We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Sunday, May 6. 2018
The idea that government knows how we ought to eat is absurd. Many of us assume that government is stupid, but even your Mom doesn't know.
Nobody can say what a "healthy" nutrition plan is because humans and all higher primates are omnivorous. That means humans can thrive on almost anything as long as it contains sufficient calories to support life. I've seen enough kids grow big and strong enough to play varsity football on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Wonder Bread to be convinced of that.
Yes, that "low fat" high carb advice was totally wrong, terrible advice for almost everybody. As was the "low salt" advice (for most people). How Big Government Backed Bad Science and Made Americans Fat
Because of the ambiguity of being omnivorous, everybody has an opinion about what is best. "Clean diet," paleo diet, low-fat diet, high-fat diet, vegetarian diet, vegan diet, Mediterranian diet, bla bla bla. My advice is to eat moderate amounts of everything. Small meals are best for health, fitness, energy, and mental clarity.
With a few comments:
- If overweight and if you do not want to be, cut the carbs and cut the volume. Don't be a pig. If fat and happy, that's fine with me because I am neither your doctor, parent, or spouse.
Thursday, May 3. 2018
Since a study came out a few years ago, based on BMI, that heavy people live longer and healthier than thinner people, many heavy people applauded the news.
Of course, that study was nonsense. Overweight people are prone to countless ailments from arthritis to heart disease to breast cancer to Alzheimer's. BMI is not a crude measure, it is a useless measure. Just one of many reasons is that anybody with decent muscle development will come out as overweight on BMI. It turned out that those "heavy but healthy" statistics were due to the number of well-developed individuals in the study which BMI rated as overweight.
In fact, it turns out that higher muscle mass correlates with reduced risk of illness and death. (Well, risk of death is 100% but they mean sooner rather than later.)
A meaningful gauge of being overweight for your build and fitness is your Body Fat percentage. The simplest way to do this is to have somebody use the body fat caliper method on you. That does not measure intra-abdominal fat deposits, but it assumes a correlation. Your doctor's nurse knows how to do that. There are other ways too. (An easier way is to study yourself naked in a mirror.)
This site has two charts, one depicting "ideal" fat percentages based on fitness, and the second based on age. As an athletic female, I like to be around 25-30%. Seems disgusting for your body to be 30% lard, doesn't it? It can be fine for a slender lady, though.
Just for fun, no ab exercises will give you 6-pack abs. Killer abs are all about fat. "Good abs" are visible in men at around 8% body fat, and in women around 12%. Those are either highly-athletic (ie well-beyond "fit" percentages) or otherwise verging on anorectic. I will not recommend any %s lower than those, even for models and ballet dancers, and, generally, feel that those %s are too low for regular fit people. 20% is fine for a regular fit male who plays sports and works out.
Below the fold, photos for comparison of men and women with varying body fat percentages.
Continue reading "Overweight but healthy? Sorry."
Tuesday, April 24. 2018
Since it was a bit of a hiking weekend, I decided to consider the topic from a health and fitness standpoint rather than from a fun and adventure standpoint. What I will say generally applies to all aerobic activities (ie rowing, biking, swimming, etc).
- First off, most articles we search discuss these topics in terms of weight loss and calorie-burning. That is nonsense. Unless you devote several hours/day to these things with a carb-restricted diet, they will do nothing for your fat. Let's take that off the table and accept that body fat is about nutritional choices and nothing else.
- Second, we are talking about things which are often referred to as "cardio" fitness and cardio training. They really are not cardio training without the high heart rate which can not be attained for healthy people through walking or jogging. Similarly for skeletal muscle strength. For general endurance, good. True "cardio training" entails repeated anaerobic sprints of almost any activity (often termed HIIT. You can do HIIT with kettlebell swings, wall ball slams, road-sprints, sprint pool laps, or anything that stresses the heck out of you for 30-60 seconds). 15-20 minutes (including rests) of HIIT accomplishes far more for cardio fitness than an hour of aerobic activity.
Third, recreational hiking, jogging, swimming, biking, rowing are more the happy rewards of fitness than stimuli to increased fitness. I can hike 10 miles because I am somewhat fit, not to become fit. Nonetheless, they are the sorts of things that distinguish an "active" person from a "sedentary". "Sedentary" roughly refers to a person with less than 8-10 hours/week of intentional, vigorous physical activity (not strolling, or housework or easy stuff), or less than 6 hours of high-intensity physical activity/week. A good measure of "high-intensity" is that you are short of breath most of the time.
- Except for newbies, the elderly, or the infirm, the above relatively low-intensity aerobic activities (I hesitate to term them "exercise" because they lack the high exertion component) are just fine for maintaining mobility and endurance for casual activities. They do not increase fitness once you can do them. Any healthy person can walk 10 miles, jog 3-5 miles, or swim a mile of laps. Still, aerobic endurance is a handy thing for life enjoyment.
- Walking and jogging put the same lower-body muscles to use. Both are easy on the hamstrings, which can lead to a muscle imbalance if jogging is your only activity. Anyway, these are not strength-builders or meaningful cardio training (because there is not a high-enough cardio stress once you have adapted to them).
- Jogging on cement or asphalt on a daily basis will come back to your joints at some point. For "long, slow", once/week is enough for a fit person who works out daily in other ways along with recreational physical activities such as sports. Running is speedy jogging with a long stride and sprinting is sprinting.
More on the topic below the fold -
Continue reading "What good is walking or jogging? Or other aerobic activities?"
Thursday, April 19. 2018
Magical thinking about food and nutrition is pervasive in wealthy parts of the world where nutrition is over-abundant and biological knowledge minimal. The classic example in the US is Whole Foods - organic non-GMO foods and supplements for the rich. A scam, like this one:
Tuesday, April 17. 2018
That is about dietary fat. If you are concerned about hyperlipidemia, let your doc treat it if it concerns you. There are many alternatives for that.
To lose body fat, only a low carb diet works. Your body converts all carbs to sugar and then stores the excess sugar as fat. Dietary fat doesn't make people fat. Everybody knows what carbs are: sweets, fruits, dessert, root vegetables, juices, beer, grains, grain products eg pasta and bread, beans, corn, etc. The comfort foods.
To gain or maintain weight, eat plenty of everything including apple pie, ice cream, beer, Big Macs - and 70-100 gms of protein daily if you do heavy exercise (eg weights).
Can you lose weight with an hour of daily exercise? It depends on the intensity of that hour, but it's not a realistic effect for most. Still, it is worth doing for countless other good reasons including mental well-being and energy. Intense exercise tends to reduce appetite, so there's that too.
Powerline's Scott Johnson got the memo.
That's the right thing to do. It is unwise and inhumane to continue to treat people medically when it is clearly their time to go.
Monday, April 16. 2018
From Adult Neurogenesis:
Wednesday, April 11. 2018
We'll all die from something. Eventually something gives out, even the brain. Carpe diem, and try not to have a family history of Alzheimer's.
Friday, March 23. 2018
The scrawny learn that they need to push themselves to build themselves up for strength and endurance, and the pudgy are forced to realize how much their pudge slows them down. Therefore they are motivated to pay more attention to their nutritional habits so they can keep up.
A physiological factor is that an hour of daily exertion tends to reduce appetite in pudgy adults. Exertion means "hard to do." Scrawny people may have to force-feed themselves somewhat. Athletic and physically-active people tend to consume what they need, not so much what they want.
So that is how an hour of daily cardio, calisthenics, and weights helps get people into fighting shape. The exertion itself is a minor factor but it is a motivator. Physical maintenance.
Tuesday, March 6. 2018
I have had enough success with patients who want fat loss over the past 12 months with Contrave to feel that it is worth a mention. It's a magic elixir of Wellbutrin and Naltrexone. Both seem to have a measurable effect of reducing cravings of all sorts. No, it's not quite magic but it can reduce greed and take some of the burden from self-restraint.
I have posted in the past about how subjective hunger (aka "false hunger") is common in the overweight who have no caloric needs at all but who tend to desire more intake and to eat more avidly, more rapidly, than normal-weight people. It may have something to do with the loss of satiety signals, or ignoring them. Insulin sensitivity plays a role, for sure, and that is produced by poor or excessive eating habits. Psychological factors too. All we really know is that, if you are overweight and hungry, something is out of whack because you do not really need any food at all.
(As I have asserted in the past, exercise does nothing meaningful for fat loss. I'll make one exception to that: compulsive exercisers who work out for hours daily, but they usually are living on organic lettuce from Whole Foods too. One other factor: for most people, heavy-duty cardio and weights do tend to reduce appetite. People in rigorous daily fitness programs therefore need to follow nutritional programs to make sure their intake is sufficient to support their efforts or they can risk losing muscle while their bodies are undergoing renovation. This only applies to body renovation projects, not maintenance)
Tuesday, February 27. 2018
Vitamin and Mineral Supplements - What Clinicians Need to Know
Ideas about nutrition are filled with magical thinking. There's a lot of money in magical thinking.
Saturday, February 17. 2018
Thursday, February 15. 2018
The endurance of teeth has to do with genetics, diet, hygiene, and injuries. Due to bad luck, I have ended up with a fine (expensive) bridge which is anchored in (expensive) implants. After all, nobody wants to look like they come from England.
The question du jour is this: What do you do about dental hygiene?
- Once daily or twice? Or, God forbid, after every meal?
Wednesday, February 14. 2018
The universality and popularity of general fitness programs is partly because they have nothing to do with physical talent.
Your genetics do determine many of your physical capabilities at advanced levels, but rarely at ordinary levels. Short people can be fine basketball players, for example - but not at a college level. Long-limbed people can do good bench presses and deadlifts, although not as readily as compact people. Everybody can run, swim, and do bench presses. Most people are physically effective but not blessed with special talents. That is why general fitness is popular - anybody can engage in it.
Besides your physique/physical structure, genes determine your ratio of fast-twitch to slow-twitch muscle fibers, your neuromuscular connections, your brain-neuromuscular responses, eye-hand coordination, your aggressiveness and energy, lung volume, etc.
Not to mention non-genetic factors like drive, training, and practice.
The point I wish to make is that, as with musical talent or intellectual horsepower, everybody has a level at which they can best perform, and few people ever reach those levels. In fitness, your only competitor needs to be yourself from last month.
Of course, we all have varying degrees of competitiveness, but that should never be any obstacle. Not one of our readers will play in the NFL, the NBA, or in the US Open. Or, for that matter, perform in the NYC Ballet.
My advice, to be able to engage in the fullness of life, is to get out and move hard every day with weights, calisthenics, cardio, etc - and to do a lousy job of it if need be because there are no grades. Giving it your all is all that is required.
Sunday, February 4. 2018
"... the conclusion of a massive new study published in Lancet that followed 135,335 people in 18 countries on five continents. The study found that consumption of fat was associated with a lower risk of mortality, while consumption of carbohydrates was associated with a higher risk. It found that the kind of fat didn't matter when it came to heart disease, and that saturated fat consumption was inversely related to strokes.
The researchers say, ever so politely, that "dietary guidelines should be reconsidered in light of these findings.""
Friday, January 26. 2018
Want to be fit and trim, attractive, high-energy, light on your feet, and signaling that you have your act together?
You know the popular approaches:
- Low-carb Atkins-like plan. This means fats, protein, and non-root vegetables and greens, with nuts and berries to complete the nutrition. This makes physiologic sense because it trains your body to burn your fat for energy instead of the carbs you shovel into it normally.
- Small but ordinary meals. Eg, a hard-boiled egg and coffee for breakfast, half a sandwich for lunch, a couple of slices of cheese for a snack, and a half-portion of supper. This is a sustainable approach for most people, but it still might not work for you. It works great as a maintenance program for me, but I do not need to lose any fat and I do not have a voracious appetite. By the way, eating "until full" is disgusting and has nothing to do with nutrition. It's just a measure of how much you have stretched your stomach or ignore satiety signals. Normal people eat until satisfied, not until full. "Stuffed" is for the Thanksgiving turkey, or on Thanksgiving.
- Keep a nutrition calendar. Write down everything you put in your mouth. It's even more effective if you include Why you ate that donut. Bored? Tempted by flavor? Anxious? etc. Best idea: When those things happen, do something else as a diversion. If you are overweight, your subjective appetite is a liar because your body is lazy and doesn't want the hassle of burning your fat.
- Exercise is basically useless for fat-burning in any ordinary time frame unless combined with a nutrition program of caloric or carb restriction. However, this is not an argument for a sedentary life. Furthermore, intense exercisers should have a small dose of carbs/sugar before a session to be most effective at pushing the effort.
I have written about the "False Hunger" of the overweight in the past. Paradoxically, the people who least need food experience hunger more than fit people, and consume food more avidly. I think it's usually an effect of being overweight, not a cause, but everybody is different.
Often forgotten: Fruit and fruit juices do not really belong on any fat-burning program. A glass of OJ or apple juice is the same as a Coke. The Big Fruit industry somehow convinced people that there was something "healthy" about fruit. There is not. Fruit is dessert, a treat. Neither do cereals or grains, except minimally, belong on a fat-burning plan.
Friday, January 19. 2018
Let's say you are pudgy or fat and want to commit to a 6-7 day per week serious fitness program (something like the programs we recommend on Maggie's - not simply walking, aerobic swimming, or an hour trudging on a treadmill) to both lose fat and to get into fighting shape in general - high-energy, strong, trim, athletic, and fully-functional for life.
You have competing goals, fat loss and strength-building, which makes it complicated. So what sort of nutritional plan do you need for our programs of weights, calisthenics, HIIT, etc?
As readers know, fat loss is 90% nutritional under ordinary conditions. For sedentary people (less than 5-8 hrs/wk of strenuous physical activity), we recommend a low carb diet - lots of filler vegetables and greens, meat and fat. But if you are committing to an arduous daily exercise program too, you will need some amount of daily carbs and extra protein to sustain your exercise and to build/repair muscles happily damaged by exertion.
Nobody writes about this, but I have the correct advice.
For overweight serious exercisers only, use the scale as your guide. If you lose 2-4 lbs/month in your program, that's fine. If you lose much more than that, up your carbs and dietary volume a bit. If you lose less, lower your carbs and volume.
The reason is that too-rapid weight loss will interfere with your fitness and strength-building goals. If you want both, you have to balance these goals. You have to consider that, if you are doing weight training (which everybody ought to do), a male can actually gain 1/4 lb/month in muscle in the beginning months while losing fat at the same time.
I'd recommend as a starting point for overweight daily hard-exercisers a carb intake of mostly one fruit and a bowl of oatmeal daily, and allow for one or two light beers too, or a glass of wine, for sanity. No dessert, bread, potato, pasta, rice, etc. Then get on the scale after one month of the program and feed yourself accordingly. Never get on the scale more often than twice a month - preferably once monthly. And always at the same time of day.
nb: For relatively in-shape exercisers, the recommendations would be entirely different.
Tuesday, January 9. 2018
In my view, physical fitness is mainly for full-life functionality, energy, and fun - not to prevent death. Delaying death is fine, of course, if the life before death arrives is full, productive, and physically, mentally, and spiritually engaging.
In civilized cultures, generally your odds are almost 50/50 heart disease or cancer unless you are one of those who just dies from decrepitude, feebleness, and general body rot. What's your preference? Mine is to go via a quick cardiac arrythmia or a stroke while doing something fun, and too far from any medical help that might force me to survive with a nasty disability which would damage my dignity and make me a burden on others.
Everybody in western cultures has some degree of arterial disease after age 40 or 50 whether it is diagnosable or not. It's part of ageing, especially in an affluent society with plenty of good antibiotics available to make sure you don't die of pneumonia.
If you care, this study suggests that stressful aerobic cardio exercise 5 days/week is beneficial for cardiac health. That means keeping your heart rate at around 65-70% of your max for an hour. That is neither easy not comfortable because it means to stay intensely aerobic, ie huffing and puffing and sweating - but at a rate to be able to keep it up. In fact, it's a bitch to do. That's why few do it.
More efficient to do anaerobic HIIT in my opinion. They didn't study that.
A bit more below the fold -
Continue reading "Exercise and heart disease"
Wednesday, December 20. 2017
Again, a Christmas book only for those who wish to continue or to update their secondary or college educations: Campbell's Biology.
It is the current basic text, and it guarantees a thorough grounding in the basics. If you shop around on line, you can find it for much less than the list price.
A magnificent book, clear and easy to read if you recall some basic biochem. If you took college bio ten years ago, you know almost nothing.
Wednesday, November 15. 2017
What factors are associated with increased risk?
- Age (obviously)
nb: Correlation does not mean causation. These things just represent the current knowledge. Also, medical researchers never include "Bad luck" as a disease risk factor, but it is usually a major one in most ailments.
Monday, November 13. 2017
While muscles respond well to stress, joints do not. The worst thing you can do to your hips and knees is to be overweight. That is why, in the UK and many other European nations, if you are overweight they will leave you a cripple and tell you it's your own fault. Government medicine will buy you a 12-Euro cane. In Euroland today you see people with canes, walkers, and wheelchairs who would be playing tennis and hiking in the US.
Similar issues apply to hips and lower back. Nothing but trouble. Shoulders can wear out too, but that's a separate topic with different causes.
Saturday, October 28. 2017
A friend emailed this photo of his foot this week. Ouch. It's the classic presentation. Fortunately, Gout is easily treated these days.
Have any readers had this nasty problem?
Thursday, October 26. 2017
It's high school bio, but it's easy to forget even these big ones. When I took Gross Anatomy, they injected the arteries with red plastic and the veins with blue. That was a big help because arteries and veins in cadavers collapse and turn brown otherwise.
Everybody ought to know the major muscle groups too, but that's easy.
Tuesday, October 24. 2017
Is consumer access to genetic testing, without a doctor's involvement, beneficial or harmful for patients?
Monday, October 23. 2017
Other than hibernating animals, few animals are adapted to handle the sort of abundance that humans have remarkably produced with brains capable of entirely changing the planet's surface and modifying nutritional sources for its own purposes. Humans are nutritional outliers, and it is not "natural." In a sense, humans are not natural animals because of the extent to which they remake nature for their convenience.
One example: What Does It Mean to Be Fat-Adapted?
It means you have trained your body to adapt to a plentiful flow of fresh carbs and sugars (sugar is carbs and vice-versa) so it takes the burden off using fat as a fuel. Intake trains the body that way. Thus what we term the "False Hunger" of overweight people. Human physiology will never adapt to modern abundance of food because fatness tends to kill or disable people after child-bearing years.
Among other reasons, Fat Adaptation is one of the reasons heavy people feel more hunger and end up consuming food more avidly and in higher volume than trim people. In fact, overweight people have zero dietary energy requirements and minimal nutritional requirements despite subjective hunger.
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