Sceptically Fit


Gym Victory!

Filed under: Exercise, Personal — Tags: , , , , — Sceptically Me @ 21:01

I have been struggling with problems with my squat for a while.

My original source of information on how to squat came from the wonderful Stumptuous, an excellent resource for weightlifting targeted at (but not limited to) women. But somehow over this last year it stopped working properly. Well, not somehow – I drastically changed my workout patterns. I stopped squatting and deadlifting much and did a lot of long distance running as I was training for the half-marathon. Clearly, I created a different balance of muscles. I was having trouble not rounding my back and not leaning forward.

Having a lot of flexibility but incredibly weak glutes, I’ve found that a lot of the information out there is tailored to men, and with that is a direction that a lot of the issues are going to be mobility ones but that’s not the case – I can drop into a squat easily. The reason I fall over isn’t because I don’t bend that way, its because I can’t hold myself there.

A lot of searching on different forums I’ve read a wide collection of advice, aside from Stumptuous, I recommend All about the squat for a guide. But still, I could reach the position, it just wasn’t right. Then I caught sight in the mirror and discovered – I have buttwink! But how could that be? Everything I’ve read has said that’s a flexibility issue, and I’m nothing (else) but flexible. More internet searching and I found this video – engage the hip flexors! And the butt wink was cured.

Unfortunately that wasn’t it. I was having trouble coming back up without leaning forward too much. I could feel my weight rolling onto the balls of my feet  as  I stood up. Reading through the guides: yes I’m looking to the middle foreground; yes, shoulders back; yes, my knees are in line with my toes; yes, I’m driving from the hips; yes, my core is engaged. What was wrong?

Shoulders! Yes my shoulders were back but once again too easily flexible becomes a hindrance. My shoulders were back but my shoulder blades weren’t pulled back – the muscles weren’t engaged. I went to the gym, focussed on the shoulders and what a difference. It was easy! Well not truly easy, but everything worked. As I stood up, I stood up – I didn’t have to try and balance my top half over my lower half, all one seamless entity. Who’d have thought it – doing an exercise properly is the best way to do the exercise.


Starting a Primal/Paleo Diet

Filed under: Health and Nutrition — Tags: , , — Sceptically Me @ 11:50

Krista gives a good quick guide to getting started on the whole Primal/Paleo lifestyle: How To Go Primal without really trying. I particularly like the idea of using a food journal. I’ve been using MyFitnessPal to try and track my foods for quite a while now. Initially while I was trying to diet and now as I’m trying to follow my food intake/learn what’s good for me. But it doesn’t really have the option to put notes in so downsides on that, and while you can adjust your diet goals, its heavily weighted on the idea that fat is bad and carbohydrates are good.


Dark Chocolate is Good for Endurance!

Filed under: Health and Nutrition — Tags: , , , , — Sceptically Me @ 22:31

Yes, yes I’m going with an unfounded and sensational headline. But its justified – there’s been a study that has shown some promising results that small amounts of dark chocolate is beneficial or specifically the flavional epicatechin (the principle component of cocoa). As reported in the New York Times

By and large, the animals that had been drinking water were the first to give out during the treadmill test. They became exhausted more quickly than the animals that had received epicatechin. Even the control mice that had lightly exercised grew tired more quickly than the nonexercising mice that had been given epicatechin. The fittest rodents, however, were those that had combined epicatechin and exercise. They covered about 50 percent more distance than the control animals.

The muscle biopsies offered some explanation for their dominance. The muscles of all of the animals that had been given epicatechin contained new capillaries, as well as biochemical markers indicating that their cells were making new mitochondria. Mitochondria are structures in cells that produce cellular energy. The more functioning mitochondria a muscle contains, the healthier and more fatigue-resistant it is.

The leg muscles of the mice that had been given epicatechin and exercised displayed far more mitochondrial activity than the leg muscles of the control mice. Even the mice that had drunk epicatechin and not exercised contained markers of increased mitochondrial health, suggesting that the flavonol prompts a physiological reaction even among the sedentary. But that response is greatly heightened by exercise, no matter how slight.

So eating small amounts of dark chocolate helps you if you don’t exercise, and even more if you do? I’m not sure I want to see any further studies that might negate this. However, epicatechin  is closely related to the green tea extract (epigallocatechin-3-gallate; EGCG) which some studies have investigated for endurance enhancement and found lacking (here and here). What I’d like to take from that is that clearly its only chocolate, and not green tea that will help.


Low-Carbohydrate and High Protein to slow Tumour Growth

Filed under: Health and Nutrition — Tags: , , , , , — Sceptically Me @ 22:58

A new study has been published providing evidence that a diet low in carbohydrates and high in protein may help slow tumour growth.

Our study, herein, shows that a high amylose containing low CHO, high protein diet reduces BG, insulin, and glycolysis, slows tumor growth, reduces tumor incidence, and works additively with existing therapies without weight loss or kidney failure. Such a diet, therefore, has the potential of being both a novel cancer prophylactic and treatment, warranting further investigation of its applicability in the clinic, especially in combination with existing therapies.


Previous studies have also suggested a link between a carbohydrate-rich diet and prostate cancer.

Do we start advocating the prostate cancer diet?


But Legumes are Healthy?

Filed under: Health and Nutrition — Tags: , , , , , , , — Sceptically Me @ 22:39

The exclusion of legumes from the paleo/primal diet seems to upset people more than that of grains. Legumes are just seen as so damn healthy, what with their associations with vegetarians and hippies and more enlightened/primitive tribes. In comparison to meat, it was the poor man’s option and that seems to be part of it to – why would you eat legumes if you could afford meat unless it was for health reasons? Me personally, I like legumes. The idea of not being able to have a delicious bowl of tarka dhal for the rest of my life is awful. But I recognise that legumes are not as healthy  as thought compared to many fruits and vegetables, nor do they contain as much fibre as most people think.

Why are legumes bad? Lectins and Phytates:

Lectins are proteins found in animals (including you) and plants – they’re everywhere, especially in grains, legumes (especially soy), nuts and seeds.  They have many protective functions in the human body – everything from recognizing pathogens to controlling protein levels in the blood.  Their function in plants is thought to be protective, too, to the plant, that is.

Lectins are found in the seeds of plants and they’re thought to have something to do with the survival of the seed.  The way they’re believed to protect the seed is that they can cause considerable intestinal distress (diarrhea, nausea, bloating, vomiting, even death) to those who eat the seeds, in hopes of deterring the predator from coming back for more.

Phytates actually bind to the magnesium, calcium, zinc and iron in your intestines and take them OUT of our bodies.  We do not want that to happen.  Cordain and others believe that this alone is greatly contributing to the worldwide epidemic of iron-deficiency anemia.  It could be part of the reason many people are deficient in magnesium as well, which can contribute to everything from muscle cramping to PMS.  And zinc?  Well, it’s just SUPER important to our immune systems and for our reproductive abilities, so we wouldn’t want to lose any of that.  And the fact that phytates are chelating calcium out of our bodies means that we have less access to that bone-building and nerve-transmitting mineral we’re all so fond of.

So legumes aren’t optimal. But should we expect any one food to be? Weighing up the pros and cons of eating legumes, there are enough cons to think they shouldn’t be a daily occurrence unless one has gone the vegetarian/vegan path and has no alternative to get the protein intake up. So how to deal with the dangers:

Process your beans: soak them to reduce the lectins. Drain. Boil them to reduce the phytates, drain them. Slow cook until they are delicious.

Unfortunately for those of us who want to speed the issue up and just use tinned beans – the jury is till out on the dangers of BPA


Potatoes vs Yoghurt and other Diet Correlations.

Filed under: Health and Nutrition — Tags: , , — Sceptically Me @ 21:14

A study was reported a month ago that looked at the correlations between people’s diet and weight gain. The key findings were reported as:

Within each 4-year period, participants gained an average of 3.35 lb (5th to 95th percentile, −4.1 to 12.4). On the basis of increased daily servings of individual dietary components, 4-year weight change was most strongly associated with the intake of potato chips (1.69 lb), potatoes (1.28 lb), sugar-sweetened beverages (1.00 lb), unprocessed red meats (0.95 lb), and processed meats (0.93 lb) and was inversely associated with the intake of vegetables (−0.22 lb), whole grains (−0.37 lb), fruits (−0.49 lb), nuts (−0.57 lb), and yogurt (−0.82 lb) (P≤0.005 for each comparison). Aggregate dietary changes were associated with substantial differences in weight change (3.93 lb across quintiles of dietary change). Other lifestyle factors were also independently associated with weight change (P<0.001), including physical activity (−1.76 lb across quintiles); alcohol use (0.41 lb per drink per day), smoking (new quitters, 5.17 lb; former smokers, 0.14 lb), sleep (more weight gain with <6 or >8 hours of sleep), and television watching (0.31 lb per hour per day).


Unsurprisingly this had been picked up by a lot of the media with headlines screaming Potatoes Make You Fat. While eating potato crisps and hot chips is associated with weight gain hasn’t surprised many, the fact that potato in any form is strongly correlated to weight gain seems to the big surprise. From the Washington Post

Every additional serving of potatoes people added to their regular diet each day made them gain about a pound over four years.

Although the study did not evaluate why potatoes would be particularly fattening, other research shows that starches and refined carbohydrates such as potatoes cause blood sugar and insulin to surge, which makes people feel less satisfied and eat more as a result, Mozaffarian said.

As an observational study, it is problematic to try and draw conclusions. Are potatoes inherently fattening, or do people who eat a lot of them unhealthy with their whole lives. Are whole grains correlated with lower weight-gain because they are objectively healthier, or because people who eat them are particularly health conscious. The same question could be asked for why yoghurt is apparently the dieters friend. The lifestyle factors also raise questions:

Lifestyle factors were clearly important. Those who exercised more gained nearly 2 pounds less than those who increased their physical activity the least. People who slept less than six hours a night — or more than eight hours — were more likely to gain weight, possibly by unbalancing hunger hormones such as ghrelin. Every extra hour per day of television watching added about a third of a pound, perhaps by encouraging snacking.



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