Monday, 26 October 2009

Omega3 and Omega6

BBC Four's 'Food Program' explores the balance of Omega 3 and Omega 6 in the diet:
  • According to scientists, we need to dramatically increase our intake of omega 3 fatty acids and reduce our intake of omega 6 fatty acids to achieve a healthy balance. It is a controversial debate with all sorts of vested interests at stake.
    As manufacturers add omega 3 to a whole host of products, consumers can be left confused in the face of claim and counter claim. What can they believe? What is in the products we buy anyway, and how much does it matter?
There is a broad check of the usual paleo tick boxes - 'omega 3 and 6 ratios', 'margarine not so good', 'omega 3 good', 'inflammation', 'omega 3 changes cell membranes', 'omega 6 and obesity' etc....

There is some discussion of omega 6 and endo-canabinoid receptors - leading to munchies. There is even talk of saturated fat not being that bad and that you need long-chain (sea-food) omega threes rather than short chain (plant) omega threes! Sadly we get a bit of cholesterol scaring....oh well, it is a step in the right direction I guess. Dr Alex Richardson features on the program and offers some robust comment.

You can listen to the program here.

Friday, 23 October 2009


My original motivation to question conventional wisdom on diet and exercise was down to the pursuit of 'abs'. Well - in fact I just wanted a low level of body fat (BF), all the time to improve my strength to weight ratio. Visible abs are a good indication of BF. ('Abs' are also the cheapest and most reliable method of determining BF IMHO.)

My abs have been reasonably visible since my youth and as a rough guide they indicated BF levels of around 10%. But over the course of a year their visibility would phase in and out.
My program at the time was of three or four gym sessions a week lifting weights for up to an hour at a time (and involving endless crunches, curls and 'the Plank'), three distance runs of around thirty minutes to an hour and a diet low in fat and high in complex carbohydrate. I didn't really 'do' hunger, so not much in the way of calorie counting....but when I did go without food (sometimes I would forget to have lunch due to pressures of work), I would get that regular carb-crash and the dreaded shakes! I would also spend several hours climbing a week... I won't mention the stresses of maintaining this program, nor the mood swings.

This was in effect the 'eat less and do more' approach coupled with a good dose of 'eat fat = get fat' dogma to boot.

So after today's workout I was struck by the realisation that my abs are probably in their most visible state ever and to be honest, have been for some time - we are talking years!

I want to stress, 'abs' are not my goal. Having a low BF is NOT my goal. This is simply a consequence/by product of my implementation of paleo living.

I know many people 'go paleo' to lose BF and this blog is about my personal experience of paleo living (along with rants on religion, the Media etc...), so I want to share with you exactly WHAT I have been doing to get this way.

YOU CAN GET THIS LEAN, and you can do it without supplements and vitamin pills, gainer drinks, endurance or cardio circuits on foot/bike or rower, chronic and intense ab-isolation, exercises, ab-gizmos (including electrodes or passive machinery of any kind), diet books, ab training books etc... Oh - and this won't cost you a penny.

Paleo: High Fat Diet = Low Fat Body
Read my top 10 nutrition tips here. Basically eat lots of fresh meat, seasonal veggies, nuts and occasional dairy if you want. Moderate fruit (try to stay seasonal). Never avoid animal fat. Do not calorie count. Eat until full. You may progress to fasting after a time - but the fasts should feel intuitive and not become a fight against hunger.

Paleo: High Intensity Workouts = Low Fat Body
First of all - check out my workouts. They are listed 1-11 and contain no ab isolation work. The abs are engaged in the lever and ring work and in stuff like the Kill Carry. My workouts sum to about two 30 minute workouts a week.

Paleo: Playful & Functional Workouts = Low Fat Body
You will see that I 'play'. This could be wild swimming, climbing (getting rarer due to family commitments, hence the second weekly workout is climbing specific), and two one hour sessions of martial arts.

The martial arts start with a warm up of press ups (3x5), and then some sit ups/crunches or V-ups (usually a total of 15 reps in all), followed a saw-tooth pattern of activity, with short intense skipping drills and some sparring. The time under load is brief but intense. Some session are solely skill or form-based so are of a very low intensity for most of the whole hour of the class.

I would also point out that others in my class do these same exercises but have no where near my definition. I know this sounds a bit narcissistic, but I just want to point out that it is not necessarily this ab work which is revealing my abs!

My formal workouts feature sprinting and pull ups, handstands and rows. I work the major planes of movement.

Total workout times then, sum to about three hours a week - which is easily half the amount of 'formal' exercise I used to do - and less oriented around 'cardio' (the traditional fat burning stuff), and much less ab-centric.

In summary I am doing less work using basic exercises with great intensity. I reckon it is the 'formal' gym sessions that in exercise terms are of the biggest benefit. For me THE big change is that of diet. Low carb means less insulin, means lipolysis. Obviously I have not got the best abs ever - genetics plays a part - but they are as good as I have ever got them to look. All achieved without really trying to do anything other than live like a wild man.

So there you have it! If only I had known all this twenty years ago.....Meh!

High Tempo Power Session

It was all about the explosive movements today! I dropped the sets to three and skinned the rests and pauses to the bare minimum. I always lowered under control, and the positive phases of the exercises were fast. Wow this hurt me - but I kept short of failure.

Warm Up (5 Mins)
Main (15 Mins)
1) 2 Mins rowing at 70% intensity and 30 SPM.

2a) Alternate One-Arm Dumbell Snatch (18kg 3x7)
2b) Chin Ups (3x7)
2c) Kneel Backs (3x15s)
2d) Frog Planche (3x15s)
2e) Tuck Lever (3x15s)

I was in and out of the gym in about 30 minutes. The grey weather meant that I worked out indoors.

On completion I had some gas in the tank and felt that 'warmed throughout' feeling. I feel I could go and do something else - some other activity now, such as play a game of football or go for a climb.

Hopefully my body is receiving these positive messages of success at the metabolic level! Certainly my head is in a VERY good place after that bit of exertion! It is not often I smile as I type....

Monday, 19 October 2009

Climbing (Migratory) Workout

The nights are drawing in. It is getting colder. Winter is nearly upon us. Thus, I move to a greater emphasis on the 'hunting' elements of my workout. The paleo model mandates seasonal food - and I mandate seasonal exercise.

So if there is snow on the ground, you ain't doing much running. If there is snow on the ground you ain't eating much fruit. If there is snow on the ground you are hunting big game - and hauling its carcass back to camp! Time to head north and work the Kill Carry!

Ok - this is all romantic BS - but seasonal change is as good a reason as any to jazz up your workouts with whatever it takes to keep your enthusiasm stoked!

Warm Up (5 mins)

Main (25* mins)
1a) Sprint (The Chase - 15s) - I said 'much', not none!
1b) Ring Splits (6)
1c) Five L-Sit Muscle Ups to Basic Ring Routine to 5s Lever
1d) Laddering (3-grip)

2a) Pistols (five per leg - The Fight)
2b) Ring Splits (6)
2c) Four L-Sit Muscle Ups to Basic Ring Routine to 5s Lever
2d) Laddering (3-grip)

3a) Weighted 10kg Vest Kill Carry* (5 minutes of walking with a shouldered punch bag - 35kg)3b) Ring Splits (6)
3c) Four L-Sit Muscle Ups to Basic Ring Routine to 5s Lever

4a) Assorted 10 min dead hanging routine

The big news was the five unassisted pistols on each leg. I reckon I could have done at least another one on each leg but held back a bit knowing that the Kill Carry (KC) would be done with a weighted vest as well as the punch bag.

I headed off on the KC at a brisk pace and walked with purpose. I returned to 'camp' blowing quite hard, but psyched for that last little section of the routine.

I am looking forwards to doing a Kill Carry in the cold nights and during the snow. One of THE best workouts of last year involved just such an event - light snow and the shouldering of a burden (not too heavy though)!

The whole session was about 45 minutes I guess - but you could knock at least 10 minutes off if you ignored the specialised deadhanging exercises at the end....unless you want to climb!

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Stone Free

So one of the guys at work was recently convinced to go Low Carb by me. After years of (failed) dieting, he ditched the bread, rice, pasta and potatoes, and upped the veggies, the salads, the meat (and associated fat), and the fruits. He moderated the dairy and restricted the beer.

The weight fell of him - dramatically and rapidly. He found it curious at first - we all do - eating against the common wisdom. How curious that one should be able to eat as much as you want, and yet still lose weight! His personal friends outside of work refused to believe what they were seeing.

One or two weekends he fell off the paleo wagon, but armed with the knowledge that low-carb (LC) works, he could jump back on at will and lose the fat promptly.

Things were going well and a stone was shifted in a matter of a couple of months. And then he collapsed in agony with pains in his ambulance was called such was his agony!

So clearly at our workplace there were a few jokes about this guy suffering because of following my 'crazy diet' with its saturated fat and so forth. But there was a bit more to it than that.

Gall Bladder
Bile is made in the liver and stored in the gall bladder. The bile is used to assist with the digestion of fats. As the name suggests, gallstones are stones which form from a hardening of bile in the gall bladder. Once formed, the stones can become trapped in the ducts that drain the gallbladder en-route to the small intestine.

The stones can cause inflammation wherever they become trapped and lead to a very painful and potentially dangerous condition called gallstone pancreatitis. It was this condition from which my colleague was suffering.

Now if you look at his diet, he had moved from a high carb, low-fat diet to high fat and low carb. Suddenly his gall bladder was having to do some work. Suddenly loading up of fats would have lead to an emptying of the gall bladder - more-so than his body was used to. So indirectly the paleo diet was to blame in as much as it exposed the existence of these stones!

On hearing all this news I sent my mate a link to this article by Dr Eades. I figured that this would make reassuring reading for him rather than following my particular brand of quackery (hey, read my disclaimer, I ain't no doctor!). In turn, my mates advice was that anyone who is going on a LC diet for the first time - particularly those that have been on a low fat diet for some time, might want to get scanned for gallstones first!

Gallstones are a known hazard of living on a low fat diet. So it would appear to be another example of the dangers of moving too far from the 'ecological niche' for which we are adapted. True, it is a broad niche, but some of Ornish's followers seem to be in line for a cruel and painful dose of reality when it comes to arguing exactly what it is we should be putting in to our mouths.

As for my mate, he has elected to have his gall bladder removed due to his concern that the stones might ever reappear. I suggested that he simply get them removed, because as long as he stayed LC, they might not actually come back. But, such was the effect of this agonising episode, there was no convincing him otherwise and he has taken his doctor's advice.

I suppose he will still be able to progress back on to a LC diet, eventually.....

Friday, 16 October 2009

Lactic Workout

So back to the '3-Tag' workout. Wasn't feeling that inspired so made it quick as I could with little or no rest in between exercises.

Warm Up (5 mins)
Main (20 mins)
1a) Rowing (1x120s - Medium Resistance - No.7 -29rpm)

2a) Assisted Pistols (3x12 - with '8')
2b) Frog Planche (2x30s)

3a) Wall Assisted Handstands (3x30s)
3b) Kneel Backs (3x30s)

4a) Tuck Lever (30s)
4b) 30s Chin Up (15s up and 15s down)
4c) Tuck Lever (30s)
4d) Deadlift (5 reps)

(The evening was completed by some campus boarding for 20 minutes)

Exercises 2 and 3 are shown as groups that I cycled through for three sets each. The last group, 4, was a once through event finishing with a five-rep cluster set of deadlifts just to exorcise some "grrrr". I have beasted weightlifting in the past, but it is just another form of resistance - and it is always good to toss around your bodyweight on occasion.

As always I slowed exercises to ensure failure on around the last rep. The lactic acid kicked in well before this point.

Once again I got 'questioned' by a couple of folk who were curious as to what I was actually exercising for. The planche and levers are a common topic of discussion as no one else does them.
I say it was these exercises but being the 'Crazy Handstand Guy in the Monkey Shoes' is probably closer to the mark.

One of the inquisitors I pointed towards a 'Taubes' lecture on YouTube - and he may well become another convert to paleo eating. With the evidence before him he could hardly doubt that satfat ain't a killer and that cutting carbs will lean you up.

Similarly when I told him to drop the running and lift hard for 30 minutes once or twice a week - I detected an appeal that his current exhausting regime could never hope to match.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009


Chessboxing! What is it? Well, it is a mix of chess and boxing. Can you believe such a thing? I was listening to Radio Four the other night when I first heard mention of this particular sport and was struck immediately by its brilliance - the dichotomy of mental and physical strength and the reification of chess's brutality with the intellectual demands of martial art. From Wiki:
  • "Chess boxing is a hybrid sport which combines the sport of boxing with games of chess in alternating rounds. Chess boxing fights have been organized since early 2003. The sport was started when Dutch artist Iepe Rubingh, inspired by fictional descriptions of the sport in the writing of Enki Bilal, organized actual matches. The sport has become increasingly popular since then. To succeed players must be both skilled chess players and skilled boxers."
In fact, I have to say I have not been this taken by a pursuit since I read on the about the Hip Hop Chess Federation's aim of "Using Chess, Music and Martial Arts to Promote Unity, Strategy and Non-Violence". This in turn, was an organisation I found out about from an article on the chess habits of the Wu Tang Clan (whose Wu-Chess site can be found here).

Martial arts, chess, music. All parts of an essential mix in life!

Monday, 12 October 2009

Climbing (Hunt) Workout

This Monday workout is climbing specific - but seems to be mutating. I am not yet in a position to assess how my finger strength is coming on in real terms, but broad strength seems to be improving - particularly with the muscle ups.

I have decided to vary the exercises quite a bit and put the hunt back in to my training. Each 'group' should take around five minutes (apart from the Kill Carry which adds five minutes on its own):

Warm Up (5 mins)
Main (25* mins)

1a) Sprint (The Chase - 15s)
1b) Ring Splits (5)
1c) Five L-Sit Muscle Ups to Basic Ring Routine to Lever
1d) Laddering (Medium)

2a) Pistols (three per leg - The Fight)
2b) Ring Splits (5)
2c) Four L-Sit Muscle Ups to Basic Ring Routine to Lever
2d) Laddering (Medium)

3a) Kill Carry* (5 minutes of walking with a shouldered punch bag - 35kg)
3b) Ring Cuts (5 per leg)
3c) Two laps of L-Sit Rope Climbing
3d) Laddering (Hard)

I finished of with some intense one and two armed deadhanging for around 5-10 minutes (until technique faltered). I am liking the variation and letting instinct lead me more in each workout.

Note to self; I need to make sure I give more and not let the session extend much more towards 30 minutes.

The kill carry felt like a bit of a rest, and heading back to the garage for that last set I was heavily 'stoked' to pull hard!

Friday, 9 October 2009

Dynamic Movement

Today was a return to a dynamic movement session. I didn't feel that inclined to train as it was cold outside and to be honest, I cannot believe the issue of cold feet with Vibram 5ingers is not more of a hot topic on Paleo forums!

After the warm up and sprinting I felt much more in the mood to train, but given my initial reservations about training, I made this a short workout resting only about 30 seconds between exercises - often less, to increase the tempo of the session.

The idea was explosive power on the positive phase of the exercise and to go much slower on the negative phase, lowering under control.

Warm Up (5 mins)
Main (15 mins)
1a) Sprint (2x15s, one minute rest between each set)

2a) Pillar Jumps/Deadlifts (2x5jumps + 1x5x80kg DL) - the last
2b) Frog Planch (3x20s)

3a) Wall Walk (3x2)
3b) Dumbell Press (3x16kg)
3c) Inverted Press Up Rows (3x5)

I left the gym once again feeling that I had more to give, but with enough feedback to know that I had worked hard for the brief periods I was under load.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Mining for Minerals

The ever excellent BBC Radio Four runs a series called Costing the Earth. This weeks episode looked at mineral deficiency in plant based food (follow the link above to listen to the program again):
  • "Over the past 70 years the levels of crucial minerals in our basic foods have declined significantly. This is bad news for consumers in the west, but potentially deadly news for those in the developing world who cannot afford a perfectly balanced diet.
    Alice Roberts sets out to uncover the culprit and find a solution. Do we need to shorten our food chains, de-intensify our agriculture, or simply turn to the varieties of fruit and veg enjoyed by our grandparents?

    In Perthshire, Moira and Cameron Thomson spread their own mixture of compost and rock dust onto their poor Highland soils. They are convinced that the rock dust is replacing the lost minerals from the soil, resulting in enormous and very tasty broccoli, parsnips and carrots.

    Meanwhile at the University of Nottingham, Dr Martin Broadley uses a combination of mathematics and applied biology to find a way to breed crop roots that extract more of the minerals that are available in the soil.

    From the Cotswold kitchen of food writer Diane Purkiss to the world's largest potting shed at the National Soil Archive in Aberdeen, Alice compares and contrasts the diet, soils and plants of the 1930s and the present day in her search for the world's lost minerals."
Of note is talk of adding rock dust to vegetable patches by Cameron and Moira Thompson (about whom you can read more here). The Thompson's have managed to grow exceptional vegetables from meagre soils using this technique.

Their inspiration comes from a book published in 1982 called, rather dramatically, 'The Survival of Civilisation' by Jon Hamaker and Don Weaver. In this book the authors suggests that glaciers ensured our soils were mineral dense, but intensive agriculture has depleted these minerals. And in the absence of any glaciers in the near future happening along to revitalise the soil, we should do the glacier's job for it! You can download the book for free here.

My composting skills are becoming most excellent (we have lots of dark, rich looking and fresh smelling compost in our bin), and this, perhaps along with a little rock dust, might be just what is required to make Captain Kid and Flash's vegetable patch move up gear next summer! We are currently enjoying a feast of homegrown raspberries, but are hoping to branch out (bad pun intended), in to other berries.