Sceptically Fit


Lots of Links

Filed under: Health and Nutrition — Tags: , , — Sceptically Me @ 15:54

I think the biggest story that hit over the last couple of weeks was the results of a study that showed just two days of low-carb dieting helps you lose weight better than seven days of low-calorie dieting. Just two days a week appears to show significant results in cancer prevention too.

Sugar makes us sleepy. Cooking food releases more calories. And grains rot your teeth. Hunt, Gather, Love tries a vegan paleo diet and fails – I’d like to hope it would be possible if you weren’t also sensitive to fodmaps but it seems there’s a real limit to how well an animal (us) that evolved eating animal products can remove animal products…

Its great to see more mainstream coverage of the importance of fat in the diet – Salon covers Why Women need Fat. Seth takes a look at successful experiments in treating sleeping disorders like Restless Leg with b vitamins, meal timing and regulating light exposure. Here’s two years of results of the Shangri-la diet – using flavourless calories to suppress appetite.

Conditioning Research offers a complete guide to Interval Training, and the Great Fitness Experiment suggests ways to implement Tabata into your workout. And here’s another great study on why you should do them.

ITB, the scourge of the running community, debunking the myths.

Skepchick offers a guide to Meditation for those who want the benefits without the woo. And with New Years upon us – perhaps we don’t need to keep trying to be perfect ourselves.

For anyone thinking of a Vegetarian/Vegan Resolution – Silverhydra has produced a guide to the actual meat toxins and how to avoid them.

  • Meat, unlike plants, do not contain any inherently toxic compounds in them when you eat them like ‘our ancestors’ did; stab the animal in the eye and feast upon its tissues. This isn’t how we eat meat though.
  • When you add preservatives and cooking into the mix, you can form carcinogens. These were never ’factored out’ by evolution or ‘adapted to’ since they only adversely affect human health well past reproductive age and natural selection doesn’t apply.
  • They can all either be avoided, or minimized.
  • Heterocyclic Amines are formed from cooking, and their amounts are directly related to heat exposure and time. You can reduce the amount in meat with herbal and oil marination, but it would be best to limit cooking time in order to avoid excessive HCA formation.
  • Nitrosamines are formed when the Nitrate preservative binds with amino acids, and can best be prevented by consuming reducing agents (vitamin C, or just veggies) alongside the meat.
  • Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons are formed during smoking, from incomplete combustion of fatty acids, and can best be avoided through aromatase inhibition (veggies) or allowing all meats to fully ventilate, thus preventing the ‘incomplete combustion’ from being incomplete.
  • Advanced Glycemic End products aren’t a huge concern, but are formed when meats get a crispy browning to them. They can be avoided by not browning the meats, but if you are worried about their effects in the body just get your blood glucose and HbA1c levels under control and don’t get fat.


Months of thinking – lots of links

Due to a multitude of life stress going on I’ve really feel behind on this site. So in an attempt to catch up I’m going to just link to all the stories that have caught my eye over the last few months.

Vitamin C supplementation may aid recovery from intense exercise in the cold. Is honey even honey any more? Why do we keep messing with our food.   Are our agricultural staples trying to kill us? A look at which nutrients are essential for healthy mitochondria. Can you eat too much liquorice? Yoghurt doesn’t work the way we thought. A look at the effect of a paleo diet on testosterone. The evolution of lactose tolerance and how to use it if you have it. An interview with Dr Loren CordainWholegrain pasta offers no benefit over refined pasta. A look at preparing traditional grains. Are eggs the answer to weightloss? Here’s seven more reasons to eat them.

Meat doesn’t rot in your colon – grains do. Another study shows that grass-fed red meat is healthier. A diet high in fat is not fattening. A ted talk on using diet to stop angiogenesis. And a diet high in carbohydrates is linked to cancer. So while low carb seems better for reducing cancer and heart disease, its best to keep it high in vegetables.

However, is it just a matter of  eating whole foods that’s more important than individual nutrients. The Perfect Health Diet offers a food apple guide, and lifehacker suggests how to begin eating ancestrally

Are you always aware of what you eat – a look at how your subconscious mind affects your diet. The link between  omega3  imbalances and depression and how increasing your omega3 levels can reduce inflammation and anxiety. How to balance your omega 6 vs omega 3 ratios. A guide to cravings and what your body might actually be needing.

Mark Sisson talks about the idea of gateway foods and helpfully provides a delicious sounding recipe for pumpkin pie. How about paleo egg-cupcakes? On the low-carb front – if you’re missing burgers how about a recipe for an oopsie bun. When the winter colds hit – here’s some suggestions for healthy comfort food. And now you’re inspired – here’s a big recipe roundup.

Letting children’s playground be fun results in less accidents then those awful safety playgrounds. A look at the differences of American-European values. Interesting how a respect for individual rights plays out when the people are women. Alas offers a simple primer to evaluate the anti-women’s health arguments. Another reason to damn the development of agriculture. Sam Harris looks at how to be safe in a world with a propensity for violence.

Weightlifting for women is starting to hit the mainstream. A guide to dynamic stretching. Does muscle really burn more calories? Its important to pay attention to muscle imbalances.  Is chocolate milk the best post-exercise drink? Exercising on an empty stomach may not be a good idea. Why cardio is not the best way to lose fat. How exercise can you become more sensitive to feeling full when eating. What ever you do – just stop sitting  down!

Cycling can be dangerous – the Florida Dept of Transport says riding 4-5 ft from curb, not wearing spandex, being a woman all cause cars to move further over in the lane when passing you. And its shown to be cheaper to build cycling infrastructure than not.

Seven ideas to improve your running, and how to improve your mileage.


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?



Ketogenic Low-Carbohydrate Diets have no Metabolic Advantage over Nonketogenic Low-carbohydrate diets | BodyRecomposition – The Home of Lyle McDonald

Filed under: Health and Nutrition — Tags: , , , , — Sceptically Me @ 23:13

There’s a to advocate a low-carbohydrate diet. The most calorie dense carbohydrates tend to come from grains. While the paleo crowd have arguments about the dangers of grains in terms of gluten and lectins, from a purely weight-loss point of view, grains are calorie-dense and nutrient poor. Removing dense carbohydrates from the diet (and depending on the approach can include fruits, potatoes and other starchy vegetables) certainly frees up a lot of calories that can be used to bulk up the meal – leafy vegetables and meats and fats.

There is also the argument against carbohydrates as outlined in by Gary Taubes : Outline here that looks at the health issues caused by spiking our blood sugar levels. Unfortunately this tends to fall by the wayside and the reason most people hear about low-carb diets is the weight-loss side – or more specifically fat loss.

This is where the debate gets more complicated over how far to cut back. Do you need to go to a ketogenic diet in order to get the advantage of low-carb? A new study suggests not:

Ketogenic Low-Carbohydrate Diets have no Metabolic Advantage over Nonketogenic Low-carbohydrate diets

In terms of weight and fat loss, at the end of 6 weeks both groups had lost roughly the same amount of weight (6.3kg for the ketogenic diet, and 7.2 kg for the non-ketogenic diet; this was not statistically significant).  As well, the loss of body fat was the same (3.4 kg in the ketogenic diet and 5.5 kg in the non-ketogenic diet; again this was not statistically different even if the non-ketogenic diet seems to have lost ~4 pounds more fat).  There was no significant change in fat free mass for either diet.

You could argue that ketogenic diets make things simpler – but if you’ve ever looked on a  message board as people discuss the merits of one or two grams of carbs, you might doubt that. However, I appreciate that the internet is the place for that kind of nerdery and you can get a false idea of its complexity based on people having fun with that kind of detail. Personally – I prefer eating some carbohydrates. I’ve adjusted enough that I think of bread, pasta and rice as cheating along with more standard cakes, chips etc. But I’m at a point where I don’t want to be not adding a zuccini to my stirfry because of the the carbs.

Hunger ratings improved for both diets with no difference between diets.  An oft-heard claim is that ketogenic diets cause hunger blunting due to the presence of ketones or what have you; but this study does not support that.  Given that protein is the most filling nutrient, the effect seems to be mediated by the increased protein content, not decreasing carbohydrates per se.

While I acknowledge the study was small and relatively short-lived, I found it interesting that there was no difference in perceived hunger. As someone who responds quite strongly to blood sugar level peaks, the moderating my hunger was one of the key reasons I started looking at cutting back my carbohydrates. I’ve of late been trying to push the fat content of my diet up, but now I’m wondering if I should be trying to push protein instead.



Blueberry Pancakes – kind of…

Filed under: Recipes — Tags: , , , , — Sceptically Me @ 12:29


So this morning I decided to try something other than my normal eggs and bacon (or last nights leftovers) for a Sunday morning. While I’m aware that today isn’t Sunday – I have the day off work!

I’ve come across a lot of different recipes for paleo/lowcarb pancakes and have decided to edit them together and give it ago. While I’m working at keeping my refined carbohydrates low, I’m primarily concerned with eating natural foods. I want to be low carbing via a whole foods eating pattern, not processed pseudo flours and sugars (not that I’m entirely against them on special occasions…) so no carb quick, or protein powders for me. But I’m also limited by what’s currently in the kitchen.


So I went with:

  • two egg whites beaten to stiff peaks (was going to be three but the yolk broke in the shell…)
  • two egg yolk plus one egg (see above)
  • teaspoon of baking powder
  • teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of psyllium husks (I don’t think this is necessary)
  • teaspoon of cinnamon (which I forgot to put in…)
  • large dollop of cream
  • bowl of frozen blueberries
  • butter – for in the pan and on the cooked pancakes

Beat the egg whites till stiff. Then add egg yolks, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, psyllium husks and cream and mix. Add the blueberries and stir again. Then cook on a medium heat. I had a bit of trouble gauging the cooking time well, and I think the blueberries made it a lot harder to spread the mix evenly. The last one I cooked ended up a mess as I poured too much onto the plate, got impatient and turned it and it collapsed…

I thought the psyllium husks would help give it a bit of structure but I don’t think that really worked. Not that it took away from it, I didn’t notice it taste or texture-wise but didn’t seem necessary unless you’re particularly concerned about fibre. I think adding the blueberries to the mix also ruined the effect of beating the egg whites. I think next time I’d add the blueberries to the pancake in the pan or even as a topping on the pancakes (maybe heat them up in the microwave a bit so they’re a little stewed). Its important to keep the mix on the pan thin and to cook through, though ideally without burning. The thicker, less cooked ones tasted more egg-y and less like pancakes.

On less healthy-minded days, I could so totally see myself eating these with maple syrup…


Muscle Cramps – Why?

Filed under: Health and Nutrition — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Sceptically Me @ 22:45

The big causes of muscle cramps are dehydration, electrolyte deficiency and muscle overuse/tension. Electrolyte deficiency in potassium, magnesium and/or sodium can be caused by unbalanced diets or natural digestive inhibitions – in my case it seems to run in the family regardless of our very varied diets. The imbalances can be caused by weight loss, especially on a low-carbohydrate diet which comes with significant loss of water weight initially.

While I attempt to keep to a paleo/low-carb-ish diet, my adherence is poor and regularly interrupted over a ‘cheat’ weekend. What this usually means is that about  Tuesday or Wednesday I go through a mini-reset period where my body loses its weekend bloat (I can drop 2kg between Monday’s weigh in and Wednesday). While supplementing with magnesium and potassium normally prevents cramps (and for magnesium specifically – restless leg syndrome), I regularly forget to up my sodium intake when I drop my carbohydrates.  What a surprise – my attempt at swimming was interrupted by increasingly debilitating cramps in my feet.

Advice on starting a low-carb diet include supplementing with chelated magnesium and potassium; liberally using sodium – preferably non-treated sea salt that retains all its minerals; drinking bone broth to replace minerals (recipe on the link – I have never tried this); drinking a lot of water and avoiding caffeine. Now, obviously he’s insane if he thinks caffeine isn’t proof of some kindly god’s existence* so that last point isn’t going to happen.

With my problems cramping up while swimming, I decided to look into this a little more. Hydration tops the list, but as I drink constantly I don’t think its going to be an issue. So lets look into the fatigue side of things. Now, I know I’m not in great conditioning for swimming, but its not as though I’m not in decent shape when it comes to weight-lifting, cycling and running. But is it also the way that I swim:

The problemwith pointing your toes as a deliberate (or even unconscious) action, however, is that it remains the primary reason behind the cramp that many triathletes experience at swim practice. The fact of this matter is that if we simply allow our feet to flick around as we kick, the ankles will actually pull back into this correct position automatically. And even more importantly, when relaxed the toes will pull the foot back into the correct position without tension, ie correct kicking action, less energy.

Stand on one leg on dry land trying to perform small kicking flicks with the foot. Aim to let the ankle simply flick around like a leaf in the wind as you shake the leg quickly up and down (just a small movement – 1ft). If you can honestly see that your ankle IS relaxed and does flick around as you move the rest of the leg, then this is a good sign. For most of us however, you will realise that you are in fact tensing the shin to pull up and then pointing down in order to move the foot. In this case, you have some major relaxing to learn in the water. This confirms the reason why cramp will be occurring – you are not relaxed through the ankles when kicking.

Involuntary muscle tension is an issue for me despite (or because of) my hyperflexibility. It is actually difficult to stretch out muscles effectively because my limits are much greater than a lot of the normal stretches – in some cases to the point that you can’t bend any further without the rest of the body getting in the way So for the itb its pretty much massage and foam rollers for me. So another suggestion to prevent over-use cramping is a foot massage – so where is my tennis ball?

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