[Iodine] Can we safely get all our iodine only from seaweeds? A practical exploration

 This article is now considered “somewhat obsolete”. Basically, this article studied only the seaweeds that are commercially available, and did not explore the realm of locally (NZ) foraged seaweeds. I have since turned to carefully-selected, locally-foraged seaweeds, which seem to allow safe iodine intake: Iodine in Common Edible Wild NZ Seaweeds – An Alternative to Iodized Salt!


Are you vegan? or on a low-salt diet? or heading there? Then this will be relevant to you. The question of satisfying iodine needs through seaweed is not new as you will read in the history but below. I ask here a specific and very practical question:

Based on published science, can we or not safely rely entirely on seaweeds for iodine intake? If so, which ones? why so? and what to do in practice to implement that?

That is usually my approach, very practical, and I do heavily rely on the work of people that are very focused on non-practical aspects. To figure out the answer, we will have to define what is safe? what is reliable? Since the history of iodine deficiency is frankly quite fascinating, I will start with that, and then get more specifically into the seaweeds talk.

Part One – A quick (recent and epic) history of iodine deficiency

19th/20th century

Already in 1813, following the discovery that seaweeds have iodine, a Swiss physician postulated that seaweeds consumption could reverse goiter just like another sea product which the Greeks used for goiter: marine sponges in topical use. [1]

From 1813, it took no less than a century, for iodine to start reaching our diets, through salt iodization. And there are still problems. The Salt Institute declares “In 1990, only about 20% of the world’s households had access to iodized salt and were protected against Iodine Deficiency Disorders. After a major push, access now exceeds 70%”.[2] It will always fascinate me how slowly are accepted and spread undeniably effective solutions to major medical problems.

21st century – The ironic re-emergence of iodine deficiencies, “for health reasons”

While many countries are still working on making iodized salt the norm, other countries such as New Zealand (and probably others) are already experiencing the next iodine problem, a re-emergence of iodine deficiency [3]. Why? Several reasons, mainly health-driven:

1. People cutting on (iodized) salt to reduce cardiovascular “accidents” [3]

As salt awareness is growing, people do try to cut on visible salt. They do when using the shaker and in the kitchen. If that salt was iodized, cutting on salt also means cutting on iodine.
Automatically then, your only source of iodine becomes uncontrolled and random, with the execption of New Zealand* which I will develop later. When there is no more iodized salt in your diet, you rely almost entirely on the salt chosen by restaurants and food makers you eat, from the sea products you eat, on the (usually low) iodine content of the soil that grows your food, and even more rarely on the voluntary use of iodized salt in the supermarket food, the last industry I’d expect to care unless forced by law* or consumer trends.
*In New Zealand, bread manufacturers have been forced by law to iodize the salt in bread, since people still eat a lot of bread. Think of bread as a last refuge for salt. Once you got rid of table and cooking salt, the next thing to get rid of is either bread or the salt in it. Inevitably, when that happens, iodine deficiency will become a problem again. Salt being something unnecessary and unhealthy, should not be the carrier for iodine, or anything else that is important for health.

2. People switching to rock salts (i.e. Himalayan salts)

A pink rock salt recently gone quite mainstream, Himalayan salts mined and therefore usually very low in iodine by default. Although any amount of salt is not necessary and therefore contributing to a more unlhealthy status, Himalayan salt has gained popularity as a “healthier salt” due to claims of it containing a wide spectrum of trace minerals. Besides safety issues with the uncontrolled variation of the trace minerals, and a possible content of heavy metals, Hymalayan salts in the “natural” state do not contain a relevant amount of iodine and pose an (ironic) issue of iodine deficiency. In passing, the concept of “healthy salt” reminds me of the $30 million of US taxpayers money spent in 1967 by the National Cancer Institute to create a “safer cigarette”.

3. A rise of vegetarian and vegan diets

In studies done on iodine deficiency, vegans and vegetarians are mentioned as being at particular risk of iodine deficiency. The reason is that most seafood in the Western diet is animal-based, and that most animal produce (meat, milk, cheese) comes from animals that were given a feed artificially supplemented, either for the animal’s own health, as a means of supplementing the final product, or accidentally like in the case of milk-based iodine which comes (or used to come) from iodine containing disinfectants like Betadine applied on cow tits. [4] Other disinfectants have gradually replaced the iodine-based ones, resulting in lower iodine in cow’s milk.

4. The still-existing lack of a holistic agricultural practice

Some posters on the internet, widely shared, claim certain plant foods as reliable sources of iodine. It is not true because it depends heavily on the iodine content of the soil where the plant came from. A potato may be able to accumulate iodine, but since most soils are iodine-deficient, how much iodine should we expect in potatoes? Deficient soils are still far from being thoroughly and routinely balanced with life-sustaining elements, iodine being one of many. In fact, there is more thought being put in supplementing cows and their feed than in conditioning soils for the healthiest feed of humans: plants, fungi, and other non-animal foods. Most fertilization is still entirely focused at productivity and profitability, what is not? Yet we still buy produce based on weight, price, and appearance, not enough based on nutritional content or  taste, let alone environmental and social factors. There is however a growing culture of a holistic approach, aiming at going back to basics: taking pride in actually feeding people [5]. Iodine deficiency could likely be resolved by means of fertilization and cultivation methods, among other deficiencies.Picture 103

Image credits: Alena Kumpta Watercolor Art

Part Two – The search for the perfect seaweed

Criteria to match in order for a reliable, safe, and practical intake of iodine from seaweed only:

  1. Reliably narrow range of iodine concentration, so that we know accurately enough how much iodine is contained in let’s say a spoon or 10g.
  2. The range starts away from zero iodine (so that there is no risk of getting close to none)
  3. Practical concentration: the daily requirement ideally fits in more than a pinch, but less than a lot of tablespoons, so ideally something like a gram or a teaspoon, not one kilogram of seaweed because that would not be realistic nor practical.
  4. The seaweed has long history of usage and is generally safe
  5. The seaweed is easy to source
  6. High absorbability by human digestion
  7. Low heavy metal content

Hypothesises/Assumptions:

  1. The range of suitable iodine for human consumption is based on official recommendations : ~160 µg/day (upper limit UL or maximum: 1,100 µg/day)
  2. That official recommendation are correct is subject to debate, and here too. Official recommendations have changed a lot historically [1]
  3. OBJECTIVE: So rounding up, we will consider safe the range 150 ~ 1,000 µg/day, remember this.

Seaweeds – Variation in content of iodine

Given the large number of seaweeds in existence, the focus was intentionally restricted to a popular few:

  1. WakameUndaria pinnatifida (the fronds are called wakame, the base part of the same plant is called mekabu)
  2. KombuLaminaria digita japonica, also known as kelp
  3. Nori – which is tricky because it’s a whole genus (Porphyra genus) contaning many species including Laver (Porphyra umbilicalis) or Karengo (Porphyra columbina) and many others. Many seaweeds fall under nori.

These are the ranges in parts per million (ppm) or equivalent units :  mg/kg or µg/g (same as mcg/g or micrgrams per gram), all units reflecting the content as packed, usually dry [6,7] For iodine in seaweeds, the microgram per gram unit because the dietary recommendations for iodine are given in micrograms, and one gram of dry seaweed is human sized; if dried it would fit in a hand or a spoon.

  1. Wakame: 39 ~ 1,571 µg/g
  2. Kombu: 25 ~ 12,000 µg/g with one measured at 21,000 [8] by EU food safety authorities
  3. Nori: 0,7 ~ 550 µg/g

How absorbable is iodine from seaweed?

While iodine is an atom, its presence in food can exist in different forms, different molecules or ions referred to as “chemical species”. It’s important to know the chemical species of in foods because that affects bio-availability (how much we can absorb and use) or things like toxicity (less of a concern here).
A study published in 2005 compared kombu  to wakame concluded that kombu’s higher content of iodide made it a more bio-available choice than wakame’s various iodine species (monoiodotyrosine and diiodotyrosine) [9]

Heavy Metals Warning

Seaweeds are notorious for accumulating heavy metals. Interesting work was done by the Health Ranger, a food activist, on a very narrow but US-popular range of seaweeds. One brand of seaweeds harvested in New Zealand showed the cleanest profile in terms of heavy metals. Be careful though when chosing “New Zealand” as a reliable criteria for clean seaweed. The mention “from New Zealand”. All inhabited land in our day dumps pollutants in the sea, New Zealand is no exception, far from the common eco-fantasy. That is why, the cleanest New Zealand seaweeds are most likely harvested in open sea far from the land, ideally South towards Antarctica, in regions far from volcanic/human activity. In my survey ofseaweeds from shops, also saw “NZ-nori”, NZ-seaweed” and other “NZ” prefixed labels in large print. That could just be marketing to write NZ somewhere capitalizing on the good perceived image of New Zealand seaweed. It could also mean the product sold is the NZ species of a certain seaweed, but that by no means guarantees it was grown or harvested in New Zealand, or in clean waters.

Best seaweed verdict

Kombu: too much iodine, extremely wide range, and starts close to zero. It’s out.
Nori: wide range, start close to zero. It’s out.
Wakame: relatively narrow range (good) but starts close to zero. It’s out.

Among these three popular seaweeds I cannot see any candidate for a best seaweed taken daily on its own as the one and only source of dietary iodine. The fantasy of getting all iodine in precise amounts from seaweed alone is over for me. So what to do now?

Well, there is good news. There are other more viable avenues.

The solution: Get your iodine from more reliable sources than seaweeds

The natural way, and its limitations

  • Do not rely only on daily seaweeds unless it passes the above-discussed criteria/checklist
  • If relying partly on seaweeds, only consume a safe amount based on the method here: trusting observed ranges more than nutritional facts (generally one-shot, or copied off the net rather than measured) and always calculate to avoid the worst case scenario of toxic doses
  • If you forage, that’s wonderful. Do it intelligently though:
    • Select a clean foraging spot: Learn about the history of activity and pollution of the area you forage in.
    • Identify: Always identify the species you collect.
    • Quantify: Once you know the name of what you forage, look into the research to quantify the amount of iodine in different parts of plant.
  •  Research iodine ranges of other seaweed species (dulse, arame, …) <== and of course write me an email to show me what you found 😉

Relying on iodized salts/products

  • People with a very low-salt diet, and no other iodine source may choose a highly-iodized salt, that provides enough iodine in a very small daily intake of salt. That means a higher concentration than in normal salt. Note that iodized salts in general have by law wide ranges of allowed iodine (45±20 µg/g for NZ/Aus.). I read some research showing that the legal (already wide) ranges are not generally not respected and that an even wider range of iodine is actualy found in iodized salt products. This makes iodized salt an unreliable source of iodine if you are aiming at a rather reliable range of iodine intake.

Or even better, iodine supplements

If you consume a very low-salt diet, get a good iodine supplement, preferably pharmaceutical-grade.

  • Best of the best: Pharmaceutical-grade prescription iodine

    Did you know the iodine in your iodized last is extracted from seaweeds? So the same concerns you would have for seaweeds (heavy metals, sea-borne contaminants etc…) are legitmate to have when it comes to iodized supplements. Supplements also being very poorly regulated worldwide, my current advice is to always try to get the pharmaceutical grade,  prescription-only iodine. The dosage will be very precise, contaminants likely checked for, and manufacturing process perhaps not perfect but far more regulated and accountable than free-market supplements.
    Dealing with probable relunctance from your G.P.: If your diet has such incredibly low salt that you are realistically at risk of a predictable iodine deficiency, there is no reason why a G.P. would not take you seriously when you request an iodine prescription. You may just need to be ready that they would suggest seafoods and free-market supplement and you may need to be ready to tell them kindly why that is not an option for you. I would change GPs (and I have been) if he/she does not generally share similar views on nutrition and prevention.
    I strongly believe in prevention over therapy, it also costs less in many ways. But unfortunately the practice of things, still reserves a lot of supplements and testing to pathologies rather than preventive actions. You may experience that worldview from your doctor when you ask him/her for supplements or preventive/routine testing in a non-therapeutical context.

  • If you still want “free-market” supplements

    If this is not available to you, or you still prefer free-market supplements, get a clean iodine supplement (i.e. low on heavy metals). I looked at this link, the only (apparently) genuinely independent lab that looked at the heavy metals. Strangely it did not look at iodine content itself! At the moment I write this, I roughly trust this source but have not examined it thoroughly enough. If you have researched the trustworthiness of the Health Ranger, (whom as supplement vendor might or not have a conflict of interest) please comment below.

Exploring further

Comprehensive Handbook of Iodine: Nutritional, Biochemical, Pathological and Therapeutic Aspects

Selenium variation in Brazil nuts – Can we get all our selenium from Brazil nuts?
Sources:
[1] Research on Iodine Deficiency and Goiter in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries
[2] IODIZED SALT by The Salt Institute – July 13, 2013
[3] Iodine, New Zealand Ministry of Health
[4] Are vegetarians an ‘at risk group’ for iodine deficiency? British Journal of Nutrition (1999), 81, 3–4
[5] Based on the works of Claude & Lydia Bourguignon.
[6] Analysis of iodine content in seaweed by GC-ECD and estimation of iodine intake
[7] SURVEY OF IODINE LEVELS IN SEAWEED AND SEAWEED CONTAINING PRODUCTS IN AUSTRALIA
[8] Notification details – 2005.050 RASFF Portal
[9] Iodine speciation studies in commercially available seaweed by coupling different chromatographic techniques with UV and ICP-MS detection

[Selenium] Selenium content in Brazil nuts varies greatly – Should Brazil nuts still be considered a reliable and safe source of selenium?

Selenium is an important mineral for general health and is of particular importance in the prevention of cancer or its relapses.
I knew Brazil nuts are an easy high source of selenium and I wondered “Can people reliably and safely get their selenium from Brazil nuts?
For those in a hurry, the answer is: It’s possible but not reliably.

Brazil nuts have very random amounts of selenium in them. From close to nothing at all, to 20 times the RDI* (Recommended Daily Intake), the RDI being ~65 microg/g for adults.[4]

Variation of selenium content in Brazil nuts

The following three studies show just how random the content of selenium in Brazil nuts can be:

“The average and standard deviation and range of selenium concentrations in ppm, fresh weight for nuts from [the two] regions were, respectively, 3.06 ± 4.01 (0.03–31.7) and 36.0 ± 50.0 (1.25–512.0).” [1]
Another study looked concluded that “concentrations were highly variable (median: 13.9 microg/g; range: 0.4-158.4 microg/g). [2]”
In another study, they wanted to compare selenium form nuts and from supplements. But in trying to measure the exact amount of selenium they wanted from nuts they faced “difficulties in analyzing individual nuts” because the “first 10 nuts [were] ranging from 0.816 to 1390 microg Se/g”. [3]

Content variation, a widely ignored reality in nutrition and plant medicine

As I explained in my previous post about green tea, the content of specific compounds in organic products is known to vary greatly, while too often overlooked. The presence and wide usage of nutritional facts databases for fruits and vegetables is a good example of the lack of general understanding of this variation. With variations from nil to 20 times the RDI as is the case for Brazil nuts, you would expect a gigantic red asterisk next to virtually every number on those websites. This would remind the general public that the numbers mean absolutely nothing, that they are averages of a wide range, that the quantifying was done on a single fruit/vegetable/nut or that the sample is non-representative of the real life consumption. However, such variations are the main reason for inconsistencies in efficiency of herbal products in herbal medicine, and sometimes for the lethality of treatments/foods otherwise very effective and safe. Many people today would rather get their nutrients from food and cures from plants rather than from supplements and drugs respectively. The good thing however about (reliable brands of) supplements is that unlike in foods and plant medicine, the dosage of active ingredient is measured, consistent and reliable.

Questioning the reliability and safety of Brazil nuts as a health-promoting food

Given the tremendous variations reported about selenium, it is fair to address the following questions:

  1. How does the variation in selenium content affect blood selenium?
  2. Is there a risk in having even a single small intake of the nuts highest in selenium?
  3. Supposing we vary sources, does nuts selenium (and therefore blood selenium) average to healthy levels?

This is all to answer the question: Are Brazil nuts a safe and reliable method of ensuring a healthy intake of selenium?

Note to readers: The study annotated “[2]” is led by a French team that has published several papers on selenium and Amazonian populations and may be the first most relevant direction for further study on the subject.

* RDIs are very arguable.

References

[1] “Selenium content of Brazil nuts from two geographic locations in Brazil”, (Jacqueline C. Chang & al., 1994)
[2] “Elevated levels of selenium in the typical diet of Amazonian riverside populations”, Sci Total Environ. 2010 Sep 1;408(19):4076-84. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2010.05.022.
[3] Brazil nuts, an effective way to improve selenium status (Thomson & al, 2008)
[4] Selenium – New Zealand Nutrition Foundation

8 Amazing Fitness Facts You Ignored For Sure

Here is a very fine selection of NO B.S. absolutely mind-blowing exercise fact that I have put together for the past 2 to 3 years. It  took me the passionate reading of dozens if not hundreds of research articles and book chapters to bump into this. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did when I discovered these precious pearls of knowledge:

1. A dehydration of 2% of your water volume can result in a decrease of muscular performance of 20 to 30%

Source : Bean, Anita (2006). The Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition. A & C Black Publishers Ltd.. pp. 81–83. ISBN 0713675586.

2. When fasting for a long period (several days in a row, without eating ANYTHING), 30% of the weight loss is muscle loss.

Source: Dietitian, studied fasting diets, aired on Capital, weekly TV program in France presenting new business opportunities. This program was on The Diet Industry.

3. Detraining (when you stop training) from resistance training for 2 weeks results on average in the loss of the performance acquired in 3 to 5 months of serious training. In aerobics (depending on studies/people) 8 weeks to 8 months are sufficient to lose ALL OF THE AEROBIC PERFORMANCE.

Note: This is only about physical performance. So it’s not about volume or mass of muscle, but it’s about the effort you can output in the case of resistance training, and also an endurance component in aerobics.

Sources :
1)
Aerobic Fitness and Health
By Roy J. Shephard. p210-p212. Champaign, Ill., Human Kinetics, 1994. ISBN: 0-87322-417-5.
2)
Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition, and Human Performance
Edition 6 by William D. McArdle, Frank I. Katch, Victor L. Katch. ISBN: 0-78174-990-5. Chapter 22: MUSCULAR STRENGTH: TRAINING MUSCLES TO BECOME STRONGER

4. One can lose most of their fat by ONLY changing their diet, and with NO exercise whatsoever. The fact that exercise is necessary to lose fat is one of the most established and suffer-inducing social myths.

Source : Every decent dietitian.

5. Full-body training maximizes hormonal response and therefore muscle development

Source: The 4-Hour Body, Tim Ferris.

6. The 3 standard (non-failure) sets or more do not provide more results than 1 single set to failure (muscle hypertrophy).

Source : “Berger in retrospect: effect of varied weight training programmes on strength”, Carpinelli, Br J Sports Med 2002;36:3–324

7. A caffeine intake of 13mg/kg of body mass can increase your peak force by about 50%

Note: A cup of coffee contains 100/200 mg, therefore for a 75kg man this intake represents 10 to 15 expresso shots or cups!

Source : “THE EFFECT OF DIFFERENT DOSAGES OF CAFFEINE ON ISOMETRIC STRENGTH AND  ISOMETRIC ENDURANCE”

Journal of Exercise Physiology online (JEPonline)  Volume 11 Number 6 December 2008

8. Fast music during effort makes you consume more calories

Note: The way this is achieved naturally, is that for the same exercise, subjects were found to have a higher physiological effort when listening to fast tempo music. Performance is not higher but it tires the body faster.

Source : ” CARDIOVASCULAR RESPONSES TO MUSIC TEMPO DURING STEADY-STATE EXERCISE”

Journal of Exercise Physiology online (JEPonline )  Volume 12 Number 1 February 2009

Où faire de la muscu à Paris

Si vous voulez le top du top et que le budget est vraiment le dernier de vos soucis, et que ça vous dérange pas d’aller parfois loin, c’est déjà résolu; trouvez le Fitness First qui vous arrange. C’est le must absolu avant la salle privé pour les célébrités.

Sinon :

  • Le site de la Marie de Paris recense les salles de muscu associatives. Je n’ai jamais testé (la plus proche étaient en rénovation) mais les prix sont visiblement les moins chers.
  • Fitness-France essaye de lister un maximum de salles de muscu et offre des séances d’essai gratuites. Ne signez jamais pour un salle où vous ne vous êtes jamais entraîné.
  • Google est aussi votre ami…
  • Pour ceux qui vivent dans le 5ème, Club Quartier Latin est pas mal, piscine nocturne notamment, et tarifs nocturnes préférentiels.

Les chaînes de salles de muscu sont en général plus chères que les salles indépendantes.

Conseils en vrac :

Prendre un coach est absolument inutile, c’est une grosse erreur de débutant. Soyez curieux, demandez aux gens qui ont l’air d’être là depuis longtemps, sous le muscle se cache souvent un bonhomme très gentil.

Les chaînes de salles de muscu tenteront tous de vous faire une pseudo super-promo à saisir en s’abonnant tout de suite, ne vous faites pas avoir, c’est du marketing. Vous pourrez revenir à n’importe quel moment et exiger la même super-promo, ils vous la donneront si vous vous débrouillez bien.

“Dans la vie, on a pas ce l’on mérite, on a ce que l’on négocie.” — Chester KARRAS

Enfin, je conseille vivement le livre de Tim Feriss “The 4-Hour Body” pour affiner vos connaissances, minimiser les risques et surtout passer moins de temps pour des résultats plus rapides. Un des rares livres sur le sport et la muscu écrit par quelqu’un qui a une approche scientifique, pas juste un gros bourrin. Je ne rejoinds pas complètement l’esprit de ce livre (il est fan de suppléments…) mais d’un point de vue informatif, c’est très bien.

“Il est chose vaine pour accomplir une tâche que

de dépenser plus de temps et d’efforts que nécessaire.”

Citation tirée de “The 4-Hour Body”

Climbing Mount Kinabalu

If you’re around South-East Asia, you like nature, gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, challenge, and you’re in good physical condition, then I do recommend that you go for climbing the 4000+ meters of Mt Kinabalu. Here is some very valuable advice from someone who’s done it in the worst possible conditions and learned from it for next time.

The ascent is done in 2 steps. You register the first morning at the base of the mount, already at about 1000 meters above sea level actually. After you’ve cleared the paperwork and got a guide, your first objective is to climb to the half-way guest house called “Leban Rata”. That’s DAY 1. Then you’ll go super-early the day after at 2 a.m. all the way up to the top to be there before sunrise (~ 5:45 ish).

First of all, book it much in advance. Not that the mount can’t carry the weight of numerous visitors but the number of dorms is the limiting factor.

I recommend that you check out the cheap flying dates AND the available dates for Mt Kinabalu before you order both.

WHEN TO GO & THE IMPACT OF RAIN

Outside the raining season DEFINITELY ! The dry season in Sabah is April/September, even then it’s not dry all the time. So don’t be a fool, go ONLY during that period.

IMPORTANT : If your objective in reaching the top is strictly to enjoy a marvelous sunrise as it was for me, do not finish the ascent if you’re guide asks you if you still wanna go because it’s (or going to be) rainy and foggy. It would be no fun at all. I insist, I know there’s a big time and money investment, but in my experience rain, wind and fog  totally kill the fun part of doing this. So now I’d rather be wise, get on with it, and try my luck another time. Having a plan B in KK in case it’s rainy is probably a great idea too. This being said, if you’re there for pure challenge, well then go, you’ll have it all the more.

TRANSPORTATION

Getting to KK : Air Asia Airport, from SG : Air Asia, Tiger Airways, or Jetstar (Kuching)
Going from KK to the mountain : 15RM, KK bus interchange
Staying in KK : Book on hostelworld.com

Trick : On your way back, don’t wait like everyone for an official bus : There are mini-vans bringing people from the city every now and then. They’ll be happy to take people back for a small fee. Just walk outside a few minutes to reach the main road and catch one there.

BOOKING FOR Mt KINABALU

STEP 1 : Book a bed at the dorms + access to the mount

Call “Sutera Sanctuary Lodges”

+6088-303-914
10-5pm

COST : ~500 RM / pax (about 100 Euros total)

HOWEVER : Do take food and water for the first ascent because the sandwich they give you is really not filling.
Food at the guest house is unlimited, it’s not the best food I had but it’s still okay and filling.

STEP 2 : Book a Guide at Sabah Parks

You MUST have one, it’s obligatory.

It’s better to make a very large group since the guide is not very useful until Leban Rata, in practice there is no real group as in you’d have to stick together. So you can stick with your boyfriend or girlfriend or stay alone or with only your friends…

80RM to 100+ RM total per guide, depending on size of group (limited to ~10). It’s like a taxi, the more people the cheaper.

STEP 3 (optional) : Pay someone to carry your heavy stuff

The carriers are paid  3RM/Kg to climb food/gas to Leban Rata
For tourists : 5RM/KG

INTERESTING FACTS

Time to go up

If you are young and in normal healthy condition : 5/6 hours to go from the base to Leban Rata, halfway to the top. Then 3/4 hours to go to the top from Leban Rata.

Count 4 to 6 to go down from the very top. I recommend taking as much time as you can while going down, i.e. resting, because that is the most straining part.

Optimising time, reducing pain

I experimented different ways to ascend and descend faster and with less pain:

In both cases chatting helps a lot to keep the mind busy, providing that you get good breathing.

While going up, I felt making much less effort by combining rapid bouts of climbing with frequent rests, rather that walking slowly all the way. It can be fun if you do that in a group, and it’s great workout.

While going down, I realised that it’s in fact MUCH less straining and painful to run down rather than walk down step by step or stair by stair is also, of course much faster. Do it only if you feel agile as you may hurt yourself seriously if you make a wrong step.

Random important info

Take as little weight as possible.

Take cashew nuts to play with squirrels.

Equipment:

Obligatorily a damn good head lamp. They will NOT lend you one, believe me. I took none and luckily our guide was the sweetest man on hearth and gave me his and walked in darkness cause he knows the place. Believe me, you won’t see ANYTHING if you don’t have one. and not much if it’s a bad-quality one. To avoid any of that frustration and say “Damn I should have…” then invest in very powerful one and make sure to have spare battery.

Ideally ankle-high hiking shoes because they reduce ankle pain, otherwise non-slippery sports shoes.

Ideally, some sort of equipment to clip yourself to the safety cord just in case you make a clumsy step.

Ideally, a hiking stick.

Clothing :

Keep in mind temperature badly drops as you go up, and if you’re unlucky like I’ve been you’ll have tons of rain too…in the dry season. So be ready to face that.

Something to fully cover your head and ears

Scarf

Rain protection : This is VERY important, winds are strong and the rain and humidity if they occur will make it a very unpleasant time if you go without appropriate protection. Don’t buy those cheap 5$ disposable raincoats. Having had an awful time with rain there I would make sure I can cover 100% of my body with a good full-body 100% waterproof rain coat.

100% waterproof gloves

A warm winter jacket

1 pair of spare shoes + 2 spare outfits : in case you come back all wet and frozen.

AFTER Mt KINABALU

Sleep, good hydration and nutrition are very important at all times, and definitely will help your fast recovery.

Going down the hill will produce eccentric exercise on your legs (eccentric = when your muscles lengthen under weight, typically running downhill or going down stairs) and that is responsible for immense muscle soreness after the descent. I insist, immense soreness. So, for the week after your ascent, cancel any sport training or event that will require your body to function normally…maybe you’ll be too sore.

I did some research to cure that painful state so here’s the very best I found from that long and passionate research :

  1. IBUPROFENE is what will kill your pain. It’s an efficient antalgic that work better than anything with paracetamol (Panadol).
  2. Aspirin and Arnica increase blood flow therefore undo the soreness
  3. Massages help circulation
  4. Couldn’t find anything truely reliable about the effect of stretching on muscle soreness for this type of effort, not even in medical scientific journals.

On Losing Strength Gains – Some Interesting Numbers

tired

The main worry of most athletes and trainers, whether they perform resistance training or aerobics, is how fast they can progress. A question that should be addressed with a lot more attention is: If I stop training, how much of what I gained am I going to lose? The numbers are quite striking and much likely to make you think twice before you keep off the track or gym. Here we go…

PS: The references will be added soon

LOSS AND MAINTENANCE IN ANAEROBIC STRENGTH

Anaerobic means that no oxygen is involved in the process of the muscular exercise. Typically resistance training is a very common example of anaerobic exercise.

THE EFFECTS OF DETRAINING

There’s very little data on this, and you will have to take it as a rough indicator. Discontinuing training for 2 weeks caused male power lifters to lose 12% of their performance (isokinetic eccentric strength) and 6.4% of their type II muscle fibers, without loss of type I.

Several weeks are enough for previously sedentary men to lose strength gains. This is most likely from reversal of training-induced neuro-muscular and hormonal adaptations.

HOW TO MAINTAIN

Reducing training frequency to only one or two weekly sessions provides sufficient stimulus to maintain training-induced strength gains. Note how important it is to also maintain the intensity of your workout to maintain your strength. Analogously, although it is not the focus of this post, intensity must be increased for gains to increase.

Reminder of gain rates: Muscle strength can increase at a rate of 5 to 10% every 3 to 5 month depending on body types and muscle groups being considered. This data is for trained individuals. Higher gain rates may be observed in beginners.

LOSS AND MAINTENANCE IN AEROBIC STRENGTH

Aerobic, in contrast with anaerobic, means that oxygen is involved in the process of the muscular exercise. Typically cardio or fat-loss exercises such as running and other endurance sports are aerobic.

THE EFFECTS OF DETRAINING

The half-life of the loss in aerobics power is no more than 4 to 12 weeks. Then the rate of loss might slow down. All effects of training are dissipated after 8 weeks reports a study, after 8 month reports another.

HOW TO MAINTAIN

Once the desired level of aerobic training had been reached, the frequency or the duration of training sessions can be reduced by two thirds without any adverse effect on physical condition. Gains in strength can be sustained by one session of isotonic exercises a week, provided that the intensity of contractions was not reduced.

Reminder of gain rates: Aerobic strength is primarily measured in terms of maximal oxygen intake. It takes 3 to 4 years to gain overall 60ml/[kg.min], when you start from low aerobic power (26/27 ml/[kg.min]).

Rough Conclusion: In anaerobics, you lose in 2 weeks what took at least 3 month to gain. Worse in aerobics where you lose in 8 weeks what took at least 3 years to gain.

4 Innovative Resistance Training Methods

Ok, if you workout  by doing the same stuff you find on all websites: forget about all that, it’s bullshit. I mean it may work but it’s obsolete and inefficient. You need to train smartly basing your action on science and research rather than recommendations of popular gorillas. When you look like him you are on the right path:

workoutsmart_21

Apart from the 1-set to failure workout method, heavily described in this post, the reading of scientific literature brought up a few potentially even better methods. They are all based on different hypothesis that can be incompatible…another problem to solve later. Let me start by reminding the One-set-to-failure Method so I can link it to newer stuff.

#1 : One-set-to-failure Method

Process: Warm up well, do one set to failure at 8RM of each exercise, full body workout, stretch after each exercise. Target 1 more rep until you reach 12RM and add load to get down to 8RM. One workout every 4 days with plenty of water. Sleep well. Don’t supplement. Just eat well.

Advantages: It takes only 30 minutes every 4 days and results are great and fast.
Problem: You can only see your 1RM progress once every 3 to 5 month when you reach 12RM. Not very motivating although you see your number of reps increasing => Must find a way to estimate the 1RM of each exercise at EACH WORKOUT => 2 sets needed (cf. Two-set 1RM estimation)

#2 : Two-set-to-failure Method

Process: Same as the one-set-to-failure method, except that you do two sets, at different RM values. Meaning for example one set with a heavy load (say 6RM) and one at a lighter load (say 12RM). Then using the Two-set 1RM estimation, you can track your 1RM at every workout!

Advantages: Motivating, because every exercise’s 1RM can be tracked for each workout.
Drawbacks: Each workout takes twice as long, so about 1 hour.

#3 : Three-set-to-failure Method
(involves hypothesis to be validated)

It is suggested in “Exercise Physiology” that when attempting to perform a 1RM, you never are at your best at the first try. Doing consecutive tries increases each time your 1RM load. It converges after 3 tries so 3 tries are enough to really express you 1RM potential. Although it would invalidate the above-mentioned proposals, this finding gives another great opportunity to optimize resistance training methods. ASSUMING that is true (Hypothesis 1 : H1) and that the same works with submaximal load (H2), it would take 3 sets to really perform the maximum amount of reps you can do with a given weight.

Process: Same as 1-set-to-failure methodology, except that what is important is the 3rd set only. So instead of putting your 8RM first, you may start the first set with 7RM. The second set would yield a better performance, so with the same weight you would do 7.5 reps, then the third hopefully 8 reps. In other words what you though was your 7RM weight is in fact your 8RM weight. Hit the gym with intention of doing one more rep than the previous workout.

The days you reach 12RM (after 3 tries), you want to try a different load to assess your 1RM using the Two-set 1RM estimation.

Advantages: Motivating in that you know that each time you are lifting the very best you can do.
Drawbacks: Each workout takes now 3 times longer than the single-set method, so if you don’t have a lot of time you may want to do less exercises.

#4 : Periodic 1-set-to-failure Method
(involves hypothesis to be validated)

Sometimes, although you have the firm intention of performing one more set, you just can do it. Maybe doing more sets as suggested in (H2) would help. But I came to think about another hypothesis to explain and counter this plateau linking to what I had read on Progressive Training (see Restimulating Progress by changing exercices on ExRx.net).

Process: Same as 1-set-to-failure methodology, except that you are not linearly trying to transform to move from 8 reps to 12 reps with the same load. Here, you want to oscillate from 9RM, to 6RM, to 3RM an backwards, while trying to move that all to say 12RM, 7.5RM, 4RM. It’s a bit more complex to plan and understand, but it may work especially for advanced sportsmen that have reached a plateau.

The day you finally perform 12RM with what was initially your 8RM load, you want to try a different load to assess your 1RM using the Two-set 1RM estimation.

Advantages:

Alternating loads brings more change in your workout and that is more fun. It also can be a source of great satisfaction as it would help you go beyond you plateau limits

On average it takes even less time than the single-set method.

This method could be combined with Method #3 + Method #2 for extremely optimized training. Frequency would have to be reduced and greater preparation would be critical. It would indeed 4 sets to fatigue per exercise (3 to reach maximum potential + 1 with different to estimate 1RM).

Drawbacks: Maybe having to integrate loads that are below 8RM which can be tough on the joints of fragile trainers.

Hypothesis Summary

  • (H0) Heavy load (low-reps) generates more FT fibers, and low load (high-reps) generates more ST fibers.
  • (H1) Several consecutive attempts of 1RM yield better performance each time and converge after 3 tries.
  • (H2) Hypothesis (H1) is valid and works for submaximal loads.
  • (H3) Alternating programs significantly help unlock plateau performance

Exploring a Novel Non-invasive Method of Obtaining Muscle Composition

In a previous article (Two-set prediction of 1 Rep Max), I presented Matt Brizky’s two-set method for 1RM prediction. It is indeed a much better metric for physical performance assessment than all those calculators based on averages. I would like to explore to what extent muscle composition can be extracted from the KG vs. REPs plot.

People with a high proportion of Slow Twitch (ST) muscle fibers tend to have a soft slope, while those with a high proportion of Fast-Twitch (FT) muscle fibers have steeper slopes.

The slope alone isn’t a good metric for FIBERS RATIO cause for a 50kg difference (between 1RM and fatigue weight) you have the same slope whether your 1RM is 100kg or 1000kg.

100kg 1RM and 50kg 12RM represents a lower ratio of ST than
1000kg 1RM and 950kg 12RM because in the later case, 12RM corresponds to 95% of 1RM (which is extraordinarily good) while for the former it is obtained at 50% (which is bad).

FIBERS RATIO, which represents the muscle composition, determines whether a muscle is more designed to succeed in endurance-like activities or power activities. It doesn’t solely determine one’s ability to succeed at a given activity but is an important metric to take into consideration.

Despite its importance, the metric is much neglected in the world of sports. The only way so far to estimate the fibers ratio it accurately is biopsy, meaning extracting a sample of your muscle and looking at it under the microscope. There is at least one method, called tensiomyography, that is non-invasive but patented and likely to be expensive to use.

Muscle contraction time is statistically highly correlated with the ratio of fast and slow muscle fibers. Depending on its value, we can classify the measured muscles as slow (tonic) or fast (phasic.)

A non-intrusive FIELD technique would be interesting for use by the community.

Some studies claim that few month of resistance training do not change the fiber composition of skeletal muscles. It is however unknown whether over a longer period significant changes arise or not. (See page 547 of Exercise physiology  By William D. McArdle, Frank I. Katch, Victor L. Katch).

Regardless of the answer, this finding is relevant. If the muscle composition can change in controllablefashion, it would allow people without a predisposition for a given type of activity to develop it with time and exercise. And if the ratio will not change with exercise, it is still valuable information as it may allow to focus on activity best suiting given one’s composition.

I am looking for a way to process the performance plot (KG vs. REP) so as to obtain a number between 0 and 100 representing the ratio of one type of fibers with respect to the total.

The slope is expressed in kg/rep, and is not sufficient as explained above. But the idea is the higher it is the more FT you have, the lower it is the more ST you have.

To tend to something closer to the expected metric, I tried removing the relativity to 1RM by dividing the slope by the 1RM. The metric makes more sense, it is equal to zero when the plot is flat (lots of ST, ZERO FT). It is high when the curve is nearly vertical (lots of ST, ZERO FT) but it still goes above 100.

Ultimaltely, looking at the simple equation :

Ax + By + C = 0

It it obvious that A is linear with the number of ST and that B is linear with the number of FT. I hope to find quickly a theoretically acceptable metric, to then attempt to validate it by looking at real data (biopsis + workout log).

Manhattan Napping Salon

Neither fundamentally innovating nor world-changing, this business idea doesn’t go however without getting my support. It’s about offering not products or services, but experiences, the meaningful kind.

French Entrepreneur Nicolas Ronco started in Manhattan a napping salon. Now you have an alternative to maintain a flexible lifestyle if your job application for Google was rejected.

For 12 USD, you get to take a nap in a very comfortable long chair, with mood-changing colorful light effects, the music and smell of your choice.

No alarm clock to wake you up, a sunrise is simulated to get you out of sleep in a most natural and smooth way.

SEE THE VIDEO HERE

The debriefing of the CEO is absolutely right, an insane number of people just lack sleep. Many take pills, or insane amounts of exiting drinks and foods. Very few however realise the critical aspect of sleep in everyday life.

The concept could be widely extended to provide a comprehensive in-town relaxing facility, a sort of second home in town where you can go get a nap, but also take a shower, shave etc… in a nutshell a facility where you can take over the comfort experience that you didn’t have enough time for at home.

Interactive Advertising: Fitness First’s Bus Shelter

This is a mode of advertising that I fancy very much. No more general “Because you are worth it”, faking to make you special while it’s in fact targeting mass public.

In Rotterdam, Fitness First, an international chain of fitness rooms, has designed this really cool bus shelter a few meters away from their fitness room.

Although I value the originality of this design, I wonder to what extent the targeted audience would put aside their discomfort of displaying their weight in public for the pure appreciation of the creativity behind this advert.