Diet & Exercise Taken To Non-Extreme Levels


Over the last couple of years my interest in diet and exercise has expanded dramatically. I've been lifting weights almost non-stop since middle school (late 1970's) and have always been aware of diet issues (for years in blog posts I said don't drink soda) but have come to learn much more as an example of staying curious about successful aging (increasing healthspan). As I have learned more I have shared what I have learned with friends on Facebook and Twitter but have been clear to say do your own research and draw your own conclusion. Apparently I have influenced quite a few people to do just that; do their own research, draw their own conclusions and be physically better off because of it. If that is actually correct, I feel pretty great about that. I am no expert, I am a student and sharing what I learn and what works for me in hopes that other people become motivated to learn for themselves.

For as much as I post about this stuff, I might appear to be living a very extreme lifestyle depriving myself of a lot of whatever. This is not the case with me and I am convinced does not need to be the case for people simply looking to be healthier versus being the 85 year old who completes the Iron Man Triathlon in Kona.

A friend shared this episode of the Joe Rogan podcast with me that featured Dom D'Agostino and Layne Norton. It was three hours long and covered a lot of ground related to diet mostly but also exercise and behavioral factors related to both. A couple of great points from Dom and Layne included choosing a diet (low carb, high carb, low fat high fat, whatever) that you can stick with. If you can stick with it you're more likely to have success also there is the possibility of causing problems by going all in on something and then stopping.

I've been clear that I am low carb not keto but it seems like there is a ton of ideological overlap between the two and one of the criticisms I see frequently is behavioral, that it is difficult to maintain. Anecdotally, I had zero problem implementing my version of low carb and then sticking to it, coming up on two years. The idea that it is difficult to maintain comes up frequently in what I read so there must be truth to it. I personally target no more than 100 carb/day. When I first started I weighed 220 pounds and have been in the low 190's for quite a while now. I didn't start to lose weight, my A1C was a couple of ticks too high, I just wanted that to drop. I didn't realize I would lose weight and actually didn't realize I needed to lose weight.

In the pod cast, Layne talked about high carb as a way to lose weight but I don't think I heard any science as to how that works and later on he talked about his being on a high carb diet because he was trying to bulk up with more lean muscle mass (add weight). Quoting Nassim Taleb, I have said we learn everything we need about finance from our grandmothers; save money and don't go into debt. Invoking that thought we learn at an early age that we should not consume too much sugar. Maybe now though we are learning that there is more sugar in food that we realized which is where low carb comes in.

Even if you can't or don't want to go low carb I would hope that you'd be open to the possibility that you might be consuming too much sugar. It's easy to count your carb intake. How many to do you typically take in everyday? If all you did was eliminate soda and have protein (like eggs with cheese and/or breakfast meat) instead of cereal with milk and orange juice which is a carbohydrate festival you'd be much better off. You still may not have any interest in that but there is nothing extreme about skipping soda and cereal (actually I know someone who no matter what will not give up Dr. Pepper).

Aside from the obvious carb sources of desserts which are intended to be sweets, I don't eat bread (most people know that is high in carbs), I don't eat pasta (I have a thing that will cut zucchini to look like pasta), no rice (cauliflower rice instead, cruciferous vegetable), no regular tortillas (Sprouts has tortillas with 3 carbs each versus 29 in Trader Joe's tortillas), no potatoes (there are cauliflower substitutes here too), certain fruits are sugar bombs like mangoes and watermelon (but I eat blueberries and blackberries all the time), fruit juice has crazy amounts of sugar added (orange juice has insane amounts of sugar) and there may be others that I am not thinking of that are high in carbs but you get the idea.

Very quickly on intermittent fasting which might be thought of as next level behavior. There are many benefits related to chronic inflamation, autophagy and insulin sensitivity/resistance that are crucial to enhancing healthspan and probably lifespan too. This is important to learn about. Essentially I fast from around 7:30pm until around 11am-noon the next day on most days. I usually have coffee around 7am and then coffee with butter (butter has no protein or carbs with appears to not break a fast but some believe otherwise) around 9am. I don't think what I do is extreme but anyone can scale in with as much or as little as they want. Keto is more extreme than what I do and I think carnivore (people who only eat meat, literally the only thing they eat) is more extreme still.

The benefits of weightlifting are essentially endless (resistance training with weight which can simply be pushups, coffee table dips and other things you could do at home). Learn more about this if you don't already know, but we start to naturally lose muscle mass in our late twenties. This leads to osteopenia (loss of bone density) and sarcopenia (this is the fancy word for losing muscle mass) which is what makes people frail in old age. Frailty ages us faster which can lead to dying sooner.

I lift weights at the gym twice a week for a little less than one hour per session. Again, in terms of extremes, there is nothing extreme about two hours a week. I try to hit it very hard (high intensity). Something to learn is to include compound movements (where more than one joint is involved) versus only isolated movements. My routine includes deadlifts, hack squats, bench press; usually 23 sets of exercises all in doing two sets of most exercises and then I jump some rope before I leave. This takes about 50 minutes. Minimal rest in between sets is important and doing exercises to failure is important (I don't life to failure with deadlifts for fear of devolving to bad form leading to injury or with hack squats because someone would then have to bail me out). One day a week I do the stairmaster for 24 minutes at a pretty high level relative to the machine. One day a week I will do 100 pushups in what is hopefully less than five minutes (did it in 4:25 the other day). I do a longer jump rope routine (a form of high intensity interval training which is an other important form of exercise) twice a week including right before doing the pushup thing and we hike on Sundays.

Again, I don't think that is extreme but it is scalable. There are many studies that show just a few minutes a week, literally a few minutes a week, of some form of resistance training with weight can greatly improve cardio vascular health.

I have several motivations for all of this. I would generally prefer to be able to do the things I enjoy doing for as long as possible. No matter how old you are you know people who at your age can do seemingly incredible things physically and others who unfortunately are very limited in what they can do. My goal is just to not be limited. There is a financial planning aspect in that managing chronic maladies is a drain on (retirement) finances. There is no drain if there are no chronic maladies and while there is no guarantee, trying to have a decent diet and regular exercise is the empowering act of trying to solve (prevent) your own problems.

A more experienced Fire Chief once said to me that a Fire Chief of a smaller department (mine is small as was his) needs to look like they can still get it done. In my mind I immediately tweaked it to say/believe that the Fire Chief of a small department needs to be able to still get it done, with appearance being less important. I am motivated to be an example for our department and to share with the group what I learn same as I am sharing it here.

No single post can encompass everything so that was not the goal but if some sort of yeah I need to do more moment happens from the sharing of these ideas happens then that is very positive all the way around. Do your own research and draw your own conclusion but do something. Paraphrasing Joe Moglia, no one will care more about your health and fitness more than you.