Monday, February 25, 2008

Insane Eiger Speed Record

While I'm still sitting on my ass trying to figure out what this year's training objectives--other than a full knee recovery--are going to be other people are still out there gettin' after it. Like this guy. If this wasn't so out-there-friggin' fast I might be inspired. Instead, it just makes me feel fat and ineffectual. No, that's completely untrue. It's totally inspiring. But not in my usual "I can beat that" way but in a "oh-my-God! That is completely otherworldly" kind of way. This is so fast it's completely ridiculous.

Eiger Speed Record

But wait, there's more!

Skinny Fat

So I've been home for a month and am probably in the worst shape I've been in this decade. After a few weeks of nursing some post-challenge injuries I headed off to India where I managed to lose 15 pounds of muscle. This means that I weigh less than I did during my bd challenge but my body fat percentage is higher. Skinny fat; that's what I am. Same thing happened to my friends Trent and Dawn, an uber-fit couple who also shedded a lot of muscle in Nepal. You walk a lot, do pretty much no intense exercise, eat bad food, breathe polluted air, and battle dysentary. The result: skinny fat.

However, I've been back a month. Long enough to reverse this except for, well, battling some sort of Asian monkey virus that passed to Romney just as I was beating it, which has essentially kept me grounded. I'm finally healed up, completely out of excuses, and find my self with no goals for 2008 except to heal a couple of nagging injuries. Talking to the red capped cashier (thankfully no speedo though) at the Wild Oats last night got me thinking about my rumored retirement (no, damnit, I'm not old) and the words of the late Kingsley "Ned" Zissou, "What's next for Team Zissou?"

(dictated but not read)

pic - our equity partner, Ned

Early Season

"Your muscles are coming back," said Romney last night. And, sure enough, after less than a week of my first real training since my birthday challenge I'm starting to feel normal again. This week I took advantage of the upcoming end of the world and biked and climbed in absurdly warm Feb weather. The first two rides I suffered like a dog. Yesterday I'd already come up a notch and could easily turn a bigger gear. Climbing-wise, last weekend I was falling off of 5.11s that I normally warm up on. Yesterday, I one-hanged the last hard route I did in the fall (okay, not hard by any sort of standard except my current one but, ya know, 12c). It feels good to be training again. Injuries could be a problem, but that's another story.

We also dieted this week. It was an easy diet, relatively, but no diet is truly easy. Otherwise it wouldn't be a diet. The rules were simple: no sugars or grains or junky fats. So all fruits, veggies, meat, and good oil (olive, basically) was on. No other junk. With 5 (aghast!) pounds to lose it was Romney's first diet ever. On day three I received this rather-poetic text:

Our diet has brought me to a near death experience and I'm pretty sure the light at the end of the tunnel is reflecting off of a loaf of warm golden brown bread. You can't stop me. I'm walking towards it.

Goodbye cruel, grainless world. Goodbye.

I was excited that she'd given up because it meant that I could, too. But, alas, it was all a rouse a we met a bit later for some salad. After Romney nearly passed out at her uber-Gym Jones-ian workout Thursday we did say good-bye to the grainless world for the weekend. Next week will be round two.

With no goals of my own this year, Ben has roped me into a climbing pyramid. If we complete it I'll redpoint my hardest route in a decade this year. While that seems light years away at the moment, I'm keen to have a go since we can do this all without having to drive more than an hour. Living in Utah rocks.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bike n' Booze: For A Long Healthy Life

This may be the best news I've ever heard.

Maybe Bikes & Booze Do Mix

If you enjoy a post-ride beer you may be increasing the heart-healthy benefits of cycling.

A study in Denmark, biking capital of the world, has found that drinking alcohol in moderation seems to have benefits similar to exercise. This research, reported in Time's Feb. 4 issue, is significant in that it was conducted on 12,000 people over a 20-year period.

It was found that exercise and drinking alcohol each had an independent beneficial effect on the heart. Mainly, an increase in good cholesterol (HDL) and the removal of fatty deposits created by bad cholesterol (LDL) in blood vessel walls.

The study also determined that drinking and exercise combine to have a greater health benefit than either alone. The Danish researchers defined four categories and found that . . .

people who never drink and don't exercise had the highest risk of heart disease.

people who never drink but do exercise had a 30% lower risk.

people who drink moderately but never exercise had a 30% lower risk.

people who drink moderately and exercise had a 50% lower risk.

Now, before you swap your Endurox for a 6-pack of Pabst, here are the caveats:

A research team spokesman, Dr. Morten Gronbaek of Denmark's National Institute of Public Health, says the benefits of alcohol don't kick in until you're at the age -- 45 to 50 -- where heart disease becomes an appreciable risk.

"There's absolutely no proof of a preventative and protective effect before age 45," Gronbaek told Time. Further, alcohol consumption is related to an increase in breast cancer among women, and anyone who has a family history of alcoholism should steer clear no matter what their age.

The study imposed a limit of one drink a day for women and two for men. It did not distinguish among beer, wine and liquor. It calls for common sense in determining a "moderate" amount: a 12-oz. beer and a double martini are far different even though they fit in the same size glass.

Good Artificial Sweetener Article

I should be blogging more regularly soon. In the mean time, more and more press from the real world is backing up some stuff that I've been yammering on about for years. This is from yesterday's LA Times.

Researchers think the sweetener blunted lab rats' ability to burn off calories from their regular food portions.

By Denise Gellene, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 11, 2008

Casting doubt on the benefit of low-calorie sweeteners, research released Sunday reported that rats on diets containing saccharin gained more weight than rats given sugary food.

The study in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience found that the calorie-free artificial sweetener appeared to break the physiological connection between sweet tastes and calories, driving the rats to overeat.

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Lyn M. Steffen, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota, who was not involved in the latest report, said the study offered a possible explanation for the unexpected association between obesity and diet soda found in recent human studies.

Researchers have puzzled over whether diet soda is a marker for poor eating habits or diet soda ingredients cause people to put on pounds, she said. "This rat study suggests a component of the artificial sweetener may be responsible for the weight gain."

Steffen's own recent research has shown that people who drink diet soda have a higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome -- a cluster of symptoms including obesity -- than do people who drink regular soda. Her research was published last month in the American Heart Assn.'s journal Circulation.

An industry group rejected Sunday's report.

"The causes of obesity are multifactorial," said a statement by Beth Hubrich, a dietitian with the Calorie Control Council, which represents low- and reduced-calorie food and beverage marketers. "Although surveys have shown that there has been an increase in the use of 'sugar-free' foods over the years, portion sizes of foods have also increased, physical activity has decreased and overall calorie intake has increased."

The number of Americans who consume soda, yogurt and other products containing sugar-free sweeteners more than doubled to 160 million in 2000 from fewer than 70 million in 1987, according to the report. Over the same period, the incidence of obesity among U.S. adults rose to 30% from 15%.

One interpretation of the trends is that people have been turning to lower-calorie foods to control an increasing problem with weight gain.

An alternative interpretation is that artificial sweeteners lead to biological or behavioral changes that cause people to eat more. This possibility is easier to test in rats than in people because scientists can control the animals' diets and measure exactly what they eat, said the study's lead author, Susan E. Swithers, an associate professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University in Indiana.

In the experiment, funded by the National Institutes of Health and by Purdue, nine rats received yogurt sweetened with saccharin and eight rats received yogurt sweetened with glucose, which is close in composition to table sugar. After receiving their yogurt snack, the animals were given their usual chow.

At the end of five weeks, rats that had been fed sugar-free yogurt gained an average of 88 grams, compared with 72 grams for rats that dined on glucose-sweetened yogurt, a difference of about 20%. Rats fed sugar-free yogurt were consuming more calories and had 5% more body fat.

In a related experiment, scientists gave the two groups of rats a sugary drink and measured changes in the animals' body temperatures. Body temperatures typically rise after a meal because it takes energy to digest food.

The rats in the saccharin group experienced a smaller average temperature increase, scientists said -- a sign that regular consumption of artificial sweeteners had blunted their body's response to sweet foods, making it harder for the animals to burn off their extra calories.

Swithers said that normally, sweet tastes signal that the body is about to receive a lot of calories, and the digestive system prepares to react. When sweet tastes aren't followed by lots of calories, as in the case of artificial sweeteners, the body becomes conditioned against a strong response.

Although the experiment looked only at saccharin, other artificial sweeteners may have the same effect, Swithers said.

A controlled study is needed to determine whether sweeteners have the same effect in people as in rats, she said, but some epidemiological studies have been consistent with her findings.

Swithers' next step, she said, will be to determine whether dietary changes could reverse the rats' physiological responses.

Adam Drewnowski, director of the nutrition sciences program at the University of Washington, cautioned against interpreting the results broadly.

"It is unreasonable to claim that results obtained studying saccharin in rats translate to every sweetener in humans," said Drewnowski, who has received research funding from the beverage industry in the past.

He added: "We now have studies showing that sugar calories are associated with obesity and the absence of sugar is associated with obesity. Pity those people trying to do something about obesity."

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Super Bowl Sunday

I used to play football but now I could not care about it less. I haven't watched an NFL game in years and don't plan to begin today. The only thing I like about Super Bowl Sunday is that there are less people playing outdoors...

But this video is the best thing about the NFL I've seen this year, if not ever. It almost makes me want to watch the game, if just to think about how Hitler might be reacting. I do follow headlines enough to know that Tom Brady is injured, which I think is what those looks at the end are about. This (except for the 5th grade spelling errors) is incredibly well done.