Translate This Page:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Food Affects Genetic Expression

Genes determine potentiality but food is one of the variables that affect genetic expression of such potential. We are, what we eat.

The study in the link below describes how white rice binds LDL receptors and prevents the liver from filtering it out thereby raising cholesterol.

The key to weight loss, reducing bad cholesterol and burning fat which has been observed over and over again is to minimize eating refined carbs such as breads, pastries, rice and noodles.

If you need to cut weight to fit a dress, prepare for surgery, lower cholesterol or feel better, stop eating refined carbohydrates for a week or two.

During this time, walk 6 kilometers or 4 miles a day as fast as you can.

The difference in your body will be easily observable after a week or two.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Exercise Peaks

My two main forms of exercise are boxing\kickboxing and road cycling.  I have a fleet of bikes ranging from a fixed gear to ultra-portable folding bikes.

The conditioning warm ups for boxing consist of bodyweight exercises such as various kinds of push ups, squats, burpees, skipping, jumping and station exercises.  Then we usually work drills for 3 minutes ending with an all out sprint punching or kicking for under a minute.

If we chart our weekly physical activity levels, the average person does not have much peak activity at all.  I define peak activity as reaching 90% of Maximum Heart Rate for a brief period of time.  In my case, I am 44 years old. Therefore, my Max HR is 220 - 44 = 176 beats per minute.  90% of that is 158 bpm.  That's an exercise peak for me.   I program in several exercise peaks during the week so my physical activity chart will show long periods of relatively low level energy expenditure with periods of moderate exercise (cruising on a bicycle but not sweating) and peaks of maximum effort.

How about a fast and efficient way to hit some peak exercise?  Checkout the link by Conditioning Research here:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Little Bit At A Time (aka how we put on weight)

Don Matesz over at Primal Wisdom did a great job of tearing apart some myths about obesity which I agree with.  He first wrote this piece about Venus figurines then followed it up with another post showing how a seemingly trivial amount of excess calories per day can lead to obesity over time.

Pop quiz:

Why does a person eating a low fat diet put on weight?
Why does a vegetarian who eats no meat and no animal fat put on weight?
Why does a person on a primal\paleo caveman diet put on weight?
How does  (insert name and relation of person here) eat sweets and dessert but don't seem to pack on the pounds?

Lets leave aside discussion about food groups and optimal nutrition for a moment. The answer to the questions above is the same in all instances.  If you take in more calories than you expend, you will put on weight.

We live in an age where access to food is easy.  In particular, sugar, wheat and starch are easy to come by at a relatively low price.  The double whammy is we are also much less physically active than humans just a few centuries ago.  The advent of industrialized farming, agri-business conglomerates, big box stores selling warehouse surpluses of non-perishable food and the growth of fast food restaurant chains have made access to processed foods far too easy.  With less physical activity and the irresponsible use of electronic entertainment, this is the perfect storm for obesity and sedentary diseases.

The remedy?  Eat less, move more.  Your body and your brain will thank you for it.

How to start?

First, check your Body Mass Index by plugging in the numbers on this calculator:

The BMI is only a yardstick not the be all and end all of body metrics.

Next, if your BMI indicates you could lose some weight, decide on a strategy.  The one I recommend is a combination of diet modification and exercise.  Bear in mind however that 80% of body composition is diet and only 20% is due to exercise.  So if you're really paying attention, you'll understand that what you eat in more important than how you exercise.

I recommend the Paleo Diet because it has worked for me.  Strangely, once you lose the weight you wish to lose, it is possible to deviate from the Paleo diet and still keep the weight off.  At least in my N=1 case, this holds true for me.  The Paleo Diet along with a renewed focus on exercise has rebalanced my body.

Another issue I have observed is that some people engage in unhealthy eating due to underlying issues of grief, rejection, poor self-image or depression.  No amount of exercise will cure this.  No amount of short term diet changes will change this either. These underlying issues need to be dealt with for permanent, lasting changes to take place.

One can be slim eating a diet heavy in carbs, protein or fat.  And if you've read this far, I'm not even dogmatic about which food group you should emphasize in your diet.  The main thing in weight management is controlling your food intake and increasing your activity levels.

I just think we should move more during the week and engage exercises which make our hearts race and our muscles tire.  We should jump, sprint, cycle, dance, perform weight resistance workouts (my favorite kind are bodyweight exercises), punch, kick and leap.  These are functional, require speed, balance and agility to perform.  We should sweat. If you can still talk while perform an exercise which you consider difficult, then you're not trying hard enough. Increase the workload until you're gasping.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Coming Diabetes Dilemma?

If a surgeon were to operate on you, would they see visceral fat wrapping your internal organs?

For North Americans, at least one surgeon who has operated on foreign and North American soldiers in the battlefield thinks so:

His experience and frightening conclusion mirrors what was reported in this news report:

I attribute this trend to:

- eating too much sugar
- eating too much wheat
- eating too much (over sized portions)
- exercising too little
- exercise which lacks intensity
- exercising the wrong way
- addiction to Nintendo, Xbox, Wii
- addiction to the computer
- addiction to convenience
- addiction to cellphones
- addiction to social media

In a society drunk on consumerism where things don't last and are thrown away and "upgraded" when new ones appear, how are people expected to bond to things?  And if people don't bond to things, how will they bond to people?  The net effect is a culture that treats people like things which are discarded or replaced by "upgraded" labor at lower costs when no longer needed.

To reverse this:

- learn to buy and cook whole foods
- move more and eat less
- exercise more.  See my other posts on exercise for ideas
- eliminate sugar and wheat for weight loss

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”


From Evolution to Evolutionary Diet

The Paleo approach to eating is based on the idea that human DNA has evolved over time and adapted itself to a time when food was scarce.  Only in the agricultural age about 10,000 years ago was grains introduced as a staple in human diets.  Only the relatively recent industrial revolution did sugar and wheat become abundant.

To appreciate a sense of time and processes necessary for our universe, the following video might be helpful.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Move More, Eat Less?

I am convinced that we eat too much and move too little.

Unless we're living in poverty, calories are easy and cheap these days.  Going to Costco, a discount supermarket or grocery store easily yields foods loaded in refined carbohydrates, sugar, corn syrup, hydrogenated vegetable oils, sweeteners and artificial coloring.  Add to that the upsizing of food portions in North America and we've got a recipe for disaster.

To make it worse, mainstream media and large agri-business food marketing focus on selling "low fat" everything so that the public is being deceived with the message that eating fat makes one fat and eating low fat will make one slim.  Take a good look at food labels and ingredient lists.  Low fat generally mean high carbs in the form of sugar.  There are only three basic nutrient groups: fat, protein and carbohydrates.  To have less of one component, the percentage of the other remaining components must go up.

I see fat, overweight people desperately loading their shopping carts with skimmed milk (thereby depriving their milk of healthy fats), low fat yogurt, magarine (instead of butter), high fiber this and that, diet pop and low fat baked goods all in vain.  They avoid red meat because they think it will make them fat. Don't they realize that if they are eating low fat everything and still not losing weight that something is wrong with the formula?  Healthy animal saturated fat will not make you fat.  Refined carbohydrates, excessive wheat (spikes blood sugar and inflammatory to cells) and sugar is what is making us fat.

If you're eating low fat everything, avoiding eggs, red meat, butter, bacon and still have problem with cholesterol being overweight, perhaps you might consider that you're following some bad advice.  I bet you're eating whole grain muffins, bagels, breads, cereals and diet pop. If your blood profile is healthy and you're happy with the way your body is performing then read no more.  Otherwise, here is some information that might interest you.

The human body seems to support a variety of diets.  The Kitavans eat a high carbohydrate diet consisting of tubers (yams, sweet poatoes, cassava) yet do not suffer from obesity.  Read more about their lifestyle here:

Taken June 1854
On the opposite side of the spectrum, the traditional Inuit diet is extremely high in animal fat and protein with low incidences of cardiovascular disease. However as civilization marches on, more and more Inuit are turning to western diets with its attendant side effects.  Learn more about the Inuit diet here:

This guy called Morgan Spurlock made a documentary called Supersize Me by eating 5,000 calories from McDonalds per day.  I don't care where you get the 5,000 calories from, but if you consume 5,000 calories a day without exercising, you're going to gain weight.  Period.  This doesn't prove anything.  Ultra long distance cyclists subsist on M&M chocolate and Power Bars for the trip.  Does that mean such food is sustainable or optimal for healthy living?   While we're at it, how about Michael Phelps a US Olympic swimmer who eats 12,000 calories a day?  Anyone wager a guess what will happen if he eats like that during the off season when he's not training?

What does all this mean?  We have to eat sensible portions of healthy foods while avoiding or minimizing sugar and wheat.  Doing that while increasing our activity level is the recipe for weight loss and a sustainable plan for living.

You have to start learning more about foods and read food labels. Let me summarize it this way:

- There are no essential foods, only essential nutrients.

- Eat healthy animal saturated fats, protein and lastly carbohydrates.  In that order.  If meat is expensive where you live, eat lots of eggs.  Organic and free range where possible.  Consuming 3 eggs for a meal won't kill you.

- if you want to lose weight, eliminate all forms of wheat and sugar for 3 months. Once you reach your target weight, you can reintroduce them back into your diet if you want to.

- Eat these oils: fish oil, coconut oil, ghee, butter, olive oil.  Avoid hydrogenated oils of any sort.

- Eat red meat, white meat, all kinds of meat.  Its good for you.  Organic, free from antibiotics and growth hormones where possible.

- Eat only when hungry.  Don't eat just because society says you need to eat from this hour to this hour of the day.  Listen to your body.

- Exercise.  Be active.  Stay active.  Active doesn't mean running on a treadmill like a gerbil spinning on a wheel.  The human body was never designed to move at a steady state speed like a machine with repetitive motions in the pursuit of good form. Performing exercise like that is a recipe for repetitive stress injury.

- The body responds best exercising in a stochastic manner with peaks of intense, anaerobic periods followed by longer periods of aerobic exertion at a lower threshold.  The movements can be repetitive, but not steady state mixing up the tempo, with directional changes and frequent periods of rest in between.  It should feel like play and not work.  If it feels like work, it won't be sustainable.  Good sex is like this.

There have been many research studies which indicate that High Intensity Intermittent Exercise (HIIE) is more effective for fat loss than Steady State Exercise (SSE).  Here is just one of many:

Note the conclusion:
"HIIE three times per week for 15 weeks compared to the same frequency of SSE exercise was associated with significant reductions in total body fat, subcutaneous leg and trunk fat, and insulin resistance in young women."

- Find an exercise which allows you to have peaks of anaerobic effort with the majority of the time exerting the body at a high aerobic threshold.  The exercise should have a variety movements which may be repeating and entertaining so that it is sustainable.  Additional points if it strengthens muscles and provides a total body workout.  It is weight resistance training (moving the body or weight against the force of gravity) that strengthens bones, muscles and provides an aerobic workout.  Some suggestions for these types of workouts are:

- cycling (for transport or for sport with stretches or sprint intervals)

- if your area is not conducive to cycling on roads or you're not comfortable cycling on the streets, try a spinning class at a gym. Spinning classes vary posture, cadence, speed and resistance.

- Power walking. I define define power walking as walking very very (as fast as some people jog) or walking your normal speed with a weighted vest or backpack filled with water or tinned food.  Walking with weights and proper posture strengthens the legs, arms, back, lungs and heart without the impact damage of jogging.

- High intensity squash or badminton.  Unfortunately unless you are a good player, you won't be exerting yourself enough with squash or badminton. High intensity squash and badminton looks like this:

- Swimming

- Boxing\kickboxing. Here's why I do it:

- active dancing, including pole dancing.  Pole dancing is actually incredibly athletic if your interest lies in that direction.

- hiking.  Wear a backpack with food, water and supplies and hike for at least an hour 3 times a week.

Being active and losing excess weight will increase your fitness and increase your testosterone making you look and feel more attractive.  Boosting testosterone will assist muscle tone and your sex drive possibility eliminating the need for Viagra.  Need I say more?

I used to weigh 170 lbs...


Bicycle Traffic in Downtown Vancouver

Most of our loyal readers already know I commute from my home to downtown Vancouver by bicycle several times a week weather permitting.  The City of Vancouver has released mapped bicycle traffic data using counters installed selected bike routes.

Daniel Mclaren has done a good job analyzing the data in his blog post so I'm going to send you over to his post for the goods:


Monday, April 4, 2011

Cycle on a Single Speed

One of my singlespeed bicycles.  A Dahon Helios converted to 66 gear inch single speed.
How do I stay active throughout the week?  As a married man and father, I try to utilize my time efficiently and not take away family time where possible.  I incorporate cycling to work as part of an active lifestyle.

I commute 40 KMs roundtrip on a singlespeed freewheel bike which formerly had an 8 speed Shimano gear cassette mounted. I converted both my Dahon folding bike and a Softride (carbon suspension beam bike) into singlespeeds.

The Dahon has 20" wheels, runs slicks and is fendered and racked. The Softride does not have fenders and runs 650c x 23 slick tires. The Dahon is geared at 66 gear inches while the Softride is at 69 gear inches. I would normally cruise around 90 rpm and between 28-32 km/h on either of these bikes. A converted SS freewheel bike tends to be simpler, lighter and marginally more efficient to ride.

In my opinion, riding a singlespeed:

- provides safer, less distracted cycling for the rider. There are no gears to change. You feel the proportionality of effort. Faster cadence, faster speed. Never have to worry if you are in the right gear. The right gear is the gear inch you have chosen which allows you to climb the highest hill on your route while maintaining a reasonable speed on the flats. You are therefore, incapable of being in the "wrong" gear. 

- provides better mechanical reliability. A better chainline which is shorter and straighter yields better reliability. On my bike, the chain could derail when the chain bounced as I crossed railroad tracks. Having a chain derail is not a a big deal as it is soon fixed but it is a hassle as either your glove or finger is going to get dirty. A shorter and perfectly straight chainline yields a pleasant sensation that is absent on a derailleur bike. Its quieter and more efficient. With a singlespeed, the front or rear derailleur never needs trimming to avoid contact sounds. The better chainline, tall cog teeth means that derailments are a thing of the past.

- is cost efficient. A converted singlespeed running a generic cog is cheap - $6 Canadian is what I pay. Contrast this to replacing a set of SRAM or Shimano or Campy cassette gears. In all fairness though, a cassette of gears I bought last year cost $40. Most of us could afford that without breaking the bank.

- You know what they say, "Whatever doesn't kill you, makes you stronger." You get off the saddle and learn to feel the bike and handle the bike through various cadences. The connection with the bike feels more alive rather than merely sitting in the saddle and changing gears to spin within a narrow cadence window like a recumbent. For this reason alone, I feel a singlespeed bike whether freewheel (SS) or fixed gear (FG) provides a richer and more textured riding experience than a geared bike. One could mostly duplicate this by never changing gears on a derailleured bike, but that would be the difference between dating a girl while Facebooking for potential hook ups and commitment. 

- all other things being equal, you will climb hills faster on a singlespeed\fixed gear than on a geared bike. On a geared bike, riders tend to gear down and spin. Whereas on a SS\FG, the rider strengthens their muscles and cardio by learning to pull on the handlebars for leverage while seated or stand on the pedals with the aid of gravity to aid their climb up hills and bridges. This movement provides a rest from being seated allows for variation during the ride. With a singlespeed you can coast down a hill while on a fixed gear you will have to spin down the hill. I recommend using brakes on an fixed gear.

- singlespeed\fixed gear bikes are easier to clean especially in winter.

- singlespeed\fixed gear bikes are cheaper to maintain over the long run.

If simplicity, predictability and reliability appeal to you, try riding a singlespeed.  It delivers a great workout and trains the rider to accept certain limitations in exchange for pure freedom of expression within defined mechanical constraints.

I won't even mention the weight savings of removing gears as I don't think it as important. By the way, the best upgrade to make your bicycle go faster is to change to lighter wheels and tires.  


For further reading:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A True Story About A Cyclist

Take a look at the video below.  Its shows a cyclist on a stationary trainer.

The cyclist's name is Damian.  He is competitive cyclist who has finished first at the Coppa 8 de Marzo Time Trial. He also won the silver medal at the Tour of Havana de Este, and the bronze medal at the Criterium de Havana against some of the best athletes in his region. This is what he looks like.

Damian Lopex Alphonso
A native of Cuba, Damian was electrocuted at age 13 with 13,000 volts of electricity when he tried to retrieve his kite which had landed on some power lines.  He spent 52 days on life support and has had to endure many surgeries which enabled him to survive.  Now aged 34, he has taught himself to become a competitive cyclist racing against non-disabled competitors by resting the stumps of his arms against the handlebars.

It was at the 2002 Pan American championships in Cuba when he was noticed by Tracy Lea a fellow cyclist and Team Fuji Ambassador.  You can read the rest of the story here.  If you wish, you can donate to cover some of Damian's expenses by emailing

*  *  *

It would be so easy to grumble that life has not dealt us a fair hand.  It is easy to make excuses why we can't workout regularly or get into shape, change our diet or improve our commitment to fitness.  When we read a story like Damian's -- someone who overcomes their disability to compete with "normal" people it kind of puts everything in perspective doesn't it?  Stories like Damian's shame us by revealing that it is our minds which are weak, not our bodies.

*  *  *

Life doesn't owe us anything. Life isn't fair.

We get out of life, what we put into life. No one has ever become great by making excuses.

We are only "disabled" as much as we think we are.

True greatness is not visible to the naked eye.

Inside each of us is a power of great beauty and triumph if we only learn to set it free.

Dare to be great.

Dare to be.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ride the Bike

Click for larger picture
The weather is warmer this week than last week.  Seeing a dry morning, I rode one of my bicycles to work this morning hoping that it would not rain before I reached the office. My morning bicycle commute is 20 kilometers (about 12. 5 miles) each way.  The picture above shows the entrance to the bicycle\pedestrian bridge that connects Richmond to Vancouver along River Road just east of the River Rock Casino.

The bicycle (center of the picture) is a Dahon Helios P8 aluminum folding bike that has been converted to a singlespeed freewheel gear system with 66 gear inches.

It normally takes me about 50 minutes (plus or minus) to reach the door of my office building from the door of my home.  This is the same amount of time it takes for me to take the train and bus door-to-door.  So there is no loss of time in the modality of the commute. Cycling however has health benefits and I enjoy the solitude of riding.

Click for larger picture
This is the view looking north on Cambie from the intersection of Cambie Street and Marine Drive in Vancouver.  From here to 41st, its one long uphill and a great test of one's will.

This morning I rode to work in a fasted state no having eaten anything since dinner the previous night and prolonged the fast until 1 p.m. when I finally ate lunch.

After work tonight, I will ride back into Richmond to my martial arts gym where I meet up with my wife and daughter.  The Dahon will be folded and placed in the trunk of the car and voila - on we go.

You are welcome to post your choices in staying active in the comments section.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

If you were put in a room without clocks and just told to sleep however much you needed at the end of a day, how many hours do you think you sleep?

a. 6 hours or less
b. Between 6 and 7 hours
c. Between 7 and 8 hours
d. Between 8 and 9 hours
e. More than 9 hours?

In one study, 95% slept between 7 and 8 hours a day.   Another 2.5% slept more than 8 hours.  That leaves just 2.5% who need less than 7 hours a day to feel rested when not tied to an alarm clock.  2 people out of 100.  Let that sink in for a second.  What are the chances you are on of those two?

How about creative people?  The famous study of violinists by Anders Ericsson in 1993 showed top performers slept an average of 8.6 hours a day and included a habit of napping during the day which accumulated to an additional 3 hours of siesta per week.  It appears that high performers incorporate habits of working and playing hard.  Sounds primal to me.

I believe that an adequate sleep cycle maximizes the body's healing and regenerative pathways and is critical for maintaining optimal health.  I fitted thick, black curtains in my bedroom to create a dark ambiance.  It aids in facilitating a deep sleep.


For further reading:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Partial Blog Roll

These are some of the blogs I read on a regular basis:

The Daily Lipid by Chris MasterJohn
Whole Health Source by Stephan Guyenet
Primal Wisdom by Don Matesz
HyperLipid by  Petro Dobromylskyj
Heart Scan Blog by William Davis
PaNu by Kurt G. Harris
Health Correlator by Ned Kock
MarksDailyApple by Mark Sissons
Conditioning Research
FreeTheAnimal by Richard Nikoley


Monday, February 28, 2011

False Hypoglycemia, Set Points and My New Blood Sugar Readings

I have an update on my blood sugar readings.  I typically range between 5.3 to 5.7 mmol (95 to 103 mg/dl)  during the day. My fasting blood glucose as tested by the lab in January 2010 was 5.3 mmol (95 mg/dl) and by the end of the year in December 2010, it was 5.2 mmol (94 mg/dl)- pretty much the same.  After meals it might be 7.3 mmol (131 mg/dl) depending on what I ate for the meal.

A few weeks ago, I broke into heavy, drenching sweats during the night while I was sleeping.  It was so bad I would wake up and have to take a shower before proceeding back to bed.  My research led me to suspect these were episodes of false hypoglycemia.  It was a mystery to me why this was happening as my blood sugar tends to be high and not low.  These episodes have not repeated themselves since.

I decided to start measuring my blood sugar levels again.

Lo and behold, the meter read 4.2 mmol (76 mg/dl) . Two hours after eating, 4.8 mmol (86).  One reading at 5 p.m. before food showed 5.0 mmol (90 mg/dl) and a post-prandial reading of 5.7 mmol (103 mg/dl).

Another day at 11:30 a.m. it was 4.6 mmol (83 mg/dl).  I would eat lunch, go boxing and read 4.1 mmol (74 mg/dl) before eating.  Two hours after eating, it was 5.3 mmol (95 mg/dl).  It goes on.

1:21 p.m. before lunch and its 4.8 mmol (86 mg/dl).  Today after cycling home from work, it was 4.4 mmol (79 mg/dl) after having a sushi lunch.  Its been like this since February 12 onwards.

How to make sense of this phenomenon?

What I believe happened was my body reset its blood sugar levels from the 5.x (90s mg/dl) range down to the 4.x range (70s mg/dl).  Those episodes of hypoglycemia during the night was the body reaching a new set point level during the circadian cycle where gene expression is rampant.

All I know at this point is that my blood sugar is lower than it has ever been ever since I started measuring it over a year ago.  All other things being equal, this is an improvement in a health marker for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

This was achieved with a Paleo\Primal Diet and regular exercise.

For further reading on blood sugar levels:
What is normal blood sugar:
How to lower your blood sugar:
The 5% HbA1c club:


Turkey Sausages & Chard

Click for larger picture
We had a simple dinner tonight.  Handmade turkey sausages from the local butcher and steamed chard. This was seasoned with organic dried spices (a big bottle from Costco) and extra virgin olive oil.

I ate this plate plus two organic bananas for dinner after completing my ride home from my office downtown.


Winter Cycling

The weather this past weekend with rain and snow was not conducive to cycling.  My wife, daughter and I went to support a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournament some friends were competing in on Saturday. On Sunday, we shoveled snow and watched the Academy Awards while feasting on some takeout sushi to close the weekend.

Before falling asleep on Sunday evening, I hoped that Monday would present an opportunity to commute to work from my home in west Richmond to downtown Vancouver - a roundtrip ride of 40 km.  Waking up on Monday morning, I rushed to fix breakfast for my daughter before heading out the door.

Crappy cellphone picture
As you can see from the picture, the streets were mixture of dry and wet with the odd bit of snow loitering on curb lanes.  I am still dialing in the bicycle fit and feel relatively comfortable on this bike which I plan to use for the ride from Vancouver to Seattle in June.  I felt slower climbing the hill on Cambie Street from Kent Ave to 41st today but that is probably due to rider rust from irregular riding during the winter season.

Cycling has many benefits. I appreciate the mental clarity it brings: every turn of the pedal is an effort on my part which brings me closer to my destination. It focuses my attention and forges my body to align with my will to meet an objective. 

Cycling as a form of transport benefits the individual and society as a whole. The individual obtains health benefits from the exercise which lowers that person's consumption of health care services.  In a universal healthcare system, this is not a trivial matter.

Since road construction and maintenance are paid for through property taxes and NOT insurance premiums and vehicle licensing fees as many mistakenly believe, one could argue that cycling subsidizes the true cost of driving. (Gasoline taxes go to the government's general revenue and are not specifically designated for transportation).

Every bicycle on the road means one less car to contribute to rush hour gridlock, one less car competing for parking spots and one less car likely to hurt another human in the event of an accident. Bicycles don't contribute to the wear and tear of roadways as much as heavier vehicles. When I cycle to work, it means there is one less person to take a seat on the Canada Line and feeder bus thereby freeing up space for other commuters. Cycling also emits less green house gases. 

Having said that, please do not for a moment think that I am an anti-car extremist.  I embrace all forms of transportation.  I carpool with my father some mornings to spend time with him, I take public transit via the CanadaLine and cycle to work on other days.  Different commuting modalities do not have to war against each other for us to have a sustainable city which continues to be one of the most desirable places in the world to live.

Don't be a couch potato!  Stay active. 


Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Short and Simple Truth

Country with the least obesity is Japan.  The traditional Japanese diet is high in carbohydrates and low in fat.  The Atkins Diet is high in fat and protein but low in carbohydrates.

The Kitavans also have a diet high in carbohydrates (tubers) while the Inuit have traditional diets high in fat and protein.  They represent polar opposites of the food spectrum.

Yet all these diets work produce health markers better than the standard American\Canadian diets.

What do all these healthier diets have in common?

They all omit sugar or high fructose corn syrup.


Monday, February 21, 2011

A Winter Cycle

It was just a few degrees above freezing on Sunday morning but my friend and I decided to go for a training ride out to Iona Beach by the airport.

Although I have been to Iona Beach lots of times in a car, this was the first time cycling there.  We decided to ride the pipe all the way out to the end which is a one way distance of 4 km.  The picture above was taken at the end of the pipe.  The pipe is long structure where treated sewage is pumped out to the ocean.

We rode back after in a blowing head wind which made it a hard ride. The singlespeed Softride performed very well.  After that we met for a well deserved lunch.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Exercise Esoterica

Harvey taped me warming up with some shadow boxing with a buddy at the gym.  I did not even know Harvey was taping so nothing is contrived for the camera.  The video shows parts of a 3 minute round and we're not going at full speed for safety. In addition to bodyweight strength training and total body conditioning, this is what we do for fun.


Valentine's Strawberry Pie and Celery Chicken Soup

Made a Valentine's Strawberry Pie for my wife.

Click for larger picture
The crust is made from 2 cups of almond flour (crushed almonds), butter and two whipped eggs. Just mix everything real good and make a crust in a pan.  Bake at 350*F for 15 minutes or so and you've got a crust.

Click for larger picture
While the crust is baking, slice strawberries, place in pan and add <gasp> brown sugar to taste.  Hey its Valentine's Day, gimme a break!  Cook the mixture stirring frequently until strawberries are soft. Let me add here that the wonderful thing about Paleo\Primal eating is that the times you DO cheat aren't as punishing.  I've gotten where I am with 80% compliance to the diet philosophy.

Click for larger picture
Spoon the strawberries onto the crust and cover with whipped cream.  Add sprinkles if desired.  Serve and enjoy!

This is a delicious and Paleo-friendly soup.  Buy a roast chicken and a large head of celery.  Pull the chicken apart and place bones and meat into a soup pot.  Wash and cut the celery into pieces and place into the same pot.  Add diced ginger to taste.  Bring to boil and simmer for 45 minutes.  Salt to taste and enjoy.

This celery chicken soup is an absolute delight on cold winter or fall days.  The tastiness of the roast chicken, meat falling off the bones and the spiciness of the ginger make it freshing.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Why I Box

In October 2009, my family committed to eating the Paleo\Primal Way. By spring of 2010, I was looking for a workout or exercise regimen that would address my needs.   If memory serves me right, I first joined Apex Martial Arts in February 2010.  This was after trying Tae Kwon Do in two different schools.

Apex offers classes in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and boxing\kickboxing.  I signed up for kickboxing. The first 15 minutes consists conditioning exercises which range from push ups, jumping jacks, jumping squats, burpees, mountain climbers and so forth.  Lots of variety as the instructors mix it up on different days. Non-stop for 15 minutes.  You partner with someone for the day. Then come the drills, then more drills and workouts.  The last few minutes are for ab work.

When I first started, I could not make it through the first 15 minutes without stopping. I had exertion headaches as my body was not used to the work.  I was inexperienced and did not hold the focus mitts correctly.  My rhythm was poor and I felt awkward holding targets for others.  This changed in time.

As I kept up with training, my body grew stronger.  My endurance increased.  One day my exertion headaches disappeared.  I got faster. And better.  I was also spent after every session yet deeply satisfied. My confidence grew. By the end of 2010, I was much more interested in boxing - the sweet science.  I used to think boxing was just two guys in a ring trying to beat each other's brains out.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The best boxers out there are like artists performing a work of incredible athleticism forged with great will.

A boxer's abilities are the result of dedicated hard work.  Hand speed, foot work, bobbing and weaving, slipping and ducking, power, punching combinations, stamina and timing are all tools in the boxer's kit developed over time. Time alone and time in a gym.

You learn about yourself when you box.  Training exposes your strengths and your weaknesses. Physical weaknesses not apparent watching movies on the sofa are glaringly obvious in the gym. Mental weaknesses are revealed the first time you face a sparring partner in the ring. What you think you are doing, and what you're actually doing may be different.  So you start listening to others.  You learn not to panic when you're hit. There are primal fears when you face an opponent who hits back. If you don't cave in to those fears, you develop an inner calm.  You learn to think on your feet and constantly adapt yourself in the ring.

Equipment is fairly basic.  A good pair of gloves and handwraps are mandatory. If you spar, you'll need 16 oz. gloves, a mouth guard and head gear. Being rich doesn't buy you a better skill set in the ring. Here is the great equalizer: you have to put in the effort.  You have to put in the time to earn skills for the ring. There are no shortcuts.

There is an honesty I appreciate about boxing that keeps me going back.  I guess its like cycling.  Every punch thrown is a pedal stroke. A far cry from sitting in an SUV by myself and pressing the gas pedal. If its to be, its up to me.  And it ain't about the bike.

Our gym is not an ego-driven gym. We are there to train ourselves and to be a training partner for others.  Ultimately, our battle is within and not with anyone else. I box to train my body and to train my will. Boxing is an act of worship I perform in the temple of my body which houses my soul.  As I exercise to my limits, I am forging my body by the strength of my will. When my mind and body are one, my boxing feels effortless. I see my opponent through the window of my head protector and I move and punch.  Slide in, jab-jab. Jab, cross, hook.  Step back as the counter-punch narrowly misses. I see, I move. There is no time for other thoughts.  You can't Wii this.

After the sparring is over, I feel alive. I'm energized.  If I did well that day, I celebrate.  If I didn't do well, I keep replaying those moments in my mind to figure out how to better adapt to the challenge.  And in a day or two, I get to do it all over again.


Monday, February 14, 2011

How To Build Muscle Using Bodyweight Exercise

Regular readers will know that I like bodyweight exercises.  Why?  They are simple, inexpensive, effective and safe.  If you want to compete in weightlifting at the Olympics or become a power lifter then you need a gym with free weights.  But if all you want to achieve is to get in shape, look good in clothes and get stronger so you can enjoy life more, then all you need are bodyweight exercises and the will to transform your body.

SIMPLE - you don't need a gym membership to get in shape, build strength or build muscular endurance.  You need a little space and a pull up bar.  Throw in some dumb bells if you have them but that's strictly optional.

INEXPENSIVE - You don't need P90X, Insanity or some other DVD program *unless* you need to see people around working out and that gives you motivation.  Instead of spending the money on exercise DVDs, buy a pull up bar and a yoga mat.

EFFECTIVE - Check this guy here. All he did was commit to a bodyweight exercise program called SimpleFit. I got into shape using mainly bodyweight exercises.  You can scale bodyweight exercises to be harder or easier depending on your strength level.  Check out these tutorials for common exercises.  Bodyweight exercises have the ability to transform your body if you are willing to change the way you eat.

SAFE - Safety is important and my number 1 priority in working out.  Once we are over forty, we really don't want to get injured.  Recovery takes longer when we are older and being hurt means we miss training time.

The key idea I employ in building muscle is to maximize the muscle's time-under-load.  In order to build muscle, the muscle has to be stressed to a point where it experiences microtrauma.  This microtrauma is what causes the muscles to ache 24-48 hours after the workout.  The pain resulting from microtrauma is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).  Once the muscle experiences hypertrophy, it gets bigger and stronger.

Demanding strength from muscles ultimately influences gene expression which causes protein synthesis. The body upregulates the entire biological chain needed to engage muscle formation and increase strength.  So how do we "tell" our muscles to get bigger and stronger?

With bodyweight exercise, our repetitions are usually upwards of 10 or 12 before we reach failure (the inability of the muscle to contract any further).  With standard push ups for example, I won't reach failure until upwards of 40 good form push ups.  Once I reach failure with whatever exercise I am doing, I will scale the exercise to an easier mode without interruption and keep performing work until the muscles reach failure a second time. Form is cherished over speed. After a minute of resting, I will perform a second set of the same exercise to keep working the muscle group.  I will do about 3 sets of that particular exercise.  Some times I might do more sets if I really want to work the muscle group, but never less than 3 sets.

Once those three sets are done, I might do one more set of increased difficulty repetitions.  This means I will choose a harder option of working the muscle even though I will be doing fewer repetitions.  In case of push ups, it might mean doing elevated push ups or clapping push ups or narrow, diamond push ups.  With pull ups, I just keep doing pull ups and chin ups until the muscles fail.  Even then one can still do SUPERSLOW negatives to continue the muscle's time-under-load.

Progressively loading the muscles during a training day then allowing up to 6 days for full recovery is a good and safe way to build muscles using bodyweight workouts.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sirloin Roast for Lunch

Here is a simple and tasty roast. Marinate the roast the night before and pop it into the oven first thing in the morning.

- red onion
- garlic
- Montreal steak spice (or your favorite spic rub)
- olive oil
- Teriyaki sauce
- sirloin roast.  (Pictured is 3 lbs.)

Mince the garlic and onion and add olive until its a thick paste.  Make cuts in the roast and coat the roast liberally with the paste.  Pack paste into the cuts of roast.  Marinate overnight in the fridge.

I woke up at 7:30am and placed the roast in the oven at 185* F in my oven.  This is a very low setting intended to slow cook the roast and tenderize the connective tissues without over cooking the meat.  This is a set-it-and-forget-it type of cooking.

We left at 9:35am for my daughter's Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class followed by our adult kickboxing class.  By the time we got home, it was 1pm.  We quickly steamed some sweet potatoes and zucchini to go with the roast.  It was very tasty.

Click for larger picture
The liquid at the bottom consists of cooked blood, oil and juices from the meat.  We used this as a sauce on the meat.  Leftovers was used for a stew.

Click for larger picture
Click for larger picture

Some people don't understand how we can eat meat, bacon, avocados, eggs and butter yet stay slim.  Mainstream media has it all wrong. Eating healthy fats will not make anyone fat if they eat in moderation.  Its processed foods, trans-fat, "low-fat" (which is code for sugar) and grains (whole or otherwise) that make a person fat.

I will do another post on this later.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Evolutionary Argument for Running?

Being of the Paleo\Primal persuasion, I don't advocate steady state running for long periods. I'm more in favor of activities where the heart rate resembles a power law graph.  Go all out for brief periods like sprinting or punching, with longer durations of medium level activity and lots of time at the low end of the energy expenditure.

In this Ted Talk, Christopher McDougall presents some compelling information for the evolution of running which explains a variety of observed human phenomena.  I thought it compelling and well argued; and therefore worthy of your viewing pleasure.


The Pareto Principle

Back in 1906, an Italian economist called Vilfredo Pareto observed that 80% of the peas in his garden came from 20% of the pea pods.  From there he extrapolated that 20% of the Italian population held 80% of the land. This observation became known as the Pareto Principle which roughly states that in many cases, 80% of the effects arises from 20% of the causes.  This is also known as the 80-20 Rule.

Applied to business, it can be observed that 80% of a typical company's sales revenues come from 20% of its clients.  In software optimization, Microsoft purportedly noted that 80% of crashes and errors could be cured by fixing the top 20% of reported bugs. Likewise criminal science reports that 80% of crime is committed by 20% of criminals.  It is important to note that the proportion between cause and effect does not need to add up to 100.  It could easily be 80-30. The point is a majority of the effects experienced is caused by a minority of sources.

Does this hold true with life?

The family we were born into, the spouse we marry and where we choose to live probably do more to affect our lives than all other decisions put together.  Think about the monthly email traffic coming into your inbox. Chances are 80% of your email correspondence is from 20% of your contacts (excluding solicitation emails).   How about mobile phone conversations?  80% of our calls come from 20% of the people in our address books?

Diet wise, I advocate eliminating sugar and wheat.  Avoiding those two items alone will produce a large portion of the benefits.  Avoiding refined carbohydrates is one of the keys. Next is getting adequate sleep in a dark room (use dark curtains and turn the clock away from you). If that's not possible, wear an eye patch to sleep. Walk a lot and stay active.  These items comprise the 20% from which we will experience 80% of results.

Pareto's Principle is liberating in that it only requires the right combination of minority actions to obtain 80% of desired results.

These are the 20% of my inputs which determine 80% of my results.  What 20% comprise yours?


Reading for Extra Credits
Because the Pareto Principle is based on an observation in nature, it shares traits with Kepler's Third law of Planetary Motion, Kleiber's Law on animal metabolism, inverse-square laws of Newtonian Gravity and fractals.  Since metabolic networks in organisms share recursive features subject to the same behavior as Power Laws which describe mature, self-organizing complex systems, what should our diet and energy expenditures look like?

Art De Vany describes Power Law exercise in the following manner:

"A power law distribution of activities means the intensity; spacing, duration and volume of training are variable in order to present a constant novelty in metabolic challenges while retaining enough structure and repetitiveness to maximize adaptive capability. When you train like a hunter, you follow a power law distribution of intensity and frequency. You distribute activities so that you hit highly intense metabolic peaks briefly and intermittently."

Monday, February 7, 2011

Food Porn & Chinese New Year Feast Pics

Click for larger image
Raw cubed stewing beef, carrots, diced red onions, 2 apples, tomatoes, pad of butter and seasoning in a pressure cooker.  Once steam hisses, cook for 15 minutes.

Click for larger image
Completed stew with almond flour added to thicken gravy base.

Click for larger image
Spinach salad made with yellow pepper, raisins and boiled eggs.

Click for larger image
A huge salad made with romaine lettuce, grape tomatoes, cashews, avocados and diced mint.

Click for larger image
Carved roast suckling pig.  Superb.  Truly and on many levels.

Click for larger image
Sushi platter of raw seafood.  Clockwise starting at 6 o'clock:  salmon (orange), shrimp, scallops, tuna, toro aka fatty tuna, 2 pieces BBQ eel, fish eggs, scallops in mayo, below that spicy scallops.

Click for larger image
All the food for the Chinese New Year Feast.