On a personal note...

For those that want to see what's up with me and who are not all that enamored with Peak Oil.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

"There are no answers, only choices."

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Biomarkers - the end of the experiment

Well, it is time to wrap up the Paleolithic Experiment, the origins of which came out of the Peak Oil phenomenon we are beginning to experience. As I wrote a few months ago:

My studies In the Peak Oil phenomenon, like many of us willing to think about it, have lead me to contemplate what it would be like to experience a complete collapse of everything; economic, societal, food distribution etc. What would it be like to suddenly find ourselves existing, in not only a pre-industrial world, but even a pre-agricultural world. This is how we lived, anthropologists and others, say for 99% of our existence as a species.

This curiosity, combined with the end of semester/vacation excesses, weight gain, lethargy etc are compelling me to find out the effects of applying a Paleolithic diet and activity level.

With that in mind, 67 days ago I started a Paleolithic experiment. Along with diet, there was a certain exercise portion to this experiment as well. As I wrote on June 19th :

Evidence gained by observation of these modern hunter-gatherers, suggests that we were meant to walk as much as nine miles a day. Along with the fairly strenuous daily activities of the community. This is significant. For millions of years our closely related families of primates and even modern hunter-gatherers have had to walk a long way nearly every day to get something to eat. We are programmed to burn off far more calories each day then any of us in the west would ever dream of burning, even the athletes among us.

And so, I walked – a lot. I just broke the 300-mile mark today, in fact. San Francisco is a lovely city to walk in, so it was not exactly a chore. Some of the walks were only for 3 to four miles. The walks to the beach and back ran about 10 miles each. I even made it to the Sausalito – 18 miles round trip; all that has been blogged about here already.

Along with tracking the miles, I also tracked certain biomarkers. It was my expectation that there would be changes to my body over this time. This past semester, overall weight gain unnervingly easy. What with all the sitting around, reading, and occasional boozing we nursing students do, I suppose it is not surprising. When I started the experiment, my weight was 210 pounds. I have had a history of weight training, so much of that weight on my 5’8” frame is been muscle, as well as fat.

Fat is not necessarily a bad thing. Fat provides insulation from heat loss as well as impact. In fact the latest research about obesity and the elderly is showing that being a little overweight helps protect against the bone breaking falls they are prone to getting. Obviously, fat’s value as a stored fuel served our distant ancestors well as a calorie storage medium, but at the present time it is a trait that is getting the better of us. Food is far too easy to come by and life too sedentary, in our western world at least.

I have noticed an interesting thing in regards to weight gain in men and myself in particular; weight gain is concentrated in the gut area more than anywhere else. More than that, it is mostly under the abdominal muscle rather than over the top. Fat becomes marbled throughout the gut. Because of this, I have found the biomarker of the waistline measurement to be the best indicator of increase in fat store. If I work out a lot, I might gain weight yet show no change in the waistline. This indicates that the weight gain was muscle mass and therefore okay. If I have a corresponding girth increase, it indicates that I am eating too much, or not exercising enough (or both!)

In addition, how do you measure the waistline, with the belly distended or sucked in? I have found that the best thing is to measure and track both: belly fully distended and fully sucked in (the ‘vacuum’ as body builders call it.)

Now for some pictures. The befores and afters are 70 days apart.

In the first set, my belly is shown before and after fully distended. Visually, they are not much different, but the measure decreased from 42 to 36 inches – 8 inches total.

The second set is with a vacuum.

The visual is more dramatic, ranging from 38 inches to 31 – 7 inches total. (Isn't it amazing that I am really trying to suck it in in the first frame of the above picture?) It is fair to say I lost 7 to 8 inches from my waistline, a good indication that the Paleolithic diet does promote fat loss.

It also promotes weight loss in general. As I mentioned, when I started, I weighed 210 pounds. Right now, I weigh 192; a loss of 18 pounds, or a quarter pound a day. Now it gets a little tricky. Could some of that weight loss have been muscle? It likely was. The body will cannibalize its own protein for fuel if it is needed. I decided that measuring flexed bicep girth ought to provide a decent measure of muscle mass; it is easy to measure and, on me, unencumbered with fat, which could potentially give false readings. When I started, my bicep girth was 15.75 inches, right now it is 15 inches even. So I lost muscle on my arms and likely throughout my body. Damn. I was not as diligent about upper body training as I wanted to be. I wonder if training my upper body with weights during this time would have lead to some form of protein sparing effect.

Could it be that by walking around and eating paleolithically, my body has been drifting towards some genetically pre-determined and leaner shape; a shape unenhanced by heavy lifting and protein powders, or by lying around while eating pizza and drinking martinis?

My fourth biomarker was blood pressure, which has historically been high for me. I found that my blood pressure was within normal limits (120/80) throughout the first month, likely due to all the exercise as well as the lack of booze so I stopped tracking it.

I also took some side shots of my face.

It is hard to say but my skin looks a little clearer in the after shot but not much different in terms of fat loss.

Habits that have changed: I like going to bed hungry now rather than eating right before bed. It is nuts to eat anything within three hours of bedtime; that is just an invitation to GERD (heartburn). Eating to fullness is another habit I have broken. I am uncomfortable now eating more than a single plate of food. The after effect of eating too much is very much like a bad hangover; I just want to lay around until the pain goes away. No more, I say!

I will likely continue to eat paleolithically, but the walking will cease I am afraid. Walking for hours on end is very time consuming, and time is about to become compressed for me; school starts tomorrow morning.


Blogger J said...

Hey, you have a great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you!

I have a Idiot Proof Diet site. It pretty much covers dieting related things.

Come and check it out if you get time ;)

6:22 PM  

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