Where it all begins…Mitochondria

  

This is going to be a heavy post. It will require paying attention. It might be confusing. If you make it to the last paragraph you’ll learn how to work out in a way that will supercharge your physical power in almost every aspect of your life. 

There is so much crap. On the web…in magazines…in books. You have no good way to to figure out the good information from the bad, the legitimate experts from that hucksters and charlatans. If you have very clear fitness goals like I want to body build or I want to run the NYC marathon it’s all actually pretty simple. You don’t need to know that much. You don’t need to understand that much. You can easily find workout programs online to build you up or get you moving mile after mile. Those sites and programs will likely even tell you how to eat, what to eat, how much to eat. And you’ll get to wherever you want to get…up to a point. You’ll be able to complete a marathon, but probably won’t get skinny, or finish it in an impressive time. You’ll be able to pack on muscle, building strength and size in your quadroceps and pecs and lats and deltoids. Up to a point. You probably won’t get ripped. Or as big and strong as you hoped.

You’ll either settle for what you get in that first year and plug away trying futilely to maintain your early improvements or you’ll gradually lose motivation and quit. Or you can keep reading. Learn what’s happening to you, deep drilling into the chemistry of life. And along the way, you may even learn how to spot bullshit when you see and hear it.
MitochondriaThink back to your high school or college biology. I know, most of us tried our best to forget this stuff as soon as the tests were over, but this is kind of important. If you want to give yourself a headache click on the word for an in depth scientific description of what it is and what it does. But I’ll keep it much simpler and specific to its role in exercise.

Mitochondria is a part of almost all human cells. It is where cellular energy is made. It is where ATP-PC (adenosine triphosphate – phosphocreatine ) is synthesized. There are many mitochondria in the cells where mitochondria are present; up to 2000 mitochondria in every heart cell! And mitochondria can replicate. The more mitochondria present in a cell, the more ATP energy that cell can create. And mitochondria replication occurs as a result of regular intense exercise, and most commonly as a result of intense aerobic exercise  or extreme high intensity anaerobic training. This is the true fuel of life and movement and human power. Everything you do is, ultimately, dependent on ATP, and almost every cell in your body is designed to synthesize this stuff for you to use. In terms of stored human energy, it is the high octane super charged turbo injected rocket fuel of the human body. When confronted with a fight of flight life threatening situation, ATP is what’s gonna get you thru whichever choice you make. It is the first source of energy your body will tap into for any physical activity, and part of a grand conveyor belt of energy that your body utilizes to keep your heart beating, your lungs breathing, your brain thinking, and your muscles moving.

Roughly speaking, our body’s energy systems flow like this: ATP-glycogen (muscle & liver)-Body Fat. This is referred to as the ATP-PC/Glycolitic/Oxidative (or Aerobic) systems (http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/the-three-metabolic-energy-systems).  

   
The human body can tap into other sources of energy in emergencies, most notably proteins (muscle tissue) and calcium (bone mass), but this is always undesirable unless you’re at risk of starvation. This can occur in extreme endurance athletes like ultra distance runners and cyclists who log hundreds of miles a week in training. It’s also why sports nutritionists recommend marathon runners, iron men competitors, and their even more extreme ultra brethren consume the highest amounts of protein; on par with power lifters, body builders, and strength athletes; some experts claiming that  2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is needed to help protect their bodies from the muscle wasting effects of their activities. Keep in mind, that athletic activities at these extremes are not about enhancing health. These are tests of the human condition, and pushing to these limits repeatedly almost always come with long term, physically debilitating, consequences. Yes, there are examples of individuals who can perform at the extremes almost to the day they die. Do not bet you are one of those. You will likely lose and finding out if you are a member of that exclusive 1% of the top 1% physically is probably not worth it to you. If it were, you wouldn’t be reading this and would be ignoring everyone else’s advice, regardless. 

Body builders and Power Lifters like to imagine they need the most protein, but that scrawny marathon runner who runs 10-20 miles every day needs practically as much. Even the somewhat conservative nutritional dietary establishment supports large amounts of protein for this reason: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Another interesting fact about mitochondria is that they can multiply through fission. This is both good and bad, in a way. Give yourself another headache and click on this, and pay attention to the third paragraph for the bad news. In a nutshell, as mitochondria reproduce through fission, the risk of genetic mutations in new cells goes up and causing the formation of free radicals (some evidence suggests free radicals are bad, as I’m sure you’ve heard, though the science is actually quite sketchy in reality). The good news is that the more mitochondria your body possess, the more ATP-CP you have available, and the more efficiently your body replenished depleted stores of ATP-CP. More mitochondria mean you can ultimately train longer, harder, and more frequently.

So now we come to my opinions. If you’re under 60 years old and your worried about free radicals possibly causing cancer you are being stupid, thru no fault of your own. The media has sent you so many confusing and contradictory messages it’s largely impossible to discern good information from bad. For instance, you probably believe there is an epidemic of Cancer and cardiovascular (heart) disease in the USA. But you’re wrong. There are no such epidemics. If there were an epidemic of cancer (really cancers since there are thousands of completely different kinds of cancers unrelated to any other except for one basic characteristic they all share: harmful cellular multiplication), we would see young people dying by the hundreds of thousands every year of this or that cancer. If heart disease were an epidemic we’d be seeing 12-30 years old dying by the hundreds of thousands every year of heart disease. We do not see this.  What we have an epidemic of is old people! People living into their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and beyond is the epidemic, and something will, eventually, kill us all. Medical science, good nutrition, and basic hygiene, are great at extending our lifespans, but the longer we live the greater the probability that something will go wrong mechanically or on a cellular level.  That’s, unironically, life. So, do you wanna grow old like this:


Or spend your last years living in this like that:


It’s an easy choice for me. More mitochondria please!!!!

Food is not the enemy

It’s been awhile, I know. Not the best way to grow a blog or a business, but even the best of us can get into funks and I’m far from the best. The past is the past, so let’s move on.

Food is energy and life. It is not the enemy. Sugar is good. Fat is good. Even saturated fat is good. Protein is good. Even protein from red meat is good. Eating meat is good. Not eating meat is conditionally good, but much more complicated and some people simply cannot live healthily on a vegan diet. For the moment I’m not concerned with ethics. I’m not concerned with sustainability. Those issues are beyond the scope of this piece.

Food is not the enemy…You are. You want to behave like a child and eat and drink without thinking about the consequences. You want to consume all the junk foods and dessert foods you want; that your parents wouldn’t let you have before dinner; and you want to eat as much as you want because you’re an adult now and no one can tell you what to do.

Now your fat. You have high blood pressure and diabetes and can’t walk up a flight of stairs without getting out of breath or needing to rest half way up. You’ve crippled yourself. It’s your fault. Not McDonald’s fault. Not Coca Cola’s fault. Not Nabisco or Entenmann’s fault. Yours. Yes the media puts out a lot of confusing messages; this or that food or calorie source is bad or good for you, and the pharmaceutical companies are always looking for a new marketing gimmick that our medical community is ill equipped to understand or combat. Your doctor is not a medical researcher. They are told what medicines to use to treat whatever conditions, and they are even told what conditions they are supposed to treat. That’s how a woman’s monthly cycle; the most natural experience a human female can have; gets turned into a treatable medical condition. It’s why we have viagra. Old man can’t get an erection? Is it possible he’s actually just to damn old? This is fundamental biology. So’s eating and drinking. Fundamental. Biology.

Eat too much and you gain weight. Lift heavy weights and eat too much and you gain muscle weight. Eat too much and sit on the couch you gain fat weight. Eat too much and run 10-15 miles/day every day and…well…you can’t really eat too much if you’re running 10-15 miles a day every day. 

As far as weight management is concerned, a calorie is a calorie. Forget the media. Forget what passes as common knowledge. A calorie is a calorie and if you eat too many of them you will gain weight. If you eat too few you will lose weight. Eat way too few and you will also lose a lot of energy which can have a negative effect on your ability to exercise effectively. Exercise less, or less effectively, and the amount of calories you can eat without gaining unwanted weight goes down. 

Sugar is not bad. Consuming sugary snacks and drinks sitting on the couch for 4 hours is terrible. Fat, any fat, is not bad. Consuming lots of fatty foods; regardless of whether they are saturated or unsaturated or whatever other terms the media and medical establishment applies to them (linoleic, oleic blah blah) while sitting on the couch for 4 hours is bad. Animal based proteins are not bad. As a matter of fact, they are superior. But just eating lots of protein while sitting on the couch for 4 hours is terrible.

Sitting on the couch for 4 hours is not bad. Watch a good movie, cuddling with a loved one, spouse, lover, dog or cat, is wonderful and de-stressing. Just don’t shovel calories into your mouth like a black hole devouring a solar system.

Use your common sense. Accept the consequences of your own decisions. Wake the fuck up and pay attention to yourself. If you catch yourself  in the middle of an unconscious eating and drinking frenzy, stop it. The more you practice stopping, the better you’ll get at stoping until you never unconsciously start. 

This actually works in all aspects of life, not just with food and exercise. No ones perfect. And anyone who knows me personally knows I suck at it in almost every way. Except with food and exercise. And if you see me, you know it works.

Good luck.

Training with Intent

INTENT. 1 a : the act or fact of intending : purpose; b : the state of mind with which an act is done

When you go to the gym and exercise/train, what is your intent? That is, what do you intend to accomplish? Do you even think about it, or do you just go to the gym and “do a bunch of stuff” and hope for the best? If so, have you thought about what you’re actually hoping for?

It’s shocking how many people in the gym never think about any of this. Working out without intent is akin to being given a destination to a town somewhere in North America that you never heard of, and told to find your way there without using a road map, gps, or any other device more complicated than asking random people for directions. Good luck finding your way. You might, but it’s not likely.

Intent can be very personal if you actually have any, but I’m going to try to break it up into a few categories; some specific and some necessarily broad and vague, in alphabetical order since importance is an individual decision:

1: Anaerobic- body building/body shaping
2: Aerobic/anaerobic-weigh loss/weight management
3: Aerobic/anaerobic-cardiovascular health
4: Aerobic-Athletic endurance performance
5: Anaerobic-Athletic performance for strength and power
6: Aerobic/Anaerobic-sports specific performance
7: Anaerobic-anti aging
8: Aerobic/Anaerobic-Health
9: Entertainment
10:Social

Once you’ve chosen the intention of your exercise, you have the opportunity to make an informed choice about what kind of exercises to engage in. Want to train for the next NYC marathon?  Do you want to just finish, or are you trying to see how fast you can finish? #’s 2,3,4,6 apply to you for sure, #’s 9 and 10 might if performance isn’t an issue. Engaging in exercises that adhere to #’s 1,5,7 could prove very counter productive to your immediate goals.

In the coming weeks I’ll touch on training methodologies to best carry out each of the above categories.

Milk?

Milk is bad for you. You must stop consuming all dairy products immediately. It will destroy your health, your GI tract, your immune system, yada yada yada. I mean it! Are you on board?

No. I don’t mean it at freaking all.

You’ve heard these arguments before, but they don’t hold up to scientific scrutiny. Follow the statements to the research and you find one or a few small sample studies conducted under dubious conditions that themselves are often difficult to verify having ever actually taken place. As opposed to the 10’s of thousands of studies showing milk to be healthy, and safe fo large segments of the human population. So where does all this dairy hate come from?

Like the hate for sugar, salt, gluten, and until recently, eggs, much of the hate stems from misapplied causality. Many people are, in fact, lactose intolerant, which affects about half the world population upon reaching adulthood. This does cause great discomfort because the milk sugars (lactose) cannot be properly digested by certain individuals, causing “gastric disturbance”; ie bloating, flatulence, diarrhea, etc. if you suffer these effects when consuming dairy products, it is easy to conclude that dairy is unhealthy. Proponents of this misapplied causality like to use instant logic to bolster their claim by pointing out that no other species on planet earth consumes milk into adulthood, and no other species consumes milk from another species, therefore it is self evident that cow/goat/other milks should not be consumed at all. Logical. Right?

Wrong. First, never consume any food that causes you gastric disturbance if you can help it. For me, that’s broccoli. If it causes gastric problems, that means your body cannot properly digest it, and that further means whatever nutrients that consumable food source contains is not being effectively absorbed by your body anyway, so the calories are empty and wasted. Should I conclude that broccoli is unhealthy for the entire human race? After all, I’m far from alone in my broccoli intolerance. Of course not. Broccoli is quite healthy for those that digest it properly. Just like gorillas eat leaves and other flora that would leave us dying of malnutrition, we need to select foods that work for us, thru trial and error.

What about the lessons from nature, proving that we shouldn’t consume milk past childhood and never consume other animals milk regardless?

Also pure bullshit. First other animals can and often do ween animals from different species when the circumstances are right. Dogs have been known to ween kittens, and cats to ween puppies. Search YouTube and you can find cats that ween ducklings, and tigers getting weened by dogs. There are even types of ant that herd and milk certain kinds of worms, while protecting the worms from other predators. 

Well, okay, you might say, but not into adulthood! Every adult animal stops drinking milk at some point. It obviously becomes unnatural!

Let’s look at other “unnatural nutrition” and unnatural activities no other species engages in besides us:

  • Using fire to cook. All other animals eat all food raw in nature. 
  • Agriculture. No animal besides humans farm.
  • Locomotion. No animal uses any means of movement beyond what nature gave them except humans. We unnaturally invented the wheel. No other species on earth uses wheels. Then we domesticated horses, mules, oxen, etc to first pull carts carrying us and then to ride directly upon. We invented canoes and ships to let us travel across water. Submarines to let us travel under water. Then we invented bicycles and motor vehicles to travel across land faster, then airplanes to give us flight. No other animal has ever done any of these things. 

So, getting back to food, you want to eat your chicken raw? Your beef? Your eggs? Try eating raw potatoes or squash. No aboriginal society has ever not cooked their animal derived food since the discovery of fire. How did this stop being self evident? We are discoverers. Our brains allow us to figure out how to do things better. 

Milk? For me the answer is: Yes please, can I have some more? For you? Maybe, maybe not. But please avoid the blanket condemnations please.





natural?

And no human culture possessing access to either cow or goat milk hasn’t discovered many healthy uses for it. That’s what’s natural for humans to do, that no other animal can do; discover new things, to think outside the bounds of typical animal behavior.

Stop “demonizing” foods that may not be healthy for you but are just fine for others. Sugar is fine. Gluten is fine. Eggs are fine. Milk is fine. If there’s a problem, the problem is yours, and yours to deal with.

 

NYTimes: A Call for a Low-Carb Diet

While this is far from the final word on the subject of nutrition, it is an important one. We continue to fixate on finding a magic bullet cure all, instead of looking at nutrition in relation to lifestyle.

Science is constantly re-examining its own conclusions. That doesn’t mean individual scientists or practitioners don’t become wedded to preconceived ideas or conclusions based on the best evidence at the time, but other scientists and researchers will challenge and sometimes upend the most fervently held beliefs. That’s science. The low fat dogma needs to die, the low carb dogma needs to die, too. What we need is long term examinations of different diets based on lifestyle. Real athletic coaches and competent experienced trainers already have a pretty good understanding of some of this, even without the controlled studies. Put a competitive marathon runner on a low carb diet and we can predict the disaster awaiting their performance. Put a power lifter on a low protein diet and we can predict that failure too. Most people are neither. Most people are sedentary for 20 out of 24 hours every day, if you do the math. What’s best for them? Anything that keeps their weight low, since according to the Harvard School of Public Health, the single biggest risk factor for cardiovascular disease is not cholesterol or even arterial plaque, but simply being overweight. Being too fat is the single biggest risk factor, so instead if putting the cart before the horse, let’s tackle that problem up front. And then, let’s discuss why shopping for healthy food is so expensive.

Enjoy the article. Please read related posts on cholesterol and fat, and a good Wikipedia entry on ketosis here

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http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/02/health/low-carb-vs-low-fat-diet.html?smid=nytcore-iphone-share&smprod=nytcore-iphone

In a finding that upends long-held notions about a healthy diet, a major study shows that avoiding carbohydrates and eating more fat contributes to weight loss and fewer cardiovascular risks.

“We have art in order not to die from the truth.
—NIETZSCHE”

High impact exercise is good for you. Yes, it is.

A recent article in the health section of the NYTimes highlights how important high impact exercise can be for improving bone density. This goes hand in hand with the overwhelming evidence that weight bearing exercise can dramatically improve and restore, or at least minimize the loss, of bone density.

Th article goes on to point out how difficult applying these protocols are to the populations most at risk, since this is the same population most likely to sustain injuries from these very activities. Here’s the article, followed by my advice to older populations who want to safely follow the research in their personal workouts:

http://nyti.ms/1ceYdAi

If you are over 50 and have been warned about your bone density, start a traditional strength training/ muscular conditioning program. Minimize cardiovascular exercise to the minimum necessary to insure heart health, because too much aerobic training can reduce your body’s ability to build muscle.
Train 3 times per week, doing two or three exercises per body part for the legs and torso, and two exercises for biceps and triceps. Each exercise should consist of three sets of 10-15 reps each set, for 2 weeks. Each week thereafter attempt to increase weights incrementally; don’t over-expose yourself to injury; as long as you can complete a minimum of 6 reps. For the next three months your goal is to train 3 times per week on non consecutive days with weights that pose a significant challenge between 6-8 reps each set.
After the 3rd month, begin adding some small jumping movements into your routine, in small doses (box jumps, jump ropes, etc.) gradually adding more jumps over a period of months, not days or weeks, and always on non consecutive days!

If you experience joint pain during or after any session, take 3-5 days off before resuming any jumping, and start your jumping type activities over from the beginning.

There you go.

NYTimes: Experts Reshape Treatment Guide for Cholesterol

I’ve been arguing with my doctors for years that the cholesterol guidelines were either arbitrary or handwritten by the pharmaceutical industry to ensure as many people as possible were given prescriptions.

The relationship between cholesterol and heart disease is tenuous, and highly anecdotal, and I’ve watched the “acceptable” number continuously drop over the years, all while other criteria were constantly added to the mix of excuses to add more people to the prescription drug rolls. Now we’re told the number isn’t so important after all.

We need a truly independent FDA that funds it’s own health research and then commissions big pharma after the fact. Read on.

http://nyti.ms/17sUo88

The guidelines from the nation’s leading heart organizations will fundamentally reshape the use of cholesterol-lowering statin medicines now prescribed for a quarter of Americans over 40.

“ Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see. ” – Arthur Schopenhauer

NYTimes: Herbal Supplements Are Often Not What They Seem

Nutritional supplements can be a tremendous aid for a variety of people seeking better health, weight loss, muscle gains, and performance enhancement during athletic activities. But the reality is disconcerting. I can fill a gel cap full of powdered ragweed and call it purified echinacea and you’d have no way to know. There is no regulations. There is no “governing body” ensuring quality control, and your congress stripped the FDA of the power to regulate even the validity of the ingredients decades ago.

Read. And be careful.

http://nyti.ms/1bQ9QbC

A study using DNA testing offers perhaps the most credible evidence to date of adulteration, contamination and mislabeling in the herbal supplement industry.

“ Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see. ” – Arthur Schopenhauer

NYTimes: In Struggle With Weight, Taft Used a Modern Diet

Such a compellingly modern story from the American past.

http://nyti.ms/1gfKJFX

William Howard Taft, the United States’ heaviest president, used a weight-loss program that researchers have found to be startlingly contemporary.

“ Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see. ” – Arthur Schopenhauer

Skim Milk Is Healthier Than Whole Milk, Right? Maybe Not | TIME.com

There is so much misinformation and mythology passed along as true simply because it’s been repeated by so many for so long. But nobody checks the sources, and when someone finally does check it’s always the same result: conventional wisdom leads to moronic decisions.

http://healthland.time.com/2013/07/03/skim-milk-is-healthier-than-whole-milk-right-maybe-not/

“ Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see. ” – Arthur Schopenhauer