My blog disclaimer (and the potentially offensive stuff that follows)
I was driving back to Calgary from Lethbridge this morning and listening to a few things on my iPod (thank God for the iPod FM transmitter! And thank you, Kevin Larrabee and the Fitcast for making my long drives tolerable), but before I gush on about some of the observations I made, I just want to write a disclaimer about this blog:
It is not my intention to offend anyone or to personally attack anyone on this blog. If I come across that way, I apologize in advance and am totally willing to have a discussion about any disagreements or conflicts that may arise. I will, however, call people out at times because part of the goal of this blog is to try and promote the idea that fitness decisions are health decisions and should be made on some logical or rational grounds, so as to be informed decisions. Making the decision to go on a ketogenic diet is no different than making the decision to inject yourself several times a day with insulin. Starting a new workout approach is no different than deciding to take a statin. Engaging in a “rehab” modality is no different than going for surgery. You should understand the decision, the potential benefits, the risks and the rationale on which the decision to embark on something new that will affect your health, is based–part of which, involves understanding the evidence base (or having it distilled to you). A decision made on blind faith (say, solely on the advice of an “expert”) is exactly that–a faith decision. And if after you’ve been informed, if your decision is still largely based on faith, well, that’s fine too, because making an informed faith decision is still an informed decision.
After having listened to almost all 41 episodes of the FitCast (I’ve been doing a lot of long distance driving, okay?) I have to say that there have been very few recommendations from the experts with which I fundamentally disagree. Sometimes, it’s because they’re general “motherhood statements”–broad-ranging statements that you can’t really disagree with because they’re just good for you, like, “Put your jacket on because it’s cold outside,” or “Don’t touch the hot stove, or you’ll hurt yourself.” In the case of “motherhood fitness statements”, things like “Eat more vegetables,” or “Get enough sleep,” are really difficult to disagree with. Who wants less sleep anyways?
But today, I was listening to the interview with Carl Valle, whose justification for “Get enough sleep,” was that we should get at least 8 hours of sleep a day because if you look at the best growth potential, the answer lies in babies–because they sleep the most and consume the most calories per unit of body mass. Babies are just anabolic machines! It’s the one period in your life when you experience EXPONENTIAL growth! Albeit this is just one very small segment of the interview and I believe that Carl Valle read it in a book about sleep; but it’s a classic example of “good recommendation, bad justification”. It’s also a good example of correlation fallacy (i.e. assigning causality to correlated things; in this case, babies grow exponentially, and sleep lots, therefore sleeping lots must cause increased growth). There are lots of good reasons to get enough sleep–alertness, mental health, concentration, even regeneration; all great reasons to get 8 hours of sleep. “Get 8 hours of sleep because you are mimicking a behaviour exhibited by babies, who happen to also have the highest growth potential in a human’s lifespan,” should not even be ON the list of reasons why you should get 8 hours of sleep. Rule number 1 in Pediatrics: Children and babies are not just little adults. Conversely, adults are not just big babies. The fact that babies experience exponential growth is NOT because they sleep all of the time. It’s because they’re eating like mofos; and also because developmentally their bodies are stimulated to grow. There are genes that are turned on in fetal development that will NEVER be turned on again in a human’s life. When I do an assessment for “failure to thrive” in a baby, my first question is not, “How much sleep is your baby getting?” it’s “What are you feeding your baby?”
So bottom line, lots of good reasons to sleep. Being like a baby should not be one of them. Watch out for spurious associations being mistaken for causality.
I think it’s far better to say, “You know, I’m going to recommend this course of action for you, but I don’t really have any proof for it, but here’s my theory/experience.” This is why I also enjoyed T-Nation’s article when they asked several trainers about things they thought were absolutely true, but couldn’t prove it (part of which sparked the whole HIIT vs. Steady State debacle). Revealing bias in the decision-making process is an important step in enabling someone to make a decision. “I’d like to prescribe lithium as a mood-stabilizer to you, and here are the side-effects and potential risks of taking lithium. We don’t fully understand how lithium works as a mood stabilizer, but it is very well studied and has been shown to be effective in preventing manic and depressive symptoms,” is an acknowledgement of incomplete information. Someone can still make an informed decision to take lithium, despite not knowing how it works–and maybe they might choose not to because we don’t know how it works. Either way, they’re not being pummelled with how great it is and how the last 10 people who took lithium did so great on it, and did you know that some famous celebrity is on lithium and look how successful he is; they’re being given the information that enables them to make a decision on logical and rationale grounds.
The last (long) comment I wanted to make in this entry was on the interview done by Dax Moy of Alwyn Cosgrove. It was really a very good interview–not even related to actual fitness topics, but rather the fitness “industry”, and I’ll just say that upon arriving in Calgary, I pretty much turned off the road at the nearest bookstore and bought the book Alwyn was talking about, because that’s how convinced I was that it would be a valuable read. And I’m not even a “fitness professional”. There was more that I would have liked to type, but I’ll just leave it at that.