Good Reads for the Week

Red meat & mortality & the usual bad science

The mainstream media was all a buzz this month about an article published in the Archives of Internal Medicine journal that stated that red meat consumption was linked to an increased rate of total, cancer, and cardiovascular mortality.   That makes for a good attention grabbing headline but as often with stories hyped in the media making bold claims, it is important to dig a little deeper and really see what the science and data really tells us.  Zoë Harcombe did a very good job of breaking down this observational study. My take is that there are too many compounding variables to make any claims of causation from this study.  It is near impossible to control for the extent of these variables.  For example, there is a higher rate of smoking in those that ate red meat, so does red meat cause lung cancer?  Maybe but an observational study could never prove causation, only correlation. In  Harcombe’s seven points about this study she also cites the same issue:

“Several other critical variables showed correlation with death rates – lack of activity, low cholesterol, BMI, smoking, diabetes, calorie intake and alcohol intake. These have not been excluded to isolate meat consumption alone. The raw data actually shows deaths rates falling with increased meat consumption up to the third or fourth quintile – and this is before all the other variables have been allowed for. This would suggest that meat consumption has a protective effect while weight, alcohol, calorie intake, lack of exercise and so on are all taking their toll.”

My suggestion would be to eat red meat (ideally organic grass-fed) if you feel better eating red meat.  If you don’t, don’t eat it.  Just make sure that as an athlete you are getting in enough protein and iron in your diet to prevent anemia. If you are struggling with weigh, garmin has a good body fat analyzer and with it you can very accurately see your progress and I’m told that it helps a lot with keeping on track.

Here is another good article on this same study, but also on the limitations of most epidemiological  studies done in nutrition.

Regular Chocolate Eaters Are Thinner, Evidence Suggests

So do you think it is the Chocolate that is making people thinner or some other connected behavior?  I would really like to believe that chocolate would somehow melt the fat away but I am not going to go out and buy a Hershey bar based on this.  I am going to continue to eat dark chocolate every once in a while because it is delicious!

Good luck to everyone racing this weekend!  Don’t forget, the Tour of Flanders in on Sunday morning (that link should have live video on Sunday morning).  Who are your picks for the race?

Good Reads for the End of the Week

Cold Water Baths Reduce Muscle Soreness but Evidence Lacking On Safety

I have seen positive benefits from ice baths in myself and in an athletes for quite a while but there haven’t been too many studies done on this recovery method (eliminating the placebo effect is extremely hard, if not impossible). This is a good example where athletes and coaches find that a specific methodology works, even if science isn’t exactly sure why it works. Even the US Olympic Training Centers have been employing this method in their recovery centers for quite a while, and you can often see Pro athletes using this soon after races. I will definitely report back when more information comes out on the safety of the practice.

Stress Tested

While ice baths definitely help with recovery, it may be good to not over use this practice too much. New evidence has shown that constantly using ancillary recovery techniques may impair the adaptation the body makes from training, limiting performance gains. My advice would be to only use ancillary recovery methods (beyond hydration and re-fueling) at times before competition, but not during heavier periods of training.

Sleep or Die

OK, nobody has died from lack of sleep but this infographic does a good job of explaining the risks of lack of sleep. If you want to perform at your athletic best you better be getting at 7 hours a night!

Chamois Creme Potential Reason for Elevated Estrogen in Cyclists + Triathletes Have 2x More Testosterone Than Average Men and 71% More Than Active Individuals

This is a pretty interesting study done on the effects of parabens in cycling chamois creme and the potential hormonal distracting effect in men. At this point I don’t think it is conclusive but it is something I will definitely be watching for information on.

Two Quick Videos

I recommended Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run a while back and just ran across this video from the TED conference.  Its long but worth watching.  Seriously, read the book too.

This is funny because its true…

Good luck to all who is racing this weekend!