Lift Something Heavy Contest Winner! (finally!)

Posted June 9th, 2010 in Contests by Clint

Speaking of engineer bags, we finally have enough entries to declare a winner for the “lift something heavy” contest I started way back at the beginning of this blog.

Okay this has been a while in coming, but I’ll start off by saying I’ve been at this for just over 6 weeks. Here is my gear:wow, people are actually doing this thing. cool.

I thought different colors of duct tape would make things more fun, and to a point, it does. I’m not entirely happy about the bag I got, though. It’s big enough that I can fit all of my weights into it and have room for plenty more. I could probably fit myself into it if I wanted. But because I have relatively short legs, I find it pretty difficult to lift by the handles properly, which means I need to grab it from the bottom for deadlifts.

I bought 20 pairs of XXXL socks and three bags of pea gravel. I would stuff a sock as much pea gravel as I could fit, then I would work another sock over it in the opposite direction, and finally I would tape them up. This worked out pretty well, I fit two bags of pea gravel into 10 weights this way. I still have another bag of gravel but I doubt I’ll need to make more than five more weights. There is some variation in the weights – in particular, one of the blue ones weighs much less than the others, but I just make sure to leave that one out for the exercises with only a few weights, and put it in for the ones with most or all. I’m deliberately not weighing them to avoid the psychological barrier as suggested. I would guess they’re somewhere between 15 and 20 pounds though.

Other than that, I’ve bought a sleeping mask and a good amount of whey protein, and I’m trying to follow the 40/40/20 split. I do tend to go a bit high on carbs, though. Nevertheless, I’ve maintained a weight of 180 pounds while gaining a significant amount of muscle. It’s also nice to easily move things that I found daunting not long ago. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, and it feels great.

Congratulations to EC for both his winning entry and his dedication and progress.

Also, don’t let the contest being resolves stop anyone from submitting pictures of their training equipment or setups. I always like to see how people are making it happen.

AtA: The Pollan Conclusion and Brain Over Brawn

Posted June 7th, 2010 in Ask the Author, Foods by Clint

[...]when I was reading the section on food and obesity and your critiques on the food industry, I though I was reading Pollan. Yet you arrived at a very different conclusion, and a low carb one at that, with room for exceptions. I was wondering if you came across Pollan when you were researching the food and nutrition section, and if so what your opinions are of him? More broadly, is the recommendation of 40:20:40 p/c/f because you feel this is a reasonable goal for people to aim for, or is this what you have found is an ideal ratio from your experience helping your individual clients?

Pollan is certainly a hell of smart dude, and even though some of his thoughts are hard (for me) to mutually reconcile, his books are worth reading just because he has an incredible style, and puts forth some really well-researched analysis that may blow your mind, even if the particular study may be familiar to you. He also manages his activism where he can get his point across without coming off with that slimy ulterior-motive aftertaste that’s so frequent lately in the wake of evolutionary/historical diet becoming A Big Thing. I’ve only read “In Defense of Food” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”, but Food Rules is in my cart and I intend to read it soon.

My major divergences are probably summarized due to two things:

1) Individuals. People are radically different not just on the genetic and biological levels, but on the ways all these systems interact with each other. There are millions of permutations that make it to where two people on the exact same diet and program will almost invariably get differing results. Hard to say with someone’s lineage what sort of responses, tolerances, and so forth will apply, and each of those things complicate still further based on the the interactions of food, stress, stimulus and so forth.

In short, people are mad complex and there’s no blanket solution. However, one thing that is becoming apparent (thanks to diabetic research more than anything diet or supplement companies have contributed) is that many diet profiles are complicated and hindered by poor carbohydrate control, especially in excessive sugars. Vice versa, controlled-carb diet studies suggest that body composition and health are improved, independent to exercise or even (gasp) genetic/ethnic diversity.

That said, I seldom advocate extremism (the exception being against trans fats) and I feel like carbs have a place in a diet, and exercise both enhances the benefit from carbs and minimizes the potential negative impact.

2) Practicality. A pragmatic, realistic approach for “everyone” is a core concept of Brain Over Brawn. Even if we had the infrastructure in place for everyone to switch to a quinoa-and-red-yeast-rice diet tomorrow morning, not everyone has the money to buy everything organic and local, and even fewer have the immediate desire. Or to give up all their foods, or eat “mostly plants” or anything else. It’s certainly something I can agree with philosophically, and I respect Pollan’s stand against the factory-farm food industry. But it’s not going to change overnight, and my target with Brain Over Brawn was specifically designed to be things that can change overnight, or even right now, as someone reads it.

And all that said, I agree with you. Macros really aren’t that important in the grand scheme, especially since the type and quality of food, the foods with it, the eater’s internal chemistry (both genetic disposition and at-the-time), add so many factors that the same meal could have a significantly different effect on a different person or just a different day.

The best practical solution I’ve found is to orient carbs to exercise, making carbs less of a factor for people when physical activity is also less of a factor for them, and allowing for increased carbs alongside more exercise (both as a reward, and due to the tendency for higher tolerances due to improved physical profile). I allow for most vegetables in Base meals (without fearing for carb count), and for fruits as well in Peak meals; the 40/40/20 split is a target for people who simply can’t come to terms with the Base/Peak division of meals. Going with the Base and Peak meal design makes accurate counting/hair-splitting largely irrelevant; restricted carbs for sedentary people, carb allowance for active people. Bing bang boom.

AtA: Engineer Bags Revisited

Posted June 4th, 2010 in Ask the Author by Clint

In buying your “engineer bags,” is it worth paying extra to get one with a flat bottom, or is round fine? It seems like round would roll off you when you try to do a weighted pushup? On the same note, it seems like you might be doing a disservice by continuing to call it an “engineer bag” when searching for that turns up only different things, while “duffle bag” is mostly correct. As a reader I’d rather just see links to a few inexpensive “recommended” ones on your site, though.

I apologize for the confusion; for effectively all of my life I’ve heard them referred to as engineer bags. It’s a heavy duty canvas bag that’s typically early 20th century issue, available at pretty much any Army/Navy store, suitable for carrying tools or parts in, and thick enough that chunks of metal won’t slice through it. “Duffel bag” to me is the big canvas tube-like backpack you see infantrymen carrying their clothing and worldly possessions in. And most people seem to think of the thin nylon/plastic ‘gym bag’ as a ‘duffel bag’ as well.

Whenever I’m not at home and I’m building a new engineer bag (which happens frequently if I’m traveling, at a workshop, helping a friend/client put one together, whatever), it’s pretty much an hour job. I go to a local Army/Navy (or failing that, sporting goods store) so I can physically touch the bags and see what seems most durable (and grab a bag of tube socks while I’m there), then go to a hardware/home improvement store and get 2-4 bags (100-200lbs) of gravel. About $20USD total cost. I usually take the recipient of the bag along so they can pick something that appeals to them (some people don’t appreciate having an olive drab sack in the corner of their nice living room).

I would feel uncomfortable recommending ones off Amazon that I haven’t tried, so I’ve ordered a couple and will test them out and let you know what I would recommend.

As far as flat bottom or round, my current pair are rounded. The rocks will ‘flatten out’ on the bottom and be more of a significant factor in stability than a seam will, for push-ups or whatever. But it’s not that big a deal either way.tl;dr get something durable that pleases you aesthetically. Straps going all the way around the bag for support. Many readers also recommend handles on the side as well as the top.

AtA: When to Eat, the “9 hour” concept

Posted June 2nd, 2010 in Ask the Author by Clint

In the nutrition section, you mention breaking up the day into 9 hour phases with meal breaks every 3 hours. What was the purpose of the 9 hour phases? I get that one phase is for sleep and metabolism is low. Am I right in thinking the next phase (morning-afternoon) should have meals with higher calories? Then with the last phase (afternoon-evening) should still have meals but with lower calories? I think that may have been what you intended but it was a bit vague.

The “9 hour” thing was simply to try and pry people loose of a “24 hour cycle” sort of mentality that has people scurrying to eat a bunch of calories before they sleep in order to meet some numerical goal, or else starving themselves because they ate too much that morning.

Really, the focus is on “what am I putting, or about to put, into my mouth?” A significant factor in that decision is what you’ve eaten earlier, and what you intend to eat later. You might consider eating more if (for example) you did not eat 3 hours before (you were asleep, say) or you do not intend to eat 3 hours later (zzz). Or when you plan to exercise, your meals will adjust as well.

If 3 hours ago you could only get a snack, your right-now feeding might benefit from being larger. Or if 3 hours from now you intend to eat a big meal, you may want your current meal to be something simple.

I should have said “6 hours”, in that with what you are currently or about to eat, you want to take into account what you ate 3 hours prior, and what you plan to eat 3 hours hence. More like this:

-3 —– 0 —– +3

Hopefully that clarifies things.

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