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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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Completed stew with almond flour added to thicken gravy base.

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Spinach salad made with yellow pepper, raisins and boiled eggs.

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

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Carved roast suckling pig.  Superb.  Truly and on many levels.

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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.

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All the food for the Chinese New Year Feast.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sunday Potpourri

A belated Happy Chinese New Year to you loyal readers of the blog!

In case you haven't been able to tell, I've been bed ridden the last few days with a stomach virus.  However, as life unfolded, there are still lessons to be learned no matter the hand you're dealt.  Are you ready?  And here, we, go....

By the morning of the 4th day, I was down 2 lbs to 139 (was 141 at the start of January).  Not being able to eat will do that to you.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Okay a recap.

Last Saturday morning, I took my daughter to her Brazilian Jiu Jitsu lesson. I met my friend "K" who is joining me for a kickboxing workout after my daughter's class is over.  Later that evening, at the invitation of another friend, my family went over their home where I spent some time devising a workout protocol for the father who wants to get back in shape.  So we did a brief workout together.  Sunday was a bit of a rest day.  Monday was work. That evening my wife and I conducted an information meeting with parents from our school on the dangers of Wi-Fi and its effects on children.  I was fine until about 4 a.m. Tuesday morning when I started feeling unwell.  When the alarm rang at 7:30 a.m. I thought, "Oh, oh, we have a problem."

I was also having bad diarrhea.  The virus in the gut meant I did not have any appetite. At the risk of violating the TMI protocol, I'll leave out the details.  I was lying in bed, experiencing aches in my joints and occasionally having bouts of uncontrollable shivers even though I was under blankets. Being blood type O, it was probably the Norovirus.

PW (that's Precious Wife) asked if she could get me anything.

"Ginger ale," I replied.

"Ginger ale? That has sugar," she said.

I'm laying here dying and losing precious fluids every 20 minutes on the toilet and she's worried about sugar? Eating Paleo was definitely not the first thing on my mind.

"I know sweetie.  But since I'm not eating anything, getting in some fluids with a bit of sugar isn't going kill me."

Now its been a long time, a very long time since I tasted pop.  I don't miss it. I don't crave it.  But when you're sick with no taste in your mouth, no appetite and leaking from unmentionable places, a little ginger ale is comforting.  I did notice the sugar  left on the teeth from drinking pop and made an extra effort to brush fastidiously. It was Tuesday.  I normally go kickboxing Tuesday. Oh well.  End of  Day 1.

Day 2.  Its Wednesday.  Same old, same old. Leaky and achy best summarizes my condition.  I'm alternating Tylenol and Advil with Immodium. Tylenol seems to work better for this bug.  Where I've had great success using Immodium in the past, its batting average was 0-0 this time around. This was like showing up at a 30 Banana-A-Day diet with a prime rib in hand. It wasn't working.  Trouble was being Wednesday, I was due to attend Chinese New Year dinner at my folk's house.  To miss CNY dinner when you're in town is taboo. I phoned my mom and explained.  She was cool and even packed Chinese hot pot leftovers for PW to bring home.

Day 3.  Felt a little bit better and decided to eat some hot pot leftovers we had in the fridge.  Re-heating the satay-flavoured soup base, I was able to enjoy a serving of soup and some fishy dumplings.  Then the trouble began.  I noticed a peculiar after-taste in my mouth from the soup.  I started having cravings.  So out of the blue,  I texted PW to buy 3 cans of Campbell's New England Clam Chowder.  In my Pre-Paleo era, I would boil rice, heat a can of this soup and chow the gob-smacking combination down the gullet.

Then it hit me.  The satay soup had to contain MSG or some type of artificial flavouring.  These chemical structures obviously matched certain memories which begat cravings.  The brain tried to match the taste and it led to Campbell's.  Processed foods have addictive qualities which begat cravings.  The cynic in me suspects such addictive qualities are known to the manufacturers.  But since cravings keep people coming back...

I was much more aware of these feelings since I have not eaten canned foods for such a long time.  Going Paleo is like being on an extended cleanse from processed foods.  I texted PW to forget about the soup.

Day 4. I was better.   Went to the office by 11 a.m. and worked through the day.

Day 5.  Took my daughter to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  Went 3 rounds with my training partner before kickboxing class.  Then 1 full hour of kickboxing.   In the afternoon, I made two huge salads for a Chinese New Year dinner gathering with  friends.

Dinner was primal.  The chinese culture celebrates festive occasions with  roast suckling pigs. Life was back on track.  Happy Chinese New Year!