Thursday, November 30, 2006

Mens Health

A recent article by Adam Campbell, a writer for "Men's Health" magazine has created a great deal of noise in the blogoshere and elsewhere. As noted by Regina Wilshire, the ADA, is losing its credibiltiy, fast. "Men's Health" is a pretty mainstream amagazine, and not usually on the fore front of any nutrirional movement. Though it is published by Rodale who also publishes the South Beach Diet and associated books, the magazine is generally not considered a source for low carb information. In retrospect however, "Men's Health" has been about controlled carb eating for quite a while. I happen to have 2 different books from "Men's Health", "The Abs Diet" by David Zinczenko, and the "Testosterone Advantage Plan" by L. Schuler, A. Campbell, M. Mejia, and J. Volek. So I decided to took a fresh look at the diet information each of these books.

The TAP diet is a reduced carb, high protein (33,34,33 c-p-f) version of the Mediterranean diet. In a nut shell its the same diet I described in one of my earlier blogs, and probably where I got the idea from in the first place. Published back in 2002, I had not read the book in quite a while. So I read it again. While reading through the book this time, the one downfall I notice is that the info is sold as a short term "diet and exercise plan", not as a lifestyle. Advice on protein, eat lots; on Fat, get plenty, mostly from mono-unsaturated sources; on carbs, eat low GI and not too many. Advice on exercise, skip the cardio and lift weight. Solid advice - yes, but, designed to keep the reader comming back to buy the next book. Still, the information stands on its own, and for those not in need of a ketogenic diet, it will certainly lead to a reduced carb intake and a healthier diet than many currenlty eat. If you can overlook the 9 week thing, and convince yourself that this is the way your going to eat period, and couple it with any reasonable exercise plan, you are well on your way to an active healthy lifestyle.

Lifestyle is the key word for "The Abs Diet". While the marketing premise for the book is to get "6 pack Abs", the book sets about letting the reader know that not everyone will really get a 6 pack. Rather than focusing on specific amounts of any given macro-nutrient, the eating plan is based around "power foods" that have a high nutrient density, combined with adequate protien, and a moderate to low glycemic load. When I read and tried this plan last year, I didn't do well, but I also didn't do it correctly either. The first time through the book, I skimmed major sections like yea yea, just tell me what to eat. What I missed was the part about controlling the glycemic load of each meal, and your whole day. Unlike the TAP, this is presented as a permanent way of eating. So impressed was I after a second reading that I went out and got the The Abs Diet 6-Minute Meals for 6-Pack Abs . With a title like that how could I resist. The book isn't really about recipes, but food combinations, that meet our nutritional needs. The combinations are definately male oriented, though women may like them too. The whole package works when paired with any reasonable exercise plan. For those who are overweight and have not progressed into diabetes, this plan provides the ounce of prevention that will prevent the need for more drastic measures later. Advice on protein, eat some at every meal and snack, but keep it mostly lean; on fats, olive oil and nuts are your freind eat them every day; on carbs, eat the right ones focusing on nutritive value and glycemic load. Exercise advice, Circuit train and do Intervals.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Article on T-Nation

I'm not a citizen of T-Nation, and disagree with 80% of what is written there, but there are times when very smart people write articles that end up there. This is one of those articles. 27 Nutrition Facts

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Quiet Man

We had Thanksgiving dinner at our house this year, and a fine time was had by all. As part of our preparations for the big feast I purchased the South Beach Holiday cook book. After reading the recipe from Kaylins Kitchen about the Pear and sausage dressing, I was like ooh, maybe we should check this out. The dressing was a hit, though a few did comment on what seemed like an excess of celery vs bread. To further make our dinner Beach friendly, we used splenda in the sweet potato pudding and topped half of it with pecans and the splenda brown sugar substitute. The other half was topped with marshmallows. There would have been rioting if there were no marshmallows on the sweet potato pudding. I made whole wheat and rye sourdough bread, and used the barilla plus pasta in the Macaroni and cheese. While the cheese sauce was made with real cheese and whole milk, the barilla plus pasta added some protein and fiber. A huge crock pot full of green beans cooked with a ham hock, cranberry relish, Turkey, Ham, and of course pupmkin pie, rounded out the dinner. The wines for the day were a German Resiling by Dr. Loosen, and a California Pinot Noir by Ft Ross vineyards. Did I mention we didn't tell anybody that we had substituted the sugar with splenda, and used whole grains for the bread and pasta? Nobody complained or left hungry. In fact several were shocked, when asking for recipes, that they had eaten sugar free and reduced carb offerings. Of course, a couple were less than pleased that I would tamper with tradition. Others were more curious about the South Beach Diet as they thought it was a "bacon and bun-less cheeseburger" plan. My wife ended up going online and printing off a couple of copies of the basics of the plan and lending out our original SBD book. I'm not going to hold my breath that any of them will actually put the information into use long term, but the fact that they showed some interest and were willing to consider moving in that direction is a start. Sometimes a good example, and a gentle nudge works better than endless shouting and proselytizing.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Conspiracy Theory

What if it all has been a communist plot?
Parasites found to induce metabolic Syndrome
or maybe its the CIA? Hmmmm

Monday, November 20, 2006

Keto or not Keto, that is the question

I often marvel at the different responses people have to being in ketosis. For some it seems like a long awaited spiritual nirvana, for others its a living hell. My wife and I share this dichotomy. For her, being in ketosis leads to a general sense of well being and a slightly raised energy level. For me however, ketosis is not a happy place. Her placid serenes is offset by my paranoid depression. While she will easily drift into blissful slumber, I all but stop sleeping. The last time I attempted a ketogenic diet I became so weirded out that my wife went to the store, bought juice, and threatened me if I didn't drink it. I thought she was trying to kill me. But her insistence that it would be ok finally won me over and a few minutes later I felt much better. Now wether these effects are from ketosis, sleep depravation, or a combination there of, I can only hazard a guess. Anecdotes about the "Atkins Attitude" abound. Others cannot for the life of them understand how ketosis could be anything but a joy. For the most part now, I only reduce my carbs into the ketogenic range for a day or two at a time. I generally do this after some type of over indulgence, like say Thanksgiving. In a couple of days of very low carbs combined with some exercise, my system has cleared the excess carbs, and for me there is no further benefit at this time of restricting my carbs to such a low level. I understand the allure of the simple elegance of a ketogenic diet, and feel that for many people such a step is probably necessary to fix their metabolism. I also feel, based on my experiences, that there is a portion of the population that should rigorously avoid ketosis. There is however, only one way to find out which side of the divide you are on. My general observations about ketogenic diets; morbidly obese people generally benefit the most; Men who are over weight but not obese, generally benefit the least; Type 2 Diabetes can be controlled by reducing carbs without ketosis, but ketosis gets results quicker; and finally, the one that causes the most trouble, people on ketogenic diets will refuse to belive they are eating fewer calories even when confronted with the evidence. As with most things in life there is no one right answer for all people all of the time. If the was only one right answer, what would we talk about?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

And the Verdict Is

Ok, I'm am still unconvinced that Saturated fat is good for you. I am also unconvinced that saturated fat is bad for you. I have read so much about saturated fat that it makes my head hurt. In the beginning I, like many people, believed with out much question that SFA's were bad. I dismissed most people, especially on the Internet, as cranks who said otherwise. It was and is fairly well proven that SFA raise your cholesterol, and that was bad. Right? After all, back in my Nut-Pharm ( thats what we called nutrition and pharmacology in college) classes they told us cholesterol is bad. It was even on the exam. Well, then one of those events that occurs from time to time happened, and all of a sudden I had reason to question the validity of the whole cholesterol connection. What they neglected to tell me was that SFA raises both HDL and LDL, and it is the ratio of these two things, not the total number that was important. Despite all the hoopla, people with "normal" cholesterol get heart attacks too. In fact much to my surprise, about half of all heart attack sufferers have normal cholesterol prior to their first attack. The only real connection to Heart Attacks and cholesterol is after the fact. Once you've had a heart attack, reducing your cholesterol lowers your relative risk (vs absolute risk) of having a second incident. Logical Fallacy is about the best way to sum up the evidence against SFA in the case of causing CHD. But as any good philosopher would tell you, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. This became a guiding thought for me as I looked into other aspects of SFA metabolism. One of the studies I came across was KANWU. In this study, SFA was shown to decrease sensitivity to insulin, at least in healthy adults with total fat intake of less than 37% of calories. A number of other studies using a baseline diet of 45-55% carbs, have also shown that increasing SFA at the expense of either PUFA or MUFA decreased sensitivity to insulin. Enter the Ketogenic diet. A ketogenic diet can be well defined, were as the term "low carb" is a relative term subject to much interpretation. So when researchers refer to a ketogenic diet the meaning is clear. Under ketogenic metabolism, SFA exerted no nasty effects. No increase in inflammation, no increase in insulin, and pretty much was a solid metabolic citizen. In other news, certain SFA's have been shown to exert positive effects on our GI Tract, and improve hormonal tonus. So, for me the jury is still out. What is missing so far is evidence of the effect of saturated fat on people who eat a high protein, non-ketogenic reduced carb diet. We have a collection of data that shows that SFA and carb don't play nicely together, but no data that I am yet aware of that show the effect of SFA when carbs are reduced and protein is elevated. Maybe I need to get a meter and experiment on myself. It may turn out that SFA is neither good nor bad, or both good and bad depending on the metabolic context. In the mean time as I do not eat a ketogenic diet, I'll limit, but not eliminate, the SFA in my diet. After all, butter makes my veggies taste better.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

My TuTu

Most of the time I work out in my basement. I have a squat rack, treadmill, various bars, plates, dumb bells, and even a bowflex. I also have a membership to a commercial gym that cost me money every month, though I seldom use it. But having recently been automatically billed for our monthly membership, I decided the other day to go, and get my money's worth. Now my workouts are pretty basic, squats, dead lifts, over head press, rows, bench press, etc. With one or two hard sets of each. So on this particular day, I show up at the gym, present my membership card, and head to the locker room and change. Upon exiting the locker room I notice two reasonably attractive, younger (to me) females in the squat rack. My first thought " now aint that just too cute". So I headed off to do a few dead lifts. I try to avoid chatting with the younger female clientele as It always looks kinda creepy when I see other guys my age talking to girls of their age. So while doing my warm up set of dead lifts I mentally rearrange my workout, then get to the work set. One good set of deads, then I go to see what the young lady's are up to and then I notice it. They are in the squat racks, using this bar thing that you can't add weight to doing these strange plie` looking maneuvers while alternately curling or pressing this bar thingy. I don't say word, but their cuteness factor has decreased quite a bit. I move on to Standing Press', check back to find bar supported high kicking things going on. On to rows, back to find bar thingy bench press, they could have been crushed by the weight I guess. And on it goes. I never did get to squat that day, and its unlikely that I'll visit my gym again any time soon. Now in all fairness the young ladies were wroking out harder than some I saw that day, but damn. Oh, well, its back to the basement and the cold discipline of iron and squats. Home, afterall, is where the Squat is.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Black Powder

Charcoal, Salt Peter and Sulfur. Each of these items has a beneficial purpose under the right circumstances. Mix them together in the proper proportions, however, and you get black powder, a primitive explosive. Even then It is harmless unless you have a spark to ignite it. And unless you put it under pressure, you won't get an explosion. Saturated Fat, Refined Sugar, and Low dietary fiber. These ingredients too can be beneficial under the right circumstances. But like Charcoal, Salt Peter and Sulfur, the right combination of these items creates something potentially hazardous in our body. The spark in this case is a sedentary lifestyle, and the pressure, is the stress of the modern lifestyle. The confound in much of the research is the attempt to isolate a single factor in the determination of disease. We want the simple, single answer. Well friends an neighbors, it ain't that simple. Its not a matter of 1+1=2, or even the quadratic equation were ax2+bx=c and we solve for x. What we have here is a multi-factoral constraint analysis, where all of the constraints are not yet known, and others are not clearly defined. To further add to this dilemma, we can have an infinite number of solutions in a finite solution area. Oh yeah. While we can pick solutions that will optimize one or more outcomes, other outcomes will be compromised. So no matter what solution we choose , it won't be optimal for all questions or people. It will only be correct for ourselves and the compromises we are willing to make. Now, were did my wife hide that primer cord.....

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Foie Gras and Beaujolais

Is it just me, or does french food get healthier by the day? In a recent study of mice, red wine and a high fat diet led to plump but otherwise healthy mice. Real French food is an amazing journey into aroma, flavor, texture, and presentation. The problem most people have with french food is that its just so damn un-American. It takes time to prepare, it takes skill in the kitchen, and it is meant to be eaten slowly and savoured. A complete anathema to most modern Americans who get food from a drive thru, eat with out tasting, (how else could you explain the popularity of fast food?), and who's idea of home cooking is hamburger helper. While we often vilify the French for their politics, they seem to have learned something about life, and how to live it that many American should take note of. Eat good food, drink good wine, take time off from work and relax, and don't trust the government. Sounds like good advice to me.