Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 253
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 253
College football is in full swing. I really do love the free Saturday or two that I can sit and just enjoy a few games.
When I was young, Scholastic Book Services, something many of our readers may still be buying books for their kids with SBS, had a book called something like “100 Years of College Football.” I loved it. It was written in a comic book format and covered everything. Oddly, I learned a lot about the game reading it.
This season, college football celebrates its 150th season. Simple math tells me that I read that book about 50 years ago.
That amazed me this weekend when I saw the jerseys with the “150” logo on the chest. Fifty years ago, they had a helmet decal with “100” in a football. But, like with all of life, time flies…as do we.
I’m trying to figure out Utah’s weather, too. I think summer and autumn just shook hands. We have a gloomy sky, but it will be hot again today.
Bret Contreras sent me his new glute book this week. It is amazing, so maybe I will get off my butt and train. (I will wait as the laughter subsides)
This week’s podcast with Pat Flynn is short, but I enjoyed riffing with Pat about the movie 300: Dan John on Generalism and Gym Jones – Chronicles of Strength
For those interested, I have an HKC next month in St. Louis plus a “Dan John” workshop the next day. HKC516 | Dragon Door. For the one-day workshop, go to this link.
I will also be teaming up with Ole and the gang at Strong4Life in Denmark in October.
A reader asked about my full schedule. I do have events coming up, but there is nowhere to link them to for the readership. I do my best, but lots of my events are not open to the public. Sorry.
This week on DanJohnWorkouts.com:
Episode 2 of The Dan John Podcast is live! Here’s a link to the episode.
If you’d like to subscribe to the podcast via RSS, here’s the link for that.
As always, please send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
New essays posted this week:
Resume Building Versus Eulogy Building
Pecked to Death by Ducks
Lessons from The Fractalist
Eat the Biggest, Ugliestt Toad First
New downloads in the Member’s Area:
Easy Strength Supplements Vol. 2 – This one focuses on strength standards and how to achieve them.
As always, we’re working on new features and content to make the site even better.
Goal setting is a big part of the Easy Strength “plan.” It involves starting the journey and then an unusual thing: staying on the path. This is my favorite way to explain the ES process of goal setting.
Planning the Plan
Years ago, on a walk around some amazing archaeological sites in Ireland, the guide asked me if I had ever read the book, The Gnolls Credo.
No, I had not…and what’s a “Gnoll?”
Josh Stanton’s book introduces us to the Half-Hyena/Half-Human Gnolls. The book is a fun read, but the real purpose of the book is to summarize the success philosophy of the Gnolls. The guide summed the book with this brilliant, simple point:
Plan the Hunt.
Discuss the Hunt.
The book fleshes this out in much more detail, but the point should be obvious for people seeking to start a new diet or training program.
Now…talk about it. Now make it perfect.
That’s the error most people make. The middle one is the tough one for most people…do it! We have all been to parties with nothing but experts in fitness, diet, politics, professional sports and all world issues. Everybody has an opinion about everything.
And we all know about opinions. Everyone has one…and it doesn’t stink.
There are a million plans for just about any and every approach you want to take for fitness, health, diet and longevity. They often contradict each other. It doesn’t bother me that they do; in fact, I find insights in the friction of ideas rubbing against each other.
The key is to follow a plan. Two weeks or six weeks or whatever, follow the plan. Do it.
At a natural break, review it. Discuss it. Look for its limitations and issues. Truthfully, you might not find any!
It’s okay to shift from an all-this diet to an all-that diet. In fact, your body…which seems to have a mad love affair with change…might revel in it. Sometimes changing the plan really works…after you followed the plan!
Listening to my inner Yoda, I can’t help but think that we need to “Do or don’t do. There is no try.”
End Easy Strength
Although I read a ton of stuff this week, I decided to focus on something for this week’s WW. Here you go.
Ever since I read Spring Chicken, I have enjoyed following this mind-numbing chase for extended life by some rich folks. I’m not against it, of course, but the following two articles can give some really excellent insights into the difficulties of tweaking the human body. “Whack-a-Mole” is a great way to think of this problem. This first article of the two talks directly about life extension and the following about the war between us, the eater, and fruits and veggies, the eaten: Is There Any Truth to Anti-Aging Schemes?
“We don’t know for sure that the same tricks we use in laboratory animals will work in people, but probably some of them will,” says Matt Kaeberlein, a pathology professor at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. Metformin and rapamycin are two drugs with promising implications. In mice and rat trials, both extended life span. Some of Kaeberlein’s work shows that rapamycin, typically delivered as an immunosuppressant following organ transplants in humans, mimics the effects of caloric restriction. Eating less puts strain on the body, and might alert cells that it’s time to halt division and focus on repair and stress resistance, both of which could contribute to longevity. Rapamycin might create the same effect without requiring you to skip a meal.
Nir Barzilai likes metformin because it is safe. Diabetics have used metformin, a modified version of a plant compound, for decades. Barzilai is director of the Institute for Aging Research at New York’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the lead sponsor of the five-year TAME trial that will soon enroll 3,000 participants between ages 65 and 80. He believes that the drug does more to alleviate damage in an aging cell than it does for improving glucose metabolism.
“People with diabetes on metformin have 17 percent less mortality than people without diabetes, even though they are more obese and more sick to begin with,” Barzilai says of the drug’s effect. “So metformin is really about aging much more than diabetes.”
The Cell paper highlighted other ways to disrupt the aging process. If these units of living matter become inefficient as they age and divide, couldn’t we just replace them? In the case of stem cells, yes.
“What’s the key to being able to turn a 1950 Chevrolet into a useful operating tool?” asks surgeon-turned-biomedical pioneer Bob Hariri. “It’s all about replacement parts, right? Look at what happens to people who get stem-cell transplants for bone-marrow reconstitution. If the donor is younger than the recipient, quite often the biology of that recipient improves.”
Hariri is a co-founder of Human Longevity Inc., a Silicon Valley venture using supercomputers to search for genes related to human aging. But he’s better known for his research into stem-cell therapies, first as CEO of Celgene Cellular Therapeutics, and now as founder of Celularity, a startup that launched this year. Its plan: Harvest stem cells from human placentas and inject them into older people. Hariri believes the usually frail organ systems of older individuals will improve because they will, in effect, be composed of younger cells.
Another strategy is to try to clear senescent cells—older ones that stop dividing—from the body. Research shows that some of these old-timers produce chemical signals that interfere with the functions of healthy cells. They can also cause symptoms such as inflammation, and help bring on fatal age-associated diseases.
Killing those rogues is a new focus among researchers. A team at the Mayo Clinic’s Kogod Center on Aging recently managed to destroy senescent cells in mice using a new class of medications called senolytic agents. As reported this past summer in Nature Communications, other testing on human cells in culture showed that senolytic drugs targeted senescent cells while leaving other types alone. A clinical trial to test the drugs in humans with chronic kidney disease is underway.
“We’ve got approval to start trials, and some are just beginning, but they’re in people who’ve got serious illnesses directly tied to cellular senescence,” says Kogod Center director James Kirkland. He adds that they need to see what happens before moving on to healthier populations.
I’m thinking this is the “Greatest Article of All Time.” It is a page turner, or should I say a screen scroller? If you can, read the whole article: Fruits and Vegetables Are Trying to Kill You.
We’re familiar with many components of their arsenal. The nicotine that we so prize in tobacco slows grazing insects. Beans contain lectins, which defend against insects. Garlic’s umami-like flavor comes from allicin, a powerful antifungal. These “antifeedants” have evolved in part to dissuade would-be grazers, like us.
Mattson and his colleagues say these plant “biopesticides” work on us like hormetic stressors. Our bodies recognize them as slightly toxic, and we respond with an ancient detoxification process aimed at breaking them down and flushing them out.
Consider fresh broccoli sprouts. Like other cruciferous vegetables, they contain an antifeedant called sulforaphane. Because sulforaphane is a mild oxidant, we should, according to old ideas about the dangers of oxidants, avoid its consumption. Yet studies have shown that eating vegetables with sulforaphane reduces oxidative stress.
When sulforaphane enters your blood stream, it triggers release in your cells of a protein called Nrf2. This protein, called by some the “master regulator” of aging, then activates over 200 genes. They include genes that produce antioxidants, enzymes to metabolize toxins, proteins to flush out heavy metals, and factors that enhance tumor suppression, among other important health-promoting functions.
In theory, after encountering this humble antifeedant in your dinner, your body ends up better prepared for encounters with toxins, pro-oxidants from both outside and within your body, immune insults, and other challenges that might otherwise cause harm. By “massaging” your genome just so, sulforaphane may increase your resistance to disease.
In a study on Type 2 diabetics, broccoli-sprout powder lowered triglyceride levels. High triglycerides, a lipid, are associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Lowering abnormally elevated triglycerides may lessen the risk of these disorders. In another intervention, consuming broccoli sprout powder reduced oxidative stress in volunteers’ upper airways, likely by increasing production of native antioxidants. In theory, that might ameliorate asthmatics’ symptoms.
Elevated free radicals and oxidative stress are routinely observed in diseases like cancer and dementia. And in these instances, they probably contribute to degeneration. But they may not be the root cause of disease. According to Mattson, the primary dysfunction may have occurred earlier with, say, a creeping inability to produce native antioxidants when needed, and a lack of cellular conditioning generally.
Mattson calls this the “couch potato” problem. Absent regular hormetic stresses, including exercise and stimulation by plant antifeedants, “cells become complacent,” he says. “Their intrinsic defenses are down-regulated.” Metabolism works less efficiently. Insulin resistance sets in. We become less able to manage pro-oxidant threats. Nothing works as well as it could. And this mounting dysfunction increases the risk for a degenerative disease.
Implicit in the research is a new indictment of the Western diet. Not only do highly refined foods present tremendous caloric excess, they lack these salutary signals from the plant world—“signals that challenge,” Mattson says. Those signals might otherwise condition our cells in a way that prevents disease.
I thought these articles deserve some extra attention. Next week, I will strive for more variety, but I sure thought these were good.
And, until then, keep on lifting and learning.
For your quick access link, here’s Dan’s full OTP page, including all of his articles, books, lectures and videos, all in one place.
The Sword in the Stone, Part 106
“Ceratosaurus nasicornis was at war with Atlantosaurus immanis, in that strange war which the Spirit of the Waters wills, the war of competition and evolution which makes the trees fight upwards for the sun on the Amazon, and in the course of which, for the boon of life, many of my cousins have been content to sacrifice the benefits of limbs and teeth and eyesight.
“Ceratosaurus was savage and aggressive, Atlantosaurus timid and old. Their combat lasted for as many centuries as will be needed by H. sapiens also, in which to destroy himself. At the end of that time it was the defender who triumphed. The ferocious Kangaroo had dealt death on every side, had decimated his adversaries and fed upon their carcasses, but carcasses cannot continue their species, and in the end the Kangaroos had consumed the very flesh on which they lived. Too remorseless for the Spirit of Waters, too bloodthirsty for the hierarchy of progressive victims, the last Ceratosaurus roamed the thick-leaved jungles in a vain search for the food which could satisfy his fathers.
“The last Atlantosaurus thrust her forty-foot neck out of the jungle in which she had been hiding, and surveyed the emaciated corpse of her starved persecutor. She had preserved her life, as the sensible wood pigeon does, by specializing in escape. She had learned to flee, to hide, to stand still, to control her scent, to conceal herself in waters. By humility she had survived her enemy, who had slain her own husband; and now she carried the children of the latter inside her, the last of the victorious race. They would be born in a few years.
“H. sapiens had come meanwhile. He also had suffered from the terror of the Kangaroo. In order to protect himself from its rapine, he had developed a sub-class called H. sapiens armatus, a class which was concealed in metal scales and carried a lance by means of which it defended itself against the Dinosauria. This sub-class had perfected an order called H. sapiens armatus georgius sanctus, which was sufficiently unobservant to classify all the Dinosaurs together as its enemies.
“Atlantosorus thrust out her neck, and thought with triumph of her unborn children. She had never killed in her life, and those, the future, would perpetuate a vegetarian race. She heard the clank of H. sapiens armatus georgious sanctus, and turned the comely reptile head towards him in her kindly curiosity.”
“Go on,” said the Wart.
“He killed her, of course,” concluded the serpent with sudden brevity, turning its own head away. “She was a reptile of my race.”
I’m not sure a sentence ever impacted me more than “He killed her, of course.” It still just saddens me. As I look around and see people not just ignoring the destruction of our planet but actively making it worse, I feel like T. natrix.
In Stephen King’s book On Writing, he has a section on how he came up with the idea of Carrie that wounded my heart. I would put these two readings as the top of my list if I was the prosecution against humanity. White does something like this in The Book of Merlyn.
So, just for a moment, it is time to be sad.
Next time, Wart discovers that all of history is sad.
DanWandering Weights is published each Wednesday by On Target Publications
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