactose intolerant or only just realized that I am more lactose intolerant than I initially thought. After I finish this phase of carb refeeding, however, I plan to test dairy again to see if my tolerance has improved with improved thyroid and adrenal function but we shall see.

Summary

To summarize some of the conceptual changes:

-I believe a healthy gut depends on prebiotics as much as probitics especially resistant starch and inulin. Low carb programs for treating the gut can impair immunity (especially to fungi) while slowing down growth of probiotic colonies.

-I believe reducing protein (especially tryptophan-rich protein) can be beneficial which means that the optimal protein sources become seafood, variety meats, gelatin, pseudo-grains, and pulses and the optimal protein amount becomes 5-15% of calories.

-I believe a minimum level of carbohydrate must be maintained in all cases. For this minimum I’ll defer to the PHD who puts it at about 20% of calories, however, more may be beneficial depending on your circumstance. I no longer believe fat is a preferred fuel source. Either carbohydrate or fat can be good as long as a few guidelines are observed. Carbohydrate sources are low in toxins, fructose, and insoluble fiber. Fat sources are low in PUFAs. You have an open window of 85%-95% Fat/Carb calories though you will generally do best if you prefer one source and moderate the other one.

-Polyunsaturated fats are the master toxin that can activate fructose or alcohol to produce physiological problems in the body. As such, make sure to balance and minimize PUFAs. I’ll defer to Stephan for this and say that PUFAs should comprise no more than 4% of calories.

Filed under: Bacteria, Diet, Digestion, Fermentation, Health, Macronutrients, Nutrients, VLC

Towards a New Paradigm of Health (or the T-DOMES concept)

So this is meant to be an outline of my ideas concerning how disease is caused and how it may be prevented and managed. There is a standard framework set up in advance by the institution of medicine that has its own philosophy pertaining to how the body is to be viewed and treated and this is challenged in specific ways by alternative and complementary medicine. Nevertheless, these are all techniques that manage bodily conditions once illness has struck. When it comes to prevention, there is a lot of obvious and simple advice given about what one must do. Your average text on health tends to construct a simplified conceptual framework of how health functions in order to organize the activities that produce wellness into a whole that may be conceived and acted upon. I have not yet found an author, however, whose way of doing this has completely satisfied me so this is my attempt to produce my own simplified but hopefully useful way of conceptualizing disease treatment and prevention.

Toxicity

The central concept that relates to health is the idea of toxicity. This is the master concept that is usually at work whenever a problem arises whether the matter has to do with nutritional, pharmacological, psychic, or mechanical toxicity. I am thus using this term in a very broad way to include within it any life stress that is chronically maintained or which is beyond the threshold of benefit. Beneath the idea of toxicity are the various specific objects which we must be careful to be aware of in order to maintain wellness. Toxicity is thus the T in the T-DOMES acronym I have produced, the DOMES being a specification of the possible toxicities to avoid, manage, dissipate, and neutralize depending on your desire, circumstance, and temperament.

Digestion

Digestion is the first and most important part of the health equation, the one most likely to be disrupted, and the one that shall bring the most benefit once it is under control. A compromised gut is implicated in a wide range of problems including, obviously, the digestive problems but also autism, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, obesity, muscular pain and so on. In other words, it’s always good to rule out the gut as a causative factor as it may be playing a role in a variety of ailments. Good digestion is also important for the sake of extracting the most nutrition from food, having good energy balance, and so on. Below the macro idea of digestion lies several things. The most obvious one is to have a proper diet that is good for digestion and nutrition and to go through a therapeutic diet if necessary so that the gut may be healed. As far as therapeutic diets specifically for gut healing, it seems the GAPS or SCD diets work in many people. As a quick summary: eliminating lactose, casein, and/or polysaccharides may be useful for a limited time in allowing the gut to heal. Besides the diet, is the issue of having healthy and beneficial probiotic colonies in the gut through consuming fermented foods and supplements. Enzymes as well as betaine HCL (or apple cider vinegar) may also be needed to help weak digestion and/or low stomach acid production. There are also basic things of importance like the proper chewing of food and reduced meal frequency. Chronic stress is also a factor that may reduce stomach acid production. The goal of this level is then to deal with and avoid a wide variety of digestively related ailments and to improve energy production as well as our nutritive status and thereafter to maintain a nutritious and low toxin diet (i.e. PHD style diet or my regular diet).

Outlook

Outlook in life is extremely important both physiologically and psychologically (as if there were a difference) as the physiological tension from stress, depression, anxiety, and so on can affect digestion, the amount of adipose tissue that you have and where it is deposited, brain function, sleep quality, and the adrenal glands. As much as people attempt to turn into machines, our basis in biology cannot and will not be denied. The fact that we have a biological basis means that we need to understand that we all have certain social, sexual, and physiological needs and that we need to accept them and embrace them. Of course, I cannot delve into this topic deeply right now as this is just a cursory summary but the basic point is that we should not be experiencing chronic stress and isolation and learn to take our activities lightly and accept our circumstance as this will lead us towards a better life. In my view, however, this is the most difficult task to manage as the untangling and dissolution of neuroses is no easy feat due to the structural role that neuroses play in the psychic economy of the individual. Nevertheless, progress may be made such as through having valuable relationships, goals in life, practicing meditation, getting sufficient rest, and so on. The goal of this level is to avoid the problems of chronic psychological stress and self-defeating behavior, loneliness and so on.

Movement

The idea of movement encompasses both exercise and posture as these are two important things that affect our bodies. Exercise is a necessary activity in life in order to keep us strong and able to engage in a wide variety of activities not to mention that muscle cushions us from injury and provides a reserve store for our immune system to feed upon when necessary. I personally believe in the primacy of high intensity, but slow, weight lifting plus leisure and locomotive activities throughout the rest of life (walking to places, playing sports). Posture is important in weight training to avoid injury but it is also important in general as chronic bad posture can lead to a variety of spinal and muscular problems over time not to mention the fact that out culture is geared towards sitting and inactivity which is generally bad for posture. In this realm I suggest the Gokhale method as it very clearly explains what properly balanced posture is and how to achieve it. The goal of this level is then to avoid the mechanical injuries that arise from bad posture and to avoid other bodily injuries that become easier to incur when one is weaker in the body.

Environment

This is a very broad category that relates somewhat back to outlook in that it is important to exist in an environment that is conducive to your optimal functioning. However, one can be more specific in that many environments have stale or dry air, toxins present from the production of the carpets, furniture, and so on not to mention those present in various products used such as shampoo. The idea is to avoid unnecessary exposure to these sorts of things and also to balance it with being outside and in the sun as this is an activity that produces vitamin D in the body among other benefits. To this we may also relate the idea of time, the body responds to the environment and perceives time. When we engage in shift work and sleep all day, this can have a negative hormonal impact so it is recommended that one sleeps in the right environment at the right time. The goal of this level is to avoid the problems of vitamin D deficiency, exposure to toxicity, disconnection from nature, and so on.

Sanitation

This refers to a specific idea of cleanliness as I do not in any way advocate antibacterial cleaners as they are damaging to yourself and the environment. What I mean is the management of space. This includes the space of the body and as such can be seen as being synonymous with the idea of hygiene. Being “clean,” for me, does not mean the destruction of bacteria but rather the proper colonization of it especially as far as bodily entry points are concerned. The mouth, the nose, the anus, and genitals are all possible points of entry into the body from the exterior environment. If one maintains these areas in proper bacteriological balance then the likelihood of disease diminishes so I suggest probiotic treatments for these areas when warranted. For instance, one may wish to use a suppository or enema to help with the colon if a person has severe digestive issues from a loss of colonic bacteria. If a person is prone to chronic ear infections or sinusitis, it may be useful to introduce probiotics into that area of the body via a netipot. Also UTIs in women can be prevented through probiotic treatments which may be done orally or genitally. As for the mouth, there are many ways of modulating dental hygiene through the food consumed and the products used. The goal of sanitation is thus to control the entry points to the body as well as maintain the space around you in such a way that is does not constitute a threat to you. This does not mean destroying bacteria but, rather, being aware of them.

The Healing Modalities (SHOPP): Supplements, Herbalism, Osteopathy, Probiotics, Psychotherapy, Allopathy

The preceding sections outline the most salient concepts for the maintenance of health and prevention of disease, however, it is inevitable that one will become ill at some point and so it is necessary that one should have a plan for this eventuality. The “plan” that I have produced is constructed of several healing modalities that should be applied to the situation depending on the nature and gravity of the situation and the amount of harm and benefit the medicine is likely to produce in the patient. In life threatening situations, there is no option but going to conventional medicine (allopathy from now on) as this is what allopathy is best at, however, for all other ailments I believe a different approach is warranted due to the amount of problems that allopathic remedies tend to produce in individuals and the fact that this sort of medicine is based on symptomatic treatment as opposed to snuffing out causes.

Supplements

Many diseases are caused by vitamin toxicity or deficiency, as such supplemental vitamins constitute an important healing modality as anyone who has ever heard of scurvy can tell you. Even in the case of vitamin toxicity, vitamins may help since they work synergistically together and thus may be able to modulate one another such as vitamin A and D where toxicity in one is often present because of deficiency in another. Besides vitamins, there are many other compounds that can help in alleviating problems. For instance, alpha lipoic acid can chelate some heavy metals and could thus be useful for people with heavy metal toxicity.

Herbalism

Before getting to pharmacological substances to which bacteria (among other vectors of disease) can more easily adapt to due to their simplicity, it is important to attempt to treat disease with herbal substances. Of course, one should not assume that herbs are safe and nontoxic, it all depends on the herb but these are less likely to cause issues in individuals and are thus worth a try before getting to more dangerous treatment options. These are especially good with more minor ailments as there are many herbs that are antiseptic, antiviral, and antibacterial such as garlic and ginger.

Osteopathy

I do not know so much about osteopathy but do know that it has been shown to be effective and involves manipulation similar to chiropractic practice. As such, it seems to be a prudent option if you have some sort of mechanical difficulty and since osteopaths are full doctors they will move you towards allopathy if they believe it is necessary.

Probiotics

Probiotics are very important in preventing and treating disease as these bacteria constitute our endogenous bacterial army that battles against pathogenic bacteria. When a person has insufficient friendly bacteria, that individual becomes more susceptible to disease and when a person is given probiotics during illness, the illness tends to resolve faster. In most cases, except for gut dysbiosis, this will be either a complementary method or a preventative method, nevertheless, it is still very important as it may save you from recurring infections of the same sort as explained above.

Psychotherapy

If you have a psychological problem then psychotherapy should be your first option of treatment. It is just as effective, if not more so, than pharmacological treatment but gets the shaft because it’s easier and more profitable to prescribe medicine instead. In any case, using drugs to treat these sorts of disorders usually functions as symptomatic treatment that does not untangle any issues in the individual thus forsaking him/her to lifelong medication with the associated side effects.

Allopathy

Like I mentioned before, allopathic medicine is very good for emergencies. If you have a life threatening situation on your hands then you do not have the luxury of shopping around for the best treatment but instead need to just stay alive and allopathy knows how to do that. Besides this very special circumstance, I recommend that you use allopathy once other options have been exhausted as its treatments are the most damaging and dangerous. It may be useful, however, to go to an allopathic physician for the sake of certain diagnostics which you may then use for your own purposes and I believe this is the best use of them.

Other Considerations: Saunas, Laughter, Chiropractic, Acupuncture

There are other activities that can help health that are not treatment modalities in themselves or with which I am not familiar enough with to really endorse fully. I will quickly outline these here now.

Saunas

Saunas have been used for health for quite a long time and it makes sense as the sauna is nothing more than a simulation of the fever. The fever in the disease process does not happen for no reason, rather it is an immune defense. By increasing bodily temperature, the immune system is attempting to kill pathogens. This is why fevers should be allowed to run their course so long as they are mild. In any case, this appears to be the basic idea behind the sauna and why it is associated with longevity.

Laughter

Laughter is an activity which can help bring oxygen into the body, reduce stress, and improve outlook. As such, it seems to be something that should be included in a well rounded healing strategy especially considering how easy it is to get dreary when one is sick.

Chiropractic

So far, chiropractic practice has appeared to me as nothing more than a less professional form of osteopathy with fewer qualifications and more possible injury (especially if the manipulations are done on the neck). For this reason, I do not really see why someone should want to see a chiropractor when that person can simply just go and see an osteopath instead. Nevertheless, chiropractic does have a plausible method of functioning so feel free to go to them if you do have certain mechanical problems and prefer them.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture also has a plausible physiological method of functioning (that is, the needles stimulate bloodflow to the areas being pricked thus improving healing), however, I have not seen much in the way of proof that this does, in fact, work except when it comes to headaches and some muscular and joint pain. As such, I recommend that if you believe in it then go ahead and use it, it is unlikely to do you much harm, however, it does not seem very necessary and the clinical evidence behind it does not seem particularly large.

Conclusion

It is my opinion that the T-DOMES strategy should be a sufficient way to maintain very good health indefinitely. The problem is in implementing it fully as I believe many people likely have chronic digestive issues that require healing, chronic anxiety or stress, and may suffer from psychological problems such as anger, loneliness, depression and so on that put their bodies in compromised states of being. This is not even to mention the encouraged sedentariness of our culture and the bad posture that inheres in too much sitting and the toxic environments in which we often work and live. All these problems feed back into eachother very easily such as a job where you’re stuck at a desk all day in bad posture that leads to strain with a loved one which increases your stress and anxiety which you escape from by watching too much television while eating potato chips and ice cream. Here you have bad food with bad posture with bad environment with lack of movement working together to produce psychic and physiological stress that the person in question finds difficult to deal with except by indulging more fully in that which injures him/her. It is thus a difficult path to find a way to unravel ourselves from the traps of culture that attempt to tell us what to do, what to eat, what it is that is worthwhile to do with a life, who should be desired, how a person should act, what to buy and so on and so forth (not to mention the production of anxiety through news media). This often all eventually congeals into a clinically diagnosable disease which can then, through the cycle of unintended consequences and a faulty framework, lead to even more disease via the side effects of treatment if the treatment was even warranted in the first place. That is the additional insult here; that even people who are healthy can be made to be ill through the manufacture of imaginary diseases that need to be managed such as high cholesterol or the medicalization of problems that should be properly dealt with in psychotherapeutic ways such as depression or anxiety or through screening tests on the asymptomantic which often detect non-threatening phenomena that end up leading to unnecessary surgery. All this medicalization of the physiologically healthy even while the ill are symptomatically treated only thus allowing their diseases to progress further instead of instituting programs that reverse the disease process such as happens in GERD and diabetes. This is how one falls into the plague of iatrogenicity that must be avoided and this is why I suggest the T-DOMES framework above as a way to maintain health and to use allopathy only for diagnostics while using the other modalities (SHOPP) for actual healing if at all possible.

Filed under: Bacteria, Diet, Digestion, Hcl, Health, Iatrogenicity, Medicine, Nutrients, Pathogenesis, Supplements

The Problem with Modern Medicine

It’s been a while since the last post here but I have not been idle. I have been considering the topic of modern medicine and its modalities of healing. This was precipitated by my own recent encounter with the medical behemoth after a severe earache incapacitated me temporarily which led me to the clinic. This experience left me realizing just how vulnerable the patient is in the face of the authority of the doctor who hands down judgment upon the helpless patient desperate for an answer to the ailment that afflicts him/her. The doctor, usually, will give you an answer since that is what you seek. Whether this answer will in fact help your condition is another question entirely and it is in this way that it becomes easy for the doctor to prescribe medicine for conditions that don’t require it. This is all to say that going to the doctor is as much a psychological experience as anything else and that this must be taken into account in order so that the patient is not mislead or taken advantage of in his/her vulnerability. After all, the cures of modern medicine are not without their risks and to be taking a drug or undergoing a procedure simply because the doctor believed that that is what you wanted and without any proof of the efficacy of the drug or procedure is to be gambling with your health as hospitals are not safe places. Mistakes are made and antibiotic resistant infections breed there. No, we must be aware that doctors are people who make mistakes and who are subject to influence. That modern medicine is itself a pseudoscience based upon a lot of conjecture and questionable data and that it is sold like any other product, with lots of spin. I will now outline some of these problems.

Absolute Risk versus Relative Risk

Have you ever heard an advertisement for a drug where it was stated that it reduces the risk of some condition by let’s say 50%. This percentage refers to the rate of reduction as compared to another group, it is relative risk. This means that if there was a trial done with two groups of 1000 people and in group A, 1 person died while in group B 2 persons died then it could be said that the intervention done for group A reduced their risk of death by 50%, quite impressive despite the fact that the risk of dying in group A was 0.1% and the risk of dying in group B was 0.2%. This is one way in which unimpressive data can be made to appear much more impressive than it is in order to sell product. The problem with relative risk is that is meaningless unless you know what the percentages being compared are. If in the example trial above, 250 people died in group A and 500 people died in group B, the relative risk would be the same even though the risk of death in group A would have now been 25% been versus 50% in group B, a much bigger difference. This is but one example of why you should be very skeptical of procedures or drugs that are “proven.” You need to investigate the data yourself and do your own cost/benefit analysis to ensure that it’s not just hype and statistical abuse.

The Authority of Medicine

Modern medicine has been able to occupy a position of power and authority that very few other institutions have and this has given them something of a carte blanche to do what they like. Everyone seems to accept that the doctor knows best or that modern medicine is usually the most effective or most proven. The problem with these conceptions of modern medicine is that they are wrong. There are many obvious and standard procedures in medicine which in fact have nothing to support them. Cardiology is a great example of a pseudoscience as it seems to have the highest prevalence of procedures and medicines that harm people while procuring no benefit. Trials have shown that stents, angioplasty, and coronary artery bypass grafts are essentially worthless not to mention the overprescription of statins which treat a number but not a condition and may increase the prevalence of cancer since really low cholesterol is correlated with higher cancer risk. If these procedures did not have any risks then I suppose using them would not matter but the fact is that people become ill and consent to these procedures which have not been shown to work only to become sicker from complications related to these procedures. It is in this way that going to see the doctor can, paradoxically, make you sicker than if you had stayed at home and done nothing. For instance, ear infections are self limiting conditions that don’t generally need antibiotics, nevertheless, doctors routinely prescribe antibiotics for ear infections and this can lead to diarrhea or constipation as a side effect due to the disruption of gut flora and in trials it has been shown that those who took antibiotics for ear infections have a higher chance of recurrence than those who did not. Nevertheless, doctors do not seem to inform patients that they should take probiotics with their antibiotics or that a shorter course may be just as effective as the longer course or even take the trouble to make sure the infection is bacterial or what sort of bacteria it is so that the narrowest spectrum antibiotic is prescribed.

The Problem of the Screening Test

The screening test has come to appear as a thing that saves lives by detecting life threatening problems way before they actually threaten life. Unfortunately, the screening test doesn’t really save lives as much as it turns perfectly healthy people into patients, patients who become survivors because the problem they had wasn’t a problem in the first place. A screening test in an asymptomatic individual is seldom necessary since many screening tests are unreliable and since most of the types of cancers detected by screening tests are not ones to worry about. There is the tumor that is static, the tumor that grows so slowly as to have no effect on mortality, the tumor that grows slowly and can have an effect on mortality, and the tumor that grows quickly. If you have one of the first two then you’ll be getting medicalized for no reason. If you have the last one then you will become symptomatic rapidly and will not be helped by any screening test. Thus, out of 4 types of cancer, only 2 are worth worrying about and of those 2 only 1 can be detected at a screening test. I personally am not interested in lining the pockets of the medical industry for a problem I may or may not have so I suggest avoiding all medical screening tests unless you actually have symptoms.

Iatrogenicity

All of this is to say that if one is to remain healthy one must avoid doctors, hospitals, drugs, and procedures as much as possible otherwise one risks falling into the trap of endless iatrogenicity and lifelong disease management. The approach of modern medicine is treatment of symptoms and this leads to treatments that mask the problem while allowing it to progress. For instance, GERD is a condition that usually is caused by low stomach acid but is treated in ways that further reduce stomach acid thus helping the disease to progress while only providing minor symptomatic relief. In this way, the individual can become a patient for life who manages his/her chronic illness as opposed to someone who is getting better and will cease being diseased at some point. There are few cases in which one must remain diseased and manage it, certainly many fewer than what modern medicine believes and, in any case, considering how harmful treatment through conventional methods is, it seems prudent to always begin with the least harmful treatments and work up to the more harmful ones. As such, modern medicine should always be a last resort for treatment and be used chiefly for diagnostic purposes. Herbalism, osteopathy, rest, relaxation, psychotherapy, saunas, placebos, probiotics, laughter, nutrition, and vitamins all have healing potential that should be exploited before one runs into the arms of allopathy where the possibility of unintended consequences greatly increases. I will be expanding on some of these topics more later but this serves as a general exposition of my position.

References:

Hadler, Nortin. Worried Sick.

Welch, Gilbert. Overdiagnosed.

Schmidt, Michael. Beyond Antibiotics.

Bremner, Doug. Before You Take that Pill.

Cohen, Elizabeth. The Empowered Patient.

Filed under: Health, Iatrogenicity, Medicine

Another Dietary Synthesis

This is just a note of a quick mash up of a few diets for different therapeutic purposes and some common themes I’ve been seeing among them.

First, I would like to say that the reason for this is that basically I find myself wanting to do several therapeutic things at once. For one, I want to improve my digestion and towards this end have looked at the SCD and the GAPS diet. Recently I’ve been diagnosed with a cavity so I am adhering to a tooth remineralization protocol in order to arrest the decay. Both these diets are relatively similar but seem to bias meat, dairy, and fermented vegetables the most thus placing them in the realm of VLC diets if you’re not careful but considering that the digestion protocols require severe restriction of starches, it seems somewhat problematic to get the carbohydrate values up to 20% of calories or so which would be optimal to prevent the problems of zero carb diets.

Here are a few summaries:

The tooth remineralization protocol that is based on Cure Tooth Decay by Ramiel Nagel consists of organ meats especially liver, mollusks, fish/beef broth, raw dairy, and fermented cod liver oil/butter oil as the necessary therapeutic dietary elements. Nuts, grains, seeds are basically out and fruit and honey are limited. Other vegetables are allowed.

The SCD/GAPS diet basically restrict starches severely to predominantly monosaccharides. This means that all fibrous vegetables, some other vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, meat, and certain types of dairy are allowed. Because of the possibility of problems between lactose and casein, dairy is introduced slowly over time and fluid milk is never allowed. At best, you can consume ghee, butter, cream, sour cream, kefir, yogurt, clabber, and cheese but no fluid milk. The GAPS diet further emphasizes broths, a probiotic supplement, betaine hcl, and fermented cod liver oil.

The PHD diet attempts to reduce the complications of zero carb diets such as kidney stones and scurvy by ensuring that carbohydrate intake is 20% of calories mostly coming from safe starches like white rice and starchy tubers.

A few problems present themselves in that the remineralization protocol restricts the honey and fruit that the SCD/GAPS allow while the SCD/GAPS restrict many of the starches the PHD and remineralization protocol allow as well as the dairy component. I am attempting to come up with a reasonable synthesis and it seems that it would be the common elements between the SCD/GAPS and the remineralization protocol plus the restriction of fruit and honey and the restriction of fluid milk which is to be compensated by increased consumption of yogurt, kefir, or cheese and a mandatory consumption of squash, radish, rutabaga, celeriac, and (maybe) turnips. Between the allowed tubers and the dairy, I would hope the carbohydrate requirements could be met and between the lactose restriction, the digestion needs can be met while not shirking the needs of the teeth.

So here is my new dietary synthesis:

Protein and fat should come from seafood and red meat especially organ meats and mollusks. Mollusks and liver should be consumed every week as should fish and bone broths.

Carbohydrate should come from fibrous vegetables, fermented vegetables, dairy, and especially squash, radish, rutabagas, celeriac, and turnips.

Fruit should be restricted except for fatty fruit (olive, coconut, avocado)

Dairy should be restricted to raw fermented dairy such as raw yogurt, kefir, or cheese. Cream may also work since it is mostly fat but avoid fluid milk.

Take fermented cod liver oil/butter oil, a probiotic, and betaine hcl if necessary daily. You may also want to take some of the PHD recommendations especially selenium.

This is the next dietary iteration that I will attempt to implement. By the way, this is not meant as an ideal diet but a relatively safe and clean diet that may be helpful therapeutically. If you have none of these issues then you can probably go ahead with any tuber you like, white rice, some beans, pseudo-grains, fruit, honey, nuts, and raw fluid milk.

Filed under: Diet, Digestion, Fermentation, Hcl, Macronutrients, Nutrients, Raw milk, Supplements, Teeth, VLC

On the Question of Functional Training

I remember when I first began looking at the topic of exercise that I became very interested at first in functional training done with tools that mimic the unbalanced loads that we tend to encounter in real life. As such, I started to garner an interest in using kettlebells, Bulgarian bags, sandbags, or clubbells. If you are very limited in resources or do not want to use barbells, some of these may be useful to you in addition to a standard dumbbell routine such as a kettlebell deadlift but, in general, I now see a lot of problems with designing your training based on these tools. Because the kettlebell in particular took me in, I would like to address that particular item on its own.

Kettlebells

The kettlebell is essentially a cannonball with a handle. This is why is works better for doing a deadlift than a dumbbell would as its handle is elevated to a position closer to where the bar of a barbell would be. It’s design is very simple and badass which is why I think a lot of people are drawn to it, however, using it for training presents a few problems. The first and most obvious problem is simply cost. Kettlebells cost a lot more than dumbbells and yet are often used in pretty similar ways except for a few exercises. You can do many of the same exercises with dumbbells to similar effect as well (for instance, the swing). If you were to train with only one weight, the kettlebell might be a good idea depending on your preferences as you could use it for rows, deadlifts, and Turkish get-ups and similar exercises.

Aside from the issue of the kettlebell itself is the issue of its training approach. People are taught to use kettlebells in a ballistic way with high force and power production. The swing is the kettlebell move par excellence that involves swinging a heavy weight quickly between your legs. This presents many opportunities for injuries especially if form guidelines are not followed very carefully. As a conditioning program, doing kettlebell swings appears to be pretty efficient at working the entire posterior chain which is why it is such an attractive exercise for so many people but it is also dangerous if done incorrectly and many do it incorrectly with the mistaken belief that the kettlebell swing is somehow the best compound exercise out there. Even if this is true, I do not believe the risk is worth it when one considers that squats, deadlifts, and presses done slowly at high intensity can produce the same results with much much less injury potential. Do ballistic kettlebell exercises if you like, but don’t try and fool yourself into thinking that you can’t achieve the same results through other means with less injury potential and if you do do kettlebell exercises, pay very close attention to form (read some kettlebell books and watch some DVDs) and be aware of your surroundings. Otherwise, the kettlebell as a tool can be used for many slow lifts effectively but it is limited in that it is a fixed weight and an expensive fixed weight at that. Fixed dumbbell weights will be cheaper and adjustable barbells or dumbbells will be more versatile in their ability to give you a progressive load over time.

The Fetish of the Tool and the Confusion of Causality

As perhaps implied above, I believe that this fetishization of strange tools is unnecessary and stems from the desire to have something different to train with than what we have traditionally been used to. It thus adds an element of novelty as well as history since many of these tools are old tools. The fact that they are historical artifacts should provide us with a clue, however. These things were used for exercise in the past because nothing else was available not because people thought it was the best way to train. Stabilizer muscles will be trained in the body so long as you use free weights and training will be done in a less stressful and more even way with barbells and dumbbells than with these other tools that are unbalanced. One could argue that this imbalance is good as it mimics real-life situations better but it seems to me that this is a faulty argument. This is the same problem as that found in “aerobic” exercise that I explored in my previous post. You get better because you get stronger, how you get stronger doesn’t matter so you might as well do it in the safest and most efficient way. Training with these objects that ostensibly mimic real-life situations may simply put unneeded stress on different parts of your body, not to mention the fact that there will be no skill transfer but only a change in strength. If you become very good at handling clubbells then you will be very good at handling clubbells and a bit stronger too. You might as well train in a way that allows you better control over your program variables and movements so that you can track your progress better and ensure proper safety. As long as they are free weights, you should get the same benefit as you would from using kettlebells, clubbells, and sandbags with less risk of injury.

To put it simply, it is not ideal to be carrying awkward objects though we may need to do it sometimes, training under less than ideal circumstances puts unnecessary strain on the body since the reason we train is solely to become stronger as the activities we use to train will not transfer to real life unless they exactly mimic real life. So, if you lift sandbags regularly at work than lifting sandbags as a part of your workout routine may actually be helpful but otherwise, it doesn’t make much sense to do unless you’re broke and it’s cheaper to get a sandbag at a hardware store than proper weights. Measuring progress and doing progressive loading, however, becomes very difficult when you’re not sure exactly how much weight you’re lifting.

Filed under: Dumbbells, Functional training, Getting ripped, Kettlebells, Strength training, Training

Conclusions on Exercise

I have finished reviewing some of the secondary literature out there on exercise and have come up with some conclusions concerning what I believe is the most effective and efficient program to get into shape with a minimal risk of injury. It seems, however, that there is much less consensus out there on several issues than I have found in some of the other topics I have looked at thus far. Perhaps the sources I have consulted are a bit more heterogenous than those I have considered for other topics. The most contentious issues seem to be how to breathe during a repetition, whether you need to train explosively to be explosive, and whether it is safe to go to lockout during a repetition or not. I have reached my own conclusions about these things, nevertheless, they remain controversial in the physical culture community.

The Importance of Strength Training

If we assume that you are attempting to condition your body into a state of fitness for the sake of doing other activities with greater ease and more facility and that, therefore, you wish your training program to be as efficient as possible so as to not detract from other activities then it appears that all that is needed is a high intensity strength training routine composed of several compound movements that fatigue all of the main muscles of the body in relatively short order based on your preferences and method of increasing intensity (which can be either higher repetitions or heavier weights). What this means to imply is that other training programs can also condition you but that they shall do so less efficiently and, possibly, with a higher risk of injury.

For instance, cardiovascular fitness appears to be nothing more than a confusion of increased muscular strength and muscle memory. This is not to say that what is considered “aerobics” is necessarily bad or should not be done. Rather, it is an acknowledgment of the fact that the benefit of “aerobics” is the increased muscular strength produced and the improvement in performance that inevitably comes from its practice. Thus, if you run and cycle often, you will become stronger from that stimulus and you will become good at running and cycling. If you are doing this for fun then that is fine. If you are doing this as a conditioning program or to lose weight, you are mistaken and putting yourself in a position for repetitive stress injuries for no good reason. The problem with these endurance activities is that the overload required for adaptation is not reached easily because you maintain yourself at a moderate level of intensity. This will thus produce a conditioning effect over long periods of time but this is not necessary. The same conditioning effect can be produced in less time with a high intensity strength training. To put this simply, you should not run to become fit but rather, if you enjoy running, you should become fit to run. There is a confusion of cause and effect here. The heart and lungs do not appear to become stronger, rather, muscles become stronger and hence activities like running and cycling become easier to do. The best way to make muscles stronger is to give them an overload stimulus to adapt to and the best way to do this is through high intensity strength training.

Besides high intensity strength training I do not believe there is anything else really needed for a person to be physically fit. If you are an athlete or a hobbyist in a certain activity then practicing that sport or hobby is the only supplement necessary as you cannot train a specific action by doing a different action. One good example of this is training athletes with weighted equipment. If you practice basketball with a heavy basketball, you will adjust your biomechanics to the heavier basketball and get used to those movements so that when you are on the court, the lighter basketball will be more confusing and harder to deal with as you trained under different conditions. This is not to imply that you should be inactive besides your strength training. I believe being active is important for any lifestyle as we are biological beings who are meant to engage in physical activities. You strength train so that all the other physical activities you engage in are easier and more fun to do.

Designing a Training Program

In the design of a strength training program there are a lot of questions to ask oneself including frequency of workouts, warming up, which exercises to perform, how many sets, which order to perform the exercises in, how much to rest in between sets, how heavy the weight should be, how many repetitions to perform, whether to use free weights or machines, how quickly to perform exercises, and what is proper form. I hope to now address some of these questions and what they mean in regards to training.

First, there is the caveat that any training program will begin to condition a novice since the novice has no experience. It is only once you are somewhat conditioned that you may run against a plateau that necessitates a more complex training program.

Frequency of Workouts

Some people train once a week and some train six days a week. The latter case is usually only reserved for advanced athletes who are on very specific and complex training schedules. For the average person, training 1 – 3 times a week seems sufficient depending on your preferences and response. The problem with going too heavy is risking overtraining which will impede progress. For the sake of simplicity, I would start out with a workout once a week. You may also decide when to train based upon your response to the previous workout. That is, the amount of days between workouts should be sufficient for near complete recovery which, for a novice, is generally 2 – 3 days. There is some debate about whether you should train while you still have a little residual soreness or whether you should wait until full recovery. For a novice, it probably doesn’t matter so just train 1-3 times a week based on what you like.

Warming Up

Warming up appears to be very useful for the sake of getting the body ready for exercise and practicing your form. A good general recommendation is to warm up for each exercise with light sets of the same exercise you are about to perform. This will help you perfect form and stretch the muscles you are about to use without overstretching them.

Which Exercises to Perform

The best exercises to perform are going to be compound exercises for a few reasons. The chief reason is simply that humans generally use muscles in groupings in their daily activities. Isolating muscles without having a good reason (such as an injury or because that muscle is used a lot in your sport) can cause muscle imbalances which can cause injury. Furthermore, using compound exercises is a good way to work a lot of muscles all at once with only a few movements so that a workout can be composed of 3 – 5 movements instead of 12 – 15. This can thus cut down on time spent in the gym. Some classic compound movements are the squat, the deadlift, and the press. The squat works the lower body, the press works the upper body, and the deadlift works most of the body. This is one simple way to organize your routine. A lower body movement followed by an upper body movement and then a whole body movement. After these core exercises, any supplemental exercises can be done. It seems that exercise should be done according to how large and powerful the muscle grouping is so that you do not get totally fatigued too soon. This is why the lower body comes first as it is generally the strongest area of the body. You should look up exercises to determine which compound movements you would like to perform but, in general, you’ll be doing a squatting movement, a pressing movement, and a lifting movement plus supplemental exercises.

Amount of Sets

This is another topic that can become extremely complicated for the advanced trainee but that is, for the novice, simple and based mostly on preference. If you would like to do 2-3 sets of your exercises, go ahead; just be careful not to overtrain. It seems, however, that doing one set of each exercise to concentric failure is sufficient so that is what I would recommend.

Weight Amount, Repetition Amount, and Resting Between Sets

These are all important variables that you will have to determine based on your training needs and desires. For each one, there seems to be an established pattern of manipulation to produce certain results.

When it comes to how heavy a weight is being used, the general rule is to use heavier weights to increase strength and to use lighter weights for hypertrophy or endurance. This has a relationship to repetition amount as well as the lighter the weight, the more repetitions can be performed to failure and vice versa. According to Kilgore and Rippetoe, the weight needed to do a 1-3RM (repetition maximum (in case you don’t know, an RM denotes the point at which you are unable to continue performing the exercise due to concentric fatigue, a 1RM set would thus be a set in which the weight is so heavy, you can lift it only once before you become unable to lift the weight again)) is preferred for strength gains whereas 8-12+ reps are best for hypertrophy and anything in between will give you results in between. Amount of rest in between sets also has an effect on your conditioning. The less rest you have between sets, the better for hypertrophy and endurance. More rest will allow full neural recovery. I would recommend to rest between 30 seconds and 3 minutes depending on your training goals.

Note on Safety: If you want to train for strength and you are a novice, you should probably work up to it over time while your joints adapt. The problem with doing 1-3RM sets (especially 1RM sets) is that it can be tremendously stressful on the body, especially if you happen to do anything in bad form. It is much safer to do things at higher repetitions because of the lighter stress on the joints. I would thus begin with relatively high sets of maybe 10-15RM for 6 weeks and then over time gradually reduce to 5RM and, if you feel comfortable, 3RM but no lower for the sake of safety. In any case, repetitions between 3 and 8 will produce some hypertrophy and some significant strength gains and, as such, seems an appropriate place for most people to be in. You could also start out not doing sets to total failure at first and work up to this as well. Assess your own situation and training goals and design accordingly.

Free Weights or Machines

Whether you use free weights or machines is really a matter of personal preference but I prefer free weights for a few reasons. When  you use free weights, you are forced to support the movement of the weight as opposed to it being supported by a machine; this means that using free weights will train stabilizer muscles and that it better mimics real-life situations and thus acts better as a functional exercise. Furthermore, free weights are easier for an individual to own and since I am averse to working out in public, I like that aspect of it. Of course, if you’re doing barbell training it will beneficial to do it in a gym for some exercises that should have a spotter present. With dumbbells, however, you can do without a spotter as there is no bar between the weights that can trap you. According to some sources, it is more difficult for hyperextension to happen with free weights than with machines, which would also be a plus. In addition to free weights, there are also many body weight only exercises which can be done to great effect such as the push-up, dip, chin-up, pull-up, and plank.

How Quickly Should You Do Exercises

It seems that many people like to do exercises quickly. It can be fun, exciting, and allow you to lift more weight because of the momentum but therein lies the problem. When exercises are done too quickly, the momentum that is produced takes the load off of the muscles and, therefore, makes the exercise less efficient at producing an overload on the muscles. To put it another way, momentum in lifting is a form of cheating if your goal is efficient muscular adaptation. The other problem is that of safety. Whenever heavy things are moving quickly, it seems injuries become more common unless the person performing the exercise has been very meticulous about maintaining control and form throughout which is often not the case. This is especially true if the weight you are lifting is one that you would not be able to lift if it were not for the momentum introduced in fast lifting. It would seem that with quick lifting, it would be easy to fall into bad form and hyperextension of the joints.

Slow, controlled lifting will maintain the load on the muscles throughout and should therefore produce muscular fatigue more quickly because of this. In addition, the slow lifting will make it easier to correct form problems and avoid injury. For these reasons, I believe it is best to do slow lifts. How slow is up to you though many recommend a TUL (time under load) of 45-120 seconds with 60-90 seconds being the most common range of time in which you should achieve concentric failure. But in the end, just make sure you have good control of the weight without the movement becoming overly jerky. Your workouts should end up taking between 12-30 minutes depending on several factors.

Quick Tips on Proper Form

I don’t mean to make this section exhaustive but I do want to mention a few common threads that run in strength training as far as form is concerned. The first and most important one is to create a block during heavy lifting. A block means that you will be contracting the muscles of the core and staying tight. If you stay tight, your spine will be protected so it is important to keep the body tight. This is the basic principle behind most form problems in lifting. For instance, you should have your back arched and straight, your chest up, your shoulders retracted. That is, keep everything tight and contracted. No matter how tempted you are, do not allow your body to hyperextend, especially the wrists, neck, or back (this means never round the back (unless you’re doing crunches or another ab exercise of that sort)). You should also try and keep your weight balanced correctly by shifting it to the heels. In squatting and other similar exercises, your knees should be positioned in the same direction as your feet. Also keep in mind that in many exercises the weight will be moving in a straight line above the mid-foot (this is especially true of the classic barbell exercises: squat, deadlift, press). Please review specific tips for specific exercises but these general tips will apply to most strength training exercises you will encounter.

Notes on a Few Controversial Topics

As I mentioned earlier, there are a few issues in which there appear to be a lot of disagreement. These I will now address.

How to Breathe During a Repetition

Among the texts that I consulted I found recommendations to either hold your breathe during a repetition, breathe freely, or exhale on effort. In my opinion, it makes the most sense to hold your breathe during a repetition unless that would be unfeasible for some reason, in which case I do not believe it really matters either way. The reason why I endorse this maneuver even though some advise against it believing it is dangerous is because of the physiological logic behind it and the gut instinct I have to perform it. The physiological explanation provided in Starting Strength is pretty compelling to me. It essentially says that when you hold your breathe during a repetition the added air pressure in the body is used to protect the spine and other orthopedic structures. In other words, the holding of the breathe acts as another way of helping to keep the body tight and contracted and thus protected against the load you are lifting. This seems like it would apply best in situations in which a very heavy load is being lifted, in all other cases I doubt that how you breathe will make a huge difference and the traditional mnemonic is to “exhale on effort” so do that if you like or just breathe freely.

Do You Need to Train Explosively to Be Explosive?

It seems the answer is “maybe.” The first question to ask yourself, of course, is whether being explosive is one of your training goals. If it isn’t, then there is no need to train for it. Simple as that. However, if you do want to be explosive for some reason, things are not very clear cut. Some argue that the only way to be explosive is to train explosively because this will be training you to recruit your muscle fibers quickly and produce more power. This may or may not be true and I’m not sure if there are any studies that prove this. You will certainly become better at the explosive lifts you practice but whether this will transfer to better explosiveness in other activities is uncertain. There are many that, anecdotally, affirm this to be the case but the problem is, of course, the confounding of variables and the placebo effect that happens with anecdotal accounts. As such, they cannot be trusted as being reliable. It may be better to do regular strength training and to supplement that with the explosive movement you wish to be able to do. Slow lifting will train all muscle fibers for sure but whether this will improve power is uncertain.

The downside with training explosively is that you need to be very careful in order to avoid injury so unless you believe it will improve your performance and you practice your form meticulously, I advise against it for the average individual.

Should I do Repetitions to Lockout?

In many texts that I considered there was the explicit instruction not to lock your joints during the exercise. The argument against this always went along the lines that if you lock your joints then injury potential will be increased because you will be moving the load from the muscles to the joints. This makes sense, however, it would also seem that a goal of strength training would be to have stronger joints. The beginning of a novice program where relatively light weights are used should serve to condition the joints to carry a load. In any case, I found the argument for locking joints more compelling than the one against. That is, if you don’t lock joints than you will not be training the full range of motion and this can cause problems in terms of muscle imbalance and joint weakness later, especially in a non-training circumstance in which you might need to lock your joints to carry a load for some reason. I believe that the indication not to lock joints is really just shorthand for an indication not to hyperextend the joints as hyperextension can be dangerous and cause injury. In my opinion, you should do exercises to lockout in order to train the full range of motion but be careful not to hyperextend your joints. If you have trouble with this then it may be better to not lock joints but I would not proscribe it altogether.

Summary

In essence, I believe the only exercise routine necessary for conditioning is strength training and that this is best done at high intensity to concentric failure. The preferred exercises are free weight compound exercises as they are the most efficient and the most functional and that one can start out with a workout done once a week with 3-5 exercises of one set each with a short warm-up before each exercise consisting of a few light weight sets of the exercise about to be performed. Additional supplemental exercises can be done after the main routine. You should design your program based on your goals for either strength (heavy weights, low reps, longer rest) or hypertrophy/endurance (light weights, high reps, short rest). These should be done in a slow and controlled manner with very little momentum introduced for maximum safety and efficiency. The TUL for most exercises will probably come out to 60-90 second and the total workout time will likely be somewhere between 15-30 minutes.

Sample Workout:

Squat x 5RM, Overhead Press x 5RM, Deadlift x 5RM with 2 minute rest in between sets

References:

Rippetoe & Kilgore, Starting Strength

Rippetoe & Kilgore, Practical Programming for Strength Training

Bryzcki, A Practical Approach to Strength Training

Bryzcki & Fornicola, Dumbbell Training for Strength and Fitness

Delavier, Strength Training Anatomy

Kinakin, Optimal Muscle Training

Little & McGuff, Body by Science

Hahn & Eades, The Slow Burn Fitness Revolution

Ferris, The Four Hour Body

Tsatsouline, Enter the Kettlebell

Lasater, 30 Essential Yoga Poses

http://conditioningresearch.blogspot.com

http://www.leangains.com/

http://theorytopractice.wordpress.com/

http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/

http://www.gain-weight-muscle-fast.com (review exercises here)

http://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises (review exercises here)

Filed under: Dumbbells, Getting ripped, Strength training, Training

The Budget Plan

Well, my company is downsizing so my job is being eliminated. I’m going to need some cost cutting so I’ve come up with a more budget oriented way to organize my food consumption.

Farmers usually have pretty decent prices so buying vegetables and meat from them in bulk, through a CSA, or otherwise is the first option. If this is not possible for some reason then we go on to plan B.

Find a cheap grocery store and buy all your starch and fiber there that doesn’t need to be organic. Safe bets are white rice, cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, kale, collard greens, broccoli, rutabaga, turnips, watercress, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, daikon, radish, bok choy, napa cabbage), asparagus, onions, avocados. Not sure about squash, celeriac, or parsnips. Sweet potatoes may be okay.

Go to the fancy grocery store and get the cheapest, most nutritious meat cuts and if you are totally broke, buy pseudo-grains (quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat) and lentils to make up the slack. Depending on where you go you may be able to find liver, kidneys, bones, suet, grass-fed butter, eggs, canned fish, fish heads, trotters, chicken feet, ham hocks, ground meat, roasts, and stew meat. These will be the cheapest and give you a good nutrient range.

Between these you should have all your calories and macronutrients plus fiber. You should take advantage of any seasonal vegetable sales by buying a lot and then fermenting the surplus for later.

Organic vegetables, fruit, nuts, coconut products, sweeteners, dairy, chocolate, and beverages are optional depending on budget. You have enough to be healthy with these. Chocolate, fruit, nuts, and sweeteners are pretty much just indulgences anyway. Dairy, coconut products, tea, and organic vegetables are nice to add but not essential though, of these, dairy and coconut products would probably be the most useful nutritionally and cost-wise.

Filed under: Budget, Cheap, Diet, Macronutrients

Conclusions on Diet

Note: This is out of date. I no longer believe all of these things.

I realize that I have not yet made a diet post so here it is.

It seems that when it comes to diet the main thing of importance is to simply eat unprocessed foods produced in a manner as close to their natural tendencies as possible and to keep it relatively evolutionarily appropriate (a la the Paleo diet) though some allowances can be made I believe based on information that we have or based on certain non-health motivated dietary restrictions.

This means that a diet should be primarily composed of things like meat, vegetables, fruits, and nuts with certain qualifications that will follow.

In addition to this, we must consider which things must be minimized from the diet to avoid health problems. As others have already pointed and explained quite well, the three most prevalent problems in the dietary world are wheat, fructose, and vegetable oils each of which may be thought of as the most common and most insidious manifestation of a larger category. Wheat is a very hard to digest grain that includes the gluten protein and WGA, both of which seem to cause digestive issues. Vegetable oils are highly processed and have a very high proportion of omega-6 to omega-3 thus causing a pro-inflammatory state in the body, not to mention that we should be consuming under 4% of total calories as polyunsaturated fats. As for fructose, it seems to produce non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in humans and is tied to diabetes pathology and may affect the leptin hormone. It is not advisable to eat these in high quantities though the Standard American Diet is composed of these.

Meat

It seems to me that, especially considering the omega-3 and omega-6 issue, the meats of choice should be grass fed red meats and seafood. If you like poultry and pork, go ahead and eat it every so often but it seems to be less optimal in my opinion than grass fed red meat and seafood which contain a better ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 PUFAs (polyunsaturated fats) not to mention that you have a better idea of what the animal has eaten if you source it well. Pigs and chickens can be fed a lot of different things and are usually fed some proportion of grain and in these animals it seems dietary PUFA levels determine their own PUFA levels. The best way to source your meat is to find a local farm via localharvest, eatwild, or something like this or to find a Farmer’s Market with meat vendors who use the practices that you want. If you contract a local farmer, you also have the possibility of buying high quality meat in bulk which will save you a fair bit of money and give you a wide variety. This is a much better option than going to Whole Foods and paying their mark up all the time or forcing yourself to eat grain fed meat which is less healthy, unethical, and environmentally destructive. If you do buy grain fed meat, you would do well to cut off the fat and instead cook it in high amounts of fat as the fat in animals can accumulate toxins. Since the liver and kidneys act as filters, you would probably want to avoid these from grain fed animals as well. From grass-fed animals, however, you should attempt to eat every part of it that can possibly be eaten from the liver to sweetbreads and the bones (via soup and roasting the marrow) as these have nutrients muscle meats do not provide.

General recommendations: Eat mostly grass fed red meat and seafood. Other meats are fine but are likely to have worse omega-3:omega-6 ratios. Make sure you eat  bone marrow, bone broth, and organ meats as these have different nutritional profiles than muscle meats do. Avoid processed meats.

Vegetables

Vegetables can be a useful part of the diet for the sake of adding good bacteria, hormetic stimulus, micronutrition, starch, and fiber. If you eat fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, kim-chee, pickles, and so on then eating these will help your digestion through the bacteria and enzymes that they introduce. This can also be done with fermented meats and dairy products though the former will be something fewer people will likely attempt. As for the idea of hormetic stimulus, all vegetables have some degree of toxins, it is for this reason that we must cook them or ferment them to eat them (except for a special few such as lettuce and cucumbers). Meat doesn’t have these toxins since it doesn’t need them. Animals protect themselves with their motility while vegetables use chemicals to discourage us. This means that overindulging in any vegetable may have detrimental effects since you’ll get a high load of whatever toxin that vegetable produces. For example, cruciferous vegetables have goitrogens so if all you eat are cruciferous vegetables, you should probably take an iodine supplement for your thyroid (or eat seaweed). However, it appears that these toxins in small doses can have a beneficial effect on the body acting through hormesis and that this is, in fact, how benefit is derived from things like tannins, resveratrol, or polyphenols. It follows then that you should include a wide variety of vegetables so that you are not overloading on the toxins of any one vegetable. Many vegetables are also high in micronutrients, the best example being leafy greens so this is another reason. The starchy vegetables will serve your carbohydrate needs and the fibrous ones will be  fermented in the gut to produce butyric acid that your body can metabolize.

General recommendations: Eating a wide variety of different vegetables is best for the sake of micronutrition and hormesis. Most of your starch intake should also be coming from vegetables.

Fruits and sweets

Berries are the preferred fruit due to their nutritive qualities and low fructose content. In general, many fruits have been bred to be very sweet and so have limited nutritive qualities, as such, they should not be indulged in extensively. Virtually everything sweet has some proportion of fructose in it and so sweets in general should not be eaten often. Sucrose appears to be about half fructose, half glucose. High fructose corn syrup (of the form used in soft drinks) is 55% fructose and 45% glucose. Honey varies but is often around 30-40% fructose. Agave syrup is over 50% fructose and potentially as high as 90% fructose. Maple syrup and table sugar are mostly sucrose. The only sweeteners which may potentially be indulged in without the problem of fructose are rice syrup, tapioca syrup, and corn syrup (distinct from HFCS) which are all composed of different glucose molecules. Other sweeteners have other benefits which you may be interested in. For instance, molasses has calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron whereas raw honey has bee pollen, propolis, and enzymes and maple syrup has zinc and manganese.

General recommendations: Berries are the best option but don’t overindulge in fruit. Avoid sweeteners except rice syrup, tapioca syrup, and corn syrup as these have no fructose. Molasses, maple syrup, and raw honey are also useful in moderation due to mineral content though these do have fructose.

Grains: Toxins and Adaptation

The question of toxins comes up quite often within the Paleo diet community as it is something everyone is trying to avoid ingesting. The fact is that every food that is not animal derived has toxins in it to protect itself. The reason vegetables are preferred over grains or legumes is because human bodies are more capable of dealing with vegetable toxins than they are with grain or legume toxins which are plants that we didn’t introduce into our diets until agriculture. This, however, does not necessarily mean that grains or legumes cannot be consumed. Traditional cultures were able to eat a fair amount of grains and legumes because they processed these foods in such a way that made them digestible for humans and made their nutrition bioavailable. If these methods are not done to prepare grains and legumes then they will have very little nutritional value. The Paleo diet is, in a sense, a paranoid and/or lazy version of these sorts of Mesolithic diets since grains and legumes are eliminated instead of properly prepared. Depending on the grain or legume, the process may be more or less time intensive and the amount of the toxin degraded may be more or less. For instance, the gluten in wheat is virtually impossible to eliminate even with a long fermentation process which takes several days so I still suggest against wheat. Corn can be nixtimalized which improves its nutritional profile and seems to protect against the pellagra which high corn consumption can induce. Brown rice can be soaked or you can simply eat white rice since white rice has removed the parts of the rice which have the toxin load. The problem still remains that grains relative to meat and vegetables are relatively nutritionally deficient. This is less true of pseudo-grains which can be prepared in the same way as grains and have a better nutritional profile including complete protein. These are buckwheat, quinoa, and amaranth. These foods should not become a huge proportion of the diet in order so that it may remain high fat, however, I don’t believe these foods are harmful. Properly prepared brown rice, corn, and white rice are okay though they are nutritionally poor. If you want grains, a better option would be the properly prepared pseudo-grains.

General recommendations: If you’re willing to soak and potentially ferment them, you can eat brown rice and corn but these are still nutritionally poor compared to other foods. White rice doesn’t need this as its hull and bran have been removed. The pseudo-grains are your best option since these have more nutrients and can be prepared the same way. These are buckwheat, amaranth, and quinoa. Other grains, as long as they don’t have gluten are probably okay so long as you soak and/or ferment them (for instance sorghum, millet, or teff).

Legumes

What has been said about grains also applies to legumes. As long as they are soaked and/or fermented, you will be able to consume these if you like or you can be lazy and eliminate them entirely. Like grains, these are also not optimal as far as nutritional profiles go so it’s best not to make these a huge staple of your diet unless you have some compelling reason to do so. Just as with grains, where we still want to avoid wheat though other grains may be acceptable in small amounts so do we find something similar in legumes. Soy is one of the legumes with the highest toxin loads not to mention it has phytoestrogen which seems to have negative effects in men, women, and children. Traditional cultures that ate soy only ate it once it had been fermented and in small amounts. Soy that has not been fermented (tofu, soymilk, etc) should be completely avoided and soy that has been fermented (tamari sauce, soy sauce, miso, tempeh, or natto) should be eaten in small quantities. Fermented soy does not eliminate all of the toxins soy produces but it does minimize many of them so if you do want to eat soy, eat a little of the fermented variety and avoid the rest. Kidney beans can kill you if eaten raw and it is for this reason that I don’t really trust them and would avoid them. Besides these two qualifications, as long as you soak and/or ferment legumes, they can be eaten with less trouble and more nutrition. In this sense, lentils are your best choice as these have the lowest toxin load of any legumes.

General recommendations: Legumes can be consumed if properly soaked and/or fermented. Unfermented soy should be avoided and fermented soy should be minimized. Kidney beans should be avoided. Lentils are your best bet for a low toxin load.

Nuts

Nuts and seeds occupy an interesting position in the Paleo diet community. They are accepted and sometimes even substituted in baking recipes for grain flours, however, these are also plant foods and thus have a toxin load that needs to be considered. Many nuts seem to have toxin loads as high as some grains and legumes do (almonds for instance) and yet they are not demonized as much as these other food groups are. In addition, nuts generally have a high proportion of omega-6 to omega-3 PUFAs and for this reason should not be overindulged in. Nuts can also be soaked to help remove toxins as well as roasted. If you want to do some baking, please use pseudo-grains and not nuts for this purpose. Chestnuts appear to have the lowest toxin load while macadamia nuts appear to have the best omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. Walnuts also have an okay ratio. Brazil nuts may be useful on account of their high selenium content.

General recommendations: Limit nuts due to high PUFA content and soak and/or roast them before consuming to reduce toxins. Chestnuts, macadamia nuts, walnuts, and Brazil nuts are preferred for various reasons.

Cooking

Meat can be eaten raw, fermented, or cooked. If cooked, the best way is to cook it rare or to braise it. This is to reduce the amount of time the meat is exposed to high heat and to avoid the formation of mutagens on its surface from the Maillard reaction (charring) as well as to avoid the destruction of heat sensitive nutrient like CoQ10. If you’re worried about bacteria on raw meat then prepare it in an acid marinade (vinegar or lime) and this will kill any surface bacteria which is all you should be worried about. Cooking meat rare will kill any surface bacteria and keep more nutrients intact. Braising meat will make tough cuts tender, make a flavorful broth with dissolved nutrients and will avoid the Maillard reaction through the low and slow process of braising. Avoid meats that have already been processed such as bacon, cured sausage, or deli meats especially if these include sugar or nitrates. Sugar or other carbohydrate sources on meat will create glycation reactions whereas nitrates will produce nitrosamines as they react with the protein. Neither of these are ideal, however, they may simply pass through the body without any effect so don’t get too paranoid about it.

Lettuce, cucumber, carrots, celery, zucchini, summer squash, baby spinach, tomatoes, and bell peppers may be eaten raw. All other vegetables should be cooked or fermented. Cooking helps break down the cell walls and makes nutrients more bioavailable not to mention the fact that it can reduce toxin loads. Steaming is a good way to cook vegetables since it is gentle and reduces nutrient loss (when you boil, you lose nutrients to the water). Fermentation is a good way to make vegetables more digestible and improve gut health.

Oils and cooking fats

The best oils for cooking are the ones low in PUFAs with medium to high smoke points. These oils and cooking fats are ghee, butter, coconut oil, tallow, lard, palm oil, macadamia nut oil, olive oil, and avocado oil. Ghee, tallow, macadamia nut oil, and avocado oil have the highest smoke points among these.

Dairy

Dairy is an idiosyncratic matter and some will be able to consume it while others will not. It is best to experiment with a gluten-free, dairy-free diet before reintroducing dairy to see if dairy is actually the problem or if it is only a problem when gluten is present in the diet. Additionally, there are many ways in which one may or may not be sensitive to dairy. Some people cannot digest lactose, some cannot digest casein. Milk has lactose and cheese has casein. Also, there are some people who cannot tolerate pasteurized milk but are able to drink raw milk (since it has enzymes such as lactase which break down the lactose). Many people who do not drink milk can nevertheless eat yogurt as it is fermented. There is also the fact that most milk is produced from A1 cattle (which is a new mutation) and some people are able to drink A2 milk (Jersey, Guernsey, Goat, Sheep) while not being able to drink A1 milk (Holstein). Virtually everyone can at least tolerate well made ghee and many others can also tolerate yogurt and heavy cream. Humans have traditionally consumed milk, once they became pastoralists, in fermented form as fresh milk didn’t stay fresh for very long. Keep these different considerations in mind while you attempt to determine whether you can consume dairy products or just eliminate them entirely if you prefer as many Paleo dieters do though dairy can act as a very convenient way to increase fat in the diet. Because of how much is potentially lost in the pasteurization process, I would recommend that dairy be consumed in raw form.

Supplementation

This is a tricky subject due to idiosyncratic needs but it seems that most would do well to supplement vitamin D, vitamin K2, magnesium, iodine, and selenium. Selenium and iodine are useful for thyroid health. Magnesium is important for sleep and most people are deficient since most soil is depleted of its magnesium. Most people get insufficient sun exposure and are deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin K2 works with vitamin D to help with teeth and bones and is hard to find except in grass fed butter and organ meats. Vitamin A also works with vitamin D and K2 so it may be useful to supplement this as well (as in a cod liver oil). My regimen right now is vitamin A, D, K2, selenium, magnesium, and iodine via cod liver oil/high vitamin butter oil blend, Brazil nuts, and then regular capsule supplements. Many of these recommendations are taken from the Perfect Health Diet so I defer to them.

Special Considerations

Illness

In many cases, illness can be reduced through going on a ketogenic diet where glucose is severely limited so that only enough is produced in the body via gluconeogenesis from protein to feed the brain. Besides this, the body will run on fat or ketones. Without glucose, many pathogens cannot live and this diet has been used to treat many diseases including schizophrenia and epilepsy and if you have any problems that seem to be stuck, it may be worthwhile to go ketogenic for a limited amount of time. To become ketogenic would mean either eliminating carbs or reducing them while increasing coconut oil (as coconut oil is preferentially converted to ketones). Similar diets such as the specific carbohydrate diet and the GAPS diet may also be considered. If you have trouble with digestion, it may be helpful to eat fermented foods often and/or take a probiotic while eliminating polysaccharides from the diet as these are harder to digest and are often consumed by bad gut bacteria such as H. Pylori. Increasing stomach acidity via a Betaine Hcl supplement or taking an Apple Cider Vinegar tonic may also help.

Veg*ns

If, for whatever reason, you choose not to consume meat then a few modifications must be made. I have outlined these in this post. Essentially, the diet will have to be a high carbohydrate, low fat diet as opposed to a high fat, low carbohydrate diet. I do not believe this is ideal but it is adequate so long as the main agents of disease are still avoided (wheat, fructose, vegetable oils). Your main sources for protein will be legumes and pseudo-grains whereas your main sources of fat will be coconut, olive, and avocado. If you consume dairy and eggs then those will add to your protein and fat needs. You will probably need to consume an omega-3 supplement since your foods will generally not have much omega-3 but will have omega-6. There are supplements that are derived from algae and thus still allowable as veg*n. These are in addition to the standard veg*n complement such as B-12.

Summary

The basic summary of what I now believe to be the most healthful diet is one that is composed of animal products including bones and organs from grass fed red meat and seafood combined with fibrous and starchy vegetables in a proportion where fat is 60-85% of calories, carbohydrate is 20% of calories or less, and protein makes up the balance. Nuts, legumes, grains, and pseudo-grains are to be limited due to lower nutrient density and when they are consumed, they must be prepared properly which in all cases requires a soaking and in some cases fermentation as well. Wheat and unfermented soy are not allowed. Fructose is to be limited as much as possible and the preferred sweeteners are ones which contain no fructose (rice syrup). Omega-3:omega-6 balance is kept in check by eating grass fed meat and seafood and limiting nuts and eliminating vegetable oils (except for a few). Meat is to be eaten raw, rare, fermented, or braised and processed meat is to be avoided. Vegetables are to be eaten fermented or cooked with a few allowed as raw. Dairy may or may not be a good choice depending on your particular needs and is preferred raw and fermented.

Filed under: Diet, Nutrients

Some Notes on Food Preservation

This is just sort of a note to myself about what elements are necessary in order to preserve foodstuffs. From my explorations of fermentation and other processes, a few common points seem to crop up about how to decrease the likelihood of any pathogens forming. In any case, one never knows when a situation might arise in which refrigeration becomes impossible. It is prudent to at least be aware of certain different ways to preserve foods without it.

There are a few elements then that can be used in some combination in order to produce an environment that inhibits the growth of pathogens which are the following:

-High acidity

-Salt

-Sugar

-Dryness

-Coolness

-Nitrates/nitrites

-Aerobic exposure (in most cases, preservation will be occurring under anaerobic conditions for either the sake of preserving sterility or because the bacteria that is being encouraged, as in the case of lacto-fermentation, are anaerobic, however, in some cases aerobic decomposition may be beneficial or necessary. If one is to ferment meat without the benefit of any of the other preservation techniques than aerobic exposure will be necessary in order so that pathogens do not grow. Aerobic decomposition in and of itself does not appear to pose much of a health risk in my opinion since the most virulent pathogens are anaerobic. The bad facultative anaerobic (which are able to grow in aerobic environments) bacteria will likely just give you some food poisoning but will not likely be life-threatening unless you are immune compromised or have digestive problems. In any case, they are unlikely to get a foothold on a food’s surface unless it has been previously sterilized or comes from an unsanitary environment. Also, take note of the fact that putrefaction technically only refers to the anaerobic decomposition of something)

If we consider a few of the methods used for food preservation we will see that these elements are found in them. For instance, in lacto-fermentation, the environment is salted initially and quickly becomes highly acidic. Furthermore, considering that vegetables are often the ones being fermented in this way, endogenous nitrates/nitrites may be present. In the case of sausage making you have all the ingredients for the development of pathogens since the environment is moist and anaerobic. To hedge against this, salt and nitrate/nitrites are used in order to stop the growth of pathogens. Jerky is traditionally salted and then dried thus also being exposed to air. The preservation of foods in vinegar obviously works through the highly acidic environment. The preparation of high meat chiefly functions through aerobic exposure and (often) cool conditions and refrigeration functions by cooling the environment. Also, salt and sugar can be seen as being analogous to drying as what occurs by adding them is the drawing out of fluid from whatever it is you wish to preserve.

This still leaves, however, the preservation of foods via oil of which I am less certain of as to how it works. The canning process functions by sterilizing everything and then sealing it so that nothing grows thus providing a golden opportunity for obligate anaerobes if anything is done incorrectly in the process. It would seem that oils like olive oil have some antimicrobial properties so that anything you put in them are to be preserved due to the antimicrobial properties of the oil coupled with the anaerobic environment produced by this submersion in fluid. It thus functions through sterility.

We can outline some of the general preservation strategies taken as so:

-Slow down enzymatic and bacterial activity (freezing, drying)

-Destroy bacterial activity and place in a sterile environment (canning, vinegar, oil)

-Allow bacterial activity to flourish under controlled conditions (fermentation)

It would seem to me that taking such guidelines into consideration, one should be able to experiment in many different ways to preserve food besides just the most obvious or common ones.

References:

http://www.wisegeek.com/how-do-salt-and-sugar-preserve-food.htm

Filed under: Bacteria, Canning, Fermentation, Fermented meat, Food preservation, High meat