Wednesday Wandering Mind – The Usual Nonsense But Mostly Health Stuff!


Now here is something interesting – I didn’t post on Monday. OK, maybe you noticed that, maybe not … but I sure did. While to an extent I could blame it on my busy anniversary weekend, or the sh!tstorm I knew I was walking into on Monday, or the kids starting band camp, or whatever. But none of it was true – the reality is I have 24 drafts in various states of completion, yet I just came up blank. So I let it go … but given how easily things have flowed lately I found it interesting. Apparently whatever was ‘stuck’ broke free …

1. Food Pyramid for Runners

I really love the food pyramid from Runner’s World, one of those classic ‘what they think, what I think …’ things, but with a twist.

The interesting thing I have talked about in the past is that for many years I was in the “I run so I can eat whatever I want” camp, and while most of my food choices were good, I regularly dipped into the lower part of the pyramid. But as I ramped mileage past 40 miles per week back in 2012 my eating shifted much more into the ‘fuel zone’, and I became very particular about what I put into my face.

So it struck me the other day when a runner friend grabbed ‘one of everything’ from an assembled ‘carb overload’ table that resulted when a few different people had coincidentally brought items the same day. And he said ‘this is why we run, right’? For me, the answer was ‘no’. Homemade stuff? Sure – and I had a great macadamia nut cookie … but not any of the store-bought items. Just me … but the ‘run to splurge’ thing isn’t important to me.

2. Take Time to Celebrate Your Victories!

A while back there was an article at Runner’s World called ‘Bask Now, Analyze Later’, which emphasizes taking time to celebrate what went well – and particularly focuses on one thing: I crossed the finish line.

Then a couple of weeks ago Nicole had a great post called ‘Things I did right during my last race’, which celebrates some of the things she did well – and that is SUCH an important thing to do. And something we rarely do …

Think about your last race or long run – what comes to mind first? Probably how it could have been better. I look at my long run from just over a week ago – I did 18.79 miles. Two thoughts – I didn’t get to 20, and I under-fueled. But … c’mon, I ran almost 19 freaking miles! Can I not celebrate THAT for a second? Sure it is important to visit our mistakes – and I did, which helped me to a properly fueled run over 23 miles this weekend. But I never really took the time to celebrate what I had accomplished.

So that is my challenge to you AND myself: celebrate your accomplishments. And if you leave a comment – tell me something awesome about yourself that you are celebrating today!

3. Drink More Water, Gain Less Weight!

We all know how important hydration is, especially as we burn through the summer months as runners (though as we know, winter hydration is just as important!). An interesting study from a while back that was covered at Runner’s World showed that drinking water – and other non-sugary drinks – led to less weight gain.

After controlling for several factors that could affect weight gain, the researchers found that people who drank water, coffee, tea, and diet beverages gained less weight each four-year period than people who drank sugar-sweetened beverages and fruit juice.

Of course, we know that diet soda definitely doesn’t help with weight loss – and might even work against it due to how it confuses your body into expecting real sugar and when it doesn’t arrive it causes another hunger cycle to get back the resources it dumped before.

It all comes back to the basics – just like with foods, so too with drinks it is best to stick with things like water, infused water, coffee, tea, wine, and so on.

4. Reminder that ‘All Natural’ is Meaningless

OK, so I have gone on and on about how all of those ‘all natural’ protein powders and supplement pills and so on that people use and say ‘hey, it is all-natural, it must be good’ … is not guarantee. And recently on Buzzfeed there was an article about just how meaningless the ‘natural’ claim really is. From the post:

Can you spot anything actually found in nature in this product?
Ingredients: Citric Acid, Potassium And Sodium Citrate, Aspartame, Magnesium Oxide, Contains Less Than 2% Of Natural Flavor, Lemon Juice Solids, Acesulfame Potassium, Soy Lecithin, Artificial Color, Yellow 5 Lake, BHA (Preserves Freshness).

Though my favorite has to be the ‘all natural’ Cheetos … seriously.

5. Another Cautionary Thought on Anti-Oxidents

Yeah, I already went off on the whole Supplement thing, but it bears noting a more recent article discusses how some of the core thoughts behind the mechanistic workings of antioxidants could be wrong, and how we could be negating benefits of exercise by our ‘couldn’t hurt’ mentality:

“A supplement industry now worth $23 billion yearly in the U.S. took root,” he notes.

Taking antioxidant supplements before exercise actually negates some of the well-documented benefits of physical exertion.

And yet, antioxidant pills have proven to be a bust. In February, a group of independent US medical researchers assessed 10 years of supplement research and found that pills loaded with vitamin E and beta-carotene (the stuff that gives color to carrots and other orange vegetables) pills are at best useless and at worst harmful—that is, they may trigger lung cancer in some people. Just this month, a meta-analysis published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that antioxidant supplements “do not prevent cancer and may accelerate it.”

And a 2009 study found that taking antioxidant supplements before exercise actually negates most of the well-documented benefits of physical exertion: That is, taking an antioxidant pill before a run is little better than doing neither and just sitting on the couch.

Again, I don’t consider this to be remotely conclusive science, but it is interesting – and gets back to what I keep saying: know what you are putting into your body, and when in doubt – don’t.

6. Debunking “Chronic Cardio”

Michele wrote a post asking ‘is running healthy’ which brought up a post from ‘Mark’s Daily Apple’ that claims that, basically, our current methods of exercise are ‘bad for us’. When I read the article, I had a few issues:
– The ‘summary’ block wasn’t a summary but a sales pitch. Anyone using an obvious ‘click bait’ title, then leading with a sales pitch has already hit an 8 on the ‘BS meter’.
– Looking to the end, it is clear that the goal is to make recommendations that align with the primal / Paleo ideals. Which isn’t surprising since the opening was a sales pitch.
– The intro claims that the ‘conventional wisdom’ is “45 minutes to an hour a day of intense aerobic activity” … but that isn’t true at all. The REAL recommendation is “150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise”. In other words – the basic assumption of the article is WRONG – and since finding the CORRECT information took me less than 5 seconds … it is not unreasonable to assume that the article was INTENTIONALLY MISLEADING.

So it is simple enough to discount the entire article, and quite frankly it undermines the credibility of the entire website. But someone took the time to actually debunk the points that were made in the original article:

One of the main reasons that Mark is against running – it decreases fat metabolism – isn’t supported at all. In fact, this study shows that aerobic training like running burns more visceral and liver fat than resistance training.

And this study shows that running is better than strength sessions for weight loss. This isn’t to show that you have to choose between the two – both have an important part in any healthy exercise program – but aerobic running is actually better for general weight loss.

Now one thing that came up with Michele’s post and in the comments was the ease of over-doing things. In other words, if you tend to be an extreme person who refuses to recover and just does extreme exercise all the time … well, maybe you will see negative effects.

Sure – but I have two thoughts: first, you will likely be injured well before any of the stuff in Mark’s article is a major concern … and second it is pretty much like arguing that water is bad for you if you choose to drink 47 liters per day. Um, yeah. Stick with reasonable training and exercise programs, folks.

tl;dr – running isn’t bad for you, anyone who says it is probably is selling something.

7. Could ‘Intermittent Fasting’ be Good For You?

This one is pretty far out there – and the general thought could be a trigger for those already dealing with restriction and with a history of restriction and other food-related issues (i.e. me).

You can see some of the articles here and here and here and here. From one article:

The human metabolism does not grind to a halt if you skip a meal (or three). For it to slow down by even ten percent, one would need to fast for 72 hours straight (don’t worry, no one’s recommending giving up food for three days)[1][2][3][4]. In fact, even 48 hour fasts have been shown to have no negative effect on metabolism, cognitive performance, or fatigue[5][6]. That’s not to say fasting can’t be a little uncomfortable — we’ll get to that later.

But why would anybody want to fast? For starters, IF shares many of the benefits of following a low calorie diet, such as a lower risk of stroke and cardiovascular diseases [7][8][9]. Fasting’s effect on the heart is especially interesting: One study concluded just one day without food per month can potentially halve the risk of developing coronary artery disease[10].

8. Barefoot Running – It isn’t Bad For You, But Some Shoes Aren’t Good For You!

The whole debate over barefoot running has seemed like a he-said/she-said back and forth nasty debate since I got serious about running and shoes a couple of years ago. As I started back, I began with what are described as ‘minimal-ish’ and ‘ultra lightweight’ shoes. And I tried shoes that were lighter and thinner and dropped from 4mm to ‘zero drop’ … and eventually got to the Merrell Vapor Gloves which are zero-drop with 2mm cushion (compared to the 12+mm on most shoes) – and it was just too little shoe for me.

There was a big backlash, and last year loads of reports came out noting that the science for the backlash wasn’t there … and then a few months ago courts found that Vibram had mis-represented their shoes and the potential benefits in order to increase sales.

What is reality? I’m really not sure – there are articles about why barefoot-like shoes are ‘not best for most runners’. And I think that for people starting out, finding something with moderate cushion to start seems wise – and THEN working on different shoe drops and types to see what is optimal for you, consulting with people who can observe your stride and footfall pattern. Gradual, informed changes are always your friend.

9. FDA Closes the Trans-Fat Loophole

Have you heard about the 0.5g *per serving* trans-fat loophole? That loophole has now been ‘closed’ and if the rules go into full effect foods will no longer be allowed to claim ‘no trans fats’ if there are any present at all. Here are more details:

After thirty-odd years of everyone knowing trans fats are bad for us, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed measures to ban all trans fats in our food. The move comes after decades of research finding consuming trans fat is strongly linked to heart disease and obesity. The ruling is just preliminary for now, but when (or if) it comes into effect (the timeline is kinda fuzzy), there will be some big changes on supermarket shelves.

It turns out a lot of our favorite treats are laden with the stuff, even though brands often claim otherwise. This is thanks to an egregious loophole that allows a product to be labeled “trans fat-free” if there’s less than 0.5 grams of the stuff per arbitrary “serving.” Right now, the best way to tell if a product contains trans fat is to check the ingredients: If there’s partially hydrogenated oil, there’s trans fat.

10. Psychological Effects of Exercise Deprivation

Pete Larson from Runblogger highlights a study at Science of Running that had athletes take two weeks off … from the article:

“Following the layoff, the athletes saw significant increases in feelings of tension, depression, anger, confusion and total mood disturbance. Additionally, there was a decrease in vigor. These changes in mood aren’t terribly surprising, but it’s pretty profound when you think about it. Just by taking someone outside of their norm of aerobic exercise for 2 short weeks, people’s mood states were significantly impacted.”

I think many of us can relate in some way to taking time off and really feeling like our overall state was altered. For those who have been injured, what is your experience?

What Health Issues Have Been Tweaking You This Week?

31 thoughts on “Wednesday Wandering Mind – The Usual Nonsense But Mostly Health Stuff!

  1. A whole lot of goodies here! I had looked into IF briefly in the past but completely wrote it off based on 1. it seems needlessly restrictive and 2. studies have shown it can wreak hormonal havoc on women. I’m sure it can be beneficial for some populations but probably not for the average person.

    “Exercise deprivation” reminds me of a mild version of detoxing from drugs 🙂 And I mainly think Mark Sisson is radical in his views based on his own bad experience with high level training – his chronic cardio thing has been a big controversy and he’s loosened up over the years on his stance. I like to think of it as a caveat and the “more is not always better” thing.

    The IF reminded me that I wanted to write a post on glycogen depletion training, so thanks for that!

    • Thanks Michele – I am not sure how I feel about intermittent fasting for the reasons you mention … some of the logic reminds me of the ‘juice cleanse’ nonsense. For me it is a reminder that you won’t die if you miss a meal … something to remember for picky eaters, right?

  2. Hehe, I love that RW food pyramid–I’ve seen it pop up a couple of times. For a long time, I’ve definitely been down in that bottom pyramid, but trying to work my way toward the middle ground.

  3. Lots of good info here! I am always one to criticize a race or workout, but I do also try to celebrate the positives. Like this morning I did 800s…and same amount as a few weeks ago, but not as consistent or fast. But I still did them, I pushed as hard as i could today, and I recognized the reasons why the times may be slower. Either way I got them done, when I easily could have bailed after the first 1 or 2 were off target!
    That top part of the food pyramid is too funny! I have tried explaining Gu to coworkers before…it sounds pretty ridiculous to people who don’t run long distances!

    • I think Gu is pretty nasty in general … haha

      But yeah, totally hear you on realizing that you need to celebrate that you did what you could! No two runs are the same.

  4. The shoe debate I could rant on about for hours seriously. There are very few “bad” running shoes. However not every running shoe is designed for every person. Our feet are obviously all different and need different shoes. When you wear the wrong shoe that is not meant to you, well that is when you get injured. It isn’t the running shoes fault…it’s yours.

  5. I made a comment when I first saw the Runner’s Food pyramid on another person’s blog–that I thought it was hilarious (and I still do), but I totally agree with you: I think that running just simply so that we can eat crap is a load of BS. Even when I began running, I combined it with proper diet, and though my feelings about running have changed (and my goals for it), my approach to eating have not (quantity has changed, however, to match my training). That’s like getting all dressed up just to impress someone, and then being uncomfortable the whole time. Wear/do what makes you feel good because it will reflect in how you carry yourself and how you function, not because you think that you can or should.

    • So true – getting dressed up should be all about how you feel about yourself, not about portraying an image to others … regardless of what we see in all of those high school reunion movies / TV shows 🙂

  6. I love that pyramid.. I saw it a while ago and it cracked me UP. I’ll never forget a few years ago, one of my friends asked if he could try a GU “just to see” what it tastes like…I just looked at him and said “sorry friend, you owe me $4 just to try this gross thing.” Oh runners…we are silly.

  7. I love the RW pyramid!
    Other thoughts:
    I would have guessed magnesium oxide was natural, but not so much anything else in the list. Were you saying one of the things listed was natural or none were?
    I pretty much always run on pavement (cement, concrete, asphalt), so I’ve never looked into the barefoot running stuff. I think if I did more running on trails or grass, I would (I did read Born to Run, after all).
    I wonder about the 2 weeks off thing since I haven’t experienced any of those negative effects — though I guess it’s worth noting that the only time I’ve taken 2 weeks off consecutively in several years has been for overseas vacation, so I feel like my mood drastically improves then anyway!
    One vote for the next serious analysis topic: the research that says running long distances is unhealthy. Most of that stuff (I think) seems to say running 4-6 miles 4-6 days per week is the peak healthiest, and running more than that has more risk to your heart. Just curious and thought it would be interesting to hear your take on it. You know, when you feel like digging deep into a research-heavy topic! 🙂

    • On the ingredient list – it is more that whe you look at that list you do NOT see ‘natural lemonade’ or anything that suggests it.

      I don’t know about the 2 weeks off either … chances are there are studies that suggest exactly the opposite! haha

      And I will definitely look at theimpact of long distance running – I know that sustained long distance training has an impact over time (the data I have seen is around >marathon distance).

  8. I never really thought about how we tend to not celebrate the good stuff but instead focus on the less positive, but it’s true. My first thought about my run yesterday? “Well that sucked. Lack of sleep and humidity really did a number on me.” What about the fact that I finished it and did it at the pace I was supposed to, even though it sucked and wasn’t fun? I need more positivity in my life right now, so I’m going to try rolling with this for awhile 🙂

    • Yay! Definitely try with everything – every run, each meal, each outfit, and so on … try to think of at least one positive thing. It can change your life.

  9. That food pyramid is the bee’s knees. I laughed all the way through!
    I agree with Hollie on the shoe thing. When I first started running and wanted to get a new pair of shoes, the name I heard thrown around the most was Brooks! Everyone needs to wear Brooks! So I went to the store and got some Brooks. Wrong shoes. Then later on I went through two other styles of Brooks…wrong shoe and wrong shoe. What did I learn in all this? I can’t wear Brooks. This isn’t Brooks’ fault. Brooks makes a great product. I just don’t have Brooks feet. 🙂

    • Absolutely! I have tried twice to love the New Balance Minimus … once they destroyed my heels, the other time they were worn out in a few hundred miles. Never again! haha

  10. There is so much goodness in this post! I don’t know where to start. Oh wait, yes I do. That food pyramid cracks me up. I completely agree that the notion of running to eat a bunch of crap is ridiculous and really is so backwards from why you should be running in the first place. Running makes me want all that delicious healthy stuff. Now I do crave dessert like crazy and I allow myself a little bit to enjoy. I also allow myself a nice weekend splurge meal after a really long run. But honestly I think the running makes you crave that tree bark at the top of the list 🙂

  11. I’ve been working on headstand away from the wall and it wasn’t happening because I was scared. I stepped back and decided that just trying was enough for today. I can push through the fear another day. Thanks for that article on weight training and weight loss. I have a client who has been thinking of shifting from weight training and spin to yoga and running. This is because she saw major weight loss (well inches not pounds) from yoga and has a real desire to run. I told her do what feels right for her body but I’m sure this article will help her while making her decision.

  12. Major applause for #2! I think runners are much to quick to be hard on ourselves, mostly because we’re usually looking to improve something, whether it’s speed, distance, or something else. I always try to find the positive after a bad race (and good races too of course). There’s no point in depressing myself over a performance that could have been so much better had I done x, y, and z. I still ran a race to the best of my abilities that day, and that’s all I can ask of my body 🙂
    I remember being shocked when I first heard that “all natural” wasn’t actually regulated and any company could claim their products were all natural. It’s so sad how food has turned into such a marketable product.

    • Good job finding the positive! I really think it is a critical part of helping ourselves.

      And also agree that I assumed for a long time that ‘natural’ was regulated like ‘organic’. Sad that it is not …

  13. As always, great stuff. I liked how you took down the “running is bad for you” article. I feel like anything that’s too extreme one way or another isn’t really best. Of course, I’m pretty anti-diet and tend to think a well-rounded general way of eating is better than anything that excessively restricts. But maybe that’s just because I could never sustain eating that way (give me gluten!) that said, I’ve definitely reduced my sugar intake.

    And the while running shoe debate — it’s like people want to make shoes one-size-fits-all. Lol. That makes no sense. I wish I had an easier time figuring out which shoes are right for me though. The trial and error phase is no fun whatsoever.

  14. Pingback: 12 Weeks | Chasing Chels

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