July 28- August 1, 2014

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.
-Steve Jobs

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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.

  1. Be mindful of your sources. Who is publishing this? What do they have to gain?
  2. Consider methods in the research. Read the articles and take the time you need to make an informed decision.
  3. 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.
  4. Not sure what to look for when you’re reading a study?  Here are some great tips: http://healthreadings.com/scientific-research-101-tutorial/.

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.

But, how?

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.


Links We Love This Week


Silly, Unsafe Marketing Is Everywhere

Curious About Soylent? Read This

Need a Break in Your Breakfast Routine?

Let Peter Sage Motivate You!

You Like Prosciutto? I Like Proscuitto! 

Be Cognizant of Your Progress and Celebrate It!

July 21-25, 2014

CrossFit Forte Weekly Bulletin

 July 21-25, 2014

 The goal of CrossFit Forte, as both a gym and wellness community, is to provide its members with a foundation to improve their quality of life. Realizing that quality of life is ultimately shaped by the other 23 hours our members spend outside the gym each day, we found it fitting to launch a  bulletin to inform community members with posts ranging from nutrition and sleep habits to goal-setting and time management. We have an amazing community and a great platform to grow in collaboration with one another, so we look forward to exploring a diverse array of topics as well as receiving your input on this bulletin in the future. If you wish to contribute an article, or just simply have a comment or request, feel free to email us!

We’ll post two articles each bulletin, as well as a roll call of links we found insightful, useful, compelling, or all of the above.

A SMART Approach to Goal-Setting 

People join CrossFit gyms across the world seeking to improve themselves in myriad ways: enhancing energy levels, improving aesthetic appeal, increasing strength, joining a community of like-minded individuals, or striving to compete at a local, regional or national level. If we can benefit from adopting an intense fitness routine, we can easily envision the ways in which we will notice positive changes in work, in play, and otherwise.

We read articles about the benefits of vigorous exercise, fawn over testimonials of lives turned completely around by adopting CrossFit, and seek to adapt these narratives into our own lives.   However, as with most things in life, we can get sidetracked. We can get inefficient. Put plainly, we start to stagnate.  Most of us have hit this point at one point or another and its immensely frustrating. We live in a culture transfixed by the notion of instant gratification, and if we do not see results in a hurry, we can get frustrated and question our methods or program effectiveness.

This need for instant gratification often makes wholehearted, focused goal-setting very difficult. Most goals are not realized overnight and we can get frustrated when results do not manifest quickly.

To remedy this, it is helpful to think of how goal-setting works for children. You know, the beings with the shortest attention spans on the planet? If professionals found a way to give children a handle on goal setting and management that actually works, then we should take note.

We are not children, but we could learn from the simplicity of an approach that works for them. We want results that we can see quickly and we want to be able to manage our progress. For this, our goals must exhibit five characteristics: They must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable, and Time-Bound. Acronyms are helpful for kids and adults, so we will call them SMART goals from this point.

The Importance of SMART Goals

Has your boss ever given you a really vague project with no real time window for completion and no real criteria for what he or she expects? If so, you can likely understand the importance of SMART goals in the workplace and life in general. Below is a brief discussion on each SMART element and its relevance in wellness.

Gone are the days when you say that “I want to get fit” and call that a goal. This is general, relative and terribly unclear. Your idea of fit, muscular, thin, sexy, etc., will change drastically as you develop and you should plan for this. Instead of ambiguous language, try more specific, intentional wording: “I want to string together 50 double unders.” “I want to lose 4 inches in my waist size.” “I want to do 80% of the WODs as prescribed (RX).” When you do this, there is NO uncertainty about what you want to accomplish and no wiggle room for weaseling out of your commitment.

Measurable goals can be tracked. This is one element that is really helpful for students, as they can track their progress toward goals and see improvement, which keeps them intrigued and driven. For instance, while kids may monitor words read per minute and stay motivated this way, you may track your measurements in your waist and thighs each month, or your muscle-ups in 10 minutes each two weeks, or your progress toward completing 80% of WODs. You will be continuously motivated watching the numbers between your current state and your goal move closer together and if you see this is not happening, you will know to adjust and consult with your CFF coaches.

Set goals you can achieve. Nothing keeps people faithful in their commitment to achieving their goals like seeing progress from their efforts. If you have a goal to squat 450 pounds in the next two months and you currently squat 185 pounds, you are not setting an attainable goal. Why? Because two months is not enough time to make this drastic change. However, if you swallow your pride and opt to push the goal downward and think intelligently about timing, you can then set goals in subsequent time windows to get you closer to an ultimate goal of 450.

Consider the interplay of variables involved in your goal-setting formula. If you want to improve your bodyfat percentage, consider what that takes. If you think you can really achieve goals by only paying mind to WOD requirements, you are not being realistic. Nutrition and sleep account for, arguably, 80 percent of the progress you make toward your fitness goals. Working out is not enough. Don’t set goals without taking into account what you really must do to achieve them. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for disappointment and frustration.

This is where kids really thrive and where those of us who demand instant gratification blossom. Instead of saying you want to improve your squat by 150 pounds in a year, break this into manageable chunks so that you can feel some success and feed off of it. If you break this into 30 pound increments, spread out over five time-bound periods within the year, you will be able to monitor your progress toward that goals and feel victorious when you achieve smaller, checkpoint goals. Nothing makes people hungrier for success than the taste of success itself.

Implications for You

You may not care if you ever make it to the podium at Regionals, but do you want to make it to the podium of a local competition?  Do you just want to be able to compete in the Rx division?  Are you CrossFitting to supplement your training for another sport you love?  Or doing it to look better naked?  Is it simply about taking care of your body to maintain its longevity, or are you looking for a community of people to support a healthy and active lifestyle?  Think about it.  There is no wrong answer. However, whatever your answer is, setting SMART goals will undoubtedly help you get where you want to be.

Decide what you want, educate yourself, and make a plan. Don’t forget you aren’t on this journey alone. Complete our goals form here, and we can set you up for an individual Goal Consultation with a coach.


A Simple Guide to a Confounding Concept: Insulin Manipulation

People talk on a daily basis about body fat. Popular culture has warped our perception of beauty to an unrealistic degree, but it’s also forced us to consider our habits and evaluate our progress under a microscope.  Virtually everyday, I hear:

“I’m getting stronger, but I’m not losing this (grabs fat pocket for effect)!”

“I want to gain like 10 more pounds, but keep it super lean.”

“I’m just trying to drop those last 10 pounds.”

Sound like you? At some point in the past year, I bet most of you have said at least two, if not all three, of these things to yourself or someone else (no judgment, I certainly have).

The truth about getting lean is difficult to corral, as competing ideologies espouse differing notions with regard to nutrition and training. You’ve all likely bought into the idea that high intensity, constantly varied exercise is not only fun and demanding, but also effective. Score! You are a part of the way there. Now you just want to know how you can drop and continually resist unwanted fat.

Macronutrients and Glucose

When you eat, your body breaks down macronutrients (amino acids, fats, and carbohydrates) so they can be used as fuel for your body. Your liver manages the rest (thank your liver for all the booze its handled for you).

All carbohydrates (ALL carbohydrates) are broken down into glucose. Glucose is a simple sugar that is toxic in your bloodstream, so your body has devised a method of storing it in your muscle tissue as well as your liver for fuel. Excess glucose is converted into glycogen in the muscles and liver, where it is stored for fuel during arduous exercise (it is the second preferred energy source for your body aside from fat).

Still here? Recap: Glucose is a sugar from carbohydrates. Your body stores it for fuel.

 Glucose triggers a hormonal response in the pancreas, which produces the peptic hormone insulin when blood sugar (glucose) levels reach a certain level (typically over 110 mg/dl). Insulin then allows for glucose to enter into muscle and fat cells. Without insulin, your cells aren’t absorbing glucose.

This is perfect after exercise, as your cells are depleted of glucose and glycogen. An insulin “spike” after a workout is the justification for a post workout meal with both protein and carbohydrates.

Most other times, however, your cells are NOT depleted of glucose. This means that when your blood sugar spikes and your pancreas releases insulin, your cells store glucose as fat, as they are not necessary. To be clear, fat, such as butter, is not stored this way.

Recap: Insulin spikes allow glucose into your cells. This is good when your cells need it, but terrible when your cells are already full of it. If you didn’t just exercise or arise from a long night of sleep, your cells are probably full of it.


Luckily, insulin has a nemesis. While insulin prompts storage of glucose (which was obviously great when we were hunters and gatherers who would go for days without food), glucagon released by the pancreas actually allows your cells to release stored fat to be used for energy.

This release of fat occurs both during exercise (hurray, exercise!) and when blood sugars are low (hence the conflict between this and insulin). Therefore, the two essentially exist in a zero-sum balance: increases in blood sugar cause pancreatic secretion of insulin and signal a stop to glucagon secretion. When your blood sugar is low, however, your insulin levels will also be low because of the lack of excess glucose and your glucagon levels will signal a need for your stored fat to be expended to keep you alive (or get you ripped).


1.      Blood sugar is extremely important. When it is high, insulin is released. When it is low, glucagon is released.

2.      This is a big difference. Insulin allows glucose (sugar) into your muscle and fat cells. If you already have reserves of glucose, this glucose will be stored as fat. Prioritize carbohydrate consumption at times when you know your glucose and glycogen levels will be low, so your body will use them as fuel. Think mornings and after workouts. A consultation with a coach can help you determine how much and when you should be consuming your carbohydrates.

3.      Glucagon works its magic when your blood sugar is low. This is the underpinning for low-carbohydrate diet crazes. When glucagon is secreted, your body will use fat for energy.

4.      Control and be aware of your blood sugar. There is a place for healthy carbs in your diet, understanding the basic principles of this metabolic mechanism can help you to strategically place them for optimal performance and body composition.

Final note: Don’t starve yourself. Notes on that will emerge next week. Be good.


Lovable Links This Week:

Spartan Race Founder Tells All: You Should Listen

Joe De Sena inspires in an interview with Tim Ferris. Lesson: mental toughness outworks talent any day. Also, if you don’t read or listen to Tim Ferriss, start.

Intensity Is Not Just Time-Efficient, It’s Effective.

The New York Times now advocates for high-intensity exercise. Highbrow culture embraces you, CrossFitters!

No One Gets Enough Greens. Read Now!

You likely aren’t getting enough. You probably want more. Reading this would be practical for you.

Love Pizza? For Breakfast? That’s Paleo? Good.

Paleo folks love nothing more than eating things that emulate the foods they no longer eat that are the complete opposite of Paleo! You are lying if you say otherwise!

The Fringe Benefits of Failure, Delivered by Rowling

J.K. Rowling has a mindset and perspective from which we could all take a page (no pun intended). Regardless of whether or not you liked wizards (she now writes mysteries, so drop your judgment), her story and message carry major weight for reflection.

Making “Health and Fitness” Healthy for You

Popular notions surrounding health and fitness often cloud the fact that the true point of wellness is for you to lead a more sustainable, enjoyable life. If your fitness and nutrition routine is leaving you short of this, you need to reconsider what you are doing and why.