Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sugar {oh honey oh honey} You Got Me Wantin' You {My Thoughts on Grain Brain}

So lately I've been pretty in to the Tim Ferris Show podcast on my commute. He talks to interesting people (the ones with Arnold and Peter Attia are particularly good) and has quite a few episodes on health. He's practicing the Ketogenic diet currently and rolling around SF consuming lots of butter tea. That was essentially the catalyst of jumping into this book: Grain Brain by Dr. Perlmutter, a University of Miami neurologist. Dr. Perlmutter claims that a diet high in fat, adequate in protein and low in carbs ("Ketogenic Diet") is the key to curing a range of metabolic and neurological disorders from your everyday blues to bi-polar disorder.

Jumping right in to Chapter 3, Dr.Perlmuttter cites the 1992 food pyramid recommendations as THE relevant fact to the sharp rise in obesity thereafter. I know the food pyramid impacts the structure of government-funded food programs but there'd be a certain time lag to those effects. (The government has definitely played its role -- check out Fed Up on Netflix.) There are numerous other factors contributing to the early '90s being the point at which obesity levels (he is discussing levels, not rates, which is odd) began to climb -- the manufacturing of foods having infiltrated American life while real manufacturing and labor jobs (the kind of jobs that got us off our asses) having exited the market, the increase in more sedentary leisure activities, the baby boomers aging, and the increase in dual-income households and fewer meals prepared at home. But no, he points to the government food pyramid because that's what everyone pays attention to when they purchase and consume food. Umm, OK. (It's like when restaurants started to post calorie counts, studies have shown the calorie information was thoroughly ignored. Food choices are generally driven by preference, habit and availability; not posted calories...or cute government charts.)

Chapter 5 is where he really gets into the structure of the ketogenic diet (more on that means metabolically over here) which is primarily used to treat epilepsy and sounds just dandy as long as you don't have symptomatic ketosis. Also if you aren't already nauseous from the ketones, maybe the the sound of getting 80-90% of your calories from fat on the ketogenic diet is enough to make you feel sick to your stomach. That is a whole lot of fat people. If  you're on a 1600 calorie diet, that's like eating over 10 tablespoons of butter worth of fat. Yum.

Chapter 6 is where he elaborates on his perceived connection of a gluten diet and mental illness. Grain Brain also thoughtfully includes a letter from a bi-polar woman who claims that a low-sugar, low-carb, high fat diet "cured" her bi-polar disorder. Seems legit, right? He includes other letters from former patients for which a ketogenic diet has done a 180 on their lives. The letter part really lets him off the hook on any real medical evaluation by him, which is a stark contrast to someone like author and neurologist Oliver Sacks who details his evaluations and follow-up assessments.  Since he's a neurologist writing a book, not a Dear Abby column, I think a complete assessment of case study patients would be relevant.

Continuing on in Chapter 6, Dr. P states that "In addition to watching your mood brighten up, you'll watch your weight go down, and your energy soar in just a few weeks" on the ketogenic diet. He could write scripts for late-night infomercials I tell ya.

Some of the studies he cites are interesting; although the way he states them and pieces them together he's very much struggling to make a real case for the high fat, low carb diet. Not to mention this diet seems highly unrealistic and unsustainable for the majority of people. Parts of the book got my blood pressure up more than a bowl of fruit salad. Yes, he discuses how fruit elevates your blood pressure and promotes inflammation. (Yeah, really.) As a result of reading Grain Brain though I have been paying more attention to sugar content and how even "good" sugar like honey or very sweet fruits like pineapple should be used in heavy moderation.

A note by my inner statistician on the way he cites studies in the book: There are simply certain ways you don't phrase statements when discussing results of studies. There are instances when he uses "proves" instead of "shows" or "indicates." Like, you fail Stats 101 if you throw out "prove" in your final. He gets deep in to biochemistry but never once mentions a p-value. He's clearly counting on the reader to follow biochem processes but discounts their understanding of what should be the crux of his discussion, data. Read it with a large ol' grain of salt.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Races Loved and Races Lost in the Bay Area

Didn't get into Napa to Sonoma? Trust me, I've been through that 2 hour registration, website crashing game to pay $150 for a race. As much fun as that can be, I've pulled together a list of hot ticket Bay Area races and their sane-yet-similar "sister" races.

Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon

Location: Finish in Downtown Sonoma
Fee: $155 + transportation
Start time: 7 am, held in July on Sunday.

You'll run through gorgeous wineries... 

You might even have a sip on the run...

Then you'll finish with an unlimited wine tasting! Awesome. But what if you didn't get into this bucket-list of a race? Try the...

Livermore Half Marathon

Location: Livermore, CA
Fee: $84 (I've seen early bird prices ~$60)
Start time: 8 am in March, on a Saturday (!)

The lesser known but still fantastic Dry Creek region produces some pretty good wines (Wente!) and the race has similar views to N2S.  See all the wineries there along the route? Perfection.

Plus you'll get all that wine after, and it's held on a Saturday so it's a perfect race for actually enjoying the wine.

{Via Napa to Sonoma Half}

This race is March 28th and there are entries still available. Sounds almost too good to be true compared to the craziness I endured for N2S. On to another quick to sell out Bay Area race...

San Francisco Marathon 

Location: San Francisco
Fee: $120 (First half, which goes over GGB, sells out first.)
Start time: 5:30 - 6:30 am, Sunday toward end of July

I've only run the 5k version of this event so I can only vouch for the amazing organization and excessive amounts of free snacks afterward. There was also a post-race concert (of cool local bands). Win-win-win. Here's the course map:

Golden Gate Half

Location: San Francisco
Fee: $64
Start time: 7 am, Sunday in early November

It's nearly the same race as the San Francisco 1st Half except you circle back through the Presidio instead of over to Golden Gate Park. (The Presidio is more breathtaking than that part of GGP anyway.) 

I think I also got a hot meat pie and warm drink after this race back when it was the US Half. Plus you basically finish in front of Buena Vista and I can't think of a more perfect fall weekend than a long run finished with an Irish coffee. 

Big Sur Half Marathon

Location: Monterey, CA
Fee: $100 (early bird price - registration opens April 1 this year)
Start time: 7 am, Sunday in early November (same date as Golden Gate Half this year)

Ahhh another race people seem crazy about. It's hard to get registered for unless you mark your calendar and set 5 alarms for yourself to remember to register that day. There's the dude that shows up at the finish line with all the sand dollar-like medals from every Big Sur Half ever. But the views were so amazing...I almost considered registering for the full (HA!). Plus the guy on the grand piano and all the local support. Ugh, this one is a really tough race to match.

{Pretty much that disgustingly awesome. Via BSIM website.}

Other than some Marin headland trail races, it would be tough to find views with as much ocean as this race. A few I'd recommend but haven't done:

Golden Gate Trail Half Marathon (It was Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015 starting at Rodeo Beach in Marin)
This trail run looks gorgeous! I've hiked through here quite a bit and it would be an ass kicker of a race as well as plenty of ocean views and maybe some glimpses of SF. Fee was $45 in 2015. 

{Typical Marin hiking picture.}

Santa Cruz Half Marathon (April 12, 2015) A lot of ocean front on this one too. Some paved and some dirt with a much less classy finish in the close but oh-so-far from Monterey local of Santa Cruz.  I think this would still be a lovely race and make for a fun girls weekend. Reviews here and here. Fee is $75 right now.

Kaiser Half (haven't ran) and Hot Chocolate 15k (have) also give you about 4 miles along the ocean and the rest through Golden Gate Park so those are some pretty lovely surroundings. Finally for the most crazy-hard SF race to get into:

Nike Women's Half Marathon

OK, so no other race will have sparkles, glitter, and jewelry all-in-one quite like this race.

And the firemen, and the music, and the after race massages. It's fun. It's hilly. It's very over the top. The only races I've been to which even kind of compare in atmosphere are the Rock-n-Roll races. (However, in San Francisco we have something called BAY-TO-BREAKERS which is an insane experience and you can use the money you saved to buy yourself a $100 Tiffany's necklace. Just thinking outside the box, people.) The Rock-n-Roll SF race is some thing I have yet to experience but here is it's route:

This is a pretty sweet route with some nice hills in there. The finish line parties and the organization of the RNR races is a large scale production similar to Nike. Plus I think it's 10:1 you'll have Brett Michaels as the finish line performer so there's always that. (UMMM...apparently it's the American Authors this year.) RNR SF is in March and runs about $120, maybe less if you find some nice ambassador on Twitter. :)

The Nike route was majorly overhauled in 2014 and there's no guarantee they're keeping it the same in 2015 so I won't bother posting it. It kind of follows part of the Bay to Breakers route (you'll see the Haight and GGP), and then veers off through the Presidio. Nike didn't include the bridge, which I think is kind of sad because it's such a unique experience but honestly the size of the race also makes the bridge cumbersome. The RNR race also finishes at Civic Center which kind of makes me want to freak-out mentally on behalf of all the tourists so there's a balance I guess that's off for me course-wise with both these races. I'm just saying it's important to look for other factors than maybe the hype sometimes...Like Saturday start times and price points under $100!

Any comparable races that I forgot? Any races here you love?