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“Fancy and Expensive Gyms” – BEWARE OF MIXED SIGNALS!

“Fancy and Expensive Gyms” – BEWARE OF MIXED SIGNALS, Fortis Fitness, Sean Kelly

With many so called “gyms” these days, there is an almost direct correlation between how much money we pay and how far we are removed from ever attaining our health and fitness goals. I submit:

Generally, the fancier and more expensive your gym, the more likely you will remain fat and unhealthy.

I believe most people can relate to the type of “fitness facility” to which I am referring. The fanciest of these gyms are sure to be in the heart of the largest, most well traveled cities – New York, Paris, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, London, etc. These spaces are always fabulously opulent, satisfying those with the most mandarin tastes.

 

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A Tale of Two Questions

In a recent impromptu interview I was cornered by a nutritionist who was very skeptical of the health advantages of consuming a majority of calories from natural meats, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds. He was also a rather outspoken advocate of many of the modern foods I generally avoid. This person took great offense at my direct naming of certain common processed foods as potentially dangerous to your health. I thought equal rights applied to people, not to Twinkies, soda-pop, sugared cereals, milk and fast foods. Regardless, I felt privileged to have such a learned man honor me with his question.

This person asked the following question in a very provocative tone: “Do you have any research studies directly proving that any of the foods you are knocking are dangerous to our health?” “Well? Do you? Now I’ve been asked this question before, but this time I really wanted to dwell on the answer. I asked my inquisitor if he would answer my question if I answered his question. My question was “Will you offer your participation in a simple, safe, short term food experiment on this very topic if I offer reciprocal involvement?” He replied “Yes”.

First, I answered his question as honestly as I could. I told this man that “No, I did not have any scientific research, peer reviewed and published or otherwise to which I could refer”. This was a little too honest, as I was well aware of some research showing the negative effects of consuming some of these specific foods and their constituent ingredients, but I did not have it with me. Nonetheless, I not only accepted my fate but went further.

I submitted that for the sake of this discussion then, we should both hold the position that there is no scientifically conducted, peer reviewed and accepted research directly linking these foods to any dangerous health effects – whatsoever. The logical corollary here is that if I cannot prove these foods are unhealthy to eat, then we must assume they are not unhealthy to consume. There are certainly no laws against eating these foods in any quantity. Hypothetically then we both would assume that there was no danger in consuming these foods. As unfortunate as that may be for my argument against these foods I would accept this position. Given this acceptance, it would seem then, that all of the “Foodie health nuts” need to shut up, once and for all and stop irresponsibly demonizing many of our modern, processed foods.

There was though, the final issue of my little food experiment in which he had agreed to participate. I ran through the details. I will choose three of his family members, including at least one child and put them on a strict diet for a period of 3 months with no exceptions. That diet will consist of the best known processed and fast foods, including Pop Tarts, Cheese in a Can, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Doritos, Wonder bread, milk, ice cream, processed cakes and snacks and candy. It will also include all of the major brands and flavors of soda pop. His family members will be highly restricted to eating and drinking these foods only. At the same time, he will choose three similar members of my family and we will put them on a strictly controlled diet of naturally raised meats, wild caught fish, fruits, vegetables and nuts and seeds and water – with no exceptions. Both groups will have a myriad of health markers including comprehensive blood tests and physicals, noted by a physician before and immediately after the three months period. All of those involved will be supervised by a doctor for the duration of the experiment.

The results will then be carefully documented and provided to a panel of 100 independent doctors and related health experts for enlightenment on the relative health improvement or deterioration of each subject. We will also accept the experts’ extrapolations and estimations on the future health and body weights of the test subjects in 6 months, 1, 5 and then 10 years.

Was this to be a perfect scientific experiment? Nope; no control group, and a larger sample of test subjects, etc. would be better. It would be interesting, nonetheless. I believe the real experiment here would be the test of how much confidence each of us had in our respective positions regarding modern food.

Strangest thing, he suddenly backed out of the whole idea. Turns out he did not like the idea of his 10 year old son being involved in this little experiment, even though I offered up three similar family members for him to choose. Given my answer to his question and my almost complete capitulation to his position, this was confusing.

This leads to a really interesting question regarding the varying degrees to which one might follow each of the two types of diet involved in this proposed experiment. After some discussion, the nutritionist said he wouldn’t have a problem with the experiment if “much less, but still some” of those foods dictated for his family member were provided. Yet, having “much less” of the foods stipulated for my family members for the substitution of other foods was not a concern. This begs the question, if he was not interested in 100% of the foods dictated because they were perhaps “unhealthy”, then what percentage of these “unhealthy” foods was acceptable. At what level of consumption were the chances of deleterious health effects acceptable? Again, this was not a concern whatsoever regarding the foods my family members were to eat. 100% was just fine with me. That was the whole point.

So, “bad” or otherwise “unhealthy” foods which he did not want his family member to consume were fine, as long as they were limited, but the idea of removing them altogether was absurd? My curiosity peaked. Does this position assume that because these processed foods exist, are normative (and tasty, and cheap) that we MUST then consume them, to at least some degree. The final position being that eating only the demonstrably healthy foods all of the time would be an eccentric, radical or otherwise crazy position to take? So, it is alright that I may experience some of the horrible health effects from eating these processed foods either now or in the future and this is a gamble that is mandatorily reasonable? Yet, following the scale in the “up” direction towards the healthiest foods was somehow deemed unreasonable.

Once he backed out of our agreement, I confessed that I did in fact have published research outlining the potential dangers of eating some of the processed foods we had discussed. Further, I could provide stacks of evidence that many of the ingredients in many of these products are likely quite dangerous to human health, especially in the large quantities in which they are typically consumed. Regardless, and to his point the research is still murky and does not seem to indicate clear, direct links between specific processed foods and ill-health. The relationship is simply not recognized in the way smoking has been correlated with lung cancer.

Even if I didn’t have the research on which this gentleman had challenged me, he and I both somehow knew that this food was not healthy. The sad meta-analysis is right in front of us, manifest in the poor, unhealthy folks who consume these foods as most of their calories. The terrible consequences of obesity and related disease are impossible to ignore. This is more than just deductive reasoning only. The proliferation of this super-industrialized, processed food since the industrial revolution corresponds very well with the lines on the graphs illustrating our rising chronic obesity and disease rates.   The sad reality here is that these processed foods have generally come to define the majority of “our food” for most of the public.

Enjoying Repetitive Exercise

The philosophy I strongly believe one should apply to cardiovascular exercise is simple: if you enjoy it – do it! Otherwise, keep looking until you find something you enjoy. I have successful experience reinforcing this idea as a permanent solution to exercising on a regular basis and benefiting from the good health it will provide. Still, there will always be temporary situations when we want to move our bodies but for whatever logistical reason are unable to do what we love.   And so we must face the idea of doing some repetitive form of exercise which we would otherwise not endure.

I have applied this philosophy to something as mundane as running with great success. In the past I hated running. Before I embraced my current philosophy, I considered running boring work that “needed to be done”. I would count the seconds. I would run 4 or 5 times a week for a few weeks and then stop because I just couldn’t make myself do it any longer. Over time, and with some experience, all of that changed.

I love the smell of sea air, girls in bikinis and sunshine. I love being around people having a good time and watching waves crash on a beach. I also like the feeling of my feet in the sand and a gentle warm breeze. I never grow tired of these things. These other factors have overtaken the generic activity of “running” and turned it into something that I have really enjoyed for over 15 years. I go outside and run on the beach at a pace where I never get uncomfortable or out of breath. Here I can experience all of those things I love. Sometimes I figure I am one step up from a fast walk. I lean forward so that my feat must catch up to prevent me from falling down. This creates a slow comfortable jog. This makes my stride very relaxing and almost effortless. When I get tired I stop.

I still hate running, but I love the other stuff. So much so, that the running has become an incidental and virtually unnoticeable part of the exercise. Running is like the empty glass and these things I love are the drink that fills it. It’s funny, because my slow jog is now a relatively fast paced run. I have been made aware of this only by others who I run with on occasion. This happened slowly and without notice. The keys are consistency and enjoyment – one feeds the other. This I know because unlike years ago, I long to go for a run if I haven’t had the time for a while. I contrast my current perspective to the generic act of running. Even now, the most time I can do on a treadmill is 10 minutes and only if there is a television to watch. If there is something very interesting on TV I can occasionally go for as long as 20 minutes, but that’s about all I can take.

Some people have challenged me on this philosophy. They have indicated that I live beside a beach and that anyone would love running there. Then they tell me to try living in Toledo Ohio, or Buffalo in January and enjoy my “sea air and bikinis”. The fact is, I live and spend the majority of my time in another big northern city and enjoy running there just as much if not more. How? The answer is real estate.

I love old houses. I really love the ones that look like old castles, 3 stories high and covered with ivy. The part of the city I live in is very old and half way gentrified. There are endless streets of these beautiful old homes; some in need of restoration and some completed. Many may be purchased for surprisingly little money given the area, but they need refurbishment. Most of these houses have the huge original wooden doors and stain glass. Some have spires and beautiful balconies on every floor. Even though run down, the craftsmanship involved in the ornate hard wood trim and masonry stands out like a lost art. They are from another time over a century ago. When they were built, that part of town was the most exclusive area in the city. Every one of these houses has a long history.

Occasionally, one of the nearby stores in this run down area will have a front sign changed. When this happens often an old sign will be revealed from a store long since closed up decades ago. Like the nearby homes, to me this is a bit of history creeping out like a passage in time. There are also beautiful old churches built entirely from stone. Many stand dark and quiet, closed up; their congregations long since moved on or withered away. I get lost in this stuff. For me it’s like a hypnotic, haunting journey into the past. At the same time my mind wonders at the future possibilities for these beautiful old buildings.

Sorry….sorry, I forgot for a moment, we are talking about beautiful old buildings and the topic is supposed to be running. That’s the whole point. I actually forget while I’m running. This happens every time. For me it’s like running into history, or through a beautiful architectural museum. It’s the same mental journey as on the beach, just different subjects. These examples demonstrate the pre-eminent importance of our brains in any form of exercise.

The other day, I went running with a very competitive friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in quite some time. I know this guy well and for him this was a battle to see who was in better shape. In the end this little challenge clocked in at over an hour and we had run over 7 miles. For me, this was an unusually fast and physically taxing pace. I kept up with him the whole way, but it was hell. This served well to jog my memory. I remembered why I hated running!

Let’s suppose one of your true joys in life is simply watching television for hours on end; movies, news, soap operas or just flipping from channel to channel. Let’s also assume you have fully embraced what is primarily an evolutionary diet and have achieved a caloric deficit or equity. Try this; replace your easy chair with a very comfortable seated recumbent stationary bike. Recumbent bikes are the ones where your legs are out in front of you and you can lean back into your seat. Get a few cushions or some foam padding and make it super comfortable. Put it on its lowest resistance setting and carry on watching television while doing this extremely slow and passive aerobic activity. If you love reading, simply replace the television with a book stand. Remember, you are not losing your breath and perhaps not even breaking a sweat, but your heart will beat faster, oxygen will fill your lungs and you will simply feel better. Even this extremely low intensity activity will produce results since your diet has ended the source of your body fat problem. Now you are chipping away at the prior damage as your body visibly improves.

I strongly believe those sports, hobbies and physical activities we are passionate about should basically define our “exercise”. Nonetheless, hopefully these ideas will expand the possibilities to include some of the stuff we normally wouldn’t consider.

Seriously…..This is A Great Job!

Sean Kelly

I often ponder how thankful the great people I continue to learn from must feel every day.  These folks include the fantastic doctors, evolutionary biologists, coaches, scientists, small farmers, activists, anthropologists, writers and journalists who know the truth about our food, health and fitness.  They must feel downright “messianic”.  They are indeed in the minority.  They all have one thing in common – they tell the truth.

Billions upon billions of dollars are spent every year by our government, and some of our biggest industries – agricultural, medical, pharmaceutical, restaurant, fitness, etc. – to drown out this truth.  Regardless, all of that greed, money and influence ensures that those armed with the truth are able to offer a truly unique and effective solution.  Those industries have literally created a problem that we can actually solve.  It just makes the message trumpeted from these amazing teachers stand out as even more effective and unique.

Yes, it is extremely unfortunate that many have to suffer and so many people are confused and unaware of the terrible dilemma in which they remain.  Nonetheless, the ability to help anyone out of this mess and achieve their health and fitness goals permanently is a real gift.

Every day you get to hear people tell you about their new success:

•    Terrible and chronic physical symptoms disappearing
•    Dramatically improved health and well being
•    People who love food are happy, eating all the time and still losing body fat
•    Folks spending less time in the gym and more time “having fun” outside the gym
•    Individuals actually wanting to “work out” for the first time ever
•    People getting stronger, faster and more powerful than they’ve ever been

I experienced all of these things personally.  As a fat, out of shape, unhealthy 26 year-old and after bumbling through countless years of failed efforts to improve, I too was enlightened and permanently “cured”.  Thank God for the wonderful people who taught me and allowed me to escape that lousy predicament.  Providing others with the simple solution to their confusion and witnessing them get slim and healthy is beyond satisfying.  It’s sort of like being the only one with antibiotics where everyone around you has an infection.  To those who receive this information, it brings freedom.

Although the money, power and influence of our largest industries will no doubt keep the majority of our population fat and unhealthy, it does provide those who possess the real solution with this one fantastic benefit.  It gives them the unique power to actually help people.  For the foot-soldiers in this battle this provides a job that delivers nothing but happiness and satisfaction – every day.

Oh, Great!…Another “Paleo” Asshole!

I read a great article recently. It was brought to my attention by a very passionate “Paleo” detractor. His argument to me was that there are really no “good or bad” foods. Rather, one needs primarily to understand the first law of thermodynamics – that is if you consume more calories than you burn, you’ll retain those calories as fat. Conversely, if you burn off more calories than you consume, you will lose body fat.

The other pillar of his argument though, was that for health, fat loss, and performance success, one need only consume the macro and micro nutrients his/her body requires, given individual activity levels, metabolism, etc. The point being that your body breaks down the food and does not know (nor does it matter) if, for example the protein it receives comes from a wild moose steak, or a McDonald’s hamburger. The article made some similar arguments, but with some excellent explanation. Here is the link to said article:

http://www.wannabebig.com/diet-and-nutrition/the-dirt-on-clean-eating/

I was impressed with this article as it provided some excellent critical analysis of food advice both past and present. It pointed out the contradictory, ironic and fickle history of much of our modern dietary advice. The Paleolithic diet did not escape this article without a few bruises, although simple “guilt by association” with our past food advice errors was the main critique. That, along with some humorous and obviously true ironies and hypocrisy the author had experienced with some ardent Paleo-diet practitioners.

Bizarro Comics Paleo Myth

The article warns about the potential dangers of over emphasizing the classification of foods as either “good or bad” especially in relation to conditions like anorexia nervosa. It also suggest strongly that given our staggering history of errors and contradictory mass food guidance that we should be very skeptical of the next “big idea” on how we should be eating for optimal health. Quoting this article:

“There currently is no compelling evidence suggesting that a diet whose calories are 80-90% from whole & minimally processed foods is not prudent enough for maximizing health, longevity, body composition, or training performance.”

Still, this statement inherently creates a judgment call on the other 10-20% as somehow “less good” than the 80-90% of the whole and minimally processed foods it suggests we should eat.
Wisely clarifying that other 10-20%, the article goes on to state:
“10-20% indicates the maximum, not minimum discretionary allotment. If someone strives to consume 0% of calories from any food that’s been processed or refined from its original state, then that’s perfectly fine – as long as this is the person’s genuine preference, and not a painful battle of will. I’d also like to make it clear that there is still plenty of grey area in the study of dietary effects on health. As such, the nature and extent of the miscellaneous or rule-free food allotment is a delicate judgment call. In this case, it’s wise to keep scientific research at the head of the judging panel, but don’t ignore personal experience & individual feedback.”

So, it seems clear from the author’s own words that I have his blessing if I choose to eat primarily what I consider my evolutionary foods!

Reading this article and arguing with my virulently “anti-Paleo” adversary was enlightening. It made me realize that many people who hear about this simple idea on food carry some strong, pejorative presumptions. Yet, contrary to what many have heard or read about the realities of following a Paleolithic era diet, my experience has been that many if not the vast majority of us simply use evolution as a general guide on what to eat- nothing more.

We often drink alcohol (in my case “quite often”) and eat outside of this context with 20% or more of those yummy and decidedly “non-Paleo” calories – especially if they are unprocessed versions. There are no exact rules of consumption and it depends on the individual and results – and more importantly, living and enjoying your life in the modern world. We just use evolution as a rational guide or filter– that’s all. This just gives us a spectrum of foods that are either really bad (ex. processed cheese in a can, Pop-tarts, fast food milk shake) or really good – the most natural forms of our meats, fish, fruits vegetables, nuts and seeds.

Some things we know to be relatively true:

  1. Animals – their physical bodies, including digestive systems, etc. evolved with their natural foods. This is why cats are obligate carnivores, cows are ruminant-herbivores, Koala bears eat eucalyptus leaves, and whales consume fish and plankton.
  2. All things being equal, animals tend to achieve what we know to be a healthful state eating primarily their respective natural diets (just ask a zoologist)
  3. The interaction between a living being and its food and the subsequent consequences for health or disease are infinitely complex. We certainly do not know everything and we know less today than we will tomorrow.
  4. Our foods are made up of an extremely complex list of constituent ingredients, some which we have yet to discover. Further, we continue to add chemicals and various ingredients to our foods, including genetically modified organisms, the long term effects of which we are not entirely aware.

If one takes the strangely “food egalitarian” position that there are no “good” or “bad” foods, this position unfortunately defies the above maxims, especially #3 and #4.
While our bodies don’t discern where our food nutrients come from once they are digested, they are digested differently given the existence of the other ingredients (or lack thereof) in the foods we eat. That is, our bodies evolved to eat foods like oranges and attain the vitamin C from the oranges, along with all of the other healthy, natural ingredients in the orange. This is why the body does not benefit from a spoonful of scientifically reduced, pure vitamin C quite the same way as it does the vitamin C consumed with the whole orange. Quoting Marion Nestle from her book “Food Politics” regarding nutrient reductionism:

“This logic is flawed in that it fails to consider the complexity of food consumption and the interaction among food components. Throughout evolution, food plants developed hundreds of chemicals to ward off unwanted insects and predators, and a great many of these have been shown to stimulate detoxifying enzymes in the people who eat them. The complexity of food composition means that no single nutrient is likely to work nearly so well as a diet rich in the fruits and vegetables from which that nutrient was isolated”

Further, we do not yet know all of the health consequences created by the difference between eating natural whole foods vs. some of their isolated ingredients. We do know that it is really healthy to eat oranges though, because of the other healthy ingredients, including the other nutrients (known and as yet unknown), water, fiber, etc.

The reality is that people generally eat complex foods – not just big glasses of pure macro and micro nutrients. Some of these foods are obviously highly processed with questionable chemical additives. Even some of our more common whole foods have dangerous constituent ingredients. Witness peanuts or milk for those with allergies or intolerance to those foods, or wheat for someone with Celiac disease. So, how we react to our food is far more complex, with profound consequences now and in the future – some of which we are completely unaware of at this time.

Further, some of our modern processed foods, especially those loaded with salt, fats and sugars are highly addictive. Quoting Michael Moss from his groundbreaking book “Salt, Sugar, Fat”:

“The blood gets especially besieged when processed food is ingested, flooding the system with its heavy loads of salt, sugar, and fat. But where the links between eating and drugs gets really interesting is in the brain. There, narcotics and food – especially food that is high in salt, sugar and fat – act much alike. Once ingested, they race along the same pathways, using the same neurological circuitry to reach the brain’s pleasure zones, those areas that reward us with enjoyable feelings”

There seems to be an excellent argument for avoiding highly processed and fast foods completely, just as there would be for not partaking in “a little heroin or cocaine” now and then. Pondering whether these foods can be addictive or harmful seems to end abruptly when one witnesses the size and apparent ill-health of those eating them everyday where they are procured. Interestingly, healthier and less complicated versions of these same tempting and delicious “foods” created from simple, natural ingredients are demonstrably more benign (even if just as caloric).

So, ostensibly there indeed seems to be a rather unavoidable spectrum of good and bad foods – not just micro or macro nutrients – generally for our species, and then more specifically for individuals.

Recently, I was told that people who advise eating our Paleolithic era human diet have a hidden agenda. Responding sarcastically was for me, unavoidable. “Yes! Damnit! We have finally been exposed!” All of those struggling small farmers selling natural food are actually part of a vast conspiracy out to take over the world. Ted Nugent is running the whole thing. All of those greedy, super rich “Paleo” people will finally be unmasked for the Charlatans they are. I recall the hippie girl who sucked me into the conspiracy 23 years ago – she wrote “natural meats, fruits, vegetables nuts and seeds” on the back of a receipt and told me “eat mostly this stuff, it’s typically what our ancestors ate. You’ll get really healthy and lean”. How could I have been so gullible?! Strangest thing though, she didn’t charge me anything, she just smiled and walked away.

In a sea of misinformation on diet, eating primarily our evolutionary foods represents a simple, elegant plan which has demonstrably delivered robust health and fat loss to millions of people and seems to make more logical sense than most of the alternatives – that’s all. It’s simply the best general compass we have discovered on “what to eat” and what to avoid eating.

So, I am confused as to why a passionately “anti-Paleo” contingency seems so against this idea. Myself and millions of other people have permanently lost their excess body fat and enjoy measured improvements in health. Our symptoms of many chronic or auto-immune diseases have diminished or disappeared – including type II diabetes, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, IBS, etc., etc. What exactly would they have us do? Go back to the “all foods are equal” plan? If eating primarily these foods had not worked and Evolutionary Discordance theory made no sense, I certainly would. There is no pride here, just logic and results.

I have found that the following article stands as one of the best introductions to our Paleolithic diet. It is absolutely worth the read and provides a very rational, well referenced overview:

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/81/2/341.long

There is no risk in eating this way. Anyone can try it for a week or two and quickly see if their health improves or if they lose some body fat. Regardless as to the aspersions some have cast about “hidden Paleo agendas” there is nothing to buy – it’s free. It’s all over the internet. I summarized it in a single sentence about five paragraphs back.

Contrastingly, there seems to be more risk in following the advice: “there are no good or bad foods”. Just review the statistics and trends on obesity and food related illnesses. Just walk into your local supermarket or fast food restaurant and witness the many poor souls struggling with obesity and food related disease. Ask, and I doubt you will find too many of those folks who have used evolution as their primary guide in deciding “what to eat”.

A great gym should always have good, strong coffee available…

Strong Coffee for a Strong Gym at Fortis FitnessA great gym should always have good, strong coffee available (free of charge) for it’s fine members!  And we are always striving to be a “great gym” for our awesome members.  So – free coffee!

Further, check out this quote from Vasily Alexeyev (listening to Vasily is a really good idea!):
“Do I worry? Well, of course.  If you don’t worry, you’ll never succeed at
anything.  In sports, without the excitement of daring, you don’t win victory
or records. When I’m too calm before a competition, I rouse myself with hot
coffee. The pulse must be beating — no less than 18 times in ten seconds …

VaVasily Alexeyev

Olympic Gold Medalist (USSR), Super heavyweight Division in 1972 and 1976, holder of 80 World Records

Strength Training – Beginners and Advanced

Something really cool happens when rank beginners are working out in the same room with more advanced (and even professional) athletic folks who are extremely fast and strong.  The advanced folks lead the way because they generally know what hell they are doing.  The stakes are very high for them.  They invest an incredible amount of time and effort in their training.  They tend to work with professional, certified and experienced coaches who have a history of success.

I often witness high school kids and older folks who have been going to gyms for years.  Most of their workouts consists of isolating limb movements like biceps curls, or leg extensions completed in fancy looking fitness machines.  You see them doing the same exercises day in and day out.  For the ones who are really dedicated, you’ll see them complete a sequence like this:  bench press, incline press, decline press – 4 sets of 8-12 repetitions, on “chest day” – month after month, over and over and over again.  When they arrive at our gym, they can often be seen staring quizzically at the athletes and others who doing an entirely different regimen.  They sometimes inquire:  why aren’t those people doing more curls?  Why are they always in those big racks?

In the correct environment, these folks quickly snap out of it.  They see the bigger, stronger guys and ladies in awesome shape who are dead-lifting, benching, squatting, doing heavy pulls, box jumping and practicing all kinds of proven methods and principles.  They also witness them write down everything, with constant attention to the empirical notation of improvement in the number of repetitions, resistance and speed.  They are curious.  They want to follow and many quickly do just that.

Now, you need a very civilized room here.  You need a place where new folks are first shown their way around, taught the basic free weight barbell exercises and provided with explanation as to why they work.  It should also be a room where the really strong folks are not ego-maniacs but are free to lift to their limits and beyond with the right equipment and atmosphere.

I first heard Louie Simmons speak about this in regard to power-lifting, where world champions at his famous Westside Barbell Club are training beside rank novices.  This no doubt will help to allow those new folks to reach their full potential.  It’s totally true and it makes for a hyper-productive, supportive, and positive team based atmosphere.  In other words, a place to where people look forward to going and being.

The blind are not following the blind.  People with real insights who are always learning are sharing their knowledge and everyone – especially beginners – absolutely benefits.  No time or effort is wasted and all are training optimally toward their goals.  That is, goals which are measurably and most certainly being attained.

You Can Lead A Horse to Water, BUT…

I have been studying and practicing strength training myself for some years now.  With every passing year and every book I read, I come to have a deeper respect for the great scientists, doctors, trainers and athletes who have pushed this science of human performance forward.  I have immense gratitude for the authors of this great information:  Simmons, Siff, Rippetoe, Ajan, Baroga, Tsoutsaline, Zatsiorky, Verkoshansky, Medvedyev, and Kurz, et.al.  These are just a few of the most valuable names on the list of folks who have imparted such useful wisdom and knowledge.  Some of course, have different points of view, but there are many common elements on which they more or less agree.  Consensus on these essential points helps to make strength training knowledge a rather elegant thing to dispense to others.

Effectively communicating strength training ideas that will deliver success involves some relatively simple, proven steps.  First, introduce people to the rudimentary science – the physics and physiology behind these methods.  Also, introduce them to the coaches and scientists responsible for this knowledge and the great athletes who have practiced and expressed these training methodologies with great success.  That would cover the “why?” part of things.

Next, teach people the basic free weight exercises correctly, along with the basic assistance exercises.  In doing so, explain how to properly warm up, the basic equipment, racks, platforms, chalk, etc.  Throw in the basics on adequate rest and nutrition and give them simple, proven programming for beginners.  That would be a good start for the “how?” part of the equation.  From that point on, keeping an eye on new folks for form or programming errors, takes a relatively small amount of time.  When they plateau, tweak their program appropriately or put them on a slightly more advanced program.  Along the way, you can introduce them to new exercises, bars, chains, equipment and more advanced progressions.

This process will be mostly autonomously managed by the practitioner.  Most of the attention is required right at the beginning and then a little supervision and coaching along with answering questions is primarily all that is needed for success.  Coaches and trainers are really meant to be guides on this journey of introspection and self-awareness.  Along the way, simple truths will be revealed.  Guidelines such as “show up and concentrate” before you decide that you don’t feel like working out that day, or think you might have a lousy workout.  Another one is to always “explode” and execute the working sets with much speed as possible.  The great news that “Less is More” regarding time and work at the gym is also well received by folks who are new to this highly effective type of training.

I can speak to this personally.  I went to big commercial gyms in my younger years and used their uninformed, misguided approach.  I would ignore the power rack (if there even was one) and do my Preacher’s curls, leg extensions, delt raises and use all the cool machines over and over and over again.  If the odd rare soul at those gyms was doing dead-lifts, squats or power cleans, it was almost assuredly with incorrect technique and with less than adequate equipment.  I just didn’t know it at the time.

Back then, when I followed a “program”, its provenance began and ended with a “bigger guy” who told me about it at the gym, or another guy like me who had heard about it from a “big guy” at the gym.  Of course, I graduated to the odd “muscle” magazine article written by a famous body builder that promised “Gargantuan Size” or “Truly Massive Guns”.  Yup,… been there, done that.

Forsaking the great teachers, scientists, and athletes, who have collectively created and provided the proven body of knowledge regarding optimal physical improvement and performance is sort of like walking into a chemistry lab and just tearing up the periodic table.  It’s like telling a geneticist that you have a better idea than that whole “human genome map thingy”.  Yet, this seems to be a strange byproduct of the diet and fitness industry.  Somehow the novelty of our modern diet and fitness pop culture has created grand misconception.  Some folks don’t realize that improving human performance is a scientific discipline, just like physics, or bio-chemistry, or any other science.  Strength training has its own brilliant Phd’s.  These people are also experts in the fields of physics, statistics, biology, chemistry, psychology, kinesiology, and bio-mechanics, (among other sciences), all related to human performance.

A fitness gym is one of the only places where people who have been “going to the gym” for a few years somehow come to the conclusion that they have it all figured out.  For those who make this mistake, stagnation and mediocrity are the prevailing results.  We see it all of the time.  These are the same folks who will tell you that they are doing quarter (instead of full) squats because they don’t want to hurt their back or knees.  They are also the ones who don’t keep track of what they do in the gym – that is, they don’t keep a log of the # of reps and sets or the amount of resistance they use.  These folks rarely get any stronger.  They often gravitate to all of the isolating machines, and stay away from the free weights.  Their workouts are mostly unplanned and completed in an almost random way.  Unfortunately, even after a few years, the result is a physique that remains the same with no discernible improvement, even after all that work and time at the gym.  They might as well have just gone to the park and taken a walk.

Yet, it is so easy to take advantage of the great lessons learned from the experts in this field.  For those who wish to respect the wonderfully effective, proven methodologies of the fastest, strongest people on the planet, essentially they just need to start with 2 simple steps:

1.Learn the correct technique of the classic, biomechanically correct free weight exercises

2.Get on a proven program utilizing those exercises, based on your skill level and experience

People who ignore either of the above look the same and physically perform the same, month after month and year after year.  If one’s goals are stagnation or just hanging around in a gym then I suppose that makes sense.  Yet, advanced methodologies will allow that maintenance with much less work and that is much more rational approach economically.  Further, individualization will be a wonderfully inherent part of many programs, allowing your weaknesses to be attached and customization to further ensure your improvement.  The long and short of it is that you will get somewhere.  Goals will actually be reached because you will be using the most proven effective tools.  Some people just need to be pulled out of their “personal fitness knowledge vacuum” before any of this can possibly happen.

IT DOESN’T MATTER IF THERE IS GLUTEN IN RICE!

The other day a guy told me that his doctor advised him that he should avoid gluten.  He then asked me if there is gluten in rice.  As a responsible Paleo-diet practitioner, my humble response was the following:

“IT DOESN’T MATTER IF THERE’S GLUTEN IN THE DAMN RICE!”

Now, the reason it just doesn’t matter is that our human evolutionary diet DID NOT INCLUDE GRAINS.  That means our ancestors, for millions of years didn’t eat wheat, barley, rye, rice, or any of the other grains commonly consumed today.

Does anyone know exactly what “gluten” looks like in its isolated form?  If I go to a restaurant, I can’t order a “bowl of gluten” or the “gluten casserole” or a “side order of gluten”.  Since this is true, I am therefore at the mercy of those telling me my whether or not the foods I eat are actually “gluten free”.

Alternatively, I can pretty much avoid grains all together.  In this way I will automatically be avoiding gluten.  Logically, that’s a really logical position to take.  I could also consider a meta-analysis involving real people.  That is, people who are not eating grains that are really, really, healthy, and tend to avoid many of our modern diseases of civilization.  In other words, it doesn’t make much sense to avoid the particular constituent ingredient that has been identified as particularly harmful to your health, when you should be avoiding the foods that it exists within – because they are not your natural human foods.

It just doesn’t make much sense to me to eat a very questionable food group, because we “haven’t yet identified or proven the specific constituent ingredients that are hurting us”.  If something is shown to be clearly not optimal for your health and well-being, you should avoid that thing, especially when there are wonderful alternatives that have been proven to be just the opposite – really good for you.  It is further enlightening, reinforcing and useful to understand that these wonderful alternatives are part of the evolutionary human diet.

The alternative course of action would be similar to NOT bothering to avoid radiation because you are not really sure exactly why this invisible, seemingly undetectable force (you can’t see it, taste it, or smell it) will likely kill you.  So, avoiding radiation as much as possible, regardless of knowing exactly why and how it is hurting you is a good idea.  Is finding out exactly why it is harmful a worthy endeavor? ABSOLUTELY!   But avoiding that bad thing and studying it are MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE events.  This is why evolutionary science makes so much sense and continues to be such a responsible and healthful guide in regards to our food choices.

This is sort of like “reverse scientific reductionism”.  In my opinion, the practice of scientific reductionism is manifest in its worst form in the following way.  An isolated nutrient from a typically healthy food is found to quite possibly improve one’s health or a specific condition.  Let’s use the example of beta-carotene which is found in high quantities in carrots and is known to help counter age-related macular degeneration, thus helping those with deteriorating vision.  Now, the folks at a large food processing company get hold of this information.  Then, they use  one of their really, really unhealthy, fattening processed cookie products or breakfast cereals as a method of delivery.  They infuse unnaturally high amounts of beta-carotene (which can be an unhealthy practice on its own) into the cookie or cereal and then package and sell it as a “healthy” food product that will improve your eyesight.  (Yup, this is basically legal).

Trying to avoid gluten, but not the less than healthy foods it naturally occurs within, would then be sort of like “reverse scientific reductionism”.  Yet, this very idea has spawned the nascent “gluten-free” movement and a completely new sub-industry that has conveniently popped up to fulfill the demand for every imaginable gluten-free food product.  This is making some opportunistic people in the food industry a ton of money.

In contrast, with Paleo eating, WE START WITH THE ANSWER.  Our ancestors didn’t have a clue what micro-nutrients or other chemical properties were in the natural animal foods, fruits, vegetables or nuts they consumed.  They just ate those foods and remained in a state of health that was far superior to our unfortunate modern day state of ill-health.

Now, I don’t want to get all “scientific” on anyone, but sometimes we need to bring this stuff out into the open.  Here is a pretty good summary of why one should avoid grains:

http://www.cpmedical.net/articles/glutens-and-lectins-a-dangerous-dietary-duo

Saying NO to “gluten”, but not the foods that contain gluten is similar to being okay with mass murderer stay in your house with your family, BECAUSE YOU GOT RID OF ALL THE KNIVES IN THE HOUSE.  The fact is, he’s a bloody murderer.  He can still hurt you or your children with a blunt object, poison, a gun, or in an infinite number of other ways.

Back to the title of the blog; the fact is there is no gluten in rice, at least not the same kind that is in wheat.  Do I still eat rice?  I don’t buy it, but I love Japanese and Indian food, so I have a little when I am eating that stuff.  But otherwise, I avoid it.  I eat such a small amount of rice and other grains that my “glutin” intake is so close to zero as to be inconsequential.  Preliminary research shows that the lectins and the appropriately named “anti-nutrients” in rice are not as dangerous to human health as many others in the grain family.  Still, following the advice of the best that evolutionary science has to offer, and the wonderful, simple intuition to eat mainly what you genetically evolved to eat:

 AVOID ALL GRAINS

AVOID ALL DAIRY

 Following this advice will make you seem like a genius, especially compared to the doctor or nutritionist who is suddenly telling you to “stop eating gluten”.

New Years Blog – Why are we so fat?

A new year is upon us once again and yet again many of us are resolute in our goal to lose at and get healthy.  Just as in past years the media is awash with speculations as to just why we are getting so fat and unhealthy.  We are also bombarded with supposed solutions, just as we were last year and the year before that and the year before that.

I have heard just about every possible reason for our problems, but have yet to hear anyone in the media identify the real, underlying problem.  Before a successful and permanent solution can be found, we must first identify the true, root cause behind why our society is becoming so uncontrollably fat and unhealthy.

Let me start with some of the red herrings.  These are the things that usually get the blame but are simply NOT the true, underlying causes of our problems:

  • Sedentary lifestyles
  • Lack of exercise
  • Fast Food
  • Lack of will power or discipline
  • Genetics
  • Hormones

The Real Problem:

The real, underlying problem here is that what we commonly eat today and what we have come to know as “our food” is not what humans are naturally meant to eat.

So what are humans biologically meant to eat?

  • Naturally raised animals (meat, fish, birds, eggs, etc.)
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds

So WHO is responsible for the fattening and unhealthy modern diet most of us consume today?

Our modern food industry: huge, powerful multinational companies and organizations including:

  • Monsanto
  • Con-Agra
  • Cargill
  • ADM
  • General Foods
  • McDonalds
  • Walmart
  • Nestle
  • Danone
  • The Salt Lobby
  • The Sugar Lobby
  • The Dairy Lobby
  • etc.

2   Our governments:  who are highly influenced by the food industry

Question:  Why do these companies do this?

Answer:  They are huge corporations that exist to make as much money as possible

Question:  How do they do this?

Answer:

a)  They create low cost, addictive foods.  They “supersize” these foods and pack them with cheap, dense fat and sugar calories

Why?  So we’ll buy more of their food; because:

  • We are still “hard-wired” genetically to survive periods of “food scarcity”
  • So, we naturally prefer fats and sugars – the richest calories

b)  The Government subsidizes and promotes these foods

Why would our governments do that?

  • To appease the influential, powerful modern food industry
  • To protect jobs and promote domestic agriculture

So, our government, the media, dietitians, our schools and other institutions perpetuate this modern diet causing obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and many other illnesses.

How?  –  Via our modern food industry’s enormous amounts of money, power and influence.

Modern-Food-Cost-Benefit-Imbalance

What about the diet and fitness industry?  Failure occurs for the following reasons:

Diet

  • Contemporary diets do not work against high calorie, addictive modern foods
  • So we restrict our calories, but that doesn’t work because:

I.      Our metabolisms slows further and further to preserve fat calories

II.      Highly addictive food requires great will-power to avoid – this eventually fails

III.      Our bodies crave the low levels of nutrients in this high calorie food to try and

maintain good health or muscle

Exercise

  • Does not work to counter the large caloric surplus caused by modern foods
  • Too much discipline/hard work required – Bootcamp, etc. are not maintained
  • Increased appetite = more modern food = caloric surplus = additional body fat

Proof:  The Diet & Fitness industry is now roughly $60 billion/year, but we’ve never been fatter or more riddled with diet related diseases

So, even after spending countless hours exercising and lifting weights, most of fail to reach our goals.  After all the hard work, invariably we end up in one of the following categories:

“bulky” weight lifting people

“In-shape” fat people

“Skinny-fat” people

 

The Solution:  how to lose fat, gain muscle and be healthy – permanently

 

Step 1:  Achieve permanent caloric equity/deficit with a healthy, evolution based diet:

  • Eat naturally raised animals, fruits, vegetables as your staple foods
  • Never get hungry, eat all the time
  • Minimize rice, corn, beans, potatoes and other starchy roots
  • Avoid all other grains and dairy
  • Make sure all the food you eat is as UNPROCESSED as possible

REPEAT:  DO NOT EAT PROCESSED, INDUSTRIALIZED FOOD!

A Food Pyramid Respecting The Natural Human Diet:

(Please notice how it differs from the government food guides)

 A-Food-Pyramid-Respecting-The-Natural-Human-Diet

 

 

Please, remember!….

 Really Bad Food Choices versus Really Good Food Choices 

 Step 2:  Maximize the three ways your body burns calories (fat)

1.  Resting metabolic rate = 60-75% of fat burn

  • MUSCLE BURNS FAT!  So increase your resting metabolic rate by building new   muscle.  Strength training is the most efficient, optimal way to build muscle

2.  Thermic effect of food = 7-10% of fat burn

  • Eat the foods from Step 1!  They provide the greatest thermic effect
  • Don’t let yourself get hungry, eat all day

3.  Physical activity = variable % of fat burn

  • Do only things you love
  • Avoid meaningless, boring, hard “cardio” gym workouts
  • 60% of max heart rate = optimum fat loss/preserves valuable muscle (examples
  • include:  walking, gardening, bicycling, vacuuming a carpet, or dancing

 

Summarizing:

We are getting increasingly fat and sick (diabetes, heart disease, etc) because at least a dozen or so huge, multinational food companies absolutely need us to eat the foods they produce!  If we become increasingly fat and sick as a result, that’s our problem, not theirs.  Although it is not yet a legal requirement that we eat only their foods; they have made it almost impossible for the small farmers who produce our natural, healthy foods to exist.

Is a little fresh bread, milk in your tea, or some artisan cheese going to hurt you?  Of course not!  The problem is the wild proliferation of harmful industrial food over the last 40 to 50 years.  These highly processed foods have taken the place of our natural evolutionary foods as the staples we eat.  That, in a nut shell is why we are increasingly obese and chronically ill.

Why have you never heard this before from the Surgeon General, CNN or another major news network or magazine?

Because the huge companies comprising our modern food industry are immensely powerful and would not like that at all!  The medical, pharmaceutical, and diet & fitness industries would also potentially lose billions of dollars.  Conversely, the small, local farmers and producers of our natural, healthy food would prosper.

Want scientific, documented proof of this?  We will be happy to provide you with more detail along with all of the great scientific and evidentiary references.

Thank you and have a wonderful New Year!