Jocks vs Nerds

[rant on]
There are holes in SciBlogs*.

I usually dont notice them until I have a question that SciBlogs cant answer. I mean, we have a ton of super smart, super skeptical people here on just about every topic.

What I love about 'our people' is that we dont have to be experts on everything. I know a lot about viruses. I dont have to know a lot about global warming. Other people have that base covered. I dont have to know everything about developmental biology. I dont have to know everything about astronomy. The concept of 'I dunno, I dont study ___' totally baffles Creationists.

The only time I am really uncomfortable is when I have a question... and I dont know who to ask for help.

Thats where Pal found himself a few months ago. Dude wanted to drop some weight, get into better shape... and he didnt know where to go for scientific advice and recommendations. Pal, a pillar of the skeptical medicine community, was left dangling in the wind, getting 'advice' from fat people who used to be slightly more fat (therefore experts on exercise and weight loss), and diet recommendations from well-meaning people who appeared to eat compost for lunch.

It made me sick.

And now, first of the year, first of the decade, there are a ton of people looking to lose weight, get in shape, get healthier. And we still dont have anyone here at SciBlogs to help. For Petes sake, if Pal, a skeptical physician, needs help on this issue, how the hell can we expect Average Joe/Janes to navigate the minefield of woo that is 'diet and fitness'??

If I were being cynical, I would say 'diet and fitness' isnt a priority for science-types because scientists are nerds/geeks and diet/exercise people are jocks, our archenemies. Jocks are dumb, steroid pumping, meat heads (or plastic anorexic superficial bimbos). Us nerds/geeks appreciate people for their ideas, not their bodies. Who cares if someone is a 500 lb drunk if their ideas/experiments/speeches are mind-blowing?

The jock/nerd relationship doesnt have to be this way. There are some great skeptical 'meat head' bloggers that I think you all would like. Alan Aragon constantly makes me giggle, comparing everyday foods to 'OMFG BRAND NEW SUPER SUPPLEMENT'. Know how 'food isnt medicine'? A couple weeks ago Alan compared Two-Buck-Chuck to Monavie (ANTIOXIDANTZ CURE EVERYDING!). Alan was lynched by T-Nation a while back for having the audacity to point out that advertised muscle/strength gains for a new training program were physiologically impossible, and technically, $3-a-gallon chocolate milk was just as good as T-Nations new $33-a-bottle supplement.


Well, there are 'good' supplements out there. I dont eat enough meat. I just dont like it. So I supplement with protein powders/bars to meet my daily intake needs (do you know what your protein intake needs are? what you get every day?). For the same reasons, I also supplement with creatine (I dont eat meat, especially red meat, to get it via diet). I also like a specific kind of caffeine pill (OMG JESSIE! NOOO!!) instead of an energy drink before workouts if I dont have time to make coffee *shrug*

I would bet a large sum of money that I am the fittest person on SciBlogs. So, I could give 'diet advice' based on what I eat. I could give 'fitness advice' based on how I exercise. But I dont want to be the go-to person for health/diet/fitness on SciBlogs. On this topic I am an amateur with a lot of personal experience. This isnt 'InterestedAmateurBlogs'*. This is ScienceBlogs.

Not that Im singling out SciBlogs for not addressing this topic, I dont think the skeptical community as a whole does either (for the reasons I stated earlier). And it pisses me off. Smart kids will spend hours a day playing WoW or Starcraft, but wrinkle their nose at lifting weights 3 times a week. Skeptical women who wont skip a pilates or spinning class in favor of lifting weights cause they dont wanna get 'bulky', but dont understand why they arent getting the body they want. Men who have brains overflowing with knowledge of physics or biochemistry bragging about how much beer they drink, but dont have a clue what their macros are (or should be, or what 'macro' even means).

I dunno, especially this time of year, Im pissed at the lack of communication and the lack of support between 'us' and 'them'. Im pissed because I see 'us' put so much effort into Creationism/HIV Denial/Holocaust Denial/Global Warming/Astrology, but not something as important as our damn health. Im pissed cause that same intellectual communism I make fun of with Creationism (everyone has an equally valid opinion, regardless of education and experience) is totally supported when it comes to diet/exercise (I LOST SO MUCH WEIGHT DOING ___!). Im pissed because getting fit really isnt all that hard. If I can do it, anyone can do it. The 'hard' part was sifting through all the bullshit to find out what actually works. And the shit-sifting problem would be on its way to being solved if we built more 'skeptical bridges' between 'nerds' and 'jocks'.

If you all are interested, I would love to try to recruit some skeptical health/diet/exercise folks for us. If you have a person/website you think is good, Id love to have the link in the comments.
[rant off]

* More on this later in the form of a blagwar. A blagbattle, at least.


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It would be good to get empirically informed advise on diet and exercise. I went through it a couple years ago and just took the simplest route. Eat lean meats, fish and veggies. I also took up weightlifting on top of it. Recently I've joined a friend in flipping tractor tires and playing with mace balls. Nowadays I just do the latter for fun, I've more or less completely fallen off the wagon when it comes to diet. *sigh*

By Tyler DiPietro (not verified) on 02 Jan 2010 #permalink

If I want fitness advice from Scienceblogs I just click on whatever ad that shows up with a picture of some buff stud or babe on it. This is also how I get my teeth whitened and if I wasn't already very happily married I could get a wife too!!!!

Interesting take, good points. After I got laid off I ended up taking this shitty job as a promoter for a beverage company that was trying to tap the GNC/health crazy market, and that's ultimately why I couldn't stand it. Anyone who will make a major consumer decision because something says "natural" on the box is not the brightest crayon in the box, if you ask me. It would be nice to reclaim the health/fitness literature from the wackos. PS: you are tres buff, but you're lucky I am not with ScienceBlogs anymore or you would have some competition ;p

Yeah, it's a total fucking shame there isn't anyone at ScienceBlogs with training in exercise physiology who ever blogs about issues of diet and exercise.

/rolls fucking eyes

Searched SciBlogs for 'deadlift'. The only hits were comments I have made. Deadlifts are one of *the* core exercises everyone should do.

'Squat'-- nothing exercise related.

'Pull up'-- nothing exercise related.

'Bench press'-- nothing science related.

You dont blog on this issue, CP. Unless Google is lying, in which case Id be happy to have links to your posts in this comment thread too.




This is an excellent point. I would be thrilled to read more blogs like Alan's. It is so hard to distinguish between heresay and good science in this area. Wasn't it only a couple of years ago that it came out that that 'food pyramid' they've been telling us to follow our wholes lives wasn't even made by nutritionists or doctors and that is was completely wrong. Also it turns out you're *not* supposed to drink 8 glasses of water a day (cuz who was really doing that anyway?). Alan even quotes references ... *References*!! That's amazing. haha. Adding him to my RSS feed right now ...

There are two food bloggers and one exercise physiologist on Sb. Just ask, and they will blog.

Give me a couple of more weeks to get back into shape after the holiday break and I can beat you all up... ;-)

In all seriousness, I have blogged on diet in relation to the so-called "Paleolithic prescription" which does related.

I had no idea Physioprof was an Exercise Physio-ologist. I assumed he was a Physio-cist.

Another topic that has not been touched on I think is the use of dietary supplements and such to enhance lactation (as in breast feeding). I would have thought the woo-fighters such as Orac and Pal would have hit on that topic. Or did I miss it?

I, personally, have found that having an intense work-out schedule (for one semester I went to the gym in my apartment building for between 30-60 minutes at a time, weights only, every other day) affects my ability to focus on my school work. Between getting ready (changing, coffee, carb of some sort), the workout itself, and cooling off (protein of some sort, shower, rest, water) I was taking a fair amount of time, and I was finding it took a long time before I was able to fully devote my brain to work again after every workout.

In short, working out may have made me fitter (and I was fitter and stronger afterward), but I was stupider. I felt stupider, my marks suffered a little, and I was tired. Maybe I wasn't doing all I could have nutritionally, but that's another story.

Just another perspective on the issue.

By Applied Scienc… (not verified) on 02 Jan 2010 #permalink

Diet and exercise are pretty complicated and it seems that individuals are so different. I spent the better part of a year running, four miles a day, five days a week, and got myself down to 195 pounds (I'm 5' 10"). It seemed as though I had to work a great deal harder than most people to keep myself in shape.

By Gabriel Hanna (not verified) on 02 Jan 2010 #permalink

Ideal body weight calculator for children and adults:

Experts recommend, "Slow and steady weight loss. Depending on your starting weight, experts recommend losing weight at a rate of 1/2 to 2 pounds per week. Weight loss may be faster at the start of a program."

And, "Men and very active women may need up to 2,500 calories daily. Other women and inactive men need only about 2,000 calories daily. A safe plan is to eat 300 to 500 fewer calories a day to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week."

This web site from the National Institutes for Health tells how to take charge of your weight:

Calorie Needs Calculator:

The Idaho Plate Method is an easy way to eat a balanced diet:

This page explains how to eat a balanced diet for different calorie levels. Although this page is intended for diabetics, this is the same balanced diet that is recommended for everyone.

A healthy exercise program addresses all five of the basic aspects of physical fitness: aerobic endurance, muscular endurance, muscular strength, flexibility, and body fat composition.

Suggested workout to accomplish this.
Five to seven days per week:
----Yoga, 20 min, 8 to 10 postures that work all major muscle groups
----Brisk walk, 30 min, walk two miles
Every other day, two to four days per week:
----Weight training, 20 min, one set of 8 to 12 repetitions of 8 to 10 exercises that work all major muscle groups


Exercise Recommendations for People Aged 18 to 64

Do both aerobic activities and strengthening activities.

Aerobic Activities
⢠Do at least 10 minutes at a time.
⢠You can combine moderate and vigorous activities.
⢠Slowly build up the amount of time you do physical activities. The more time you spend, the more health benefits you gain. Aim for exercising twice as long as the minimum times below.
⢠If you choose activities at a moderate level, do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes a week.
⢠If you choose vigorous activities, do at least 1 hour and 15 minutes a week.

Muscle Strengthening Activities
Do these at least 2 days a week.
⢠Include all the major muscle groups such as legs, hips, back, chest, stomach, shoulders, and arms.
⢠Exercises for each muscle group should be repeated 8 to 12 times per session.

From the U.S. Federal government:
Also see:
--- explains how to design a healthy workout, gives directions for specific exercises, explains how to stay motivated, and much more.

You may find it motivating to compare your progress to the fitness standards of the U.S. military:

A couple of good sites from the U.S. government:

By Steve Collins (not verified) on 02 Jan 2010 #permalink

I know CPP gets exercised a lot around these places, but is is Dr.Isis who is the actual physiologist.

Comrade PhysioProf is an actual fucking physiologist, cockwad!

Comrade PhysioProf is an actual fucking physiologist, cockwad!

No, I'm pretty sure he's a physio-cist.

Comrade PhysioProf is an actual fucking physiologist, cockwad!

He is, but as far as I know not an exercise or cardio-respiratory or digestive physiologist. Right?

Erv, re: fittest SCiBlogger: what about Ethan. He's an American Gladiator, you know :).

I love this post, I was a non-jock for forty years, and now lift weights, do cardio, strengthen balance, and a bunch more. I am a commercial for physical fitness ("I am forty-six, and am in the best shape of my life").

However, it was damn hard to sort through all the woo-chafe to get the the science-based-wheat of working out. There is still much more I wish to know, specifically how to combine exercises to get the most benefit out of them. It's been a journey.


Ive tried searching for 'creatine' 'protein supplement' 'weight lifting' 'HIIT' on SciBlogs-- no posts on topics I think are basic.

Isis mentions HIIT in passing once, and weight lifting in passing. I found her posts on exercise, 'responding' to Dr. Charles, and they were 'unhelpful'.

We dont have anyone here who writes on this topic.

Let evolution be your guide.

Drop all artificial sweeteners. Our bodies don't have a billion years of evolving with them and they seem to confuse our inner workings.

Fruits are vegetables with notable sugar content (or fat, in the case of avocados and olives). Or bodies evolved along with fruit, which we ate in season, a few months of the year. There was no steady supply of fruit until the last century.

Drop all fruit juices, which have lots of glucose and sucrose that are not digested but are immediately available for adsorption. Eat whole fruit instead, which requires considerable digestion to release the monosaccharides inside. The pulp has plenty of fiber.

Go wild with non-sweet non-starchy vegetables. Once your sense of sweet-taste recalibrates, you will find that all veggies (except perhaps kale) are sweet, even broccoli and cauliflower. Green peas will taste sugary. (I haven't tried sugar peas.)

By Embiggened Cro… (not verified) on 02 Jan 2010 #permalink

DISCLAIMER: ERV does not support any diet/fitness claims made in this comment section. While all opinions are welcome as point of discussion, these are the opinions of commentors, and not necessarily representative of ERV.

I think this is a really good idea. Maybe you should make some suggestions to the Seed overlords?

Embiggened Cromulence,

Perhaps you should let Wikipedia be your guide and check how long humans have been around to co-evolve with that fruit you think we shouldn't be eating - Homo sapiens has only been around for 250000 years, Hominidae 15 million or so. Not a billion years. Unless you were referring to the beginning of life itself?

You also might want to look up the naturalistic fallacy when you're over there!

Anyway, my guess, reading Pal's posts from when he was on a diet, was that he wasn't logging his calories properly. You always underestimate the amount of calories you take in and overestimate the amount of calories you burn. I lost thirty pounds last year, partly because I started biking a lot, but also because I used an Iphone calorie logging app (really) and kept my net calories within a certain range. It was eye-opening to see how little that 30 minutes of yoga was burning, and how much that two pieces of toast was adding.

@12. If I go a couple days without a good workout I don't sleep well and my schoolwork and general clarity suffers. Hitting the gym at 10pm likely pushes the time I'm going to hit the sack backwards a bit, but I'll actually get to sleep in a timely fashion the next few nights.

I wrote a bit about my own weight loss attempt a while back. As a lazy person, I just went with the naive "calories in < calories out" plan via reducing intake and exercising a little more. I'm down about 15 lbs and solidly back into the "normal" BMI range (I was at the low end of overweight and didn't want to risk it getting worse).

I realize calorie counting is pretty lacking if the calories you do eat are crap, but for me it's been a good way to at least orient my weight loss efforts.

Whee, ScienceBlogs ate half my comment above. After "calories in" it should read:

[less-than sign] calories out" plan via reducing intake and exercising a little more. I'm down about 15 lbs and solidly back into the "normal" BMI range (I was at the low end of overweight and didn't want to risk it getting worse).

I realize calorie counting is pretty lacking if the calories you do eat are crap, but for me it's been a good way to at least orient my weight loss efforts.

Being vegan I've had my fill of diet and fitness woo. Andy Bellatti is the closest thing i've found to a lucid science based approach. His blog: SmallBites.

Abbie, from the photo one may conclude you are a great scientist and a wonderful human being, who is also a very attractive woman 8^).

By Mal Adapted (not verified) on 02 Jan 2010 #permalink

Working out promotes neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus, which is a region of memory formation!

The best nerds are the sporty nerds, they can remember more and can concentrate better :P

first paper:…


search < neurogenesis dentate gyrus mouse wheel > in pubmed.

I meant I searached for

neurogenesis dentate gyrus mouse wheel

in pubmed

I don't have much to contribute to this discussion so I'll just drop in a plug for a podcast I like:

They are not scientists and they don't self-identify as skeptics but all the advice they give seems (to me) to be skeptically-minded.

Here's my anecdote. Still and nerd but after deciding to lose weight and get fit about a year ago I'm fitter now than I've ever been in my life.

1) Exercise more - swimming, trail running, bike riding
2) Reduce alcohol intake - I rarely drink now
3) Sleep better - the exercise helps with this
4) Eat better - heaps of vegies and fresh fruit, lean meat. Kangaroo is cheaper than supplements and less than 2% fat! Whole grain options if having bread, rice, breakfast cereal etc.
5) Cut out junk food - drink water or skim milk

I don't think there are any real secrets or gimmicks here. The hardest thing is probably finding exercise and food options that are both fun and convenient. I currently eat about three times as much food as most people and my weight is stable. I also enjoy what I eat.

By Chris Noble (not verified) on 02 Jan 2010 #permalink

The jock vs. nerd stereotype is somewhat an accident of history. In the Nov. 24, 2009 episode of Astronomy Cast (#162), Pamela Gay argues that if the image of Edwin Hubble, an accomplished athlete, had come to serve as the archetype scientist, things would be different.

Leonardo da Vanci was said to be athletic.

I recommend the Science of Sport: Scientific comment and analysis of sporting performance (although it covers more sports news than I care to see).

The adage "What's good for the heart is good for the brain" may to exercise as well as diet. The notion that exercise improves cognition has received a lot of attention in the press. The effect may not be found only in the elderly trying to ward off dementia. The Nov. 30, 2009 issue of PNAS included a study titled "Cardiovascular fitness is associated with cognition in young adulthood" that found, "Cardiovascular fitness, as measured by ergometer cycling, positively associated with intelligence after adjusting for relevant confounders."

A 2007 article published in Educational Psychology Review concluded, "Exercise may prove to be a simple, yet important, method of enhancing those aspects of childrenâs mental functioning central to cognitive development."

Googling, I learned about a recent book on this subject, "Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain," by John J. Ratey, MD.…

via (if you'll indulge an unscientific reference) a March 26, 2007, Newsweek article, "Stronger, Smarter, Faster."

Regarding health news skepticism, I highly recommend Dr. Dean Edell.

By Leonids11 (not verified) on 02 Jan 2010 #permalink

Okay ERV, while they are more runners than lifters, I'll offer up the OBESITY PANACEA guys as definite contenders for top skeptical health/diet/exercise bloggers. Weighty Matters is also a good one, but he's a runner too...

Now if someone could please link to some lifter sites?

There has to be at least one. Anybody?

I lost 20 pounds but that took over 1 year.

1. get a good scale - one that doesn't give 8 pounds difference when you step off and on again - don't trust the box or the sales people, test the scale.

2. check your weight every few days at the same time of day; different times is no good because what you eat and when can affect your weight by ~3 pounds.

3. slowly reduce the food you eat; munch on more rabbit food like lettuce, alfalfa, pea sprouts in between the bigger meals - something to fill you up but with hardly any nutritional value.

4. do more exercise

Losing somewhere between 1-3 pounds per month is the way to go; I have no idea what's a sensible rate for someone who needs to lose a *lot* of weight though - most such people I know were put on medically supervised diets.

Definitely ignore the ads on the right margin on the blog like "Instant flat tummy in 1 week! We have the easy secret - just send us $200."

By MadScientist (not verified) on 02 Jan 2010 #permalink

@ Leonids11: I think it's because the peer-group-thing going on in the US. It also spreads the false dichotomy of nerds and jocks to other countries via American highschool shows. :(

Eat whatever you want and let the food fight it out inside.

--Mark Twain

Great chance for a group-scientist-blogger focus, or a mutual cross-linking, or something.

Bringing a team together to help us readers with this on an ongoing basis would be a great contribution.

ALSO -- please start now with the photographs for the 2011 Science Blogger Buff Calendar, and take my order for two.

PS, may I suggest a group thread titled:

"It's February 2010--Did You Keep Up Your Exercising?"

Not by a scientist, but by a geeky woman who now does lifting and training others professionally.
It debunks a lot of common myths and "advice" that's unfortunately frequently told to especially women. It has a lot of information about diet, form, health and so on.
Here's a list of the main categories at the site:

Especially these are quite nice:
The Shaky Man's letters (under Real Stories) are especially inspiring.

Mike-- You would say that. You are so in the pocket of Big Floss ;)

Rr-- When I first started lifting, I checked Stumptuous all the time! I havent checked back in ages-- thanks for the reminder!

Nice topic and I have defiantly noticed the same thing. I am making the conversion from full time Jock to nerd. Though to be fair I have always been both.

After 8 years of basically being a full time athlete I have plenty anecdotal stories about things I have seen and done. I have the advice from our PTs and Doctors, but does that meet the standards of evidence required here? I think not. I would love to battle the Woo that permeates the health and fitness scene but it seems that the skeptic community, and as you stated ScienceBlogs, is for experts not interested amateurs. All my years I was basically an end user, I never STUDIED it. I went from an overweight nerdy kid to athletics today but I would never claim any kind of expertise.

Alanâs blog being added and checking some of these others..

Comrade PhysioProf is an actual fucking physiologist

I suppose that might count as a kind of exercise, but it's hard for most people to lose weight that way.

By D. C. Sessions (not verified) on 03 Jan 2010 #permalink

D.C. Sessions- with respect (and pity), you may be doing it wrong.

Also, erv- I have also thought about how difficult the maze of nutrition and exercise advice is to navigate. Cynically, I'd say nutrition/exercise physiology is the economics of the biological sciences (obviously, my opinion of the dismal science is *not very high*)

I've observed this problem for a long time. I would welcome some real science on the matter, but it's truly amazing how little there is. Even the official dietary guidleines seem to be heavily based on anecdata, with a side of industry lobbying.

A couple of challenges to anyone who wants to start on this.
1) Show me a single peer-reviewed study, on any weight-loss diet and/or exercise program whatsoever, that shows a 5 year success rate of greater than 5%.
2) Read the obesity paradox series at Junkfood Science. If it's bunk, then debunk it.

Interesting site (newbie) this is the first post and follow up comments I've read here. I'm not sure how I got here (just followed a link from somewhere) and dropped in out of the ether. Reclined on my sofa in a town in the South of England. This one post and subsequent comments has provided me with many interesting takes on the subject and many interesting links. Will certainly check in here again and have a mooch around. Have just read a book by two U.S. guys called "Trancend" (Ray Kurzweil & Terry Grossman) Mind blowing stuff. Seems like cutting edge thinking for living longer healthier lives if anyone is interested in that sort of thing. Anyone here read it and what do you think of it?

By Mikey Mike Mic… (not verified) on 03 Jan 2010 #permalink

I think spambot.

I am too thin and I would like to GAIN more weight. I would also do some effective cardio and back muscle training. Is there also accurate information on that? Because I don't know where to look it up. A Science Blogger would be nice.

Lyle McDonald.

If you want to lose fat or gain muscle he is your man. If you want to lose weight then gain muscle, he is also your man. If you want gain muscle then lose fat while maintaining your muscle, he is your man.

Super informative and doesn't do gimmicks. Just cold hard reliable and proven methods.

Another passionate vote for a decent skeptical blogger on health, exercise, diet and obesity for SciBlogs here. I simply can't sort out the actual science from the gigantic mountain of BS, and I'm getting desperate. In particular, as far as I can tell, there's no reliable, science-based weight-loss tips or advice out there. None.

And I'm with Cath the Canberra Cook on 1# there: is there even a SINGLE DECENT STUDY that shows a regime with a decent five-year success rate? Even one? And if not, for the love of the fat gods, we need some.

By Maureen Lycaon (not verified) on 04 Jan 2010 #permalink

I'm probably just muddling things up by adding my own two cents here, but I've been an athlete all my life (in college I was working out 3-8 hours per day, 6 days a week) and I can't help give some guidelines on the subject, because though I'm not an expert, I did pick things up from experts. I used to have the 6-pack and all that. Sadly, I lost it because of a poor diet which I didn't realize was as poor as it really was.

1.) To lose weight, take in less calories than you burn in a normal day. How much you can take is different based on a person's height, gender, occupation, etc. Find a good calculator and find out how many calories you burn in a normal day, and eat 300-500 calories less than that to lose 1/2 - 1 lbs per week WITHOUT EVEN HAVING TO WORK OUT!

Write down EVERYTHING you eat with the calories next to it because this makes YOU responsible for what you put in your body. It also lets you know just how unhealthy you really are. Most people don't realize how unhealthy they really are.

*If you don't know the calories in something, don't eat it.* This way you can't say "I didn't realize it was that many calories!"

2.) Working out burns less calories than people realize, so they say, "Oh, I've workout out. I can "cheat" a little." Be wary of this and slap yourself mentally if you think it.

A week of working out many only equal the calories in a single meal out to eat even at places a lot of people assume are pretty healthy. Don't allow yourself to cheat, because one day can ruin an entire week of work.

Other tips:

-Don't keep junk food in the house. If it is there, you will eat it. Remove the temptation.
-When you go to the kitchen ask yourself if you're really hungry, or you're just bored and you're eating for something to do. A lot of people eat because they're bored. Don't eat because of that.
-Break bulk products into portions... a big bag of chips can disappear in an afternoon of lolly-gagging around the house/appartment without realizing it. Break up the portions into serving-size baggies and only take ONE serving to sit in front of the TV with so you can't keeps eating and saying "just one more."
-Watch out for condiments, salad dressings, mayo, sodas, etc. They have more calories than people realize.
-Be sure to also check the serving size. Most people realize that most soda cans are 12oz., but fail to realize a serving size is 8oz. So, a can of regular soda is around 200 calories, not 120-130 as listed on the can. Some drinks may have 2.5 or MORE servings. Watch for this on cereal as well. They're ALL around 100-150 calories per serving, BUT servings sizes range from 3/4 cup to 1 1/2 cup. That makes a big difference.
-Be wary of diet drinks as well. Don't misunderstand, they save a lot of calories, but usually include a lot of sodium. This can help your body absorb other things like the sugars you do put into it. Watch for high sodium on frozen meals as well. They can contain 400 to *1300* mg of sodium.

My sophomore year in college, after ~20 years of solid geekness, I joined the university crew team and converted into a classic jock. I was rowing or training 1-3 hours a day, six days a week; I was eating a lb of food at every meal and still losing weight. I felt fantastic, and looked pretty good. Unfortunately, I lost almost all interest in academics; all I cared about was eating, sleeping, and rowing. I would sleep through my alarm if I needed to get up for class, but not if I had early practice. I quit the team the next year, and gained back the weight (and then some) as well as my brain.

Now I'm trying to lose it again; I'd like to second the plug for the iphone app that tracks calories and exercise. I'm using a free one called "lose it!" and it seems to be quite helpful so far.

Weightlifting increases body mass and volume. Active fat people are relatively very strong, since they carry all that lipid mass around all the time, and also have denser bones and stronger ligaments for support.

Dancing/martial arts or beach jogging (not hard asphalt) an hour every day in a pacing manner (avoid straining joints), make it a zen gift to yourself. Junk food hunger alleviates electrolyte imbalance (salt & sugar), it can be prevented by taking a bit of honey & sea salt beforehand, with some fresh water. Afterwards a stretch and a 1 minute meditation in the shower tops it off; fresh-scent fruits/herbs/veggies available, sugary/salty/creamy stuff not so much. ~

Here's wot works for me. I do take a pre workout supplement called Jack3d. IMO, it's the best stuff out there( it's only $29 bucks and it's "all the rage"). Unlike the others, there's no damn magnesium so you don't have to worry about taking multiple trips to the bathroom. There is a product called N.O.Xlode that is known as "anal xplode" because of the amount of..well, you get the point.

I workout like this-one group per day.





I try to do an 40 min to an hour of cardio after working out. I never do cardio then lift weights. I read somewhere a while ago that a research study showed that your HGH level increased 600% by doing a cardio/weight split and an increase of 1500% doing a weight/cardio split.

After working out, I drink a protein shake like the ones EAS makes. Supposedly you should try to do that within 30 minutes of finishing your work out. I also add a tsp or 2 of chocolate syrup to it since your body needs to replace the sugar you have used and it helps with the protein being replenished.

I try to limit my junk food in take. At work I eat tuna sandwiches for lunch and have chicken and vegtables for lunch.

I also use crystal light to flavor my water instead of soda.

That being said, on Sundays during football season I eat whatever the hell I want.

Oh, and if it's pizza night, it's game on!

By firemancarl (not verified) on 05 Jan 2010 #permalink

Thanks for the shout-out, Biopunk, our goal for Obesity Panacea has always been to bring a skeptical scientific background to the health/diet/fitness/obesity debate. The amount of misinformation on health related topics in general (and obesity/diet/exercise in particular) is truly astounding, and I'm always surprised that so few of our fellow obesity researchers have entered the blogosphere. Although I have noticed a dramatic increase in the number of excellent obesity and health-related blog posts on Research Blogging over the past 6 months, which is a good place to start looking for great bloggers outside of the sciblogs community.

Correct me if you feel otherwise, ERV, but I think one reason why these topics may be under-represented on sciblogs is that most science bloggers seem to come from more "pure" backgrounds like chemistry, biology, and physics (the examples of the nerds you describe in your post seem to fall into this category). In contrast exercise physiology (my discipline) is both applied and extremely interdisciplinary. It incorporates elements of physiology, pharmacology, chemistry, epidemiology and biology, but is so different as to be almost unrecognizable to someone working in those more "pure" disciplines themselves. The result is that when people approach a fitness or obesity-related research question through the lens of a single discipline (be it physiology, pharmacology, or psychology) they often come to the wrong conclusion, or misunderstand how that study fits into the greater research context.

Here's an example of what seems like a very simple obesity-related question question: do diet soft drinks contribute to obesity? They don't contain calories, so from a chemical perspective, the obvious answer is no. But it turns out that the sweetness of diet soft-drinks excites many of the same neural pathways as regular sweeteners, and results in similar cravings for increased intake of sugary foods. So while diet soft drinks themselves don't directly result in increased body weight, they can contribute to increased overall caloric intake, increasing the risk of obesity.

As you can see, even the simplest issues in this area quickly become very complicated, and involve a number of scientific disciplines. The consequence of this complexity is that results in our area are often less clear-cut than in some other research domains. Combine that with a massive demand for obesity-related information, and the door is wide-open for charlatans promoting simplistic nonsense, while researchers struggle to convey the truth in a simple way. Suffice it to say, I feel that introducing a sciblog on obesity, as well as other "applied" health topics, would be an excellent step towards increasing the amount of credible, skeptical information in the public discourse.

Thanks for bringing up this topic, ERV. I promise you that there are many researchers who live, work, and blog on topics that straddle the line between nerd and jock!


One source I like for only mildly diluted research on sports training and fitness is I've used them mostly for aerobic concerns (me being a runner), but they do have significant sections on strength training as well.

For HIIT, if you mean High Intensity Interval Training, I've done it as a running workout. Maybe it also exists for strength training, but I don't know about that sort. For running purposes, I've seen (I believe at pponline, but perhaps the original studies via pubmed) reasonable research on it being an effective addition to a running training program. I've seen some more grandiose claims (not from the original author(s)) about replacing all distance training with HIIT, even for 10k and up runners. Don't buy those for a second. But my experience accords with the research I've seen -- it is a good addition to a program. Good for both general health, and for doing some race fine tuning.

Running on sand, on the other hand, is heavily ... er, contraindicated. See, for instance, Noakes Lore of Running (4th ed now). At least if we're talking dry beach sand, wet, compacted sand can be ok. But dry sand shifts under your feet, imposing a very high demand on the calf and plantar tendons (thence fascia). Those demands translate to achilles tendinitis/tendinosis/tendinopathy and/or plantar fasciitis, particularly if the runner has not first spent a significant period developing those areas. I mostly coach beginners and people early in their running careers, and typically they're not under 30, so the injury avoidance issues are prime.

One thing is certain: many ERV readers are both physically fit and scientifically minded.

Robert, I've suffered from plantar fasciitis in both feet for seven months now. I figure I've got another month or so. I've seen many articles on the web about using HIIT for weight training, but the original HIIT, the Tabata Protocol, was done on exercise bikes.

I've read that Tabata denied HIIT could replace distance training.

It's not a scientific study, but the National Weight Control Registry provides useful details about people who have lost weight and kept it off.

I think preventing weight gain boils down to consuming no more calories than you burn. In "Eat, Drink, and Be Merry," Dr. Dean Edell writes, "All the current confusion about nutrition and health can be reduced to this: Eat whatever you want, just eat less of it, and add some veggies." (Dr. Edell contends the benefits of weight loss and of exercise are often overstated.)

The hard part is eating less. I try to pay attention to energy density -- the number of calories per gram. The lower the energy density, the better. Eating slowly may help keep down caloric intake.

By Leonids11 (not verified) on 05 Jan 2010 #permalink

(Sorry, I meant beach jogging barefoot at the waters edge, on the firm wet sand, or a similar trail.)

Also of interest: notice how full this thread is, right here on scienceblogs, of anecdata and unsupported appeals to common wisdom!

I am far from ignorant - I have two postgrad degrees and have worked professionally in bioinformatics and statistics. And I find it incredibly hard to sift the science from the commercial hype, rumour and folklore.

Recently it seems that eating less is NOT a good idea: insufficient food makes you lose reasoning abilities and self-control. Low-cal dieting makes you prone to further weight gain. Being underweight is more dangerous than being obese.

Eating less junk food, though, I'm pretty sold on. Except that all that common dietary advice about giving up soda and cheetos and sugary breakfast cereals is impossible for me. I'd have to take them up before I could give them up.

I'm quite impressed with some Australian researchers - Dr Amanda Sainsbury-Salis (on hunger signals), and Dr Jennie Brand (on low GI). But I'm still not convinced that obesity and overweight is as bad as its made out. Especially overweight - see

You're right, Cath - simply being overweight isn't the best predictor of health risk. Body weight is a pretty good proxy for body fat levels at the population level, but it doesn't work as well at the individual level. When it comes down to it, most research points to body fat distribution being much more important than body weight or even total body fat levels. Further complicating the relationship between body weight and health, there are also quite a few studies reporting that it's better to be obese but physically active, rather than lean and unfit.

Here is a recent post that discusses some of the issues you bring up (as well as the ones I mention above), with plenty of discussion and links to the scientific literature, rather than anecdota :)


What is a 'macro'?

Fat people who are now slightly less fat...ouch. The best dietician I've ever worked with in person was quite fat, certainly fatter than I am, but an expert in her field who helped me quite a bit in a short time (and, yeah, I'd absolutely read her blog if she had one).

I agree with the above recommendations for Lyle McDonald. He's probably been *the* most helpful writer on the web for me personally.

I'm also a big fan of Robb Wolf. I really love the new podcast. I'm not totally sold on the paleo thing (although I eat that way more often than not in that I am gluten intolerant and miserly), but he speaks from both a strong science background and plenty of experience working with fitness clients and athletes.

On the exercise side of things...Jolie Bookspan's Fitness Fixer articles are neat, and I would sure love to see her blog about her research (performance in extreme environments!).

Mike T. Nelson is an exercise physiologist and fitness professional who's had some great exercise science blog posts, but he doesn't write as often as I wish he did.

I wish Doug McGuff would write more, but at this point he's basically just logging his workout of the week, I think. The book he wrote with John Little, "Body by Science" is well worth reading even for people who have no intention of doing the program, just for the primer on metabolism as it relates to exercise.

Overall, the diet and exercise fields suffers from a disconnect between practitioners (of varying quality) and research (also of varying quality)...and the general problem that there's more than one way to skin a cat.

Doug Robb is a trainer who writes the HealthHabits blog. He may or may not be a trained scientist, but thinks logically and pays attention to the pertinent scientific literature on fitness, and to a lesser extent, nutrition. He is skeptical, in the usual sense of the term.


Scooby's workshop (at is the simplest and most straight forward website I've seen containing information for getting into better shape. While I use a greater variety of workouts than he does, his diet, exercise and overall fitness philosophy is probably the most down to Earth I have ever seen on the web. Check 'em out!

By Michael Titus (not verified) on 09 Jan 2010 #permalink

The hard thing about weight loss is that you have to improve the way you eat permanently. Any diet you can only bear "for the duration" will fail once the duration is over. The other hard thing is that the majority of the food and restaurant industry markets junk food, laden with sugar, fat, and salt. The good news is that eating right is more enjoyable than not, once one learns the new pattern and gets a little bit into food and cooking.


A friend forwarded this post and this is exactly what I do. I have a blog that is a skeptical look at fitness/diet industry.

I used to work for some big sports supplement companies and I did graduate work and research in human nutrition and exercise physiology. So I think I could help out here, what exactly is it that you need. Just a link to my blog? The post just previous to this comment put a link, but I suppose I can repeat it:


You know, fitness can be a pretty geeky endeavor.

I consider myself a geek, as I've always been into videogames, sci-fi, etc; I study physics; and I hate watching or playing sports and absolutely cannot and will not have a conversation about sports, to give a few good examples. I mean lately I've been on a HUGE Star Trek tear. That itself should say quite a bit about the sorts of things I find interesting IMO.

But I've also been into weightlifting/bodybuilding the last few years and I've got to say, it can actually get pretty geeky. I'm not at the level of wanting to compete or anything, but even at the level I pursue it at, I'm into knowing about what constitutes a good split, what sorts of food to eat and if there's a better time of day to eat them (no carbs at bedtime for example), how to eat (6 smaller meals a day for me), and all that jazz. You have even more knowledge about this stuff the more into it you get and especially if you compete at bodybuilding competitions. Nobody would call normally call it geekiness because geeks aren't considered to exercise, but what else is it when you are really passionate and knowledgeable about something a majority of people don't give a damn about and probably think you're weird for liking?

In that regard, I could also reference a Cracked article on nerds vs jocks: "Comic books easily distinguish nerds from jocks--nerds read epic conflicts of good vs. evil, while jocks memorize decimal statistics about whichever team plays closest to their house." Tell me that's not pretty geeky? :D

To see how really fit you are you should try taekwando. I have two personal instructors that i take private classes from. In class i wear a heart rate monitor usuall in a 45 min class i can burn through between 800 to 1000 calories.
Today i forgot to start my watch till the last 10 min of class in those 10 min i burned 200 calories, i had an average heart rate of 154 and a maximun heart rate of 171 . I was born in 1958 so i think i am in pretty good shape . i do this 5 days a week

As we're dealing with humans here, the absolute theoretical scientific best solution may well not be the best solution for an individual - if they hate the diet and hate the exercise, they won't keep it up.

So for an individual, it is probably better instead to do a less efficient but more enjoyable exercise.

Two questions for erv - *Why* should everyone do deadlifts (I know why I do them, but it's for a specific reason that doesn't apply to everyone), and what do you mean by "macros"?

Good article. The Every Other Day Diet plan is great if you need to shed some pounds quickly. It is also great if you have been putting off dieting because you are too busy to starve yourself. If you need lots of energy, the Every Other Day Diet gives you that.