Sunday, January 5, 2014

Pottenger's Cats

Every body (even people who live in a cave like me) has heard of Schrödinger's cat, but how many people are familiar with Pottenger's cats? I recently listened to a podcast where Gray Graham presented this intriguing research. It started me wondering if the generation immediately behind my own is the human culmination of a handful of generations poorly nourished on too much carbohydrate, too little protein and a diet of polyunsaturated fat. The result is all too apparent, soft squishy bodies which may not be “overweight” but are certainly under-muscled, a plethora of auto-immune diseases ranging from Hashimoto's thyroiditis to inflammatory bowel disease to polycystic ovarian syndrome, insulin resistance, and rapidly rising rates of type two diabetes – and etcetera, as this partial list is only that, a partial list. 

Despite all this, US News ranked the Paleo diet 31st – that is dead last – against other popular diets. Of particular note, Slimfast, Nutrisystem, and Jenny Craig all ranked higher! As the Paleo diet gains momentum, criticism is increasing, prompting many in the Paleo/low carb community to latch onto Gandhi's famous quote: “first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Unfortunately, I am not as sanguine as some, and don't really see “winning” coming any time soon to a society addicted to frequent carbohydrate highs.

Indian Head surf

Which brings me to a curious, little known fact, humans have no real nutritional requirement for carbohydrate. There are essential proteins and essential fats, but there is no essential carbohydrate. So much for the diet rich in healthy carbohydrate argument. True, most people will find they run better with a certain amount of carbohydrate in their diet – you'll have to experiment on yourself to work out exactly how much – but, apart from anearobic exercise (which we can't keep up for very long in any event), performance, even in endurance athletes, improves when people metabolically adapt to using ketones for fuel. 

Today I deadlifted my body weight, which, by Crossfit standards, isn't really all that exceptional, but, for me is a new record. In fact, I am currently lifting heavier on all my weights than at any other time in my life. Performance gains that I attribute to more rest, less carbohydrate, more protein and more fat. Additional benefits include not having to do all those tedious core exercises any more. If you lift heavy weights, particularly over head, there really is no need to pound out all those boring – and largely – useless “core” exercises. 

Doug looking small at Kanangra Walls

I am also enjoying eating only one or two meals a day without being hungry or suffering any kind of performance issues (including brain fog) in between those sporadic meals. True, this can be a little awkward because I am never really hungry at conventional meal times and my hunger frequently does not coincide with Doug's hunger. But, apart from those two minor inconveniences, not eating all the time, or doing chronic cardio to not get fat from eating all the time, is tremendously liberating. 

As the Paleo diet becomes more mainstream, which I suspect is mostly driven by our society's desire to lose weight, I think we'll see a lot more “faileo” diets which will, unfortunately, feed the fire of righteous indignation among the establishment crowd (and I include the vegetarian/vegan contingent among this group). People will fail for many reasons, a big one, of course, is that losing weight is such an external goal, and not likely to hold up against the sacrifices that have to be made to gain real health. The low-carb flu will knock out all the people who can't tolerate a little short term pain for long term gain – and, face up to it, that is probably 98% of the population. 

In the end, the only people left eating real food will be the odd-balls, cranks, and anti-establishment types who have the wit to think outside the box, and we will have come full circle.

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