CrossFit Forte Weekly Bulletin
July 28-August 2, 2014
New Members! Please welcome new members Andrew Chapman, Emily Kerr, FQ (Faeq Abdulrahim), Mike Reynolds, Allison Sui, Tyler Ricker, Brittany Wilkey, Mike Schultz, and Mark Hammervold. Be sure to introduce yourself if you see them!
Last week, we posted some material on goal setting and the foundations of SMART goals. We also discussed the importance of managing blood sugar levels in an effort to manipulate body fat. This week, we issue a word of caution for consuming information online. Further, we dive into some common problems that can arise when we take calorie restriction too far and offer recommendations to avoid these pitfalls.
When Knowing a Little is Worse Than Knowing Nothing
There are downsides to everything; there are unintended consequences to everything. The most corrosive piece of technology that I’ve ever seen is called television – but then, again, television, at its best, is magnificent.
The same assessment could be made about another, perhaps more pervasive and innovative piece of technology: the Internet.
I’ll be the first to say that I laud the Internet for the gaps it bridges and the opportunities it creates. No longer is a platform for speech reserved solely for established persons of power or self-proclaimed “experts.” No longer is information only available to those willing to pay immense sums for it.
While this and more is true of the positive benefits the web provides, a horrid consequence has also manifested: ANYONE can say ANYTHING and be perceived as knowledgeable by those who do not know any better. Now, more than ever, we are reading reports and studies conducted and propagated by novices, whose poor logic and methods are guiding our decision-making. In the results-oriented culture of health and fitness, this trend is especially prevalent.
What does this have to do with me?
1. Everyone is now an expert, regardless of what he or she knows.
We all have a friend who “read an article this week.” This individual confuses reading something with being “well read” on a subject and uses an online journal article as evidence that he is right and you are wrong. If you are not careful, you are at risk of succumbing to “I read it, so it must be true” logic and reasoning. Be careful when doing this, consider sources and ask for details and justification when someone tries to teach you something he or she may not even know.
2. “Science” is often “Bad Science”
A “study” designation next to a claim on the Internet, no matter how ridiculous, holds a tremendous amount of weight in the average person’s consciousness. If there were a study on it, whatever conclusion reached must be reasonable and definitive.
This is not true. Experiments are conducted daily with shoddy research methods for the sake of confirming a previously held view on the part of the researchers themselves or a funding entity that actually wanted the study done in the first place. This is certainly not the case in good studies or in respectable academic circles, but it is not as uncommon as you may think. Consider a recent TED talk by Benjamin Goldacre, who humorously nails bad science to the wall.
Consider methods. If you read an article that cites a “study,” read the study for yourself. Journalists and news media outlets are more likely to accept and love to report on results that align with their views. This is called confirmation bias. Also consider other questions: Were the study’s participants representative of society as a whole? Were the treatment and control groups similar to one another, so that the results are most certainly not the result of initial differences? Were there any differences in the environments of the treatment and control groups, aside from the treatment itself? An example below highlights these issues.
PROTEIN POWDERS: Protein powder studies are often humorous. “John gained 30 pounds of lean muscle in 12 weeks on AminoBlastProSwole3000, while Phil gained zero pounds and still looks bloated.” Why should you be at least a little cautious?
- Are Phil and John even similar in the first place? Do they work out the EXACT same way? Do they eat the EXACT same things? Are the basically IDENTICAL before introduction to the protein powder? Doubtful.
- During the protein powder experiment, what are John and Phil doing? Are they doing the exact same things aside from John taking protein while Phil is not? If there is any other difference in their routines, can we really say that the protein is causing the difference after 12 weeks?
- If we are simply looking at John, is he doing the exact same things for those 12 weeks that he was doing prior to taking the protein? If not, is it fair to say the protein caused those gains?
Read studies and ask yourself: Is the result reported in this journal what the study actually says? Am I being taken advantage of here? Are media outlets simply trying to show results when there aren’t results to show?
3. Science, Even Good Science, is Always Evolving
We have a developing understanding of science. What is true today was likely not true ten years ago, in the eyes of “experts.” If you read an article saying that something is “proven” to be good or bad, be really cautious. We have unequivocally proven very little, so an article touting some correlation between a positive health outcome and supplementation with a type of food should be taken as what it is: a correlation, with perhaps a bit of influence. Causation is entirely different and should not be confused. Realize that our understanding is fluid. Keep yourself informed, but beware of absolutes.
Beware of the “conclusions” drawn from these studies. Correlation is not causation.
4. We Look Online for Guidance
This is obvious. Of course we do, as there is a wealth of incredible knowledge online that you can access easily and free of charge. We seek results and we want guidance in achieving them, so we want to see proof that things actually work. Let’s be honest, we seldom read articles that start with the headline “________ has no definitive role in metabolic processes, including muscle building, fat loss or general health.” A result that basically says “we are not sure” is not sexy and is not likely to be read. Therefore, it is also not likely to be published on your favorite fitness and nutrition websites. Be mindful of this. There is probably a reason why most articles you see online are touting positive results.
The Internet is amazing. Learn all you can. However, mindfully read the studies in their entirety if you really wish to implement a change in your life based on a research finding. Think about it: Is a 200-word article in “BIGNTUFF” magazine all the proof you need to alter your life habits?
Be careful and selective in your information consumption.
- Be mindful of your sources. Who is publishing this? What do they have to gain?
- Consider methods in the research. Read the articles and take the time you need to make an informed decision.
- Use your head. Adding one food to your diet is not likely to change your life. Lifestyle management and maintenance is key to success and major claims about single ingredients are often overstated.
- Not sure what to look for when you’re reading a study? Here are some great tips: http://healthreadings.
At the end of the day, use the material you find online to start conversations. Explore validity of findings with friends and consult your coaches when uncertain. Eat real food, drink lots of water, sleep a lot, minimize stress, eliminate negative influences, and exercise regularly. These are the tips that will guide you time and again.
Why You Cannot Afford to Skimp on Sleep
Our society prizes the notion of tireless work toward goals and the unending pursuit of results in spite of personal discomfort. The more you can deny yourself for the sake of your work (or your boss), the better you are as a professional. If you don’t, someone else will, right? Surely the one who sleeps the least is working the most. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” some say. When we are young, we feel invincible, recover quickly, and can get away with regular all-nighters and erratic sleep patterns. Eventually though, the people who live by the “sleep when I’m dead” mantra will suffer for it. These people are not likely the pictures of health you want to be and this behavior will have consequences, whether they are insulin resistance (diabetes), high stress (cortisol levels), mental dullness, depression, weight gain, or simply a terrible mood.
While a selfless work ethic admirable (most people have pulled an all-nighter to close a project or ensure success on a final exam), burning the candle at both ends, so to speak, is woefully unhealthy and should be avoided. I trust you are concerned with mental alertness and capacity, physical recovery and immune support, and weight management; therefore, it is critical that you ensure your body gets the necessary eight hours each night.
What Happens During Sleep
During the initial stages of sleep, the non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) stages, your body heightens its production of growth hormone, regenerates muscle tissue and enhances immune system function. This is vital (obviously) and occurs in four separate phases between which your body can switch back and forth over the course of your first 90 minutes of sleep.
Rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep) is most essential for mental functioning and inadequate REM sleep will likely bring the punishment of poor mental acuity the next day (or several days). During this stage, your brain’s functions are restored.
So What? I Crush Coffee Like It’s My Job
Good for you. I fall into this camp more than I should, but I certainly don’t feel like even the best morning Joe is a viable substitute for strong sleep. Operating in the absence of sleep has major consequences and I will emphasize just two broad themes in this brief post: physical health and mental function.
Physically speaking, you deprive your body of its opportunity to recover when you sleep less or sleep poorly. Your workouts will likely leave you more sore than they would otherwise, your muscle gains will likely be diminished and you will be more vulnerable to injury. This is because you will not be reaping the regenerative benefits of sleep, such of growth hormone secretion. Further, you will be more subject to illnesses that could further damage your training. Have you ever had a week-long bender or study session that ended with a nasty head cold or a sore throat? This is not coincidental. Further, there is lots of evidence out there supporting a strong correlation between insulin resistance and prolonged sleep deprivation. Insulin resistance results in weight gain (fat gain) and Type II diabetes in some cases.
As if that weren’t enough to influence you to go to bed…
Mentally, you are less alert and effective on your feet because your brain is not able to utilize valuable recovery time. Further, your brain is in a restorative state during sleep that supports memory function. You may feel slow, foggy, forgetful, stressed, or simply distracted. You think you are pleasing your boss, or paving the way for heightened productivity, but you are simply depriving yourself of the tools you need to actually operate on a high level. While you may get a bit more done tonight, you will likely notice consequences of this behavior if you exhibit it often. Your colleague who never sleeps and always works may be a rock star now, but this is not sustainable.
What’s the point of habits, anyway? Should they be behavioral patterns that drive us to demise or should they instead be actions that improve our effectiveness and quality of life? I choose the latter.
Most people know that sleep is important and really value its benefits, but go about getting their sleep in a very ineffective manner. This is common and not really our fault, as much of what we do in the technologically advanced, productivity-focused 21st century is not conducive to restful sleep at night.
First, disengage yourself from electronic devices before bed. The blue hues on a computer or smart phone screen emulate the early morning and can confuse your body and mind into thinking you need to be awake. Electronic stimulation, such as TV, is also conducive to fitful or otherwise poor sleep. Next, limit your evening stress. Try to get things done before late at night, so that you do not go to bed without a million and one commitments on your mind. Finally, read something that makes you relax. Contemporary news and market analyses do not qualify. Read some easy, page-turning fiction to lull your brain into a relaxed state.
Once you start getting the sleep you need, you’ll notice it in every facet of your life. You will feel, look, and perform better. The benefits will manifest in the gym, at home, at work and anywhere else you spend your time.
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