Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Caffeine Lessens Pain Of Exercise

One of the best caffeine studies I've seen done on athletes was conducted recently and found that it reduces the pain of intense exercise. Over the years I've done a lot of experimenting with caffeine and this study is consistant with my (anecdotal) research. A couple times per year I "cycle" my coffee, weaning myself off of it and than re-introducing it. I used to do this for athletic events because I always felt it was more ergogenically effective after a layoff. This study confirms my theories in a lab setting.

Besides its helpful effects with athletes, caffeine may also be one of the keys to helping deconditioned individuals get into shape.

"One of the things that may be a practical application, is if you go to the gym and you exercise and it hurts, you may be prone to stop doing that because pain is an aversive stimulus that tells you to withdraw," Motl said. "So if we could give people a little caffeine and reduce the amount of pain they're experiencing, maybe that would help them stick with that exercise."

Here's a link to the article:

Caffeine Lessens Pain of Exercise

"more coffee, sir?"

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Keepin' It Real

One of the coolest things about our annual Summit is meeting the Team Beachbody Coaches whom I’ve worked with on the Message Boards over the years. It’s also nice to hear how many of them read this blog. I get a lot of nice compliments from anonymous readers but this year I had the best yet. Scott (I hope this is right as I was meeting a lot of people) said he appreciated my blog “for keepin’ it real”.

I was taken aback. For one, this term has become a cliché, and I try to be the antithesis of cliché. But Scott had a reason and his brief explanation made sense. In fact, it’s really the entire justification of what I do for a living. When Jon and Carl hired me to write for Beachbody—back when there were 4 employees—I wasn’t sure it was my type of gig. I write state-of-the-art fitness advice, I said, and was hesitant to pander to a marketing company for a paycheck. “You write state-of-the-art articles,” Carl said. “And if our products aren’t in line then it’ll be our job to catch up.” This I could not only live with, but live for; and it wasn’t long before I was helping create the programs I was to write about. I was hired, in fact, to keep Beachbody real. I was the “white mouse” (as one of our VP’s wife called me because I was always testing something, a supplement, diet, or type of exercise) of the office. Nothing went to the public until it had been tested by me.

When I started this blog, a few years back, I wasn’t sure what it was to become. We simply wanted to make sure that we had a presence in the new trend of viral marketing. So I started this as a place to dump content that might interest our customers but wasn’t newsletter worthy, and to record a few of my adventures. Its name, The Straight Dope, seemed to best summarize its initial theme, which was a deconstruction of marketing and media blather on health and fitness. It was also, perhaps, a pun (admittedly the lowest form of humor) on one of my favorite subjects, doping in sports.

It seems to have found its legs without too much deviation. TSD has become what I call a tertiary avenue of education of our customers. The basic level of education is our programs and articles. The second tier is our more targeted content, such as the Message Boards, WOWY, the TBB site, and my newsletter. For those looking beyond this, we offer my first person observations.

I am, and have been since I was a kid, a human lab rat. In fact, I was testing so many weird diets and supplements as a high school athlete that my mom chose nutrition as the subject of her Master’s Degree just to figure out what I was up to. It’s never stopped. I’m still exploring training theories, supplements, and diets and then test driving my body through the worst conditions I can find. It’s not always fun, in the conventional sense, but I love it, and will continue to be that guy; out there testing what the human body can endure, so you don’t have to. Real? Probably not for everyone, but it’s the real world as I know it.

above: keepin’ it real on the first ascent of white cougar.

Monday, March 23, 2009


When we think of the word carnivore we tend to think of something big and nasty with sharp teeth. With only two sharp teeth each we hardly resemble any animal that exists primarily on flesh, so should a study like this be surprising?

Study: Lots of red meat increases mortality risk

For those coherent enough to make it here this is probably stuff for the duh files, but I thought I’d point it out nonetheless. Here’s an excerpt.

Over 10 years, eating the equivalent of a quarter-pound hamburger daily gave men in the study a 22 percent higher risk of dying of cancer and a 27 percent higher risk of dying of heart disease. That's compared to those who ate the least red meat, just 5 ounces per week.

Interesting to note that these numbers, as bad as they seem, aren’t as bad as those who drank diet soda daily. I wonder if Carl’s Jr’s “burger, fries, and coke” campaign can be sued for attempted murder?

images: it's cool to be tough but even cooler when you use your brain. btw, the "download P90X for free" pop-up is from a scam site in China. We're after them but, being in China and all, it's tough from a legal perspective. Careful what you click on.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Shakeology FAQs

We've been doing a lot of q & a on Shakeology this week. I've posted my top 20 questions here:

Shakeology: 20 Questions

Personally, I try and take this stuff as my default quicky meal. I'm often in a rush and there's pretty much nothing that you can consume quickly that comes close the the nutrient base you're getting here. Unlike other, more sports related, supplements, this one doesn't need to be timed. It's just like grabbing a snack. I like a have an afternoon coffee at the local cafe. It used to be a coffee and a scone or some other goodie. Now I tend to skip the treat and have this instead. I can't gauge how this change is affecting my fitness but I managed to do all the moves on a V10 yesterday, which is something I haven't done in over a decade.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Is Aspartame Safe?

My colleague Denis was just doing some research on Aspartame and came back with "it appears to be pretty safe." Here's my opinion:

While they are "safe" perhaps, from the FDA point of view, something in diet soft drinks is leading to obesity and illness. The rates are worse than those on regular soda. We'll see how this shakes out. My guess is that these artificial sweeteners are going to end up shouldering a lot of the blame. This, however, is hard to show in this type of article because there's a lot of "safe science" out there and a a lot of money behind it making sure it trumps the negative research, which is sounding more and more like Phillip Morris' tobacco research each year. But when you now have huge, cross cultural, long term studies all pointing to the exact same direction, something in diet soda is likely worse than the hypothesis of "it probably makes you crave other sweet foods". I, for one, have had a client who contradicted this. So even though the evidence is now pretty clear, the question still remains as to which is the evil ingredient, or is it the combination.

More on this topic here,

and here.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Shakeology, Activit, and Peak Health

At the Team Beachbody Summit this weekend we launched a product we’ve been working on for a few years. It’s called Shakeology. I think it’s better served by its tag line, The Healthiest Meal of the Day.

It’s a protein shake, greens formulation, pre and probiotic supplement, anti-oxidant, phytonutrient, adaptogen, enzyme formulation all rolled into something that tastes like dessert. In short, it’s the smartest 140 calories you can put into your body.

I’ll be writing, chatting, and blogging about this formulation over the upcoming weeks. Today I’d like to begin by addressing the most popular question of the weekend: Should I keep taking my Activit (or Peak Health) along with Shakeology.

The short answer is yes, but since Shakeology has a lot of vitamins in it already, this requires further explanation.

First off, taking your vitamins with Shakeology will improve their bioavailability. It’s a perfect transport vehicle for most of your supplements. All of them, really, except for creatine, Recovery, and other sports specific supplements. As you’ve probably heard, you don’t get all the nutrients on the label of a vitamin, nor do you get all of the nutrients in the foods you eat. The better your diet is (more balanced, pH-wise, in short) the better it can utilize nutrients in the foods you eat. Shakeology will help with both.

Next we need to address the RDA. It’s important to keep in mind that the RDA for everything is targeted for a subsistence level. An active person needs more, and it can be a lot more. When we try and decide how much more we should use the example of an extreme athlete. When you’re involved in something like the Tour de France, you CAN’T consume enough nutrients in a day to recover from what you’ve done. This is why drugs are used and why doping in sports is such a problem. With this in mind it’s easy to see how someone working construction would have a vastly different RDA than a computer programmer. So you can see how RDAs have little relevance to you, especially if you’re doing something like P90X.

This is why you’ll want to continue to take your vitamins. As you get into better and better shape your nutrient needs continue to grow. The cool thing is that you get to eat more. The downside is that the harder you train the more you’re at risk for overtraining. And the best way to keep from overtraining is to eat well. The more nutrients your calories contain the better you are eating.

There’s an old sports adage that states, “There is no such thing as overtraining. There is only undereating, undersleeping, and failure of will.” With Shakeology as a component of your diet you stand a better chance of checking off, at least, one part of this equation.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Diet Switcharoo

The piece of diet advice I champion most is to eat for what you do. Here’s a good example of what I’m always yappin’ about.

My friend Trent just got back from a month of training down in Tucson. Like me, his main two sports are riding and climbing. Unlike me, he’s been focused more on climbing than riding. With my injury, I’ve been forced to change my concentration from cycling to climbing because it’s all I can do. Trent’s trip to the winter cycling Mecca that is Tucson got him more psyched on riding. The first thing he said when he get back was that he was getting too glycogen depleted and had to adjust his diet and eat more carbs. My diet, in turn, has changed in exactly the opposite way; I’m eating less carbs and a ton fewer calories.

A big problem with diet books—or diets in general—is that they tend to prescribe a single way to eat for all circumstances. It doesn’t take a genius to comprehend how you might need to eat more when you’re active than when you’re sedentary. But diet books that often recommend eating a certain way all the time, then backing it up with a lot of bizarre science, can cause a lot of conflict within our logical minds.

In the simplest sense, carbohydrates are fuel for the body. Your body doesn’t store them in its tissue unless they aren’t burned off and it’s forced to; in which case they are stored as adipose (or fat) tissue. So it stands to reason that you’ll want the amount that you consume, and hence the percentage of your daily calories, to change as your activity level changes.

Furthermore, you’re body can only store about an hour or so of glycogen (carbs converted into glucose, or blood sugar) in your blood and liver. So the longer you exercise the more carbohydrate you need to eat to replenish your blood sugar. If you run out of blood sugar during exercise you’re body is forced to tap into its tissues, both fat and muscle, for energy. This is less efficient, so you can’t perform as well and is referred to as “the bonk” in sporting terms. This is the reason that sports foods are loaded with carbohydrates (and better yet, sugar, which speeds into your system the quickest—bad at other times but good during sports).

Long, steady exercise, like cycling, requires a lot of carbohydrate replenishment throughout. If you don’t eat carbs you risk doing a lot of damage to your muscle tissue. Your body will react by first slowing you down and then forcing you to stop. Protein and fats consumed simple aren’t absorbed quick enough to do you any good during a ride. In fact, they can lead to gastric upset because they are hard to digest.

Less steady exercise, like climbing (especially bouldering and short climbs, or cragging, but not mountaineering at all), doesn’t require the same type of replenishment. Other than hiking to the crag, the work is mainly anaerobic and done in short bursts. In a day of climbing you’re not likely to extinguish you blood glycogen, even if you eat a balanced diet that is very slow to absorb, because you aren’t going at a steady state for more than an hour.

So even though they are both doing a lot of exercise, a climber can be fueled well by a diet that has a different caloric needs and ratios than a cyclist. Since the cyclist is continually burning up the calories consumed, he needs to consume more in general. And, since most of these added calories are carbs, it makes sense that two perfectly fit athletes would have vastly different macro-nutrient needs. Hence, the old diet switcharoo.

pics: beata and i ready for some pizza, bob's no-carb except beer diet; they all work, depending on what you do.

Thursday, March 05, 2009


“If I’m ever on the fence about whether or not to train, I always try and opt for more rest.”

I’m a patient teacher but not a patient athlete. There are days when this little back affliction isn’t very fun, and today is one of those. It’s beautiful out right now and I’m stuck inside, trying to get my head around the fact that the best training I can do is a little passive stretching followed by icing. Ugh.

I wanted to concoct a training program but the reality of my situation is that I can’t. Each day is an evaluation as to what I can and cannot do. So some days I can push, and others I just can’t, or at least shouldn’t. Last night my back hurt so day is a mandatory rest day, even though I’m feeling quite good at the moment. The quote above is from me, btw. This is a mantra that I struggle with when I’m healthy. Imagine what I’m going through now.

Yesterday, I managed to clean up and then nab the first ascent of a traverse—not easily done in these parts. I should be happy with that. But I’m not. I’m restless. I want to head into the mountains, disappear, run, and explore. But I can’t. Not yet. Patience, dammit, patience!

pic: Road House, Deaf Smith Canyon, Utah. "Pain don't hurt."

Monday, March 02, 2009

Sports Day

We leave for France in a little over a month. The trip has already altered from its original scope; from heaps of training to leisurely riding and climbing while hanging with friends. But those friends will be fit and it’s time to test my back a little bit and try and gain a little form for the trip, if for no other reason than to know how to plan the trip. My back survived a rather arduous road/work escapade, so now it’s time to put it through a block of training. Tomorrow I’ll concoct a preparatory phase. In order to get an idea of what this phase can contain, today Romney and I had a little sports day.

My friends and I have been doing these for years. They consist of combining a lot of different sports into a single day. They can be silly, such as the “vortex weekend” where Todd, Reed and I combined running, bouldering, and riding with soccer, whiffle ball, tennis, some other stuff I can’t remember along with a lot of beer drinking and watching more football “than I have in my life,” according to Reed. Or they can be rugged. Birthday Challenges are often sports days, like this.

Today’s was more modest in scope. It would, however, harbor some important firsts for the year. Since my injury it would be my first bike ride, run, ski, and warrior pose. We would also throw in some climbing so I could actually feel like I was getting a workout.

We began doing yoga, where warrior pose didn’t bother me at all. Being tentative, I didn’t push this much and pushing a yoga session—primarily a lot of time in various stages of warrior—is what exacerbated my original injury to the emergency room stage.

It went well, so we packed the car with ski stuff n’ dogs and heading up Mill Creek. Romney’s been skiing all winter so she zoomed ahead with Copper and Beata while trailed with Ratso, working on slow and calculated movements. Icy conditions weren’t perfect and slips were scary, but it caused me to focus on breathing and posture, doing each step with a rigid core. One positive thing about injuries is that they often shift your focus and end up improving your technique. The downhill concerned me because of the ice. I really didn’t want to fall but I also didn’t want to have to take off my skis and walk. It went a little easier than expected. My back was tight but, after a few extending postures in the parking lot, I was ready for the next sport.

Back home, I dusted off the tandem, lubed her up, and filled the tires. At some point on the ride Romney said, “I like when you’re out of shape. It’s so much easier.” Sad, because I wasn’t trying to go slow, but my leg muscles have atrophied a lot in two months. Cycling fitness comes and goes quickly, so I was expecting this. The up side was that the riding was fine. The hardest thing was throwing my leg over the bike, and it wasn’t that hard. I think I can start riding.

Next we went for a run—a short run. My foot is still numb and running is going to take a while, I think. It didn’t hurt but I do worry about the lack of feeling affecting my cadence and leading to an injury. The run itself was easy but afterwards I sat down and almost fell asleep. So far, I’d done what normally would amount to a warm-up and I was getting worked. The upside was that after the run my foot felt better than before. So maybe I need to run.

Next we went up to the G-Spot, where I made some progress on my project and Romney linked about two-thirds of the upper traverse. I’m more psyched on climbing than I’ve been on years, and it was a great way to end the day. Despite my enthusiasm at the boulders, I can barely write this and think there’s no way I’m making it through the movie that’s on tonight’s agenda. Sports day accomplished.