AP Mobile: Naturally Grown: An alternative label to organic

A story from AP Mobile:

Naturally Grown: An alternative label to organic

thumbnailSCHAGHTICOKE, N.Y. (AP) – Justine and Brian Denison say they adhere to all the growing practices required for organic certification, yet if they label their beans and tomatoes “organic” at the farmer’s market, they could face federal charges and $20,000 or more in fines.

Because the Denisons chose not to seek organic certification by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Denison Farm, which has…

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Gluten-Free for the Gluten Sensitive – NYTimes.com

To eat, or not to eat (gluten), that is the question.
The article linked at the bottom is talking about wheat products. All wheat based products contain gluten, and depending on your health sources you should avoid it at all costs or not worry about it at all.

This NY Times piece is quite balanced and discusses the issue from each side of the divide, as well as from the point of view of real medical scientists. Keep in mind, that according to this story, the most recent study; conducted with scientific double blind placebo controls, had a sample size of 34 people. 34? Not 34,000. Not 3,400. Not 340. 34. Well, so much for conducting a definitive study.

I’ve personally never seen a reason to cut wheat glutens from my diet. Consuming wheat has never appeared to have a negative impact on my past performance as a pro racquetball player, a body builder, a runner, or a cyclist. I’ve never had a problem with energy levels or bloating. Those who are most vociferously aligned against wheat gluten seem to take it on faith and dubious pseudo science, or have an actual diagnosed case of celiac disease. The amorphous new “symptoms” newly medically recognized as “gluten sensitivity” seems to be growing, but whether its growth is legitimate or mass hysteria based on marketing is still up in the air. Many body builders and other physique minded people have been claiming for 2 decades that glutens cause bloating and negatively affect abdominal appearance.

Prior to the 1990’s, NO ONE seemed to have a problem with glutens (outside sufferers of celiac disease) and physique athletes didn’t seem to have a problem developing the sculpted bodies made of dreams. Arnold Schwarzenegger himself can be seen wolfing down an entire pizza pie immediately after winning his final Mr. Olympia title in the documentary Pumping Iron, and amid all the conversations the body builders have about nutrition in the film, no one mentions gluten sensitivity.

On the other hand, according to this article, the gluten content of breads has increased dramatically in recent years, and perhaps more people’s systems are unable to cope. It certainly deserves way more comprehensive study.

Do any of my readers have a gluten sensitivity related story to share?

Amino acid supplements and high intensity strength training

The critical role of proper nutrition with intense exercise use regimens cannot be overstated. The fitness industry is rife with myths, misinformation, faith based beliefs, inconclusive studies, and real hard science.

The role of protein supplements for strength and muscle building adherents is very well researched, and the abstract linked below published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning is further evidence that if your exercise routine places you in the above categories, you should supplement.

The human body is a giant chemical factory. Whatever you consume is broken down into its simplest chemical components before it can be absorbed and used by the body. All carbs are turned into simple glucose before they can be used. Pasta, bread, rice, apples, and broccoli, are all turned into glucose, and whatever micronutrients they contain (vitamins and minerals) before they are usable by our bodies.

Likewise, proteins are broken down, but instead of glucose, proteins are turned into amino acids (plus whatever micronutrients are present) before they can be absorbed. Some proteins can be broken down more quickly than others, just like some carbs can be broken down faster than others. Sugar is so close to glucose its almost instantly absorbed. Whey is so close to digestible form it to is rapidly broken down into amino acids and absorbed. Taking amino acids directly that the absorption, like sugar, is almost instant, allowing for precise timing for maximum benefit. With this introduction by me, read the science:

http://mobile.journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/_layouts/oaks.journals.mobile/abstractviewer.aspx?year=2010&issue=04000&article=00033

NSCA

What is the best possible protein supplement, who needs to take it, and when?

Any athlete, or those training like one, aught to ingest extra protein about 30 minutes after training, and it should come from whole foods, in a low fat, ratio of 4/1 carbohydrate/protein. The perfect post exercise recovery drink as it turns out is most likely low fat chocolate milk!

Cows milk contains 8 grams of protein and 12 grams of sugar (in the form of lactose), And 8 grams of fat, per serving (1 cup). The protein is a mix of two main types: whey protein (20%) and casein protein (80%). The chocolate syrup provides another 15-20 grams of sugar. I’m going to discuss the difference in those proteins, then get into carbohydrates, and nutrition in general.

As the article states, whey is a “fast acting” protein that is quickly absorbed into the blood stream for use by the body, while casein takes a little longer to be digested and used. Post exercise, this naturally occurring combo in milk provides the best option for immediate and overnight recovery.

But how much? All protein, when separated from its original source regardless of its chemical composition, works out to 4 calories per gram. Fish protein=4 calories. Steak protein=4 calories. Milk protein and peanut butter protein and soy protein; all 4 calories/gram. Depending on what you do in terms of exercise, an adult diet should consist of 20-30% protein.
An adult sedentary male should eat around 2000 calories a day to maintain a healthy weight. 20% protein would = 400 calories of protein; or 100 grams of protein per day. That 400 calories leaves this imaginary person with 1600 calories left to eat. 1600 calories that must come from carbohydrates and fat, the only other sources of calories a person can eat.

A carbohydrate is anything that can be turned into glucose easily during digestion. This includes sugar (in all its forms from refined table sugar to honey, agave, molasses, maple syrup, etc) to grains, fruits, and vegetables. Now, like protein, some sugars are fast acting (digest rapidly) and others less fast acting (digest relatively slower). This is not a value judgement on good and bad anymore than it was with the proteins. It’s a question of proper timing on your part. Fast digesting sugars help energize the body in the moment, and can aid in recovery immediately after exercise, while slower digesting carbs can help the body recover quickly, stay active over the long day, and continue to recover during sleep. That’s why chocolate milk is such a good post exercise recovery drink. The sugars and whey help with immediate recovery while the casein and the (low) fat content help with the longer term recovery.

All carbs are 4 calories/gram when separated from their parent source. Carbs from sugar, carbs from lettuce. Carbs from yellow peppers, potatoes, or rice, are all 4 calories. And 40-60% of imaginary mans 2000 calories per day should come from carbohydrates. Because our mystery man wants to eat as low fat a diet as possible like most health conscious people (though not me), lets say 60% carbs out of
the remaining 1600 calories for the day. thats 960 calories or 240grams of carbs.
That means our sedentary male has consumed 1360 calories from protein and carbs. 640 calories to go! But where can we get them?

Fat. Fat is a dense energy source containing 9 calories/gram. A calorie is simply a measure of energy, so 1 gram of fat has a drop more than twice the calorie (energy) of either protein or carbohydrate. All fats are comparatively slow to digest, and can aid in long term recovery (overnight) if properly timed during a day with exercise. You realize that there are “good” fats like fish and olive oil (unsaturated) and “bad” fats like those found in red meat (saturated). But regardless of whether a fat is “good” or “bad” (a different argument and blog post on that controversy) they are all 9 calories/gram. That means the remainder of this persons calories must come from fat; 71 grams of fat for the day to be precise; to get to a healthy calorie total. This person might tweak the carbs and protein up a bit to cut down the fat content, but either way, it’s a 2 for 1 exchange. He must add two grams of either protein or carbs for every 1 of fat he cuts. And there are definite downsides to that, as well.

There are nutritional exceptions: water and alcoholic drinks. Water has 0 calories, while alcoholic drinks are like super carbs, and possess 7 calories per gram (a chemical change that takes place during fermentation). So every serving of beer, wine, brandy, or scotch requires a reduction of calories. Two servings of carbs or proteins for every 1 serving of alcohol, or about an even exchange of fat for alcohol. The problem with alcohol is the more you drink, the less you’ll pay attention to making smart eating decisions!

The link below talks about protein supplements for athletic recovery, but lacks the context for the layman that I’ve sought to provide above.

http://nsca.com/Education/E-learning/Whey-Protein-vs–Casein-Protein-and-Optimal-Recovery/

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

Why I eat Organic

Sometimes, I truly hate the New York Times. Their tag line runs the heading: “All the news that’s fit to print”. I wonder how many people today know the source of that tag line. I sometimes wonder if the editors remember the source of it. Let me tell you, in case you don’t know. Back in the 1890’s competing newspapers were more concerned with sensational headlines to move sales, and they weren’t above making stories up, or blowing small stories up into national epics by exaggerating it out of all proportion (think about news organizations that continue to publish stories about “birthers”).

The Times would stand above all that and it’s reputation for integrity has allowed it to become the 3rd most widely read newspaper in the nation, and the only local newspaper with a national following (USA Today and the Wall Street Journal are 1 & 2, respectively) and garner 108 Pulitzer prizes in its history; more than any other news organization in the world; an award created by a rival newspaperman, but judged by a panel of national writers.

Unfortunately, this “newspaper of record” has experienced steadily declining readership (as have all print newspapers), and feels the need to print things, I’m guessing, that create a bit of sexy controversy.

The NYT recently published the results of a Stanford university study that cast doubt on the value of organic fruits and vegetables compared to non organic. They compared three vitamins; A, C, and E, and concluded their was no statistical difference in the content. The Times offered the conclusions of this one study; with out of context quotes by the lead researcher; and no other analysis. There was no discussion of method, other studies, why only those three micronutrients were compared, or any of the other reasons someone might choose to eat organic, that have nothing to do with nutrition yet still profoundly affect health.

To be fair, the NY Times did follow up on their “Well” blog and did a much better job of going into the details and nitty-gritty (click this sentence).

How many of you actually knew that? My point is, if the story didn’t merit a full examination in the print edition, it was not worth publishing at all. It merely confuses and muddies the thoughts of a public already too overwhelmed with information overload to follow-up with further investigation on their own,  and that’s why they purchase The New York Times in the first place!

Here’s my take.Some people eat organic foods under the erroneous belief that they automatically are getting more nutritious products. There are dozens of factors affecting the micronutrients content of produce that it’s very difficult to compare. The soil it was grown in, the water used to irrigate, and the ripeness when it was picked all affect the nutritional content. So if I can’t be sure my organic produce is more nutritious, why spend the extra money? Well, I know what won’t be in my organic produce: poison. Pesticides are poison. Skull and crossbones poison. Dont believe me? Go to your local home and garden section at Home Depot and look at the warning labels on any pesticide you find. Poison. Plain and simple. Imagine seeing this warning on produce at the market: “this produce has been repeatedly sprayed with deadly poisons”. See what they tell you to do in case of accidental ingestion of pesticides.

Multiple studies have shown that Pregnant women who consume the most pesticide laden diets give birth to children whose elementary school I.Q.’s are 4-7% lower than average. Childhood cancers, autism, learning deficiencies of all kinds, MS, MD, and a host of other once rare disorders are becoming all too common in our society, and the constant ingestion of *poison* would seem to be a logical place to start looking. But instead, the popular myth that childhood vaccinations, which save 100’s of millions of lives every year ( there is actually a historical record, you know), is somehow the cause of every childhood disease and disability, while the **poisons they ingest daily** somehow remain free of blame or even suspicion.

When “mad cow” disease swept Europe, livestock farmers who used organic feed were unaffected. No cattle on organic farms had to be destroyed, while upwards of 80% of all the other livestock around the continent had to be destroyed because of the infection.  Read this if you want to learn more on this:  Click

Other reasons I eat organic is because organically grown produce doesn’t last as long. It tends to be locally grown and locally sold. In other words, I’m supporting the local economy; the farmer next door, who’s making an extra effort, at considerable expense in time and money. And by the way, the local can buy personal training sessions with me if they are earning a good living, the farmer in Idaho can’t support me at all.

There are concerns with organic farming when looking beyond the local and personal level.  Repeated studies have shown that organic farming techniques produce significantly lower crop yields compared to modern industrial farming.  With 7 Billion people in the world, is it possible to feed everyone organically?  I have my doubts, and I’m not about to start saying we should allow 50% of the world population to die of starvation.  Starving today or possibly getting a deadly cancer in 20 years isn’t a hard choice to make if you’re the starving person or the parent of a starving child.  Click this sentence to be taken to a great article in Scientific America.  My advice, on a personal level, is anyone who can afford to eat organically should do so, as much as possible, without becoming sanctimonious.  Then we should be encouraging agricultural scientific research to produce safer, better approaches for industrial farming to make food, and the environment, safer.

C’mon NYT’s. We have so few reliable media sources left. You charge 100% more per edition than any other local daily. If we buy your paper at that price, don’t we deserve the whole story and all the details, too.

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

The Intermediate Exercise Enthusiast

The intermediate exerciser has learned at least 3 of the 5 important things in order to progress to this level, and it shows. Most serious health club exercisers fall into this category, though my personal observation is that no more than 20% of gym members ever make it to this level, and instead remain novices despite the amount of time they spend in the gym going from one activity to another. The Intermediate Exerciserhas lost significant body fat and has gained some real muscle, either in the form of size and bulk or muscular definition, or both, depending on their goal. The 5 critical things that the intermediate exerciser understands and conforms to:

  1. Consistency
  2. Intensity
  3. broad knowledge of muscle function
  4. Nutrition
  5. Rest

Lets take these 5 in order.

  1. Consistency is just what it says. You are committed to your workouts and have a schedule you will not deviate from when possible. You have set aside a certain number of days; typically 4-6; and a set amount of time; typically 60-90 minutes; and you train. This isn’t something you try to fit into your day. It is one of your highest priorities that you work the rest of your day around. When doing cardiovascular/aerobic training you have a protocol you follow and stick to it. When weight lifting, you typically follow some version of a split routine for your body parts, the classic example being Chest/Shoulders/Triceps on day one, Back/Biceps on day two, and Lower Body on day three. Then repeating that pattern for a six-day workout with one day off for complete rest. You will stick to this pattern till doomsday comes or until you change goals. Additionally, you understand the importance of your exercise routine; variation is not your friend in this regard. You need to stick to a routine that you can make comparative assessments on. That means the same, or extremely similar, exercises for each body part every time you train that body part. If your goal is to be the best marathon runner you can be, you don’t spend hours a week ridding a lifecycle or taking spin classes; you run miles, period! If your goal is to improve your overall muscular strength, or build muscle, you pick your exercises and do them repetitively for months on end, the only variables being that you will continuously push yourself to lift heavier weights every week or even every workout!
  2. Intensity is all about understanding your goal. It is the most important factor that will determine whether you actually achieve any measurable progress, whether it’s increasing you distance on a bike ride, speed in the 400 meter run, or your 1 rep max doing an olympic bench press. Trying to lose weight requires a certain intensity. Building muscle requires its own level of intensity. Improving athletic performance…has its own special intensity demands. Not understanding what intensity you need to achieve will undermine everything you try to accomplish. Too much high intensity training will undermine a marathoner, and too little will be futile for the sprinter or weight lifter. If you haven’t read my posts on intensity, or want to refresh your memory click here and here.
  3. Broad knowledge of muscle function means you really understand how all the major skeletal muscles move and work, and know a pretty broad range of exercises for each of them. It’s like having a large vocabulary of exercises to draw on. Since you also understand how the muscles work, it allows you to choose complimentary exercises when doing multiples per body part. You understand why you might want to do pec flys after olympic bench press, not before, or why doing lat pull downs after pull ups might be redundant, so doing dumbbell rows is the better choice to follow-up with in most cases. (Yes, there might be a valid reason to do both pull ups and lat pull downs in the same workout, but that wouldn’t be the most common combo or even the norm). You understand which exercises will enhance your athletic activities or hinder them, and train accordingly.
  4. Nutrition is simply the understanding that what you consume is both the fuel that moves you and the building blocks of what your body is made of. The cliche´ “You are what you eat” is precisely true. Trying to build a powerful body on a diet of McDonald’s, Pepsi, and Twizzlers, is akin to building a battleship hull out of corroded iron. If you can’t get serious about what you eat, get out of the gym. I follow the 80/20 rule. I eat extremely healthful 80% of the time, and don’t worry about the other 20%. The less fit you start, the more dedicated yo have to be. If you’re very overweight and extremely unfit, you need to follow the 100% rule; all healthy, all the time. Period. Don’t cry about fairness, it won’t help. As a fuel, the foods you eat (solid and liquid) all have their specific purposes, and understanding them is critical. Even the most wholesome foods misused can have a counterproductive effect if not properly applied. Every serious endurance athlete understands the importance of carb loading; where you consume vast quantities of mostly simple carbohydrates like pasta the day before the big race. Serious marathoners are extremely lean, carrying minimal body fat (reserve energy stores) to breakdown as the miles accumulate into the high teens. So they manipulate their diets to maximize the available energy on race day. If you don’t run over 100 miles a week, don’t eat like a marathoner, cause you’ll get fatter than a walrus in a well stocked zoo. 20 years ago everyone said eat all the pasta you want because that’s what skinny marathoners eat, now we say avoid all pasta! Both are stupid statements. The question is: how will eating all this pasta help me in my life’s pursuits! If it won’t, don’t eat so much. The strength athlete eats large amounts of protein because protein is what muscles are made of, and when trying to build bigger and stronger muscles your body needs these proteins to build your muscles into larger ones. If you don’t consume enough protein, your muscles simply cannot get bigger or stronger. It’s not magic. If you’re lifting weights with the correct intensity and not able to get stronger or bigger, it’s a pretty good bet you’re not eating enough protein. The most misunderstood food constituent is fat. Fat is neither good or bad. It is a very dense energy source and a necessary nutrient for a whole host of metabolic processes. Fat isn’t the villain in America’s obesity epidemic; people are the enemy of themselves. When it comes to weight control, what matters at the end of the day is how many calories you ate compared to how many you burned. The average 30-year-old woman burns around 1500 calories per day just staying alive. If her diet consisted of 720 calories of fat (80 g of fat; 1 g = 9 cal) and 600 calories split evenly between protein (60 g; 4 cal/gram) and carbohydrate (60 g; 4 cal/gram) she would be following a successful weight loss program! In 20 days, she will have lost 1 lb. Not the fastest program, but if we replaced all those fat calories (720) with proteins and/or carbs, her weight loss would be exactly the same. Fat doesn’t make you fat…eating too many total calories makes you fat and you not understanding your food makes you fat. Now lets not get into a debate of whether eating so much fat in a day is healthy in other ways, because that’s missing the point I’m trying to make.
  5. Rest is so basic and obvious that it’s absurd how little attention avid gym goers give to it, but the intermediate exerciser understands that the end of the workout is only the end of the beginning of the exercise process. For the endurance enthusiast or the strength training enthusiast sleep is understood as the point in your day when all the hard work is actually transformed into results. The results of your training and proper nutrition can only be realized after a good nights sleep. While asleep your body makes all the cellular and physiological adaptations to your body in response to what you did that day. If you don’t get good sleep, your improvement can be slowed, stalled completely, or even reversed into a negative (over training syndrome), when instead of performance improvements you see lower energy levels, lower endurance, lower strength, and more frequent injuries. Imagine if NFL players were required to play 3 days a week, or if every MLB team were only allowed to have 1 pitcher who had to pitch every single game. That’s obviously ridiculous because these athletes have a hard time going thru a regular season injury free. In my hypothetical, they’d be lucky to last a month before being permanently impaired. To a lesser intensity, that’s exactly what the majority of gym goers are doing to themselves, going from class to class to class, three to five hours a day, 5, 6, 7 days a week. Ms. Intermediate understands that if she gauges her intensity correctly she will be done with her workout in 45-90 minutes (unless a marathoner or other ultra endurance athlete) and she will eat properly and get her 7-9 hours of sleep.

In conclusion, you must master and implement at least 3 of these factors in order to achieve any real results, and 4 of them to be able to move on to the next level. Think about what I’ve said. If you’ve been spinning your wheels in beginner land for more than 6 months, you need to implement the steps above to get to the next level. Good luck.

Can Athletes Perform Well on a Vegan Diet? – NYTimes.com

Nutrition is a touchy subject.  People are either oblivious to its importance or they take on an almost religious reverence towards whatever philosophy they believe in.  My own daughter was a 90% vegetarian, but was forced to add red meat into her diet because she developed dangerous vitamin deficiencies.  No one diet is going to be able to satisfy the optimal needs for the entire spectrum of human need.  Below is a link to a good NY Times article; a thoughtful discussion by respected clinical and sports nutritionists.   Enjoy

Can Athletes Perform Well on a Vegan Diet? – NYTimes.com.

and Ecstatic about eggs

After coffee, one of my favorite substances to ingest has to be eggs. In the 1980’s a lot of manipulative politics and biased interest conflicted science went into demonizing eggs over the fat and cholesterol content. Independent research a decade later confirmed, re-confirmed, and re re-confirmed that whole eggs are in fact very nutritious and positively healthy, because of the micronutrient profile inherent in the yoke, and the realization that blood cholesterol levels are not the primary cause of cardiovascular disease in otherwise healthy adults.

But old bad info dies hard, and negative info is way more powerful than positive info among humans. That’s why coffee continues to be demonized by so many in the health food world (while other natural herbs are universally lauded).

So here’s further evidence (albeit anecdotal) of how eggs affect you in a neutral, or positive way. Click this.