Monthly Archives: August 2013

Albert Schweitzer on cruelty

“The thinking man must oppose all cruel customs no matter how deeply rooted in tradition and surrounded by a halo. When we have a choice, we must avoid bringing torment and injury into the life of another, even the lowliest creature; to do so is to renounce our manhood and shoulder a guilt which nothing justifies”. – Albert Schweitzer

Sparkling cherry lemon kefir juice

IMG_1642I just made another batch of amazing cherry kefir juice. I love experimenting with this stuff. This is based on this which is based on this. This time, I fermented the black cherry juice for only 24 hours at room temperature, and added only a teaspoon of molasses to the half gallon jar. I then removed the water kefir grains and put it in the refrigerator overnight. I squeezed an entire lemon into it after pouring it into the glass.

This time it came even closer to perfection than the last time. This time, it tasted so much more like a natural soda since I couldn’t even taste any alcohol. It must be there, but it is probably less than 0.5% alcohol. It was very fizzy, with a significant amount of sweetness due to the natural fruit sugars and a whisper of molasses. If you remember last time, it came out more wine-like than soda-like(especially jar 1 that was left to ferment at room temperature longer, while jar 2 was less wine-like).

It tasted sort of like a blend of cherry cola and 7 Up, except this is probiotic and naturally carbonated. Since I didn’t ferment it for too long, it’s not that acidic. I tend to enjoy the sourness of fermented beverages, so it tasted like the sourness was “missing”. This is why I added some lemon, which made it taste divine.

I highly recommend it. It’s a terrific recovery beverage for endurance athletes.

Vegan versus paleo


Prehistoric humans hunting a giant Glyptodon, one of the many now extinct animals paleolithic humans had on their extensive menu. Public domain picture.

Some days it looks like the world has gone paleo. Everywhere I go I run into people who wish they were cavemen, extolling the virtues of the paleo diet, the diet our cavemen ancestors supposedly ate. Everything has to be paleo for some people, or they won’t go near it.

Now obviously I am not a paleo adherent. I don’t believe that just because our prehistoric ancestors ate a certain way means we should eat that way. That said, I do agree with the anti-dairy stance of the paleo diet, and also agree with eating a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. Of course, I tend to disagree with the paleo position on meat eating. I also believe the term “paleo” is misleading, since most of the fruits and vegetables paleo people eat are very different from the fruits and vegetables cavemen ate(the same goes for most commonly eaten meat). For example, the wild ancestors of modern potatoes, carrots, and apples were much smaller, and a lot less sweet. Just about all the fruits and vegetables at the market are the product of thousands of years of selective breeding.

I also take issue with the extreme anti-grain position of the paleo diet. I realize that paleolithic humans ate little to no grain. According to paleo proponents, it’s not just that our prehistoric ancestors didn’t eat grain, humans as a species haven’t evolved to eat grain, even if we count the 10,000 years from the dawn of the agricultural revolution(it started in the Middle East and later spread through the rest of the world). However, does this mean we shouldn’t eat them? I eat a lot of grain(and so do a lot of other healthy people), and so far do not seem to be suffering from any of the poisonous effects and diseases grain and only grain seem to cause, according to paleo adherents.

It is refined grain and carbohydrate that is unhealthful, and should be avoided, not all grain, in my opinion. Whole grains are generally better, providing a good source of slow to digest carbohydrate along with minerals, vitamins, protein, and fiber. Yes, whole grains contain “toxins” and “anti-nutrients”, but then so does meat, and virtually all fruits and vegetables. Cooking tends to reduce some anti-nutrients and toxins.

None of my objections necessarily means the paleo diet is especially unhealthy for you. On the contrary, I think it is better than the SAD(Standard American Diet), at least when done right and you eat generous amounts of fruits and vegetables. I know many very athletic, very healthy people who follow the paleo diet religiously, and it would be hard to argue against this success. I just don’t believe meat is necessary for living a long and healthy life, or that all grains, even whole grains and legumes, should be eliminated.

In the end, and in the spirit of fairness and scientific integrity, what really matters is what the science says about the paleo diet. Is it a healthy diet? Does it prevent or reverse diabetes and heart disease? According to Lund University, Sweden, in Beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: a randomized cross-over pilot study:


Over a 3-month study period, a Paleolithic diet improved glycemic control and several cardiovascular risk factors compared to a Diabetes diet in patients with type 2 diabetes.

This sounds impressive. And they were comparing the paleo diet to an already “restricted” diabetes diet that is usually prescribed to type 2 diabetes patients. And the paleo diet was the better one!

Does this mean I should go paleo? Hold on a second, let’s see how a vegan diet does when it comes to similar risk factors for diabetes and heart disease. According to George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC, in A low-fat vegan diet and a conventional diabetes diet in the treatment of type 2 diabetes: a randomized, controlled, 74-wk clinical trial:


Both diets were associated with sustained reductions in weight and plasma lipid concentrations. In an analysis controlling for medication changes, a low-fat vegan diet appeared to improve glycemia and plasma lipids more than did conventional diabetes diet recommendations. Whether the observed differences provide clinical benefit for the macro- or microvascular complications of diabetes remains to be established. This trial was registered at as NCT00276939.

Well what do you know, a low fat vegan diet helps improve certain risk factors for diabetes and heart disease, in a similar manner to the paleo diet. And the vegan diet also did better than the standard diabetes diet. But how can this be, when these diets are practically opposites?

Paleo adherents might claim the improved health of people following the paleo diet is due to excluding grain – but how can this be if those following the vegan diet showed similar improvements and continued to eat grain? So something else is going on here. Over-consumption of grain isn’t good obviously, but this is because overconsumption of anything isn’t good. Restrictive diets(excluding grain/simple carbs or all animal foods) will show positive results if they end up limiting unhealthy calories overall.

Ultimately, if you adopt a healthier lifestyle and decrease your risk factors for heart disease and other diseases, it doesn’t matter what you call it. Just about all dietary approaches agree on one thing – eating more fruits and vegetables. Whether it is “paleo” or “vegan” isn’t as important as the results, and yes, there are in fact some “paleo vegans” out there who are vegans who do not eat grain. It would be interesting to see how their health compares to grain-eating vegans.

Related articles:

1) Don’t Eat Like a Caveman

2) Grits from Heaven: Why I don’t do Paleo

Hello, I hate you

Joggling is like an express ticket to winning many admirers. Wherever you go, people will be impressed and will often compliment you and stare in amazement.

Unfortunately, not everyone reacts positively to joggling. Some people may even become extremely jealous or hateful toward you, especially if you happen to be a faster runner. And I don’t mean the people who say “you’re making me look bad”, I mean people who angrily denigrate you, or get this threatening look in their eyes.

People who don’t have the stomach for dealing with people like this find this makes it very difficult for them to joggle in areas with a lot of people. They are physically capable, but they are the shy, sensitive type and don’t like being the focus of hostile attention.

So how does one deal with this hostility? It’s important to realize that you are not responsible for some stranger on the street’s emotions. Unless you’re bumping into people or you hit someone with a ball, you’re not doing anything potentially harmful to anyone. Besides this, there are a lot of people out there who get angry over nothing. I even think some people may be addicted to their anger, and need to find something to get angry about. Some of these people may be suffering from some kind of mental disorder. Something is eating them up inside, and they direct it outward and personify it upon seeing you, as if you are somehow a “threat” to them.

It just seems so ridiculous. Really. Should you stop doing something you love just because some people may bristle with rage toward you? The best way to deal with jealous-types is to simply ignore them. It’s not important what other people think. And this isn’t just about joggling, this applies to just about anything.

Cherry kefir oatmeal

IMG_1625Here’s another thing you can do with cherry kefir juice: Add it to oatmeal. It really adds a lot of flavor to the oatmeal, plus some healthful bacteria.

Add the kefir juice after the oatmeal has cooled down for about a minute, since you don’t want to cook the kefir juice as it will destroy the probiotic health benefits.

Like I said, water kefir is very versatile.

What probiotic foods are you eating these days?

Rhabdomyolysis in distance runners


Runner with Rhabdomyolysis by Chris Pert

What is rhabdomyolysis, and should you be concerned about it? Rhabdomyolysis occurs when muscle tissue rapidly breaks down due to rigorous exercise or injury and enters the bloodstream. This can be harmful to the kidneys and in extreme situations can lead to kidney failure.

According to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts, in Exertional rhabdomyolysis and acute renal failure in marathon runners:

Strenuous exercise, including marathon running, can result in damage to skeletal muscle cells, a process known as exertional rhabdomyolysis. In most cases, this damage is resolved without consequence. However, when the damage is profound, there is a release of muscle proteins into the blood; one of these proteins, myoglobin, in high concentrations and under certain conditions (such as dehydration and heat stress) can precipitate in the kidneys, thereby resulting in acute renal failure. Although the marathon is a gruelling physiological challenge, with races sometimes run in hot and humid weather, acute renal failure is relatively infrequent. From case reports, a high proportion of marathon runners who developed acute renal failure had taken analgesics, had a viral or bacterial infection, or a pre-existing condition. The rare cases of acute renal failure in marathon runners may be a situation of the ‘perfect storm’ where there are several factors (heat stress, dehydration, latent myopathy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory or other drug/analgesic use, and viral/bacterial infection) that, in some combination, come together to result in acute renal failure.

So it looks like most long distance runners don’t need to be overly concerned about developing this condition so long as they stay well hydrated, do not use pain medication or keep it to a minimum, and don’t have any pre-existing conditions. If you are a runner with kidney problems, you may want to consult a doctor before running a marathon, just in case.

New speed record set today

I hate to brag, but today I set a new speed record while running 9 miles(14.8 km) in 1 hour 11 minutes. I managed to break into the 7 minute mile zone, the first time I’ve ever been able to do this for more than a few miles and I felt kind of tired toward the end. It wasn’t so long ago that I could barely do 8 minute miles for more than 2 miles, but then I finally managed to run 9 miles at this pace not too long ago. Today I ran a 7 minute 53 second pace while juggling for 9 miles. I dropped the balls twice.

As I’m sure many of you know, I drank a lot of that new cherry kefir juice(the very low alcohol one mentioned in the previous post) just before I went out for this run. Did the cherry kefir help? I really don’t know, it kind of felt like it did. Cherries are good for runners, but fermenting cherry juice improves it by giving it a vitamin boost(the B family and K family) and a probiotic boost. Interestingly enough, I had just run 21.5 miles(34.6 km) on saturday(this record breaking speed occurred today on monday), and it seems I have already recovered from it(it probably helped that I didn’t run yesterday). Usually it takes longer for me to recover from very long runs like this, and my speed usually suffers for several days after. Is the cherry juice helping that much? And is it the kefir or cherries that are helping more? Even more intriguing is the possibility of unknown biologically active compounds that may be involved in improving my running,

Unfortunately I can’t do a real study, using an alternate reality version of myself not drinking the cherry kefir drink as a control, so it’s difficult to say with confidence the cherry kefir drink is helping. It certainly doesn’t hurt though. I’m wondering how much I can improve, especially when the weather cools down. It was about 74 F(23.3 C) when I ran today, and little on the humid side and cloudy.

One thing’s for sure – the local runners will hate me even more. At least I didn’t have either of my wonderful vegan T-shirts on today while running, that really ruffles the feathers of other runners. I’m even getting cursed at these days. I don’t mean to cause butt-hurt, but it is kind of funny, especially when you consider that some of these people think vegans can’t run or be athletic. I’m hardly the fastest runner around, but I am the only joggler in the immediate area.

Cherry kefir juice update


Some good news. My post about the cherry kefir juice from a few days ago was only about the fermented cherry juice in jar 1, not jar 2. If you remember, there were 2 jars. Jar 1 spent 2.5 days fermenting at room temperature before I put it in the refrigerator, and it tasted like cherry wine to me, almost bordering on cherry brandy. Almost all the sweetness was gone since all the sugar had been converted to alcohol and acid. I didn’t enjoy the taste since I do not like strong alcoholic beverages and was aiming to just create an effervescent, soda-like probiotic drink with only a hint of alcohol(0.5% to 1%). It went beyond this.

After nearly finishing the cherry kefir juice/wine from jar 1(diluting it with water or regular cherry juice which made for some delicious, complex flavors), I started to drink the cherry juice from jar 2. I left this fermenting at room temperature for only 1.5 days, and then put it in the refrigerator. I put it in the refrigerator earlier to see how different it would taste from jar 1, and because I was going to drink it after jar 1 and didn’t want to leave it fermenting at room temperature for too long.

What a difference 1 day makes! The cherry kefir juice from jar 2 is a lot less alcoholic and sort of tastes like a strong cherry soda or cherry cola. It is a little sweet, but also quite sour. There is a hint of alcohol, likely less than 1%. This is what I was aiming for. It is very carbonated and bubbly, and it feels so tingly on my tongue, and is loaded with healthful bacteria.

So from now on I won’t be leaving juice to ferment for more than 2 days at room temperature during the summer, unless I am trying to make wine instead of a bubbly probiotic beverage.

Are ultra-runners less pain sensitive?

As a runner, I often wonder if ultra-runners are more pain tolerant than ordinary runners and non-runners. We’re talking about people who consider a marathon to be a “short” run, compared to the 50+ miles(80 km) they normally run. Although I haven’t run a marathon yet, I’ve been beyond the 20 mile(32 km) mark a bunch of times and I remember it felt awful the first few times. Actually, it is a little more complicated than that, since you can feel wonderful while at the same time your legs almost feel like they are getting tortured. Everyone has their own unique reaction, and as a joggler I do know my legs feel far worse than my arms toward the end of very long runs.

How some people can run beyond 50 or more miles is mind boggling to me. Do they just not feel pain as much as others, or do they feel it but don’t react to it as much? Or are they masochists? Is this due to genetics or is it the training?

Research into this is complicated by the fact that pain is a subjective phenomenon. It is virtually impossible to measure pain objectively.

That said, I did manage to find some fascinating research that attempts to answer some of these questions. According to the Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology, University Hospitals Ulm, Germany, in Ultra-Marathon Runners Are Different: Investigations into Pain Tolerance and Personality Traits of Participants of the TransEurope FootRace 2009:


Personality profiles as well as pain tolerance of our sample of TEFR09 participants differ from normal controls and-as obtained in previous studies-probably also from chronic pain patients. Low pain perception may predispose a person to become a long-distance runner. It remains unclear, however, whether low pain perception is cause or consequence of continuous extreme training.

It looks like what many of us suspect about ultra-runners is true – they are mutants! They do seem to experience pain differently, they don’t seem to feel it as much. But we still don’t know if this is due to genetics or training. Or a mixture of both. There is so much more to learn when it comes to the glorious sport of running.

The effect of marathon running on memory

We often hear that among its myriad benefits, exercise is good for the brain. Running is considered particularly good for maintaining brain health. But in the short-term, how does marathon running effect the memory of runners immediately after the marathon?

According to Columbia University in New York, in Effects of the stress of marathon running on implicit and explicit memory:

We tested the idea that real-world situations, such as the highly strenuous exercise involved in marathon running, that impose extreme physical demands on an individual may result in neurohormonal changes that alter the functioning of memory. Marathon runners were given implicit and explicit memory tasks before or immediately after they completed a marathon. Runners tested immediately upon completing the marathon showed impairment in the explicit memory task but enhancement in the implicit memory task. This postmarathon impairment in explicit memory is similar to that seen with amnesic patients with organic brain damage. However, no previous studies have shown a simultaneous enhancement in the implicit memory task, as shown by the marathon runners in the present study. This study indicates that human memory functioning can be dynamically altered by such activities as marathon running, in which hundreds of thousands of healthy normal individuals routinely partake.

If you are wondering what implict memory and explicit memory are, read this: Implicit and Explicit Memory.

In a way, the results of this study are really not all that surprising, but it is still interesting to investigate exactly what happens to runners just after they cross the finish line. I remember during the last few miles of a 25 mile run being on the verge of delirium. Running a marathon is exhausting physically and mentally, so it should come as no surprise that the brains of people who just crossed the finish line are not as sharp as before the marathon, at least when it comes to memory. This doesn’t mean running marathons is bad for the brain though, since this is almost certainly a short-term effect, probably due to low blood sugar levels.

It is the long-term effects of exercise that are important, not just the short-term.

Overall, running is good for the brain – 5 Ways Running Boosts Brain Power