More Grain But No Gain

American diet map

The grades are in.

An article from the New York Times Wellness Blog presents more evidence suggesting it is optimal to adopt a diet similar to our paleolithic ancestors. The Center for Science in the Public Interest compiles a report each year on changes in the American Diet and not surprisingly our national dietary habits reflect major public health concerns, such as the obesity epidemic and diabetes. Artificial sweeteners and low fat products have not made the public much healthier and instead only instill a false sense of health security. Salad and cooking oils have a way of slowly creeping into our diets and according to a 2005 Department of Agriculture study, the average American consumes nearly 645 calories a day in added fats and oils.

2013 Dietary Report Card

Bonnie Liebman, the nutritionist who put together the report above, insists the American public was never on a low-fat diet, “We increased our fat intake from pizzas, burgers, French fries, baked goods and restaurant-prepared foods.”

Liebman pins much of the blame on the real culprit: Grains. You walk into a Panera‘s, Starbucks, Subway or any other allegedly ‘healthy’ chain restaurant, and you will find panini sandwiches, burritos, pasta, muffins, and scones dressed up as seemingly healthier alternatives.  Refined or unrefined grains, we are not doing ourselves any service in opting for a whole grain over a refined grain.

Liebman gets to the crux of the problem, “We’ve been blaming the obesity epidemic on sweets, and we are eating too much sugar, but we need to pay more attention to grains.” 

Her solution: “We need to replace sandwiches with salads, swap starches for veggies, and trade cookies, cupcakes and chips for fresh fruit.”

Much of the public’s daily grain intake is substituting vegetables and fruits. Even though our pork and beef consumption remains high, the public has overlooked one vital source of protein: fish. The Nutrition Action Newsletter, published by the Harvard School of Public Health, finds that Americans,eat only about 16 pounds of seafood per person per year, and about 95 percent of that comes from only 10 species.” 

salmon

Perhaps public health efforts should be geared towards promoting organic wild fish, such as wild Alaskan salmon, crab, pollock and haddock. Greater fish consumption could also help balance the public’s skewed omega 3 to omega 6 intake ratio. Ideally the omega 3 to omega 6 intake should be a 2:1 ratio, that is, we should be consuming twice as many omega 3 fatty acids as omega 6 fatty acids.  Given our greater intake of grains as a nation, our omega 6 consumption ends up exceeding our omega 3 intake.

How do omega 3 fatty acids help achieve optimal human performance? Omega 3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, blood pressure, cancer, heart disease and aid in weight loss, to name a few. For athletes, this will also speed up recovery time.

Nordic-Naturals-Free-Samples

What’s the major takeaway?

America’s greater intake of omega 6 fatty acids is attributed to the increase in grain consumption and is contributing to our public health concerns. In consuming more fish we not only decrease our grain intake but also increase our consumption of omega 3 fatty acids (which are also prevalent in fish oil).

Want more gains in quality of health?

Do without grains.  

Books of Interest

sportsgeneevolution

The Sports Gene is taking the athletic world by storm since its release. Having recently read it, I can tell you it is a fascinating read for any sports junkie or athlete who appreciates the science behind elite sports performance. Nature vs Nurture? It’s hard to say which factor is more important or contributes more to world class performance. Regardless of which theory you subscribe to, you will walk (or should I say run) away with a better understanding of and appreciation for the genetic diversity of human movement and performance. Whether you’re discussing how virtually all descendants of sub-saharan western Africa possess more fast twitch muscle fibers (thanks to the ACTN3 Gene) than their east African counterparts, who possess more slow twitch muscle fibers and greater aerobic capacities (VO2 max), it’s hard not to be in awe of the genetic range of human performance.

I’ll stop there for now and let the book do most of the explaining.

Check out The Paleo Manifesto as well, courtesy of Mark’s Daily Apple. John Durant, the mastermind behind the manifesto, delves into the anthropological and archaeological underpinnings behind our paleolithic ancestors way of life. These ancestral remnants reveal robust teeth, jaws and femurs, courtesy of their natural diet. The Paleolithic skeleton depicts how humans optimally functioned and thrived before the domestication of wheat and agricultural advances.

Consider this short excerpt about the enamel quality of our Paleolithic pal, Skhul V.

skhul5front

“Notice anything?” Dr. Lieberman asked. “Look at the teeth. They’re straight. And no cavities. His wisdom teeth came in just fine. Humans, like all animals, have evolved teeth that are well suited to their natural diet. An infected tooth can easily kill you, and there were no dentists in the Paleolithic.”

In light of this, should we all stop going to the dentist? Probably not, but it does speak to how what you eat will affect the quality of your teeth. Consider this, my teeth have never been cleaner or healthier since adopting the Paleo diet. On a standard American diet, (otherwise known as SAD), my teeth and gums were inflamed. A casual dental cleaning turned into a festive blood bath. As a result of adhering to a produced based diet, my teeth are much cleaner and not nearly as inflamed. I should add that I don’t brush anymore than I used to.

Skhul V’s cheshire cat grin probably represents his delight in figuring out something modern humans haven’t: how to physically function the way humans were designed to thrive.

It’s so easy a caveman can do it.

Round up of Interesting Bits

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Here are a few points of interests I perused around the world wide web. Find out how you can live the life of a cave man (man cave not required).

Ancestral Athlete  Not quite sure if you’re listening to your primal instincts? Read on to see how you can keep yourself in check without ignoring signs of boredom, fatigue, stress, or overtraining. Learn how to walk the fine line of comfort and discomfort and find the sweet spot between over and under doing it. (Think goldilocks strategy). Most importantly, try to be present……in the present.

10 of the worst drinks and foods for anyone with a pulse (athletes especially)

Here’s a slideshow of 10 drinks (including food items) which will wreak havoc on your adrenals, insulin and overall energy levels. Forget the mocha-frappa-whatever-latte and opt for water (yes, just water, not vitamin water or gatorade), sparkling water or tea (with just the tea bag) to fuel athletic or professional performance. If the food or drink in question comes with a label detailing ingredients, take a pass on it.  If you’re still not sure, ask yourself if it grows out of the ground or off of a tree or comes from a live animal.

If you’re still not convinced how what you put in affects and reflects what you put out, look no further than this article. In order to achieve the greek ideal (strong mind and body) there’s no escaping that the fuel you load up on will influence how you perform. Simply put, you can’t out run, exercise, or lift your way out of a bad diet. More importantly, what you ingest impacts cognitive function. Optimal fuel is key to optimal mental and physical performance.

Serve to Win

Serve to Win

Novak Djokovic’s new book, “Serve to Win”.

I’m pumped to get into the mind of the world’s #1 tennis player. I can’t help but admire his personal journey of discovering his own gluten intolerance as well as his determination to reach the top of the Tennis world. He knows better than most how much mental and physical grit is required to be the best. We could all learn a thing or two from him.

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DAILY ROUNDUP OF INTERESTING BITS

New factoids I found that are of particular interest.

Are you eating and training right, but just can’t seem to figure out why you aren’t reaping the benefits of your labor? Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple outlines factors which may be derailing your efforts to achieve peak performance, in and out of the weight room or track.  When you consider how the 100 m dash comes down to hundredths of a second or the balance beam comes down to hundredths of a point, can anyone afford to overlook any one factor? (By the way, I’m guilty of this. I need to foam roll more and go to bed earlier. I guess now would be a good time to start.)

Another article explaining why almond butter trumps peanut butter. Loaded with fiber, iron, Vitamin E and monounsaturated fat (the good kind of fat), almond butter pairs up nicely with celery, apples, bananas as a midday snack. (I personally have a penchant for dunking carrots into a jar of almond butter.) Most importantly, almond butter is not a legume (unlike peanut butter which is).

Lessons from the G.O.A.T

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Eaton, 2012 Olympic Decathlon Champion, competes in the penultimate event, the javelin throw.

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could get free advice from the greatest athlete on the planet? (GOAT for those who are stumped refers to the Greatest of All Time, not the farm animal.)  Well here are some tips from Ashton Eaton2012 Olympic Champion and World Record Holder in the Decathlon, the grandaddy of all Track & Field events.

Forget all this talk about WODS, burpees, followed by double unders and 20 power cleans. Try this WOD over two days. First day: run 100 meters, long jump, throw a shot put, high jump, and then run 400 meters. Sound not too terrible? If you’re crawling after day one, just remember you’re only half way done. Get ready for tomorrow: Run 110 meter hurdles, throw the discus, pole vault, throw a javelin and run the torturous 1500 meters. This last event is sort of an oddball one for decathletes, who possess and develop skills more suited for speed and strength related events.

I think I’m more fatigued just rattling off those events than actually partaking in them. I had enough trouble mastering one event in my hammer throwing days in college. The sport of Weightlifting seems to sort of mirror multi-event competitions, in that both require tremendous mental and physical endurance necessary to succeed, but it doesn’t compare to the diversity in a decathlon. (And I thought completing 6 lifts in a meet was not unlike a decathlon, boy was I wrong.)

As evidenced by this photo taken at the 2013 IAAF Track & Field World Championships in Moscow, the best decathletes in the world are showing signs of exhaustion, falling to the track after crossing the line in final event, the 1500 meters. Keep in mind, these guys have trained for this two day physical fest for years. (Notice Eaton is still smiling and standing – I suppose being crowned World Champion gave him a slight jolt of adrenaline.)

I’d be willing to bet the world’s greatest athlete is also the world’s fittest human. (Not the other way around though.) It’d be quite a matchup to see how Rich Froning, three time winner of the CrossFit Games would fare in a decathlon with Ashton Eaton. Or to see how Annie Thorsdottir would fare in a heptathlon against 2012 Olympic Champion Jessica Ennis.

Both Froning and Thorsdottir are tremendous athletes in their own right, but I find it hard to believe either one would be able to top Eaton and Ennis. Having said that, I think both CrossFit Champions would still do relatively well if they had the chance to become multi-event athletes.

How do you think the world’s best CrossFitters would fare against the world’s best Multi-event athletes?

More importantly, Eaton’s meteoric rise in the decathlon is equally attributed to his mental outlook and approach toward competition. Ironically, Eaton doesn’t put an estimate on what he’s capable of running, jumping or throwing and instead let’s the process of preparation take care of the eventual outcome.

Eaton states unequivocally, “I don’t set goals. Competing with a number in your head can be limiting, and I don’t know what my capabilities are yet. If I reach a goal, I’ll feel happy without knowing how much more I might have been able to accomplish. One of my really good coaches used to say, ‘Don’t run for the time, just compete and the times will come.”

As much as we outline goals and set expectations, there comes in a point where there’s not much else we can do prior to a competition. At this point the toughest part is accepting the work put in and trusting the process which will determine the outcome. I’ll admit, that’s not easy to do. Athletes and coaches have a general idea of what is well within their reach, but no one really knows if their goals will actually be met. At what point do we trust what we have done and let the rest take care of itself?

As the world’s greatest athlete, who do you compete against? Eaton says his biggest competitor is himself. In an event where you can stack yourself against the field of other athletes, the clock, the bar or the tape measure, the only person guaranteed to show up at every opportunity is you. The only person you can look to better is yourself.

Competition can be stressful but if we learn to perceive its value in a constructive way we can grow athletically, professionally and personally. By constantly competing, we gain confidence, composure and develop character. In other words, learn to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Stepping up to the competition platform can be a bitter pill to swallow, but I know it is necessary if I want to attain a certain level of success. How do you make yourself better? Do you try to do the things you fear most?

Weekly Roundup of Interesting Bits

Here a few articles that struck a chord with me throughout my internet travels.

Has anyone ever asked why you compete? Is it self torture? This is a great read regarding the importance of competition. Dresdin Archibald, a seasoned Olympic lifter, sheds light on the immense value of competition and how to extract the most of one’s abilities on the strength and conditioning site, BreakingMuscle.com. Every athlete, in a sense, is competing against their doppelganger, that is, the lifter in the gym versus the lifter in competition. We compete to see if we can outdo that ‘other lifter’ on any particular day.

Archibald sums up by stating, “You only have one opponent, ever – and that is you and the fears you want to defeat. But you cannot really defeat this opponent lifting in your gym. You can only do it on the competition platform. You win on this day by setting a new personal record.”

This will be the last item I post about Novak Djokovic. This Wall Street Journal article gives readers some food for thought (gluten free food, that is) and reveals some of Djokovic’s quirky and curious habits. A good preview into his forthcoming book to be released next week.

Looking for a sweet thirst quenching snack that won’t leave you guilty afterward? Grab a handful of blueberries. These flavonoids are known for not only lowering LDL levels (bad cholesterol) but combat cognitive problems such as alzheimer’s and dementia.

Gluten Free Diet Key to Wimbledon

Gluten Free Diet Key to Wimbledon

More ink has been spilled over Novak Djokovic’s attributed success to a gluten free diet. The tennis player himself has come out with a book detailing not only how a gluten free diet has catapulted him from being merely a very good tennis player to one of the best of his era, but how it has changed his outlook as a player and person. It’s hard not to respect Djokovic for what he’s accomplished not only on the court but off of it, with his foundation.

The book is hitting the shelves next week, August 20th.

Can a new year mend old habits?

I haven’t been too diligent about informing the rest of the world of my comings, goings, and doings for the past year (or past 24 years for that matter). Thankfully, not too many people have been itching to find out either. I haven’t kept up with the blog, but I have kept up with Weightlifting. Out of the two activities, I probably chose the better one to keep up with for the past year. I now have over a year’s worth of observations, conclusions and experiences to draw upon! It then follows I should be wiser and be more judicious in my decision making.

I am challenging myself to write at least 1 post a week in order to measure my personal progress. Sort of like a progress report, though the grader and student are one of the same. (Yes, a complete reversal of what my previous record indicates- 2 posts annually or 1 semiannually). I will do my best to say interesting things, though I can’t guarantee it. From time to time I will probably make insightful connections or poignant conclusions about human nature or the general ebbs and flows of life. You will just have to bear with me and wait for “stuff” to happen. Usually all of the prosaic and monotonous events each day will at some point collectively add up to something meaningful in the end. When is the “end”? I suppose 3 or 6 months or a year from now. Death is the end of all ends. Thankfully, the end is not near. A clean slate is in front of us now.

What do I hope to gain from the coming year?

I hope to hoist heavy weights with beautiful speed, precision, and technique when the moment counts. It’s an elusive feeling and goal every lifter and respective athlete chases their entire career. Aside from developing tenacity and perseverance from the daily grind of training, I hope to further hone my execution skills in competition. Once you arrive at the platform, there’s little else you can tell yourself to do. Each lift questions whether you’ve poured enough trust in your ability to do what you have done thousands of times. For whatever reason, doubt at times can linger and prevail, yet I’ve learned the more attempts you take the more confidence you gain.

So, what is the point of all this? How can I or anyone else profit from violently pulling heavy objects from the floor to overhead? You are lifting your hopes, fears, frustrations and any other sentiment you carry inside. Every day I challenge myself to see how far am I willing to go in order to become the person it takes to achieve what I’ve set out to do. Success is not a linear climb, it comes in peaks, valleys and sometimes troughs. While you have to remember where you started, it’s where you’re headed that matters more.

I’m still trying to figure out how to combine my talents and interests into one seamless lifelong project. I hope this blog can be the launching pad for whatever that project is or becomes. It will take time and patience for it to take shape, but I suppose it will unfold as my thoughts become clearer.

Gluten Free Lifestyle

Apropos of Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open win in dramatic fashion, here is an article in which he credits his ascendancy to the top of tennis world in adhering to a gluten free lifestyle. I know the word “diet” seems to be a relevant term, but I dislike it because it doesn’t take into account the positive changes resulting from this lifestyle change. It makes us leaner, faster, stronger, more powerful and fitter. What athlete wouldn’t want to improve in all those areas?

I can attest to the positive effects of going gluten free. I’ve only become leaner, stronger, faster, and more powerful of a lifter, not to mention, more energized of a person. I can only hope to achieve an iota of the success in weightlifting that Djokovic has achieved as a tennis player.

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