Friday, April 18, 2014

Correlation or Causation?

To summarize, back in the 80s and 90s, because scientists had noted a correlation between estrogen replacement therapy and a decreased risk of heart disease, many women were put on estrogen replacement by their doctors.
Twenty years later, a controlled randomized study showed that in fact, estrogen replacement was very bad for heart disease! Oops.
How could a mistake of this magnitude occur?
It turned out that women of higher socioeconomic status who were more interested in their health (or better positioned to do something about it) were much more likely to ask for or agree to take estrogen than poorer women who had less access to health care.
And while on the surface it may have looked as if hormone replacement therapy reduced a woman’s risk of heart disease, in fact, it was a woman’s socioeconomic class that actually predicted that risk.
Middle and upper class women were less likely to suffer from heart disease – despite the fact that more of them were on hormone replacement therapy, not because they were on hormone replacement therapy.
Filed under "epidemiology has a 100% track record - it has always been wrong."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Rudy Quoting Greg

Hold on to your hats, boys and girls… I’m going to quote Coach (that’s Greg Glassman for those of you who have only been around a year or two):
The missing link in so much mainstream fitness programming, from bodybuilding to monostructural endeavors, is the neuromuscular piece—in particular, the development of coordination, accuracy, agility, and balance. We can sum these elements up as “technique.” Omitting them from one’s training necessarily results in only partial fitness, partial expression of one’s genetic potential, and a decreased threshold of maximal capacity. To increase work capacity across broad time and modal domains (the goal of CrossFit), technique is the crucial connection—whether your goal is to win the game, protect your life, complete the mission, or just be fit for the demands of everyday life at any age.—Greg Glassman

At first, the techniques required for the successful lifting of barbells does not look like life, sport or combat.  But over time, all force application looks like powerful hip extension applied through a rigid torso (aka stable midline), and often completed via extension of an arm (or both arms).  This description can be seen in running, jumping, punching, batting, golf-ball-punishing, throwing and in lifting lifting objects from the ground.  Hip flexion adds to many movements, also, such as kipping pull-ups, maximal jumping, muscle ups, legless rope climbs, and etcetera.

Barbells provide a remarkable variety of ways to practice powerful hip extension while maintaining a rigid torso, which is why they are a potent tool for the development of human performance.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Thank You, RC Science

WHILE THE CURRENT study is by no means exemplary (frankly, it sucks), it is still far preferable to the anecdotal evidence rampant across the Internet. What's truly needed is a longitudinal study that tracks CrossFitters from various demographics and levels of experience over a long period of time -- at least six months.
"This should not be difficult to do, given the vast popularity of the sport," Strength and Conditioning Research's Chris Beardsley wrote.
While we wait for that, both CrossFit's opponents and proponents need to be more reasonable. CrossFit, like any form of exercise, is not without risk. But the benefits far, far outweigh them. CrossFit coaches and trainers need to look out for the health of their athletes, and take care not to push them beyond the bounds of what is safe. That means dialing back intensity, when necessary, and ensuring that participants always utilize proper lifting form. Dying for fitness just doesn't make much sense. Getting fit and living to one's fullest potential; now that does.
I wonder about what it means when they say "coaches shouldn't push."  In my experience, CrossFit is the opposite of the "drill instructor" model.  Coaches don't push, they set the stage and let the athletes choose their level of exertion.  Encourage?  Heck yes!  Reward and acknowledge outstanding effort and courage?  Frock yes, like you read about.  Celebrate PRs?  DUH!!  But the point of the CrossFit system - measuring the work and noting improvement over time on benchmark workouts - is that the coach doesn't have to "push" athletes.  The athletes take their own stock of how hard to work each day based on a multitude of factors no coach could ever know.  How much water did they athlete drink the 23 hours a day they are not in the coach's arena?  How have they slept and eaten?  Did they have a bad day at work?  A family issue?  A bad hair day?  A coach in CrossFit isn't getting paid to "push" they are getting paid to help you move well, in a group setting that is intrinsically motivating, and to help you celebrate your wins.  
I appreciate the write up in "real clear science" but saying "CrossFit coaches and trainers need to look out for the health of their athletes" is like saying "the sun needs to come up."  Really dude, that's all you have to say?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Exercise and Mental Health?

The Cochrane Review (the most influential review of its kind in the world) has produced a landmark metaanalysis of studies on exercise and depression. They picked 23 rigorous studies out of a pool of more than one hundred. The conclusion was that exercise had a “large clinical impact” on depression.
Among the studies that support the theory that exercise directly causes improved mental well-being (as opposed to vice-versa) is one that looked at the effect of exercise on older adults with clinical depression (Blumenthal et al., 1999). The authors compared exercise to a commonly prescribed anti-depressant medication (Zoloft), and found that both were equally effective in reducing depressive symptoms. In contrast to these results, a group of researchers from the Netherlands found that exercise may not be nearly as important as genetics in determining one’s mental well-being (Stubbe et al., 2007). These researchers looked at pairs of identical twins in which one twin exercised significantly more than the other, and found that there was no significant difference in their levels of happiness.
Diet and nutrition can be beneficial to psychological well-being. A supporting study by Hakkarainen et al. in 2004 observed 29,133 older male smokers. Participants in the study recorded their meals, and the researchers examined those men who consumed more fatty acids from margarine and junk food. The researchers found that ingestion of those foods was associated with increased depression, anxiety, and insomnia. However, in contrast to these results, a group of researchers examined the improvements in well-being associated with exercise or micronutrient supplementation. After 17 weeks, the researchers followed up with study participants and found that neither supplementation nor exercise had a significant impact upon the well-being of the participants.
Take it for what it's worth.  I can say with confidence that the best times of my life included physical training.  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Butter Back, But Where's the Apology?

Julia Child, goddess of fat, is beaming somewhere. Butter is back, and when you’re looking for a few chunks of pork for a stew, you can resume searching for the best pieces — the ones with the most fat. Eventually, your friends will stop glaring at you as if you’re trying to kill them.
That the worm is turning became increasingly evident a couple of weeks ago, when a meta-analysis published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine found that there’s just no evidence to support the notion that saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease. (In fact, there’s some evidence that a lack of saturated fat may be damaging.) The researchers looked at 72 different studies and, as usual, said more work — including more clinical studies — is needed. For sure. But the days of skinless chicken breasts and tubs of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter may finally be drawing to a close.
The tip of this iceberg has been visible for years, and we’re finally beginning to see the base. Of course, no study is perfect and few are definitive. But the real villains in our diet — sugar and ultra-processed foods — are becoming increasingly apparent. You can go back to eating butter, if you haven’t already.

Bittman recently called Dean Ornish one of the most knowledgeable men in the world about heart disease (or something like that), an unabashed kiss of the derriere, so for him to come up with a column like this is noteworthy.

The rest of the article is a good read, but I could beat up every line from one angle or another.  Mostly, I wonder "where's the apology?"  Bittman participated with the government and all the hip wannabe scientists to pretend they knew that saturated fat was bad for us, and the in process had a bunch of eating truly wretched levels of sugar and grains and processed foods laden with industrially produced "vegetable oils" - and that crap has been killing people.  More people than wars, more people than drugs.  As this huge super-tanker full of tortured dietary science makes it's long turn away from the saturated fat scare, few will admit to what they did to their fellow humans based on their arrogance and willingness to bank on immature and incomplete science.  Some days that has me boiling mad.

And I think I'm just going to have to get over it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Jogging Delusion?

Okay, here's my justification behind that insensitive comment that got everyone's panties in a wad. While gender is biologically determined, the concept of masculinity is a socially constructed notion. And while the idea of masculinity varies somewhat from era to era and from one region of the world to another, masculinity is usually associated with superior strength, muscularity, speed, and power. The human body, as it turns out, isn't a very good multi-tasker when it comes to "S.A.I.D." (specific adaptation to imposed demand). It prefers to be either big and strong, or small and weak, (albeit with good endurance). True, some guys can manage to have it both ways, but if you find it challenging to gain muscle or strength, you're not one of them.

Jogging, as the bulk of studies have repeatedly shown, reduces, or at the very least, makes it more difficult to maintain or develop all of the masculine traits I just described. This is why national and World-level powerlifters and weightlifters - most of whom are jaw-droppingly jacked and three times stronger than you are - rarely jog or do anything resembling it. Maybe you're willing to risk minimizing your manhood to obtain the supposed benefits of jogging.

Interesting topic!

The Pro: it's both cheap and easy to "jog" or engage in running for endurance training.  I think running is in our DNA - there's a case to be made that we differentiated ourselves as hot summer running scavengers, in which we could reach the dead animals on the savannah faster than other predators since we have the best cooling system in the animal planet.

I ran for fun and fitness all over the planet for many years.  I didn't log huge miles, and I didn't often get to be very "fast" at running.  My life was always better as a runner than when I didn't run.

If you are a foot soldier, you must be able to run long and slow.

Running is better than nothing and in terms of being able to do work, better than walking - if you don't take it too far.

The Con:  He's right, taken too far endurance running makes most of us weak and frail.  Running confers no special benefit to heart health, it does not help most people sustain a fat loss, and it is not a boost to performance for most sport.  Which is to say, if you play soccer, lacrosse, football, baseball, basketball, or other sports which place a premium on top end speed and explosive power, you'd be far better off skipping the long running sessions and focusing on speed and explosive power training.

If you like to run - cool!  I hope you enjoy the heck out of it.  I also hope you are not doing it because you think it's the bees knees for fat loss, heart health or sports performance.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Why We Got Fatter During The Fat-Free Food Boom

"In an informal survey, we asked readers of The Salt if they bought packaged food labeled as fat-free during the fat-free marketing craze. 76 percent said yes, and 70 percent told us they ate more refined carbohydrates and sugars as a result."

This is another telling of how the government intervened in the diet of americans, and killed many, based on immature science, good intentions and arrogance.  If folks could sue the government, the settlement would be far larger than the tobacco industry settlement as so many more were killed and sickened.