16 June 2011

Ask Paleohund: Beginner Paleo and Shin Splints

I recently received an email from an old friend asking for my advice:
My brother was telling me about this "diet" he uses and I heard you follow it. Is it beneficial, for lack of a better word, for you? Is it actually healthy/safe?
Is there a site I can look up for more info. As you probably know I'm running in the Marine Corp Marathon in Oct and wonder if it's safe to do this while training.
Also, have you experienced shin splints when you first started running and what else is there that I can do to prevent/relieve the pain.
My response:
Yeah, I've been eating this way for 3 years. For more information I would suggest:
http://www.marksdailyapple.com/welcome-to-marks-daily-apple/ and http://www.archevore.com/get-started/ for a straight forward 12-step process.

The gist is that the standard foods most people are eating are grain-based and high in carbohydrates. I won't say carbs are bad... they are just not all created equal, and 'healthy whole grains' are not healthy.

In terms of if it is safe or not, I think what you will find is that it often contradicts the standard advice we are given by doctors or advertisements. So those doctors and those advertisements will say this is unsafe... however if you look at the people that do it they look healthy. I feel great and until I ran into that goal keeper I was running the fastest and furthest I had ever been. I get great sleep, never crave sugar, and right now I am able to not gain even the slightest weight and I've not been doing anything active since I hurt myself in October.

In regards to running, you may want to consume some sugar/gels/goo when going a distance like a marathon. I tend to adjust my carb level to my activity level, so if I had been running sprints earlier I don't mind eating that smith island cake later.

In terms of shin splints, running barefoot or with minimalist shoes like the Vibram FiveFingers avoids issues like that because you run differently in them. But given you have them now and probably won't change your shoes, I do know what works to fix that problem. Shin splints are caused by tiny muscles in the shins being pulled off your shin bone... so yes that is painful. The shin muscles are connected to your calf muscles. When you calf muscles are tight, they are pulling the shin muscles. So stretch and massage your calves to loosen them up. Don't do this before you run... never stretch before long runs... having stiff/rigid muscles is best for distance.

15 June 2011

Thoughts on Fitness and Nutrition

In my time out recovering from my latest knee surgery, I have had a lot of time on my hands. Six to eight hours a day have to be spent on my back with my leg in a machine, so I've had to find things that I can do while doing this. Although there is a massive flat screen television not ten feet from me, I have spent my time reading both books and websites, applying for jobs, and when bored or burnt out of everything else, I'll just think.

One trend I was noticing over at Primal Wisdom was the posts seeming to contradict mainstream Paleo blogs. I like coming across information that challenges or flat out contradicts what I do... and I'll either use this to rethink my beliefs, retool my habits, or call the person a moron and go about my merry way semi-justified that I am still on the right course. Instead of pointing out his arguments and challenging them one by one, I figured I would take a step back and look at the basics of fitness and nutrition.

Fitness: Push
From my experience training for my club soccer or an ultra-marathon or dropping by for a CrossFit workout, I see one common link in everything I've done to progress in my overall fitness: push myself past my previous boundaries. I realized this back in high school when training for the varsity soccer team. When I would run distance, I would always try to go one step further than I went last time. When running sprints or a set distance, I would always try to finish seconds before my previous time. If I ran and was 1 second faster, I took that as a win and pushed myself harder. If I came up a few seconds longer than my previous time, I would push myself harder so that next time I was faster. Sure there is always the overtraining aspect to worry about, but effort matters. I would try to go further than the furthest I had been before, or lift heavier than I had lifted before, and so forth. So if I were to boil down fitness, I would simply say one needs to constantly challenge and push oneself. Let people argue what is the best way to gain muscle, lose fat, etc., but if you 'exercising' but not pushing yourself, I highly doubt you are going to get where you want to be unless you standards are set horribly low.

Nutrition: Know Thy Food
Taking a similar approach to nutrition, I think the single biggest thing to consider is to know what you are eating and know how it affects your body. Most processed foods contain a plethora of ingredients that if you are even able to pronounce them correctly I doubt you will find documentation about what these man-made chemicals do to your body. So when thinking about nutrition, I think the key concept is to know what you are consuming and what, good or bad, it does to you. So why would you eat foods that provide no nutritional benefits, make you hungrier, or wreck your immune system? Eat cleaner, cut out the processed (albeit convenient) shit, and know what you are shoving down your pie hole.

I realize these simplifications allow for dirty vegan and/or marathon runner types, but still I'd argue these people are fitter and healthier than the morbidly obese monstrosities you can find wandering aimlessly around Walmart. So in closing, I think that if people simply did the two things I've listed above, they would see results  in their health and fitness. So let Don of Primal Wisdom go lower fat, but I can bet you he is still not going to eat anything resembling the standard American diet.

04 June 2011

Hiking the Shenandoah

With my surgery looming, I planned several events to take my mind off the upcoming pain and immobility. One thing I was dead set on was spending a weekend out hiking. I should partially credit the idea to the Appalachian Ridgeback for her blog and great hiking photos. So, for a challenging weekend backpacking trip I figured I would go hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail located in the Shenandoah National Park. With Cyprus off at a dog show, the Shaman and I packed up and headed west to Front Royal, VA, the northern tip of the park.
Early on the Saturday before the surgery we arrived at the park and after a few minutes of loading up our packs we started hiking. Having never been here before, I only had a vague idea where to get started. While walking into the wilderness without any real plan may not sit well with everyone, I liked the idea of not being bound by any particular itinerary and figured we would just have a good time at our own pace. We would hike south and camp in the backcountry when it got dark and in the morning we head back. So it began.
My pack mule.
In my pack I had a tent, a liter of water, a jacket and pants, and several bags of almonds and beef jerky. I recently bought a dehydrator and have been experimenting with various jerky recipes. In Shaman's pack, he carried his leash, collar, water bowl and approximately 2 liters of water. At each break we drank from his water first, so his pack weight dropped drastically as we went along. As the weekend went on I made a mental list of things I should get before I go out for another adventure like this. Luckily the weather was nice and we were only going to be out one night, so we were going to survive event without the gear we carried.

The portion of the trail we hiked, while having some challenging areas, offered few outlooks to enjoy the views. Still, we took a few side trails that gave us a decent view every now and then. We would go for long stretches without seeing any other people so I kept Shaman off-leash and let him do his own thing. All wildlife in the park is protected, and dogs are to remain leashed, however Shaman will not chase anything unless I give the okay and when he wears his pack he is less inclined to run around.
A perfect day to be out hiking.
Rocks, rocks, and more rocks.
Shaman has a fascination with ledges.
We hiked approximately 15 miles and camped near a shelter. Having regained most of my mobility after my first surgery, I felt we covered decent ground. When we did encounter others, usually they commented on Shaman's Ruff Wear pack or the fact I was hiking in my Vibram FiveFinger Treks. We encountered several thru-hikers and had some great conversations regarding long-term hiking, camping, and discussed their nutrition. I intend to discuss some of this in a future post.

With the intent of being as active as possible before my surgery I must say I was quite satisfied with this small adventure. I intend to go back and spend a longer time in Shenandoah when time and my knee permits it.

02 June 2011

Rally for Food and Farm Freedom

Being involved with the local food movement in my area, I often hear from farmers how certain regulations limit what they can do on the farm. The farm I get my grass-fed beef and pastured pork has to send their animals out of state to be butchered. Should they be able to butcher on their farm, they would be able to sell these items much cheaper (and have a much lower carbon footprint). Typically Big Ag and/or Big Government is the focus of their frustration and from what I can tell in most cases rightly so. It was through one of my friends of the local food movement (she blogs at Fish In The Water) that I found out about a rally in DC over the ability of people in Maryland, Virginia and the DC to purchase raw milk and other products from an Amish farmer in Pennsylvania. Already in the area for other pre-surgery adventures I figured I would attend.

Hands Off My Milk
Naturally being a person who likes to kayak without a life jacket and ride my bike without a helmet, I would like the option to purchase and drink raw milk. I am educated, I know the risks. I am a firm believer that huge, blanket bans or laws prohibiting a complex issue are a waste of time and money and tend to hurt more than they help. Healthy cows produce healthy milk. Unhealthy cows kept in confined conditions (as typical in the Big Ag industrial process) do not produce healthy milk. So, alas, here is another example of Big Ag ruining it for the smaller family farms who appropriately care for their animals. Sure even the most pampered cow can still get sick, but with smaller herds and the farmers knowing their animals on a more humane and personal level, the risk should be low. I grew up on a river and learned to swim at a very early age. I've been water skiing, wake boarding, and surfing my entire life. To say I must have a life jacket in my kayak at all times is complete bullshit. Sure, being educated, I realize situations may present themselves that a life jacket on board would help keep me alive, but I accept that risk. Everything in life has inherent risks.

Here are some photos of the rally:
Jonathan Emord, Attorney
Baylen Linnekin of keepfoodlegal.org
Sally Fallon Morell of Weston A. Price Foundation
They handed out free glasses of raw milk.
They even brought a Jersey
For more information, check out Grassfed on The Hill. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the courts. I've tried the milk and like it. Given it is coming from several hundred miles from where I live, I doubt I will ever be a member of this farm. I've got quality dairy farms around me and I wish they could sell raw milk, butter and cheeses to me. Hell, in Maryland, farmers are not even allowed to sell me raw milk if it were purely for the dogs. Who is being protected there? Bull. Shit.

Dairy and Paleo

“Recent studies claim that early milk drinkers left ten times as many descendants as their abstemious siblings.” - From N. Wade, “Lactose Tolerance in East Africa Points to Recent Evolution,” NY Times, December 11, 2006.

So those in the Paleo community do not always approve of dairy consumption, this is known. I've always wondered if those ancestral people who consumed milk (clearly raw) were healthier and stronger from it, or if simply the milk provided more food to allow more people to survive like grains did. So I am curious if it allowed people to thrive, not simply survive. I am always on the lookout for more information on this.

In most cases of diet I tend to go with Robb Wolf's Look, Feel, Perform. Grains and processed foods are definitely a no go. Milk, yogurt, butter from pastured sources have always made me feel great and have been a major asset in my recovery from intense physical exertions. I have noticed an inflammatory response when I am drinking daily, but it is mild compared to when I was drinking grain-fed organic milk from the grocery store. So, right now for me, my dairy consumption is very similar to my overall carbohydrate consumption, purely dependent on my activity level.