Saturday, March 16, 2024

4 on - 4 off x 4 VO2 max workout

Peter Attia sugests one workout a week being at VO2 max, with the rest of the workouts building out a solid aerobic base.   The workout he suggests for the hard one is 4 minutes on, 4 minutes off, 4 times. This is something I haven't done in years, and am a little nervous about  (as in nervous enough to want to do this in an environment with an automatic external defibrillator). 

He describes this a little bit like I used to think of a 2000m test on an erg, but condensed.  The first minute is relatively easy, if it's not, you've gone out too hard and are going to blow.  Minutes 2 and 3 are really uncomfortable, and you only get through minute 4 because its the last minute and you can go for broke.  I would suggest doing negative splits here, where you get progressively faster, but he admits that he is pretty much universally positive splitting.

The rule Attia uses is the 80/20 rule, so if you are going to do 5 workouts in a week, 4 of them (80%) ought to be base training, and 1 of them (20%) ought to be as I described above.

He also notes that he warms up significantly before doing this workout.   I could see doing VO2 max after a full base training workout as a warmup.

I'm not a doctor, and this isn't medical advice... I'm also kind of OK with dying on a treadmill as a honorable end.   I might strongly consider actually asking my doctor before doing this.  There is something called a cardiac stress test which would get you up to this level of exertion in a controlled way in a medical environment where a resuscitation team was nearby.

The final note is that I'd be tempted to start slow, like wearing a heart rate monitor play with where you are in the zones.  Don't go for broke (dead?) all at once on the first interval.

What are the zones on a Polar heart rate monitor?


Friday, March 15, 2024

Heart rate training and after-workout stretching/cool-down data.

 My temptation with a heart rate watch is to stop the tracking immediately after I stop the activity and then do my stretching / cool-down.  The problem with this approach is that the data around how quickly the heart rate comes back down during the cooldown is useful data.

It's obvious looking at a longitudinal heart rate graph where the cool-down is, so including the cool-down in the data doesn't really meaningfully pollute the data in any way.  Also, my cool downs tend to be of a fixed 5 or 10 minute duration.  

The only problem with doing this is the stretching time is included in the volume calculation for the week.  Honestly, if getting some credit for actually stretching motivates me to stretch, I'm OK with the volume number being inflated by 5-10 minutes per session.  Again, for any individual workout, it's obvious where the work was done, and where I was cooling down.

Another way to look at this data is in a weekly or monthly report from Polar Flow or your tracker's software.  Here I can see the number of minutes total in various heart rate zones.  Looking at the total minutes in the green 70-80% zone, and the blue 60-70% zone gives me a good idea of where I am, and where I want to be for the week.  Looking at these numbers tends to leave out the stretching, even if I don't shut off the watch immediately after the actual work is done.

Looking at total min in zone 2-4 in Polar Flow's reports excludes most of the stretching.

Friday, March 8, 2024

A Concept2 RowErg might be too loud for a 1 bedroom apartment.

Whether it is actually too loud, or whether it would just be a nagging sense of guilt for disturbing neighbors, either way it's not likely that I'd buy one of these for my current living situation.

Comparing a recent meal-delivery keto meal to my favorite $20 meal at Outback Steakhouse.

This is another "journal" entry.  The values and weights below reflect where I'm at, and may not match your needs. 

Outback Steakhouse: 8oz sirloin and double broccoli.

  • 700 calories
  • 40-44% protein
  • 36-38% fat
  • 8-12% carbohydrate
  • Satiation: completely satiated at end of meal, lasting for hours, or until the next day if eaten for dinner.
  • Social: I am friends with the bartenders at this restaurant.
  • Cost: About $22 with periodic dining rewards and tip.
  • Similar meals: 
    • package of boneless, skinless chicken breast, dry rub (no sugar) and salad, prepared at home.
    • strip steak cooked at home (more expensive)\
    • Smoked salmon platter at restaurant (similar price), somewhat smaller meal.
    • smoked salmon and tomato, at home (more expensive)
    • Salmon fillet and veggies.

Factor75 Loaded Bacon Shredded Chicken
  • 640 calories
  • 25% protein
  • 67% fat
  • 9% carbs
  • Satiation: I'm satiated after eating this meal, but convince myself that I'm hungry hours later.
  • Social: Eaten alone in front of computer
  • Cost: About $14.
  • Similar meals:
    • Other Factor75 meals.

Conclusion: In general, a plate that consists of about a 8oz of protein, and a veggy, cooked without sugar or much oil, is optimum.  Try dry rubs, or cajun spices.  Whether cooked at home or eaten out, this might be a bit more expensive than the meal delivery.  Both chicken and sirloin have about the same protein percentage at around 30%, while fish has a protein percentage a bit lower at 24%.  You might have to experiment with a larger portion of the salmon to get the same protein and calories.

Ted Naiman is not the enemy.

 Dr. Naiman has been arguing agains the carbohydrate-insulin model of obesity, and arguing for vastly increased protein intake.  He even goes so far as to suggest some low-fat items to substitute in the diet.  The hypothesis is that it's the ratio of protein to carbohydrate and fat that matters -- carbohydrate and fat being sources of energy, and protein being a source of nutrient. The more protein for the least energy, the better.

The thing that brought me around to his way of thinking is his recounting of his personal journey as a physician on the diet doctor website.  He prescribed a traditional low-carb diet to his patients for 20 years, but found that some of them stalled out.  The culprit was too much fat, and the P/E diet was born.

Dinner inspired by Dr. Naiman was an 8oz sirloin and double broccoli at my favorite restaurant!  $20 +tip, but I got my usual $5 discount that happens every so many meals.

My 2023 Fitness Infographic


There is a lot of room for improvement in my workout schedule.  There were a couple of 2-month long periods where I was exercising pretty regularly, but there are also intervening months where I am doing nothing.  I'm not 100% sure this log represents all activity, but it's reasonably accurate.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

A pathological definition of "whole grain"


The video above is (or was at the time of writing this piece) "SOFT and FLUFFY 100% Whole Grain Biscuits | Jill Winger Prairie Homestead Biscuits for Whole Grains". In the video, it quickly becomes clear that what Jill means by "whole grain" is the whole pulverized flour that comes from milling wheat berries.  

I believe this is the definition that a lot of industrial bakers use too.  On the one hand, this process might include some phytonutrients that you would otherwise lose by throwing out the bran of the wheat berry.  On the other, the process of pulverizing the berry into flour makes the flour digest rapidly into blood sugar.

To my knowledge, you need flour to make baked goods.  For me, I define "whole grain" to mean the literal whole grain, unpulverized and unfiltered.   You cook and eat these foods like rice or pasta.  So definitionally, there is no such thing as whole grain bread.  Whole grain bread is essentially white bread with a little coloring from the bran and germ, and marginal nutrients from the bran and germ, mixed in. According to Andrew Weil MD, whole wheat bread has the same glycemic index as white bread, because of this pulverization process. 

From "What is a whole grain" by Academy of nutrition and dietetics.

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Looking at Ted Naiman's (The PE Diet) Sample Menus, and thinking about the term "keto".

 I just searched on youtube, "how do I eat a high satiety diet?" and didn't get very much good advice.  When you search for keto, or low fat, you get recipes, full days of eating...etc.  However 'high satiety' seems to be a new enough concept that it hasn't caught on with the community.  It doesn't help that Hava, the main originator of the idea treats it as a concept that can only be communicated through an app and algorithm.

I will say at the outset, that the menu below pretty much matches what I'm already eating.  Am I keto?  I don't test my BHB level via finger stick, so I don't really know.   I already eat a fair amount of veggies with most meals, and veggies are carbs.  However, I don't eat grains, and I heavily moderate fruit. 

So if the menu below is what I'm already eating, and I call, at least colloquially what I'm eating "keto", then is the menu below keto, or at least "keto"?  If you set aside the underlying theory, is the high satiety diet really vastly different than what we colloquially call keto?

I would argue that what Virta Health, and Steve Phinney are doing, which I call "clinically keto" might be qualitatively different than the diet below.  It is much higher fat, probably lower protein, and more tightly controls carbohydrate.  That diet is actually focused on testing BHB levels and being in the right zone.

Ted Naiman and Andreas Eeinfeld of Diet Doctor co-founded this new app called Hava. My complaint about what and Hava are doing is that the old DietDoctor was very good at explaining the low-carb diet, and telling you on a a practical level what to eat.  What Hava says is something different - that is high satiety eating is so complicated that you need an algorithm to tell you what to eat.    To figure out what Hava really means by a high satiety diet, I had to resort to randomly typing foods into the app to see there satiety score.  This is a vastly different approach than the old DietDoctor website.

Anyway, Ted Naiman does explain his version of the high satiety diet in his book. The colorful menu below comes from his book The PE Diet.  If you are already keto or "keto", I would ask you to ask yourself if the diet below really significantly differs from what you are already eating.  (Again, the underlying carb-insulin, or CACO, or brain-driven...whatever hypothesis be damned.)

Excerpt from Ted Naiman's The PE Diet.

Clinically Keto v.s. "Keto" v.s. some other term like "high satiety", or "(very) liberal low carb"

Someone eating a clinically ketogenic diet, say for Epilepsy, would concern themselves with the fat to protein and carb ratio of their food.  That might be 4:1 fat to protein and carbs, or it might just be termed "low carb, high fat".  They would likely be regularly testing blood ketone levels to make sure that what they were eating kept their body generating ketones.  I believe, just by looking at their youtube channel, that this is the starting point for what Virta Health is using to treat diabetes. [edit - I'm not actually sure about whether VH uses 4:1 or a more individual approach around BHB testing]

Now, when say that I am on a "keto" diet I mean something slightly different.  I mean that I am avoiding processed carbs like flour and sugar.  However, I don't avoid most vegetables (except corn and potato), and I don't worry that my vegetable or protein intake might knock me out of ketosis.  I'm also not really adding a lot of extra fat like butter or oil to my diet, unless I'm taking something else away. (E.g. sometimes I think an 11oz sirloin is too much protein for dinner, so I eat a 6 or an 8oz, and put a little butter on top for satiety and because I like it.  Or, if I have the funds, I eat a small cut of much fattier prime rib.)

I am starting to come around to the idea that whole grains might also be OK for my personal level of carb-tolerance.  Maybe if I wanted to intentionally stall my weight loss for a while, just as a diet break, I would regularly eat fruit, and maybe experiment with brown rice, or farrow, or wheat berries.  Now, would I call that diet keto?  Probably not.  

I might term that diet as "high satiety" or use some other term.  It's basically a very liberal low-carb diet that cuts out all of the highly hedonic, and highly processed junk food.  A hallmark of this food is that it is usually comprised of a lot of flour or sugar (along with lots of mystery chemicals that may or may not have been A/B tested to see which ones make you want to eat, and therefor buy more.)

So, why is this important?

15 years ago, when Gary Taubes wrote "Good Calories, Bad Calories", the carbohydrate-insulin model of obesity came to the fore.  That was the basis for the early days of Diet Doctor and the reason keto became popular.  Recently however, that hypothesis has been called into question, with people focused more on how the interaction between hedonic, calorie dense, and/or processed foods drives the brain to overconsume.  The theory is that the brain adapted its homeostatic methods thousands of years ago, and those methods are just getting overridden by the modern food environment.

My contention is though, that if you are not that concerned with the underlying hypothesis, the fact of the matter is that Keto works, and the gradient between Keto and very liberal low carb also works, depending on the individual level of carb-tolerance.     If you have very high, type-2 diabetic blood sugars, you might stick to the Clinically Keto end of that spectrum, if you are like me and have slightly elevated blood sugars, you might stick to the low carb or maybe the liberal low-carb end of the spectrum. (something midway between clinically keto, and liberal low carb seems to allow me to relatively effortlessly lose weight, feel up to exercising, and generally feel healthy.)

It's all colloquially "keto" though as far as the modern culture is concerned.  That may change.

An experiment with variety and portion...

 Variety keeps us from getting bored on a diet, and therefor helps to maintain it.  However it also serves to entice us to overeat foods because of the hedonic aspect or deliciousness of the new food.  

I'm currently doing an experiment with meal delivery of keto foods.  The food is professionally prepared, and the menu and variety are relatively large.  Simultaneously though, the food is provided in controlled 550 calorie portions.   Assuming one doesn't binge on the delivered food by eating more than 2 or 3 portions per day, the portion size remains reasonably controlled.  (Also, as an aside, I usually consume the meal with a large salad or serving of veggies in an effort to trigger stretch receptors in the gut that wouldn't normally be triggered by the volume of the meal delivery.)

My hypothesis is that this combination of hedonic low-carb, high-fat food, and portion control might be a useful tool in maintaining a low-carb diet.  This hypothesis centers on the concept of hedonic satiety which I have written about before.  Essentially, most people can't maintain a diet that they are extremely bored of.  Most people can't maintain a diet that doesn't at least have some aspect of providing pleasure.  However when people entertain this hedonic drive, they go way overboard, often for months or years on end.

If provided a large tray of the professionally prepared foods that come in this meal delivery, rather than the smaller portions, I don't know that I could intrinsically, or intuitively regulate my intake of these foods.  They are just too tasty.  The extrinsic portion control is actual (despite what I have written elsewhere) pretty useful.

It is also worth focusing on the fact that the macronutrient composition of these meals is still keto.  I am decidedly not still hungry after I consume the meal.  If it were in front of me, I might eat more because it is delicious, but after consuming the portion, I don't feel ravenous.  These meals are not hedonic beyond just being well spiced and well prepared. In contrast, for example, to highly processed food in which the constituent chemicals are A/B tested to determine what formulation causes the most drive to consume or to foods that are engineered to a 'bliss point'.    

So the point of the portion control isn't the starvation that comes with continuing to eat junk food and simultaneously trying to reduce calories.  The point of the portion control is to balance the hedonic nature of this very tasty, but otherwise filling ("high satiety") food.  If this experiment turns out to be beneficial (as chiefly measured by the endpoint of body weight and satiety), it might argue for both paying attention to the culinary effort that goes into our keto meals, as well as perhaps serving the food on a plate rather than from a large tray or bowl.

Having someone in the family that has the skills to both prepare tasty keto food, and portion in reasonable amounts (flexibly, depending on the consumer, their activity level for the day...etc), would be incredibly useful.  I unfortunately am neither a good cook, or a good judge of portions.  I also live alone, so any benefit that might come from extrinsic portion control has to come from the food vendor.  Put simply, my eyes are classically "bigger than my stomach", and I don't have anyone here to portion my food for me.

When someone says, "you shouldn't cut out whole groups of macronutrients"...

 There are two issues with that criticism of a low-carb diet:

1) Flour and whole grains don't have the same effect, but whole grains are much scarcer in the modern food environment.

Joe Rogan joked, "if your trainer is telling you to eat bread, find a different trainer.  That sh*t is terrible for you."

To bake wheat into bread, the wheat has to be pulverized into flour.  Bread made out of truly whole grain would be all but inedible.  What modern industrial bakers call "whole wheat bread" is just white bread with a little bit of the pulverized bran mixed in.  Often it's not even that, it's just white bread with caramel coloring.

Flour has a terrible effect on the body.  The flour becomes simple sugar very quickly in the body, causing a dramatic rise in blood sugar, with all of its downstream problems.  So if someone is essentially saying "you can't cut out carbs entirely", they might be right, but they don't, or shouldn't mean you should eat flour.   Good carbs are from green leafy vegetables, and depending on carb-tolerance fruit, beans, and whole grains.  The problem is that, with whole grains in particular, these foods are much scarcer in the modern food environment.   When was the last time you saw farro on the menu at a restaurant?

2) People have differing levels of carb-tolerance and blood sugar issues.

As I said above, flour raises blood sugar.   It's not only flour though.  A cup of brown rice still has a significant amount of sugar bound together in its carbohydrate content.  Parroting Virta Health's youtube channel here: someone who is diabetic, or pre-diabetic, probably (on an individual basis) shouldn't be eating even these complex carbs.

Even if you don't have an issue with being overfat, have high blood sugar, abnormal lipids, or high blood pressure, one can still make the argument that, at the very least, it's not a good idea to eat a lot of processed flour as this may, over time, lead to those very conditions.


The person giving this advice might not have the same carb-tolerance as you do.  They might be naturally lean, have normal blood sugar....etc.  For them, eating carbohydrates, maybe even eating processed flour, doesn't seem like a problem.  For me though, with a current BMI of 42, a fasting blood sugar of 105, and high LDL cholesterol, it's a very different story.

Often, if the person giving this advice means "flour" when they argue to add carbohydrates to the diet, there is a pretty cogent argument that they are just plain wrong.  If they are one of the truly exceptional people that eats a lot of actual whole grain, and that's what they mean when they argue for adding carbohydrates, they might be more correct, but it depends on your level of carb-tolerance and your current health situation.

I eat a low-carb diet, but I also eat a lot of green leafy vegetables that grow above ground.  I don't currently eat beans or whole grains.  On this diet, I have had good success with weight loss, how I feel day-to-day, and motivation to make other health changes like adding more exercise.   I might experiment with more liberal carbs in my diet periodically as a way to stay motivated to largely eat low-carb, and I may liberalize my diet as my weight goes down.  For now though, I eat low-carb (+ veggies), and I especially don't eat much, if any flour.

I would love to learn how to prepare (actual) whole grains.


If I was going to move from a keto / low-carb diet like a diet inspired by the writing of Gary Taubes, to a slow-carb, largely plant-based diet as inspired by the writing of Walter Willett, one of the main changes I would have to make is to bring on much, much more whole grain.

I think a mistake a lot of people make is rooted in the fact that industrial bread bakers haven't been entirely honest in labeling.   The brown-colored "whole wheat" bread that you see in most markets categorically isn't made of whole grain. If something is made of whole grain, you will actually be able to see the whole grain.

Here are some examples of whole grain (from the article '9 of the Healthiest Whole Grains to Help You Eat More Fiber' by Eating Healthy:

  1. Bulgar
  2. Brown Rice
  3. Oats
  4. Farro
  5. Teff
  6. Sorghum
  7. Quinoa
  8. Buckwheat
Here's the problem though - I think most people just fundamentally don't have experience in preparing whole grains.  I would absolutely love to take an in-person cooking class entirely focused on making healthful and tasty whole grains.

Referencing the Virta material, the decision about whether to shift from the one diet to the other depends entirely on the individuals carbohydrate tolerance.  I universally think shifting from a well formulated keto diet back to the SAD (Standard American Diet) is a bad idea.  You don't want to start eating bread, and pizza, and pasta, and potatoes.  However, it would be fun to experiment with whether shifting some calories to actual whole grain allowed me either to keep losing weight, or to at least maintain.

That's at the crux of Willet's argument for whole grain:  If you are metabolically healthy, and don't have insulin resistance or obesity, it might be a no-brainer to eat a largely plant-based diet in the way that he describes.  However, that's not most Americans.

Video on the types of whole grain

Video on cooking whole grain - the "pasta method" doesn't seem that scary.

Monday, March 4, 2024

Dealing with belly while rowing


The TLDR of this video is that rather than splay your knees out, or some other pathological adaptation, it is better to just shorten up the stroke, and not go to full compression.  Body preparation out of the finish is key, you don't want to stress your lower back.

If you look at elite rowers sprinting on the erg, this is not all that different than the stroke that they do.

Cam Buchan near the catch on a sprint workout, notice that he is not fully compressed.

Photo Check in, 280lbs, Early February 2024, BMI of about 43


Sunday, March 3, 2024

Sanity on the question of low-carb and cholesterol...


Voice of sanity on fruit.

 The Virta Health youtube channel is a goldmine.

Gary Taubes Interview


Everything that is old is new again.  I got a lot out of this interview with Gary Taubes about Keto.  In it he addresses (among other things) my concern about the difference between clinically keto, and just low carb.