Exercise & Inflammation – A complete Review of the last 4 years!

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You can never be “too fit”

It’s time for a comprehensive review folks, connecting dots and drawing some conclusions; 4 yrs of LIHF living in one blog post! I try to avoid long posts for obvious reasons and this one is slightly longer than usual, but please bare with me. Hopefully you will find it interesting if not useful!

During my weight loss phase I did ZERO exercise. There were a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, I knew from others that if I was doing LCHF correctly, I would not need to. The weight would easily fly off of its own accord. Indeed, after dropping ALL dairy, that’s exactly what happened! The second reason was that exercising in an overweight condition is neither pleasant nor safe. You run a greater risk of injury or worse if you are exercising to any “meaningful level”. Meaningful to me involves being at least out of breath in order to fully realize the benefits (more on this in future posts..).

My weight finally bottomed out in late spring of 2013 and I was feeling better than I’d probably ever felt! I was feeling so good in fact that I finally felt ready to do some exercise. However, there was one small thing that was spoiling the party; my waistline. Yes, it had come down nicely with my weight but it was still hovering on or just above limits at 95-96 cm. I knew from my doctor friend (similar age) who had gone LCHF before me that his waist fell nicely to 88 cm, also on no exercise, and that’s where it remains to this day. Should I be concerned about my waist? After all, it was only just over/ on limits.

Does your waistline REALLY matter if you are just above limits?

Hell yes! Why? Because the specified limits are NOT given as a range. They are given in one absolute value depending on your ethnicity & gender, and are independent of your age, height or weight. This means that the correlations between the “big four” of CVD, cancer, diabetes & stroke and your waistline reading are tight, like REAL tight! In other words, if your waistline is only say, 1 cm above limits, you have a WAY bigger risk of acquiring these diseases than a person who is say, 1 cm under the limit. This is why waistline has always been more important to me than my overall weight or BMI. If my weight is going up but my waistline stays the same everything is cool; I’m gaining muscle mass. If however my weight is going up TOGETHER with my waistline then the alarm bells start ringing! I’m gaining fat NOT muscle, and remedial dietary action needs to be urgently undertaken.

Further, waistline is the one bio-marker that just about everyone agrees on. Arguments still rage on, lo-carb or high-carb, about whether or not cholesterol REALLY IS the best indicator of CV health but no-one, in either camp, questions waistline. In short, the “the abs don’t lie” statement holds true. It also happens to be the easiest to measure. Just get your tape measure out, no further calculations required!

Post Weight-Loss Exercise

Rewind to summer 2013 & my weight has finally bottomed out at 89 kg. Wow, last time I saw this weight was in my late teens. I was feeling fantastic! Now I was ready and willing to do some exercise. The only question was what kind? I decided that I would start with some running. There were 2 main reasons for this: a) I have always wanted to be able to comfortably run 10km and have never really managed it, although I did run a half-marathon many moons ago on high-carb (an altogether horrible experience!!) and b) I thought that running would finally shake off those last few critical cm’s from my waistline. For 6 months or so I ran 10km, 2-3 times/ week, sometimes more, but no matter how hard I ran, my waistline absolutely refused to budge! Also, PBs did come down but seemed to hit a brick wall below which I could not go, no matter how good I felt or how hard I tried. Annoying as it was, I was kind of coming round to the idea that this was it. This was as low as my waist would ever go and a slight “paunch” would be my fate for the rest of my days. I am glad to say however that time would prove me wrong.. 😉

The Story Continues..

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2014: more muscle mass

After 6 months or so I decided I’d had it with running. I’d proved my point and now wanted some more muscle mass. I was a bit too skinny for my liking. So I decided to start some light resistance training together with some yoga thrown in for good measure. The training consisted mainly of some press-ups and bicep curls 2-3 times/ week. Nothing major really but within 4-6 weeks I had put on 3-4 kg in weight, still with that stubborn waist sitting at 95-96 cm! Despite this, all was OK since I was putting on muscle and not fat. For the next year or so I more or less continued this routine. Towards the end of that period however, I was really only doing the yoga which I really enjoyed. Weight & waist remained steady throughout.

The Breakthrough!

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2015: Samarian Gorge, Crete

During the summer of 2015, we took a family holiday to Crete. This is where I decided to try and “run” the Samarian Gorge on minimal food & water just to prove to myself it could easily be done on LCHF without ANY training. That trip was hugely successful for me in many ways. Firstly, it proved that it could be done, rather easily in fact, but secondly, when I got back, my wife noticed an immediate change. “Your waist has gone!”, she cried. I didn’t have a tape measure to hand at the time but there was no doubt. Simply looking in the mirror one could see that the paunch had vanished! Somehow during my Samarian Gorge adventure I had managed to break into and consume all of that extra fat that was stored around my waist! But how and why did this happen NOW and not earlier when I was training MUCH harder for my 10 km runs?

Connecting the Dots

As soon as I got back from Crete I got the tape measure out. My waist had indeed crashed 5 cm to 90 cm. I was over the moon!! Naturally I didn’t want the 5 cm to return anytime soon so I checked my notes to compare what I was eating in Crete (self-catering) to what I was eating at home and 2 things immediately stood out like a sore thumb: clarified butter (ghee) & rapeseed oil. We were consuming copious amounts of both at home, in particular the rapeseed oil in our home-made mayonnaise.  I quickly checked to see if there were any issues with both and sure enough, the rapeseed oil is of course an industrial seed oil and possibly one of the most inflammatory of all of them!! How did I miss that one?? What a rookie mistake to make! There were no known issues with the ghee but I decided to drop both anyway, just to be safe, and replace the rapeseed oil in the mayo with light olive oil. Since then I have not looked back; my waist is & remains at 90 cm to this day. RESULT!!

One further Bonus – My Heart is better again!

Around 2006, my ECG picked up something called a Right Bundle Branch Block, a heart condition associated with a block in the electrical conduction system. Although largely benign, it’s not something you really want to be carrying around with you if you can do something about it. I would be lying if I said to you that I was entirely unconcerned about having an underlying heart condition! Well, the good news is that as of my last ECG (2015) that too has disappeared altogether & I was given the all-clear!

Looking Forward..

I believe that I have finally achieved a state of Ultra Low Inflammation (ULI??). Both my waist & latest bloods & biomarkers are testament to this. The disappearance of my RBBB condition has also added to a general feeling of “I can do anything I damn well want to!” At the age of 50 this feels truly AMAZING. As far as my diet is concerned I don’t think there is much else I can do to improve things. I might however start re-introducing some ghee. Dropping it altogether may have been somewhat of an “over-reaction” since unlike other dairy products, ghee contains no inflammatory animal proteins (they say!).  Besides, I miss my chocolate mud cake too much! However, as far as exercise is concerned there is plenty more that can be done, and I will be talking much more about this in future posts..

You can never be “too fit”! :):):)

 

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