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A Few Observations


because caprice is delightful,

and meaning is invented,

and because butterfly wings do not cause chaos;

... and because we have a right to aspire.

Not beautiful:

because choices are responsibilities,

and not all effort is rewarded,

and because, as the twig is bent, so grows the tree,

and because cruelty is so casual.

We all went to high school with this guy.  He thinks function follows form. 

Hm, seems harmless enough ...

... oh.  The danger of taking something to its logical extreme.  Moderation, please. 

You just never can tell.

Gonna mess you up.

Perils abound.

What a complicated world.  Where, where is clarity to be found?  Blown about by opinion is no way to live.  Consult the occupants of the First Circle of Hell, as evidence.  So decide on a few rules, and live by them.  Nothing preachy.  Eat sensibly, to feed your cells.  Exercise sensibly, because the absence of stress is a kind of distress.

Well?  That's what we do here, at FitWorks, CrossFit in Burbank, as you are increasingly becoming aware.  Questions?  Feel free.

Be excellent.

CrossFit Burbank

What To Eat

We start with common sense. If your grandma wouldn't recognize it as food, it probably isn't. Food, contrary to popular opinion, does not grow in boxes, bags or cans. Its growth is somehow connected with the ground. As little contact as possible with factories is desirable, generally. Organic? -- heirloom? -- sure, of course. But don't let that stop you. Excellence is better than good enough, but good enough is good enough. Perfect is a fantasy, a destructive fantasy. See? Common sense.

So, what to eat? We've seen it before. Berry-fruit smoothies. Doesn't have to come out of a $400 blender. Just get the job done ... make a smoothie. Berries are superb nutrition. Invented to be food. So get to Trader Joe's or CostCo or where ever, and blend frozen blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, strawberries ... all very low glycemic load ... you can get exotic and try goji or mulberry or cranberry or gooseberry or acai.  And if you do NOT have a weight issue, maybe a tiny little bit, a cube or two, of mango, pineapple, kiwi, banana, for the nutrients, not for the flavor. The tropical fruits have a higher glycemic load, so go easy on them. On the other hand, a little is reasonable if it's appropriate -- we're after the nutrients. Do NOT guzzle it.  Sip it.  Carb digestion starts in the mouth. Savor the flavor.

Add water, maybe tap, maybe purified ... whatever. Add some protein powder, to taste, not more than 30 grams per serving (and that's a lot) -- maybe rice protein, maybe pea protein, maybe mixed veggie protein -- no need for soy, or whey ... we get enough soy and animal proteins just by being American -- no need to supplement it. Add some coconut oil, some flax seed oil, some omega three oil.

Omega 3 fish oil.  The most important neglected nutrient in the Western / American diet.  Major malnutrition.  We like folks to MEGADOSE it -- two or three TABLE spoons, the big spoon.  Liquid form, Carlsons is a high quality brand, 35 to 50 bucks a bottle, but you're worth the investment.  This is not cod liver oil -- completely different.  Good quality doesn't taste fishy.  (HERE for more details.)  Never use the pills -- rancid.

You now have in effect perfect nutrition. You could live, abundantly, off of just this sort of meal. No need for any other beverage, milk or rice milk or soy milk or almond milk or cow milk or, um, wheat milk or milk milk. Common sense. We're not trying to add calories and spike our insulin. We're trying to get nutrients into our bloodstream.

Most people's blood is sugar water and red corpuscles, and maybe some heavy metals ... strontium or plutonium maybe. Don't be like that. Feed your cells, not your appetite. The bloodstream should be a soup, a thick broth as it were, of nutrients, available when your cells need what they need. You don't know what they need. But they need it. So eat nutrients, not sugar in all its industrial disguises.

What else? Fibrous vegetables. Nutrient dense, calorie poor: the perfect ratio, if there is such a thing as perfect.  Maybe a stew, a delicious stew, of frozen broccoli, cauliflower, mixed peppers, corn and peas and green beans and string beans and carrots. Chop in any other veggies you like, or high quality meats.  Add seasonings. Apple cider vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, turmeric, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, basil, oregano, parsley, any other high-nutrient herbs or spices. Bragg Liquid Aminos -- savory.  Bread?  Some, Ezequiel, at most stores ... seven grains, sprouted ... low glycemic load.  Good.

As we age, or as we continue to abuse ourselves with sub-adequate dietary practices, we stop digesting food properly, or at all.  Very bad.  Eat food, and then digest it adequately.  See how that works?  Fortunately there's such a thing as capitalism in the world, so there are products for which we exchange money and gain benefit.  Specifically, cooking kills all enzymes in the food we eat, which places an undue stress on the pancreas, which makes our own digestive enzymes.  So what?  Our industrial-style diets give us a pancreas three times larger than that of someone with a traditional diet.  Bigger is not better.  So go to a health food store etc and buy DIGESTIVE ENZYMES, and use them with every cooked-food meal.  Very deep long-term benefits.  Further, with any protein meal, use HCl supplements (with betaine and pepsin), say, HERE.

What to eat before a workout? Something that won't spike your insulin. Eat more than half an hour, or an hour, prior to the job. What to eat after the workout? If your goal is to pack on muscle, it's the one time that spiking insulin is good, to usher protein into muscle cells. Here it is again, the post-workout recovery drink:

A can of 100% fruit juice (not the sugar water "drink"), flavor does not matter -- it's all instant carbs anyway, which, in this instance, is the point. Look at the ingredients, see how many grams of carbs there are, and add about one-third or one-fourth that many grams of protein powder -- pea protein is nice. So if it's 250 grams of carbs, add 60 to 80 grams of protein. It's not complicated, it's easy. Protein you don't need just turns into calories, and in the mean time turns your body acidic, and leaches calcium out of your bones, and is hard to digest anyway. Don't get more than you need. Get what you need. That's called optimal.

Add 2 g each of:
• potassium
• magnesium
• creatine
• glutamine
• vitamin C & E
• ALA (alpha lipoic acid) .

Divide it into 3 or 4 portions, freeze them for later, use it within an hour of a hard, big workout.  How concentrated?  Your business, but you do want the fluid.

What else to eat?  Paleo?  Atkins?  Zone?  South Beach? Weight Watchers? They are all insulin-control diets.  Low glycemic load.  It's not all the protein that gives the benefits, it's cutting back the industrial carbs.  Paleo gets it right in the emphasis on good fats and low glycemic load carbs.  As for all the protein, there's a debate that we need not get into.  Eat, be happy, but be responsible.  So eat nuts and seeds and fruits and whole grains and all those good things. In moderation.  Eat them for the nutrients.  Feed your cells abundantly, and feed your appetites moderately.  You know, common sense, like grandma would have wanted.  No need to be perfect.

Be excellent.


CrossFit Burbank

At Sixes and Eights

Let's keep it simple. The upper body -- arms and shoulders -- does 2 things: pushes and pulls. The middle body -- core, torso, trunk -- does 2 things: bends and twists. The lower body -- legs and hips -- does 2 things: stands and steps. That's it. Simple. Six big things the body does.

The muscleman magazines and protein supplement sellers and gizmo hucksters want you to believe it's about exotic movements and magic pills and hightec molded plastics. Hmm. We have a question then. How does a baby learn to walk? Does it have standing days and stepping days and balancing days? And patented specially formulated megadose diets from the factory? And devices that twist its appendages into froglike contortions for some theoretical benefit?

Should we have leg days and arm days and chest days and back days? Yes we should, if we're the Frankenstein Monster, made out of discrete body parts that function in isolation and make no use of opposing muscles or cooperative neuromuscular functioning. So ... that would be a no. We shouldn't train like that. It all sounds so scientific, but so did phlogiston.

You learn to play the piano by playing scales and chords and melodies, not by hitting all the Cs on the keyboard every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And we teach our bodies to be phenomenally fit by doing constantly varied functional movements at high intensity, consistently.

The weightroom has its place. But why in the world are regular people attempting to do exotic bodybuilder movements? It's nuts. Are you a professional bodybuilder? No. Hardly anyone is, yet so many people are doing workouts that only the genetically gifted and the steroid users could possibly benefit from. Futility. People focus on the tiny little refinements before they have even a foothold on actual strength. They're doing things for their posterior deltoids before they can even do a proper squat. It's nuts.

So let's keep it very simple. If you think that weights are all you should be doing ... well, you'd be wrong. But if you insist on thinking that, then at least use effective movements. You only need 8 of them. Eight. Only 8, for the 6 big things the body does -- push, pull, bend, twist, stand and step.

Two  pushes, either dips or bench press, and an overhead press. Two pulls, either rows or chins, and highpulls.

Deadlifts and squats; do not do these without being taught how -- done properly, they are utterly safe; done carelessly, they are a trip to the emergency room. Always start with less weight than you think.

Lunge and twist -- again, these movements must be learned. Do not twist with weight.   But "core" training, ab training, is only part of the picture. We'll talk about this some other time.

So there it is. Simple. If you can do it right, and with the discipline and intensity that it takes, well, you deserve to talk in a loud voice that brooks no argument.  But don't. Alas, doing things right is not so easy, or common.  If being a great chef were just following recipes, we'd all be fat and famous. There has to be talent somewhere in the formula.

You can be told what to do.  But it's  about results. If you like results, well, be competent.  Information is fascinating, and necessary, but reality is real.  In any case, do something effective.  It's not complicated.  It's simple.

Be excellent.


CrossFit Burbank


There's quite a bit of controversy about the appropriate amount of protein required by various activity levels. It is common to read something like this, at the Weider site: "For those who are physically active, research has shown that between 1-1.5g of protein per pound of body weight is optimal."

In itself this is a virtually meaningless statement, given that no account is taken of gender or lean body mass, let alone body composition. A 105-pound cheerleader and a 240-pound bodybuilder, and a morbidly obese layabed are barely members of the same species -- Homo athleticus ... gracile, robust and otiose. The Weider site -- a commercial webpage with the primary purpose of selling nutritional supplements ... such as protein powders -- attempts to refine its figure with the following chart.

Fair enough. It's not uncommon to read estimates as high as 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight. That's 300 grams of protein for someone 150 pounds, and 1200 calories -- which is precisely half the calories of what most men need on a daily basis.

A very active athlete can burn up to an estimated 3000 calories per workout. This can be estimated with the rough and ready formula of: every pint/pound (of sweat) you lose represents about 350 to 400 calories burned. It's a rule of thumb -- ambient temperature, humidity, hydration levels, ventilation all factor in, confoundingly. That same athlete may lose up to 12 pounds in a few hours -- and must, MUST drink enough water in the next few hours to replace the loss.

How much protein does all this burning and sweating require? And how much protein should a normally active person get? Protein is 4 calories per gram -- same as carbs (most fats are just over twice that -- 9 cals; medium chain lipids are 7 cals, same as alcohol). If we go by the Weider numbers, an active 150-pounder with a 2000 calorie diet (rounding of course) would require up to 900 calories of protein daily. That's like ... uh ... um ... 45%, right? Seems really high. Just about half your calories coming from protein. What, are we cavemen?

That is the crux of the matter. How much protein. There's an actual test to determine what gets used and what gets wasted -- urea nitrogen urine tests, which reveal how much protein the body takes in but cannot use. We might go into it in a future post. But the number is much smaller than what the bodybuilders assert. Standard bodybuilding literature and protein supplement sellers put the number pretty high.

Hm. Now why would that be? It's a mystery. But maybe it's not greed. Maybe they are both profit-minded and sincere. Maybe they're not ignoring contrary evidence in favor of a bias. Maybe they're ignoring it for some other reason.

The contrary testimony puts the daily protein requirement, at the high end, at something between 10 and 15 percent of total calories. Ten percent of a 2000 calorie diet is 200 calories. Fifty grams of protein. Note the difference please, between 45% and 10%. It seems like a lot. Maybe 100 times difference? A million? How could we ever know? The math is so complicated. Of course we're comparing low-end needs of low estimates with high-end needs of high estimates -- but we're pointing that fact out, too. Illustrative of the wide divergence of opinion in the matter.

Protein isn't really supposed to be a fuel. It's about amino acids, which are building blocks and act as peptides and neurotransmitters -- hormone-like. Really important. But not optimal as fuel. When blood glucose isn't available, and when fat isn't up to the job, your body will convert proteins into sugar in an expensive and inefficient process. Your brain needs sugar, you see, more than your body needs muscle. How inefficient? Glad you asked.

This is from "The Second Brain" by Michael Gershon, the seminal figure in modern enteric system research. A few preliminaries, though. You don't need a stomach. "The small intestine and its associated glands can make do without them." [pp. 93-4] Vitamin B12 is the essential issue, since it cannot be absorbed without the "intrinsic factor" that is made in the stomach. Well, we have pills and shots nowadays.

The stomach's parietal cells which make intrinsic factor also make the hydrochloric acid that handles the digestion of protein in the stomach. Only protein is digested in the stomach. Carbs and fats are broken down further along the tube. An interesting question is, why doesn't hydrochloric acid digest the cell that makes it?
To produce the hydrochloric acid of gastric juice, the parietal cells pump hydrogen ions from the blood into the lumen [lining] of the stomach. Chloride ions follow the movement of hydrogen, resulting in the formation of hydrochloric acid outside the cell where the two ions meet.

The trick is to be able to pump the hydrogen ions. This is not easy. Hydrogen ions carry a positive charge. Moving charged particles is difficult because they affect one another. Particles with the same charge repel.... A cell thus cannot just gather up a bunch of positively charged hydrogen ions and move them from one place to another. To successfully transfer a large number of positively charged hydrogen ions from one side of a cell to the other, some other particles with the same charge have to be moved back the other way to replace the hydrogen.

Pareital cells manage to avoid charge separation by making the pumping of hydrogen ions a simple transfer operation. The cells exchange hydrogen ions for potassium ions. Which are similarly charged. ...This hydrogen-potassium exchange is the process that is blocked by omeprazole (Prilosec). Once it stops, acid production comes to a screeching halt.

Since the concentration of hydrogen ions in blood is far less than the concentration required in the gastric lumen, the pariental cell pumps against staggeringly unfavorable electrical and chemical gradients. In terms of the amount of work involved, the pumping of hydrogen ions is not unlike going *up* Niagara Falls in a barrel. The effort is vast and requires the consumption of immense quantities of oxygen, the utilization of magecalories, and the production of an amazing amount of the high-energy molecule ATP. ATP is the currency that the cells spend to get the work done. [p. 95; Gershon's *italics*, emphases added.]

All this work, in order to produce hydrochloric acid, for the sole purpose of digesting proteins. See why this is important? Protein is astronomically expensive as an energy source. It's not like burning coal. It's like burning diamonds. That would be an amazing, vastly immense megawaste of staggering effort. Every effort should be made to spare this expense.

Per Colin Campbell, grand old man of protein research and author of The China Study, the RDA for protein is "about 10%.... This is considerably more than the actual amount required." [p. 58] "Relative to total calorie intake, only 5-6% dietary protein is required to replace the protein regularly excreted by the body (as amino acids)." [p. 308] He's speaking of course about mere metabolic requirements, not fantastical bodybuilder conceits of beef-packing. We won't elaborate on Campbell's frankly compelling argument. His conclusion is that high levels of protein are carcinogenic.

However much protein the body actually requires, any more than that amount is simply foolish. Unfair? We've seen the lengthy quotation that established the context. Digestion produces energy, but it uses energy too. The body is an economy. Profitable economies run as efficiently as is reasonable. When all conditions are optimal, we can afford to be profligate. When there are wide-open frontiers, we might pollute. When we are looking for elite results, we need to apply intelligence and diligence to the process. It is self-evident.

So how much protein do we actually need? For sedentary adults, the RDA for protein is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. "Health experts say that at maximum, athletes may require 0.55 to 0.73 grams per pound." That's quite a range. The caveman estimate of 1 to 1.5 grams is twice the, uh, smart man estimate. Heh heh. How ever shall we determine which is the more likely?

Results. We have vegetarian athletes who use no animal protein whatsoever, for decades. One of them, for example, in his late forties has 8% body fat, with a BMI is 21.9 -- the exact center of "healthy". He is, as they say, ripped. His daily protein intake averages about 70 grams total -- .39 grams per pound -- 280 protein calories, out of about 3000 calories daily, on which he exercises vigorously for 2 and 3 hours a day.

Clearly, excessive protein is not the key to health. Sufficient protein is a key. Thus, the horrific Atkins Diet is not about health, but fat loss. We won't go into it now. Enough to say it is generally damaging, when extended too long. That's the problem with fad diets. They are fads.

Lasting fitness is about lifestyle, not gimmicks. The body gets stronger by doing what human bodies do, natually. Doing non-functional, highly artificial exercises can make you less fit -- there is a detraining effect that we'll talk about some time. Point is, what you just happen to hear, on TV or at the gym or standing in line, may be true, or it may be foolishness. At FitWorks we hope we make that clear. Because fortune favors the prepared, and doing just anything is a zero-sum game. Do what is effective.

Be excellent.


CrossFit Burbank
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