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Fitness Theory and Practice. CrossFit's rationale & foundations. Who is fit? What is fitness?

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Old 10-22-2004, 03:00 PM   #1
Rene Renteria
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CrossFit and Allostasis

In the “Can’t think of a title” thread, Ross said:
Posted on Sunday, October 17, 2004 - 08:51 am
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Just to back up for a minute to Ron's question about brain chemistry and sugar....

MaryDan Eades, MD. has done some good work in that area and well describes the addictive cycle of high glycemic carbs. In a nutshell, insulin (one of the 'gate-keeper' hormones) freely crosses the blood-brain barrier and reeks havoc on the neurotransmitters (chief among those being seratonin, epinephrine, and norepinephrine). Those chemicals specifically are what currently are thought to control 'moods.'

Her work is a few years old now and I'm not as up on what's been put out in the meantime. Mr. Wolf....any updates or references?

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This talk about lifesyle, diet, and body changes reminds me of a talk I heard about “allostasis”, or “stability through change.” This is in contrast to the traditional idea of “homeostasis”, that the body’s main objective is to maintain some set of set points (for blood pressure, temperature, weight, blood sugar, or whatever). This idea was developed to try to explain the increased pathology of those of lower socioeconomic status, for example. The stats are pretty amazing: bad boring jobs, divorce, and poverty are all associtated with increased risk for a huge number of diseases and pathologies (see the reference at the bottom for these amazing graphs).

An example is treatment for high blood pressure. The pressure results from a host of body mechanisms responding to increased demand for blood, for that pressure. This demand can be a result of increased coritcosteroids released chronically because of a stressful life. Modern medicine treats this by trying to lower the pressure. However, the body has high blood pressure as a response, meaning the brain is sensing the need for the pressure to be high. So when we lower it artificially with drugs, the brain/body adjusts by some other mechanism; we haven’t actually alleviated the body’s demand for the high blood pressure. So pressure rises again through one of the many pathways the brain can use to increase it, and we treat the new increase with more or different drugs. The process repeats.

One overarching idea of this is that our lifestyles are increasing the stress responses of our bodies and brains, causing compensations that lead to diseases such as high blood pressure.

Details of this can be found here (PDF):

http://retina.anatomy.upenn.edu/pdfiles/6277.pdf

I have wondered how CrossFit works with this principle. It seems that the CrossFit philosophy is to maximize the demand on various systems; the body adapts to these demands by setting into motion processes that make the body stronger, leaner, fitter. I’m curious how the workouts tap into the brain’s control of body responses, the neuroendocrine responses talked about here. This seems like an allostatic process but in a beneficial direction. For example, in the Tabata exercise program in his study, it would be interesting to know how much comes from adaptive changes from the muscle cells and other tissues and how much is directed by the brain itself in response to the heavy loads.

It’s interesting that the benefits of exercise will in many cases counteract the harmful processes that chronic stress sets in motion.

No answers yet about how thinking about training in this way might improve performance or training methodology, but I thought the subject might interest people here.

Best,
Rene’
PS--A description of the blood pressure example can be found here (PDF):

http://retina.anatomy.upenn.edu/pdfiles/1879.pdf
Sterling P; Eyer J (1981) Biological basis of stress-related mortality. Soc Sci Med 15E:3-42.

This paper begins with an interesting description about the Iroquois’ Indians conception of disease as arising from social causes and discusses the placebo effect. It also shows morbidity data for various pathologies and describes many interesting examples.

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Old 10-23-2004, 07:42 AM   #2
mark twight
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Rene,

Super interesting post, thank you.

I think your notion about Tabata -- and physical training in general -- is right on ("...it would be interesting to know how much comes from adaptive changes from the muscle cells and other tissues and how much is directed by the brain itself in response to the heavy loads.") From the studying I've done in the last six months I believe more and more that the effect of training on the brain has quite a lot more to do with fitnmess and performance than is generally accepted.

Mark T.
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Old 10-25-2004, 09:23 AM   #3
Robert Wolf
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Rene-
Awesome first post!!! Dynamic, non-linear systems are frequently described via attractors:

http://ccrma-www.stanford.edu/~stilt...ctors/nav.html

In essence a system tends to return to certain self sustaining parameters. This process is amazingly robust so long as stressors have been part of the development of the system. Add a stressor which is either new or of a different magnitude and the system will adjust into a state which is not self sustaining.

Here is somethig I think is interesting:
Humans (and I think all vertebrates) have a myostatin gene. This gene limits the amount of muscle growth which and organism can achieve and works via negative feedback (the more muscle you gain the stronger tha action of this gene).

We know from studying the skeletons of pre-agricultural humans that they were very strong and well musclled, as evidenced by their robust muscle insertions. Obviously there was both a need for muscle growth but only to a point.

What is interesting to me is that there is no lipostatin gene. If one gets a little fat, hyperinsulemic, depressed...any of the syndrome X metabolic derangement issues, one tends to get worse and at ever accelerating rates. We have no feedback mechanism to control this.

The folks who wrote Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar and Survival make the point that hyperinsulinism was an adaptive situation in the past allowing us to gain fat to help insure survival in the winter. It makes sense.

You bring up some important points regarding community, work and stressors. I think they are as important as food, sleep and exercise but are largely ignored.
Robb

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Old 10-26-2004, 03:39 PM   #4
Alex Vasquez
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Great post and information in the PDF, I'll have to read it more closely after work
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Old 10-27-2004, 09:05 PM   #5
Rene Renteria
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...attractors:

http://ccrma-www.stanford.edu/~stilt...ctors/nav.html


Whoa. Pretty cool approach. That would be great to be able to describe some human system with a bunch of equations. It seems that people are working on this:
http://mec1.idac.tohoku.ac.jp/baroreflex.html
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=7 939570&dopt=Abstract
(linking to things I don’t understand) As far as I can tell from these studies, goats are important.

Searching around in PubMed, it seems that many of the pieces are in place for precise control of blood flow and muscle tone by the brain: hormone receptors, sensors, nerves that innervate the capillaries. It’s clear that discovering and integrating all these details will be hard.

You’re right that community is critical. The community building ideas behind the CrossFit Web site are great for motivation and learning. Of course, with the movement for obesity to be considered a “disease”, look for medicalization of social “treatments”. Maybe with the separation of families from each other and the anonymity of modern living (at least in cities and suburbs), it needs to be organized and given an official name (branded for selling). It’s certainly more time-intensive than a bottle of pills. Here’s an example:
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http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/...full/158/6/971
Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Weight Gain
To the Editor: Some evidence has suggested that atypical antipsychotics offer a more comprehensive treatment for schizophrenia than typical antipsychotics. However, these drugs often lead to considerable weight gain (1, 2), resulting in poor compliance and a greater risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. To our knowledge, effective treatments of this side effect have not been identified. Here we report on the successful treatment of weight gain due to atypical antipsychotics with an approach that included elements of behavior therapy and counseling....
Treatment sessions focused on causes of weight gain, healthy low-calorie nutrition, specific recommendations for weight loss, and instructions about physical exercise and relaxation....
----

Thanks,
Rene’
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Old 10-28-2004, 05:27 AM   #6
Mike Yukish
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As far as I can tell from these studies, goats are important.

Finally, something I can mentally cling to. I shall, in the future, work out wearing a t-shirt with a picture of a goat on the front. Maybe a sacrifice. I believe that ought to help. :-)

The book "Sync" by Steven Strogatz is a neat exposition on how dynamic systems (especially chaotic ones) fall into synchrony. He empahsizes biological cycles and particularly the sleep cycle. Worthy reading. Available at your big box book store.
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Old 10-28-2004, 02:49 PM   #7
Paul Theodorescu
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Mike, how complicated is this "Synch" book? I haven't done any University Studies yet...
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Old 10-29-2004, 05:54 AM   #8
Mike Yukish
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It's written for the layman scientist, so to speak. It's a "Big Box Bookstore" book, not a specialist's tome. Won book of the year from Discover magazine. The full title is How Order Emerges Form Chaos in Sync: The Universe, Nature, and Daily Life. But it is known as just Sync.
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