Monthly Archives: February 2017

Lessons from the CRON-O-Meter

I’ve changed my tune on the CRON-O-Meter. I always stayed away because I thought it was too inaccurate. Too much variability. I just didn’t think it would yield much useful info. But after reading Josh Hillis’s Fat Loss Happens on Mondays, I decided to do an experiment to finally see what I am and am not getting. Protein? Essential amino acids? Calcium? Magnesium? Etc, etc. I’ve always gone on the assumption that following Dr. McDougall and Jeff’s guidelines was enough, don’t overthink i! But I wanted to actually see it for myself. In numbers and graphs. I also wanted to play around with recipes and have an actual nutrition breakdown. What kept me away was not wanting to deal with the measuring for each recipe. Much of my cooking doesn’t require any measuring, so stopping to measure everything looked onerous. With an inexpensive digital kitchen scale, it turned out to be pretty easy. I measured for each new recipe, then when I make it again, I follow it again, or modify it as needed. It’s a little bit of a hassle, but doable.

So why do it? What can I learn?

If anything isn’t working, or you’re not seeing the results you expect, measure it and record it. Weight loss? Measure it. Weight gain? Analyze it. Worried about this or that nutrient? Measure it. Exercise? Measure it. It won’t be 100% accurate, they are estimates, but I’ve changed my mind and agree with others who believe that over time, the data will average out and be close enough.

What I found:

Calorie density vs. satiety as Jeff Novick teaches is real.

But there are individual differences. I can look at my records and see what foods give me the most satiety per calorie. For me, potatoes win, but my congees and kitcharis made with white rice and mung beans are quite close. Bread, my weakness, has much lower satiety per calorie. I *knew* that already, but the numbers make it clearer. Craft beer and wine are wonderful, but what a caloric wallop, and the munchies that come after make it even worse. And my morning oats? Chia seeds are a nice omega-3 boost, but add a couple of walnuts on top and wow! Another calorie bomb. Oh yeah, and that guac that the “Avocados from Mexico” ads have you craving? High fat plant foods can bomb like Vietnam your diet quick fast and in a hurry.

Energy balance, appetite, and true hunger are trickier than many people say.

When my bike volume dropped off in the fall and I switched to strength training, my appetite did not recalibrate automatically. I had to deliberately restrict calories, and at first I was really hungry. It did reset after a couple days, but it required effort. Dr. Fuhrman uses the concept of “true hunger vs. toxic hunger” to help people recalibrate. Toxic hunger is a detox symptom that is relieved by eating again. Just like a detox reaction to caffeine withdrawal is fixed by more caffeine. Over the holidays, I discovered the truth of this when comparing my feast days to my potato hack days. The day after a feast day, my hunger was upregulated. The normal simple potato hack meals that satisfied left me feeling a little . . . alone. What I really WANTED, as opposed to what I actually needed, was more rich food. The short term contrast between feast and fast was quite interesting. Those rich foods stimulate appetitive and you want more, whereas plain food is well, plain. Easier to move away from.

Lastly, Jeff has frequently admonished us to watch out for those little indulgences.

We often separate and compartmentalize our indulgences to hide them from ourselves. “But it’s only a little chocolate,” but when that is added to another different indulgence, and a third, the cumulative effect is big. But when considered separately, it’s “just a little!” Measure and it becomes clear. A “little bit” of X, then later in the day a “little bit” of Y, and “a little bit” of Z after dinner somehow registers in the brain as a “just a little bit” but really multiplied by three, you have much more than a little bit. Measure it and you can see how

It’s a worthwhile experiment to take the time to record your favorite recipes and see what they look like. Reassure yourself that you’re getting enough of everything, and if not, tweak it. It will also help with figuring out portion size relative to energy balance. If you’ve been at it for awhile but hit a plateau, use it to diagnose what’s not working.

And if you’re in the habit of discussing your diet with others, you can field the questions of “Where do you get your . . .?” Or, “You’re not getting enough . . .” with the answer that you have in fact measured it and can provide a printout.


The Forty Day Challenge: EASY Strength!

Another chapter in my ongoing celebrity crush bromance with coach Dan John… This time it is all about trying easier, not harder. How does the old saying go? Don’t work harder, work smarter? My hope is that this Dan John program will work as well as his other advice .

Finished the 6 week Mass program for giggles, and it was fun. Though I wasn’t giggling much during 5 sets of 10 heavy squats! But now it’s time to get back on the bike and build my base. So I’m going to change it up for another of Dan John’s programs, variously known as “Easy Strength,” “Even Easier Strength” and the 40 day challenge.

What?! How can strength training be easy, or easier? Isn’t the point to smash yourself in the gym? Isn’t that the only way to get swol, or even just stronger? I’ve seen Arnold and the gang in Pumping Iron and Dorian Yates in Blood and Guts, so it’s clear: No Pain No Gain, No Guts No Glory!


Maybe not.

Like what Maffetone did for endurance training by focusing on the bottom end of aerobic function to lift everything up, this program does for strength work. Perhaps adopting a “less is more” approach and using frequency over the long haul rather than intensity and a crash approach will work best. At least in my experience, high frequency but smaller “bites” keeps me healthy and motivated.

“If it’s important, do it every day, if it’s not important, don’t do it at all.” (stealing from Dan John, who stole it from some other dude)


Obviously, for Leadville, that means riding a bike, preferably off road. But so far this winter has been so wet I can’t even see the roads, much less the trails. And strength is important to. In the end, if you can get EASY strength, why opt for “difficult” strength?

The workout came from a suggestion/challenge from the famous Pavel Tsouline the “Evil Russian” who popularized kettle bell training. As former military, he was thinking about the needs of various spec ops folks and law enforcement types who need to be ready to go at any moment. They can’t be sore and beat up from training. And most of their training needs to be the skills necessary for their job. They can’t spend hours in the gym on a typical bodybuilder routine, and take the time to recover. Such an approach also applies to athletes of other sports, practicing the sport is most important, strength training is a complement, it shouldn’t interfere. So he challenged DJ to go easy, and do a simple workout nearly daily for 40 days and see what would happen. Good things did, and the forum chatter backs it up.

Enter the Program Minimum.

What is the minimum we need to do to get results? Stop there and get back sports skills.

The program is simple, pick about five total body exercises that cover the basic human movements, and train them 5 days a week, but very low volume, about 10 reps each. So 2×5 or 3×3. It has to be easy, since it’s done almost daily. The idea is for the strength to be built up gradually from the bottom, rather than blasting from the top end, and getting sore.

So, for me:

  • Deadlift– MMS was all about the squat, so it’s time to work the DL. After working with a MTB coach, I see better the importance of the Hinge movement.
  • Pull Up– Still working on being able to blast full bodyweight. Compared to other pulling movements, the old pull up is real total body event.
  • Incline DB Bench Press– Same but different. Not a regular bench press, not an overhead press, but in between. Using DBs will force my weaker side to catch up.
  • Leg Raises– DJ suggests the Ab Wheel as a tonic for the hingeing movements. I went with this classic.
  • Plank Circuit- Same one I’ve been doing.
  • KB Swings and Goblet Squats as a warm up
  • Loaded Carry– various, right now I like one sided waiter’s walks and rack  carries.


All basic movements (squat, hinge, push, pull, carry)are covered. Hopefully my strength levels will continue to creep up while not interfering with the aerobic development. It’s quite similar to Maffetone’s idea of “Slow Weights.” I’ll use a 10 day schedule or “week” for training, taking one day off completely every 10 days rather than every 7 days. When using Maffetone training I find I only need a day off every 10 or so days.

What’s the worst thing that could happen? Like with Maffetone aerobic training, the only potential downside I can see is that maybe I don’t improve as much as I could have by going really hard. That doesn’t seem too bad. Why train difficult if you can train easy and get ot the same place?

For those who’d like to learn more: