Kipping Pull-ups

A huge part of Crossfit is pull-ups. Contrary to the tenet that the only proper pull-up is one that has no lower body movement, the default pull-up in Crossfit is one that employs a “kip” or a “kipping” movement. Kipping is a perfected derivative of what most of us do when we try to do a pull-up naturally — namely, use our swinging body and legs to aid us on the upward motion.

I am still learning the kipping pull-up. And since they are so integral to Crossfit, it’s imperative that I learn this motion fast.

Thankfully, there is YouTube. Specifically, I found a short, four-part series of tutorial videos on kipping pull-ups!

As today was Day 5 of Crossfit for me and the fourth day in a row this week, I’m resting tomorrow. However, I plan on getting in some kipping pull-up practice this weekend. These videos will be my guide. My goal is to get decent at kipping pull-ups over the next two weeks.

If you’re curious about kipping pull-ups or want to learn them yourself, they are embedded below (after the jump).
Continue reading “Kipping Pull-ups”

Reporter reacts to Augusta: “I’m dyin’ in this countryass town”

Not suitable for work, this video clip of a reporter switching from “reporter-mode” to OMGWTFYGTBFKM after having a bug fly into his mouth is hilarious. And what takes it from just another bit of humor on the web to personal blogworthy is that it took place here in Augusta, Georgia.


I disagree with his classification of Augusta, Georgia as “countryass”. Sure, Augusta is a far cry from the urban culture of Atlanta. Is it behind the times? Yeah. Boring? Certainly. Bible-belt? Uh-huh. But countryass? Not even close — at least not compared to most of south Georgia or all of “Alabubba”.

And hey, though 2nd place to Atlanta is a distant not-even-close, “Disgusta” is the second largest city in the state. Plus, Augusta is the home of the Augusta National / Masters! Augusta’s BBQ offerings aren’t even that great.

Regardless, I empathize with this guy. Summer in Augusta is uncomfortably hot and humid, the bugs can be awful, and I confess to wanting to get out of this town, myself.

If you liked it the first time, watch it again. Augusta!

UPDATE 2008-06-18: It’s come to my attention that the reporter in the video is in Augusta, Arkansas — not Augusta, Georgia. Makes me a little sad. His name is Isiah Carey. Found this out over here.

Day 4: Crossfit

In my recent update, I mentioned joining Crossfit Augusta. Today was day four. I’ve been sore since the first workout, and intensely sore since yesterday, but I plunge forward. Though I wonder if such intense, regular workouts are sustainable for the long-term, I have no doubt following the Crossfit protocol for a few months will do wonders for my physical fitness.

I’ve come a long way via the lifestyle switch to a more “paleo” diet (low-carb / intermittent fasting). I’m merely upping the ante as my home workouts just weren’t intense enough (Plus I felt like I was getting in a rut with them). I expect crossfit to push me past my comfort zone.

Improve your Health via Hormesis – Stress Out.

As alluded to previously, injecting small doses of stress into an otherwise harmonious existence can improve your health. This phenomenon is called hormesis. Here’s a googled definition of hormesis:

A dose response phenomenon whereby a substance that in a high dose inhibits (or is toxic to) a biological process, in a much smaller dose will stimulate (or protect) that same process.

Toxic substances stress us. Stephan explained it nicely over at Whole Health Source:

Hormesis … increases resistance to other, more intense or chronic stressors. It can increase resistance to a variety of stresses, not only the one to which you are exposed.

Hormesis is a powerful, non-obvious-yet-evolutionarily-intuitive idea — I can improve my health by intentionally introducing some stress into my otherwise pampered, stress-free life. And here are a few applications:

  • High-intensity exercise. I lump in here anything that briefly elevates my heart-rate and requires my body to do a significant amount of work. Weight-lifting, sprinting and kettlebell drills readily come to mind.
  • Fasting / Intermittent Fasting. Going without food is quite possibly the easiest path to the benefits of hormesis. Shameless self-promotion: on fasting (application and benefits) and more recently on caloric restriction / resveratrol and the potential for slowing aging.
  • Drinking alcohol. We’ve heard this before — drinking one to two alcoholic beverages a day may benefit cardiovascular health. It seems that the benefit of drinking alcohol is from its hormetic effect.
  • Smoking tobacco. First, I gleaned this application from Arthur De Vany. Dr. DeVany applies it via cigars. I see no reason it could not also be applied via a pipe or some type of snuff or chew. I personally enjoy the occassional cigar or alternatively, will smoke a pipe. One thing to note: inhaling might eliminate the hormetic benefit of tobacco use by taking it from a mild dose to a heavy dose. I simply don’t know.
  • Cold showers. I snagged this one from Richard Nikoley. I then reread the idea from Art and then Stephan, who says it helps fire up “non-shivering thermogenesis”. If you want to read more about activating cold via hormesis, check out what a DeVany reader sent in on the subject of brief exposure to cold.
  • Radiation. I mention this only for completeness, but small exposure to radiation is a tactic to increase resistance to larger doses of radiation later (Surprise, its controversial). I don’t know of any way for normal folks to apply radiation hormesis.

The above are fairly non-controversial ways to practice “stressing out”, and thereby benefit from hormesis (Excepting radiation hormesis). However, I wonder if there are other things one could do. Here are some alternative hormetic possibilities:

  • Get less sleep. Maybe periodically cut back on your sleep by 30%. I’ve occasionally experienced increased alertness on less sleep. However, the positive effect wears off in time. Prolonged lack of sleep also weakens your immune system, which doesn’t sound too beneficial.
  • Binge on fruit. Assuming you are a low-carber, eating a lot of fruit at one time should result in a sizeable insulin response. If you aren’t on a low-carbohydrate diet, binging on fruit won’t do much to acutely stress your body.
  • Get some sun. Beneficial for Vitamin D purposes, seems like this would also make sense for potential hormetic effects.
  • Expose your kids to allergens. Didn’t know for sure where to put this one and I don’t have kids. However, I’ve read that exposing your kids to cats may reduce the risk of allergies and asthma. Is the benefit here hormesis? Also, is there a risk in overprotecting your kids from germs?

If you have any other ideas for unconventional applications of hormesis, I would love to hear them.

Finally, let’s remember that high doses of toxic substances can impair your health or even kill you. High doses of stress are likewise unhealthy. Therefore, may I present one last list of bad ways to stress out:

  • Over-training (And also, potentially, endurance exercise). Not allowing your body to recover from exercise is a recipe for disaster. Endurance activities like running marathons (or jogging long-distances) might also be harmful (Art De Vany thinks so). I speculate that endurance activities may be safe so long as they are using fat oxidation for energy (See endurance athlete Mark Twight’s write-up on fat). This would necessarily require a lower intensity for most all of us who don’t train to exercise for hours on end — an effort probably no more intense than walking or leisurely riding a bike.
  • Stressing about work, money, family, relationships, career, or the meaning of life. We’ve all done this. However, can you imagine our evolutionary ancestors experiencing existential angst? I can’t. Food availability, yes. Finding shelter, sure. Avoiding predators, certainly. I’m no expert on meditation or any other specific methods for stress reduction. When I get stressed out about life for too long, I just try and step back and see the big picture and/or let go. It helps.
  • Cut back on the caffeine. This is a tough one for me. I drink a good bit of coffee on a daily basis. Caffeine might have hormetic benefits — but I doubt they occur if you’re a chronic user like me.

Anything I missed? If so, please let me know.

Parting thoughts: introduce some “stress” to your life and improve your health. A cold shower followed-up by a 24-hour fast is an easy way to get started. Finish off the fast with some hill sprints. Practice hormesis. If you can consciously control the stressors in your life, you just might live longer.

Mark Sisson: a Contrarian View on Water

A contrarian by nature (Perhaps to a fault), I found Mark Sisson’s recent counter-conventional post on water well worth the read. Bucking the mainstream view that we should drink at least eight glasses (64 oz. total) of water per day, Mark exhaustively details the counterpoint, advocating what seems downright obvious: obey your thirst!

Some takeaways from Mark’s post:

  • We get a lot of water from our food. Mark argues that paleolithic man likely recieved most of his water from food sources. Example: eating fruit will help satisfy your body’s water requirements.
  • Diuretics like coffee, tea and alcohol necessarily contain water, and the diuretic effect only occurs at high, unhealthy doses.
  • Drinking a lot of water before or during a meal can thwart digestion by raising pH levels in your stomach. Raised pH levels can result in indigestion or worse: lowered acidity could reduce the stomach’s ability to destroy susceptible pathogens and other creepy crawlers!
  • The commonly-held mantra that thirst lags dehydration (i.e. “if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated”) is erroneous. Therefore, as one sugary drink prescribes, “Obey your thirst!” with H2O.

Mark packs a lot more into his post, so be sure to read it.

On a related, technical note, in Good Calories, Bad Calories Gary Taubes explains how carbohydrates induce water retention (Fats do not). Assuming I recall correctly, a fat gram has two times the amount of energy as a carbohydrate gram (9 kcal compared to 4). Furthermore, storing a carb gram requires two grams of water. Therefore, energy equivalence between fat and carbohydrates from a volume standpoint is reached at 1:6 fat to carb/water ratio as follows:

1 gm fat = 9 kcal @ 1 gram volume
2 gm carbohydrate + 4 gm water = 8kcal @ 6 grams volume

Thus we see the efficiency of fat as an energy storage vehicle — a whopping 6x as much energy can be stored in the body as fat relative to the volume it would take to store the same amount of energy with carbohydrates!

Between Mark’s comments and Taubes fat-storage efficiency explanation (Would love an online reference here if anyone can find one), I have to wonder: does a low-carb diet go hand-in-hand with lowered water requirements? At first blush, it seems like the answer would be a resounding yes, but I don’t know. Readers?

June 2008 JNO Update

Here’s a brief life update.

The wife and I are in Augusta. We’ve been here on an ongoing basis since late December; prior to our move beginning in June of 2007, we found the need to spend about two-thirds of our time in Augusta (The rest being spent in Atlanta at our place in Ansley Park). I won’t go into it, but there were (and are still somewhat) some family things going on in “the AUG” that required our presence. Despite having spent most of the past year in Augusta, I still consider myself an Atlantan.

As much as Augusta has going on for it, the move here is temporary. We are likely to be here for a few more months and will then either move on back to Atlanta or move somewhere else (Maybe some place entirely different — Abroad? Another U.S. city? Trying to figure that out).

Our mobility has been largely driven by the nature of my current work, which continues to be development of the Implode-O-Meter network via our flagship MLI and the others (HFI, HBI, BI, and the forums). Web entrepreneurship is fantastic in this regard. It is hard to beat requiring only an internet connection and a laptop to work, and ofttimes, my Blackberry is sufficient. The fundamental drawbacks include the always-open nature of websites and the gnawing understanding that most all websites have a terminal shelf-life. That latter point is less true for personal sites like this one — at least, I hope to live a long and interesting life. Of course, this site isn’t likely to result in any tangible wealth!

What’s there to do in Augusta? Aside from mountain biking the excellent trails at FATS or going to the occasional movie, not a lot. I’ve been spending my leisure time trying to get in shape via improved diet and working out with a VKR station and kettlebells. I’ve experienced good results from this combo (high intensity, low-carb and fasting).

Just a few days ago, I happily discovered that Augusta has a newly formed Crossfit gym (Site “under construction” — and though the site doesn’t say it, they’re located at 766 Industrial Park Drive). Sonal and I went and checked it out last Friday, doing a modified version of Helen. Having completed another WOD yesterday (One by Rob Miller), I can say with confidence that Crossfit is not for the weak of heart. I expect doing Crossfit will do wonders for my fitness, moreso than I would have been able to accomplish with my poor-man’s home gym. We’ll see.

With all things health, I’ve been taking some progress photos that I want to make public in the coming weeks. The first of these stretches back to February of this year. Stay tuned.

Otherwise, I’ve been spending time enjoying the wonders of OpenArena, a free, improved version of the classic FPS Quake III Arena. I play with my trading buddy and college-chum “papahalv” (We “DOMINATE” via our satirical, two-member “clan” CBB).

And speaking of trading, I’m on the road to recovery from getting blown out of the water by Fed Shenanigans last August and then again in late November. That’s a story for another day.

The quiet life of Augusta has also allowed me to catch up on reading. For details, check out my books page. I’ve mostly been bouncing between Sci-fi and science books lately.

On the family front, I became an uncle in mid-March. Oh the plans I have for that one.

And that’s it. Just wanted to provide an update on my personal life for the “historical record” and to update anyone who’s interested. I’ll try to incorporate more “biogblogging” (or “bioblogging?” Just made that up) in the future!

Sunday morning

I wake up, but it is still early, so I roll over, readjust and keep my eyes shut. When I finally give in and rise, my cat decides to join me, and does his morning stretch — arched back, curled tail, yawn — you know the drill. I copy him as best I can.

It is quiet.

Coffee. While I wait for it to brew, I gulp down some cold water and feel it invade my throat and stomach. I gulp again but the effect is gone.

Still brewing.

I look out the kitchen window and note the sun’s light is not yet harsh. I imagine it is even bearable outside, maybe even pleasant. It won’t last. The newsman said today will be a scorcher, triple-digits — brutal.

Black coffee.

The warm mug in my hand, I find an inner calm in the new day’s stillness. Another week’s demands lay ahead, but they will wait. Today, I rest.

It’s Sunday morning.

Caloric Restriction, Red Wine, and Aging

First, a summary:

  • The physiological stress resulting from caloric restriction may extend your life. It could accomplish this by switching resources from reproduction to self-preservation. Alternatively (or additionally), it might accomplish this by helping downregulate insulin, thereby reducing the diseases associated with metabolic syndrome.
  • Resveratrol (Via red wine, for now) might also slow aging via some SIRT-1 mechanism or by somehow signaling to the body that stressful times lay ahead.
  • The stress from exercise3 might slow aging by activating physiological mechanisms of tissue self-preservation, as well.
  • And finally, I can chalk another one up for intermittent fasting, which personal experience says is the easiest way to practice caloric restriction.

The Details

My brother sent me a NYTimes article that talks about resveratrol, a molecule found in red wine, and its possible link to slowing aging. Resveratrol may thwart aging by spurring the production of sirtuins a.k.a. SIRT1 in humans. Per the Times:

[T]he door has now been opened to drugs that exploit an ancient biological survival mechanism, that of switching the body’s resources from fertility to tissue maintenance. The improved tissue maintenance seems to extend life by cutting down on the degenerative diseases of aging.

The reflex can be prompted by a faminelike diet, known as caloric restriction, which extends the life of laboratory rodents by up to 30 percent but is far too hard for most people to keep to and in any case has not been proven to work in humans [See Footnote 1 for discussion on this last sentence].

Whereas the Times article focuses on resveratrol, summarily dismissing caloric restriction, a 2006 article from The Economist does the opposite, going into more detail on the impact of caloric restriction on human aging and a recent study on the matter:

[E]vidence has been accumulating since the 1930s that calorie restriction … extends lifespan and delays the onset of age-related diseases in rats, dogs, fish and monkeys. …

Amid the hype, it is easy to forget that no one has until now shown that calorie restriction works in humans. That omission, however, changed this month, with the publication of the initial results of the first systematic investigation into the matter. This study, known as CALERIE2 (Comprehensive Assessment of Long-term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy), was sponsored by America’s National Institutes of Health. …

CALERIE suggests the [advantages of caloric restriction] are real. For example, those on restricted diets had lower insulin resistance … and lower levels of low-density lipoprotein [LDL] cholesterol. They showed drops in body temperature and blood-insulin levels?both phenomena that have been seen in long-lived, calorie-restricted animals. They also suffered less oxidative damage to their DNA.

The Economist article goes on to talk about resveratrol and even exercise:

Resveratrol is produced when a vine is under stress?for example, due to dehydration or over-exposure to sunshine. According to Dr Sinclair’s theory, which he calls xenohormesis, animals rely on such botanical stress signals to give them extra information about their own environments, in the same way that the alarm calls of one species warn others of danger. If bad things are happening to plants, he surmises, that is a reason for pre-emptive animal action. Animal bodies thus react to molecules such as resveratrol by activating their own defence mechanisms. These, in turn, protect their cells from stress-related damage.

Xenohormesis is a variation of a more general theory, hormesis … A good example of hormesis is exercise. In theory, this should damage cells because it increases oxygen uptake, and oxidative stress is bad for things like DNA. Of course, exercise is not actually bad for cells?and the reason is that the body activates defence mechanisms which overcompensate for the stress the exercise creates, producing beneficial effects. So, while chronic stress is always bad for you[3], a short period of mild stress followed by a period of recovery can be good.

More on hormesis here.

So what’s the common denominator between exercise, resveratrol, and caloric restriction? Stress. The introduction of acute stress may switch the body’s resources from reproduction to self-preservation4. From an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense. If a band of human beings were facing environmental hardship, such as a famine, their bodies would need to self-preserve until times more suitable for the ultimate biological imperative, reproduction.

Beyond acute stress causing self-preservation and thereby slowing aging, there may be another angle here: insulin. Caloric restriction will reduce insulin loads on the body as entering a fasted state will require the body to switch from glucose-burning (Insulin upregulated) to fat-burning (Insulin downregulated). As I’ve blogged before, chronically high insulin (via diets high in carbohydrates) in the blood is positively correlated to metabolic syndrome or Syndrome X. The connection to slowed aging and lower insulin levels could just be the other side of the same coin, but if nothing else, it’s more support for incorporating some amount of caloric restriction in your life.


1 I’ve got a question out to the author, Nicholas Wade, as to his last claim regarding caloric restriction and its impact (or lack thereof) on humans. I’m fairly certain that Wade means that the life-extending impact of caloric restriction has yet to be proven for humans, even though the CALERIE study mentioned above would contradict such a claim.

I take serious issue with Wade’s ambiguity here. Most of his article is about resveratrol and sirtuins and their potential link to slowing aging in humans. He goes into detail about a pharmaceutical company that is working on producing a drug that might induce the same effects. That’s fine, but why slam the door on an alternative (caloric restriction) that might slow aging for free? Is it because it’s “far too hard for most people”? How did he determine that?

Update 2008-06-13: Received a response to my email to Nicholas Wade. From part of my email:

Or do you mean that sufficient testing on caloric restriction’s impact on human aging has not occurred, thereby the theory remains unproven?

He indicated that the above interpretation was the one he intended. I will let him know about the CALERIE study.

2 Here is the official CALERIE website.

3 Perhaps therein lies some support for the claim that endurance training is unhealthy as it puts a chronic load of stress on the body.

4 Not surprisingly, Art De Vany mentions as much in passing here:

I practice intermittent caloric deprivation. This is a known enhancer of the immune system. This is pure evolutionary reasoning. During deprivation, the system reallocates resources from reproduction to repair and maintenance. The immune system is part of that adaptation.

Metabolic Pathways while fasted and Ketosis

Was just commenting on Patri Friedman’s livejournal (here) regarding how the metabolic channels used while fasting were the same as those used while on a low-carb diet. Taubes notes fact in passing in Good Calories, Bad Calories but since that’s a hard reference to check on the ‘net, here’s another bit of support from Dr. Mike Eades of Protein Power:

If you read any medical school biochemistry textbook, you’ll find a section devoted to what happens metabolically during starvation. If you read these sections with a knowing eye, you’ll realize that everything discussed as happening during starvation happens during carbohydrate restriction as well. There have been a few papers published recently showing the same thing: the metabolism of carb restriction = the metabolism of starvation. I would maintain, however, based on my study of the Paleolithic diet that starvation and carb restriction are simply the polar ends of a continuum, and that carb restriction was the norm for most of our existence as upright walking beings on this planet, making the metabolism of what biochemistry textbook authors call starvation the ‘normal’ metabolism.

As noted before, this makes intuitive sense. While in a fasted state, the body gets its energy fix by robbing the protein for gluconeogenesis from lean tissue and the fat for energy from adipose tissue. While doing low-carb, the body does the same thing — the only difference is that it gets the fat and protein from dietary sources.

The rest of the Eades article discusses ketones/ketosis, which I’m still working on fully understanding (the basics, anyway). Apparently there are other benefits to occasionally being in a ketogenic state that may include “de-junking” our cells. Neat!