What if everything we know is wrong?

It seems an odd question, and if taken too seriously could lead to a paralysis by analysis problem, where everyone was afraid to do anything.  That’s not good either, but the basis for my statement comes from a core belief I have, that is often very difficult and time consuming.

Carl Sagan said it best:

What is called for is an exquisite balance between two conflicting needs: The most skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses that are served up to us and at the same time a great openness to new ideas.

It comes up for me a lot in my business of health and fitness.  Even as a coach things are questioned and re-questioned.  Some things are seemingly tried and true – but then again…..are they?

Take running for example: everyone knows to carb load right?  Except that some very good research has shown that carb loading for one night before a race is next to useless, it takes three days to fill up the muscle and liver glycogen stores to maximum.  Yet every big race anywhere I have ever been (in 3 continents and over 30 races) you will find a carb load dinner the night before the race, and it will inevitably feature pasta – one of the worst pre race foods there is.  Yes, it is a starchy carbohydrate, but it sticks to your intestines like glue.  White rice or potato is a far better choice (white rice because before a big race, you want less fibre to avoid having to make a pit stop during the event).  That said, there are now people doing studies to see if carb loading works at all, or if it does, just how long and how much is optimal.  I have learned what works for me…..but I am open to new thoughts.

I was watching a TED talk on my tablet while riding the stationary bike this past week (the weather was too poor to go outside and ride) and I watched a great segment on diabetes.  If you do not know what a TED talk is – I highly recommend you check them out.  TED is a nonprofit group devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading”. It started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader, and there are many talks to choose from, and on pretty much any subject.  It’s like a collection of the brightest minds of our time speaking on amazing topics, featuring the most current research or theories.

The talk I am referring to featured Dr Peter Attia, and in it, he describes being a younger version of himself and speaking with a patient, who is quite overweight and he has to amputate her foot, due to gangrene (rotting flesh) resulting from diabetes.  He talks about being judgemental and wondering why this woman would let herself get so fat, and allow herself to be in this position.  Then he speaks about the latest research on diabetes, and here is where the twist comes in:  What if the way we look at diabetes is all wrong?  What if it is in fact, Metabolic Syndrome (Insulin resistance) that LEADS to obesity that leads to diabetes? If that were true, then the medical world has been fighting obesity and diabetes in the wrong way: ‘eat less and exercise more’ may not be the answer.  Dr Attia started to discover this, because he was following the standard medical prescription of watching calories and exercising, and started to develop metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

What I love about the talk, among many things, is that it reminds me to always question what I think I know, and further, it serves as a little pat on the back.  For as long as I can remember as a trainer, I have advised people to cut out sugar – the leading cause of metabolic syndrome, and that is exactly what Dr Attia concludes: that eating a diet based more on ‘single ingredient foods’: steak, chicken, eggs, fish, vegetables, grains and then avoiding sugar, is the best way to avoid insulin resistance.  Which, according to this latest research, may in fact be what is causing weight gain, as the body tries to protect itself, and this then in turn, leads to diabetes.  So if it isn’t the weight itself that is causing diabetes, but rather the sugar – then we can start to make a change for the better.

So why doesn’t the medical community take more note of nutrition as a cure for disease?  Dr Attia responds: “…there is no great opportunity to monetize the results through intellectual property.”

So there you have it…….Once again we are responsible for our own health, and no Doctor, Study or Company will do it for us.  Question everything, and be skeptical, with an open mind.

Happy Training!

Scott