Monday, June 13, 2011

Laid Back Weekend

The weather wasn't so nice this weekend, which helped to make it pretty relaxing.

Friday after work, I went to the gym very quickly to do some Wendler Cycle deadlifts and one supporting lift:

Deadlifts (3 minutes rest):
5 x 240
5 x 275
max reps at 310 (did 7 at 315 - 315 is easier to rack than 310 - six total plates instead of twelve)

Good Mornings (1 minute rest):
5 sets of 12 at 90 pounds

Those lifts took about 20 minutes. After the workout, I hurried home to mow the lawn before the rain showed up.

When the alarm went off on Saturday morning, it was pouring outside. My wife suggested we skip the 10K race, and since it had been her suggestion to run the race, no urging was needed for me to agree. We slept in, went to the farmers market, and went out for breakfast. About 3:00 p.m., it seemed like there was no hope for a break in the rain, so I went out for an easy 50 minute run. No dogs or humans wanted to come along.

After the run, we watched some movies and I cooked dinner - a relaxing evening.

Sunday morning, I got up early, planning a 3.5 hour run. The first 40 minutes were done with my wife and the dogs. My wife wasn't enjoying the run, so she quit after 40 minutes when we got the dogs back home. I headed back out by myself. About an hour or so later, I realized that I also wasn't really enjoying the run. The bugs were bad, the temps were low but the humidity was high, and I just wasn't comfortable. So, rather than continuing away from home, I turned around and ended up doing 2:40 or so rather than 3:30. I simply saw no point in continuing when it just wasn't fun. (If I'd written that a few years ago, I would have laughed at myself for being a wimp. Right now, I simply don't care. I got a decent workout and that's good enough.)

I had a nice dinner with my wife and daughter on Sunday night and now I'm back at work. Pretty boring, huh?

I did read a really interesting book over the weekend: "The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living" by Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney. Unlike many of the books on the market that talk about Paleo, Primal or Evo lifestyles, this book was really about the science, not theories on why we should eat like cavemen. Admittedly, those lifestyle books do contain science, and I find them to be valuable books, but this one went straight to the research on a number of topics.

In some ways, I thought title was misleading because there was very little art and a lot of science in the book. Here are a few thoughts I sent to the person who sold me the book, Peter Defty, who produces and sells the Vespa supplements I've been using on my long runs:

"I found a couple grammar mistakes, which drive me crazy in non-fiction. It wasn't as bad as Deep Nutrition, but it still makes me wonder if something else might not have been checked carefully enough.

I loved the fact that things like Paleo and Primal weren't even mentioned. This was a pure science approach to the subject. One thing that it did allow was for the possibility that the human genotype is changing faster than some of the Paleo/Primal people might believe. That was one of the few "guesses" in the book.

I think the title is deceiving. I mentioned the book to a few friends and they all bought it. One of them is going to hate me because she found GCBC too technical. I think this book is almost pure science. When it comes time to approach the "how", they refer you to the Atkins book that they helped to write (and which I bought yesterday as a follow-up). This book will be very difficult for the masses to read. I found the chemistry and biology to be fascinating most of the time, and they admit when they are going to get really technical, but most non-scientists will be lost on even the basic sections.

I think there were two fantastic take-aways from the book:

1) The human body reacts very uniformly to VLC diets, but not uniformly at all to high carb diets. Unlike Paleo or Primal, which have a cult/religious feel to them at times, this book acknowledges that people are different and will react differently to high carb diets. However, the reactions to low carb, especially higher fat/low carb are very uniform and the exhibited phenotypes for people eating that way are markers of good health. Maybe I am reading too much into that, but it seems incredibly obvious that this is what our genotype has evolved to "prefer".

2) The entire concept and timing of keto-adaptation, which they stress repeatedly, and how quickly that adaptation can be impaired makes me wonder if concepts like "cheat days" (the weekly "re-feed") or cyclic ketogenic diets really don't make sense. I know that the book really made me re-think how I tend to eat on a weekly basis. I am very strict during the week, but the weekends tend to be more relaxed. I work away from home during the week, so I'm in a rented room and cooking in someone else's kitchen. I keep protein, veggies and fats and salt there - that's about it. I work out really hard and eat really low carb. On the weekends is where I might eat grains (I had some bread on Friday), sugars (tonic water is a favorite during the summer), or alcohol (gin with that tonic water, an ice cold beer or more), etc. Am I impairing my adaptation significantly by regressing on the weekends?

Oh yeah, I certainly feel better about the fact that I like salt on my food after reading this book. It also gave me a much better appreciation of why you tell me to be careful with electrolytes and hydration with the Vespa."

So, I really enjoyed the book, but my job is developing software to help manage chronic diseases, with Type 2 Diabetes as a focus. I started in college as a chemical engineer, and studied organic chemistry for quite a long time. I also read extensively, probably obsessively, about diet and metabolism. While this book is targeted at both medical professionals and laymen, I think a lot of people might struggle with it. On the other hand, I think it does a great job of explaining why medical research is so messed up, it shreds some studies that are accepted as "gospel", and even if you have to skim over the most technical parts, it includes a lot of valuable information.

Ultimately, I like that the book allows that some people can be very healthy on diets that are not low carb. And, low carb does not have to mean meat-based. A vegetarian or vegan diet can be low carb, although this can be more difficult to pull off than with an omnivorous diet.

And, some (many? most?) people can't obtain optimal health on a diet where carbs aren't seriously restricted.

And lastly, there is no reason you can't be an endurance athlete on a low carb diet, providing you accept the time necessary (weeks) to fully adapt to the diet.

It seems to me that I've been moving more and more to the Paleo/Primal/Low Carb side of nutrition for the last couple years. My improving fitness and decreasing weight right now are reinforcing those decisions.

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