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Insights on the Crossfit body by Rational Jenn

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about body image and body acceptance for a while now. It is a tricky thing, figuring out how to get rid of conflicting and sometimes crazy notions of what I “should” look like and come to terms with both reality and how my brain works.

You’d think, after three and a half years of CrossFit, after five or so years of really eating well, after losing about seventy pounds, I’d look like those ab-muscled, sleek women in those fitspo images.

Instead, I look like this:

Rational Jenn of
Rational Jenn of


And I am beginning to finally be okay with it.

I have begun to accept that after years of obesity, producing three kids, and now heading toward menopause (hopefully not for a while yet, but I’m 43 so it’s on the horizon), and also just not having a terribly genetic propensity toward leanness in the first place (definitely an endomorph type), abs just maybe aren’t in the cards. Actually, I have lots of abs, but they (and many other muscles) are “camouflaged.” ūüôā

But still, I worry. I worry what people think when they hear I’ve been CrossFitting for so long, because I don’t fit the image. I worry they think I am exaggerating or even flat-out lying when I say that I usually eat really cleanly and am extremely active. I worry nobody will ever want me to coach them because I carry too much body fat. (Too much by whose standards?)

I get irritated at the advice to “just” eat paleo or more carbs or fewer carbs or protein or avoid this or take that supplement. Eat dairy; avoid dairy. Red wine’s fine; avoid all the alcohol. Eat nuts; OMG don’t even. Honey, I’ve tried it all, and still haven’t figured out my ideal combination yet. That’s okay. I’ll keep trying. And yes, I’ve got hypothyroidism and a busy life and an allergy to grocery shopping regularly, so those factors don’t help either. Those aren’t excuses–they are facts about my life right now, things I need to work around. (Context: just like assholes, everyone’s got one.)


I get truly pissed off when I hear people disparage “fatties” for going to the gym¬†or having the nerve to run in a 5K race (overheard a guy complaining about all the fatties once during a race, and for all I know, he was talking about me). You can’t tell what a person can do just by looking at them. Trust me. I’ve been overtaken in 5K races by enough pregnant women and other folks who are probably twenty years older than me. You can’t tell just by looking.

I hate that I really considered not undertaking my new obsession, kettlebell sport (which is so awesome OMG, and you’re going to be hearing a lot about this new sport in the coming years as it becomes more popular, which it surely will, in part because I am writing about it here on my world famous blog)…. Anyway, I almost didn’t even try it because it is a weight-classed sport. It took some nerve to do my first competition, I tell you, but it all worked out fine in the end. Didn’t even faze me in my second competition.

But enough of what I hate and worry about. Here is what I do and here is what I am.

  • I recently pulled a 265 pound deadlift. Not too shabby.
  • I can do pull ups, and toes-to-bar, and handstands, and all kinds of badass moves.
  • I achieved Rank 1 in Kettlebell Sport Long Cycle. I can snatch a 20kg kettlebell and jerk a 24kg bell. (Heh. I said snatch. And jerk. And yes, I’m still 12 in my head and no, I still haven’t stopped laughing at those terms, despite all this time in CF).
  • I finished my third CrossFit Open and did not suck at all the things. I can do 84 thrusters and 84 bar-facing burpees and not die.
  • I also do not suck at yoga, being pretty strong and naturally flexible. Speaking of awesome yoga people, this is a¬†great post¬†I recently discovered, and is the inspiration for the title of this post. I second all the things she says.
  • I generally feel awesome, and last time I had all the basic bloodwork done, the results were in the “pretty much fucking awesome” category. My resting heart rate is usually around 55-60 beats per minute (which that dude complaining about all the fatties in the race would surely never believe).
  • I can teach people how to move well and make it fun and interesting and motivate them to keep going. I have people, mostly women, ask me for ideas regularly about moving well and getting back on the exercise horse (so to speak, I don’t know nothing ’bout horses). I think I am sought out because they know I know about the struggle to keep doing it, to stay motivated, to keep trying your hardest even though there will not be size zero dresses in the future. How we all know size zero dresses aren’t and shouldn’t be the goal, but that it’s hard to get that idea out of one’s head. How it takes effort to renew your courage and keep walking into the gym when you still are not lean after all this time, even though you know that the only person really even worried about that part is you, that nobody else at the gym cares about that even a little. And how challenging it is, this ever-lasting puzzle, worse than that 2048 game, to figure out how to keep your focus where it needs to be (health and fitness and mobility and strength) and not body fat percentage, and yet try to find a place where it is okay to want to improve one’s appearance.

So those are some things I’ve been wanting to say for a while. And for the record, here is what a real CrossFitter looks like:


Also: KETTLEBELL SPORT. You heard it here first, people (well, many of you). ALL the cool kids will be doing this soon. It’s sweeping the nation. So look out!
Edited to add: Note on the title of the post: Just to get it out of the way…I’m not saying that those folks with all the abs don’t look awesome, because of course they do! This post is just to show what A (one, singular) real-life person who does CF and eats cleanly looks like. A data point, an example among many others, understanding that there is a certain amount of variance within the population. So…not intended to be THE one and only example, etc. etc. etc. I’m not into fat-shaming OR fit-shaming.

A New Source of Protein for the Athletic and the Sedentary?

A New Source of Protein?

This is an odd and interesting bit of research.  It relates to reaborption of nitrogen . . . and presents the possibility that more protein is conserved than previously thought.  First dietary nitrogen 101: Nitrogen is a major component of amino acids.  Amino acids are needed to form proteins.  We can synthesize some amino acids ourselves, but others need to be obtained through diet.  Dietary protein provides nitrogen and amino acids from plant or animal sources which are resynthesized into human proteins.  Unused nitrogen is converted into Ammonia and Urea and excreted.

Can nitrogen be reabsorbed from the intestines?

WODMasters Eye Pood Kettle Bell
Even if you don’t have the right microbial stuff, you can still look awesome and powerful with the right shirt

The answer is a shocking “maybe.”¬† A new nutritional study (published ahead of print in the Journal of Nutrition) has found that nitrogen appears to be reabsorbed.¬† This makes little sense at first glance.¬† Until we consider the¬†vast populations of microorganisms that reside in the gut.¬† Until recently, they were all thought of as “germs” that needed to be quashed. ¬† That has changed.¬† We are learning more and more about how important they are for our health and even our survival.

The study is titled:

Nonprotein Nitrogen Is Absorbed from the Large Intestine and Increases Nitrogen Balance in Growing Pigs Fed a Valine-Limiting Diet.

Valine is an essential Amino Acid, so these animals were fed a protein-deficient diet. ¬† Then researchers administered urea or casein into the cecum of pigs.¬† Let’s consider this research a step toward greater understanding of how nitrogen may be recycled in living animals.¬† Not a new way to increase protein for strength.¬† (Although who knows.¬† It might work.) The urea was synthesized using Nitrogen-15.¬† Dietary nitrogen is Nitrogen 14.¬† Using nitrogen-15 lets the team know where the cecum-delivered nitrogen ended up.


Researchers found that more than 80% of the cecum delivered nitrogen was absorbed.  Some of it was excreted in urine, but some was retained. This is a shocker.  I know.   Humans cannot synthesize protein using nitrogen.  So WTF?  The researchers propose that urea traveled through the bloodstream and into to the small intestine.   Bacteria (some of which can make amino acids using urea or plain nitrogen) in the small intestine then used the extra urea to make amino acids.  Amino acids produced by bacteria could then be absorbed the host (animals).


More research would need to be done to confirm that this happens.  But it is very interesting.  Humans vary in the types of bacteria they host.  Bacterial populations vary according to diet, environment, chance (?) and who knows what else.  Do people get extra protein from bacteria?  Does this happen under normal circumstances (i.e. not piped in through the back end.)?  One thing is sure: there is a lot to learn.

Columbus DA, Lapierre H, Htoo JK, & de Lange CF (2014). Nonprotein Nitrogen Is Absorbed from the Large Intestine and Increases Nitrogen Balance in Growing Pigs Fed a Valine-Limiting Diet. The Journal of nutrition PMID: 24647394

Low Vitamin D, Atherosclerosis and CardioVascular Disease

Crossfit or Kettlebells: New mens shirt
Watch for our new 2014 Eye Pood Shirt. In press as we speak.

Vitamin D has received tremendous interest over the last ten years.  One of the many things to come out about Vitamin D is that is that it protects against vascular calcification.  Vascular calcification causes or contributes to:

  • Stiff arteries
  • Poor elasticity
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Kidney damage
  • Increased risk of heart attack and stroke
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Early death

That is terrible.  Not long ago calcification was considered a normal part of aging. Then it was considered an issue of cholesterol and a high fat diet.  The contributions of dietary cholesterol and dietary fats continue to be explored and challenged, however, researchers are uncovering other factors.  Vitamin D insufficiency has been strongly associated with risk of poor health and death.  This includes increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease.  Research groups are  now working to figure out more of the details.

Chronic Vitamin D Deficiency vs. On-again Off-again Vitamin D deficiency

A recent article in the Journal of Nutrition reports on an investigation of Vitamin D and vascular calcification.  The study used groups mice.  It lasted 32weeks.  Different groups of mice were fed either

  1. mouse version of a typical Western diet with adequate vitamin D for 16 weeks
  2. mouse version of a typical Western diet with low vitamin D for 16 weeks
  3. mouse version of a typical Western diet low vitamin D for 32 weeks
  4. mouse version of a typical Western diet with low vitamin D for 16 weeks then switched to a normal D diet for another 16 weeks.

Research Findings

Mice on the 16 week low vitamin D diet had more calcified arteries than mice fed the higher vitamin D diet, but not by that much.  (See the article for details).  The low vitamin D diet, however. turned up something interesting:

  • Vascular cells in the Low Vitamin D mice appeared to change into osteoblast-like cells.¬† Osteoblasts are build bone.¬† They also create dense, crosslinked collagen and create a matrix for bone. ¬† This may not be the best thing for vascular health.
  • Mice fed a low D diet for 32 weeks had significantly more plaque than other mice, more osteoblast-like cells and more tumor necrosis factor.
  • Mice who were returned to the normal D diet had less calcification.¬† This is a nice finding.¬† It looks like increasing vitamin D¬† will improve the quality of arteries if your diet has been low in vitamin D.


It looks like low vitamin D plays a strong role in hardening of the arteries. Not all is lost,  Damage you have accumulated to date may be reduceable.  Please note too that this was a study of dietary vitamin D and not vitamin D made through sun exposure.  You can make your own vitamin D with exposure to sun light.  Please remember not to go overboard.  Too much vitamin D may also cause calcification of arteries.

Nadine Schmidt, Corinna Brandsch, Alexandra Schutkowski, Frank Hirche, & Gabriele I. Stangl (2014). Dietary Vitamin D Inadequacy Accelerates Calcification and Osteoblast-Like Cell Formation in the Vascular System of LDL Receptor Knockout and Wild-Type Mice Journal of Nutrition

Ellam T, Hameed A, Ul Haque R, Muthana M, Wilkie M, Francis SE, & Chico TJ (2014). Vitamin d deficiency and exogenous vitamin d excess similarly increase diffuse atherosclerotic calcification in apolipoprotein e knockout mice. PloS one, 9 (2) PMID: 24586387

New Evidence on the Benefits of Sprinting for Long-Term Health and Fitness

ResearchBlogging.orgBenefits Sprinting and Jumping: New Evidence

I began distance running at the age of 12 and have kept with it for decades now. Running at a mellow pace has helped me unwind, de-stress and keep my sanity through turbulent times. Until I started CrossFit about five years ago. While I miss the runners high there are some great benefits to including weights, varied movement and group training. There is plenty of research on the benefits of running and aerobic exercise. Research on the benefits of resistance training and high intensity interval training (which resembles CrossFit in some respects) is showing that these forms of exercise are important. They may, in fact, be more effective and provide greater benefits for long-term health.  Here is an outline of some possible benefits or sprinting.  Or being a sprinter.

Sprinting and Jumping help you stay strong so you can beat up young people.
Sprinting and Jumping help you stay strong so you can beat up young people.

Today’s Study: Benefits of Sprinting (or being a Sprinter) vs. Other Types of Runners

Today’s study was published last year (2013) in the journal Osteoporosis International.¬† Subjects were Experienced Masters Runners between 35 and 90 years of age.¬†¬† Runners were asked to identify their strongest running distance:

  1. Short Distance (400 meters, triple jump and/or long jump
  2. Middle Distance (800 meters to to 1500 meters
  3. Long Distance (2000 meters to marathon)

Information on numbers of years of training, age, gender, age of menarche, and age of menopause (when appropriate) were collected.  Subjects then completed a series of tests:

  1. Bone Mineral Density
  2. Lean Body Mass Evaluation
  3. Grip Strength (this is a marker of general strength and a predictor of strength in old age).
  4. Neuromuscular Function (evaluated by counter movement jumps and hopping)

Findings (aka Results)

Short distance runners and jumpers did better on all measures with the exception of arm bone mineral density.¬† There were no significant differences in arm bone density among the athletes tested.¬† While there are a number of limits to the study the sprinters have better grip strength, higher lean muscle mass, stronger bones, and better neurouscular function than middle or long-distance runners.¬† An unfortunate finding was that all types of athletes experienced a similar rate of decline in strength and coordination with age. Still, it seems better to start high and land in the middle than to start in the middle and face plant during one’s senior years.

Study Limits:  More research is needed on the long-term benefits of sprinting

The study has a number of limits.  Here they are a few that were apparent to me.  There may be more.  Take a look at the article.  There is a link below.

  1. It was not clear if people who identified as sprinters, middle distance runners or long distance runners trained for these events or if they preferred them.
  2. Subjects may have simply had the body and neurological types to be sprinters, jumpers, middle distance or long distance runners and would have showed similar results whether they had been Masters Runners or not.  Are there benefits or sprinting?  Or benefits from being someone with a sprinters body type?  It would also be good to know what differences are seen between runners and jumpers.


This study supports growing evidence that sprinting may provide benefits not found in jogging or long distance running. Check out this 61 year old Masters Athlete racing against a 16 year old soccer star.

Gast U, Belav√Ĺ DL, Armbrecht G, Kusy K, Lexy H, Rawer R, Rittweger J, Winwood K, ZieliŇĄski J, & Felsenberg D (2013). Bone density and neuromuscular function in older competitive athletes depend on running distance. Osteoporosis international : a journal established as result of cooperation between the European Foundation for Osteoporosis and the National Osteoporosis Foundation of the USA, 24 (7), 2033-42 PMID: 23242430

High protein diet is protective for older people, but may be unhealthy for others

We’ve written several articles on the apparent benefits of a higher protein diet for the older athlete.¬† Loss of muscle mass starts fairly early and loss of strength is often apparent by middle age.¬† We do not know how much protein intake is ideal for humans.¬† High protein diets for older people have been geared towards controlling sarcopenia.¬† Sarcopenia is the term used to describe the muscle loss that happens as people age.¬† Sarcopenia is a major cause of frailty.¬† Osteoporosis, where loss of calcium from bones leads to brittleness and fractures, is the other big problem.¬†¬† Sarcopenia and osteoporosis can be worse for women who have less bone mass and less muscle mass to start with.¬† A number of studies have shown that older people preserve more muscle if their protein intake is increased.¬† If older people can preserve more muscle that should mean fewer people needing assisted-living.¬† Exercise, including resistance exercise also helps preserve muscle.¬† Exercise also strengthens bone and protects against osteoporosis.¬† As for the older athlete, preservation of muscle mass may provide a competitive edge.¬† For more easy-going people, preservation of muscle mass may mean:

  • less of the sinking feeling you get when you realize you know exactly where your body should have been when you took that flying leap for a frisbee.
  • fewer pained expressions on the faces of children when you fail a back flip
  • less aggravation opening jars
woman masters crossfit athlete high protein diet
Masters Crossfit Athlete competes in the Crossfit Games Open 14.1 in the 50-54 age category.

A new study by a team of researchers from the US and Italy examined protein intake in adults over age 50 compared with rates of Cancer, Diabetes, Mortality in general and IGF-1 (a growth hormone) levels.  Study subjects were divided into two groups: ages 50 to 65 and those over 65.  For people ages 50 to 65 a high protein diet increased risk of cancer, diabetes and death in general.  IGF-1 levels were also higher in these adults.  IGF-1is a growth hormone that may preserve muscle mass, but may also increase risk of cancer.  Middle-age users of deer antler velvet, which contains IGF-1, beware.  Researchers also found that people who ate more plant protein had lower death rates than people who ate more animal protein.  In bullet points:

High protein diet for people age 50 to 65

  • High animal protein diet increased risk of cancer by 400% in adults 50-65
  • High animal protein diet Increased risk of death by 75%
  • High animal protein diet increased risk of death from diabetes-related causes by 500%
  • High plant-based protein diet showed little to no increase in death or cancer risk

High protein diet for people over age 65

  • high protein diet reduced risk of cancer and death in people over age 65
  • Risk of death from diabetes-related causes was the same as it was for adults 50-65

Conclusions for dietary protein intake:

The researchers in this case also compared¬†epidemiological findings with data derived from mice, which is unusual.¬† One of their conclusions was that¬†a low protein intake diet during middle age followed by a high protein intake in later age may “optimize healthspan and longevity.”¬† I would add some considerations to that:

  1. It didn’t seem to be protein in itself¬†thatwas the¬†main culprit in the study,¬†although there was some interesting data on ifg-1 levels and protein intake.¬† One of the problems with some forms of animal protein (meat) is that carcinogents (cancer causers) may form during high heat cooking.¬†
  2. Animal fat will contain more lipophilic chemicals than vegetable fats.  Some lipophilic chemicals build up in humans over time. 
  3. It seems likely that something besides protein is causing the problem. 
  4. There may be other considerations for post-menopausal women, who seem to weather aging (functionally) better when protein intake is higher.
  5. People age 50-65 are different than people 65 and older.  The 65 and older group may already have weeded out people who were vulnerable to heart disease.  (This would probably not hold for cancer).

High protein diets have been popular for a number of years now.  High protein diets, especially meat based high protein diets, have been especially popular in the Crossfit Community.  Unless you are a middle aged adult, a high animal protein diet may be bad for your long-term health.    It would be nice to know what the results would be if high-fat/high protein/poor lifestyle/obesity was separated from high protein/healthy lifestyle/healthy weight.  Hopefully the researchers will continue this line of inquiry. 


Levine, M., Suarez, J., Brandhorst, S., Balasubramanian, P., Cheng, C., Madia, F., Fontana, L., Mirisola, M., Guevara-Aguirre, J., Wan, J., Passarino, G., Kennedy, B., Wei, M., Cohen, P., Crimmins, E., & Longo, V. (2014). Low Protein Intake Is Associated with a Major Reduction in IGF-1, Cancer, and Overall Mortality in the 65 and Younger but Not Older Population Cell Metabolism, 19 (3), 407-417 DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2014.02.006

Gregorio L, Brindisi J, Kleppinger A, Sullivan R, Mangano KM, Bihuniak JD, Kenny AM, Kerstetter JE, & Insogna KL (2014). Adequate Dietary Protein is Associated with Better Physical Performance among Post-Menopausal Women 60-90 Years. The journal of nutrition, health & aging, 18 (2), 155-60 PMID: 24522467

Beasley JM, Wertheim BC, LaCroix AZ, Prentice RL, Neuhouser ML, Tinker LF, Kritchevsky S, Shikany JM, Eaton C, Chen Z, & Thomson CA (2013). Biomarker-calibrated protein intake and physical function in the Women’s Health Initiative. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 61 (11), 1863-71 PMID: 24219187

Children's outdoor play may protect them from nearsightedness

250x400 Birth of Venus BannerToo much time spent indoors may make children nearsighted.¬† Not long ago people thought that reading too much was bad for the eyes, or that other forms of “close work” would lead to poor vision.¬† Maybe there is something to that.¬† Research over the last few years has revealed increasing rates of nearsightedness.¬† In the US, about 30% of the population is nearsighted (Vitale et al. 2008).¬†¬† The incidence of nearsightedness has nearly tripled among African Americans.¬† Much of the research on increasing rates of myopia has been done in Asia, where rates of nearsightedness, especially in children are particularly high and seem be rising.

Nearsightedness: too much time in front of a screen?

Is it too much time spent doing “close work” such as reading, video games, internet activity and/or homework?¬† An alternative factor might be lack of sunlight.¬† People (including children) who spend a lot of time on the computer, reading and doing homework are probably getting a lot less exposure to natural light.¬† Of course there may be other factors in play, for example:

  • less shifting of focus from near to far (which would happen during outdoor activity).

Or not enough sunlight?

Time outdoors is looking like the major factor.   A recent study found that elementary school children who played outdoors during recess had better vision than those who spent recess time indoors.  Students were ages 7 to 11 attending similar schools only a few miles apart.  Students in both schools got 2 hours of outdoor physical education a week and 80 minutes of recess every day.  Children had visual exams at the start of the study and an additional exam a year later.   There were significantly fewer new cases of myopia in the children who got the extra 80 minutes of daily outdoor recess.   This is a very exciting finding and an exciting area of research.  How many of us have just assumed the need for glasses was genetic?

You can read more about environmental factors and nearsightedness in this excellent article by Tim Lougheed in  Environmental Health Perspectives.

Vitale S, et al. Prevalence of refractive error in the United States, 1999‚Äď2004. Arch Ophthalmol 126(8):1111‚Äď1119 (2008);‚Äč.1111.

Jones LA, Sinnott LT, Mutti DO, Mitchell GL, Moeschberger ML, & Zadnik K (2007). Parental history of myopia, sports and outdoor activities, and future myopia. Investigative ophthalmology & visual science, 48 (8), 3524-32 PMID: 17652719

Vitale S, Sperduto RD, & Ferris FL 3rd (2009). Increased prevalence of myopia in the United States between 1971-1972 and 1999-2004. Archives of ophthalmology, 127 (12), 1632-9 PMID: 20008719

Wu PC, Tsai CL, Wu HL, Yang YH, & Kuo HK (2013). Outdoor activity during class recess reduces myopia onset and progression in school children. Ophthalmology, 120 (5), 1080-5 PMID: 23462271

Masters CrossFit Regional Competitions: Unquenched desires

A petition is underway to impel CrossFit HQ to include Masters level Athletes in CrossFit Regionals Competitions. ¬†At the moment of this writing there were over 2500 signatures. ¬†I can understand HQ’s reluctance. ¬†Big events are expensive and time consuming. ¬†And there is a possibility (just a possibility) that Masters Athletes are not as exciting to watch as younger athletes. ¬†Fewer endorsements. ¬†Fewer admirers . . . hard to say. ¬†In any case, here is what the petition looks like:
CrossFit Games, CrossFit Games HQ
With only 20 athletes in the various masters’ categories selected for the CrossFit Games, offering regional competitions would aid the vetting process, increase excitement and foster participation by athletes in the masters’ divisions. Also, regional competition will help increase networking and community building among regional affiliates. Thank you for your time and consideration.

[Your name]”

You can sign this by clicking here.

Regional Crossfit Games Competitions

There are alternatives.  There are a number of other outfits organizing masters Crossfit competitions.  An interesting points were recently put forth by Ray Garcia of Shoreline CrossFit:

  • First, people want to be acknowledged.
  • Second, they seem to want to be acknowledged within the CrossFit community.
  • Third, there are a lot of “masters” but we need to be segmented by age because clearly the biological evidence is we degrade with age.
  • Fourth, Crossfit proclaims meritocracy … survival of the “fittest” literally. So, how about a privately organized competition by region playing off the already existing larger masters competitions. For example, TJ’s runs a masters event on the west coast games style and so do Shoreline and CFNE. There are other large scale masters events. So, how about if those events feed “Winners” to a few centralized events, and to an eventual “National competition” and age bracket winners.


Having sent a young athlete to a CrossFit Regionals Competition and having served as a volunteer behind the scenes I can attest to the excitement and fun of Regional CrossFit games. ¬†I hope CrossFit HQ will include Masters in Regionals CrossFit competitions. ¬†Its probably a matter of time. ¬†Oh. ¬†And Money. ¬†Let’s not forget that either.



Antioxidants prevent health-promoting effects of physical exercise

“Antioxidants prevent health-promoting effects of physical exercise in humans”

This is the title of a ground-breaking paper by a highly respected group of scientists (Ristow et al. 2009). ¬† It is already received more than 320 citations in other peer-reviewed journals. That is phenomenal for any paper, let alone a paper that is just 4 or 5 years old. ¬†Still, when someone posted the paper on a professional board as a topic of interest today, some readers tried to shoot it down as either sounding like “crap” or being old news of little interest. ¬†The fact of the matter is it is a big-news high-impact paper that has led to a lot of interesting additional research. ¬† ¬†All nine team members:

  • Michael Ristow
  • Kim Zarsea
  • Andreas Oberbach
  • Nora Kloting
  • Marc Birringer
  • Michael Kiehntopf
  • Michael Stumvoll
  • C. Ronald Kahne
  • Matthias Bluher

Deserve recognition and respect for the work they have done.  And generous license fees for replicas of their lab coats and various, sundry other merchandise such as that enjoyed by Dr. Who.  Dr. Who is frankly the envy of us all.

As with many papers, articles and books, the title does not tell the entire story.  If it did there would have been no need for hundreds of other researchers to continue working in this area.  While

Antioxidants prevent health-promoting effects of physical exercise in humans

Fighting about Anti-oxidants?
A Flatt posed in front of CrossFit Seven ladies Toilet. Don’t fight over antioxidants. Its going to end badly.

is a title that sounds like antioxidants should be consigned to the wastebasket the paper has a more interesting message.  Their purpose was to evaluate:

“the possibility that ROS are required for the insulin-sensitizing capabilities of physical exercise in healthy humans and that commonly used antioxidants, such as vitamin C and vitamin E, may abrogate the health-promoting effects of¬†both physical exercise and oxidative stress in humans.”

ROS means Reactive Oxidizing Species.  ROS are what anti-oxidants are supposed to protect against.

The study found that giving healthy young men 1000mg or Vitamin C and 400IU of Vitamin E interfered with a beneficial effect of exercise. ¬†That effect was increasing insulin sensitivity. ¬†This is very important for diabetics. ¬†Diabetics are encouraged to exercise in order to increase their insulin sensitivity. ¬†If a diabetic takes vitamin C and/or vitamin E he or she may not benefit as much from exercise. ¬†This doesn’t mean that anti-oxidants are bad. ¬†Its that ROS and anti-oxidants are in a much more complicated relationship than we thought. ¬†And that we should be careful with what we do to ourselves in the name of protecting our health.

ROS apparently play important signaling roles. In some contexts we need them. It is possible that taking high doses of anti-oxidants can interfere with the important function of ROS.

Ristow M, Zarse K, Oberbach A, Kl√∂ting N, Birringer M, Kiehntopf M, Stumvoll M, Kahn CR, & Bl√ľher M (2009). Antioxidants prevent health-promoting effects of physical exercise in humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 106 (21), 8665-70 PMID: 19433800


Ristow M (2012). Interview with Michael Ristow. Aging, 4 (1) PMID: 22317964

Breakthrough of the Year: Sleep cleanses the brain.

From the Editors at Science:
Science 20 December 2013:
Vol. 342 no. 6165 pp. 1440-1441
DOI: 10.1126/science.342.6165.1440-a
  • NEWS

To Sleep, Perchance to Clean

In work that¬†Science‘s editors named a runner-up for Breakthrough of the Year, researchers studying mice have found experimental evidence that sleep helps to restore and repair the brain.

 Why do we sleep?

Questions of biology don’t get much more fundamental than that. This year, neuroscientists took what looks like a major stride toward an answer.

Most researchers agree that sleep serves many purposes, such as bolstering the immune system and consolidating memories, but they have long sought a “core” function common to species that sleep. By tracking colored dye through the brains of sleeping mice, scientists got what they think is a direct view of sleep’s basic purpose: cleaning the brain. When mice slumber, they found, a network of transport channels through the brain expands by 60%, increasing the flow of cerebral spinal fluid. The surge of fluid clears away metabolic waste products such as ő≤ amyloid proteins, which can plaster neurons with plaques and are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Until this discovery, researchers thought the brain’s only way to dispose of cellular trash was to break it down and recycle it inside cells. If future research finds that many other species undergo this cerebral housekeeping, it would suggest that cleaning is indeed a core function of sleep. The new findings also suggest that sleep deprivation may play a role in the development of neurological diseases. But with a causal role far from certain, it’s too early for anyone to stay awake worrying.

References and Web Sites

E. Underwood, ‚ÄúSleep: The Brain‚Äôs Housekeeper?‚Ä̬†Science¬†342, 6156 (18 October 2013).

L. Xie¬†et al., ‚ÄúSleep Drives Metabolite Clearance From the Adult Brain,‚ÄĚScience¬†342, 6156 (18 October 2013).