Sunday, December 25, 2011

Your Diet: The Benefits of a Cheat Meal

The Rapid PT program relies on a Paleo-like diet to ensure that a person improves their PT performance. But, for many people, changing their diet to avoid energy-dense, disease-causing modern foods can be hard. The idea that they will never eat a Papa John's pizza, McDonald's hamburger, or a Butterfinger ever again is just too much to bare.

But, determined to improve their health, they commit themselves to a new way of eating. Soon, the extra weight comes off and they start to feel fantastic!

However, within a couple of months some find that the new diet makes it more difficult to resist those delicious energy-dense, disease-causing foods. These formerly committed dieters start to indulge more and more in these unhealthful foods.

Predictably, as they revert to their old ways of eating, they start to experience all the negative effects they were hoping to avoid (fat weight gain, indigestion, bloating, insatiable hunger, low energy). Very quickly, they rebound: They end up right back where they started, often with a couple of extra pounds for their troubles.

If you have fallen victim to this kind of yo-yoing in the past then one way you can stop this problem is by enjoying a single cheat meal once a week. This meal, which allows you to eat whatever you want, can be used to help sustain your diet changes for the rest of your life.

Satisfy Your Unhealthy Cravings
The beauty of a cheat meal is that you get to indulge your unhealthy cravings once a week. As amazing as it seems, sometimes you need to take a break from foods like grilled steaks, broiled seafood, roasted chicken, steamed vegetables, and freshly cooked white rice. When that happens, push your cravings off until your weekly cheat meal. When that meal comes around, satisfy one of those cravings.

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Saturated Fat and Heart Disease: The Folly of the Fat Tax

On October 5, 2011, The Week reported that Denmark was the first country to create a “fat tax,” which adds a tax to foods that are more than 2.3 percent saturated fat (by weight). Above this point, customers will be charged the equivalent of $1.29 per pound of saturated fat. Ironically, this tax isn’t designed to prevent obesity (Denmark is below-average when it comes to obesity), it attempts to increase average life expectancy for Danes by three years over a ten year period by reducing deaths from coronary heart disease (CHD) and cancer. 

I honestly believe that the Danish government has the best of intentions for its citizens with the passage of this law. Unfortunately, they are using the controversial Diet-Heart Hypothesis to guide their decision. This theory tries to argue that dietary saturated fat and cholesterol cause CHD. While this theory has been treated as fact for several decades, it is not very well supported.

This post has been moved to my Mayo's Mind blog. Please follow the link below to read the rest of this post.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Primal Blueprint: Seven Lessons for Optimal Health

Because the Rapid PT program is a synthesis of the Paleo/Primal/Traditional communities, I will be talking about other diet/lifestyle programs from time to time. In this post, I want to quickly talk about Mark Sisson's Primal Blueprint, which is one of the more popular diet and lifestyle programs available. Despite the fact that he is still a bit carb-phobic (something that the Paleo community is slowly moving beyond), his book and web site are HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Mark's Seven Lessons
I'm not going to cover his program in great detail because he's already done that here. However, recently Mark has released his seven lessons for obtaining optimal health, which is a good summary of his approach to Paleo. These lessons are:

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Quick Running Tip: Pre-Run Drink

While reading Keep on Running, (1) I came across something interesting about using a pre-run drink to boost performance for middle distance runs (which are around 1 mile long). Consuming a carbohydrate/protein drink (e.g., Gatorade and BCAAs) before a 1.5-mile run could boost the amount of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) that your body can generate during your run, as well as making you more alert and engaged, both of which can decrease your run times.

(Normally, I wouldn't advise that anyone consume a drink that contains sugar [which is a highly processed food]. But some times, improved physical performance runs against Paleo dieting philosophy. So, while preparing for your PT test, use this drink only to improve your run. Please don't consume sugar drinks as a part of your everyday diet.)

Carbohydrates Can Improve ATP Production
Cells use ATP when they need energy. As such, ATP is often equated to currency: Energy is "spent" when enzymes transform ATP into adenosine diphosphate (ADP); energy is "saved" when primary fuels like glycogen or fatty acids are used to transform ADP back into ATP.

The authors of Keep on Running argue that when fatty acids are present in the blood the human body prefers to use fatty acids instead of glycogen (the stored form of glucose) to make ATP. Unfortunately, compared to glycogen, fatty acids require 10% more oxygen to produce the same amount of ATP. Fatty acids are also metabolized at half the rate of glycogen.

What does all of this mean for your 1.5-mile run performance? During your run, if you are already using all of the oxygen possible (max VO2), then using fatty acids to create ATP, instead of glycogen, will result in a slower average pace.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Quick Running Tip: Lift Heavy Weights

Believe it or not, lifting heavy weights can help bring down your run times. Heavy weight lifting:

  • Improves your resistance to fatigue, allowing you to run at a faster pace for longer time. (1)
  • Increases the number of blood vessels supplying oxygen to and removing carbon dioxide and lactic acid from your skeletal muscles. (2)
  • It improves vascularization (enlarging blood vessels), which also helps your skeletal muscles get additional oxygen and dispose of more carbon dioxide and lactic acid. (2)
  • Increases your ATP, phosphocreatine, and glycogen levels, all of which improves power (aka, speed) in shorter distances. (2) 

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Quick Running Tip: Train for Your Pace

It seems obvious: If you currently run the 1.5-mile in 13 minutes, and you want to run it in 11 minutes, then you need to increase your running pace. Of course, as most of us know, it is very difficult to simply run faster. To decrease your 1.5-mile run time, you need to allow your body time to adapt to a faster pace. Running too fast, too quickly, can cause you to run out of energy (or air, depending on your level of fitness), ultimately resulting in a slower run.

One fairly simple technique that can lower your run time is to identify a quicker time and then train for that pace. The trick is only to run at this quicker pace for as long as you can sustain it. When you run out of gas, immediately slow down to finish your run at a more comfortable pace. On the next training day, try to maintain this faster pace for a bit longer. Doing this should drop your run time considerably.

The Basics
  • You should run 1.5-miles 5 days a week.  
  • Run even on days that you are following a weight-lifting or Tabata training routine. 
  • Only run once per day, for no more than 30 minutes. You don't want to overtrain.
  • If you stop making progress on your run times, then reduce your running to 2 days per week for two weeks. Run at your natural pace during this downtime. After these two weeks, go back to your 5-days-per-week training routine.

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Friday, December 2, 2011

NutritionData: Always Know What's in Your Meals

In my Rapid PT diet and lifestyle guidelines, I talk about the importance of controlling sugar and omega-6 fat intake, as well as making sure that you don't accidentally overeat. This is incredibly difficult if you don't know what's in your food. So, while I was testing out those guidelines I had looked for a place that would tell me everything about the food I was eating.

Most of the sites I came across were only concerned with calories, which didn't give me data on my micro-nutrient intake. Then I stumbled across the amazing web site This site has a huge searchable database filled with typical food items like fruit, meat, and vegetables. It also has a pretty sizable list of junk and fast food items.

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

The "Healthy" Western Diet and Lifestyle: A Recipe for Disease

Officially, the West's current idea of a "healthy" diet consists of:
  • Reducing a person's intake of meats, high-fat dairy, and foods high in salt, sugar, cholesterol, and oils/fats (especially saturated fat). (1, 2, 3, 4)
  • Consuming more foods that are filled mostly with whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruit. (1, 2, 3, 4)
Unfortunately, while following this advice may increase a person's intake of some nutrient-dense foods (e.g., vegetables and fruit), it still exposes them to the modern foods likely to produce disease (wheat, soy, and high-omega-6 fats/oils). (5) But, I've already talked about this before.

This post is about the how each westernized country idealizes diet and lifestyle. While doing research for another post, I found a European Food Information Council page that tries to reconcile all the different food-based dietary guidelines found throughout Europe. When I got to the individual guides themselves, I couldn't help but be impressed by how much time and effort went into making them (well, except for Hungry, who seemed to do its guide with MS Paint).

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Falling Apart Syndrome: Are Infections the Cause of Most Diseases?

Anyone who has read my blog will know that I've made a lot of noise about how the Western diet and lifestyle can cause disease. From all the reading I've done, it's easy for me to believe that the new foods humans started to eat within the last 100-200 years (e.g., refined sweeteners, white flour, non-traditionally-processed soy, canned products, margarine, ready-made meals, high-omega-6 oils) are making us unhealthy.

But is it possible that this modern diet's constant supply of nutrient-devoid, toxin-laden, sugar-infused, overly-processed junk also chronically suppresses the immune system to such a degree that we have greater odds of developing diseases like heart disease, stroke, and/or obesity? Consider this:

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Food Deserts: The Problem isn't just McDonalds

The USDA believes that food deserts could be causing obesity and diet-related diseases. If you are unfamiliar with the term "food desert," it's any location where access to affordable healthy foods (which is defined by the USDA as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat milk) is limited. Specifically, there are no traditional supermarkets or grocery stores within 10 miles of a given location. (1)

If this lack of access to a grocery store wasn't bad enough, the USDA argues, corner stores and fast food restaurants like McDonald's, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut encourage poorer individuals to eat less healthy foods just to save a buck. These food deserts, and the fast food joints that infest them, are exacerbating our current epidemic of obesity by preventing poor people from eating healthy foods, or so we are told.

The fact is that if you don't have a lot of money, you will tend to buy the cheapest food items. Generally, overly-processed foods are cheaper than healthy foods no matter where you get your food. (2)

As for the fast food restaurants, while these establishments are generally selling excessively processed, nutrient-devoid, taste enhanced, near-meat foods, the health problems associated with food deserts (e.g., obesity, diabetes, heart disease) go well beyond cheap chicken nuggets, Big Macs, bean burritos, pepperoni pizza, and giant cups of soda. If the USDA is going to poo-poo all over fast food restaurants, then they have to also be critical of the supposed oasis of healthy eating: The grocery store. While the outside of a grocery store is filled with the stuff generally recognized as healthy (produce, meat, dairy), the center aisles are completely full of junk (see the illustration below by Chris Masterjohn). These highly-processed convenience foods represent a food dessert too.

All convenience foods are a symptom of the modern Western diet and lifestyle, where preference is given to cost, speed, and taste instead of more slowly prepared, healthful, nutrient-dense foods.

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Like us on Our Facebook Page!

While I love writing blog posts about diet and exercise stuff, sometimes I come across cool articles that I don't necessarily want to blog about. So I created a Rapid PT Facebook page to let my readers know when I've found something interesting.

Please head over to the site and like us. (Thank you in advance!)
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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Foodily: Great Meals are just a Click Away!

As you start to improve your diet, you're inevitably going to start making your own food. Personally, I have accumulated 20-30 cookbooks since I embraced the Paleo diet, but you don't have to. A website popped up called Foodily that searches recipes found on several different food sites (e.g., 101 Cookbooks, Epicurious, Williams-Sonoma, Food Network) and returns a single searchable list.

The genius of Foodily (other than the meta searching) is that you can search for a certain dish (like stew) and then enter the ingredients that you DON'T WANT. This web site will then search its entire database, returning only the recipes that conform to your specified criteria. And you can even sort this list so that the highest-rated recipes show first. Too easy!

Check out this sample search for a top-rated stew recipe that doesn't have clams!

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The PT Test: Improving Your Pull-Ups

While the pull-up is not officially a part of the PT test, it is an exceptional strength/muscle builder. Done correctly, it will build your forearms, biceps, back, and core. If you do enough of them with good technique, you will be the object of awe!

Proper Technique
  • Your movement should be clean and still. There should be no swinging or kicking when executing a pull-up. Because kicking and swinging creates momentum, it is considered cheating, which takes work away from the muscles involved in the pull-up. (When trying to develop strength, you never want to take work away from the muscles you are exercising.)
  • Use full range of motion. That means starting in the full-hang position (where your body is fully lowered) and ending with your head at or above the bar (depending on the kind of pull-up you are doing).
  • Try to touch the bar with your chest, pulling your shoulder blades back as you move towards the bar.

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Does the Western Diet and Lifestyle Cause Disease?

You may not be aware of this, but evidence is building that shows that the Western diet and lifestyle (which includes the American diet and lifestyle) causes disease. (1, 2) Today, industrialized (and developing) populations are currently plagued with modern diseases (e.g., cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity), which were very uncommon just 100 years ago. (1)

When you ask why we become diseased as we get older, you are normally told that these diseases are just the natural consequence of living longer; they are simply normal diseases of aging. (3) However, after you start doing some research, you'll quickly discover that humans have evolved the ability to experience incredible health and vitality well into their 70s and 80s, so long as they enjoy their traditional diet and lifestyle. (1) This means that the health problems that we now regard as inevitable are actually not normal at all: Our modern civilization has introduced foods and behaviors that create a dysfunctional human body. (1, 4)
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Welcome to the Rapid PT Blog!

Let me introduce myself (I'm not the guy pictured above). My name is Bryan and I'm excited to start the Rapid PT blog, which I created to help everyone in the USAF achieve at least an 80 on their PT test within 42 days (for those who don't know, this is the standard re-test period). Ideally, if the program is followed exactly, then 90s should be effortless.

At its core, my Rapid PT program is built upon sports nutrition, Paleo diet theory, and traditional human diets, as well as Paleo lifestyle theory. Fueled by my own curiosity, my personal diet and lifestyle philosophy have been influenced by several years of intense research, which has radically changed my understanding of how the human performs.

How the Rapid PT Program Got Started
Like many people in the military I struggled with my PT test. After the cycle test was replaced by the 1.5-mile run, I had to run for the first time since Basic. I worked out at the gym religiously (lifting weights), so I knew that my push-ups, sit-ups, and waist measurements would all be good. As for the run, I thought I could just show up without any preparation and blow the run out of the water. Of course, that’s not what happened: I labored to complete the 1.5-mile run in a blazing 13:59 (at the age of 27!).

This experience was so thoroughly unpleasant that I started to do some research into how I could improve my run times. I wasn’t prepared for what I uncovered (and am still uncovering). I thought that nutrition would be fairly straight-forward (it’s the 21st Century after all), but I quickly discovered that living underneath the simple official narrative of proper nutrition was a community of skeptical investigators all searching for a better explanation for the Diseases of Civilization (e.g., obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer). As I followed these investigators I came to understand more about obesity, metabolism, and fitness.

My curiosity was awakened as I started to understand how important nutrition was to human health. I devoured as much nutrition and fitness information as I could for about three years, reading more than 50 books that covered health, nutrition, and fitness related topics. And that doesn't even count the hundreds of articles I've read online. It took a while, but I started to see a pattern in the noise.

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