Archive for November, 2011

Next up is Dan Healy.  The guy is a straight boss at strict muscle ups.  In my short time at 717, I have watched Dan make some really great progress in all aspects of his CrossFit game.  Sky is the limit for this beast from the North.

1. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a small rural town of Montrose, PA. Its north of Scranton/Wilkes Barre and just south of Binghamton, NY. Growing up our nearest neighbor was a half mile down the road…so quite rural.

2. What is your athletic background?

My mother did not like contacts sports so she subtly directed us away from playing any sports in school. I was an avid cyclist in high school and also got my hands on my dad’s old weight set so I did a little bit of lifting. I started skiing in 7th grade and snowboarding in 9th. During the winter of my senior year I was a snowboard instructor. In college I joined the rugby team (yeah, mom was not thrilled). I played from my sophomore year to my senior year. After college I lived in Colorado for four years where I would do a lot of hiking and biking in the mountains and a little bit of snowboarding. In 2006 I participated in a cross country bike ride from Seattle, WA toBoston, MA. I love volleyball but have never played outside the summer picnic pickup game circuit. I’ve whitewater rafted a few times and loved that.

3. How did you get started with CrossFit?

A few years after I had graduated college I went back for a Rugby alumni event. I ran into a friend who had graduated a year after me. He was in Chiropractic school and had also become an avid crossfitter. I was absolutely stunned by the transformation his body had gone through and from that moment on I was very interested in getting into crossfit. He actually gave me the main website, but I didn’t understand the program enough to ever try it on my own. It always stuck in the back of my mind and so whenever it would occur to me I would look around to see if there was a crossfit gym near where I was living at the time. Last fall I stumbled across Crossfit 717 and realized I finally had the opportunity to try it out.

4. How long have you been at CrossFit 717?

My first workout ever was open gym on the Saturday after Thanksgiving last year (So short answer is I’ve been doing crossfit for one year). Not fully understanding the psyche of crossfitters I wrongly assumed that on the Saturday after thanksgiving there would be relatively few people at the gym so I could get some one on one attention from the coach and get an idea of what I’d be getting myself into. Unfortunately for me there was a large group of army guys in town for the weekend who stopped by for a workout (and if I remember correctly I think Kristin Foster had brought her dad in that Saturday). Coach Dan decided to put together a killer WOD for them, and failed to really explain to me how I should scale down the workout. I think I made it through about half the rounds before I had to quit. I could barely walk for the next 3 days…Coach Dan has told me he never expected to see me back after I left that day.

5. What are your favorite exercises/WODs?

I love all the gymnastic type exercises. I was obsessed with getting a muscle up when I first started and improving my strength on the rings continues to be one of my top goals.

6. What exercises/WODs do you hate?

I’m not a big fan of anything overhead, mostly because I’m not good at it, however the bane of my existence right now would probably have to be double unders since I still have not mastered them. I’m also not a huge fan of the marathon WODs because I tend to burn out after about 30 minutes of effort.

7. What are your goals with regards to CrossFit?

The answer to that questions is constantly changing. When I first started I was very much interested in cutting my body fat and getting lean. I wanted that “cut” look that coach Dan has. I have dropped my body fat percentage significantly and am a lot more lean than I used to be. I may not be as “cut” as I originally wanted, but that’s no longer a major goal. About six months into crossfit I became very interested in developing more strength, but as a nagging back injury got worse and worse I realized I needed to reassess that goal. Right now my goal is to get my body healthy, so I’m very focused on technique, form, and proper scaling.

8. In your perfect world, what would you be doing in 10 years?

I will be living in my completely renovated house and running my own business, possibly in the green energy field. I’ll still be crossfitting, and Dan and Kelley will be struggling to get close to my WOD times. Actually, in a perfect world I may not still be living in this area, but I don’t really plan ahead too far. When the urge hits, I have been known to pick up and leave just to try something new. Hence the reason I ended up in Colorado after college. I often find myself yearning to be back in Boulder.

9. Where did you go to high school/college?

I went to Montrose Jr/Sr High school, then did my 4 years of undergraduate work at Juniata College in Huntingdon, PA getting a degree in Mathematics. After that I moved out to Colorado and studied at the Boulder College of Massage Therapy.

10. If you could eat dinner with 3 people past or present (besides Jesus who is overused and not that interesting), who would you choose and why?  Furthermore, what would you order for dinner? 

One would definitely have to be my grandfather. I would cherish the opportunity to have one more meal with him, he is the greatest man I have ever known. The other two would probably be the great philosophers George Carlin and Siddhartha Gautama.

11. Who is your celebrity crush?

Natalie Portman

12.  What is your favorite movie and why?

Shawshank Redemption. I think it speaks for itself.

13.  What is your favorite thing about CrossFit 717?

The community of people is by far the greatest part of Crossfit 717. Without that I would not have stuck with it as long as I have.


First a little bit of housekeeping.  Sorry about the lack of articles and consistency on the blog the last few weeks.  I have been pretty swamped at work and am in the  process of possibly getting a new job so time has been limited.  I really havent been able to give it my all at CrossFit either but the nice thing is this will all be over after the holidays and there should be more posts and info.

Second, Beyond the Athlete will be delayed this week for a day or two due to some unforeseen formatting issues.  Once we get those worked out, we will all get to learn more about Dan Healy.

Ok, so this article is a lot self serving based on the nagging injuries I have been dealing with.  From talking with most ouf you, we all have some type of injury or soreness we are working through.  Hopefully this article will shed some light on the healing process and convince all of you who think that you can just train through pain otherwise.  It sucks, but giving yourself enough time to heal is the smartest thing.  If you are in the same boat, come find me at the next class and we can both talk about how well we could have done the WOD if we weren’t injured.

Step-by-Step Approach to Coming Back From An Injury

by Tim Henriques – 11/03/2011

Step-by-Step Approach to Coming Back From An Injury

At some point you, or someone very close to you, is going to get hurt. I’m not talking about a paper cut or a skinned knee – I’m talking about a serious injury that requires a doctor’s care and a (hopefully temporary) lifestyle modification.

Hardcore muscleheads have been known to push their bodies to ridiculous limits in the gym, and while serious injuries have occurred in the weight room, they’re remarkably rare. Fact is, far more injuries occur on the field of play than under the bar, and often more serious, even career or life-threatening.

Yet despite such an impressive safety record, weight room injuries do occur, so you need to be prepared.

Types of Injuries

First, there are two major types of injuries the body experiences, macrotraumas and microtraumas.

Macrotraumas are sudden, acute injuries; you’ll know the instant they occur. On the court it’s when a point guard comes down with a rebound and snaps his ankle. In our world, it’s when you’re hammering up 315 like it’s styrofoam and something in your pecs pops so loud you can hear it over the Lady Gaga playing on the sound system.

That’s macrotrauma. Specific examples include fractures, dislocations, sprains (injuries to ligaments), strains (injuries to muscles and tendons), deep lacerations, and very serious contusions.

A microtrauma is a chronic overuse injury. Although less dramatic from an athlete’s point of view, microtraumas can be just as annoying as they’re often difficult to properly assess and manage.

Examples of microtraumas include stress fractures and tendonitis (some prefer the term tendinosis), with tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow being common afflictions.

It’s very common for these injuries to linger, sometimes for months, and rest doesn’t automatically heal them, adding to the frustration. Nothing’s worse than taking a month off from lifting to let an injury heal and upon returning realizing that, a) you’re now weak as shit and, b) you still have the injury to deal with. It’s enough to make some give up on training altogether!

How The Body Responds to Injury

Step-by-Step Approach to Coming Back From An Injury
The body goes through a three-phase response to any serious injury, be it a macrotrauma or a bad microtrauma. You can’t skip steps – you must complete one phase before moving on to the next, no matter how badly you want to rush it.

Phase One

The first phase is the inflammation phase. This happens immediately (within minutes) of a serious injury and can last from several days to a couple of weeks for more serious injuries. During this phase the injured area swells up; it will likely be red, hot, may throb, and it will hurt even if the area isn’t moved.

You can train unaffected areas if it doesn’t bother the injured area, but the training goal for the injured area is simple: don’t make the injury worse. That means leave it the hell alone! Don’t train it lightly, don’t stretch it (unless instructed by a doctor), and don’t go for a light jog instead of a hard run. Just leave it alone.

You can also RICE the injured area. RICE stands for Rest (leave it alone), Ice (ice for 15-20 minutes an hour, as often as possible), Compression (wrap it up loosely), and Elevation (put it above the heart if possible when at rest).

To summarize, perform no training for the injured area. This sucks, but this phase only lasts about two weeks.

Phase Two

Once the inflammation has subsided (the swelling reduced and the pain at rest diminished), the body enters the second phase of injury, the repair phase.

As the name implies, the body is now trying to repair the injury, but now the body is in quick fix mode. It wants to repair the injury as quickly as possibly to allow basic functioning to return.

Think of an injured animal – it can only lie hurt in a cave for so long. If the animal survives the first phase it will need to move to find water, food, and defend itself from any lurking honey badgers. Although we don’t live in caves anymore and medical attention is readily available in most nonpartisan countries, we’re still operating on the same biological software as our ancestors. Your body wants to get you up and moving, but just at basic levels.

During the repair phase the body is using collagen tissue to fix the injury, which is a bit like the body’s version of duct tape. However, at this time the body is laying that collagen tissue down in a haphazard fashion.

This is extremely important for the lifter to remember. The body is attempting to return to basic functioning during this phase, nothing more. But problems occur when the lifter starts to feel better and, eager to return to their previous activities, tries to push it or “test it.” All too often the result is the area gets re-injured and the entire process must start all over again.

During this phase, the training goal is to prevent atrophy (muscle loss) of the injured area. The good news is that this is much easier to accomplish than creating hypertrophy (building muscle), as basic stimulation will prevent atrophy.

Training guidelines for this phase including focusing on a pain-free range of motion, even if it’s limited in the beginning. Isometrics are a useful tool; one can start in a pain-free ROM and then gradually increase it over time.

Slow speed, light-weight resistance training can be used as well, with 10-20 reps being the norm; be sure to err on the side of light weight and high reps in this phase. Open chained and isolation movements are preferred for introducing load to the injured area.

Lifters should also focus on stretching to get back any flexibility that was lost from the injury, with the goal of a return to a normal level of flexibility if possible. The lifter might also start to work on stability in a controlled setting near the end of this phase. Heavy weights should definitely be avoided (stay with <50% 1RM), along with any high speed, high power, or explosive movements.

Typically the repair phase lasts about two months from the end of the inflammation phase for most reasonably serious injuries. The lifter can and should work on other areas of the body or components of fitness not limited by the injury.

Phase Three

Step-by-Step Approach to Coming Back From An Injury

The final phase in injury is the remodeling phase, which usually lasts 2-4 months from the end of the repair phase. Since death has been successfully averted, the body wants to get back to the way shit was, yo. But the body is also smarter than you and a hell of a lot more patient. It takes its sweet time in the healing process because it’s trying to do things right.

Collagen fibers are laid down now in an organized fashion and strength and stability should return over time to the injured area. By the beginning, or certainly the middle of this phase, most ROM should’ve returned to the injured area, which is important to monitor as continued limitations in ROM might become permanent if not addressed during this phase.

The training goal for this phase is a “return to previous level and beyond.” As the body begins to get stronger, heavier weights (>50% 1RM) can be used, although do NOT rush into them.

Furthermore, a lifter must realize after being hurt, followed by several months of low intensity activity, that their 1RM is not what it once was. The safest bet is to return to the weights at the end of the repair phase but follow a linear progression of slowly increasing the weights by 5 or 10 lbs. a week for as long as possible.

Closed chain, compound movements can now be gradually incorporated into the program. More explosive movements can also be employed; a good goal is to have the injured area be at least 90% as strong as the non-injured area before including high speed power movements in the program. If any proprioception was lost during the injury, that type of work should be included as well.

The lifter can and should continue to work on other areas of the body and other components of fitness. I wrote an article that works well in the beginning or middle phases of the remodeling phase.

Bottom Line

Step-by-Step Approach to Coming Back From An Injury
Getting injured sucks the big one, but all is not lost. Once the injury has been properly diagnosed and treated, sit down with your doctor and set a realistic time line for when you think you will be better.

Then, be conservative. Work slowly toward that timeline and be patient, as most big injuries take at least six months to return to near normal. Do some research and find out what other people are going through. You’re not alone and others have likely suffered far worse than what you’re going through.

You could even use this time as a gift, although it won’t feel like a gift when you’re mired in the middle of it. See it as a chance to return to the basics, like mastering your form on the big exercises you can safely perform. Read more, work on your weak points, and build all the components of fitness.

Maybe you won’t be able to improve your bench for three months while your shoulder heals from surgery, but you can work on your core or your legs or your cardio or your balance, or whatever else you care about and/or maybe suck at.

I dislocated my shoulder my senior year of high school playing football and while it sucked to sit out my senior year, I used that time to learn more about fitness and how the body works. That was one of the first steps that led me to a career in fitness, which I’m happy to have today.

Many have gone on to achieve extremely high levels of performance after an injury – seek those people out and believe you can do it, too. YouTube, books, magazine articles, and the Internet are full of inspiring stories about the adversity that people have overcome. While it doesn’t always happen, your body may just surprise you.

Bottom line is, life will be good again. Use the mental toughness and determination that lifting has developed in you and apply that to your injury. Remain positive; remember those that helped you out, and you may just come out on the other side stronger and healthier than ever before.

A Fasting Experiment

Posted: November 22, 2011 in Uncategorized

I thought this article would be cool for all of you who have tried/are trying/want to try intermittent fasting.  This article is a Q and A by an author who tried it and his results.

John Berardi’s Great Fasting Experiment
by Bryan Krahn – 11/22/2011

John Berardi's Great Fasting Experiment
Intermittent fasting, or IF, is the current rage in the health and fitness industry. But it’s really nothing new, physiologically.

The ability to “fast,” or go without food for extended periods of time lies within us all, a protective mechanism developed to help ensure the survival of our species when food supplies were low.

But fasting by choice, not to survive but to improve health and body composition, is a much newer phenomenon – unless you believe Paleoman would’ve turned up his nose to a freshly-killed mammoth so that he could fit into his skinny jeans by St. Patrick’s Day.

Things have gotten really interesting lately, as bodybuilders have started to hop on the rapidly growing fasting bandwagon. For those committed to getting big and jacked, fasting seems ill advised to say the least.

Bodybuilding diets typically feature multiple meals spread throughout the day. This, the experts argue, not only manages hunger better, it keeps the metabolism “stoked” while not overloading the digestive system.

One of these multiple meal advocates has been Dr. John Berardi, but lately JB, as we like to call him, has had a change of heart. He’s been checking fasting out, flirting with her, sending her texts, even rustled up the courage to ask her out on a date, just to see what all the fuss was about. And his results might surprise you.

T Nation: Fasting? JB, are you becoming one of those tree hugging vegans, too?

John Berardi: I know! A few years ago I would’ve thought the exact same thing when discussing fasting. However, that was based on my own blind fear and on misinformation.

I guess I figured that if most bodybuilders got big and strong by eating lots of food, frequently throughout the day, fasting would do the exact opposite. It would make my muscles shrink. And I’d get weaker.

Funny, it doesn’t really work that way at all.

Now, there’s some good science to back that up. However, published research has its limits. So I decided to put my own body to the test.

In my case, while experimenting with different types of intermittent fasting, I lost about 20 pounds of fat while preserving most of my lean mass. According to my Intelametrix device (a valid ultrasound-based form of body composition testing), I went from a fairly lean 10% body fat to a very lean 4%.

Here are some progress photos:

John Berardi's Great Fasting ExperimentJohn Berardi's Great Fasting Experiment

I also put a few of my clients to the test. One of them, a guy who wanted to gain weight instead of lose it, gained 20 pounds of quality lean mass in the last few months while also experimenting with intermittent fasting.

And as far as the vegan, tree hugging thing; quite the opposite. I eat more meat now than ever before. I’m up to three pounds a day on my low carb/high protein and fat days. (I eat a little less on my high carb/moderate protein/low fat days). That’s just my maintenance plan.

T Nation: I want to dig into the details of your diet in a minute. But first, I’ve gotta ask. You’ve been a “six meal a day” musclehead for years. And you’re always in shape. Why try this in the first place?

JB: Curiosity.

It’s no secret that I’m a professional dieter. In other words, I’ve done nearly every diet or nutritional protocol that’s around to test its efficacy.

Intermittent fasting has a very small, yet strong, following. And the research picture is starting to get intriguing. Honestly, the proposed benefits of IF in animals and humans read like a laundry list of “look better,” “feel better,” “live longer” physiological changes.

So I wanted to test it myself to see what kinds of physiological and psychological changes would come from it.

Also, I’ve been pursuing a new goal. In the last year I’ve been training with a professional track and field coach. I plan on competing in track and field (100m and 200m sprints) at the masters level.

When running competitively, every pound has got to earn its rent. So I wanted to test a new way to drop fat and get extremely lean, while staying strong and powerful.

In the end, I was able to do just that. As I said, I dropped a ton of fat while preserving my strength and lean mass. This, combined with my new training, has really improved my track performance.

T Nation: Let’s talk about your plan. What exactly have you been doing?

JB: Well, I haven’t been doing one plan so much as I’ve been experimenting with a host of different intermittent fasting ideas. In fact, during the last eight months I’ve played around with about eight different intermittent fasting protocols.

T Nation: Eight months of fasting? Sounds like fun…

JB: Haha, well it was definitely enlightening. I kept meticulous notes on everything from scale weight, body-fat percentage, and blood/hormonal markers, to lifestyle markers like energy levels, cognition, and a bunch of pain-in-the-ass factors.

Now, for those that aren’t familiar with the concept of intermittent fasting, I’d like to start with a basic truth. No matter what eating style you follow, you already practice intermittent fasting.

Put in simple terms, if you typically eat dinner by 8 PM and breakfast at 8 AM the next day, you’re fasting for 12 hours. So, you eat during the day and you fast during the night. Some refer to this as a 12/12 eating schedule because it’s 12 hours of fasting and 12 hours of eating.

So, if your knee-jerk reaction is to say “no way!” to intermittent fasting, remember you’re already doing intermittent fasting. Every day. And you’re probably already enjoying some of the benefits.

However, there’s some new research showing that a host of really powerful benefits may come into effect if we extend the fast even longer. Some suggest that we may even need to prolong the fast for 20-24 hours, depending on activity levels.

This last part is important. If you’re fairly sedentary during the fast, you may need the full 20-24 hours without food to realize these benefits. However, if you’re very active, or you exercise purposefully during the fasted state, you may be able to enjoy the same benefits after only 16-20 hours without food.

Despite lots of different theories about intermittent fasting on the web, the science is very preliminary. So, of course, there’s no consensus on the best fasting/feeding interval. That’s why I’ve been doing these experiments and testing just about everything.

T Nation: You keep mentioning benefits. What exactly are we talking about here? Some of the fasting zealots make it sound like if we stop eating we’ll solve all our health and physique problems.

JB: I agree, the speculation is a little wild in the intermittent fasting communities right now. However, there’s enough preliminary research support (in animal models, the human research is pretty limited) to suggest the following benefits:

  • Reduced blood lipids (including decreased triglycerides and LDL cholesterol)
  • Reduced blood pressure (perhaps through changes in sympathetic/parasympathetic activity)
  • Reduced markers of inflammation (including CRP, IL-6, TNF, BDNF, and more)
  • Reduced oxidative stress (using markers of protein, lipid, and DNA damage)
  • Reduced risk of cancer (through a host of proposed mechanisms; we’ll save them for another review)
  • Increased cellular turnover and repair (called autophagocytosis)
  • Increase fat burning (increase in fatty acid oxidation later in the fast)
  • Increased growth hormone release later in the fast (hormonally mediated)
  • Increased metabolic rate later in the fast (stimulated by epinephrine and norepinephrine release)
  • Improved appetite control (perhaps through changes in PPY and ghrelin)
  • Improved blood sugar control (by lowering blood glucose and increasing insulin sensitivity)
  • Improved cardiovascular function (by offering protection against ischemic injury to the heart)
  • Improved effectiveness of chemotherapy (by allowing for higher doses more frequently)
  • Improved neurogenesis and neuronal plasticity (by offering protection against neurotoxins)

T Nation: That’s pretty impressive. But what about muscle loss? I’d still be kind of afraid of what fasting that long would do to my muscle mass.

JB: Well, there’s a trick. If you’re going to play around with intermittent fasting, you have to do it right.

Just skipping meals or days of eating is likely a recipe for disaster from both a health and muscle/performance perspective. There are some good practices here and they pretty much include most of the “good nutrition” rules you already know about.

In the end, if you’re afraid of muscle loss, I found that the following three types of fasting protocols have got you covered:

The trial fast: this is where I recommend people begin. Simply, you try it out once by going for 24 hours without food. I did my very first trial fast on a Sunday. I set it up by having a small meal on Saturday night at 10 PM, then I didn’t eat again until another small meal on Sunday night at 10 PM. During the day on Sunday, I simply had 3 “non-meals” of water (1 liter), BCAA (5g), and a powdered fruit/veggie blend like Superfood.

The periodic fast: if the trial fast goes well, then you can play with this. Simply, you’ll do the trial fast above more regularly, like once a month or once a week. I tried to do it twice a week and it went very, very badly. So remember, if some is good, more is not better.

The daily fast: This is a stricter, more advanced way of doing things. Here you extend your normal overnight fast, every day. Some people fast for 16 hours followed by an 8 hour feeding window. Others fast for 20 hours followed by a 4 hour feeding window. With both practices, you’d actually train fasted (at the very end of the fast) while taking 10-15g BCAA during the training. And eating some pretty large meals during your 4-8 hour feeding window.

In the end, all three forms of intermittent fasting are usually best reserved for fat loss or the maintenance of low body fat. However, I’ve had some success with clients using periodic fasting (once a week, maximum) to build muscle.

T Nation: You mentioned BCAAs. Do you think adding protein “pulses” to the fast, specifically high quality protein hydrolysates like Mag-10® Anabolic Pulse, could help out in certain situations?

John Berardi's Great Fasting Experiment
JB: You bet. You’ll notice that with all three types of fasting, I used small amounts of BCAA to preserve muscle mass during the long fasts (24 hours). I also used BCAA during my training when fasting every day. Mag-10® could also be used here.

Regardless of whether you choose BCAA or Mag-10® or both, the most important thing is to get your amino acids, specifically your BCAA, and probably most importantly, leucine.

But that’s not all you should consider.

At the end of the day, whether you’re eating at regular intervals or fasting for longer periods, the basic rules of good nutrition still apply. In other words, what you eat (your food selection) and how much you eat (your food amount) are still very important.

So calorie balance still applies. Truly, there’s no eating style that’ll help you build muscle if you’re grossly undereating. Likewise, there’s no magic bullet for fat loss; a calorie deficit is always required to lose fat.

Let me give you an example to drive the point home. If I’m a guy that needs an average of 4,000 daily calories to grow, I’ll need those calories whether I’m eating six meals a day or whether I’m eating two. And if I need to eat an average of 2,500 daily calories to lose fat, I’ll need those 2,500 no matter how many meals I’m eating.

But instead of thinking about daily calorie intake, it’s more helpful to think of weekly intake when talking about fasting. For example, if I need an average of 2,500 daily calories to lose fat, that’s 17,500 calories per week. And this can be broken down all sorts of ways.

With the periodic fast, I could eat about 2,900 calories for six days of the week and 0 on the seventh. Or I could eat 3,500 calories for five days of the week and zero on the other two days.

And with the daily fast, instead of having six meals of around 400 calories each, I could have three meals of around 800 calories. Or I could have two meals of 1200 calories each.

These are just examples. I highly recommend not obsessing over your calorie totals like this. (Trust me, it’s not necessary and could lead you down a road of OCD madness.)

But the examples serve to illustrate the point. If you’re doing it right, the only difference between more traditional bodybuilding-style eating and intermittent fasting-style eating is how you distribute your calories between days or meals.


Question of Nutrition: Vol 6
by Dr. Jonny Bowden

Saturated Fat: The Real Story

Q: What’s the final word on saturated fat?

A: Asking about saturated fat is like asking about the war in Iraq: The answer you get completely depends on who you ask.

Since you asked me, I’ll tell you my opinion, but rest assured that if you ask a Stepford Wife Dietitian you’ll get an entirely different answer. Of course, if you were the type to listen to those idiots, you probably wouldn’t be reading my column.

For years and years the main rap against saturated fat is that it raises cholesterol, which in turn  “causes” heart disease. But the importance of cholesterol as a major risk factor for heart disease is beginning to be questioned. And the fact is that saturated fat sometimes raises cholesterol and sometimes doesn’t, and ultimately it may not even matter.

In 2008, The American Society of Bariatric Physicians in conjunction with the Metabolism Society presented an entire two day conference in Arizona entitled: “Saturated Fat and Heart Disease: What’s the Evidence”?  I attended that conference, in which some of the smartest researchers investigating this issue participated, and I can sum up the answer to the question “What’s the evidence?” for you in two words: Not much.

In my opinion, the “fate” of saturated fat in the body depends completely on what else is eaten. If you’re eating a high-carb diet, the effect of saturated fat may indeed be deleterious, but if you’re eating a low-carb diet it’s a whole other ballgame.


Hold the hashbrowns

“If carbs are low, insulin is low and saturated fat is handled more efficiently,” said Jeff Volek, PhD, RD and one of the major researchers in the area of diet comparisons. “When carbs are low, you’re burning that saturated fat as fuel, and you’re also making less of it.”

So, eat way less carbohydrates and way less sugar, and it may not matter how much saturated fat you eat.

One reason that saturated fat has been demonized, in my opinion, is that much of the research on diet and disease has lumped saturated fat together with trans-fats. Trans-fats weren’t even a health issue until relatively recently, and for decades researchers didn’t distinguish between the two when doing studies of diet patterns.

Why does this matter? Because manmade trans-fats really are the Spawn of Satan. They clearly raise the risk for heart disease and stroke, and, according to Harvard professors Walt Willett and Alberto Ascherio, are responsible for 30,000 premature deaths a year.

Another reason saturated fat has such a bad reputation is that much of the saturated fat people consume comes from really crummy sources. Fried foods are not a great way to get fat in your diet. Neither is processed deli meats nor hormone-treated beef. But the saturated fat from healthy animals — like grass-fed beef or lamb — or the saturated fat in organic butter or in egg yolks is a whole different story.

I’ve never seen one convincing piece of evidence that saturated fat from whole food sources like the ones I just mentioned has a single negative impact on heart disease, health, or mortality, especially when it’s part of a diet high in plant foods, antioxidants, fiber and the rest of the good stuff you can eat on a controlled carbohydrate eating plan!

So what’s the verdict? Though there may be certain cases where saturated fat could be a problem — i.e. those with the ApoE4 gene making them more susceptible to Alzheimer’s seem to benefit from avoiding too much saturated fat — for most people a healthy diet of moderate calories that’s low in sugar shouldn’t have any problem with saturated fat from whole food sources.

Of course that won’t stop the diet dictocrats from continuing to tell us how “a low-fat diet prevents heart disease,” but inconvenient facts have never stopped the American Dietetic Association!

Hey, Honey

Q: Some people claim honey is a health food. Is it really good for you or is it just more sugar?

A: Well, there’s two separate questions here:

1) Is honey good for you?

2) Is honey just more sugar?

I’ll take the second one first. From your body’s point of view, honey is sugar, plain and simple.

From the point of view of glycemic impact — how quickly a food makes your blood glucose climb up to the ceiling — it doesn’t much matter if you’re scarfing down turbinado sugar, “Sugar in the Raw,” evaporated cane juice, brown rice syrup, honey, or any of the seventy-gazillion variations on the theme, including, by the way, the latest craze in “healthy” imposters: agave nectar syrup, which has an even worse composition than high-fructose corn syrup!

So, if you’re trying to cut out sugar, honey counts. But the first question — Is it good for you? — is a little more complicated and depends on your definition of “honey.”

If by “honey” you mean the crap you buy in the supermarket that comes in a cute little plastic bottle that looks like a teddy bear, the answer is “not on your life!”

If by “honey” you mean raw, unfiltered, uncooked, unpasteurized organic honey, the answer is “maybe.”


Real honey, no plastic bear required.

While it’s true that both types of honey will raise your blood sugar about the same, that doesn’t mean they’re nutritionally identical. Raw, unprocessed honey — straight from the comb — has a number of nutrients and enzymes and is an actual whole food, albeit a sweet one. If you don’t have blood sugar issues, raw honey can be used judiciously as a sweetener.

Generally speaking, the harder the honey the better. The strength of the crystallization (hardness) determines the level of live-state nutrients and heat-sensitive enzymes. Some unprocessed honey is even sold with part of the honeycomb in the jar. Real honey also contains flavanones, flavones, and flavonols, known for their antioxidant activity.

Two companies producing unprocessed honey that I like are Really Raw Honey andTropical Traditions.

But remember, processedhoney, like the squeezy bear kind, is just another highly refined food that’s had all the good stuff boiled out of it leaving nothing more than a sweet tasting golden liquid that’s essentially about as good for you as Frosted Flakes!

Fake “Health” Foods

Q: What’s a food that dedicated gym-goers eat that they shouldn’t eat? In other words, what’s a common “pretend” health food?

A: I thought this was a terrific question to put to my informal panel of experts, and not one of them hesitated to render an opinion, all of them good ones.

Gregg Avedon, one of the world’s most successful fitness models, singled out sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade. “They’re designed for endurance athletes and pro-athletes who burn crazy calories and deplete muscle glycogen very quickly at a very high level, yet you’ve got the average fitness enthusiast training at a mid- to low-level range drinking these beverages without thinking twice.”

Celebrity nutritionist and exercise physiologist JJ Virgin, PhD, chose energy bars, which are often packed with chemicals and even sometimes trans-fats and high-fructose corn syrup.

Gina Lombardi, host of Discovery Channel’s Fit Nation and author of Deadline Fitness, singled out baked chips. “High in sodium, chemicals, and processed carbs!” she notes.

Top New York group fitness instructor, model, and personal trainer Angie Lee chose fruit juice. “Way too high in calories and sugar,” she observed, “and people have a harder time tracking liquid calories.”

But in my opinion, the Academy Award for health-food imposters goes to the smoothie offerings at Jamba Juice.


Jamba Juice: Just say no.

Most of them are high-carb, high-calorie, high-glycemic nightmares and will make your blood sugar race to the ceiling faster than a Border Collie on methamphetamine. Example: The banana berry smoothie with 112 grams of carbs and 480 calories.

Don’t be mislead by these fake “fitness” foods!


2011 Mid Atlantic Hopper Recap

Posted: November 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

Fresh back from the Hopper, I have been getting a lot of questions so I figured I would post a comprehensive recap of what went on down there.  First I will talk about the WODs and close with some thoughts about the whole thing.  Hope you enjoy and leave any questions in the comments section.

Individual WOD 1:


7 Squat Snatches (95/65)

7 Squat Cleans (95/65)

75 ft Walking Lunge (45/25)

The first WOD didn’t look too taxing and both of our athletes were confident going in because it set up well for both of them.  But, like most of the workouts that don’t look too bad, Dan and Kelly quickly learned that the legs burn out very quickly.  Both did very well though, completing a little over 4 rounds.

Team WOD 1:

2 Girls and 1 Guy

Complete 150 Push Presses (115/85) and 150 Front Squats (115/85) as a team

10 min Time Cap

This one had the potential to be pure pain if it wasn’t for the 10 min time cap.  The team chose Jason, Jamie and Jen to compete in this one and they did a great job.  Jason jumped out quickly with 22 reps followed by Jamie who cranked out 14.  Hats off to Jen who followed Jamie with 8 reps of her own with a weight she has never even done 1 time before.  Adrenaline helps but this is a true testament to her progress as an athlete while at 717. Team 717 kept chipping away and I believe we completed somewhere in the 130’s of the push presses at the end of the 10 minutes.  Not great but not terrible for our first WOD as a team

Individual WOD 2:


Ground to Shoulder Stone Lifts (145/95)

Just as it sounds, the second individual event had the athletes picking up a 145 lb concrete “stone” (basically a big concrete ball) and putting it on their shoulder as many times as possible in 3 minutes.  For those of you who have seen the World’s Strongest Man events where they do this, you get the idea.  The stone added a cool dimension because it is such an awkward object to hoist.  Both guys chalked up and planned their strategies.  When the dust cleared (and there was a lot of it) I believe Kelly completed 22 reps and Dan was right behind him in the high teens.

Team WOD 2:

2 Guys and 1 Girl

Complete These 3 Workouts in order:

Grace (30 Clean and Jerks, 135/95)

JT (15-12-9: HSPU, Ring Dips and Hand-Release Push Ups)

Helen (3RFT: 400m Run, 21 KBS 1.5/1, 12 Pull Ups)

25 Min. Time Cap

This time, the team chose Jamie, Matt and myself to do these WODs.  After much deliberation and strategizing, Matt was going to start with “Grace”, I would follow with “JT” and Jamie would bring us home with “Helen”.  We were all pretty confident with “Grace” and “Helen” but “JT” was scary.  Matt jumped out of the gate with an awesome Grace time of 3 min and a few seconds; never breaking stride and keeping a consistent pace.  As soon as Matt finished, I began my HSPUs and got through 15 relatively quickly.  Ring dips had to be broken up but I got through these as well and moved on to the hand-release push ups.  At this point, I never though my chest/shoulders would be as smoked as they were and the push ups were a struggle.  From here on out, I spent the rest of the time fighting through the reps, completing the next round of 12 with the HSPUs taking up the majority of that time.  Needless to say, Jamie did not get a chance to start on Helen (sorry Jamie).  On the bright side, I quickly learned how to kip my HSPUs!

Individual WOD 3:


Deadlifts (275/185)

Box Jumps (20/20)

This WOD also set up pretty well for our guys because Dan and Kelly are both really strong at deadlifts and box jumps are pretty standard, especially at 20”.  Not much too it and the guys knew they just had to clamp down and plow through.  Dan went first and ripped through the first 21 deadlifts and box jumps unbroken.  He was able to break the round of 15 up into sets of 5 and the final round into sets of 3, finishing in an awesome time of 5:03.  Kelly followed Dan with the same blazing speed on the first round, tearing through 21 like he was just lifting the bar.  The rounds of 15 and 9 went much the same way except for some questionable “no-rep” calls on Kelly’s box jumps.  Despite this, Kelly posted a very fast time of 3:34.

Team WOD 3:

2 Guys and 2 Girls

Each Team Must Complete 60 Reps of Each of These Exercises and Each Team Member Must Complete 15 (Even Work) In this Order:

Cluster (Clean into a Thruster) (95/65)

Pull Ups

Push Jerk (95/65)

Power Snatch (95/65)

15 Min Time Cap

When we saw this WOD pulled, we all did a small cheer because the weights were manageable and the movements were ones we have all done many time at 717.  For this WOD the team chose Sean, Jason, Jamie and Jen.  When the horn blew, Jason strung together 15 clusters unbroken with Jamie following suit.  I was next and did the same with Jen right behind me.  Next were pull ups and “The Coach” flew through his 15.  Jamie was waiting right behind him and methodically completed her share and as soon as she finished, I got through mine.  Jen was next and quickly pounded out 7 before taking a short rest.  Like me during “JT”, Jen was starting to hit that point where your muscles will only do so much and continued to grind out the next 8, even in the face of some very questionable “no rep” calls by the judge.  Once Jen finished, Jason and Jamie powered through their 15 push jerks and I managed to do 3 of mine before the time ran out.  Since this last WOD did not put us in the top 10, this was the last WOD for the team.