Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New study: Vitamin D levels of the Maasai and Hadzabe of Africa

Dr John Cannell

The most frequent question we get at the Vitamin D Council is, “What vitamin D blood level should I have?” For the last seven years, we have recommended 25(OH)-vitamin D levels of around 50 ng/ml (125 nmol/L), which was our estimate of what vitamin D levels would be in very dark-skinned, scantily clothed peoples who live around the equator. Until yesterday, some of the best evidence we have had to support that recommendation comes from a 1971 study of 8 consistent sun bathing white lifeguards in Saint Louis, Missouri, whose levels ranged from 50-80 ng/ml.

Yesterday, Dr. Martine Luxwolda and colleagues at the Dutch University Medical Center Groningen reported the vitamin D levels of 60 pastoral “hunter-gatherers” (35 Maasai and 25 Hadzabe), who live within a few degrees of the equator in Tanzania. All of the subjects had skin type 6, which is the black shiny skin common to those who come from equatorial regions, and also the skin type which needs the most sunlight to produce robust amounts of vitamin D. The authors added, somewhat tongue in cheek, that the natives did not use sunscreen.

The Maasai are no longer hunter-gatherers but live, along with their cattle, either a settled or a semi-nomadic lifestyle. They wear sparse clothes, which mainly cover their upper legs and upper body, and attempt to avoid the sun during the hottest part of the day. They eat mainly milk and meat from their cattle, although recently they began to add corn porridge to their diet. Their mean 25(OH) vitamin D level was 48 ng/ml (119 nmol/L) and ranged from 23 to 67 ng/ml.

The Hadzabe are traditional hunter-gatherers. Their diet consists of meat, occasional fish, honey, fruits, and tubers. They have no personal possessions. They wear fewer clothes than the Maasai in that the men often wear nothing above the waist. Like the Maasai, they avoid the sun during the hottest part of the day. Their mean 25(OH)D was 44 ng/ml and ranged from 28 to 68 ng/ml.

Many of us have been waiting years for this data. To me, it means that the Vitamin D Council’s recommendation of 50 ng/ml is just about right, although I cannot argue with someone who recommends a level of 55 ng/ml. Remember, when errors in measuring vitamin D are made, they usually are overestimates. Thus, if mean natural levels are around 45 ng/ml, keeping your level around 50-55 ng/ml keeps you within what both the Maasai and the Hadzabe are telling us

Monday, January 30, 2012

U-Lowell 4x400 Team

Fastest ever indoor 4x4 by any school in New England, any division. 3:09.39 (averages to 47.3-ish). The leg-2 runner is a Woburn kid.

Watch more video of 2012 BU Terrier Invitational on flotrack.org

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Top Ten RX

Dr Mercola

The contents of America’s medicine cabinets, according to Time Magazine, reflect an aching, aging, overweight citizenry. Here is their list of the 10 most popular prescription drugs in the U.S.:

Vicodin (131.2 million prescriptions) is used to treat chronic pain
Zocor (94.1 million) is a statin drug used to treat high cholesterol
Prinivil (87.4 million ) is an ACE inhibitor that treats high blood pressure
Synthroid (70.5 million) is a thyroid hormone for low-functioning thyroid glands
Norvasc (57.2 million) is a calcium channel blocker for high blood pressure
Prilosec (53.4 million) is a proton pump inhibitor used to treat acid reflux
Zithromax (52.6 million) is an antibiotic for bacterial infections
Amoxil (52.3 million) is also an antibiotic
Glucophage (48.3 million) is an anti-diabetic drug
HydroDIURIL (47.8) is a diuretic used to treat high blood pressure

Friday, January 27, 2012

What Is Fatigue?


Fatigue is a primary limiter standing between you and better performance. If you could delay or resist the sensations of fatigue you would go faster and last longer at a given effort level--the ultimate purpose of training. Yet we never rid ourselves of fatigue, which is actually a good thing because this prevents us from damaging our bodies or perhaps needlessly expending physiological resources. But understanding what brings on fatigue during a race or workout may point to strategies that could raise your fatigue threshold, allowing you to go faster or farther.

Fatigue seems to vary according to the duration and intensity of exercise. An 800-meter runner and a marathon runner may both fatigue greatly during their races, slow down, and struggle to the finish lines, but their specific reasons for fatigue aren’t the same. Or are they? What caused their fatigue? Currently there are three ways of explaining fatigue.

Catastrophe theory. This is the oldest model having been around since the 1920s. It’s the one which is accepted by most exercise physiologists. This model proposes that exercise stops when something catastrophic occurs in the body, especially in the working muscles [1].

Other than overheating and severe dehydration, which can obviously limit performance, the catastrophe model proposes that there are at least two common physiological reasons for fatigue during endurance events: the accumulation of metabolic by-products such as hydrogen ions, especially from lactic acid release (the 800-meter runner); and the depletion of energy stores such as glycogen and glucose (the marathoner). The catastrophe model proposes that when either of these situations occurs the body is forced to slow down. It’s much like a car running out of gas or the fuel lines becoming clogged. A catastrophe has just happened and the body stops functioning normally.

Central Governor theory. The second way of explaining fatigue originated in the physiology lab at the University of Cape Town in South Africa in the 1990s. Here noted-exercise physiologist Tim Noakes, PhD proposed that fatigue occurs in the brain, not in the muscles [2,3,4].

In this model the body is constantly sending signals to the subconscious brain regarding the current status of the working muscles. For example, fuel levels and metabolic by-product build-up are being monitored by the brain. This is a bit like the operation of the thermostat in your home which gauges the temperature and turns the heating or air conditioning system on or off as needed. At some point the brain may make a decision, again subconsciously and the result of perceived exertion, to slow down due to the current status of the body. It’s proposed that this central governor for fatigue evolved to protect the body from damage caused by excessively hard work.

Psychobiological theory. This theory is a bit like the central governor model, but with a twist. Samuele Marcora, PhD at the University of Wisconsin proposed recently that it is, indeed, perceived exertion, a subconscious calculation made by the brain during exercise, that limits performance [5,6]. He proposed that exercise stops well before fuel levels and metabolic by-product accumulation suggests it is absolutely necessary.

In a part of the forebrain known as the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) subconscious decisions are made regarding conflict resolution and response inhibition. Essentially, this means that during exercise the ACC is weighing the cost of continuing at a given intensity versus the reward for doing so. Dr. Marcora has shown that “fatigued” athletes are able to overcome the sensation at what appears to be the end of exercise to failure and produce a greater output if the reward is big enough.

You have probably experienced this at the end of a race. You may have been slowing down but when the finish line is seen you have the capacity to some how speed up or even sprint. You’re willing to overcome the suffering because the reward, an awe-inspiring finish or perhaps a slightly faster time or higher finishing place, was great enough to overcome the suffering you were feeling. He further suggests that this system evolved to keep us from needlessly wasting energy in the pursuit of food when the prospect of success in finding it was low. But should food appear (perhaps a deer on the horizon) increasing the likelihood of getting it, then the s

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Top 6 Anti-Inflammatory Foods

from Mark's Daily Apple

Wild Fish Fat

Pastured Animal Fat
The important factor is that your animal fat comes from pastured animals who ate grass, that the chickens who laid your eggs ate grass and bugs and grains/seeds lower in omega-6.

Red Palm Oil
Red palm oil is incredibly dense with antioxidants. Full spectrum vitamin E, CoQ10, vitamin A, and vitamin K, all incredibly important in maintaining antioxidant status, all make appearances.

Cruciferous Vegetables
Broccoli lowered colonic inflammation in mice.
Red cabbage reduced oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation

Blueberries top most anti-inflammatory food lists

Turmeric beat both ginger and an anti-inflammatory drug for treating arthritis
Whole Article

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The 411 on Protein Powders

from CF Oakland

How to Incorporate Protein Powders Into Your Diet
In my opinion, powders should be used to supplement your already healthy diet. A high-quality protein powder can provide an additional boost of amino acids, vitamins, and essential fats but it's not to replace eating REAL food. All protein powders are processed and are therefore somewhat denatured making them suboptimal sources of proteins and nutrients when compared to a whole foods like a steak and fish. I'm a huge advocate of eating real food, and whenever possible, I think it's better to meet your protein needs by chowing down on some real, honest to goodness animal meat. Sorry, folks, you just can't outsmart mother nature.

Who Should Use Them
If you're already eating a healthy diet, then you probably don't need to bother with protein powders. However, I have found them to be particularly helpful in the case of:

individuals with compromised digestion
individuals recovering from a serious illness
individuals under tremendous amounts of stress

For athletes, the best time to use them is immediately following a workout--preferably within 10 min and certainly within 30 min of calling "time!" This brief window of time is when the body can better absorb the food you ingest, making it ideal for replenishing vital nutrients and energy stores. This is key in improving recovery time post workout and priming your body for your next trip to the gym.

Also, because too much stress (in any form) puts a huge strain on the body, a protein supplement may be incredibly helpful in speeding up recovery and supporting a healthy immune system, particularly for those with compromised health or poor digestion.

What to Avoid
As most of you know already, the list of ingredients on a food label are listed according to how much of that ingredient is in the food. In other words, the ingredient that makes up the majority of the food will be at the top of the list, and the one in the least amount is listed last. Therefore, if the first ingredient is sugar (a word ending in the suffix ose), then you know you are mostly getting a glass full of sugar. Sugar/carbs a great post workout but don't waste your money on expensive protein powders when you could just as easily have some fresh OJ.

Next, avoid protein powders with a long list of ingredients. This is true for any food that you eat. You should also be on the look out for ingredients that you can't pronounce or that you don't recognize as food. I would also caution you on products containing "natural and artificial flavorings" which are chemical additives that are made in laboratories, and not necessarily safe or "natural."

Lastly, avoid powders with vegetable oils as these are likely to be genetically modified and/or trans fats. Again, ingredients should be easily identify as FOOD and don't need to be "hydrolized, "hydrogenated" or undergo any other processing to make it edible.

What to Look For
High quality protein powders are going to be more expensive. There's no way around it, if you want a good product without a lot of fillers, you have to be willing to shell out a little more money. As long as you can tolerate dairy, I'd say whey is the way to go (no pun intended). I like that it's easily digestible and absorbable and has a plethora of health benefits. If you're going to use whey, be sure that the milk is from grass-fed cows. Also, choose whey that is "undenatured" as this means that it is processed at very low temps, preventing the fragile fats and proteins from becoming damaged. Whey protein powders typically come in "concentrate" form or as "protein isolates" and there's a lot of controversy over which one is better. The concentrates are not as processed, so I tend to prefer these over the isolates, even though these tend to be higher in protein. I don't get any money from this company but I think "Designs for Health Whey Cool" is one of the best retail powders I've seen. It's made using 100% grass-fed whey and has been very minimally processed.

Non-Dairy/Non-Gluten Sources
This post is getting too long so I'm just going to list some of my favorites: rice, pea, and hempseed. Rice is kinda chalky, but has a milder flavor and tends for be the least problematic for people with food allergies or sensitivities.

Final Word
Mix it up. You should rotate between a few powders so that you're getting a nice variety of nutrients and so that you don't develop an allergy. Also, whatever you're using, it should go into the blender LAST and you should really only pulse it in a few times to k

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Parasympathetic Secret

By Charlie Cates

You wake up after a restful night’s sleep to hit up the gym before the sun comes up. The last few training days have been pretty taxing on you, but surprisingly, you were able to hop out of bed with very little soreness. But that was gone three minutes into your warm up. Today is your deadlift day, and even though your legs, back, and arms feel strong, the weight feel heavy. Way too heavy. Why is this? Why do you feel so weak and unmotivated to lift heavy and strong? Because while your muscular system may have recovered from your previous workouts, your nervous system hasn’t.

If you’ve ever felt this way in the gym, odds are that it can be attributed to your nervous system being in a sympathetic state. To understand how to fix the problem, you must first understand the problem, so a brief physiology lesson is due. The nervous system is broken down into two main components—the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The CNS is made up of the brain and spinal cord while the PNS is broken down into subdivisions—the sensory-somatic nervous system and the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS controls much of what goes on internally in the human body to make sure that it functions normally, such as breathing when we aren’t thinking about it, stimulating the release of bile from the gallbladder, and controlling our heart rate.

The ANS is once again divided into two categories—the parasympathetic nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system. These two systems serve opposite roles in the body, with the parasympathetic nervous system signaling for the body to be in a more relaxed state while the sympathetic nervous system signals the body to be in a more aggressive or alert state. This is important to know because when you spend prolonged periods of time in a sympathetic state (i.e. when you work out), metabolites begin to build up in the bloodstream. As these metabolites continue to collect, your average heart rate will begin to rise with everything you do. And there, my friends, lies one of the best indicators as to whether or not you have truly recovered from your workout.

One of the best ways to go about monitoring the state of your nervous system is to check your resting heart rate (RHR) upon waking every morning. This is a habit that I’ve gotten into and it has paid off tremendously. I know that when I’m fresh, my RHR is around 44 beats per minute (bpm). However, by the end of every week, my RHR starts to creep up around 60 bpm. That’s when I know it’s time to head to the gym for a recovery session, which always brings me back down into the 40s by the next morning. Not only will someone’s RHR increase, but their heart rate during other activities will be higher than normal as well. This is why many professional and collegiate athletes are being required to wear heart rate monitors during their workouts, so coaches can watch their heart rate that day during specific drills and compare that to what it has been on other days. This is also to make sure that their heart rate doesn’t get too high or too low during their training session, so they can get the most out of the athletes both on that day and in future training sessions.

Many people think that it’s best to take a day off from the gym when they start to feel groggy and unmotivated. While not seeing the gym for a day may be good for their mindset, what their body more than likely needs is a light training session, working basic movement patterns, easy cardio, or a brief skill session, depending on whether or not this person is a competitive athlete. Regardless of which activity the subject chooses, the most important thing is that his or her heart rate is kept between 120 and 130 bpm. I can’t stress this enough. When doing recovery work, you must monitor your heart rate and make sure that it stays between 120 and 130 beats per minute. If you own a heart rate monitor that gives you constant feedback, your possibilities for recovery work are endless. If not, you will be confined to using some sort of cardio equipment that has a heart rate monitor on it. These activities should be performed for 20 to 45 minutes on a day when no other training is scheduled. For athletes, I recommend doing something that is low impact on the joints, such as biking, using the elliptical, or wearing a heart rate monitor in the pool.

So what is so special about the 120 to 130 bpm range? The secret is that within this range is where the body makes a switch from the parasympathetic to the sympathetic nervous system. Below 120 bpm, the parasympathetic nervous system still sends signals to the body while above 130 bpm the sympathetic nervous system is completely in charge. Within this heart rate range, the body is best able to flush out the metabolites of previous workouts. Therefore, it allows your body to optimally recover and sends your nervous system from a sympathetic state back to a parasympathetic state.

So the next time your legs are fresh but your head is in a fog, try some nervous system recovery work to get back to “beast mode.” Get big or die trying.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Exercise only preserves the muscles you actually use


It was great to see the big response to the MRI pics I posted a couple of days ago showing the well-preserved leg muscles of a 70-year-old triathlete. Very striking stuff. But let me now offer the following caveat:

This is a figure from a new study from the University of Western Ontario, just posted at Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. They analyzed the biceps brachii (arm muscles) of nine young runners (average age 27), nine old non-runners (70), and nine lifelong masters runners (67). They measured the number of functional motor units (i.e. group of muscle fibres activated by a single motor neuron), which typically declines with age. As you can see, the two old groups were pretty much the same, far below the young group.

In contrast, the same researchers studied leg muscles (tibialis anterior) in a similar group of volunteers last year (as I blogged about here) — in that case, the older runners did preserve the number of motor units. What this tells us is that exercise, on its own, doesn’t preserve all the muscles in your body: in the words of the researchers, there’s no “whole body neuroprotective effect,” or at least none that shows up in this relatively small study. It just preserves the muscles you’re using on a regular basis. So that’s still good news for triathletes, but maybe not as good for runners and cyclists!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The more you eat, the faster you go (in ultraendurance)


A few months ago, I blogged about a study that observed correlation between in-race carb intake and race time in Ironman triathletes. What was significant about that paper is that it looked at a topic that has been studied to death in the lab, and took it out into the real world. There are a lot of “problems” with the real world that make it hard to nail down causes and effects — but ultimately, the whole point of this type of research is to understand what’s happening in the real world. So these observational studies, despite their challenges, are very important.

That’s by way of intro for another small study, just published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, from researchers in New Zealand. They looked at the nutritional intake of participants in a brutal cycling race, the K4, which covers 384K and includes 4,600 metres of climbing. The average finishing time of the 18 study participants was 16 hours and 21 minutes! The key points:

The estimated calorie burn for the race was about 6,000 calories; the average intake was just 4,500 calories, so there was a big caloric deficit.
There was a significant inverse relationship (p=0.023) between number of calories consumed and finishing time. The more calories you managed to cram down your gullet, the faster you finished!

Is this a surprise? Given that the race was so long, it makes sense that taking in enough energy was a significant challenge. Obviously the same thing doesn’t apply during, say, a 100-metre sprint. The question is: where’s the breakpoint, beyond which energy intake becomes a significant independent predictor of performance? I think the general assumption is that it’s probably a bit below marathon distance — so it would be really interesting to see a study like this, with a very large number of participants, at a marathon.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Last Part

from Eat More Improve

Subsequently, a reorganized list would look like:

1. Sleep
2. Nutrition
3. Training
4. Destressing


I kinda covered a bunch of the tips in the sleep section since stress and sleep quality are very intimately related. Actually, all 4 of the qualities I have talked about – sleep, nutrition, training, and stress – are all interconnected to optimal health.

Optimizing these are really 99% of the things we can do to benefit both our health and fitness.

Really, movement related destress is the best.

Massage and soft tissue work. As you may well know I am a big proponent of massage for pretty much anything and everything. Use lacrosse balls, tennis balls, foam rollers, etc to poke around your body to help loosen up. Kelly Starrett’s mobility wod is a great resource.

Females actually do have some destressing things right such as taking hot baths, enjoying hot tubs, and going to the spa. Pretty much anything goes much like soft tissue work that helps you significantly relax and enjoy yourself.

Laugh. Watch or listen to funny things. Laughter actually does beneficial things for immune system function. Funny but true.

Meditation and prayer also produce similar effects. Acupuncture may produce similar effects as well.

The real thing is just do something you enjoy or something that gets you to relax. Destress yourself. Sleep more… get rid of the chronic stress. Not only will this improve your mood and attitude but it will also improve your health and subsequently performance as well.


Supplements are supplements.

Like I have stated in previous nutrition articles, aim to fix sleep, nutrition, and training before you even think about supplementing.


It’s always a good idea step back and reassess what you’re doing with your life.

It’s pretty easy to get caught up in family, work, school, even training and nutrition. Don’t be dogmatic about things.

Spare some time and invest it back into your body.

After all, health is one of the most precious gifts we have as humans.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Keep Simple part III

from Eat Move Improve

1. Sleep
2. Nutrition
3. Training
4. Destressing

3. Training

While I tend to strongly encourage weights over doing cardio, getting off your butt is getting off your butt for most people. As long as you are doing something, it is better than nothing.

And, after all, everyone has their own goals. I like to try to inform people the whys of why strength training typically is more effective to get people to their goals faster. However, as long as people are getting up and moving it is good.

Movement is life.

Since I have been down and out with my training for a while, you really learn to appreciate things more. Even though I’m fairly young (mid-20s still) I have gotten a taste of very hard training and burnout already. I have had some of my fair share of injuries.

Training and exercise, while working to our different goals is fun. But sometimes, just take a few steps back and really enjoy the process. Take days off here and there to do things with your family.

I used to be the one who would skip going out with friends to play basketball (and I still hate basketball), to go train by myself and train my strength. However, strength can wait. Enjoy some time and memories with your friends.

If you’ve been thinking about learning new sports or trying new activities do it. Life can get hectic and busy, and we often get stuck in our ruts.

Learning new things can be frustrating at times, but it also engages us and challenges in a way that helps to free up accumulated stress in our bodies and minds.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Keep it Simple II

Breaking down the numbers…

The four key concepts I outlined in a call for KISS are training, nutrition, sleep, and destressing.

1. Sleep
2. Nutrition
3. Training
4. Destressing

2. Nutrition

Nutrition I would rank second. We eat nearly 3 times a day for 7 days a week. Therefore, the affect of nutrition on our bodies for improvements in both health and training cannot be understated. You may have heard that “abs are made in the kitchen” and that it is 75-80% nutrition for fat loss. This is true – for the ratio of times we eat per the times we train per week is about 21:5 or about 80%.

Really though, keep it simple. There’s lots of good sayings that are generally true:

Eat real food
Avoid refined carbohydrates
Avoid things that come in a package
If your grandmother wouldn’t recognize it don’t eat it
If it doesn’t grow from a tree or in the ground, or swim, or walk don’t eat it.

While “eating clean” and the above categories are actually fairly arbitrary, the “goal” of it all is simple.

Don’t obsess about macronutrients. Don’t even obsess about food. Eat a wide variety of plants and animals.

Enjoy your food. Don’t let it take over your life.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Keep it simple


The four key concepts I outlined in a call for KISS are training, nutrition, sleep, and destressing.

Prioritizing what we improve first will have the biggest impacts on our training and health. Based on the “time” factor we can reprioritize everything according to its value in our daily lives.

Subsequently, a reorganized list would look like:

1. Sleep
2. Nutrition
3. Training
4. Destressing

1. Sleep

Sleep is really friggin’ important. We do it for nearly 1/3 of our lives. And lack of sleep, as well as night shifts, directly cause excessive chronic inflammation, insulin resistance, and otherwise negative effects we associate with the diseases of civilization (metabolic, neurodegenerative, auto-immune, etc. issues). WHO – the World Health Organization – has named shift work as a carcinogen. Getting on a good circadian rhythm is extremely important.

Keep it simple; get good sleep.

Guidelines and tips to get good sleep are:

1. Get at least 7-8 hours if not more in a pitch black room with no noise and cool ambient temperature.

2. Destress. Massages are great. Be disciplined in your daily life. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t let little things bother you. Again, get into a daily routine.

3. For those of us who use the computer a lot, the blue screen glow interrupts our circadian rhythm a lot leading to insomnia, anxiety, and other sleep related disorders. F.lux is a good problem to help counteract that.

~elimination of sounds
~elimination of electronic devices / outlets / plugins near body
~pitch black room
~cool, dry room (60-65 or so degrees is good if possible)

~stay away from artificial light sources (e.g. computer) at least 1 hr before sleep
~eat a meal, preferably with healthy fats and a decent amount of carbs, before sleeping (e.g. NO JUNK FOOD).

~single leg stand to exhaustion with both legs (it actually works really well)
~spine lengthening before sleep (see Esther Gokhale’s stuff)
~general exhaustion from physical activity like hiking, pickup games of stuff, lifting, etc.
~Deep breathing exercises
~Deep tissue massage

~magnesium may help (via ZMA or natural calm)
~melatonin helps some people
~phosphatidylserine (anti-cortisol)
~5-HTP (tryptophan deriv)
~Vitamin D (taken during the day..)
~valerian root

Sunday, January 15, 2012

McDonalds's and Weight Watchers team up


Three McDonald's meals, including Chicken McNuggets, carrying the Weight Watchers logo will be sold in the fast food chain in New Zealand from this week and will be introduced into Australia in the next few months.

As part of the deal, McDonald's will use the Weight Watchers logo on its menu boards and Weight Watchers will promote McDonald's food to dieters.

So far, the Fillet-O-Fish, with 18g of fat and 380 calories; Chicken McNuggets, with 29g of fat and 485 calories; and Sweet Chilli Seared Chicken Wrap, with 18.8g of fat and 404 calories, have been approved by Weight Watchers.

However, Chicken McNuggets with 485 calories for 10 pieces makes up almost a third of the number of calories the average woman should consume in a day, even when not on a diet. The NHS recommends women should consume 1,500 calories a day and men 2,000.

Weight Watchers have stated that each meal is worth 6.5 points on the program, which assigns points to food items and allows dieters to consume 18 to 40 points each day to achieve their goal weight

Thursday, January 12, 2012

How to Interpret Cholesterol Test Results

from Mark;s Daily Apple

Cholesterol is cholesterol: a waxy steroid of fat that serves as an essential structural component of cellular membranes and in the production of steroid hormones, vitamin D, and bile acids. Contrary to what the terminology indicates, there’s actually only one “type” of cholesterol in the human body, and it’s called, quite simply, cholesterol. What we think of when we use the word “cholesterol” is actually a lipoprotein – a fatty conglomerate of protein and lipids that delivers cholesterol and fat and fat-soluble nutrients to different parts of the body. It’s not just free cholesterol floating around in your blood; it’s cholesterol bound up by lipoproteins.

: Read more

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Study links statins to higher diabetes in older women


Study authors advise patients not to stop taking their medications without talking to a doctor, because statins' proven power to prevent heart attacks and strokes outweighs any potential increase in type 2 diabetes risk. But the results — a nearly 50% increase in diabetes among longtime statin users — should throw cold water on the idea of prescribing these drugs to healthy people, which some have recommended as a way to prevent disease, says co-author JoAnn Manson, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. In recent years, statins' success in preventing heart attacks — even among people without high cholesterol — has led some doctors to joke about "putting them in the water supply."

In the study, 6.4% of women who didn't use statins developed diabetes during the eight to nine years of follow-up, Manson says. That rate rose to 9.9% among statin users.
Read More

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

5 tips for cold-weather workouts

alex hutchinson


The challenge: Going bareheaded in the winter is like leaving the lid off your thermos. Classic studies in the 1950s showed that if you wear winter clothes but no hat at 4 C, you lose about 50 per cent of your body heat through your head.

The research: A U.S. Army study published in early 2011 showed that your face is almost as important as the top of your head for heat loss. Volunteers spent an hour in a cold chamber with a wind chill of -20 C; those who wore a balaclava had measurably warmer fingers and toes than those wearing a normal hat. Your body tries valiantly to keep your brain warm by shunting blood away from your extremities toward your head.

The takeaway: Good mittens and socks are a must – but if your fingers and toes still get cold, be sure to break out your hat and scarf.


The challenge: Staying warm becomes much harder if you get wet. In fact, water’s greater thermal capacity means that it can transmit heat by convection 70 times more quickly than air.

The research: Modern high-tech workout clothing wicks and breathes and performs lots of other neat tricks. But a 2008 European Union study of six different types of clothing confirmed that the basic laws of physics still apply: Once your clothes get wet, you’ll be losing about twice as much heat as when they were dry.

The takeaway: The key is to avoid sweating in the first place. For a moderately vigorous activity such as running, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, dress so that you feel unpleasantly cold for the first five minutes. As you warm up, remove layers before you start sweating.


The challenge: The first blasts of winter are the worst. After a few months, sub-zero temperatures don’t feel quite as shocking – but does that mean your body has adapted to maintain a higher temperature?

The research: A recent study by Brock University’s Stephen Cheung and his collaborators had volunteers dip their hands and feet in 8 C water for 30 minutes a day. After 15 days, their average pain score on a scale of 1 to 10 had dropped from 4.5 to 2.5 – a clear sign of acclimatization. But those subjective changes weren’t accompanied by better circulation or higher skin temperature in their cold hands.

The takeaway: After a long winter, your extremities will be just as cold, but you won’t notice it as much – a potentially dangerous combination for frostbite. Don’t get cocky about your apparent resistance to cold.


The challenge: Wind doesn’t actually make the air colder; it just blows away the micro-layer of warm air around your body, making you feel colder and accelerating convective heat loss.

The research: Understanding wind chill is important for comfort, but it’s crucial for avoiding frostbite. Researchers at Defence Research and Development Canada played a key role in developing revised international wind chill guidelines a decade ago. They found that the key threshold for frostbite risk is when the wind chill drops below -27 C, at which point exposed skin can develop frostbite in less than 30 minutes.

The takeaway: When the wind is vicious, make sure to cover bare skin – and remember that the wind chill you’ll experience is even colder during high-speed activities such as running and skiing.


The challenge: It’s the classic excuse for staying indoors, but there is actually no risk that you’ll freeze your lungs by breathing deeply in cold air. Still, some people do report coughing or shortness of breath during winter exercise.

The research: A 2005 study by Kenneth Rundell at Marywood University in Pennsylvania finally settled this long-standing debate. The “exercise-induced bronchoconstriction” (or EIB) endured by between 4 and 20 per cent of winter athletes is caused by the dryness of winter air, not its temperature. Breathing large volumes of dry air can irritate the sensitive cells lining your airways, causing them to constrict.

The takeaway: If you suffer from EIB, cover or partly cover your mouth with a thin balaclava, a scarf or a breathing mask. That will trap water vapour from your exhaled breath, moistening the air you’re about to inhale.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Maybe beef’s not so bad after all …

FoodFacts.com does its best to keep our community members in the know regarding news in nutrition. Sometimes the latest news puts to rest some long held beliefs about the foods we eat. This latest information does just that.

For years now, we’ve believed that we should keep our consumption of beef low. It hasn’t been considered the best source of protein, even for nutritionally conscious folks who follow a healthy diet plan, based on its fat content. A new study published in the January 2012 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition is actually taking a new stance on the subject matter. The study shows that, in fact, beef can play a role in a cholesterol-lowering diet. Every day consumption of lean beef can be effective in lowering total and “bad” cholesterol.

Conducted by researchers at Pennsylvania State University, the study evaluated adults with moderately elevated cholesterol levels. It measured the impact of diets including varying amounts of lean beef on total and LDL cholesterol levels. Those involved in the study experienced a 10% decrease in bad cholesterol from the beginning of the study while consuming diets including between 4 and 5.4 oz of lean beef daily. The remainder of the diet was rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. It was concluded that diets including lean beef are as effective in improving heart health risk factors as other diets which emphasize plant proteins.

It is important to note that beef consumed in this study were lean cuts and 95% lean ground beef. It is also important to note the amount of beef consumed daily during the study. While this is all great news for beef lovers everywhere, we all need to be conscious of the cut, fat content and portion size of beef in order to consider it a healthy option in our diets. The good news is that the most popular cuts of beef (top sirloin steak, tenderloin, t-bone steak) do, in fact, meet government guidelines for lean beef. A 3 oz. serving of lean beef contains about 150 calories and in addition, is a great source of protein, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, niacin and selenium.

FoodFacts is happy to share this news with you and to remind all of us that a healthy lifestyle includes real foods, in combination with one another and in moderation. It’s always a better plan than anything that comes from a box.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The history of Hydration :

A lesson in the scientific method and the Hype
The history of drinking during endurance exercise is an interesting one. It serves as a wonderful lesson for two reasons. First, it demonstrates a concept I’ve discussed at length before called the Hype cycle where a particular concept or method goes through a cycle of first overemphasis, then under emphasis, before eventually settling into its rightful place. This cycle can be seen almost anywhere, but in terms of training you’ve seen it with such things as “core” training, mileage, and interval training.

Secondly, the history of hydration demonstrates that we tend to overemphasize what we can measure and to ascribe more meaning initially than we deserve. As you’ll soon see, there was nothing wrong with the scientific measurements taken throughout the study of hydration, the problem has been the interpretation of those measurements.

Going back to the early days of marathon running, it was thought that the consumption of most fluids during long races like a marathon was not needed and even detrimental. Why? Because runners were studied and it was found that at the end of the race, the winners or top finishers lost the most body weight. The logic was that the best runners lost the most water weight, therefore losing fluids was necessary to maximize performance and hydration should not occur. The top runners were the most dehydrated, so dehydration is good! This line of thinking is used often, even to this day (i.e. The Kenyans do X, so X should be done…). This should be a cautionary tale to doing something just because the fastest guys do it.
So early in the history of hydration we have a policy of no drinking. What happens next?

With the rise of mass participation running, an increased awareness of illnesses associated with dehydration and the ability to measure hydration status very easily and quickly, we overeacted. The norm went from drinking nothing during exercise to trying to replace all of your fluid loss during exercise by drinking water or sports drinks. The common advice of measuring yourself before and after exercise to calculate hydration needs reached mantra status with coaches, nutritionist, trainers, and the common exerciser.

According to a nice summary by Mundel (BJSM-2011), one reason for this overreaction was the design of studies which measured the effect of drinking on tests at fixed intensities which essentially found how long you could go, and not how fast you can go over a fixed distance, which is what we do in the real world.
As mentioned above, the other reason is that heat exhaustion and similar illness became more prevalent with the rise of mass participation. The thinking was simple, extreme dehydration caused some problems and helped contribute to heat exhaustions, therefore if we eliminate dehydration heat exhaustion and similar illnesses would be eliminated. The problem with this thinking is similar to the “no drinking” logic. Just because a lot of dehydration is bad, doesn’t mean we need to eliminate all of it. It’s only bad if it gets to a dangerous point outside of the norms. Until it gets to that point, which is hard to do unless you force yourself not to consume any fluids (which is what was occurring in the previous period), you are fine.
You see this “all or none” thinking in a myriad of different places. Some obvious examples through history are: free radicals, carbohydrates, fat, lactate, etc. Just because a lot is bad, doesn’t mean a little is.

Finding the Happy Medium
With this overreaction came a new problem called hyponutremia, which was essentially over hydration. Thankfully, we’ve seemed to correct our earlier mistakes of way too much or way too little and found a nice balance.

Currently, we’ve reached a sort of happy medium. Research consistently demonstrates that losing water and dehydration by a couple percent is fine when running. In fact losing 1-2% or so body weight during a long performance may be the sweet spot in terms of maximizing performance. . Not surprisingly research by Marino et al. 2011 (British journal of sports medicine) shows that the body goes through several neuromuscular adjustments to maintain core body temperatures, despite fluid losses occurring. Noakes and others have consistently demonstrated that drinking by thirst does the job. You won’t replace all your fluid losses like the previous recommendations had you, but instead you’ll drink just enough during exercise to keep you from reaching the critical level where dehydration effects performance. Of course the problem is people have been inundated with recommendations on drinking water during exercise (i.e. those who carry a water fuel belt on a 30 minute run…) that many have forgotten how to drink by thirst and need to reawaken that ability.

Somewhat ironicly, recent research by Tim Noakes (http://running.competitor.com/2010/12/news/new-study-finds-drinking-less-running-faster_19567) showed that once again, just like the early studies, that top runners seemed to drink less and lose more body weight than slower runners. It’s almost like we’ve come full circle. The difference is that this time the human interpretation was different. Noakes didn’t say that because the top runners lost the most weight that dehydration should be desirable. Instead he concluded that drinking by thirst, or just enough, is what is needed. We’ve seemed to reach that happy medium indeed. It just took us about a century.

Of course, the word still needs to be spread that a little dehydration is fine. Even in the scientific community there are still those who hold on to the idea that we should replace ALL fluid during exercise. Unfortunately, it will be years before the knowledge that we went too far in our recomendations is accepted and spreads to everyone.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Avoid ibuprofen if you want to grow muscle?


Well that heading is just to promote some interest, but to be honest it does have something to do with this post. I spotted this bit of research reported yesterday, about how muscles get the signal to grow. Developing and retaining muscle is not just an issue for bodybuilders or athletes, it is essential to health as we grow old.

The story in EurekaAlert explains:

We take it for granted, but the fact that our muscles grow when we work them makes them rather unique. Now, researchers have identified a key ingredient needed for that bulking up to take place. A factor produced in working muscle fibers apparently tells surrounding muscle stem cell "higher ups" that it's time to multiply and join in, according to a study in the January Cell Metabolism, a Cell Press journal.

The research identifies this factor as "serum response factor (Srf)" which translates the mechanical signal of work into a chemical one.

Srf works through a network of genes, including one known as Cox2. That raises the intriguing possibility that commonly used Cox2 inhibitors—think ibuprofen—might work against muscle growth or recovery, Sotiropoulos notes.
The research is available here

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Study on Fasted and Fed Exercise States

An Invictus Research Study on Fasted and Fed Exercise States
Written by Calvin Sun

Sports nutrition is one of the many topics your coaches at Invictus love to debate. Pre-, peri-, and post-workout nutrition protocols are continuously studied and researched at our facility. Training on an empty stomach has been discussed several times on this blog and at our various nutrition seminars. I wrote a blog covering my thoughts on the subject several months ago here: http://www.crossfitinvictus.com/2011/02/14/tuesday-february-15-2011/.

This past semester, as part of my exercise physiology course, I had to conduct a research study on a topic of my choice. It seemed like a logical step to study fasted and fed exercise states. I had originally intended on using a graded-exercise test to assess the effect of pre-workout nutrition, or lack thereof, on various biometrics such as respiratory exchange ratio, blood glucose, and blood lactate. My thought was that this might allow us to replicate the higher intensity of training we use in our conditioning workouts. The department director at San Diego State University modified our original experimental design due to concerns with logistics and equipment. Instead, we were required to perform a steady-state exercise test where subjects pedaled on a bike at approximately 65% of their max heart rate for 30 minutes.

In our study, we had test subjects come in on the same day, two weeks in a row with one day in a fasted state and one day in a fed state. The order was randomized with some subjects performing their first trial fasted and others fed. For fasted-state exercise, we had our subjects fast for 12 hours prior to exercise with no caffeine consumption prior to exercise. For fed-state exercise, subjects were fed a meal consisting of a banana, a store-bought “energy” bar, and orange juice (again, not my choice).

Respiratory Exchange Ratio (RER)
RER is a means to measure what fuel sources are being consumed during exercise to produce ATP energy. It’s simply a ratio of carbon dioxide output to oxygen uptake, with normal values for RER ranging between 0.7 and 1.0. An RER value of 0.7 suggests you are burning predominantly fats whereas an RER value of 1.0 suggests you are using mostly carbohydrates. A value of 0.85 suggests you are burning both fats and carbohydrates as fuels. In our study, we found that average RER value in the fasted state was approximately 0.85 ± 0.02. Average RER in the fed state was approximately 0.88 ± 0.05. While we expected RER values to be higher in the fed state, we expected RER values in the fasted state to be closer to 0.7.

Blood Lactate
Lactic acid is a byproduct of exercise. It produced as result of glycolysis, a pathway for metabolizing carbohydrates. In our study, we found that subjects tended to have higher levels of blood lactate in the fasted state. This was not entirely expected as we assumed the greater level of carbohydrate metabolism in the fed subjects to result in a greater amount of glycolysis and therefore lactic acid.

Keep in mind our study was conducted with a sample size of only eight and the test subjects were mixed in age, gender, and athletic ability. Nichole and I both served as test subjects while others in my research group were not quite as well trained. Due to these various issues, our results were not totally conclusive or definitive by any means but, then again, no single study ever is. Having said that, the idea that exercise on an empty stomach burns more fat seems be true though only by a marginal amount. If you are a casual exerciser who is more concerned with aesthetics than performance, training on an empty stomach is probably less likely to affect your results, either positively or negatively. However, if you are an athlete that is focused on performance, I would still advise you to have a pre-training meal. Keep in mind that pre-workout nutrition can be highly variable between people so experiment to see what works best for you. Of course, if you are in doubt, you can consult one of your coaches.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

For Older Runners, Good News and Bad


Sometimes it’s good news when a study’s hypothesis is not proved. That was the case, certainly, with a new study of older runners, in which researchers assumed that athletes over 60 would be noticeably less efficient than their younger counterparts.

For the experiment, published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, researchers at the University of New Hampshire and other institutions recruited 51 competitive runners, ranging in age from 18 to 77. Each trained regularly and had placed in the top three in his or her age group in a local 5-kilometer or 10-kilometer road race. Their goal was to assess running economy, a measure of how much oxygen someone uses to run at a certain pace. Economical runners can continue at a given speed longer than inefficient striders, outdistancing them.

Going into the study, the researchers had assumed that runners past age 60 would be less economical than youthful athletes, since older runners, as a group, are slower than younger ones. But as it turned out, when scientists fitted the volunteers with masks that measured their oxygen use as they ran on a treadmill and then compared the results by age group, the runners 60 and older were just as physiologically economical as younger runners, even those in their 20s and 30s.
Read More

Monday, January 2, 2012

Bone Broth

From Diane Sanfilippo

Mineral-Rich Bone Broth 
Yield: Approximately 14 servings.
Click here for estimated nutrition facts.


This recipe make approximately 64oz of broth depending on how much water, how much you reduce the broth and how strong you like the flavor to be.
4 quarts of filtered water
1.5- 2 lbs of beef knuckle bones (or any other kinds of bones/meaty bones/marrow bones – chicken necks are inexpensive and work great)
the cloves from 1 whole head of fresh garlic, peeled & smashed
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (organic, unfiltered- I like Bragg’s brand)
1Tsp unrefined sea salt - or more/less to taste (I like Real Salt)


  • If you choose, you may brown or roast the bones/meaty bones first in a separate pan/pot if using a crockpot but this isn’t a necessary step. I don’t normally do it because it saves time/dishes not to and the purpose is just for more flavor which I don’t find necessary in this recipe. If you choose to, brown them in bacon fat or coconut oil before putting them into the water in the next step.
  • Place all ingredients in a 6 quart crockpot and set the heat to HIGH.
  • Bring the stock to a boil, then reduce the heat setting to LOW.
  • Allow the stock to cook for a minimim of 8 hours and up to 24 hours. The longer it cooks the better!
  • Turn off the crockpot and allow the stock to cool.
  • Strain the stock through a fine mesh metal strainer and throw away what you skim off.
  • Place the cooled stock into glass jars for storage in the fridge (for up to a few days) or freezer for later use.
You can use stock to drink any time of day or before a meal or as the base for soups, stews and in any recipe that calls for it!


Use any other kind of animal bones you like, chicken especially will take less time due to smaller pieces.
Add chopped veggies like carrots, celery and onions for more flavor or variety.
A crockpot makes this recipe super-simple, but you can also use a large stock pot (hence the name) or an enameled cast-iron dutch oven type of pot.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Margarine, Regulation and Conventional Wisdom


Margarine has an interesting history: first it was seen as a boon to the masses, and a frightening competitor to the dairy farmers, then it turned into a heart-healthy alternative to butter and lard, and now seems to be going losing its credibility in the mainstream. Even my mother, a stalwart follower of conventional wisdom, has stopped buying margarine, even if she still buys skim milk.

Offering prizes is an awesome way to solve problems. Margarine came about because Napoleon III offered a prize for a cheap butter substitute, won by a guy with an unusual first name, Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès Okay, nowadays we know it is vile, unhealthy stuff, but it was a neat solution. And let's face it, no one, from peasant to royalty actually prefers the taste of margarine to the creamy goodness of real butter.

An interesting aspect in the history of margarine is all the government interference on behalf of this unctuous substance. To quote from Wikipedia:

By the start of the 20th century, eight out of ten Americans could not buy yellow margarine, and those that could had to pay a hefty tax on it. Bootleg colored margarine became common, and manufacturers began to supply food-coloring capsules so that the consumer could knead the yellow color into margarine before serving it. Nevertheless, the regulations and taxes had a significant effect: the 1902 restrictions on margarine color, for example, cut annual U.S. consumption from 120,000,000 to 48,000,000 pounds (54,000 to 22,000 t).

Of course, with the spread of the lipid hypothesis margarine, despite its inferior flavor, came into puritan vogue. And it still seems to be riding this crest of madness.

Patented to improve cholesterol ratio? I'm pretty sure that in 50 years time, this will seem as ridiculous as this:

Both claims are technically correct. Doctors preferring to smoke Camels doesn't strictly mean they are healthy and neither does obtaining a patent to supposedly improve cholesterol ratio, although I think the latter claim is slightly more nefarious.