Archive for February, 2015

Say It or Be A Fraud

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Feb 25 2015


“If you see fraud and don’t shout fraud, you are a fraud.” -Taleb

Part of what first interested me in Paleo and what honestly continues to interest me most about reading and studying about the diet is the ethical coda above. Gary Taubes was the first person to come on my radar in his article “What If It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie?” in 2002. The biggest eye opener in the piece is not that fat is good for you, but that Ancel Keys and then George McGovern manipulated data and public perceptions in order to get Americans to eat a way that dramatically aided large, government subsidized food companies and caused the death and disease of millions of Americans. Taubes went on to write “Good Calories, Bad Calories” which is a beautifully written book that expands on these themes as well as the good science and bad science done around human nutrition.

The second great body of work and someone who was willing to stand up and say “this is a fraud” is Lierre Keith in her book “The Vegetarian Myth”. Lierre was a vegan for almost 20 years. She accepted the vegan/vegetarian lifestyle and paradigm as a way to be spiritually, physically, and environmentally conscientious. She had noble instincts that led her to this way of life. She said she wanted “…my life to be a battle cry, a war zone, an arrow pointed and loosed into the heart of domination“. But what she found was that while her animus was noble, her means were wrong. She finally concluded, after years of living and preaching this lifestyle, that “The truth is that agriculture is the most destructive thing humans have done to the planet, and more of the same won’t save us.”

I honestly think the eating the Paleo Diet long term is pretty easy, and is summed up neatly in CrossFit’s dietary prescription “Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.” But what motivates me far more than abs or Fran times is first, exposing the frauds that are trying to get you to eat “whole wheat” and “fruit sugar” and claiming it’s good for you, and second, destroying the kleptocracy that makes up the US government/food industry hydra that subsidizes harmful foods and places impossible hurdles in front of healthy, natural foods.

[Originally posted Paleo Challenge 150127]


Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Feb 24 2015


I set out to write a unique and interesting blog post today about cholesterol, but once I found Robb Wolf’s post, I gave up. This sums it up too nicely for me to even try to compete. The following is reprinted from Robb Wolf’s blog. You can also tune into his Paleo Solution podcast here and purchase his books and ebooks here. Enjoy!

The basics of the diet-heart hypothesis go like this: High cholesterol leads to atherosclerotic plaques that precipitate a clot which can result in a heart attack or stroke. This whole notion grew from a disease called Familial Hypercholesterolemia and subsequent experiments that involved feeding rabbits (herbivores) oxidized cholesterol. These critters do not eat ANY cholesterol so the fact oxidized cholesterol caused problems is not surprising but also completely unhelpful when talking about people.

Anyway, 50 years to failed dietary recommendations to lower cholesterol have done nothing to alleviate the CVD epidemic. In fact, the epidemic is rolling along bigger and badder than ever before. Well This Study was pretty interesting. It indicates that most people who suffer a heart attack have…low cholesterol!

Now, everyone is in a fix to get folks on cholesterol lowering diets and statins to save them, but most heart attacks are in folks with…low cholesterol! Ok, doesn’t make any sense and it completely calls into question the notion that we need to reduce cholesterol levels…but why not give people statins and see how folks do on those. Well, interestingly, statins appear to decrease heart attack rates in people…with low cholesterol.

The mechanism? Possibly a reduction in C-reactive protein (CRP), an indicator of systemic inflammation. Know what else reduces systemic inflammation? A paleo diet which controls insulin levels, removes gut irritating foods, balances omega-3/omega-6 fats. Add some vit-d and consistent good sleep and you have effectively turned off the type of inflammation underlying CVD, cancer and neurodegeneration.
Oh! Then there is the fact low cholesterol increases stroke rates!!
So, just to clarify:

1-Cholesterol supposedly causes CVD, But
2-Most heart attacks are actually occurring in people with low cholesterol, Yet
3-Doctors insist on cholesterol lowering protocols, including statins, Even though,
4-The benefit of statins has nothing to do with cholesterol, but rather it’s mild anti-inflammatory action, Which
5-Can be accomplished with simple dietary modifications and a few inexpensive supplements.
It would be funny if people were not dying from this stuff.

[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 140120]

The Cure is the Process

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Feb 23 2015


As we approach the end of the Paleo Challenge, I want you to think about unicorns wearing football helmets.

No reason there, but I think wherever you are and whatever you’re doing the idea of a unicorn wearing a football helmet is funny. Obviously, the horn would go through their helmet and they wouldn’t be playing football, because if you have a horn and too much head protection, that’d be dangerous.

Anyway, Irvin D. Yalom is a pretty smart guy sometimes and he has a great quote “The cure is the process.” Yalom is a psychotherapist who is a big proponent of group counseling sessions where individuals simply (or not so simply) discuss their thoughts, feelings and emotions to a group.

What was confusing and enlightening for me when I first got into his work were two things: First, that he had a hard time describing what the end state of therapy was. Second, that a lot of the group dynamics and the patient/therapist relationship had a lot of similarities to CrossFit training and coaching.

Part of this similarity is in describing the goal, or “end state”. I’m a bit obsessed with the idea of “end state”. It’s something that’s drilled into us in the Marine Corps. The task you assign may have to change constantly, which is why we are always drilled to give “task and intent”: what do you want to have happen and what are you planning to accomplish with this?

The end state of Yalom’s methods are described in a variety of ways: “courageous engagement with…life’s predicaments and personal distress”, “claiming our own freedom”, “overcoming existence pain.” I find these descriptions similar to the end state of CrossFit “increased work capacity over broad time and modal domains.” What’s the thing that jumps out at you immediately when you look at all these: they are relative, not absolute.

Secondly, his group therapy techniques and description of the client/patient relationship is pretty similar to what we do in the Paleo Challenge and in CrossFit. So partly because you are getting quasi-kicked out of the nest soon at the end of the Paleo Challenge, I want to equip you with some knowledge bombs that will help you out.

Obviously, you can still ask me questions, but because you won’t have a defined “end state” anymore, e.g., the “Paleo Challenge Finale” on the horizon, I want you to have some tools you can use:

1) Get some Paleo buddies. Folks you can reach out to and hang out with and enjoy some Paleo chow together.
2) Continue to try to get better. Get a little wackier with your food. Try a CSA, buy some new kinds of meat, try some different restaurants. In short: don’t make your diet boring.
3) Ask for help. Coaches and your fellow athletes like helping you. Don’t be afraid to reach out.

[Originally posted Paleo Challenge 150126]

“I’m Shocked, Shocked To Hear There’s Gambling Going On Here!”

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Feb 20 2015


I probably use that line too much. But in the case of what popular “medicine” figures out, it applies.

The Atlantic recently published a story about a rheumatoid arthritis and gut health. The basic gist of this is that, shockingly, ingestion of grains and legumes can cause severe inflammation of the joints.

I’m going to use this word “shocked” one more time: I’m very not shocked that this is taking so long to get traction in the media. It’s really hard to monetize eating real food and very easy to monetize a magic pill or a dramatically subsidized package food (and hence, advertisers). Not easy to monetize pasture raised, beyond organic meats and fresh vegetables.

This tie between grain and legume ingestion and arthritis was written about as far back as 1905 in Weston A. Price’s seminal “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration”: Careful inquiry regarding the presence of arthritis was made in the more isolated groups. We neither saw nor heard of a case in the isolated groups. However, at the point of contact with the foods of modern civilization many cases were found including ten bed-ridden cripples in a series of about twenty Indian homes.

Further, Loren Cordain has been publishing studies at least as far back as 2000 (that was as much googling as I had time for):“Modulation of immune function by dietary lectins in rheumatoid arthritis”, which states that “Despite the almost universal clinical observation that inflammation of the gut is frequently associated with inflammation of the joints and vice versa, the nature of this relationship remains elusive. In the present review, we provide evidence for how the interaction of dietary lectins with enterocytes and lymphocytes may facilitate the translocation of both dietary and gut-derived pathogenic antigens to peripheral tissues, which in turn causes persistent peripheral antigenic stimulation.”

In short, grains and legumes are bad ummmkay.

[Originally posted Paleo Challenge 150121]

Variety is Good

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Feb 19 2015


Come morning
it was as though the songbirds of the valley
had drunk spiced old wine
they winged and warbled so.
And the wild life,
lost drowned in the farthest reaches of the flood,
looked like pulled up bulbs
of wild onion.
-The Muallaqat, Imru al Qays

I was just looking for an excuse to put some IAQ in a paleo blog post, so there you go…..

But it brings us to an idea of “what the fuck do I do with all my time now that I can’t drink!?!?!?!?!?” Great question.

Taleb (and others) talk a lot about changing your scenery. As hunter gatherers, we would have been exposed to different sense stimuli constantly. Variance would have been a constant: temperature, colors, shapes, sounds, tastes. Everything would be changing all the time.

But now what do we do? We get up in the same bed every morning with the same temperature that we set on our wifi enabled thermostat. We drink the same coffee made the same way on our programmable coffee maker. We make the same breakfast, take the same route to work, sit at the same desk every day, and do the same thing.

This is not what we’re designed for. Here’s a couple things you can do to stimulate yourself the way we’re designed to be stimulated:

Play. Don’t care if it’s hop scotch or basketball or water polo or even bridge. Get a group of people together and play (CrossFit should be like this most of the time). Double bonus points for playing music (not listening, go get a recorder and watch some YouTube and get playing!).

Get outside. Realize this is coming from somebody who hates “the outdoors”. As a former Marine, anytime anyone asks me to go camping or hiking, I’m convinced I’m going to walk for three days straight with one MRE and a canteen of water and only sleep for 30 minutes at a time because with only two people we’ll have to set up alternating watches at night and I don’t want to dig a fighting hole. Now they say you don’t need a fighting hole in Great Falls, but I think that’s just what Charlie wants you to think. But you can go camping and shit, it’s probably good for you. Bang. This is pretty self explanatory.

For more on Taleb, getting outside and fun maths!, click here.

[Originally posted Paleo Challenge 150115]

Focus on the Fundamentals

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Feb 18 2015


During the kick off we talked about setting up a “Paleo Framework”, which is very similar to what Andrew talked about on Monday and Tuesday’s posts.

The big system we’re trying to get you to understand is the difference between via negativa (to take away) and via positiva (to add). Lots of folks that join the gym go out and buy new shoes, new workout clothes, etc. While I see this as not necessarily a bad thing because it has a lot to do with tribal identity, which is programmed into us. But where it is bad is that we live in a complex world that we’re not designed for. Constant aerobic stressors (which we talked about during the kick off) are not something we are equipped to deal with, just like we’re not equipped to handle grains, dairy, legumes, and sugar.

So the biggest bang you get for your buck healthwise is not buying supplements or adding volume or drinking kale juice, it is taking things out of your life. As may things as you can handle.

For further reading on this social paradigm, check out Marshal Sahlins’ The Original Affluent Society.

[Originally posted Paleo Challenge “Focus on the Fundamentals”]

Keep Calm and Get Fired Up!

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Feb 17 2015


Love me some Ted Lasso. But the point is that you both need to chill the fuck out about new years resolutions and figure out what motivates you to show up to the gym.

This is a constant puzzle that we try to figure out: how to get people to have fun (and hence keep coming) and how to get them to work hard. Lots of different schools of thoughts on this, but I think a lot of it comes down to the individual. There’s a great piece in the book “From the Horse’s Mouth: Selected Thoughts on Small Unit Leadership” about this very conundrum.

The basic gist is that a Civil War general has three regimental commanding officers, and he knows that to be effective he has to give them each different orders. The first CO has to have everything spelled out to him, and he’ll execute exactly what you want him to do, no more and no less. The second CO hated to be told what to do, he only wanted to be told what the end state needed was and wanted to figure everything else out himself. The third CO had to be told the exact opposite of what the general wanted. The general would frame it something like “Colonel, there’s just no chance that you could take Hill 172 by 1600 on Tuesday, it’s impossible.” The Colonel would then move heaven and earth to prove the general wrong, which is what the general wanted in the first place.

Generally, I think having fun and getting people results is a good start.

Russ Greene had an interesting take on this with respect to a recent T-Nation article:

“Quit trying to make exercise fun” – Dr. John Rusin
“Have fun with it.” – Rich Froning.
Hmmm. To whom to listen?

And I agree, so we try to make class fun, but we also try to tailor the class experience for each individual. I talked about this before in “How To Teach a CrossFit Class.” Our coaches are expected to engage with each client individually and try to address that specific client’s needs on a one-on-one basis. While the group class limits that ability to a degree, with time and commitment on both the coaches’ and athletes’ parts, you should be having fun and seeing progress.

[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 150114]

Why the Paleo Challenge?

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Feb 16 2015


While folks seem to enjoy my in-person sales pitch “Sign up for the Paleo Challenge, and you get to give me money”, there’s actually slightly more to it than that.

The number one reason why you should do the Paleo Challenge is that your diet is the single most important factor in your health. Whether you’re sold by the bodybuilding adage of “abs are made in the kitchen” or Hippocrates guidance: “Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food”, you’ll benefit from giving the Paleo Diet a real effort for one month.

The second best reason is you’ll figure out if I’m full of shit or not. Let’s face it, part of you wants me to be wrong and you’d love to prove it. So give it a try and then you can tell me how much healthier you were before the Paleo Challenge.

Third I’ll appeal to the foodie in you. Variety is critical in palatability as well as health, and chances are you’re eating some of the same stuff all the time. Come on board for the big win and we’ll show you how to dramatically expand the types of foods you’re eating by focusing on fresh and seasonal foods.

[Originally posted Paleo Challenge “Why the Paleo Challenge?”]

Why Benchmarks

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Feb 13 2015


Our programming over the next year will be giving you an opportunity to see moderate results over a short period of time. The goal of this two fold:

We want to see if more focus on one movement will get you mastery quicker. While this makes sense intuitively, because of the nature of CrossFit and the nature of human performance (e.g., it’s reliance on variance), we’re going to see if it’s true. While focusing on one thing will probably make you better at that one thing, do we lose something by focusing less on variance and overall performance and/or do we increase our incidence of injury because we aren’t getting enough balance in basic human movement. Meaning if you’re really good at pulling, but you suck at pushing, does that imbalance cause more problems than getting you better at pullups and muscle ups creates?

We want to give experienced clients more time to focus on complex movements and new clients a chance to get to a basic level of ability. If we can take an experienced client from two muscle ups to six and get a new client their first Muscle Up, that’s good stuff! Let’s find out of it works! (which it probably will because I don’t do the programming, Maria does, and she’s smarter and better looking than me).

[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 150108]

More on the ‘Idea of Fitness’

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Feb 12 2015


“One way to see it is to look at the two gym brands commonly cited as the fastest-growing in America: CrossFit and Planet Fitness. Both are expanding like crazy. CrossFit has gone from having 13 affiliate gyms in 2005 to 10,000 today. And Planet Fitness has more than tripled in size over the past five years.” –”The Rise of the $6000-a-year (or $120-a-year) gym”, New York Mag

Some of you may have seen the recent New York Magazine article comparing the growth of low cost and high cost gyms. What this article does a moderately good job of doing (while relying on sticker shock as well) is to further dismantle the idea that you can get fit with a low cost option.

This is obviously self-serving, but I’m writing on a CrossFit blog as the owner of a CrossFit gym, so yup, I’m biased.

What I tell a lot of my fellow CrossFit gym owner, interested investors and people that will let me hear myself talk is that there are really only two options in the fitness market: products/services that make you fit and products/services that make you think you’ll be fit. I usually just start with a list and ask them: “What do you buy if you want to get fit” and they give me a list like:

-Globo gym membership
-Personal Training
-Fitness DVDs
-Yoga/Spin/Pilates Class

Then I ask them “do you know anybody that’s gotten fit from buying these?” The answer is almost universally NO!!!!

This is analyzed better in a recent NPR’s Planet Money podcast “Why We Sign Up For Gym Memberships But Never Go To The Gym“. This story explicitly and accurately explains the globo gym model:

1) “Gyms have built their business model around us not showing up.” You are our advertising. When you come into work after a 30 day Paleo Challenge or after 2-3 months of CrossFit and you look like you’re wearing your older brother’s hand me down clothes, people ask “what are you doing?!?!?!” and that’s how we get clients. The only way for you to get those results and for us to get more clients if for you to show up.

2) “So gyms try to attract people who won’t come.” We don’t really have a “sales pitch”. The only thing I’ll tell somebody about CrossFit is “I hear it’s good”, that’s my hard sell. We get them in for a free class, we punish them, and if they like it they come back. They know exactly what they’re getting into.

3) “Our brains want to be locked into annual contracts with gyms.” We resisted doing contracts for a very long time, but since most of our members were hanging out for 1+ years, we finally decided to reward them, but still have a month-to-month option, which I encourage most folks to take.

4) “Just when we try to get out, they feed us, massage us and ply us with alcohol.” While we (I) do try to ply you with alcohol at every opportunity, this is more for me to be able to charge the business for my drinking requirements than getting you to stick around (more tequila for me if you leave!!!).

5) “Without slackers like us, gyms would be a lot more expensive.” At our prices and with our flexibility in contracts, there are very few people who are subsidizing the rest. But the whole reason we are “more expensive” than gyms is because we don’t have 10 people paying for a membership for every one person that shows up.

Which brings me back to my opening questions. The reason you’re seeing a rise in CrossFit gyms globally is because most folks are selling you “the idea of fitness” and we’re selling actual fitness.*

*Not the first time I’ve tackled these topics (The Idea of Fitness).

[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 150107]