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Square breathing

Breathing and its potential effect on athletic performance is one of those evergreen topics! The effect that breathing has on those with lung dysfunction or hyperventilation issues goes without challenge. If you have something wrong, breathing drills really work.

But, what if you are utterly healthy? Should you be biting into your training time to practice breathingdrills Continue Reading

Why Vegans Are Healthier

I’ve neglected this topic for quite a while, but like a combustion engine, the steam is starting to arise as we see diet tribes form, and an abundance of misinformation spouted from our vegan friends. Now, my issue isn’t with vegans themselves, I sincerely respect ones decision not to contribute to suffering and all of the ethical reasons behind avoiding animal products.

 

And I get it, the images of veganism are appealing. Eating closer to nature, fresh fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, fermented this, activated that, on top of that you get to call yourself “plant based” which just feels awesome. Then you’re not eating those “dead caucuses,” those “rotting animals.” Throw on top of this the tribe that will take you in, and the reinforcement from the newsgrab that says that “study says vegans live 10 years longer than meat eaters” or virtually any line from What the Health.
That last part is the reason for this article. No, it’s not about the many health benefits of eating meat, it’s instead about the headlines surrounding health in general, and a phenomenon in research known as the healthy user bias.  
What is it?
The healthy user bias is a term used in research to explain that people who engage in one behaviour that is perceived as healthy are more likely to engage in other behaviours that are healthy. For example, those who are exercise and more likely to eat healthily. Conversely, those who smoke cigarettes are more likely to drink alcohol.
Another example is with a vegetarian diet. Typically, vegetarians are going to be more health – conscious… They drink less alcohol, are unlikely to smoke, and exercise more (14). You see this in real life as well…  One doesn’t just “go” vegetarian, it’s usually thrown in with a yoga membership and some more health conscious decisions. Now, throw a population based study of over 10,000 people together, and the vegetarians are likely going to come up much healthier than their meat eating mates. So was it the kale? Was it the yoga? Was it the positive emotions that went along with avoiding meat? We don’t really know.

 

But that doesn’t stop the headlines of course… Check this one out:

“Vegans Live Longer Than Those Who Eat Meat or Eggs, Research finds” (that’s an actual headline)

Screen Shot 2018-05-31 at 2.51.43 pm

What we perceive: Meat bad, vegan good.Now, digging past the headline we find that this study documented 130, 000 people over 30 years, and divided them up into meat eating and non – meat eating groups. The results of the study found that meat eaters had higher death rates than non meat eaters, so the conclusion that the media drew is that red meat causes an early death, and veggies cause a long life.

 

Now right here, the damage is done. The brain loves confirmation bias, and even when you know there’s probably more to the story, the message has gotten through and we start to form those connections between meat and disease. 

 

 

What there’s no discussion of is the healthy user bias. There’s no mention of vegan folk being more likely to exercise, get eight hours of sleep, and eat non processed foods. There’s also no mention of meat eaters being MORE likely to smoke, drink alcohol, and eat more processed foods. It doesn’t make the study obsolete, but there should be questions asked rather than conclusions made.

 

So the question then becomes, “how do we control these variables and really work out if a vegan diet really does lead to longer lifespans?” Well, it’s difficult, but researchers really do try to minimise the effect of the healthy user bias. 

 

One savvy study looked at people who shopped at health food stores. And I’m not talking about the joint where old mate gets his pre workout from, I’m talking about the ones with “organic, free range, and bio dynamic” splattered around the place. The same meat and non meat eaters were divided up, and this time there was no significant difference in all cause mortality between vegetarian and omnivore groups. Does this mean an all meat diet is healthier? No, it just means that we need to keep experimenting and asking questions.

 

So what can we agree on?

There’s so much divide and tribalism in nutrition, but most things would be agreed upon by all parties. Here’s what we can do to be a healthy user:

 

Avoid processed meats. Despite many studies weighing them equally, we can all agree that hot dogs from the supermarket are not in the same category as a grass fed steak. Processed meats are low in nutrients, high in calories, and seem to have correlations with certain cancers (though this is not settled).
Avoid char grilling your meats. When we char the hell out of our steak, we’re not only losing out on taste, we’re also cooking up some unhealthy chemicals. Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are formed when we overdo out meats, and they seem to change DNA that can cause cancer. More on that here.

 

Eat vegetables at every meal. This is a great goal to have. There are some exceptions with certain microbiome conditions, but on the whole, eating vegetables gives you a stack of vitamins, minerals and a whole bunch of funky compounds that are super healthy.

 

Eat a variety of high quality meats: It gets a bad wrap, but meat is actually packed with quality nutrients. CoQ10, zinc, b vitamins, choline, and certain amino acids are all things you can ONLY find in sufficient quantities in meat. This is without mentioning the protein factor, which shows up time and time again as one of the most important factors in keeping healthy. 

 

Avoid Big Agriculture and Eat Local: Local is the new organic. It’s like organic but without the fancy tagline. I recommend buying meat from farmers you know and trust. You’re supporting a thriving, sustainable practice and getting a whole lotta health to go with it.

 

Sun, Sleep and Socialisation: No topic of health deserves mention without considering the three S’s…. It’s like Paleo 2.0. These three factors will help you feel better than any diet will, so let’s get our priorities right before we start dividing ourselves.

Thank you for reading.

*Disclaimer: This post is for information purposes only, and is not designed to diagnose or treat any disease. Always seek help from a medical professional whenever you undergo any dietary change.

References:

Burkert et al. The association between eating behaviours and various health parameters. 
http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0088278&type=printable 
Baines, Powers, Brown. (2007). How does the health and well-being of young Australian vegetarian and semi-vegetarian women compare with non-vegetarians?https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17411462/

Key et al. (1996). Dietary habits and mortality in 11,000 vegetarians and health conscious people: results of a 17 year follow up. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8842068

Paleo and CrossFit… Can They Coexist?

CrossFit and paleo, two concepts that have grown side by side for the past fifteen years. Two market driven movements that promote health, minimalism, community, and two movements that are as controversial as they effective.
Having high stakes in both of these (I coach crossfit and use a paleo template in my nutrition coaching), I have seen first hand just how effective, and also how damaging these approaches can be.
First, we should look at both movements in their rawest form.
CrossFit: A method of exercise that practices functional movement at high intensity.
Paleo: A way of eating that promotes eating fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, nuts and seeds. In other words, eating as minimally processed foods as possible.
paleo-foods
USUALLY, a standard paleo diet will be slimmer on the carbs and larger on the protein. Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t consciously smash your sweet potato and go “high carb paleo,” but most of us who go paleo will be leaning to the lower side of carb consumption (<150g per day) – that’s about 3 sweet potatoes.
Now, questions of doing paleo and crossfit; “is it optimal? Will it help me lose weight? Will it help me gain muscle? Will it save my life?” The answers to these are like so many in nutrition… “it depends.”
So it’s hard to give a definitive answer as to whether it’s right for you, but in an effort to reach a conclusion, I’ll give you three real life examples of people I’ve come across and you can make up your mind where you sit from there.

  1. “The Athlete.”

pexels-photo-348487 (2)
This girl is training 2 hours per day, 5+ times per week. She lifts heavy, goes fast, and is completely dedicated to making the sport. Her goals are to to put on muscle to lift heavy, but not too much that it interrupts her conditioning.

2. ‘The Superdad.’
What-Gift-Buy-Fit-Dad
He’s recently taken up crossfit and trains 3 times per week. He has a busy schedule with two kids and a full time job, but fitness still holds an important part in his life. His goals are to lose weight and stay strong to keep up with his kids.

3. ‘The Office Jockey.’
keith from the office
This guy has recently taken up crossfit as the doctor suggested it. He’s overweight, has insulin resistance, and has high blood pressure. This guy is also extremely sedentary, and hasn’t had regular movement or sunlight since school. He’s started training 2 times per week and goals are to lose weight, feel more energy and build some muscle mass.

Now, the verdicts.
1. Should the “Athlete” eat paleo?
No! Why? Let’s look at her schedule… She’s training around 2 hours a day and spends the rest of the time recovering and thinking about training… Glamorous?! She’s using her anaerobic system consistently, and this system runs on glucose (carbs), not fat or ketones. Fran doesn’t run well on fat.
Carbs such as potato, sweet potato, beets, pumpkin, as well as non – paleo foods in rice, quinoa, oats (gasp) and other whole grains should be a staple for these guys, whereas our first two friends should be more diligent with them. Protein should obviously be a priority as maintaining muscle mass is important, and fat should be adequate.
Nutrient timing is also important. Post workout carbs will help funnelling nutrients to the muscles so adding some dextrose to her a shake would be helpful.
But won’t all those carbs store as bodyfat? Carbs, insulin, fat storage right?! Not quite. When we’re doing this type of anaerobic training, we mostly store these carbs as glycogen, not body fat. A whole different set of rules applies to our “Superdad” or “Office Jockey”, so don’t do a Michael Phelps and eat 12 wheat bix for breakfast just yet.

2. Should the “Superdad” eat paleo?
Yes! Greg Glassman’s initial mantra of “eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar” is a perfect fit for this guy. In addition to this, a little tinkering with carb timing and quantity is required here to make sure he’s keeping the belly fat off.  He should ensure he’s getting carbs post workout, and enough to support his activity – around 150g per day seems to be a good area to stick to. His plan also has some wiggle room… Since he’s pretty active, sleeps well, and has good community, sticking to a plan of 80/20 paleo/non paleo will work well and be sustainable and give enough room for a glass of wine over his grass – fed steak.

3. Should the ‘Office Jockey’ eat paleo?
Yes! Absolutely. It might just save his life. Most carbohydrates will not be friends with this man, and his diet should be centred around healthy fats, protein and veggies.  Why? Well he’s one of 2 million Australians with pre diabetes, and a continuation of his current lifestyle will land him will land him in a very dangerous state. Having extremely low glucose tolerance means eating things like cereals and wholegrain bread is lethal, as it’s jacking up our blood sugar, and we don’t have the necessary insulin function to maintain homeostasis. (cereal and wholegrain bread are both recommended from our chief authority on diabetes – shocked face).
Now, should this fella get into the gym, and I hope he would, he might want to add some post workout carbs in the form of sweet potato or pumpkin, but I’d recommend going between 50-100g of carbs in the short term to restore some baseline of health.

Wrapping Up
So the point here is to accept that we’re all the same but different animals with different nutrition requirements for optimal health. At a baseline we can all agree that a diet with heaps of veggies, enough protein and healthy fats is good for all. But digging deeper, we need to consider our genetics, activity level, activity type, hormonal profile and GI status when deciding what the optimal diet is.

For nutrition and coaching help, drop us a line

Member of the Week: 06 May 2018

This week’s  Crossfit London Member of the Week goes to:

Ken Haynes.

Ken is one of those annoying people that gets up incredibly early and gets a ton of work done. He’s a regular in my Monday morning 6:30AM MetCons and runs around with abandon. He’s really upped his training in the last year and it’s showing. He moves better, faster, and is shifting more tin! The guy is ripped to shreds too so that is always something to aspire to.
Well done Ken!

Looking to start with CrossFit London UK in Bethnal Green, London E2?
Check out our fundamentals process. The ideal way for a beginner to start.
If you have any other questions then you should be able to find the answers on the website but if you’re still stuck you can email me here.

WOD 7 July 2017

Strength (1):
Push jerk.
5×3.
Strength (2):
Weighted dips.
5×3.
WOD:
For time.
Buy in: 22 calorie row.
3 rounds of.
22x push press (35/25kg).
22x SDHP.
22x toes-to-bar.
Cash out: 22 calorie row.

Looking to start with CrossFit London UK in Bethnal Green, London E2?
Check out our fundamentals process. The ideal way for a beginner to start.
If you have any other questions then you should be able to find the answers on the website but if you’re still stuck you can email me here.

WOD 5 July 2017

Strength:
Squat clean (70/50kg).
3x reps for time.
WOD:
Part A)
For time.
21-15-9.
DB STOH (25/15kg).
Pull-ups.
Rest 1 min before Part B)
1 min ME burpees.

Looking to start with CrossFit London UK in Bethnal Green, London E2?
Check out our fundamentals process. The ideal way for a beginner to start.
If you have any other questions then you should be able to find the answers on the website but if you’re still stuck you can email me here.