Health and Longevity: The Most Impactful Changes Are The Simplest

During this year’s PaleoFX conference, I had the opportunity to eat and shoot the shit with one Ben Greenfield. More importantly, I had the opportunity to do the same with his wife, Jessa. Great people, super passionate about helping people improve their lives and health, and a lot of fun to be around when fish skins are part of the menu.

Ben knows a LOT about the human body. He’s also part of a small cohort of people I know who have willingly had needle biopsies done just to see how many mitochondria their muscle tissue has added as a result of being in chronic ketosis (Ben has, if I recall correctly, triple the mitochondria in his muscle tissue as your average bear). He considers himself an “ancestral athlete” but doesn’t attempt to live in a cave or only train body weight because of it. He sums this up in his article: “The 10 Rules of the Ancestral Athlete.” Note, there are likely some borderline Not Safe For Work photos on that website. However, the article is great and is a long form version of something Doug McGuff likes to say:

Fred Flintstone diet with a George Jetson workout.

Ben has done a LOT of experimentation to push the limits of health and performance, much in the same way any Olympic athlete does building up to the Olympics every four years. However, Ben is curious about the outcome, as his paycheck isn’t nearly as large for all the noodling he’s wont to do. Truth be told, we’re all nerds about this stuff, but the reality is that very little of the nerding amounts to any significant improvements in health and longevity over getting the simple stuff done, consistently. Take a look below, where I plot the time/effect interval for a variety of health marker improvements that result from exercise:

Exercise per week

The curves are fairly steep: doing enough, regularly, leads to the largest changes in health outcomes. After that, it’s a lot of mental masturbation for a paltry change in outcomes. In numbers above, you have to train 350% more per week to achieve 28% more result over what 1 hour each week gets you. If you’re an Olympic athlete looking for performance, that’s worth it. But if you’re not, that’ s a waste of time, especially when you factor in all of the wear and tear that comes with that effort.

Ben even admits as much in the article. He talks about how his wife is very laissez-faire about her training and how much better it is for health:

I’m not arguing that there’s no value to rigidity, self-control, knowledge, and self-discipline, but I suspect that if we both stay on the same path, my wife will probably outlive me and have a higher quality of life in the process.

If you didn’t read the article, the context is that Jessa trains when she feels like it, eats real food when she’s hungry, and doesn’t stress about it. But she does these small things regularly with big result. She’s in great shape.

It’s the simple changes that result in the biggest health outcomes long term. This is why restrictive diets are an abject failure in the research world, why so many people hate “training,” and why this country is in really poor condition. It’s also why those who did the simple habits regularly in the Alameda 7 Study or the Blue Zones are those living the longest.

Simple is not easy, but it’s a whole mess easier than making things really complicated not much more gain.

 

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

The Elderly Need More Exercise? Yes And No.

stephen-jepson

 

An interesting discussion over at Doug McGuff’s message board regarding exercise and aging. This comment was of interest:

I suggest that the sedentary elderly require more exercise, not less. I am one such. A few minutes a week is not going to do it for sarcopenia or anything else. If I train once a week I cannot maintain my condition, strength,metabolic benefit, motivation or momentum. Nor can you if the rest of the time you are inactive.

Here was my response to this statement:

And I disagree; I think the elderly need more activity, not exercise. Further, the health education research is clear: in the elderly, physical activity and self-efficacy track side by side. The more confident a person is in their abilities, the more physically active they are; the more physically active they are, the more confident they are in their abilities.

If you make a person stronger in your studio, they’re more confident in their ability to do other activities. This is what Doug talks about when he says people want to move more after training for a number of months. Get strong and you’ll get more active relative to your starting lifestyle.

I’ll even make it a nice soundbite: have you ever heard the phrase “a stronger athlete is a better athlete?” The same is true of human beings throughout aging, that is a stronger human is a better (more active, more healthy, more resistant to cancer/metabolic disease/disability) human. (Emphasis mine…just now!)

There is a nugget of wisdom in there that I want people to pay attention to: “relative to your starting lifestyle.” If a person is doing zip and they start a once per week strength training routine that then leads them to take leisurely strolls because they enjoy it, they’re going to do a whole lot better for themselves compared to where they started as far as disease prevention and injury risk reduction. If you had a crazy triathelte at the same advanced age add the same dose of exercise, it wouldn’t make much of a difference. There’s a survivorship bias discussion that will be addressed another time, but here’s my advice: don’t take advice from an endurance athlete who has been training “all of their life” as the gospel…there’s more at play than just hard work!

I digress; elderly individuals should look at their training as an upside-down oil funnel: the widest, part is going to be activity that is very low in intensity but very high in frequency. It seems this is where one can start making a semantic argument that this too is “exercise.” However, it’s really just being a good human animal and setting a functional path: if you move a certain way today, you’ve got a good chance of moving that way tomorrow. The middle part of the funnel is going to be mobility work as maintaining joint free range of motion is paramount for maintaining activity levels. When looking at barriers to exercise, the less mobile people are, the larger their barriers to exercising become. For example, those with mobility limitations cite “poor health, fear and negative experiences, lack of company, and an unsuitable environment as barriers to exercise…”. Performing joint mobility work for 10-20 minutes a day, hell even starting at 5 minutes per day, when mobility is still pretty good will go a long way to maintaining mobility, which maintains activity levels and exercise efficacy. Finally, the tip of the funnel is exercise training, preferably of a high intensity nature. Muscle is the most plastic tissue in the body, the largest endocrine organ we have, and creating a sufficient degree of demand will improve all aspects of a person’s physiology. By its nature, it cannot be sustained for very long and requires a prolonged recovery period. That’s fine, as it means more time for the activities the person would rather be doing, which is going to set the table for continuing to do the activities until the day they die. All good stuff!

So no, the elderly do not need more exercise; they need just enough exercise to produce a body that feels good doing lots of physical activity that a person would rather be doing. Maybe this advice will produce a few more Stephen Jepsons in the world and how cool would that be?

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

“Focus in, y’all”

rocks

We live in a world where we are forced to be externally attentive, to focus on things outside of ourselves, be it mind or body. Part of what makes Efficient Exercise so efficient is that we’re concentrating the stimulus to maximize the result. Another component of the maximization process is creating a space where the effort of a client can be maximized via the environment. I discussed this in my post about keeping it cold.

Another component of this is the use of having a client sit still when they first come in the gym. The vast majority of the day, people are running around like chickens with their heads cut off. To combat this, I typically have a client just. Sit. Still. Really. I stick them on the first piece of equipment they’ll be using, tell them to “Focus. Leave everything else outside during this workout.” While they do that, I set up the rest of the workout. In my studio, there is no music, do other trainers, and the only distraction is the line of people in the Popeye’s drive-thru across the street. Total aside: you wouldn’t believe the number of Bentley and Rolls Royces I’ve seen in that drive-thru. Money doesn’t always buy the finer things in life!

Anyway, what I’ve found with clients is that those who do this have much better workouts than those who do not. If a client is late for whatever reason and cannot just sit still for a bit before their workout, they tend to have a lower quality, lower control workout. They’re already thinking about their next “thing” because they’re late. As a result, their subjective workout quality suffers.

There is some research to indicate that the use of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) facilitates increased physical activity, but so far as I can tell there’s no peer-reviewed studies on the effect of MBSR on workout performance. Further, there are some individuals who have tried to combine the two into a system of sorts (“Focus Intensity Training” comes to mind), but performing BBS or a Slow/HIT has a large swath of mindfulness at its creamy center: you have to be mindful of your breathing, mindful of your turnarounds, mindful of your speed, mindful of your tendencies to wiggle and want to heave, mindful of your behavior near fatigue…basically you’re mindful the whole time.

The thing is that if you don’t start by just slowing down before the workout, you’re trying to catch up. It’s like the exercise is happening to you rather than you facilitating the exercise. So take a moment before your next workout to focus in, y’all. Not some sort of long meditation; just sit quietly focusing on your breathing with the intent of being fully present for your workout. It’ll do you well.

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

“Why do you keep it so COLD in here?!”

At my studio, we keep things pretty cold. Anywhere from 64 to 68*F throughout the year. You’d likely wonder what’s the point, as most places seem to be encouraging more heat: hot room yoga, Xfit boxes with the bay doors open in summer, boot camps in the screaming summer sun, etc. It’s rather different compared to these other places, so what’s the deal?

During my first certification and job, it was basically “People work harder in the cold.” That was the answer I got, and while true, it didn’t tell me why they were able to work harder in the cold. It was sort of a “handed down from on high” commandment; I wanted the science. And during graduate school I found it.

While probably not the first researcher to study this, the man whose research work is most focused on exercise and environment is Lars Nybo. His research has dealt with how hyperthermia (exceedingly warm conditions in the human body) changes muscle function, brain function, and human performance. I’m going to discuss a little slice of his research and then provide the bigger picture for EE clients.

In his study, “Hyperthermia and central fatigue during prolonged exercise in humans” Nybo demonstrates how hyperthermia changes force output, regardless of fatigue. Two groups of trainees cycled for 1 hour in either a thermoneutral environment, or a hyperthermic environment. After 1 hour of exercise, the trainees were then put on a knee extension machine and encouraged to exert as hard as possible to measure the force output of the thigh musculature. Take a look at the result:

F3.large

So what the heck are you looking at? The top graph (“A”) shows the rate of force output decline difference between the hyperthermic group and the thermoneutral (control) group. Also in that graph, you can see lines that spike up from the trending measure line, which is where the researchers actually electronically stimulated the tissue to measure it’s true maximum force output. Remember: muscle force is not just what the tissue can actually produce, but also what the central nervous system will allow or is capable of at the moment. You can see this difference in graph B, where the hyperthermic group is significantly less forceful compared to the control, as far as a percentage of what the tissue is capable of producing. Finally, the third graph (“C”) shows the surface measure of muscle activation; again, a clear reduction, thus reduced force.

So what this shows is that the hotter the environment is, the less forceful the muscular contractions are, NOT because the tissue is less capable but because the central nervous system is reducing force output or work. This makes sense: the harder (or more) the work, the more heat produced. The already hyperthermic environment means that hyperthermia is a very real threat, so your body “turns down the volume” to keep that from happening.

In the context of training, there are a LOT of variables that are trying to be optimized during a session. If you’re going to only train once or twice per week in a “formal” fashion, the environment needs to be optimized as best as possible for the task. By keeping the room cool, not only are we able to appeal to those who don’t like sweating, we’re also able to facilitate harder work. This deeper stimulus is what allows us to have less frequent workouts with the same, or better, result. It’s not arbitrary: the cold is a big reason why we’re so efficient.

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

 

More on Chronic Cardio and Longevity

This is a bit of a follow up to a comment that was left on the blog post “Central Versus Peripheral Adaptations.” A reader named Craig left the following comment:

After reading lots of blog posts on strength oriented web sites about how “cardio” and “aerobics” aren’t really that great for improving cardiovascular condition, I was surprised by the first chart on central adaptions. It sure looks like cardio does excel at “pumping up” the heart muscle….

For those who missed the graph in said post, take a look:

Heart Volume

Those abbreviations are for various physical dimensions of the heart muscle. And Craig is correct in that when you look at just these measures, cardiorespiratory activity looks really, really great for the heart. These measures are what Dr. James O’Keefe would call “structural cardiovascular changes” and “elevations of cardiac biomarkers.” The literature calls this the “Athlete’s Heart.” The problem is that everything looks good on the outside, but there is more to heart health than the size of the muscle. What about function?

Long term, long distance training is associated with a number of negative changes to the heart, including:

  • patchy myocardial fibrosis
  • increased susceptibility to atrial and ventricular arrhythmias
  • coronary artery calcification
  • diastolic dysfunction
  • large-artery wall stiffening

And to that list increased coronary artery plaque volume. In a study published in April in the The Journal of the Missouri State Medical Association, researchers found that middle-aged males who had run at least 25 marathons (1 marathon/year) had “paradoxically”  nearly double the total plaque and calcified plaque volumes, and nearly 1.5 times the non-calcified plaque volume when compared to an age-matched control group.

The problem in largely similar to the above: they “look” fit, and therefore the public assumes this confers a health advantage. In this study, the runners had lower resting heart rates, Body Mass Index, and triglyceride levels than the sedentary controls. So they also win the “what is your cholesterol?” game. As shown above, your cholesterol can be really, really great,but it’s the wrong measure to be using in this population to determine the health and function of the cardiac system.

Being fit and exercising confers a health benefit, but leveling off of these benefits from exercise happens in very short order. Take a look:

Dose-Response Exercise

So the first and larger drop in health problems (the steepest lines on the left) occur with less than an hour of exercise per week. After that you may start to look better but the health benefits have dropped off considerably. This is why we focus on this space at Efficient Exercise.

Finally, if it seems like I’m picking on Cardiorespiratory training, don’t assume that resistance training doesn’t have it’s own problems. Joint and soft tissue problems also track with increased lifting volume and tonnage, which is why the “beat up old weight lifter” is much more common than the “80 year old powerlifter who has trained all of his life.” The dose makes the poison: running 5k and 10k distances are far less likely incur the damage mentioned above, just as lifting once or twice a week for half an hour is far less likely to incur the soft tissue problems I just noted.

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

 

 

 

Resistance Training: The Force Multiplier for Older Trainees

93-Year-Old-Bodybuilder-Started-Lifting-Weights-at-87-3

I recently had a discussion with Dr. Trey Milligan, owner of Sciencefit in Edmond, Oklahoma. He sent me an article regarding protein intake in the elderly. This specific study indicated that, in older individuals, carbohydrate is required with protein to maximize protein synthesis. More simply: without carbs, protein’s effect on lean tissue was reduced. His concern was that, given his population (older trainees), he wanted to ensure that his dietary recommendations were in line with the prevailing research. Let’s gently dig into this and then I’ll give my conclusion.

Aging can bring with it a host of negative adaptations, such as osteoporosis, sarcopenia, diabetes, and cognitive decline to name a few. The assumption here is that what is common is what is normal. The fact of the matter is that while there is some amount of decline with age, the degree to which this decline occurs is largely within our control. Our body is supremely adaptable to that with you do, or do not, do. So if you move, your body will better equip your ability to move. Similarly, if you don’t move, your body will make you better at not moving. It is that latter that leads to what are referred to as “hypokinetic diseases.” That is, a lack of movement and the diseases that result, like the ones listed above.

In this population, the sedentary older individuals, the amount of insulin required to create a maximally productive environment for protein synthesis requires more insulin. It’s a wonderfully circular situation: if you are inactive, you lose muscle tissue, which reduces your insulin sensitivity because muscle is where glucose is primarily stored. So less, untrained tissue means less insulin sensitivity. Simultaneously, less muscle means less blood flow to the muscle. The way in which insulin increases protein synthesis is indirectly via vasodilation (enlargement of the vascular strutures in muscle tissue).  The only way to overcome this is to increase the amount of insulin for a given dose of protein to maximize that effect in the available vascular structures and muscle tissues.

Here’s the thing: this is not destiny. The research has shown again and again that it is inactivity, NOTaging, that is responsible for this effect. There is no difference in the insulin sensitivity of younger and older individuals with similar activity levels. Further, resistance training is a beautiful “hack” to increase insulin sensitivity very quickly. Regardless of starting insulin sensitivity, a single bout of resistance training increases insulin sensitivity. Endurance exercise doesn’t do this to as large a degree, owing to the intensity required to sustain it.

Coming full circle, if an older individual lifts weights, do they need to increase their carbohydrate intake to maximize protein synthesis via increased insulin levels? No, no they don’t. The ability to synthesize new muscle tissue is largely a function of how and how often muscle tissue is used. Regardless of the age of a trainee, if the muscle tissue is being used aggressively on a sufficiently regular basis, they’ll synthesize as much muscle protein as a younger trainee.

Age ain’t nothin’ but a number.

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

The Healing Power of Touch

manual_therapy1

 

I’m a fan of systems, or at least systems thinking. Organizing ideas into a cohesive structure makes the application of the ideas more targeted and appropriate, especially when exercise and health are the goal. Having said that, I think that we’re a long way off from a total understanding of the nuances of anatomy, physiology, neuromuscular physiology, etc. to be able to determine the “best” system (though evidence points us in the right direction).

I often demonstrate this notion by stating that the only undefeated team in the history of the NFL used the Nautilus system of training, ergo Nautilus is the best training system for football teams that want to win. This isn’t true necessarily but it demonstrates how much such declarative statements are at least inaccurate.

An extension of any training program is the regenerative components of the program. At EE Westlake, I use a sufficient volume of soft tissue work, the Med-X Super Stretch, and the Back Revolution to help clients feel their best. I’ve found good success with this but I’m not convinced it is because of any “magic” in my system; rather I think it’s just the fact that I am paying attention to these at all.

Example: Dr. Craig Bueller, founding of Advanced Muscle Integration Techniques, claims that during his tenure at the Utah Jazz, his teams had “lowest ‘Player Missed Games due to Injury Rate’ of any team in the NBA for 25 years.” Juxtapose that with Gray Cook, PT who is one of the developers of the Functional Movement Screen. The Atlanta Falcons claim that their reduced injury rate has been a direct result of using the Functional Movement Screen to assess the body before an injury can occur.

So if one system is better than the other, why do both produce a result of reduced injuries? It could be the luck of the draw: some seasons have less injuries no matter the system. However, I think it is the fact that there is someone paying attention to trying to heal you as a human.

A great article out of Wired magazine discusses this phenomena. Titled “Dr. Feelgood” in the mag but “Forget the Placebo Effect: It’s the ‘Care Effect’ That Matters” on the internet, Nathanael Johnson discusses a sham acupuncture treatment creating results:

We’ve known for decades that when sick people are given a treatment, even if it’s just a sugar pill, their condition often improves. But that can’t be the whole story, if only because the size of the effect varies wildly from one study to the next. One clue to a better answer is found in research led by Ted Kaptchuk at Harvard Medical School: Patients with irritable bowel syndrome were told they’d be participating in a study of the benefits of acupuncture — and one group, which received the treatment from a warm, friendly researcher who asked detailed questions about their lives, did report a marked reduction in symptoms, equivalent to what might result from any drug on the market. Unbeknownst to them, the researchers used trick needles that didn’t pierce the skin.

Now here’s the interesting part: The same sham treatment was given to another group of subjects — but performed brusquely, without conversation. The benefits largely disappeared. It was the empathetic exchange between practitioner and patient, Kaptchuk concluded, that made the difference.

What Kaptchuk demonstrated is what some medical thinkers have begun to call the “care effect” — the idea that the opportunity for patients to feel heard and cared for can improve their health.

Clients who don’t have a doctor ask me if I know any good ones. I know of one or two but none locally who are primary care. I tell them, “Find a DO; at least they’re good at touching and figuring out what is wrong.” This healing touch of the physician, the laying of the hands, is a lost art. There are far more sophisticated tests, but the touch was only part of the diagnosis; it was a reminder that someone was there for you, caring for you.  Dr. Abraham Verghese of Stanford University agrees, which is why he’s trying to bring back the lost art of the physical:

He came to know many of his patients and their families. He visited their homes, attended their deaths and their funerals. One patient, near death, awoke when Dr. Verghese arrived, and opened his shirt to be examined one last time.

“It was like an offering,” Dr. Verghese said, with tears in his eyes. “To preside over the bed of a dying man in his last few hours. I listen, I thump, I don’t even know what I’m listening for. But doing it says: ‘I will never leave you. I will not let you die in pain or alone.’ There’s not a test you can offer that does that.

So my point is this: care is part of treatment, not only in medicine, but in exercise, health, and longevity. Some call it the placebo effect, but we’re fantastically adaptable creatures…maybe the fact that someone is caring (and not doing something that can hurt you in the process) is enough to help supercharge healing and recovery. Readers, it would behoove you to take advantage of this whenever you’re in need.

 

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

Fun With Numbers: Fat Intake and Life Expectancy

Now, as much as I love the idea of The Economist (the magazine, not Ben Bernanke), I’ve never actually read a full issue. An informal survey of my (relatively affluent, highly intellectual, very good looking) client base confirms that nobody on planet Earth has read a whole issue of The Economist. I believe there is a job that pays just to read the whole issue every week.

That said, every year The Economist does us a solid and releases the “Pocket World in Figures” which has all sorts of crazy stats, like who had the highest rate of inflation (Belarus, 59.2%) or who produces the most cocoa (Côte d’Ivoire, 1,486,000 tons). However the figures that I’m interested in are fat consumption and longevity per country.

There is a list of countries by fat consumption, noting who has the highest average  percent in the world. It looks like this:

  1. Australia 41
  2. France 41
  3. Spain 41
  4. Belgium 40
  5. Bermuda 40
  6. Cyprus 40
  7. Iceland 40
  8. Italy 40

Now if we compare their fat intake to their life expectancy in years (and rank) it looks like this:

7. Australia 82.1 yrs

8. Iceland 82.0 yrs

Italy 82.0 yrs

11. Spain 81.8 yrs

12. France 81.7 yrs

21. Bermuda 80.8 yrs

33. Belgium 80.0 yrs

36. Cyprus 79.9 yrs

Now unfortunately they do not list the fat intake for all countries, but this begs the question: how can similar fat intake result in such different life expectancies? The short version: there’s a whole lot more to life expectancy than just fat intake.

This is where the model breaks down: when a country (typically France) eats a lot of fat and lives a long time, they call it a “paradox.” It’s only a “paradox” because it doesn’t fit the model, which is that “high fat intake leads to heart disease leads to death.” So instead of changing the model, the label a country “paradoxical” and move on trying to prop up a faulty model.

A great example of this is the clip below, where Dr. Malcolm Kendrick looks at the data compiled from the WHO MONICA study, which is the largest heart disease study ever undertaken. Have a watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8SSCNaaDcE

So what’s the take away? There is a LOT that can happen between when you eat food and what your body does with it. It is very difficult to pin health and longevity on one single data point. It’s interesting in creating better questions for investigation, but there is too much noise between that first point and an outcome of lifespan changes.

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

 

Exercise Doesn’t Burn Fat By Itself, Like, At All

treadmill guy

Maybe the title is a slight exaggeration, but not by much.

Exercise doesn’t burn a lot of calories under the best of circumstances ( think 100 kcal/mile during a marathon ), hence why exercise is a bad idea if it is going to be your only means of trying to reduce fat mass.

When I tell my clients this, it blows their minds. When I tell a new trainee this, it REALLY blows their minds.

In a recent study titled “Effects of aerobic and/or resistance training on body mass and fat mass in overweight or obese adults” showed that cardiorespiratory exercise was “superior” to resistance training with regards to reducing fat in obese men. This made the rounds on message boards and even had a science daily feature with a nebulous title.

You can’t trust an editorial at science direct, as you don’t get the whole story. As a result you have to look at the whole study, which  on the balance is well done. However let’s look at the changes that show “proof” of how bad lifting weights is for fat loss. The before and after fat mass and lean mass changes between resistance training (RT) and aerobic training (AT) before and the change after the length of the trial:

RT = Fat mass 34.3kg −0.26
AT = Fat mass 34.7kg −1.66

RT = Lean mass 54.4kg 1.09
AT = Lean mass 53.3kg −0.10

RT = Fat % 38.8 −0.65
AT = Fat % 39.4 −1.01

Now a couple of things to note here based on those results:

1. This was an 8 month trial and all they can manage was a 3.52lb (1.66kg) loss with cardiorespiratory training alone? Yes that’s “8 times” the fat loss but I could do that with an obese person in 2 weeks with a dietary intervention. To repeat: Exercise isn’t good at fat loss in the absence of dietary intervention.

2. When you account for the recomposition effect of the RT increasing muscle mass (where the AT group lost muscle), their body fat percentage loss was nearly identical.

This study doesn’t tell us anything new regarding exercise and fat loss. Dietary intervention is still king with regard to fat loss and AT only has statistical superiority in this particular study, as nobody who lives in the real world is getting excited about 3.52lbs of fat lost over 8 months in clinically obese individuals. It makes for a great headline but so what?

So what is exercise good for? A whole bunch of other things that diet cannot improve in healthy human beings. Getting mad at exercise for not causing fat loss is like getting mad at Red Lobster for not serving Chicago deep dish pizza; your expectations do not match what it is actually capable of providing.

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

Pulmonary Ventilation and Altitude

This is a post about your lungs. I’m going to allow you a minute to get in the right mindset because they’re probably not something you think too much about.

Good? Good. Specifically, I’m going to talk about why it feels like an elephant is standing on your chest when you’re trying to be athletic at altitude when you spend most of the year at (or near) something approximating sea level. First, a bit of anatomy.

Alveolar

So what you’re looking at is the pulmonary anatomy, where gas exchange occurs in the lungs. There is an interface of capillaries and alveolus that allows for red blood cells to collect oxygen from the air drawn into the lungs. While the lungs are very elastic, they don’t control the pressure that allows filling to occur. For that, you have a swath of muscle tissue, shown here:

Diaphragm

On the left you see muscles that are used to create negative thoracic pressure. Specifically, the diaphragm pulls down while the intercostals flare the ribs out, reducing compression on the thoracic cavity, thereby allowing air to be driven in my atmospheric pressure. So you’re not “sucking” air as much as you’re “creating space for the environment to move air into your lungs.” This tends to blow peoples minds. But once the air is there, how does this happen? As mentioned above, at the capillary-alveolus interface. Take a look:

Red Blood Cells

So you have these super tiny spaces, the alveolus, where oxygen gets into the nooks and crannies. Individual red blood cells get into the capillaries that interface with these spaces, where the red blood cells offload CO2 and pick up O2. Awesome.

Altitude

So where does this all go wrong at altitude? Well it’s really about what we call the partial pressure. At sea level there is a uniform atmospheric pressure that is acting on the gases in the air, which are nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide. These gases each have their own partial pressure, which is the pressure of that gas if it alone occupied the volume of the mixture at the same temperature (and altitude). Add those up and you get the atmospheric pressure at sea level, like this:

Pressure & Gas

So what happens at altitude is that, while there is exactly the same percentage of oxygen in the air, the atmospheric pressure drops very fast. As a result, the saturation of hemoglobin (the oxygen binding pigment in red blood cells) cannot “grab” as much oxygen per unit of time. So it feels like an elephant is on your chest because you’re experiencing oxygen deprivation.

However, it’s important to note that this effect doesn’t happen until ~4900 feet above sea level. Once you’re above that, your body deals with it in interesting ways, like breathing faster, increasing heart rate, and adjusting its blood chemistry (mostly by increasing red blood cell count). The last part is why blood doping and the use of drugs like EPO are illegal in sport: they increase the red blood cell count, which increases blood oxygen, improving performance.  It takes roughly 11 days per kilometer of altitude to manifest these changes.

Finally, the best way to “leverage” this, if you happen to be an endurance athlete, is not to train at altitude but to live at altitude and train below 4900 feet. This way you gain the advantages of altitude without compromising the intensity required in your training. It should come as no surprise that there is an Olympic training facility in Salt Lake City (Elevation: 4,226 ft) but athletes live in Park City (Elevation 7,000 ft).

If you’ve ever wondered why this happens, I hope this answered it for you!

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

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