Did Paleolithic Cavemen Die at a Young Age?

This is one of the arguments against eating a paleo-style diet. “Cavemen died very young, so why should I try to eat like them?” I don’t know, and I’m too busy sharpening my spear and gathering roots to think about it. I think this argument is silly, obviously, but I still thought I would explore it to see what the real life expectancy of people living in the paleolithic era was. According to this article (1), the life expectancy then was 33 years old at birth. So this included babies and children. If the person made it to age 15, the life expectancy increased to 54 years. This article is peer reviewed I believe, but it is still more anthropology and is considered “soft science.” Now some would say that babies and children should be included in the measurement, but think about this. Babies then were not born in sterile hospitals, there was no medical care, and starving was common. Infectious diseases are now well-controlled in developed countries, and so are wild animals that could eat you. It seems that agriculture was not the miracle we all thought it was. It makes sense to be able to conveniently produce more food, but not if that food is unhealthy. The following article is not peer reviewed, it’s merely an opinion of a researcher, but he makes some good points. The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race. One interesting point that is made is that a hunter-gatherer lifestyle means fewer people living in one place. They also moved around more to follow food. This spreading out kept diseases from killing huge amounts of people. A disease may be airborne, but it’s not going to travel 20 miles without a body. Agriculture allowed people to gather in larger groups and not move often. There was no tuberculosis and no diarrheal disease before the beginning of farming, and measles and bubonic plague were not around until cities began to develop. Yes, the crowding caused this, not necessarily the agriculture, but one encourages the other.

LOWER PALEOLITHIC

I am not the only blogger interested in this. Check out this post by Turning the Tide. There is no good way to conduct any hard science in this area as the subjects of interest are long dead. I encourage all readers to consider the information presented and make a logical decision on what they think happened, but don’t just assume that agriculture is the best thing ever. Do some research, and consider what the effects of agriculture have been on our society. I’ve posted a few more articles in the sources that are considered reliable. There are also plenty of articles out there that tell a different story. This has been debated for a long time, mostly because no one can really prove anything. I encourage you to read both sides and make a logical decision.

Ggas_human_soc

1. http://www.unm.edu/~hkaplan/KaplanHillLancasterHurtado_2000_LHEvolution.pdf

2. Tellier, Luc-Normand (2009). Urban world history: an economic and geographical perspective. PUQ. p. 26.

3. Jared Diamond (2012). The World Until Yesterday. Viking. p. 353.

The Nutrition Community’s Pitfall – Group Thinking

I just read a well-cited article by a fellow blogger. He is not a paleo advocate per say, but more like a low-carb, low-crap diet advocate. Group thinking is almost always a bad thing, and it runs rampant in nutrition communities. The purpose of my blog is not to start any sort of thread that is based solely on what a group thinks, but on what science has discovered. Group thinking is not just a general term. It’s considered an actual psychological phenomenon. Wikipedia says the following without specifying sources:

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an incorrect or deviant decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences.”

groupthink

I highly suggest you read the article I posted above for more information. If I were to continue writing this blog post, I would pretty much just copy and paste what my fellow blogger says. I’m sure it could spark a great discussion. Here is the link again

http://authoritynutrition.com/10-myths-within-the-low-carb-community/#comment-50354

Feel free to challenge and consider everything fully. Even me!

you_want_to_challenge_me__by_vegeta_sensei-d5clqcy

Pros and Cons of Early Morning Workouts

I’m not one of those incredibly lucky people who love to work out. I kinda hate it no matter what I do, but I always feel amazing after, and I love how it makes me look. Anyway, no matter when I work out during the day, I’m not happy about it, but getting up to exercise before work makes it even harder. I decided to look into why people say it’s better to work out as a start to your day. There are no reliable peer reviewed sources on the topic, so I’ll try to discuss what I’ve read on Ace Fitness and WebMD.

morning-exercise

Both of these websites say that it is a fact that those who consistently workout in the morning are more successful at making it a habit. I can’t find a real source for that anywhere, but it seems most experts think it is true. However, they also say that working out in the afternoon yields the best performance because the body has already been warmed up. Higher body temperature is correlated with higher performance.

My List

PROS of morning workouts

1. When it is over, I feel like a million bucks. I go home, shower, start my day refreshed… I feel more awake and alert throughout the rest of my day. I get more done, and I tend to make healthy eating decisions moreso than when I exercise at night.

2. It’s done. I don’t have to think about it, I don’t have to worry what the traffic will be like later. I can relax, do laundry, cook a nice dinner, do some reading, catch up on some shows… I don’t have to squeeze in a workout and a shower.

3. This is kind of nit-picky, but I prefer to shower in the morning. CrossFit gets me pretty sweaty, so I HAVE to shower after. If I go to class in the evening and shower after, it’s pretty wasteful to take another shower in the morning. But I LIKE morning showers. So working out in the morning vibes better with my preferred showering schedule.

4. I don’t get as stiff. After a morning workout, I go home and shower and go on with my day. This includes various movements, walking, climbing stairs, standing, fidgeting… After an evening workout, I mostly just sit around, then go to sleep. It allows my muscles to stiffen up a lot more.

CONS of morning workouts

1. Getting up. Uhhh… There was also a lot of talk on those two pages about circadian rhythms and how you are either a night owl or morning sunshine psycho. JK. But seriously. My morning CrossFit class is at 5:30 AM, and getting up is awful.

2. I don’t perform as well. I’m stiffer, I’m groggy, I do a lot of yawning. I don’t have the same powerful focus that I do in an afternoon workout.

3. I need more warm-up. I’m very stiff in the mornings after 7+ years of running and intense CrossFit workouts, I creak and crack everywhere. I need more time to work out those kinks than I do late in the day.

tired-at-gym

I guess when I’m looking at this list, the pros outweigh the cons, but the bottom line is that you exercise regularly at whatever time works for you. Don’t force yourself to get up if you’re going to hate life all day after.

Lifting Changes Your Attitude

Throughout my life, I have been involved in many fitness-oriented ventures. I was a track and cross-country runner for seven years, played basketball and softball, participated in yoga, step aerobics, pilates, spinning, zumba, P90x, and intramural sports. With the exception of softball (sort of), all of these activities were similar in that you could improve your performance during the exercise or sport. For instance, I miss a shot in basketball. I’ll make the next one. Didn’t get a great time on that sprint in spinning? There will be two or three more I can push for.

It’s a totally different game when I go face to face with that barbell. I get that one chance. Of course, I can try again, but there isn’t that ease in the back of my mind that I’ll be able to make up for the miss. I’m not a strong person by any measure, but I am improving in my lifting. A about a week ago, I was thrilled to clean and jerk (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8miqQQJEsO0) 105#. That was the first time I put over 100# above my head. Earlier this week, I was working my way up to the same weight in the clean and jerk. I easily did 95#, and moved on to 105. Miss. I immediately felt a personal vendetta against the barbell. I went for it again before I was ready and missed again. Absolute fury. Never have I ever felt anything like that in any other physical activity.

clean up

No, this is not me. I wish.

I reloaded the barbell at 100#, 5# lower than my personal best. By this time, the coach was noticing my “bitch face” and wondered what was up. I explained what was going on, and how I had just loaded the barbell. He told me he wanted to see it. I missed again. He told me to walk away, get a drink, and come back.

When I approached the barbell again, still with my angry game face on, I thought through the motion. Most of the power of a clean comes from the legs and hips. I gripped the bar and tried again. The clean of 100# was successful. I calmed myself, and attempted the jerk. And dropped the bar. I considered kicking it, but instead, just walked away. My coach told me to let it go, try going back down 5 more pounds and ending on a successful attempt. My 1 rep max that day was 95#.

It became quite clear to me that not every day is a good day, regardless of the type of physical activity. But never have I ever felt so defeated. My coach said something to cheer me up, because I was obviously angry. He said that without failure, there is no appreciation for success. I think he appreciated my anger though. It’s definitely going to fuel me next time I attempt and 1 rep max clean and jerk.

clean

As I calmed down, I thought about all of the factors that go into a daily workout. Diet, sleep, stress levels, even weather. (Because of all the running I did when I was young, my knees get sore in the cold.) Maybe I didn’t get enough sleep the night before, or didn’t get enough calories. Whatever the reason, it alerted me that I should be keeping track of these things. Diet in particular. I really do eat mostly paleo, but I don’t watch my food combinations very carefully.

Now to be honest, for a lot of us, we’re never going to be olympic lifters or go to the CrossFit Games, so performance doesn’t really matter all that much. What matters is that we do the best we can that day to get a good workout for our health. Not performance. But I have one of those competitive minds that has trouble letting it go. Is mine a mind that would rather let it go? Or one that would rather relentlessly keep track of diet, sleep, and stress levels at the expense of social life? Here’s the answer. I’ll do what I can. I’m not going to reorganize my entire life to make sure I PR once a week on a lift. But then I’ll go face to face with that barbell again, and who knows what will happen?

moment of focus

The Pseudoscience of Motivation

According to the main source used by Wikipedia, motivation is defined as the purpose or psychological reason for an action (1). Motivation is an inner force that is shaped to wishes, desires, and goals -to minimize pain, maximize pleasure, or to serve basic needs, such as rest, hunger, and thirst (2). After the basics, Wikipedia gets all theoretical on us. Philosophers, politicians, psychologists… all arguing about the “model” that best fits human motivation. I think that motivation, especially for something like exercise, is probably highly individualized. What motivates one person may not motivate another. Everyone needs to eat, and everyone sees a direct result from not eating. Everyone should exercise, but the results or lack thereof are harder to see, especially at first. Here are the top ten things that motivate me to work out at least four days a week.

I like to think that there are two different types of motivation. Pre and post. For example, a pre-motivation of eating would be hunger. A post-motivation of eating would be health and nutrition. I eat because I’m hungry (before). I eat to be healthy (in the future).

motivation

Post-motivations: the more common for most people

1. It changes my mood. It gives me more energy and more motivation to do other things. For example, I had a lazy weekend, which is fine. We all need one once in a while. Monday morning, my apartment was messy and I hadn’t done any cooking for the week. I had all weekend where I was lazy and unproductive. Monday afternoon, I went to CrossFit, got home at 7 PM, took a shower, and hit it head on. I cleaned the entire place, and cooked up some lunches for the rest of the week. Something about a workout just makes me get my life in order. Maybe it’s the so-called “high” I get from working out. Who knows? I just know it works.

2. I can eat more. Not worse! More. I love food, I love eating, I love cooking… the more I get to enjoy those experiences, the better.

3. I like looking good. Since I’ve been going to CrossFit, my arms have toned up a lot. I didn’t think my arms looked bad before, but they look awesome now. I like showing that off by wearing tank tops (in appropriate places, of course). Also, I’m ready for any impromptu vacations or swim suit moments.

4. Science is a frustrating profession most of the time. I’m also generally an introverted person, so the stress of the day can really get to me. Exercising relieves that stress. I’m not much of a yogi, but running can be almost like meditation. If I have a particularly stressful day, I like to run it out.

5. Setting a concrete goal can really up my motivation. Preparing for a timed 5k or a Tough Mudder can motivate you to train. No one wants to perform badly when someone is watching.

6. The more I go on about CrossFit, the more people around me either a. get annoyed, or b. want to try it! Exercising to set an example is great motivation. I don’t have kids, but if I ever do, I want them to be around an active mom who is showing them how to live a healthy life.

Pre-motivation

7. Fitness magazines, NOT FASHION magazines, motivate me to work on myself. There are usually some decent tips in fitness magazines, although you should do some fact-checking. There are also usually interviews with great athletes, and I’m definitely not above taking advice from someone who is elite in their sport.

8. Success stories of any kind, but especially before-and-after photos really inspire me to keep up my efforts.

9. CrossFit is expensive. Once I toss that money out the window at the beginning of every month, I know I have to get to the classes, or it will be a waste.

10. This last one is both a pre- and post-motivation. My boyfriend is also an avid CrossFitter, and watching his transformation motivates me to keep going. I also like to see and hear the appreciative looks and compliments as he witnesses my progress. I think that anyone can benefit from a workout buddy of some kind. It doesn’t have to be a significant other, and you don’t necessarily have to work out together. You just have to support each other. Online, through blogs, fitness websites, texting, Skype, however you can manage. Knowing that someone is in it with you can be a great pre- and post-motivator.

exercise-motivation

1.  Schater, Daniel (2011). PSYCHOLOGY. United States of America: Catherine Woods. p. 325.

2. Wright, Robert (1995). The moral animal : evolutionary psychology and everyday life (1st Vintage books ed. ed.). New York: Vintage Books.

How to (Figuratively) Punch CrossFit Haters in the Face

I have never been part of a fitness community that garnered so much hate, especially from people who have never even tried it! The only reason I can think of for people to do this is that CrossFit calls the winners of its games “The fittest people on Earth,” which can supposedly be taken the wrong way by certain people. It is a little presumptuous, but may be deserved. More on that later.

Here are the most common complaints about CrossFit, and what you can say to the hater who says this to you.

1. “CrossFit is an easy way to hurt yourself.”

Well, gee, thanks for your concern, but you can get seriously injured doing pretty much anything athletic. Cheerleading? Football? Hockey? Just as dangerous as CrossFit. Exercising is always more dangerous (in the short term) than sitting on your couch.

2. “Bodybuilders have better aesthetics.”

This really depends on your taste in bodies. I like natural-looking muscles, not lumpy ones.

froning

bodybuild

Look at the body builder’s arms. To me, that is gross and unnatural. His shoulder is as big as his head. And this guy is one of the smaller body builders out there. But… if that’s what you like, happy lifting.

3. “CrossFit is like a cult.”

Tell me why being a member of a fitness-oriented cult is a bad thing. Then read this article.

4. “It’s too intense for me. I would have to get in shape before going.”

This is a common misconception. Every single move done at CrossFit can be scaled to any fitness level. Can’t lift 40 lbs? Move down to an 18 lb barbell. Can’t do a pushup? Go down to your knees. Can’t jump up on that box? Step up on that box. Not difficult. Sometimes, I think people use this excuse not to try it mostly because they just aren’t ready to be worked that hard. Understandable, most people aren’t. It’s uncomfortable. It’s SUPPOSED to be.

5. “All that bleeding hands and puking is not healthy and not for me.”

I’ve puked once from a CrossFit workout, and I’ve never seen anyone else puke. I’ve torn my callouses and skinned my shins, but I’ve never BLED. Maybe this was how CrossFit started, but that’s not how it is now. You only have to push yourself as hard as you want to.

6. “It’s too easy to become a CrossFit coach.”

This is the best argument against CrossFit that there is, in my opinion. A lot of the moves and lifts done in boxes require very specific form or the risk of injury skyrockets. I have never witnessed a poor CrossFit coach at any of the four boxes that I have been to, but I’ve heard enough horror stories to know that they exist. If someone uses this against me, here is what I tell them. Take responsibility for your own fitness experience. Try out a box, evaluate (silently) your coach. Does s/he seem knowledgeable? Does s/he constantly correct your form and give you pointers? If so, they are probably a satisfactory coach. If not, try a new box. Take a little responsibility for yourself. In the meantime, hopefully requirements to become a coach are improved.

7. “CrossFit causes rhabdomyolysis.”

Ugh… I don’t even want to dignify this with a response so here is a response my CrossFit coach was nice enough to write and an article by Greg Glassman, CrossFit founder.

8. “CrossFit is not about elite fitness. Power lifters can lift way more, and 19 minutes is not an elite 5k time.”

The second part is true. Professional lifters can lift more than CrossFitters, and professional runners can run faster times. However… can professional lifters run a 19 minute 5k? Can professional runners clean and jerk 350 lbs? Nope. Elite fitness in my mind is about being able to do a lot of different things. There was a survey conducted during the last Olympic Games to discuss who the public considered to be the best athlete at the games. The winner was the decathletes because they have to be great at multiple things. I think that’s what makes CrossFit “elite.” Also, CrossFit teaches you a way to move to avoid injury every day. Lifting boxes, squatting, pulling yourself up onto things.. this is functional. This is useful. I would rather be pretty good at everything than PRO at one thing. If that is not your goal, awesome, but don’t put down those trying to improve their fitness from all angles. The word “elite” here does not apply to the best at any one thing. It applies to being someone who’s all around fitness in multiple activities is the best.

 

I just want to be clear… I have nothing against people who don’t do CrossFit. I have something against people who knock it without trying it, and I have something against people who try it with the wrong attitude.

Rant over. Here is a hilarious gym video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxyZ71k99zo.

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
-Carl Sagan

As I begin to consider how to go about making this blog truly informational to the casually  health conscious reader, I find myself choosing and re-choosing a starting point. This is because for the many years that I have been reading health blogs, health news, scientific articles, books, etc., they have been claiming “proofs” and “truths.” As a scientist, I don’t believe that it’s possible to prove something true. It is possible to prove something false; that’s easy. But in science, the closest we get to “proving the truth” is heaps of evidence that all point in the same direction. “True” in science pretty much  means “we haven’t proved it false yet.”

So as I begin to write this blog on what I consider healthy nutritional practices, please remember that I claim nothing to be irrefutably and undeniably true, but there is evidence to back up all of my claims.

I wanted to begin here because I wanted to establish the kind of blog I’m intending to pen. There will be no “get fit quick” tips, and no “exercise of the day” type garbage. If you are genuinely reading this blog to improve your health and life, you have come to the right place. If you’re not willing to do the research on your own, that’s ok. I’ll be doing it for you. (Although how anyone can trust anything they read about health without checking sources is beyond my comprehension.) The reading may get a little heavy for some, but I’ll try to hi-light bullet points along the way.

I hope you enjoy!

The Red Flag of Proof