This used to be my personal training blog, but that's going to change soon. Soon I am going to use this space as part of the EvoT project. The EvoT project is a pedagogical excursion aimed at helping people understand the principles of evolutionary theory and science through personal lifestyle changes. Our motto is "walk the walk to talk the talk" (of evolution). Seriously, what better way to get people to understand the details of evolutionary science then to show them how it can, here and now in 2010, affect their daily lives? To show them how things like the industrial revolution, with respect to food, has created a lot of the modern diseases we see? To show them how sedentary lifestyles (e.g. sitting at a desk all day and then in front of the television all evening) approximate nothing like what our ancestors face and also contributes to a plethora of modern disease, namely obesity. EvoT is charged with changing the behavior of people in order to help update and modify their cognition about evolutionary science. This is not a stop believing in your God blog. Rather, we feel that your belief system are perfectly in line with an evolutionary theory we back so keep on keeping on if you like. Rather, we simply want to utilize a prescription of small changes in your daily routine to educate you about how your body works. And make you aware of your body - inside and out - in a completely new educational endeavor. Interested? Hop on board!
Note: I have not read every document in great detail, but plan to, this is just an initial reaction from a sampling of the documents that have been produced. Amazing that after 15years of thinking about this, the revision says virtually nothing different.... Are we haunted by bad nutrition ghosts...? LOL
Recently McDonald's in honor of the new shrek toy has released another form of of associatively based obesity conditioning ploy known as the Happy Meal Toy. This is how it works and you don't have to think too hard about Pavlov to get the idea here. Pair a fun toy (Pavlov's meat powder) with another stimulus, bad food ridden with toxins (bell) and voila you get kids who become associatively conditioned to realize that bad toxic food (that which is served at McDonald's) is associated with a toy (pleasure). It's quite clever actually and you'd expect nothing less from a giant like McDonald's to use such a clever ploy to get people to buy their product, you know because Americans are really staving off that sort of diet ;-) NOT! What's really clever about it is that it's an experiment almost opposite to trying to develop conditioned taste aversion to an alcoholic or addictive substance. The pleasure more or less over rides the aversive response and addicts keep drinking, snorting, smoking or whatever, even in lieu of the fact that they feel terrible, get ill, vomit profusely, etc. For this case, they are feeding what should make the average person ill (in fact, I know, from self-experimentation, if I were to drive up and order a fast food meal I would be ill very shortly after eating it because my bodies been more or less detoxified). However, in the well-conditioned (to the toxins not fitness that is) there is the development of a resistance. Like a vaccine or sorts.
At any rate, the latest toys are associated with the release of the new Shrek movie and they are plastic glasses. Doesn't sound like fun? You don't have your favorite glass, mug or cup? I do. So does my wife. And so does just about every kid I know. However, the new glasses/cups have a toxin cadmium in them and this has forced McDonald's to recall the glasses. For goodness sake, they would not want their patrons being poisoned from drinking their fructose loaded soda pop from a poisonous cup. They would not want their customers washing down that tasty (toxin loaded, non-organic, shit-fed beef) burger with toxic soda from a poisonous cup, would they? My word, they might lose a customer. In fact, the cadmium poisoning should be the last of their concern. Perhaps McDonald's should consider recalling their menu and serving something a bit healthy and organic and not sugar even their salads!
There is a big to do recently about the discovery of new genes that could regulate obesity. These genes are presumably associated with the regulation of everything from the brain's ability to modulate a person's perception and desire for certain high-fat foods to the bodies ability to differentially utilize and store saturated fats (and of course the old Cholesterol myth is embedded in that one). However, in none of the studies did I read mention (granted I only skimmed the articles) of hyerinsulinimia and silent inflammation. In none of these studies do they talk about the baseline healthy state - an ancestral state. This really gets me fired up.
Yesterday, I was having a conversation with a relative, we were discussing that some friends and relatives are going in for surgery - apparently elective and not critical life-saving procedures. Rather these were surgeries for things that crept up on the person. Stomach pains. Pelvic issues. Inflammation. The list goes on, but I will spare you. The person I was talking to, my mother, and I then went on to consider each person' baseline state of health, from an ancestral living standpoint. Turns out that every single person we were talking about has terrible eating habits and does no exercise whatsoever. When is the medical community and the research community going to put aside, at least momentarily the idea of the reductionist model of medicine and begin to take into account the ultimate causes of illness and bad health. I used this example to explain to my mother. If I am going to prescribe a bunch of meds and surgery to a patient who is knowingly not in a baseline, ancestral state of health and wellness I am essentially doing two things: 1) treating only symptoms, for which I know nothing of the true etiology and 2) possibly causing more harm then good. I made this parallel: Treating the non-baselined patient is like starting to paint a master piece, except your canvas already has some really bad art on it. So now you have to cover up all that bad art, which you can never completely do. Then you have to make your masterpiece shine through even though some of the bad art might still be visible in the right light, at the right angle. Or you might add a color, say blue to an area that you thought was covered adequately, although it was not and now your masterpiece, which had a touch of yellow that you failed to take notice of, shows as green. Well if this portion of your masterpiece was the sky, I've never seen a green sky (yellow & blue make green). The human body, as evolution has crafted it, is a masterpiece. What we've done through USDA "intervention on our behalf" and through poor eating habits (partly not our fault as the powers that be have hijacked deep evolutionary psychological processes to their advantage) is painted over our masterpiece and essentially fucked it up! Royally!
What to do? Clean the slate. Go back to the masterpiece. Unlike the painting, in most cases we can eradicate the "bad art" overlay and get back to a baseline condition. It takes hard work, dedication, good eating habits and exercise, but it's possible. Once at this stage, then if issues, problems, and disease persist, physicians, I would think, would be in a better position to treat the "real" disease.
I am not a medical doctor, but when in the hell are medical colleges going to start prescribing Darwinian Medicine and Health to their students? I just don't think anyone can be held responsible for our health except our selves. So, while I truly believe in Evolution and that genes determine a lot of things, in the cases reported above regarding obesity I think that we've missed the epigenetic train folks. We've not taken into account that our toxic environment might have altered gene expression in a way to survive. We've not discovered a possible new reason for obesity, we've discovered a new genetic expression of obesity. So what will happen now? We will try to develop (20-30 years of research) ways to treat the genes, the proteins the genes regulate, etc. And we will probably still fail to realize that it's all an evolutionary consequence to toxicity.
Shrek, go ahead, drink from the cadmium laced cup. It's probably no worse for you than what you are putting in it to drink.
Recently, on one of my new favorite sites, because it deals with my workout, there was a debate about the effectiveness of the program. The program is CrossFit. The question, posed in a most rude and upsetting manner was "What evidence?"
The question is a good one. What actually constitutes evidence? What makes a good evidence-based practice? Most of us who train, talk to others about training, and those of you who properly train others probably think the evidence is the comments, thoughts, accolades associated with your clients, friends and self, getting fitter. Truthfully speaking, yeah. That is damn good evidence, but it is not scientific. There are a few concepts that scientists try to follow and most exercise routines do not follow them closely, if at all.
Take for example the notion of peer-review. Most exercise routines are not published, that is most exercise routines you see trainers at the gym using, do routines on a DVD set you just ordered, or stick to the age-old traditional programming rampant in magazine like MH. I have never heard of a trainer publishing the results of his clients, but heck I'm new to this. There is a reason right? Each and every client is different and unique. So how do we utilize peer-review. Most of us don't. We use our results as evidence. I think this is just fine when it comes to this type of treatment program. That is, you are trying to make that client meet his/her goals, so their individual progress is the evidence.
Another example of a technique science uses is the burden of proof/falsifiability. That is, a scientist must state their ideas in a way that is inherently falsifiable and testable. And that leads to the other aspect of science that many of us rely on: replicability. Scientists need to be able to replicate methodology in precisely, or close to precisely, the way the original person executed it. When it comes to fitness this might be impossible. If you are training an overweight person and an underweight person the methods are drastically different, right? If you are training youngster versus a retiree: different, etc.
OK, so all this does not mean that there can never be an evidence-based fitness program and I think CrossFit is the new movement. Let me explain. First, peer-review is one of the worst aspects of scientific processes. It is an archaic, failing discipline in science as evidenced by the many journals that are opening up their pages to commentaries, using Web 2.0 technology to allow continual author-reviewer-scientific community correspondence. We are no longer in the times when a paper gets submitted, peer-reviewed, and then rejected or published. Rather, we are now in the age of a paper gets submitted, peer-reviewed, rejected or published, and if published opened up to a number of wonderful mechanisms for continual discussion about the research which includes, but is not limited to: blogging about the article (that is, blogging on the journal site for all to see), ability of readers to write commentaries and letters to the authors, editors, and reviewers, and so forth. As for the other aspects of scientific inquiry we cannot avoid them to be true to ourselves: burden of proof, falsifiability, and replicability. That is where CF steps in.
The entire CF process is transparent. The WODs are generated daily and people then post their scores, times, loads, reps. It is never peer-reviewed, but completely transparent. It is testable. They ask the question: can you make a better athlete than me? If you can, show us. And where there is evidence of other programs providing good outcomes, CF recruits their efforts. Take for example the recent combinations of West Side's conjugate methods and Pose running with CF programming.
Generally speaking, evidence-basis in fitness is very necessary. We've all kept a log of our progress at some point in our workout lifetime. That is we recorded that last time we bench pressed 225 10 times, this time I did an extra rep. Woo hoo. But there is more to it than this. It is not just about getting a big chest and pressing more weight. Fitness is defined as Health. So bench pressing 225, 315, or 500 lbs does not always equal "Health". In fact, for some of us, and in my opinion, that produces an individual that is far from healthy, or fit. Rather it produces a specialized athlete that can bench press a lot of fucking weight. They are not generally healthy. That is the measure that we need to use as our benchmark: are they generally healthy? Has our programming helped them to be more healthy or less healthy? If the latter, how can we adapt to change that? If the former, how can we target the things that are helping to increase their health/fitness? This means that while our programming needs to be regimented, structured and scientific, it also has to be adaptable. This is also a hallmark of good science. Good scientists are able to realize when an experiment is going awry, when unexpected results are either interesting or not and make decisions about taking a new path, or staying the course.
Of course I am so biased, but my impression of health/fitness comes from what our ancestors could have done or needed to do to survive. So I define health/fitness as being able to act like a caveman. When I just wrote that line, I was going to follow it up by saying, "Just teasing". But I am not teasing. Imagine your inner caveman and what s/he would have to do in her day. I can provide a few examples from my warped brain:
What my inner caveman had to doHow to train for that (now)
Chase an animal Run, squat, snatch, jump
Drag an animal down Pull, push, engage core
Swing from branch to branch Pull-up, core, balance
If our trainees, partners, friends and family, and colleagues can act like a caveman then that makes them a good candidate for my tribe. They can join my group. They will likely be the folks that can contribute to group success, engage in camaraderie, help others, produce! The proof is, as they say, in the pudding - or or us the health and fitness that our clients/trainees exhibit.
So I usually drink my coffee black, but occasionally in the Summer hot black coffee, well doesn't do the trick. So, being paleo what is a guy to do? No milk, no cream, no whipped cream of cool whip! My goodness. I let the morning's coffee sit all day and cool. Then I pour it over ice, some almond milk (I have not tried the vanilla flavored for this yet, but bet it would be great), and a touch of agave nectar or honey if I have a really strong sweet tooth. Couple that with a paleo banana nut muffin, forget about it!
So, I've been posting a few recipes lately and thought, what the hell, this isn't a recipe "proper" but it was a damn good dinner.
Gilled Salmon topped with Mango Salsa
Side of grilled pineapple
Broccoli-pine nut soup.
For the samlon, just coat in some light olive oil and add a bit of fresh ground pepper to season. Depending on thickness of the piece of salmon, grill flesh side down for about 4-8 minutes. Then flip and grill for 2-3 times the length you chose for the flesh side. The Skin will basically grills off, but I like the skin. Once you flip it coat the top in mango salsa.
Place 3/4 inch slices of pineapple on the top shelf of the grill, flipping about half way through the cooking of the salmon.
For the salad just cut up avocado and tomatoes and add a tablespoon or so of light olive oil. You can also add balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper if you like, but if the avocado and tomato are fresh and ripe there is no need.
Broccoli-Pine nut soup:
Broccoli and Pine-Nut Soup, My (paleo)ancestors Way.
1 large onion, diced
1/4 clove of smashed Garlic
2 tablespoons of chopped chives
1 tbs oil
3 cups broccoli
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
¼ cup pine-nuts
Fry onion in a large pan with oil on medium heat until slightly browned. Toss in the garlic and let it simmer a little more.
Add broccoli and stock and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes or until broccoli has softened. Make sure you keep a lid on! Halfway through, at the chives (keep a little).
Cool slightly. Place in a food processor or use an electric blender to form a smooth texture. This will get it that lovely creamy feel!
Heat some more, serve in bowls and sprinkle with the leftover chopped chives & pine-nuts
So this morning I awoke to realize that haphazardly we froze all the remaining bananas for our nightly smoothie, thus leaving me without unfrozen bananas for my paleo pancakes. Initially my reaction was: F*ck! How could I go on without my regular breakfast. Actually, I was not that upset, I was just still pissed off from having to wake up to two crying dogs that had diarrhea in their sleep area. Oh Joy! Poor lil' fellas! Anyhow, I digress, the dog situation had long passed and I was ready to make me some grub... but what to do, what to do without bananas....? I thought, well, I'll just microwave (really paleo eh) one of my paleo banana nut muffins, they are essentially the same recipe just cooked differently. So I started my eggs and opened the fridge only to find that right next to the muffins was a pre-cooked sweet potato. "Hmmmm", I thought. I wonder if I could make a sweet potato pancake. Add a little cinnamon, ok. It turns out this works just dandy! Sure, it's not nearly as sweet, in fact it's a bit savory, but it satisfied my warm breakfast, paleo craving! And it's quite filling! So, I thought I'd share the recipe and a few thoughts about my am experience. Firs the recipe:
1 small, or 1/2-3/4 medium/large pre-cooked sweet potato (it should be so cooked that it's mashable)
1 egg white
a (small) handful of ground raw almonds
about a teaspoon to a tablespoon of coconut milk
cinnamon (as much as you like)
Grind almonds and place in mixing bowl
Add egg and egg white and stir around. It should be pasty, sort of.
Add coconut milk
Add sweet potato
Mix all ingredients together until it forms a batter. For my particular griddle pan the batter has to be very think, almost doughy, else the batter just runs out flat and I have one huge burnt unflippable pancake! Talk about a bad way to start your day :-(
Once batter is prepped, heat the griddle pan (I can't grease mine because the stove gets so hot it actually burns the grease off, but I have found that some butter flavored spray enhances the flavor just a touch, especially if you like the taste of butter. I go without greasing only because I have to). Cook like any other pancake, until you start to see some bubbles come through the uncooked side at which time you should flip. Be careful, any paleo pancake is not going to have the stiff consistency of modern pancakes to use a big spatula so that you don't lift half your pancake and leave half on the griddle. I've done that several times and it's really F-ing annoying. In order to circumvent that issue either use large spatula or make smaller pancakes. I choose the latter and it makes a nice stack of pancakes that dupes your mind into thinking you are eating at IHOP or something.
OK, that's it. Cook and eat. I use honey to top these. You could probably get more creative with your topping, like pure maple syrup would probably be fantastic as it is on just about anything.
There you go, a decent new recipe to try for a morning variation. These sweet potato pancakes are not as sweet as banana pancakes and are probably high glycemic and not "true" paleo, but they satisfy the not eating artificial modern shit, for me anyhow. Also, this event this morning got me thinking. Initially, I was really shocked to find that I had frozen all the bananas and left myself without a breakfast option. I was very upset, ok, just a little, but come on... So I improvised. I improvised like our ancestors would have had to do had they frozen all their bananas the night before ;-) Seriously, though. Our ancestors survived probably in large part to their ability to improvise, to think on the spot, to be creative, to think "outside the box". No claws, no teeth, slow, weak, no camo, no fur, no spines, no poison, no exploding ass (see bombardier beetle), and no venom resistance (see honey badger) - we're left with one fantastic evolutionary adaptation: a frontal lobe that is disproportionately larger than it should be for our bodies. I love evolution, by the way! So this frontal lobe, our executive brain, leaves us with the capacity to solve problems, come up with new solution, and think outside the box. This is the evolutionary adaptation that 1) makes humans different from other animals and 2) drove the agricultural and industrial revolutions that our paleo lifestyle now is designed to combat. Strange how these things work right. Our frontal lobes, about 100,000-200,000 years ago started to expand with increased variability in diet. Then somewhere between 150,000 and 10,000 years ago Hominid ancestors started to cook stuff. They somehow learned to harness the power of fire, probably first for warmth and then for cooking. They also learned about underground cooking - that is burying meat and veg with hot coals. This was an evolutionary milestone that resulted in even larger increases in brain energy utilization and expansion. See cooking shit allows our bodies to extract way more nutrients from the food. It's less energetically demanding to breakdown and the energy is easily utilized because the proteins are degraded through cooking. So, simultaneously we reduce our bodies energy expenditure associated with digestion and increase the energetic extraction from the food. MMMM. This is why if you eat everything that you current eat now in raw form, you WILL lose weight. Yeah sure the USDA says raw has more calories, but you shit about half those calories out. Raw diets produce weight loss. There is no debate about that!
So here we have our caveman brethren having discovered, through creativity and ingenuity of the type we don't yet know about (no time machine), allowing or the generation of an industrial tool that increases energy utilization. Turns out our bodies capitalized on sending that energy to our brains: the human brain consumes more energy than any other organ system in the body, in fact relative to it's size it essentially hijacks a majority of the energy in the body. And I don't think any of us would argue with the fact that our brains, are, well, pretty important. But, take for example, neuronal firing (just one neural process) uses about 10% of the entire bodies energy potential. This shit is fucking demanding! So caveman brother finds a way to get more energy in the body by using a creative technique. Our brains were trying to grow but energetically limited. Cooking solved this problem. Then at about 10,000 (+/-) years ago, the modern estimate for agricultural (r)evolution we learned a new trick: farming. Farming allowed us to produce large quantities of energetically dense (read as loaded with sugar and protein) foods in one location (read as we did not have to forage, hunt, and gather). Another evolutionary milestone, the black stone in 2001: a Space odyssey. Right? And yet we now know, or many of us know, that this lifestyle, while hugely beneficial to our farming ancestors, was not good for our bodies. We've created a plethora of "modern diseases" as a result of agricultural evolution. OK, but we've also fed a lot of people, reproduced to almost planetary limits, and destroyed half the earth. Oh, wait, all bad too.... It's not bad though. This was a change in evolutionary history that further gave rise to expanding brain sizes. We know from the anthropological record (read as we think we know from fossilized skulls) that there were at least two distinct periods of hominid brain expansion that correlate very tightly with the discovery of fire pits remains and agricultural evolution. Neat, eh? And yet, here I was, gutted in my kitchen that I had frozen all my freaking bananas and what was I to do. Well thank goodness for the ancestral fire pit and farmer - it's because of them that I have a modernized brain that allows me to improvise, think creatively, and survive (as if I would've died without my paleo pancakes! no seriously, I might have! LOL). I "foraged" (i.e. looked around purposefully) my "surroundings" (i.e. my kitchen, pantry and fridge [oh my!]). I discovered a food product - sweet potato - that is nothing like a banana, but somehow I knew (from experience) that it had similar properties, it was edible, and might suffice as a substitute. Then I engaged in an almost uniquely human behavior: I tried it! That's right, I went for broke, (whoa, I am really dramatizing this, aren't I? :-) I experimented. Many organisms do not have the capacity for experimentation, tool use and creative thinking: they run on instinct. Humans (& crows, and domesticated dogs, and other primates) are among a few species that are able to do this. And, in closing, I must say, THANK GOODNESS, because I don't know what I might have done had I been woken up at 5:30 am to clean up dog diarhea and then not be able to eat my paleo breakfast >:-O
On last note about Paleo (or ZONE-ish) healthy eating. I've now been doing this again for at least a month, maybe a bit longer, and I have noticed performance gains that are just awesome. Now, part of this is mental, psychological. I went for Level 1 certification, and I've been following CrossFit for a while now, and I've tried to become part of the CF Community, so all those things are driving me to do work harder, faster, again and again. But, I do really think the diet has a combinatorial effect. I am not the first to suggest this, not by any means, in fact it's partially prescribed by CF, but I did want to comment on the personal, self-experimentation aspect of it. Take for example the fact that I max deadlifted more than I ever had, while eating paleo. Then just yesterday my wife, a few students and a professor from the college's new fitness club SPORT (Students Participating in Organized Running and Training) ran a 5K for Georgia Fallen Heroes (actually it was longer than 5K, 3.7 miles) and I ran it in a personal record time. I am convinced that this works.... It's hard at times, but the longer you do it, the more people you recruit as supporters and collaborators in this effort, the more like-minded people you surround yourself with - the easier it gets!
I am an Associate Professor of Psychology at Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville, GA and Level 1 Certified CrossFit trainer. I own and operate CrossFit Gwinnett and write scientifically about face processing and evolutionary neuroscience and personally about fitness and clean eating.