What is a caveman to do – carrageenan and beyond?

I jumped on the Paleo/Primal lifestyle band wagon several months ago and have seen some wonderful results and I am certain more are to follow.  If any of you are like me some things come pretty easily and others are more of a struggle.  One of the things I deal with is trying to identify those things that are or are not on my plan.  A portion of that struggle is to identify those things that matter most.  I am not independently wealthy so I sometimes have to make tough choices.  One of the factors that makes these choices tough is the never ending quest for quality information.  There is a ton of information available with the stroke of a couple keys on your computer.  However, like many topics where authors are passionate about what they believe conjecture, speculation, fallacious assumptions and marketing often obscure the truth.  I am a science based guy.  I love peer reviewed and journaled presentation of scientific data.  This form of good scientific validation though is largely lacking in the Primal/Paleo world.

My effort in this article is to try and address four of the common food additives most of us ingest on a daily basis.  Many times we do this without even realizing it.  I will also try to keep it short and simple.  Not something I am well known for.

Carrageenan – this wonderful little product is found in almost everything…well a lot of things.  Basically it serves as an emulsifier.  This means it keeps things in suspension.  At the end of the day carrageenan is seaweed.  What is found in food is simply ground up seaweed.  SInce the early 80’s one doctor, Dr. Tobacman, has made it her crusade to have this product removed from our food source based on flawed research.  Much of it conducted by the same research team.  In a fairly extensive and well documented report the FDA definitively cleared carrageenan for human consumption.  Does this make it right for you?  Maybe not, however, the chance you are going to have life threatening or health consequences by consuming it are pretty slim.  Risk – very low.

Guar gum – this little beauty is found in a ton of things.  It has also been demonized by the alternative health community.  Guar gum is used in food products as an emulsifier, stabilizer, and thickener.  The amount authorized by the FDA is typically less than 2% and usually .5% or less.  It is derived from a legume.  So technically it is not Paleo/Primal.  Many of the products it is used in are not on the Paleo/Primal plan anyway.  Those that may come up such as almond milk and the like are again probably not going to shorten your life span or detract from your quality of life.  Interestingly enough the FDA did ban the use of guar gum in diet aids in 1991 due to unexpected fatalities, along with 111 other ingredients.  To be honest the directions are written on the box for a reason.  This product does its job very well.  Maybe they should have drank the water it said to when consuming vast quantities of guar gum.  Just to clarify the amount taken in by the average person daily is way below this amount.  Risk – very low.

Soy lecithin – another popular little additive.  This product, when listed as such, is derived from soy.  We all know how “bad” soy is so I will let you make your own determination here.  If you like chocolate though you may be out of luck as this is one of the most effective and widely used emulsifiers.  It is generally considered the amount of soy protein found in a product with the ingredient soy lecithin is not even significant enough to cause a reaction in a highly sensitized individual.  This does not mean it can’t happen it is simply not that likely.  Now interestingly enough not all lecithin is soy derived.  Lecithin can be derived from multiple sources and organic lecithin is also an ingredient in many products.  So read your labels carefully if this is a problem for you.  Risk – low.

Xanthan gum – this little beauty is also found in numerous products.  Many of which though are not on a Paleo/Primal nutrition plan so happy days.  This particular goodie is used as a thickening agent in things such as salad dressing and that lovely cheat called ice cream.  Not that I would know what that is anymore.  Xanthan gum is derived by the fermentation of several sugars.  In layman terms it is bacterial excretion.  Very pleasant sounding right?  In many cases the source of these sugars is from corn, soy or wheat.  While the constituent concentration in most cases is less than 1% in the final product it is advised that individuals with significant allergies to these foods should avoid products made with xanthan gum.  Risk – low.

So I have tried to distill the information on these particular food additives into palatable information.  It is time for you to make your own choices.  It is difficult to live in the world we know and avoid all the potential toxins around us.  I can’t do it on my budget so I have to make smart, educated choices.  I always try to keep perspective as well and ask the question does it fit the 80/20 rule?  There are too many things out of my control on a daily basis like the toxins I breathe by running in the city to get wrapped around the axel about a small bit of carrageenan in my almond milk.  These are things you have to decide for yourself though.

I hope this information is beneficial in your quest for a perfect nutrition plan for you.  I obviously have not covered every single facet available on these four products.  I have tried to distill it to the most relevant information so you can make a sound and educated decision.  If you have information you would like to discuss or share with the group post them to comments and I will try and address them.

Thanks for reading!  See you in the box!


CrossFit and Goals

We are a little over 30 days into life as 10 Plus CrossFit.  We have talked about what 10 Plus CrossFit is and means, and we have talked about nutrition a little bit.  I think it is time to discuss how goals relate to your CrossFit journey and why they are important.

I would hazard a guess that most of you have never gotten in a car and started driving without knowing where you were going.  Even if it was to go nowhere you still knew you were just out for a drive.  If you were taking a road trip you probably planned out the route, booked hotels, identified restaurants to try, as well as identified the final destination.  Nowadays this process is pretty simple with all the convenience gadgets we have at our disposal like GPS and smartphones.  However, we still usually have a plan.  This begs the question, “Why do we plan to go to the grocery or take a vacation more than we plan to maintain the health and wellness of a body that has to spend the rest of our lives with us?”  This just does not make sense.  I have one constant in my life and that is me.  I will have to live with my body for the rest of my life.  I had better have a maintenance and upkeep program.

In the CrossFit community setting goals is made pretty simple for us.  Benchmark WOD’s have been established that allow us to track strength, power, and endurance gains over a protracted period of time.  Since the standard never changes performance improvements or decrements can be easily tracked.  In the last three weeks you were exposed to Victoria, Cindy, and Elizabeth.  Two of these are known as Girls and Victoria was a Hero WOD.  All of them are designed to test the limits of your ability in different domains.  Ideally with good programming in six months you should see improvements in time to completion, and/or weight used.  These are not the only  targets we have though.  There are also other less empirical targets such as weight, body composition and nutrition that can be used.

Once you have identified a goal target it is important to discuss how to develop a plan to get you to that goal.  While there are tons of ways to set goals the following are the basic parameters of good goal setting.  Your goal should be clearly defined, written down, dated, realistic, measurable, and positive.  If your goal has each of these attributes the chance you will reach that goal is greatly increased.  After defining the attributes of your goal then you must develop a plan of action to accomplish these goals.  Developing a plan of action will follow in a separate blog.

So what does each of these attributes mean?

Just like getting in the car to go get some eggs at the grocery you have to define the objective.  You would not get in the car, randomly pick a store, and then hope to find eggs.  Same principle applies here.  Take Elizabeth for example.  You have some basic choices here, you can target the clean, target the rings, target the weight, or target the time.  If you can already do the entire WOD as RX’d than you can target the WOD as well, usually for time.  Regardless of the target you choose you need to clearly identify what it is you want.

Next you want to make sure your goal is written out and dated.  I am not going to pull up all the research to support why this is important.  Suffice it to say that people who write down and date their goals have a statistically significant greater probability of reaching them.  The action of writing the goal and then dating it triggers the mind to work in a concrete manner on the goal.  This results in a portion of your subconscious mind always working to help you achieve your goal.

When you go about selecting your goals you need to make sure they are realistic goals.  Say you are new to CrossFit and a little out of shape.  Well maybe a lot out of shape.  If you set a goal Fran time of 4 minutes or less in 30 days this is not a realistic goal.  Now I understand you may not even know what a realistic goal is if you are new to CrossFit.  Please ask!  One of the most fulfilling parts of being a CrossFit coach is watching people transform their lives.  Helping athletes set and achieve goals is a big part of that process.  Goals need to be challenging but also realistic.

The goals you select must be quantifiable.  Having a goal to lose weight is great but it does not mean anything.  Weight is very arbitrary and is not a good metric.  Now if an athlete has a weight challenge a more measurable goal for this would be to implement a nutrition plan, or start and maintain a food and exercise log.  These goals are measurable.  Likewise a goal to get stronger is not necessarily a good goal.  However, to improve your snatch or clean 1RM weight by 50 pounds is measurable.

One of the often overlooked aspects of goal setting is the framework of the goal itself.  What this means is that the goal has to be written in a positive tone.  For example: I will not eat after 8:00PM.  This is an example of a negative goal and normally has a less favorable outcome.  A better version would sound like this.  I will consume all my meals and snacks before 8:00PM every day.  Again there is a lot of evidence and research to support why it is important to frame  your goals in a positive framework.  I will not drag you through all of it.

The last piece of the goal puzzle is accountability.  It is difficult to emphasize how important this is to your goal achievement.  Having a good accountability partner often times can be the difference in achieving or not achieving your goals.  This is part of the beauty of our 10 Plus CrossFit family.  We can hold each other accountable for our goals.  Of course this has to be done in the right spirit.  It is hard to describe how soul crushing it is to fail to achieve a goal and then have someone shame you for it.  A good accountability partner or team will help you keep on track in the tough times, nurse you through the failures, we all have them, and celebrate the successes with you.

On the subject of failures, we are all going to suffer from missing goals over time.  This is a part of stretching yourself and striving to discover your limits.  When you fail to achieve a goal you have two choices.  You can either dust yourself off, reset the goal, and move forward or you can wallow in a self-declared pity party.  I always think of the following quote when this happens.  “The character of a person is not defined during easy times but rather how they respond to adversity.”  Make no mistake, failing in a goal if it is big enough is an adversity, and I want you to have big goals.  I have big hopes for all of you.  So you have the choice to either fail forward or fail backward.  As the 10 Plus CrossFit family we have to ensure we all fail forward!

There is a ton of information available on the Internet and in book stores on goals.  I have tried to distill down what I have gleaned over many years of research and trial and failure in this area.  If this is not a template that fits your personality than don’t use it.  Use what works best for you.  At the end of the day though you need to have a system for achieving your goals.  A random approach will always yield random results.  I am not however forcing you to set goals.  You can simply show up and have fun and I will be there to support you all the way.  If you decide to take your game to the next level and really change your life goals will simply help you get there faster!

I have lots of goals in my life and business that I am constantly working towards.  I want to share a coupe of them with you that way you can help me be accountable as well.

I will achieve a strict muscle up by 30 June 2013.

I will string 50 Double Unders together by 1 August 2013

I will have a Fran time of 4:00 minutes or less by 30 September 2013

I hope this helps everyone a little in the process of achieving their CrossFit as well as life goals. Look forward to the follow-up blog on constructing a plan to achieve your goals.

10 Plus CrossFit Nutrition 101

The most frequent question or concern I hear in the box from new people and from some of the old timers is “what do I need to eat?”.  I have promised that at some point in the future I would do a class to address this question.  Today I am going to give you a quick summary of some of the things I will cover in that class.

First things first.  When I talk about nutrition I am not talking about a diet.  Diets typically suck and have very short term impacts that devastate your social life.  Now you might say yeah but I lost 30 pounds on a diet.  And most likely you gained it all back or more and hated every minute of the diet. No, I am talking about a lifestyle change.  Now before that scares you off keep reading and I will explain what I mean and why it is important.  Diets typically do not work as they are based on restriction rather than adjustment and often times establish a binge and purge relationship between the athlete and their fuel source.

I am going to make the assumption that most people reading this blog are interested in improving their fitness level.  So as an athlete we have to ask the fundamental question “What is the purpose of food?”.  Food serves one purpose and one purpose only and that is to fuel the machine (body).  It has no other purpose.  We put gas in the car to make it go.   If we put something other than gas in the car it will not run or at least not run as well.  Sugar in the fuel tank is not only analogous but also appropriate for this discussion.  Our bodies respond the exact same way the car does.  If we put things into our body that are not optimal for it to run it will not run, or at least not as well.  When you are trying to shave 10 seconds off of your Fran time this becomes very important.

There are four different plans I like to introduce people to I have found to be very beneficial.  It is seldom I find someone who is a total nonresponder when they commit to and implement one of these plans.  Understand out the gate that some of what I am going to cover in the following discussion is controversial in the nutrition community.  You have to take a deep breath and bear with me.  I will not lead you astray.

The first is nutrition plan is Primal.

Many people not familiar with this nutrition plan might refer to it as a carbohydrate deficit plan.  While there is a natural reduction in carbohydrate intake on the plan this is not the real focus.  The premise behind this plan is to try and identify the characteristics of what a Paleolithic person might have consumed during their day, week, month and year.  The assumption being these individuals were able to thrive without disease and to perform heroically on what we would consider very lean diets.  One of the first things researchers found was a direct correlation between processed foods and the development of cardiovascular diseases, metabolic diseases, cancer, and inflammatory diseases.  This means no processed or minimally processed foods.  So if it come in a jar, box or can it is probably out!  Another way to look at it is if you can pluck it, pick it, or kill it, than it is probably in.  To me that is pretty simple.  Other real simple rules to follow are no grains or legumes.  In general terms think of beans and peanuts.  Before you get all excited, sorry milk is a highly processed item so it is basically out as well.  I know what is going through your head right now because it went through mine.  What the heck am I going to eat then there is nothing left?  There are a ton of things left on the table.  In a hierarchy of needs think of it like this.  Meats, vegetables, and limited fruits, nuts and seeds.  If you are more of a percentages type of person think of it in terms of 50% or more healthy fats, proteins and little carbohydrates.  The carbohydrates should be other than sugar including fruit because sugar is sugar is sugar it does not matter if it is “good sugar”.  Particularly in the early stages the elimination of all sugar is going to be a huge help.  While there is a lot of information on the web on Primal the sole best source of information is http://www.marksdailyapple.com/#axzz2MyypvwL1.  I encourage you to do some of your own research but, this is my go to authority on all things Primal.

Next in line we have Paleo.

Paleo and Primal are like kissing cousins.  Yup, they are that close.  The huge difference between the two plans boils down to the inclusion of dairy.  Strict Paleo is a no dairy plan.  The assumption is Paleolithic man did not have domestic animals thus would not have drunk milk or any of its derivative products.  So if you can do Paleo you can most likely do Primal just add milk in moderation.

The next nutrition plan we will talk about is the Warrior Diet.  This brain child is the work of Ori Hofmekler.  You can check out his website at http://www.warriordiet.com.  The plan is devised around an analysis of how warriors from the Greek and Roman culture might have eaten.  These cultures are renowned for their strength in battle.  The movie 300 was based upon a directors vision of this strength.  In a nut shell there is an under eating phase which lasts approximately 20 hours and an overeating phase which lasts the other 4 hours.  Notice I did not say starving phase.  For most people this equates to approximately 600 calories of fruits and raw veggies during the under eating phase.  You do not actually count calories on this plan but it gives most people a jumping off point.  The next logical question is “how much do I eat in the over eating phase?”.  Really you don’t worry about it too much.  After you have been on the diet a while you will find it self regulates.  You eat to satiety and not to some arbitrary number.  It is a little more complicated than this but I will let you do the research or ask questions.

The last but not least nutrition plan is calorie counting.

Calorie counting is a traditional way of monitoring you daily intake of calories.  My most favorite tool for doing this is MyFitnessPal.  This app has android, Apple and a web interfaces so it is very friendly to use.  Last time I used it there were over 1.6 million items in it.  You can also build recipes if you like to cook and that sort of thing.

The first thing you have to determine when calorie counting is your Basal Metabolic Rate.  One I use frequently is here http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/.  This will tell you the base amount of calories required to keep you alive on a daily basis.  This is not a number that is negotiable.  People get caught up all the time in calorie restrictive diets that don’t meet their basic needs.  This causes a slow down in their metabolism so their body basically gets mad at them and retaliates in various ways.  After you have determined you BMR on average you can add about 500-700 calories to it for normal daily activities.  If you are looking to shed some weight you simply pick the lower number.  The next question is what percentage of calories need to come from what macro nutrient category?  This is where the magic happens with calorie counting.  The breakout is 55% carbohydrates, 30% fats, and 15% proteins.  This applies regardless if you are trying to loose weight or gain mass.  Once you enter the world of calorie counting you open a whole new set of rules.  Excess protein means nothing when you are counting calories except that you ingested more calories.  It serves no other purpose it just means you can’t eat the apple you wanted or the piece of cake.  A common pitfall in calorie counting is the belief that you need to factor in your workouts.  For 99% of the people this is not a factor.  Particularly if you are trying to shed some pounds.  Throughout the day the average person is going to miscount on the low side their caloric intake.  So there is plenty extra to burn!  When you start to figure in your workouts it is normally a down hill road and results are few and far between.

I know this is a lot of information and you are probably bored out of your mind.  You may not have even made it this far.  There are only a couple of things left to talk about.

When establishing a nutrition plan for yourself the first rule to remember is that you are embarking on a life style change.  This means what ever you select has to be sustainable for you over the long haul.  If you have a food that you know you have to have in your life than you had best pick a plan that lets you have it.  Soda and alcoholic beverages are not a food (fuel).  Sorry.  If you don’t you will not stick with the plan.  You will constantly be plagued by cheat days and relapses.

Second, regardless of the plan the food (fuel) ingested needs to be clean!  Yes on the Paleo plan all your chocolate chip cookies can be Paleo but if that is all you eat that day you are not Paleo.  While not all economic situations allow it, organic, free range, cage free, whatever the term is, will be the best choice.  There are a ton of affordable options out there though for those who are not independently wealthy.

Third, use the 80/20 rule.  Not as a first choice but as a second.  This means that 80% of the time you need to be dead on target.  The 20% is for accidental lapses and special events.  Even then it is not a blow out event it is still just 20%.

Fourth, work hard, get results, and have fun with it.  No fun, no results = won’t last long.  Get some friends to help you out and be accountable for your actions.  Find a CrossFit buddy to work with.  It will make it a lot easier.

Fifth, don’t get lost in the sauce.  Every day there is some new miracle product or must have nutrient on CNN, FOX News, Dr Oz or whatever.  There are also the purists.  Much like the plague they will sap you of your will to live and make you feel inadequate.  If you can’t afford free range beef than eat regular beef.  So you have a closet of tuna that is not quite Paleo enough.  So what, finish it or give it to your local homeless shelter or church food bank.  Don’t get wrapped around the axle about what you can’t do focus on what you can.

I know this is not all inclusive of everything that is out there.  We have an obesity problem in the US that tops out at about 63% of the population and everyone is trying to make a buck on the problem.  There is no one solution for everyone and I have tried a lot of things.  Find something that works for you and do it consistantly.

If you have questions or comments please post them on our Facebook page (10 Plus CrossFit) or talk to me either before or after class.  If it is not something you want public email me joe@10fitness.com.

I hope this helps some one out a little bit on their fitness journey.

See you in the box.


10 Plus CrossFit – Notes

First off WOW!

We are a little over a week as a  CrossFit affiliate and already have had to add two more class times.  That is awesome!  We have also had some great numbers go up on the board this week.  Very impressive stuff.  Jerry was over 400 on deadlift yesterday and Tim bested his previous deadlift by 135 pounds!  The ladies were very impressive as well.  Shea at 165, Nidia at 195, and Santi also at 165.  I know I did not mention everyone by name but trust me I noticed.  Everyone is changing by leaps and bounds.

So with any new change it is going to take some adjustment.  Sorry that everyone has to grow through this with me but it is part of the growing process.  In order to help us all out I am opening the CrossFit class schedule up to a full week.  This means you will be able to register for the classes you want for the entire week at one time.  This will help me plan ahead and know where I need to add more classes sooner and ensure everyone has a slot.  Hopefully I will be able to better plan for our future as well!  This also means you will be responsible for signing up for only those classes you can attend.  If you enroll for a class and do not show up it could prevent someone who is able to come from attending.  I think the problem is self evident.  Enrollment needs to take place online and in advance and not at the counter.  Sorry guys.  We probably have some bad habits established by now that will have to be changed.  If you are having trouble with your account just ask and I will help you get it fixed.  Now life does happen.  If something comes up simply call 501-219-1400 and we will remove you from the class.  No big deal at all.  This frees up your seat.

Thanks again for everyone getting the word out so quickly about our affiliation.  Please keep on letting people know about us.  We are in for some very exciting things here in the near future.  More classes will be coming soon as well as…

See you in the box!


What is 10 Plus CrossFit?

First the conundrum:  For those of us who are immersed in the CrossFit culture how to answer the question of “What is CrossFit?” can sometimes be a difficult one to answer.  Not because we do not know but rather because breaking down “Constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity across broad times and modal domains” into English is sometimes a challenge.  It is like asking a parent to explain in 30 seconds what it means to be a parent.  It really is an impossible question.  Rather it is something you have to experience for yourself.  However, people who walk into a gym don’t want to hear that.  They want a short and sweet answer to what CrossFit is and how it will benefit them.  That is the bottom line question, is it not?  How will this program help me reach my goals?  Well hopefully I can shed some light on what CrossFit means to us at 10 Plus CrossFit.

Lets start with a rudimentary explanation.  CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program designed to help each person meet the challenges of life head on.  

For each and every single athlete the challenge will be something different.  For some this will mean an increase in their general level of fitness.  Their goal might be a drop in blood pressure, reduced stress levels, or management of other health issues.  For others this will mean carrying in the groceries or playing with the kids without throwing out their back or losing their wind.  Some simply want to lose 10, 20, 30…lbs.  Then there are those who want to compete in the CrossFit Open and maybe even the CrossFit Games.  Every athlete is going to have their own particular challenge, desire or goal they want to achieve.  At 10 Plus CrossFit our goal is to help each athlete reach their personal goal.  

In the CrossFit are numerous tools at our disposal to help athletes.  The first and most important is our community.  At 10 Plus CrossFit we don’t just have coaches and athletes we have a family.  Coaches who not only provide great coaching for their athletes but also take the time to really get to know them on a more personal level.  We have a family that is not afraid to sweat, bleed, or cry with each other.  We share these experiences together daily and help new athletes feel at home and understand we have all been where they are.  No one is an outsider.  No one is too slow, too fast , too young, or too old.  You don’t get to pick and choose who your biological family is and we don’t pick and choose who wants to be a part of our family.  We simply welcome them and treat them as one of our own.  

The second most important tool is education.  I am certain everyone has heard the expression you can’t outwork a bad diet.  CrossFit is no different than any other program in  that regard.  In order to maximize your results you have to dial in your diet.  We help athletes identify which nutrition plan best suits their lifestyle and needs.  Once they have a plan in place we gently help them to be accountable and provide a sounding board for challenges and successes they are having.  Education does not stop there though.  Understanding not only how to perform an exercise correctly but why we perform it is passed on to every athlete.  The ability of an athlete  to transfer the mechanics of the squat over to picking up a bag of groceries or picking up their child can mean the difference in a week of back pain or none at all.  

Last but not least is the plethora of exercises we have at our disposal.  We will do everything from Olympic lifts, plyometric, bodyweight and gymnastic exercises to stimulate adaptations in the body.  At 10 Plus CrossFit we program what is known as a strength bias.  This is because we are interested in seeing our athlete’s not only master the kipping pull up, and kipping muscle up but we celebrate even more when they can perform their first strict pull up, first strict muscle up or first 400lb deadlift or back squat.  There is little in life and in the sporting community that can’t be improved by being stronger.  To that end we want our athletes not just efficient but also strong.  

There are numerous other points that make 10 Plus CrossFit special.  These are simply a few of the things that make 10 Plus CrossFit who and what we are.