Jogging and low-fat food will make you fatter and damage your heart

Now this is a sentence I never thought I’d type – I found a really very good article on the Mail Online this week (via Facebook).

It is based on a new book by Dr Charles Clark, a consultant surgeon, expert on diabetes and honorary research fellow at the University of Glasgow. The crux of the article is that two common activities associated with getting fit actually do more harm than good – jogging and low fat diets.

I was ready to jump to the defence of running but the advice is actually very good:

“Jogging is an excellent form of exercise when you are fit (but) if you are overweight with poor muscle tone, jogging is a fast track to ruining your hip and knee joints and put unbearable strain on your heart and lungs.”

This feeds right into something I have mentioned previouslyrunning is a high skill activity. It is not easy and if you are seriously out of shape you probably can’t do it safely.

Dan John has been quoted as saying “Squats don’t hurt your knees, what you are doing hurts your knees.” and the same applies here.

If you are just starting out on a mission to get fitter there are much better options. Look at the pros, their movement is smooth and they seem to glide over the pavement. Even if we will never be as quick, this is what we should aim for too. For a lot of runners that is far from the case – to be frank they look awful when they run.

No movement that is being done well ever looks bad. A rule of thumb I follow is to try and make every movement look as good as possible. If it looks smooth and athletic, then the form is ok. If it looks clunky and painful, it’s probably not. That’s not to say that all my movements look good, far from it – but that’s the aim.

This is demonstrated perfectly by picture they use of Boris Johnson.

Article-2144443-09738559000005dc-632_306x7151

You can clearly see that both his feet are touching the floor. One of the key characterstics of running is that one foot is always in flight. Boris isn’t running, he’s doing a wobbly,fast walk thing with an exaggerated heel strike. He’d be better off lifting weights and using one of his bikes.

The article also has great advice regarding diet. Essentially that low fat dieting is a farce because the foods are so high in sugar – they have to be to actually taste of something. This extra sugar plus a generally high carb intake is the actual cause of people’s weight gain – sounds familiar.

Why mid-life health kicks can WRECK men’s bodies: Jogging and low-fat food will make you fatter and damage your heart

Shifting to primal/paleo eating – part 2

In my first post about primal/paleo eating I gave a (very) brief overview of the principles of eating this way. In this one I will talk about the process I followed to make the change to my diet.

It’s worth pointing out that I wasn’t really planning to make this change when I started. Instead I wanted to solve other issues I was having like staying full after meals and low energy levels in the afternoon – it turned out that this was the best way of doing it.

It meant I went into it gradually, meal by meal, which is contrary to a lot of advice, but made for quite an easy transition. Hopefully it will be useful for other people thinking of making a similar change but that feel like it is too big a leap.

Change one – breakfast
Breakfast as I was growing up was always cereal and I carried that on as an adult. The trouble was that no matter how much I ate in the morning, I would find myself hungry again by 10am. And not just a bit peckish, a gnawing, light headed, ‘have to eat’ kind of hungry.

I used to solve this by simply eating again but a few months ago started to wonder if there was a better way – if I was getting that hungry so quickly after a meal, maybe there was something wrong with the meal?

Initially I tried muesli, oats and porridge but nothing changed (they are still cereals!). I then tried quiche and salad for a while, which was ‘just plain wrong’ according to my Dad, and that didn’t work either.

As I did more research and understood more about using fat for fuel I also read (I can’t remember where) that the first meal of the day dictates whether you continue burn fat following your overnight fast, or start to rely on a continued intake of carbs for fuel.

This sounded like it could be the answer so I switched to eggs for breakfast. Initially the mid-morning hunger was still there, but it was a different, more manageable feeling. I found I could ignore it quite easily and it would go away. After a few days it was gone altogether – winner!

Change two – lunch and snacks
I was intrigued. The idea of primal eating had always appealed and now I was starting to see the benefits for myself. I’d wake up, have my eggs, feel energised all morning, then eat sandwiches for lunch and promptly feel like I was about to fall asleep at my desk.

As the my experiment with a high fat/protein breakfast had been successful, I thought I’d try continue it through the day. I switched lunch to a salad with loads of meat and oily fish and cut out all sugary snacks.

The snacks were difficult at first as the people I work with are biscuit fiends. I resisted by always having some almonds in my desk and would snack on those whenever I was tempted. This was great as it meant I was never hungry and never felt like I was missing out.

After a few days I was not at all sleepy in the afternoons. I was amazed, doubly so as this this was just after having our new baby and my sleep was awful.

Change three – dinner
By this point my Wife had been seeing the effect this diet was having on me and had made similar changes herself.

There was really only one change left to make. To see such great results during the day only to eat a massive pasta dinner seemed ridiculous. Plus many of our favourite meals are some combination of meat, fish and vegetables.

That was it – the whole process took place over roughly six weeks. The great thing was that each decision was reinforced by its effects and the incremental nature of the changes made it easy to build, and keep, good habits.

It has been a bit of challenge to our food budget but we have found ways around it. There is an excellent farm shop not far from us that sells meat in bulk. Not only is the meat great quality, it’s also good value. Plus I get to say things like ‘we just bought quarter of a pig’, which is truly awesome.

Book review – Capoeira Conditioning: How to Build Strength, Agility, and Cardiovascular Fitness Using Capoeira Movements

I’ve been playing with some capoeira movements in my training first through reading about floreio, and then more recently after reading Capoeira Conditioning: How to Build Strength, Agility, and Cardiovascular Fitness Using Capoeira Movements by Gerard Taylor.

I had been looking for more information on using capoeira to keep fit and this book looked like it would fit the bill nicely.

What the book isn’t

If you are looking for a book to help you learn to play capoeira this is probably not for you. It focuses solely on using capoeira movements as conditioning exercises but doesn’t cover how they can be blended together into a flow or how to use them in a game of capoeira.

It’s not really a negative as this isn’t what the book sets out to do. If you are looking for a capoeira reference book then it is best to look elsewhere, if you are looking for a way to gain strength, flexibility and coordination using novel bodyweight exercises then read on.

The contents

The book is split into three sections:

  • Capoeira Conditioning: what is it and why is it good for you?
  • The training
  • The exercises

In the first section Taylor makes the case for capoeira movements as way of keeping fit. He begins by defining fitness, breaking it down into seven core attributes:

  • Strength
  • Power
  • Agility
  • Balance
  • Flexibility
  • Cardiovascular endurance
  • Coordination

He then argues that capoeira movements are the best way to develop all of these attributes and recommends training with them regardless of whether you train the art or not, as they will not just make you fit for capoeira but “fit for life”.

If you’ve ever seen a capoerist do their thing you can see his point, the movement they display is something we could all aspire to.

Taylor then gives some detail about the core movements that make up his program. They are the squat, bridge, cartwheel, handstand and handstand press up.

It’s a very good list, they are all great movements. My only complaint would be a lack of pulling movements, although as they are not really used in capoeira you wouldn’t necessarily expect them. I think it would be well worth adding them in for a more complete program.

The training

In this section Taylor outlines how the capoeira conditioning exercises can be arranged into workouts. He gives lots of examples of 7 1/2, 15 and 30-45 minute sessions, with different difficulty levels for each length of time.

Each session involves a small selection of movements performed as a circuit. You could get in great condition following the examples in the book but it is also clear that after spending a bit of time with the exercises in the book you could easily start to structure your own training sessions. The potential combinations are pretty much endless.

The exercises

This section of the book is good but would be better with some more detail at points.

Each exercise is clearly explained with multiple pictures and there are loads of exercises to choose from. There are also some clear progressions among the exercises so you can progress your sessions as you get fitter and stronger.

The jump between progressions can be a bit big though. One progression goes from a cartwheel to a cartwheel that lands in a pistol, with no detail of how to build up to the pistol.

This is fine for me as I am using the book as a compliment to other training but would make it more difficult to use it as the only book that you follow.

Conclusions

If you are looking for a rewarding and highly enjoyable way to get in shape, that uses no equipment, you could do a lot worse than buy this book. At stages you would need to add to the information in the book to help progress through the exercises, but all the extra info can be found on the internet pretty easily.

All in all this is a great book. I’ve done a couple of exercises from it every training session for the past few weeks and am loving it.

Is the 1/9/90 rule still true?

I picked up an interesting BBC story this morning via Econsultancy

The BBC have conducted a survey to look at the levels of participation on the the internet. They discovered a few things:

  1. The model which has guided many people’s thinking in this area, the 1/9/90 rule, is outmoded. The number of people participating online is significantly higher than 10%.
  2. Participation is now the rule rather than the exception: 77% of the UK online population is now active in some way.

Bbc_online_briefing_spring2012_participation1

If true it makes that mediums like Twitter much more valuable. The 1/9/90 principle meant a response on Twitter was coming from a sample of only 1% of your audience, which is pretty meaningless. Now it is 77% which is more worthwhile.

That is if it is true, which I’m dubious about. My issue is that those most likely to contribute to the web are also those most likely to fill out this survey. I think 77% is mostly likely an over-exaggeration but also that 1% is too low. Participation has become too easy, especially if you count something as simple as a re-tweet with no additional comment included.

Current training – May 2012

My training at the moment involves lots of handstands, floreio fun and ropes.

The handstands are mostly against the wall but with a few free balance practices. To set up for the off wall balance I kick up facing away from the wall and then extend up. Rather than arching my back to reach the wall I bend one leg at the knee so the rest of my body can keep a straighter line.

Monday

  • Warm up – wrists, shoulders, squat, l-sit
  • A1: Band assisted tuck planche x 10sec
  • A2: German hang x 20sec
  • A3: Tuck front lever x 15sec
  • A4: Face wall HS x 20sec
  • B1: Off wall HS balance – as long as able
  • C1: QDR x >20sec
  • D1: Rotations into low bridge x 5/5
  • D2: Bridge x 30sec
  • D3: Au cortado x 12
  • E1: Rope pull up with uneven grip (alternating hand at top each set R/L) x 5
  • E2: Press HeS x 5

After warm up. 5 rounds of A1-4, 5 sets of B1, 2 sets of C1, 3 rounds of D1-D3, then 3 rounds of E1-3.

Tuesday

  • Easy run at lunch – 20mins, about 2 miles

Wednesday

  • Warm up – wrists, shoulders, squat
  • A1: Band assisted tuck planche x 10sec
  • A2: German hang x 20sec
  • A3: Tuck front lever x 15sec
  • A4: Face wall HS x 20se
  • B1: Rotations into low bridge x 5/5
  • B2: Bridge x 30sec
  • C1: Rope pull up with uneven grip (alternating hand at top each rep R/L) x 4-10
  • C2: Floreio flow – Half au-role-QDR x 3-5
  • D1: KB swing x 10-20
  • D2: Hanging leg raise x 5-10

After warm up. 5 rounds of A1-A4, 3 rounds of B1-B2, 3 rounds of C1-2, 3 rounds of D1-2.

Friday

  • Warm up – wrists, shoulders, squat, l-sit
  • A1: Band assisted tuck planche x 10sec
  • A2: German hang x 20sec
  • A3: Tuck front lever x 15sec
  • A4: Face wall HS x 20sec
  • B1: Off wall HS balance – as long as able
  • C1:QDR rotational PU x 10
  • C2: Rope pull up with uneven grip (alternating hand at top each set R/L) x 5
  • C3: Band assisted pistol R/L x 3-5
  • D1: KB clean x 8/8

After warm up. 5 rounds of A1-5, 5 sets of B1, 4 rounds of C1-C3, then 3 sets of D1.

Saturday (maybe depending on the day)

  • Easy run  – 30mins, about 3 miles

Shifting to primal/paleo eating – part 1

My family officially changed to primal eating a few weeks back. As an approach to eating it has always made a lot of sense to me. The final straw in making the change came from my wife as she is the primary food buyer and cook in our house. With two young kids the prospect of increased energy levels and a little fat loss was very appealing.

I’m going to write a couple of posts about it – this one will give a very basic overview of what primal/paleo eating involves, just in case someone stumbles across this post and hasn’t come across it before. In the second I’ll run through how I transitioned to the diet over a few weeks as I think it could be useful for someone who is also thinking about eating this way.

What does it mean to eat primally?
It is based on the idea that humans have not evolved to eat a vast number of foods that have become a large part of our diets since the introduction of agriculture. So, to remain healthy we should avoid those foods and aim to eat as closely as possible to how our ancestors did before large scale farming existed.

The hows and whys of this diet are covered in great detail elsewhere so I’m going to focus this post on the three main principles to follow – I’ve put some of my favourite resources at the bottom if you want more.

1) Cut out processed carbohydrate
Hey sugar, I’m looking at you here. You are everywhere, in everything and you are shitty for my body!

This one is difficult for me as I have a massive sweet tooth (I seriously love the cake). Sugar does lots of nasty stuff to you (go here for a scary list) but the must noticeable effect for me is to my energy levels.

The effect sugary treats had the couple of times I’ve had them since making this transition have been enough to make steer well clear since.

2) Cut out grains
No more pasta, rice, bread, quinoa, cous cous, cereals etc.

In addition to the grains themselves not being especially good for you, having them in your diet invariably leads to a pretty high intake of carbs. This makes your body over-reliant on carbs (sugar!) as a fuel and over time makes a mess of your body’s ability to regulate insulin. It is much more complex than that, but rather than repeat someone else’s good work I suggest you check out this Mark’s Daily Apple post for more. Or buy his great book.

Eat more fresh meat, fish and vegetables
This really follows on from the last two – if you’ve taken things out of your diet, you’re going to need to add some stuff in to fill the gap.

The end result is a diet higher in fat and protein but much with much lower levels of carbs. That’s not to say that we are not eating carbs at all. We still have plenty of root vegetables, fruit etc but the total volumes of carbs is far lower than if our diet consisted largely of pasta or bread.

Over time your body learns to use fat as its primary fuel rather than relying on a steady intake of carbohydrate. The is where people’s weight loss results come in as your body will use excess body fat as a fuel source.

Is that it?
Yes, kinda. You can make it more detailed and complex if you want to but by making these three changes you will probably see great results.

Some parts are not easy though, your friends and family may have trouble getting their head around it if they prescribe to the fat = bad philosophy (teach them otherwise!).

Plus buying food on the go is tough – as I mentioned earlier, sugar is everywhere.

Useful resources
Mark’s Daily Apple
Robb Wolf