Thursday, 27 August 2009

Research Proves Salad is Bad

(Communication. 2007;116:II_77.)© 2007 American Shark Association, Inc.

PAPs and Crapiogenesis

Abstract 460: A Vegetarian Mediterranean Diet Increases Malnutrition and Decreases Metabolic Activity in Carcharodon carcharias

R Sole1; Ivor Biggun2; Phil McCracken3; Hugh Janus4;

1 Death Israel Deaconess Med Cntr, Boston, MA
2 College of Muppets and Sturgeons, New York, NY
3 Death Israel Deaconess Med Cntr, Boston, MA
4 Massachusetts General Hopeless, Boston, MA

Background: Ancestral nutrition may play a role in homeostatic maintenance of metabolic function, thereby mitigating 'western disease'. Long-term clinical trials of vegetarian Mediterranean diets for ancestral fitness have not demonstrated positive effects. We examined the effects of these diets directly on sharks.

Methods: Fifty-two Carcharodon carcharias were assigned after weaning to a standard shark-chow diet (100% protein) or a Mediterranean-vegetarian (30% fat, 50% carbohydrate, 20% protein) diet. After 6 and 12 weeks on the diets, general 'sharkiness' was measured. Quantitation of sharky activity was performed via visual analysis.

Results: By 12 weeks of diet, sharks on the Mediterranean-vegetarian diet had more lethargy compared to chow fed sharks, as assessed by general movement (15.2% vs 8.8%; p<0.05)sharky-smile p="0.03)."> and non-blinking levels were similar in chow and Mediterranean-vegetarian-fed sharks. There was no difference in the extent of bitiness between shark-chow and Mediterranean-vegetarian diets as they were both pissed off (but for different reasons). However, by 6 weeks on diet, movement decreased by ~45% in the Mediterranean-vegetarian fed sharks compared to chow-fed sharks (p<0.05).>Conclusions: Health of Carcharodon carcharias is decreased by a non natural diet compared to its ancestral diet. Vegetarian and/or Mediterranean food must be bad because we made sharks ill by feeding it to them. Probably.

Higher Rep Workout

Last night's Lau Gar session was a killer involving some intense kick-shield work. The intensity of these one minute kick drills left me almost at the point of nausea - not something I want to experience regularly!

I decided to take a shortened workout today, aiming for 3 sets of 15 reps - but stopping short if necessary.

Warm Up (5 mins)

Main (20 mins)
1a) Dumbell Press (10kg, 15, 12, 12)
1b) Tucked Lever (3x20s)
1c) Back Bridge (3x20s)
1d) Straddle RLLs (8, 5, 7)
1e) Frog Planche (3x20s)

The levers were slightly more untucked than normal - showing gains. But the reverse leg lifts felt hard. The first set of eight was comfortable - but the second set felt stiffer. The frog planches were pretty comfortable throughout.

Weight check: 81kg

*This evening I after a quick warm up laddering on my campus board, I set about performing a ten minute sequence of deadhangs. I have routine that I have been building up to (i.e. it has aspirational elements in it!). Tonight I actually completed it for the first time ever - so the fingers are also getting stronger!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Pets Do the Funniest Things

If you are ever thinking of getting a pet, you could do worse than get yourselves one of these. It is an Apoe (ApoE) mouse. It might not sit, fetch, nor roll over, and unlike a parrot, you cannot teach it to talk. So what CAN you do with it? Well, one of the highlights of this mouse is that it,
  • "develop[s] normally, but exhibit[s] five times normal serum plasma cholesterol and spontaneous atherosclerotic lesions."
Hmmmmm. Now where have I recently seen this mouse used in experiments to establish that low carb diets lead to atherosclerosis? Maybe they should feed it statins?

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Low Carb Diets Linked To Athersclerosis

You must have seen this story that hit the airwaves today - Low-carb Diets Linked To Atherosclerosis And Impaired Blood Vessel Growth. To be honest I think I will let those more qualified than me tear this story apart. GCBC will stay on the shelf for now....but that will not stop me reacting! There are one or two things that sent my paleo compass 'a-spinning'.
  1. I know enough of Inuit diets to know that whatever a low carb diet does in or to human arteries, it will be consistent with the expectations of several evolutionary mechanism that will have evolved alongside such a diet. Feeding a low carb diet to a mouse has questionable application to a human model - and by the same token if you fed salad to a shark, it would probably look like and old sock and move like deadwood within a few weeks.
  2. Follow the money. If you look down to the bottom of the article linked above you will see this little gem:
  • This study was supported by the Leducq Foundation Network of Research Excellence, an American Heart Association Grant-in-Aid, grants from the National Institutes of Health, and support from Judith and David Ganz and the Maxwell Hurston Charitable Foundation. Shi-Yin Foo is a trainee of the Clinical Investigators Training Program, jointly sponsored by BIDMC and Harvard/Massachusetts Institute of Technology Health Sciences and Technology in collaboration with Pfizer Inc. and Merck and Co.

Hmmm, major statin manufacturers supporting an anti-low carb message? Googling the authors (Anthony Rosenzweig and Shi Yin Foo) turns up a link to the Pfizer Clinical Investigator Training Program which is run at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. I smell salad-fed shark! The researchers conclusion is that,

  • "[f]or now, it appears that a moderate and balanced diet, coupled with regular exercise, is probably best for most people"

Read that last sentence again and note the use of non-committal and vague words and terms like 'moderate', 'balanced' and 'probably best'. Let's just say that any research that concludes with this piss-weak message is not worth getting too worried about.

I don't know enough about the specific macro nutrients involved nor the finer points of the study. Also I cannot seem to find a link to the actual paper - but I am no doctor so like I said, I will let the low carb big guns rip this one apart.

It looks like the big-pharma boys are getting worried and are sabre rattling!

Baise Moi

Well, well, well. On April the first this year I unveiled the Ten Plates Diet Program which basically involved 'eating less' through use of smaller crockery.

Quite astonishingly this lame advice is being pushed as a serious concept. You can read about this approach here.

Baise moi!

Sunday, 23 August 2009

So What Actually is 'Play'

One thing emphasised by both the paleo philosophy and simply by virtue of watching my kids entertain themselves, is the notion of play.

It can be initially difficult to reconcile the idea of play leading to a subsequent improvement in fitness. Even when we play games such as football (soccer) or racket sports, it is easy to get seduced in to the 'harder and more of it' mentality, where the fun is edged out by competitive instincts, leaving us with the notion that we will only get better if we take things 'more seriously'.
But play CAN lead to improvement. We know that power law training will elicit the desired improvements in, for example, strength, but this is only one side of the coin; play does something much more than that. It should lower mental stress and anxiety, NOT pile it on. It should induce a general sense of wellbeing. Play should lead to inner growth and 'release'.

I mention this because if you follow this link, you will see five minutes of footage that absolutely, bang on the money, nails EVERYTHING you could want to know about the benefits of play.

I am sure Danny MacAskill takes his riding seriously, but how he expresses himself on a bike shows passion, ingenuity, novelty, adventure, excitement along with strength and, acrobatic and athletic ability. This is one of the best examples of REAL play in action! The guy is having fun!

Friday, 21 August 2009

Climbing Hunger*

I had the hunger this evening. You know - that point where you just HAVE to do something. When you just want to run fast, rip that weight from the ground or pull hard. There is only one workout I crave at times like this and it involves sprints and rings!

Warm Up (5 mins)
Main (20 mins)
1a) Sprint (3x10s)
1b) Five L-Sit Muscle Ups to Basic Ring Routine to Lever (3sets)
1c) Pistols (3x3)
1d) Tuck Planche (3x7s)
1e) Ring Scissors (3x5 scissors)

Three laps through 1a-1e. Keep all rests short and the tempo high.

*So titled as this workout is based upon my climbing routine. I am not training my fingers as the weather forecast is good for the weekend, so I will be heading out on to the 'real' stuff!

Bigger Means Better if your Goal is to be Faster

An interesting article from Duke University states that atheletes, particularly in speed oriented sports, are getting bigger. In a word, 'Bolt':

  • “The trends revealed by our analysis suggest that speed records will continue to be dominated by heavier and taller athletes,” said Charles, who worked with senior author Adrian Bejan, engineering professor who came up with the constructal theory 13 years ago. The results of their analysis were published online in the Journal of Experimental Biology. “We believe that this is due to the constructal rules of animal locomotion and not the contemporary increase in the average size of humans.”

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Live Close to the Ground

You were born 'close to the ground'. You came here barefoot and naked. Your first meal was from another animal. Your first exercise used solely body weight. You began with slow movements and lots of them. As soon as you could run, you ran as fast as you could. You sought to play. You climbed and wrestled. You tumbled and jumped. You learned as you grew. You found novelty in the unlikliest of places. You had fun.

Although you didn't know it at the time, you had a head start on where you are now! So why did you go and mess with a winning formula like that?

Feed Your Mind, Grow Your Soul, Work Your Body!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Monkey King

This film has been getting a bit of air time on the climbing forums. It constitutes a nice bridge between parkour and pure rock climbing.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Round Off in to a Backflip

A nice trick. One to aspire to.....

Climbing Workout

This evening I managed to squeeze in a 30 minute workout on my climbing wall. I took big rests - up to 5 minutes, in between attempts. These rests were filled with Kay Bon Sau Fa, Jorn Sau, Charp Choi and Farkuin.

Warm Up (5 mins)
Main (25 mins)

1) Laddering (leading with alternate hands)

2) Ten Minute dead hang sequence.

I have tweaked my inner elbow on the deadhangs so might have been pushing it too far. The laddering feels pretty steady. I feel that my shoulders and back are getting stronger from the ring work and static holds.

Monday, 17 August 2009


I have just had a week off from 'formal' exercise. Captain Kid and I have been working our handstands and some planches as part of a general play (in between bike riding in particular), but all light hearted stuff.

Today offered a chance to get back in to the mix. Inspired by Usain Bolt's performance last night, I was determined to lift my game!

Warm Up (5 mins)
Main (25 mins)
1a) Sprints to Front Facing Figure Eights (15s:50s x 4)

2a) Hand Stand Press Ups/Handstand Lowers (4x3 Emphasis on Neg)
2b) Lever (15s)
2c) BackBridge (15s)
2d) Freestanding RLLs (4x5)
2e) Pistols (4x3)

I cycled through 2a-2e four times, taking 4-5 minutes to complete each circuit. The HSPUs required moderate assistance. The last set were simply handstands against a wall and slow lowering to the ground. Gains were made on the pistols of which at least one set was completed completely free. The RLLs are now totally freestanding as well.

I left the gym feeling comfortable with my performance but reckon I could give more. A few aches and niggles seem to have been worked out by the exercise.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

My Last Post, Consigned to History

Stunning. Absolutely stunning.


I have just picked up a copy of The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle. Normally I would avoid any book that shares its title with a bestseller (especially those that ape the title of 'The God Delusion' or 'The DaVinci Code'), but Coyle's book slipped through the net. On reflection, I am glad it did as the book contains one section that has stuck in my mind.

If you look at the progression of the 100m world record, the list looks like this. If you add in the birth order of the record holder, something pretty interesting happens:

1. Usain Bolt (second of three)
2. Safa Powell (sixth of six)
3. Justin Gatlin (fourth of four)
4. Maurice Greene (fourth of four)
5. Donovan Bailey (third of three)
6. Leroy Burrell (fourth of five)
7. Carl Lewis (third of four)
8. Leroy Burrell (fourth of five)
9. Carl Lewis (third of four)
10. Calvin Smith (sixth of eight)

As you can see, the distribution seems heavily skewed towards those born further down the birth order - and the same pattern apparently exists in the all time top 10 NFL running backs in rushing yardage.

We assume speed is genetic - which to a degree it is, but to be the fastest? Coyle offers motivation to 'keep up' as being the driver behind this phenomenon - something he calls 'ignition'.

The example of 'ignition' is extended - and Coyle goes on to quote a French study which asked 'Is the world run by orphans?'. The subsequent list of artists, scientists and politicians who lost a parent prior to their mid teens (all drawn from those individuals with a half or more page-length entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica), you get a real sense of how primal fears of self-survival drive us on and shape us.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009


Inspired by comments on Chris's blog, I went on the hunt for some hand balancing footage. I eventually found a video featuring Entcho - and it is a must see*.

If you have seen my training routines you will notice much in the way of ring training, handstands and hand walking. I love the playfulness of these exercises as much as I love their effectiveness in developing serious strength. What Entcho displays is both massive strength and an awesome physique. The dude could crack coconuts between his deltoids.

If you fancy a piece of this action for yourself, then you can do worse than consult The York Hand Balancing Course (which is actually a big inspiration to me). It comes from a time when training/fitness/conditioning seemed much simpler, more integrated and less Balkanized than things are in the modern-day fitness industry.

I am sure few modern-day personal trainers would support this kind of activity as part of a strength or hypertrophy training program. But the results of hand-balancing speak for themselves - as Entcho demonstrates.

*A word of warning, it is not often I can forgive crimes against music, and in the grand scheme of things Lounge Muzak (a.k.a. Trouser Jazz), is amongst the worst of audio crimes. When you watch this footage cover your ears or turn the bloody volume off!

Monday, 10 August 2009


Last week was spent camping down in Oxford with friends. The weather was dire, but some wild swimming in the local lakes provided much welcome escape from the misery of being wet through in clothes!

This weekend we were away in Norwich. I ended up taking a swim in the sea just of Happisburgh. The sea was refreshingly cool on an uncharacteristically hot day! The swim was accompanied by a seal and after 30 minutes in the brine, we (my mate and I, NOT the the seal and I), headed back shoreward for some sport.

I have started and abandoned several posts on training - particularly on reps and sets, and whether to lift fast or slow, or at RM MAX or whatever. The paleo compass points away from such a prescription. The hunt (or being hunted), would provide the necessary workout. The intensity would be dictated by fortune and lady luck.

It is hard for us to expose ourselves to this level of unpredictability and volatility - we naturally fall in to some kind of linear regimentation....or so I thought.

Powerkiting has to be one of the ultimate upper body workouts. Being dragged along a beach by a 3.5m kit is pretty exhilarating. Take off is the second most exciting thing in the world....after the millisecond before landing! You have to really wrestle and fight with the thing. If you get it right you can skid along the beach or jump several feet in the air (I opted for the former).

The wind drops and straight away you are adjusting and compensating. One minute you are trying to 'push the kite to its limits' and the next, as fatigue sets in, it causes you to adjust the flight once more and seek rest. This is fun. The pattern of exertion follows a power law.

I think that here I have found my 'wild prescription' of energy expenditure. Better still it involves play. I have had my eyes on kiteboarding for a few years, but really do not have the time at the moment due to family commitments. However, a powerkite might just be the thing!

Today I was thinking about going to the gym but felt sore in my upper back. Whether it was the swim or the kiting, the fact that I was thinking twice about the workout made me realise that at I probably need a bit more rest than I thought, and that I had, over the weekend, exerted myself slightly more than anticipated.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Light Climbing Workout

The last workout on Monday broke me for a few days. The ensuing DOMS was intense. I wanted to get on the rings and climbing wall today - but it was sunny outside so I adapted!

Unlike most other workouts, I completed one exercise before moving on the next. I had one minute of rest between each and every exercise. The idea was a brief and mildly-intense workout, but not too hard overall.

Warm Up (5 mins)
Main (15 mins)

1a) Hand Walking (2x 'for time', 1min rest)

2a) Frog Planche (3x20s, 1min rest)

3a) Pull Ups (2x10, 1min rest)

4a) Tuck Body Lever (3x20s, 1min rest)

5a) One Arm Deadhangs (8x '7s on, 3s rest')

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Sugar: The Bitter Truth

Hat tip to Keith for an excellent link here. The comment about energy expenditure's relationship with quality of life is a superb insight.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009


Another extract from Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories (page 314), concerning plant based carbohydrate content in a (highly successful) 'reducing diet' as prescribed at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago during the 1940s and 1950s:
  • "...potatoes are nearly 20 percent carbohydrate by weight (the rest is mostly water), so they were known as 20-percent vegetables. Green peas and artichokes are 15-percent vegetables. Onions, carrots, beets and okra are 10-percent vegetables. Most of the green vegetables- including lettuce, cucumbers, spinach, asparagus, broccoli and kale - are 5-percent, which means carbohydrates constitute at most 5 percent of their weight...a one-cup serving of a 5-percent vegetable will yield only twenty to thirty calories..."

Thus we finally have a successful use of the 'traffic light system' of which the mainstream nutritionists are so fond. But, in a paleo sense we only apply it to the plant based food and notwithstanding peas and artichokes, if it is green it means "GO!"

If you reach a plateau in your fat loss, it might be worth cutting right back on fruit and implementing the Plant Traffic Light scheme above - keep it green. Additionally, make sure you are getting enough meat and fat. My general thoughts on nutrition can be found in this (updated), post here.

A Calorie is a Calorie

Just one further point I should make. Some will argue that mention of calories and plants supports the calorie restricted diet model. This is not the case. Over to Taubes again (p339):

  • "When Bruce Bistrian and George Blackburn instructed their patients to eat nothing but lean meat, fish and fowl - 650 to 800 calories a day of fat and protein - half of them lost at least forty pounds each. That success rate held true for "thousands of patients" from the 1960s on, Bistrian said....But had they chosen to balance these very low calorie diets of fat and protein wth carbohydrates - say, by adding another 400 calories of "wonderful fruit and vegetables," as Bistrian phrased it- they would then be consuming the kind of semi-starvation diet that inevitably fails: 1,200 calories evenly balanced between protein, fat and carbohydrates."

Starvation diets are baaaaad maaaaan! A diet can become a starvation diet by simple virtue of its macro nutrient composition. An increased carbohydrate content will bring on all the disadvantages of starvation diets - lethargy (and generally reduced energy expenditure), hunger and so forth. In summary (p340),

  • "If we add 400 calories of fat and protein to 800 calories of fat and protein, we have a 1,200-calorie high-fat, carbohydrate-restricted diet that will result in considerable weight loss. If we add 400 calories of carbohydrates to the 800 calories of fat and protein, we have a balanced semi-starvation diet of the kind commonly recommended to treat obesity - and we reduce the efficacy by a factor of fifty."

Some might still focus on the fact that each of the diets above are calorie restricted. But this is irrelevant for fat loss on a LC diet, and you can experiment with this yourself as follows.

As long as it is fat and protein (both from an animal source), eat all you can for a period of time - days, months or years. And I mean ALL YOU CAN. Let your hunger be sated. Then:

  1. Take off clothing,
  2. Go to the mirror,
  3. Observe abs.
  4. Erm...Fin.

That's it! Keep it meat - tip you hat to the fat - go green.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Static Dynamics

Back to business this week! I have decided to balance up the climbing workout - which is heavily ring based, with the lunchtime gym work, which is bodyweight/floor based (with the odd bit of iron). I have underestimated how taxing the climbing training can be - the rings are brutal on the shoulders and when I go back to them after a week or so of rest, I notice the difference. More rest is required and clearly beneficial.

I have also decided to try to really push that saw-tooth profile. To this end I am trying to reduce the number of sets and increase the intensity. I also aim to reduce rests between exercises. Such intensity has to be balanced out with a reduction in volume.

Wam Up (5 mins)
Main (20 mins)
1a) Rowing (2mins at level 7, 28SPM)

2a) Chair Sit (60s) to Pillar Jumps (3x10)
2b) Handstand (60s) to Alternate One Arm Medicine Ball Throws (2x10)
2c) Lever (15s) to Reverse Press Up/One Arm Dumbell Rows (2x10)
2d) Planche (15s)
2e) RLLs (Straight Leg - 2x5)
2f) Kneel Backs (60s)

The rowing is a great introduction to the warm up. I like the whole 'stretching out' effect. I prefer sprinting but am keen to mix it up!

I 'cycled' through 2a-2f. Each pass took about 10 mins. The OAMBT was done with a 3kg ball, but as with all the exercises with weights, the explosiveness of the movement is way more important to me than the weight. I thrust that ball high as I could EVERY time. The last set of rows was done with dumbells (rather than bodyweight), and again, I pulled with ALL my might.

The evidence of my effort was obvious. Twenty minutes just about broke me. Looking at some photos from the weekend I can see that I have a good handle on my body fat levels. They are pretty stable around 10%. I am also consistently around 81kg - which is about 3kg heavier than I remember being over the past couple of years - so I assume this is muscle. This weight seems to be much more consistent regardless of my exercise, fasting and eating patterns.

My goal now is to push the strength through greater intensity but less time. I want to progress with some of my gymnastic endeavours - but have to me mindful of the risk of injury - especially given my other pursuits and desire to excel at those also!

All the while I need to fight my 'mainstream' tendancy to do too much and get bogged down in the detail and risk injury. Basic movements that hit muscle chains are all you need and, given variations in intensity and profile, will force adaption. It just takes time.

Further, faster, stronger, harder!