Monday, February 25, 2013

Exercise & Alcohol -- 189 lbs (-40) [13X]

Ever since I can remember (which is sometimes only up to a few minutes ago) I have disliked exercise-- except when accompanied by alcohol. Not only did alcohol make certain sports bearable, it also made them darn fun. Here are some of my recollections from high school and college:

● Golf
While golf is one of those rare no-pain/some-gain sports, like bowling, it sucks up a lot of time. And nothing is more frustrating than getting on the green with a few elegant drives, only to go way over par with sub-par putting. Liquor has the unusual property of dilating time and making going way over par funny. Plus, it fits nicely in golf bags.

● Tennis
I somewhat enjoyed tennis growing up, but Beer Ball was much more fun. You lob the tennis ball as high as possible and run to the sidelines for a sip of beer while your opponent lobs back to you. Fun fact #1: I played this a lot at the LA college where Van Halen formed. Fun fact #2: I once tried hiding brandy inside a tennis ball for a senior high school trip--the brandy ate through the glue holding the ball together and soaked the other balls.

● Skiing
For someone who hates being cold as much as I do, skiing can be pretty darn miserable--unless you have a goat skin full of wine, that is. Each ski trip I took involved more drinking and less skiing, culminating in a college adventure where I spent one long weekend in a condo drinking beer, smoking hashish, and watching a Dark Shadows marathon after just a single run on the slopes.

● Softball
Few things go better together than softball and a keg of beer. We regularly played softball with beer in my senior year of high school. One or both teams were called "The Nads" just so we could maturely cheer "Go, Nads!". Fun fact: Michael J. Fox once asked me for beer at a softball game (several years after high school), even though it wasn't my beer.

● Football
Tackle football with a keg of beer and without any protective equipment was probably a bad idea, but my off-campus college mates did it anyway. I made things worse by running with the ball directly at the opposing team with a wild look in my eye, to the point where my team would just give me the ball whenever desperate measures were called for. Alcohol certainly took the edge off the pain, though it didn't make us bleed any less.

● Morning routine
I don't have time for any games or sports nowadays, but I can't start the day without my stretching and exercise routine. I start super groggy and stiff, and finish alert and limber an hour later. If I drink 2 oz of whisky when I wake up, however, I start alert and limber, and finish with grand delusions 30-45 minutes later.

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

WTF BATF, Censoring Nutrition? -- 184 lbs (-45) [15X]

It never ceases to amaze me how polarized Americans are about alcohol, and how scientific information about alcohol is culturally censored or befuddled in a way that somehow puts it on the same subjective level as religion--despite overwhelming evidence for health benefits of low-dose alcohol. Take, for instance, the story of Bert Grant and the BATF.

The Scotland-born Grant started as a beer taster in the 1940's and worked at Canadian Breweries where several B-complex vitamins were discovered to be found in beer. In 1982, Grant parlayed his experience into starting one of America's first microbreweries—among other things, Bert knew that mainstream domestic beer had nowhere near the high vitamin and mineral content of craft/microbrewed beer. A decade later, he and his wife started putting laboratory-verified nutritional information on cartons of Grant's Scottish Ale informing the public of its B-vitamin contents (in percentage of US RDA):

● B2 -- 4.6%
● B3 -- 14.6%
● B6 -- 13.9%
● B9 -- 62.5%
● B12 -- 170.0%

In January 1993, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms threatened to revoke Grant's brewing license if the informational stickers were not removed, based on a 1954 regulatory interpretation of the Federal Alcohol Administration Act that says "any reference to vitamin content in the advertising of malt beverages would mislead a substantial number of persons to believe that consumption of the product would produce curative or therapeutic effects."

But this was 20 years ago. We now have an administration that actually brews its own beer, so the situation must be fixed, right? Not exactly. True, in January 2003, the BATF was split into the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF--why not BATFE??), thankfully separating law enforcement of legitimate alcohol producers from that of violent criminals. And, true, the TTB "relaxed" labeling guidelines to allow verified statements about calories, carbohydrates, protein, and fat in 2004, but the same ruling reiterated their historic position of disallowing any other nutritional information, i.e. vitamin and mineral content.

Now I could launch into one of my tirades here, but that shouldn't be necessary, should it? I mean, isn't it obvious that more information, not less, is the way to encourage people to make better choices? Isn't it obvious that we should be treated like adults, not children or, worse, information slaves? Isn't it obvious that we should know exactly what we are putting in our body so we can maintain a reasonable nutritional balance? ... Oops, I'm doing it anyway, aren't I?

Bert Grant passed away in 2001 at the age of 73. You can read his autobiography here:

Here's to you, Bert, for trying to do the right thing.

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Hail Mary Play -- 188 lbs (-41) [18X]

My most recent strategy of returning to a wider variety of alcohol and mixes hasn't significantly changed my 3-month holding pattern*, and I am pretty much out of whisky-diet-consistent ideas to break away from it. I thought that cutting out the protein supplement might do the trick, but as I look over the past month's data, the days I started with a protein drink had no correlation with weight change (it pays to keep good records!). So, in the grand spirit of procrastination that defines my personal style, my new plan is to do nothing substantially different until the last “minute”. I figure as long as I stay within spitting distance of my goal, I can get radical during the last few weeks. It is a risky, hail Mary play, but then there are few forcing functions stronger than an actual deadline.

*For those just tuning in, my goal is to weigh 180 lbs on my 50th birthday (July 17, 2013), but I've been fluctuating between 183 and 189 for the last few months.

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Coffee & Alcohol -- 183 lbs (-46) [4X]

I didn't start drinking coffee until I started drinking alcohol--both at the same drama club party in my junior year of high school, and both tasted horrible that night/next morning. I quickly developed a taste for them, though, and was happily drinking pretty much everything in anything a year later. I also latched on to the idea that a successful evening was a balance of alcohol, caffeine, and water, and thus experimented with adding sweet liqueurs such as brandy, Amaretto, Bailey's, and Kahlua to my coffee (nothing beat a piping hot Amaretto coffee on a deeply cold winter night), as well as harder alcohols to caffeinated soft drinks. Here are some proud clips of me under the influence of rum and coke in 1981 (others have been removed to protect the guilty):

It wasn't until I started flying between Seattle and San Jose some 25 years later that I cut out the sweet stuff and started putting straight whisky in coffee. As a frequent flyer, I was often upgraded to first class, which essentially amounted to a comfy seat and complimentary alcohol. Even if I hadn't started the work day, there was no way I was going to pass up free booze, so I settled on putting the 50 ml bottles of Crown Royale in coffee as some sort of twisted ethical compromise. Shortly after this, I discovered Evan Williams as a great-tasting value whiskey for the home, and that it also went well in coffee*, so Irish whiskey (with American bourbon) for breakfast became a semi-regular thing.

Caffeine and alcohol have probably always been consumed in close proximity of each other, but I haven't found as much research on the interplay of caffeine and alcohol as I'd expect. What there is seems to be mostly focused on observational performance, rather than the actual physiological mechanisms, and the observational studies I've skimmed claim that caffeine and alcohol is no better than placebo and alcohol. But if rising BAC acts as stimulant, and falling BAC acts as a depressant, I find it hard to believe that caffeine will not have any effect on that pattern. Plus, I have over 30 years of experience that says otherwise, and I doubt I imagined it.

*I don't like just anything in coffee, mind you. I've experimented with many hard and soft liquors, and I can adamantly proclaim that I don't like scotch in coffee. It somehow manages to ruin both the scotch and the coffee.

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Muscle Repair and Alcohol -- 189 lbs (-40) [11X]

I went into this diet with a left shoulder injury, and as it didn't get better after several months, I suspected 2 issues:

● Not eating protein (or anything else) before or after exercise
● Drinking while metabolizing protein

It is widely known that protein is needed to repair and build muscle mass, and that protein is either used or lost once it is consumed. While the exact timing of the window of opportunity for protein synthesis is still under debate, my initial pattern of not eating ~10 hours before and after exercise was well outside of any plausible anabolic window.

It is less clear if alcohol interferes with protein anabolism, but given its ability to pre-empt and deplete other nutrients, it is reasonable to suspect that heavy drinking during muscle repair is suboptimal.

Given these observations, in December I started taking a combined casein/whey protein supplement after exercising, and avoiding alcohol for at least an hour after taking it. Also, in January started taking drinkwel mulitvitamins, which target nutrients depleted by alcohol. Although I haven't lost any weight over the last few months, I have maintained the weight I lost, repaired my shoulder, and increased my overall strength.

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Crown Royale Maple -- 186 lbs (-43) [23X]

If you've ever gotten violently ill and then never been able to eat or drink what went out through the in door, then you may appreciate my re-opening my heart and stomach to Canadian whisky and Irish whiskey after only a few months. To mark the occasion, I decided to try something extra special and go with Crown Royale Maple, thinking the maple would be subtle in the long-standing tradition of whisky undertones. Well, it's more like Aunt Jemima sitting on your face--smothered in syrup with a hint of whisky.
If you are a sissy but want to look cool drinking your whisky neat, then this is for you. Otherwise, stick to unadulterated stuff. In all fairness, this whisky mixes well with club soda, which is part of my current strategy to distract myself from pigging out. But thank god I didn't get sick drinking this straight up, or I'd never have eaten a pancake, waffle, or maple bar again. Or would that be a good thing? Hmmm ...

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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Fall Risk -- 188 lbs (-41) [15X]

I could have died from drinking too much a few months ago. I could also die every time I ride in a car or cross a busy street, which I do every day, but being intoxicated significantly increases those and other risks, such as falling down and hypothermia. Of these, the risk of injury due to falling was probably highest that night, and I did, in fact, take a nasty fall. Not that I remember doing so, mind you, but I had a terrible, painful bruise just north of my buttocks that lasted for about a week (another clue was that the hospital strapped a "fall risk" advertisement around my wrist). It turns out that the average risk of dying from a fall is pretty high, about 1 in 200, which I find a bit surprising. But then, I've had several alcohol-related falling accidents in my past that could have done me in. One, in particular, stands out.

One evening in my senior year of high school, I met my best friend (Jamie), his step-brother (Jeff), and Jeff's jockish friend (let's call him Brent, for lack of a better memory) at one of those cheap traveling fairs, where we somehow hooked up with 2 girls. Jamie claimed one of the girls, and Brent the other. I was never a "player" in these get-the-girl games, but something about Brent rubbed me the wrong way such that I kept saying things to piss him off in front of "his" girl, so we were already on bad terms when our private party moved to a dark, empty golf course high atop a hill, with a flashlight and all the liquor we could carry. We were walking near a fence, beyond which was pitch black, when Brent said something to the girl, and I stupidly said "he's just saying that to get into your pants". Brent raged "I'm going to kill you!" and bolted towards me, and I, without thinking, leapt over the fence. Well, it turns out the fence protected us from a very steep ravine, which I soon found myself hurtling down. Luckily, I managed to avoid Sonny Bono's fate of hitting a tree. Instead, I stopped just short of landing in a creek and jumped up laughing and unscathed. After that, Brent avoided me because I was too weird/crazy.

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