Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Eat less saturated fat: that has been the take-home message from the U.S. government for the past 30 years. But while Americans have dutifully reduced the percentage of daily calories from saturated fat since 1970, the obesity rate during that time has more than doubled, diabetes has tripled, and heart disease is still the country’s biggest killer. Now a spate of new research, including a meta-analysis of nearly two dozen studies, suggests a reason why: investigators may have picked the wrong culprit. Processed carbohydrates, which many Americans eat today in place of fat, may increase the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease more than fat does—a finding that has serious implications for new dietary guidelines expected this year.

In March the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a meta-analysis—which combines data from several studies—that compared the reported daily food intake of nearly 350,000 people against their risk of developing cardiovascular disease over a period of five to 23 years. The analysis, overseen by Ronald M. Krauss, director of atherosclerosis research at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, found no association between the amount of saturated fat consumed and the risk of heart disease.

The finding joins other conclusions of the past few years that run counter to the conventional wisdom that saturated fat is bad for the heart because it increases total cholesterol levels. That idea is “based in large measure on extrapolations, which are not supported by the data,” Krauss says.

One problem with the old logic is that “total cholesterol is not a great predictor of risk,” says Meir Stampfer, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. Although saturated fat boosts blood levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, it also increases “good” HDL cholesterol. In 2008 Stampfer co-authored a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that followed 322 moderately obese individuals for two years as they adopted one of three diets: a low-fat, calorie-restricted diet based on American Heart Association guidelines; a Mediterranean, restricted-calorie diet rich in vegetables and low in red meat; and a low-carbohydrate, nonrestricted-calorie diet. Although the subjects on the low-carb diet ate the most saturated fat, they ended up with the healthiest ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol and lost twice as much weight as their low-fat-eating counterparts.

Stampfer’s findings do not merely suggest that saturated fats are not so bad; they indicate that carbohydrates could be worse. A 1997 study he co-authored in the Journal of the American Medical Association evaluated 65,000 women and found that the quintile of women who ate the most easily digestible and readily absorbed carbohydrates—that is, those with the highest glycemic index—were 47 percent more likely to acquire type 2 diabetes than those in the quintile with the lowest average glycemic-index score. (The amount of fat the women ate did not affect diabetes risk.) And a 2007 Dutch study of 15,000 women published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that women who were overweight and in the quartile that consumed meals with the highest average glycemic load, a metric that incorporates portion size, were 79 percent more likely to develop coronary vascular disease than overweight women in the lowest quartile. These trends may be explained in part by the yo-yo effects that high glycemic-index carbohydrates have on blood glucose, which can stimulate fat production and inflammation, increase overall caloric intake and lower insulin sensitivity, says David Ludwig, director of the obesity program at Children’s Hospital Boston.

Will the more recent thinking on fats and carbs be reflected in the 2010 federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans, updated once every five years? It depends on the strength of the evidence, explains Robert C. Post, deputy director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Findings that “have less support are put on the list of things to do with regard to more research.” Right now, Post explains, the agency’s main message to Americans is to limit overall calorie intake, irrespective of the source. “We’re finding that messages to consumers need to be short and simple and to the point,” he says. Another issue facing regulatory agencies, notes Harvard’s Stampfer, is that “the sugared beverage industry is lobbying very hard and trying to cast doubt on all these studies.”

Nobody is advocating that people start gorging themselves on saturated fats, tempting as that may sound. Some monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as those found in fish and olive oil, can protect against heart disease. What is more, some high-fiber carbohydrates are unquestionably good for the body. But saturated fats may ultimately be neutral compared with processed carbs and sugars such as those found in cereals, breads, pasta and cookies.

“If you reduce saturated fat and replace it with high glycemic-index carbohydrates, you may not only not get benefits—you might actually produce harm,” Ludwig argues. The next time you eat a piece of buttered toast, he says, consider that “butter is actually the more healthful component.”


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Review Met-RX Protein Plus Bar

So I know that I am trying really hard to stay natural and eat mostly fresh ingredients. Let’s face it though, sometimes life gets in the way and we just have to make due with what’s at hand. On a typical day I will make a couple of eggs for breakfast, simple, tasty and good fuel to start the day.

On my way to work a few days back I had seen these Met-Rx bars. They were on special at Kroger and I thought, why not, perhaps pickup a couple of them and have them for an emergency meal. I am not immune to this now as I will typically keep a stash of the Atkins bars on hand for just such an event.

So reading the label it says 32g Protein and 2g Sugar. Great! I remember reading of peoples experiences to these sugar alcohol’s that included some digestive problems. The particular SA in question here was 27g of Maltodextrin. Without getting to geeky it is essentially derived from hydrolysis of starch (rice, corn, potato, etc). What you end up with is a very sweet white powder that is often used to sweeten soft drinks and best known as Splenda (mixed with sucralose).

OK, so onto my review. The bar was quite tasty however did have a bit of a bitter chalky aftertaste. I think if you regularly eat Snickers or Reese’s you would disgusted by this thing but coming from someone who has not had a bite of a candy bar in over 2 years my taste is probably less sensitive to real sugar.

So within an hour of eating this bar I found my stomach had swollen to what I was sure was 2-3 times it actual size. To avoid being completely disgusting I spent the better part of the morning seated somewhere other than my desk. After contemplating going home around 12 or so I finally started to get some relief. For the life of me I could not figure out what was wrong. I have eaten the Atkins bars enough and never had such an experience.

After discussing with a co-worker he said he would take the other bar. So I dropped it by his desk. As I was leaving work that evening I ran into him in the parking lot and he explained that he no longer wanted the bar. While reading the ingredients list he noticed some fine print that included a Warning Label. Now from my perspective I though, who the heck looks for a Warning Label on a Protein Bar.

The label reads…

Warning: This product contains sugar alcohols, which may cause gastrointestinal discomfort. Excessive consumption may have a laxative effect.

Ackk, well that explains a lot. Not sure what “excessive” meant exactly but apparently is roughly the equivalent of one bar.

Bottom line, the bar was quite tasty but no substitute for real food and I would not recommend anyone consuming without first picking up a good book or some other reading material along with some tucks for the nether region.

On On

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Papa Johns 10 Miler Race Report

A little late, but better late than never. My training has been in the toilet of late because of increased workloads at both home and work. This is not a bad thing mind you but a simple reality of anyone trying to figure out how to balance family and work with a healthy lifestyle.

Having said that I was pretty nervous heading into this race. Planned to do some hill training all winter long and just never could find the time to do any hill repeats. Just takes to much time to drive to one of the parks that offers some of the hills to work on when I can get home and just go for a run from the house and be back home in an hour, hour and a half.

In addition to not spending anytime on the hills I had really not been getting my runs in at all like I should. In my head I was doing 20 miles or so a week, but upon closer inspection of my logs I am realizing it’s closer to 12-15. Ackk, with my long runs rarely exceeding 7 or 8 miles. I begin to review my training plan that I had so carefully thought out and planned each weeks run and tried to match it up to my logs. The plan looks great but the execution was terrible. Either way, enough of that, on to the race.

We are in the process of finishing our basement and to keep on schedule with the drywall crew that was coming on Monday had taken off from work on Thursday and Friday. Going from a desk job to actual work that requires you to be on your feet, up and down ladders, stooping, bending and generally doing everything that I don’t normally do made for a long 2 days leading up to the event. My plan was to work long on Thursday and then finish up by 5 on Friday. Head to my parents for an early Easter dinner on Friday night and then get to bed early. Honestly, it all went as planned and I was in bed by 11PM that night, which is early for me.

Alarm goes off at 5:30 AM, nice aroma of freshly brewed coffee from my new machine the Wife gave me for my Birthday, thanks honey. Quick shower and then almond butter spread on a deli thin for breakfast. Downed a quick glass of water along with 2 Advil to help with hydration and then it’s time for some morning brew.

Head down to the event and have time to stop by Kroger for all to use the restroom prior to the start. Find myself staring a bottle of 5 hour energy and wondering if it would help my performance. I had tried this stuff once before but not prior to exercise and split it with my wife so that we could stay awake for date night. Pathetic, I know. So I made the decision to pick up a bottle and finished roughly half of it. Phew, that was not bad and I feel better already or at least that is what I was telling myself after committing a major race day error. NOTHING NEW ON RACE DAY! More on this later…

Off for a short warmup run of a mile or so then time to stretch. Met the family near the start and said my goodbyes. Since I have not said it yet, I love that they always come out and let me tell you some of these races have had brutal weather conditions. Cold and miserable would be an understatement. Love you guys and thanks!

I walk to the start and realize I waited to long, I am near the rear of some 7000 people. Head to the sidewalk and try working my way a little closer without much luck. Fireworks go off and now I realize that I am going to spend a good part of the beginning dodging, bobbing and weaving my way through traffic. Which is quite a bit of fun on shorter races but longer runs it takes to much energy and I just did not want to use up any excess as my terror of finishing at all was still in full affect. In addition to my typical race fears I am now starting to feel the 5 hour energy that seemed like such a good idea at the time begin to work it’s way back out of my system. Every other step has me burping this stuff up. I moved to the side of the road for fear of vomiting and continued on.

First 3 miles were going great, 8:30 pace which was right on target to finish below 1:30. Once I hit the park all bets were off. First hill was pretty uneventful. Did not pace by speed but by heart rate as I knew keeping it at or around 160 at the peak of the hills was critical to keeping me below my lactate threshold. Second hill was not quite the same challenge as the first and I managed to eek my way over the top HR now at 162. Ackk. Long slow grade down and then comes the 3rd and final hill. It was easy to see from the lack of leaves on the trees that this one extended quite a ways and eventually out of site around a bend.

Made it to the first turn of this one and had slowed to what probably looked like crawling to onlookers but thankfully I was not alone and actually managed to pass a few that had given up. Finally made the turn and could see it was still another 100 yards to the top. Quick check of the HR and I am at 172. Pondered for a moment and decided to walk it as I did not want to risk doing more damage than I already had knowing there were still roughly 4 more miles to go. Again the 5 hour energy is still trying to find a path out of my system and I debate on several occasions on whether I should just stop and ram a finger down my throat to force it out and get it over with.

About this time I pass a guy on the side of road getting medical attention and as bad as I feel I am reminded that it could be worse. Crest the hill and now HR is back down to 135 or so and I am ready to go. Legs still a little sloppy on take off but eventually they begin to cooperate and start making that familiar pendulum motion that would be runners are so reliant on. Pretty steep downhill as well so I really only need to lean forward a little to continue my decent. Great for the heart but not so much for the knees. Trying to keep my speed down I was landing pretty hard so I eventually gave in and just let my body go about as fast as it wanted to go only limiting it when I started to feel out of control.

Out of the park and back to reality. My legs were really feeling it at this point. The only thing that felt good was knowing there were only 3 miles or so to go. The wind had picked up considerably since exiting the park and the protection of the foliage and you could feel and smell the moisture in the air. As quickly as the wind picked up the rain came and it was a huge relief. As my pace picked up a bit from the cooling effect of the rain my thoughts turned to my wife and kids sitting there at end of the race waiting in what were likely miserable conditions for them.

On to the last mile and I can see that overpass that once haunted me coming up. Made the right turn to cross over the hill and my pace quickened with the sound of Rocky playing in my head. Probably looked a little foolish as I felt like I was perhaps dancing a bit on my way to the top but this little tiny overpass once forced me to stop for a rest en route to a football game. Now I am crossing over it after already running 9.5 miles.

I can see the stadium and my pain is gone. Make the last turn into the parking lot where the football team is hard at work to my right so like any fan I let out a “Go Cards!” as I pass. Then the final jaunt into the stadium and hitting the soft turf that I have spent so many Saturdays…and Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and I think even a Sunday once. Such is life of a Louisville fan, but I digress. Round the turn and hop, skip and jump on the finish. It’s over and I finished a race that had me ready to throw up the night prior. See my wife and kids along with my Brother, who also ran, and his family at the finish as well.

No time to waste as we were rushed off the field I assume to allow those other 5000 people to cross as well. Bottle of water and off to find and hug my family. I truly could not have done any of this without them there to support me. For my wife I know it has to be difficult to see me come home with lots to do and I do a quick change and back out the door I go for a run or swim. So glad she is understanding of this and supports me. Thanks Honey, I love you.

Finished in 1:34:57 pacing at 9:30. My goal was 1:30 or a 9:00 pace. However, looking back I ran this same distance on New Years day and finished a minute slower on a flat and fast course. So there had to have been some improvement. My Brother kicked my butt at around 1:26 or something. Maybe next year, for now just happy I had the opportunity to participate.

Next up, pacing my Son this Saturday for his first ever race. The Goose Creek 5K. It’s a much smaller race and if he pushes he might have the opportunity to podium. No time goals for me on this one as my only concern is that Tyler finishes and feels good and has fun.