‘Overextrapolation’ and its effects on CrossFit

•May 24, 2012 • Leave a Comment

With a growing number of people around the globe becoming increasingly aware and/or involved with crossfit and the claims of its “evidence-based improvements in fitness”, a growing number of the community are taking it upon themselves to search out more scientific research to support their new found lifestyle.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all for people finding a peer-reviewed research article on an area that particularly interests them in order to further their knowledge.  What I have a problem with however, is the complete misinterpretation/overextrapolation of lab bench research data by the media which is then re-posted and circulated around Facebook as if it were hard fact by keen crossfitters looking for some form of scientific justification for a life style choice they have made. Overextrapolation is a term used to define sweeping generalisations that are made about a piece of research that was conducted on a very specific sample population. I shall draw your attention to just a few articles that I have noticed on my ‘news feed’ this week and will explain how the media have completely misunderstood the original article thus leading to a complete overextrapolation of the data and how in turn this effects the crossfit community.

Firstly, I was faced with a headline that read “Sugar can make you dumb”. That is a very bold claim and one that I was eager to investigate.  The study compared two groups of lab rats, one consuming omega-3 and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) suggesting that these are “brain-boosting” (something which in itself is unproven in the scientific literature) supplements alongside a high-fructose corn syrup and the other group of rats consuming just the syrup. The study found that after substituting the high-fructose corn syrup with drinking water for 6 weeks that the group without the “brain-boosting” supplements forgot their way around a maze in comparison to the other group (it should be noted that the other group also didn’t make it around the maze but got further than the syrup-only group).

The trial used two groups of rats, one with syrup and “brain-boosting” supplements and the other with just syrup, however, there was an absence of a “control” group (a group of rats who continue to drink normal drinking water), this allows comparisons to be made between all groups which may help the authors and the readers make judgments as to what is causing the “dumbness”. Without this group it is possible to reason that many other factors may be causing the memory loss of the animals such as the amount of time spent away from learning the maze, for example. This critique of the study is all well and good but let us not forget that it is the overextrapolation by the media and the re-posts that we have an issue with here. This study considered genetically engineered lab rats as subjects, NOT people; it examined a massive dose (6 weeks) of high-fructose corn syrup, something which would not happen in a real-life situation and it tested a rats ability to remember its way around a maze, NOT a human’s ability to perform a standardised test, for example. What I am trying to say is that the media headline should have read something like “Large doses of sugar caused a sample of rats to forget its way around a maze”. It is foolish and dangerous to assume that this may have similar effects in humans without further research and to understand that this misunderstanding can have a negative effect on the crossfit community.

Crossfit claims to be an “evidence-based” exercise programme that provides “measureable” improvements in fitness yet there is a distinct lack of scientific literature available to the community regarding this. The crossfit journal provides vast quantities of anecdotal evidence but very little in the way of peer-reviewed journal articles, is this because it doesn’t exist or because we are being withheld the information? I believe that this lack of scientific evidence (or lack of access to the evidence) regarding crossfit and other lifestyle choices surrounding crossfit such as Paleo is what is causing crossfitters to be sucked in to believing these overextrapolated news headlines as they want evidence to help justify their new found love/obsession to the “haterz”. There are a lot of misleading headlines in the news and technical jargon is everywhere, for example, I recently read one news article online which described the results from a “clinical” study looking at how a combination of soy and animal protein isolates was the most effective method for increasing muscle repair post-workout. However, this so called “clinical” study examined 19 males, hardly the number of participants you’d expect from a clinical study (which would be in the hundreds/thousands). In this small sample a difference in the combinations of protein and soy may have been noted but this is a very small scale and limited population size, for example, would these effects have been significantly different if there were more subjects, or if the sample group consisted of females or a mixture of females and males? These news articles could potentially lead to misguided advice being given to crossfitters by their coaches and could ultimately impact negatively on their health.

My advice to crossfitters looking for research regarding the training methods and nutritional advice seen in the crossfit programme is to be skeptical of these overextrapolated headlines and investigate them further. It never really is as simple as one cause leading to one effect in the body, after all, we are complex chemical factories and what may appear to be a causal relationship at first glance may be far more intricate on closer inspection. If you want to search for scientific literature then I’d recommend using this website http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/ . It provides millions of articles on biomedical literature that will really aid in developing your understanding of key questions you have such as “Is squatting to full depth beneficial and why?”, “What are the best nutritional strategies for optimal performance and why?” and “How effective is high-intensity training at improving aerobic fitness and why?”. By sourcing these peer-reviewed journal articles and re-posting these to Facebook you are going to help to shape a community that is logical, rational and up to date on the latest scientific research in a particular area. If you are a coach this will equip you with more knowledge with regards to biomechanics, nutrition and physiology and will ultimately increase the value of the product you are offering. Also, if you are an avid crossfitter you will be able to justify your training choices to your peers and will also increase your knowledge with regards to training and nutrition.


Choices, Sacrifices, and Bacon

•March 20, 2012 • Leave a Comment

“Oh, I could never eat that healthy. I enjoy food too much.”

I think we’ve all heard someone say that. Maybe we’ve said it ourselves at one point or another. Or ,“I enjoy bread too much”, or “pasta”, or “donuts”. Whatever it is, the person is claiming that their absolute passion for said food is making them incapable of attempting to clean up their diet.  They look at people who eat a diet based on fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood, and locally-raised meat and think one thing: sacrifice.

They see people making choices to eat the best food available to them within their means, and think, “What an awful existence! You’re not really living life if you’re limiting yourself like that”.  They say, “I would eat like that too, but life is short and you have to enjoy it.”

But is eating the most thoughtfully raised meat and freshest seasonal produce really a sacrifice? Is avoiding processed foods that were made as cheaply as possible really a loss? Does cooking your own food so that you know what went into it and can enjoy the process make you a martyr?

This is not a sacrifice.

Or is it simply a choice?

A choice to be in control of what you eat; to end your cravings for sugar so that you can enjoy the occasional treat and not feel like it’s constantly gnawing at you. A choice to learn to cook so that you don’t have to rely on restaurants and fast food for delicious meals. A choice to not make your body work so hard and fight against the inflammatory food you’re taking in, but to nourish it instead.

Making good food choices doesn’t mean giving up every food you love. It means finding new foods, gaining confidence in your ability to take care of yourself, and enjoying your old favorites on occasion.

Getting started does take some practice and forethought, but like most things it gets easier the more often you do it. What you’re really doing is taking responsibility for what you eat everyday:

  • Finding recipes that look good to you.
  • Making the commitment to go grocery shopping.
  • Setting aside time to cook your meals

It does not take superhuman willpower. And it’s ok if you aren’t perfect all the time.  It’s just a choice to do your best.

And the last time I checked, it’s not a sacrifice if it comes with bacon. 🙂

Eating Grains Is Like Getting Kicked in the Guts!?!

•March 13, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Moving away from a high grain, high processed food diet is the best way we have to move to a healthier way of life.  The amount of research linking grains and processed foods to disruptions to the intestinal lining of our digestive system, and correlates to the subsequent increased incidence of autoimmune disorders, or systemic inflammation is growing rapidly.

So, eat grains, you can develop a permeable intestine, what is referred to as leaky gut. That is only one negative side effect.  Two other side effects of a westernized diet are low stomach acid (Hypochlorydia), and SIBO, small intestine bacterial overgrowth.  Both are interrelated as some may find out.

Low stomach acid disrupts the ability to properly digest food in the stomach.  A high carbohydrate diet, one rich in grains, can lead to a decrease in stomach acid.  Low stomach acid leads to a disruption in nutrient absorption in the small intestine, as well as bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine.  Decreased stomach acid leads to foods being improperly digested, meaning protein is not broken down as well, and neither is carbohydrate.  This carbohydrate then is fed on by the bacteria in your  small intestine, producing hydrogen gas, which allows the bacteria to make more of itself, to prey on the undigested carbohydrates making the way to small intestine.  This gas build-up creates pressure which causes stomach acid to spew into your esophagus causing pain which we know as heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).  A typical western response is to take a medicine created by big Pharma to rid the symptom instead of taking care of the underlying cause.  The underlying cause is diet.  Now that we are on a very limited grain diet, lets try to naturally fix some of the things which may be broken or working improperly in us.

How can we increase our stomach acid?  Help to repair our leaky guts?  Help us digest food better?  Well, one of the easiest way is to use naturally occuring herbal remedies.  Farmacy Herbs in Providence has a bunch of herbal remedies to help remedy some of the damage years of grain usage may have caused.

Bitter herbs such as Dandelion, Yarrow and Catnip, trigger our bodies physiological response to the bitter taste.  The reflex to this bitter taste is stimulation of the salivary glands, stomach, pancreas, small intestine and liver producing digestive juices, and stimulation of bile production and release.  This is a recommended therapy along with Apple Cider Vinegar for Low Stomach Acid.  If you have heartburn, before you go on any antacid medicines, try taking a TBSP of apple cider vinegar a day and a bitter tea.  If this does not correct your problem, you can try adding a digestive enzyme supplement.

To coincide with the production of stomach acid, which is necessary and most antacid remedies suppress (hence why they are not recommended since they just accentuate the ongoing problem), demulcent herbs may be of aid to you.  Demulcents, like Marshmallow, Licorice, Slippery Elm Bark, help form a mucusy film which acts as a protective barrier on irritated or inflammed tissue, soothing the tissue, as well as helping to repair it.  The also help to make your colon more slippery (something I know you all were concerned with!) thereby helping with constipation (if it is a problem for you).

Astringent Herbs like yarrow, rosemary, horsetail, shepards purse, and meadowsweet have chemicals called tannins.  tannins tighten up tissues throughout the whole digestive tract.  They can help reduce inflammation in the digestive tract.

Lastly, taking a probiotic to help restore a healthy gut bacteria or making your own fermented foods, like kim-chee or sauerkraut, can also help restore a healthy gut.

Last Week of Challenges and Recipes!

•March 11, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Recipes – Week 5

No Dairy!!! No Milk, No Cream, No Cheese, No Yogurt, No Sour Cream!, No Butter!!  It is only for two weeks! Give it shot.

You will find you are less mucusy, have clearer skin, and you may lose body fat!

Low fat dairy, like skim milk and yogurt are often found at the top of health food lists. We’ve all seen the impressive  milk advertising campaigns over the last few decades. The idea that dairy is a healthy food group is ingrained in our culture here in the U.S., so much so that few people think twice about it when evaluating their diets. Perhaps this is due to the fact that dairy is most well-tolerated by those of northern European descent; a bloodline many Americans can trace their ancestry back to. But even within that group, 25% of people do not have the enzyme required to breakdown the sugar in dairy (lactose). The inability to break down lactose causes digestive distress (gas, bloating, cramping, etc.). As with many other foods that cause this reaction, we know that this type of discomfort is merely the symptom of greater harm being caused to the body.

Common Dairy Myths:

  • Good source of calcium & many other nutrients

Fresh vegetables, seafood, lean meats and fruits are all superior sources of calcium and important minerals most lacking in the standard american diet. Also, the calcium in milk interferes with the absorption of iron and zinc. Insufficient levels of these minerals can lead to anemia, upper respiratory infections, and reduced immune function to name a few.

  • Good source of vitamin D

Even in vitamin D fortified milk, you would have to drink 20 glasses to get the daily recommended 2,000 IU of vitamin D. You’re better off soaking up some sunshine and eating cold water fish and/or organ meat. 

  • Good for bone health

Consumption of milk disrupts the acid:base balance in the body because the calcium from dairy promotes a net acid load and can lead to bone de-mineralization. It’s better to get your calcium from varied sources of lean meats and produce which have the appropriate balance of acidic and basic (alkaline) foods.

Avoiding dairy can be a little trickier than you might expect. As usual, it does require reading labels. Nonfat milk solids are often used as a filler or emulsifier in some packaged foods that we’re hopefully minimizing already:

  • Candy
  • Cereal and bread
  • Salami, bologna, and sausage
  • Salad dressings
  • Condiments

As with many of the other food groups we’ve worked on eliminating over the past 8 weeks, dairy is problematic for a large number of people. The only way to find out how it affects you is to take it out of your diet altogether and see how you feel. If you do not notice any positive changes then by all means, reintroduce it.  We will expand upon which dairy sources are better than others on this blog at the end of your dairy-free two weeks!

Snake Oil

•March 6, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Lose 10 lbs in 10 days!  

Magic diet pill!

Melt your fat away!

Diet and exercise not required!

Shrink unwanted belly fat!

Usually many of these claims come with some celebrities endorsement that the product changed their life.  These products typically all guarantee maximum results with minimum effort all an easily affordable price.  Jillian Michaels or Dr. Oz says so!

All these products are marketed by companies that want to make money.  In order to make money, they need your money!  Unfortunately, there is no such thing as an easy fix.

Guess what?  It takes a lot of effort to gain weight.  Lots of effort eating countless bags of oreo’s, whoppers, coca cola, Kool-aid, pizza, etc.  And a whole lot of doing nothing.  Lots of a lot of calories, and lots of a lot path of least resistance movement.  If it takes lots of effort to put on weight, it will take even more effort to take off!  Regardless of what Oprah says.

So you think you are too heavy?  You want to lose weight?  You want to get healthier? Great!

Let’s look at what will be involved.  Remember maximum effort to put it on means maximum effort to take it off.

Here is my checklist!

  1. Sleep- You need 8 hours a night.  If you have lots of stress, you will need more than 8 hours.  You have no stress?  8 hours of sleep.  If you do not sleep enough, your body fat will not change.
  2. Stress- All types, physiological or psychological, reduce it. Stress in life, hinders fat loss, especially stubborn fat loss.
  3. Make sure your hormones are in check- this relates back to sleep and stress, as if you are getting both, the levels of stress hormone, cortisol will be lower, or normal.  High levels of cortisol impede fat loss.  Insulin is another hormone you need to make sure is in check.  high insulin, means fat storage.  Also means mores inflammation, meaning more cortisol.  How to control insulin?  Rid your diet of excess sugar (artificial sweeteners as well), and fast absorbing carbohydrates.  Sex hormones play an important part here as well.  Low testosterone, or low estrogen levels could lead to fat storage.  Guess what?  Lack of sleep and lots of stress lowers sex hormones!  At various life stages it may be harder to get all hormones dialed in, however, if you can control sleep, stress, and diet you will be much better off.
  4. Wheat- Get rid of it!  It causes physiological stress, it causes inflammation, it causes insulin levels to be high.  Go grain free!
  5. Interval Training- High intensity exercise and weightlifting.  Make muscle, work out in short and intense spurts, burn fat, boost your metabolism, stay healthy, and reduce stress.
  6. Genetics- Sorry you cannot change your genetics.  Some people store fat differently than others.  It is very difficult to change where you store fat.  However, if you can control sleep, stress, and diet, you won’t store as much.

Just as an added note, I do not personally view weight as a 100% reliable matrix of health.  Weight can be a correlate of health, but not an end all or be all.  How you look and how you feel is much more important than any number a scale throws out at you.  If you want to look better naked, you need to compare your naked self before and after!  A number won’t tell you you look better!  Grab a camera, and take some photos of you naked (or in your skivvies)!  Now you have concrete evidence to compare your after to!  Just don’t let TMZ get a hold of the pictures 😉


We have seen celebrities market Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers,

Meeting Four Highlights

•February 27, 2012 • Leave a Comment


Challenge 1: Accumulate 5 minutes of meditation a day!  

Find a place, and free your mind. Does not have to be all at once.  Let your thoughts go!


Challenge 2: No Legumes: No Beans, Peas, Peanuts, Hummus, etc.

They are gut irritants.  Just say no to lectins and intestinal permeability!

Challenge 3: Green Leafy Veggies- Recipes are here.  Get Popeye Strong and Healthy!


Electronic Versions of All Recipes to Date!

•February 21, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Week 1- Squash Challenge
Week 2- Root Vegetable Challenge
Week 3- Cruciferous Vegetables Challenge