Sceptically Fit


The wonderful web – a week of links

Filed under: Exercise, Health and Nutrition — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Sceptically Me @ 20:54

What a week of interesting stories:

As a long time user of lip balms and lipstick, I’ve heard the complaints – lip balm is addictive. Its seems the answer is maybe psychologically.

Opt for a plain balm with a petrolatum, beeswax, or oil-based lubricating cream, and avoid lip products that contain chemicals such as menthol, camphor, or phenol (they may irritate skin more!). One final piece of advice: Be sure to apply balm only when lips are chapped— normal lips don’t necessarily need extra moisture! One study found that when moisturizers were used on normal (a.k.a. not dry) skin, it increased skin susceptibility to irritants [3] [4]. If lips aren’t normally chapped, it may be better not to start applying lip balm at all

Conditioning Research posts on the increasing evidence linking sleep deprivation and obesity:

Observational studies have observed cross-sectional associations between short sleep duration (generally <6 h per night) and increased body mass index or obesity, prevalent diabetes, and prevalent hypertension. Some studies also reported an association between self-reported long sleep duration (generally >8 h per night) and cardiometabolic disease. A few prospective studies have found a significant increased risk of weight gain, incident diabetes, and incident hypertension associated with inadequate sleep.

While this is still to be understood, the assumption is that lack of sleep causes stress, and high cortisol levels are a cause of obesity. As some who has both struggled with insomnia and weight in the past, this is concerning – as it can become a vicious cycle. Part of my insomnia is related to restless leg syndrome and night cramps – something a paleo diet with magnesium supplements has helped alleviate. But then there are nights that you can’t turn your mind off. Seth’s blog has been running an ongoing look at the effects of Vitamin D3 supplementation and its role on sleep.

A month ago I blogged about a “stunning discovery”: Primal Girl’s sleep got much better when she took Vitamin D3 in the early morning instead of much later (afternoon or evening). Others pointed out a similar observation: Taking Vitamin D3 in the evening caused insomnia. These observations suggest that Vitamin D3 resembles sunlight in its effect on sleep: morning exposure good, evening exposure bad. Sunlight, of course, is hard to control and sometimes hard to get (which is why Primal Girl tried Vitamin D3). Sunlight is also time-consuming: it takes an hour to get one hour of sunlight. The timing and dosage of Vitamin D3 is much easier to control.

And its starting to look like the need for Vitamin D is becoming part of mainstream health attitudes (or re-becoming).

When I started looking into being healthy agave nectar featured as a healthy natural sweetener. From a vegan perspective, its also considered a good one (though it falls under the we ignore the damage it causes being harvested/grown as long as it doesn’t come directly from an animal). Food renegade looks at how unnatural, processed and unhealthy agave nectar is.

Native Mexican peoples do make a sort of sweetener out of the agave plant. It’s called miel de agave, and it’s made by boiling the agave sap for a couple of hours. Think of it as the Mexican version of authentic Canadian maple syrup. … Agave nectar is not traditional, is highly refined, and actually has more concentrated fructose than high-fructose corn syrup. It is not a “natural” sweetener. … Concentrated fructose is not found in fruit, or anywhere else in nature. When the sugar occurs in nature, it is often called “levulose” and is accompanied by naturally-occurring enzymes, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and fruit pectin.  Concentrated fructose, on the other hand, is a man-made sugar created by the refining process.

The importance of removing gluten from the diet is hitting mainstream awareness even if there still is a sense that we should  be eating grains so the real problem with avoiding gluten is missing out. There’s no scientific reason to say people have to eat grains. I realise this is still a new area of study and we don’t have proof of non-coelieac gluten intolerance.

Improvements to a person’s health without gluten can be explained several ways, by placebo effect or by the fact a gluten-free diet removes other agents from the body – most importantly the poorly absorbed carbohydrates known as fructans, which may cause illness or discomfit.

Penny Dellsperger, a dietitian at Coeliac NSW, said there were significant medical risks to people adopting gluten free diets without first ascertaining whether they suffered coeliac disease. She said the symptoms could easily relate to other illnesses.

That’s the only real risk – that people get enough improvement from removing grains that they assume that’s it rather than continuing to investigate the problem and miss another issue. But that doesn’t redeem gluten.

Of course, the anti-anti-gluten argument comes from the assumption that a low-carb diet is unhealthy. We need carbohydrates, yes but even the ketosis fans eat their vegetables. But compared to the pasta and bread folks, we’re all generally much lower carb. Stumptuous reports on studies showing the importance of eating quality protein sources. While Robert Paterson asks us to look at the whole animal before saying meat is too expensive.

But speaking of carbs – just how many do you need to fuel your endurance exercise? And Strength Running offers more guidance on protecting yourself while building endurance.

But before we finish, lets take a look at the charlatans out there. Vaccines are for prostitutes, according to one acupuncturist. I suppose when your entire field is based on magical thinking, things like cancer only happen to people you think deserve it. And more evidence that the cure is worse than the disease – at least when your cure is made up without evidence as is chiropractic treatments and yoga. Sure there’s a couple of thousand years between their invention, but they both still come from a far from scientific understanding of how the body works.


Day 23/24/25 of the Primal Challenge with cheats!

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , , , , — Sceptically Me @ 23:23

The last few days have been a little up and down. Thursday, I felt pretty rundown – work, lack of sleep, personal problems… I pushed myself to get to the gym, but did a fairly reduced workout. I didn’t drop any weight from my lifts but I didn’t do any of the extra lifts. Took refuge in a slightly indulgent sweet potato oven chips, and accidentally at all the lamb steaks instead of leaving one for breakfast.

Friday, a friend hosted Burns Night. So this was my first proper planned to cheat evening. The actual meal itself isn’t too bad from a paleo perspective:  Haggis,  mashed turnips and mashed potato (or neeps and tatties if you will). The haggis contains oats but that’s still gluten free, and since I’ve gotten over my fear of the interesting parts of the animals, it really suits my ecological sustainability concerns to eat all the animal.

We had homemade apple pie which was deliciously tart rather than overly sweet, with a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream. Well it was only supposed to be once scoop, but mine went flying across the room so I got to have another one (I didn’t know ice cream could roll…). And as well as a few crisps that I helped myself to, we all had two macaroons each that another friend had brought from a French bakery in town. Oh and too much wine.

I felt pretty decent come Saturday morning. Considering I had to sit up for a bit when I got home until the world was still enough to lie down and sleep, I certainly can’t make any guess as to whether the slightly less than optimal stomach feeling was due to alcohol consumption or the small amount of grains/gluten I’d consumed. I don’t think the problem I have with gluten/grain is that dramatic – unlike my friend who was complaining about stomach pains after he cheated on Thursday with a pizza. If it just means I have to avoid wheat as much as possible but can enjoy rice/oats etc at a less than regular basis, I’ll be happy.

As I’ve started my training for the half-marathon in April, Saturday is my long run day. What I learnt today is that while an egg and bacon frittata is a lovely meal to start the day, not if you’re planning on using it to run 14km. I had assumed that all the carbs from the night before (potato, turnips, icecream, pie, booze, biscuits) would have been enough but apparently not. It was a very slow run and I didn’t feel good except for the fact that I finished it (technically 13.95km but as I was aiming for 13km, I’m fine with that).

I had forgotten to pick up any immediate after work out food so decided to experiment with a coconut milk smoothie. Coconut milk blended with frozen berries and a tablespoon of cocoa. Taste-wise it was good, not sure it even needs the cocoa. Problem was it was so very cold that it chilled me too much. By the time I finished drinking it I was shivering uncontrollably. I don’t believe I was in any actual danger, of course, my freezer is not that cold. But after seriously exerting myself my body does tend to lose its ability to keep itself warm (all those years in Australia – I had no idea this could be an issue). So instead of stretching and cooling down properly, I spent about half an hour standing under a hot shower.

After last night’s cheat dessert-wise, I decided dinner was going to have cheese! I hadn’t eaten cheese for almost a month. Taco salad: beef mince with taco flavouring, lettuce, tomato, spring onions, cheese, homemade guacamole (avocado, sour cream and jalapeños blended together). Incredibly tasty – too tasty! I ended up going back for a second dinner and eating all the leftovers that were supposed to be Sunday’s dinner. I know eating protein is good after an extended run to help prevent muscle loss, but I don’t think you need to eat so much your body temperature raises enough to stop you sleeping properly. Though I assume that effect was partly due to the messed up homoeostasis caused by the super chilled smoothie. Oh well, what’s a Saturday without a little overeating…

So my 30 day challenge hasn’t been very pure but its definitely been convincing me this is the way to go. And my reasoning is that by not limiting everything its more like a lifestyle I can keep following. Maybe I’m adding too many elements but I’d been reading so much on the effects of Vitamin d3 on sleep that I’ve purchased a bottle myself. Had my first d3 Friday morning – but my actions haven’t really made this a good test. I figure I’ll have a better idea come Monday.




Day 22 of the Primal Challenge

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , — Sceptically Me @ 23:56

The joy of winter weather – if this keeps up I won’t be able to cycle to and from work for a while. I find the idea of being blown under a bus a little too frightening. Another dance class – can’t say I’m getting any better but I’m having fun. Diet-wise, another day proving that a high-protein meal is perfect for when you know you aren’t going to get a chance to eat for another seven to eight hours.


Day 21 of the Primal Challenge

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , — Sceptically Me @ 23:51

So close and my adherence has wavered a little. I went to tapas with friends for lunch and I’m not sure all the dishes were actually gluten free. But I can’t say I noticed any great issue – I realise that doesn’t mean its not a problem. Seems I did need about two weeks to really feel the difference when I started.

Loren Cordain – Origins and Evolution of the Western Diet: Health Implications for the 21st Century

Filed under: Health and Nutrition — Tags: , , , , , , , — Sceptically Me @ 00:21

I stumbled across a fascinating lecture by Dr Loren Cordain looking at human evolution and their diet, and how that affects our modern health.

Day 20 of the Primal Challenge

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , , , , — Sceptically Me @ 00:16

I deadlifted 60kg! Considering that’s about 85% of my body weight, I’m pretty happy (work it out for yourself!)

A friend has been doing this challenge with me and he’s also been feeling the benefits. I’ve been far to girly to go into detail of the digestive improvements (lets just say I spent many years being told by doctors that I have IBS) but he has said that his twice-thrice weekly heartburn is gone. He’s ready to say the experiment was a success and have a beer but I think I’ll continue as strictly as possible for the next ten days. I find it interesting that even though he feels so much better he’s fully intending to drink beer again even if it causes him pain. He was even suggesting why bother giving any of it up as he’s definitely having beer. I’ve known people with other food allergies and they’ve all said that once you properly make the connection between something – no matter how tasty – and the pain/nausea it gives you, you really do stop wanting it. I wonder if he’ll feel the same way.

Me? I’m right in the middle of crazy enthusiasm for it. I’ve annoyed my family talking about how grains are evil. I don’t think any of them believe me but they are ok now that I’ve promised them I’m eating enough non-grain carbohydrates. Although I’ll also admit to being rather pleased to discover that one of the best pizza places in town does gluten-free pizza.


A very prolific week of links…

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

Another reason to exercise – it helps your body get rid of damaged or degraded cells.  And while exercise preserves muscle – it only preserves the muscle you use so don’t stop the full body routines… and sorry to disappoint – stretching doesn’t stop the doms.

How to ensure good gut health.

A new study suggests the marathon won’t kill you (if you’ve trained for it). Mark Sisson gives some advice on combining weight training with running, and here are some more tips to run faster.

A study postulating that most of humanity evolved with carbohydrate scarcity causing a greater insulin resistance to be selected for which is now what presupposes many ethnic groups for type2 diabetes.

Looking into the wider animal kingdom – researchers have discovered predators will hunt to ensure a nutritionally balanced diet.

Morning People – that’s as good as you’re going to be. Me, my brain’s just warming up!

Conditioning Research takes a look at the importance of sleep and its effect on obesity.

Evolvify takes a look at the (lack of) evidence behind the women like alpha males theory in pickup culture.

Despite being the ready energy source of many – another study suggests avoiding carbohydrates will help you stay awake.

Lifehacker looks at the science behind a bad mood.

From Not Just a Man’s World – a look at a study on the effects of resistance training on flexibility for young women.

Loren Cordain answers a few questions on the paleo diet – its going to take me a while to get through his paper on Cereal Grains.

A good reminder of the power of the placebo.

Day 19 of the Primal Challenge

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , — Sceptically Me @ 22:04

Sleeping through most of the day is one way to repair the diet from the night before, something about it also makes me crave nice fresh fruit. Is there anything better than a fresh pineapple?


Day 18 of the Primal Challenge

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , — Sceptically Me @ 22:00

I don’t just have to plan my nutrition better – I have to remember that I have. So when I commented on getting woozy from taking too long between going for my run and eating – this is because I forgot that I’d bought myself a banana for this very purpose!

Another night with friends – resulted in much less boozing than expected though I’d say I’d had at least one bottle of bubbly myself. I did get snackish but managed to restrain myself from the crisps that were available though that’s probably a conservative estimate of my cashew consumption.



Thoughts on trying to plan Running and Nutrition

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , , — Sceptically Me @ 18:04

When I first started exercising I oscillated heavily between lots of enthusiasm and heavy procrastination. This was especially so with anything cardio related – weights are so much easy for me to force myself to do. When I first started running I continued my lazy technique of rolling out of bed, put your gym clothes on, walk the five mins it takes to get there and be halfway through your workout before you’ve really woken up. With running, I would pull on clothes, jog to the nearby park, do a few stretches and then do my 5-12km run. And this worked pretty well  for up to 12km. After that I started having to look into eating beforehand taking water/carbohydrate drinks with me.

One thing I still have problems with is eating when I get back. This morning I finished off my last paleo chocolate coconut pudding before the run to make it a bit easier. Even though I took it pretty gently (11km in 1hr 15) fighting the wind meant it was a hard run for large parts. It just seemed to take ages to cool down and stretch, and then I thought I’d wait till after my shower to make something to eat. Well, I’ll put some coffee on and then I’ll cook something. By the time I sat down with my bowl of coconut prawn soup I was feeling woozy.

Would I have been better to just get up and go and save the pudding for when I got back? As I start looking to up my mileage on the weekend should I be looking to have food ready to eat when I get back – something like paleo muffins?

On the plus side with today’s running is, despite the wind, it felt easier than last week when I barely made 6km. I still walked the steepest part of the hill (a fact I don’t care about) but I didn’t feel like I was exhausted or my legs are giving up on me. My last two days of comfort eating had meant I’d upped my carbs a bit although I had intended to try that anyway. And I think it helped. With the amount of exercise I’m aiming to be doing I think its better for me to be eating closer to the 100-150gm rather than 50-100gm. At least on the days I am actually exercising. I also measured myself this morning (during that will I run outside/go to the gym decision making) and have lost another half centimetre of my waist, hips and thighs. So its not like eating more carbs have hindered me that way either.


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