Sunday, September 30, 2012

Invisible Shoes (soon to be xero shoes) - Every Step I take: A learning experience - review

Exploring the minimalist shoe experience? Looking for stuff that passes "the twist test" to make sure you're getting as much barefoot goodness as you can handle? This post is a wee review and endorsement of one of the cheapest (ie most affordable) high value options available: invisible shoe's  (soon to be xero shoes) customisable huaraches. Consider it an opportunity to rediscover walking, running and moving on your feet - even if you already do minimal footwear. Really. For 20 bucks, these offer a rather   amazing education

Huaraches - that's Sandals, right? For Running?

For those of us who have come of age on the miracle that is lateral, medial, anti-pronation, eva footbeds, mesh uppers etc etc, that more or less blare out that our feet are not to be trusted, and thank god almighty for orthotics, sandals may be the last thing one would think of as effective running kit. Perhaps even further away from possibility than a pure bare foot.

Tamahumara - From National Geographics report onbarefoot running research.
If you've been exploring minimalist footwear - like vibram fivefingers (me, here, daily vff wearer since late 2008) or newer shoes like merrel trailgloves etc, you may be making various signs now to ward off the evil flip flop eye: sandals may invoke images undesirable constant flexion/clutching of toes to hang onto the shoe. THey are the Anti Minimalist, minimal wear - the fake coin of of barefoot parties. Birkenstocks unbending soles be banished; flip flops constant clutching, back to the darks.

But wait, this is different.

Xero Huarache's - Not your cousin's retread tire sandal

a Tarahumara huarache
Sandals as lightweight foot covering (well, sole of foot covering) have a very long history, it seems, in our human history. Sandals as running wear were also made particularly popular in Christopher McDougall's book Born to run (and why is the kindle version more expensive than paper?). Here he features the Tarahumara Indians' huaraches: cut bits of tire tread tied to the feet with a lace.  These are in part the inspiration for Xero shoe's huarache kits.

If visions of your elder backpacking counsins' huaraches of the 70's are creeping into mental view, set them aside. Those rubber soled behemoths would likely *not* have passed the twist test. Xero's definitely do.

the invisible shoes huarache
A Xero Shoe Sandal is created from a size-specific sole that can be further trimmed to custom fit the wearer's foot. One can do the cut oneself from the basic sole closest to your foot size, or, Xero Shoes will do the cutting for you based on an outline drawing of your foot. Instructions on both bits are well detailed on the site, with text and video instructions.

New Soles. Once upon a time - about three years ago - the soles were simply cut from a sheet of Vibram outsole rubber. These kits can still be purchased, but the sized soles, the 4mm Contact and the 6mm Connect, offer particular advantages. For starters, the lace holes by one's ankles are pre-formed. They don't need to be punched into the sole, and they also have extra rubber around this area to ensure no lace is going to pull through the material on tying. Likewise the tread on the sole is designed to work with that size shape - there's a flow to the sole pattern. They also hold their shape better when tied - less flop.

The shape and texture of the sole is the brainchild of a collaboration with former running shoe design experts from rival major companies who shared a table in the home of invisible shoe maker, Steven Sashen. More on that in the following posts' interview with Sashen. For a preview, he demos and talks about the new soles in this youtube vid.

The new design also comes with a 5000 mile performance guarantee.

Mini Experience Review:

The question might be, if you're already doing the minimalist shoe thing, why think about sandals? For instance, i've been wearing one model or another of vibrams five fingers since 2008, pretty much 5 days out of 7, more recently interspersed with trail gloves, evo's or asics t'ai chi's. All full foot covers. And when not wearing shoes, i've well, not worn shoes, as per Mick Williamson's guide to actual barefooting.

Steven Sashan posted on the barefooting blog about a year ago to the effect that, despite what Gray Cook has called the 'self-correcting' of stride that putting on five fingers (or going foot naked) is supposed to incur, Steven has still seen people at running events run in harmful ways and where they leave hating the barefoot experience.

Putting on Xero shoes, Steven gently implies, is a challenge to just how good your barefooting talent is.

Learning Experiences. 

And that's pretty much what i've found. These sandals act like amplifiers of foot fall cock ups: hear them slap? it's you. Feel them catch the ground? More times than not, it's you. It's not the shoe; it's you. Well, me. It's me.

I've been wearing these pretty much non-stop since mid august, as my colleagues will attest.
Each of the past six weeks had brought some new learning experience. I confess, i haven't always wanted a learning experience in each step i take, but it seems to be paying off.

So if you want to free your feet up even more than five fingers or trail gloves allow, and improve both your walking and running gait, and feel the world beneath your feet even more - without going total bare - then Invisible Shoes now Xero Shoes are worth the effort.

If you'd like to see what these learnings are about, here's at least a map of mine:
  • Lacing
  • Re-lacing 
  • Walking
  • Running
  • Re-lacing

Lacing Up - Learning experience one

Two pair of xero's came my way: the 4mm connect, custom cut, and a 6mm contact foot form that i would need to trim and hole punch for the lace between the big and next toe. The hole punch is included in all kits: it's useful for refeeding laces through holes, and necessary for making a hole in a custom kit.

sole and top and tie of  custom
cut  XeroShoes 4mm Contacts
The shoes come flat in an envelop with instructions and links to videos for trimming and lacing.

Reader, i balked. I was super busy during the day, and when i got home the thought of facing learning a new way to tie a shoe and experimenting with tightness so it didn't fall off, never mind trimming another pair - yes, i quailed before what felt like an intrigued prospect. But finally time was made and the shoe'ing began. It began by grabbing said custom shoe and laptop for lace up video practice.

The shoes do come pre-laced but that just did not work for my head that had a very WTF moment (PhD means nothing before certain technological apparatus).

Also, on seeing one shoe modelled in a vid with what looked like paracord (turned out to be niteline), and having rather a lot of that with me, i abandoned the included laces and went straight to the paracord. Following a tip from one of the abundant videos, i trimmed out the core of the paracord for the between the toes bit to make it softer. While that works, i've since abandoned doing so.

Why do this? i like the look of the flecked cord better than the solid colour of the (yes softer which is nice) nylon laces.

Why Lacing is an Experience is on a couple levels:

First you're figuring out: do you want slip on and off tying or something that needs to be tied on and off each time you go?

custom: paracord in lieu of laces
Next, you're just getting used to the right tension and knot placement.

  • Tension is important for keeping the shoe on the foot; 
  • knot placement is important in terms of keeping where the lace that comes between the toes lies. 

It took the longest to get that between the toes thing just right. Not right and when running, i found the lace dug into the side of either toe. Interestingly a tie job could work well for running but not walking. Not right and when walking, it just bit. Blick. Likewise, having a knot to tie off the project fall on an awkward spot on the top of the foot can be uncomfortable. There's a fine balance of forces here, it seems.

There were a few times i felt like this huarache thing would be a failed enterprise. It was really based on the reviews on the invisible shoe forum and conversations there that encouraged me to think sticking with this would pay off. There was nothing particularly special about me that would make me an un-sandal candidate, so i figured i just wasn't in the zone yet and kept going.

Hence the lacing, relacing, walk/run, relacing bit above.

Who knew sandals took such commitment, eh?

Talking with another colleague i'd turned onto Xero's he said he'd had a very similar experience getting one with lacing but he too thought it had been worth it. He likes to run through streams and trails.

Learning Eperience Too: What's that slapping noise?

As part of getting the lacing to work, tension adjustments needed to be worked out to get the front of the sandal in particular sufficiently close to the foot through a stride without reefing on the top of the foot.  That lacing is part of it. But so is the stepping.

Now, as someone who's worn fivefingers for years, and nothing for sometime, i kinda thought i had an ok stride. But yup, these sandals are little amplifiers of imperfections. When walking and perhaps more so running - i can hear that i have these sandals on and not close fitting shoes.

Yes there is a way to walk that keeps the shoes far quieter. Yes there is a speed and shape to run that keeps the shoes much softer and closer to noiseless. And that takes effort to get that.

Before even getting to the sonic feedback, the first day i felt like i was really changing my gait in order not to let the front of the sandal act like a shovel - a very weird feeling that disappeared in about two days. That was the quickest sandal sensation to dissipate. Then came the slapping.

Initially i wondered why i should be getting myself to try to conform to the requirements of shoes. But since the results are a gentler and softer stride, i'm not sure why that would not be a good thing. I'm pleased that over the past 6weeks, the shoes are progressively quieting down walking, and also running. There is still work to do.

There are many tips on Steven's web site about softening up the stride. These articles and discussions are also worth perusing.

Every step you Take...They'll be Amplifying You

As said, every step with these shoes especially in the first few weeks (yes weeks not days) felt like a learning experience. I'd put on a pair of seeya's just as a break from that once in awhile. But as my stride and lacing and all get better i hear - well, less. That's a Good Thing.

What Else to Love What i really enjoy about the Xero's is that my feet are not in shoes. They sure got more vitamin d in august than likely they ever had since i don't know when. But meanwhile, they are still protected from the ground. I will only push my family so far, and they support me on so many things, that forcing them to swallow barefoot walking too, on concrete etc, all the time - it was just one too many. These sandals let me approximate that experience more than closed shoes do. And i'm learning new skills while stepping.

Death to Flip Flops The only other sandals i wear are vivo's Dopies. I do not run in doppies - they are effectively slip ons, without being flip flops. I've written about these elsewhere. The difference with Xero's is that i feel confident with the lacing that i can just take off - and have. Not something i can do in doppies, and i personally do not enjoy walking any distances in doppies.

But i do enjoy open air footwear - despite the usual questions.

The other day at an event colleagues asked me if i wasn't cold in them (it was 14C and raining; it's sept in the UK; normal).
Aside: some of my fave comments with FiveFingers have always been "are those comfortable" - The temptation has been to reply "No, they're horrible; i am wearing them as a penance for thinking bad thoughts about people in elevators" - That's not nice is it? I mean - really the question is coming from someone who is interested and can't quite figure out how something like what they're seeing works. "Are those comfortable" is just social shorthand. I must hear the tone more and the words less...Likewise comments like "aren't your feet cold" "yes i prefer pain and suffering" - i mean when was the last time someone said about 4 inch heels "aren't those causing you years of pain, discomfort and a host of other horrible ills?" Sorry. i digress.

My reply was, no, i'm not; i'm quite comfy. I was in fact giddy at the thought of not having to walk home in sodden shoes and socks; that my feet could move. And that indeed, during the event where there was carpet, i could take my shoes off discretely and move my feet even more. no re-socking.

Connected, but not Contacting. I'm still working on lacing - i have almost got it to the set it and forget it point. That's quite wonderful to slip on a sandal and know i can break into a run or just stroll. That's with the custom cut 4mm Contact.
I have not yet tried the 6mm Contact - i'm not quite ready to punch the hole and trim the sole, as it were, and i really do find the 4mm just dandy. When i try the 6mm i'll report on any difference in foot to ground feel.

Recommendation: Buy

If you think you're mentally and spiritually resilient enough and patient enough to go to the Next Level of minimalist foot'ing, then you MUST try Xero shoes. They're cheap enough at sub $20USD a kit (with international vendors popping up) to try the 4mm and the 6mm versions, and give to your family and friends for pressies.

They are a process, but that's cool. If you've been going from things like structured shoes, to Nike Free's to Vibram Five Fingers, you know that's an adaptation process, too. Xero's are one more, er, step in that process.

As said at the top, who would have thought sandals required such committment, but any skill does. A drum looks pretty durn simple, and while whacking it will get a sound, spending time to practice finger taps etc, creates some powerful expressions. Likewise it seems walking is a skill - and it is - we learn it; we practice it, and our shoes have really f'd us up (hence the cry of the wild for orthotics etc).

Going to Xero's is like respecting ourselves enough to want to recover our body's movements. Patience works. The best thing here is that *each* step we take, takes us closer to the perfect step rep. Xero's just let us know how our performance is going - and that kind of feedback is worth the price of a cheap lunch out for two, yes?

Next up: the b2d Invistible/Xero Shoes Interview

Yup, the affable Steven Sashen, Founder of and now kindly spent time with me in August to chat about the Invisible Shoes story while going through the madness of moving to a new building (not a kitchen table business anymore). Grace under pressure seems to be his Way. It was a pleasure contacting and connecting with Stephen, and i know y'all will dig the interview.

For a preview of what that will be like, just check out any of Steven's wonderful videos on the xeroshoes site. Though i confess i think my faves have nothing to do with lacing. For example:

Till then By all means, consider xero shoes - and if you found this article helpful, here's my xeroshoes affiliate link to use when you choose your xeros and feel the earth move.

(note about b2d affiliate links: if i don't test it, use it, like it, i don't endorse it)

Happy Trails - and please let me know how you get on with your Xero's.

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Thursday, September 6, 2012

28 day Fat Loss with the Modified v diet Pt 2: mc's exact shake concoctions

In part 1 of this post on what  Ken Froese and i describe as "the modified v diet" where one has one real food meal a day, and the rest of the day it's all protein powder and associated supplements.  I noted in part one that i was rolling my own potions for the protein powder part rather than using the prescribed products from the Velocity Diet website, but was very much taking on board their guidance around amounts of Stuff and additional sups. You can again check the details of those recommendations at the Velocity Diet v. 3 site.

Need Some Big Powder Love
for this 28 day protein fiesta.
I offer the following descriptions of exactly what i had and what was in it, therefore, just as my *single* *iteration* of this diet/process - i'm not prescribing it as what to do - it's just what i did for 28 days. And while we're robust and can survive almost anything , markers of health, well being and cognitive performance seem to suggest i've not just survived but thrived on this approach - at least for this brief a period.

As also said in part 1, i'll talk about the adaptation process i have from my notes. For instance, i'm calling "28 days" of this approach "brief" - on coming off an all food all the time approach down to one real meal a day, that first weekend is, well, challenging and 1 day never mind 28, feels pretty durn challenging.

Double V'ing: Work out Day; Less Work Out Day. And so, for information, this is the approach i took. There are two versions folded in here: the main version takes into account full on training days 3-4 times a week, and then there is the non training version. Effectively that means a few less things drunk on non-training days.

Here again this diet mirrors most normal nutrition practices though it gets all sorts of names from carb cycling to calorie zig zagging to stuff i know i'm missing. But the priniciple is simple: working out more; take on board *some* more fuel to support that. Do so and fat burning also works better.

Ok, without further ado, this is what i adid. Details of specific products follow mixes.

The Shakes - Hand Rolled

By the way, in 28 days, at least for me, there are no cheat meals, no carb up meals, no nothing. Just follow the plan, stan. If your mileage differs, it differs. It just didn't seem necessary, and i didn't really crave it. And if i did a bit, well, ignored it. That's an option, too. More on such options experiences in part 3.

 PRE ANYTHING 5:30 am Before morning workout at 6am: 
  • -- 80 degree C japanese genmaicha green tea - nice flavour and fat mobilizer  
  • -- one scoop EAAs  
  • -- a teaspoon of L-Glutamine - 
  • -- bit of creatine
  • -- one caffeine pill (it's 05:30!) as part of ECA stack - yes i experimented with this to find a minimal effective dose. 
zero calories but filling and for me at least, primes the pump.

WORKOUT SHAKE in the 1L Eddy Bottle to sip during and at end of workout:

Camelback Eddy Bottle 1L
- Super Sipping
during workout.
  • -- 3/4 scoop of Brown Rice Protein Or you might prefer pepto pro hydorlized caseinate.
  • - some citruline malate
  • - a dash of beta alanine
  •    (citruline malate and beta alananine - great on their own - possibly very cool together)
  • - a dash of creatine monohydrate
  •  - a bit of extra leucine - because i'm hedging my muscle building bets. It's like throwing a pinch of salt over the shoulder to add 500-1000mg
  • - recently, TMG  
  • - a dash of cytomax (like 2-3g) - mainly as a bit of carb to help the creatine do its thing trusting that that work cited by John Berardi about creatine's uptake being helped by pro/cho is still true.
  • - pour in remaining L of green tea
  • Will it blend Modified V, Oh ya
    Ignore the Fruit in here,
    this BlendTec WildSide
     is wicked on Ice,
    Cacao Nibs and all sorts of
    protein powder concoctions
    described below.
    And for those making real food shakes,
    it works for that too.
    Apple Demo
  • - add ice, shake like mad, fill to brim with water

Faster Cardio Time: If i don't work out, i don't have the above - just the green tea with a half spoon of matcha  mixed in, and if i'm going for a fasted cardio stint a la lonnie lowery, i'll add in the EAA's and maybe a g of creatine. 

Breakie Shake (around 7:30, 7:45)
Time to break out the blendtec - for the ice mixing!

  • - Once more to the full scoop of rice protein,
  • - a wee scoop of L-Glutamine - why the L-Glutamine in a moment.
  • - trader joe's roasted flax seed
  • - a drizzle of organic cacao nibs for flavour and of course other super food goodness
  • - a scoop of either greens plus (canadian version) or greens rx - both similarly research validated
  • - 2g of glucomannan - makes it more filling and add fiber - the actual v diet recommends fiber pills.
  • A TMG pill (not thrown in)
  • CoQ 10 (also swallowed as a pill 100mg qsorb)
  • Spatone Iron Supplement
Take vitamin D post shake

9:30 at work a couple times a week on a work out day usually:  cup of coffee with shot of chocolate milk. I almost can't believe i did that. Strangely compelling. And yes, in as much as it is, there is the ocaisional shot of REAL food in the protein day, proving one can succeed at a diet without being totally OCD about it.

In a strane way this is the simplest and most surprisingly satisfying shake of the day. I think it's so satisfying because i usually have it while folks are having their real food lunch at work, and my simple low cal shake is lasting longer than their lunch, and i'm quite happy just to sip it. That's a surprise.
  • - It's just a scoop of yes, rice protein powder - about 22 rather than 30g actually.
  • - Then a hit of EAA's 
  • - some L-Glutamine

All tossed up in a blender ball bottle (these are awesome) - and another reason to shop at TrueNutrition - best prices on blender bottles. oh ya.

Mid Afternoon - Occasional 
If i get peckish in the afternoon, i'll have
  • - EAA's
  • - L-Glutamine
also, strangely satisfying.

REAL FOOD DINNER around 6 or 7 pm

Oh wow, this meal - this food - gets my complete respect. It's so precious - the proteins - the veggies - the CONDIMENTS like hot sauce (remember the cholula! and thermogenic properties of chilli?), balsamic, olive oil, himalayan salt, mutlicolored pepper corns. WOW. Every bite is precious, savoured and hence enjoying the savoury. I have come to so appreciate seasoning to bring out the tastes of foods. I'm only sad at still how quickly that meal can be over even when really chewing that food one precious bite at a time. MM MM Good! what a gift!

If not eating oily fish, 1T Fish Oil Liquid after dinner; CoQ10 part two after dinner; R-Fraction Alpha Lipoic Acid before dinner.

Post Dinner Micro Fruit 
Over the summer with the abundance of available from the farm fresh fruit, around 8pm, having some fresh fruit - like a sliced peach or apple is such a treat. And thanks to Ron Ipock from over on the Precision Nutrition forums, i've connected with Ceylon Cinnamon - fresh filed off a grater - it's a more subtle flavour than casia (the usual north american spice that passes as "cinamon") and again, does it ever make the flavours in fruit (and may other things) just pop.

And of course, there's the single natcho chip. I have a craving for the salty i think, and one chip is just fine by me.

If Hungry before Bed
Back to zero cal EAAs and L-Glutamine - and not alot as i don't want a lot of liquid in me before trying to sleep.

If i'm feeling really peckish, i'm happy to add in some coconut oil or almond butter and shake the heck out of it.

And for Sleep / Recovery
Zinc, Magnesium (glycinates), Co-enzyme B complex, 5-HTP, L-tryptophan for good measure. And this is all supposed to be simpler to manage than real food for 28 days, eh?

A word about the (possibly) a-typical Supplements

Why Rice Protein Powder? 
I like it.
Kenneth Jay of the new Kettlebell Institute introduced me to the Sun Warrior protein and i promised to myself i'd try it when i got to the states. IT has a terrific protein/amino acid profile, and claims suggest that it's highly bioavailable. And after a month of multi-uses in a day, i'm happy with it. When i say it i mean "rice protein" - not necessarily Sun Warrior. I'll also say i've now had both Chocolate and Vanilla Sun Warrior - i cannot taste the difference.

Indeed, what i do not know about brown rice protein is the difference between stuff that says its explicitly sprouted (sun warrior) and stuff that says nothing about sprouting (True Nutrition) as they have similar profiles and claims on absorption.

As an alternate to the Rice, I also tried pepto pro hydrolysed caseinate - an uber version of an all the rage protein kinda thing - and really, i didn't notice a difference. That's not to say perhaps there mightn't be one at some blood uptake level - i just don't know that i felt it in my performance in the gym at 6am.

And Caffeine?
I'll tell ya what i did notice: if i missed doing a caffeine pill. That's a little disturbing. I could really tell after a while that if i didn't take the caffeine hit in the AM the workouts did not feel as crisp. That kinda sux.

Just cuz that is part of a beverage Lonnie Lowery was sipping to stop from losing protein/going catabolic when doing his fasted cardio (along with the hydrolysed casein and citruline malate). In a capsule, it's cheap and easy to test. Can also get it as a bulk powder from some suppliers but i'm not ready to commit. And would i jump off a bridge if lonnie lowery said to? Maybe if i watched him do it first, and saw the data for the depth of water, current, displacement and anabolic benefits as with the TMG.

And the rest of the ECA?
Well that's interesting. In leu of the no-research-shows-this-stuff-burns-fat-really of Hot Rox in the V-diet, I explored old skool ECA I'm canadian: you don't need a passport to get either it or cold remedies in the Great White North.

I explored EC with very little and occasional A based on what i'd read with interest in Lyle MacDonald's Rapid Fat Loss handbook. That tome has more than i could go into here about the pros and cons of the approach, and i'd recommend reading it. What i also did in consultation with someone way more experienced than i in this approach is to get to a minimum effective dose for me. How did i figure that out? that's a good question. ECA is mainly to make sure in the event of metabolic slow down from reduced caloric intake and (in lyle's approach) reduced activity, the ECA keeps the metabolism from dropping - more or less. The help i got from this it is not what one might usually think: i don't think my metabolism ever slowed down: my calories weren't that low and i was very active, doing full workouts, and likely not really going ketogenic either.

So what the ECA seemed to do for me was, initially, in the first few days,

  • act as a diuretic - that seemed to stop very quickly. 
  • act as an intense appetite surpressant - nice - wasn't expecting that and was more intense right at first than enduring but still noticeable when not on it. 
  • caffeine (more than described here) gave a perk to the morning workout for sure. bummer
What about that L-Glutamine and Why EAA's rather than BCAA's? 
L-Glutamine is harmless, and potentially good, and when i get the natural lime flavour from True Nutrition it's a nice flavour hit to mask terrible stuff like unflavoured citruline malate or beta alanine or the horrible betaine hcl.

On the plus side, it's been used to help folks settle gastric issues, and there's one (one!) study so far that says if you're on it for a month, it reduces the intensity of DOMS. Likewise, folks in nutrition behind the CSCS have been saying for years, and now it's coming out of other places too that it's a good muscle cell volumizer, and keeping muscle volume up is apparently a Good Thing for those cells' health.  Sure creatine has a cell volumizing effect, but it has other roles too, and i don't tend to take it to feel full. Now, John Berardi on his Get Shredded Diet has reommended that when cutting calories way back doing Creatine with BCAA's can stop one from getting all mean and nasty - so perhaps similar effects from a different angle

As for the EAA rather than BCAA's
 I got turned onto these by Bioletic's MD Rick Cohen (of the cholesterol numbers translation) when my initial bioletics blood work showed i was surprisingly low in my essential amino acids. Since i'm actually interested in maintaining all of me, not just my muscles while low cal'ing in particular, i'd rather have the complete and very bioavailable amino acids.

That may just be me; your mileage may vary, but i'm happy and my body seems to be happy too. How do i know? Blood work at 6-8 month intervals. And tuning into my body more since doing the blood work to get the signs of what seems to be working and what doesn't.

Citruline Malate and Beta Alanine?
Just because? Actually over the past five years i've read and heard good things about both of them, and the price has come down on both, so why not give it a shot? especially when real food intake of Good Things is low.

There's an increasing amount of research about ALA not only as a thermogenic aid (what the hell isn't a thermogenic aid these days - see first para here for refs) - but also around insulin management and all sorts of good things for glucose to muscles when working out. Just take a look at the list of articles on this topic about insulin uptake. It's also got anti-oxidant qualities, and apparently can help decrease the rate of macular degeneration.

There are two kinds of ALA - stuff labelled just ALA and stuff called "r-fraction" ALA. The r-ALA is supposed to be more bioavailable and show better muscle test results - in rats. In either case, ALA takes about a month for its effects to show up, so taking it for a 28 day diet thing is really future-proofing.

Creatine Monohydrate
There's so much good research on this i'll not go into it here. Get the excellent creapure micronized powder and be happy. Again, being low on real food intake and so real sources of CM also lower than normal, seems a no harm no foul, could be a Good Thing. So low risk, low cost, get a few extra reps, protect my ATP. If that last sentence made no sense, skip it and just stop at "good thing" for now.

Green Tea
Well known now fat mobilizer. Great to do for fasted cardio with the BCAA's or EAA's and a hit of creatine - maybe that's just me. And that's only after i've had it on its own first for the flavour and warmth - and with a shot of matcha powder whisked in for good measure.

Iron?? Really?
Again, when away from food food, and as a gal, i just don't want my iron levels to drop. That way leads to fatigue and a host of other crap i can ill afford. In terms of absorption i like spatone because it's what ya might call food based, even though its naturally sourced iron-rich water. You can read more about how it works, here. Having done pre/post blood work with it, i think it's simple, great, and if i don't put it in a morning shake it makes an interesting shooter in the morning on its own when chilled in the fridge.

I can't be bothered. It's in flameout (a velocity diet sup) but so what? the sources on CLA in the research are largely by the company that produces it and the amount to which it contributes to fat loss, i dunno.

Sources for the Stuff

90% of the supplements and proteins come from True Nutrition (formerly True Protein).
So Rice Protein, pepto pro casein, l-leucine, l-tryptophan, citruline malate, beta alanine. All TN.

I've dealt with them for five years; colleagues i trust have recommended them. We all keep coming back. Good value for good products to GMP standards. They are all variously flavoured with their premium NATURAL flavours (that means good sources for flavour and stevia for sweetening). Because EAA's (and BCAAs) taste like pants, i now get a double hit of flavouring. I also order additional L-Tryptophan - another EAA but the TN blend, while fabulous in amounts of EAAs overall for some reason is missing the tryptophan. and i like it - especially for sleep. No biggie.

If you order from True Nutrition and want a 5% discount on our order, my discount code is MCS110. Use it, and if i have X amount of protein sales credited to that code i get free protein - that hasn't happened yet - but if it does i'll give it to a local food bank or school lunch program.

The rice protein i aslo have i also have Protease added improve absorption as per this overview. Maybe that's silly since its so absorbable on its own and is not whey, which is where the tests have been conducted. But, that's what i love about True Nutrition: you can have it *your*way.

Other Bits
- Genmaicha Tea: Teavana
- sun warrior rice protein - amazon
- Matcha: Doi Organic through amazon, or in the UK, love me some Teapigs matcha.
- glucomanan - Now Foods - amazon
- Ceylon Cinnamon - Indus sticks, organic, amazon
- The E in ECA - cavedogs supplements in Canada
- Greens +, canadian version: London Drugs, Canada (bricks and mortar)
-- Greens RX (when in the UK) from bodykind (i kinda prefer the taste and darker greenness of this
- Fish Oil (Nordic Naturals), TMG, CoQ10, Vitamin D (Now 5000IU's), R-Fraction ALA, all from Swansons. Also got individual magnesium, zinc, 5-htp and co-enzyme b complex there, too. Again when not eating real food much and want to sleep, not messing around with the stuff that lets us recover.
- Caffeine - Prolab Advanced Caffeine with Chocamine and the new rage of green coffee extract too. From vitamin shoppe - (bricks and mortar). Thanks again to Kenneth Jay for recommending this one.
- Iron - spatone -

In terms of additions to protein, if you check the Velocity Diet site, you'll see that there's a lot of similar stuff going on here to what they suggest there. Where they have a lot of stuff pre-packaged like flame out that does fish oil and CLA combined with some other secret sauce, or their recovery drinks have the protein and carbs and electrolytes all pre-blended, i tend to like mixing up my own stuff. The one place i break that is usually on carbs and electrolytes. I like what Cytomax does in terms of carb/electroltye/special sauce blend. It's not necessary, but i just like it. That they don't put silica gel packets in their big jars bites, but i can add those myself.

Why i Blend. I like controlling what amount of beta-alanine or creatine i have when.  I also like putting together my own ZMA - with the most aborbable versions of Z, Ma and B i can find - when i need it, i want it to work with the least amount of product being optimally effective. Some people (i can think of one right next to me), such blends finikityness drives them crazy. Understandable. But this is the way i roll, i guess.

Main point: you have options. You can do bit by bit mixes like this or get combo products. When getting combos, ZMA is a typical example, you may want to check for what kinds of minerals are used.  Are they chelated, for instance? That is, are they put into a particular amino acid delivery form that allows them to be absorbed when they're delivered outside of food?


As per part 1, the above approach worked, and seems to continue to be working.
It worked steadily, not crazily, as the weight graph on part 1 shows, and works well within normal parameters. Just like when eating real food.

5-8 engagements with Fuel Ups beyond the Single Meal
As you can see from the above list of when i'd consume anything, there are 8 on a work out day and 5 on a non workout day possible engagements with fuel ups of one kind (no calories) or another (low calories) from supplements to whole food. One is not starving.

And to go back to Ken Froese's point from part 1, there is a certain simplicity to doing these low cal beverages during the day (effortless kcal control), and then really really (really) enjoying both the food and the company of a reasonable, tasteful, happy evening meal.

More on this restorative and pleasurable experience in Part 3. We'll also talk about the transition from food to - well - a lot less real food, and why doing that has been worth while, not only or even mainly now for the weight loss, but the attitude, and possible health benefits.

thanks for reading.

Part 1 - what is the modified v diet and what does it do for fat loss?
Part 2 - mc's roll your own modified v non whole food bits (you're reading that)
Part 3 - coming up (not posted yet): what's the process like going from real food all the time to once a day?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Modified Velocity Diet: this is what 28 days of One meal a Day Fat Loss looks like

Have you ever felt like you're doing the right things (or most of them) while trying to trim some personal fat, and it's just not seeming to move? Go on! Me, too. Here's the story of a 6ish pound fat loss in 28 days eating one food meal a day and protein and sups the rest of the time.  Why would a sane person who likes food, preparing it, eating it, do this? Read on!

Sometimes i get to a place - i'm working out right, seemingly eating right, but my weight feels, well, stuck.

There are many paths to getting weight to drop again. Sometimes its by adding in more calories if one's been pretty low for awhile - really that can work wonders. Sometimes it's getting calories up and tweaking ratios a la Berardi's G-Flux.

But it depends. Sometimes it's getting real about eating less. And if less is what's called for, there are many ways to do less, because sometimes even seemingly eating less doesn't seem to cut it. OR less is going great in 7/8s of the eating day but that last 1/8 is the killer. How kick back? Again, many approaches in Fat City to deal with that 1/8. This story is just one of them.

Upping the Contractile Tissue Ratio. I was stuck with some 1/8 issues and couldn't seem to break them with previous approaches while at the same time, i had found myself in this place of wanting to "have less non-contractile tissue on me," as good buddy and coach Ken Froese (of the triple beast press) puts it.

Indeed, i owe this story to Ken for getting me inspired with the approach about to be described. I knew Ken had been doing one meal a day - along with coffee with double cream in the morning And maybe lunch time since about last december. Bacon, cream and amo, that's Ken's shopping basket (he posted the pictures, dude).

Mainly the one meal a day approach of Ken's, as i understand it, had not so much been a quest to lose weight as to get away from how another colleague Gina Venolia puts it "being anyone's bitch." Gina quit smoking and caffeine because "i didn't want to be their bitch." That's so cool. Ken likewise didn't want hunger to be his. So he explored mainly one meal a day. We are getting closer to the New Less approach.

The Modified V Diet

I recently asked Ken how that one meal a day thing was going. He said he'd cut out the coffee and cream and was doing metRX shakes a couple times a day instead, and then eating dinner. Shakes? Ya, he says, keeps calorie counting simpler.

yum yum, learn to love me some protein powder fun
As we discussed it, it turns out the closest thing we were talking about was the Velocity Diet or what's called the V-Diet for short, and it's described over at T-Nation.

In sum, the V-diet is largely protein shakes and recovery shake (read, some kind of carb item in shake) along with a variety of supplements to aid fat mobilization. Oh ya, and a big caloric deficit to boot. Oh double ya, ya get one real food meal a week. Not a day, a week. Otherwise it's non-stop powder and pills for 28 days.

What Ken and i have been doing more or less is what we're calling "the modified v diet" - and we're likely not alone or maybe not the first folks to have done this so can't claim an invention; just want to share the experience with the strategy.

The One Meal A Day Difference. Why Ken and i ended up what calling what we're doing "the modified V diet" is that we both decided that rather than have one meal A WEEK as per the actual v diet, we were having a real dinner. Protein and greens; low on carbs, but for my part as spicey and flavourful as possible (more on this approach in part 2). After dinner, I also ritually had one natcho chip. Yes, you can eat just one. And half a piece of fresh fruit.

Other than that, yes powders and pills. In Part 2, i give the entire run down of the typical blends i did as these, too, one could say, are certainly inspired by the original v diet, but using the stuff i like to use rather than the particular supplements recommended by the velocity diet sponsors.

Experience: In part 3, i'll talk about the process/experience of going to one small (not feast) food meal a day. For now, let me just say that  (a) it's possible to adjust quite nicely  (b) the first weekend was the toughtest - going vaguely ketogenic and dealing with getting away from hunger habits, and (c) no, this isn't really a ketogenic diet (see lyle mcdonald's work on this approach), it's not intermittent fasting (see brad pilon for the ese text book on that) and it sure as hell isn't the warrior diet (see b2d here). And it worked, as the data below indicates.

In the Numbers: mc on (modified) V

28 days of the modified v diet: 5.5 pounds and 1.25+ inched off hips; 1+ inches off waist

Results - 1.25 inches off the hips; 1+ inch off the waist; 5.5-6lbs fat gone down, callipers showed lean mass up. How do you like that, eh? Plateau busted or what?

So let's look a little further at one part of the numbers as they change. As the weight graph shown above indicates,  there's a few interesting things to note:

  1. the total weight loss in the 28 days is totally within the NORMAL and SAFE range of 1-2 pounds a week - so nothing extreme happening here
  2. As mike t nelson is fond of saying, weight loss is non-linear. You can see the immediate drop over the first few days of the diet, then the back up over a week or so, and then the second dip. And can we say hormonal cycle? Very interesting correlation. There were NO changes to the way i was eating (as shown in part 2)

Take aways from this graph might be: hold steady to a dietary practice for at least two weeks in order to see the trend of the changes rather than the daily particulars.

There's a lot going on in a body and much practice can only be revealed over time - especially when the numbers seem to go backwards for awhile.


I'm not recommending this approach for eating or recommending it. I'm just sharing an approach that's been working and has some nice consequences, not just in terms of reasonable weight loss - but in terms of attitudes/responses to foods. It's very nice to feel like i'm not hunger's bitch neither. I'm also not recommending exploring this approach longer than 28 days - quite frankly i think i've grown a little afraid of having whole food more than once a day! I'm sure its temporary. Anway - again - this is just offered particularly to show another path to busting a plateau, and also perhaps especially to show that
  • even when doing something so rigorous/controlled, weight loss is still non-linear
  • one can still train and make gains in a calorie reduced state
  • the weight loss on this vaunted velocity diet is not "extreme" but well within normal bounds - that's a surprise. 

 Future Forward: Experiment of One.

I'm into the week post this and am currently sitting at 127.2-127.5. Is this the next mini-plateau? I'm not sure, so I'm staying on this diet a bit longer than the stated 28 days of the original v because it feels fine, and because i'm curious to see if i'm rather plateauing again, if there'll be another drop - in other words does the trend continue or does its amplitude just get smaller?

Another reason i'm not changing anything at the moment is that i'm also training for a set of goals for the next two months, and am not keen to change anything that's working right now - heck doing this diet change itself was a bit of a training risk, but being lighter is important for the challenges ahead - so necessary. I'm pleased with how sane this had been despite being somewhat insane or at least unusual at the same time.

For general healthy living when not plateau busting, i still recommend Precision Nutrition (free overview here) and especially Ryan Andrew's new book Drop the Fat Act and Start Living Lean (review | author interview ). 
Till then remember - processed food is no substitute for whole food - except for protein powder, maltodextrin, and cla from saflower, of course :) - more on those bits in part 2. 

ps - about Ken? not gonna speak for his data, but his results have been makin' him happy too.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Interview with Drop the Fat Act & Start Living Lean Author Ryan Andrews - how bout those Deadly Fattitudes?

Ryan Andrews - Vegan
Lean Living Coach
and Author

The following is an interview with Ryan Andrew’s about his latest book Drop the Fat Act and (original b2d interview with Ryan, Aug 18, 2010 here). As said in the Aug 16, 2012 b2d review of the book, Drop the Fat Act really really is a must read for anyone interested in what getting, being and staying lean is about. In Ryan’s portrayal, Being Fat is an Act – an act that is the result of a consistent and repeated set of Fattitudes: Fat people – people who carry excess body fat – consistently share these attitudes. Change the attitudes, change the act, change from the Fat Act to Lean Living.

Because I’d never actually heard anyone put Being Fat so succinctly as a set of consistent Fattitudes (discussed in the b2d review) I asked Ryan if he’d have a wee chat with me about how these ideas developed. The following represents those conversations.

Ryan Andrews Drop the Fat Act b2d Interview

One of the richest parts of Drop the Fat Act and Start Living Lean is the bibliography. You have references to a lot of great books and approaches in getting to a good place with food. The acknowledgement of all these influences and your notes around them is fabulous to see.

In light of all these other sources, what did you feel were some of the missing pieces in this space that you thought needed to be addressed or could be better addressed by "Drop the Fat Act"?

It’s a collection of all the wisdom and experience I have to share. The book hits on the emotional and physical aspects of eating. I thought the opposites approach demonstrating what ISN’T working would be a fresh perspective for some people. I wanted to remind people that we can learn from our mistakes.

Where did the title come from? Why do you call this an "act" - and is therefore "lean" an act too?
I wish I had a better story for this, but it was really just a brainstorming session with my publisher that generated the title. I do believe that fatness and leanness are acts. It’s like playing a role or a character. A fat person does certain things. A lean person does certain things. Choose your character.
Is Fattitude your term? If so what inspired that framing?
I was talking to a good friend a couple of years ago who has lost over 100 pounds and maintained it for over 20 years. He told me I should include the term “fattitude.” I loved it and contacted my publishers about it immediately.

Audience for Drop the Fat Act

You're an experienced coach and you design for lean eating; you've done the research; you've spent the time on wards. You know this stuff, and you know that there are different learning styles and approaches to hearing a message.

Who are you particularly trying to reach with this book?
Anyone who is ready to listen. At different points in our lives, things hit us a certain way. I hope this book will help someone improve their life. One of my favorite quotes is: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
Indeed, to push on that question a little more:

The tone of the book is a bit dunno - how would you characterise it? Impatient? Acerbic? I've read your writing, Ryan - tons of about articles, your text book and support materials for the PN Cert Course - and we've done interviews and interactions. You're a *nice* person - meant in the most positive way possible. What made you decide that this more confrontational tone would be the way to go?
Just to keep things fresh. Stepping back from the “nice guy/textbook” approach to nutrition can be useful. We all eat 3 times each day. So let’s get real about it.
You frame Fat Folk as the Fat Eater and look at attitudes from approach to calorie restriction to types of food eaten; with fat Exerciser, it's time put into movement; Fat Life it's lack of sleep to over-confidence around weight management. How did you go about honing attitudes down to the particular attributes you list?
I started keeping notes about my clients when I was about 15 years old. That’s when I started helping people with eating and exercise. After a few years, I realized that the people with extra body fat all had the same attributes. I knew how they were living before they told me how they were living. Why not identify these attributes, learn from them, and do something different?
Are there any others that you didn't put into the book, but that you think some folks may want to be aware of creeping in?
You know, the book really hits on all the biggies. Each chapter has something I see each day. No joke.
Your final section is on the Fit Life, rather than the fat life, and it includes a 7 week plan. The plan is largely focused on doing more or the Lean stuff rather than less of the Fat stuff. Where we've grown acculturated to focusing on cutting out bad habits as the way to make progress, focusing on doing just more right stuff seems counter intuitive and just a little bit genius. Can you share some stories of how you've seen focusing on More of Right is better than Less of Bad?
Thanks. I’m tired of elimination. It’s been a major focus of nutrition for the past 20 years. Eliminate food X. Cut back on food Z. Before we occupy our mind space with food deductions, what are we actually consuming each day? Are we eating the nutritious stuff? The more we focus on something, the more likely it comes to fruition. Let’s focus on the positive. 

The Precision Nutrition (PN) Connexion

One aside on practical: in the book, you shy away from the 6 meals a day notion, and yet PN still has
a real transformation
this approach as part of the PN v3 system (pdf overview to PN here), though the current discussions on the forum seem to have toned that down - how reconcile that - and being a PN person - with your stance in the book?
PN AppleWe (PN) have chatted about this over the past couple of years. I think frequent meals (4-6 per day) can be useful for some people who panic when food is in short supply. Some people who eat 3 meals per day get in panic mode since the next meal is several hours away. This can lead to overeating. If having another meal in 2-3 hours prevents this overeating, then by all means, have another meal and eat frequently throughout the day. 
With that being said, if someone is able to be reasonable with food intake while eating 3 meals per day, then I would stick with it. We shouldn’t all have to be preoccupied with food, food prep and carrying around coolers all day. Let’s eat a meal, get done with it, and then go live life.

Also, one more PN thing - oatmeal in the morning
- you suggest it but don't seem to put caveats around it about having to workout first. With Precision Nutrition, one of the fundamental heuristics around starchy carbs, especially initially, is "carb timing" as in, don't eat 'em till you deserve 'em - eg, post workout. Could you go over your rationale around your "oatmeal is good" vs PN?
When someone eats a plant-based diet built around whole foods, carb timing isn’t quite as important. Why? Well, overall energy reduction is achieved with the general structure of the food choices and timing carbs is usually unnecessary to gain further benefits.
Goodness. That's an interesting leap. And an interesting place to get to. Perhaps a key thing to pull out here is the "plant based diet based around whole foods" as an assessment. Is someone's diet at that place yet?

The Joy of Tech comic
Featured, with permission, in Drop the Fat Act, Chpt 15:
Fat People Put themselves in Fat-Inducing Situations

Fattitudes and Clients

Now to the content again:
Have you started talking with clients in terms of their fattitudes? has it helped to help people recognize what um, might be called having a fat head (or fat thinking)?
We always discuss fattitudes. I really like when they can come up with their own list (instead of me doing it for them).
Have you considered a cheat sheet for "lean attitudes" (may be like the pn heuristics )
Good idea.
Do you have any sense of how long it takes folks to operationalize the shift from fat head to lean head? Of any of the fattitudes you describe is there one that shows up more than any other?

The shift is different for everyone. The MOST common fattitudes are: Making dinner largest meal, eating fast, dieting, eating processed foods, using food to manage feelings.
Could you expand a little more on the "it's not all about you" and how you've seen that with folks help them get to the lean action?

Are you talking about thinking outside our ourselves? Looking at the big picture with eating?
Actually i was thinking the former but the latter is interesting - so how about both?

Yeah. Our ideas about eating often become pervasively selfish. We assume that our own nutrition preferences trump any obligations we have as people. Rarely do we ask, “is eating this the right thing to do?” “Does this food choice lead to the greater good?” “What are the repercussions of eating this food?”
Second point:

Certain foods make us feel good, especially in the short term. We eat sugar and fat and get pleasure. When we start turning to this burst of pleasure any time we experience an uncomfortable emotion in life, it can have negative consequences on our health/weight.

Interesting. Getting that sense of discipline, really. OR different attitude/focus. And thus, a wee look further ahead as folks make progress.

As you see folks shifting into the lean act from the fat act, it seems many of us start asking quesitons about how to improve the process - or perhaps this is a fatitude in itself? Questions start to come up about supplements - whether its omega threes, or protein drinks or vitamin d on the sort of top level down to magnesium, zinc, b or i'm starting to see more on coq10 of late -  - do you have guidance around this one, too?
Overthinking can be a fattitude.

My advice is to keep it simple. There are certain areas worthy of improving. Some areas don’t really matter. I like discussing the idea of triage with clients.
Right - figuring out where the Important Bits are where a person is at right now. Related on the tuning - invariably folks experience some type of plateua in their practice - do you encourage folks to revisit their fatitudes to see which one might need more action, or what happens at this point for you?
Yes. Definitely revisit limiting factors.

Ryan World, Next Steps

How did you and your publisher find each other?
I submitted my book to 10 publishers. They were one of them.
Do you see a volume two?
No. (smiles)
OK then! Thanks very much for the time and extra insight into the Making Of - Drop the Fat Act and Start Living Lean.

What's coming up in Ryan World now that you have a popular press book in the bag?
Actually, I am now focusing more on my personal life.
Cool - good luck on your mission. As super self-less lean guy, that seems really cool.

As a reminder, besides now being an author of a book b2d is recommending as the Lean Living book to Share with All the Folks You Love, Ryan is also the co-author of the Precision Nutrition Certification text (and slides and voice overs for lessons) - you can engage with him on the PN Cert Forum if you're registered in this course. He's also one of the listed Lean Eating Coaches, so you can find him there. He also has been known to frequent the vegetarian questions on the general Precision Nutrition forum.

And once again, for those contemplating a purchase of this book, hesitate no more: you're doing good!
I also like to mention that 50% of all author proceeds from the sales of my book are donated to hunger relief efforts and improving school lunch programs.
You may also want to see the b2d review of Drop the Fat Act and Start Living Lean. Again, highly recommended.


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