Saturday, October 30, 2010

Paleo Solution Interview


Here's an interview that Robb Wolf did about his book, The Paleo Solution.

He hits all the high points from his book so it gives a good overview of the whole Paleo thing. Recommended if you want to learn more about the Paleo diet.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Anj deadlifts 215

Here's a video of Anj deadlifting 215 pounds for a set of 5 reps.

Her form is great and she makes it look easy.

How long did it take for Anj to work up to this level of strength? Six months. You can get pretty freaky strong pretty darn quick if you know what to do and what not to do in the gym.

Not only is Anj getting really strong, she's getting lean. She's already had to buy new pants because her old pants were too big. And she's already had to replace those pants because they are now too big. She's also recently tried a paleo diet and lost 5 pounds in two weeks while eating like a wolf the whole time. Getting strong requires lots of protein and healthy fat. This is what should happen when you "work out".

So much time is wasted in gyms across America. People don't know what to do, and the people who run the place don't really know either. They aren't that motivated to find out, either. A modern "Globo" gym business model is to sign up as many people as possible and hope they don't show up. All the shiny equipment is there to get you to join - not to make you strong. Sounds preposterous but this business model has been a money maker for over 30 years now.

My gym has barbells, bumper plates, a squat rack, kettlebells, a pullup bar, rings, a glute-ham developer, a bench, and a rowing machine. Except for the kettlebells, all that stuff gets used on a weekly basis. The barbells are used at every workout. Strangely enough, half this equipment, which I would consider essential to get strong, will not be found in a conventional gym.

Food for thought.

Anyway, congratulations to Anj on an impressive deadlift. I've got her working on power cleans now so we should be seeing some more cool videos of her in the near future.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Why Train Strength - Part 1

The world we live in is funny. Honestly, strength isn't that useful day to day. We live in a world so divorced from physical survival now. There's no chance I will be chased by a tiger tomorrow. There's no chance someone stronger than me will take all my food. I mean, someone could take my food, but I could just go to the store and buy more. There's no animal carcass I need to haul home to feed my family. It's all cut up for me already and put in little plastic wrapped packages.

I have a computer job. Tapping on a keyboard all day does not require any strength. The only time I ever have to do anything remotely physical is to change the water bottle in the water dispenser. Sometimes I get boxes on the top shelves in the store room.

The water bottle holds 5 gallons of water so it weighs about 41 pounds. Of course it is bulky and awkward and you have to be able to pour the water into the reservoir and then flip it over without getting water everywhere. I'm usually the only man in the office so it's my job. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I used to struggle with it a bit. The consequence of my weakness was that sometimes the carpet got a little wet. Hardly life threatening.

So why waste your time training strength?

There are lots of reasons, but lets start with a very basic one - just to be a functional human being throughout your life. Once a person starts to hit that downslope of their life, somewhere around 35 years of age or so, they start to lose muscle mass. The technical term is called sarcopenia. It's a natural product of aging; it's inevitable that you will lose muscle mass.

Is it hopeless then? Hardly. The old adage of "use it or lose it" applies here. If you sit at your desk all day, and then sit in your car on the way home, and then sit on your couch all evening, then you will lose muscle mass faster then someone who trains. But is this really a big deal? It becomes one, yes.

It is very common for elderly people to have lost so much muscle that they have trouble standing up. You can get to the point where even in our incredibly non-physical world you can't function. What happens when you can't carry your grocery bags? What happens when you can't life a carton of milk to put it in your refrigerator? What happens when you can't maintain your balance standing and risk falling just walking around? The rest home is the next stop. It's not a question of longevity. It's a quality of life issue. What's the point of living to 100 if you spend the last 30 years of it having someone wipe your butt for you?

So training with weights gives you two advantages. You lose muscle more slowly and you can start from a higher level. If over the next 30 years I lose half my strength I will end up about where I was before I started lifting. I might start spilling the water again, but I'll still be able to do it. If my peers who are sedentary lose half their strength then changing the water bottle will be the least of their problems.

In a way lifting is like taking supplements. We take supplements because the food we eat doesn't provide all the nutrients we need to be healthy. We lift because the lifestyle we lead doesn't provide the physical stimulation to be healthy.

Of course there are many more reasons to pick up heavy sh*t on a regular basis. Stay tuned for part two.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Our Friends the Plants - Part 2 (Wheat)

In part one I talked about how plants are not little defenseless things that only exist to be eaten. This time around I want to talk about one specific plant, wheat, how it defends itself, and how it that changed the course of mankind's development.

Understanding wheat means understanding how it lives. Annual grasses like wheat are opportunists. You don't see annual grasses growing in intact ecosystems like forests. You wouldn't see it growing on a healthy prairie either. A natural prairie is made up of perennial grasses.

No, wheat waits for an opportunity. When there's an opening, bare soil, wheat is there to take advantage of it. This is why wheat seeds are so large. When there's an opening, the fastest growers are the winners. The wheat plant gets a huge head start with it's large energy storing seed and crowds out the other plants just starting out. These seeds play the waiting game and when they get their chance they grow as fast as possible and create more seeds for the next generation, which waits as well.

All this waiting around requires a hardy seed. If insects, bacteria, or fungus was able to consume these seeds then wheat's strategy would not work. Not surprisingly, the seed is well protected chemically. A major part of this protection is gluten.

Gluten is a potent digestive irritant. It binds to the cell walls in the consuming animals gut making it a potent insecticide. So how did it come to be that man relies on this cereal grain more than any other? In spite of it's toxicity, wheat, man, and agriculture made a perfect match.

Dr Michael Eades has called wheat the original junk food. All those nasty chemicals made it the first "shelf stable" food. It's starchy and addictive. Addictive? Yes. Gluten seems to have a opiate-like effect in the human brain. This is not far fetched. Nicotine is another natural insecticide that people get addicted to. Fact: the original Black Flag insect spray was simply a solution of nicotine. Killed insects dead. And people smoke it. The whole history of drug addiction, up until recently, was people getting high on plant and fungal insecticides.

I didn't believe it at first myself, but then I started advising people to stop eating bread. The answers I would get were shocking. I had one women buy into it at the time, but then told me a week later she just HAD to have some bread. My father would not even entertain the idea of trying to go bread free for just one month. It wasn't something he pondered, even for two seconds. Just an immediate, "No."

Let me paint an alternative history of civilization for you. Wheat, the plant, was living in the margins - eeking out a living during periods of ecological distress. Then it found people. In a happy accident these people got a buzz off consuming it. So they started cultivating it. Because it could be stored, man was able to settle down and develop civilization. Wheat was able to change it's mission in life to something similar to a fruit bearing plant. In exchange for feeding man, wheat was cared for and it's seeds carried to every corner of the earth. Everywhere it went, man tore up the existing ecosystem to provide nice bare ground for it to thrive.

The only problem is that this relation was great for wheat, but not so much for man. The whole of the history of wheat eating is about 20,000 years. A blink of time on the evolutionary scale. There was no time for man to adapt to this new diet. It lacked everything except the raw calories to keep men alive, but nothing to thrive on. In exchange for a reliable food supply man got sick. The first agriculturists were physical wreaks, racked with vitamin deficiencies and disease. This is a matter of the fossil record. We have skeletons of agriculturists and hunter gatherers who lived in the same areas and the same times.

So, did man master wheat or did wheat master man? We take our plows and tear up the existing ecosystem to plant it. The U.S. prairie used to support millions of bison in a completely sustainable fashion. Agriculture has devastated this land. The topsoil, which used to be measured in feet, is mere inches now. Thousands of years of biological reserves were wiped out in about 100 years growing a plant that takes but never returns anything. The only reason it even works now is because of oil. That's where the fertilizer comes from that makes it work. And how long will that last? How long can the wheat junkies keep this up?

You know what's really similar to wheat? Tobacco. I hinted at this earlier with my nicotine references. I've said before that eating wheat is a lot like smoking. People roll their eyes when I say this. Yeah, maybe I'm crazy but just consider it for a second, please. Both are irritants. Smoking irritates the lungs. Gluten irritates the intestines. Both are addictive. The constant irritation screws up your immune system and makes you sick. A screwed up immune system means cancer, allergies, etc. The only real difference is that wheat is a food source and tobacco is not. A large portion of the human race has no choice but to eat it, sadly.

You still want that slice of "healthy" whole wheat bread?