Saturday, September 24, 2011

Reconnecting with Sprinting

I've never liked running. Of any kind, period. For starters, when you're not buff stuff jiggles a bit, not an enjoyable experience, especially when you're the sex that's not meant to have jiggly bits. Secondly it's boring as hell. I also admit to some negative associations because for many years I was dragged out of bed at 6am by my parents or my sister to sleepily dress and put shoes on followed by stretching, usually in silence. That sort of silence that indicates everyone would rather still be asleep and in a way still are. We'd then make our way out through this big opaque yellow glass door that was a quasi-secret entrance on the side of our house and proceed to jog in various places around the neighborhood. Sometimes it was the playing field other times it was just the local streets. My favorite was a nature reserve along the water although you had to jog a little way before you found it, so it had it's pros and cons to my childish mind. The overgrown paths and the view of the water let my imagination wander and the foliage offered some quiet, cool relief from the early morning sun. My family of course was trying to help me and themselves as well and I honestly believe it did. To this day I have a much higher level of cardiovascular fitness than many of my friends including those much thinner and I attribute that to those years of jogging and exercise even if I wasn't very keen at the time. I distinctly remember my sister practically dragging me out of bed and as I slogged around the streets I would feel quite sorry for myself. She would call to me to hurry up as I jogged up a hill and I would yell back "I'm coming!" in an exasperated tone. Once I grew a little older the jogging stopped, sometimes replaced by fast walks along the coast but I never returned to running, the closest I would get was the treadmill and even that was a fast walk, never a run. In my mind I wasn't really designed for running, more of a shuffle or a fast walk, others, those lean people with seemingly endless energy are the ones designed to run and as far as I was concerned they could keep it.

In my recent efforts to obtain better health I came to the conclusion that dragging my flailing limbs through hours of cardiovascular exercise wasn't the best way to lose weight either. My main concern has been retaining muscle mass while losing body fat so I focused on weight training. I tried the occasional jog and I used a jump rope but I hated it and in then end dropped them from my regular routine. Recently I started thinking it was time to shake up my exercise routine and I took another look at Primal Blueprint Fitness (PBF). I had skimmed it previously and it was interesting but sprinting? Yeah, blah blah, ATP, short and long muscle fibers, whatever. No thanks. More recently, my experiences with the Leptin Reset including many discussions with others on MDA, has opened my mind to many alternatives and it's expanded my universe in some unexpected ways. So last week I decided I would finally try sprinting as per PBF.

So on a Thursday afternoon, after quick final review of the beginner sprint instructions I strapped on the heart rate monitor, loaded the puppy (a 65 lb Golden Retriever) into the car and headed to the local park. As I walked onto the grass, the mutt sniffing the ground excitedly (ooh, squirrel poo), I wondered what the hell I was doing. Suddenly I felt way too big to even think about running and what if hurt my knee or worse? I could just see it, "Local man found dead in park, one hand clutching knee the other one his chest.". Skinny people sprint, fat people waddle and then eat a hot dog. Still, I was here and the puppy would not be happy if I dragged her back to the car so soon. The instructions were to start with 6x50m sprints at just a moderate pace as a warm up, focusing on your stride, getting comfortable etc. Then 6x50m sprints at 75% maximum. You do that for a few weeks before going all out. Sounded easy enough. I picked a spot where two benches were separated by a wide expanse of nice soft-looking grass estimating it to be about the length of an Olympic swimming pool. Before starting I sat for a moment on the bench to take in my surroundings. I could smell the grass and hear lawn mowers in the distance. The only other sounds were the rhythmic thumping of joggers as they sauntered past. By this time the puppy had found a home in the shade under the bench and was busily licking my ankle, salty I suppose. I decided I had to start eventually so I encouraged her out from under the bench and we started into a tentative jog that gradually increased in speed. I tried to focus on my stride although I belatedly realized I didn't really know what the proper stride looks like so I just took my best guess. This isn't so bad I thought and the mutt looked exceptionally pleased although she kept looking back at me as if to say "is that it?". I reached the other bench and sat down with no small amount of relief. Well, eleven more to go I thought and I don't feel so bad. The instructions were to rest one minute between each sprint so I timed myself as I sat there before standing up again ready for another run. I completed the warm up runs and at this point sweat was pouring off me and the puppy was looking at me like I'd just completely betrayed her. She is used to air conditioning and a bowl of cool water always on hand I suppose. I took a break for a few moments and suddenly it dawned on me, this is not so bad. In fact, this is kind of fun.

Courtesy of tangywolf's (Flickr)
I stepped up to the grass again taking a deep breath enhaling the scent of the recently cut grass and feeling the warm sun streaming down on my face and neck. I could feel the expansion and contraction of the Golden's panting as she sat, poised ready to run. I launched into a near full sprint, probably a slow waddle compared to someone actually good at it, but felt pretty fast to me. The wind was rushing past my face, the puppy was pushing ahead, the faster I ran the larger the gap widened, she was having a blast, you could tell she was in her element, her stride lengthed and I knew I had no hope but I kept up the pace and then suddenly almost before it began I was at the other bench taking big lung-fulls of air and wondering why the hell I didn't think to bring a bottle of water. I felt exhilarated, endorphins were obviously kicking in and it dawned on me why runners like doing this stuff so much (still think they are mostly nuts). As I completed the rest of the sprints it occurred to me that I had been a little to harsh, sprinting is not that bad, it's better than bad, it's actually good and better yet, it took me about 15 minutes and my calorie burn was off the chart and my heart rate stayed elevated for a long time afterwards. Way better than slogging away on a treadmill for an hour.

I've been back to the park two more times since and I actually look forward to it. Really. No kidding, I really do. I swear. So mum and dad, sis, big opaque yellow glass door, I've been too hard on running, it's just taken a couple of decades to come to appreciate it.

Mark's argument against chronic cardio:

Tabata sprints (I'm working up to these):

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Progress Slowed is Still Progress

As I mentioned in my Leptin - A Hack that Finally Works post, I was losing 3 lb a week for a while when doing the Leptin Reset Protocol. I had dreams of this continuing for months and me reaching my goals although I knew that was unlikely. Well, the weight loss for the last couple of weeks has slowed to 1.4 lb a week, which is honestly not too bad. It's still more consistent than what I experienced prior  to the LR and is a reasonable rate to lose weight. I do noticed other changes like clothes continuing to fit differently and better muscle tone. These are harder to measure directly but are detectable nonetheless. I have eliminated weekly cheat meals for a month now and diet soda completely for three weeks which means I'm also artificial sweetener free. I'm considering looking for another hack that may give me a temporary speed increase, every extra pound is a step closer to the goal and it's a morale booster to see the scale shift a little more every now and then. So here are some options I'm considering:
  1. Eliminate Dairy - I actually don't eat that much dairy at the moment, don't drink any milk, but I do eat a fair amount of cheese and a little cream so I could fairly easily cut it out and see if I see an improvement.
  2. Eliminate Nightshades - I'm not sure if these can have a direct impact on weight loss but many doing the LR removed them from their diet and Dr K recommends avoiding nightshades.
  3. Try to eat dinner earlier and go to bed earlier. This is a big part of fixing a damaged hormone regulatory system as proposed by Dr K. It's a struggle though since my wife and I have a 2 month old baby so sleep is sometimes elusive.
  4. Increase intake of omega 3s. This is a big part of the Primal diet and something I try to follow by it's tough at time. A major contributor to this effort is to eat more grass fed beef which we've been trying to do. Also, I need to improve my supplementation.
  5. Increase vegetable consumption further. My carb intake is possibly a little low although I have no solid reason to think eating more will improve weight loss it's something I can experiment with.
  6. Continue with the weekly sprinting and weight lifting but walk more. I'm not doing enough moderate exercise because all that walking just takes up time. Nonetheless I think I need to look at ways to squeeze it in. A daily morning walk with the dog is probably a good idea and if I work on number 3 a little bit I'll get enough sleep to pull it off.

Honestly, I can definitely work on 4 and 5 without too many issue, number 3 is almost impossible and 1 and 2 and quite probable. So I think I'm going to stop eating cheese starting tomorrow and when we hit the supermarket I'm going to pick up a bunch of vegetables but I'll skip any nightshades which will help address 2 and 5. Number 6 is something I'm going to work on too, it's tough to fit everything in with a demanding job but I think it's worth it plus I've been feeling guilty that the mutt is not getting sufficient exercise.

I'm not confident any of these changes will improve the speed at which I'm losing weight, my body just seems to find homeostasis yet again, but hey, maybe a few of these changes will result in a bit extra lost for a few weeks, totally worth it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Rice for GERD?

My wife and I were faced with a bit of dilemma tonight regarding our 7 week old baby. She's been spitting up after feeding although it varies in severity but enough to concern us. My wife visited to the doctor today who suggested instead of giving her Zantac to try mixing a little infant rice mixture into the bottle of breast milk. This apparently can help her keep the milk down and reduce the symptoms of GERD. On one hand I liked the sound of this and was glad the doctor was avoiding just pumping her with medications but I also worried about feeding her young, still developing body with rice. My wife also wanted to research it a little so we avoided giving her any just yet and have both been reading about the implications of feeding an infant solid food like rice. It turns out there are some studies which indicate an increased risk of type 1 DM when babies are feed rice or cereal. The interesting point that came from one of the studies (the second one) is that there seems to be window (between 3 - 7 months of age) when the risk is lower of rice or cereal causing the development of type 1 DM. That seems amazingly odd, there is a window of a few months, miss it and you have a significantly higher risk of developing type 1 DM. However, a couple of other points fell out of this:

1) In the first study the babies all had at least one parent with type 1 DM and were identified as carrying a gene that predisposes someone to type 1 DM. The second study showed an increased risk regardless of the genetic predisposition but it was highest if the infant first has the food at > 7 months and carries the gene.

2) If the babies were fed breast feeding while given the rice or cereal their risk was reduced. I'm not sure if their total risk was reduced or just reduced compared to the other babies in the studies, meaning they still had an increased risk.

My wife and I decided we would hold off for the moment. The bubs symptoms do seem to be improving on their own so we're going to monitor her for the time being.

Regardless these studies made me wonder why are we trying to hard to feed rice and cereal to babies. Shouldn't the fact that feeding them those foodstuffs results in an increased risk of type 1 DM especially given that there is this small window when the risk is lowest suggest that maybe they shouldn't be eating them at all? Especially since the second study showed an increased risk even if the baby wasn't predisposed, at least that was my interpretation.

I grabbed these links from Kellymom, great site btw.

Norris JM, Barriga K, Klingensmith G, Hoffman M, Eisenbarth GS, Erlich HA, Rewers M. Timing of initial cereal exposure in infancy and risk of islet autoimmunity. JAMA. 2003 Oct 1; 290(13): 1713-20.

Ziegler AG, Schmid S, Huber D, Hummel M, Bonifacio E. Early infant feeding and risk of developing type 1 diabetes-associated autoantibodies. JAMA. 2003 Oct 1; 290(13): 1721-8.

Interpretation of the studies:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Primal Soda Replacement

In continuing my quest to rid myself of a nasty diet soda habit I experimented with creating another drink this time from soda water and green tea. The results were excellent, it's really refreshing, satisfies that need for something fizzy and also provides some health benefits (the Green Tea) and something sweet. Pretty simple really:

- Brew some green tea and stir in your required amount of Stevia
- Pour over a large cup of ice until the glass is about 3/4 full
- Add part of a can of La Croix Lime (or another other flavor your like) sparkling water

Don't add too much of the La Croix as it will overpower the delicate green tea flavor. Stir and enjoy.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Primal Thai Iced Tea - Alpha Release

I'm searching for some interesting options to replace my diet soda habit (Pepsi Max how I love thee) and one that occurred to me was Thai Iced Tea. I love that stuff, the familiar light tea taste mixed with intense sweetness combined with creamy coconut milk or cream all poured over a big cup of ice to make it really refreshing. Of course, I always felt guilty having one in the past all that sugar plus the saturated fat in the coconut or cream. I'm not worried about the saturated fat anymore but how can I make the rest of it more Primal and also compatible with Leptin Reset Protocol (LRP - sounds all technical and official)?

Dr K talks about Green Tea all the time and says he drinks it by the gallon and I keep hearing everywhere about the wonders of Green Tea. Here is a relatively recent meta-analysis of 18 studies, 5 of which were on green tea the rest on black tea. It did find a correlation between a reduction in Heart Disease and green tea consumption even at 1 cup per day. As always we must be careful to draw any conclusions from these results as the researchers point out more studies are needed as we don't know what other factors may have altered the results. Green tea drinkers might be more likely to eat vegetables for example or walk barefoot, who knows? What we want to see is a description and proof of the mechanism that results in the health improvement. Despite all that, we don't seem to see negative results from green tea consumption and there are a large number of studies (just search Google scholar) around the beneficial impact of green tea and there are some suggested mechanisms. Perhaps someone who knows more about biochemistry can explain some of the potential mechanisms but the evidence is enough for me to drink it and feel pretty good about it although I'm not expecting it to fix all my problems and walk the dog at the same time.

Green Tea also appeals to me because it has some caffeine but lots of other health benefits but doesn't come with artificial sweeteners. So Green Tea will be the base, next up is the sweetener, artificial sweeteners are out, again the health trend at the moment seems to be Stevia which is an all natural product. My wife and I were at Whole Foods last night and as I stood in the Stevia section I realized I had no clue which was the best option I just knew to avoid Truvia since it has some additives. I ended up picking up Stevia in the Raw for no other reason than it was on sale and seemed to be pretty, well, raw. Since then I've realized I probably should have picked up a liquid Stevia, but you live and learn. Last but not least we need our creamy blob of fat to tie it all together. In this attempt I tried some heavy whipping cream because I had some open but next time I will try coconut milk.

The end result? Pretty damn good. I could drink this stuff, plus I can drink it guilt free. Saying that, I don't think I'd drink a lot of it, maybe once a day or every other day. I'm going to experiment with another concoction made on La Croix water and green tea for my more regular drink.

Here's the recipe:

  • Mug of green tea, freshly brewed
  • Big cup of ice
  • 3 packets of Stevia in the Raw (or whatever Stevia variation you like)
  • Quarter of a cup of heavy whipping cream
Stir the Stevia into the still hot tea until it dissolves then pour it over the ice. Gently pour the cream over the top sit back and enjoy.

Stay tuned for the next revision where I'll try coconut milk instead and perhaps a different brand of green tea.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Why did I get fat so young?

For a long time I've been curious about why I have always seemed to struggle with weight. My mother swears she fed me just like her other kids and that many of my friends ate more than me and a worse diet than me (worse meaning more sweets, cakes etc.). It shaped my whole childhood and much of my adulthood so as I've been on this journey over the last 8 months it's become increasingly important for me to understand why I struggled the way I did and still do.

There are a couple of theories I've bumped into the latest of which was actually elucidated by Dr Kruse, of Leptin Reset fame when I posted the question on his blog and again on the Leptin Reset thread on Mark's Daily Apple (MDA). I don't have any papers to refer to for this first hypothesis but you can find a long list of cites on Dr K's blog entry at the bottom. The second one can be found in many mainstream publications like WebMD and I have included some links to the abstracts of some studies (Google Scholar is my friend).
  1. Our epigenetic switches are set by the initial burst of Leptin provided by our mother via Colostrum. So when a baby is formula fed this initial set point may not be optimal. Here is a quote from Dr K's blog regarding that point (

    "Leptin is made from our fat cells but we are not born with leptin from our own fat. We initially get leptin from our mother’s colostrum from breast feeding. This initial bolus of leptin then immediately goes to our hypothalamus to “set” the leptin receptors and our epigenetic switches, neurologic wiring controlling appetite and feeding, neurotransmitters and peptides that all control energy balance. I view this like placing a USB drive into your new laptop with a new driver in it to tell the computer how to use the new hardware you want install"

    Here is a response to a comment from Dr Kruse on his blog (

    "@Claudia you are correct. If the child is not breast fed and does not get leptin then the foods fed to the child will determine how their switches are set for the first six years of their existence. This has huge implications because the child’s gut also is playing a role here. It’s gut micro biome is determined by how it enters the world. We are designed to enter the world via the vagina. That passage gives us the inoculum of bacteria to start the gut micro biome and microfilms off to a good start. If the child comes via a c section the gut will be compromised. The child’s food furthernwill determine what kind of biome develops. If that includes infant formula loaded with HFCs and soy and gluten……well your life is not off to a good start. I think for women who realize these issues are big they can plan with ahead with stored human colostrum and post natal probiotics and a diet that emulates mothers milk which is very high in MCT and LCT fats and protein. Women who are leptin resistant or have IR (pcos) will be the moms most at risk for these issues and the risks are larger if them pregnant mom wasmlarge for gestational age and worse if grand mom had gestational diabetes. These all are bad epigenetic signs that foretell how the fetus will part ion it’s calories as it ages"
  2. Removal of Tonsils results in higher obesity rates - This one has been studied at least in an observational study looking for correlations and they indeed found them. In fact, children who had their tonsils removed seem to show a fairly significantly increased chance of become obese. I'm not a fan of this kind of study or I should say I am not a fan of drawing any conclusions from this study. That would be skipping a few steps of the scientific method, however, it does give us an interesting place to look. The last couple of links reference the papers themselves, the full text is behind a pay wall, but you can read the abstract.

    As I said, these studies prove nothing, they show a correlation but the researchers couldn't possibly eliminate all the confounding variables so take them with a grain of salt.

    I have found a few ideas to explain this phenomenon although I don't seem to be able to find the links right now. I don't find any of them very satisfactory, but the first one does have some appeal:

    a) Hyperactivity

    When the tonsils are enlarged a child will suffer from a form of sleep apnea resulting in fatigue which leads to hyperactivity. Apparently fatigue and hyperactivity are commonly linked in children and this is not controversial, seems odd, but okay. With the removal of the tonsils and the improvement in sleep the child becomes less hyperactive which results in less fidgeting which leads to less energy expenditure meaning the same calorie intake will cause weight gain.

    This make some sense. Dr Lustig (of You Tube Sugar fame) talks about how in his practice when he sees a fidgeting child he knows they are not at a high risk of obesity.

    There are also various studies linking the removal of Tonsils to an improvement in ADHD in children.

    b) Mothers are Stupid

    After removal of the tonsils the mother over feeds the child resulting in obesity. Give me a break. Seriously. This is just idiotic. Mothers, driven by maternal instincts will deliberately cause their child to become obese by overfeeding them over a long period of time because they went into hospital for a short, very minor operation. Really? Who spouts this garbage? This smacks of the typical "everyone else is stupid" theory that are pushed by second-rate doctors and researchers. It's more like these mothers with their sharpened maternal instincts will do the opposite, they will worry about the food they are feeding their child not wanting them to experience the lifetime of pain that is associated with being overweight. I get mad every time I see something like this.
Honestly, I'm not saying I believe this is 100% the answer, but it's very interesting nonetheless and gratifying to see some potential pieces of the puzzle falling into place.