Favorite Things

I’m tired of sharing cool stuff on the various social media platforms, mostly because some people might not think the stuff is as cool as I do, and that’s just not right. So I’m going to keep the cool stuff for myself. And you guys.

My latest favorite blog to read is Natty or Not. It’s filled with cynical, sarcastic truth bombs which makes it hard for me not to love. I’m particularly impressed with Truth Seekers’ methods for determining if a fitness model, powerlifter, or other athlete is using steroids, insulin, growth hormone and other physique-enhancing cocktails. We want to believe that if we just got our diet and exercise regimens in order, we could look like these cover models, and it’s difficult to accept that no matter what we do, no matter how hard we try, no matter how diligent we are in our efforts, we just won’t. But once you let go of the pretty lie, and I mean really let it go, not have a lingering hope of a chiseled physique, you can apply yourself to a reasonable goal and actually achieve it. I should also add that Truth Seeker doesn’t just take apart the liars in the fitness world, but he posts truly useful content for the drug-free fitness enthusiast. Unfortunately, Truth Seeker let his intolerance show when he bloviated about tattoos. It’s disappointing to see him as part of the anti-tattoo community, but I will try not to let his biased, pointless and inconsequential opinions  on the personal decisions and choices others make that have no impact on anyone else’s lives but their own sour me on his otherwise useful blog site.

Some other interesting tidbits I’ve come across of late include support for my contention that a ketogenic diet, aka very low carbohydrate diet, is not inferior to a carb-based diet for muscle growth. This is a terrific read and includes a nice summary at the end for those short on time and attention.

Do we need carbs to build muscle?

And one more, from The Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition.

The effects of ketogenic dieting on skeletal muscle and fat mass.

Keeping with the theme, let’s look at a contrary view.  I recently read yet another training book called The Hybrid Athlete by Alex Viada. I don’t know his educational background since he doesn’t elaborate on it in his book, and his background in athletic performance seems to come from his own efforts at being an athlete. Interestingly, right in the Introduction, he states that his book is not a scientific review of the available literature on the subject matter (which is probably good since I don’t think Alex is a scientist). It’s also not an “evidence-based” book, which made me chuckle a bit and question why I was still reading it. Lastly, he preemptively strikes down his would be critics by explaining he is not submitting his book to be peer reviewed.

I have no beef with anything he wrote when it comes to training for two seemingly contradictory sports simultaneously. In fact, most of it was pretty interesting and I think the book is a good read. If I was interested in say Powerlifting and running a 5K, I might actually use one of his templates or at least put his techniques to a test. But his nutrition chapter is another story altogether.

He does a nice job of giving us some basic information on digestion, and I concur with his observations that protein intake is excessive for those engaged in attempts at increasing muscle mass. The research suggests that the most anyone would need to consume each day, regardless of how hard they may be training, is 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. The average muscle building magazine, website or online guru will suggest a minimum of 1 gram per pound of body weight, with some suggesting 1.5-2 grams per pound. Alex calls this absurd, and the evidence would suggest he is not exaggerating.

Things start looking a little suspect when he suggests that fats should comprise no more than 10-15% of the diet. All of the latest research is suggesting that fats are not, in fact, our nutritional nemesis and that the government’s call to have everyone eat a shit ton of breads, grains and pasta every day is at least partly to blame for our obesity epidemic.

Alex would have us believe that as “hybrid athletes,” we need to eat a silo full of grain each and every day. Carbohydrates should be the majority of our daily diet, and not by a small margin. In the example he uses, he suggests 900 grams of carbohydrates per day for his imaginary 220-lb man training for a marathon. That’s 77% of his daily diet coming from pasta, bread, oatmeal and the like.

Here’s some stuff we know:

  1. High carbohydrate intake causes increased levels of triglycerides. This is bad.
  2. If you eat too many of the high glycemic index carbohydrates, you’re more likely to develop coronary heart disease. This too, is bad.

Now I’m not suggesting that eating carbohydrates will kill you faster. In fact, carbohydrates from vegetables, some fruits, whole grains and legumes are positively correlated with protection from coronary heart disease. But consuming carbohydrates at the level Viada suggests is madness. I’ll go so far as to say his recommendation is reckless. More specifically to his point, that “Carbohydrates = performance, plain and simple,” I’ll point you to this article filled with actual studies showing that Alex’s assertion that his book is non-evidence based, and that he is not submitting it for peer review, and that it’s not a scientific review of the available literature, is a spot on description:

More on physical performance and ketoadaptation

Short version for the time-crunched: 

  • Collectively, these studies show that physical performance in both endurance and high intensity realms does not always suffer, can be maintained, and in some cases is improved by ketogenic dieting. Important factors are duration (to ensure adequate ketoadaptation), energy balance, and regular physical activity (athletes and regular exercisers can adapt to burning fat much quicker than sedentary folks).

And one more concluding that not only is ketogenic dieting safe, but it improves hormone levels, which are pretty important for athletic performance.

The effects of very high fat, very low carbohydrate diets on safety, blood lipid profile, and anabolic hormone status

So as much as I enjoyed the idea of training for seemingly disparate athletic endeavors simultaneously, I have to give The Hybrid Athlete a big thumbs down for its reckless endangerment of my fellow humans.

That’s it for now. Go lift weights and be awesome.





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