The Arnold / Weightlifting Olympic Trials; Cholesterol

USA Weightlifting Senior Nationals

First: I'm leaving tomorrow for Columbus, OH to attend the combination meet "The Arnold Weightlifting Championships", USA Weightlifting Senior Nationals, and USA Weightlifting Olympic Trials. The Olympic Trials session for women is mixed in with the Nationals sessions. Basically, the top 2-3 ladies in each weight class are duking it out snatch and jerk style for the two spots we have for women on the Olympic Team.

We currently don't have any spots for men on the Olympic Team, and they have one more chance this spring to earn a spot. The odds are likely they'll get one, but the decision process for that spot will end up being a little different.

I plan on taking my computer and camera adapter so that I can post blog updates on all the cool stuff going on there. The Arnold Sports Festival celebrates TONS of activities and there should be some interesting things.

Cholesterol: Not Our Enemy

I wish I could do a search of only the websites I follow easily. I know I've read A LOT on the topic of cholesterol and health, but with all the other information that I read through on a daily basis, retaining the details can be hard. Regardless, I'm going to highlight major concerns about heart disease and cholesterol that people bring up when I mention I'm on a ketogenic Paleo diet.

Biological Uses of Cholesterol

Here are the facts that have been know for decades. First, cholesterol is essential for maintaining the membranes of every cell in your body. Cellular membranes are made up of a bilayer of lipids, and the cholesterol interspersed in the membrane gives structure to the cell. The concentrations of cholesterol in the cell differ between cell types and even within a cell, concentrating around area that hold proteins in and across the cell membranes.

The body also uses cholesterol as a precursor for bile acids, which are made for digestion early in the small intestine. They are also a precursor for steroid hormones, including sex hormones, glucocorticoids and cortisol, both of which are involved in blood sugar regulation.

Poor Understanding of Metabolism Starts Us Off

Our biochemistry and metabolism are complex things. And as much as we like to say "Crap in, crap out" and other such idioms, we are not, scientifically speaking, a walking tube with a mouth at one end and an anus at the other. Unfortunately, "conventional wisdom" (CW) and "common sense" often treat nutrition as though we are exactly that.

Doctors noticed that clots and plaques in the vasculature contained a lot of cholesterol. They also typically noticed that many health problems can be attributed to too much body fat. Using CW and the human-tube protocol, it was easier to assume that a dietary input of fat or cholesterol equates to an increase in bodily fat and cholesterol. This over simplification led to years of low fat diet regimens and an epidemic of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

Dietary Cholesterol =/= Blood Cholesterol

Here is the thing, it's not about how much cholesterol is in your blood. We're learning it's not even about how much "bad" cholesterol in the form of LDL is in your blood. It's about the complete profile of LDL particles, with particular attention on small dense LDL. These are the particles that stick together, stick to plaques, and cause blockages.

The problematic presence of these particles are attributed NOT to a diet high in cholesterol, but to a diet high in carbohydrates. In fact, eating a diet high in cholesterol, especially in animal fats, does show a rise in total cholesterol with the vast majority of it being the "good" HDL variety.

There are indicators that the types of mono-unsaturated fats in animal proteins, omega-3 vs. omega-6, can influence the ratio of good to bad through inflammation, but that is way more biochemistry that I want to get into in this post. Short story, eat grass fed, pasture raise animals. Lots of them.

High Blood Cholesterol =/= Heart Disease

Again, this comes from the human-tube model of metabolism. Here's the problem: a diet that causes chronic systemic inflammation (think lots of wheat, legumes, and dairy) means you're going to see more oxidized lipids in the blood and more vascular problems. What these cholesterol plaques do is act as a band-aid over micro-injuries in the vasculature, often due to high blood pressure. Once inflammation goes away (the biochemistry behind systemic inflammation is, again, too complex to go into right now), macrophages will dispose of the plaques.

However, if the inflammation stays, the vasculature can't heal, and more layers of band-aids are added. These can eventually break off and cause a clot. Bam! Blockage, stroke, heart attack, and general heart disease. (Aside: high blood pressure can is attributed to a combination of high carbohydrate diet and high salt intake. These things can accumulate in your blood and cause osmosis into your veins.)

The best way I've heard it put is: blaming cholesterol on the plaques is like blaming the band-aid for the cut.

Meat is NOT Bad For You

I've already mentioned this, but animal proteins do not raise your small dense LDLs. Animal protein has been linked to your "good" HDL. Organ meats are also an incredible source of nutrition. 4 oz of liver has the nutritional equivalent of 5 lbs of your best fruits.

Why I Recommend a Ketogenic Paleo Diet to Others

I realize that there is no one magic macro nutrient ratio that is great for everyone. Everyone is a little different, but seriously, you are not a unique snowflake. For instance, grains, whole are other wise, are not good for you. You can argue it, but it won't be correct.

The Paleo diet, at it's core, it an anti-inflammatory, hypoallergenic diet. Even if you tolerate the no-no's of the diet, mere toleration does not equate to optimal health. I recommend a ketogenic form of it for most people, because most people are far too reliant on carbs for energy, and that can lead to all kinds of mental, emotional, and physical issues. For me, it has evened out my energy levels, taken off body fat, and lets me train and recover in a way that is positively impacting my strength.

Too many people focus on weight loss as an indicator for the effectiveness of a diet. In one month, I've only dropped 6-8 lbs. But I look in the mirror like I've lost more than that. My belt fits like I've lost more than that. In my experience, and other's experiences, the ketogenic Paleo diet is a pro-muscle diet, so for some, that means scale movement isn't going to happen much.

More Reading

Get on some of your own research, there is a TON of information out there:

Robb Wolf, author of "The Paleo Solution"

Mark Sisson, author of "The Primal Blueprint

Great Summary of Cholesterol and Health

The Weston Price Foundation

Chris Kresser: The Healthy Skeptic

The Bulletproof Executive (excellent podcast, too)